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Lippa
by Beatrice Egerton
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'What?'

'Marry you.'

'Will you throw me over a second time; you will soon become expert at it?'

'Jimmy,' cries she, 'how can you talk like that.'

'You suggested it first,' says he.

'I said so conditionally.'

'Yes, and that was that I must not smile at anybody, and suppose I cannot help it, it being my nature to do so?'

Miss Seaton looks up at him and says, 'I sha'n't marry you, that's all'

'All,' repeats he, 'it's a good deal, I don't know what you could call more.'

Lippa smiles. 'Oh you silly boy,' she says, 'you look as grave as a judge. Mabel, if she happened to come in, would think we had been quarrelling already.'

'Then you intend doing so later on?' queries he.

'Certainly; we should be very dull if we didn't, besides there will be always the making up.'

'Oh what a child you are,' says he laughing, 'but do you really love me?'

'Of course,' replies she gaily, and then seeing how earnest he is she goes up to him and slipping her arms round his neck she says, 'there is one thing you have not done.'

'What is it?' asks he.

'You've never settled where we are to live.'

'And more important still, you will not settle when we are to be married.'

'Not just yet; you see I shall have to get some clothes, and they couldn't be ready before Lent, and it would be unlucky to be married then.'

'That will put it off for at least three months,' objects he.

'Yes—don't you think the end of June would do nicely?'

'It will have to I suppose, but it is a long time off.'

'Never mind, it will soon be gone,' says Miss Seaton sweetly.

'June be it then,' replies Jimmy. 'The leafy month of June.'



CHAPTER XI

'Thee will I love and reverence, evermore.'

—AUBREY DE VERE.

'There, Mab, I really can't write any more,' and throwing down her pen, regardless that it is full of ink, and that it alights on a photograph of Teddy, thereby giving him a black eye, Miss Seaton rises from the writing-table and flings herself into an armchair.

'Well, dear,' says Mabel, 'I said I would do them for you, after you are gone to-morrow, look at these little china figures, I don't believe you've glanced at them, they came from old Mrs Boothly and I fancy they are real Sevres—?'

'At it still,' interrupts George, poking his head in at the door, 'what it is to be on the eve of a wedding; I suppose you'll want a detective, and, oh, by the bye where are we going to dine?'

'In your room, I thought,' replies his wife, 'you see you can go to the club, and we shall not want much.'

'Fasting before a festival, I suppose,' says he; 'or perhaps you are afraid you will not be able to get into that new gown of yours.'

'How do you know anything about my new gown,' asks Mabel.

George laughs, 'I happened to see it put out for inspection in your room.'

'My room, what were you doing there?' begins Mabel, but he has departed.

'What can he have been doing?' she says.

'Go and see,' suggests Lippa, and Mabel filled with curiosity, hastens upstairs, but returns again in a minute.

'Look, what the dear thing has given me,' she cries, holding up a little blue velvet case, 'I must go and thank him,' and down she goes to the smoking-room, 'George, you dear old boy,' she says, hugging him round the neck, 'isn't it lovely,' she goes on, turning to Philippa who has followed her.

'It is indeed,' says she, carefully examining the moonstone set in diamonds. 'Did you choose it yourself, George?'

'Didn't give me credit for so much taste, eh?'

'No, I don't think I did,' replies Lippa, quietly slipping out of the room.

She wants to be alone, to think a little, it all seems so strange and lovely; this time to-morrow she will be Mrs Dalrymple—Mrs Dalrymple! how funny it sounds—and Jimmy will be all her own, and they will go away together;—and she sinks into a dream of delight, seeing the future only as a golden mist through which she and her husband will pass side by side. And she suddenly falls upon her knees, and buries her golden head in her hands, and breathes forth an earnest prayer of heartfelt gratitude to the great God who orders all things.

'The Divinity that shapes our ends, Rough hew them as we will.'

