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  • 1907
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Miss Vanderpoel leaned forward with an amazingly fervid expression on her face.

“Tommy! Tommy!” she cried to the little boy. “Here I am, Tommy. We can say good-bye from here.”

The little boy, looking up, broke into a wail of despair.

“Betty! Betty! Betty!” he cried. “I wanted to kiss you, Betty.”

Betty held out her arms. She did it with entire forgetfulness of the existence of any lookers-on, and with such outreaching love on her face that it seemed as if the child must feel her touch. She made a beautiful, warm, consoling bud of her mouth.

“We’ll kiss each other from here, Tommy,” she said. “See, we can. Kiss me, and I will kiss you.”

Tommy held out his arms and the magnificent donkey. “Betty,” he cried, “I brought you my donkey. I wanted to give it to you for a present, because you liked it.”

Miss Vanderpoel bent further forward and addressed the elderly woman.

“Matilda,” she said, “please pack Master Tommy’s present and send it to me! I want it very much.”

Tender smiles irradiated the small face. The gangway was withdrawn, and, amid the familiar sounds of a big craft’s first struggle, the ship began to move. Miss Vanderpoel still bent forward and held out her arms.

“I will soon come back, Tommy,” she cried, “and we are always friends.”

The child held out his short blue serge arms also, and Salter watching him could not but be touched for all his gloom of mind.

“I wanted to kiss you, Betty,” he heard in farewell. “I did so want to kiss you.”

And so they steamed away upon the blue.

CHAPTER VIII

THE SECOND-CLASS PASSENGER

Up to a certain point the voyage was like all other voyages. During the first two days there were passengers who did not appear on deck, but as the weather was fair for the season of the year, there were fewer absentees than is usual. Indeed, on the third day the deck chairs were all filled, people who were given to tramping during their voyages had begun to walk their customary quota of carefully-measured miles the day. There were a few pale faces dozing here and there, but the general aspect of things had begun to be sprightly. Shuffleboard players and quoit enthusiasts began to bestir themselves, the deck steward appeared regularly with light repasts of beef tea and biscuits, and the brilliant hues of red, blue, or yellow novels made frequent spots of colour upon the promenade. Persons of some initiative went to the length of making tentative observations to their next-chair neighbours. The second-cabin passengers were cheerful, and the steerage passengers, having tumbled up, formed friendly groups and began to joke with each other.

The Worthingtons had plainly the good fortune to be respectable sailors. They reappeared on the second day and established regular habits, after the manner of accustomed travellers. Miss Vanderpoel’s habits were regular from the first, and when Salter saw her he was impressed even more at the outset with her air of being at home instead of on board ship. Her practically well-chosen corner was an agreeable place to look at. Her chair was built for ease of angle and width, her cushions were of dark rich colours, her travelling rugs were of black fox fur, and she owned an adjustable table for books and accompaniments. She appeared early in the morning and walked until the sea air crimsoned her cheeks, she sat and read with evident enjoyment, she talked to her companions and plainly entertained them.

Salter, being bored and in bad spirits, found himself watching her rather often, but he knew that but for the small, comic episode of Tommy, he would have definitely disliked her. The dislike would not have been fair, but it would have existed in spite of himself. It would not have been fair because it would have been founded simply upon the ignoble resentment of envy, upon the poor truth that he was not in the state of mind to avoid resenting the injustice of fate in bestowing multi-millions upon one person and his offspring. He resented his own resentment, but was obliged to acknowledge its existence in his humour. He himself, especially and peculiarly, had always known the bitterness of poverty, the humiliation of seeing where money could be well used, indeed, ought to be used, and at the same time having ground into him the fact that there was no money to lay one’s hand on. He had hated it even as a boy, because in his case, and that of his people, the whole thing was undignified and unbecoming. It was humiliating to him now to bring home to himself the fact that the thing for which he was inclined to dislike this tall, up-standing girl was her unconscious (he realised the unconsciousness of it) air of having always lived in the atmosphere of millions, of never having known a reason why she should not have anything she had a desire for. Perhaps, upon the whole, he said to himself, it was his own ill luck and sense of defeat which made her corner, with its cushions and comforts, her properly attentive maid, and her cold weather sables expressive of a fortune too colossal to be decent.

The episode of the plump, despairing Tommy he had liked, however. There had been a fine naturalness about it and a fine practicalness in her prompt order to the elderly nurse that the richly-caparisoned donkey should be sent to her. This had at once made it clear to the donor that his gift was too valuable to be left behind.

“She did not care twopence for the lot of us,” was his summing up. “She might have been nothing but the nicest possible warm-hearted nursemaid or a cottage woman who loved the child.”

He was quite aware that though he had found himself more than once observing her, she herself had probably not recognised the trivial fact of his existing upon that other side of the barrier which separated the higher grade of passenger from the lower. There was, indeed, no reason why she should have singled him out for observation, and she was, in fact, too frequently absorbed in her own reflections to be in the frame of mind to remark her fellow passengers to the extent which was generally customary with her. During her crossings of the Atlantic she usually made mental observation of the people on board. This time, when she was not talking to the Worthingtons, or reading, she was thinking of the possibilities of her visit to Stornham. She used to walk about the deck thinking of them and, sitting in her chair, sum them up as her eyes rested on the rolling and breaking waves.

There were many things to be considered, and one of the first was the perfectly sane suggestion her father had made.

“Suppose she does not want to be rescued? Suppose you find her a comfortable fine lady who adores her husband.”

Such a thing was possible, though Bettina did not think it probable. She intended, however, to prepare herself even for this. If she found Lady Anstruthers plump and roseate, pleased with herself and her position, she was quite equal to making her visit appear a casual and conventional affair.

“I ought to wish it to be so,” she thought, “and, yet, how disappointingly I should feel she had changed. Still, even ethical reasons would not excuse one for wishing her to be miserable.” She was a creature with a number of passionate ideals which warred frequently with the practical side of her mentality. Often she used to walk up and down the deck or lean upon the ship’s side, her eyes stormy with emotions.

“I do not want to find Rosy a heartless woman, and I do not want to find her wretched. What do I want? Only the usual thing–that what cannot be undone had never been done. People are always wishing that.”

She was standing near the second-cabin barrier thinking this, the first time she saw the passenger with the red hair. She had paused by mere chance, and while her eyes were stormy with her thought, she suddenly became conscious that she was looking directly into other eyes as darkling as her own. They were those of a man on the wrong side of the barrier. He had a troubled, brooding face, and, as their gaze met, each of them started slightly and turned away with the sense of having unconsciously intruded and having been intruded upon.

“That rough-looking man,” she commented to herself, “is as anxious and disturbed as I am.”

Salter did look rough, it was true. His well-worn clothes had suffered somewhat from the restrictions of a second-class cabin shared with two other men. But the aspect which had presented itself to her brief glance had been not so much roughness of clothing as of mood expressing itself in his countenance. He was thinking harshly and angrily of the life ahead of him.

These looks of theirs which had so inadvertently encountered each other were of that order which sometimes startles one when in passing a stranger one finds one’s eyes entangled for a second in his or hers, as the case may be. At such times it seems for that instant difficult to disentangle one’s gaze. But neither of these two thought of the other much, after hurrying away. Each was too fully mastered by personal mood.

There would, indeed, have been no reason for their encountering each other further but for “the accident,” as it was called when spoken of afterwards, the accident which might so easily have been a catastrophe. It occurred that night. This was two nights before they were to land.

Everybody had begun to come under the influence of that cheerfulness of humour, the sense of relief bordering on gaiety, which generally elates people when a voyage is drawing to a close. If one has been dull, one begins to gather one’s self together, rejoiced that the boredom is over. In any case, there are plans to be made, thought of, or discussed.

“You wish to go to Stornham at once?” Mrs. Worthington said to Bettina. “How pleased Lady Anstruthers and Sir Nigel must be at the idea of seeing you with them after so long.”

“I can scarcely tell you how I am looking forward to it,” Betty answered.

She sat in her corner among her cushions looking at the dark water which seemed to sweep past the ship, and listening to the throb of the engines. She was not gay. She was wondering how far the plans she had made would prove feasible. Mrs. Worthington was not aware that her visit to Stornham Court was to be unannounced. It had not been necessary to explain the matter. The whole affair was simple and decorous enough. Miss Vanderpoel was to bid good-bye to her friends and go at once to her sister, Lady Anstruthers, whose husband’s country seat was but a short journey from London. Bettina and her father had arranged that the fact should be kept from the society paragraphist. This had required some adroit management, but had actually been accomplished.

As the waves swished past her, Bettina was saying to herself, “What will Rosy say when she sees me! What shall I say when I see Rosy? We are drawing nearer to each other with every wave that passes.”

A fog which swept up suddenly sent them all below rather early. The Worthingtons laughed and talked a little in their staterooms, but presently became quiet and had evidently gone to bed. Bettina was restless and moved about her room alone after she had sent away her maid. She at last sat down and finished a letter she had been writing to her father.

