In the Wilderness
Part 4 out of 15
When he got to Great Cumberland Place, Daventry, who was to make a
fourth, had just arrived, and was taking off his coat in the hall. He
looked unusually excited, alert in an almost feverish way, which was
surprising in him.
"I'm in a case," he said, "a quite big case. Bruce Evelin's got it for
me. I'm going to be junior to Addington; Lewis & Lewis instruct me.
What d'you think of that?"
Dion clapped him on the shoulder.
"The way of salvation!"
"Where will it lead me?"
"To Salvation, of course."
"I'll walk home with you to-night, old Dion. I must yap across the
Park with you to Hyde Park Corner, and tell you all about the woman
They were going upstairs.
"My client, my client. My dear boy, this is no ordinary case"--he
waved a small hand ceremoniously--"it's a /cause celebre/ or I
shouldn't have bothered myself with it."
Lurby opened the drawing-room door.
"How's Rosamund?" was Beatrice's first question to Dion, as they shook
"All right. I left her just going to feed from a tray in her little
"Rosamund always loved having a meal on a tray," said Bruce Evelin.
"She's a big child still. But enthusiasts never really grow up,
luckily for them."
"Dinner is served, sir."
"Daventry, will you take Beatrice?"
As Dion followed with Bruce Evelin, he said:
"So you've got Daventry a case!"
Bruce Evelin lowered his voice.
"He's a good fellow and a clever fellow, but he's got to work. He's
been slacking for years."
Dion understood. Bruce Evelin wished Beatrice to marry Daventry.
"He respects you tremendously, sir. If any one can make him work, you
"I'm going to," returned Bruce Evelin, with his quiet force. "He's got
remarkable ability, and the slacker--well----"
He looked at Dion with his dark, informed eyes, in which knowledge of
the world and of men always seemed sitting.
"I can bear with bad energy almost more easily and comfortably than
During dinner, without seeming to, Dion observed and considered
Beatrice and Daventry, imagining them wife and husband. He felt sure
Daventry would be very happy. As to Beatrice, he could not tell. There
was always in Beatrice's atmosphere, or nearly always, a faint
suggestion of sadness which, curiously, was not disagreeable but
attractive. Dion doubted whether Daventry could banish it. Perhaps no
one could, and Daventry had, perhaps, that love which does not wish to
alter, which says, "I love you with your little sadness--keep it."
Daventry was exceptionally animated at dinner. The prospect of
actually appearing in court as counsel in a case had evidently worked
upon him like a powerful tonic. Always able to be amusing when he
chose, he displayed to-night a new something--was it a hint of
personal dignity?--which Dion had not hitherto found in him. "Dear old
Daventry," the agreeable, and obviously clever, nobody, who was a sure
critic of others, and never did anything himself, who blinked at
moments with a certain feebleness, and was too fond of the cozy
fireside, or the deep arm-chairs of his club, had evidently caught
hold of the flying skirts of his self-respect, and was thoroughly
enjoying his capture. He did not talk very much to Beatrice, but it
was obvious that he was at every moment enjoying her presence, her
attention; when she listened earnestly he caught her earnestness and
it seemed to help him; when she laughed, in her characteristic
delicate way,--her laugh seemed almost wholly of the mind,--he beamed
with a joy that was touching in a man of his type because it was so
unself-conscious. His affection for Beatrice had performed the miracle
of drawing him out of the prison of awareness in which such men as he
dwell. To-night he was actually unobservant. Dion knew this by the
changed expression of his eyes. Even Beatrice he was not observing; he
was just feeling what she was, how she was. For once he had passed
beyond the narrow portals and had left satire far behind him.
When Beatrice got up to go to the drawing-room he opened the door for
her. She blushed faintly as she went out. When the door was shut, and
the three men were alone, Bruce Evelin said to Dion:
"Will you mind if Daventry and I talk a little shop to-night?"
"Of course not. But would you rather I went up and kept Beattie
"No; stay till you're bored, or till you think Beatrice is bored. Let
us light up."
He walked slowly, with his gently precise gait, to a cigar cabinet,
opened it, and told the young men to help themselves.
"And now for the Clarke case," he said.
"Is that the name of the woman from Constantinople?" asked Dion.
"Yes, Mrs. Beadon Clarke," said Daventry. "But she hates the Beadon
and never uses it. Beadon Clarke's trying to divorce her, and I'm on
her side. She's staying with Mrs. Chetwinde. Esme Darlington, who's an
old friend of hers, thinks her too unconventional for a diplomatist's
Bruce Evelin had lighted his cigar.
"We mustn't forget that our friend Darlington has always run tame
rather than wild," he remarked, with a touch of dry satire. "And now,
Daventry, let us go through the main facts of the case, without, of
course, telling any professional secrets."
And he began to outline the Clarke case, which subsequently made a
great sensation in London.
It appeared that Mrs. Clarke had come first to him in her difficulty,
and had tried hard to persuade him to emerge from his retirement and
to lead for her defense. He had been determined in refusal, and had
advised her to get Sir John Addington, with Daventry as junior. This
she had done. Now Bruce Evelin was carefully "putting up" Daventry to
every move in the great game which was soon to be played out, a game
in which a woman's honor and future were at stake. The custody of a
much-loved child might also come into question.
"Suppose Addington is suddenly stricken with paralysis in the middle
of the case, you must be ready to carry it through triumphantly
alone," he observed, with quietly twinkling eyes, to Daventry.
"May I have a glass of your oldest brandy, sir?" returned Daventry,
holding on to the dinner-table with both hands.
The brandy was given to him and the discussion of the case continued.
By degrees Dion found himself becoming strongly interested in Mrs.
Clarke, whose name came up constantly. She was evidently a talented
and a very unusual woman. Perhaps the latter fact partially accounted
for the unusual difficulties in which she was now involved. Her
husband, Councilor to the British Embassy at Constantinople, charged
her with misconduct, and had cited two co-respondents,--Hadi Bey, a
Turkish officer, and Aristide Dumeny, a French diplomat,--both
apparently men of intellect and of highly cultivated tastes, and both
slightly younger than Mrs. Clarke. A curious fact in the case was that
Beadon Clarke was deeply in love with his wife, and had--so Dion
gathered from a remark of Bruce Evelin's--probably been induced to
take action against her by his mother, Lady Ermyntrude Clarke, who
evidently disliked, and perhaps honestly disbelieved in, her daughter-
in-law. There was one child of the marriage, a boy, to whom both the
parents were deeply attached. The elements of tragedy in the drama
were accentuated by the power to love possessed by accuser and
accused. As Dion listened to the discussion he realized what a driving
terror, what a great black figure, almost monstrous, love can be--not
only the sunshine, but the abysmal darkness of life.
Presently, in a pause, while Daventry was considering some difficult
point, Dion remembered that Beatrice was sitting upstairs alone. Her
complete unselfishness always made him feel specially chivalrous
towards her. Now he got up.
"It's tremendously interesting, but I'm going upstairs to Beattie," he
"Ah, how subtle of you, my boy!" said Bruce Evelin.
"I was just coming to the professional secrets."
Dion smiled and went off to Beattie. He found her working quietly,
almost dreamily, on one of those fairy garments such as he had seen
growing towards its minute full size in the serene hands of his
"You too!" he said, looking down at the filmy white. "How good you are
to us, Beattie!"
He sat down.
"What's this in your lap?"
The filmy white had been lifted in the process of sewing, and a little
exquisitely bound white book was disclosed beneath it.
"May I look?"
Dion took the book up, and read the title, "The Kasidah of Haji Abdu
"I never heard of this. Where did you get it?"
"Guy Daventry left it here by mistake yesterday. I must give it to him
Dion opened the book, and saw on the title page: "Cynthia Clarke,
Constantinople, October 1896," written in a curiously powerful, very
"It doesn't belong to Guy."
"No; it was lent to him by his client, Mrs. Clarke."
Dion turned some of the leaves of the book, began to read and was
"By Jove, it's wonderful, it's simply splendid!" he said in a moment.
"Just listen to this:
"True to thy nature, to thyself,
Fame and disfame nor hope, nor fear;
Enough to thee the still small voice
Aye thundering in thine inner ear.
From self-approval seek applause:
What ken not men thou kennest thou!
Spurn every idol others raise:
Before thine own ideal bow."
He met the dark eyes of Beatrice.
"You care for that?"
"Yes, very much," she answered, in her soft and delicate voice.
"Beattie, I believe you live by that," he said, almost bruskly.
Suddenly he felt aware of a peculiar sort of strength in her, in her
softness, a strength not at all as of iron, mysterious and tenacious.
"Dear old Beattie!" he said.
Moisture had sprung into his eyes.
"How lonely our lives are," he continued, looking at her now with a
sort of deep curiosity. "The lives of all of us. I don't care who it
is, man, woman, child, he or she, every one's lonely. And yet----"
A doubt had surely struck him. He sat very still for a minute.