The next morning, her wedding day, dawns at length; the first thing she hears are some sparrows chirping outside, and anxious to see if it is fine, she goes to the window and draws up the blind, letting in a whole flood of crimson light.

It is one of those lovely days in London when there is just a little breath of wind stirring among the trees that prevents it from being sultry, and everyone seems to expand to the warmth and look happy. It is still quite early, two or three costermongers' carts are being wheeled along by their owners, fresh from Covent Garden; a lark belonging to the house opposite is singing merrily despite its small cage, and Lippa smiles as she recalls the old saying, 'Blessed is the bride whom the sun shines on.'

As sleep seems impossible and rather loud voices are heard from overhead, she throws a loose wrapper round her and goes up to the nurseries. Teddy is in his bath and no power on earth can persuade him to get out, in vain Marie gesticulates and calls him 'Un bien mechant gamin,' Teddy knows he has the best of it, as whenever she comes near he throws water at her.

'Oh, Teddy! Teddy!' exclaims Philippa, opening the door, 'do be a good boy, or else you know, you could not be my page.'

Teddy, surprised at his aunt's sudden appearance, ceases to splash about and regards her gravely.

'I shall be your page if I'm good then,' he says.

'Certainly,' replies Philippa, 'get out of the bath now and after your breakfast you shall come to my room.'

Teddy looks longingly at the water and then at her, finally with a deep sigh he gets out of the bath and submits to being rubbed dry by Marie.

The morning wears on and five minutes after the appointed time Lippa calm and very lovely in her bridal attire, walks up the aisle of St P—— leaning on her brother's arm, and there before the altar takes James Dalrymple to be her husband, for better, for worse, till death them do part.

Into further details there is no need to go; weddings are all alike, you will say, except, of course, when you happen to be one of the chief parties concerned. There was of course, the orthodox best man, bridesmaids, and spectators, the lengthy signing of the register and last but not least Mendelssohn's wedding march. I wonder how the world could have got on without it!

* * * * *

'Well, I'm glad that's over, ain't you?' says Mrs Dalrymple, who is comfortably seated in a railway carriage, her husband opposite.

'Very,' replies Jimmy, looking unutterable things at her. 'I say though, how late you were. I thought you were never coming, and Helmdon had the fidgets.'

'It was exactly five minutes late,' says she, 'for George looked at his watch just before the carriage stopped, but do look at that woman, isn't she lovely?'

The train is stopping at one of the suburban stations, and the lady who has caught Lippa's attention is hurrying down the platform, trying to find a seat, holding a small child by the hand.

Jimmy pokes his head out of the window. 'By Jove,' he says, 'she is handsome. She's getting into a third class, doesn't look like it, does she?'

'No,' says Lippa, and then they forget all about her, till on reaching their destination, they see her again.

'Hullo,' says Dalrymple, 'there's that woman again, I wonder who she is?' As they pass out of the station, she drops her umbrella, and Jimmy picking it up, restores it to her.

'Thank you,' she says, raising for a moment a pair of wonderful dark eyes to his face.

Lippa looks at her curiously, wondering what her life story is, and then they part, going in opposite directions.

Jimmy has a small house of his own, not far from C—— and only half-a-mile from the sea coast and quite close to 'The Garden of Sleep,' and here it is that he brings Lippa to pass the first days of their married life, days of almost perfect happiness. But, in course of time, as they are going to live together for the rest of their lives they come to the wise conclusion that an overdose of solitude to begin with, would be tedious, to say the least of it.

'It wasn't as if we were going to stop here long,' says Lippa one day. 'When we go back to London we must set to work to be very economical, and that will give me heaps to do; I can't bear being idle, can you?'

'I am afraid, dear, that I rather like it,' replies Jimmy, 'but you're not going to worry yourself over making both ends meet, are you? I dare say it will be rather difficult, but if we let this place, it will help us a little, and you said you wouldn't mind.'

'Mind,' and Lippa rises and goes up to him, kneeling down at his side, 'I shan't mind anything now, Jimmy,' she says.

