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  • 1907
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“If I were safe at home I should think I could not walk, but I can walk now–I can–I can–because I will bear the pain.”

In such cottages there is always a door opening outside from the little bricked kitchen, where the copper stands. She would reach that, and, passing through, would close it behind her. After that SOMETHING would tell her what to do–something would lead her.

She put her lame foot upon the floor, and rested some of her weight upon it–not all. A jagged pain shot up from it through her whole side it seemed, and, for an instant, she swayed and ground her teeth.

“That is because it is the first step,” she said. “But if I am to be killed, I will die in the open–I will die in the open.”

The second and third steps brought cold sweat out upon her, but she told herself that the fourth was not quite so unbearable, and she stiffened her whole body, and muttered some words while she took a fifth and sixth which carried her into the tiny back kitchen.

“Father,” she said. “Father, think of me now–think of me! Rosy, love me–love me and pray that I may come home. You–you who have died, stand very near!”

If her father ever held her safe in his arms again–if she ever awoke from this nightmare, it would be a thing never to let one’s mind hark back to again–to shut out of memory with iron doors.

The pain had shot up and down, and her forehead was wet by the time she had reached the small back door. Was it locked or bolted–was it? She put her hand gently upon the latch and lifted it without making any sound. Thank God Almighty, it was neither bolted nor locked, the latch lifted, the door opened, and she slid through it into the shadow of the grey which was already almost the darkness of night. Thank God for that, too.

She flattened herself against the outside wall and listened. He was having difficulty in managing Childe Harold, who snorted and pulled back, offended and made rebellious by his savagely impatient hand. Good Childe Harold, good boy! She could see the massed outline of the trees of the spinney. If she could bear this long enough to get there–even if she crawled part of the way. Then it darted through her mind that he would guess that she would be sure to make for its cover, and that he would go there first to search.

“Father, think for me–you were so quick to think!” her brain cried out for her, as if she was speaking to one who could physically hear.

She almost feared she had spoken aloud, and the thought which flashed upon her like lightning seemed to be an answer given. He would be convinced that she would at once try to get away from the house. If she kept near it–somewhere– somewhere quite close, and let him search the spinney, she might get away to its cover after he gave up the search and came back. The jagged pain had settled in a sort of impossible anguish, and once or twice she felt sick. But she would die in the open–and she knew Rosalie was frightened by her absence, and was praying for her. Prayers counted and, yet, they had all prayed yesterday.

“If I were not very strong, I should faint,” she thought. “But I have been strong all my life. That great French doctor–I have forgotten his name–said that I had the physique to endure anything.”

She said these things that she might gain steadiness and convince herself that she was not merely living through a nightmare. Twice she moved her foot suddenly because she found herself in a momentary respite from pain, beginning to believe that the thing was a nightmare–that nothing mattered–because she would wake up presently–so she need not try to hide.

“But in a nightmare one has no pain. It is real and I must go somewhere,” she said, after the foot was moved. Where could she go? She had not looked at the place as she rode up. She had only half-consciously seen the spinney. Nigel was swearing at the horses. Having got Childe Harold into the shed, there seemed to be nothing to fasten his bridle to. And he had yet to bring his own horse in and secure him. She must get away somewhere before the delay was over.

How dark it was growing! Thank God for that again! What was the rather high, dark object she could trace in the dimness near the hedge? It was sharply pointed, is if it were a narrow tent. Her heart began to beat like a drum as she recalled something. It was the shape of the sort of wigwam structure made of hop poles, after they were taken from the fields. If there was space between it and the hedge–even a narrow space–and she could crouch there? Nigel was furious because Childe Harold was backing, plunging, and snorting dangerously. She halted forward, shutting her teeth in her terrible pain. She could scarcely see, and did not recognise that near the wigwam was a pile of hop poles laid on top of each other horizontally. It was not quite as high as the hedge whose dark background prevented its being seen. Only a few steps more. No, she was awake–in a nightmare one felt only terror, not pain.

“YOU, WHO DIED TO-DAY,” she murmured.

She saw the horizontal poles too late. One of them had rolled from its place and lay on the ground, and she trod on it, was thrown forward against the heap, and, in her blind effort to recover herself, slipped and fell into a narrow, grassed hollow behind it, clutching at the hedge. The great French doctor had not been quite right. For the first time in her life she felt herself sinking into bottomless darkness–which was what happened to people when they fainted.

When she opened her eyes she could see nothing, because on one side of her rose the low mass of the hop poles, and on the other was the long-untrimmed hedge, which had thrown out a thick, sheltering growth and curved above her like a penthouse. Was she awakening, after all? No, because the pain was awakening with her, and she could hear, what seemed at first to be quite loud sounds. She could not have been unconscious long, for she almost immediately recognised that they were the echo of a man’s hurried foot- steps upon the bare wooden stairway, leading to the bedrooms in the empty house. Having secured the horses, Nigel had returned to the cottage, and, finding her gone had rushed to the upper floor in search of her. He was calling her name angrily, his voice resounding in the emptiness of the rooms.

“Betty; don’t play the fool with me!”

She cautiously drew herself further under cover, making sure that no end of her habit remained in sight. The over- growth of the hedge was her salvation. If she had seen the spot by daylight, she would not have thought it a possible place of concealment.

Once she had read an account of a woman’s frantic flight from a murderer who was hunting her to her death, while she slipped from one poor hiding place to another, sometimes crouching behind walls or bushes, sometimes lying flat in long grass, once wading waist-deep through a stream, and at last finding a miserable little fastness, where she hid shivering for hours, until her enemy gave up his search. One never felt the reality of such histories, but there was actually a sort of parallel in this. Mad and crude things were let loose, and the world of ordinary life seemed thousands of miles away.

She held her breath, for he was leaving the house by the front door. She heard his footsteps on the bricked path, and then in the lane. He went to the road, and the sound of his feet died away for a few moments. Then she heard them returning–he was back in the lane–on the brick path, and stood listening or, perhaps, reflecting. He muttered something exclamatory, and she heard a match struck, and shortly afterwards he moved across the garden patch towards the little spinney. He had thought of it, as she had believed he would. He would not think of this place, and in the end he might get tired or awakened to a sense of his lurid folly, and realise that it would be safer for him to go back to Stornham with some clever lie, trusting to his belief that there existed no girl but would shrink from telling such a story in connection with a man who would brazenly deny it with contemptuous dramatic detail. If he would but decide on this, she would be safe–and it would be so like him that she dared to hope. But, if he did not, she would lie close, even if she must wait until morning, when some labourer’s cart would surely pass, and she would hear it jolting, and drag herself out, and call aloud in such a way that no man could be deaf. There was more room under her hedge than she had thought, and she found that she could sit up, by clasping her knees and bending her head, while she listened to every sound, even to the rustle of the grass in the wind sweeping across the marsh.

