by Elinor Glyn
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When her scented presence had left the room, John Derringham clasped his hands behind his head, and, before he was aware of it, his lips had murmured "Thank God!"

And then Nemesis fell upon him—his schoolboy sensation of recreation-time at hand left him, and a blank sense of failure and hopeless bondage took its place.

Surely he had bartered his soul for a very inadequate mess of pottage.

And where would he sink to under this scorpion whip? Where would go all his fine aspirations which, even in spite of all the juggling of political life, still lived in his aims. Halcyone would have understood.

"Oh! my love!" he cried. "My tender love!"

Then that part of him which was strong reasserted itself. He would not give way to this repining, the thing was done and he must make the best of it. He asked for some volumes from the library. He would read, and he sent the faithful and adoring Brome to request Miss Clinker to send him up the third and fourth volume of "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." He often turned to Gibbon when he was at war with things. The perfect balance of the English soothed him—and he felt he would read of Julian, for whom in his heart he felt a sympathy.

Arabella brought the volumes herself, and placed them on his table, and then went to settle some roses in a vase before she left the room.

A thin slip of paper fell out of one of the books as he opened it, and he read it absently while he turned the pages.

On the top was a date in pencil, and in a methodical fashion there was written in red ink:

"Notes for the instruction of M. E.," and then underneath, "Subjects to be talked of at dinner to-night—Was there cause for Julian's apostasy? What appealed most to Julian in the old religions—etc., etc."

For a second the words conveyed no meaning to his brain, and for something to say, he said aloud to Arabella: "This is your writing, I think, Miss Clinker. I see you have a taste for our friend Gibbon, too," and then, observing the troubled confusion of Arabella's honest face, a sudden flash came over him of memory. He recollected distinctly that upon the Sunday before his accident, they had talked at lunch of Julian the Apostate, and Mrs. Cricklander had turned the conversation, and then had referred to the subject again at dinner with an astonishing array of facts, surprising him by her erudition.

He looked down at the slip again—yes, the date was right, and the red-ink heading was evidently a stereotyped one; probably Arabella kept a supply of these papers ready, being a methodical creature. And the questions!—were they for her own education? But no—Arabella was a cultivated person and would not require such things, and, on that particular Sunday, had never opened the door of her lips at either meal.

"She prompts Cecilia," in a flash he thought, with a wild sense of bitter mirth. "No wonder she can reel off statistics as she does. 'Subjects to be talked of at dinner'—forsooth!"

And Arabella stood there, her kind plain face crimson, and her brown eyes blinking pitifully behind her glasses.

She was too fine to say anything, it would make the situation impossibly difficult if she invented an explanation. So she just blinked—and finally, after placing the fresh flowers by Mr. Derringham's bed, she left the room by the door beyond.

When she had gone it was as if a curtain were raised upon John Derringham's understanding. Countless circumstances came back to him when his fiancee's apparent learning had aroused his admiration, and with a twinge he remembered Cheiron's maliciously amused eyes which had met his during her visit to the orchard house, when she had become a little at sea in some of her conversation. The whole thing then was a colossal bluff—Arabella was the brain! Arabella was the erudite, cultured person and his admirable Cecilia played the role of extremely clever parrot! He laughed with bitter cynical merriment until he shook in his bed.

And he, poor fool, had been taken in by it all—he and a number of others. He was in company at all events! Then he saw another aspect, and almost admired the woman for her audacity. What nerve to play such a game, and so successfully! The determination—the application it required—and the force of character!

But the gall of it when she should be his wife! He saw pictures of himself trembling with apprehension at some important function in case mistakes should occur. He would have to play the part of Arabella, and write out the notes for the subjects to be "talked of at dinner!"

He lay there, and groaned with rage and disgust.

He could not—he would not go through with it!

But next day the irony of fate fell upon him with heavy hand. He received the news that Joseph Scroope, his maternal uncle, was dead, not having produced an heir, so he knew that he would inherit a comfortable fortune from him.

The noose had, indeed, tightened round his neck,—he could not now release himself from his engagement to Cecilia Cricklander. Some instincts of a gentleman still remained with him in full measure. The hideous, hideous mockery of it all. If he had waited, he would now have been free to seek his darling, his pure star, Halcyone, in all honor. He could have taken her dear, tender hand, and led her proudly to the seat by his side—and crowned her with whatever laurels her sweet spirit would have inspired him to gain. And it was all too late! too late!

He reviewed the whole chain of events, and perceived how it had been his own doing—what had happened in each step—and this knowledge added to the bitterness of his pain. It was from now onward that his nights were often agony. Every movement, every word of Halcyone came back to him, from the old days of long ago when she had given him the oak leaf, to the moment of her looking into his eyes, with all her soul in hers, as she had answered his passionate question. "Afraid? How should I be afraid—since you are my lord and I am your love? Do not we belong to one another?"

And in spite of the peace Mrs. Cricklander's absence caused in the atmosphere, John Derringham grew more unutterably wretched as time went on.

His cup seemed to be filling from all sides. The Government was going out in disaster, and, instead of being able to stand by his colleagues and fight, and perhaps avert catastrophe by his brilliant speeches and biting wit, he was chained like a log to a sofa and was completely impotent.

It was no wonder his convalescence was slow, and that Arabella grew anxious about him. She felt that some of Mrs. Cricklander's wrath and disgust because of this state of things would fall upon her head.

His ankle was a great deal better now, it was five weeks since the accident, and in a day or two he hoped to leave for London. Mrs. Cricklander would be obliged to take an after-cure at the highly situated castle of an Austrian Prince, an old friend of hers—where the air was most bracing, she wrote. For her strict instructions to Arabella before she left, after telling her she might have her mother to keep her company, and so earning the good creature's deep gratitude, had been:

"You must keep me informed of every slightest turn in Mr. Derringham—because, until he is perfectly well and amusing again, I simply can't come back to England. His tragic face bores me to death. Really, men are too tiresome when there is the slightest thing the matter with them."

And Arabella had faithfully carried out her instructions.

In common honesty she could not inform her employer that John Derringham was perfectly well or amusing!

Poor Miss Clinker's happy summer with her mother was being a good deal dimmed by her unassuaged sympathy and commiseration.

"Of course, he is grieving for that sweet and distinguished girl, Miss Halcyone La Sarthe," she told herself—and with the old maid's hungering for romance, which even the highest education cannot quite crush from the female breast, she longed to know what had parted them.

Mr. Carlyon had gone abroad, she had ascertained that, and La Sarthe Chase was still closed.

The night before John Derringham left for London, he hobbled down to dinner on crutches. He was not to try and use his foot for some weeks still, but the cut on his head was mended now. It was a glorious July evening, the roses were not over on the terrace, and every aspect of nature was gorgeously beautiful and peaceful.

They did not delay long over their repast, and there was still twilight when Mrs. and Miss Clinker left their invalid alone with his wine. A letter was in his pocket, arrived by the evening post from Mrs. Cricklander, which he had not yet opened. It would contain her reflections upon his changed conditions of fortune, of which he had, when he learned of its full magnitude, duly informed her.

He was alternately raging with misery now, or perfectly numb and, as he sat there a shattered wreck of his former insouciant self, gaunt and haggard and pitifully thin, some of his friends would hardly have recognized him.

He felt it was his duty to read the missive presently, but he told himself the lights were too dim, and taking a cigar he hobbled out upon the terrace. His return to public life would now be too late to help to avert disaster, he must just stand aside in these last weeks of the session and see the shipwreck. An unspeakable bitterness invaded his spirit. The moon was rising when he got outside, one day beyond its full. It seemed like a golden ball in the twilight of opal tints, before it should rise in its silver majesty to supreme command of the night. Nature was in one of her most sensuously divine moods. The summer and fulfillment had come.

John Derringham sat down in a comfortable chair and gazed in front of him.

There had been moonlight, too, when he had spent those exquisite hours with his love, now six weeks ago—a young half moon. Could it be only six weeks? A lifetime of anguish appeared to have rolled between. And where was she? Then, for the first time, the crust of his self-absorption seemed to crumble, and he thought with new stabs of pain how she, too, must have suffered. He began to picture her waiting by the gate—she would be brave and quiet. And then, as the day passed—what had she done? He could not imagine, but she must have suffered intolerably. When could she have heard of the accident, since the next day she had been taken away? Why had she gone? That was unlike her, to have given in to any force which could separate them. And if he had known this step also was unconsciously caused by his own action in having his letter to Cheiron posted from London, it would have tortured him the more. Another thought came, and he started forward in his chair. Was it possible that she had written to him, and that the letter had got mislaid, among the prodigious quantity which accumulated in those first days of his unconsciousness?

Then he sank back again. Even if this were so, it was too late now. Everything was too late—from that awful night when he had become engaged to Cecilia Cricklander.

She had put the announcement into the paper not quite three weeks after the accident. What could Halcyone have thought of him and his unspeakable baseness? Now she could have nothing but loathing and contempt in her heart, wherever she was—and what right had he to have broken the beliefs and shattered the happiness of that pure, young soul?