'What does the "now" imply,' asks he, 'that you did once mind, eh?'

'Yes, I did, when you used to look so gravely at me, when we met in the street, I think my heart was nearly breaking, you know you tried to think I was a flirt, and—'

'Never mind now, sweetheart, it was blind of me not to see through it all, and if you only could have guessed how I was longing to take you in my arms, to ask you why you sent me away, you would not have looked so cold, and—'

It is her turn to interrupt this time, which she does by kissing him. 'Do you know,' she says, 'you nearly made me forget what I was going to say—'

'Is it of great importance?' asks he.

'Yes, it is. Don't you think it would be nice to ask Mabel and the children down here, and we might all go back to London together. I know Teddy would like the sands here; and there is plenty of room; shall we?'

Jimmy says yes, although he would have preferred to remain alone for a little longer.

There is something so nice in knowing that the lovely little person who is always with him, is his very own to take care of and protect against everything, for all the years that lie before them. And he fears to be disturbed, in case it may all prove a dream, and burst like a bubble with the slightest contact of the outer world. But a week later Mabel arrives accompanied by Teddy and the baby; George and Paul, whom Lippa has also begged to come, turn up, and the lovely days that follow, when the sun creeps into their rooms in the early morning enticing them out, where the hedges are covered with sweet smelling honey-suckle and the fields are carpeted with brilliant red poppies, and a walk will take them to the 'Garden of Sleep,' where among the tombstones and long grass they can watch the sea sparkling in a golden haze, and listen to the waves as they break on the yellow sands; where the birds are ever trilling forth their songs without words; those days for ever are stored in the minds of some of them as the loveliest summer man could wish for.



CHAPTER XI

'Love pardons the unpardonable past.'—CHRISTINA ROSSETTI.

It is six o'clock. The tea things have been taken away, and the occupants of the little drawing-room are all apparently lazily enjoying themselves.

Mabel has the baby on her knee, her husband is dozing in an armchair, Jimmy is sitting half-in half-out of the window, Paul is reading, and Philippa is lying on the sofa.

'Lippa,' says Dalrymple, 'sing us something.'

'What would you like?' she answers, rising slowly.

'Anything,' he replies.

She runs her fingers over the keys and then sings 'The Garden of Sleep.'

Paul closes his book as she begins, looking at her earnestly.

Why does she sing that song, so close as they are to the real spot; and why does it say 'the graves of dear women,' the only one he knows buried there is a little child. He rises abruptly as the song is finished, and passes through the French window into the garden. Philippa has begun something else. He pauses and listens.

'Why live when life is sad? Death only sweet.'

Ah! thinks he, that is exactly it. What good is life to me!

The evening sun floods with a golden haze the road before him; he walks on, the distant sound of the waves coming up from the sands, and almost unconsciously he sings in a low voice,

'Did they love as I love When they lived by the sea? Did they wait as I wait For the days that may be?'

And then, with a start he finds himself in 'The Garden of Sleep,' and just on the edge of the cliff, reaching over to pick some poppies is a child, a little girl with golden hair.

In an instant he is at her side, and without saying a word for fear of starting her, he catches her in his arms.

'Mummy, mummy, don't,' she cries, and then seeing that it is a stranger her anger is roused still more. 'Put me down, how dare lou touch me, me wants the flowers.'

'Now look here,' replies Paul. 'Do you know, you might have fallen over. It is very dangerous to go so near the edge. If I get you the flowers, promise me you will go away,'—no answer—so he puts her down, he picks the flowers, and gravely hands them to her.

'Sank lou,' she says, taking them in her little fat hand, 'sank lou, but I could have gottened them meself.'

Paul smiles, wondering who she reminds him of.

'What's lour name?' she asks suddenly.

'Paul,' he replies, promptly, 'what is yours, and who are you with?'

'I doesn't know what's my name is,' she answers, gravely, 'Mummy always calls me Baby, I'm wif Mummy. Does lou know Mummy?'

