The Price of Things
by Elinor Glyn
THE PRICE OF THINGS
BY ELINOR GLYN
I wrote this book in Paris in the winter of 1917-18—in the midst of
bombs, and raids, and death. Everyone was keyed up to a strange pitch,
and only primitive instincts seemed to stand out distinctly.
Life appeared brutal, and our very fashion of speaking, the words we
used, the way we looked at things, was more realistic—coarser—than in
times of peace, when civilization can re-assert itself again. This is
why the story shocks some readers. I quite understand that it might do
so; but I deem it the duty of writers to make a faithful picture of
each phase of the era they are living in, that posterity may be
correctly informed about things, and get the atmosphere of epochs.
The story is, so to speak, rough hewn. But it shows the danger of
breaking laws, and interfering with fate—whether the laws be of God or
It is also a psychological study of the instincts of two women,
which the strenuous times brought to the surface. “Amaryllis,” with all
her breeding and gentleness, reacting to nature's call in her fierce
fidelity to the father of her child—and “Harietta,” becoming in
herself the epitome of the age-old prostitute.
I advise those who are rebuffed by plain words, and a ruthless
analysis of the result of actions, not to read a single page.
[Signature: Elinor Glyn]
THE PRICE OF THINGS
“If one consciously and deliberately desires happiness on this
plane,” said the Russian, “one must have sufficient strength of will to
banish all thought. The moment that one begins to probe the meaning of
things, one has opened Pandora's box and it may be many lives before
one discovers hope lying at the bottom of it.”
“What do you mean by thought? How can one not think?” Amaryllis
Ardayre's large grey eyes opened in a puzzled way. She was on her
honeymoon in Paris at a party at the Russian Embassy, and until now had
accepted things and not speculated about them. She had lived in the
country and was as good as gold.
She was accepting her honeymoon with her accustomed calm, although
it was not causing her any of the thrills which Elsie Goldmore, her
school friend, had assured her she should discover therein.
Honeymoons! Heavens! But perhaps it was because Sir John was dull.
He looked dull, she thought, as he stood there talking to the
Ambassador. A fine figure of an Englishman but—yes—dull. The Russian,
on the contrary, was not dull. He was huge and ugly and rough-hewn—his
eyes were yellowish-green and slanted upwards and his face was frankly
Calmuck. But you knew that you were talking to a personality—to one
who had probably a number of unknown possibilities about him tucked
John had none of these. One could be certain of exactly what he
would do on any given occasion—and it would always be his duty. The
Russian was observing this charming English bride critically; she was
such a perfect specimen of that estimable race—well-shaped, refined
and healthy. Chock full of temperament too, he reflected—when she
should discover herself. Temperament and romance and even passion, and
there were shrewdness and commonsense as well.
“An agreeable task for a man to undertake her education,” and he
wished that he had time.
Amaryllis Ardayre asked again:
“How can one not think? I am always thinking.”
He smiled indulgently.
“Oh! no, you are not—you only imagine that you are. You have
questioned nothing—you do right generally because you have a nice
character and have been well brought up, not from any conscious
determination to uplift the soul. Yes—is it not so?”
She was startled.
“Do you ever ask yourself what things mean? What we are—where we
are going? What is the end of it all? No—you are happy; you live from
day to day—and yet you cannot be a very young ego, your eyes are too
wise—you have had many incarnations. It is merely that in this one
life the note of awakening has not yet been struck. You certainly must
have needed sleep.”
“Many lives? You believe in that theory?”
She was not accustomed to discuss unorthodox subjects. She was
“But of course—how else could there be justice? We draw the reflex
of every evil action and of every good one, but sometimes not until the
next incarnation, that is why the heedless ones cannot grasp the
truth—they see no visible result of either good or evil—evil, in
fact, seems generally to win if there is a balance either way.”
“Why are we not allowed memory then, so that we might profit by our
“We should in that case improve from self-interest and not have our
faults eliminated by suffering. We are given no conscious memory of our
last life, so we go on fighting for whatever desire still holds us
until its achievement brings such overwhelming pain that the desire is
“Why do you say that for happiness we must banish thought—that
seems a paradox.”
She was a little disturbed.
“I said if one consciously and deliberately desired
happiness, one must banish thought to bring oneself back to the
condition of hundreds of people who are happy; many of them are even
elementals without souls at all. They are permitted happiness so that
they may become so attached to the earth plane that they willingly
return and gradually obtain a soul. But no one who is allowed to think
is allowed any continued happiness; there would be no progress. If so,
we should remain as brutes.”
“Then how cruel of you to suggest to me to think. I want to be
happy—perhaps I do not want to obtain a soul.”
“That was born long ago—my words may have awakened it once more,
but the sleep was not deep.”
Amaryllis Ardayre looked at the crowds passing and re-passing in
those stately rooms.
“Tell me, who is that woman over there?” she asked. “The very pretty
one with the fair hair in jade green—she looks radiantly happy.”
“And is—she is frankly an animal—exquisitely preserved, damnably
selfish, completely devoid of intellect, sugar manners, the senses of a
harem houri—and the tenacity of a rat.”
“You are severe.”
“Not at all. Harietta Boleski is a product of that most astonishing
nation across the Atlantic—none other could produce her. It is the
hothouse of the world as regards remarkable types. Here for immediate
ancestry we have a mother, from heaven knows what European refuse heap,
arrived in an immigrant ship—father of the 'pore white trash' of the
south—result: Harietta, fine points, beautiful, quite a lady for
ordinary purposes. The absence of soul is strikingly apparent to any
ordinary observer, but one only discovers the vulgarity of spirit if
one is a student of evolution—or chances to catch her when irritated
with her modiste or her maid. Other nations cannot produce such beings.
Women with the attributes of Harietta, were they European, would have
surface vulgarity showing—and so be out of the running, or they would
have real passion which would be their undoing—passion is glorious—it
is aroused by something beyond the physical. Observe her nostril! There
is simple, delightful animal sensuality for you! Look also at the
convex curve below the underlip—she will bite off the cherry whether
it is hers by right or another's, and devour it without a backward
“Boleski—that is a Russian name, is it not?”
“No, Polish—she secured our Stanislass, a great man in his
country—last year in Berlin, having divorced a no longer required, but
worthy German husband who had held some post in the American Consulate
“Is that old man standing obediently beside her your Stanislass?—he
looks quite cowed.”
“A sad sight, is it not? Stanislass, though, is not old, barely
forty. He had a beguin for her. She put his intelligence to
sleep and bamboozled his judgment with a continuous appeal to the
senses; she has vampired him now. Cloying all his will with her sugared
caprices, she makes him scenes and so keeps him in subjection. He was
one of the Council de l'Empire for Poland; the aims of his country were
his earnest work, but now ambition is no more. He is tired, he has
ceased to struggle; she rules and eats his soul as she has eaten the
souls of others. Shall I present her to you? As a type, she is worthy
of your attention.”
“It sounds as if she had the evil eye, as the Italians say,”
“Only for men. She is really an amiable creature—women like her.
She is so frankly simple, since for her there are never two
issues—only to be allowed her own desires—a riot of extravagance, the
first place—and some one to gratify certain instincts without too many
refinements when the mood takes her. For the rest, she is kind and
good-natured and 'jolly,' as you English say, and has no notion that
she is a road to hell. But they are mostly dead, her other spider
mates, and cannot tell of it.”
“I am much interested. I should like to talk to her. You say that
she is happy?”
“Obviously—she is an elemental—she never thinks at all, except to
plan some further benefit for herself. I do not believe in this life
that she can obtain a soul—her only force is her tenacious will.”
“Such force is good, though?”
“Certainly. Even bad force is better than negative Good. One must
first be strong before one can be serene.”
“You are strong.”
“Yes, but not good. Hardly a fit companion for sweet little English
brides with excellent husbands awaiting them.”
“I shall judge of that.”
“Tiens! So emancipated!”
“If you are bad, how does your theory work that we pay for each
action? Since by that you must know that it cannot be worth while to be
“It is not—I am aware of it, but when I am bad I am bad
deliberately, knowing that I must pay.”
“That seems stupid of you.”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“I take very severe exercise when I begin to think of things I
should not and I become savage when I require happiness—now is our
chance for making you acquainted with Harietta, she is moving our way.”
Madame Boleski swept towards them on the arm of an Austrian Prince
and the Russian Verisschenzko said, with suave politeness:
“Madame, let me present you to Lady Ardayre. With me she has been
admiring you from afar.”
The two women bowed, and with cheery, disarming simplicity, the
American made some gracious remarks in a voice which sounded as if she
smoked too much; it was not disagreeable in tone, nor had she a
pronounced American accent.
Amaryllis Ardayre found herself interested. She admired the superb
attention to detail shown in Madame Boleski's whole person. Her face
was touched up with the lightest art, not overdone in any way. Her
hair, of that very light tone bordering on gold, which sometimes goes
with hazel eyes, was quite natural and wonderfully done. Her dress was
perfection—so were her jewels. One saw that her corsetiere was an
artist, and that everything had cost a great deal of money. She had
taken off one glove and Amaryllis saw her bare hand—it was
well-shaped, save that the thumb turned back in a remarkable degree.
“So delighted to meet you,” Madame Boleski said. “We are going over
to London next month and I am just crazy to know more of you delicious
They chatted for a few moments and then Madame Boleski swept
onwards. She was quite stately and graceful and had a well-poised head.
Amaryllis turned to the Russian and was startled by the expression of
fierce, sardonic amusement in his yellow-green eyes.
“But surely, she can see that you are laughing at her?” she
“It would convey nothing to her if she did.”
“But you looked positively wicked.”
“Possibly—I feel it sometimes when I think of Stanislass; he was a
very good friend of mine.”
Sir John Ardayre joined them at this moment and the three walked
towards the supper room and the Russian said good-night.
“It is not good-bye, Madame. I, too, shall be in your country soon
and I also hope that I may see you again before you leave Paris.”
They arranged a dinner for the following night but one, and said au
An hour later the Russian was seated in a huge English leather chair
in the little salon of his apartment in the rue Cambon, when Madame
Boleski very softly entered the room and sat down upon his knee.
“I had to come, darling Brute,” she said. “I was jealous of the
English girl,” and she fitted her delicately painted lips to his.
“Stanislass wanted to talk over his new scheme for Poland, too, and as
you know that always gets on my nerves.”
But Verisschenzko threw his head back impatiently, while he answered
“I am not in the mood for your chastisement to-night. Go back as you
came, I am thinking of something real, something which makes your body
of no use to me—it wearies me and I do not even desire your presence.
Then he kissed her neck insolently and pushed her off his knee.
She pouted resentfully. But suddenly her eyes caught a small case
lying on a table near—and an eager gleam came into their hazel depths.
“Oh, Stepan! Is it the ruby thing! Oh! You beloved angel, you are
going to give it to me after all! Oh! I'll rush off at once and leave
you, if you wish it! Good-night!”
And when she was gone Verisschenzko threw some incense into a silver
burner and as the clouds of perfume rose into the air:
“Wough!” he said.
“What are you doing in Paris, Denzil?”
“I came over for a bit of racing. Awfully glad to see you. Can't we
dine together? I go back to-morrow.” Verisschenzko put his arm through
Denzil Ardayre's and drew him in to the Cafe de Paris, at the door of
which they had chanced to meet.
“I had another guest, but she can be consoled with some of Midas'
food, and I want to talk to you; were you going to eat alone?”
“A fellow threw me over; I meant to have just a snack and go on to a
theatre. It is good running across you—I thought you were miles away!”
Verisschenzko spoke to the head waiter, and gave him directions as
to the disposal of the lovely lady who would presently arrive, and then
he went on to his table, rather at the top, in a fairly secluded
The few people who were already dining—it was early on this May
night—looked at Denzil Ardayre—he was such a refreshing sight of
health and youth, so tall and fit and English, with his brown smooth
head and fearless blue eyes, gay and debonnaire. One could see that he
played cricket and polo, and any other game that came along, and that
not a muscle of his frame was out of condition. He had “soldier"
written upon him—young, gallant, cavalry soldier. Verisschenzko
appreciated him; nothing complete, human or inanimate, left him
unconscious of its meaning. They knew one another very well—they had
been at Oxford and later had shot bears together in the Russian's
They talked for a while of casual things, and then Verisschenzko
“Some relations of yours are here—Sir John Ardayre and his
particularly attractive bride. Shall we eat what I had ordered for
Collette, or have you other fancies after the soup?”
Denzil paid only attention to the first part of the speech—he
looked surprised and interested.
“John Ardayre here! Of course, he married about ten days ago—he is
the head of the family as you are aware, but I hardly even know him by
sight. He is quite ten years older than I am and does not trouble about
us, the poor younger branch—” and he smiled, showing such good teeth.
“Besides, as you know, I have been for such a long time in India, and
the leaves were for sport, not for hunting up relations.”
Verisschenzko did not press the matter of his guest's fancies in
food, and they continued the menu ordered for Collette without further
“I want to hear all that you know about them, the girl is an
exquisite thing with immense possibilities. Sir John looks—dull.”
“He is really a splendid character though,” Denzil hastened to
assure him. “Do you know the family history? But no, of course not, we
were too busy in the old days enjoying life to trouble to talk of such
things! Well, it is rather strange in the last generation—things very
nearly came to an end and John has built it all up again. You are
interested in heredity?”
“Naturally—what is the story?”
“Our mutual great-grandfather was a tremendous personage in North
Somerset—the place Ardayre is there. My father was the son of the
younger son, who had just enough to do him decently at Eton, and enable
him to scrape along in the old regiment with a pony or two to play
with. My mother was a Willowbrook, as you know, and a considerable
heiress, that is how I come out all right, but until John's father, Sir
James, squandered things, the head of the family was always very rich
and full of land—and awfully set on the dignity of his race. They had
turned the cult of it into regular religion.”
“The father of this man made a gaspillage, then—well?”
“Yes, he was a rotter—a hark-back to his mother's relations; she
was a Cranmote—they ruin any blood they mix with. I am glad that I
come from the generation before.”
Denzil helped himself to a Russian salad, and went on leisurely. “He
fortunately married Lady Mary de la Paule—who was a saint, and so John
seems to have righted, and takes after her. She died quite early, she
had had enough of Sir James, I expect, he had gambled away everything
he could lay hands upon. Poor John was brought up with a tutor at home,
for some reason—hard luck on a man. He was only about thirteen when
she died and at seventeen went straight into the city. He was
determined to make a fortune, it has always been said, and redeem the
mortgages on Ardayre—very splendid of him, wasn't it?”
“Yes—well all this is not out of the ordinary line—what comes
Denzil laughed—he was not a good raconteur.
“The poor lady was no sooner dead than the old boy married a
Bulgarian snake charmer, whom he had picked up in Constantinople! You
may well smile”—for Verisschenzko had raised his eyebrows in a
whimsical way—this did sound such a highly coloured incident!
“It was an unusual sort of thing to do, I admit, but the tale grows
more lurid still, when I tell you that five months after the wedding
she produced a son by the Lord knows who, one of her own tribe
probably, and old Sir James was so infatuated with her that he never
protested, and presently when he and John quarrelled like hell he
pretended the little brute was his own child—just to spite John.”
Verisschenzko's Calmuck eyes narrowed.
“And does this result of the fusion of snake charmers figure in the
family history? I believe I have met him—his name is Ferdinand, is it
not, and he is, or was, in some business in Constantinople?”
“That is the creature—he was brought up at Ardayre as though he
were the heir, and poor John turned out of things. He came to Eton
three years before I left, but even there they could not turn him into
the outside semblance of a gentleman. I loathed the little toad, and he
loathed me—and the sickening part of the thing is that if John does
not have a son, by the English law of entail Ferdinand comes into
Ardayre, and will be the head of the family. Old Sir James died about
five years ago, always protesting this bastard was his own child,
though every one knew it was a lie. However, by that time John had made
enough in the city to redeem Ardayre twice over. He had tremendous luck
after the South African War, so he came into possession and lives there
now in great state—I do really hope that he will have a son.”
“You, too, have the instinct of the family, then—this pride in
it—since it cannot benefit you either way.”
“I believe it is born in us, and though I have never seen Ardayre, I
should hate this mongrel to have it. I was brought up with a tremendous
reverence for it, even as a second cousin.”
“Well, the new Lady Ardayre looks young enough and of a health to
have ten sons!”
“Y-es,” Denzil acquiesced in a tentative tone.
“Not so?” Verisschenzko glanced up surprised, and then gave his
attention to the waiter who had brought some Burgundy and was pouring
it out into his glass.
“Not so you would say?”
“I don't know, I have never seen her—but in the family it is
whispered that John—poor devil—he had an accident hunting two or
three years ago. However, it may not any of it be true—here, let us
drink to the Ardayre son!”
“To the Ardayre son!” and Verisschenzko filled his friend's glass
with the decanted wine and they both drank together.
“Your cousin is like you,” he said presently. “A fatiguing likeness,
but the same height and make—and voice—strange things these family
reproductions of an exact type. I have no family, as you know—we are
of the people, arisen by trade to riches. Could I go beyond my
immediate parents, could I know cousins and uncles and brothers, should
I find this same peculiar stamp of family among us all? Who knows? I
“I suppose there is something in it. My father has told me that in
the picture gallery at Ardayre they are as like as two pins the whole
“The concentration upon the idea causes it. In people risen like my
father and myself, we only resemble a group—a nation; if I have
children they will resemble me. It is strength in the beginning when an
individual rises beyond the group, which produces a type. One says
'English' to look at you, and then, if one knows, one says 'Ardayre' at
once; one gets as far as 'Calmuck' with me, that is all, but in years
to come it will have developed into 'Verisschenzko.'“
“How you study things, Stepan; you are always putting new ideas into
my head whenever I see you. Life would be just a routine, for all the
joy of sport, if one did not think. I am going to finish my soldiering
this autumn and stand for Parliament. It seems waste of time now, with
no wars in prospect, sticking to it; I want a vaster field.”
“You think there can be no wars in prospect—no? Well, who can
prophesy? There are clouds in the Southeast, but for the moment we will
not speculate about them—and they may affect my country and not yours.
And so you will settle down and become a reputable member of
Parliament?” Then, as Denzil would have spoken perhaps upon the subject
of war clouds, Verisschenzko hastily continued:
“Will you dine to-morrow night at the Ritz to meet your cousin and
his wife? They are honouring me.”
“I wish I could, but I am off in the morning. What is she like?”
Verisschenzko paid particular attention to the selection of a quail,
and then he answered:
“She is of the same type as the family, Denzil,—that is, a good
skeleton—bones in the right place, firm white flesh, colouring as
yours—well bred, balanced, unawakened as yet. Was she a relation?”
“Yes, I believe so—a cousin of a generation even before mine. I
wish I could have dined, I would awfully like to have met them; I shall
have to make a chance in England. It is stupid not to know one's own
family, but our fathers quarrelled and we have never had a chance of
mending the break.”
“They were at the Russian Embassy last night; the throng admired
Lady Ardayre very much.”
“And what are you doing in Paris, Stepan? The last I heard of you,
you were on your yacht in the Black Sea.”
“I was cruising near countries whose internal affairs interest me
for the moment. I returned to my appartement in Paris to see a
friend of mine, Stanislass Boleski—he also has a lovely wife. Look,
she has just come in with him. She is in the devil of a temper—observe
her. If I sit back, the pillar hides me—I do not wish them to see me
Denzil glanced down the room; two people were taking their seats by
the wall. The mask was off Harietta Boleski's face for the moment; it
looked silly with its raised eyebrows and was full of ill temper and
spite. The husband had an air of extreme worry on his clever,
intellectual face, but that he was solicitous to gratify his wife's
caprices, any casual observer could have perceived.
“You mean the woman with the wonderful cigrettes—she is
good-looking, isn't she? I wonder who it is she has caught sight of
now, though? Look at the eagerness which has come into her eyes—you
can see her in the mirror if you want to.”
But Verisschenzko had missed nothing, and he bent forward to
endeavour to identify the person upon whom Madame Boleski's gaze had
turned. There was nothing to distinguish any individual—the company
were of several nations—German and Austrian and Balkan and Russian
scattered about here and there among the French and American
habitues. The only plan would be to continue to watch Harietta—but
although he did this throughout the dinner, not a flicker of her
eyelids gave him any further clue.
Denzil was interested—he felt something beyond what appeared on the
surface was taking place, so he waited for his friend to speak.
Verisschenzko was silent for a little, and then he casually gave a
resume of the character and place of Madame Boleski and her husband, a
good deal more baldly expressed, but in substance much the same as he
had given to Amaryllis at the Russian Embassy the night before.
He spoke lightly, but his yellow green eyes were keen.
“Look at her well—she is capable of mischief. Her extreme
stupidity—only the brain of a rodent or a goat—makes her more
difficult to manipulate than the cleverest diplomat, because you can
never be sure whether the blank want of understanding which she
displays is real or simulated. She is a perfect actress, but very often
is quite natural. Most women are either posing all the time, or not at
all. Harietta's miming only comes into action for self-preservation, or
personal gain, and then it is of such a superb quality that she leaves
even me—I, who am no poor diviner—confused as to whether she is
telling a lie or the truth.”
“What an exceptional character!” Denzil was thrilled.
“An absence of all moral sense is her great power,” Verisschenzko
continued, while he watched her narrowly, “because she never has any of
the prickings of conscience which even most rogues experience at times,
and so draws no demagnetising nervous uncertain currents. If it were
not for an insatiable extravagance, and a capricious fancy for
different jewels, she would be impossible to deal with. She has
information, obtained from what source I do not as yet know, which is
of vital importance to me. Were it not for that, one could simply enjoy
her as a mistress and take delight in studying her idiosyncrasies.”
“She has lovers?”
“Has had many; her role now is that of a great lady and so all is of
a respectability! She is so stupid that if that instinct of
self-preservation were not so complete as to be like a divine guide,
she would commit betises all the time. As it is, when she takes a lover
it is hidden with the cunning of a fox.”
“Who did you say the first husband was—?”
“A German of the name of Von Wendel—he used to beat her with a
stick, it is said—so naturally such a nature adored him. I did not
meet her until she had got rid of him and he had disappeared. She would
sacrifice any one who stood in her way.”
“Your friend, the present husband, looks pretty epuise—one feels
sorry for the poor man.”
Then, as ever, at the mention of the debacle of Stanislass,
Verisschenzko's eyes filled with a fierce light.
“She has crushed the hope of Poland—for that, indeed, one day she
“But I thought you Russians did not greatly love the Poles?” Denzil
“Enlightened Russians can see beyond their old prejudices—and
Stanislass was a lifetime friend. One day a new dawn will come for our
His eyes grew dreamy for an instant, and then resumed their watch of
Harietta. Denzil looked at him and did not speak for a while. He had
always been drawn to Stepan, from a couple of terms at Oxford before
the Russian was sent down for a mad freak, and did not return. He was
such a mixture of idealism and brutal commonsense, a brain so alert and
the warm heart of a generous child—capable of every frenzy and of
every sacrifice. They had planned great things for their afterlives
before the one joined his regiment, and learned discipline, and the
other wandered over many lands—and as they sat there in the Cafe de
Paris, the thoughts of both wandered back to old days gapping the
encounters for sport in Russia and in India between.
“They were glorious times, Denzil, weren't they?” Verisschenzko said
presently, aware by that wonderfully delicately attuned faculty of his
of what his friend was thinking. “We had thought to conquer the sun,
moon and stars—and who knows, perhaps we will yet!”
“Who knows? I feel my real life is only just beginning. How old are
we, Stepan? Twenty-nine years old!”
Afterwards, as they went out, they passed the Boleskis close, and
the two rose and spoke to Verisschenzko, with empressement. He
introduced Captain Ardayre and they talked for a few minutes, Harietta
Boleski all smiles and flattering cajoleries now—and then they said
good-night and went out.
But as Stepan passed, a man half hidden behind a pillar leaned
forward and looked at him, and in his light blue eyes there burned a
“Ah, Gott in Himmel!” he growled to himself. “It is he whom she
loves—not the pig-fool who we gave her to—one day I shall kill him—“
and he raised his glass of Rhine wine and murmured “Der Tag!”
That evening Sir John Ardayre had taken his bride to dine in the
Bois, and they were sitting listening to the Tziganes at Armenonville.
Amaryllis was conscious that the evening lacked something. The
circumstances were interesting—a bride of ten days, and the
environment so illuminating—and yet there was John smoking an
expensive cigar and not saying anything! She did not like people
who chattered—and she could even imagine a delicious silence wrought
with meaning. But a stolid respectable silence with Tziganes playing
moving airs and the romantic background of this Paris out-of-door
joyous night life, surely demanded some show of emotion!
John loved her she supposed—of course he did—or he never would
have asked her to marry him, rich as he was and poor as she had been.
She could not help going over all their acquaintance; the date of its
beginning was only three months back!
They had met at a country house and had played golf together, and
then they had met again a month later at another house, in March, but
she could not remember any love-making—she could not remember any of
those warm looks and those surreptitious hand-clasps when occasion was
propitious, which Elsie Goldmore had told her men were so prodigal of
in demonstrating when they fell in love. Indeed, she had seen emotion
upon the faces of quite two or three young men, for all her secluded
life and restricted means, since she had left the school in Dresden,
where a worldly maiden aunt had pinched to send her, German officers
had looked at her there with interest in the street, and the
clergyman's three sons and the Squire's two, when she returned home.
Indeed, Tom Clarke had gone further than this! He had kissed her cheek
coming out of the door in the dark one evening, and had received a
severe rebuff for his pains.
She had read quantities of novels, ancient and modern. She knew that
love was a wonderful thing; she knew also that modern life and its
exigencies had created a new and far more matter-of-fact point of view
about it than that which was obtained in most books. She did not expect
much, and had indulged in none of those visions of romantic bliss which
girls were once supposed to spend their time in constructing. But she
did expect something, and here was nothing—just nothing!
The day John had asked her to marry him he had not been much moved.
He had put the question to her simply and calmly, and she had not
dreamed of refusing him. It was obviously her duty, and it had always
been her intention to marry well, if the chance came her way, and so
leave a not too congenial home.
She had been to a few London balls with the maiden aunt, a personage
of some prestige and character. But invitations do not flow to a
penniless young woman from the country, nor do partners flock to be
presented to strangers in those days, and Amaryllis had spent many
humiliating hours as a wall-flower and had grown to hate balls. She was
not expansive in herself and did not make friends easily, and pretty as
she was, as a girl, luck did not come her way.
When she had said “Yes” in as matter-of-fact a voice as the proposal
of marriage had been made to her, Sir John had replied: “You are a
dear,” and that had seemed to her a most ordinary remark. He had leaned
over—they were climbing a steep pitch in search of a fugitive golf
ball—and had taken her hand respectfully, and then he had kissed her
forehead—or her ear—she forgot which—nothing which mattered much, or
gave her any thrill!
“I hope I shall make you happy,” he had added. “I am a dull sort of
a fellow, but I will try.”
Then they had talked of the usual things that they talked about, the
most every-day,—and they had returned to the house, and by the evening
every one knew of the engagement, and she was congratulated on all
sides, and petted by the hostess, and she and John were left
ostentatiously alone in a smaller drawing-room after dinner, and there
was not a grain of excitement in the whole conventional thing!
There was always a shadow, too, in John's blue eyes. He was the most
reserved creature in this world, she supposed. That might be all very
well, but what was the good of being so reserved with the woman you
liked well enough to make your wife, if it made you never able to get
beyond talking on general subjects!
This she had asked herself many times and had determined to break
down the reserve. But John never changed and he was always considerate
and polite and perfectly at ease. He would talk quietly and with
commonsense to whoever he was placed next, and very seldom a look of
interest flickered in his eyes. Indeed, Amaryllis had never seen him
really interested until he spoke of Ardayre—then his very voice
He spoke of his home often to her during their engagement, and she
grew to know that it was something sacred to him, and that the Family
and its honour, and its traditions, meant more to him than any
individual person could ever do.
She almost became jealous of it all.
Her trousseau was quite nice—the maiden aunt had seen to that. Her
niece had done well and she did not grudge her pinchings.
Amaryllis felt triumphant as she walked up the aisle of St.
George's, Hanover Square, on the arm of a scapegrace sailor uncle—she
would not allow her stepfather to give her away.
Every one was so pleased about the wedding! An Ardayre married to an
Ardayre! Good blood on both sides and everything suitable and rich and
prosperous, and just as it should be! And there stood her handsome,
stolid bridegroom, serenely calm—and the white flowers, and the
Bishop—and her silver brocade train—and the pages, and the
bridesmaids. Oh! yes, a wedding was a most agreeable thing!
And could she have penetrated into the thoughts of John Ardayre,
this is the prayer she would have heard, as he knelt there beside her
at the altar rails: “Oh, God, keep the axe from falling yet, give me a
The most curious emotions of excitement rose in her when they went
off in the smart new automobile en route for that inevitable country
house “lent by the bridegroom's uncle, the Earl de la Paule, for the
first days of the honeymoon.”
This particular mansion was on the river, only two hours' drive from
her aunt's Charles Street door. Now that she was his wife, surely John
would begin to make love to her, real love, kisses, claspings, and what
not. For Elsie Goldmore had presumed upon their schoolgirl friendship
and been quite explicate in these last days, and in any case Amaryllis
was not a miss of the Victorian era. The feminine world has grown too
unrefined in the expression of its private affairs and too indiscreet
for any maiden to remain in ignorance now.
It is true John did kiss her once or twice, but there was no real
warmth in the embrace, and when, after an excellent dinner her heart
began to beat with wonderment and excitement, she asked herself what it
meant. Then, all confused, she murmured something about “Good-night,”
and retired to the magnificent state suite alone.
When she had left him John Ardayre drank down a full glass of
Benedictine and followed her up the stairs, but there was no lover's
exaltation, but an anguish almost of despair in his eyes.
Amaryllis thought of that night—and of other nights since—as she
sat there at Armenonville, in the luminous sensuous dusk.
So this was being married! Well, it was not much of a joy—and why,
why did John sit silent there? Why?
Surely this is not how the Russian would have sat—that strange
It was nearing sunset in the garden below the Trocadero. A tall
German officer waited impatiently not far from the bronze of a fierce
bull in a secluded corner under the trees; he was plainly an officer
although he was clothed in mufti of English make. He was a singularly
handsome creature in spite of his too wide hips. A fine, sensual,
He swore in his own language, and then, through the glorious light,
a woman came towards him. She wore an unremarkable overcoat and a thick
“Hans!” she exclaimed delightedly, and then went on in fluent German
with a strong American accent.
He looked round to be sure that they were alone, and then he clasped
her in his arms. He held her so tightly that she panted for breath; he
kissed her until her lips were bruised, and he murmured guttural words
of endearment that sounded like an animal's growl.
The woman answered him in like manner. It was as though two brute
beasts had met.
Then presently they sat upon a seat and talked in low tones. The
woman protested and declaimed; the man grumbled and demanded. An
envelope passed between them, and more crude caresses, and before they
parted the man again held her in close embrace—biting the lobe of her
ear until she gave a little scream.
“Yes—if there was time—” she gasped huskily. “I should adore you
like this—but here—in the gardens—Oh! do mind my hat!”
Then he let her go—they had arranged a future meeting. And left
alone, he sat down upon the bench again and laughed aloud.
The woman almost ran to the road at the bottom and jumped into a
waiting taxi, and once inside she brought out a gold case with mirror
and powder puff, and red greases for her lips.
“My goodness! I can't say that's a mosquito!” and she examined her
ear. “How tiresome and imprudent of Hans! But Jingo, it was good!—if
there only had been time—”
Then she, too, laughed as she powdered her face, and when she
alighted at the door of the Hotel du Rhin, no marks remained of
conflict except the telltale ear.
But on encountering her maid, she was carrying her minute Pekinese
dog in her arms and was beating him well.
“Regardez, Marie! la vilaine bete m'a mordu l'oreil!”
“Tiens!” commented the affronted Marie, who adored Fou-Chou. “Et le
cher petit chien de Madame est si doux!”
* * * * *
Stanislass Boleski was poring over a voluminous bundle of papers
when his wife, clad in a diaphanous wrap, came into his sitting room.
They had a palatial suite at the Rhin. The affairs of Poland were not
prospering as he had hoped, and these papers required his supreme
attention—there was German intrigue going on somewhere underneath. He
longed for Harietta's sympathy which she had been so prodigal in
bestowing before she had secured her divorce from that brute of a
Teutonic husband, whom she hated so much. Now she hardly ever listened,
and yawned in his face when he spoke of Poland and his high aims. But
he must make allowances for her—she was such a child of impulse, so
lovely, so fascinating! And here in Paris, admired as she was, how
could he wonder at her distraction!
“Stanislass! my old Stannie,” she cooed in his ear, “what am I to
wear to-night for the Montivacchini ball? You will want me to look my
best, I know, and I just love to please you.”
He was all attention at once, pushing the documents aside as she put
her arms around his neck and pulled his beard, then she drew his head
back to kiss the part where the hair was growing thin on the top—her
eyes fixed on the papers.
“You don't want to bother with those tiresome old things any more;
go and get into your dressing-gown, and come to my room and talk while
I am polishing my nails,—we can have half an hour before I must dress.
I'll wait for you here—I must be petted to-night, I am tired and
Stanislass Boleski rose with alacrity. She had not been kind to him
for days—fretful and capricious and impossible to please. He must not
lose this chance—if it could only have been when he was not so
“Run along, do!” she commanded, tapping her foot.
And putting the papers hastily in a drawer with a spring lock, he
went gladly from the room.
Her whole aspect changed; she lit a cigarette and hummed a tune,
while she fingered a key which dangled from her bracelet.
No one eclipsed Madame Boleski in that distinguished crowd later on.
Her clinging silver brocade, and the one red rose at the edge of the
extreme decolletage, were simply the perfection of art. She did not
wear gloves, and on her beautifully manicured hands she wore no rings
except a magnificent ruby on the left little finger. It was her caprice
to refuse an alliance. “Wedding rings!” she had said to Stanislass.
“Bosh! they spoil the look. Sometimes it is chic to have a good jewel
on one finger, sometimes on another, but to be tied down to that band
of homely gold! Never!”
Stanislass had argued in those early days—he seldom argued now.
“My love!” he cried, as she burst upon his infatuated vision, when
ready for the ball, “let me admire you!”
She turned about; she knew that she was perfection.
Her husband kissed her fingers, and then he caught sight of the ruby
ring. He examined it.
“I had not seen this ruby before,” he exclaimed in a surprised
voice, “and I thought I knew all your jewel case!”
She held out her hand while her big, stupid, appealing hazel eyes
expressed childish innocence.
“No—I'd put it away, it was of other days—but I do love rubies,
and so I got it out to-night, it goes with my rose!”
He had perceived this. Had he not become educated in the subtleties
of a woman's apparel? For was it not his duty often, and his pleasure
sometimes, to have to assist at her toilet, and to listen for hours to
discussions of garments, and if they could suit or not. He was even
accustomed now to waiting in the hot salons in the Rue de la Paix,
while these stately perfections were being essayed. But the ruby ring
worried him. Why had she asked him to give her just such a one only
last month, if she already possessed its fellow?... He had refused
because her extravagance had grown fantastic, but he had meant to cede
later. Every pleasure of the senses he always had to secure by bribes.
“I do not understand why?—” he began, but she put her hand over his
mouth and then kissed him voluptuously before she turned and shrilly
cried to Marie to bring her ermine cloak.
The maid's eyes were round and sullen with resentment; she had not
forgotten the beating of Fou-Chou! “As for the ear of Madame!” she
said, clasping the tiny dog to her heart, as she watched her mistress
go towards the lift from the sitting-room, “as for that maudite ear,
thy teeth are innocent, my angel! But I wish that he who is guilty had
bitten it off!” Then she laughed disdainfully.
“And look at the old fool! He dreams of nothing! And if he dreamed,
he would not believe—such insenses are men!”
Meanwhile the Boleskis had arrived at the hotel of the Duchesse di
Montivacchini, that rich and ravishing American-Italian, who gave the
most splendid and exclusive entertainments in Paris. So, too, had
arrived Sir John and Lady Ardayre, brought on from the dinner at the
Ritz by Verisschenzko.
Denzil had left that morning for England, or he would have had the
disagreeable experience of meeting his soi-disant cousin, to
whom he had applied the epithet “toad.” For Ferdinand Ardayre had just
reached the gay city from Constantinople, and had also come to the ball
with a friend in the Turkish Embassy.
He happened to be standing at the door when the Boleskis were
announced, and his light eyes devoured Harietta—she seemed to him the
ideal of things feminine—and he immediately took steps to be
presented. Assurance was one of his strongest cards. He was a fair
man—with the fairness of a Turk not European—and there was something
mean and chetive in his regard. He would have looked over-dressed and
un-English in a London ball-room, but in that cosmopolitan company he
was unremarkable. He had been his mother's idol and Sir James had left
him everything he could scrape from his highly mortgaged property. But
certain tastes of his own made a Continental life more congenial to
him, and he had chosen early to enter a financial house which took him
to the East and Constantinople. He was about twenty-seven years old at
this period and was considered by himself and a number of women to be a
creature of superlative charm.
The one burning bitterness in his spirit was the knowledge that Sir
John Ardayre had never recognised him as a brother. During Sir James'
lifetime there had been silence upon the matter, since John had no
legal reason for denying the relationship, but once he had become
master of Ardayre he had let it be known that he refused to believe
Ferdinand to be his father's son. On the rare occasions when he had to
be mentioned, John called him “the mongrel” and Ferdinand was aware of
this. A silent, intense hatred filled his being—more than shared by
his mother who, until the day of her death, two years before, had
always plotted vengeance—without being able to accomplish anything.
Either mother or son would willingly have murdered John if a suitable
and safe method had presented itself. And now to know that John had
married a beautiful far-off cousin and might have children, and so
forever preclude the possibility of his—Ferdinand's—own inheritance
of Ardayre was a further incentive to hate! If only some means could be
discovered to remove John, and soon! But while Ferdinand thought these
things, watching his so-called brother from across the room, he knew
that he was impotent. Poisons and daggers were not weapons which could
be employed in civilised Paris in the twentieth century! If they would
only come to Constantinople!
Amaryllis Ardayre had never seen a Paris ball before. She was
enchanted. The sumptuous, lofty rooms, with their perfect Louis XV gilt
boiseries, the marvellous clothes of the women, the gaiety in the
air! She was accustomed to the new weird dances in England, but had not
seen them performed as she now saw them.
“This orgie of mad people is a wonderful sight,” Verisschenzko said,
as he stood by her side. “Paris has lost all good taste and sense of
the fitness of things. Look! the women who are the most expert in the
wriggle of the tango are mostly over forty years old! Do you see that
one in the skin-tight pink robe? She is a grandmother! All are
painted—all are feverish—all would be young! It is ever thus when a
country is on the eve of a cataclysm—it is a dance Macabre.”
Amaryllis turned, startled, to look at him, and she saw that his
eyes were full of melancholy, and not mocking as they usually were.
“A dance Macabre! You do not approve of these tangoes then?”
He gave a small shrug of his shoulders, which was his only form of
“Tangoes—or one steps—I neither approve nor disapprove—dancing
should all have its meaning, as the Greek Orchises had. These dances to
the Greeks would have meant only one thing—I do not know if they would
have wished this to take place in public, they were an aesthetic and
refined people, so I think not. We Russians are the only so-called
civilised nation who are brutal enough for that; but we are far from
being civilised really. Orgies are natural to us—they are not to the
French or the English. Savage sex displays for these nations are an
acquired taste, a proof of vicious decay, the middle note of the end.”
“I learned the tango this Spring—it is charming to dance,”
Amaryllis protested. She was a little uncomfortable—the subject, much
as she was interested in the Russian's downright views, she found was
difficult to discuss.
“I am sure you did—you counted time—you moved your charming form
this way and that—and you had not the slightest idea of anything in it
beyond anxiety to keep step and do the thing well! Yes—is it not so?”
Amaryllis laughed—this was so true!
“What an incredibly false sham it all is!” he went on. “Started by
niggers or Mexicans for what it obviously means, and brought here for
respectable mothers, and wives, and girls to perform. For me a woman
loses all charm when she cheapens the great mystery-ceremonies of
“Then you won't dance it with me?” Amaryllis challenged
smilingly—she would not let him see that she was cast down. “I do so
want to dance!”
His eyes grew fierce.
“I beg of you not! I desire to keep the picture I have made of you
since we met—later I shall dance it myself with a suitable partner,
but I do not want you mixed with this tarnished herd.”
Amaryllis answered with dignity:
“If I thought of it as you do I should not want to dance it at all.”
She was aggrieved that her expressed desire might have made him hold
her less high—“and you have taken all the bloom from my butterfly's
wing—I will never enjoy dancing it again—let us go and sit down.”
He gave her his arm and they moved from the room, coming almost into
conflict with Madame Boleski and her partner, Ferdinand Ardayre, whose
movements would have done honour to the lowest nigger ring.
“There is your friend, Madame Boleski—she dances—and so well!”
“Harietta is an elemental—as I told you before—it is right that
she should express herself so. She is very well aware of what it all
means and delights in it. But look at that lady with the hair going
grey—it is the Marquise de Saint Vrilliere—of the bluest blood in
France and of a rigid respectability. She married her second daughter
last week. They all spend their days at the tango classes, from early
morning till dark—mothers and daughters, grandmothers and
demi-mondaines, Russian Grand Duchesses, Austrian Princesses—clasped
in the arms of incredible scum from the Argentine, half-castes from
Mexico, and farceurs from New York—decadent male things they would not
receive in their ante-chambers before this madness set in!”
“And you say it is a dance Macabre? Tell me just what you mean.”
They had reached a comfortable sofa by now in a salon devoted to
bridge, which was almost empty, the players, so eager to take part in
the dancing, that they had deserted even this, their favourite game.
“When a nation loses all sense of balance and belies the traditions
of its whole history, and when masses of civilised individuals
experience this craze for dancing and miming, and sex display, it
presages some great upheaval—some calamity. It was thus before the
revolution of 1793, and since it is affecting England and America and
all of Europe it seems, the cataclysm will be great.”