“As I near the land,” she wrote, “I feel a sort of excitement. Several times to-day I have recalled so distinctly the picture of Rosy as I saw her last, when we all stood crowded upon the wharf at New York to see her off. She and Nigel were leaning upon the rail of the upper deck. She looked such a delicate, airy little creature, quite like a pretty schoolgirl with tears in her eyes. She was laughing and crying at the same time, and kissing both her hands to us again and again. I was crying passionately myself, though I tried to conceal the fact, and I remember that each time I looked from Rosy to Nigel’s heavy face the poignancy of my anguish made me break forth again. I wonder if it was because I was a child, that he looked such a contemptuous brute, even when he pretended to smile. It is twelve years since then. I wonder–how I wonder, what I shall find.”

She stopped writing and sat a few moments, her chin upon her hand, thinking. Suddenly she sprang to her feet in alarm. The stillness of the night was broken by wild shouts, a running of feet outside, a tumult of mingled sounds and motion, a dash and rush of surging water, a strange thumping and straining of engines, and a moment later she was hurled from one side of her stateroom to the other by a crashing shock which seemed to heave the ship out of the sea, shuddering as if the end of all things had come.

It was so sudden and horrible a thing that, though she had only been flung upon a pile of rugs and cushions and was unhurt, she felt as if she had been struck on the head and plunged into wild delirium. Above the sound of the dashing and rocking waves, the straining and roaring of hacking engines and the pandemonium of voices rose from one end of the ship to the other, one wild, despairing, long-drawn shriek of women and children. Bettina turned sick at the mad terror in it– the insensate, awful horror.

“Something has run into us!” she gasped, getting up with her heart leaping in her throat.

She could hear the Worthingtons’ tempest of terrified confusion through the partitions between them, and she remembered afterwards that in the space of two or three seconds, and in the midst of their clamour, a hundred incongruous thoughts leaped through her brain. Perhaps they were this moment going down. Now she knew what it was like! This thing she had read of in newspapers! Now she was going down in mid-ocean, she, Betty Vanderpoel! And, as she sprang to clutch her fur coat, there flashed before her mental vision a gruesome picture of the headlines in the newspapers and the inevitable reference to the millions she represented.

“I must keep calm,” she heard herself say, as she fastened the long coat, clenching her teeth to keep them from chattering. “Poor Daddy–poor Daddy!”

Maddening new sounds were all about her, sounds of water dashing and churning, sounds of voices bellowing out commands, straining and leaping sounds of the engines. What was it–what was it? She must at least find out. Everybody was going mad in the staterooms, the stewards were rushing about, trying to quiet people, their own voices shaking and breaking into cracked notes. If the worst had happened, everyone would be fighting for life in a few minutes. Out on deck she must get and find out for herself what the worst was.

She was the first woman outside, though the wails and shrieks swelled below, and half-dressed, ghastly creatures tumbled gasping up the companion-way.

“What is it?” she heard. “My God! what’s happened? Where’s the Captain! Are we going down! The boats! The boats!”

It was useless to speak to the seamen rushing by. They did not see, much less hear! She caught sight of a man who could not be a sailor, since he was standing still. She made her way to him, thankful that she had managed to stop her teeth chattering.

“What has happened to us?” she said.

He turned and looked at her straitly. He was the second- cabin passenger with the red hair.

“A tramp steamer has run into us in the fog,” he answered.

“How much harm is done?”

“They are trying to find out. I am standing here on the chance of hearing something. It is madness to ask any man questions.”

They spoke to each other in short, sharp sentences, knowing there was no time to lose.

“Are you horribly frightened?” he asked.

She stamped her foot.

“I hate it–I hate it!” she said, flinging out her hand towards the black, heaving water. “The plunge–the choking! No one could hate it more. But I want to DO something!”

She was turning away when he caught her hand and held her.

“Wait a second,” he said. “I hate it as much as you do, but I believe we two can keep our heads. Those who can do that may help, perhaps. Let us try to quiet the people. As soon as I find out anything I will come to your friends’ stateroom. You are near the boats there. Then I shall go back to the second cabin. You work on your side and I’ll work on mine. That’s all.”

“Thank you. Tell the Worthingtons. I’m going to the saloon deck.” She was off as she spoke.

Upon the stairway she found herself in the midst of a struggling panic-stricken mob, tripping over each other on the steps, and clutching at any garment nearest, to drag themselves up as they fell, or were on the point of falling. Everyone was crying out in question and appeal.

Bettina stood still, a firm, tall obstacle, and clutched at the hysteric woman who was hurled against her.

“I’ve been on deck,” she said. “A tramp steamer has run into us. No one has time to answer questions. The first thing to do is to put on warm clothes and secure the life belts in case you need them.”

At once everyone turned upon her as if she was an authority. She replied with almost fierce determination to the torrent of words poured forth.

“I know nothing further–only that if one is not a fool one must make sure of clothes and belts.”

“Quite right, Miss Vanderpoel,” said one young man, touching his cap in nervous propitiation.

“Stop screaming,” Betty said mercilessly to the woman. “It’s idiotic–the more noise you make the less chance you have. How can men keep their wits among a mob of shrieking, mad women?”

That the remote Miss Vanderpoel should have emerged from her luxurious corner to frankly bully the lot of them was an excellent shock for the crowd. Men, who had been in danger of losing their heads and becoming as uncontrolled as the women, suddenly realised the fact and pulled themselves together. Bettina made her way at once to the Worthingtons’ staterooms.

There she found frenzy reigning. Blanche and Marie Worthington were darting to and fro, dragging about first one thing and then another. They were silly with fright, and dashed at, and dropped alternately, life belts, shoes, jewel cases, and wraps, while they sobbed and cried out hysterically. “Oh, what shall we do with mother! What shall we do!”

The manners of Betty Vanderpoel’s sharp schoolgirl days returned to her in full force. She seized Blanche by the shoulder and shook her.

“What a donkey you are!” she said. “Put on your clothes. There they are,” pushing her to the place where they hung. “Marie–dress yourself this moment. We may be in no real danger at all.”

“Do you think not! Oh, Betty!” they wailed in concert. “Oh, what shall we do with mother!”

“Where is your mother?”

“She fainted–Louise—-“

Betty was in Mrs. Worthington’s cabin before they had finished speaking. The poor woman had fainted, and struck her cheek against a chair. She lay on the floor in her nightgown, with blood trickling from a cut on her face. Her maid, Louise, was wringing her hands, and doing nothing whatever.

“If you don’t bring the brandy this minute,” said the beautiful Miss Vanderpoel, “I’ll box your ears. Believe me, my girl.” She looked so capable of doing it that the woman was startled and actually offended into a return of her senses. Miss Vanderpoel had usually the best possible manners in dealing with her inferiors.

Betty poured brandy down Mrs. Worthington’s throat and applied strong smelling salts until she gasped back to consciousness. She had just burst into frightened sobs, when Betty heard confusion and exclamations in the adjoining room. Blanche and Marie had cried out, and a man’s voice was speaking. Betty went to them. They were in various stages of undress, and the red-haired second-cabin passenger was standing at the door.

“I promised Miss Vanderpoel—-” he was saying, when Betty came forward. He turned to her promptly.

“I come to tell you that it seems absolutely to be relied on that there is no immediate danger. The tramp is more injured than we are.”

“Oh, are you sure? Are you sure?” panted Blanche, catching at his sleeve.

“Yes,” he answered. “Can I do anything for you?” he said to Bettina, who was on the point of speaking.

“Will you be good enough to help me to assist Mrs. Worthington into her berth, and then try to find the doctor.”

He went into the next room without speaking. To Mrs. Worthington he spoke briefly a few words of reassurance. He was a powerful man, and laid her on her berth without dragging her about uncomfortably, or making her feel that her weight was greater than even in her most desponding moments she had suspected. Even her helplessly hysteric mood was illuminated by a ray of grateful appreciation.

“Oh, thank you–thank you,” she murmured. “And you are quite sure there is no actual danger, Mr.—-?”

“Salter,” he terminated for her. “You may feel safe. The damage is really only slight, after all.”

“It is so good of you to come and tell us,” said the poor lady, still tremulous. “The shock was awful. Our introduction has been an alarming one. I–I don’t think we have met during the voyage.”

“No,” replied Salter. “I am in the second cabin.”

“Oh! thank you. It’s so good of you,” she faltered amiably, for want of inspiration. As he went out of the stateroom, Salter spoke to Bettina.

“I will send the doctor, if I can find him,” he said. “I think, perhaps, you had better take some brandy yourself. I shall.”

“It’s queer how little one seems to realise even that there are second-cabin passengers,” commented Mrs. Worthington feebly. “That was a nice man, and perfectly respectable. He even had a kind of–of manner.”

CHAPTER IX

LADY JANE GREY

It seemed upon the whole even absurd that after a shock so awful and a panic wild enough to cause people to expose their very souls–for there were, of course, endless anecdotes to be related afterwards, illustrative of grotesque terror, cowardice, and utter abandonment of all shadows of convention– that all should end in an anticlimax of trifling danger, upon which, in a day or two, jokes might be made. Even the tramp steamer had not been seriously injured, though its injuries were likely to be less easy of repair than those of the Meridiana.

“Still,” as a passenger remarked, when she steamed into the dock at Liverpool, “we might all be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean this morning. Just think what columns there would have been in the newspapers. Imagine Miss Vanderpoel’s being drowned.”

