Saxon God by
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
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,
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
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
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
"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
"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,
"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
"Should ever do aught to give us cause
"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
"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
"Your what?" cries Miss King, staring
over her spectacles at the serene, heroic
"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
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 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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"Charming!" murmurs Florence Ffolliott
with the interested inflection of thorough
good breeding; but her hands, lying
clasped together on her lap, clasp each
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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."