She moved very gradually and slowly, and had just settled into utter motionlessness when she realised that he was coming back through the garden–the straggling currant and gooseberry bushes were being trampled through.

“Betty, go home,” Rosalie had pleaded. “Go home–go home.” And she had refused, because she could not desert her.

She held her breath and pressed her hand against her side, because her heart beat, as it seemed to her, with an actual sound. He moved with unsteady steps from one point to another, more than once he stumbled, and his angry oath reached her; at last he was so near her hiding place that his short hard breathing was a distinct sound. A moment later he spoke, raising his voice, which fact brought to her a rush of relief, through its signifying that he had not even guessed her nearness.

“My dear Betty,” he said, “you have the pluck of the devil, but circumstances are too much for you. You are not on the road, and I have been through the spinney. Mere logic convinces me that you cannot be far away. You may as well give the thing up. It will be better for you.”

“You who died to-day–do not leave me,” was Betty’s inward cry, and she dropped her face on her knees.

“I am not a pleasant-tempered fellow, as you know, and I am losing my hold on myself. The wind is blowing the mist away, and there will be a moon. I shall find you, my good girl, in half an hour’s time–and then we shall be jolly well even.”

She had not dropped her whip, and she held it tight. If, when the moonlight revealed the pile of hop poles to him, he suspected and sprang at them to tear them away, she would be given strength to make one spring, even in her agony, and she would strike at his eyes–awfully, without one touch of compunction–she would strike–strike.

There was a brief silence, and then a match was struck again, and almost immediately she inhaled the fragrance of an excellent cigar.

“I am going to have a comfortable smoke and stroll about –always within sight and hearing. I daresay you are watching me, and wondering what will happen when I discover you, I can tell you what will happen. You are not a hysterical girl, but you will go into hysterics–and no one will hear you.”

(All the power of her–body and soul–in one leap on him and then a lash that would cut to the bone. And it was not a nightmare–and Rosy was at Stornham, and her father looking over steamer lists and choosing his staterooms.)

He walked about slowly, the scent of his cigar floating behind him. She noticed, as she had done more than once before, that he seemed to slightly drag one foot, and she wondered why. The wind was blowing the mist away, and there was a faint growing of light. The moon was not full, but young, and yet it would make a difference. But the upper part of the hedge grew thick and close to the heap of wood, and, but for her fall, she would never have dreamed of the refuge.

She could only guess at his movements, but his footsteps gave some clue. He was examining the ground in as far as the darkness would allow. He went into the shed and round about it, he opened the door of the tiny coal lodge, and looked again into the small back kitchen. He came near–nearer –so near once that, bending sidewise, she could have put out a hand and touched him. He stood quite still, then made a step or so away, stood still again, and burst into a laugh once more.

“Oh, you are here, are you?” he said. “You are a fine big girl to be able to crowd yourself into a place like that!”

Hot and cold dew stood out on her forehead and made her hair damp as she held her whip hard.

“Come out, my dear!” alluringly. “It is not too soon. Or do you prefer that I should assist you?”

Her heart stood quite still–quite. He was standing by the wigwam of hop poles and thought she had hidden herself inside it. Her place under the hedge he had not even glanced at.

She knew he bent down and thrust his arm into the wigwam, for his fury at the result expressed itself plainly enough. That he had made a fool of himself was worse to him than all else. He actually wheeled about and strode away to the house.

Because minutes seemed hours, she thought he was gone long, but he was not away for twenty minutes. He had, in fact, gone into the bare front room again, and sitting upon the box near the hearth, let his head drop in his hands and remained in this position thinking. In the end he got up and went out to the shed where he had left the horses.

Betty was feeling that before long she might find herself making that strange swoop into the darkness of space again, and that it did not matter much, as one apparently lay quite still when one was unconscious–when she heard that one horse was being led out into the lane. What did that mean? Had he got tired of the chase–as the other man did–and was he going away because discomfort and fatigue had cooled and disgusted him–perhaps even made him feel that he was playing the part of a sensational idiot who was laying himself open to derision? That would be like him, too.

Presently she heard his footsteps once more, but he did not come as near her as before–in fact, he stood at some yards’ distance when he stopped and spoke–in quite a new manner.

“Betty,” his tone was even cynically cool, “I shall stalk you no more. The chase is at an end. I think I have taken all out of you I intended to. Perhaps it was a bad joke and was carried too far. I wanted to prove to you that there were circumstances which might be too much even for a young woman from New York. I have done it. Do you suppose I am such a fool as to bring myself within reach of the law? I am going away and will send assistance to you from the next house I pass. I have left some matches and a few broken sticks on the hearth in the cottage. Be a sensible girl. Limp in there and build yourself a fire as soon as you hear me gallop away. You must be chilled through. Now I am going.”

He tramped across the bit of garden, down the brick path, mounted his horse and put it to a gallop at once. Clack, clack, clack–clacking fainter and fainter into the distance–and he was gone.

When she realised that the thing was true, the effect upon her of her sense of relief was that the growing likelihood of a second swoop into darkness died away, but one curious sob lifted her chest as she leaned back against the rough growth behind her. As she changed her position for a better one she felt the jagged pain again and knew that in the tenseness of her terror she had actually for some time felt next to nothing of her hurt. She had not even been cold, for the hedge behind and over her and the barricade before had protected her from both wind and rain. The grass beneath her was not damp for the same reason. The weary thought rose in her mind that she might even lie down and sleep. But she pulled herself together and told herself that this was like the temptation of believing in the nightmare. He was gone, and she had a respite–but was it to be anything more? She did not make any attempt to leave her place of concealment, remembering the strange things she had learned in watching him, and the strange terror in which Rosalie lived.

“One never knows what he will do next; I will not stir,” she said through her teeth. “No, I will not stir from here.”

And she did not, but sat still, while the pain came back to her body and the anguish to her heart–and sometimes such heaviness that her head dropped forward upon her knees again, and she fell into a stupefied half-doze.

From one such doze she awakened with a start, hearing a slight click of the gate. After it, there were several seconds of dead silence. It was the slightness of the click which was startling–if it had not been caused by the wind, it had been caused by someone’s having cautiously moved it–and this someone wishing to make a soundless approach had immediately stood still and was waiting. There was only one person who would do that. By this time, the mist being blown away, the light of the moon began to make a growing clearness. She lifted her hand and delicately held aside a few twigs that she might look out.