He remembered his old master's words about a man's honor towards women. It was true then that it was regulated, not by the woman's feelings or anguish, but by the man's inclination and whether or no the world should hold him responsible. And he realized that this latter reason was the force which now prevented his breaking his engagement with Mrs. Cricklander. He had behaved with supreme selfishness in the beginning, and afterwards with a weakness which would always make him writhe when he thought of it.

His self-respect was receiving a crushing blow. He clasped his thin hands and his head sank forward upon his breast in utter dejection; he closed his eyes as if to shut out too painful pictures. And when he opened them again it was darker, and the moon made misty shadows through the trees, and out of them he seemed to see Halcyone's face quite close to him. It was tender and pitiful and full of love. The hallucination was so startlingly vivid that he almost fancied her lips moved, and she whispered: "Courage, beloved." Then he knew that he was dreaming, and that he was gazing into space—alone.


Mrs. Cricklander, at Carlsbad, was not altogether pleased to receive the news of her fiance's accession to fortune. She realized that John Derringham was not the sort of man to give up his will to any woman unless the woman had entirely the whip hand, as she would have had if he had been dependent upon her for the financial aid wherewith to obtain his ambitions. She would have practically no hold over him now, and, when he was well, he was so attractive that she might even grow to care too deeply for him for her own welfare. To allow herself to become in love with a husband who was answerable to her for his very food and lodging, and whom she could punish and keep in bondage when she pleased, was quite a different matter to experiencing that emotion towards an imperious, independent creature going his own way, and even, perhaps, compelling her to conform to his.

"How stupid of the old man, Mr. Scroope, to have married so late!" she said to herself, as usual finding everyone wrong who in any way interfered with her wishes.

John Derringham's letters—only two a week she received from him—were his usual masterpieces of style, and in them he employed his skill to say everything—and nothing.

She felt pleased as she read, and then resentful when she thought over them. He had never once used a word of personal endearment, although the letters were beautifully expressed. He seemed most happy and comfortable with Arabella. After all, perhaps she would not go and stay with Prince Brunemetz at Brudenstein. She might make John come out and join her and go on to St. Moritz—that would do him good. She could wire for Arabella. The convenances were so dear to her. The wedding should take place in October, she decided.

And two days after John Derringham had arrived in London at his old rooms in Duke Street, she wrote and suggested this plan to him—and then the first preliminary crossing of swords between them happened. He answered that he would come and join her later, but until the session was over he could not leave town, and he begged her to go and stay with Prince Brunemetz, or do anything else which would amuse her. He was still upon crutches, he said, and not fitted to be a cavalier to any lady.

She shut her mouth with a snap, and, sitting down, wrote a long letter to Mr. Hanbury-Green, with whom she kept up a brisk correspondence. Very well, then! she would go to Brudenstein; she would not martyrize herself by being with a man on crutches! So half of her August passed in a most agreeable manner, and towards the end of the month she summoned her fiance to Florence. He could walk with a stick now—and to meet her there and go on to Venice and out to the Lido would be quite delightful, and could not hurt him. She deserved some attention after this long time!

The end of the session had come, and still the Government hung on, but it was obvious that they had been so much discredited that the end could not be long postponed, and that, as soon as Parliament met again, a hostile vote would be carried against them. But for the time there was nothing to keep John Derringham in England, and with intense reluctance he started for Italy, the ever-nearing date for his wedding looming in front of him like some heavy cloud. He had plunged headlong into work when he had returned from Wendover, for which he was still quite unfit. His whole system had received a terrible shock, and it would be months before he could hope to be his old robust self again; and an unutterable depression was upon him. The total silence of Halcyone, her disappearance from the face of the earth as far as he was concerned, seemed like something incredible.

There were no traces of her. Mrs. Porrit was out, and the orchard house shut up, so, he obtained no information. He had stopped there to enquire on his way to the station when he had left Wendover. La Sarthe Chase was entirely closed, except for a woman and her husband from the village who slept there. But what right had he to be interested now, in any case? He had better shut the whole matter out of his mind, and keep his thoughts upon his coming marriage with Cecilia Cricklander.

And it was this frame of mind which caused him to plunge recklessly into work as soon as he reached London, though he found that nothing really assuaged his misery.

It was a glorious day towards the end of August when he got onto the boat at Dover, and there ran across Miss Cora Lutworth, bent upon trousseau business in Paris. She was with her friend, the lady who chaperoned her, and greeted him with her usual breezy charm.

They sat down together in a comfortable corner on deck, while the lady went to have a sleep. They talked of many things and mutual friends. He was doing what was a comparatively rare thing in those days, taking over a motor to tour down to Venice in, and Cora was duly interested. Freynie adored motoring, too, she said, and that was how they intended to spend their honeymoon. She was going to be married in a few weeks, and was radiantly happy.

This was the first time she had seen John Derringham since his engagement and his accident, and the great change in him gave her an unpleasant shock. There were quite a number of silver threads in his dark hair above the temples, and he looked haggard and gaunt and lifeless. Cora's kind heart was touched.

"I am sure he does not care a rush for Cis," she thought to herself, "and I am sure he did for that sweet Halcyone. He and Cis are not married yet; there can be no harm in my mentioning her." So aloud she said:

"You remember our meeting that charming Miss Halcyone La Sarthe across the haw-haw on Easter Sunday? Well, fancy, I came across her in London at the end of June—in Kensington Gardens, sitting with the long-haired old Professor. I was surprised; somehow one could not picture her out of her own park." She watched John Derringham's face carefully, and saw that this information moved him.

"Did you?" he said, with an intense tone in his deep voice. "What was she doing there, I wonder?"

"She looked too sweet," Cora went on. "She was wearing becoming modern clothes, and seemed to me to have grown so pretty. But she was very pale and quiet. She came to tea with me the next day—I cannot say how she fascinates me. I just love her—and then, on the Saturday she was to go abroad with the Professor."

"Really?" said John Derringham, while he could feel his heart begin to beat very fast. "Where were they going, do you know? I would like to run across, my old master."

"I think to Brittany for July, and then Switzerland; but they intended to get into Italy as soon as it was cool enough. They seemed to be going to have a lovely trip and take a long time about it."

"I had no idea Miss La Sarthe had any relations in London," he said. "Who was she staying with there? Did she tell you?"

"Her stepfather, I think," Cora said. "Her mother married twice, it appears, and then died, and the man married again. This second wife, her sort of stepmother, came and fetched her from La Sarthe Chase quite suddenly one day."

"I cannot think of her in London," said John Derringham. "Did she like it, do you think? And was she changed?"

"Yes, very changed," Cora answered, and made her voice casual. "She looked as if the joy of life had fled forever, and as if she were just getting through the time. Perhaps she hated being with her step-family—people often do."

Then she glanced at him stealthily as he stared out at the sea, while she thought: "I am sure some awful tragedy is here underneath; it is not only his broken ankle and his illness that has made him such a wreck. I wish I could help them. I would not care a snap for Cis, who is a rattlesnake if she wants something."

"When was it, exactly, you saw her?" John Derringham asked. "But perhaps you don't remember the date?"

"Yes, I do," Cora responded quickly. "It was the day your engagement was announced in the papers, because we spoke about it."

"Did you?" he said, and drew in his breath a little. "And what did you say?"

"Just the usual things—how fortunate you were. And Halcyone said you were clever and great."

John Derringham did not answer for a moment. This stunned him. Then he replied, very low, "That was good of her," and Cora noticed that even with the fresh wind blowing in his face he had grown very pale.

"Cis writes you are going to be married at the beginning of October," she said, to change the conversation. "I do hope you will be awfully happy. It is so exquisite to be in love, isn't it? I adore being engaged!"

But John Derringham could not bear this—the two things were so widely severed in his case. He did not answer, and Cora saw, although his face remained unmoved, that pain grew deep in his eyes.

"Mr. Derringham," she said, "I am going to say something indiscreet and perhaps in frightful taste—but I am so happy I can't bear to think that possibly others are not quite. I know Cis awfully well—her character, I mean. Is there anything I can do for you?"

John Derringham turned with a chillingly haughty glance intended to wither, but when he saw her sweet face full of frank sympathy and kindness, it touched him and his manner changed.

"We have each of us to fulfill our fates," he said. "I suppose we each deserve what we receive, and I am so glad yours seems to be such a very happy one."

Then he made some excuse to get up and leave her—he could bear no more.

And Cora, left alone, smiled sadly to herself while she reflected what a foolish thing pride was, and all the other shams which robbed life of the only thing really worth having.

"Well, I should not let any of that nonsense ever stand between Freynie and me, thank goodness!" she concluded.

But John Derringham limped off to the bows of the ship, quivering with pain. So Halcyone had spoken of his engagement and said he was "clever and great." What could it all mean? Did he no longer interest her then—even at that period? This stung him deeply. There was no light anywhere. When once he had grasped the full significance of his own conduct he was much too fine an intelligence to deceive himself, or persuade himself to see any other aspect but the hopeless one, that the entire chain of events was the result of his own action. But surely there must be some way out? If he wrote straight to Cecilia and told her the truth? And then he almost laughed bitterly as he realized the futility of this plan. What would the truth matter to Mrs. Cricklander? She could very well retort that he had known all this truth from the beginning, and had been willing to marry her while his financial position made it an advantage to himself, but was now recalcitrant only because fortune had otherwise poured gold into his lap.

