In the Wilderness
Part 5 out of 15
"And perhaps I've educated my nerves."
Mrs. Chetwinde's spirited horses began to prance and show temper. Mrs.
Clarke sat back. As the carriage moved away, Dion saw Mrs. Chetwinde's
eyes fixed upon him. They looked at that moment not at all vague. If
they had not been her eyes, he would have been inclined to think them
piercing. But, of course, Mrs. Chetwinde's eyes could never be that.
"How does one educate one's nerves, Guy?" asked Dion, as the two
friends walked away.
"By being defendant in a long series of divorce cases, I should say."
"Has Mrs. Clarke ever been in another case of this kind?"
"Good heavens, no. If she had, even I couldn't believe in her
innocence, as I do now."
"Then where did she get her education?"
"Where do women get things, old Dion? It seems to me sometimes
straight from God, and sometimes straight from the devil."
Dion's mental comment on this was, "What about Mrs. Clarke?" But he
did not utter it.
Before he left Daventry, he was pledged to be in court on the last day
of the case, when the verdict would be given. He wished to go to the
court again on the morrow, but the thought of Rosamund decided him not
to do this; he would, he knew, feel almost ashamed in telling her that
the divorce court, at this moment, fascinated him, that he longed, or
almost longed, to follow the colored fires of a certain torch down
further shadowy alleys of the unwise life. He felt quite sure that
Mrs. Clarke was an innocent woman, but she had certainly been very
unconventional indeed in her conduct. He remembered the almost stern
strength in her husky voice when she had said "my unconventionality,
/which I shall never give up/." So even this hideous and widely
proclaimed scandal would not induce her to bow in the future before
the conventional gods. She really was an extraordinary woman. What
would Rosamund think of her? If she won her case she evidently meant
to know Rosamund. Of course, there could be nothing against that. If
she lost the case, naturally there could never be any question of such
an acquaintance; he knew instinctively that she would never suggest
it. Whatever she was, or was not, she was certainly a woman of the
That evening, when he reached home, he found Rosamund sitting in the
nursery in the company of Robin and the nurse. The window was
partially open. Rosamund believed in plenty of air for her child, and
no "cosseting"; she laughed to scorn, but genially, the nurse's
prejudice against "the night air."
"My child," she said, "must get accustomed to night as well as day,
Nurse--and the sooner the better." So now "Master Robin" was played
upon by a little wind from Westminster. He seemed in no way alarmed by
it. This evening he was serene, and when his father entered the room
he assumed his expression of mild inquiry, vaguely agitated his small
rose-colored fists, and blew forth a welcoming bubble.
Dion was touched at the sight.
"Little rogue!" he said, bending over Robin. "Little, little rogue!"
Robin raised his, as yet scarcely defined, eyebrows, stared
tremendously hard at the nursery atmosphere, pulled out his wet lips
and gurgled, at the same time wagging his head, now nicely covered
with silky fair hair, or down, whichever you chose to call it.
"He knows his papa, ma'am, and that he does, a boy!" said the nurse,
who approved of Dion, and had said below stairs that he was "as good a
husband as ever wore shoe-leather."
"Of course he does," said Rosamund softly. "Babies have plenty of
intelligence of a kind, and I think it's a darling kind."
Dion sat down beside her, and they both bent over Robin in the
gathering twilight, while the nurse went softly out of the room.
Dion had quite forgotten the Clarke case.
Three days later Daventry called in Little Market Street early, and
was shown into the dining-room where he found Rosamund alone at the
"Do forgive me for bursting in upon the boiled eggs," he said, looking
unusually excited. "I'm off almost directly to the Law Courts and I
want to take Dion with me. It's the last day of Mrs. Clarke's case. We
expect the verdict some time this evening. I dare say the court will
sit late. Where's Dion?"
"He's just coming down. We were both disturbed in the night, so we
slept later than usual."
"Disturbed? Burglars? Fire?"
"No; Robin's not at all well."
"I say! I'm sorry for that. What is it?"
"He's had a very bad throat and been feverish, poor little chap. But I
think he's better this morning. The doctor came."
"You'll never be one of the fussy mothers."
"I hope not," she said, rather gravely; "I'm not fond of them. Here's
Daventry sat with them while they breakfasted, and Dion agreed to keep
his promise and go to the court.
"I told Uncle Biron I must be away from business to hear the summing-
up," he said. "I'll send a telegram to the office. Do you think it
will be all right for Mrs. Clarke?"
"She's innocent, but nobody can say. It depends so much on the
Dion glanced at Rosamund.
"You mustn't think I'm going to turn into an idler, Rose. This is a
very special occasion."
"I know. Mr. Daventry's first case."
"Haven't you followed it at all?" Daventry asked.
She shook her head.
"No, but I've been wished you well all the same."
When the two men got up to go, Dion said:
"What is it?"
"If Mrs. Clarke wins and is completely exonerated, I think she would
like very much to make your acquaintance."
Rosamund looked surprised.
"What makes you think so?"
"Well, she said something to that effect the other day."
"She's a very interesting, clever woman," interposed Daventry, with
"I'm sure she is. We must see. It's very kind of her. Poor woman! What
dreadful anxiety she must be in to-day! You'll all be glad when it's
When the two friends were out in the sunshine, walking towards the
Strand, Daventry said:
"Why is your wife against Mrs. Clarke?"
"She isn't. What makes you thinks so?"
"I'm quite sure she doesn't want to know her, even if she gets the
"Well, of course all this sort of thing is--it's very far away from
"You don't mean to say you doubt Mrs. Clarke?"
"Surely if she's innocent she's as good as any other woman."
"I know, but---- I suppose it's like this: there are different ways of
being good, and perhaps Mrs. Clarke's way isn't Rosamund's. In fact,
we know it isn't."
Daventry said nothing more on the subject; he began to discuss the
case in all its bearings, and presently dwelt upon the great power
English judges have over the decisions of juries.
"Mrs. Clarke gave her evidence splendidly on the whole," he said. "And
Hadi Bey made an excellent impression. My one fear is that fellow
Aristide Dumeny. You didn't hear him, but, of course, you read his
evidence. He was perfectly composed and as clever as he could be in
the box, but I'm sure, somehow, the jury were against him."
"I hardly know. It may be something in his personality."
"I believe he's a beast," said Dion.
"There!" exclaimed Daventry, wrinkling his forehead. "If the Judge
thinks as you do it may just turn things against us."
"Why did she make a friend of the fellow?"
"Because he's chock-full of talent and knowledge, and she loves both.
Dion, my boy, the mind can play the devil with us as well as the body.
But I hope--I hope for the right verdict. Anyhow I've done well, and
shall get other cases out of this. The odd thing is that Mrs. Clarke's
drained me dry of egoism. I care only to win for her. I couldn't bear
to see her go out of court with a ruined reputation. My nerves are all
on edge. If Mrs. Clarke loses, how d'you think she'll take it?"
"I expect you're right. But I don't believe I shall take it standing.
Perhaps some women make us men feel for them more than they feel for
themselves. Don't look at me in court whatever you do."
They had arrived at the Law Courts. He hurried away.
Dion's place was again beside Mrs. Chetwinde, who looked unusually
alive, and whose vagueness had been swept away by something--anxiety
for her friend, perhaps, or the excitement of following day after day
an unusually emotional /cause celebre/.
Now, as Sir John Addington stood up to continue his speech on Mrs.
Clarke's behalf, begun on the previous day, Mrs. Chetwinde leaned
forward and fixed her eyes upon him, closing her fingers tightly on
the fan she had brought with her.
Sir John spoke with an earnestness and conviction which at certain
moments rose almost to passion, as he drew the portrait of a woman
whose brilliant mind and innocent nature had led her into the
unconventional conduct which her enemies now asserted were wickedness.
Beadon Clarke's counsel had suggested that Mrs. Clarke was an
abominable woman, brilliantly clever, exquisitely subtle, who had
chosen as an armor against suspicion a bold pretense of simplicity and
harmless unconventionality, but who was the prey of a hidden and
ungovernable vice. He, Sir John, ventured to put forward for the
jury's careful examination a very different picture. He made no secret
of the fact that, from the point of view of the ordinary
unconventional man or woman, Mrs. Clarke had often acted unwisely,
and, with not too fine a sarcasm, he described for the jury the
average existence of "a careful drab woman" in the watchful and
eternally gossiping diplomatic world. Then he contrasted with it the
life led by Mrs. Clarke in the wonderful city of Stamboul--a life
"full of color, of taste, of interest, of charm, of innocent, joyous
and fragrant liberty. Which of us," he demanded, "would not in our
souls prefer the latter life to the former? Which of us did not
secretly long for the touch of romance, of strangeness, of beauty, to
put something into our lives which they lacked? But we have not the
moral courage to break our prison doors and to emerge into the nobler
"The dull, the drab, the platter-faced and platter-minded people," he
said, in a passage which Dion was always to remember, "who go forever
bowed down beneath the heavy yoke of convention, are too often apt to
think that everything charming, everything lively, everything unusual,
everything which gives out, like sweet incense, a delicate aroma of
strangeness, must be, somehow, connected with wickedness. Everything
which deviates from their pattern must deviate towards the devil,
according to them; every step taken away from the beaten path must be
taken towards ultimate destruction. They have no conception of
intimacies between women and men cemented not by similar lusts and
similar vices, but by similar intellectual tastes and similar
aspirations towards beauty. In color such people always find
blackness, in gaiety wickedness, in liberty license, in the sacred
intimacies of the soul the hateful vices of the body. But you,
gentlemen of the jury----"
His appeal to the twelve in the box at this moment was, perhaps,
scarcely convincing. He addressed them as if, like Mrs. Clarke and
himself, they were enamored of the unwise life, which is only unwise
because we live in a world of censorious fools, and as if he knew it.
The strange thing was that the jury were evidently impressed if not
carried away, by his appeal. They sat forward, stared at Sir John as
if fascinated, and even began to assume little airs which were almost
devil-may-care. But when, with a precise and deliberately cold
acuteness, Sir John turned to the evidence adverse to his client, and
began to tear it to shreds, they stared less, frowned, and showed by
their expressions their efforts to be legal.
As soon as Sir John had finished his speech, the Court rose for the
"Are you going out?" said Mrs. Chetwinde to Dion. "I've brought some
horrible little sandwiches, and I shan't stir."
