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A Saxon God by Marguerite F. Aymar

 

In the year of grace 1854, Ernest Philip King, a young attaché of the English embassy at Athens, married Haidée Amic, the most beautiful woman in that city. Neither of the pair possessed a fortune, and their united means afforded a not abundantly luxurious style of living; but they loved each other, and the fact that he was the portionless son of a Church of England divine, and she the daughter of an impecunious Greek of noble family and royal lineage, was no drawback to the early happiness of their wooing and wedding. They had two children, a boy and a girl, born within two years of each other in Athens: the girl, the elder of the two, they named Hyacinthe; the boy was called Tancredi.

Five years after this marriage had taken place King lost his position at the embassy, and only received in exchange for it a mean government clerkship in Rome at a meagre salary. Thither he removed, and after dragging out a miserable and disappointed existence five years longer, he died in the arms of his beautiful and still young wife. Thereafter the youthful widow managed to keep life in herself and her two little ones by dint of pinching, management and contrivance on the pittance that had come to her from the estate of her impecunious father. They lived in a palace, it is true—but who does not live in a palace in Rome?—high up, where the cooing doves built their nests under the leaden eaves, and where the cold winds whistled shrilly in their season.

Such accomplishments as the mother was mistress of she imparted to her children. What other education they received was derived from intercourse with many foreigners, English, French, Russians, and from familiarity with the sights and wonders of Rome, its galleries, ruins, palaces, studios.

At eighteen Tancredi had obtained a situation as amanuensis to an English historian resident in Italy; and Hyacinthe already brooded over some active and unusual future that spread itself as yet but dimly before her. She inherited from her mother her unparalleled beauty—the clear, colorless, flawless skin, the straight features, the lustrous eyes with their luxuriant lashes and long level brows, her lithe and gracious figure and slender feet and hands: of the English father her only physical trace was the large, full, mobile mouth with its firm white teeth. She had from him the modern spirit of unrest and the modern impetus and energy: from the Greek mother, a counteracting languor of temperament and an antique cast of mind.

Such, in a measure, was Hyacinthe King at twenty—a curious compound of beauty, unspent verve, irritated longings, half-superstitious imaginings, and half-developed impulses, ideas and mental powers; practically, an assistant to the worn mother in her household duties, a haunter of the beautiful places in the city of her adoption, an occasional mingler in the scant festivities of artists, a good linguist, knowing English thoroughly and speaking French and German with fluent accuracy. Watch her, with me, as she walks one spring day along the narrow Via Robbia, down which a slip of sunlight glints scantily on her young head, and, emerging into a wider thoroughfare, ascends at last the Scala Regia of the Vatican. The girl is known there, and the usually not over-courteous officials allow her to pass on at her will through hall after hall of splendor and priceless treasure. She is neither an English tourist with Baedeker, Murray and a note-book, nor an American traveller with pencil, loose leaves and a possible photographic apparatus in her pocket: therefore to the vigilant eye of the guardian of the pope's palace she is an innocuous being. Hyacinthe glides quietly through the Clementino Museum, with never a glance for the lovely, blooming Mercury of the Belvedere, or even one peep in at the cabinet where the sad Laocoön for ever writhes in impotent struggles, or a look of love for rare and radiant Apollo, or one of surprise for Hercules with the Nemean lion. She has reached the Hall of Statues—that superb gallery with its subtly-tesselated pavement, its grand marble columns with their Ionic capitals, its arches and walls of wondrous marbles—and here she stops with a little sigh before the Cupid of Praxiteles, shorn of his wings by ruthless Time or some still more ruthless human destroyer. But oh the lovesomeness of that wingless Love, the sensuous psalmody that seems about to part the young lips, and the glad eyes one may fancy glancing under that careless infant brow! Hyacinthe stands before it a long, long time while many parties come in and go out, and only moves on a little when an insolent young Frenchman offers a surmise as to her being a statue herself. She moves only as far as Ariadne: the jeune Français has made a progressive movement also, and notes behind his Paris hat to his companion that the girl looks something like the marble. She does. Though the grief of the face of the daughter of Minos as she lies deserted by her lover on the rocky shore of Naxos be a poignant and a present woe, there is the shadow of its mate on the brow and lips of the girl who gazes at its pure and pallid and all-unavailing loveliness.