No, there was no hope. He must go through with it.

So he crushed down his emotions and forced himself to return to Miss Lutworth and talk brightly to her until they landed.

And when they parted at the Gare du Nord, Cora was left with the impression that, whatever might be the undercurrent, John Derringham was strong enough to face his fate, and not give anyone the satisfaction of knowing whether in it he found pleasure or pain.

When he arrived about ten days later at the hotel in Florence, where Mrs. Cricklander was staying, waiting for him to accompany her on to Venice, he found her in a very bad temper. She felt that she had not been treated with that deference and respect which was her due, to say nothing of the ardor that a lover ought to have shown by hastening to her side. Why had he motored, spending ten days on a journey that he could have accomplished in two? And he made no excuses, and seemed quite unimpressed by her mood one way or another. He was so changed, too! Gaunt and haggard—he had certainly lost every one of his good looks, except his distinction—that seemed more marked than ever. His arrogant air that she had once admired so much now only caused her to feel a great irritation. He had made the excuse of the waiter not having quite closed the door, apparently, for only kissing her hand by way of greeting, and then he said just the right thing about her beauty and his pleasure in seeing her, and sat down by her side upon the sofa in far too collected a manner for a lover to have shown after these weeks of separation. Mrs. Cricklander grew very angry indeed. Cold and capricious behavior should only be shown upon a woman's side, she felt!

"Your Government made a colossal mess of things before the session was over, did they not?" she said by way of something to start upon. "Mr. Hanbury-Green tells me you will have to face a hostile vote when you reassemble, and that the whole thing is a played-out game. How long would the Radicals last if they do come in?—and it looks like a certainty that they will."

"Seven years, most likely," said John Derringham a little bitterly. "Or perhaps to the end of time. Your friend Mr. Green could tell you more accurately than I. Does the fact interest you very deeply?"

"Yes," she said, and narrowed her eyes. "I am wildly interested in everything that concerns you, of course—that is obvious."

"You will help me to fight, then, for the Opposition. Your social talents are so great, dear Cecilia, you will make a most brilliant Tory hostess," and he took her hand—he felt he must do something.

"I have always been on the winning side," she said, not more than half playfully. "I do not know how I should like seven years of fighting an uncertain fight. I might get extremely bored by it. I had no idea it would last so long." And she laughed a little uncomfortably. "However, we are perfectly modern, aren't we, John, and need not spend the entire year fighting together—fortunately?"

"No," he said. "I am sure we shall be an admirable pair of citizens of the world. And now I suppose I must let you go and dress for dinner. How is our estimable friend, Miss Clinker? She is with you, I suppose?—or have you friends staying in the hotel? You did not tell me in your letters."

"I never waste sweetness upon the desert air," she said, smiling, with a glitter in her eyes. "You did not appear over anxious to hear of my doings. Our correspondence made me laugh sometimes. You never wrote as though you had received any of my letters—yours were just masterpieces of how little to say—and of how to say it beautifully!"

John Derringham shrugged his shoulders slightly; he did not defend himself, and her anger rose. So that she was leaving the room with her head in the air and two bright spots of pink in her cheeks.

Then he felt constrained to vindicate his position, so he put his arm round her and drew her to him, intending to kiss her. But she looked up into his face with an expression in her eyes which left him completely repulsed. It was mocking and bitter and cunning, and she put out her hand and pushed him from her.

"I do not want any of your caresses to-night," she said. "When I do, I'll pay for them." And she swept from the room, leaving him quivering with debasement.


There was fortunately a company assembled for dinner when John Derringham descended to the restaurant and again joined his fiancee—who never dined alone if she could help it, and reveled in gay parties for every meal, with plenty of brilliant lights and the chatter of other groups near at hand. Wherever she went, from Carlsbad to Cairo, in the best restaurant you could always find her amidst her many friends, feasting every night. And now the party consisted of some of her compatriots, a Russian Prince, and an Italian Marchese. She looked superbly beautiful; anger had lent a sparkle to her eyes and a flush to her cheeks; no rouge was needed to-night, and she could scintillate to her heart's content. She flashed words occasionally at John Derringham, and he knew, and was horribly conscious all the time, that once he would have found her most brilliant, but that now it was exactly as when he had looked at the X-ray photograph of his own broken ankle, where the sole thing which made a reality was the skeleton substructure. He could only seem to see Cecilia Cricklander's vulgar soul—-the pink and white perfection of her body had melted into nothingness.

He found himself listening for some of her parrot-utterances, as a detached spectator, and taking a sort of ugly pleasure in recognizing which were the phrases of Arabella. The man upon her left hand was intelligent, and was gazing at her with the rapt attention beauty always commands, and she was uttering her finest platitudes.

And once John Derringham leant back in his chair, when no one was observing him, and laughed aloud. The supreme mockery of it all! And in five weeks from this night this woman would be his wife!

His wife! Ye gods!

They had no tete-a-tete words before the party broke up, and had hardly exchanged a sentence when, as the last guest was saying farewell, Arabella, too, retired from the sitting-room.

So they were alone.

"Cecilia," he said, coming up quite close to her, "we started rather badly to-night—at least let us be friends." And he held out his hand. "Believe me, I wish to do all that I can to please you, but I am afraid I make a very indifferent sort of lover. Forgive me,"

"Oh, you are well enough, I suppose," she said. "No man values what he has won—it is only the winning of it that is any fun. I understand the feeling myself. Don't let us talk heroics."

John Derringham smiled.

"Certainly not," he said.

And then she put up her face and let him kiss her, which he did with some sickening revolt in his heart. Even her physical beauty had no more any effect upon him—he would as soon have kissed Arabella.

So she sailed from the room again, with her mouth shut like a vice, and her handsome eyes glancing at him over her shoulder.

Next day, after having kept him waiting for an hour to take her out, she decided they should spend what remained of the morning at the Bargello. And, when they got there, she did her best to be a charming companion, and pressed him to lean upon her instead of his stick. But to his awakened understanding what was even probably true in her talk and comprehension of the gems of art, seemed false and affected, and he was only conscious of one continual jar as she spoke.

A thousand little trifles, never remarked before, now appeared to loom large in his vision. At last they came to the galleries above, to the collection of the Della Robbias, and Mrs. Cricklander rhapsodized over them, mixing them up with delightful unconcern. They were all just bits of cheap-looking crockery to her eye, and it was impossibly difficult to distinguish which was Luca's, Andrea's, or Giovanni's; and, security having made her careless, she committed several blunders.

John Derringham laid no pitfalls for her—indeed, he helped her out when he could. To-day each new discovery no longer made him smile with bitter cynicism, he was only filled with a sense of discomfort and regret.

He stopped in front of Andrea's masterpiece, the tender young Madonna. Something in the expression of the face made him think of Halcyone, although the types of the two were entirely different; and Cecilia Cricklander, watching, saw a look of deep pain grow in his eyes.

"I wish to goodness he would get well and be human and masterful and brilliant, as he used to be," she thought. "I am thoroughly tired out, trying to cope with him. He is no more use now than a bump on a log. I am sorry I made him come here!"

"It is about time for lunch," said John Derringham, who could no longer bear her prattle; and they returned to the hotel.

Arabella and an American man made the partie carree, and Miss Clinker did her best to help to get through the repast, and afterwards wrote in a letter to her mother:

Mr. Derringham has arrived. He still looks dreadfully ill and careworn, and I can see is feeling his position acutely. Since that dreadful day when he found my notes in Gibbon, I have never dared to look at him when in the company of M. E. I feel that distressing sensation of hot and cold during the whole time. M. E., now that no further great efforts are needed, chatters on with most disquieting inconsequence. I can see she is very much upset at Mr. Derringham's attitude. The impression that the Conservative Goverment cannot last has had also a great effect upon her, and she has set me to find out exactly the position and amount of prestige the wife of a rising member of the Opposition would have. This morning she sent for me, when she was dressing, to know if it were true, as Mr. Derringham had told her, that, if the Radicals got in, they might last seven years—because, if so, she would then be almost thirty-eight, and the best days of her youth would be over. I do not dare to think what these remarks may mean, but in connection with the fact that she receives daily letters from Mr. Hanbury-Green—that unpleasant Socialistic person who is coming so much to the front—I almost fear, and yet hope, that there is some chance for Mr. Derringham's escape. He is bearing his trouble as only an English gentleman could do, and at lunch paid her every attention.

And old Mrs. Clinker smiled when she got this letter.

But by the end of the afternoon John Derringham's face wore no smiles; a blank despair had settled upon him.

They drove along the Arno and into the Gardens.

It was warm and beautiful, but, so forceful is a hostile atmosphere created between two people, they both found it impossible to make conversation.

