In the Wilderness
Part 6 out of 15
definite domesticity." He even said to certain intimates:
"I know the next thing we shall hear of will be that the Leiths have
decided to bury themselves in the country. And Dion Leith will wreck
his nerves by daily journeys to town in some horrid business train."
At the beginning of January, however, there came an invitation which
they decided to accept. It was to an evening party at Mrs.
Chetwinde's, and she begged Rosamund to be nice to her and sing at it.
"Since you've given up singing professionally one never hears you at
all," she wrote. "I'm not going to tell the usual lie and say I'm only
having a few people. On the contrary, I'm asking as many as my house
will hold. It's on January the fifteenth."
It happened that the invitation arrived in Little Market Street by the
last post, and that, earlier in the day, Daventry had met Dion in the
Club and had casually told him that Mrs. Clarke was spending the whole
of January in Paris, to get some things for the flat in Constantinople
which she intended to occupy in the late spring. Rosamund showed Dion
Mrs. Chetwinde's note.
"Let's go," he said at once.
"Shall we? Do you like these crowds? She says 'as many as my house
"All the better. There'll be all the more to enjoy the result of your
practising. Do say yes."
His manner was urgent. Mrs. Clarke would be in Paris. This party was
certainly no ingenuity of Daventry's.
"We mustn't begin to live like a monk and a nun," he exclaimed. "We're
too young and enjoy life too much for that."
"Do monks and nuns live together? Since when?" said Rosamund, laughing
"Poor wretches! If only they did, how much--!"
"Hush!" she said, with a smiling pretense of thinking of being shocked
She went to the writing-table.
"Very well, then, we'll go if you want to."
"Don't you?" he asked, following her.
She had sat down and taken up a pen. Now she looked up at him with her
"I'm sure I shall enjoy it when I'm there," she answered. "I generally
enjoy things. You know that. You've seen me among people so often."
"Yes. One would think you reveled in society if one only knew you in
"Well, I don't /really/ care for it one bit. I can't, because I never
miss it if I don't have it."
"I believe you /really/ care for very few things and for very few
people," he said.
"Perhaps that's true about people."
"How many people, I wonder?"
"I don't think one always knows whom one cares for until something
"Until one's threatened with loss, or until one actually does lose
somebody one loves. I"--she hesitated, stretched out her hand, and
drew some notepaper out of a green case which stood on the table--"I
had absolutely no idea what I felt for my mother until she died. She
died very suddenly."
Tears rushed to her eyes and her whole face suddenly reddened.
"Then I knew!" she said, in a broken voice.
Dion had never before seen her look as she was looking now.
For a moment he felt almost as if he were regarding a stranger. There
was a sort of heat of anger in the face, which looked rebellious in
its emotion; and he believed it was the rebellion in her face which
made him realize how intensely she had been able to love her mother.
"Now I must write to Mrs. Chetwinde," she said, suddenly bending over
the notepaper, "and tell her we'll come, and I'll sing."
He stood a moment watching the moving pen. Then he bent down and just
touched her shoulder with a great gentleness.
"If you knew what I would do to keep every breath of sorrow out of
your life!" he said, in a low voice.
Without looking up she touched his hand.
"I know you would. You could never bring sorrow into my life."
From that day Dion realized what intensity of feeling lay beneath
Rosamund's serene and often actively joyous demeanor. Perhaps she
cared for very few people, but for those few she cared with a force
surely almost abnormal. Her mother had now been dead for many years;
never before had Rosamund spoken of her death to him. He understood
the reason of that silence now, and from that day the desire to keep
all sorrow from her became almost a passion in him. He even felt that
its approach to her, that its cold touch resting upon her, would be a
hateful and almost unnatural outrage. Yet he saw all around him people
closely companioned by sorrow and did not think that strange. Sorrow
even approached very near to Rosamund and to him in that very month of
January, for Beatrice had a miscarriage and lost her baby. She said
very little about it, but Dion believed that she was really stricken
to the heart. He was very fond of Beatrice, he almost loved her; yet
her sorrow was only a shadow passing by him, not a substance pressing
upon him. And that fact, which he realized, made him know how little
even imagination and quiet affection can help men feel the pains of
others. The heart knoweth only its own bitterness and the bitterness
of those whom it deeply and passionately loves.
On January the fifteenth Rosamund put on the gown which had been
bought for the Carlton dinner but not worn at it.
Although she had not really wanted to go to Mrs. Chetwinde's party she
looked radiantly buoyant, and like one almost shining with
expectation, when she was ready to start for Lowndes Square.
"You ought to go out every night," Dion said, as he put her cloak over
"To enjoy and to give enjoyment. Merely to look at you would make the
dullest set of people in London wake up and scintillate. Don't tell me
you're not looking forward to it, because I couldn't believe you."
"Now that the war-paint is on I confess to feeling almost eager for
the fray. How nicely you button it. You aren't clumsy."
"How could I be clumsy in doing something for you? Where's your
"In my head. Jennie will meet us there."
Jennie was Rosamund's accompanist, a clever Irish girl who often came
to Little Market Street to go through things with Rosamund.
"It will be rather delightful singing to people again," she added in a
joyous voice as they got into the hired carriage. "I hope I've really
"How you love a thing for itself!" he said, as they drove off.
"I think that's the only way to love."
"Of course it is. You know the only way to everything beautiful and
sane. What I have learnt from you!"
"Dion," she said, in the darkness, "I think you are rather a dangerous
companion for me."
"How can I be?"
"I'm not at all a piece of perfection. Take care you don't teach me to
think I am."
"But you're the least conceited--"
"Hush, you encourager of egoism!" she interrupted seriously.
"I'm afraid you'll find a good many more at Mrs. Chetwinde's."
Dion thought he had been a true prophet half an hour later when, from
a little distance, he watched and listened while Rosamund was singing
her first song. Seeing her thus in the midst of a crowd he awakened to
the fact that Robin had changed her very much. She still looked
splendidly young but she no longer looked like a girl. The married
woman and the mother were there quite definitely. Even he fancied that
he heard them in her voice, which had gained in some way, perhaps in
roundness, in mellowness. This might be the result of study; he was
inclined to believe it the result of motherhood. She was wearing ear-
rings--tiny, not long drooping things, they were green, small
emeralds; and he remembered how he had loved her better when he saw
her wearing ear-rings for the first time in Mr. Darlington's drawing-
room. How definite she was in a crowd. Crowds effaced ordinary people,
but when Rosamund was surrounded she always seemed to be beautifully
emphasized, to be made more perfectly herself. She did not take, she
gave, and in giving showed how much she had.
She was giving now as she sang, "Caro mio ben."
Towards the end of the song, when Dion was deeply in it and in her who
sang it, he was disturbed by a woman's whisper coming from close
behind him. He did not catch the beginning of what was communicated,
but he did catch the end. It was this: "Over there, the famous Mrs.
But Mrs. Clarke was in Paris. Daventry had told him so. Dion looked
quickly about the large and crowded room, but could not see Mrs.
Clarke. Then he glanced behind him to see the whisperer, and beheld a
hard-faced, middle-aged and very well-known woman--one of those women
who, by dint of perpetually "going about," become at length something
less than human. He was quite sure Mrs. Brackenhurst would not make a
mistake about anything which happened at a party. She might fail to
recognize her husband, if she met him about her house, because he was
so seldom there; she would not fail to recognize the heroine of a
resounding divorce case. Mrs. Clarke must certainly have returned from
Paris and be somewhere in that room, listening to Rosamund and
probably watching her. Dion scarcely knew whether this fact made him
sorry or glad. He did know, however, that it oddly excited him.
When "Caro mio ben" was ended people began to move. Rosamund was
surrounded and congratulated, and Dion saw Esme Darlington bending to
her, half paternally, half gallantly, and speaking to her
emphatically. Mrs. Chetwinde drifted up to her; and three or four
young men hovered near to her, evidently desirous of putting in a
word. The success of her leaped to the eye. Dion saw it and glowed.
But the excitement in him persisted, and he began to move towards the
far side of the great room in search of Mrs. Clarke. If she had just
come in she would probably be near the door by which the pathetic Echo
stood on her pedestal of marble, withdrawn in her punishment, in her
abasement beautiful and wistful. How different was Rosamund from Echo!
Dion looked across at her joyous and radiant animation, as she smiled
and talked almost with the eagerness and vitality of a child; and he
had the thought, "How goodness preserves!" Women throng the secret
rooms of the vanity specialists, put their trust in pomades, in
pigments, in tinctures, in dyes; and the weariness and the sin become
lustrous, perhaps, but never are hidden or even obscured. His Rosamund
trusted in a wholesome life, with air blowing through it, with sound
sleep as its anodyne, with purity on guard at its door; and radiance
and youth sparkled up in her like fountain spray in the sunshine. And
the wholesomeness of her was a lure to the many even in a drawing-room
of London. He saw powdered women, women with darkened eyebrows, and
touched-up lips, and hair that had forgotten long ago what was its
natural color, looking at her, and he fancied there was a dull wonder
in their eyes. Perhaps they were thinking: "Yes, that's the recipe--
being gay in goodness!" And perhaps some of them were thinking, too:
"We've lost the power to follow that recipe, if we ever had it." Poor
women! With a sort of exultation he pitied them and their husbands. A
chord was sounded on the piano. He stood still. The loud buzz of
conversation died down. Was Rosamund going to sing again so soon?