The Frenchmen have gone with their guide, and there is a great stillness falling on the place, and no more tourists come that way. The light is fading, but Hyacinthe turns back to the mutilated Cupid, and ere long sits down at the base of the statue, and her head rests well on the cold marble while the darkness grows, and the guardians of the Vatican either forget or do not distinguish the white of her gown from the blurred blanchedness of the Greek Love.

So, while the mother waits at home, and wails and prays and wonders and seeks comfort among her neighbors, the daughter sleeps and dreams; and her dream is this: The wingless Love looks up and laughs as in welcome, and Hyacinthe looks up too, and they both see a new marble standing there in front of them: nay, not a marble, though white as Parian, for the eyes that laugh back at Love's and hers are blue as the blue Italian summer skies, and the curling locks of hair on the brow are of shining gold, and the palms of the beautiful hands are rosy with the bright blood of life.

And Love asks, "What would you?"

And the strange comer answers, "They say I need nothing."

And Hyacinthe in her dream says, "Is what they say the truth?" But even while she speaks the stranger sinks farther and farther from her sight, his glad blue eyes still laughing back at Love and her as he fades into one with the darkness afar off where Ariadne slumbers in sorrow. And the wingless Love smiles sadly as he speaks: "Seek your art, O daughter of a Greek mother! and you will find in it the answer to your question." And Hyacinthe, sighing, wakes in the dreary dusk of the first dawn.

She was affrighted at first, and then slowly there came upon her, with the fast-increasing daylight, a great peace.

"'Seek your art!'" the girl murmured to herself, pushing back her dark locks and gazing away toward the spot where the hero of her dream had vanished. "So will I, Cupid, and there I shall find the answer to my question, to all questions; for I shall find him whom my soul loveth. Who was he, what was he, so resplendent and shining among all these old Greeks? Where shall I seek? Say, Cupid? But you are a silent god, and will not answer me. I know, I know," she cried, clasping her slender hands together. "I will go to my father's country, where, he used to tell me, all the men are fair and all the women good. There I shall find my art and you, my Saxon god."

When the mother heard of the dream and the resolution she was sad at first, but decided finally to write to the two maiden sisters of Ernest King, who had idolized their young, handsome brother, and who answered promptly that they would gladly receive his only daughter. Hyacinthe took a brave and smiling leave of the madre and Tancredi, after having gone to look her farewell at the wingless Love and the sleeping stricken Ariadne. "Ah, dear Cupid," she whispered, "I am going to-day to find my art and the Saxon whom my soul loveth. Addio, you and Ariadne!"

From the old into the new, from the tried to the untried, from inertness to action, from the Greek marbles to Saxon men and women, from Rome to Britain, from breathing to living. Down the Strand, past Villiers, Essex, Salisbury, Northumberland and many more streets whose names tell of vanished splendors, whose dingy lengths are smoke-blackened, and far enough off from the whole aroma of Belgravia, is Craven street. The houses are all of a pattern—prim, dingy, small-windowed habitations, but within this one there must be comfort, for the fire-flames dance on the meek minute panes and a heavy curl of smoke is cutting the air above its square, business-like little chimney-pot. Drawing-room there is none to this mansion, but there is a pleasant square substitute that the Misses King call "the library" in the mornings, and "the parlor" after their early, unfashionable dinner. It is full of old-time furniture, such as connoisseurs are searching after now—dark polished tables with great claws and little claws; high presses and cupboards brass bound and with numberless narrow drawers; spindle-legged chairs, with their worn embroidered backs and seats; a tall thin bookcase; a haircloth sofa with a griffin at either end mounting savage guard over an erect pillow; a thick hearth-rug; and two easy-chairs with cushioned arms and two little old ladies, the one quaint and frigid—she had once loved and had had a successful rival; the other quaint and sweet—she had loved too, and had lost her lover in the depths of the sea.

