The Incomplete Amorist
E. Nesbit

Part 3 out of 7

"How glorious it would be to live alone in Paris," she thought, "be
driven about in cabs just when one liked and where one liked! Oh, I am
tired of being a school-girl! I suppose they won't let me be grown up
till I'm so old I shall wish I was a school-girl again."

She loved the river with its reflected lights,--but it made her
shudder, too.

"Of course I shall never be allowed to see the Morgue," she said;
"they won't let me see anything real. Even this little teeny tiny bit
of a drive, I daresay it's not comme il faut! I do hope Madame won't
be furious. She couldn't expect me to wait forever. Perhaps, too,
she's ill, and no one to look after her. Oh, I'm sure I'm right to

The doubt, however, grew as the carriage jolted through narrower
streets, and when it drew up at an open carriage-door, Betty jumped
out, paid the coachman, and went in quite prepared to be scolded.

She went through the doorway and stood looking for the list of names
such as are set at the foot of the stairs leading to flats in London.
There was no such list. From a lighted doorway on the right came a
babel of shrill, high-pitched voices. Betty looked in at the door and
the voices ceased.

"Pardon, Madame," said Betty. "I seek Madame Gautier."

Everyone in the crowded stuffy lamplit little room drew a deep breath.

"Mademoiselle is without doubt one of Madame's young ladies?"

Perhaps it was the sudden hushing of the raised voices, perhaps it was
something in the flushed faces that all turned towards her. To her
dying day Betty will never know why she did not say "Yes." What she
did say was:

"I am a friend of Madame's. Is she at home?"

"No, Mademoiselle,--she is not at home; she will never be at home
more, the poor lady. She is dead, Mademoiselle--an accident, one of
those cursed automobiles ran over her at her very door, Mademoiselle,
before our eyes."

Betty felt sick.

"Thank you," she said, "it is very sudden."

"Will Mademoiselle leave her name?" the concierge asked curiously.
"The brother of Madame, he is in the commerce at Nantes. A telegramme
has been sent--he arrives to-morrow morning. He will give Mademoiselle

Again Betty said what she had not intended to say. She said:

"Miss Brown." Perhaps the brother in the commerce vaguely suggested
the addition, "of Manchester."

Then she turned away, and got out of the light into the friendly dusk
of the street.

"Tiens, but it is droll," said the concierge's friend, "a young girl,
and all alone like that."

"Oh, it is nothing," said the concierge; "the English are mad--all!
Their young girls run the streets at all hours, and the Devil guards

Betty stood in the street. She could not go back to that circle of
harpy faces, all eagerly tearing to pieces the details of poor old
Madame Gautier's death. She must be alone--think. She would have to
write home. Her father would come to fetch her. Her aunt was beyond
the reach of appeal. Her artist-life would be over. Everything would
be over. She would be dragged back to the Parishing and the Mothers'
meetings and the black-cotton-covered books and the Sunday School.

And she would never have lived in Paris at all!

She walked down the street.

"I can't think--I _must_ think! I'll have this night to myself to
think in, anyway. I'll go to some cheap hotel. I have enough for

She hailed a passing carriage, drove to the Hotel Bete, took her
luggage to the Gare du Nord, and left it there.

Then as she stood on the station step, she felt something in her hand.
It was the fat letter addressed to Madame Gautier. And she knew it was
fat with bank notes.

She unfastened her dress and thrust the letter into her bosom,
buttoning the dress carefully over it.

"But I won't go to my hotel yet," she said. "I won't even look for
one. I'll see Paris a bit first."

She hailed a coachman.

"Go," she said, "to some restaurant in the Latin Quarter--where the
art students eat."

"And I'm alone in Paris, and perfectly free," said Betty, leaning back
on the cushions. "No, I won't tell my coachman to drive along the Rue
Notre Dame des Champs, wherever that is. Oh, it is glorious to be
perfectly free. Oh, poor Madame Gautier! Oh dear, oh dear!" She held
her breath and wondered why she could feel sorry.

"You are a wretch," she said, "poor Madame was kind to you in her hard
narrow way, and now is she lying cold and dead, all broken up by that
cruel motor car."

The horror of the picture helped by Betty's excitement brought the
tears and she encouraged them.

"It is something to find one is not entirely heartless," she said at
last, drying her eyes, as the carriage drew up at a place where there
were people and voices and many lights.



The thoughts of the two who loved her were with Betty that night. The
aunt, shaken, jolted, enduring much in the Paris, Lyons and
Mediterranean express thought fondly of her.

"She's a nice little thing. I must take her about a bit," she mused,
and even encouraged her fancy to play with the idea of a London
season--a thing it had not done for years.

The Reverend Cecil, curtains drawn and lamp alight, paused to think of
her even in the midst of his first thorough examination of his newest
treasure in Seventeenth Century Tracts, "The Man Mouse baited and
trapped for nibbling the margins of Eugenius Philalethes, being an
assault on Henry Moore." It was bound up with, "The Second Wash, or
the Moore scoured again," and a dozen others. A dumpy octavo, in brown
leather, he had found it propping a beer barrel in the next village.

"Dear Lizzie!--I wonder if she will ever care for really important
things. There must be treasures upon treasures in those boxes on the
French quays that one reads about. But she never would learn to know
one type from another."

He studied the fire thoughtfully.

"I wonder if she does understand how much she is to me," he thought.
"Those are the things that are better unsaid. At least I always think
so when she's here. But all these months--I wonder whether girls like
you to _say things_, or to leave them to be understood. It is more
delicate not to say them, perhaps."

Then his thoughts went back to the other Lizzie, about whom he had
never felt these doubts. He had loved her, and had told her so. And
she had told him her half of the story in very simple words--and most
simply, and without at all "leaving things to be understood" they had
planned the future that never was to be. He remembered the day when
sitting over the drawing-room fire, and holding her dear hand he had

"This is how we shall sit when we are old and gray, dearest." It had
seemed so impossibly far-off then.

And she had said:

"I hope we shall die the same day, Cec."

But this had not happened.

And he had said:

"And we shall have such a beautiful life--doing good, and working for
God, and bringing up our children in the right way. Oh, Lizzie, it's
very wonderful to think of that happiness, isn't it?"

And she had laid her head on his shoulder and whispered:

"I hope we shall have a little girl, dear."

And he had said:

"I shall call her Elizabeth, after my dear wife."

"She must have eyes like yours though."

"She will be exactly like both of us," he had said, and they sat hand
in hand, and talked innocently, like two children, of the little child
that was never to be.

He had wanted them to put on her tombstone, Lizzie daughter of ----
and affianced wife of Cecil Underwood, but her mother had said that
_there_ there was no marrying or giving in marriage. In his heart the
Reverend Cecil had sometimes dared to hope that that text had been
misunderstood. To him his Lizzie had always been "as the angels of God
in Heaven."

Then came the long broken years, and then the little girl--Elizabeth,
his step-child.

The pent-up love of all his life spent itself on her: a love so fond,
so tender, so sacred that it seemed only self-respecting to hide it a
little from the world by a mask of coldness. And Betty had never seen
anything but the mask.

"I think, when I see her, I will tell her all about my Lizzie," he
said. "I wonder if she knows what the house is like without her. But
of course she doesn't, or she would have asked to come home, long ago.
I wonder whether she misses me very much. Madame Gautier is kind, she
says; but no stranger can make a home, as love can make it."

Meanwhile Betty dining alone at a restaurant in the Boulevard St.
Michel, within a mile of the Serpent, ordered what she called a nice
dinner--it was mostly vegetables and sweet things--and ate it with
appetite, looking about her. The long mirrors, the waiters were like
the ones in London restaurants, but the people who ate there they were
different. Everything was much shabbier, yet much gayer.
Shopkeeping-looking men were dining with their wives; some of them had
a child, napkin under chin, solemnly struggling with a big soup spoon
or upturning on its little nose a tumbler of weak red wine and water.
There were students--she knew them by their slouched hats and beards a
day old--dining by twos and threes and fours. No one took any more
notice of Betty than was shewn by a careless glance or two. She was
very quietly dressed. Her hat even was rather an unbecoming brown
thing. When she had eaten, she ordered coffee, and began to try to
think, but thinking was difficult with the loud voices and the
laughter, and the clink of glasses and the waiters' hurrying transits.
And at the back of her mind was a thought waiting for her to think it.
And she was afraid.

So presently she paid her bill, and went out, and found a tram, and
rode on the top of it through the lighted streets, on the level of the
first floor windows and the brown leaves of the trees in the
Boulevards, and went away and away through the heart of Paris; and
still all her mind could do nothing but thrust off, with both hands,
the thought that was pushing forward towards her thinking. When the
tram stopped at its journey's end she did not alight, but paid for,
and made, the return journey, and found her feet again in the
Boulevard St. Michel.