Mrs. Cricklander was burning with rage and a sense of impotency. She felt her words and all her arts of pleasing were being nullified, and that she was up against an odious situation in which her strongest weapons were powerless. It made her nervous and very cross. She particularly resented not being able to ascertain the cause of the change in him, and felt personally aggrieved at his still being a wretched wreck hobbling with a stick. He ought to have got quite well by now—it was perfectly ridiculous. What if, after all, he would not be worth while? But the indomitable part of her character made her tenacious. She felt it was a different matter, throwing away what she had won, to having to relinquish something that she knew she had never really gained. She would make one more determined effort, and then, if he would not give her love, he should be made to feel his bondage, she would extort from him to the last ounce, her pound of flesh.

"John, darling," she said, slipping her hand into his, under the rug as they drove, "this beautiful place makes me feel so romantic. I wish you would make love to me. You sit there looking like Dante with a beard, as cold as ice."

"I am very sorry," he answered, startled from a reverie. "I know I am a failure in such sort of ways. What do you want me to say?"

This was not promising, and her annoyance increased.

"I want you to tell me you love me—over and over again," she whispered, controlling her voice.

"Women always ask these questions," he said to gain time. "They never take anything for granted as men do."

"No!" she flashed. "Not when a man's actions point to the possibility of several other interpretations of his sentiments—then they want words to console them. But you give me neither."

"I am not a demonstrative person," he responded. "I will do all I can to make you happy, but do not ask me for impossibilities. You will have to put up with me as I am."

"I shall decide that!" And she snatched away her hand angrily, and then controlled herself—the moment had not yet come. He should not have freedom, which now she felt he craved; he should remain tied until he had at all events paid the last price of humiliation. So for the rest of that day and those that followed she behaved with maddening capriciousness, keeping him waiting for every meal and every appointment—changing her mind as to what she would do—lavishing caresses upon him which made him wince, and then treating him with mocking coldness; but all with such extreme cleverness that she never once gave him the chance to bring things to an open rupture. She was beginning really to enjoy herself in this new game—it required even more skill to torture and hold than to attract and keep at arm's length. But at last John Derringham could bear no more.

They had continuous lunches and dinners with the gay party of Americans who had been of the company on the first evening, and there was never a moment's peace. A life in public was as the breath of Cecilia Cricklander's nostrils, and she did not consider the wishes of her betrothed. In fact, but for spoken sympathy over his shattered condition and inability to walk much, she did not consider him at all, and exacted his attendance on all occasions, whether too fatiguing for him or not.

The very last shred of glamour about her had long fallen from John Derringham's eyes, and indeed things seemed to him more bald than they really were. His proud spirit chafed from morning to night—chafed hopelessly against the knowledge that his own action had bound him as no ordinary bond of an engagement could. His whole personality appeared to be changing; he was taciturn or cynically caustic, casting jibes at all manner of things he had once held sacred. But after a week of abject misery, he refused to bear any more, and when Mrs. Cricklander grew tired of Florence, and decided to move on to Venice, he announced his intention of taking a few days' tour by himself. He wished to see the country round, he said, and especially make an excursion to San Gimignano—that gem of all Italy for its atmosphere of the past.

"Oh! I am thoroughly tired of these moldy places," Mrs. Cricklander announced. "The Maulevriers are in Venice, and we can have a delightful time at the Lido; the new hotel is quite good—you had much better come on with me now. Moping alone cannot benefit anyone. You really ought to cheer up and get quite well, John."

But he was firm, and after some bickerings she was obliged to decide to go to Venice alone with Arabella, and let her fiance depart in his motor early the next morning.

Their parting was characteristic.

"Good night, Cecilia," John Derringham said. No matter how capricious she could be, he always treated her with ceremonious politeness. "I am leaving so very early to-morrow, we had better say good-by now. I hope my going does not really inconvenience you at all. I want a little rest from your friends, and, when I join you at Venice again, I hope you will let me see more of yourself."

She put up her face, and kissed him with all the girlish rippling smiles she had used for his seduction in the beginning.

"Why, certainly," she said. "We will be regular old Darbys-and-Joans; so don't you forget while you are away that you belong to me, and I am not going to give you up to anything or anybody—so long as I want you myself!"

And John Derringham had gone to his room feeling more chained than ever, and more bitterly resentful against fate.

As soon as he left her, she sat down at her writing-table and wrote out a telegram to be sent off the first thing the next day. It contained only three words, and was not signed.

But the recipient of it, Mr. Hanbury-Green, read it with wild emotion when he received it in his rooms in London—and immediately made arrangements to set off to Florence at once.

"I'll beat him yet!" he said to himself, and he romantically kissed the pink paper. For, "You may come" was what he had read.


An hour or so before sunset the next day John Derringham in his motor was climbing the steep roads which lead to San Gimignano, the city of beautiful towers, which still stands, a record of things mediaeval, untouched by the modernizing hand of men.

A helpless sense of bitterness mastered him, and destroyed the loveliness and peace of the view. Everything fine and great in his thoughts and aims seemed tarnished. To what stage of degradation would his utter disillusion finally bring him! Of course, when Cecilia Cricklander should once be his wife, he would not permit her to lead this life of continuous racket—or, if she insisted upon it, she should indulge in it only when she went abroad alone. He would not endure it in his home. And what sort of home would it be? He was even doubtful about that now. Since she had so often carelessly thrown off her mask, he no longer felt sure that she would even come up to the mark of what had hitherto seemed her chief charm, her power of being a clever and accomplished hostess. He could picture the scenes which would take place between them when their wishes clashed! The contemplation of the future was perfectly ghastly. He remembered, with a cynical laugh, how in the beginning, before that fateful Good Friday when the Professor first planted ruffling thoughts in his mind, and before the spell of Halcyone had fallen upon him, he had thought that one of the compensations for having to take a rich wife he had found in Cecilia. She would be his intellectual companion during the rather rare moments he would be able to spare for her from his work. He would be able to live with a woman cultured in all branches which interested him, capable of discussing with him any book or any thought, polished in brain and in methods. He had imagined them, when alone together, spending their time in a delightful and intellectual communion of ideas, which would make the tie of marriage seem as almost a pleasure. And what was the reality?—An absolute emptiness, and the knowledge that, unless Arabella Clinker continued her ministrations, he himself would have to play her part! He actually regretted his accession to fortune. But for it he could have broken off the engagement with decency, but now his hands were tied. Only Cecilia could release him, and she did not seem to have the slightest intention of doing so.

He savagely clenched his white teeth when he remembered the ridiculous waiting lackey he had been made to turn into in the last week. Then he looked up and tried to take interest in the quaint gateway through which he was passing and on up to the unique town and the square where is the ancient Podesta's palace, now the hotel. But he was in a mood of rasping cynicism—even the exquisite evening sunlight seemed to mock at him.

His highly trained eye took in the wonderful old-world beauty around him with some sense of unconscious satisfaction, but the saintly calm of the place made no impression upon him. Santa Fina and her flowers could not soften or bring peace to his galled soul. The knowledge that the whole situation was the result of his own doings kept his bitterness always at white heat. The expression of his thin, haggard face was sardonic, and the groups of simple children, accustomed to ask any stranger for stamps for their collections—a queer habit of the place—turned away from him when once they had looked into his eyes.

He left his motor at the hotel and wandered into the square where the remains of the palazzos of the two great Guelph and Ghibelline families, the Ardinghelli and the Salvucci, frown at one another not fifty yards apart—shorn of their splendors, but the Salvucci still with two towers from which to hurl destruction at their enemies.

John Derringham looked up at the balcony whence Dante had spoken, and round to the Cathedral and the picturesque square. The few people who passed seemed not in tune with his thoughts, so calm and saintly was the type of their faces—all in keeping with a place where a house of the sixteenth century is considered so aggressively modern as not to be of any interest. It was too late for him now to go into the Cathedral; nothing but the fortress battlements were possible, and he hobbled there, desiring to see the sunset from its superb elevation.

The gate-keeper, homely and simple, opened to him courteously, and he went in to the first little courtyard, with its fig tree in the middle and old grass-grown well surrounded by olives and lilac bushes; and then he climbed the open stairs to the bastion, from whose battlements there is to be obtained the most perfect view imaginable of the country, the like of which Benozzo Gozzoli loved to paint.

It has not changed in the least since those days, except that the tiles of the roofs, which are now dark gray with age, were then red and brilliant. But the cypress trees still surround the monasteries, and the high hills are still crowned with castellos, while the fields make a patchwork of different crops of olives and vines and grain.

John Derringham mounted the stairs with his head down, musing bitterly, so that, until he reached the top, he was not aware that a slender girl's figure was seated upon the old stone bench which runs round the wall. Her hat lay upon the seat beside her, while she gazed out over the beautiful world. He paused with a wildly beating heart in which joy and agony fought for mastery, but, as she turned to see who this stranger could be, thus breaking in upon her solitude, his voice, hoarse with emotion, said aloud her name:


She started to her feet, and then sank back upon the bench again unsteadily, and he came forward to her side. They both realized that they were alone here in the sunset—alone upon this summit of the world.

He sat down beside her and then he buried his face in his hands, letting his cap fall; and all the pent-up misery and anguish of the past weeks seemed to vibrate in his voice as he murmured:

"Ah, God!—my love!"

