by F. Marion Crawford
A STORY WITHOUT COMMENT
Among the many peculiarities which contribute to make New York
unlike other cities is the construction of what may be called its
social map. As in the puzzles used in teaching children geography, all
the pieces are of different shapes, different sizes and different
colours; but they fit neatly together in the compact whole though the
lines which define each bit are distinctly visible, especially when the
map has been long used by the industrious child. What calls itself
society everywhere else calls itself society in New York also, but
whereas in European cities one instinctively speaks of the social
scale, one familiar with New York people will be much more inclined to
speak of the social map. I do not mean to hint that society here exists
on a dead level, but the absence of tradition, of all acknowledged
precedents and of all outward and perceptible distinctions makes it
quite impossible to define the position of any one set in regard to
another by the ordinary scale of superiority or inferiority. In London
or Paris, for instance, ambitious persons are spoken of as climbing, in
New York it would be more correct to speak of them as migrating or
attempting to migrate from one social field to the next. It is
impossible to imagine fields real or metaphorical yielding more
different growths under the same sky.
The people in all these different sets are very far from being
unconscious of one another's existence. Sometimes they would like to
change from one set to another and cannot, sometimes other people wish
them to change and they will not, sometimes they exchange places, and
sometimes by a considerable effort, or at considerable expense, they
change themselves. The man whose occupations, or tastes, or
necessities, lead him far beyond the bounds of the one particular field
to which he belongs, may see a vast deal that is interesting and of
which his own particular friends and companions know nothing whatever.
There are a certain number of such men in every great city, and there
are a certain number of women also, who, by accident or choice, know a
little more of humanity in general than their associates. They
recognise each other wherever they meet. They speak the same language.
Without secret signs or outward badges they understand instinctively
that they belong to the small and exceptional class of human beings. If
they meet for the first time, no matter where, the conversation of each
is interesting to the other; they go their opposite ways never to meet
again, perhaps, but feeling that for a few minutes, or a few hours,
they have lived in an atmosphere far more familiar to them than that of
their common everyday life. They are generally the people who can
accomplish things, not hard to do in themselves but quite out of the
reach of those whose life runs in a single groove. They very often have
odd experiences to relate and sometimes are not averse to relating
them. They are a little mysterious in their ways and they do not care
to be asked whither they are going nor whence they come. They are not
easily surprised by anything, but they sometimes do not remember to
which particular social set an idea, a story, or a prejudice belongs,
especially if they are somewhat preoccupied at the time. This
occasionally makes their conversation a little startling, if not
incomprehensible, but they are generally considered to be agreeable
people and if they have good manners and dress like human beings they
are much sought after in society for the simple reason that they are
very hard to find.
In New York walking is essentially the luxury of the rich. The
hard-working poor man has no time to lose in such old-fashioned sport
and he gets from place to place by means of horse cars and elevated
roads, by cabs or in his own carriage, according to the scale of his
poverty. The man who has nothing to do keeps half-a-dozen horses and
enjoys the privilege of walking, which he shares with women and
The foregoing assertions all bear more or less directly upon the
lives of the people concerned in the following story. They all lived in
New York, they all belonged to the same little oddly-shaped piece in
the social puzzle map, some of them were rich enough to walk, and one
of them at least was tolerably well acquainted with a great many people
in a great many other sets. On a certain winter's morning this latter
individual was walking slowly down Lexington Avenue in the direction of
Gramercy Park. He was walking, not because he was enormously rich, not
because he had nothing to do, and not because he was ill. He was
suffering momentarily from an acute attack of idleness, very rare in
him, but intensely delightful while it lasted.
In all probability Russell Vanbrugh had been doing more work than
was good for him, but as he was a man of extremely well-balanced and
healthy nervous organisation the one ill effect he experienced from
having worked harder than usual was a sudden and irresistible
determination to do absolutely nothing for twenty-four hours. He was a
lawyer by profession, a Dutchman by descent, a New Yorker by birth, a
gentleman by his character and education, if the latter expression
means anything, which is doubtful, and so far as his circumstances were
concerned he was neither rich nor poor as compared with most of his
associates, though some of his acquaintances looked up to him as little
short of a millionaire, while others could not have conceived it
possible to exist at all with his income. In appearance he was of
middle height, strongly built but not stout, and light on his feet. On
the whole he would have been called a dark man, for his eyes were brown
and his complexion was certainly not fair. His features were regular
and straight but not large, of a type which is developing rapidly in
America and which expresses clearly enough the principal national
characteristicsenergy, firmness, self-esteem, absence of tradition,
and, to some extent, of individualityin so far as the faculties are
so evenly balanced as to adapt themselves readily to anything required
of them. Russell Vanbrugh was decidedly good-looking and many people
would have called him handsome. He was thirty-five years of age, and
his black hair was turning a little gray at the temples, a fact which
was especially apparent as he faced the sun in his walk. He was in no
hurry as he strolled leisurely down the pavement, his hands in the
pockets of his fur coat, glancing idly at the quiet houses as he
passed. The usual number of small boys was skating about on rollers at
the corners of the streets, an occasional trio of nurse, perambulator
and baby came into view for a moment across the sunlit square ahead of
him, and a single express-waggon was halting before a house on the
other side of the street, with one of its wheels buried to the hub in a
heap of mud-dyed snow. That was all. Few streets in the world can be as
quiet as Lexington Avenue at mid-day. It looks almost like Boston.
Russell Vanbrugh loved New York in all its aspects and in all its
particulars, singly and wholly, in winter and summer, with the
undivided affection which natives of great capitals often feel for
their own city. He liked to walk in Lexington Avenue, and to think of
the roaring, screaming rush in Broadway. He liked to escape from sudden
death on the Broadway crossing and to think of the perambulator and the
boys on roller skates in Lexington Avenue; and again, he was fond of
allowing his thoughts to wander down town to the strange regions which
are bounded by the Bowery, Houston Street, the East River and Park Row.
It amused him to watch his intensely American surroundings and to
remember at the same time that New York is the third German city in the
world. He loved contrasts and it was this taste, together with his
daily occupation as a criminal lawyer, which had led him to extend his
acquaintance beyond the circle in which his father and mother had dined
and danced and had their being.
He was thinkingfor people can think while receiving and enjoying
momentary impressions which have nothing to do with their thoughtshe
was thinking of a particularly complicated murder case in which the
murderer had made use of atropine to restore the pupils of his victim's
eyes to their natural size lest their dilatation should betray the use
of morphia. He was watching the boys, the house, the express-cart, and
the distant perambulator, and at the same time he was hesitating as to
whether he should light a cigarette or not. He was certainly suffering
from the national disease, which is said by medical authorities to
consist in thinking of three things at once. He was just wondering
whether, if the expressman murdered the nurse and used atropine the boy
would find it out, when the door of a house he was passing was opened
and a young girl came out upon the brown stone steps and closed it
behind her. Her gray eyes met his brown ones and they both started
slightly and smiled. The girl's bright colour grew a little more
bright, and Vanbrugh's eyelids contracted a little as he stopped and
Ohis that you? asked Miss Dolly Maylands, pausing an instant.
Good morning, answered Vanbrugh, smiling again as she tripped over
the brown steps and met him on the pavement.
I suppose your logical mind saw the absurdity of answering my
question, said Dolly, holding out a slender gloved hand.
I see you have been at your charities again, answered Vanbrugh,
watching her fresh face closely.
You say that as you would say, 'You have been at your tricks
again.' Why do you tease me? But it is quite true. How did you guess
Because you began by chaffing me. That shows that you are frivolous
to-day. When you have been doing something serious you are always
frivolous. When you have been dancing you are always funereal. It is
very easy to tell what you have been doing.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Miss Maylands frequently made use of this expressiona strong one
in its way.
I know I ought, answered Vanbrugh with humility.
But you are not. You are a hypocrite, like all the rest of them.
Dolly's face was grave, but she glanced at her companion as she spoke.
Of course I am a hypocrite. Life is too short. A man cannot waste
his time in hacking his way through the ice mountain of truth when he
may trot round to the other side by the path of tact.
I hate metaphors.
So do I.
Why do you use them, then?
It is righteous to do the things one does not like to do, is it
Not if they are bad.
Oh! then I am good, am I?
Perhaps. I never make rash assertions.
No? You called me a hypocrite just now, and said I was like the
rest of them. Was not that a rash assertion?
Oh dear! You are too logical! I give it up.
I am so glad.
For a few moments they walked along in silence, side by side, in the
sunshine. They were a couple pleasant to look at, yet not very
remarkable in any way. Dolly Maylands was tallalmost as tall as
Vanbrugh, but much fairer. She had about her the singular freshness
which clings to some people through life. It is hard to say wherein the
quality lies, but it is generally connected with the idea of great
natural vitality. There are two kinds of youth. There is the youth of
young years, which fades and disappears altogether, and there is the
youth of nature which is abiding, or which, at most, shrivels and dies
as rose leaves wither, touched with faint colour, still and fragrant to
the last. Dolly's freshness was in her large gray eyes, her bright
chestnut hair, her smooth, clear skin, her perfect teeth, her graceful
figure, her easy motion. But it was deeper than all these, and one
looking at her felt that it would outlast them all, and that they would
all try hard to outlast one another. For the rest, the broad brow
showed thought, if not intellect, and the mouth, rather large for the
proportion of the lower face, but not at all heavy, told of strength
and courage, if not of real firmness. Dolly Maylands was large, well
grown, thin, fresh and thoughtful, with a dash of the devil, but of a
perfectly innocent devil, only a little inclined to laugh at his own
good works and to prefer play to prayers, as even angels may when they
are very young and healthy, and have never done anything to be sorry
You seem to be walking with me, observed Dolly presently.
WellyesI suppose that is the impression we are giving the
expressman over there.
And in court, in one of your cases, if he were a witness, he would
probably give the idea that we met in Lexington Avenue by appointment.
By the bye, one does not walk in Lexington Avenue in the morning.
That is what we are doing, answered Vanbrugh imperturbably.
You know that it is compromising, I suppose.
So do you.
Then why do you do it?
Why do we do it? Is that what you meant to ask?
I did not mean anything.
So I supposed, from what you said. Vanbrugh smiled and Dolly
laughed as their eyes met.
I was here first, said Vanbrugh after a moment.
Not at all. I have been at least an hour at old Mrs. Trehearne's.
I may have seen you go in, and I may have waited all that time to
catch you on the door-step.
So like you! Why are you not defending the chemist who cremated his
fifth wife alive in a retort, or the cashier who hypnotised the head of
his firm and made him sign cheques with his eyes shut, or the
typhus-germ murderer, or something nice and interesting of that sort?
Are you growing lazy in your old age, Mr. Vanbrugh?
How well you talk. When I have made a beautiful long speech and
have beaten my memory black and blue for words I cannot remember, just
to be agreeableyou say 'awfully,' and think you are making
I am not good at conversation.
Apparently not. However, you will not have much chance of showing
off your weakness this morning.
You might say you are sorry! Why not? Because I am not going far.
That is a rude question. It is like asking me where I am going. But
I will be nice and tell youjust to make you feel your inferiority. I
am going to see Marion Darche.
Mrs. Darche lunches about this time.
Exactly. It is within the bounds of possibility that I may be going
to lunch with her.
Again there was a short pause as the two walked on together. Dolly
took rather short, quick steps. Vanbrugh did not change his gait. There
are men who naturally fall into the step of persons with whom they are
walking. It shows an imitative disposition and one which readily
accepts the habits of others. Neither Dolly nor her companion were
people of that sort.
I was thinking of Mrs. Darche, said Dolly at last.
So was I. Extremes meet.
They have met in that case, at all events, answered Dolly, growing
serious. It would not be easy to imagine a more perfectly ill-matched
couple than Marion and her husband.
Do you think so? asked Vanbrugh, who was never inclined to commit
Think so? I know it! And you ought to know it, too. You are always
there. Nobody is more intimate there than you are.
Yes,I often see them.
Yes, said Dolly looking keenly at him, and I believe you know
much more about them than you admit. You might as well tell me.
I have nothing especial to tell, answered Vanbrugh quietly.
There is something wrong. Wellif you will not tell me, Harry
Brett will, some day. He is not half so secretive as you are.
That does not mean anything. The word secretive is not to be found
in any respectable dictionary, nor in any disreputable one either, so
far as I know.
How horrid you are! But it is quite true. Harry Brett is not in the
least like you. He says just what he thinks.
Does he? Lucky man! That is just what I am always trying to do. And
he tells you all about the Darches, does he?
Oh no! He has never told me anything. But then, he would.
That is just the same, you know.
What makes you think there is anything wrong? asked Vanbrugh,
changing his tone and growing serious in his turn.
So many thingsit is dreadful! What o'clock is it?
Ten minutes to one.
Have you time for another turn before I go in?
Of courseall the time. We can walk round Gramercy Park and down
Instinctively both were silent as they passed the door of Marion
Darche's house and did not resume their conversation till they were
twenty paces further down the street. Then Vanbrugh was the first to
If it is possible for you and me to talk seriously about anything,
Miss Maylands, I should like to speak to you about the Darches.
I will make a supreme effort and try to be serious. As for you
Dolly glanced at Vanbrugh, smiled and shook her head, as though to
signify that his case was perfectly hopeless.
I shall do well enough, he answered, I am used to gravity. It
does not upset my nerves as it does yours.
You shall not say that gravity upsets my nerves!
Shall not? Why not? inquired Vanbrugh.
Dolly walked more slowly, putting down her feet with a little
emphasis, so to say.
Because I say you shall not. That ought to be enough.
Considering that you can stand idiot asylums, kindergartens, school
children, the rector and the hope of the life to come, and are still
alive enough to dance every night, your nerves ought to be good. But I
did not mean to be offensiveonly a little wholesome glass of truth as
an appetiser before Mrs. Darche's luncheon.
Puns make me positively ill at this hour!
I will never do it againnever, never.
You are not making much progress in talking seriously about the
Darches. I believe it was for that purpose that you proposed to drag me
round and round this hideous place, amongst the babies and the nurses
and the small yellow dogsthere goes one!
Yesas you saythere he goes, doomed to destruction in the pound.
Be sorry for him. Show a little sympathypoor beast! Drowning is not
pleasant in this weather.
Oh you do not really think he will be drowned?
No. I think not. If you look, you will see that he is a private
dog, so to say, though he is small and yellow. He is also tied to the
back of the perambulatorlookthe fact is proved by his having got
through the railings and almost upset the baby and the nurse by
stopping them short. Keep your sympathy for the next dog, and let us
talk about the Darches, if you and I can stop chaffing.
Speak for yourself, Mr. Vanbrugh. You frightened me by telling me
the creature was to be drowned.
Very well. I apologise. Since he is to live, what do you think is
the matter with the Darche establishment? Let me put the questions. Is
old Simon Darche in his right mind, so as to understand what is going
on? Is John Darche acting honestly by the Companyand by other people?
Is Mrs. Darche happy?
Miss Maylands paused at the corner of the park, looked through the
railings and smoothed her muff of black Persian sheep with one hand
before she made any reply. Russell Vanbrugh watched her face and
glanced at the muff from time to time.
I cannot answer your questions, Dolly answered at last, looking
into his eyes. I do not know the answers to any of them, and yet I
have asked them all of myself. As to the first two, you ought to know
the truth better than I. You understand those things better than I do.
And the lastwhether Marion is happy or nothave you any particular
reason for asking it?
No. Vanbrugh answered without the slightest hesitation, but an
instant later his eyes fell before hers. She sighed almost inaudibly,
laid her hand upon the railing and with the other raised the big muff
to her face so that it hid her mouth and chin. To her, the lowering of
his glance meant somethingsomething, perhaps, which she had not
expected to find.
You ask on generalgeneral principles? she inquired presently,
with a rather nervous smile.
But Vanbrugh did not smile. The expression of his face did not
Yes, on general principles, he answered. It is the main question,
after all. If Mrs. Darche is not happy, there must be some very good
reason for her unhappiness, and the reason cannot be far to seek. If
the old gentleman is really losing his mind or is going to have
softening of the brainwhich is the same thing after allwell, that
might be it. But I do not believe she cares so much for him as all
that. If he were her own father it would be different. But he is John's
father, and JohnI do not know what to say. It would depend upon the
answers to the other questions.
Which I cannot give you, answered Dolly. I wish I could.
Dolly gave the railings a little parting kick to knock the snow from
the point of her over-shoe, lowered her muff and began to walk again.
Vanbrugh walked beside her in silence.
It is a very serious question, she began again, when they had gone
a few steps. Of course you think I spend all my time in frivolous
charities and serious flirtations, and dances, and that sort of thing.
But I have my likes and dislikes, and Marion is my friend. She is older
than I, and when we were girls I had a little girl's admiration for a
big one. That lasted until she got married and I grew up. Of course it
is not the same thing now, but we are very fond of each other. You see
I have never had a sister nor any relations to speak of, and in a
certain way she has taken the place of them all. At first I thought she
was happy, though I could not see how that could be, because
Dolly broke off suddenly, as though she expected Vanbrugh to
understand what was passing in her mind. He said nothing, however, and
did not even look at her as he walked silently by her side. Then she
glanced at him once or twice before she spoke again.
Of course you know what I am thinking of, she said at last. You
must have thought it all too, then and now, and very often. Of
courseyou had reason to.
What reason? Vanbrugh looked up quickly, as he asked the question.
Oh, I cannot go into all that! You understand as well as I do.
Besides, it is not a pleasant subject. John Darche was successful,
young, rich, everything you likeexcept just what one does like. I
always felt that she had married him by mistake.
By mistake? What a strange idea. And who should the right man have
Oh, no! She thought he was the right man, no doubt. It was the
mistake of fate, or providence, or whatever you call the thing, if it
was a mistake at all.
After all, said Vanbrugh, what reason have we, you or I, for
saying that they are not perfectly happy? Perhaps they are. People are
happy in so many different ways. After all, John Darche and his wife do
not seem to quarrel. They only seem to disagreeor rather
Yes, answered Dolly, that is exactly it. It is not everything one
sees or hears in the house. It is the suspicion that there are
unpleasant things which are neither seen or heard by any of us. And
then, the restyour questions about the business, which I cannot
answer and which I hardly understand. There are so many people
concerned in an enormous business like that, that I cannot imagine how
anything could be done without being found out.
However such things are done, answered Vanbrugh, gravely, and
sometimes they are found out, and sometimes they are not. Let us hope
for the best in this case.
What would be the best if there were anything to find out? asked
Dolly, lowering her voice as they paused before Simon Darche's house.
Would it be better that John Darche should be caught for the sake of
the people who would lose by him, or would it be better for his wife's
sake that he should escape?
That is a question altogether beyond my judgment, especially on
such short notice. Shall we go in?
We? Are you coming too?
Yes, I am going to lunch with the Darches too.
And you never told me so? That is just like you! You get all you
can out of me and you tell me nothing.
I have nothing to tell, answered Vanbrugh calmly, but I apologise
all the same. Shall I ring the bell?
Unless you mean to take me round Gramercy Park again and show me
more nurses and perambulators and dirty dogs. Yes, ring the bell
please. It is past one o'clock.
A moment later Miss Dolly Maylands and Mr. Russell Vanbrugh
disappeared behind the extremely well-kept door of Simon Darche's house
in Lexington Avenue.
Simon Darche stood at the window of his study, as Dolly and Vanbrugh
entered the house. He was, at that time, about seventy-five years of
age, and the life he had led had told upon him, as an existence of over
excitement ultimately tells upon all but the very strong. Physically,
he was a fine specimen of the American old gentleman. He was short,
well knit, and still fairly erect; his thick creamy-white hair was
smoothly brushed and parted behind, as his well-trimmed white beard was
carefully combed and parted before. He had bushy eyebrows in which
there were still some black threads. His face was ruddy and polished,
like fine old pink silk that has been much worn. But his blue eyes had
a vacant look in them, and the redness of the lids made them look weak;
the neck was shrunken at the back and just behind the ears, and though
the head was well poised on the shoulders, it occasionally shook a
little, or dropped suddenly out of the perpendicular, forwards or to
one side, not as though nodding, but as though the sinews were gone, so
that it depended altogether upon equilibrium and not at all upon
muscular tension for its stability. This, however, was almost the only
outward sign of physical weakness. Simon Darche still walked with a
firm step, and signed his name in a firm round hand at the foot of the
documents brought to him by his son for signature.
He had perfect confidence in John's judgment, discretion and
capacity, for he and his son had worked together for nearly twenty
years, and John had never during that time contradicted him. Since the
business had continued to prosper through fair and foul financial
weather, this was, in Simon Darche's mind, a sufficient proof of John's
great superiority of intelligence. The Company's bonds and stock had a
steady value on the market, the interest on the bonds was paid
regularly and the Company's dividends were uniformly large. Simon
Darche continued to be President, and John Darche had now been
Treasurer during more than five years. Altogether, the Company had
proved itself to be a solid concern, capable of surviving stormy days
and of navigating serenely in the erratic flood and ebb of the
down-town tide. It was, indeed, apparent that before long a new
President must be chosen, and the choice was likely to fall upon John.
In the ordinary course of things a man of Simon Darche's age could not
be expected to bear the weight of such responsibility much longer; but
so far as any one knew, his faculties were still unimpaired and his
strength was still quite equal to any demands which should be made upon
it, in the ordinary course of events. Of the business done by the
Company, it is sufficient to say that it was an important branch of
manufacture, that the controlling interest was generally in the hands
of the Darches themselves and that its value largely depended upon the
possession of certain patents which, of course, would ultimately
Simon Darche stood at the window of his study and looked out,
smoking a large, mild cigar which he occasionally withdrew from his
lips and contemplated thoughtfully before knocking off the ash, and
returning it to his mouth. It was a very fine cigar indeed, equal in
quality to everything which Simon Darche had consumed during the
greater part of his life, and he intended to enjoy it to the end, as he
had enjoyed most things ever since he had been young. John, he often
said, did not know how to enjoy anything; not that John was in a hurry,
or exhibited flagrantly bad taste, or professed not to careon the
contrary, the younger man was deliberate, thoughtful and fastidious in
his requirementsbut there was an odd strain of asceticism in him,
which his father had never understood. It certainly was not of a
religious nature, but it would have gone well together with a saintly
disposition such as John did not possess. Perhaps indeed, John had the
saintly temperament without the sanctity, and that, after all, may be
better than nothing. He was thinner than his father and of a paler
complexion; his hair was almost red, if not quite, and his eyes were
bluea well-built man, not ungraceful but a little angular, careful of
his appearance and possessed of perfect taste in regard to dress, if in
nothing else. He bestowed great attention upon his hands, which were
small with slender fingers pointed at the tips, and did not seem to
belong to the same epoch as the rest of him; they were almost
unnaturally white, but to his constant annoyance they had an unlucky
propensity to catch the dust, as one says of some sorts of cloth. If it
be written down that a man has characteristically clean hands, some
critic will be sure to remark that gentlemen are always supposed to
have clean hands, especially gentlemen of the Anglo-Saxon race. It is a
fact, nevertheless, that however purely Anglo-Saxon the possessor may
be, there are hands which are naturally not clean and which neither
ordinary scrubbing nor the care of the manicure can ever keep clean for
more than an hour. People who are in the habit of noticing hands are
well aware of the fact, which depends upon the quality of the skin, as
the reputation for cleanliness itself generally does. John Darche's
hands did not satisfy him as the rest of himself did.
So far as people knew, he had no vices, nor even the small tastes
and preferences which most men have. He did not drink wine, he did not
smoke, and he rarely played cards. He was a fairly good rider and rode
for exercise, but did not know a pastern from a fetlock and trusted to
others to buy his horses for him. He cared nothing for sport of any
kind; he had once owned a yacht for a short time, but he had never been
any further than Newport in her and had sold her before the year was
out. He read a good deal in a desultory way and criticised everything
he read, when he talked, but on the whole he despised literature as a
trifle unworthy of a serious man's attention. His religious convictions
were problematic, to say the least of it, and his outward practice took
the somewhat negative form of never swearing, even when he was alone.
He did not raise his voice in argument, if he ever argued, nor in
anger, though he had a very bad temper. John Darche could probably say
as disagreeable things as any man living, without exhibiting the
slightest apparent emotion. He was not a popular man. His acquaintances
disliked him; his friends feared him; his intimates and the members of
his household felt that he held them at a distance and that they never
really understood him. His father bestowed an almost childish
admiration upon him, for which he received a partial compensation in
John's uniformly respectful manner and unvarying outward deference. In
the last appeal, all matters of real importance were left to the
decision of Simon Darche, who always found it easy to decide, because
the question, as it reached him, was never capable of more than one
It is clear from what has been said that John Darche was not an
amiable character. But he had one small virtue, or good trait, or good
point, be it called as it may. He loved his wife, if not as a woman and
a companion, at least as a possession. The fact was not apparent to the
majority of people, least of all, perhaps, to Mrs. Darche herself, who
was much younger than her husband and whose whole and loyal soul was
filled with his cast-off beliefs, so to say, or, at least, with beliefs
which he would have cast off if he had ever possessed them.
Nevertheless, he was accustomed to consider her as one of his most
valuable belongings, and he might have been very dangerous, had his
enormous dormant jealousy been roused by the slightest show on her part
of preference for any one of the half-dozen men who were intimate in
the house. He, on his side, gave her no cause for doubting his
fidelity. He was not loving, his manner was not affectionate, he often
lost his temper and said cruel things to her in his cruel way; but so
far as she knew he did not exchange ten words daily with any other
woman, excepting Mrs. Willoughby, her aunt, and Dolly Maylands, her
intimate friend. He was systematic in his daily comings and goings, and
he regularly finished his evenings at one of the clubs. He slept
little, but soundly, ate sparingly and without noticing what was
offered him, drank four cups of tea and a pint of Apollinaris every day
and had never been ill in his life, which promised to be long, active,
uneventful and not overflowing with blessings for any one else.
At first it might seem that there was not much ground for the few
words exchanged by Russell Vanbrugh and Dolly Maylands about the
Darches' trouble before they entered the house. To all appearances,
Simon Darche was in his normal frame of mind and had changed little
during the last five years. So far as any one could judge, the Company
was as solid as ever. In her outward manner and conversation Marion
Darche seemed as well satisfied with her lot as she had been on the day
of her marriage, when John had represented to her all that a man should
be,much that another man, whom she had loved, or liked almost to
loving, in her early girlhood, had not been. The surface of her life
was calm and unemotional, reflecting only the sunshine and storm of the
social weather under which she had lived in the more or less close
companionship of half a hundred other individuals in more or less
There is just enough truth in most proverbs to make them thoroughly
disagreeable. Take, for instance, the saying that wealth is not
happiness. Of course it is not, any more than food and lodging, shoes
and clothing, which are the ultimate forms of wealth, can be called
happiness. But surely, wealth and all that wealth gives constitute a
barrier against annoyance, mental and physical, which has almost as
much to do with the maintenance of happiness in the end, as climate
and the affections. The demonstration is a simple one. Poverty can of
itself under certain circumstances be a source of unhappiness. The
possession of riches therefore is a barrier against the possibility of
at least one sort of misery and relatively increases the chances of
being happy on the whole. It is tolerably certain, that, without money,
John Darche would have been little short of insufferable, and that his
wife would have been chief among the sufferers. The presence of a great
fortune preserved the equilibrium and produced upon outsiders the
impression of real felicity.
Nevertheless, both Vanbrugh and Dolly Maylands, as has been seen,
considered the fortune unsafe and apparent peace problematic. They were
among the most intimate friends of the Darche household and were
certainly better able to judge of the state of affairs than the
majority. They had doubtless perceived in the domestic atmosphere
something of that sultriness which foreruns a storm and sometimes
precedes an earthquake, and being very much in sympathy with each
other, in spite of the continual chaffing which formed the basis of
their conversation, they had both begun to notice the signs of bad
weather very nearly at the same time.
It must not be supposed that Mrs. Darche confided her woes to her
friend, to use the current expression by which reticent people
characterise the follies of others. It was not even certain at this
time that she had any woes at all, but Dolly undoubtedly noticed
something in her conduct which betrayed anxiety if not actual
unhappiness, and Russell Vanbrugh, who, as has been observed, was
intimately acquainted with many aspects of New York life, had some
doubts as to the state of the Company's affairs. No one is really
reticent. It would perhaps be more just to the human race as a whole to
say that no two persons are capable of keeping the same secret at the
same time. That is probably the reason why there is always some rumour
of an approaching financial crisis, even while it is very much to the
interest of all concerned to preserve a calm exterior. When a great
house is about to have trouble, and even in some cases as much as two
or three years before the disaster, there is a dull far-off rumble from
underground, as though the foundations were trembling. There is a
creaking of the timbers, an occasional and as yet unaccountable
rattling of the panes, and sometimes a very slight distortion of the
lines of the edifice, all proving clearly enough that a crash is at
hand. As no one believes in presentiments, divinations or the gift of
prophecy in these days, it is safe to assume that some one who knows
the history of the thing has betrayed the secret, or has told his wife
that there is a secret to be kept. In the matter of secrets there is
but one general rule. If you do not wish a fact to be known, tell no
one of its existence.
Concerning the particular reasons which led Dolly Maylands and
Russell Vanbrugh to exchange opinions on the subject of the Darches, it
is hardly necessary to speak here. The two were very intimate and had
known each other for a long time, and, possibly, there was a tendency
in their acquaintance to something more like affection than friendship.
The fact that Dolly did not flirt with Vanbrugh in the ordinary
acceptation of that word, showed that she might possibly be in love
with him. As for Vanbrugh himself, no one knew what he thought and he
did not intend that any one should. He had never shown any inclination
to be married, though it was said that he, like many others, had been
deeply attached to Mrs. Darche in former days; and Dolly, at least,
believed that he still loved her friend in his heart, though she had
neither the courage nor the bad taste to ask a question to which he
might reasonably have refused an answer.
The only person in the household who seemed to have neither doubts
nor uneasiness was old Simon Darche, and as it was more than likely
that his intelligence had begun to fail, his own sense of security was
not especially reassuring to others.
