The Kingdom Round the Corner
by Coningsby Dawson
The Kingdom Round the CornerA Novel
[Illustration:]I'm sorry, Tabs apologized. I didn't mean
The Kingdom Round the CornerA Novel
By CONINGSBY DAWSON
Illustrated by W.D. Stevens
To every man the woman whom he loves is as Mother Earth was
legendary son: he has but to kneel and kiss her breast to know
he is strong again.Michelet
Cosmopolitan Book Corporation
M C M X X I
Copyright, 1921, by Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, New York.All
rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages,
including that of the Scandinavian
Printed in the United States of America
THIRD. ALL SORTS
FIFTH. THE AIR
The Kingdom Round the Corner
CHAPTER THE FIRST. AN ALTERED WORLD
It was on a blustering March morning in 1919 that Tabs regained his
freedom. His last five months had been spent among doctors, having
sundry bullets extracted from his legs. He walked with a limp which was
not too perceptible unless he grew tired. His emotions were similar to
those of a man newly released from gaol: he felt dazed, vaguely happy
and a little lost. He felt dazed because he hadn't remembered that the
world was so wide and so complicated. He felt lost because he was
discovering that this wasn't the same old world that he had left in
1914. It hadn't paid him the compliment of marking time during his
absence; it had marched impolitely forward. He would have to hurry to
overtake it. What made him feel most lost at the moment was the fact
that he had only just realized how his bravest years had been escaping.
The reason for this realization was Terry. He had been accustomed to
think of himself as in the first flush of manhood, with all life's
conquests still lying ahead; it was therefore a little disconcerting to
be told, as a matter of course, that he had only four more years to go
till he was forty. I'll be there at the station to meet you, Terry
had written him. And then, she had added laughingly, Father orders me
to say that he only gives his permission because you're such an old
friend and nearly middle-aged.
Middle-aged! He, Tabs, middle-aged! The thought was appalling. It
was a slander so almost true as to be incapable of disproving. He had
to-day, to-morrow, and the next day; after that people would have the
right to say of him that he was middle-aged. That was the real
sacrifice that he had made in the warhe had given to it the last of
his youth. And he had not been aware of this until he had received that
Now that he was aware of it, he rebelled against the sacrifice. He
refused to be robbed. He would not allow himself to become middle-aged.
Why, he hadn't begun to live yet. He'd only been experimenting up to
the point when the war had started. He'd been thirty-one then, a man
full of promise, and now he was dubbed middle-aged. He remembered with
indignation the theory that men of forty ought to be chloroformed to
make room for the younger generation. But, hang it, one's years have
nothing to do with it, he protested; in my spirit I belong to the
younger generation. So, to the rumbling accompaniment of the train, he
argued his claims passionately. Had he formed them into a petition he
would have prayed, God, make me young again. It would have been
because of Terry that he would have prayed.
And yet he was happyvaguely happy, as any man must be to whom the
right to live has been restored. For the past half decade his horizon,
and that of all the men with whom he had intimately associated, had
been dwarfed by the thought of dying. Throughout that period he had
dared to hope for nothing personal; he had belonged body and soul to
unseen forces which had hurried him without explanation from one hell
to another. He had had to subdue his pride to their authority and to
train his courage to contemplate the shock of annihilation. Now, at the
end of almost five years, the will and the body which had been so
ruthlessly snatched from him, had been as ruthlessly flung back into
his own keeping. All of a sudden, after having been enslaved in every
detail, his will and body were set free and no one cared what became of
them. They could be his playthings; he was allowed to do with them what
he liked. But what did he like? It was a problem. He could so easily
spoil them. When he reminded himself of how easily he could spoil them
the fear of death, which would never again trouble him, was replaced by
the fear of failure. He was furious to find that he was still capable
of fearing. He had so confidently believed that, whatever the past five
years had stolen from him, they had at least brought him the reward of
never again knowing fear of any sort.
That morning by the earliest train he had shaken off the dust of
camps and started in civilian dress as his own master on the new
journey. It was characteristic of him to start early and to slip out of
his latest phase with so little fuss. For the first two years of his
service, while men of his class were gaining high promotions, he had
served in the ranks. He had done it as a uselessly proud protest. In
the ranks one did the real work, faced most of the danger and won the
fewest decorations. He had loved the ranks for their quiet
self-effacement and had preferred to be reckoned in their number.
It had been dawn when he had started. From the top of the hill above
the camp he had gazed back at the huddled, sleeping rows of hutments.
How lacking in individuality they were! How wilfully ugly! You could
see their like in the rear of all armies. The military mind seemed
incapable of appreciating differences and beauty. How stereotyped the
past five years had been; yes, and, while the danger had threatened,
how ennobled with duty! So ennobled that there had been times when it
had almost seemed that he was on the point of finding his kingdom.
What he hadn't expected was that he would be alive to-day. With that
thought gratitude had bubbled up and he had limped away, whistling,
through dim lanes and budding hedgerows to the little wayside country
But once on board the train to London, he began to feel more like a
fugitive escaping than a hero returning. This wasn't the end of
soldiering that imagination had painted. There had been strident bands
and hysteric shouting to start him on his way to the conflict. There
had been pictorial challenges to his courage pasted on every hoarding.
There had been extravagant promises of the welcome which would await
him if he survived. Who remembered them to-day? He hummed over the
words of the latest promise, If you come back, and you will come back,
the whole world's waiting for you. Was it? He doubted. There was
something unpleasantly furtive about the way in which men were being
stripped of their outward signs of valor and dribbled back into
civilian life. It almost seemed that statesmen had discovered something
to be ashamed of in the unforeseen heroism by which the world had been
What did it matter? The world had been saved, and he had helped to
save it. No one could deprive him of that knowledge. His joy leapt up.
What did it matter if other people considered him nearly middle-aged?
He and Terry must prove to them the contrary. He was free; that was
what counted. Free to reckon his life by more than stretches of
twenty-four hours. Free to rise or go to bed when he liked. Free to
travel to the ends of the earth. Free to speak his mind without the
dread of a court-martial. Never again would he be compelled to issue
orders which he knew to be unwise; never again would he be compelled to
obey them. He was free. And there was Terry
Across the carriage-windows landscapes went leaping: the bleak
clearness of brisk March skies; the shining grayness of meadows from
which mists were slowly rising; the faint flush of greenness which was
gathering in hedges; the shy pageant of spring unfolding, with the
promised certainty of new summers which are never ending. The world
looked young. As the train dashed by, new-born lambs, unused to such
disturbances, tottered, bleating, after their mothers. Buds were
bursting. Sap was rising. The chapped scars of winter were vanishing.
Things which had seemed dead were being convulsed with life. He watched
it all gladly and yet impatiently; it was for the end of the journey
that he was waiting.
On nearing London the train slowed down as though reluctant to leave
the country. Twice it halted and he consulted his wrist-watch with a
frown. Then it crept through Battersea, wound snake-like across the
gleaming Thames, and came to rest in Victoria Station. Despite his
lameness, he was the first passenger to alight. He had no luggage to
attend to, save the newly-purchased bag which he carried. He lost no
time in hurrying down the platform; when he hurried his limp became
more pronounced. As he passed through the barrier he slackened his
pace. By reason of his greater height he could glance above the heads
of the crowd; his eyes went questing in all directions. They failed to
find what they sought. He delayed until nearly all the people from the
incoming trains had scuttled into the holes of the Underground; then,
masking his disappointment, he wandered out into the station-yard to
hail a taxi. An Army Staff car was drawn up against the curb. A thrill
of hostility shot through him. How often, in the old days, when
marching up to an attack, had he and his comrades huddled to the side
of the road like sheep that these khaki-colored collies of the
shepherds, who had driven them up to die, might splash arrogantly past
them! He eyed it casually and was passing on, when a girl in the back
seat stood up frantically waving. She was dressed in the latest whim of
fashion; but it was her that he saw rather than her appointments. Her
gold bobbed hair was like a Botticelli angel's. Her eyes were clear and
deep as violets. She was exquisitely vibrant and alivescarcely
beautiful; her nose turned up and was too short for that. One sought
for the right words to express her attraction. Perhaps it was due to
her light-hearted health and girlish freshness.
As he came up eagerly, limping with the effort, she reached out her
hand. Tabs, fancy you not knowing me! I don't need to call you Lord
Taborley, do I? Between us it's still Tabs.
Terry dear! My dear Terry, at last! He spoke queerly as though he
had been running. Then, seeing how his intensity startled her, he let
go her hand and laughed. You can't blame me for not having spotted
you. Where's all your beautiful hair that was so blowy?
She glanced up through her lashes at the tall man. 'I'm growing
such a big girl now'you remember the refrain from the song at the
Gaiety? That's why. When you were a young man, girls put their hair up
to show they were of age; nowadays they bob it.
So that's the explanation! He climbed in and took his seat beside
her. That's another thing that disguised you. How was I to guess that
you'd wangle a Staff car to meet an ex-lieutenant?
It belongs to a friend at the War Office. She nodded her
permission to the trim girl-soldier at the wheel to start. He lent it
to me when he heard that I was to meet you this morning. Taxis are so
scarce, and I didn't know how well you could walk, so She turned
from the subject abruptly. You're so changed. I scarcely recognized
you at first. I was expecting that you'd still be in uniform.
I was demobbed yesterday. So you find me changed! For better or for
worse? Confess, Terry.
She was aware that beneath his assumption of gayety he was hiding
somethingsomething that pained. He had been hurt too much already.
With impulsive sympathy she laid her hand on his arm. It isn't a case
of better or worse. Between people like ourselves appearances don't
matter. I think to me you were handsomest of all as a Tommy. How proud
I was of you, Tabs, when you first joined up! Do you remember how I
used to strut along beside youAnd that last night, when you went
for the first time to the Front?
He remembered, and waited with boyish expectancy. She had stopped
suddenly and glanced away from him. For the second time his intensity
had frightened her. He said nothingdid nothing to help her. She
mustered her courage to turn back with a smile. It's long ago, isn't
it. Tabs? I've grown such a big girl now.
He brushed aside her attempt to divert him. But you find a
difference in me?
A difference! You mean the difference between a man in uniform and
in mufti? Why, yes. A uniform made you look younger. It did that for
But more for me than for most. He was pitiless towards himself now
that he had forced her to answer. I've aged more than the five years
since you slipped your arm into mine as we marched through the darkness
to the troop-train. You never shed a tear, Terry. You kept your
promise. Often and often when I was afraid in the trenches I remembered
you, a white and gold slip of a girl with dry eyes, waving and waving.
And then, somehow, because you'd kept your promise not to cry
Don't, she whispered. Please don't. It's all ended. Everything's
new and beginning afresh.
Beginning with you, he questioned, where it left off?
If she heard him, she ignored the interrogation in his voice.
The girl-soldier at the wheel relieved the situation. Since leaving
the station she had been running slower and slower, glancing back
across her shoulder and trying to catch their attention. Just short of
the great cross-roads at Hyde Park Corner she brought the car to a
What's the matter, Prentys? Terry asked. Anything wrong?
Nothing's wrong, miss; but you've not told me where to go.
The girl spoke so reproachfully that Terry laughed. Awfully sorry,
Prentys. It's Lord Taborley's fault. He didn't tell either of us. What
are your plans, Tabs? Where do you want to go?
He caught at her question and examined it. To gowhere did he want
to go? He had been so certain when he had boarded the train to London
early that morning. Ever since he had said good-by to her, nearly five
years ago, he had known quite definitely. Each time that he had had a
glimpse of her on those brief leaves from the Front, he had been more
and more sure of the desired direction. Her letters coming up to him
under shell-fire had made him even more certainthose letters
compassionate with unashamed sincerity, written with a girl's
admiration for a man who was jeopardizing his all that she might live
And now, when he was free at last to go where he chose and she
herself asked him, he could find no answer to her question. Why
couldn't he? He looked at her thoughtfully with the frown of his
problem in his eyes. What change had come over her? Or was it he who
was altered? She had seemed so absolutely his while the terror of
battle had kept them apart. She had written and acted as though she was
his right up toYes, right up to the point when he had been in a
position to claim her.
Between him and Terry there had been no engagementonly a wealth of
interchanged affection; interchanged for the most part on paper. Once
and only once had marriage been mentionedon the night that he had set
out for the first time for the Front. You won't ask me, Tabs; I know
that. You're too honorable. So I've got to say it. When you come back
I'm going to marry you.
If I come back, little Terry, he had corrected.
But you willyou must, she had pleaded, for my sake.
I'll try. I'll try so hard, he had promised. But I won't marry
you till I'm out of khaki or the war is ended.
And I'll meet you at the train the moment you're free and we'll be
married that very day.
All this five years ago on a murky station in the tragedy of
parting, while Belgium was being trampled and the troop-train waited.
She had eluded the vigilance of her parents and had met him outside the
barracks, without forewarning. Through the gloom of streets and the
blur of the accompanying crowd, he had seen her face loom up. Her arm
had slipped through his; she had marched beside him like any Tommy's
sweetheart. She had been seventeen at the time; to-day she was
two-and-twenty. In the years that had followed he had taken no step to
make that girlish promise binding, yet increasingly its fulfillment had
been the goal towards which he had struggled.
After she had joined Lady Dawn's Nursing Unit and had gone to France
he had missed her on his leaves; by some fatality they had been always
missing. She had existed for him only in their correspondence and in
his vivid imagination. And now, after so much hoping, she had become
again a reality. He had been prepared for strangeness, but not
forWas it her youth, which was to have flung wide all doors, that
formed the barricade? Her youth which, if shared, would have put back
the hands on the face of Time! Her relentless, flaunting youth! Youth
which is forever hostile to age!
Her growing and puzzled expression of impatience forced him to
narrow his answer to the requirements of the moment. What are my
plans, you asked? I haven't any. I'm a man at a loose end and at a
beginninglike all the world, as you yourself just stated.
I know what you're going to saythat every one has to live
somewhere. I have a place all rightmy old place.
Shall I tell Prentys to drive you there?
He shook his head and thrust out his long legs, throwing his weight
more heavily against the cushions. Not unless you didn't read my
Her habitual sunniness clouded. Tabs, you're trying to be beastly.
If I hadn't read it, I shouldn't have known to have met you, or when,
Then you remember that it reminded you of
She cut him short, glancing furtively at the girl at the wheel to
see whether she had been listening. I don't forget easily. Where do
you want to go? Would a run into the country suit you?
In what direction?
Makes no difference.
She whispered something to the girl; the car semi-circled and
gathered speed, shooting through the traffic which was lumbering
towards the Fulham Road and Surrey.
Now that he had gained his point, he didn't seem inclined for
conversation. He lolled back with his eyes half-shut; she sat bolt
upright, ignoring his presence.
He recalled to-day as he had pictured it. Terry was to have been
still the girl-woman who had wanted him so badly that she had been
brave enough to ask for him. She was to have been precisely and in
every detail the girl from whom he had parted. She was to have been on
the platform waiting for him, and he....
Pshaw! What a sentimentalist and how easily disappointed! The old
fight was still on in another form. It was never ended. Life was a
fight from start to finish, calling for new and yet newer courage. He
refused to be defeated. He would not be embittered. He would win his
kingdom round the corner, even though it proved to be a different
kingdom from the one he had expected. Terry couldn't have stayed
seventeen always, which was the miracle he had demanded. She was a
woman. He would have to teach her to love him afresh. There was no time
to be lost. For all he knew there might be a rivalperhaps the
mysterious some one at the War Office who had lent her this car. He
leant forward good-humoredly, touching her hand to attract her
She turned slowly, almost reluctantly. What new and disturbing
question was he going to ask? She hadn't been prepared for this altered
man with his limp and his gauntness and his strained intensity. She
couldn't bring herself to believe that this grave, spent, unlaughing
person at her side was Tabs, the gallant, care-free comrade she had
asked to marry her. She was shocked both at him and at herself. And she
had wanted to be so gladto make him feel that every one was so happy
at having him back
At the sound of her name, spoken like that, a little thrill of his
old-time power stirred her; it traveled up to her eyes, so that she had
to press back the tears before she turned.
Terry, it was sentimental blackmail. I'm sorry.
What was? I don't understand.
That last letter. I oughtn't to have reminded you. What one
promises at seventeen doesn't hold good. It was sporting of you to keep
the promise by meeting me this morning, butWhat I'm trying to say
is this; I'm forgetting everything that you would like me to forget.
But I'm not sure that I want you to forget anything. She widened
her lips into a smile from which the trouble was only half dispelled.
It sounds horrid and unfriendly, this talk of forgetting, as
thoughIt sounds so much worse when it's put into words, as though
we had something of which to be ashamed.
No, it's not like that. May I be terrifically honestjust as we
She eyed him doubtfully. It was evident that she was still timid of
the truth. Then she nodded.
Well, you know how it was between us before I went away. You were
of an age when most people still thought of you as a child. You were
outwardly, but inside you were almost a woman. The little girl did
things and promised things that the woman wouldn't approve to-day. And
then take my side of it. I went out to a place where life seemed at an
end and where, because of that, one became selfish in the demands he
made on the people whom he had left behindespecially on the women. It
was impossible to be normal; probably I'm not quite normal now. But the
point is this: every man in khaki thought intensely of some one girl.
It didn't matter whether he had the right to think of her; he just
thought of her, and wrote to her, and carried her photo with him up to
an attack, as if he had the right. He wasn't even much disturbed as to
whether, in allowing him to love her, she loved him in return or was
merely being patriotic; he didn't expect to live to put things to a
test. All he wanted was the belief that one woman loved him. You
understand, she was very often only a makeshifta symbol for the woman
he would have married if death hadn't been in such a hurry. Well, for
some of us Death has had time to spare and we've come backcome back
starved, emotional, tyrannicpassionate to possess all the things for
which our hearts have hungered and of which they have been deprived so
long. It was easy to strip ourselves of everything when we thought we
were going to die. But now that we know we're going to live we're
tempted to recover some of our lost years by violence. You must be
patient with us, Terry; we're sick children, querulous, eager to take
offense and over-exacting. I was like that when I blackmailed you into
meeting me this morning. It was unworthy of me to have treated that
child's promise as binding.
But I was seventeen; I wasn't a child. And I wanted to meet youI
Letting me down lightly? he smiled.
No, an honest fact.
When he gazed at her with kindly incredulity, she edged herself
closer and bent forward in a generous effort to persuade him.
Don't you see that what you've said of yourself was true of me as
I wasn't talking in particular of myself, he parried; I was
including all the other men.
Yes, but especially of yourself. It was of yourself that you were
talking. What you've said of yourself is true of me andoh, of almost
all women. We saw you men march away; you seemed lost to us forever.
Everything seemed at an end. So we did what you didchose one man who
would embody all our dreams and become especially ours. We wrote to
him, shopped for him, placed his portrait on our dressing-tables, were
anxious for him and, oh, so proud of him. We didn't stop to ask whether
he was the man with whom we could live for always. There wasn't any
always. It didn't look as though there was ever again going to be
any always. And then the horror stopped and we found ourselves
with a man on our handsa man who, though we had known him so well,
would come back to us different. We hadn't meant to cheat him when we
made all those promises; but now that he's really ours, we're not sure
that weAll the ecstasies and tears that we wrote to him on
paper She made a helpless gesture with her hands. They don't seem
real. It's not our fault. They belonged to the part of nurses and
soldiers that we were acting. And now we've slipped out by the
stage-door and we've become ourselves. Don't you see, Tabs, we men and
girls have got to find out afresh who we are? We've almost forgotten.
She seemed to have made an end, when something else occurred to her.
She recommenced hurriedly, We women have been spendthrifts, too; we've
given away more than was wiselittle bits of ourselves, not always to
the one mansometimes in the wrong directions. But which is the right
direction? When people who were risking so much for us begged for a
little of our affection, we never thought of that. We simply gave
recklesslylittle bits of ourselves. Now that we've regained a future,
with room for remorse and things like that, we've become suddenly
cautious. The swing of the pendulum She turned to him, as though
proffering a smile for his forgiveness, It's our sudden caution that
makes us seem mean and ungracious. But I was tremendously
interested about meeting you.
Interested! Not glad or ecstatic. It's a long road from dreams to
She said it humbly. He tried to catch the expression in her eyes,
but all he saw was the flickering gold of her hair as the wind tossed
it against the rounded whiteness of her neck. His brain kept muttering,
Little bits of herself! What did she mean by that?
A barrel-organ was grinding out a tune; children danced in the
sunshine on the pavement. As they flashed down the street the music
followed them. She twisted to look back and he caught her eyes. Tabs,
do you know what it's playing?
Can't say I do.
It's out of the Elsie Janis revue at The Palace. I think it was
written especially for this moment. She listened till the air reached
the refrain and then sang the words, Après la guerre, there'll be a
good time everywhere.
His stern face relaxed at her childishness. Will there, Terry? I
hope so. Musical chaps aren't reliable authorities. They're
You must know so, she interrupted valiantly. Then,
forgetting her caution, she slipped her small gloved fingers into the
palm of his big brown hand. You must. Even though I disappoint
you ever so badly, you must know so, dear Tabs. You must seize your own
good time at whatever cost. One girl isn't all the world.
I wonder whether what we've been saying explains Adair.
They were crossing one of the bridges over the Thames. He wasn't
sure which one. Moreover, he didn't care; it was enough for him that,
wherever they were going, they were going togetherracing into a
sun-crazed world where spring romped and shouted like a hoyden. Above
lazy chimney-pots trees patched the sky-line with sudden greenness. At
a greater distance soft contours of hills lay shadowed beneath
stampeding clouds. Coldly silver beneath the bridge the river flashed,
dimpled here and there by rapid feet where breezes, like adventurous
children, rushed across it. He noted the bowed windows of little houses
along the banks, their whitened steps and shining brasses. He caught
the far-blown fragrance of hyacinths; it set him dreaming of drifting
bloom and flower-strewn ways of woodlands. A happy world, whatever the
mental state of its inhabitants! A world which was doing its bravest
best to play the game by mankind! A world which was whispering at every
portal of the senses that the business of living was immensely worth
while! A world which! He had reached this point, when the mention
of Adair brought him back to the cause of his philosophizingthe
inscrutable tenderness of the girl, half sorceress, half penitent,
seated at his side. She had recovered her calmness by withdrawing her
thin fingers from his enclosing hand.
Adair Easterday! He didn't want to discuss him; he had more
important things to talk about. Speaking absent-mindedly, Adair
doesn't need any explaining, he said.
Oh, doesn't he? she laughed softly and looked away, creating the
impression that she was leaving volumes unexpressed.
Her air of wisdom provoked him. Well, I've known him since we were
boys at school together and I've never found him much of a conundrum.
He's brilliant, and lazy, and kind. I think of all the men I've known
he's the one who's most truly a gentleman; he's the one who has given
most promise and who has fewest accomplishments to his credit. He may
have puzzled you as his sister-in-law; but to me, a man of his own age,
he presents no mystery. If anything he's too obvious; that and the fact
that he allows himself to be too much absorbed by his wife are two of
the reasons for his lack of success.
He doesn't allow himself to be too much absorbed by his wife now.
She had turned deliberately that she might watch the effect of her
words. He doesn't even pretend to care for Phyllis any longer.
Not care for herhis own wife! Nonsense! You can't make me believe
that. Then he reined himself in, for he suddenly realized that he was
unconsciously adopting the tones of an elder. That was a terribly
modern accusation for you to make, Terry, just as if loyalties and
affections were ostrich-plumes and ermine to be worn or discarded with
That's just what they do seem to have become since we've all
stopped fighting, she persisted. And please don't look at me like
that, Tabs, as though you were my commanding-officer. I'm not trying to
be a cynical young person; I'm simply stating facts. Look at all the
men for whom the war was a social leg-up. They were plumbers and
bank-clerks and dentists in 1914; by the end of 1918 they were Majors
and Colonels and Brigadiers. They didn't know where the West End was
till they got into uniforms. Since then they've learnt the way into all
the clubs and fashionable hotels; they've spent money like water;
they've been the companions of men and women whom they couldn't have
hoped to have met unless the war had shaken us all out of our
class-snobbishness. But now that the war's ended, these men whom every
one flattered for their bravery and whose social failings they excused
while there was fighting to be done, have become worse snobs than
ourselves. They've been educated out of the class for which they were
fitted. War was their chance; it's ended, and now they have to go back
to their humble jobs, which are the only ones by which they can gain a
livelihood. Worse still, they've got to go back to their wives, who
haven't shared their grandeurs, but who've played the game by them,
taking care of their children and standing by the wash-tub. Some of
them can't face up to the change. Peace has turned the world
up-side-down. We're walking on our heads. You're just out of hospital,
but you'll know what I mean when you've been a week in London.
But nothing of what you've been saying applies to Adair Easterday,
he objected. He wasn't a profiteer in khaki; he wasn't even in khaki.
He made nothing; he lost nearly everything he had. Moreover, whatever
faults he may have, he's always been a thorough-breda stickler for
honor; the kind of chap who, if he had to sink, would go down with all
his colors flying. Where his wife is concerned, he's a
lover-for-all-time kind of fellow.
She shook her head obstinately. He isn't now. He's standing on his
head like the rest of us.
I'm certain you're mistaken. He paused, half-minded to let the
matter rest. He hated this contending. In the old days he and Terry had
never argued. He glanced at her; she was smiling in a sorry, amused
fashion. It made him feel that in accusing Adair she had cast suspicion
on every man's constancyhis own included. Reluctantly he set himself
to prove to her that she was incorrect.
When you were in France with Lady Dawn's Nursing Unit, I spent most
of my leaves with Phyllis and Adair. We went about together. I lived in
their house, got to love their kiddies, knew all that went on there. I
think a part of my motive was that being with your sister seemed to
bring you nearer. I'm not going to pretend that I didn't notice
frictions and irritations. Adair was humiliated at being rejected by
the Army because he wasn't up to physical standards. He tried every
trick, but was always turned down. He didn't like to be seen about
town; he felt that people were accusing him of being a slacker. He
looked so well that he had always to be explaining why he wasn't in the
trenches. It tried his temper. Wherever he went soldiers were being
treated as heroes. Women were pleased to be seen escorted by a
uniformhis own wife as well. And I'm bound to say Phyllis didn't help
him. She prided herself on having held on to her man as though it were
something that she'd done herself. Adair used to flare up in a passion
and tell her not to be a fool; then, because her foolishness was all
because she loved him, her feelings were hurt. But to say that he
doesn't love her is an exaggeration. If there's anything the matter,
the trouble is not with his heart but with his nerves.
Then you really haven't heard? I thought everybody She stifled
a yawn. It's the wind against my face. It always makes me sleepy, she
apologized. Since you haven't heard, I suppose I oughtn't to tell you.
He's become the sort of skeleton in our family cupboardYou're still
incredulous! That will please mother. She'll be almost happy when she
learns that there's at least one person who hasn't been told about it.
She thinks that all the world talks of nothing else. As for Daddy,
Phyllis was always his favorite and he adores her children. He goes
about trying to find some one who'll volunteer to horsewhip Adair. I
can't say that I feel that way myself. Her hand stole out and touched
his arm caressingly; it seemed as though she were appealing for
herself. We've all either done or are on the verge of doing something
foolish that we're sure to regret. It's not a time to be hard on
anybody. To-morrow we may stand in need of sympathy ourselves. Horror
has shell-shocked every one, civilians as well as fighting-men. The
blackness of insecurity! We're all convalescing. She halted
abruptly, biting her lip and peering at him, suddenly aware that she
had been confessing herself. When he only looked puzzled, she finished
lightly, So, you see, Tabs, though you'll think me terribly immoral, I
keep a soft place in my heart for our skeleton.
But you don't tell me anything positive, he complained. What has
Done! She stared at him. That's what I have been telling you.
He's fallen in love with some one else.
He was unwilling to believe what he had heard.
Some one else! Impossible!I'm sorry, Terry; I didn't mean that
I doubted your word. You mustn't be offended, butI'm picturing
Phyllis. At her best she was good and sweet and pretty enough to hold
any man. She was such a loyal little palonly second best to you,
Terry. And Adairhe was such a white man, so patient with her and so
devoted to the kiddies. I can't see him in the rôle of a runaway. And
what on earth would he gain by it that he hasn't got already? I don't
want to think that what you've told meIt makes all fidelity seem so
Terry spoke gently. Not that. It's infidelity that is temporary. A
lot of us are unfaithful for the momentit's a symptom of our illness.
You said something a little while ago about trying to regain one's lost
years by violencethat's what he's doing. He's mislaid the knack of
happiness with Phyllis; he's trying to recover it with some one else.
Tabs was still rebelling against the facts. But he was such a staid
Terry ignored his discursiveness. I don't think I've done wrong in
letting you into our family secrets. You'll be made a part of them as
soon as you meet Daddy. When he heard that you were coming to town and
that I was going to see you, he said, 'Thank God for that. Taborley
will be able to do something.' He has a pathetic belief in you, Tabs.
One of the reasons why I was at the station this morning was that I
might have the chance to tell you first, before any one else had
prejudiced you with bitterness. Daddy wants you to dine with him
to-night. He expects you to be the kind of moral policeman who makes
the arrest. But it can't be done with morality. I don't think even you
could manage to persuade Adair at the presentnot with moral
Because I've seen her.
It was at this moment that a sound like a pistol-shot occurred. The
car commenced to bump. The girl-driver applied the brakes, guided the
car to the side of the road and jumped out.
Quite like the Front, Terry cried cheerfully; I expect you feel
at home when you hear a noise like that.
Tabs looked round. He had been too busy talking to notice where they
were. To the right, through wind-rumpled, tree-dotted meadows ran the
Thames, still intensely silver in the sunshine, but somehow blither and
more young than in London. Clouds flew high; everything was riotously
spacious. Scattered through the vivid stretch of landscape ivy-covered
houses stood squarely in their park-lands. Set down in the level
distance, like children's toys, cattle browsed. The quiet greenness had
become starred as far as eye could carry with a gentle rain of myriad
The car's got a sense of beauty, he laughed; it chooses carefully
when it wants to break down.
And it's all at the Government's expense, Terry smiled, glancing
back at him across her shoulder as she scrambled out. So it's a back
tire. How long will it take to put right, Prentys?Then we may as
well walk and let you overtake us. I don't think we're more than a mile
from Old Windsor. We'll get something to eat at the little inn by the
riverside. You remember the one I mean? We've been there several times
when the General was with us.
What General is that? Tabs asked as they trudged along between the
The General who lent me the car, she replied.
Oh, your friend at the War Office! I suppose he's one of the
dug-outs who's been there all the time.
He isn't. He rose from the ranks. He's only been at a desk job
since the Armistice. She spoke defensively, with a certain resentment.
Tabs was quick to detect the sharpness in her voice. I'm sorry, he
apologized; I didn't mean anything unkind.
She halted with a sudden gesture of concern. I am
inconsiderate. I never thought of it. Won't this walking wear you out?
She's changing the subject, he told himself. I wonder why? Aloud
he said, Not a bit. But I can't stride along the way we used in the
Branching off to the right, they came down to a little inn by the
water-side. It was shabby with the look of disrepair which all inns had
at that time. Its paint was chapped and faded; its windows cracked and
held together by pasted strips of paper. The putty had perished in
places, so that some of the panes were on the point of falling out.
Nevertheless, it had a brave look of carrying on triumphantly, for
tulips and crocuses were springing neat as ever from the turf and it
was over-hung by a green mist of trees just coming into leafage. They
entered and took their seats at a table from which they could watch the
pale flowing of the river through the spangled peace of the outside
It was lucky we broke down. Terry sat watching him with her square
little face cushioned in her hands. You see I'm training myself to
believe, she explained, that everything happens for the best.
A comforting philosophy for the lazy, he smiled. It lets us all
out of resisting temptation. Why resist anything, if everything happens
for the best? If it were true, it would give us the license to be as
flabby as we likedwhich rather falls in line with what we were saying
about Adair. But who is shethis woman? You say you've seen her.
You'll know soon enough for your peace of mindprobably you'll see
her yourself before the day is out.
But can't you even tell me her name?
Her name's Maisie Lockwood for the present.
For the present! Why for the present?
Because one's never certain about Maisie. She was Maisie Gervis
once and Maisie Pollock before that; there must have been a time when
she was Maisie Something Else.
Tabs couldn't quite make up his mind whether he ought to laugh or
frown. The suspicion had crossed his mind that this composed imp of a
girl, who could look so immensely the young lady when she liked, was
playing a sly game with him. However he pretended to take her
seriously. In most social sets names are fairly permanent.
Terry laughed outright and looked away from him, following the river
with her eyes. There's nothing permanent about Maisie. I think that's
her attraction; that's what makes people forgive her everything. She
starts each day afreshit really is a new day for her, with no old
hates or griefs or dreads to drag her down. She has no regrets because
she remembers nothing. Whatever happened yesterday she puts out of
mind; she forgets everything except her willingness to be friends.
Her names as well, according to your account.
Yes, there's no denying that. Until the war ended, if you'd not
seen her for a month, you were never quite sure how you ought to
address her. Even now one's liable to make a mistake. To-day she's
Maisie Lockwood; to-morrow she may be Maisie AnythingMrs. Adair
Under her willful mystifications his calmness was getting ruffled.
While he listened to her, he kept comparing this day with the other day
that his imagination had painted. The world was to have been so much
better and kinder when the agony of the trenches was ended. It was in
order that it might be better that so many men had not come back. And
this was the kinder worlda world in which men, saved from the jaws of
death, met the girls they had loved as strangers, in whose presence, if
they were to avoid offense, they must pick their words! A world full of
men like Adair, who had been honorable until others had made them safe
by their sacrifice, and of women like Maisie of the many names, who
forgot her yesterdays that she might seize her selfish personal
Terry, he spoke with a show of patience, do you think it's a
matter about which to jest? There's your sister and her kiddies; their
future's at stake. If I'm to be of any help He broke off, for a
voice inside his brain had started talking, You're old. That's exactly
the way in which her father speaks to her. Was it her thoughts that he
had heard? Her face was lowered; he could see nothing but the top of
her golden head. Youth radiated from her; even in his anger it
So if I'm to help, he picked up his thread, you mustn't mock. It
isn't decent, Terry; the situation's too serious. Let me have the
facts. How does she come by all these different names? Does she call
herself something different with each new dress?
Terry's eyes were wide and sorry. No, with each new husband,
but There came a break in her voice, Oh, Tabs, I can't bear that
you should be cross with me. You've been disappointed in me from the
moment we met. We're not the same. And I know it's not all my fault.
Her lips trembled. He was in terror lest she would give way to
crying. If it hadn't been for the table that parted them with its
unromantic débris of dishesAs it was he leant across and assured
her earnestly, I'm not cross with you, my dearest girl. I'mTerry,
how is it that we've drifted so apart? I keep groping after the old
Terry; for a minute I think I've found her, and then she's no longer
Drying her eyes, she nodded. It hurts most frightfully. That's what
I keep doing, barking my shins in the dark, trying to follow the old
Tabs. He's always going away from me
I think it's the laughter that I miss most, she said presently;
you've grown so stern.
I've seen stern things happena kind of Judgment Day. It's
remembered things that are so silencing.
I know what you mean. I saw some of those things in our hospital in
France. She shut her eyes as if the memory was unbearable. But don't
be hard on people who have a right to be young and who want to forget.
It isn't that they're ungrateful. Then she surprised him, People like
Maisie and myself.
Don't couple yourself with her. He spoke more sharply than he had
But she was with me out there, she expostulated. That was how she
met her second husband, Gervis. She nursed him.
It makes no difference how she met him; she's not in your classa
woman who has been divorced three times.
But she hasn't. Whatever made you think that? Terry shot upright
on her chair, for all the world like a startled rabbit.
You told me she'd had three husbands. He was once more puzzled and
uncertain of his ground. You as good as said that she wouldn't be
averse to making a fourth of Adair. I therefore conjectured
You conjectured all wrong, she cut him short. They died for their
All of them? He was making a rapid calculation as to how long
could have elapsed between each re-marriage.
One at a time, of course, she added. She was married to the first
the first week of the war.
Even so it was quick work. May I light a cigarette? Three husbands
in four years! She must be a very alluring person!
Terry laughed nervously. She is, though you mayn't think it. I can
see you don't; you think she's horrid. But let me tell you it takes a
smart woman to bring three men to the point of matrimony when the
world's so full of unmarried girls. And they were every one of them
more or less famousthe kind of men of whom any woman would be proud.
You'll remember PollockReggie Pollock; he was one of the earliest of
our acesthe man who brought down the Zeppelin over Brussels and got
killed himself a few days later, no one quite knew how. There was a
mystery about his death. He was the man to whom she was first married.
A splendid chap! And I recall her now. Her portrait was in the
illustrated papers at the time of her third marriage. It was headed
A Conscientious War-Worker or something like that. And I don't
forget the name the soldiers called her when they read the papers in
Did they call her something? She was gazing at him intently. Was
it something brutal that you wouldn't like to tell me?
It was something true, he said, pinching out his cigarette with
Oh, I don't know She broke off to ask the waitress whether the
car had arrived and was answered in the affirmative. I don't know
about its being true. After all, she made three men happy before they
went West. I don't see that she'd have been any more to be admired if
she'd allowed the last two to go wretched.
Tabs half-rose and then reseated himself. An awful woman!
Insatiable! A Lucrezia Borgia, without Lucrezia Borgia's excuse.
I knew you'd say that. Terry spoke hopelessly in a tone that
dragged. How do you or I know what excuses she had? How do we know why
anybody does anythingwhat hidden reasons they have? And yet we're
always so eager to condemn! I wanted to be the first to let you know
about Adair because you always used to understand. You would have
understood if you'd been the you that you were. I thought that
if I explained to you about MaisieBut what's the use!
She rose from her chair and stood leaning against the table, looking
wilted and pathetic. When she spoke again the heat had gone out of her
words and was replaced by an appealing tenderness. Don't you see what
it iswhy it is that I don't condemn? I'm so sorry for themso sorry
for you, for myself, for everybody. It hurts me here, Tabs. She laid
her hand against her breast. We all want what we've spent in the lost
years. We want it so impatiently. We can't get it; but we want it at
oncenow. The things one wants are always in the past or the
future, so one cheats to get them now.
He hadn't the remotest idea what she was trying to tell him. She was
stirred by some deep emotionsome overwhelming loneliness. For a
moment it crossed his mind that she also was temptedfascinated by
some lurement of dishonor kindred to Adair's. He put the thought from
him as preposterous and disloyal. Yet it recurred. Ever since they had
met she had been talking curiouslytalking about having given away
bits of herself to people who were hungry, little bits of herself in
wrong directions. She had coupled her own case with this unspeakable
Maisie's. What was her problem?
She stood there with her head bowed, like a child self-accused of
wrong-doing, with all the flaunting joy of spring tapping against the
window on which she had turned her back. Then it dawned on him why she
was standing; he was between the door of escape and herself. He stepped
aside. As she moved eagerly forward, he caught her by the points of her
elbows and arrested her going. The wild violet eyes fluttered up to his
fearfully and fell as he towered over her.
My very dearest! He spoke gently in a voice from which all passion
had been purged. Don't blame me if I simply can't understand. Though I
never become any more to you than I am now, I shall always be your
comrade, believing in you and loving you. Remember that.
When he released her she fled from him, leaving him alone in the
When he found her, she was talking to the girl-soldier in the yard
of the inn. But do you think that you can manage it, Prentys? It'll be
all right in the open country, but I'm not sure that I want to risk it
in the London traffic. We're merely joy-riding and, if anything
happened to the car when you weren't on military duty
I don't see that we've got much choice, miss, the girl answered.
The General's orders to me were explicit, and you know what he is:
obedience and no explanations. We've barely time to do it.
Their backs were towards the inn. Tabs strolled up and made a
pretense of inspecting the new tire.
Anything I can do? he asked casually.
It was Prentys who answered him. I sprained my left wrist, sir,
back there along the road. She held it out to him painfully as proof.
It was all bound up and puffy. It isn't very much use, sir; so I've
only one hand and I don't know whether I'll be able
Terry interrupted and took up the running. I thought that the car
was ours for the day. Prentys has just told me that General Braithwaite
ordered her to pick him up at the War Office this afternoon at
three-thirty. Now that she's sprained her wrist, she'll have to drive
so carefully that there's scarcely time to do it.
Tabs couldn't help smiling at the pompous importance of little
people in this newly enfranchised world. It was only yesterday that for
him also the foibles of Generals had been sacred. Generals had been
gods whose tantrums and mental rheumatics had thrown whole armies into
a fume and fret. For him that day was ended, but it still existed for
this slim girl-soldier. He was sorry for her.
You needn't be upset, he said kindly. I haven't renewed my
license, but I can drive. No one's likely to interfere with me in an
Army car. Jump in and I'll get you there with a quarter of an hour in
It was Terry who had spoken. Her brows puckered with thoughtfulness,
she was gazing far away into the green distance. He waited for her to
amplify her objection. When she maintained silence, he prompted her.
If it's me and my bag that's the trouble, you don't need to worry.
After I've driven you both to the War Office, I can fudge round for a
taxi. One can usually wangle one in the neighborhood of Whitehall.
Before he had ended, he knew that his guess had missed fire. It
wasn't his comfort that was disturbing her.
All right, she said reluctantly. I suppose there's no other way.
Get into the back, Prentys; I'll ride in front with Lord Taborley.
He was glad to have something to occupy his attentionto be able to
talk without the necessity of regarding her. They were both embarrassed
by the memory of their recent tempest of emotion. Braithwaite! So
that's the name of the good fairy who gave us our day in the country. I
don't remember him; but that's not remarkable. Generals at the Front
were as common as policemen in London; you found one at every street
corner. As for trenchdwellers like myself, we never came in touch with
them except when we were in for a wigging. We came in touch with them
all right then.
She made no remark. He had the feeling that she was annoyed with
herself for having let the General's name escape her. Up to that point
she had referred to him anonymously as a friend at the War Office.
Tabs tried to switch to another subject without making the change
offensively apparent. Now that I'm a free man, I've got to reorganize
She kindled into interest, Taborley House is still a hospital,
Yes, I handed it over to the Americans. I was glad to do that for
my mother's sake. After all, I'm half American. At least a third of my
boyhood was spent in the States. But they're sending most of their
wounded home now, so I shall soon have it back on my hands. But that
wasn't what I meant. It was too big for me; I never lived there.
Then what did you mean?
He realized that she was encouraging him to continue talking because
the topic was safenot because it held much attraction for her.
What I meant was that I'll have to try to collect up my old
servants. I don't know where they all are, or who's alive and who's
dead. There's one man I'm particularly anxious to discover.
He slowed down, tooting his horn vigorously as they rounded an
awkward corner. When they were again on the level she reminded him:
You were saying that you were anxious to discover
Oh, that man of mine! There isn't much to tell! He looked after me
while I was up at the 'Varsity; when I left, I carried him off. I was
always wandering, so I made him my body-servant. When we were leading
civilized lives in cities he acted as my valet-butler-secretary. When
we were adventuring in the remoter parts of the world, he was my
companion-friend. I had a real affection for the chap; he was so
genuinely distinguished and quick to learn. He'd have gone far if
things had kept on. As it is, he's probably gone farther.
Gone farther? She sounded half-asleeppolitely lackadaisical.
Gone West, he explained shortly. His letters became fewer. We
joined up together in the ranks. You know all about my end of it. I
suppose it was my mother's democratic Americanism that made me do that.
We got drafted into different regiments. After the fighting had been
going for a year, he stopped corresponding. The funny thing was that
none of my letters to him was returned.
She was so bored that she was scarcely listening. He cut the matter
short by adding, It was your mention of General Braithwaite that
started me gossiping.
She pulled herself together with a jerk and instantly became all
attention. How? How could my mentioning General Braithwaite do that?
He noticed again her unreasonable suspicion of hostility each time
he made a reference to this man. Thinking it the wiser policy to
overlook it, he answered evenly, Because his name also happened to be
Fully fifteen minutes elapsed. She's quite fed up with my valet,
he told himself. He hadn't been able to contrive any fresh topic which
was sufficiently innocuous, so he'd been keeping silent. They were
again passing over the bridge beneath which, like a gleaming sword, lay
the Thames, barriered on either bank by the little bow-windowed houses,
with their shining brasses and whitened steps. They were already
catching up with the throng of London traffic when she shook herself
out of her self-absorption by saying, There must be thousands of
Braithwaites in the world.
He glanced at her out of the corners of his eyes. Her latest
conversational effort tickled his sense of humorit was so wholly
inadequate. He laughed outright. That's better; the high spirits will
soon be coming backThousands of Braithwaites! My dear Terry, there
must be hundreds of thousands. Then in a graver voice, But though
there were thousands of millions, it wouldn't restore to me my one
You loved him? She uttered her guess softly.
Yes, and Iit's a queer thing to say about one's valetI admired
It was the best part of five years since Tabs had driven a car. He
hadn't yet regained his old dexterity. He wasn't expert enough to
attend to the wheel and at the same time to carry on a conversation. As
he left the bridge he had to pass a coster's barrow which was drawn up
beside the curb. The coster was dressed in the soiled khaki of a man
recently released from the Army; his barrow was piled high with
narcissi and daffodils, and a drowsy donkey drooped between the shafts.
In avoiding a suicidal pedestrian, Tabs misjudged the room that he had
to spare. He felt a jolt, guessed what had happened, and jammed on his
brakes. A policeman in front of him was holding up a magisterial hand.
Behind him a stream of familiar trench profanity was gathering in
volume; under other circumstances he would have found a certain
enjoyment in the sound. He looked back and saw what he expected: the
barrow overturned; the flowers scattered, the donkey surprised out of
its drowsiness, thrown on its back and kicking in its harness; the
coster straddling the sudden ruin and calling down all the rigors of
the law. A crowd was running together; it hesitated between the coster
and Tabs, uncertain as to which would provide the more exciting
entertainment. When the policeman waving his note-book approached the
car, it plunked for Tabs.
The policeman was a stout, fat-fingered, immovable kind of person.
He said nothing till he had penciled down the car's official number.
Tabs gave his name and address. Lord Taborley, etc. The policeman
lifted his slow eyes to judge for himself whether the Lord part of his
information looked probable. The lean aristocratic face which he
encountered seemed to correspond with the specifications recorded. He
asked to see his Lordship's license. Tabs embarked on explanations,
pointing to the bandaged wrist of Prentys as a confirmation of his
facts. While he was explaining the coster joined them, having got his
donkey on to its legs. He was violent with anger and burning to expound
the justice of his cause. Suddenly he struck out a convincing line of
argument, Look at 'im, the bloomin' slackerthe pasty h'aristocrat.
'E didn't see no fightin'. Not 'im. But now the war's been won by poor
blokes like meself, 'e ain't ashamed ter go banging abart in h'Army
I know how you feel, Tabs said. But you're mistaken; I served in
the ranks two years myself. I was only demobbed yesterday; to-day's my
first day out of uniform. I'll pay you whatever you think fair; so you
don't need to work yourself up.
The man's attitude changed completely. He removed his cap and
scratched his head. Served in the ranks, did yer? Then you and me was
pals out there! He turned to the policeman, 'E ain't done me as much
damidge as if one of them there Big Berthas 'ad landed.
The policeman let his fat eyes wander from the coster to Tabs, from
Tabs back to the coster. I wuz too old ter go, he said
inconsequently; but me son's out there and won't ever come back. He
crossed out the particulars he had written down so laboriously; when
that was done, he fumbled his note-book back into his pocket. If your
mate 'ere says that it's h'all right, sir, it's h'all right so far as
I'm consarned. Your fust day h'out of the h'Army! Well, well! He
looked at Terry with a world of understanding, wheeled about slowly and
went ponderously back to his corner.
That was sportsmanly of you. It was Tabs speaking. I'd like to
know how much
The coster shook his head. It don't cost you nothink. Me and you
used ter share.
Tabs protested. The man climbed the running-board and pushed his
grime-stained hand into the car. Call it quits, mister, and shake for
luck. And now the little lady, if she don't h'object.
Terry shook his hand daintily. So there wasn't going to be a fight
after all! Everything had been settled amicably! With an air of
disappointment the crowd dispersed.
Came pretty well out of that! Tabs remarked as the car started
You're not to talk. Terry's voice was high-strung and emphatic.
You can't talk and driveand you've got to drive like mad.
Why? What's the hurry?
The hurry! We've wasted twenty minutes; we've barely time to get
Oh, the General! I'd forgotten. Well, it won't do the old boy any
harm to wait. Lord, the hours he and his sort have kept me waiting on
parade-grounds in France!
Then he remembered that this General wasn't an old boy. If he wasn't
old, there was all the less reason for making so much effort not to be
late. Nevertheless, to please TerryHe could feel her body
twitching. Every time he had to slow down for traffic he was aware of
her impatience. Why was it of such vital importance to her that they
should arrive in time? She wasn't too punctual by habit. A thought
struck him; it was like a searchlight pointing out many things that had
been dark. Her anxiety wasn't that they should arrive in time, but
before time. She didn't intend, if she could prevent it, that he should
meet the owner of the car. Had it not been for the double accident of
Prentys spraining her wrist and having failed to mention that the car
must be back by three-thirty, he would never have been allowed to know
that there was a General. Terry had been compelled to let him drive if
the borrowed car was to be returned; but her main object now was to
reach the War Office a few minutes early and to smuggle him off before
an introduction would be necessary. If they arrived punctually or late,
the General might be already on the pavementTabs bit his lip. He
hated petty intrigue. He demanded a man's code of honor from the woman
he adored and made no feeble excuses for feminine dishonesty. This was
the worst disappointment she had given him.
As they approached Hyde Park, when it was too late to turn off into
a side-street, he saw that the road ahead was blocked. He worked the
car as far forward as possible and then had to halt. Terry was
nervously consulting her watch. The time? he asked.
Then this puts the lid on it. He beckoned to a policeman, What's
holding us up?
The Queen's expected, so I'm told, sir, though us didn't 'ave no
At that moment the crowd out of sight commenced cheering. The
cheering spread and drew nearer. It was taken up by people who were
strung across the road immediately in front. A carriage flashed by in
which two ladies were sitting, one of whom was bowing from right to
left. Despite her irritation at the delay, Terry stood up so that she
could get a clearer view above the clustered heads. The cheering grew
deafening, then lessened, and sank to a hoarse murmur beneath the trees
of the Park. As she reseated herself and the traffic lurched forward,
she turned to Tabs, You noticed who it was?
Yes, but the lady who was with her?
I didn't see.
It was DianaLady Dawn with whom I nursed. She's supposed to be
the most beautiful woman in England.
Don't know her. So I shouldn't have placed her if I had seen her.
They made a clear run of it from Hyde Park Corner to Whitehall and
drew up quite marvelously before the War Office on the second.
Done it, said Tabs as he shut off the engine. It's zero hour
But Terry wasn't there to listen to him, as he discovered when his
attention was free and the engine had ceased to throb. Almost before
they had halted, she had nipped out of the car and was hailing a taxi
which was on the point of moving off. His bag was already in process of
being whisked from one vehicle to the other. This indecent haste to be
rid of him roused his obstinacy; he sat still where he was and watched.
She returned a little breathless and self-congratulatory. There!
Wasn't that clever of me? Taxis are scarce. If I hadn't collared you
that one you might haveCome on, Tabs, if you're stiff in your lame
leg, give me your hand and I'll
At that moment the dingy swing-doors of the War Office flew open and
a red-tabbed, handsome figure of a man, with gold braid on his cap and
crossed swords on his epaulettes, came briskly out on to the steps. He
caught sight of Terry and, throwing her an airy salute, came with an
eager stride towards her. He wasn't the old fogy Tabs had so
persistently imagined. He was young, barely thirty, lean, tall and
swift-moving as an arrowvery much what Tabs had been before he had
spent himself at the war.