Of course, she had read her Trilby, and other works dealing with the
Latin Quarter. She knew that in that quarter everyone is not
respectable, but everyone is kind. It seemed good to her to go to a
cafe, to sit at a marble topped table, and drink--not the strange
liqueurs which men drink in books, but homely hot milk, such as some
of the other girls there had before them. It would be perfectly
simple, as well as interesting, to watch the faces of the students,
boys and girls, and when she found a nice girl-face, to speak to it,
asking for the address of a respectable hotel.

So she walked up the wide, tree-planted street feeling very Parisian
indeed, as she called it the "Boule Miche" to herself. And she stopped
at the first Cafe she came to, which happened to be the Cafe

She did not see its name, and if she had it would naturally not have
conveyed any idea to her. The hour was not yet ten, and the Cafe
d'Harcourt was very quiet. There were not a dozen people at the little
tables. Most of them were women. It would be easy to ask her little
questions, with so few people to stare and wonder if she addressed a

She sat down, and ordered her hot milk and, with a flutter, awaited
it. This was life. And to-morrow she must telegraph to her
step-father, and everything would end in the old round of parish
duties; all her hopes and dreams would be submerged in the heavy
morass of meeting mothers. The thought leapt up.--Betty hid her eyes
and would not look at it. Instead, she looked at the other people
seated at the tables--the women. They were laughing and talking among
themselves. One or two looked at Betty and smiled with frank
friendliness. Betty smiled back, but with embarrassment. She had heard
that French ladies of rank and fashion would as soon go out without
their stockings as without their paint, but she had not supposed that
the practice extended to art students. And all these ladies were
boldly painted--no mere soupcon of carmine and pearl powder, but good
solid masterpieces in body colour, black, white and red. She smiled in
answer to their obvious friendliness, but she did not ask them for
addresses. A handsome black-browed scowling woman sitting alone
frowned at her. She felt quite hurt. Why should anyone want to be

Men selling flowers, toy rabbits, rattling cardboard balls, offered
their wares up and down the row of tables. Betty bought a bunch of
fading late roses and thought, with a sudden sentimentality that
shocked her, of the monthly rose below the window at home. It always
bloomed well up to Christmas. Well, in two days she would see that

The trams rattled down the Boulevard, carriages rolled by. Every now
and then one of these would stop, and a couple would alight. And
people came on foot. The cafe was filling up. But still none of the
women seemed to Betty exactly the right sort of person to know exactly
the right sort of hotel.

Of course she knew from books that Hotels keep open all night,--but
she did not happen to have read any book which told of the reluctance
of respectable hotels to receive young women without luggage, late in
the evening. So it seemed to her that there was plenty of time.

A blonde girl with jet black brows and eyes like big black beads was
leaning her elbows on her table and talking to her companions, two
tourist-looking Germans in loud checks. They kept glancing at Betty,
and it made her nervous to know that they were talking about her. At
last her eyes met the eyes of the girl, who smiled at her and made a
little gesture of invitation to her, to come and sit at their table.
Betty out of sheer embarrassment might have gone, but just at that
moment the handsome scowling woman rose, rustled quickly to Betty,
knocking over a chair in her passage, held out a hand, and said in
excellent English:

"How do you do?"

Betty gave her hand, but "I don't remember you," said she.

"May I join you?" said the woman sitting down. She wore black and
white and red, and she was frightfully smart, Betty thought. She
glanced at the others--the tourists and the blonde; they were no
longer looking at her.

"Look here," said the woman, speaking low, "I don't know you from
Adam, of course, but I know you're a decent girl. For God's sake go
home to your friends! I don't know what they're about to let you out
alone like this."

"I'm alone in Paris just now," said Betty.

"Good God in Heaven, you little fool! Get back to your lodging. You've
no business here."

"I've as much business as anyone else," said Betty. "I'm an artist,
too, and I want to see life."

"You've not seen much yet," said the woman with a, laugh that Betty
hated to hear. "Have you been brought up in a convent? You an artist!
Look at all of us! Do you need to be told what _our_ trade is?"

"Don't," said Betty; "oh, don't."

"Go home," said the woman, "and say your prayers--I suppose you _do_
say your prayers?--and thank God that it isn't your trade too."

"I don't know what you mean," said Betty.

"Well then, go home and read your Bible. That'll tell you the sort of
woman it is that stands about the corners of streets, or sits at the
Cafe d'Harcourt. What are your people about?"

"My father's in England," said Betty; "he's a clergyman."

"I generally say mine was," said the other, "but I won't to you,
because you'd believe me. My father was church organist, though. And
the Vicarage people were rather fond of me. I used to do a lot of
Parish work." She laughed again.

Betty laid a hand on the other woman's.

"Couldn't you go home to your father--or--something?" she asked

"He's cursed me forever--Put it all down in black and white--a regular
commination service. It's you that have got to go home, and do it
_now_, too." She shook off Betty's hand and waved her own to a man who
was passing.

"Here, Mr. Temple--"

The man halted, hesitated and came up to them.

"Look here," said the black-browed woman, "look what a pretty flower
I've found,--and here of all places!"

She indicated Betty by a look. The man looked too, and took the third
chair at their table. Betty wished that the ground might open and
cover her, but the Boule Miche asphalt is solid. The new-comer was
tall and broad-shouldered, with a handsome, serious, boyish face, and
fair hair.

"She won't listen to me--"

"Oh, I did!" Betty put in reproachfully.

"You talk to her like a father. Tell her where naughty little girls go
who stay out late at the Cafe d'Harcourt--fire and brimstone, you
know. She'll understand, she's a clergyman's daughter."

"I really do think you'd better go home," said the new-comer to Betty
with gentle politeness.

"I would, directly," said Betty, almost in tears, "but--the fact is I
haven't settled on a hotel, and I came to this cafe. I thought I could
ask one of these art students to tell me a good hotel, but--so that's
how it is."

"I should think not," Temple answered the hiatus. Then he looked at
the black-browed, scowling woman, and his look was very kind.

"Nini and her German swine were beginning to be amiable," said the
woman in an aside which Betty did not hear. "For Christ's sake take
the child away, and put her safely for the night somewhere, if you
have to ring up a Mother Superior or a Governesses' Aid Society."

"Right. I will." He turned to Betty.

"Will you allow me," he said, "to find a carriage for you, and see you
to a hotel?"

"Thank you," said Betty.

He went out to the curbstone and scanned the road for a passing

"Look here," said the black-browed woman, turning suddenly on Betty;
"I daresay you'll think it's not my place to speak--oh, if you don't
think so you will some day, when you're grown up,--but look here. I'm
not chaffing. It's deadly earnest. You be good. See? There's nothing
else that's any good really."

"Yes," said Betty, "I know. If you're not good you won't be happy."

"There you go," the other answered almost fiercely; "it's always the
way. Everyone says it--copybooks and Bible and everything--and no one
believes it till they've tried the other way, and then it's no use
believing anything."

"Oh, yes, it is," said Betty comfortingly, "and you're so kind. I
don't know how to thank you. Being kind _is_ being good too, isn't

"Well, you aren't always a devil, even if you are in hell. I wish I
could make you understand all the things I didn't understand when I
was like you. But nobody can. That's part of the hell. And you don't
even understand half I'm saying."

"I think I do," said Betty.

"Keep straight," the other said earnestly; "never mind how dull it is.
I used to think it must be dull in Heaven. God knows it's dull in the
other place! Look, he's got a carriage. You can trust him just for
once, but as a rule I'd say 'Don't you trust any of them--they're all
of a piece.' Good-bye; you're a nice little thing."

"Good-bye," said Betty; "oh, good-bye! You _are_ kind, and good!
People can't all be good the same way," she added, vaguely and seeking
to comfort.

"Women can," said the other, "don't you make any mistake. Good-bye."

She watched the carriage drive away, and turned to meet the spiteful
chaff of Nini and her German friends.

"Now," said Mr. Temple, as soon as the wheels began to revolve,
"perhaps you will tell me how you come to be out in Paris alone at
this hour."

Betty stared at him coldly.

"I shall be greatly obliged if you can recommend me a good hotel," she

"I don't even know your name," said he.

"No," she answered briefly.

"I cannot advise you unless you will trust me a little," he said

"You are very kind,--but I have not yet asked for anyone's advice."

"I am sorry if I have offended you," he said, "but I only wish to be
of service to you."

[Illustration: "She stared at him coldly"]

"Thank you very much," said Betty: "the only service I want is the
name of a good hotel."

"You are unwise to refuse my help," he said. "The place where I found
you shews that you are not to be trusted about alone."

