The Incomplete Amorist
E. Nesbit

Part 4 out of 7

"Yes," he said, trying not to let any anxiety into his voice. "Yes--go

"And I went to the Cafe d'Harcourt--What did you say?"


"I thought it was where the art students went. And I met a girl there,
and she was kind to me."

"What sort of a girl? Not an art student?"

"No," said Betty hardly, "she wasn't an art student. She told me what
she was."


"And I--I don't think I should have done it just for me alone, but--I
did want to stay in Paris and work--and I wanted to help her to be
good--she _is_ good really, in spite of everything. Oh, I know you're
horribly shocked, but I can't help it! And now she's gone,--and I
can't find her."

"I'm not shocked," he said deliberately, "but I'm extremely stupid.
How gone?"

"She was living with me here.--Oh, she found the rooms and showed me
where to go for meals and gave me good advice--oh, she did everything
for me! And now she's gone. And I don't know what to do. Paris is such
a horrible place. Perhaps she's been kidnapped or something. And I
don't know even how to tell the police. And all this time I'm talking
to you is wasted time."

"It isn't wasted. But I must understand. You met this girl and she--"

"She asked your friend Mr. Temple--he was passing and she called out
to him--to tell me of a decent hotel, but he asked so many questions.
He gave me an address and I didn't go. I went back to her, and we went
to a hotel and I persuaded her to come and live with me."

"But your aunt?"

Betty explained about her aunt.

"And your father?"

She explained about her father.

"And now she has gone, and you want to find her?"

"Want to find her?"--Betty started up and began to walk up and down
the room.--"I don't care about anything else in the world! She's a
dear; you don't know what a dear she is--and I know she was happy
here--and now she's gone! I never had a girl friend before--what?"

Vernon had winced, just as Paula had winced, and at the same words.

"You've looked for her at the Cafe d'Harcourt?"

"No; I promised her that I'd never go there again."

"She seems to have given you some good advice."

"She advised me not to have anything to do with _you_" said Betty,
suddenly spiteful.

"That was good advice--when she gave it," said Vernon, quietly; "but
now it's different."

He was silent a moment, realising with a wonder beyond words how
different it was. Every word, every glance between him and Betty had,
hitherto, been part of a play. She had been a charming figure in a
charming comedy. He had known, as it were by rote, that she had
feelings--a heart, affections--but they had seemed pale, dream-like,
just a delightful background to his own sensations, strong and
conscious and delicate. Now for the first time he perceived her as
real, a human being in the stress of a real human emotion. And he was
conscious of a feeling of protective tenderness, a real, open-air
primitive sentiment, with no smell of the footlights about it. He was
alone with Betty. He was the only person in Paris to whom she could
turn for help. What an opportunity for a fine scene in his best
manner! And he found that he did not want a scene: he wanted to help

"Why don't you say something?" she said impatiently. "What am I to

"You can't do anything. I'll do everything. You say she knows Temple.
Well, I'll find him, and we'll go to her lodgings and find out if
she's there. You don't know the address?"

"No," said Betty. "I went there, but it was at night and I don't even
know the street."

"Now look here." He took both her hands and held them firmly. "You
aren't to worry. I'll do everything. Perhaps she has been taken ill.
In that case, when we find her, she'll need you to look after her. You
must rest. I'm certain to find her. You must eat something. I'll send
you in some dinner. And then lie down."

"I couldn't sleep," said Betty, looking at him with the eyes of a
child that has cried its heart out.

"Of course you couldn't. Lie down, and make yourself read. I'll get
back as soon as I can. Good-bye." There was something further that
wanted to get itself said, but the words that came nearest to
expressing it were "God bless you,"--and he did not say them.

On the top of his staircase he found Temple lounging.

"Hullo--still here? I'm afraid I've been a devil of a time gone, but
Miss Desmond's--"

"I don't want to shove my oar in," said Temple, "but I came back when
I'd seen Lady St. Craye home. I hope there's nothing wrong with Miss

"Come in," said Vernon. "I'll tell you the whole thing."

They went into the room desolate with the disorder of half empty cups
and scattered plates with crumbs of cake on them.

"Miss Desmond told me about her meeting you. Well, she gave you the
slip; she went back and got that woman--Lottie what's her name--and
took her to live with her."

"Good God! She didn't know, of course?"

"But she did know--that's the knock-down blow. She knew, and she
wanted to save her."

Temple was silent a moment.

"I say, you know, though--that's rather fine," he said presently.

"Oh, yes," said Vernon impatiently, "it's very romantic and all that.
Well, the woman stayed a fortnight and disappeared to-day. Miss
Desmond is breaking her heart about her."

"So she took her up, and--she's rather young for rescue work."

"Rescue work? Bah! She talks of the woman as the only girl friend
she's ever had. And the woman's probably gone off with her watch and
chain and a collection of light valuables. Only I couldn't tell Miss
Desmond that. So I promised to try and find the woman. She's a
thorough bad lot. I've run up against her once or twice with chaps I

"She's not _that_ sort," said Temple. "I know her fairly well."

"What--Sir Galahad? Oh, I won't ask inconvenient questions." Vernon's
sneer was not pretty.

"She used to live with de Villermay," said Temple steadily; "he was
the first--the usual coffee maker business, you know, though God knows
how an English girl got into it. When he went home to be married--It
was rather beastly. The father came up--offered her a present. She
threw it at him. Then Schauermacher wanted her to live with him. No.
She'd go to the devil her own way. And she's gone."

"Can't something be done?" said Vernon.

"I've tried all I know. You can save a woman who doesn't know where
she's going. Not one who knows and means to go. Besides, she's been at
it six months; she's past reclaiming now."

"I wonder," said Vernon--and his sneer had gone and he looked ten
years younger--"I wonder whether anybody's past reclaiming? Do you
think I am? Or you?"

The other stared at him.

"Well," Vernon's face aged again instantly, "the thing is: we've got
to find the woman."

"To get her to go back and live with that innocent girl?"

"Lord--no! To find her. To find out why she bolted, and to make
certain that she won't go back and live with that innocent girl. Do
you know her address?"

But she was not to be found at her address. She had come back, paid
her bill, and taken away her effects.

It was at the Cafe d'Harcourt, after all, that they found her, one of
a party of four. She nodded to them, and presently left her party and
came to spread her black and white flounces at their table.

"What's the best news with you?" she asked gaily. "It's a hundred
years since I saw you, Bobby, and at least a million since I saw your

"The last time I saw you," Temple said, "was the night when you asked
me to take care of a girl."

"So it was! And did you?"

"No," said Temple; "she wouldn't let me. She went back to you."

"So you've seen her again? Oh, I see--you've come to ask me what I
meant by daring to contaminate an innocent girl by my society?--Well,
you can go to Hell, and ask there."

She rose, knocking over a chair.

"Don't go," said Vernon. "That's not what we want to ask."

"'_We_' too," she turned fiercely on him: "as if you were a king or a

"One and one _are_ two," said Vernon; "and I did very much want to
talk to you."

"And two are company."

She had turned her head away.

"You aren't going to be cruel," Vernon asked.

"Well, send him off then. I won't be bullied by a crowd of you."

Temple took off his hat and went.

"I've got an appointment. I've no time for fool talk," she said.

"Sit down," said Vernon. "First I want to thank you for the care
you've taken of Miss Desmond, and for all your kindness and goodness
to her."

"Oh!" was all Paula could say. She had expected something so
different. "I don't see what business it is of yours, though," she
added next moment.

"Only that she's alone here, and I'm the only person she knows in
Paris. And I know, much better than she does, all that you've done for
her sake."

"I did it for my own sake. It was no end of a lark," said Paula
eagerly, "that little dull pious life. And all the time I used to
laugh inside to think what a sentimental fool she was."

"Yes," said Vernon slowly, "it must have been amusing for you."

"I just did it for the fun of the thing. But I couldn't stand it any
longer, so I just came away. I was bored to death."

"Yes," he said, "you must have been. Just playing at cooking and
housework, reading aloud to her while she drew--yes, she told me that.
And the flowers and all her little trumpery odds and ends about.
Awfully amusing it must have been."

"Don't," said Paula.

"And to have her loving you and trusting you as she did--awfully
comic, wasn't it? Calling you her girl-friend--"

"Shut up, will you?"

"And thinking she had created a new heaven and a new earth for you.
Silly sentimental little school-girl!"

"Will you hold your tongue?"

"So long, Lottie," cried the girl of her party; "we're off to the
Bullier. You've got better fish to fry, I see."

"Yes," said Paula with sudden effrontery; "perhaps we'll look in

The others laughed and went.

"Now," she said, turning furiously on Vernon, "will you go? Or shall
I? I don't want any more of you."