While Simon Darche was smoking his large mild cigar at the window,
and while Dolly and Russell Vanbrugh were strolling by the railings of
Gramercy Park, Mrs. Darche was seated before the fire in the library,
and another friend of hers, who has a part to play in this little story
and who, like Vanbrugh, was a lawyer, was trying to interest her in the
details of a celebrated case concerning a will, and was somewhat
surprised to find that he could not succeed. Harry Brett stood towards
Marion Darche in very much the same friendly relation held by Vanbrugh
in Dolly's existence. There was this difference, however, that Brett
was well known to have offered himself to Mrs. Darche, who had refused
him upon grounds which were not clear to the social public. Brett was
certainly not so rich as John, but in all other respects he seemed
vastly more desirable as a husband. He was young, fresh, good-looking,
good-tempered. He belonged to a good New York family, whereas the
Darches were of Canadian origin. He had been quite evidently and
apparently very much in love with Marion, whereas John never seemed to
have looked upon her as anything but a valuable possession, to be
guarded for its intrinsic worth, and to be kept in good order and
condition rather than loved and cherished. Every one had said that she
should have married Brett, and when she chose John every one said that
she had married his money. But then it is impossible to please every
one. Brett was certainly not pleased. He had gone abroad and had been
absent a long time, just when he should have been working at his
profession. It was supposed, not without reason, that he was profoundly
disappointed, but nevertheless, when he returned he looked as fresh and
cheerful as ever, was kindly received by Mrs. Darche, civilly treated
by her husband and forthwith fell into the position of especial friend
to the whole family. He had made up his mind to forget all about the
past, to see as much of Mrs. Darche as he could without falling in love
with her a second time, as he would have called it, and he was doing
his best to be happy in his own way. Within the bounds of possibility
he had hitherto succeeded, and no one who wished well to him or Mrs.
Darche would have desired to doubt the durability of his success. He
had created an artificial happiness and spent his life in fostering the
idea that it was real. Many a better man has done the same before him
and many a worse may try hereafter. But the result always has been the
same and in all likelihood always will be. The most refined and perfect
artificiality is not nature even to him who most earnestly wishes to
believe it is, and the time must inevitably come in all such lives when
nature, being confronted with her image, finds it but a caricature and
dashes it to pieces in wrath.
Brett's existence was indeed much more artificial than that of his
old love. He had attempted to create the semblance of a new relation on
the dangerous ground whereon an older and a truer one had subsisted.
She, on her part, had accepted circumstances as they had formed
themselves, and did her best to get what she could out of them without
any attempt to deceive herself or others. Fortunately for both she was
eminently a good woman, and Brett was a gentleman in heart, as well as
And now before this tale is told, there only remains the thankless
task of introducing these last two principal figures in their
Of Harry Brett almost enough has been said already. His happy
vitality would have lent him something of beauty even if he had
possessed none at all. But he had a considerable share of good looks,
in addition to his height and well-proportioned frame, his bright blue
eyes, his fresh complexion, and short, curly brown hair. He too, like
Vanbrugh, belonged to the American type, which has regular features,
arched eyebrows, and rather deep-set eyes. The lower part of his face
was strong, though the whole outline was oval rather than round or
Rather a conventional hero, perhaps, if he is to be a hero at all,
but then, many heroes have been thought to be quite average, ordinary
persons, until the knot which heroism cuts was presented to them by
fate. Then people discover in them all sorts of outward signs of the
inward grace that can hit so very hard. Then the phrenologists descend
upon their devoted skulls and discover there the cranial localities of
the vast energy, the dauntless courage, the boundless devotion to a
cause, the profound logic, by which great events are brought about and
directed to the end. Julius Cæsar at the age of thirty was a frivolous
dandy, an amateur lawyer, and a dilettante politician, in the eyes of
good society in Rome.
Harry Brett, however, is not a great hero, even in this fictiona
manly fellow with no faults of any importance and no virtues of any
great magnitude, young, healthy, good-looking, courageous, troubled a
little with the canker of the untrue ideal which is apt to eat the
common sense out of the core of life's tree, mistaken in his attempt to
create in himself an artificial satisfaction in the friendship of the
woman he had loved and was in danger of loving still, gifted with the
clear sight which must sooner or later see through his self-made
illusion, and possessed of more than the average share of readiness in
speech and actiona contrast, in this respect, to Vanbrugh. The
latter, from having too comprehensive a view of things, was often slow
in reaching a decision. Brett was more like Mrs. Darche herself in
respect of quick judgment and self-reliance at first sight, if such a
novel expression is permissible.
As Marion sat before the fire apparently studying its condition and
meditating a descent upon it, after the manner of her kind, she was not
paying much attention to Brett's interesting story about the great
lawyer who had drawn up his own will so that hardly a clause of it had
turned out to be legal, and Brett himself was more absorbed in watching
her than in telling the complicated tale. She was generally admitted to
be handsome. Her enemies said that she had green eyes and yellow hair,
which was apparently true, but they also said that she dyed the one and
improved the other with painting, which was false. Her hair was
naturally as fair as yellow gold, of an even colour throughout, and the
shadows beneath her eyes and the dark eyebrows, which were sources of
so much envy and malice, were natural and not done with little coloured
sticks of greasy crayon kept in tubes made to look like silver
pencil-cases, and generally concealed beneath the lace of the toilet
table or in the toe of a satin slipper.
Marion Darche was handsome and looked strong, though there was
rarely much colour in her face. She did not flush easily. Women who do,
often have an irritable heart, as the doctors call the thing, and
though their affections may be stable their circulation is erratic.
They suffer agonies of shyness in youth and considerable annoyance in
maturer years from the consciousness that the blood is forever surging
in their cheeks at the most inopportune moment; and the more they think
of it, the more they blush, which does not mend matters and often
betrays secrets. Three-fourths of the shyness one sees in the world is
the result of an irritable heart. Marion Darche's circulation was
normal, and she was not shy.
Like many strong persons, she was gentle, naturally cheerful and
generally ready to help any one who needed assistance. She had an
admirably even tempera matter, like physical courage, which depends
largely upon the action of the heart and the natural quality of the
nervesand under all ordinary circumstances she ate and slept like
other people. She did not look at all like Helen or Clytemnestra, and
her disposition was not in the least revengefula quiet, tall, fair
young woman, whose clear eyes looked every one calmly in the face and
whose strong white hands touched things delicately but could hold
firmly when she chose; carrying herself straight through a crowd, as
she bore herself upright through life. Those who knew her face best
admired especially her mouth and the small, well-cut, advancing chin,
which seemed made to meet difficulties as a swimmer's divides the
water. In figure, as in face, too, she was strong, the undulating
curves were those of elasticity and energy, rather than of indolence
As Harry Brett talked and watched her he honestly tried not to wish
that she might have been his wife, and when his resolution broke down
he conscientiously talked on and did his best to interest himself in
his own conversation. The effort was familiar to him of old, and had so
often ended in failure that he was glad when the distant tinkle of the
door bell announced the coming of a third person. John rarely lunched
at home and old Mr. Darche was never summoned until the meal was
served. Brett broke off in the middle of his story and laughed a
I believe you have not understood a word of what I have been
telling you, he said.
Mrs. Darche looked up suddenly, abandoned the study of the burning
logs and leaned back in her chair before she answered. Then she looked
at him quietly and smiled, not even attempting to deny the imputation.
It is very rude of me, is it not? You must forgive me, to-day. I am
very much preoccupied.
You often are, nowadays, answered Brett, with a short, manlike
sigh, which might have passed for a sniff of dissatisfaction.
I know I am. I am sorry.
The door opened and Dolly Maylands entered the room, followed
closely by Russell Vanbrugh.
Simon Darche was undoubtedly a bore. Since bores exist and there is
no other name for them, the strong word has some right to pass into the
English language. The old gentleman belonged to the unconscious and
self-complacent variety of the species, which is, on the whole, less
unbearable than certain others. Generally speaking, it is true that
people who are easily bored are bores themselves, but there are many
very genuine and intolerable bores who go through life rejoicing and
convinced that their conversation is a blessing and their advice a
treasure to those who get it.
Bores always have one or two friends. Simon Darche had found one in
his daughter-in-law and he availed himself of her friendship to the
utmost, so that it was amazing to see how much she could bear, for she
was as constantly bored by him as other people, and appeared, indeed,
to be his favourite victim. But no one had ever heard her complain. Day
after day she listened to his talk, smiled at his old stories, read to
him, and seemed rather to seek his society than to avoid it. She was
never apparently tired of hearing about John's childhood and youth and
she received the old man's often repeated confidences concerning his
own life with an ever-renewed expression of sympathy.
I simply could not stand it for a day! exclaimed Dolly
occasionally. Why, he is worse than my school children!
Miss Maylands could not put the case more strongly. Perhaps no one
I like him, answered Mrs. Darche. I know he is a bore. But then,
I suppose I am a bore myself.
Oh, Marion! And Dolly laughed.
That was generally the end of the conversation. But Dolly, who was
by no means altogether frivolous and had a soul, and bestowed now and
then considerable attention upon its religious toilet, so to sayDolly
fancied that Papa Darche, as she called him, took the place of a baby
in her friend's heart. Rather a permanent and antique baby, Dolly
thought, but better than nothing for a woman who felt that she must
love and take care of something helpless. She herself did not care for
that sort of thing. The maternal instinct developed itself in another
direction and she taught children in a kindergarten. The stupid ones
tired her, as she expressed it, but then her soul came to the rescue
and did its best, which was not bad. Dolly was a good girl, though she
had too many purposes in life.
Not many minutes after she and Vanbrugh had entered the room on the
morning described in the previous chapters, luncheon was announced.
Tell Mr. Darche that luncheon is ready, Stubbs, said Marion, and
Stubbs, gray-haired, portly, rosy-cheeked and respectful, disappeared
to summon the old gentleman.
Vanbrugh looked at Brett and both smiled, hardly knowing why.
Neither of them had ever lunched at the house without hearing the same
order given by the hostess. People often smile foolishly at familiar
things, merely because they are familiar. Dolly and Mrs. Darche had sat
down together and the two men stood side by side near a table on which
a number of reviews and periodicals were neatly arranged in order.
Brett idly took up one of them and held it in his hand.
By the bye, he said, to-day is not Sunday. You are not ill, I
Only lazy, answered Vanbrugh.
So am I, answered Brett after a moment's pause.
There they stood in silence, apathetically glancing at the two
ladies, at the fire and at the window, as two men who know each other
very well are apt to do when they are waiting for luncheon. Brett
chanced to look down at the magazine he held in his hand. It was bound
in white paper and the back of the cover was occupied by a huge
advertisement in large letters. The white margin around it was filled
with calculations made in blue and red pencil, with occasional marks in
green. Mechanically Brett's eyes followed the calculations. The same
figure, a high one, recurred in many places, and any one with a child's
knowledge of arithmetic could have seen that there was a constant
attempt to make up another sum corresponding to it,an attempt which
seemed always to have failed. Brett remembered that Darche carried a
pencil-case with leads of three colours in it, and he tossed the
magazine upon the table as though he realised that he had been prying
into another person's business. He glanced at Mrs. Darche who was still
talking with Dolly, and a moment later he took up the magazine again
and cautiously tore off the back of the cover, crumpled it in his
hands, approached the fire and tossed it into the flames. Mrs. Darche
looked up quickly.
What is that? she asked.
Oh, nothing, answered Brett, only a bit of paper.
Just then Simon Darche entered the room and all rose to go in to
The old gentleman shook hands with Dolly and with both the men,
looking keenly into their faces, but mentioning no names. He was
cheerful and ruddy, and a stranger might have expected his conversation
to be enlivening. In this however, he would have been egregiously
What have you been doing this morning? asked Mrs. Darche turning
She had asked the question every day for years, whenever she had
lunched at home.
Very busy, very busy, answered Mr. Darche.
His hands did not tremble as he unfolded his napkin, but he seemed
to bestow an extraordinary amount of attention on the exact position of
the glasses before him, pushing them a little forwards and backwards
and glancing at them critically until he was quite satisfied.
Busy, of course, he said and looked cheerfully round the table.
There is no real happiness except in hard work. If I could only make
you understand that, Marion, you would be much happier. Early to bed
and early to rise.
Makes a man stupid and closes his eyes, observed Brett, finishing
the proverb in its modern form.
What, what? What doggerel is that?
Did you never hear that? asked Dolly, laughing. It is from an
unwritten and unpublished bookmodern proverbs.
Simon Darche shook his head and smiled feebly.
Dear me, dear me, I thought you were in earnest, he said.
So he is, said Dolly. We may have to get up at dawn sometimes,
but we are far too much in earnest to go to bed early.
This was evidently beyond Simon Darche's comprehension and he
relapsed into silence and the consumption of oysters. Mrs. Darche
glanced reproachfully at Dolly as though to tell her that she should
not chaff the old gentleman, and Vanbrugh came to the rescue.
Do you often get up at dawn, Miss Maylands? he inquired.
Do I look as if I did? retorted the young lady.
How in the world should I know, asked Vanbrugh. Do I look as
though I associated with people who got up at dawn?
It always amuses me to hear you and Vanbrugh talk, Miss Maylands.
Does it, I am so glad, said Dolly.
Yes, you seem perfectly incapable of saying one word to each other
Old Mr. Darche had finished his oysters.
Yesyes, he observed. A pair of chaffinches.
A moment of silence followed this appalling pun. Then Mrs. Darche
laughed a little nervously, and Brett, who wished to help her, followed
her example. The old gentleman himself seemed delighted with his own
We are beginning well, said Dolly. Puns and proverbs with the
oysters. What shall we get with the fruit?
Vanbrugh was inclined to suggest that the dessert would probably
find them in an idiot asylum, but he wisely abstained from words and
tried to turn the conversation into a definite channel.
Did you read that book I sent you, Mrs. Darche? he asked.
Yes, answered the latter, I began to read it to my father-in-law
but he did not care for it, so I am going on with it alone.
What book was that, my dear? inquired the old gentleman.
Mrs. Darche named a recent foreign novel which had been translated.
Oh, that thing! exclaimed her father-in-law. Why, it is all about
Frenchmen and tea parties! Very dull. Very dull. But then a busy man
like myself has very little time for such nonsense. Mr. Trehearne, I
suppose I could not give you any idea of the amount of work I have to
He looked at Vanbrugh as he spoke.
Trehearne? Brett repeated the name in a low voice, looking at Mrs.
I know you are one of the busiest men alive, said Vanbrugh quietly
and without betraying the slightest astonishment.
I should think so, said Simon Darche, and I am very glad I am.
Nothing keeps a man busy like being successful. And I may fairly say
that I have been very successfulthanks to John, wellI suppose I may
take a little credit to myself.
Indeed you may, said Mrs. Darche readily.
Every one thought it wise and proper to join in a little murmur of
approval, but Dolly was curious to see what the old gentleman would say
next. She wondered whether his taking Vanbrugh for old Mr. Trehearne,
who had been a friend of his youth and who had been dead some years,
was the first sign of mental decay. From Mrs. Darche's calm manner she
inferred that this was not the first time he had done something of the
kind, and her mind went back quickly to her conversation with Vanbrugh
that morning in Gramercy Park. Simon Darche was still talking.
The interests of the Company are becoming positively gigantic, and
there seems to be no end to the fresh issues that are possible, though
none of them have been brought to me to sign yet.
Brett looked quickly at Vanbrugh, but the latter was imperturbable.
At that moment the door opened and John Darche entered the
dining-room. His face was a little paler than usual and he seemed
tired. Mrs. Darche looked at him in surprise and her father-in-law
smiled as he always did when he saw his son. Every one present said
something more or less incomprehensible by way of greeting. The
new-comer shook hands with Dolly Maylands, nodded to the rest and sat
down in the place which was always reserved for him opposite his wife.
I had nothing particular to do, so I came home to luncheon, he
said, by way of explaining his unexpected appearance.
I am so glad.
Nothing particular to do! exclaimed the old gentleman momentarily
surprised into his senses.
Nothing requiring my presence, answered John Darche gravely. I
was down town early this morning and cleared off everything. I shall
ride this afternoon.
Quite right, quite right, my boy! put in Simon Darche. You should
take care of your health. You have been doing too much of late. I
suppose, he added, looking about at the others, that there is not a
man alive who has my son's power of work.
You do work dreadfully hard, John, said Mrs. Darche.
But then, said her father-in-law with evident pride, John leads
such a regular life. He does not drink, he does not smoke, he does not
sit up late at nightaltogether, I must say that he takes better care
of himself than I ever did. And that is the reason, continued the old
gentleman with increasing animation, that he has accomplished so much.
If some of you young men would follow his example you would do a great
deal more in the world. Regular hours, regular meals, no cocktailsoh
I daresay if I had never smoked a cigar in my life I should be good for
another fifty years. John will live to be a hundred.
Let us hope so, said Vanbrugh blandly.
What is this particular disagreeable thing you have given me to
eat? inquired John looking at his wife.
Mrs. Darche looked up in surprise. The remark was quite in keeping
with his usual manner, but it was very unlike him to notice anything
that was put before him.
I believe it is a shad, she said.
Yes, I suppose it is, answered John. The thing has bones in it.
Give me something else, Stubbs.
He got something else to eat and relapsed into silence. The
remainder of the luncheon was not gay, for his coming had chilled even
Dolly's good spirits. Brett and Vanbrugh did their best to sustain the
conversation, but the latter felt more certain than ever that something
serious was the matter. Old Simon Darche meandered on, interspersing
his praise of his son and his boasts of the prosperity of the Company
with stale proverbs and atrocious puns. Almost as soon as the meal was
over the few guests departed with that unpleasant sense of unsatisfied
moral appetite which people have when they have expected to enjoy being
together and have been disappointed.
When every one was gone John Darche remained in the drawing-room
with his wife. He sat down in his chair like a man over-tired with hard
work, and something like a sigh escaped him. Mrs. Darche pushed a small
table to his side, laid his papers upon it and sat down opposite him. A
long silence followed. From time to time she looked up at her husband
as though she expected him to say something, but he did not open his
lips, though he often stared at her for several minutes together. His
unwinking blue eyes faced the light as he looked at her, and their
expression was disagreeable to her, so that she lowered her own rather
than encounter it.
Are things growing worse, John? at last she asked him.
Worse? What do you mean?
You told me some time ago that you were anxious. I thought that
perhaps you might be in some trouble.
John did not answer at once but looked at her as though he did not
see her, took up a paper and glanced absently over the columns of
Oh no, he said at last, as though her question had annoyed him.
There is nothing wrong, nothing whatever. Again a silence followed.
Mrs. Darche went to her writing-table and began to write a note. John
did not move.
Marion, said he at last, has any one been talking to you about my
No indeed, answered Mrs. Darche in evident surprise at the
question, but with such ready frankness that he could not doubt her.
No, he repeated. I see that no one has. I only asked because
people are always so ready to talk about what they cannot understand,
and are generally so perfectly certain about what they do not know. I
thought Dolly Maylands might have been chattering.
Dolly does not talk about you, John.
Oh! I wonder why not. Does she dislike me especiallyI mean more
than most peoplemore than you do, for instance?
My dear, do not imagine that it grieves me, though it certainly
does not make life more agreeable to be disliked. On the whole, I
hardly know which I prefermy father's perpetual outspoken praise, or
your dutiful and wifely hatred.
Why do you talk like that?
Mrs. Darche did not leave her writing-table, but turned in her chair
and faced him, still holding her pen.
I fancy there is some truth in what I say, he answered calmly. Of
course you know that you made a mistake when you married me. You were
never in love with meand you did not marry me for my money.
He laughed rather harshly.
No, I did not marry you for your money.
Of course not. You have some of your ownenough
And to spare, if you needed it, John.
You are very kind, my dear, replied Darche with a scarcely
perceptible touch of contempt in his tone. I shall survive without
borrowing money of my wife.
I hope you may never need to borrow of any one, said Marion.
She turned to the table again and began arranging a few scattered
notes and papers to conceal her annoyance at his tone, hoping that her
inoffensive answer might soon have the effect of sending him away, as
was usually the case. But Darche was not quite in his ordinary state.
He was tired, irritable, and greedy for opposition, as men are whose
nerves are overwrought and who do not realise the fact, because they
are not used to it, and it is altogether new to them.
I am tired of 'yea, yea.' Change the conversation, please, and say
'nay, nay.' It would make a little variety.
Do you object to my agreeing with you? I am sorry. It is not always
easy to guess what you would like. I am quite ready to give up trying,
if you say so. We can easily arrange our lives differently, if you
How do you mean?
We might separate, for instance, suggested Mrs. Darche.
John was surprised. He had sometimes wondered whether it were not
altogether impossible to irritate his wife's calm temper to some open
expression of anger. He had almost succeeded, but he by no means liked
the form of retort she had chosen. A separation would not have suited
him at all, for in his character the love of his possessions was
strong, and he looked upon his wife as an important item in the
inventory of his personal property. He hesitated a moment before he
Of course we might separate, but I do not intend that we shouldif
I can help it, he added, as though an afterthought had occurred to
You are not doing your best to prevent it, answered Mrs. Darche.
Oh!what are my sins? Are you jealous? This begins to interest
No, I am not jealous, you have never given me any cause to be.
You think that incompatibility of temper would be sufficient
For a temporary separationyes.
Ahit is to be only temporary? How good you are!
It can be permanent, if you like.
I have already told you that I have no idea of separating. I cannot
imagine why you go back to it as you do.
You drive me back to it.
You are suddenly developing a temper. This is delightful.
Mrs. Darche made no answer, but occupied herself with her papers in
silence. She could hardly account for the humour in which she was
answering her husband, seeing that for years she had listened to his
disagreeable and brutal sayings without retort. It is impossible to
foresee the precise moment at which the worm will turn, the beast
refuse its load, and the human heart revolt. Sometimes it never comes
at all, and then we call the sufferer a coward. After a pause which
lasted several minutes, John renewed the attack.
I am sorry you will not quarrel any more, it was so refreshing, he
I do not like quarrelling, answered Marion, without looking up.
What good can it do?
You are always wanting to do good! Life without contrasts is very
Mrs. Darche rose from her seat and came and stood by the fireplace.
John, she said, something has happened. You are not like
yourself. If I can be of any use to you, tell me the truth and I will
do all I can. If not, go and ride as you said you would. The fresh air
will rest you.
You are a good creature, my dear, said Darche looking at her
I do not know whether you mean to be flattering, or whether you
wish to go on with this idle bickering over wordsyou know that I do
not like to be called a good creature, like the washerwoman or the
cook. YesI knowI am angry just now. Never mind, my advice is good.
Either go out at once, or tell me just what is the matter and let me do
the best I can to help you.
There is nothing to tell, my dear.
Then go out, or go and talk to your fatheror stay here, and I
will go away.
Anything rather than stay together, suggested Darche.
Yesanything rather than that. I daresay it is my fault, and I am
quite willing to bear all the blame, but if we are together in the same
room much longer we shall do something which we shall regretat least
I shall. I am sure of it.
That would be very unfortunate, said Darche, rising, with a short
laugh. Our life has been so exceptionally peaceful since we were
I think it has, answered Marion, calmly, considering your
character and mine. On the whole we have kept the peace very well. It
has certainly not been what I expected and hoped that it might be, but
it has not been so unhappy as that of many people I know. We both made
a mistake, perhaps, but others have made worse ones. You ask why I
married you. I believe that I loved you. But I might ask you the same
You would get very much the same answer.
Oh noyou never loved me. I cannot even say that you have changed
much in five years, since our honeymoon. You did not encourage my
illusions very long.
No. Why should I?
I daresay you were right. I daresay that it has been best so. The
longer one has loved a thing, the harder it is to part from it. I loved
my illusions. As for you
As for me, I loved you, as I understand love, said Darche walking
up and down the room with his hands in his pockets. And, what is more,
as I understand love, I love you still.
Love cannot be a very serious matter with you, then, answered
Marion, turning from him to the fire and pushing back a great log with
You are mistaken, returned Darche. Love is a serious matter, but
not half so serious as young girls are inclined to believe. Is it not a
matter of prime importance to select carefully the woman who is to sit
opposite to one at table for a lifetime, and whose voice one must hear
every day for forty years or so? Of course it is serious. It is like
selecting the president of a companyonly that you cannot turn him out
and choose another when you are not pleased with him. Love is not a
wild, insane longing to be impossibly dramatic at every hour of the
day. Love is natural selection. Darwin says so. Now a sensible man of
business like me, naturally selects a sensible woman like you to be the
mistress of his household. That is all it comes to, in the end. There
is no essential difference between a man's feeling for the woman he
loves and his feeling for anything else he wants.
And I fill the situation admirably. Is that what you mean?
inquired Marion with some scorn.
If you choose to put it in that way.
And that is what you call being loved?
Yesbeing wanted. It comes to that. All the rest is
illusiondream-stuff, humbug, 'fake' if you do not object to Bowery
Are you going out? asked Mrs. Darche, losing patience altogether.
No. But I am going upstairs to see the old gentleman. It is almost
He went towards the door and his hand was on the handle of the lock
when she called him back.
John there was hesitation in her voice.
Well? What is the matter? He came back a few steps and stood near
John, did you never care for me in any other wayin any better
wayfrom the heart? You used to say that you did.
Did I? I have forgotten. One always supposes that young girls
naturally expect one to talk a lot of nonsense, and that one has no
choice unless one doesso one makes the best of it. I remember that it
was a bore to make phrases so I probably made them. Anything else you
would like to ask?
Nothanks. I would rather be alone.
John Darche left the room and Marion returned to her writing-table
as though nothing had been said, intending to write her notes as usual.
And indeed, she began, and the pen ran easily across the paper for a
Then on a sudden, her lip quivered, she wrote one more word, the pen
fell from her fingers, and bowing her head upon the edge of the table
she let the short, sharp sobs break out as they would.
She was a very lonely woman on that winter's afternoon, and the
tension she had kept on herself had been too great to bear any longer.
In spite of her husband's denial, Marion Darche was convinced that
he was in difficulties, though she could not understand how such a
point could have been reached in the affairs of the Company, which had
always been considered so solid, and which had the reputation of being
managed so well. It was natural, when matters reached a crisis, that
none of her acquaintances should speak to her of her husband's
troubles, and many said that Mrs. Darche was a brave woman to face the
world as she did when her husband was in all likelihood already ruined
and was openly accused on all sides of something very like swindling.
But as a matter of fact she was in complete ignorance of all this. John
Darche laughed scornfully when she repeated her question, and she had
never even thought of asking the old gentleman any questions. She was
too proud to speak of her troubles to Vanbrugh or Brett; and Dolly,
foreseeing real trouble, thought it best to hide from her friend the
fears she entertained. As sometimes happens in such cases, matters had
gone very far without Mrs. Darche's knowledge. The Company was in hands
of a receiver and an inquiry into the conduct of Simon and John Darche
was being pushed forward with the utmost energy by the frightened
holders of the bonds and shares, while Marion was dining and dancing
through the winter season as usual. The Darches were accused of having
issued an enormous amount of stock without proper authority; but there
were many who said that Simon Darche was innocent of the trick, and
that John had manufactured bogus certificates. Others again maintained
that Simon Darche was in his dotage and signed whatever was put before
him by his son, without attempting to understand the obligations to
which he committed himself.
Meanwhile John's position became desperate, though he himself did
not believe it to be so utterly hopeless as it really was. Since this
is the story of Marion Darche and not of her husband, it is unnecessary
to enter into the financial details of the latter's ruin. It is enough
to say that for personal ends he had made use of the Company's funds in
order to get into his own control a line of railroad by which a large
part of the Company's produce was transported, with the intention of
subsequently forcing the Company to buy the road of him on his own
terms, as soon as he should have disposed by stealth of his interest in
the manufacture. Had the scheme succeeded he should have realised a
great fortune by the transaction, and it is doubtful whether anything
could have been proved against him after the event. Unfortunately for
him, he had come into collision with a powerful syndicate of which he
had not suspected the existence until he had gone so far that either to
go on or to retire must be almost certain ruin and exposure. The
existence of this syndicate had dawned upon him on the day described in
the preceding chapters, and the state of mind in which he found himself
was amply accounted for by the discovery he had made.
As time went on during the following weeks, and he became more and
more hopelessly involved, his appearance and his manner changed for the
worse. He grew haggard and thin, and his short speeches to his wife
lacked even that poor element of wit which is brutality's last hold
upon good manners. With his father, however, he maintained his usual
behaviour, by a desperate effort. He could not afford to allow the
whole fabric of the old gentleman's illusions about him to perish, so
long as Simon Darche's hand and name could still be useful. It is but
just to admit, too, that he felt a sort of cynical, pitying attachment
to his fatherthe affection which a spoiled child bestows upon an
over-indulgent parent, which is strongly tinged with the vanity excited
by a long course of unstinted and indiscriminating praise.
If Marion Darche's own fortune had been invested in the Company of
which her husband was treasurer, she must have been made aware of the
condition of things long before the final day of reckoning came. But
her property had been left her in the form of real estate, and the
surplus had been invested in such bonds and mortgages as had been
considered absolutely safe by Harry Brett's father, who had originally
been her guardian, and, after his death, by Harry Brett himself, who
was now her legal adviser, and managed her business for her. The house
in Lexington Avenue was her property. After her marriage she had
persuaded her husband to live in it rather than in the somewhat
pretentious and highly inconvenient mansion erected on Fifth Avenue by
Simon Darche in the early days of his great success, which was
decorated within, and to some extent without, according to the doubtful
taste of the late Mrs. Simon Darche. Vanbrugh compared it to an
inflamed Pullman car.
Enough has been said to show how at the time, the Darches were on
the verge of utter ruin, and how Marion Darche was financially
independent. Meanwhile the old gentleman's mind was failing fast, a
fact which was so apparent that Marion was not at all surprised when
her husband told her that there was to be a consultation of doctors to
inquire into the condition of Simon Darche, with a view to deciding
whether he was fit to remain, even nominally, at the head of the
Company or not. As a matter of fact, the consultation had become a
legal necessity, enforced by the committee that was examining the
John Darche was making a desperate fight of it, sacrificing
everything upon which he could lay his hands in order to buy in the
fraudulent certificates of stock. He was constantly in want of money,
and seized every opportunity of realising a few thousands which
presented itself, even descending to gambling in the stock market in
the hope of picking up more cash. He was unlucky, of course, and margin
after margin disappeared and was swallowed up. From time to time he
made something by his speculationsjust enough to revive his shrinking
hopes, and to whet his eagerness, already sharpened by extremest
anxiety. He did not think of escaping from the country, however. In the
first place, if he disappeared at this juncture, he must be a beggar or
dependent on his wife's charity. Secondly, he could not realise that
the end was so near and that the game was played out to the last card.