The rattle of a cab down the still street, a pull-up, a short, sharp knock, and in two minutes more Hyacinthe King had been welcomed kindly by one aunt and tenderly pressed to the heart of the other. A sober housemaid had taken her wraps, and was even now unpacking her boxes in the chamber above. She was sitting in Miss Juliet's own armchair, and had greatly surprised Ponto, the ancient cat, by taking him into her lap.

"Will you ring for tea and candles, sister?" asked Miss King primly.—"We have had tea of course, Hyacinthe, but we will have some infused for you at once."

"Perhaps Hyacinthe doesn't like tea," suggested Miss Juliet with her thin, once-pretty hand on the rope.

"Not like tea? Absurd! Was not her father an Englishman, I should like to know? Our niece is not a heathen, Juliet."

"But, aunt," smiled Hyacinthe, "I do not like tea, after all. You are both so kind to me," sighed she: "I hope you will not ever regret my coming to England and to you."

"It is not likely that our niece—"

"That Ernest's daughter—" said Miss Juliet softly.

"Should ever do aught to give us cause to blush—"

"Save with pride and pleasure," added the younger old lady, laying her fingers on the girl's soft, dark, abundant hair.

"I hope not, aunts." Hyacinthe looked at Miss King a bit wistfully as she spoke. "You know I am not come to be a burden to you—the madre wrote: I am come to England to pursue my art."

"My sister-in-law did—"

"Your dear mother did—" Miss Juliet chimed in gently.

"Write something of the kind, but, Hyacinthe, ladies do not go out into the world seeking their fortunes. I believe I have heard"—Miss King speaks austerely and as from some pinnacle of pride—"that there are women who write and lecture and paint, and, in short, do anything that is disgraceful; but you, my dear, are not of that blood."

"Yes, aunt, I am. I would do any of those things—must do one of them or something—to help me find my Saxon god."

"Your what?" cries Miss King, staring over her spectacles at the serene, heroic young face.

"Your what, dear child?" murmurs Miss Juliet protectively, looking down into her niece's dark, fathomless eyes.

"Saxon god," says she quite low, for the first time in all her life experiencing a conscious shyness.

"Are you a pagan, Hyacinthe King?" shrieks the elder aunt.

"Tell us all about it, my dear," says Miss Juliet soothingly.

And Hyacinthe tells them her dream and her resolve.

"So much for an honest English gentleman wedding with a—"

"Lovely Greek girl," finishes Miss Juliet quietly, glancing for the first time at her sister. "They say your mother was very beautiful, Hyacinthe."

"Yes the madre is beautiful: she is like the Venus of the Capitol."

Miss King utters a woeful "Ah!" which her sister endeavors to smother in some kind inquiry.

When Hyacinthe has been shown to her room by the sober housemaid, the two old ladies discuss the situation in full, and Miss Juliet's gentleness so far prevails over Miss King's frigid despair as to wring from the latter a tardy promise to let the young niece pursue the frightful tenor of her way, at least for a time.

A week after her arrival in London, the girl, having informed herself with a marvellous quickness of intelligence on various practical points, calmly laid her plans before her aunts, the elder of whom listened in frigid silence, the younger with assurances of assistance and counsel. She then proceeded to put her projects into action with a curious matter-of-factness that, considering the purely ideal nature of her aim, is to be accounted for in no other way than by the recollection of her parentage—the Greek soul and the British brain.

On a Wednesday morning Hyacinthe and Miss Juliet repaired to the studio of a great sculptor: the niece had previously written to him stating her desire, and the aunt, nervous and excited, clung to the girl's firm arm in a kind of terror.

"You wish to know if you have a talent for my art?" he asked kindly, looking into the pallid young face with its earnest uplifted look. "I think that had you the least gift that way, having lived in Rome, you would know it without my assistance. However, here is a bit of clay: we shall soon see. Try what your fingers can make of it—if a cup like this one." He turned off, but watched her, nevertheless, with fixed curiosity as she handled the lump of damp earth.

Hyacinthe could make nothing of it save twist it from one shapeless mass into another.

"I had hoped it would be sculpture," she said a bit regretfully as she left the great man's workroom. "In my dream he was a statue."