She had been quite right in deciding not to move. Nigel Anstruthers had come back, and after his pause turned, and avoiding the brick path, stole over the grass to the cottage door. His going had merely been an inspiration to trap her, and the wood and matches had been intended to make a beacon light for him. That was like him, as well. His horse he had left down the road.

But the relief of his absence had been good for her, and she was able to check the shuddering fit which threatened her for a moment. The next, her ears awoke to a new sound. Something was stumbling heavily about the patch of garden–some animal. A cropping of grass, a snorting breath, and more stumbling hoofs, and she knew that Childe Harold had managed to loosen his bridle and limp out of the shed. The mere sense of his nearness seemed a sort of protection.

He had limped and stumbled to the front part of the garden before Nigel heard him. When he did hear, he came out of the house in the humour of a man the inflaming of whose mood has been cumulative; Childe Harold’s temper also was not to be trifled with. He threw up his head, swinging the bridle out of reach; he snorted, and even reared with an ugly lashing of his forefeet.

“Good boy!” whispered Betty. “Do not let him take you –do not!”

If he remained where he was he would attract attention if anyone passed by. “Fight, Childe Harold, be as vicious as you choose–do not allow yourself to be dragged back.”

And fight he did, with an ugliness of temper he had never shown before–with snortings and tossed head and lashed–out heels, as if he knew he was fighting to gain time and with a purpose.

But in the midst of the struggle Nigel Anstruthers stopped suddenly. He had stumbled again, and risen raging and stained with damp earth. Now he stood still, panting for breath–as still as he had stood after the click of the gate. Was he–listening? What was he listening to? Had she moved in her excitement, and was it possible he had caught the sound? No, he was listening to something else. Far up the road it echoed, but coming nearer every moment, and very fast. Another horse–a big one–galloping hard. Whosoever it was would pass this place; it could only be a man–God grant that he would not go by so quickly that his attention would not be arrested by a shriek! Cry out she must–and if he did not hear and went galloping on his way she would have betrayed herself and be lost.

She bit off a groan by biting her lip.

“You who died to-day–now–now!”

Nearer and nearer. No human creature could pass by a thing like this–it would not be possible. And Childe Harold, backing and fighting, scented the other horse and neighed fiercely and high. The rider was slackening his pace; he was near the lane. He had turned into it and stopped. Now for her one frantic cry–but before she could gather power to give it forth, the man who had stopped had flung himself from his saddle and was inside the garden speaking. A big voice and a clear one, with a ringing tone of authority.

“What are you doing here? And what is the matter with Miss Vanderpoel’s horse?” it called out.

Now there was danger of the swoop into the darkness– great danger–though she clutched at the hedge that she might feel its thorns and hold herself to the earth.

“YOU!” Nigel Anstruthers cried out. “You!” and flung forth a shout of laughter.

“Where is she?” fiercely. “Lady Anstruthers is terrified. We have been searching for hours. Only just now I heard on the marsh that she had been seen to ride this way. Where is she, I say?”

A strong, angry, earthly voice–not part of the melodrama– not part of a dream, but a voice she knew, and whose sound caused her heart to leap to her throat, while she trembled from head to foot, and a light, cold dampness broke forth on her skin. Something had been a dream–her wild, desolate ride– the slew tolling; for the voice which commanded with such human fierceness was that of the man for whom the heavy bell had struck forth from the church tower.

Sir Nigel recovered himself brilliantly. Not that he did not recognise that he had been a fool again and was in a nasty place; but it was not for the first time in his life, and he had learned how to brazen himself out of nasty places.

“My dear Mount Dunstan,” he answered with tolerant irritation, “I have been having a devil of a time with female hysterics. She heard the bell toll and ran away with the idea that it was for you, and paid you the compliment of losing her head. I came on her here when she had ridden her horse half to death and they had both come a cropper. Confound women’s hysterics! I could do nothing with her. When I left her for a moment she ran away and hid herself. She is concealed somewhere on the place or has limped off on to the marsh. I wish some New York millionairess would work herself into hysteria on my humble account.”

“Those are lies,” Mount Dunstan answered–“every damned one of them!”

He wheeled around to look about him, attracted by a sound, and in the clearing moonlight saw a figure approaching which might have risen from the earth, so far as he could guess where it had come from. He strode over to it, and it was Betty Vanderpoel, holding her whip in a clenched hand and showing to his eagerness such hunted face and eyes as were barely human. He caught her unsteadiness to support it, and felt her fingers clutch at the tweed of his coatsleeve and move there as if the mere feeling of its rough texture brought heavenly comfort to her and gave her strength.

“Yes, they are lies, Lord Mount Dunstan,” she panted. “He said that he meant to get what he called `even’ with me. He told me I could not get away from him and that no one would hear me if I cried out for help. I have hidden like some hunted animal.” Her shaking voice broke, and she held the cloth of his sleeve tightly. “You are alive–alive!” with a sudden sweet wildness. “But it is true the bell tolled! While I was crouching in the dark I called to you–who died to-day–to stand between us!”

The man absolutely shuddered from head to foot.

“I was alive, and you see I heard you and came,” he answered hoarsely.

He lifted her in his arms and carried her into the cottage. Her cheek felt the enrapturing roughness of his tweed shoulder as he did it. He laid her down on the couch of hay and turned away.

“Don’t move,” he said. “I will come back. You are safe.”

If there had been more light she would have seen that his jaw was set like a bulldog’s, and there was a red spark in his eyes–a fearsome one. But though she did not clearly see, she KNEW, and the nearness of the last hours swept away all relenting.

Nigel Anstruthers having discreetly waited until the two had passed into the house, and feeling that a man would be an idiot who did not remove himself from an atmosphere so highly charged, was making his way toward the lane and was, indeed, halfway through the gate when heavy feet were behind him and a grip of ugly strength wrenched him backward.

“Your horse is cropping the grass where you left him, but you are not going to him,” said a singularly meaning voice. “You are coming with me.”

Anstruthers endeavoured to convince himself that he did not at that moment turn deadly sick and that the brute would not make an ass of himself.

“Don’t be a bally fool!” he cried out, trying to tear himself free.

The muscular hand on his shoulder being reinforced by another, which clutched his collar, dragged him back, stumbling ignominiously through the gooseberry bushes towards the cart- shed. Betty lying upon her bed of hay heard the scuffling, mingled with raging and gasping curses. Childe Harold, lifting his head from his cropping of the grass, looked after the violently jerking figures and snorted slightly, snuffing with dilated red nostrils. As a war horse scenting blood and battle, he was excited.

