The Way of an Eagle
Ethel M. Dell
Part 6 out of 7
possible course lay in putting an end to her engagement.
She had always liked Blake Grange. She knew that she always would like
him. But emphatically she did not love him, and she knew now with the
sure intuition which all women develop sooner or later that he
had never loved her. He had proposed to her upon a mere chivalrous
impulse, and she was convinced that he would not wish to quarrel with
her for releasing him.
Yet she dreaded the interview, even though she was quite sure that he
would not lose his self-control and wax violent, as had Nick on that
terrible night at Simla. She was almost morbidly afraid of hurting his
Of Nick she rigidly refused to think at all, though it was no easy
matter to exclude him from her thoughts, for he always seemed to be
clamouring for admittance. But she could not help wondering if, when
Blake had gone at last and she was free, she would be very greatly
She was sitting alone in her room that afternoon, watching the
scudding rain-clouds, when Olga brought her two letters.
"Both from Brethaven," she said, "but neither from Nick. I wonder if
he is at Redlands. I hope he will come over here if he is."
Muriel did not echo the hope. She knew the handwriting upon both the
envelopes, and she opened Daisy's first. It did not take long to read.
It simply contained a brief explanation of her presence at Brethaven,
which was due to an engagement having fallen through, mentioned Blake
as being on the point of departure, and wound up with the hope that
Muriel would not in any way alter her plans for her benefit as she was
only at the cottage for a few days to pack her possessions and she did
not suppose that she would care to be with her while this was going
There was no reference to any future meeting, and Muriel gravely put
the letter away in thoughtful silence. She had no clue whatever to the
slackening of their friendship, but she could not fail to note with
pain how far asunder they had drifted.
She turned to Grange's letter with a faint wonder as to why he should
have troubled himself to write when he was so short a distance from
It contained but a few sentences; she read them with widening eyes.
"Fate or the devil has been too strong for me, and I am
compelled to break my word to you. I have no excuse to offer,
except that my hand has been forced. Perhaps in the end it
will be better for you, but I would have stood by had it been
possible. And even now I would not desert you if I did not
positively know that you were safe--that the thing you feared
has ceased to exist.
"Muriel, I have broken my oath, and I can hardly ask your
forgiveness. I only beg you to believe that it was not by my
own choice. I was fiendishly driven to it against my will.
I came to this place to say good-bye, but I shall leave
to-morrow without seeing you unless you should wish otherwise.
She reached the end of the letter and sat quite still, staring at the
She was free, that was her first thought, free by no effort of her
own. The explanation she had dreaded had become unnecessary. She would
not even have to face the ordeal of a meeting. She drew a long breath
And then swift as a poisoned arrow came another thought,--a stabbing,
intolerable suspicion. Why had he thus set her free? How had his hand
been forced? By what means had he been fiendishly driven?
She read the letter through again, and suddenly her heart began to
throb thick and hard, so that she gasped for breath. This was Nick's
doing. She was as sure of it as if those brief, bitter sentences had
definitely told her so. Nick was the motive power that had compelled
Grange to this action. How he had done it, she could not even vaguely
surmise. But that he had in some malevolent fashion come between them
she did not for an instant doubt.
And wherefore? She put her hand to her throat, feeling suffocated,
as the memory of that last interview with him on the shore raced
with every fiery detail through her brain. He had marked her down for
himself, long, long ago, and whatever Dr. Jim might say, he had never
abandoned the pursuit. He meant to capture her at last. She might
flee, but he was following, tireless, fleet, determined. Presently he
would swoop like an eagle upon his prey, and she would be utterly at
his mercy. He had beaten Grange, and there was no one left to help
"Oh, Muriel,"--it was Olga's voice from the window--"come here, quick,
quick! I can see a hawk."
She started as one starts from a horrible dream, and looked round with
"It's hovering!" cried Olga excitedly. "It's hovering! There! Now it
"And something is dead," said Muriel, in a voiceless whisper.
The child turned round, saw something unusual in her friend's face,
and went impetuously to her.
"Muriel, darling, you look so strange. Is anything the matter?"
Muriel put an arm around her. "No, nothing," she said. "Olga, will it
surprise you very much to hear that I am not going to marry Captain
Grange after all?"
"No, dear," said Olga. "I never somehow thought you would, and I
didn't want you to either."
"Why not?" Muriel looked up in some surprise. "I thought you liked
"Oh, yes, of course I do," said Olga. "But he isn't half the man Nick
is, even though he is a V.C. Oh, Muriel, I wish,--I do wish--you would
marry Nick. Perhaps you will now."
But at that Muriel cried out sharply and sprang to her feet, almost
thrusting Olga from her.
"No, never!" she exclaimed, "Never,--never,--never!" Then, seeing
Olga's hurt face, "Oh, forgive me, dear! I didn't mean to be
unkind. But please don't ever dream of such a thing again. It--it's
impossible--quite. Ah, there is the gong for tea. Let us go down."
They went down hand in hand. But Olga was very quiet for the rest of
the evening; and she did not cling to Muriel as usual when she said
THE HARDEST FIGHT OF ALL
It was growing late on that same evening when to Daisy, packing in her
room with feverish haste, a message was brought that Captain Ratcliffe
was waiting, and desired to see her.
Her first impulse was to excuse herself from the interview, for she
and Nick had never stood upon ceremony; but a very brief consideration
decided her to see him. Since he had come at an unusual hour, it
seemed probable that he had some special object in view, and if that
were so, she would find it hard to turn him from his purpose. But she
resolved to make the interview as brief as possible. She had no place
for Nick in her life just then.
She entered the little parlour with a certain impetuosity, that was
not wholly spontaneous. "My dear Nick," she said, as she did so,
"I can give you exactly five minutes, not one second more, for I am
frightfully busy packing up my things to leave to-morrow."
He came swiftly to meet her, so swiftly that she was for the moment
deceived, and fancied that he was about to greet her with his
customary bantering gallantry. But he did not lift her fingers to his
lips after his usual gay fashion. He only held her proffered hand very
tightly for several seconds without verbal greeting of any sort.
Suddenly he began to speak, and as he did so she seemed to see
a hundred wrinkles spring into being on his yellow face. "I have
something to say to you, Mrs. Musgrave," he said. "And it's something
so particularly beastly that I funk saying it. We have always been
such pals, you and I, and that makes it all the harder."
He broke off, his shrewd glance flashing over her, keen and elusive as
a rapier. Daisy faced him quite fully and fearlessly. The possibility
of a conflict in this quarter had occurred to her before. She would
not shirk it, but she was determined that it should be as brief as
"Being pals doesn't entitle you to go trespassing, Nick," she said.
"I know that," said Nick, speaking very rapidly. "None better. But
I am not thinking of you only, though I hate to make you angry. Mrs.
Musgrave--Daisy--I want to ask you, and you can't refuse to answer.
What are you doing? What are you going to do?"
"I don't know what you mean," she said, speaking coldly. "And anyhow
I can't stop to listen to you. I haven't time. I think you had better
"You must listen," Nick said. She caught the grim note of
determination in his voice, and was aware of the whole force of his
personality flung suddenly against her. "Daisy," he said, "you are to
look upon me as Will's representative. I am the nearest friend he has.
Have you thought of him at all lately, stewing in those hellish Plains
for your sake? He's such a faithful chap, you know. Can't you go back
to him soon? Isn't it--forgive me--isn't it a bit shabby to play
this sort of game when there's a fellow like that waiting for you and
fretting his very heart out because you don't go?"
He stopped--his lips twitching with the vigour of his appeal. And
Daisy realised that he would have to be told the simple truth. He
would not be satisfied with less.
Very pale but quite calm, she braced herself to tell him. "I am afraid
you are pleading a lost cause," she said, her words quiet and very
distinct. "I am never going back to him."
"Never!" Nick moved sharply drawing close to her. "Never?" he said
again; then with abrupt vehemence, "Daisy, you don't mean that! You
didn't say it!"
She drew back slightly from him, but her answer was perfectly steady,
rigidly determined. "I have said it, Nick. And I meant it. You had
better go. You will do no good by staying to argue. I know all
that you can possibly say, and it makes no difference to me. I have
"What have you chosen?" he demanded.
For an instant she hesitated. There was something almost fierce in his
manner, something she had never encountered before, something that
in spite of her utmost effort made her feel curiously uneasy, even
apprehensive. She had always known that there was a certain uncanny
strength about Nick, but to feel the whole weight of it directed
against her was a new experience.
"What have you chosen?" he repeated relentlessly.
And reluctantly, more than half against her will, she told him. "I am
going to the man I love."
She was prepared for some violent outburst upon her words, but
none came. Nick heard her in silence, standing straight before her,
watching her, she felt, with an almost brutal intentness, though his
eyes never for an instant met her own.
"Then," he said suddenly at length, and quick though they were,
it seemed to her that the words fell with something of the awful
precision of a death-sentence, "God help you both; for you are going
to destroy him and yourself too."
Daisy made a sharp gesture; it was almost one of shrinking. And at
once he turned from her and fell to pacing the little room, up and
down, up and down incessantly, like an animal in a cage. It was
useless to attempt to dismiss him, for she saw that he would not go.
She moved quietly to a chair and sat down to wait.
Abruptly at last he stopped, halting in front of her. "Daisy,"--he
began, and broke off short, seeming to battle with himself.
She looked up in surprise. It was so utterly unlike Nick to relinquish
his self-command at a critical juncture. The next moment he amazed her
still further. He dropped suddenly down on his knees and gripped her
clasped hands fast.
