What's Bred In the Bone
Part 2 out of 6
tinkled, keeping time with the measure. She stood still and listened.
No, no, not a sound save the rain on the roof. It was the music of
her own heart, beating irregularly and fiercely to an intermittent
lilt, like a Hungarian waltz or a Roumanian tarantella.
By this time, Elina was thoroughly frightened. Was she going mad?
she asked herself, or had some evil spirit taken up his abode within
her? What made her spin and twirl about like this--irresponsibly,
unintentionally, irrepressibly, meaninglessly? Oh, what would her
mother say, if only she knew all? And what on earth would Cyril
Waring think of her?
Cyril Waring! Cyril Waring! It was all Cyril Waring. And yet, if
he knew--oh, mercy, mercy!
Still, in spite of these doubts, misgivings, fears, she walked over
towards the chest of drawers with a firm and rhythmical tread, to
the bars of the internal music that rang loud through her brain,
and began opening one drawer after another in an aimless fashion.
She was looking for something--she didn't know what; and she never
could rest now until she'd found it.
Drawer upon drawer she opened and shut wearily, but nothing that
her eyes fell upon seemed to suit her mood. Dresses and jackets and
underlinen were there; she glanced at them all with a deep sense
of profound contempt; none of these gewgaws of civilized life could
be of any use to supply the vague want her soul felt so dimly and
yet so acutely. They were dead, dead, dead, so close and clinging!
Go further! Go further! At last she opened the bottom drawer of
all, and her eye fell askance upon a feather boa, curled up at the
bottom--soft, smooth, and long; a winding, coiling, serpentine
boa. In a second, she had fallen upon it bodily with greedy hands,
and was twisting it round her waist, and holding it high and low,
and fighting fiercely at times, and figuring with it like a posturant.
Some dormant impulse of her race seemed to stir in her blood, with
frantic leaps and bounds, at its first conscious awakening. She
gave herself up to it wildly now. She was mad. She was mad. She
was glad. She was happy.
Then she began to turn round again, slowly, slowly, slowly. As she
turned, she raised the boa now high above her head; now held it
low on one side, now stooped down and caressed it. At times, as she
played with it, the lifeless thing seemed to glide from her grasp
in curling folds and elude her; at others, she caught it round the
neck like a snake, and twisted it about her arm, or let it twine
and encircle her writhing body. Like a snake! like a snake! That
idea ran like wildfire through her burning veins. It was a snake,
indeed, she wanted; a real live snake; what would she not have
given, if it were only Sardanapalus!
Sardanapalus, so glossy, so beautiful, so supple, that glorious green
serpent, with his large smooth coils, and his silvery scales, and
his darting red tongue, and his long lithe movements. Sardanapalus,
Sardanapalus, Sardanapalus! The very name seemed to link itself
with the music in her head. It coursed with her blood. It rang
through her brain. And another as well. Cyril Waring, Cyril Waring,
Cyril Waring, Cyril Waring! Oh! great heavens, what would Cyril
Waring say now, if only he could see her in her mad mood that
And yet it was not she, not she, not she, but some spirit, some
weird, some unseen power within her. It was no more she than that
boa there was a snake. A real live snake. Oh, for a real live snake!
And then she could dance--tarantel, tarantella--as the spirit within
her prompted her to dance it.
"Faster, faster," said the spirit; and she answered him back,
Faster, faster, faster, faster she whirled round the room; the
boa grew alive; it coiled about her; it strangled her. Her candle
failed; the wick in the socket flickered and died; but Elma danced
on, unheeding, in the darkness. Dance, dance, dance, dance; never
mind for the light! Oh! what madness was this? What insanity had
come over her? Would her feet never stop? Must she go on till she
dropped? Must she go on for ever?
Ashamed and terrified with her maidenly sense, overawed and
obscured by this hateful charm, yet unable to stay herself, unable
to resist it, in a transport of fear and remorse, she danced on
irresponsibly. Check herself she couldn't, let her do what she
would. Her whole being seemed to go forth into that weird, wild
dance. She trembled and shook. She stood aghast at her own shame.
She had hard work to restrain herself from crying aloud in her
At last, a lull, a stillness, a recess. Her limbs seemed to yield
and give way beneath her. She half fainted with fatigue. She
staggered and fell. Too weary to undress, she flung herself upon
the bed, just as she was, clothes and all. Her overwrought nerves
lost consciousness at once. In three minutes she was asleep,
breathing fast but peacefully.
When Elma woke up next morning, it was broad daylight. She woke
with a start, to find herself lying upon the bed where she had flung
herself. For a minute or two she couldn't recollect or recall to
herself how it had all come about. It was too remote from anything
in her previous waking thought, too dream-like, too impossible. Then
an unspeakable horror flashed over her unawares. Her face flushed
hot. Shame and terror overcame her. She buried her head in her hands
in an agony of awe. Her own self-respect was literally outraged.
It wasn't exactly remorse; it wasn't exactly fear; it was a strange
creeping feeling of ineffable disgust and incredulous astonishment.
There could be but one explanation of this impossible episode. She
must have gone mad all at once! She must be a frantic lunatic!
A single thought usurped her whole soul. If she was going mad--if
this was really mania--she could never, never, never--marry Cyril
For in a flash of intuition she knew that now. She knew she was in
love. She knew he loved her.
In that wild moment of awakening all the rest mattered nothing.
The solitary idea that ran now through her head, as the impulse to
dance had run through it last night, was the idea that she could
never marry Cyril Waring. And if Cyril Waring could have seen her
just then! her cheeks burned yet a brighter scarlet at that thought
than even before. One virginal blush suffused her face from chin
to forehead. The maidenly sense of shame consumed and devoured her.
Was she mad? Was she mad? And was this a lucid interval?
Presently, as she lay still on her bed all dressed, and with her
face in her hands, trembling for very shame, a little knock sounded
tentatively at the door of her bedroom. It was a timid, small knock,
very low and soft, and, as it were, inquiring. It seemed to say
in an apologetic sort of undertone, "I don't know whether you're
awake or not just yet; and if you're still asleep, pray don't let
me for a moment disturb or arouse you."
"Who's there?" Elma mustered up courage to ask, in a hushed voice
of terror, hiding her head under the bed-clothes.
"It's me, darling," Mrs. Clifford answered, very softly and sweetly.
Elma had never heard her mother speak in so tender and gentle a
tone before, though they loved one another well, and were far more
sympathetic than most mothers and daughters. And besides, that
knock was so unlike mamma's. Why so soft and low?
Had mamma discovered her? With a despairing sense of being caught
she looked down at her tell-tale clothes and the unslept-in bed.
"Oh, what shall I ever do?" she thought to herself, confusedly. "I
can't let mamma come in and catch me like this. She'll ask why on
earth I didn't undress last night. And then what could I ever say?
How could I ever explain to her?"
The awful sense of shame-facedness grew upon her still more deeply
than ever. She jumped up and whispered through the door, in a
very penitent voice, "Oh, mother, I can't let you in just yet. Do
you mind waiting five minutes? Come again by-and-by. I--I--I'm so
awfully tired and queer this morning somehow."
Mrs. Clifford's voice had an answering little ring of terror in
it, as she replied at once, in the same soft tone--
"Very well, darling. That's all right. Stay as long as you like.
Don't trouble to get up if you'd rather have your breakfast in bed.
And don't hurry yourself at all. I'll come back by-and-by and see
what's the matter."
Elma didn't know why, but by the very tone of her mother's voice she
felt dimly conscious something strange had happened. Mrs. Clifford
spoke with unusual gentleness, yet with an unwonted tremor.
"Thank you, dear," Elma answered through the door, going back to
the bedside and beginning to undress in a tumult of shame. "Come
again by-and-by. In just five minutes." It would do her good, she
knew, in spite of her shyness, to talk with her mother. Then she
folded her clothes neatly, one by one, on a ohair; hid the peccant
boa away in its own lower drawer; buttoned her neat little embroidered
nightdress tightly round her throat; arranged her front hair into
a careless disorder; and tried to cool down her fiery red cheeks
with copious bathing in cold water. When Mrs. Clifford came back
five minutes later, everything looked to the outer eye of a mere
casual observer exactly as if Elma had laid in bed all night, curled
up between the sheets, in the most orthodox fashion.
But all these elaborate preparations didn't for one moment deceive
the mother's watchful glance, or the keen intuition shared by all
the women of the Clifford family. She looked tenderly at Elma--Elma
with her face half buried in the pillows, and the tell-tale flush
still crimsoning her cheek in a single round spot; then she turned
for a second to the clothes, too neatly folded on the chair by the
bedside, as she murmured low--
"You're not well this morning, my child. You'd better not get up.
I'll bring you a cup of tea and some toast myself. You don't feel
hungry, of course. Ah, no, I thought not. Just a slice of dry
toast--yes, yes. I have been there. Some eau de Cologne on your
forehead, dear? There, there, don't cry, Elma. You'll be better
by-and-by. Stop in bed till lunch-time. I won't let Lucy come up
with the tea, of course. You'd rather be alone. You were tired last
night. Don't be afraid, my darling. It'll soon pass off. There's
nothing on earth, nothing at all to be alarmed at."
She laid her hand nervously on Elma's arm. Half dead with shame as
she was, Elma noticed it trembled. She noticed, too, that mamma
seemed almost afraid to catch her eye. When their glance met for
an instant the mother's eyelids fell, and her cheek, too, burned
bright red, almost as red, Elma felt, as her own that nestled hot
so deep in the pillow. Neither said a word to the other of what
she thought or felt. But their mute sympathy itself made them
more shame-faced than ever. In some dim, indefinite, instinctive
fashion, Elma knew her mother was vaguely aware what she had done
last night. Her gaze fell half unconsciously on the bottom drawer.
With quick insight, Mrs. Clifford's eye followed her daughter's.
Then it fell as before. Elma looked up at her terrified, and burst
into a sudden flood of tears. Her mother stooped down and caught her
wildly in her arms. "Cry, cry, my darling," ahe murmured, clasping
her hard to her breast. "Cry, cry; it'll do you good; there's safety
in crying. Nobody but I shall come near you to-day. Nobody else
shall know! Don't be afraid of me! Have not I been there, too? It's
With a burst of despair, Elma laid her face in her mother's bosom.
Some minutes later, Mrs. Clifford went down to meet her husband in
"Well?" the father asked, shortly, looking hard at his wife's face,
which told its own tale at once, for it was white and pallid.
"Well!" Mrs. Clifford answered, with a pre-occupied air. "Elma's
not herself this morning at all. Had a nervous turn after she went
to her room last night. I know what it is. I suffered from them
myself when I was about her age." Her eyes fell quickly and she
shrank from her husband's searching glance. She was a plump-faced
and well-favoured British matron now, but once, many years before,
as a slim young girl, she had been in love with somebody--somebody
whom by superior parental wisdom she was never allowed to marry,
being put off instead with a well-connected match, young Mr. Clifford
of the Colonial Office. That was all. No more romance than that.