Her soft eyes melted upon him in deepest tenderness and sorrow. To see him so pale and shattered, so changed from the splendid lover she had known!

But he was there—beside her—and what mattered anything else? She longed to comfort him and tend him with fond care. Had he been the veriest outcast he would ever have found boundless welcome and solace waiting for him in her loving heart.

"John!" she whispered, and put out gentle fingers and caressed his hair.

He shivered and let his hands fall from his haggard face.

"Darling," he said, "I am not worthy to touch the hem of your garment. Why do you not turn from such a weakling and brute?"

"Hush! Hush," she exclaimed, aghast. "You must not speak so of yourself. I love you always, as you know, and I cannot hear him whom I love abused."

And now he looked into her eyes while he took her slender hand, and there he saw the same wells of purity and devotion brimming with divine faith and tenderness that he had last seen glistening with happy love.

He folded her to his heart; the passionate emotion each was feeling was too deep, too sacred for words; and then their eyes streamed with scorching tears.

They sat thus close for some seconds. The thirst and hunger of all these days of rack and anguish must be assuaged before either could talk. But at last she drew a little back and looked up into his face.

"John," she said softly, "I read in an English paper a week ago that your wedding was fixed for the seventh of October—my birthday. Is it the truth?"

He clasped his hands in agony.

"It can never now be so," he said. "I cannot, I will not go through with it. Oh, Halcyone, my darling one, you would pity me, although you would despise me, if you knew—"

"I could never despise you," she answered, nestling once more in his arms. "John, for me nothing you could do would make any difference—you would still be my love; and if you were weak I would make you strong, and if cold and hungry, I would feed and comfort you, and if wicked, I would only see you good."

"Oh, my dear, my dear," he said, "you were always as an angel of sweetness. Listen to the whole degrading story, and tell me then of that which I must do."

She took one of his hands and held it in both of hers; and it was as if some stream of comfort flowed to him through their soft warm touch and enabled him to begin his ugly task.

He told her the whole thing from the beginning. Of his ambitions, and how they held chief place in his life, and how he had meant to marry Cecilia Cricklander as an aid to their advancement. He glossed over nothing of his own baseness, but went on to show how, from the moment he had seen her upon that Good Friday at the orchard house, his determination about Cecilia Cricklander had begun to waver, until the night under the tree when passion overcame every barrier and he knew he must possess her—Halcyone—for his wife.

He made no excuse for himself; he continued the plain tale of how, his ambitions still holding him, he had selfishly tried to keep both joy and them, by asking her—she who was so infinitely above him—to descend to the invidious position of a secret wife.

She knew the rest until it came to the cause of his accident, and, when she heard it occurred because of his haste to get to her before she should reach the house, she gave a little moan of anguish and leaned her head against his breast.

So the story went on—of his agonized thoughts and fever and fears—of his comprehension that she had been taken from him, and of the utter hopelessness of his financial position, and the whole outlook, until he came to the night of his engagement; and here he paused.

"Do not try to tell me any of this part, John, my dear lover," she said. "I know the standard of honor in a man is that he must never give away the absent woman, and I understand—you need not put anything into words. I knew you were unhappy and coerced. I never for a moment have doubted your love. You were surrounded with strong and cruel forces, and all my tenderness could not reach you quite, to protect you as it should have done, because I was so full of foolish anguish myself. Dearest, now only tell me the end and the facts that I must know."

He held her close to him in thankfulness, and then went on to speak of the shame and degradation he had suffered for his weakness; the drawn-out days of aching wonder at her silence, and finally the news of his Uncle Joseph Scroope's death and the fortune that would come to him, and how this fact had tied and bound his hands.

"But it has grown to such a pass," he said, "that I had come to breaking-point, and now I can never go back to her again. I have found you, my one dear love, and I will never leave you more."

Halcyone shook her head sadly, and asked him to listen to her side. And when he knew that her leaving La Sarthe Chase had been brought about because of his letter to Cheiron having been posted from London, so that she hoped to find him there, it added to his pain to feel that, even in this small turn of events, his action had been the motive force.

But, as she went on, her pure and exquisite love and perfect faith shining through it all seemed to draw his soul out of the mire in which it had lain. And at last they knew each other's stories and were face to face with the fateful moment of to-day, and he exclaimed gladly:

"My darling, now nothing else matters—we will never, never part again."

Then, as he looked into her eyes, he saw that not gladness but a solemn depth of shadow grew there, and he clasped both her hands. A cold agony chilled his whole being. What, O God, was she going to say?

"John," she whispered, all the tenderness of the angels in her gentle voice as she leaned and kissed the silver threads in his dark hair. "John, do you remember, long ago when we spoke of Jason and Medea, and you asked me the question then, Must he keep his word to her even if she were a witch?—and I told you that was not the point at all: it was not because she was or was not a witch, but because it was his word?"—Here her voice broke, and he could hear the tears in it, and he wildly kissed her hands. Then she went on:

"Oh, my dear lover, it is the same question now. You cannot break your word. Nothing but misfortune could follow. It is a hard law, but I know it is true, and it is fate. We put in action the force which brings all that we receive, and we who have courage pay the price without flinching, and, above and beyond all momentary pleasure or pain, we must be true to ourselves."

"I cannot, I cannot!" he groaned in agony. "How can you condemn me to such a fate?—tied to this woman whose every influence is degrading to me; parted from you whom I adore—I would rather be dead. It is not fair—not just, if you only knew!"

Then he continued wildly. "Ah, God—and it is all because I forgot the meaning of your dear and sacred, pledge with me that I must always be good and true! If I could suffer alone—my darling, my soul!—then I would go without a word back to hell, if you sent me. But you, too—think, Halcyone! Can you bear your life? You who are so young, separated for evermore from love and me. Oh! my own, my own—"

Here he stopped his mad rush of words—her face was so white and grave—and he let her draw herself from him, and put her hands upon his shoulders, while her eyes, with tender stars of purity melting in their depths, gazed into his.

"John," she said, "do not try to weaken me. All Nature, who is my friend, and the night-winds and their voices, and that dear God Who never deserts me, tell me that for no present good must we lower ourselves now. Nothing can ever hurt me. Go back and do that which being a gentleman entails upon you to do—and leave the rest to God. This is the winter of our souls, but it will not last forever. The spring is at hand, if you will only trust, and believe with me that first we on our side must be ready to pay the price."

Then she bent forward and kissed him as an angel might have done, and, without speaking more, rose and prepared to walk towards the stairway which descended to the lower court.

He followed her, and she turned before she began to descend the steps, while she pointed to the beautiful country.

"Look at the vines, all heavy with grapes," she said, "and the fields shorn of their corn, and the olives shimmering in the sunset; and then, dear lover, you will know that all things have their sequence, and our time of joy will come. Ah! sweetheart, it is not farewell for ever; it is only that we must wait for our spring."

"Halcyone," he said, while his proud eyes again filled with tears, "you have the absolute worship of my being. You have taught me, as ever, the truth. Go, my darling, and I will do as you wish, and will try to make myself more worthy of your noble soul. God keep you until we meet again."

She did not speak; she only looked at him with a divine look of love and faith, and he watched her as she went down, it seemed, out of the very heart of the setting sun and into the shadows beneath, and so disappeared from his adoring eyes in a peaceful purple twilight.

Then he returned to the old stone seat and leaning forward gazed out over the exquisite scene.

A great hush had fallen upon his torn heart. And thus he stayed motionless until the night fell.


Mrs. Cricklander awaited Mr. Hanbury-Green's coming quite impatiently. She felt she wanted a little warmth and humanity after the chilling week she had passed with her betrothed. What she meant to do with this latter she had not yet made up her mind—the justice of an affair never bothered her, and her complete unconsciousness of having committed any wrong often averted her action's immediate consequence. That Mr. Hanbury-Green should suffer, or that John Derringham should suffer, mattered to her not one jot. She was really and truly under the impression that only her personal comfort, pleasure and feelings were of any importance in the world. Her brain always guarded these things, and, when they were not in any jeopardy or fear of being inconvenienced, then she was capable of numbers of kind and generous actions. And, if she had ever been reproached about her colossal selfishness, she would have looked up astonished, and replied:

"Well, who is nearer to oneself than oneself?"

Common sense like this is not to be controverted.

It would only be when she was growing old that she would feel the loneliness of knowing that, apart from the passion which she had inspired because of her sex and her beauty, not a single human being had ever loved her. For the present she was Venus Victrix, a glorious creature, the desired of men—and that was enough.

Mr. Hanbury-Green was a forceful person, unhampered by any of the instincts of a gentleman, and therefore armed with a number of weapons for winning his battles. He had determined to rise to the top upon the wave of class hatred which he had been clever enough to create, and he neither knew nor cared to what state of devastation he might bring the country. He was a fitting mate in every way for Cecilia Cricklander, and completely equipped to play with her at her own game.

So, when they met in her sitting-room in the Florentine hotel, each experienced a pleasurable emotion.