On Thursday the two went to the atelier of a renowned painter. He too bent curious interested eyes upon the absorbed and searching face of his strange applicant as he placed pencils, canvas and brushes before her, and directed her to look for a model to the simple vase that stood opposite or to the bust of Clyte that was beside her. But Hyacinthe had no power over these things, and the two turned their faces back toward the small house in Craven street.

On Friday they sought out a celebrated musician, but the long, supple hands—veritable "piano-hands" he noted from the first—availed the girl in no way here. The maestro said she "might spend years in study, but the soul was not attuned to it."

When Saturday came they went to a famous teacher for the voice. But, alas! Hyacinthe, he said frankly, had "no divine possibilities shrined in her mellow tones." Perhaps she was a little, just a little, disheartened on Saturday night. If so, none knew it.

On Sunday the old ladies took her to St. Martin-le-Grand's church, but all she said over the early cold dinner was, "Women cannot preach in the churches. I could not find him there."

And Miss King said grace after that meat in a loud and aggressive voice, but Miss Juliet whispered a soft and sweet "Amen."

On Monday morning Hyacinthe slipped from the house unseen. There was a vein of subtlety and finesse in her that came to the surface on occasion: it had been in Haidée Amic and in her ancestors. She repaired to a maître de ballet, an old man who lived in an old house in the East End.

"Can you learn to dance, mademoiselle—learn to dance 'superbly'?" repeated the danseur after his applicant. "Well, I should say no, most decidedly—never. You have not a particle of chic, coquetry: you were made for tragedy, mademoiselle, and not for the airy, indefinable graces of my art. You should devote yourself to the drama."

Hyacinthe looked up, and the old Italian repeated his assertion, adding a recommendation to seek an interview with Mr. Arbuthnot, the proprietor and manager of one of the principal theatres. Before Hyacinthe returned to the little domicile in Craven street she had been enrolled as a member of the company of this temple of the dramatic art.

Arbuthnot was speculative, and withal lucky: he had never brought out even a "successful failure," and a something in this odd young woman's beauty, earnestness, frankness, pleased him. He gave her the "balcony scene," of course, to read to him; noted her poses, which were singularly felicitous; knew at once that she was not cast for the lovesick Veronese maiden; was surprised to discover that she was quite willing to follow his advice—to begin in small parts and work her way up if possible. The shrewd London manager foresaw triumphs ahead when the insignificant "Miss H. Leroy" should pass into the actress Hyacinthe King.

"Aunts, I went out by myself," the girl says as she dawdles shyly over her newly-acquired habit of tea-drinking that evening, "because I knew—I fancied—that you, Aunt Juliet, would not care to go with me where I was going."

"Yes, dear," says Miss Juliet, glad to have the curious child of her favorite brother back with her in safety.

"A foolish and an unwarrantable step, Hyacinthe, which I trust—I trust—you will never repeat." Thus Miss King, adding with severity, "May I inquire, Hyacinthe, where you went?"

"To Bozati the ballet-master first."

"To whom?" Miss King draws forth an old-fashioned salts-bottle, and Miss Juliet glances nervously at the tea-tray. "To whom? Can it be possible that my niece, your father's daughter—No, no! my ears deceive me."

"He said I never could learn to be anything more than a coryphée, aunt, and I knew that that would not be accounted an art," she says quite low. "But I then went to Mr. Arbuthnot. You know him, aunt?"

"I have heard of such a person," answers Miss King, peering austerely over her spectacles at Hyacinthe.

"He has engaged me at a salary of two pounds a week, and he says that some day I shall be great." Her eyes dilate and look out afar, through the tiny window-panes, into a limitless and superb future. "I have found my art; and I am so happy!"

Miss Juliet's glance intercepts her sister's speech. There is silence in the quaint, small parlor that night; and for the first time in many a year the memory of her lost lover's first kiss rests softly on Miss King's wan, wrinkled cheek: for the first time in many a year she has remembered the perfection of him and forgotten the perfidy.

That was October.

This is June.