"When I think of Rosamund I can't think of her as lonely."
"No. Somehow it seems as if she always had a companion with her."
He turned a few more pages of Mrs. Clarke's book, glancing here and
"Rosamund would hate this book," he said presently. "It seems
thoroughly anti-Christian. But it's very wonderful."
He put the book down.
"Dear Beattie! Guy cares very much for you."
"Yes, I know," said Beatrice, with a great simplicity.
"If he comes well out of this case, and feels he's on the road to
success, he'll be another man. He'll dare as a man ought to dare."
She went on sewing the little garment for Dion's child.
"I'll walk across the Park with you, old Dion," said Daventry that
night, as they left the house in Great Cumberland Place, "whether
you're going to walk home or whether you're not, whether you're in a
devil of a hurry to get back to your Rosamund, or whether you're in a
mood for friendship. What time is it, by the way?"
He was wrapped in a voluminous blue overcoat, with a wide collar,
immense lapels, and apparently only one button, and that button so
minute that it was scarcely visible to the naked eye. From somewhere
he extracted a small, abnormally thin watch with a gold face.
"Only twenty minutes to eleven. We dined early."
"You really wish to walk?"
"I not only wish to walk, I will walk."
The still glory of frost had surely fascinated London, had subdued the
rumbling and uneasy black monster; it seemed to Dion unusually quiet,
almost like something in ecstasy under the glittering stars of frost,
which shone in a sky swept clear of clouds by the hand of the
lingering winter. It was the last night of February, but it looked,
and felt, like a night dedicated to the Christ Child, to Him who lay
on the breast of Mary with cattle breathing above Him. As Dion gazed
up at the withdrawn and yet almost piercing radiance of the wonderful
sky, instinctively he thought of the watching shepherds, and of the
coming of that Child who stands forever apart from all the other
children born of women into this world. He wished Rosamund were with
him to see the stars, and the frost glistening white on the great
stretches of grass, and the naked trees in the mysterious and romantic
"Shall we take the right-hand path and walk round the Serpentine?"
said Daventry presently.
"Yes. I don't mind. Rosamund will be asleep, I think. She goes to bed
"When will it be?"
"Very soon, I suppose; perhaps in ten days or so."
Daventry was silent. He wanted and meant to talk about his own
affairs, but he hesitated to begin. Something in the night was making
him feel very small and very great. Dion gave him a lead by saying:
"D'you mind my asking you something about the Clarke case?"
"Anything you like. I'll answer if I may."
"Do you believe Mrs. Clarke to be guilty or innocent?"
"Oh, innocent!" exclaimed Daventry, with unusual warmth.
"And does Bruce Evelin?"
"I believe so. I assume so."
"I noticed that, while I was listening to you both, he never expressed
any opinion, or gave any hint of what his opinion was on the point."
"I feel sure he thinks her innocent," said Daventry, still almost with
heat. "Not that it much matters," he added, in a less prejudiced
voice. "The point is, we must prove her to be innocent whether she is
nor not. I happen to feel positive she is. She isn't the least the
siren type of woman, though men like her."
"What type is she?"
"The intellectual type. Not a blue-stocking! God forbid! I couldn't
defend a blue-stocking. But she's a woman full of taste, who cares
immensely for fine and beautiful things, for things that appeal to the
eye and the mind. In that way, perhaps, she's almost a sensualist.
But, in any other way! I want you to know her. She's a very
interesting woman. Esme Darlington says her perceptions are exquisite.
Mrs. Chetwinde's backing her up for all she's worth."
"Then she believes her to be innocent too, of course."
"Of course. Come with me to Mrs. Chetwinde's next Sunday afternoon.
She'll be there."
"On a night like this, doesn't a divorce case seem preposterous?"
"Well, you have the tongue of the flatterer!"--he looked up--"But
perhaps it does, even when it's Mrs. Clarke's."
"Are you in love with Mrs. Clarke?"
"Deeply, because she's my first client in a /cause celebre/."
"Have you forgotten her book again?"
"Her book? 'The Kasidah'? I've got it here."
He tapped the capacious side pocket of his coat.
"You saw it then?" he added.
"Beattie had it when I went upstairs."
"I wonder what she made of it," Daventry said, with softness in his
voice. "Don't ever let Rosamund see it, by the way. It's anything
rather than Christian. Mrs. Clarke gets hold of everything, dives into
everything. She's got an unresting mind."
They had come to the edge of the Serpentine, on which there lay an
ethereal film of baby ice almost like frosted gauze. The leafless
trees, with their decoration of filigree, suggested the North and its
peculiar romance--nature trailing away into the mighty white solitudes
where the Pole star reigns over fields of ice.
"Hyde Park is bringing me illusions to-night," said Daventry. "That
water might be the Vistula. If I heard a wolf howling over there near
the ranger's lodge, I shouldn't be surprised."
A lifeguardsman, in a red cloak, and a woman drifted away over the
frost among the trees.
"I love Mrs. Clarke as a client, but perhaps I love her even more
because, through her, I hope to get hold of something I've--I've let
drop," continued Daventry.
Daventry put his arm through Dion's.
"I don't know whether I can name it even to you; but it's something a
man of great intelligence, such as myself, should always keep in his
"The clergy are apt to call it self-respect," he at length added, in a
Dion pressed his arm.
"Bruce Evelin wants you to marry Beatrice."
"He hasn't told you so?"
"No, except by taking the trouble to force you to work."
Daventry stood still.
"I'm going to ask her--almost directly."
"Come on, Guy, or we shall have all the blackbirds round us. Look over
Not far off, among the trees, two slinking and sinister shadows of men
seemed to be intent upon them.
"Isn't it incredible to practise the profession of a blackmailer out
of doors on a night like this?" said Dion. "D'you remember when we
were in the night train coming from Burstal? You had a feather that
"Damn it! Why rake up--?"
"And I said how wonderful it would be if some day I were married to
"Is it wonderful?"
"One wants to be worthy of it all," he murmured. "And then"--he
laughed, as if calling in his humor to save him from something--"the
children, in their turn, feel they would like to live up to papa.
Dion, people can be caught in the net of goodness very much as they
can be caught in the net of evil. Let us praise the stars for that."
They arrived at the bridge. The wide road, which looked to-night
extraordinarily clean, almost as if it had been polished up for the
passing of some delicate procession in the night, was empty. There
were no vehicles going by; the night-birds kept among the trees. The
quarter after eleven chimed from some distant church. Dion thought of
Rosamund, as he paused on the bridge, thought of himself as a husband
yielding his wife up to the solitude she evidently desired. He took
Daventry for his companion; she had the child for hers. There was
suffering of a kind even in a very perfect marriage, but what he had
told Daventry was true; it had been very wonderful. He had learnt a
great deal in his marriage, dear lessons of high-mindedness in desire,
of purity in possession. If Rosamund were to be cut off from him even
to-night he had gained enormously by the possession of her. He knew
what woman can be, and without disappointment; for he did not choose
to reckon up those small, almost impalpable things which, like passing
shadows, had now and then brought a faint obscurity into his life with
Rosamund, as disappointments. They came, perhaps, from himself. And
what where they? He looked out over the long stretch of unruffled
water, filmed over with ice near the shores, and saw a tiny dark
object traveling through it with self-possession and an air of purpose
beneath the constellations; some aquatic bird up to something,
heedless of the approaching midnight and the Great Bear.
"Look at that little beggar!" said Daventry. "And we don't know so
very much more about it all than he does. I expect he's a Muscovy
duck, or drake, if you're a pedant about genders."
"He's evidently full of purpose."
"Out in the middle of the ice-cold Serpentine. He's only a speck now,
like our world in space. Now I can't see him."
"You're longer-sighted than I am. But, Dion, I'm seeing a longish way
to-night, farther than I've seen before. Love's a great business, the
greatest business in life. Ambition, and greed, and vanity, and
altruism, and even fanaticism, must give place when it's on hand, when
it harnesses its winged horses to a man's car and swings him away to
"Ask her. I think she'll have you."
A star fell through the frosty clear sky. Dion remembered the falling
star above Drouva. This time he was swift with a wish, but it was not
a wish for his friend.
They reached Hyde Park Corner just before midnight and parted there.
Dion hailed a hansom, but Daventry declared with determination that he
was going to walk all the way home to Phillimore Gardens.
"To get up my case, to arrange things mentally," he explained. "Big
brains always work best at night. All the great lawyers toil when the
stars are out. Why should I be an exception? I dedicate myself to
Cynthia Clarke. She will have my undivided attention and all my
"I know why."
He put one hand on the apron which Dion had already closed.
"No, really, you're wrong. I am deeply interested in Mrs. Clarke
because she is what she is. I want her to win because I'm convinced
she's innocent. Will you come to Mrs. Chetwinde's next Sunday and meet
"Yes, unless Rosamund wants me."
"That's always understood."
The cab drove away, and the great lawyer was left to think of his case
under the stars.