"I'm not hungry. I'll stay with you."
"What a crowd!" he said, looking over the sea of hot, staring faces.
"How horrid people look sometimes!"
"When they're feeling cruel."
She began to eat her sandwiches, which were tightly packed in a small
"Isn't Mrs. Clarke coming to-day?" Dion asked.
"Yes. I expect her in a moment. Esme Darlington is bringing her."
"Well, I should hardly have expected somehow that--I don't know."
"I do. But Esme Darlington's more of a man than he seems. And he's
thoroughly convinced of Cynthia's innocence. Here they are."
There was a stir in the crowd. Many women present rustled as they
turned in their seats; some stood up and craned forward; people in the
gallery leaned over, looking eagerly down; a loud murmur and a wide
hiss of whispering emphasized the life in the court. The tall, loose-
limbed figure of Esme Darlington, looking to-day singularly dignified
and almost impressive, pushed slowly forward, followed by the woman
whose social fate was so soon to be decided.
Mrs. Clarke glanced round over the many faces without any defiance as
she made her way with difficulty to a seat beside her solicitor. The
lack of defiance in her expression struck Dion forcibly. This woman
did not seem to be mentally on the defensive, did not seem to be
wishing to repel the glances, fierce with curiosity, which were
leveled at her from all sides. Apparently she had no fear at all of
bristling bayonets. Her haggard face was unsmiling, not cold, but
intense with a sort of living calm which was surely not a mask. She
looked at Mrs. Chetwinde and at Dion as she passed near to them,
giving them no greeting except with her large eyes which obviously
recognized them. In a moment she was sitting down between her
solicitor and Esme Darlington.
"It will quite break Guy Daventry up if she doesn't get the verdict,"
said Dion in an uneven voice to Mrs. Chetwinde.
"Mr. Daventry?" she said, with an odd little stress of emphasis on the
"Of course I should hate it too. Any man who feels a woman is
He broke off. She said nothing, and went on eating her little
sandwiches as if she rather disliked them.
"Mrs. Chetwinde, do tell me. I believe you've got an extraordinary
flair--will she win?"
"My dear boy, now how can I know?"
Dion felt very young for a minute.
"I want to know what you expect."
Mrs. Chetwinde closed the small silver box with a soft snap.
"I fully expect her to win."
"Because she's innocent?"
"Oh no. That's no reason in a world like this, unfortunately."
"But, then, why?"
"Because Cynthia always does get what she wants, or needs. She has
quite abnormal will-power, and will-power is /the/ conqueror. If I'm
to tell you the truth, I see only one reason for doubt, I don't say
fear, as to the result."
"Can you tell me what it is?"
At this moment the Judge returned to the bench. An hour later he began
to sum up.
He spoke very slowly and rather monotonously, and at first Dion
thought that he was going to be "let down" by this almost cruelly
level finale to a dramatic, sometimes even horrible, struggle between
powerful opposing forces. But presently he began to come under a new
fascination, the fascination of a cool and very clear presentation of
undressed facts. Led by the Judge, he reviewed again the complex life
at Constantinople, he followed again Mrs. Clarke's many steps away
from the beaten paths, he penetrated again through some of the winding
ways into the shadows of the unwise life. And he began to wonder a
little and a little to fear for the woman who was sitting so near to
him waiting for the end. He could not tell whether the Judge believed
her to be innocent or guilty, but he thought he could tell that the
Judge considered her indiscreet, too heedless of those conventions on
which social relations are based, too determined a follower after the
flitting light of her own desires. Presently the position of Beadon
Clarke in the Constantinople /menage/ was touched upon, and suddenly
Dion found himself imagining how it would be to have as his wife a
Mrs. Clarke. Suppose Rosamund were to develop the unconventional
idiosyncrasies of a Cynthia Clarke? He realized at once that he was
not a Beadon Clarke; he could never stand that sort of thing. He felt
hot at the mere thought of his Rosamund making night expeditions in
caiques alone with young men--such, for instance, as Hadi Bey; or
listening alone at midnight in a garden pavilion isolated, shaded by
trees, to the music made by a Dumeny.
Dumeny! The Judge pronounced his name.
"I come now to the respondent's relation with the second
co-respondent, Aristide Dumeny of the French Embassy in
Dion leaned slightly forward and looked at Dumeny. Dumeny was sitting
bolt upright, and now, as the Judge mentioned his name, he folded his
arms, raised his long dark eyes, and gazed steadily at the bench. Did
he know that he was the danger in the case? If he did he did not show
any apprehension. His white face, typically French, with its rather
long nose, slightly flattened temples, faintly cynical and ironic lips
and small but obstinate chin, was almost sinister in its complete
"He's certainly a corrupt beast," Dion said to himself. "But as
certainly he's an interesting, clever, knowledgeable beast."
Dumeny's very thick, glossy, and slightly undulating dark hair,
growing closely round his low forehead, helped to make him almost
romantically handsome, although his features were rather irregular.
His white ears were abnormally small, Dion noticed.
The Judge went with cold minuteness into every detail of Dumeny's
intimacy with Mrs. Clarke that had been revealed in the trial, and
dwelt on the link of music which, it was said, had held them together.
"Music stimulates the passions, and may, in highly sensitive persons,
generate impulses not easy to control, provided that the situation in
which such persons find themselves, when roused and stirred, is
propitious. It has been given in evidence that Monsieur Dumeny
frequently played and sang to the respondent till late in the night in
the pavilion which has been described to you. You have seen Monsieur
Dumeny in the box, and can judge for yourselves whether he was a man
likely to avail himself of any advantage his undoubted talents may
have given him with a highly artistic and musical woman."
There was nothing striking in the words, but to Dion the Judge's voice
seemed slightly changed as it uttered the last sentence. Surely a
frigid severity had crept into it, surely it was colored with a faint,
but definite, contempt. Several of the jury started narrowly at
Aristide Dumeny, and the foreman, with a care and precision almost
ostentatious, took a note.
The Judge continued his analysis of Mrs. Clarke's intimacy with
Dumeny. He was scrupulously fair; he gave full weight to the mutual
attraction which may be born out of common intellectual tastes--an
attraction possibly quite innocent, quite free from desire of anything
but food for the brain, the subtler emotions, and the soul "if you
like to call it so, gentlemen." But, somehow, he left upon the mind of
Dion, and probably upon the minds of many others, an impression that
he, the Judge, was doubtful as to the sheer intellectuality of
Monsieur Dumeny, was not convinced that he had reached that condition
of moral serenity and purification in which a rare woman can be
happily regarded as a sort of disembodied spirit.
When the Judge at length finished with Dumeny and Dumeny's relations
with Mrs. Clarke, Dion felt very anxious about the verdict. The Judge
had not succeeded in making him believe that Mrs. Clarke was a guilty
woman, but he feared that the jury had been made doubtful. It was
evident to him that the Judge had a bad opinion of Dumeny, and had
conveyed his opinion to the jury. Was the unwisdom of Mrs. Clarke to
prove her undoing? Esme Darlington was pulling his ducal beard almost
nervously. A faint hum went through the densely packed court. Mrs.
Chetwinde moved and used her fan for a moment. Dion did not dare to
look at Guy Daventry. He was realizing, with a sort of painful
sharpness, how great a change a verdict against Mrs. Clarke must make
in her life.
Her boy, perhaps, probably indeed, would be taken from her. She had
only spoken to him casually about her boy, but he had felt that the
casual reference did not mean that she had a careless heart. The woman
whose hand had held his for a moment would be tenacious in love. He
felt sure of that, and sure that she loved her naughty boy with a
When the Judge had finished his task and the jury retired to consider
their verdict, it was past four o'clock.
"What do you think?" Dion said in a low voice to Mrs. Chetwinde.
"About the summing-up?"
"It has left things very much as I expected. Any danger there is lies
in Monsieur Dumeny."
"Do you know him?"
"Oh, yes. I stayed with Cynthia once in Constantinople. He took us
She made no further comment on Monsieur Dumeny.
"I wonder whether the jury will be away long?" Dion said, after a
"Probably. I shan't be at all surprised if they can't agree. Then
there will be another trial."
"Yes, it wouldn't be very nice for Cynthia."
"I can't help wishing----"
He paused, hesitating.
"Yes?" said Mrs. Chetwinde, looking about the court.
"I can't help wishing Mrs. Clarke hadn't been unconventional in quite
such a public way."
A faint smile dawned and faded on Mrs. Chetwinde's lips and in her
"The public method's often the safest in the end," she murmured.
Then she nodded to Esme Darlington, who presently got up and managed
to make his way to them. He, too, thought the jury would probably
disagree, and considered the summing-up rather unfavorable to Mrs.
"People who live in the diplomatic world live in a whispering
gallery," he said, bending down, speaking in an under-voice and
lifting and lowering his eyebrows. "I told Cynthia so when she
married. I ventured to give her the benefit of my--if I may say so--
long and intimate knowledge of diplomatic life and diplomatists. I
said to her, 'Remember you can /always/ be under observation.' Ah,
well--one can only hope the jury will take the right view. But how can
we expect British shopkeepers, fruit brokers, cigar merchants, and so
forth to understand a--really, one can only say--a wild nature like
Cynthia's? It's a wild mind--I'd say this before her!--in an innocent
body, just that."
He pulled almost distractedly at his beard with bony fingers, and
"A wild mind in an innocent body--h'm, ha!"
"If only Mr. Grundy can be brought to comprehension of such a
phenomenon!" murmured Mrs. Chetwinde.
It was obvious to Dion that his two friends feared for the result.
The Judge had left the bench. An hour passed by, and the chime of a
clock striking five dropped down coolly, almost frostily, to the hot
and curious crowd. Mrs. Clarke sat very still. Esme Darlington had
returned to his place beside her, and she spoke to him now and then.
Hadi Bey wiped his handsome rounded brown forehead with a colored silk
handkerchief; and Aristide Dumeny, with half-closed eyes, ironically
examined the crowd, whispered to a member of his Embassy who had
accompanied him into court, folded his arms and sat looking down.