"Just one word more," he said with the odd change of expression that
made him look young. "Tell me why you left her. She's crying her eyes
out for you."

"Why I left her? Because I was sick of--"

"Don't. Let me tell you. You went with her because she was alone and
friendless. You found her rooms, you set her in the way of making
friends. And when you saw that she was in a fair way to be happy and
comfortable, you came away, because--"

"Because?" she leaned forward eagerly.

"Because you were afraid."


"Afraid of handicapping her. You knew you would meet people who knew
you. You gave it all up--all the new life, the new chances--for her
sake, and came away. Do I understand? Is it fool-talk?"

Paula leaned her elbows on the table and her chin on her hands.

"You're not like most men," she said; "you make me out better than I
am. That's not the usual mistake. Yes, it _was_ all that, partly. And
I should have liked to stay--for ever and ever--if I could. But
suppose I couldn't? Suppose I'd begun to find myself wishing for--all
sorts of things, longing for them. Suppose I'd stayed till I began to
think of things that I _wouldn't_ think of while _she_ was with me.
_That's_ what I was afraid of."

"And you didn't long for the old life at all?"

She laughed. "Long for that? But I might have. I might have. It was
safer.--Well, go back to her and tell her I've gone to the devil and
it's not her fault. Tell her I wasn't worth saving. But I did try to
save her. If you're half a man you won't undo my one little bit of

"What do you mean?"

"You know well enough what I mean. Let the girl alone."

He leaned forward, and spoke very earnestly. "Look here," he said, "I
won't jaw. But this about you and her--well, it's made a difference to
me that I can't explain. And I wouldn't own that to anyone but _her_
friend. I mean to be a friend to her too, a good friend. No nonsense."

"Swear it by God in Heaven," she said fiercely.

"I do swear it," he said, "by God in Heaven. And I can't tell her
you've gone to the devil. You must write to her. And you can't tell
her that either."

"What's the good of writing?"

"A lie or two isn't much, when you've done all this for her. Come up
to my place. You can write to her there."

This was the letter that Paula wrote in Vernon's studio, among the
half-empty cups and the scattered plates with cake-crumbs on them.

"My Dear Little Betty:

"I must leave without saying good-bye, and I shall never see you
again. My father has taken me back. I wrote to him and he came and
found me. He has forgiven me everything, only I have had to promise
never to speak to anyone I knew in Paris. It is all your doing,
dear. God bless you. You have saved me. I shall pray for you every
day as long as I live.

"Your poor


"Will that do?" she laughed as she held out the letter.

He read it. And he did not laugh.

"Yes--that'll do," he said. "I'll tell her you've gone to England, and
I'll send the letter to London to be posted."

"Then that's all settled!"

"Can I do anything for _you_?" he asked.

"God Himself can't do anything for me," she said, biting the edge of
her veil.

"Where are you going now?"

"Back to the d'Harcourt. It's early yet."

She stood defiantly smiling at him.

"What were you doing there--the night you met her?" he asked abruptly.

"What does one do?"

"What's become of de Villermay?" he asked.

"Gone home--got married."

"And so you thought--"

"Oh, if you want to know what I thought you're welcome! I thought I'd
damn myself as deep as I could--to pile up the reckoning for him; and
I've about done it. Good-bye. I must be getting on."

"I'll come a bit of the way with you," he said.

At the door he turned, took her hand and kissed it gently and

"That's very sweet of you." She opened astonished eyes at him. "I
always used to think you an awful brute."

"It was very theatrical of me," he told himself later. "But it summed
up the situation. Sentimental ass you're growing!"

Betty got her letter from England and cried over it and was glad over

"I have done one thing, anyway," she told herself, "one really truly
good thing. I've saved my poor dear Paula. Oh, how right I was! How I
knew her!"

Book 3.--The Other Woman



At Long Barton the Reverend Cecil had strayed into Betty's room, now
no longer boudoir and bedchamber, but just a room, swept, dusted,
tidy, with the horrible tidiness of a room that is not used. There
were squares of bright yellow on the dull drab of the wall-paper,
marking the old hanging places of the photographs and pictures that
Betty had taken to Paris. He opened the cupboard door: one or two
faded skirts, a flattened garden hat and a pair of Betty's old shoes.
He shut the door again quickly, as though he had seen Betty's ghost.

The next time he went to Sevenoaks he looked in at the builders and
decorators, gave an order, and chose a wall paper with little pink
roses on it. When Betty came home for Christmas she should not find
her room the faded desert it was now. He ordered pink curtains to
match the rosebuds. And it was when he got home that he found the
letter that told him she was not to come at Christmas.

But he did not countermand his order. If not at Christmas then at
Easter; and whenever it was she should find her room a bower. Since
she had been away he had felt more and more the need to express his
affection. He had expressed it, he thought, to the uttermost, by
letting her go at all. And now he wanted to express it in detail, by
pink curtains, satin-faced wall-paper with pink roses. The paper cost
two shillings a piece, and he gloated over the extravagance and over
his pretty, poetic choice. Usually the wall-papers at the Rectory had
been chosen by Betty, and the price limited to sixpence. He would
refrain from buying that Fuller's Church History, the beautiful brown
folio whose perfect boards and rich yellow paper had lived in his
dreams for the last three weeks, ever since he came upon it in the rag
and bone shop in the little back street in Maidstone. When the rosebud
paper and the pink curtains were in their place, the shabby carpet was
an insult to their bright prettiness. The Reverend Cecil bought an
Oriental carpet--of the bright-patterned jute variety--and was
relieved to find that it only cost a pound.

The leaves were falling in brown dry showers in the Rectory garden,
the chrysanthemums were nearly over, the dahlias blackened and
blighted by the first frosts. A few pale blooms still clung to the
gaunt hollyhock stems; here and there camomile flowers, "medicine
daisies" Betty used to call them when she was little, their whiteness
tarnished, showed among bent dry stalks of flowers dead and forgotten.
Round Betty's window the monthly rose bloomed pale and pink amid
disheartened foliage. The damp began to shew on the North walls of the
rooms. A fire in the study now daily, for the sake of the books: one
in the drawing-room, weekly, for the sake of the piano and the
furniture. And for Betty, in far-away Paris, a fire of crackling twigs
and long logs in the rusty fire-basket, and blue and yellow flames
leaping to lick the royal arms of France on the wrought-iron

The rooms were lonely to Betty now that Paula was gone. She missed her
inexpressibly. But the loneliness was lighted by a glow of pride, of
triumph, of achievement. Her deception of her step-father was
justified. She had been the means of saving Paula. But for her Paula
would not have returned, like the Prodigal son, to the father's house.
Betty pictured her there, subdued, saddened, but inexpressibly happy,
warming her cramped heart in the sun of forgiveness and love.

"Thank God, I have done some good in the world," said Betty.

In the brief interview which Vernon took to tell her that Paula had
gone to England with her father, Betty noticed no change in him. She
had no thought for him then. And in the next weeks, when she had
thoughts for him, she did not see him.

She could not but be glad that he was in Paris. In the midst of her
new experiences he seemed to her like an old friend. Yet his being
there put a different complexion on her act of mutiny. When she
decided to deceive her step-father, and to stay on in Paris alone
Paula had been to be saved, and _he_ had been, to her thought, in
Vienna, not to be met. Now Paula was gone--and he was here. In the
night when Betty lay wakeful and heard the hours chimed by a convent
bell whose voice was toneless and gray as an autumn sky it seemed to
her that all was wrong, that she had committed a fault that was almost
a crime, that there was nothing now to be done but to confess, to go
home and to expiate, as the Prodigal Son doubtless did among the
thorny roses of forgiveness, those days in the far country. But always
with the morning light came the remembrance that it was not her
father's house to which she must go to make submission. It was her
step-father's. And after all, it was her own life--she had to live it.
Once that confession and submission made she saw herself enslaved
beyond hope of freedom. Meanwhile here was the glad, gay life of
independence, new experiences, new sensations. And her step-father was
doubtless glad to be rid of her.

"It isn't as though anyone wanted me at home," she said; "and
everything here is so new and good, and I have quite a few friends
already--and I shall have more. This is what they call seeing life."

Life as she saw it was good to see. The darker, grimmer side of the
student life was wholly hidden from Betty. She saw only a colony of
young artists of all nations--but most of England and America--all
good friends and comrades, working and playing with an equal
enthusiasm. She saw girls treated as equals and friends by the men
students. If money were short it was borrowed from the first friend
one met, and quite usually repaid when the home allowance arrived. A
young man would borrow from a young woman or a young woman from a
young man as freely as school-boys from each other. Most girls had a
special friend among the boys. Betty thought at first that these must
be betrothed lovers. Miss Voscoe, the American, stared when she put
the question about a pair who had just left the restaurant together
with the announcement that they were off to the Musee Cluny for the

"Engaged?" Not that I know of. Why should they be?" she said in a tone
that convicted Betty of a social lapse in the putting of the question.
Yet she defended herself.