"Daisy," he said again, and this time words came, jerky and
passionate, "this is my doing. I've driven you to it. If I hadn't
interfered with Grange, you would never have thought of it."
She sat without moving, but the hasty utterance had its effect upon
her. Some of the rigidity went out of her attitude. "My dear Nick,"
she said, "what is the good of saying that?"
"Isn't it true?" he persisted.
She hesitated, unwilling to wound him.
"You know it is true," he declared with vehemence. "If I had let him
alone, he would have married Muriel, and this thing would never have
happened. God knows I did what was right, but if it doesn't turn out
right, I'm done for. I never believed in eternal damnation before, but
if this thing comes to pass it will be hell-fire for me for as long as
I live. For I shall never believe in God again."
He swung away from her as though in bodily torture, came in contact
with the table and bowed his head upon it. For many seconds his
breathing, thick and short, almost convulsed, was the only sound in
As for Daisy, she sat still, staring at him dumbly, witnessing his
agony till the sight of it became more than she could bear. Then she
moved, reached stiffly forward, and touched him.
"You are not to blame yourself, Nick," she said.
He did not stir. "I don't," he answered, and again fell silent.
At last he moved, seemed to pull himself together, finally got to his
"Do you think you will be happy?" he said. "Do you think you will
ever manage to forget what you have sacrificed to this fetish you
call Love,--how you broke the heart of one of the best fellows in the
world, and trampled upon the memory of your dead child--the little
chap you used to call the light of your eyes, who used to hold out his
arms directly he saw you and cry when you went away?"
His voice was not very steady, and he paused but he did not look at
her or seem to expect any reply.
Daisy gave a great shiver. She felt cold from head to foot. But she
was not afraid of Nick. If she yielded, it would not be through fear.
A full minute crawled away before he spoke again. "And this fellow
Grange," he said then. "He is a man who values his honour. He has
lived a clean life. He holds an unblemished record. He is in your
hands. You can do what you like with him--whatever your love inspires
you to do. You can pull him back into a straight course, or you can
wreck him for good and all. Which is it going to be, I wonder? It's a
sacrifice either way,--a sacrifice to Love or a sacrifice to devils.
You can make it which you will. But if it is to be the last, never
talk of Love again. For Love--real Love--is the safeguard from all
evil. And if you can do this thing, it has never been above your
horizon, and never will be."
Again he stopped, and again there was silence while Daisy sat
white-faced and slightly bowed, wondering when it would be over,
wondering how much longer she could possibly endure.
And then suddenly he bent down over her. His hand was on her shoulder.
"Daisy," he said, and voice and touch alike implored her, "give him
up, dear! Give him up! You can do it if you will, if your love is
great enough. I know how infernally hard it is to do. I've done it
myself. It means tearing your very heart out. But it will be worth
it--it must be worth it--afterwards. You are bound--some time--to reap
what you have sown."
She lifted a haggard face. There was something in the utterance that
compelled her. And so looking, she saw that which none other of this
man's friend's had ever seen. She saw his naked soul, stripped bare of
all deception, of all reserve,--a vital, burning flame shining in the
desert. The sight moved her as had nought else.
"Oh, Nick," she cried out desperately, "I can't--I can't!"
He bent lower over her. He was looking straight down into her eyes.
"Daisy," he said very urgently, "Daisy, for God's sake--try!"
Her white lips quivered, striving again to refuse. But the words would
not come. Her powers of resistance had begun to totter.
"You can do it," he declared, his voice quick and passionate as though
he pleaded with her for life itself. "You can do it--if you will. I
will help you. You shan't stand alone. Don't stop to think. Just come
with me now--at once--and put an end to it before you sleep. For you
can't do this thing, Daisy. It isn't in you. It is all a monstrous
mistake, and you can't go on with it. I know you better than you know
yourself. We haven't been pals all these years for nothing. And there
is that in your heart that won't let you go on. I thought it was dead
a few minutes ago. But, thank God, it isn't. I can see it in your
She uttered an inarticulate sound that was more bitter than any
weeping, and covered her face.
Instantly Nick straightened himself and turned away. He went to the
window and leaned his head against the sash. He had the spent look of
a man who has fought to the end of his strength. The thunder of the
waves upon the shore filled in the long, long silence.
Minutes crawled away, and still he stood there with his face to the
darkness. At last a voice spoke behind him, and he turned. Daisy had
She stood in the lamplight, quite calm and collected. There was even a
smile upon her face, but it was a smile that was sadder than tears.
"It's been a desperate big fight, hasn't it, Nick?" she said. "But--my
dear--you've won. For the sake of my little baby, and for the sake of
the man I love--yes, and partly for your sake too,"--she held out her
hand to him with the words--"I am going back to the prison-house. No,
don't speak to me. You have said enough. And, Nick, I must go alone.
So I want you, please, to go away, and not to come to me again until I
send for you. I shall send sooner or later. Will you do this?"
Her voice never faltered, but the misery in her eyes cut him to the
heart. In that moment he realised how terribly near he had been to
losing the hardest battle he had ever fought.
He gave her no second glance. Simply, without a word, he stooped and
kissed the hand she had given him; then turned and went noiselessly
He had won indeed, but the only triumph he knew was the pain of a very
Scarcely five minutes after his departure, Daisy let herself out into
the night that lay like a pall above the moaning shore. She went with
lagging feet that often stumbled in the darkness. It was only the
memory of a baby's head against her breast that gave her strength.
"I believe I heard a gun in the night," remarked Mrs. Ratcliffe at the
breakfast-table on the following morning.
"Shouldn't be surprised," said Dr. Jim. "I know there was a ship in
distress off Calister yesterday. They damaged the lifeboat trying to
reach her. But the wind seems to have gone down a little this morning.
Do you care for a ride, Muriel?"
Muriel accepted the invitation gladly. She liked accompanying Dr. Jim
upon his rounds. She had arranged to leave two days later, a decision
which the news of Daisy's presence at Brethaven had not affected.
Daisy seemed to have dropped her for good and all, and her pride would
not suffer her to inquire the reason. She had, in fact, begun to think
that Daisy had merely tired of her, and that being so she was the
more willing to go to Mrs. Langdale, whose letters of fussy kindliness
seemed at least to ensure her a cordial welcome.
She had discussed her troubles no further with Dr. Jim. Grange's
letter had in some fashion placed matters beyond discussion. And so
she had only briefly told him that her engagement was at an end, and
he had gruffly expressed his satisfaction thereat. Her one idea now
was to escape from Nick's neighbourhood as speedily as possible. It
possessed her even in her dreams.
She went with Dr. Jim to the surgery when breakfast was over, and sat
down alone in the consulting-room to wait for him. He usually started
on his rounds at ten o'clock, but it wanted a few minutes to the
hour and the motor was not yet at the door. She sat listening for it,
hoping that no one would appear to detain him.
The morning was bright, and the wind had fallen considerably. Through
the window she watched the falling leaves as they eddied in sudden
draughts along the road. She looked through a wire screen that gave
rather a depressing effect to the sunshine.
Suddenly from some distance away there came to her the sound of a
horse's hoof-beats, short and hard, galloping over the stones. It
was a sound that arrested the attention, awaking in her a vague,
apprehensive excitement. Almost involuntarily she drew nearer to the
window, peering above the blind.
Some seconds elapsed before she caught sight of the headlong horseman,
and then abruptly he dashed into sight round a curve in the road. At
the same instant the gallop became a fast trot, and she saw that the
rider was gripping the animal with his knees. He had no saddle.
Amazed and startled, she stood motionless, gazing at the sudden
apparition, saw as the pair drew nearer what something within her had
already told her loudly before her vision served her, and finally drew
back with a sharp, instinctive contraction of her whole body as the
horseman reined in before the surgery-door and dismounted with a
monkey-like dexterity, his one arm twined in the bridle. A moment
later the surgery-bell pealed loudly, and her heart stood still. She
felt suddenly sick with a nameless foreboding.
Standing with bated breath, she heard Dr. Jim himself go to answer the
summons, and an instant later Nick's voice came to her, gasping and
uneven, but every word distinct.
"Ah, there you are! Thought I should catch you. Man, you're
wanted--quick! In heaven's name--lose no time. Grange was drowned
early this morning, and--I believe it's killed Daisy. For mercy's
sake, come at once!"
There was a momentary pause. Muriel's heart was beating in great
sickening throbs. She felt stiff and powerless.
Dr. Jim's voice, brief and decided, struck through the silence. "Come
inside and have something. I shall be ready to start in three minutes.
Leave your animal here. He's dead beat."
There followed the sound of advancing feet, a hand upon the door, and
the next moment they entered together. Nick was reeling a little and
holding Jim's arm. He saw Muriel with a sharp start, standing as she
had turned from the window. The doctor's brows met for an instant as
he put his brother into a chair. He had forgotten Muriel.
With an effort she overcame the paralysis that bound her, and moved
forward with shaking limbs.
"Did you say Blake was--dead?" she asked, her voice pitched very low.
She looked at Nick as she asked this question, and it was Nick who
answered her in his quick, keen way, as though he realised the mercy
"Yes. He and some fisher chaps went out early this morning in an
ordinary boat to rescue some fellows on a wreck that had drifted on
to the rocks outside the harbour. The lifeboat had been damaged, and
couldn't be used. They reached the wreck all right, but there were
more to save than they had reckoned on--more than the boat would
carry--and the wreck was being battered to pieces. It was only a
matter of seconds for the tide was rising. So they took the lot, and
Grange went over the side to make it possible. He hung on to a rope
for a time, but the seas were tremendous, and after a bit it parted.