Beadon Clarke's face was rigid, and a fierce red, like the red of a
blush of shame, was fixed on his cheeks. His mother had pulled a thick
black veil with a pattern down over her face, and was fidgeting
perpetually with a chain of small moonstones set in gold which hung
from her throat to her waist. Daventry, blinking and twitching,
examined documents, used his handkerchief, glanced at his watch,
hitched his gown up on his shoulders, looked at Mrs. Clarke and looked
Uneasiness, like a monster, seemed crouching in the court as in a
At a quarter-past five, the Judge returned to the bench. He had
received a communication from the jury, who filed in, to say, through
their foreman, that they could not agree upon a verdict. A parley took
place between the foreman and the Judge, who made inquiry about their
difficulties, answered two questions, and finally dismissed them to
further deliberations, urging them strongly to try to arrive at an
"I am willing to stay here till nightfall," he said, in a loud and
almost menacing voice, "if there is any chance of a verdict."
The jury, looking weary, harassed and very hot, once more disappeared,
the Judge left the bench, and the murmuring crowd settled down to
another period of waiting.
To Dion it seemed that a great tragedy was impending. Already Mrs.
Clarke had received a blow. The fact that the jury had publicly
announced their disagreement would be given out to all the world by
the newspapers, and must surely go against Mrs. Clarke even if she got
a verdict ultimately.
"Do you think there is any chance still?" he said to Mrs. Chetwinde.
"Oh, yes. As I told you, Cynthia always manages to get what she
"I shouldn't think she can ever have wanted anything so much as she
wants the right verdict to-day."
"I don't know that," Mrs. Chetwinde replied, with a rather
She was using her fan slowly and monotonously, as if, perhaps, she
were trying to make her mind calm by the repetition of a physical act.
"I'm sorry the foreman said they couldn't agree," Dion said, almost in
a whisper. "Even if the verdict is for Mrs. Clarke, I'm afraid that
will go against her."
"If she wins she wins, and it's all right. Cynthia's not the sort of
woman who cares much what the world thinks. The only thing that really
matters is what the world does; and if she gets the verdict the world
won't do anything--except laugh at Beadon Clarke."
A loud buzz of conversation rose from the court. Presently the light
began to fade, and the buzz faded with it; then some lights were
turned on, and there was a crescendo of voices. It was possible to see
more clearly the multitude of faces, all of them hot, nearly all of
them excited and expressive. A great many people were standing, packed
closely together and looking obstinate in their determined curiosity.
Most of them were either staring at, or were trying to stare at Mrs.
Clarke, who was now talking to her solicitor. Esme Darlington was
eating a meat lozenge and frowning, evidently discomposed by the
jury's dilemma. Lady Ermyntrude Clarke had lifted her veil and was
whispering eagerly to her son, bending her head, and emphasizing her
remarks with excited gestures which seemed to suggest the energy of
one already uplifted by triumph. Beadon Clarke listened with the
passivity of a man encompassed by melancholy, and sunk deep in the
abyss of shame. Aristide Dumeny was reading a letter which he held
with long-fingered, waxen-white hands very near to his narrow dark
eyes. His close-growing thick hair looked more glossy now that there
was artificial light in the court; from the distance its undulations
were invisible, and it resembled a cap of some heavy and handsome
material drawn carefully down over his head. Hadi Bey retained his
vivid, alert and martial demeanor. He was twisting his mustaches with
a muscular brown hand, not nervously, but with a careless and almost a
lively air. Many women gazed at him as if hypnotized; they found the
fez very alluring. It carried their thoughts to the East; it made them
feel that the romance of the East was not very far from them. Some of
them wished it very near, and thought of husbands in silk hats,
bowlers, and flat caps of Harris tweed with the dawning of a dull
distaste. The woman just behind Dion was talking busily to her
neighbor. Dion heard her say:
"Some women always manage to have a good time. I wish I was one of
them. Dick is a dear, but still----" She whispered for a minute or
two; then out came her voice with, "There must be great chances for a
woman in the diplomatic world. I knew a girl who married an /attache/
and went to Bucharest. You can have no idea what the Roumanians----"
whisper, whisper, whisper.
That woman was envying Mrs. Clarke, it seemed, but surely not envying
her innocence. Dion began to be conscious of faint breaths from the
furnace of desire, and suddenly he saw the gaunt and sickly-smiling
head of hypocrisy, like the flat and tremulously moving head of a
serpent, lifted up above the court. Only a little way off Robin, now
better, but still "not quite the thing," was lying in his cozy cot in
the nursery of No. 5 Little Market Street, with Rosamund sitting
beside him. The window to-day, for once, would probably be shut as a
concession to Robin's indisposition. A lamp would be burning perhaps.
In fancy, Dion saw Rosamund's head lit up by a gentle glow, her hair
giving out little gleams of gold, as if fire were caught in its
meshes. How was it that her head always suggested to him purity; and
not only her purity but the purity of all sweet, sane and gloriously
vigorous women--those women who tread firmly, nobly, in the great
central paths of life? He did not know, but he was certain that the
head of no impure, of no lascivious woman could ever look like his
Rosamund's. That nursery, holding little Robin and his mother in the
lamplight, was near to this crowded court, but it was very far away
too, as far as heaven is from hell. It would be good, presently, to go
back to it.
Chime after chime dropped down frostily into the almost rancid heat of
the court. Time was sending its warning that night was coming to
An epidemic of fidgeting and of coughing seized the crowd, which was
evidently beginning to feel the stinging whip of an intense
"What on earth," said the voice of a man, expressing the thought which
bound all these brains together, "what on earth can the jury be up
Surely by now everything for and against Mrs. Clarke must have been
discussed /ad nauseam/. Only the vainest of repetitions could be
occupying the time of the jury. People began positively to hate those
twelve uninteresting men, torn from their dull occupations to decide a
woman's fate. Even Mrs. Chetwinde showed vexation.
"This is really becoming ridiculous," she murmured. "Even twelve fools
should know when to give their folly a rest."
"I suppose there must be one or two holding out against all argument
and persuasion. Don't you think so?" said Dion, almost morosely.
"I dare say. I know a great deal about individual fools, but very
little about them in dozens. The heat is becoming unbearable."
She sighed deeply and moved in her seat, opening and shutting her fan.
"She must be enduring torment," muttered Dion.
"Yes; even Cynthia can hardly be proof against this intolerable
Another dropping down of chimes: eight o'clock! A long murmur went
through the crowd. Some one said: "They're coming at last."
Every one moved. Instinctively Dion leant forward to look at Mrs.
Clarke. He felt very much excited and nervous, almost as if his own
fate were about to be decided. As he looked he saw Mrs. Clarke draw
herself up till she seemed taller than usual. She had a pair of gloves
in her lap, and she now began to pull one of these gloves on, slowly
and carefully, as if she were thinking about what she was doing. The
jury filed in looking feverish, irritable and battered. Three or four
of them showed piteous and injured expressions. Two others had the
peculiar look of obstinate men who have been giving free rein to their
vice, indulging in an orgy of what they call willpower. Their faces
were, at the same time, implacable and ridiculous, but they walked
impressively. The Judge was sent for. Two or three minutes elapsed
before he came in. During those minutes there was no coughing and
scarcely any moving. The silence in the court was vital. During it,
Dion stared hard at the jury and strove to read the verdict in their
faces. Naturally he failed. No message came from them to him.
The Judge came back to the bench, looking weary and harsh.
"Do you find that the respondent has been guilty or not guilty of
misconduct with the co-respondent, Hadi Bey?" said the clerk of the
"We find that the respondent has not been guilty of misconduct with
After a slight pause, speaking in a louder voice than before, the
clerk of the court said:
"Do you find that the respondent has been guilty or not guilty of
misconduct with the co-respondent, Aristide Dumeny?"
"We find that the respondent has not been guilty of misconduct with
Dion saw the Judge frown.
Slight applause broke out in the court, but it was fitful and
uncertain and almost immediately died away.
Mrs. Chetwinde said in a low voice, almost as if to herself:
"Cynthia has got what she wants--again."
Then, after the formalities, the crowd was in movement; the weary and
excited people, their curiosity satisfied at last, began to melt away;
the young barristers hurried out, eagerly discussing the rights and
wrongs of the case; and Mrs. Clarke's adherents made their way to her
to offer her their congratulations.
Daventry was triumphant. He shook his client's hand, held it, shook it
again, and could scarcely find words to express his excitement and
delight. Even Esme Darlington's usual careful serenity was for the
moment obscured by an emotion eminently human, as he spoke into Mrs.
Clarke's ear the following words of a ripe wisdom:
"Cynthia, my dear, after this do take my advice and live as others
live. In a conventional world conventionality is the line of least
resistance. Don't turn to the East unless the whole congregation does
"I shall never forget your self-sacrifice in facing the crowd with me
to-day, dear Esme," was her answer. "I know how much it cost you."
"Oh, as to that, for an old friend--h'm, ha!"
His voice failed in his beard. He drew forth a beautiful Indian
handkerchief--a gift from his devoted friend the Viceroy of India--and
passed it over a face which looked unusually old.
Mrs. Chetwinde said:
"I expected you to win, Cynthia. It was stupid of the jury to be so
slow in arriving at the inevitable verdict. But stupid people are as
lethargic as silly ones are swift. How shall we get to the carriage?
We can't go out by the public exit. I hear the crowd is quite
enormous, and won't move. We must try a side door, if there is one."
Then Dion held Mrs. Clarke's hand, and looked down at her haggard but
still self-possessed face. It astonished him to find that she
preserved her earnestly observant expression.
"I'm very glad," was all he found to say.
"Thank you," she replied, in a voice perhaps slightly more husky than
usual. "I mean to stay on in London for some time. I've got lots of
things to settle"--she paused--"before I go back to Constantinople."
"But are you really going back?"
Her voice, nearly drowned by the noise of people departing from the
court, sounded to him implacable.
"You heard the hope of the Court that my husband and I would come
together again? Of course we never shall. But I'm sure I shall get
hold of Jimmy. I know my husband won't keep him from me." She stared
at his shoulders. "I want you to help me with Jimmy's physical
education--I mean by getting him to that instructor you spoke of."
"To be sure--Jenkins," he said, marveling at her.
"Jenkins--exactly. And I hope it will be possible for your wife and me
to meet soon, now there's nothing against it owing to the verdict."
"Do tell her, and see if we can arrange it."
Dumeny at this moment passed close to them with his friend on his way
out of court. His eyes rested on Mrs. Clarke, and a faint smile went
over his face as he slightly raised his hat.
"Good-by," said Mrs. Clarke to Dion.
And she turned to Sir John Addington.