When the cab turned the corner of Great Market Street, Westminster,
and came into Little Market Street, Dion saw in the distance before
him two large, staring yellow eyes, which seemed to be steadily
regarding him like the eyes of something on the watch. They were the
lamps of a brougham drawn up in front of No. 5. Dion's cabman,
perforce, pulled up short before the brown door of No. 4.
"A carriage in front of my house at this time of night!" thought Dion,
as he got out and paid the man.
He looked at the coachman and at the solemn brown horse between the
shafts, and instantly realized that this was the carriage of a doctor.
With a thrill of anxiety, a clutch at his heart, he thrust his
latchkey into the door. It stuck; he could not turn it. This had never
happened before. He tried, with force, to pull the key out. It would
not move. He shook it. The doctor's coachman, he felt, was staring at
him from the box of the brougham. As he struggled impotently with the
key his shoulders began to tingle, and a wave of acute irritation
flooded him. He turned sharply round and met the coachman's eyes,
shrewd, observant, lit, he thought, by a flickering of sarcasm.
"Has the doctor been here long?" said Dion.
"This is a doctor's carriage, isn't it?"
"Yes, sir. Doctor Mayson."
"Well, I say, has he been here long?"
"About an hour, sir, or a little more."
Dion turned again and assaulted the latchkey.
But he had to ring the bell to get in. When the maid came, looking
excited, he said:
"I don't know what on earth's the matter with this key. I can't either
turn it or get it out."
The girl put her hand to the key, and without any difficulty drew it
out of the door.
"I don't know--I couldn't!"
The girl shut the door.
"What's the matter? Why's the doctor here? It isn't----?"
"Yes, sir," said the girl, with a sort of intensely feminine
significance. "It came on quite sudden."
"How long ago?"
"A good while, sir. I couldn't say exactly."
"But why wasn't I sent for?"
"My mistress wouldn't have you sent for, sir. Besides, we were
expecting you every moment."
"Ah! and I--and now it's past midnight."
He had quickly taken off his coat, hat and gloves. Now he ran up the
shallow steps of the staircase. There was a sort of tumult within him.
He felt angry, he did not know why. His whole body was longing to do
something strong, eager, even violent. He hated his latchkey, he hated
the long stroll in Hyde Park, the absurd delay upon the bridge, his
preoccupation with the Muscovy duck, or whatever bird it was, voyaging
over the Serpentine. Why had nothing told him not to lose a moment but
to hurry home? He remembered that he had been specially reluctant to
leave Rosamund that evening, that he had even said to her, "I don't
know why it is, but this evening I hate to leave you." Perhaps, then,
he had been warned, but he had not comprehended the warning. As he had
looked at the stars he had thought of the coming of the most wonderful
Child who had ever visited this earth. Perhaps then, too---- He tried
to snap off his thought, half confusedly accusing himself of some sort
of blasphemy. At the top of the staircase he turned and looked down
into the hall.
"Have you managed to get the nurse?"
"Yes, sir; she's been here some time."
At this moment Doctor Mayson opened the door of Rosamund's room and
came out upon the landing--a tall, rosy and rather intellectual-
looking man, with tranquil gray eyes, and hair thinning above the high
knobby forehead. Dion had never seen him before. They shook hands.
"I shouldn't go into your wife's room," said Doctor Mayson in a low
"Why? Doesn't she wish it?"
"She wished you very much to be in the house."
"Then why not send for me?"
"She was against it, I understand. And she doesn't wish any one to be
with her just now except the nurse and myself."
"When do you expect . . .?"
"Some time during the night. It's evidently going to be an easy
confinement. I'm just going down to send away my carriage. It's no use
keeping the horse standing half the night in this frost. I'm very fond
"Fond of horses--are you?" said Dion, rather vacantly.
"Yes. Are you?"
The low bass voice almost snapped out the question.
"Oh, I dare say. Why not? They're useful animals. I'll come down with
you if I'm not to go into my wife's room."
He followed the doctor down the stairs he had just mounted. When the
carriage had been sent away, he asked Doctor Mayson to come into his
den for a moment. The pains of labor had come on unexpectedly, but
were not exceptionally severe; everything pointed to an easy
"Your wife is one of the strongest and healthiest women I have ever
attended," Doctor Mayson added; "superb health. It's a pleasure to see
any one like that. I look after so many neurotic women in London. They
give themselves up for lost when they are confronted with a perfectly
natural crisis. Mrs. Leith is all courage and self-possession."
"But then why shouldn't I see her?"
"Well, she seems to have an extraordinary sense of duty towards the
child that's coming. She thinks you might be less calm than she is."
"But I'm perfectly calm."
Doctor Mayson smiled.
"D'you know, it's really ever so much better for us men to keep right
out of the way in such moments as these. It's the kindest thing we can
"Very well. I'll do it of course."
"I never go near my own wife when she's like this."
Dion stared into the fire.
"Have you many children?"
"Eleven," remarked the bass voice comfortably. "But I married very
young, before I left Guy's. Now I'll go up again. You needn't be the
"I'm not," said Dion bruskly.
And Doctor Mayson went off, not treading with any precaution. It was
quite obvious that his belief in his patient was genuine.
Eleven children! Well, some people were prepared to take any risks and
to face any responsibilities. Was it very absurd to find in the coming
of one child a tremendous event? Really, Doctor Mayson had almost
succeeded in making Dion feel a great fool. Just another child in the
world--crying, dribbling, feebly trying to grasp the atmosphere;
another child to cut its first tooth, with shrieks, to have whooping-
cough, chicken-pox, rose rash and measles; another child to eat of the
fruit of the tree; another child to combat and love and suffer and
die. No, damn it, the matter was important. Doctor Mayson and his rosy
face were unmeaning. He might have eleven, or a hundred and eleven
children, but he had no imagination.
Dion shut himself into his room, sat down in a big armchair, lit his
pipe and thought about the Clarke case. He had just told Doctor Mayson
a white lie. He was determined not to think about his Rosamund: he
dared not do that; so his mind fastened on the Clarke case. Almost
ferociously he flung himself upon it, called upon the unknown Mrs.
Clarke, the woman whom he had never seen to banish from him his
Rosamund, to interpose between her and him. For Rosamund was
inevitably suffering, and if he thought about that suffering his deep
anxiety, his pity, his yearning would grow till they were almost
unendurable, might even lead his feet to the room upstairs, the room
forbidden to him to-night. So he called to Mrs. Clarke, and at last,
obedient to his insistent demand, she came and did her best for him,
came, he imagined, from Constantinople, to keep him company in this
night of crisis.
As Daventry had described her, as Bruce Evelin had, with casual
allusions and suggestive hints, built her up before Dion in the talk
after dinner that night, so she was now in the little room: a woman of
intellect and of great taste, with an intense love for, and fine
knowledge of, beautiful things: a woman who was almost a sensualist in
her adoration for fine and rare things.
"I detest the sensation of sinking down in things!"
Who had said that once with energy in Dion's hearing? Oh--Rosamund, of
course! But she must not be admitted into Dion's life in these hours
of waiting. Mrs. Clarke must be allowed to reign. She had come (in
Dion's imagination) all the way from the city of wood and of marble
beside the seaway of the Golden Horn, a serious, intellectual and
highly cultivated woman, whom a cruel fate--Kismet--was now about to
present to the world as a horrible woman. Pale, thin, rather
melancholy she was, a reader of many books, a great lover of nature, a
woman who cared very much for her one child. Why should Fate play such
a woman such a trick? Perhaps because she was very unconventional, and
it is unwise for the bird which sings in the cage of diplomacy to sing
any but an ordinary song.
Daventry had dwelt several times on Mrs. Clarke's unconventionality;
evidently the defense meant to lay stress on it.
So now Dion sat with a pale, thin, unconventional woman, and she told
him about the life at Stamboul. She knew, of course, that he had hated
Constantinople. He allowed her to know that. And she pointed out to
him that he knew nothing of the wonderful city, upon which Russia
breathes from the north, and which catches, too, strange airs and
scents and murmurs of voices from distant places of Asia. What does
the passing tourist of a Pera hotel know about the great city of the
Turks? Nothing worth knowing. The roar of the voices of the Levant
deafens his ears; the glitter of the shop windows in the Grande Rue
blinds his eyes. He knows not the exquisite and melancholy charm, full
of nuances and of the most fragile and evanescent subtleties, which
Constantinople holds for those who know her and love her well.
The defense was evidently going to make much of Mrs. Clarke's passion
for the city on the Bosporus. Daventry had alluded to it more than
once, and Bruce Evelin had said, "Mrs. Clarke has always had an
extraordinary feeling for places. If her husband had accused her of a
liaison with Eyub, or of an unholy fancy for the forest of Belgrad, we
might have been in a serious difficulty. She had, I know, a regular
romance once with the Mosquee Verte at Brusa."