He was washed up two hours ago. He had been in the water since three,
among the rocks. There wasn't the smallest chance of bringing him
back. He was long past any help we could give."
He ended abruptly, and helped himself with a jerk to something in a
glass that Jim had placed by his side.
Muriel stood dumbly watching. She noticed with an odd, detached sense
of curiosity that he was shivering violently as one with an ague. Dr.
Jim was already making swift preparations for departure.
Suddenly Nick looked up at her. His eyes were glittering strangely. "I
know now," he said, "what you women feel like when you can only stand
and look on. We have been looking on--Daisy and I--just looking on,
for six mortal hours." He banged his fist with a sort of condensed
fury upon the table, and leapt to his feet. "Jim, are you ready? I
can't sit still any longer."
"Finish that stuff, and don't be a fool!" ordered Jim curtly.
Muriel turned swiftly towards him. "You'll take me with you!" she said
Nick broke in sharply upon the request. "No, no, Muriel! You're not to
go. Jim, you can't--you shan't--take her! I won't allow it!"
But Muriel was clinging to Dr. Jim's arm with quivering face upraised.
"You will take me," she entreated. "I was able to help Daisy before. I
can help her now."
But even before she spoke there flashed a swift glance between the two
brothers that foiled her appeal almost before it was uttered. With
a far greater gentleness than was customary with him, but with
unmistakable decision, Dr. Jim refused her petition.
"I can't take you now, child. But if Daisy should ask for you, or
if there is anything under the sun that you can do for her, I will
promise to let you know."
It was final, but she would not have it so. A sudden gust of anger
caught her, anger against the man for whose sake she had one night
shed so many bitter tears, whom now she so fierily hated. She still
clung to Jim. She was shaking all over.
"What does it matter what Nick says?" she urged pantingly. "Why give
in to him at every turn? I won't be left behind--just because he
She would have said more. Her self-control was tottering; but Dr. Jim
restrained her. "My dear, it is not for Nick's sake," he said. "Come,
you are going to be sensible. Sit down and get your breath. There's
no time for hysterics. I must go across and speak to my wife before I
He looked at Nick who instantly responded. "Yes, you be off! I'll look
after her. Be quick, man, be quick!"
But when Dr. Jim was gone, his impatience fell away from him. He
moved round the table and stood before her. He was steady enough now,
steadier far than she.
"Don't take it too hard," he said. "At least he died like a man."
She did not draw away from him. There was no room for fear in her
heart just then. It held only hatred--a fierce, consuming flame--that
enabled her to face him as she had never faced him before.
"Why did you let him go?" she demanded of him, her voice deep and
passionate, her eyes unwaveringly upon him. "There must have been
others. You were there. Why didn't you stop him?"
"I stop him!" said Nick, and a flash of something that was almost
humour crossed his face. "You seem to think I am omnipotent."
Her eyes continued to challenge him. "You always manage to get your
own way somehow," she said very bitterly, "by fair means or foul. Are
you going to deny that it was you who made him write that letter?"
He did not ask her what she meant. "No," he said with a promptitude
that took her by surprise. "I plead guilty to that. As you are aware,
I never approved of your engagement."
His effrontery stung her into what was almost a state of frenzy. Her
eyes blazed their utmost scorn. She had never been less afraid of him
than at that moment. She had never hated him more intensely.
"You could make him do a thing like that," she said. "And yet you
couldn't hold him back from certain death!"
He answered her without heat, in a tone she deemed most hideously
callous. "It was not my business to hold him back. He was wanted.
There would have been no rescue but for him. They needed a man to lead
them, or they wouldn't have gone at all."
His composure goaded her beyond all endurance. She scarcely waited for
him to finish, nor was she wholly responsible for what she said.
"Was there only one man among you, then?" she asked, with headlong
He made her a curious, jerky bow. "One man--yes," he said. "The rest
were mere sheep, with the exception of one--who was a cripple."
Her heart contracted suddenly with a pain that was physical. She felt
as if he had struck her, and it goaded her to a fiercer cruelty.
"You knew he would never come back!" she declared her voice quivering
uncontrollably with the passion that shook her. "You--you never meant
him to come back!"
He opened his eyes wide for a single instant, and she fancied that she
had touched him. It was the first time in her memory that she had ever
seen them fully. Instinctively she avoided them, as she would have
avoided a flash of lightning.
And then he spoke, and she knew at once that her wild accusation had
in no way hurt him. "You think that, do you?" he said, and his tone
sounded to her as though he barely repressed a laugh. "Awfully nice of
you! I wonder what exactly you take me for."
She did not keep him in suspense on that point. If she had never had
the strength to tell him before, she could tell him now.
"I take you for a fiend!" she cried hysterically. "I take you for a
He turned sharply from her, so sharply that she was conscious of a
moment's fear overmastering her madness. But instantly, with his back
to her, he spoke, and her brief misgiving was gone.
"It doesn't matter much now what you take me for," he said, and again
in the cracked notes of his voice she seemed to hear the echo of a
laugh. "You won't need to seek any more protectors so far as I am
concerned. You will never see me again unless the gods ordain that
you should come and find me. It isn't the way of an eagle to swoop
twice--particularly an eagle with only one wing."
The laugh was quite audible now, and she never saw how that one hand
of his was clenched and pressed against his side. He had reached the
door while he was speaking. Turning swiftly, he cast one flickering,
inscrutable glance towards her, and then with no gesture of farewell
was gone. She heard his receding footsteps die away while she
struggled dumbly to quell the tumult of her heart.
Late that evening a scribbled note reached Muriel from Dr. Jim.
"You can do nothing whatever," he wrote. "Daisy is suffering from
a sharp attack of brain fever, caused by the shock of her cousin's
death, and I think it advisable that no one whom she knows should be
near her. You may rest assured that all that can be done for her will
be done. And, Muriel, I think you will be wise to go to Mrs. Langdale
as you originally intended. It will be better for you, as I think
you will probably realise. You shall be kept informed of Daisy's
condition, but I do not anticipate any immediate change."
She was glad of those few words of advice. Her anxiety regarding
Daisy notwithstanding, she knew it would be a relief to her to go. The
strain of many days was telling upon her. She felt herself to be on
the verge of a break-down, and she longed unspeakably to escape.
She went to her room early on her last night at Weir, but not in order
to rest the longer. She had something to do, something from which she
shrank with a strange reluctance, yet which for her peace of mind she
dared not leave neglected.
It was thus she expressed it to herself as with trembling fingers she
opened the box that contained all her sacred personal treasures.
It lay beneath them all, wrapped in tissue-paper, as it had passed
from his hand to hers, and for long she strove to bring herself to
slip the tiny packet unopened into an envelope and seal it down--yet
At last--it was towards midnight--she yielded to the force that
compelled. Against her will she unfolded the shielding paper and held
that which it contained upon the palm of her hand. Burning rubies,
red as heart's blood, ardent as flame, flashed and glinted in the
lamp-light. "OMNIA VINCIT AMOR"--how the words scorched her memory!
And she had wondered once if they were true!
She knew now! She knew now! He had forced her to realise it. He had
captured her, had kindled within her--by what magic she knew not--the
undying Against her will, in spite of her utmost resistance, he had
done this thing. Above and beyond and through her fiercest hatred, he
had conquered her quivering heart. He had let her go again, but not
till he had blasted her happiness for ever. None other could ever
dominate her as this man dominated. None other could ever kindle in
her--or ever quench--the torch that this man's hand had lighted.
And this was Love--this hunger that could never be satisfied, this
craving which would not be stifled or ignored--Love triumphant,
invincible, immortal--the thing she had striven to slay at its
birth, but which had lived on in spite of her, growing, spreading,
enveloping, till she was lost, till she was suffocated, in its
immensity. There could never be any escape for her again. She was
fettered hand and foot. It was useless any longer to strive. She stood
and faced the truth.
She did not ask herself how it was she had ever come to care. She only
numbly realised that she had always cared. And she knew now that to no
woman is it given so to hate as she had hated without the spur of Love
goading her thereto. Ah, but Love was cruel!
Love was merciless! For she had never known--nor ever could know
now--the ecstasy of Love. Truly, it conquered; but it left its
prisoners to perish of starvation in the wilderness.
A slight sound in the midnight silence! A timid hand softly trying
the door-handle! She sprang up, dropping the ring upon her table, and
turned to see Olga in her nightdress, standing in the doorway.
"I was awake," the child explained tremulously. "And I heard you
moving. And I wondered, dear Muriel, if perhaps I could do anything to
help you. You--you don't mind?"
Muriel opened her arms impulsively. She felt as if Olga had been sent
to lighten her darkest hour.
For a while she held her close, not speaking at all; and it was Olga
who at last broke the silence.
"Darling, are you crying for Captain Grange?"
She raised her head then to meet the child's gaze of tearful sympathy.
"I am not crying, dear," she said. "And--it wouldn't be for him if I
were. I don't want to cry for him. I just envy him, that's all."
She leaned her head against Olga's shoulder, rocking a little to and
fro with closed eyes. "Yes," she said at last, "you can help me, Olga,
if you will. That ring on the table, dear,--a ring with rubies--do you
"Yes," breathed Olga, holding her very close.
"Then just take it, dear." Muriel's voice was unutterably weary; she
seemed to speak with a great effort. "It belongs to Nick. He gave it
to me once, long ago, in remembrance of something. I want you to give
it back to him, and tell him simply that I prefer to forget."
Olga took up the ring. Her lips were trembling. "Aren't you--aren't
you being nice to Nick any more, Muriel?" she asked in a whisper.
Muriel did not answer.