'I do not think I have that pleasure,' says he, 'but I should like to speak to her,' thinking to reprove her for her carelessness in letting the child wander about so far away.

'Vis way,' says the little girl catching hold of his hand, and turning down a path among the tombstones, 'Mummy always comes to a little tiny grave.'

Paul goes with her, wondering why he does so. When, why is it? that she is taking him to the grave of his.... And, good heavens! the person the child calls 'Mummy' is kneeling beside it, her head bent, apparently not hearing their approach.

'Oh, Mummy look,' cries the child, 'look what bootiful flowers me's gottened, him wouldn't let me get them meself. Look at him, Mummy,' she urges as the woman still kneels with lowered head, 'him's name is Paul.'

She raises her head at the name, and he starts back on seeing her face and looks at her for a moment with astonishment.

'Clotilde,' at length he says, and his voice is low, 'you here.'

Her head is once more bowed—

'You here,' he repeats, 'here at the grave of your child and'—with a slight pause 'mine. It is four years since I saw you last, and now to meet you like this.'

No sound comes from the kneeling figure. 'Where is ... he?' Paul asks in a hoarse unnatural voice.

'Dead,' she whispers.

'Ah!' and he breathes a sigh of relief, 'so you always come here,' he says, repeating the little girl's words, and then remembering her. 'Good God!' he cries, 'that child! speak, Clotilde, tell me,' he bends forward and touches her almost roughly, 'for Heaven's sake, speak, and say she is not your child, but no! I would rather not hear it,' and overcome by a strong emotion, he turns towards the sea, while a tumult of passionate strife rends his very soul.

Why had he saved the child. One minute more where she had been would be certain death, if he had only known who she was he would never have rescued her, and yet—and yet—what harm has the child done, that he should wish for her death like this.

Poor little innocent child, but who does she remind him of—not Clotilde, not that other, no it is Philippa she is like, what could it all mean.

A little tug at his leg interrupts his train of thought, and he becomes aware that the child is standing at his side, his first impulse is to push her away roughly, but the little thing is looking up at him so gravely. 'Mummy says,' she begins, 'that she doesn't know who I is, I'se Baby, and got losted years ago, but Mummy loves me.'

Paul returns quickly, 'Is this true?' he asks.

'Yes,' she replies slowly, 'quite true, I found her, and was never able to trace her parents; it is nearly three years ago now.'

'Three years, have you kept her,' he says, 'you! a woman with a past like yours, how—'

'Spare me! spare me!' she cries, 'have I not suffered enough, am I not suffering enough now, do not taunt me, I know well I deserve it; but I have always thought of you, as I saw you last, and your sad reproachful face has often stayed me from.... Last year, I thought I would go and seek you, I got as far as Brook Street, and there I saw you talking to a girl in a carriage, your back was turned to me, but I heard her say, "Poor woman, how ill she looks!" and I dared not speak to you; death was what I longed for, and I went to the river, but that girl's voice haunted me. "Poor woman," aye indeed! I was to be pitied; I had done wrong, but I would try to atone—but why am I telling you all this, you who ought to hate and despise me, I who have ruined your life. Oh! my God! my God! have mercy—' And with a paroxysm of grief, she lays her head on the little green mound.

A strange sight the old vicar sees as he passes through the long grass on his way to the church; a tall man in flannels gazing down on the figure of a woman, kneeling before him, divided only by a small grave, and a little golden-haired child looking at them wonderingly; he has spoken to the child before and now she leaves the other two and follows him into the sacred edifice.

The bell begins to toll for even-song, but neither Paul nor Clotilde move, so close they are together, only the past lies between them. A small cross marks the grave of their child, whereon his name, and age (but a few months) is inscribed.

Paul reads the inscription though he knows it only too well, and then he once more rests his gaze on the woman before him; the woman he once loved! nay, does still love, for a great desire to comfort her comes over him.

'Clotilde,' he says at length, 'let us forget the past. Come.'