"Well, you know, in England people don't generally go about together
like that unless they're engaged, or relations."

"Yes," said Miss Voscoe, filling her glass from the little bottle of
weak white wine that costs threepence at Garnier's, "I've heard that
is so in your country. Your girls always marry the wrong man, don't
they, because he's the first and only one they've ever had the
privilege of conversing with?"

"Not quite always, I hope," said Betty good humouredly.

"Now in our country," Miss Voscoe went on, "girls look around so as
they can tell there's more different sorts of boys than there are of
squashes. Then when they get married to a husband it's because they
like him, or because they like his dollars, or for some reason that
isn't just that he's the only one they've ever said five words on end

"There's something in that," Betty owned; "but my aunt says men never
want to be friends with girls--they always want--"

"To flirt? May be they do, though I don't think so. Our men don't, any
way. But if the girl doesn't want to flirt things won't get very
tangled up."

"But suppose a man got really fond of you, then he might think you
liked him too, if you were always about with him--"

"Do him good to have his eyes opened then! Besides, who's always about
with anyone? You have a special friend for a bit, and just walk around
and see the sights,--and then change partners and have a turn with
somebody else. It's just like at a dance. Nobody thinks you're in love
because you dance three or four times running with one boy."

Betty reflected as she ate her _noix de veau_. It was certainly true
that she had seen changes of partners. Milly St. Leger, the belle of
the students' quarter, changed her partners every week.

"You see," the American went on, "We're not the
stay-at-home-and-mind-Auntie kind that come here to study. What we
want is to learn to paint and to have a good time in between. Don't
you make any mistake, Miss Desmond. This time in Paris is _the_ time
of our lives to most of us. It's what we'll have to look back at and
talk about. And suppose every time there was any fun going we had to
send around to the nearest store for a chaperon how much fun would
there be left by the time she toddled in? No--the folks at home who
trust us to work trust us to play. And we have our little heads
screwed on the right way."

Betty remembered that she had been trusted neither for play nor work.
Yet, from the home standpoint she had been trustworthy, more
trustworthy than most. She had not asked Vernon, her only friend, to
come and see her, and when he had said, "When shall I see you again?"
she had answered, "I don't know. Thank you very much. Good-bye."

"I don't know how _you_ were raised," Miss Voscoe went on, "but I
guess it was in the pretty sheltered home life. Now I'd bet you fell
in love with the first man that said three polite words to you!"

"I'm not twenty yet," said Betty, with ears and face of scarlet.

"Oh, you mean I'm to think nobody's had time to say those three polite
words yet? You come right along to my studio, I've got a tea on, and
I'll see if I can't introduce my friends to you by threes, so as you
get nine polite words at once. You can't fall in love with three boys
a minute, can you?"

Betty went home and put on her prettiest frock. After all, one was
risking a good deal for this Paris life, and one might as well get as
much out of it as one could. And one always had a better time of it
when one was decently dressed. Her gown was of dead-leaf velvet, with
green undersleeves and touches of dull red and green embroidery at
elbows and collar.

Miss Voscoe's studio was at the top of a hundred and seventeen
polished wooden steps, and as Betty neared the top flight the sound of
talking and laughter came down to her, mixed with the rattle of china
and the subdued tinkle of a mandolin. She opened the door--the room
seemed full of people, but she only saw two. One was Vernon and the
other was Temple.

Betty furiously resented the blush that hotly covered neck, ears and

"Here you are!" cried Miss Voscoe. She was kind: she gave but one
fleet glance at the blush and, linking her arm in Betty's, led her
round the room. Betty heard her name and other names. People were
being introduced to her. She heard:

"Pleased to know you,--"

"Pleased to make your acquaintance,--"

"Delighted to meet you--"

and realised that her circle of American acquaintances was widening.
When Miss Voscoe paused with her before the group of which Temple and
Vernon formed part Betty felt as though her face had swelled to that
degree that her eyes must, with the next red wave, start out of her
head. The two hands, held out in successive greeting, gave Miss Voscoe
the key to Betty's flushed entrance.

She drew her quickly away, and led her up to a glaring poster where a
young woman in a big red hat sat at a cafe table, and under cover of
Betty's purely automatic recognition of the composition's talent,

"Which of them was it?"

"I beg your pardon?" Betty mechanically offered the deferent defence.

"Which was it that said the three polite words--before you'd ever met
anyone else?"

"Ah!" said Betty, "you're so clever--"

"Too clever to live, yes," said Miss Voscoe; "but before I die--which
was it?"

"I was going to say," said Betty, her face slowly drawing back into
itself its natural colouring, "that you're so clever you don't want to
be told things. If you're sure it's one of them, you ought to know

"Well," remarked Miss Voscoe, "I guess Mr. Temple."

"Didn't I say you were clever?" said Betty.

"Then it's the other one."

Before the studio tea was over, Vernon and Temple both had conveyed to
Betty the information that it was the hope of meeting her that had
drawn them to Miss Voscoe's studio that afternoon.

"Because, after all," said Vernon, "we _do_ know each other better
than either of us knows anyone else in Paris. And, if you'd let me, I
could put you to a thing or two in the matter of your work. After all,
I've been through the mill."

"It's very kind of you," said Betty, "but I'm all alone now Paula's
gone, and--"

"We'll respect the conventions," said Vernon gaily, "but the
conventions of the Quartier Latin aren't the conventions of Clapham."

"No, I know," said she, "but there's a point of honour." She paused.
"There are reasons," she added, "why I ought to be more conventional
than Clapham. I should like to tell you, some time, only--But I
haven't got anyone to tell anything to. I wonder--"

"What? What do you wonder?"

Betty spoke with effort.

"I know it sounds insane, but, you know my stepfather thought you--you
wanted to marry me. You didn't ever, did you?"

Vernon was silent: none of his habitual defences served him in this

"You see," Betty went on, "all that sort of thing is such nonsense. If
I knew you cared about someone else everything would be so simple."

"Eliminate love," said Vernon, "and the world is a simple example in
vulgar fractions."

"I want it to be simple addition," said Betty. "Lady St. Craye is very

"Yes," said Vernon.

"Is she in love with you?"

"Ask her," said Vernon, feeling like a schoolboy in an examination.

"If she were--and you cared for her--then you and I could be friends:
I should like to be real friends with you."

"Let us be friends," said he when he had paused a moment. He made the
proposal with every possible reservation.

"Really?" she said. "I'm so glad."

If there was a pang, Betty pretended to herself that there was none.
If Vernon's conscience fluttered him he was able to soothe it; it was
an art that he had studied for years.

"Say, you two!"

The voice of Miss Voscoe fell like a pebble into the pool of silence
that was slowly widening between them.

"Say--we're going to start a sketch-club for really reliable girls. We
can have it here, and it'll only be one franc an hour for the model,
and say six sous each for tea. Two afternoons a week. Three, five,
nine of us--you'll join, Miss Desmond?"

"Yes--oh, yes!" said Betty, conscientiously delighted with the idea of
more work.

"That makes--nine six sous and two hours model--how much is that, Mr.
Temple?--I see it written on your speaking brow that you took the
mathematical wranglership at Oxford College."

"Four francs seventy," said Temple through the shout of laughter.

"Have I said something comme il ne faut pas?" said Miss Voscoe.

"You couldn't," said Vernon: "every word leaves your lips without a
stain upon its character."

"Won't you let us join?" asked an Irish student. "You'll be lost
entirely without a Lord of Creation to sharpen your pencils."

"We mean to _work_," said Miss Voscoe; "if you want to work take a box
of matches and a couple of sticks of brimstone and make a little
sketch class of your own."

"I don't see what you want with models," said a very young and shy boy
student. "Couldn't you pose for each other, and--"

A murmur of dissent from the others drove him back into shy silence.

"No amateur models in this Academy," said Miss Voscoe. "Oh, we'll make
the time-honoured institutions sit up with the work we'll do. Let's
all pledge ourselves to send in to the Salon--or anyway to the
Independants! What we're suffering from in this quarter's
git-up-and-git. Why should we be contented to be nobody?"

"On the contrary," said Vernon, "Miss Voscoe is everybody--almost!"

"I'm the nobody who can't get a word in edgeways anyhow," she said.
"What I've been trying to say ever since I was born--pretty near--is
that what this class wants is a competent Professor, some bully
top-of-the-tree artist, to come and pull our work all to pieces and
wipe his boots on the bits. Mr. Vernon, don't you know any one who's
pining to give us free crits?"

"Temple is," said Vernon. "There's no mistaking that longing glance of

"As a competent professor I make you my bow of gratitude," said
Temple, "but I should never have the courage to criticise the work of
nine fair ladies."