"Not when you promised?" the child urged piteously.
There was silence. Muriel's face was hidden. Her black hair hung about
her like a cloud, veiling her from her friend's eyes. For a long time
she said nothing whatever. Then at last without moving she made reply.
"It's no use, Olga. I can't! I can't! It's not my doing. It's his.
Oh, I think my heart is broken!" Through the anguish of weeping that
followed, Olga clasped her passionately close, frightened, by an
intensity of suffering such as she had never seen before and was
powerless to alleviate.
She slept with Muriel that night, but, waking in the dawning, just
when Muriel had sunk to sleep, she crept out of bed and, with Nick's
ring grasped tightly in her hand, softly stole away.
A gorgeous sunset lay in dusky, fading crimson upon the Plains,
trailing to darkness in the east. The day had been hot and cloudless,
but a faint, chill wind had sprung up with the passing of the sun,
and it flitted hither and thither like a wandering spirit over the
Down in the native quarter a _tom-tom_ throbbed, persistent,
exasperating as the voice of conscience. Somewhere in the distance a
dog barked restlessly, at irregular intervals. And at a point between
_tom-tom_ and dog a couple of parrots screeched vociferously.
Over all, the vast Indian night was rushing down on silent, mysterious
wings. Crimson merged to grey in the telling, and through the falling
dark there shone, detached and wonderful, a single star.
In the little wooden bungalow over against, the water-works a light
had been kindled and gleamed out in a red streak across the Plain.
Other lights were beginning to flicker also from all points of the
compass, save only where a long strip of jungle lay like a blot upon
the face of the earth. But the red light burned the steadiest of them
It came from the shaded lamp of an Englishman, and beneath it with
stubborn, square-jawed determination the Englishman sat at work.
Very steadily his hand moved over the white paper, and the face that
was bent above it never varied--a face that still possessed something
of the freshness of youth though the set of the lips was firm even to
sternness and the line of the chin was hard. He never raised his eyes
as he worked except to refer to the notebook at his elbow. The passage
of time seemed of no moment to him.
Yet at the soft opening of the door, he did look up for an instant, a
gleam of expectancy upon his face that died immediately.
"All right, Sammy, directly," he said, returning without pause to his
Sammy, butler, bearer, and general factotum, irreproachable from his
snowy turban to his white-slippered feet, did not take the hint
to retire, but stood motionless just inside the room, waiting with
statuesque patience till his master should deign to bestow upon him
the favour of his full attention.
After a little Will Musgrave realised this, and with an abrupt sigh
sat back in his chair and rubbed his hand across his forehead.
"Well?" he said then. "You needn't trouble to tell me that the mail
has passed, for I heard the fellow half an hour ago. Of course there
were no letters?"
The man shook his head despondingly. "No letters, sahib."
"Then what do you want?" asked Will, beginning to eye his work again.
Sammy--so dubbed by Daisy long ago because his own name was too sore
a tax upon her memory--sent a look of gleaming entreaty across the
lamp-lit space that separated him from his master.
"The dinner grows cold, sahib," he observed pathetically.
Will smiled a little. "All right, my good Sammy. What does it matter?
I'm sure if I don't mind, you needn't. And I'm busy just now."
But the Indian stood his ground. "What will my mem-sahib say to me,"
he said, "when she comes and finds that my lord has been starved?"
Will's face changed. It was a very open face, boyishly sincere. He did
not laugh at the earnest question. He only gravely shook his head.
"The mem-sahib will come," the man declared, with conviction. "And
what will her servant say when she asks him why his master is so thin?
She will say, 'Sammy, I left him in your care. What have you done to
him?' And, sahib, what answer can her servant give?"
Will clasped his hands at the back of his head in a careless attitude,
but his face was grim. "I don't think you need worry yourself, Sammy,"
he said. "I am not expecting the mem-sahib--at present."
Nevertheless, moved by the man's solicitude, he rose after a moment
and laid his work together. He might as well dine, he reflected, as
sit and argue about it. With a heavy step he passed into the room
where dinner awaited him, and sat down at the table.
No, he was certainly not expecting her at present. He had even of late
begun to ask himself if he expected her at all. It was five months now
since the news of her severe illness had almost induced him to throw
everything aside and go to her. He had only been deterred from this
by a very serious letter from Dr. Jim, strongly advising him to remain
where he was, since it was highly improbable that he would be allowed
to see Daisy for weeks or even months were he at hand, and she would
most certainly be in no fit state to return with him to India. That
letter had been to Will as the passing knell of all he had ever hoped
or desired. Definitely it had told him very little, but he was
not lacking in perception, and he had read a distinct and wholly
unmistakable meaning behind the guarded, kindly sentences. And he knew
when he laid the letter down that in Dr. Jim's opinion his presence
might do incalculable harm. From that day forward he had entertained
no further idea of return, settling down again to his work with a
dogged patience that was very nearly allied to despair.
He was undoubtedly a rising man. There were prospects of a speedy
improvement in his position. It was unlikely that he would be called
upon to spend another hot season in the scorching Plains. Steady
perseverance and indubitable talent had made their mark. But success
was dust and ashes to him now. He did not greatly care if he went or
That Daisy was well again, or on the high-road to recovery, he knew;
but he had not received a single letter from her since her illness.
Jim's epistles were very few and far between, but Nick had maintained
a fairly regular correspondence with him till a few weeks back when it
had unaccountably lapsed. But then Nick had done unaccountable things
before, and he did not set down his silence to inconstancy. He was
probably making prodigious efforts on his behalf, and Will awaited
every mail with an eagerness he could not quite suppress, which turned
invariably, however, into a sick sense of disappointment.
That Daisy would ever return to him now he did not for an instant
believe, but there remained the chance--the slender, infinitesimal
chance--that she might ask him to go to her. More than a flying visit
she would know he could not manage. His work was his living, and
hers. But so much Nick's powers of persuasion might one day accomplish
though he would not allow himself to contemplate the possibility,
while week by week the chance dwindled.
So he sat alone and unexpectant at his dinner-table that night and
made heroic efforts to pacify the vigilant Sammy whose protest had
warmed his heart a little if it had not greatly assisted his appetite.
He was glad when the meal was over, and he could saunter out on to
the verandah with his cigar. The night was splendid with stars; but it
held no moon. The wind had died away, but it had left a certain chill
behind; and somehow he was reminded of a certain evening of early
summer in England long ago, when he and Daisy had strolled together
in an English garden, and she had yielded impulsively to his earnest
wooing and had promised to be his wife. He remembered still the little
laugh half sweet, half bitter, with which she had surrendered, the
soft raillery of her blue eyes that yet had not wholly mocked him, the
dainty charm of her submission. She had not loved him. He had known it
even then. She had almost told him so. But with a boy's impetuosity he
had taken the little she had to give, trusting to the future to make
her all his own.
Ah, well! He caught himself sighing, and found that his cigar was out.
With something less than his customary self-suppression he pitched it
forth into the darkness. He could not even smoke with any enjoyment.
He would go indoors and work.
He swung round on his heel, and started back along the verandah
towards his room from which the red light streamed. Three strides he
took with his eyes upon the ground. Then for no reason that he knew he
glanced up towards that bar of light. The next instant he stood still
as one transfixed, and all the blood rushed in tumult to his heart.
There, motionless in the full glare--watching him, waiting for
him--stood his wife!
THE HEART OF A MAN
She did not utter a single word or move to greet him. Even in that
ruddy light she was white to the lips. Her hands were fast gripped
together. She did not seem to breathe.
So for full thirty seconds they faced one another, speechless,
spell-bound, while through the awful silence the cry of a jackal
sounded from afar, seeking its meat from God.
Will was the first to move, feeling for his handkerchief mechanically
and wiping his forehead. Also he tried to speak aloud, but his voice
was gone. "Pull yourself together, you fool!" he whispered savagely.
"She'll be gone again directly."
She caught the words apparently, for her attitude changed. She parted
her straining hands as though by great effort, and moved towards him.
Out of the glare of the lamplight she looked more normal. She wore
a grey travelling-dress, but her hat was off. He fancied he saw the
sparkle of the starlight in her hair.
She came towards him a few steps, and then she stopped. "Will," she
said, and her voice had a piteous tremble in it, "won't you speak to
me? Don't you--don't you know me?"
Her voice awoke him, brought him down from the soaring heights of
imagination as it were with a thud. He strode forward and caught her
hands in his.
"Good heavens, Daisy!" he said. "I thought I was dreaming! How on
And there he stopped dead, checked in mid career, for she was leaning
back from him, leaning back with all her strength that he might not
He stood, still holding her hands, and looked at her. There was a
curious, choked sensation at his throat, as if he had swallowed ashes.
She had come back to him--she had come back to him indeed, but he had
a feeling that she was somehow beyond his reach, further away from him
in that moment of incredible reunion than she had ever been during all
the weary months of their separation. This woman with the pale face
and tragic eyes was a total stranger to him. Small wonder that he had
thought himself to be dreaming!
With a furious effort he collected himself. He let her hands slip
from his. "Come in here," he said, forcing his dry throat to speech by
sheer strength of will. "You should have let me know."
She went in without a word, and came to a stand before the table that
was littered with his work. She was agitated, he saw. Her hand was
pressed against her heart, and she seemed to breathe with difficulty.
Instinctively he came to her aid with commonplace phrases--the first
that occurred to him. "How did you come? But no matter! Tell me
presently. You must have something to eat. You look dead beat. Sit
And there he stopped again, breaking off short to stare at her. In the
lighted room she had turned to face him, and he saw that her hair was
no longer golden but silvery white.