Still he struggled on frantically, hoping for a turn of the market, for
a windfall out of the unknown, for a wave of luck, whereby a great sum
being suddenly thrown into his hands he should be able to cover up the
traces of his misdeeds and begin life afresh.
Marion was as brave as ever, but she got even more credit for her
courage than she really deserved. She knew at this time that the
trouble was great, but she had no idea that it was altogether past
mending, and she had not renewed the offer of help she had made to her
husband when she had first noticed his distress. In the meantime, she
devoted herself to the care of old Simon Darche. She read aloud to him
in the morning, though she was quite sure that he rarely followed a
single sentence to the end. She drove with him in the afternoon and
listened patiently to his rambling comments on men and things. His
inability to recognise many of the persons who had been most familiar
to him in the earlier part of his life was becoming very apparent, and
the constant mistakes he made rendered it advisable to keep him out of
intercourse with any but the members of his own family. As has been
said, Mrs. Darche had not as yet made any change in her social
existence, but Dolly Maylands, who knew more of the true state of
affairs than her friend, came to see her every day and grew anxious in
the anticipation of the inevitable disaster. Her fresh face grew a
little paler and showed traces of nervousness. She felt perhaps as men
do who lead a life of constant danger. She slept as well and became
almost abnormally active, seizing feverishly upon everything and every
subject which could help to occupy her time.
You work too hard, Dolly, said Mrs. Darche one morning as they
were seated together in the library. You will wear yourself out. You
have danced all night, and now you mean to spend your day in slaving at
Dolly laughed a little as she went on cutting the pages of the
magazine she held. This was a thing Mrs. Darche especially disliked
doing, and Dolly had long ago taken upon herself the responsibility of
cutting all new books and reviews which entered the house.
Oh I love to burn the candle at both ends, she answered.
No doubt you do, my dear. We have all liked to do that at one time
or another. But at this rate you will light your candle in the middle,
You cannot light a candle in the middle, said Dolly with great
If anybody could, you could, said Marion, watching her as she had
often done of late and wondering if any change had come into the young
girl's life. Seriously, my dear, I am anxious about you. I wish you
would take care of yourself, or get married, or something.
If you will tell me what that 'something' is I will get it at
once, said Dolly, with a smile that had a tinge of sadness in it. I
ask nothing better.
Oh anything! exclaimed Mrs. Darche. Get nervous prostration or
anything that is thoroughly fashionable and gives no trouble, and then
go somewhere and rest for a month.
My dear child, cried Dolly with a laugh, I cannot think of being
so old-fashioned as to have nervous prostration. Let me see. I might be
astigmatic. That seems to be the proper thing nowadays. Then I could
wear glasses and look the character of the school-ma'am. Then I could
say I could not dance because I could not see, because of course I
could not dance in spectacles. But for the matter of that, my dear, you
need not lecture me. You are as bad as I am, and much worseyours is a
much harder life than mine.
Just as Dolly was about to draw a comparison between her own
existence and her friend's, the door opened and Stubbs entered the room
bearing a dozen enormous roses, of the kind known as American beauties.
Dolly, who had a passion for flowers, sprang up, and seized upon them
with an exclamation of delight.
What beauties! What perfect beauties! she said. You lucky
creature! Who in the world sends you such things?
Mrs. Darche had risen from her seat and had buried her face in the
thick blossoms while Dolly held them.
I am sure I do not know, she said.
Oh Marion! answered Dolly, smiling. Innocence always was your
strong point, and what a strong point it is. I wish people would send
me flowers like these.
I have no doubt they do, my dear. Do not pretend they do not. Come
and help me arrange them instead of talking nonsense. Even if it were
true that my life is harder than yoursI do not know whyyou see
there are alleviations.
Dolly did not answer at once. She was wondering just how much her
friend knew of the actual state of things, and she was surprised to
feel a little touch of pain when she contrasted the truth, so far as
she knew it, with the negatively blissful ignorance in which Mrs.
Darche's nearest and best friends were doing their best to keep her.
Of course there are alleviations in your life, just as there are in
mine, she said at last, changes, contrasts and all that sort of
thing. My kindergarten alleviates my dancing and my cotillons vary the
dulness of my school teaching.
She paused and continued to arrange the flowers in silence, looking
back now and then and glancing at them. Mrs. Darche did not speak, but
watched her idly, taking a certain artistic pleasure in the fitness of
the details which made up the little picture before her.
But I would not lead your life for anything in the world, added
Dolly at last with great decision.
Oh, nonsense, Dolly!
Are you happy, Marion? asked Dolly, suddenly growing very grave.
Happy? repeated Mrs. Darche, a little surprised by the sudden
question. Yes, why not? What do you mean by happy?
What everybody means, I suppose.
What is that?
Why, wanting things and getting them, of coursewanting a ten cent
thing a dollar's worth, and having it.
What a definition! exclaimed Mrs. Darche. But I really do believe
you enjoy your life.
Though it would bore you to extinction.
Possibly. The alternate wild attacks of teaching and flirting to
which you are subject would probably not agree with me.
Perhaps you could do either, but not both at the same time.
I suppose I could teach if I knew anything, said Mrs. Darche
thoughtfully. But I do not, she added with conviction.
And I have no doubt you could flirt if you loved anybody. It is a
pity you do not.
Oh, my flirting days are over, answered Marion laughing. You seem
to forget that I am married.
Do you not forget it sometimes? asked Dolly, laughing, but with
less genuine mirth.
Do not be silly! exclaimed Marion with a slight shade of
annoyance. She had been helping Dolly with the roses, all of which,
with the exception of two, were now arranged in a vase.
These will not go in, she said, holding up the remaining flowers.
You might stick them into that little silver cup.
To represent youand the other man. A red and a white rose. Is
Or you and me, suggested Mrs. Darche in perfect innocence. Why
Tell me, said Dolly, when they had finished, who is he?
Why, Russell Vanbrugh, of course.
Oh! exclaimed Dolly, turning her head away. Why of course?
Why not Harry Brett? asked Dolly, with the merciless insistence
peculiar to very young people.
In all probability, if no interruption had occurred, the
conversation of that morning would have taken a more confidential turn
than usual, and poor Dolly might then and there have satisfied her
curiosity in regard to the relations between Marion and Russell
It would be more correct, perhaps, to use a word of less definite
meaning than relation. Dolly suspected indeed that Vanbrugh loved Mrs.
Darche in his own quiet and undemonstrative fashion, and that this was
the secret of his celibacy. She believed it possible, too, that her
friend might be more deeply attached to Vanbrugh than she was willing
to acknowledge even in her own heart. But she was absolutely convinced
that whatever the two might feel for one another their feelings would
remain for ever a secret. She had gone further than usual in asking
Marion whether she were happy, and whether she had not at some time or
another almost forgotten that she was married at all. And Marion had
not resented the words. Dolly felt that she was on the very point of
getting at the truth, and was hoping that she might be left alone
half-an-hour longer with her friend, when the door opened and Simon
Darche entered the room. At the sight of the two young women his pink
silk face lighted up with a bright smile. He rubbed his hands, and the
vague expression of his old blue eyes gave place to a look of
recognition, imaginary, it is true, but evidently a source of pleasure
Good morning, my dear, he said briskly, taking Marion's hand in
both of his and pressing it affectionately. Good morning, Mrs.
Chilton, he added, smiling at Dolly.
Dolly Maylands, suggested Marion in an undertone.
Dolly? Dolly? repeated the old man. Yes, yeswhat did you say?
What did you say, Marion? Dolly Chilton? Silly child. Dolly Chilton has
been dead these twenty years.
What does he mean? asked Dolly in a whisper. Simon Darche turned
upon her rather suddenly.
Oh yes, I remember, he said. You are the little girl who used to
talk about Darwin, and the soul, and monkeys without tails, and steam
engines, when you were seven years old. Why, my dear child, I know you
very well indeed. How long have you been married?
I am not married, answered the young girl, suppressing a smile.
Why not? inquired Mr. Darche with startling directness. But
thenoh, yes! I am very sorry, my dear. I did not mean to allude to
it. I went to poor Chilton's funeral.
Just then, Stubbs, the butler, entered again, bearing this time a
note for Mrs. Darche. While she glanced at the contents he waited near
the door in obedience to a gesture from her. Old Mr. Darche immediately
went up to him, and with hearty cordiality seized and shook his
Happy to meet you, old fellow! he cried. That is all right. Now
just sit down here and we will go through the question in five
Beg pardon, sir, said the impassive butler. It was not the first
time that his master had taken him for an old friend.
Eh, what! cried Simon Darche. Calling me 'sir'? Did you come here
to quarrel with me, old man? Oh, I see! You are laughing. Well come
along. This business will not keep. The ladies will not mind if we go
to work, I daresay.
And forthwith he dragged Stubbs to a table and forced him into a
chair, talking to him all the time. Dolly was startled and grasped
What is it? she asked under her breath. Oh, Marion, what is it?
Is he quite mad?
Mrs. Darche answered her only by a warning look, and then, turning
away, seemed to hesitate a moment. Stubbs was suffering acutely,
submitting to sit on the edge of the chair to which his master had
pushed him, merely because no means of escape suggested itself to his
Why can you not sit down comfortably? asked Mr. Darche, with a
show of temper. You are not in a hurry, I know. Oh I see, you are
cold. Well, warm yourself. Cold morning. It will be warm enough in Wall
Street to-morrow, if we put this thing through. Now just let me explain
the position to you. I tell you we are stronger than anybody thinks.
Yes sir. I do not see any limit to what we may do.
Marion took a flower from one of the vases and went up to the old
Just let me put this rose in your coat, before you go to work.
Mr. Darche turned towards her as she spoke, and his attention was
diverted. With a serio-comic expression of devout thankfulness, Stubbs
rose and noiselessly glided from the room.
Thank you, thank you, said the old gentleman, and as he bent to
smell the blossom, his head dropped forward rather helplessly. I was
always fond of flowers.
The note which Stubbs had brought conveyed the information that the
three doctors who were to examine old Mr. Darche with a view of
ascertaining whether he could properly be held responsible for his
actions, would come in half an hour. It was now necessary to prepare
him for the visit, and Marion had not decided upon any plan.
It was evidently out of the question to startle him by letting him
suspect the truth, or even by telling him that his visitors belonged to
the medical profession. Mrs. Darche wished that she might have the
chance of consulting Dolly alone for a moment before the doctors came,
but this seemed equally impossible. She silently handed the note to her
friend to read and began talking to the old gentleman again. He
answered at random almost everything she said. It was clear that he was
growing rapidly worse and that his state was changing from day to day.
Marion, of course, did not know that the medical examination was to be
held by order of the committee conducting the inquiry into the
Company's affairs. Her husband had simply told her what she already
knew, namely, that his father was no longer able to attend to business
and that the fact must be recognised and a new president elected. It
would be quite possible, he thought, to leave the old gentleman in the
illusion that he still enjoyed his position and exercised his
functions. There could be no harm in that. To tell him the truth might
inflict such a shock upon his faculties as would hasten their complete
collapse, and might even bring about a fatal result. He had impressed
upon her the necessity of using the utmost tact on the occasion of the
doctors' visit, but had refused to be present himself, arguing, perhaps
rightly, that his appearance could be of no use, but that it might, on
the contrary, tend to complicate a situation already difficult enough.
The only course that suggested itself to Mrs. Darche's imagination,
was to represent the three doctors as men of business who came to
consult her father-in-law upon an important matter. At the first
mention of business, the old gentleman's expression changed and his
manner became more animated.
Eh, business? he cried. Oh yes. Never refuse to see a man on
business. Where are they? Good morning, Mrs. Chilton. I am sorry I
cannot stay, but I have some important business to attend to.
He insisted upon going to his study immediately in order to be ready
to receive his visitors.
Wait for me, Dolly, said Marion, as she followed him.
Dolly nodded and sat down in her own place by the fireplace, taking
up the magazine she had begun to cut and thoughtfully resuming her
occupation. Under ordinary circumstances she would perhaps have gone
away to occupy herself during the morning in some of the many matters
which made her life so full. But her instinct told her that there was
trouble in the air to-day, and that the affairs of the Darches were
rapidly coming to a crisis. She liked difficulties, as she liked
everything which needed energy and quickness of decision, and her
attachment to her friend would alone have kept her on the scene of
Marion did not return immediately, and Dolly supposed that she had
determined to stay with the old gentleman until the doctors came. It
was rather pleasant to sit by the fire and think, and wonder, and fill
out the incidents of the drama which seemed about to be enacted in the
house. Dolly realised that she was in the midst of exciting events such
as she had sometimes read of, but in which she had never expected to
play a part. There were all the characters belonging to the situation.
There was the beautiful, neglected young wife, the cruel and selfish
husband, the broken-down father, the two young men who had formerly
loved the heroine, and last, but not least, there was Dolly herself. It
was all very interesting and very theatrical, she thought, and she
wished that she might watch it or watch the developments in the
successive scenes, entirely as a spectator, and without feeling what
was really uppermost in her hearta touch of sincere sympathy for her
Just as she was thinking of all that Marion had to suffer, John
Darche, the prime cause and promoter of the trouble, entered the room,
pale, nervous, and evidently in the worst of humours.
Oh, are you here, Miss Maylands? he inquired, discontentedly.
Dolly looked up quietly.
Yes. Am I in the way? Marion has just gone with Mr. Darche to his
study. This note came a few moments ago and she gave it to me to read.
I think you ought to see it.
John Darche's brow contracted as he ran his eye over the page. Then
he slowly tore the note to shreds and tossed them into the fire.
I do not know why my wife thinks it necessary to take all her
friends into the confidences of the family, he said, thrusting his
hands into his pockets and going to the window, thereby turning his
back upon Dolly.
Dolly made no answer to the rude speech, but quietly continued to
cut the pages of the magazine, until, seeing that Darche did not move
and being herself rather nervous, she broke the silence again.
Am I in the way, Mr. Darche?
Not at all, not at all, said John, waking, perhaps, to a sense of
his rudeness and returning to the fireplace. On the contrary, he
continued, it is as well that you should be here. There will probably
be hysterics during the course of the day, and I have no doubt you know
what is the right thing to do under the circumstances. There seems to
be a horticultural show here, he added, as he noticed for the first
time the vases of flowers on the tables.
They are beautiful roses, answered Dolly in a conciliatory tone.
Yes, said John, drawing in his tin lips. Beautiful,
expensiveand not particularly appropriate to-day. One of my wife's
old friends, I suppose. Do you know who sent them?
Stubbs brought them in, a little while ago, Dolly replied. I
believe there was no note with them.
No note, repeated John, still in a tone of discontent. It is rude
to send flowers without even a card. It is assuming too much intimacy.
Is it? asked Dolly innocently.
Of course it is, answered John.
Half an hour, he said, after a moment's pause. Half an hour! How
long is it since that note came?
About twenty minutes I should think.
Doctors are generally punctual, observed Darche. They will be
here in a few minutes.
Shall you be present? asked Dolly.
Certainly not, John answered with decision. It would give me very
little satisfaction to see my father proved an idiot by three fools.
Fools! repeated Dolly in surprise.
Yes. All doctors are fools. The old gentleman's head is as clear as
mine. What difference does it make if he does not recognise people he
only half knows? He understands everything connected with the business,
and that is the principal thing. After all, what has he to do? He signs
his name to the papers that are put before him. That is all. He could
do that if he really had softening of the brain, as they pretend he
has. As for electing another president at the present moment it is out
of the question.
Yes, so I should suppose, said Dolly.
John turned sharply upon her.
So you should suppose? Why should you suppose any such thing?
I have heard that the Company is in trouble, answered Dolly,
John opened his lips as though he were about to make a sharp answer,
but checked himself and turned away.
Yes, he said more quietly, I suppose that news is public property
by this time. There they are, he added, as his ear caught the distant
tinkle of the door bell.
Shall I go? asked Dolly for the third time.
No, answered Darche, I will go out and meet them. Stay here
please. I will send my wife to you presently.
The verdict of the doctors was a foregone conclusion. The family
physician, who was one of the three, the other two being specialists,
stayed behind and explained to John Darche the result of the
examination. There was no hope of recovery, he said, nor even of
improvement. The most that could be done was to give the old gentleman
the best of care so long as he remained alive. Little by little his
faculties would fail, and in a few years, if he did not die, he would
be quite as helpless as a little child.
John Darche was not in a state to receive the information with
equanimity, though he had expected nothing else and knew that every
word the doctor said was trueand more also. He protested, as he had
protested to Dolly half an hour earlier, that Mr. Darche was still a
serviceable president for the Company, since he could sign his name, no
matter whether he understood the value of the signature or not. The
doctor, who, like most people, was aware of the investigation then
proceeding, shook his head, smiled incredulously, asked after Mrs.
Darche and went away, pondering upon the vanity of human affairs and
consoling himself for the sins of the world with the wages thereof,
most of which ultimately find their way to the doctor's bank-book, be
the event life or death.
Old Mr. Darche, supremely unconscious of what had taken place, and
believing that he had been giving the benefit of his valuable advice to
the directors of a western railroad, had lighted one of his very fine
cigars and had fallen asleep in his easy chair in his own study before
it was half finished. Marion had returned to Dolly in the library and
John had sent for his stenographer and had taken possession of the
front drawing-room for the morning, on pretence of attending to the
business which, in reality, had already been withdrawn from his hands
during several weeks.
He was in great suspense and anxiety, for it was expected that the
work of the investigating committee would end on that afternoon. He
knew that in any event he was ruined, and even he felt that it would be
humiliating to live on his wife's income. They would go abroad at once,
he thought, New York had become hateful to him. He had as yet no
apprehension of being deprived of his liberty, even temporarily.
Whatever action was taken against him must be of a civil nature, he
thought. He did not believe that any judge would issue a warrant for
his arrest on such evidence as could have been collected by the
committee. Simon Darche was incapable of remembering what he had done
even a week previously, and since the doctors declared that his mind
was gone, almost anything might be attributed to himanything, in
fact, about which the slightest trace of irregularity could be
discovered. John had been cautious enough in his actions when he had
been aware that he was violating the law, though he had been utterly
reckless when he had appealed to chance in the hope of retrieving his
losses, and recovering himself. He believed himself safe, and indulged
in speculations about the future as a relief to the excessive anxiety
of the moment.
Mrs. Darche had some right to know the result of the consultation
which had taken place, but her husband either intended to leave her in
ignorance or forgot her existence after the doctors had left the house.
During some time she remained with Dolly in the library, expecting that
John would at least send her some message, if he did not choose to come
himself. At last she determined to go to him.
I am very busy now, he said as she entered the room and glanced at
Yes, answered Mrs. Darche, I see, but I must speak to you alone
for a minute.
Wellbut I wish you would choose some other time. He nodded to
the secretary who rose and quietly disappeared.
What is it? asked Darche, when they were alone.
What did the doctors say?
Oh, nothing at all. They talked as doctors always do. Keep the
patient in good health, plenty of fresh air, food and sleep. He
laughed sourly at his own words.
Is that all? inquired Marion, rather incredulously. They must
have said something else. Why, we can all see that he is not himself.
There is something very seriously wrong. I am quite sure that he did
not recognise me yesterday.
Not recognise you? said John with the same disagreeable laugh.
Not recognise you? Do not be silly. He talks of nobody else. I tell
you there is nothing in the world the matter with him, he is good for
another twenty years.
Thank heaven for thatfor the twenty years of life, whether with
all his faculties or not
Yes, by all means let us return thanks. At the present rate of
interest on his life that means at least two millions.
It hurts me to hear you talk like that about your father, said
Marion, sitting down and watching her husband as he walked slowly up
and down before her.
Does it? That is interesting. I wonder why you are hurt because he
is likely to live twenty years. You are not very likely to be hurt by
Did I ever suggest such a thing?
No, it suggested itself.
At this speech Mrs. Darche rose. Standing quite still for a moment,
she looked quietly into his uncertain eyes. He was evidently in the
worst of humours, and quite unable to control himself, even had he
wished to do so. She felt that it would be safer to leave him, for her
own temper was overwrought and ready to break out. She turned towards
the door. Then he called her back.
I say, Marion!
What are you making such a fuss about?
Have I said anything?
No, not much, but you have a particularly uncomfortable way of
letting one see what you would like to say.
Is that why you called me back? asked Mrs. Darche on the point of
turning away again.
I suppose so. It certainly was not for the pleasure of prolonging
this delightful interview.
Once more she moved in the direction of the door. Then something
seemed to tighten about her heart, something long forgotten, and which,
if she tried to understand it at all, she thought was pity. It was
nothingonly a dead love turning in its grave. But it hurt her, and
she stopped and looked back. John Darche was leaning against the high
mantlepiece, shading his eyes from the fire with his small, pointed
white hand. She came and stood beside him.
John, she said gently, I want to speak to you seriously. I am
very sorry if I was hasty just now. Please forget it.
Darche looked up, pulled out his watch and glanced at it, and then
looked at her again before he answered. His eyes were hard and dull.
I think I said that I was rather busy this morning, he answered
Yes, I know, answered Marion, in her sweet, low voice. But I will
not keep you long. I must speak. John, is this state of things to go on
I fancy not. The death of one of us is likely to put a stop to it
before eternity sets in, he answered with some scorn.
We can stop it now if we will but try, said Marion, laying her
hand entreatingly upon his arm.
Oh yes, no doubt, observed John coldly.
Let me speak, please, this once, said Mrs. Darche. I know that
you are worried and harassed about business, and you know that I want
to spare you all I can, and would help you if I could.
I doubt whether your help would be conducive to the interests of
the Company, observed Darche.
NoI know that I cannot help you in that way. But if you would
only let me, in other ways, I could make it so much easier for you.
Could you? asked John, turning upon her immediately. Then just
lend me a hundred thousand dollars.
Mrs. Darche started a little at the words. As has been said, she was
really quite in ignorance of what was taking place and had no idea that
her husband could be in need of what in comparison with the means of
the Company seemed but a small sum in cash.
Do you need money, John? she asked, looking at him anxiously.
Oh no, I was only putting an imaginary case.
I wish it were not merely imaginary
Do you? he asked, interrupting her quickly. That is kind.
Marion seemed about to lose her temper at last, though she meant to
John! she exclaimed, in a tone of reproach, why will you so
It is you who misunderstand everything.
I mean it quite seriously, she answered. You know if you were
really in trouble for a sum like that, I could help you. Not that you
ever could be. I was only thinkingwishing that in some way or other I
might be of use. If I could help you in anything, no matter how
insignificant, it would bring us together.
John smiled incredulously.
Oh! he exclaimed, is that what you are driving at? Do you not
think life is very bearable as we are?
By this time Marion had completely regained her self-possession. She
was determined not to be repulsed, but there was a little bitterness in
her voice as she spoke.
No, frankly, John, as we are living now, life is not very bearable.
I cannot exchange half a dozen words with you without quarrelling, and
it is not my fault, John, it is not my fault! Could you not sometimes
make it a little easier for me?
By borrowing a hundred thousand dollars?
A pause followed John's answer, and he walked as far as the window,
came back again and stopped.
If you think it would be conducive to our conjugal happiness that I
should owe you a hundred thousand dollars, by all means lend it to me.
I will give you very good security and pay you the current rate of
Mrs. Darche hesitated a moment before she spoke again. She was not
quite sure that he was in earnest, and being determined to make the
utmost use of the opportunity she had created, she dreaded lest if she
pressed her offer upon him he should suddenly turn upon her with a
Do you really mean it, John? she asked at last. Will it help you
Oh, if you insist upon it and think it will promote your happiness,
I have no objection to taking it, said Darche coolly. As a matter of
fact it would be a convenience to-day, and it might help me to-morrow.
It will certainly not be of any importance next week.
I do not know whether you are in earnest or not, but I am.
Once more she paused. She realised that he was in need of a great
deal of money, and that his scornful acceptance of her offer was really
his way of expressing real interest.
You shall have it as soon as I can get it for you. If you really
need it I shall be very glad. If you are only laughing at mewell, I
can bear that too.
No, answered John, speaking much more seriously than hitherto. It
is a simple matter, of coursebut it is quite true that it would be a
convenience to me to have a hundred thousand dollars in cash during the
next twenty-four hours, and after all, it will not make any difference
to you, as so much of your property is in bonds. All you need to do is
to borrow the money on call and give the bonds as collateral.
I do not understand those things, of course, said Marion in a tone
of grief, but I suppose it can be managed easily enough, and I shall
be so proud if I am able to help you a little. Oh, John, she added,
after a little pause, if we could only be as we used to be, everything
to each other.
I wish we could, John answered with real or assumed gravity. But
in this existence, there is everything to separate us and hardly
anything to bring us together. You see, I am worried all day long, I
never get any rest and then I lose my temper about everything. I know
it is wrong but I cannot help it, and you must try to be as patient as
you can, my dear.
I do try, John, I do try, do I not? Say that you know I do. For a
moment she thought she had produced an impression upon him, and a
vision of a happier and more peaceful life rose suddenly before her
ready imagination. But the tone in which he spoke the next words
dispelled any such illusion.
Oh yes, he said dryly, I know you do, of course. You are awfully
goodand I am awfully bad. I will reform as soon as I have time. And
now, if you do not mind, I will go and attend to my letters.
And I will see about getting the money at once, she said, bravely
hiding her disappointment at his change of tone. I may be able to have
it by this evening.
Oh yes, he answered with some eagerness, if you are quick about
it. Well good-bye, and I am really much more grateful than I seem.
His dry unpleasant laugh was the last sound she heard as she left
the room. After all, it seemed perfectly useless, though she did her
best all day and every day.
Marion Darche left her husband more than ever convinced of the
hopelessness of any attempt at a happier and more united existence.
Faithful, brave, loving, a woman of heart rather than head, she
encountered in every such effort the blank wall of a windowless nature,
so to saythe dull opposition of a heartless intelligence incapable of
understanding any natural impulse except that of self-preservation, and
responding to no touch of sympathy or love. Against her will, she
wondered why she had married him, and tried to recall the time when his
obstinacy had seemed strength, his dulness gravity, his brutality
keenness. But no inner conjuring with self could give an instant's life
to the dead illusion. The nearest approach to any real resurrection
which she had felt for years had been the little pang that had
overtaken her when she had turned to leave him and had thought for one
moment that he might be suffering, as she was apt to sufferthis
being, whom she had once misunderstood and loved, whom she loved not at
all now, but to whom she had been lovelessly faithful in word and
thought and deed for years past.
Yet she knew that others had loved her well, most of all Harry
Brett, and girl-like, groping for her heart's half-grown truth she had
once believed that she loved him too, with his boyish, careless ways,
his thoughtless talk and his love of happiness for its own sake. He had
disappointed her in some little way, being over-light of leaf and
flower, though the stem was good to the core; she had looked for
strength on the surface as a child breaks a twig and laughs at the oak
for its weakness; she had expected, perhaps, to be led and ruled by a
hand that would be tender and obedient only for her, and she had turned
from Harry Brett to John Darche as from a delusion to a fact, from a
dream to the strong truth of wakingvery bitter waking in the end.
But though she had wrecked heart and happiness, and had suffered
that cold and hunger of the soul which the body can never feel, she
would not change her course nor give up the dream of hope. Worse than
what had been, could not be to come, she said to herself, realising how
little difference financial ruin, even to herself, could make now.
As she took up her pen to write a word to Brett, begging him to come
to her without delay, she paused a moment, thinking how strange it was
that in an extremity she should be obliged to send for him, who had
loved her, to help her to save her husband, if salvation were possible.
She even felt a little warmth about her heart, knowing how quickly
Harry would come, and she was glad that she had known how to turn a
boy's romantic attachment into a man's solid friendship. Brett would
not disappoint her.
She sent Dolly away, and Dolly, obedient, docile and long-suffering
for her friend's sake, kissed her on both pale cheeks and left her,
tripping down the brown steps with a light gait and a heavy heart.
Marion had sent a messenger down town after Brett, and the latter
did not lose a moment in answering the note in person. He was a little
pale as he entered.
What is it? he asked, almost before he had shaken hands.
It is kind of you to come at once, answered Marion. I asked you
to come about a matter of business. Sit down. I will explain.
Can I be of any use?
Yes, I want some money, a great deal of money, in fact, and I want
Are you going to buy a house? he inquired in some surprise. How
much do you want?
A hundred thousand dollars.
Brett did not answer at once. He looked at her rather anxiously,
then stared at the fire, then looked at her again.
It is rather short notice for such an amount. But you have nearly
as much as that in bonds and mortgages.
Yes, I know.
Well then, there need not be any difficulty. What you have in bonds
you have already, to all intents and purposes. Do I understand that you
want this money in cash?
Yes, answered Mrs. Darche with decision, in cash.
I suppose a cheque will do as well? suggested Brett with a smile.
A cheque? She repeated the word and seemed to hesitate. I should
have to write my name on it, should I not?
During the pause which followed, Marion seemed to be reviewing the
aspects of the transaction.
The name of the person to whom I give it? she asked at last, and
she seemed to avoid his glance.
Yes, answered Brett, surprised at the inexperience betrayed by the
question, unless you cashed it yourself and took the money in notes.
No, said Mrs. Darche, as firmly as before. I want the notes here,
please. What I want you to do, is to take enough bonds and get the
money for me. I do not care to know anything else about it, because I
shall not understand.
I suppose I ought not to be inquisitive, my dear friend, replied
Brett after a little hesitation, but I ought to tell you what you do
not seem to realise, that a hundred thousand dollars is a great deal of
money and that you ought not to keep such a sum in the house.
I do not mean to keep it in the house. It is to be taken away
He concluded that the money was to be taken from the house by John
Darche, and he determined to prevent such a result if possible.
May I ask one question? he inquired.
I will not promise to answer it. She still looked away from him.
I hope you will. Do you mean to lend this money to some one? If it
were an ordinary payment you would certainly not want it in notes in
How do you know? asked Marion with some impatience.
