"Get into the brougham, dear man," she said, "and let me talk. There, put up the window on the traffic side. I have been in the liveliest worry about you. Had the house turned out of windows to find you—and gave things in general the deuce of a time.—The brougham's comfortable, isn't it? Fallowfeild's jobbed it for the winter for me.—All the same I played like an angel, out of pure desperation, thinking you might be ill. I made the audience cry big, big tears, bless 'em. And it wasn't the part—not a bit of it. It was you, just simply you.—And then I dawdled talking to Antony Hammond about some lines in the second act I want altered, so as to let myself down easy before digesting the disappointment of driving back to Bletchworth Mansions alone. I wanted so very badly to have you see me. Beloved and most faithless of beings, why the mischief didn't you come?"
And Iglesias sitting beside her watching her joyous face, crowned by her dark hair, set in the gleaming folds of her jewelled scarf, as passing lights revealed it clearly, or shifting left it in soft shadow, divined rather than actually seen, became sadly conscious that the problems which oppressed him were not only hard of solution but hard of statement likewise. It seemed heartless to propound them in this, her hour of success. Yet, unless he was deeply mistaken, the statement of them must tell for emancipation and relief in the end.
"The play has gone well, and you are happy?" he asked her.
"Gorgeously—I grant you I was a bit nervous as to whether during these years of—well—love in idleness, I had not lost touch with my art. But I haven't. I have only matured in mind and in method. I am not conceited, dear man, truly I am not; but I am neither too lazy nor too modest to use my brains. What I know I am not afraid to apply. I've very little theory, but a precious deal of practice—and that's the way to get on. Don't talk about your ideas—just use them for all you're worth.—But this is beside the mark. You're trying to head me off. Why didn't you come?"
"I would gladly have come," Iglesias answered. "My disappointment has been quite as great as yours."
"Bless your heart!" Poppy murmured under her breath.
"But it was impossible for me to come. I was detained until it was too late." He paused, uncertain how best to say that which had to be said.
"Oh! fiddle!" Poppy cried, with a lift of her head. "I stand first. You ought not to have let yourself be detained. After all, it's not every day someone you know blazes from a farthing dip into a star of the first magnitude. You might very well have crowded other things aside. I feel a trifle hurt, dear man, really I do."
"Believe me, no ordinary matter would have prevented my coming," Iglesias answered. To his relief the carriage just then turned into the comparative peace of Langham Place. It became possible to speak softly. "There was a death in the house last night," he went on, "that of a person with whom I have been rather closely associated. He died under circumstances demanding investigations of a distressing character. No one save myself was qualified, or perhaps willing, to assume the responsibility of calling in the authorities."
Iglesias glanced at his companion, conscious that while he spoke her attitude and humour had altered considerably. She was motionless. He saw her profile, dark against the square light of window-glass. Her mouth was slightly open, as with intensity of attention.
"Well—well—what then?" she said.
"The man had just suffered a heavy reverse. He had staked all his hopes, all his future, upon a single venture. It proved a failure. He could not accept the fact, and believed himself the victim of gross injustice and of organised conspiracy."
"Do you believe it, too?"
"No," Iglesias answered. "I have an immense pity for him, as who would not. Still, I am compelled to believe that failure came from within, rather than from without. He overrated his own powers."
Poppy held up her hand imperiously. "Wait half a minute," she said, in an oddly harsh voice. Leaning forward she put down the front glass and called to the coachman:—"Don't go to Bletchworth Mansions. Drive on. Never mind where, so long as you keep to empty streets. Drive on and on—do you hear?—till I tell you to stop."
She put the window up again and settled herself back in her place, dragging the scarf from off her head and baring her throat. She looked full at Mr. Iglesias, her face showing ghostly white against the dark upholstery of the carriage. Her eyes were wide with question and with fear, which was also, in some strange way, hope.
"Now you can speak, dear friend," she said quite steadily. "I shall be glad to hear the whole of it, though it is an ugly story. The man was miserable, and he is dead, and the circumstances of his death point to—what—suicide?"
In reply Iglesias told her how that morning, the servants failing to get any response to their knocking, the upper part of the house being, moreover, pervaded by a sickening smell of gas, help had been called in; and, de Courcy Smyth's door being forced open, he had been found lying, fully clothed, stark and cold upon his bed, an empty phial of morphia and an empty glass on the table beside him, both gas-jets turned full on though not alight.