Amaryllis shivered. “You frighten me,” she whispered. “Do you mean
some war—or some earthquake—or some pestilence, or what?”
“Events will show. But let us talk of something else. A cousin of
your husband's, who is a very good friend of mine, was here yesterday.
He went to England to-day, you have not met him yet, I believe—Denzil
“No—but I know all about him—he plays polo and is in the Zingari.”
“He does other things—he will even do more—I shall be curious to
hear what you think of him. For me he is the type of your best in
England. We were at Oxford together; we dreamed dreams there—and
perhaps time will realise some of them. Denzil is a beautiful
Englishman, but he is not a fool.”
A sudden illumination seemed to come into Amaryllis' brain; she felt
how limited had been all her thoughts and standpoints in life. She had
been willing to drift on without speculation as to the goal to be
reached. Indeed, even now, had she any definite goal? She looked at the
Russian's strong, rugged face, his inscrutable eyes narrowed and gazing
ahead—of what was he thinking? Not stupid, ordinary things—that was
“It is the second evening, amidst the most unlikely surroundings,
that you have made me speculate about subjects which never troubled me
before. Then you leave me unsatisfied—I want to know—definitely to
“Searcher after wisdom!” and he smiled. “No one can teach another
very much. Enlightenment must come from within; we have reached a
better stage when we realise that we are units in some vast scheme and
responsible for its working, and not only atoms floating hither and
thither by chance. Most people have the brains of grasshoppers; they
spring from subject to subject, their thoughts are never under control.
Their thoughts rule them—it is not they who rule their thoughts.”
They were seated comfortably on their sofa, and Verisschenzko
leaning forward from his corner, looked straight into her eyes.
“You control your thoughts?” she asked. “Can you really only let
them wander where you choose?”
“They very seldom escape me, but I consciously allow them
“Visions—day dreams—which I know ought not to materialise.”
Something disturbed her in his regard; it was not easy to meet, so
full of magnetic emanation. Amaryllis was conscious that she no longer
felt very calm—she longed to know What his dreams could be.
“Yes—but if I told you, you would send me away.”
It seemed that he could read her desire. “I shall order myself to be
gone presently, because the interest which you cause me to feel would
interfere with work which I have to do.”
“And your dreams? Tell them first?” she knew that she was playing
He looked down now, and she saw that he was not going to gratify her
“My noblest dream is for the regeneration of a nation—on that I
have ordered my thoughts to dwell. For the others, the time is not yet
for me to tell you of them—it may never come. Now answer me, have you
yet seen your new home, Ardayre?”
“No, but why should you be interested in that? It seems strange that
you, a Russian, should even know that there is such a place as
“Continue—I know that it is a wonderful place, and that your
husband loves it more than his life.”
Amaryllis pouted slightly.
“He does indeed! Perhaps I shall grow to do so also when I know it;
it is the family creed. Sir James—my late father-in-law—was the only
exception to this rule.”
“You must uphold the idea then, and live to do fine things.”
“I will try—if only—” then she paused, she could not say “if only
John would be human and unfreeze to me, and love me, and let us go on
the road together hand in hand!”
“It is quite useless for a family merely to continue from generation
to generation piling up possessions, and narrowing its interests. It
must do this for a time to become solid, and then it should take a
vaster view, and begin to help the world. Nearly everything is spoiled
in all civilisation because of this inability to see beyond the nose,
this poor and paltry outlook.”
“People rave vaguely,” Amaryllis argued, “about one's duty and vast
outlooks and those things, but it is difficult to get any one to give
concrete advice—what would you advise me to do, for instance?”
“I would advise you first to begin asking yourself the reason of
everything, each day, since Pandora's box has been opened for you in
any case. 'What caused this? What caused that?' Search for causes—then
eradicate the roots, if they are not good, do not waste time on trying
to ameliorate the results! Determine as to why you are put into such
and such a place, and accomplish what you discover to be the duty of
the situation. But how serious we have become! I am not a priest to
give you guidance—I am a man fighting a tremendously strong desire to
take you in my arms—so come, we will return to the ball room, and I
will deliver you to your husband.”
Amaryllis rose and stood facing him, her heart was beating fast. “If
I try to do well—to climb the straight road of the soul's advancement,
will you give me counsel should I need it by the way?”
“Yes, this I will do when I have complete control, but for the
moment you are causing me emotions, and I wish to keep you a thing
apart—of the spirit. Hermits and saints subdue the flesh by abstinence
and fasting; they then become useless to the world. A man can only lead
men while he remains a man, with a man's passions, so that he should
not fight in this beyond his strength—only he should never sully
the wrong thing. Come! Return to the husband—and I shall go for a
while to hell.”
And presently Amaryllis, standing safely with John, saw
Verisschenzko dancing the maddest one-step with Madame Boleski, their
undulations outdoing all others in the room!
The day after the wonderful rejoicing which the homecoming of
Amaryllis had been the occasion of at Ardayre, she was sitting waiting
for her husband in that exquisite cedar parlour which led from her
They would breakfast cosily there, she had arranged, and nothing was
wanting in the setting of a love scene. The bride wore the most
alluring cap and daintiest Paris neglige, and her fair and pure skin
gleamed through the diaphanous stuff.
How she longed for John to notice it all, and make love to her! She
had apprehended a number of delightful possibilities in Paris, none of
which had materialised, alas! in her case.
John was the same as ever—quiet, dignified, polite and unmoved. She
had taken to turning out the light before he came to her at night, to
hide the disappointment and chagrin which she felt might show in her
eyes. It would be so humiliating if he should see this. There would
soon be nothing left for her to do but pretend that she was as cold as
he was, if this last effort of froufrous left him as stolid as
She smoothed out the pale chiffon draperies with a tender hand. She
got up and looked at herself in the mirror. It was fortunate that the
reflection of snowy nose and throat and chin, and the pink velvet
cheeks, required no art to perfect them; it was all natural and quite
nice, she felt. What a bore it must be to have to touch up like Madame
But what was the meaning of all the imputations she had read of in
those interesting French novels in Paris?—the languors and lassitudes
and tremors of breakfasting love! There was just such a scene as this
in one she had devoured on the boat. A dejeuner of amants—
certainly they had not been married, there was that want of resemblance,
but surely this could not matter? For a fortnight, three weeks, a
month, surely even a husband could be as a lover—especially to a
mistress who took such pains to please his eye!
Would Elsie Goldmore spend such dull breakfasts when she espoused
Harry Kahn? Elsie Goldmore was a Jewess, perhaps that made the
difference, perhaps Jews were more expansive—But the people in the
novels were not Jews. Of course, though, they were French, that must be
it! Could it be that all Englishmen, to their wives, were like John?
This she must presently find out.
Meanwhile she would try—oh, try so hard to entice him to be lovely
to her! He was her own husband; there was absolutely no harm in doing
this. And how glorious it would be to turn him into a lover! Here in
this perfectly divine old house! John was so good-looking, too, and had
the most attractive deep voice, but heavens! the matter-of-factness of
everything about him!
How long would it all go on?
John came in presently with The Times under his arm. He was
immaculately dressed in a blue serge suit. Amaryllis had hoped to see
him in that subduedly gorgeous dressing gown she had persuaded him to
order at Charvets during their first days. It would have been so
suitable and intimate and lover-like. But no! there was the blue serge
suit—and The Times.
A shadow fell upon her mood. Her own pink chiffons almost seemed out
John glanced at them, and at the glowing, living, delicious bit of
young womanhood which they adorned. He saw the rebellious ripe cherry
of a mouth, and the warm, soft tenderness in the grey eyes, and then he
quickly looked out of the window—his own blue ones expressionless, but
the hand which held the newspaper clenched rather hard.
“Amn't I a pet!” cooed Amaryllis, deliberately subduing the chill of
her first disappointment. “Dearest, see I have kept this last and
loveliest set of garments for the morning of our home-coming—and for
you!” and she crept close to him and laid her cheek against his cheek.
He encircled her with his arm and kissed her calmly.
“You look most beautiful, darling,” he said. “But then, you always
do, and your frills are perfection. Now I think we ought to have
breakfast; it is most awfully late.”
She sat down in her place and she felt stupid tears rise in her
She poured out the tea and buttered herself some toast, while John
was apparently busy at a side table where dwelt the hot dishes.
He selected the daintiest piece of sole for her, and handed her the
“I am not hungry,” she protested, “keep it for yourself.”
He did not press the matter, but took his place and began to talk
quietly upon the news of the day—in a composed fashion between glances
at The Times and mouthfuls of sole.
Amaryllis controlled herself. She was too proud and too just to make
a foolish scene. If this was John's way and her little effort at
enticement was a failure, she must put up with it. Marriage was a
lottery she had always heard, and it might be her luck to have drawn a
blank. So she choked down the rising emotion and answered brightly,
showing interest in her husband's remarks—and she even managed to eat
some omelette, and when the business of breakfast was quite over she
went to the window and John followed her there.
The view which met their eyes was exquisite.
Beyond the perfect stately garden, with its quaint clipped yews and
masses of spring flowers and velvet lawns, there stretched the vast
park with its splendid oaks and browsing deer. It was a possession
which any man could feel proud to own.
John slipped his arm round her waist and drew her to him.
“Amaryllis,” he said, and his voice vibrated, “to-day I am going to
show you everything I love here at Ardayre—because I want you to love
it all, too. You are of the family, so it must mean something to you,
Amaryllis kindled with re-awakening hope.
“Indeed, it will mean everything to me, John.”
He kissed her forehead and murmured something about her dressing
quickly, and that he would wait for her there in the cedar room. And
when she returned in about a quarter of an hour in the neatest country
clothes, he placed her hand on his arm and led her down the great
stairs and on through the hall into the picture gallery.
It was a wonderful place of green silk and chestnut wainscoting, and
all the walls of its hundred feet of length were hung with canvases of
value—portraits principally of those Ardayres who had gone on. Face
after face looked down on Amaryllis of the same type as John's and her
own—the brown hair and eyes of grey or blue. Some were a little
fairer, some a little darker, but all unmistakably stamped “Ardayre.”
John pointed out each individual to her, while she hung fondly on
his arm, from some doubtful crude fourteenth century wooden panels of
Johns and Denzils, on to Benedict in a furred Henry VII. gown. Then
came Henrys and Denzils in Elizabethan armour and puffed white satin,
and through Stuart and Commonwealth to Stuart again, and so to William
and Mary numbers of Benedicts, and lastly to powdered Georgian James'
and Regency Denzils and Johns. And the name Amaryllis recurred more
than once in stately dame or damsel, called after that fair Amaryllis
of Elizabeth's days who had been maid of honour to the virgin Queen,
and had sonnets written to her nut brown locks by the gallants of her
“How little the women they married seem to have altered the type!”
the young living Amaryllis exclaimed, when they came nearly to the end.
“It goes on Ardayre, Ardayre, Ardayre, ever since the very first one.
Oh! John, if we ever have a son he ought to be even more so—you and I
being of the same blood—” and then she hesitated and blushed crimson.
This was the first time she had ever spoken of such a thing.
John held her arm very tightly to his side for a second, and his
voice was uncertain as he answered:
“Amaryllis, that is the profound desire of my heart, that we should
have a son.”
A strange feeling of exaltation came over Amaryllis, half-innocent,
wholly ignorant as she was.
She had been stupid—French novels were all nonsense. Marriages in
real life were always like this—of course they must be—since John
said plainly and with such deep feeling that his profoundest desire was
that they should have a son! That meant that she would surely have one.
This was perfectly glorious, and it must simply be those silly books
and Elsie Goldmore's too uxorious imagination which had given her some
ridiculously romantic exaggerated ideas of what love hours would be.
She would now be contented and never worry again. She nestled closer to
her husband and looked up at him with eyes sweet and fond, the brown,
curly lashes wet with tender dew.
“Oh!—darling, when, when do you think we shall have a son?”
Then, for the first time in their lives, John Ardayre clasped her in
his arms passionately and held her to his heart.
“Ah, God,” he whispered hoarsely, as he kissed her fresh young lips.
“Pray for that, Amaryllis—pray for that, my own.”
Then he restrained himself and drew her on to the four last pictures
at the end of the room. They were of his grandfather and grandmother,
and his father and mother. And then there was a blank space, and the
brighter colour of the damask showed that a canvas had been removed.
“Who hung there, John?”
“The accursed snake charmer woman whom my father disgraced the
family with by bringing home. She was his wife by the law, and a
Frenchman painted her. It was a fine picture with the bastard Ferdinand
in her arms—the proof of our shame. I had it taken down and burnt the
day the place was mine.”
Amaryllis was receiving surprises to-day—John's face was full of
emotion, his eyes were sparkling with hate as he spoke. How he must
love everything connected with his home, and its honour, and its
name—he could not be so very cold after all!
She thought of the Russian's words about a family—the uselessness
of its going on for generations, piling up possessions and narrowing
its interests. What had the aims been of all these handsome men? She
knew the earlier history a little, for even though she was of a distant
branch they had been proud of the connection, and treasured the
traditions belonging to it. But these were just dry facts of history
which she knew, so now she asked:
“John, what did any of them do? Did they accomplish great deeds?”
He took her back to the beginning again and began to tell her of the
achievements of each one. There would be three perhaps, one after
another, who had filled high posts in the State, and indeed had been
worthy of the name. Then would come one or two quiet plodding ones, who
seemed to have done little but sit still and hold on.
Then Denzil Ardayre, knight of Elizabeth's time, pleased Amaryllis
most of all—though there had been greater soldiers, and more able
politicians than he later on, culminating in Sir John Ardayre of George
IV. days, who had hammered against pocket boroughs and corruption until
he died an old man, the hour the Reform Bill swept aside abuses and the
road to freedom was won.
“How strange it seems that different ages produce more accentuated
stamps of breeding than others,” Amaryllis said, “even in the same
families where the blood is all blue. Look, John! that Denzil and the
rest of the Elizabethans are the most refined, aristocratic creatures
you could imagine, in their little ruffs. Absolutely intellectual and
cultivated faces and of old race—and then comes a James period, less
intelligent, more round featured. And a Cavalier one, gay and gallant,
aristocratic and chiselled also, but not nearly so clever looking as
the Elizabethan. Then we get cadaverous William and Mary ones, they
might be lawyers or business men, not that look of great gentlemen, and
the Anne's and the first George's are really bucolic! And then that
wonderfully refined, cultivated, intellectual finish seems to crop up
in the later eighteenth century again. Have you noticed this, John? You
can see it in every collection of miniatures and portraits even in the
John responded interestedly:
“The Elizabethans were supremely cultivated gentlemen—no wonder
that they look as they do—and their lives were always in their hands
which gives them that air of insouciance.”
When the history of the family achievements had been told her down
to John's father, she paused, still clinging to his arm, and said:
“I am so glad that they did splendid things, aren't you? And we
shall not drift either. You must teach me to be the most perfect
mistress of Ardayre, and the most perfect wife for the greatest of them
all—because your achievement is the finest, John, to have won it all
back and redeemed it by the work of your own brain.”
He pressed the hand on his arm.
“It was hard work—and the home times were ugly in those days,
Amaryllis, though the goal was worth it, and now we must carry on....”
And then his reserve seemed to fall upon him again, and he took her
through the other rooms, and kept to solid facts, and historic
descriptions, and his bride had continuously the impression that he was
mastering some emotion in himself, and that this stolidity was a mask.
When lunch time came the usual relations of obvious and commonplace
goodfellowship had been fully restored between them, and that
atmosphere of aloofness which seemed impossible to banish enveloped
John once more.
Amaryllis sighed—but it was too soon to despair she thought, after
the hope of John's words, and with her serene temperament she decided
to leave things as they were for the present and trust to time.
But as her maid brushed out the soft brown hair that night, an
unrest and longing for something came over her again—what she knew
not, nor could have put into words. She let herself re-live that one
moment when John had pressed herewith passion to his heart. Perhaps,
perhaps that was the beginning of a change in him—perhaps—presently—
But the clock in the long gallery had chimed two, and there was yet
no sound of John in the dressing-room beyond.
Amaryllis lay in the great splendid gilt bed in the warm darkness,
and at last tears trickled down her cheeks.
What could keep him so long away from her? Why did he not come?
The large Queen Anne windows were wide open, and soft noises of the
night floated in with the zephyrs. The whole air seemed filled with
waiting expectancy for something tender and passionate to be.
What was that? Steps upon the terrace—measured steps—and then
silence, and then a deep sigh. It must be John—out there alone!—when
she would have loved to have stayed with him, to have woven sweet
fancies in the luminous darkness, to have taken and given long kisses,
to have buried her face in the honeysuckle which grew there, steeped in
dew. But he had said to her after their stately dinner in the great
“Play to me a little, Amaryllis, and then go to bed, child—you must
be tired out.”
And after that he had not spoken more, but pushed her gently towards
the door with a solemn kiss on the forehead, and just a murmur of
“Good-night.” And she had deceived herself and thought that it meant
that he would come quickly, and so she had run up the stairs.
But now it was after two in the morning, and would soon be growing
towards dawn—and John was out there sighing alone!
She crept to the window and leaned upon the sill. She thought that
she could distinguish his tall figure there by the carved stone bench.
“John!” she called softly, “I am, so lonely—John, dearest—won't
Then she felt that her ears must be deceiving her, for there was the
sound of a faint suppressed sob, and then, a second afterwards, her
husband's voice answering cheerily, with its usual casual note:
“You naughty little night bird! Go back to bed—and to sleep—yes—I
am coming immediately now!”
But when he did steal in silently from the dressing-room an hour
later in a grey dawn, Amaryllis, worn out with speculation and
disappointment, had fallen asleep.
He looked down upon her charming face—the long, curly brown lashes
sweeping the flushed cheek, and at the rounded, beautiful girlish
form—all his very own to clasp and to kiss and to hold in his
arms—and two scalding tears gathered in his blue eyes, and he took his
place beside her without making a sound.
“Here are the papers, Hans, but I think the whole thing stupid
nonsense. What does it matter to any one what Poland wants? What a
nuisance all these old boring political things are! They always spoiled
our happiness since the beginning—and now if it wasn't for them we
could have a glorious time here together. I would love managing to come
out to meet you under Stanislass' nose. None of the others I have ever
had are as good in the way of a lover as you.”
The man swore in German under his breath.
“Of a lightness always, Harietta! No devouement, no
patriotism.... Should I have agreed to the divorce, loving your body as
I do, had it not been a serious matter? The pig-dog who now owns you
must be sucked dry of information—and then I shall take you back
A cunning look came into Madame Boleski's hazel eyes. She had not
the slightest intention of permitting this—to go back to Hans! To the
difficulty of making both ends meet! Even though he did cause every
inch of her well-preserved body to tingle! They had suggested her
getting the divorce for their own stupid political ends, to be able to
place her in the arms of Stanislass Boleski, and there she meant to
stay! It was infinitely more agreeable to be a grande dame in Paris,
and presently in London, than to be the spouse of Hans in Berlin,
where, whatever his secret power might be with the authorities, he
could give her no great social position; and social position was the
goal of all Harietta Boleski's desires!
She could attract lovers in any class of life—that had never been
her difficulty. Her trouble had been that she could never force herself
into good American society, even after she had married Hans, and they
had dwelt there for a year or more. Her own compatriots would have none
of her, and so she wanted triumph in other lands. She hated to remember
her youth of humiliation, trying to play a social game on the earnings
of any work that she could pick up, between discreet outings
with—friends who failed to suggest matrimony. Hans, on some secret
mission to San Francisco, where she had gone as companion to a friend,
had seemed a veritable Godsend and Prince Charming, when, in her
thirtieth year, he actually offered legal marriage, completely overcome
by her great physical charm. But although she loved Hans with whatever
of that emotion such a nature could be capable of, five years of him
and more or less genteel poverty had been enough, and now she was free
of that, and could still enjoy surreptitiously the pleasure of his
passion, and reign as a persona grata wife of one of the richest
men in Poland at the same time. That those in authority who had
arranged the divorce required of her certain tiresome obligations in
return for their services, was one of those annoying parts of life! She
took not the slightest interest in the affairs of any country. Nothing
really mattered to her, but herself. Her whole force was concentrated
upon the betterment of the position and physical pleasure of Harietta
It was this instinct alone which had prompted her to acquire a
smattering of education—and with the quick, adaptive faculty of a
monkey she had been able to use this to its utmost limits, as well as
her histrionic talent—no mean one—to gain her ends. She was now
playing the role of a lady, and playing it brilliantly she knew—and
here was Hans back again, and suggesting that when she had secured all
the information that he required from Stanislass she should return to
“Tra la la!” she said to herself, there in the room at the Hotel
Astoria, where she had gone to meet him, “think this if it pleases you!
It will keep you quiet and won't hurt me!”
For the moment she wanted Hans—the man, and was determined to waste
no further time on useless discussion. So she began her blandishments,
taking pride in showing him her beautiful garments, and her string of
big pearls; each thing exhibited between her voluptuous kisses, until
Hans grew intoxicated with desire, and became as clay in her hands.
“It is not thy pig-dog of a husband I wish to kill!” he said, after
one hour had gone by in inarticulate murmurings. “Him I do not fear—it
is the Russian, Verisschenzko, who fills me with hate—we have regard
of him, he does not go unobserved, and if you allure him also among the
rest, beyond the instructions which you had, then there will be
unpleasantness for you, my little cat—thy Hans will twist his bear's
neck, and thine also, if need be!”
“Verisschenzko!” laughed Harietta, “why, I hardly know him; he don't
amount to a row of pins! He's Stanislass' friend—not mine.”
Then she smoothed back Hans' rather fierce, fair moustache from his
lips and kissed him again—her ruby ring flashing in a ray of sunlight.
“Look! isn't this a lovely jewel, Hans! My old Stannie gave it to me
only some days ago—it is my new toy—see—”
Hans examined it:
“Thou art a creature of the devil, Harietta, there is not one of thy
evil qualities of greed and extortion which I do not know. Thou liest
to me and to all men—the only good thing in thee is thy body—and for
that all men let thee lie.”
“I can't understand when you talk like that, Hans—it's all warbash,
as we said out West. What are qualities? What is there but the body
anyway? Great sakes! that's enough for me, and the devil is only in
story books to frighten children—I'm just like every other woman and I
want to have a good time.”
“I hear that you are going to London soon,” said Hans, dropping the
tutoyage and growing brutally severe, “to conquer new lovers and to
wear more dresses? But there you will be of great use to me. Your
instructions will be all ready in cypher by Tuesday night, when you
must meet me at whatever point is convenient to you, after nine
Harietta frowned—she had other views for Tuesday night.
“What shall I gain by coming, or by going on with this spying on
Stan? I'm tired of it all; it breaks my head trying to take in your
horrid old cypher. I don't think I'll do it any more.”
The Prussian's face grew livid and his mouth set like an iron
spring. He looked at her straight between the eyes, as a lion tamer
might have done, and he took a cane from where it laid on a bureau
“Until you are black and blue, I will beat you, woman,” he said, “as
I have done before—if you fail us in a single thing—and do not think
we are powerless! It shall be that you are exposed and degraded, and so
lose your game. Now tell me, will you go on?”
Harietta crouched in fear, just animal, physical fear—she had felt
that stick, it was a nightmare to her, as it might have been to a
child. She knew that Hans would keep his word. His physical strength
had been one of the things she had adored in him—but to be degraded
and exposed, as well as beaten, touched her sensibilities, after all
the trouble she had taken to become a lady of the world! This was too
much. No! Tiresome as all these old papers were, she would have to go
on—but since he threatened her she would pay him out! The Russian
should have papers as well! And so there was good in all things, since
now material advantage would come from both sides. Was it not right
that you looked to yourself, especially when menaced with a stick?
She laughed softly; this was humorous and she could appreciate such
kind of humour.
Hans crushed her in his arms.
“Answer!” he ordered gutturally. “Answer, you fiend!”
Harietta became cajoling—no one could have looked more frank or
simple, as simple as she looked to all great ladies when she would
disarm them and win her way. She would look up at them gently, and ask
their advice, and say that of course she was only a newcomer and very
ignorant, not clever like they!
“Hans, darling, I was only joking, am I not devoted to your
interests and always ready to serve you and the higher powers whom you
serve? Of course, I will come on Tuesday night and, of course, I will
She let her lip tremble and her eyes fill with tears; they were
quite real tears. She felt the hardship of having to weary her brain
with a new cypher, and self-pity inflames the lachrymose glands.
“To business then, mein liebchen—attend carefully to every
word. In England you must be received by Royalty itself, and you must
go into the highest circles of the diplomatic and political world. The
men are indiscreet there; they trust their women and tell them secret
things. It is the women you must please. The English are a race of
fools; numbers are aristocrats in all classes and therefore too stupid
to suspect craft, and those who are not are trying to appear to be, and
too conceited to use their wits. You can be of enormous use to our
country, Harietta, my wife,” and he walked up and down the room in his
excitement, his hands clasped behind him—he would have been a very
handsome man but for his too wide hips.
Marietta looked at him out of the corner of her eye; she did not
notice this defect in him, for her he was a splendid male, with a
delightful quality of savagery in love which she had found in no other
man except Verisschenzko—Verisschenzko! Her thoughts hesitated when
they came to him—Verisschenzko was adorable, but he was a man to be
feared—much more than Hans. Him she could always cajole if she used
passion enough, but she had the uncomfortable feeling that
Verisschenzko gave way to her only when—and because—he wanted to, not
for the reason that she had conquered him.
“Of great use to our country, Harietta, my wife,” Hans murmured
again, clearing his throat.
“I am not your wife, my pretty Hans!” and she raised her eyebrows,
and curled one corner of her upper lip. “You gave me up at the bidding
of the higher command—I am your mistress now and then, when I feel
inclined—but I am Stanislass' wife. I like a man better when I am his
mistress; there are no tiresome old duties along with it.”
Hans growled, he hated to realise this.
“You must be more careful with your speech, Harietta. When you get
to England you must not say 'along with it'—after the pains I have
taken with your grammar, too! You can use Americanisms if they are apt,
and even a literal translation of another language—but bad
grammar—common phrases—pah! that is to give the show away!”
Harietta reddened—her vanity disliked criticism.
“I take very good care of my language when it is necessary in the
world—I am considered to have a lovely voice—but when I'm with you I
guess I can enjoy a holiday—it's kind of a rest to let yourself go,”
her pronunciation lapsed into the broadest American, just to irritate
him, and she stood and laughed in his face.
He caught her in his arms. She never failed to appeal to his senses;
she had won him by that force and so held his brute nature even after
five years. This was always the reason of whatever success she secured.
A man had no smallest doubt as to why he was drawn; it was a direct
appeal to the most primitive animal nature in him. The birth of Love is
ever thus if we would analyse it truly, but the spirit fortunately so
wraps things in illusion that generally both participants really
believe that the mutual attraction is because of higher emotions of the
mind, and so they are doomed to disappointment when passion is sated,
unless the mind fulfills the ideal. But if the reality fails to make
good, the refined spirit turns in disgust from the material,
unconsciously resentful in that it has suffered deception. With
Harietta this disappointment could never occur, since she created no
illusion that she was appealing to the mind at all, and so a man if he
were attracted faced no unknown quality, but was aware that it was only
the animal in him which was drawn, and if his senses were his masters,
not his servants, her victory was complete.
After some more fierce caresses had come to an end—there was no
delicacy about Harietta—Hans continued his discourse.
“There has come here to Paris a young man of the name of
Ardayre—Ferdinand Ardayre—he is slippery, but he can be of the
greatest value to us. See that you become friends—you can reach him
through Abba Bey. He hates his brother who is the head of the family
and he hates his brother's wife—for family reasons which it is not
necessary to waste time in telling you. I knew him in Constantinople.
Underneath I believe he hates the English—there is a slur on him.”
“I have already met him,” and Harietta's eyes sparkled. “I hate the
wife also for my own reasons—yes—how can I help you with this?”
“It is Ferdinand you must concentrate on; I am not concerned with
the brother or his wife, except in so far as his hate for them can be
used to our advantage. Do not embark upon this to play games of your
own for your hate—you may be foolish then and upset matters.”
“Very well.” The two objects could go together, Harietta felt; she
never wasted words. It would be a pleasure one day, perhaps, to be able
to injure that girl whom Verisschenzko certainly respected, if he was
not actually growing to love her. Harietta did not desire the respect
of men in the abstract; it could be a great bore—what they thought of
her never entered her consideration, since she was only occupied with
her own pleasure in them and how they affected herself. Respect was one
of the adjuncts of a good social position; and of value merely in that
aspect. But as Verisschenzko respected no one else, as far as she knew,
that must mean something annoyingly important.
Seven o'clock struck; she had thoroughly enjoyed being with Hans, he
satisfied her in many ways, and it was also a relaxation, as she need
not act. But the joys of the interview were over now, and she had
others prepared for later on, and must go back to the Rhin to dress. So
she kissed Hans and left, having arranged to meet him on the Tuesday
night here in his rooms, and having received precise instructions as to
the nature of the information to be obtained from Ferdinand Ardayre.
Life would be a paradise if only it were not for these ridiculous
and tiresome political intrigues. Harietta had no taste for actual
intrigue, its intricacies were a weariness to her. If she could have
married a rich man in the beginning, she always told herself, she would
never have mixed herself up in anything of the kind, and now that she
had married a rich man, she would try to get out of the nuisance as
soon as possible. Meanwhile, there was Ferdinand—and Ferdinand was
becoming in love with her—they had met three times since the
“He'll be no difficulty,” she decided, with a sigh of relief. It
would not be as it had been with Verisschenzko, whom she had been
directed to capture. For in Verisschenzko she had found a master—not a
When she reached the beautiful Champs-Elysees, she looked at her
diamond wrist watch. It was only ten minutes past seven, the dinner at
the Austrian Embassy was not until half-past eight. Dressing was a
serious business to Harietta, but she meant to cut it down to half an
hour to-night, because there was a certain apartment in the Rue Cambon
which she intended to visit for a few minutes.
“What an original street to have an apartment in!” people always
said to Verisschenzko. “Nothing but business houses and model hotels
for travellers!” And the shabby looking porte-cochere gave no
evidence of the old Louis XV. mansion within, converted now into a
series of offices, all but the top flooring looking on to the gardens
of the Ministere.
Verisschenzko had taken it for its situation and its isolation, and
had converted it into a thing of great beauty of panelling and rare
pictures and the most comfortable chairs. There was absolute silence,
too, there among the tree tops.
Madame Boleski ascended leisurely the shallow stairs—there was no
lift—and rang her three short rings, which Peter, the Russian servant,
was accustomed to expect. The door was opened at once, and she was
taken through the quaint square hall into the master's own
sitting-room, a richly sombre place of oak boiserie and old crimson
Verisschenzko was writing and just glanced up while he murmured
Napoleon's famous order to Mademoiselle George—but Harietta Boleski
pushed out her full underlip and sat down in a deep armchair.
“No—not this evening, I have only a moment. I have merely come,
Stepan, you darling, to tell you that I have something interesting to
“Not possible!” and he carefully sealed down a letter he had been
writing and put it ready to be posted. Then he came over and took some
cigarettes from a Faberger enamel box and offered her one.
Harietta smoked most of the day but she refused now.
“You have come, not for pleasure, but to talk! Sapristi! I am duly
Another woman would have been insulted at the tone and the
insinuation in the words, but not so Harietta. She did not pretend to
have a brain, that was one of her strong points, and she understood and
appreciated the crudest methods, so long as their end was for the
pleasure of herself.
She nodded, and that was all.
Verisschenzko threw himself into the opposite chair, his
yellow-green eyes full of a mocking light.
“I have seen a brooch even finer than the ruby ring at Cartier's
just now—I thought perhaps if I were very pleased with you, it might
Harietta bounded from her chair and sat upon his knee.
“You perfect angel, Stepan, I adore you!” she said. He did not
return the caresses at all, but just ordered:
She spoke rapidly, and he listened intently. He was weighing her
words and searching into their truth. He decided that for some reason
of her own she was not lying—and in any case it did not matter if she
were not, because he had resources at his command which would enable
him to test the information, and if it were true it would be worth the
“She has been wounded in some way, probably physically, since
nothing less material would affect her. Physically and in her
vanity—but who can have done it?” the Russian asked himself. “Who is
her German correspondent? This I must discover—but since it is the
first time she has knowingly given me information, it proves some
revenge in her goat's brain. Now is the time to obtain the most.”
He encircled her with his arm and kissed her with less contemptuous
brutality than usual, and he told her that she was a lovely creature,
and the desire of all men—while he appeared to attach little
importance to the information she vouchsafed, asking no questions and
re-lighting a cigarette. This forced her to be more explicit, and at
last all that she meant to communicate was exposed.
“You imagine things, my child,” he scoffed. “I would have to have
proof—and then if it all should be as you say. Why, that brooch must
be yours—for I know that it is out of real love for me that you talk,
and I always pay lavishly for—love.”
“Indeed, you know that I adore you, Stepan—and that brooch is just
what I want. Stanislass has been niggardly beyond words to me lately,
and I am tired of all my other things.”
“Bring me some proof to the reception to-night. I am not dining, but
I shall be there by eleven for a few moments.”
She agreed, and then rose to go—but she pouted again and the convex
obstine curve below her under lip seemed to obtrude itself.
“She has gone back to England—your precious bride—I suppose?”
“We shall all meet there in a week or so—Stanislass is going to see
some of his boring countrymen in London—the conference you know
about—and we have taken a house in Grosvenor Square for some months. I
do not know many people yet—will you see to it that I do?”
“I will see that you have as many of these handsome Englishmen as
will completely keep your hands full.”
She laughed delightedly.
“But it is women I want; the men I can always get for myself.”
“Fear nothing, your reception will be great.”
Then she flung herself into his arms and embraced him, and then
moved towards the door.
“I will telephone to Cartier in the morning,” and Verisschenzko
opened the door for her, “if you bring me some interesting proof of
your love for me—to-night.”
And when she had gone he took up his letter again and looked at the
To Lady Ardayre, Ardayre Chase, North Somerset, Angleterre.
“I must keep to the things of the spirit with you, precious lady.
And when I cannot subdue it, there is Harietta for the flesh—wough!
but she sickens me—even for that!”
Denzil Ardayre could not get any more leave for a considerable time
and remained quartered in the North, where he played cricket and polo
to his heart's content, but the head of the family and his charming
wife went through the feverish season of 1914 in the town house in
Brook Street. Ardayre was too far away for week-end parties, but they
had several successful London dinners, and Amaryllis was becoming quite
a capable hostess, and was much admired in the world.
Very fine of instinct and apprehension at all times she was
developing by contact with intelligent people—for John had taken care
that she only mixed with the most select of his friends. The de la
Paule family had been more than appreciative of her and had guided her
and supervised her visiting list with care.
Everything was too much of a rush for her to think and analyse
things, and if she had been asked whether she was happy, she would have
thought that she was replying with honesty when she affirmed that she
was. John was not happy and knew it, but none of his emotions ever
betrayed themselves, and the mask of his stolid content never changed.
They had gone on with their matter-of-fact relations, and when they
returned to London after a week at Ardayre, all had been much easier,
because they were seldom alone—and at last Amaryllis had grown to
accept the situation, and try not to speculate about it. She danced
every night at balls and continued the usual round, but often at the
Opera, or the Russian ballet, or driving back through the park in the
dawn, some wild longing for romance would stir in her, and she would
nestle close to John. And John would perhaps kiss her quietly and speak
of ordinary things. He went everywhere with her though, and never
failed in the kindest consideration. He seldom danced himself, and
therefore must often have been weary, but no suggestion of this ever
“What does he talk to his friends about, I wonder?” she asked
herself, watching him from across a room, in a great house after dinner
John was seated beside the American Lady Avonwier, a brilliant
person who did not allow herself to be bored. He appeared calm as
usual, and there they sat until it was time to go on to a ball.
Everything he said was so sensible, so well informed—perhaps that
was a nice change for people—and then he was very good-looking
and—but oh! what was it—what was it which made it all so
disappointing and tame!
A week after they had come up to Brook Street, the Boleskis arrived
at the Mount Lennard House which they had taken in Grosvenor Square,
armed with every kind of introduction, and Harietta immediately began
to dazzle the world.
Her dresses and jewels defied all rivalry; they were in a class
alone, and she was frank and stupid and gracious—and fitted in exactly
with the spirit of the time.
She restrained her movements in dancing to suit the less advanced
English taste; she gave to every charity and organized entertainments
of a fantastic extravagance which whetted the appetite of society,
grown jaded with all the old ways. The men of all ages flocked round
her, and she played with them all—ambassadors, politicians, guardsmen,
all drawn by her own potent charm, and she disarmed criticism by her
stupidity and good nature, and the lavish amusements she provided for
every one—while the chef they had brought over with them from Paris
would have insured any hostess's success!
Harietta had never been so happy in all the thirty-six years of her
life. This was her hour of triumph. She was here in a country which
spoke her own language—for her French was deplorably bad—she had an
unquestioned position, and all would have been without flaw but for
this tiresome information she was forced to collect.
Verisschenzko had been detained in Paris. The events of the
twenty-eighth of June at Serajevo were of deep moment to him, and it
was not until the second week in July that he arrived at the Ritz, full
of profound preoccupation.
Amaryllis had been to Harietta's dinners and dances, and now the
Boleskis had been asked down to Ardayre in return for the three days at
the end of the month, when the coming of age of the young Marquis of
Bridgeborough would give occasion for great rejoicings, and Amaryllis
herself would give a ball.
“You cannot ask people down to North Somerset in these days just for
the pleasure of seeing you, my dear child,” Lady de la Paule had said
to her nephew's wife. “Each season it gets worse; one is flattered if
one's friends answer an invitation to dinner even, or remain for half
an hour when it is done. I do not know what things are coming to,
etiquette of all sorts went long ago—now manners, and even decency
have gone. We are rapidly becoming savages, openly seizing whatever
good thing is offered to us no matter from whom, and then throwing it
aside the instant we catch sight of something new. But one must always
go with the tide unless one is strong enough to stem it, and frankly
I am not. Now Bridgeborough's coming of age will make a nice excuse
for you to have a party at Ardayre. How many people can you put up?
Thirty guests and their servants at least, and seven or eight more if
you use the agent's house.”
So thus it had been arranged, and John expressed his pleasure that
his sweet Amaryllis should show what a hostess she could be.
None but the most interesting people were invited, and the party
promised to be the greatest success.
Two or three days before they were to go down, Amaryllis coming in
late in the afternoon, found Verisschenzko's card.
“Oh! John!” she cried delightedly, “that very thrilling Russian whom
we met in Paris has called. You remember he wrote to me some time ago
and said he would let us know when he arrived. Oh! would not it be nice
to have him at our party—let us telephone to him now!”
Verisschenzko answered the call himself, he had just come in; he
expressed himself as enchanted at the thought of seeing her—and
yes—with pleasure he would come down to Ardayre for the ball.
“We shall meet to-night, perhaps, at Carlton House Terrace at the
German Embassy,” he said, “and then we can settle everything.”
Amaryllis wondered why she felt rather excited as she walked up the
stairs—she had often thought of Verisschenzko, and hoped he would come
to England. He was vivid and living and would help her to balance
herself. She had thought while she dressed that her life had been one
stupid rush with no end, since that night when they had talked of
serious things at the Montivacchini hotel. She had need of the counsel
he had promised to give her, for this heedless racket was not adding
lustre to her soul.
Verisschenzko seemed to find her very soon—he was not one of those
persons who miss things by vagueness. His yellow-green eyes were
blazing when they met hers, and without any words he offered her his
arm, foreign fashion, and drew her out on to the broad terrace to a
secluded seat he had apparently selected beforehand, as there was no
hesitancy in his advance towards this goal.
He looked at her critically for an instant when they were seated in
the soft gloom.
“You are changed, Madame. Half the soul is awake now, but the other
half has gone further to sleep.”
“—Yes, I felt you would say that—I do not like myself,” and she
“Tell me about it.”
“I seem to be drifting down such a useless stream—and it is all so
mad and aimless, and yet it is fun. But every one is tired and restless
and nobody cares for anything real—I am afraid I am not strong enough
to stand aside from it though, and I wonder sometimes what I shall
Verisschenzko looked at her earnestly—he was silent for some
“Fate may alter the atmosphere. There are things hovering, I fear,
of which you do not dream, little protected English bride. Perhaps it
is good that you live while you can.”
“Sorrows for the world. But tell me, have you seen Harietta Boleski
in her London role?”
“Yes—she is the greatest success—every one goes to her parties;
she is coming to mine at Ardayre.”
Verisschenzko raised his eyebrows, and nothing could have been more
sardonically whimsical than his smile.
“I saw Stanislass this morning—he is almost gaga now—a mere
cypher—she has destroyed his body, as well as his soul.”
“They are both coming on the twenty-third.”
“It will be an interesting visit I do not doubt—and I shall see the
“I hope you will like it—I shall love to show it to you, and the
pictures. It means so much to John.”
“Have you met your cousin Denzil yet?”.
Verisschenzko was studying her face; it had gained something, it was
a little finer—but it had lost something too, and there was a shadow
in her eyes.
“Denzil Ardayre? No—What made you mention him now?”
“I shall be curious as to what you think of him, he is so like—your
husband, you know.”
The subject did not interest Amaryllis; she wanted to hear more of
the Russian's unusual views.
“You know London well, do you not?” she asked.
“Yes—I often came up from Oxford when I was there, and I have
revisited it since. It is a sane place generally, but this year it
would seem to be almost as desequilibre as the rest of the
“You give me an uneasy feeling, as though you knew that something
dreadful was going to happen. What is it? Tell me.”
“One can only speculate how soon a cauldron will boil over, one
cannot be certain in what direction the liquid will fly. The whole
world seems feverish; the spirit of progress has awakened after
hundreds of years of sleep, and is disturbing everything. In all
boilings the scum rises to the top; we are at the period when this has
occurred—we can but wait—and watch.”
“If we had a new religion?”