"Look here," said Betty, speaking very fast, "I dare say you mean
well, but it isn't your business. The lady I was speaking to--"

"That just shews," he said.

"She was very kind, and I like her. But I don't intend to be
interfered with by any strangers, however well they mean."

He laughed for the first time, and she liked him better when she had
heard the note of his laughter.

"Please forgive me," he said. "You are quite right. Miss Conway is
very kind. And I really do want to help you, and I don't want to be
impertinent. May I speak plainly?"

"Of course."

"Well the Cafe d'Harcourt is not a place for a respectable girl to go

"I gathered that," she answered quietly. "I won't go there again."

"Have you quarreled with your friends?" he persisted; "have you run

"No," said Betty, and on a sudden inspiration, added: "I'm very, very
tired. You can ask me any questions you like in the morning. Now: will
you please tell the man where to go?"

The dismissal was unanswerable.

He took out his card-case and scribbled on a card.

"Where is your luggage?" he asked.

"Not here," she said briefly.

"I thought not," he smiled again. "I am discerning, am I not? Well,
perhaps you didn't know that respectable hotels prefer travellers who
have luggage. But they know me at this place. I have said you are my
cousin," he added apologetically.

He stopped the carriage. "Hotel de l'Unicorne," he told the driver and
stood bareheaded till she was out of sight.

The Thought came out and said: "There will be an end of Me if you see
that well-meaning person again." Betty would not face the Thought, but
she was roused to protect it.

She stood up and touched the coachman on the arm.

"Go back to the Cafe d'Harcourt," she said. "I have forgotten

That was why, when Temple called, very early, at the Hotel de
l'Unicorne he heard that his cousin had not arrived there the night
before--Had not, indeed, arrived at all.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"It's a pity," he said. "Certainly she had run away from home. I
suppose I frightened her. I was always a clumsy brute with women."



The dark-haired woman was still ably answering the chaff of Nini and
the Germans. And her face was not the face she had shewn to Betty.
Betty came quietly behind her and touched her shoulder. She leapt in
her chair and turned white under the rouge.

"What the devil!--You shouldn't do that!" she said roughly; "You
frightened me out of my wits."

"I'm so sorry," said Betty, who was pale too. "Come away, won't you? I
want to talk to you."

"Your little friend is charming," said one of the men in thick
German-French. "May I order for her a bock or a cerises?"

"Do come," she urged.

"Let's walk," she said. "What's the matter? Where's young Temple?
Don't tell me he's like all the others."

"He meant to be kind," said Betty, "but he asked a lot of questions,
and I don't want to know him. I like you better. Isn't there anywhere
we can be quiet, and talk? I'm all alone here in Paris, and I do want
help. And I'd rather you'd help me than anyone else. Can't I come home
with you?"

"No you can't."

"Well then, will you come with me?--not to the hotel he told me of,
but to some other--you must know of one."

"What will you do if I don't?"

"I don't know," said Betty very forlornly, "but you _will_, won't you.
You don't know how tired I am. Come with me, and then in the morning
we can talk. Do--do."

The other woman took some thirty or forty steps in silence. Then she
asked abruptly:

"Have you plenty of money?"

"Yes, lots."

"And you're an artist?"

"Yes--at least I'm a student."

Again the woman reflected. At last she shrugged her shoulders and
laughed. "Set a thief to catch a thief," she said. "I shall make a
dragon of a chaperon, I warn you. Yes, I'll come, just for this one
night, but you'll have to pay the hotel bill."

"Of course," said Betty.

"This _is_ an adventure! Where's your luggage?"

"It's at the station, but I want you to promise not to tell that
Temple man a word about me. I don't want to see him again. Promise."

"Queer child. But I'll promise. Now look here: if I go into a thing at
all I go into it heart and soul; so let's do the thing properly. We
must have some luggage. I've got an old portmanteau knocking about.
Will you wait for me somewhere while I get it?"

"I'd rather not," said Betty, remembering the Germans and Nini.

"Well then,--there'd be no harm for a few minutes. You can come with
me. This is really rather a lark!"

Five minutes' walking brought the two to a dark house. The woman rang
a bell; a latch clicked and a big door swung open. She grasped Betty's

"Don't say a word," she said, and pulled her through.

It was very dark.

The other woman called out a name as they passed the door of the
concierge, a name that was not Conway, and her hand pulled Betty up
flight after flight of steep stairs. On the fifth floor she opened a
door with a key, and left Betty standing at the threshold till she had
lighted a lamp.

Then "Come in," she said, and shut the door and bolted it.

The room was small and smelt of white rose scent; the looking-glass
had a lace drapery fastened up with crushed red roses; and there were
voluminous lace and stuff curtains to bed and window.

"Sit down," said the hostess. She took off her hat and pulled the
scarlet flowers from it. She washed her face till it shewed no rouge
and no powder, and the brown of lashes and brows was free from the
black water-paint. She raked under the bed with a faded sunshade till
she found an old brown portmanteau. Her smart black and white dress
was changed for a black one, of a mode passee these three years. A
gray chequered golf cape and the dulled hat completed the

"How nice you look," said Betty.

The other bundled some linen and brushes into the portmanteau.

"The poor old Gladstone's very thin still," she said, and folded
skirts; "we must plump it out somehow."

When the portmanteau was filled and strapped, they carried it down
between them, in the dark, and got it out on to the pavement.

"I am Miss Conway now," said the woman, "and we will drive to the
Hotel de Lille. I went there one Easter with my father."

With the change in her dress a change had come over Miss Conway's

At the Hotel de Lille it was she who ordered the two rooms,
communicating, for herself and her cousin, explained where the rest of
the luggage was, and gave orders for the morning chocolate.

"This is very jolly," said Betty, when they were alone. "It's like an

"Exactly," said Miss Conway. "Good night."

"It's rather like a dream, though. I shan't wake up and find you gone,
shall I?" Betty asked anxiously.

"No, no. We've all your affairs to settle in the morning."

"And yours?"

"Mine were settled long ago. Oh, I forgot--I'm Miss Conway, at the
Hotel de Lille. Yes, we'll settle my affairs in the morning, too. Good
night, little girl."

"Good night, Miss Conway."

"They call me Lotty."

"My name's Betty and--look here, I can't wait till the morning." Betty
clasped her hands, and seemed to be holding her courage between them.
"I've come to Paris to study art, and I want you to come and live with
me. I know you'd like it, and I've got heaps of money--will you?"

She spoke quickly and softly, and her face was flushed and her eyes

There was a pause.

"You silly little duffer--you silly dear little duffer."

The other woman had turned away and was fingering the chains of an
ormolu candlestick on the mantelpiece.

Betty put an arm over her shoulders.

"Look here," she said, "I'm not such a duffer as you think. I know
people do dreadful things--but they needn't go on doing them, need

"Yes, they need," said the other; "that's just it."

Her fingers were still twisting the bronze chains.

"And the women you talked about--in the Bible--they weren't kind and
good, like you; they were just only horrid and not anything else. You
told _me_ to be good. Won't you let me help you? Oh, it does seem such
cheek of me, but I never knew anyone before who--I don't know how to
say it. But I am so sorry, and I want you to be good, just as much as
you want me to. Dear, dear Lotty!"

"My name's Paula."

"Paula dear, I wish I wasn't so stupid, but I know it's not your
fault, and I know you aren't like that woman with the Germans."

"I should hope not indeed," Paula was roused to flash back; "dirty
little French gutter-cat."

"I've never been a bit of good to anyone," said Betty, adding her
other arm and making a necklace of the two round Paula's neck, "except
to Parishioners perhaps. Do let me be a bit of good to you. Don't you
think I could?"

"You dear little fool!" said Paula gruffly.

"Yes, but say yes--you must! I know you want to. I've got lots of
money. Kiss me, Paula."

"I won't!--Don't kiss me!--I won't have it! Go away," said the woman,
clinging to Betty and returning her kisses.

"Don't cry," said Betty gently. "We shall be ever so happy. You'll
see. Good night, Paula. Do you know I've never had a friend--a
girl-friend, I mean?"

"For God's sake hold your tongue, and go to bed! Good night."

Betty, alone, faced at last, and for the first time, The Thought. But
it had changed its dress when Miss Conway changed hers. It was no
longer a Thought: it was a Resolution.

Twin-born with her plan for saving her new friend was the plan for a
life that should not be life at Long Barton.

All the evening she had refused to face The Thought. But it had been
shaping itself to something more definite than thought. As a
Resolution, a Plan, it now unrolled itself before her. She sat in the
stiff arm-chair looking straight in front of her, and she saw what she
meant to do. The Thought had been wise not to insist too much on
recognition. Earlier in the evening it would have seemed merely a
selfish temptation. Now it was an opportunity for a good and noble
act. And Betty had always wanted so much to be noble and good.