Because no human man of business with whom I have ever had anything
to do likes to trot about town with a hundred thousand dollars' worth
of notes in his pocket. And there is very little doubt in my mind about
what you mean to do with the money. You mean to give it to your
husband. Am I right?
Mrs. Darche blushed a little and a shade of annoyance crossed her
Why should I tell you what I am to do with it? she asked.
Because I am your legal adviser, answered Brett without
hesitating, and I may give you some good advice.
Thank you, I do not want any advice.
Another pause followed this declaration, which only seemed to
confirm the lawyer in his surmises.
I will call it by another name, he said at last in a conciliatory
tone. I will call it information. But it is information of a kind that
you do not expect. I should certainly not have said anything about it
if you had not sent for me on this business. Is it of any use to beg
you to reconsider the question of lending this money?
No, I have made up my mind.
To lend it to your husband?
Dear Mr. Brett, said Marion, beginning to be impatient again, I
said that I would rather not tell you.
I fancy that I am not mistaken, Brett answered. Now my dear
friend, you will be the last to know what every one has known for some
time, but it is time that you should know it. The affairs of the
Company are in a very bad state, so bad indeed, that an inquiry has
been going on into the management. I do not know the result of it yet,
but I am very much afraid that it will be bad, and that it will have
very disagreeable consequences for you all.
Consequences? repeated Mrs. Darche. What consequences? Do you
mean that we shall lose money?
I mean that and I mean something more. It is very serious. Your
husband is deeply involved, and his father's name is so closely
associated with his in all the transactions that it seems almost
impossible to say which of the two is innocent.
Innocent! cried Marion, laying her hand suddenly upon the arm of
her chair and starting forward, then rising quickly to her feet and
looking down at him. What do you mean? Why do you use that word?
The expression had hardly escaped Brett's lips when he realised the
extent of his carelessness. He rose and stood beside her, feeling, as a
man does, that she had him at a disadvantage while he was seated and
she was standing.
I beg your pardon, he said, I should have been more careful. I
should have said which of the two is responsible for
Something disgraceful? interrupted Mrs. Darche whose excitement
was only increased by his hesitation. For heaven's sake, do not keep
me in this suspense. Speak! Tell me! Be quick!
I should not have spoken at all except as your adviser, said
Brett. Nothing definite is known yet, but something is wrong. As a
purely business transaction it is madness to lend money to John Darche.
Can you believe for a moment that the treasurer of such a Company, that
the men who control such a Company, would ask you to lend them a
hundred thousand dollars at a few hours' notice, if they were not on
the very verge of ruin?
No, but that is not what happened.
She stopped short and moved away from him a little, hesitating as to
what she should say next. It was impossible to describe to him the
scene which had taken place between her and her husband.
I cannot tell you, and yet I want you to know, she said, at last.
Do you not trust me? said Brett, hoping to encourage her.
Certainly. Trust you! Oh yes, I trust you with all my heart.
She turned and faced him again.
Then tell me, said he. Tell me what happened in as few words as
possible. Just the bare facts.
It is the bare facts that are so hard to tell.
She turned away from him again feeling that if she allowed her eyes
to meet his she could not long withhold her confidence.
I suppose your husband let you guess that there was trouble, so
that you made the offer spontaneously, and then he accepted it.
Still she hesitated, standing by the writing-table, and idly turning
over the papers.
I saw that he was worried and harassed and that something was
wearing upon him, and I did so want to help him! I thought it mightno
I will not say that.
But it will not help matters to throw good money after bad,
answered Brett thoughtfully. Believe me, there is no more chance of
saving this money you mean to give him, than all the other millions
that have gone through his handsgone heaven knows where.
There was surprise in her tone.
I am afraid so, answered Brett, as though he had no reason in
making any correction in his estimate.
You must tell me all you can, all you know, said Marion, turning
to him again.
That would be a long affair, said Brett, though I know a great
deal about it. But I do not know all, though the situation is simple
enough and bad enough. In spite of the large earnings of the Company,
the finances are in a rotten state and it is said that there are large
sums not accounted for. An inquiry has been going on for some time, and
was, I believe, closed last night, but the result will not be known
until this afternoon.
What sort of an inquiry? asked Mrs. Darche, anxiously.
The regular examination of the books and of all the details which
have gone through the hands of your father-in-law and your husband.
My father-in-law! Do you mean to say that they are trying to
implicate the old gentleman too?
Marion's face expressed the utmost concern.
As president of the Company, he cannot fail to be implicated.
But he is no more responsible for what he does than a child! cried
Mrs. Darche, in a tone of protestation.
I know that, but he is nominally at the head of the administration.
That is all you need know. The rest is merely a mass of figures with an
account of tricks and manipulations which you could not understand.
And what would happen ifif
She leaned towards him unconsciously, watching his lips to catch the
I suppose that if the inquiry goes against them, legal steps will
be taken, said Brett.
Legal steps? What legal steps?
Brett hesitated, asking himself whether he should be justified in
telling her what he expected as well as what he knew.
Well he continued at last, you know in such cases the injured
parties appeal to the law. But it is of no use to talk about that until
you know the result of the inquiry.
Do you mean, do you really mean that John may be arrested? asked
Mrs. Darche, turning pale.
At any moment.
Brett answered in a low voice. Almost as soon as he had spoken he
left her side and crossed the room as though not wishing to be a
witness to the effect the news must have upon her. Before his back was
turned she sank into a chair and covered her face with her hands. A
long pause followed. Marion was the first to speak.
Mr. Brett she said, and stopped.
Yes. He came back to her side at once.
Can you not help me? she asked earnestly.
How can I?
Is there nothing, nothing that can be done?
The whole matter is already beyond my power, or yours, or any
Marion looked steadily at him for several seconds and then turned
her face away, leaning against the mantelpiece.
I am sure something can be done.
No, nothing can be done.
He did not move, and spoke in a tone of the utmost decision.
That is not true, said Marion turning upon him suddenly. Money
can help him, and we are wasting time. Do not lose a moment! Take all I
have in the world and turn it into money and take it to him. Go! Do not
lose a moment! Go! Why do you wait? Why do you look at me so?
It would not be a drop in the bucket, answered Brett, still not
All I have!
All you have.
That is impossible, cried Mrs. Darche, incredulously. I am not
enormously rich, but it is something. It is between four and five
hundred thousand dollars. Is it not? I have heard you say so.
Something like that, assented Brett, as though the statement did
not alter the case.
Mrs. Darche came close to him, laid her hand upon his arm and gently
pushed him, as though urging him to leave her.
Go! I say, she cried. Take it. Do as I tell you. There may be
time yet. It may save them.
But Brett did not move.
It is utterly useless, he said stolidly. It is merely throwing
money out of the window. Millions could not stop the inquiry now, nor
prevent the law from taking its course if it is appealed to.
You will not do it? asked Marion with something almost like a
menace in her voice.
No, I will not, said Brett, more warmly. I will not let you ruin
yourself for nothing.
Are you really my friend?
She drew back a little and looked at him earnestly.
Your friend? Yesand moremore than that, far more than you can
Will you refuse, do you refuse, to do this for me?
Yes, I refuse.
Then I will do it for myself, she said with a change of tone as
though she had suddenly come to a decision. I will let my husband do
it for me. You cannot refuse to give me what is mine, what you have in
But Brett drew back and folded his arms.
I can refuse and I do refuse, he said.
But you cannot! You have no right.
Her voice was almost breaking.
That makes no difference, Brett answered firmly. I have the
power. I refuse to give you anything. You can bring an action against
me for robbing you, and you will win your case, but by that time it
will be too late. You may borrow money on your mere name, but your
securities and title-deeds are in my safe, and there they shall stay.
Marion looked at him one moment longer and then sank back into her
You are cruel and unkind, she said in broken tones. Oh, what
shall I do?
Brett hesitated, not knowing exactly what to do, and not finding
anything especial to say. It is generally the privilege of man to be
the bearer of whatever bad news is in store for woman, but as yet no
hard and fast rule of conduct has been laid down for the unfortunate
messenger's action under the circumstances. Being at a loss for words
with which to console the woman he loved for the pain he had
unwillingly given her, Brett sat down opposite her and tried to take
her hand. She drew it away hastily.
No, go away, she said almost under her breath. Leave me alone. I
thought you were my friend.
Indeed I am, protested Brett in a soothing tone.
Indeed you are not.
Marion sat up suddenly and drew back to her end of the sofa.
Do you call this friendship? she asked almost bitterly. To refuse
to help me at such a moment. Do you not see how I am suffering? Do you
not see what is at stake? My husband's reputation, his father's name,
good name, life perhapsthe shock of a disgrace would kill himand
for me, everything! And you sit there and refuse to lift a finger to
help meoh, it is too much! Indeed it is more than I can bear!
Of course you cannot understand it all now, said Brett, very much
distressed. You cannot see that I am right, but you will see it soon,
too soon. You cannot save him. Why should you ruin yourself?
Is there some other reason, asked Brett, quickly. Something that
I do not know?
All the reasons, she exclaimed passionately, all the reasons
there ever were.
Do you love him still? asked Brett, scarcely knowing what he was
Marion drew still further back from him and spoke in an altered
Mr. Brett, you have no right to ask me such a question.
No right? I? No, perhaps I have no right. But I take the right
whether it is mine or not. Because I love you still, as I have always
loved you, because there is nothing in heaven or earth I would not do
for you, because if you asked me for all I possessed at this moment,
you should have it, to do what you like with itthough you shall have
nothing of what is yoursbecause, to save you the least pain, I would
take John Darche's place and go to prison and be called a rascal and a
thief before all the world, for your sake, for your dear sake, Marion.
I love you. You know that I love you. Right or wrongbut it is right
and not wrong! There is not a man in the world who would do for any
woman the least of the things I would do for you.
Again he tried to take her hand, though she resisted and snatched it
from him after a little struggle.
Leave me! leave me! she cried despairingly. Let me go!
Not until you know, not until you understand that every word I say
means ten thousand times more than it ever meant to any one, not until
you know that I love you through and through with every part of me,
with every thought and action of my life. Look at me! Look into my
eyes! Do you not see it there, the truth, the devotion? No? Is it so
long since I loved you and you saidyou thoughtyou believed for one
little day that you loved me? Can you not remember it? Can you not
remember even the sound of the words? They were so sweet to hear! They
are so very sweet as they come back nowwith all they mean nowbut
could not mean then!
She could not resist pronouncing his name that once.
I knew it! You loved me then. You love me now. What is the use of
fighting against it, when we love each other so? Marion! Love! Ah God!
With a quick movement she sprang to her feet and stood back from
But in a moment it was past. With a gesture she kept him at arm's
Is that your friendship? she asked reproachfully.
No, it is love, he answered almost roughly. There is no
friendship in it.
And you talk of helping me! she cried. And at such a time as
this, when I am weak, unstrung, you force it all upon me, and drag out
what I have hidden so long. No, no! You do not love me. Go!
Not love you! Again he tried to get near her. God in heaven! Do
not hurt me so!
No, she answered, still thrusting him back. If you loved me you
would help me, you would respect me, you would honour me, you would not
try to drag me down.
Drag you down! Ah, Marion!
He spoke very unsteadily, then turning his face from her he leaned
upon the mantelpiece and watched the fire. A long pause followed. After
awhile he looked up again and their eyes met.
Harry! said Mrs. Darche quietly.
Yes, he answered.
Come and sit beside me on that chair.
We must forget this morning, said Marion in her natural tone of
voice. We must say to ourselves that all this has never happened and
we must believe it. Will you?
You ask too much, answered Brett looking away. I cannot forget
that I have said itat last, after all these years.
You must forget it. You mustmustfor my sake.
For your sake? Still he looked away from her.
Yes, for my sake, she repeated. If you cannot forget, I can never
look any one in the face again. Look at me, please, she said, laying
her hand upon his arm. Look into my eyes and tell me that you will not
For your sake I will try not to remember, he said slowly. But I
cannot promise yet, he added with sudden passion. Oh no!
You will do your best. I know you will, said Marion, in a tone
that was meant to express conviction. Now go. And remember that I have
You are very kind, Brett answered with more humility than she had
expected. You are very good to me. I was mad for a moment. Forgive me.
Try to forgive me.
There is nothing to forgive, for I remember nothing, said Marion
with a faint smile.
Good-bye, then. He turned to go.
Good-bye, she answered quite naturally.
Now come back, please, she said, when he had almost reached the
door. You are Mr. Brett now, and I am Mrs. Darche. I am in great
trouble and you are my friend, and you must help me as well as you
In any way I can, he answered, coming back to her. But I will
help only you, I will not help any one else.
Not even old Mr. Darche?
Yes, I do not mean to except him.
That is right. And we must act quickly. We must decide what is to
be done. We have, she hesitated, we have lost timeat any moment it
may be too late.
It is too late now, Brett answered in a sudden change of tone, as
Stubbs the butler suddenly entered the room.
Please madam, said Stubbs, who was pale and evidently very much
disturbed, there are some strange gentlemen to see Mr. John Darche,
and when I told them that he was out, they said they would see old Mr.
Darche, and I said that old Mr. Darche was ill and could see no one,
and they said they must see him; and they are coming upstairs without
leave, and here they are, madam, and I cannot keep them out!
Bail was refused, and John Darche remained in prison during the
weeks that intervened between his arrest and his trial. He was charged
with making use of large sums, the property of the Company, for which
he was unable to account, with fraudulently tampering with the books
and with attempting to issue certificates of stock to a very large
amount, bearing forged signatures.
The house in Lexington Avenue was very gloomy and silent. Simon
Darche, who was of course in ignorance of what had taken place, had
caught cold and was confined to his bed. It was said that he was
breaking down at last, and that his heart was affected. Dolly Maylands
came daily and spent long hours with her friend, but not even her
bright face could bring light into the house. Russell Vanbrugh and
Harry Brett also came almost every day. Vanbrugh had undertaken
Darche's defence, out of friendship for Marion, and it was natural that
he should come. As for Brett, he could not stay away, and as Mrs.
Darche seemed to have forgiven and forgotten his passionate outbreak
and did not bid him discontinue his visits, he saw no reason for doing
so on any other ground.
He was, on the whole, a very loyal-hearted man, and was very much
ashamed of having seemed to take advantage of Marion's distress, to
speak as he had spoken. But he was neither over-sensitive nor in any
way morbid. Seeing that she intended to forgive him, he did not
distress himself with self-accusations nor doubt that her forgiveness
was sincere and complete. Besides, her present distress was so great
that he felt instinctively her total forgetfulness of smaller matters,
and even went so far as to believe himself forgotten. Meanwhile he
watched every opportunity of helping Marion, and would have been ready
at a moment's notice to do anything whatever which could have
alleviated her suffering in the slightest degree. Nevertheless, he
congratulated himself that he was not a criminal lawyer, like Vanbrugh,
and that it had not fallen to his share to defend John Darche, thief
swindler, and forger. He would have done that, and more also, as
Vanbrugh was doing, for Marion's sake, no doubt, but he was very glad
that it could not be asked of him. It was bad enough that he should be
put into the witness-box to state on his oath such facts as he could
remember to Darche's advantage, and to be cross-examined and
re-examined, and forced through the endless phases of torture to which
witnesses are usually subjected. He was able, at least, to establish
the fact that not the smallest sum had ever, so far as he knew, passed
from the hands of John Darche to his wife's credit. On being asked why,
as Mrs. Darche's man of business, he had not invested any of her money
in the Company, he replied that his father had managed the estate
before him, and that his father's prejudices and his own were wholly in
favour of investment in real estate, bonds of long-established railways
and first mortgages, and that Mrs. Darche had left her affairs entirely
in his hands.
Marion herself gave her evidence bravely and truthfully, doing her
best to speak to her husband's advantage. Her appearance and manner
excited universal sympathy, to use the language of the reports of the
case, but what she said did not tend in any way to exculpate John
Darche. On the contrary, society learned for the first time from her
lips that she had led a most unhappy life. She suffered acutely under
the cross-examination. Being excessively truthful, she gave her answers
without the slightest distortion of fact, while doing her best to pass
over altogether any statement which could injure her husband's defence.
As often happens, what she omitted to say told most heavily against
him, while the little she was forced to admit concerning his father's
condition amply corroborated the medical opinion of the latter's state,
and proved beyond a doubt that he had been during more than a year a
mere instrument in his son's hands. He, at least, was wholly innocent,
and would be suffered to spend his few remaining years in the dreams of
a peaceful dotage.
The court, to use the current phrase, showed Marion every
consideration. That is, she was tacitly admitted from the first to have
had no connection whatever with the crime of which her husband was
accused. To the last, she intended to be present when the judge summed
up the case, in order to help John to the end by seeming to believe in
his innocence. On that very day, however, Simon Darche was so far
recovered as to be able to leave his room for the first time, and her
presence at his side seemed absolutely necessary. It was most important
that all knowledge of what was happening should be kept from him. He
was quite capable of leaving the house if left to himself, and he would
certainly not have submitted to any suggestion to the contrary offered
He might stroll into a club or into the house of some old friend,
and some one would be sure to offer him the tactless sympathy which
goes about to betray secrets. Moreover, he had been told, in
explanation of John's protracted absence, that the latter had been
obliged to go away on business, and he had enough memory and power of
reasoning left to be surprised at receiving no letters. He was sure to
make inquiries about John, if left to his own devices. Marion could not
leave him. In the midst of her extreme anxiety she was obliged to pass
the greater part of the day in reading to him, and in trying to divert
his mind from the thought of John and his absence. His love and
mistaken admiration for his son had been the strongest feelings in his
life and continued to the end.
Dolly Maylands would have been faithful to Marion under any
imaginable consequences, with that whole-souled belief and trust which
is girlhood's greatest charm. On the last day of the trial she came in
the morning and did not leave the house again. Brett appeared at
intervals and told Dolly how matters were going.
He was not a man like Vanbrugh, of very varied acquaintances and
wide experience, but in certain quarters he had great influence, and on
Marion's behalf he exerted it to the utmost on the present occasion.
Foreseeing that the verdict must inevitably be unfavourable, and
knowing of Simon Darche's great anxiety about his son's absence, Brett
succeeded in obtaining an order to bring John Darche to see his father
before he should be taken back to prison after the conclusion of the
trial. It was agreed that the police officers should appear dressed as
civilians, and should be introduced with John to the old man's presence
as men of business accompanying his son. John would then have the
opportunity of quieting his father's apprehensions in regard to his
future absence, and he could take leave of his wife if he wished to do
so, though of course he would not be allowed to be even a moment out of
his guardians' sight. The order was ostensibly granted in consideration
of Simon Darche's mental infirmity, and of the danger to his health
which any shock must cause, and which already existed in the shape of
acute anxiety. In reality, the favour was granted as a personal one to
Brett. When everything was arranged, he returned to Lexington Avenue.
He found Dolly alone in the library and told her what he had done.
It was very quiet in the room, and the dusk was stealing away the
last glow of the sunset that hung over the trees and houses of Gramercy
Park. Dolly sat near the window, looking out, her hands clasped upon
one knee, her fair young face very grave and sad. Brett paced the floor
How kind you are! Dolly exclaimed.
Kind? repeated the young man, almost indignantly, and stopping in
his walk as he spoke. Who would not do as much if he could?
Lots of people.
Not of her friendsnot of those who know her. It is little enough
that I can do for any of them. Vanbrugh has done more than Ican do
What a fight he has made! The ready enthusiasm rang in the girl's
clear voice. Then her tone changed she continued. Yes, she said
thoughtfully, Marion is lucky to have such friends as you and Russell
And you yourself, Miss Maylands.
I? Oh, I do not count. What can a woman do on days like these? I
can only stay here and try to make her feel that I am a comfortable
pillow for her to lay her head upon, when she is entirely worn out.
Poor Marion! She is the bravest woman I ever knew. But then
She stopped, hesitating, and Brett, who was almost too much excited
to follow all the words she spoke, was suddenly aware that she had not
finished the sentence.
What were you going to say? he asked, struggling desperately to
remember what she had said already.
I hardly oughtI suppose, objected Dolly. But thenwhat can it
matter? He is sure to be found guilty, is he not?
Quite sure, Brett answered slowly.
Well thenMarion must feel that when this last agony is over she
will have much more peace in her life than she has enjoyed for a long
time. I wonder whether it is very wrong to say such things.
Wrong? Why? We all think them, I am sure. At least, you and
Vanbrugh and I do. As for society, I do not know what it thinks. I have
not had time to ask, nor time to care, for that matter.
I suppose everybody sympathises with Marion as we do.
Oh, of course. Do you know? I believe she will be more popular than
before. Everything that has come out in this abominable trial has been
in her favour. People realise what a life she has been living during
all these yearswithout a complaint. Wonderful woman! That brute
Darche! I wish he were to be hanged instead of sent to the
He deserves it, answered Dolly with the utmost conviction. I
suppose Marion will get a divorce.
Again Brett stopped short in his walk and looked at her keenly. The
idea had doubtless passed through his own mind, but he had not heard
any one else express it as yet.
After all, he said slowly, there is no reason why she should
Then he suddenly relapsed into silence and resumed his walk.
And then I suppose, said Dolly thoughtfully, she would marry
Brett said nothing to this, but continued to pace the floor,
glancing at the young girl from time to time, and meditating on the
total depravity of innocence.
She might marry Russell Vanbrugh, for instance, observed Dolly, as
though talking to herself.
This was too much for Brett. For the third time he stopped and faced
Why Vanbrugh, of all people? he asked.
Of all people, Mr. Vanbrugh, I should think, Dolly answered.
Think of what he has done, how devoted he has been in all this
trouble. And then, the way she spoils him! Any one can see that she is
ready to fall in love with him. If she were not as good asas anything
can beas spring water and snow drops and angels' prayers, so to say,
she would be in love with him already. But then, she is, you know.
I cannot imagine a woman being in love with Vanbrugh, said Brett
Oh, can't you? I can. I thought he was your best friend.
What has that to do with it? My best friend might be deaf and lame
and blind of one eye.
Also, he might not, said Dolly with a smile.
Oh, well! exclaimed Brett, turning away, if you have made up your
mind that Mrs. Darche is to marry Russell Vanbrugh, of course I have
nothing to say. I daresay people would think it a very good match.
With John Darche alive and in the Penitentiary? inquired the young
girl, instantly taking the opposite tack.
As though any one could care or ask what became of him! cried
Brett, with something like indignation. Thank heaven we are just in
this country! We do not visit the sins of the blackguard upon the
innocent woman he leaves behind him. Fortunately, there are no
children. The very name will be forgotten, and Mrs. Darche can begin
life over again.
Whoever marries her will have to take old Mr. Darche as an
incumbrance, remarked Dolly.
Of course! Do you suppose that such a woman would leave the poor
old gentleman to be taken care of by strangers? Besides, he is a
beggar. He has not so much as pocket-money for his cigars. Of course
Mr. Darche will stay with them. After all, it will not be so bad. He is
very quiet and cheerful, and never in the way.
Brett spoke thoughtfully, in a tone which conveyed to Dolly the
certainty that he had already revolved the situation of Marion's future
husband in his mind.
Tell me, Mr. Brett, she said, after a short pause, will anybody
say that she should have sacrificed her own little fortune?
People may say it as much as they please, answered the young man
quickly. No one will ever make me believe it.
I thought conscientious people often did that sort of thing.
Yes, they do. But this does not seem to me to be a case for that.
The bogus certificates of stocks never really were on the market. The
first that were issued excited suspicion, and proceedings began almost
immediately. Whatever John Darche actually stole was practically taken
from the funds of the Company. Now the Company is rich, and it was its
own fault if it did not look after its affairs. In some failures, a lot
of poor people suffer. That is different. It has fortunately not
happened here. The stock will be depreciated for a time, but the
Company will continue to exist and will ultimately hold up its head
again. The bonds are good enough. After all, what is stock? Lend me
some money at your own risk and if I have anything I will pay you
interest. If I have nothing, you get nothing. That is what stock
I know, answered Dolly, whose clear little brain had long been
familiar with the meanings of common business terms. Yes, you are
quite right. There is no reason why Marion should give anything of her
None whatever, assented Brett.
If Dolly drew any conclusions from what Brett had said, she kept
them to herself, and a long silence followed, which was broken at last
by the appearance of Russell Vanbrugh, looking pale and tired. He shook
hands in silence and sat down.
I suppose it is all over? said Dolly softly, in a tone of
Yes, just as we feared.
What has he got? inquired Brett, lowering his voice as though he
feared that Marion might overhear him, though she was not in the room.
Is that all? asked the younger man almost indignantly.
Vanbrugh smiled faintly at the question.
I am rather proud of it, he answered, considering that I defended
True, I forgot. Brett began to walk up and down again.
Dolly looked at Vanbrugh and nodded to him with a little smile as
though in approval of what he had done. He seemed pleased and grateful.
You must be dreadfully tired, she said. Do let me give you some
ThanksI should like somebut some one ought to tell Mrs. Darche.
Shall I? Where is she?
I will tell her, said Brett stopping suddenly. I will send a
message and she will come down to the drawing-room.
He went out, leaving Dolly to comfort Vanbrugh with tea, for he was
far too much excited to sit down or to listen to their conversation.
The whole matter might be more or less indifferent to them, whose lives
could not be affected directly by Mrs. Darche's misfortunes, but he
felt that his own happiness was in the balance. He knew also that, by
the arrangements he had made, John Darche would be brought to the house
in the course of the next hour, before being taken back to prison for
the night, and it was necessary to warn Marion and to see that the old
gentleman was prepared to receive his son.
How about old Mr. Darche? inquired Dolly, when she and Vanbrugh
were left alone.
Every one is sorry for him, said Vanbrugh, just as every one
execrates John. I get very little credit for the defence, he added,
with a dry laugh.
How good you are! exclaimed Dolly.
Am I? It seems to me it was the least I could do.
It will not seem so to every one, said Dolly.
I would do a great deal for Mrs. Darche, said Vanbrugh.
Yes, I know you would. Youyou are very fond of her, are you not?
She turned her face away as she asked the question.
I wish to be a good friend to her.
And something more? suggested Dolly, in a tone of interrogation.
Something more? repeated Vanbrugh, I do not understand.
Oh nothing! I thought you did.
Perhaps I did. But I think you are mistaken.
Am I? Dolly asked, turning her face to him again. I wishI mean,
I do not think I am.
I am sure you are.
This is a good deal like a puzzle game, is it not?
No, it is much more serious, said Vanbrugh, speaking gravely.
This is certainly not the time to talk of such things, Miss Maylands.
John Darche may come at any moment, and as far as possible his father
has been prepared for his coming. But that isn't it. Perhaps I had
better say it at once. We have always been such good friends, you know,
and I think a great deal of your good opinion, so that I do not wish
you to mistake my motives. You evidently think that I am devotedto
say the least of itto Mrs. Darche. After all, what is the use of
choosing words and beat about the bush? You think I am in love with
her. I should be very sorry to leave you with that impressionvery,
very sorry. Do you understand?
Dolly had glanced at him several times while he had been speaking,
but when he finished she looked into the fire again.
You were in love with her once? she said quietly.
Perhaps; how do you know that?
She told me so, ever so long ago.
She told you so? Vanbrugh's tone betrayed his annoyance.
Yes. Why are you angry? I am her best friend. Was it not natural
that she should tell me?
I hardly know.
A pause followed, during which Stubbs entered the room, bringing
tea. When he was gone and Dolly had filled Vanbrugh's cup she took up
the conversation again.
Are you thinking about it? she asked, with a smile.
About what? Vanbrugh looked up quickly over his cup.
Whether it was natural or not?
No, I was wondering whether you would still believe it.
Why should I? asked Dolly.
You might. In spite of what I tell you. You know very little of my
Oh, I know a great deal, said the young girl with much conviction.
I know all about you. You are successful, and rich and popular and
happy, and lots of things.
Am I? asked Vanbrugh rather sadly.
Yes. Everybody knows you are.
You are quite sure that I am happy?
Unless you tell me that you are not.
How oddly people judge us, exclaimed Vanbrugh. Because a man
behaves like a human being, and is not cross at every turn, and puts
his shoulder to the wheel, to talk and be agreeable in society,
everybody thinks he is happy.
Of course. Dolly smiled. If you were unhappy you would go and sit
in corners by yourself and mope and be disagreeable. But you do not,
you see. You are always 'on hand' as they call it, always ready to make
things pleasant for everybody.
That is because I am so good-natured.
What is good nature?
A combination of laziness and vulgarity, Vanbrugh answered
Yes, said Vanbrugh. The vulgarity that wishes to please
everybody, and the laziness that cannot say no.
You are not a lawyer for nothing. But you are not lazy and you are
not vulgar. If you were I should not like you.
Do you like me? asked Vanbrugh quickly.
Very much, she answered with a little laugh.
You just made me define good nature, Miss Maylands. How do you
Oh, it is very vague, said Dolly in an airy tone. It is a sort of
uncly, auntly thing.
Oh. I see.
Uncles and aunts sometimes marry, do they not?
What an idea? They are always brothers and sisters.
Unless they are uncles and aunts of different people, suggested
At this point they were interrupted by the entrance of Stubbs. That
dignified functionary had suffered intensely during the last few days,
but his tortures were not yet over. So far as lay in his power he still
maintained that absolute correctness of appearance which distinguished
him from the common, or hirsute head man; but he could not control
the colour of his face nor the expression of his eyes. He had been a
footman in the house of Marion's father, in that very house in fact,
and had completely identified himself with the family. Had he
considered that he was in the employment of Simon and John Darche, he
would have long since given notice and sought a place better suited to
his eminent respectability. But having always waited upon Marion since
she had been a little girl, he felt bound by all the tenets of
inherited butlerdomand by a sort of devotion not by any means to be
laughed atto stand by his young mistress through all her troubles. By
this time his eyes had a permanently unsettled look in them as though
he never knew what fearful sight he might next gaze upon, and the ruddy
colour was slowly but certainly sinking to the collar line. It had
already descended to the lower tips of his ears.
Beg pardon, Miss Maylands, he said in a subdued tone, beg pardon,
sir. Mr. John has come with those gentlemen.
Both Dolly and Vanbrugh started slightly and looked up at him.
Vanbrugh was the first to speak.
Do you not think you had better go awayto Mrs. Darche? he asked.
She may want to see you for a minute.
Dolly rose and left the room.