Hulloa, Terry! This is ripping. I didn't expect youBut what's
all this? An accident! What have you been doing to Prentys?
The voice was glad and frank, though its habit of command was
unmistakable. Every gesture bespoke authority and arrogance of body.
Even in this moment of geniality, Obedience and no explanations was
written all over him. He was a man who believed his acceptable
importance to be a verity established beyond the pale of challenge. Yet
there was something lackinga sureness of refinement, a last
considerateness. With the first word he had spoken, Tabs had detected
that he wasn't quite the part.
Terry had hurried forward to meet him. She was saying something in a
voice so subdued that it did not carry. She had so contrived their
groupingor was it an accident?that the General's face was hidden.
Tabs waited, then turned to Prentys, My taxi-man's getting
impatient. Will you give my thanks to the General for his kindness and
make the explanations?And I hope that your wrist will soon be
He had given the driver his address and was stepping into the taxi,
when he heard Terry's voice, Why, you're running away! You mustn't go
without meeting the General. General Braithwaite, I want to introduce
you to Lord Taborley, of whom I've spoken to you so often.
Tabs limped back to the pavement and found the General regarding him
intently. I'm glad to make Lord Taborley's acquaintance, he said
formally. And then to Terry, You didn't tell me that it was for Lord
Taborley you were borrowing my car.
Before Terry could reply, Tabs was answering for her, Then I have
to apologize to you, sir, as well as to thank you. But we've used the
same car often, haven't we? In fact, I'm certain that we've met many
Never to my knowledge. The General drew himself up stiffly. You
mistake me. It's the first time I've had the pleasure.
The two tall men stood glooming at each other. Tabs had it on the
tip of his tongue to say something more, but glanced at Terry and
thought better of it. Instead he addressed her, Do I drive you home?
The General interrupted. It'll be out of your way. I'm going right
past Miss Beddow's house.
For the first time since they had been introduced Terry came between
their hostility. How did you know where Lord Taborley lived and that
it would be out of his way? You said that this was the first time you
had met him.
Tabs refused to make her the witness of a quarrel. Since General
Braithwaite knows where I live, perhaps he will call and explain that
to me later. I can't keep my cab waiting longerare you riding with
She avoided his eyes. With the General. And then, You won't
forget that you're dining to-night with father?
To-night. At seven-thirty, I suppose, as usual?
He raised his hat. As he drove away he felt compelled to look back
just once to assure himself. He caught the General's features in full
sunlight; he had not been mistaken.
So that's why my letters to him weren't returned, and that's why he
didn't write! He's gone farther than far with a vengeance. He clenched
his fists and frowned savagely at his crippled leg. I felt so sure of
herand to have to compete with my own valet!
CHAPTER THE SECOND. RETRIEVERS OF
The taxi had scarcely drawn up before a small, prim house in
Brompton Square when the door was opened by a neat maid in immaculate
cap and apron. She was so neat and respectful as to appear almost
passionless. She had the high complexion of a Country girl, good gray
eyes, a slim, attractive figure and dark, wavy hair which escaped
rebelliously from beneath her cap. One wondered how she looked in her
off-duty moments, when she wasn't saying, Yes, your Lordship and No,
your Lordship. Tabs mustered a smile and called to her, Thank you,
Ann. I'll be with you in a moment.
As he paid the fare, he let his eyes wander. The outside of the
house had been painted white, evidently in honor of his home-coming.
The work had been only recently completed, for the chalked warning on
the pavement was not yet obliterated, Wet Paint Beware. He had given
no orders; it was Ann's doingher accustomed, tactful thoughtfulness.
The steps were speckless as a newly laundered shirt, the brasses
polished to the brilliancy of precious metal. His window-boxesHe
glanced along the fronts of his neighbors' houses; they hadn't put
theirs out yet. His were ahead of everybody's; they made a cheerful
splash of red, with their soldierly upstanding tulips, above the long
serried line of area-railings. Again Ann's doing! And the snow-white
curtains behind each row of panes were also Ann's.
The driver clicked his For Hire sign into the upright position and
chugged away to join the flow of traffic which thumped orchestrally
past the end of the Square. Tabs climbed the three low steps
separately; he had been used to take them at a bound. He tried to climb
them slowly as though from choice, and not from necessity. He was very
conscious that Ann was watching. As she closed the door behind him he
said, So you knew I was coming? You received my telegram?
Yes, your Lordship.
I was sorry I couldn't tell you the exact hour. I didn't know it
myself. I hope you didn't trouble to prepare lunch.
It was no trouble, your Lordship.
Then you've managed to get some one in the kitchen? They tell me
that all the cooks have become bus-conductresses or lady-secretaries.
I did, your Lordship. My sisterthe one who lost her husband at
Mons. I thought you wouldn't object
He cut her short. Ann, you know I never object; you never need to
go into details. Whatever you've done is right. From what I've seen
already you've done splendidly.
Under his praise she flushed and became a little less the servant.
I was afraid you might think I'd taken too much upon myself, what with
the flower-boxes and having the house repainted. I wanted to have
things nice for your Lordship after She hesitated for a word, and
then burst out, After all the dirt and beastliness! Your Lordship
ought never to have gone in the ranks, begging your pardon; you weren't
fitted for it. You ought to have gone as a General. Then you wouldn't
have come home with that poor leg and She saw him wince and
changed the subject. But about doing things without orders, I knew
that if Braithwaiteif Braithwaite Her voice sagged and her eyes
misted over. At last Tabs saw how she looked in her off-duty moments,
when she wasn't occupied with being respectful. The sudden memory came
back of intuitions he had had that she and his valet might one day
marry. From time to time he had twitted them on their fondness, taking
an idle pleasure in forwarding the match. And Braithwaite had kissed
her before he marched away. Ridiculous to remember it now! It signified
nothing. People in their station kissed when they felt kindly, and on
that occasion they had had an epoch-making pretext.
Her eyes were searching his with a hungry wistfulness. What I was
meaning, your Lordship, was that if he had been spared, he'd have done
things on his own and gone ahead, the same as he always did. So I,
seeing as how he wasn't
Tabs touched her shoulder gently. It's all right, Ann. I appreciate
your motives. I'm glad you went ahead. But you haven't shaken hands
He glanced in at the dining-room before he went upstairs. The table
was spread for dinner. Cut flowers were standing about in vases. The
very silver had a festive shine.
Again I have to be sorry, he told her. I'm dining with Sir Tobias
And Miss Terry, she inquired, is she well?
When he went to climb the narrow stairs she refused to permit him to
carry his bag. He guessed the reasonthat he might be freer to support
himself by the rail of the banisters. On the first small landing, which
looked out at the back on to the Oratory and the graveyard of the
Parish Church, there were still more flowers. When he reached his
bedroom, three flights up, he found that his evening clothes had been
all laid out and just as carefully as if Braithwaitethe old
Braithwaite whom he had lovedhad been there before him.
As she unpacked his bag, opening and closing drawers, I shall have
to look round for another valet, he said.
Please don't. Her tone was sharp with earnestness.
Tabs felt sorry for her. She, too, like all the world was wanting
the thing that she could never have. He wondered whether it wouldn't be
kinder to tell her and let her know the worst. But sha'n't I, Ann?
With simple pathos, which was the more touching because it was so
unconscious, she clasped her hands, He might come back. He was never
reported. My letters were returned unopened. I've not given over
hoping. I shouldn't like him to find that your LordshipIf he found
another man in his place, he might feel like he hadn't been wanted. Me
and sister can manage
He got no further, for her eyes were meeting his with an appeal that
was desperate. A strange manhis ways would be different. He'd make
one know that everythingeverything was ended.
She glanced hurriedly round for a last time to make sure that there
was nothing she had omittedcollar, tie, silk socks, dress-shoes,
shaving-water, razor. I'll be listening for the bell in case there's
anything that I've forgotten, sir.
With that she closed the door between himself and her emotion. As
she rustled discreetly down the stairs, he thought he heard a sound of
It was too early to dressnot five o'clock yet. He made an estimate
of the time he had to spare. If he walked across the Park to Sir Tobias
Beddow's, that would take him from a half to three-quarters of an hour.
At the earliest he wouldn't have to leave the house till six-thirty. So
he had the best part of two hours during which to think out his line of
conduct and to dress. At dinner he would meet Terryhow would she act?
And what was the right thing for him to do as her family's trusted
friend? He felt very tired. It took a tremendous lot out of one
pretending to other people that one wasn't tired. He was ashamed to
have to own to himself how quickly nowadays he could use up his
physical reserves. For the moment there was no one to watch him; he
stretched himself out at full length on the couch.
He was glad to be back in this friendly house with its narrow
stairways and endearing littleness; it had been his American mother's
before him. Within its walls were the exquisite traces of a temperament
and taste that had been hers. She hadn't always been a great lady; to
the end of her days there had remained with her the love of small
things which one finds in nun-like New England towns. There had been
times when the ostentation and entertaining at Taborley House had
become too much for her; this nest of refuge had been her secrether
place of retreat where she had regarnered her sincerities. She had
loved the Square's old-fashioned primness, its tininess, its unchanging
atmosphere of rest. It was scarcely invaded by the strum of London. In
the cloud of greenness which drifted above its communal garden, one
could still listen to the country sounds of birds. At the back gray
religion spoke in the tolling bell of the Parish Church; through
Sabbath stillnesses one could catch the pealing of the organ in the
Oratory and the mutter of worshipers at prayer. Tabs had kept the house
as she had left it. It was something faithful to which to return,
however much he failed in the search for his kingdom and however far he
However much he failed! This first day of freedom had been anything
but successful. He felt as though every hope that he had had had been
blotted out; that morning he had had no plan for the future which had
not included Terry. What would be the upshot? Would Braithwaite accept
his challenge to visit him? If he did, what then? He, Tabs, couldn't
very well ask his ex-valet, merely because he was his ex-valet, to
desist from loving the same girl. He had no doubt that Braithwaite, in
his new incarnation as a General, did dare to love her. He had little
doubt that Terry had shown herself at least susceptible to the glamor
of his infatuation. How far had the matter gone between them? There lay
He searched back, trying to piece together phrases which would
indicate the correct answer. There was her disturbing confession about
having given away bits of herself, little bits of herself in wrong
directions. There was her reticence as to the ownership of the car and
the way in which she had tried to prevent a meeting. There was her
sympathy for Maisie's matrimonial excesses; her unnatural tolerance for
Adair; her reiterated excuse for the current love-madness, that people
had the right at any cost to be happy; and the eagerness with which she
had seized on his own words, to recover our lost years by violence.
In the silence of his brain he heard her voice pleading, urgent with
pain and underlying terror, Don't you see why I don't condemn? I'm
sorry for you, for myself, for everybody. His knowledge of the world
told him that impassioned latitudinarians were most frequently found
among those who had themselves offended the conventions. Whatever Terry
knew or did not know, she was certainly aware that a match between
herself and General Braithwaite was completely off the map and would be
regarded by every one who counted as a mésalliance.
And what did she know? Not that Braithwaite had been a valetmost
decidedly not that he had been his valet; at most she suspected
that they had been acquainted when Braithwaite had moved in humbler
circles. Had she been possessed of the exact truth, she would never
have borrowed a car from that quarter to meet her ex-lover on his
home-coming. She had been testingtrying to discover. She had scented
a mysteryone for the solving of which none of the General's
explanations had proved convincing. Then had come the unforeseen
encounter outside the War Office and Braithwaite's falsehood, which
even Terry had detected. You mistake me. It's the first time I've had
the pleasure. What was the man's game? Did he hope to erase his old
identity? Did he think
At this point Tabs' patience broke down. Dash it all, he muttered,
if there hadn't been a war, the fellow would have been running my
bath-water at this moment.
If there hadn't been a war! But there had; and this was only one of
the many preposterous situations which had resulted from it. Terry was
right in at least one thing that she had saidthe world was upside
down and walking on its head.
As he lay there thinking, with the topmost branches of the trees in
the Square weaving a tracery of green shadows against his windows, a
sudden inspiration came to him. He sat up. By Jove, I've got it.
Terry's proud as Lucifer. I can stop this nonsense at any time by
telling her who her lover was. Braithwaite will have to call to see me;
I can force him to it. When he calls, the door will be opened by Ann. I
can hold the threat over him that, if he doesn't promise to break with
Terry, I'll expose him.
He went across to his writing-table, selected a pen and wrote:
The War Office,
I shall be pleased to see you any time to-morrow at my house in
Brompton Square, which you know so well. The matter which we
discuss is urgent.
He addressed the envelope, sealed it and rang the bell. When Ann
appeared, he handed it to her. Please see that it's posted
He had done something decisive. For the time being he felt happier.
Nothing like getting a thing off your chest! He took a bath and,
having slipped into his dressing-gown, commenced to shave. Between
these acts he whistled snatches of street-songs to prove to himself his
genuine light-heartedness. It was while he was drying his razor that he
started on the wrong air. Where had he heard it? Oh, yes, the sunlit
street, the children dancing and a voice at his side murmuring the
words of the refrain, Après la Guerre, there'll be a good time
The old argument commenced again, but with a new justice. What have
I really got against this chap? To rise from a private to a General is
no crime; it's to his credit. We all had his chance and some of us had
more influence; yet he got there.
He tried to eliminate his own desires and wounded pride from the
problem. For five years he had been nothing and had been glad to be
nothing, that the cause which he believed to be righteous might triumph
by his self-effacement. What sickness of soul had overtaken him that,
on this, his first day of freedom, he had immediately surrendered to
this orgy of outrageous selfishness? It was Terry that mattered and
only Terry. The stronghold of her happiness was threatened by
Braithwaite's lie. There was a kingdom for everybody, his old theory.
As for himself, if he had been mistaken and his kingdom was not Terry,
then he must press on, for it lay further up the road round some newer
turning. Meanwhile, at whatever cost to himself he must rescue Terry's
His heroic state of mind lasted no longer than it takes to set down.
He was demanding too much of his exhausted capacity for
self-abnegation. He was starving for her. His old hunger to win her
swept over him ravenously. Only by winning her could his lost youth be
He had almost completed dressing when there came a tap at the door.
Finishing what he was doing in front of the mirror, he answered, Yes,
what is it, Ann?
Before you go, I should like to speak with your Lordship.
Is it important? I've not got too much time.
It'sit's something to do with myself.
All right. Half a second.
On opening the door, he saw at once that her face was disturbed.
What is it?
It's something to do with him, sir.
It was evident that for Ann there was only one him in the
Well, what of him?
Ann commenced speaking slowly. Under the stress of her nervousness
she forgot the correct demeanor for a high-class parlor-maid and became
a country girl, twisting the corner of her white, starched apron in her
I was noticing the address on that letter your Lordship gave me to
post. Tabs thought quickly, Hullo, we're in for it. That was foolish
of me. She's put two and two together.
But Ann reassured him in her next sentence. It was to a General at
the War Office and I was thinking that he might help. Braithwaite and I
had an understanding. I'm not saying we were engaged; we weren't. We
didn't tell anybody. But we'd made up our minds to get married if he
ever came back. If I'd been engaged to him, I'd have a right to make
enquiries; but now, in most people's eyes, I was nothing to him.
That'sthat's the hardest part of it. You see, sir, he was never
reported dead or missing or anything. I just stopped hearing from him.
So I thought that if this General was your Lordship's friend
Tabs' brain had been working. He already had a plan. You thought
that I might persuade him to use his influence to have the records
She glanced up hopefully. That's what I was thinking. Would he do
it for your Lordship? I don't know how to set about things myself. It's
thisthis, she almost broke down, this uncertainty that's a-killing
of me. Sister knows about her man, but I
Tabs saw the redness of sleeplessness in her eyes; it was truethe
uncertainty was killing her. Don't upset yourself by talking about
it, he said kindly. I'll write to the General and post my request on
my way out.
He had supposed he had dismissed her and had seated himself at his
desk. A sound behind him warned him; he looked across his shoulder to
find her still hovering in the doorway.
She answered his unspoken question as to why she was delaying.
Aren't there any particulars that your Lordship ought to have? Things
like his regimental number, and his birthday, and where he was born,
and all that? And wouldn't this help?
She pulled out from her apron-pocket an envelope. It's one of his
letters. If the General was to see it, he'd know I had the right.
May I glance through it?
Tabs unfolded the scribbled sheets of paper. They were torn from an
My darling Ann:
The jolly old war drags on and seems as though it were never
end. Not that I've much to kick about, for it's proved a chance
me. Here's the great news. I'm in for my commission and shall
'an officer and a gentleman.' Don't tell his Lordship if you
him or see him; he's still in the ranks and might not like it.
funny to think that I shall be his military superior before many
weeks are out and that, were he and I to meet, he'd have to
me. If I come through the war, I sha'n't go back to being a
Once having been a gentleman
Tabs ran rapidly through this sheet and turned to the next:
You're wonderfully good. I got the socks that you knitted and
two parcels of food from Harrods. You mustn't spend so much of
money on me. When it's all ended, I'll pay you back. We'll get
married and have a little cottage in a little town, the way the
says that we heard together at the Comedy on my last leave. You
remember how it goes.
'And we'll have a little mistress in a silken gown.
A little doggie, a little cat,
A little doorstep, with WELCOME on the mat.'
My dearest sweetheart, I love you.
Yours, in the pink, etc.
Tabs looked up. May I keep this for the present?And, by the way,
how many more of them have you?
Nearly a hundred from the day he enlisted. That's one of the
lastI never heard from him whether he lived to get his commission.
When she had vanished, he reread the letter more carefully, made a
copy of it and slipped the copy into another envelope addressed to
General Braithwaite, together with a note from himself, which read,
One of the important reasons why I am insistent that you shall call on
me is contained in the enclosed copy of one of your many letters, the
originals of all of which are in my possession. To a man of honor it
speaks for itself.
At the red pillar-box, at the foot of the Square, he posted this
second missive. He'll receive them both by the first delivery
to-morrow, he thought. I wonder what he'llRotten! But it can't be
helped. Then he turned to the right by the Tube Station, going up the
narrow old world passage, behind the backs of houses, through the
graveyard of the Brompton Parish Church to Ennismore Gardens and the
sudden, railed in solitudes of Hyde Park.
There were few pedestrians about. Until he reached the Park they
were for the most part men in evening-dress, going to dinner-parties,
like himself. Sometimes they were accompanied by their wives or
sweethearts, whose little high-heeled shoes made a sharp tap-a-tap
against the pavement. Lamps were lighted. The reluctant twilight was
gradually fading; the sunset still glowed faintly above clustered
chimney-pots to the west. I'm going to meet Terry, he told himself.
If the day had worked out as I'd planned, I should be going to ask for
her hand in marriageWhen I planned that, I still believed that I
Then he thought forward. Sir Tobias, from the moment he entered,
would be scheming to get him to himself. Sir Tobias must be avoided.
Directly dinner was ended, he would try to hurry him off and imprison
him in his library to discuss this Maisie woman and Adair. Still he was
going to see Terry; merely to see her was a compensation which stirred
He crossed the Serpentine, stretching like a phantom lake, rose and
slate-colored, through the Peter Pan haunted glades of Kensington
Gardens. Then he emerged from the Victoria Gate and found himself
ringing a bell and being admitted by a butler, who relieved him of his
coat and hat with the velvet-plush manner of a fashionable surgeon
feeling a patient's pulse.
If you will come this way, Sir Tobias is waiting for your Lordship
in the library.
It was happening precisely as he had foreseen; it was being taken
for granted that he had come as her father's friend, and therefore in
some absurd measure as his contemporary.
As he prepared to follow, his attention was attracted by the scarlet
band and gold braid about an officer's cap which was lying carelessly
on the hall-table beside a pair of dog-skin gloves.
Sir Tobias was standing astride the hearth-rug with his back towards
the fire. As the door opened, he was caught in a last nervous
adjustment of his tie.
He was a little man, inclined to be podgy, brimful of a darting kind
of energy and dignified with an air of fussy distinction which none of
his antics, however grotesque, could diminish. He was Shakespeare as he
might have appeared at sixty, after years and a return to Ann Hathaway
had quenched the taller flames of his poetic fire. The resemblance was
haunting and remarkable: there underlay it a hint of gnome-like
agility. One suspected that he affected age as a disguise. The pointed
beard was white; the scanty hair had receded from the calm forehead;
the eyes were blue and faded, and red about the rims with over-much
study. The top part of the face above the cheek-bones was noble; but
the lower part fell away to a mouth and chin which were amiable and
undecided. At the hour of Tabs' arrival, he was flinging up his hands
and spluttering impotently, an inexpert swimmer in the waters of
My dear Lord Taborley! My dear fellow! The moment he discovered
his guest in the doorway he came darting forward. My dear boy, this is
real friendship. We missed you and wanted you so much.So you're out
of it at last? I mean the khaki.
The little, wrinkled hand with its stubby fingers reached up timidly
in an attempt to pat the big breadth of shoulders.
Yes, I'm out of it, Sir Tobias.
Tabs didn't want to be patted. He was impatient of polite evasions.
He foresaw that he was expected to spend the next five minutes in
replying to questions which required no answersall this as a
conventional preface to a discussion of the delicate position of Adair
and Maisie. But Tabs had his own problem, and one question in
particular about a hat on the hall-table that he was burning to ask.
They stood staring at each other, the big, fair man and the worn
version of Shakespeare, both wondering how long it would be decorous to
chatter before they clinched with the vital topic.
May as well sit down. There's time for a cigarette. Terry Sir
Tobias made a short-winded attempt to push a second arm-chair into
place beside the fire; Tabs achieved the desired end with one lurch of
his body. Terry brought some one in to tea; he's not gone yet. They
never know when to go, these New Army fellows. Good at their job, they
tell me, but no polish. I suppose I oughtn't to say thatungrateful of
me! But I'm sick of it all, the invasion of the classes, the women in
trousers, the beggars on horseback, the Jazz music. I want the old
world backthe womanly women, everybody labeled, and Beethoven.
He pushed the cigarette-box fretfully across to Tabs, having first
selected one for himself.
Beethoven, he snorted, that's what I want, and no bobbed hair and
everybody happily married.
This New Army chap who's with Terry, Tabs paused to make his voice
unanxious and ordinary, does she see much of him? Is she fond of him?
Fond of him! The little man jerked round quickly. He was in a mood
to see the shadow of terror in the most far-fetched suggestion. If I
thought she was, I should pack her off to Lady Dawn and keep her with
her until the fellow was dead or
What's the matter with him? Tabs flipped the ash off his cigarette
The matter with him! Sir Tobias pulled at the point of his beard,
making a mental effort to frame the charge. If you'd asked me that
question five years ago I could have told you; but not now. In 1914 we
spoke of a man as belonging to our class and meant that he had our
standards of conduct, our code of honor, our sense of public duty, our
traditionsthat he could be trusted to run true to form. To-day any
man's a gentleman, provided he killed enough Germans.
But still you do feel that there's something the matter with him.
Yes, but I can't tell you for the life of me why I feel it. In many
ways he's admirable: I believe he's about the youngest brigadier we
have who rose from the ranks. There was no hanky-panky about his
promotion eitherno petticoat influence; it was all sheer merit and
courage. He was a fighting-man from first to last and shared all the
chances. But the trouble is that one doesn't know where he came from,
and, therefore, one can't be sure where he's going. I know that sounds
snobbish. You have the right to tell me that if a man was good enough
to be butchered to save an old chap like myself, he ought to be good
enough to sit down with me at the same table. But what people don't
realize is that men have been wounded in protecting old chaps like
myself in coal-mines, and on railroads, and a thousand other places
ever since the world started, but until now we never felt it necessary
to offer them a bed in our houses. War asked for the simplest gifts
from men, physical strength, uncomplaining endurance and courage. The
war's ended, and if those same gifts are to continue to secure social
advancement, every policeman who captures a burglar ought to be made a
bank-president. When I demand that a man shall have traditions to be my
friend, I ask no more than when I refuse to buy a dog without a
But this man, what's he called? If he's as distinguished as you
say, I ought to have heard of him.
Before his host could answer, the door was discreetly opened.
Dinner is being served, Sir Tobias.
There was a rush of light footsteps and Terry breezed past the
butler. I know you're going to scold me, Daddy. It's all my fault that
you were kept waiting. It took me so long to persuade General
Braithwaite. By the time he'd consentedI had to dress like a
hurricane. I'm not at all sure that I'm properly hooked up the back. I
know I feel draughty. Then, as though she had not remembered that he
was expected, Why, hullo, Tabs! In a dinner-jacket! You do look
peaceful and jolly.
They had taken their places at the square handsome table,
illuminated at each corner by a silver candle-stick, red-shaded and
electric-lighted. Tabs and Terry were seated side by side, so that he
saw her always in profile, except when she turned to him in
conversation. He saw the soft roundness of her shoulder, the satin
pallor of her throat and breast, the quivering gold of her childishly
The General sat isolated, opposite and facing them. Sir Tobias and
his wife sat at either endhad they known it, for all the world like
Lady Beddow was a proud, unbending woman, gracious to her own sort,
unquestioningly respectful to those above her, tender in a practical
way to those below her and coldly scrutinizing to any one who tapped at
her door claiming to be an equal. Being bred to her finger-tips, she
was as ill-at-ease as her husband in the jostling democracy of the
In the hall Sir Tobias rather huffily had introduced his guests.
Tabs had relieved the tension by smiling quietly at Braithwaite, The
General and I have met before.
It was an uncomfortable dinner from the moment they sat down. Sir
Tobias, although he had shown no signs of it in the library, seemed to
have developed a resentment at having been kept waiting. No reference
was made to this resentment, but Terry and the General were obviously
the culprits. Sir Tobias was vaguely unhappy and had to blame somebody.
Under the tacitly implied criticism Terry's rebellious spirits rose
higher, but the General's authoritative assurance began to crumble.
Sir Tobias was continuing the conversation which had started in the
library. He seemed oblivious to the fact that it had then concerned the
man who was now present. You can't make the world afresh with a
catastrophe. Men are like water: in a storm they rise above or sink
below themselves. When the disturbance is ended, they tend to find
their own level. War destroys; it never created anything.
That's not true, if you'll excuse me for contradicting you. You're
speaking without knowledge. Braithwaite uttered himself bluntly as he
would have done in his own Headquarters' messthis despite the fact
that it was Tabs whom his host had been addressing.
In his astonishment, Sir Tobias nearly gagged himself with the soup
that he was on the point of swallowing. He blinked mildly at this
confident young man, his breast ablaze with decorations, whom he had
not invited. Then, in your opinion, what has war ever created, he
asked with dangerous courtesy; this war, for instance, that's just
This war that's just ended is the only war of which I have had any
experience. Braithwaite glanced across at Terry for encouragement. I
know what it created in me and in thousands like me. It created in us
the most valuable of all assetscharacter. In the bitter test of pain
and dirt and despair we found ourselvesfound ourselves capable
of more nobility than we had ever dreamt possible. We sorted out
afresh, in hours that we thought would be our last, all our inherited
superstitions and servilities; in so doing we discovered that God and
life itself are much kinder than we had been informed. Because of that
discovery men who had been timid learnt how to face death gladly,
shirkers how to shoulder responsibility, selfish people how to become
decent through the fine humanity of sharing. Time-servers learnt how to
get up off their bellies and confront misfortune with a laugh. I don't
know whether I make myself clear; perhaps one had to be a part of the
great game to understand its lessons. That we do understand them is the
reward of those who have survived. We've come back to you as
uncomfortable fellows; we shall be much more uncomfortable before we're
satisfied. We intend to fight for the same equalities in peace that you
sent us out to fight for in war. You asked me what this particular war
has created; it has created a complete new set of social and spiritual
values. It's done away with the uncharity of caste.
During his last words he had been gazing across the table at Tabs
with a fearless challenge, as much as to say, That's who I am. Now
But Tabs was remembering the coster's reason for not having dragged
him into the police-courts, Served in the ranks, did yer? Then you and
me was pals out there! Braithwaite, whether he knew it or not, had
been doing a piece of special pleading for himself. He and Braithwaite,
whatever they might be now, had been pals out there. Silently Tabs had
been thinking while he had been listening, You're right and I'm with
you. I'd be with you still more if you'd only live up to your standards
by sticking to Ann.
It was Sir Tobias who took the offensive. The soup-plates had been
removed and the fish-course had not yet been served. He had the leisure
to talk. You men who have been in the Army, he said testily,
especially those of you who have gained your promotion rapidly, always
speak as if the rest of us had been receivers of stolen goods until you
put on uniforms. Armies are composed of youth; for most of you it was
the first time you had tasted authority. It's gone to your heads; you
want to brush experience aside and dragoon the older world into new
formations. You, who were civilians yourselves, have come back
despising us civilians; your contempt is three-parts fear lest you'll
fail, as you failed before, in the old civilian competitive struggle.
You talk about the virtues war has taught; let's grant them and grant
them gratefullythey saved us from destruction. But what about the
frantic recklessness it encouraged, the cheap views of bodily chastity,
the desperate insistence on momentary happiness? At the mention of
bodily chastity, Lady Beddow from the other end of the table had
stuttered a tut, tut! Her husband dodged it, as a boy might dodge a
wheelbarrow upset in his path. Without shifting his glance he ran on.
A complete new set of social and spiritual values! Rubbish! War places
an excessive premium on merely brutal qualitiesmuscle, bone, sinew,
all the paraphernalia of physical endurance. What use has it got for
old fellows of intellectual attainments like myself? It takes the
greatest poet, singer, painter, violinist; all it can do with him is to
thrust a rifle into his hands. All brains look alike, Michael Angelo's
or a rag-picker's, when they're spattered in the mud of a trench. Take
Lord Taborley here, for instanceall that military stupidity could do
with him was to keep him in the ranks for two years. You can't make me
believe in your complete new set of social and spiritual values. A
complete unrest and insubordination to time-honored moralities is the
legacy of war.
Having delivered himself, he tucked his napkin tighter into his
waistcoat and attacked the fish-course, as though by this display of
gastronomic energy he could somehow strengthen his argument.
It was clear to Tabs that behind all that Sir Tobias had been saying
lay his misery over Maisie and Adair. He saw the world always in the
I agree with most of your statements, the General blundered on.
And yet you're wrong. You miss something. I think it's the vision of
the stupendous heroism. You never saw it; you don't want to see it.
That you never saw it we can understand; but that you shouldn't want to
see it, makes us see red. It was something that we did for you, and you
take it all for granted. You cheered us and jeered us into going
because you were frightened. You handed us white feathers if we
hesitated. You dragged us from our jobs and very often we were poor
men, who had no such financial security as was yours. You promised that
if we would share our lives with you, you'd go fifty-fifty with us on
your financial security. There wasn't time to have deeds of agreement
drawn up; we took you at your word. And what a lie it was! Why, I
passed a blinded officer in Regent Street to-day peddling shoe-laces.
The day before a jobless soldier threw himself beneath a train and his
last words were, 'Over the top and the best of luck.' There's a Colonel
I see by to-night's paper who's gone back to being a policeman. If you
see a man in uniform to-day, your unspoken thought is, 'For God's sake
take it off.' I tell you it's all wrong. It's that kind of ingratitude
that leads to revolution. You talk about the brutality of war; it's not
a patch on the brutality of peace. You treated men's lives as yours
while the danger lasted, but you insist that your possessions are your
own now that it's been averted.
He took a breath and glanced round.
Tabs was nodding unconscious approval. Terry's face reflected the
fire of his own passionate indignation and enthusiasm. The butler in
the shadows had turned his back non-committally and was making a
pretense of fiddling with the next course. Lady Beddow sat very upright
and startled, grasping her knife and fork as though they helped to
support her. The only person who was still doing justice to the meal
was the worn-out version of Shakespeare, who was responsible for the
The silence seemed to call for a final climax. The ex-valet cleared
his throat. And it was to his ex-valet that Tabs listened; he had
forgotten the General. It was as though the grimness of reality had
interrupted a piece of play-acting. There was less heat in
Braithwaite's voice now and more reproach. You said nothing about
caste in those days, when you hurried us to the shambles. You promised
usWhat was it that you promised us?
A kingdom round the corner, Tabs suggested. The next minute he
felt Terry's warm little hand clinging to his own beneath the
Braithwaite stared at Tabs to see whether he were jesting; then
smiled in relieved friendship at this proof of comradeship from an
unexpected quarter. Yes, perhaps it was thata future kindliness,
where we should all be men together, neither free nor bond. Then again
to his host, You sent us out there where everything was censored.
Scarcely a whisper of the truth reached you. The very
war-correspondents were instructed to delete the horror and to write
nothing that would disturb your calm. We've come back, what are left of
us; we think you ought to know what really happened. It isn't that we
take much pleasure in telling you, but we think that if you knew, you
might be persuaded to keep at least some of your promises. And what do
you do? You reassert your privilege to despise us. You stuff your
fingers in your ears and talk about caste, and forgetting the war, and
getting back to work. Sir Tobias, I'm afraid I'm being far too
personal, but you're a sample of millions who weren't there. You're
living in a totally altered world of whose very existence you're
content to be unaware. Your complacency drives men like myself to the
point of madness. We hold that you have no right to be complacent until
the bill you put your hand to has been settled. I don't know how Lord
Taborley feels; he's not expressed
Tabs feels exactly the way you do and so do I. It was Terry
speaking, like the shrill courage of a bugle answering the slow bass of
a trumpet-call. We're the world that purchased victorywe three,
while the rest of the world sat back. It was men like you two who got
gassed, and wrenched, and tortured, and girls like myself who patched
you up and flirted with you so that we might send you back to the Front
cheerygirls like myself who hadn't known love, or children, or
anything but a nursery sort of happiness. We three and people like us
understand, because we paid the price together.
Really, Terry, I must confess there are times when you shock me.
As Lady Beddow rose from her seat, she was the picture of disapproval.
From the door, which the butler held open for her, she glanced back. I
think this discussion has gone very far.
As she swept out, she called across her shoulder, as one might call
to a pet dog, Come, Terry.
But Terry did not come; she sat on tightly, just as if she were a
man among men. Until coffee had been served and the room was free from
servants, there was a pretense at small-talk in which Sir Tobias did
not join. He crouched moodily in his chair, an unlighted cigar between
his fingers, looking very old and somehow deserted. With the
instinctive tenderness which she always showed when she knew that she
had hurt, Terry got up and went to him. She linked her arms about his
neck and stooped to kiss the bald-spot on his head. Cheer up, Daddy
dear; it isn't half as bad as it sounded. Don't you want me to light
your cigar for you?
Tabs, to distract attention from the reconciliation, addressed the
General. It was odd that he should feel so much sympathy for a man whom
his letters, already beyond recall, would stir into panic in the
morning. Do you intend to stay in the Army, sir?
No. But why do you ask? They're getting rid of all of us who aren't
Regulars, no matter how brilliant our service. They're making the Army
again a social club. I shall soon be out of uniform.
And then? Tabs persisted.
Oh, then I shall find something else. He spoke airily, but the
shadow which crossed his handsome face added plainly as words, If I
can find anything.
If it isn't impertinence, Tabs sank his voice, may I ask what you
intend to turn to?
The General eyed him suspiciously, wondering whether he was again
about to lay claim to the previous embarrassing acquaintance. I have
several things in view, he said sketchily, from which a man in my
position ought to be able to choose.
Ought! But that hasn't been the story up-to-date. What of the
Colonel you were just telling us about? Tabs saw that another storm
was brewing. He leant across the table and hurried on. If the worst
comes to the worst, I expect your old job's waiting for you. The
qualities which have made you what you are to-day, must have been
recognized and valued Terry had completed her reconciliation with
her father and was resting her gaze upon them. Tabs altered his tone.
You put what you said at dinner rather strongly, sir. But I understand
what you were driving atit was the democracy of the front-line where
courage, which at its best is unselfishness, was our only standard of
Before the General could make reply, Sir Tobias had raised his
bewildered head. It's a thing that I for one don't want to understand.
I don't want to go on living, if what you've said is true.
Tabs turned considerately to the older man. I think you would if
you knew. The difference that war made to all of us who were there was
that it taught us to judge men by their good points rather than their
defects. It upset all our preconceived notions about society,
especially our notions about the extreme value of race and breeding.
What we learnt was that there's a breeding of the heart which enables a
man from the gutter to run true to the highest form.
Sir Tobias leveled his weary eyes in challenge. Then what about
The name was out at lastthe name which he had been trying to get
uttered all evening. It didn't matter that Adair hadn't been at the war
and had no proper place in the argument. He had wanted to break through
his reticence due to his sense of impending family disaster. At last he
had done it.
I think, Daddy, Terry said, the General and I had better leave
you and Tabs to talk alone.
The next thing that Tabs saw was Terry making her escape with this
other man. He had it in his power to settle his suspense for all time
by saying, One minute, Terry. You're choosing between the General and
myself. It may help you in making your decision to know that
Braithwaite was once But the coster's definition of fair-play
deterred him. This man had been his pal in the trenches; because of
that he allowed himself for the second time that day to be shut out
from the company of youth. He hadn't discovered how much or how little
she knew. By her withdrawal he was made to feel middle-agedmore
nearly her father's contemporary than ever. Yet, as an underlying
comfort to his distress, he had the remembered pressure of the little
hand that had sought his own in secret friendliness.
He turned to Sir Tobias. Yes, what about Adair? Terry said that you
wanted to consult me. If there's anything that I can say or do
The door was reopening. Tabs glanced back across his shoulder
through the shadows. She was hovering just inside the threshold,
hastily clad in her evening-wrap; beyond her in the hall the General
stood fidgeting with his cap. Sir Tobias was sitting with his head
bowed; he had not heard the sound of her reëntry. He spoke evidently
believing that they two were alone. I don't like that fellow. It's the
last time he ever comes to my house. Whatever Terry can see in
himAnd he's not good for Terry.
She tiptoed back into the hall, pulling the door softly behind her.
A moment later the front door closed with a bang.
What was that? Sir Tobias looked up gnome-like and startled.
Tabs guessed what it was; but because, as she had said they three
had paid the price together, he kept her secret. General Braithwaite,
probably. But you were speaking of Adair?
Sir Tobias shivered, betraying his nervous tension. A disturber,
he said irritably, even in his going. And yet, I suppose it's true; we
shouldn't be sitting here comfortably to-night if it hadn't been for
Now that it had been broached, it was anything to avoid the main
topic. He drummed with his fingers on the table, ceased drumming and
sighed heavily. Yes, I was speaking of Adair. I don't understand him.
I've grown out of touch; I don't seem to understand anybody. I'm left
behind, somehow. People do things to-day that they never used to do.
They shout about things from the house-tops which all my life I've
mentioned only in whispers. Terry does; you heard what she said
to-night about never having been loved and never having had children.
The loss of delicacy
I wouldn't call it a loss of delicacy. Tabs struck a match. I
would call it a loss of prudishness. We all know that girls are born to
be married and that the best of them long to have children. Why
shouldn't they own it? You owned it long ago when you bought her dolls.
The lid is off false reticences. I hope it stays off; we shall be a
much honester world.
The lid's off! That's the phrase I was searching for. Sir Tobias
leant forward confidentially. You haven't been much in England during
the past four years or you'd know how badly the lid is off. You men,
when you were in the trenches, lived above yourselves; but, the moment
you came home on leave, you taught the world that wasn't in khaki how
to live below itself. I could tell you stories
I know. Tabs didn't want to hear those stories. It was pathetic.
Men tried to steal in a handful of hours all the passionate experiences
that would have come to them beautifully and legitimately over forty
years. It was like snatching from a bargain-counter things that you
hadn't time to pay for. You were young and you were so soon to be
snuffed out. The unthoughtful took desperately what they believed life
owed them. They
It was the turn of Sir Tobias to interrupt. But so did the
womenthis Maisie woman, for instance. It was astoundingthe women
one would least have expected. All the desires we had caged through the
centuries broke loosecaged with traditions, with public opinion and
scriptural penalties. He was delighted with his image and went on to
elaborate it. They broke loose like wild animals from a menagerie.
We'd always known they existed. Sometimes we'd paid surreptitious
visits to them in books, the old eyes blinked cautiously, the way one
goes to the Zoo, to remind himself that there is a jungle somewhere.
But we'd only regarded them as specimens; we'd never expected to meet
them roaming about the streets loose or coming as domestic pets into
our houses. Now the war's ended and the jungle's all about us; we can't
get the animals back into their cages. Fellows like this General
Braithwaite don't help matters by telling us that we oughtn't to want
to get them back
Perhaps he's one of the animals, Tabs interpolated. You couldn't
expect him to want to be put back.
Perhaps he is. In fact that's what I've felt about him. That's
what's helped me to make up my mind that he shall see no more of
Terry. He reached out and tapped Tabs' hand, taking it for granted
that he was his ally. The sight's becoming far too normalwild beasts
everywhere, sunning themselves in impertinent freedom, as if they were
house-cats. Nobody's shocked at it any longer. Terry isn't. Lloyd
George isn'tat least he pretends he isn't for fear the wild beasts
may lose him an election. No one makes a stand. It's left for private
individuals like ourselves, to
To do what?
Sir Tobias lost his stride. He blinked reproachfully. To get them
back into their cages.
For an instant Tabs nearly smiled. And Adairis he the first wild
beast we tackle? Have we got to get him back into the cage of
matrimony? Tell me about Adair.
It was no cage. Sir Tobias spoke almost resentfully. His home was
a kind of nest and Phyllis was the mother-bird.
The butler had looked in several times to see whether he was free to
clear away. For the first time Sir Tobias became aware of him pottering
in the shadows. Perhaps we'd better continue in my library.
He pushed back his chair, dropped his napkin, groped after it
feebly, then led the way solemnly across the hall. When he had seated
himself before the fire and fortified his courage with a fresh cigar,
he plunged headlong into the story of his son-in-law's delinquencies.
How a man who has a daughter of mine for his wife can find
attraction in any other woman is more than I can fathom.
I agree with you there, sir. Tabs suddenly found himself carried
off his feet and on the point of a confession. If any man were to play
false by Terry, I thinkI think I'd brain him.
Sir Tobias half-closed his eyes and regarded his guest with sleepy
approval. I somehow knew, he said slowly, that that was how you
felt. Then he opened his eyes wide and darted forward in his chair, as
though to trace exactly the effect of his words. He was full of tricks
and contradictions, obstinacies and tendernesses, this Punch-like old
gentleman with the head of Shakespeare. I knew that was how you felt,
he continued, because you've seen all the love that has gone to their
making. You were already a big fellow when they were still tiny. Wasn't
it Terry who first called you Tabs because her tongue couldn't get
round Taborley? Ah, I've been so proud of my girls! They were so little
and white when they first came to us. They couldn't walknot a step.
One had to carry them everywhere. Then they began to crawl; they
couldn't stand up right unless one gave them his hand. And then at last
they walked. They walked by one's side at first and soon got tired. But
as they grew stronger, they walked away and away, always getting more
incomprehensible, till finallyit hasn't happened to Terry yettill
finally they met a man. Wait till you're a father, Lord Taborley; from
the moment you give all that whiteness into another's keeping, you
never cease to be jealous of him. He can never appreciate what a gift
you have made him. He never saw her when she was little and helpless.
She's your youthshe's everything vigorous that you were. The first
time he affords you with a reason for hating him, you'll hate him
likeThe way you said: so that you could brain him without
compunction. AdairI could cheerfully kill him.
Tabs felt rather than heard the pent-up passion in his voice; it
alarmed him with its sincerity. But mayn't you be exaggerating? he
suggested. Are you sure that AdairWhat I mean to say is, he may be
only philandering. Heaps of men do thatgo through all the motions of
making fools of themselves and actually do nothing. He may be only
expressing the discontent of the moment, the revolt from suspense, the
flatness of quiet after terrible excitements. One didn't need to be a
fighting-man to share those excitements. You say that Phyllis made a
nest of her home. Perhaps he didn't like nests. It may be that that's
done it. Adair can't have altered so radically over night; he wasn't
forceful enough to erupt so disastrously. He was decent
I know nothing definite. The passion had died down. It was again
an old and weary man who spoke. I only know that she believes he's
abandoning her and that it makes her wretched. She wants him back; if
there's any way of getting him back, she must have him. I never denied
anything to my girls. If money will persuade him, it's for you to find
out how much. If this Lockwood woman has a price, let her state it.
I'll spare nothing. Though everything else has lost its value, money
still has the power to purchase. I can't buy back faithfulness and
loyalty; but I should be able to buy the appearance of it. If I were
you I would tackle this Lockwood woman first.
He tossed the stub of his cigar towards the fire. It fell short in
the grate. He picked it up and rammed it deep into the burning coals.
He looked a poor, old, pitiful child, uttering embittered heresies.
All women are mercenary; all of them except my wife and daughters. Ah,
yes, and Lady Dawn.
Tabs wondered what Lady Dawn had done to gain exemption from this
sweeping accusation. I'll see this Maisie Lockwood to-morrow, he
said, if you can tell me where she lives.
Sir Tobias had risen and was seating himself at his desk. I'll copy
you out her address. I have it somewhere buried among these papers.
He had hidden it so thoroughly that it took a few minutes to find.
As he rustled sundry sheets and stooped over them round-shouldered,
Tabs had time to reflect. Terry! Where was she? She was so little and
unprotected and white. Would a day ever come when a man would play her
false? At this moment he had it in his power to prevent that day from
Ah, here it is! It was his host talking. Then the painful
scratching of the pen commenced.
Sir Tobias, I want to speak to you about Terry. The scratching of
the pen stopped, but the shoulders remained bowed. This is an
unfortunate night for me to choose to talk to you about her, butTo
tell the truth, I feel that if I don't speak to-night I may lose my
What do you want to say about her? The shoulders had unhunched
themselves, but the head had not turned.
Only this, that I've loved her for a very long while and that if
you don't think I'm too old, I should like your permission to ask her
to marry me.
Tabs thought to himself with a glow of satisfaction, At last I've
done it. And done it in just the way and at just the time that I'd
He felt the pride of a man who had worked on schedule and been
punctual to the second.
Sir Tobias turned. His face was composed. It was some seconds before
he spoke. Of course this is no surprise to me. You are old for
her. You'll be fifty-five when she's scarcely forty. He paused and
Tabs' heart sank. You're older than her; but then you're wiser. She
needs a husband who'll be wise. He sat leisurely as though he were
resting from a long journey; then he stretched out his hand. Tabs went
over and took it. My dear fellow, there's only one thing I ask: make
her always happy.
The clock in the hall struck midnight. He lifted himself to his
feet. I had no idea how the time had flown. By the way, that's the
addressthe Maisie woman's.
Tabs took it carelessly. It had become a thing of little
consequence. He folded it away in his pocket. And when shall I see
Terry? Of a sudden he felt that he must see her; see her and make sure
of her without loss of time.
To-morrow, I suppose. Say about eleven.
Tabs thought back. He had expected to receive a call from General
Braithwaite about eleven, or at least to hear from him as soon as he
had opened his morning's letters. Then he smiled to himself; when once
he was engaged to Terry, what General Braithwaite did or did not do
would be no longer of any importance.
Yes, about eleven, if it'll be agreeable to Terry.
There's not much doubt about its being agreeable to her.
They passed out into the hall. While Tabs found his hat and coat,
they spoke only in monosyllables. The servants had gone to bed. The
house was intensely silent.
They had got as far as the front-door and Sir Tobias already had his
hand upon the latch, when a taxi purred up to the pavement and came to
a halt immediately outside. Some one stopping at the wrong house, he
hazarded and threw the door wide. See you again to-morrow.
At eleven, Sir Tobias reminded.
On the dot of eleven, Tabs confirmed.
He passed into the cool night air, wistful with the fragrance of
unseen flowers. His eyes were dazed for the moment by the sudden change
of light. He made out the blurred silhouette of the taxi and faltered,
thinking he might have a chance to hire it; then he saw that its
shadowy occupants were climbing back into its deeper darkness. It
seemed that Sir Tobias had been right; it had stopped at the wrong
As he reached the corner where he turned, he glanced back. The taxi
had not moved. Its occupants were again getting outan officer and a
girl. The girl was ringing the bell of the house that he had left,
while, the officer was settling with the driver. As he joined her, the
door opened, letting fall a shaft of light. There was a brief
parleyevidently hurried explanations. Even at that distance he could
recognize the indignant tones of Sir Tobias' angry voice. Then he heard
the Shish, Daddy! from Terry. They entered. The door closed behind
them. The taxi moved off in the opposite direction. Again there was
silencenothing but the fragrance of unseen flowers and the
wistfulness of the cool, spring night.
CHAPTER THE THIRD. ALL SORTS OF
Tabs had dressed himself with more than ordinary care. He was rather
amused at his self-consciousness in having done so, and a little
disdainful of it. Yet he knew that in the winning of a woman the
strategy of clothes has its value; he had no intention of losing a
trick by negligence. It was nine o'clock when he sat down to breakfast;
within two hours he would be seeing Terry.
It was a gay morning, lacquered with sunshine; bustling breezes made
young leaves of trees in the little Square murmurous. Ever since he had
wakened he had been listening to the gossiping chirp of congregated
sparrows and the rolling boom of tumultuous traffic. At intervals
across the upland of roofs there had drifted to him the far-blown chime
of bells and the slower music of clocks striking. It was like an
orchestra scraping its chairs and tuning up before crashing into the
overture of the happier world.
Lying beside his plate as he came down he saw a single letter. It
was addressed to him in an unfamiliar feminine hand. He picked it up
and examined it carefully with the air of a connoisseur. So long as a
letter remains unopened, especially when it is to a bachelor from an
unknown woman, it retains an atmosphere of adventure. Up to a point he
resented the intrusion. This morning his thoughts should have been so
utterly Terry's. And yet he was piqued by it.
He slit the envelope. The letter-head was embossed with a crest
quite unknown to any but the most modern heraldry. He read:
Dear Lord Taborley:
I have been given to understand that you are exceedingly anxious
make my acquaintance. If this is so, I shall be at home when you
to-morrow afternoon. Asking your lenience for this liberty, I
Yours very truly,
Maisie P. Lockwood.
To-morrow afternoon! Written yesterday! That means the afternoon of
to-day.And why the PMaisie P. Lockwood? Is that for
Pollock, her first husband?Unusual! A rather naïve person! Then his
face went blank. She must be a thought-reader! How the dickens did she
guess that I wanted to make her acquaintance? I scarcely knew it myself
at the time that she wrote this letter.
Crushing the scented sheet in his hand, he tossed it into the empty
grate. My dear lady, if you can read minds so accurately at a
distance, be assured of this: to-day I shall be too busy with Terry to
have any time to spare on you.
The door from the narrow hall partly opened. May I come in?
At sound of her voice, he sprang to his feet, upsetting his chair.
She made bold to look in at him. Why, Tabs, you are a late
breakfaster. Daddy told me you were planning to see me at eleven; to
save you the trouble, I hurried round.
Like a flurry of March sunshine, Terry entered.
He scarcely knew how to greet her. How does one greet a girl whose
permission he has yet to gain, whereas her father has already
consented? Moreover, there was his last memory of her, at midnight
dodging into the taxi to avoid him.
She spared him the trouble of deciding by holding out her hand. I
know that you saw me. That's what I've come to talk about.
Her smile as she said it was both embarrassed and frank. She looked
like an honest youngster who had come voluntarily to confess and, if
need be, to be spanked. Tabs noticed that her lower lip was tremulous
and that she was whipping up her courage. His mind went back to days
when she had really been a child and he a manwhen he had bound up cut
fingers for her, had taken her on fishing expeditions, had taught her
to cast her first fly and, as a reward, before the nursery lights went
out, had been allowed to see her snuggled safe in bed. Little Terry,
she had been his tiny sister in those days whom he had loved with no
thought of gainjust a small companion for whom he bought exciting
presents wherever he voyaged across the worlda doll's house in China,
a quirt in Mexico, a scarlet riding-saddle in Persia. It hurt him to
see her afraid of him nowafraid of him because he was about to offer
her the greatest of all presents. Was she afraid because he was too old
You don't need to talk about it unless you like, he said kindly.