Evidently she was a woman whom ordinary people would be likely to
misunderstand. Dion sat in his arm-chair trying to understand her. The
effort would help him to forget, or to ignore if he couldn't forget,
what was going on upstairs in the little house. He pulled hard at his
pipe, as an aid to his mind; he sat alone for a long while with Mrs.
Clarke. Sometimes he looked across the Golden Horn from a bit of waste
ground in Pera, near to a small cemetery: it was from there, towards
evening, that he had been able to "feel" Stamboul, to feel it as an
unique garden city, held by the sea, wooden and frail, marble and
enduring. And somewhere in the great and mysterious city Mrs. Clarke
had lived and been adored by the husband who, apparently still
adoring, was now trying to get rid of her.
Sometimes Dion heard voices rising from the crowded harbor of the
Golden Horn. They crept up out of the mystery of the evening; voices
from the caiques, and from the boats of the fishermen, and from the
big sailing vessels which ply to the harbors of the East, and from the
steamers at rest near the Galata Bridge, and from the many craft of
all descriptions strung out towards the cypress-crowned hill of Eyub.
And Mrs. Clarke, standing beside him, began to explain to him in a low
and hoarse voice what these strange cries of the evening meant.
Daventry had mentioned that she had a hoarse voice.
At a little after three o'clock Dion sat forward abruptly in his chair
and listened intently. He fancied he had heard a faint cry. He waited,
surrounded by silence, enveloped by silence. There was a low drumming
in his ears. Mrs. Clarke had escaped like a phantom. Stamboul, with
its mosques, its fountains, its pigeons and its plane trees, had faded
away. The voices from the Golden Horn were stilled. The drumming in
Dion's ears grew louder. He stood up. He felt very hot, and a vein in
his left temple was beating--not fluttering, but beating hard.
He heard, this time really heard, a cry overhead, and then the muffled
sound of some one moving about; and he went to the door, opened it and
passed out into the hall. He did not go upstairs, but waited in the
hall until Doctor Mayson came down, looking as rosy and serene and
unconcerned as ever.
"Well, Mr. Leith," he said, "you're a father. I congratulate you. You
wife has got through beautifully."
"By the way, it's a boy."
"Yes, of course."
Doctor Mayson looked genuinely surprised.
"Why 'of course'? I don't quite understand."
"She knew it was going to be a boy."
The doctor smiled faintly.
"Women often have strange fancies at such times. I mean before they
"But you see she was right. It is a boy."
"Exactly," returned the doctor, looking at his nails.
Dion saw the star falling above the hill of Drouva.
Did the Hermes know?
On the following Sunday afternoon Dion was able to fulfil his promise
to Daventry. Rosamund and the baby were "doing beautifully"; he was
not needed at home, so he set out with Daventry, who came to fetch
him, to visit Mrs. Willie Chetwinde in Lowndes Square.
When they reached the house Daventry said:
"Now for Mrs. Clarke. She's really a wonderful woman, Dion, and she's
got a delicious profile."
"Oh, it's that--"
"No, it isn't."
He gently pushed Mrs. Chetwinde's bell.
As they went upstairs they heard a soft hum of voices.
"Mrs. Clarke's got heaps of people on her side," whispered Daventry.
"This is a sort of rallying ground for the defense."
"Where's her child? Here?"
"No, with some relations till the trial's over."
The butler opened the door, and immediately Dion's eyes rested on Mrs.
Clarke, who happened to be standing very near to it with Esme
Darlington. Directly Dion saw her he knew at whom he was looking.
Something--he could not have said what--told him.
By a tall pedestal of marble, on which was poised a marble statuette
of Echo,--not that Echo who babbled to Hera, but she who, after her
punishment, fell in love with Narcissus,--he saw a very thin, very
pale, and strangely haggard-looking woman of perhaps thirty-two
talking to Esme Darlington. At first sight she did not seem beautiful
to Dion. He was accustomed to the radiant physical bloom of his
Rosamund. This woman, with her tenuity, her pallor, her haunted cheeks
and temples, her large, distressed and observant eyes--dark hazel in
color under brown eyebrows drawn with a precise straightness till they
neared the bridge of the nose and there turning abruptly downwards,
her thin and almost white-lipped mouth, her cloudy brown hair which
had no shine or sparkle, her rather narrow and pointed chin, suggested
to him unhealthiness, a human being perhaps stricken by some obscure
disease which had drained her body of all fresh color, and robbed it
of flesh, had caused to come upon her something strange, not easily to
be defined, which almost suggested the charnel-house.
As he was looking at her, Mrs. Clarke turned slightly and glanced up
at the statue of Echo, and immediately Dion realized that she had
beauty. The line of her profile was wonderfully delicate and refined,
almost ethereal in its perfection; and the shape of her small head was
exquisite. Her head, indeed, looked girlish. Afterwards he knew that
she had enchanting hands--moving purities full of expressiveness--and
slim little wrists. Her expression was serious, almost melancholy, and
in her whole personality, shed through her, there was a penetrating
refinement, a something delicate, wild and feverish. She looked very
sensitive and at the same time perfectly self-possessed, as if,
perhaps, she dreaded Fate but could never be afraid of a fellow-
creature. He thought:
"She's like Echo after her punishment."
On his way to greet Mrs. Chetwinde, he passed by her; as he did so she
looked at him, and he saw that she thoroughly considered him, with a
grave swiftness which seemed to be an essential part of her
personality. Then she spoke to Esme Darlington. Dion just caught the
sound of her voice, veiled, husky, but very individual and very
attractive--a voice that could never sing, but that could make of
speech a music frail and evanescent as a nocturne of Debussy's.
"Daventry's right," thought Dion. "That woman is surely innocent.
Mrs. Chetwinde, who was as haphazard, as apparently absent-minded and
as shrewd in her own house as in the houses of others, greeted Dion
with a vague cordiality. Her husband, a robust and very definite
giant, with a fan-shaped beard, welcomed him largely.
"Never appear at my wife's afternoons, you know," he observed, in a
fat and genial voice. "But to-day's exceptional. Always stick to an
innocent woman in trouble."
He lowered his voice in speaking the last sentence, and looked very
human. And immediately Dion was aware of a special and peculiar
atmosphere in Mrs. Chetwinde's drawing-room on this Sunday afternoon,
of something poignant almost, though lightly veiled with the sparkling
gossamer which serves to conceal undue angularities, something which
just hinted at tragedy confronted with courage, at the attempted stab
and the raised shield of affection. Here Mrs. Clarke was in sanctuary.
He glanced towards her again with a deepening interest.
"Canon Wilton's coming in presently," said Mrs. Chetwinde. He's
preaching at St. Paul's this afternoon, or perhaps it's Westminster
Abbey--something of that kind."
"I've heard him two or three times," answered Dion, who was on very
good, though not on very intimate, terms with Canon Wilton. "I'd
rather hear him than anybody."
"In the pulpit--yes, I suppose so. I'm scarcely an amateur of sermons.
He's a volcano of sincerity, and never sends out ashes. It's all red-
hot lava. Have you met Cynthia Clarke?"
"She's over there, echoing my Echo. Would you like----?"
"Very much indeed."
An extremely pale man, with long, alarmingly straight hair and
wandering eyes almost the color of silver, said something to her.
"Watteau? Oh, no--he died in 1721, not in 1722," she replied. "The
only date I can never remember is William the Conqueror. But of course
you couldn't remember about Watteau. It's distance makes memory.
You're too near."
"That's the fan painter, Murphy-Elphinston, Watteau's reincarnation,"
she added to Dion. "He's always asking questions about himself.
Cynthia--this is Mr. Dion Leith. He wishes----" She drifted away, not,
however, without dexterously managing to convey Mr. Darlington with
Dion found himself looking into the large, distressed eyes of Mrs.
Clarke. Daventry was standing close to her, but, with a glance at his
friend, moved away.
"I should like to sit down," said Mrs. Clarke.
"Here are two chairs----"
"No, I'd rather sit over there under the Della Robbia. I can see Echo
She walked very slowly and languidly, as if tired, to a large and low
sofa covered with red, which was exactly opposite to the statuette.
Dion followed her, thinking about her age. He supposed her to be about
thirty-two or thirty-three, possibly a year or two more or less. She
was very simply dressed in a gray silk gown with black and white lines
in it. The tight sleeves of it were unusually long and ended in
points. They were edged with some transparent white material which
rested against her small hands.
She sat down and he sat down by her, and they began to talk. Unlike
Mrs. Chetwinde, Mrs. Clarke showed that she was alertly attending to
all that was said to her, and, when she spoke, she looked at the
person to whom she was speaking, looked steadily and very unself-
consciously. Dion mentioned that he had once been to Constantinople.
"Did you care about it?" said Mrs. Clarke, rather earnestly.
"I'm afraid I disliked it, although I found it, of course,
tremendously interesting. In fact, I almost hated it."
"That's only because you stayed in Pera," she answered, "and went
about with a guide."
"But how do you know?"--he was smiling.