Seeing his look, she began to speak in hurried, uneven sentences. "I
have been ill, you know. It--it was brain fever, Jim said. Hair--fair
hair particularly--does go like that sometimes."
"You are well again?" he questioned.
"Oh, quite--quite." There was something almost feverish in the
assertion; she was facing him with desperate resolution. "I have been
well for a long time. Please don't send for anything. I dined at the
dak-bungalow an hour ago. I--I thought it best."
Her agitation was increasing. She panted between each sentence. Will
turned aside, shut and bolted the window, and drew the blind. Then he
went close to her; he laid a steady hand upon her.
"Sit down," he said, "and tell me what is the matter."
She sank down mutely. Her mouth was quivering; she sought to hide it
from him with her hand.
"Tell me," he said again, and quietly though he spoke there was in his
tone a certain mastery that had never asserted itself in the old days;
"What is it? Why have you come to me like this?"
"I--haven't come to stay, Will," she said, her voice so low that it
was barely audible.
His face changed. He looked suddenly dogged. "After twenty months!" he
She bent her head. "I know. It's half a lifetime--more. You have
learnt to do without me by this. At least--I hope you have--for your
He made no comment on the words; perhaps he did not hear them. After a
brief silence she heard his voice above her bowed head. "Something is
wrong. You'll tell me presently, won't you? But--really you needn't be
Something in the words--was it a hint of tenderness?--renewed her
failing strength. She commanded herself and raised her head. She
scarcely recognised in the steady, square-chinned man before her
the impulsive, round-faced boy she had left. There was something
unfathomable about him, a hint of greatness that affected her
"Yes," she said. "Something is wrong. It is what I am here for--what I
have come to tell you. And when it is over, I'm going away--I'm going
away--out of your life--for ever, this time."
His jaw hardened, but he said nothing whatever. He stood waiting for
her to continue.
She rose slowly to her feet though she was scarcely capable of
standing. She had come to the last ounce of her strength, but she
spent it bravely.
"Will," she said, and though her voice shook uncontrollably every word
was clear, "I hardly know how to say it. You have always trusted me,
always been true to me. I think--once--you almost worshipped me. But
you'll never worship me any more, because--because--I am unworthy of
you. Do you understand? I was held back from the final wickedness,
or--or I shouldn't be here now. But the sin was there in my heart.
Heaven help me, it is there still. There! I have told you. It--was
your right. I don't ask for mercy or forgiveness. Only punish
me--punish me--and then--let me--go!"
Voice and strength failed together. Her limbs doubled under her,
and she sank suddenly down at his feet, sobbing--terrible, painful,
tearless sobs that seemed to rend her very being.
Without a word he stooped and lifted her. He was white to the lips,
but there was no hesitancy about him. He acted instantly and decidedly
as a man quite sure of himself.
He carried her to the old _charpoy_ by the window and laid her down.
Many minutes later, when her anguish had a little spent itself, she
realised that he was kneeling beside her, holding her pressed against
his heart. Through all the bitter chaos of her misery and her shame
there came to her the touch of his hand upon her head.
It amazed her--it thrilled her, that touch of his; in a fashion it
awed her. She kept her face hidden from him; she could not look up.
But he did not seek to see her face. He only kept his hand upon her
throbbing temple till she grew still against his breast.
Then at length, his voice slow and deep and very steady, he spoke.
"Daisy, we will never speak of this again."
She gave a great start. Pity, even a certain measure of kindness,
she had almost begun to expect; but not this--not this! She made a
movement to draw herself away from him, but he would not suffer it. He
only held her closer.
"Oh, don't, Will, don't!" she implored him brokenly. "For your own
sake--let me go!"
"For my own sake, Daisy," he answered quietly,--"and for yours, since
you have come to me, I will never let you go again."
"But you can't want me," she insisted piteously. "Don't be generous,
Will. I can't bear it. Anything but that! I would rather you cursed
His hand restrained her, silenced her. "Hush!" he said. "You are my
wife. I love you, and I want you."
Tears came to her then with a rush, blinding, burning, overwhelming,
and yet their very agony was relief to her. She made no further
effort to loosen his hold. She even feebly clung to him as one needing
"Ah, but I must tell you--I must tell you," she whispered at last.
"If--if you mean to forgive me, you must know--everything."
"Tell me, if it helps you," he answered, and he spoke with the
splendid patience that twenty weary months had wrought in him. "Only
believe--before you begin--that I have forgiven you. For--before
God--it is the truth."
And so presently, lying in his arms, her face hidden low on his
breast, she told him all, suppressing nothing, extenuating nothing,
simply pouring out the whole bitter story, sometimes halting,
sometimes incoherent, but never wavering in her purpose, till, like
an evil growth that yet clung about her palpitating heart, her sin lay
bare before him--the sin of a woman who had almost forgotten that Love
is a holy thing.
He heard her to the end with scarcely a word, and when she had
finished he made one comment only.
"And so you gave him up."
She shivered with the pain of that memory. "Yes, I gave him up--I
gave him up. Nick had made me see the hopelessness of it all--the
wickedness. And he--he let me go. He saw it too--at least he
understood. And on that very night--oh, Will, that awful night--he
went to his death."
His arms grew closer about her. "My poor girl!" he said.
"Ah, but you shouldn't!" she sobbed. "You shouldn't! You ought to hate
me--to despise me."
"Hush!" he said again. And she knew that with that one word he
resolutely turned his back upon the gulf that had opened between them
during those twenty months--that gulf that his love had been great
enough to bridge--and that he took her with him, bruised and broken
and storm-tossed as she was, into a very sheltered place.
When presently he turned her face up to his own and gravely kissed her
she clung to his neck like a tired child, no longer fearing to meet
his look, only thankful for the comfort of his arms.
For a while longer he held her silently, then very quietly he began
to question her about her journey. Had she told him that she had been
putting up at the dak-bungalow?
"Oh, only for a few hours," she answered. "We arrived this evening,
Nick and I."
"Nick!" he said. "And you left him behind?"
"He is waiting to take me back," she murmured, her face hidden against
Again, very tenderly, his hand pressed her forehead. "He must come to
us, eh, dear? I will sent the _khit_ down with a note presently. But
you are tired out, and must rest. Lie here while I go and tell Sammy
to make ready."
It was when he came back to her that she began to see wherein lay the
change in him that had so struck her.
From her cushions she looked up at him, piteously smiling. "How thin
you are, Will! And you are getting quite a scholarly stoop."
"Ah, that's India," he said.
But she knew that it was not India at all, and her face told him so,
though he affected not to see it.
He bent over her. "Now, Daisy, I am going to carry you to bed as I
used--do you remember?--at Simla, after the baby came. Dear little
chap! Do you remember how he used to smile in his sleep?"
His voice was hushed, as though he stood once more beside the tiny
She sat up, yielding herself to his arms. "Oh, Will," she said, with a
great sob, "if only he had lived!"
He held her closely, and lying against his breast she felt the sigh he
stifled. His lips were upon the silvered hair.
"Perhaps--some day--Daisy," he said, under his breath.
And she, clinging to him, whispered back through her tears, "Oh,
Will,--I do hope so."
IN THE NAME OF FRIENDSHIP
It was very hot down on the buzzing race-course, almost intolerably
so in the opinion of the girl who sat in Lady Bassett's
elegantly-appointed carriage, and looked out with the indifference of
boredom upon the sweltering crowds.
"Dear child, don't look so freezingly aloof!" she had been entreated
more than once; and each time the soft injunction had reached her the
wide dark eyes had taken to themselves a more utter disdain.
If she looked freezing, she was far from feeling it, for the hot
weather was at its height, and Ghawalkhand, though healthy, was not
the coolest spot in the Indian Empire. Sir Reginald Bassett had been
appointed British Resident, to act as adviser to the young rajah
thereof, and there had been no question of a flitting to Simla that
year. Lady Bassett had deplored this, but Muriel rejoiced. She never
wanted to see Simla again.
Life was a horrible emptiness to her in those days. She was weary
beyond expression, and had no heart for the gaieties in which she was
plunged. Idle compliments had never attracted her, and flirtations
were an abomination to her. She looked through and beyond them with
the eyes of a sphinx. But there were very few who suspected the
intolerable ache that throbbed unceasingly behind her impassivity--the
loneliness of spirit that oppressed her like a crushing, physical
Even Bobby Fraser, who saw most things, could scarcely have been aware
of this; yet certainly it was not the vivacity of her conversation
that induced him to seek her out as he generally did when he saw
her sitting apart. A very cheery bachelor was Bobby Fraser, and a
tremendous favourite wherever he went. He was a wonderful organizer,
and he invariably had a hand in anything of an entertaining nature
that was going forward.
He had just brought her tea, and was waiting beside her while she
drank it. Lady Bassett had left the carriage for the paddock, and
Muriel sat alone.
Had she had anything on the last race, he wanted to know? Muriel had
not. He had, and was practically ruined in consequence--a calamity
which in no way seemed to affect his spirits.
"Who would have expected a rank outsider like that to walk over the
course? Ought to have been disqualified for sheer cheek. Reminds me
of a chap I once knew--forget his name--Nick something or other--who
entered at the last minute for the Great Mogul's Cup at Sharapura. Did
it for a bet, they said. It's years ago now. The horse was a perfect
brute--all bone and no flesh--with a temper like the foul fiend and
no points whatever--looked a regular crock at starting. But he romped
home on three legs, notwithstanding, with his jockey clinging to him
like an inspired monkey. It was the only race he ever won. Every one
put it down to black magic or personal magnetism on the part of his
rider. Same thing, I believe. He was the sort of chap who always comes
out on top. Rum thing I can't remember his name. I had travelled out
with him on the same boat once too. Have some more tea."