The common romance of every woman's heart. A forgotten love. Yet
she tingled to remember it.
"And you think?" Mr. Clifford asked, laying down his newspaper and
looking very grave.
"I don't think. I know," his wife answered hastily. "I was wrong
the other day, and Elma's in love with that young man, Cyril Waring.
I know more than that, Reginald; I know you may crush her; I know
you may kill her; but if you don't want to do that, I know she
must marry him. Whether we wish it, or whether we don't, there's
nothing else to be done. As things stand now, it's inevitable,
unavoidable. She'll never be happy with anybody else--she must have
HIM--and I, for one, won't try to prevent her."
Mr. Reginald Clifford, C.M.G., sometime Administrator of the
island of St. Kitts, gazed at his wife in blank astonishment. She
spoke decidedly; he had never heard her speak with such firmness
in his life before. It fairly took his breath away. He gazed at
his wife blankly as he repeated to himself in very slow and solemn
tones, each word distinct, "You, for one, won't try to prevent
"No, I won't," Mrs. Clifford retorted defiantly, assured in her
own mind she was acting right. "Elma's really in love with him;
and I won't let Elma's life be wrecked--as some lives have been
wrecked, and as some mothers would wreck it."
Mr. Clifford leaned back in his chair, one mass of astonishment,
and let the Japanese paper-knife he was holding in his right hand
drop clattering from his fingers. "If I hadn't heard you say it
yourself, Louisa," he answered, with a gasp, "I could never have
believed it. I could--never--have--believed it. I don't believe
it even now. It's impossible, incredible."
"But it's true," Mrs. Clifford repeated. "Elma must marry the man
she's in love with."
Meanwhile poor Elma lay alone in her bedroom upstairs, that awful
sense of remorse and shame still making her cheeks tingle with
unspeakable horror. Mrs. Clifford brought up her cup of tea herself.
Elma took it with gratitude, but still never dared to look her
mother in the face. Mrs. Clifford, too, kept her own eyes averted.
It made Elma's self-abasement even profounder than before to feel
that her mother instinctively knew everything.
The poor child lay there long, with a burning face and tingling
ears, too ashamed to get up and dress herself and face the outer
world, too ashamed to go down before her father's eyes, till long
after lunchtime. Then there came a noise at the door once more;
the rustling of a dress; a retreating footstep. Somebody pushed an
envelope stealthily under the door. Elma picked it up and examined
it curiously. It bore a penny stamp, and the local postmark. It
must have come then by the two o'clock delivery, without a doubt;
but the address, why, the address was written in some unknown hand,
and in printing capitals. Elma tore it open with a beating heart,
and read the one line of manuscript it contained, which was also
written in the same print-like letters.
"Don't be afraid," the letter said, "It will do you no harm. Resist
it when it comes. If you do, you will get the better of it."
Elma looked at the letter over and over again in a fever of dismay.
She was certain it was her mother had written that note. But she
read it with tears, only half-reassured--and then burnt it to ashes,
and proceeded to dress herself.
When she went down to the drawing-room, Mrs. Clifford rose from
her seat, and took her hand in her own, and kissed her on one cheek
as if nothing out of the common had happened in any way. The talk
between them was obtrusively commonplace. But all that day long,
Elma noticed her mother was far tenderer to her than usual; and
when she went up to bed Mrs. Clifford held her fingers for a moment
with a gentle pressure, and kissed her twice upon her eyes, and
stifled a sigh, and then broke from the room as if afraid to speak
COLONEL KELMSCOTT'S REPENTANCE.
Elma Clifford wasn't the only person who passed a terrible night
and suffered a painful awakening on the morning after the Holkers'
garden-party. Colonel Kelmscott, too, had his bad half-hour or so
before he finally fell asleep; and he woke up next day to a sense
of shame and remorse far more definite, and, therefore, more poignant
and more real than Elma's.
Hour after hour, indeed, he lay there on his bed, afraid to toss or
turn lest he should wake Lady Emily, but with his limbs all fevered
and his throat all parched, thinking over the strange chance that
had thus brought him face to face, on the threshold of his honoured
age, with the two lads he had wronged so long and so cruelly.
The shock of meeting them had been a sudden and a painful one. To
be sure, the Colonel had always felt the time might come when his
two eldest sons would cross his path in the intricate maze of London
society. He had steeled himself, as he thought, to meet them there
with dignity and with stoical reserve. He had made up his mind
that if ever the names he had imposed upon them were to fall upon
his startled ears, no human being that stood by and looked on should
note for one second a single tremor of his lips, a faint shudder of
surprise, an almost imperceptible flush or pallor on his impassive
countenance. And when the shock came, indeed, he had borne it, as
he meant to bear it, with military calmness. Not even Mrs. Clifford,
he thought, could have discovered from any undertone of his
voice or manner that the two lads he received with such well-bred
unconcern were his own twin sons, the true heirs and inheritors of
the Tilgate Park property.
And yet, the actual crisis had taken him quite by surprise, and
shaken him far more than he could ever have conceived possible. For
one thing, though he quite expected that some day he would run up
unawares against Guy and Cyril, he did NOT expect it would be down
in the country, and still less within a few miles' drive of Tilgate.
In London, of course, all things are possible. Sooner or later,
there, everybody hustles and clashes against everybody. For that
reason, he had tried to suggest, by indirect means, when he launched
them on the world, that the twins should tempt their fortune in India
or the colonies. He would have liked to think they were well out
of his way, and out of Granville's, too. But, against his advice,
they had stayed on in England. So he expected to meet them some
day, at the Academy private view, perhaps, or in Mrs. Bouverie
Barton's literary saloon, but certainly NOT on the close sward
of the Holkers' lawn, within a few short miles of his own home at
And now he had met them, his conscience, that had lain asleep so
long, woke up of a sudden with a terrible start, and began to prick
If only they had been ugly, misshapen, vulgar; if only they
had spoken with coarse, rough voices, or irritated him by their
inferior social tone, or shown themselves unworthy to be the heirs
of Tilgate--why then, the Colonel might possibly have forgiven
himself! But to see his own two sons, the sons he had never set
eyes on for twenty-five years or more, grown up into such handsome,
well-set, noble-looking fellows--so clever, so bright, so able, so
charming--to feel they were in every way as much gentlemen born as
Granville himself, and to know he had done all three an irreparable
wrong, oh, THAT was too much for him. For he had kept two of his
sons out of their own all these years, only in order to make the
position and prospects of the third, at last, certainly doubtful,
and perhaps wretched.
There was much to excuse him to himself, no doubt, he cried to his
own soul piteously in the night watches. Proud man as he was, he
could not so wholly abase himself even to his inmost self as to admit
he had sinned without deep provocation. He thought it all over in
his heart, just there, exactly as it all happened, that simple and
natural tale of a common wrong, that terrible secret of a lifetime
that he was still to repent in sackcloth and ashes,
It was so long before--all those twenty-six years, or was it
twenty-eight?--since his regiment had been quartered away down in
Devonshire. He was a handsome subaltern then, with a frank open
face--Harry Kelmscott, of the Greys--just such another man, he said
to himself in his remorse, as his son Granville now--or rather,
perhaps, as Guy and Cyril Waring. For he couldn't conceal from
himself any longer the patent fact that Lucy Waring's sons were
like his own old self, and sturdier, handsomer young fellows into
the bargain than Lady Emily Kelmscott's boy Granville, whom he
had made into the heir of the Tilgate manors. The moor, where the
Greys were quartered that summer, was as dull as ditch-water. No
society, no dances, no hunting, no sport; what wonder a man of his
tastes, spoiling for want of a drawing-room to conquer, should have
kept his hand in with pretty Lucy Waring?
But he married her--he married her. He did her no wrong in the end.
He hadn't that sin at least to lay to his conscience.
Ah, well, poor Lucy! he had really been fond of her; as fond as
a Kelmscott of Tilgate could reasonably be expected ever to prove
towards the daughter of a simple Dartmoor farmer. It began in
flirtation, of course, as such things will begin; and it ended, as
they will end, too, in love, at least on poor Lucy's side, for what
can you expect from a Kelmscott of Tilgate? And, indeed, indeed, he
said to himself earnestly, he meant her no harm, though he seemed
at times to be cruel to her. As soon as he gathered how deeply she
was entangled--how seriously she took it all--how much she was in
love with him--he tried hard to break it off, he tried hard to put
matters to her in their proper light; he tried to show her that
an officer and a gentleman, a Kelmscott of Tilgate, could never
really have dreamed of marrying the half-educated, half-peasant
daughter of a Devonshire farmer. Though, to be sure, she was a
lady in her way, too, poor Lucy; as much of a lady in manner and in
heart as Emily herself, whose father was an earl, and whose mother
was a marquis's eldest daughter.
So much a lady in her way, in deed, in thought, and all that--one
of nature's gentlewomen--that when Lucy cried and broke her heart
at his halting explanations, he was unmanned by her sobs, and did
a thing no Kelmscott of Tilgate should ever have stooped to do--yes,
promised to marry her. Of course, he didn't attempt in his own heart
to justify that initial folly, as lie thought it, to himself. He
didn't pretend to condone it. He only allowed he had acted like a
fool. A Kelmscott of Tilgate should have drawn back long before,
or else, having gone so far, should have told the girl plainly--at
whatever cost, to her--he could go no further and have no more to
say to her.
To be sure, that would have killed the poor thing outright. But a
Kelmscott, you know, should respect his order, and shouldn't shrink
for a moment from these trifling sacrifices!
However, his own heart was better, in those days, than his class
philosophy. He couldn't trample on poor Lucy Waring. So he made a
fool of himself in the end--and married Lucy. Ah, well! ah, well!
every man makes a fool of himself once or twice in his life; and
though the Colonel was ashamed now of having so far bemeaned his
order as to marry the girl, why, if the truth must out, he would
have been more ashamed still, in his heart of hearts, even then,
if he hadn't married her. He was better than his creed. He could
never have crushed her.
Married her, yes; but not publicly, of course. At least, he respected
public decency. He married her under his own name, to be sure, but
by special licence, and at a remote little village on the far side
of the moor, where nobody knew either himself or Lucy. In those
days, he hadn't yet come into possession of the Tilgate estates;
and if his father had known of it--well, the Admiral was such
a despotic old man that he'd have insisted on his son's selling
out at once, and going off to Australia or heaven knows where, on
a journey round the world, and breaking poor Lucy's heart by his
absence. Partly for her sake, the Colonel said to himself now
in the silent night, and partly for his own, he had concealed the
marriage--for the time being--from the Admiral.
And then came that horrible embroilment--oh, how well he remembered
it. Ah me, ah me, it seemed but yesterday--when his father insisted
he was to marry Lady Emily Croke, Lord Aldeburgh's daughter; and
he dared not marry her, of course, having a wife already, and he
dared not tell his father, on the other hand, why he couldn't marry
her. It was a hateful time. He shrank from recalling it. He was
keeping Lucy, then his own wedded wife, as Mrs. Waring, in small
rooms in Plymouth; and yet he was running up to town now and again,
on leave, as the gay young bachelor, the heir of Tilgate Park--and
meeting Emily Croke at every party he went to in London--and braving
the Admiral's wrath by refusing to propose to her. What he would
ever have done if Lucy had lived, he couldn't imagine. But,
there! Lucy DIDN'T live; so he was saved that bother. Poor child,
it brought tears to his eyes even now to think of her. He brushed
them furtively away, lest he should waken Lady Emily.