"You needn't criticise them all at once," said a large girl from
Minneapolis, "nor yet all in the gaudy eye of heaven. We'll screen off
a corner for our Professor--sort of confessional business. You sit
there and we'll go to you one by one with our sins in our hand."

"_That_ would scare him some I surmise," said Miss Voscoe.

"Not at all," said Temple, a little nettled, he hardly knew why.

"I didn't know you were so brave," said the Minneapolis girl.

"Perhaps he didn't want you to know," said Miss Voscoe; "perhaps
that's his life's dark secret."

"People often pretend to a courage that they haven't," said Vernon. "A
consistent pose of cowardice, that would be novel and--I see the idea
developing--more than useful."

"Is that _your_ pose?" asked Temple, still rather tartly, "because if
it is, I beg to offer you, in the name of these ladies, the chair of

"I'm not afraid of the nine Muses," Vernon laughed back, "as long as
they are nine. It's the light that lies in woman's eyes that I've
always had such a nervous dread of."

"It does make you blink, bless it," said the Irish student, "but not
from nine pairs at once, as you say. It's the light from one pair that
turns your head."

"Mr. Vernon isn't weak in the head," said the shy boy suddenly.

"No," said Vernon, "it's the heart that's weak with me. I have to be
very careful of it."

"Well, but will you?" said a downright girl.

"Will I what? I'm sorry, but I've lost my cue, I think. Where were
we--at losing hearts, wasn't it?"

"No," said the downright girl, "I didn't mean that. I mean will you
come and criticise our drawings?"

"Fiddle," said Miss Voscoe luminously. "Mr. Vernon's too big for

"Oh, well," said Vernon, "if you don't think I should be competent!"

"You don't mean to say you would?"

"Who wouldn't jump at the chance of playing Apollo to the fairest set
of muses in the Quartier?" said Temple; "but after all, I had the
refusal of the situation--I won't renounce--"

"Bobby, you unman me," interrupted Vernon, putting down his cup, "you
shall _not_ renounce the altruistic pleasure which you promise to
yourself in yielding this professorship to me. I accept it."

"I'm hanged if you do!" said Temple. "You proposed me yourself, and
I'm elected--aren't I, Miss Voscoe?"

"That's so," said she; "but Mr. Vernon's president too."

"I've long been struggling with the conviction that Temple and I were
as brothers. Now I yield--Temple, to my arms!"

They embraced, elegantly, enthusiastically, almost as Frenchmen use;
and the room applauded the faithful burlesque.

"What's come to me that I should play the goat like this?" Vernon
asked himself, as he raised his head from Temple's broad shoulder.
Then he met Betty's laughing eyes, and no longer regretted his
assumption of that difficult role.

"It's settled then. Tuesdays and Fridays, four to six," he said. "At
last I am to be--"

"The light of the harem," said Miss Voscoe.

"Can there be two lights?" asked Temple anxiously. "If not, consider
the fraternal embrace withdrawn."

"No, you're _the_ light, of course," said Betty. "Mr. Vernon's the
Ancient Light. He's older than you are, isn't he?"

The roar of appreciation of her little joke surprised Betty, and, a
little, pleased her--till Miss Voscoe whispered under cover of it:

"_Ancient_ light? Then he _was_ the three-polite-word man?"

Betty explained her little jest.

"All the same," said the other, "it wasn't any old blank walls you
were thinking about. I believe he is the one."

"It's a great thing to be able to believe anything," said Betty; and
the talk broke up into duets. She found that Temple was speaking to

"I came here to-day because I wanted to meet you, Miss Desmond," he
was saying. "I hope you don't think it's cheek of me to say it, but
there's something about you that reminds me of the country at home."

"That's a very pretty speech," said Betty. He reminded her of the Cafe
d'Harcourt, but she did not say so.

"You remind me of a garden," he went on, "but I don't like to see a
garden without a hedge round it."

"You think I ought to have a chaperon," said Betty bravely, "but
chaperons aren't needed in this quarter."

"I wish I were your brother," said Temple.

"I'm so glad you're not," said Betty. She wanted no chaperonage, even
fraternal. But the words made him shrink, and then sent a soft warmth
through him. On the whole he was not sorry that he was not her

At parting Vernon, at the foot of the staircase, said:

"And when may I see you again?"

"On Tuesday, when the class meets."

"But I didn't mean when shall I see the class. When shall I see Miss

"Oh, whenever you like," Betty answered gaily; "whenever Lady St.
Craye can spare you."

He let her say it.



"Whenever Vernon liked" proved to be the very next day. He was waiting
outside the door of the atelier when Betty, in charcoal-smeared
pinafore, left the afternoon class.

"Won't you dine with me somewhere to-night?" said he.

"I am going to Garnier's," she said. Not even for him, friend of hers
and affianced of another as he might be, would she yet break the rule
of a life Paula had instituted.

"Fallen as I am," he answered gaily, "I am not yet so low as to be
incapable of dining at Garnier's."

So when Betty passed through the outer room of the restaurant and
along the narrow little passage where eyes and nose attest strongly
the neighborhood of the kitchen, she was attended by a figure that
aroused the spontaneous envy of all her acquaintances. In the inner
room where they dined it was remarked that such a figure would be more
at home at Durand's or the Cafe de Paris than at Garnier's. That night
the first breath of criticism assailed Betty. To afficher oneself with
a fellow-student--a "type," Polish or otherwise--that was all very
well, but with an obvious Boulevardier, a creature from the other
side, this dashed itself against the conventions of the Artistic
Quartier. And conventions--even of such quarters--are iron-strong.

"Fiddle-de-dee," said Miss Voscoe to her companions' shocked comments,
"they were raised in the same village, or something. He used to give
her peanuts when he was in short jackets, and she used to halve her
candies with him. Friend of childhood's hour, that's all. And besides
he's one of the presidents of our Sketch Club."

But all Garnier's marked that whereas the habitues contented
themselves with an omelette aux champignons, saute potatoes and a
Petit Suisse, or the like modest menu, Betty's new friend ordered for
himself, and for her, "a real regular dinner," beginning with hors
d'oeuvre and ending with "mendiants." "Mendiants" are raisins and
nuts, the nearest to dessert that at this season you could get at
Garniers. Also he passed over with smiling disrelish the little
carafons of weak wine for which one pays five sous if the wine be red,
and six if it be white. He went out and interviewed Madame at her
little desk among the flowers and nuts and special sweet dishes, and
it was a bottle of real wine with a real cork to be drawn that adorned
the table between him and Betty. To her the whole thing was of the
nature of a festival. She enjoyed the little sensation created by her
companion; and the knowledge which she thought she had of his
relations to Lady St. Craye absolved her of any fear that in dining
with him tete-a-tete she was doing anything "not quite nice." To her
the thought of his engagement was as good or as bad as a chaperon. For
Betty's innocence was deeply laid, and had survived the shock of all
the waves that had beaten against it since her coming to Paris. It was
more than innocence, it was a very honest, straightforward childish

"It's almost the same as if he was married," she said: "there can't be
any harm in having dinner with a man who's married--or almost

So she enjoyed herself. Vernon exerted himself to amuse her. But he
was surprised to find that he was not so happy as he had expected to
be. It was good that Betty had permitted him to dine with her alone,
but it was flat. After dinner he took her to the Odeon, and she said
good-night to him with a lighter heart than she had known since Paula
left her.

In these rooms now sometimes it was hard to keep one's eyes shut. And
to keep her eyes shut was now Betty's aim in life, even more than the
art for which she pretended to herself that she lived. For now that
Paula had gone the deception of her father would have seemed less
justifiable, had she ever allowed herself to face the thought of it
for more than a moment; but she used to fly the thought and go round
to one of the girls' rooms to talk about Art with a big A, and forget
how little she liked or admired Betty Desmond.

She was now one of a circle of English, American and German students.
The Sketch Club had brought her eight new friends, and they went about
in parties by twos and threes, or even sevens and eights, and Betty
went with them, enjoying the fun of it all, which she liked, and
missing all that she would not have liked if she had seen it. But
Vernon was the only man with whom she dined tete-a-tete or went to the
theatre alone.

To him the winter passed in a maze of doubt and self-contempt. He
could not take what the gods held out: could not draw from his
constant companionship of Betty the pleasure which his artistic
principles, his trained instincts taught him to expect. He had now all
the tete-a-tetes he cared to ask for, and he hated that it should be
so. He almost wanted her to be in a position where such things should
be impossible to her. He wanted her to be guarded, watched, sheltered.
And he had never wanted that for any woman in his life before.

"I shall be wishing her in a convent next," he said, "with high walls
with spikes on the top. Then I should walk round and round the outside
of the walls and wish her out. But I should not be able to get at her.
And nothing else would either."