Here she was in Paris, alone. Her aunt, train-borne, was every moment
further and further away. As for her step-father:

"I hate him," said Betty, "and he hates me. He only let me come to get
rid of me. And what good could I do at Long Barton compared with what
I can do here? Any one can do Parish work. I've got the money Aunt
left for Madame Gautier. Perhaps it's stealing. But is it? The money
was meant to pay to keep me in Paris to study Art. And it's not as if
I were staying altogether for selfish reasons--there's Paula. I'm sure
she has really a noble nature. And it's not as if I were staying
because He is in Paris. Of course, that would be _really wrong_. But
he said he was going to Vienna. I suppose his uncle delayed him, but
he'll certainly go. I'm sure it's right. I've learned a lot since I
left home. I'm not a child now. I'm a woman, and I must do what I
think is right. You know I must, mustn't I?"

She appealed to the Inward Monitor, but it refused to be propitiated.

"It only seems not quite right because it's so unusual," she went on;
"that's because I've never been anywhere or done anything. After all,
it's my own life, and I have a right to live it as I like. My
step-father has never written to Madame Gautier all these months. He
won't now. It's only to tell him she has changed her address--he only
writes to me on Sunday nights. There's just time. And I'll keep the
money, and when Aunt comes back I'll tell her everything. She'll

"Do you think so?" said the Inward Monitor.

"Any way," said Betty, putting her foot down on the Inward Monitor,
"I'm going to do it. If it's only for Paula's sake. We'll take rooms,
and I'll go to a Studio, and work hard; and I won't make friends with
gentlemen I don't know, or anything silly, so there," she added
defiantly. "Auntie left the money for me to study in Paris. If I tell
my step-father that Madame Gautier is dead, he'll just fetch me home,
and what'll become of Paula then?"

Thus and thus, ringing the changes on resolve and explanation, her
thoughts ran. A clock chimed midnight.

"Is it possible," she asked herself, "that it's not twelve hours since
I was at the Hotel Bete--talking to Him? Well, I shall never see him
again, I suppose. How odd that I don't feel as if I cared whether I
did or not. I suppose what I felt about him wasn't real. It all seems
so silly now. Paula is real, and all that I mean to do for her is
real. He isn't."

She prayed that night as usual, but her mind was made up, and she
prayed outside a closed door.

Next morning, when her chocolate came up, she carried it into the next
room, and, sitting on the edge of her new friend's bed, breakfasted

Paula seemed dazed when she first woke, but soon she was smiling and
listening to Betty's plans.

"How young you look," said Betty, "almost as young as me."

"I'm twenty-five."

"You don't look it--with your hair in those pretty plaits, and your
nightie. You do have lovely nightgowns."

"I'll get up now," said Paula. "Look out--I nearly upset the tray."

Betty had carefully put away certain facts and labelled them: "Not to
be told to anyone, even Paula." No one was to know anything about
Vernon. "There is nothing to know really," she told herself. No one
was to know that she was alone in Paris without the knowledge of her
relations. Lots of girls came to Paris alone to study art. She was
just one of these.

She found the lying wonderfully easy. It did not bring with it,
either, any of the shame that lying should bring, but rather a sense
of triumphant achievement, as from a difficult part played

She paid the hotel bill, and then the search for rooms began.

"We must be very economical, you know," she said, "but you won't mind
that, will you? I think it will be rather fun."

"It would be awful fun," said the other. "You'll go and work at the
studio, and when you come home after your work I shall have cooked the
dejeuner, and we shall have it together on a little table with a nice
white cloth and a bunch of flowers on it."

"Yes; and in the evening we'll go out, to concerts and things, and
ride on the tops of trams. And on Sundays--what does one do on

"I suppose one goes to church," said Paula.

"Oh, I think not when we're working so hard all the week. We'll go
into the country."

"We can take the river steamer and go to St. Cloud, or go out on the
tram to Clamart--the woods there are just exactly like the woods at
home. What part of England do you live in?"

"Kent," said Betty.

"My home's in Devonshire," said Paula.

It was a hard day: so many stairs to climb, so many apartments to see!
And all of them either quite beyond Betty's means, or else little
stuffy places, filled to choking point with the kind of furniture no
one could bear to live with, and with no light, and no outlook except
a blank wall a yard or two from the window.

They kept to the Montparnasse quarter, for there, Paula said, were the
best ateliers for Betty. They found a little restaurant, where only
art students ate, and where one could breakfast royally for about a
shilling. Betty looked with interest at the faces of the students, and
wondered whether she should ever know any of them. Some of them looked
interesting. A few were English, and fully half American.

Then the weary hunt for rooms began again.

It was five o'clock before a _concierge, unexpected amiable_ in face
of their refusal of her rooms, asked whether they had tried Madame
Bianchi's--Madame Bianchi where the atelier was, and the students'
meetings on Sunday evenings,--Number 57 Boulevard Montparnasse.

They tried it. One passes through an archway into a yard where the
machinery, of a great laundry pulses half the week, up some wide
wooden stairs--shallow, easy stairs--and on the first floor are the
two rooms. Betty drew a long breath when she saw them. They were
lofty, they were airy, they were light. There was not much furniture,
but what there was was good--old carved armoires, solid divans
and--joy of joys--in each room a carved oak, Seventeenth Century
mantelpiece eight feet high and four feet deep.

"I _must_ have these rooms!" Betty whispered. "Oh, I could make them
so pretty!"

The rent of the rooms was almost twice as much as the sum they fixed
on, and Paula murmured caution.

"Its no use," said Betty. "We'll live on bread and water if you like,
but we'll live on it _here_."

And she took the rooms.

"I'm sure we've done right," she said as they drove off to fetch her
boxes: "the rooms will be like a home, you see if they aren't. And
there's a piano too. And Madame Bianchi, isn't she a darling; Isn't
she pretty and sweet and nice?"

"Yes," said Paula thoughtfully; "it certainly is something that you've
got rooms in the house of a woman like that."

"And that ducky little kitchen! Oh, we shall have such fun, cooking
our own meals! You shall get the dejeuner but I'll cook the dinner
while you lie on the sofa and read novels 'like a real lady.'"

"Don't use that expression--I hate it," said Paula sharply. "But the
rooms are lovely, aren't they?"

"Yes, it's a good place for you to be in--I'm sure of that," said the
other, musing again.

When the boxes were unpacked, and Betty had pinned up a few prints and
photographs and sketches and arranged some bright coloured Liberty
scarves to cover the walls' more obvious defects--left by the removal
of the last tenant's decorations--when flowers were on table and
piano, the curtains drawn and the lamps lighted, the room did, indeed,
look "like a home."

"We'll have dinner out to-night," said Paula, "and to-morrow we'll go
marketing, and find you a studio to work at."

"Why not here?"

"That's an idea. Have you a lace collar you can lend me? This is not
fit to be seen."

Betty pinned the collar on her friend.

"I believe you get prettier every minute," she said. "I must just
write home and give them my address."

She fetched her embroidered blotting-book.

"It reminds one of bazaars," said Miss Conway.

* * * * *

57 Boulevard Montparnasse.

My dear Father:

This is our new address. Madame Gautier's tenant wanted to keep on
her flat in the Rue de Vaugirard, so she has taken this one which
is larger and very convenient, as it is close to many of the best
studios. I think I shall like it very much. It is not decided yet
where I am to study, but there is an Atelier in the House for ladies
only, and I think it will be there, so that I shall not have to go
out to my lessons. I will write again as soon as we are more
settled. We only moved in late this afternoon, so there is a lot to
do. I hope you are quite well, and that everything is going on well
in the Parish. I will certainly send some sketches for the Christmas
sale. Madame Gautier does not wish me to go home for Christmas; she
thinks it would interrupt my work too much. There is a new girl, a
Miss Conway. I like her very much. With love,

Yours affectionately,

E. Desmond.

She was glad when that letter was written. It is harder to lie in
writing than in speech, and the use of the dead woman's name made her

"But I won't do things by halves," she said.

"What's this?" Paula asked sharply. She had stopped in front of one of
Betty's water colours.

"That? Oh, I did it ages ago--before I learned anything. Don't look
at it."

"But _what_ is it?"

"Oh, only our house at home."

"I wonder," said Paula, "why all English Vicarages are exactly alike."

"It's a Rectory," said Betty absently.

"That ought to make a difference, but it doesn't. I haven't seen an
English garden for four years."

"Four years is a long time," said Betty.

"You don't know how long," said the other. "And the garden's been
going on just the same all the time. It seems odd, doesn't it? Those
hollyhocks--the ones at the Vicarage at home are just like them. Come,
let's go to dinner!"