Whatever you do or have done is right.
That's not true. She wrung her hands. Oh, Tabs, you make it so
hard for me when you're generous. I haven't done right. I'm in a
tangle. I don't know whether what I'll do in the future will be any
They were still standing just as they had confronted each other when
she had entered. Tabs glanced round the room at the used
breakfast-table, Maisie's crumpled petition lying in the grate, the
flood of sunlight and the tops of the heads of passers-by stealing
across the pane above the stiff row of tulips. His eyes went back to
the flower-face of this young girl as she stood before him, fashionably
attired and battling to conceal the storm of her distress. The setting
struck him as inadequate and unprivate. The hats which stole by above
the row of tulips seemed to belong to spies. At any moment Ann might
tap and request that she be allowed to clear the table. He believed
that in the next half-hour his dream of the last five years was to be
shattered; otherwise, if it had not been to spare him, why should Terry
have paid him so unconventional a visit, at such an unconventional
hour, when by every law of usage she should have been waiting for him
to call on her?
How about upstairs? he suggested. In my study we shall be sure to
No, Tabs, dear, and the little added word touched him strangely,
I've got to say at once what has to be said. It's like waiting at the
dentist'sit's the waiting that's so wearing. Her face lit up with
the ghost of a smile. When you've faced the real pain, it's over in a
She seated herself. Reluctantly he followed her example. But when
she was seated, she found herself at a loss for words. She drew off her
gloves, and sat there folding and refolding them. He waited for her to
commence; the silence was unbroken, save for the laughter of children
playing in the Square and the occasional tapping of footsteps on the
pavement. He leant across the table and took her hand. Terry, after
all these years you're not afraid of me? You don't need to be. Remember
what you've just said: it's the waiting that's so wearing; the real
pain's over in a second. Get the real pain over; then we'll plan for
She looked up gratefully with eyes that were almost clear of
trouble. You're gentleso different from other men. I could almost
love you; I do love you. But not quite in the wayYou understand. I
trust you more than any one in the world.
Ah, why? she echoed. That's what I wish you could tell me. Why
should I be able to offer more toto some one else whom I trust less?
So much less?
But is that love, Terry? Isn't it infatuation? Could you keep on
offering? Loving means marrying and marrying means being together
I know, she nodded wisely. I know all that. I know it so well
that I don't want to marry him or anybodyat least, not yet.
She took his other hand in hers, clinging to it as if she were
drowning. That's the second time you've asked me why. I'll tell you.
Because if I don't say 'Yes,' I shall lose him. Even though I may not
want him forever, I can't bear to lose him for now. You must know the
feelingyou who are in love. And that's why, her voice choked with
the tears that she kept back from her eyes, that's why I promised him
Last night! Tabs spoke slowly, trying to bring the finality home
Last night, she repeated; the night that should have been yours.
The night I had promised to you for years. Then, in a flame of
self-derision, Why don't you let go my hands and hate me, now that you
know how treacherous I am?
You're not treacherous. He smoothed the slim fingers as though he
were coaxing a child. You mustn't be unjust to yourself. When we're in
love we're all apt to be unjust; I was yesterday, to this man.
Injustice, whether to oneself or to some one else, works most of our
mischief; one never knows where it ends. We can't control our hearts,
Terry; you've tried. You've tried to make your heart love me and it's
refused. Don't be miserable because of it; you couldn't help that. And
this manhe's a fine fellow. I always knew he was a fine fellow, until
seeing him with you yesterday made me jealous and blinded my eyes. He's
a finer fellow than ever now. You couldn't love him if he weren't.
She wasn't giving him the enthusiastic attention that his praise
deserved. Somewhere at the back of her mind there lay a doubt with
which she wrestled while he strove to comfort her. He believed that he
had guessed her doubt. As for not trusting him the way you trust me,
he explained, that's natural. We know the whole of each other's lives;
our families are the same kind of families and we share the same kind
of friends. Whereas
Whereas, she broke in, I know nothing about his past, where he
lived, who his people were or anything. I know nothing that he enjoyed
or laughed at before I saw him lying quietly in our hospital-ward in
France. I've questioned him as much as I dared; but always he grows
vague. There's something that he's hiding from me. I only gathered that
he had known you from the way he pricked up and listened whenever your
name was mentioned. That was why, without warning either of you,
IYou see, I had to find out. And then, when he met you face to face
But he did. He lied.
She had withdrawn her hands from his and sat back eyeing him with a
clear look of challenge. Tabs was at a loss to explain her change of
attitude. Yesterday she had been all for defending this man. What did
she gain by accusing him now that she was engaged to him? In any case
she had employed too ugly a word. And here was a strange state of
affairs, that it should be left to him to defend his successful rival.
A man is not compelled to know another man unless he likes, he
said cautiously. They may have met some time in the past under
unfortunate circumstancescircumstances which are embarrassing to
remember. The man to whom that memory is a disadvantage has a right to
protect himself by sweeping it clean from his mind.
But not to lie about it to the girl he says he loves, she
declared. There can be only one motive for such a denial: that it
covers up something which is dishonorable.
But there never was anything dishonorable. That I swear.
Then he believes that I would think it dishonorable, she insisted;
which means that he doesn't trust me. That's the reason I can't trust
him in return. If we don't trust each other now, how can we hope that
things would be better if we married?
Her logic was unanswerable, but she was arguing on the wrong side.
At what was she driving? He gave it up. Was she wanting him to tell her
where and when he and her future husband had met? The eagerness of her
silence seemed to demand as much. But there are rules to every game. No
pressure that she could bring to bear could make him tell her that. She
recognized those rules by refraining from putting her request into
It was he who broke the silence. His tones were puzzled. You come
to me on the morning that I had hoped to be engaged to you myself and
you confide all these secrets about this other man. You insist that
neither of you trusts the other and that you could find no happiness in
marriage. Then why, in heaven's name, Terry, did you pledge yourself to
him last night?
The fear of losing him Her face quivered pitifully. She was on
the verge of weeping. He overheard what Daddy said about forbidding
him the house. It seemed our last time together. I couldn't bear that
it should be the last. It was to keep him near me for just a little
longer that I
Tabs rose and limped to the window. He dared not let himself go, the
way his instincts urged. They might carry him too far. She looked so
much like the little girl in short skirts he had known, as she sat
there bravely trying not to cry. He wanted to take her on his knees, as
in the old days. Now that she loved another man, he was not allowed to
show her comfort in that way any longer. That she should run to him for
help and yet love some one else, wounded his pride. What was the matter
with him that he had failed to stir her passion? Why could he appeal
only to her helplessness?
Inside the communal garden, with its surrounding railings and locked
gates, nurses in uniforms were pushing prams. Toddlers were tossing a
ball across the lawn and tottering after it with excited shouts.
Beneath a tree in the clear sunshine a young mother sat sewing. Other
men's women! Other men's babies! He would have to set out in search of
his kingdom afresh; all his old quests had been mistaken. But he was
older now and lame; he lacked the energy for a new journey. It seemed
to him that he would be alone and unwanted always.
A telegraph-girl was mounting the steps. He heard the bell ring
without interest. Gazing out, with his back towards Terry, he put to
her what he intended should be his final question. You promised him
last nightthen why did you hurry round to me this morning?
Her dress rustled and her breathing quickened. Because she
commenced and failed. He did not turn his head. She tried again in a
lower voice, Because I want you to get my promise back.
He swung round and crossed to where she was still sitting. With his
hands resting lightly on her shoulders, he stared down at her golden
head. But, Terry dear, why? Look at me. You must tell me.
She did not look at him. I'm frightened. Nobody knows as yet; so
before they knowOh, Tabs, you're so clever; you can do anything.
And then she repeated whimperingly, like a child over a broken toy, I
want you to get my promise back.
Listen to me, Terry dearest, he spoke coaxingly, don't be a baby.
What is it that you're asking me to do? Is it to see him for you and to
break the news that you've altered your mind over night. You know he'll
want reasons. What shall I tell?
She lifted her head, stretching back her throat so that all her face
looked up at him. If you'll still have me His hands on her
shoulders tightened. Say that you still want me, Tabs. For answer his
head slowly nodded, but his eyes never left her eyes. Tell him that
I'm engaged to you, instead.
In the tumult of surprised desire he bent over her, but he got no
further, for a tap fell on the panel of the door and the handle turned.
He drew himself upright quickly and stepped back aloofly. What is it?
A telegram, your Lordship. Ann entered. I told the girl to wait
in case there was an answer.
He tore it open, glanced through it and handed it to Terry. To Ann
he said, There won't be any answer.
Terry read, Shall be delighted to have you lunch with me to-day
Savoy Hotel one o'clock. Braithwaite. She examined the address and
looked up startled, But it's to you. It'sit's as though he knew we
were together. What made him send it?
When Tabs answered there was no echo of her excitement in his voice.
I wrote him yesterday asking him to call here. Evidently he preferred
a more public place.
She glanced at him shrewdly. Why did you write him? You must have
done that between leaving me and coming to our house to dine. I know
it's no good my asking you. Her last words were more of a question
than an assertion. I can see that it's no good my asking you. No,
Terry, it's no good. Braithwaite's past is his own secret. But I can
pledge you my word that it bears no stain.
Then why shouldn't he? She changed her question. Shall you
meet him to-day at lunch?
Shall you tell him what we've?
Not all of it, Terry.
Why not all of it? Which part are you going to leave out?
He came again to where she sat and stood gazing down on her. Terry,
why do you want me to tell him? Why can't you tell him yourself? It
would be kinder.
BecauseOh, Tabs, you do want me, don't you? Because I daren't
trust myself to see him.
And so you want me to tell him we're engaged because you daren't
trust yourself to tell him! Isn't that it?
And you daren't trust yourself to tell him because the moment you
saw him you would fall again under his spell?
This time she didn't nod, but her eyes gave assent.
And what does that mean, little Terry? Whether you call it love or
fascination, it means that even though you do not see him, your heart
is his at present. It means that against your will he's infinitely more
to you than I am. It means that you only ask me to become engaged to
you in order that you may be strong to break his spell. It doesn't mean
that I will be anything more to you to-morrow than I was last night,
when you gave him your pledge.
She tried to speak, but he halted her words. I'm older than you
are. Have you thought of that? I'm not the man I was; I'm lame. You can
like me as a friend and believe me indispensable; but, if I were your
husband, fifteen years from now when you're only the age I am
to-dayHave you considered that? My dear, I love you so well, that
I'll never let you tie yourself to me, till you're as certain that you
can't risk meeting me without loving me as you're certain at this
moment that you daren't risk meeting this other man. When you can do
The tenderness in his eyes hurt her. Directly I can do that, I'll
tell you, Tabs. Andand I believe I could almost tell you now.
If you can now, he said, there's a test. Will you take my place
at lunch and tell Braithwaite?
She shrank, and tried to smile, and shook her head.
Then it'll be I who'll have to do it. He tried to assume a
cheerful manner. But I can't give him your reason about being engaged
to me. If it were true, which it isn't, it wouldn't be generous. If I
carry any message, the only honorable thing for me to do is to inform
him of everything.
Of everything? she questioned.
Yes, of everything. I must tell him where the trouble lies and give
him his chance to be frank with you. Only when that is done, shall I be
free to do my utmost to win you for myself.
She took his hands and drew herself up to him. Do what you like,
Tabs. As long as I know that I've not lost you, her voice became small
and almost happy, I'm content.
She was tiptoeing against him. The next thing he knew he was kissing
her warm red mouth.
She was gone. He had watched her from the steps until she had
reached the end of the Square where the swirl of passing traffic had
engulfed her. At the last moment she had looked back and smiled. For
some minutes after she had vanished, he had stood there recalling the
way in which her brave little figure had tripped out of sight among the
blustering March sunshine and shadows. A child, he thought, impulsive
and lacking in perspective, with a child's alacrity for drying its
tears and believing in a future happiness. How would she regard this
morning years hence in the after-glow of experience? Would she find
nothing in its calamities but foolishness? And what relation would he
himself bear to her when she had arrived at that stoical calm?
He reëntered the house. In the room where they had been together the
fragrance of her presence still lingered. The chair was pushed back,
just as she had risen from it to lift her warm, red lips to his. How
smooth they were! Again like a child's! Everything about her was young
and undeveloped. She had kissed simply and gratefully, with none of the
blundering, sweet surrender with which a woman clings to her lover. If
she had ever kissed Braithwaite, she had not kissed him like that.
And then Tabs was overcome with a reluctant remorse, which was
tinged with a shameful sense of triumph. She had offered him her lips
in gratitude; they had kindled in him the flames of passion. For the
moment he had devoured her with kissesher eyes, lips, cheeks and
If he were to keep himself in hand, he must fill his days with
interestsnew interests. He must move among people and
normalize himself. He must fight against the melancholy of his
obsession. His eyes chanced to rest on the crumpled sheet of scented
note-paper tossed into the empty grate. Stooping, he picked it up and
smoothed it out. This problem of Maisie would at least divert
himbesides, he had promised to do what he could for Adair. He noted
the Chelsea address and reread the contents with its sly humility and
hint of coquetry: I have been given to understand that you are
exceedingly anxious to make my acquaintance. If this is so, I shall be
at home when you call to-morrow afternoon.
She had been quite certain that he would call when she wrote those
words. They had all the assurance of one who was fully persuaded of her
own powers of charm and beauty.
Again, Maisie P., he apostrophized her, I'm bound to acknowledge
that you know more about me than I know about myself. I didn't know
that I wanted to make your acquaintance at the time when you were
writing this letter. I was quite sure that I wasn't going to call upon
you when I read it. In both cases you were the better informed, for I
shall be with you as soon as I've fulfilled my Savoy engagement.
An hour later, as he was on his way out, he found Ann waiting for
him at the foot of the stairs.
I don't want to bother your Lordship.
You're not bothering me. What is it?
I've been thinking that if I wrote the particulars down myself
The particulars! What particulars?
About Braithwaite, sir. There were things you wouldn't know or
might leave out. So I thought that if I stated my case myself, it might
make things more sensible-like to your Lordship's friend at the War
It might. Are those the particulars you have in your hand?
Yes, sir. But they're kind of private. I shouldn't like them to be
read by just anybody. That's whyPerhaps, if your Lordship was
seeing your friend
As it happens, Tabs spoke with a careless air, I shall be
lunching with him to-day. I can deliver your letter direct.
Your Lordship is very kind.
Not in the least, Ann. And remember, whatever happens, that
Braithwaite was brave and he'd expect you to be brave. If you're
notD'you know what you'll do? Whether he's alive or dead, you'll
let him down.
Her head lifted proudly, despite the tears in her eyes. No fear of
that, sir. I'll never let my man down.
That's the way to talk. And don't worry too much. You know the
saying about night always being blackest at the hour before the dawn?
If we'd only all believe that and cheer up
He let himself out. As he walked down the Square he tried to stroll
jauntily; probably Ann was watching.
I could do worse than live up to that advice myself, he thought.
Then, And so I will, by the Lord Harry.
As he passed through the doors into the Savoy, he consulted his
watch; he was five minutes late. He halted in the middle of the foyer,
gazing round. There was the usual collection of officers on leave or
out of hospital, British, Overseas, American, all of them out for a
good time and debonair. There were the usual rows of expectant girls,
wondering whether their men had forgotten the appointment or whether
the fault was theirs in mistaking the place of rendezvous. Here and
there through the crowd worried and assertive literary individuals
wandered, searching for invariably unpunctual publishers. As though
Time pressed behind them with his scythe, hatchet-faced journalists
from Fleet Street were making a bee-line for the restaurant. In
contrast to this perfervid haste, self-possessed young queens of the
footlights lolled with their admirers, importantly believing they were
recognized. All the medley of London as it used to be, is and will be
again, was there; but nowhere could Tabs descry a General's uniform.
He went to the desk to enquire whether there was any message for
him. At mention of the General his enquiry was received with marked
respect. Yes, General Braithwaite lived there. No message had been
left, but he might be in his room. While they were telephoning and he
was waiting, Tabs remembered and smiled at remembering. Under quite
other circumstances, on a former occasion, he and Braithwaite had
stayed there together. The clerk interrupted his reflections. The
General's not in his roomAh, here he comes, your Lordship.
Tabs turned quickly and looked in vain at first. He did not become
aware of his host till he was standing almost at his elbow. Then he
held out his hand, How are you, General? You must pardon me for not
having picked you out at once. Like all of us, you look different in
More like the old Braithwaite your Lordship used to know? The
General smiled. Well, I have to thank that experience for this at
leastthat I know where to find the proper tailors. How about lunch?
Are you ready?
Against a window looking out on the Embankment, one of the best
tables had been reserveda further proof of the new esteem in which
Braithwaite was held. The head-waiter hurried up immediately to advise
what he should eat and passed on his orders to subordinates with as
much solemnity as if they had been the details for an offensive. Yes,
my General. No, my General. When everything had been chosen and
there was nothing to do but wait for the first dish to be served,
Braithwaite leaned across to Tabs, Your Lordship is amused. I don't
Tabs drew out his case and offered him a cigarette. I'll make a
bargain with you, sir. Let's cut out the unfriendly formalities. I'll
call you Braithwaite if you'll call me Taborley.
The General blew a puff of smoke into the air and watched it
disappear before he answered. In civilian clothes he bore a more
distinct resemblance to the man he had been; and yet the resemblance
only served to emphasize the change that had taken place in him. The
old Braithwaite had been a slight-built, gentle creature, loyal to the
point of self-effacement, soft-spoken and dependent on the appreciation
of a master for his happiness. The new Braithwaite both in body and
character had hardened. His gray eyes had concentrated into command.
His clean-shaven cheeks and small military mustache gave him an
expression which was tolerantly ironic. The moment you saw him, you
knew beyond question that he was ruthlessly aware of what he wanted out
of life. He was a sword which had lain hidden in its scabbard and was
now withdrawn, glistening, intimidating and fiercely pointed.
Tabs compared his forceful appearance with his own, where in a
mirror their reflections sat facing each other. There was little to
choose between them in outward gentility, despite the immense disparity
of their chances. There was no fault to find; everything about
Braithwaite bespoke confidence and refinementhis neatly brushed
chestnut hair, his well-cut gray tweeds, his black, woven tie with the
horse-shoe scarf-pin of diamonds, his fine white teeth, his trim
mustache. He looked a man of iron will and unswerving decision,
destined from birth to take control of crises and to shoulder
responsibilities. As a last humanizing touch, there was a hint of
cavalier devilment about him, of the gambler who was also a sportsman.
The puff of smoke had faded. The General's eyes came back with a
twinkle to his guest. You're right. Between us this 'Your Lordship and
General' business would grow tiresome. I never thought the day would
come when I'd call you Taborley, however. As for myself, plain
Braithwaite's a little reminiscentStill, we'll consider that part
of our compact settled. And now, what?
Do we need to hurry matters? Tabs questioned. This isn't a
military court of enquiry. It wasn't my idea to meet you as though we
were maintaining an armed neutrality. We
But aren't we? Braithwaite interposed with an air of amused
good-humor. Then he lowered his voice, When you parted from me I was
your valet. You didn't hear from me for the best part of four years and
believed me dead. You came back to find that I was your superior
officer and had tangled things up for you pretty badly. You've
threatened me with your knowledge of a previous love-affair and you
have it in your power to tangle up my future in return. Under the
circumstances what else is possible but an armed neutrality?
Let me state the case from another and, I think, a juster angle.
Tabs paused to knock the ash from his cigarette. Before the war you
were my valet whom I had always treated as my friend. I believe at that
time, if it had come to the show down, you were the man who was closest
to my affections and whom I trusted most in all the world. I'm trying
to speak soberly, Braithwaite, without any color of exaggeration. We'd
been in many tight corners togetherperhaps the tightest was when they
tried to execute us in Mexico. Anyway, we'd always played the game by
each other. In 1914 we both joined in the ranks; in 1918 you finished
up as a General, while I was a first lieutenant. There's only one way
to account for that: up to 1914 you'd never had your chance; when your
chance came, you proved yourself the better man. In a way, though it's
difficult for me to confess it, I can understand and sympathize with
Terry's preference. Women admire bravery and merit. Ann and I admired
them in you; we knew they were there before the war made them public.
He took a breath while he watched what effect the mention of Ann's
name had had. The General's expression from being interested and
generous had grown suddenly obstinate and set. Tabs hurried on. So I
can understand Terry's preference. And yet, as you've owned, despite
your advantages, I hold the winning card. I can joker all your aces by
tellingwell, the things to which you have referred. He leant forward
across the table. I don't want to have to tell. To do that I should
have to make myself still more inferior to you than you have proved me
to be in the hardest of all tests. There's only one occasion that would
And that? the General enquired coldly.
Before Tabs could answer, a Major in the Guards who was passing had
halted. Hullo, sir! he exclaimed, addressing Braithwaite. I was
intending to hunt you up. I've heard a rumor about your transferring to
the Regulars. Why don't you have a shot at my outfit?
Braithwaite introduced Lord Taborley perfunctorily, then returned to
his friend's question. A shot at your outfit! It's too expensive. I've
got to make money. Besides, to become a Regular I'd have to sink my
rank and live on my pay at that. I can't afford it. To tell the truth,
I'm already out of the Army. I handed over the keys of my desk at the
War Office this morning. That phase is ended.
You did! Well, if you've got something better The Guardsman
nodded assent to a signaled question from a companion at another table.
Don't lose touch with your old set, sir, he added cheerfully as he
moved away. Send us the map-location of your next dug-out.
The lunch arrived. Dishes were obsequiously offered for inspection
and approval. While the meal was being served, there was no opportunity
for private conversation. Tabs was pondering one fact which he had
overheard. So, he, too, was demobbed yesterday! That's why he took his
last chance to become engaged. The glamour of a uniformAnd to-day
he's back where he started. Poor chap!
The over-zealous waiter had at last moved out of range. Braithwaite
lifted up his dagger gaze. And what is that occasionthe one occasion
which would compel you to publish my past? Perhaps I can save you the
trouble of putting it into words. You mean if I dared to become engaged
to Terry Beddow? I am engaged to her. I dared last night; so I must
leave you to do your worst.
He smiled with quiet triumph; gradually his smile faded into
puzzlement. You don't seem surprised.
I'm not, said Tabs. Why should I be? I myself supposed, that I
was engaged to her last night.
It was Braithwaite who showed amazement. You! Last night!
Yes, I, last night.
Braithwaite set down his knife and fork. The bleak look came into
his eyes that had given him the nickname at the Front of Steely Jack.
He was silent for a full five seconds; then he said, Lord Taborley,
you're a man of your word, but I find it difficult to believe that.
Tabs' voice was both quiet and kindly when he replied, You'll find
it difficult to believe a good many things before I've ended. Evidently
Terry never told you that for over four years she and I had had an
understanding that, when peace came, if I survived, we would be
married. Last night, while you were proposing to her, I was asking her
father's consent. While I was gaining his consent, you were being
The blank look of astonishment which had overspread the General's
face, quickly gave way to one of generous compassion. On my word of
honor, Lord Taborley, I never knew that. I thoughtplease forgive
methat you were interfering merely out of snobbishness. I ought to
have known better. All my dealings with you should haveI begin to
Tabs' old sense of friendship for the manhis manwas coming back.
You begin, he said, but you don't fully understand. You and I have
to come down to earth. Not unnaturally up till now you've chosen to
treat me as an enemy. Perhaps I was when I sent you those two letters
yesterday. But I'm not now. I, too, am learning. There was a coster who
let me off arrest. Did I tell you about him? I forget. The reason he
gave taught me a lot, 'You and me was pals out there.' And you and I
were pals out there, Braithwaitenot master and man or junior and
senior officer. It would be a burning shame if, now that the war's
ended, we should fall to squabbling among ourselves.
And yet the fact remains, said Braithwaite, that I, who used to
be your servant, have cut you out of Terry. How are we going to remain
pals in a case like that?
Tabs flinched at the bluntness of the words, cut you out of Terry.
For a moment he felt inclined to say right out, You're mistaken. She's
sent me to get her promise back. Instead he said, How are we going to
remain pals! That's what I'm here to talk about. I've made up my mind
how I'm going to act. It's about you that I'm concerned. I'm jealous
for you, Braithwaite. I'm proud of the fact that, whatever you are
to-day, you were once my manmy man in the old clan sense. I want to
see you carry yourself as bravely in your new fight as you did in the
one that's ended. I think of the two this peace fight will be the more
difficult test, especially for men like yourself. I lost caste during
the war, while for you it proved a social opportunity. Now that we're
back at peace, the process is likely to be reversed. The qualities
which gave you high rank in a world at war won't fetch the same market
value. You'll have to fight afreshonly this time it'll be against the
temptation to sink below your own high standards through bitterness. In
a General's uniform you could go anywhere. It was your passport. No one
made enquiries. Once you're demobilized, the world asks for other
credentialscredentials as to your profession, bank-account, friends,
birth. What I'm trying to say is this: there's nothing dishonorable in
your past save your own assumption that it was dishonorable. And I want
to assure you that it isn't my purpose to drag you down. I couldn't.
There's only one man who can do thatyourself. But you can drag
yourself below anything that you were if you go on refusing to play
Braithwaite's face went white beneath its tan. He fell to stroking
his mustache. You take a lot upon yourself. It's the first time that
I've ever been accused of not playing fair.
But I accuse you of it. Tabs spoke with an equal quietness.
To any one watching they would have appeared to be two handsome men of
the soldier type engaged in desultory conversation. I have to accuse
you of it. I want you to glance through this before you answer me.
He drew from his pocket and passed across the letter which Ann had
given him that morningthe letter which, to quote her words, Might
make things seem more sensible-like to your Lordship's friend at the
War Office. It was unaddressed, but as Braithwaite's eye fell on the
sprawling handwriting of the contents, the deep flush which crept
across his face betrayed the fact that it was recognized. He commenced
to read the sheet with a studied carelessness; as he proceeded, the
carelessness gave way to a troubled frown. For some time after he had
finished, he sat motionless. When he looked up, his mood was
contemptuous. So this is your price?
No price was mentioned.
But it was implied. You tell me that, at the time that I was being
accepted, you yourself were hoping to be engaged to Miss Beddow; then
you hand me this letter. What do you suppose I infer? What would any
man infer? That your promise to keep my existence a secret from Ann is
conditional on the breaking of my engagement with Miss Beddow.
Handing you Ann's letter wouldn't do that. Your engagement with
Miss Beddow is already broken.
Braithwaite jerked his chair back and stared. Then the audacity of
such an assertion touched his sense of humor. He fell to laughing.
That at least is an invention.
Tabs showed no resentment. There was something disturbingly
convincing about his self-possession. Didn't I tell you, he asked
patiently, that you'd find it difficult to believe a good many things
before I had ended? I had an appointment to see Miss Beddow at her
father's house this morning at eleven. Before I'd finished breakfast
she was visiting me instead. She had called to make two requests: that
I would see you to-day and get her promise back, and that I'd become
engaged to her myself.
Braithwaite lurched forward, folding his arms on the table. His
voice was thick with passion when he spoke. What you tell me sounds
mad; but you'd gain nothing by telling it if it were not true.
Nothing, Tabs confirmed.
No, nothing. If it weren't true, I could go to the telephone and
disprove your falsehood inside of ten minutes.
Then it is truewhich means that you've ousted me. And that's why
you can afford to be so calm and Christ-like. I've been wondering how
you'd contrived this Galilean display of charity.
You've not heard me out. Tabs still spoke with friendliness.
While we were together your telegram arrived and I agreed to be the
bearer of her message. But as for her second request, that I should
become engaged to her, I refused that point-blank.
You what? The anger cleared from Braithwaite's face, leaving the
chalky mask of a tragic harlequin. When he spoke again it was humbly.
You can't blame me for not believing you. You jump about. You say
several things which seem to point to a definite conclusion and then at
the last moment you change it. I don't know whether you do it to amuse
yourself at my expense or whether it's merely the way your mind works.
At any rate, it's cruelthis cat and mouse game. I wish you'd be
That's what I wish to be. You could help me if you'd ask
Braithwaite sighed, wearied beyond endurance. He was becoming less
like the General and more like the old dependent Braithwaite every
second. You wanted to marry her last night, only to find she'd
promised herself to me already. Then she comes to you this morning,
offering herself, and you refuse her. That doesn't make sense. Why did
you refuse her?
Because if I'd taken her at her word, I shouldn't have been playing
At the recurrence of that phrase playing fair, a momentary
annoyance crept into Braithwaite's eyes. I've always heard, he
commenced, that in love and war
Everything's fair, Tabs ended his quotation. Well, in this case,
it isn't. It was because she realized, after she'd promised herself to
you, that in love everything isn't fair, that she asked me to get her
You mean as regards yourself? She'd begun to feel that she wasn't
treating you handsomely?
I don't mean as regards myself. You were the cause of her change of
I! Braithwaite's bewilderment made him hostile. How could I have
caused her to change her mind? I parted with her after midnight; it
must have been shortly after nine that she was seeing you. I held no
communication with her in any shape or form during the eight or nine
hours that elapsed.
Nevertheless, you were the cause. She realized in the meanwhile
that in love everything isn't fair. It isn't fair to ignore a young
girl's happiness in order to win her hand. You had done that; though
she has no proofs, instinctively she feels it.
Braithwaite shook his head and thrust himself back with the gesture
of a man whose patience is completely at an end. I haven't the vaguest
idea what you're hinting at.
Then I'll be brutally explicit. You've at no time told her who you
were or where you came from before you made a name for yourself. You've
evaded all her questions. You told a palpable falsehood in her presence
when you insisted that you had never known me. You're perfectly aware
that, if you approached her father, all the facts about your past,
which you're suppressing, would most certainly come out. Your courting
has been clandestine, behind the back of her family. It seems perfectly
obvious that you're trying to lure her into a runaway match. She has
grounds for believing that you do not trust her and, because of that,
although you fascinate her, she finds it impossible to trust you in
return. She trusts you so little that she did not dare to risk facing
you and sent me in her stead. She's so sure that a marriage with you
would be unfortunate that, in order to save herself from it, she's
willing to become engaged to me, whom she loves only as a friend.
You'll wonder why I tell you all this. It's because I want her to be
happy. If you really are the man for her, she must have you. But you'll
never have the remotest chance of winning her unless you make a clean
If I did my chances would be at an end.
If you believe that, Tabs sought for the most lenient words, you
know what you're doing. You'd despise to cheat at cards, but you don't
mind cheating the woman whom you profess to love best.And then
I'd rather not discuss Ann. The abrupt pain in Braithwaite's tone
betrayed the grumbling ache of an old wound. I think even you will
grant that there are some things in a man's heart which are privately
sacred. Ann lies entirely outside the bounds of all justifiable
interference on your part.
It took an effort for Tabs to bring himself to break down the
barrier of reticence which this depth of feeling had imposed. I'm
sorry, General, but I can't agree with you. He waited for the expected
protest. When it did not come, he carried on reluctantly, I have a
high regard for Ann. She's one of my household and that makes me
responsible for her to an extent. I can't allow her to be tortured any
longer with suspenseshe's had more than three years of this horrid
nightmare, hovering between hope and dread. Every day of the three
years has been unnecessary. Whether you break or keep your promise to
her is your concern. Whether she takes action against you when she
knows the truth, is hers. But she has the right to know. To see that
she knows comes within the bounds of any decent man's justifiable
interference. One of us must tell her; the news would come with less
grace from myself. But for you to wriggle out of your dilemma with
silence, while she goes on breaking her heart, is cowardlyjust as
cowardly as if you'd deserted in the face of the enemy. I've no doubt
you've sentenced more than one poor wretch to be shot at sunrise for
Tabs pulled out his watch. He had said everything. So far as he was
concerned the conversation was at an end. It was nearly three o'clock.
Time had traveled quickly. He was surprised at the lateness of the
hour. Now that his intentness was relaxed, he let his gaze wander. The
room was nearly empty. Most of the gay little ladies who had chattered
across the tables to their recently recovered lovers or husbands, had
tripped away to continue their spree of celebration at a matinée or in
an orgy of shopping. Those who were left were putting on their wraps or
sipping the last of their coffee under the reproachful eyes of waiters.
Across the window in a brown-gray streak flowed the wind-flecked
highway of the Thames.
Braithwaite beckoned for his bill. After the humiliation of what had
been said it irked Tabs to have to see him pay it. The trend of the
conversation had helped to strip him of the arrogance of his military
honors. The mercenary subserviency of the man who handed him his
account, seemed to arouse him to the landslide that had taken place in
his self-esteem. He made a conscious effort to pull himself together.
While he waited for his change, he broke the silence.
I believe you meant well by coming here. It would be foolish for me
to pretend that I'm altogether gratefulgrateful for your way of
expressing most of the things that we've discussed together. At the
same time, Lord Taborley, I owe you an apology if at any point I've
misjudged your intentions. As regards Ann, you err in justice when you
hold me accountable for all the causes of her tragedy. Both she and I,
and Miss Beddow for the matter of that, are the victims of
circumstances. It's scarcely my fault that I've outgrown Ann; I'm no
more to blame for that than Terry is for having fallen in love with a
man who was your servant. I didn't make the war. I didn't
promote myself from a valet to a General. I didn't even
consciously allure Terry. She fascinates me as much as I fascinate her:
I fought against her fascination at first.But to get back to Ann, I
let her slip out of my life because I wanted to spare her. I thought it
would be easier for her to believe me dead than to be told that she
waswas discarded. I couldn't be expected to foresee that she would
display this awkward loyalty of hoping. I didn't know what had happened
to her. She's a good-looking girl; I'd pictured her as married to a man
of her own class, until you flung this bombshell at me. I'm not
callous. Don't misapprehend me. I can still think of her with
tenderness. But as for ever treating her again as my equalIt would
be as impossible for me to resume the old relations with her as it
would be for your Lordship to commence them. He waited for some word
of criticism or encouragement. When Tabs only nodded non-committally,
he proceeded more slowly. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm fully
aware, now that the war is ended, that as a has-been General who rose
from the ranks, I have no marketable value. I have no specialized
training to offer to a commercial world which calls for experts. The
only knowledge that I have to sell is the old knowledge that you used
to purchase. My house of cards has collapsed. To be unwisely frank, my
financial resources are limited to little more than my war-gratuity.
And yet you're anxious to marry Terry, Tabs suggested; to marry
her without letting her know about any of these handicaps of which she
would have to share the penalty.
Braithwaite's head went up with a soldierly jerk. The bleak look
came into his eyes. He was Steely Jack at that moment. I have the
confidence to believe, he said proudly, that I shall go as far in
peace as I did in war. Never to own that you're beaten, never to squeal
when you're hurt, never to retreat from a position when once it has
been captured must count back here for as much as it did out there. In
France I had the reputation for never losing an inch of trench. I don't
intend to lose an inch of trench now. My back is to the wall. For the
present I can't afford to do anything gratuitously charitable; by the
smallest waste of energy I may defeat myself. To hold any
correspondence with Ann at this moment might mean the slamming in my
own face of every door of opportunity. I'll do my stretcher-bearing
when I've won; not a second before.
Against his will, while he listened, the unscrupulous valor of the
man stirred Tabs to admiration. Only the after-event could prove
whether this verbal display of fireworks was only bombast. And so
that's your ultimatum? he asked with disquieting sanity.
Yes, if that's what you call it.
The waiter had returned with the receipted bill. Braithwaite was
picking up the change. Not looking at Tabs he said, A few minutes ago
you were consulting your watch. I believe you have an engagement.
I have. But if we can arrive at any more definite conclusion by
talking longer, I'll skip it. It's of no importance.
Braithwaite glanced up. Not to you, perhaps; but it may be to her.
With that he commenced to lead the way out, choosing a winding path
through the maze of tables. Not until they were traversing the great
gold and crimson lounge, with its ornate furnishings, did Tabs catch up
with him to ask his question. How did you know about my engagement and
whether it was important or not?
Braithwaite answered carelessly, It's with Maisie, isn't it? I
heard Terry suggest to her that she should make it. She's a nice little
woman. I shouldn't like to be the cause of her disappointment. She was
looking forward The rest was lost as a flunkey requested the
registered number of whatever Tabs had left in the cloak-room.
While they waited for the hat and cane to be produced, Tabs made a
last attempt to persuade the General to commit himself to some promised
course of action. No one would be more pleased to see you succeed than
myself. I'm not trying to hamper you. Neither is Terry; but she insists
that unless things are to terminate between you, she must know the
truth. Frankness with Terry necessitates frankness with Ann. You'll
never succeed, however great your courage, unless you start with your
honor solvent. Ann's beneath you, you saythat's why you've outgrown
her. It's not my business to dispute the fact. I didn't want to
introduce the class view of things; but, by the same showing, you're
beneath Terry. She's young to-day: through a lifetime she might outgrow
you. She's as much your social superior as you claim to be Ann's.
You've discarded Ann on the ground of inequality of rank. In your case
Terry's family have a perfect right to raise the same objection.
Not at all. The answer came like the crack of a whip. Braithwaite
drew himself up with the pride of one who had moved men like pawns
across the checker-board of life and death. The two cases afford no
parallel. Ann and Terry have remained in the social stations to which
they were born, while II stand outside all such ready-made, rule of
thumb classifications. By sheer impetus of personality I have lifted
myself out of the rut, so that not even you, with all your omniscience,
dare prophesy how far I am going or where I shall end.
It was plain that further talk would be useless. I'm afraid I must
be going, Tabs said. I wish you very good luck. I hope we part
friends. And of course you understand that I now consider myself
entirely free to do my utmost to win Terry for myself.
He extended his hand. Braithwaite made no motion to take it. He held
himself erect as if prepared for an affront. His tones were icy when he
spoke. Before I shake hands with you, Lord Taborley, I have to know
what you mean by your utmost. With so many playing-cards out against
me, I don't stand the ghost of a show unlessPerhaps I have no right
to expect it; I never asked quarter from any man. I was going to say,
unless you intend to be gallant
Tabs pocketed his hand and turned to limp into the sunlit thunder of
the Strand. The merciful receive mercy, General. Perhaps we shall
shake hands some other day. How gallant I am depends entirely upon
He emerged into the swollen thoroughfare, where the traffic roared
and jostled like a torrent through a mountain gorge towards the broader
freedom of Trafalgar Square. He turned westward, walking swiftly for
the first hundred yards, rather fearing that he might be followed. Then
he slowed down; swift walking made his limp too painfully obvious.
He was dissatisfied with both himself and Braithwaite. He felt as
though he had gone to meet some one in a wood and had heard only the
muttering of a voice and the rustle of retreating footsteps. If I had
only seen his face, he thought.
In recalling Braithwaite, he found himself picturing two persons, of
both of whom he had had separate and distinct glimpses: the one the
loyal man, who in years gone by had served him faithfully and shared so
many of his adventures; the other the arrogant, red-tabbed superior,
who had stolen his happiness without warning. It was impossible to
resolve the two into one. The first he still regarded with affection.
The secondHe had never allowed himself to hate any one. Hatred he
held to be back of breedinga weak man's subterfuge for acknowledging
self-distrust. Because he had come so near to hating, he accused
himself of censoriousness. If I had only seen his facethe real man
beneath the pretenseI might have understood and helped him, he
[Illustration: Tabs extended his hand. Braithwaite made no motion
to take it.]
And now he was going to a fresh encounter where even more sympathy
would be required. It would be easy to condemn Maisie P. Lockwood. On a
superficial judgment she merited nothing else. Three husbands in four
and a half years, plus a risky flirtation with a married man were not
the credentials of an honorable character. If he followed the advice of
Sir Tobias Beddow, he would seek to assess her price at once. But he
had never been accustomed to regard women in that lightas a sex whose
virtue could be inflated or depressed by the increase or shrinkage of a
balance at the bank. Actually he knew very little about women; riding
as a knight-errant, with the wonder in his eyes of the mystery that
might surprise him round the luck of any corner, he had never given
himself much time to learn. His ideas about women were Tennysonian. He
liked to believe that they were free from temptations, more true in
their emotions, more generous in their affections, more unerring and
unstained than men. He extended to them all the reverent tenderness
with which he regarded his mothers memory. In this he saw nothing
quixotic; to him the most hoydenish girl was a potential mother, whose
body possessed a sacredness quite apart from herself as a slim,
adventurous ark which would bear the future of the race across the
deluge of the ages. He knew, as a matter of fact, that all women were
invariably neither saints nor angels; but he clung to his chivalrous
superstition as a man prays, though he receives no answers to his
prayers. To the recorded cynicism of experimenters in temptation he
flung back the challenge of a sadder cynic, We're all in the gutter;
but some of us are looking at the stars.
So in this matter of Maisie, he argued, she couldn't be as shallow
as her history would indicate. She was Terry's friend; that, in itself,
was a proof of goodness. Terry had been so anxious for him to meet and
comprehend her that she had gone behind his back to prompt the
appointment. Well, he would make a better job of this second interview
than he had of the one that was just ended. He must approach it, at any
rate, without prejudice.
While thinking these thoughts he reached Charing Cross. Already he
was weary with so small an exertion. He halted, debating whether he
should struggle further. Then he became aware of wounded Tommies,
chiefly Overseas troops, Canadians and Australians, who from their
first landing in England had chosen this quarter of a mile as their
happy hunting-ground. They stood propped up against the pavement; they
sat among the pigeons on the parapets of Trafalgar Square. They were
laughing and chaffing, those one-legged, one-armed, derelict crusaders
in their atrocious hospital uniforms. They were thousands of miles from
their one and only woman; but their drawn faces grinned cheerfully and
their jaws were squared in the old, invincible, obstinate determination
never to admit they were down-hearted. The sight of them filled him
with strength. Though he saw them only fugitively through gaps in the
tide of traffic, he felt their companionship. He would always feel
itthe fine, shared courage of men out of sight, who had adventured
for an ideal as his companions.
He crossed the top of Whitehall, passed beneath the Admiralty Arch
and entered the garnished, graveled, tree-bordered spaciousness of the
Mall. His old sense returnedthe confidence which the Mall always gave
to himof Empire and world-wideness. As he strolled along, he noticed
a board which informed the public that, by following a certain path,
one would arrive at the Passport Office. Hidden in the greenness, set
down in the bed of an ornamental lake which had been drained when the
terror of air raids had threatened, he made out a low-built, sprawling
shed. It was like a glimpse of romance. The path which led to its
doorway was the first few hundred yards along the road that ran to Rio,
Fiji and Tibet. One had but to enter and the journey was commenced. The
sight reminded him of something which he had forgotten; that, though
every other delight failed, he still possessed the wideness of the
world. He could sail away. There were islands of the seaStevenson's
Samoa, Conrad's Malay Archipelago. If people proved disappointing,
there were always the painted solitudes which human disillusions had
not withered and could not defile. It was a loophole worth remembering.
Outside Buckingham Palace he made an unpremeditated surrender. A
taxi was prowling along by the curb as slowly as regulations allowed.
He raised his stick automatically as he caught the driver's eye. When
the cab had halted, again he procrastinated with the handle of the door
in his hand.
Where to? the driver enquired for the second time.
To Brompton Square, he ordered uncertainly.
The cab was already moving when he changed his mind. Standing up and
leaning out of the window, No. To Chelsea, he shouted above the
throbbing of the engine. Then drawing out Maisie's crumpled letter, he
read from it the address.
CHAPTER THE FOURTH. THE COMPLICATIONS
Tabs was not very familiar with Chelsea. He had seen it from the
river a score of times, red-walled, umbrageous and old-fashioned. But
of the district itself he knew next to nothing, save that up to the war
it had been the favorite roosting-place of short-haired women and
long-haired men. He wondered whether Maisie's hair was short. He
decided in the negative. To have attracted three husbands in four and a
half years she must be outwardly conventional. An unconventional woman
might persuade one man to marry her, but not three in such rapid
succession. She probably belonged to the apparently harmless,
sympathetic, sisterly, domestic type. And yet she must be something
more than conventional; millions of merely conventional women lacked
the prowess to anchor only one man in all the years of their life,
whereas, judging by the Adair incident, Maisie had not yet completed
her list of husbands. There was an undefined danger in coming into
contact with such a woman, which lent this expedition to Chelsea an
atmosphere of adventure.
Did she know for what purpose he was visiting her? If she did, she
was a bold womana strategist. Her position was strengthened by his
coming to her in the guise of an invited guest. Then he remembered that
he had made a bargain with himself to meet her with a mind unclouded by
He had been traveling mean thoroughfares, when suddenly the cab
swung into an old-world street of dignified respectability and turned
again abruptly into a tiny quadrangle of color-washed, stucco-fronted,
timbered houses. In the center was a lawn, surrounded with white posts
between which black painted chains hung in loops; the apparent
intention was to create the illusion of a village-green. Tabs entered
instantly into the spirit of the gamethe littleness and childishness
of the attempt at quaintness. He liked the bijou privacy of the Court,
its greenness and tidiness, and the absurdity of the narrow windows
which glinted at him like spectacles. But there was something that he
The driver had climbed down and was opening the door. Mulberry Tree
Court, mister. I forget which number you told me; but there ain't so
much of it that you're likely to lose yourself.
But where's the mulberry tree? Tabs asked. There was in his voice
the discontent of a disappointed child.
There never was no mulberry tree, the man replied in all
Well, if there isn't a mulberry tree, Tabs laughed, I suppose we
must make shift to do without it.
The man frowned and justified himself grumblingly. It ain't my
bloomin' fault. I've done nothin' with yer bloomin' tree.
I suppose not, said Tabs as if the matter were still in doubt.
Feeling in his pocket he paid what was owing and watched the cab
move off. Even at this last moment he was half-minded to retreat. What
business was it of his to interfere in another man's love-affair? He
looked stealthily round the Court to see if eyes were watching. All the
windows were empty; nothing stirred. The fact that he was not watched
reassured him. He glanced at the number on the nearest door, discovered
in which direction the numbers ran and decided that his must be the
house conspicuous for its marigold-tinted curtains, standing retiringly
in the farthest corner.
Once again he hesitated. Should he or should he not? The old
nursery-rhyme came wandering into his head with its innocent lilt of
Here we go round the mulberry-bush,
The mulberry-bush, the mulberry-bush;
Here we go round the mulberry-bush,
So early in the morning.
And so we do, he murmured. Let's take a chance.
The dooran apple-green doorwas opened by a maid as trim as Ann.
Was Mrs. Lockwood in? She would enquire. And your name, please,
sir?Lord Taborley! Certainly.
She left him waiting in the hall, while she went to make her
fictional enquiries. He was as sure that they were fictional as if he
had glanced into the room upstairs where Maisie was making a last
anxious inspection before her mirror. So the pretense was to be that he
had called casually and had scarcely been expected.
He tried to learn something of Maisie from the appearance of her
hall. It was speckless. Everything in it shone with intense cleanliness
and polish. He had noticed the same gleam about the windows, brasses
and very doorstep before he had entered. He had noticed it again about
the maid who had admitted him. It sent Maisie up very much in his
estimation. It almost explained to him how she had managed to get three
husbands. Men never know why they fall in love with a woman; more often
than not they mistake tidiness for beauty. If you can't be beautiful,
be clean, Maisie's hall seemed to say; if you can be both, you're
invincible. Maisie was invincible, as her conquests proved. This first
glimpse of her belongings showed that she loved cleanliness. By a jump
in his logic Tabs began to suspect that she must be beautiful.
He had pursued his observations thus far, when he heard a door
discreetly closed overhead and the starchy rustling of the maid
If your Lordship will step into the drawing-room, Madam will be
down in a moment.
He found himself in a long artistic room, feminine to a degree,
exquisitely restful and yet broad-minded with signs of selection and
travel. It was furnished according to no particular period. There was
an Italian chest of drawers inlaid with ivory, a Dutch marquetry
secrétaire, some Louis XVIth chairs, a mirror of old Venetian glass,
bronzes, snuff-boxes, specimens of china, odd bits of beaten silver,
knick-knacks of all sorts, lying scattered about with apparent
carelessness. A fire was burning in the grate. Tea was set out on a
table beside a companionable couch. Through French windows the smallest
of gardens shone bravely, a-blow with bulb flowers planted in crevices
of a rockery, at the foot of which lay an oval pond and a silent
fountain. As though to emphasize the game of littleness, a toy-boat
floated on the pond's surface.
Not the woman I had imagined, was his unspoken thought; not the
wily adventuress! But if she's not, then what
In an attempt to satisfy his curiosity, he commenced to inspect the
room in detail. The first thing he discovered was that all the silver
frames, which stood about, contained photographs of the same man. It
struck him as an odd exhibition of faithfulness on the part of a woman
who had had so many husbands. He counted the photographs; there were no
less than five of them, recording the same face from varying angles.
Which of them, is he, he asked himself, Pollock, Gervis, or
Lockwood? But he mayn't be any of them. Perhaps he's a possible
fourththe latest. If so, here's hoping, for he shuts out Adair.
He turned towards the couch, intending to sit down. As he turned,
his gaze encountered an oil-painting hanging above the mantelpiece.
By George! How did I manage to miss that?
He stared at it with intense interestalmost with a sense of shock.
Somewherehe could not determine wherehe had seen that face before.
The picture was a half-length portrait of a woman. There was
something extraordinarily queenly and at the same time patient in her
attitude. Her hands, which were out of sight, seemed to be folded. She
was seated, leaning forward; her head was turned towards the right, so
that her face appeared in profile. She was in extremely low
evening-dress of an aquamarine shade, flowered with gold. Her shoulders
were sickle-shaped and gleamed like the half-crescent of a young moon.
From her throat, which was full and white, hung a splendid string of
tan-colored pearls. But it was the slope of her jaw, the way her ears
set back, and the rounded strength of her head that gave to her that
peculiarly alert beauty. Her dark hair was drawn from off her forehead,
making clear in her features an expression of calm challenge. She was a
woman who had lived and not always happily. Her calmness was the quiet
of almost painful self-control. And her ageWith her atmosphere of
experience, it was certainly over thirty. She was not the woman to put
back the hands of time for any man.
It can't be of Maisie, he thought, and yet he hoped. But it can't
be of her, he insisted. This woman is remote and uncapturable. She's
done with passion. She's tasted life to the full and the taste was
bitter. She has nothing left but her unquenchable pride, with which she
tortures herself: her pride not to submit, not to cry out, to stand
always at bay. That's all she has, unless And then, speaking aloud
in his effort to remember, I know her. I'm positive. And yet
The door behind him opened. This is nice of you, Lord
Taborley.Ah, you were looking at Di! Most men do that when they visit
me. I ought to be jealous. But a word of warning; looking is as far as
any of them get.
Tabs found himself shaking hands with a woman who shared the
features of the woman in the portrait, but who differed from her in
that she was fair, lacked her alluring remoteness and had much more of
youth to her credit. Whereas the woman in the portrait looked
uncapturable, Maisie's charm lay in her accessibilitythe genial
promise she held out of being willing and even eager to surrender. Her
every tone and gesture proclaimed her anxiety to find this world a
pleasant placeher determination to make it pleasant and to be gay
under every circumstance.
She was as little, flawless and gleaming as her house. More than
half her good looks were due to the immaculate care which she bestowed
on her bodythe whiteness of her teeth, the fineness of her well-kept
hands, the brilliant clearness of her complexion, the wavy smoothness
of her abundant flaxen hair which had been brushed and brushed until it
shone and glinted like raw gold in sunshine. She would have looked
almost too perfect to be genuine, had it not been for her vivid health.