“It will come presently, the reign of mystical make-believe is
“But surely it is mysticism and idealism which make ordinary things
“Certainly when they are emplanted upon a true basis. I said
'make-believe'—that is what kills all good things—make-believe. Most
of the present-day leaders are throwing dust in their followers'
eyes—or their own. Priests and politicians, lawyers and
financiers—all of them are afraid of the truth. Every one lives in a
stupid atmosphere of self-deception. The religion of the future will
teach each individual to be true to himself, and when that is
accomplished the sixth root race will be born. Look at that man over
there talking to a woman with haggard eyes—can you see them in the
gloom? They have all the ugly entities around them, the spirits of
morphine and nicotine—drawing misfortune and bodily decay. Every force
has to have its congenial atmosphere, or it cannot exist; fishes cannot
breathe on land.”
Amaryllis looked at the pair; they were well-known people, the man
celebrated in the literary and artistic section of the world of
fashion—the woman of high rank and of refined intelligence.
Verisschenzko looked also. “I do not know either of their names,” he
said, “I am simply judging by the obvious deductions to be made by
their appearances to any one who has developed intuition.”
“How I wish I could learn to have that!”
“Read Voltaire's 'Zadig.' Deductive methods are shown in it useful
to begin upon—observe everything about people, and then having seen
results, work back to causes, and then realise that all material things
are the physical expression of an etheric force, and as we can control
the material, we need thus only attract what etheric waves we desire.”
Amaryllis looked again at the pair—both were smoking idly, and she
remembered having heard that they both “took drugs.” It was a phrase
which had meant nothing to her until now.
“You mean that because they smoke all the time, and it is said they
take morphine piqures, that they are not only hurting their
bodies, but drawing spiritual ills as well.”
“Obviously. They have surrounded themselves with the drab
demagnetising current which envelops the body when human beings give up
their wills. It would be very difficult for anything good to pierce
through such ambience. Have you ever remarked the strange ends of all
people who take drugs? They seldom die natural, ordinary deaths. The
evil entities which they have drawn round them by their own weakness,
destroy them at last.”
“I do not like the idea that there are these 'entities,' as you call
them, all around us.”
“There are not, they cannot come near us unless we allow them—have
I not told you that the atmosphere must be congenial? Our own wills can
create an armour through which nothing demagnetising can pass. It is
weakness and drifting which are inexorably punished; they draw currents
suitable for the vampires beyond to exist on.”
“All this does sound so weird to me.” Amaryllis was interested and
“Have you ever thought about Marconigrams and their etheric waves?
No—not often. People just accept such things as facts as soon as they
become commercial commodities—and only a few begin to speculate upon
what such discoveries suggest, and the other possibilities which they
could lead to. Nothing is supernatural; it is only that we are so
ignorant. Some day I will take you to my laboratory in my home in
Russia and show you the result of my experiments with vibrations and
“I should love that—but just now you troubled me—you seemed to
include smoking in the things which brought evil—I smoke sometimes.”
“So do I—will you have a Russian cigarette?”
He took out his case and offered her one, which she accepted. “Will
it bring something bad?”
“Not more than a glass of wine,” and he opened his lighter and bent
nearer to her. “One glass of wine might be good for you, but twenty
would make you very drunk and me very quarrelsome!”
They laughed softly and lit their cigarettes.
“I feel when I am with you that I am enveloped in some strong
essence,” and Amaryllis lay back with a satisfied sigh—“as though I
were uplifted and awakened—it is very curious because you have such a
wicked face, but you make me feel that I want to be good.”
His queer, husky voice took on a new note.
“We have met of course in a former life—then probably I tempted you
to break all vows—it was my fault. So in this life you are to tempt
me—it may be—but my will has developed—I mean to resist. I want to
place you as my joy of the spirit this time—something which is pure
and beautiful apart from earthly things.”
Into Amaryllis' mind there flashed the thought that if she saw him
often, her emotions for him might not keep at that high level! Her eyes
perhaps expressed this doubt, for Verisschenzko bent nearer.
“Another must fulfil that which must be denied to me. You are too
young to remain free from emotion. Hold yourself until the right time
Amaryllis wondered why he should speak as though it were an
understood thing that she could feel no emotion for John. She resented
“I have my husband,” she answered with dignity and a sweetly
“You are delicious when you say things like that—loyal, and
English, and proud. But listen, child—it is waste of time to have any
dissimulation with me, we finished all those things when we were lovers
in our other life. Now we must be frank and learn of each other. Shall
it not be so?”
Amaryllis felt a number of things.
“Yes, you are right, we will always speak the truth.”
“You see,” he went on, “if you represent anything you must never
injure it; you must destroy yourself if necessary in its service. You
represent an ideal, the ideal of the perfect wife of the Ardayres. You
must fulfil this role. I represent a leader of certain thought in my
country. My soul is given to this—I must only indulge in through which
nothing demagnetising can pass. It is weakness and drifting which are
inexorably punished; they draw currents suitable for the vampires
beyond to exist on.”
“All this does sound so weird to me.” Amaryllis was interested and
“Have you ever thought about Marconigrams and their etheric waves?
No—not often. People just accept such things as facts as soon as they
become commercial commodities—and only a few begin to speculate upon
what such discoveries suggest, and the other possibilities which they
could lead to. Nothing is supernatural; it is only that we are so
ignorant. Some day I will take you to my laboratory in my home in
Russia and show you the result of my experiments with vibrations and
“I should love that—but just now you troubled me—you seemed to
include smoking in the things which brought evil—I smoke sometimes.”
“So do I—will you have a Russian cigarette?”
He took out his case and offered her one, which she accepted. “Will
it bring something bad?”
“Not more than a glass of wine,” and he opened his lighter and bent
nearer to her. “One glass of wine might be good for you, but twenty
would make you very drunk and me very quarrelsome!”
They laughed softly and lit their cigarettes.
“I feel when I am with you that I am enveloped in some strong
essence,” and Amaryllis lay back with a satisfied sigh—“as though I
were uplifted and awakened—it is very curious because you have such a
wicked face, but you make me feel that I want to be good.”
His queer, husky voice took on a new note.
“We have met of course in a former life—then probably I tempted you
to break all vows—it was my fault. So in this life you are to tempt
me—it may be—but my will has developed—I mean to resist. I want to
place you as my joy of the spirit this time—something which is pure
and beautiful apart from earthly things.”
Into Amaryllis' mind there flashed the thought that if she saw him
often, her emotions for him might not keep at that high level! Her eyes
perhaps expressed this doubt, for Verisschenzko bent nearer.
“Another must fulfil that which must be denied to me. You are too
young to remain free from emotion. Hold yourself until the right time
Amaryllis wondered why he should speak as though it were an
understood thing that she could feel no emotion for John. She resented
“I have my husband,” she answered with dignity and a sweetly
“You are delicious when you say things like that—loyal, and
English, and proud. But listen, child—it is waste of time to have any
dissimulation with me, we finished all those things when we were lovers
in our other life. Now we must be frank and learn of each other. Shall
it not be so?”
Amaryllis felt a number of things.
“Yes, you are right, we will always speak the truth.”
“You see,” he went on, “if you represent anything you must never
injure it; you must destroy yourself if necessary in its service. You
represent an ideal, the ideal of the perfect wife of the Ardayres. You
must fulfil this role. I represent a leader of certain thought in my
country. My soul is given to this—I must only indulge in that over
which I am master. Indulgences are our recompenses, our rights, when we
have obtained dominion and they have become our slaves; to be enjoyed
only when, and for so long as, our wills permit. When you say a thing
is 'plus fort que vous'—then you had better throw up the
sponge—you have lost the fight, and your indulgence will scourge you
with a scorpion whip.”
“You say this, and yet you are so far from being an ascetic!”
“As far as possible, I hope! They are self-acknowledged failures;
they dare not permit themselves the smallest indulgence, they are
weaklings afraid to enter the arena at all. To me they are at a stage
further back than the sensualists—what are they accomplishing? They
have withered nature, they are things of nought! A man or woman should
realise what plane he or she is living on, and try to live to the
highest of the best of the physical, mental and moral life on that
plane, but not try to alter all its workings, and live as though in a
different sphere altogether, where another scheme of nature obtained.
It is colossal presumption in human beings to give examples to be
followed, which, should they be followed, would end the human race. The
Supreme Being will end it in His own time; it is not for us to usurp
“You reason in this in the same way that you did about the smoking.”
“Naturally—that is the only form of sensible reasoning. You must
keep your judgment perfectly balanced and never let it be obscured by
prejudice, tradition, custom, or anything but the actual common-sense
view of the case.”
“I think we English like that better than any other quality in
Verisschenzko looked away from her to a new stream of guests who had
come out on the terrace—a splendid-looking group of tall young men and
“With all your faults you are a great nation, because although these
latter years seem often to have destroyed the sense of duty in the
individual in regard to his own life, the ingrained sense of it had
become a habit and the habit still continues in regard to the
community—you are not likely to have upheavals of great magnitude
here. Now all other countries are moved by different spirits, some by
patriotism and gallantry like the French, some by superstition and
ignorance worked on by mystic religion, as in my country—some by
ruthless materialism like Germany; but that dull, solid sense of duty
is purely English—and it is really a glorious thing.”
Amaryllis thought how John represented it exactly!
“I feel that I want to do my duty,” she said softly, “but...”
“Continue to feel that and Fate will show you the way. Now I must
take you back to your husband whom I see in the distance there—he is
with Harietta Boleski. I wonder what he thinks of her?”
“I have asked him! He says that she is so obvious as to be
innocuous, and that he likes her clothes!”
Verisschenzko did not answer, and Amaryllis wondered if he agreed
They had to pass along a corridor to reach the staircase, upon the
landing of which they had seen Sir John and Madame Boleski leaning over
the balustrade, and when they got there they had moved on out of sight,
so Verisschenzko, bowing, left Amaryllis with Lady de la Paule.
As he retraced his steps later on he saw Sir John Ardayre in earnest
conversation with Lemon Bridges, the fashionable rising surgeon of the
day. They stood in an alcove, and Verisschenzko's alert intelligence
was struck by the expression on John Ardayre's face—it was so sad and
resigned, as a brave man's who has received death sentence. And as he
passed close to them he heard these words from John: “It is quite
hopeless then—I feared so—”
He stopped his descent for a moment and looked again—and then a
sudden illumination came into his yellow-green eyes, and he went on
down the stairs.
“There is tragedy here—and how will it affect the Lady of my soul?”
He walked out of the House and into Pall Mall, and there by the Rag
met Denzil Ardayre!
“We seem doomed to have unexpected meetings!” cried that young man
delightedly. “Here I am only up for one night on regimental business,
and I run into you!”
They walked on together, and Denzil went into the Ritz with
Verisschenzko and they smoked in his sitting-room. They talked of many
things for a long time—of the unrest in Europe and the clouds in the
Southeast—of Denzil's political aims—of things in general—and at
last Verisschenzko said:
“I have just left your cousin and his wife at the German Embassy;
they have now gone on to a ball. He makes an indulgent husband—I
suppose the affair is going well?”
“Very well between them, I believe. That sickening cad Ferdinand is
circulating rumours—that they can never have any children—but they
are for his own ends. I must arrange to meet them when I come up next
time—I hear that the family are enchanted with Amaryllis—”
“She is a thing of flesh and blood and flame—I could love her
wildly did I think it were wise.”
Denzil glanced sharply at his friend. He had not often known him to
hesitate when attracted by a woman—
“What aspect does the unwisdom take?”
“Certain absorption—I have other and terribly important things to
do. The husband is most worthy—one wonders what the next few years
will bring. Their temperaments must be as the poles.
“No one seems to think of temperament when he marries, or heredity,
or anything, but just desire for the woman—or her money—or something
quite outside the actual fact.” Denzil lit another cigarette. “Marriage
appears a perfect terror to me—how could one know one was going to
continue to feel emotion towards some one who might prove to be the
most awful physical or mental disappointment on intimate acquaintance?
I believe affaires de convenance selected with thought-out
reasoning are the best.”
Verisschenzko shrugged his shoulders.
“That is not necessary. If the brain is disciplined, it is in a
condition to use its judgment, even when in love, and ought therefore
to be able to resist the desire to mate if the woman's character or
tendencies are unsuitable, but most men's brains are only disciplined
in regard to mental things, and have no real control over their
physical desires. I have been this morning with Stanislass
Boleski—there is a case and a warning. Stanislass was a strong man
with a splendid brain and immense ambition, but no dominion over his
senses, so that Succubus has completely annihilated all force in him.
He should have strangled her after the first etreinte as I
should have done, had I felt that she could ever have any power over
Denzil smiled—Stepan was such a mixture of tenderness and complete
“I always thought the Russian character was the most headstrong and
undisciplined in the world, and took what it desired regardless of
costs. But you belie it, old boy!”
“I early said to myself on looking at my countrymen—and especially
my countrywomen—these people are half genius, half fool; they have all
the qualities and ruin most of them through being slaves, not masters
to their own desires. If with his qualities a Russian could be balanced
and deductive, and rule his vagrant thoughts, to what height could he
“And you have attained.”
“I am on the road, but did not affairs of vital importance occupy me
at the moment I might be capable of ancient excess!”
“It is as well for the head of the Ardayre family that you are
occupied then!” and Denzil smiled, and then he said, his thoughts
drifting back to what interested him most:
“You think Europe will be blazing soon, Stepan? I have wondered
myself in the last month if this hectic peace could continue.”
“It cannot. I am here upon business with great issues, but I must
not speak of facts, and what I say now is not from my knowledge of
current events, but from my study of etheric currents which the
thoughts and actions of over-civilised generations have engendered. You
do not cram a shell with high explosives and leave it among matches
The two men looked at one another significantly, and then Denzil
“I think I will not retire from the old regiment yet—I shall wait
“Yes—I would if I were you.”
They smoked silently for a moment—Verisschenzko's Calmuck face
fixed and inscrutable and Denzil's debonnaire English one usually
“Some one told me that your friend, Madame Boleski, was having a
tremendous success in London. I wish I could have got leave, I should
like to have seen the whole thing.”
“Harietta is enjoying her luck-moment; she is in her zenith. She has
baffled me as to where she receives her information from—she is
capable of betraying both sides to gain some material, and possibly
trivial, end. She is worth studying if you do come up, for she is
unique. Most criminals have some stable point in immorality; Harietta
is troubled by nothing fixed, no law of God or man means anything to
her, she is only ruled by her sense of self-preservation. Her career is
“Had she ever any children?”
Verisschenzko crossed himself.
“Heaven forbid! Think of watching Harietta's instincts coming out in
a child! Poor Stanislass is at least saved that!”
“What a terrible thought that would be to one! But no man thinks of
such things in selecting a wife!”
“You will not marry yet—no?”
“Certainly not, there is no necessity that I should. Marriage is
only an obligation for the heads of families, not for the younger
“But if Sir John Ardayre has no son, you are—in blood—the next
“And Ferdinand is the next direct heir-in-law—that makes one
Verisschenzko poured his friend out a whisky and soda and said
“Then let us drink once more to the Ardayre son!”
Lady de la Paule really felt proud of her niece; the party at
Ardayre was progressing so perfectly. The guests had all arrived in
time for the ball at Bridgeborough Castle on the twenty-third of July
and had assisted next day at the garden party, and then a large dinner
at Ardayre, and now on the last night of their stay Amaryllis' own ball
was to take place.
All the other big country houses round were filled also, and nothing
could have been gayer or more splendidly done than the whole thing.
John Ardayre had been quite enthusiastic about all the arrangements,
taking the greatest pride in settling everything which could add lustre
to his Amaryllis' success as a hostess.
The quantities of servants, the perfectly turned-out motors—the
wonderful chef—all had been his doing, and when most of the party had
retired to their rooms for a little rest before dinner on the
twenty-fifth, the evening of the ball, Lady de la Paule and John's
friend, Lady Avonwier, congratulated him, as he sat with them, the last
ladies remaining, under the great copper beech tree on the lawn which
led down to the lake.
“Everything has been perfect, has it not, Mabella?” Lady Avonwier
said. “I have even been converted about your marvellous Madame Boleski!
I confess I have avoided her all the season, because we Americans are
far more exclusive than you English people in regard to whom we know of
our own countrywomen, and no one would receive such a person in New
York, but she is so luridly stupid, and such a decoration, that I quite
agree you were right to invite her, John.”
“She seems to me charming,” Lady de la Paule confessed. “Not the
least pretension, and her clothes are marvellous. You are abominably
severe, Etta. I am quite sure if she wanted to she could succeed in New
“Mabella, you simple creature! She just cajoles you all the
time—she has specialised in cajoling important great ladies! No
American would be taken in by her, and we resent it in our country when
an outsider like that barges in. But here, I admit, since she provides
us with amusement, I have no objection to accepting her, as I would a
new nigger band, and shall certainly send her a card for my fancy ball
John Ardayre chuckled softly.
“That sound indicates?”—and Etta Avonwier flashed at him her lovely
John Ardayre did not answer in words, but both women joined in his
“Yes, we are worldlings,” Lady Avonwier admitted, “just measuring
people up for what they can give us, it is the only way though when the
whole thing is such a rush!”
“I am so sorry for the poor husband,” and Lady de la Paule's fat
voice was kindly. “He does look such a wretched, cadaverous thing, with
that black beard and those melancholy black eyes, and emaciated face.
Do you think she beats him when they are alone?”
“Who knows? She is so primitive, she may be capable even of that!”
“Her clothes are not primitive,” and John Ardayre lighted a
cigarette. “I don't think she really can be such a fool.”
“I never suggested that she was a fool at all!” Lady Avonwier was
decisive. “No one can be a fool who is as tenacious as she is—fools
are vague people, who let things go. She is merely illiterate and
stupid as an owl.”
“I like your distinction between stupidity and foolishness!” John
Ardayre often argued with Lady Avonwier; they were excellent friends.
“A stupid person is often a great rest and arrives—a fool makes one
nervous and loses the game. But who is that walking with Amaryllis at
the other side of the lake?”
John Ardayre looked up, and on over the water to the glory of the
beech trees on the rising slope of the park, and there saw moving at
the edge of them his wife and Verisschenzko, accompanied by two of the
great tawny dogs.
“Oh! it is the interesting Russian whom we met in Paris, where all
the charming ladies were supposed to be in love with him. He was to
have come down for the whole three days. I suppose these Russian and
Austrian rumours detained him, he has only arrived for to-night.”
* * * * *
And across the lake Amaryllis was saying to Verisschenzko in her
soft voice, deep as all the Ardayre voices were deep:
“I have brought you here so that you may get the best view of the
house. I think, indeed, that it is very beautiful from over the water,
do not you?”
Verisschenzko remained silent for a moment. His face was altered in
this last week; it looked haggard and thinner, and his peculiar eyes
were concentrated and intense.
He took in the perfect picture of this English stately home, with
its Henry VII centre and watch towers, and gabled main buildings, and
the Queen Anne added Square—all mellowed and amalgamated into a whole
of exquisite beauty and dignity in the glow of the setting sun.
“How proud you should be of such possessions, you English. The
accumulation of centuries, conserved by freedom from strife. It is no
wonder you are so arrogant! You could not be if you had only memories,
as we have, of wooden barracks up to a hundred and fifty years ago, and
drunkenness and orgies, and beating of serfs. This is the picture our
country houses call up—any of the older ones which have escaped being
burnt. But here you have traditions of harmony and justice and
obligations to the people nobody fulfilled.” And then he took his hat
off and looked up into the golden sky:
“May nothing happen to hurt England, and may we one day be as free.”
A shiver ran through Amaryllis—but something kept her silent; she
divined that her friend's mood did not desire speech from her yet. He
spoke again and earnestly a moment or two afterwards.
“Lady of my soul—I am going away to-morrow into a frenzied turmoil.
I have news from my country, and I must be in the centre of events; we
do not know what will come of it all. I come down to-day at great
sacrifice of time to bid you farewell. It may be that I shall never see
you again, though I think that I shall; but should I not, promise me
that you will remain my star unsmirched by the paltriness of the world,
promise me that you will live up to the ideal of this noble home—that
you will develop your brain and your intuition, that you will be
forceful and filled with common sense. I would like to have moulded
your spiritual being, and brought you to the highest, but it is not for
me, perhaps, in this life—another will come. See that you live
Amaryllis was deeply moved.
“Indeed, I will try. I have seen so little of you, but I feel that I
have known you always, and—yes—even I feel that it is true what you
said,” and she grew rosy with a sweet confusion—“that we
were—lovers—I am so ignorant and undeveloped, not advanced like you,
but when you speak you seem to awaken memories; it is as though a
transitory light gleamed in dark places, and I receive flashes of
understanding, and then it grows obscured again, but I will try to
seize and hold it—indeed, I will try to do as you would wish.”
They both looked ahead, straight at the splendid house, and then
Amaryllis looked at Verisschenzko and it seemed as though his face were
transfigured with some inward light.
“Strange things are coming, child, the cauldron has boiled over, and
we do not know what the stream may engulf. Think of this evening in the
days which will be, and remember my words.”
His voice vibrated, but he did not look at her, but always across
the lake at the house.
“Whenever you are in doubt as to the wisdom of a decision between
two courses—put them to the test of which, if you follow it, will
enable you to respect your own soul. Never do that which the inward You
“And if both courses look equally good and it is merely a question
of earthly benefit?”
“Never be vague. There is an Arab proverb which says: Trust in God
but tie up your camel.”
The setting sun was throwing its last gleams upon the windows of the
high tower. Nothing more beautiful or impressive could have been
imagined than the scene. The velvet lawn sloping down to the lake, with
a group of trees to the right among which nestled the tiny cruciform
ancient church, while in the distance, on all sides, stretched the
vast, gloriously timbered park.
Verisschenzko gazed at the wonder of it, and his yellow-green eyes
were wide with the vision it created in his brain.
No—this should never go to the bastard Ferdinand, whose life in
Constantinople was a disgrace. This record of fine living and
achievement of worthy Ardayres should remain the glory of the true
He turned and looked at Amaryllis at his side, so slender, and
strong, and young—and he said:
“It is necessary above all things that you cultivate a steadiness
and clearness of judgment, which will enable you to see the great aim
in a thing, and not be hampered by sentimental jingo and convention,
which is a danger when a nature is as good and true, but as
undeveloped, as yours. Whatever circumstance should arise in your life,
in relation to the trust you hold for this family and this home, bring
the keenest common sense to bear upon the matter, and keep the end,
that you must uphold it and pass it on resplendent, in view.”
Amaryllis felt that he was transmitting some message to her. His
eyes were full of inspiration and seemed to see beyond.
What message? She refrained from asking. If he had meant her to
understand more fully he would have told her plainly. Light would come
in its own time.
“I promise,” was all she said.
They looked at the great tower; the sun had left some of the windows
and in one they could see the figure of a woman standing there in some
“That is Harietta Boleski,” Verisschenzko remarked, his mood
changing, and that penetrating and yet inscrutable expression growing
in his regard. “It is almost too far away to be certain, but I am sure
that it is she. Am I right? Is that window in her room?”
“Yes—how wonderful of you to be able to recognise her at that
“Of what is she thinking?—if one can call her planning thoughts!
She does not gaze at views to appreciate the loveliness of the
landscape; figures in the scene are all which could hold her
attention—and those figures are you and me.”
“Why should we interest her?”
“There are one or two reasons why we should. I think after all you
must be very careful of her. I believe if she stays on in England you
had better not let the acquaintance increase.”
“Very well.” Amaryllis again did not question him; she felt he knew
“She has been most successful here, and at the Bridgeborough ball
she amused herself with a German officer, and left the other women's
men alone. He was brought by the party from Broomgrove and was most
empresse; he got introduced to her at once—just after we came in. I
expect they will bring him to-night. He and she looked such a
magnificent pair, dancing a quadrille. It was quite a serious ball to
begin with! None of those dances of which you disapprove, and all the
Yeomanry wore their uniforms and the German officer wore his too.”
“He was a fine animal, then?”
“You said a pair—only an animal could make a pair with
Harietta! Describe him to me. What was he like? And what uniform did he
Amaryllis gave a description, of height, and fairness, and of the
blue and gold coat.
“He would have been really good-looking, only that to our eyes his
hips are too wide.”
“It sounds typically German—there are hundreds such there—some
ordinary Prussian Infantry regiment, I expect. You say he was
introduced to Harietta? They were not old friends—no?”
“I heard him ask Mrs. Nordenheimer, his hostess, who she was, in his
guttural voice, and Mrs. Nordenheimer came up to me and presented him
and asked me to introduce him to my guest. So I did. The Nordenheimers
are those very rich German Jews who bought Broomgrove Park some years
ago. Every one receives them now.”
“And how did Harietta welcome this partner?”
“She looked a little bored, but afterwards they danced several times
“Ah!”—and that was all Verisschenzko said, but his thoughts ran:
“An infantry officer—not a large enough capture for Harietta to waste
time on in a public place—when she is here to advance herself. She
danced with him because she was obliged to. I must ascertain who
this man is.”
Amaryllis saw that he was preoccupied. They walked on now and round
through the shrubbery on the left, and so at last to the house again.
Amaryllis could not chance being late.
Verisschenzko recovered from his abstraction presently and talked of
many things—of the friendship of the soul, and how it can only thrive
after there has been in some life a physical passionate love and fusion
of the bodies.
“I want to think that we have reached this stage, Lady mine. My
mission on this plane now is so fierce a one, and the work which I must
do is so absorbing, that I must renounce all but transient physical
pleasures. But I must keep some radiant star as my lodestone for
spiritual delights, and ever since we met and spoke at the Russian
Embassy it seems as though step by step links of memory are awakening
and comforting me with knowledge of satisfied desire in a former birth,
so that now our souls can rise to rarer things. I can even see another
in the earthly relation which once was mine, without jealousy. Child,
do you feel this too?”
“I do not know quite what I feel,” and Amaryllis looked down, “but I
will try to show you that I am learning to master my emotions, by
thinking only of sympathy between our spirits.”
“It is well—”
Then they reached the house and entered the green drawing-room in
the Queen Anne Square, by one of the wide open windows, and there
Amaryllis held out her two slim hands to Verisschenzko.
“Think of me sometimes, even amidst your turmoil,” she whispered,
“and I shall feel your ambience uplifting my spirit and my will.”
“Lady of my Soul!” he cried, exalted once more, and he bent as
though to kiss her hands, but straightened himself and threw them
gently from him.
“No! I will resist all temptations! Now you must dress and dine, and
dance, and do your duty—and later we will say farewell.”
Harietta Boleski stamped across her charming chintz chamber in the
great tower. She was like an angry wolf in the Zoo, she burst with
rage. Verisschenzko had never walked by lakes with her, nor bent over
with that air of devotion.
“He loves that hateful bit of bread and butter! But I shall crush
her yet—and Ferdinand Ardayre will help me!”
Then she rang her bell violently for Marie, while she kicked aside
Fou-Chow, who had travelled to England as an adjunct to her beauty,
concealed in a cloak. His minute body quivered with pain and fear, and
he looked up at her reproachfully with his round Chinese idol's eyes,
then he hid under a chair, where Marie found him trembling presently
and carried him surreptitiously to her room.
“My angel,” she told him as they went along the passage, “that
she-devil will kill thee one day, unless happily I can place thee in
safety first. But if she does, then I will murder for myself! What has
caused her fury tonight, some one has spoilt her game.”
In the oak-panelled smoking room, deserted by all but these two,
Verisschenzko spoke to Stanislass, hastily, and in his own tongue.
“The news is of vital importance, Stanislass. You must return with
me to London; of all things you must show energy now and hold your men
together. I leave in the morning. You hesitate!—impossible!—Harietta
keeps you! Bah!—then I wash my hands of you and Poland. Weakling! to
let a woman rule you. Well; if you choose thus, you can go by yourself
to hell. I have done with you.” And he strode from the room, looking
more Calmuck and savage than ever in his just wrath. And when he had
gone the second husband of Harietta leant forward and buried his head
in his hands.
* * * * *
The picture Gallery made a brilliant setting for that gallant
company! A collection of England's best, dancing their hardest to a
stirring band, which sang when the tune of some popular Revue chorus
“The Song of the Swan,” Verisschenzko thought as he observed it all
in the last few minutes before midnight. He must go away soon. A
messenger had arrived in hot haste from London, motoring beyond the
speed limit, and as soon as his servant had packed his things he must
return and not wait for the morning. All relations between Austria and
Servia had been broken off, the conflagration had begun, and no time
must be wasted further. He must be in Russia as soon as it was possible
to get there. He blamed himself for coming down.
“And yet it was as well,” he reflected, because he had become
awakened in regard to possible double dealing in Harietta. But where
were his host and hostess—he must bid them farewell.
John Ardayre was valsing with Lady Avonwier and Harietta Boleski
undulated in the arms of the tall German who had come with the party
from Broomgrove—but Amaryllis for the moment was absent from the room.
“If I could only know who the beast is before I go, and where she
has met him previously!” Verisschenzko's thoughts ran. “It is more than
ever necessary that I master her—and there is so little time.”
He waited for a few seconds, the dance was almost done, and when the
last notes of music ceased and the throng of people swept towards him,
he fixed Harietta with his eye.
Her evening so far had not been agreeable. She had not been able to
have a word with Stepan, who had been far from her at the banquet
before the ball. She was torn with jealousy of Amaryllis; and the
advent of Hans, when she would have wished to have been free to re-grab
Verisschenzko, was most unfortunate. It had not been altogether
pleasant, his turning up at Bridgeborough, but at any rate that one
evening was quite enough! She really could not be wearied with him
His new instructions to her from the higher command were most
annoyingly difficult too—coming at a time when her whole mind was
given to consolidating her position in England,—it was really too bad!
If only the tiresome bothers of these stupid old quarrelsome
countries did not upset matters, she just meant to make Stanislass shut
up his ugly old Polish home, and settle in some splendid country house
like this, only nearer London. Now that she had seen what life was in
England, she knew that this was her goal. No bothersome old other
language to be learned! Besides, no men were so good-looking as the
English, or made such safe and prudent lovers, because they did not
boast. If any information she had been able to collect for Hans in the
last year had helped his Ober-Lords to stir up trouble, she was almost
sorry she had given it—unless indeed, ructions between those
ridiculous southern countries made it so that she could remain in
England, then it was a good thing. And Hans had assured her that
England could not be dragged in. Then she laughed to herself as she
always did if Hans coerced her—when she recollected how she had given
his secrets away to Verisschenzko and that no matter how he seemed to
compel her obedience, she was even with him underneath!
She looked now at the Russian standing there, so tall and ugly, and
weirdly distinguished, and a wild passionate desire for him overcame
her, as primitive as one a savage might have felt. At that moment she
almost hated her late husband, for she dared not speak to Verisschenzko
with Hans there. She must wait until Verisschenzko spoke to her. Hans
could not prevent that, nor accuse her of disobeying his command. So
that it was with joy that she saw the Russian approach her. She did not
know that he was leaving suddenly, and she was wondering if some
meeting could not be arranged for later on, when Hans would be gone.
“Good evening, Madame!” Verisschenzko said suavely. “May I not have
the pleasure of a turn with you; it is delightful to meet you again.”
Harietta slipped her hand out of Hans' arm and stood still,
determined to secure Stepan at once since the chance had come.
Verisschenzko divined her intention and continued, his voice serious
with its mock respect:
“I wonder if I could persuade you to come with me and find your
husband. You know the house and I do not. I have something I want to
talk to him about if you won't think me a great bore taking you from
your partner,” and he bowed politely to Hans.
Harietta introduced them casually, and then said archly:
“I am sure you will excuse me, Captain von Pickelheim. And don't
forget you have the first one-step after supper!” So Hans was dismissed
with a ravishing smile.
Verisschenzko had watched the German covertly and saw that with all
his forced stolidity an angry gleam had come into his eyes.
“They have certainly met before—and he knows me—I must somehow
make time,” then, aloud:
“You are looking a dream of beauty to-night, Harietta,” he told her
as they walked across the hall. “Is there not some quiet corner in the
garden where we can be alone for a few minutes. You drive me mad.”
Harietta loved to hear this, and in triumph she raised her head and
drew him into one of the sitting-rooms, and so out of the open windows
on into the darkness beyond the limitations of the lawn.
Twenty minutes afterwards Verisschenzko entered the house alone, a
grim smile of satisfaction upon his rugged countenance. Jealousy,
acting on animal passion, had been for once as productive of
information as a ruby ring or brooch—and what a remarkable type
Harietta! Could there be anything more elemental on the earth!
Meanwhile this lady had gained the ball-room by another door, delighted
with her adventure, and the thought that she had tricked Hans!
“Have you seen our hostess, Madame?” the Russian asked, meeting Lady
de la Paule. “I have been looking for her everywhere. Is not this a
They stayed and talked for a few minutes, watching the joyous
company of dancers, among whom Amaryllis could now be seen.
Verisschenzko wished to say farewell to her when the one-step should be
done. They would all be going into supper, and then would be his
chance. He could not delay longer—he must be gone.
He was paying little attention to what Lady de la Paule was
saying—her fat voice prattled on:
“I hope these tiresome little quarrels of the Balkan peoples will
settle themselves. If Austria should go to war with Servia, it may
upset my Carlsbad cure.”
Then he laughed out suddenly, but instantly checked himself.
“That would be too unfortunate, Madame, we must not anticipate such
And as he walked forward to meet Amaryllis his face was set:
“Half the civilised world thinks thus of things. The sinister events
in the Balkans convey no suggestions of danger, and only matter in that
they could upset a Carlsbad cure! Alas! how sound asleep these splendid
He met Amaryllis and briefly told her that he must go. She left her
partner and came with him to the foot of the staircase, which led to
“Good-bye, and God keep you,” she said feelingly, but she noticed
that he did not even offer to take her hand.
“All blessings, my Star,” and his voice was hoarse, then he turned
abruptly and went on up the stairs. But when he reached the landing
above he paused, and looked down at her, moving away among the throng.
“Sweet Lady of my Soul,” he whispered softly. “After Harietta I
could not soil—even thy glove!”
Events moved rapidly. Of what use to write of those restless,
feverish days before the 4th of August, 1914? They are too well known
to all the world. John, as ever, did his duty, and at once put his name
down for active service, cajoled a medical board which would otherwise
probably have condemned him and trained with the North Somerset
Yeomanry in anticipation of being soon sent to France. But before all
this happened, the night War was declared; he remained in his own
sitting-room at Ardayre, and Amaryllis wondered, and towards dawn crept
out of bed and listened in the passage, but no sound came from within
How very unsatisfactory this strange reserve between them was
becoming! Would she never be able to surmount it? Must they go on to
the end of their lives, living like two polite friendly acquaintances,
neither sharing the other's thoughts? She hardly realised that the War
could personally concern John. The Yeomanry, she imagined, were only
for home defence, so at this stage no anxiety troubled her about her
The next day he seemed frightfully preoccupied, and then he talked
to her seriously of their home and its traditions, and how she must
love it and understand its meaning. He spoke too of his great wish for
a child—and Amaryllis wondered at the tone almost of anguish in his
“If only we had a son, Amaryllis, I would not care what came to me.
A true Ardayre to carry on! The thought of Ferdinand here after me
drives me perfectly mad!”
Amaryllis knew not what to answer. She looked down and clasped her
John came quite close and gazed into her face, as if therein some
comfort could be found; then he folded her in his arms.
“Oh! Amaryllis!” he said, and that was all.
“What is it? Oh! what does everything mean?” the poor child cried.
“Why, why can't we have a son like other people of our age?”
John kissed her again.
“It shall be—it must be so,” he answered—and framed her face in
“Amaryllis—I know you have often wondered whether I really loved
you. You have found me a stupid, unsatisfactory sort of
husband—indeed, I am but a dull companion at the best of times. Well,
I want you to know that I do—and I am going to try to change, dear
little girl. If I knew that I held some corner of your heart it would
“Of course, you do, John. Alas! if you would only unbend and be
loving to me, how happy we could be.”
He kissed her once more. “I will try.”
That afternoon he went up to London to his medical board, and
Amaryllis was to join him in Brook Street on the following day.
She was stunned like every one else. War seemed a nightmare—an
unreality—she had not grasped its meaning as yet. She thought of
Verisschenzko and his words. What was her duty? Surely at a great
crisis like this she must have some duty to do?
The library in Brook Street was a comfortable room and was always
their general sitting-room; its windows looked out on the street.
That evening when John Ardayre arrived he paced up and down it for
half an hour. He was very pale and lines of thought were stamped upon
He had come to a decision; there only remained the details of a
course of action to be arranged.
He went to the telephone and called up the Cavalry Club. Yes,
Captain Ardayre was in, and presently Denzil's voice said surprisedly:
“I heard by chance that you were in town. I suppose your regiment
will be going out at once. It is your cousin, John Ardayre, speaking,
we have not met since you were a boy. I have something rather vital I
want to say to you. Could you possibly come round?”
The two voices were so alike in tone it was quite remarkable, each
was aware of it as he listened to the other.
“Where are you, and what is the time?”.
“I am in our house in Brook Street, number 102, and it is nearly
seven. Could you manage to come now?”
There was a second or two's pause, then Denzil said:
“All right. I will get into a taxi and be with you in about five
minutes,” and he put the receiver down.
John Ardayre grew paler still, and sank into a chair. His hands were
trembling, this sign of weakness angered him and he got up and rang the
bell and ordered his valet who had come up with him, to bring him some
Murcheson was an old and valued servant, and he looked at his master
with concern, but he knew him too to make any remark. If there was any
one in the world beyond the great surgeon, Lemon Bridges, who could
understand the preoccupations of John Ardayre, Murcheson was the man.
He brought the old Cognac immediately and retired from the room a
moment or two before Denzil arrived. Very little trace of emotion
remained upon the face of the head of the family when his cousin was
shown in, and he came forward cordially to meet him. Standing opposite
one another, they might have been brothers, not cousins, the
resemblance was so strong! Denzil was perhaps fairer, but their heads
were both small and their limbs had the same long lines. But where as
John Ardayre suggested undemonstrative stolidity, every atom of the
younger man was vitally alive.
His eyes were bluer, his hair more bronze, and exuberant perfect
health glowed in his tanned fresh skin.
Both their voices were peculiarly deep, with the pronunciation of
the words especially refined. John Ardayre said some civil things with
composure, and Denzil replied in kind, explaining how he had been most
anxious to meet John and Amaryllis and heal the breach the fathers had
John offered him a cigar, and finally the atmosphere seemed to be
unfrozen as they smoked. But in Denzil's mind there was speculation. It
was not for just this that he had been asked to come round.
John began to speak presently with a note of deep seriousness in his
voice. He talked of the war and of his Yeomanry's going out, and of
Denzil's regiment also. It was quite on the cards that they might both
be killed—then he spoke of Ferdinand, and the old story of the shame,
and he told Denzil of his boyhood and its great trials, and of his
determination to redeem the family home and of the great luck which had
befallen him in the city after the South African War—and how that the
thought of worthily handing on the inheritance in the direct male line
had become the dominating desire of his life.
At first his manner had been very restrained, but gradually the
intense feeling which was vibrating in him made itself known, and
Denzil grew to realise how profound was his love for Ardayre and how
great his family pride.
But underneath all this some absolute agony must be wringing his
Denzil became increasingly interested.
At last John seemed to have come to a very difficult part of his
narration; he got up from his chair and walked rapidly up and down the
room, then forced himself to sit down again and resume his original
“I am going to trust you, Denzil, with something which matters far
more than my life.” John looked Denzil straight in the eyes. “And I
will confide in you because you are next in the direct line. Listen
very carefully, please, it concerns your honour in the family as well
as mine. It would be too infamous to let Ardayre go to the bastard,
Ferdinand, the snake-charmer's son, if, as is quite possible, I shall
be killed in the coming time.”
Denzil felt some strange excitement permeating him. What did these
words portend? Beads of perspiration appeared on John's forehead, and
his voice sunk so low that his cousin bent forward to be certain of
Then John spoke in broken sentences, for the first time in his life
letting another share the thoughts which tortured him, but the time was
not for reticence. Denzil must understand everything so that he would
consent to a certain plan. At length, all that was in John's heart had
been made plain, and exhausted with the effort of his innermost being's
unburdenment, he sank back in his chair, deadly pale. The quiet,
waiting attitude in Denzil had given way to keenness, and more than
once as he listened to the moving narration he had emitted words of
sympathy and concern, but when the actual plan which John had evolved
was unfolded to him, and the part he was to play explained, he rose
from his chair and stood leaning on the high mantelpiece, an expression
of excitement and illumination on his strong, good-looking face.
“Do not say anything for a little,” John said. “Think over
everything quietly. I am not asking you to do anything
dishonourable—and however much I had hated his mother I would not ask
this of you if Ferdinand were my father's son. You are the next real
heir—Ferdinand could not be; my father had never met the woman until a
month before he married her, and the baby arrived five months
afterwards, at its full time. There was no question of incubators or
difficulties and special precautions to rear him, nor was there any
suggestion that he was a seven months' child. It was only after years
that I found out when my father first saw the woman, but even before
this proof there were many and convincing evidences that Ferdinand was
“One has only to look at the beast!” cried Denzil. “If the mother
was a Bulgarian, he's a mongrel Turk, there is not a trace of English
blood in his body!”
“Then surely you agree with me that it would be an infamy if he
should take the place of the head of the family, should I not survive?”
Denzil clenched his hands.
“There is no moral question attached, remember,” John went on
anxiously before he could reply. “There is only the question of the
law, which has been tricked and defamed by my father, for the meanest
ends of revenge towards me—and now we—you and I—have the right to
save the family and its honour and circumvent the perfidy and weakness
of that one man. Oh!—can't you understand what this means to me, since
for this trust of Ardayre that I feel I must faithfully carry on, I am
willing to—Oh!—my God, I can't say it. Denzil, answer me—tell me
that you look at it in the same way as I do! You are of the family. It
is your blood which Ferdinand would depose—the disgrace would be yours
then, since if Ferdinand reigned I would have gone.”
The two men were standing opposite one another, and both their faces
were pale and stern, but Denzil's blue eyes were blazing with some
wonderful new emotion, as they looked at John.
“Very well,” he said, and held out his hand. “I appreciate the
tremendous faith you have placed in me, and on my word of honour as an
Ardayre, I will not abuse it, nor take advantage of it afterwards. My
regiment will go out at once, I suppose, the chances are as likely that
I shall be killed as you—”
They shook hands silently.
“We must lose no time.”