And yet it was a shock to him, the night Lucy died. Just then, he
could hardly realize how lucky was the accident. He sat there by
her side, the day the twins were born, to see her safely through
her trouble; for he had always done his duty, after a fashion, by
Lucy. When a girl of that class marries a gentleman, don't you
see, and consents, too, mind you, to marry him privately, she can't
expect to share much of her husband's company. She can't expect
he should stultify himself by acknowledging her publicly before
his own class. And, indeed, he always meant to acknowledge her in
the end--after his father's death, when there was no fear of the
Admiral's cutting off his allowance.
But how curiously events often turn out of themselves. The twins
were born on a Friday morning, and by the Saturday night, poor Lucy
was lying dead, a pale, sweet corpse, in her own little room, near
the Hoe, at Plymouth. It was a happy release for him though he
really loved her. But still, when a man's fool enough to love a
girl below his own station in life--the Colonel paused and broke
off. It was twenty-seven years ago now, yet he really loved her.
He couldn't find it in his heart even then to indorse to the full
the common philosophy of his own order.
So there he was left with the two boys on his hands, but free, if
he liked, to marry Lady Emily. No reason on earth, of course, why
he shouldn't marry her now. So, naturally, he married her--after
a fortnight's interval. The Admiral was all smiles and paternal
blessings at this sudden change of front on his son's part. Why the
dickens Harry hadn't wanted to marry the girl before, to be sure
he couldn't conceive; hankering after some missy in the country,
he supposed, that silly rot about what they call love, no doubt; but
now that Harry had come to his senses at last, and taken the Earl's
lass, why, the Admiral was indulgence and munificence itself; the
young people should have an ample allowance, and my daughter-in-law,
Lady Emily, should live on the best that Tilgate and Chetwood could
possibly afford her.
What would you have? the Colonel asked piteously, in the dead of
night, of his own conscience. How else could he have acted? He said
nothing. That was all, mind you, he declared to himself more than
once in his own soul. He told no lies. He made no complications.
While the Admiral lived, he brought up Lucy's sons, quite privately,
at Plymouth. And as soon as ever the Admiral died, he really and
truly meant to acknowledge them.
But fathers never die--in entailed estates. The Admiral lived so
long--quite, quite too long for Guy and Cyril. Granville was born,
and grew to be a big boy, and was treated by everybody as the heir
to Tilgate. And now the Colonel's difficulties gathered thicker
around him. At last, in the fulness of time, the Admiral died, and
slept with his fathers, whose Elizabethan ruff's were the honour
and glory of the chancel at Tilgate; and then the day of reckoning
was fairly upon him. How well he remembered that awful hour. He
couldn't, he couldn't. He knew it was his duty to acknowledge his
rightful sons and heirs, but he hadn't the courage. Things had all
altered so much.
Meanwhile, Guy and Cyril had gone to Charterhouse as nobody's
wards, and been brought up in the expectation of earning their
own livelihood, so no wrong, he said casuistically, had been done
to THEM, at any rate. And Granville had been brought up as the
heir of Tilgate. Lady Emily naturally expected her son to succeed
his father. He had gone too far to turn back at last. And yet--
And yet, in his own heart, disguise it as he might, he knew he was
keeping his lawful sons out of their own in the end, and it was
his duty to acknowledge them as the heirs of Tilgate.
A FAMILY JAR.
Hour after hour the unhappy man lay still as death on his bed and
reasoned in vain with his accusing conscience. To be sure, he said
to himself, no man was bound by the law of England to name his
heir. It is for the eldest son himself to come forward and make
his claim. If Guy and Cyril could prove their title to the Tilgate
estates when he himself was dead, that was their private business.
He wasn't bound to do anything special to make the way easy for
But still, when he saw them, his heart arose and smote him. His
very class prejudices fought hard on their behalf. These men were
gentlemen, the eldest sons of a Kelmscott of Tilgate--true Kelmscotts
to the core--handsome, courtly, erect of bearing. Guy was the very
image of the Kelmscott of Tilgate Park who bled for King Charles
at Marston Moor; Cyril had the exact mien of Sir Rupert Kelmscott,
Knight of Chetwood, the ablest of their race, whose portrait, by
Kneller, hung in the great hall between his father; the Admiral,
and his uncle, Sir Frederick. They had all the qualities the Colonel
himself associated with the Kelmscott name. They were strong, brave,
vigorous, able to hold their own against all comers. To leave them
out in the cold was not only wrong--it was also, he felt in his
heart of hearts, a treason to his order.
At last, after long watching, he fell asleep. But he slept uneasily.
When he woke, it was with a start. He found himself murmuring to
himself in his troubled sleep, "Break the entail, and settle a sum
on the two that will quiet them."
It was the only way left to prevent public scandal, and to save
Lady Emily and his son Granville from a painful disclosure: while,
at the same time, it would to some extent satisfy the claims of
Compromise, compromise; there's nothing like compromise. Colonel
Kelmscott had always had by temperament a truly British love of
To carry out his plan, indeed, it would be necessary to break the
entail twice; once formally, and once again really. He must begin
by getting Granville's consent to the proposed arrangement, so as
to raise ready money with which to bribe the young men; and as soon
as Granville's consent was obtained, he must put it plainly to Guy
and Cyril, as an anonymous benefactor, that if they would consent
to accept a fixed sum in lieu of all contingencies, then the secret
of their birth would be revealed to them at last, and they would
be asked to break the entail on the estates as eldest sons of a
gentleman of property.
It was a hard bargain; a very hard bargain; but then these boys
would jump at it, no doubt; expecting nothing as they did, they'd
certainly jump at it. It's a great point, you see, to come in
suddenly, when you expect nothing, to a nice lump sum of five or
So much so, indeed, that the real difficulty, he thought, would
rather lie in approaching Granville.
After breakfast that morning, however, he tapped his son on
the shoulder as he was leaving the table, and said to him, in his
distinctly business tone, "Granville, will you step with me into
the library for ten minutes' talk? There's a small matter of the
estate I desire to discuss with you."
Granville looked back at him with a curiously amused air.
"Why, yes," he said shortly. "It's a very odd coincidence. But do
you know, I was going this morning myself to ask for a chance of
ten minutes' talk with you."
He rose, and followed his father into the oak-panelled library.
The Colonel sat down on one of the uncomfortable library chairs,
especially designed, with their knobs and excrescences, to prevent
the bare possibility of serious study. Granville took a seat opposite
him, across the formal oak table. Colonel Kelmscott paused; and
cleared his throat nervously. Then, with military promptitude, he
darted straight into the very thick of the fray.
"Granville," he said abruptly, "I want to speak with you about a
rather big affair. The fact of it is, I'm going to break the entail.
I want to raise some money."
The son gave a little start of surprise and amusement. "Why,
this is very odd," he exclaimed once more, in an astonished tone.
"That's just the precise thing I wanted to talk about with you."
Colonel Kelmscott eyed him with an answering start.
"Not debts!" he said slowly. "My boy, my boy, this is bad. Not
debts surely, Granville; I never suspected it."
"Oh, dear no," Granville answered frankly. "No debts, you may be
sure. But I wanted to feel myself on a satisfactory basis--as to
income and so forth: and I was prepared to pay for my freedom well.
To tell you the truth outright, I want to marry."
Colonel Kelmscott eyed him close with a very puzzled look. "Not
Elma Clifford, my boy," he said again quickly. "For of course, if
it is her, Granville, I need hardly say--"
The young man cut him short with a hasty little laugh. "Elma
Clifford," he repeated, with some scorn in his musical voice, "Oh,
dear no, not HER. If it had been her you may be sure there'd be no
reason of any sort for breaking the entail. But the fact is this:
I dislike allowances one way or the other. I want to feel once for
all I'm my own master. I want to marry--not this girl or that,
but whom ever I will. I don't care to coine to you with my hat in
my hand, asking how much you'll be kind enough to allow me if I
venture to take Miss So-and-so or Miss What-you-may-call-it. And
as I know you want money yourself for this new wing you're thinking
of, why, I'm prepared to break the entail at once, and sell whatever
building land you think right and proper."
The father held his breath. What on earth could this mean? "And
who is the girl, Granville?" he asked, with unconcealed interest.
"You won't care to hear," his son answered carelessly.
Colonel Kelmscott looked across at him with a very red face. "Not
some girl who'll bring disgrace upon your mother, I hope?" he said,
with a half-pang of remorse, remembering Lucy. "Not some young
woman beneath your own station in life. For to that, you may be
sure, I'll never consent under any circumstances."
Granville drew himself up proudly, with a haughty smile. He was a
Kelmscott, too, as arrogant as the best of them.
"No, that's not the difficulty," he answered, looking rather
amused than annoyed or frightened. "My tastes are NOT low. I hope
I know better than to disgrace my family. The lady I want to marry,
and for whose sake I wish you to make some arrangement beforehand
is--don't be surprised--well, Gwendoline Gildersleeve."
"Gwendoline Gildersleeve," his father echoed, astonished; for
there was feud between the families, "That rascally, land-grabbing
barrister's daughter! Why, how on earth do you come to know anything
of her, Granville? Nobody in Surrey ever had the impertinence yet
to ask me or mine to meet the Gildersleeves anywhere, since that
disgraceful behaviour of his about the boundary fences. And I didn't
suppose you'd ever even seen her."
"Nobody in Surrey ever did ask me to meet her," Granville answered
somewhat curtly. "But you can't expect every one in London society
to keep watch over the quarrels of every country parish in provincial
England! It wouldn't be reasonable. I met Gwendoline, if you want
to know, at the Bertrams', in Berkeley Square, and she and I got
on so well together that we've--well, we've met from time to time
in the Park, since our return from town, and we think by this time
we may consider ourselves informally engaged to one another."
Colonel Kelmscott gazed at his son in a perfect access of indignant
amazement. Gilbert Gildersleeve's daughter! That rascally Q.C.'s!
At any other moment such a proposal would have driven him forthwith
into open hostilities. If Granville chose to marry a girl like that,
why, Granville might have lived on what his father would allow him.
Just now, however, with this keen fit of remorse quite fresh upon
his soul about poor Lucy's sons, Colonel Kelmscott was almost
disposed to accept the opening thus laid before him by Granville's
So he temporized for awhile, nursing his chin with his hand,
and then, after much discussion, yielded at last a conditional
consent--conditional upon their mutual agreement as to the terms
on which the entail was to be finally broken.
"And what sort of arrangement do you propose I should make for your
personal maintenance, and this Gildersleeve girl's household?" the
Colonel asked at length, with a very red face, descending to details.