Perhaps some one had begged for something specially beloved. Jennie
was playing a soft prelude as a gentle warning to a few of those who
seem ever to find silence a physical difficulty. She stopped, and
began to play something Dion did not know, something very modern in
its strange atmospheric delicacy, which nevertheless instantly
transported him to Greece. He was there, even before Rosamund began to
sing in a voice that was hushed, in a far-off voice, not antique, but
the voice of modernity, prompted by a mind looking away from what is
near to what is afar and is deeply desired.
"A crescent sail upon the sea,
So calm and fair and ripple-free
You wonder storms can ever be;
A shore with deep indented bays,
And o'er the gleaming water-ways
A glimpse of Islands in the haze;
A faced bronzed dark to red and gold,
With mountain eyes that seem to hold
The freshness of the world of old;
A shepherd's crook, a coat of fleece,
A grazing flock--the sense of peace,
The long sweet silence--this is Greece."
The accompaniment continued for a moment alone, whispering remoteness.
Then, like a voice far off in a blue distance, there came again from
Rosamund, more softly and with less pressure:
"----The sense of peace,
The long sweet silence--this is Greece!
This is Greece!"
It was just then that Dion saw Mrs. Clarke. She had, perhaps, been
sitting down; or, possibly, some one had been standing in front of her
and had hidden her from him; for she was not far off, and he wondered
sharply why he had not seen her till now, why, till now, she had
refrained from snatching him away from his land of the early morning.
There was to him at this moment something actually cruel and painful
in her instant suggestion of Stamboul. Yet she was not looking at him,
but was directing upon Rosamund her characteristic gaze of
consideration, in which there was a peculiar grave thoroughness. A
handsome, fair young man, with a very red weak mouth, stood close to
her. Echo was just beyond. Without speaking, Mrs. Clarke continued
looking at Rosamund intently, when the music evaporated, and Greece
faded away into the shining of that distance which hides our dreams.
And Dion noted again, with a faint creeping of wonder and of doubt,
the strange haggardness of her face, which, nevertheless, he had come
to think almost beautiful.
The fair young man spoke to her, bending and looking at her eagerly.
She turned her head slowly, and as if reluctantly towards him, and was
evidently listening to what he said, listening with that apparent
intentness which was characteristic of her. She was dressed in black
and violet, and wore a large knot of violets in her corsage. Round her
throat was clasped an antique necklace of dull, unshining gold, and
dim purple stones, which looked beautiful, but almost weary with age.
Perhaps they had lain for years in some dim bazaar of Stamboul,
forgotten under heaps of old stuffs. Dion thought of them as
slumbering, made drowsy and finally unconscious by the fumes of
incense and the exhalations from diapered perfume vials. As he looked
at Mrs. Clarke, the bare and shining vision of Greece, evoked by the
song Rosamund had just been singing, faded; the peculiar almost
intellectually delicate atmosphere of Greece was gone; and he saw for
a moment the umber mystery of Stamboul, lifted under tinted clouds of
the evening beyond the waters of the Golden Horn; the great rounded
domes and tapering speary minarets of the mosques, couchant amid the
shadows and the trailing and gauzy smoke-wreaths, a suggestion of
dense masses of cypresses, those trees of the night which only in the
night can be truly themselves, guarding the innumerable graves of the
From that moment he connected Mrs. Clarke in his mind with the
cypress. Surely she must have spent very many hours wandering in those
enormous and deserted gardens of the dead, where the very dust is
poignant, and the cries of the sea come faintly up to Allah's children
crumbling beneath the stone flowers and the little fezes of stone.
Mrs. Clarke must love the cypress, for about her there was an
atmosphere which suggested dimness and the gathering shadows of night.
Greece and Stamboul, the land of the early morning and the wonder-city
of twilight; Rosamund and Mrs. Clarke, standing there for a moment, in
the midst of the shifting crowd, Dion traveled, compared, connected
and was alone in the soul's solitude.
Then Mrs. Chetwinde spoke to him, and he saw Bruce Evelin in the
distance going towards Rosamund.
Mrs. Chetwinde told him that Rosamund had made a great advance.
"Now that she's given up singing professionally she's singing better
than ever. That Grecian song is the distilled essence of Greece felt
in our new way. For we've got our new way of feeling things. Rosamund
tells us she repeated the words to Jennie Stileman, and Jennie had
them set by a young Athenian who's over here studying English. He
catches the butterfly, lets it flutter for a moment in his hand and
go. He doesn't jab a pin into it as our composers would. Oh, there's
Cynthia! I hope she heard the last thing."
"Yes, she did."
"I thought Mrs. Clarke was spending January in Paris."
"She came back to-day, and sent round to ask if she might come."
Mrs. Chetwinde wandered away, insouciant and observant as ever. Even
at her own parties she always had an air of faintly detached
indifference, never bothered about how "it" was "going." If it chose
to stop it could, and her guests must put up with it.
When she left him Dion hesitated. Mrs. Clarke had just seen him and
sent him a grave nod of recognition. Should he go to her? But the fair
young man was still at her side, was still, with his weak red mouth,
talking into her ear. Dion felt a strange distaste as he saw those
moving lips under the brushed-up, almost ridiculously small, golden
mustache; and just as he was conscious of this distaste Mrs. Clarke
got rid of the young man, and spoke to a woman. Then she moved forward
slowly. Mr. Chetwinde spoke to her, moving his ample fan-shaped beard,
which always looked Assyrian, though he was profoundly English and
didn't know it. She drew nearer to Dion as she answered Mr. Chetwinde,
but in a wholly unconscious manner. To-night she looked more haggard
even than usual, no doubt because of the journey from Paris. But Mrs.
Chetwinde had once said of her: "Cynthia is made of iron." Could that
be true? She was quite close to Dion now, and he was aware of a
strange faint perfume which reminded him of Stamboul; and he realized
here in Lowndes Square that Stamboul was genuinely fascinating, was
much more fascinating than he had realized when he was in it.
Mrs. Clarke passed him without looking at him, and he felt sure quite
unconscious of his nearness to her. Evidently she had forgotten all
about him. Just after she had gone by he decided that of course he
ought to go and speak to her, and that to-night he must introduce
Rosamund to her. Not to do so would really be rude. Daventry was not
there to be chivalrous. The illness of Beattie, and doubtless his own
distress at the loss of his unborn child, had kept him away. Dion
thought that he would be unchivalrous if he now neglected to make a
point of speaking to Mrs. Clarke and of introducing his wife to her.
Having made up his mind on this he turned to follow Mrs. Clarke, and
at once saw that Esme Darlington, that smoother of difficult social
places, was before him. A little way off he saw Mr. Darlington, with
Rosamund well but delicately in hand, making for Mrs. Clarke somewhat
with the gait of Agag. In a moment the thing was done. The two women
were speaking to each other, and Rosamund had sent to Mrs. Clarke one
of her inquiring looks. Then they sat down together on that red sofa
to which Mrs. Clarke had led Dion for his first conversation with her.
Esme Darlington remained standing before it. The full acquaintance was
joined at last.
Were they talking about the baby? Dion wondered, as for a moment he
watched them, forgetting his surroundings. Rosamund was speaking with
her usual swift vivacity. At home she was now often rather quiet,
moving, Dion sometimes thought, in an atmosphere of wide serenity; but
in society she was always full of sunshine and eager life. Something
within her leaped up responsively at the touch of humanity, and
to-night she had just been singing, and the whole of her was keenly
awake. The contrast between her and Mrs. Clarke was almost startling:
her radiant vitality emphasized Mrs. Clarke's curious, but perfectly
natural, gravity; the rose in her cheeks, the yellow in her hair, the
gaiety in her eyes, drew the attention to Mrs. Clarke's febrile and
tense refinement, which seemed to have worn her body thin, to have
drained the luster out of her hair, to have fixed the expression of
observant distress in her large and fearless eyes. Animal spirits
played through Rosamund to-night; from Mrs. Clarke they were absent.
Her haggard composure, confronting Rosamund's pure sparkle, suggested
the comparison of a hidden and secret pool, steel colored in the
depths of a sunless forest, with a rushing mountain stream leaping
towards the sea in a tangle of sun-rays. Dion realized for the first
time that Mrs. Clarke never laughed, and scarcely ever smiled. He
realized, too, that she really was beautiful. For Rosamund did not
"kill" her; her delicacy of line and colorless clearness stood the
test of nearness to Rosamund's radiant beauty. Indeed Rosamund somehow
enhanced the peculiarly interesting character of Mrs. Clarke's
personality, which was displayed, but with a sort of shadowy
reticence, in her physique, and at the same time underlined its
melancholy. So might a climbing rose, calling to the blue with its
hundred blossoms, teach something of the dark truth of the cypress
through which its branches are threaded.
But Mrs. Clarke would certainly never be Rosamund's stairway towards
Some one he knew spoke to Dion, and he found himself involved in a
long conversation; people moving hid the two women from him, but
presently the piano sounded again, and Rosamund sang that first
favorite of hers and of Dion's, the "Heart ever faithful," recalling
him to a dear day at Portofino where, in a cozy room, guarded by the
wintry woods and the gray sea of Italy, he had felt the lure of a
faithful spirit, and known the basis of clean rock on which Rosamund
had built up her house of life. Bruce Evelin stood near to him while
she sang it now, and once their eyes met and exchanged affectionate
thoughts of the singer, which went gladly out of the gates eager to be
read and understood.