She was so dainty in her fragility that one longed and yet scarcely
dared to touch her.
The moment she had spoken Tabs had recognized that nothing that she
had done or might do could obscure her atmosphere of breeding. He had
met men like that, whose sense of race, even when they were at the
lowest depths, had kept them superior to their environment. A pale
woman of spun silk and gossamer, with cornflower eyes and lips like
parted poppy-petals! This woman could be kind to the point of follyso
kind that her folly would appear almost virtue. She was a woman who,
though she might love too often, would love so much that to her much
would always be forgiven.
I must apologize, Tabs spoke gently, for having been found
staring at your picture.
He did not know it, but men always spoke gently to Maisie. It was
her air of trust and helplessness that did it, her tender trick of
creating in each man the belief that she relied peculiarly on him for
protectionall of which was totally at variance with the masterly
efficiency with which she ran both herself and her house.
I was staring at your picture, Tabs continued, because I thought
I daresay you did, Maisie interrupted. Though you may not have
met her, her face is forever in the papers. Among the family she's
known as the Princess Czarina Bolsheviki
She looks it. But is she a princess?
Maisie laughed. Not yet, but it won't be her fault if she isn't.
It'll have to be a prince next time. If she marries again, she'll stoop
to nothing less. Look at the way she carries her head; she almost feels
the weight of her coronet already. But she says she's had enough of
marriage. We've all said that. Poor dear Di, she misses a lot of fun by
her exclusiveness. If I only had half her wealth
She evidently wanted Tabs to ask her what she would do with it. Her
eyes grew round with spendthrift promises of jolliness, if ever such
wealth should come within reach of her tiny, managing hands. She looked
as mischievously covetous as a magpie while she waited for him to put
the obvious question.
But Tabs wasn't interested in the obvious. He stuck to his enquiry.
What you've told me doesn't help me to recall her, he said. Who is
she? It's most annoying to recognize a face and not to be able to place
it against any background.
Maisie pretended to pout. You're like all the rest of them; you
come to see me and do nothing but talk of her. I'd have hidden her in
the attic long ago, only she's by Sargent. She's too beautiful for
hiding, and then no one can afford to hide her Sargent under a bushel
in these hard times.
And still you've not told me, Tabs reproached her.
Wouldn't we be more comfortable sitting down? Maisie slid between
the couch and the tea-table, making herself comfortable against a pile
of cushions. When Tabs looked round for a seat, he discovered the
strategy of the arrangement of the furniture. The nearest available
chair to Maisie was at least four yards away; to have selected it would
have been to have isolated himself. He would have had to have hailed
her ridiculously across the room's breadth. It was plainly intended
that he should challenge fate and share the couch, just as Pollock,
Gervis, Lockwood, Adair and so many others had done before him.
All this friendliness would make it a little difficult for him
presently when he broached the subject of Adair. He had an uneasy
feeling that Sir Tobias wouldn't approve of this way of conducting his
mission. It was one thing to fly the white flag of truce while you
parleyed with the enemy; it was quite another to share the same couch
with her in a cozy room, where there were only the two of you and the
jumping flames of the fire in the grate made the silver on the small
round table glow red. When they weren't talking there was no sound.
None of the clamor of London reached them. They might have been in a
cave, far removed from everything that disturbed. And, indeed, the
little piled-up rockery outside the windows, with the spring flowers
blowing and the baby lake, with the toy-boat drifting on its quiet
surface, rather created the illusion that this was a cave.
A restful lethargy of kindness was creeping over him. He didn't want
to be at enmity with anybody, least of all with this dainty sprite of a
woman with the cornflower eyes and the flaxen hair. He no longer
wondered that three men in succession, weary of the mud of fighting,
had come to her for rest. He could even comprehend Adair's treachery,
if it had gone so far as treachery. Adair had found his wife
fretfulshe had always been crying and hanging round his neck. Here he
had found companionship, secret laughter and forgetfulness. The world
owed any woman a large debt of liberty who could give men that. Maisie
was the kind of woman who could bury twenty husbands and go out next
morning to meet the twenty-first. What was far more amazing, she could
do it without frivolity or loss of self-respect. She lived a day at a
time. She made you feel, the moment you met her, that that was the only
tolerable way of living. The excuse for her philosophy was its success.
She was an expert in happinessso expert that she could communicate
her secret without waste of words. Probably for most men words were not
necessary; for them their happiness was herself.
From her end of the couch Maisie smiled at Tabs dreamily. You're
persistent when you want anything. I suppose you always get your
The little things, yes, he replied. But the big thingsthey
You mean Terry.
She said it without change of tone or expression, with the same
happy smile curling up the corners of her uncruel mouth. It was
disconcerting to have his private humiliations referred to so frankly,
as though they were fitting subjects for casual conversation. But,
after all, he reminded himself, his business there was to discuss her
equally private affairs. He was hardly in a position to resent anything
she might say. It was a duel, and she had drawn first blood. He was
quick to see that her purpose in introducing Terry was to gain an
advantage while she postponed the inevitable discussion of Adair.
She didn't give him a chance to reply. I know all about you and
Terry, she continued, and about Braithwaite, too, for the matter of
that. Perhaps why Terry evades you is because she isn't one of your
really big things. You may have mistaken her for a big thing. If she is
one of your truly big things, you'll get her. You're one of the few men
who get all that they desire.
It was possible that she was trying to flatter him; nevertheless,
against his will, the certainty of her way of talking impressed him.
What makes you think that I get everything that I desire?
She laughed and snuggled closer into the cushions. I can't put it
into words. I just know by looking at you. You have the air.
Then what makes you say that Terry may not be one of my big
She glanced up at him amused. I almost made you angry when I said
that.Do you really want to know? I said it because I don't think that
she is one of your big things and, what's more, you don't think that
she is either. Now I have made you angryBut you don'tnot
the sane you, who was and is and will be to-morrowthe you who'll
outlive this disappointment.
He was at one and the same time intrigued and offended by the turn
the conversation had taken. His memory groped back to the first
conception he had had of this womanthe woman who tricked married men,
who used scented note-paper, who interpreted thoughts before they were
uttered and forestalled actions before they had been plannedthe woman
whom he had been instructed to buy off with a price. What was he doing
discussing his love-affair with such as her?
His voice was chilling when he spoke. It's very good of you to take
such an interest in me. I ought to be gratified that you should think
you know so much about me, and after so short an acquaintanceso very
much more than I know about myself.
But I don't think; I do know far more at this moment than you know
about yourself. Her tones were calm and lazy, unembarrassed and
pleasant. The red glow of the fire glinting on the silver tea-service
seemed the reflection of her cheerfulness.
If you're so certain that you know, you might tell me, he said
I knowDo you mind if I smoke? She leant forward while he held
a match to her cigarette. I know that you're an intensely lonely man.
All men have to be lonely till they're thirty if they're going to get
anywhere. They have no time to spare. You've had no time to spare for
womenthat's why you don't understand them. Women were for you a treat
in store, until the war broke. Then suddenly you discovered that you
had missed the most precious thing in life. You hadn't the time to be
wise in your choice, so you turned to some one young and accessible.
Her youth seemed to symbolize all that you coveted at the moment; it
symbolized going on forever. You weren't really in love with her as an
individual; you were in love with the thought of love and youth. You
won't believe it, but almost any young girl who was beautiful and
willing would have served your purpose. During the terrible years
you've clothed her with your own idealism. You've told yourself that it
was for her that you were fighting. You've created in your heart a
person she never was and hasn't it in her to become. You've thought of
her as a second you, with your sense of honor, your
passion for unselfishness, your patience and experience gained
through suffering. The ideal you've set up for her is contradictory and
impossible. Youth isn't considerate, experienced, unselfish, patient.
For those qualities you have to go to the middle years. I know what I'm
talking about, for I've had three soldier husbands. She said it
without self-reproach or self-gloryas though it were the sort of
thing that might happen to any woman. You've been finding out the kind
of girl she really is since your returnthe kind of girl who prefers
General Braithwaite to yourself and can't discriminate between the
temporary and the permanent. You're disappointed in her. You've
discovered already that she isn't the woman you thought you were
loving. You're now only pretending that you still care for her because
life would be too empty without your dream and because the right woman,
for whom you've already renewed your search, hasn't yet turned up.
Somewhere inside you at this moment your sane self is endorsing every
word that I'm saying as true.
That's not so. His contradiction was spoken fiercely.
But it is so, the sweet voice persisted. You yourself have
tacitly owned it.
There was the sharpness of alarm in his way of asking. Her assurance
had startled him out of his brief anger.
She laughed softly. I think we might have tea; it'll restore our
serenity. There's nothing like employing your hands when you want to
keep from losing your temper. A woman learns that, even when she's only
been married once. When she's been married three times, the cornflower
eyes became suddenly innocent, she knows everything.Will you touch
the bell? It'll save me getting up.How, you ask. How do I know that
you've already renewed your searching? To a man who's as head over
heels in love as you profess to be all women, except the one woman,
however beautiful, ought to be hanks of hair and bags of bones. I read
your thoughts when I caught you gazing at my sister's portrait. You
were saying to yourself, 'What if she's the woman!' And you're even
sufficiently detached in your affections to acknowledge attraction in a
horrid little pestering, too-much-married person like myself.
It was lucky that the maid selected that moment for answering the
bell. Things were getting uncomfortably personal. Tabs had the idea
that Maisie had been talking against time till she should hear the
footsteps of her reënforcements. As the maid entered, she turned
towards her with the brightness of relief.
That's splendid of you, Porter. You guessed what we wanted.Porter
always guesses what I want, Lord Taborley; she's my second self. And
Porter can tell your fortune from the cardscan't you, Porter? Only
she never reads the cards on a Sunday; she says it brings bad luck. If
you come here often, you must try her.You might take that dish from
her.Thanks awfully. There's room for it here on this corner of the
Tabs smiled inwardly while he did his awkward best to make himself
useful. He might know very little about women, but he knew intuitively
quite a lot about this particular woman. He knew that Porter had
guessed nothing, because nothing had been left to chance. He knew it as
surely as he had known what Maisie had been doing in front of her
mirror while he had been kept waiting. He knew that long before his
arrival every detail of his reception had been prepared and planned,
and that Porter had been instructed. The whole morning had been spent
in dusting, sweeping, polishing and making ready the various dishes of
dainty cakes and neatly-cut sandwiches which were being spread before
him. He was certain that the kindly patronage of Maisie's way of
addressing Porter was another part of the conspiracy.
Curiously enough it was Porter who made him like and trust her more
than he had done as yet. Porter's eyes, when they rested on her
mistress, embraced her with a slavish worship; when they rested on him,
they warned and dared him. He had the feeling that the man who made
Maisie cry was likely to feel a knife in his back. Maisie must be good
to be able to call forth such fanatical loyalty from a humble woman. He
began to be infected by this atmosphere of idolatry. And yet
What was Maisie's object in belittling his love for Terry? What did
she hope to gain by it? He hardly dared allow himself to suspect;
thinking in her presence was like speaking aloud. She heard unspoken
words as plainly as those that were uttered. But the suspicion would
not be suppressed. Had she formed the audacious plan of winning him for
herself? And this despite her three previous marriages, despite her
knowledge of why he had visited her, despite his knowledge of Adair!
Quick as a flash her eyes turned on him with a scarcely perceptible
shake of her head. The door clicked discreetly as Porter left them. It
was like clearing a ring for the second round. The dangerous intimacy,
half tender, half inimical, returned.
There's no harm in being pleasant, her voice was musical and
pleading, however unpleasant the circumstances which have thrown us
together. Taking tea with me doesn't set up any social obligation. You
won't have to know me again or anything like that. Now that we
understand each otherHow do you like your tea? Is it two lumps?
With the tongs poised ready to pounce, she waited for him to tell
her. But he didn't tell her; he smiled inscrutably. He wasn't sure at
what he was smiling. Perhaps it was that he was happyhappy in a
worldly-wise fashion that he had never been with Terry. He could say
anything to this woman and it wouldn't shock herthere was comfort in
But she had scared up a doubt in his mind that he might have
mistaken his kingdom. Perhaps the recovery of youth wasn't everything.
There were things very precious in themselves, which were well lost
under certain circumstances. Maisie's youth, for instance. She was far
more enchanting now than she could ever have been as a girl. In losing
her youth she had gained in sympathy; it was that that made her
understand him so well. In a wife you wanted more than youththe
knowledge of a companion. It began to dawn on him that there might be
truth in what she had said. Perhaps once again she had known him better
than he knew himself. He had been with her less than an hour. He didn't
completely trust her, and yet here was this astounding fact: by reason
of her experience there were things he could say to her that he would
never dream of saying to the girl whom he believed he loved best. And
Adair, he, too
You hadn't expected that things would be like this, she was
saying, just you and I, sitting like old friends and drinking tea
together. You'd nerved yourself up for a vulgar row. I knowWell,
since you won't tell me how many lumps, I'll give you two.
As he bent forward to receive the cup, their hands touched. The
contact was electric. A rush of excited vitality seemed to pour into
his body from hers. The touch was only for a second, but it left him
startled and stark of pretenses. When he sought her eyes, they were
calm as ever. You're a most bewildering womanthe most bewildering I
ever met, he confessed.
Except my sister, she corrected.
He glanced up at the portrait and back to her, comparing the
features. Yes, I see it now. She is your sister. I ought to have
guessed. But I haven't met her; so I don't except her.
Maisie busied herself with passing the dishes. She had a way of
making everything appear conventional by the unruffled quiet with which
she accepted it. At the back of her mind she seemed to be smiling at
the domestic scene she had achieved with this man, who should have been
No, you haven't met her, she assented. But until you've met her,
you won't rest; and after you've met her, you won't rest either.And
so you think I'm bewildering! You thought something else, which you
didn't have the courage to put into words. Bewildering and
dangerousthe most dangerous woman you'd ever metthat was what you
He smiled with a shade of embarrassment. I might have called you
the most disconcerting woman; you're all of that. No man of sense, who
valued his peace of mind, would tell any woman she was dangerous.
I don't see why. Why shouldn't he? Do tell me. I shan't be
offended. She leant forward, absorbing him with her childish eyes, her
lips parted with expectancy.
Because Tabs checked himself while he studied the tantalizing
innocence of her expression. He felt certain that he was going to say
something irresistibly unwise. To gain time he looked away and
commenced aimlessly stirring his cup. Well, if you must have it,
because to tell a woman that would be to tempt her to be dangerous.
But I love to be tempted, she said eagerly; temptation is the
yeast of life. And then in a whisper, speaking less to him than to
herself, A woman knows that she's old when temptation ends.
Like ripples from a stone flung into water the poignancy of what she
had implied rather than uttered, spread away with a commotion which
grew ever fainter. They sat without change of posture at either end of
the couch, she bending towards him, he gazing down into his cup as
though by staring into it he could retain his grip on the conventions.
There was no sound, save the rustling of live coals in the grate.
Outside the window the toy boat floated, a symbol of men's and women's
ineffectual childishness, always dreaming of adventures on which they
never set sail. Tabs pondered the hidden profundity of her words. At
last he believed that through her he understood himself. It wasn't
youth that he or anybody coveted; it was the more supreme boon of not
growing old. He had just arrived at this new self-knowledge when she
To be tempted means that one's wantedwanted dreadfully, so that
it hurts. That's livingto be wanted. Not to be wanted is worse than
death. When you're dead, you're forgotten and you forget. To be
forgotten and to remember is the end of all things. Not to be wanted
when you're alive is to beat your flesh against the walls of a tomb.
Lord Taborley, I know what you came for. He had set down his cup. She
covered his bronzed hands with her own passionate white ones,
overwhelming him with a rush of words. You came to accuse me, to bribe
me, to buy me. You didn't want to hear me; I was already condemned. Do
you think I don't know what's said about my marriages? I know too well.
But it isn't vanity that makes me want to be loved. It's so right to be
loved. It isn't wickedness. It's the terror of not being lovedthe
same terror that makes you cling to Terry though she doesn't want you
in returnWe all want to believe that we're wanted. It's human.
Without that life's a blank. One can't face upAnd I
She tore her hands from him and buried her face, sobbing in the
He had done it. By some unaccountable blunder he had made her cry.
What was it he had said? Only a minute ago she had been so radiant and
smiling. His first thought was of Porter; she must not know. This
crying must be stopped before she heard it. Any moment she might enter.
Even now she might be listening at the door, preparing to enter.
Another conjecture rushed into his mindthis sobbing might be part
of a prearranged plan. Tears are the jiu-jitsu of woman's art of
self-defense. To the world at large the man is always a villain who has
caused them. But I didn't cause them, he protested to himself. And
then, Dash it all! There's nothing gained by sitting here. I've got to
He roused himself and limped round the table to the end of the couch
against which her face was hidden. He could see nothing but the pale
gold of her hair, the ivory whiteness of her neck and the pitiful
heaving of her fascinating shoulders. She looked extraordinarily like a
dolla broken doll which had been allowed to fall through some one's
Confound it! What a brute I am! he muttered. What the dickens
does one do with a woman in hysterics?
He laid his hand very timidly on her silky hair. He had had no idea
that it was so silky. Cheer up! he said softly. And then again, I do
wish you'd cheer up.
She took not the slightest notice, save that a small white hand
scuttled out like a mouse from beneath the cushions and commenced a
hurried search. He watched it and formed a hasty guess. It couldn't
find the thing for which it had been sent, so he dropped his own large
handkerchief in its path, saw it take possession of it and dive again
beneath the cushions. It made no difference to the sobbing.
What ought he to do? He couldn't endure the soundit wrenched him.
He bent over her, trying to turn her obstinately hidden face in his
Maisie! The word had slipped out. It didn't matter. It mattered so
little that he repeated the indiscretion. Maisie, you mustn't break
your heart like that. No one thinks ill of you and you are wanted.
You're wanted most awfully. Heaps of people want you.
The shoulders ceased to heave for a fraction of a second, but her
face still refused to turn. Who-oowho wants me? Her voice reached
him choked with tears and muffled.
Tabs frowned. The question was a poser. Who did want her? He was
blessed if he knew. There must be people who wanted herAdair, for
instance. But the mention of Adair would provide her with a reason for
a new outburst. There was only one thing to say under the
circumstances, so he said it. I do.
She lay so still that she might have been dead. It was frightening,
this sudden silence after such a storm of emotion. It was so
frightening that he had to say something more to prove to himself that
she could hear. You're beautiful. You're so gay when you're not
crying. I don't think any man could prevent himself from wanting you.
And then desperately, in a last effort, You're most tremendously
Her face never stirred from the cushions, but he was aware that
surreptitiously his borrowed handkerchief was being employed
He had just time to compose his features before a tear-wet eye
blinked up at him. It was an eye eloquent with gratitude and babyishly
blue. You're a dear, a small voice whispered.
He had been called many things from time to time, but never before
a dear. To be called a dear by a beautiful woman was an entirely
new sensation for him. It made him distinctly uncomfortablealmost
ashamed. A gift of this sort, even though it hasn't been desired, puts
the recipient under an obligation. When once a woman has dubbed a man
a dear, she expects him to live up to the part she has assigned him.
Tabs hoped that she hadn't been as sincere as she had sounded.
Taking himself off to the nearest French window, he stood staring
out moroselystaring out at the silly little rockery, with the silly
little pond at the foot of it, containing the silly little boat that
never sailed anywhere. He was cross with himself and even more cross
with her. Why couldn't she have behaved sensibly, instead of bursting
like a rain-cloud without warning? She made mysteries out of
everything, out of himself, Terry and even her sister's portrait. She
never gave him a complete answer to any question. She surrounded
herself with the atmosphere of a detective novel. He was half-minded to
rush into the hall and make good his escape before she involved him
further. Sir Tobias could come and conduct his own unpleasantness. How
on earth was he going to tackle her concerning Adair now that she had
called him a dear?
But beneath his irritation and always struggling to surmount it was
a quite different emotionan emotion of tenderness. He kept seeing her
as she had lain there sobbing, so fragile and dispossessed and broken.
It was the whiteness of her neck that he remembered, the narrowness of
her shoulders and the silkiness of her pale gold hair.
He had been standing at the window for perhaps five minutes when her
voice reached him from a great distance. Thanks muchly for the hanky.
I'm better now.
I'm glad, he said with his back towards her, once again on his
As he turned slowly, she greeted him with a smile of welcome and
nodded towards her sister's portrait. She wouldn't have cried, you
He had to say something; that seemed as good as anything. He made no
attempt to approach her, but stood at bay against the window just where
he had turned. He had arrived at one fixed determination; whatever
happened, he would not again be entrapped into sharing the couch with
In answer to his unenthusiastic enquiry, Maisie shook her head
vigorously like a little girl. No, Di wouldn't. She never cries. Even
when we were children we couldn't make her.
It flashed on Tabs that this conversation about the unknown woman
was intended as a kind of peace-offering. Not to be ungracious, he
roused himself to a show of interest. Couldn't make her! Surely you
weren't so cruel as to try?
Here's your hanky, she said, tossing the moist, scrunched ball
across to him. Cruel! We didn't mean to be cruel. I suppose we were.
She used to ask us to try. There was a game we played; we called it
Christian Martyrs. She was always the martyr; she liked it. All she
ever did when we hurt her was to say, 'Do it harder; I can bear more
than that.' She was as proud then as she is to-day of all that she
could bear. I think that's what made her husband furious. She seemed
always to be saying to him, 'Do it harder,' and he certainly did. But
neither he nor any one else has ever succeeded in making her cry.
Tabs glanced at the aloof beauty of the painted faceit was like
the face of a Roman Empress, so proudly secure in its serenity. Make
her cry! Why should any one want to make her cry? To do that would be a
kind of blasphemy.
That's why, Maisie clasped her hands eagerly. You've said it for
me exactly. I've never known how to put it. It's the holiness of God
that tempts men to revile Him. He evades them, outlasts them and yet
compels their affection. They have no power over Him and can't destroy
Him, though they can destroy everything else in the world. What a man
loves and has no power over, he longs to destroy; either that, or to
drag it down to his own level, so that he can get his arms round it and
comfort its weakness and hug it to his breast. It was that way with Di
and her husband. He couldn't drag her down. He couldn't find her
weakness. She was always up there. So he reviled her.
A silence fell between them. They stared at each other across the
room's breadth, finding each in the other something at the same time
intimate and incomprehensible; each feeling that they stood on the
verge of a discovery. It was Tabs who spoke.
Was! Then he's dead?
She barely nodded. Killed at the Somme, poor fellow. He must have
hated her to the end. In everything else he was large and splendid.
And his name?
Again Tabs was striving to remember where he had seen the unknown
woman's face. He had seen itof that he was certain. He had the
sense that the circumstances under which he had seen it had been
tragic. If he could only make Maisie reveal the name, he might recall.
His name was Lord Dawn. Seeing the instant puckering of his brows,
she asked quickly, You knew him?
Knew him! Tabs pondered the question. I'm not sure. But Lady
DawnI've heard a good deal about her. She had a nursing unit in
France, didn't she? Of course she had; you and Terry were with her. It
was in her hospital that Terry met Braithwaite. She passed me
yesterday, driving with the Queen in the Park; not that I noticed her.
It was Terry who did that. He came slowly over from the window to the
fireplace and stood gazing level with the picture above the
mantelpiece. He spoke wonderingly, The most beautiful woman in
England, they say! So this is Lady Dawn!
When he had finished his inspection, his interest and absorption
were so great that he did what he had vowed he would never do againhe
sat down for a second time on the couch beside her.
There's something wrong, he said quietly. Either you're
misinformed or I'm mistaken. Let's get things straight.
She made no attempt to conceal her amusement. She attributed his
seriousness to sudden infatuationan infatuation which made him seem
ridiculously inconstant after his recent professions concerning Terry.
Something wrong! she echoed mockingly. If you think that I've
exaggerated anything that I've told you about She glanced up at
the portrait. I don't think I'm likely to be misinformed. After all,
I didn't mean that, he interrupted impatiently. I was referring
to Lord Dawn. If he's the same man, I think both you and she have
Maisie laughed. Lord Dawn was sufficiently definite. I'm not
misjudging him. He left no room for misjudgment.
But you said that he had died hating her.
He did, as far as we know. He gave no sign to the contrary.
But does she, Lady Dawn, think that?
Think that he hated her?
No, that he died hating her?
Maisie picked up a cigarette from the table and looked to Tabs for a
match. She was getting bored. Why, certainly. One doesn't want to be
cynical, but all the deaths on the casualty-lists weren't total losses.
Some of them were releases. They weren't allwell, to put it mildly,
occasions for wearing the deepest mourning. There were English wives to
whom German shells were mercifulmore merciful than English law. If
they took lives, there were cases in which they restored freedom.
As Tabs struck a match and held it to her cigarette, his hand
trembled. He had to steady his passion before he asked his question.
And you think that she, Lady Dawn, was one of these?
Maisie blew out a lazy puff of smoke. Everybody thinks so. Then
she added pointedly, Everybody who knows her and has a right to an
Tabs refused to be put off. There was a polite forbearance in his
tone when he spoke. The first thing to do is to make sure that my Dawn
was the same as yours. Mine was known to us by no title; he was a
Captain in the same battalion as myself. He was killed in front of
Pozières.Ah, I see by the way you start, that so was yours! But
here's where the difference comes in; mine loved his wife, if she was
his wife, more dearly than any man I have known. His devotion was the
talk of the regiment.
She flipped the ash off her cigarette. Then that puts him out of
the running, doesn't it?
It was the studied carelessness of her gesture that released the
trigger of his indignation and made it leap out beyond control. There
was in his mind the vision of those blood-baths of the Somme, where men
had drowned in the putrescence and been flattened by shells like flies
against a wall. They hadn't all been good before they had reached their
ordeal. They had come, as most men come, from every kind of
prison-house of lust and human error. But they'd been good when they
had died. They'd been reborn into valor and tenderness. And now, to
hear their imperfections discussed in this pleasant room, so entirely
feminine, where everything was safe and warm! Their imperfections were
so small as compared with their sacrifice. Modern-day Christs, that's
what they were! Christs by the thousands, who had found no Josephs of
Arimathea to hide their defilement in garden-sepulchres. There they lay
at this moment in the wilderness of corruption where they had fallen,
while living people between puffs of cigarettes, undertook to explain
why they should not be regretted.
Puts him out of the running! It doesn't.
He leapt to his feet and commenced to drag himself up and down the
room, limping backwards and forwards, while she pressed lazily against
the cushions at a loss to account for his excitement.
It doesn't, he repeated, pausing opposite to her. He's still in
the running. The Dawn whom I knew was a very silent man. He was a man
with a sorrow. It made him careless. He was in the war to die. We all
knew it. The men adored him because of it. He was the finest officer in
the finest of battalions.
He became aware that he was frightening her and sank his voice. The
lowered tone only made what he said the more dreadfully impressive.
There was something funny about him. He all but whispered it.
Something funny that we couldn't understand. We couldn't understand
why he should want so much to die. The reason why we couldn't
understand was a woman's photograph.
She looked up at him timidly. Yes!
Wherever he went he carried it. When he went into an attack, he
carried it next his heart. In billets he slept with it beneath his
pillow. He pinned it against the walls of dug-outs. That was where I
saw it. I remember now. It was smeared with the mud of a hundred
trenchesBoche trenches as well as ours. It looked down on curious
sights, did that woman's printed face in the photo. He laughed
harshly. Sights that those of us who were there will spend the rest of
our lives in an effort to forget. And here you and I sit and
talkWell, as I was saying, we couldn't fathom why he should be so
keen on death when there was that woman in the world for whom he
caredfor whom he cared right up to the last. It was at the Somme, in
the attack on Pozières, that he went west. He was in command of a
company that got cut off. When we found him, he had that bit of
cardboard so tightly clasped that we couldn't take it from him.
He paused, suddenly exhausted. His indignation had burnt itself out.
I'm tired, he apologized. I'm afraid I let myself get out of hand. I
scared you for a moment. I'm sorry. Do you mind if I sit down?
She pushed the table back to make it easier for him to take a place
beside her. It's all right, she consoled him. I know that you're
only just out of hospital. Terry told me. You're not really recovered
yet. Besides, it was my fault; I spoke lightly. I wasn't thinking what
I said. But I don't feel lightly about these things. I couldn't. Then
she said something which struck him oddly. You know my man's out
What did she mean by her man? If she had said her men,
he could have comprehended. She had lost three husbands in the war. But
why did she particularize and say, My man? It seemed cruel to the
rest. And which of the three was it that she regarded as so peculiarly
He jerked his thoughts back. There was something you told me about
Lord Dawn; you said it explained him. How did it go? I think you said
that he hated his wife as men hate God, because they love Him so much
and yet He won't come down. Well, out there it wasn't like that. Dawn
climbed up to her; yes, and perhaps beyond her. Out there he didn't
need to pretend to hate her; he could afford to love her without loss
of self-respect. I suppose he thought it was too late to tell her after
all that had gone before.
Either that, Maisie assented, or elseIt would be like him. Or
else because he was too much of a sportsman. As it was, if he were
killed, she wouldn't need to be sorry. But if he wrote her that he
loved her and had always loved her, and then got killedDon't you
see, that's where her remorse would start?
Tabs nodded. And yet she was his last thought. She ought to know
it. It's monstrous that she should go on believing He broke off.
And then, She must be told. It's merest justicewhatever it costs.
The light had been failing while they had talked. A tap fell on the
door. Coming at that moment when their nerves were jangled, it sounded
ominous. Their heads turned sharply. Maisie's voice was unsteady when
she asked, What is it? What do you want?
It's Porter, Madam. Dinner is served.
Oh, come in, Porter. Have you laid a place for Lord Taborley?
As the maid entered, Tabs rose. I had no ideaWhy, I've been
here for hours. I really must apologize, Mrs. Lockwood, and be going.
However much his reception had been prearranged, dinner had formed
no part of the program. The slightly puzzled expression on Maisie's
watch-dog's face betrayed that fact to him at a glance.
Maisie laid an arresting hand on his arm. To the maid she said
cheerfully, It's all right, Porter; Lord Taborley is staying.
As Porter was making her exit, he commenced again to protest. Maisie
silenced his objections by leaning against him warningly. You've
talked of everything except me, she whispered; it was about me you
came to talk. You must before we part.
Following her across the hall to the dining-room, he reflected on
her ability for getting him into deeper and yet deeper water. He had
the feeling that he was being led somewhere against his willsomewhere
that might be for his good or for his harm, but which would inevitably
cut him off from many of his old affections. He had the discomforting
sense that he was doing something disloyal to Terry. Heaven knew what
promises might not be exacted from him before the evening ended. When
would it end? He would have to stay for at least an hour after
coffeethat would bring him to nine o'clock. Sir Tobias Beddow would
have been expecting him long before that to deliver his account of the
result of his mission. Furthermore, Sir Tobias would be demanding an
explanation as to how it was that, having asked for Terry's hand the
night before, he was still unengaged to her. If he postponed the
interview till to-morrow, it would create the appearance of
lukewarmness. He couldn't very well excuse himself by saying that he'd
spent the afternoon and evening with Maisie. And he couldn't get Maisie
to let him off on the plea that Sir Tobias, her harshest critic, was
waiting for him. Besides, he had accomplished nothing as yet; Adair
Easterday had not been mentioned.
If ever he made good his escape, he prayed that he might never again
encounter a woman possessed of charm. His paramount desire was to seize
his hat and make a furtive exit. There was nothing to prevent him but
the politeness due from a man to a womanand she traded on it. As he
passed into the dining-room he was secretly on his guard. I wonder
what she'll do next to inveigle me? was his thought.
It'll be only a little dinner, she explained as they seated
themselves. You weren't expected. But Porter always has something
hidden away for an emergency. Don't you, Porter?
He was getting accustomed to these asides addressed to Porter. He
began to perceive that Porter had other uses besides gliding round the
table in a cap and apron. She was a conversational stop-gap when
situations grew awkward, as they frequently must between an ensnared
bachelor and an unchaperoned widow.
And she was eligible; he had to own it as they sat down to their
first meal together. Tea hadn't counted as a meal; you can serve tea to
anybody. But dinner for two, in an oak-paneled room, when the spring
dusk is falling is different. The table was lit by four naked candles.
Looped back from the windows hung the marigold-tinted curtains,
revealing in triangular patches the courtyard, with its mock
village-green and its quaintly timbered houses. It looked very real in
the half-light. An electric street-lamp stood out sharply against the
fading sky, placid and contemplative as an unclouded moon. Several
houses away a woman was singing. Sometimes her voice sank so that he
lost the air; but once, when it rose, he caught the words, Crushing
out life, than waving me farewell. He knew what she was singing then
and followed the air in his imagination. The atmosphere of the room was
vibrant with romance; all that was lacking was his impulse to be
Maisie was chattering gayly and forestalling his wants. He reserved
a small portion of his mind for her conversationsufficient to enable
him to reply Yes or No when the occasion seemed to demand it. It
was clear to him that it made her happy to have a man so entirely at
her mercy. She meant immensely well by him. Behind her mist of words
she seemed to be saying, Isn't it nice to be just we two together?
But he was thinking of the other three soldiermen who had played the
game of being just we two together before him. The singing voice,
drifting through the courtyard, put into words the question of his
thought, Where are you now? Where are you now? Yes, where were they?
He felt pity and distaste for Maisie in equal proportions. Those men
had each in turn caressed her, dipped their hands in the largesse of
her pale gold hair, seen their souls' reflection in the cornflower
innocence of her eyes, drunk forgetfulness from the poppy-petals of her
mouth and gone away to die, believing she was wholly theirs. How little
of her was theirs now! She was almost virginalas though she had never
been touched by their passion. And yet there seemed to be one of them
whose memory had outstayed the rest, for she had said, You know, my
man's out there. Was she merely a light, predatory woman orOr very
loving and lonely?
She was speaking more seriously now. We mustn't tell her. It's
natural to be sorry for him now that he's dead. He picked up the
thread and guessed that she was referring to Lord Dawn.
We must tell her, he said.
But we mustn't, she urged. For years he tried to make her
wretched. There were rumors of other women. She's found peace at last.
It wouldn't help him to let her know that he had died loving her out
there. He's beyond any help of ours. They all are. He surmised who the
they were: the three soldiermen who had sat there before him. In
pleading for silence for others, she was pleading for silence for
herself. Again she was defending herself against his thoughts. All of
the dead had their chance. Lord Dawn had; there were so many years in
which he might have told her. To tell her now would be to rob
She broke off as the maid reëntered with the coffee. Her tone
changed instantly to one of convention. Not here, Porter. We'll have
it in the drawing-room.
As he followed her out across the hall, he glanced at his watch. It
was past eight o'clock. He could lose no more time. He must plunge
boldly into the subject of his mission and bring his visit promptly to
an end. He dreaded the temptation of that feminine room, with its
coziness and security and quiet. It made him too much alone with her;
she was not a woman that it was wise to be alone with too long.
The moment the maid had left them and the door had closed, he became
confirmed in the sanity of this decision. Everything in the room
appealed to him to procrastinate. The curtains before the French
windows were closely drawn. The hearth had been swept in their absence;
the fire glowed more companionably than ever. About the table, where
the coffee waited, a solitary lamp shed a golden blur. It was heavily
shaded with yellow silk, so that most of its light escaped their faces
and fell downwards.
She had seated herself on the couch. When she had filled both cups,
she glanced up at him smilingly, patting the vacant place beside her as
a sign that he should occupy it. He was standing before the fire,
looking immensely tall in the semi-darkness. He could see her plainly
where she sat beneath the lamp; but of him she could see nothing but
his outline, for his eyes were lost in shadow. When he seemed not to
have noticed her sign, Come, she said coaxingly. You don't spare
yourself at all. You make yourself tired by so much standing.
Mrs. Lockwood She started as he called her that. Twice already
she had been Maisie to him. Mrs. Lockwood, as you reminded me before
dinner, it was about you that I came here to talk. Let's get it over. I
haven't any idea how far things have gone. I should like to believe
that nine-tenths of what's said is nothing more than gossip. But why
can't you let him alone? He may mean nothing or a tremendous lot to
youbut why can't you?
CHAPTER THE FIFTH. THE AIR OF
She sat very silently, the way he had seen men sit when they were
wounded. She had been expecting the blow and trying to postpone it; now
that it had fallen her only feeling was one of peace because the
expecting was ended. Her face remained turned towards him, as it had
been while he had been talking. As though a mask had dropped, the real,
very tired, very young, very lonely Maisie watched him. The wistfulness
of her beauty surprised and touched him. Several times her lips moved
in an attempt to say something. Then, at last, What right have you to
I should like to claim the right of friendship.
Of friendship! She frowned slightly, peering from beneath the lamp
in an effort to make out his features. Then her eyes cleared and she
smiled. If you don't mean it, please don't say it. You see, it would
hurt afterwards. Andand I should like to have you for my friend.
[Illustration: Mrs. Lockwood, why can't you let Adair alone?
He came over from the fireplace and seated himself beside her.
We've been almost enemiesjust a little afraid of each other. Isn't
that so? It's ever so much more comfortable now; we'll be able to talk
more easily. Tell me honestly, what do you see in Adair?
See in him!
She commenced sipping her coffee. She looked extraordinarily like
Terry used to do years ago, when she was a little lass and had been
naughty, and had come reluctantly to ask pardon. He thought that if he
went on talking he might make it easier for her.
You'll wonder why I, who never knew you until to-day, should have
taken upon myself to broach this subject.
I don't wonder, she headed him off. I know. Terry's my friend.
Her father was determined to send somebody, so she worked things in
order that you might be sent. She thought that you would be the kindest
She thought that! Tabs was a little taken back by her assertion;
it seemed to pledge him to kindness before he had learnt whether
kindness was required or deserved. It made him in a sense her partisan,
when he ought to have been impartial.
I think I can be trusted to be kind, he said; but you must
remember that I've got to be kind all round. I must be kind to Adair's
wife and to his children. If this goes much further it will spell
tragedy for them.
She shrugged her shoulders and laughed without mirth. Adair's wife
should have remembered to be kind to herself. If a woman can't keep her
husband, she never deserved to have won him. And Adairhe's the
easiest man to keep in the world; far too easy to be exciting. If she
doesn't lose him to me, she'll lose him to some one else, unless
And then she surprised him, But she won't lose him to me, for I don't
Tabs sighed with relief and lit himself a cigarette. Then that's
settled. If you don't want him, the trouble's ended, and I think Sir
Tobias and all of us owe you an apology.
Again she laughed. This time some of her old mischief had come back.
You go too fast, Lord Taborley. I shouldn't advise any of you to
apologize to me yet. It's true that I don't want him for keeps,
Tabs guessed the way the ground lay and went back to the question
with which he had started. What on earth do you see in him? That's
what I can't make out.
She kept him waiting for his answer. While he waited, like sunshine
struggling through cloud, amused happiness fought its way into her
expression. When she turned, she met his gaze with complete candor. She
was again a woman of the world. What do I see in him? Not muchonly a
makeshift, a second best. Only a man who needs me for the moment
because he's lost his direction. You remember our conversation of this
afternoon about having to feel that you were needed. He gives me that
feeling, so I'm grateful. That's why I have to have him.
Are you so lonely as to stoopwell, to steal to get it?
He was sorry he had asked it. She bit her lip in an effort to keep
back the tears and to force herself to go on brightly smiling. Yes, as
lonely as all that, she nodded; so lonely that it's almost a joke.
No joke. He was at a loss what to say. But you have friends. You
go everywhere. You
Friends! she interrupted, laughing with the high-pitched note of
breaking nerves. What are friends? People to whom you say, 'How d'you
do?' here and 'How d'you do?' there, every one of whom can do without
you. I want some one who can't do without me for a secondNo joke,
you said. But it is almost a joke to be young, and eager, and
good-looking, and to know how to dress, and to be so willing to love,
and to live in the world just once, and to hear the world go by you
laughing, and to desire so much, she paused for breath, and to want
to give so much that no one is willing to accept. If one didn't laugh
over it, it would be more than one could stand. If one didn't treat it
as a joke
He caught her hands. Steady, Mrs. Lockwood. Stop laughing at once.
There's nothing to laugh about. You're nearly over the edge.
She stared at him with wide eyes, filled with panic, while little
ripples of laughter kept escaping from her, which she did her best to
Now, listen to me, he continued quietly: You're not exceptional.
You've been expressing something that there's not a man or woman that
hasn't felt. I feel it when I realize that I may lose Terry; so does
Braithwaite. Lord Dawn felt it when he couldn't drag his wife down to
him and couldn't climb up to her. And his wife must have felt it too,
when she sat always by herself. Phyllis feels it when she sees that,
for the moment, you have more attraction for her husband than she has.
And Adair feels it as well, when he risks his good name for a little
desperate comfort and is willing to clothe you, for whom he professes
to care, with all the appearance of dishonor. You're no exception; it's
the feeling that you are exceptional that makes you unscrupulous in
your self-pity. Get that into your head, that you're not exceptional.
Half the world's with you in the same box; but it smiles and doesn't
own it. Have you got that?
She nodded and tried to withdraw her hands; but he held them fast.
And now as regards this desire to be wanted; that's perfectly right
and natural. There's nobody who doesn't share it. And I understand what
you say about mere friendship. It's unsatisfying and impermanent. It's
like a meal snatched at a restaurant; none of the dishes or napkins or
tables or chairs belong to you. They've been used by other people
before you and they'll be used by other people the moment your bill is
settled. What you want and what every one wants, is something more than
friendshipa human relation with one person who is so much yours that
your intimacies are a secret from all the world.
Some one with whom I can be little, she whispered, and foolish
and off my guard.
He smiled. That's it exactly. But you won't get that sort of
relationship with a man who belongs already to another woman.
One gets the pretense.
He shook his head. Not even the pretense. There was a phrase you
used about Adair; you said he'd lost his direction. That's true; he has
for the moment. Presently he'll refind it and the road leads back to
Phyllis. You said something else: you called him a second best. That's
all he is, however you take him, whether as a husband, a father or a
lover. He lacks earnestness; he has always lacked it. I've been his
friend for years; his flabbiness sticks out all over him. But you're
not a second best, Mrs. Lockwood. You're a top-notchertoo fine for
anything but the best. You really are. You ought to set a higher value
She had regained her composure. He showed a willingness to release
her hands, but she let them rest where they were like tired birds,
while she regarded him with wistful kindness.
Too fine for anything but the best! It's a long while since I heard
any one say that. Reggie used to say it in almost those very words. But
then Reggie, she caught her breath at the remembered ecstasy, Reggie
used to think that the sun rose and set for me. He was different from
all other men. You advise me to reserve myself for the best. How can I
do that, Lord Taborley, when the best is in the past?
She was very beautiful in the simplicity of her pathosone of the
most beautiful women he had ever met. She had become a little child for
the moment and her littleness was baffling. He felt extraordinarily
near to her and alone with her. There was no longer any danger in their
aloneness. He realized why it was that she was able to give away so
much of herself; there was no value in the gift, for her heart was
beyond the capture of any man. She was the shuttered house of a
vanished happiness, inhabited by a restless ghost. The gold light from
the lamp fell in a pool about her. It revealed startlingly the
whiteness of her arms and throat, the blueness of her eyes and the
primrose gleam of her polished head. She seemed insubstantial as a
dream, environed by shadows. And what did she mean by saying that all
her best lay in the past? Surely she had misjudged! With her power of
charm she could build her world to any pattern.
The best in the past! None of us know enough about the future to
say that. The best lies aheadalways. To believe that brings our best
within our grasp.
For me it can't. She spoke hopelessly. No believing can do that
when your best is dead.
The finality of her despair silenced him. He could feel it like
fingers tightening on his throat. He realized in a flash that this was
how he, too, would be tempted to speak were he to lose Terrythat,
having lost the best, any careless makeshift would suffice to comfort
him. While he considered, her hands snuggled closer in his clasp,
establishing a new sympathy.
I think, he said at last, even though my best were dead, I should
try to go on acting as if it lay still ahead. If I did that, round some
new turning I might find it waiting for me as a kind of recompense.
She leant forward, peering eagerly into his eyes. Yes. You would do
that. I'm sure of it. I knew you had something to give me the moment we
met. That was why I wouldn't let you escape me. I've learnt the secret
at lastthe secret of your air of conquest. It isn't that you get your
desires. It's not that. It's your belief that you will get them that
makes you strong.
Somewhere at the back of his head he remembered the pleading of
Delilah with Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength
He laughed. Perhaps you have guessed. I'm what you might call a
round-the-corner person. I have a philosophy all my own; it's a
round-the-corner philosophy. I believe that we find everything that
we've lost or longed for, if we'll only press on. Everything that we've
ever loved or wanted waits for us further up the road, round some
hidden turning. It's always further up the road and just out of sight.
The whole trick of living is to keep your tail up and march forward
with the appearance of success, no matter how badly other people say
you've been defeated. More often than not, we're nearer our hidden
corners than any of us guess; it's the pluck to struggle the last
hundred yards that swings us round the turning and wins our kingdoms
She withdrew her hands and lay back against the cushions. No amount
of courage She broke off and tried afresh. Being brave wouldn't
put him again into my arms. You're wondering whom I'm talking
aboutReggie Pollock, my only husband. The other two didn't count, any
more than Adair counts. I don't say it unkindly. I do want you to
believe that. They were passers-bythat was all. They hung their hats
in the hall and, somehow, they stopped. They were nice boys, both of
them. It seemed a kind of war-work to let them marry me. You see, they
needed me; so when they said they loved me, I didn't have the heart to
turn them out. I suppose I was too amiable. But they didn't countnot
The war's over, Tabs reminded her with quiet humor. How long is
this amiability going to last?
She smiled dreamily. Adair again! You don't leave him alone for
long. If you think that I ever let him make love to me, you're
mistaken. It's only that he's unhappy and I can do something for him.
Tabs wasn't at all sure that it was only that. This fatal amiability
might have raised quite different expectations in Adair. Like her two
latest husbands, he might take a notion to hang his hat in her hall. If
he did, would she abate her amiability sufficiently to tell him to hang
it somewhere else?
She was drifting; what she needed was either a tow-rope or a rudder.
He sent his gaze questing through the shadows.
Those five photographs, all of the same manthey're of Pollock?
He was one of the first of all the aces, wasn't he? It was he who
brought down the Zeppelin over Brussels and went missing a few days
later. You see, I remember his record. He was outstandingly brave at a
time when the world was full of brave men. And you tell me he loved
An expression of triumph flitted across her face. Not loved. Her
voice was full-throated. He adored me, and to me he was a god whom I
worshiped. I'd have gone through hell for him. I'd
No, you wouldn't.
The flatness of the contradiction pulled her up short. No you
wouldn't, he repeated quietly. You wouldn't even go through this for
him. You wouldn't play the game by him when he was dead. He always kept
his end up, whatever the odds against him; but youyou couldn't. This
was your chance to show that you were worthy of him. While he was
alive, you played a winning game; it was easy to be true to him. But
hehe was stauncher; he was most to be trusted when the game seemed
all but lost. You ought to have kept his spirit alive for us; but
you've understood so little of his spirit that you've been willing to
put any stranger in his placeto quote your own words, any stranger
who chose to hang his hat in your hall. Pollock was a soldier; he
didn't need to be sure of victory to show courage. It was in tight
corners that he was at his best. You're in a tight corner now, and
you're his wifethe wife whom he didn't love, but adored.
The brutal impact of the truth had struck her dumb at first. Her
lips had fallen apart. While she had listened, her face had gone white.
Now that he paused, she slipped back into the cushions, covering her
eyes with her hands. For God's sake stop torturing me! Though you
think I'm as contemptible as that, don't say it. If you must speak,
tell me what you think I ought to do.
Do! Until you find a living man who's his match, carry on as though
he were not dead.
She uncovered her eyes and sat upright, staring at him. As though
he were not dead. But Reggie is dead. You know as well as I do that
Tabs nodded. I'm not denying it. But for all that, try to live as
though he weren'tas though somewhere up the road, a day, a week, a
month, a year hence he would meet you round the corner.
Her interest faded forlornly. What good would that do? It would
only be making believe with myself.
He spoke gently. Yes, but games of make-believe come true. You
couldn't meet him, but you might meet some one his equala man
who's, perhaps, already waiting for you, while you squander yourself on
makeshifts and second bests.
The little silence which had ended his speech dragged on from
seconds into minutes. In the quiet room nothing stirred. She attempted
to free herself from his gaze by refusing to look at him. Against her
will her eyes crept up to his, clashed, evaded, fell back and again
crept up to them.
At last, speaking humbly, she said, I was ashamed. You made me
ashamed. Whatever I'd done, if he came back, he wouldn't be ashamed of
me. It wouldn't matter how cowardly I'd been or however many husbands
I'd had; he'd be so glad to have me in his arms that he wouldn't find
time to be ashamed of me. So I'm not going to be ashamed any longer;
I'm going to start to live as if he were coming back. It'll be hard at
first. Adairhe was nothing. And yetI shall miss him, no doubt.
You said something this afternoon that you didn't mean.
Didn't I? What was it?
It was when I was crying because nobody wanted me. Do you remember
what you said? You said, 'I do,' not meaning a word of it. Could you
manage to want me just a little, Lord Taborley? Not for long, you know;
only till I've got past the loneliest placestill I've begun almost to
persuade myself that he may come back. To think that you wanted me
Before he could answer, she had sprung to her feet, all but
over-turning the lamp. What's that?
A sharp rat-a-tat-tat had reverberated through the house. While she
spoke, it was repeated. Her over-strung nerves gave way. As Tabs rose,
she clung to him beseechingly. Don't let him in. I'm not ready for
him. Don't let him in. Go outside and send him away. Tell him anything.
But don't let him enter.
Tabs had no clear idea to whom she was referring. It might have been
to Adair. It might have been to Pollock. It seemed more likely that it
was to her dead husband. This talk about living as though he might come
back had probably distraught an imagination already over-taxed.
He sha'n't enter, he assured her. There's no need to lose your
As he passed into the hall, he heard the starchy approach of Porter.
He waited and halted her with, Mrs. Lockwood asked me to answer it.
When he had watched her retreat and vanish, he advanced towards the
door. Who was it out there in the darkness whose knock had power to
strike such terror? It was a terror the excitement of which he at least
remotely shared. The thought crossed his mind, Is it possible that her
longing could have dragged him back? He felt as though in the
stucco-fronted gloom of Mulberry Court, Fate itself stood waiting for
him on the other side of the panel. With conscious bravado he stretched
out his hand and drew back the latch.
Is it Mr. Easterday?
It was a woman's voice that asked the questiona deep voice,
thrilling with emotion, that made him wonder what it would sound like
with all the stops pulled out. He had opened the door only a little
way, expecting that he would have to refuse admittance. At the sound of
a woman's voice, his sense of the conventions sprang to life. It must
be a good deal past ten and here he was answering Maisie's door as
though he were her butler. The kind of conclusions that could be drawn
were made plain by the caller's question, Is it Mr. Easterday? To be
mistaken for Easterday annoyed him. It was tantamount to an accusation.
It implied that, even though he were not Easterday, the proprietory way
in which he attended to other people's doors at after ten o'clock put
Him well within Easterday's class. Tabs was particularly annoyed to
hear himself accused by a voice so gracious and pleasant. His surprise
had evidently impressed her as furtiveness, for she said, So it is Mr.
He was at a loss what to do with herhow to turn her away. For
Maisie's sake she must not be allowed to enter, for then she would
discover that they had been alone. He opened the door a few inches
wider and parried to gain time. If it's Mr. Easterday that you're
wanting, you've made a fortunate mistake. This is Mrs. Lockwood's
house. But I happen to know an Easterdayan Adair Easterday; he's a
personal friend. Perhaps he's the man you're looking for. If so, I can
give you his address.