His was tempered—or augmented—by a blunt and sufficiently brutal passion, which only the ideal of circumspect outward conduct which dominates the non-conformist lower middle classes, from which he had sprung, kept him from demonstrating, by seizing his desired prize in his arms.

He was frankly in love, and meant to leave no stone unturned to oust John Derringham from his position as fiance of the lady—John Derringham, whom he hated from the innermost core of his heart!

Mrs. Cricklander fenced with him admirably. She did not need Arabella's coachings in her dealings with him; he was quite uncultured, and infinitely more appreciated what her old father had been used to call her "horse sense" than he would have done her finest rhapsody upon Nietzsche. Mrs. Cricklander had indeed with him that delightful sense of rest and ceasing from toil that being herself gave. She felt she could launch forth into as free a naturalness as if she had been selling little pigs' feet in her grandfather's original shop. And all to a man who was rising—rising in that great country of England, where some day he might play a role no less than Tallien's, and she could be "Notre dame de Thermidor."

Arabella had once told her of this lady's story, and she felt that the time in Bordeaux when the beautiful Therese wore the red cap of Liberty and hung upon the arm of one who had swum in the blood of the aristocrats, must have been an experience worth having in life. Her study of Madame Tallien went no further; it was the lurid revolutionary part in her career that she liked.

Mr. Hanbury-Green was very careful at first. He was quite aware that he was only received with empressement because he was successful; he knew and appreciated the fact that Cecilia Cricklander only cared for members of a winning side. He felt like that about people himself, and he respected her for the way she fought to secure a footing among the hated upper classes, and then trampled upon their necks. There were no shades of her character which would have disgusted or dismayed him; even the knowledge that her erudition was merely parrot-talk, would only have appealed to his admiration as a further proof of her sagacity.

They went on to Venice the day after he arrived, with Arabella to make a chaperoning third, and for the first two days afterwards Cecilia kept him at arm's length, but not waiting for his dinner! Some instinct told her that in his home circle he would probably have been accustomed to worthy, punctual women, and, while she enjoyed tantalizing him, she knew that he had a nasty temper and could not be provoked too far. No bonds of honor or chivalry would control his actions as they would those of John Derringham. She was dealing with as lawless a being as herself, and it was very refreshing. Mr. Hanbury-Green knew her one weak point—she was intensely sensitive of the world's opinion, as are all people who inwardly know they are shams. She would have hated to be the center of a scandal, from the point of view that it would irreparably close doors to her; and her resentment of barriers and barrier-makers was always present.

This he would remember as his strong card—the last to be played.—If she continued being capricious until the moment of her fiance's expected return, he would use all his cunning—and it was no inconsiderable quantity—and compromise her irrevocably, and so get her to surrender upon his terms. For he had made up his mind, as he sped to Florence, that Cecilia Cricklander should return to England as his wife.

They had four days of the usual gay parties for every meal—there happened to be a number of people passing through and staying at Venice—and the early September weather was glorious and very hot.

Mrs. Cricklander delighted in a gondola. There was something about it which set off her stately beauty, she felt, and she reveled in the admiration she provoked; and so did Mr. Hanbury-Green—he prized that which the crowd applauded. But time was passing, and nothing the least definite was settled yet, although he knew he had obtained a certain mastery over her.

On the Friday evening a telegram was received from John Derringham saying he would return on the Saturday night, and Mr. Hanbury-Green felt this was the moment to act. He had no intention of having any quarrel with his rival, or of putting himself in the position of being called upon to give an account of himself. The news of his dismissal must be conveyed to John Derringham by the lady as that lady's free and determined choice.

So Mr. Green was very cautious all the Friday evening, and made himself as irresistible as he could, using all his clever wits to flatter and cajole Cecilia, and leaving not a trifle unconsidered which could interfere with his plans.

They were simple enough.

He claimed to have discovered a quite new and quite charming spot on the Lido, which he was most anxious to take Mrs. Cricklander to see alone—he put a stress upon the word alone, and looked into her eyes. They would go quite early and be back before tea, as John Derringham had timed himself to arrive upon the mainland about seven o'clock, and would be at the Daniellis, where they were all staying, for dinner.

Mrs. Cricklander felt she must have one more delightful afternoon, and, as this excursion might contain a spice of adventure, it thrilled her blood. She had been exquisitely discreet—in public—forcing Arabella always to talk to Mr. Hanbury-Green, and devoting herself to Lady Maulevrier, or any other lady or old gentleman who happened to be present. And then she felt free to spend long hours alone with Mr. Hanbury-Green in her sitting-room, whose balcony hung over the beautiful canal. No one could say a word—Arabella's discretion could always be counted upon; and pleasure was secured.

She looked, perhaps, more beautiful than she had ever done in her life as they started. Mr. Hanbury-Green had hired a special gondola, not the one they were accustomed to float about in,—and off they went. Where was the harm, in broad daylight! and with Arabella to accompany them—as far as the last steps, and then to be dropped? Cecilia felt like a school-girl on a forbidden treat.

When they were well out of sight of all observation, Mr. Hanbury-Green began. He told her that he loved her, in all the most impressive language he was master of; he felt that with her he might with safety and success use the same flamboyant metaphors and exaggerations with which he was accustomed to move his constituents. No restraint or attention to accuracy was necessary here. And if his voice in his honest excitement would have sounded a little cockney in Arabella's cultured ears, Cecilia Cricklander did not notice it. On the contrary, she thought the whole thing was the finest-sounding harangue she had ever heard in her life.

He went on to say that he could not live without her, and implored her to throw over John Derringham and promise to be his wife.

"He thinks you are madly in love with him, darling," he said, knowing this would sting, "and will stand any of his airs. Let him see you are not. Give him the snub he deserves for deserting you, and fling his dismissal in his face."

Cecilia Cricklander reddened and thrilled, too. Here, at all events, was warmth. But she was not won yet. So she looked down, as if too full of emotion to speak. She must gain time to consider what this would mean, and, if worth while, how to lay her plans.

Should the scheme contain certain elevation for herself and certain humiliation for John Derringham, then there was something worthy of consideration in it, for undoubtedly Percy Hanbury-Green suited her the better of the two, as far as just the men themselves were concerned. She knew she would get desperately tired of having to live up to John Derringham's standard, and a divorce in England would not be so easily obtained or so free from scandal, as her original one in America had been. But she must think well, and weigh the matter before plunging in.

Mr. Hanbury-Green saw her hesitation and instantly applied another forceful note. He dwelt upon the political situation and grew eloquent and magnetic, as when he was on the platform—for was he not playing for stakes which, for the moment, he valued even more than some thousands of votes?

It was no wonder Cecilia Cricklander's imagination grew inflamed. He let her see that as his wife she would, for seven years or more, ride on the crest of the wave of an ever-rising tide to undreamed-of heights of excitement and intrigue. "With you at my side, darling," Mr. Green said passionately, "I could be stimulated into being Dictator myself. The days of kings and constitutions are over. The people want a strong despotic leader who has first brought about their downfall. And they will get him—in ME!"

This clinched the matter, and Cecilia, seeing visions of herself as Madame Tallien, allowed herself to be drawn into his arms!

* * * * *

"Do you know, my beauty," the triumphant lover said as they floated back to pick up Arabella upon the last steps, rather late in the afternoon, "I had meant to get you somehow to-day. If you had refused to listen, I intended to take you to the Lido and keep you there all night—the gondolier and the people there are bribed—then you would have had no choice but to marry me. Oh, you cannot balk me!"

And all Cecilia Cricklander replied was, with a girlish giggle of pleasure:

"Oh, Percy, dear!"

In the innermost recesses of their hearts there are a number of cold women who adore a bold buccaneer!

She had made one stipulation with him before they landed, and this was one which in the future—little as she knew it then—would rob her of all her triumph over John Derringham, and plant an everlasting and bitter sting in her breast.

She insisted that, as she did not wish to create a nine days' wonder, no mention of his engagement to herself should be made public by Mr. Hanbury-Green for at least a month after people were aware that she had closed hers with John Derringham. All should be done with decency and in order, so as not to militate in any way against her future position as queen of the winning side.

And, knowing that he had already telegraphed the announcement that the marriage arranged between the Right Honorable John Derringham and Mrs. Vincent Cricklander would not take place, so that it should appear in the Monday morning papers—Mr. Hanbury-Green felt he could safely comply with her caprice and bide his time. He had not the slightest intention of ever permitting a whim of hers to interfere with his real wishes in any way, and having a full command of her own weapons and methods, he looked forward to a time of uninterrupted bliss when once she should be his wife. To dissemble for a month or so would not hurt him, and might even amuse him as a new game.

So they entered Daniellis in subdued triumph, and said good night before Arabella, with prim decorum, and then Cecilia mounted to make herself look beautiful for the flinging of his conge in John Derringham's face.


When Halcyone left the Fortezza she was conscious of no feeling of depression or grief. Rather a gladness and security filled her heart. She had seen him with her mortal eyes—her dear lover—and he was in truth greatly in need of all her care and tender thoughts. Her beliefs were so intense in those forces of protection with which that God Whom she worshiped so truly surrounded her, that she never for a moment doubted but these invisible currents would be directed to the disentangling of destiny's threads.