When the melody of Bach was finished many people, impelled thereto by
the hearty giant whom Mrs. Chetwinde had most strangely married, went
downstairs to the black-and-white dining-room to drink champagne and
eat small absurdities of various kinds. A way was opened for Dion to
Mrs. Clarke, who was still on the red sofa. Dion noticed the fair
young man hovering, and surely with intention in his large eyes, in
the middle distance, but he went decisively forward, took Mrs.
Clarke's listless yet imperative hand, and asked her if she would care
to go down with him.
"Oh no; I never eat at odd times."
"Do you ever eat at all?"
"Yes, at my chosen moments. Do find another excuse."
"For going to eat?"
His reply was to sit down beside her. Mrs. Chetwinde's dining-room was
large. People probably knew that, for the drawing-room emptied slowly.
Even the fair young man went away to seek consolation below. Rosamund
had descended with Bruce Evelin and Esme Darlington. There was a
pleasant and almost an intimate hush in the room.
"I heard you were to be in Paris this month," Dion said.
"I came back to-day."
"Aren't you tired?"
"No. I want to speak to you about Jimmy, if you don't mind."
"Please do," said Dion rather earnestly, struck by a sort of little
pang as he remembered the boy's urgent insistence that his visitor was
to come again soon.
"I'm not quite satisfied with his tutor."
She began to ask Dion's advice with regard to the boy's bringing up,
explaining that her husband had left that matter in her hands.
"He's very sorry and ashamed now, poor man, about his attacks on me,
and tries to make up from a distance by trusting me completely with
Jimmy. I don't bear him any malice, but of course the link between us
is smashed and can't ever be resoldered. I'm asking you what I can't
ask him because he's a weak man."
The implication was obvious and not disagreeable to Dion. He gave
advice, and as he did so thought of Robin at ten.
Mrs. Clarke was a remarkably sensible woman, and agreed with his views
on boys, and especially with his theory, suddenly discovered in the
present heat of conversation, that to give them "backbone" was of even
more importance than to develop their intellectual side. She spoke of
her son in a way that was almost male.
"He mustn't be small," she said, evidently comprehending both soul and
body in the assertion. "D'you know Lord Brayfield who was talking to
me just now?"
"You mean a fair man?"
"Yes, with a meaningless mouth. Jimmy mustn't grow up into anything of
The conversation took a decidedly Doric turn as Mrs. Clarke developed
her ideas of what a man ought to be. In the midst of it Dion
remembered Dumeny, and could not help saying:
"But that type"--they had been speaking of what he considered to be
Rosamund's type of man, once described by her as "a strong soul in a
strong body, and a soft heart but not a softy's heart"--"is almost the
direct opposite of the artistic type of man, isn't it?"
Her large eyes looked "Well?" at him, but she said nothing.
"I thought you cared so very much for knowledge and taste in a man."
"So I do. But Jimmy will never have knowledge and taste. He's the
boisterous athletic type."
"And you're glad?"
"Not sorry, at any rate. He'll just be a thorough man, if he's brought
up properly, and that will do very well."
"I think you're very complex," Dion said, still thinking of Dumeny.
"Because I make friends in so many directions?"
"Well--yes, partly," he answered, wondering if she was reading his
"Jimmy's not a friend but my boy. I know very well Monsieur Dumeny,
for instance, whom you saw, and I dare say wondered about, at the
trial; but I couldn't bear that my boy should develop into that type
of man. You'll say I am a treacherous friend, perhaps. It might be
truer to say I was born acquisitive and too mental. I never really
liked Monsieur Dumeny; but I liked immensely his musical talent, his
knowledge, his sure taste, and his power of making almost everything
flower into interestingness. Do you know what I mean? Some people take
light from your day; others add to its light and paint in wonderful
shadows. If I went to the bazaars alone they were Eastern shops; if I
went with Dumeny they were the Arabian Nights. Do you understand?"
"The touch of his mind on a thing gave it life. It stirred. One could
look into its heart and see the pulse beating. I care to do that, so I
cared to go about with Monsieur Dumeny. But one doesn't love people
for that sort of thing. In the people one loves one needs character,
the right fiber in the soul. You ought to know that."
"Why?" he asked, almost startled.
"I was introduced to your wife just now."
There was a pause. Then Dion said:
"I'm glad you have met."
"So am I," said Mrs. Clarke, in a voice that sounded more husky even
than usual. "She sang that Greek song quite beautifully. I've just
been telling her that I want to show her some curious songs I have
heard in Turkey, and Asia Minor, at Brusa. There was one man who used
to sing to me at Brusa outside the Mosquee Verte. Dumeny took down the
melody for me."
"Did you like the 'Heart ever faithful'?"
"Of course it's excellent in that sledge-hammer sort of way, a superb
example of the direct. Stamboul is very indirect. Perhaps it has
colored my taste. It's full of mystery. Bach isn't mysterious, except
now and then--in rare bits of his passion music, for instance."
"I wonder if my wife could sing those Turkish songs."
"We must see. She sang that Greek song perfectly."
"But she's felt Greece," said Dion. "And I think there's something in
"I only mean," he said, with reserve in his voice, "that I think
there's something of Greece in her."
"She's got a head like a Caryatid."
"Yes," he said, with much less reserve. "Hasn't she?"
Mrs. Clarke had paid his Rosamund two noble compliments, he thought;
and he liked her way of payment, casual yet evidently sincere, the
simple utterance of two thoughts in a mind that knew. He felt a sudden
glow of real friendship for her, and, on the glow as it were, she
"Jimmy's quite mad about you."
"Still?" he blurted out, and was instantly conscious of a false step.
"He's got an extraordinary memory for a biceps, and then Jenkins talks
about you to him."
As they went on talking people began coming up from the black-and-
white dining-room. Dion said he would come to see Jimmy again, would
visit the gymnasium in the Harrow Road one day when Jimmy was taking
his lesson. Did Jimmy ever go on a Saturday? Yes, he was going next
Saturday at four. Dion would look in next Saturday. Now Mrs. Clarke
and Rosamund had met, and Mrs. Clarke evidently admired Rosamund in
two ways, Dion felt quite different about his acquaintance with her.
If it had already been agreed that Mrs. Clarke should show Rosamund
Turkish songs, there was no need for further holding back. The relief
which had come to him made Dion realize how very uncomfortable he had
been about Mrs. Clarke in the immediate past. He was now thoroughly
and cordially at his ease with her. They talked till the big drawing-
room was full again, till Rosamund reappeared in the midst of
delightful friends; talked of Jimmy's future, of the new tutor who
must be found,--a real man, not a mere bloodless intellectual,--and,
again, of Constantinople, to which Mrs. Clarke would return in April,
against the advice of her friends, and in spite of Esme Darlington's
almost frantic protests, "because I love it, and because I donít
choose to be driven out of any place by liars." Her last remark to
him, and he thought it very characteristic of her, was this:
"Liberty's worth bitterness. I would buy it at the price of all the
tears in my body."
It was, perhaps, also very characteristic that she made the statement
with a perfectly quiet gravity which almost concealed the evidently
tough inflexibility beneath.
And then, when people were ready to go, Rosamund sung Brahm's
Dion stood beside Bruce Evelin while Rosamund was singing this. She
sang it with a new and wonderful tenderness which had come to her with
Robin, and in her face, as she sang, there was a new and wonderful
tenderness. The meaning of Robin in Rosamund's life was expressed to
Dion by Rosamund in this song as it had never been expressed before.
Perhaps it was expressed also to Bruce Evelin, for Dion saw tears in
his eyes almost brimming over, and his face was contracted, as if only
by a strong, even a violent, effort he was able to preserve his self-
As people began to go away Dion found himself close to Esme
"My dear fellow," said Mr. Darlington, with unusual abandon, "Rosamund
has made a really marvelous advance--marvelous. In that 'Wiegenlied'
she reached high-water mark. No one could have sung it more perfectly.
What has happened to her?"
"Robin," said Dion, looking him full in the face, and speaking with
almost stern conviction.
"Robin?" said Mr. Darlington, with lifted eyebrows.
Then people intervened.
In the carriage going home Rosamund was very happy. She confessed to
the pleasure her success had given her.
"I quite loved singing to-night," she said. "That song about Greece
was for you."
"I know, and the 'Wiegenlied' was for Robin."
"Yes," she said.
She was silent; then her voice came out of the darkness:
"For Robin, but he didn't know it."
"Some day he will know it."
Not a word was said about Mrs. Clarke that night.
On the following day, however, Dion asked Rosamund how she had liked
"I saw you talking to her with the greatest animation."
"Was I?" said Rosamund.
"And she told me it had been arranged that she should--no, I don't
mean that; but she said she wanted to show you some wonderful Turkish
"Did she? What a beautiful profile she has!"
"Ah, you noticed that!"
"Oh yes, directly."
"Didn't she mention the Turkish songs?"