When Mount Dunstan got his captive into the shed the blood which had surged in Red Godwyn’s veins was up and leaping. Anstruthers, his collar held by a hand with fingers of iron, writhed about and turned a livid, ghastly face upon his captor.

“You have twice my strength and half my age, you beast and devil!” he foamed in a half shriek, and poured forth frightful blasphemies.

“That counts between man and man, but not between vermin and executioner,” gave back Mount Dunstan.

The heavy whip, flung upward, whistled down through the air, cutting through cloth and linen as though it would cut through flesh to bone.

“By God!” shrieked the writhing thing he held, leaping like a man who has been shot. “Don’t do that again! DAMN you!” as the unswerving lash cut down again–again.

What followed would not be good to describe. Betty through the open door heard wild and awful things–and more than once a sound as if a dog were howling.

When the thing was over, one of the two–his clothes cut to ribbons, his torn white linen exposed, lay, a writhing, huddled worm, hiccoughing frenzied sobs upon the earth in a corner of the cart-shed. The other man stood over him, breathless and white, but singularly exalted.

“You won’t want your horse to-night, because you can’t use him,” he said. “I shall put Miss Vanderpoel’s saddle upon him and ride with her back to Stornham. You think you are cut to pieces, but you are not, and you’ll get over it. I’ll ask you to mark, however, that if you open your foul mouth to insinuate lies concerning either Lady Anstruthers or her sister I will do this thing again in public some day–on the steps of your club–and do it more thoroughly.”

He walked into the cottage soon afterwards looking, to Betty Vanderpoel’s eyes, pale and exceptionally big, and also more a man than it is often given even to the most virile male creature to look–and he walked to the side of her resting place and stood there looking down.

“I thought I heard a dog howl,” she said.

“You did hear a dog howl,” he answered. He said no other word, and she asked no further question. She knew what he had done, and he was well aware that she knew it.

There was a long, strangely tense silence. The light of the moon was growing. She made at first no effort to rise, but lay still and looked up at him from under splendid lifted lashes, while his own gaze fell into the depth of hers like a plummet into a deep pool. This continued for almost a full minute, when he turned quickly away and walked to the hearth, indrawing a heavy breath.

He could not endure that which beset him; it was unbearable, because her eyes had maddeningly seemed to ask him some wistful question. Why did she let her loveliness so call to him. She was not a trifler who could play with meanings. Perhaps she did not know what her power was. Sometimes he could believe that beautiful women did not.

In a few moments, almost before he could reach her, she was rising, and when she got up she supported herself against the open door, standing in the moonlight. If he was pale, she was pale also, and her large eyes would not move from his face, so drawing him that he could not keep away from her.

“Listen,” he broke out suddenly. “Penzance told me– warned me–that some time a moment would come which would be stronger than all else in a man–than all else in the world. It has come now. Let me take you home.”

“Than what else?” she said slowly, and became even paler than before.

He strove to release himself from the possession of the moment, and in his struggle answered with a sort of savagery.

“Than scruple–than power–even than a man’s determination and decent pride.”

“Are you proud?” she half whispered quite brokenly. “I am not–since I waited for the ringing of the church bell– since I heard it toll. After that the world was empty–and it was as empty of decent pride as of everything else. There was nothing left. I was the humblest broken thing on earth.”

“You!” he gasped. “Do you know I think I shall go mad directly perhaps it is happening now. YOU were humble and broken–your world was empty! Because—-?”

“Look at me, Lord Mount Dunstan,” and the sweetest voice in the world was a tender, wild little cry to him. “Oh LOOK at me!”

He caught her out-thrown hands and looked down into the beautiful passionate soul of her. The moment had come, and the tidal wave rising to its height swept all the common earth away when, with a savage sob, he caught and held her close and hard against that which thudded racing in his breast.

And they stood and swayed together, folded in each other’s arms, while the wind from the marshes lifted its voice like an exulting human thing as it swept about them.

CHAPTER XLIX

AT STORNHAM AND AT BROADMORLANDS

The exulting wind had swept the clouds away, and the moon rode in a dark blue sea of sky, making the night light purely clear, when they drew a little apart, that they might better see the wonderfulness in each other’s faces. It was so mysteriously great a thing that they felt near to awe.

“I fought too long. I wore out my body’s endurance, and now I am quaking like a boy. Red Godwyn did not begin his wooing like this. Forgive me,” Mount Dunstan said at last.

“Do you know,” with lovely trembling lips and voice, “that for long–long–you have been unkind to me?”

It was merely human that he should swiftly enfold her again, and answer with his lips against her cheek.

“Unkind! Unkind! Oh, the heavenly woman’s sweetness of your telling me so–the heavenly sweetness of it!” he exclaimed passionately and low. “And I was one of those who are `by the roadside everywhere,’ an unkempt, raging beggar, who might not decently ask you for a crust.”

“It was all wrong–wrong!” she whispered back to him, and he poured forth the tenderest, fierce words of confession and prayer, and she listened, drinking them in, with now and then a soft sob pressed against the roughness of the enrapturing tweed. For a space they had both forgotten her hurt, because there are other things than terror which hypnotise pain. Mount Dunstan was to be praised for remembering it first. He must take her back to Stornham and her sister without further delay.

“I will put your saddle on Anstruthers’ horse, or mine, and lift you to your seat. There is a farmhouse about two miles away, where I will take you first for food and warmth. Perhaps it would be well for you to stay there to rest for an hour or so, and I will send a message to Lady Anstruthers.”

“I will go to the place, and eat and drink what you advise,” she answered. “But I beg you to take me back to Rosalie without delay. I feel that I must see her.”

“I feel that I must see her, too,” he said. “But for her–God bless her!” he added, after his sudden pause.

Betty knew that the exclamation meant strong feeling, and that somehow in the past hours Rosalie had awakened it. But it was only when, after their refreshment at the farm, they had taken horse again and were riding homeward together, that she heard from him what had passed between them.

“All that has led to this may seem the merest chance,” he said. “But surely a strange thing has come about. I know that without understanding it.” He leaned over and touched her hand. “You, who are Life–without understanding I ride here beside you, believing that you brought me back.”

“I tried–I tried! With all my strength, I tried.”

“After I had seen your sister to-day, I guessed–I knew. But not at first. I was not ill of the fever, as excited rumour had it; but I was ill, and the doctors and the vicar were alarmed. I had fought too long, and I was giving up, as I have seen the poor fellows in the ballroom give up. If they were not dragged back they slipped out of one’s hands. If the fever had developed, all would have been over quickly. I knew the doctors feared that, and I am ashamed to say I was glad of it. But, yesterday, in the morning, when I was letting myself go with a morbid pleasure in the luxurious relief of it–something reached me–some slow rising call to effort and life.”