This was a specimen of most of Bobby Fraser's conversation. He was
brimful of anecdotes. They flowed as easily as water from a fountain.
Their source seemed inexhaustible. He never repeated himself to the
Muriel declined his offer of more tea. For some reason she wanted to
hear more of the man who had won the Great Mogul's Cup at Sharapura.
Bobby was more than willing to oblige. "Oh, it was sheer cheek that
carried him through, of course. I always said he was the cheekiest
beggar under the sun--quite a little chap he was, hideously ugly,
with a face like a baked apple, and eyes that made you think of a
cinematograph. You know the sort of thing. I used to think he had a
future before him, but he seems to have dropped out. He was only
about twenty when I had him for a stable-companion. I remember one
outrageous thing he did on the voyage out. There was card-playing
going on in the saloon one night, and he was looking on. One of the
lady-players--well, I suppose I may as well call it by its name--one
of them cheated. He detected it. Beastly position, of course. Don't
know what I should have done under the circumstances, but anyhow he
wasn't at a loss. He simply lighted a cigarette and set fire to the
Muriel's exclamation of horror was ample testimony to the fact that
her keenest interest was aroused.
"Yes, awfully risky, wasn't it?" said Bobby. "We only thought at the
time he had been abominably careless. I did not hear the rights of the
case till afterwards, and then not from him. There was a fine flareup,
of course--card-table overturned--ladies in hysterics--in the middle
of the fray our gallant hero extinguishing the flames with his bare
hands. He was profusely apologetic and rather badly scorched. The lady
took very little harm, except to her nerves and her temper. She cut
him dead for the rest of the voyage, but I don't think it depressed
him much. He was the sort of fellow that never gets depressed. Hullo!
There's Mrs. Philpot making violent signs. I suppose I had better go
and see what she wants, or be dropped for evermore. Good-bye!"
He smiled upon her and departed, leaving her thoughtful, with a
certain wistful wonder in her eyes.
Lady Bassett's return interrupted her reverie. "You have had some tea,
I hope, dear? Ah, I thought Mr. Bobby Fraser was making his way in
this direction. So sweet of him not to forget you when he has so many
other calls upon his attention. And how are you faring for to-night?
Is your programme full yet? I have literally not one dance left."
Lady Bassett had deemed it advisable to ignore the fact of Muriel's
brief engagement to Captain Grange since the girl's return to India.
She knew, as did her husband, that it had come to an end before
Grange's death, but she withheld all comment upon it. Her one desire
was to get the dear child married without delay, and she was
not backward in letting her know it. Life at Ghawalkhand was one
continuous round of gaiety, and she had every opportunity for
forwarding her scheme. Though she deplored Muriel's unresponsiveness,
she yet did not despair. It was sheer affectation on the girl's part,
she would tell herself, and would soon pass. And after all, that
queenly, aloof air had a charm that was all its own. It might not
attract the many, but she had begun to fancy of late that Bobby Fraser
had felt its influence. He was not in the least the sort of man
she would have expected to do so, but there was no accounting for
taste--masculine taste especially. And it would be an excellent thing
She was therefore being particularly gracious to her young charge just
then--a state of affairs which Muriel endured rather than appreciated.
She would never feel at her ease with Lady Bassett as long as she
She was glad when they drove away at length, for she wanted to be
alone. Those anecdotes of Bobby's had affected her strangely. She had
felt so completely cut off of late from all things connected with the
past. No one ever mentioned Nick to her now--not even her faithful
correspondent Olga. Meteor-like, he had flashed through her sky and
disappeared; leaving a burning, ineradicable trail behind him, it is
true, but none the less was he gone. She had not the faintest idea
where he was. She would have given all she had to know, yet could not
bring herself to ask. It seemed highly improbable that he would ever
cross her path again, and she knew she ought to be glad of this; yet
no gladness ever warmed her heart. And now here was a man who had
known him, who had told her of exploits new to her knowledge yet how
strangely familiar to her understanding, who had at a touch brought
before her the weird personality that her imagination sometimes
strove in vain to summon. She could have sat and listened to Bobby's
reminiscences for hours. The bare mention of Nick's name had made her
blood run faster.
Lady Bassett did not trouble her to converse during the drive back,
ascribing to her evident desire for silence a reason which Muriel was
too absent to suspect. But when the girl roused herself to throw a
couple of annas to an old beggar who was crouched against the entrance
to the Residency grounds she could not resist giving utterance to a
"I wish you would not encourage these people, dearest. They are so
extremely undesirable, and there is so much unrest in the State just
now that I cannot but regard them with anxiety."
Muriel murmured an apology, with the inward reservation to bestow her
alms next time when Lady Bassett was not looking on.
She found a letter lying on her table when she entered her room,
and took it up listlessly, without much interest. Her mind was
still running on those two anecdotes with which Bobby Fraser had so
successfully enlivened her boredom. The writing on the envelope was
vaguely familiar to her, but she did not associate it with anything
of importance. Absently she opened it, half reluctant to recall her
wandering thoughts. It came from a Hill station in Bengal, but that
told her nothing. She turned to the signature.
The next instant she had turned back again to the beginning, and was
reading eagerly. Her correspondent was Will Musgrave.
"Dear Miss Roscoe,"--ran the letter. "After long consideration
I have decided to write and beg of you a favour which I fancy
you will grant more readily than I venture to ask. My wife, as
you probably know, joined me some months ago. She is in very
indifferent health, and has expressed a most earnest wish to
see you. I believe there is something which she wishes to
tell you--something that weighs upon her heavily; and though
I trust that all will go well with her, I cannot help feeling
that she would stand a much better chance of this if only her
mind could be set at rest. I know I am asking a big thing
of you, for the journey is a ghastly one at this time of the
year, but if of your goodness you can bring yourself to face
it, I will myself meet you and escort you across the Plains.
Will you think the matter carefully over? And perhaps you
would wire a reply.
"I have written without Daisy's knowledge, as she seems
to feel that she has forfeited the right to your
Muriel's reply was despatched that evening, almost before she had
fully read the appeal.
"Starting to-morrow," was all she said.
THE HEALING OF THE BREACH
Lady Bassett considered the decision deplorably headlong, and said
so; but her remonstrances were of no avail. Muriel tossed aside her
listlessness as resolutely as the ball-dress that had been laid out
for the evening's festivity, and plunged at once into preparations for
her journey. She knew full well that it was of no actual importance
to Lady Bassett whether she went or stayed, and she did not pretend to
think otherwise. Moreover, no power on earth would have kept her away
from Daisy now that she knew herself to be wanted.
Though more than half of the three days' journey lay across the
sweltering Plains, she contemplated it without anxiety, even with
rejoicing. At last, the breach, over which she had secretly mourned so
deeply, was to be healed.
The next morning at an early hour she was upon her way. She looked
out as she drove through the gates for the old native beggar who had
crouched at the entrance on the previous afternoon. He was not there,
but a little way further she met him hobbling along to take up his
post for the day. From the folds of his chuddah his unkempt beard
wagged entreaty at the carriage as it passed. Impulsively, because of
the gladness that was so new to her lonely heart, she leaned from the
window and threw him a rupee.
Looking back upon the journey later, she never remembered its tedium.
She was as one borne on the wings of love, and she scarcely noticed
the hardships of the way.
Will Musgrave met her according to his promise at the great junction
in the Plains. She found him exceedingly solicitous for her welfare,
but so grave and silent that she hardly liked to question him. He
thanked her very earnestly for coming, said that Daisy was about the
same, and then left her almost exclusively to the society of her ayah.
The heat in the Plains was terrific, but Muriel's courage never
wavered. She endured it with unfaltering resolution, hour after hour
reckoning the dwindling miles that lay before them, passing over
all personal discomfort as of no account, content only to be going
But they left the Plains behind at last, and then came to the welcome
ascent to the Hill station through a country where pine-trees grew
ever more and more abundant.
At length at the close of a splendid day they reached it, and as they
were nearing their destination Will broke through his silence.
"She doesn't know even yet that you are coming," he said. "I thought
the suspense of waiting for you might be bad for her. Miss Roscoe--in
heaven's name--make her happy if you can!"
There was such a passion of entreaty in his voice that Muriel was
deeply touched. She gave him her hand impulsively.
"Mr. Musgrave," she said, "to this day I do not know what it was that
came between us, but I promise--I promise--that if any effort of mine
can remove it, it shall be removed to-night."
Will Musgrave squeezed her fingers hard. "God bless you!" he said
And with that he left her, and went on ahead to prepare Daisy for her
All her life Muriel remembered Daisy's welcome of that evening with
a thrill of pain. They met at the gate of the little compound that
surrounded the bungalow Will had taken for his wife, and though the
light of the sinking sun smote with a certain ruddiness upon Daisy,
Muriel was unspeakably shocked by her appearance.
Her white hair, her deathly pallor, the haunting misery of her
eyes--above all, her silence--went straight to the girl's heart.
Without a single word she gathered Daisy close in her warm young arms
and so held her in a long and speechless embrace.
After all, it was Daisy who spoke first, gently drawing herself away.
"Come in, darling! You must be nearly dead after your awful journey.
I can't think how Will could ask it of you at this time of the year. I
"I would have come to you from the world's end--and gladly," Muriel
answered, in her deep voice. "You know I would."
And that was all that passed between them, for Will was present, and
Daisy had already begun to lead her guest into the house.
