by Edith Wharton
ON SEPTEMBER 8, 1914, Charley Durand stood helplessly blinking
through his spectacles at the throng of fugitives which the Folkestone
train had just poured out on the platform of Charing Cross.
He was aware of a faint haze on the spectacles, which he usually
kept clear of the slightest smirch. It had been too prolonged, too
abominable, too soul-searching, the slow torture of his hours of travel
with the stricken multitude in which he had found himself entangled on
the pier at Boulogne.
Charley Durand, professor of Romance languages in a Western
university, had been spending the first weeks of a hard-earned
sabbatical holiday in wandering through Flanders and Belgium, and on
the fatal second of August had found himself at Louvain, whose
university a year or two previously had honored him with a degree.
He had left Belgium at once, and deeply disturbed by the
dislocation of his plans had carried his shaken nerves to a lost corner
of Normandy, where he had spent the ensuing weeks in trying to think
the war would soon be over.
It was not that he was naturally hard or aloof about it, or wanted
to be; but the whole business was so contrary to his conception of the
universe and his fagged mind at the moment was so incapable of prompt
readjustment that he needed time to steady himself. Besides, his
conscience told him that his first duty was to get back unimpaired to
the task which just enabled him to keep a mother and two sisters above
want. His few remaining francs had gone to the various relief funds
whose appeals penetrated even to his lost corner; and he therefore
decided that the prudent course, now that everybody said the horror was
certainly going to last till November, would be to slip over to cheap
lodgings in London and bury his nose in the British Museum.
This decision, as it chanced, had coincided with the annihilation
of Louvain and Malines. News of the rapid German advance had not
reached him; but at Boulogne he had found himself caught in the central
eddy of fugitives, tossed about among them like one of themselves,
pitched on the boat with them, dealt with compassionately but firmly by
the fagged officials at Folkestone, jammed into a cranny of the endless
train, had chocolate and buns thrust on him by ministering angels with
high heels and powdered noses, and shyly passed these refreshments on
to the fifteen dazed fellow travelers packed into his compartment.
His first impulse had been to turn back and fly the sight at any
cost. But his luggage had already passed out of his keeping, and he had
not the courage to forsake it. Moreover, a slight congenital lameness
made flight in such circumstances almost impossible. So after a
fugitive had come down heavily on his lame foot he resigned himself to
keeping in the main current and letting it sweep him onto the boat.
Once on board he had hastened to isolate himself behind a funnel,
in an airless corner reeking of oil and steam, while the refugees,
abandoned to unanimous seasickness, became for the time an
indistinguishable animal welter. But the run to London had brought him
into closer contact with them. It was impossible to sit for three
mortal hours with an unclaimed little boy on one's lap, opposite a
stony-faced woman holding a baby that never stopped crying, and not
give them something more than what remained of one's chocolate and
buns. The woman with the child was bad enough; though perhaps less
perversely moving than the little blond thing with long soiled gloves
who kept staring straight ahead and moaning "My furs! Oh, my furs!" But
worst of all was the old man at the other end of the compartment, the
motionless old man in a frayed suit of professorial black, with a face
like a sallow bust on a bracket in a university library.
It was the face of Durand's own class and of his own profession,
and it struck him as something not to be contemplated without dire
results to his nervous system. He was glad the old man did not speak to
him, but only waved away with a silent bow the sandwich he awkwardly
offered; and glad that he himself was protected by a slight stammer,
which agitation always increased, from any attempt at sustained
conversation with the others. But in spite of these safeguards the run
to London was dreadful.
On the platform at Charing Cross he stood motionless, trying to
protect his lame leg and yet to take up as little room as possible,
while he waited for the tide to flow by and canalize itself. There was
no way in which he could help the doomed wretches; he kept repeating
that without its affording him the least relief. He had given away his
last available penny, keeping barely enough to pay for a few frugal
weeks in certain grimy lodgings he knew of off Bedford Square; and he
could do nothing for the moment but take up as little space as possible
till a break in the crowd should let him hobble through to freedom. But
that might not be for another hour; and meanwhile helplessly he gazed
at the scene through misty spectacles.
The refugees were spread out about him in a stagnant mass, through
which, over which almost, there squeezed, darted, skimmed and
criss-crossed the light battalions of the benevolent. People with
badges were everywhere, philanthropists of both sexes and all ages,
sorting, directing, exhorting, contradicting, saying "Wee, wee," and
"Oh, no," and "This way, please. Oh, dear, what is 'this way' in
French?" and "I beg your pardon, but that bed warmer belongs to my old
woman"; and industriously adding, by all the means known to
philanthropy, to the distress and bewilderment of their victims.
Durand saw the old professor slip by alone, as if protected by his
silent dignity. He saw other stricken faces that held benevolence at
bay. One or two erect old women with smooth hair and neat black bonnets
gave him a sharper pang than the disheveled; and he watched with
positive anguish a mother pausing to straighten her little boy's
Suddenly he was aware of a frightened touch on his arm.
"Oh, monsieur, je roux en prie, venez! Do come!"
The voice was a reedy pipe, the face that of a little elderly lady
so frail and dry and diaphanous that she reminded him in her limp,
dust-colored garments of a last year's moth shaken out of the curtains
of an empty room.
"Je roux en prie!" she repeated, with a plaintive stress on the
last word. Her intonation was not exactly French, but he supposed it
was some variety of provincial Belgian, and wondered why it sounded so
unlike anything he had been hearing. Her face was as wild as anything
so small and domesticated could be. Tears were running down her thin
cheeks, and the hand on his sleeve twitched in its cotton glove. "Mais
oui, mais oui," he found himself reassuring her. Her look of anxiety
disappeared, and as he drew the cotton glove through his arm the tears
seemed to be absorbed into her pale wrinkles.