"I believe she did, but only in passing, casually. D'you know, Dion,
I've got an idea that Greece is our country, not Turkey at all. You
hate Constantinople, and I shall never see it, I'm sure. We are
Greeks, and Robin has to be a Greek, too, in one way--a true
Englishman, of course, as well. Do you remember the Doric boy?"
And off went the conversation to the hills of Drouva, and never came
back to Turkey.
When Friday dawned Dion thought of his appointment for Saturday
afternoon at the gymnasium in the Harrow Road, and began to wish he
had not made it. Rosamund had not mentioned Mrs. Clarke again, and he
began to fear that she had not really liked her, although her profile
was beautiful. If Rosamund had not liked Mrs. Clarke, his cordial
enthusiasm at Mrs. Chetwinde's--in retrospect he felt that his
attitude and manner must have implied that--had been premature, even,
perhaps, unfortunate. He wished he knew just what impression Mrs.
Clarke had made upon Rosamund, but something held him back from asking
her. He had asked her already once, but somehow the conversation had
deviated--was it to Mrs. Clarke's profile?--and he had not received a
direct answer. Perhaps that was his fault. But anyhow he must go to
the gymnasium on the morrow. To fail in doing that after all that had
happened, or rather had not happened, in connexion with Mrs. Clarke
would be really rude. He did not say anything about the gymnasium to
Rosamund on Friday, but on the Saturday he told her what had been
"Her son, Jimmy Clarke, has taken a boyish fancy to me, it seems. I
said I'd look in and see his lesson just for once."
"Is he a nice boy?"
"Yes, first-rate, I should think, rather a pickle, and likely to
develop into an athlete. The father is awfully ashamed now of what he
did--that horrible case, I mean--and is trying to make up for it."
"How?" said Rosamund simply.
"By giving her every chance with the boy."
"I'm glad the child likes you."
"I've only seen him once."
"Twice won't kill his liking," she returned affectionately.
And then she went out of the room. She always had plenty to do. Small
though he was, Robin was a marvelous consumer of his mother's time.
When Dion got to the gymnasium Mrs. Clarke and Jimmy were already
there, and Jimmy, in flannels and a white sweater, his dark hair
sticking up in disorder, and his face scarlet with exertion, was
performing feats with an exerciser fixed to the wall, while Mrs.
Clarke, seated on a hard chair in front of a line of heavy weights and
dumb-bells, was looking on with concentrated attention. Jenkins was
standing in front of Jimmy, loudly directing his movements with a
stentorian: "One--two--one--two--one--two! Keep it up! No slackening!
Put some guts into it, sir! One--two--one--two!"
As Dion came in Mrs. Clarke looked round and nodded; Jimmy stared,
unable to smile because his mouth and lower jaw were working, and he
had no superfluous force to spare for polite efforts; and Jenkins
uttered a gruff, "Good day, sir."
"How are you, Jenkins?" returned Dion, in his most off-hand manner.
Then he jerked his hand at Jimmy with an encouraging smile, went over
to Mrs. Clarke, shook her hand and remained standing beside her.
"Do you think he's doing it well?" she murmured, after a moment.
"Hasn't he broadened in the chest?"
She looked strangely febrile and mental in the midst of the many
appliances for developing the body. Rosamund, with her splendid
physique and glowing health, would have crowned the gymnasium
appropriately, have looked like the divine huntress transplanted to a
modern city where still the cult of the body drew its worshipers. The
Arcadian mountains--Olympia in Elis,--Jenkins's "gym" in the Harrow
Road--differing shrines but the cult was the same. Only the conditions
of worship were varied. Dion glanced down at Mrs. Clarke. Never had
she seemed more curiously exotic. Yet she did not look wholly out of
place; and it occurred to him that a perfectly natural person never
looks wholly out of place anywhere.
"Face to the wall, sir!" cried Jenkins.
Jimmy found time for a breathless and half-inquiring smile at Dion as
he turned and prepared for the most difficult feat.
"His jaw always does something extraordinary in this exercise," said
Mrs. Clarke. "It seems to come out and go in again with a click.
Jenkins says it's because Jimmy gets his strength from there."
"I know. Mine used to do just the same."
"Jimmy doesn't mind. It amuses him."
"That's the spirit!"
"He finishes with this."
"Already?" said Dion, surprised.
"You must have been a little late. How did you come?"
"On my bicycle. I had a puncture. That must have been it. And there
was a lot of traffic."
"Keep it up, sir!" roared Jenkins imperatively. "What's the matter
with that left arm?"
Click went Jimmy's lower jaw.
"Dear little chap!" muttered Dion, full of sympathetic interest. "He's
"You really think so?"
"Couldn't be better."
"You understand boys?"
"Better than I understand women, I expect," Dion returned, with a
sudden thought of Rosamund at home and the wonderful Turkish songs
Mrs. Clarke wished to show to her.
Mrs. Clarke said nothing, and just at that moment Jenkins announced:
"That'll do for to-day, sir."
In a flood of perspiration Jimmy turned round, redder than ever, his
chest heaving, his mouth open, and his eyes, but without any conceit,
asking for a word of praise from Dion, who went to clap him on the
"Capital! Hallo! What muscles we're getting! Eh, Jenkins?"
"Master Jimmy's not doing badly, sir. He puts his heart into it. That
I must say."
Jimmy shone through the red and the perspiration.
"He sticks it," continued Jenkins, in his loud voice. "Without grit
there's nothing done. That's what I always tell my pupils."
"I say"--began Jimmy, at last finding a small voice--"I say, Mr.
Leith, you haven't hurried over it."
"Letting me see you again. Why, it's--"
"Run along to the bath, sir. You've got to have it before you cool
down," interposed the merciless Jenkins.
And Jimmy made off with an instant obedience which showed his private
opinion of the god who was training him.
When he was gone Jenkins turned to Dion and looked him over.
"Haven't seen much of you, sir, lately," he remarked.
"No, I've been busy," returned Dion, feeling slightly uncomfortable as
he remembered that the reason for his absence from the Harrow Road was
listening to the conversation.
"Going to have a round with the gloves now you are here, sir?" pursued
Dion looked at Mrs. Clarke.
"Well, I hadn't thought of it," he said, rather doubtfully.
"Just as you like, sir."
"Do, Mr. Leith," said Mrs. Clarke, getting up from the hard chair, and
standing close to the medicine ball with her back to the vaulting-
horse. "Jimmy and I are going in a moment. You mustn't bother about
"Well, but how are you going home?"
"We shall walk. Of course have your boxing. It will do you good."
"You're right there, ma'am," said Jenkins, with a sort of stern
approval. "Mr. Leith's been neglecting his exercises lately."
"Oh, I've been doing a good deal in odd times with the Rifle Corps."
"I don't know anything about that, sir."
"All right, I'll go and change," said Dion, who always kept a singlet
and flannels at the gymnasium. "Then----" he turned to Mrs. Clarke as
if about to say good-by.
"Oh, Jimmy will want to see you for a moment after his bath. We'll say
"Yes, I should like to see him," said Dion, and went off to the
When he returned ready for the fray, with his arms bared to the
shoulder, he found Jimmy, in trousers and an Eton jacket, with still
damp hair sleeked down on his head, waiting with his mother, but not
to say good-by.
"We aren't going," he announced, in a voice almost shrill with
excitement, as Dion came into the gymnasium. "The mater was all for a
trot home, but Jenkins wishes me to stay. He says it'll be a good
lesson for me. I mean to be a boxer."
"Why not?" observed the great voice of Jenkins. "It's the best sport
in the world bar none."
"There!" said Jimmy. "And if I can't be anything else I'll be a
bantam, that's what I'll be."
"Oh, you'll grow, sir, no doubt. We may see you among the heavy-
"What's Mr. Leith? Is he a heavy-weight?" vociferated Jimmy. "Just
look at his arms."
"You'll see him use them in a minute," observed Jenkins, covering Dion
with a glance of almost grim approval, "and then you can judge for
"You can referee us, Jimmy," said Dion, smiling, as he pulled on the
"I say, by Jove, though!" said Jimmy, looking suddenly overwhelmed and
He shook his head and blushed, then abruptly grinned.
"The mater had better do that."
They all laughed except Mrs. Clarke. Even Jenkins unbent, and his bass
"Ha ha!" rang through the large vaulted room. Mrs. Clarke smiled
faintly, scarcely changing the expression of her eyes. She looked
unusually intent and, when the smile was gone, more than usually
"I hope you don't mind our staying just for a few minutes," she said
to Dion. "You see what he is!"
She looked at her boy, but not with deprecation.
"Of course not, but I'm afraid it will bore you."
"Oh no, it won't. I like to see skill of any kind."
She glanced at his arms.
"I'll get out of your way. Come, Jimmy!"
She took him by the arm and went back to the hard chair, while Dion
and Jenkins in the middle of the floor stood up opposite to one
"Have you got a watch, Master Jimmy?" said Jenkins, looking over his
shoulder at his pupil.
"Rather!" piped Jimmy.
"Well, then, you'd better time us if you don't referee us."
Jimmy sprang away from his mother.
"Keep out of our road, or you may chance to get a kidney punch that'll
wind you. Better stand here. That's it. Three-minute rounds. Keep your
eye on the watch."
"Am I to say 'Go'?" almost whispered Jimmy, tense with a fearful
importance such as Caesar and Napoleon never felt.