“I was very rude to Louise, when I found her wringing her hands over you, and I was rude to Blanche,” Bettina said to Mrs. Worthington. “In fact I believe I was rude to a number of people that night. I am rather ashamed.”

“You called me a donkey,” said Blanche, “but it was the best thing you could have done. You frightened me into putting on my shoes, instead of trying to comb my hair with them. It was startling to see you march into the stateroom, the only person who had not been turned into a gibbering idiot. I know I was gibbering, and I know Marie was.”

“We both gibbered at the red-haired man when he came in,” said Marie. “We clutched at him and gibbered together. Where is the red-haired man, Betty? Perhaps we made him ill. I’ve not seen him since that moment.”

“He is in the second cabin, I suppose,” Bettina answered, “but I have not seen him, either.”

“We ought to get up a testimonial and give it to him, because he did not gibber,” said Blanche. “He was as rude and as sensible as you were, Betty.”

They did not see him again, in fact, at that time. He had reasons of his own for preferring to remain unseen. The truth was that the nearer his approach to his native shores, the nastier, he was perfectly conscious, his temper became, and he did not wish to expose himself by any incident which might cause him stupidly and obviously to lose it.

The maid, Louise, however, recognised him among her companions in the third-class carriage in which she travelled to town. To her mind, whose opinions were regulated by neatly arranged standards, he looked morose and shabbily dressed. Some of the other second-cabin passengers had made themselves quite smart in various, not too distinguished ways. He had not changed his dress at all, and the large valise upon the luggage rack was worn and battered as if with long and rough usage. The woman wondered a little if he would address her, and inquire after the health of her mistress. But, being an astute creature, she only wondered this for an instant, the next she realised that, for one reason or another, it was clear that he was not of the tribe of second-rate persons who pursue an accidental acquaintance with their superiors in fortune, through sociable interchange with their footmen or maids.

When the train slackened its speed at the platform of the station, he got up, reaching down his valise and leaving the carriage, strode to the nearest hansom cab, waving the porter aside.

“Charing Cross,” he called out to the driver, jumped in, and was rattled away.

. . . . .

During the years which had passed since Rosalie Vanderpoel first came to London as Lady Anstruthers, numbers of huge luxurious hotels had grown up, principally, as it seemed, that Americans should swarm into them and live at an expense which reminded them of their native land. Such establishments would never have been built for English people, whose habit it is merely to “stop” at hotels, not to LIVE in them. The tendency of the American is to live in his hotel, even though his intention may be only to remain in it two days. He is accustomed to doing himself extremely well in proportion to his resources, whether they be great or small, and the comforts, as also the luxuries, he allows himself and his domestic appendages are in a proportion much higher in its relation to these resources than it would be were he English, French, German, or Italians. As a consequence, he expects, when he goes forth, whether holiday-making or on business, that his hostelry shall surround him, either with holiday luxuries and gaiety, or with such lavishness of comfort as shall alleviate the wear and tear of business cares and fatigues. The rich man demands something almost as good as he has left at home, the man of moderate means something much better. Certain persons given to regarding public wants and desires as foundations for the fortune of business schemes having discovered this, the enormous and sumptuous hotel evolved itself from their astute knowledge of common facts. At the entrances of these hotels, omnibuses and cabs, laden with trunks and packages frequently bearing labels marked with red letters “S. S. So-and-So, Stateroom–Hold–Baggage- room,” drew up and deposited their contents and burdens at regular intervals. Then men with keen, and often humorous faces or almost painfully anxious ones, their exceedingly well-dressed wives, and more or less attractive and vivacious-looking daughters, their eager little girls, and un- English-looking little boys, passed through the corridors in flocks and took possession of suites of rooms, sometimes for twenty-four hours, sometimes for six weeks.

The Worthingtons took possession of such a suite in such a hotel. Bettina Vanderpoel’s apartments faced the Embankment. From her windows she could look out at the broad splendid, muddy Thames, slowly rolling in its grave, stately way beneath its bridges, bearing with it heavy lumbering barges, excited tooting little penny steamers and craft of various shapes and sizes, the errand or burden of each meaning a different story.

It had been to Bettina one of her pleasures of the finest epicurean flavour to reflect that she had never had any brief and superficial knowledge of England, as she had never been to the country at all in those earlier years, when her knowledge of places must necessarily have been always the incomplete one of either a schoolgirl traveller or a schoolgirl resident, whose views were limited by the walls of restriction built around her.

If relations of the usual ease and friendliness had existed between Lady Anstruthers and her family, Bettina would, doubtless, have known her sister’s adopted country well. It would have been a thing so natural as to be almost inevitable, that she would have crossed the Channel to spend her holidays at Stornham. As matters had stood, however, the child herself, in the days when she had been a child, had had most definite private views on the subject of visits to England. She had made up her young mind absolutely that she would not, if it were decently possible to avoid it, set her foot upon English soil until she was old enough and strong enough to carry out what had been at first her passionately romantic plans for discovering and facing the truth of the reason for the apparent change in Rosy. When she went to England,she would go to Rosy. As she had grown older, having in the course of education and travel seen most Continental countries, she had liked to think that she had saved, put aside for less hasty consumption and more delicate appreciation of flavours, as it were, the country she was conscious she cared for most.

“It is England we love, we Americans,” she had said to her father. “What could be more natural? We belong to it–it belongs to us. I could never be convinced that the old tie of blood does not count. All nationalities have come to us since we became a nation, but most of us in the beginning came from England. We are touching about it, too. We trifle with France and labour with Germany, we sentimentalise over Italy and ecstacise over Spain–but England we love. How it moves us when we go to it, how we gush if we are simple and effusive, how we are stirred imaginatively if we are of the perceptive class. I have heard the commonest little half-educated woman say the prettiest, clumsy, emotional things about what she has seen there. A New England schoolma’am, who has made a Cook’s tour, will almost have tears in her voice as she wanders on with her commonplaces about hawthorn hedges and thatched cottages and white or red farms. Why are we not unconsciously pathetic about German cottages and Italian villas? Because we have not, in centuries past, had the habit of being born in them. It is only an English cottage and an English lane, whether white with hawthorn blossoms or bare with winter, that wakes in us that little yearning, grovelling tenderness that is so sweet. It is only nature calling us home.”

Mrs. Worthington came in during the course of the morning to find her standing before her window looking out at the Thames, the Embankment, the hansom cabs themselves, with an absolutely serious absorption. This changed to a smile as she turned to greet her.

“I am delighted,” she said. “I could scarcely tell you how much. The impression is all new and I am excited a little by everything. I am so intensely glad that I have saved it so long and that I have known it only as part of literature. I am even charmed that it rains, and that the cabmen’s mackintoshes are shining and wet.” She drew forward a chair, and Mrs. Worthington sat down, looking at her with involuntary admiration.

“You look as if you were delighted,” she said. “Your eyes–you have amazing eyes, Betty! I am trying to picture to myself what Lady Anstruthers will feel when she sees you. What were you like when she married?”

Bettina sat down, smiling and looking, indeed, quite incredibly lovely. She was capable of a warmth and a sweetness which were as embracing as other qualities she possessed were powerful.

“I was eight years old,” she said. “I was a rude little girl, with long legs and a high, determined voice. I know I was rude. I remember answering back.”

“I seem to have heard that you did not like your brother- in-law, and that you were opposed to the marriage.”

“Imagine the undisciplined audacity of a child of eight `opposing’ the marriage of her grown-up sister. I was quite capable of it. You see in those days we had not been trained at all (one had only been allowed tremendous liberty), and interfered conversationally with one’s elders and betters at any moment. I was an American little girl, and American little girls were really–they really were!” with a laugh, whose musical sound was after all wholly non-committal.

“You did not treat Sir Nigel Anstruthers as one of your betters.”

“He was one of my elders, at all events, and becomingness of bearing should have taught me to hold my little tongue. I am giving some thought now to the kind of thing I must invent as a suitable apology when I find him a really delightful person, full of virtues and accomplishments. Perhaps he has a horror of me.”

“I should like to be present at your first meeting,” Mrs. Worthington reflected. “You are going down to Stornham to-morrow?”

“That is my plan. When I write to you on my arrival, I will tell you if I encountered the horror.” Then, with a swift change of subject and a lifting of her slender, velvet line of eyebrow, “I am only deploring that I have not time to visit the Tower.”

Mrs. Worthington was betrayed into a momentary glance of uncertainty, almost verging in its significance on a gasp.

“The Tower? Of London? Dear Betty!”

Bettina’s laugh was mellow with revelation.

“Ah!” she said. “You don’t know my point of view; it’s plain enough. You see, when I delight in these things, I think I delight most in my delight in them. It means that I am almost having the kind of feeling the fresh American souls had who landed here thirty years ago and revelled in the resemblance to Dickens’s characters they met with in the streets, and were historically thrilled by the places where people’s heads were chopped off. Imagine their reflections on Charles I., when they stood in Whitehall gazing on the very spot where that poor last word was uttered–`Remember.’ And think of their joy when each crossing sweeper they gave disproportionate largess to, seemed Joe All Alones in the slightest disguise.”