Lady St. Craye was more charming than ever. Vernon knew it and
sometimes he deliberately tried to let her charm him. But though he
perceived her charm he could not feel it. Always before he had felt
what he chose to feel. Or perhaps--he hated the thought and would not
look at it--perhaps all his love affairs had been just pictures,
perhaps he had never felt anything but an artistic pleasure in their
grouping and lighting. Perhaps now he was really feeling natural human
emotion, didn't they call it? But that was just it. He wasn't. What he
felt was resentment, dissatisfaction, a growing inability to control
events or to prearrange his sensations. He felt that he himself was
controlled. He felt like a wild creature caught in a trap. The trap
was not gilded, and he was very uncomfortable in it. Even the affairs
of others almost ceased to amuse him. He could hardly call up a
cynical smile at Lady St. Craye's evident misapprehension of those
conscientious efforts of his to be charmed by her. He was only moved
to a very faint amusement when one day Bobbie Temple, smoking in the
studio, broke a long silence abruptly to say:

"Look here. Someone was saying the other day that a man can be in love
with two women at a time. Do you think it's true?"

"Two? Yes. Or twenty."

"Then it's not love," said Temple wisely.

"They call it love," said Vernon. "_I_ don't know what they mean by
it. What do _you_ mean?"

"By love?"


"I don't exactly know," said Temple slowly. "I suppose it's wanting to
be with a person, and thinking about nothing else. And thinking
they're the most beautiful and all that. And going over everything
that they've ever said to you, and wanting--"


"Well, I suppose if it's really love you want to marry them."

"You can't marry _them_, you know," said Vernon; "at least not
simultaneously. That's just it. Well?"

"Well that's all. If that's not love, what is?"

"I'm hanged if _I_ know," said Vernon.

"I thought you knew all about those sort of things."

"So did I," said Vernon to himself. Aloud he said:

"If you want a philosophic definition: it's passion transfigured by
tenderness--at least I've often said so."

"But can you feel that for two people at once?"

"Or," said Vernon, getting interested in his words, "it's tenderness
intoxicated by passion, and not knowing that it's drunk--"

"But can you feel that for two--"

"Oh, bother," said Vernon, "every sort of fool-fancy calls itself
love. There's the pleasure of pursuit--there's vanity, there's the
satisfaction of your own amour-propre, there's desire, there's
intellectual attraction, there's the love of beauty, there's the
artist's joy in doing what you know you can do well, and getting a
pretty woman for sole audience. You might feel one or two or twenty of
these things for one woman, and one or two or twenty different ones
for another. But if you mean do you love two women in the same way, I
say no. Thank Heaven it's new every time."

"It mayn't be the same way," said Temple, "but it's the same thing to
you--if you feel you can't bear to give either of them up."

"Well, then, you can marry one and keep on with the other. Or be
'friends' with both and marry neither. Or cut the whole show and go to
the Colonies."

"Then you have to choose between being unhappy or being a blackguard."

"My good chap, that's the situation in which our emotions are always
landing us--our confounded emotions and the conventions of Society."

"And how are you to know whether the thing's love--or--all those other

"You don't know: you can't know till it's too late for your knowing to
matter. Marriage is like spinach. You can't tell that you hate it till
you've tried it. Only--"


"I think I've heard it said," Vernon voiced his own sudden conviction,
very carelessly, "that love wants to give and passion wants to take.
Love wants to possess the beloved object--and to make her happy.
Desire wants possession too--but the happiness is to be for oneself;
and if there's not enough happiness for both so much the worse. If I'm
talking like a Sunday School book you've brought it on yourself."

"I like it," said Temple.

"Well, since the Dissenting surplice has fallen on me, I'll give you a
test. I believe that the more you love a woman the less your thoughts
will dwell on the physical side of the business. You want to take care
of her."

"Yes," said Temple.

"And then often," Vernon went on, surprised to find that he wanted to
help the other in his soul-searchings, "if a chap's not had much to do
with women--the women of our class, I mean--he gets a bit dazed with
them. They're all so nice, confound them. If a man felt he was falling
in love with two women at once, and he had the tiresome temperament
that takes these things seriously, it wouldn't be a bad thing for him
to go away into the country, and moon about for a few weeks, and see
which was the one that bothered his brain most. Then he'd know where
he was, and not be led like a lamb to the slaughter by the wrong one.
They can't both get him, you know, unless his intentions are strictly

"I wasn't putting the case that either of them wished to get him,"
said Temple carefully.

Vernon nodded.

"Of course not. The thing simplifies itself wonderfully if neither of
them wants to get him. Even if they both do, matters are less
complicated. It's when only one of them wants him that it's the very
devil for a man not to be sure what _he_ wants. That's very clumsily
put--what I mean is--"

"I see what you mean," said Temple impatiently.

"--It's the devil for him because then he lets himself drift and the
one who wants him collars him and then of course she always turns out
to be the one he didn't want. My observations are as full of wants as
an advertisement column. But the thing to do in all relations of life
is to make up your mind what it is that you _do_ want, and then to
jolly well see that you get it. What I want is a pipe."

He filled and lighted one.

"You talk," said Temple slowly, "as though a man could get anyone--I
mean anything, he wanted."

"So he can, my dear chap, if he only wants her badly enough."

"Badly enough?"

"Badly enough to make the supreme sacrifice to get her."

"?" Temple enquired.

"Marriage," Vernon answered; "there's only one excuse for marriage."


"Excuse. And that excuse is that one couldn't help it. The only excuse
one will have to offer, some day, to the recording angel, for all
one's other faults and follies. A man who _can_ help getting married,
and doesn't, deserves all he gets."

"I don't agree with you in the least," said Temple,--"about marriage, I
mean. A man _ought_ to want to get married--"

"To anybody? Without its being anybody in particular?"

"Yes," said Temple stoutly. "If he gets to thirty without wanting to
marry any one in particular, he ought to look about till he finds some
one he does want. It's the right and proper thing to marry and have

"Oh, if you're going to be Patriarchal," said Vernon. "What a symbolic
dialogue! We begin with love and we end with marriage! There's the
tragedy of romance, in a nut-shell. Yes, life's a beastly rotten show,
and the light won't last more than another two hours."

[Illustration: "Unfinished, but a disquieting likeness"]

"Your hints are always as delicate as gossamer," said Temple. "Don't
throw anything at me. I'm going."

He went, leaving his secret in Vernon's hands.

"Poor old Temple! That's the worst of walking carefully all your days:
you do come such an awful cropper when you do come one. Two women. The
Jasmine lady must have been practising on his poor little heart.
Heigh-ho, I wish she could do as much for me! And the other one?
_Her_--I suppose."

The use of the pronoun, the disuse of the grammar pulled him up short.

"By Jove," he said, "that's what people say when--But I'm not in
love--with anybody. I want to work."

But he didn't work. He seldom did now. And when he did the work was
not good. His easel held most often the portrait of Betty that had
been begun at Long Barton--unfinished, but a disquieting likeness. He
walked up and down his room not thinking, but dreaming. His dreams
took him to the warren, in the pure morning light; he saw Betty; he
told himself what he had said, what she had said.

"And it was I who advised her to come to Paris. If only I'd known

He stopped and asked himself what he knew now that he had not known
then, refused himself the answer, and went to call on Lady St. Craye.

Christmas came and went; the black winds of January swept the
Boulevards, and snow lay white on the walls of court and garden.
Betty's life was full now.

The empty cage that had opened its door to love at Long Barton had now
other occupants. Ambition was beginning to grow its wing feathers. She
could draw--at least some day she would be able to draw. Already she
had won a prize with a charcoal study of a bare back. But she did not
dare to name this to her father, and when he wrote to ask what was the
subject of her prize drawing she replied with misleading truth that it
was a study from nature. His imagination pictured a rustic cottage, a
water-wheel, a castle and mountains in the distance and cows and a
peasant in the foreground.

But though her life was now crowded with new interests that
first-comer was not ousted. Only he had changed his plumage and she
called him Friendship. She blushed sometimes and stamped her foot when
she remembered those meetings in the summer mornings, her tremors, her
heart-beats. And oh, the "drivel" she had written in her diary!

"Girls ought never to be allowed to lead that 'sheltered home life,'"
she said to Miss Voscoe, "with nothing real in it. It makes your mind
all swept and garnished and then you hurry to fill it up with

"That's so," said her friend.

"If ever _I_ have a daughter," said Betty, "she shall set to work at
_something_ definite the very instant she leaves school--if it's only
Hebrew or algebra. Not just Parish duties that she didn't begin, and
doesn't want to go on with. But something that's her _own_ work."