"So many of them obviously want to be left alone; here's one who
wants to be looked after," he thought to himself, with a whimsical
satisfaction in the discovery, as he yielded to the gentle pull on his
He was of a retiring nature, and compassion, far from making him
expansive, usually contracted his faculties to the point of cowardice;
but the scenes he had traversed were so far beyond any former vision of
human wretchedness that all the defenses of his gentle egotism had
broken down and he found himself suddenly happy and almost proud at
having been singled out as a rescuer. He understood the passionate wish
of all the rescuers to secure a refugee and carry him or her away in
triumph against all competitors; and while his agile mind made a rapid
sum in division his grasp tightened on the little old lady's arm and he
muttered to himself: "They shan't take her from me if I have to live on
With a victim on his arm — and one who looked the part so
touchingly — it was easier to insinuate his way through the crowd, and
he fended off all the attempts of fair highwaymen to snatch his prize
from him with an energy in which the prize ably seconded him.
"No, no, no!" she repeated in soft, piping English, tightening her
clutch as he tightened his; and presently he discovered that she had
noticed his lameness, and with her free hand was making soft fierce
dabs at the backs and ribs that blocked their advance.
"You're lame too. Did they do it?" she whispered, falling into
French again; and he said chivalrously: "Oh, yes — but it wasn't their
"The savages! I shall never feel in that way about them — though
it's noble of you," she murmured; and the inconsequence of this
ferocity toward her fellow sufferers struck him as rather refreshingly
feminine. Like most shy men he was dazzled by unreasonable women.
"Are you in very great pain?" she continued as they reached the
"Oh, no — not at all. I beg you won't — The trouble is — " he
broke off, confronted by an unforeseen difficulty.
"What is your trouble?" she sighed, leaning her little head toward
"Why — I — the fact is I don't know London; or England; jamais
ete," he confessed, merging the two languages in a vain effort at
"But of course — why should you? Only trust me."
"Ah, you do know it, then?"
What luck to have found a refugee who could take care of him! He
vowed her half his worldly goods on the spot.
"She was busy signaling a hansom, and did not answer. "Is this all
A porter had followed with it. He felt that he ought to have been
asking her for hers, but dared not, fearing a tragic answer. He
supposed she had been able to bring away nothing but her shabby cloak
and the little knobby bag that had been prodding his ribs ever since
they had linked arms.
"How lucky to have been able to save so much!" she sighed as his
bags and boxes were laboriously hoisted to the hansom.
"Yes — in such a struggle," he agreed; and wondered if she was a
little flighty as she added: "I suppose you didn't bring your mattress?
Not that it matters in the very least. Quick, get in!" she shrieked out
abruptly, pushing him past her into the hansom, and adding as she
scrambled in and snapped the doors shut: "My sister-in-law — she's so
grasping — I don't want her to see us."
She pushed up the lid and cried out a name unfamiliar to her
companion, but to which horse and driver instantly responded.
Durand sank back without speaking. He was bewildered and
disconcerted, and her last words had shocked him. "My sister-in-law —
she's so grasping." The refugees, then, poor souls, were torn by the
same family jealousies as more prosperous mortals. Affliction was
supposed to soften, but apparently in such monstrous doses it had the
opposite effect. He had noticed on the journey symptoms of this
reciprocal distrust among the herded creatures. It was no doubt
natural: but he wished his little refugee had not betrayed the
The thought of the sister-in-law they were deserting — perhaps as
helpless and destitute as his own waif — brought a protest to his
"Ought — oughtn't we to take her with us? Hadn't we better turn
"For Caroline? Oh, no, non, no!" She screamed it in every tongue.
"Cher monsieur, please! She's sure to have her own. Such heaps of
Ah — it was jealousy then; jealousy of the more favored
sister-in-law, who was no doubt younger and handsomer, and had been
fought over by rival rescuers, while she, poor pet, had had to single
one out for herself. Well, Durand felt he would not have exchanged her
for a beauty — so frail, fluttered, plaintive did she seem, so small a
vessel to contain so great a woe.
Suddenly it struck him that it was she who had given the order to
the driver. He was more and more bewildered, and ashamed of his visible
"Where are we going?" he faltered.
"For tea — there's plenty of time, I do assure you; and I'm
fainting for a little food."
"So am I," he admitted; adding to himself: "I'll feed the poor
thing, and then we'll see what's to be done."
How he wished he hadn't given away all but his last handful of
shillings! His poverty had never been so humiliating to him. What right
had he to be pretending to help a refugee? It was as much as he could
do to pay the hansom and give her her tea. And then? A dampness of fear
broke over him, and he cursed his cowardice in not having told her at
once to make another choice.
"But supposing nobody else had taken her?" he thought, stealing a
look at her small pointed profile and the pale wisps of hair under her
draggled veil. Her insignificance was complete, and he decided that he
had probably been her last expedient.
It would be odd if it proved that she was also his. He remembered
hearing that some of the rich refugees had been able to bring their
money with them, and his mind strayed away to the whimsical possibility
of being offered a post with emoluments by the frightened creature who
was so determined not to let him go.
"If only I knew London," he thought regretfully, "I might be worth
a good salary to her. The queer thing is that she seems to know it
Both sat silent, absorbed in their emotions.
It was certainly an odd way to be seeing London for the first time;
but he was glad to be traveling at horse pace instead of whirling
through his thronged sensations in a motor cab.
"Trafalgar Square — yes. How clever of you! Les Lions de Milord
Nelson!" she explained.
They drove on, past palaces and parks.
"Maison du Grand Duc. Arc de triomphe de marbre," she successively
enlightened him, sounding like a gnat in a megaphone. He leaned and
gazed, forgetting her and himself in an ecstasy of assimilation. In the
golden autumn haze London loomed mightier and richer than his best
dreams of it.
THE hansom stopped and they entered a modest tea room not too densely
"I wanted to get away from that awful mob," she explained, pushing
back her veil as they seated themselves at a table with red-and-white
napkins and a britannia sugar bowl.
"Crumpets — lots of crumpets and jam," she instructed a disdainful
girl in a butterfly cap, who languished away with the order to the back
of the shop.
"Durand sat speechless, overwhelmed by his predicament. Tea and
crumpets were all very well — but afterward, what?
He felt that his silence was becoming boorish, and leaned forward
over the metal teapot. At the same instant his protegee leaned, too,
and simultaneously they brought out the question:
"Where were you when it broke out?"
"At Louvain," he answered; and she shuddered.
"Louvain — how terrible!"
"And you, madame?"
"I? At Brussels."
"How terrible!" he echoed.
"Yes." Her eyes filled with tears. "I had such kind friends there."