“You don’t mean to say—-” Mrs. Worthington was vaguely awakening to the situation.

“That the charm of my visit, to myself, is that I realise that I am rather like that. I have positively preserved something because I have kept away. You have been here so often and know things so well, and you were even so sophisticated when you began, that you have never really had the flavours and emotions. I am sophisticated, too, sophisticated enough to have cherished my flavours as a gourmet tries to save the bouquet of old wine. You think that the Tower is the pleasure of housemaids on a Bank Holiday. But it quite makes me quiver to think of it,” laughing again. “That I laugh, is the sign that I am not as beautifully, freshly capable of enjoyment as those genuine first Americans were, and in a way I am sorry for it.”

Mrs. Worthington laughed also, and with an enjoyment.

“You are very clever, Betty,” she said.

“No, no,” answered Bettina, “or, if I am, almost everybody is clever in these days. We are nearly all of us comparatively intelligent.”

“You are very interesting at all events, and the Anstruthers will exult in you. If they are dull in the country, you will save them.”

“I am very interested, at all events,” said Bettina, “and interest like mine is quite passe. A clever American who lives in England, and is the pet of duchesses, once said to me (he always speaks of Americans as if they were a distant and recently discovered species), `When they first came over they were a novelty. Their enthusiasm amused people, but now, you see, it has become vieux jeu. Young women, whose specialty was to be excited by the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, are not novelties any longer. In fact, it’s been done, and it’s done FOR as a specialty.’ And I am excited about the Tower of London. I may be able to restrain my feelings at the sight of the Beef Eaters, but they will upset me a little, and I must brace myself, I must indeed.”

“Truly, Betty?” said Mrs. Worthington, regarding her with curiosity, arising from a faint doubt of her entire seriousness,mingled with a fainter doubt of her entire levity.

Betty flung out her hands in a slight, but very involuntary- looking, gesture, and shook her head.

“Ah!” she said, “it was all TRUE, you know. They were all horribly real–the things that were shuddered over and sentimentalised about. Sophistication, combined with imagination, makes them materialise again, to me, at least, now I am here. The gulf between a historical figure and a man or woman who could bleed and cry out in human words was broad when one was at school. Lady Jane Grey, for instance, how nebulous she was and how little one cared. She seemed invented merely to add a detail to one’s lesson in English history. But, as we drove across Waterloo Bridge, I caught a glimpse of the Tower, and what do you suppose I began to think of? It was monstrous. I saw a door in the Tower and the stone steps, and the square space, and in the chill clear, early morning a little slender, helpless girl led out, a little, fair, real thing like Rosy, all alone–everyone she belonged to far away, not a man near who dared utter a word of pity when she turned her awful, meek, young, desperate eyes upon him. She was a pious child, and, no doubt, she lifted her eyes to the sky. I wonder if it was blue and its blueness broke her heart, because it looked as if it might have pitied such a young, patient girl thing led out in the fair morning to walk to the hacked block and give her trembling pardon to the black-visored man with the axe, and then `commending her soul to God’ to stretch her sweet slim neck out upon it.”

“Oh, Betty, dear!” Mrs. Worthington expostulated.

Bettina sprang to her and took her hand in pretty appeal.

“I beg pardon! I beg pardon, I really do,” she exclaimed. “I did not intend deliberately to be painful. But that– beneath the sophistication–is something of what I bring to England.”

CHAPTER X

“IS LADY ANSTRUTHERS AT HOME?”

All that she had brought with her to England, combined with what she had called “sophistication,” but which was rather her exquisite appreciation of values and effects, she took with her when she went the next day to Charing Cross Station and arranged herself at her ease in the railway carriage, while her maid bought their tickets for Stornham.

What the people in the station saw, the guards and porters, the men in the book stalls, the travellers hurrying past, was a striking-looking girl, whose colouring and carriage made one turn to glance after her, and who, having bought some periodicals and papers, took her place in a first-class compartment and watched the passersby interestedly through the open window. Having been looked at and remarked on during her whole life, Bettina did not find it disturbing that more than one corduroy-clothed porter and fresh-coloured, elderly gentleman, or freshly attired young one, having caught a glimpse of her through her window, made it convenient to saunter past or hover round. She looked at them much more frankly than they looked at her. To her they were all specimens of the types she was at present interested in. For practical reasons she was summing up English character with more deliberate intention than she had felt in the years when she had gradually learned to know Continental types and differentiate such peculiarities as were significant of their ranks and nations. As the first Reuben Vanderpoel had studied the countenances and indicative methods of the inhabitants of the new parts of the country in which it was his intention to do business, so the modernity of his descendant applied itself to observation for reasons parallel in nature though not in actual kind. As he had brought beads and firewater to bear as agents upon savages who would barter for them skins and products which might be turned into money, so she brought her nineteenth-century beauty, steadfastness of purpose and alertness of brain to bear upon the matter the practical dealing with which was the end she held in view. To bear herself in this matter with as practical a control of situations as that with which her great-grandfather would have borne himself in making a trade with a previously unknown tribe of Indians was quite her intention, though it had not occurred to her to put it to herself in any such form. Still, whether she was aware of the fact or not, her point of view was exactly what the first Reuben Vanderpoel’s had been on many very different occasions. She had before her the task of dealing with facts and factors of which at present she knew but little. Astuteness of perception, self-command, and adaptability were her chief resources. She was ready, either for calm, bold approach, or equally calm and wholly non-committal retreat.

The perceptions she had brought with her filled her journey into Kent with delicious things, delicious recognition of beauties she had before known the existence of only through the reading of books, and the dwelling upon their charms as reproduced, more or less perfectly, on canvas. She saw roll by her, with the passing of the train, the loveliness of land and picturesqueness of living which she had saved for herself with epicurean intention for years. Her fancy, when detached from her thoughts of her sister, had been epicurean, and she had been quite aware that it was so. When she had left the suburbs and those villages already touched with suburbanity behind, she felt herself settle into a glow of luxurious enjoyment in the freshness of her pleasure in the familiar, and yet unfamiliar, objects in the thick-hedged fields, whose broad- branched, thick-foliaged oaks and beeches were more embowering in their shade, and sweeter in their green than anything she remembered that other countries had offered her, even at their best. Within the fields the hawthorn hedges beautifully enclosed were groups of resigned mother sheep with their young lambs about them. The curious pointed tops of the red hopkilns, piercing the trees near the farmhouses, wore an almost intentional air of adding picturesque detail. There were clusters of old buildings and dots of cottages and cottage gardens which made her now and then utter exclamations of delight. Little inarticulate Rosy had seen and felt it all twelve years before on her hopeless bridal home-coming when Nigel had sat huddled unbecomingly in the corner of the railway carriage. Her power of expression had been limited to little joyful gasps and obvious laudatory adjectives, smothered in their birth by her first glance at her bridegroom. Betty, in seeing it, knew all the exquisiteness of her own pleasure, and all the meanings of it.

Yes, it was England–England. It was the England of Constable and Morland, of Miss Mitford and Miss Austen, the Brontes and George Eliot. The land which softly rolled and clothed itself in the rich verdure of many trees, sometimes in lovely clusters, sometimes in covering copse, was Constable’s; the ripe young woman with the fat-legged children and the farmyard beasts about her, as she fed the hens from the wooden piggin under her arm, was Morland’s own. The village street might be Miss Mitford’s, the well-to-do house Jane Austen’s own fancy, in its warm brick and comfortable decorum. She laughed a little as she thought it.

“That is American,” she said, “the habit of comparing every stick and stone and breathing thing to some literary parallel. We almost invariably say that things remind us of pictures or books–most usually books. It seems a little crude, but perhaps it means that we are an intensely literary and artistic people.”

She continued to find comparisons revealing to her their appositeness, until her journey had ended by the train’s slackening speed and coming to a standstill before the rural-looking little station which had presented its quaint aspect to Lady Anstruthers on her home-coming of years before.

It had not, during the years which certainly had given time for change, altered in the least. The station master had grown stouter and more rosy, and came forward with his respectful, hospitable air, to attend to the unusual-looking young lady, who was the only first-class passenger. He thought she must be a visitor expected at some country house, but none of the carriages, whose coachmen were his familiar acquaintances, were in waiting. That such a fine young lady should be paying a visit at any house whose owners did not send an equipage to attend her coming, struck him as unusual. The brougham from the “Crown,” though a decent country town vehicle, seemed inadequate. Yet, there it stood drawn up outside the station, and she went to it with the manner of a young lady who had ordered its attendance and knew it would be there.

Wells felt a good deal of interest. Among the many young ladies who descended from the first-class compartments and passed through the little waiting-room on their way to the carriages of the gentry they were going to visit, he did not know when a young lady had “caught his eye,” so to speak, as this one did. She was not exactly the kind of young lady one would immediately class mentally as “a foreigner,” but the blue of her eyes was so deep. and her hair and eyelashes so dark, that these things, combining themselves with a certain “way” she had, made him feel her to be of a type unfamiliar to the region, at least.