She turned towards him in her saddle, listening, her lips parted.

“I did not even ask myself what was happening, but I began to be conscious of being drawn back, and to long intensely to see you again. I was gradually filled with a restless feeling that you were near me, and that, though I could not physically hear your voice, you were surely CALLING to me. It was the thing which could not be–but it was–and because of it I could not let myself drift.”

“I did call you! I was on my knees in the church asking to be forgiven if I prayed mad prayers–but praying the same thing over and over. The villagers were kneeling there, too. They crowded in, leaving everything else. You are their hero, and they were in deep earnest.”

His look was gravely pondering. His life had not made a mystic of him–it was Penzance who was the mystic –but he felt himself perplexed by mysteriously suggestive thought.

“I was brought back–I was brought back,” he said. “In the afternoon I fell asleep and slept profoundly until the morning. When I awoke, I realised that I was a remade man. The doctors were almost awed when I first spoke to them. Old Dr. Fenwick died later, and, after I had heard about it, the church bell was tolled. It was heard at Weaver’s farm- house, and, as everybody had been excitedly waiting for the sound, it conveyed but one idea to them–and the boy was sent racing across the fields to Stornham village. Dearest! Dearest!” he exclaimed.

She had bowed her head and burst into passionate sobbing. Because she was not of the women who wept, her moment’s passion was strong and bitter.

“It need not have been!” she shuddered. “One cannot bear it–because it need not have been!”

“Stop your horse a moment,” he said, reining in his own, while, with burning eyes and swelling throat, he held and steadied her. But he did not know that neither her sister nor her father had ever seen her in such mood, and that she had never so seen herself.

“You shall not remember it,” he said to her.

“I will not,” she answered, recovering herself. “But for one moment all the awful hours rushed back. Tell me the rest.”

“We did not know that the blunder had been made until a messenger from Dole rode over to inquire and bring messages of condolence. Then we understood what had occurred and I own a sort of frenzy seized me. I knew I must see you, and, though the doctors were horribly nervous, they dare not hold me back. The day before it would not have been believed that I could leave my room. You were crying out to me, and though I did not know, I was answering, body and soul. Penzance knew I must have my way when I spoke to him–mad as it seemed. When I rode through Stornham village, more than one woman screamed at sight of me. I shall not be able to blot out of my mind your sister’s face. She will tell you what we said to each other. I rode away from the Court quite half mad—-” his voice became very gentle, “because of something she had told me in the first wild moments.”

Lady Anstruthers had spent the night moving restlessly from one room to another, and had not been to bed when they rode side by side up the avenue in the early morning sunlight. An under keeper, crossing the park a few hundred yards above them, after one glance, dashed across the sward to the courtyard and the servants’ hall. The news flashed electrically through the house, and Rosalie, like a small ghost, came out upon the steps as they reined in. Though her lips moved, she could not speak aloud, as she watched Mount Dunstan lift her sister from her horse.

“Childe Harold stumbled and I hurt my foot,” said Betty, trying to be calm.

“I knew he would find you!” Rosalie answered quite faintly. “I knew you would!” turning to Mount Dunstan, adoring him with all the meaning of her small paled face.

She would have been afraid of her memory of what she had said in the strange scene which had taken place before them a few hours ago, but almost before either of the two spoke she knew that a great gulf had been crossed in some one inevitable, though unforeseen, leap. How it had been taken, when or where, did not in the least matter, when she clung to Betty and Betty clung to her.

After a few moments of moved and reverent waiting, the admirable Jennings stepped forward and addressed her in lowered voice.

“There’s been little sleep in the village this night, my lady,” he murmured earnestly. “I promised they should have a sign, with your permission. If the flag was run up–they’re all looking out, and they’d know.”

“Run it up, Jennings,” Lady Anstruthers answered, “at once.”

When it ran up the staff on the tower and fluttered out in gay answering to the morning breeze, children in the village began to run about shouting, men and women appeared at cottage doors, and more than one cap was thrown up in the air. But old Doby and Mrs. Welden, who had been waiting for hours, standing by Mrs. Welden’s gate, caught each other’s dry, trembling old hands and began to cry.

The Broadmorlands divorce scandal, having made conversation during a season quite forty years before Miss Vanderpoel appeared at Stornham Court, had been laid upon a lower shelf and buried beneath other stories long enough to be forgotten. Only one individual had not forgotten it, and he was the Duke of Broadmorlands himself, in whose mind it remained hideously clear. He had been a young man, honestly and much in love when it first revealed itself to him, and for a few months he had even thought it might end by being his death, notwithstanding that he was strong and in first-rate physical condition. He had been a fine, hearty young man of clean and rather dignified life, though he was not understood to be brilliant of mind. Privately he had ideals connected with his rank and name which he was not fluent enough clearly to express. After he had realised that he should not die of the public humiliation and disgrace, which seemed to point him out as having been the kind of gullible fool it is scarcely possible to avoid laughing at–or, so it seemed to him in his heart-seared frenzy–he thought it not improbable that he should go mad. He was harried so by memories of lovely little soft ways of Edith’s (his wife’s name was Edith), of the pretty sound of her laugh, and of her innocent, girlish habit of kneeling down by her bedside every night and morning to say her prayers. This had so touched him that he had sometimes knelt down to say his, too, saying to her, with slight awkward boyishness, that a fellow who had a sort of angel for his wife ought to do his best to believe in the things she believed in.

“And all the time—-!” a devil who laughed used to snigger in his ear over and over again, until it was almost like the ticking of a clock during the worst months, when it did not seem probable that a man could feel his brain whirling like a Catherine wheel night and day, and still manage to hold on and not reach the point of howling and shrieking and dashing his skull against wails and furniture.

But that passed in time, and he told himself that he passed with it. Since then he had lived chiefly at Broadmorlands Castle, and was spoken of as a man who had become religious, which was not true, but, having reached the decision that religion was good for most people, he paid a good deal of attention to his church and schools, and was rigorous in the matter of curates.

He had passed seventy now, and was somewhat despotic and haughty, because a man who is a Duke and does not go out into the world to rub against men of his own class and others, but lives altogether on a great and splendid estate, saluted by every creature he meets, and universally obeyed and counted before all else, is not unlikely to forget that he is a quite ordinary human being, and not a sort of monarch.

He had done his best to forget Edith, who had soon died of being a shady curate’s wife in Australia, but he had not been able to encompass it. He used, occasionally, to dream she was kneeling by the bed in her childish nightgown saying her prayers aloud, and would waken crying–as he had cried in those awful young days. Against social immorality or village light-mindedness he was relentlessly savage. He allowed for no palliating or exonerating facts. He began to see red when he heard of or saw lightness in a married woman, and the outside world frequently said that this characteristic bordered on monomania.