Dion made his way slowly out into the night, thinking of the unwise
life and of the smile on the lips of Dumeny.
That summer saw, among other events of moment, the marriage of
Beatrice and Daventry, the definite establishment of Robin as a power
in his world, and the beginning of one of those noiseless contests
which seem peculiar to women, and which are seldom, if ever, fully
comprehended in all their bearings by men.
Beatrice, as she wished it, had a very quiet, indeed quite a hole-and-
corner wedding in a Kensington church, of which nobody had ever heard
till she was married in it, to the great surprise of its vicar, its
verger, and the decent widow woman who swept its pews for a moderate
wage. For their honeymoon she and Daventry disappeared to the Garden
of France to make a leisurely tour through the Chateaux country.
Meanwhile Robin, according to his nurse, "was growing something
wonderful, and improving with his looks like nothing I ever see
before, and me with babies ever since I can remember anything as you
may say, a dear!" His immediate circle of wondering admirers was
becoming almost extensive, including, as it did, not only his mother
and father, his nurse, and the four servants at No. 5 Little Market
Street, but also Mrs. Leith senior, Bruce Evelin--now rather a lonely
man--and Mr. Thrush of John's Court near the Edgware Road.
At this stage of his existence, Rosamund loved Robin reasonably but
with a sort of still and holy concentration, which gradually impinged
upon Dion like a quiet force which spreads subtly, affecting those in
its neighborhood. There was in it something mystical and, remembering
her revelation to him of the desire to enter the religious life which
had formerly threatened to dominate her, Dion now fully realized the
truth of a remark once made by Mrs. Chetwinde about his wife. She had
called Rosamund "a radiant mystic."
Now changes were blossoming in Rosamund like new flowers coming up in
a garden, and one of these flowers was a beautiful selfishness. So
Dion called it to himself but never to others. It was a selfishness
surely deliberate and purposeful--an unselfish selfishness, if such a
thing can be. Can the ideal mother, Dion asked himself, be wholly
without it? All that she is, perhaps, reacts upon the child of her
bosom, the child who looks up to her as its Providence. And what she
is must surely be at least partly conditioned by what she does and by
all her way of life. The child is her great concern, and therefore she
must guard sedulously all the gates by which possible danger to the
child might strive to enter in. This was what Rosamund had evidently
made up her mind to do, was beginning to do. Dion compared her with
many of the woman of London who have children and who, nevertheless,
continue to lead haphazard, frivolous, utterly thoughtless lives,
caring apparently little more for the moral welfare of their children
than for the moral welfare of their Pekinese. Mrs. Clarke had a hatred
of "things with wings growing out of their shoulders." Rosamund would
probably never wish their son to have wings growing out of his
shoulders, but if he had little wings on his sandals, like the Hermes,
perhaps she would be very happy. With winged sandals he might take an
occasional flight to the gods. Hermes, of course, was really a rascal,
many-sided, and, like most many-sided people and gods, capable of
insincerity and even of cunning; but the Hermes of Olympia, their
Hermes, was the messenger purged, by Praxiteles of very bit of dross--
noble, manly, pure, serene. Little Robin bore at present no
resemblance to the Hermes, or indeed--despite the nurse's statements--
to any one else except another baby; but already it was beginning
mysteriously to be possible to foresee the great advance--long clothes
to short clothes, short clothes to knickerbockers, knickerbockers to
trousers. Robin would be a boy, a youth, a man, and what Rosamund was
might make all the difference in that Trinity. The mystic who enters
into religion dedicated her life to God. Rosamund dedicated hers to
her boy. It was the same thing with a difference. And as the mystic is
often a little selfish in shutting out cries of the world--cries
sometimes for human aid which can scarcely be referred from the
fellow-creature to God--so Rosamund was a little selfish, guided by
the unusual temperament which was housed within her. She shut out some
of the cries that she might hear Robin's the better.
Robin's sudden attack of illness during Mrs. Clarke's ordeal had been
overcome and now seemed almost forgotten. Rosamund had encountered the
small fierce shock of it with an apparent calmness and self-possession
which at the time had astonished Dion and roused his admiration. A
baby often comes hardly into the world and slips out of it with the
terrible ease of things fated to far-off destinies. During one night
Robin had certainly been in danger. Perhaps that danger had taught
Rosamund exactly how much her child meant to her. Dion did not know
this; he suspected it because, since Robin's illness, he had become
much more sharply aware of the depth of mother-love in Rosamund, of
the hovering wings that guarded the nestling. That efficient guarding
implies shutting out was presently to be brought home to him with a
definiteness leading to embarrassment.
The little interruptions a baby brings into the lives of a married
couple were setting in. Dion was sure that Rosamund never thought of
them as interruptions. When Robin grew much older, when he was in
trousers, and could play games, and appreciate his father's prowess
and God-given capacities in the gymnasium, on the tennis lawn, over
the plowland among the partridges, Dion's turn would come. Meanwhile,
did he actually love Robin? He thought he did. He was greatly
interested in Robin, was surprised by his abrupt manifestations and
almost hypnotized by his outbursts of wrath; when Robin assumed his
individual look of mild inquiry, Dion was touched, and had a very
tender feeling at his heart. No doubt all this meant love. But Dion
fully realized that his feeling towards Robin did not compare with
Rosamund's. It was less intense, less profound, less of the very roots
of being. His love for Robin was a shadow compared with the substance
of his love for Rosamund. How would Rosamund's two loves compare? He
began to wonder, even sometimes put to himself the questions, "Suppose
Robin were to die, how would she take it? And how would she take it if
I were to die?" And then, of course, his mind sometimes did foolish
things, asked questions beginning with, "Would she rather----?" He
remembered his talks with Rosamund on the Acropolis--talks never
renewed--and compared the former life without little Robin, with the
present life pervaded gently, or vivaciously, or almost furiously by
little Robin. Among the mountains and by the deep-hued seas of Greece
he had foreseen and wondered about Robin. Now Robin was here; the
great change was accomplished. Probably Rosamund and he, Dion, would
never again be alone with their love. Other children, perhaps, would
come. Even if they did not, Robin would pervade their lives, in long
clothes, short skirts, knickerbockers, trousers. He might, of course,
some day choose a profession which would carry him to some distant
land: to an Indian jungle or a West African swamp. But by that time
his parents would be middle-aged people. And how would their love be
then? Dion knew that now, when Rosamund and he were still young, both
less than thirty, he would give a hundred Robins, even if they were
all his own Robins, to keep his one Rosamund. That was probably quite
natural now, for Robin was really rather inexpressive in the midst of
his most unbridled demonstrations. When he was calm and blew bubbles
he had charm; when he was red and furious he had a certain power; when
he sneezed he had pathos; when he slept the serenity of him might be
felt; but he would mean very much more presently. He would grow, and
surely his father's love for him would grow. But could it ever grow to
the height, the flowering height, of the husband's love for Rosamund?
Dion already felt certain that it never could, that it was his destiny
to be husband rather than parent, the eternal lover rather than the
eternal father. Rosamund's destiny was perhaps to be the eternal
mother. She had never been exactly a lover. Perhaps her remarkable and
beautiful purity of disposition had held her back from being that.
Force, energy, vitality, strong feelings, she had; but the peculiar
something in which body seems mingled with soul, in which soul seems
body and body soul, was apparently lacking in her. Dion had perhaps
never, with full consciousness, missed that element in her till Robin
made his appearance; but Robin, in his bubbling innocence, and almost
absurd consciousness of himself and of others, did many things that
were not unimportant. He even had the shocking impertinence to open
his father's eyes, and to show him truths in a bright light--truths
which, till now, had remained half-hidden in shadow; babyhood
enlightened youth, the youth persisting hardily because it had never
sown wild oats. Robin did not know that; he knew, in fact scarcely
anything except when he wanted nourishment and when he desired repose.
He also knew his mother, knew her mystically and knew her greedily,
with knowledge which seemed of God, and with an awareness whose parent
was perhaps a vital appetite. At other people he gazed and bubbled but
with a certain infantile detachment, though his nurse, of course,
declared that she had never known a baby to take such intelligent
notice of all created things in its neighborhood. "He knows," she
asseverated, with the air of one versed in mysteries, "he knows, does
little master, who's who as well as any one, and a deal better than
some that prides themselves on this and that, a little upsy-daisy-
Mrs. Leith senior paid him occasional visits, which Dion found just
the least bit trying. Since Omar had been killed, Dion had felt more
solicitous about his mother, who had definitely refused ever to have
another dog. If he had been allowed to give her a dog he would have
felt more easy about her, despite Beatrice's quiet statement of why
Omar had meant so much. As he might not do that, he begged his mother
to come very often to Little Market Street and to become intimate with
Robin. But when he saw her with Robin he was generally embarrassed,
although she was obviously enchanted with that gentleman, for whose
benefit she was amazingly prodigal of nods and becks and wreathed
smiles. It was a pity, he thought, that his mother was at moments so
apparently elaborate. He felt her elaboration the more when it was
contrasted with the transparent simplicity of Rosamund. Even Robin, he
fancied, was at moments rather astonished by it, and perhaps pushed on
towards a criticism at present beyond the range of his powers. But
Mrs. Leith's complete self-possession, even when immersed in the
intricacies of a baby-language totally unintelligible to her son, made
it impossible to give her a hint to be a little less--well, like
herself when at No. 5. So he resigned himself to a faint discomfort
which he felt sure was shared by Rosamund, although neither of them
ever spoke of it. But they never discussed his mother, and always
assumed that she was ideal both as mother-in-law and grandmother. She
was Robin's godmother and had given him delightful presents. Bruce
Evelin and Daventry were his godfathers.