"Well, of course you did."
"I could easily make you love it," she continued, in an oddly
impersonal way, speaking huskily.
Dion had never liked huskiness before, but he liked it now.
"You are fond of it, I believe?" he said.
His eyes met hers with a great deal of interest.
He considered her present situation an interesting one; there was
drama in it; there was the prospect of a big fight, of great loss or
great gain, destruction or vindication.
In her soul already the drama was being played. He imagined her soul
in turmoil, peopled with a crowd of jostling desires and fears, and he
was thinking a great many things about her, and connected with her,
almost simultaneously--so rapidly a flood of thoughts seemed to go by
in the mind--as he put his question.
"Yes, I am," replied Mrs. Clarke. "Stamboul holds me very fast in its
curiously inert grip. It's a grip like this."
She held out her small right hand, and he put his rather large and
sinewy brown hand into it. The small hand folded itself upon his in a
curious way--feeble and fierce at the same time, it seemed--and held
him. The hand was warm, almost hot, and soft, and dry as a fire is dry
--so dry that it hisses angrily if water is thrown on it.
"Now, you are trying to get away," she said. "And of course you can,
Dion made a movement as if to pull away his hand, but Mrs. Clarke
retained it. How was that? He scarcely knew; in fact he did not know.
She did not seem to be doing anything definite to keep him, did not
squeeze or grip his hand, or cling to it; but his hand remained in
"There," she said, letting his hand go. "That is how Stamboul holds.
Do you understand?"
Mrs. Chetwinde's vague eyes had been on them during this little
episode. Dion had had time to see that, and to think, "Now, at such a
time, no one but an absolutely innocent woman would do in public what
Mrs. Clarke is doing to me." Mrs. Chetwinde, he felt sure, full of all
worldly knowledge, must be thinking the very same thing.
"Yes," he said. "I think I do. But I wonder whether it could hold me
"I know it could."
"May I ask how you know?"
"Why not? Simply by my observation of you."
Dion remembered the swift grave look of consideration she had given to
him as he came into the room. Something almost combative rose up in
him, and he entered into an argument with her, in the course of which
he was carried away into the revelation of his mental comparison
between Constantinople and Greece, a comparison into which entered a
moral significance. He even spoke of the Christian significance of the
Hermes of Olympia. Mrs. Clarke listened to him with a very still, and
apparently a very deep, attention.
"I've been to Greece," she said simply, when he had finished.
"You didn't feel at all as I did, as I do?"
"You may know Greece, but you don't know Stamboul," she said quietly.
"If you had shown it to me I might feel very differently," Dion said,
with a perhaps slightly banal politeness.
And yet he did not feel entirely banal as he said it.
"Come out again and I will show it to you," she said.
She was almost staring at him, at his chest and shoulders, not at his
face, but her eyes still kept their unself-conscious and almost oddly
"You are going back there?"
"Of course, when my case is over."
Dion felt very much surprised. He knew that Mrs. Clarke's husband was
accredited to the British Embassy at Constantinople; that the scandal
about her was connected with that city and with its neighborhood--
Therapia, Prinkipo, and other near places, that both the
co-respondents named in the suit lived there. Whichever way the case
went, surely Constantinople must be very disagreeable to Mrs. Clarke
from now onwards. And yet she was going back there, and apparently
intended to take up her life there again. She evidently either saw or
divined his surprise, for she added in the husky voice:
"Guilt may be governed by circumstances. I suppose it is full of
alarms. But I think an innocent woman who allows herself to be driven
out of a place she loves by a false accusation is merely a coward. But
all this is very uninteresting to you. The point is, I shall soon be
settled down again at Constantinople, and ready to make you see it as
it really is, if you ever return there."
She had spoken without hardness or any pugnacity; there was no
defiance in her manner, which was perfectly simple and
"Your moral comparison between Constantinople and Greece--it isn't
fair, by the way, to compare a city with a country--doesn't interest
me at all. People can be disgusting anywhere. Greece is no better than
Turkey. It has a wonderfully delicate, pure atmosphere; but that
doesn't influence the morals of the population. Fine Greek art is the
purest art in the world; but that doesn't mean that the men who
created it had only pure thoughts or lived only pure lives. I never
read morals into art, although I'm English, and it's the old hopeless
English way to do that. The man who made Echo"--she turned her large
eyes towards the statuette--"may have been an evil liver. In fact, I
believe he was. But Echo is an exquisite pure bit of art."
Dion thought of Rosamund's words about Praxiteles as they sat before
Hermes. His Rosamund and Mrs. Clarke were mentally at opposite poles;
yet they were both good women.
"My friend Daventry would agree with you, I know," he said.
"He's a clever and a very dear little man. Who's that coming in?"
Dion looked and saw Canon Wilton. He told Mrs. Clarke who it was.
"Enid told me he was coming. I should like to know him."
"Shall I go and tell him so?"
"Presently. How's your baby? I'm told you've got a baby."
Dion actually blushed. Mrs. Clarke gazed at the blush, and no doubt
thoroughly understood it, but she did not smile, or look arch, or full
of feminine understanding.
"It's very well, thank you. It's just like other babies."
"So was mine. Babies are always said to be wonderful, and never are.
And we love ours chiefly because they aren't. I hate things with wings
growing out of their shoulders. My boy's a very naughty boy."
They talked about the baby, and then about Mrs. Clarke's son of ten;
and then Canon Wilton came up, shook hands warmly with Dion, and was
introduced by Mrs. Chetwinde to Mrs. Clarke.
Presently, from the other side of the room where he was standing with
Esme Darlington, Dion saw them in conversation; saw Mrs. Clarke's eyes
fixed on the Canon's almost fiercely sincere face.
"It's going to be an abominable case," murmured Mr. Darlington in
Dion's ear. "We must all stand round her."
"I can't imagine how any one could think such a woman guilty," said
"It has all come about through her unconventionality." He pulled his
beard and lifted his ragged eyebrows. "It really is much wiser for
innocent people, such as Cynthia, to keep a tight hold on the
conventions. They have their uses. They have their place in the
scheme. But she never could see it, and look at the result."
"But then don't you think she'll win?"
"No one can tell."
"In any case, she tells me she's going back to live at
"Madness! Sheer madness!" said Mr. Darlington, almost piteously. "I
shall beg her not to."
Dion suppressed a smile. That day he had gained the impression that
Mrs. Clarke had a will of iron.
When he went up to say good-by to her, Daventry had already gone; he
said he had work to do on the case.
"May I wish you success?" Dion ventured to say, as he took her hand.
"Thank you," she answered. "I think you must go in for athletic
exercises, don't you?"
Her eyes were fixed on the breadth of his chest, and then traveled to
his strong, broad shoulders.
"Yes, I'm very keen on them."
"I want my boy to go in for them. It's so important to be healthy."
He felt the Stamboul touch in her soft, hot hand. As he let it go, he
"I can give you the address of a first-rate instructor if your boy
ever wants to be physically trained. I go to him. His name's Jenkins."
She was still looking at his chest and shoulders. The expression of
distress in her eyes seemed to be deepening. But a tall man, Sir John
Killigrew, one of her adherents, spoke to her, and she turned to give
him her complete attention.
"I'll walk with you, if you're going," said Canon Wilton's strong
voice in Dion's ear.
"That's splendid. I'll just say good-by to Mrs. Chetwinde."
He found her by the tea-table with three or four men and two very
smart women. As he came up one of the latter was saying:
"It's all Lady Ermyntrude's fault. She always hated Cynthia, and she
has a heart of stone."
The case again!
"Oh, are you going?" said Mrs. Chetwinde.
She got up and came away from the tea-table.
"D'you like Cynthia Clarke?" she asked.
"Yes, very much. She interests me."
She looked at him, and seemed about to say something, but did not
"You saw her take my hand," he said, moved by a sudden impulse.
"We were talking about Stamboul. She did it to show me----" He broke
off. "I saw you felt, as I did, that no one but a through and through
innocent woman could have done it, just now--like that, I mean."
"Of course Cynthia is innocent," Mrs. Chetwinde said, rather coldly
and very firmly. "There's Canon Wilton waiting for you."
She turned away, but did not go back to the tea-table; as Dion went
out of the room he saw her sitting down on the red sofa by Mrs.
Canon Wilton and he walked slowly away from the house. The Canon, who
had some heart trouble of which he never spoke, was not allowed to
walk fast; and to-day he was tired after his sermon at the Abbey. He
inquired earnestly about Rosamund and the child, and seemed made happy
by the good news Dion was able to give him.
"Has it made all life seem very different to you?" he asked.
Dion acknowledged that it had.
"I was half frightened at the thought of the change which was coming,"
he said. "We were so very happy as we were, you see."
The Canon's intense gray eyes shot a glance at him, which he felt
rather than saw, in the evening twilight.
"I hope you'll be even happier now."
"It will be a different sort of happiness now."