His son, without appearing to notice the implied slight to Gwendoline,
named the terms that he thought would satisfy him.
"That's a very stiff sum," the master of Tilgate retorted; "but
perhaps I could manage it; per--haps I could manage it. We must
sell the Dowlands farm at once, that's certain, and I must take the
twelve thousand or so the land will fetch for my own use, absolutely
and without restriction."
"To build the new wing with?" the son put in, with a gesture of
"To build the new wing with? Why, certainly not," his father answered
angrily. "Am I to bargain with my son what use I'm to make of my
own property? Mark my words, I won't submit to interference. To
do precisely as I choose with, sir. To roll in if I like! To fling
into the sea, if the fancy takes me!"
Granville Kelmscott stared hard at him. Twelve thousand pounds! What
on earth could his father mean by this whim? he wondered. "Twelve
thousand pounds is a very big sum to fling away from the estate
without a question asked," he retorted, growing hot "It seems to me,
you too closely resemble our ancestors who came over from Holland.
In matters of business, you know, the fault of the Dutch is giving
too little and asking too much."
His father glared at him. That's the worst of this huckstering and
higgling with your own flesh and blood. You have to put up with
such intolerable insults. But he controlled himself, and continued.
The longer he talked, however, the hotter and angrier he became by
degrees. And what made him the hottest and angriest of all was the
knowledge meanwhile that he was doing it every bit for Granville's
own sake; nay, more, that consideration for Granville alone had
brought him originally into this peck of trouble.
At last he could contain himself with indignation no longer. His
temper broke down. He flared up and out with it. "Take care what
you do!" he cried. "Take care what you say, Granville! I'm not
going to be bearded with impunity in my den. If you press me too
hard, remember, I'll ruin all. I can cut you off with a shilling,
sir, if I choose--cut you off with a shilling. Yes, and do justice
to others I've wronged for your sake. Don't provoke me too far, I
say, If you do, you'll repent it."
"Cut me off with a shilling, sir!" his son answered angrily, rising
and staring hard at him. "Why, what do you mean by that? You know
you can't do it, My interest in the estate's as good as your own.
I'm the eldest son--"
He broke off suddenly; for at those fatal words, Colonel Kelmscott's
face, fiery red till then, grew instantly blanched and white with
terror. "Oh, what have I done?" the unhappy man cried, seeing his
son's eyes read some glimpse of the truth too clearly in his look.
"Oh, what have I said? Forget it, Granny, forget it! I didn't mean
to go so far as I did in my anger. I was a fool--a fool! I gave
way too much. For Heaven's sake, my boy, forget it, forget it!"
The young man looked across at him with a dazed and puzzled look,
yet very full of meaning. "I shall never forget it," he said slowly.
"I shall learn what it means. I don't know how things stand; but I
see you meant it. Do as you like about the entail. It's no business
of mine. Take your pound of flesh, your twelve thousand down,
and pay your hush-money! I don't know whom you bribe, and I have
nothing to say to it. I never dragged the honour of the Kelmscotts
in the dust. I won't drag it now. I wash my hands clean from it. I
ask no questions. I demand no explanations. I only say this. Until
I know what you mean--know whether I'm lawful heir to Tilgate Park
or not, I won't marry the girl I meant to marry. I have too much
regard for her, and for the honour of our house, to take her on
what may prove to be false expectations. Break the entail, I say!
Raise your twelve thousand. Pay off your bloodhounds. But never
expect me to touch a penny of your money, henceforth and for ever,
till I know whether it was yours and mine at all to deal with."
Colonel Kelmscott bent down his proud head meekly. "As you will,
Granville," he answered, quite broken with remorse, and silenced
by shame. "My boy, my boy, I only wanted to save you!"
IN SILENCE AND TEARS.
When he had time to think, Colonel Kelmscott determined in his
own mind that he would still do his best to save Granville, whether
Granville himself wished it or otherwise. So he proceeded to take
all the necessary steps for breaking the entail and raising the
money he needed for Guy and Cyril.
In all this, Granville neither acquiesced nor dissented. He
signed mechanically whatever documents his father presented to him,
and he stood by his bargain with a certain sullen, undeviating,
hard-featured loyalty; but he never forgot those few angry words
in which his father had half let out his long-guarded life secret.
Thinking the matter over continually with himself, however, he came
in the end to the natural conclusion that one explanation alone
would fit all the facts. He was not his father's eldest son at all.
Colonel Kelmscott must have been married to some one else before
his marriage with Lady Emily. That some one else's son was the
real heir of Tilgate. And it was to him that his father, in his
passionate penitence, proposed, after many years, to do one-sided
justice. Now Granville Kelmscott, though a haughty and somewhat
head-strong fellow, after the fashion of his race, was a young man
of principle and of honour. The moment this hideous doubt occurred
to his mind, he couldn't rest in his bed till he had cleared it
all up and settled it for ever, one way or the other. If Tilgate
wasn't his, by law and right, he wanted none of it. If his father
was trying to buy off the real heir to the estate with a pitiful
pittance, in order to preserve the ill-gotten remainder for Lady
Emily's son, why, Granville for his part would be no active party
to such a miserable compromise. If some other man was the Colonel's
lawful heir, let that other man take the property and enjoy it; but
he, Granville Kelmscott, would go forth upon the world, an honest
adventurer, to seek his fortune with his own right hand wherever
he might find it.
Still, he could take no active step, on the other hand, to hunt
up the truth about the Colonel's real or supposed first marriage.
For here an awful dilemma blocked the way before him. If the Colonel
had married before, and if by that former marriage he had a son or
sons--how could Granville be sure the supposed first wife was dead
before the second was married? And supposing, for a moment, she
was not dead--supposing his father had been even more criminal and
more unjust than he at first imagined--how could he take the initiative
himself in showing that his own mother, Lady Emily Kelmscott, was
no wife at all in the sight of the law? that some other woman was
his father's lawful consort? The bare possibility of such an issue
was too horrible for any son on earth to face undismayed. So,
tortured and distracted by his divided duty, Granville Kelmscott
shrank alike from action or inaction.
In the midst of such doubts and difficulties, however, one duty
shone out clear as day before him. Till the mystery was cleared
up, till the problem was solved, he must see no more of Gwendoline
Gildersleeve. He had engaged himself to her as the heir of Tilgate.
She had accepted him under that guise, and looked forward to an
early and happy marriage. Now, all was changed. He was, or might
be, a beggar and an outcast. To be sure, he knew Gwendoline loved
him for himself; but how could he marry her if he didn't even know
he had anything of his own in the world to marry upon? The park
and fallow deer had been a part of himself; without them, he felt
he was hardly even a Kelmscott. It was his plain duty, now, for
Gwendoline's sake, to release her from her promise to a man who
might perhaps be penniless, and who couldn't even feel sure he was
the lawful son of his own father. And yet--for Lady Emily's sake--he
mustn't hint, even to Gwendoline, the real reason which moved him
to offer her this release. He must throw himself upon her mercy,
without cause assigned, and ask her for the time being to have
faith in him and to believe him.
So, a day or two after the interview with his father in the library,
the self-disinherited heir of Tilgate took the path through the
glade that led into the dell beyond the boundary fence--that dell
which had once been accounted a component part of Tilgate Park,
but which Gilbert Gildersleeve had proved, in his cold-blooded
documentary legal way, to belong in reality to the grounds
of Woodlands. It was in the dell that Granville sometimes ran up
against Gwendoline. He sat down on the broken ledge of ironstone
that overhung the little brook. It was eleven o'clock gone. By
eleven o'clock, three mornings in the week, chance--pure chance--the
patron god of lovers, brought Gwendoline into the dell to meet him.
Presently, a light footfall rang soft upon the path, and next
moment a tall and beautiful girl, with a wealth of auburn hair, and
a bright colour in her cheeks, tripped lightly down the slope, as
if strolling through the wood in maiden meditation, fancy free,
unexpecting any one.
"What, you here, Mr. Kelmscott?" she exclaimed, as she saw him,
her pink cheek deepening as she spoke to a still profounder crimson.
"Yes, I'm here, Gwendoline," Granville Kelmscott answered, with
a smile of recognition at her maidenly pretence of an undesigned
coincidence. "And I'm here, to say the truth, because I quite
expected this morning to meet you."
He took her hand gravely. Gwendoline let her eyes fall modestly
on the ground, as if some warmer greeting were more often bestowed
between them. The young man blushed with a certain manly shame.
"No, not to-day, dear," he said, with an effort, as she held her
cheek aside, half courting and half deprecating the expected kiss.
"Oh, Gwendoline, I don't know how to begin. I don't know how to say
it. But I've got very sad news for you--news that I can't bear to
break--that I can't venture to explain--that I don't even properly
understand myself. I must throw myself upon your faith. I must just
ask you to trust me."
Gwendoline let him seat her, unresisting, upon the ledge by his
side, and her cheek grew suddenly ashy pale, as she answered with
a gasp, forgetting the "Mr. Kelmscott" at this sudden leap into
the stern realities of life, "Why, Granville, what do you mean?
You know I can trust you. You know, whatever it may be, I believe
The young man took her hand in his with a tender pressure. It was
a terrible message to have to deliver. He bungled and blundered
on, with many twists and turns, through some inarticulate attempt at
an indefinite explanation. It wasn't that he didn't love her--oh,
devotedly, eternally, she must know that well; she never could doubt
it. It wasn't that any shadow had arisen between him and her, it
wasn't anything he could speak about, or anything she must say to
any soul on earth--oh, for his mother's sake, he hoped and trusted
she would religiously keep his secret inviolate! But something had
happened to him within the last few days--something unspeakable,
indefinite, uncertain, vague, yet very full of the most dreadful
possibilities; something that might make him unable to support a
wife; something that at least must delay or postpone for an unknown
time the long-hoped-for prospect of his claiming her and marrying
her. Some day, perhaps--he broke off suddenly, and looked with a
wistful look into her deep grey eyes. His resolution failed him.
"One kiss," he said, "Gwendoline!" His voice was choking. The
beautiful girl, turning towards him with a wild sob, fell, yielding
herself on his breast, and cried hot tears of joy at that evident
sign that, in spite of all he said, he still really loved her.
They sat there long, hand in hand, and eye on eye, talking it all
over, as lovers will, with infinite delays, yet getting no nearer
towards a solution either way. Gwendoline, for her part, didn't
care, of course--what true woman does?--whether Granville was the
heir of Tilgate or not; she would marry him all the more, she said,
if he were a penniless nobody. All she wanted was to love him and
be near him. Let him marry her now, marry her to-day, and then go
where he would in the world to seek his livelihood. But Granville,
poor fellow, alarmed at the bare suggestion--for his mother's
sake--that Tilgate might really not be his, checked her at once
in her outburst with a grave, silent look; he was still, he said
calmly, the inheritor of Tilgate. It wasn't that. At least, not
as she took it. He didn't know precisely what it was himself. She
must have faith in him and trust him. She must wait and see. In
the end, he hoped, he would come back and marry her.