"Ah, of course. Naturally."
She poured the tea and pushed his cup to him. The haughty girl
reappeared with sodden crumpets, which looked to him like manna steeped
in nectar. He tossed off his tea as if it had been champagne, and
courage began to flow through his veins. Never would he desert the
simple creature who had trusted him! Let no one tell him that an
able-bodied man with brains and education could not earn enough in a
city of this size to support himself and this poor sparrow.
The sparrow had emptied her cup, too, and a soft pink suffused her
cheeks, effacing the wrinkles, which had perhaps been only lines of
worry. He began to wonder if after all she was much more than forty.
Rather absurd for a man of his age to have been calling a woman of
forty an old lady!
Suddenly he saw that the sense of security, combined with the hot
tea and the crumpets, was beginning to act on her famished system like
a dangerous intoxicant, and that she was going to tell him everything
— or nearly everything. She bent forward, her elbows on the table, the
cotton gloves drawn off her thin hands, which were nervously clenched
under her chin. He noticed a large sapphire on one of them.
"I can't tell you — I can't tell you how happy I am!" she faltered
with swimming eyes.
He remained silent, through sheer embarrassment, and she went on:
"You see, I'd so completely lost hope — so completely. I thought no
one would ever want me. They all told me at home that no one would —
my nieces did, and everybody. They taunted me with it." She broke off
and glanced at him appealingly. "You do understand English, don't you?"
He assented, still more bewildered, and she went on: "Oh, then it's
so much easier — then we can really talk! No — our train doesn't
leave for nearly two hours. You don't mind my talking, do you? You'll
let me make a clean breast of it? I must!"
She touched with a clawlike finger the narrow interval between her
shoulders and added: "For weeks I've been simply suffocating with
An uncomfortable redness rose in Charley Durand's forehead. With
these foreign women you could never tell; his brief Continental
experiences had taught him that. After all, he was not a monster, and
several ladies had already attempted to prove it to him. There had been
one adventure — on the way home to his hotel at Louvain, after dining
with the curator of prehistoric antiquities — one adventure of which
he could not think even now without feeling as if he were in a Turkish
bath, with no marble slab to cool off on.
But this poor lady! Of course he was mistaken. He blushed anew at
"They all laughed at me — jeered at me; Caroline and my nieces and
all of them. They said it was no use trying — they'd failed, and how
was I going to succeed? Even Caroline has failed hitherto — and she's
so dreadfully determined. And of course for a married woman it's always
easier, isn't it?"
She appealed to him with anxious eyes, and his own sank behind his
protecting spectacles. Easier for a married woman! After all, perhaps
he hadn't been mistaken. He had heard of course that in the highest
society the laxity was even worse.
"It's true enough" — she seemed to be answering him — "that the
young, good-looking women get everything away from us. There's nothing
new in that; they always have. I don't know how they manage it; but I'm
told they were on hand when the very first boatload of refugees
arrived. I understand the young Duchess of Bolchester and Lady Ivy
Trantham were down at Folkestone with all the Trantham motors — and
from that day to this, though we've all had our names down on the
government list, not one of us — not one human being at Lingerfield —
has had so much as an application from the committee.
"And when I couldn't stand it any longer, and said I was going up
to town myself, to wait at the station and seize one of the poor things
before any of those unscrupulous women had got him they said it was
just like me to make a show of myself for nothing. But, after all, you
see Caroline sneaked off after me without saying anything, and was
making a show of herself too. And when I saw her she evidently hadn't
succeeded, for she was running about all alone, looking as wild as she
does on sales days at Harrod's. Caroline is very extravagant, and
doesn't mind what she spends; but she never can make up her mind
between bargains, and rushes about like a madwoman till it's too late.
But oh, how humiliating for her to go back to the hall without a single
The speaker broke off with a faint laugh of triumph, and wiped away
Charley Durand sat speechless. The crumpet had fallen from his fork
and his tea was turning gray; but he was unconscious of such minor
"I don't — I don't understand," he began; but as he spoke he
perceived that he did.
It was as clear as daylight; he and his companion had taken each
other for refugees, and she was passionately pressing upon him the
assistance he had been wondering how on earth he should manage to offer
"Of course you don't, I explain so badly. They've always told me
that," she answered eagerly. "Fancy asking you if you'd brought your
mattress, for instance — what you must have thought! But the fact is
I'd made up my mind you were going to be one of those poor old women in
caps who take snuff and spill things, and who have always come away
with nothing but their beds and a saucepan. They all said at
Lingerfield: 'If you get even a deaf old woman you're lucky.' And so I
arranged to give you — I mean her — one of the rooms in the
postmistress' cottage, where I've put an old bedstead that the vicar's
coachman's mother died in, but the mattress had to be burnt. Whereas of
course you're coming to me — to the cottage, I mean. And I haven't
even told you where it is or who I am! Oh, dear, it's so stupid of me;
but you see Kathleen and Agatha and my sister-in-law all said 'Of
course poor Audrey'll never get anybody'; and I've had the room
standing ready for three weeks all but the mattress — and even the
vicar's wife had begun to joke about it with my brother. Oh, my
brother's Lord Beausedge — didn't I tell you?"
She paused, breathless, and then added with embarrassment: "I don't
think I ever made such a long speech in my life."
He was sure she hadn't, for as she poured out her confession it had
been borne in on him that he was listening not to a habitual battler
but to the uncontrollable outburst of a shy woman grown inarticulate
through want of listeners. It was harrowing, the arrears of
self-confession that one guessed behind her torrent of broken phrases.
"I can't tell you," she began again, as if she had perceived his
sympathy, "the difference it's going to make for me at home — my
bringing the first refugee; and its being — well, someone like you."
Her blushes deepened, and she lost herself again in the abasing
sense of her inability to explain.
"Well, my name at any rate," she burst out, "is Audrey Rushworth;
and I'm not married."
"Neither am I," said her guest, smiling.
American fashion, he was groping to produce a card. It would really
not be decent in him to keep up the pretense a moment longer, and here
was an easy way to let her know of her mistake. He pushed the card
toward her, and as he did so his eye fell on it and he saw, too late,
that it was one of those he had rather fatuously had engraved in French
for his Continental travels:
PROFESSEUR DES LANGUES ROMANES
A L'UNIVERSITE DE LA SALLE
DOCTEUR DE LETTRES DE L'UNIVERSITE DE LOUVAIN
She scanned the inscription and raised a reverent glance to him.