I suppose they will come in here, said Vanbrugh, addressing
Yes, sir, answered the butler nervously, they are coming.
Welllet us make the best of it.
A moment later John Darche entered the room, followed closely by
three men, evidently dressed for the occasion, according to superior
orders, in what, at police head-quarters, was believed to be the height
of the fashion, for they all wore light snuff-coloured overcoats, white
ties, dark trousers and heavily-varnished shoes, and each had a
perfectly new high hat in his hand. They looked about the room with
Darche himself was deathly pale and had grown thinner. Otherwise he
was little changed. As soon as he caught sight of Vanbrugh, he came
forward, extending his hand.
I have not had a chance to thank you for your able defence, he
It is not necessary, answered Vanbrugh coldly, and putting his
hands behind him as he leaned against the mantelpiece. It was a matter
Very well, said John Darche stiffly, and drawing back a step. If
you do not want to shake hands we will treat it as a matter of
He is pretty fresh, ain't he? remarked one of the officers in an
undertone to his neighbour.
You bet he is, answered the other.
Now I have got to see the old gentleman, said Darche, speaking to
Vanbrugh. Before I go, I would like to have a word with you. There is
no objection to my speaking privately to Mr. Vanbrugh, I suppose? he
inquired, turning to the officer.
Not if you stay in the room, answered the one who took the lead.
Darche nodded to Vanbrugh, who somewhat reluctantly followed him to
the other end of the room.
I say, he began in a tone not to be overheard by the detectives.
Can you not give me another chance?
What sort of chance? replied Vanbrugh, raising his eyebrows.
If I could get through that door, said John looking over
Vanbrugh's shoulder, I could get away. I know the house and they do
not. Presently, when my father comes, if you could create some sort of
confusion for a moment, I could slip out. They will never catch me.
There is an Italian sailing vessel just clearing. I have had exact
information. If I can get through that door I can be in the Sixth
Avenue Elevated in three minutes and out of New York Harbour in an
Vanbrugh had no intention of being a party to the escape. He met
Darche's eyes coldly as he answered.
No, I will not do it. I have defended you in open court, but I am
not going to help you evade the law.
Do not be too hard, Vanbrugh, said Darche, in a tone of entreaty.
Things are not half so bad as they are made out.
If that is true, I am sorry. But you have had a perfectly fair
Will you not help me get away? Darche urged knowing that this was
his last chance.
Vanbrugh, said John in an insinuating tone, you used to be fond
of my wife. You wanted to marry her.
What has that to do with it? asked Vanbrugh turning sharply upon
You may marry her and welcome, if you let me get through that door.
I shall never be heard of again.
You infernal scoundrel! Vanbrugh was thoroughly disgusted. Now
gentlemen, he said, turning to the officer in charge, I will bring
Mr. Darche here to see his son. I am sure that for the old gentleman's
sake, out of mere humanity, you will do the best you can to keep up the
illusion we have arranged. He is old and his mind wanders. He will
scarcely notice your presence.
Yes, sir, the man answered. You may trust us to do that, sir. Now
then, boys, he said, addressing his two companions, straighten up,
best company manners, stiff upper lipkeep your eye on the young man.
He is rather too near that door for my taste.
John Darche's face expressed humiliation and something almost
approaching to despair. He was about to make another attempt, and had
moved a step towards Vanbrugh, when he suddenly started a little and
stood still. Marion stood in the open door beyond three detectives. She
touched one of them on the shoulder as a sign that she wished to pass.
Pardon me, lady, said the man, drawing back. Anything that we can
do for you?
I am Mrs. Darche. I wish to speak to my husband.
Certainly, madam, and all three made way for her.
She went straight to her husband, and stood before him at the other
end of the room, speaking in a low voice.
Is there anything I can do for you, John? she asked so that he
could barely hear her.
You can help me to get awayif you will. John Darche's eyes fell
She gazed at him during several seconds, hesitating, perhaps,
between her sense of justice and her desire to be faithful to her
husband to the very end.
Yes, I will, she said briefly.
Before she spoke again she turned quite naturally, as though in
hesitation, and satisfied herself that the three men were out of
hearing. Vanbrugh, perhaps suspecting what was taking place, had
engaged them in conversation near the door.
How? she asked, looking at John again. Tell me quickly.
Presently, when my father comes, get as many people as you can. Let
me be alone for a moment. Make some confusion, upset something,
anything will do. Give me a chance to get through the door into the
I will try. Is that all?
Thank you, said John Darche, and for one moment a look of
something like genuine gratitude passed over his hard face. Yes, that
is all. You will be glad to get rid of me.
Marion looked one moment longer, hesitated, said nothing and turned
If you have no objections, said Vanbrugh addressing the officer in
charge, we will take Mr. Darche to his father's room instead of asking
him to come here.
Yes, sir, answered the detective. We can do that.
As they were about to leave the room, Brett met them at the door. He
paused a moment and looked about. Then he went straight to Vanbrugh.
Has he seen him yet? he asked.
No, we are just going, answered Vanbrugh.
Can I be of any use?
Stay with Mrs. Darche.
Shall we go? he asked, turning to John.
How brave you are! exclaimed Brett when they were alone.
Does it need much courage? asked Marion, sinking into a chair. I
do not know. Perhaps.
I know that there are not many men who could bear all this as well
as you do, Brett answered, and there was a little emotion in his face.
Men are different. Mr. Brett she began after a short pause.
Yes, do you want to ask me something?
Yes, something that is very hard to ask. Something that you will
That would be hard indeed.
Will you promise not to be angry? asked Marion faintly.
Of course I will, Brett answered.
Do not be so sure. Men's honour is such a strange thing. You may
think what I am going to ask touches it.
What is it?
He sat down beside her and prepared to listen.
Will you help my husband to escape? asked Marion in a whisper.
Nodo not say it. Wait until I tell you first how it can be done.
Presently I will get them all into this room. Old Mr. Darche is too ill
to come, I am afraid. You have not spoken alone to John yet. Take him
aside and bring him close to this door on pretence of exchanging a few
words. I will make a diversion of some sort at the other end of the
room and as they all look round he can slip out. If he has one minute's
start they will never see him again. Will you do it?
You were right, said Brett gravely. It is a hard thing to ask.
Will you do it?
It is criminal, he answered.
Will you do it?
For God's sake, give me time to think! He passed his hand over his
There is no time, said Marion anxiously. Will you do it for me?
How can I? how can I?
You told me that you loved me the other daywill you do it for my
A change came over Brett's face.
For your sake? he asked in an altered tone. Do you mean it?
Yes. For my sake.
Very well. I will do it. He turned a little pale and closed one
hand over the other.
Thank youthank you, Harry. Her voice lingered a little, as she
pronounced his name. Stay here. I will make them come. It is of no use
to leave them there. It is a mere formality, at best.
I am ready, said Brett, rising.
Marion left her seat, and crossing the room again tried the door in
question to satisfy herself that it would open readily. She looked out
into the passage beyond and then came back, and passing Brett without a
word left the room.
She was not gone long, and during the minutes of her absence Brett
tried hard not to think of what he was going to do. He could not but be
aware that it was a desperately serious matter to help a convicted
criminal to escape. He thought of the expression he had seen on
Marion's face when he had promised to do it, and of the soft intonation
of her sweet voice, and he tried to think of nothing else.
In a moment more she was in the room again leading old Mr. Darche
forward, his arm linked in hers. John came in on his father's other
side, while Vanbrugh and the three officers followed.
I understand, I understand, my boy, cried old Darche in his cheery
voice. It is a grand thing.
John was very pale as he answered, and was evidently making a great
effort to speak lightly.
Yes, of course. It has turned out much simpler than we expected,
however, thanks to your immense reputation, father. Without your name
we could not have done it, could we, gentlemen? he asked, turning to
the detectives as though appealing to them.
No, guess not, answered the three together.
Good God, what a scene! exclaimed Brett under his breath.
Mr. Brett, said Marion approaching him. You said you wanted to
speak to my husband. Now you must tell me all about it, father, she
continued, drawing the old gentleman towards the fire. I do not half
understand in all this confusion.
Why it is as plain as day, child, said Simon Darche, ever ready to
explain a matter of business. The second mortgage of a million and a
half to square everything. Come here, come close to the fire, my hands
are cold. I think I must have been ill.
You would never think Mr. Darche had been ill, would you,
gentlemen? asked Marion, appealing again to the detectives.
No, guess not, they answered in chorus.
Meanwhile Brett led Darche across the room, talking to him in a loud
tone until they were near the door.
Your wife will make some diversion presently, he whispered. I do
not know how. When she does, make for that door and get out.
Thank you, thank you, said John with genuine fervour, and his face
lighted up. God bless you, Brett!
Do not thank me, answered Brett roughly. I do not want to do it.
Thank your wife.
Oh! exclaimed John Darche, and his eyelids contracted. My wife!
Is it for her?
I will remember that. I will remember it as long as I live.
Brett never forgot the look which accompanied the words.
Well, be grateful to her anyhow, he said.
At that moment a piercing scream rang through the room. Marion
Darche, while talking to her father-in-law, had been standing quite
close to the fire. When Brett turned his head the front of her dress
was burning with a slow flame and she was making desperate efforts to
tear it from her.
Good Heavens, you are really burning! cried Brett as he crushed
the flaming stuff with his bare hands, regardless of the consequences
Did you think that I cried out in fun? asked Marion calmly.
On hearing his wife's cry John Darche had bestowed but one glance
upon her. It mattered but little to him that she was really on fire.
The detectives had rushed to her assistance and for one moment no one
was looking. He was close to the door. A moment later he had left the
room and turned the key behind him.
My God! exclaimed the officer in charge, suddenly. He has gone!
Run, boys! Stop! One of you take the old one. We will not lose them
Old Darche started as though he had suddenly been waked out of a
deep sleep, and his voice rang out loud and clear.
Hey, what is this? he cried. Hello! Detectives in my house?
Yes, sir, answered one of the detectives, seizing him by the wrist
just as the other two left the room in pursuit of John Darche. And one
of them has got you.
Got me! roared the old man. Hands off, there! What do you mean?
Damn you, sir, let me go!
Oh, well, replied the officer calmly, if you are going to take on
like that, you may just as well know that your son was tried and
convicted for forgery to-day. Not that I believe that you had anything
to do with it, but he is a precious rascal all the same, and has
escaped from your house
I! Forgery? The man is mad! John, where are you? Brett! Vanbrugh!
Help me, gentlemen!
He appealed to Brett, and then to Vanbrugh who, indeed, was doing
his best to draw the officer away.
No, no, answered the latter firmly. I've got one of themit's
all in the family.
Though Marion's dress was still smouldering and Brett was on his
knees trying to extinguish the last spark with his own hands, she
forgot her own danger, and almost tearing herself away from Brett she
clasped the policeman's hand trying to drag it from Simon Darche's
Oh, sir, she cried in tearful entreaty, pray let him go! He is
innocenthe is ill! He will not think of escaping. Don't you see that
we have kept it all from him?
Kept it all from me? asked the old gentleman fiercely turning upon
her. What do you mean? Where is John? Where is John? I say!
In handcuffs by this time I guess, said the detective calmly.
But I insist upon knowing what all this means, continued old
Darche, growing more and more excited, while the veins of his temples
swelled to bursting. Forgery! Trial! Conviction! John escaping! Am I
dreaming? Are not you three directors of the other road? Good God,
young man, speak! He seized Brett by the collar in his excitement.
Pray be calm, sir, pray be calm, answered the young man, trying to
loosen the policeman's sturdy grasp.
By a tremendous effort, such as madmen make in supreme moments, the
old man broke loose, and seizing Marion by the wrist dragged her half
across the room while he spoke. Tell me this thing is all a lie! he
cried, again and again.
The lady knows the truth well enough, sir, said the policeman,
coming up behind him. She caught fire just right.
For one moment Simon Darche stood upright in the middle of the room,
looking from one to the other with wild frightened eyes.
Oh, it is true! he cried in accents of supreme agony. John has
disgraced himself! Oh, my son, my son!
One instant more, and the light in his eyes broke, he threw out his
arms and fell straight backwards against the detective. Simon Darche
There was no lack of sympathy for Marion Darche, and it was shown in
many ways during the period of calm which succeeded her husband's
disappearance and the sudden death of his father. Every one was anxious
to be first in showing the lonely woman that she was not alone, but
that, on the contrary, those who had been her friends formerly were
more ready than ever to proclaim the fact now, and, so far as they were
able, not in words only, but in deeds also.
She was relieved, all at once, of the many burdens which had
oppressed her life during the past yearsindeed, she sometimes caught
herself missing the constant sacrifice, the daily effort of subduing
her temper, the hourly care for the doting old man who was gone.
But with all this, there was the consciousness that she was not
altogether free. Somewhere in the world, John Darche was still alive, a
fugitive, a man for whose escape a reward was offered. It was worse
than widowhood to be bound to a husband who was socially dead. It would
have been easier to bear if he had never escaped, and if he were simply
confined in the Penitentiary. There would not have been the danger of
his coming back stealthily by night, which Marion felt was not
imaginary so long as he was at large.
Yet she made no effort to obtain a divorce from the man whose name
was a disgrace. On the contrary, so far as outward appearances were
concerned, she made no change, or very little, in her life. Public
opinion had been with her from the first, and society chose to treat
her as a young widow, deserving every sympathy, who when the time of
mourning should have expired, would return to the world, and open her
doors to it.
There was a great deal of speculation as to the reasons which
prevented her from taking steps to free herself, but no one guessed
what really passed in her mind, any more than the majority of her
acquaintances understood that she had once loved John Darche. It had
been commonly said for years that she had married him out of
disappointment because something had prevented her from marrying
another man, usually supposed to have been Russell Vanbrugh. People
attributed to her a greater complication of motives than she could have
In order not to be altogether alone, she took a widowed cousin to
live with hera Mrs. Willoughby, who soon became known to her more
intimate friends as Cousin Annie. She was a gray, colourless woman,
much older than Marion, kind of heart but not very wise, insignificant
but refined, a moral satisfaction and an intellectual disappointment,
accustomed to the world, but not understanding it, good by nature and
charitable, and educated in religious forms to which she clung by habit
and association rather than because they represented anything to her.
Cousin Annie was one of those fortunate beings whom temptation
overlooks, passing by on the other side, who can suffer in a way for
the loss of those dear to them, but whose mourning does not reach the
dignity of sorrow, nor the selfish power of grief.
Marion did not feel the need of a more complicated and gifted
individuality for companionship. On the contrary, it was a relief to
her to have some one at her side for whom she was not expected to
think, but who, on the contrary, thought for her in all the commonplace
matters of life, and never acted otherwise than as a normal, natural,
human unit. There had been enough of the unusual in the house in
Lexington Avenue, and Marion was glad that it was gone.
Three months passed in this way and the spring was far advanced.
Then, suddenly and without warning, came the news that John Darche had
been heard of, traced, seen at last and almost captured. He had escaped
once more and this time he had escaped, for ever, by his own act. He
had jumped overboard in the English Channel from the Calais boat, and
his body had not been found.
Mrs. Darche wore black for her husband, and Cousin Annie said it was
very becoming. Dolly Maylands thought it absurd to put on even the
appearance of mourning for such a creature, and said so.
My dear child, answered Marion gently, he was my husband.
I never can realise it, said Dolly. Do you remember, I used to
ask you if you did not sometimes forget it yourself?
I never forgot it. Mrs. Darche's voice had a wonderful gravity in
it, without the least sadness. She was a woman without affectation.
No, said Dolly thoughtfully, I suppose you never had a chance. It
is of no use, Marion dear, she added after a little pause, and in a
different tone, as though she were tired of pretending a sort of
subdued sympathy, it is of no use at all! I can never be sorry, you
knowso that ends it. Why, just think! You are free to marry any one
you please, to begin life over again. How many women in your position
ever had such a chance? Not but what you would have been just as free
if you had got a divorce. Butsomehow, this is much more solidly
satisfactory. Yes, I knowit is horrid and unchristianbut there is
just thatthere is a solid satisfaction in
She was going to say in death, but thought better of it and
It will not make very much difference to me just yet, said Marion.
Meanwhile, as I said, he was my husband. I shall wear mourning a short
time, and thenthen I do not know what I shall do.
It must be very strange, answered Dolly.
Your life. Now you need not call me child in that auntly tone, as
though you were five hundred thousand years older and wiser and duller
than I am. There are not six years between our ages, you know.
Do not resent being young, Dolly.
Resent it! No, indeed! I resent your way of making yourself out to
be old. In the pages of future history we shall be spoken of as
Mrs. Darche smiled, and Dolly laughed.
School-book style, said the girl. That is my morning manner. In
the evening I am quite different, thank goodness! But to go backwhat
I meant was that your own life must seem very strange to you. To have
loved reallyof course you didwhy should you deny it? And then to
have made the great mistake and to have married the wrong man, and to
have been good and to have put up the shutters of propriety and
virtueso to say, and to have kept up a sort of Sunday-go-to-meeting
myth for years, expecting to do it for the rest of your life, and
thento have the luckwell, no, I did not mean to put it that
waybut to begin life all over again, and the man you loved not
married yet, and just as anxious to marry you as ever
Stop, Dolly! How do you know? Marion knit her brows in annoyance.
Oh! I know nothing, of course. I can only guess. But then, it is
easy to guess, sometimes.
I am not so sure, answered Marion thoughtfully, and looking at
Dolly with some curiosity.
As for Brett, he said nothing to any one, when the news of John
Darche's death reached New York. He supposed that people would take it
for granted that in the course of time he would marry Marion, because
the world knew that he had formerly loved her, and that she had made a
mistake in not accepting him and would probably be quite willing to
rectify it now that she was free. There had always been a certain
amount of inoffensive chaff about his devotion to her interests. But he
himself was very far from assuming that she would take him now. He knew
her better than the world did, and understood the unexpected
hesitations and revulsions of which she was capable, much better than
the world could.
He took a hopeful view, however, as was natural. For the present he
waited and said nothing. If she chose to go through the form of
mourning, he would go through the form of respecting it while it
lasted. Society is the better for most of its conventionalities, a fact
of which one may easily assure oneself by spending a little time in
circles that make bold to laugh at appearances. A man may break the
social barriers for a great object's sake, or out of true passionas
sheer necessity may force a man to sleep by the road side. But a man
who habitually makes his bed in the gutter by choice is a madman, and
one who thinks himself above manners and conventionalities is generally
a fool. There is nothing more intolerable than eccentricity for its own
sake, nor more pitiful than the perpetual acting of it to a gallery
that will not applaud.
For some time Brett continued to come and see Marion regularly, and
she did not hesitate to show him that he was as welcome as ever. Then,
without any apparent cause, his manner changed. He became much more
grave than he had ever been before, and those who knew him well were
struck by an alteration in his appearance, not easily defined at first,
but soon visible to any one. He was growing pale and thin.
Vanbrugh strolled into his office on a warm day in early June and
sat down for a chat. Brett's inner sanctum was in the Equitable
Building, measured twelve feet by eight, and was furnished so as to
leave a space of about six feet by four in the middle, just enough for
two chairs and the legs of the people who sat in them. Vanbrugh looked
at his friend and came to the just conclusion that something was
materially wrong with him.
Brett, he said, suddenly, let us run over to Paris.
I cannot leave New York at present, Brett answered, without
hesitation, as though he had already considered the question of going
Not being able to leave New York is a more or less dangerous
disease which kills a great many people, observed Vanbrugh. You must
leave New York, whether you can or not. I do not know whether you are
ill or not, but you look like an imperfectly boiled owl.
I know I do. I want a change.
Then come along.
No, I cannot leave New York. I am not joking, my dear fellow.
I see you are not. I suppose it is of no use to ask what is the
matter. If you wanted help you would say so. You evidently have
something on your mind. Anything I can do?
No, I wish there were. I will tell you some day. It is something
rather odd and unusual.
Brett was not an imaginative man, or Vanbrugh, judging from his
appearance and manner, would almost have suspected that he was
suffering from some persecution not quite natural or earthly. He had
the uneasy glance of a man who fancies himself haunted by a sight he
fears to see. Vanbrugh looked at him a long time in silence and then
rose to go.
I am sorry, old man, he said, with something almost like a sigh.
You live too much alone, he added, turning as he was about to open
the door. You ought to get married.
Brett smiled in rather a ghastly fashion which did not escape his
I cannot leave New York, he repeated mechanically.
Perhaps you will before long, said Vanbrugh, going out. I would
if I were you.
He went away in considerable perplexity. Something in Brett's manner
puzzled him and almost frightened him. As a lawyer, and one accustomed
to dealing with the worst side of human nature, he was inclined to play
the detective for a time; as a friend, he resolved not to inquire too
closely into a matter which did not concern him. In fact, he had
already gone further than he had intended. Only a refined nature can
understand the depth of degradation to which curiosity can reduce
A day or two later Vanbrugh met Dolly Maylands at a house in Tuxedo
Park where he had come to dine and spend the night. There were enough
people at the dinner to insure a little privacy to those who had
anything to say to one another.
Brett is ill, said Vanbrugh. Do you know what is the matter with
I suppose Marion has refused him after all, answered Dolly,
looking at her plate.
Vanbrugh glanced at her face and thought she was a little pale. He
remembered the conversation when they had been left together in the
library after John Darche's trial, and was glad that he had then spoken
cautiously, for he connected her change of colour with himself, by a
roundabout and complicated reasoning more easy to be understood than to
Perhaps she has, he said coolly. But I do not think it is
Mr. Brett does not go to see her any more.
Really? Are you sure of that, Miss Maylands?
Marion has noticed it. She spoke to me of it yesterday. I
Whether there had been any misunderstanding. I suppose that is what
I was going to say. She blushed quickly, as she had turned pale a
moment before. You see, she continued rather hurriedly, people who
have once misunderstood one another may do the same thing again. Say,
for instance, that he vaguely hinted at marriagemen have such vague
ways of proposing
Of courseand that Marion did not quite realise what he meant, and
turned the conversation, and that Mr. Brett took that for a refusal and
went away, and lost his appetite, and all thatwould it not account
Yes, assented Vanbrugh with a smile. It might account for
itthough Harry Brett is not a school girl of sixteen.
Meaning that I am, I suppose, retorted Dolly, anxious to get away
from the subject which she had not chosen, and to lead Vanbrugh up to
what she would have called the chaffing point. But he was not in the
humour for that.
No, he said quietly. I did not mean that. And he relapsed into
silence for a time.
He was thinking the matter over, and he was also asking himself
whether, after all, he should not ask Dolly Maylands to marry him,
though he was so much older than she. That was a possibility which had
presented itself to his mind very often of late, and from time to time
he determined to solve the question in one way or the other, and be
done with it. But when he wished to decide it, he found it capable of
only two answers; either he must offer himself or not. Sometimes he
thought he would and then he fancied that he ought to prepare Dolly for
so grave a matter by giving up chaff when they were together. But the
first attempt at putting this resolution into practice was a failure
whenever he tried it. Chaff was Dolly's element,she pined when she
was deprived of it. The serious part of her nature lay deep, and there
were treasures there, hidden far below the bright tide of rippling
laughter. Such treasures are sometimes lost altogether because no one
discovers them, or because no one knows how to bring them to the
As he sat by her side in silence, Vanbrugh was impelled to turn
suddenly upon Dolly and ask her to marry him, without further
diplomacy. But he reflected upon the proverbial uncertainty of woman's
temper and held his peace. He had never made love to her, and there had
never been anything approaching to a show of sentiment between them
until that memorable afternoon when the trial was over. Moreover
Russell Vanbrugh was a very comfortable man. Nothing less grammatically
incorrect could express the combination of pleasant things which made
up his life. He was not lonely, in his father's houseindeed, he was
not lonely anywhere. He was contented, rich enough to satisfy all his
tastes, popular in a certain degree among those he liked, peaceful,
never bored, occupying, as it were, a well upholstered stall at the
world's play, when he chose to be idle, and busy with matters in which
he took a healthy, enduring interest when he chose to work. To marry
would be to step into an unknown country. He meant to make the venture
some day, but he had just enough of indolence in his character to
render the first effort a little distasteful. Nevertheless, he was
conscious that he thought more and more of Dolly, and that he was, in
fact, falling seriously in love with her, and foreseeing that there was
to be a change in their relations, there arose the doubt, natural in a
man not over-vain, as to the reception he might expect at her hands.
When Dolly next saw Marion Darche she proceeded to attack the
question in her own way. Marion was still in town, hesitating as to
what she should do with her summer. She had no house in the country.
The place which had belonged to her husband had gone with such little
property as he had still owned at the time of his conviction to repair
some of the harm he had done.
The windows of the library were open, and a soft south-easterly
breeze was blowing up from the square bringing a breath of coming
summer from the park leaves. Those who love New York, even to the smell
of its mud, know the strange charm of its days and evenings in late
spring. Like the charm of woman, the charm of certain great cities can
never be explained by those who feel it to those who do not. There were
flowers in the library, and Dolly sat down near the windows and
breathed the sweet quiet air before she spoke.
Harry Brett is ill, she said.
Ill? Seriously? Marion had started slightly at the news.
Not ill at home, explained Dolly. Mr. Vanbrugh spoke of it the
Oh Marion seemed relieved. Perhaps that is the reason why he
does not come to see me, she added rather inconsequently, after a
Dolly turned in her seat and looked into her friend's eyes.
Marion, she said gravely. You know that is not the reason why he
does not come.
I know? What do you mean, Dolly?
In spite of the genuine and innocent surprise in the tone, Dolly was
He has asked you to marry him and you have refused him, she said
For a moment Marion Darche stared in amazement. Then her eyes filled
with tears and she turned away suddenly. Her voice was unsteady as she
No. He has not asked me to marry him.
Are you quite sure, dear? insisted Dolly. You know men have such
odd ways of saying it, and sometimes one does not quite understandand
then a word, or a glanceif a man is very sensitiveyou know
Do not talk like that, said Marion, a little abruptly.
A short silence followed, during which she moved uneasily about the
room, touching the objects on the table, though they needed no
arrangement. At last she spoke again, out of the dusk from the corner
she had reached in her peregrination.
If he asked me to marry him, I should accept him, she said in a
Dolly was silent in her turn. She had not expected a direct
confidence so soon, and had not at all foreseen its nature, when it
came almost unasked.
It is very strange! she exclaimed at last.
Yes, echoed Marion Darche, quite simply. It is very strange.
It was long before the mystery was solved, and Dolly did not refer
to it in the meantime. Brett did not go abroad, nor did he leave New
York for more than a few days during the summer, though it was almost
inconceivable that his business should require his constant presence
during the dull season, and he could certainly have left matters to his
partner, had he not had some very good reason for refusing to take a
Mrs. Darche took Cousin Annie with her and wandered about during a
couple of months, visiting various places which did not interest her,
falling in with acquaintances often, and sometimes with friends, but
rather avoiding those she met than showing any wish to see much of
To tell the truth, the great majority showed no inclination to
intrude upon her privacy. People understood well enough that she should
desire to be alone and undisturbed, considering the strange
circumstances through which she had passed during the winter and
spring. Moreover Brett's conduct elicited approval on all sides. It was
said that he showed good taste in not following Mrs. Darche from place
to place, as he might easily have done, and as most men in his position
undoubtedly would have done, for it was quite clear that he was
seriously in love. All his friends had noticed the change of appearance
and manner, and others besides Vanbrugh had advised him to take a rest,
to go abroad, to go and shoot bears, in short, to do one of the many
things which are generally supposed to contribute to health and peace
of mind. Then it was rumoured that he was working harder than usual, in
view of his approaching marriage, that he was not so well off as had
generally been supposed, and that he wished to forestall any remarks to
the effect that he was going to marry Mrs. Darche for the sake of her
fortune, which was considerable. In short, people said everything they
could think of, and all the things that are usually thought of in such
cases, and when they had reached the end of their afflictions they
talked of other friends whose doings formed a subject of common
Mrs. Darche did not find much companionship in her cousin, but that
was not exactly what she required or expected of Mrs. Willoughby. She
wanted the gray, colourless atmosphere which the widowed lady seemed to
take about with her, and she liked it merely because it was neutral,
restful and thoroughly unemotional. She did not think of creating new
diversions for herself, nor of taking up new interests. Her life had
been so full that this temporary emptiness was restful to her. She was
surprised at finding how little the present resembled what she had
expected it to be, so long as it had been still a future. As yet, too,
there was an element of uncertainty in it which did not preclude
pleasant reflections. Though she had said to Dolly that Brett's conduct
was changed, she could still explain it to herself well enough to be
satisfied with her own conclusions. Doubtless he felt that it was yet
too soon to speak or even to show by his actions that he had anything
to say. She could well believeand indeed it was flatteringthat he
abstained from seeing her because he felt that in her presence he might
not be able to control his speech. She called up in her memory what had
taken place many months previously when she had sent for him and had
told him that she needed a large sum of money at short noticehow he
had lost his head on that occasion, and allowed words to break out
which both of them had regretted. Since there was now no obstacle in
the way, it would of course be harder for him than ever to act the part
of a disinterested friend, even for the short timethe shortest
possibleduring which she went through the form of wearing mourning
for John Darche. She could still say to herself that it was delicate
and tactful on Brett's part to act as he was acting, although she
sometimes thought, or wished, that he might have allowed what was
passing in his mind to betray itself by a glance, a gesture or a gentle
intonation. It was certainly pushing the proprieties to the utmost to
keep away from her altogether. Even when he wrote to her, as he had
occasion to do several times during the summer, he confined himself
almost entirely to matters of business, and the little phrase with
which he concluded each of his communications seemed to grow more and
more formal. There had always been something a little exaggerated in
Harry Brett's behaviour. It had been that perhaps, which in old times
had frightened her, had prevented her from accepting him, and had made
her turn in mistaken confidence to the man of grave moderation and
apparently unchanging purpose who had become her husband.
Dolly Maylands had no such illusions with regard to Brett's conduct,
though she did not again discuss the matter with Russell Vanbrugh. She
was conscious that he felt as she did, that something mysterious had
taken place about which neither of them knew anything, but which was
seriously and permanently influencing Harry Brett's life. Dolly,
however, was more discreet than was commonly supposed, and kept her
surmises to herself. When Mrs. Darche and Brett were discussed before
her, she said as little as she could, and allowed people to believe
that she shared the common opinion, namely, that the two people would
be married before the year was out and that, in the meanwhile, both
were behaving admirably.