He was struck, also, by the fact that the young lady had no maid with her. The truth was that Bettina had purposely left her maid in town. If awkward things occurred, the presence of an attendant would be a sort of complication. It was better, on the first approach, to be wholly unencumbered.

“How far are we from Stornham Court?” she inquired.

“Five miles, my lady,” he answered, touching his cap. She expressed something which to the rural and ingenuous, whose standards were defined, demanded a recognition of probable rank.

“I’d like to know,” was his comment to his wife when he went home to dinner, “who has gone to Stornham Court to-day. There’s few enough visitors go there, and none such as her, for certain. She don’t live anywhere on the line above here, either, for I’ve never seen her face before. She was a tall, handsome one–she was, but it isn’t just that made you look after her. She was a clever one with a spirit, I’ll be bound. I was wondering what her ladyship would have to say to her.”

“Perhaps she was one of HIS fine ladies?” suggestively.

“That she wasn’t, either. And, as for that, I wonder what he’d have to say to such as she is.”

There was complexity of element enough in the thing she was on her way to do, Bettina was thinking, as she was driven over the white ribbon of country road that unrolled over rise and hollow, between the sheep-dotted greenness of fields and the scented hedges. The soft beauty enclosing her was a little shut out from her by her mental attitude. She brought forward for her own decisions upon suitable action a number of possible situations she might find herself called upon to confront. The one thing necessary was that she should be prepared for anything whatever, even for Rosy’s not being pleased to see her, or for finding Sir Nigel a thoroughly reformed and amiable character

“It is the thing which seemingly CANNOT happen which one is most likely to find one’s self face to face with. It will be a little awkward to arrange, if he has developed every domestic virtue, and is delighted to see me.”

Under such rather confusing conditions her plan would be to present to them, as an affectionate surprise, the unheralded visit, which might appear a trifle uncalled for. She felt happily sure of herself under any circumstances not partaking of the nature of collisions at sea. Yet she had not behaved absolutely ill at the time of the threatened catastrophe in the Meridiana. Her remembrance, an oddly sudden one, of the definite manner of the red-haired second-class passenger, assured her of that. He had certainly had all his senses about him, and he had spoken to her as a person to be counted on.

Her pulse beat a little more hurriedly as the brougham entered Stornham village. It was picturesque, but struck her as looking neglected. Many of the cottages had an air of dilapidation. There were many broken windows and unmended garden palings. A suggested lack of whitewash in several cases was not cheerful.

“I know nothing of the duties of English landlords,” she said, looking through her carriage window, “but I should do it myself, if I were Rosy.”

She saw, as she was taken through the park gateway, that that structure was out of order, and that damaged diamond panes peered out from under the thickness of the ivy massing itself over the lodge.

“Ah!” was her thought, “it does not promise as it should. Happy people do not let things fall to pieces.”

Even winding avenue, and spreading sward, and gorse, and broom, and bracken, enfolding all the earth beneath huge trees, were not fair enough to remove a sudden remote fear which arose in her rapidly reasoning mind. It suggested to her a point of view so new that, while she was amazed at herself for not having contemplated it before, she found herself wishing that the coachman would drive rather more slowly, actually that she might have more time to reflect.

They were nearing a dip in the park, where there was a lonely looking pool. The bracken was thick and high there, and the sun, which had just broken through a cloud, had pierced the trees with a golden gleam.

A little withdrawn from this shaft of brightness stood two figures, a dowdy little woman and a hunchbacked boy. The woman held some ferns in her hand, and the boy was sitting down and resting his chin on his hands, which were folded on the top of a stick.

“Stop here for a moment,” Bettina said to the coachman. “I want to ask that woman a question.”

She had thought that she might discover if her sister was at the Court. She realised that to know would be a point of advantage. She leaned forward and spoke.

“I beg your pardon,” she said, “I wonder if you can tell me—-“

The woman came forward a little. She had a listless step and a faded, listless face.

“What did you ask?” she said.

Betty leaned still further forward.

“Can you tell me—-” she began and stopped. A sense of stricture in the throat stopped her, as her eyes took in the washed-out colour of the thin face, the washed-out colour of the thin hair–thin drab hair, dragged in straight, hard unbecomingness from the forehead and cheeks.

Was it true that her heart was thumping, as she had heard it said that agitation made hearts thump?

She began again.

“Can you–tell me if–Lady Anstruthers is at home?” she inquired. As she said it she felt the blood surge up from the furious heart, and the hand she had laid on the handle of the door of the brougham clutched it involuntarily.

The dowdy little woman answered her indifferently, staring at her a little.

“I am Lady Anstruthers,” she said.

Bettina opened the carriage door and stood upon the ground.

“Go on to the house,” she gave order to the coachman, and, with a somewhat startled look, he drove away.

“Rosy!” Bettina’s voice was a hushed, almost awed, thing. “YOU are Rosy?”

The faded little wreck of a creature began to look frightened.

“Rosy!” she repeated, with a small, wry, painful smile.

She was the next moment held in the folding of strong, young arms, against a quickly beating heart. She was being wildly kissed, and the very air seemed rich with warmth and life.

“I am Betty,” she heard. “Look at me, Rosy! I am Betty. Look at me and remember!”

Lady Anstruthers gasped, and broke into a faint, hysteric laugh. She suddenly clutched at Bettina’s arm. For a minute her gaze was wild as she looked up.

“Betty,” she cried out. “No! No! No! I can’t believe it! I can’t! I can’t!”

That just this thing could have taken place in her, Bettina had never thought. As she had reflected on her way from the station, the impossible is what one finds one’s self face to face with. Twelve years should not have changed a pretty blonde thing of nineteen to a worn, unintelligent-looking dowdy of the order of dowdiness which seems to have lived beyond age and sex. She looked even stupid, or at least stupefied. At this moment she was a silly, middle-aged woman, who did not know what to do. For a few seconds Bettina wondered if she was glad to see her, or only felt awkward and unequal to the situation.

“I can’t believe you,” she cried out again, and began to shiver. “Betty! Little Betty? No! No! it isn’t!”

She turned to the boy, who had lifted his chin from his stick, and was staring.

“Ughtred! Ughtred!” she called to him. “Come! She says–she says—-“

She sat down upon a clump of heather and began to cry. She hid her face in her spare hands and broke into sobbing.

“Oh, Betty! No!” she gasped. “It’s so long ago–it’s so far away. You never came–no one–no one–came!”

The hunchbacked boy drew near. He had limped up on his stick. He spoke like an elderly, affectionate gnome, not like a child.

“Don’t do that, mother,” he said. “Don’t let it upset you so, whatever it is.”

“It’s so long ago; it’s so far away!” she wept, with catches in her breath and voice. “You never came!”

Betty knelt down and enfolded her again. Her bell-like voice was firm and clear.

“I have come now,” she said. “And it is not far away. A cable will reach father in two hours.”

Pursuing a certain vivid thought in her mind, she looked at her watch.

“If you spoke to mother by cable this moment,” she added, with accustomed coolness, and she felt her sister actually start as she spoke, “she could answer you by five o’clock.”

Lady Anstruther’s start ended in a laugh and gasp more hysteric than her first. There was even a kind of wan awakening in her face, as she lifted it to look at the wonderful newcomer. She caught her hand and held it, trembling, as she weakly laughed.

“It must be Betty,” she cried. “That little stern way! It is so like her. Betty–Betty–dear!” She fell into a sobbing, shaken heap upon the heather. The harrowing thought passed through Betty’s mind that she looked almost like a limp bundle of shabby clothes. She was so helpless in her pathetic, apologetic hysteria.

“I shall–be better,” she gasped. “It’s nothing. Ughtred, tell her.”

“She’s very weak, really,” said the boy Ughtred, in his mature way. “She can’t help it sometimes. I’ll get some water from the pool.”

“Let me go,” said Betty, and she darted down to the water. She was back in a moment. The boy was rubbing and patting his mother’s hands tenderly.

“At any rate,” he remarked, as one consoled by a reflection, “father is not at home.”

CHAPTER XI

“I THOUGHT YOU HAD ALL FORGOTTEN “

As, after a singular half hour spent among the bracken under the trees, they began their return to the house, Bettina felt that her sense of adventure had altered its character. She was still in the midst of a remarkable sort of exploit, which might end anywhere or in anything, but it had become at once more prosaic in detail and more intense in its significance. What its significance might prove likely to be when she faced it, she had not known, it is true. But this was different from– from anything. As they walked up the sun-dappled avenue she kept glancing aside at Rosy, and endeavouring to draw useful conclusions. The poor girl’s air of being a plain, insignificant frump, long past youth, struck an extraordinary and, for the time, unexplainable note. Her ill-cut, out-of- date dress, the cheap suit of the hunchbacked boy, who limped patiently along, helped by his crutch, suggested possible explanations which were without doubt connected with the thought which had risen in Bettina’s mind, as she had been driven through the broken-hinged entrance gate. What extraordinary disposal was being made of Rosy’s money? But her each glance at her sister also suggested complication upon complication.