This sally was greeted with a quiet, rather mocking laugh. He was
using his eyes, trying to form an estimate of the visitor. She had
arrived in a car, which he judged to be private, for in the light
reflected from the windshield he could make out the livery of her
chauffeur. She was swathed in a sumptuous wrap which looked as though
it were of sable. She held it gathered closely about her, so that it
fell in soft folds, revealing and at the same time concealing her
figure. He was anxious to read her face, but the lower part was
snuggled into the fur of the deep collar and the upper part was
shadowed by a broad-brimmed tulle hat, from which two bird of paradise
plumes spread back like wings on the helmet of a viking. For the rest,
she had white kid gloves, which reached up to her elbows. Outside the
glove of the left hand she wore a bracelet; every time she stirred the
stones struck fire in the semi-darkness. Her hands were very small.
Peeping out from below her gown, the buckles on her high-heeled shoes
twinkled. She was mysterious, taunting, and strangely commanding. As
she hovered there across the threshold, a faint perfume drifted up to
him like the intoxicating romance of June rose-gardens under moonlight.
She, too, seemed to have suffered a surprise at hearing the tones in
which he had spoken. His address! Oh, no, it wasn't Mr. Easterday I
was wanting. I only supposedIf Mrs. Lockwood's at home, I should
like to see her.
Her voice was like a chime of contralto bells. It made him think of
Bernhardt. It imparted to the commonplaces she uttered a quite
disproportionate intensity of drama and tragic depth. The way in which
she had said, Oh, no, reverberated in his memory as though the sound
still lingered on the air.
I don't know at all, he commenced. Then he smiled at his
confusion. You see I'm not used to answering doors, and Mrs.
Lockwood's not quite herself. She was very tired just now. But if
you'll give me your name, I'll
If he'd been left to himself, he might have succeeded in creating
the impression that he was Maisie's physician. As it was, his
conscience was spared the deception by the advent of the inevitable
Porter. She sailed up behind him with an appearance so immaculate that
it would have shed propriety on the most compromising circumstances. He
instantly stood aside to make room for her. Porter, here's a lady
But the lady took matters into her own hands. Mrs. Lockwood in,
Why, certainly, your Ladyship.
Then why was I shut out? Who is this gentleman who
The rest was lost as their voices sank. The next words he caught
were her Ladyship's, running up the scale of laughter. Then I'm not
de trop! That's a blessing!
He fell back, trying to obliterate himself, as with every sign of
deference Porter admitted her; but in crossing the hall, she had to
pass him. Scarcely pausing, she swept him with a pair of stone-gray
eyes, made mischievous for the moment with merriment. You're no good
as a butler, she whispered. You carry discretion too far.
To his chagrin he recognized herthe one woman whom he would most
have chosen to have met in an attitude that was dignified. She entered
the drawing-room and was lost to sight. But she had left the door ajar
and he heard Maisie's delighted exclamation, Why, Di, what brings you
here so late? This is darling of you! His position was elaborately
false. It grew more false every minute he delayed. He foresaw himself
apologizing and being explained. He had no appetite for explanations.
Since he had adventured into Mulberry Tree Court, he had twice been
tempted to bolt for safety. Now that he was tempted for a third time,
he acted blindly on the impulse. Having played the rôle of butler with
too much discretion, he seized his hat and, without a thought of
ceremony, adopted a butler's mode of escaping.
In the shrouded emptiness of the London night he felt himself free
again. He came into possession of himself and found that he could think
with his old definite clearness. In the last few hours events had
rushed him off his feet; he had no sooner realized their significance
than he had discovered himself in the throes of a new crisis. Now, for
the moment, he stood aloof and could consider his actions in their true
As he turned out of Mulberry Tree Court, he had thought he had heard
a voice calling after him. Lord Taborley! Lord Taborley! He had
looked back across the imitation village-green, where the white posts
showed dimly like smudges of chalk. The door of Maisie's house had been
opened wide, making a lozenge of gold against the blackness. He had
fancied that he had seen her standing there framed, leaning out, and
thenYes, surely he had heard the running of slippered feet along
the pavement. He had not waited. He scarcely knew from what he was
escapingperhaps from his fate, from which there is ultimately no
escape. He seized his respite, however, for the dread of recapture was
strong upon him.
And now all hint of pursuit had died out. Tall houses stood muted
against the sky; dim trees cast a leafy obscurity; stars glinted
remotely like diamonds set in gun-metal. He found a healing chastity in
his sudden aloneness; it roused in him an almost angry desire to
recover his lost monasticism.
He was amused to discover himself speculating as to whether women
were worth the trouble they occasioned. They coerced men with
sentimental arguments to which there were no replies. They wore away
men's fortitude with the continual flowing of their tears. They molded
men's strength into weakness with the magic caressing of their sex.
They promised and disappointed, flattered and allured, captured and
despised. Their curiosity was insatiable to possess themselves of
secrets, which were no longer valued the moment they were divulged.
Their little teasing hands, so destructive and lovable, had commenced
the débâcle of every human greatness. Throughout the ages, their
coaxing, pleading voices could be heard wheedling men's hearts to the
same purpose. Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth,
and wherein thou mightest be bound to afflict thee. The strength of
men had eternally roused their resentment, whether they were the
Delilahs of long ago or the Maisies of a modern generation. The goal of
all their passion, even when it was unselfish, was to bind.
He had nearly been bound, but he had escaped. At the thought that he
had escaped, he felt a flood of exultant joy sweep through him. He
smiled, believing he had discovered a humorous and more human motive
for the exhausting piety of the anchorites. It wasn't their religious
self-abnegation that had made them flee to scorched river-beds and
desert hiding-places; it was their triumphant satisfaction at having
tantalized and eluded feminine pursuit. They fled in order that they
might possess, not deny themselves. As they became more emaciated and
scarred and as their needs grew less, they listened. What they heard
was ample compensation for all that they had foresworn at the hands of
life. Far blown from distant haunts of habitation came a sound which in
their ears was sweetest music: day and night the painful dragging of
chains and the groan of men toiling in servitude to women.
The Philistines be upon thee, Samson! When the last sleepy caress
had been given, all men who lacked the caution of the anchorite, were
sooner or later destined to hear that cry.
How much nobler men had been in a womanless world! Some of them had
had to become womanless before they could be noble. Pollock plunging to
his death from the clouds, like an eagle struck by a thunderbolt! Lord
Dawn with the smile of calm remembrance on his lips, purged of all his
fruitless sex-contentions, lying white and quiet beneath the crack and
spatter of exploding shells! Braithwaite, the ex-valet, who had proved
himself an aristocrat in courage! And he himself, thinking only of
duty, with every jealous ambition laid aside!
And nowThe mate of the eagle was a trifler with peacocks and
vultures. The man whose face had been molded by his last thought into
an expression of serene faithfulness, was recalled only as one who had
lived envenomed by disloyalty. Braithwaite, the aristocrat in courage,
was now distinguished for his cowardice; he himself was at one and the
same time Braithwaite's rival and grudging critic. The Philistines
be upon thee, Samson! And he awoke out of his sleep and said, I will go
out as at other times and shake myselfAsleep! He felt that he,
too, had been asleep. All the men who had been giants in the past five
years were either dead or sleeping. And this sudden transformation was
the work of women, because men had come back to walk and rest with them
in the soft, desired places. The little feminine hands had stripped
them of their charity, had taken away their valor and had concealed
liers-in-wait in the chamber of their affections.
So his thoughts ran on, amplifying, magnifying, exaggerating the
theme of the debilitating effects of women. But from all his
accusations he exempted Terry. She was the Joan of Arc of his
imagination, who rode on unvanquished across life's battlefields,
inspiring to heroism with her shining purity. And he made one other
exceptionLady Dawn. It was the Lady Dawn of the portrait he exempted,
not the Lady Dawn who had mocked him in passing with her steady
stone-gray eyes. In a strange way he discriminated between the portrait
and the living woman. The portrait was almost his friend; the living
woman was a stranger. The woman in the portrait was after his own
heart; she had never been known to cry. Do it harder; I can bear more
than that. He thrilled to the pride of her defiance.
Then he pulled himself up with a start. Again he was thinking about
her. Yes, and though he might discriminate between the portrait and the
living woman, it was the living woman's eyes that gleamed in the
blackness of his mind. There was truth in what Maisie had said, that
were he as much in love with Terry as he professed all other women,
however beautiful, except the one woman, should be hanks of hair and
bags of bones. He consoled himself by arguing that that was precisely
what he had been trying to prove them by his sweeping applications of
the conduct of Delilah.
Whichever way he viewed his situation, things were in a pretty fair
muddlea muddle which annoyed him because it was so unmerited. He was
pledged to Terry, while she held herself unpledged. He was committed to
help Maisiea distinctly unwise little lady for any bachelor to help.
As a third party to his problem, Lady Dawn intruded herselfthough why
she should, he wasn't certain. He would have to see her, however much
Maisie dissuaded; it was right that she should know about her husband.
Yet was that the entire reason why he was so keen to see her? He
assured himself very earnestly that it was, and dismissed her from his
For the rest of the journey home he conscientiously narrowed his
imaginings to thoughts of Terry.
It was with thoughts of her that he fitted his key in the latch. The
Square was full of newly married couples, some of them little more than
boys and girlsyoungsters who had waited impatiently and had run
together the moment war was ended. Others had been married just long
enough to be proudly parading their first baby. Every morning white
prams were wheeled out into the garden, there to be watched over by
softly spoken nurses. Every night, as dusk came down, expectant mothers
paced gently through the shadows, leaning on the arms of ex-officer
husbands. It wasn't only in the trees that nests were being built. The
Square's name might well have been changed to Honeymoon Square.
And now, as Tabs pushed the door open, preparing to enter, he knew
that all up and down the Square, behind the pall of darkness, other
doors were being pushed back. Young couples were coming home from
dinners and theaters. He could hear the murmur of their laughter,
subdued and secret, hinting at intimacies of affection. The men had
misplaced their latch-key perhaps; the girls were advising that they
search another pocket. Or the lock refused to turn and the girls were
whispering how it could be persuaded. Some of them were arriving in
taxis; others, less lucky or more economic, were tripping by on foot
along the pavement. He noticed how closely they clung together and he
thought of Terry. It would be jolly to be young, to build a nest and,
by and by, to see your own white pram wheeled out to take its place in
the blowy greenness of the garden. He withdrew his key and entered,
closing the door behind him.
The house was very still. It was nearly midnight. The maids had gone
to bed, leaving lights in the hall and on the landings. As he hung up
his hat, the stillness was broken by the sudden ringing of the
telephone. It rang in a peevish, scolding manner, as though this were
not the first time and it had lost its temper with waiting. He climbed
the flight of stairs to his library and, without waiting to switch on
the lights, sat down at his table, taking up the receiver.
Is this Lord Taborley? a voice inquired.
Lord Taborley speaking.
This is Sir Tobias Beddow. There was a pause, followed by a little
asthmatic cough. Then, How are you, my dear fellow? I've been trying
to reach you all evening. I was expecting to see you round here this
morning at eleven.No, I don't mean perhaps what you infer. Besides,
it wouldn't have been any good if you had called; Terry wandered out,
without leaving word where she was going. She didn't get back till
nearly lunch-time. Most unaccountable conduct under the circumstances;
but since your conduct was equally unaccountable, perhaps it was just
as well. But that wasn't what I called you up about.
Tabs smiled in the darkness. Sir Tobias was as simple and crafty as
a child; he couldn't keep anything back. Then his mind jumped to the
obvious conclusion. Terry hadn't told her parents about her morning
interview; her parents naturally supposed that it was his fault that he
was not engaged to her as yet. Making an effort to be diplomatic, he
said, Perhaps I can explain my apparent negligence to you later. It
must seem unpardonable. I've been busy every minute over things that
absolutely couldn't be avoided.
Of course. Of course. The words were spoken soothingly, but
without conviction. We men understand. It's Lady Beddow whoSuch
events are women's great occasions. She's a stickler for form. As you
say, you can explain laterBut that wasn't what I called you up
Tabs stifled a yawn. He had suddenly discovered he was sleepy.
What was that you said? Sir Tobias enquired suspiciously.
I didn't say anything, Tabs replied politely. But I think I know
what you called me up about. It was about MaisieI mean Mrs.
What about her? The question was asked carelessly; he knew at once
that he had missed his guess. It was strange, even though he had
guessed wrongly, that Sir Tobias should not display more interest.
What about her? Only that I've spent the last six hours with her.
You asked me to see her as soon as possible, you remember. I had only
just got home from being with her, when the telephone rang. She's not
the woman we thought her.
Eh? What's that?
He repeated what he had said. He was perfectly certain that Sir
Tobias had heard the first time. She's not the woman we thought her.
And he added, There's been some mistake. She hasn't and never did have
any designs on Adair. After we'd talked things over, she agreed of her
own accord never to see him again.
She did! There was a long pause, expressive of skepticism,
dissatisfaction, or anything that he cared to conjecture. Then, When
we meet, you can tell me. But that wasn't what I called you up about.
Tabs waited for him to tell him why he had called him up. He waited
so long that it seemed to be a competition to see who would compel the
other to break the silence first. At last he gave in. If that wasn't
why, why did you?
He almost heard Sir Tobias blink his eyesthose faded eyes that
looked so blind and saw so much. I called you up about this General
Braithwaite. He's been here to see me on the biggest fool's errand,
with the most unusual story which, if it's true, partly concerns
yourself. It's too late to enter into details this evening. But I
thought I'd let you knowGood night.
One minute, Sir Tobias
Before he could get any further Sir Tobias had hung up. For a few
seconds he sat there in the darkness listening; then he hung up also
and took himself off to bed.
What object had Braithwaite had in going to see Sir Tobias? Was it
his first step in trying to play fair? Was his fool's errand a formal
request for Terry's hand in marriage and his unusual story a manly
recital of the facts? And had this great advance in frankness included
the telling of Ann? As he tossed sleeplessly from side to side, other
problems leapt up to confront him. Had he done wisely in promising
Maisie that, in a measure, he would compensate her for the loss of
Adair? What would Sir Tobias think of such an intimacy when he got to
hear of it? What would even Adair think of it? There was only one
person who would not doubt his integrity; that was Terry. And then Lady
Dawnhad he actually any moral right to interfere in her affairs? Do
it harder; I can bear more than that. He could hear her saying it in
that deep, emotional voice of hers. He could feel her honest stone-gray
eyes, probing his soul for motives in the darkness.
Day was breaking and birds were stirring in the mist of greenness
that topped his windows, before his eye-lids closed and he slipped off
To-morrow's another new day, he thought as he awoke. One could
meet any and every indebtedness to life if he only had a sufficient
fund of to-morrows in his bank.
He looked at his watch and leapt out of bed. Nine o'clock! He had
slept late. He didn't hurry over his dressing. He could afford to be
late for once. The mood of conquest was upon him. Maisie had said that.
No, it wasn't the mood but the air of conquest that she'd
said he had. Whichever it was, he would prove her a true prophetess. He
might not gain all his desires, but he'd at least wear the air of one
who was going to gain them. To-morrow was another new day, and
to-morrow had arrived.
On coming down to breakfast he scrutinized Ann's features closely to
learn whether she had heard anything from Braithwaite. They told him
nothing. Presently, however, while she served him, she began to open
Did your Lordship speak to the gentleman at the War Office?
Tabs had been glancing through the morning paper. He looked up.
Yes, I did, Ann. I placed your letter in his hands, and saw him read
Did he say anything or promise anything to your Lordship?
Tabs pursed his lips judicially, trying to avoid a lie. You know
what these War Office officials are. They never make promises to any
one. But I believe this one's a good-hearted chap. When he realizes how
much this thing means to you, I think he'll do his best.
Then he didn't show your Lordship my letter?
Tabs had dipped into his newspaper again. He detested the well-meant
deceit he was compelled to practice. This time, when he answered, he
didn't raise his eyes. No, he didn't.
But she didn't efface herself, as he had expected. She stood there,
to one side of his chair. He felt that she was looking down at him.
Just above the edge of his paper he could see her hands clasped
together, pressing against each other in agitation. He abandoned his
refuge and dropped the paper to the carpet.
Something more that you want to ask me? What is it?
Your Lordship said that when the gentleman realized how much all
this meant to me, he'd do his best.
That's what I said and I'm sure of it.
What I wanted to ask was, does your Lordship think he has
It was the way she said it that roused his curiosity. Could she have
guessed? Had she read the address on that letter which he had given her
to post to General Braithwaite, and put two and two together?
He met her eyesgood, gray eyes, with something of Lady Dawn's
grave honesty in their expression. I think he has realized.
Thank you, sir; and I'm sorry I had to trouble you.
She withdrew, leaving him with the disturbing sense that she had
intended more than she had said. He gathered up the paper from the
floor in the hope that a perusal of it might enable him to recover his
lost equanimity. In so doing he caught sight of the last page, which
contained the photographic items. Braithwaite's face stared up at him.
Above it was printed the caption, Youngest Ranker Brigadier
If she had seen that, she knew. If she had seen it, what would be
her next moveappeal or revenge? What had been the significance of her
final question, Does your Lordship think he has realized? Did she
know now; had she even known when she had written her letter that it
would be received by Braithwaite himself?
If she didn't know and had not seen the paper, he was determined
that she should not see it. Before leaving the room, he stuffed it into
the empty grate and applied a match. He would play fair by Braithwaite.
He was so eager to play fair that he did not turn to go upstairs till
every vestige of print had been licked to ashes.
His library occupied the whole of the second story; even at that it
was not very large. It had two long French windows, opening onto a
veranda which looked out over the Square. The veranda was constructed
of wrought iron, painted green, and ran straight across the front of
the house. Ann used it for giving her plants an airing; they usually
formed a truant garden beyond the panes. There was a smaller window at
the back, from which a view could be obtained of the Oratory.
The room was furnished in English red lacquer, which had been
transferred from the collection at Taborley House, when Taborley House
had been lent to the Americans for a military hospital. The walls were
hung with landscapes by Zuccarelli and with Chinese portrait-groups of
the Eighteenth Century.
He had scarcely entered before the telephone renewed its irritating
clamor, like a fretful child which yelled whenever it heard his
footstep. He responded to its fretfulness in very much the same mood,
seizing hold of the receiver as though he would shake it into silence.
Yes. Hullo! Hullo! Yes, this is Lord Taborley. What's that? You
didn't catch what IIt's Lord Taborley speaking, I said.
Well, I must say you don't sound very nice. It was a woman's
amused voice. Even at this distance, you make me almost afraid. I do
hope you haven't been like that all night.
Tabs made his tones more smiling. I'm sorry if I don't sound
sufficiently pleasant. But who are you?
Well, who do you think? There was a snatch of laughter. I'm
Maisie; I mean Mrs. Lockwood. You needn't tell me that you're not
frowning, because I can feel it. What's the matter?
He pulled a wry face at himself in the opposite mirror and shrugged
his shoulders. Down the 'phone he said with excessive amiability,
Nothing. I'm top-hole. How are you feeling?
Her answer came back like a flash, Vulgar and not very safe. It
was followed by a gurgle of merriment.
I'm not sure that I understand your symptoms.
The gurgle was repeated. You wouldn't. Lord Taborley never feels
vulgar and he's always safe. But this is one of my vulgar days, when
I'm not to be trusted. I always have one when Di has been to visit me;
it's the relapse after contact with too high standards of
respectability. I'm liable to do anything. I married Gervis and
Lockwood after being with her. I shall break out to-day if you don't
come at once and stop me. Unlessunless you don't want to stop me and
would prefer the experiment of being vulgar together.
The prospect sounds alluring. He was trying to let her down
lightly. But I'm afraid I have too many engagements on hand.
Oh! It was the oh of disappointment. When she spoke again
her gay irresponsibility had vanished and a coaxing quality had come
into her voice. I know you've only just got home from being with meI
mean comparatively speaking. I don't want to make myself a burden to
you, butIt's such a jolly day. Have you been up long enough to look
out of the window? I thought we could go off somewhereto the Zoo,
perhaps, and drink lemonade all among the monkeys and the nuts. I woke
up planning it. We'd limit our spending money to five shillings like
kiddies, and do all our riding on busses. Doesn't that sound jolly?
Immensely, he agreed; but I'm afraid no amount of jolliness could
She broke in on him. It's the kind of thing I used to do with
The meaning of this last remark was plain; she was reminding him
that if the pair of shoes vacated by Adair were to remain vacated, he
must pay the promised price on occasions by wearing them himself. He
determined to get behind her diplomatic hints with frankness.
I don't want you to think, Mrs. Lockwood, that because I have to
refuse your first request I'm going back on our contract. There'll be
plenty of other opportunities.
He caught her sigh of relief across the line. When she spoke again
it was with a new brightness and reasonableness. I'm glad you said
that. So you really are going to help me? I was a wee bit afraid that
you'd gone back on your bargain by the way you ran away.
It was his first experience of the advantage a woman gains when she
attacks a man from the other end of a telephone. He had trouble in
making his voice sound patient. He replied with conscious hypocrisy,
I'm sorry I created the impression of running away.
You did. Her answer came back promptly. You created the same
impression on us both. I had to do a lot of explaining to Di.
And I was trying to save you embarrassment, he excused himself.
Eh! What's that?
To his immense surprise a third voicea man'sjumped in on the
conversation. Are you there? Is this Lord Taborley?
Tabs was just getting ready to confess that he was there and that he
was Lord Taborley, when Maisie took matters out of his hands by
informing the intruder that the line was occupied and that he was
interrupting a conversation.
I'm sorry, the intruder apologized, but my time's valuable. I've
been kept waiting for the best part of quarter of an hour. Are you the
telephone-girl that I'm talking to?
Indeed I'm not, said Maisie with considerable haughtiness. Please
get off the line. And then to Tabs, Are you still there, Lord
Taborley? This is Mrs. Lockwood. Can't you postpone some of those
engagements so that we can meet to-day?
At that moment the girl at the switch-board took a hand. There was a
confused gabbling and buzzing of voices, out of which the suave tones
of the intruder emerged triumphant, saying, This is Sir Tobias Beddow.
Can I speak with Lord Taborley?
Perhaps Maisie had heard. At all events, the moment Sir Tobias
declared himself the line cleared.
But it wasn't what Maisie had overheard that disturbed Tabs; it was
the uncertainty as to how much of her conversation had been listened to
by Sir Tobias. After all, prospective fathers-in-law are only human and
as likely as any other class to jump to damaging conclusions. Tabs hung
up the receiver, making it necessary for him to be summoned afresh
before he acknowledged his presence at the 'phone. Then, Good morning,
Good morning, my dear fellow. Sir Tobias was as courtly and
friendly as ever. I called you up to know whether you could run round
to see me between now and the forenoon. Yes, the matter I mentioned to
you last night. About eleven, you say? Very well, then, I shall expect
No sooner had the butler with the velvet-plush manners admitted him
than he found himself face to face with Terry. She must have known that
he was expected and have been lying in wait for him. Before he could
say a word, she pressed a finger to her lips, signaling caution. To the
butler she said in a low tone, It's all right, James; you don't need
to wait. I'll announce Lord Taborley. The discreet James showed a
fitting appreciation of romance by folding his plump hands across the
pit of his stomach, making the ghost of a bow and tiptoeing noiselessly
into the nether regions with the stealth of a conspirator.
Terry's face was a picture of innocence. After Maisie she struck him
as very youngmuch too young to love or to know the meaning of love.
The sight of her freshness was forbidding. It made him seem jaded. It
filled him with a reverence that was not far short of worship. He felt
it impossible to think of her as performing the ordinary acts of a
mortal world. He had the feeling that she moved on higher levelsthat
she was a creature too shy and perfect to be made the instrument of
passion. She should be guarded in her purity like a vestal virgin, so
that her straight young body might be forever valiant and her eyes
might never learn the cowardice of tears.
In the brave March sunlight which shafted down on her, her head
looked more like a Botticelli angel's than ever. The raw gold of her
bobbed hair shone solid as metal, making a sharp edge where it ended
against the ivory pallor of her throat. She was dressed in a white
tailor-made serge. Her violet eyes danced with eager secrets.
What are you doing to-day? she whispered.
Nothing! he whispered, if you want me.
Then invite me out to lunch. I've such heaps to tell you. Don't let
Daddy take you to his clubI know he's going to ask you. And, oh,
before I forget, I've told them nothing about yesterday, so don't give
me away by accident. Then in a sly aside, just as she was turning the
door-knob to admit him to her father's library, You've been getting on
famously with Maisie, haven't you?
Before he could reply, they were across the threshold. There was a
sound as of a rheumaticky hen stirring in its nest. The neck of Sir
Tobias craned painfully round the corner of a high-backed chair.
Here's Lord Taborley to see you, Daddy. Don't keep him forever.
He's just invited me to go out with him to lunch.
Having shot her bolt, with the masterly strategy of her sex, she
vanished, pulling the door behind her.
What would Shakespeare have said under the circumstances, and what
would a suitor have said to Shakespeare when he knew that he was
suspected of having gone back on his request for the daughter's hand in
marriage? Tabs almost felt that he was in the actual presence of the
bard of Stratford, Sir Tobias looked so ineffectually pompous and
overweighted with gravity. Both Sir Tobias and Shakespeare, in the
opinion of Tabs, were vastly overrated persons; but the only thing
Shakespearian about Sir Tobias this morning was the magnificent
calmness of his forehead; his podgy body, supported by its stiff little
pen-wiper legs was more reminiscent of Punch, as portrayed on the cover
of the famous weekly which bears his name.
Immensely considerate of you to come, puffed Sir Tobias, levering
himself out of his chair in order that he might shake hands.
Not kind at all, Tabs contradicted cheerfully. I kill two birds
with one stone; I have my conversation with you and in half an hour I
carry off Terry.
That'll make him hurry up with whatever he has to say, he thought;
it sets a time limit.
The old gentleman seemed put out to find himself deprived of his
prerogative to be elaborate and prosy. He made a gesture, indicating
that Tabs should copy his example and choose a chair. But Tabs ignored
it. He had learnt that a man on his feet has the advantage, especially
if he stands six foot two in his socks.
You'll be wanting my news, he suggested. I told you pretty well
everything across the telephone. I think it's a case of everybody
having got the wind upPhyllis particularly. Mrs. Lockwood's a very
restful woman. I should call her a man's woman. She's bright and
entertaining and pretty, and she owns a charming little house. She had
no responsibilities, so she's free to entertain from morning till
night. Adair has without doubt visited her more often than was wise. It
was remarkably foolish of him to have made a woman-friend whom he
didn't share with Phyllis. But I suppose he didn't dare to introduce
them after he'd seen that Phyllis was jealous. However that may be,
this dread that they may run away together is moonshine. Mrs. Lockwood
sets too high a value on herself. Besides, there's only one man whom
she loves or ever has loved for that matter. He happens to be dead!
One moment, my dear fellow, Sir Tobias interrupted, I always
understood that the lady had had three husbands. Was this man one of
them or did she have no affection for any of the men she married?
Tabs felt himself corneredand he had been getting on so well. He
realized that if once he allowed Sir Tobias to start questioning him he
would get tangled up. She's complex, he explained; she's complex in
her simplicity. She's one of the most simply complicated and
complicatedly simple women that I ever met. To understand her you have
to talk with her. I talked with her for six hours. The upshot was that
she promised to shut her door against Adair.
The innocent old eyes blinked. I'm not modern, like you, Lord
Taborley. I have my suspicions of these simply complicated and
complicatedly simple women. Set me down as old-fashioned. Having been
only once married, I can't enter into the refinements of feeling of
such matrimonially inclined boa-constrictors as Mrs. Lockwood. I
sha'n't give myself the chance of meeting her. I'm an old man; it would
be too upsetting. If I talked with her, I shouldn't understand. So I
must take your word for it that, however much appearances may have been
against her, her motives were beyond question. He slipped forward in
his chair with a disconcerting suddenness; for a moment his filmy eyes
became penetrating. She seems to have made a deep impression on you,
my dear fellow. If your optimism proves correct and through your
efforts Adair is free from her clutches, we all owe you a debt of
gratitude. Butand I'm sure you won't take amiss what I'm sayingI
would advise you, now that you've effected Adair's rescue, not to see
too much of her yourself. In fact, if I were you, I wouldn't see her
any more if I could help.
It was clear that the benignant, sly old gentleman had overheard a
substantial part of Maisie's telephone conversation. It was equally
clear that his interference was wisely and kindly intended. He had a
perfect right to be scrupulous about the conduct of a man whom he
regarded as his future son-in-law; but he had no right to take
advantage of the worst managed telephone-system in the world to
eavesdrop on a private conversation. At the same time Tabs could hardly
accuse him of eavesdropping, so he fell back on his dignity for
I've always been very well able to take care of myself, he said
quietly. If I hadn't been, I shouldn't have undertaken your mission
and have gone to interview the kind of woman you described. I found,
however, that she didn't live up to your description of her; in
fairness to her I have to let you know that. I don't think you
appreciate, Sir Tobias, what a delicate situation you created for both
of us. She's a woman of breeding; which goes without saying since she's
Lady Dawn's sistera fact which you withheld from me. You sent me to
her house as a kind of moral policeman with a warrant for her arrest.
She was well aware of that and she was also aware that the charge you
laid against her was almost libelously mistaken. All I can say is that
she has behaved very handsomely. Since you and Phyllis have
misunderstood her friendship for Adair, she's willing to break off
relations. The most courteous and only decent thing that we can do is
to cease discussing her. It's an incident which does none of us much
As he had warmed to her defense, Tabs had been very conscious that
he was being more than generousperhaps even more generous than
truthful. It hadn't been his intention at the start to depict her as a
wronged and spotless angel; but the skepticism of the attentive old
image, bleached with disillusions and faded with years, had goaded him
Sir Tobias had listened, scratching his pointed beard thoughtfully,
with entire amiability. He was utterly unimpressed and visibly
unashamed. You're a man of the world, my dear Taborley, and you have
the advantage of having seen her. From what you say I gather that she's
not bad looking. To the not bad looking much is forgiven. Nevertheless,
I stand by my opinion that she's not a safe woman to see too often.
However, you're master of your own actions and that's neither here nor
He commenced to fumble through his pockets. When he had found his
cigarette-case, he proffered it to Tabs, who refused it.
I wish you'd sit down, my dear fellow.
Tabs glanced at his watch. There was only a quarter of an hour left
of the time he had allotted. As a concession to Sir Tobias he seated
himself. It was about General Braithwaite that you called me up last
Yes. But there's no hurry. We can discuss that over lunch.
Tabs considered that the time had come to be firm. I'm sorry, Sir
Tobias. Terry's lunching with me. We start in something less than
Sir Tobias screwed himself round and surveyed his future son-in-law
with a mild amazement. For forty years he had been accustomed to having
his own way unchallenged. Terry can wait. He spoke as though the
matter was now settled. What I have to tell you is important.
And so is what I have to tell Terry. Tabs emphasized his statement
by glancing again at his watch.
For a few seconds Sir Tobias was at a loss. To hear himself opposed
was a novel experience. Then he thought he had discovered a consoling
reason for this obstinacy and smiled loftily, as Shakespeare retired to
Stratford might have smiled at hearing himself reminded by Ann Hathaway
that he was not so great a man as London had imagined.
Very well, my dear fellow, he conceded; young blood will have its
way. I withdraw for this once, since your plans are already made.
His forgiveness was brushed aside. Time was pressing. Tabs forced
him to the point without further ceremony or waste of words. When you
phoned yesterday evening it was nearly midnight, so the matter must
have seemed urgent. You said that General Braithwaite had been to see
you on a fool's errand, with a story that partly concerned myself. May
I ask how it concerned me?
You're brusque, very brusque, Sir Tobias complained. We could
have talked this over much better at my club.
When Tabs showed no signs of relenting, he revealed his real
feelings testily. You know this fellow Braithwaite. You must have
recognized him the moment you clapped eyes on him. Why didn't you tell
Tabs looked up quickly, taken aback and slightly resentful at the
peremptory tones in which he was addressed. It wasn't my business.
Apart from that, I was aware of nothing to his discredit. Once again
as in the case of Maisie, he was allowing himself to be goaded out of
justice into excessive generosity.
Nothing to his discredit! That depends on your point of view. Sir
Tobias sniffed audibly. He could be as a rude as a spoilt child. That
depends on how deeply interested you're inin my daughter.
I think I gave you proof of my interest, Sir Tobias, the other
evening when I asked
Pshaw! You know very well what I'm driving at, Taborley.
Nevertheless, I should like to hear you put it into words.
Sir Tobias gave one of his remarkable exhibitions of youthfulness.
Flinging aside his decrepitude, as though it had been no more than an
affectation, he shot bolt upright, gripping the arms of his chair.
Last night, within a handful of hours of my forbidding him the house,
he had the impertinence to call here to inform me that he was in love
with Terry. Not content with that, he added insult to his impertinence
by telling me that he had been your valet. How is it, Taborley, that on
that evening when you dined here as his fellow-guest, you never once
hinted by look or word that he wasn't the part he was playing? I can't
consider that very honorable of you. As an old friend, quite apart from
any new relationship, I had the right to expect that my interests were
nearer to your heart. It upsets me to find I was mistaken. Have you so
little pride in the girl you propose to marry that it doesn't offend
you to see her gadding about with ex-servants? You saw them get up and
leave the table that night. You heard the front-door bang and knew that
they'd gone out togethermy daughter with the fellow who used to put
the studs into your shirts! And there you sat with me, sipping your
coffee and chatting as though it were all perfectly right and normal.
Upon my soul, Taborley, you're beyond my comprehending. If I, her
father, can feel this indignation, what ought not you to feel? You're
supposed to be her lover and you're not jealous. So far as I can see,
you're not even disturbed.
Tabs' face had gone suddenly white. He acknowledged to himself that,
had he been Terry's father, he would have said no less. When he spoke
it was with quiet intensity.
I am annoyed, Sir Tobiasa good deal more annoyed than I care to
own to myself; but I try not to let my annoyance obscure my sense of
justice. It isn't fair to consider Braithwaite in the light of a
servant. He isn't a servant; he's won his spurs. He arrived at the
position he occupies to-day through original and unaided merit. That
the man who was my servant, happens to be my rival, is bitterly
galling. But I'm not going to let it blind me to the fact that he has
qualities of greatness. He proved those qualities, even more than on
the battlefield, when he came to you and pluckily told you the truth
about himself. God knows what he thought to gain by it; but I'm hats
off to him.
Sir Tobias threw out his hands in a disowning gesture. I don't want
to quarrel with youthat's the last thing I desire. But I must confess
that I fail to sympathize with your attitude of mind. Magnanimity is
all very well, but it's easy to be magnanimous where your affections
aren't too deeply concerned. A man in love has no right to be
magnanimousit isn't a healthy sign. Lady Beddow used those very words
to me this morning. She feels as I do, that in your attitude to Terry
you lack something. You've let two days elapse since you asked my
permission to approach herYou're the same with this Maisie
womaninhumanly, unsatisfactorily magnanimous. You don't identify
yourself with our antipathiesyou almost side with the people who
affront us. It's estranging and distressing. I like a man to be more
emphatic in his loyalties and aversions. I like him to show more fire.
In days that I can almost remember, Braithwaite's intrusion would have
been an occasion for a duel. Terry's mother feels the same about you;
it makes her unhappy. 'He lacks ardor'that was how she expressed it.
'Perhaps, after all, he's too old for Terry,' she said. Personally I
don't go as far as that.
Now that he had made an end, Sir Tobias attempted to beam on Tabs
with his accustomed suavity. He was skillful in saying offensive things
with an air of consideration. When he had said, Personally I don't go
as far as that, he had leant out and patted Tabs' hand with a senile
display of affection.
Too old for Terry! Tabs sat pondering the words. They voiced
his own doubtthe doubt that had haunted him from the moment of his
return. The antiquated version of Shakespeare sat watching him,
plucking at his pointed beard and blinking his faded eyes shrewdly.
Suddenly with a cavalier smile of conquest, which was strangely
unwarranted, Tabs swung himself to his feet. Well, Sir Tobias, we've
talked for more than our half hour. After all, it doesn't matter a
continental what you, or I, or Lady Beddow feels. It's Terry's feelings
that count. I shall know what she feels before the afternoon is ended.
He was holding out his hand to the surprised old gentleman, when the
door opened just sufficiently to admit Terry's head.
Come on, your Lordship! she laughed mockingly, you've kept me
waiting long enough.
CHAPTER THE SIXTH. TRAMPLED ROSES
As Tabs emerged from his interview with Sir Tobias, he found Terry
standing in the hall, doing up the last button of her gloves. James, of
the velvet-plush manners, lost no time in proffering him his hat and
cane, and in flinging the front-door wide. He did it with the air of a
sentimentalist who was aiding and abetting an elopement. Tabs had the
feeling as he limped along the pavement with Terry tripping at his
side, that the eyes of the house which they had left followed
themfollowed them jealously, romantically, expectantly. There was
only one way in which they could give satisfaction and that was by
returning to it engaged.
He lacks ardor. Perhaps, after all, he's too old! Lady Beddow's
criticism drummed in his mind. Not very pleasant hearing!
Silence was maintained till they had rounded a corner and the tall
buff house was left behind. Then Terry raised a shy, laughing face.
Downcast, Tabs? You look as though you were bearing the sins of all
Not of all the world! he corrected gravely. Only of three
Then I'm one of them. Who are the other two?
You know alreadyMrs. Lockwood and Braithwaite. I saved all your
necks, but I broke my own.
She brushed against him affectionately. Tabs, you're a trump.
Her praise displeased him. I didn't tell you for that.
Because I thought you ought to know. He slackened his pace. I
thought you ought to know that your father isn't as keen on me as he
That's all right, she said cheerily; I am. But what have you been
doing to Daddy?
Describing Mrs. Lockwood as a lady above reproach and accusing him
of uncharity towards Braithwaite.
She tossed her head and laughed outright. You have become
Converted! He pondered her assertion. No. I'll acknowledge that I
was inclined to be too harsh at first. I may have become more pitiful;
but I've not become converted, if by that you mean that I condone what
these two people have done. I still think that Mrs. Lockwood's conduct
with Adair was inexcusable and that Braithwaite's holding back the
truth from you was dishonorable. In talking with your father I gave
Braithwaite all the credit for speaking out to him like a man, and I
let him suppose that Mrs. Lockwood had given up Adair unconditionally.
As you know, Braithwaite didn't come up to scratch till I'd handed him
your ultimatum; and Mrs. LockwoodBut you don't know about her yet.
I haven't told you.
I know, Terry smiled roguishly. Maisie's a great abuser of the
telephone. She called me up this morning to ask whether she might share
you with me for a few weeks. When I asked her why, she said to help her
to forget Adair. Of course I consented.
Tabs looked down at his companion to see whether her last remark had
been sarcastic; to his discomfort he found that it hadn't. I'm not
sure that I like to be lent round like that, he objected. I was sorry
for her last night and promised to help her; but this phoning you up to
ask your permission puts an entirely erroneous complexion on the
Not erroneous if I understand, she assured him, glancing up with
He smiled at the way she cozened him. Was she willing to lend him to
another woman because she was so sure of him, or because she didn't
care whether she lost him?
Your father suspects me of being lukewarm about you, he said; and
I can't blame him. He knows nothing about our meeting yesterday. He
doesn't know that you care for Braithwaite. All he knows is that I
asked his permission to approach you and then let two days elapse. When
I did come to his house again it was to defend the two people who have
caused him most annoyance. My reason for defending them was that I
might make things easier for you. But my position is false, Terry.
Every day your parents are expecting that we'll become engaged; every
day that we don't
They had come to the Marble Arch. Shall we hop into a taxi? he
She shook her head. Let's walk a little fartherdown to Hyde Park
Corner. It's easier to say things.
When he had helped her through the traffic and they were sauntering
through the Park, she took up the thread of their conversation. I told
you yesterday that I was willing to become engaged to you. I'm willing
Willing! he emphasized. But you don't want. The man
you love is Braithwaite. What difference has this confession of his
She shrugged her shoulders and looked away, so that he should not
see the quivering of her mouth. It's made everything impossible. I
admire him more than ever. I admire him for having told the truth and
for having climbed so far up by his gallantry. ButI'm no fool,
Tabs. I know that I couldn't marry him without bringing ridicule upon
all of us. Noble notions about human equality don't work in practice.
He's what he isfine of his kind. He's finer than you or I, Tabs, only
he's not our sort. He couldn't ever become our sort. If I were as big
as he is, I might not mind. But I'm little and mean; I care so much for
caste. And yet, in spite of that, I want to marry him. I oughtn't to
tell you, of all people. But I can't tell him and I can't tell any
oneany one but you, Tabs. I want him so much that I'm ashamed
sometimes. I wouldn't have my people know it, so you must stick by me.
Do at least as much for me as you promised to do for Maisiestay with
me till I can forget him. And then she added ruefully, It isn't much
fun for you after all you'd expected.
He couldn't afford to let her become emotional. Riders and smart
equipages were passing. Several times already they had been recognized.
The introduction of Maisie's name supplied him with a loophole. Mrs.
Lockwood rather adds to our complication. If I'm not engaged to you and
I see something of her, your father will never understand. If I were
your father, I wouldn't. To be perfectly frank, he thinks already that
I'm lenient to Maisie only because she's good-looking
Terry didn't permit him to get further. Daddy's probably right. Be
honest, Tabs. Would you have stood up for her, if you'd found her fat
and forty? Of course you wouldn't. Maisie's a dear, but she's
dangerous. She can't help being dangerous; it's half her attraction. By
the way, we've been walking entirely in the wrong direction.
They had come out by Hyde Park Corner. How do you make that out?
he asked. I thought we would lunch at the Ritz.
She began to apologize. Before I met you this morning, I'd arranged
for us to lunch with herI mean with Maisie. You don't mind, do you? I
was speaking with her over the phone and she said we must come because
she didn't feel safe.
She said that to you, too! She said the same thing to me. But you
and I, do we want her?
Terry nodded, making her eyes wide. We'll all make each other more
safe. That's what friends are for. I told her we'd be at her house by
If you told her that He was trying to discover whether he was
relieved or disappointed. With an eagerness which it was hard to
account for, he was wondering whether Lady Dawn would be there. He
pulled out his watch. Twelve-forty-five. We can just do it in a taxi.
If you told her that, we'd better stick to your plans.
He hailed a driver who was passing and helped her into the cab.
As he and Terry chugged their way to Mulberry Tree Court he eyed
her, sitting beside him. Would he ever get her? If he did, would she
prove to be one of his really big things? All men must have thought
that their wives would be the really big things in their lives before
they married them. How many of them thought that six months after they
were married? There was Adair, for instance. But his wife was going to
be the big thingon that he was determined.
And yet, it wasn't very big of Terry to be using him as a
stalking-horse for her love for Braithwaite; he felt morally certain
that that was what she was doing. She hadn't acknowledged to having
seen him, but Tabs felt instinctively that she had seen him. He also
felt that within the next twenty-four hours she would be seeing him
again. It was impossible for him to accuse her of clandestine meetings
of which he had no proof; at the same time he was distressed by the
restraint that was put upon himself. As things were, anything might
happen. When it did happen, it would happen suddenly and he would be in
a measure to blame.
And here again, in this luncheon with Maisie, he was being made a
party to her policy of secrecy. There could be no doubt that Sir Tobias
was in ignorance of her continual correspondence with Maisie.
He looked at her. How near she seemed to him and yet in reality what
miles away! He could listen to her voice. He could touch her. But he
could not foresee a single one of her future actions. She was remote
and strange and dear. She had offered to become engaged to him, but she
was no part of him. She filled him with discomfort and unrest. For the
first time he dared to frame his charge against her. It was in almost
the same words as the charge which she herself had brought against
Braithwaite. He could love her so that it seemed that if he did not win
her, he would never be able to love any other woman; but he could not
trust her. He began to question whether she had ever been the woman he
had tried to think her. Perhaps she was only a dummy and his
imagination had clothed her with affection. He had attributed to her
When all was said, how little he really knew about her! His need of
her fought with his sense of discretion. It was not dignified that a
man of his position and years should allow himself to become a
shuttlecock in the hands of her capricious inexperience. Would he ever
be able to bridge that gulf of years! Lady Beddow's unhappy criticism
haunted him. He lacks ardor. Perhaps she was right; experience should
marry experience and inexperience inexperience.
As they sped down the Brompton Road, they passed the end of
Honeymoon Square. In the enclosed garden among spring flowers children
were still playing. Scattered here and there, under the thin shade of
blossoming trees, he caught glimpses of white prams with their
attendant nurses. The little houseshis own among themstood all
a-row, shoulder to shoulder, looking intensely smiling and habitable.
His imagination reconjured all the midnights they had witnessedthe
home-comings under cover of darkness, the secret endearments of lovers,
the muffled laughter. Then he remembered his own dream, which he had
planned to share with her. It was intolerable that it should escape
conversion into reality.
It seemed little short of marvelous that she should still sit beside
him. She should have vanished with the Square. Had he given her a name,
he would have called her his lady in heliotrope, for she was dressed in
a heliotrope gown, trimmed round the hem and throat with gray opossum
and topped with a little close-fitting turban of color and fur to
match. She looked so dainty and subtly haughty, so austere in her
virginal beauty, that it seemed to him he must have wronged her with
his silent conjectures.
You're more than ordinarily pretty to-day, he said.
Am I? What you mean, I suppose, is that you like my gown. It's a
new one. I'm wearing it for the first time, especially for you.
She turned her laughing face towards him, violet eyes, flushed
cheeks, golden hair, white teetheverything aflash with instant
gratitude. The discovery of how easily he could command her happiness
Can I make you as merry as all that just by telling you you're
She compressed her lips and nodded. It's not being told. That
doesn't matter. It's being told by you.
He felt for the moment that he had recovered herthat he had
bridged the gulf of the years that divided. Before anything further
could be said, they were halting in Mulberry Tree Court.
On entering the house with the marigold-tinted curtains he had
glanced round casually for any signs of Lady Dawn. After Porter had
shown him into the drawing-room Terry had left him to go in search of
Maisie. He walked over to the tall French-windows and found himself
once more gazing out on the garden-rockery with its oval lake, its
silent fountain and its toy-boat that never sailed anywhere. He made an
effort to continue gazing out, for his impulse was to turn and look at
the portrait over the fireplace. He tantalized himself by trying to
ignore it. But it was strange the fascination that it held for him. He
had the feeling that behind his back the face had changed from the
profile position in which it had been painted, so that the steady
stone-gray eyes were challenging his attention. At last he resisted no
longer; walking over to the fireplace, he stood gazing up at it.
For a moment he tried to pretend to himself that his interest was
purely an art-interest. It was Sargent's brush-work that he was
admiring. Then he smiled, as much to the portrait as to himself.
Princess Czarina Bolsheviki, he murmured, were you really looking at
me when my back was turned? Did you flash your eyes away directly I
obeyed your desire? It's the trick of every woman; but you're not like
every woman, Princess Czarina Bolsheviki.
It seemed to him almost as though the woman on the canvas was about
to relax her pose and quiver into life. The longer he looked, the less
aloof she became and the more her serenity trembled. He felt that he
knew so much about herso very much more than he had ever been told.
There were experiences of pride and terror which were common to them
boththe pride and terror of appalling heart-hunger. He knew for
certain, as though those painted lips had confessed it, that he was the
one man in the world who had the power to make her cry. And yet he
dissociated in his mind the woman of the portrait from the woman who
had slipped past him out of the night with the taunting, sideways smile
of feminine triumph. The living woman could wound and disappoint; the
woman of the portrait was his friend entirely.
He was startled out of the mood into which he had fallen by the
sound of footsteps crossing the hall. He was not going to be discovered
in that position by Maisie for a second time. He had barely recovered
his place by the French window, when she and Terry entered laughing. It
would have been easy to have mistaken them for sisters, with their
golden heads and clear complexions. Directly he caught sight of them he
guessed by the mischief in their eyes that their laughter had been at
his expense. It was Terry who spoke. Oh, Tabs, how could you? It was
like a little frightened boy.
He glanced from one to the other of them for further enlightenment.
Do what? If you'll let me know, I'll tell you.
Run away, like you did last night, Maisie explained. I've just
been describing it to Terry. There was I sitting on the couch when Di
entered. The first thing she asked me was, 'Who's your new butler?' I
wouldn't tell her. 'He'll be here in a minute,' I said; 'I'll introduce
him to you.' We waited for about a minute and, when you didn't come, I
went out into the hall. 'He's gone, Madam,' Porter told me in her most
Mayfair manner. 'Gone!' I exclaimed. 'He can't have gone without saying
good-by.' But I was afraid you had, so I went on to the steps and
called after you. I don't know whether you heard me. When I came back
into the drawing-room, Di was smiling. 'I've read about lordly
butlers,' she said, 'but it's the first time I ever met one.' So there
you are! You can imagine what a trouble I had to clear myself. I only
downed her suspicions when I assured her that you were on the point of
becoming engaged to Terry.
Instantly Terry's eyes sought his; the laughter died out of them. He
shared her annoyance that Lady Dawn should have received this piece of
informationLady Dawn of all persons. He wasn't engaged to Terry. He
was a long way from being engaged to herperhaps further at this
moment than since his return.
The silence that followed made Maisie aware that she had been guilty
of a mistake. He suspected that she had intended to be guilty of it
from the start. Nevertheless, she played the part of innocence, making
her cornflower eyes eloquent with apology. Oh, I'm afraid I've put my
foot in it. But you are almost engaged, aren't you?
Tabs laughed good-humoredly. It's all right, Mrs. Lockwood. You
didn't mean to, but you've paid me back in more than my own coin.
Porter relieved the tension at that moment by announcing that lunch
When they had taken their seats in the front-room, overlooking the
make-believe village-green, Terry surprised them by saying carelessly,
Oh, Maisie, you remember General Braithwaite whom we nursed in our
Maisie looked up sharply, trying to warn her that Porter was still
present. Of course I remember him, she said. Since then we've both
met him a hundred times. I think Lord Taborley would like some bread,
But Terry wasn't to be deterred. She seemed to be taking a perverse
delight in introducing the one subject on which it would have been most
fitting for her to have remained silent. Since Tabs came back we've
found out all about the General. You'll never guess who he really is or
was. It's difficult to say whether he is or was, now that he's
Tabs recognized the blaze of recklessness in her eyes, like the
glare of lighted windows after nightfall from which the curtains have
been suddenly thrown back. He had seen that look in her eyes at the
hunt when, in disobedience to shouted warnings, she had looked back
across her shoulder challengingly before taking an audacious jump.
There was in her expression the fear of the thing she was about to do
and the panic of determination to get it done. He attempted to turn her
aside from the danger by slipping in quietly, I don't think I'd
discuss the General at this moment.
At this moment! she flashed back with a scared smile. The sound of
her own voice seemed to clap spurs to her excitement. Why not at this
moment, dear Tabs? Everything comes out sooner or later. If there's
going to be any spreading of gossip, one takes the sting out of it by
being the first to spread it. Besides, you oughtn't to mind. You ought
to feel most frightfully bucked.
Nevertheless, I don't think I'd say it.
Then he held his breath for, paying no heed to him, she had turned
to Maisie. You mustn't laugh, but it's too good to keep to oneself.
Before he was a General, what do you think he did for a living? He used
to clean Lord Taborley's boots. You don't believe it, but it's a fact.