Vanbrugh wandered about a good deal during the summer, returning to
New York from time to time, more out of habit than necessity. He made
visits at various country houses among his friends, spent several days
on board of several yachts, was seen more than once in Bar Harbour, and
once, at least, at Newport and on the whole did all those things which
are generally expected of a successful man in the summer holidays. He
wrote to Brett several times, but they did not meet often. The tone of
his friend's letters tended to confirm his suspicion of some secret
trouble. Brett wrote in a nervous and detached way and often complained
of the heat and discomfort during July and August, though he never gave
a sufficient reason for staying where he was.
On the other hand, Vanbrugh found that where he was invited Dolly
Maylands was often invited too, and that there seemed to be a general
impression that they liked one another's society and should be placed
together at dinner.
More than once, Vanbrugh felt again the strong impulse to which he
had almost yielded at Tuxedo. More than once he made a serious attempt
to change the tone of his conversation with Dolly. She did not fail to
notice this, of course, and being slightly embarrassed generally became
grave and silent on such occasions, thereby leading Vanbrugh to suppose
that she was bored, which very much surprised the successful man of the
world at first and very much annoyed him afterwards.
So the summer passed away, and all concerned in this little story
were several months older if not proportionately wiser.
In the autumn, Marion Darche returned to town, feeling that since
she was to begin life over again, and since her friends had accepted
the fact, there was no reason for not taking the first steps at once.
She intended to live very quietly, occupying herself as best she could,
for she knew that some occupation was necessary to her, now that the
whole busy existence of the last five years was over. She did not know
what to do. She consulted Dolly, and would have liked to consult Brett,
but he rarely called, and then, by design or coincidence, he always
seemed to appear just when some one else was with her.
More than once she had thought of writing to him freely, asking him
to explain the cause of his conduct and to put an end to the
estrangement which was growing up between them. She even went so far as
to begin a letter, but it was never finished and found its way to the
fire before it was half written. She could not, however, keep her
thoughts from dwelling on him, since there was no longer any reason for
trying to forget his existence. She was not lacking in pride, and if
she had believed that Harry Brett no longer loved her, she would have
still been strong enough to bury the memory of him out of sight and
beyond danger of resurrection. But he did not behave in such a way as
to convince her of that. A woman's instinct is rarely wrong in telling
her whether she is loved or not, unless she is confronted with a man of
superior wickedness or goodness. The strength which breeds great
virtues and great vices lends that perfect control of outward manner
which is called diabolical or heroic according to circumstances. Harry
Brett was not such a man. He could keep away from the house in
Lexington Avenue, because for some reason or other he believed it
necessary to avoid Mrs. Darche's society; but he could not simulate
what he did not feel, nor conceal his real feelings when he was with
her. The cold, nervous hand, the quick glance, the momentary
hesitation, the choice of a seat a little too far from her sideall
told Marion that he loved her still, and that he believed himself
obliged to stay away, and was afraid to be alone with her.
At last she made up her mind to do something which should show him
definitely that she now regarded her mourning as a mere formality, and
intended before long to return to her former way of living, as though
nothing had happened. She determined to ask Brett and Vanbrugh and
Dolly to luncheon. It certainly was not a very wild dissipation which
she proposed, but it was the first time she had invited more than one
of them at the same time. And cousin Annie Willoughby petitioned for a
fourth guest by a very gentle and neutral hint. She had a certain
elderly friend, one James Brown, who was the only person living who
seemed able to talk to her for any length of time.
Mr. Brown had been a disappointment to his friends in his youth. He
was regarded as a failure. Great things had been expected of him when
he left college and during several years afterwards. But his so-called
gifts had turned out to be only tastes, and he had never accomplished
anything. He had not the enthusiastic, all-devouring, all-appreciative,
omnivorous nature which makes some amateurs delightful companions and
invaluable flatterers. Though he really knew something about several
subjects no one ever had the slightest respect for his opinion or
judgment. He was an agreeable man, a good-natured gossip, a harmless
critic. He always seemed to have read every word of books which most
people found tiresome and skimmed in half an hour, and he never was
acquainted with the book of the hour until the hour was past. No one
ever understood why he liked Mrs. Willoughby, nor why she liked him,
but if people thought of the matter at all they thought the friendship
very appropriate. Mr. Brown knew everybody in society and was useful in
filling a place, because he was a bachelor, and joined in the hum if
not in the conversation. In appearance he was a bald man with refined
features, a fair beard turning gray, gentle blue eyes, an average
figure, small feet and hands, well-made clothes, a chronic watch-chain
and a ring with an intaglio. His strong point was his memory, his weak
point was his absence of tact.
Marion, who intended that the general conversation of the table
should be followed by a general pairing off after the coffee, reflected
that Mr. Brown would amuse Mrs. Willoughby while Vanbrugh talked to
Dolly and she herself had an opportunity of speaking with Brett. So she
asked Mr. Brown to join the party, and he accepted. Dolly came first,
but Mr. Brown, who was punctuality itself, appeared a moment later.
Vanbrugh arrived next, and last of all Harry Brett, a little late and
apologising rather nervously.
Did you get my note? he inquired of Vanbrugh, after the first
greetings and as soon as he could exchange a word with him, unnoticed
in the general conversation.
No. Anything important? I went out earlybefore eleven o'clock,
and have not been at home since.
There was an interesting story of a wreck in the paper this
morning, said Mr. Brown, addressing the three ladies.
Stop him, said Brett to Vanbrugh in an energetic whisper. Now
Brown, my dear fellow, he continued aloud, sitting down beside Mrs.
Darche, do not begin the day by giving us the Sunday Herald entire,
because we have all read it and we know all about the wreck
Mr. Brown, who was used to interruption and to being checked when he
was about to bore people, looked up with mild eyes and protested a
I say, Brett, you know, you are rather abrupt sometimes, in your
way of shutting people up. But as you say, they have probably all read
the story. I only thought
Only thought! cried Vanbrugh, taking his cue from his friend.
Only! As though thinking were not the most important function of the
human animal, next to luncheon
I have not read the story Mr. Brown alludes to, observed Mrs.
Willoughby rather primly.
Ohit is all about natural history, and cannibals and latitudes
and people in a boat, said Brett talking very fast. All that kind of
thing. As for the news I can give you lots of it. Great fire, strike, a
new bacillus in postage-stamp gumawfully dangerous, Mrs. Willoughby.
Always use a sponge for moistening your stamps or you will get
somethingsome sort of new diseasewhat is it, Vanbrugh? You always
Gum-boils, suggested Vanbrugh, without hesitation.
Brett gave him a grateful look, as Mr. Brown's laughter assured him
that the danger was over for the present. But Brett did not desist
until Stubbs opened the dining-room door and they all went in to
luncheon. Mrs. Darche watched him curiously, wondering what was the
matter. She had never before heard him talk so nervously. Vanbrugh had
not the slightest idea of what had happened, but blindly followed
Brett's lead, and helped him to annihilate Mr. Brown, whenever the
latter showed the least inclination to tell a story.
Mr. Brown, however, was an obstinate person. He was not quick on his
feet mentally, so to say, and an insignificant idea had as strong a
hold upon his thoughts as an important one. Somehow he managed to tell
the tale of the wreck to Mrs. Willoughby and Dolly in the little
shifting of companionship which always takes place on leaving table. To
do him justice, he told it very shortly, and Mrs. Darche did not chance
to be listening at the time. Stubbs was offering everybody coffee, and
Marion had a box of cigarettes and was standing before the fireplace
with Vanbrugh and Brett, exchanging a few words with the latter.
Suddenly Mr. Brown's voice rose above the rest.
Of course, he was saying, nobody ever knew positively that the
man had really been drowned. But he had never turned up
And probably never will, answered Dolly, glancing nervously at
Marion. But she had caught the words and had turned a little pale.
Vanbrugh looked over to Brown.
For heaven's sake, Jim, he said, in a low voice. Talk about
something else, if you must, you know!
Mr. Brown's face fell as he realised his mistake.
By Jove! he exclaimed. Just like me! I forgot that poor Darche
Marion recovered herself quickly and came forward, offering her box
of cigarettes to everybody, while Brett carried the little silver
You must all smoke and make yourselves happy, she said with a
smile. Cousin Annie does not mind it in the least.
Well, of course, began Mrs. Willoughby, primly polite,
There is nobody like you, Mrs. Darche, said Vanbrugh, accepting
the offer. Thanks.
They are your especial kind, answered Marion.
I know they arethat is what I mean. How you spoil me!
Marion went on.
Yes, thank you. I do smoke sometimes, answered Mr. Brown,
hesitating in the matter between his allegiance to Mrs. Willoughby, who
disapproved of smoking in the drawing-room, and his duty to his
hostess, who encouraged it.
I hope you always do, said Marion. When a man does not smokeMr.
Brett, take one.
She had stopped herself, remembering that her husband had not been a
smoker, but Mr. Brown finished the sentence for her with his usual
Yes, he said, lighting his cigarette, men who do not smoke always
seem to me to be suspicious characters.
Dolly, try one, said Marion, trying not to hear him.
Oh, Marion! Dolly laughed.
Try it, said Vanbrugh, sitting down beside her.
The party had paired off, and Marion found herself near the window
with Brett, beside a table covered with photographs and etchings.
I wonder why Miss Maylands should seem shocked, began Brett,
entering into conversation rather awkwardly. I have no doubt that she,
and you, and perhaps Mrs. Willoughby, have all tried a cigarette in
secret, and perhaps you have liked it?
If I liked cigarettes I would smoke them, said Mrs. Darche, with
Do you always do what you like?
In little things.
And how about the big things? inquired Brett.
I like to have other people take care of them for me.
What people? As he asked the question he absently took a
photograph from the table and looked at it.
People who know me, said Marion.
If you like.
If I like! exclaimed Brett. Then, having broken the ice, as it
were, his voice suddenly changed. There is nothing I like so much,
there is nothing I would rather do than take care of you and what
belongs to you.
You have shown it, answered Mrs. Darche gently. She took the
photograph from Brett's hand and looked at it, in her turn, without
I have tried to, once or twice, said Brett, when you needed
Indeed you have. And you know that I am grateful too.
I do not care to know that, he replied. If I ever did anything
for youit was only what any other man would have done in my placeit
was not for the sake of earning your gratitude.
For what then?
Brett hesitated a moment before he answered, and then turned from
her towards the window as he spoke.
It was not for the sake of anything.
Mere caprice, then? asked Marion, watching him closely.
No, not that.
I suppose your motives are a secret? Marion laughed a little,
perhaps at her own curiosity.
Yes. Brett pronounced the single word with great earnestness.
Dear me! exclaimed Marion.
Yes. And I shall be very sorry if you ever find out what that
Yes, is it not?
Brett had suddenly assumed a tone of indifference. As he spoke
Vanbrugh and Dolly rose and came forwards towards the table.
If you have quite finished not looking at those photographs, give
them to me, Brett, said Vanbrugh. Miss Maylands wishes to see them.
Oh, take them by all means, answered Brett, thrusting a dozen or
more into his hands. As I was saying, Mrs. Darche, I am the worst
judge of architecture in the worldespecially from photographs.
Architecture, eh? observed Vanbrugh, as he re-crossed the room
with Dolly. Rather hard on photographs of etchings from portraits.
Oh, no! exclaimed Dolly, laughing softly and looking back at Brett
and Mrs. Darche. They talk of love's temple, you know, and building up
one's happinessand lots of things of that sortthe architecture of
You seem to care, said Vanbrugh, sitting down and laying the
photographs upon his knees.
Do I? Do you not?
Ioh, well, in a sort of a fatherly way, I suppose. He held up
one of the photographs upside down and looked at it.
Yes. Now I care in a sort of a sisterly way, you know. It is very
much the same thing, I fancy.
Is that all? asked Vanbrugh with a short laugh. I thought you had
made up your mind.
About Harry Brett.
Dolly looked at him in surprise and drew herself up a little
stiffly. What about him?
I do not mean to be rude, nor inquisitive, nor anything of the
sortso I think I had better turn the conversation.
But you do not. You are waiting for me to say something. Do you
think I am afraid? Do you think I am like all the girls you meet and
dance with, and repeat your pretty speeches to?
Repeat is graceful, said Vanbrugh, considerateso kind of you.
I do not feel kind, answered Dolly emphatically, and I am not at
all afraid of telling the truth.
Considering your interest in Sunday schools that is what I should
I am just as fond of dancing and enjoying myself as any one else,
said Dolly, relenting, though I do take an interest in Sunday
Fashionable charities and dissipations, as Brett calls themI
Do not see in that tone of voice, pleaseif what you see has
anything to do with me.
Which it has, said Vanbrugh. Mrs. Darche is one of your
charities, I supposeand Harry Brett is one of your dissipations.
You are too complicated, answered Dolly, really not understanding.
Say it in American, will you not?
You love Brett, and you are nice to Mrs. Darche, though you hate
her, said Vanbrugh in a tone which left Dolly in doubt as to whether
he was in earnest or only chaffing. She paused a moment and stared at
him before she answered, and then to his great astonishment spoke with
more coldness than he was accustomed to.
Precisely, she said. I love Mrs. Darche and I hate Brett because
he does not ask her to marry him as he should, now that Darche has been
dead so long. I am sorry, Marion, she said, turning to Mrs. Darche,
and going up to her rather suddenly, dearI really must be going.
Already? exclaimed Marion in surprise, it is not three o'clock?
Almost, said Dolly, and I have lots to doever so many people
waiting for me at a Committee, and then a visit I must make, and a
frock to try onand then if we are to dine at seven so as to be
dressed in time for the tableaux there is no afternoon at all.
How busy you are! Yet you always look so fresh! How in the world do
you do it?
A large appetite and a clear conscience suggested Brett, who
seemed to be more than usually absent-minded.
Dolly glanced at him rather angrily as she shook hands with her
friend. Good-bye, dear Marion. It has been ever so nice! Good-bye.
She left the room. Vanbrugh was annoyed and discomforted by her
sudden departure, but he made the best of the situation, and after
closing the door behind her, sat down beside Mrs. Willoughby, who was
listening to one of Brown's stories.
I suppose she is angry with me, said Brett to Marion. What did I
say? I was thinking of something else.
Then why did you choose that moment for speaking of her? asked
Mrs. Darche reproachfully. You really must take care, you will make
Of course. What does it matter?
It matters to me, if you make enemies of my friends.
That is different, said Brett. But seriouslydo not people
forgive a lack of tact sometimesbeing a little absent-minded? Look at
That is quite another thing, Marion answered. YesI heard what
he was telling as we came into the room after the luncheon. Of course
it was tactless. Of course no man in his senses should talk in a loud
tone, before me, of a man falling overboard at sea and being drowned,
What? asked Brett.
A short pause followed the question, and when Marion answered it, it
was evident that she was making an effort.
Still less of the possibility that such a man might be heard of
again some day.
That at least is improbable, said Brett, very gravely.
I shivered when I heard what he said.
I do not wonder.
In the meantime, at the other end of the room, Mr. Brown was
enjoying at last the supreme satisfaction of talking without reserve
about the story he had seen in the papers that morning.
One never knows what to believe, said Mrs. Willoughby.
Believe nothing, said Vanbrugh with much conviction. In
particular, my dear Mrs. Willoughby, do not believe in Brown's tales.
He is a perfectly idle man, and he does nothing but sleep and talk,
because he has a liver and cannot eat. A man who has nothing to do
requires a great deal of sleep and a great deal of conversation.
I say, Russell, old man, protested Mr. Brown with a good-humoured
laugh, this is rather unkind. Where would you get your conversation if
I did not supply you with the items? That is what one's best friends
come to, Mrs. Willoughby, in this bustling world. And why should not
people eat, sleep, and talk,and do nothing else if they have time?
But as for this story, I never pretended that it was anything but
newspaper gossipnot even thata sensation item, manufactured down
town, perhaps. 'Woman burned alive in Jersey City,'five lines'Deny
the report,'five lines morethat is the sort of thing. But this is a
strange coincidence, or a strange story. It might almost be poor
Darche's case, with a sensational ending.
Oh, well, answered Vanbrugh, who by this time quite understood the
meaning of Brett's strange conduct before luncheon, of course it is
only a sensational paragraph, and belongs to your department, Brown.
But as you say, the coincidences are extraordinary. A man says he fell
overboard from a Channel boat, and was picked up by an Italian bark,
which took him to Valparaiso after all sorts of adventures. The weak
point in these stories generally is that the man never seems to take
the trouble to communicate with his relations from the first port he
reaches, and takes an awful lot of trouble to get shipwrecked somewhere
on the way. But in this case that is the strong point. What did you say
the fellow's name was?
Why, my dear man, that is three-quarters of the coincidence. He
calls himself John Drake. Transpose the 'r' and the 'a,' and that looks
uncommonly like John Darche.
No doubt, said Vanbrugh; but then there is nothing peculiar about
'John.' If he had been christened 'Eliphalet Xenophon' it would have
been considerably stranger. Besides if he really were Darche he would
not call himself either Darche or John.
How can you suggest anything so dreadful! exclaimed Mrs.
Why 'dreadful'? asked Mr. Brown.
Only think of it, said Mrs. Willoughby. An escaped suicideI
mean, a convict who escaped and killed himself.
And you think that the disgrace of having committed suicide will
cling to him in after life, so to sayin Sing-Sing? inquired Mr.
Do not make me out more stupid than I really am. Cousin Annie
assumed a deprecatory expression. Do you not think that a man like
Darcheconvicted of a crimeescapedif he suddenly rereWhat is
Imperfectly resurrected, suggested Vanbrugh.
Oh yes! Anything! If he came back to life, and yet was supposed to
be dead, and was trying to begin all over again and to make a fresh
start, and that kind of thingunder another name
In order to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing his widow marry some
one else? asked Vanbrugh, with less discretion than usual.
I did not mean that, said Mrs. Willoughby quickly. Poor Marion!
Poor Marion! What time is it, Mr. Brown?
Oh dear! exclaimed cousin Annie.
Dear me! echoed Vanbrugh.
Yes, it is later than I thought, said Mr. Brown.
By a common impulse, all three rose at once and crossed the room to
take leave of their hostess.
What, are you all going? asked the latter.
Do you know what time it is, Marion? And not waiting for an
answer, Mrs. Willoughby held out her hand.
It is awfully late, observed Vanbrugh, by way of explanation.
Thank you so much, said Mr. Brown, shaking hands warmly.
Yes, it is later than I thought. Brett looked at his watch, though
by this time he had made up his mind to outstay the others.
Wellif you must go
Marion did not show any anxiety to detain her guests as they filed
out of the room.
You did not mean me to go away with the crowd, did you? asked
Brett, as the door closed behind Mr. Brown.
Not if you wished to stay, answered Marion, taking her favourite
chair near the fire. Take another cigarette. Sit down.
And make myself at home? Thanks.
If you can, said Mrs. Darche with a pleasant laugh.
Did you hear what they were saying to each other over there while
we were talking? inquired Brett, who by this time seemed to have
recovered from the unnatural embarrassment he had shown at first. He
had rather suddenly made up his mind that Marion ought to know
something about the story in the papers.
No. Did you? she asked.
I do not like that. Mrs. Darche did not seem pleased. It was not
nice of youto be able to talk as you were talking, and to listen to
the conversation of other people at the same time.
Do you know what they were saying? asked Brett.
No, certainly not.
It is not a pleasant subject. They were talking about that
paragraph in the papers again. Of course there is nothing in the story,
and yet it is very strange. May I speak of it?
Is it of any use? asked Mrs. Darche, beginning to suspect what was
I hardly know, Brett answered, and yet if it should turn out
there is even the smallest grain of truth
There cannot be. I know there cannot be, she repeated, after a
moment's pause, as though she had gone over the whole question in the
interval. Oh, what is the use of suggesting such things?
Yes, answered Brett. You know there cannot be any truth in
iteven if he were alive he would not come back. I know it, and yet if
he should, it would be so horrible that I cannot help thinking of it.
You know what it would mean if that man were to return.
I know what it would mean to me. Do not speak of it, please.
I must, I cannot help it. I feel as if something were driving me to
speak. You did not hear the whole story. They said the man was picked
up in mid-channel by an Italian ship more than seven months
Seven months ago!
Even the time would fit the truth. But thenstop. Was he a
swimmer? Yesof courseI remember him at Newport. Brett answered his
own question. The shipa bark they called itwas outward bound, and
could not put in again. She was on her way to Valparaiso. You know
where that is, all the way round by the Straits of Magellan. Something
happened to her, she got wrecked or somethingthey say that a lot of
the crew were killed and eaten up by the cannibals in Terra del Fuego.
John Drake! Marion exclaimed.
Yes, another coincidence. John Drakehorribly like is it
not?managed to escape with the second mate, the carpenter, and the
cabin boy, got across to the Patagonian countrythere are lots of
details. They wandered about for ever so long, and at last turned up
somewhere. They were all Italians, and Drake, who had no papers, was
shipped off again by the Consul on board of another Italian ship. That
accounts for six months, with the bad weather they had. Then there is a
long blank. And now this John Drake turns up here
Yesbutafter all, if he changed his name, he would change it
altogether. She stopped and looked at him, for the argument seemed
That is not the only point that is not clear, Brett answered. But
the names are so dreadfully alike.
But there is a very great difference! Marion exclaimed. There are
a great many Drakesbut Darche is a very uncommon name.
That is the reason why he changed it so little.
Oh, why do you suggest such a possibilityof what use is it? Why?
She rose suddenly and began to move about the room.
Because I am a fool, I suppose, Brett answered, not moving from
his seat. But I cannot help it. The idea has taken hold of me and I
cannot get rid of it. I feel as though that man had risen from the dead
to wreck your life.
It would be a wreck indeed! said Marion in a low voice that had a
sort of horror in it. You could not save me this timenot even you.
NoI ought not to say it.
Mysteries again? Marion stopped beside him and looked down into
The same, if you choose to call it a mystery.
I wish you would speak out, my dear friend, said Marion gravely.
I feel all the time that there is something in your mind which you
wish to say to me, but which you will not, or cannot, or dare not say.
Am I right?
To some extent.
I do not think you understand what friendship really means.
Friendship? Brett exclaimed. For you? No, perhaps I do not. I
wish I did. I would give a great deal if I could.
I do not in the least understand, said Marion, sitting down again.
You, my best friend, tell me in the most serious, not to say
mysterious way, that you do not know what friendship means, when you
are proving every day that you do. I hate secrets! Very few friendships
will bear them. I wish there were none between us.
Ah, so do I!
Then let there be none, said Marion in a tone that was almost
authoritative. Why should there be? In the dear old times when I was
so unhappy and you were so good to me, we had no secrets, at least none
that I knew of. Why should we have any now?
The very reason why there must be one at all is the secret itself.
Will you not believe me if I tell you that it would hurt you very much
to know it?
It is hard to believe, and Ishe laughedI can confess to a
reasonable amount of curiosity on the subject.
Do not be curious, said Brett, very gravely, please do not be
curious. You might find it out and I should never forgive myself.
But if I forgave you
That would make no difference. That would not make the smallest
What! Not to you? Mrs. Darche glanced at him in surprise.
Not to me, answered Brett with decision. The harm would be done.
Utterly incomprehensible! exclaimed Marion as though speaking to
herself. I cannot help asking you again, she said turning to Brett
again. Tell me, has it anything to do with my husband?
Yes it has.
Then tell me! Tell me, for heaven's sake! By this time she was
Not for the world, said Brett firmly.
You do not know how unkind you are. You do not knowyou do not
know how much your friendship is to me, and how you are letting this
wretched mystery come between us.
I know better, better than you can guess.
And you are keeping it to yourself because you are afraid of
hurting mehurting me! she repeated bitterly. As though I were not
past hurting, these many months, as though I had not been through most
all that a woman can bear and live, and yet I have borne it and have
lived. No, I am wrong. I can still be hurt. Two things could hurt me.
If by some horrible miracle John came back to life, and if She
paused and hesitated.
What? asked Brett, who hardly seemed to be listening to her.
If you allowed anything to break up this friendship of ours. But
the one is impossible. John is dead, and I have lived down the shame of
his memory, and the otherno, it would be your fault.
It would hurt you much more to know what I am keeping from you than
to lose my friendship, or rather your friendship for me, said Brett,
shaking his head. Mine you cannot lose, whatever you do. I am giving
you the best proof of it now.
And do you mean to say that after all that came out in those dark
days, that after the trial and conviction, and my husband's escape and
his horrible end, that there is still worse behind?that he left
something which you know and I do not know, but which, if I knew it,
could still have the power to wreck my life and break what is the best
part of meyes, I am not ashamed to say sothe best part of meour
friendship. I am not tired of the sound of that word yet, nor shall be.
Do you mean that? Do you really mean what you say?
Yes, answered Brett, who had nodded at each of her questions. I
mean that there is something which I know, and of which the knowledge
might ruin the happiness you have found since you have been alone. And
yet you ask me to tell you what it is, when no possible good could come
from your knowledge of it.
Yes, I do, said Marion, emphatically. And as for my happiness,
you are killing it with every word you say. You have knocked from under
my feet the security of my position and you have taken the good out of
what was best by saying that a word from you would spoil it. What is
there left now but to tell me the truth?
Your belief in me, if you ever had anyand I know that you had, as
I hope that you still have.
My belief in you? Marion paused, looked at him and then turned
away. Yes, but the more I believe in you, the more I must believe
every word you say
While she was speaking, Stubbs opened the door, and entered the
room, bringing a card.
The person wishes to see you, madam, he said, holding out the
Mrs. Darche's face betrayed some annoyance at the interruption as
she took up the card and read the name. W. H. Wood, Associated Press.
What does this mean? she asked turning to Brett. Do you know the
Evidently a reporter, said Brett.
Tiresome people, exclaimed Mrs. Darche. I wonder what in the
world he wants. Perhaps he has made a mistake. At all events there is
no reason why I should see him. Say that I am engaged, she added,
turning to Stubbs.
Wait a minute, Stubbs, said Brett, calling after the man. Do not
send him away, he added, turning to Marion. Let me see him.
Why? she asked.
I have an idea that he has come about that story that has got into
the papers, said Brett in a low voice.
Impossible! exclaimed Mrs. Darche with great emphasis.
No, objected Brett, there is just a possibility, and if it should
be that, some one had better see him. Something very disagreeable might
be written, and it is better to stop it at once.
Very well, said Mrs. Darche, yielding. If you really think it is
better, see him here. Ask Mr. Wood to come in, she said to Stubbs, as
she passed him and went out.
Brett stood before the fireplace as the reporter entered the rooma
quiet, pale young man with a pinched face, smooth brown hair and thin
hands which somehow conveyed the impression of sadness.
I asked to see Mrs. Darche, he said apologetically.
Mrs. Darche is engaged, answered Brett. I am a friend of hers and
will answer any questions so far as I can.
Thank you. I have no doubt, sir, that you are often troubled by us.
You know the reporter has to be everywhere. I will not take any more of
your time than I can help. I understand that Mrs. Darche and her
friends are to take part in some tableaux for a charitable purpose at
the end of the week
I fancy there is some mistake about that, said Brett. Mrs. Darche
is in mourning.
Precisely, said Mr. Wood. I daresay Mrs. Darche would be glad to
have the report denied. I understand, then, that there are not to be
I believe there is to be something of the kind, but Mrs. Darche has
nothing to do with the affairbeyond giving her advice, I think. She
would certainly not care very much to be talked of in the papers just
Just so, replied Mr. Wood readily. I quite understand that there
is a prejudice against it, and of course Mrs. Darche's name shall not
appear. But you do not know what a great interest our readers take in
social doings. Our paper has a very large circulation in the West.
I am very glad to know it. Would it not be enough just to mention
the fact that there are to be some tableaux for a charity?
If you would give me a hint about the subjects. Historical? One or
two names would be very useful.
Really I do not think that any of us care to see our names in the
paper, said Brett.
I will be as discreet as you wishMr.
My name is Brett.
Mr. Brett, repeated the reporter, making a note. May I inquire,
Mr. Brett, if you yourself take a part in the entertainment?
Any particular costume?
Yes Brett hesitated slightly and smiled. Yes. Particular
costumes are rather the rule in tableaux.
I do not wish to be indiscreet, of course.
No, I daresay not. I believe I am to be Darnley.
Thank you. Here Mr. Wood made another note. Miss Maylands as
Queen Mary Stuart? Is the report correct?
I believe so, answered Brett, coldly.
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Brett. If you could oblige me with one or
two more names I could fix it nicely.
I suppose, Mr. Wood, that you mean to say something about it
whether I tell you or not?
Well, now, Mr. Brett, replied the reporter, assuming a more
confidential manner, to be quite frank, that is just what happens. We
do not like to tire people out with questions they do not care to
answer, but the social column has to be filled somehow, and if we do
not get the news for it, it is sometimes made up in the office.
So I have often been led to believe from reading it, said Brett.
There are to be three tableaux, from well-known pictures, in which
Miss Maylands, Mr. Russell Vanbrugh, myself, and a few others are to
take part. The affair is to take place, I think, at Mrs. Trehearne's
Thank you, Mr. Brett. Dancing afterwards?
I do not know.
Pardon me. Supper furnished by Delmonico, I suppose?
Well I really have not asked. I daresay.
Thank you, Mr. Brett. Delmonico. Mr. Wood's pencil noted the fact.
Brett began to think that he had had enough of the interview, and
deliberately lighting a cigarette looked at the reporter. Anything
else you would like to know, Mr. Wood?
Well, since you have been so very obliging, Mr. Brett, I would like
to ask you a question.
All right, said Brett, resignedly. Go ahead.
Mrs. Darche is a widow, I understand.
Mr. Darche was the unfortunate victim of an accident several months
ago, I believe?
Then of course there can be no truth in the story that he arrived
in New York yesterday?
What story? Brett asked, turning sharply upon the young man.
I thought perhaps you might have seen it in this morning's paper,
answered Wood quietly. But perhaps you would not have noticed it, as
there was a misprint in the name. A man came to the office yesterday
and told the editor in charge that Mr. John Darche, who fell overboard
last spring from a steamer, and was supposed to have been drowned, had
turned up, and that he had seen him. I guess he was a crank. There are
lots of them hanging around the office, and sometimes they get a drink
for a bit of sensation.