"Monsieur le Professeur? I'd no idea! Though I suppose I ought to have
known at once. Oh, I do hope," she cried, "you won't find Lingerfield
too unbearably dull!" She added as if it were wrung from her: "Some
people think my nieces rather clever."
The professor of Romance languages sat fascinated by the
consequences of his last blunder. That card seemed to have been dealt
out by the finger of Fate. Supposing he went to Lingerfield with her —
just to see what it was like?
He had always pined to see what an English countryseat was like;
and Lingerfield was apparently important. He shook off the mad notion
with an effort. "I'll drive with her to the station," he thought, "and
just lose myself in the crowd. That will be the easiest way of all."
"There are three of them — Agatha, Kathleen and Clio. But you'll
find us all hopelessly dull," he heard her repeating.
"I shall — I certainly shan't — I mean, of course, how could I?"
It was so much like her own syntax that it appeared to satisfy her.
"No — I pay!" she cried, darting between him and the advancing
waitress. "Shall we walk? It's only two steps." And seeing him looking
about for the vanished hansom: "Oh, I sent the luggage on at once by
the cab driver. You see, there's a good deal of it, and there's such a
hideous rush at the booking office at this hour. He'll have given it to
a porter — so please don't worry!"
Firm and elastic as a girl, she sprang through the doorway, while,
limping silently at her side, he stared at the decisive fact that his
luggage was once more out of his keeping.
CHARLEY DURAND, his shaving glass told him, was forty-five,
decidedly bald, with an awkward limp, scant-lashed blue eyes blinking
behind gold spectacles, a brow that he believed to be thoughtful and a
chin that he knew to be weak. His height was medium, his figure
sedentary, with the hollows and prominences all in the wrong places;
and he wore ready-made clothes in protective colors, and square-toed
boots with side elastics, and stammered whenever it was all-important
to speak fluently.
But his Sister Mabel, who knew him better than the others, had once
taken one of his cards and run a pen through the word "Languages,"
leaving simply "Professor of Romance"; and in his secret soul Charley
Durand knew that she was right.
He had in truth a dramatic imagination without the power of
expression. Instead of writing novels he read them; instead of living
adventures he dreamed them. Being naturally modest he had long since
discovered his limitations, and decided that all his imagination would
ever do for him was to give him a greater freedom of judgment than his
neighbors had. Even that was something to be thankful for; but now he
began to ask himself if it was enough.
Professor Durand had read L'Abbesse de Jouarre and knew that in
moments of extreme social peril superior persons often felt themselves
justified in casting conventional morality to the winds. He had no
thought of proceeding to such extremes; but he did wonder if, at the
hour when civilization was shaken to its base, he, Charley Durand,
might not at last permit himself forty-eight hours of romance.
His audacity was fortified by the fact that his luggage was out of
his control, for he could hardly picture any situation more subversive
than that of being separated from his toothbrush and his reading
glasses. But the difficulty of explaining himself if he went any
farther in the adventure loomed larger as they approached the station;
and as they crossed its crowded threshold, and Miss Rushworth said "Now
we'll see about your things," he saw a fresh possibility of escape and
cried out: "No, no! Please find places. I'll look for my luggage."
He felt on his arm the same inexorable grasp that had steered him
through the labyrinth of Charing Cross.
"You're quite right. We'll get our seats first; in such a crowd
it's safer!" she answered gayly, and guided him toward a second-class
compartment. He had always heard the aristocracy traveled second class
in England. "Besides," she continued as she pounced on two window
seats, "the baggage is sure to be in the van already. Or if it isn't
you'd never find it. All the refugees in England seem to be traveling
by this train!"
They did indeed — and how tell her that there was one less in the
number than she imagined? A new difficulty had only just occurred to
him. It was easy enough to explain to her that she had been mistaken;
but if he did, how justify the hours he had already spent in her
company? Could he tell the sister of Lord Beausedge that he had taken
her for a refugee? The statement would seem too preposterous.
Desperation nerved him to unconsidered action. The train was not
leaving yet — there was still time for the confession.
He scrambled to the seat opposite his captor's and rashly spoke: "I
ought to tell you — I must apologize — apologize abjectly — for not
explaining sooner — "
Miss Rushworth turned pale, and leaning forward caught his wrist in
her thin claws.
"Ah, don't go on!" she gasped.
He lost his last hold on self-possession.
"Not go on?"
"Don't you suppose I know? Didn't you guess that I knew all along?"
He paled, too, and then crimsoned, all his old suspicions rushing
back on him.
"How could I not," she pursued, "when I saw all those heaps of
luggage? Of course I knew at once you were rich, and didn't need," —
but her wistful eyes were wet — "need anything I could do for you. But
you looked so lonely, and your lameness, and the moral anguish. I don't
see, after all, why we should open our houses only to pauper refugees;
and anyhow it's not my fault, is it, if the committee simply wouldn't
send me any?"
"But — but — " he desperately began; and then all at once his
stammer caught him, and an endless succession of b's issued from his
With exquisite tact Miss Rushworth smiled away his confusion.
"I won't listen to another word; not one! Oh, duck your head,
quick!" she shrieked in another voice, flattening herself back into her
Durand recognized the same note of terror with which she had hailed
her sister-in-law's approach at Charing Cross. It was needless for her
to add faintly: "Caroline."
As she did so a plumed and determined head surged up into the
window frame and an astonished voice exclaimed: "Audrey!"
A moment later four ladies, a maid laden with parcels and two bushy
Chow dogs had possessed themselves of all that remained of the
compartment; and Durand as he squeezed himself into his corner was
feeling the sudden relief that comes with the cessation of virtuous
effort. He had seen at a glance that there was nothing more to be done.
The young ladies with Lady Beausedge were visibly her daughters.
They were of graduated heights, beginning with a very tall one; and
were all thin, conspicuous and queerly dressed, suggesting to the
bewildered professor bad copies of originals he had never seen. None of
them took any notice of him, and the dogs after smelling his ankles
contemptuously followed their example.