"You're beginning to see straight. I surmised you would by and by. But
don't you go to the other end of the see-saw, Miss Daisy-Face!"

"What do you mean?" asked Betty. It was the morning interval when
students eat patisserie out of folded papers. The two were on the
window ledge of the Atelier, looking down on the convent garden where
already the buds were breaking to green leaf.

"Why, there's room for the devil even if your flat ain't swept and
garnished. He folds up mighty small, and gets into less space than a

"What do you mean?" asked Betty again.

"I mean that Vernon chap," said Miss Voscoe down-rightly. "I told you
to change partners every now and then. But with you it's that Vernon
this week and last week and the week after next."

"I've known him longer than I have the others, and I like him," said

"Oh, he's all right; fine and dandy!" replied Miss Voscoe. "He's a big
man, too, in his own line. Not the kind you expect to see knocking
about at a students' cremerie. Does he give you lessons?"

"He did at home," said Betty.

"Take care he doesn't teach you what's the easiest thing in creation
to learn about a man."

"What's that?" Betty did not like to have to ask the question.

"Why, how not to be able to do without him, of course," said Miss

"You're quite mistaken," said Betty eagerly: "one of the reasons I
don't mind going about with him so much is that he's engaged to be

"Acquainted with the lady?"

"Yes," said Betty, sheltering behind the convention that an
introduction at a tea-party constitutes acquaintanceship. She was glad
Miss Voscoe had not asked her if she _knew_ Lady St. Craye.

"Oh, well"--Miss Voscoe jumped up and shook the flakes of pastry off
her pinafore--"if she doesn't mind, I guess I've got no call to. But
why don't you give that saint in the go-to-hell collar a turn?"


"Mr. Temple. He admires you no end. He'd be always in your pocket if
you'd let him. He's worth fifty of the other man _as_ a man, if he
isn't as an artist. I keep my eyes skinned--and the Sketch Club gives
me a chance to tot them both up. I guess I can size up a man some. The
other man isn't _fast_. That's how it strikes me."

"Fast?" echoed Betty, bewildered.

"Fast dye: fast colour. I suspicion he'd go wrong a bit in the wash.
Temple's fast colour, warranted not to run."

"I know," said Betty, "but I don't care for the colour, and I'm rather
tired of the pattern."

"I wish you'd tell me which of the two was the three-polite-word man."

"I know you do. But surely you see _now_?"

"You're too cute. Just as likely it's the Temple one, and that's why
you're so sick of the pattern by now."

"Didn't I tell you you were clever?" laughed Betty.

But, all the same, next evening when Vernon called to take her to
dinner, she said:

"Couldn't we go somewhere else? I'm tired of Garnier's."

Vernon was tired of Garnier's, too.

"Do you know Thirion's?" he said. "Thirion's in the Boulevard St.
Germain, Thirion's where Du Maurier used to go, and Thackeray, and all
sorts of celebrated people; and where the host treats you like a
friend, and the waiter like a brother?"

"I should love to be treated like a waiter's brother. Do let's go,"
said Betty.

"He's a dream of a waiter," Vernon went on as they turned down the
lighted slope of the Rue de Rennes, "has a voice like a trumpet, and
takes a pride in calling twenty orders down the speaking-tube in one
breath, ending up with a shout. He never makes a mistake either. Shall
we walk, or take the tram, or a carriage?"

The Fate who was amusing herself by playing with Betty's destiny had
sent Temple to call on Lady St. Craye that afternoon, and Lady St.
Craye had seemed bored, so bored that she had hardly appeared to
listen to Temple's talk, which, duly directed by her quite early into
the channel she desired for it, flowed in a constant stream over the
name, the history, the work, the personality of Vernon. When at last
the stream ebbed Lady St. Craye made a pretty feint of stifling a

"Oh, how horrid I am!" she cried with instant penitence, "and how very
rude you will think me! I think I have the blues to-day, or, to be
more French and more poetic, the black butterflies. It _is_ so sweet
of you to have let me talk to you. I know I've been as stupid as an
owl. Won't you stay and dine with me? I'll promise to cheer up if you

Mr. Temple would, more than gladly.

"Or no," Lady St. Craye went on, "that'll be dull for you, and perhaps
even for me if I begin to think I'm boring you. Couldn't we do
something desperate--dine at a Latin Quarter restaurant for instance?
What was that place you were telling me of, where the waiter has a
wonderful voice and makes the orders he shouts down the tube sound
like the recitative of the basso at the Opera."

"Thirion's," said Temple; "but it wasn't I, it was Vernon."

"Thirion's, that's it!" Lady St. Craye broke in before Vernon's name
left his lips. "Would you like to take me there to dine, Mr. Temple?"

It appeared that Mr. Temple would like it of all things.

"Then I'll go and put on my hat," said she and trailed her sea-green
tea-gown across the room. At the door she turned to say: "It will be
fun, won't it?"--and to laugh delightedly, like a child who is
promised a treat.

That was how it happened that Lady St. Craye, brushing her dark furs
against the wall of Thirion's staircase, came, followed by Temple,
into the room where Betty and Vernon, their heads rather close
together, were discussing the menu.

This was what Lady St. Craye had thought of more than a little. Yet it
was not what she had expected. Vernon, perhaps, yes: or the girl. But
not Vernon and the girl together. Not now. At her very first visit. It
was not for a second that she hesitated. Temple had not even had time
to see who it was to whom she spoke before she had walked over to the
two, and greeted them.

"How perfectly delightful!" she said. "Miss Desmond, I've been meaning
to call on you, but it's been so cold, and I've been so cross, I've
called on nobody. Ah, Mr. Vernon, you too?"

She looked at the vacant chair near his, and Vernon had to say:

"You'll join us, of course?"

So the two little parties made one party, and one of the party was
angry and annoyed, and no one of the party was quite pleased, and all
four concealed what they felt, and affected what they did not feel,
with as much of the tact of the truly well-bred as each could call up.
In this polite exercise Lady St. Craye was easily first.

She was charming to Temple, she was very nice to Betty, and she spoke
to Vernon with a delicate, subtle, faint suggestion of proprietorship
in her tone. At least that was how it seemed to Betty. To Temple it
seemed that she was tacitly apologising to an old friend for having
involuntarily broken up a dinner a deux. To Vernon her tone seemed to
spell out an all but overmastering jealousy proudly overmastered. All
that pretty fiction of there being now no possibility of sentiment
between him and her flickered down and died. And with it the interest
that he had felt in her. "_She_ have unexplored reserves? Bah!" he
told himself, "she is just like the rest." He felt that she had not
come from the other side of the river just to dine with Temple. He
knew she had been looking for him. And the temptation assailed him to
reward her tender anxiety by devoting himself wholly to Betty. Then he
remembered what he had let Betty believe, as to the relations in which
he stood to this other woman.

His face lighted up with a smile of answering tenderness. Without
neglecting Betty he seemed to lay the real homage of his heart at the
feet of that heart's lady.

"By Jove," he thought, as the dark, beautiful eyes met his in a look
of more tenderness than he had seen in them this many a day, "if only
she knew how she's playing my game for me!"

Betty, for her part, refused to recognise a little pain that gnawed at
her heart and stole all taste from the best dishes of Thirion's. She
talked as much as possible to Temple, because it was the proper thing
to do, she told herself, and she talked very badly. Lady St. Craye was
transfigured by Vernon's unexpected acceptance of her delicate
advances, intoxicated by the sudden flutter of a dream she had only
known with wings in full flight, into the region where dreams, clasped
to the heart, become realities. She grew momently more beautiful. The
host, going from table to table, talking easily to his guests, could
not keep his fascinated eyes from her face. The proprietor of
Thirion's had good taste, and knew a beautiful woman when he saw her.

Betty's eyes, too, strayed more and more often from her plate, and
from Temple to the efflorescence of this new beauty-light. She felt
mean and poor, ill-dressed, shabby, dowdy, dull, weary and
uninteresting. Her face felt tired. It was an effort to smile.

When the dinner was over she said abruptly:

"If you'll excuse me--I've got a dreadful headache--no, I don't want
anyone to see me home. Just put me in a carriage."

She insisted, and it was done.

When the carriage drew up in front of the closed porte cochere of 57
Boulevard Montparnasse, Betty was surprised and wounded to discover
that she was crying.

"Well, you _knew_ they were engaged!" she said as she let herself into
her room with her latchkey. "You knew they were engaged! What did you

Temple could not remember afterwards exactly how he got separated from
the others. It just happened, as such unimportant things will. He
missed them somehow, at a crossing, looked about him in vain, shrugged
his shoulders and went home.

Lady St. Craye hesitated a moment with her latchkey in her hand. Then
she threw open the door of her flat.