Nigel Anstruthers, having met him once or twice, had at first been much amused by him, and had even, by giving him an adroitly careful lead, managed to guide him into an expression of opinion. The Duke, who had heard men of his class discussed, did not in the least like him, notwithstanding his sympathetic suavity of manner and his air of being intelligently impressed by what he heard. Not long afterwards, however, it transpired that the aged rector of Broadmorlands having died, the living had been given to Ffolliott, and, hearing it, Sir Nigel was not slow to conjecture that quite decently utilisable tools would lie ready to his hand if circumstances pressed; this point of view, it will be seen, being not illogical. A man who had not been a sort of hermit would have heard enough of him to be put on his guard, and one who was a man of the world, looking normally on existence, would have reasoned coolly, and declined to concern himself about what was not his affair. But a parallel might be drawn between Broadmorlands and some old lion wounded sorely in his youth and left to drag his unhealed torment through the years of age. On one subject he had no point of view but his own, and could be roused to fury almost senseless by wholly inadequately supported facts. He presented exactly the material required–and that in mass.

About the time the flag was run up on the tower at Stornham Court a carter, driving whistling on the road near the deserted cottage, was hailed by a man who was walking slowly a few yards ahead of him. The carter thought that he was a tramp, as his clothes were plainly in bad case, which seeing, his answer was an unceremonious grunt, and it certainly did not occur to him to touch his forehead. A minute later, however, he “got a start,” as he related afterwards. The tramp was a gentleman whose riding costume was torn and muddied, and who looked “gashly,” though he spoke with the manner and authority which Binns, the carter, recognised as that of one of the “gentry” addressing a day-labourer.

“How far is it from here to Medham?” he inquired.

“Medham be about four mile, sir,” was the answer. “I be carryin’ these ‘taters there to market.”

“I want to get there. I have met with an accident. My horse took fright at a pheasant starting up rocketting under his nose. He threw me into a hedge and bolted. I’m badly enough bruised to want to reach a town and see a doctor. Can you give me a lift?”

“That I will, sir, ready enough,” making room on the seat beside him. “You be bruised bad, sir,” he said sympathetically, as his passenger climbed to his place, with a twisted face and uttering blasphemies under his breath.

“Damned badly,” he answered. “No bones broken, however.”

“That cut on your cheek and neck’ll need plasterin’, sir.”

“That’s a scratch. Thorn bush,” curtly.

Sympathy was plainly not welcome. In fact Binns was soon of the opinion that here was an ugly customer, gentleman or no gentleman. A jolting cart was, however, not the best place for a man who seemed sore from head to foot, and done for out and out. He sat and ground his teeth, as he clung to the rough seat in the attempt to steady himself. He became more and more “gashly,” and a certain awful light in his eyes alarmed the carter by leaping up at every jolt. Binns was glad when he left him at Medham Arms, and felt he had earned the half-sovereign handed to him.

Four days Anstruthers lay in bed in a room at the Inn. No one saw him but the man who brought him food. He did not send for a doctor, because he did not wish to see one. He sent for such remedies as were needed by a man who had been bruised by a fall from his horse. He made no remark which could be considered explanatory, after he had said irritably that a man was a fool to go loitering along on a nervous brute who needed watching. Whatsoever happened was his own damned fault.

Through hours of day and night he lay staring at the white- washed beams or the blue roses on the wall paper. They were long hours, and filled with things not pleasant enough to dwell on in detail. Physical misery which made a man writhe at times was not the worst part of them. There were a thousand things less endurable. More than once he foamed at the mouth, and recognised that he gibbered like a madman.

There was but one memory which saved him from feeling that this was the very end of things. That was the memory of Broadmorlands. While a man had a weapon left, even though it could not save him, he might pay up with it–get almost even. The whole Vanderpoel lot could be plunged neck deep in a morass which would leave mud enough sticking to them, even if their money helped them to prevent its entirely closing over their heads. He could attend to that, and, after he had set it well going, he could get out. There were India, South Africa, Australia–a dozen places that would do. And then he would remember Betty Vanderpoel, and curse horribly under the bed clothes. It was the memory of Betty which outdid all others in its power to torment.

On the morning of the fifth day the Duke of Broadmorlands received a note, which he read with somewhat annoyed curiosity. A certain Sir Nigel Anstruthers, whom it appeared he ought to be able to recall, was in the neighbourhood, and wished to see him on a parochial matter of interest. “Parochial matter” was vague, and so was the Duke’s recollection of the man who addressed him. If his memory served him rightly, he had met him in a country house in Somersetshire, and had heard that he was the acquaintance of the disreputable eldest son. What could a person of that sort have to say of parochial matters? The Duke considered, and then, in obedience to a rigorous conscience, decided that one ought, perhaps, to give him half an hour.

There was that in the intruder’s aspect, when he arrived in the afternoon, which produced somewhat the effect of shock. In the first place, a man in his unconcealable physical condition had no right to be out of his bed. Though he plainly refused to admit the fact, his manner of bearing himself erect, and even with a certain touch of cool swagger, was, it was evident, achieved only by determined effort. He looked like a man who had not yet recovered from some evil fever. Since the meeting in Somersetshire he had aged more than the year warranted. Despite his obstinate fight with himself it was obvious that he was horribly shaky. A disagreeable scratch or cut, running from cheek to neck, did not improve his personal appearance.

He pleased his host no more than he had pleased him at their first encounter; he, in fact, repelled him strongly, by suggesting a degree of abnormality of mood which was smoothed over by an attempt at entire normality of manner. The Duke did not present an approachable front as, after Anstruthers had taken a chair, he sat and examined him with bright blue old eyes set deep on either side of a dominant nose and framed over by white eyebrows. No, Nigel Anstruthers summed him up, it would not be easy to open the matter with the old fool. He held himself magnificently aloof, with that lack of modernity in his sense of place which, even at this late day, sometimes expressed itself here and there in the manner of the feudal survival.

“I am afraid you have been ill,” with rigid civility.

“A man feels rather an outsider in confessing he has let his horse throw him into a hedge. It was my own fault entirely. I allowed myself to forget that I was riding a dangerously nervous brute. I was thinking of a painful and absorbing subject. I was badly bruised and scratched, but that was all.”

“What did your doctor say?”

“That I was in luck not to have broken my neck.”

“You had better have a glass of wine,” touching a bell. “You do not look equal to any exertion.”