Then John poured out two glasses of brandy, and the toast they drank
was unspoken. But suddenly Denzil remembered as a strange coincidence
that he was drinking it for the third time.
* * * * *
Amaryllis arrived from Ardayre the next afternoon, after John's
medical board had been squared into pronouncing him fit for active
service—and he met his wife at the station and was particularly
solicitous of her well-being. He seemed to be unusually glad to see
her, and put his arm round her in the motor driving to Brook Street.
What would she like to do? They could not, of course, go to the
theatre, but if she would rather they could go out to a restaurant to
dine—there were going to be all kinds of difficulties about food.
Amaryllis, who responded immediately to the smallest advance on his
part, glowed now with fond sweetness. She had been so miserable without
him; so crushed and upset by the thought of war, and his possible
participation in it. All the long night, alone at Ardayre, she had
tried to realise what it all would mean. It was too stupendous, she
could not grasp it as yet, it was just a blank horror. And now to be in
the motor and close to him, and everything ordinary and as usual seemed
to drive the hideous fact further and further away. She would not face
it for to-night, she would try to be happy and banish the remembrance.
No one knew what was happening, nor if the Expeditionary Force had or
had not crossed to France. John asked her again what she would like to
She did not want to go out at all, she told him; if the kitchenmaid
and Murcheson could find them something to eat she would much rather
dine alone with him, like a regular old Darby and Joan pair—and
afterwards she would play nice things to him, and John agreed.
When she came down ready for dinner, she was radiant; she had put on
a new and ravishing tea-gown and her grey eyes were shining with a
winsome challenge, and her beautiful skin was brilliant with health and
freshness. A man could not have desired a more delectable creature to
call his own.
John thought so and at dinner expanded and told her so. He was not a
practised lover; women had played a very small part in his life—always
too filled with work and the one dominating idea to make room for them.
He had none of the tender graciousness ready at his command which
Denzil would very well have known how to show. But he loved Amaryllis,
and this was the first time he had permitted the expression of his
emotion to appear.
She became ever more fascinating, and at length unconscious passion
grew in her glance. John said some rather clumsy but loving things, and
when they went back to the library he slipped his arm round her, and
drew her to his side.
“I love to be near you, John,” she whispered; “I like your being so
tall and so distinguished-looking. I like your clothes—they are so
well made—” and then she wrinkled her pretty nose—“and I adore the
smell of the stuff you put on your hair! Oh! I don't know—I just want
to be in your arms!”
John kissed her. “I must give you a bottle of that lotion—it is
supposed to do wonders for the hair. It was originally made by an old
housekeeper of my mother's family in the still room, and I have always
kept the receipt—there are cloves in it and some other aromatic
“Yes, that is what I smell, like a clove carnation—it is divine. I
wonder why scents have such an effect upon one—don't you? Perhaps I am
a very sensuous creature—they can make me feel wicked or good—some
scents make me deliciously intoxicated—that one of yours does—when I
get near you—I want you to hold me and kiss me—John.”
Every fibre of John Ardayre's being quivered with pain. The cruel,
ironical bitterness of things.
“I've never smelt this same scent on any one else,” she went on,
rubbing her soft cheek up and down against his shoulder in the most
alluring way. “I should know it anywhere for it means just my
He turned away on the pretence of getting a cigarette; he knew that
his eyes had filled with tears.
Then Murcheson came into the room with the coffee, and this made a
break—and he immediately asked her to play to him, and settled himself
in one of the big chairs. He was too much on the rack to continue any
more love-making then; “what might have been” caused too poignant
He watched her delicate profile outlined against the curtain of
green silk. It was so pure and young—and her long throat was white as
milk. If this time next year she should have a child—a son—and he,
not killed, but sitting there perhaps watching her holding it. How
would he feel then? Would the certainty of having an Ardayre carry on
heal the wild rebellion in his soul?
“Ah, God!” he prayed, “take away all feeling—reward this
sacrifice—let the family go on.”
“You don't think you will have really to go to the war, do you,
John?” Amaryllis asked after she left the piano. “It will be all over,
won't it, before the New Year, and in any case the Yeomanry are only
for home defence, aren't they?” and she took a low seat and rested her
head against his arm.
John stroked her hair.
“I am afraid it will not be over for a long time, Amaryllis. Yes, I
think we shall go out and pretty soon. You would not wish to stop me,
Amaryllis looked straight in front of her.
“What is this thing in us, John, which makes us feel that—yes, we
would give our nearest and dearest, even if they must be killed? When
the big thing comes even into the lives which have been perhaps all
frivolous like mine—it seems to make a great light. There is an
exaltation, and a pity, and a glory, and a grief, but no holding back.
Is that patriotism, John?”
“That is one name for it, darling.”
“But it is really beyond that in this war, because we are not going
to fight for England, but for right. I think that feeling that we must
give is some oblation of the soul which has freed itself from the
chains of the body at last. For so many years we have all been asleep.”
“This is a rude awakening.”
They were silent for a little while, each busy with unusual
There was a sense of nearness between them—of understanding, new
and dangerously sweet.
Amaryllis felt it deliciously, sensuously, and took joy in that she
was touching him.
John thrust it away.
“I must get through to-night,” he thought, “but I cannot if this
hideous pain of knowledge of what I must renounce conquers me—I must
He went on stroking her hair; it made her thrill and she turned and
bit one of his fingers playfully with a wicked little laugh.
“I wish I knew what I am feeling, John,” she whispered, and her eyes
were aflame, “I wish I knew—”
“I must teach you!” and with sudden fierceness he bent down and
kissed her lips.
Then he told her to go to bed.
“You must be tired, Amaryllis, after your journey. Go like a good
She pouted. She was all vibrating with some totally new and
overmastering emotion. She wanted to stay and be made love to. She
wanted—she knew not what, only everything in her was thrilling with
“Must I? It is only ten.”
“I have a frightful lot of business things to write tonight,
Amaryllis. Go now and sleep, and I will come and wake you about
twelve!” He looked lover-like. She sighed.
“Ah! if you would only come now!”
He kissed her almost roughly again and led her to the door. And he
stood watching her with burning eyes as she went up the stairs.
Then he came back and rang the bell.
“I shall be very late, Murcheson—do not sit up, I will turn out the
“Very good, Sir John.”
And the valet left the room.
But John Ardayre did not write any business letters; he sank back
into his great leather chair—his lips were trembling, and presently
sobs shook him, and he leaned forward and buried his face in his hands.
Just before twelve had struck, he went out into the hall, and turned
off the light at the main. The whole house would now be in absolute
darkness but for an electric torch he carried. He listened—there was
not a sound.
Then he crept quietly up to his dressing room and returned with a
bottle of the clove-scented hair lotion.
“What a mercy she spoke of it,” his thoughts ran. “How sensitive
women are—I should never have remembered such a thing.”
Yes—now there was a sound.
* * * * *
Midnight had struck—and Amaryllis, sleeping peacefully, had been
dreaming of John.
“Oh! dearest,” she whispered drowsily, as but half awakened, she
felt herself being drawn into a pair of strong arms—“Oh!—you know I
love that scent of cloves—Oh!—I love you, John!”
When Amaryllis awoke in the morning her head rested on John's
breast, and his arm encircled her. She raised herself on her elbow and
looked at him. He was still asleep—and his face was infinitely sad.
She bent over and kissed him with shy tenderness, but he did not move,
he only sighed heavily as he lay there.
Why should he look so sad, when they were so happy?
She thought of loving things he had said to her at dinner—and then
the afterwards!—and she thrilled with emotion. Life seemed a glorious
thing and—But John was sad, of course, because he must go away. The
recollection of this fact came upon her suddenly like a blast of cold
air. They must part. War hung there with its hideous shadow, and John
must be conscious of it even in his dreams, that was why he sighed.
The irony of things—now—when—Oh! how cruel that he must go.
Then John awoke with a shudder, and saw her there leaning over him
with a new soft love light in her eyes, and he realised that the
anguish of his calvary had only just begun.
She was perfectly exquisite at breakfast, a fresh and tender
graciousness radiated in her every glance; she was subtle and
captivating, teasing him that he had been so silent in the night. “Why
wouldn't you talk to me, John? But it was all divine, I did not mind.”
Then she became full of winsome ways and caresses, which she had
hitherto been too timid to express; and every fond word she spoke
stabbed John's heart.
Could she not come and stay somewhere near so as to be with him
while he was in training? It was unbearable to remain alone.
But he told her that this would be impossible and that she must go
back to Ardayre.
“I will get leave, if there is a chance, dear little girl.”
“Oh! John, you must indeed.”
After he had gone out to the War Office, she sang as she undid a
bundle of late roses he had sent her from Soloman's, on his way.
She must herself put them in water; no servant should have this
pleasing task. Was it the thought of the imminence of separation which
had altered John into so dear a lover? She went over his words there in
the library. She relived the joy of his sudden fierce kiss, when he had
said that he must teach her as to what her emotions meant.
Ah! how good to learn, how all glorious was life and love!
“Sweetheart,” the word rang in her ears. He had never called her
that before! Indeed, John rarely ever used any term of endearment, and
never got beyond “Dear” or “Darling” before. But now it was an
exquisite remembrance! Just the murmured word “Sweetheart!” whispered
softly again and again in the night.
John came back to lunch, but two of the de la Paule family dropped
in also, and the talk was all of war, and the difficulty of getting
money at the banks, and how food would go on, and what the whole thing
But over Amaryllis some spell had fallen—nothing seemed a reality,
she could not attend to ordinary things, she felt that she but moved
and spoke as one still in a dream.
The world, and life, and death, and love, were all a blended mystery
which was but beginning to unravel for her and drew her nearer to John.
The days went on apace.
John in camp thanked God for the strenuous work of his training that
it kept him so occupied that he had barely time to think of Amaryllis
or the tragedy of things. When he had left her on the following
afternoon, the seventh of August, she had returned to Ardayre alone and
began the knitting and shirt-making and amateurish hospital committees
which all well-meaning English women vaguely grasped at before the
stern necessities brought them organised work to do. Amaryllis wrote
constantly to John—all through August—and many of the letters
contained loving allusions which made him wince with pain.
Then the awful news came of Mons, then the Marne—and the
Aisne—awful and glorious, and a hush and mourning fell over the land,
and Amaryllis, like every one else, lost interest in all personal
things for a time.
A young cousin had been killed and many of her season's partners and
friends, and now she knew that the North Somerset Yeomanry would
shortly go out and fight as they had volunteered at once. She was very
miserable. But when September grew, in spite of all this general
sorrow, a new horizon presented itself, lit up as if by approaching
dawn, for a hope had gradually developed—a hope which would mean the
rejoicing of John's heart.
And the day when first this possibility of future fulfilment was
pronounced a certainty was one of almost exalted beatitude, and when
Doctor Geddis drove away down the Northern Avenue, Amaryllis seized a
coat from the folded pile of John's in the hall, and walked out into
the park hatless, the wind blowing the curly tendrils of her soft brown
hair, a radiance not of earth in her eyes. The late September sun was
sinking and gilding the windows of the noble house, and she turned and
looked back at it when she was far across the lake.
And the whole of her spirit rose in thankfulness to God, while her
soul sang a glad magnificat.
She, too, might hand on this great and splendid inheritance! She,
too, would be the mother of Ardayres!
And now to write to John!
That was a fresh pleasure! What would he say? What would he feel?
Dear John! His letters had been calm and matter of fact, but that was
his way. She did not mind it now. He loved her, and what did words
matter with this glorious knowledge in her heart?
To have a baby! Her very own—and John's!
How wonderful! How utterly divine—!
Her little feet hardly touched the moss beneath them, she wanted to
skip and sing.
Next May! Next May! A Spring flower—a little life to care for when
war, of course, would have ended and all the world again could be happy
And then she returned by the tiny ancient church. She had the key of
it, a golden one which John had given her on their first coming down.
It hung on her bracelet with her own private key.
The sun was pouring through the western window, carpeting the altar
steps in translucent cloth of gold.
Amaryllis stole up the short aisle, and paused when she came between
the two tall canopied tombs of recumbent sixteenth century knights,
which made so dignified a screen for the little side aisles—and then
she moved on and knelt in the shaft of the sunlight there at the carved
And no one ever raised to God a purer or more fervent prayer.
She stayed until the sun sunk below the window, and then she rose
and went back to the house, and up to her cedar room. And now she must
write to John!
She began—once—twice—but tore up each sheet. Her news was a
supreme happiness, but so difficult to transmit!
At last she finished three sides of her own rather large sized
note-paper, but as she read over what she had written, she was not
quite content; it did not express all that she desired John to know.
But how could a mere letter convey the wordless gladness in her
She wanted to tell him how she would worship their baby, and how she
would pray that they should be given a son—and how she would remember
all his love words spoken that last time they were together, and weave
the joy of them round the little form, so that it should grow strong
and beautiful and radiant, and come to earth welcomed and blessed!
Something of all this finally did get written, and she concluded
“John, is it not all wonderful and blissful and mysterious, this
coming proof of our love? And when I lie awake I say over and over
again the sweet name you called me, and which I want to sign! I am not
just Amaryllis any longer, but your very own 'Sweetheart'!”
John received this letter by the afternoon post in camp. He sat down
alone in his tent and read and re-read each line. Then he stiffened and
remained icily still.
He could not have analysed his emotions. They were so intermixed
with thankfulness and pain—and underneath there was a fierce,
primitive jealousy burning.
“Sweetheart!” he said aloud, as though the word were anathema! “And
must I call her that 'Sweetheart'! Oh! God, it is too hard!” and he
clenched his hands.
By the same post came a letter from Denzil, of whose movements he
had asked to be kept informed, saying that the 110th Hussars were going
out at once, so that they would probably soon meet in France.
Then John wrote to Amaryllis. The very force of his feelings seemed
to freeze his power of expression, and when he had finished he knew
that it was but a cold, lifeless thing he had produced, quite
inadequate as an answer to her tender, exalted words.
“My poor little girl,” he sighed as he read it. “I know this will
disappoint her. What a hideous, sickening mockery everything is.”
He forced himself to add a postscript, a practice very foreign to
his usual methodical rule. “Never forget that I love you,
Amaryllis—Sweetheart!” he said.
And then he went to his Colonel and asked for two days' leave, and
when it was granted for the following Saturday and Monday he wired to
his wife asking her to meet him in Brook Street.
“I must see her—I cannot bear it,” he cried to himself.
And late at night he wrote to Denzil—it was just that he should do
“My wife is going to have a baby—if only it should be a son, then
it will not so much matter if both of us are killed, at least the
family will be saved, and be able to carry oh.”
He tried to make the letter cordial. Denzil had behaved with the
most perfect delicacy throughout, he must admit, and although they had
met once and exchanged several letters, not the faintest allusion to
the subject of their talk in the library at Brook Street had ever been
made by him.
Denzil had indeed acted and written as though such knowledge between
them did not exist. He—Denzil—in these last seven weeks had been
extremely occupied, and while his forces were concentrated upon the
exhilarating preparations for war, it would happen in rare moments
before sleep claimed him at night that he would let his thoughts
conjure a waking dream, infinitely, mystically sweet. And every pulse
would thrill with ecstasy, and then his will would banish it, and he
would think of other subjects.
He could not face the marvel of his emotions at this period, nor
dwell upon the romantically exciting aspect of some things.
He was up in London upon equipment business on the very Saturday
that John got leave, and he was due to dine at the Carlton with
Verisschenzko who had that day arrived on vital matters bent.
As they came into the hall, a man stopped to talk to the Russian,
and Denzil's eyes wandered over the unnumerous and depressed looking
company collected waiting for their parties to arrive. War had even in
those early Autumn days set its grim seal upon this festive spot.
People looked rather ashamed of being seen and no one smiled. He nodded
to one or two friends, and then his glance fell upon a beautiful, slim,
brown-haired girl, sitting quietly waiting in an armchair by the
She wore a plain black frock, but in her belt one huge crimson clove
carnation was unostentatiously tucked.
“What a lovely creature!” his thoughts ran, and Verisschenzko
turning from his acquaintance that moment, he said to him as they
started to advance:
“Stepan, if you want to see something typically English and
perfectly exquisite, look at that girl in the armchair opposite where
the band used to be. I wonder who she is?”
“What luck!” cried Verisschenzko. “That is your cousin, Amaryllis
And in a second Denzil found himself being introduced to her, and
being greeted by her with interested cordiality, as befitted their
But Verisschenzko, whose eyes missed nothing, remarked that under
his sunburn, Denzil had grown suddenly very pale. Amaryllis was
enchanted to see her friend, the Russian. John had gone to the
telephone, it appeared—and yes, they were dining alone—and, of
course, she was sure John would love to amalgamate parties, it was so
nice of Verisschenzko to think of it! There was John now.
The blood rushed back to Denzil's heart, and the colour to his
face—he had only murmured a few conventional words. Mercifully John
would decide the matter—it was not his doing that he and Amaryllis had
John caught sight of the three as he came along the balcony from the
telephone, so that he had time to take in the situation; he saw that
the meeting was quite imprevu, and he had, of course, no choice
but to accept Verisschenzko's suggestion with a show of grace. At that
very moment, before they could enter the restaurant, and re-arrange
their tables, Harietta Boleski and her husband swept upon them—they
were staying in the hotel. Harietta was enraptured.
What a delightful surprise meeting them! Were they all just
together, would they not dine with her?
She purred to John, while her eyes took in with satisfaction
Denzil's extraordinary good looks—and there was Stepan, too! Nothing
could be more agreeable than to scintillate for them both.
John hailed their advent with relief: it would relax the intolerable
strain which both he and Denzil would be bound to have to experience.
So looking at the rest of the party, he indicated that he thought they
would accept. It suited Verisschenzko also for his own reasons. And any
suggestion to enlarge the intimate number of four would have been
received by Denzil with graciousness.
He had not imagined that he would feel such profound emotion on
seeing Amaryllis, the intensity of it caused him displeasure. It was
altogether such a remarkable situation. He knew that it would have been
of thrilling interest to him had it not been for the presence of John.
His knowledge of what John must be suffering, and the knowledge that
John was aware of what he also must be feeling, turned the whole
circumstance into discomfort.
As soon as he recalled himself to Madame Boleski they all went into
the restaurant to the Boleski table, just inside the door, by the
window on the right. Harietta put John on one side of her and Denzil at
the other, and beyond were Verisschenzko and her husband, with
Amaryllis between, who thus sat nearly opposite Denzil, with her back
to the room.
Harietta, when she desired to be, was always an inspiriting hostess,
making things go. She intended to do her best to-night. The turn
affairs had taken, England being at war, was quite too tiresome. It had
spoilt all her country house visits and nullified much of the pleasure
and profit she was intending to reap from her now secured position in
this promised land.
Stanislass, too, had been difficult, he had threatened to go back to
Poland immediately, which he explained was his obvious duty to do—but
she had fortunately been able to crush that idea completely with tears
and scenes. Then he suggested Paris, but information from Hans gave her
occasion to think this might not be a comfortable or indeed quite a
safe spot, and in all cases if the Frenchmen were fighting for dear
life they would not have leisure to entertain her, therefore, dull and
gloomy as England had become, she preferred to remain.
Hans, too, had given her orders. For the present London must be her
home, and the lease of the Mount Lennard house in Grosvenor Square
having expired, they had moved to the Carlton Hotel.
The misery of war, the holocaust of all that was noblest, left her
absolutely cold. It was certainly a pity that those darling young
guardsmen she had danced with should have had to be killed, but there
was never any use in crying over spilt milk—better look out for new
ones coming on. She was quite indifferent as to which country won. It
was still a great bother collecting information for her former husband,
but he threatened terrible reprisals if she refused to go on, and as in
her secret heart she thought that there was no doubt as to who would be
victor, she felt it might be wiser to remain on good terms with the
power she believed would win!
Ferdinand Ardayre had been very helpful all the summer—he had moved
from the Constantinople branch of his business to one in Holland and
had just returned to England now; he was, in fact, coming to see her
later on when she should have packed Stanislass safely off to the St.
Harietta had no imagination to be inflamed by terrible descriptions
of things. She saw no actual horrors, therefore war to her was only a
nuisance—nothing ghastly or to be feared. But it was a disgusting
nuisance and caused her fatigue. She had continually to remember to
simulate proper sympathy, and concern and to subdue her vivacity, and
show enthusiasm for any agreeable war work which could divert her dull
days. If she had not been more than doubtful of her reception in
America, even as a Polish magnate's wife, she would have gone over
there to escape as far as possible from the whole situation, and she
had been bored to death now for several days. People were too occupied
and too grieved to go out of their way now to make much of her, and she
had been left alone to brood. Thus the advent of Verisschenzko, who
thrilled her always, and a possible new admirer in Denzil, seemed a
heaven-sent occurrence. Amaryllis and John were undesired but
unavoidable appendages who had to be swallowed.
Denzil's type particularly attracted her. There was an insouciance
about him, a debonnair sans gene which increased the charm of
his good looks; he had everything of attraction about him which John
Amaryllis, against her will, before the end of the dinner, was
conscious of the fact also, though Denzil studiously avoided any
conversation with her beyond what the exigencies of politeness
required. He devoted himself entirely to Harietta, to her delight, and
Verisschenzko and Amaryllis talked while John was left to Stanislass.
But the very fact of Denzil's likeness to John made Amaryllis look at
him, and she resented his attraction and the interest he aroused in
His voice was perhaps even deeper than John's, and how
extraordinarily well his bronze hair was planted on his forehead; and
how perfectly groomed and brushed and soldierly he looked!
He seemingly had taken the measure of Madame Boleski, too, and was
apparently enjoying with a cultivated subtlety the drawing of her out.
He was no novice it seemed, and there was a whimsical light in his eyes
and once or twice they had inadvertently met hers with understanding
when Verisschenzko had made some especially cryptic remark. She knew
that she would very much have liked to talk to him.
Verisschenzko was observing Amaryllis carefully. There was a new
expression in her eyes which puzzled him. Her features seemed to be
drawn with finer lines and pale violet shadows lay beneath her grey
eyes. Was it the gloom of the war which oppressed her? It could not be
altogether that, because her regard was serene and even happy.
“Did I not know that nothing could be more unlikely, I should say
she was going to have a child. What is the mystery?” He found himself
very much interested. Especially he was anxious to watch what
impression Denzil made upon her. He saw, as the dinner went on, that
Amaryllis was aware that he was an attractive creature.
“There is the beginning of a chapter of necessary and
expedient—romance—here,” he decided. “If only Denzil is not killed.”
But what did his growing so pale on learning that she was his cousin
mean...? that was not a natural circumstance—some deep undercurrents
were stirred. And in what way was all this going to affect the lady of
They could not have any intimate conversation at dinner; they spoke
of ordinary things and the war and the horror of it. Russia was moving
forward, but Verisschenzko did not appear to be very optimistic in
spite of this. There were things in his country, he told Amaryllis,
which might handicap the fighting.
Stanislass Boleski looked extremely depressed. He had a hang-dog,
strained mien and Verisschenzko's contemptuously friendly attitude
towards him wounded him deeply. Once he had shone as a leader and chief
in Stepan's life, and now after the stormy scene in the smoking-room at
Ardayre, that he could greet him casually and not turn from him in
anger, showed, alas! to where he had sunk in Verisschenzko's
estimation—a thing of nought—not even worth his disapproval. The
dinner to him was a painful trial.
John also was far from content. He had been longing to see
Amaryllis, and yet the sight of her and her fond and insinuating words
and caresses had caused him exquisite suffering. His emotions were so
varied and complex. His prayer had been answered, but apart from his
natural loathing for all subterfuge, every new tenderness towards
himself which Amaryllis displayed aroused some indefinable jealousy.
She had been so glad to see him and he had been conscious himself that
he had been even unusually stolid and self-contained towards her. He
knew that she grew disappointed and that probably the exalted sentiment
which her letter had indicated that she was feeling had been chilled
before she could put it into words.
All this distressed him, and yet he could not break through the
reserve of his nature.
And now to crown unfortunate things, there was Denzil brought by
fate and no one's manoeuvring into Amaryllis' company! Of all things he
had hoped that they need not meet before he and his cousin should go to
the Front. And it was all brought about by his own action in insisting
that they had better dine at a restaurant, as the kitchenmaid, who
always remained at Brook Street, had gone to see a wounded brother.
Amaryllis had sighed a little as she had consented, with the faint
protest that they could have eaten something cold.
But on their drive to the Carlton she had become fondly affectionate
again, nestling close to him, and then she had pulled out the carnation
from her belt and held it for him to smell.
“I picked it in the greenhouse this morning, the last of them; I
have had them all around me while there were any, because they remind
me of you, dearest—and of everything divine.”
John felt that he should always now hate that clove stuff for the
hair and could no longer bear to use it.
He was perfectly aware that Denzil on his hostess' other hand was
looking everything that a woman could desire, and that his easy
casualness of manner would be likely to charm. He saw that Amaryllis,
too, observed him with unconscious interest, and a feeling akin to
despair filled his heart.
Life for him had always been difficult, and he was accustomed to
blows, but this one was particularly hard to bear, because he really
loved Amaryllis and desired happiness with her which he knew could
never really be attained.
Only Harietta of the whole party was quite content. She intended to
annex Stepan when they should be drinking coffee in the hall. She
looked upon Denzil's conquest now as almost an accomplished fact, and
so felt that she might let him talk to Amaryllis, since the Russian was
her real object. His ugly rugged face and odd Calmuck eyes always
“Why aren't you staying in the hotel, darling Brute?'“ she whispered
to him as they left the restaurant. “If you had been—”
“I am,” said Verisschenzko, and leaving her for a moment he went and
telephoned to his not unintelligent Russian servant at the Ritz to
arrange about the transference of his rooms.
“She requires the most careful watching—I must waste no time.”
And then he returned to the party in the hall.
Denzil Ardayre took up his letters which had been forwarded to him
from the depot where he was stationed. He and Verisschenzko were
passing through the hall of his mother's house, for a talk and a smoke
in his sitting-room, after leaving the Carlton.
The house was in St. James' Place, a small, old building, the ground
floor of which was given over to Denzil whenever he was in London. His
mother was absent at Bath, where she spent a long autumn cure.
John's letter lay on the top, and Verisschenzko caught the look of
interest which came into Denzil's face.
“Don't mind me, my dear chap,” he remarked, “read your letters.” And
they went on into the sitting-room.
“I want just to look at this one—it is from John Ardayre whom we
met to-night,” and Denzil opened it casually—“I wonder what he is
writing to me about, he did not say anything at dinner.”
He read the short communication and exclaimed: “Good God!” and then
checked himself. He was obviously stirred, and Verisschenzko watched
him narrowly. Anything to do with John must concern Amaryllis, and
therefore was of profound interest to himself.
“No bad news, I hope?” he said.
Denzil was gazing into the fire, and there was a look of wonderment
and even rapture upon his face.
“Oh! No—rather splendid—” He felt quite the strangest emotion he
had ever experienced in his life. His usual serene self-confidence and
easy flow of words deserted him, and Verisschenzko, watching him, began
to link certain things in his mind.
“Tell me, what did you think of your cousin, Lady Ardayre?” he asked
casually, as though the subject was irrelevant.
“Amaryllis?” and Denzil almost started from a reverie. “Oh, yes, of
course, she is a lovely creature, is not she, Stepan?”
Verisschenzko narrowed his eyes.
“I have told you that I adore her—but with the spirit—if it were
not so, she would appeal very strongly to the flesh—Yes?—Did you not
“She is longing to understand life, she is groping; why do you not
set about her education, Denzil?”
“That is the husband's business.”
“Not in this case. I consider it is yours; you are the right mate
for her. John Ardayre is a good fellow, but he stands for nothing in
the affair. Why did you waste your time upon Harietta, when time is so
“I was given no choice.”
“But afterwards, in the hall?”
It was quite evident to Verisschenzko that the mention of Amaryllis
was causing his friend some unexplainable emotion.
“You did not even exert yourself, then. Why, Denzil?”
Denzil lit a cigarette.
“I thought her awfully attractive—it is the first time I have ever
seen her—as you know.”
“And that was a reason for remaining silent and as stiff as a poker
in manner! You English are a strange race!”
Denzil smiled—if Stepan only knew everything, what would he say!
“You were made for each other. If I were you, I would not lose a
“My dear old boy, you seem quite to forget that the girl has a
husband of her own!”
“Not at all, it is for that reason—just because of that husband. I
shall say no more, you are quite intelligent enough to understand.”
“You think it is all right then for a woman to have a lover?” Denzil
smiled as he curled rings of smoke. “It is curious how the most
honourable among us has not much conscience concerning such things.”
Verisschenzko knocked off his cigarette ash and spoke
“The world would be an insupportable place for women, if he had! But
whatever the moral aspect of the matter is in general, circumstances
arise which alter the point, and that is where the absurd ticketing
system hampers suitable action. A thing is ticketed 'dishonourable.'
Pah! it is sometimes, and it is not at others—there is no hard and
Denzil stretched himself—he was always interested in
Verisschenzko's reasonings and prepared to listen with enjoyment:
“The general idea is that a man should not make love to another
man's wife. Man professes this as a creed, and the law enforces it and
punishes him if he is found out doing so. And if he acted up to this
creed as he does about stealing goods and behaving like a gentleman
over business matters, all might be well, but unfortunately that seldom
occurs, because there is that strong; instinct which is the base of all
things working in him, and which does not work in regard to any other
point of honour—i.e., the unconscious desire to re-create his,
species, so that this one particular branch of moral responsibility
cannot be measured, judged, or criticised from the same standpoint as
any other. No laws can. alter human nature, or really control a man's
actions when a natural force is prompting him unless stern
self-analysis discovers the truth to the man, and so permits his spirit
to regain dominion. The best chance would be to resist the first
feeling of attraction which a woman belonging to another man aroused
before it had actually obtained a hold upon his senses—but the
percentage of men who do this must be very small. Some resist—or try
to resist the actual possession of the woman from moral motives, but
many more from motives of expediency and fear of consequences. Then to
salve conscience the mass of men ride a high moral stalking horse, and
write and speak condemnation of every back-sliding, while their own
behaviour coincides with the behaviour they are criticising. The
hypocrisy of the thing sickens me; no one ever looks any question
straight in the face, denuded of its man-made sophistries. And few
realise that a woman is a creature to be fought for—it is prehistoric
instinct, and if she can't be obtained in fair fight then you secure
her by strategy. And if a man cannot keep her once he has secured her,
it is up to him. If I had a wife, I should take good care that she
desired no other man—but if I bored her, or was a cold and bad
lover, I should not expect the other men not to try and take her from
me—because I should know this was a natural instinct with them—like
taking food. It would probably be no temptation to most of us to steal
gold lying about in a room, even if we were poor, but a hideous
temptation to refrain from eating a tempting dish if we were starving
with hunger and it was before us—and if a woman did succumb to some
new passion I should blame myself, not her.”
“Jealousy is a natural instinct, though,” he said, “and although
there would be not much profit in trying to hold a woman who no longer
cared, one could not help being mad about it.”
“Of course not—that is the sense of personal possession which is
affronted. Vanity is deeply wounded, and so the power to analyse cause
and result sleeps. But this attitude which men take up of neglecting a
woman and then expecting her to be faithful still is quite ridiculous,
and without logic; they are as usual fogged by convention and can't see
Verisschenzko's rough voice was keen—compelling.
“Another of your windmills to fight!”
“I am always fighting convention and shams. Get down to the meaning
of a thing, and if its true significance coincides with the convention
which surrounds it, then let that hold, but if convention is a
super-imposed growth, then amputate it and study the thing without it.”
“I suppose a man marries a woman nine times out of ten because he
cannot obtain her in any other way; then when he has become indifferent
by possession, he still thinks that she should remain devoted to him.
You are right, Stepan, it is very illogical.”
“Club the creature, or keep her in a cage if you want fidelity
through fear, but don't expect it if you allow her to remain at large
and neglected, and don't be such an ass as to imagine that your friends
won't act just as you yourself would act were she some one's else wife.
If a woman has that quality in her which arouses sex, married or
single, I never have observed that men refrained from making love to
“All this means that you consider I am quite at liberty to make love
to Amaryllis Ardayre!”
Denzil threw his cigarette end into the fire:
“Well, for once you are wrong, Stepan, in your usually perfect
deductions,” he got up from his chair. “There is a reason in this case
which makes the thing an absolute impossibility; under no possible
circumstance while John is alive could I make the smallest advance
towards Amaryllis! There is another point of honour involved in the
Verisschenzko felt that here was some mystery which he had yet to
elucidate, the links in the chain were visible up to a point, but he
then became baffled by the incontestable fact that Denzil had seen
Amaryllis that evening for the first time!
“If this is so, then it is a very great pity,” he announced, after a
moment or two's thought. “Were the times normal, we might leave all to
Fate and trust to luck, but if you are killed and John is killed, it
will be a thousand pities for Ferdinand to be the head of the family. A
creature like that will not enlist, he will be safe while you risk your
Denzil went over to the window, apparently to get out a fresh box of
cigars which were in a cabinet near.
“John writes to-night that there is the chance of an heir after
all—so perhaps we need not worry,” he said, his voice a little hoarse
with feeling. “I was so awfully glad to hear this—we all loathe the
thought of Ferdinand.”
Verisschenzko actually was startled, and also he was strangely
“When I saw my lady Amaryllis to-night that idea came to me, only as
I believed it was quite an impossibility—I dismissed it—It is a war
miracle then?” and he smiled enquiringly.
The cigar box was selected and Denzil had once more resumed his seat
in a big chair before either of them spoke again.
“I perfectly understand that there is some mystery here, Denzil—and
that you cannot tell me—and equally I cannot ask you any questions,
but it may be that in the days that are coming I could be of assistance
to you. I have some very curious information which I am holding
concerning Ferdinand Ardayre in his activities. You can always count on
me—” Verisschenzko rose from his chair, stirred deeply with the
thoughts which were coursing through his brain.
“Denzil—I love that woman—I am absolutely determined that I shall
not do so in any way but in spirit—I long for her to be
happy—protected. She has an exquisite soul—I would have given her to
you with contentment. You are her counterpart upon this plane—”
Denzil remained silent, he had never seen Stepan so agitated. The
situation was altogether very unusual. Then he asked:
“Do you think Ferdinand will make some protest then?”
“It is possible.”
“But there is absolutely nothing to be said, the fact of there being
a child refutes all the old rumours.”
“In every way,” a flush had mounted to Denzil's forehead.
“You know Lemon Bridges?” Verisschenzko suggested.
“Yes—why do you ask?”
“He is a remarkably clever surgeon. It is said that he is also a
gentleman; if this news surprises him he will not express his feelings
Stepan was observing his friend with the minutest scrutiny now,
while he spoke lazily once more as though upon a casual topic bent, and
he saw that a lightning flash of anxiety passed through Denzil's eyes.
“I do not see how any one can have a word to say about the matter,”
and he lit his cigar deliberately. “John is awfully pleased—”
“And so am I—and so are you, and so will be the lady Amaryllis.
Thus we can only wish for general happiness, and not anticipate
difficulties which may never occur. When is the event to happen?”
“The beginning of next May,” Denzil announced, without hesitation,
and then the flush deepened, for he suddenly remembered that John had
not mentioned any date in his letter!
The subject was growing embarrassing, and he asked, so as to change
“What is your friend, Madame Boleski, doing now, Stepan?”
“She is receiving news from Germany which I shall endeavour to have
her transmit to me, and I have some suspicion that she is transmitting
any information which she can pick up here to Germany, but I cannot yet
be sure. When I am, then I shall have no mercy. She would betray any
country for an hour's personal pleasure or gain. I have not yet
discovered who the man was at the Ardayre ball—I told you about it,
did I not? Just then more important matters pressed and I could not
follow up the clue.”
“She is certainly physically attractive, and all the things she says
are so obvious and easy, she is quite a rest at a dinner, but Lord!
think of spending one's life with a woman like that!” and Denzil
“There are very few women whom it would be possible to contemplate
in calmness spending one's life with, because one's own needs change,
and the woman's also. The tie is a galling bond unless it can be looked
at with common sense by both—but I think men are quite as illogical as
women over it, and of such an incredible vanity! It is because we have
mixed so much sentiment into such a simple nature-act that all the
bothers arise, and men are unjust over every thing to do with women.
All men think, for instance, that a woman must not deceive her lover
and, at the same time that she is appearing to be his faithful
mistress, take another for her pleasure and diversion in secret. A man
would look upon this and rightly as a dishonourable betrayal because it
would wound his vanity and lower his personal prestige. But the
illogical part is that he would not hesitate to do the same thing
himself, and would never see the matter in the light of a betrayal,
because the Creator has happily equipped him with a rhinoceros hide
which enables him never to feel stings of self-contempt when viewing
his own actions towards the other sex.”
Denzil laughed aloud.
“You are hard on us, Stepan, but I dare say you are right.”
“It is just custom and convention which make us think ourselves such
gods. Had woman had the same chance always, who knows what she might
not have become by now! Everything is ticketed, it is called by a name
and put down under such and such a heading—women are 'weak' and
'illogical' and 'unreliable' and men are 'brave' and 'sound' and 'to be
trusted'—tosh! in quantities of cases—and if so, why so? Women are
wonderful beings in many ways—of a courage! The way they bear things
so gladly for men—think of their suffering when they have children.
You don't know about it probably, men take all this as a matter of
course—but I saw my sister die—after hours of it—”
Denzil moved his arm rather suddenly and upset the glass of lemon
squash on a little table near.
Verisschenzko observed this, but went on without a break:
“It is agony for them under the best conditions, and sometimes they
become divine over it. Amaryllis will be divine—I hope John will take
care of her—”
A look of concern came into Denzil's face, and Verisschenzko watched
him. Could any one be more attractive as a splendid mate for Amaryllis,
he thought. He crushed down all feeling of human jealousy. His
intuition would probably reveal all the mystery to him presently, and
meanwhile if he could forward any scheme which would be for the good of
Amaryllis and the security of the family, he would do so.
“I must leave you now, old man,” he said, looking at his watch. “I
have a rendezvous with Harietta. I shall have to play the part of an
ardent lover and cannot yet wring her neck.”
When Denzil was alone, he stood gazing into the fire.
“That John should take care of her?”—but John was going out to
fight—and so was he—and they might both be killed—What then?
“Stepan knows, I am certain,” he thought, “and he is true as steel;
he must stand by her if we don't come back.”
And then his thoughts flew to the vision of her sitting opposite him
at the table, with her sweet eyes turned to his now and then, the faint
violet shadows beneath them and the transparent exquisiteness of her
skin telling their own story by the added, fragile beauty. Oh! what
unutterable joy to hold her in his arms and whisper passionate love
words in her little ears, to live again the dream of her dainty head
lying prone there on his breast. Every pulse in his being throbbed to
bursting, seeming almost to suffocate him.
“Amaryllis—Sweetheart!” he whispered aloud, and then started at his
He paced up and down the room, clenching his hands. The family might
go on, but the two members of it must endure the pain of renunciation.
Which was the harder to bear, he wondered—his part of hopeless
memory and regret, or John's of forced denial and abstinence?
In all the world, no situation could be more strange or more cruel.
He had felt deeply about it before he had seen Amaryllis. He thought
of the myth of Eros and Psyche. His emotions had been much as Psyche's
before she lit the lamp. And now the lamp had been lighted—his eyes
had seen what his arms had clasped, the reality was more lovely than
his dream, and passion was kindled a hundredfold. It swept him off his
He forgot war and the horror of the time, he forgot everything
except that he longed for Amaryllis.
“She is mine, absolutely mine,” he said wildly. “Not John's.”
And then he remembered his promise, given before any personal
equation had entered into the affair.
Never to take advantage of the situation—afterwards!
And what would the child be like? A true Ardayre, of course—they
would say that it had harked back, perhaps, to that Elizabethan Denzil
whom his father had told him was his exact portrait in the picture
gallery at Ardayre.
He could have laughed at the sardonic humour of everything if he had
not been too overcome with passionate desire to retain any critical
Then he sat down and forced himself to realise what it
meant—parenthood. Not much to a man, as a rule. He had looked upon
those occult stirrings of the spirit of which he had read as romantic
nonsense. It was a natural thing and all right if a man had a place for
him to wish to have a son—but otherwise, sentimentality over such
things was such rot!
And yet now he found himself thrilling with sentiment. He would like
to talk to Amaryllis all about it, and listen to her thoughts, too. And
then he remembered the many discussions with Verisschenzko upon the
theory of re-birth and of the soul's return again and again until its
lessons are learned on this plane of existence, and he wondered what
soul would animate the physical form of this little being who would be
his and hers.
And suddenly in his mental vision the walls of the room seemed to
fade, and he was only conscious of a vastness of space, and knew that
for this brief moment he was looking into eternity and realising for
the first time the wonder of things.
* * * * *
Meanwhile Verisschenzko had returned to the Carlton and was softly
walking down the passage towards the Boleskis' rooms. The ante-room
door was at the corner, and as he was about ten yards from it a man
came out and strode rapidly towards the lift down the corridor at right
angles, but the bright light fell upon his face for an instant, and
Verisschenzko saw that it was Ferdinand Ardayre.
He waited where he was until he heard the lift doors shut, and even
then he paced up and down for a time before he entered the
sitting-room. There must be no suspicion that he had encountered the
“Darling Brute, here you are!” Harietta cried delightedly, rising
from her sofa and throwing herself into his arms. “I've packed
Stanislass off to the St. James' to play piquet. I have been all alone
waiting for you for the last hour—I began to fear you would not come.”
Verisschenzko looked at her, with his cynical, humorous smile, whose
meaning never reached her. He took in the transparent garments which
hardly covered her, and then he bent and picked up a man's handkerchief
which lay on a table near.
“Tiens! Harietta!” he remarked lazily. “Since when has
Stanislass taken to using this very Eastern perfume?” and he sniffed
The wide look of startled innocence grew in Madame Boleski's hazel
“I believe Stanislass must have got a mistress, Stepan. I have
noticed lately these scents on his things—as you know, he never used
“The handkerchief is marked with 'F.A.' I suppose the
blanchisseuse mixes them in hotels. Let us burn the memento of a
husband's straying fancies then; the taste in perfumes of his inamorata
is anything but refined,” and Verisschenzko tossed the bit of cambric
into the fire which sparkled in the grate.