"Come in, won't you?" she said, and led the way into her fire-warm,
flower-scented, lamplit room. Vernon also hesitated a moment. Then he
followed. He stood on the hearth-rug with his back to the wood fire.
He did not speak.

Somehow it was difficult for her to take up their talk at the place
and in the strain where it had broken off when Betty proclaimed her

Yet this was what she must do, it seemed to her, or lose all the
ground she had gained.

"You've been very charming to me this evening," she said at last, and
knew as she said it that it was the wrong thing to say.

"You flatter me," said Vernon.

"I was so surprised to see you there," she went on.

Vernon was surprised that she should say it. He had thought more
highly of her powers.

"The pleasure was mine," he said in his most banal tones, "the
surprise, alas, was all for you--and all you gained."

"Weren't _you_ surprised?"--Lady St. Craye was angry and humiliated.
That she--she--should find herself nervous, at fault, find herself
playing the game as crudely as any shopgirl!

"No," said Vernon.

"But you couldn't have expected me?" She knew quite well what she was
doing, but she was too nervous to stop herself.

"I've always expected you," he said deliberately, "ever since I told
you that I often dined at Thirion's."

"You expected me to--"

"To run after me?" said Vernon with paraded ingenuousness; "yes,
didn't you?"

"_I_ run after _you_? You--" she stopped short, for she saw in his
eyes that, if she let him quarrel with her now, it was forever.

He at the same moment awoke from the trance of anger that had come
upon him when he found himself alone with her; anger at her, and at
himself, fanned to fury by the thought of Betty and of what she, at
this moment, must be thinking. He laughed:

"Ah, don't break my heart!" he said, "I've been so happy all the
evening fancying that you had--you had--"

"Had what?" she asked with dry lips, for the caress in his tone was
such as to deceive the very elect.

"Had felt just the faintest little touch of interest in me. Had cared
to know how I spent my evenings, and with whom!"

"You thought I could stoop to spy on you?" she asked. "Monsieur
flatters himself."

The anger in him was raising its head again.

"Monsieur very seldom does," he said.

She took that as she chose to take it.

"No, you're beautifully humble."

"And you're proudly beautiful."

She flushed and looked down.

"Don't you like to be told that you're beautiful?"

"Not by you. Not like that!"

"And so you didn't come to Thirion's to see me? How one may deceive
oneself! The highest hopes we cherish here! Another beautiful illusion

She said to herself: "I can do nothing with him in this mood," and
aloud she could not help saying: "Was it a beautiful one?"

"Very," he answered gaily. "Can you doubt it?"

She found nothing to say. And even as she fought for words she
suddenly found that he had caught her in his arms, and kissed her, and
that the sound of the door that had banged behind him was echoing in
her ears.

She put her hands to her head. She could not see clearly.



That kiss gave Lady St. Craye furiously to think, as they say in

Had it meant--? What had it meant? Was it the crown of her hopes, her
dreams? Was it possible that now, at last, after all that had gone
before, she might win him--had won him, even?

The sex-instinct said "No."

Then, if "No" were the answer to that question, the kiss had been mere
brutality. It had meant just:

"You chose to follow me--to play the spy. What the deuce do you want?
Is it this? God knows you're welcome," the kiss following.

The kiss stung. It was not the first. But the others--even the last of
them, two years before, had not had that sting.

Lady St. Craye, biting her lips in lonely dissection of herself and of
him, dared take no comfort. Also, she no longer dared to follow him,
to watch him, to spy on him.

In her jasmine-scented leisure Lady St. Craye analysed herself, and
him and Her. Above all Her--who was Betty. To find out how it all
seemed to her--that, presently, seemed to Lady St. Craye the one
possible, the one important thing. So after she had given a few days
to the analysis of that kiss, had failed to reach certainty as to its
elements, had writhed in her failure, and bitterly resented the
mysteries constituent that falsified all her calculations, she dressed
herself beautifully, and went to call on the constituent, Betty.

Betty was at home. She was drawing at a table, cunningly placed at
right angles to the window. She rose with a grace that Lady St. Craye
had not seen in her. She was dressed in a plain gown, that hung from
the shoulders in long, straight, green folds. Her hair was down.--And
Betty had beautiful hair. Lady St. Craye's hair had never been long.
Betty's fell nearly to her knees.

"Oh, was the door open?" she said. "I didn't know, I've--I'm so
sorry--I've been washing my hair."

"It's lovely," said the other woman, with an appreciation quite
genuine. "What a pity you can't always wear it like that!"

"It's long," said Betty disparagingly, "but the colour's horrid. What
Miss Voscoe calls Boy colour."

"Boy colour?"

"Oh, just nothing in particular. Mousy."

"If you had golden hair, or black, Miss Desmond, you'd have a quite
unfair advantage over the rest of us."

"I don't think so," said Betty very simply; "you see, no one ever sees
it down."

"What a charming place you've got here," Lady St. Craye went on.

"Yes," said Betty, "it is nice," and she thought of Paula.

"And do you live here all alone?"

"Yes: I had a friend with me at first, but she's gone back to

"Don't you find it very dull?"

"Oh, no! I know lots of people now."

"And they come to see you here?"

Lady St. Craye had decided that it was not necessary to go delicately.
The girl was evidently stupid, and one need not pick one's words.

"Yes," said Betty.

"Mr. Vernon's a great friend of yours, isn't he?"


"I suppose you see a great deal of him?"

"Yes. Is there anything else you would like to know?"

The scratch was so sudden, so fierce, so feline that for a moment Lady
St. Craye could only look blankly at her hostess. Then she recovered
herself enough to say:

"Oh, I'm so sorry! Was I asking a lot of questions? It's a dreadful
habit of mine, I'm afraid, when I'm interested in people."

Betty scratched again quite calmly and quite mercilessly.

"It's quite natural that Mr. Vernon should interest you. But I don't
think I'm likely to be able to tell you anything about him that you
don't know. May I get you some tea?"

It was impossible for Lady St. Craye to reply: "I meant that I was
interested in _you_--not in Mr. Vernon;" so she said:

"Thank you--that will be delightful."

Betty went along the little passage to her kitchen, and her visitor
was left to revise her impressions.

When Betty came back with the tea-tray, her hair was twisted up. The
kettle could be heard hissing in the tiny kitchen.

"Can't I help you?" Lady St. Craye asked, leaning back indolently in
the most comfortable chair.

"No, thank you: it's all done now."

[Illustration: "'No, thank you it's all done now'"]

Betty poured the tea for the other woman to drink. Her own remained
untasted. She exerted herself to manufacture small-talk, was very
amiable, very attentive. Lady St. Craye almost thought she must have
dreamed those two sharp cat-scratches at the beginning of the
interview. But presently Betty's polite remarks came less readily.
There were longer intervals of silence. And Lady St. Craye for once
was at a loss. Her nerve was gone. She dared not tempt the claws
again. After the longest pause of all Betty said suddenly:

"I think I know why you came to-day."

"I came to see you, because you're a friend of Mr. Vernon's."

"You came to see me because you wanted to find out exactly how much
I'm a friend of Mr. Vernon's. Didn't you?"

Candour is the most disconcerting of the virtues.

"Not in the least," Lady St. Craye found herself saying. "I came to
see you--because--as I said."

"I don't think it is much use your coming to see me," Betty went on,
"though, if you meant it kindly--But you didn't--you didn't! If you
had it wouldn't have made any difference. We should never get on with
each other, never."

"Really, Miss Desmond"--Lady St. Craye clutched her card-case and half
rose--"I begin to think we never should."

Betty's ignorance of the usages of good society stood her friend. She
ignored, not consciously, but by the prompting of nature, the social
law which decrees that one should not speak of things that really
interest one.

"Do sit down," she said. "I'm glad you came--because I know exactly
what you mean, now."

"If the knowledge were only mutual!" sighed Lady St. Craye, and found
courage to raise eyebrows wearily.

"You don't like my going about with Mr. Vernon. Well, you've only to
say so. Only when you're married you'll find you've got your work cut
out to keep him from having any friends except you."

Lady St. Craye had the best of reasons for believing this likely to be
the truth. She said:

"When I'm married?"

"Yes," said Betty firmly. "You're jealous; you've no cause to be--and
I tell you that because I think being jealous must hurt. But it would
have been nicer of you, if you'd come straight to me and said: 'Look
here, I don't like you going about with the man I'm engaged to.' I
should have understood then and respected you. But to come like a
child's Guide to Knowledge--"

The other woman was not listening. "Engaged to him!"--The words sang
deliciously, disquietingly in her ears.

"But who said I was engaged to him?"

"He did, of course. He isn't ashamed of it--if you are."

"He told you that!"

"Yes. Now aren't you ashamed of yourself?"