Bruce Evelin now lived alone in the large house in Great Cumberland
Place. He made no complaint of his solitude, which indeed he might be
said to have helped to bring about by his effective, though
speechless, advocacy of Daventry's desire. But it was obvious to
affectionate eyes that he sometimes felt rather homeless, and that he
was happy to be in the little Westminster home where such a tranquil
domesticity reigned. Dion sometimes felt as if Bruce Evelin were
watching over that home in a wise old man's way, rather as Rosamund
watched over Robin, with a deep and still concentration. Bruce Evelin
had, he confessed, "a great feeling" for Robin, whom he treated with
quiet common sense as a responsible entity, bearing, with a matchless
wisdom, that entity's occasional lapses from decorum. Once, for
instance, Robin chose Bruce Evelin's arms unexpectedly as a suitable
place to be sick in, without drawing down upon himself any greater
condemnation than a quiet, "How lucky he selected a godfather as his
And Mr. Thrush of John's Court? One evening, when he returned home,
Dion found that old phenomenon in the house paying his respects to
Robin. He was quite neatly dressed, and wore beneath a comparatively
clean collar a wisp of black tie that was highly respectable, though
his top hat, deposited in the hall, was still as the terror that
walketh in darkness. His poor old gray eyes were pathetic, and his
long, battered old face was gently benign; but his nose, fiery and
tremendous as ever, still made proclamation of his "failing." Dion
knew that Mr. Thrush had already been two or three times to see Robin,
and had wondered about it with some amusement. "Where will your cult
for Mr. Thrush lead you?" he had laughingly said to Rosamund. And then
he had forgotten "the phenomenon," as he sometimes called Mr. Thrush.
But now, when he actually beheld Mr. Thrush in his house, seated on a
chair in the nursery, with purple hands folded over a seedy, but
carefully brushed, black coat, he genuinely marveled.
Mr. Thrush rose up at his entrance, quite unself-conscious and self-
possessed, and as Dion, concealing his surprise, greeted the visitor,
Rosamund, who was showing Robin, remarked:
"Mr. Thrush has great ideas on hygiene, Dion. He quite agrees with us
about not wrapping children in cotton-wool."
"Your conceptions are Doric, too, in fact?" said Dion to Thrush, in
the slightly rough or bluff manner which he now sometimes assumed.
"I wouldn't go so far as to say exactly that, sir," said Mr. Thrush,
speaking with a sort of gentleness which was almost refined. "But
having been a chemist in a very good way of business--just off Hanover
Square--during the best years of my life, I have my views, foolish or
perhaps the reverse, on the question of infants. My motto, so far as I
have one, is, /Never cosset/."
He turned towards Robin, who, from his mother's arms, sent him a look
of mild inquiry, and reiterated, with plaintive emphasis, "/Never
"There, Dion!" said Rosamund, with a delicious air of genial
appreciation which made Mr. Thrush gently glow.
"And I'll go further," pursued that authority, lifting a purple hand
and moving his old head to give emphasis to his deliverance, "I'll go
further even than that. Having retired from the pharmaceutical
brotherhood I'll say this: If you can do it, avoid drugs. Chemists"--
he leaned forward and emphatically lowered his voice almost to a
whisper--"Chemists alone know what harm they do."
"By Jove, though, and do they?" said Dion heartily.
"Terrible, sir, terrible! Some people's insides that I know of--used
to know of, perhaps I should say--must be made of iron to deal with
all the medicines they put into 'em. Oh, keep your baby's inside free
from all such abominations!" (He loomed gently over Robin, who
continued to stare at him with an expression of placid interrogation.)
"Keep it away from such things as the Sampson Syrup, Mother Maybrick's
infant tablets, Price's purge for the nursery, Tinkler's tone-up for
tiny tots, Ada Lane's pills for the poppets, and above and before all,
from Professor Jeremiah T. Iplock's 'What baby wants' at two-and-
sixpence the bottle, or in tabloid form for the growing child, two-
and-eight the box. Keep his inside clear of all such, and you'll be
thankful, and he'll bless you both on his bended knees when he comes
to know his preservation."
"He'll never have them, Mr. Thrush," said Rosamund, with a sober voice
and twinkling eyes. "Never."
"Bless you, ma'am, for those beautiful words. And now really I must be
"You'll find tea in the housekeeper's room, Mr. Thrush, as usual,"
"And very kind of you to have it there, I'm sure, ma'am!" the old
gentleman gallantly replied as he made his wavering adieux.
At the door he turned round to face the nursery once more, lifted one
hand in a manner almost apostolic, and uttered the final warning
"/Never cosset!/" Then he evaporated, not without a sort of mossy
dignity, and might be heard tremblingly descending to the lower
"Rose, since when do we have a housekeeper's room?" asked Dion,
touching Robin's puckers with a gentle fore-finger.
"I can't call it the servants' hall to him, poor old man. And I like
to give him tea. It may wean him from----" An expressive look closed
That night, at last, Dion drew from her an explanation of her Thrush
cult. On the evening when Mr. Thrush had rescued her in the fog, as
they walked slowly to Great Cumberland Place, he had told her
something of his history. Rosamund had a great art in drawing from
people the story of their troubles when she cared to do so. Her genial
and warm-hearted sympathy was an almost irresistible lure. Mr.
Thrush's present fate had been brought about by a tragic circumstance,
the death of his only child, a girl of twelve, who had been run over
by an omnibus in Oxford Circus and killed on the spot. Left alone with
a peevish, nagging wife who had never suited him, or, as he expressed
it, "studied" him in any way, he had gone down the hill till he had
landed near the bottom. All his love had been fastened on his child,
and sorrow had not strengthened but had embittered him.
"But to me he seems a gentle old thing," Dion said, when Rosamund told
"He's very bitter inside, poor old chap, but he looks upon us as
friends. He's taken sorrow the wrong way. That's how it is. I'm trying
to get him to look at things differently, and Robin's helping me."
"Already!" said Dion, smiling, yet touched by her serious face.
"Yes. He's an unconscious agent. Poor old Mr. Thrush has never learnt
the lesson of our dear Greek tombs: farewell! He hasn't been able to
say that simply and beautifully, leaving all in other hands. And so
he's the poor old wreck we know. I want to get him out of it if I can.
He came into my life on a night of destiny too."
But she explained nothing more. And she left Dion wondering just how
she would receive a sorrow such as had overtaken Mr. Thrush. Would she
be able to submit as those calm and simple figures on the tombs which
she loved appeared to be submitting? Would she let what she loved pass
away into the shades with a brave and noble, "Farewell"? Would she
take the hand of Sorrow, that hand of steel and ice, as one takes the
hand of a friend--stern, terrible, unfathomed, never to be fathomed in
this world, but a friend? He wondered, but, loving her with that love
which never ceased to grow within him, he prayed that he might never
know. She seemed born to shed happiness and to be happy, and indeed he
could scarcely imagine her wretched.
It was after the explanation of Mr. Thrush's exact relation to
Rosamund that the silent contest began in the waning summer when
London was rather arid, and even the Thames looked hot between its
sluggish banks of mud.
After the trial of her divorce case was over, Mrs. Clarke had left
London and gone into the country for a little while, to rest in a
small house possessed by Esme Darlington at Hook Green, a fashionable
part of Surrey. At, and round about, Hook Green various well-known
persons played occasionally at being rural; it suited Mrs. Clarke very
well to stay for a time among them under Mr. Darlington's ample and
eminently respectable wing. She hated being careful, but even she,
admonished by Mr. Darlington, realized that immediately after emerging
from the shadow of a great scandal she had better play propriety for a
time. It really must be "playing," for, as had been proved at the
trial, she was a thoroughly proper person who hadn't troubled to play
hitherto. So she rested at Hook Green, till the season was over, with
Miss Bainbridge, an old cousin of Esme's; and Esme "ran down" for
Saturdays and Sundays, and "ran up" from Mondays to Saturdays, thus
seeing something of the season and also doing his chivalrous devoir by
"poor dear Cynthia who had had such a cruel time of it."
The season died, and Mr. Darlington then settled down for a while at
Pinkney's Place, as his house was called, and persuaded Mrs. Clarke to
lengthen her stay there till the end of August. He would invite a few
of the people likely to "be of use" to her under the present
circumstances, and by September things would be "dying down a little,"
with all the shooting parties of the autumn beginning, and memories of
the past season growing a bit gray and moldy. Then Mrs. Clarke could
do what she liked "within reason, of course, and provided she gave
Constantinople a wide berth." This she had not promised to do, but she
seldom made promises.
Rosamund had expressed to Daventry her pleasure in the result of the
trial, but in the rather definitely detached manner which had always
marked her personal aloofness from the whole business of the deciding
of Mrs. Clarke's innocence or guilt. She had only spoken once again of
the case to Dion, when he had come to tell her the verdict. Then she
had said how glad she was, and what a relief it must be to Mrs.
Clarke, especially after the hesitation of the jury. Dion had touched
on Mrs. Clarke's great self-possession, and--Rosamund had begun to
tell him how much better little Robin was. He had not repeated to
Rosamund Mrs. Clarke's final words to him. There was no necessity to
do that just then.
Mrs. Clarke stayed at Hook Green till the end of August without making
any attempt to know Rosamund. By that time Dion had come to the
conclusion that she had forgotten about the matter. Perhaps she had
merely had a passing whim which had died. He was not sorry, indeed, he
was almost actively glad, for he was quite sure Rosamund had no wish
to make Mrs. Clarke's acquaintance. At the beginning of September,
however, when he had just come back to work after a month in camp
which had hardened him and made him as brown as a berry, he received
the following note:
2 September, 1897
"DEAR Mr. LEITH,--What of that charming project of bringing about a
meeting between your wife and me? Esme Darlington is always
talking of her beauty and talent, and you know my love of the one
and the other. Beauty is the consolation of the world; talent the
incentive to action stirring our latent vitality. In your marriage
you are fortunate; in mine I have been unfortunate. You were very
kind to me when things were tiresome. I feel a desire to see your
happiness. I'm here arranging matters with my solicitor, and
expect to be here off and on for several months. Perhaps October
will see you back in town, but if you happen to be in this dusty
nothingness now, you might come and see me one day.--Yours with
P. S.--My husband and I are separated, of course, but I have my
boy a good deal with me. He will be up with me to-morrow. I very
much want to take him to that physical instructor you spoke of to
me. I forget the name. Is it Hopkins?"
As Dion read this note in the little house he felt the soft warm grip
of Stamboul. Rosamund and Robin were staying at Westgate till the end
of September; he would go down there every week from Saturday till
Monday. It was now a Monday evening. Four London days lay before him.
He put away the letter and resolved to answer it on the morrow. This
he did, explaining that his wife was by the sea and would not be back
till the autumn. He added that the instructor's name was not Hopkins
but Jenkins, and gave Mrs. Clarke the address of the gymnasium. At the
end of his short note he expressed his intention of calling at
Claridge's, but did not say when he would come. He thought he would
not fix the day and the hour until he had been to Westgate. On a
postcard Mrs. Clarke thanked him for Jenkins's address, and concluded
with "Suggest your own day, or come and dine if you like. Perhaps, as
you're alone, you'll prefer that.--C. C."