Daddy's terribly grim with me over it. Of course it was infra dig
to go footing all over town with your best friend's valet. But how was
I to know that he'd been that? Daddy says I ought to have sensed it, if
I'd had any sort of a social instinct. But here's the funniest thing of
all, the way we made the discovery. I'd invited him to dine at our
house on the very night that Tabs was Daddy's guest. I'll never forget
your faces, Tabs, when Daddy introduced the two of you. She commenced
to pantomime the scene with forced gayety; then she pretended to become
aware for the first time that they weren't joining in her laughter.
What's wrong? You look as solemn as a funeral. Don't you find it
Porter was leaving the room. Maisie waited till the door had closed.
Then, You didn't intend it to be amusing. Why on earth did you say all
this before her?
Under the rebuke Terry's face flushed defiance. She was near to
tears, but she contrived to go on smiling. When I want all the world
to know anything that's private, I mention it before servants. It
But Maisie was at a loss to find a motive for such
indiscretion. She glanced helplessly at Tabs. But, she objected,
surely you don't want all the world to know about this, Terry? You and
the General have been such good pals, andI have to say it, even
though Lord Taborley is present: there were a great number of your
friends who were rather afraid
Then they won't have to be afraid any longer, Terry cut in with
icy sweetness. When it's reported to the General that I've told this
story, he won't have to be rather afraid either. It'll set all his
doubts at rest.
Tabs had sat puzzled and horrified while she had been talking.
Everything that he could remember about her was gentle; it wasn't like
her to be cruel. Now at last he realized that it was for his sake that
she was being cruelfar more cruel to herself than to any one else.
She had so little faith in her strength to break with Braithwaite that
she was building up a protective wall of contempt by the spread of this
damaging story. If Braithwaite heard it, she might well hope to rouse
his hatred and save herself further effort.
From across the table her eyes sought his in appeal; his answered
hers with intuitive comprehension. But his mind was stunned with
apprehension at the discovery that her passion for this man meant so
much that his hate would be a lighter burden than his love.
Maisie turned to Tabs with veiled disdain. I suppose it was you who
told her this, Lord Taborley?
He paid her scant attention and continued looking at Terry. On the
contrary. He spoke with unruffled urbanity. It was General
BraithwaiteSteely Jack as he was nicknamed in the Army. He never lost
an inch of trench, so they say. Like your own first husband, Mrs.
Lockwood, he's most to be feared when every one else would have given
up hoping. Like myself, though he doesn't know it, he's a
round-the-corner person. Curious, Terry, that you should have attracted
two round-the-corner admirers! It makes one almost believe that you're
a round-the-corner person yourself.
He had said it without consciousness of magnanimity. There was
nothing magnanimous about stating the truth according to his code of
honor. He was seeing the bleak look that would come into Braithwaite's
face should he hear of this happening. He was wondering whether
Braithwaite possessed the insight into feminine strategy not to take
offense, but to interpret it as surrender.
Terry was speaking again. My dear Maisie, if ever you get to know
Lord Taborley, you'll learn to have a better opinion of him. He plays
with all his cards on the table. I think most men play like that. It's
we women who cheat and carry spare aces and revoke when the game's
going against us. Then came her amazing burst of frankness, Like you
did when, to suit your own purpose, you pretended that we were on the
point of becoming engaged. Like I did when I told that story just now
about Steely Jack. And again like you've done all along in your
dealings with Adair. Why, even now, when you're ready to give him up,
you can't play the cards that are on the table; you have to try to
borrow Lord Taborley from me. Don't get angry. I'm not accusing you
especially. We women are all the same; there's not one of us who can
stick to the rules of the game. Her glance shifted to Tabs. You used
to think that I was the exception. You see, I'm not. The wonder is that
men can even pretend to respect us.
Long after she had finished and the conversation had taken a new
turn, she went on gazing at him, raising and lowering her eyes as she
ate her lunch, begging him to understand.
You're wrong, Terry. In her capacity as hostess, Maisie was making
an attempt to get away from personalities. She was too convicted by
what had been said to consider it wise to defend herself. You're
wrong. Men don't want to respect us. They love us for having faults
that they wouldn't tolerate in themselves. They encourage us to
cultivate them. It flatters their integrity to discover our
dishonesties. They like to believe that we're cowards. They don't
expect us to tell the truth. They almost resent our having a sense of
honor. The woman who cheats at every turn and then cries in their arms
when she's found out, is the kind of woman who always has a man to take
care of her. Look at my sister, Lady Dawn. She's never been known to
cry. She's missed everything in life through being almost repellently
In the discussion that followed Tabs took no part, though he was
often appealed to for an opinion. As he listened to their modulated
flow of voices, their refined and gentle intonations, their evasive,
slyly uttered words, he began to have an understanding of what was
taking place. It was something primitivethe oldest of all battles.
Neither of them wanted him, but each was prompted to covet the pretense
of his possession. Their hunting instincts were aroused. He had taken
on a sudden value in their eyes because each had discovered that the
other was in pursuit of him.
His thoughts went back to Lady Dawnto her pale aloofness. She
wasn't like thisshe was different from all other women. It was
ridiculous that he should be so sure that she was different when his
only proof was a portrait, quite certainly idealized. He began to argue
with himself again as to whether he ought to seek her out and endanger
her serenity by telling her about Lord Dawn. It would be useless to
confide such intentions to Maisie. He would obtain no help from her.
She could conceive of no sympathy between a man and woman into which
sex did not enter. The thought of sex in connection with Lady Dawn
seemed an impertinence.
The discussion went on. Luncheon was at an end. Coffee had been
served. Cigarettes were being lighted. Again and again he was referred
to. Did he think this and didn't he agree to that? Wasn't this true of
the way in which men regarded women? Their differences of opinion
seemed so trivial. Their views so immature and amateurish. He watched
them with curious, brooding attention. They were so nobly tender in
their outward forms. He appreciated the grace of their gestures, the
fine-boned smallness of their bodies, the delicacy of their molding,
the tendril thinness of their fingers, the sagacity of their tiny
aristocratic heads, the seduction of their soft red mouths, the poetry
of the fringe of golden lashes in which the pathos of their eyes hung
enmeshedtheir intrusive, penetrating frailty, which supplicated,
denounced and astounded. They were so weak and yet so strong. A man
could crush them with one arm. But they could slay a man's soul with
their sweetness. They were equipped in every detail by their pale
perfection to quicken and to disappoint. To disappoint! That was what
they had been trying to persuade him for the past half-hourthat they
were Nature's traps, cunningly contrived and baited. The Philistines
be upon thee, Samson! Their self-traductions were undermining his
faith in all sacredness.
In the silence of his brain he foughtfought against disillusion,
claiming exemption for at least one woman from these sweeping
denunciationsthe woman in the portrait.
A man had been passing and repassing the windows, cut into triangles
by the looped back, marigold-tinted curtains. At first he had mistaken
him for a different man each time he had passed. Then the lazy
certainty had grown up within him that it was always the same man. A
man who wanted somethingwanted something that was in that house. It
wasn't possible to make out his features. He wore a morning-coat and
was top-hatted. The swing of his carriage was indefinitely familiar.
And now he had vanishedlost courage, lost patience, given up his
quest, perhaps. Through the triangular gaps in the panes the
village-green showed untraversed, sunlit, tranquil, garnished.
Without knocking Porter entered, looking worried.
Maisie broke off from her conversation long enough to say, A little
later, Porter. We're not finished.
She was resuming, when Porter again interrupted. It isn't that,
Madam. It isn't
Then what is it?
With an elaborate air of caution Porter closed the door and set her
back against it. I've told him that it's no good. That you won't see
Of course not. That's quite right. Maisie bestowed her approval
with rapid tolerance. I can't see any one at present. Then, as an
after-thought, By the way, who is it?
It was then that Porter let fall her bomb. It's no good my telling
him. He won't go away. Her firmness crumbled. She bleated in a
dramatic surrender to distress. The three who heard her caught the
commotion of her alarm and waited breathless. Her explanation came at
last. It's Mr. Easterday. The moment she had said it, she turned and
The door had scarcely closed, when Maisie rose from her chair and
stood swaying. She sank back, closing her eyes and pressing her hands
against her breast. The mask of placidity had been wrenched from her
face, leaving it blanched with the conflict between yearning,
temptation and loneliness.
Adair! she moaned. My God, I daren't trust myself!
Unclosing her eyes, she gazed burningly at Tabs.
I was honest in what I promised. I do want to live as though Reggie
weren't dead. How did you put it? As though he were round the corner.
As though he were truly coming back.
In the silence that followed she stifled a sob, realizing that it
wasn't Tabs who was the obstacle. Turning hysterically to Terry, she
laid hold of both her hands. I can't do itcan't, can't by
myself. I can only do it if you'll tell Lord Taborley to help me.
At a nod from Terry he left the table. In the hall he found an odd
sight waiting for him. He had to look twice to make certain that this
was the Adair Easterday whom he had known, and not a strayed and
The man before him was worried to distraction. He had the unhappy,
panic-stricken eyes of an over-driven bullock that scents the
slaughterhouse. And yet his dress was immaculate; he was tailored and
laundered as though for an occasion of joy. Everything that he wore was
discreetly festive, from the lavender gloves and shiny topper to the
striped trousers and canvas spats. One would have said that he was a
caricature of George Grossmith on his way to a garden-party.
But he was hotterribly hot; far more hot than he had any excuse
for being in brisk spring weather. There were beads of perspiration on
his forehead; his face was congested with excitement. To lend the touch
of humor, which always lurks behind other people's tragedies, he held
his top-hat by the brim in his right hand, as though he were taking a
collection, while from his left, like a feather-duster, trailed an
enormous bunch of roses. He was a short man in the late thirties,
red-headed and inclined to be podgy. He was not built to express poetic
passionshow many of us are, if it comes to that?or to sustain their
onslaught with dignity. Emotion seemed to have bloated him with unshed
tears. There was nothing noble in his distressonly a farcical
appearance of wretchedness.
As Tabs crossed the hall to the front-door, just inside of which
Adair was standing, he felt an undeserved compassion for himthe kind
of compassion one feels for a clumsy dog, which is always getting under
people's feet. At the same time he couldn't help marveling that there
should be two women at the same time in the world who were willing to
compete for such a man's affections.
I happened to be lunching here, Tabs commenced conventionally. But
he altered his tactics promptly. In the presence of his friend's
self-advertised misery nothing but the briefest truth seemed adequate.
Old man, it's no good. She won't see you. She doesn't want you.
Forgetting his sense of justice, he placed his hand affectionately on
Adair stared in a full-blown way and nodded. She never did want
He passed no comment on this unforeseen meeting in the little house
with the marigold-tinted curtains. He manifested no resentment against
this familiar angel who had been deputed to bar the gates of Eden to
his approaches. He was incapable of surprise. He was obsessed by the
solitary idea of his own forlornness. I knew it. She never did want
me. And then, in a rush of self-pity, No one ever wanted me.
Except Phyllis, Tabs suggested.
Adair appeared not to have heard. He stood like a living statue, his
top-hat extended, his bunch of roses danglingthe picture of idiotic
futility. Genuine emotion, however mean its origin, always has its
grand moments. Tabs forgot the silly beginnings of this upset and the
endless troubles it had caused. All he saw was a typical ragamuffin of
humanity in the grip of the policeman, Nemesis. Adair had been caught
trying to do what thousands of other ragamuffins achieved daily with
success. He had been arrested red-handed in the act of stealing
forbidden happiness. It was his first offense. He was inexpert and had
bungled. He had bungled because, while assuming the rôle of roguery, he
had remained at heart an honest man. Now that he was caught, he took
the exposure of his dishonesty too seriously.
Tabs had almost forgotten that he had been the last to speak, when
Adair repeated his exact words, Except Phyllis! And then, Poor kid!
She, too, is unhappy.
Through the marshy obscurities of his humiliation his conscience was
building a path. With his two hands he crushed his topper back onto his
head. The act had the vehemence of decision. In the doing of it he
dropped the roses to the floor. There they lay forgottenso forgotten
that he placed his foot on them without noticing.
Home! Best be going home, he muttered.
Without further explanation, he drew back the latch and let himself
out into the sunlit Court. Delaying long enough to pick up his hat and
cane, Tabs followed.
Adair gave no sign of recognition as he caught up with him. Failing
to hail a taxi, they boarded a bus. Tabs paid the fares. Adair sat like
Napoleon after Waterloo, taking no notice of anything. It was the
intensity of his thoughts that kept him silentnot moroseness.
They had reached Clapham Common and had come to his garden-gate,
before he acknowledged Tabs' presence.
I was a fool. I deserved it, he said sadly. It's ended in exactly
the way that any sane man would have expected.
Kicking the gate open, he passed up the path. From the Common Tabs
watched him, till he was safely within the house and the door had shut.
As he turned away, he scarcely knew whether to laugh or feel vexed.
The misfortunes of others can always be traced to folly; it is only our
own misfortunes that are never deserved and never anything less than
august. If Adair's love-affair had appeared ridiculous in his eyes,
probably his own would afford materials for jest to some one else.
He couldn't forget the top-hat and the trampled roses. The
ineffectualness of all passion loomed large. It might have its value as
an educative process, but what a waste of energy! For the moment he
drew no distinction between Adair's guilty hankering after something
which was forbidden and his own honorable love for Terry. The end of
all passion was futility.
Then he laughed, for in imagination he saw the world as a
crestfallen caricature of George Grossmith, top-hatted and bespatted,
wending its unfestive way through the centuries to an eternal
garden-party, from which Adam and his lineage were forever debarred.
His exit from Mulberry Tree Court had been so hurried that he had
had no time to make arrangements with Terry.
He had no sooner knocked than the door was opened by Maisie. He was
slightly embarrassed at being brought face to face with her thus
suddenly after the last scene that they had shared. He entered in a
tentative manner, only just crossing the threshold, as though he had
not much time to spare.
I called in, he apologized, because I thought you'd like to know
what happenedand to fetch Terry.
Of course. She spoke with a cheerfulness that astonished him. I
was expecting you. With that she led the way across the hall to the
Carrying his hat, he followed. He clung to his hat purposely; it
would serve as a reminder that he had not come to stay long. She was on
the point of seating herself, when she spotted it. Oh, how rude of
me! In the twinkling of an eye she had deprived him of it and
vanished. Captured once more! he thought.
During the few seconds that she was gone, he looked about him.
Everything was as it had been yesterday. A companionable fire glowed in
the grate. On a table beside the couch tea was spread. Even as
yesterday, the nearest chair to the couch was at least six feet away,
making it necessary for any one who did not wish to appear boorish to
share the couch with her. There was something else that he had noticed
on entering: while he had been away she had made a complete change of
toilet. She was now dressed in a filmy gown of emerald green, with
shoes, stockings and buckles to match. It was a gown so chic
that, had he been a woman, he would have guessed at once that it was
the latest from Paquin's. Inasmuch as he was a man, his sole comment
was, Plucky little thorough-bred! You don't catch her owning that
she's down. The emerald shade brought out all the values of her
coloring, the faint rose of her complexion, the daffodil gold of her
flaxen hair. He had expected to be bored by a Magdalene repentant;
instead he had found himself confronted by a challenging young Diana.
His admiration went out to her for her courage.
Having come back and resettled herself on the couch, she smiled up
at him through flickering lashes. A nice frock, don't you think?
Nothing like a new frock after a knock-out for restoring your
It's a charming frock. Where's Terry?
She clasped her small hands about her knees, leaning her head far
back so that her eyes glinted up at his languidly. Perhaps it was
necessary to do that in order to see him properly. He was still
standing. And yet her attitude served another purpose; it called
attention to the firm young lines of her bust and throat, and to the
voluptuous curve of her lips, parted in patient expectancy.
Terry! Her voice sounded drowsy. I forgot. I ought to have given
you her message. She couldn't stop. She had another engagement.
An engagement! He was dumbfounded. That's strange! She never said
anythingAre you sure she didn't invent it?
Certain. Maisie sat up fully awake now. Quite positive. But she
had made up her mind not to keep it till, through no fault of yours,
you gave her the chance. You don't want to believe that; it sounds as
though she had cheated. You don't know much about women, Lord Taborley.
You don't know because you refuse to learn. You're determined, in the
face of every proof to the contrary, to live and die in the faith that
we're angels. She shook her finger at him. He was amused to discover
that he was being scolded. Angels! We're far from it. We're very much
like you men, with this difference, that we're cowards. What you
needthis may sound entirely wrongis a good sensible woman to take
you in hand, and give you a run for your money, and teach you your own
value. Why, with your position and charm
You must excuse my interrupting. Of course it all depends on what
you mean by a run for my money. But are there many good and sensible
women who are game for an adventure of that sort?
Heaps of them, she assured him, imitating his mock seriousness.
The more outwardly good and sensible, the more inwardly they're
Humph! He pretended to be pondering this gem of information. And
then, But you have to own, Mrs. Lockwood, that Terry's not
She blocked his protest with a gay little laugh. I make no
exceptions. Terry's exactly like the rest of usyounger and more
innocent looking, no doubt, but just as imperfect. As regards this
engagement of hers, she breathed no word of it until you had gone. Then
she began to flirt with the idea that she might be able to keep it. At
last she couldn't resist the temptation any longer. Out she came with
it, that she must be going. I'd lay a wager I could name the person
You'd lose your wager.
I think not. She met the threatened tempest in his eyes with
Would you give a name to this person?
Where's the good? She shrugged her dainty shoulders. We both know
it? Steely Jack. Isn't that what you call him?
Instantly she leant forward. Her whole instinct was to touch him.
She hadn't intended to hurt him like that. He looked so defiant, and
gaunt and desertedsuch a huge, scarred boy of a man. He reminded her
of one of those early war-posters, in which a solitary figure was
depicted, knee-deep in barbed wire, head bandaged, hurling the last of
Please don't be angry, she pleaded. I was clumsy; but I was
trying to help. When you helped me yesterday, you too were clumsy. You
can't put on a new frock, worse luck, the way I've done, to restore
your self-respect. But I do wish you'd buy a new somethinga new
race-horse or a new carI don't care what as long as it would make you
swank. A little swanking would do you all the good in the world; it
would keep Terry from knowing how much you care. Terry's not half good
enough for you; one day you'll acknowledge it. Still, if you really do
think you want her, you can bring her to heel any moment by putting on
an indifferent air. Look how jealously she flared up at me at lunch. It
makes a woman furious to see her rejections picked up as treasures by
another woman. The only reason why Terry brought you here to-day was to
see for herself just how deep an impression we'd made on each other.
At last she mustered the courage to touch him. Reaching out, she
took his hand and drew him to her. He stood against her knees, looking
Her voice was tender. Some one had to say these things to you, just
as you had to say things to me that weren't altogether pleasant. So why
shouldn't I to you? After all, we're both in the same box, and the box
is labeled NOT WANTED. It pains me to see a man like you, wasting
himself on a girl who hasn't the sense to appreciate what he's
offering. She raised her eyes to his with a slow smile. Don't mistake
me, Lord Taborley, I'm not trying to secure what you're offering for
He began to see the drift of her argument. Before he could formulate
it, she herself had put it into words. Can't we do a little missionary
work, you and I, by appreciating each other just a little?
Flinging prejudices to the winds, he took a place beside her on the
couch. Why shouldn't he? Why should he go on conserving himself so
scrupulously for a girl who didn't value his loyalty?
I should consider it a privilege to be appreciated by you, he said
gravely. But let's start properly. How about dinner at the Berkeley?
After that, if you felt like it, we could do a theatre. Would that suit
* * * * *
It was close on midnight when they returned to Mulberry Tree Court.
Not until he was handing her out of the taxi and Porter was standing
framed in the open doorway, did he remember that he'd imparted none of
his important news concerning Adair.
About Adair he commenced. Or shall I put him off till
Till forever. As her feet touched the pavement, she swung around
on him with laughter. They had been very happy in the last six hours.
She pressed close against him. He caught the sparkle of her eyes as he
stooped above her and the faint, sweet fragrance of her hair. She
rested an ungloved hand on his arm. It looked dim like a large white
moth that had settled there.
I have few principles to guide me, she whispered, but the few
that I have I observe. I never dig up my dead and I never botanize on
the graves of the past. Good-night. Merry dreams to you, Lord
With the suddenness of a phantom she went from him. There were a
brief few seconds while he heard the ripple of her laughter and the
rustling of her dress. Then the door closed. Save for the lamps of the
waiting taxi night was again eventless and dark.
That evening was the first of many such adventures. His tall limping
figure became a familiar sight in Mulberry Tree Court.
Very early in their friendship he took her advice and delighted her
by purchasing a smart two-seater runabout which he drove himself.
Sometimes it was at her door shortly after breakfast to transport her
to where saddle-horses were waiting in the Park. Sometimes it would
turn up about lunch-time and stand impatiently chugging while she
changed into sport's clothes, after which it would dash away with her,
humming contentedly, into the depths of the country. It was the
magic-carpet which obeyed all her desires. After war-days, with their
petrol shortages and restricted travel, it seemed more than ordinarily
magic. It made emphatic as nothing else could have done, the freedom
and serenity which peace had restored. The very fleetness of its
obedience prompted her to urge Tabs to take her farther and ever
farther afield. There were evenings when they dined within sight of the
sea beneath the red roofs of Rye and started back for London across the
Sussex downs, driving straight into the eye of the sunset. There were
afternoons when they drifted over the Chiltern hills to where the
spires and domes of Oxford rise, placid as masts of a sunken ship in an
encroaching sea of greenness.
But it was most frequently nearing midnight when the quiet of the
secluded Court was wakened by the merry buzzing of the engine. At first
it would come from far away, drowsily like the song of a belated bee.
Then it would gather in volume and grow more lively, till it panted
round the little village-green and quavered into silence in front of
Maisie's door. Porter, with the gold light of the hall behind her,
would always be there on the threshold to receive her mistress. It was
difficult to guess what Porter thought. There were impromptu jaunts to
theaters and dances. Porter had seen many gay beginnings and tearful
endings. Her face was immobile and respectful at whatever hour he
It was a curious friendship that had developed between thema
friendship which lived from hand to mouth, which had the appearance of
being more than a friendship, in which nothing was premeditated.
Nothing could be premeditated so far as he was concerned. Terry had
first call on all his leisurenot that she availed herself of it very
often; nevertheless, he held himself in readiness to break every
engagement for her. Maisie was his consolation prize when Terry had
failed. Maisie was not deceived as to the spare-man place that she held
in his affections. She was painfully aware that at any moment their
friendship might end as abruptly as it had started. On either side it
was based on a common need for kindness, a common tenderness and a
common desire for protection from loneliness. In a sense they were each
a substitute for something postponed and more satisfying. While he was
making up to her for the loss of Adair, she was trying to save him from
the rashness of committing himself too fatally to Terry. They were
altruists, actuated by self-interested motives.
And yet it was a friendship not untinged by enmity. His enmity was
awakened when she became too possessive in the demands which she made
and especially when she let fall criticisms, however mild, concerning
Terry. These occurrences set him thinking of the other casuals who had
ventured on her doorstep, not meaning to stay, and had ended by hanging
up their hats in her hall. Her enmity was roused by the courteous
circumspection of his behavior. He never admitted her to the privacy of
his inmost thoughts. He could be gay and gallant and bountifully
generous, but he never permitted her to peep beneath the surface. He
addressed her invariably as Mrs. Lockwood. The use of her surname held
her at arm's length. She longed most frightfully to hear him call her
by the name that was less safe. She denied to herself that she wanted
him to make love to her; at the same time she was disappointed at the
persistency with which he held her off. She liked to believe that, if
he had made love to her, she would have rebuffed him. She rehearsed
many times the indignant words with which she would have set him in his
place; she would have reminded him that it was for Reggie Pollock she
was waitingas though he were not dead, but only round the corner. To
her chagrin Tabs never gave her the least incentive to employ them.
He saw her never more and frequently less than once a day. There was
a week at a stretch when he saw nothing of her. She bridged these
tedious intervals of expecting by the length of her telephone
conversations. Whenever he stayed away for long, she tortured herself
with suspicions that his courtship of Terry had begun to prosper. If he
returned debonair and smiling, she felt confirmed in these suspicions.
He was most dear to her when he returned in an under-mood of distress.
She knew then that she was necessary; to be necessary was the passion
of her heart. Then she would become gay and tender and motheringan
altogether sweeter, gentler and more self-effacing Maisie.
Whither were they driftingtoward marriage or only toward
infatuation? If you had asked Tabs, he would have replied promptly,
Toward neither. He had promised to tide her over the dull spots. She
had advised him to take a course of education in his own value in order
that he might increase his worth to Terry. She had told him that he
ought to let some good sensible woman take him in hand and give him a
run for his money. They had accepted each other at their wordthat was
At the same time he knew that that was not all. He knew that if
there was one thing more irritating to her than being addressed as Mrs.
Lockwood, it was his way of treating her as if she were good and
sensible. Most women would feel affronted at hearing themselves spoken
of as anything other than sensible and good. Good and sensible women
are the pillars of society, but they are not usually regarded as
attractive companions for joyous excursions in two-seater runabouts.
Neither of them was entirely insensitive to the conjectures that
their sudden intimacy had given rise to in the minds of onlookers. They
were both too well-known and were seen together in too many different
places to avoid the breath of gossipeven of scandal. Men were scarce
after the wholesale butchery of the war, especially bachelors of Lord
Taborley's class. Had he only had the conceit to know it, he had
returned to London a strong favorite for the season's matrimonial
sweepstakes. More than one anxious mother of unappropriated daughters
had set him down for preference on her list of eligibles. When
invitations poured in on him and were politely regretted, there was
consternation and puzzlement. The puzzlement vanished when the
explanation was whispered across a hundred dinner-tables, Haven't you
heard? It's Maisie Lockwood.
Then would follow details of how they had been seen at sundry
theaters, at half-a-dozen fashionable hotels and riding together in the
Park. She mounted on one of Lord Taborley's horses of course.
It's quite a case, people said. If he doesn't mean matrimony, it
would be decent to exercise more discretion. There used to be some talk
of Terry Beddow; that's completely ended. Queer the women men fall for,
even the quietest of them! No one's sane any longer. Had three husbands
already, hasn't she? Quite a crowd! One would scarcely have supposed
that an exclusive chap like Taborley would have joined in the queue to
make a fourth. And he could have had almost any girl for the asking.
There's never any telling.
Veiled references began to appear in the society columns; but not so
veiled that they could not be recognized. A romance is developing
between a noble lord, who served in the ranks during the war, and a
vivacious beauty, three times widowed, well-known in fashionable
circles, etc. One paper published a photograph of them riding side by
side. After that sceptics who had not seen for themselves, were
It was a mad worlda world in which it was not safe to be
censorious. The lid was off the conventions. Every one was shouting for
happinesshappiness at all costs. When they could not get it for the
asking, they were taking it without thought of law or penalties. There
were few who could afford to sit in judgment and many who preferred to
laugh. The day of authority was over. Traditions were no longer
respected. While the war was on, men and women had been drilled into
dumb acquiescence; now that the drilling was abolished, they had become
a mob, avid, leaderless and uproarious.
Tabs came to realize that he was not alone in his lost sense of
direction. The right to live had been restored, but neither individuals
nor nations were sure what they wanted to do with it. After having been
as one in their sacrificial certainty, they had arrived at a
cross-roads where there was no policeman to take charge. They had
broken up into little groups, gathered about their own vociferous
stump-orators. The result was babel. Of orators there were a plenty.
They abused one another across the Irish Sea. They tried to shout one
another down across the Atlantic Ocean. But the hammer-head men of
righteousness were gone. After the apocalyptic splendor of mailed
knights of Christ charging stern-faced down to Armageddon, the results
of victory had been consigned to the weakling care of a race of
And yet there was music and laughter. Spring rushed on. Feet that
had marched, now moved in the rhythm of the dance. Theaters were
crowded. Jazz-bands clashed. There were endless processions. Youth
beckoned. Chestnut bloom grew white and fell in flurries. Women were no
less beautiful. The sun shone thunderously.
If Tabs were foolish, which he did not concede, all the world was
his companion in foolishness. Blindly and gropingly he was still going
in search of his kingdom. He ignored the gossip which his championship
of Maisie had called forth. He despised it. It made him the more
compassionate toward herthe more determined to help her to weather
the storm. Well-meaning friends undertook to warn him. She's most
beautiful and charming. And she's Lady Dawn's sister, of course.
ButWell, to put it frankly, a woman who's been married three times
might just as well never have been married at all. Looks as though
she'd only squandered her money in rising to the nicety of a
marriage-license. I hope you don't mean to marry her, old chap, because
she's not your sort.
When Tabs went to the trouble of assuring these well-wishers that he
did not intend to marry her and that she was his sort, they slipped
their tongues into their cheeks and opened their eyes wide, Oh, so
that's the way of it!
Maisie reported to him similar experiences. So you see how I'm
regarded, as though I were no better than I should be. And I'm young
and I've done nothing wrong. If it wasn't for your friendship, I should
But you have my friendship! he assured her.
He tried to rise superior to this petty talk of scandal-mongers, but
it was not always possible when he remembered Terry.
He met Terry as often as he could contrive, but he no longer forced
himself upon her. He could effect nothing so long as her infatuation
for Braithwaite lasted.
Now that Sir Tobias had lost faith in him as a lover, his
opportunities for meeting her became more rare. When Sir Tobias lost
faith in any one, he made no attempt to disguise it. In the case of
Tabs, he let him know it with a fine air of magnanimity, as though he
were doing him a kindness. His frankness took the form of communicating
some new disparaging criticism, astutely attributed to Lady Beddow,
every time he was paid a visit.
Having separated Tabs from Terry by carrying him off to his library
on one pretext or another, he would carefully close the door and
commence, You men who've seen service are all unbalanced; it would be
unfair to hold any of you responsible. You're no exception, my dear
fellow, though you probably don't notice it in yourself. As Lady Beddow
was saying to me this morning, 'Poor Lord Taborley, he has a rambling
mind. Most likely it's a species of shell-shock. There's a queer look
comes into his eyes. It's not always there. It's a look as if he were
haunted. You ought to speak to him, Tobiasyou're his oldest
friendand advise him to see a specialist. It's lucky we found his
weakness out before things between him and Terry went too far.'
Or he would say, Lady Beddow and I were talking about you, my dear
fellow. You know she's very fond of you. She loved your mother before
you. 'The little big lady from America,' she used to call her. She's
naturally very much upset at the way in which you're getting yourself
talked about. Unfortunately she holds me partly responsible for having
induced you to visit this Maisie woman. 'You ought to have known him
better,' she says. 'There's an immoral streak in himan inherited
taint, which I, for one, always suspected.' She was wondering whether
you have any knowledge of there having been insanity in your family.
After having invented such discomforting surmises and given his wife
the credit for them, the old gentleman would blink his crafty eyes and
rest his hand affectionately on Tabs' arm. At the end of each visit he
was pressed to call again; but when he called, it was to find himself
shepherded into the library, safely out of reach of Terry, in order
that he might hear his conduct discussed afresh, either directly or by
He was unable to defend himself without betraying Terry. She
maintained her silence with regard to Braithwaite, refusing to take her
parents into her confidence. They naturally attributed the hanging fire
of the engagement to Tabs, supposing that on the eve of his proposal he
had been ensnared in the net of Maisie. In their eyes he cut a shabby
Behind his back Terry came to his defense. She would hear and
believe no wrong of him. This only proved to her parents that her heart
still followed him. They thought her very brave and became more gloomy
in their accusations. Matters took a serious turn: her health began to
fail. When the doctor was summoned, he ascribed the cause to secret
worrying and prescribed a complete change. Tabs received no word of
this happening, for Terry had become increasingly shy, so that she
created the appearance of avoiding him. She quite definitely avoided
There came a day in early June when he went to call on her and was
informed by the velvet-plush James that Miss Terry was out of London on
a visit of undetermined length. When he asked for her address, James
shook his head mournfully. She had been ill and was to be spared all
disturbing communications. His orders were that her address was to be
given to nobody.
But that order doesn't apply to me, Tabs urged.
James became more profoundly agitated. He averted his eyes, while he
fiddled with the last button of his plump waistcoat. I regret to say,
to your Lordship most especially.
Humph! Tabs stroked his chin. Is Sir Tobias at home?
Your Lordship would gain nothing by seeing Sir Tobias.
You might mention to him that I called. With that he descended the
steps and climbed into his runabout.
Turned away! he thought. Turned away from Terry's house! Then
his mind went back to two months agothe hopes he'd had, his meeting
with her at the station, his asking her father for her hand in
marriage. It was like the old front-line trench, when reënforcements
had failed to come up: there was nothing for it but to dig one's self
in and stick it out.
He had been shown the door with as little ceremony as an intruding
From Terry's house he went to Mulberry Tree Court, but the route
that he chose was not direct. He drove all over the West End first,
through Oxford Street, Bond Street, Piccadilly; then back by way of
Regent Street, swinging to the left through Conduit Street, till he
again struck Bond Street. He doubled and redoubled on his tracks,
moving among crowds, feeling that he must hear the noise of crowds, yet
seeing little of the sights on which his eyes rested. It had been like
this with him before, after being in too close contact with calamity.
It had been like this in war-days, when he had returned on brief leaves
out of monstrous offensives to the appalling quiet of a normal world.
He hadn't dared to be alone. He had felt that his sanity depended on
his rubbing shoulders with people. He had been like a child in an empty
house, leaning out of a window to catch the stir of life along the
The gayety of the London season was at its height. Khaki was growing
rare. Signs of war had almost completely vanished. No one wanted to
talk about it. No one wanted to read about it. Shops had redecorated
their windows with the necessities and luxuries of civilian
requirements. There was a wave of spendthrift extravagance abroad.
Every one in the streets had the look of being out for a good time. The
threat of torturing to-morrows no longer made life haggard. If there
was one lesson that the past five years had taught it was that each new
day was a gift from the gods, to be enjoyed separately and drained of
every available drop of pleasure. The restraints of duty were
indefinitely postponed. Men and women sauntered in pairs, aimlessly and
joyously. Work was the bondage furthest from their thoughts. They
seemed aware of no one but themselves in their ecstasy at being
reunited. Racing had been restarted; up and down the gutters newsboys
ran shouting the winners. London was a Tommy on leave, insubordinately,
humorously, contagiously happy.
As he drove, Tabs argued out his problem. From house-top to
house-top the June sky sagged like an azure canopy. Across pavements
the afternoon sunshine lay in bars of gold. Flower-sellers stood at
intervals along the curb, scenting the air with their country nosegays.
A lazy breeze ruffled drooping flags which had been hung out for the
latest festival. Everywhere there were girls in their blowy summer
dressesgirls of all kinds and sorts. Single girls, married girls,
girls who worked for their livings, girls whose business it was to be
beautiful, girls who were merely drudges. There were both pathos and
urgency in the sight of them. It was not good that they should live
alone. They had wasted their youth too long. The great necessity for
that waste was ended. Not one of them was a patch on Maisie.
If he did not desire Maisie, why did he miss her? Was it that he
would not allow himself to desire her? Why did he encourage his passion
for TerryTerry who in her mild and gentle way had become almost
insolently unappreciative? Wouldn't he be wiser to content himself with
the woman who was within reach rather than?
He frowned as the truth dawned on him. For the first time he had
acknowledged it. He did love Maisie. Not as he loved Terry, of course;
but in a more human way, to the extent of needing her companionship. He
had made a discovery that amazed himselfa discovery that thousands of
men had made before him: that it was possible for him to love two women
at the same tune, utterly differently and yet with entire sincerity. He
felt as lowered in his self-esteem as if he had committed bigamy. He
was dumbfounded at this new twist that his emotions had developed.
Without consulting him, they had played a trick on him which forever
disqualified him for the larger rôle of constant lover. He felt himself
pushed down to almost the level of a philanderera philanderer not
much more august than Adair. The suspicion crossed his mind that, if he
could believe himself in love with two women, he couldn't be very
mightily in love with either.
But he was impatient of delaysworn out with procrastinations. The
magnificent chances of the present were slipping past him. One day he
would be old. Now, now, now, is the appointed time, throbbed
his engine. Out of the sheer disorganization of his thoughts a
desperate scheme took shape. Why should he not go to Maisie and say,
We're neither of us first in each other's affections. It's a
rough-and-tumble world! Why be thin-skinned about it? We may become
first later. Let's stop dreaming of kingdoms round the corner and make
the best of such kingdoms as are ours to-day.
The idea took hold of him with force. It fascinated him. He turned
his car about. In passing through Mayfair he made a detour to glance at
Taborley House. The American Hospital had vacated it. It looked ruined
and forlorn. He tried to picture it as it might appear if Maisie were
Twenty minutes later he drew up before the retiring little villa
with its marigold-tinted curtains. He had by no manner of means decided
on his course of action. He could not have told you what he was going
to say to Maisie. In this as in so many other ways, he believed himself
abnormal. No one had ever told him that ninety-nine out of a hundred
married men, if they spoke the truth, would have to confess that they
had been unaware thirty seconds before they proposed that they were
going to do so; and that the most incredible happening in their lives
had been when, thirty seconds later, they had discovered that not only
had they proposed, but that they had been riotously accepted.
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH. SOME PEOPLE FIND
He was in the act of shutting off his engine when he heard himself
accosted. I beg your pardon, but are you, Mr. Gervis?
It was a pleasant voicea man's. Keeping his eyes on what he was
doing, Tabs answered in the negative. Then he recalled that Gervis had
been the name of Maisie's second husband. If it's the Gervis who used
to live here, he indicated the house with a jerk of his head, I'm
afraid you won't find him. He's been dead these three yearskilled at
A quiet chuckle greeted this piece of information, followed by a
hearty, Thank the Lord.
Tabs had finished what he was doing. As he stepped out of the car,
he threw a contemptuous glance at the man who could be so callous. He
was a slightly built, fresh-complexioned young fellow of middle height,
with amiable gray eyes and a fair, closely-trimmed mustache. He
belonged to the demobilized subaltern type and had the weary, drawn
expression of over-strained nerves that so many young faces had at that
time. He was dressed in a smartly fitting suit of striped navy-blue
flannel and carried himself with the plucky alertness of a highly bred
fox-terrier. He had a clean and gallant bearing which it was difficult
to reconcile with the ungenerosity of his last remark. In a neat,
unforceful way he would have been handsome, had it not been for a badly
healed scar which ran straight across his forehead, only just escaping
Before Tabs could say anything, he was apologizing. That sounded
rotten. I'm sorry. But you see, I didn't know the chap. It's his wife
that I'm trying to find. She was married to a man named Pollock when I
knew her. I was rather a pal of Pollock's, belonged to the same
squadron and was shot down at the same time. I've been a prisoner in
Germany. Just got back, in fact. As you'll understand, I'm rather out
of touch. I thought you'd be able to tell me whether she still lived
It was very damping to his ardor at this particular moment to have
Maisie's matrimonial past raked up. Within the next half hour he would
very possibly be asking her to be his wife. He wasn't sure that he was
going to; but meeting this friend of her first husband on her doorstep
didn't help him to make up his mind. He was no longer unsympathetic to
the young fellow, but he was quite determined that he must be sent
about his business.
As a matter of fact, he said, the lady you're in search of does
live here. But she's not Mrs. Gervis any longer. She's married again.
She's Mrs. Lockwood now.
A glint of enmity came into the stranger's eyes. Then you're Mr.
Tabs answered him with a note of irritation. I'm not Mr. Lockwood.
She's a widow. Lockwood also was killed. But I really don't see why you
should stop me on the pavement to ask so many questions. You can find
out everything by ringing the bell.
That's right. The young fellow stroked his mustache. But I didn't
want to do that until I had made certain. Surely you can see how
embarrassingAnd now this third chap's gone West, you say. Poor
little Maisie, she hasn't had much luck.
It was difficult to be brusque with a man of his own class,
especially with a man so genuinely likeable. But he had to get rid of
him. After having nerved himself up to the point of being at least
prepared to propose to Maisie, he couldn't contemplate an evening of
sharing her with a stranger and listening to the merits of her first
So you're an old friend! Well, I'm afraid she won't be free this
evening. I have an appointment with her. But, if you like, I'll mention
that I met you and I'll let her know that you'll callwhen shall we
sayto-morrow? Perhaps you'd care to give me your name
The young man smiled good-naturedly. I couldn't think of troubling
you to that extent.
In that case, I'll have to ask you to excuse me. All kinds of luck
to you on your return. It must be rather jolly not to be a prisoner.
Tabs crossed the pavement and rang the bell. In order that he might
afford no opportunity for further conversation, he stood with his face
towards the door while he waited for it to be opened. He was very
conscious that the stranger had not departed, but was hovering
immediately in rear of him.
It was Porter who answered his summons. I'm sorry, your Lordship,
Mrs. Lockwood is outNo, she didn't leave any word. She's bound to
be back shortlyWhy, certainly, if your Lordship has the time.
While she was closing the front door, he walked across the hall and
let himself into the drawing-room. He went directly over to the empty
fireplace and gazed up at Lady Dawn's portrait. It always seemed to
challenge himseemed to be trying to say something to him. It was
almost as though it were his conscience hanging there on the wall. He
had an idea that it reproached him for his silence with regard to Lord
Dawn. He felt that, were he to do what his instinctive sense of justice
had first urgedgo to Lady Dawn and tell her that her husband had
cared for herthe painted face would be no longer turned away and the
stone-gray eyes no longer averted.
He was haunted by the obsession that he would never have any luck
till he had vindicated the dead man's memory.
It was Maisie who had prevented him up to nowMaisie with her
laughter, her breezy arguments, her short views of life, her contempt
for sentiment, her sledge-hammer motto, with which she shattered the
past, I never dig up my dead. She had made him hesitant about
reopening the subject. Her sister was the most beautiful woman in
England. A man never knows to what boundaries a woman's jealousy
spreads. He feared lest, if he persisted, she might impute to him less
lofty motives than the desire to play fair by a comrade-in-arms who had
Something stirred behind him. He swung about and found himself
staring into the face of the stranger who had accosted him on the
Sargent painted it ten years ago, the stranger said. She's not as
young as that now.
How did you get in? Tabs demanded.
The stranger laughed boyishly. Not too loud or you'll give the show
away. I followed you. The maid raised no objection. She thought we were
togetherwhich was exactly what I intended.
But what do you want? What right have you here?
Want! I know what I want. As to my right, that's problematic.
He turned his back on Tabs and commenced to move about the room,
picking things up and examining them with a purposeful curiosity. He
showed no fear, yet in all his movements there was a calculated
stealth. Tabs watched him in amazement, wondering what he ought to do.
If it came to grappling with him, unless he carried fire-arms, there
was little doubt as to who would get the better of the contest. The man
might be a lunatic, a blackmailer, a burglar; by his odd mode of entry,
he had laid himself open to every suspicion. But he looked perfectly
normal; and if he had been a burglar, he surely would have selected an
opportunity when no other man was present. It was an awkward situation,
this being shut up alone in a husbandless woman's house with an unknown
intruder. It seemed to be an occasion for tact rather than the possible
fuss of police interference.
At this moment the stranger made a discovery.
He had been examining the five silver photograph-frames, each in
turn, with close attention. With his back towards Tabs he remarked, It
looks as though she hadn't forgotten him. Five reminders of his homely
mug and not a solitary one of the also-rans! Numbers Two and Three
couldn't have made such a deep impression. He caught his breath in a
nervous shudder. It's queer. Everything's queer when one's just come
back. One's so changed that he could court his own wife without being
recognized. You, too, were out there I should judge by the way you
limp. I wonder whether you've got over the queerness yet. I haven't had
From in front of the empty fireplace, Tabs interrupted him. Look
here, my dear chap, I don't want to be rude and this isn't my house;
but what's your game?
The stranger turned and smiled. His frank gray eyes were amused and
friendly. Upon my word, I haven't any game. I'm like yourselfjust
paying a visit.
Tabs shook his head and gazed at him fixedly. It won't do; you know
that. You're a gentleman. Gentlemen don't get into unprotected women's
houses by your kind of methods.
They don't. That's a fact. He laughed carelessly. I suppose this
is what comes of having been a prisoner in Germany. One prefers to be
Don't you think it's time you stopped fooling? Tabs spoke in a
conversational tone without temper. There's Mrs. Lockwood to be
considered; she may be here at any moment. It's no good coming this
returned prisoner trick; all the prisoners in Germany were returned
shortly after the Armistice. Eight months have elapsed.
All right. Have it your own way.
The stranger ceased to wander and sat himself down at Maisie's end
of the couch. Pulling out his cigarette-case, he offered it to Tabs.
Have a gasper?You don't need to refuse because of Maisie. If she's
the Maisie she used to be, she won't object.Well, if you won't, I
Tabs noticed that his hand trembled in holding the match. The man
was a bundle of nerves; he was only maintaining this display of
coolness with an effort. Whatever the purpose of his bold intrusion, it
was not social, as he had pretended.
I don't like any man to think me a liar. The man spoke slowly
between puffs at his cigarette. You think it's all bunkum that I'm
fresh out of Germany, but it isn't. Do you see that? He ran his finger
across the gash in his forehead. That and the ill-treatment I received
in the prison-camps made me go wuzzy. The only fact about myself that I
could remember in all those years was Maisie. So it's natural that I
should come to see her first. I wasn't sure of my own identity until a
month ago. I suppose I was released at the Armistice, but for seven out
of the past eight months I must have wandered in rags over Central
Europe. However, all's well that ends well, and here I am.
But you knew that she'd remarried, Tabs objected suspiciously;
you asked me if I were Gervis.
A friend of Pollock's told me that, he explained. Gervis was
excusable. But this Lockwood fellow's the third. It's a bit thick! She
certainly has been going it. He looked up suddenly. I've been doing
all the talking. What about yourself?
Tabs crossed the room and opened one of the long French windows
which led out into the rockery. The golden afternoon had faded into
early evening and a refreshing coolness was in the air. When he came
back, he seated himself at the other end of the couch. Just to show
that there's no ill-feeling, I'll accept one of your gaspers, if you'll
allow me.There's nothing for me to explain. My name is Lord
Taborley and I'm a friend of Mrs. Lockwood. There's nothing else.
The stranger leaned forward. His humor left him, revealing his
premature haggardness. He laid a hand on Tabs' arm and asked a
question. You're fond of her?
Tabs eyed him in silence, trying to divine what was intended. At
any rate, you are, he said kindly; I see it now.
Not fond of her, I'm in love with her. The man's face softened as
he made the confession. I was in love with her when she was still the
wife of Pollock. I've been through deep waters. I've had to wait for
her like Jacob did for Rachel. I've lost most thingsmy memory, my
health, my very likeness! but never for five minutes have I lost my
love for her. She was the only star in my darkness The words fell
from him with somber sincerity. I don't know whether you
But Tabs' thoughts had turned inwards. He was living again the
englamored poignancy of the years when Terry had been for him precisely
thatthe only star in his darkness. The intensity of the vision was
like a cry of warning rousing his sleeping idealism from its lethargy.
His present errand became a treachery to be swept aside by his refound
strength. He recognized the intruder with new eyes, not as an enemy,
but as a comradea comrade marooned on the selfsame island of
loneliness and bound to him by the common experience of a kindred
adversity. He was like Crusoe discovering the footprint. Here, quite
close to him, was a fellow waif who had drunk deep of his own bitter
sense of desertion. With a thrill of sympathy, his heart turned to him.
The only star in the darkness! He repeated the stranger's words.
For most of us there's been one woman who was all of that. If she
fails us He stifled his pessimism. When stars fail, one waits for
So you, too, had your woman!
The stranger smiled and relaxed against the cushions. Foolish of
me! You can't blame me. Twice I've believed that I'd lost her. First
there was Gervis and then this Lockwood. Poor devils, I cry quits on
them. But when I found you so at home here, you can guess what I
dreaded. And yet you'll never guess why I followed you into this
house. He lit a cigarette and crossed his legs. I didn't want you to
escape me till I'd asked a questionHas it ever entered your head
that Pollock might not be dead?
Tabs started. Then he sat very still. It was the commonplace tone in
which the question had been asked that froze his blood. It was as
though this man had said, I can bring him back. For a moment he knew
genuine fearthe non-physical fear which the impalpable can awake in
the bravest mind. Through the open window the companionable mutter of
London entered. The normality of everything on which his eyes rested
did its best to reassure himthe mellow evening sunlight in the
friendly room, the flowers in the rockery, the toy-boat on the pond. I
never dig up my dead. He remembered Maisie's motto. But what if the
He pulled himself together. Pollock not dead! An absurd suggestion!
Maisie had changed her name twice since thena sufficient proof! The
poor fellow was demented. Everything that he had done bore the
hall-mark of insanity. He had owned that he had been deranged to within
a month ago. Everything that he had said might be quite true. He
probably had been the dead man's friend and in love with Maisie at the
time of her first marriage. The misfortunes that had befallen him had
exaggerated his love into maniaa mania which the news of Gervis and
then of Lockwood had rendered active. He felt an immense compassion for
the man. There, save for the grace of God, sat himself. But what was to
be done? Already Maisie was overdue. Not a second could be wasted. He
must humor him and get him out of the house, if a scene was to be
And all the time the stranger had been watching himfollowing his
thoughts, no doubt. He spoke again. Don't you agree with me? It would
be damned awkward if Pollock came back.
Tabs forced a smile. I'm not so sure that I do. She never loved any
one but her first husband. She's told me so. The other twoI don't
believe she herself knows how they happened. They were soldiers. They
weren't long for this world. She didn't want to do them out of
anything. He glanced at his watch. By Jove, and I've not dined yet!
I'm afraid I must be off. How about you? I'd be awfully glad if you'd
take dinner with me.
The man jumped to his feet, so that Tabs rose with him. But once
they were on their feet an amused expression of cunning came into his
eyes. It told Tabs plainly that he had seen through the strategy. He
shook his head. Very good of you. But I'm waiting for Maisie. He held
out his hand. It was evident that he was determined to take Tabs at his
word. We'll meet again, perhaps. What you've just said piques my
curiosity. Before you go, there's one more question. In your opinion
what would Maisie's attitude be if Pollock did come back?
Tabs was instantly aware that he had made a false move. His bluff
had been called. He'd made it impossible for himself to prolong his
call; at the same time he didn't dare to leave this man behind in the
house. It wasn't Maisie that he was thinking of nowhe could warn her
as she entered the Courtit was Porter. A madman was capable of
anything; and yet, confound the chap's deceptiveness, he didn't look
mad. There was only one chance of delaying his departure: at all costs
he must involve him in an argument.
If Pollock came back! Curious that you should suggest that! I've
sat in this room and discussed the possibility with Mrs. Lockwood by
the hour. For the past two monthsthat's as long as I've known
herI've been helping her to live as though he might come back.
The man's coolness instantly vanished. His excitement grew well-nigh
beyond control. You're not going. Sit down. You've got to explain. He
rapped out his sentences in short, quick jerks. His voice had become
harsh and imperative. You can't have any idea what this means to me.
It's ridiculous. Why should you, a living man, help her, when she's so
beautiful, to save herself for a dead man? She didn't save herself in
the case of Gervis and Lockwood.
With a sigh of relief Tabs reseated himself. The man sank down
beside him, crowding against him on the couch. His anxiety was
sharp-pointed as a dagger. Quick, he urged.
I don't know that I can be quick. Tabs spoke leisurely. He paused,
trying to think what he should say next. Here it is in a nutshell.
Mrs. Lockwood, as we both know, is a more than ordinarily charming
woman. She's the kind who, without being able to prevent herself, draws
men. There are women like that. Her three marriages, all taking place
so close together gave her a reputationYou're a man of the world;
you'll understand that I'm not trying to say anything derogatory. But
three matrimonial adventures in such rapid succession gave her a
reputation for lightness. She was young and pretty. She longed to live
life. You can't blame her. For a woman life isn't a very full affair
without a man. And yet there aren't many men who would be willing to
choose a wife with three previous husbands to her credit. It would seem
too much like a week-end experiment, without the option of parting when
the week was ended. So here was the injustice of her social situation;
without having committed a solitary indiscretion, she was damaged
goodsdebarred from matrimony, yet coveted by men. Do you realize the
The man half rose in his irritation. You're not answering my
question. The violence in his tone was unmistakeable. What I've got
to find out is, what put you up to persuading her to live as though
Pollock were not dead?