The singular half hour under the trees by the pool, spent, after the first hysteric moments were over, in vague exclaimings and questions, which seemed half frightened and all at sea, had gradually shown her that she was talking to a creature wholly other than the Rosalie who had so well known and loved them all, and whom they had so well loved and known. They did not know this one, and she did not know them, she was even a little afraid of the stir and movement of their life and being. The Rosy they had known seemed to be imprisoned within the wall the years of her separated life had built about her. At each breath she drew Bettina saw how long the years had been to her, and how far her home had seemed to lie away, so far that it could not touch her, and was only a sort of dream, the recalling of which made her suddenly begin to cry again every few minutes. To Bettina’s sensitively alert mind it was plain that it would not do in the least to drag her suddenly out of her prison, or cloister, whichsoever it might be. To do so would be like forcing a creature accustomed only to darkness, to stare at the blazing sun. To have burst upon her with the old impetuous, candid fondness would have been to frighten and shock her as if with something bordering on indecency. She could not have stood it; perhaps such fondness was so remote from her in these days that she had even ceased to be able to understand it.

“Where are your little girls?” Bettina asked, remembering that there had been notice given of the advent of two girl babies.

“They died,” Lady Anstruthers answered unemotionally. “They both died before they were a year old. There is only Ughtred.”

Betty glanced at the boy and saw a small flame of red creep up on his cheek. Instinctively she knew what it meant, and she put out her hand and lightly touched his shoulder.

“I hope you’ll like me, Ughtred,” she said.

He almost started at the sound of her voice, but when he turned his face towards her he only grew redder, and looked awkward without answering. His manner was that of a boy who was unused to the amenities of polite society, and who was only made shy by them.

Without warning, a moment or so later, Bettina stopped in the middle of the avenue, and looked up at the arching giant branches of the trees which had reached out from one side to the other, as if to clasp hands or encompass an interlacing embrace. As far as the eye reached, they did this, and the beholder stood as in a high stately pergola, with breaks of deep azure sky between. Several mellow, cawing rooks were floating solemnly beneath or above the branches, now wand then settling in some highest one or disappearing in the thick greenness.

Lady Anstruthers stopped when her sister did so, and glanced at her in vague inquiry. It was plain that she had outlived even her sense of the beauty surrounding her.

“What are you looking at, Betty?” she asked.

“At all of it,” Betty answered. “It is so wonderful.”

“She likes it,” said Ughtred, and then rather slunk a step behind his mother, as if he were ashamed of himself.

“The house is just beyond those trees,” said Lady Anstruthers.

They came in full view of it three minutes later. When she saw it, Betty uttered an exclamation and stopped again to enjoy effects.

“She likes that, too,” said Ughtred, and, although he said it sheepishly, there was imperfectly concealed beneath the awkwardness a pleasure in the fact.

“Do you?” asked Rosalie, with her small, painful smile.

Betty laughed.

“It is too picturesque, in its special way, to be quite credible,” she said.

“I thought that when I first saw it,” said Rosy.

“Don’t you think so, now?”

“Well,” was the rather uncertain reply, “as Nigel says, there’s not much good in a place that is falling to pieces.”

“Why let it fall to pieces?” Betty put it to her with impartial promptness.

“We haven’t money enough to hold it together,” resignedly.

As they climbed the low, broad, lichen-blotched steps, whose broken stone balustrades were almost hidden in clutching, untrimmed ivy, Betty felt them to be almost incredible, too. The uneven stones of the terrace the steps mounted to were lichen- blotched and broken also. Tufts of green growths had forced themselves between the flags, and added an untidy beauty. The ivy tossed in branches over the red roof and walls of the house. It had been left unclipped, until it was rather an endlessly clambering tree than a creeper. The hall they entered had the beauty of spacious form and good, old oaken panelling. There were deep window seats and an ancient high-backed settle or so, and a massive table by the fireless hearth. But there were no pictures in places where pictures had evidently once hung, and the only coverings on the stone floor were the faded remnants of a central rug and a worn tiger skin, the head almost bald and a glass eye knocked out.

Bettina took in the unpromising details without a quiver of the extravagant lashes. These, indeed, and the eyes pertaining to them, seemed rather to sweep the fine roof, and a certain minstrel’s gallery and staircase, than which nothing could have been much finer, with the look of an appreciative admirer of architectural features and old oak. She had not journeyed to Stornham Court with the intention of disturbing Rosy, or of being herself obviously disturbed. She had come to observe situations and rearrange them with that intelligence of which unconsidered emotion or exclamation form no part.

“It is the first old English house I have seen,” she said, with a sigh of pleasure. “I am so glad, Rosy–I am so glad that it is yours.”

She put a hand on each of Rosy’s thin shoulders–she felt sharply defined bones as she did so–and bent to kiss her. It was the natural affectionate expression of her feeling, but tears started to Rosy’s eyes, and the boy Ughtred, who had sat down in a window seat, turned red again, and shifted in his place.

“Oh, Betty!” was Rosy’s faint nervous exclamation, “you seem so beautiful and–so–so strange–that you frighten me.”

Betty laughed with the softest possible cheerfulness, shaking her a little.

“I shall not seem strange long,” she said, “after I have stayed with you a few weeks, if you will let me stay with you.”

“Let you! Let you!” in a sort of gasp.

Poor little Lady Anstruthers sank on to a settle and began to cry again. It was plain that she always cried when things occurred. Ughtred’s speech from his window seat testified at once to that.

“Don’t cry, mother,” he said. “You know how we’ve talked that over together. It’s her nerves,” he explained to Bettina. “We know it only makes things worse, but she can’t stop it.”

Bettina sat on the settle, too. She herself was not then aware of the wonderful feeling the poor little spare figure experienced, as her softly strong young arms curved about it. She was only aware that she herself felt that this was a heart-breaking thing, and that she must not–MUST not let it be seen how much she recognised its woefulness. This was pretty, fair Rosy, who had never done a harm in her happy life–this forlorn thing was her Rosy.

“Never mind,” she said, half laughing again. “I rather want to cry myself, and I am stronger than she is. I am immensely strong.”

“Yes! Yes!” said Lady Anstruthers, wiping her eyes, and making a tremendous effort at self-respecting composure. “You are strong. I have grown so weak in–well, in every way. Betty, I’m afraid this is a poor welcome. You see–I’m afraid you’ll find it all so different from–from New York.”

“I wanted to find it different,” said Betty.

“But–but–I mean–you know—-” Lady Anstruthers turned helplessly to the boy. Bettina was struck with the painful truth that she looked even silly as she turned to him. “Ughtred–tell her,” she ended, and hung her head.

Ughtred had got down at once from his seat and limped forward. His unprepossessing face looked as if he pulled his childishness together with an unchildish effort.

“She means,” he said, in his awkward way, “that she doesn’t know how to make you comfortable. The rooms are all so shabby–everything is so shabby. Perhaps you won’t stay when you see.”

Bettina perceptibly increased the firmness of her hold on her sister’s body. It was as if she drew it nearer to her side in a kind of taking possession. She knew that the moment had come when she might go this far, at least, without expressing alarming things.

“You cannot show me anything that will frighten me,” was the answer she made. “I have come to stay, Rosy. We can make things right if they require it. Why not?”

Lady Anstruthers started a little, and stared at her. She knew ten thousand reasons why things had not been made right, and the casual inference that such reasons could be lightly swept away as if by the mere wave of a hand, implied a power appertaining to a time seeming so lost forever that it was too much for her.

“Oh, Betty, Betty!” she cried, “you talk as if–you are so—-!”

The fact, so simple to the members of the abnormal class to which she of a truth belonged, the class which heaped up its millions, the absolute knowledge that there was a great deal of money in the world and that she was of those who were among its chief owners, had ceased to seem a fact, and had vanished into the region of fairy stories.

That she could not believe it a reality revealed itself to Bettina, as by a flash, which was also a revelation of many things. There would be unpleasing truths to be learned, and she had not made her pilgrimage for nothing. But–in any event–there were advantages without doubt in the circumstance which subjected one to being perpetually pointed out as a daughter of a multi-millionaire. As this argued itself out for her with rapid lucidity, she bent and kissed Rosy once more. She even tried to do it lightly, and not to allow the rush of love and pity in her soul to betray her.

“I talk as if–as if I were Betty,” she said. “You have forgotten. I have not. I have been looking forward to this for years. I have been planning to come to you since I was eleven years old. And here we sit.”

“You didn’t forget? You didn’t?” faltered the poor wreck of Rosy. “Oh! Oh! I thought you had all forgotten me–quite–quite!”

And her face went down in her spare, small hands, and she began to cry again.

CHAPTER XII

UGHTRED

Bettina stood alone in her bedroom a couple of hours later. Lady Anstruthers had taken her to it, preparing her for its limitations by explaining that she would find it quite different from her room in New York. She had been pathetically nervous and flushed about it, and Bettina had also been aware that the apartment itself had been hastily, and with much moving of objects from one chamber to another, made ready for her.

The room was large and square and low. It was panelled in small squares of white wood. The panels were old enough to be cracked here and there, and the paint was stained and yellow with time, where it was not knocked or worn off. There was a small paned, leaded window which filled a large part of one side of the room, and its deep seat was an agreeable feature. Sitting in it, one looked out over several red- walled gardens, and through breaks in the trees of the park to a fair beyond. Bettina stood before this window for a few moments, and then took a seat in the embrasure, that she might gaze out and reflect at leisure.