In gathering himself together, Sir Nigel felt he was forced to use enormous effort. It had cost him a gruesome physical struggle to endure the drive over to Broadmorlands, though it was only a few miles from Medham. There had been something unnatural in the exertion necessary to sit upright and keep his mind decently clear. That was the worst of it. The fever and raging hours of the past days and nights had so shaken him that he had become exhausted, and his brain was not alert. He was not thinking rapidly, and several times he had lost sight of a point it was important to remember. He grew hot and cold and knew his hands and voice shook, as he answered. But, perhaps–he felt desperately–signs of emotion were not bad.

“I am not quite equal to exertion,” he began slowly. “But a man cannot lie on his bed while some things are undone– a MAN cannot.”

As the old Duke sat upright, the blue eyes under his bent brows were startled, as well as curious. Was the man going out of his mind about something? He looked rather like it, with the dampness starting out on his haggard face, and the ugly look suddenly stamped there. The fact was that the insensate fury which had possessed and torn Anstruthers as he had writhed in his inn bedroom had sprung upon him again in full force, and his weakness could not control it, though it would have been wiser to hold it in check. He also felt frightfully ill, which filled him with despair, and, through this fact, he lost sight of the effect he produced, as he stood up, shaking all over.

“I come to you because you are the one man who can most easily understand the thing I have been concealing for a good many years.”

The Duke was irritated. Confound the objectionable idiot, what did he mean by taking that intimate tone with a man who was not prepared to concern himself in his affairs?

“Excuse me,” he said, holding up an authoritative hand, “are you going to make a confession? I don’t like such things. I prefer to be excused. Personal confidences are not parochial matters.”

“This one is.” And Sir Nigel was sickeningly conscious that he was putting the statement rashly, while at the same time all better words escaped him. “It is as much a parochial matter,” losing all hold on his wits and stammering, “as was–as was–the affair of–your wife.”

It was the Duke who stood up now, scarlet with anger. He sprang from his chair as if he had been a young man in whom some insult had struck blazing fire.

“You–you dare!” he shouted. “You insolent blackguard! You force your way in here and dare–dare—-!” And he clenched his fist, wildly shaking it.

Nigel Anstruthers, staggering on his uncertain feet, would have shouted also, but could not, though he tried, and he heard his own voice come forth brokenly.

“Yes, I dare! I–your–my own–my—-!”

Swaying and tottering, he swung round to the chair he had left, and fell into it, even while the old Duke, who stood raging before him, started back in outraged amazement. What was the fellow doing? Was he making faces at him? The drawn malignant mouth and muscles suggested it. Was he a lunatic, indeed? But the sense of disgusted outrage changed all at once to horror, as, with a countenance still more hideously livid and twisted, his visitor slid helplessly from his seat and lay a huddling heap of clothes on the floor.

CHAPTER L

THE PRIMEVAL THING

When Mr. Vanderpoel landed in England his wife was with him. This quiet-faced woman, who was known to be on her way to join her daughter in England, was much discussed, envied, and glanced at, when she promenaded the deck with her husband, or sat in her chair softly wrapped in wonderful furs. Gradually, during the past months, she had been told certain modified truths connected with her elder daughter’s marriage. They had been painful truths, but had been so softened and expurgated of their worst features that it had been possible to bear them, when one realised that they did not, at least, mean that Rosy had forgotten or ceased to love her mother and father, or wish to visit her home. The steady clearness of foresight and readiness of resource which were often spoken of as being specially characteristic of Reuben S. Vanderpoel, were all required, and employed with great tenderness, in the management of this situation. As little as it was possible that his wife should know, was the utmost she must hear and be hurt by. Unless ensuing events compelled further revelations, the rest of it should be kept from her. As further protection, her husband had frankly asked her to content herself with a degree of limited information.

“I have meant all our lives, Annie, to keep from you the unpleasant things a woman need not be troubled with,” he had said. “I promised myself I would when you were a girl. I knew you would face things, if I needed your help, but you were a gentle little soul, like Rosy, and I never intended that you should bear what was useless. Anstruthers was a blackguard, and girls of all nations have married blackguards before. When you have Rosy safe at home, and know nothing can hurt her again, you both may feel you would like to talk it over. Till then we won’t go into detail. You trust me, I know, when I tell you that you shall hold Rosy in your arms very soon. We may have something of a fight, but there can only be one end to it in a country as decent as England. Anstruthers isn’t exactly what I should call an Englishman. Men rather like him are to be found in two or three places.” His good-looking, shrewd, elderly face lighted with a fine smile. “My handsome Betty has saved us a good deal by carrying out her fifteen-year-old plan of going to find her sister,” he ended.

Before they landed they had decided that Mrs. Vanderpoel should be comfortably established in a hotel in London, and that after this was arranged, her husband should go to Stornham Court alone. If Sir Nigel could be induced to listen to logic, Rosalie, her child, and Betty should come at once to town.

“And, if he won’t listen to logic,” added Mr. Vanderpoel, with a dry composure, “they shall come just the same, my dear.” And his wife put her arms round his neck and kissed him because she knew what he said was quite true, and she admired him–as she had always done–greatly.

But when the pilot came on board and there began to stir in the ship the agreeable and exciting bustle of the delivery of letters and welcoming telegrams, among Mr. Vanderpoel’s many yellow envelopes he opened one the contents of which caused him to stand still for some moments–so still, indeed, that some of the bystanders began to touch each other’s elbows and whisper. He certainly read the message two or three times before he folded it up, returned it to its receptacle, and walked gravely to his wife’s sitting-room.

“Reuben!” she exclaimed, after her first look at him, “have you bad news? Oh, I hope not!”

He came and sat down quietly beside her, taking her hand.

“Don’t be frightened, Annie, my dear,” he said. “I have just been reminded of a verse in the Bible–about vengeance not belonging to mere human beings. Nigel Anstruthers has had a stroke of paralysis, and it is not his first. Apparently, even if he lies on his back for some months thinking of harm, he won’t be able to do it. He is finished.”

When he was carried by the express train through the country, he saw all that Betty had seen, though the summer had passed, and there were neither green trees nor hedges. He knew all that the long letters had meant of stirred emotion and affection, and he was strongly moved, though his mind was full of many things. There were the farmhouses, the square-towered churches, the red-pointed hop oasts, and the village children. How distinctly she had made him see them! His Betty–his splendid Betty! His heart beat at the thought of seeing her high, young black head, and holding her safe in his arms again. Safe! He resented having used the word, because there was a shock in seeming to admit the possibility that anything in the universe could do wrong to her. Yet one man had been villain enough to mean her harm, and to threaten her with it. He slightly shuddered as he thought of how the man was finished–done for.