"Who else? You don't expect us to order ourselves about, do you?"
After a pause Jimmy murmured, "No" in a low voice. So might a mortal
whisper a reply when interrogated from Olympus as to his readiness to
be starter at a combat of the immortal gods.
"Now, then, watch in hand and no favoritism!" bellowed Jenkins, whose
sense of humor was as boisterous as his firmness was grim. "Are we
Dion and he shook hands formally and lifted their arms, gazing at each
other warily. Mrs. Clarke leaned forward in the chair which stood
among the dumb-bells. Jimmy perspired and his eyes became round. He
had his silver watch tight in his right fist. Jenkins suddenly turned
his head and stared with his shallow and steady blue eyes, looking
down from Olympus upon the speck of a mortal far below.
"Go!" piped Jimmy, in the voice of an ardent, but awestruck mouse.
Homeric was that combat in the Harrow Road; to its starter and
timekeeper a contest of giants, awful in force, in skill, in agility,
in endurance. Dion boxed quite his best that day, helped by his
gallery. He fought to win, but he didn't win. Nobody won, for there
was no knock-out blow given and taken, and, when appealed to for a
decision on points, Jimmy, breathing stertorously from excitement, was
quite unable to give the award. He could only stare at the two
glorious heroes before him and drop the silver watch, glass downwards
of course, on the floor, where its tinkle told of destruction. Later
on, when he spoke, he was able to say:
"By Jove!" which he presently amplified into, "I say, mater, by Jove--
eh, wasn't it, though?"
"Not so bad, sir!" said Jenkins to Dion, after the latter had taken
the shower bath. "You aren't as stale as I expected to find you, not
near as stale. But I hope you'll keep it up now you've started with it
And Dion promised he would, put his bicycle on the top of a
fourwheeler, sent it off to Westminster, and walked as far as
Claridge's with Mrs. Clarke and Jimmy.
The boy made him feel tremendously intimate with Mrs. Clarke. The
hero-worship he was receiving, the dancing of the blood through his
veins, the glow of hard exercise, the verdict of Jenkins on his
physical condition--all these things combined spurred him to a joyous
exuberance in which body and mind seemed to run like a matched pair of
horses in perfect accord. Although not at all a conceited man, the
feeling that he was being admired, even reverenced, was delightful to
him, and warmed his heart towards the jolly small boy who kept along
by his side through the busy streets. He and Jimmy talked in a
comradely spirit, while Mrs. Clarke seemed to listen like one who has
things to learn. She was evidently a capital walker in spite of her
delicate appearance. To-day Dion began to believe in her iron health,
and, in his joy of the body, he liked to think of it. After all
delicacy, even in a woman, was a fault--a fault of the body, a sort of
"Are you strong?" he said to her, when Jimmy's voice ceased for a
moment to demand from him information or to pour upon him direct
"Oh yes. I've never been seriously ill in my life. Don't I look
strong?" she asked.
"I don't think you do, but I feel as if you are."
"It's the wiry kind of strength, I suppose."
"The mater's a stayer," quoth Jimmy, and forthwith took up the
wondrous tale with his hero, who began to consult him seriously on the
question of "points."
"If you'd had to give a decision, Jimmy, which of us would have got
it, Jenkins or I?"
Jimmy looked very grave and earnest.
"It's jolly difficult to tell a thing like that, isn't it?" he said,
after a longish pause. "You see, you're both so jolly strong, aren't
His dark eyes gazed at the bulk of Dion.
"Well, which is the quicker?" demanded Dion.
But Jimmy was not to be drawn.
"I think you're both as quick as--as cats," he returned
diplomatically, seeking anxiously for the genuine sporting comparison
that would be approved at the ring-side. "Don't you, mater?"
Mrs. Clarke huskily agreed. They were now nearing Claridge's, and
Jimmy was insistent that Dion should come in and have a real jam tea
"Do, Mr. Leith, if you have the time," said Mrs. Clarke, but without
"The strawberry they have is ripping, I can tell you!" cried Jimmy,
But Dion refused. Till he was certain of Rosamund's attitude he felt
he simply couldn't accept Mrs. Clarke's hospitality. He was obliged to
get home that day. Mrs. Clarke did not ask why, but Jimmy did, and had
to be put off with an evasion, the usual mysterious "business," which,
of course, a small boy couldn't dive into and explore.
Dion thought Mrs. Clarke was going to say good-by without any mention
of Rosamund, but when they reached Claridge's she said:
"Your wife and I didn't decide on a day for the Turkish songs. You
remember I mentioned them to you the other night? I can't recollect
whether she left it to me to fix a time, or whether I left it to her.
Can you find out? Do tell her I was stupid and forgot. Will you?"
Dion said he would.
"I think they'll interest her. Now, Jimmy!"
But Jimmy hung on his god.
"I say, you'll come again now! You promise!"
What could Dion do?
"You put your honor into it?" pursued Jimmy, with desperate
earnestness. "You swear?"
"If I swear in the open street the police will take me up," said Dion
"Not they! One from the shoulder from you and I bet they lose enough
claret to fill a bucket. You've given your honor, hasn't he, mater?"
"Of course we shall see him again," said Mrs. Clarke, staring at Dion.
"What curious eyes she has!" Dion thought, as he walked homeward.
Did they ever entirely lose their under-look of distress?
That evening Dion told Rosamund what Mrs. Clarke had said when he
parted from her at Claridge's.
"I promised her I'd find out which it was," he added. "Do you remember
what was said?"
After a minute of silence, during which Rosamund seemed to be
considering something, she answered:
"Yes, I do."
"Which was it?"
"Neither, Dion. Mrs. Clarke has made a mistake. She certainly spoke of
some Turkish songs for me, but there was never any question of fixing
a day for us to try them over together."
"She thinks there was."
"It's difficult to remember exactly what is said, or not said, in the
midst of a crowd."
"But you remember?"
"Then you'd rather not try them over?"
"After what you've told me about Constantinople I expect I should be
quite out of sympathy with Turkish music," she answered, lightly and
smiling. "Let us be true to our Greek ideal."
She seemed to be in fun, but he detected firmness of purpose behind
"What shall I say to Mrs. Clarke?" he asked.
"I should just leave it. Perhaps she'll forget all about it."
Dion was quite sure that wouldn't happen, but he left it. Rosamund had
determined not to allow Mrs. Clarke to be friends with her. He wished
very much it were otherwise, not because he really cared for Mrs.
Clarke, but because he liked her and Jimmy, and because he hated the
idea of hurting the feelings of a woman in Mrs. Clarke's rather
unusual situation. He might, of course, have put his point of view
plainly to Rosamund at once. Out of delicacy he did not do this. His
great love for Rosamund made him instinctively very delicate in all
his dealings with her; it told him that Rosamund did not wish to
discuss her reasons for desiring to avoid Mrs. Clarke. She had had
them, he believed, before Mrs. Clarke and she had met. That meeting
evidently had not lessened their force. He supposed, therefore, that
she had disliked Mrs. Clarke. He wondered why, and tried to consider
Mrs. Clarke anew. She was certainly not a disagreeable woman. She was
very intelligent, thoroughbred, beautiful in a peculiar way,--even
Rosamund thought that,--ready to make herself pleasant, quite free
from feminine malice, absolutely natural, interested in all the really
interesting things. Beattie liked her; Daventry rejoiced in her; Mrs.
Chetwinde was her intimate friend; Esme Darlington had even made
sacrifices for her; Bruce Evelin----
There Dion's thought was held up, like a stream that encounters a
barrier. What did Bruce Evelin think of Mrs. Clarke? He had not gone
to the trial. But since he had retired from practise at the Bar he had
never gone into court. Dion had often heard him say he had had enough
of the Law Courts. There was no reason why he should have been drawn
to them for Mrs. Clarke's sake, or even for Daventry's. But what did
he think of Mrs. Clarke? Dion resolved to tell him of the rather
awkward situation which had come about through his own intimacy--it
really amounted to that--with Mrs. Clarke, and Rosamund's evident
resolve to have nothing to do with her.
One day Dion went to Great Cumberland Place and told Bruce Evelin all
the facts, exactly what Mrs. Clarke had said and done, exactly what
Rosamund had said and done. As he spoke it seemed to him that he was
describing a sort of contest, shadowy, perhaps, withdrawn and full of
reserves, yet definite.
"What do you think of it?" he said, when he had told the comparatively
little there was to tell.
"I think Rosamund likes to keep her home very quiet, don't you?"
"Yes, I do."
"Even her friends complain that she shuts them out."
"I know they do."
"She may not at all dislike Mrs. Clarke. She may simply not wish to
add to her circle of friends."
"The difficulty is, that Mrs. Clarke is such friends with Beattie and
Guy, and that I've got to know her quite well. Then there's her boy;
he's taken a fancy to me. If Mrs. Clarke and Rosamund could just
exchange calls it would be all right, but if they don't it really
looks rather as if Rosamund--well, as if she thought the divorce case
had left a slur on Mrs. Clarke. What I mean is, that I feel Mrs.
Clarke will take it in that way."
"She may, of course."
"I wonder why she is so determined to make friends with Rosamund,"
blurted out Dion abruptly.
"You think she is determined?" said Bruce Evelin quietly.
"Yes. Telling you had made me feel that quite plainly."