And Gwendoline made answer, with many tears, that she knew it was
so, and that she loved him and trusted him. So, after sitting there
long, hand locked in hand, and heart intent on heart, the two young
people rose at last to go, protesting and vowing their mutual love
on either side, as happy and as miserable in their divided lives
as two young people in all England that moment. Over and over again
they kissed and said good-bye; then they stood with one another's
fingers clasped hard in their own, unwilling to part, and unable to
loose them. After that, they kissed again, and declared once more
they were broken-hearted, and could never leave one another. But
still, Granville added, half aside, he must make up his mind not to
see Gwendoline again--honour demanded that sacrifice--till he could
come at last a rich man to claim her. Meanwhile, she was free; and
he--he was ever hers, devotedly, whole-souledly. But they were no
longer engaged. He was hers in heart only. Let her try to forget
him. He could never forget her.
And Gwendoline, sobbing and tearful, but believing him implicitly,
retreated with slow steps, looking back at each turn of the zigzag
path, and sending the ghosts of dead kisses from her finger-tips
to greet him.
Below in the dell Granville stood still, and watched her depart in
breathless silence. Then, in an agony of despair, he flung himself
down on the ground and burst into tears, and sobbed like a child
over his broken daydream.
Gwendoline, coming back to make sure, saw him lying and sobbing
so; and, woman-like, felt compelled to step down just one minute
to comfort him. Granville in turn refused her proffered comfort--it
was better so--he mustn't listen to her any more; he must steel
himself to say No; he must remember it was dishonourable of him
to drag a delicately nurtured girl into a penniless marriage. Then
they kissed once more and made it all up again; and they sobbed and
wept as before, and broke it off for ever; and they said good-bye
for the very last time; and they decided they must never meet till
Granville came back; and they hoped they would sometimes catch
just a glimpse of one another in the outer world, and whatever the
other one said or did, they would each in their hearts be always
true to their first great love; and they were more miserable still,
and they were happier than they had ever been in their lives before;
and they parted at last, with a desperate effort, each perfectly
sure of the other's love, and each vowing in soul they would never,
never see one another again, but each, for all that, perfectly
certain that some day or other they would be husband and wife,
though Tilgate and the wretched little fallow deer should sink,
unwept, to the bottom of the ocean.
The manager at Messrs. Drummond, Coutts and Barclay's, Limited,
received Colonel Kelmscott with distinguished consideration.
A courteous, conciliatory sort of man, that manager, with his
close-shaven face and his spotless shirt-front.
"Five minutes, my dear sir?" he exclaimed, with warmth, motioning
his visitor blandly into the leather-covered chair. "Half an hour,
if you wish it. We always have leisure to receive our clients. Any
service we can render them, we're only too happy."
"But this is a very peculiar bit of business," Colonel Kelmscott
answered, humming and hawing with obvious hesitation. "It isn't
quite in the regular way of banking, I believe. Perhaps, indeed,
I ought rather to have put it into the hands of my solicitor. But,
even if you can't manage the thing yourself, you may be able to put
me in the way of finding out how best I can get it managed elsewhere."
The manager bowed. His smile was a smile of genuine satisfaction.
Colonel Kelmscott of Tilgate was in a most gracious humour.
The manager, with deference, held himself wholly at his client's
So the Colonel proceeded to unfold his business. There were two
young men, now knocking about town, of the names of Guy and Cyril
Waring--the one a journalist, the other a painter--and they had rooms
in Staple Inn, Holborn, which would doubtless form a sufficient clue
by which to identify them. Colonel Kelmscott desired unobtrusively
to know where these young men banked--if indeed they were in a position
to keep an account; and when that was found out, he wished Messrs.
Drummond, Coutts and Barclay, Limited, to place a sum of money
at their bankers to their credit, without mentioning the name of
the person so placing it, as well as to transmit to them a sealed
envelope, containing instructions as to the use to be made of the
money in question.
The manager nodded a cautious acquiescence. To place the money to
the credit of the two young men, indeed, would be quite in their
way. But to send the sealed envelope, without being aware of its
contents, or the nature of the business on which it was despatched,
would be much less regular. Perhaps the Colonel might find some other
means of managing without their aid that portion of the business
The Colonel, for his part, fell in readily enough with this modest
point of view. It amply sufficed for him if the money were paid
to the young men's credit, and a receipt, forwarded to him in due
course, under cover of a number, to the care of the bankers.
"Very well," the manager answered, rubbing his hands contentedly.
"Our confidential clerk will settle all that for you. A most sagacious
person, our confidential clerk. No eyes, no ears, no tongue for
anything but our clients' interests."
The Colonel smiled, and sat a little longer, giving further details
as the precise amount he wished sent, and the particular way he
wished to send it--the whole sum to be, in fact, twelve thousand
pounds, amount of the purchase money of the Dowlands farms, whereof
only six thousand had as yet been paid down; and that six thousand
he wished to place forthwith to the credit of Cyril Waring, the
painter. The remaining six thousand, to be settled, as agreed,
in five weeks' time, he would then make over under the self-same
conditions to the other brother, Guy Waring, the journalist. It
had gone a trifle too cheap, that land at Dowlands, the Colonel
opined; but still, in days like these he was very glad, indeed, to
find a purchaser for the place at anything like its value.
"I think a Miss Ewes was the fortunate bidder, wasn't she?" the
manager asked, just to make a certain decent show of interest in
his client's estate.
"Yes, Miss Elma Ewes of Kenilworth," the Colonel answered, letting
loose for a moment his tongue, that unruly member. "She's the
composer, you know--writes songs and dances; remotely connected with
Reginald Clifford, the man who was Governor of some West Indian
Dutch-oven--St. Kitts, I think, or Antigua--he lives down our way,
and he's a neighbour of mine at Tilgate. Or rather she's connected
with Mrs. Clifford, the Governor's wife, who was one of the younger
branch, a Miss Ewes of Worthing, daughter of the Ewes who was Dean
of Dorchester. Elma's been a family name for years with all the
lot of Eweses, good, bad, or indifferent. Came down to them, don't
you know, from that Roumanian ancestress."
"Indeed," the manager answered, now beginning to be really
interested--for the Cliffords were clients too, and it behoves
a banker to know everything about everybody's business. "So Mrs.
Clifford had an ancestress who was a Roumanian, had she? Well,
I've noticed at times her complexion looked very southern and
"Oh, they call it Roumanian," Colonel Kelmscott went on in a
confidential tone, roping his white moustache, and growing more
and more conversational; "they call it Roumanian, because it sounds
more respectable; but I believe, if you go right down to the very
bottom of the thing, it was much more like some kind of Oriental
gipsy. Sir Michael Ewes, the founder of the house, in George the
Second's time, was ambassador for awhile at Constantinople. He
began life, indeed, I believe, as a Turkey merchant. Well, at Pera
one day, so the story goes--you'll find it all in Horace Walpole's
diary--he picked up with this dark-skinned gipsy-woman, who was a
wonderful creature in her way, a sort of mesmeric sorceress, who
belonged to some tribe of far eastern serpent charmers. It seems
that women of this particular tribe were regularly trained by the
men to be capering priestesses--or fortune-tellers, if you like--who
performed some extraordinary sacred antics of a mystical kind,
much after the fashion of the howling dervishes. However that may
be, Sir Michael, at any rate, pacing the streets of Pera, saw the
woman that she was passing fair, and fell in love with her outright
at some dervish entertainment. But being a very well-behaved old
man, combining a liking for Orientals with a British taste for the
highest respectability, he had the girl baptized and made into a
proper Christian first; and then he married her off-hand and brought
her home with him as my Lady Ewes to England. She was presented at
Court, to George the Second; and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu stood
her sponsor on the occasion."
"But how did it all turn out?" the manager asked, with an air of
intelligent historical interest.
"Turn out? Well, it turned out in a thumping big family of thirteen
children," the Colonel answered; "most of whom, happily for the
father, died young, But the five who survived, and who married at
last into very good connections, all had one peculiarity, which
they transmitted to all their female descendants. Very odd these
hereditary traits, to be sure. Very singular! Very singular!"
"Ah, to be sure," the manager answered, turning over a pile of
letters. "And what was the hereditary trait handed down, as you
say, in the family of the Roumanian lady?"
"Why, in the first place," the Colonel continued, leaning back in
his chair, and making himself perfectly comfortable, "all the girls
of the Ewes connection, to the third and fourth generation, have
olive-brown complexions, creamy and soft, but clear as crystal.
Then again, they've all got most extraordinary intuition--a perfectly
marvellous gift of reading faces. By George, sir," the Colonel
exclaimed, growing hot and red at the memory of that afternoon on
the Holkers' lawn, "I don't like to see those women's eyes fixed
upon my cheek when there's anything going on I don't want them to
know. A man's transparent like glass before them. They see into
his very soul. They look right through him."
"If the lady who founded the family habits was a fortune-teller,"
the manager interposed, with a scientific air, "that's not so
remarkable; for fortune-tellers must always be quick-witted people,
keen to perceive the changes of countenance in the dupes who employ
them, and prompt at humouring all the fads and fancies of their
customers, mustn't they?"
"Quite so," the Colonel echoed. "You've hit it on the nail. And
this particular lady--Esmeralda they call her, so that Elma, which
is short for Esmeralda, understand, has come to be the regular
Christian name among all her women descendants--this particular
lady belonged to what you might call a caste or priestly family,
as it were, of hereditary fortune-tellers, every one of whose
ancestors had been specially selected for generations for the work,
till a kind of transmissible mesmeric habit got developed among
them. And they do say," the Colonel went on, lowering his voice a
little more to a confidential whisper, "that all the girls descended
from Madame Esmeralda--Lady Ewes of Charlwood, as she was in
England--retain to this day another still odder and uncannier mark
of their peculiar origin; but, of course, it's a story that would
be hard to substantiate, though I've heard it discussed more than
once among the friends of the family."
"Dear me! What's that?" the manager asked, in a tone of marked
"Why, they do say," the Colonel went on, now fairly launched upon
a piece of after-dinner gossip, "that the eastern snake-dance of
Madame Esmeralda's people is hereditary even still among the women
of the family, and that, sooner or later, it breaks out unexpectedly
in every one of them. When the fit comes on, they shut themselves
up in their own rooms, I've been told, and twirl round and round
for hours like dancing dervishes, with anything they can get in
their hands to represent a serpent, till they fall exhausted with
the hysterical effort. Even if a woman of Esmeralda's blood escapes
it at all other times, it's sure to break out when she first sees
a real live snake, or falls in love for the first time. Then the
dormant instincts of the race come over her with a rush, at the
very dawn of womanhood, all quickened and aroused, as it were, in
the general awakening."