When Vernon had read Betty's letter--and holding it up to the light he
was able to read the scratched-out words almost as easily as the
others--he decided that he might as well know where she worked, and
one day, after he had called on Lady St. Craye, he found himself
walking along the Rue de Vaugirard. Lady St. Craye was charming. And
she had been quite right when she had said that he would find a
special charm in the companionship of one in whose heart his past
love-making seemed to have planted no thorns. Yet her charm, by its
very nature--its finished elegance, its conscious authority--made him
think with the more interest of the unformed, immature grace of the
other woman--Betty, in whose heart he had not had the chance to plant
either thorns or roses.

How could he find out? Concierges are venal, but Vernon disliked base
instruments. He would act boldly. It was always the best way. He would
ask to see this Madame Gautier--if Betty were present he must take his
chance. It would be interesting to see whether she would commit
herself to his plot by not recognizing him. If she did that--Yet he
hoped she wouldn't. If she did recognize him he would say that it was
through Miss Desmond's relatives that he had heard of Madame Gautier.
Betty could not contradict him. He would invent a niece whose parents
wished to place her with Madame. Then he could ask as many questions
as he liked, about hours and studios, and all the details of the life
Betty led.

It was a simple straight-forward design, and one that carried success
in its pocket. No one could suspect anything.

Yet at the very first step suspicion, or what looked like it, stared
at him from the eyes of the concierge when he asked for Madame

"Monsieur is not of the friends of Madame?" she asked curiously.

He knew better than to resent the curiosity. He explained that he
desired to see Madame on business.

"You will see her never," the woman said dramatically; "she sees no
one any more."

"Is it that she is ill?"

"It is that she is dead,--and the dead do not receive, Monsieur." She
laughed, and told the tale of death circumstantially, with grim relish
of detail.

"And the young ladies--they have returned to their parents?"

"Ah, it is in the young ladies that Monsieur interests himself? But
yes. Madame's brother, who is in the Commerce of Nantes, he restored
instantly the young ladies to their friends. One was already with her

Vernon had money ready in his hand.

"What was her name, Madame--the young lady with the aunt?"

"But I know not, Monsieur. She was a new young lady, who had been with
Madame at her Villa--I have not seen her. At the time of the
regrettable accident she was with her aunt, and doubtless remains
there. Thank you, Monsieur. That is all I know."

"Thank you, Madame. I am desolated to have disturbed you. Good day."

And Vernon was in the street again.

So Betty had never come to the Rue Vaugirard! The aunt must somehow
have heard the news--perhaps she had called on the way to the
train--she had returned to the Bete and Betty now was Heaven alone
knew where. Perhaps at Long Barton. Perhaps in Paris, with some other

Vernon for a day or two made a point of being near when the
studios--Julien's, Carlorossi's, Delacluse's, disgorged their
students. He did not see Betty, because she was not studying at any of
these places, but at the Atelier Bianchi, of which he never thought.
So he shrugged his shoulders, and dined again with Lady St. Craye, and
began to have leisure to analyse the emotions with which she inspired
him. He had not believed that he could be so attracted by a woman with
whom he had played the entire comedy, from first glance to last
tear--from meeting hands to severed hearts. Yet attracted he was, and
strongly. He experienced a sort of resentment, a feeling that she had
kept something from him, that she had reserves of which he knew
nothing, that he, who in his blind complacency had imagined himself to
have sucked the orange and thrown away the skin, had really, in point
of fact, had a strange lovely fruit snatched from him before his blunt
teeth had done more than nibble at its seemingly commonplace rind.

In the old days she had reared barriers of reserve, walls of reticence
over which he could see so easily; now she posed as having no
reserves, and he seemed to himself to be following her through a
darkling wood, where the branches flew back and hit him in the face so
that he could not see the path.

"You know," she said, "what makes it so delightful to talk to you is
that I can say exactly what I like. You won't expect me to be clever,
or shy, or any of those tiresome things. We can be perfectly frank
with each other. And that's such a relief, isn't it?"

"I wonder whether it would be--supposing it could be?" said he.

They were driving in the Bois, among the autumn tinted trees where the
pale mist wreaths wandered like ghosts in the late afternoon.

"Of course it could be; it is," she said, opening her eyes at him
under the brim of her marvel of a hat: "at least it is for simple folk
like me. Why don't you wear a window in your breast as I do?"

She laid her perfectly gloved hand on her sables.

"Is there really a window? Can one see into your heart?"

"_One_ can--not the rest. Just the one from whom one feareth nothing,
expecteth nothing, hopeth nothing. That's out of the Bible, isn't it?"

"It's near enough," said he. "Of course, to you it's a new sensation
to have the window in your breast. Whereas I, from innocent childhood
to earnest manhood, have ever been open as the day."

"Yes," she said, "you were always transparent enough. But one is so
blind when one is in love."

Her calm references to the past always piqued him.

"I don't think Love is so blind as he's painted," he said: "always as
soon as I begin to be in love with people I begin to see their

"You may be transparent, but you haven't a good mirror," she laughed;
"you don't see yourself as you are. It isn't when you begin to love
people that you see their faults, is it? It's really when they begin
to love you."

"But I never begin to love people till they begin to love me. I'm too

"And I never love people after they've done loving me. I'm too--"

"Too what?"

"Too something--forgetful, is it? I mean it takes two to make a
quarrel, and it certainly takes two to make a love affair."

"And what about all the broken hearts?"

"What broken hearts?"

"The ones you find in the poets and the story books."

"That's just where you do find them. Nowhere else.--Now, honestly, has
your heart ever been broken?"

"Not yet: so be careful how you play with it. You don't often find
such a perfect specimen--absolutely not a crack or a chip."

"The pitcher shouldn't crow too loud--can pitchers crow? They have
ears, of course, but only the little pitchers. The ones that go to the
well should go in modest silence."

"Dear Lady," he said almost impatiently, "what is there about me that
drives my friends to stick up danger boards all along my path? 'This
way to Destruction!' You all label them. I am always being solemnly
warned that I shall get my heart broken one of these days, if I don't
look out."

"I wish you wouldn't call me dear Lady," she said; "it's not the mode
any more now."

"What may I call you?" he had to ask, turning to look in her eyes.

"You needn't call me anything. I hate being called names. That's a
pretty girl--not the dark one, the one with the fur hat."

He turned to look.

Two girls were walking briskly under the falling leaves. And the one
with the fur hat was Betty. But it was at the other that he gazed even
as he returned Betty's prim little bow. He even turned a little as the
carriage passed, to look more intently at the tall figure in shabby
black whose arm Betty held.

"Well?" said Lady St. Craye, breaking the silence that followed.

"Well?" said he, rousing himself, but too late. "You were saying I
might call you--"

"It's not what I was saying--it's what you were looking. Who is the
girl, and why don't you approve of her companion?"

"Who says I don't wear a window in my breast?" he laughed. "The girl's
a little country girl I knew in England--I didn't know she was in
Paris. And I thought I knew the woman, too, but that's impossible:
it's only a likeness."

"One nice thing about me is that I never ask impertinent questions--or
hardly ever. That one slipped out and I withdraw it. I don't want to
know anything about anything and I'm sorry I spoke. I see, of course,
that she is a little country girl you knew in England, and that you
are not at all interested in her. How fast the leaves fall now, don't

"No question of your's could be im--could be anything but flattering.
But since you _are_ interested--"

"Not at all," she said politely.

"Oh, but do be interested," he urged, intent on checking her
inconvenient interest, "because, really, it is rather interesting when
you come to think of it. I was painting my big picture--I wish you'd
come and see it, by the way. Will you some day, and have tea in my

"I should love it. When shall I come?"

"Whenever you will."

He wished she would ask another question about Betty, but she
wouldn't. He had to go on, a little awkwardly.

"Well, I only knew them for a week--her and her aunt and her
father--and she's a nice, quiet little thing. The father's a
parson--all of them are all that there is of most respectable."

She listened but she did not speak.

"And I was rather surprised to see her here. And for the moment I
thought the woman with her was--well, the last kind of woman who
could have been with her, don't you know."

"I see," said Lady St. Craye. "Well, it's fortunate that the dark
woman isn't that kind of woman. No doubt you'll be seeing your little
friend. You might ask her to tea when I come to see your picture."

"I wish I could." Vernon's manner was never so frank as when he was
most on his guard. "She'd love to know you. I wish I could ask them to
tea, but I don't know them well enough. And their address I don't know
at all. It's a pity; she's a nice little thing."