Her genius, as has before been mentioned, was the genius for living, for being vital. Many people merely exist, are kept alive by others, or continue to vegetate because the persistent action of normal functions will allow of their doing no less. Bettina Vanderpoel had lived vividly, and in the midst of a self-created atmosphere of action from her first hour. It was not possible for her to be one of the horde of mere spectators. Wheresoever she moved there was some occult stirring of the mental, and even physical, air. Her pulses beat too strongly, her blood ran too fast to allow of inaction of mind or body. When, in passing through the village, she had seen the broken windows and the hanging palings of the cottages, it had been inevitable that, at once, she should, in thought, repair them, set them straight. Disorder filled her with a sort of impatience which was akin to physical distress. If she had been born a poor woman she would have worked hard for her living, and found an interest, almost an exhilaration, in her labour. Such gifts as she had would have been applied to the tasks she undertook. It had frequently given her pleasure to imagine herself earning her livelihood as a seamstress, a housemaid, a nurse. She knew what she could have put into her service, and how she could have found it absorbing. Imagination and initiative could make any service absorbing. The actual truth was that if she had been a housemaid, the room she set in order would have taken a character under her touch; if she had been a seamstress, her work would have been swiftly done, her imagination would have invented for her combinations of form and colour; if she had been a nursemaid, the children under her care would never have been sufficiently bored to become tiresome or intractable, and they also would have gained character to which would have been added an undeniable vividness of outlook. She could not have left them alone, so to speak. In obeying the mere laws of her being, she would have stimulated them. Unconsciously she had stimulated her fellow pupils at school; when she was his companion, her father had always felt himself stirred to interest and enterprise.

“You ought to have been a man, Betty,” he used to say to her sometimes.

But Betty had not agreed with him.

“You say that,” she once replied to him, “because you see I am inclined to do things, to change them, if they need changing. Well, one is either born like that, or one is not. Sometimes I think that perhaps the people who must ACT are of a distinct race. A kind of vigorous restlessness drives them. I remember that when I was a child I could not see a pin lying upon the ground without picking it up, or pass a drawer which needed closing, without giving it a push. But there has always been as much for women to do as for men.”

There was much to be done here of one sort of thing and another. That was certain. As she gazed through the small panes of her large windows, she found herself overlooking part of a wilderness of garden, which revealed itself through an arch in an overgrown laurel hedge. She had glimpses of unkempt grass paths and unclipped topiary work which had lost its original form. Among a tangle of weeds rose the heads of clumps of daffodils, stirred by a passing wind of spring. In the park beyond a cuckoo was calling.

She was conscious both of the forlorn beauty and significance of the neglected garden, and of the clear quaintness of the cuckoo call, as she thought of other things.

“Her spirit and her health are broken,” was her summing up. “Her prettiness has faded to a rag. She is as nervous as an ill-treated child. She has lost her wits. I do not know where to begin with her. I must let her tell me things as gradually as she chooses. Until I see Nigel I shall not know what his method with her has been. She looks as if she had ceased to care for things, even for herself. What shall I write to mother?”

She knew what she should write to her father. With him she could be explicit. She could record what she had found and what it suggested to her. She could also make clear her reason for hesitance and deliberation. His discretion and affection would comprehend the thing which she herself felt and which affection not combined with discretion might not take in. He would understand, when she told him that one of the first things which had struck her, had been that Rosy herself, her helplessness and timidity, might, for a period at least, form obstacles in their path of action. He not only loved Rosy, but realised how slight a sweet thing she had always been, and he would know how far a slight creature’s gentleness might be overpowered and beaten down.

There was so much that her mother must be spared, there was indeed so little that it would be wise to tell her, that Bettina sat gently rubbing her forehead as she thought of it. The truth was that she must tell her nothing, until all was over, accomplished, decided. Whatsoever there was to be “over,” whatsoever the action finally taken, must be a matter lying as far as possible between her father and herself. Mrs. Vanderpoel’s trouble would be too keen, her anxiety too great to keep to herself, even if she were not overwhelmed by them. She must be told of the beauties and dimensions of Stornham, all relatable details of Rosy’s life must be generously dwelt on. Above all Rosy must be made to write letters, and with an air of freedom however specious.

A knock on the door broke the thread of her reflection. It was a low-sounding knock, and she answered the summons herself, because she thought it might be Rosy’s.

It was not Lady Anstruthers who stood outside, but Ughtred, who balanced himself on his crutches, and lifted his small, too mature, face.

“May I come in?” he asked.

Here was the unexpected again, but she did not allow him to see her surprise.

“Yes,” she said. “Certainly you may.”

He swung in and then turned to speak to her.

“Please shut the door and lock it,” he said.

There was sudden illumination in this, but of an order almost whimsical. That modern people in modern days should feel bolts and bars a necessity of ordinary intercourse was suggestive. She was plainly about to receive enlightenment. She turned the key and followed the halting figure across the room.

“What are you afraid of?” she asked.

“When mother and I talk things over,” he said, “we always do it where no one can see or hear. It’s the only way to be safe.”

“Safe from what?”

His eyes fixed themselves on her as he answered her almost sullenly.

“Safe from people who might listen and go and tell that we had been talking.”

In his thwarted-looking, odd child-face there was a shade of appeal not wholly hidden by his evident wish not to be boylike. Betty felt a desire to kneel down suddenly and embrace him, but she knew he was not prepared for such a demonstration. He looked like a creature who had lived continually at bay, and had learned to adjust himself to any situation with caution and restraint.

“Sit down, Ughtred,” she said, and when he did so she herself sat down, but not too near him.

Resting his chin on the handle of a crutch, he gazed at her almost protestingly.

“I always have to do these things,” he said, “and I am not clever enough, or old enough. I am only eleven.”

The mention of the number of his years was plainly not apologetic, but was a mere statement of his limitations. There the fact was, and he must make the best of it he could.

“What things do you mean?”

“Trying to make things easier–explaining things when she cannot think of excuses. To-day it is telling you what she is too frightened to tell you herself. I said to her that you must be told. It made her nervous and miserable, but I knew you must.”

“Yes, I must,” Betty answered. “I am glad she has you to depend on, Ughtred.”

His crutch grated on the floor and his boy eyes forbade her to believe that their sudden lustre was in any way connected with restrained emotion.

“I know I seem queer and like a little old man,” he said. “Mother cries about it sometimes. But it can’t be helped. It is because she has never had anyone but me to help her. When I was very little, I found out how frightened and miserable she was. After his rages,” he used no name, “she used to run into my nursery and snatch me up in her arms and hide her face in my pinafore. Sometimes she stuffed it into her mouth and bit it to keep herself from screaming. Once– before I was seven–I ran into their room and shouted out, and tried to fight for her. He was going out, and had his riding whip in his hand, and he caught hold of me and struck me with it–until he was tired.”

Betty stood upright.

“What! What! What!” she cried out.

He merely nodded his head shortly. She saw what the thing had been by the way his face lost colour.

“Of course he said it was because I was impudent, and needed punishment,” he said. “He said she had encouraged me in American impudence. It was worse for her than for me. She kneeled down and screamed out as if she was crazy, that she would give him what he wanted if he would stop.”

“Wait,” said Betty, drawing in her breath sharply. ” `He,’ is Sir Nigel? And he wanted something.”

He nodded again

“Tell me,” she demanded, “has he ever struck her?”

“Once,” he answered slowly, “before I was born–he struck her and she fell against something. That is why I am like this.” And he touched his shoulder.

The feeling which surged through Betty Vanderpoel’s being forced her to go and stand with her face turned towards the windows, her hands holding each other tightly behind her back.

“I must keep still,” she said. “I must make myself keep still.”

She spoke unconsciously half aloud, and Ughtred heard her and replied hurriedly.

“Yes,” he said, “you must make yourself keep still. That is what we have to do whatever happens. That is one of the things mother wanted you to know. She is afraid. She daren’t let you—-“

She turned from the window, standing at her full height and looking very tall for a girl.

“She is afraid? She daren’t? See–that will come to an end now. There are things which can be done.”

He flushed nervously.

“That is what she was afraid you would say,” he spoke fast and his hands trembled. “She is nearly wild about it, because she knows he will try to do something that will make you feel as if she does not want you.”

“She is afraid of that?” Betty exclaimed.

“He’d do it! He’d do it–if you did not know beforehand.”

“Oh!” said Betty, with unflinching clearness. “He is a liar, is he?”

The helpless rage in the unchildish eyes, the shaking voice, as he cried out in answer, were a shock. It was as if he wildly rejoiced that she had spoken the word.

“Yes, he’s a liar–a liar!” he shrilled. “He’s a liar and a bully and a coward. He’d–he’d be a murderer if he dared –but he daren’t.” And his face dropped on his arms folded on his crutch, and he broke into a passion of crying. Then Betty knew she might go to him. She went and knelt down and put her arm round him.

“Ughtred,” she said, “cry, if you like, I should do it, if I were you. But I tell you it can all be altered–and it shall be.”