At Westgate Dion showed Rosamund Mrs. Clarke's letter. As she read it
he watched her, but could gather nothing from her face. She was
looking splendidly well and, he thought, peculiarly radiant. A surely
perfect happiness gazed bravely out from her mother's eyes, changed in
some mysterious way since the coming of Robin.
"Well?" he said, as she gave him back the letter.
"It's very kind of her. Esme Darlington turns us all into swans,
doesn't he? He's a good-natured enchanter. How thankful she must be
that it's all right about her boy. Oh, here's Robin! Robino, salute
your father! He's a hard-bitten military man, and some day--who knows?
--he'll have to fight for his country. Dion, look at him! Now isn't he
trying to salute?"
"And that he is, ma'am!" cried the ecstatic nurse. "He knows, a boy!
It's trumpets, sir, and drums he's after already. He'll fight some day
with the best of them. Won't he then, a marchy-warchy-umtums?"
And Robin made reply with active fists and feet and martial noises,
assuming alternate expressions of severe decision almost worthy of a
Field-Marshal, and helpless bewilderment that suggested a startled
puppy. He was certainly growing in vigor and beginning to mean a good
deal more than he had meant at first. Dion was more deeply interested
in him now, and sometimes felt as if Robin returned the interest, was
beginning to be able to assemble and concentrate his faculties at
certain moments. Certainly Robin already played an active part in the
lives of his parents. Dion realized that when, on the following
Monday, he returned to town without having settled anything with
regard to Mrs. Clarke. Somehow Robin had always intervened when Dion
had drawn near to the subject of the projected acquaintance between
the woman who kept the door of her life and the woman who, innocently,
followed the flitting light of desire. There were the evenings, of
course, but somehow they were not propitious for a discussion of
social values. Although Robin retired early, he was apt to pervade the
conversation. And then Rosamund went away at intervals to have a look
at him, and Dion filled up the time by smoking a cigar on the cliff
edge. The clock struck ten-thirty--bedtime at Westgate-- before one
had at all realized how late it was getting; and it was out of the
question to bother about things on the edge of sleep. That would have
made for insomnia. The question of Mrs. Clarke could easily wait till
the autumn, when Rosamund would be back in town. It was impossible for
the two women to know each other when the one was at Claridge's and
the other at Westgate. Things would arrange themselves naturally in
the autumn. Dion never said to himself that Rosamund did not intend to
know Mrs. Clarke, but he did say to himself that Mrs. Clarke intended
to know Rosamund.
He wondered a little about that. Why should Mrs. Clarke be so
apparently keen on making the acquaintance of Rosamund? Of course,
Rosamund was delightful, and was known to be delightful. But Mrs.
Clarke must know heaps of attractive people. It really was rather odd.
He decidedly wished that Mrs. Clarke hadn't happened to get the idea
into her head, for he didn't care to press Rosamund on the subject.
The week passed, and another visit to Westgate, and he had not been to
Claridge's. In the second week another note came to him from Mrs.
"DEAR Mr. LEITH,--I'm enchanted with Jenkins. He's a trouvaille. My
boy goes every day to the 'gym,' as he calls it, and is getting on
splendidly. We are both grateful to you, and hope to tell you so.
Come whenever you feel inclined, but only then. I love complete
liberty too well ever to wish to deprive another of it--even if I
could. How wise of your wife to stay by the sea. I hope it's doing
wonders for the baby who (mercifully) isn't wonderful.--Yours
After receiving this communication Dion felt that he simply must go to
see Mrs. Clarke, and he called at the hotel and asked for her about
five-thirty on the following afternoon. She was out, and he left his
card, feeling rather relieved. Next morning he had a note regretting
she had missed him, and asking him, "when" he came again, to let her
know beforehand at what time he meant to arrive so that she might be
in. He thanked her, and promised to do this, but he did not repeat his
visit. By this time, quite unreasonably he supposed, he had begun to
feel decidedly uncomfortable about the whole affair. Yet, when he
considered it fully and fairly, he told himself that he was a fool to
imagine that there could be anything in it which was not quite usual
and natural. He had been sympathetic to Mrs. Clarke when she was
passing through an unpleasant experience; he was Daventry's good
friend; he was also a friend of Mrs. Chetwinde and of Esme Darlington;
naturally, therefore, Mrs. Clarke was inclined to number him among
those who had "stuck to her" when she was being cruelly attacked.
Where was the awkwardness in the situation? After denying to himself
that there was any awkwardness he quite suddenly and quite clearly
realized one evening that such denial was useless. There was
awkwardness, and it arose simply from Rosamund's passive resistance to
the faint pressure--he thought it amounted to that--applied by Mrs.
Clarke. This it was which had given him, which gave him still, a
sensation obscure, but definite, of contest.
Mrs. Clarke meant to know Rosamund, and Rosamund didn't mean to know
Mrs. Clarke. Well, then, the obvious thing for him to do was to keep
out of Mrs. Clarke's way. In such a matter Rosamund must do as she
liked. He had no intention of attempting to force upon her any one,
however suitable as an acquaintance or even as a friend, whom she
didn't want to know. He loved her far too well to do that. He decided
not to mention Mrs. Clarke again to Rosamund when he went down to
Westgate; but somehow or other her name came up, and her boy was
"Is he still with his mother?" Rosamund asked.
"Yes. He's nearly eleven, I believe. She takes him to Jenkins for
exercise. She's very fond of him, I think."
After a moment of silence Rosamund simply said, "Poor child!" and then
spoke of something else, but in those two words, said as she had said
them, Dion thought he heard a definite condemnation of Mrs. Clarke. He
began to wonder whether Rosamund, although she had not read a full,
or, so far as he knew, any account of the case in the papers, had
somehow come to know a good deal about the unwise life of
Constantinople. Friends came to see her in London; she knew several
people at Westgate; report of a /cause celebre/ floats in the air; he
began to believe she knew.
At the end of September, just before Rosamund was to return to London
for the autumn and winter, Mrs. Clarke wrote to Dion again.
28 September, 1897
"DEAR Mr. LEITH,--I'm so sorry to bother you, but I wonder whether
you can spare me a moment. It's about my boy. He seems to me to
have strained himself with his exercises. Jenkins, as you probably
know, has gone away for a fortnight's holiday, so I can't consult
him. I feel a little anxious. You're an athlete, I know, and could
set me right in a moment if I'm making a fuss about nothing. The
strain seems to be in the right hip. Is that possible?--Yours
Dion didn't know how to refuse this appeal, so he fixed an hour, went
to Claridge's, and had an interview with Mrs. Clarke and her son,
Jimmy Clarke. When he went up to her sitting-room he felt rather
uncomfortable. He was thinking of her invitation to dinner, and to
call again, of his lack of response. She must certainly be thinking of
them, too. But when he was with her his discomfort died away before
her completely natural and oddly impersonal manner. Dinners, visits,
seemed far away from her thoughts. She was apparently concentrated on
her boy, and seemed to be thinking of him, not at all of Dion. Had
Dion been a vain man he might have been vexed by her indifference; as
he was not vain, he felt relieved, and so almost grateful to her.
Jimmy, too, helped to make things go easily. The young rascal, a
sturdy, good-looking boy, with dark eyes brimming over with mischief,
took tremendously to Dion at first sight.
"I say," he remarked, "you must be jolly strong! May I?"
He felt Dion's biceps, and added, with a sudden profound gravity:
"Well, I'm blowed! Mater, he's almost as hard as Jenkins."
His mother gave Dion a swift considering look, and then at once began
to consult him about Jimmy's hip. The visit ended with an application
by Dion of Elliman's embrocation, for which one of the hotel page-boys
was sent to the nearest chemist.
"I say, mind you come again, Mr. Leith!" vociferated Jimmy, when Dion
was going. "You're better than doctors, you know."
Mrs. Clarke did not back up her son's frank invitation. She only
thanked Dion quietly in her husky voice, and bade him good-by with an
"I know how busy you must be, and how difficult you must find it ever
to pay a call. You've been very good to us." At the door she added,
"I've never seen Jimmy take so much to anyone as to you." As Dion went
down the stairs something in him was gently glowing. He was glad that
young rascal had taken to him at sight. The fact gave him confidence
when he thought of Robin and the future.
It occurred to him, as he turned into the Greville Club, that Mrs.
Clarke had not once mentioned Rosamund during his visit.
When Rosamund, Robin and the nurse came back to London on the last day
of September, Beatrice and Daventry were settled in their home. They
had taken a flat in De Lorne Gardens, Kensington, high up on the
seventh floor of a big building, which overlooked from a distance the
trees of Kensington Gardens. Their friends soon began to call on them,
and one of the first to mount up in the lift to their "hill-top," as
Daventry called their seventh floor, was Mrs. Clarke. A few nights
after her call the Daventrys dined in Little Market Street, and
Daventry, whose happiness had raised him not only to the seventh-floor
flat, but also to the seventh heaven, mentioned that she had been, and
that they were going to dine with her at Claridge's on the following
night. He enlarged, almost with exuberance, upon her /savoir-vivre/,
her knowledge and taste, and said Beattie was delighted with her.
Beatrice did not deny it. She was never exuberant, but she
acknowledged that she had found Mrs. Clarke attractive and
"A lot of the clever ones are going to-morrow," said Daventry. He
mentioned several, both women and men, among them a lady who was famed
for her exclusiveness as well as for her brains.
Evidently Mrs. Chetwinde had been speaking by the book when she had
said at the trial, "If she wins, she wins, and it's all right. If she
gets the verdict, the world won't do anything, except laugh at Beadon
Clarke." No serious impression had apparently been left upon society
by the first disagreement of the jury. The "wild mind in the innocent
body" had been accepted for what it was. And perhaps now, chastened by
a sad experience, the wild mind was on the way to becoming tame. Dion
wondered if it were so. After dinner he was undeceived by Daventry,
who told him over their cigars that Mrs. Clarke was positively going
back to live in Constantinople, and had already taken a flat there,
"against every one's advice." Beadon Clarke had got himself
transferred, and was to be sent to Madrid, so she wouldn't run against
him; but nevertheless she was making a great mistake.
"However," Daventry concluded, "there's something fine about her
persistence; and of course a guilty woman would never dare to go back,
even after an acquittal."