"For thirty-seven consecutive nights the girl has held the public of this great capital spellbound by the magical power of her art. She has great beauty—Greek features lighted up by Northern vividness and intellectuality; but transcendent beauty falls to the lot of very many actresses, yet it is not to be said of any one of them that they have what this unheralded, unknown girl possesses—tragic genius such as thrilled through the Hebrew veins of dead Rachel, and flew from her, a magnetic current, straight to the hearts and brains of her auditors. Of such metal is made this new star. She has as yet appeared but in one rôle, that of Adrienne in Scribe's play, but within the compass of its five acts she runs the wild and weary gamut from crowned love to crowned despair. It is a new interpretation, and a remarkable one—an interpretation that is tinged with the blight of our inquisitive and mournful age: self-consciousness, that terrible tormentor in her soul, sits for ever in judgment upon every impulse of the heart of Adrienne, and makes of pain a stinging poison, and of pleasure but a poor potentiality. Her death-scene is singular and awful—awful in its physical adherence to realism, and singular in that it does not disgust, or even horrify, but leaves a memory of peace with the listener, who has not failed to catch the last strain for sight of the divine and dying eyes." So the critic of the London oracle wrote of Hyacinthe King.

That night the people had crowned her with a wreath of gold laurel-leaves, and she was walking to her dressing-room, when, as she passed the green-room door, a merry laugh made her glance in. There were fifty people there—actors, journalists, swells and hangers-on of the playhouse. A little to the right of the group, and talking and laughing with two or three others, stood a man both young and handsome.

Hyacinthe went toward him, and the people, unused to seeing her there for a long time past, hushed their talk, and one of them marked the newness of the light that shone in her eyes and the happiness that smiled on her lips as she came. He was a poet, and he went home and made verses on her: he had never thought of such a thing before. She raised the wreath of laurel from her brows and lifted it up to the golden head of the man whose laugh she had caught. "My Saxon god!" she murmured, so low that none heard her save him, and then, leaving the crown on his head, she turned and walked away. She went home to the shabby house in Craven street, which was still her home, and before she slept she whispered to Miss Juliet, "I have found him."

In less than twenty-four hours the scene enacted in the green-room of the theatre had been reported everywhere—first in the clubs, then in all the salons—not last in the pretty boudoir of Lady Florence Ffolliott.

Every night thereafter Hyacinthe saw her hero sitting in his stall: he never missed once, but generally came in well on toward the end of the performance. At the close of a fortnight, as she was making her way to her room after the curtain had come down for the last time, she met him face to face: he had planned it so.

"What would you?" she asked in the odd foreign fashion that clung to her still, and showed itself when she was taken unawares.

"They say I need nothing;" and the blue eyes laugh down into hers. "They say I need nothing now that I have been crowned by a King with laurel-leaves." But even as he speaks the smile fades from his lips: he sees no answering flash on hers.

"That is what you said in the Vatican that night," she says. "Is it true?"

He begins to fear that she is losing her mind, but he speaks gently to her: "Have we met before, then?"

Hyacinthe, standing between two dusty flies while the mirth of the farce rings out from the stage, tells her dream, for the third time, to-night to him. "Is it true that you need nothing?" she asks again, raising anxious eyes to his.

For a moment the man wavers. Last night he would have laughed to scorn the idea of his not being ready with a pretty speech for a beautiful actress: just now he is puzzled for a reply, and he knows full well that some strange new jarring hand is sweeping the strings of his life. "It is true," he sighs, remembering a true heart that loves him. "I have wealth, position—these things first, for they breed the rest," he says with a small sneer—"troops of friends and the promised hand of a woman whom I have asked to marry me."

"I am sorry," she says at last with a child's sad, unconscious inflection, "but all the same, I have found you. Cupid said I should."

He surveys her calculatingly: he is a very keen man of the world, and he has recovered sufficiently from the peculiarity of the situation to speculate upon it with true British acumen. Shall he, or shall he not, put a certain question to her, or leave the matter at rest for ever? Being a person well used to gratifying himself, he asks his question: "Supposing that it had not been true, what would you have had to say to me then?" And, strange to say, his face flushes as he finishes—not hers.

"Nothing." The word comes coldly forth without a fellow. He knows then that she has only looked at Love, and that the thoughtless harmony of his life is done for him.

"May I see you sometimes?" he cries as she makes a step onward.