It would indeed have been difficult during the first moments for
any personality less masterful than Lady Beausedge's to assert itself
in her presence. So prevalent was she that Durand found himself viewing
her daughters, dogs and attendant as her mere fringes and attributes,
and thinking with terror "She's going to choose the seat next to me,"
when in reality is was only the youngest and thinnest of the girls who
was settling herself at his side with a play of parcels as sharp as
Lady Beausedge was already assailing her sister-in-law:
"I'd no idea you meant to run up to town to-day, Audrey. You said
nothing of it when you dined with us last night."
Miss Rushworth's eyes fluttered apprehensively from Lady
Beausedge's awful countenance to the timorous face of the professor of
Romance languages, who had bought a newspaper and was deep in its inner
"Neither did you, Caroline — " Miss Rushworth began with
unexpected energy; and the thin girl next to Durand laughed.
"Neither did I what? What are you laughing at, Clio?"
"Neither did you say you were coming up to town, mother."
Lady Beausedge glared, and the other girls giggled. Even the maid
stooped over the dogs to conceal an appreciative smile. It was evident
that baiting Lady Beausedge was a popular if dangerous amusement.
"As it happens," said the lady of Lingerfield, "the committee
telephoned only this morning."
Miss Rushworth's eyes brightened. She grew almost arch. "Ah — then
you came up about refugees?"
"Naturally." Lady Beausedge shook out her boa and opened the Pall
"Such a fight!" groaned the tallest girl, who was also the largest,
vividest and most expensively dressed.
"Yes; it was hardly worth while. Anything so grotesquely
The young lady called Clio remarked in a quiet undertone: "Five
people and two dogs to fetch down one old woman with a pipe."
"Ah, you have got one?" murmured Miss Rushworth, with what seemed
to the absorbed Durand a fiendish simulation of envy.
"Yes," her sister-in-law grudgingly admitted. "But, as Clio says,
it's almost an insult to have dragged us all up to town. They'd
promised us a large family, with a prima donna from the Brussels Opera
— so useful for Agatha's music; and two orphans besides. I suppose Ivy
Trantham got them all, as usual." She paused, and added more
condescendingly: "After all, Audrey, you were right not to try to do
anything through the committee."
"Yes; I think one does better without," Miss Rushworth replied with
"One does better without refugees, you mean? I dare say we shall
find it so. I've no doubt the Bidchester set has taken all but the
utterly impossible ones."
"Not all," said Miss Rushworth.
Something in her tone caused her nieces to exchange an astonished
glance and Lady Beausedge to rear her head from the Pall Mall Gazette.
"Not all," repeated Miss Rushworth.
The eldest girls broke into an excited laugh. "Aunt Audrey — you
don't mean you've got an old woman with a pipe too?"
"No. Not an old woman." She paused and waved her hand in Durand's
direction. "Monsieur le Professeur Durand, de l'Universite de Louvain
— my sister-in-law, my nieces. He speaks English," she added in a
CHARLEY DURAND'S window was very low and wide, and quaintly trellised.
There was no mistaking it, it was a "lattice" — a real one, with old
bluish panes set in sturdy black moldings, not the stage variety made
of plate glass and papier-mache that he had seen in the sham cottage of
aesthetic suburbs at home.
When he pushed it open a great branch of yellow roses brushed his
face, and a dewy clematis gazed in at him with purple eyes. Below lay a
garden, incredibly velvety, flower-filled, and inclosed in yew hedges
so high that it seemed, under the low twilight sky, as intimate and
shut in as Miss Rushworth's low-ceilinged drawing-room, which, in its
turn, was as open to the air and as full of flowers as the garden.
But all England, that afternoon, as his train traversed it, had
seemed like some great rich garden roofed in from storm and dust and
disorder. What a wonderful place, and what a miracle to have been thus
carried into the very heart of it! All his scruples vanished in the
enchantment of this first encounter with the English country.
When he had bathed and dressed and descended the black-oak stairs
he found his hostess waiting in the garden. She was hatless, with a
pale scarf over her head, and a pink spot of excitement on each
"I should have preferred a quiet evening here; but since Caroline
made such a point of our dining at the hall — " she began.
"Of course, of course! It's all so lovely," said her guest
recklessly. He would have dined at Windsor Castle with composure. After
the compact and quintessential magic of the cottage nothing could
surprise or overwhelm him.
They left the garden by a dark-green door in a wall of old
peach-colored brick, and walked in the deepening twilight across a
field and over a stile. A stile! He remembered pictures and ballads
about helping girls over stiles, and lowered his eyes respectfully as
Miss Rushworth's hand rested on his in the descent.
The next moment they were in the spacious shade of a sort of Forest
of Arden, with great groups of bossy trees standing apart, and deer
flashing by at the end of ferny glades.
"Is it — are we — "
"Oh, yes. This is Lingerfield. The cottage is on the edge of the
park. It's not a long walk if we go by the chapel and through the
The very words oppressed him with their too-crowding suggestions.
There was a chapel in the park — there were cloisters! Lingerfield had
an ecclesiastical past — had been an abbey, no doubt. But even such
associations paled in the light of the reality. As they came out of the
shadow of the trees they recovered a last glow of daylight. In it lay a
gray chapel delicately laced and pinnacled; and beyond the chapel the
arcade of the cloister, a lawn with one domed cedar, and a gabled Tudor
house, its bricks still rosy in the dusk, and a gleam of sunset caught
in its many-windowed front.
"How — how long the daylight lasts in England!" said Professor
Durand, choking with emotion.
The drawing-room into which he had followed Miss Rushworth seemed
full of people and full of silence. Professor Durand had never had on a
social occasion such an impression of effortless quiet. The ladies
about the big stone chimney and between the lamplit tables, if they had
not been so discordantly modern in dress and attitude, might have been
a part of the shadowy past.
Only Lady Beausedge, strongly corseted, many-necklaced, her boa
standing out from her bare shoulders like an Elizabethan ruff, seemed
to Durand majestic enough for her background. She suggested a composite
image of Bloody Mary and the late Queen.
He was just recovering from the exchange of silences that had
greeted his entrance when he discovered another figure worthy of the
scene. It was Lord Beausedge, standing in the window and glancing
disgustedly over the evening paper.