"No," said Dion, thinking of the way his hand had been held in Mrs.
Chetwinde's drawing-room. "I suppose not."
"I wonder when Rosamund will get to know her," said Daventry, with
perhaps a slightly conscious carelessness.
"Never, perhaps," said Dion, with equal carelessness. "Often one lives
for years in London without knowing, or even ever seeing, one's next-
"To be sure!" said Daventry. "One of London's many advantages, or
disadvantages, as the case may be."
And he began to talk about Whistler's Nocturnes. Dion had never
happened to tell Daventry about Jimmy Clarke's strained hip and his
own application of Elliman's embrocation. He had told Rosamund, of
course, and she had said that if Robin ever strained himself she
should do exactly the same thing.
That night, when the Daventrys had gone, Dion asked Rosamund whether
she thought Beattie was happy. She hesitated for a moment, then she
said with her usual directness:
"I'm not sure that she is, Dion. Guy is a dear, kind, good husband to
her, but there's something homeless about Beattie somehow. She's
living in that pretty little flat in De Lorne Gardens, and yet she
seems to me a wanderer. But we must wait; she may find what she's
looking for. I pray to God that she will."
She did not explain; he guessed what she meant. Had she, too, been a
wanderer at first, and had she found what she had been looking for?
While Rosamund was speaking he had been pitying Guy. When she had
finished he wondered whether he had ever had cause to pity some one
else--now and then. Despite the peaceful happiness of his married life
there was a very faint coldness at, or near to, his heart. It came
upon him like a breath of frost stealing up out of the darkness to one
who, standing in a room lit and warmed by a glowing fire, opens a
window and lets in for a moment a winter night. But he shut his window
quickly, and he turned to look at the fire and to warm his hands at
Mrs. Clarke rapidly established a sort of intimacy with the Daventrys.
As Daventry had helped to fight for her, and genuinely delighted in
her faculties, this was very natural; for Beatrice, unlike Rosamund,
was apt to take her color gently from those with whom she lived,
desiring to please them, not because she was vain and wished to be
thought charming, but because she had an unusually sweet disposition
and wished to be charming. She was sincere, and if asked a direct
question always returned an answer that was true; but she sometimes
fell in with an assumption from a soft desire to be kind. Daventry
quite innocently assumed that she found Mrs. Clarke as delightful as
he did. Perhaps she did; perhaps she did not. However it was, she
gently accepted Mrs. Clarke as a friend.
Dion, of course, knew of this friendship; and so did Rosamund. She
never made any comment upon it, and showed no interest in it. But her
life that autumn was a full one. She had Robin; she had the house to
look after, "my little house"; she had Dion in the evenings; she had
quantities of friends and acquaintances; and she had her singing. She
had now definitely given up singing professionally. Her very short
career as an artist was closed. But she had begun to practise
diligently again, and showed by this assiduity that she loved music
not for what she could gain by it, but for its own sake. Of her
friends and acquaintances she saw much less than formerly. Many of
them complained that they never could get a glimpse of her now, that
she shut them out, that "not at home" had become a parrot-cry on the
lips of her well-trained parlor-maid, that she cared for nobody now
that she had a husband and a baby, that she was self-engrossed, etc.,
etc. But they could not be angry with her; for if they did happen to
meet her, or if she did happen to be "at home" when they called, they
always found her the genial, radiant, kind and friendly Rosamund of
old; full, apparently, of all the former interest in them and their
doings, eager to welcome and make the most of their jokes and good
stories, sympathetic towards their troubles and sorrows. To Dion she
once said in explanation of her withdrawal from the rather bustling
life which keeping up with many friends and acquaintances implies:
"I think one sometimes has to make a choice between living deeply in
the essentials and just paddling up to one's ankles in the non-
essentials. I want to live deeply if I can, and I am very happy in
quiet. I can hear only in peace the voices that mean most to me."
"I remember what you said to me once in the Acropolis," he answered.
"What was that?"
"You said, 'Oh, Dion, if you knew how something in me cares for
freshness and for peace.'"
"You remember my very words!"
"Then you understand?"
"And besides," he said slowly, and as if with some hesitation, "you
used to long for a very quiet life, for the religious life; didn't
"Once, but it seems such ages ago."
"And yet Robin's not a year old yet."
She looked at him with a sudden, and almost intense, inquiry; he was
smiling at her.
"Robino maestro di casa!" he added.
And they both laughed.
Towards the end of November one day Daventry said to Dion in the
"Beatrice is going to give a dinner somewhere, probably at the
Carlton. She thought of the twenty-eighth. Are Rosamund and you
engaged that night? She wants you, of course."
"No. We don't go out much. Rose is an early rooster, as she calls it."
"Then the twenty-eighth would do capitally."
"Shall I tell Rose?"
"Yes, do. Beattie will write too, or tell Rosamund when she sees her."
"Whom are you going to have?"
"Oh, Mrs. Chetwinde for one, and--we must see whom we can get. We'll
try to make it cheery and not too imbecile."
As Daventry was speaking, Dion felt certain that the dinner had an
object, and he thought he knew what that object was. But he only said:
"It's certain to be jolly, and I always enjoy myself at the Carlton."
"Even with bores?" said Daventry, unable to refrain from pricking a
bubble, although he guessed the reason why Dion had blown it.
"Anyhow, I'm sure you won't invite bores," said Dion, trying to
preserve a casual air, and wishing, for the moment, that he and his
friend were densely stupid instead of quite intelligent.
"Pray that Beattie and I may be guided in our choice," returned
Daventry, going to pick up the "Saturday Review."
Rosamund said of course she would go on the twenty-eighth and help
Beattie with her dinner. She had accepted before she asked who were
the invited guests. Beattie, who was evidently quite guileless in the
matter, told her at once that Mrs. Clarke was among them. Rosamund
said nothing, and appeared to be looking forward to the twenty-eighth.
She even got a new gown for it, and Dion began to feel that he had
made a mistake in supposing that Rosamund had long ago decided not to
know Mrs. Clarke. He was very glad, for he had often felt
uncomfortable about Mrs. Clarke, who, he supposed, must have believed
that his wife did not wish to meet her, as her reiterated desire to
make Rosamund's acquaintance had met with no response. She had, he
thought, shown the tact of a lady and of a thorough woman of the world
in not pressing the point, and in never seeking to continue her
acquaintance, or dawning friendship, with him since his wife had come
back to town. He felt a strong desire now to be pleasant and cordial
to her, and to show her how charming and sympathetic his Rosamund was.
He looked forward to this dinner as he seldom looked forward to any
On the twenty-sixth of November Robin had a cold! On the twenty-
seventh it was worse, and he developed a little hard cough which was
rather pathetic, and which seemed to surprise and interest him a good
deal. Rosamund was full of solicitude. On the night of the twenty-
seventh she said she would sit up with Robin. The nurse protested, but
Rosamund was smilingly firm.
"I want you to have a good night, Nurse," she said. "You're too
devoted and take too much out of yourself. And, besides, I shouldn't
sleep. I should be straining my ears all the time to hear whether my
boy was coughing or not."
Nurse had to give in, of course. But Dion was dismayed when he heard
of the project.
"You'll be worn out!" he exclaimed.
"No, I shan't But even if I were it wouldn't matter."
"But I want you to look your radiant self for Beattie's dinner."
It seemed she had forgotten it.
"Robin comes first," she said firmly, after a moment of silence.
And she sat up that night in an arm-chair by the nursery fire,
ministering at intervals to the child, who seemed impressed and
heartened in his coughings by his mother's presence.
On the following day she was rather tired, the cough was not abated,
and when Dion came back from business he learnt that she had
telegraphed to Beattie to give up the dinner. He was very much
disappointed. But she did really look tired; Robin's cough was audible
in the quiet house; the telegram had gone, and of course there was
nothing more to be done. Dion did not even express his disappointment;
but he begged Rosamund to go very early to bed, and offered to sleep
in a separate room if his return late was likely to disturb her. She
agreed that, perhaps, that would be best. So, at about eleven-thirty
that night, Dion made his way to their spare room, walking tentatively
lest a board should creak and awaken Rosamund.
Everybody had missed her and had made inquiries about her, except Mrs.
Clarke and Daventry. The latter had not mentioned her in Dion's
hearing. But he was very busy with his guests. Mrs. Clarke had
apparently not known that Rosamund had been expected at the dinner,
for when Dion, who had sat next her, had said something about the
unfortunate reason for Rosamund's absence, Mrs. Clarke had seemed
"But I thought your wife had quite given up going out since her child
was born?" she had said.
"Oh no. She goes out sometimes."
"I had no idea she did. But now I shall begin to be disappointed and
to feel I've missed something. You shouldn't have told me."
It was quite gravely and naturally said. As he went into the spare
room, Dion remembered the exact tone of Mrs. Clarke's husky voice in
speaking it, the exact expression in her eyes. They were strange eyes,
he thought, unlike any other eyes he had seen. In them there was often
a look that seemed both intent and remote. Their gaze was very direct
but it was not piercing. There was melancholy in the eyes but there
was no demand for sympathy. When Dion thought of the expression in
Rosamund's eyes he realized how far from happiness, and even from
serenity, Mrs. Clarke must be, and he could not help pitying her. Yet
she never posed as /une femme incomprise/, or indeed as anything. She
was absolutely simple and natural. He had enjoyed talking to her.
Despite her gravity she was, he thought, excellent company, a really
interesting woman and strongly individual. She seemed totally devoid
of the little tiresomenesses belonging to many woman--tiresomenesses
which spring out of vanity and affectation, the desire of possession,
the uneasy wish to "cut out" publicly other women. Mrs. Clarke would
surely never "manage" a man. If she held a man it would be with the
listless and yet imperative grip of Stamboul. The man might go if he
would, but--would he want to go?
In thinking of Mrs. Clarke, Dion of course always considered her with
the detached spectator's mind. No woman on earth was of real
importance to him except Rosamund. His mother he did not consciously
count among women. She was to him just the exceptional being, the
unique and homely manifestation a devoted mother is to the son who
loves her without thinking about it; not numbered among women or even
among mothers. She stood to him for protective love unquestioning, for
interest in him and all his doings unwavering, for faith in his inner
worth undying, for the Eternities without beginning or ending; but
probably he did not know it. Of Rosamund, what she was, what she meant
in his life, he was intensely, even secretly, almost savagely
conscious. In Mrs. Clarke he was more interested than he happened to
be in any of the women who dwelt in the great world of those whom he
did not love and never could love.