As the evening wore on, Muriel was more and more struck by the great
change she saw in her. They had not met for ten months, but twice
as many years seemed to have passed over Daisy, crushing her beneath
their weight. All her old sprightliness had vanished utterly. She
spoke but little, and there was in her manner to her husband a wistful
humility, a submission so absolute, that Muriel, remembering her
ancient spirit, could have wept.
Will looked at her as if he longed to say something when she bade him
good-night, but Daisy was beside her, and he could only give her a
They went away together, and Daisy accompanied her to her room. But
the wall of reserve that had been built up between them was not to be
shattered at a touch. Neither of them knew exactly how to approach
it. There was no awkwardness between them, there was no lack of
tenderness, but the door that had closed so long ago was hard to
open. Daisy seemed to avoid it with a morbid dread, and it was not in
Muriel's power to make the first move.
So for awhile they lingered together, talking commonplaces, and at
length parted for the night, holding each other closely, without
It seemed evident that Daisy could not bring herself to speak at
present, and Muriel went to bed with a heavy heart.
She was far too weary to lie awake, but her tired brain would not
rest. For the first time in many dreary months she dreamed of Nick.
He was jeering at her in devilish jubilation because she had changed
her mind about marrying him, but lacked the courage to tell him so.
THE LOWERING OF THE FLAG
The night was very far advanced when Muriel was aroused from her
dreams by a sound which she drowsily fancied must have been going on
for some time. It did not disturb her very seriously at first; she
even subconsciously made an effort to ignore it. But at length a
sudden stab of understanding pierced her sleep-laden senses, and in a
moment she started up broad awake. Some one was in the room with her.
Through the dumb stillness before the dawn there came the sound of
For a few seconds she sat motionless, startled, bewildered, half
afraid. The room was in nearly total darkness. Only in dimmest
outline could she discern the long French window that opened upon the
The weeping continued. It was half smothered, but it sounded agonised.
A great wave of compassion swept suddenly over Muriel. All in a moment
Swiftly she leaned forward into the darkness, feeling outwards till
her groping hands touched a figure that crouched beside the bed.
"Daisy! Daisy, my darling!" she said, and there was anguish in her own
voice. "What is it?"
In a second the sobbing ceased as if some magic had silenced it.
Two hands reached up out of the darkness and tightly clasped hers. A
broken voice whispered her name.
"What is it?" Muriel repeated in growing distress.
"Hush, dear, hush!" the trembling voice implored. "Don't let Will
hear! It worries him so."
"But, my darling,--" Muriel protested.
She began to feel for some matches, but again the nervous hands caught
and imprisoned hers.
"Don't--please!" Daisy begged her earnestly. "I--I have something to
tell you--something that will shock you unutterably. And I--I don't
want you to see my face."
She resisted Muriel's attempt to put her arms about her. "No--no,
dear! Hear me first. There! Let me kneel beside you. It will not
take me long. It isn't just for my own sake I am going to speak,
nor yet--entirely--for yours. You will see presently. Don't ask me
anything--please--till I have done. And then if--if there is anything
you want to know, I will try to tell you."
"Come and lie beside me," Muriel urged.
But Daisy would not. She had sunk very low beside the bed. For a while
she crouched there in silence while she summoned her strength.
Then, "Oh, Muriel," she suddenly said, and the words seemed to burst
from her with a great sigh, "I wonder if you ever really loved Blake."
"No, dear, I never did." Muriel's answer came quiet and sincere
through the darkness. "Nor did he love me. Our engagement was a
mistake. I was going to tell him so--if things had been different."
"I never thought you cared for him," Daisy said. "But oh, Muriel,
I did. I loved him with my whole soul. No, don't start! It is over
now--at least that part of it that was sinful. I only tell you of
it because it is the key to everything that must have puzzled you
so horribly all this time. We always loved each other from the very
beginning, but our people wouldn't hear of it because we were cousins.
And so we separated and I used to think that I had put it away from
me. But--last summer--it all came back. You mustn't blame him, Muriel.
Blame me--blame me!" The thin hands tightened convulsively. "It was
when my baby died that I began to give way. We never meant it--either
of us--but we didn't fight hard enough. And then at last--at
Brethaven--Nick found it out; and it was because he knew that Blake's
heart was not in his compact with you that he made him write to you
and break it off. It was not for his own ends at all that he did it.
It was for your sake alone. He even swore to Blake that if he would
put an end to his engagement, he on his part would give up all idea
of winning you and would never trouble you any more. And that was the
finest thing he ever did, Muriel, for he never loved any one but you.
Surely you know it. You must know it by this time. You have never
understood him, but you must have begun to realise that he has loved
you well enough to set your happiness and well-being always far, far
before his own."
Daisy paused. Her weeping had wholly ceased, but she was shivering
from head to foot.
Muriel sat in silence above her, watching wide-eyed, unseeing,
the vague hint of light at the open window. She was beginning to
understand many things--ah, many things--that had been as a sealed
book to her till then.
After a time Daisy went on. "No one will ever know what Nick was to me
at that time, how he showed me the wickedness of it all, how he held
me back from taking the final step, making me realise--even against
my will--that Love--true Love--is holy, conquering all evil. And
afterwards--afterwards--when Blake was gone--he stood by me and helped
me to live, and brought me back at last to my husband. I could never
have done it alone. I hadn't the strength. You see"--the low voice
faltered suddenly--"I never expected Will to forgive me. I never asked
it of him--any more than I am asking it of you."
"Oh, my darling, there is no need!" Muriel turned suddenly to throw
impetuous arms about the huddled figure at her side. "Daisy! Daisy! I
love you. Let us forget there has ever been this thing between us. Let
us be as we used to be, and never drift apart again."
Tenderly but insistently, she lifted Daisy to the bed beside her,
holding her fast. The wall between them was broken down at last. They
clung together as sisters long parted.
Daisy, spent by the violence of her emotion, lay for a long time in
Muriel's arms without attempting anything further. But at length with
a palpable effort she began to speak of other things.
"You know, I have a feeling--perhaps it is morbid--that I am not going
to live. I am sure Will thinks so too. If I die, Muriel,--three months
from now--you and Nick must help him all you can."
"You are not going to die," Muriel asserted vehemently. "You are not
to talk of dying, or think of it. Oh, Daisy, can't you look forward to
the better time that is coming--when you will have something to live
for? And won't you try to think more of Will? It would break his heart
to lose you."
"I do think of him," Daisy said wearily. "I would do anything to make
him happier. But I can't look forward. I am so tired--so tired."
"You will feel differently by-and-by," Muriel whispered.
"Perhaps," she assented. "I don't know. I don't feel as if I shall
ever hold another child in my arms. God knows I don't deserve it."
"Do you think He looks at it in that way?" murmured Muriel, her arms
tightening. "There wouldn't be much in life for any of us if He did."
"I don't know," Daisy said again.
She lay quiet for a little as though pondering something. Then at
length hesitatingly she spoke. "Muriel, there is one thing that
whether I live or whether I die I want with my whole heart. May I tell
you what it is?"
"Of course, dear. What is it?"
Daisy turned in her arms, holding her in a clasp that was passionate.
"My darling," she whispered very earnestly, "I would give all I have
in the world to know you happy with--with the man you love."
Silence followed the words. Muriel had become suddenly quite still;
her head was bent.
"Don't--don't bar me out of your confidence," Daisy implored
her tremulously. "There is so little left for me to do now.
Muriel--dearest--you do love him?"
Muriel moved impulsively, hiding her face in her friend's neck. But
she said no word in answer.
Daisy went on softly, as though she had spoken. "He is still waiting
for you. I think he will wait all his life, though he will never come
to you again unless you call him. Won't you--can't you--send him just
one little word?"
"How can I?" The words broke suddenly from Muriel as though she could
no longer restrain them. "How can I possibly?"
"It could be done," Daisy said. "I know he is still somewhere in India
though he has left the Army. We could get a message to him at any
"Oh, but I couldn't--I couldn't!" Muriel had begun to tremble
violently. There was a sound of tears in her deep voice. "Besides--he
"My dear, he would," Daisy assured her. "He would come to you directly
if he only knew that you wanted him. Muriel, surely you are not--not
too proud to let him know!"
"Proud! Oh, no, no!" There was almost a moan in the words. Muriel's
head sank a little lower. "Heaven knows I'm not proud," she said.
"I am ashamed--miserably ashamed. I have trampled on his love so
often--so often. How could I ask him for it--now?"
"Ah, but if he came to you," Daisy persisted, "if in spite of all he
came to you, you wouldn't send him away?"
"Send him away!" A sudden note of passion thrilled in Muriel's voice.
She lifted her head sharply. With the tears upon her cheeks she yet
spoke with a certain exultation. "I--I would follow him barefoot
across the world," she said, "if--if he would only lift one finger
to call me. But oh, Daisy,"--her confidence vanished at a
breath--"where's the use of talking? He never, never will."
"He will if you let him know," Daisy answered with conviction. "Don't
you think you can, dear? Give me just one word for him--one tiny
message that he will understand. Only trust him this once--just this
once! Give him his opportunity--he has never had one before, poor
boy--and I know, I know, he will not throw it away."
"You don't think he will--laugh?" Muriel whispered.
"My dear child, no! Nick doesn't laugh at sacred things."
Muriel's face was burning in the darkness. She covered it with her
hands as though it could be seen.
For a few seconds she sat very still. Then slowly but steadily she
"Tell him then, Daisy, from me, that 'Love conquers all things--and we
must yield to Love.'"
Not another word passed between Daisy and Muriel upon the subject of
that night's confidences. There seemed nothing further to be said.