Country-bred Betty, braced by the straightforward directness of Miss
Voscoe, and full of the nervous energy engendered by a half-understood
trouble, had routed, for a moment, the woman of the world. But only
for a moment. Then Lady St. Craye, unable to estimate the gain or loss
of the encounter, pulled herself together to make good her retreat.

"Yes," she said, with her charming smile. "I am ashamed of myself. I
_was_ jealous--I own it. But I shouldn't have shown it as I did if I'd
known the sort of girl you are. Come, forgive me! Can't you
understand--and forgive?"

"It was all my fault." The generosity of Betty hastened to meet what
it took to be the generosity of the other. "Forgive me. I won't see
him again at all--if you don't want me to."

"No, no." Even at that moment, in one illuminating flash, Lady St.
Craye saw the explications that must follow the announcement of that
renunciatory decision. "No, no. If you do that I shall feel sure that
you don't forgive me for being so silly. Just let everything go
on--won't you? And please, please don't tell him anything about--about

"How could I?" asked Betty.

"But promise you won't. You know--men are so vain. I should hate him
to know"--she hesitated and then finished the sentence with fine
art--"to know--how much I care."

"Of course you care," said Betty downrightly. "You ought to care. It
would be horrid of you if you didn't."

"But I don't, _now_. Now I _know_ you, Miss Desmond. I understand so
well--and I like to think of his being with you."

Even to Betty's ears this did not ring quite true.

"You like--?" she said.

"I mean I quite understand now. I thought--I don't know what I
thought. You're so pretty, you know. And he has had so very

"He hasn't one with me," said Betty briefly.

"Ah, you're still angry. And no wonder. Do forgive me, Miss Desmond,
and let's be friends."

Betty's look as she gave her hand was doubtful. But the hand was

"And you'll keep my poor little secret?"

"I should have thought you would have been proud for him to know how
much you care."

"Ah, my dear," Lady St. Craye became natural for an instant under the
transfiguring influence of her real thoughts as she spoke them, "my
dear, don't believe it! When a man's sure of you he doesn't care any
more. It's while he's not quite sure that he cares."

"I don't think that's so always," said Betty.

"Ah, believe me, there are 'more ways of killing a cat than choking it
with butter.' Forgive the homely aphorism. When you have a lover of
your own--or perhaps you have now?"

"Perhaps I have." Betty stood on guard with a steady face.

"Well, when you have--or if you have--remember never to let him be
quite sure. It's the only way."

The two parted, with a mutually kindly feeling that surprised one as
much as the other. Lady St. Craye drove home contrasting bitterly the
excellence of her maxims with the ineptitude of her practice. She had
let him know that she cared. And he had left her. That was two years
ago. And, now that she had met him again, when she might have played
the part she had recommended to that chit with the long hair--the part
she knew to be the wise one--she had once more suffered passion to
overcome wisdom, and had shown him that she loved him. And he had
kissed her.

She blushed in the dusk of her carriage for the shame of that kiss.

But he had told that girl that he was engaged to her.

A delicious other flush replaced the blush of shame. Why should he
have done that unless he really meant--? In that case the kiss was
nothing to blush about. And yet it was. She knew it.

She had time to think in the days that followed, days that brought
Temple more than once to her doors, but Vernon never.

Betty left alone let down her damp hair and tried to resume her
drawing. But it would not do. The emotion of the interview was too
recent. Her heart was beating still with anger, and resentment, and
other feelings less easily named.

Vernon was to come to fetch her at seven. She would not face him. Let
him go and dine with the woman he belonged to!

Betty went out at half-past six. She would not go to Garnier's, nor to
Thirion's. That was where he would look for her.

She walked steadily on, down the boulevard. She would dine at some
place she had never been to before. A sickening vision of that first
night in Paris swam before her. She saw again the Cafe d'Harcourt,
heard the voices of the women who had spoken to Paula, saw the eyes of
the men who had been the companions of those women. In that rout the
face of Temple shone--clear cut, severe. She remembered the instant
resentment that had thrilled her at his protective attitude,
remembered it and wondered at it a little. She would not have felt
that now. She knew her Paris better than she had done then.

And with the thought, the face of Temple came towards her out of the
crowd. He raised his hat in response to her frigid bow, and had almost
passed her, when she spoke on an impulse that surprised herself.

"Oh--Mr. Temple!"

He stopped and turned.

"I was looking for a place to dine. I'm tired of Garnier's and

He hesitated. And he, too, remembered the night at the Cafe
d'Harcourt, when she had disdained his advice and gone back to take
the advice of Paula.

He caught himself assuring himself that a man need not be ashamed to
risk being snubbed--making a fool of himself even--if he could do any
good. So he said: "You know I have horrid old-fashioned ideas about
women," and stopped short.

"Don't you know of any good quiet place near here?" said Betty.

"I think women ought to be taken care of. But some of them--Miss
Desmond, I'm so afraid of you--I'm afraid of boring you--"

Remorse stirred her.

"You've always been most awfully kind," she said warmly. "I've often
wanted to tell you that I'm sorry about that first time I saw you--I'm
not sorry for what I _did_," she added in haste; "I can never be
anything but glad for that. But I'm sorry I seemed ungrateful to you."

"Now you give me courage," he said. "I do know a quiet little place
quite near here. And, as you haven't any of your friends with you,
won't you take pity on me and let me dine with you?"

"You're sure you're not giving up some nice engagement--just to--to be
kind to me?" she asked. And the forlornness of her tone made him
almost forget that he had half promised to join a party of Lady St.

"I should like to come with you--I should like it of all things," he
said; and he said it convincingly.

They dined together, and the dinner was unexpectedly pleasant to both
of them. They talked of England, of wood, field and meadow, and Betty
found herself talking to him of the garden at home and of the things
that grew there, as she had talked to Paula, and as she had never
talked to Vernon.

"It's so lovely all the year," she said. "When the last mignonette's
over, there are the chrysanthemums, and then the Christmas roses, and
ever so early in January the winter aconite and the snow-drops, and
the violets under the south wall. And then the little green daffodil
leaves come up and the buds, though it's weeks before they turn into
flowers. And if it's a mild winter the primroses--just little baby
ones--seem to go on all the time."

"Yes," he said, "I know. And the wallflowers, they're green all the
time.--And the monthly roses, they flower at Christmas. And then when
the real roses begin to bud--and when June comes--and you're drunk
with the scent of red roses--the kind you always long for at

"Oh, yes," said Betty--"do you feel like that too? And if you get
them, they're soft limp-stalked things, like caterpillars half
disguised as roses by some incompetent fairy. Not like the stiff solid
heavy velvet roses with thick green leaves and heaps of thorns. Those
are the roses one longs for."

"Yes," he said. "Those are the roses one longs for." And an odd pause
punctuated the sentence.

But the pause did not last. There was so much to talk of--now that
barrier of resentment, wattled with remorse, was broken down. It was
an odd revelation to each--the love of the other for certain authors,
certain pictures, certain symphonies, certain dramas. The discovery of
this sort of community of tastes is like the meeting in far foreign
countries of a man who speaks the tongue of one's mother land. The two
lingered long over their coffee, and the "Grand Marnier" which their
liking for "The Garden of Lies" led to their ordering. Betty had
forgotten Vernon, forgotten Lady St. Craye, in the delightful
interchange of:

"Oh, I do like--"

"And don't you like--?"

"And isn't that splendid?"

These simple sentences, interchanged, took on the value of intimate

"I've had such a jolly time," Temple said. "I haven't had such a talk
for ages."

And yet all the talk had been mere confessions of faith--in Ibsen, in
Browning, in Maeterlinck, in English gardens, in Art for Art's sake,
and in Whistler and Beethoven.

"I've liked it too," said Betty.

"And it's awfully jolly," he went on, "to feel that you've forgiven
me"--the speech suddenly became difficult,--at least I mean to say--"
he ended lamely.

"It's I who ought to be forgiven," said Betty. "I'm very glad I met
you. I've enjoyed our talk ever so much."

Vernon spent an empty evening, and waylaid Betty as she left her class
next day.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I couldn't help it. I suddenly felt I wanted
something different. So I dined at a new place."

"Alone?" said Vernon.

"No," said Betty with her chin in the air.

Vernon digested, as best he might, his first mouthful of
jealousy--real downright sickening jealousy. The sensation astonished
him so much that he lacked the courage to dissect it.

"Will you dine with me to-night?" was all he found to say.

"With pleasure," said Betty. But it was not with pleasure that she
dined. There was something between her and Vernon. Both felt it, and
both attributed it to the same cause.

The three dinners that followed in the next fortnight brought none of
that old lighthearted companionship which had been the gayest of
table-decorations. Something was gone--lost--as though a royal rose
had suddenly faded, a rainbow-coloured bubble had broken.

"I'm glad," said Betty; "if he's engaged, I don't want to feel happy
with him."


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