"I think children bind people together more often than not. There are
cases when it's not so, but I don't think yours is likely to be one of
"Is it a good-looking baby?"
"No, really it's not. Even Rosamund thinks that. D'you know, so far
she's marvelously reasonable in her love."
"That's splendid," said Canon Wilton, with a strong ring in his voice.
"An unreasonable love is generally a love with something rotten at its
Dion stood still.
"Oh, is that true really?"
The Canon paused beside him. They were in Eaton Square, opposite to
"I think so. But I hate anything that approaches what I call mania.
Religious mania, for instance, is abhorrent to me, and, I should
think, displeasing to God. Any mania entering into a love clouds that
purity which is the greatest beauty of love. Mania--it's detestable!"
He spoke almost with a touch of heat, and put his hand on Dion's
"Beware of it, my boy."
They walked on, talking of other things. A few minutes before they
parted they spoke of Mrs. Clarke.
"Did you know her before to-day?" asked the Canon.
"No. I'd never even seen her. How dreadful for her to have to face
such a case."
"The fact that she's innocent gives her a great pull, though. I
realized what a pull when I was having a talk with her."
"I don't know much about the case," was all that the Canon said. "I
hope justice will be done in it when it comes on."
Dion thought that there was something rather implacable in his voice.
"I don't believe Mrs. Clarke doubts that."
"Did she say so?" asked Canon Wilton.
"No. But I felt that she expected to win--almost knew she would win."
"I see. She has confidence in the result."
"She seems to have."
"Women often have more confidence in difficult moments than we men.
Well, here I must leave you."
He held out his big, unwavering hand to Dion.
"Good-by. God bless you both, and the child, whether it's plain or
not. One good thing's added to us when we start rather ill-favored;
the chance of growing into something well-favored."
He gripped Dion's hand and walked slowly, but powerfully, away.
As Dion had said, the baby was an ordinary baby. "In looks," the nurse
remarked, "he favors his papa." Certainly in this early stage of his
career the baby had little of the beauty and charm of Rosamund. As his
head was practically bald, his forehead, which was wrinkled as if by
experience and the troubles of years, looked abnormally high. His
face, full of puckers, was rather red; his nose meant very little as
yet; his mouth, with perpetually moving lips, was the home of bubbles.
His eyes were blue, and looked large in his extremely small
countenance, which was often decorated with an expression of mild
inquiry. This expression, however, sometimes changed abruptly to a
network of wrath, in which every feature, and even the small bald
head, became involved. Then the minute feet made feeble dabs, or
stabs, at the atmosphere; the tiny fists doubled themselves and
wandered to and fro as if in search of the enemy; and a voice came
forth out of the temple, very personal and very intense, to express
the tempest of the soul.
"Hark at him!" said the nurse. "He knows already what he wants and
what he /don't/ want."
And Rosamund, listening as only a mother can listen, shook her head
over him, trying to condemn the rage, but enjoying the strength of her
child in the way of mothers, to whom the baby's roar perhaps brings
the thought, "What a fine, bold man he'll be some day." If Rosamund
had such a thought the nurse encouraged it with her. "He's got a proud
spirit already, ma'am. He's not to be put upon. Have his way he will,
and I don't altogether blame him." Nor, be sure, did Rosamund
altogether blame the young varmint for anything. Perhaps in his tiny
fisticuffs and startlingly fierce cries she divined the Doric, in
embryo, as it were; perhaps when "little master" shrieked she thought
of the columns of the Parthenon.
But Dion told the truth to Canon Wilton when he had said that Rosamund
was marvelously reasonable, so far, in her love for her baby son. The
admirable sanity, the sheer healthiness of outlook which Dion loved in
her did not desert her now. To Dion it seemed that in the very
calmness and good sense of her love she showed its great depth, showed
that already she was thinking of her child's soul as well as of his
Dion felt the beginnings of a change in Rosamund, but he did not find
either her or himself suddenly and radically changed by the possession
of a baby. He had thought that perhaps as mother and father they would
both feel abruptly much older than before, even perhaps old. It was
not so. Often Dion gazed at the baby as he bubbled and cooed, sneezed
with an air of angry astonishment, stared at nothing with a look of
shallow surmise, or, composing his puckers, slept, and Dion still felt
young, even very young, and not at all like a father.
"I'm sure," he once said to Rosamund, "women feel much more like
mothers when they have a baby than men feel like fathers."
"I feel like a mother all over," she replied, bending above the child.
"In every least little bit of me."
"Then do you feel completely changed?"
Dion sat still for a moment gazing at her. She felt his look, perhaps,
for she lifted her head, and her eyes went from the baby to him.
"What is it, Rosamund? What are you considering?"
"Well----" She hesitated. "Perhaps no one could quite understand, but
I feel a sense of release."
"Release! From what?"
Again she hesitated; then she looked once more at the child almost as
if she wished to gain something from his helplessness. At last she
"Dion, as you've given me /him/, I'll tell you. Very often in the past
I've had an urgent desire some day to enter into the religious life."
"D'you--d'you mean to become a Roman Catholic and a nun?" he
exclaimed, feeling, absurdly perhaps, almost afraid and half
"No. I've never wished to change my religion. There are Anglican
sisterhoods, you know."
"But your singing!"
"I only intended to sing for a time. Then some day, when I felt quite
ready, I meant--"
"But you married me?" he interrupted.
"Yes. So you see I gave it all up."
"But you said it was the child which had brought you a sensation of
"Perhaps you have never been a prisoner of a desire which threatens to
dominate your soul forever," she said, quietly evading his point and
looking down, so that he could not see her eyes. "Look, he's waking!"
Surely she had moved abruptly and the movement had awakened the child.
She began playing with him, and the conversation was broken.
The Clarke trial came on in May, when Robin was becoming almost
elderly, having already passed no less than ten weeks in the midst of
this wicked world. On the day before it opened, Daventry made Dion
promise to come into court at least once to hear some of the evidence.
"A true friend would be there every day," he urged--"to back up his
"Business!" returned Dion laconically.
"What's your real reason against it?"
"Well, Rosamund hates this kind of case. I spoke to her about it the
"What did she say?"
"That she was delighted you had something to do, and that she hoped,
if Mrs. Clarke were innocent, she'd win. She pities her for being
dragged through all this mud."
"She said at the end that she hoped I wouldn't think her unsympathetic
if she neither talked about the case nor read about it. She hates
filling her mind with ugly details and horrible suggestions."
"You know, Guy, Rosamund thinks--she's told me so more than once--that
the mind and the soul are very sensitive, and that--that they ought to
be watched over, and--and taken care of."
Dion looked rather uncomfortable as he finished. It was one thing to
speak of such matters with Rosamund, and quite another to touch on
them with a man, even a man who was a trusted friend.
"Perhaps you'd rather not come at all?"
"No, no. I'll come once. You know how keen I am on your making a good
Daventry took him at his word, and got him a seat beside Mrs.
Chetwinde on the third day of the trial, when Mrs. Clarke's cross-
examination, begun on the previous day, was continued by Sir Edward
Jeffson, Beadon Clarke's leading counsel.
Dion told Rosamund where he was going when he left the house in the
"I hope it will go well for poor Mrs. Clarke," she said kindly, but
perhaps rather indifferently.
She had not looked at the reports of the case in the papers, and had
not discussed its progress with Dion. He was not sorry for that. It
was a horrible case, full of abominable allegations and suggestions
such as he would have hated to discuss with Rosamund. As he stood in
the little hall of their house, which was delicately scented with
lavender and lit by pale sunshine, bidding her good-by, he realized
the impossibility of such a woman as she was ever being "mixed up" in
such a trial. Simply that couldn't happen, he thought. Instinct would
keep her far from every suggestion of a possible impurity. He felt
certain that Mrs. Clarke was innocent, but, as he looked into
Rosamund's honest brown eyes, he thought that Mrs. Clarke must have
been singularly imprudent. He remembered how she had held his hand in
Mrs. Chetwinde's drawing-room. Wisdom and unwisdom; he compared them:
the one was a builder up, the other a destroyer of beauty--the beauty
that is in every completely sane and perfectly poised life.
"Rose," he said, leaning forward to kiss his wife, "I think you are
"Why wise all of a sudden?" she asked, smiling.
"You keep the door of your life."
He glanced round at the little hall, simple, fresh, with a few white
roses in a blue pot, the pale sunshine lying on the polished floor of
wood, the small breeze coming in almost affectionately between snowy
curtains. Purity--everything seemed to whisper of that, to imply that;
simplicity ruling, complexity ruled out.
And then he was sitting in the crowded court, breathing bad air,
hearing foul suggestions, watching strained or hateful faces,
surrounded by people who were attracted by ugly things as vultures are
attracted by the stench of dead and decaying bodies. At first he
loathed being there; presently, however, he became interested, then
almost fascinated by his surroundings and by the drama which was being
played slowly out in the midst of them.