"That's very curious!" the manager said, leaning back in his chair
in turn, and twirling his thumbs, "very curious indeed; and yet, in
its way, very probable, very probable. For habits like those must
set themselves deep in the very core of the system, don't you think,
Colonel? If this woman, now, was descended from a whole line of
ancestresses, who had all been trained for their work into a sort
of ecstatic fervour, the ecstasy and all that went with it must
have got so deeply ingrained--"
"I beg your pardon," the Colonel interrupted, consulting his
watch and seizing his hat hastily--for as a Kelmscott, he refused
point-blank to be lectured--"I've an appointment at my club at
half-past three, and I must not wait any longer. Well, you'll get
these young men's address for me, then, at the very earliest possible
The manager pocketed the snub, and bowed his farewell. "Oh,
certainly," he answered, trying to look as pleased and gracious as
his features would permit. "Our confidential clerk will hunt them
up immediately. We're delighted to be of use to you. Good morning.
And as soon as the Colonel's back was turned, the manager rang twice
on his sharp little bell for the confidential clerk to receive
Mr. Montague Nevitt immediately presented himself in answer to the
"Mr. Nevitt," the manager said, with a dry, small cough, "here's a
bit of business of the most domestic kind--strict seal of secrecy,
not a word on any account. Colonel Kelmscott of Tilgate wants to
know where two young men, named Guy and Cyril Waring, keep their
banking account, if any; and, as soon as he knows, he wishes to
pay in a substantial sum, quite privately, to their credit."
Mr. Montague Nevitt bowed a bow of assent; without the faintest
sign of passing recognition. "Guy and Cyril Waring," he repeated to
himself, looking close at the scrap of paper his chief had handed
him; "Guy and Cyril Waring, Staple Inn, Holborn. I can find out
to-day, sir, if you attach any special and pressing importance to
promptitude in the matter."
MUSIC HATH POWER.
For Mr. Montague Nevitt was a cautious, cool, and calculating person.
He knew, better than most of us that knowledge is power. So when
the manager mentioned to him casually in the way of business the
names of Guy and Cyril Waring, Mr. Montague Nevitt didn't respond
at once, "Oh, dear yes; one of them's my most intimate personal
friend, and the other's his brother," as a man of less discretion
might have been tempted to do. For, in the first place, by finding
out, or seeming to find out, the facts about the Warings that very
afternoon, he could increase his character with his employers for
zeal and ability. And, in the second place, if he had let out too
soon that he knew the Warings personally, he might most likely on
that very account have been no further employed in carrying into
execution this delicate little piece of family business.
So Nevitt held his peace discreetly, like a wise man that he was,
and answered merely, in a most submissive voice, "I'll do my, best
to ascertain where they bank, at once," as if he had never before
in his life heard the name of Waring.
For the self-same reason, Mr. Montague Nevitt didn't hint that
evening to Guy that he had become possessed during the course of
the day of a secret of the first importance to Guy's fortune and
future. Of course, a man so astute as Montague Nevitt jumped at once
at the correct conclusion, that Colonel Kelmscott must be the two
Warings' father. But he wasn't going to be fool enough to chuck his
chance away by sharing that information with any second person. A
secret is far too valuable a lever in life to be carelessly flung
aside by a man of ambition. And Montague Nevitt saw this secret in
particular was doubly valuable to him. He could use it, wedge-wise,
with both the Warings in all his future dealings, by promising to
reveal to one or other of them a matter of importance and probable
money-value, and he could use it also as a perpetual threat to
hold over Colonel Kelmscott, if ever it should be needful to extort
blackmail from the possessor of Tilgate, or to thwart his schemes
by some active interference.
So when Nevitt strolled round about nine o'clock that night to
Staple Inn, violin-case in hand, and cigarette in mouth, he gave
not a sign of the curious information he had that day acquired, to
the person most interested in learning the truth as to the precise
genealogy of the Waring family.
There was no great underlying community of interests between the
clever young journalist and his banking companion. A common love for
music was the main bond of union between the two men. Yet Montague
Nevitt exercised over Guy a strange and fatal fascination which
Cyril always found positively unaccountable. And on this particular
evening, as Nevitt stood swaying himself to and fro upon the hearth-rug
before the empty grate, with his eyes half closed, drawing low,
weird music with his enchanted bow from those submissive strings, Guy
leaned back on the sofa and listened, entranced, with a hopeless
feeling of utter inability ever to approach the wizard-like
and supreme execution of that masterly hand and those superhuman
fingers. How he twisted and turned them as though his bones were
india-rubber. His palms were all joints, and his eyes all ecstasy.
He seemed able to do what he liked with his violin. He played on
his instrument, indeed, as he played on Guy--with the consummate
art of a skilful executant.
"That's marvellous, Nevitt," Guy broke out at last; "never heard
even Sarasate himself do anything quite so wild and weird as that.
What's the piece called? It seems to have something almost impish
or sprite-like in its wailing music. It's Hungarian, of course, or
Polish or Greek; I detect at once the Oriental tinge in it."
"Wrong for once, my dear boy," Nevitt answered, smiling, "it's
English, pure English, and by a lady what's more--one of the Eweses
of Kenilworth. She's a distant relation of Cyril's Miss Clifford,
I believe. An Elma, too; name runs in the family. But she composes
wonderfully. Everything she writes is in that mystic key. It sounds
like a reminiscence of some dim and lamp-lit eastern temple. The
sort of thing a nautch-girl might bo supposed to compose, to sing
to the clash and clang of cymbals, while she was performing the
snake-dance before some Juggernaut idol!"
"Exactly," Guy answered, shutting his eyes dreamily. "That's just
the very picture it brings up before my mind's eye--as you render
it, Nevitt. I seem to see vague visions of some vast and dimly-lighted
rock-hewn cavern, with long vistas of pillars cut from the solid
stone, while dark-limbed priestesses, clad in white muslin robes,
swing censers in the foreground to solemn music. Upon my word,
the power of sound is something simply wonderful. There's almost
nothing, I believe, good music wouldn't drive me to--or rather lead
me to; for it sways one and guides even more than it impels one."
"And yet," Nevitt mused, in slow tones to himself, taking up his
violin again, and drawing his bow over the chords, with half-closed
eyes, in a seemingly listless, aimless manner, "I don't believe
music's your real first love, Guy. You took it up only to be different
from Cyril. The artistic impulse in both of you is the same at
bottom. If you'd let it have it's own way, you'd have taken, not
to this, I'm sure, but to painting. But Cyril painted, so, to make
yourself different, you went in for music. That's you all over!
You always have such a hankering after being what you are not!"
"Well, hang it all, a man wants to have SOME individuality," Guy
answered apologetically. "He doesn't like to be a mere copy or
repetition of his brother."
Nevitt reflected quietly to himself that Cyril never wanted to be
different from Guy, his was by far the stronger nature of the two:
he was content to be himself without regard to his brother. But
Nevitt didn't say so. Indeed, why should he? He merely went on
playing a few disconnected bars of a very lively, hopeful utopian
sort of a tune--a tune all youth and health, and go and gaiety--as
he interjected from time to time some brief financial remarks on the
numerous good strokes he'd pulled off of late in his transactions
in the City.
"Can't do them in my own name, you know," he observed lightly, at
last laying down his bow, and replacing the dainty white rose in his
left top buttonhole. "Not official for a bank EMPLOYE to operate
on the Stock Exchange. The chiefs object to it. So I do my little
ventures in Tom's name instead, my brother-in-law, Tom Whitley's.
Those Cedulas went up another eighth yesterday. Well hit again: I'm
always lucky. And that was a good thing I put you on last week,
too, wasn't it? Did you sell out to-day? They're up at 96, and you
bought in at 80."
"No, I didn't sell to-day," Guy answered, with a yawn. "I'm holding
on still for a further rise. I thought I'd sell out when they
reached the even hundred."
"My dear fellow, you're wrong," Nevitt put in eagerly. "You ought
to have sold to-day. It's the top of the market. They'll begin to
decline soon, and when once they begin they'll come down with a
crash, as P.L.'s did on Saturday. You take my advice and sell out
first thing to-morrow morning. You'll clear sixteen pounds on each
of your shares. That's enough for any man. You bought ten shares,
I think, didn't you? Well, there you are, you see; a hundred and
sixty off-hand for you on your bargain."
Guy paused and reflected a doubtful moment. "Yes, I'll sell out
to-morrow, Nevitt," he said, after a struggle, "or what comes to
the same thing, you can sell out for me. But, do you know, my dear
fellow, I sometimes fancy I'm a fool for my pains, going in for
all this silly speculation. Better stick to my guinea a column in
the Morning Mail. The risks are so great, and the gains so small.
I don't believe outsiders ought to back their luck at all like this
on the Stock Exchange."
Montague Nevitt acquiesced with cheerful promptitude. "I agree
with you down to the ground," he said, lighting a cigarette, and
puffing away at it vigorously. "Outsiders ought not to back their
luck on the Stock Exchange. That, I take it, is a self-evident
proposition. But the point is, here, that you're not an outsider;
and you don't back your luck, which alters the case, you'll admit,
somewhat. You embark on speculations on my advice only, and I'm in
a position to judge, as well as any other expert in the City of
London, what things are genuine and what things are not worth a
wise man's attention."
He stretched himself on the sofa with a lazy, luxurious air, and
continued to puff away in silence at his cigarette for another ten
minutes. Then he drew unostentatiously from his pocket a folded
sheet of foolscap paper, printed after the fashion of the common
company prospectus. For a second or two he read it over to himself
in silence, till Guy's curiosity was sufficiently roused by his
"What have you got there?" the journalist asked at last, eyeing it
inquiringly, as the fly eyes the cobweb.
"Oh, nothing," Nevitfc answered, folding the paper up neatly and
returning it to his pocket. "You've sworn off now, so it does not
concern you. Just the prospectus of a little fresh thing coming
out next week--a very exceptional chance--but you don't want to
go in for it. I mean to apply for three hundred shares myself, I'm
so certain of its success; and I had thought of advising you to
take a hundred and fifty on your own account as well, with that
hundred and fifty you cleared over the Cordova Cattle bonds. They're
ten-pound shares, at a merely nominal price--ten bob on application
and ten on allotment--you could take a hundred and fifty as easy
as look at it. No further calls will ever be made. It's really a
most remarkable investment."
"Let me see the prospectus," Guy murmured, faltering, the fever
of speculation once more getting the better of him.
Nevitt pretended to hang back like a man with fine scruples. "It's
the Rio Negro Diamond and Sapphire Mine, Limited," he said, with
a deprecatory air. "But you'd better not go in for it. I expect to
make a pot out of the thing myself. It's a unique occasion. Still,
no doubt you're right, and I don't like the responsibility of
advising any other fellow. Though you can see for yourself what
the promoters say. Very first-class names. And Klink thinks most
highly of it."
He handed Guy the paper, and took up his violin as if by pure
accident, while Guy scanned it closely.
The journalist bent over the prospectus with eager eyes, and Nevitt
poured forth strange music as he read, music like the murmur of the
stream of Pactolus. It was an inspiring strain; the violin seemed
to possess the true Midas touch; gold flowed like water in liquid
rills from its catgut. Guy finished, and rose, and dipped a pen
in the ink-pot. "All right," he said low, half hesitating still.