He takes her by the hand and he leads her gently to the church, up the aisle they go, and side by side they kneel; and the old clergyman is not surprised to see them, and the little golden-haired child watches them from another pew.



CHAPTER XII

'I were but little happy, if I could say how much.'

SHAKESPEARE.

Twenty-four hours have come and gone and have left everyone a day older, they are all in the garden, except Paul; a little golden haired girl is playing with Teddy, and Mabel watches them from a distance with a beaming smile. For a great happiness has come to her, the empty place in her heart has been refilled, for a strange and wonderful thing has happened; for only the evening before, her brother knocked at her bedroom door, as she was dressing for dinner, and on her saying, come in, he opened it, and said, 'Mabel, here is somebody I should like you to see.'

Somebody! yes indeed; and a small somebody too, somebody so like Philippa, somebody! who had a little gold locket with a turquoise in the centre. Ah! it seems too good to be true!

'Lilian!' Mabel calls, and then as the child does not take any notice, 'Baby—' The child turns and looks shyly at her mother; and emboldened by a sweet smile she runs and hides her head in her mother's gown, while the little hands are covered with kisses.

'You won't be afraid of me, will you?' asks Mabel, 'and you will love me very soon, I hope.'

'Ses,' is the answer, 'but I must love Mummy still.'

'Yes, dear, of course,' is the answer, 'Mummy, as you call her, is coming to see me this afternoon.'

Teddy has been watching from the distance, his nose has been altogether put out of joint, and it is rather a melancholy freckled face that Philippa catches sight of.

'Why, Teddy,' she says, 'come here and tell me what you were doing all the morning, and oh, Jimmy,' she says, turning to her husband, 'do be an angel and take baby back to the nursery, Mabel is so engrossed with Lilian.'

'Come along then, old woman,' and Jimmy lifts up his niece, 'but I say, Lippa, don't you think it would be just as well to be out of the way when Paul comes.'

'Perhaps it would,' answers she, 'and you had better take Teddy with you as well.'

Jimmy has just turned the corner of the house, when he runs straight into Paul and the lady he saw in the train.

There is no time to retreat, so he says, 'How do you do?' and the baby puts further conversation out of the question, by beginning to howl, Jimmy in the bottom of his heart feels thankful for it, though aloud he says, 'I must depart with this tiresome person, come along Teddy.'

The baby deposited in the nursery, he keeps out of the way till tea-time, when he finds them all seated round a table still in the garden.

Clotilde had at first refused to see anyone, but Paul persuaded her at length, 'Sooner or later, you must,' he had said, 'you know Mabel, and Lippa is a dear little girl.'

'But—' and Clotilde had looked up at her husband with those large dark eyes of hers 'they will—'

'The past will be forgotten,' was his reply, spoken sadly and quietly. And now she seems to be more at her ease.

'Have some tea, Jimmy,' says Philippa as he approaches.

'No thanks, it is too hot,' he replies.

'Come and sit then,' suggests Mabel pushing forward an empty chair, into which he sinks.

'Well, lazy boy, what have you been doing,' this from Lippa who is eating strawberries with apparent relish.

'Nothing,' is the yawned reply.

'Not even thinking of me,' and Lippa looks coquettishly at him from under her large shady hat.

'No, indeed, why should I, but you may as well spare me one strawberry.'

'Certainly not,' says she, 'this is my last one' (gradually raising it to her lips), 'not unless you say, you thought of me, all the time.'

'Oh, well, if you must! I thought of no one but you, I saw you in every one I met, even the gardener.'

'That's rude,' she says, 'but you may as well have this,' extending to him the coveted strawberry, with an adorable smile.

'What a silly child you are,' is all the thanks she gets.

But some one has driven up, in a very old fly, to the front door and Mrs Dalrymple is watching to see who it is.

'Chubby,' she exclaims as a man gets out clothed in an extraordinary check suit. 'No one else could have clothes like that.' There is no doubt about its being Lord Helmdon, he has caught sight of them and is coming towards them, looking decidedly hot and dusty.