It was beautifully done. Lady St. Craye inwardly applauded Vernon's
acting, and none the less that her own part had grown strangely
difficult. She was suddenly conscious of a longing to be alone--to let
her face go. She gave herself a moment's pause, caught at her fine
courage and said:

"Yes, it is a pity. However, I daresay it's safer for her that you
can't ask her to tea. She _is_ a nice little thing, and she might fall
in love with you, and then, your modesty appeased, you might follow
suit! Isn't it annoying when one can't pick up the thread of a
conversation? All the time you've been talking I've been wondering
what we were talking about before I pointed out the fur hat to you.
And I nearly remember, and I can't quite. That is always so worrying,
isn't it?"

Her acting was as good as his. And his perception at the moment less
clear than hers.

He gave a breath of relief. It would never have done to have Lady St.
Craye spying on him and Betty; and now he knew that she was in Paris
he knew too that it would be "him and Betty."

"We were talking," he said carefully, "about calling names."

"Oh, thank you!--When one can't remember those silly little things
it's like wanting to sneeze and not being able to, isn't it? But we
must turn back, or I shall be late for dinner, and I daren't think of
the names my hostess will call me then. She has a vocabulary, you
know." She named a name and Vernon thought it was he who kept the talk
busy among acquaintances till the moment for parting. Lady St. Craye
knew that it was she.

The moment Betty had bowed to Mr. Vernon she turned her head in answer
to the pressure on her arm.

"Who's that?" her friend asked.

Betty named him, and in a voice genuinely unconcerned.

"How long have you known him?"

"I knew him for a week last Spring: he gave me a few lessons. He is a
great favourite of my aunt's, but we don't know him much. And I
thought he was in Vienna."

"Does he know where you are?"


"Then mind he doesn't."


"Because when girls are living alone they can't be too careful.
Remember you're the person that's responsible for Betty Desmond now.
You haven't your aunt and your father to take care of you."

"I've got you," said Betty affectionately.

"Yes, you've got me," said her friend.

Life in the new rooms was going very easily and pleasantly. Betty had
covered some cushions with the soft green silk of an old evening dress
Aunt Julia had given her; she had bought chrysanthemums in pots; and
now all her little belongings, the same that had "given the _cachet_"
to her boudoir bedroom at home lay about, and here, in this foreign
setting, did really stamp the room with a pretty, delicate,
conventional individuality. The embroidered blotting-book, the silver
pen-tray, the wicker work-basket lined with blue satin, the long
worked pin-cushion stuck with Betty's sparkling hat-pins,--all these,
commonplace at Long Barton were here not commonplace. There was
nothing of Paula's lying about. She had brought nothing with her, and
had fetched nothing from her room save clothes--dresses and hats of
the plainest.

The experiments in cooking were amusing; so were the marketings in odd
little shops that sold what one wanted, and a great many things that
one had never heard of. The round of concerts and theatres and
tram-rides had not begun yet. In the evenings Betty drew, while Paula
read aloud--from the library of stray Tauchnitz books Betty had
gleaned from foreign book-stalls. It was a very busy, pleasant
home-life. And the studio life did not lack interest.

Betty suffered a martyrdom of nervousness when first--a little
late--she entered the Atelier. It is a large light room; a
semi-circular alcove at one end, hung with pleasant-coloured drapery,
holds a grand piano. All along one side are big windows that give on
an old garden--once a convent garden where nuns used to walk, telling
their beads. The walls are covered with sketches, posters, studies.
Betty looked nervously round--the scene was agitatingly unfamiliar.
The strange faces, the girls in many-hued painting pinafores, the
little forest of easels, and on the square wooden platform the
model--smooth, brown, with limbs set, moveless as a figure of wax.

Betty got to work, as soon as she knew how one began to get to work.
It was her first attempt at a drawing from the life, saving certain
not unsuccessful caricatures of her fellow pupils, her professor and
her chaperon. So far she had only been set to do landscape, and
laborious drawings of casts from the antique. The work was much harder
than she had expected. And the heat was overpowering. She wondered how
these other girls could stand it. Their amused, half-patronising,
half-disdainful glances made her furious.

She rubbed out most of the lines she had put in and gasped for breath.

The room, the students, the naked brown girl on the model's throne,
all swam before her eyes. She got to the door somehow, opened and shut
it, and found herself sitting on the top stair with closed eyelids and
heart beating heavily.

[Illustration: "Betty looked nervously around--the scene was
agitatingly unfamiliar"]

Some one held water to her lips. She was being fanned with a

"I'm all right," she said.

"Yes, it's hotter than usual to-day," said the handkerchief-holder,
fanning vigorously.

"Why do they have it so hot?" asked poor Betty.

"Because of the model, of course. Poor thing! she hasn't got a nice
blue gown and a pinky-greeny pinafore to keep her warm. We have to try
to match the garden of Eden climate--when we're drawing from a girl
who's only allowed to use Eve's fashion plates."

Betty laughed and opened her eyes.

"How jolly of you to come out after me," she said.

"Oh, I was just the same at first. All right now? I ought to get back.
You just sit here till you feel fit again. So long!"

So Betty sat there on the bare wide brown stair, staring at the
window, till things had steadied themselves, and then she went back to
her work.

Her easel was there, and her half-rubbed out drawing--No, that was not
her drawing. It was a head, vaguely but very competently sketched, a
likeness--no, a caricature--of Betty herself.

She looked round--one quick but quite sufficient look. The girl next
her, and the one to that girl's right, were exchanging glances, and
the exchange ceased just too late. Betty saw.

From then till the rest Betty did not look at the model. She looked,
but furtively, at those two girls. When, at the rest-time, the model
stretched and yawned and got off her throne and into a striped
petticoat, most of the students took their "easy" on the stairs: among
these the two.

Betty, who never lacked courage, took charcoal in hand and advanced
quite boldly to the easel next to her own.

How she envied the quality of the drawing she saw there. But envy does
not teach mercy. The little sketch that Betty left on the corner of
the drawing was quite as faithful, and far more cruel, than the one on
her own paper. Then she went on to the next easel. The few students
who were chatting to the model looked curiously at her and giggled
among themselves.

When the rest was over and the model had reassumed, quite easily and
certainly, that pose of the uplifted arms which looked so difficult,
the students trooped back and the two girls--Betty's enemies, as she
bitterly felt--returned to their easels. They looked at their
drawings, they looked at each other, and they looked at Betty. And
when they looked at her they smiled.

"Well done!" the girl next her said softly. "For a tenderfoot you hit
back fairly straight. I guess you'll do!"

"You're very kind," said Betty haughtily.

"Don't you get your quills up," said the girl. "I hit first, but you
hit hardest. I don't know you,--but I want to."

She smiled so queer yet friendly a smile that Betty's haughtiness had
to dissolve in an answering smile.

"My name's Betty Desmond," she said. "I wonder why you wanted to hit a
man when he was down."

"My!" said the girl, "how was I to surmise about you being down? You
looked dandy enough--fit to lick all creation."

"I've never been in a studio before," said Betty, fixing fresh paper.

"My!" said the girl again. "Turn the faucet off now. The model don't
like us to whisper. Can't stand the draught."

So Betty was silent, working busily. But next day she was greeted with
friendly nods and she had some one to speak to in the rest-intervals.

On the third day she was asked to a studio party by the girl who had
fanned her on the stairs. "And bring your friend with you," she said.

But Betty's friend had a headache that day. Betty went alone and came
home full of the party.

"She's got such a jolly studio," she said; "ever so high up,--and
busts and casts and things. Everyone was so nice to me you can't
think: it was just like what one hears of Girton Cocoa parties. We had
tea--such weak tea, Paula, it could hardly crawl out of the teapot! We
had it out of green basins. And the loveliest cakes! There were only
two chairs, so some of us sat on the sommier and the rest on the

"Were there any young men?" asked Paula.

"Two or three very, very young ones--they came late. But they might as
well have been girls; there wasn't any flirting or nonsense of that
sort, Paula. Don't you think _we_ might give a party--not now, but
presently, when we know some more people? Do you think they'd like it?
Or would they think it a bore?"

"They'd love it, I should think." Paula looked round the room which
already she loved. "And what did you all talk about?"

"Work," said Betty, "work and work and work and work and work:
everyone talked about their work, and everyone else listened and
watched for the chance to begin to talk about theirs. This is real
life, my dear. I am so glad I'm beginning to know people. Miss Voscoe
is very queer, but she's a dear. She's the one who caricatured me the
first day. Oh, we shall do now, shan't we?"

"Yes," said the other, "you'll do now."

"I said 'we,'" Betty corrected softly.

"I meant we, of course," said Miss Conway.



Vernon's idea of a studio was a place to work in, a place where there
should be room for all the tools of one's trade, and besides, a great
space to walk up and down in those moods that seize on all artists
when their work will not come as they want it.