"When you will," she replies, going farther along the narrow passage, and then looking back at him clearly. "I have found you: I am very content. And if you thought I loved you—Well, Love, you know, was a blind god, and so must ever be content to look at happiness through another's eyes."

He went away, and he said to himself, "She does not know what love means."

Night after night found him at the theatre, and night after night saw him seek at least a few moments' talk with her; and always he came away thinking her a colder woman than any of the statues she was so fond of speaking about. In her conversation there was no personality; and although her intellect pleased him, the lack of anything else annoyed him in equal proportion. And yet he loved the woman whom he was going to marry. She was a sweet woman—"God never made a sweeter," he told himself a hundred times a day. He had wooed her and won her, and wished to make her his wife.

She was a sweet woman. For weeks now she had heard harsh rumors and evil things of him that made her heart ache, but she had given no sign, nor would she have ever done so had not her friends goaded her to the point. She hears the light footstep coming along the corridor toward her, and she knows that it comes this morning at her especial call. She sees the bonny face and feels the light kiss on her cheek. Heaven forgive her if she inwardly wonder if these lips she loves have last rested on another woman's face!

"Roy," she says, stealing up to him and laying one of her lovely round arms about his neck, "tell me, dear, if you have ceased to love me—if you would rather—rather break our engagement? Because, dear, better a parting now, before it is too late, than a lifelong misery afterward." There are tears in the blue bewitching eyes, and tears in the gentle voice that he is not slow to feel.

"Florence"—the young man catches her in his arms—"who has—What do you mean? I have not ceased to love you." All the fair fascination that has made her so dear to him in the past rushes over him now to her rescue.

"Then, Roy, why, why—Oh, I cannot say it!" Her pretty head, gold like his own, falls on his shoulder.

"Look up, love." He is not a coward, whatever else. "You mean to say, 'Why do I, a man professing to love one woman, constantly seek the society of another?' Do not you?"

She bows her head, her white lids droop. There is a pause so long that the ticking of the little clock on the mantel seems a noise in the stillness. He puts her out of his arms, rises, picks up a newspaper, throws it down, and says, "God help me! I don't know." Then another pause; and now the ticking of the little clock is fairly riotous. "Florence, love," kneeling by her, "bear with me. It's a fascination, an infatuation—an intellectual disloyalty to you, if you will—but it is nothing more, and it must die out soon."

Lady Dering was a charming woman: all her friends agreed upon that point, and also upon another—that an invitation to visit Stokeham Park was equivalent to a guarantee for so many days of unalloyed pleasure. It was a grand old place, not quite three hours from town, with winding broad avenues and glimpses of sweeping smooth lawns between the oaks and beeches. And the company which the mistress of Stokeham had gathered about her this autumn was, if possible, a more congenial and yet varied one than usual. Having no children of her own, Lady Dering enjoyed especially the society of young people, and generally contrived to have a goodly number of them about her—Mildred and Mabel Masham, Lady Isobel French, Lady Florence Ffolliott, her cousin the little Viscount Harleigh—who was very far gone in love with his uncle's daughter, by the by—the Hon. Hugh Leroy Chandoce and a host of others.

Her ladyship, telegram in hand, has just knocked at Florence Ffolliott's door. Florence is a special favorite with the old lady: she approves thoroughly of her engagement, which was formally announced at Stokeham last year, and of the man of her choice, who at the present moment is lighting a cigar and cogitating in a somewhat ruffled frame of mind over the piece of news he has just been made acquainted with by his hostess.

"Florence, my dear," says her ladyship, "I am the most fortunate woman in the world. I have been longing for a new star in my domestic firmament, and, behold! it dawns. I expected to have her here some time, but not so early as this; and the charming creature sends me a telegram that she arrives by the eleven-o'clock express this morning: I have just sent to the station for her. I met Roy on my way to you, and conveyed the intelligence to him, but of course he only looked immensely bored: these absurd men! they never can take an interest in but one woman at a time." Lady Florence's quick color came naturally enough. "Now, my child, guess the name of the new luminary."

"I'm quite sure I can't," says the girl, her roses paling to their usual pink. "Tell me, dear Lady Dering: suspense is terrible;" and she laughs merrily.