"Anyhow, she'll be gone back to Constantinople in April, and then your
little difficulty will come to an end automatically."
Dion looked rather hard at Bruce Evelin. When he spoke to Rosamund of
Mrs. Clarke, Rosamund always seemed to try for a gentle evasion. Now
Bruce Evelin was surely evading the question, and again Mrs. Clarke
was the subject of conversation. Bruce Evelin was beginning to age
rather definitely. He had begun to look older since Beattie was
married. But his dark eyes were still very bright and keen, and one
could not be with him for even a few minutes without realizing that
his intellect was sharply alert.
"Isn't it strange that she should go back to live in Constantinople?"
"Yes. Not many women in her position would do it."
"And yet there's reason in her contention that an innocent woman who
allows herself to be driven away from the place she lived in is a bit
of a coward."
"Beadon Clarke's transferred to Madrid, so Mrs. Clarke's reason--it
was a diplomatic one--for living in Constantinople falls to the
"Yes, that's true. But of course her husband and she have parted.
"Naturally. So she has the world to choose from."
"For a home, you mean? Yes. It's an odd choice, Constantinople. But
she's not an ordinary woman."
"No, I suppose not," said Bruce Evelin.
Again Dion was definitely conscious of evasion. He got up to go away,
"Then you advise me to do nothing?" he said.
"What about, my boy?"
"About Mrs. Clarke."
"What could you do?"
Dion was silent.
"I think it's better to let women settle these little things among
themselves. They have a deep and comprehensive understanding of
trifles which we mostly lack. How's Robin?"
Robin again! Was he always to be the buffer between 5 Little Market
Street and Mrs. Clarke?
"He's well and tremendously lively, and I honestly think he's growing
"Dear little chap!" said Bruce Evelin, with a very great tenderness in
his voice. "Dion, we shall have to concentrate on Robin."
Dion looked at him with inquiry.
"Poor Beattie, I don't think she'll have a child."
"Beattie! Not ever?"
"I'm afraid not."
Dion was shocked and startled.
"But I haven't heard a word--" he began.
"No. Both Beattie and Guy feel it terribly. I had a talk with
Beattie's doctor to-day."
"How dreadful! I'm sorry. But----" He paused.
He didn't like to ask intimate questions about Beattie.
"I'm afraid it is so," said Bruce Evelin. "You must let us all have a
share in your Robin."
He spoke very quietly, but there was a very deep, even intense,
feeling in his voice.
"Poor Beattie!" Dion said.
And that, too, was an evasion.
He went away from Great Cumberland Place accompanied by a sense of
walking, not perhaps in darkness, but in a dimness which was not
delicately beautiful like the dimness of twilight, but was rather akin
to the semi-obscurity of fog.
Not a word more was said about Mrs. Clarke between Rosamund and Dion,
and the latter never let Mrs. Clarke know about the Turkish songs,
never fulfilled his undertaking to go and see Jimmy again. In a
contest he could only be on Rosamund's side. The whole matter seemed
to him unfortunate, even almost disagreeable, but, for him, there
could be no question as to whether he wished Rosamund's or Mrs.
Clarke's will to prevail. Whatever Rosamund's reason was for not
choosing to be friends with Mrs. Clark he knew it was not malicious or
petty. Perhaps she had made a mistake about Mrs. Clarke. If so it was
certainly an honest mistake. It was when he thought of his promise to
Jimmy that he felt most uncomfortable about Rosamund's never expressed
decision. Jimmy had a good memory. He would not forget. As to Mrs.
Clarke, of course she now fully understood that Mrs. Dion Leith did
not want to have anything to do with her. She continued to go often to
Beattie and Daventry, consolidated her friendship with them. But Dion
never met her in De Lorne Gardens. From Daventry he learnt that Mrs.
Clarke had been extraordinarily kind to Beattie when Beattie's
expectation of motherhood had faded away. Bruce Evelin's apprehension
was well founded. For reasons which Daventry did not enter into
Beattie could never now hope to have a child. Daventry was greatly
distressed about it, but rather for Beattie's sake than for his own.
"I married Beattie because I loved her, not because I wanted to become
a father," he said.
After a long pause he added, almost wistfully.
"As to Beattie's reasons for marrying me, well, Dion, I haven't asked
what they were and I never shall. Women are mysterious, and I believe
it's wisdom on our part not to try to force the locks and look into
the hidden chambers. I'll do what I can to make up to Beattie for this
terrible disappointment. It won't be nearly enough, but that isn't my
fault. Rosamund and you can help her a little."
"She--she's extraordinarily fond of Robin."
"Extraordinarily?" said Dion, startled almost by Daventry's peculiar
emphasis on the word.
"Yes. Let her see a good deal of Robin if you can. Poor Beattie!
She'll never have a child of her own to live in."
Dion told Rosamund of this conversation, and they agreed to encourage
Beattie to come to Little Market Street as often as possible.
Nevertheless Beattie did not come very often. It was obvious that she
adored Robin, who was always polite to her; but perhaps delicacy of
feeling kept her from making perpetual pilgrimages to the shrine
before which an incense not hers was forever ascending; or perhaps she
met a gaunt figure of Pain in the home of her sister. However it was,
her visits were rather rare, and no persuasion availed to make her
come oftener. At this time she and Dion's mother drew closer together,
The two women loved and understood each other well. Perhaps between
them there was a link of loneliness, or perhaps there was another
Early in April Dion received one morning the following letter:
"DEAR MR. LEITH,--I feel pretty rotten about you. I thought when
once a clever boxer gave his honor on a thing it was a dead cert.
The mater wouldn't let me write before, though I've been at her
over it every day for weeks. But now we're going away, so she says
I may write and just tell you. If you want to say good-by could
you telephone, she says. P'raps you don't. P'raps you've forgotten
us. I can tell you Jenkins is sick about it all and your never
going to the Gim. He said to me to-day, 'I don't know what's come
over Mr. Leith.' No more do I. The mater says you're a busy man
and have a kid. I say a true friend is never too busy to be
friendly. I really do feel rotten over it, and now we are going.
--Your affectionate JIMMY"
Dion showed Rosamund the letter, and telephoned to say he would call
on the following day. Jimmy's voice answered on the telephone and
"I say, you have been beastly to us. The mater says nothing, but we
thought you liked us. Jenkins says that between boxers there's always
At this point Jimmy was cut off in the flow of his reproaches.
On arriving at Claridge's Dion found Jimmy alone. Mrs. Clarke was out
but would return in a moment. Jimmy received his visitor not stiffly
but with exuberant and vociferous reproaches, and vehement demands to
know the why and wherefore of his unsportsmanlike behavior.
"I've ordered you a real jam tea all the same," he concluded, with a
magnanimity which did him honor, and which, as he was evidently aware,
proved him to be a true sportsman.
"You're a trump," said Dion, pulling the boy down beside him on a
"Oh, well--but I say, why didn't you come?"
He stared with the mercilessly inquiring eyes of boyhood.
"I don't think I ever said on my honor that I would come."
"But you did. You swore."
"No. I was afraid of the policeman."
"I say, what rot! As if you could be afraid of any one! Why, Jenkins
says you're the best pupil he's ever had. Why didn't you? Don't you
"Of course I do."
"The mater says you're married, and married men have no time to bother
about other people's kids. Is that true?"
"Well, of course there's a lot to be done in London, and I go to
business every day."
"You've got a kid, haven't you?"
"It's a boy, isn't it?"
"I say, how old is it?"
"A year and a month old, or a little over."
Jimmy's face expressed satire.
"A year and a month!" he repeated. "Is that all? Then it can't be much
good yet, can it?"
"It can't box or do exercise as you can. You are getting broad."
"Rather! Box? I should think not! A kid of a year old boxing! I should
like to see it with Jenkins."
He begin to giggle. By the time Mrs. Clarke returned and they sat down
to the real jam tea, the ice was in fragments.
"I believe you were right, mater, and it was all the kid that
prevented Mr. Leith from sticking to his promise," Jimmy announced, as
he helped Dion to "the strawberry," with a liberality which betokened
an affection steadfast even under the stress of blighting
"Of course I was right," returned his mother gravely.
Dion was rather glad that she looked away from him as she said it.
Her manner to him was unchanged. Evidently she was a woman not quick
to take offense. He liked that absence of all "touchiness" from her,
and felt that a man could rest comfortably on her good breeding. But
this very good breeding increased within him a sense of discomfort
which amounted almost to guilt. He tried to smother it by being very
jolly with Jimmy, to whom he devoted most of his attention. When tea
was over Mrs. Clarke said to her son:
"Now, Jimmy, you must go away for a little while and let me have a
talk with Mr. Leith."
"Oh, mater, that's not fair. Mr. Leith's my pal. Aren't you, Mr.
Leith? Why, even Jenkins says--"
"I should rather think so. Why--"
"You shall see Mr. Leith again before he goes."
He looked at his mother, suddenly became very grave, and went slowly
out of the room. It was evident to Dion that Mrs. Clarke knew how to
make people obey her when she was in earnest.
As soon as Jimmy had gone Mrs. Clarke rang for the waiter to take away
"Then we shan't be bothered," she remarked. "I hate people coming in
and out when I'm trying to have a quiet talk."
"So do I," said Dion.