I was coming to that. Tabs spoke reassuringly. Beneath all her
gayety I found, when I began to know her, that she was
desperatedesperate to live in the sunshine and mortally afraid of
shadows. At the least hint of shadows she grew reckless. She believed
that her happiness was in the past. So I taught her to play a gamea
game that has often saved me from despair. It was just thisto act as
though all the goodness one has known still lies ahead; in her case
this meant living as though the man whom she had loved were not dead,
but waiting for her round some future corner. So that was whyBut I
think I've answered your question.
Tabs rose from the couch and limped over to the empty fireplace. He
stood there beneath the portrait of Lady Dawn, supporting himself with
one arm against the mantel. The room was beginning to fill with dusk.
Beyond the threshold of the open window, the rockery-garden was still
vaguely golden. The little pond was a silver mirror.
Perhaps two minutes had elapsed. Uncertainly the stranger struggled
to his feet. He moved towards the door, halted and came slowly back. He
looked very spent, and slim, and wasted in the gathering shadows. As
Tabs gazed down at him, he noticed that his face was prodigiously
I don't mind now. He swallowed like a small boy getting rid of his
emotion. I don't mind Gervis or Lockwood any longer; it's as though
they'd never happened. And I don't feel hard to her, the way I might
have. I'm glad you told her about things being round the corner.
Because I'm Pollock. I have come back.
Tabs stared at him. He was deeply moved. To humor him in his
delusion seemed the height of callousness. Yet what else was possible
under the circumstances?
Of course you're Pollock, he assured him gently. One wouldn't
recognize you from your portraits, but I ought to have guessed.
The man caught the deception in his tone. He lifted up his puzzled
gray eyes. You don'tNo, I see you don't. You don't believe me. Yet
I am Pollock.
My dear chap, Tabs said it coaxingly, I don't see why you should
think I doubt you. I'm quite certain you're PollockReggie Pollock,
the first of all the aces: the man who brought down the Zeppelin over
Brussels. You see I know all about you. Your picture was in the papers.
I've told you that you were expected. So why
The front door was heard to open and close. There was the sound of
Maisie's voice. They stood rigidly listening in the semi-darkness.
Neither of them spoke or stirred. As she entered, a shaft of light from
the hall preceded her. Quietly Tabs placed himself between her and the
stranger. The stranger made no motion to thwart him; he stood like one
turned to stone. Just across the threshold she halted, leaning forward
slightly and peering through the shadows.
Why, Tabs, she laughed, how romantic of you to sit waiting for me
in the twilight!
Tabs came forward as though he were about to push her back. I'm not
alone, Mrs. Lockwood
I know. Porter told me. But why are you standing in my way? She
laughed again. A shiver of fear cut short her laughter. What's the
matter? I don't see your friend. Why don't you introduce
He's not my friend. He says he's yours.
Then all the more reasonWhy are you acting strangely? No,
please let me into my own room, Tabs.
He had put out his arm to prevent her. Without warning the stranger
advanced into the shaft of light. She saw him and fell back screaming,
covering her eyes. With a vehemence that was unexpected, he pushed Tabs
aside and clasped her to him. Maisie darling, don't be afraid. I'm
real. I know everything. And I don't mind
At sound of his voice, she uncovered her eyes. His face was close to
hers. The fixed look of terror left her.
Putting out her hands timidly, she ran her fingers along the scar in
his forehead. They've hurt you. Poor you! My Reggie! Oh, my lover,
they've hurt you!
She buried her head against his shoulder and fell to weeping
Neither of them had seen him go. He had tiptoed past them like a
ghost and out into the summer night. The sky was luminous with the dust
of stars. A sleepy wind was blowing.
He jumped into his car and sped away, making such haste that one
might have thought he was pursued. He wheeled to the left in the
direction that led to the Surrey hills. It was the direction he had
taken with Terry on that March morning when she had met him at the
station. He was making a discovery: that there is no tragedy more
difficult to contemplate with charity than the sight of other people's
happiness. Their follies we can tolerate and view even with compassion;
but their joys are unendurable. Joy separates men with impassable
barriers. It transfigures beggars into Lazaruses lying at rest in
Abraham's bosom. We view them from afar off and their contentment
increases the burning of our torment. No man has yet discovered how to
share his joy. Only a god could say, My joy I give unto you.
They had not seen him go. That was the neglect that rankled. Even
though they had seen him, they would not have cared; they would have
done nothing to delay him. They were past all caring. Like tired ships,
having weathered many storms, they had furled their sails in the harbor
of desire. He had slipped by them like a demon vessel, all canvas
spread, out-going on his endless voyage.
From the door, before he left, he had looked back. The room was
a-silver with twilight. The garden beyond was still vaguely golden. The
pond glimmered darkly like a magic mirror. The murmur of London wove
patterns on the silence. From the hall across the silver of the dusk,
an intrusive shaft of light pointed like a finger at those two
entranced, who had refound the peace that time had scattered.
Even though Pollock had not returned, he himself could never have
married her. There are violations of the austerity of the soul which
the urgings of the flesh cannot accomplish. In the vivid flash of
reality that had visited him he knew that now. He was angrybitterly
angry. But his anger was not for her; it was for himself. He could be
so audaciously prophetic in the affairs of others. He could advise them
and well-nigh compel them to conserve themselves for kingdoms of whose
coming there was neither the slightest hope nor warning. His
penetrating optimism could foresee the daringly incredible, so that it
almost seemed in the case of Maisie that his optimism had created out
of the incredible a fact. He could work these miracles of restraint for
others; himself he could not restrain. His road ran straight as
destiny, yet any lazy kingdom of mildness in a woman's eyes was capable
of luring him aside. In his abasement he lost all faith in his
self-knowledge. Hadn't he always been the victim of an imagination
which had tricked mere liking into a resemblance to passion? He
strutted, gestured, despaired till he almost persuaded himself that he
was the part he was acting. But had he the faintest conception of what
real love meant? Hadn't he always acted a part? Yes, even in the case
His saner judgment intervened. He hadn't always been like that.
Where had the point of departure started? He traced back the weakness
till he came to the moment when he had permitted his sense of justice
to be over-ruled by a woman. It had started with Maisie, when he had
allowed her to persuade him to hide the truth from Lady Dawn.
He jammed on the brakes, bringing the car to a sudden halt. To go
and tell her must be the first step in his redemption. Till that was
done the curse of the dead man would follow him. It seemed to him now,
as he looked back, that through all the spring and summer the shadow of
Lord Dawn had crept behind him. He would go at once. He would go that
night. He knew where he could find her. He would set out like a pilgrim
of long ago through the moon-drenched, hay-scented sweetness of the
His vision turned outwards. He realized for the first time where he
had halted. He was within sight of Richmond Park, outside The Star
and Garter Hotel, the old haunt of merry-makers, which had now
become a permanent hospital for the mutilated. There were lights to
mark the windows of men who suffered. As he watched, some leaped up;
others were snapped out. He could hear in memory the starchy rustling
of nurses and the creaking of springs as the patients turned. There
were men in there without arms and legs and faces; he had shared their
danger and he had been spared. Surely the God who had covered him with
His mantle, had had some plansome design of goodness for him!
Far below in a curving streak of blessedness the Thames ran silvered
by the moonlight. He could see the clumped shadows of woods and the
flicker of ripples striking fire against the banks. More distantly
London gloweda golden flower cupped in the hollowed hand of night.
Holding his breath he listened to the loudness of the quiet. Subtle
ecstasies drifted to him, fluttering like moths against the windows of
his mindlilies like thoughts, roses like words, in the sweet brain
of June. There was a design. Maisie had found her kingdom. Was
it too much to expect that round some future turning God had another
He drove back to London by the directest route. He would have to get
supper before he made a start. By the time he had done that, packed his
bag, and refilled his tank it would be close on midnight. Dawn Castle
lay somewhere down in Gloucestershire. He knew the road as far as
Oxford; after that his ideas were vague.
He was a little daunted by the thought of Lady Dawn. Everything that
he had heard about her, including his first meeting with her, had
served to daunt him. He pictured her as a woman with a conscience
clear-cut as a cameoa woman, infallible and unsubdued, impatient of
foolishness and gentle in her spirit with the cold tranquillity of a
landscape under ice. How would she receive him, coming out of nowhere,
unheralded and unexplained? And how could he explain the urgency that
had compelled him to come to her? It was a delicate task that he had
set himself, this seeking out a woman with whom he was unacquainted,
that he might tell her that her husband had not hated her when he died.
What concern was it of his, she might well ask. If she chose to be
hostile, there were no arguments by which he could defend his
interference. His sole justification was his deep-rooted conviction
that he was doing right.
She never cried. How often Maisie had insisted on her sister's
abstinence from tears, as though it was something monstrous that summed
up all her character! He would have felt far more comfortable in
visiting her if he had been assured that she sometimes cried.
As he turned into Brompton Square, he thought he caught the door of
his house in the act of closing. He might have been mistaken. It was
dark under the shadow of the trees. Quite possibly it had been the door
of a neighbor's house. Nevertheless, he hugged the curb as he drove so
that he might scan the face of any one on the pavement. Forty yards
from his doorstep, at a point where things were darkest, a man passed
him. He was a tall man and walked with the erectness of one who had
been a soldier. The way in which he carried himself and strode was
extraordinarily reminiscent. Tabs slowed down and looked back; the man
moved straight ahead, without hesitancy or sign of recognition. It
couldn't be Braithwaite; Ann's vicinity was the least likely place in
which to find him.
As Tabs let himself into his house, he found Ann in the hall. Was
there some one here to see me? he asked.
There's been no one to see your Lordship, Ann replied
He scarcely knew what prompted him to say it. Perhaps it was the
healthy neatness of her appearancethe extreme orderliness of her
quiet. Ann, you're the sanest creature I meet anywhere. You've the
pluck of one in a million.
She turned to him a face that was flushing and eyes that were
unusually bright. It's good of your Lordship. Your Lordship is always
No, Ann, only human. I know what you've been through and I'm glad
you're getting over itI have to be away to-night. I shall need some
supper. While you're preparing it, I'll pack.
On the way upstairs he telephoned the garage to send for his car and
to return it within the hour. Then he climbed the last flight to his
While he packed, he kept pausing and knitting his brows. A
ridiculous conviction was forming in his mind. It couldn't have been,
he assured himself. Yet the more he recalled the man on the pavement
the more certain he was that he had been Steely Jack. But what motive
could Braithwaite have had for calling and why should Ann try to hide
the fact that he had called? He had lost trace of him utterly since
that day when he had handed him Terry's ultimatum at the Savoy. Since
then Terry and he had had many meetings, he did not doubt.
Braithwaite's influence clung to her like her shadow. But if he was so
in love with Terry, the more reason why he should steer clear of Ann.
To have called at Brompton Square would have been asking for a
cloudburst. It couldn't have been Braithwaite. And yet
And then there was Ann. Since that day when the General's portrait
had appeared in the papers, she had given up watching for letters
marked, On His Majesty's Service. She had made no further enquiries
as to how his Lordship's friend at the War Office was progressing. Her
silence told its story; she had learned the truth. In what spirit she
had accepted the truth Tabs had no means of guessing. Lady Hamilton,
the little maid-of-all-work, had been the beloved of Nelson. Ann was
not without her precedent. But the maid-of-all-work had become Lady
Hamilton before the Admiral had set eyes on her. Steely Jack was a
General, while Ann was still a servant. Her claims would not meet with
much applause if they were brought before a jury.
To all appearance she had resigned herself to the inevitable. Tabs
was frankly surprised at her magnanimity and fortitude. About her
fortitude there could be no question, but concerning her magnanimity he
was not a little skeptical. More than once he had caught her singing as
she went about her work. She didn't get all the words correctly; she
sang them with improvisions, filling in the gaps where her memory
failed. Throughout the war the song had been sung to men on leave at
the Alhambra by the heroine who acted the revengeful part of Tootsie
Some day I'll make you love me.
Some day you'll call me 'Dear'.
You'll feel so lonely
And want me only;
I'm sure you'll want me near.
I know you can't forget me,
Though, dear, for years you'll try.
I'll make you miss me
And want to kiss me,
Bye and bye.
She was a mystery. If she were playing a game, it was a game the
intentions of which he could not fathom. The man whom he had passed on
the pavement could not have been Braithwaite. Common-sense insisted on
While he was at supper she gave him no chance to question her. I'm
motoring down to Dawn Castle, he told her. I've left the address on
my desk. Don't forward any letters till you hear from me. I don't
suppose that I shall be there for more than a day. To tell the truth,
he glanced up smiling at her seriousness, I haven't been invited.
Ann refused to be lured off her perch of reticence. She set before
him the dish she was carrying. I'm sure wherever your Lordship goes
there's a welcome.
He felt that he was being reproved. He had been conscious of her
silent criticism from the moment he had announced that he would be away
for the night. He respected Ann and was anxious for her good opinion.
She was by long odds the most honorable woman of his acquaintance and
the best, because she was the kindest. He had had the feeling
throughout the past two months that there was very little that had
happened inside his brain that had escaped her. She had disapproved of
Maisie. She had shown no enthusiasm for Terry. She had been aware of
his dangers when he himself was disguising them with excuses. All this
he knew though no word had been exchanged. She had observed in all her
dealings with him the decorum to be expected from a high-class servant.
And yet she was his trusted friend, whose virtues compelled his
admiration and whose loyalty commanded his affection. She thought ahead
for him and smoothed his path. Her sense of responsibility was as
tender as a sister's. Her humility lent it a touch of pathos. He looked
up to her as men instinctively look up to good women in whatever grade
of society they find them. The silent knowledge which each had of the
other formed a bond of sympathy, the more delicate because it was
He said, Long agoit must have been before the warI gave you
tickets to see Peter Pan.
It wasn't to me your Lordship gave them. It was to Braithwaite.
Was it? He held her eyes, striving to peer behind their curtained
windows. It was the first time that that name had been mentioned
between them in casual conversation. You're right. It comes back to me
now. It was the Christmas of 1913 that he took you. Do you remember the
fairy who was dying? There was only one way of keeping her alive. Peter
Pan had to make the children in the audience promise that they believed
in fairies. When they did that, she got well. That's why I'm going to
Dawn Castle to-night.
Ann ceased abruptly from what she was doing and stared at her master
in concern. He laughed mischievously. Wrong again, Ann; I've not taken
leave of my senses. Two hours ago I made the same mistake. There was a
man who asked me whether I believed that Mrs. Lockwood's first husband,
who was killed at the Front, would return. While I was wondering how
long it would be before he'd grow violent, he proved to me that he was
her first husband. So I'm believing in fairies.
A secret happiness lit up her face. Deep down beneath our doubts,
most of us believe in fairies, I think, your Lordship. With a shy
smile she left him.
The purring of an engine warned him that the car had returned and
was waiting. He could hear Ann in the hall, handing out his bags. He
had finished his supper; he might as well be off. As he drove out of
the Square, he looked back; she was standing on the steps, gazing after
him. He had the restless certainty, now that it was too late, that she
had had a secret which, at the last moment, she would have given the
world to have shared with him.
Of that night journey in after years he remembered only the deep
peace and the ecstasy. He was doing something at last that was right;
though why it was right, he would have found it hard to explain. He
encountered none of the difficulties he had anticipated in picking up
his direction. He flew unswervingly to the mark like a bullet traveling
a predestined path. The first sixty miles were familiar; Maisie had
covered them with him on many occasions. By every law of emotion each
landmark should have stirred some poignant memory, some fresh
wistfulness of regret. The fact was that he hardly gave her a thought.
When he did, it was only to wish her luck and to congratulate himself
on his escape.
Having passed through Oxford lying blanched in moonlight, he climbed
out of the Thames valley, striking through uplands across the wold to
Burford. From then on all memories were left behind; he had become an
explorer in an unknown country.
Everything was sleeping. How trustfully it slept! Trees were hooded
like extinguished candles. Flowers throughout the fields clasped their
faces in their hands. Birds, like fluffy balls, drowsed on branches.
Stars alone were wakeful. They stooped to watch him with intent,
companionable glances. Now and then he had to halt to flash his torch
on a sign-post or to consult his map. For the most part he took chances
Night engulfed him, rushed past him, broke over him. He was like a
ship thrusting forward into a trackless ocean.
The paleness of dawn was in the sky as he neared Gloucester. When he
entered, its roofs and towers were precipices of gold and fire,
straining up to the New Jerusalem which floated in the clouds. The
streets of the ancient city had a mystic look, white and hushed and
tenantless. But already the cheeky sparrows were about,
scandal-mongering beneath the eaves with an unholy disregard for the
awe by which they were surrounded.
He left Gloucester in a southwesterly direction. In fields the hay
was lying cut. A largesse of dew had been scattered through the
hedgerows like loot from the treasure-chests of emperors. Larks were
battling up, striving to sing against the very bars of heaven. Every
fragrance and sound was a messenger, guaranteeing happiness.
Round a bend in the road he came across a cluster of thatched
cottages, their white walls gleaming incandescent in the morning
sunshine. Beyond them lay a parkland, from the edge of which rose a
wooded knoll, crowned by a moated castle. The next mile-stone warned
him that it was the village of Dawn he was approaching.
All day he had waiteda lazy summer day, drowsy with the hum of
bees and heavy with the perfume of cottage flowers. On entering the
village he had put up at The Dawn Arms, an old-fashioned hunting
hostel which owed its prosperity to the fame of the Dawn foxhounds.
Having bathed and breakfasted, he had started off to leave his card on
Lady Dawn. Arriving at the Castle, he had been informed that her
Ladyship had left early that morning and was not expected back till
early evening. He had filled in the morning by sleeping and the
afternoon by joining a band of sight-seeing trippers who had driven
over from Gloucester in gayly-painted chars-a-bancs.
With a spice of amusement, he had paid his shilling for admission at
the wooden booth outside the Castle gate and had found himself herded
with a crowd of affectionately inclined young women and young men who
perspired freelythe latter for the sake of greater comfort had
removed their coats and knotted handkerchiefs about their throats. In
good time a decrepit ex-butler had appeared to act as guide and had led
the excursionists over the Norman part of the ruins. He had shown them
the dungeons, the room in which a prince had been murdered and the
havoc wrought upon the walls by Cromwellian cannon. The ever recurring
theme of his trembling narrative was the prowess and the splendor of
the Dawns. He was like a weak-voiced cricket chirping in the sunshine.
His stories of bygone lords, who had died in rebellions and crusades,
were too ancient to grip the imagination. At first his veneration for
the race which he served inspired an outward show of respect on the
part of his hearers. But soon, in straggling twos and threes, they
lagged behind to explore and pluck wall-flowers from the crannies.
Girls, feeling the pressure of lovers' arms about their waists, giggled
shrilly. They wandered off to shady nooks in the grass-grown ramparts
where woolly sheep looked up somnolently to watch them.
To the few who remained the old man mumbled on. It was the nobility
of the late Lord Dawn that he was now recountingthe daring horseman
he had been, the deviltry of him, the lust of life he had had, the
greatness of his possessions and how he had foregone all this beauty to
be hammered into the defilement of the trenches like a rat, cornered in
Visitors are not allowed in the part of the Castle that is
inhabited. But, since her Ladyship's away
Unlocking a door, he led them through a tunnel to a grilled gate,
through the bars of which they saw the Castle's terraced rose-gardens,
falling away steeply in a cascade of petals to a water-lilied,
green-scummed moat which encircled the stronghold like a necklace of
jade. Beside the water's edge a fair-haired boy in a white sailor suit
was deeply absorbed in sailing a boat.
His little Lordship, the old man whispered.
But I didn't knowHow old? Tabs questioned.
Eight years, sir, come December.
Long after he had returned to the inn, the picture of the little boy
remained with him. This discovery that Lord Dawn had left a son made
him the more certain of the justice of his errand.
The azure and emerald of late afternoon drifted into the ensanguined
gold of sunset. The long-tarrying twilight had already settled when a
messenger arrived, bearing a note. It was from her Ladyship, regretting
her absence and saying that she would be happy to receive a visit from
Lord Taborley that evening or at any time that was convenient.
He set out at once. Heretofore, with the exception of Terry, women
had meant little to him. But he was curious to meet this womancurious
and eager in a strangely boyish fashion. Every one who had mentioned
her had spoken of her with a certain hint of fear, not untinged with
adoration. He hadn't been aware how anxious he had been to meet her
until her note had summoned him. He wondered whether she had any of the
endearing humanity of her sister. He wondered whether what Pollock had
said was true, that she looked much older than her portrait. He didn't
want her to look older
He came to the bridge across the moat and the gateway which bore the
grooves in which the old portcullis used to slide. He passed through
the gateway, under the tower, into the graveled courtyard of the
Castle. On three sides the courtyard was loop-holed and sullen, but on
the fourth modern windows and a brass-knobbed door had been let into
the solid masonry. Above the door, shining down on the whitened steps,
a lamp burnt in a wrought-iron socket. Several of the windows were also
His knock was answered by a gray-haired man, with the gravity of
deportment which is peculiar to lawyers, undertakers and footmen. While
the man went to inform his mistress, Tabs was left to note how the hall
was hung with hunting trophies. Then he heard himself being requested
Having climbed a winding stair, he was shown into a room in the
turret, one side of which was filled by a tall leaded window gazing
westward. The landscape which it framed, hung against the darkness like
a painted canvasa far-reaching expanse of tree-dotted pasture, vague
with islands of mist and rimmed by the last faint sparks of the sunset.
The ceiling was heavily beamed, the furniture Jacobean, the walls
paneled and hung with many generations of family portraits. In a wide
hearth a fire of coals and logs was burning. In the room's center stood
a carved table on which was set a massive silver lamp, casting a
Lord Taborley, my Lady.
As his name was announced, he heard the rustle of her dress, and
discovered that she had been seated in a low chair by the window. She
rose with a slow grace. There was something indefinably tragic and
foreordained about her every movement. Maisie's name for her flashed
into his mind, The Princess Czarina Bolsheviki. It suited her
exactly. In those surroundings she might have posed as Mary Queen of
Scots in prisona queen without a kingdom whose pride was unbroken. In
the dimness his first impression was of her queenly gentleness.
I can guess why you've come.
The same deep voice that had taunted him at Maisie's, only now it
was no longer taunting! He noticed the way she offered him her hand,
with the arm fully extended as if to hold him away from her. She was a
smaller woman than he had remembered; it was the courage of her bearing
that had made her seem taller. He could not see her face distinctly; it
was in shadow. But, when she turned, he caught the whiteness of her
profile on the dusk, clear-cut and tranquil as a cameo. After having
gazed so long at Sargent's painting, he would have recognized anywhere
the rounded shapeliness of her head, the hair swept smoothly back from
the calm forehead, the splendid strength of her throat and the
delicate, wholly feminine half-moon of her shoulders.
Won't you sit over here? If you would prefer it, we can have more
lamps. But they would spoil She indicated the vague stretch of
country, across which mists were drifting like gray ghosts.
He drew up a chair at an angle to her own, so that he could study
her. You say you think you know why I've come?
I was expecting you, she said quietly. He could feel rather than
see the steady kindness that was in her stone-gray eyes.
If you were expecting me, then your sister must have
My sister had nothing to do with my expecting. Can't you think of
any one closer?
He shook his head. At first he had hoped that Maisie had told her
and done his work for him. Evidently it wasn't that. She was
attributing some other motive to his visit. It was a motive the
disclosure of which called for delicacy. She had prearranged his
reception. It was no accident that had caused him to find her alone in
the dimness of the gathering evening. The scanty lighting of the
shadowy room had been stage-set to spare them both embarrassment. If
it wasn't your sister He paused at a loss to know how to proceed
Her hands came together gently in her lap. When she spoke, her
emotional voice had a new tenderness. Will you allow me to help you?
We're not such strangers as we seem. For years I've been interested in
you. I was always hearing of your adventures in Mexico, Korea, the
Balkans and last of all at the Front. You've been quite a romantic
figure in my life. You've always seemed so strong; and I admire
strength immensely. I never dreamt that a time would ever come when I
would be able to help you. You're in love and she's not in love with
you. You're older than she is and it makes you unhappy. She has time to
experiment, but for you it's different; your love is bound up with the
last of your youth. Because you've been unhappy, you've been unwise.
Your foolishness ended yesterday with the return of Reggie Pollock. I
received the news of his return this morning. So you came down here to
me, which was perfectly natural.
He shifted his gaze and stared out of the window, puzzled and
troubled. Unfortunately for me, Lady Dawn, a good deal of what you've
said is true. But I don't see how it makes it natural that I should
have come to you. I've been wanting to come for a very long time, but
was given to understand that what I had to say might be distasteful.
You must put that out of your mind. She said it comfortingly, as
though to a little boy. There's nothing distasteful in what you have
to say. It may cause awkwardness with Sir Tobias; but if you can assure
me that you're really in earnest over Terry, I'll be quite willing to
risk that in order to become your ally.
He smiled towards her through the darkness. There's nothing I
should like better than to reckon you as my ally. And now I see why
we've been talking at cross-purposes. You think that I've come to
wheedle Terry's address out of you. Perhaps I have, since you've put
the idea into my head. And with regard to my earnestness, nothing
except Terry in the whole world matters. She's romance,
self-fulfillment and, as you've said, the last dream of my youth. If I
supposed that I were going to lose her, I would rather not haveBut
I didn't come here to burden you with my troubles. I came to do
something for yousomething which I've tried to avoid doing. Something
which has forced itself upon me and followed me untilIt's as though
I'd been compelled by a personality outside myself. I may make you very
She leant forward, bringing her face so close that he could feel the
fanning of her breath. The moon was newly risen; as it shone on the
mist, low-lying in the meadows, it made the country-side luminous like
a vast lake of milk which washed about the trees and submerged the
hedges. In its reflected radiancy for the first time he saw her
features clearly. They startled him, leaping together out of the white
blur that they had been into something more lovely than he had
imagined. He had never seen such calmness. And the calmness was not
alone in her expression; the same sculptured quiet was in the white
curve of her arms and the gentle swelling of her breast. He knew now
why she was declared to be the most beautiful woman in England. But it
was the wisdom of her far more than the beauty that enthralled him.
There was no weakness that her sympathy could not encompassnothing
that he need be ashamed to tell her. Though she appeared to be about
the same age as himself, by reason of her experience she made him feel
younger. No woman who had attracted him before had been able to make
him feel that. Already he was filled with a strange sense of gratitude.
Very simply she took his hand and folded it between her own.
You, who have been a soldier, were a little afraid of me. Don't be
afraid of me, Lord Taborley. Whatever it is that you've come to do for
me, I shall try to be grateful. As for making me unhappy, no onenot
even youhas the power to do that.
He looked at her wonderingly. They say you never cry.
A slow smile flitted across her face and died out. You want the
truth? You yourself tell the truthWhen they say that I never cry,
they mean that I never let them see me.
He laughed softly. I thought it was that: you cry in secret like a
man. Not to cry at all would be monstrous; it was that which made me
afraid of you. A man doesn't like a woman to be stronger than himself.
It was about a man who didn't like a woman to be stronger than himself
that I came to talk to you.
She had guessed. Through her hands he could feel the commotion of
her life struggle and die down till it grew almost silent. The
stillness of the room seemed a backwater of the intenser stillness of
the night without.
Her lips scarcely moved. And the man?
But he's dead.
He waited for her to flame up at the indelicacy of his intrusion. He
almost hoped she would. When she sat motionless as a statue, he
continued apologetically. I'm trespassing on things sacred. Because of
that I've fought to avoid this meeting, knowing all the time that it
was inevitable. I've tried to persuade myself that it would be kinder
to leave you in ignorance
Of what? She strove to subdue her apprehension. Her profile showed
pale and expressionless, as if chiseled in the solid wall of darkness.
In ignorance of his grandeur.
He had said the thing most remote from what she had expected. He was
aware of her relieved suspenseat the same time of her gentle
skepticism. He felt irritated with himself at his choice of words.
Grandeur did not express the meaning he had intended. When he made a
new start, he stumbled his way gropingly, confused by his consciousness
of her unuttered doubts.
Why I have to tell you this I can hardly say. It's not for his
sake. It's certainly not for mine. It's for yours, I fancy. Yes, I'm
sure. By doing him justice I shall be able to help you, though I have
no reason for supposing that you stand in need of help. It's to do him
justice that he's been urging me. Yet why should he have selected me to
be his spokesman? I wasn't his friend. I never met him till I reached
the Front; out there I really never knew him. No one did. He was like a
sleep-walkera very silent man. You'll be wondering why, if this was
the case, I should be so impertinent as to mention his name to youto
you of all persons, who can claim to have known him infinitely more
intimately than any one else. And you'll be wondering why, after two
months of procrastinating, I motored through the night from London to
force my way into your privacy, without forewarning or introduction. If
I'm going to be honest, I must run the risk of appearing absurd. I
could resist him no longer. He coerced me with ill-luck. Ever since I
entered your sister's house and discovered who you were, he's been
Who I was! Her head turned slowly. It was her first intense
display of interest.
I mean your relation to himthat it was you who were his wife. At
the Front I didn't know that he was Lord Dawn; he'd blotted out his
identity. He was merely gun-fodder like the rest of ussomething to be
sent over the top to be smashed and then to be left to sink into the
mud or else hurried back to be patched up in hospital. He was a
company-commander in my battalion. I knew nothing of his past. My
acquaintance with him began and ended in the trenches. I don't know
much nowonly what Maisie's told me. He had been speaking with
growing earnestness. Suddenly he flashed into indignant vehemence.
What Maisie's told me! It's false of the man as he was out there. He
wants you to believe that. Out there he was different. He may have been
paltry and base once; but he was reborn into a new nobility. He was
white all through. He was overpoweringly heroic. From the humblest
Tommy we all adored himadored him for the example he set us. He was
only cheerful when there was dying to be doneout at rest and in quiet
sectors he was gloomy. The men loved him for that; it struck them as
humorous. And yet he was utterly indifferent to their love. He'd got
beyond caring for what anybody thought of him. He was too absorbed in
establishing reasons for thinking well of himself. I learnt things
about himone does in the presence of physical torture. I learnt
secrets about the fineness of his spirit which, I believe, he never
allowed you to suspect. Probably he never suspected them himself until
the ordeal of terror had sifted the gold from the dross. It was the
dross that Maisie remembered. But we, who were his comrades in khaki,
saw nothing but the goldhis untiring ability to share. You weren't
there; nevertheless, that's what I've got to help you to understand.
I've got to make you see the new Lord Dawn who was born out there. It
was last night, after Pollock returned, that I saw my duty clearly. It
came on me in a flash that, if a man who had been counted dead could
come back, it was not impossible that this pleading from beyond the
grave, which I'd tried to thwart and ridicule
He broke off abruptly. It was the wideness of her eyes that warned
him. He was conscious that she, too, was feeling that invisible
pressure. She was expecting to see something. He followed the direction
of her eyes, glancing behind him into the hollow dimness of the room,
where the solitary lamp was burning and the vanished lords of Dawn
gazed stonily down from their canvases. In that moment he was aware
that he had been stating facts as he had never owned them to himself.
It was as though his lips had been used
Things that he didn't allow me to suspect! She sighed
shudderingly. He allowed me to suspect so much. But tell me. What were
these things? Since they're the reasons for your visit, they must be
They're only part of the reasons.
There are others?
The chief reason is yourself. He spoke cautiously, fearful lest he
might lose her attention by rousing her incredulity. Even to himself it
sounded preposterous that he, an outsider, should claim to bear so
intimate a message from a husband who was dead. You believed, Lady
Dawn, that you had ceased to count in your husband's affections; yet
wherever his battalion went, you were present with us. The men and
officers knew you, without knowing who you were. You were with us in
the mud of the Somme; you went over the top with us in our attacks.
More than one young officer believed himself in love with you. Yours
was the last woman's face that many a poor fellow looked upon before he
went West. We were an emotional lot. Death made us natural as children.
Women meant more to us than they ever had before and than they ever
will again, perhaps. The nearness to eternity purged us of impurity. It
fired us with a wistful kind of chivalry. The change is hard to
express. I've known men, who hadn't a wife or sweetheart, cut strange
women's portraits from the illustrated papers and treasure them. As we
sit here it sounds a waste of sentiment; out there it seemed tragically
pathetic. Every man wanted to believe, even though his believing was a
conscious pretense, that there was one woman peculiarly his, who would
He interrupted himself to glance again across his shoulder,
following her eyes where they probed the stealthy shadows. Then he
brought his gaze back. That was how I first learnt to know your
facefrom the portrait which your husband carried. Into whatever
danger he was ordered, you wentyou accompanied him in the most real
sense: he carried you in his heart. From time to time I got glimpses of
you. When he thought no one was looking, he would prop your portrait
against the walls of dug-outs with a candle lighted before it, as if
you were a saint whom he worshiped. You were the inspiration of his
steadfastness to duty. What he did, he did for you. His courage was
your courage; his kindness was your kindness. He was striving every
minute to be worthy of you. I know of what I'm talking, for I did the
same for Terry. Late at night one would stumble down greasy dug-out
stairs, coming in from a patrol, to find him lost in thought and gazing
at you. Or one would find him covering page after page of letters which
he never sent. When he was dying, alone and far out in No Man's Land,
he must have drawn out your portrait from next his heart. It was so
tightly clasped in his hand when we found him, that we couldn't take it
from him. I'd almost forgotten all this until two months ago, when I
recognized Sargent's painting of you in your sister's house. Then for
the first time I discovered your name and who he was. Since then he's
given me no rest.
She had been leaning forward, her arm supported on her knee, her
chin cushioned in her hand, the white light from the mist-covered
meadows falling softly on her through the tall window, revealing the
pulse beating in her throat and the trembling of her thin sweet mouth.
What was it that he wanted you to do for me, Lord Taborley?
He hesitated, clasping his forehead, like a man whose memory had
suddenly gone blank. I'm not sure. And yet I was sure before I started
talking. Didn't you believe that he died hating you?
She shook her head. He left a child by me.
Then, perhaps it wasn't that he hadn't hated you, but that he'd
loved you in his last moments. Was it that which he wanted me to tell
Again, with a gesture, she negatived his suggestion. He'd never
have doubted that I would know he had died loving me.
Then why did he send me?
Even while he asked it, he marveled at his certainty that she shared
his conviction that he had been sent.
She turned her eyes full on his face and let them dwell there
searchingly. As he returned her gaze, he noted that she was less young
than he had supposed. She was older than her portrait. Her hair, which
had looked night-black in the shadows, was prematurely frosted. The
moonlight, strengthening, picked out remorselessly each silver thread.
She was no longer capable of putting back the hands of time for any
She had read his thoughts. The pride went out of her voice. Perhaps
he sent you, she faltered, that he might give me back a little of
what he took.
What did he take? Anything that I have
She leant back in her chair. Her face was again in shadow. My
youth. My happiness.
In the silence which followed he was aware that the third presence
Your youth! Your happiness! He was astounded. Strange that you
should say that! I thought that I alone was searching.
Let me talk, she begged. I want to speak about myself. Not for my
own sake, but for yours. To men like you who have lived at the Front,
life has become a terribly earnest affair. You're like impatient
children; what you want you want quickly. You seem to be afraid to
postpone anything lest death should carry you off before your desire
has been granted. But you're not really different from women like
myself. Crises come to all of us, when life grows desperatewhen to be
alone becomes intolerable: when everything, even one's pleasures,
becomes a burden, because they are unshared. Such a crisis would have
come to you sooner or later in any event. It comes to every unmarried
man and woman. The war only happened to be the means of bringing home
to you your loneliness. When it broke, you didn't have time to choose;
you seized on Terry, because she was young and pretty and susceptible.
You were terrified by the calamity of being blotted out before you had
known love. You forgot that there's a worse calamityand that's being
compelled to live forever with a person for whom you have ceased to
care. A man like yourself can have any woman he likes, only any woman
wouldn't suit. She would have to be unusualof a high type like
yourself. Such women are rare. The thought of Terry attracts you
because a marriage with her would seem to halve your years. But why
should you want to halve your years? To have lived ought to mean that
you have gained experience, which is the most dearly purchased form of
knowledge. Why should you be ashamed of it and so anxious to be rid of
it? You purchased your experience with blood. It's the most valuable of
all your possessions. And if you were to marry Terry, what could she
contribute? A pretty face, an unbroken body and all the intolerance of
her youth. A pretty face doesn't go far in matrimony. Husbands soon get
used to mere prettiness and learn to look behind it for character. A
wife, in order to be your friend, would have to be your equal in her
understanding of suffering. How much suffering has a girl like Terry
He wasn't angry. He wasn't even offended. What she had been saying
had so clarified his thoughts that it had been as if he had been
thinking aloud. Her voice was a dark mirror, glancing into which he had
recognized himself. His self-knowledge carried him far beyond any
arguments of hers. He sat perfectly still with a face of iron, gazing
straight before him.
What he had mistaken for chivalry and romance had been nothing but
foolishness. He had been enacting the unwisdom of an infatuated boy
with the solemnity of a mature man. His clamor had been unprofitable,
undignified, absurdon a level with the amorous hysterics of Grand
Opera, save that it had lacked the redeeming storm of contending music.
The utter futility of so much wasted feeling bordered on tragedy; the
need which it had expressed had been so primitive, so distressingly
sincere. He was confronted with the necessity of confessing that his
passion for Terry was at an end.
When had it died? Perhaps only since he had entered this quiet room,
with its moonlit landscape, its lowered lights and its wise mistress,
sitting so gravely alone with her patient beauty and her gently folded
hands. But even before he had entered, it must have been dying. For
weeks he had been flogging it, like an over-tired horse, into a feeble
display of energy. More than anything, his conduct with Maisie proved
Maisie's excuse for the error of her many marriages recurred to
himthat Gervis and Lockwood had hung up their hats in her hall.
Frivolous, yes! But had he been less frivolous in his treatment of
Terry? He had felt the compulsion to concentrate his craving to love
and be loved on some special woman! Terry had been handiest, so he'd
hung his idolatry on her.
But to acknowledge this implied a fickleness of temperament that was
disastrous to his self-respect. It deflated him to the proportions of
an Adair. It toppled his lofty standards in the dust. It changed him
from a loyalist, making a fanatical last stand, into a haggard runaway.
His pride leapt up in his defense. Turning to Lady Dawn, with grim
despair he muttered, But I want her. I can't do without her. I want no
Her voice reached him out of the darkness. To own that we've been
mistaken takes more courage than to persist in the wrong direction. 'I
want no one else!' We've all said that. It was through saying it that I
brought about my shipwreck. But if you're sure that you want no one
else, you must have her. If there's any way of getting her for you,
I'll do my best to help.
She made an effort to rise. She stood before him swaying, a blinded
look on her face, her eyes closed, her hands stretched out. He placed
his arm about her. Her weight sagged against him.
Not the servants, she whispered. You and I. Give me air.
With his free hand he jerked the catch and pushed the window wide.
The cool dampness of the night streamed in on her. He stood there with
her clasped against him, her head stretched back, her body drooping. In
the bowl of darkness at the foot of the turret, the rose-garden
floated. Out of sight, in the green-scummed moat, a fish leapt with a
sullen splash. A bird called. Wheels rumbled on a distant road. Again
the silence was unbroken. The moonlight, falling on her face, gave to
it an expression of childishness. Her breast and throat, gleaming white
as marble, reminded him she was a woman.
She stirred. Her eyes opened. She gazed up at him wonderingly. I'm
better. Foolish of me! Then, inconsequently, How tall you are, Lord
He supported her till she could lean across the sill. They leant
there together, their faces nearly touching. His arm was still about
her; she did not seem to notice it. He was dumb with tremulous
It was about myself that I had to tell you, she whispered. I was
once like you. I wanted no one else. I knew, even while I wanted him,
that he could never make me happy. Even when I was most in love with
him, he had qualities which I distrusted. After marriage the
distrusting grew. Yet all the while I was sorry for him. I would have
given anything to undoHis sins were mine. With another woman, less
virtuous, he might have been good. In his yearning he tried to drag me
down. I couldn't go, not even if going would have saved him. There was
something in me, not exactly pride, that prevented. I have never spoken
of this to anybody. I'm saying it to you because
She broke off. Why was she saying it? The perfume of June roses
under moonlight, mingling with the fragrance of her hair, was
intoxicating. His arm about her tightened. Was she only allowing him to
hold her out of pity because of his confession?
Because, she said, I think before she knows of your visit it
would be better that you should go.
He failed to grasp her logic. But if I stay, she will never know.
She released herself gently and gazed at him reproachfully. Never
know! But you came in order that she might know.
He was more than ever puzzled. He had come to tell her of her
husband. Did she not believe him? She seemed to be accusing him. He
remembered how she had claimed, when he had entered, that she could
guess what had brought him. I came solely to see you, he said,
speaking slowly. I was compelled, as I've told you. I give you my word
of honor that my visit wasn't even remotely related to
A sharply indrawn breath cut short what he was saying. They turned
quickly, moving instinctively apart. Gazing in from the open door,
across the pool of lamplight, was Terry.
CHAPTER THE EIGHTH. ROUND THE CORNER
Lady Dawn was the first to recover her composure. Why, Terry, I
thought you were in bed!
Terry's eyes shifted from Lady Dawn to Tabs. They were startled and
misty with sleep. She seemed only half-awake. Her hand rested on the
door as if ready for retreat. Her square little face was flushed; her
gold, bobbed hair was flattened where it had pressed against the
pillow. She was clad in a filmy negligée; her bare feet had been pushed
hastily into slippers and peeped out rosily from beneath the hem. She
looked immaturethe way she had in days gone by when he had tiptoed to
her bedside through the darkness to feel her tight little arms leap
stranglingly about his neck. She had been really a tiny girl then. Why
couldn't she have stayed like that always? Why need she have roused in
him this torturing desire which she did nothing but rebuff?
I was asleep. I heard voices. I thought
What had she thought? How much had she seen and heard? How long had
she been standing there?
Tabs attempted to bridge the awkward silence. I drove down from
London. Then he added, That was last night.
None of them had stirred. Lady Dawn advanced from the window into
the pool of lamplight. I think I know what you thoughtthat something
was wrong. It was. I nearly fainted. If it hadn't been for Lord
TaborleyBut come inside. Why do you remain standing there?
Terry stepped just across the threshold. Having closed the door, she
leant against it, still holding the knob in her hand. It was plain that
she was making an effort to be valiant. She looked fragile as a peeled
white wand; like a flower, shy and dew-wet. Life had not yet commenced
to break her. The clinging folds of her wrap emphasized her
slenderness, the grace of her lines and the girlish contours of her
Lady Dawn went to her and put her arm about her. You're afraid. Of
what are you afraid? Surely not of Lord Taborley? He's been telling
meTo be loved like thatThere was a time when I would have been
Terry's left hand went up to her breast. Her wild violet eyes looked
straight before her, seeking always the face of Tabs. They seemed to
call to him. He came slowly to the table where she could see him. It
was his chance. Lady Dawn was his advocate. It was the chance for which
he had waited.
He was contrasting the two women before him; the one in her dainty,
enviable promise and the dumb hostility of her youth; the other in the
gentleness of her experience and the charity of her dearly purchased
understanding. Terry, whom he had loved since she was a child, had
become inscrutable. But Lady DawnWas it her suffering that made him
know her as he knew himself?
I hadn't meant to intrude on you, he apologized. I hadn't the
least idea you were here. How should I have had? You disappeared
without warning; at your father's house your address was refused me.
Lady Dawn will bear me out that, at the very moment you entered, I was
assuring her that my visit had nothing to do with you. Probably you
Nothing to do with me! There was relief in her way of saying it.
She visibly relaxed. Then it isn't because of me at all that you're
The suppressed eagerness of her question was wounding. She wanted to
hear him state more positively that she had had nothing to do with his
visit. Whatever she had seen before they had become aware of her, had
had no power to rouse her jealousy. She could have given him no
stronger proof of how absolutely he had ceased to count. He smiled
bitterly. Not because of you at all, Terry. The reason for my being
here is strictly private between Lady Dawn and myself. I didn't come to
worry you. You may set your mind at rest.
Then you didn't know or even suspect
He laughed unhappily. What more can I say to convince you? I
haven't the least idea what you suppose I could suspect. What business
is it of mine to suspect anything? And if I did, what license should I
have to interfere? We're not as we once were. There are no longer any
sentimental obligations that would hold us accountable to each other.
You've shown me that you consider our relation ended. In the face of
that, I should scarcely follow you into the country where, by all
accounts, you've come to escape me. It's purely a coincidence that you
find me here.
He caught Lady Dawn's eyes resting on him. They were wide and clear
and interrogating. He knew what she was remembering: that it was in
this room within the hour that he had said, But I want her. I can't do
without her. I want no one else. Self-ridicule tempered his spirit
into sharpness. He turned again to Terry.
Once and for all I should like to set your doubts at rest. You need
have no fear that I shall ever inconvenience you. We're bound to meet
from time to time, but I pledge you my word that I shall never refer to
the past. You're of an age to make decisions for yourself; you've
decided against me. You're acting quite within your privilege when you
discard old friends. You'll wonder why I state obvious facts. I'm doing
so in order that you may feel certain that I've withdrawn whatever
claims I had for influencing your movements. I shall always be
interestedBut as for presuming that anything that I might say or do
would make the least difference to your plans, I shouldn't be so
Breaking away from Lady Dawn, she crossed over to him. Resting her
hand on his arm, she sank her voice and commenced speaking so hurriedly
that he alone could make out what she said.
I've been false and foolish. I don't need you to tell me. If you
knew how miserable I've been and how I've despised myselfBut I
can't help it. I go on doing things. I never used to be a beastleast
of all to you; never until you wanted me to marry you. If I can act
like this now, what sort of a wifeCan't you understand? I'm trying
to spare you. But I won't have you hate me, Tabs. I can't endure that.
Every second that I've kept away from you, I've been wantingnot the
you that you are now, but the old you. Won't you start afresh,
liking me the way you did whenbefore this happened? She seized his
hand on the impulse and pressed it to her lips. It was the humble act
of a small girl. Love me just a little. I'm not really bad. Please,
please forgive me my wickedness, dear Tabs.
He stood dumbfounded and embarrassed. If they had been alone, he
would have known what to do. He was at a loss to find a motive for this
display of passion. Was it a ruse to get him back? He crushed the
suspicion as unworthy. Then was it what she had seen that had made her
possessive? Her tears fell scalding on his hands.
He drew her to him. There, there, little Terry! You mustn't.
There's nothing to cry about. There's nothing wicked in not having
loved a man. It's a thing that can't be helped.
At the sign of his relenting, she threw away the last of her
control. Burying her face against his coat, she clung to him. All that
he could see of her was her golden head and her slight body, quivering
with sobbing. Her voice reached him muffled. But I am wicked. I've
pushed you from me. If you knewIf you did, you wouldn't touch me.
There had been no sound, yet something warned him. He looked up. The
door was closing.
Lady Dawn, he called. In his voice there was the tremor of
On the point of vanishing, she glanced back across her shoulder.
What is it, Lord Taborley?
The calmness of her austerity made emotion seem shallow. There was a
touch of scorn in her repose.
Won't you help?
She smiled faintly. I was. I was going.
Then please don't. It's late. Both you and she must be worn out.
Like a figure of silver, she came coldly back. But there was only
tenderness in her voice when she spoke. Terry, did you hear what Lord
Taborley said? He thinks he ought to be going.
Slipping her arm about the girl, she led her from him. Their
footsteps died out on the turret stairs.
He waited, hoping that Lady Dawn would return. Now that she was
gone, he was invaded with his old loneliness. The dead lords eyed him
cynically from their canvases. Through leaded panes the moonlight fell.
It seemed the sorcery of her spirit. The perfume of the rose-garden was
her breath. How pale she had made his dream of Terry! How trivial she
made all women look when she stood beside them! There was nothing in
this gift of youth for which he had clamored. Terry's youth, had he
married her, would have been his scourge. He knew at last what it was
that he required at the hands of a womanit was rest.
There was no sound. The Castle was intensely still. He lowered the
wick of the lamp before he left, watched the flame splutter and waited
till it sank. Tiptoeing softly down the stairs, he slipped out
noiselessly into the romance of the summer's night.
Next morning, for the first few seconds after he had wakened, he lay
wondering why he was so happy. Then he remembered.
He had never had a friendship with a woman. From the start, though
he had hidden the fact from himself, his supposed friendship with
Maisie had been nothing less than lazy courtship. Terry had detected
that when she had said that he wouldn't have been so interested in
Maisie if she hadn't been so desperately good-looking. Until this
morning he had had no faith in such friendships. He had believed that
their fundamental attraction, however well concealed, must always be
sex. They could never be more than a pretense, in which either the man
or the woman was cheatingthe one being anxious to give more than
friendship, the other deriving amusement from giving less. He had held
that such relations between men and women were inherently dishonest,
doomed to end in a clash of desire or to broaden into an honorable love
affair. There was no middle course between coveting a woman and
neglecting her as entirely dispensable.
But this morning his point of view was altered. He was confident
that his interest in Lady Dawn was on an utterly different footing. He
had never had this peacefulness of feeling for any woman. He marveled
at it. He had to fight the disillusion that it might be no more than a
mood. His liking for her had come to him so suddenly. Suddenness in the
emotions prompted him to distrust. Yet his present contentment seemed
as secure as it was incomprehensible. His new affection compensated him
for all previous failures and atoned for the humiliation of every past
At that word affection he halted himself. Was it affection that he
entertained for Lady Dawn? He took a good look at the suspected word
and decided that it was. But it was the affection of reverence. In
owning this much he qualified his admission by insisting that his
affection was totally devoid of passion. Passion in the presence of
Lady Dawn looked hysteric and paltry. She inspired a serenity which had
nothing to do with the physical. It was the charm of her character that
entranced him. Her body scarcely figured in his thoughts; when it did,
it failed to stir him. It was no more than the gracious vehicle through
which the beauty of her spirit was expressed.
His paramount emotion was gratitudegratitude that she, who was
reputed to be so cold, should so instantly have unveiled herself. There
was a startling purity in the frankness with which she had bared her
spirit to him. It left him awed and touched. He recognized the
generosity which had prompted her; she had realized his need of a
woman's trust. And so she had withheld nothing that would comfort him.
She had made him feel safe, the way a mother does. She had picked up
the little boy that lies hidden in the heart of every man, and had
folded him in her breast.
It had been shameless of her. He had not guessed that a woman could
be so good.
And she had made him so finally sure of her. He felt that he could
leave her and know that her protection would follow him. He could
return and be equally certain that none of her understanding would have
vanished. She was the first woman who had impressed him with her
wisdom; the only one who had had the courage to offer him her strength.
And this was not love. He smiled exultantly. It was nobler and
infinitely more rare. Love, as he had read of it and mistaken it in his
experience, was a devastating energy, greedy and devouring. It was a
continual, nagging contention between self-abasement and hostility. It
was a humiliating attempt on the part of a man to barter something,
which was persistently undervalued, for the feminine equivalent which
was as persistently hoarded. It was an amalgam of physical yearning,
wounded vanity and resentment of contempt. It was egotism masquerading
as altruism. It was a dancing bear lumbering at the heels of insanity.