"Hyacinthe King, the great actress, my dear: could anything be more delicious?" Lady Dering has been absent on the Continent during the season, and is utterly ignorant of all the on dits of the day.

"Charming!" murmurs Florence Ffolliott with the interested inflection of thorough good breeding; but her hands, lying clasped together on her lap, clasp each other cruelly.

"Yes," continues her ladyship. "I knew her father in my young days—Ernest King—the Kings of Essex, you know?" Florence nods assent. "He was the handsomest fellow imaginable, married a lovely Greek girl; and here comes his daughter startling the world with her genius twenty odd years after my little flirtation with him. It makes one feel old, child—old. I called on her the last day I was in London, but she was out; so then I wrote and begged her to come to Stokeham when she could. Now I must leave you, dear. What are you reading? Poetry, of course. I never read anything else either when I was your age and was engaged to Sir Harry." The bright, stately lady laughs gayly as she goes, and Florence Ffolliott sits before her fire until luncheon-time, turning over a dozen wild fancies in her brain—fancies that do no honor either to the man she loves or the woman whom she cannot help disliking heartily. But her just, and withal generous, soul dismisses them at last, and she bows her head to the blow and acknowledges it to be what it is—an accident.

That the advent of Hyacinthe King in their midst should have created no sensation among the party assembled at Stokeham would scarcely be a reasonable proposition: it did, and not only the excitement that the coming of a renowned meteor of the theatrical firmament might be expected to occasion in a house full of British subjects, but an undertone of surmise, and some sarcasms, between those—the majority—who were well enough aware of Roy Chandoce's peculiar infatuation for the beautiful young player. The pair were watched keenly, it must be confessed, but with a courtesy and savoir faire that admitted no betrayal of this absolutely human curiosity—by none more keenly and more guardedly than by Lady Florence Ffolliott. Neither she nor they discovered aught in the conduct of either the man or the woman to find fault with or cavil at.

Hyacinthe was quickly voted a "man's woman" by the women, and as quickly pronounced a "thorough enigma" by the men, not one of whom had succeeded, even after the lapse of fourteen days, in arousing in her that which is most dear to the masculine soul, a preference—although it be a mild, a shamming or an evanescent preference—for one of them above another. Sir Vane Masham set her down over his third dinner's sherry as "an iceberg," in which kind opinion the little viscount joined, with the amendment of "polar refrigerator." Young Arthur French, who was very hard hit indeed, said she was like a "beautiful, heartless marble statue," but the poet, who had made verses on her, called her a "white lily with a heart of flame."

Not one of them all, however, could dispute the perfect quality of her beauty to-night. In a robe of violet satin, with pale jealous topazes shining on her neck and arms and in the sleek braids of her dark hair, Hyacinthe was fit for the regards of emperors had they been there to see. They were not. In the conservatory at Stokeham, where she stood amid the tropical trees and flowers and breathing the warm close scent of rich blossoms foreign to English soil, there was only one man to look at her, and he was no potentate, but a blond young fellow, with blue blood in his veins and a sad riot in his heart.

For the first time since they have been in the house together he has left his betrothed wife's side and sought hers: in the face of this little watching world about him he has, at last, quietly risen from the seat at Florence Ffolliott's side and followed that trail of sheeny satin into the conservatory. "Not one word for me?" he says in a low voice that has in it a sort of desperation.

She turns startled and looks at him: "Who wants me? Who sent you to fetch me?"

"No one 'sent' me," he replies bitterly: "I 'want' you. Hyacinthe! Hyacinthe!" He stretches two arms out toward her, and when he dies Roy Chandoce remembers the look that leaps then into the eyes of this girl.

"Do not touch me!" She shrinks away with the expression of awakened womanhood on her fair face. "If you do, you will make me mad." For he has followed and is close to her.

"No, no, no! Not 'mad'—happy! Ah, Hyacinthe!" His arms are no more outstretched or empty: they enfold all the beauty and all the bliss that now and then give mortality fresh faith in heaven. "Ah, Hyacinthe!" That is all that he says, and she is silent while his kisses fall upon her mouth and cheeks and brow and hands.