But when he gave tea-parties he had store of draperies to pull out
from his carved cupboard, deeply coloured things embroidered in rich
silk and heavy gold--Chinese, Burmese, Japanese, Russian.

He came in to-day with an armful of fair chrysanthemums, deftly set
them in tall brazen jars, pulled out his draperies and arranged them
swiftly. There was a screen to be hung with a Chinese mandarin's
dress, where, on black, gold dragons writhed squarely among blue
roses; the couch was covered by a red burnous with a gold border.
There were Persian praying mats to lay on the bare floor, kakemonos to
be fastened with drawing pins on the bare walls. A tea cloth worked by
Russian peasants lay under the tea-cups--two only--of yellow Chinese
egg-shell ware. His tea-pot and cream-jug were Queen Anne silver,
heirlooms at which he mocked. But he saw to it that they were kept

He lighted the spirit-lamp.

"She was always confoundedly punctual," he said.

But to-day Lady St. Craye was not punctual. She arrived half an hour
late, and the delay had given her host time to think about her.

He heard her voice in the courtyard at last--but the only window that
looked that way was set high in the wall of the little corridor, and
he could not see who it was to whom she was talking. And he wondered,
because the inflection of her voice was English--not the exquisite
imitation of the French inflexion which he had so often admired in

He opened the door and went to the stair head. The voices were coming
up the steps.

"A caller," said Vernon, and added a word or two. However little you
may be in love with a woman, two is better company than three.

The voices came up. He saw the golden brown shimmer of Lady St.
Craye's hat, and knew that it matched her hair and that there would be
violets somewhere under the brim of it--violets that would make her
eyes look violet too. She was coming up--a man just behind her. She
came round the last turn, and the man was Temple.

"What an Alpine ascent!" she exclaimed, reaching up her hand so that
Vernon drew her up the last three steps. "We have been hunting you
together, on both the other staircases. Now that the chase is ended,
won't you present your friend? And I'll bow to him as soon as I'm on
firm ground!"

Vernon made the presentation and held the door open for Lady St. Craye
to pass. As she did so Temple behind her raised eyebrows which said:

"Am I inconvenient? Shall I borrow a book or something and go?"

Vernon shook his head. It was annoying, but inevitable. He could only
hope that Lady St. Craye also was disappointed.

"How punctual you are," he said. "Sit here, won't you?--I hadn't
finished laying the table." He deliberately brought out four more
cups. "What unnatural penetration you have, Temple! How did you find
out that this is the day when I sit 'at home' and wait for people to
come and buy my pictures?"

"And no one's come?" Lady St. Craye had sunk into the chair and was
pulling off her gloves. "That's very disappointing. I thought I should
meet dozens of clever and interesting people, and I only meet two."

Her brilliant smile made the words seem neither banal nor impertinent.

Vernon was pleased to note that he was not the only one who was

"You are too kind," he said gravely.

Temple was looking around the room.

"Jolly place you've got here," he said, "but it's hard to find. I
should have gone off in despair if I hadn't met Lady St. Craye."

"We kept each other's courage up, didn't we, Mr. Temple? It was like
arctic explorers. I was beginning to think we should have to make a
camp and cook my muff for tea."

She held out the sable and Vernon laid it on the couch when he had
held it to his face for a moment.

"I love the touch of fur," he said; "and your fur is scented with the
scent of summer gardens, 'open jasmine muffled lattices,'" he quoted
softly. Temple had wandered to the window.

"What ripping roofs!" he said. "Can one get out on them?"

"Now what," demanded Vernon, "_is_ the hidden mainspring that impels
every man who comes into these rooms to ask, instantly, whether one
can get out on to the roof? It's only Englishmen, by the way;
Americans never ask it, nor Frenchmen."

"It's the exploring spirit, I suppose," said Temple idly; "the spirit
that has made England the Empire which--et cetera."

"On which the sun never sets. Yes--but I think the sunset would be one
of the attractions of your roof, Mr. Vernon."

"Sunset is never attractive to me," said he, "nor Autumn. Give me
sunrise, and Spring."

"Ah, yes," said Lady St. Craye, "you only like beginnings. Even

"Even Summer, as you say," he answered equably. "The sketch is always
so much better than the picture."

"I believe that is your philosophy of life," said Temple.

"This man," Vernon explained, "spends his days in doing ripping
etchings and black and white stuff and looking for my philosophy of

"One would like to see that in black and white. Will you etch it for
me, Mr. Temple, when you find it?"

"I don't think the medium would be adequate," Temple said. "I haven't
found it yet, but I should fancy it would be rather highly coloured."

"Iridescent, perhaps. Did you ever speculate as to the colour of
people's souls? I'm quite sure every soul has a colour."

"What is yours?" asked Vernon of course.

"I'm too humble to tell you. But some souls are thick--body-colour,
don't you know--and some are clear like jewels."

"And mine's an opal, is it?"

"With more green in it, perhaps; you know the lovely colour on the
dykes in the marshes?"

"Stagnant water? Thank you!"

"I don't know what it is. It has some hateful chemical name, I
daresay. They have vases the colour I mean, mounted in silver, at the
Army and Navy Stores."

"And your soul--it is a pearl, isn't it?"

"Never! Nothing opaque. If you will force my modesty to the confession
I believe in my heart that it is a sapphire. True blue, don't you

"And Temple's--but you've not known him long enough to judge."

"So it's no use my saying that I am sure his soul is a dewdrop."

"To be dried up by the sun of life?" Temple questioned.

"No--to be hardened into a diamond--by the fire of life. No, don't
explain that dewdrops don't harden Into diamonds. I know I'm not
scientific, but I honestly did mean to be complimentary. Isn't your
kettle boiling over, Mr. Vernon?"

Lady St. Craye's eyes, while they delicately condoled with Vernon on
the spoiling of his tete-a-tete with her, were also made to indicate a
certain interest in the spoiler. Temple was more than six feet high,
well built. He had regular features and clear gray eyes, with well-cut
cases and very long dark lashes. His mouth was firm and its lines were
good. But for his close-cropped hair and for a bearing at once frank,
assured, and modest, he would have been much handsomer than a man has
any need to be. But his expression saved him: No one had ever called
him a barber's block or a hairdresser's apprentice.

To Temple Lady St. Craye appeared the most charming woman he had ever
seen. It was an effect which she had the habit of producing. He had
said of her in his haste that she was all clothes and no woman, now he
saw that on the contrary the clothes were quite intimately part of the
woman, and took such value as they had, from her.

She carried her head with the dainty alertness of a beautiful bird.
She had a gift denied to most Englishwomen--the genius for wearing
clothes. No one had ever seen her dress dusty or crushed, her hat
crooked. No uncomfortable accidents ever happened to her. Blacks never
settled on her face, the buttons never came off her gloves, she never
lost her umbrella, and in the windiest weather no loose untidy wisps
escaped from her thick heavy shining hair to wander unbecomingly round
the ears that were pearly and pink like the little shells of Vanessae.
Some of the women who hated her used to say that she dyed her hair. It
was certainly very much lighter than her brows and lashes. To-day she
was wearing a corduroy dress of a gold some shades grayer than the
gold of her hair. Sable trimmed it, and violet silk lined the loose
sleeves and the coat, now unfastened and thrown back. There were, as
Vernon had known there would be, violets under the brim of the hat
that matched her hair.

The chair in which she sat wore a Chinese blue drapery. The yellow
tea-cups gave the highest note in the picture.

"If I were Whistler, I should ask you to let me paint your portrait
like that--yes, with my despicable yellow tea-cup in your honourable

"If you were Mr. Whistler--or anything in the least like Mr.
Whistler--I shouldn't be drinking tea out of your honourable tea-cup,"
she said. "Do you really think, Mr. Temple, that one ought not to say
one doesn't like people just because they're dead?"

He had been thinking something a little like it.

"Well," he said rather awkwardly, "you see dead people can't hit

"No more can live ones when you don't hit them, but only stick pins in
their effigies. I'd rather speak ill of the dead than the living."

"Yet it doesn't seem fair, somehow," Temple insisted.

"But why? No one can go and tell the poor things what people are
saying of them. You don't go and unfold a shroud just to whisper in a
corpse's ear: 'It was horrid of her to say it, but I thought you ought
to know, dear.'--And if you did, they wouldn't lie awake at night
worrying over it as the poor live people do.--No more tea, thank you."

"Do you really think anyone worries about what anyone says?"

"Don't you, Mr. Temple?"

He reflected.

"He never has anything to worry about," Vernon put in; "no one ever
says anything unkind about him. The cruelest thing anyone ever said of
him was that he would make as excellent a husband as Albert the Good."