"I'll give you an order to sell out at once, and I'll fill up this
application for three hundred shares--why not three hundred? I may
as well go as many as you do. If it's really such a good thing as
you say, why shouldn't I profit by it? Send this to Klink to-morrow
early; strike while the iron's hot, and get the thing finished."
Nevitt looked at the paper with an attentive eye. "How curious
it is," he said, regarding the signature narrowly, "that you
and Cyril, who are so much alike in everything else, should write
so differently. I should have expected your hands to be almost
"Oh, don't you know why that is?" Guy answered, with an innocent
smile. "I do it on purpose. Cyril writes sloping forward, the
ordinary way, so I slope backward just to prevent confusion. And I
form all my letters as unlike his as I can, though if I follow my
own bent they turn out the same; his way is more natural to me,
in fact, than the way I write myself. But I must do something to
keep our letters apart. That's why we always bank at a different
banker's. If I liked I could write exactly like Cyril. See, here's
his own signature to his letter this morning, and here's my imitation
of it, written off-hand, in my own natural manner. No forger on
earth could ever need anything more absolutely identical."
Montague Nevitt took it up, and examined it with interest. "Well,
this is wonderful," he said, comparing the two, stroke for stroke,
with the practised eye of an expert. "The signatures are as if
written by the self-same hand. Any cashier in England would accept
your cheque at sight for Cyril's."
He didn't add aloud that such similarity was very convenient. But,
none the less, in his own mind he thought so.
THE PATH OF DUTY.
Down at Tilgate, meanwhile, Elma Clifford had met more than once
with Cyril Waring at friends' houses around, for ever since the
accident, Society had made up its mind that Elma ought to marry her
companion in the tunnel; and, when Society once makes up its mind
on a question of this sort, why, it does its level best in the long
run to insure the fulfilment of its own prediction.
Wherever Elma had met her painter, however, during those few short
weeks, she had seen him only before the quizzing eyes of all the
world; and though she admitted to herself that she liked him very
much, she was nevertheless so thoroughly frightened by her own
performance after the Holkers' party that she almost avoided him,
in spite of officious friends--partly, it is true, from a pure
feeling of maidenly shame, but partly also from a deeper-seated
and profoundly moral belief that with this fierce mad taint upon
her as she naturally thought, it would be nothing short of wrong
in her even to marry. She couldn't meet Cyril now without thinking
at once of that irresistible impulse which had seized her by the
throat, as it were, and bent her to its wild will in her own room
after their interview at the Holkers'; and the thought did far
more than bring a deep blush into her rich brown cheek--it made her
feel most acutely she must never dream of burdening him with that
terrible uncertainty and all it might enclose in it of sinister
For Elma felt sure she was mad that night. And, if so, oh, how could
she poison Cyril Waring's life with so unspeakable an inheritance
for himself and his children?
She didn't know, what any psychologist might at once have told
her, that no one with the fatal taint of madness in her blood could
ever even have thought of that righteous self-denial. Such scruples
have no place in the selfish insane temperament; they belong only
to the highest and purest types of moral nature.
One morning, however, a few weeks later, Elma had strolled off
by herself into Chetwood Forest, without any intention of going
anywhere in particular, save for a solitary walk, when suddenly,
a turn round the corner of a devious path brought her face to face
all at once with a piece of white canvas, stretched opposite her
on an easel; at the other side of which, to her profound dismay,
an artist in a grey tweed suit was busily working.
The artist, as it happened, didn't see her at once, for the canvas
stretched between them, shutting her out from his eyes, and Elma's
light footstep on the mossy ground hadn't aroused his attention.
So the girl's first impulse was to retrace her way unobtrusively
without exchanging a word, and retire round the corner again, before
Cyril could recognise her. But somehow, when she came to try, she
couldn't. Her feet refused point blank to obey her will. And this
time, in her own heart, she knew very well why. For there in the
background, coiled up against the dense wall of rock and fern,
Sardanapalus lay knotted in sleepy folds, with his great ringed
back shining blue in the sunlight that struggled in round patches
through the shimmering foliage. More consciously now than even in
the train, the beautiful deadly creature seemed to fascinate Elma
and bind her to the spot. For a moment she hesitated, unable to
resist the strange, inexplicable attraction that ran in her blood.
That brief interval settled it. Even as she paused, Cyril glanced
round at the snake to note the passing effect of a gleam of light
that fell slantwise through the leaves to dapple his spotty back--and
caught sight of Elma. The poor girl gave a start. It was too late
now to retreat. She stood there rooted.
Cyril moved forward to meet her with a frankly outstretched hand.
"Good morning, Miss Clifford," he said, in his cheery manly voice.
"So you've dropped down by accident upon my lair here, have you?
Well, I'm glad you've happened to pass by to-day, for this, do you
know, is my very last morning. I'm putting the finishing touches upon
my picture now before I take it back to town. I go away to-morrow,
perhaps to North Wales, perhaps to Scotland."
Elma trembled a little at those words, in spite of resolution;
for though she could never, never, never marry him, it was nice,
of course, to feel he was near at hand, and to have the chance of
seeing him, and avoiding him as far as possible, on other people's
lawns at garden parties. She trembled and turned pale. She could
never MARRY him, to be sure; but then she could never marry any
one else either; and that being so, she liked to SEE him now and
again, on neutral ground, as it were, and to know he was somewhere
that she could meet him occasionally. Wales and Scotland are
so distant from Surrey. Elma showed in her face at once that she
thought them both unpleasantly remote from Craighton, Tilgate.
With timid and shrinking steps, she came in front of the picture,
and gazed at it in detail long and attentively. Never before did
she know how fond she was of art.
"It's beautiful," she said, after a pause; "I like it immensely.
That moss is so soft, and the ferns are so delicate. And how lovely
that patch of rich golden light is on Sardanapalus's shoulder."
The painter stepped back a pace or two and examined his own handicraft,
with his head on one side, in a very critical attitude. "I don't
know that I'm quite satisfied after all with the colour-scheme,"
he said, glancing askance at Elma. "I fancy it's, perhaps, just a
trifle too green. It looks all right, of course, out here in the
open; but the question is, when it's hung in the Academy, surrounded
by warm reds, and purples, and blues, won't it look by comparison
much too cabbagey and too grassy?"
Elma drew a deep breath.
"Oh, Mr. Waring," she cried, in a deprecating tone, holding her
breath for awe.
It pained her that anybody--even Cyril himself--should speak so
lightly about so beautiful a picture.
"Then you like it?" Cyril asked, turning round to her full face
and fronting her as she stood there, all beautiful blushes through
her creamy white skin.
"Like it? I love it," Elma answered enthusiastically. "Apart from
its being yours, I think it simply beautiful."
"And you like ME, too, then?" the painter asked, once more, making
a sudden dash at the question that was nearest to both their hearts,
after all, that moment. He was going away to-morrow, and this was
a last opportunity. Who could tell how soon somebody might come up
through the woods and interrupt their interview? He must make the
best use of his time. He must make haste to ask her.
Elma let her eyes drop, and her heart beat hard. She laid her hand
upon the easel to steady herself as she answered slowly, "You know
I like you, Mr. Waring; I like you very, very much indeed. You
were so kind to me in the tunnel. And I felt your kindness. You
could see that day I was--very, very grateful to you."
"When I asked you if you liked my picture, Elma," the young man said
reproachfully, taking her other hand in his, and looking straight
into her eyes, "you said, 'Like it? I love it.' But when I ask you
if you like me--ask you if you will take me--you only say you're
very, very grateful."
Elma let him take her hand, all trembling, in his. She let him
call her by her name. She let him lean forward and gaze at her,
lover-like. Her heart throbbed high. She couldn't refuse him.
She knew she loved him. But to marry him--oh no. That was quite
another thing. There duty interposed. It would be cruel, unworthy,
She drew herself back a little with maidenly dignity, as she answered
low, "Mr. Waring, we two saw into one another's hearts so deep in
the tunnel that day we spent together, that it would be foolish for
us now to make false barriers between us. I'll tell you the plain
truth." She trembled like an aspen-leaf. "I love you, I think; but
I can never marry you."
She said it so simply, yet with such an earnestness of despair,
that Cyril knew with a pang she really meant it.
"Why not?" he cried eagerly, raising her hand to his lips, and
kissing it with fervour. "If you tell me you love me, Elma, all the
rest must come. Say that, and you say all. So long as I've gained
your heart, I don't care for anything."
Elma drew her hand away with stately reserve. "I mean it, Mr.
Waring," she said slowly, sitting down on the bank, and gasping a
little for air, just as she had done in the tunnel. "I really mean
it. I LIKED you in the train that day; I was GRATEFUL to you in the
accident; I knew I LOVED you the afternoon we met at the Holkers'.
There, I've told you that plainly--more plainly than I thought I ever
could tell it to any man on earth--because we knew one another so
well when we thought we were dying side by side, and because--because
I can see you really love me.... Well, it can never be. I can never
She gazed at him wistfully. Cyril sat down by her side, and talked
it all over with her from a hundred points of view. He pressed his
suit hard, till Elma felt, if words could win, her painter would have
won her. But she couldn't yield, she said for HIS sake a thousand
times more than for her own, she must never marry. As the man grew
more earnest the girl in turn grew more frank and confiding. She
could never marry HIM, to be sure, she said fervently, but then
she could never, never, never marry any one else. If she married
at all she would marry Cyril. He took her hand again. Without one
shadow of resistance she let him take it and hold it. Yes, yes, he
might love her, if he liked, no harm at all in that; and SHE, she
would always, always love him. All her life through, she cried,
letting her passionate southern nature get the better of her at
last, she would love him every hour of every day in the year, and
love him only. But she could never marry him. Why, she must never
say. It was no use his trying to read her secret. He must never
find it out; never, never, never. But she, for her part, could
never forget it.
So Cyril, eagerly pressing his suit with every art he knew, was
forced in the end to content himself with that scanty measure. She
would love him, she would write to him, even; but she would never
At last the time came when they must really part, or she would be
late for lunch, and mamma would know all; mamma would read everything.
He looked her wistfully in the face. Elma held out her lips, obedient
to that mute demand, with remorseful blush of maidenly shame on
her cheek. "Only once," she murmured. "Just to seal our compact.
For the first and last time. You go away to-morrow."
"That was BEFORE you said you loved me," Cyril cried with delight,
emboldened by success. "Mayn't I stay on now, just one little week
At the proposal, Elma drew back her face in haste before he had
time to kiss it, and answered, in a very serious voice--
"Oh no, don't ask me. After this, I daren't stand the strain of
seeing you again--at least not just now--not so very, very soon.
Please, please, don't ask me. Go to-morrow, as you said. If you
don't, I can't let you," she blushed, and held out her blushing
face once more. "Only if you promise me to go to-morrow, mind,"
she said, with a half-coquettish, half-tearful smile at him.
Cyril hesitated for a second. He was inclined to temporize. "Those
are very hard terms," he said. Then impulse proved too much for him.
He bent forward, and pressed his lips just once on that olive-brown
cheek. "But I may come back again very soon," he murmured, pushing
home his advantage.