“I've lots of news to tell you, Darling Brute—but I shan't—yet!
Have you come to England to see that bit of bread and butter—or—?”
But Verisschenzko, with a fierce savagery which she adored, crushed
her in his arms.
On the Tuesday morning after the Carlton dinner, fate fell upon
Denzil and Amaryllis in the way the jade does at times, swooping down
upon them suddenly and then like a whirlwind altering the very current
of their destiny. It came about quite naturally, too, and not by one of
those wildly improbable situations which often prove truth to be
stranger than fiction.
Amaryllis was settled in an empty compartment of the Weymouth
express at Paddington. She had said good-bye to John the evening
before, and he had returned to camp. She was going back to Ardayre, and
feeling very miserable. Everything had been a disillusion. John's
reserve seemed to have augmented, and she had been unable to break it
down, and all the new emotions which she was trembling with and longing
to express, had grown chilled.
Presumably John must be pleased at the possibility of having a son
since it was his heart's desire; but it almost seemed as though the
subject embarrassed him! And all the beautiful things which she had
meant to say to him about it remained unspoken.
He was stolidly matter-of-fact.
What could it all mean?
At last she had become deeply hurt and had cried with a tremour in
her voice the morning before he left her:
“Oh! John, how different you have become; it can't be the same you
who once called me 'Sweetheart' and held me so closely in your arms!
Have I done anything to displease you, dearest? Aren't you glad that I
am going to have a baby?”
He had kissed her and assured her gravely that he was
glad—overjoyed. And his eyes had been full of pain, and he had added
that he was stupid and dull, but that she must not mind—it was only
“Alas!” she had answered and nothing more.
She dwelt upon these things as she sat in the train gazing out of
the window on the blank side.
Yes. Joy was turning into dead sea fruit. How moving her thoughts
had been when coming up to meet him!
The marvel of love creating life had exalted her and she had longed
to pour her tender visionings into the ears of—her lover! For John had
been thus enshrined in her fond imagination!
The whole idea of having a child to her was a sacred wonder with
little of earth in it, and she had woven exquisite sentiment round it
and had dreamed fair dreams of how she would whisper her thoughts to
John as she lay clasped to his heart; and John, too, would be thrilled
with exaltation, for was not the glorious mystery his as well—not hers
Now everything looked grey.
Tears rose in her eyes. Then she took herself to task; it was
perhaps only her foolish romance leading her astray once more. The
thought might mean nothing to a man beyond the pride of having a son to
carry on his name. If the baby should be a little girl John might not
care for it at all!
The tears brimmed over and fell upon a big crimson carnation in her
coat, a bunch of which John had ordered to be sent her, and which were
now safely reposing in a card-board box in the rack above her head.
Fortunately she had the carriage to herself. No one had attempted to
get in, and they would soon be off. To be away from London would be a
Then her thoughts flew to Verisschenzko; he had told her that
circumstances in his country might require his frequent presence in
England for the next few months.
She would see him again. What would he tell her to do now? Conquer
emotion and look at things with common sense.
The picture of the dinner at the Carlton then came back to her, and
the face of Denzil across the table, so like, and yet so unlike John!
If Denzil had a wife would he be cold to her? Was it in the nature
of all Ardayres?
At the very instant the train began to move the carriage was invaded
by a man in khaki who bounded in and almost fell by her knees, and with
a cheery 'Just done it, Sir!' the guard flung in a dressing-bag and
slammed the door, and she realised with conscious interest that the
intruder was Denzil Ardayre!
“How do you do? By Jove. I am awfully sorry,” and he held out his
hand. “I nearly lost the train and I am afraid I have bundled in
without asking leave. I am going down to Bath to say good-bye to my
mother. I say, do forgive me if I startled you,” and he looked full of
Amaryllis laughed; she was nervous and overstrung.
“Your entrance was certainly sudden and in this non-stop to Westbury
we shall have to put up with each other till then—shall you mind?”
“Awfully—Must I say that the truth would be that I am enchanted!”
Fortune had flung him these two hours. He had not planned them, his
conscience was clear, and he could not help delight rushing through
him. Two hours with her—alone!
There are some blue eyes which seem to have a spark of the devil
lurking in them always, even when they are serious. Denzil's were such
eyes. Women found it difficult to resist his charm, and indeed had
never tried very hard. Life and its living, knowledge to acquire, work
to do, beasts to hunt, had not left him too much time to be spoiled by
them fortunately, and he had passed through several adventures safely
and had never felt anything but the most transient emotion, until now
looking at Amaryllis sitting opposite him he knew that he was in love
with this dream which had materialised.
Amaryllis studied him while they talked of ordinary things and the
war news and when he would go out. She felt some strong attraction
drawing her to him. Her sense of depression left her. She found herself
noticing how the sun which had broken through a cloud turned his
immaculately brushed hair into bronze. She did a little modelling to
amuse herself, and so appreciated balance and line.
Everything in Denzil was in the right place, she decided, and above
all he looked so peculiarly alive. He seemed, indeed, to be the reality
of what her imagination had built up round the personality of John in
the weeks of their separation. Denzil believed that he was talking
quite casually, but his glance was ardent, and atmosphere becomes
charged when emotions are strong no matter how insignificant words may
be. Amaryllis felt that he was deeply interested in her.
“You know my friend Verisschenzko well, it seems,” she said
presently. “Is not he a fascinating creature? I always feel stimulated
when I am with him, and as if I must accomplish great things.”
“Stepan is a wonder—we were at Oxford together—he can do anything
he desires. He is a musician and an artist and is chock full of common
sense, and there's not a touch of rot. He would have taken honours if
he had not been sent down.”
Amaryllis wanted to know about this, and listened amazedly to the
story of the mad freak which had so scandalised the Dons.
She had recovered from her nervousness, she was natural and
delightful, and although the peculiar situation was filling Denzil with
excitement and emotion, he was too much a man of the world to
experience any gene. So they talked for a while with
friendliness upon interesting things. Then a pause came and Amaryllis
looked out of the window, and Denzil had time to grow aware that he
must hold himself with a tighter hand, a sense almost of intoxication
had begun to steal over him.
Suddenly Amaryllis grew very pale and her eyelids flickered a
little; for the first time in her life she felt faint.
He bent forward in anxiety as she leaned her head against the
“Oh! what is it, you poor little darling! what can I do for you?” he
exclaimed, unconscious that he had used a word of endearment; but even
though things had grown vague for her Amaryllis caught the tenderly
pronounced 'darling' and, physically ill as she felt, her spirit
thrilled with some agreeable surprise. He came nearer and pushing up
the padded divisions between the seats, he lifted her as though she had
been a baby and laid her flat down. He got out his flask from his
dressing bag and poured some brandy between her pale lips, then he
rubbed her hands, murmuring he knew not what of commiseration. She
looked so fragile and helpless and the probable reason of her
indisposition was of such infinite solicitude to himself.
“To think that she is feeling like that because—Ah!—and I may not
even kiss her and comfort her, or tell her I adore her and understand.”
So his thoughts ran.
Presently Amaryllis sat up and opened her eyes. She had not actually
fainted, but for a few moments everything had grown dim and she was not
certain of what had happened, or if she had dreamed that Denzil had
spoken a love word, or whether it was true—she smiled feebly.
“I did feel so queer,” she explained. “How silly of me! I have never
felt faint before—it is stupid”—and then she blushed deeply,
remembering what certainly must be the cause.
“I am going to open the window wide,” he said, appreciating the
blush, and let it down. “You ought not to sit with your back to the
engine like that, let us change sides.”
He took command and drew her to her feet, and placed her gently in
his vacant seat; then he sat down opposite her and looked at her with
“I sit that way as a rule because of avoiding the dust, but, of
course, it was that. I am not generally such a goose though—it is the
nastiest feeling that I have ever known.”
“You poor dear little girl,” his deep voice said. “You must shut
your eyes and not talk now.”
She obeyed, and he watched her intently as she lay back with her
eyes closed, the long lashes resting upon her pale cheeks. She looked
childish and a little pathetic, and every fibre of his being quivered
with desire to protect her. He had never felt so profoundly in his
life—and the whole thing was so complicated. He tried to force himself
to remember that he was not travelling with his wife whom he
could take care of and cherish because she was going to have his
child, but that he was travelling with John's wife whom he hardly knew
and must take no more interest in than any Ardayre would in the wife of
the head of the family!
He could have laughed at the extraordinary irony of the thing, if it
had not been so moving.
Verisschenzko, had he been there and known the circumstances, would
have taken joy in analysing what nature was saying to them both!
Amaryllis was only conscious that Denzil seemed the reality of her
dream of John, and that she liked his nearness—and Denzil only knew
that he loved her extremely and must banish emotion and remember his
given word. So he pulled himself together when she sat up presently and
began talking again, and gradually the atmosphere of throbbing
excitement between them calmed. They spoke of each other's tastes and
likings and found many to be the same. Then they spoke of books, and
each discovered that the other was sufficiently well read to be able to
discuss varied favourite authors.
An understanding and sympathy had grown up between them before they
reached Westbury, and yet Denzil was really trying to keep his word in
the spirit as well as the letter.
Amaryllis felt no constraint—she was more friendly than she would
have been with any other man she knew so slightly. Were they not
cousins, and was it not perfectly natural!
They talked of Oxford and of the effect it had upon young men, and
again they spoke of Stepan and of the dream he and Denzil shared.
“You will go into Parliament, I suppose, when you come back from the
war?” she remarked at last. “If you have dreams they should become
“That is what I intend to do. The war may last a long time
though—but it ought to teach one something, and England will be a
vastly different place after it, and perhaps the younger men who have
fought may have a greater chance.”
“You have pet theories, of course.”
“I suppose so—I believe that the first great step will be to give
the people better homes—the housing question is what I am going to
devote my energy to. I am sure it is the root of nearly every evil.
Every man and woman who works should have the right to a good home. I
have two supreme interests—that is one, and the other is elimination
of the wastrels and the unfit. I am quite ruthless, perhaps, you will
think. But there is such a sickening lot of mawkish sentiment mixed up
with nearly every scheme to benefit workers. I agree with Stepan who
always preaches: Get down to the commonsense point of view about a
thing. Prune the convention and religion and sentimentality first and
then you can judge.”
Amaryllis thought for a moment; her eyes became wide and dreamy, and
her charmingly set head was a little thrown back. Denzil took in the
line of her white throat and the curve of her chin—it was not weak.
Why was it that women with the possibilities of this one always seemed
to be some other man's property! He had never come across such charm in
girls. Or was it that marriage developed charm?
They neither of them spoke for a minute or two, each busy with
“I want to do something,” Amaryllis said at last, “not, only just
make shirts and socks,” and then the pink flushed her cheeks again
suddenly as she remembered that she would not be fit for more strenuous
work for quite a long time—and then the war would be over, of course.
Denzil thought the same thing without the last qualification. He was
under no delusions as to the speedy end of strife.
He could not help visioning the wonderful interest the hope of a son
would be to him if she really were his wife—how filled with supreme
sympathy and tenderness would be the months coming on. How they would
talk together about their wishes and the mystery and the glory of the
evolution of life. And here she had blushed at some thought concerning
it, and no words must pass between them about this sacred thing. He
longed to ask her many questions—and then a pang of jealousy shook
him. She would confide to John, not to him, all the emotions aroused by
the thought of the child—then. He wondered what she would do in the
winter all alone. Had she relations she was fond of? He wished that she
knew his Mother, who was the kindest sweetest lady in the world. He
“I would like you to meet my Mother. She is going to be at Bath for
a month. She is almost an invalid with rheumatism in her ankle where
she broke it five years ago. I believe you would get on.”
“I should love to—it is not an impossible distance from us. I will
go over to see her, if you will tell her about me—so that she won't
think some stranger is descending upon her some day!”
“She will be so pleased,” and he thought that he would be happier
knowing that they were friends.
“Does she mean a great deal to you? Some mothers do,” and she
sighed—her own was less than emptiness—they had never been near, and
now her stepfather and the step-family claimed all the affection her
mother could feel.
“She is a great dear—one of my best friends,” and his eyes beamed.
“We have always been pals—because I have no brothers and sisters I
suppose she spoilt me!”
“I daresay you were quite a nice little boy!” Amaryllis smiled—“and
it must be divine to have a son—I expect it would be easy to spoil
Denzil clasped his hands rather tightly—she looked so adorable as
she said that, her eyes soft with inward knowledge of her great hope.
How impossible it all was that they must remain strangers—casual
cousins and nothing more.
“It must be an awful responsibility to have children,” he said,
watching her. “Don't you think so?”
The pink flared up again as she answered a rather solemn “Yes.”
Then she went on, a little hurriedly:
“One would try to study their characters and lead them to the
highest good, as gardeners watch over and train plants until they come
to perfection. But what funny, serious things we are talking about,”
and she gave a little, nervous laugh—“Like two old grandfather
“It is rather a treat to talk seriously; one so seldom has the
chance to meet any one who understands.”
“To understand!” and she sighed. “Alas—How quite perfect life would
be—” and then she stopped abruptly. If she continued her words might
contain a reflection upon John.
Denzil bent forward eagerly—what had she been going to say?
She saw his blue attractive eyes gazing at her so ardently and some
delicious thrill passed through her. But Denzil recovered himself, and
leaned back in his seat—while he abruptly changed the conversation by
“I have never seen Ardayre. I would love to look at our common
ancestors. My father used to say there was an Elizabethan Denzil who
was rather like me. I suppose we are all stamped with the same brand.”
“I know him!” Amaryllis cried delightedly. “He is up at the end of
the gallery in puffed white satin and a ruff. Of course, you must come
and see him; he has exactly the same eyes.”
“The whole family are alive I believe—we were a tenacious lot!”
“If you and John both get leave at Christmas you must come with him
and spend it at Ardayre—I shall have made your Mother's acquaintance
by then, and we must persuade her too.”
He gave some friendly answer—while he felt that John might not
endorse this invitation. If the places were reversed, how would he
himself act? Difficult as the situation was for him, it was infinitely
harder for John. Then the train stopped at Westbury.
Denzil had got out to get some papers which he had been to hurried
to secure at Paddington tipping the guard on the way, so that an old
gentleman who showed signs of desiring to enter was warded off to
another compartment. Thus when the train re-started, they were again
Amaryllis had partially recovered and was looking nearly her usual
self, but for the violet shadows beneath her eyes. She glanced at the
papers which he handed to her, and Denzil retired behind the Times. He
wanted to think; he must not let himself slip out of hand. He must
resolutely stamp out all the emotion that she was causing him; he
despised weakness of any sort.
He thought of Verisschenzko's words about laws being powerless to
control a man's actions, when a natural force is prompting him, unless
he uses self-analysis, and so by gaining knowledge permits the spirit
to conquer. He recollected that he had transgressed often without a
backward thought in past days with other women, but now his honour was
engaged even apart from his firm belief in Stepan's favourite saying,
that a man must never sully the wrong thing. Then the argument they had
often had about indulgences came to him, and the truth of the only
possibility of their enjoyment being while they remained servants, not
He had had his indulgences in the two hours to Westbury, and had
very nearly let it conquer him, more than once, and now he must not
only curb all friendly words and delightful dalliance with forbidden
topics, but he must feel no more passion.
He made himself read the war news and try to visualize the grim
reality behind the official phrasing of the communiques. And gradually
he became calm, and was almost startled when Amaryllis, who had been
watching him furtively and had begun to wonder if he was really so
interested in his paper, said timidly:
“Will you pull the window up a little? It seems to be growing cold.”
She noticed that his lips were set firmly and that an abstracted
expression had grown in his eyes.
Then Denzil spoke, now quite naturally and about the war, and
deliberately kept the conversation to this subject, until Amaryllis lay
back again in her corner and closed her eyes.
“I am going to have a little sleep,” she said.
She too had begun to realise that in more personal investigation of
mutual tastes there lay some danger. She had become conscious of the
fact that she was very interested in Denzil—and there he was, not
really the least like John!
They were silent for some time, and were nearing Frome when he
spoke. He had been deliberating as to what he ought to do? Get out and
leave her, to catch his connection to Bath, or sacrifice that and see
her safely to her destination and perhaps hire a motor from
This latter was his strong desire and also seemed the only
chivalrous thing to do when she still looked so pale, but—
“Here we are almost at Frome,” he said.
Her eyes rounded with concern. It would be horrid to be alone. She
had left her maid in London for a few days' holiday.
“You change here for Bath,” she faltered a little uncertainly.
He decided in a second. He could not be inhuman! Duty and desire
“Yes—but I am coming on with you. I shall not leave you until I see
you safely into your own motor. I can hire one perhaps then, to take me
on the rest of the way.”
She was relieved—or she thought it was merely relief, which made a
sudden lifting in her heart!
“How kind of you. I do feel as if I did not like the thought of
being by myself, it is so stupid of me—But you can't hire a motor from
Bridgeborough which would get you to Bath before dark! They are
wretched things there. You must come with me to Ardayre; it is on the
Bath road, you know—and we can have a late lunch, and and then I'll
send you on in the Rolls Royce. You will be there in an hour—in time
This was a tremendous fresh temptation. He tried to look at it as
though it did not in reality matter to him more than the appearance
suggested. Had there been no emotion in his interest in Amaryllis, he
would not have hesitated, he knew.
Then it was only for him to conquer emotion and behave as he would
do under ordinary circumstances—it would be a good test of his will.
“All right—that's splendid, and I shall be able to see Ardayre!”
It was when they were in Amaryllis's own little coupe very close to
each other that strong temptation assailed Denzil. He suddenly felt his
pulses throbbing wildly and it was with the greatest difficulty he
prevented himself from clasping her in his arms. He tried to look out
of the window and take an interest in the park, which was entered very
soon after leaving the station. He told himself Ardayre was something
which deserved his attention and he looked for the first view of the
house, but all his will could only keep his arms from transgressing, it
could not control the riot of his thoughts.
Amaryllis was conscious in some measure that he was far from calm,
and her own heart began to beat unaccountably. She talked rather fast
about the place and its history, and both were relieved when the front
door came in sight.
There was a welcoming smell of burning logs in the hall to greet
them, and the old butler could not restrain an expression of startled
curiosity when he saw Denzil, the likeness to his master was so great.
“This is Captain Ardayre, Filson,” Amaryllis said, “Sir John's
cousin,” and then she gave the order about the motor to take Denzil on
They went through the Henry VII inner hall, and on to the green
drawing-room, with its air of home and comfort, in spite of its great
size and stateliness.
There were no portraits here, but some fine specimens of the Dutch
school, and the big tawny dogs rose to welcome their mistress and were
introduced to their “new relation.”
She was utterly fascinating, Denzil thought, playing with them there
on the great bear skin rug.
“We shall lunch at once,” she told him, “and then rush through the
pictures afterwards before you start for Bath.”
They both tried to talk of ordinary things for the few moments
before that meal was announced, and then some kind of devilment seemed
to come into Amaryllis—nothing could have been more seductive or
alluring than her manner, while keeping to strict convention. The
bright pink colour glowed in her cheeks and her eyes sparkled. She
could not have accounted for her mood herself. It was one of excitement
Denzil had the hardest fight he had ever been through, and he grew
almost gruff in consequence. He was really suffering.
He admired the way she acted as hostess, and the way the home was
done. He hardly felt anything else, though apart from her he would have
been interested in his first view of Ardayre, but she absorbed all
other emotions, he only knew that he desired to make passionate love to
her, or to get away as quickly as he could.
“Are you going to remain here all the winter?” he asked her
presently, as they rose from the table, “or shall you go to London? You
will be awfully lonely, won't you, if you stay here?”
“I love the country and I am growing to love and understand the
place. John wants me to so much, it means more to him than anything
else in the world. I shall remain until after Christmas anyway. But
come now, I want just to take you into the church, because there are
two such fine tombs there of both our ancestors, yours and mine. We can
go out of the windows and come back for coffee in the cedar parlour.”
Denzil acquiesced; he wished to see the church. They reached it in a
minute or two and Amaryllis opened the door with her own key and led
him on up the aisle to the recumbent knights—and then she whispered
their history to him, standing where a ray of sunlight turned her brown
hair into gold.
“I wonder what their lives were,” Denzil said, “and if they lived
and loved and fought their desires—as we do now—the younger one's
face looks as though he had not always conquered his. Stepan would say
his indulgences had become his masters, not his servants, I expect.”
“Verisschenzko is wonderful—he makes one want to be strong,” and
Amaryllis sighed. “I wonder how many of us even begin to fight our
“One has to be strong always if one wants to attain—but sometimes
it is only honour which holds one—and weaklings are so pitiful.”
“What is honour?” Her eyes searched his face wistfully. “Is it being
true to some canon of the laws of chivalry, or is it being true to some
higher thing in one's own soul?”
Denzil leaned against the tomb and he thought deeply: then he looked
straight into her eyes:
“Honour lies in not betraying a trust reposed in one, either in the
spirit or in the letter.”
“Then, when, we say of a man 'he acted honourably,' we mean that he
did not betray a trust placed in him, even if it was only perhaps by
circumstance and not by a person.”
“It is simply that'—keeping faith. If a man stole a sum of money
from a friend, the dishonour would not be in the act of stealing, which
is another offence—but in abusing his friend's trust in him by
committing that act.”
“Dishonour is a betrayal then—”
“Why would this knight”—and she placed her hand on the marble face,
“have said that he must kill another who had stolen his wife, say, to
avenge his 'honour'?”
“That is the conventional part of it—what Stepan calls the grafting
on of a meaning to suit some idea of civilisation. It was a nice way of
having personal revenges too and teaching people that they could not
steal anything with impunity. If we analysed that kind of honour we
would find it was principally vanity. The dishonour really lay with the
wife, if she deceived her husband—and with the other man if he was the
husband's friend—if he was not, his abduction of the woman was not
'dishonourable' because he was not trusted, it was merely an act of
“What then must we do when we are very strongly tempted?” Her voice
was so low he could hardly hear it.
“It is sometimes wisest to run away,” and he turned from her and
moved towards the door.
She followed wondering. She knew not why she had promoted this
discussion. She felt that she had been very unbalanced all the day.
They went back to the house almost silently and through the green
drawing-room window again and up the broad stairs with Sir William
Hamilton's huge decorative painting of an Ardayre group of his time,
filling one vast wall at the turn.
And so they reached the cedar parlour, and found coffee waiting and
There was a growing tension between them and each guessed that the
other was not calm. Amaryllis began showing him the view from the
windows across the park, and then the old fireplace and panelling of
“We sit here generally when we are alone,” she said. “I like it the
best of all the rooms in the house.”
“It is a fitting frame for you.”
They lit cigarettes.
Denzil had many things he longed to say to her of the place, and the
thoughts it called up in him—but he checked himself. The thing was to
get through with it all quickly and to be gone. They went into the
picture gallery then, and began from the end, and when they came to the
Elizabethan Denzil they paused for a little while. The painted likeness
was extraordinary to the living splendid namesake who gazed up at the
old panel with such interested eyes.
And Amaryllis was thinking:
“If only John had that something in him which these two have in
their eyes, how happy we could be.”
And Denzil was thinking:
“I hope the child will reproduce the type.” He felt it would be some
kind of satisfaction to himself if she should have a son which should
be his own image.
“It is so strange,” she remarked, “that you should be exactly like
this Denzil, and yet resemble John who does not remind me of him at
all, except in the general family look which every one of them share.
This one might have been painted from you.”
He looked down at her suddenly and he was unable to control the
passionate emotion in his eyes. He was thinking that yes, certainly,
the child must be like him—and then what message would it convey to
Amaryllis was disturbed, she longed to ask him what it was which she
felt, and why there seemed some illusive remembrance always haunting
her. She grew confused, and they passed on to another frame which
contained the Lady Amaryllis who had had the sonnets written to her nut
brown locks. She was a dainty creature in her stiff farthingale, but
bore no likeness to the present mistress of Ardayre.
Denzil examined her for some seconds, and then he said reflectively:
“She is a Sweetheart—but she is not you!”
There was some tone of tenderness in his voice when he said the word
“Sweetheart” and Amaryllis started and drew in her breath. It recalled
something which had given her joy, a low murmur whispered in the night.
“Sweetheart!”—a word which John, alas! had never used before nor
since, except in that one letter in answer to her cry of
exaltation—her glad Magnificat. What was this echo sounding in her
ears? How like Denzil's voice was to John's—only a little deeper. Why,
why should he have used that word “Sweetheart”?
No coherent thought had yet come to her, it was as though she had
looked for an instant upon some scene which awakened a chord of memory,
and then that the curtain had dropped before she could define it.
She grew agitated, and Denzil turning, saw that her face was pale,
and her grey eyes vague and troubled.
“I am quite sure that it is tiring you, showing me all the house
like this, we won't look at another picture—and really I must be
She did not contradict him.
“I am afraid that you ought to go perhaps, if you want to arrive by
And as they returned to the green drawing-room she said some nice
things about wanting to meet his mother, and she tried to be natural
and at ease, but her hand was cold as ice when he held it in saying
good-bye before the fire, when Filson had announced the motor.
And if his eyes had shown passionate emotion in the picture gallery,
hers now filled with question and distress.
“Good-bye, Amaryllis—” He could not bring himself to say the usual
conventionalities, and went towards the door with nothing more.
Her brain was clearing, terror and passion and uncertainty had come
in like a flood.
He turned to her side fearfully. Why had she called him now?
“Denzil—?” her face had paled still further, and there was an
anguish of pleading in it. “Oh, please, what does it all mean?” and she
fell forward into his arms.
He held her breathlessly. Had she fainted? No—she still stood on
her feet, but her little face there lying on his breast was as a lily
in whiteness and tears escaped from her closed eyes.
“For God's sake, Denzil, have you not something to tell me? You
cannot leave me so!”
He shivered with the misery of things.
“I have nothing to tell you, child.” His voice was hoarse. “You are
overwrought and overstrung. I have nothing to say to you but just
She held his coat and looked up at him wildly.
“—Denzil—It was you—not—John!”
He unclasped her clinging arms:
“I must go.”
“You shall not until you answer me—I have a right to know.”
“I tell you I have nothing to say to you,” he was stern with the
suffering of restraint.
She clung to him again.
“Why did you say that word 'Sweetheart' then? It was your own word.
Oh! Denzil, you cannot be so frightfully cruel as to leave me in
uncertainty—tell me the truth or I shall die!”
But he drew himself away from her and was silent; he could not make
lying protestations of not understanding her, so there only remained
one course for him to follow—he must go, and the brutality of such
action made him fierce with pain.
She burst into passionate sobs and would have fallen to the ground.
He raised her in his arms and laid her on the sofa near, and then fear
seized him. What if this excitement and emotion should make her really
He knelt down beside her and stroked her hair. But she only sobbed
“How hideously cruel are men. Why can't you tell me what I ask you?
You dare not even pretend that you do not understand!”
He knew that his silence was an admission, he was torn with
“Darling,” he cried at last in torment, “for God's sake, let me go.”
“Denzil—” and then her tears stopped suddenly, and the great drops
glistened on her white cheeks. Weeping had not disfigured her—she
looked but as a suffering child.
“Denzil—if you knew everything, you could not possibly leave
me—you don't know what has happened—But you must, you will have to
He bowed his head and placed her two hands over his face with a
“Hush—I implore you—say nothing. I do know, but I love you—I must
At that she gave a glad cry and drew him close to her.
“You shall not now! I do not care for conventions any more, or for
laws, or for anything! I am a savage—you are mine! John must know that
you are mine! The family is all that matters to him, I am only an
instrument, a medium for its continuance—but Denzil, you and I are
young and loving and living. It is you I desire, and now I know that I
belong to you. You are the man and I am the woman—and the child will
be our child!”
Her spirit had arisen at last and broken all chains. She was
transfigured, transformed, translated. No one knowing the gentle
Amaryllis could have recognised her in this fierce, primitive creature
claiming her mate!
Furious, answering passion surged through Denzil; it was the supreme
moment when all artificial restrictions of civilisation were swept
away. Nature had come to her own. All her forces were working for these
two of her children brought near by a turn of fate. He strained her in
his arms wildly—he kissed her lips, and ears, and eyes.
“Mine, mine,” he cried, and then “Sweetheart!”
And for some seconds which seemed an eternity of bliss they forgot
all but the joy of love.
But presently reality fell upon Denzil and he almost groaned.
“I must leave you, precious dear one—even so—I gave my word of
honour to John that I would never take advantage of the situation. Fate
has done this thing by bringing us together; it has overwhelmed us. I
do not feel that we are greatly to blame, but that does not release me
from my promise. It is all a frightful price that we must pay for pride
in the Family. Darling, help me to have courage to go.”
“I will not—It is shameful cruelty,” and she clung to him, “that we
must be parted now I am yours really—not John's at all. Everything in
my heart and being cries out to you—you are the reality of my dream
lover, your image has been growing in my vision for months. I love you,
Denzil, and it is your right to stay with me now and take care of me,
and it is my right to tell you of my thoughts about the—child—Ah! if
you knew what it means to me, the joy, the wonder, the delight! I
cannot keep it all to myself any longer. I am starving! I am frozen! I
want to tell it all to my Beloved!”
He held her to him again—and she poured forth the tenderest holy
things, and he listened enraptured and forgot time and place.
“Denzil,” she whispered at last, from the shelter of his arms. “I
have felt so strange—exalted, ever since—and now I shall have this
ever present thought of you and love women in my existence—But how is
it going to be in the years which are coming? How can I go on
pretending to John?—I cannot—I shall blurt out the truth—For me
there is only you—not just the you of these last days since we saw
each other with our eyes—but the you that I had dreamed about and
fashioned as my lover—my delight—Can I whisper to John all my joy and
tenderness as I watch the growing up of my little one? No! the thing is
monstrous, grotesque—I will not face the pain of it all. John gave you
to me—he must have done so—it was some compact between you both for
the family, and if I did not love you I should hate you now, and want
to kill myself. But I love you, I love you, I love you!” and she
fiercely clasped her arms once more about his neck. “You must take the
consequences of your action. I did not ask to have this complication in
my life. John forced it upon me for his own aims, but I have to be
reckoned with, and I want my lover, I claim my mate.” Her cheeks were
flaming and her eyes flashed.
“And your lover wants you,” and Denzil wildly returned her fond
caress, “but the choice is not left to me, darling, even if you were my
wife, not John's. You have forgotten the war—I must go out and fight.”
All the warmth and passion died out of her, and she lay back on the
pillows of the sofa for a moment and closed her eyes. She had indeed
forgotten that ghastly colossus in her absorption in their own two
Yes—he must go out and fight—and John would go too—and they might
both be killed like all those gallant partners of the season and her
cousin, and those who had fallen at Mons and the battle of the Marne.
No—she must not be so paltry as to think of personal things, even
love. She must rise above all selfishness, and not make it harder for
her man. Her little face grew resigned and sanctified, and Denzil
watching her with burning, longing eyes, waited for her to speak.
“It is true—for the moment nothing but you and my great desire for
you was in my mind. But you are right, Denzil; of course, I cannot keep
you. Only I am glad that just this once we have tasted a brief moment
of happiness, and—Denzil, I believe our souls belong to each other,
even if we do not meet again on earth.”
And when at last they had parted, and Amaryllis, listening, heard
the motor go, she rose from the sofa and went out through the window to
the lawn, and so to the church again, and there lay on the steps of the
young knight's tomb, sobbing and praying until darkness enveloped the
A day or two before Denzil sailed for France he dined with
Verisschenzko. The intense preoccupation of the last war preparations
had left him very little time for grieving. He was unhappy when he
thought of Amaryllis, but he was a man, and another primitive instinct
was in action in him—the zest of going out to fight!
Verisschenzko was depressed, his country was not yet giving him the
opportunity to fulfil his hopes, and he fretted that he must direct
things from so far.
They sat in a quiet corner of the Berkeley and talked in a desultory
fashion all through the hors d'ouvres and the soup.
“I am sick of things, Denzil,” Verisschenzko said at last. “I feel
inclined to end it all sometimes.”
“And belie the whole meaning of your whole beliefs. Don't be a fool,
Stepan. I always have told you that there is one grain of suicide in
the composition of every Russian. Now it has become active with you.
Have another glass of champagne, old boy, and then you'll talk sense
again. It is sickening to be killed, or maimed, or any beastly thing if
it comes along with duty, but to court it is madness pure and simple.
It's just rot.”
“I'm with you,” and he called the waiter and ordered a fine
champagne, while he smiled, showing his strong, square teeth.
“They don't have decent vodka—but the brandy will do the trick,”
and in an instant his mood changed even before the cognac had come.
“It is the lingering trace of some other life of folly, when I talk
like that—I know it, Denzil. It is the harking back to long months of
gloom and darkness and snow and the howling of wolves and the fear of
the knout. This is not my first Russian life, you know!”
“Probably not; but you've had some more balanced intervening ones,
or I should have found you dead with veronal, or some other filthy
thing before this, with your highly strung nerves! I am not really
alarmed about you though, Stepan—you are fundamentally sane.”
“I am glad you think that—very few English understand us—”
“Because you don't understand yourselves. You seem to have every
quality and fault crammed into your skins with no discrimination as to
how to sort them. You are not self-conscious like we are and afraid of
looking like fools—so whatever is uppermost bursts out. If one of us
had half your brains he would never have said an idiot thing completely
contrary to his whole natural bent like that, just because he felt down
on his luck for the moment.”
Verisschenzko laughed outright.
“Go ahead, Denzil—let off steam! I'm done in!”
“Well, don't be such a damned fool again!”
“I won't—how is my Lady Amaryllis?”
Denzil looked at him keenly.
“Why do you ask?”
“Because she has written to me, and I am going down to see her—”
“Then you know how she is?”
“I guess. Look here, Denzil, do try and be frank with me. You are
acquainted with me and know whether I am to be trusted or not. You are
aware that I love her with the spirit. You and the worthy husband are
off to be killed, and yet just because you are so damned reserved
English, you can't bring yourself to do the sensible thing and tell me
all about it so that if you go to glory I could look after her rights
and—the child's—and take care of her. It is you who are a fool
really, not I! Because I get a little drunk with my moods and talk
about suicide, that is froth, but I should not bottle up a confidence
because it's 'not the thing' to talk about a woman—even though it's
for her benefit and protection to do so. I've more common sense. Some
difficult questions might crop up later with Ferdinand Ardayre, and I
want to have the real truth made plain to myself so that I can crush
him. If you've some cards up your sleeve that I don't know of, I can't
defend Amaryllis so well.”
Denzil put down his knife and fork for a moment; he realised the
truth of what his friend said, but it was very difficult for him to
speak all the same.
“Tell me what you know, Stepan, and I'll see what I can do. It is
not because I don't trust you, but it is against everything in me to
“Convention again, and selfishness. You are thinking more about the
Englishman's point of view than the good of the woman you love—because
I feel partly from her letter that you do love her and that she loves
you—and I surmise that the child is yours, not John's, though how this
miracle has been accomplished, since it was clear that you had never
seen her until the night at the Carlton, I don't pretend to guess!”
Denzil drank down his champagne, and then he made Verisschenzko
understand in a few words—the Russian's imagination filled in the
He lit a cigarette between the course and puffed rings of smoke.
“So poor John devised this plan, and yet he loves her—he must
indeed be obsessed by the family!”
“He is—he is a frightfully reserved person too, and I am sure has
frozen Amaryllis from the first day.”
“My idea was always for this, directly I went to Ardayre. I felt
that mysterious pull of the family there in that glorious house. I
thought she would probably simplify things by just taking you for a
lover, when you met, as you are her counterpart—a perfect mate for
her. I had even made up my mind to suggest this to her, and influence
her as much as I could to this end—but lo! the husband takes the
matter out of our hands and devises a really unique accomplishment of
our wishes. Gosh! Denzil! it's John who's got the common sense and the
genius, not we!”
“Yes, he has—so far, but he did not reckon with human emotion. He
might have known that directly I should see Amaryllis I should fall in
love with her, and he ought to have understood that that extraordinary
thing, nature, might make her draw to me afterwards. Now the situation
is tragic, however you look at it. John will have the hell of a life if
he comes back; he can't help feeling jealous every time he sees the
child, and the tension between him and Amaryllis, now that she knows,
will be great. Amaryllis is wretched—she is passionate and vivid as a
humming bird. Every hair of her darling head is living and quivering
with human power for joy and union, and she will lead the famished life
of a nun! I absolutely worship her. I am frantically in love, so my
outlook, if I come back is not gay either. I wonder if we did well,
after all, John and I, and if the family makes all this suffering worth
while? Perhaps it would have been better to leave it to fate!” Denzil
sighed and forgot to notice a dish the waiter was handing.
“It is perfectly certain,” and Verisschenzko grew contemplative,
“that the result of deliberately turning the current of events like
that must have some momentous consequence. Mind you, I think you were
right. I should have advised it as I have told you, because of that
swine of a Turk, Ferdinand—but it may have deranged some plan of the
Cosmos, and if so some of you will have to pay for it. I hate that it
should be my lady Amaryllis. All her sorrow comes from your
dramatically honourable promise. You can't make love to her
now—because a man who is a gentleman does not break his word. Now if
my plan had been followed, you would not have had this limitation and
you could have had some joy—but who knows! A false position is a gall
in any case, and it would have soiled my star, which now shines purely.
So perhaps all is for the best. But have you analysed, now that we are
on the subject, what it is 'being in love,' old boy?”
“It is divine—and it is hell—”
“All that! Amaryllis is the exact opposite to Harietta Boleski—in
this, that she attracts as strongly as Harietta could ever do
physically, and will be no disappointment in soul in the entre actes. Being in love is a physical state of exaltation; loving
is the merging of spirit which in its white heat has glorified the
physical instinct for re-creation into a godlike beatitude not of
earth. A man could be in love with Harietta, he could never love her. A
man could always love Amaryllis, so much that he would not be aware
that half his joy was because he was in love with her also.”
“You know, Stepan, men, women and every one talk a lot of nonsense
about other interests in life mattering more, and there being other
kinds of really better happiness, but it is pure rot; if one is honest
one owns that there is no real happiness but in the satisfaction of
love. Every other kind is second best. It is jolly good often, but only
a pis aller in comparison to the real thing.
“And when people deny this, believing they are speaking honestly, it
is simply because the real thing has not come their way, or they are
too brutalised by transient indulgences to be able to feel exaltation.
“So here's to love!” and Denzil emptied his glass. “The supreme
“Ainsi soit il,” and Stepan drank in response. “Our toast
before has always been to the Ardayre son, and now we drink to what I
hope has been his creator!”
They were silent for some moments, and then Verisschenzko went on:
“When the state of being in love is waning, affection often remains,
but then one is at the mercy of a new emotion. I'd be nervous if a
woman who had loved me subsided into feeling affection!”
“Then define loving?”
“Loving throbs with delight in the flesh; it thrills the spirit with
reverence. It glorifies into beauty commonplace things. It draws nearer
in sickness and sorrow, and is not the sport of change. When a woman
loves truly she has the passion of the mistress, the selfless
tenderness of the mother, the dignity and devotion of the wife. She is
all fire and snow, all will and frankness, all passion and reserve, she
is authoritative and obedient—queen and child.”
“And a man?”
“He ceases to be a brute and becomes a god.”
“Can it last, I wonder?” and again Denzil sighed.
“It could if people were not such fools—they nearly always
deliberately destroy the loved one's emotion by senseless stupidity—in
not grasping the fact that no fire burns without fuel. They
disillusionise each other. The joy once secured, they take no pains to
keep it. A woman will do things when the lover is an acknowledged
possession, which she would not have dreamed of doing while desiring to
attract the man—and a man likewise—neither realising that the whole
state of being in love is an intoxication of the senses, and that the
senses are very easily wearied or affronted.”
“Stepan—what am I going to do about Amaryllis? If I come back, it
will be hell—a continual longing and aching, and I want to accomplish
something in life; it was never my plan to have the whole thing held
and bounded by passion for a woman. A hopeless passion I can understand
facing and crushing, but one which you know that the woman returns, and
that it is only the law and promises you have made which separate you,
is the most awful torment.” He covered his eyes with his hand for a
moment. His face was stern. “And her life too—how sickening. You say
you are going down to Ardayre to see Amaryllis—you will tell me how
you find her. I have not written—I am trying not to feel.”
“Are you interested about the coming child? I am never quite certain
how much it matters to a man, whether we deceive ourselves and feel
sentiment simply because we love the woman, whether the emotion is half
vanity, or whether there is something in the actual state called
parenthood? How do you feel?”
Denzil thought of his musings upon this subject after he had seen
Amaryllis at the Carlton.
“It is hard to describe,” he answered now, “it is all so interwoven
with love for Amaryllis that I cannot distinguish which is which, or
how I feel about the state in the abstract. Women have these mysterious
emotions, I believe, but I do not think that they come to the average
man, but if he loves it seems a fulfilment.”
“I have two children scattered in Russia, begotten before I had
begun to think of things and their meanings. I have them finely
educated—I loathe them. I sicken at the memory of the mothers; I am
ashamed when I see in them some chance physical likeness to myself. But
how will you feel presently when you see the child, adoring the mother
as you do? What will it say to you, looking at you with your own eyes,
perhaps? You'll long to have some hand in the training of it. You'll
desire to watch the budding brain and the expanding soul. You'll be
drawn closer and closer to Amaryllis—it will all pull you with an
invisible nature chain—”
“I know it,—that is the tragedy of the whole thing. Those delights
will be John's—and I hate to think that Amaryllis will be alone for
all these months—and yet I believe I would prefer that to her being
with John. I am jealous when I remember that he has rights denied to
me—so what must he feel, poor devil, when he remembers about me?”
“It is quite a peculiar situation. I wonder what the years will
develop it into.”
“If the child is a girl, the whole thing is in vain.”
“It won't be a girl—you will see I am right. When will you and John
get leave, do you suppose?”
“I don't know, but about Christmas, perhaps, if we are alive—”
“Do you want to see her again, then?”
“I long always to see her—but by Christmas—it would be nearly five
months. I don't think I could keep my word and not make love to her—if
I saw her—then.”