Moreover, there was between them a closer understanding than words
The days that followed passed very peacefully, and Daisy began to
improve so marvellously in health and spirits that both her
husband and her guest caught at times fleeting glimpses of the old
light-hearted personality that they had loved in earlier days.
"You have done wonders for my wife," Will said one day to Muriel. And
though she disclaimed all credit, she could not fail to see a very
She herself was feeling unaccountably happy in those days, as though
somewhere deep down in her heart a bird had begun to sing. Again and
again she told herself that she had no cause for gladness; but again
and yet again that sweet, elusive music filled her soul.
She would have gladly stayed on with Daisy, seeing how the latter
clung to her, for an indefinite period; but this was not to be.
Daisy came out on to the verandah one morning with a letter in her
"My dear," she said, "I regret to say that, I must part with you.
I have had a most touching epistle from Lady Bassett, describing at
length your many wasted opportunities, and urging me to return you to
the fold with all speed. It seems there is to be a State Ball at the
palace--an immense affair to which the Rajah is inviting all the big
guns for miles around--and Lady Bassett thinks that her dear child
ought not to miss such a gorgeous occasion. She seems to think that
something of importance depends upon it, and hints that I should be
almost criminally selfish to deprive you of such a treat as this will
Muriel lifted a flushed face from a letter of her own. "I have heard
from Sir Reginald," she said. "Evidently she has made him write. I
can't think why, for she never wants me when I am with her. I don't
see why I should go, do you? After all, I am of age and independent."
A very tender smile touched Daisy's lips. "I think you had better go,
darling," she said.
Muriel opened her eyes wide. "But why--"
Daisy checked the question half uttered. "I think it will be better
for you. I never meant to let you stay till the rains, so it makes
little more than a week's difference. It sounds as if I want to be
rid of you, doesn't it? But you know it isn't that. I shall miss you
horribly, but you have done what you came to do, and I shall get on
all right now. So I am not going to keep you with me any longer. My
reasons are not Lady Bassett's reasons, but all the same it would be
selfish of me to let you stay. Later on perhaps--in the winter--you
will come and make a long stay; spend Christmas with us, and we will
have some real fun, shall we, Will?" turning to her husband who had
He stared for an instant as if he thought he had not heard aright, and
there was to Muriel something infinitely pathetic in the way his brown
hand touched his wife's shoulder as he passed her and made reply.
"Oh, rather!" he said. "We'll have a regular jollification with as
many old friends as we can collect. Don't forget, Miss Roscoe! You are
booked first and foremost, and we shall keep you to it, Daisy and I."
Two days later Muriel was on her way back to Ghawalkhand. She found
the heat of the journey almost insupportable. The Plains lay under a
burning pall of cloud, and at night the rolling thunder was incessant.
But no rain fell to ease the smothering oppression of the atmosphere.
She almost fainted one evening, but Will was with her and she never
forgot his kindly ministrations.
A few hours' journey from Ghawalkhand Sir Reginald himself met her,
and here she parted with Will with renewed promises of a future
meeting towards the end of the year.
Sir Reginald fussed over her kind-heartedly, hoped she had enjoyed
herself, thought she looked very thin, and declared that his wife was
looking forward with much pleasure to her return. The State was
still somewhat unsettled, there had been one or two outrages of late,
nothing serious, of course, but the native element was restless, and
he fancied Lady Bassett was nervous.
She was away at a polo-match when they arrived, and Muriel profited by
her absence and went straight to bed.
She could have slept for hours had she been permitted to do so, but
Lady Bassett, returning, awoke her to receive her welcome. She was
charmed to have her back, she declared, though shocked to see her
looking so wan, "so almost plain, dear child, if one may take the
liberty of an old friend to tell you so."
Neither the crooked smile that accompanied this gentle criticism
nor the decidedly grim laugh with which it was received, was of a
particularly friendly nature; but these facts were not extraordinary.
There had never been the smallest hint of sympathy between them.
"I trust you will be looking much better than this two nights hence,"
Lady Bassett proceeded in her soft accents. "The Rajah's ball is to
be very magnificent, quite dazzlingly so from all accounts. Mr.
Bobby Fraser is of course behind the scenes, and he tells me that the
preparations in progress are simply gigantic. By the way, dear, it is
to be hoped that your absence has not damaged your prospects in
that quarter. I have been afraid lately that he was transferring his
allegiance to the second Egerton girl. I hope earnestly that there is
nothing in it, for you know how I have your happiness at heart, do you
not? And it would be such an excellent thing for you, dear child, as
I expect you realise. For you know, you look so much older than
you actually are that you really ought not to throw away any more
opportunities. Every girl thinks she must have her fling, but you,
dear, should soberly think of getting settled soon. You would not like
to get left, I feel sure."
At this point Muriel sat up suddenly, her dark eyes very bright, and
in brief tones announced that so far as she was concerned the second
Egerton girl was more than welcome to Mr. Fraser and she hoped, if she
wanted him, she would manage to keep him.
It was crudely expressed, as Lady Bassett pointed out with a sigh for
her waywardness; but Muriel always was crude when her deeper feelings
were disturbed, and physical fatigue had made her irritable.
She wished ardently that Lady Bassett would leave her, but Lady
Bassett had not quite done. She lingered to ask for news of poor
little Daisy Musgrave. Had she yet fully recovered from the shock of
her cousin's tragic death? Could she bear to speak of him? She,
Lady Bassett, had always suspected the existence of an unfortunate
attachment between them.
Muriel had no information to bestow upon the subject. She hoped and
believed that Daisy was getting stronger, and had promised, all being
well, to spend Christmas with her.
Lady Bassett shook her head over this declaration. The dear child
was so headlong. Much might happen before Christmas. And what of
Mr. Ratcliffe--this was on her way to the door--had she heard the
extraordinary, the really astounding news concerning him that had just
reached Lady Bassett's ears? She asked because he and Mrs. Musgrave
used to be such friends, though to be sure Mr. Ratcliffe seemed to
have thrown off all his old friends of late. Had Muriel actually not
"Heard! Heard what?" Muriel forced out the question from between
lips that were white and stiff. She was suddenly afraid--horribly,
unspeakably afraid. But she kept her eyes unflinchingly upon Lady
Bassett's face. She would sooner die than quail in her presence.
Lady Bassett, holding the door-handle, looked back at her, faintly
smiling. "I wonder you have not heard, dear. I thought you were in
correspondence with his people. But perhaps they also are in the dark.
It is a most unheard-of thing--quite irrevocable I am told. But I
always felt that he was a man to do unusual things. There was always
to my mind something uncanny, abnormal, something almost superhuman,
"But what has happened to him?" Muriel did not know how she uttered
the words; they seemed to come without her own volition. She was
conscious of a choking sensation within her as though iron bands
were tightening about her heart. It beat in leaps and bounds like a
tortured thing striving to escape. But through it all she sat quite
motionless, her eyes fixed upon Lady Bassett's face, noting its faint,
wry smile, as the eyes of a prisoner on the rack might note the grim
lines on the face of the torturer.
"My dear," Lady Bassett said, "he has gone into a Buddhist monastery
Calmly the words fell through smiling lips. Only words! Only words!
But with how deadly a thrust they pierced the heart of the woman
who heard them none but herself would ever know. She gave no sign of
suffering. She only stared wide-eyed before her as an image, devoid of
expression, inanimate, sphinx-like, while that awful constriction grew
straiter round her heart.
Lady Bassett was already turning to go when the deep voice arrested
"Who told you this?"
She looked back, holding the open door. "I scarcely know who first
mentioned it. I have heard it from so many people,--in fact the news
is general property--Captain Gresham of the Guides told me for one. He
has just gone back to Peshawur. The news reached him, I believe, from
there. Then there was Colonel Cathcart for another. He was talking of
it only this afternoon at the Club, saying what a deplorable example
it was for an Englishman to set. He and Mr. Bobby Fraser had quite a
hot argument about it. Mr. Fraser has such advanced ideas, but I must
admit that I rather admire the staunch way in which he defends them.
There, dear child! You must not keep me gossiping any longer. You look
positively haggard. I earnestly hope a good sleep will restore you,
for I cannot possibly take that wan face to the Rajah's ball'."
Lady Bassett departed with the words, shaking her head tolerantly and
But for long after she had gone, Muriel remained with fixed eyes and
tense muscles, watching, watching, dumbly, immovably, despairingly, at
the locked door of her paradise.
So this was the key to his silence--the reason that her message had
gone unanswered. She had stretched out her hands to him too late--too
And ever through the barren desert of her vigil a man's voice, vital
and passionate, rang and echoed in a maddening, perpetual refrain.
"All your life you will remember that I was once yours to take or to
throw away. And--you wanted me, yet--you chose to throw me away."
It was a refrain she had heard often and often before; but it had
never tortured her as it tortured her now,--now when her last hope was
finally quenched--now when at last she fully realised what it was that
had once been hers, and that in her tragic blindness she had wantonly
THE BIRD OF PARADISE
Muriel did not leave the Residency again until the evening of the
State Ball at the palace. Scarcely did she leave her room, pleading
intense fatigue as her excuse for this seclusion. But she could not
without exciting remark, absent herself from the great function for
which ostensibly she had returned to Ghawalkhand.
She wore a dress of unrelieved white for the occasion, for she had
but recently discarded her mourning for her father, and her face was
almost as devoid of colour. Her dark hair lay in a shadowy mass above
her forehead, accentuating her pallor. Her eyes looked out upon the
world with tragic indifference, unexpectant, apathetic.
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