Elma seized his hand in hers, wrung it hard and tremulously, and
then turned and ran like a frightened fawn, without pausing to look
back, down the path homeward. Yet she whispered one broken sentence
through her tears, for all that, before she went.
"I shall love you always; but spare me, spare me."
And Cyril was left behind by himself in the wood, completely
STRUGGLE AND VICTORY.
Elma hurried home full of intense misgivings. She dreaded having
to meet her mother's eye. How on earth could she hide from that
searching glance the whole truth as to what had happened in the
wood that morning? When she reached home, however, she learned to
her relief, from the maid who opened the door to her, that their
neighbour, Mr. Gilbert Gildersleeve, the distinguished Q.C., had
dropped in for lunch, and this chance diversion supplied Elma with
a little fresh courage to face the inevitable. She went straight
up to her own room the moment she entered the house, without seeing
her mother, and there she waited, bathing her face copiously till
some minutes after the lunch bell had rung. For she felt sure she
would blush crimson when she met her mother; but as she blushed
habitually when strangers came in, the cause of it might thus,
perhaps, she vainly flattered herself, escape even those lynx-like
eyes of Mrs. Clifford's.
The great Q.C., a big, overbearing man, with a pair of huge burly
hands that somehow seemed to form his chief feature, was a little
bit blustering in his talk, as usual; the more so because he had
just learned incidentally that something had gone wrong between
his daughter Gwendoline and Granville Kelmscott. For though that
little episode of private wooing had run its course nominally
without the knowledge or consent of either family, Mr. Gilbert
Gildersleeve, at least, had none the less been aware for many weeks
past of the frequent meetings between Gwendoline and Granville
in the dell just beyond the disputed boundary line. And as Mr.
Gildersleeve disliked Colonel Kelmscott of Tilgate Park, for a
pig-headed esquire, almost as cordially as Colonel Kelmscott disliked
Mr. Gildersleeve in return for a rascally lawyer, it had given the
great Q.C. no little secret satisfaction in his own soul to learn
that his daughter Gwendoline was likely to marry the Colonel's son
and heir, directly against the wishes and consent of his father.
Only that very morning, however, poor Mrs. Gildersleeve, that
tired, crushed wife, had imparted to her lord and master, in fear
and trembling, the unpleasant intelligence that, so far as she
could make out, there was something wrong between Granville and
Gwendoline. And this something wrong she ventured to suggest was
no mere lover's tiff of the ordinary kiss-and-make-it-up description,
but a really serious difficulty in the way of their marriage. So
Mr. Gildersleeve, thus suddenly deprived of his expected triumph,
took it out another way by more than even his wonted boisterousness
of manner in talking about the fortunes of the Kelmscott family.
"I fancy, myself, you know, Mrs. Clifford," he was saying, very loud,
as Elma entered, "there's a screw loose just now in the Kelmscott
affairs--something rotten somewhere in the state of Denmark. That
young fellow, Granville, who's by no means such a bad lot as his
father all round--too good for the family, in fact; too good for
the family--Granville's been accustomed of late to come over into
my grounds, beyond the boundary wall, and being anxious above all
things to cultivate friendly relations with all my neighbours in
the county, I've allowed him to come--I've allowed him, and I may
even say to a certain extent I've encouraged him. There at times
he's met by accident my daughter Gwendoline. Oh, dear no"--with
uplifted hand, and deprecating lips--"I assure you, nothing of
THAT sort, my dear Mrs. Clifford. Gwendoline's far too young, and
I couldn't dream of allowing her to marry into Colonel Kelmscott's
family. But, however, be that as it may, he's been in the habit
of coming there, till very recently, when all of a sudden, only a
week or ten days back, to my immense surprise he ceased at once,
and ever since has dropped into the defensive, exactly as he used
to do. And I interpret it to mean--"
Elma heard no more of that pompous speech. Her knees shook under
her. For she was aware only of Mrs. Clifford's eyes, fixed mildly
and calmly upon her face, not in anger, as she feared, or reproach,
but rather in infinite pity. For a second their glances met in mute
intercourse of soul, then each dropped their eyelashes as suddenly
as before. Through the rest of that lunch Elma sat as in a maze,
hearing and seeing nothing. What she ate, or drank, or talked
about, she knew not. Mr. Gildersleeve's pungent and embellished
anecdotes of the Kelmscott family and their unneighbourly pride
went in at one ear and out at the other. All she was conscious of
was her mother's sympathetic yet unerring eye; she felt sure that
at one glance that wonderful thought-reader had divined everything,
and seen through and through their interview that morning.
After lunch, the two men strolled upon the lawn to enjoy their
cigars, and Elma and her mother were left alone in the drawing-room.
For some minutes neither could make up her mind to break the ice
and speak. They sat shame-faced beside one another on the sofa,
like a pair of shy and frightened maidens. At last Mrs. Clifford
braced herself up to interrupt the awkward silence. "You've been
in Chetwood Forest, Elma," she murmured low, looking down and
averting her eyes carefully from her trembling daughter.
"Yes, mother," Elma answered, all aglow with conscious blushes.
"In Chetwood Forest."
"And you met him, dear?" The mother spoke tenderly and sympathetically.
Elma's heart stood still. "Yes, mother, I met him."
"And he had the snake there?"
Elma started in surprise. Why dwell upon that seemingly unimportant
detail? "Oh yes," she answered, still redder and hotter than ever.
"He had it there. He was painting it."
Mrs. Clifford paused a minute. Then she went on, with pain. "And
he asked you, Elma?"
Elma bowed her head. "Yes, he asked me--and I refused him," she
answered, with a terrible wrench.
"Oh, darling; I know it," Mrs. Clifford cried, seizing both cold
hands in hers. "And I know why, too. But, Elma, believe me, you
needn't have done it. My daughter, my daughter, you might just as
well have taken him."
"No, never," Elma cried, rising from her seat and moving towards
the door in an agony of shame. "I couldn't. I daren't. It would
be wrong. It would be cruel. But, mother, don't speak to me of it.
Don't mention it again. Even before you it makes me more wretched
and ashamed than I can say to allude to it."
She rushed from the room, with cheeks burning like fire. Come what
might, she never could talk to any living soul again about that
But Mrs. Clifford sat on, on the sofa where Elma left her, and cried
to herself silently, silently, silently. What a mother should do
in these hateful circumstances she could hardly even guess. She
only knew she could never speak it out, and even if she did, Elma
would never have the courage or the heart to listen to her.
That same evening, when Elma went up to bed, a strange longing
came across her to sit up late, and think over to herself again all
the painful details of the morning's interview. She seated herself
by her bedside in her evening dress, and began to think it all
out again, exactly as it happened. As she did so, the picture of
Sardanapalus, on his bed of fern, came up clear in her mind, just
as he lay coiled round in Cyril Waring's landscape. Beautiful
Sardanapalus, so sleek and smooth and glossy, if only she had him
here now--she paused and hesitated. In a moment, the wild impulse
rushed upon her once more. It clutched her by the throat; it held
her fast as in a vice. She must get up and dance; she must obey
the mandate; she must whirl till she fell in that mystical ecstasy.
She rose, and seemed for a moment as though she must yield to the
temptation. The boa--the boa was in the lower drawer. Reluctantly,
remorsefully, she opened the drawer and took it out in her hands.
Fluff and feathers, fluff and feathers--nothing more than that!
But oh, how soft, how smooth, how yielding, how serpentine! With
a violent effort she steadied herself, and looked round for her
scissors. They lay on the dressing-table. She took them up with a
fixed and determined air. "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it
off," she thought to herself. Then she began ruthlessly hacking
the boa into short little lengths of a few inches each, which she
gathered up in her hands as soon as she had finished, and replaced
with care in the drawer where she had originally found them.
After that her mind felt somewhat more at ease and a trifle less
turbulent. She loved Cyril Waring--oh yes, she loved him with all
her heart; it was hard to give him up; hard not to yield to that
pressing impulse in such a moment of doubt and despondency. The
boa had said to her, as it were, "Come, dance, go mad, and forget
your trouble!" But she had resisted the temptation. And now--
Why, now, she would undress, and creep into bed, like any other good
English girl under similar circumstances, and cry herself asleep
with thoughts of Cyril.
And so she did in truth. She let her emotion take its natural outlet.
She lay awake for an hour or two, till her eyes were red and sore
and swollen. Then at last she dropped off, for very weariness, and
slept soundly an unbroken sleep till morning.
At eight o'clock, Mrs. Clifford knocked her tentative little knock
at the door. "Come in, mother," Elma cried, starting up in her
surprise; and her mother, much wondering, turned the handle and
When she reached the bed, she gave a little cry of amazement. "Why,
Elma," she exclaimed, staring her hard and long in the face; "my
darling, what's this? Your eyes are red! How strange! You've been
"Yes, mother," Elma answered, turning her face to the wall, but a
thousand times less ashamed than she had been the day before when
her mother spoke to her. "I couldn't help it, dearest." She took
that soft white hand in hers and pressed it hard in silence. "It's
no wonder, you know," she said at last, after a long deep pause.
"He's going away from Chetwood to-day--and it was so very, very
hard to say good-bye to him for ever."
"Oh yes, I know, darling," Mrs. Clifford answered, eyeing her
harder than ever now with a half-incredulous look. "I know all
that. But--you've had a good night in spite of everything, Elma."
Elma guessed what she meant. They two could converse together quite
plainly without words. "Well, yes, a better night," she answered,
hesitating, and shutting her eyes under the bed-clothes for very
shame. "A little disturbed--don't you know--just at first; but I
had a good cry very soon, and then that mended everything."
Her mother still looked at her, half doubting and half delighted.
"A good cry's the right thing," she said slowly, in a very low
voice. "The exact right thing, perfectly proper and normal. A good
cry never did any girl on this earth one atom of harm. It's the
best safety-valve. You're lucky, Elma, my child, in being able to
"Yes, dear," Elma answered, with her head still buried. "Very lucky
indeed. So I think, too, mother."
Mrs. Clifford's eye fell aimlessly upon certain tiny bits of
feathery fluff that flecked the floor here and there like floating
fragments of thistledown. In a second, her keen instinct divined
what they meant. Without one word she rose silently and noiselessly,
and opened the lower drawer, where the boa usually reposed among
the furs and feathers. One glimpse of those mangled morsels showed
her the truth at a glance. She shut the drawer again noiselessly
and silently as she had opened it. But Elma, lying still with her
eyes closed tight, yet knew perfectly well how her mother had been
Mrs. Clifford came back, and, stooping over her daughter's bed,
kissed her forehead tenderly. "Elma, darling," she said, while a hot
tear or two fell silently upon the girl's burning cheek, "you're
very, very brave. I'm so pleased with you, so proud of you! I
couldn't have done it myself. You're stronger-minded than I am. My
child, he kissed you for good-bye yesterday. You needn't say yes,
you needn't say no. I read it in your face. No need for you to
tell me of it. Well, darling, it wasn't good-bye after all, I'm
Back to Full Books