She made no speculations as to how this would be—God would find the way. Her attitude was never one of pious resignation to a divine chastisement. She did not believe God ever meant to chastise anyone. For good or ill each circumstance was brought about by the individual's own action in setting the sequence of events in motion, as the planting of seed in the early spring produced fair flowers in the summer—or the bruising of a limb produced pain. And the motion must go on until the price had been paid or the pleasure obtained. And, when long ago she had heard Cheiron and John Derringham having abstruse arguments upon Chance, she used silently to wonder how they could be so dull as not to understand there was no such thing really as Chance—if people were only enabled to see clearly enough. If they could only trace events in their lives to their sources, they would find that they themselves had long ago—even perhaps in some former existence—put in motion the currents to draw the events to themselves. What could be called "chance" in the matter was only another name for ignorance.

And, if people knew about these wonderful forces of nature, they could connect themselves with only the good ones, and protect themselves from the bad. Misfortune came through—figuratively—not knowing just where to put the feet, and through not looking ahead to see what would be the result of actions.

Only, above and beyond all these forces of nature and these currents of cause and effect, there was still the great, eternal Source of all things, who was able to dispel ignorance and to endow one individual with the power to help another by his prayers and thoughts. This God could hasten and bring Happiness, if only He were believed in with absolute faith. But that He would ever stoop to punish was an unheard-of blasphemy. He was only and entirely concerned with good. Punishments came as the results of actions. It followed then that John Derringham, having paid the price of much sorrow for all his mistakes, would now come into peace—and her prayers, and exceptional advantages in having been allowed for years to learn the forces of nature, would be permitted to help him. That he would be obliged to marry Mrs. Cricklander would seem to be an overexaction, and not just. But they were not the judges, and must in all cases fulfill their part of honesty and truth, no matter what might betide.

These were her convictions, and so they caused her to feel only a God-like calm—as she went away into the purple shadows of the old streets.

Cheiron and she had been at San Gimignano for half a week, and almost every child in the place knew and loved her. She had always a gracious word or a merry smile when they clustered round her, as is their friendly way with all travelers, when she came from the Cathedral or the strange old solitary chapel of St. Jacopo.

The Professor was waiting for her on the hotel steps, and he saw by some extra radiance in her face that something unusual had happened.

"What is it, my child?" he asked, as they went in and up to their dinner in the big salle a manger upon the first floor, which was then nearly always empty of guests.

"John Derringham is here, Master," she said—"and we have talked, and now all shadows are gone—and we must only wait."

"I am glad to hear it," replied Cheiron, and bristled his brows.

This is all that was said between them on the subject, and, immediately the meal was over, they retired to their rooms. But when alone in hers, Halcyone took from the silken wrappings the Goddess Aphrodite, and in the divine eyes read a glad blessing, and, as soon as her head touched her pillow, she fell into a soft sweet sleep, while the warm night winds flew in at the wide-opened windows and caressed her hair.

And John Derringham, when the dark had fallen, came down from his high watch tower, and walked slowly back to the hotel, leaning upon his stick. He was still filled with the hush of his loved one's serene calm. Surely, after all, there must be some truth in her beliefs, and he would trust to them, too, and wait and hope—and above all keep his word, as she had said, with that honor which is entailed upon a gentleman.

He ordered his motor for dawn the next morning, so as to be away before the chance of disturbing the two should occur.

The rare and wonderful sight of a motor in those days caused a crowd to collect whenever one should arrive or depart. It was an unheard-of thing that two should visit the city at the same time—there had only been three in the whole year—so Halcyone, when she heard the whizz next morning, bounded from her bed and rushed to peep between the green shutters. Some instinct told her that the noise indicated it was he—her dear lover—about to start, and she had the happiness of gazing down upon his upturned face unperceived, as his eyes searched the windows, perhaps in some vague hope of being able to discern which was hers.

And she showered upon him blessings of love and tenderness, and called all the currents of good from the sky and the air, to comfort and protect him and give him strength to go back and keep his word. And, just as he was starting, a white pigeon flew down and circled round John Derringham's head—and he was conscious that at the same moment the sun must have risen above the horizon, for it suddenly gilded the highest towers. And he passed out of the dark gate into its glory, and took the Siena road, a mighty purpose of strength in his heart.

After a few days of wandering, during which he strove not to let grief or depression master him again, he sent a telegram to Venice to Cecilia Cricklander. And on that Saturday evening, he walked into her sitting-room with a pale and composed face.

She was seated upon the sofa and arranged with every care, and was looking triumphantly beautiful as she smoked a cigarette. Her fine eyes had in them all the mocking of the fiend as she greeted him lazily.

"How are you, John?" she said casually—and puffed rings of smoke, curling up her red lips to do so in a manner that, John Derringham was unpleasantly aware, he would once have found attractive, but that now only filled him with disgust.

"I am well," he said, "thank you,—better for the change and the sight of some most interesting things."

"And I, also," she responded with provoking glances from under her lids, "am better—for the change! I have seen—a man, since which I seem to be able the better to value your love!"

And she leaned back and laughed with rasping mockery, which galled his ears—although for some strange reason she could no longer gall his soul. He felt calm and blandly indifferent to her, like someone acting in a dream.

"I am glad you were, and are, amused," he said. He had not made the slightest attempt to kiss her in greeting—and she had not even held out her hand.

"You are quite rich now, John, aren't you?" after a short silence she presently asked nonchalantly—"that is, as you English count riches—ten or twelve thousand a year. I suppose it will keep you in comfort."

He leaned back and smiled one of his old cynical smiles.

"Yes," he said, "it is extremely rich for me; my personal wants are not great."

"That is splendid, then," she went on, "because I shall not feel I am really depriving you of anything by doing what I intend to do in throwing you over—otherwise I should have been glad to settle something upon you for life!"

As he listened, John Derringham's eyes flashed forth steel, but the pith of her speech had in it such divine portent, as it fell upon his ears, that the insult of its wording left him less roused than she hoped he would have been.

She saw that it was joy, not rage, which lay deep in his eyes, and the fury of her whole nature blazed up, so that she forgot the years of polish that she had acquired—forgot her elaborately prepared plan that for an hour she would torture and play with him, as a cat plays with a mouse, and, crimsoning with wrath, she hurled forth her displeasure, cutting things short.

"You are only a paltry fortune-hunter, John Derringham, for all your fine talk," she said loudly, raising her voice, and allowing it to regain its original broad accent, "and I have kept you on just to punish you. But, if you thought I was ever going to marry you now that you are no better than a cripple, and don't amount to thirty cents in the opinion of the world—you or your Government either!—you made a great mistake. I have something much more delightful on hand—so you can take back your ring and your freedom—and go and find some meeker woman who will put up with your airs."

And she picked up from a table beside her his diamond gage, which she had taken from her hand before his entrance, and threw it over to him—and then leaned back as if exhausted with anger among the cushions.

John Derringham had grown very pale as the insulting words fell from her lips—and now he rose to his feet, and standing there looked at her with pitying contempt.

"Then I will say good-by, Cecilia," he said. "The manner of your release of me cancels the pain it might otherwise have caused me. I can only wish you all success with any new venture you may make—and assure you always of my deep respect."

And, calmly putting the ring in his pocket, he turned round and slowly left the room—when, meeting Arabella upon the stairs, she was startled to see him shaking with sardonic laughter.

"Good-night, and good-by, dear Miss Clinker," he said; "I am glad to have had this opportunity of thanking you again and again for your sweet goodness to me when I was ill; it was something which I shall never forget."

"Oh, Mr. Derringham!" said Arabella, "you haven't parted from Mrs. Cricklander, have you?" But she saw from his laughing eyes that he had, and, before she was aware of it, good, honest soul, she had blurted out: "Oh, I'm so glad!"

Then they shook hands heartily, to hide her dreadful confusion, and John Derringham went on to his rooms at the Britannia, where he was staying, with nothing but a mad, wild joy in his heart.

What did Cecilia Cricklander's insults matter? What did anything on earth matter? He was free to go and seek his beloved one—and have every sorrow healed as he held her to his heart. The only necessary thing now was to find her immediately, which would require some thinking out. It was too late to get an answer to any telegrams to England—he must wait until the morning. Mrs. Porrit would know where Cheiron's next address would be. Yes, he could hope to come up with the wanderers perhaps not later than the day after tomorrow.

But when Arabella entered her employer's sitting-room after wishing him good-by, she found Mrs. Cricklander in violent hysterics, and she had to have the doctor and a sleeping draught before she could be calmed.

The hatefulness, the impossible arrogance and insolence of the man, she had thought! and the humiliation to herself of knowing full well that, instead of making this dismissal a scene of subtle superlative cleverness, so that through all his torture he would be obliged to admire and respect her skill—she had let her temper get the better of her, and had shown him a side of herself that, she was well aware, was most unrefined, so that he had been able to leave her, not as a humbled, beaten cur, as she had intended, but feeling what she knew to be unfeigned contempt.

No wonder she had hysterics! It was galling beyond compare, and not all Mr. Hanbury-Green's devotion or flattery next day could heal the bitter hurt.