And when, ten minutes later, he goes back where he came from, he knows that it is no "intellectual disloyalty" that lured him from his seat: he knows that the poet was right, and Vane and the viscount and Arthur all wrong.

There is to be a meet at Stokeham Park the next morning, and Hyacinthe, for the first time in her life, witnesses the pretty sight. Two or three only of the ladies are going to ride to cover, among them Lady Florence Ffolliott, who looks superbly on her horse and in her habit, and feels superbly too—in a transient physical fashion—as she glances down at Hyacinthe, who in her clinging creamy gown, with a furred cloak thrown about her, stands in the porch to see them off. She knows nothing of horses or riding, and is therefore debarred from the exhilarating pleasure, and has also declined Lady Dering's offer to drive with her to the first cover that is to be drawn. But the pretty and, to her, novel picture of the various vehicles with their freight of merry matrons, girls and children, the scarlet coats of the sportsmen and the servants, the hounds drawn up a good piece off, the four ladies who are going to ride, and stately, cheery Lady Dering exchanging cordial and courteous greetings with her friends and neighbors, while good-hearted Sir Harry gives some last instructions to his whip, is sufficiently charming.

"You have eaten no breakfast, Mr. Chandoce," cries the hostess, "and you are quite as white as Lady Florence's glove there. I insist upon your taking a glass of something before you are off.—Patrick!" But before Patrick has even started on my lady's errand Hyacinthe has fetched from the hall a glass of claret-cup, and holds it up to him where he sits on his lithe and mettlesome hunter.

He takes it, drains it to the last drop and hands it back to her. Their eyes meet, and his lips murmur very softly a Saxon's sweetest word of endearment—"My darling!"

"Quarter-past eleven!" calls Sir Harry; and the gay cavalcade moves off, and Hyacinthe, waving adieu to Lady Dering, watches it fade away among the windings of the avenue.

"Mr. Chandoce has a green mount," mutters one of the footmen to another.

"Yes, he have, but he's not a green horseman."

"No," admits the other.

Hyacinthe remembers their talk later in the day—that day that she passes in such a restless wandering from one room to another—from the conservatory to the library, and from music-room to hall. Finally, at four o'clock she has composed herself with a book in the library, and before the fire sits half lost in reading, half in wondering. Without, the early gloom of the short day is gathering, and the bare trees cast murk shadows all across the frostbitten lawns, and late birds twitter their good-night notes, and a few sleepy rooks caw coldly to each other.

She hears none of this, is as self-absorbed a being as ever lived—one whose whole solitude is full to overflowing with the thought of another. But at last there breaks in upon Hyacinthe's still dream a shriek, and then wild tumult, noises and excited speech, and the girl springs to her feet, and in a flash is out in the wide hall in the very midst of it all.

He lies there quite, quite dead. For ever flown the breath that made of this beautiful clay a living man. Lady Florence has him halfway in her arms as she kneels on the floor beside the body of her lover, and between her sobs cries out to them to "Go for the surgeons!" for whom long since Sir Harry sent. Hyacinthe put her hands behind her and leaned heavily against the column that by good chance she found there. When the crowd parted from him a little she leaned over a bit and stared: that was all.

"Do not you touch him!" cried the English maiden, maddened by her grief, as she glanced up at the fair face.

"No, I will not: I do not wish to," returns the other softly, straightening herself; and leaning there in her close gown, she is as tearless as some caryatid.

When the surgeons have come on their useless mission, and gone, when Florence Ffolliott stands weeping and wringing her hands, Hyacinthe ventures over a pace nearer to the two.

"You see, Lady Florence," she says very gently, and with that curious sorrowful look on her face that made it so like to the Ariadne's—"you see, he was not meant for any woman: he was a Saxon god."

A year later Lady Florence Ffolliott's engagement to her cousin, the little lovelorn viscount, was announced.

Sir Henry Leighton told me last week that he had been called in consultation with regard to Hyacinthe King, and that there were not three months of life in her. "She cannot act," said the great medical man: "she plays her parts, it is true, but the power to portray has gone out of her. She is going back to Rome for a while, and, I can assure you, she will never return."

Marguerite F. Aymar.