“You will wish to hear about her—?”
After this they were both silent while the cheese was being removed.
Verisschenzko was thinking profoundly. Here was a study worthy of his
highest intuitive faculties. What possible solution could the future
hold? Only one—that of death for either of the men concerned. Well,
death was busy with England's best—it was no unlikely possibility—and
as he looked at Denzil he felt a stab of pain. Nothing more splendid
and living and strong could be imagined than his six foot one of
manhood, crowned with the health of his twenty-nine years.
“I hope to God he comes through,” he prayed. And then he became
cynical, as was his habit, when he found himself moved.
“I am on the track of Harietta, Denzil. She has a new
“What a combination!”
“Yes, but who the officer was at the Ardayre ball I cannot yet
trace. Stanislass is quite a gaga—he spends his time packed off
to play piquet at the St. James'—he has no bosse des cartes,—it is his burdensome duty.”
“He does not feel the war?”
“He is numb.”
“What will you do if you catch her red-handed?”
“I shall have her shot without a moment's compunction. It would be a
“I don't know that I should have the nerve to shoot a woman—even a
Verisschenzko laughed, and a savage light grew in his Calmuck eyes.
“My want of civilisation will serve me—if ever that moment comes.”
Then their talk turned to fighting, and women were forgotten for the
Amaryllis came up to London the following week to say good-bye to
John, so Verisschenzko did not go down to Ardayre to see her.
John's leave-taking was characteristic. He could not break through
the iron band of his reserve, he longed to say something loving to her,
but the more deeply he felt things the greater was his difficulty in
self-expression. And the knowledge of the secret he hid in his heart
made him still more ill at ease with Amaryllis. She too was changed—he
felt it at once. Her grey eyes were mysterious—they had grown from a
girl's into a woman's. She did not mention the coming child until he
did—and then it was she who showed desire to change the conversation.
All this pained John, while he felt that he himself was the cause—he
knew that he had frozen her. He thought over his marriage from the
beginning. He thought of the night when he had sat on the bench outside
her window until dawn, of the agony he suffered, realising at last that
the axe had indeed fallen, and that some day she must know the truth.
And would she reproach him and say that he should have warned her that
this possibility might occur? He remembered his talk with Lemon
Bridges. He had been going to give him a definite answer that morning,
but John had missed the appointment, so they spoke at the ball.
Would it have been better if he had let himself go and fondly kissed
and netted Amaryllis? Or would that have been misleading and still more
unkind? It was too late now, in any case. He must learn to take the
only satisfaction which was left to him, the knowledge that there was
the hope of a true Ardayre to carry on.
He talked long to his wife of his desires for the child's education,
should it prove a boy, and he should not return, and Amaryllis listened
Her mind was filled with wonder all the time. She had been through
much emotion since the passionate outburst after Denzil had gone, but
was quite calm now. She had classified things in her mind. She felt no
resentment against John. He ought not to have married her perhaps, but
it might be that at the time he did not know. Only she wondered when
she looked at him sitting opposite her, talking gravely about the baby,
in the library of Brook Street, how he could possibly be feeling. What
an immense influence the thought of the family must have in his life.
She understood it in a great measure herself. She remembered
Verisschenzko's words upon the occasions when he had spoken to her
about it, and of her duties towards it, and how she must uphold it. She
particularly remembered that which he had said when they walked by the
lake, and he had seemed to be transmitting some message to her, which
she had not understood at the time. Did Verisschenzko know then that
John must always be heirless and had he been suggesting to her that the
line should go on through her? Some of the pride in it all had come to
her before she had left the dark church after parting with Denzil.
Perhaps she was fulfilling destiny. She must not be angry with John.
She did not try to cease from loving Denzil. She had not knowingly been
unfaithful to John—and now, she would be faithful to Denzil, he was
her love and her mate. Indeed, even in the fortnight which elapsed
between her farewell to him, and now when she was going to say farewell
to John, she had many months of tender consolation in the thought of
the baby—Denzil's son. She could revive and revel in that exquisite
exaltation which she had experienced at first and which John had
withered. Denzil far surpassed even the imagined lover into which she
had turned John. So now Denzil had become the reality, and John the
She felt sorry for her husband too. She was fine enough to
understand and divine his difficulties.
She found that she felt just nothing for him but a kindly affection.
He might have been Archie de la Paule—or any of her other cousins. She
knew that her whole being was given to Denzil—who represented her
She tried to be very kind to John, and when he kissed her before
starting, the tears came to her eyes.
Poor good, cold John!
And when he had departed—all the de la Paule family had been there
at Brook Street also—Lady de la Paule wondered at her niece's set
face. But what a mercy it was the marriage was such a success after all
and that there might be a son!
So both Denzil and John went to the war—and Amaryllis was alone.
Verisschenzko had returned to Paris without seeing her—and it was the
beginning of December before he was in England again and rang her up at
Brook Street where she had returned for a week, asking if he might
“Of course!” she said, and so he came.
The library was looking its best. Amaryllis had a knack of arranging
flowers and cushions and such things—her rooms always breathed an air
of home and repose, and Verisschenzko was struck by the sweet scent and
the warmth and cosiness when he came in out of the gloomy fog.
She rose to greet him, her face more ethereal still than when he had
dined with her.
“You are looking like an angel,” he said, when she had given him
some tea and they were seated on the big sofa before the fire. “What
have you to tell me? I know that you are going to have a child; I am
very interested about it all.”
Amaryllis blushed a soft pink—he went on with perfect calm.
“You blush as though I had said something unheard of! How custom
rules you still! For a blush is caused by feeling some sort of shame or
discomfort, or agitating surprise at some discovery. We may get red
with anger, or get pale, but that bright, sudden flush always has some
self-conscious element of shame in it. It is just convention which has
wrapped the most natural and divine thing in life round with discomfort
in this way. You are deeply to be congratulated that you are going to
have a baby, do you not think so?”
“Of course I do—” and Amaryllis controlled her uneasy bashfulness.
She really wished to talk to her friend.
“Who told you about it?” she asked.
Amaryllis drew in her breath suddenly. Verisschenzko's eyes were
looking her through and through.
“Yes,—he is glad that there may be the possibility of a son for the
“How do you feel about it? It is an enormous responsibility to have
“I feel that—I want to do the wisest things from the beginning—”
“You must take great care of yourself, and always remain serene.
Never let your mind become agitated by speculation as to the
presently, keep all thoughts fixed upon the now.”
Amaryllis looked at him a little troubled. What did he know?
Something tangible, or were these views of his just applicable to any
case? Her eyes were full of question and pleading.
“What do you want to ask me?” His eyes narrowed in contemplating
“I—I—do not know.”
“Yes, you want to hear of Denzil—is it not so?”
She clasped her hands.
“He is well—I heard from him yesterday. He asked me to come to you.
His mother is still at Bath—he wishes you to meet.”
Suddenly the impossibleness of everything seemed to come over
Amaryllis. She rose quickly and threw out her hands:
“Oh! if I could only understand the meaning of things, my friend! I
am afraid to think!”
“You love Denzil very much—yes?”
“Sit down and let us talk about it, lady of my soul. I am your
She sank into her seat beside him, among the green silk pillows—and
he leaned back and watched her for a while.
“He fulfils some imaginary picture, hein? You had not seen
him really until we all dined?”
“You were bound to be drawn to him—he is everything a woman could
desire—but it was not only that—tell me?”
“He was what I had hoped John would be—the likeness is so great—”
“It is much deeper than that—nature was drawing you unconsciously.”
She covered her face with her hands. It seemed as if Verisschenzko
must know the truth. Had Denzil told him, or was it his wonderful
intuition which was enlightening him now, or was it just her sensitive
“You see custom and convention and false shames have so distorted
most natural things that no one has been taught to understand them. Men
were intended in the scheme of things to love women and to have
children; women were meant to love men and to desire to be mothers.
These instincts are primordial, the life of the world depends upon
them. They have been distorted and abused into sins and vices and
excesses and every evil by civilisation, so that now we rule them out
of every calculation in judging of a circumstance; if we are 'nice'
people they are taboo. Supposing we so suppressed and distorted and
misused the other two primitive instincts, to obtain food and to kill
one's enemy, the world would have ended long ago. We have done what we
could to distort those also, but nothing to the extent to which we have
debased the nobility of the recreative instinct!”
Amaryllis listened attentively, and he went on:
“It is admitted that we require food to live—and that if we are
threatened with death from an enemy we have the right to kill him in
self-defence. But it is never admitted that it is equally natural that
we desire to recreate our species. Under certain circumstances of vows
and restrictions, we are permitted to take one partner for
life—and—if this person turns out to be a fraud for the purpose for
which we made the promise, we may not have another. Supposing hungry
savages were given covered dishes purporting to contain food, and upon
lifting the cover one of them discovered his dish was empty—what would
happen? He would bear it as long as he could, but when he was starving
he would certainly try to steal some food from his neighbour—and might
even knock him on the head and obtain it! Civilisation has controlled
primitive instincts, so that a civilised man might perhaps prefer to
die himself from starvation rather than kill or steal. He is master of
his actions, but he is not master of the effects of his
abstinence—Nature wins these, and whatever would be the natural
physical result of his abstinence occurs. Now you can reason this
thought out in all its branches, and you will see where it leads to—”
Amaryllis mused for some moments—and she saw the justice of his
“But for hundreds of years there have been priests and nuns and
companies of ascetics,” she remarked tentatively.
“There have been hundreds of lunatics also—and madness is not on
the decrease. When you destroy nature you always produce the abnormal,
when life survives from your treatment.”
“You think that it is natural that one should have a mate
“It is more important than the keeping of vows?”
“No, the spirit is degraded by the knowledge of broken vows—only
one must have intelligence to realise what the price of keeping them
will be, and then summon strength enough to carry out whatever course
is best for the soul, or best for the ideal one is living for.
Sometimes that end requires ruthlessness, and sometimes that end
requires that we starve in one way or another, so we must be
prepared for sacrifice perhaps of life, or what makes life worth
living, if we are strong enough to keep vows which we have been
short-sighted enough to make too hastily.”
Amaryllis gazed in front of her—then she asked softly:
“Do you think it is wicked of me to be thinking of Denzil—not
“No—it is quite natural—the wickedness would be if you pretended
to John that you were thinking of him. Deception is wickedness.”
“Everything is so sad now. Both have gone to fight. I do not dare to
think at all.”
“Yes, you must think—you must think of your child and draw to it
all the good forces, so that it may come to life unhampered by any
weakness of balance in you. That must be your constant self-discipline.
Keep serene and try to live in a world of noble ideals and serenity.
Now I am going to play to you—”
Amaryllis had never heard Verisschenzko play. He arranged the sofa
cushions and made her lie comfortably among them, then he went to the
piano—and presently it seemed to her that her soul was floating upward
into realms of perfect content. She had never even dreamed of such
playing. It was like nothing she had ever heard before, the sounds
touched all the highest chords in her spirit. She did not ask whose was
the music. She seemed to know that it was Verisschenzko's own, which
was just talking to her, telling her to be calm and brave and true.
He played for a whole hour—and at last softly and yet more softly,
and when he finished he saw that she was quietly asleep.
A smile as tender as a mother's came into his rugged face, and he
stole from the room noiselessly, breathing a blessing as he passed.
And somewhere in France, Denzil and John were thinking of her too,
each with great love in his heart.
Harietta Boleski was growing dissatisfied with her life. England was
of no amusement to her, and yet Hans insisted upon her staying on. She
wanted to go to Paris. The war altogether was a supreme bore and upset
She had been so successful in her obvious stupid way that Hans had
been enabled to transmit the most useful information to his country,
which had assisted to foil more than one Allied plan. Harietta saw
numbers of old gentlemen who pulled strings in that time, and although
they wearied her, she found them easier to extract news from than the
younger men. Her method was so irresistible: a direct appeal to the
senses, and it hardly ever failed. If only Hans would consent to her
returning to Paris, with the help of Ferdinand Ardayre, who was now her
slave, she promised wonderful things.
Hans, as a Swedish philanthropic gentleman, had been over to give
her instructions once or twice, and at last had agreed to her crossing
She told this good news to Ferdinand one afternoon just before
Christmas, when he came in to see her in London.
“I'm going to Paris, Ferdie, and you must come too. There's no use
in your pretending that England matters to you, and you are of such use
to us with your branch business in Holland like that. If I'd thought in
the beginning that there was a chance to knock out Germany, I would
have been right on this side, because there's no two ways about it,
England's the place to have a good time in, but I've information which
makes it certain that we shall take Calais in the Spring, and so I
guess it's safer to cling to Kaiser Bill—and get it all done soon,
then we can enjoy ourselves again. I do pine for a tango! My! I'm just
through with this dull time!”
Ferdinand was a rest to her, almost as good as Hans. She had not to
be over-refined—she knew that he was on the same level as herself. He
amused her too in several ways.
He looked sulky now. It did not suit his plans to go to Paris yet.
He was trying to collect information for a game of his own. But where
Harietta went he must go, he was besotted about her, and knew that he
could not trust her a yard.
He protested a little that they were very well where they were, but
as she never allowed any one's wishes to interfere with her plans she
“I'm going on Saturday. We have secured a suite at the Universal
this time, now that the Rhin is shut up, and it is such a large hotel,
you can quite well stay there; Stanislass won't notice you among the
Ferdinand agreed unwillingly—and just then Verisschenzko came in.
He had not seen Madame Boleski since the night at the Carlton, having
taken care not to let her know of his further visits to England since.
He looked at Ferdinand Ardayre as though he had been some bit of
furniture, and he took up Fou-Chow who was cowering beneath a chair. He
did not speak a word.
Harietta talked for every one for a little while, and then she began
to feel nervous.
Verisschenzko smiled lazily—he was trying an experiment. The
interview could not go on like this; Ferdinand Ardayre would certainly
have to go.
Now that Verisschenzko had come, Harietta ardently wished that he
The most venomous hate was arising in Ferdinand's resentful soul. He
felt that here was a rival to be dreaded indeed. He saw that Harietta
was nervous; he had never seen her so before. He shut his teeth and
determined to stay on.
Verisschenzko continued his disconcerting silence. Harietta felt
that she should presently scream! She took Fou-Chow from Stepan and
pinched him cruelly in her exasperation. He gave a feeble squeak and
she pushed him roughly down. Animals to her were a nuisance. She
disliked them if she had any feeling at all. But Fou-Chow was an
adjunct to her toilet sometimes, and was a coveted possession, envied
by her many female friends. His tiny, cringing body irritated her
though extremely when she was not using him for effect, and he was
often kicked and cuffed out of her way.
He showed evident fear of her and ran from her always, so that when
she wanted to make a picture with him, she was obliged to carry him in
Verisschenzko raised one bushy eyebrow, and a sardonic smile came
into his eyes.
Madame Boleski saw that she had made a mistake in showing her temper
to the dog; it would have given her pleasure then to wring its neck!
The two men sat on. She began to grow so uncomfortable that she
could endure it no more.
“You are coming back to dinner, Mr. Ardayre,” she remarked at
length, “and I want you to get me gardenias to wear, if you will be so
kind, and I am afraid you will have to hurry as the shops close soon.”
Ferdinand Ardayre rose, rage showing in his mean face, but as he had
no choice he said good-bye. Harietta accompanied him to the door,
pressing his hand stealthily, then she returned to the Russian with
flaming eyes. He had not uttered a word.
“How dare you make me so nervous, sitting there like a log! I won't
stand for such treatment—you Bear!”
“Then sit down. Why do you have that Turk with you at all?”
“He is not a Turk; he's an Englishman and a friend of mine. Why, he
is the brother of your precious John Ardayre—and they have behaved
shamefully to him, poor dear boy.”
She was still enraged.
“He is not even a pure Turk—some of them are gentlemen. He is just
the scum of the earth, and no blood relation to John Ardayre.”
“He will let them know whether he is or not some day! I hear that
your bit of bread and butter is going to have a child, and as Ferdie
says it can't be John's, I suppose it is yours!”
Verisschenzko's face looked dangerous.
“You would do well to guard your words, Harietta. I do not permit
you to make such remarks to me—and it would be more prudent if you
warned your friend that he had better not make such assertions
either—do you understand?”
Harietta felt some twinge of fear at the strange tone in the
Russian's voice, but she was too out of temper to be cowed now.
“Puh!” and she tossed her head. “If the child is a boy Ferdie will
have something to say—and as for Amaryllis—I hate her! I'd like to
kill her with my own hands.”
Verisschenzko rose and stood before her—and there was a look in his
eyes which made her suddenly grow cold.
“Listen,” he said icily. “I have warned you once and you know me
well enough to decide whether I ever speak lightly. I warn you again to
be careful of your words and your deeds. I shall warn you no more—if
you transgress a third time—then I will strike.”
Harietta grew pale to her painted lips.
How would he strike? Not with a stick as Hans would have done, but
in some much more deadly way. She changed her manner instantly and
began to laugh.
Verisschenzko knew that he had alarmed her sufficiently, so he sat
down in his chair again and lit a cigarette calmly—then he sniffed the
“Your mongrel friend uses the same perfume as Stanislass' mistress!”
“Stanislass' mistress?” she had forgotten for the moment.
“Yes—don't you remember we burnt his scented handkerchief the last
time we met, because we did not like her taste in perfumes?”
Harietta's ill humour rose again; she was annoyed that she had
forgotten this incident. Her instinct of self-preservation usually
preserved her from committing any such mistakes. She felt that it was
now advisable to become cajoling; also there was something in the face
of Verisschenzko and his fierceness which aroused renewed passion in
her—it was absurd to waste time in quarrelling with him when in an
hour Stanislass might be coming in, so she went over behind his chair
and smoothed back his thick dark hair.
“You know that I adore you, darling Brute!”
“Of course—” he did not even turn his head towards her. “Have you
had your heart's desire here in England?”
“Before this stupid war came—yes—now I'm through with it. I'm for
“I suppose I must have been mistaken, but I thought I caught sight
of your handsome German friend in the hall just now?”
“Your danseur at the Ardayre ball. I have forgotten his
“And so have I.”
At that instant Marie appeared at the door and Fou-Chow came from
under the chair where he was sheltering and pattered towards her with a
glad tiny whine. The maid's eyes rounded with dislike as she looked at
her mistress; she realised that the little creature had been roughly
treated again. She picked him up and could hardly control her voice
into a tone of respectfulness as she spoke:
“Monsieur Insborg demands if he can see Madame in half an hour. He
telephoned to Madame but received no reply.”
For a second Harietta's eyes betrayed her; they narrowed with alarm,
and then she said suavely: “I suppose the receiver was off. No, say I
am dining early for the theatre—but to-morrow at five.”
The maid inclined her head and left the room silently, carrying
Fou-Chow, but as she did so her eyes met Verisschenzko's and their
expression suggested to him several things:
“Marie loves the dog—so she hates Harietta. Good—we shall see.”
Thus his thoughts ran, but aloud he asked what Harietta meant to do
with her life in Paris, and who had been her lovers here?
“You do say such frightful things to me, Stepan,” and she tossed her
head. “You think that because I took you, I take others! Pah!—and if I
do—these Englishmen are peaches, just like little school boys—they'd
not harm a fly. But I only love you, Darling Brute—even though we have
had a row.”
“I know that, of course. I am not jealous, only you have not given
me any proofs lately, so I am going to retire from the field. I came to
He looked adorably attractive, Harietta thought—he made her blood
run. Ferdinand Ardayre was but an instructed weakling, when one had
come through his intricacies there was nothing in him. As a lover he
was not worth the Russian's little finger, and the more Verisschenzko
eluded her, the higher her passion for him grew; and here he was after
months of absence and suggesting that he would leave her for ever! This
was not to be borne!
The enraging part was that she would not dare to try to keep him
with Hans again upon the scene. She hated Hans once more as she had
hated him at the Ardayre ball!
Verisschenzko did not attempt to caress her; he sat perfectly still,
nor did he speak.
Harietta could not think how to cope with this new mood; her
weariness with the gloom of England and the absence of amusement seemed
to render Stepan more than ever desirable. He represented the wild, the
strong, the primitive, the only thing she felt that she desired at that
moment—and if she let him go to-day he was capable of never coming
back to her again. It was worth using any means to keep him on. She
knew that she could obtain some show of love from him if she bribed him
with bits of news. It would serve Hans right too for daring to turn up
So she came from behind his chair and sat down on Verisschenzko's
knee and commenced to whisper in his ear.
“Now I am beginning to think that you love me again,” he announced
presently,—“and of course I must always pay for love!”
* * * * *
They were seated by the fire in two armchairs when Stanislass came
in from the Club before dinner at eight. Harietta had not even
remembered that she must dress, so intoxicated with re-awakened passion
for Verisschenzko had she become. A man for her must be in the room;
her affection could not keep alight in absence. She had revelled in the
joy of finding again a complete physical master. She loved him as a
tigress may love her tamer, the man with the whip; and the knowledge
that she was deceiving Hans and her husband and Ferdinand added a
fillip to her satisfaction. But how was she going to be sure to see
Stepan again—that was the question which still agitated her.
Verisschenzko wished to further examine Ferdinand Ardayre, and so
decided to make every one uncomfortable once more by staying on.
Stanislass, very nervous with him now, talked fast and foolishly.
Harietta fidgeted, and in a moment or two Ferdinand Ardayre was
He reddened with annoyance to see the Russian had not gone; the
flowers which he had brought were in a parcel in his hand.
Harietta took them disdainfully without a word of thanks. What a
nuisance the creature was after all!—and Stanislass was—and
everything and anything was which kept her from being alone with
“When are you coming to see me again, Stepan?” she asked, determined
not to let him part without some definite future meeting settled.
“I will come back and take coffee with you to-night,” he answered
Harietta was enchanted, she had not hoped for this.
“No one bothers so much about dressing now, stay and dine as you
“Yes, do,” chimed in Stanislass timidly in Russian, “we should be so
“Very well—I will dine—but I must change. I shall not be long
though. Begin dinner without me, I will join you before the fish.” And
with no further waste of words he left them.
Harietta pushed Stanislass gently from the room with an injunction
to be quick—and then she returned and held out her arms to Ferdinand
“Now you must not be jealous, Ferdie pet, about Verisschenzko,” and
she patted him. “It is business—I must talk to him to-night; he has an
idea that you and I are not favourable to the Allies,” and she laughed
delightedly, “and I must get him off this notion!”
Ferdinand Ardayre looked sullen; he was burning with jealousy.
“Will you make it up to me afterwards?”
“But, of course, in the usual way!” and with one of her wonderful
kisses Harietta went laughing from the room.
Left alone, the young man gave himself a morphine piqure, and
then sat down and held his head in his hands.
He had heard, as he had told Harietta earlier in the afternoon, that
his brother's wife was going to have a child, and he could find no way
of proving legally that it could not be John's, so his venom had grown
with his impotence.
His mother had said to him once:
“The accursed English will always beat us, my son. Thy real father
would have put poison in their coffee. We can only hope for revenge
some day. I fear we shall never gain our desires. The old fool whom
thou callest father must be sucked dry of everything while he lives,
because no quarter will be given us once the breath is out of his
Was this true? Must the English always beat him? He remembered his
hatred of Denzil while at Eton, and the dog's life he had often led
there. Well, he would hit back with an adder's sting when the chance
came to him. He would like to see both Ardayres ruined and England
herself in the dust, numbed and conquered. All his English life and
education had never made him anything but an alien in thought and
It was his powerlessness which enraged him, but surely the day must
come when he could make some of them suffer.
Harietta had not appeared in the hall when Verisschenzko returned
dressed, and she even kept all three men waiting for about ten minutes,
and then swept in resplendent in yellow brocade and the gardenias, when
the clock had struck nine and most of the other diners were having
The atmosphere of restraint and depression was a constant source of
resentment to her. It was all very well to be dignified and refined for
some definite end, like securing an unquestioned position, but it was a
weariness of the flesh to have to keep up this role month after month
with no excitement or reward, and every now and then she felt that she
must break out even in small ways by wearing too gorgeous and
unsuitable raiment. She wished that Germany would be quick about
winning, then things could settle down and she could begin her social
“It don't amount to a row of pins to the people who want to enjoy
themselves, as I do, if their country is beaten or not; it'll all be
the same six months after peace is declared, so I'm all for knocking
whichever seems feeblest out quickly,” she had said to Ferdinand, “and
Paris will always be top of the world for clothes and things that one
wants, so what do old politics matter?”
She derived some pleasure out of the sensation she created when she
went into a restaurant, and she really looked extraordinarily handsome.
The dinner amused her, too; it was entertaining to make Ferdinand
jealous. The emotions of Stanislass had ceased to count to her in any
Verisschenzko had discovered what he required in regard to Ferdinand
Ardayre before they went into the hall for coffee—there was nothing
further to be gained by having another tete-a-tete with Harietta, so he
sat down by Stanislass and suggested that the other two should go on to
the Coliseum without them, and Harietta was obliged to depart
reluctantly with Ferdinand, having arranged that Stepan should let her
know, directly he arrived in Paris, whither he was going in a day or
When she had left them Stanislass Boleski turned melancholy eyes to
his old friend, but remained silent.
“Has it been worth it?” Verisschenzko asked, with certain
feeling—they had relapsed into Russian.
Stanislass sighed deeply.
“No—far from it—I am broken and finished, Stepan, she has devoured
“Why don't you kill her! I should.”
The Pole clenched one of his transparent looking hands:
“I cannot—I desire her so—she is an obsession. I cannot work—she
leaves me neither time nor brain. But I want her always, she is a
burning torment, and a blast, and a sin. I see visions of the chance
that I have missed, and then all is obliterated by her voluptuous
kisses. I die each day with jealousy and shame. She withholds herself,
and I would pay with the blood from my veins to possess her again!”
“You have no longer any delusions about her—you see her as a curse
and a vampire?”
“I see everything, but I know only desire. Stepan, she has dragged
me through every degradation. I am a witness of her unfaithfulness. She
gives herself to this Turk with hardly a pretence of concealment—I
know it—I burn with rage, and I can do nothing. She returns to my arms
and I forget everything. I am a most unhappy man and only death can
release me, and yet I wish to live because I love her. Each day is
fierce longing for her—each night away from her hell—” Tears sprang
to his hopeless black eyes and his voice broke with emotion.
Verisschenzko looked at him and a rough pity tempered his contempt.
Here was a case where an indulgence having become master was
exacting a hideous toll. But the net was drawing closer and when all
the strands were in his hands he would act without mercy.
When Amaryllis knew that John was going to get a few days' leave at
Christmas a strange nervousness took possession of her. The personality
of Denzil had been growing more real to her ever since they had parted,
in spite of her endeavours to discipline her mind and control all
emotion. The thought of him and the thought of the baby were
inseparable and were seldom absent from her consciousness. All sorts of
wonderful emotions held her, and exalted her imagination until she felt
that Denzil was part of her daily life—and with the double interest
her love for him grew and grew.
She had only seen John during the day when he had come to bid her
good-bye before leaving for the Front, and most of the time they had
been surrounded by the de la Paule family. But now she would have to
face the fact of living with him again in an intimate relationship.
The thought appeared awful to her. There was something in her nature
which resembled that of the bride of King Caudaules. She could not
support the idea of belonging now to John; it seemed to her that he
must have no rights at all. She had written to him dutifully each week
letters about the place and her Committees in the County. She had not
once mentioned the coming child.
Denzil's mother had been ill and the visit to Bath had been
postponed, and after a fortnight alone at Ardayre she had come up to
London. She had too much time to think there.
Stepan had left her a list of books to get and she had been steadily
How horribly ignorant she had been! She realised that what knowledge
she had possessed had never been centralised or brought to any use. She
had known isolated histories of Europe, and never had studied them
collectively or contemporarily to discover their effect upon human
evolution. She had learned many things, and then never employed her
critical faculties about them. A whole new world seemed to be opening
to her view. She had determined not to be unhappy and not to look
ahead, but in spite of these good resolutions she would often dream in
the firelight of the joy of being clasped in Denzil's arms.
When she thought of John it was with tolerance more than affection.
What did he really mean to her, denuded of the glamour with which she
herself had surrounded him?
Practically nothing at all.
She was quite aware that her state of being was rendering all her
mental and emotional faculties particularly sensitive, and she did her
utmost to remember all Verisschenzko's counsel to discipline herself
and remain serene. The morning John was expected to arrive she had a
hard fight with herself. She felt very nervous and ill at ease. Above
all things, she must not be unkind.
He was bronzed and looked well, he was more expansive also and
plainly very glad to see her.
He held her close to him and bent to kiss her lips; but some
undefined reluctance came over her, and she moved her head aside.
Something in her resented the caress. Her lips were now for Denzil
and for no other man. It was she who was recalcitrant and turned the
conversation into everyday things.
The de la Paule family had been summoned for luncheon and the
afternoon passed among them all, and then the evening and the
tete-a-tete dinner came.
John knocked at the door of her room while she was dressing. Her
maid had just finished her hair and she wondered at herself that she
should experience a sense of shyness and have to suppress an
inclination to refuse to let him come in. And once any of these little
intimate happenings would have given her joy!
She kept Adams there, and hurried into her tea-gown and then walked
towards the door.
John had not spoken much, but stood by the fire.
How changed things were! Once he had to be persuaded and enticed to
stay with her at such moments, and it was he who now seemed to desire
to do so, and it was she who discouraged his wishes!
In Amaryllis' mind an agitation grew. What could she say to him
presently—if he suggested coming to sleep in her room?
The knowledge in her breast rose as an insurmountable barrier
During dinner she kept the conversation entirely upon his life at
the Front—which indeed really interested her. She was not cold or
stiff in her manner, but she was unconsciously aloof.
Then they went back into the library, each feeling exceedingly
When coffee had come and they were quite alone Amaryllis felt she
could not stand the strain, and went to the piano. She played for quite
a long time all the things she remembered that John liked best. She
wanted the music to calm her, and she wanted to gain time. John sat in
one of the monster chairs and gazed into the fire. He seemed to see
pictures in the glowing coals.
The strange relentless fate which had pursued him always as far as
happiness was concerned!
He remembered what his mother had said to him when she lay a-dying
with a broken heart.
“John, we cannot see what God means in it all. There must be some
explanation because He cannot be unjust. It is because we have missed
the point of some lesson, probably, and so are given it again to learn.
Do not ever be rebellious, my son, and perhaps some day light will
He had read an article in some paper lately ridiculing the theory
that we have had former lives, but, after all, perhaps there was some
foundation for the belief. Perhaps he was paying in this one for sins
in a previous birth. That would account for the seeming inexorableness
of the misfortunes which fell upon him now, since common sense told him
that in this life such cruel blows were undeserved.
Amaryllis glanced at his face from the piano as she played. It was
A great pity grew in her heart. What ought she to do not to be
Presently she finished a soft chord and got up and came to his side.
They were both suffering cruelly—but John was going back to fight.
She must have some explanation with him which could make him return to
France at peace in a measure. It was cowardly to shirk telling him the
truth, and she could not let him go again into danger with this black
shadow between them.
He looked up at her and rose from his chair.
“You play so beautifully,” he said hastily. “You take one out of
oneself. Now it is late and the day has been long. Let us go to bed,
Amaryllis stiffened suddenly—the moment that she dreaded had come.
“I would rather that you slept in your dressing-room. I have ordered
that to be prepared—”
He looked at her startled—and then he took her hand.
“Amaryllis—tell me everything. Why are you so changed?”
“I'm trying not to be, John.”
“You are trying—that proves that you are, if you must try. Please
tell me what this means.”
She endeavoured to remain calm and not become unhinged.
“It was you yourself who altered me. I came to you all loving and
human and you froze me. There is nothing to be done.”
“Yes, there is. You know that I love you.”
“Perhaps you do, but the family matters more to you than I do, or
anything else in the world.”
“That may have been so once, but not now,” his voice throbbed with
“Alas!” was all she answered and looked down. John longed to appeal
to her—but he was too honest to seek to soften her through the link of
the child. Indeed, the thought of it had grown hateful to him. He only
knew that he had played for a stake which now seemed worthless.
Amaryllis and her love mattered more than any child.
He clenched his hands tightly; the pain of things seemed hard to
Why had he not broken the thongs of reserve which held him long days
ago and made love to her in words? But that would have been dishonest.
He must at least be true; and he realised now that he had starved
her—no matter what his motive had been.
“Amaryllis, tell me everything, please,” and he held out his hands
and drew her to the sofa and sat down by her side.
She could not control her emotion any longer, and her voice shook as
she answered him:
“I know that it was not you—but Denzil, John—and the baby is his,
His face altered. He had not been prepared to hear this thing and he
“Ferdinand is an awful possibility to contemplate there at Ardayre,
if you have no son—” She went on, trying to be calm, “but do you not
think that you might have told me? Surely a woman has the right to
select the father of her child.”
John could not answer her. He covered his face with his hands.
“You see it is all pitiful,” she continued, her voice deep and
broken with almost a sob in it. “Denzil is so like you—it was an easy
transition to find that I loved him—because I was only loving the
imaginary you I had made for myself. I cannot explain myself and do not
make any excuse. There is something in me, whenever I think of the
baby, that draws me to Denzil and makes me remember that night. John,
we must just face the situation and try to find some way to avoid as
much pain as we can. I hate to think it is hurting you, too.”
“Did Denzil tell you this?” his voice was icy cold.
“No—it came to me suddenly when I heard him say a word.”
“'Sweetheart'!” and now John's eyes flashed. “He called you again
“No, he did not—he used the word simply in speaking of a
picture—but I recognised his voice then immediately—it is a little
deeper than yours.”
“When did you see Denzil?”
She told him the exact truth about their meeting and his coming to
Ardayre, and how Denzil had endeavoured to keep his word.
“He would never have spoken to me—it was fate which sent him into
the train, and then I made him speak—I could not bear it. After I
recognised him, I made him admit that it was he. Denzil is not to
blame. He left immediately and I have never seen him or heard from him
since. It is I alone who must be counted with, John—Denzil will try
never to see me again.”
John groaned aloud.
“Oh God—the misery of it all!”
“John, I must tell you everything now while we are talking of these
things. I love Denzil utterly. I thrill when I think of him; he seems
to me my husband, not even only a lover. John, not long ago, when I
felt the first movement of the child, I shook with longing for him—I
found myself murmuring his name aloud. So you must think what it all
means to me, so strongly passionate as I am. But I would never cheat
you, John—I had to be honest. I could not go on pretending to be your
wife and living a lie.”
Tears of agony gathered in John Ardayre's blue eyes and rolled down
He suddenly understood the suffering, that she, too, must be
What right had he to have taken this young and loving woman and then
to have used her for his own aims, however high?
“Amaryllis—you cannot forgive me. I see now that I was wrong.”
But the sympathy which she had felt when she had looked at him from
the piano welled up again in Amaryllis's heart and drowned all
resentment. She knew that he must be enduring pain greater than hers,
so she stretched out her hands to him, and he took them and held them
“Of course, I forgive you, John—but I cannot cease from loving
Denzil, that is the tragedy of the thing. I am his really, not yours,
even if I never see him again, and that is why we must not make any
pretences. John dearest, let us be friends—and live as friends, then
everything won't be so hard.”
He let her hands drop and got up and paced the room. He was
suffering acutely—must he renounce even the joy of holding her in his
“But I love you, Amaryllis—I love you, dearest child—”
And now again she said “Alas!”—and that was all.
“Amaryllis—this is a frightful sacrifice to me—must you insist
Then her eyes seemed to flash fire and her cheeks grew rose—and she
stood up and faced him.
“I tell you, John, you do not know me. You have seen a well brought
up, conventional girl—milk and water, ready to obey your slightest
will—I had not found myself. I am a creature as primitive and
passionate as a savage”—her breath came in little pants with her great
emotion,—“I could not belong to two men—it would utterly
degrade me, then I do not know what I should become. I love Denzil,
body and soul—and while he lives no other man shall ever touch me;
that is what passion means to me—fidelity to the thing I love! He is
my Beloved and my darling, and I must go away from you altogether and
throw off the thought of the family, and implore Denzil to take me when
he comes home if you can agree to the only terms I can offer you now.”
John bowed his head. Life seemed over for him and done.
Amaryllis came close to him, then she stood on tiptoe and kissed his
brow. Her vehemence had died down in her sorrow for his pain.
“John,” she whispered softly, “won't you always be my dearest
friend? And when the baby comes it will be a deep interest to us both,
and you must love it because it is mine and an Ardayre—and the comfort
of that must fill our lives. I truly believe that you did everything,
meaning it for the best, only perhaps it is dangerous to play with the
creation of life—perhaps that is why fate forced me to know.”
John drew her to him, he smoothed the soft brown hair back from her
brow and kissed her tenderly, but not on the lips—those he told
himself he must renounce for evermore.
“Amaryllis,”—his voice was husky still, “yes—I will be your
friend, darling—and I will love your child. I was very wrong to marry
you, but it was not quite hopeless then, and you were so young and
splendid and living—and I was growing to love you, and for these
reasons I hoped against hope—and then when I knew that everything was
impossible—I felt that I must make it up to you in every other way I
could. I don't know how to put things into words, I always was dull,
but I thought if I gratified all your wishes perhaps—Ah!—I see it was
very cruel. Darling, I would have told you the truth—presently—but
then the war came, and the thought of Ferdinand here drove me mad and
it forced my hand.”
She looked up at him with her sweet true eyes—her one idea was now
to comfort him since she need no longer fear.
“John, if you had explained the whole thing to me—I do not know,
perhaps I should have agreed with you, for I, too, have much of this
family pride, and I cannot bear to think of Ferdinand—or his children
which may be, at Ardayre. I might have voluntarily consented—I cannot
be sure. But somehow just lately I have been thinking very much about
spiritual things, things I mean beyond the material, those great forces
which must be all around us, and I have wondered if we are not perhaps
too ignorant yet to upset any laws. Perhaps I am stupid—I don't know
really. I have only been wondering—but perhaps there are powerful
currents connected with laws, whether they are just or unjust, simply
because of the force of people's thoughts for hundreds of years around
They went to the sofa then and sat down. It made John happier to
hear her talk. His strong will was now conquering the outward show of
his emotion at last.
“It may be so—”
“You see, supposing anything should happen to Ferdinand,” she went
on, “then Denzil would have been naturally the next heir—and now—if
the child is a boy—”
“We neither of us thought of that.”
“But nothing is likely to happen to Ferdinand; he won't enlist—it
is only you, dear John, who are in danger, and Denzil, too—but surely
the war cannot go on long now?”
John wondered if he should tell her what he really felt about this,
or whether it were wiser to keep her quietly in this hopeful dream of a
speedy end. He decided to say nothing; it was better for her health not
to agitate her mind—events would speak for themselves, alas,
He talked quietly then of Ardayre and of his boyhood and of its
sorrows; he was determined to break down his own reserve, and Amaryllis
listened interestedly, and gradually some kind of peace and calm seemed
to come to them both, and they resolutely banished the thought of the
future, and sought only to think of the present. And then at last John
rose and took her hand:
“Go to bed now, dear girl,—and to-morrow I shall have quite
conquered all the feelings which could disturb you, and just remember
always that I am indeed your friend.”
She understood at last the greatness of his sacrifice and the
fineness of his soul, and she fell into a passion of weeping and ran
from the room.
But John, left alone, sank down into the same chair as he had done
once before on the night he was waiting for Denzil, and, as then, he
buried his face in his hands.
The next day they met at breakfast. John had not slept at all and
was very pale and Amaryllis's eyes still showed the deepened violet
shadows from much weeping. But they were both quite calm.
She came over to John and kissed his forehead with gentle tenderness
and then gave him his tea. They tried to talk in a friendly way as of
old before any new emotions had come into their lives. And gradually
the strain became lessened.
They arranged to go out shopping, and John bought Amaryllis a new
“Green is the colour of hope,” she said. “I want green, John,
because it will make me think of the springtime and nature, and all
They lunched at a restaurant and in the afternoon went down to
Ardayre. John had many things to attend to and would be occupied all
the following day.
There had been no Christmas feasting, but there were gifts to be
distributed and various other duties and ceremonies to be gone through,
although they had missed the Christmas day. Amaryllis tried in every
way to be helpful to her husband, and he appreciated her stateliness
and sweet manners with all the tenants and people on the estate.
So the four days passed quite smoothly, and the last night of the
old year came.
“I don't think that you must sit up for it, dear,” John said after
dinner. “It will only tire you, and it is always a rather sad moment
unless one has a party as we always had in old days.”
Amaryllis went obediently to her room and stayed there; sleep was
far from her eyes. What was the rest of her life going to be without
Denzil? And what of John? Would they settle down into a real quiet
friendship when he came back, and the child was born? Or would she have
always to feel that he loved her and was for ever suffering pain?
The more she thought the less clear the issue became, and the deeper
the sadness in the atmosphere.
At last she slipped down onto the big white bear-skin rug and began
But when the clock struck midnight, and the New Year bells rang out,
a dreadful depression fell upon her, a sense of foreboding and fear.
She tried to tell herself that she was foolish, and it was all
caused only because she was so highly strung and sensitive now, on
account of her state. But the thought would persist that danger
threatened some one she loved. Was it Denzil, or John?
Amaryllis tried to force herself from her unhappy impressions by
thinking of what she could do presently in the summer, when she would
be quite well again, though her greatest work must always be to try to
make John happy, if by then he had come home.
She heard him go into his room at about one o'clock, and then she
crept noiselessly to her great gilt bed.
John had waited for the New Year by the cedar parlour fire. The room
was so filled with the radiance of Amaryllis that he liked being there.
And he, too, was thinking of what their new life would be should he
chance to come through. The ache in his heart would gradually subside,
he supposed, but how would he bear the long years, knowing that
Amaryllis was thinking of Denzil—and longing for him—and if fate made
them meet—what then?
How could he endure to know that these two beings were suffering?
There seemed no clear outlook ahead. But, as he knew only too well
death could hardly fail to intervene, and if it should claim Denzil,
then he must console Amaryllis' grief. But if happily it could be he
who were taken, then their future path would be clear.
He could not forget the third eventuality, that he and Denzil might
both be killed. He thought and thought over them all, and at last he
decided to add a letter to his will. If he should be killed he would
ask Denzil to marry Amaryllis immediately, without waiting for the
conventional year. The times were too strenuous, and she must not be
left unprotected—alone with the child.