Daventry, in wig and gown, looked tremendously legal and almost severe
in his tense gravity. Sir John Addington, his leader, a man of great
fame, was less tense in his watchfulness, amazingly at his ease with
the Court, and on smiling terms with the President, who, full of
worldly and unworldly knowledge, held the balance of justice with an
unwavering firmness. The jury looked startlingly commonplace, smug and
sleepy, despite the variety of type almost inevitably presented by
twelve human beings. Not one of them looked a rascal; not one of them
looked an actively good man. The intense Englishness of them hit one
in the face like a well-directed blow from a powerful fist. And they
had to give the verdict on this complex drama of Stamboul! How much
they would have to tell their wives presently! Their sense of their
unusual importance pushed through the smugness heavily, like a bulky
man in broadcloth showing through a dull crowd.
Mrs. Clarke occasionally glanced at them with an air of almost
distressed inquiry, as if she had never seen such cabbages before, and
was wondering about their gray matter. Her life in Stamboul must have
effected changes in her. She looked almost exotic in this court,
despite the simplicity of her gown, her unpretending little hat; as if
her mind, perhaps, had become exotic. But she certainly did not look
wicked. Dion was struck again by the strong mentality of her and by
her haggardness. To him she seemed definitely a woman of mind, not at
all an animal woman. When he gazed at her he felt that he was gazing
at mind rather than at body. Just before she went into the box she met
his eyes. She stared at him, as if carefully and strongly considering
him; then she nodded. He bowed, feeling uncomfortable, feeling indeed
almost a brute.
"She'll think I've come out of filthy curiosity," he thought, looking
round at the greedy faces of the crowd.
No need to ask why those faces were there.
He felt still more uncomfortable when Mrs. Clarke was in the witness-
box, and Sir Edward Jeffson took up the cross-examination which he had
begun late in the afternoon of the previous day.
Dion had very seldom been in a Court of Justice, and had never before
been in the Divorce Court. As the cross-examination of Mrs. Clarke
lengthened out he felt as if his clothes, and the clothes of all the
human beings who crowded about him, were being ruthlessly stripped
off, as if an ugly and abominable nakedness were gradually appearing.
The shame of it all was very hateful to him; and yet--yes, he couldn't
deny it--there was a sort of dreadful fascination in it, too.
The two co-respondents, Hadi Bey and Aristide Dumeny of the French
Embassy in Constantinople, were in court, sitting not far from Dion,
to whom Mrs. Chetwinde, less vague than, but quite as self-possessed
as, usual, pointed them out.
Both were young men. Hadi Bey, who of course wore the fez, was a fine
specimen of the smart, alert, cosmopolitan and cultivated Turk of
modern days. There was a peculiar look of vividness and brightness
about him, in his piercing dark eyes, in his red lips, in his healthy
and manly face with its rosy brown complexion and its powerful decided
chin. He had none of the sleepiness and fatalistic languor of the fat
hubble-bubble smoking Turk of caricature. The whole of him looked
aristocratic, energetic, perfectly poised and absolutely self-
possessed. Many of the women in court glanced at him without any
Aristide Dumeny was almost strangely different--an ashy-pale, dark-
eyed, thin and romantic-visaged man, stamped with a curious expression
of pain and fatalism. He looked as if he had seen much, dreamed many
dreams, and suffered not a little. There was in his face something
slightly contemptuous, as if, intellectually, he seldom gazed up at
any man. He watched Mrs. Clarke in the box with an enigmatic closeness
of attention which seemed wholly impersonal, even when she was
replying to hideous questions about himself. That he had an
interesting personality was certain. When his eyes rested on the
twelve jurymen he smiled every so faintly. It seemed to him, perhaps,
absurd that they should have power over the future of the woman in the
That woman showed an extraordinary self-possession which touched
dignity but which never descended to insolence. Despite her obvious
cleverness and mental resource she preserved a certain simplicity. She
did not pose as a passionate innocent, or assume any forced airs of
supreme virtue. She presented herself rather as a woman of the world
who was careless of the conventions, because she thought of them as
chains which prevented free movement and were destructive of genuine
liberty. She acknowledged that she had been a great deal with Hadi Bey
and Dumeny, that she had often made long excursions with each of them
on foot, on horseback, in caiques, that she had had them to dinner,
separately, on many occasions in a little pavilion which stood at the
end of her husband's garden and looked upon the Bosporus. These
dinners had frequently taken place when her husband was away from
home. Monsieur Dumeny was a good musician and had sometimes sung and
played to her till late in the night. Hadi Bey had sometimes been her
guide in Constantinople and had given to her the freedom of his
strange and mysterious city of Stamboul. With him she had visited the
mosques, with him she had explored the bazaars, with him she had sunk
down in the strange and enveloping melancholy of the vast Turkish
cemeteries which are protected by forests of cypresses. All this she
acknowledged without the least discomposure. One of her remarks to the
cross-examining counsel was this:
"You suggest that I have been very imprudent. I answer that I am not
able to live what the conventional call a prudent life. Such a life
would be a living death to me."
"Kindly confine yourself to answering my questions," retorted Counsel
harshly. "I suggest that you were far more than imprudent. I suggest
that when you and Hadi Bey remained together in that pavilion on the
Bosporus until midnight, until after midnight, you----" and then
followed another hideous accusation, which, gazing with her observant
eyes at the brick-red shaven face of her accuser, Mrs. Clarke quietly
denied. She never showed temper. Now and then she gave indications of
a sort of cold disgust or faint surprise. But there were no outraged
airs of virtue. A slight disdain was evidently more natural to the
temperament of this woman than any fierceness of protestation. Once
when Counsel said, "I shall ask the jury to infer"--something
abominable, Mrs. Clarke tranquilly rejoined:
"Whatever they infer it won't alter the truth."
Daventry moved his shoulders. Dion was certain that he considered this
remark ill-advised. The jury, however, at whom Mrs. Clarke gazed in
the short silence which followed, seemed, Dion thought, impressed by
her firmness. The luncheon interval prevented Counsel from saying
anything further just then, and Mrs. Clarke stepped down from the box.
"Isn't she wonderful?"
Dion heard this murmur, which did not seem to be addressed to any
particular person. It had come from Mrs. Chetwinde, who now got up and
went to speak to Mrs. Clarke. The whole court was in movement. Dion
went out to have a hasty lunch with Daventry.
"A pity she said that!" Daventry said in a low voice to Dion, hitching
up his gown. "Juries like to be deferred to."
"I believe she impressed them by her independence."
"Do you, though? She's marvelously intelligent. Perhaps she knows more
of men, even of jurymen, than I do."
At lunch they discussed the case. Daventry had had two or three
chances given to him by Sir John Addington, and thought he had done
"Do you think Mrs. Clarke will win?" said Dion.
"I know she's innocent, but I can't tell. She's so infernally
unconventional and a jury's so infernally conventional that I can't
help being afraid."
Dion thought of his Rosamund's tranquil wisdom.
"I think Mrs. Clarke's very clever," he said. "But I suppose she isn't
"I'll tell you what it is, old Dion; she prefers life to wisdom."
"Well, but----" Dion Began.
But he stopped. Now he knew Mrs. Clarke a little better, from her own
evidence, he knew just what Daventry meant. He looked upon the life of
unwisdom, and he was able to feel its fascination. There were scents
in it that lured, and there were colors that tempted; in its night
there was music; about it lay mystery, shadows, and silver beams of
the moon shining between cypresses like black towers. It gave out a
call to which, perhaps, very few natures of men were wholly deaf. The
unwise life! Almost for the first time Dion considered it with a deep
He considered it more attentively, more curiously, during the
afternoon, when Mrs. Clarke's cross-examination was continued.
It was obvious that during this trial two women were being presented
to the judge and jury, the one a greedy and abominably secret and
clever sensualist, who hid her mania beneath a cloak of
intellectuality, the other a genuine intellectual, whose mental
appetites far outweighed the appetites of her body, who was, perhaps,
a sensualist, but a sensualist of the spirit and not of the flesh.
Which of these two women was the real Cynthia Clarke? The jury would
eventually give their decision, but it might not be in accordance with
fact. Meanwhile, the horrible unclothing process was ruthlessly
proceeded with. But already Dion was becoming accustomed to it.
Perhaps Mrs. Clarke's self-possession helped him to assimilate the
nauseous food which was offered to him.
Beadon Clarke was in court, and had been pointed out to Dion, an
intellectual and refined-looking man, bald, with good features, and a
gentle, but now pained, expression; obviously a straight and
aristocratic fellow. Beside him sat his mother, that Lady Ermyntrude
who, it was said, had forced on the trial. She sat upright, her eyes
fixed on her daughter-in-law, a rather insignificant small woman, not
very well dressed, young looking, with hair done exactly in Queen
Alexandra's way, and crowned with a black toque.