"Oh, how I will help you, Percy!" she said, "to pull them all down from their pedestals, and drag them to the guillotine!"

And Mr. Hanbury-Green had laughed, and said it gratified him greatly to feel her sympathy and cooeperation would be with him, but he feared they would never have the humorous pleasure of getting as far as that!

And, it being a Sunday, Arabella Clinker wrote to her mother to apprise her of these events.

The engagement is over [Mrs. Clinker was told]—the advent of Mr. Hanbury-Green (a very unpleasant personality, afraid of being polite to me in case I should fancy myself his equal) seemed to clinch matters in M. E.'s mind. I suppose he was able to give her some definite assurance of the future of the Government. In any case, I could see, when they returned from their excursion in the gondola yesterday, that things were upon a very familiar footing between them. Mr. H.G. has none of Mr. Derringham's restraint or refinement, and, after M. E. had seen Mr. Derringham and, I presume, returned him his freedom, she had a terrible fit of hysterics, only calmed when Mr. Hanbury-Green entered the room and suggested emptying the water jug over her. It appears he has a sister who is subject to these attacks, and this is the only method which has any effect upon her. I suppose in his circle they would have a number of crude remedies which we are unaccustomed to, but it seemed to be the right one for M. E., who pulled herself together at once.

They told me privately that they are engaged, but do not intend to announce it yet, and I believe they are really suited to each other. I had thought at one time that Mr. Derringham might be equally a mate for her, because of his selfishness, but, after I grew to know him when he was ill, I saw that he was infinitely above her, and not really more selfish than other men—and, as you know, I have extended to him my pity and commiseration ever since. Your liking of him confirmed my good opinion. I am to stay on with M. E. as long as I will, because Mr. Hanbury-Green, she says, is not cultivated either, and I may be of use to them both, she thinks, in the future, although she has not imparted this to him. I do not believe I shall like having to render his speeches erudite, because my political convictions are all upon the other side. But something else may turn up, and it is a comfort to know things are settled for the present. Mr. Derringham looked so joyous as he came from her sitting-room, after his dismissal, that I am sure he will go off at once to that person I have often given you a hint about,—and his restoration to health may consequently be looked upon as a certainty. I fear the influences we shall have to live under now will not encourage that high tone which endeavoring to keep up with Mr. Derringham and his party entailed, and it may grow more than I can bear. The inference to be drawn from M. E.'s defection to the other side is not felicitous, and gives me cause for the most gloomy foreboding as to the future of the country, because she would never have done it if she had not received from Mr. Hanbury-Green absolute guarantees that with him she will occupy the highest position. Everything Conservative is vieux jeu now, she says, and she must go with the tide.

And from this the letter wandered on to personal matters.

Meanwhile John Derringham had received Mrs. Porrit's answer and had ascertained the Professor's probable address, and was joyously speeding his way on to Rome.


The Palace of the Caesars was lying in blazing heat when Halcyone and the Professor decided to spend the afternoon there. People had warned them not to get to Rome until October, but they were both lovers of the sun, and paid no heed. It would be particularly delightful to have the eternal city to themselves, and they had come straight down from San Gimignano, meaning to pick up their motor again at Perugia on their way back, as the roads to the south were so bad.

They had only arrived the evening before, and felt the Palatine hill should be their first pilgrimage. It was completely deserted in the heat and they wandered in peace. They had gone all through the dark rooms which overlook the Forum, and had reached the garden upon the top, with its cypress and cool shade. Here Halcyone sat down on a bench, looking over the wonderful scene. She wanted to re-read a letter from her Aunt Roberta which had arrived as they were starting out.

The old ladies were delighted with their accession to a modest fortune, the matter was turning out well, and they hoped to have their ancient brougham repainted and a quiet horse to draw it, before very long, so that, even when it rained, they could have the pleasure of going to church.

William, the Aunt Roberta added, was really growing a little old for so many duties, and would, under the new and more prosperous regime, confine himself to being only butler. Halcyone would find several changes on her return; among them the four gates had been mended!

As she read this part of the letter, Halcyone almost sighed! The gates, especially the one of the beech avenue, had always been such friends of hers, she knew and loved each crack. And then her thoughts wandered, as ever, to her lover. Where was he and how had it fared with him? Her serene calm was not disturbed—she felt certainty in every breath of the soft warm air—the certainty that the springtime of their souls had come.

Now, that same morning, John Derringham had arrived at the Grand Hotel, and, after breakfasting, had made his way to the hotel to which Mrs. Porrit had informed him the Professor's letters were to be addressed. And Demetrius, whom he asked for, hearing Mr. Carlyon was out, was able to give him information as to where his master had gone; so that he set off at once.

The Palace of the Caesars was rather a labyrinth to expect to find anybody in, but he would do his best. And so it happened, after about an hour's search, that he came upon Cheiron alone, just as he reached Livia's house.

Mr. Carlyon held out his hand.

"Well, John," he said, "and so we meet again."

His old pupil shook it heartily, and Cheiron, seeing that joyous light in his eyes, raised his left penthouse with a whimsical smile.

"Got clear of the Octopus, I should imagine," he said laconically. "Well, better late than never—Halcyone is over on the bench under the cypress, gazing upon the Tarpeian rock; perhaps you may like to go to her—" and he pointed in that direction.

"It is what I have come at post-haste from Venice to do, Master," John Derringham said. "Mrs. Cricklander was kind enough to release me on Saturday evening—she has other views, it seems!"—and he laughed with his old boyish gayety.

"Well, I won't keep you," Cheiron answered. "Bring my little girl back to the hotel when these gates shut. No doubt you will have enough to talk about till then," and he smiled benignly.

"You will give us your blessing, Master?" John Derringham asked. But the Professor growled as he turned to go on.

"She has my blessing always," he said, "and you will have it, too, if you make her happy, but you don't deserve her, you know, John."

John Derringham drew himself up and looked straight out in front of him—his face was moved.

"I know I do not," he said, "but I hope you believe me, Cheiron, when I tell you that I mean to devote the rest of my life to attain that object—and at least no man could worship her more."

"Get on with your courting then, lad!" said the Professor, pointing with his stick in Halcyone's direction, while his wise eyes smiled. "I suppose she will think you perfect in any case—it is her incredible conviction!" And with this he shook his old pupil's hand again, and the two men went their separate ways; John Derringham forgetful of even his lame ankle as he rapidly approached his beloved.

She saw him coming—she had been thinking of him deeply in an exquisite day-dream, and this seemed just the sequence of it, and quite natural and yet divine.

She rose and held out both hands to him, the radiance of heaven in her tender eyes. For she knew that all was well and joy had come.

And they spoke not a word as he folded her in his arms.

* * * * *

A week later they were married very quietly at the Embassy, and went south to spend their honeymoon, leaving Mr. Carlyon to go back to England alone. He was tired of wandering, he said, and sighed for the comforts of the orchard house and his pipe and his Aristotle.

And Aphrodite went with the bridal pair, no doubt content.

The manner of Mrs. Cricklander's dismissal of John Derringham had left him unhampered by any consideration for her feelings.

And when she read the announcement in the New York Herald the day after the wedding, she burned with furious rage.

So this was the meaning of everything all along! It had not been Cora Lutworth or his political preoccupations, or anything but simply the odious fact that he had been in love with somebody else! This wretched English girl had taken him from her—a creature of whose existence she had never even heard!

And the world would know of his marriage before her own news had been made public! The gall of the whole thing was hardly to be borne!

She felt that, had she been aware that John Derringham's affections were really given elsewhere, nothing would have induced her to break off the engagement! Mr. Hanbury-Green was all very well, and was being a most exceptional lover, only this hateful humiliation and blow to her self-love mattered more than any mere man!

But of such things the married two recked not at all. Their springtime of bliss had come.

And, as they sat absolutely alone upon the inner steps of the Temple of Poseidon at Paestum, looking out upon the sapphire sea and azure sky, the noble columns in front of them all bathed in golden light, and a solemn crow perched above as priest to bless them, Halcyone drew the wrappings from the goddess's head.

"See, John," she said, "Aphrodite is perfectly happy; she is smiling as never before. She knows that we have found all her message." And she laid her head against his shoulder as he encircled her with his arm.

"Dear," she went on, with that misty look in her serene eyes as though they could see into the beyond, "for me, however much beautiful things exalt me and take me to God, I can never go there alone. It always seems as if I must put out my hand and take your hand."

"Sweetheart," he answered, holding her close, "and long ago I called love a draught of the poison cup—what a poor blind fool was I!"

"Yes," she said tenderly. "John, we are much wiser now—and, when we return to the world out of this divine dream-country, you will teach me of that life which you must live in the fierce arena where you will fight for a principle against such odds; and I shall be always there to comfort you and give you of my sympathy and tenderness. And, as you instruct me in the day and its strenuous toils, I will teach you of the soothing, peaceful currents of the night. And we shall know only joy, because we have seen how it always comes if we go straight on and leave the tangled threads to God."

John Derringham bent and kissed her lips and he murmured:

"My darling—my one woman with a soul."


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