Lord Beausedge was as much in character as his wife; only he
belonged to a later period. He suggested stocks and nankeen trousers, a
Lawrence portrait, port wine, fox-hunting, the Peninsular War, the
Indian Mutiny, every Englishman doing his duty, and resistance to the
Reform Bill. It was portentous that one person, wearing modern clothes
and reading a newspaper, should so epitomize a vanished age.
He made a step or two toward his guest, took him for granted, and
returned to the newspaper.
"Why — why do we all fidget so at home?" Professor Durand wondered
"Gwen and Ivy are always late," said Lady Beausedge, as though
answering a silence.
Miss Rushworth looked agitated.
"Are they coming from Trantham?" she asked.
"Not him. Only Gwen and Ivy. Agatha telephoned, and Gwen asked if
After that everyone sat silent again for a long time without any
air of impatience or surprise. Durand had the feeling that they all —
except perhaps Lord Beausedge — had a great deal to say to him, but
that it would be very slow in coming to the surface. Well — so much
the better; time was no consideration, and he was glad not to crowd his
"Do you know the duchess?" asked Lady Beausedge suddenly.
"Gwen Rochester. She's coming. She wants to see you.
"To see me?"
"When Agatha telephoned that you were here she chucked a dinner
somewhere else, and she's rushing over from Trantham with her
Durand looked helplessly at Miss Rushworth and saw that her cheeks
were pink with triumph. The Duchess of Bolchester was coming to see her
"Do people here just chuck dinners like that?" he asked with a
"When they want to," said Lady Beausedge simply. The conversation
again came to a natural end.
It revived with feverish vivacity on the entrance of two tall and
emaciated young women, who drifted in after Lord Beausedge had decided
to ring for dinner, and who wasted none of their volubility in excusing
their late arrival.
These apparitions, who had a kind of limp loveliness totally
unknown to the professor of Romance languages, he guessed to be the
Duchess of Bolchester and Lady Ivy Trantham, the most successful
refugee raiders of the district. They were dressed in pale frail
garments and hung with barbaric beads and bangles, and as soon as he
saw them he understood why he had thought the daughters of the house
looked like bad copies — all except the youngest, whom he was
beginning to single out from her sisters.
He was not sure whether, during the rapid murmur of talk that
followed, someone breathed his name to the newcomers; but certainly no
one told him which of the two ladies was which; or indeed made any
effort to draw him into the conversation. It was only when the slightly
less tall addressed the taller one as Gwen that he remembered this name
was that of the duchess.
She had swept him with a smiling glance of her large, sweet, vacant
eyes, and he had the impression that she, too, had things to say to
him, but that the least strain on her attention was too great an
effort, and that each time she was about to remember who he was
something else distracted her.
The thought that a duchess had chucked a dinner to see him had made
him slightly giddy; and the humiliation of finding that once they were
confronted she had forgotten what she had come for was painful even to
his disciplined humility.
But Professor Durand was not without his modest perspicacity, and
little by little he began to guess that this absence of concentration
and insistence was part of a sort of leisurely holiday spirit unlike
anything he had ever known. Under the low-voiced volubility and
restless animation of these young women — whom the daughters of the
house intensely imitated — he felt a great central inattention. Their
strenuousness was not fatiguing because it did not insist but blew
about like thistledown from topic to topic. He saw that his safety lay
in this fact, and reassurance began to steal over him as he understood
that the last danger he was exposed to was that of being too closely
"If I'm an impostor," he thought, "at least no one here will find
And then just as he had drawn this sage conclusion, he felt the
sudden pounce of the duchess' eye. Dinner was over and the party had
regrouped itself in a great book-paneled room, before the carved
chimney piece of which she stood lighting her cigarette like a duchess
on the cover of a novel.
"You know I'm going to carry you off presently," she said gayly.
Miss Audrey Rushworth was sitting in a sofa corner beside her
youngest niece, whom she evidently found less intimidating than the
others. Durand instinctively glancing toward them saw the elder lady
turn pale, while Miss Clio Rushworth's swinging foot seemed to twinkle
He bowed as he supposed one ought to bow when addressed by a
"Off for a talk?" he hazarded playfully.
"Off to Trantham. Didn't they tell you? I'm giving a big garden
party for the Refugee Relief Fund, and I'm looking for somebody to give
us a lecture on Atrocities. That's what I came for," she added
There was a profound silence, which Lord Beausedge, lifting his
head from the Times, suddenly broke.
"Damn bad taste, all that sort of thing," he remarked, and
continued his reading.
"But Gwen, dear," Miss Rushworth faltered, "your garden party isn't
till the nineteenth."
The duchess looked surprised. She evidently had no head for dates.
"Isn't it, Aunt Audrey? Well, it doesn't matter, does it? I want
him all the same. We want him awfully, Ivy, don't we?" She shone on
Durand. "You'll see such lots of your own people at Trantham. The
Belgian Minister and the French Ambassador are coming down for the
lecture. You'll feel less lonely there."
Lady Beausedge intervened with authority: "I think I have a prior
claim, my dear Gwen. Of course Audrey was not expecting anyone —
anyone like Professor Durand; and at the cottage he might — he might
— but here, with your uncle, and the girls all speaking French — "
She turned to Durand with a hospitable smile.
"Your room's quite ready; and of course my husband will be
delighted if you like to use the library to prepare your lecture in.
We'll send the governess cart for your traps to-morrow." She fixed her
firm eyes on the duchess. "You see, dear, it was all quite settled."
Lady Ivy Trantham spoke up: "It is not a bit of use, Aunt Carrie.
Gwen can't give him up." Being apparently unable to master the
professor's name the sisters-in-law continued to designate him by the
personal pronoun. "The committee has given us a prima donna from the
Brussels Opera to sing the Marseillaise and the what-ye-may-call-it
Belgian anthem, but there are lots of people coming just for the
"Oh, we must have the Atrocities!" the duchess echoed. She looked
musingly at Durand's pink, troubled face. "He'll do them awfully well,"
she concluded, talking about him as if he were deaf.
"We must have somebody who's accustomed to lecturing. People won't
put up with amateurs," Lady Ivy reenforced her.
Lady Beausedge's countenance was dark with rage.