'Do look at him,' says Paul, though there is absolutely no need, as they are all gazing at him.

'Hullo,' says Jimmy, 'who would have thought of seeing you here!'

'Eh! what,' is the inevitable answer.

'Dear Mrs Dalrymple,' he goes on, shaking her vigourously by the hand, 'I am stopping not far from here,—I thought you would not mind my coming over to see you, what!'

'She didn't say a word,' says Jimmy still reclining in the armchair, 'you didn't give her time.'

Mabel shakes with suppressed laughter, and Lippa's mouth is contorted into the most extraordinary shape, but she says calmly, 'I'm so glad to see you, won't you stop the night now you are here?'

'I'm afraid I can't, ah, how do you do?' he says to Mabel, 'well, Paul, pretty fit, eh?'

'Decidedly so,' replies he.

Clotilde has been sitting quite silent longing to get away, but Paul will not look at her, and, oh! what shall she do, Philippa is introducing her to the newcomer.

'Chubby allow me to introduce you to Paul's wife.'

'What!' he exclaims.

Jimmy who is in fear and trembling as to what he may say, kicks him violently on the shins under cover of the tablecloth, which sends him sprawling on his knees before Clotilde.

'I—er, I beg your pardon,' he says, 'but really, Jimmy, I wish you would keep your legs to yourself.'

'Me,' says Dalrymple, regardless of grammar and looking quite unconscious, 'never was further from doing anything else, in my life.'

'May you be forgiven,' whispers Lippa, who has observed it all—but aloud she says, 'Won't you have some tea.'

'No thanks, really not,' replies Helmdon, 'but if I may stay, we may as well tell the fly to go away.'

'Do,' says Dalrymple rising, 'have you got anything with you,' and together they go back to the house, where Jimmy explains all, including Clotilde, and the kick.

'Thanks, awfully, old man,' says Helmdon, 'I couldn't make it out a bit, what!'

* * * * *

The evening is lovely, and two and two they gradually leave the drawing-room, to Chubby, who, his body in one chair, and his legs in another, is wrapt in peaceful slumbers. Mabel and her husband walk slowly up and down, before the house discussing their children and friends.

Quite unconsciously Paul and Clotilde take their way to the little church, and pause not till they come to their baby's grave. The moon shines down on them, as side by side they stand on the edge of the cliff, the dark ocean stretching out before them, a type of the unknown future that will be theirs.

Paul becomes aware that she is crying, and says, turning her face up to his. 'My darling, dry your eyes, we have all done wrong, but it is no use dwelling on the past, a future lies before us, in which by God's help, we will try to atone for the past, "Heaven means crowned not vanquished when it says forgiven."' For all answer Clotilde goes close to him, and lays her sad weary head against his shoulder.

'Paul,' she murmurs, 'how good you are,' and then there is a silence more eloquent than words.

In the meantime Jimmy and Philippa hand in hand have reached a cornfield.

'Let us stop here,' she says seating herself on a stile.

'Very well,' he replies, following her example, 'only we must not stay out too late you know.'

'No, we won't,' says Lippa, 'but Jimmy, dear, don't you feel awfully happy, because I do.'

'Sitting on this stile,' queries he.

'No, of course not, don't be stupid, but,' and she puts her arm round his neck, 'everybody is all right, are they not? Mabel has her child back, Paul has Clotilde, and oh, Jimmy darling, I've got you.'

There is a little sob as she says this.

'Crying,' says he, placing his arm round her, 'if you cry when you're happy, what will you do, when there is really something to cry for, oh you silly child,' but the look in his eyes belies his words, and Lippa raising hers sees something in them, which makes her draw still closer, till their lips meet.

'Dearest,' he whispers.

And then a silence also falls on them, while the calm moon, unmoved at what she sees, still shines on the same, and the distant ripple of the waves breaking on the shore is all that is heard.

THE END

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