Oh! is that the way news is manufactured? inquired Brett, with
Not in our office, Mr. Brett, replied the reporter, drawing
himself up. You can see for yourself that we only get our information
from the most reliable sources. If that were not so, I should not have
disturbed you to-day. But as there is no doubt in your mind that Mr.
Darche is positively dead, I daresay that Mrs. Darche would be glad to
have the report of her husband's return contradicted?
I do not think it matters much, since the name was printed Drake.
Pardon me, said Wood. Some of the papers printed it correctly,
and others are going to do so. I just saw two gentlemen from an evening
paper, and they have got it straight for this afternoon.
You do not mean to say that the papers believe the story? asked
Brett in real or affected surprise.
Oh no, Mr. Brett, they give it for what it is worth.
With headlines a foot high, I suppose?
Well, perhaps some of the papers will do so, answered the young
man with a smile.
Brett's manner changed as he realised that he could not afford to
let the reporter take away a wrong impression. He sat down and pointed
to a chair. Take a cigarette, Mr. Wood.
No, I thank you, I do not smoke. Thank you.
Mr. Wood sat down upon the edge of the chair beside Brett, who
looked at him fixedly for a moment before speaking. I do not suppose
that it is necessary for me to repeat that this story is an absurd
fabrication, and that if there is a man who is going about and calling
himself John Darche, he ought to be in jail.
Certainly, Mr. Brett, I am quite of that opinion.
Then would you mind helping me to get hold of him? Where is the man
to be heard of?
That is another matter, Mr. Brett. I shall be happy to see that the
report is denied. But whether the man is an impostor or not, it will be
hard to find him. That will not matter. We will explain everything
to-morrow morning, and it will all be forgotten by the next day. You
say you are quite sure, Mr. Brett, that Mr. Darche was not picked up
when he fell overboard?
Sure! answered Brett, authoritatively.
I see, said Wood. Thank you. I understand that it was in winter,
in rough weather, and that the efforts made to save him were in vain.
On the contrary, it was a calm, warm night in May. It is certainly
strange that they should not have been able to save him. That ought to
prove beyond question that he sank at once.
There is no doubt about that, I should think, replied the reporter
without much conviction. I won't detain you any longer, Mr. Brett. The
report shall be denied at once. Will you allow me to use your name as
authority for these details?
Everybody knows the story.
Pardon me. Our paper has a very large circulation in the West, and
a well-known name like yours lends great weight to any statement.
I did not know that my name was so particularly well known,
Why, certainly, Mr. Brett. Your yacht won a race last year. I
remember it very well.
That might be a claim to distinction, but I never had a yacht.
Not fond of the sea, Mr. Brett?
Oh, yes, I like it well enough, said Brett, rising, as though he
wished it understood that the interview was at an end. You will
distinctly deny this report, will you not?
You can rely upon me to say just what you have said to me, Mr.
Very well. Thank you. Then you will be good enough to say that
there is not a word of truth in it, and warn people against the man who
calls himself Darche?
Certainly, certainly. Thank you, Mr. Brett. Good morning, Mr.
Brett followed the reporter with his eyes till the door closed
behind him. He felt as though he had distinctly got the worst of it in
the encounter, and yet he could not see how he could have said less.
And that was how stories got about, he thought. If he had not seen the
reporter,if the latter had been turned away as Mrs. Darche had
intended, the story of Darche's return would have been reported again
and again. That, at least, thought Brett, was prevented for the
Nevertheless, as he stood alone during those few moments before
sending word to Marion that the reporter was gone, Brett's face
betrayed his terrible anxiety. He hesitated. More than once his hand
went out towards the bell and dropped again by his side. At last he
made up his mind, touched the button, and sent Stubbs with his message
to Mrs. Darche.
Well? she asked as she entered the room.
It is all right, he answered. It was about the charity tableaux.
I did not want to go away without seeing you, so I sent Stubbs
You are not going this moment? Marion looked at him in surprise.
She was further than ever from understanding him. He seemed to act
suddenly and irrationally. A quarter of an hour earlier he had been
almost his old self, in spite of his strange references to a mystery
which he could not communicate to her, and now he had changed again and
resumed the incomprehensible manner he had affected of late. He seemed
anxious to get away from her, even at the cost of seeming rude. Then,
as he held out his hand to say good-bye, he surprised her more than
If you will allow me, he said, I will come back in the course of
Certainly, she answered, staring at him as she shook hands.
A moment later he was gone, leaving Marion in considerable
perplexity and some anxiety of mind.
When Brett left the house he went in search of Vanbrugh, whom he
ultimately found at a club. The conversation which had taken place
between three men who were spending the long afternoon between
letter-writing, the papers, and gossip, is worth recording.
It was about five o'clock. The names of the men were Goss, Greene,
and Bewlay, and they were rather insignificant persons, but gentlemen,
and all acquainted with the actors of this story. Goss was seated in a
deep leathern easy-chair with a paper. Greene was writing a letter, and
Bewlay was exceedingly busy with a cigar while waiting for some one to
Well! exclaimed Goss. That beats the record!
I say, said Greene, looking up and speaking sharply, I wish you
would not startle a fellow in that way. My nerves are not of the best
any way. What is the matter?
Oh, nothing in particular, said the first speaker. John Darche
has come back to life again. I thought he was drowned last May.
Stuff! ejaculated Greene, testily.
All right. I do not want to disturb your correspondence.
What is that about John Darche? inquired Bewlay, delighted at
hearing a voice.
Some rubbish or other, answered Goss. It is the fashion to
resurrect people nowadayssort of way the newspapers have of getting
ahead of the day of judgment. If this goes on, that entertainment will
What is it, any way?
Headlines to begin with. 'The return of the prodigalJohn W.
Darche, alive and asking questions. Accidentnot suicideinterview
with Mr. Henry C. Brett.'
What the dickens has Brett got to do with it? asked Greene,
looking up from his letter again.
They say he is engaged to marry Mrs. Darche, said Bewlay, in
That is another ridiculous story, answered Greene. I happen to
know he is as good as engaged to Miss Maylands.
Let me see the paper, please, said Bewlay.
No, I will read it, said Goss, shifting his position so as to get
a better light. Then you can all hear. 'Our reporter called this
afternoon at the house of Mrs. John W. Darche, the beautiful and
accomplished widow who so long dispensed her hospitality in Lexington
Avenue. The beauteous lady was doubtless engaged in the consideration
of the costumes for certain charity tableaux in which her mourning
prevents her from taking a part, but in which her artistic taste and
advice are invaluable to the performers, and our reporter was received
by Mr. Henry C. Brett, the well-known lawyer, yachtsman, and patron of
the turf, who is to play the part of Darnley to Miss Maylands' Queen
Mary of Scotland in the artistic treat which awaits the favoured and
charitable to whom invitations have been tendered. Mr. Brett was kind
enough to answer a few questions regarding the report of Mr. John
Darche's return to New York which appeared in the morning papers. Mr.
Brett affected to treat the story with unconcern, but it was evident
from his anxious manner and from his somewhat nervous bearing that he
was deeply moved, though he bravely took arms against the sea of
troubles. Mr. Brett said repeatedly in the course of the conversation
that the story was an absurd fabrication, and if there was a man going
around calling himself John Darche he ought to be in jail. He professed
to be quite sure that Mr. Darche was dead, but was obliged to admit
that there was no evidence forthcoming to certify to the tragedy. The
accident, said Mr. Brett, happened on board of a channel steamer more
than seven months ago. It was a calm, warm night in May. Two ladies
were lying in their chairs on the quarter-deck engaged in conversation.
Suddenly in the mysterious gloom they noticed the muffled figure of a
gentleman passenger leaning over the rail hard by them. A moment later
the figure was gone. There was a dull splash and all was over. They at
once realised the horrid situation and cried aloud for help, but there
seems to have been no one else on deck in that part of the boat. Many
minutes elapsed before they could explain what they had seen, and the
necessary orders were given for stopping the steamer. The Captain then
retraced his course, lowered a number of boats, and every effort was
made to prosecute the search until far into the night when the steamer,
which carried mails, was reluctantly obliged to resume her way. His
body, said Mr. Brett in conclusion, was never found. Mr. Brett, as
was very natural, was more than anxious that the report should be
denied, but in the face of the facts he himself stated with such
pellucid clearness, it is impossible to say conscientiously that the
story of Mr. Darche's return may not be true. The fact remains that a
gentleman whose name is undoubtedly Darche is now in New York, and if
he is really Mr. John Darche of Lexington Avenue, steps will be taken
to set all doubts at rest before twenty-four hours have expired.' I
daresay you are not surprised at my exclamation now, after reading
that, said Goss, looking round at his hearers. Pretty serious for
Pretty serious for Mrs. Darche, observed Greene.
Pretty serious for everybody, said Bewlay, smoking thoughtfully.
That is, suggested Greene, if it is not all a fake, which is
probably the truth about it.
Has anybody seen Brett here? inquired Goss.
At this point the conversation was interrupted by the entry of Mr.
Brown, who was also a member of the club.
Is Brett here? he asked, looking about.
Just what I was asking, answered Goss. I suppose you have seen
About Darche? Yes. I am afraid it is true.
What! You do not believe it? Greene was the most sceptical of the
Have you seen him? asked Bewlay.
No, answered Mr. Brown. I have not seen him, but I mean to before
long. This is much too serious to be flying about in the papers like
this. Imagine what would happen if it fell into Mrs. Darche's hands.
Why it is enough to kill any ordinary woman on the spot! To think that
that infernal blackguard may not be dead after all.
You seem to feel rather strongly on the subject, observed Greene.
Are you engaged to marry Mrs. Darche too?
Nonsense! ejaculated Brown. I am in earnest. Just put yourself in
For my part I had rather not, replied Goss with a smile. But I
agree with Brown. A more unmitigated blackguard than John Darche never
breathed the unholy air of Wall Street. The only decent thing about him
was his suicide, and now virtue is to be cheated of that.
Mrs. Darche never speaks of him, I believe? The question came from
He did not return the civility, said Goss. I have heard him talk
about his wife in this very roomwellI won't say how, but he was a
Judging from your language you must be talking about Darche, said
a fifth speaker. Vanbrugh had entered the room.
Yes, answered Brown, we were. The damning was going on, but we
had not got to the faint praise. What do you think about all this,
The question must be settled one way or the other before to-night,
answered the last comer. If Darche is really alive the fact must be
kept quiet until to-morrow and then some one must tell his wife. I
propose that we elect a committee of action, give up our dinner parties
if we have any, and go and find the fellow.
That sounds like good advice, said Brown.
We might as well look for a Chinaman in Pekin, put in Greene, as
to try to hunt out any particular tough in the Bowery at this time of
We can try any way, said Mr. Brown, who was of a hopeful
temperament. I am not engaged to dine anywhere, are you, Vanbrugh?
Then come along. They turned towards the door and were just going
out when Brett met them, looking very white.
Hello, Brett! exclaimed Brown. You are the very man we have been
looking for. Come along with us and find John Darche.
Wait a minute, said Vanbrugh, interposing. Have you seen this
interview? He took the paper from Greene and gave it to Brett, who
read rapidly while the others looked on, talking in undertones.
Damn! he exclaimed, turning to the others. Have you all been
reading this stuff? I hope you do not believe that is what I said? A
man came to the house after luncheon. You fellows had just gone and I
was going. Mrs. Darche did not want to see him, but I advised her to
let me tell him what ought to be said about this affair. He tried to
pump me about the charity tableaux and then asked me about Darche. I
told him that it was all an absurd fabrication, and he promised to say
so and to deny all reports. And this is the result.
Of course it is, said Greene. The natural result of putting
yourself into any reporter's hands.
I would like to say a word for the reporter, said Mr. Brown
mildly. The paper is not his. He does not edit it. He does not get a
share of the profits, and when he interviews people he merely is doing
what he has undertaken to do. He is earning his living.
Marriage and death and reporters make barren our lives, observed
Greene sourly, and some of the men laughed.
I say, Brett, how much of this did you actually say? asked
Not a word, it seems to me. And yet I see some of my own phrases
worked in. He picked up the paper and looked at it again. Yes, I did
say that it was a warm May night. I did say that his body was never
found. Yes, that is true enough. How the deuce does the fellow manage
to twist it so?
Does it not strike you that the reporter has only shown you your
own account in the light in which other people will look at it?
inquired Mr. Brown, sententiously.
Oh, confound it all, Brown, how can you say such a thing?
Well, I will explain, replied Mr. Brown. Here are the facts, by
your own showing. On a warm evening in spring, and in calm weather,
John Darche fell overboard. I do not say he threw himself overboard,
though it was said that he did, to get away from the detective,
possibly it may have been an accident after all. We do not know. He was
seen to go over by some one, possibly by two ladies. It was very likely
at supper-time. We do not know that either. But it is quite sure that
there were not many people about. The ladies screamed, as was natural,
called for help and all that sort of thing. But on a calm May night
those channel boats run very fast. They did not cry out 'man
overboard!' as a sailor would have done, and very probably five minutes
elapsed before the Captain gave the order to stop. In that time the
boat would have run a mile and a half. It could not stop inside of half
a mile. Well, do you know anything about the tides and currents in the
Channel? The steamer could not have gone back to the point at which
Darche was lost much inside of twenty minutes. In that time the current
may have carried him a mile or more in one direction or the other.
Every one remembers that Darche was a good swimmer. As it happened in
May, he was not burdened with an overcoat, or thick boots, and there
are always vessels about in the Channel. Why is it so very improbable
that he should have been picked up by one, outward bound
While he was speaking, Brett played nervously with an unlighted
cigar, which he held in his hand.
A sailing-vessel outward bound from England to South America would
not be in the Channel, observed Vanbrugh.
Nobody said she was from England, retorted Brown. She may have
been from Amsterdam. A great many Italian vessels take in cargo there.
Surely she would have stopped and put Darche ashore, said Greene
with conviction. But the others laughed.
You are not much of a sailor, said Brown. You cannot stop a
sailing-vessel, as you express it, and run into any harbour you like as
though she were a steam-tug. To put back might mean a loss of two or
three weeks to the captain. Upon my soul, Vanbrugh, I cannot see why it
is so improbable.
You are not in earnest, Brown? asked Brett anxiously.
I am, though. A case like that happened not very long ago.
Everybody knows about it. It is a fact. A man came back and found his
wife married to somebody else.
Enoch Arden! suggested Greene contemptuously.
Precisely the same thing. The man had been living somewhere near
San Francisco. After he came back he found his wife had married an old
friend of hisa very good fellow. He would not break her heart, so he
went off to live by himself in the Rockies.
I wish you would stop! exclaimed Brett, almost livid.
I wonder it does not strike you in the same way, continued Mr.
Brown, unmoved. You are a lawyer, Vanbrugh. Now just argue the case,
and meet my points.
Well really, you do put the case pretty strongly, answered
Vanbrugh thoughtfully. If you look at it in that way, there certainly
is a bare shadow of a possibility that Darche may have come back.
Good God, Vanbrugh, don't! cried Brett.
I cannot quite help it. Vanbrugh drew Brown a little aside and
spoke in a lower tone, but Brett, who could scarcely control himself,
moved up behind them. Look here, Brown, said Vanbrugh, we ought not
to talk like this before Brett. After all, it is a mere possibility,
one chance in a thousand.
Considering the peculiarities of the name, argued Mr. Brown,
there are more chances than that.
Possibly. But why should he go to the newspaper office instead of
hiding altogether, or getting away from New York by the next steamer?
That is true, assented Mr. Brown.
I say, you fellows, cried Brett, coming between them. Stop that,
won't you? You are both infatuated. Why, you must be mad! Everybody
knows he is dead.
It is certainly probable, said Mr. Brown doubtfully, but it is
Do not get excited, Brett, said Vanbrugh. There are a lot of men
looking on. Go home and leave it to us. We will find the man and see
him before to-night.
I am going with you, said Brett resolutely.
No, you are not, said Vanbrugh, looking at him curiously. You are
no good. You are losing your head already. Go home and keep quiet.
Yes, it would be much better, urged Mr. Brown. Besides, two of us
are quite enough.
You do not really believe it, Brett said suddenly, after a
Oh no, I suppose not, answered Vanbrugh with affected
Cheer up, old man! said Mr. Brown. There may not be anything in
it after all.
May not! exclaimed Brett. I ought not to be here, anyhow, he
added, speaking to Vanbrugh. He may ring at her door at any moment.
And without further words he disappeared into the hall.
Brett seems to be pretty badly rattled, remarked Greene.
Yes, answered Goss. Strange, is it not? Yet you are quite sure
that he is to marry Miss Maylands?
It is not safe to be sure of anything, said Greene, going back to
the writing-table and folding his letter.
I believe it is true that he has come back, mused Bewlay,
relighting his cigar.
There certainly is a possibility, said Vanbrugh.
Of course there is, assented Mr. Brown.
I almost believe it myself, said Greene, rising and going out with
It is a queer story, is it not? observed Goss.
Yes, answered Bewlay. It has made me quite thirsty.
Well, this is a good stopping-place, replied the other. Ten
minutes for refreshments.
Vanbrugh and Mr. Brown lost no time, for the former knew exactly
what to do. Within three-quarters of an hour they had been to
headquarters in Mulberry Street, had ascertained that there was ground
for the report that John Darche had returned, that the police were
making haste to secure him and that he had paused the night without
much attempt at concealment, in a sailors' lodging-house on the east
side. They found the place without difficulty, and were informed that
the man Darche had gone out in the morning, leaving his few effects in
charge of the lodging-house keeper. The house was watched by
detectives. Vanbrugh asked Brown to stay at the Mulberry Street Station
until dinner-time and then to bring him news at Mrs. Darche's in
Lexington Avenue, whither he at once returned, fearing some trouble and
anxious to give timely warning.
He knew enough of criminals to suspect that Darche, finding himself
in New York very much against his will and doubtless without money,
would in all likelihood attempt to obtain money from his wife to aid
him in making his escape. He would probably not waste time in writing,
but would appear in person at the house, just before dinner when he
would know that Marion must be at home, and he would have little or no
difficulty in forcing his way into her presence.
This was what he foresaw in case the man proved to be really John
Darche. The police were satisfied that there was no mistake, and that a
fortunate accident had thrown the escaped criminal into their hands.
Nevertheless, Vanbrugh had doubts on the subject. The coincidence of
name was possible, if not probable, and no one had given him any
description which would have applied any more to John Darche than to
any other man of his age and approximately of his complexion. The
lodging-house keeper was evidently under the impression that the man,
whoever he was, must be a sailor; but any one familiar with sea-faring
men knows that, apart from some peculiarity of dress there is often
very little to distinguish them from landsmen, beyond the fact that no
seaman ever wears spectacles, and that most sailors have bronzed faces.
But a landsman is easily imposed upon by a guernsey, a jack-knife, a
plug of tobacco, and a peculiar taste in swearing.
When Brett had left Marion Darche so abruptly, she had gone to her
morning-room and shut herself up to think, with no especial result,
except that she was very unhappy in the process. She would not even see
Dolly Maylands, who came in soon afterwards, but sent her word to have
tea in the library with Cousin Annie. She herself, she said, would come
down later. She begged Dolly to stay to dinner, just as she was.
Dolly was busy as usual, but she was anxious about her friend and
about Brett, and her own life seemed very perplexing. Men were very odd
creatures, she thought. Why did Brett hesitate to ask Marion to marry
him, since he was in love with her, unless he were sure that Marion
loved Vanbrugh, or at least liked him better? And if Vanbrugh were not
himself in love with Marion, an idea which Dolly scouted with wrath,
why did he not offer himself to her, Dolly Maylands? Considering that
the world was a spheroid, thought Dolly, it was a very crooked stick of
a world, after all.
All alone, Dolly? asked Mrs. Willoughby, entering the library.
Yes, answered Dolly. I am all alone, and I am tired, and I want
some tea, and Marion is lying down, and everything is perfectly horrid.
Do sit down and let us have a cosy talk, all by ourselves.
Why will people scramble through life at such a rate? And Mrs.
Willoughby installed her gray self in an easy-chair. I have told
Marion fifty times since last summer that she will break down unless
she gives herself a rest.
My dear Mrs. Willoughby, said Dolly. Marion is a very sensible
woman and manages her existence on scientific principles. She really
gets much more rest than you or I, not to mention the factwell, I
suppose I ought not to say it.
What? Why not?
Well, I was thinking that since poor Mr. Darche was drowned, life
must have seemed like one long rest to Marion.
Oh Dolly, how unkind! exclaimed Mrs. Willoughby, and then paused a
moment before she continued. But I suppose there is some truth in it.
What is that proverb? 'Dedemort'
'De mortuis nil nisisomething like bones,' answered Dolly with a
What? What is that?
Oh nothing. It only means that everybody should say the nicest
possible things when people are dead. That was what you meant. But I
should think the living would appreciate them more.
Yes, yes, assented Mrs. Willoughby vaguely. I daresay he would.
He? Who is he? asked Dolly with affected surprise.
Oh I do not mean anything, my dear. I hardly think that Marion will
I suppose they are admirably suited to each other?
Who? Why Marion and Mr. Vanbrugh. Who else? Dolly watched Mrs.
Oh, I was not thinking of that. I meant Mr.hm She interrupted
herself in fear of indiscretion. Your dress will be complete now with
the lace, will it not, Dolly?
Oh yes, answered Dolly in a careless tone. It was just like Mr.
Vanbrugh, was it not, to take all that trouble to find the very thing I
A man will take a great deal of trouble, my dear, when he wants to
please somebody he is fond of.
Yesbut me, suggested Dolly, just to see what Cousin Annie
Why not you? Should you like some tea, Dolly?
Why not me? I suppose because I am Marion's friend, Dolly
Oh yes, if you put it in that way
Mrs. Willoughby was interrupted by the appearance of Stubbs bringing
in the tea.
Is Mrs. Darche at home if any one calls, Stubbs? she inquired.
No, madam. Mrs. Darche is upstairs and not at home. He paused a
moment to see whether Mrs. Willoughby meant to say anything more, and
then left the room.
Dear Mrs. Willoughby, I do so want to ask you a question, said
Dolly, beginning to pour the tea.
What is it, my dear?
One lump or two? inquired Dolly with hesitation.
Is that all? asked Mrs. Willoughby with a slight laugh.
Not quite, answered Dolly. Do you take milk?
Please, and one lump. What is the question, child?
No, said Dolly, laughing herself. It was foolish and inquisitive,
and all sorts of horrid things. I think I had better not ask it.
About Marion and Mr. Brett?
Why? Dolly asked, looking up quickly, and then hesitating. Is
there anything? I meanyes, that is what I meant to ask.
Well, my dear, answered Mrs. Willoughby in a confidential tone,
to tell the truth I am glad to talk to somebody about it, for it is on
my mind, and you know that Marion does not like to answer questions.
Yes, I know. Well, so you think there is something between them?
My dear, of course there is, said Mrs. Willoughby without
hesitation. And I am quite sure that something has happened lately. In
fact, I believe they are engaged to be married.
Do you really? Andandwhere does Mr. Vanbrugh come in?
Mr. Vanbrugh? I am sure I do not know. Perhaps he will be Harry
Brett's best man.
If they could see themselves as others see them, reflected Dolly
under her breath, before she answered the remark. They would make a
handsome couple, would they not? But you are quite mistaken, dear Mrs.
Willoughbyoh, you are quitequite mistaken. She looked down and
sipped her tea.
How do you know that? asked Mrs. Willoughby. How can you be so
sure? Do you not see how they go on together, always sitting in corners
and talking in undertones?
Do you not see how Marion spoils Mr. Vanbrugh, and gets his special
brand of cigarettes for him, and always asks him to dinner to fill up a
place, and altogether behaves like an idiot about him? You must be
blind if you do not see that. Let me give you another cup of tea?
Thanks, I have not finished, said Cousin Annie. Of course, my
dear child, no two people ever look at things from the same point of
view, but I was thinking
Stubbs opened the door again.
Mr. Vanbrugh, he announced.
He knew you were here, my dear, said Mrs. Willoughby in a whisper.
He has come to see you.
Will you be good-natured and forgive my spoiling your tea? asked
Vanbrugh, as he entered the room.
We will try, said Dolly.
Sit down, said Mrs. Willoughby, and have some with us.
Thanks, answered Vanbrugh. I am even ruder than I seem, for I am
in a hurry. Do you think I could see Mrs. Darche? For a minute?
I daresay, replied Cousin Annie, doubtfully.
Of course you can. She is upstairs and not at home. Dolly laughed.
So Stubbs told me, said Vanbrugh, and I came in to ask you to
help me. I am very glad I have seen you first. I know it is late and I
will not keep you a moment. There is something that I must say. I have
just been at the club for a moment and Brown came in and four or five
others. There is certainly an impression that John Darche has really
come back again.
Good heavens! cried Mrs. Willoughby, thoroughly startled.
Oh, how awful! exclaimed Dolly in real distress. But you were all
saying after luncheon that it was impossible.
I know, said Vanbrugh. I know we were. But it looks otherwise
now. There was so much talk about it that I proposed to Brown to try
and find the man. We have been down town since then, to Mulberry
Street. There certainly is a man knocking about under the name of John
Darche, who landed from an Italian vessel last night.
Have you seen him? asked Dolly. Oh, poor Marion!
Dreadful, dreadful! repeated Mrs. Willoughby, staring at Vanbrugh.
No, answered the latter in reply to Dolly's question, we have not
seen him, but we shall have him this evening.
Here? exclaimed Mrs. Willoughby, looking round nervously.
Here in this house?
Yesor at least, under our hand, said Vanbrugh. Brown is waiting
for information at the Mulberry Street Station.
To bring him here to-night? asked Cousin Annie, with increasing
No, to keep him from coming.
And you have come to warn Marion? inquired Dolly.
Yes, in a way, answered Vanbrugh. But not to tell her, of course.
I want her to give strict orders about any odd-looking persons who may
present themselves. I mean to tell her that I am afraid some reporter
may try to get in, and that the man at the door must be very careful.
I will go to her, said Mrs. Willoughby, rising. Mr. Vanbrughif
he comes, if it is really he, he cannot be turned away from what was
his own house.
No, but he shall be stopped at the door, and I will go out and talk
to him and persuade him to escape, or to come and see me in the
morning, if he is mad enough to stay.
Yes, that is sensible, answered Cousin Annie. Shall I speak to my
niece myself, or shall I make her come down?
Vanbrugh hesitated a moment and looked at Dolly, who answered by an
almost imperceptible nod.
I think, said Vanbrugh, that to put her to any inconvenience
would make the matter look more serious than we wish her to think it
is. Do you think you could explain, Mrs. Willoughby? Give her the idea
that the newspaper man who was here to-day may come backor some other
person, or two or three. Anything of that sort.
I will do my best, answered Mrs. Willoughby. You will wait until
I come back, will you not?
Of course, replied Vanbrugh, as she left the room.
Do you think it is really true? asked Dolly.
I do not know what to think. Putting all the facts we have
together, there is certainly a possibility.
I am very, very sorry, said Dolly, after a short pause.
Poor Mrs. Darche! exclaimed Vanbrugh. After all these months of
freedom she has had, it will break her heart.
I was not thinking of Marion, answered Dolly.
Of whom, then? asked Vanbrugh.
Ofofsome one else.
Yes, I know.
Yes, repeated Dolly with marked sympathy. Will you not let me
make you a nice cup of tea, Mr. Vanbrugh?
Will you not light a cigarette? asked Dolly. Here are some of
No, thanks, answered Vanbrugh absently. I have just smoked.
Do sit down and warm yourself, said Dolly, pushing a chair towards
WellthanksI suppose Mrs. Willoughby will be gone some minutes.
Have you thought of what might happen if Darche were alive? he asked,
reverting to the subject uppermost in his mind.
I do not like to think of it. But I cannot help thinking of it,
she answered almost inaudibly. I know that I cannot, and I hate myself
We may have to think of it seriously in three or four hours, said
Vanbrugh. Brown will bring me word. He will dine with me, and I will
be within reach in case anything happens.
What a head you have! exclaimed Dolly. You ought to be a
It is simple enough, it seems to me, as simple as going back to
stop an express train when there has been an accident on the line.
Yes, but it is always the one particular man who has more sense
than the rest who thinks of stopping the express train.
I suppose so, answered Vanbrugh indifferently. The man who has
his eyes open. It is odd, is it not, that the happiness of so many
people should be at stake on one day?
Well, three at least.
Three? Are there not four? asked Dolly, with a smile.
There is Stubbs, of course, said Vanbrugh thoughtfully; not to
mention a lot of people who would not be particularly glad to see
Darche back, on general principles. Well, I am sorry for them all, but
I was not thinking of them especially.
Whom were you thinking of?
Some one not concerned in the mattersome one, I cannot say
nearest; think of something that rhymes with it. You are fond of hymns
and that sort of thing.
Dearest? suggested Dolly.
Yes, 'dearest'; that rhymes, does it not?
Yes, that rhymes, assented Dolly, with a little sigh. Whom were
you thinking of? she asked.
What an answer! And what an expression! I suppose the name of the
person is a profound secret?
It has been a secret for some time, said Vanbrugh.
Oh!then you have a faithful disposition? asked Dolly with a
I hope so, answered Vanbrugh, smiling.
Any other virtues?
Lots, he laughed in his turn.
I am so glad.
Virtue makes people so nice and safe, said Dolly, and helps them
to bear misfortune, and to do almost everything except enjoy
What an appalling code for a Sunday school teacher!
Do not laugh. I have had an offer.
Of marriage? asked Vanbrugh, looking at her.
No. If I had, I would not tell you. I have been offered twenty-five
dollars a month to teach at a Sunday schoola visitor, who did not
know me, you see, and wished to engage me.
And you refused?
Yes. Foolish of me, was it not? Twenty-five dollarsjust think!
It is a lot of money, laughed Vanbrugh.
Several pairs of gloves, said Dolly gravely. But I refused. You
know the proverb'be virtuous and you will be happy, but you will not
have a good time.'