"A prima donna from the Brussels Opera! But the committee
telephoned me this morning to come up and meet a prima donna! It's all
a mistake her being at Trantham, Gwen!"
"Well," said the duchess serenely. "I dare say it's all a mistake
his being here." She looked more and more tenderly on the professor.
"But he's not here: he's with me at the cottage!" cried Miss
Rushworth, springing up with sudden resolution. "It's too absurd and
undignified, this — this squabbling."
"Yes; don't let's squabble. Come along," said the duchess, slipping
her long arm through Durand's as Miss Rushworth's had been slipped
through it at Charing Cross.
The subject of this flattering but agitating discussion had been
struggling ever since it began, with a nervous contraction of the
throat. When at length his lips opened only a torrent of consonants
rushed from them, finally followed by the cryptic monosyllables: "I'm
"Not a professional? Oh, but you're a professor — that'll do!"
cried Lady Ivy Trantham briskly, while the duchess, hugging his arm
closer, added in a voice of persuasion: "You see, we've got one at
Trantham already, and we're so awfully afraid of him that we want you
to come and talk to him. You must."
"I mean, n-n-not a r-r-ref — " gasped out the desperate Durand.
Suddenly he felt his other arm caught by Miss Clio Rushworth, who
gave it a deep and eloquent pinch. At the same time their eyes met, and
he read in hers entreaty, command and the passionate injunction to
follow her lead.
"Poor Professor Durand — you'll take us for red Indians on the war
trail! Come to the dining room with me and I'll give you a glass of
champagne. I saw the curry was too strong for you," this young lady
Durand with one of his rare flashes of self-possession had
converted his stammer into a strangling cough, and released by the
duchess made haste to follow his rescuer out of the room. He kept up
his racking cough while they crossed the hall, and by the time they
reached the dining room tears of congestion were running down behind
his spectacles, and he sank into a chair and rested his elbows
despairingly on a corner of the great mahogany table.
Miss Clio Rushworth disappeared behind a tall screen and returned
with a glass of champagne. "Anything in it?" she inquired pleasantly,
and smiled at his doleful gesture of negation.
He emptied his glass and cleared his throat; but before he could
speak she held up a silencing hand.
"Don't — don't!" she said.
He was startled by this odd echo of her aunt's entreaty, and a
little tired of being hurled from one cryptic injunction to another.
"Don't what?" he questioned sharply.
"Make a clean breast of it. Not yet. Pretend you are, just a little
"Pretend I am — "
"A refugee." She sat down opposite him, her sharp chin supported on
crossed hands. "I'll tell you why."
But Professor Durand was not listening. A momentary rapture of
relief at being found out had been succeeded by a sick dread of the
consequences. He tried to read the girl's thin ironic face, but her
eyes and smile were inscrutable.
"Miss Rushworth, at least let me tell you — "
She shook her head kindly but firmly. "That you're not a German spy
in disguise? Bless you, don't you suppose I can guess what's happened?
I saw it the moment we got into the railway carriage. I suppose you
came over from Boulogne in the refugee train, and when poor dear Aunt
Audrey pounced on you you began to stammer and couldn't explain."
Oh, the blessed balm of her understanding! He drew a deep breath of
gratitude, and faltered, smiling back at her smile: "It was worse than
that. Much worse. I took her for a refugee too. We rescued each other!"
A peal of youthful mirth shook the mighty rafters of the
Lingerfield dining room. Miss Clio Rushworth buried her face and
"Oh, I see — I see — I see it all!"
"No you don't — not quite — not yet!" he gurgled back at her.
"Tell me then; tell me everything!"
And he told her; told her quietly, succinctly and without a
stammer, because under her cool kindly gaze he felt himself at last in
an atmosphere of boundless comprehension.
"You see, the adventure fascinated me; I won't deny that," he
ended, laying bare the last fold of his duplicity.
This, for the first time, seemed to stagger her.
"The adventure — an adventure with Aunt Audrey?"
They smiled at each other a little. "I meant, the adventure of
England — I've never been in England before — and of a baronial hall.
It is baronial? In short, of just exactly what's been happening to me.
The novelty, you see — but how should you see? — was irresistible.
The novelty, and all the old historic associations. England's in our
blood, after all." He looked about him at the big, dusky, tapestried
room. "Fancy having seen this kind of thing only on the stage! Yes, I
was drawn on by everything — by everything I saw and heard from the
moment I set foot in London. Of course if I hadn't been I should have
found an opportunity of explaining; or I could have bolted away from
her at the station."
"I'm so glad you didn't. That's what I'm coming to," said the girl.
"You see, it's been — how shall I explain? — more than an adventure
for Aunt Audrey. It's literally the first thing that's ever happened to
Professor Durand blushed to the roots of his hair.
"I don't understand," he said feebly.
"No. Of course not. Any more, I suppose, than I really understand
what Lingerfield represents to an American. And you would have had to
live at Lingerfield for generations and generations to understand Aunt
Audrey. You see, nothing much ever happened to the unmarried women of
her time. Most of them were just put away in cottages covered with
clematis and forgotten. Aunt Audrey has always been forgotten — even
the refugee committee forgot her. And my father and mother, and her
other brothers and sisters, and my sisters and I — I'm afraid we've
always forgotten her too."
"Not you," said Professor Durand with sudden temerity.
Miss Clio Rushworth smiled. "I'm very fond of her: and then I've
been a little bit forgotten myself." She paused a moment and continued:
"All this would take too long to explain. But what I want to beg of you
is this — let her have her adventure, give her her innings, keep up
the pretense a little longer. None of the others have guessed, and I
promise to get you away safely before they do. Just let Aunt Audrey
have her refugee for a bit, and triumph over Lingerfield and Trantham.
. . . The duchess? Oh, I'll arrange that too. Slip back to the cottage
now — this way, across the lawn, by the chapel — and I'll say your
cough was so troublesome that you rushed back to put on a mustard
plaster. I'll tell Gwen you'll be delighted to give the lecture — "
Durand raised his hands in protest but she went on gayly: "Why,
don't you see that the more you hold out the more she'll want you?