The train began to puff more loudly, as it slackened its pace. It was drawing near to a rustic little station, and, as it passed in, he saw a carriage standing outside, waiting on the road, and a footman in a long coat, glancing into each window as the train went by. Two or three country people were watching it intently. Miss Vanderpoel’s father was coming up from London on it. The stationmaster rushed to open the carriage door, and the footman hastened forward, but a tall lovely thing in grey was opposite the step as Mr. Vanderpoel descended it to the platform. She did not recognise the presence of any other human being than himself. For the moment she seemed to forget even the broad-shouldered man who had plainly come with her. As Reuben S. Vanderpoel folded her in his arms, she folded him and kissed him as he was not sure she had ever kissed him before.

“My splendid Betty! My own fine girl!” he said.

And when she cried out “Father! Father!” she bent and kissed the breast of his coat.

He knew who the big young man was before she turned to present him.

“This is Lord Mount Dunstan, father,” she said. “Since Nigel was brought home, he has been very good to us.”

Reuben S. Vanderpoel looked well into the man’s eyes, as he shook hands with him warmly, and this was what he said to himself:

“Yes, she’s safe. This is quite safe. It is to be trusted with the whole thing.”

Not many days after her husband’s arrival at Stornham Court, Mrs. Vanderpoel travelled down from London, and, during her journey, scarcely saw the wintry hedges and bare trees, because, as she sat in her cushioned corner of the railway carriage, she was inwardly offering up gentle, pathetically ardent prayers of gratitude. She was the woman who prays, and the many sad petitions of the past years were being answered at last. She was being allowed to go to Rosy– whatsoever happened, she could never be really parted from her girl again. She asked pardon many times because she had not been able to be really sorry when she had heard of her son-in-law’s desperate condition. She could feel pity for him in his awful case, she told herself, but she could not wish for the thing which perhaps she ought to wish for. She had confided this to her husband with innocent, penitent tears, and he had stroked her cheek, which had always been his comforting way since they had been young things together.

“My dear,” he said, “if a tiger with hydrophobia were loose among a lot of decent people–or indecent ones, for the matter of that–you would not feel it your duty to be very sorry if, in springing on a group of them, he impaled himself on an iron fence. Don’t reproach yourself too much.” And, though the realism of the picture he presented was such as to make her exclaim, “No! No!” there were still occasional moments when she breathed a request for pardon if she was hard of heart–this softest of creatures human.

It was arranged by the two who best knew and loved her that her meeting with Rosalie should have no spectators, and that their first hour together should be wholly unbroken in upon.

“You have not seen each other for so long,” Betty said, when, on her arrival, she led her at once to the morning-room where Rosy waited, pale with joy, but when the door was opened, though the two figures were swept into each other’s arms by one wild, tremulous rush of movement, there were no sounds to be heard, only caught breaths, until the door had closed again.

The talks which took place between Mr. Vanderpoel and Lord Mount Dunstan were many and long, and were of absorbing interest to both. Each presented to the other a new world, and a type of which his previous knowledge had been but incomplete.

“I wonder,” Mr. Vanderpoel said, in the course of one of them, “if my world appeals to you as yours appeals to me. Naturally, from your standpoint, it scarcely seems probable. Perhaps the up-building of large financial schemes presupposes a certain degree of imagination. I am becoming a romantic New York man of business, and I revel in it. Kedgers, for instance,” with the smile which, somehow, suggested Betty, “Kedgers and the Lilium Giganteum, Mrs. Welden and old Doby threaten to develop into quite necessary factors in the scheme of happiness. What Betty has felt is even more comprehensible than it seemed at first.”

They walked and rode together about the countryside; when Mount Dunstan itself was swept clean of danger, and only a few convalescents lingered to be taken care of in the huge ballroom, they spent many days in going over the estate. The desolate beauty of it appealed to and touched Mr. Vanderpoel, as it had appealed to and touched his daughter, and, also, wakened in him much new and curious delight. But Mount Dunstan, with a touch of his old obstinacy, insisted that he should ignore the beauty, and look closely at less admirable things.

“You must see the worst of this,” he said. “You must understand that I can put no good face upon things, that I offer nothing, because I have nothing to offer.”

If he had not been swept through and through by a powerful and rapturous passion, he would have detested and abhorred these days of deliberate proud laying bare of the nakedness of the land. But in the hours he spent with Betty Vanderpoel the passion gave him knowledge of the things which, being elemental, do not concern themselves with pride and obstinacy, and do not remember them. Too much had ended, and too much begun, to leave space or thought for poor things. In their eyes, when they were together, and even when they were apart, dwelt a glow which was deeply moving to those who, looking on, were sufficiently profound of thought to understand.

Watching the two walking slowly side by side down the leafless avenue on a crystal winter day, Mr. Vanderpoel conversed with the vicar, whom he greatly liked.

“A young man of the name of Selden,” he remarked, “told me more of this than he knew.”

“G. Selden,” said the vicar, with affectionate smiling. “He is not aware that he was largely concerned in the matter. In fact, without G. Selden, I do not know how, exactly, we should have got on. How is he, nice fellow?”

“Extremely well, and in these days in my employ. He is of the honest, indefatigable stuff which makes its way.”

His own smiles, as he watched the two tall figures in the distance, settled into an expression of speculative absorption, because he was reflecting upon profoundly interesting matters.

“There is a great primeval thing which sometimes–not often, only sometimes–occurs to two people,” he went on. “When it leaps into being, it is well if it is not thwarted, or done to death. It has happened to my girl and Mount Dunstan. If they had been two young tinkers by the roadside, they would have come together, and defied their beggary. As it is, I recognise, as I sit here, that the outcome of what is to be may reach far, and open up broad new ways.”

“Yes,” said the vicar. “She will live here and fill a strong man’s life with wonderful human happiness–her splendid children will be born here, and among them will be those who lead the van and make history.”

. . . . .

For some time Nigel Anstruthers lay in his room at Stornham Court, surrounded by all of aid and luxury that wealth and exalted medical science could gather about him. Sometimes he lay a livid unconscious mask, sometimes his nurses and doctors knew that in his hollow eyes there was the light of a raging half reason, and they saw that he struggled to utter coherent sounds which they might comprehend. This he never accomplished, and one day, in the midst of such an effort, he was stricken dumb again, and soon afterwards sank into stillness and died.

And the Shuttle in the hand of Fate, through every hour of every day, and through the slow, deep breathing of all the silent nights, weaves to and fro–to and fro–drawing with it the threads of human life and thought which strengthen its web: and trace the figures of its yet vague and uncompleted design.