Dion noticed that she had a very firm mouth and chin. She did not look
actively hostile as she gazed at the witness, but merely attentive--
deeply, concentratedly attentive. Mrs. Clarke never glanced towards
Perhaps, whatever Lady Ermyntrude had believed hitherto, she was now
beginning to wonder whether her conception of her son's wife had been
a wrong one, was beginning to ask herself whether she had divined the
nature of the soul inhabiting the body which now stood up before her.
About an hour before the close of the sitting the heat in the court
became almost suffocating, and the Judge told Mrs. Clarke she might
continue her evidence sitting down. She refused this favor.
"I'm not at all tired, my lord," she said.
"She's made of iron," Mrs. Chetwinde murmured to Dion. "Though she
generally looks like a corpse. She was haggard even as a girl."
"Did you know her then?" he whispered.
"I've known her all my life."
Daventry wiped his brow with a large pocket-handkerchief, performing
the action legally. One of the jurymen, who was too fat, and had
something of the expression of a pug dog, opened his mouth and rolled
slightly in his seat. The cross-examination became with every moment
more disagreeable. Beadon Clarke never lifted his eyes from his knees.
All the women in court, except Mrs. Chetwinde and Mrs. Clarke, were
looking strangely alive and conscious. Dion had forgotten everything
except Stamboul and the life of unwisdom. Suppose Mrs. Clarke had
lived the life imputed to her by Counsel, suppose she really were a
consummately clever and astoundingly ingenious humbug, driven, as many
human beings are driven, by a dominating vice which towered over her
life issuing commands she had not the strength to resist, how had it
profited her? Had she had great rewards in it? Had she been led down
strange ways guided by fascination bearing the torch from which spring
colored fires? Good women sometimes, perhaps oftener than many people
realize, look out of the window and try to catch a glimpse of the
world of the wicked women, asking themselves, "Is it worth while? Is
their time so much better than mine? Am I missing--missing?" And they
shut the window--for fear. Far away, turning the corner of some dark
alley, they have seen the colored gleam of the torch.
Rosamund would never do that--would never even want to do that. She
was not one of the good women who love to take just a peep at evil
"because one ought to know something of the trials and difficulties of
those less fortunately circumstanced than oneself."
But, for the moment, Dion had quite forgotten his Rosamund. She was in
England, but he was in Stamboul, hearing the waters of the Bosporus
lapping at the foot of Mrs. Clarke's garden pavilion, while Dumeny
played to her as the moon came up to shine upon the sweet waters of
Asia; or sitting under the plane trees of the Pigeon Mosque, while
Hadi Bey showed her how to write an Arabic love-letter--to somebody in
the air, of course. In this trial he felt the fascination of
Constantinople as he had never felt it when he was in Constantinople;
but he felt, too, that only those who strayed deliberately from the
beaten paths could ever capture the full fascination of the divided
city, which looks to Europe and to Asia, and is set along the way of
Whether innocent or guilty, Mrs. Clarke had certainly done that. He
watched her with a growing interest. How very much she must know that
he did not know. Then he glanced at Hadi Bey, who still sat up
alertly, who still looked bright and vivid, intelligent, ready for
anything, a man surely with muscles of steel and a courageous robust
nature, and at Aristide Dumeny. Upon the latter his eyes rested for a
long time. When at last he again looked at Mrs. Clarke he had formed
the definite impression that Dumeny was corrupt--an interesting man, a
clever, probably a romantic as well as a cynical man, but certainly
Didn't that tell against Mrs. Clarke?
She was now being questioned about a trip at night in a caique with
Hadi Bey down the sweet waters of Asia where willows lean over the
stream. Mrs. Chetwinde's pale eyes were fastened upon her. Beadon
Clarke bent his head a little lower as, in her husky voice, his wife
said that he knew of the expedition, had apparently smiled upon her
unconventionalities, knowing how entirely free she was from the ugly
bias towards vice attributed to her by Counsel.
Lady Ermyntrude Clarke shot a glance at her son, and her firm mouth
The willows bent over the sweet waters in the warm summer night; the
Albanian boatmen were singing.
"She must have had wonderful times!"
The whisper came from an unseen woman sitting just behind Dion. His
mind echoed the thought she had expressed. Now the Judge was rising
from the bench and bowing to the Court; Mrs. Clarke was stepping down
from the witness-box; Dumeny, his eyes half closed, was brushing his
shining silk hat with the sleeve of his coat; Beadon Clarke was
leaning to speak to his mother.
The Court was adjourned.
As Dion got up he felt the heat as if it were heat from a furnace. His
face and his body were burning.
"Come and speak to Cynthia, and take us to tea somewhere--can you?"
said Mrs. Chetwinde.
"Of course, with pleasure."
Her eyes were on him for a moment.
"She won't expect me at any particular time."
"Mr. Daventry can come too."
Dion never forgot their difficult exit from the court. It made him
feel ashamed for humanity, for the crowd which frantically pressed to
stare at a woman because perhaps she had done things which were
considered by all right-minded people to be disgusting. Mrs. Clarke
and her little party of friends had to be helped away by the police.
When at length they were driving away towards Claridge's Hotel, Dion
was able once more to meet the eyes of his companions, and again he
was amazed at the self-possession of Mrs. Clarke. Really she seemed as
composed, as completely mistress of herself, as when he had first seen
her standing near the statue of Echo in the drawing-room of Mrs.
"You haven't been in court before to-day, have you?" she said to Dion.
"Why did you come to-day?"
"Well, I----" He hesitated. "I promised Mr. Daventry to come to-day."
"That was it!" said Mrs. Clarke, and she looked out of the window.
Dion felt rather uncomfortable as he spoke to Mrs. Chetwinde and left
further conversation with Mrs. Clarke to Daventry; but when they were
all in a quiet corner of the tearoom at Claridge's, a tea-table before
them and a band playing softly at a distance, he was more at his ease.
The composure of Mrs. Clarke perhaps conveyed itself to him. She spoke
of the case quite naturally, as a guilty woman surely could not
possibly have spoken of it--showing no venom, making no attack upon
"It's all a mistake," she said, "arising out of stupidity, out of the
most widespread and, perhaps, the most pitiable and dangerous lack in
"And what's that?" asked Daventry, rather eagerly.
"I expect you know."
He shook his head.
"Don't you?" she asked of Dion, spreading thinly some butter over a
piece of dry toast.
"I'm afraid I don't."
"Cynthia means the lack of power to read character, the lack of
psychological instinct," drifted from the lips of Mrs. Chetwinde.
"Three-quarters of the misunderstandings and miseries of the world
come from that," said Mrs. Clarke, looking at the now buttered toast.
"If my mother-in-law and my husband had any psychological faculty they
would never have mistaken my unconventionality, which I shall never
give up, for common, and indeed very vulgar, sinfulness."
"Confusing the pastel with the oleograph," dropped out Mrs. Chetwinde,
looking abstractedly at an old red woman in a turret of ostrich
plumes, who was spread out on the other side of the room before a
plate of cakes.
"You are sure Lady Ermyntrude didn't understand?" said Daventry, with
a certain sharp legality of manner.
"You mean that she might be wicked instead of only stupid?"
"Well, yes. I suppose it does come to that."
"Believe me, Mr. Daventry, she's a quite honest stupid woman. She
honestly thinks that I'm a horrible creature."
And Mrs. Clarke began to bite the crisp toast with her lovely teeth.
Mrs. Chetwinde's eyes dwelt on her for a brief instant with, Dion
thought, a rather peculiar look which he could not quite understand.
It had, perhaps, a hint of hardness, or of cold admiration, something
of that kind, in it.
"Tell me some more about the baby," was Mrs. Clarke's next remark,
addressed to Dion. "I want to get away for a minute into a happy
domestic life. And yours is that, I know."
How peculiarly haggard, and yet how young she looked as she said that!
"If the case ends as I feel sure it will, I hope your wife and I shall
get to know each other. I hear she's the most delightful woman in
London, and extraordinarily beautiful. Isn't she?"
"I think she is beautiful," Dion said simply.
And then they talked about Robin, while Mrs. Chetwinde and Daventry
discussed some question of the day. Before they parted Dion could not
"I want to ask you something."
"Why do you feel sure that the trial will end as it ought to end?
Surely the lack of the psychological instinct is peculiarly abundant--
if a lack can be abundant!"--he smiled, almost laughed, a little
deprecatingly--"in a British jury?"
"And so you think they're likely to go wrong in their verdict?"
"Doesn't it rather follow?"
She stared at him, and her eyes were, or looked, even more widely
opened than usual. After a long pause she said;
"You wish to frighten me."
She got up, and began to draw on her dove-colored Swedish kid gloves.
"Tippie," she said to Mrs. Chetwinde, "I must go home now and have a
Only then did Dion realize how marvelously she was bearing a
tremendous strain. He began to admire her prodigiously.
When he said good-by to her under the great porch he couldn't help
"Are your nerves of steel?"
She leaned forward in the brougham.
"If your muscles are of iron."
"My muscles!" he said.
"Haven't you educated them?"
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