Of all the passions it was the most hypocriticala snare-setter, a
digger of pitfalls, an enemy disguised as one's dearest friend. He
thanked God there was no hint of love in his new-found friendship. Like
an outcast fleeing from a storm, he had blundered against the door of
this woman's charity, had felt it yield beneath his touch, and had
found himself immersed in the blessedness of instant and unmerited
Lazily he commenced to dress. From his window he could see the
Castle, perched grave and gray against the forehead of the clouds. He
wondered whether she was up, how she was occupying herself, whether she
was expecting him? He listened to her voice in the silence of his
brain, like the far-away singing of contralto bells. He saw her still
face, her slow smiling, the proud, sweet stateliness of her pacing
steps. Then his thoughts went back to whether he was expected.
If he were notThe thought chilled him. She had said nothing to
encourage him to seek her afresh. What if his reappearance should cause
her embarrassmentan embarrassment which she would betray by
withholding herself? It was quite likely she would impute to him wrong
motives. Already she might have repented of intimacies she had allowed.
He had placed his arm about her. With the injustice of most women,
though she had permitted it, she might be blaming him because the act
had been witnessed by Terry. Terry of all persons! Having had time to
reflect, she might be accusing him of gallantries. It was not so long
since she had confused him with Adair. From her untypical knowledge of
him she was entitled to estimate him as the kind of man to whom
promiscuous caresses were a practice. He turned coward at the
recollection of his daring. Last night it had been so involuntary and
had seemed so natural. Why had he done it? Why had she allowed it? It
had been the liberty of a plow-boy with a village-girl. There would be
little room for wonder if, when next they met, she fixed a No Man's
Land of pride between herself and his familiarity. She would have good
reason, for their companionship would be shared by Terry. Poor little
Terry, with her exaggerated sins and distorted self-accusations!
He wandered down to breakfast disturbed by these apprehensions. As
the morning dragged by they took shape as facts. Towards noon he could
tolerate his uncertainty no longer. He turned his steps in the
direction of the Castle, having first determined, if he found himself
unwelcome, to announce that the purpose of his visit was to bid good-by
before setting out for London.
He had been shown into the turret room and supplied with the daily
papers, while the same grave image who had admitted him the night
before, had departed in search of her Ladyship. More to calm himself
than to satisfy his curiosity, he commenced to glance through the news.
It was a disjointed world that the pages reflectednot at all the
kingdom round the corner for which the war had been fought. Honor,
patriotism, heroism seemed forgotten words. The old ruthless scramble
of commercialism had restarted. The honesty of everybody, whether
individuals, governments or nations, was being doubted. Class and race
hatreds had broken loose. Strikes were pending. The Allies were allied
only in name; they gnashed their teeth at one another across the
council-table in Paris. The lying game of diplomacy had been revived.
Poison-notes were being exchanged. The tabby-cat statesmen who had been
too old to fight, were busy sowing the seeds of future wars. The
politicians who had nailed mankind to the cross, were casting lots for
the raiment which had survived the sacrifice. No one asked, Is this
righteousness? The only question was, How much of it belongs to me?
Meanwhile, the children of honester men who had died, starved by their
hundreds of thousands. Mothers pressed sick babies to their milkless
breasts. The mutilated, stoical with neglect, shuffled along the
pavements. Fanatics of despair turned hopeful eyes to Russia where a
devilment was brewing which, should it overboil, would pour destruction
across five continents. No one cared.
He glanced through the window at the quiet landscape, lying green
and sun-dappled against the wet, gray streak of summer sky. Was his own
experience so universal? Were kingdoms perpetually round the corner,
always and always out of sight?
As he again took up the paper, his eye was caught by a head-line:
STEELY JACK RUNS FOR PARLIAMENT. Immediately he forgot his pessimism
and became absorbed. Braithwaite had come out with the true story of
his life. He was calling on the seven million men who had seen service
to fight on in peace for the ideals for which they had fought in war.
He insisted that if they cast their votes together as one man, they
could control any election. If they combined with the patriot
ex-soldiers of other nations, they could control the world. He was out
to smash politics and the disastrous iniquity of political compromise.
His aim was to restore the comradeship and sharing which had enabled
the old front-line to stand fast. He was establishing a paper. He was
speechifying. He was to hold an immense mass meeting in the Albert
Tabs laughed in sheer excitement. Here was one man at any rate who
wasn't content to miss his kingdom. He might have known it. He could
see Braithwaite's bleak look as clearly as if he stood before him. His
instinct was to join him and say to him, in the words of the coster,
You and me was pals out there. He'd never lost an inch of trench.
I beg your pardon, your Lordship.
Tabs looked up. The dignified image had returned and was standing in
the doorway, with his chin thrust out and his nose at a high angle with
The man coughed deferentially. If your Lordship will follow me
But at that moment he heard her calling from beneath the turret
wall, Lord Taborley!
Jumping to his feet, he hurried to the window and leant out. She was
in her riding habit, standing on the terrace above the rose-garden.
I've just got back from my morning ride. I have to visit the kennels.
I was wondering whether you would accompany me.
He turned to the footman. If you'll show me the way out to the
terrace, I can find Lady Dawn myself.
She had moved farther away to where the steps led down between the
rose-bushes. As he came towards her through the sunlight, she pretended
not to notice him, but stood meditatively flicking the dust from the
toe of her boot with her crop. Even when he joined her, she did not
look up. They descended the steps in silence. When they had turned
along a path, where no one could observe them, she raised her eyes. I
was afraid you had left.
He smiled, unconsciously imitating her quietness. And I, too, was
afraid. I was afraid you would not want me.
Why not? She stopped to pluck a bud in passing. I should think
any woman would want you.
He looked to see if she were chaffing. Last night, he explained,
you were present when at least one woman didn't want me. That was
She shot a glance at him with her honest, stone-gray eyes. Her hands
started out to touch him, but she recalled them. You must feel sorry
for her, she said softly. She's so young. I think you'll live to
thank her. She'll learn that men like you don't come every dayonly
once in a lifetime.
[Illustration: I was afraid you had left.]
Uneasily he harked back to her first statement. Why did you fear
that I had left?
She shrugged her shoulders. You had nothing for which to stay.
There was you.
Me! She laughed wisely. You had to say that out of politeness. In
a man's world I'm of no consequence. I know how I appear in your eyes.
I've been married, so I'm no longer a novelty. I'm not so young as I
was; I shall be older. And then I'm a motheryou forget that, Lord
Taborley. Oh no, I have no attractions to offer.
You have friendship.
Friendship! She repeated the word with a shake of her head. Men
never want merely friendship; they want less or more. They want
vivacitysome one who will halve their years, with whom they can sport
and romp. Some one who can have babies to themlittle pink babies,
with squirmy toes and baldy heads. They want to begin everything
afresh. They're not looking for another man's left-overs. Even in the
matter of disillusionizing a woman, they want to do that for
themselves. Men who've not been married, demand that a woman shall be
doing everything, as they are doing it, for the first time. It's their
But there's another side, he protested. A woman who's been
married has gained experiencethe most dearly purchased form of
knowledge, as you yourself have told me. She can be trusted not to
expect the impossible. She's been over the course and knows the
pitfalls. She's learnt the value of compromise. She ought to have
learnt how to be kind. I think kindness is the thing that matters most.
Few people are born with it. You have to have been wretched to acquire
the knack of it.
And yet you have it, she glanced sideways at him humorously, and
you haven't been married.
Realizing the drift of their conversation, he pulled himself up. He
feared lest she suspected him of flirting. You're very generous, Lady
They had arrived at a lookout point, where a lichen-covered
summerhouse stood, protected on the steeper side by a low stone wall.
Below them lay the moat, green-scummed and starred with water-lilies;
throbbing in the midday haze, the emerald sward of the parkland seemed
to float. Against the wall she halted. What makes you say that I'm
For all his thirty-six years, he blushed like a boy. Because you
take me seriously. After last night you might have been either amused
or annoyed. The position in which I placed you was false. You thought
that I'd come from London to urge Terry to marry me. When I told you
that there was no one else in the world, you believed that I knew she
was staying with youthat I was trying to persuade you to plead my
cause. The anti-climax, after she'd surprised us, was the height of
tragical absurdity. It reduced all my high-flown sentiments to farce. I
wonder you were able to prevent yourself from laughing. Terry could
afford such a scene; she's little more than a child. I can't. With four
more years to my age I could pass for her father. No, please. I want to
be hard on myself. Let me finish what I'm saying. I've only met you
twice; on each occasion I've suffered a loss of dignity. The other time
was when I tried to turn you away from Maisie's door. You're probably
aware that since then, until Pollock's return, I've seen far more of
your sister than was wise. In fact I've offered myself like a job lot.
And yet there was a time when I was content to wait. I believed that
one had only to be faithful and he'd find what he hoped for round some
future corner. You're a proud woman, Lady Dawn. You admire strength
almost cruelly. You're inhumanly infallible
Her eyes filled. She slipped her hand through his arm and patted it
comfortingly. By the contact she was comforting herself as well. I'm
not. I wasn't infallible when I married. My pride came later to cover
up my fault. I don't say it to flatter youany woman would want you.
He gazed down at her. How gentle you are!
They strolled along in contented silence. They had trespassed far
beyond the bounds of discretion. A diversion was caused when they
reached the kennels. He watched her among the leaping hounds. She
employed the same tactics to quiet them that she had used with himself.
With a coaxing word and a caress she had them crouching at her feet. He
listened to the precision of her orders and the definiteness of her
You'd have made a business woman, he remarked.
She laughed. I could if I'd been forced. And then, By the way,
you're lunching with me, aren't you?
I'll be delighted. But, since confessions are the fashion, I may as
well make a clean breast. If I had found that you were upset with what
happened last night, I'd planned to tell you I was off to London.
But you're not?
One doesn't run away from happiness.
He was afraid he had offended. Her expression clouded. She withdrew
and walked a few paces apart. He had come almost to the point of
apologizing, when she turned to him eyes that were mistysuspiciously
misty for a woman who never cried. I'm glad you had the courage to
tell me, because I haven't felt so happy forI daren't own how
On entering the Castle, she left him while she went to change for
lunch. As he waited, he reminded himself that in a handful of seconds
he would be meeting Terry. The anticipation provided him with none of
the old elation. With what ecstasy he used to watch for her in days
gone by, as though the world was reborn when she stood before him! Far
from feeling ecstasy, he was filled with uneasiness. Her presence would
recall to him his failure and would mock something beautiful that had
commenced in his life. What that something was he hadn't estimated. All
he knew was that, with the coming of Lady Dawn, every one of his
problems had mysteriously found settlement. He was no longer
humiliated. He was once more sure of his direction. He felt
unreasonably strong and triumphant, as though the goal of his striving
was in sight. His old dread of growing middle-aged impressed him as
puerile. Whatever his age, she would always keep pace with him. She was
the same age as he was. Had he been younger or older, he might have
missed her or gone by her with unseeing eyes.
When he entered the room in which lunch was served, he found that
Lady Dawn was alone. Glancing at the table, he perceived with surprise
that only two covers had been laid. She read the question in his eyes
and answered it.
Terry's away. I forgot to tell you. She had an early breakfast and
motored into Gloucester before I was up. The car's come back without
her. She's sent no word as to when or how she proposes to return.
Something urgent? he asked casually.
More likely shopping. A woman's shopping's always urgent. I'm no
wiser than you are. The first I heard about her going was when I was
informed she had gone.
He relapsed into thought. It wasn't difficult to conjecture the
reason for Terry's errand. She'd been no more anxious to meet him just
at present than he had been to meet her. She'd taken the day off in the
hope that by nightfall he would have departed.
Another solution occurred to him. Did she ever mention to you a
Lady Dawn met his eyes with a hint of warning. Listeners were
present. I believe she did, she admitted discouragingly.
The only reason why I asked was that his name's in the morning
papers. She may have seen it before she started. If so, it might
John will know. Lady Dawn turned to the footman. Did Miss Beddow
read the papers, John, this morning before she left?
She did, my Lady. It was after she had read them that she ordered
Then that's it. Tabs dismissed the subject as unworthy of further
discussing. She went to Gloucester to hurry off a telegram of
congratulation. Braithwaite's had a stroke of luck.
If that is all, Lady Dawn smiled mischievously, I wonder that she
didn't come back in the car. A telegram can be dispatched in five
From then on, the threat of Terry's return hung over them, urging
them to make the most of their respite. Everything that had started
between them was so new and uncertain. No time-limit had been set to
Tabs' visit; his original reason for coming to Dawn Castle was
exhausted. There was no sufficiently plausible excuse for prolonging
his stay in the village longer. A little absence, a little carelessness
of forgetting, a few new interests and who could say but that this
sudden need of each other, which had rushed them together with such
compelling impulse, might not subside as unaccountably as it had
occurred. In both their hearts this dread was presentthis distrust of
the permanency of their emotions. If they parted, they might meet again
to find the magic irrecoverable.
After lunch they retired to the room in the turret. She chose her
favorite chair by the window and sat there sewing, with her work-basket
at her feet. He sat opposite, watching the busy occupation of her
hands. He noticed that many of the garments which she mended belonged
to the small boy whom he had seen in the rose-garden.
She looked up. I always do everything for Eric.
It was later, when tea was being served, that the small boy himself
peered in on them. Tabs caught his jealous eyes peering round the
doorway. Won't you come and talk to me?
But the child ran away, despite his mother's coaxings, and refused
to divulge his place of hiding.
She apologized. He's not quite eight yetthe only sweetheart I
have. Later she said, I've been thinking of what we talked last
nightI mean his father. Would it be too far-fetched to believe that
it was really he and not your imagination, that piloted us together?
Not far-fetched at all. I'm sure of it. He wanted us to meet that I
might tell you
What? She bent forward, folding her hands in her lap and watching
him searchingly. Not about his heroism; he'd take that for granted.
Not that he'd loved me; we both knew it. Not anything self-pitying or
weak that would rouse my regret
You know. His assertion was almost a question. Somehow he's got
his message across to you.
She lowered her eyes and resumed her sewing. I couldn't sleep last
night. I lay awake puzzling and rememberingremembering the long waste
of years, the loneliness and the love that had turned to bitterness.
And now, when ordinarily there would be no chance to make amends, he
sends you to me, speaking through your lips and taking possession of
your thoughts. He's trying to do something for mesomething that will
blot out my past for me, as his sacrifice has blotted out his past for
him. Something comforting and tender
The seconds ticked by. If she had guessed the dead man's desire, she
refused to put it into words. The silence grew painful.
Tabs looked at his watch. It was nearer six than five. He rose
reluctantly. I suppose I should be going.
But you're staying in the village to-night?
I hadn't intended. There'll be moonlight. I was planning to be in
London by morning.
Don't do that. You'll make me think you're afraid of meeting Terry.
Dine with me to-night.
She had risen. Her gesture was almost one of pleading. He smiled
tenderly and took her hand. Your wishes are mine. I'll run down to the
inn and dress.
By the time he returned it was nearly seven. She met him with
ill-concealed trouble. Terry's not back. It's strange. You see I'm
responsible for her. And
The footman entered with a letter. For your Lordship.
Are you sure? Then Tabs recollected. Yes, of course. I left my
address with Ann.
As he took the letter he scanned the handwriting. Odd! When the
man had left, he turned to Lady Dawn. It's from her. Did you guess?
But why should she be writing when she'll be seeing you any
Tabs squared his lips. He began to feel the stirring of a storm of
anxiety. Perhaps, because she doesn't intend to be seeing me any
minute. He looked at the postmark. It had been mailed at eleven
o'clock that morning in Gloucester. He tore the envelope and commenced
to read. Before he had read far, he turned with a worried expression to
Lady Dawn. This concerns you as well. She came and stood beside his
elbow. They glanced through the pages together. It was written on
commercial note-paper of The New Inn, Gloucester, and ran:
I love you very muchjust as much as ever. I always want you to
sure of that. But my love isn't the kind you've asked for. It
can be. Because of this there are so many things that I've not
able to tell youso I've been avoiding and deceiving you ever
you came back. I know I've not been honorable. A promise once
ought to be sacred; I gave you my promise that I would marry
that's all I could do for you nowjust marry you; I couldn't
you the other things you would have a right to expect. I ought
have said, the other things you have earned and deserved more
any man. So, though I married you, I should still be robbing
which would be even more treacherous than not fulfilling a
That I'm in love with General Braithwaite is no news to you. Love
not be the proper word. At least I'm so infatuated with him that
there's no room in my heart for any other man. Do you remember
night in March, when you dined with us and asked my father for
hand, and next morning early I came round in a panic to your
didn't dare tell you all my trouble. The General had urged me to
elope with him. I wish, wish, wish that I had. I should
be his now
and sure of him. By delaying and suspecting I've all but lost
I always knew that he would be a big manas big after the war as
was while it lasted. What this morning's papers say about him
it. So for all these reasons and because I can't bear to face
the Castle, I'm taking my fate in my hands. Please tell Lady
that I shan't be back and excuse me in any way you can. I'm only
carrying one small bag; she can send the rest of my things after
There's one request I have to makethat neither of you will
my father till at least twenty-four hours have elapsed. All my
happiness may depend on your granting this request. It's the
favor I shall ever ask you.
And now, my very dear Tabs, almost my brother, if this hurts you,
please take revenge by bundling me out of your mind. I was never
equal, never worthy of you, though you placed me on a pedestal
was far above you. Comfort yourself by believing that if you'd
married me, you would have found this out. What a wretched
appear in my own eyes after all you suffered in the trenches, to
reserved this worse suffering for you, when your life has been
and you had counted on me for happiness. My entire body's not
your little finger. And yet how good you've always been to me
You'll get a better woman than I am. I think I already know who
she'll be; if I'm right, I shall be so very glad.
I feel so humbleso apologetic. It's such a different ending
the one we dreamt when I saw you off on the troop-train with my
all blowy down my back. There's nothing gained by recalling
meant so well by you; you've always been so much to me, my
Even though you despise me, I still insist on signing myself,
Your ever affectionate
I'm sorry. It was Lady Dawn.
He shook himself. He was so raw that even her sympathy almost
wounded. Don't pity me. It's she we've got to help. What's to be
Done! I haven't thought. What can we
We can follow her and bring her back. We've got toand we haven't
much time. You must have read between the lines what her letter meant.
After having turned Braithwaite down, she's gone off to beg him to
elope with her. When a girl puts herself at a man's mercy like that,
there's no knowing how he'll act. The chances are that, whatever he
does, it won't be honorable. We're got to prevent her, not only for her
own sake, but for his sake as well. He's just started on a great
career; if this story leaks out, he'll be smashed. They'll both be
smashed, for that matter. If she'd give him time to marry her honestly,
it wouldn't matter whether her family had consented. But she doesn't
intend tothat's why she's asked us to keep quiet for twenty-four
hours. What we've got to do is not to stop her from marrying himno
one cares about that; but to catch her before she runs off with him.
But we don't know where
No, we don't. He spoke rapidly. But we can find out. Ann can tell
us. Ann's a maid in my house; she was practically engaged to him when
he was my valet. Now that I look back, I'm sure she's known everything
from the start and has seen this coming. We can get Braithwaite's
address from her; when we know that, we shall have laid our hands on
While he had been speaking, Lady Dawn had been rummaging through her
desk. He went and bent over her, his hands on her shoulders. She was
fingering a time-table. She looked up at him with her head leant back.
There's no trainnothing that will reach London till morning.
Then we must motor.
Her face was still raised to his. She spoke softly. We! You
say we every time. Do you meanWhat do you mean, Lord
His intensity relaxed. Flushing with confusion, he stared down at
the whiteness of her breast, the queenliness of her, her graying hair
and her expectant, tender mouth. I want you to come with me. I ought
to have asked you properly. I've been taking you for granted and
ordering you about.
She remained very still, gazing directly up into his troubled eyes.
He thought she was judging him. At last she whispered, Don't be sad. I
like you to order me.
They had all night before them. If they left the Castle by ten, they
could be in Brompton Square by five in the morning. Nothing would be
gained by arriving earlier.
Now that the first shock was over, they went into dinner as if
nothing had happened. In the long, dim banqueting-hall there were only
the two of them. They sat close together at the illuminated high-table
like castaways, marooned on an island, in an ocean of brooding shadows.
While they dined they conversed in lowered voices to prevent their
plans from being overheard. It was decided to take Lady Dawn's Rolls
Royce and to leave the runabout behind. The reason acknowledged was
that it would be more dependable. The reason unmentioned was that the
presence of a chauffeur would lend an air of much needed propriety.
Gradually as they talked, the seriousness of their errand dropped
from sight; their journey took on the complexion of an adventure. Its
unconvention clothed it with romance. How unconventional it was they
realized when Lady Dawn gave the butler orders concerning her
departure. He was an old man, rigid with tradition, who, having served
the family for three generations, had acquired the aristocratic bearing
of his masters.
At ten o'clock, your Ladyship. To where? To London! That's a long
journey to take at night. And the car will call at the inn first to
pick up his Lordship's luggage. Oh, I see, my Lady. I thought at first
that your Ladyship was going.
I am, she corrected with quiet dignity. Lord Taborley and I are
going on an errand of great importance. I don't want this talked about.
You understand? And who'll be driving? Witherall! Then warn Witherall
to keep silent.
When the butler had withdrawn, she turned to Tabs. I'm breaking all
my precedents for you. I couldn't have told him, if I hadn't had you to
keep me in countenance. He looked so shocked that he made me feel as if
it were you and I, instead of Terry, who were doing the eloping. I'm
sure that's what he thought. There'll be gossip. I shall have to pay
the piper; but I'm too happy to-night to look ahead.
It hadn't occurred to me Tabs hesitated. I've been
unpardonably inconsiderate. I see it nowyou'll be what they call
compromised. In that case, it will be wiser
It won't. She bent towards him laughing. Her pearls, nestling in
the white cleft of her bosom, gleamed dully, shaken by her quiet
merriment. In the short time that he had known her, she had become
extraordinarily girlishalmost girlish enough to put back the hands of
time for the proper man. It won't. It won't be wiser. It's never wiser
to turn your back on happiness. I'd dare anything to-night. You've
invited me; you can't wriggle out.
If that's how you feel He checked himself. Her mischief warned
him. Instinctively he knew that she was about to ask precisely how he
thought she felt. He cancelled what he had intended saying and
substituted, It's an ill-wind that blows nobody any good. And it's
poor Terry we have to thank for this chance of being together a little
Is it a chance? You're not bored? You do want me?
He raised his eyes slowly. Her pain had startled him. Up to that
moment he hadn't been awake to how utterly he had come to want her. For
an instant he had a glimpse of the emptiness of life, should he find
himself deprived of her comradeship.
You didn't need to ask me that! he said quietly. And now it's my
turn to be inquisitive. Does it make you glad to hear me own that I
He watched her color rise. It was like the elfin tiptoeing of her
spirit behind the white transparent walls of her flesh. It climbed the
smooth ascent of her breast, passed up the columned tower of her throat
and stared out at him excitedly in the brightness of her eyes.
Men don't ask things like that, she said reproachfully, at least,
only when they're flirting. I sometimes thinkDon't treat me like
all the others who were before me.
She held his gaze. The emotional women and silly girlsYou must
have been loved very often, Lord Taborley.
To have defended himself against her tender jealousy would have been
futile. She was plainly anxious to believe her accusation. Perhaps it
flattered her a little. Perhaps it lent him an added touch of glamor.
He was wondering how he should satisfy her. He could remember no hearts
that his fascination had broken. He could rake up absolutelyShe was
And yet I'm glad you compelled me to tell you that I wanted you.
You're making me do things that I never did before in my life. I'm
supposed to be a cold woman. You'll find people who'll say that I'm
remote and domineering. I've only one big affectionmy little boy. For
your sake I'm leaving him alone to-night.
For whose else?
I thought for Terry's.
Her lips parted. The laughter died in her eyes. In your heart you
Then he left her and went down to the inn to pack his bag.
He had paid his bill. His luggage had been carried downstairs. There
was still a full quarter of an hour to wait. He sat in his bedroom
smoking furiously. Before he met her again, he wanted to know precisely
what had happened to himselfand, perhaps, to her.
He was filled with self-distrust. His newly discovered propensity
for falling in love was genuinely alarming. It wasted his time, upset
his plans and robbed him of his mental vigor. It made him a rudderless
ship at the mercy of any chance winds of sentiment. Up to less than
three months ago the solitary woman in his life had been Terry.
Throughout the war, while the masculine world had been making an
amorous idiot of itself, he had kept his head clear and gone straight.
Things had come to a pretty pass if now, when normality was returning
and the excuse for running wild was out-of-date, he should start on his
emotional escapades. His love for Terry had been deep-rooted. His
fondness for Maisie had been the attempt of a starved heart to satisfy
its craving with a substitute. But where was this pursuit of
substitutes to end? If it went much further he would gain for himself
the reputation of being a limpet who attached himself to any chance
rock of feminine amiability. The kind of woman he cared to associate
with would avoid him. If ever he were to fall in love again, his
attentions would be so shop-worn that
If ever he were to fall in love again! Within the last twenty-four
hours his irresponsible heart had committed this disastrous folly for a
He smiled cynically, as though he were two separate persons, one of
whom was cool and calculating, while the other was improvident and
scape-grace. How Lady Dawn would despise him, were he to reveal to her
the stupid commotion of his mind! His excuse for blundering his way
into her privacy had been sufficiently fantastic: that her late husband
was employing his living brain to communicate with her from the dead.
It must have strained her credulity to the breaking-point. If on top of
this he were to propose to her, what possible conclusions could she
draw? Either that in order to gain her intimacy, he had perpetrated a
cruel fraud; or else that he was so lacking in humor as to believe that
Lord Dawn, from beyond the grave, was arranging for his wife's second
marriage. The drollery of a dead husband acting match-maker made him
smile. In the middle of his smiling he pulled himself up. Why not? Why
shouldn't a husband who had wrecked his wife's happiness, try to repair
the damage, if that were possible, when through death he had attained a
kinder knowledge? The Roman Church prayed to the dead whom it
canonized. There were thousands of parents, wives, sweethearts, bereft
by the war, who were asserting that their longing had bridged the gulf
He shook himself, as though to struggle free from an invisible
assailant. Hallucinations! All these so-called spiritualistic
manifestations were the result of over-taxed imagination. To stick to
facts was the only safe course; and these were the facts in his case.
He had approached Lady Dawn as a matter of duty to tell her the truth
about a husband whom she had not known at his best. She had
misinterpreted his motive and had believed that he had come to confess
to her his own failure. She had been thrown off her guard, had dropped
her mask of stoicism and had lavished on him a reckless kindness. But
other women had been reckless to him in their kindness. Terry had: so
had Maisie. Women's kindness had caused his present predicamenttheir
kindness, plus his awkward knack of valuing their kindness at more than
its face worth. He had learnt his lesson. Never again would he be lured
into the net of feminine fickleness. When he felt the temptation
rising, he would suppress and ignore it; at any rate he would ignore it
until the woman, who was rousing his affection, had declared her
intentions beyond any chance of mistaking.
And Lady Dawn? She was in a class by herself. He held her sacred.
The mere thought that she should ever fall in love with him was
impertinence. To talk cheap sentiment would be insulting. It would
cause him to lose her friendshipa loss which he could not bear to
contemplate. It would be taking a mean advantage of a situation created
for an entirely different purpose.And yet, dare he trust himself,
now that he was in love with her, in the intimate aloneness of a long
night drive to London?
He rose to his feet disgusted. If this was the loss of self-control
that peace had brought, better a thousand times the rigors of the
sacrifice that was ended. Out there he had been strong; here he was a
sick dog, licking his sores and whimpering at his own shadow. Self-pity
had wrought this wholesale impotencean impotence which was infecting
the entire world. While individuals and nations had thought only of
others, they had been valiant; they had raced in generous competition,
clean-limbed as athletes, towards the tape, where endeavor ends and
eternity commences. And now this lethargy, this cowardicethis
monstrous fat of quaking emotion!
A memory flashed back on himan afternoon in March when he had been
obsessed by a similar discontent. It had happened in the Mall, after
his interview with Braithwaite and just before his introduction to
Maisie. He had come across a sign-board which had announced that, by
following a certain path, one would arrive at the Passport Office. That
narrow track, vanishing into the bushy greenness, had seemed to him the
first five hundred yards of the road that led to world-wideness and
freedom. At the end of it lay Samoa, Tibet, the Malay
Archipelagojeweled seas and painted solitudes which human
disillusions could not wither. Instantly his will concentrated. By
following that road he could become lean-souled again. By reseeking
hardships, he could recover his lost discipline. The idea held him
spellbound. It meant escape. It meant a return to monasticism. Then and
there he determined that he would commence his preliminary enquiries
Going to the window, he leant out. The quaint village street was
sleeping. The night was so still that, it scarcely breathed; it lay
like a tired child in the firm white arms of the moonlight. Coming
smoothly to a halt before the hostel was a powerful car. It was a
landaulet and the hood was lowered. Lady Dawn must have altered her
plans at the last moment; instead of sending for him, she had come
herself! Catching sight of him, she waved her hand. His heart became
quiet. Like the night without, his being was flooded with a drifting
whiteness that robbed the darkness of its terror.
As he stood by the side of the car talking to her while his bag was
being stowed away, her manner was chillingly conventional. It was so
conventional that it bordered on the unfriendly. About the
unfriendliness of the chauffeur there could be no doubt. The elaborate
care with which he tucked the robe about her Ladyship had a distinct
air of alert possessiveness.
When Tabs had taken his place beside her and the village was left
behind, she relaxed and laughed softly. Such a trouble I've had! They
all disapproved of our expeditionI mean the servants. Their eyes
accused me ofPerhaps it's better not to be explicit. But that was
why I called for you, instead of letting you come to the Castle. Did
you notice anything queer about Witherall?
Your chauffeur? I thought he rather overdid his superciliousness
and that he treated you a little as if he were your husband. Apart from
Apart from that, she laughed, he made you feel entirely welcome.
You mustn't mind him. My servants aren't used to seeing me with an
escort. And thenWell, an all-night ride would be a little difficult
to explain to anybody.
I suppose it would.
They relapsed into silence. It was jolly to be so near to her and,
after the fears he had had, to know himself so trusted. She sat quite
close to him, so that he could feel the warmth of her body. Her
shoulders touched him; sometimes she leant against him with a gentle
pressure. Her fragrance was all about him. The robe spread across their
knees gave an added touch of intimacy. He glanced down at her sideways.
She was wearing a moleskin coat with a deep collar of silver-fox. She
had on a moleskin hat, close fitting to her glossy head. Her face was
partly hidden by a smart veil. She was immaculate as everas composed
and stylish as if she were going to a theater-party instead of on an
all-night ride to London. But it wasn't her stylishness that impressed
him; it was her littleness. She looked very tender and pale as she sat
beside him. The moral back of her chauffeur, as seen through the glass,
condemned him of unkindness. He had had no right to ask her to
accompany him. Why should he have burdened her with his troubles? She
must have plenty of her own, with her boy to care for and her estate to
I've been selfish, he said. You ought to be in bed and sleeping
She smiled. Always blaming yourself, aren't you? I shouldn't be
here unless I'd wanted.
But why did you want?
Beneath the robe her hand commenced to grope. It stole into his own
and lay there quietly. Because I couldn't bear to see you hurt. You're
so good. In some ways you're so strong; in others you're just as tiny
as my Eric. I felt you needed me for the moment.
For the moment! I shall always need you.
I wish you might. She shook her head slowly. But you won't.
You'll go away. I shall hear about youall the big things you're
accomplishing and planning. And then I shall remember that for just one
night I had you for my very own.
But we're always going to be friends. I shall be always coming back
Men don't come back, Lord Taborley. A man of your temperament is
least likely to come back. You press forward. You're eager. Wherever
you go you form new affections. I'm not like that. I'm cold. You don't
think so, but then I'm treating you as I never treated any other man.
You slipped under my reserve and reached my heart before I could stop
you. Do you know how I'm treating you? Just the way I'd like some good
woman to treat my little Eric one day, when I'm not here and he's a
But you're going to be here for a long timejust as long as I am.
There was alarm in his assertion. I couldn't bear to think of your not
being in the world. It wouldn't matter so much whether I saw you; it
would be the knowledge that I could see you; that would make all the
Yes, I'm sure. You mustn't think that because there was Terry
andI'm ashamed to have to own ita passing fancy for your sister,
that I'm fickle.
I don't. I never thought it for a moment. What I thought was that
you were unhappy. People do a lot of foolish things when they're
It seems so long since I was unhappy, he said gently. You've
She was shaken as though with a storm of sobbing. No sound escaped
her. She did a thing which was as amazing as it was beautiful. Raising
his hand which she had been holding, she hugged it against her breast.
During the night he nodded. Once when he wakened, he found her
tucking the robe more closely about him. Go to sleep. You're tired,
she whispered, patting his shoulder.
A strange womanstrangely maternal and beautiful! She never seemed
to think of herself. The women whom he had known had always demanded
that men should do all the giving. Even Terry had been like that. His
conception, of love had been of a continual bestowing with no hope of
reciprocity. To be allowed to give throughout one's life to the woman
beloved had seemed to him to be the maximum of married blessedness. He
knew better now. Lady Dawn had given so generously that she had
established a new standard; he would never again ask so little from any
woman. He began to perceive that all his approaches to love had been
self-abasing. In the true sense of the word he had never been in love.
Dream-intoxicated, yes! But all that he had experienced had been
desire. It was a new thought to him that a man must respect, even more
than he desires, the woman whom he covets.
His feeling for Lady Dawn was one of worship. When he wakened to
find her watching over him, it seemed to him that the Mother of God sat
beside him. When God's Mother is symbolized in a living woman, love is
reborn into the world.
The last time he awoke, dawn was breaking. The moon had grown
feeble. A chill was in the air. He sat up. What! Still awake! I don't
believe you've slept a wink all night.
I haven't. I didn't want. I've been enjoying myself.
You look tired.
He commenced to pile cushions behind her and tried to coax her to
take some rest. If you insist, she assented. But I'd much rather
not. I'm like a child at a party; I want to last out every moment.
Then let's talk. We're nearing London. We sha'n't get much chance
for being alone after we arrive. We don't know what we'll find. We may
be whisked away in opposite directions. Before we're separated, I want
to acknowledge what I owe you.
It's cold, she shuddered, drawing closer to him. And then, You
owe me nothing.
He was tempted to place his arm about her, but the cowardice of past
failure was strong upon him. He was afraid lest the ordinary gestures
of affection would cheapen him in her eyes; he was still more afraid
that they might mean to her that he valued her too lightly. He held
himself in hand, staring straight before him and speaking quietly.
I'm the only judge of what I owe you. I came to you broken. Life
had made a fool of me. I'd fallen through placing my ideals too high.
Everything was slipping. Every belief I'd ever had was open to doubt.
Most of all I'd lost faith in the goodness of women. To explain my
state of mind I have to tell you that the war had made me fanatical.
Like millions of men who went out to die, I'd persuaded myself that I
was fighting more than GermansI was fighting to bring about the new
heaven and the new earth. Our politicians promised us as much. You
remember their phrases. 'A world safe for democracy! A land fit for
heroes to live in.' When all the muck and the heartbreak were ended, we
found that outwardly it was the same old world. Heaven was as far away
as ever. There were no signs that any one wanted a new earth. Nations
which had been comrades, began to wrangle. Soldiers came home to find
their jobs held by slackers. The glorious promises had been a death-bed
repentance; their insincerity was proved when the world recovered. But
our worst disappointment was utterly personalthat despite the
magnanimity we had shared and witnessed, we ourselves were no less
selfish. For me all these disillusions were epitomized in Terry. I'd
fought for her. I'd carried her in my heart. If I'd died, my last
thoughts would have been of her. I came back hungry and she disowned
me. That she should have done that made humanity a Judas and God a
mocker. I don't mean you to believe that I gave way at once to this
wholesale injustice. At first I made an effort to struggle against it.
I'd always held that great living was a matter of pressing forward, of
wearing an air of triumph when you knew you were defeated, of
believing, in spite of every proof to the contrary, that further up the
road your kingdom waited for you.
He felt the pressure of her friendly hand. It does, she assured
him. That's what you've taught me. It's what you taught Maisie; it's
almost as though you'd willed her husband to come back. You're a great
believer. All great believers have been doubters. They give away so
much of their faith that at times they have none left for themselves.
You limp. Don't flinch; with me there's no need to be sensitive. When
you entered my room for the first time, you made me think of another
lame man. Do you remember how Jacob wrestled all night with an unknown
assailant? When dawn was breaking his thigh was out of joint, but he
refused to let his assailant go until he had asked his name. The
stranger would not tell himinstead he blessed him. And then Jacob
knew it was with God he had wrestled. When the sun rose and he went
upon his way, he halted upon his thigh. You have the look that I think
he must have hadthe look of a man who has been maimed in trying to
make God answer questions. It's that look and your very lameness that
have given me back something that Lord Dawn took from mesomething
that he knew, when he sent you, you could give me back: my faith in
men, without which a woman can have no happiness.
The ghostly world streamed by, silent-footed and mist-muffled. It
was the hour when children are born and weary people diethe hour of
new beginnings and ancient endings, when life and death, like soldiers
changing guard, salute at the cross-roads of the new day as friends.
At last he broke the silence. I thought I had nothing to give you.
I felt so empty. You seemed so strong and immovable, like a still tree
in a forest that was storm-shaken. You made me feel that however the
wind raged, beneath your branches there would be always rest. I never
knew He paused as though he had forgotten what he had set out to
say. I never guessed that a woman could be so good.
Nor I that there was so good a man.
They clasped hands so tightly that it hurt. The sun was rising as
they entered London. Trees dripped gold and birds were chattering as
they drove into Brompton Square. It was only when they had halted
before the sleeping house, gay with flaming window-boxes, that she
released his hand. With the severance of contact he awoke from his
trance and remembered the errand that had brought them.
He had opened the door with his latch-key and had stood aside to
allow her to pass into the hall, when suddenly he clutched her arm and
drew her back. He signed to her to make no sound. Together they stood
listening. The early morning stillness was broken by a door shutting
smartly at the top of the house, a cheerful whistling and then the
unmistakeably firm step of a man descending.
Tabs had no man in his employ, so what was a man doing in his house?
There was no secretiveness about the stranger's movements; on the
contrary, there was an airy boldness.
The sunlight danced and nickered on the wall as if it shared the
excitement of their suspense. The footsteps drew nearer. They paused
dramatically. The whistling ceased abruptly. Had the stranger taken
warning? A match was struck. He was only lighting a cigarette. The
footsteps came on again. At the final bend of the stairs the intruder
came in sight. He halted, mirroring their surprise, and stood staring
down at them with a bleak, hard look. He was the man whom they had
Tabs was the first to collect himself. He closed the front door
behind him. Good morning, General. You couldn't have been more prompt
if we had telegraphed you that we were coming. When Braithwaite still
stared, Tabs continued, Allow me to introduce you to Lady Dawn and may
I ask how long I have had you as my guest?
Braithwaite drew a puff at his cigarette. His manner was as haughty
as if he had been the owner of the house. Since last night, he said.
I have to thank your Lordship for a bed. Mrs. Braithwaite A gleam
of amusement shot into his eyes. Mrs. Braithwaite had a sentiment for
spending her first night beneath your roof. Seeing that you were away
and that I was so newly weddedhe made an eloquent gestureI could
scarcely deny her. Turning on his heel, he commenced to reascend.
Across his shoulder he flung back, Of course I apologize. We'll not
trespass further. In a few minutes I'll have her dressed. In half an
hour, at the outside, I'll remove her.
Don't be a fool. Tabs spoke sharply. You make me wonder which of
us is mad.
Braithwaite regarded him for a moment with an enigmatic smile. I'm
not. Yesterday I did the wisest thing of my life. With that he
Lady Dawn turned to Tabs gently. If that's the way he feels, then
he has. Terry's to be congratulated.
But why on earth should she have wanted to spend her marriage-night
in my house? Tabs questioned. My house of all inappropriate places!
That's what I can't understand. And what could Ann have been doing to
consent? You remember I told you there was a time when he was
practically engaged to Ann.
They mounted the stairs till they came to the first landing.
Entering the library, with its bright red lacquer, they sat down to
await events. But Tabs did not sit long; he was too restless. Having
flung wide the French windows which opened out on to the veranda, he
kept going to the doorway to listen.
He glanced at his wrist-watch. Barely six o'clock! Upon my word, I
don't relish the idea of her being disturbed. Braithwaite's such a
hot-head. For all I care, they can stop here as long as they like. I'll
take a holiday so as not to embarrass them. He faced Lady Dawn with
troubled frankness. The question is: are they married? I've
been trying to figure things out. They simply can't be unless he met
her with a special license in Gloucester. And even then, I can't see
howBut if they're not married, surely he would never have had the
audacity to bring her to my house. It would be too preposterousto the
house of a man to whom she was engaged, where she would be waited on by
a woman with whom he was once in love.
At that moment Ann entered, pretty and sleepy-eyed, with Braithwaite
following close behind. Tabs commenced speaking at once, in order that
he might put them at their ease as regards his intentions.
We're not here to blame any one. You, General, evidently think that
I'm hostile. I'm not. As far as you're concerned, Ann, whatever you've
done is right. Of course I'm a little taken aback to find that my house
was chosen for the honeymoon. But if you'd like to have the use of it
for a week or so and Ann doesn't object, I'll clear out and leave you
to yourselves. You'll make me really happy if you'll accept the offer;
it'll be a proof of friendliness. You're wondering why we surprised you
so early. It wasn't to prevent you from marrying. It was because Lady
Dawn was responsible for Terry and we felt that a runaway match, with
the marriage announced after the event, might damage not only her but
you, General, as well. I read yesterday in the papers of what you're
doing and I want to say just this to you. You're the better man. You
deserved to win. Last time we met you refused to shake my hand. I hope
you'll take it now. You can afford to be magnanimous to a rival, now
that you're Terry's husband.
Tabs stood with his hand held out. Braithwaite made no motion to
accept it; and yet his expression was generous. I can't shake your
hand as Terry's husband, Lord Taborley. I'm not married to her.
Lady Dawn sprang to her feet and came between the two tall men. Not
married to her! But you intend to marry her? You told us you were
Braithwaite was still smiling. I am. To their amazement he slipped
his arm about Ann and kissed her sleepy, tender mouth. Terry is safe
with your Ladyship's sister. We took her there when she arrived last
He turned to Tabs. You said that I was the better man. I'm not. It
was your sense of duty that always urged me. I have to thank your
Lordship for the greatest happiness that can befall any man. You made
me see it as my greatest happiness, when I was in danger of becoming a
cad. There was one thing you said to me that sank into my mind. 'You'll
never succeed, however great your courage, unless you start with your
honor solvent.' You saved my honor. I didn't like your methods. But I
thank you with all my heart now. If it hadn't been for you, neither Ann
nor I would have come safely to our journey's end. I think we'd both
like to shake your hand.
It was two hours later. They were finishing their breakfast in the
open, on the balcony of the Hyde Park Hotel. From where they sat they
could watch a lawn-mower traveling slowly back and forth, patterning
the sward with alternate stripes of different colored greenness. They
could smell the acrid juices of newly cut grass. Beyond the islands of
flowers and vivid candelabra of trees, they could see the wild fowl of
the Serpentine rise and drift like phantoms across the sultry stretch
of blueness. Wheels of a water-cart grumbled sleepily against the
gravel. Moving through the sunlit shadows of the Row, riders were
returning from their early morning gallop.
They were still togetherjust the two of them. They were
romantically self-conscious of the domestic appearance which their
twoness caused. Only married couples or very ardent lovers rise, while
the lazy world is sleeping, to keep each other company at breakfast.
They had not had the heart to disturb the General and Ann in their
temporary possession of the little nest-like house.
Lady Dawn was speaking. So you've done it again.
What have I done?
What you did for Maisie. How did you put it last night? You've led
them to their kingdom.
He smiled. I seem to have a faculty for doing that. I do for others
what I can't do for myself.
Still not looking at him, she said: Perhaps you don't find your own
kingdom because you're too much in love with the search. You don't want
to bring your journey to an end. There are people like that.
I'm not one of them.I wish you'd look at me, Lady Dawn. Do you
know what I covet most in all the world? Rest and certainty. I don't
mean a lazy kind of rest, but the rest of a mind at peace with
itselfthe certainty we all had while the war was on, when we were
adventuring for the advantage of other people. I've done nothing lately
that wasn't for myself. I want some one to live for, so that I can
forget myself. I've been thinking
The waiter presented the bill. Tabs scarcely knew whether to curse
or bless. He had been approaching the danger-mark; nevertheless, he
wasn't at all sure that he was grateful for the interruption. His heart
cried out to him to risk humiliation by one last act of daring.
Experience warned him that it is the sins of precautionthe follies
left uncommittedthat are most regretted by men of seventy.
She rose as he was gathering up his change. The purpose that had
brought them to London was ended. There was no further reason for their
being together. If they were to prolong their companionship, a new
excuse must be invented. He saw by the tentative manner in which she
waited, that she also had realized that. He became perturbed lest she
might dismiss him. Speaking hurriedly to forestall her, he said, I
suppose we had better make sure of Terry by hunting her up at Mulberry
She barely nodded. Perhaps she thought, now that Braithwaite had
been eliminated as a rival, that this making sure of Terry betokened a
rekindling of the old infatuation. A constraint grew up between them.
It was not until they were standing on the top of the hotel steps,
waiting for her car, that he ventured to correct the wrong impression.
Funny about Terry! If it hadn't been for her, we might never have been
friends. The first day of my home-coming she drew my attention to you;
it was too lateyou had passed. You were driving with the Queen in the
Park. I remember what Terry said. She called you Di and spoke of you as
the most beautiful woman in England.
She gave no sign that she had heard. As though she were unescorted,
she passed before him down the steps. But the moment they were seated
in the car, she turned to him. She looked her full age. Her face was
pale with more than weariness. He noticed the threads of gray in her
hair. Ever since he had seen Ann in her flushed shy exaltation, he had
felt more keenly the pathos of Lady Dawn. It was a pathos that found an
echo in his heartthe pathos of approaching separation. What purpose
did it serve her to be beautiful, if she had no man of her own to
You were on the verge of telling me something, when the waiter
interrupted, she prompted. It began like a confession. You'd been
speaking about living for other people and your need of rest. Then, you
said you'd been thinking
It was about how one could make a man's job out of living, he
answered quickly. It's all wrong that one should feel decent only when
he's attempting to get slaughtered. It takes neither brains nor
perseverance to be dead. Any one can
But it was about finding rest that you were speaking.
Yes, but I've burdened you with too many of my troubles. He
hesitated, wondering whether he dare tell her what had happened to his
heart. I've done nothing for you. I've only borrowed from your
strength. You're the most restful woman, the most calm Then he
dodged. But since you ask me of what I was thinking, it was of how I
might escape to the old hardships. I thought I'd call at the Passport
Office and get in touch with the Royal Geographical Society, and
commence arrangements to explore
Then I sha'n't be seeing you again? She asked it in a tone of
dreariness, bordering on terror. Her hands trembled in her lap. She
stared straight before her.
But you will. He forced a cheerfulness into his voice which he was
far from feeling. These things take time. It may be weeks
But you'll go away. I know it.
I suppose I shall. Sooner or later I shall return. In the meanwhile
we can write.
She paid no attention to his consolation. Her face was gray as
granite. Her hands kept folding and unfolding. There was something
symbolic in their emptiness. You won't come back. It's the end. You
weren't sent, after all.
How or why he said it, he never could tell. The words were utterly
unpremeditated. He spoke them, ordinarily and unemotionally, as though
throwing out a casual suggestion. We could get married, if that would
make you happier.
It's what I'd like.
His heart missed a beat. He dared not credit his senses. He glanced
down at her, prepared to find that she was mocking. The most beautiful
woman in England! There was no mistake; she had actually asked him.
It's what I should like, too. He spoke conventionally. Nothing in
his tone betrayed his emotion. It's what I've been dreaming from the
moment that we metWhen would be convenient?
As soon as possible.
Would a week from to-day suit?
She nodded, Or sooner.
Beneath the robe his hand sought hers. He did not trust himself to
look at her. She was his, all of her and forever. It was marvelous. The
secret clasp of her hand was sufficient for the present. He was still
doubtful of his fortune and unnerved by his temerity. He felt aloof and
disembodiedan uninvolved spectator. And this was love, the journey's
endthis smiling stillness, which was so different from anything he
They entered Mulberry Tree Court and drew up before the house with
the marigold-tinted curtains. It was while they were waiting for the
door to be opened that he broke the silence. Smiling down at her with a
guilty, glad expression he asked, We're engaged now, I suppose?
She returned his smile less certainly. I'm ashamed. But you won't
He laughed at the folly of her question. Go, when I've got you, the
woman whom I wanted!
Then you won't go exploring? You won't exchange me for hardships?
Di, dearest, I've done with searching.
The door was opening. She pulled herself together. Porter stood
before them, neatly laundered, with the old suspicious meekness in her
Good morning, Porter. We've come to see Miss Beddow. We've been
told that she's staying with my sister.
She is, your Ladyship. But none of them are down. She arrived so
late and unexpected.
They followed her across the hall into the sun-filled drawing-room,
with its fragrant flowers, tall windows, rockery-garden and little oval
pond, with the toy boat floating on its surface. The moment the door
had closed, he had her in his arms. Now that he was sure of her
possession, he held her desperately as if he feared that he were going
to lose her. Closer, she whispered. Closer. It flashed through his
memory that the last time he was in that room, he had been the
spectator of just such a union and had fled from it because he was
She stirred against him, lifting up her face.
This time you're really crying, he whispered. Stooping he pressed
her lips. They always told me you never
Freeing her arms, she clasped him tightly about the neck. He could
feel the weight of her body, dragging his face lower. She kissed him
passionately, stopping his breath, as though she would breathe into him
her very soul. Oh, my dearestmy very dear! How cruel you were! You
made me ask you. I thought I'd never get you.
The door was opening. Terry was watching them. The first they knew
of her presence was when she spoke.
You came to see me.
They broke apart like shameful children and stood regarding her,
their hands just touching. She seemed their elder.
I suppose you have the right to jeer at me, she continued slowly.
I'm left out. I was too cold. I'm too late. I didn't want what was
offered at the time it was offered. What I didn't want once, I can't
have now. And, perhaps, I still don't want it. Tabs used to speak of
kingdoms. I never knew what he meant. You've all found yoursMaisie,
Braithwaite, both of you and even Ann. Everybody, except me. She
laughed to prevent her tears from falling. I suppose Tabs would tell
me that mine's still round the corner. You would, wouldn't you, Tabs?
Her need, which had been theirs, penetrated their happiness. They
felt again the old wild pang of neglected loneliness. Sargent's
painting above the mantelpiece, looking down on them, reminded Lady
Dawn of her own forgotten tragedy. It was unendurable that their
gladness should bring sorrow to Terry. With a common instinct they went
towards her. Lady Dawn placed her arms about her. It was Tabs who
Little Terry, you're not left out. You're ours more than ever.
We've not robbed you. We couldn't. Of you alone it's true that
everything lies before you. All the time you've had your kingdom,
though you didn't know it. You still have itthe Kingdom of Youth, for
which we older people were all searching.
In the silence that followed there stole to them through the summer
sunshine, above the mutter of London, the music of a distant
barrel-organ. In the mind of Tabs a picture formed; it was of children
dancing along a golden pavement on that first spring morning of his
disillusion. The tune which the barrel-organ played was the same. His
brain sang words to the music:
Après la guerre
There'll be a good time everywhere.
And it was no longer an optimismit was fulfilled promise.
Surely, beyond the bounds of space, Lord Dawn also listened and was
happy. For Tabs, as long as life lasted, it would be the marching-song
of the kingdom round the corner.