The waiter rolled the table out gently and shut the door.
Mrs. Clarke sat down on a sofa.
"Do light a cigar," she said. "I know you want to smoke, and I'll have
She drew out of a little case which lay on a table beside her a
Turkish cigarette and lit it, while Dion lighted a cigar.
"So you're really going back to Constantinople?" he began. "Are you
taking Jimmy with you?"
"Yes, for a time. My husband raises no objection. In a year I shall
send Jimmy to Eton. Lady Ermyntrude is furious, of course, and has
tried to stir up my husband. But her influence with him is dead. He's
terribly ashamed at what she made him do."
"Yes. It was she who made him think me guilty against his real inner
conviction. Now, poor man, he realizes that he dragged me through the
dirt without reason. He's ashamed to show his face in the Clubs, and
nearly resigned from diplomacy. But he's a valuable man, and they've
persuaded him to go to Madrid."
"Why go back to Constantinople?"
"Merely to show I'm not afraid to and that I won't be driven from my
purpose by false accusations."
"And you love it, of course."
"Yes. My flat will be charming, I think. Some day you'll see it."
Dion was silent in surprise.
"Don't you realize that?" she asked, staring at him.
"I think it very improbable that I shall ever go back to
"And I'm sure you will."
"Why are you sure?"
"That I can't tell you. Why is one sometimes sure that certain things
will come about?"
"Do you claim to be psychic?" said Dion.
"I never make verbal claims. Now about Jimmy."
She discussed for a little while seriously her plans for the boy's
education while he stayed with her. She had found a tutor, a young
Oxford man, who would accompany them to Turkey, but she wanted Dion's
advice on certain points. He gave it, wondering all the time why she
consulted him after his neglect of her and of her son, after his
failure to accept invitations and to fulfil pledges (or to stick to
the understandings which were almost pledges), after the tacit
refusals of Rosamund. Did it not show a strange persistence, even a
certain lack of pride in her? Perhaps she heard the haunting questions
which he did not utter, for she suddenly turned from the topic of the
boy and said:
"You're surprised at my bothering you with all this when we really
know each other so slightly. It is unconventional; but I shall never
learn the way to conventionality in spite of all poor Esme's efforts
to shepherd me into the path he thinks narrow and I find broad--a way
that leads to destruction. I feel you absolutely understand boys, and
know by instinct the best way with them. That's why I /still/ come to
She paused. She had deliberately driven home her meaning by a stress
on one word. Now she sat looking at him, with a wide-eyed and deeply
grave fixity, as if considering what more she should say. Dion
murmured something about being very glad if he could help her in any
way with regard to Jimmy.
"You can be conventional," she remarked. "Well, why not? Most English
people are perpetually playing for safety."
"I wish you wouldn't go back to Constantinople," said Dion.
"I believe it's a mistake. It seems to me like throwing down a
defiance to your world."
"But I never play for safety."
"But think of the danger you've passed through."
The characteristic distressed look deepened in her eyes till they
seemed to him tragic. Nevertheless, fearlessness still looked out of
"What shall I gain by doing that?" she asked.
"Esme Darlington once said you were a wild mind in an innocent body. I
believe he was right. But it seems to me that some day your wild mind
may get you into danger again and that perhaps you won't escape from
it unscathed a second time."
"How quiet and safe it must be at Number 5!" she rejoined, without any
"You wouldn't care for that sort of life. You'd find it humdrum," said
Dion, with simplicity.
"You never would," she said, still without irony, without even the
hint of a sneer. "And the truth is that the humdrum is created not by
a way of living but by those who follow it. Your wife and the humdrum
could never occupy the same house. I shall always regret that I didn't
see something of her. Do give her a cordial 'au revoir' from me.
You'll hear of me again. Don't be frightened about me in your kind of
chivalrous heart. I am grateful to you for several things. I'm not
going to give the list now. That would either bore you, or make you
feel shy. Some day, perhaps, I shall tell you what they are, in a
caique on the sweet waters of Asia or among the cypresses of Eyub."
With the last sentence she transported Dion, as on a magic carpet, to
the unwise life. Her husky voice changed a little; her face changed a
little too; the one became slower and more drowsy; the other less
haggard and fixed in its expression of distress. This woman had her
hours of happiness, perhaps even of exultation. For a moment Dion
envisaged another woman in her. And when he had bidden her good-by,
and had received the tremendous farewells of Jimmy, he realized that
she had made upon him an impression which, though soft, was certainly
deep. He thought of how a cushion looks when it lies on a sofa in an
empty room, indented by the small head of a woman who has been
thinking, thinking alone. For a moment he was out of shape, and Mrs.
Clarke had made him so.
In the big hall, as he passed out, he saw Lord Brayfield standing in
front of the bureau speaking to the hall porter.
"Some day, perhaps, I shall tell you what they are, in a caique on the
sweet waters of Asia or among the cypresses of Eyub."
Dion smiled as he recalled Mrs. Clarke's words, which had been spoken
fatalistically. Then his face became very grave.
Suddenly there dawned upon him, like a vision in the London street,
one of the vast Turkish cemeteries, dusty, forlorn, disordered, yet
full of a melancholy touched by romance; and among the thousands of
graves, through the dark thickets of cypresses, he was walking with
Mrs. Clarke, who looked exactly like Echo.
A newsboy at the corner was crying his latest horror--a woman found
stabbed in Hyde Park. But to Dion his raucous and stunted voice
sounded like a voice from the sea, a strange and sad cry lifted up
between Europe and Asia.
More than a year and a half passed away, and in the autumn of 1899 the
Boer War broke out and the face of England was changed; for the heart
of England began to beat more strongly than usual, and the soul of
England was stirred. The winter came, and in many Englishmen a hidden
conflict began; in their journey through life they came abruptly to a
parting of the ways, stood still and looked to the right and the left,
balancing possibilities, searching their natures and finding within
them strange hesitations, recoils, affirmations, determined
Dion had followed the events which led up to the fateful decision of
Wednesday, October the eleventh, with intense interest. As the October
days drew on he had felt the approach of war. It came up, this
footfall of an enemy, it paced at his side. Would he presently be
tried by this enemy, would it test him and find out exactly what metal
he was made of? He wondered, but from the moment when the first cloud
showed itself on the horizon he had a presentiment that this distant
war was going to have a strong effect on his life.
On the afternoon of October the eleventh he walked slowly home from
the City alone. There was excitement in the air. The voices of the
newsvendors sounded fateful in his ears; the faces of the passers-by
looked unusually eager and alert. As he made his way through the crowd
he did not debate the rights and wrongs of the question about to be
decided between Briton and Boer. His mind avoided thoughts about
politics. For him, perhaps strangely, the issue had already narrowed
down to a personal question: "What is this war going to mean to me?"
He asked himself this; he put the question again and again.
Nevertheless it was answered somewhere within him almost as soon as it
was put. If there came a call for volunteers he would be one of the
many who would answer it. The call might not come, of course; the war
might be short, a hole-and-corner affair soon ended. He told himself
that, and, as he did so, he felt sure that the call would come.
He knew he would not hold back; but he knew also that his was not the
eagerness to go of the man assumed by journalists to be the typical
Englishman. He was not mad to plunge into the great game, reckless of
the future and shouting for the fray. He was not one of the "hard-
bitten raw-boned men with keen eyes and ready for anything" beloved of
the journalists, who loom so large in the public eye when "big things
are afoot." On that autumn evening, as he walked homeward, Dion knew
the bunkum that is given out to the world as truth, knew that brave
men have souls undreamed of in newspaper offices. He perceived the
figure of war just then as a figure terribly austere, grim, cold,
harsh--a figure stripped of all pleasant flesh and sweet coloring, of
all softness and warm humanity. It accompanied him like an iron thing
which nevertheless was informed with life. Joy withered beside it, yet
it had the power to make things bloom. Already he knew that as he had
not known it before.
In the crowded Strand the voices of the newsvendors were insistently
shrill, raucous, almost fierce. As he heard them he faced tests. Many
things were going to be put to the test in the almost immediate
future. Among them perhaps would be Rosamund's exact feeling for him.
Upon the hill of Drouva they had slept in the same tent, husband and
wife, more than three years ago; in green and remote Elis they had sat
together before the Hermes, hidden away from the world and hearing the
antique voices; in Westminster Robin was theirs; yet this evening,
facing in imagination the tests of war, Dion knew that Rosamund's
exact feeling for him was still a secret from him. If he went to South
Africa that secret must surely be revealed. Rosamund would inevitably
find out then the nature of her feeling for him, how much she cared,
and even if she did not tell him how much she cared he would know, he
could not help knowing.
He knew with a terrible thoroughness this evening how much he cared
He considered Robin.