"The white flower of a blameless life? My felicitations," Lady St.
Craye smiled them.

Temple flushed.

"Now isn't it odd," Vernon asked, "that however much one plumes
oneself on one's blamelessness, one hates to hear it attributed to one
by others? One is good by stealth and blushes to find it fame. I

"Yes!" said Lady St. Craye with an accent of finality.

"What a man really likes is to be saint with the reputation of being a
bit of a devil."

"And a woman likes, you think, to be a bit of a devil, with the
reputation of a saint?"

"Or a bit of a saint with a reputation that rhymes to the reality.
It's the reputation that's important, isn't it?"

"Isn't the inward truth the really important thing?" said Temple
rather heavily.

Lady St. Craye looked at him in such a way as to make him understand
that she understood. Vernon looked at them both, and turning to the
window looked out on his admired roofs.

"Yes," she said very softly, "but one doesn't talk about that, any
more than one does of one's prayers or one's love affairs."

The plural vexed Temple, and he told himself how unreasonable the
vexation was.

Lady St. Craye turned her charming head to look at him, to look at
Vernon. One had been in love with her. The other might be. There is in
the world no better company than this.

Temple, always deeply uninterested in women's clothes, was noting the
long, firm folds of her skirt. Vernon had turned from the window to
approve the loving closeness of those violets against her hair. Lady
St. Craye in her graceful attitude of conscious unconsciousness was
the focus of their eyes.

"Here comes a millionaire, to buy your pictures," she said
suddenly,--"no--a millionairess, by the sound of her high-heeled
shoes. How beautiful are the feet--"

The men had heard nothing, but following hard on her words came the
sound of footsteps along the little corridor, an agitated knock on the

Vernon opened the door--to Betty.

"Oh--come in," he said cordially, and his pause of absolute
astonishment was brief as an eye-flash. "This is delightful--"

And as she passed into the room he caught her eyes and, looking a
warning, said: "I am so glad to see you. I began to be afraid you
wouldn't be able to come."

"I saw you in the Bois the other day," said Lady St. Craye, "and I
have been wanting to know you ever since."

"You are very kind," said Betty. Her hat was on one side, her hair was
very untidy, and it was not a becoming untidiness either. She had no
gloves, and a bit of the velvet binding of her skirt was loose. Her
eyes were red and swollen with crying. There was a black smudge on her

"Take this chair," said Vernon, and moved a comfortable one with its
back to the light.

"Temple--let me present you to Miss Desmond."

Temple bowed, with no flicker of recognition visible in his face. But
Betty, flushing scarlet, said:

"Mr. Temple and I have met before."

There was the tiniest pause. Then Temple said: "I am so glad to meet
you again. I thought you had perhaps left Paris."

"Let me give you some tea," said Vernon.

Tea was made for her,--and conversation. She drank the tea, but she
seemed not to know what to do with the conversation.

It fluttered, aimlessly, like a bird with a broken wing. Lady St.
Craye did her best, but talk is not easy when each one of a party has
its own secret pre-occupying interest, and an overlapping interest in
the preoccupation of the others. The air was too electric.

Lady St. Craye had it on her lips that she must go--when Betty rose

"Good-bye," she said generally, looking round with miserable eyes that
tried to look merely polite.

"Must you go?" asked Vernon, furious with the complicated emotions
that, warring in him, left him just as helpless as anyone else.

"I do hope we shall meet again," said Lady St. Craye.

"Mayn't I see you home?" asked Temple unexpectedly, even to himself.

Betty's "No, thank you," was most definite.

She went. Vernon had to let her go. He had guests. He could not leave
them. He had lost wholly his ordinary control of circumstances. All
through the petrifying awkwardness of the late talk he had been
seeking an excuse to go with Betty--to find out what was the matter.

He closed the door and came back. There was no help for it.

But there was help. Lady St. Craye gave it. She rose as Vernon came

"Quick!" she said, "Shall we go? Hadn't you better bring her back
here? Go after her at once."

"You're an angel," said Vernon. "No, don't go. Temple, look after Lady
St. Craye. If you'll not think me rude?--Miss Desmond is in trouble,
I'm afraid."

"Of course she is--poor little thing. Oh, Mr. Vernon, do run! She
looks quite despairing. There's your hat. Go--go!"

The door banged behind her.

The other two, left alone, looked at each other.

"I wonder--" said she.

"Yes," said he, "it's certainly mysterious."

"We ought to have gone at once," said she. "I should have done, of
course, only Mr. Vernon so elaborately explained that he expected her.
One had to play up. And so she's a friend of yours?"

"She's not a friend of mine," said Temple rather ruefully, "and I
didn't know Vernon was a friend of hers. You saw that she wouldn't
have my company at any price."

"Mr. Vernon's a friend of her people, I believe. We saw her the other
day in the Bois, and he told me he knew them in England. Did you know
them there too? Poor child, what a woe-begone little face it was!"

"No, not in England. I met her in Paris about a fortnight ago, but she
didn't like me, from the first, and our acquaintance broke off short."

There was a silence. Lady St. Craye perceived a ring-fence of
reticence round the subject that interested her, and knew that she had
no art strong enough to break it down.

She spoke again suddenly:

"Do you know you're not a bit the kind of man I expected you to be,
Mr. Temple? I've heard so much of you from Mr. Vernon. We're such old
friends, you know."

"Apparently he can't paint so well with words as he does with oils.
May I ask exactly how flattering the portrait was?"

"It wasn't flattering at all.--In fact it wasn't a portrait."

"A caricature?"

"But you don't mind what people say of you, do you?"

"You are trying to frighten me."

"No, really," she said with pretty earnestness; "it's only that he has
always talked about you as his best friend, and I imagined you would
be like him."

Temple's uneasy wonderings about Betty's trouble, her acquaintance
with Vernon, the meaning of her visit to him, were pushed to the back
of his mind.

"I wish I were like him," said he,--"at any rate, in his paintings."

"At any rate--yes. But one can't have everything, you know. You have
qualities which he hasn't--qualities that you wouldn't exchange for
any qualities of his."

"That wasn't what I meant; I--the fact is, I like old Vernon, but I
can't understand him."

"That philosophy of life eludes you still? Now, I understand him, but
I don't always like him--not all of him."

"I wonder whether anyone understands him?"

"He's not such a sphinx as he looks!" Her tone betrayed a slight
pique--"Now, your character would be much harder to read. That's one
of the differences."

"We are all transparent enough--to those who look through the right
glasses," said Temple. "And part of my character is my inability to
find any glass through which I could see him clearly."

This comparison of his character and Vernon's, with its sudden
assumption of intimacy, charmed yet embarrassed him.

She saw both emotions and pitied him a little. But it was necessary to
interest this young man enough to keep him there till Vernon should
return. Then Vernon would see her home, and she might find out
something, however little, about Betty. But if this young man went she
too must go. She could not outstay him in the rooms of his friend. So
she talked on, and Temple was just as much at her mercy as Betty had
been at the mercy of the brother artist in the rabbit warren at Long

But at seven o'clock Vernon had not returned, and it was, after all,
Temple who saw her home.

Temple, free from the immediate enchantment of her presence, felt the
revival of a resentful curiosity.

Why had Betty refused his help? Why had she sought Vernon's? Why did
women treat him as though he were a curate and Vernon as though he
were a god? Well--Lady St. Craye at least had not treated him as
curates are treated.



Vernon tore down the stairs three and four at a time, and caught Betty
as she was stepping into a hired carriage.

"What is it?" he asked. "What's the matter?"

"Oh, go back to your friends!" said Betty angrily.

"My friends are all right. They'll amuse each other. Tell me."

"Then you must come with me," said she. "If I try to tell you here I
shall begin to cry again. Don't speak to me. I can't bear it."

He got into the carriage. It was not until Betty had let herself into
her room and he had followed her in--not till they stood face to face
in the middle of the carpet that he spoke again.

"Now," he said, "what is it? Where's your aunt, and--"

"Sit down, won't you?" she said, pulling off her hat and throwing it
on the couch; "it'll take rather a long time to tell, but I must tell
you all about it, or else you can't help me. And if you don't help me
I don't know what I shall do."

Despair was in her voice.

He sat down. Betty, in the chair opposite his, sat with hands
nervously locked together.

"Look here," she said abruptly, "you're sure to think that everything
I've done is wrong, but it's no use your saying so."

"I won't say so."

"Well, then--that day, you know, after I saw you at the Bete--Madame
Gautier didn't come to fetch me, and I waited, and waited, and at last
I went to her flat, and she was dead,--and I ought to have telegraphed
to my step-father to fetch me, but I thought I would like to have one
night in Paris first--you know I hadn't seen Paris at all, really."


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