He seemed quite like a little boy when he put out his hand to hers and spoke sobbingly:

“She–she says–that because you have only just come from America–and in America people–can do things–you will think you can do things here–and you don’t know. He will tell lies about you lies you can’t bear. She sat wringing her hands when she thought of it. She won’t let you be hurt because you want to help her.” He stopped abruptly and clutched her shoulder.

“Aunt Betty! Aunt Betty–whatever happens–whatever he makes her seem like–you are to know that it is not true. Now you have come–now she has seen you it would KILL her if you were driven away and thought she wanted you to go.”

“I shall not think that,” she answered, slowly, because she realised that it was well that she had been warned in time. “Ughtred, are you trying to tell me that above all things I must not let him think that I came here to help you, because if he is angry he will make us all suffer–and your mother most of all?”

“He’ll find a way. We always know he will. He would either be so rude that you would not stay here–or he would make mother seem rude–or he would write lies to grandfather. Aunt Betty, she scarcely believes you are real yet. If she won’t tell you things at first, please don’t mind.” He looked quite like a child again in his appeal to her, to try to understand a state of affairs so complicated. “Could you– could you wait until you have let her get–get used to you?”

“Used to thinking that there may be someone in the world to help her?” slowly. “Yes, I will. Has anyone ever tried to help her?”

“Once or twice people found out and were sorry at first, but it only made it worse, because he made them believe things.”

“I shall not TRY, Ughtred,” said Betty, a remote spark kindling in the deeps of the pupils of her steel-blue eyes. “I shall not TRY. Now I am going to ask you some questions.”

Before he left her she had asked many questions which were pertinent and searching, and she had learned things she realised she could have learned in no other way and from no other person. But for his uncanny sense of the responsibility he clearly had assumed in the days when he wore pinafores, and which had brought him to her room to prepare her mind for what she would find herself confronted with in the way of apparently unexplainable obstacles, there was a strong likelihood that at the outset she might have found herself more than once dangerously at a loss. Yes, she would have been at a loss, puzzled, perhaps greatly discouraged. She was face to face with a complication so extraordinary.

That one man, through mere persistent steadiness in evil temper and domestic tyranny, should have so broken the creatures of his household into abject submission and hopelessness, seemed too incredible. Such a power appeared as remote from civilised existence in London and New York as did that which had inflicted tortures in the dungeons of castles of old. Prisoners in such dungeons could utter no cry which could reach the outside world; the prisoners at Stornham Court, not four hours from Hyde Park Corner, could utter none the world could hear, or comprehend if it heard it. Sheer lack of power to resist bound them hand and foot. And she, Betty Vanderpoel, was here upon the spot, and, as far as she could understand, was being implored to take no steps, to do nothing. The atmosphere in which she had spent her life, the world she had been born into, had not made for fearfulness that one would be at any time defenceless against circumstances and be obliged to submit to outrage. To be a Vanderpoel was, it was true, to be a shining mark for envy as for admiration, but the fact removed obstacles as a rule, and to find one’s self standing before a situation with one’s hands, figuratively speaking, tied, was new enough to arouse unusual sensations. She recalled, with an ironic sense of bewilderment, as a sort of material evidence of her own reality, the fact that not a week ago she had stepped on to English soil from the gangway of a solid Atlantic liner. It aided her to resist the feeling that she had been swept back into the Middle Ages.

“When he is angry,” was one of the first questions she put to Ughtred, “what does he give as his reason? He must profess to have a reason.”

“When he gets in a rage he says it is because mother is silly and common, and I am badly brought up. But we always know he wants money, and it makes him furious. He could kill us with rage.”

“Oh!” said Betty. “I see.”

“It began that time when he struck her. He said then that it was not decent that a woman who was married should keep her own money. He made her give him almost everything she had, but she wants to keep some for me. He tries to make her get more from grandfather, but she will not write begging letters, and she won’t give him what she is saving for me.”

It was a simple and sordid enough explanation in one sense, and it was one of which Bettina had known, not one parallel, but several. Having married to ensure himself power over unquestioned resources, the man had felt himself disgustingly taken in, and avenged himself accordingly. In him had been born the makings of a domestic tyrant who, even had he been favoured by fortune, would have wreaked his humours upon the defenceless things made his property by ties of blood and marriage, and who, being unfavoured, would do worse. Betty could see what the years had held for Rosy, and how her weakness and timidity had been considered as positive assets. A woman who will cry when she is bullied, may be counted upon to submit after she has cried. Rosy had submitted up to a certain point and then, with the stubbornness of a weak creature, had stood at timid bay for her young.

What Betty gathered was that, after the long and terrible illness which had followed Ughtred’s birth, she had risen from what had been so nearly her deathbed, prostrated in both mind and body. Ughtred did not know all that he revealed when he touched upon the time which he said his mother could not quite remember–when she had sat for months staring vacantly out of her window, trying to recall something terrible which had happened, and which she wanted to tell her mother, if the day ever came when she could write to her again. She had never remembered clearly the details of the thing she had wanted to tell, and Nigel had insisted that her fancy was part of her past delirium. He had said that at the beginning of her delirium she had attacked and insulted his mother and himself but they had excused her because they realised afterwards what the cause of her excitement had been. For a long time she had been too brokenly weak to question or disbelieve, but, later she had vaguely known that he had been lying to her, though she could not refute what he said. She recalled, in course of time, a horrible scene in which all three of them had raved at each other, and she herself had shrieked and laughed and hurled wild words at Nigel, and he had struck her. That she knew and never forgot. She had been ill a year, her hair had fallen out, her skin had faded and she had begun to feel like a nervous, tired old woman instead of a girl. Girlhood, with all the past, had become unreal and too far away to be more than a dream. Nothing had remained real but Stornham and Nigel and the little hunchbacked baby. She was glad when the Dowager died and when Nigel spent his time in London or on the Continent and left her with Ughtred. When he said that he must spend her money on the estate, she had acquiesced without comment, because that insured his going away. She saw that no improvement or repairs were made, but she could do nothing and was too listless to make the attempt. She only wanted to be left alone with Ughtred, and she exhibited will- power only in defence of her child and in her obstinacy with regard to asking money of her father.

“She thought, somehow, that grandfather and grandmother did not care for her any more–that they had forgotten her and only cared for you,” Ughtred explained. “She used to talk to me about you. She said you must be so clever and so handsome that no one could remember her. Sometimes she cried and said she did not want any of you to see her again, because she was only a hideous, little, thin, yellow old woman. When I was very little she told me stories about New York and Fifth Avenue. I thought they were not real places–I though they were places in fairyland.”

Betty patted his shoulder and looked away for a moment when he said this. In her remote and helpless loneliness, to Rosy’s homesick, yearning soul, noisy, rattling New York, Fifth Avenue with its traffic and people, its brown-stone houses and ricketty stages, had seemed like THAT–so splendid and bright and heart-filling, that she had painted them in colours which could belong only to fairyland. It said so much.

The thing she had suspected as she had talked to her sister was, before the interview ended, made curiously clear. The first obstacle in her pathway would be the shrinking of a creature who had been so long under dominion that the mere thought of seeing any steps taken towards her rescue filled her with alarm. One might be prepared for her almost praying to be let alone, because she felt that the process of her salvation would bring about such shocks and torments as she could not endure the facing of.

“She will have to get used to you,” Ughtred kept saying. “She will have to get used to thinking things.”

“I will be careful,” Bettina answered. “She shall not be troubled. I did not come to trouble her,”

CHAPTER XIII

ONE OF THE NEW YORK DRESSES

As she went down the staircase later, on her way to dinner, Miss Vanderpoel saw on all sides signs of the extent of the nakedness of the land. She was in a fine old house, stripped of most of its saleable belongings, uncared for, deteriorating year by year, gradually going to ruin. One need not possess particular keenness of sight to observe this, and she had chanced to see old houses in like condition in other countries than England. A man-servant, in a shabby livery, opened the drawing- room door for her. He was not a picturesque servitor of fallen fortunes, but an awkward person who was not accustomed to his duties. Betty wondered if he had been called in from the gardens to meet the necessities of the moment. His furtive glance at the tall young woman who passed him, took in with sudden embarrassment the fact that she plainly did not belong to the dispirited world bounded by Stornham Court. Without sparkling gems or trailing richness in her wake, she was suggestively splendid. He did not know whether it was her hair or the build of her neck and shoulders that did it, but it was revealed to him that tiaras and collars of stones which blazed belonged without doubt to her equipment. He recalled that there was a legend to the effect that the present Lady Anstruthers, who looked like a rag doll, had been the daughter of a rich American, and that better things might have been expected of her if she had not been such a poor-spirited creature. If this was her sister, she perhaps was a young woman of fortune, and that she was not of poor spirit was plain.

The large drawing-room presented but another aspect of the bareness of the rest of the house. In times probably long past, possibly in the Dowager Lady Anstruthers’ early years of marriage, the walls had been hung with white and gold paper of a pattern which dominated the scene, and had been furnished with gilded chairs, tables, and ottomans. Some of these last had evidently been removed as they became too much out of repair for use or ornament. Such as remained, tarnished as to gilding and worn in the matter of upholstery, stood sparsely scattered on a desert of carpet, whose huge, flowered