Had the dinner-party he had just been to been arranged by Daventry in
order that Rosamund and Mrs. Clarke might meet in a perfectly natural
way? If so, it must have been Daventry's idea and not Mrs. Clarke's.
Dion had a feeling that Daventry had been vexed by Rosamund's
defection. He knew his friend very well. It was not quite natural that
Daventry had not mentioned Rosamund. But why should Daventry strongly
wish Mrs. Clarke and Rosamund to meet if Mrs. Clarke had not indicated
a desire to know Rosamund? Daventry was an enthusiastic adherent of
Mrs. Clarke's. He had, Dion knew, a chivalrous feeling for her. Having
helped to win her case, any slight put upon her would be warmly
resented by him.
Had Rosamund put upon her a slight? Had she deliberately avoided the
Dion was on the point of getting into the spare-room bed when he asked
himself that question. As he pulled back the clothes he heard a dry
little sound. It was Robin's cough. He stole to the door and opened
it. As he did so he saw the tail of Rosamund's dressing-gown
disappearing over the threshold of the nursery. The nursery door shut
softly behind her, and Dion got into bed feeling heartily ashamed of
his suspicion. How low it was to search for hidden motives in such a
woman as Rosamund. He resolved never to do that again. He lay in bed
listening, but he did not hear Robin's cough again, and he wondered if
the child was already old enough to be what nurses call "artful,"
whether he had made use of his little affliction to get hold of his
providence in the night.
What a mystery was the relation of mother and little child! He lay for
a long while musing about it. Why hadn't he followed Rosamund over the
threshold of the nursery just now? The mystery had held him back.
Was it greater than the mystery of the relation of man to woman in a
love such as his for Rosamund? He considered it, but he was certain
that he could not fathom it. No man, he felt sure, knew or ever could
know how a mother like Rosamund, that is an intensely maternal mother,
regarded her child when he was little and dependent on her; how she
loved him, what he meant to her. And no doubt the gift of the mother
to the child was subtly reciprocated by the child. But just how?
Dion could not remember at all what he had felt, or how he had
regarded his mother when he was nine months old. Presently he recalled
Hermes and the child in that remote and hushed room hidden away in the
green wilds of Elis; he even saw them before him--saw the beautiful
face of the Hermes, saw the child's stretched-out arm.
Elis! He had been wonderfully happy there, far away in the smiling
wilderness. Would he ever be there again? And, if fate did indeed lead
his steps thither, would he again be wonderfully happy? Of one thing
he was certain; that he would never see Elis, would never see Hermes
and the child again, unless Rosamund was with him. She had made the
green wilderness to blossom as the rose. She only could make his life
to blossom. He depended upon her terribly--terribly. Always that love
of his was growing. People, especially women, often said that the love
of a man was quickly satisfied, more quickly than a woman's, that the
masculine satisfaction was soon followed by satiety. Love such as that
was only an appetite, a species of lust. Such a woman as Rosamund
could not awaken mere lust. For her a man might have desire, but only
the desire that every great love of a man for a woman encloses. And
how utterly different that was from physical lust.
He thought of the maidens upholding the porch of the Erechtheion. His
Rosamund descended from them, was as pure, as serene in her goodness,
as beautiful as they were.
In thinking of the beloved maidens he did not think of them as marble.
Before he went to sleep Dion had realized that, since Rosamund was
awake, the reason for his coming to the spare room did not exist.
Nevertheless he did not go to their bedroom that night. Robin's little
dry cough still sounded in his ears. To-night was Robin's kingdom.
In a day or two Robin was better, in a week he was perfectly well. If
he had not chanced to catch cold, would Rosamund have worn that new
evening-gown at the Carlton dinner?
On that question Dion had a discussion with Daventry which was
disagreeable to him. One day Daventry, who had evidently been, in
silence, debating whether to speak or not, said to him:
"Oh, Dion, d'you mind if I use a friend's privilege and say something
I very much want to say, but which you mayn't be so keen to hear?"
"No, of course not. We can say anything to each other."
"Can we? I'm not sure of that--now."
"What d'you mean?"
"Oh, well--anyhow, this time I'll venture. Why did Rosamund throw us
over the other night at almost the last moment?"
"Because Robin was ill."
"He's quite well now."
"Why not. It's ten days ago."
"He can't have been so very ill."
"He was ill enough to make Rosamund very anxious. She was up with him
the whole night before your dinner; and not only that, she was up
again on the night of the dinner, though she was very tired."
"Well, coming to our dinner wouldn't have prevented that--only eight
"I don't think, Guy, you at all understand Rosamund's feeling for
Robin," said Dion, with a sort of dry steadiness.
"Probably not, being a man."
"Perhaps a father can understand better."
"Better? It seems to me one either does understand a thing or one
doesn't understand it."
There was a not very attractive silence which Daventry broke by
"Then you think if Beattie and I give another dinner at the Carlton--a
piece of reckless extravagance, but we are made on entertaining!--
Robin won't be ill again?"
"Another dinner? You'll be ruined."
"I've got several more briefs. Would Robin be ill?"
"How the deuce can any one know?"
"I'll hazard a guess. He would be ill."
Dion reddened. There was sudden heat not only in his cheeks but also
about his heart.
"I didn't know you were capable of talking such pernicious rubbish!"
"Let's prove whether it's rubbish or not. Beattie will send Rosamund
another dinner invitation to-morrow, and then we'll wait and see what
happens to Robin's health."
"Guy, I don't want to have a quarrel with you."
"A quarrel? What about?"
"If you imply that Rosamund is insincere, is capable of acting a part,
we shall quarrel. Robin was really ill. Rosamund fully meant to go to
your dinner. She bought a new dress expressly for it."
"Forgive me, old Dion, and please don't think I was attacking
Rosamund. No. But I think sometimes the very sweetest and best women
do have their little bit of insincerity. To women very often the
motive seems of more importance than the action springing from it. I
had an idea that perhaps Rosamund was anxious not to hurt some one's
After a slight hesitation Daventry said:
"Did Mrs. Clarke know that Rosamund accepted to go to your dinner?"
asked Dion abruptly, and with a forcible directness that put the not
unastute Daventry immediately on his guard.
"What on earth has that to do with it?"
"Everything, I should think. Did she?"
"No," said Daventry.
"Then how could--?" Dion began. But he broke off, and added more
"Why are you so anxious that Rosamund should know Mrs. Clarke?"
"Well, didn't Mrs. Clarke ages ago express a wish to know Rosamund if
the case went in her favor?"
"Oh, I--yes, I fancy she did. But she probably meant nothing by it,
and has forgotten it."
"I doubt that. A woman who has gone through Mrs. Clarke's ordeal is
generally hypersensitive afterwards."
"But she's come out splendidly. Everybody believes in her. She's got
her child. What more can she want?"
"As she's such a great friend of ours I think it must seem very odd to
her not knowing Rosamund, especially as she's good friends with you.
D'you mind if we ask Rosamund to meet her again?"
"You've done it once. I should leave things alone. Mind, Rosamund has
never told me she doesn't want to know Mrs. Clarke."
"That may be another example of her goodness of heart," said Daventry.
"Rosamund seldom or never speaks against people. I'll tell you the
simple truth, Dion. As I helped to defend Mrs. Clarke, and as we won
and she was proved to be an innocent woman, and as I believe in her
and admire her very much, I'm sensitive for her. Perhaps it's very
"I think it's very chivalrous."
"Oh--rot! But there it is. And so I hate to see a relation of my own--
I count Rosamund as a relation now--standing out against her."
"There's no reason to think she's doing that."
An expression that seemed to be of pity flitted over Daventry's
intelligent face, and he slightly raised his eyebrows.
"Anyhow, we won't bother you with another dinner invitation," he said.
And so the conversation ended.
It left with Dion an impression which was not pleasant, and he could
not help wondering whether, during the conversation, his friend had
told him a direct and deliberate lie.
No more dinners were given by Beattie and Daventry at the Carlton.
Robin's health continued to be excellent. Mrs. Clarke was never
mentioned at 5 Little Market Street, and she gave to the Leiths no
sign of life, though Dion knew that she was still in London and was
going to stay on there until the spring. He did not meet her, although
she knew many of those whom he knew. This was partly due, perhaps, to
chance; but it was also partly due to deliberate action by Dion. He
avoided going to places where he thought he might meet her: to Esme
Darlington's, to Mrs. Chetwinde's, to one or two other houses which
she frequented; he even gave up visiting Jenkins's gymnasium because
he knew she continued to go there regularly with Jimmy Clarke, whom,
since the divorce case, with his father's consent, she had taken away
from school and given to the care of a tutor. All this was easy
enough, and required but little management on account of Rosamund's
love of home and his love of what she loved. Since Robin's coming she
had begun to show more and more plainly her root-indifference to the
outside pleasures and attractions of the world, was becoming, Dion
thought, week by week, more cloistral, was giving the rein, perhaps,
to secret impulses which marriage had interfered with for a time, but
which were now reviving within her. Robin was a genuine reason, but
perhaps also at moments an excuse. Was there not sometimes in the
quiet little house, quiet unless disturbed by babyhood's occasional
outbursts, a strange new atmosphere, delicate and subdued, which
hinted at silent walks, at twilight dreamings, at slowly pacing feet,
bowed heads and wide-eyed contemplation? Or was all this a fancy of
Dion's, bred in him by Rosamund's revelation of an old and haunting
desire? He did not know; but he did know that sometimes, when he heard
her warm voice singing at a little distance from him within their
house, he thought of a man's voice, in some dim and remote chapel with
stained-glass windows, singing an evening hymn in the service of
In the midst of many friends, in the midst of the enormous City,
Rosamund effected, or began to effect, a curiously intent withdrawal,
and Dion, as it were, accompanied her; or perhaps it were truer to
say, followed after her. He loved quiet evenings in his home, and the
love of them grew steadily upon him. To the occasional protests of his
friends he laughingly replied:
"The fact is we're both very happy at home. We're an unfashionable
Bruce Evelin, Esme Darlington and a few others, including, of course,
Dion's mother and the Daventrys, they sometimes asked to come to them.
Their little dinners were homely and delightful; but Mr. Darlington
often regretted plaintively their "really, if I may say so, almost too
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