He got up and began the letter to his lawyer, and so the
“I request my cousin Denzil Benedict Ardayre to marry Amaryllis, my
wife, as soon as possible after my death, if he can get leave and is
still alive. I confide her to his care and ask them both not to let any
conventional idea of mourning stand in the way of these, my urgent last
commands. And I ask my cousin Denzil, if he lives through the war, to
take great care of the bringing up of the child.”
He read thus far, and when he came to “the child” he scratched it
out and wrote “my child” deliberately, and then he went on to add his
wishes for its education, should it be a boy. The will had already
amply provided for Amaryllis, so that she would be a rich woman for the
rest of her days.
When all this was clearly copied out and sealed up in an envelope
addressed to his lawyer, the clock struck twelve.
The silence in the old house was complete; there was no revelry for
the first time for many years, even the servants far off in their wing
had gone to rest.
It seemed to John that the shadow of sorrow was suddenly removed
from him, and as though a weight of care had been lifted from his
heart. He could not account for the alteration, but he felt no longer
sad. Was it an omen? Was this New Year going to fulfill some great
thing after all? A divine peace fell upon him, and then a pleasant
sensation of sleep, and he turned out the lights and went softly to his
room, and was soon in bed.
And then he slept soundly until late in the morning, and awoke
refreshed and serene on New Year's day.
His leave was up on the third of January and he returned to London,
but he would not let Amaryllis undergo the fatigue of accompanying him.
He said good-bye to her there at Ardayre. She felt extremely sad and
Had she done well, after all, to have told John the truth? Should
she have borne things as they were and waited until the end of the war?
But no, that would have been impossible to her nature. If she might not
have Denzil for her lover, she would have no other man.
John's cheerfulness astonished her—it was so uniform, it could not
be assumed. Perhaps she did not yet understand him, perhaps in his
heart he was glad that all pretences had come to an end.
They had the most affectionate parting. John never was sentimental,
and he went off with brave, cheery words, and every injunction that she
was to take the greatest care of herself.
“Remember, Amaryllis, that you are the most precious thing on earth
to me—and you must think also of the child.”
She promised him that she would carry out all his wishes in this
respect and remain quietly at Ardayre until the first of April, when
perhaps he could get leave again and then she would go to London for
the birth of the baby.
John turned and waved his hand as he went off down the avenue, and
Amaryllis watched the motor until it was out of sight, the tears slowly
brimming over and running down her cheeks.
She noticed that at the turn in the avenue a telegraph boy passed
the car and came straight on. The wire was not for John evidently, so
she would wait at the door to see. It proved to be for her, and from
Denzil's mother, saying that she was en route for Dorchester, motoring,
and would stop at Ardayre on the chance of finding its mistress at
home. Amaryllis felt suddenly excited; she had often longed for this
and yet in some way she had feared it also. What new emotions might the
meeting not arouse?
It was quite early after luncheon that Mrs. Ardayre was announced.
Amaryllis had waited in the green drawing room, thinking that she would
come. She was playing the piano at the far end to try and lighten her
feeling of depression, when the door opened, and to her astonishment
quite a young, slight woman came into the room. She was a little lame,
and walked with a stick. For a moment Amaryllis thought she must be
mistaken, and rose with a vague, but gracious look in her eyes.
Mrs. Ardayre held out her hand and smiled:
“I hope you got my telegram in time,” she said cordially. “I felt I
must not lose the opportunity of making your acquaintance. My son has
been so anxious for us to meet.”
“You—you can't be Denzil's mother, surely!” Amaryllis exclaimed.
“He is much too old to be your son!”
Mrs. Ardayre smiled again—while Amaryllis made her sit down on the
sofa beside her and helped her off with her furs. “I am forty-nine
years old, Amaryllis—if I may call you so—but one ought never to grow
old in body. It is not necessary, and it is not agreeable to the eye!”
Amaryllis looked at her carefully in the full side light. It was the
shape of her face, she decided, which gave her such youth. There were
no unsightly bones to cause shadows and the skin was smooth and
ivory—and her eyes were bright brown; their expression was very
humorous as well as kindly, and Amaryllis was drawn to her at once.
They talked about their desire to know one another and about the
family, and the place, and the war—and at last they spoke of Denzil,
and Mrs. Ardayre told of what his life was, and his whereabouts now,
and then grew retrospective.
“He is the dearest boy in the world,” she said. “We have been
friends always, and now he will not allow me to be anxious about him. I
really think that as far as the frightfulness of things will let him
be, he is actually enjoying his life! Men are such queer creatures,
they like to fight!”
Amaryllis asked what was her latest news of him, and where he was,
and listened interestedly to Mrs. Ardayre's replies:
“The cavalry have not had very much to do lately, fortunately,” she
remarked. “My husband has just gone back, but I suppose if there is a
shortage of men for the trenches, they will be dismounted perhaps.”
“I expect so—then we shall have to use all our courage and control
Amaryllis turned the conversation back to Denzil again, and drew his
mother out. She would like to have heard incidents of his childhood and
of how he looked when he was a little boy, but she was too timid to ask
any deliberate questions. She felt drawn to this lady, she looked so
young and human. Perhaps she was not so wonderful in evening dress, but
her figure was boyish in its slim spareness—in these serge travelling
clothes she hardly looked thirty-five!
She wondered what Denzil had told his mother about her—probably
that she was going to have a child, but nothing more.
They talked in the most friendly way for half an hour, and then
Amaryllis asked her guest if she would like to come and see the house
and especially the picture gallery and the Elizabethan Denzil hanging
“It is just my boy!” Mrs. Ardayre cried, when they stood in front of
it. “Eyes and all, they are bold and true and so loving. Oh! my dear
child, you can't think what a darling he is; from his babyhood every
woman has adored him—the nurse maids were his slaves, and my old
housekeeper and my maid are like two jealous cats as to who shall do
things for him when he comes home. He has that queer quality which can
wile a bird off a tree. I daresay I am the silliest of them all!”
Amaryllis listened, enchanted.
“You see he has not one touch of me in him,” Mrs. Ardayre went on,
“but I was so frantically in love with my husband when he was born, he
naturally was all Ardayre. Does it not interest you, Amaryllis, to
wonder what your little one, when it comes, will look like? It ought to
be pronouncedly of the family, your being also an Ardayre.”
“Indeed yes, I am very curious. And how we all hope that it will be
“Is there a portrait of your husband here? Denzil says they are
“There is one in my sitting room; it is going to be moved in here
presently, when mine is done next year. It is by Sargent, almost the
last portrait he painted. Let us go there now and see it.”
“But there is no likeness,” Mrs. Ardayre exclaimed presently, when
they had gone to the cedar parlour and were examining the picture of
John. “Can you discover it?”
“I thought they were very alike once—but I do not altogether see it
Mrs. Ardayre smiled. “I cannot, of course, think any one can compare
with my Denzil! And yet I am not a real mother at all! I am totally
devoid of the maternal instinct in the abstract! Children bore me, and
I am glad I have never had any more. I adore Denzil because he is
Denzil. I loved my husband and delighted in being the mother of his
“There are the two sorts of women, are not there? The mother woman
and the mate woman—we have to be one or the other, I suppose. I hardly
yet know to which category I belong,” and Amaryllis sighed, “but I
rather think that I am like you—the man might matter even more to me
than the child, and I know that the child matters to me enormously
because of the man. It is all a great mystery and a wonder though.”
Beatrice Ardayre looked up at the portrait of John; his stolid face
did not give her the impression that he could make a woman, and such a
fascinating and adorable creature as Amaryllis, passionately in love
with him, or fill her with mysterious feelings of emotion about his
child! Now, if it had been Denzil she could have understood a woman's
committing any madness for him, but this stodgy, respectable John!
Her bright brown eyes glanced at Amaryllis furtively, and she saw
that she was looking up at the picture with an expression of deep
melancholy on her face.
There was some mystery here.
She went over again in her mind what Denzil had told her about
Amaryllis. It was not a great deal. He had arrived at Bath that time
looking very stern and abstracted, and had mentioned rather shortly
that he had come down with the head of the family's wife in the train,
and had gone on to Ardayre with her, after meeting them the previous
night at dinner for the first time.
He had not been at all expansive, but later in the evening when they
had sat by her sitting room fire, he had suddenly said something which
had startled her greatly:
“Mum—I want you to know Amaryllis Ardayre. I am madly in love with
her—she is going to have a baby, and she seems to be so alone.”
It must be one of those sudden passions, and the idea seemed in some
way to jar a little. Denzil to have fallen in love with a woman whom he
knew was going to have a child!
She had said something of this to him, and he had turned eyes full
of pain to her and even reproach.
“Mum—you always understand me—I am not a beast, you know—I
haven't anything more to say, only I want you to be really kind to
her—and get to know her well.”
And he had not mentioned the subject again, but had been very
preoccupied during all his three days' visit, which state she could not
account for by the fact of the war—Denzil, she knew, was an
enthusiastic soldier, and to be going out to fight would naturally be
to him a keen joy. What did it all mean? And here was this sweet
creature speaking of divine love mysteries and looking up at the
portrait of her dull, unattractive husband with melancholy eyes,
whereas they had sparkled with interest when Denzil was the subject of
conversation! Could she, too, have fallen in love with Denzil in one
night at dinner and a journey in the train!
It was all very remarkable.
They had tea together in the green drawing room, and by that time
they had become very good friends.
Mrs. Ardayre told Amaryllis of the little old manor home she had in
Kent—The Moat, it was called, and of her garden and the pleasure it
was to her.
“I had about twelve thousand a year of my own, you know,” she said,
“and ever since Denzil was born I have each year put by half of it, so
that when he was twenty-one I was able to hand over to him quite a
decent sum that he might be independent and free. It is so humiliating
for a man to have to be subservient to a woman, even a mother, and I go
on doing the same every year. All the last years of his life my husband
was very delicate—he was so badly wounded in the South African War,
you know—so we lived very quietly at The Moat and in my tiny house in
London. I hope you will let me show you them both one day.”
Amaryllis said she would be delighted, and added:
“You will come and see me, won't you? I am going up to our house in
Brook Street at the beginning of April, and I am praying that I may
have a little son about the first week in May.”
Just before Mrs. Ardayre went on to Dorchester, she asked Amaryllis
if she had any message to send Denzil—she wanted to watch her face. It
flushed slightly and her deep soft voice said a little eagerly:
“Yes—tell him I have been so delighted to meet you, and you are
just what he said I should find you!—and tell him I sent him all sorts
of good wishes—” and then she became a little confused.
“I should so love a photograph of you—would you give me one, I
wonder?” the elder woman asked quickly, to avoid any pause, and while
Amaryllis went out of the room to get it, she thought:
“She is certainly in love with Denzil. It could not have been the
first time he had seen her—at the dinner—and yet he never tells
lies.” And she grew more and more puzzled and interested.
When Amaryllis was alone after the motor with Mrs. Ardayre in it had
departed, an uncontrollable fit of restlessness came over her. The
visit had stirred up all her emotions again; she could not grieve any
more about the tragedy of John; her whole being was vibrating with
thoughts of Denzil and desire for his presence—she could see his face
and feel the joy of his kisses.
At that moment she would have flung everything in life away to rush
into his arms!
Denzil was wounded at Neuve Chapelle on March 10th, 1915, though not
seriously—a flesh wound in the side. He had done most gallantly and
was to get a D.S.O. He had been in hospital for two weeks and was
almost well when Amaryllis came up to Brook Street, on the first of
April. She had read his name in the list of wounded, and had
telegraphed to his mother in great anxiety, but had been reassured, and
now she throbbed with longing to see him.
To know that soon he would be going back again to the Front, was
almost more than she could bear. She was feeling wonderfully well
herself. Her splendid constitution and her youth made natural things
cause her little distress. She was neither nervous nor fretful, nor
oppressed with fancies and moods. And she looked very beautiful with
her added dignity of mien and perfectly chosen clothes.
Mrs. Ardayre came at once to see her the morning after her arrival,
and suggested that Denzil should come when out driving that afternoon.
Amaryllis tried to accept this suggestion calmly, and not show her joy,
and Mrs. Ardayre left, promising to bring her son about four.
Denzil had said to his Mother when he knew that Amaryllis was coming
“Mum, I want to see Amaryllis—please arrange it for me. And Mum,
don't ask me anything about it; just leave me there when we drive and
come and fetch me when I must go in again.”
Mrs. Ardayre was a very modern person, but she could not help
exclaiming in a half voice while she sat by her son's bed:
“You know she is going to have a baby in a month, dear boy, perhaps
she won't care to see you now.”
A flush rose to Denzil's forehead: “Yes, I do know,” he said a
little hurriedly, “but we are not conventional in these days. I wish to
see her; please, darling Mother, do what I ask.”
And then he had turned the conversation.
So his mother had obediently arranged matters, and at about four in
the afternoon left him at the Brook Street door.
Early as it was, Amaryllis had made the tea, and expected to see
both Denzil and his mother. The room was full of hyacinths and
daffodils, and she herself looked like a spring flower, as she sat on
the sofa among the green silk cushions, wrapped in a pale parma violet
The butler announced “Captain Ardayre,” and Denzil came in slowly,
and murmured “How do you do?”
But as soon as the door was closed upon him, he started forward,
forgetting his stiff side.
He covered her hands with kisses, he could not contain his joy; and
then he drew back and looked at her with worship and reverence in his
The most mysterious, quivering emotions were coursing through him,
mixed with triumph, as he took in the picture she made. This delicate,
beautiful creature! And to see her—so!
Amaryllis lowered her head in a sweet confusion; her feelings were
no less aroused. She was thrilling with passionate welcome and
delicious shyness. Nature was indeed ruling them both, and with a glad
“Darling Angel!” Denzil sat down beside her and clasped her in his
arms. Then for a few seconds delirious pleasure was all that they knew.
“Let me look at you again, Sweetheart,” he ordered presently, with a
tone of command and possession in his very deep voice, which caused
Amaryllis delight. It made her feel that she really belonged to him.
“To me you have never been so beautiful—and every scrap of you is
“I had to come—I cannot help whether it is right or wrong. I must
go back to the Front as soon as I am fit, and I could not have borne to
go without seeing you, darling one.”
They had a hundred things to say to each other about themselves—and
about the baby, and the next hour was very sacred and wonderful. Denzil
was a superlatively perfect lover and knew the immense value of tender
He intoxicated Amaryllis' imagination with the moving things he
Alas! how many worthy men miss themselves, and make their loved ones
miss the best part of life's joys by their mulish silence and refusal
to gratify this desire of all women to be told that they are
loved, to have the fact expressed in passionate speech! No deeds make
up for this omission.
Denzil had none of these limitations; he said everything which could
cajole and excite the imagination. He murmured a hundred affecting
tendernesses in her ears. He caressed her—he commanded and mastered
her, and then assured her that he was her slave. He was arrogant and
humble—arrogant when he claimed her love, humble in his worship. He
spoke of the child and what it meant to him that it should be his and
hers. He caused her to feel that he was strong and protective and that
she was to be cherished and adored. He made pictures of how it would be
if he could spend a whole day and night with her presently in June,
when she would be quite well, and of how thrilled with interest he
would be to see the baby, and that, of course, it must be
exactly like himself! And Amaryllis' eyes, all soft and swimming with
emotion answered him.
Naturally, since she loved him so passionately, it would be his
image! Had not his own mother accounted for his pronounced Ardayre
stamp by her having been so in love with his father—so, of course,
this would re-occur! It was all dear to think about!
They spent another hour of divine intoxication, and then the clock
It sounded like a knell.
Amaryllis gave a little cry.
“Denzil, it is altogether unnatural that you should have to go. To
think that you must leave me, and may not even welcome your son! To
think that by the law we are sinning, because I am sitting here clasped
in your arms! To think that I may not have the joy of showing you the
exquisite little clothes, and the pink silk cot—all the things which
have given me such pleasure to arrange.... It is all too cruel! You
know that eighteenth century engraving in the series of Moreau le
Jeune, of the married lovers playing with the darling, teeny cap
together! Well, I have it beside my bed, and every day I look at it and
pretend it is you and me!”
“Darling—Darling!”—and Denzil fiercely kissed her, he was so
“It is all holy and beautiful, the coming to earth of a soul. It
only makes me long to be good and noble and worthy of this wonderful
thing. But for us—we who love truly and purely, it has all been turned
into something forbidden and wrong.”
“Heart of me—I must have some news of you. I cannot starve there in
the trenches, knowing that all the letters that should be mine are
going to John. My mother is really trustworthy, will you let her be
with you as often as you can, that she may be able to tell me how you
are, precious one? When the seventh of May comes I shall go perfectly
mad with suspense and anxiety. I will arrange that my mother sends me
at once a telegram.”
“Denzil!” and Amaryllis clung to him.
“It is an impossible situation,” and he gave a great sigh. “I shall
tell John that I have seen you—I cannot help it, the times are too
precarious to have acted otherwise. And afterwards, when the war is
over, we must face the matter and decide what is best to be done.”
“I cannot live without you, Denzil, and that I know.”
They said good-bye at last silently, after many kisses and tears,
and Denzil came out into the darkening street to his mother in the
motor, with white, set face.
“I am a little troubled, dearest boy,” she whispered, as they went
along. “I feel that there is something underneath all this and that
Amaryllis means some great thing in your life—the whole aspect of
everything fills me with discomfort. It is unlike your usual, sensitive
refinement, Denzil, to have gone to see her—now—”
“I understand exactly what you mean, Mother. I should say the same
thing myself in your place. I can't explain anything, only I beg of you
to trust me. Amaryllis is an angel of purity and sweetness; perhaps
some day you will understand.”
She took his hand into her muff and held it:
“You know I have no conventions, dearest, and my creed is to believe
what you say, but I cannot account for the situation because of your
only having met Amaryllis so lately for the first time. I could
understand it perfectly if you had been her lover, and the child was
your child, but she has not been married a whole year yet to John!”
Denzil answered nothing—he pressed his mother's hand.
She returned the pressure:
“We will talk no more about it.”
“And you will go on being kind?”
Before they reached the hospital door in Park Lane Mrs. Ardayre had
been instructed to send an immediate telegram the moment the baby was
born, and to comfort and take care of Amaryllis, and tell her son every
little detail as to her welfare and about the child.
“I will try not to form any opinion, Denzil; and some day perhaps
things will be made plain, for it would break my heart to believe that
you are a dishonourable man.”
“You need not worry, Mum dearest. Indeed, I am not that. It is just
a tragic story, but I cannot say more. Only take care of Amaryllis, and
send me news as often as you can.”
* * * * *
The telegram to say that Amaryllis had a little son came to John
Ardayre on the night before he went into the trenches again at the
second battle of Ypres on May 9th, 1915. He had been waiting in
feverish impatience and expectancy all the day, and, in fact, for three
days for news.
His whole inner life since that New Year's night had been strangely
serene, in spite of its frightful outward turmoil and stress. He had
taken the tumult of Neuve Chapelle calmly, and had come through it and
all the beginning of the Ypres battle without a scratch. He had felt
that he was looking upon it all from some detached standpoint, and that
it in no way personally concerned him.
He had seen Denzil do the splendid thing and he had felt a distinct
distress when he had seen him fall wounded.
Denzil was just back now and in the trenches again with the rest of
the dismounted cavalry. They might meet in the attack at dawn.
When John read the telegram from his aunt, Lady de la Paule, his
emotion was so great that he staggered a little, and a friend standing
by in the billet took out his flask and gave him some brandy, thinking
that he must have received bad news.
Then it seemed as though he went mad!
The repression of his life appeared to fall from him, he became as a
new man. All his comrades were astonished at him, and a Scotch Corporal
was heard to remark that it was “na canny—the Captain was fey.”
The Ardayres were saved! The family would carry on!
Fondest love welled up in his heart for Amaryllis. If he only came
through he would devote his life to showing her his gratitude and
showering everything upon her that her heart could desire—and
perhaps—perhaps the joy of the baby would make up for the absence of
Denzil. This thought stayed with him and comforted him.
Lady de la Paule had wired:
“A splendid little son born 11:45 A.M. seventh May—Amaryllis
And an hour or two before this Denzil had also received the news
from his Mother. He, too, had grown exalted and thanked God.
So the day that the Germans were to fail at Ypres, and destiny was
to accomplish itself for these two men—dawned.
* * * * *
Of what use to write of that terrible fight and of the gas and the
horror and the mud? John Ardayre seemed to bear a charmed life as he
led his men “over the top.” For an hour wild with exaltation and
gladness, he rallied them and cheered them on. The scene of blood and
carnage has been too often repeated on other fateful days, and as often
well described, when acts of glorious heroism occurred again and again.
John had rushed forward to succour a wounded trooper when a shell
crashed near them, and he fell to the ground. And then he know what the
great thing was the New Year had promised him. For death was going to
straighten out matters—John was going beyond. Well, he had never been
rebellious, and he knew now that light had come. But the sky above
seemed to be darkening curiously, and the terrible noise to be growing
dim, when he was conscious that a man was crawling towards him,
dragging a leg, and then his eyes opened wildly for an instant, and he
saw that it was Denzil all covered with blood.
“Are we both going West, Denzil?” he demanded faintly. “At least I
am—” then he gasped a little, while a stream of scarlet flowed from
his shattered side.
“I've asked you in a letter to marry Amaryllis immediately—if you
get home. I hope your number is not up, too, because she will be all
alone. Take care of her, Denzil, and take care of the child....” His
voice grew lower and lower, and the last words came in spasms: “There
is an Ardayre son, you know—so it's all right. The family is saved
from Ferdinand and I am very glad to die.”
Denzil tried to get out his flask, but before he could reach John's
lips with it he saw that it would be of no avail—for Death had claimed
the head of the Family. And above his mangled body John's face wore a
look of calm serenity, and his firm lips smiled.
Then things became all vague for Denzil and he remembered nothing
It was more than two months before Denzil was well enough to be
brought from Boulogne, and then he had a relapse and for the whole of
July was dangerously ill. At one moment there seemed to be no hope of
saving his leg, and his mother ate her heart out with anxiety.
And Amaryllis, back at Ardayre with the little Benedict, wept many
John's death had deeply grieved her. She realised his steadfast
kindness and affection for her. He had written her a letter just before
the battle had begun—a short epistle telling her calmly that the
chances would be perhaps even for any man to come out of it alive—and
assuring her of his greatest devotion.
“I know that Denzil went to see you, my dear little girl. He has
told me about it. And I know that you love each other. There is only
one chance for us in the future—and that lies with the child. It may
be that when it comes to you it may fill your life and satisfy you.
This is my prayer—otherwise we must see what can be arranged about
things; because I cannot allow you to be unhappy. You were an innocent
factor in all this, and it would be unjust that you should be hurt.”
How good and generous John had always been.
And his letter to his lawyers! To make things smooth for her—and
for Denzil—how marvellously kind!
Her mourning for John was real and deep, as it would have been for a
brother. But during the month of intense anxiety about Denzil
everything else was numbed, even her interest in her son.
By the end of August he was out of danger, although little hope was
entertained that he would ever walk easily. But this was a minor
thing—and gradually it began to be some consolation to the two women
who loved him to know that he was safely wounded and would probably not
be fit for active service again for a very long time.
They wrote letters to one another, but they decided not to meet. Six
months must elapse at least, they both felt—even in spite of John's
Another shell must have fallen not far off, for his body was never
found—only his field glasses, broken and battered. And there would
have been no actual information about his death had not Denzil seen him
* * * * *
Harietta Boleski and Stanislass and Ferdinand Ardayre had remained
in Paris, with visits to Fontainebleau.
When John had been killed, Harietta had been extremely perturbed.
“Now Stepan will be able to marry that odious bit of bread and
butter, and he is sure to do it after the year!” This thought rankled
with her and embittered everything. Nothing pleased her. She grew more
than ever rebellious at the dullness she had to live in. War was an
imposition which ought not to be tolerated and she often told Hans so.
At last she grew to take quite an interest in her spying for lack of
more agreeable things to do.
And so the months went by and November came, and a madness of
jealousy was gradually augmenting in Harietta for Amaryllis Ardayre.
Verisschenzko had gone to Russia in September, and she was convinced
that he loved Amaryllis and that the child was his child. She could not
conceive of a spiritual devotion, and something had altered all
Stepan's ways. From the moment he returned to Paris until he had left
she had tried and been unable to invoke any response in him, and she
had felt like a foiled tigress when another has eaten her prey.
As the impossibility of moving him forced itself upon her unwilling
understanding, so the wildest passion for him grew, and when he left in
September she was quite ill for a week with chagrin; then she became
moody and more than ever capricious, and made Stanislass' life a hell,
while Ferdinand Ardayre had little less misery to endure.
An incident late in November caused her jealousy to burst into
She heard that Verisschenzko had returned from Russia and she went
to his rooms to see him. The Russian servant who was accustomed to
receive her was there waiting for his master who had not yet arrived.
Without a word she passed the old man when he opened the door, and made
her way into the sitting room, and then into the bedroom beyond. She
did not believe that Stepan was not there and wanted to make sure. It
was empty but a light burned before an Ikon, the doors of which were
Curiosity made Harietta go close and examine it. She knew the room
so well and had never seen it there before. The table beneath it was
arranged like an altar, and the Ikon was let in to the carved boiserie
of the wall. It must have been since he had parted with her that this
ridiculous thing had been done! She had not entered his appartement
since June. She felt angry that the shrine should be closed and that
she could not look upon it, for it must certainly be something which
She bent nearer and shook the little doors; they resisted her, and
her temper rose. Then some force seemed to propel her to commit
sacrilege. She shook and shook and tore at the golden clasp, her
irritation giving strength and cunning to her hands; and at last the
small bolt came undone and the doors flew open—and an exquisitely
painted modern picture of the Virgin disclosed itself, holding the
Christ child in her arms. But for all the saintliness in the eyes of
Mary, the face was an exact portrait of Amaryllis Ardayre!
A frenzy of rage seized Harietta. Her rival reigned now indeed! This
was positive proof to her, not of spiritual meaning—not of the mystic,
abstract aloofness of worship which lay deep in Stepan's nature and had
caused him to have Amaryllis transfigured into the symbol of purity, a
daily reminder that she must always be for him the lady of his
soul—such things had no meaning for Harietta. The Ikon was merely a
material proof that Verisschenzko loved Amaryllis—and, of course, as
soon as the year of mourning should be over he would make her his wife.
She trembled with passionate resentment. Nothing had ever moved her
so forcibly. She took out her pearl hatpin and stabbed out the eyes of
the Virgin, almost shaking with passion, and scratched and obliterated
the face of the Christ child. This done, she extinguished the little
lamp and slammed to the doors.
She laughed savagely as she went back into the sittingroom.
“The Virgin indeed!—and his child!—well, I've taught him!”
and she flung past the Russian servant with a look which was a curse,
so that the old man crossed himself and quickly barred the entrance
door, when she stamped off down the stairs.
Arrived in her gilded salon at the Universal, she would like to have
wrung some one's neck. She had never been so full of rage in her life.
She did find a little satisfaction in a kick at Fou-Chow, who fled
whining to his faithful Marie who had come in to carry away her
mistress' sable cloak.
The maid's face became thunderous. A look of sullen hate gleamed in
her dark eyes.
“She will kick thee, my angel, just once too often,” she murmured to
the wee creature when she had carried him from the room. “And then we
shall see, thy Marie knows that which may punish her some day soon!”
Harietta, quite indifferent to these matters, telephoned immediately
to Ferdinand Ardayre.
He must come to her instantly without a moment's delay! And she
stamped her foot.
A plan which might give her some satisfaction to execute had evolved
itself in her brain.
He was in his room in another part of the building, and hastened to
obey her command. She was livid with anger and seemed to have grown
She went over and kissed him voluptuously and then she began:
“Ferdie,” and she whispered hoarsely, “now you have got to do
something for me. You are not going to let the child of Verisschenzko
be master of Ardayre! We are going to gain time and perhaps some day be
able to do away with it. Now I have got a plan which will lighten your
She knew that she could count upon him, for since the birth of the
little Benedict and the death of John, Ferdinand had stormed with
threats of vengeance, while knowing his impotency.
His life with Harietta had grown a torment and a hell—but with
every fresh unkindness and pang of jealousy she caused him, his low
passion for her increased. He knew that she loved Verisschenzko, whom
he hated with all his might—and if she now proposed to hurt both his
enemies, he would assist her joyfully.
“Tell it me,” he begged.
So she drew him to the sofa and picked up a block and pencil.
“Do you possess any of the writing of your dead brother, John, or if
you don't, can you get some from anywhere?”
Ferdinand's face blazed with excitement. What was she going to
“I always keep one letter—in which he ordered me never to address
him and told me I was not of his blood but was a mongrel Turk.”
“That is splendid—where is it? Have you got it here?”
“Yes, in my despatch box. I'll go and fetch it now.”
“Very well. I will get rid of Stanislass for the evening and we can
have some hours alone—and you will see if I don't help you to worry
them hideously, Ferdie, even if that is all we can do!”
And when he had left her presence, she paced the room excitedly.
“It will prevent Stepan's marrying her at all events for; a long
The thought that she had lost Verisschenzko completely unbalanced
her. It was the first time in her life that she had had to relinquish a
man. She hated to have to realise how highly he must hold Amaryllis. He
seemed the only thing she wanted now in life, and she knew that he was
quite beyond her, and that indeed he had never been hers; the one human
being whom she had attracted and yet never been able to intoxicate and
draw against his will. She went over all their past meetings. With what
supreme insolence he had invariably treated her—even in moments when
he permitted himself to feel passion! And how she adored him! She would
have crawled to him now on the ground. She had not known she could feel
so much. Every animal, sensual desire made her throb with rage. She
would have torn the flesh from Amaryllis' face had she been there, and
thrust her hatpin into her real eyes.
But the spoke should be put in the wheel of Verisschenzko's marrying
her! And perhaps some other revenge would come. Hans?—Hans should be
made to carry the scheme through—Hans and Ferdinand. She dug her nails
into the palms of her hands. No wild animal in its cage could have felt
Then when Ferdinand returned with John's letter, she controlled
herself and sat down at the table beside him and supervised his
attempts at copying the writing, while she unfolded the details of her
“You know John's body was never found,” she informed him presently.
“I heard all the details from a man who was there—they only picked up
his glasses and his boot. He could very well have been taken prisoner
by the Germans and be in hospital there, too ill to have written for
all this time. Now think how he ought to word his first letter to his
precious bread and butter wife!”
“There must only be the fewest words, because I don't know what
terms they were on. I think a postcard, if we get one, would be the
“Of course?—I have some one who can see to that—it will be worth
waiting the week for—we'll procure several, and meanwhile you must
practise his hand.”
At the end of half an hour a very creditable forgery had been
secured, and the two jealous beings felt satisfied with their work for
It had been arranged that Denzil and his mother should spend
Christmas with Amaryllis at Ardayre. Both felt that it was going to be
the most wonderful moment when they should meet. There were no
obstacles now to their happiness and everything promised to be full of
joy. The months which had gone by since John's death had been turning
Amaryllis into a more serene and forceful being. The whole burden of
the estate had fallen upon her young shoulders and she had endeavoured
to carry it with dignity and success—and yet have time to spare for
her war organisations in the county. She had developed extraordinarily
and had grown from a very pretty girl into a most beautiful young
woman. What would Denzil think of her? That was her preoccupation—and
what would he think of the baby Benedict?
The great rooms at Ardayre were shut up except the green drawing
room, and she lived in her own apartments, the cedar parlour being her
chief pleasure. It was now filled with her books and all the personal
belongings which expressed her taste. The nurseries for the heir were
Her guests were to be there on the twenty-third of December, and
when the hour came for the motor to arrive from the station Amaryllis
grew hot and cold with excitement. She had made herself look quite
exquisite in a soft black frock, and her heart was beating almost to
suffocation when she heard the footsteps in the hall. Then the green
drawing room door opened and Colonel and Mrs. Ardayre were announced
and were immediately greeted by the great tawny dogs and then by their
mistress. A pang contracted her heart when she caught sight of
Denzil—he was so very pale and thin, and he walked painfully and
slowly with a stick. It was only a wreck of the splendid lover who had
come to Ardayre before. But he was always Denzil of the ardent eyes and
the crisp bronze hair!
They were people of the world, and so the welcoming speeches went
off easily, and they sat round the tea-table with its singing kettle
and its delectable buns and Devonshire cream, and Amaryllis was
gracious and radiant and full of dignity and charm. But inwardly she
felt deliciously shy and happy.
They had neither met nor written any love letters since the April
day when they had parted in Brook Street, which now seemed to be an age
Her attraction for Denzil had increased a hundredfold. He thought as
she sat there pouring out the tea, of how he would woo her with
subtlety before he would claim her for his own. He was stimulated by
her sweet shyness and her tender aloofness. The tea seemed to him to be
interminably long and he wished for it to end.
Mrs. Ardayre behaved with admirable tact; she spoke of all sorts of
light and friendly things, and then asked about the baby. Was he not
wonderful, now at seven months old!
The lovely vivid pink deepened in Amaryllis' smooth velvet cheeks,
and her grey eyes became soft as a doe's.
“You shall see him in the morning—he will be asleep now. Of course,
to me he is wonderful, but I daresay he is only an ordinary child.”
She had peeped at Denzil and had seen that his face fell a little as
she said they should only see the baby the next day, and she had felt a
wave of joy. She knew that she meant to take him up quietly
presently—just he and she alone!
After they had finished tea, Mrs. Ardayre suggested that she should
go to her room.
“I am tired, Amaryllis, my dear,” she announced cheerily,—“and I
shall rest for an hour before dinner.”
“Come then and I will show you both your rooms.”
They came up the broad staircase with her, Denzil a step at a time,
slowly, and at the top she stopped and said to him:
“Perhaps you will remember that is the door of the cedar parlour at
the end of the passage—you will find me there when I have installed
your mother comfortably. Your room is next to hers,” and she pointed to
two doors through the archway of the gallery. Then she went on with
Some contrary nervousness made her remain for quite a little while.
Was Cousin Beatrice sure that she was comfortable? Had she
everything she wanted? Her maid was already unpacking, and all was warm
and fresh scented with lavender and bowls of violets on the dressing
“My dear child, it is Paradise, and you are a perfect angel—I shall
revel in it after the cold journey down.”
So at last there was no excuse to stay longer, and Amaryllis left
the room; but in the passage it seemed as though her knees were
trembling, and as she passed the top of the staircase she leaned for a
second or two on the balustrade.
The longed for moment had come!
When she opened the door of the cedar parlour, with its soft lamps
and great glowing logs, she saw Denzil was already there, seated on the
sofa beside the fire.
She ran to him before he could rise, the movement she knew was pain
to him—and she sank down beside him and held out her hands.
“Beloved darling!” he whispered in exaltation, and she slipped
forward into his arms.
Oh! the bliss of it all! After the months of separation, and the
horrible trenches and the battles and the suffering, the days and
nights of agonising pain! It seemed to Denzil that his being melted
within him—Heaven itself had come.
They could not speak coherently for some moments, everything was too
filled with holy joy.
“At last! at last!” he cried presently. “Now we shall part no more!”
Then he had to be assured that she loved him still.
“It is I who must take care of you now, Denzil, and I shall love to
do that,” she cooed.
“I have not thought much of the hurt,” he answered her, “for all
these months I have just been living for this day, and now it has come,
darling one, and I can hardly believe that it is true, it is so
They could not talk of anything but themselves and love for an hour,
they told each other of their longings and anxieties—and at last they
spoke of John.
“He was so splendid,” Denzil said, “unselfish to the very end,” and
then he described to Amaryllis how he actually had died, and of his
last words, and their thought for her.
“If he could see us, I think that he would be glad that we are
“I know that he would,” but the tears had gathered in her eyes.
Denzil stroked her hand gently; he did not make any lover's caress,
and she appreciated his understanding, and after a little she leaned
against his arm.
“Denzil—when we live here together, we must always try to carry out
all that John would have wished to do. It meant his very soul—and you
will help me to be a worthy mother of the Ardayre son.”
She had not spoken of the child before—some unaccountable shyness
had restrained her, even in their fondest moments. And yet the thought
had never been absent from either. It had throbbed there in their
hearts. It was going to be so exquisite to whisper about it presently!
And Denzil had waited until she mentioned this dear interest. He did
not wish to assume any rights, or take anything for granted. She should
be queen, not only of his heart, but of everything, until she should
herself accord him authority.
But his eyes grew wistful now as he leaned nearer to her.
“Darling, am I not going to be allowed to see—my son!”
Then, with a cry, Amaryllis bent forward and was clasped in his
arms. All her wayward shyness melted, and she poured forth her delight
in the baby—their very own!
“You will see that he is just you, Denzil,—as we knew that he would
be, and now I will go and fetch him for you and bring him here, because
the stairs up to the nursery are so steep they might hurt you to
She left him swiftly, and was not long gone, and Denzil sat there by
the fire trembling with an emotion which he could not have described in
The door opened again and Amaryllis returned with the tiny sleeping
form, in its long white nightgown and wrapped in a great fleecy shawl.
She crept up to him very softly. The little one was sound asleep.
She made a sign to Denzil not to rise, and she bent down and placed the
bundle tenderly in his arms.
Then they gazed at the little face together with worshipping eyes.
It was just a round pink and white cherub like thousands of others
in the world; the very long eyelashes, sweeping the sleep-flushed
cheeks, and minute rings of bronze-gold hair curling over the edge of
the close cambric cap; but it seemed to those two looking at it to be
unique, and more beautiful than the dawn.
“Isn't he perfect, Denzil!” whispered Amaryllis, in ecstasy.
“Marvellous!” and Denzil's voice was awed.
Then the wonder and the divinity of love and its spirit of creation
came over them both and a mist of deep feeling grew in both their eyes.
* * * * *
At dinner they were all so happy together. Mrs. Ardayre was a note
of harmony anywhere. She had gradually grown to understand the
situation in the months of her son's recovering from his wounds and
although no actual words had passed between them Denzil felt that his
mother had divined the truth and it made things easier.
Afterwards, in the green drawing room, Amaryllis played to them and
delighted their ears, and then they went up to the cedar parlour and
sat round the fire and talked and made plans.
If it should be quite hopeless that Denzil could ever return to the
front, or be of service behind the lines, he meant to enter Parliament.
The thought that his active soldiering was probably done was very
bitter to him, and the two women who loved him tried to create an
enthusiasm for the parliamentary idea. The one certainty was that his
adventurous spirit would never remain behind in the background,
They would be married at the beginning of February, they decided.
The whole of their world knew of John's written wishes, and no unkind
comments would be likely to arise.
And when Beatrice Ardayre left them alone to say good-night to each
other, Denzil drew Amaryllis back to his side!
“I think the world is going to be a totally new place,
darling—after the war. If it goes on very long the gradual privation
and suffering and misery will create a new order of things, and all of
us should be ready to face it. Only fools and weaklings cling to past
systems when the on-rolling wave has washed away their uses. Whatever
seems for the real good of England must be one's only aim, even if it
means abandoning what was the ideal of the Family for all these
hundreds of years. You will advance with me, Sweetheart, will you not,
even if it should seem to be a chasm we are crossing?”
“Denzil, of course I will.”
He sighed a little.
“The old order made England great—but that cycle is over for all
the world—and what we shall have to do is to stand steady and try to
direct the new on-rush, so that it makes us greater and does not sweep
civilisation into darkness, as when Rome fell. It may be a fairly easy
matter because, as Stepan says, we have got such fundamental common
sense. It would be much less hard if the people at the top were really
courageous and unhampered by trying to secure votes, or whatever it is,
which makes them wobble and surrender at the wrong moment. If the
politicians could have that dogged, serene steadfastness which the
Tommies, and almost every man has in the trenches, how supreme we
“I hope so, but one must have vision as well so that one can look
right ahead and not stumble over retained old prejudices; people so
often want a thing and yet have not will enough to eliminate qualities
in themselves which must obviously prevent their obtaining their
Denzil was not looking at her now, he was gazing ahead with his blue
eyes filled with light, and she saw that there was something far beyond
the physical magnetism which drew her to him, and a pride and joy
filled her. She would indeed be his helpmate in all his undertakings
and striving for noble ends. They talked for some time of these things
and their plans to aid in their fulfilment, and then they gradually
spoke of Verisschenzko and Amaryllis asked what was the latest news—he
was in Russia, she supposed.
“Stepan will be arriving in London next week. I heard from him
to-day. Won't you ask him down, darling, to spend the New Year with us
here—it would be so good to see the dear old boy again.”
This was agreed upon, and then they drifted back to lovers'
whisperings, and presently they said a fond good-night.
* * * * *
Christmas Day of 1915, and the weeks which followed were like some
happy dream for Denzil and Amaryllis. Each hour seemed to discover some
new aspect which caused further understanding and love to augment. They
spent long late afternoons in the cedar parlour dipping into books and
a delicious pleasure was for Amaryllis to be nestled in Denzil's arms
on the sofa while he read aloud to her in his deep, magnetic voice.
Beatrice Ardayre at this period was like a pleased mother cat
purring in the sun while her kittens gambol. Her well-beloved was
content, and she was satisfied. She always seemed to be there when
wanted and yet to leave the lovers principally to themselves.
Another of their joys was to motor about the beautiful country,
exploring the old, old churches and quaint farmhouses and manors with
which North Somerset abounds; and they went all over the estate also
and saw all the people who were their people and their friends. The
union was thoroughly approved of, and although the engagement was not
to be officially announced until after the New Year it was quite
understood, as the tenants had all heard of John's instructions in his
will. But perhaps the most supreme joy of all was when they could play
with the baby Benedict together alone for half an hour before he went
to bed. Then they were just as foolish and primitive as any other two
young things with their firstborn. He was a very fine and forward baby
and already expressed a spirit and will of his own, and it always gave
Denzil the very strangest thrill when he seized and clung firmly to one
of his fingers with his tiny, strong, chubby hand. And over all his
qualities and perfections his parents then said wonderful things
Every subtle and exquisite pleasure, mystical, symbolical and
material, which either had ever dreamed of as connected with this
living proof of love, was realised for them. And to know that soon,
soon, they would be united for always—wedded—not merely engaged. Oh!
that was glorious—when passion need be under no restraint—when there
need be no good-night!