And you mean to have a good time. I have always been meaning
tobut it is rather dull, all by myself. I am not young enough to be
gay alonenor old enough to enjoy being sour.
There is a remedyget married! Dolly smiled, looked grave, and
then smiled again.
That is almost easier done than said, if one does not mind whom one
And you do mind, I suppose?
YesI am foolish enough to care, answered Vanbrugh, glancing at
To care for some particular personis that rude, or indiscreet, or
horrid of me?
Very! But I will forgive you on one condition.
I never accept conditions.
Unconditional surrender? Is that it?
Of course, Dolly answered without hesitation.
I surrender unconditionallyat discretion.
Ohvery well. Then I will be nice and ask what the condition was
for the sake of which you kindly proposed to forgive me for what I did
not do. Comewhat is it?
You asked if I cared for one particular person, said Vanbrugh,
Yes. Do you? He could hardly distinguish the words.
I will tell you, if you will answer the same question.
You answer first.
Yes. That is the answer. His hand stole out towards hers.
Yesthat is the other answer.
Do two positives make a negative? asked Vanbrugh, as their hands
Nonot in mathematics, laughed Dolly, a little awkwardly, and
withdrawing her fingers from his. Two negatives make a positive,
A positive 'no'? asked Vanbrugh, incredulously.
But we were both saying 'yes.'
We are both saying 'yes,' repeated Dolly slowly.
Could we not go a step farther?
How? Dolly started a little and looked at him. I do not
What did you think?
I do not know what to think. She hesitated.
Will you not let me help you to decide? For the first time in
their acquaintance, Vanbrugh's voice grew tender.
II am almost afraid
Afraid of me?
Of you? Oh no, you do not frighten me at allbut I am just a
little again Dolly hesitated, then as though making a great effort
she tried to speak severely. Mr. Vanbrugh, you must not play with me!
Miss Maylands, you have played with me a long time, answered
Have I? II did not mean to, she added thoughtfully.
Perhaps we have both played in earnest, suggested Vanbrugh.
But you play with so many people
With whom, for instance? asked Vanbrugh.
With Marion, for instance, said Dolly.
With Mrs. Darche? Vanbrugh's voice expressed genuine astonishment.
What an extraordinary idea! As though Brett were not my best friend!
What of that?
Oh, do not pretend that you do not understandespecially to-day,
when they are both so unhappyyou will do something that will hurt
them if you are not careful.
I wonder Dolly did not complete the sentence, but turned away as
though leaving it to him.
I know. So you must not talk of my flirting with Mrs. Darche. It is
not just to her nor kind to meand you do not mean to be unkind to me,
To youof all people! Her voice was very gentle.
Of all people in the world, dear?
YesI think soof all people. She nodded slowly, and then looked
up and let her eyes meet his.
You think soyou are not quite sure? asked Vanbrugh, although
there was no longer any doubt.
I am always sure of what I think. Dolly smiled, still looking at
And this is not play any more? This is quite earnest?
Quitequite While she was speaking his face was suddenly close
to hers and his lips touched her cheek. Oh!I did not mean
I did, said Vanbrugh emphatically.
I see you did, answered Dolly, blushing scarlet.
Will you not see again He leaned towards her again.
Oh, no! Not on any account! she cried, pushing him away and
laughing. Besidesthe handle of the door turned as she was
speakingthere are people coming. OhI can feel it! she whispered,
rising precipitately with her hands to her cheek. But I am so happy!
she added, with one more look as she broke from him.
Dolly whispered the last words as Mrs. Willoughby re-entered the
room, and Vanbrugh rose to his feet, hardly realising that the crisis
of his life had been reached with a laugh and a kiss, but quite as
happy as Dolly herself in his thoroughly undemonstrative way. Both
were, perhaps, a little ashamed of themselves when they remembered
Marion Darche's trouble, and contrasted her anxiety with their own
visions of a sunny future; and both felt all at once that they were out
of place; if they could not be together without a third person, they
wished to be alone.
I do not really believe that anything will happen, said Vanbrugh,
speaking to Mrs. Willoughby. I do not believe either, that this man is
Mrs. Darche's husband, for there is every reason to be sure that John
Darche was actually drowned. But in case anything should happen, pray
send for me at once. I shall be at home and shall not go out this
evening. Good-night, Miss Maylands.
I am going, too, said Dolly, rather suddenly. Do you think, she
added, turning to Mrs. Willoughby, that it would be very dreadful if
Mr. Vanbrugh took me as far as the corner?
What is there dreadful in it? asked Mrs. Willoughby, who was
old-fashioned and remembered the times when young men used to take
young girls to parties, and walked home with them unchaperoned.
Very well, then, will you take me, Mr. Vanbrugh? My maid has not
come yet. I only want to go to Mrs. Trehearne's and tell her it is all
right about that lace.
I shall be delighted, answered Vanbrugh, his handsome face
lighting up in a way Dolly had never seen.
They had not been gone more than five minutes when Brett rang at the
door again and asked for Mrs. Darche. Stubbs looked at him for a
moment, and then said that he would inquire. Brett waited in the
library, by the deserted tea table, for Cousin Annie had betaken
herself to her own room as soon as Dolly and Vanbrugh left, and he
wondered who had been there. It was some time before Marion appeared.
I am glad to see you again, she said, quietly, and holding out her
hand. You went away so suddenlyas though you were anxious about
And you have made me anxious, too. You were telling me that a great
and final misfortune is hanging over my head. You do not know me. You
do not understand me. You do not see that I would much rather know what
it is, and face it, than live in terror of it and trust altogether to
you to keep it from me.
But do you not know after all these years, that you can trust me?
Do you not trust me now?
Yes, Marion answered after a pause. As a man, my dear friend, I
trust you. You do all that a man can do. I can even give you credit,
perhaps, for being able to do more than you or any other man can do.
But there is more. There is something yet. Be as faithful as you may,
as honest as God has made you, and as brave and as strong as you
areyou cannot control fate. You do not believe in fate? I do. Well,
call it that you please. Circumstances arise which none of us, not the
strongest of us, can govern. Whatever this secret is, it means a fact,
it means that there is something, somewhere, which might come to my
knowledge, which might make me unutterably miserable, which you some
day may not be able to keep from me. Does it not?
Yes, it does, said Brett, slowly. I cannot deny that. You might,
you may, come to know of it without my telling you.
Then tell me now, said Marion earnestly. Is it not far better and
far more natural that this, whatever it may be, should come to me
directly from you, instead of through some stranger, unawares, when I
am least prepared for it, when I may break down under the shock of it?
Do you not think that you, my best friend, could make it easier for me
to hear, if any one could?
If any one could, yes, answered Brett in a low voice.
And if no one can, then you at least can make it less cruel. Let me
know now when I am prepared for it by all you have saidprepared to
hear the most dreadful news that I can possibly imagine, something far
more dreadful, I am sure, than anything really could be. Let me hear of
it from you of all other men.
No, no, do not ask me! He turned from her as though he had finally
made up his mind. Of all men, I should be the last to hurt you. And
there is no certainty, perhaps not even a probability, that you should
ever know it if I do not tell you.
Ah, but there is! she cried, insisting. You have said so. You
told me that a moment ago. Noyou must tell me. I will not let you go
until you do. I will not leave anything unsaid that I can saythat a
woman can say
Harry, I must know. I will know. She laid her hand upon his arm.
For heaven's sake! exclaimed Brett in the utmost distress.
Harry! You loved me once Her voice vibrated audibly.
Once! Brett started violently, and turned if possible, paler.
You made me think so.
Marion, Marion, don't!
I will. Do you remember, Harry, long, long ago when we were almost
boy and girl, how you promised, faithfully, sacredly, that if ever I
needed you, that if ever I asked your help
And you married John Darche instead of me, said Brett,
Yes, and I married John Darche, answered Marion, gravely.
Because you loved him and not me.
Because I thought,no, I will not go back to that. There is a
nearer time than that in the past, a day we both remember, a day that I
am ashamed of, and yetwell you have not forgotten it either. That
morningnot so many months ago. It was on that daythat day when my
husband was arrested. It was in this very room. You told me that you
loved me, and Iyou know what I did. It was bad. It was wrong. Call it
what you please, but it was the truth. I let you know that I loved you
as well as you loved me and better, for I had more to lose. John was
alive then. He is dead nowlong dead. If I was ashamed then, I am not
ashamed nowfor I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am showing whether
I trust you or not, whether I believe in you, whether I am willing to
stake my woman's pride on your man's faithfulness. I loved you then,
and I showed you that I did. Harry! I love you nowand I tell you so
without a blush.
Brett trembled as though in bodily fear, glanced at her and turned
Great God! he exclaimed under his breath.
And youHarryyou stillHarrylook at me! What is it?
With wide and loving eyes she looked at him, expecting every instant
that he would turn to her. But he did not move. Then suddenly, with a
low cry, as though she were mortally hurt, she fell back upon the sofa.
Oh, my God! you do not love me!
Her voice was broken and weak, but he heard the words. He turned at
last, looked at her, and then knelt down at her side.
Marion, Marion! dear! he whispered lovingly, again and again. But
she pushed him away. Then he rose to his feet and sat beside her,
looking down into her face. Yes, he said gravely, you must know my
Yes, I know your secret now, your miserable secret. She turned her
face from him against the cushion.
No, you do not know it, he said. You do not even guess it. But I
must tell you now. Take care. Be strong, be brave. It will hurt you.
While he was speaking Mrs. Darche rose from the sofa and her
expression slowly changed as she realised that he had something grave
to tell her. She rose slowly, steadying herself, but not taking her
eyes from his face.
Tell me, please. I am ready.
John Darche is alive, and I have known it almost from the first.
It seemed to Brett that nothing he had ever done in his life had
been half so hard. Marion stared at him for a moment, and then once
more sank slowly into her seat and covered her face.
Do you understand me now? he asked after a long pause. Do you see
now why I have fought so hard against telling you this thing?
It is better so, she answered in a low and indistinct tone. It
was better that I should know it now. Then she was silent for a long
time. And is that all you have to tell me after all that I have told
you? she asked at last, as though in a dream.
All? All, dear? Suddenly his resolution broke down. You know it
is not all. I love youthat is all, indeedand more than I have the
right to say or you to hear.
A right! What is right? Where is right now?
Where you are, dear. He was holding both her hands in his.
Then all at once a light came into her face.
And we can make the rest right, too! Are there no laws? Is there no
justice? If this man who has ruined both our lives is not deadah! but
he is! I know he is. What proof have you? How can you stand there and
tell me that I am still bound and tied to a man whose very name is a
stain on me, whose mere memory is a disgrace.
How do I know? repeated Brett. It is simple enough. He has
written to me. I have his letters. Do you care to see them? Do you know
what he says? What he repeats whenever he writes? He began a few days
after we heard of his supposed death. I know the letter by heart. 'My
dear BrettI am not dead at all. I know that you love my wife, but I
do not propose that you should be happy at my expense. If you try to
marry her I shall be at the wedding to forbid the banns.'
He wrote that? He wrote that in his own hand? The strange emotions
that were chasing each other in her heart found quick expression in her
And he has written it often. Would it have made you happier to know
it during all these months? Or could I have looked you in the face as
an honourable man and told you that I loved you when I alone knew that
your husband was alive? He had drawn back from her now and stood
leaning against the mantelpiece with folded arms.
Oh, I see it all! I see it all now! she said. How brave you have
been! How good! And now he is coming back to find some new way of
hurting us! Oh it is too much! I thought I had borne all. But you were
right. There was more to bear.
Do you know? Brett began after a moment's pause. In spite of this
story that was in the papers to-day I find it hard to believe that he
has really come back. He was quite capable of starting the story
himself from a distance for the sake of giving you pain, but he knows
as well as we do that if he comes here he comes to serve his time in
Marion seemed to be trying to think over the situation.
Stop! she said at last. You know that there was a woman, too,
though we never spoke of her, you and I. But every one knew it. People
used to pity me for that before they knew the rest. Do you not think it
possible that she may have written those letters to you?
Oh, no! I know John Darche's handwriting. I have good cause to know
Yes, I suppose you are right, answered Marion thoughtfully. Did
any one man ever accumulate so much wickedness in a lifetime? He was
not satisfied with one crime. And yet he was not the only bad man in
the world. What does a girl know of the man she is to marry? She sees
him day after day, of course, but she only sees the best side of him.
She knows nothing of what he does, nor of what he thinks when he is not
with her, but she imagines it all, in her own way, with no facts to
guide her. Then comes marriage. How could I know?
Indeed, it would have been hard for any girl to guess what sort of
man John Darche was.
Please do not talk about that.
And how do you know that I am any better man than John Darche?
asked Brett, suddenly. What do you know of my comings and goings when
I am not here, or how I spend my time? How do you know that I am not
bound by some disgraceful tie, as he was? I have been in all sorts of
places since we said good-bye on that winter's evening. Do you
remember? I have wandered and worked, and done ever so many things
since then. How do you know that there is not some woman in my life
whom I cannot get rid of?
He had not changed his position while speaking. When he paused for
her answer she went up to him, laying her hands upon his shoulders and
looking into his face.
Harry! is there any other?
No, dear. But his eyes answered before he spoke.
I knew it. You have answered your own question. That is all.
Thank you. As she drew back he caught her hand and held it, and
his words came fast and passionately. No. That is not all. That is not
half. That is not one-thousandth part of what I ought to say. I know
it. Thank you? My whole life is not enough to thank you with. All the
words I ever heard or know are not enoughthe best of words mean so
little. And they never do come to me when I want them. But those little
words of yours are more to me than all the world beside. I do thank you
with all my strength, with all my heart, with all my soul, and I will
live for you with all three. Why should I say it? You know it all,
dear, much better than it can be said, for you believe in me. But it is
good to sayI wish it could have been half as good to hear.
She had listened to each word and looked for each passing expression
while he spoke. She looked one moment longer after he had finished, and
then turned quietly away.
It is good to hearif you only knew how good! she said softly.
And words are not always empty. When they come from the heart, as ours
do, they bring up gold with themand things better than gold.
A long silence followed. Neither of them, perhaps, realised exactly
what had passed, or if they did, actual facts seemed very far away from
their dreamland. Marion was the first to feel again the horror of the
situation, tenfold worse than before he had last spoken.
Oh, I cannot bear it! she said suddenly. I cannot bear it nowas
I could. Really alive, after alland this story to-day? Have you found
out nothing? Have you nothing more to tell me?
Yes, there is something to tell you.
Bad? Worse than
I am afraid so, answered Brett.
You have told me that he is alive. She laid her hand upon his arm.
Do not tell me that he is here! You said you could not believe it!
If I do not, it is only because I have not seen him with my own
eyes. I did not mean to tell youuntil he stopped.
Tell me! cried Marion. Tell me everything quickly! If you tell
meI can bear it, if you tell mebut not from any one else. Where is
he? When did he come? Is he arrested again? Is he in prison?
No, not yet. He is in a sailors' lodging-houseif it is he.
How do you know it? Oh, how can you be so sure, if you have not
None of us have seen him, answered Brett, barely able to speak at
all. Vanbrugh and Brownthey went to find himI found Brown in
Mulberry Street, waiting for newsyou know the Police Headquarters are
there. Vanbrugh had left himthen I came up town againto you.
Russell Vanbrugh has been here, said Marion, trying to collect her
thoughts. He told Cousin Annie to give strict orders about reporters.
He was afraid that Darche might come to try and get money from
Money! I would giveGod knows what I would give.
I do not believe he will come, said Brett, assuming a confidence
he did not feel. He must know that the house is watched already.
Marion's expression changed. Her face turned paler. The lines
deepened and her eyes grew dark. She had made a desperate resolution.
She took Brett's hand and looked at him in silence for a moment.
Good-byedear, she said.
She would have withdrawn her hand, but Brett grasped it and pressed
it almost roughly to his lips.
Good-bye, she said again.
It was almost too much to ask of any man. Brett held her hand fast.
Nonot good-bye, he answered with rising passion. It is not
possible. It cannot be, Mariondo not say it.
I mustyou must.
Nonono! he repeated. It cannot be good-bye. Remember what you
said. Is this man who was dead to you and to all the world, if not to
me, to ruin both our lives? Are we to bow our heads and submit
patiently to such a fate as that? If I had told you long ago that he
was alive, as I alone knew he was, would you not have done your best to
free yourself from such a tie, from a manyou said it yourselfwhose
very name is a stain, and whose mere memory is a disgrace?
No, answered Marion resolutely, and withdrawing her hands. I mean
it. This is our good-bye, and this must be all, quite all. Do you think
I would ever accept such a position as that? That I could ever feel as
though the stain were wiped out and the disgrace forgotten by such a
poor formality as a divorce? No! Let me speak! Do not interrupt me yet.
If I had known six months ago that John was still alive, I would have
done it, and I should have felt perhaps, that it meant something, that
I was really free, that the world would forget the worst part of my
story, and that I could come to you as myself, not as the wife of John
Darche, forger and escaped convict. But I cannot do it now. It is too
late, now that he has come back. No power on earth can detach his past
from my present, nor clear me of his name. And do you think that I
would hang such a weight as that about your neck?
But you are wrong, answered Brett, earnestly. Altogether wrong.
The life you have lived during these last months has proved that. Have
you ever heard that any one in all the world you know hasI will not
say daredhas even thought of visiting on you the smallest particle of
your husband's guilt? Oh, no! They say the world is unkind, but it is
just in the long run.
No. People have been kind to me
No. Just, not kind.
Well, call it what you will, Marion answered, speaking in a dull
tone which had no resonance. People have overlooked my name and liked
me for myself. But it is different now. A few good friends may still
come, the nearest and dearest may stand by me, but the world will not
accept without a murmur the man who has married the divorced wife of a
convict. The world will do much, but it will not do that. And so I say
good-bye again, she continued after a little pause, once more this
last time, for I will not hamper you, I will not be a load upon you. I
will not live to give you children who may reproach you for their
mother's sake. We shall be what we werefriends. But, for the
Marion! Do not say such things!
I will, and I must say them now, for I will not give myself another
chance, she answered with unmoved determination. What has been, has
been, and cannot be undone. I did wrong months ago on that dreadful
morning, when I let you guess that I might love you. I did wrong on
that same day, when I prayed you for my sake to help John to escape,
when I made use of your love for me, to make you do the one
dishonourable action of your life. I have suffered for it. Better, far
better, that my husband should have gone then and submitted to his
sentence, than that I should have helped himmade you help me
At the risk of your own life, said Brett, interrupting her.
There was no risk at all, with you all there to help me, and I knew
There was, said Brett, insisting. You might have burned to death.
And as for what I did, I hardly knew that I was doing it. I saw that
you were really on fire and I ran to help you. No one ever thought of
holding me responsible for what happened when my back was turned. But I
would have done more, and you know I would. And now you talk of
injuring me, if you divorce that man and let me take your life into
mine! This is folly, Marion, this is downright madness!
Marion looked at him in silence for a moment.
Harry, would you do it in my place? she asked suddenly.
If your wife had forged, had been convicted, and sentenced, and you
had the public disgrace of it to bear, would you wish to give me your
Brett opened his lips to speak, and then checked himself and turned
You see! she exclaimed, still watching him.
No, that would be different, he said at last in a low voice.
Why different? I see no difference at all. Of course you must say
so, any man would in your place. But that does not make it a fact. You
would rather cut off your right hand than ask me to marry you with such
a stain on your good name. You can have nothing to answer to that, for
it is hard logic and you know it.
Call it logic, if you will, he answered coming up to her. It does
not convince me. And I will tell you more. I will not yield. I would
not be persuaded if I knew that I could be, for I will convince you, I
will persuade you that the real wrong and the only wrong is whatever
parts a man and a woman who love as we love; who are ready, as you know
we are ready, to give all that man and woman can, each for the other,
and who will give it, each to the other, in spite of everything, as I
will give you my life and my name and everything I have before I die,
whether you will have it or not!
If I say that I will not accept such a sacrifice, what then?
You will accept it, said Brett in a tone of authority.
Ah, but I will not! Harry! cried Marion, with a sudden change of
voice, I know that all you say is true. I know how generous you are,
that you would really do all you say you would. I need not say that I
thank you. That would mean too little. But I will not take from you
one-thousandth part of what you offer. I will not taint your life with
mine. You could not answer my question. You could not deny what I
saidthat if you were in my place, you would suffer anything rather
than ask me to marry you. I knowyou say it is differentbut it is
not. Disgrace is just as real from woman to man as from man to woman,
and you shall not have it from me nor through me. That is why I say
good-bye. That is why you must say it toofor my sake.
For your sake?
Yes, she answered. Do you think that I could ever be happy again?
Do you not see that if I married you now, I should be haunted through
every minute of my life by the bitter presence of the wrong done you?
Do you not know what I should feel if people looked askance at you, and
grew cold in their acquaintance, and smiled to each other when you went
by? Do you think that would be easy to bear? Yes, it is good-bye for my
sake, as well as yours. Not lightlyyou know it. It means good-bye to
love, and hope, and if I live, it means the loss of freedom, too, when
John Darche is released from prison.
What! cried Brett. Do you mean to say that you would ever let him
come back to you?
I mean that I will not be divorced. And he would come back to
mehe will come back for help, and I must give it to him when he
Receive that man under your roof! He could not believe that she
was in earnest.
Yes. Since he is alive he is still my husband. When he comes back
after undergoing his sentence I shall have to receive him.
When you know that you could have a divorce for the asking?
Which I would refuse if it were thrust upon me, she answered
That would be mad indeed. What can that possibly have to do with
This, she said. We are speaking this last time. I will not be
divorced from him; do you know why? Because if I wereif I were
freeI should be weak, and marry you. Do you understand now? Try and
understand me, for I shall not say it againit is too hard to say.
Not so hard as it is to believe.
But you will try, will you not?
The monosyllable had scarcely escaped from his lips, short,
energetic and determined, when he was interrupted by Stubbs, who seemed
destined to appear at inopportune moments on that day. He was evidently
much excited, and he stood stock still by the door. At the same time
there was a noise outside, of many feet and of subdued voices. Stubbs
made desperate gestures.
Mr. Brett, sir! Will you please come outside, sir! He was hardly
able to make himself understood.
What is the matter? asked Marion, severely.
I cannot help it, sir! Indeed I cannot, Madam! protested the
There is trouble, he said quickly to Marion, holding out his hands
as though he wished to protect her, and touching her gently. Please go
away. Leave me here.
Trouble? She was not inclined to yield.
Yes. It must be heif you have to see him, this is not the place.
With his hands, very tenderly, he pushed her toward the door at the
other end of the room, the same through which John Darche had once
escaped. She resisted for a momentthen without a word she obeyed his
word and touch and went out, covering her eyes with her hand.
Now then, what is it? asked Brett, turning sharply around as he
closed the door.
I could not help it, sir! Stubbs repeated. There is a man in the
hall as says he is Mr. Johnleastwise he says his name is John Darche,
though he has got a beard, sir, which Mr. John never had, as you may
remember, sir, and there is a lot of policemen in plain clothes and
otherwise, and Mr. Brown says they are pressmen, and the driver of the
cab, and Michael Curly, and the expressman
What do all these people want? inquired Brett, sternly. Turn them
It is a fact, sir, just as I tell youand so help me the powers,
sir, here they are coming in and I cannot keep them outI cannot, not
if I was a dozen Stubbses!
Before he had finished speaking, a number of men had pushed past him
into the room, led by Mr. Brown, very much out of breath and trying his
best to control the storm he had raised.
What is this disturbance, Brown? asked Brett angrily. Who are
It is the man, Brett! cried Mr. Brown triumphantly, and pushing
forward a burly and bearded individual in a shabby guernsey with a
black rag tied in a knot round his neck. Now just look at him, and
tell me whether he has the slightest resemblance to John Darche.
He is no more John Darche than I am! Take him away!
Out with you! cried Stubbs, only too anxious to enforce the order.
He said he was John Darche, said one of the men from Mulberry
The man refused to be turned out by Stubbs and stood his ground,
evidently anxious to clear himself. He was an honest-looking fellow
enough, and there was a twinkle in his bright blue eyes as though he
were by no means scared, but rather enjoyed the hubbub his presence
No, sir, he said in a healthy voice that dominated the rest. I am
no more John Darche than you are, sir, unless that happens to be your
name, which I ask your pardon if it is. But I said I was, and so the
bobbies brought me along. But this gentleman here, he showed me the
papers, that there was trouble about John Darche, so I just let them
bring me, which I had no call to do, barring I liked, being a sailor
man and quick on my feet.
Well then, who are you? asked Brett. And where is John Darche?
John Darche is dead, sir, and I buried him on the Patagonian
Dead? cried Brett. The colour rushed to his face, and for a moment
the room swam with him. Can you prove that, my man?
Well, sir, I say he is dead, because I saw him die and buried
himjust so, as I was telling you.
This was more than Stubbs could bear in his present humour.
Dead, is he? Mr. John's dead, is he? This man says he is dead, and
he comes here saying as he is him.
Be quiet, Stubbs, said Brett. Tell your story, my man, and be
quick about it, he added.
Yes, sir, said the man, taking his hands from his pockets, and
standing squarely before Brett. That is what I came to do if these
sons of guns will let me talk. John Darche was working his passage as
cook, sir, and we was wrecked down Magellan way, and some was drowned,
poor fellows, and some was taken off, worse luck for us. But I said I
would stick to the ship if Darche would, and we should get salvage
money. We had not much of a name to lose, either of us, so we tried it,
but the cook was not much to boast of for a sailor man, and we could
not bring her through, and she went to pieces on the Patagonian shore.
The cook, that was John Darche, he caught his death, what with too much
salt water, and too little to eat, and died two days after we got
ashore. So I buried him. And seeing as my own name wan't of much use to
me, being well known about those parts for a trifle of braining a South
American devil in Buenos Ayres, I took his, which wan't no more use to
him neither, and somehow or other I got here, by the help of Almighty
God and an Eyetalian captain, and working my passage and eating their
blooming boiled paste. And I soon found out what sort of a name I had
taken from my dead mate, for he seems to have been pretty well known to
these here gentlemen. But I daresay as you can swear, sir, that I ain't
John Darche he as you knew, and maybe as I ain't wanted on my own
account, these gentlemen will come and have a drink with me and call
Have you got anything to prove this story? Brett asked, when the
man had finished.
Well, sir, there's myself to prove it, said the sailor. I don't
know that I should care for more proof. And there's my dead mate's
watch, too. He had a watch, he had. He was a regular swell though he
was working his passage as cook. But I had to leave it with my uncle
Brett drew a long breath and clasped his hands nervously together.
I suppose you can set this man at liberty, upon my declaration that
he is not John Darche, and after hearing his story, he said, turning
to the police officer who stood near the sailor.
Oh yes, sir, answered the latter. I guess that will be all right.
If not, we'll make it right in five minutes.
Well then, I must ask you to go away for the presentand as
quickly as possible. Take that with you, my man, and come and see me
to-morrow morning. My name is Brett. The butler will write my address
I don't want your money, sir, said the sailor.
Oh yes, you do, answered Brett, with a good-humoured smile. Go
and get your watch out of pawn and bring it with you.
Very well, sir, said the sailor.
As they were going out, it struck Brett that he perhaps owed
something to Mr. Brown who, after all, had taken a great deal of
trouble in the matter.
Mrs. Darche will be very much obliged to you, Brown, he said. But
I am not sure that the matter is ended. It would be awfully good of you
to put the thing through, while I break the news to Mrs. Darche. Could
you not go along with them and see that the man is really set at
Mr. Brown was a good-natured man, and was quite ready to do all that
was asked of him. Brett thanked him once more, and he left the house
with the rest.
When they were all gone, Stubbs came back, evidently very much
relieved at the turn matters had taken.
Please go into the drawing-room, said Brett, and ask Mrs. Darche
to come here one moment, if she can speak to me alone, and keep every
one else out of the room. You understand, Stubbs.
Yes, sir, answered the butler. But it is the Lord's own mercy,
sir, especially the watch. He left the room in search of Mrs. Darche.
Scarcely a moment elapsed before she entered the room.
Stubbs said you wanted to see me, she said in a voice that shook
Brett came forward to meet her, and standing quite close to her,
looked into her eyes.
Something very strange has happened, he said, with a little
hesitation. Somethingsomething very, very goodcan you bear the
shock of a great happiness, dear?
Happiness, she repeated. What is it? Oh, yes! she exclaimed,
suddenly understanding. Oh! thank God, I see it in your eyes! It is
not true? He is not here?oh, Harry!
Yes. That is it. The whole story was only a fabrication. He is not
here. You see I cannot let you wait a moment for the good news. It is
so good. So much better even than I have told you.
Better! she cried as the colour rose to her pale cheeks. What
could be better? Oh, it is life, it is freedomit is almost more than
I can bear after this dreadful day!
But you must bear more, said Brett, smiling.
More pain? she asked with a little start. Something else?
No. More happiness.
Ah, no! There is no more!
Yes there is. Listen. There is a reason why the story could not be
true, why it is absolutely impossible that it should be true.
Impossible? She looked up suddenly. You cannot say that.
Yes I can, he answered. We have seen the last of John Darche. He
will never come back.
Never? cried Marion. Never at all? What do you mean?
Never, in this world, Brett answered gravely.
She seized his arm with sudden energy and looked into his face.
What? Noit cannot be true! Oh, do not deceive me, for the love of
John Darche is dead.
Dead! In the pause that followed, she pressed her hand to her side
as though she could not draw breath.
Oh! no! noit cannot be true. It is another story. Oh, why did you
It is true. The man who was with him when he died was here a moment
Ah, you were right, she said faintly. It is almost too much.
Brett's arm went round her and drew her towards him.
No, he answered, speaking gently in her ear, not too much for you
and me to bear together. Think of all that has died with himthink of
all the horror and misery and danger and fear that he has taken out of
the world with him. Think that there is nothing now between you and me.
Nothingnot the shadow of a nothing. That our lives are our own now,
and each the other's, yours mine, mine yours, forever and always. Ah,
Marion, dear, is that too much to bear?
Almost, she said as her head sank upon his shoulder. Ah, God!
that hell and heaven should be so near.
And such a heaven! Love! Darling! Sweetheart! Look at me!
Harry! She opened her eyes. Love! Nofind me other words for all
you are to me.
She drew his face down to hers and their lips met.