Robin was now more than two and a half years old; a personage in a
jersey and minute knickerbockers, full of dancing energy and spirits,
full of vital interest in the smaller problems of life. He was a
fidget and he was a talker. Out of a full mind he poured forth an
abundant stream of words, carelessly chosen at times, yet on the whole
apt to the occasion. His intelligence was marked, of course,--what
very young child's is not?--and he had inherited an ample store of the
/joie de vivre/ which distinguished his mother. The homeliness of
feature which had marked him out in the baldhead stage of his
existence had given place to a dawning of what promised to be later on
distinct good looks. Already he was an attractive-looking child, with
a beautiful mouth, a rather short and at present rather snub nose,
freckled on the bridge, large blue eyes, and a forehead, temples and
chin which hinted at Rosamund's. His hair was now light brown, and had
a bold, almost an ardent, wave in it. Perhaps Robin's most marked
characteristic at this time was ardor. Occasionally the mildly
inquiring expression which Dion had been touched by in the early days
came to his little face. He could be very gentle and very clinging,
and was certainly sensitive. Often imagination, in embryo as it were,
was shown by his eyes. But ardor informed and enveloped him, he swam
in ardor and of ardor he was all compact. Even the freckles which
disfigured, or adorned, the bridge of his nose looked ardent. Rosamund
loved those freckles in a way she could never have explained, loved
them with a strength and tenderness which issued from the very roots
of her being. To her they were Robin, the dearest part of the dearest
thing on earth. Many of her kisses had gone to those little freckles.
Dion might have to part not only from Rosamund but also from Robin.
He had become very fond of his little son. The detachment which had
perhaps marked his mental attitude to the baby did not mark his mental
attitude to the boy. In the Robin of to-day, the jerseyed and
knickerbockered person, with the incessantly active legs, the eager
eyes, the perpetually twittering voice, Dion was conscious of the
spirit of progress. Already he was able to foresee the small school-
boy, whom only a father could properly help and advise in regard to
many aspects of the life ahead; already he was looking forward to the
time when he could take a hand in the training of Robin. It would be
very hard to go away from that little bit of quicksilver, very hard
But the thought which made his heart sink, which brought with it
almost a sensation of mortal sickness to his soul, was the thought of
parting from Rosamund. As he walked down Parliament Street he imagined
the good-by to her on the eve of sailing for South Africa. That acute
moment might never come. This evening he felt it on the way. Whatever
happened it would be within his power to stay with Rosamund, for there
was no conscription in England. If he went to South Africa then the
action of leaving her would be deliberate on his part. Was there
within him something that was stronger than his love for her? There
must be, he supposed, for he knew that if men were called for, and if
Rosamund asked, or even begged him not to go, he would go
Vaporous Westminster, dark and leaning to the great river, for how
long he had not seen it, or realized what it meant to him! Custom had
blinded his eyes and had nearly closed his mind to it. The day's event
had given him back sight and knowledge. This evening his familiarity
with Westminster bred in him intensity of vision and apprehension. It
seemed to him that scales had fallen from his eyes, that for the first
time he really saw Parliament Street, the Houses of Parliament,
Westminster Bridge, the river. The truth was, that for the first time
he really felt them, felt that he belonged to them and they to him,
that their blackness in the October evening was part of the color of
him, that the Westminster sounds, chimes, footfalls, the dull roar of
traffic, human voices from street, from bridge, from river, harmonized
with the voices in him, in the very depths of him. This was England,
this closeness, this harmony of the outer to and with the inner, this
was England saying to one of her sons, "You belong to me and I to
you." The race spoke and the land, they walked with Dion in the
For he did not go straight home. He walked for a long time beside the
river. By the river he kissed Robin and he said good-by to Rosamund,
by the river he climbed upon the troopship, and he saw the fading of
England on the horizon, and he felt the breath of the open sea. And in
the midst of a crowd of men going southward he knew at last what
loneliness was. The lights that gleamed across the river were the last
lights of England that he would see for many a day, perhaps forever;
the chime from the clock-tower was the last of the English sounds. He
endured in imagination a phantom bitterness of departure which seemed
abominably real; then suddenly he was recalled from a possible future
to the very definite present.
He met by the river two men, sleek people in silk hats, with plump
hands--hands which looked as if they were carefully fed on very
nutritious food every day by their owners--warmly covered. As they
passed him one of those know-alls said to the other:
"Oh, it'll only be a potty little war. What can a handful of peasants
do against our men? I'll lay you five to one in sovereigns two months
will see it out."
"I dare say you will," returned the other, in a voice that was surely
smiling, "but I won't take you."
"By Jove, what a plunger I am!" thought Dion. "Racing ahead like a
horse that's lost his wits. Ten to one they'll never want volunteers."
But Westminster still looked exceptional, full of the inner meaning,
and somewhere within him a voice still said, "You will go."
Nevertheless he was able partly to put off his hybrid feeling, half-
dread, half-desire. The sleek people in the silk hats had made their
little effect on the stranger. "The man in the street is often right,"
Dion said to himself; though he knew that the man in the street is
probably there, and remains there, because he is so often wrong.
When he reached Little Market Street Dion told Rosamund there would be
war in South Africa, but he did not even hint at his thought that
volunteers might be called for, at his intention, if they were, to
offer himself. To do that would not only be absurdly premature, but
might even seem slightly bombastic, an uncalled-for study in heroics.
He kept silence. The battles of Ladysmith, of Magersfontein, of
Stormberg, of Colenso, unsettled the theories of sleek people in silk
hats. England came to a very dark hour when Robin was playing with a
new set of bricks which his Aunt Beattie had given him. Dion began to
understand the rightness of his instinct that evening by the river,
when Westminster had spoken to him and England had whispered in his
blood. As he had thought of things, so they were going to be. The test
was very great. It was as if already it stood by him, a living entity,
and touched him with an imperious hand. Sometimes he looked at
Rosamund and saw great stretches of sea rolling under great stretches
of sky. The barrier! How would he be able to bear the long separation
from Rosamund? The habit of happiness in certain circumstances can
become the scourge of a man. Men who were unhappy at home could go to
war with a lighter heart than he.
Just before Christmas the call for men came, and in Dion a hesitation
was born. Should he go and offer himself at once without telling
Rosamund, or should he tell her what he wished to do and ask her
opinion? Suppose she were against his going out? He could not ask her
advice if he was not prepared to take it. What line did he wish her to
take? By what course of action would such a woman as Rosamund prove
depth of love? Wouldn't it be natural for a woman who loved a man to
raise objections to his going out to fight in a distant country?
Wouldn't she prove her love by raising objections? On the other hand,
wouldn't a woman who loved a man in the greatest way be driven by the
desire to see him rise up in an emergency and prove his manhood at
whatever cost to her?
Dion wanted one thing of Rosamund at this moment, wanted it terribly,
with longing and with fear,--the proof absolute and unhesitating of
her love for him.
He decided to volunteer without telling her before hand that he meant
to do so. He told no one of his intention except his Uncle Biron, whom
he was obliged to consult as they were partners in business.
"You're right, my boy," said his uncle. "We'll get on as best we can
without you. We shall miss you, of course. Since you've been married
your energy has been most praiseworthy, but, of course, the nation
comes before the firm. What does your mother say?"
Dion was struck with a sense of wonder by this question. Why didn't
his uncle ask him what Rosamund had said?
"I haven't spoken to her," he answered.
"She'll wish you to go in spite of all," said his uncle gravely.
"I haven't even spoken to Rosamund of my intention to enlist."
His uncle looked surprised, even for a moment astonished, but he only
"She's rather on heroic lines, I should judge. There's something
spacious in her nature."
"Yes," said Dion.
He pledged his uncle to silence. Then they talked business.
From that moment Dion wondered how his mother would take his decision.
That he had not wondered before proved to himself the absorbing
character of his love for his wife. He loved his mother very much,
yet, till his uncle had spoken about her in the office, he had only
thought about Rosamund in connection with his decision to enlist. The
very great thing had swallowed up the big thing. There is something
ruthless, almost at moments repellent, in the very great thing which
rules in a man's life. But his mother would never know.
That was what he said to himself, unconscious of the fact that his
mother had known and had lived alone with her knowledge for years.
He offered himself for service in South Africa with the City Imperial
Volunteers. The doctor passed him. He was informed that he would be
sworn in at the Guildhall on 4th January. The great step was taken.
Why had he taken it without telling Rosamund he was going to take it?
As he came out into the dark winter evening he wondered about that
almost vaguely. He must have had a driving reason, but now he did not
know what it was. How was Rosamund going to take it? Suddenly he felt
guilty, as if he had done her a wrong. They were one flesh, and in
such a vital matter he had not consulted her. Wasn't it abominable?
As soon as he was free he went straight home.
This time, as he walked homeward, Dion held no intercourse with
Westminster. If he heard the chimes, the voices, the footfalls, he was
not conscious of hearing them; if he saw the vapors from the river,
the wreaths of smoke from the chimneys, the lights gleaming in the
near houses and far away across the dark mystery of the water, he did
not know that he saw them. In himself he was imprisoned, and against
the great city in which he walked he had shut the doors.
He arrived at his house and put his hand in his pocket to get his
latch-key. Before he was able to draw it forth the green door was
opened and Beatrice came out.
"Dion!" she said, startled.
"You nearly ran over me!"
"What is it?" she asked. "What have you done?"
"I know!" she interrupted.
She put out her hand and took hold of his coat sleeve. The action was
startlingly impulsive in Beatrice, who was always so almost plaintive,
so restrained, so dim.
"But you can't!"
"I do. You are going to South Africa."
He said nothing. How could he tell Beatrice before he told Rosamund?
"When are you going?"
"Is Rosamund in the house, Beattie?" he asked, very gently.
Beatrice flushed deeply, painfully, and took her hand from his sleeve.
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