For in this the chivalry of Denzil never failed—and each day they
grew to respect each other more.
Verisschenzko was to arrive in time for dinner on the last day of
the old year. That afternoon was one of even unusually perfect
happiness—motoring slowly round the park and up on to the hills in
Amaryllis' little two-seater which she drove herself. They got out at
the top and leaned upon a gate from which they seemed to be looking
down over the world. Peaceful, smiling, prosperous England! Miles and
miles of her fairest country lay there in front of them, giving no echo
“If we had been born sixty years ago, Denzil, what different
thoughts this view would be creating in our minds. We would have no
speculation—no uncertainty—we should feel just happy that it is ours
and would be ours for ever! The world was asleep then!”
“Stepan would say that it was resting before the throes of struggle
must begin. Now we are going to face something much greater than the
actual war in France, but if we are strong we ought to come through. We
have always been saner than other peoples, so perhaps our upheaval will
be saner too.”
“Whatever there is to face, we shall be together, Denzil, and
nothing can really matter then—and we must make our little Benedict
armed for the future, so that he will be fitted to cope with the
conditions of his day.”
“Look there at the blue distance, darling, could anything be more
peaceful? How can anyone in the country realise that not two hundred
miles away this awful war is grinding on?”
Denzil put an arm round her and drew her close to him and clasped
“But just for a little we must try to forget about it. I never
dreamed of such perfect happiness as we are having, Sweetheart,—my
“Nor I, Denzil,—I am almost afraid—”
But he kissed her passionately and bade this thought begone. Afraid
of what? Nothing mattered since they would always be together. February
would soon come, and then they would never part again.
So the vague foreboding passed from Amaryllis' heart, and in fond
visionings they whispered plans for the spring and the summer and the
growing years. And so at last they returned to the house and found the
after-noon post waiting for them. Filson had just brought it in and
Amaryllis' letters lay in a pile on her writing table.
There happened to be none for Denzil and he went over to the
fireplace and was stroking the head of Mercury, the greatest of the big
tawny dogs, when he was startled by a little ominous cry from his
Beloved, and on looking up he saw that she had sunk into a chair, her
face deadly pale, while there had fluttered to the floor at her feet a
torn envelope and a foreign looking postcard.
What could this mean?
Verisschenzko had come straight through from Petrograd to England.
He had been delayed and had never returned to Paris since September. He
knew nothing of Harietta's sacrilege as yet. But he had at last
accumulated sufficient proof against her to have her entirely in his
He thought over the whole matter as he came down in the train to
Ardayre. She was a grave danger to the Allies and had betrayed them
again and again. He must have no mercy. Her last crimes had been
against France, her punishment would be easier to manage there.
The strain of cruelty in his nature came uppermost as he reviewed
the evil which she had done. Stanislass' haunted face seemed to look at
him out of the mist of the half-lit carriage. What might not Poland
have accomplished with such a leader as Boleski had been before this
baneful passion fell upon him! Then he conjured up the? imaged faces of
the brave Frenchmen who were betrayed by Harietta to Hans, and shot in
A spy's death in war time was not an ignoble one, and they had gone
there with their lives in their hands. Had Harietta been true to that
side, and had she been acting from patriotism, he could have desired to
save her the death sentence now. But she had never been true; no
country mattered to her; she had given to him secrets as well as to
Hans! Then he laughed to himself grimly. So her danseur at the
Ardayre ball was the first husband! The man who used to beat her with a
stick—and who had let her divorce him in obedience to the higher
How clever the whole thing was! If it had not all been so serious,
it would have been interesting to allow her to live longer to watch
what next she would do, but the issues at stake were too vital to
delay. He would not hesitate; he would denounce her to the French
authorities immediately on his return to Paris, and without one qualm
or regret. She had lived well and played “crooked”—and now it was meet
that she should pay the price.
Filson announced him in the green drawing room when he reached
Ardayre, but only Denzil rose to greet him and wrung his hand. He
noticed that his friend's face looked stern and rather pale.
“I'm so awfully glad that you have come, Stepan,” and they exchanged
handshakes and greetings. “You are about the only person I should want
to see just now, because you know the whole history. Something
unprecedented has happened. A communication has come apparently from
John to Amaryllis from a prisoners' camp in Germany, and yet as far as
one can be certain of anything I am certain that I saw him die—”
Verisschenzko was greatly startled. What a frightful complication it
would make should John be alive!
“The letter—merely a postcard enclosed in an envelope—came by this
afternoon's post—and as you can understand, it has frightfully upset
us all. It is a sort of thing about which one cannot analyse one's
feelings. John had a right to his life and we ought to be glad—but the
idea of giving up Amaryllis—of having all the suffering and the
parting again—Stepan, it is cruelly hard.”
Verisschenzko sat down in one of the big chairs, and Euterpe, the
lesser tawny dog, came and pushed her nose into his hand. He patted her
silky head absently. He was collecting his thoughts; the shock of this
news was considerable and he must steady his judgment.
“John wrote to her himself, you say? It is not a message through a
“It appears to be in his own writing.” Denzil stood leaning on the
mantelpiece, and his face seemed to grow more haggard with each word.
“Merely saying that he was taken prisoner by the enemy when they made
the counter attack, and that he had been too ill to write or speak
until now. I can't understand it—because they did not make the counter
attack until after I was carried in—and even though I was unconscious
then, the stretcher bearers must have seen John when they lifted me if
he had been there. Nothing was found but his glasses and we concluded
another shell had burst somewhere near his body after I was carried in.
Stepan, I swear to God I saw him die.”
“It sounds extraordinary. Try to tell me every detail, Denzil.”
So the story of John's last moments was gone over again, and all the
most minute events which had occurred. And at the end of it the two
solid facts stood out incontrovertibly—John's body was never found,
but Denzil had seen him die.
“How long will it take to communicate with him, I wonder? We can
through the American Ambassador, I suppose, because he gives no
address. It must be awful for him lying there wounded with no news. I
say this because I suppose I must accept his own writing, but I, cannot
yet bring myself to believe that he can be alive.”
Verisschenzko was silent for a moment, then he asked:
“May I see my Lady Amaryllis?”
“Yes, she told me to bring you to her as soon as I should have
explained to you the whole affair. Come now.”
They went up the stairs together, and they hardly spoke a word. And
when they reached the cedar parlour Denzil let Verisschenzko go in in
front of him.
“I have brought Stepan to you,” he told Amaryllis. “I am going to
leave you to talk now.”
Amaryllis was white as milk and her grey eyes were disturbed and
very troubled. She held out her two hands to Verisschenzko and he
kissed them with affectionate worship.
“Lady of my Soul!”
“Oh! Stepan,—comfort me—give me counsel. It is such a terrible
moment in my life. What am I to do?”
“It is indeed difficult for you—we must think it all out—”
“Poor John—I ought to be glad that he is alive, and I
am—really—only, oh! Stepan, I love Denzil so dearly. It is all too
awfully complicated. What so greatly astonishes me about it is that
John has not written deliriously, or as though he has lost his memory,
and yet if we had carried out his instructions and wishes we should be
married now, Denzil and I,—and he never alludes to the possibility of
this! It is written as though no complications could enter into the
“It sounds strange—may I see the letter?”
She got up and went over to the writing table and returned with a
packet and the envelope which contained the card. It was not one which
prisoners use as a rule; it had the picture of a German town on it and
the postmark on the envelope was of a place in Holland. Verisschenzko
read it carefully:
“I have been too ill to write before—I was taken prisoner in the
counter attack and was unconscious. I am sending this by the kindness
of a nurse through Holland. Everyone must have believed that I was
dead. I am longing for news of you, dearest. I shall soon be well. Do
not worry. I am going to be moved and will write again with address.
The writing was rather feeble as a very ill person's would naturally
be, but the name “John” was firm and very legible.
“You are certain that it is his writing?”
“Yes”—and then she handed him another letter from the
packet—John's last one to her. “You can see for yourself—it is the
Stepan took both over to the lamp, and was bending to examine them
when he gave a little cry:
“Sapristi!”—and instead of looking at the writings he sniffed
strongly at the card, and then again. Amaryllis watched him amazedly.
“The same! By the Lord, it is the work of Ferdinand. No one could
mistake his scent who had once smelt it. The muskrat, the scorpion! But
he has betrayed himself.”
Amaryllis grew paler as she came close beside him.
“Stepan, oh, tell me! What do you mean?”
“I believe this to be a forgery—the scent is a clue to me. Smell
it—there is a lingering sickly aroma round it. It came in an envelope,
you see,—that would preserve it. It is an Eastern perfume, very
heavy,—what do you say?”
She wrinkled her delicate nose:
“Yes, there is some scent from it. One perceives it at first and
then it goes off. Oh, Stepan, please do not torture me. Can you be
“I am absolutely certain that whether it is in John's writing or
not, Ferdinand, or some one who uses his unique scent, has touched that
card. Now we must investigate everything.”
He walked up and down the room in agitation for a few moments;
talking rapidly to himself—half in Russian—Amaryllis caught bits.
“Ferdinand—how to his advantage? None. What then? Harietta?
Harietta—but why for her?”
Then he sat down and stared into the fire, his yellow-green eyes
blazing with intelligence, his clear brain balancing up things. But now
he did not speak his thoughts aloud.
“She is jealous. I remember—she imagined that it is my child. She
believes I may marry Amaryllis. It is as plain as day!”
He jumped up and excitedly held out his hands.
“Let us fetch Denzil,” he cried joyously. “I can explain
Amaryllis left the room swiftly and called when she got outside his
He joined them in a second or two—there as he was, in a blue silk
dressing gown, as he had just been going to dress for dinner.
He looked from one face to the other anxiously and Stepan
“I think that the card is a forgery, Denzil. I believe it to have
been written by Ferdinand Ardayre—at the instigation of Harietta
Boleski. She would have means to obtain the postcard, and have it sent
through Holland too.”
“But why—why should she?” Amaryllis exclaimed in wonderment. “What
possible reason could she have for wishing to be so cruel to us. We
were always very nice to her, as you know.”
Verisschenzko laughed cynically.
“She was jealous of you all the same. But Denzil, I track it by the
scent. I know Ferdinand uses that scent,” he held out the card.
Denzil sniffed as Amaryllis had done.
“It is so faint I should not have remarked it unless you had told
me—but I daresay if it was a scent one had smelt before, one would be
struck by it! But how are you going to prove it, Stepan? We shall have
to have convincing proof—because I am the only witness of poor John's
death, and it could easily be said that I am too deeply interested to
be reliable. For God's sake, old friend, think of some way of making a
“I have a way which I can enforce as soon as I reach Paris.
Meanwhile say nothing to any one and put the thought of it out of your
heads. The evidence of your own eyes convinced you that John is dead;
you found it difficult to accept that he was alive even when seeing
what appeared to be his own writing, but if I assure you that this is
forged you can be at peace. Is it not so?”
Amaryllis' lips were trembling; the shock and then this counter
shock were unhinging her. She was horrified at herself that she should
not catch at every straw to prove John was alive, instead of feeling
some sense of relief when Verisschenzko protested that the postcard was
Poor John! Good, and kind, and unselfish. It was all too agitating.
But was just life such a very great thing? She knew that had she the
choice she would rather be dead than separated now from Denzil. And if
John were really to be alive—what misery he would be obliged to
suffer, knowing the situation.
“Quite apart from what to me is a convincing proof, the scent,”
Verisschenzko went on, “the card must be a forgery because of John's
seeming oblivion of the possibility that you two might have already
carried out his wishes. All this would have been very unlike him. But
if it is, as I think, Ferdinand's and Harietta Boleski's work, they
would not be likely to know that John had desired that Denzil should
marry you, Amaryllis, and so would have thought a short card with
longings to see you would be a natural thing to write. Indeed you can
be at rest. And now I will go and dress for dinner, and we will forget
Amaryllis and Denzil will always remember Stepan's wonderful tact
and goodness to them that evening; he kept everything calm and thrilled
them all with his stories and his conversation and his own wonderfully
magnetic personality. And after dinner he played to them in the green
drawing room and, as Mrs. Ardayre said, seemed to bring peace and
healing to all their troubled souls.
But when he was alone with Denzil late, after the two women had
retired to bed, he sunk into a deep chair in the smoking room and
suddenly burst into a peal of cynical laughter.
“What the devil's up?” demanded Denzil, astonished.
“I am thinking of Harietta's exquisite mistake. She believes the
baby is mine! She is mad with a goat's jealousy; she supposes it is I
who will marry Amaryllis—hence her plot! Does it not show how the good
are protected and the evil fall into their own traps!”
“Of course! She was in love with you!”
“In love! Mon Dieu! you call that love! I mastered her body and was
unobtainable. She was never able to draw me more than a person could to
whom I should pay two hundred francs. She knew that perfectly—it
enraged her always. The threads are now completely in my hands.
Conceive of it, Denzil! The man at the Ardayre ball was her first
husband for whom she always retained some kind of animal
affection—because he used to beat her. They married her to Stanislass
just to obtain the secrets of Poland, and any other thing which she
could pick' up. Her marvellous stupidity and incredible want of all
moral restraint has made her the most brilliant spy. No principles to
hamper her—nothing. She has only tripped up through jealousy now. When
she felt that she had lost me she grew to desire me with the only part
of her nature with which she desires anything, her flesh—then she
became unbalanced, and in September before I left, gave the clue into
my hands. I shall not bore you with all the details, but I have them
both—she and Ferdinand Ardayre. The first husband has gone back to
Germany from Sweden, but we shall secure him, too, presently. Meanwhile
I shall hand Harietta to the French authorities—her last exploits are
against France. She has enabled the Germans to shoot six or seven brave
fellows, besides giving information of the most important kind wormed
from foolish elderly adorers and above all from Stanislass himself.”
“She will be shot, I suppose.”
“Probably. But first she shall confess about the postcard from the
prison camp. I shall go to Paris immediately, Denzil; there must be no
“You will not feel the slightest twinge because she was your
mistress, if she is shot, Stepan? I ask because the combination of
possible emotions is interesting and unusual.”
“Not for an instant—” and suddenly Verisschenzko's yellow-green
eyes flashed fire and his face grew transfigured with fierce hate. “You
do not know the affection I had for Stanislass from my boyhood—he was
my leader, my ideal. No paltry aims—a great pioneer of freedom on the
sanest lines. He might have altered the history of our two
countries—he was the light we need, and this foul, loathsome creature
has destroyed not only his soul and his body, but the protector and
defender of a conception of freedom which might have been realised. I
would strangle her with my own hands.”
“Stanislass must have been a weakling, Stepan, to have let her
destroy him. He could never have ruled. It strikes me that this is the
proof of another of your theories. It must be some debt of his previous
life that he is paying to this woman. He was given his chance to use
strength against her and failed.”
The hate died out of Verisschenzko's face—and the look of calm
“Yes, you are right, Denzil. You are wiser than I. So I shall not
give her up, for punishment of her crimes. I shall only give her up
because of justice—she must not be at large. You see, even in my
case,—I who pride myself on being balanced, can have my true point of
view obsessed by hate. It is an ignoble passion, my son!”
“You will catch Ferdinand too?”
“Undoubtedly—he is just a rotten little snipe, but he does mischief
as Harietta's tool—and through his business in Holland.”
“He loathes the English—that is his reason, but Madame Boleski has
no incentive like that.”
“Harietta has no country—she would be willing to betray any one of
them to gratify any personal desire. If she had been a patriot
exclusively working for Germany, one could have respected her, but she
has often betrayed their secrets to me—for jewels—and other things
she required at the moment. No mercy can be shown at all.”
“In these days there is no use in having sentiment just because a
spy is a woman—but I am glad it is not my duty to deliver her up.”
“I cannot help my nature, Denzil,—or rather the attributes of the
nation into which in this life I am born. I shall hand Harietta over to
justice without a regret.”
Then they parted for the night with much of the disturbance and the
complex emotions removed from Denzil's heart.
When Verisschenzko reached Paris and discovered the desecration of
the Ikon, an icy rage came over him. He knew, even before questioning
his old servant, that it could only be the work of Harietta. Jealousy
alone would be the cause of such a wanton act. It revealed to him the
certainty of his theory that she had imagined the little Benedict to be
his child. No further proof that the postcard was a forgery was really
needed, but he would see her once more and obtain extra confirmation.
His yellow-green eyes gleamed in a curious way as he stood looking
at the mutilated picture.
That her ridiculous and accursed hatpin should have dared to touch
the eyes of his soul's lady, and scratch out the face of the child!
But he must not let this emotion of personal anger affect what he
intended in any case to do from motives of justice. In the morning he
would give all his proofs of her guilt to the French authorities, and
let the law take its course—but to-night he would make her come there
to his apartment and hear from him an indictment of her crimes.
He sat down in the comfortable chair in his own sitting room and
began to think.
His face was ominous; all the fierce passions of his nation and of
his nature held him for a while.
His dog, an intelligent terrier whom he loved, sat there before the
fire and watched him, wagging his stump of a tail now and then
nervously, but not daring to approach. Then, after half an hour had
gone by, he rose and went to the telephone. He called up the Universal
and asked to be put through to the apartment of Madame Boleski, and
soon heard Harietta's voice. It was a little anxious—and yet insolent
“Yes? Is that you Stepan! Darling Brute! What do you want?”
“You—cannot you come and dine with me to-night—alone?”
His voice was honey sweet, with a spontaneous, frank ring in it,
only his face still looked as a fiend's.
“You have just arrived? How divine!”
“This instant, so I rushed at once to the telephone. I long for
He allowed passion to quiver in the last notes—he must be sure that
she would be drawn.
“He cannot have opened the doors of the Ikon,” Harietta thought. “I
will go—to see him again will be worth it anyway!”
“All right!—in half an hour!”
“Soit,”—and he put the receiver down.
Then he went again to the Ikon and examined the doors; by slamming
them very hard and readjusting one small golden nail, he could give the
fastening the appearance of its having been jammed and impossible to
open. He ordered a wonderful dinner and some Chateau Ykem of 1900.
Harietta, he remembered, liked it better than Champagne. Its sweetness
and its strength appealed to her taste. The room was warm and
delightful with its blazing wood fire. He looked round before he went
to dress, and then he laughed softly, and again Fin nervously wagged
his stump of a tail.
Harietta arrived punctually. She had made herself extremely
beautiful. Her overmastering desire to see Verisschenzko had allowed
her usually keen sense of self-preservation partially to sleep. But
even so, underneath there was some undefined sense of uneasiness.
Stepan met her in the hall, and greeted her in his usual abrupt way
“You will leave your cloak in my room,” he suggested, wishing to
give her the chance to look at the Ikon's jammed doors and so put her
at her ease.
The moment she found herself alone, she went swiftly to the shrine.
She examined it closely—no the bolt had not been mended. She pulled at
the doors but she could not open them, and she remembered with relief
that she had slammed them hard. That would account for things. He
certainly could not yet know of her action. The evening would be one of
pleasure after all! And there was never any use in speculating about
Verisschenzko was waiting for her in the sitting-room, and they went
straight in to dinner. A little table was drawn up to the fire; all
appeared deliciously intimate, and Harietta's spirits rose.
To her Verisschenzko appeared the most attractive creature on earth.
Indeed, he had a wonderful magnetism which had intoxicated many women
before her day. He was looking at her now with eyes unclouded by
glamour. He saw that she was painted and obvious, and without real
charm. She could no longer even affect his senses. He saw nothing but
the reality, the animal, blatant reality, and in his memory there
remained the pierced out orbs of the Virgin and the scratched face of
the Christ child.
Everything fierce and cunning in his nature was in action—he was
glorying in the torture he meant to inflict, the torture of jealousy
and unsatisfied suspicion.
He talked subtly, deliberately stirring her curiosity and arousing
her apprehension. He had not mentioned Amaryllis, and yet he had
conveyed to her, as though it were an unconscious admission, that he
had been in England with her, and that she reigned in his soul. Then he
used every one of his arts of fascination so that all Harietta's
desires were inflamed once more, and by the time she had eaten of the
rich Russian dishes and drank of the Chateau Ykem she was experiencing
the strongest emotion she had ever known in her life, while a sense of
impotence to move him augmented her other feelings.
Her eyes swam with passion, as she leaned over the table whispering
words of the most violent love in his ears.
Verisschenzko remained absolutely unstirred.
“How silly you were to send that postcard to Lady Ardayre,” he
remarked contemplatively in the middle of one of her burning sentences.
“It was not worthy of your usual methods—a child could see that it was
a forgery. If you had not done that I might have made you very happy
to-night—for the last time—my little goat!”
“Stepan—what card? But you are going to make me happy anyway,
darling Brute; that is what I have come for, and you know it!”
Her eyes were not so successfully innocent as usual when she lied.
She was uneasy at his stolidity, some fear stayed with her that perhaps
he meant not to gratify her desires just to be provoking. He had teased
her more than once before.
Verisschenzko went on, lighting his cigarette calmly:
“It was a silly plot—Ferdinand Ardayre wrote it and you dictated
it; I perceived the whole thing at once. You did it because you were
jealous of Lady Ardayre—you believe that I love her—”
“I do not know anything about a card, but I am jealous about
that hateful bit of bread and butter,” and her eyes flashed. “It is so
unlike you to worry over such a creature—I'm what you like!”
He laughed softly. “A man has many sides—you appeal to his lowest.
Fortunately it is not in command of him all the time—but let me tell
you more about the forgery. You over-reached yourselves—you made John
ignore something which would have been his first thought, thus the
fraud was exposed at once.”
Her jealousy blazed up, so that she forgot herself and prudence.
“You mean about the child—your child—”
The ominous gleam came into Verisschenzko's eyes.
“My child—you spoke of it once before and I warned you—I never
She got up from the table and came and flung her arms round his
“Stepan, I love you—I love you! I would like to kill Amaryllis and
the child—I want you—why are you so changed?”
He only laughed scornfully again, while he disengaged her arms.
“Do you know how I found out? By the perfume—the same as you told
me must be that of Stanislass' mistress—on the handkerchief marked
'F.A.' The whole thing was dramatically childish. You thought to prove
her husband was still alive, would stop my marriage with Amaryllis
“Then you are going to marry her!”
Harietta's hazel eyes flashed fire, her face had grown distorted
with passion and her cheeks burned beyond the rouge.
She appeared a most revolting sight to Stepan. He watched her with
cold, critical eyes. As she put out her hands he noticed how the thumbs
turned right back. How had he ever been able to touch her in the past!
He shivered with disgust and degradation at the thought.
She saw his movement of repulsion, and completely lost her head.
She flung herself into his arms and almost strangled him in her
furious embrace, while she threw all restraint to the winds and poured
out a torrent of passion, intermingled with curses for one who had
dared to try and rob her of this adored mate.
It was a wonderful and very sickening exhibition, Verisschenzko
thought. He remained as a statue of ice. Then when she had exhausted
herself a little, he spoke with withering calm.
“Control yourself, Harietta; such emotion will leave ugly lines, and
you cannot afford to spoil the one good you possess. I have not the
least desire for you—I find that you look plain and only bore me. But
now listen to me for a little—I have something to say!” His voice
changed from the cynical callousness to a deep note of gravity: “You
need not even tell me in words that you sent the forgery—you have
given me ample proof. That subject is finished—but I will make you
listen to the recital of some of your vile deeds.” The note grew
sterner and his eyes held her cowed. “Ah! what instruments of the devil
are such women as you—possessing the greatest of all power over men
you have used it only for ill—wherever you have passed there is a
trail of degradation and slime. Think of Stanislass! A man of fine
purpose and lofty ideals. What is he now? A poor lifeless semblance of
a man with neither brain nor will. You have used him—not even to
gratify your own low lust, but to betray countries—and one of them
your husband's country, which ought to have been your own.”
She sank to her knees at his side; he went on mercilessly. He spoke
of many names which she knew, and then he came to Ferdinand Ardayre.
“They tell me he is drinking and sodden with morphine, and raves
wildly of you. Think of them all—where are they now? Dead many of
them—and you have survived and prospered like a vampire, sucking their
blood. Do you ever think of a human being but your own degraded self?
You would sacrifice your nearest and dearest for a moment's personal
gain. You are not caught and strangled because the outside good natures
come easily to you. It makes things smooth to smile and commit little
acts of showy kindness which cost you nothing. You live and breathe and
have your being like a great maggot fattening on a putrid corpse. I
blush to think that I have ever used your body for my own ends,
loathing you all the time. I have watched you cynically when I should
have wrung your neck.”
She sobbed hoarsely and held out her hands.
“For all these things you might still have gone free, Harietta—and
fate would punish you in time, but you have committed that great crime
for which there can be no mercy. You have acted the part of a spy. A
wretched spy, not for patriotism but for your own ends—you have not
been faithful to either side. Have you not often given me the secrets
of your late husband Hans? Do you care one atom which country wins? Not
you. The whole sordid business has had only one aim—some personal
He paused—and she began to speak, now choking with rage, but he
motioned her to be silent.
“Do you think so lightly of the great issues which are shaking the
world that you imagine that you can do these things with impunity? I
tell you that soon you must pay the price. I am not the only one who
knows of your ways.”
She got up from the floor now and tossed her head. Important things
had never been to her realities—her fear left her. What agitated her
now was that Stepan, whom she adored, should speak to her in such a
tone. She threw herself into his arms once more, passionately
proclaiming her love.
He thrust her from him in shrinking disgust, and the cruel vein in
his character was aroused.
“Love!—do not dare to desecrate the name of love. You do not know
what it means. I do—and this shall always remain with you as a
remembrance. I love Amaryllis Ardayre. She is my ideal of a
woman—tender and restrained and true—I shall always lay my life at
her feet. I love her with a love such beings as you cannot dream of,
knowing only the senses and playing only to them. That will be your
knowledge always, that I worship and reverence this woman, and hold you
in supreme contempt.”
Harietta writhed and whined on the sofa where she had fallen.
“Go,” he went on icily. “I have no further use for you, and my car
is waiting below. You may as well avail yourself of it and return to
your hotel. In the morning the last proof of the interest I have taken
in you may be given, but to-night you can sleep.”
Harietta cried aloud—she was frightened at last. What did he mean?
But even fear was swallowed up in the frantic thought that he had done
with her, that he would never any more hold her in his arms. Her world
lay in ruins, he seemed the one and only good. She grovelled on the
floor and kissed his feet.
“Master, Master! Keep me near you—I will be your slave—”
But Verisschenzko pushed her gently aside with his foot and going to
a table near took up a cigarette. He lighted it serenely, glancing
indifferently at the dishevelled heap of a woman still crouching on the
“Enough of this dramatic nonsense,” and he blew a ring of smoke. “I
advise you to go quietly to bed—you may not sleep so softly on future
Fear overcame her again—what could he mean? She got up and held on
to the table, searching his face with burning eyes.
“Why should I not sleep so softly always?” and her voice was thick.
He laughed hoarsely.
“Who knows? Life is a gamble in these days. You must ask your
interesting German friend.”
She became ghastly white—that there was real danger was beginning
to dawn upon her. The rouge stood out like that on the painted face of
Verisschenzko remained completely unmoved. He pressed the bell, and
his Russian servant, warned beforehand, brought him in his fur coat and
hat, and assisted him to put them on.
“I will take Madame to get her cloak,” he announced calmly. “Wait
here to show us out.”
There was nothing for Harietta to do but follow him, as he went
towards the bedroom door. She was stunned.
He walked over to the Ikon, and slipping a paper knife under them
opened wide the doors; then he turned to her, and the very life melted
within her when she saw his face.
“This is your work,” and he pointed to the mutilations, “and for
that and many other things, Harietta, you shall at last pay the price.
Now come, I will take you back to your lover, and your husband—both
will be waiting and longing for your return. Come!”
She dropped on the floor and refused to move so that he was obliged
to call in the servant, and together they lifted her, the one holding
her up, while the other wrapped her in her cloak. Then, each supporting
her, they made their way down the stairs, and placed her in the waiting
motor, Verisschenzko taking the seat at her side—and so they drove to
the Universal. She should sleep to-night in peace and have time to
think over the events of the evening. But to-morrow he must no longer
delay about giving information to the authorities.
She cowered in the motor until they had almost reached the door,
when she flung her arms round his neck and kissed him wildly again,
sobbing with rage and terror:
“You shall not marry Amaryllis; I will kill you both first.”
He smiled in the darkness, and she felt that he was mocking her, and
suddenly turned and bit his arm, her teeth meeting in the cloth of his
He shook her off as he would have done a rat:
“Never quite apropos, Harietta! Always a little late! But here we
have arrived, and you will not care for your admirers, the concierge,
and the lift men, to see you in such a state. Put your veil over your
face and go quietly to your rooms. I will wish you a very
He got out and stood with mock respect uncovered to assist her, and
she was obliged to follow him. The hall porter and the numerous
personnel of the hotel were looking on.
He bowed once more and appeared to kiss her hand:
“Good-bye, Harietta! Sleep well.”
Then he re-entered the car and was whirled away.
She staggered for a second and then moved forward to the lift. But
as she went in, two tall men who had been waiting stepped forward and
joined her, and all three were carried aloft, and as she walked to her
salon she saw that they were following her.
“There will be no more kicks for thee, my Angel!” the maid, peeping
from a door, whispered exultingly to Fou-Chow! “Thy Marie has saved
thee at last!”
* * * * *
When Verisschenzko again reached his own sitting room he paced up
and down for half an hour. He was horribly agitated, and angry with
himself for being so.
Denzil had been right; when it came to the point, it was a ghastly
thing to have to do, to give a woman up to death—even though her
crimes amply justified such action.
And what was death?
To such a one as Harietta what would death mean?
A sinking into oblivion for a period, and then a rebirth in some
sphere of suffering where the first lessons of the meanings of things
might be learned? That would seem to be the probable working of the
law—so that she might eventually obtain a soul.
He must not speculate further about her though, he must keep his
And his own life—what would it now become? Would the spirit of
freedom, stirring in his beloved country, arrive at any good? Or would
the red current of revolution, once let loose, swamp all reason and
flow in rivers of blood?
He would be powerless to help if he let weakness overmaster him now.
The immediate picture looked black and hopeless to his far-seeing
But his place must be in Petrograd now, until the end. His
activities, which had obliged him to be away from Russia, were
finished, and new ones had begun which he must direct, there in the
heart of things.
“The world is aching for freedom, God,” his stormy thoughts ran,
“but we cannot hope to receive it until we have paid the price of the
aeons of greed and self-seeking which have held us, the ignorance, the
low material gain. We must now reap that sowing. The divine Christ—one
man—was enough as a sacrifice in that old period of the world's
day—but now there must be a holocaust of the bravest and best for our
He threw himself into his chair and gazed into the glowing embers.
What pictures were forming themselves there? Nations arising glorified
by a new religion of common sense, education universally enjoyed, the
great forces studied, and Nature's fundamental principles reckoned with
To hunt his food.
To recreate his species.
And to kill his enemy.
A bright blade sheathed but ready, a clear judgment trained and
used, ideals nobly striven for, and Wisdom the High Priest of God.
These were the visions he saw in the fire, and he started to his
feet and stretched out his arms.
“Strength, God! Strength!” that was his prayer.
“That we may go— Armoured and militant, New-pithed, new-souled,
new-visioned, up the steeps To those great altitudes whereat the weak
Live not, but only the strong Have leave to strive, and suffer, and
Then he sat down and wrote to Denzil.
“I have all the needed proofs, my friend. Marry my soul's lady in
peace and make her happy. There come some phases in a man's life which
require all his will to face. I hope I am no weakling. I return to
Russia immediately. Events there will enable me to blot out some
“The end is not yet. Indeed, I feel that my real life is only just
“Ferdinand Ardayre is deeply incriminated with Harietta; it is only
a question of a little time and he will be taken too. Then, Denzil,
you, in the natural course of events, would have been the Head of the
Family. You will need all your philosophy never to feel any jar in the
situation with your son as the years go on. You will have to look at it
squarely, dear old friend, and know that it is impossible to have
interfered with destiny and to have gone scott free. Then you will be
able to accept title affair with common sense and prize what you have
obtained, without spoiling it with futile regrets. You have paid most
of your score with wounds and suffering, and now can expect what
happiness the agony of the world can let a man enjoy.
“My blessings to you both and to the Ardayre son.
“And now adieu for a long time.”
He had hardly written the last line when the telephone rang, and the
frantic voice of Stanislass, his ancient friend, called to him!
Harietta had been taken away to St. Lazare—her maid had denounced
her. What could be done?
A great wave of relief swept over Stepan. So he was not to be the
instrument of justice after all!
How profoundly he thanked God!
But the irony of the thing shook him.
Harietta would pay with her life for having maltreated a dog!
Truly the workings of fate were marvellous.
The days in prison for Harietta, before and after her trial, were
days of frenzied terror, alternating with incredulity. She would not
believe that she was to die.
Stanislass and Ferdinand, and even Verisschenzko, would save her!
She loathed the hard bed at St. Lazare, and the discomfort, and the
ugliness, and the Sister of Charity!
She spent hours tramping her cell like a wild beast in a cage. She
would roar with inarticulate fury, and cry aloud to her husband, and
her lovers, one after another, and then she would cower in a corner,
shaking with fear.
The greatest pain of all was the thought that Stepan and Amaryllis
would marry and be happy. Once or twice foam gathered at the corners of
her lips when she thought of this.
If she could have reached Marie, that would have given her some
satisfaction—to tear out her eyes! For Ferdinand Ardayre had told her
how Marie had given her up, working quietly until she had all necessary
proofs, and then denouncing her.
When Stanislass had returned from the Club, whither she had
despatched him for the evening, so that she might be free to dine with
Verisschenzko, he found that she had already been taken away.
The shock, when he discovered that nothing could be done, had nearly
killed him—he now lay dangerously ill in a Maison de Sante, happily
unconscious of events.
For Ferdinand Ardayre the blow had fallen with crushing force. The
one strong thing in his weak nature was his passion for Harietta—and
to be robbed of her in such a way!
He battled impotently against fate, unable even to try to use any
means in his possession to get the death sentence commuted, because he
was too deeply implicated himself to make any stir.
He saw her in the prison after the trial, with the bars between and
the warders near. And the awful change in Tier paralysed him with
grief. On the morrow she was to die—the usual death of a spy.
Her hair was wild and her face without rouge was haggard and wan.
She implored him to save her.
The frightful pain of knowing that he could do nothing made
Ferdinand desperate, and then suddenly he became inspired with an idea.
He could at all events remove some of the agony of terror from her,
and enable her to go to her death without a hideous scene. He
remembered “La Tosca”—the same method might serve again!
He managed to whisper to her in broken sentences that she would
certainly be saved. The plan was all prepared, he assured her. The
rifles would contain blank cartridges, and she must pretend to
fall—and afterwards he would come, having bribed every one and made
the path smooth.
He lied so fervently that Harietta was convinced, her material brain
catching at any straw. She must dress herself and look her best, he
told her, so as to make an impression upon all the men concerned; and
then, when he had to leave her, he arranged with the prison doctor that
she might receive a strong piqure of morphine, so that she would
be serene. She spent the night dreaming quite happily and at four
o'clock was awakened and began to dress.
The drug had calmed all her terrors and her dramatic instinct held
She arranged her toilet with the utmost care, using all her arts to
beautify herself. In her ears were Stanislass' ruby earrings and she
wore Stepan's ring and brooch.
Death to her was an impossibility—she had never seen any one die.
It was a wonderfully fine part she would have to play, with
Ferdinand there really going to save her! That was all! She must even
be sweet at last to the poor sister, whom she had snarled at hitherto.
If she could only have seen Stepan once more! Stanislass and his
broken life and fond devotion never gave her a thought or troubled her
at all. After she was free, she would find some means to pay out Hans!
She hated him. If it had not been for Hans and his tiresome old higher
command with their stupid intrigues, she would still be free. That she
had betrayed countries—that she was guilty in any way never presented
itself to her mind.
All Verisschenzko's passionate indictment had fallen upon unheeding
ears. The morphine now left her only sufficiently conscious for
fundamental instincts to act.
She felt that she was a beautiful woman going to be the chief figure
in a wonderfully dramatic scene. Nothing solemn had touched her. Her
brain was light and now only filled with cunning and coqueterie;
she meant to charm her guards and executioners to the last man! And
ready at length, she walked nonchalantly out of the prison and into the
waiting car which was to carry her to Vincennes.
Now the end of all this is best told in the words of a young French
soldier who was an eye witness and wrote the whole thing down. To pen
the hideous horror I find too difficult a task.
“Sunday—11 in the evening.
“We had only returned at that moment from our day's leave, when the
Lieutenant came to us to announce that we should be of the piquet
to-morrow morning for the execution of Madame Boleski, the spy.
“He said this to us in his monotonous voice as though he had been
saying 'To-morrow—Revue d'Armes'—but for us, after a whole day
passed far from barracks, it was a rather brusque return to military
“At once it became necessary that we look through our accountrements
for the show. No small affair! and for more than an hour there was
brushing and polishing of straps and buckles. It was nearly two o'clock
in the morning before we could turn in.
“Many of us could not sleep—we are all between eighteen and
nineteen years old, and the idea to see a woman killed agitated us. But
little by little the whole band dozed.”
“At four o'clock—reveille. We dress in haste in the dark. Ten
minutes later we all find ourselves in the courtyard.
“'A droit alignement couvres sur deux.'
“The Lieutenant made the call.”
* * * * *
“The detachment moves off in the night, marching in slow
cadence—that step which so peculiarly gives the impression of
restrained force and condensed power.
“We leave the fort and gain the artillery butts—true landscape of
the front! Trenches, stripped trees, abandoned wagons!
“And in the middle of all that—our silhouettes of carbines, casques
“We stop—we advance—and suddenly in the dawn which has begun, we
arrive at our destination—the execution ground.
“'Cannoniers—halte! Couvres sur deux. A droite alignement.'“
“A rattle of arms. And there in front of us, at hardly fifteen
yards, we catch sight of the post.
“Up till now we had scarcely felt anything—just startled
impressions, almost of curiosity, but now I begin to experience the
first strong sensation.
“The post! Symbol of all this sinister ceremony. A short post—not
higher than one's shoulder! There it stands in front of the shooting
butts. And to think that nearly every Monday—”
* * * * *
“Now the troops from the Square, which is in reality rectangular,
the shooting butt constituting one of its sides. Then in the grim dawn
we wait quietly for what is to come. One after another, we see several
automobiles approach, and each time we ask ourselves, 'Is not this the
“No—they are journalists—officers—avocats—and presently a
hearse, out of which is lifted the coffin.
“The undertakers' men, who presently will proceed to the business of
placing the body there, laugh and talk together as they sit and smoke.
They are old habitues!“
“One was cold standing still! It begins to be quite light. The
condemned one may arrive at any moment, because the execution has been
fixed for exactly at the rising of the sun.
“The men of the platoon load their rifles. The number of them is
twelve—four sergeants, four corporals, four soldiers.
“And then there are the Chasseurs a pied.”
“All of a sudden, two more cars appear, escorted by a company of
“This time it is She.
“They stop—out of the first one, officers descend. The Commissaire
of the Government who has, condemned Madame Boleski to death and who
had gone a little more than an hour ago to awake her in her cell. The
Captain, reporter, and two other Captains. The door of the second auto
opens, two gendarmes get out—a Sister of St. Lazare (what a terrible
metier for her!)—and then Harietta Boleski!
“And at once, accompanied by the nun and followed by the gendarmes,
she penetrates into the square of men.
“Until now we have been enduring a period of waiting, we have been
asking ourselves if it will have an effect upon us—but now we have no
more doubt. The effect has begun!
“All together we render honour to the dead woman—for one considers
a person condemned as already dead. And the bugles begin to play the
March—Do sol do do Sol do do, Mi mi mi—
“They play slowly—very softly and in the minor key.
“Harietta Boleski walks quickly, the sister can hardly keep by her
side. She is tall, beautiful, very elegant. A large hat with floating
lace veil thrown back and splendid earrings. A dark dress—pretty
“She looks at the troops and the piquet d'execution a little
disdainfully, and then she smiles gaily—it is almost a titter. The
sister taps her gently on the shoulder, as if to recall her to a sense
of order, but she makes one careless gesture and walks up to the post.
“The bugles are sounding plaintively, slowly and more slowly all the
“She pauses in front of us—and with us it is now, 'Does this make
us feel something?' We must hold ourselves not to grow faint.
“To see this woman go by with the trumpets sounding ever. To say to
ourselves that in sixty seconds she will be no more. There will be no
life in that beautiful body. Ah! that is an emotion, believe me!
“Never has the great problem been brought more forcibly before my
“It is during the second when she passes before me that I receive
the most profound impression, more even than at the actual moment of
* * * * *
“Harietta Boleski is beside the post. The bugles stop their mournful
sound. They tie her to it, but not tightly, only so that her fall may
not be too hard. A gendarme presents her with a bandeau for her eyes,
which she pushes aside with scorn.
“And when an officer reads the sentence, Harietta Boleski smiles.”
* * * * *
“At twelve yards the platoon is lined up. The sentence has been
“Madame Boleski embraces the Sister of Charity, who is very
overcome. She even whispers a few words to comfort her. They stand back
from the post. The adjutant who commands the platoon raises his
sword—the rifles come in into position—two seconds—and the sword
* * * * *
* * * * *
“Harietta Boleski is no more.
“The fair body drops to earth and immediately an Adjutant of
Dragoons goes swiftly to the post, revolver pointed, and gives the
coup de grace.
“'Arme sur l'epaule—Droit. A droit. En avant. Marche!'
“And we file past the corpse while the trumpets recommence to sound.
“Harietta Boleski is lying down. She seems to be only reposing, so
beautiful she looks.
“The ball had entered her heart (we knew this later) so that her
death has been instantaneous.
“All the troops have defiled before her now.
“We regain our quarters.
“But as we file into the courtyard the sun gilds the highest window
of the fortress. The day has begun.”
* * * * *
Thus perished Harietta Boleski in the thirty-seventh year of her
age—in the midst of the zest of life. The times are to strenuous for
So perish all spies!