Whereas if you accept at once and even let her think you're going over
to stop at Trantham as soon as your cough is better she'll forget she's
ever asked you. . . . Insincere, you say? Yes, of course; a little. But
have you considered what would have happened if you hadn't choked just
now and had succeeded in shouting out that you were an impostor?"
A cold chill ran down Charley Durand's spine as his masterful
adviser set forth this forgotten aspect of the case.
"Yes — I do see. I see it's for the best."
"Well — rather!" She pushed him toward a window opening on the
lawn. "Be off now — and do play up, won't you? I'll promise to stick
by you and see you out of it if only you'll do as I ask."
Their hands met in a merry grasp of complicity, and as he fled away
through the moonlight he carried with him the vision of her ugly vivid
face and wondered how such a girl could ever think she could be
A GOOD many things had happened before he stood again on the pier at
It was in April, 1918, and he was buttoned into a too-tight
uniform, on which he secretly hoped the Y. M. C. A. initials were not
always the first things to strike the eye of the admiring spectator.
It was not that he was ungrateful to the great organization which
had found a task for him in its ranks; but that he could never quite
console himself for the accident of having been born a few years too
soon to be wearing the real uniform of his country. That would indeed
have been romance beyond his dreams; but he had long ago discovered
that he was never to get beyond the second-best in such matters. None
of his adventures would ever be written with a capital.
Still, he was very content; and never more so than now that he was
actually in France again, in touch and in sound of the mighty struggle
that had once been more than his nerves could bear, but that they could
bear now with perfect serenity because he and his country, for all they
were individually worth, had a stake in the affair and were no longer
mere sentimental spectators.
The scene, novel as it was because of the throngs of English and
American troops that animated it, was still in some of its details
pathetically familiar. For the German advance in the north had set in
movement the native populations of that region, and among the fugitives
some forlorn groups had reached Boulogne and were gathered on the pier,
much as he had seen them four years earlier. Only in this case they
were in dozens instead of hundreds, and the sight of them was harrowing
more because of what they symbolized than from their actual numbers.
Professor Durand was no more in quest of refugees than he had been
formerly. He had been dispatched to Boulogne to look after the library
of a Y. M. C. A. canteen, and was standing on the pier looking vaguely
about him for a guide with the familiar initials on his collar.
In the general confusion, he could discover no one who took the
least interest in his problem, and he was waiting resignedly in the
sheltered angle formed by two stacks of packing cases when he suddenly
remembered that he had always known the face he was looking at was not
one to forget.
It was that of a dark thin girl in khaki, with a slouch hat and
leggings, and her own unintelligible initials on her shoulder, who was
giving firm directions to a large orderly in a British Army motor.
As Durand looked at her she looked at him. Their eyes met, and she
burst out laughing.
"Well, you do have the queerest-looking tunics in your army!" she
exclaimed as their hands clasped.
"I know we do — and I'm too fat. But you knew me?" the professor
"Why, of course! I should know your spectacles anywhere," said Miss
Clio Rushworth gayly. She finished what she was saying to the orderly,
and then came back to the professor.
"What a lark! What are you? Oh, Y. M. C. A., of course. With the
British, I suppose?" They perched on the boxes and exchanged
confidences, while Durand inwardly hoped that the man who ought to be
looking for him was otherwise engaged.
Apparently he was, for their talk continued to ramble on through a
happy labyrinth of reminiscences spangled with laughter.
"And when they found out — weren't they too awfully horrified?" he
asked at last, blushing at the mere remembrance.
She shook her head with a smile. "They never did — nobody found
out but father, and he laughed for a week. I wouldn't have had anyone
else know for the world. It would have spoiled all Aunt Audrey's fun if
Lingerfield had known you weren't a refugee. To this day you're her
"But how did you manage it? I don't see yet."
"Come round to our canteen to-night and I'll tell you."
She stood up and shoved her cigarette case into the pocket of the
tunic that fitted so much better than his.
"I tell you what — as your man hasn't turned up come over to the
canteen now and see Aunt Audrey."
Professor Durand paled in an unmartial manner.
"Oh, is Miss Rushworth here?"
"Rather! She's my chief. Come along."
"Your chief? He wavered again, his heart failing him.
"Really — won't it be better for me not to? Suppose — suppose she
should remember me?"
Miss Rushworth's niece laughed. "I don't believe she will, she's so
blind. Besides, what if she did? She's seen a good many refugees since
your day. You see, they've become rather a drug on the market, poor
dears. And Aunt Audrey's got her head full of other things now."
She had started off at her long swift stride, and he was hurrying
obediently after her.
The big brown canteen was crowded with soldiers who were being
variously refreshed by young ladies in trig khaki. At the other end of
the main room Miss Clio Rushworth turned a corner and entered an
office. Durand followed her.
At the office desk sat a lady with eye-glasses on a sharp nose. She
wore a colonel's uniform, with several decorations, and was bending
over the desk busily writing.
A young girl in a nurse's dress stood beside her, as if waiting for
an order, and flattened against the wall of the room sat a row of limp,
disheveled, desolate beings — too evidently refugees.
The colonel lifted her head quickly and glanced at her niece with a
resolute and almost forbidding eye.
"Not another refugee, Clio — not one! I absolutely refuse. We've
not a hole left to put them in, and the last family you sent me went
off with my mackintosh and my electric lamp."
She bent again sternly to her writing. As she looked up her glance
strayed carelessly over Professor Durand's congested countenance, and
then dropped to the desk without a sign of recognition.
"Oh, Aunt Audrey — not one, not just one?" the colonel's niece
"It's no use, my dear. Now don't interrupt, please. . . . Here are
the bulletins, nurse."
Colonel Audrey Rushworth shut her lips with a snap and her pen
drove on steadily over the sheets of official letter paper.
When Professor Durand and Clio Rushworth stood outside of the
canteen again in the spring sunshine they looked long at each other
Charley Durand, under his momentary sense of relief, was aware of a
"I see I needn't have been afraid!" he said, forcing an artificial
"I told you so. The fact is, Aunt Audrey has a lot of other things
to think about nowadays. There's no danger of her being forgotten —
it's she who does the forgetting now." She laid a commiserating hand on
his arm. "I'm sorry — but you must excuse her. She's just been
promoted again and she's going to marry the Bishop of the Kamerun next