At the top of Portland Place the coachman took his way northwestward, first skirting the outer ring of Regent's Park and then making the gradually ascending slope of the Finchley Road. The detached houses on either side, standing back in their walled gardens, were mostly blind. Only here and there, behind drawn curtains, a window glowed, telling of intimate drama gallant or mournful within. The wide grey pavements were deserted; the place arrestingly quiet, save for the occasional heavy tread of a passing policeman on beat, and the rhythmical trot of the horse. And the Lady of the Windswept Dust was quiet likewise, looking straight before her, sitting stiffly upright, her hands clasped in her lap, the shifting lights and shadows playing queerly over her face and her bare neck, causing her to appear unsubstantial and indefinite as a figure in a dream. Yet a strange energy possessed her and emanated from her, so that the atmosphere about her was electric, oppressive to Iglesias as with a brooding of storm. Her very quietness was agitating, weighed with meaning which challenged his imagination and even his powers of reticence and self-control. Opposite Swiss Cottage Station, where the main road forks, a string of market waggons—slouching, drowsy car-men, backed by a pale green wall of glistening cabbages, nodding above their slow-moving teams—passed, with a jingle of brass-mounted harness and grind of wheels. This roused Poppy, and the storm broke.
"Dominic," she said breathlessly, "do you at all know that you've just told me means to me?"
"I have never known positively until now; but it was impossible that I should not have entertained suspicions."
"Did he—you know who I mean—ever speak of me?"
"I think," Iglesias said, "he came very near doing so, more than once. But I put a stop to the conversation."
"You frightened him," Poppy rejoined. "I know one could do that. It was a last resource, a hateful one. Is there anything so difficult to forgive as being driven to be cruel? One was bound to be cruel in self-defence, or one would have been stifled, utterly degraded by self-contempt, bled to death not only in respect of money but of self-esteem."
She threw up her hands with a gesture at once fierce and despairing.
"Oh! the weak, the weak," she cried, "of how many crimes they are the authors! Crimes more particularly abominable when the weak one is the man, and woman—poor brute—is strong."
She settled herself sideways in the corner of the carriage, turning her face once more full upon her companion.
"Look here," she said, "I don't want to whitewash myself. What I've done I've done. I don't pretend it's pretty or innocent, or that I haven't jolly well got to pay the price of it—though I think a good deal has been paid by now. But it seems to me my real crime was in marrying him, rather than in leaving him. It was a crime against love—love, which alone, if you've any real sense of the inherent decencies of things, makes marriage otherwise than an outrage upon a woman's pride and her virtue. But, then, one doesn't know all that when one's barely out of one's teens. And, you see, like a fool I took the first comer out of bravado, just that people mightn't see how awfully hard hit I was by his people interfering and preventing my marrying the poor, dear boy who gave me this"—Poppy spread out the end of her dragon scarf—"I've told you about him.—Stage people are absurdly simple in some ways, you know. They live in such a world of pretences and fictions that they lose their sense of fact, or rather they never develop it. They're awfully easily taken in. Words go a tremendous long way with them. And de Courcy could talk. He was appallingly fluent, specially on the subject of himself. He made be believe he was rather wonderful, and I wanted to believe he was wonderful. I wanted to believe he was all the geniuses in creation rolled into one. All the more I wanted to believe it because I wasn't one scrap in love with him."
Poppy beat with one hand almost roughly on Mr. Iglesias' arm.
"Do you see, do you see, do you see?" she repeated. "Do you understand? I want you so badly to understand."
And he answered her gently and gravely: "Do not be afraid, dear friend. I see with your eyes. I feel with your heart. As far as one human being can enter into and share the experience of another, I do understand."
"But the nuisance is," she went on, the corners of her mouth taking a wicked twist, "you know so very much more about a man after you've married him. Other people are inclined to forget that sometimes. Consuming egoism is hideous at close quarters. It comes out in a thousand ways, in mean little tyrannies and absurd jealousies which would never have entered into one's head.—I don't want to go into all that. It's better forgot.—Only they piled up and up, till the shadow of them shut out the sunshine; and I got so bored, so madly and intolerably bored. You see, I had tried to believe in him at first. In self-defence I had done so, and stood by him, and done my very best to put him through. But when I began to understand that there was nothing to stand by or put through, that his talent was not talent at all, but merely a vain man's longing to possess talent—well, the situation became pretty bad. I tried to be civil. I tried to hold my tongue, indeed I did. But to be bullied and grumbled at, and expected to work, so as to give him leisure and means for the development of gifts which didn't exist—it wasn't good enough."
Poppy put up her hands and pushed the masses of her hair from her forehead. And all the while the shifting lights and shadows played over her white face and bare neck, and the horse trotted on, past closed shops and curtained windows, farther out of London and into the night.
"He didn't do anything which the world calls vicious," she continued presently. A great dreariness had come into the tones of her voice. "He was faithful to me, as the world counts faithfulness, simply because he didn't care for women—except for philandering with sentimental sillies who thought him an unappreciated eighth wonder of the world, and pawed over and pitied him. La! La! The mere thought of it makes me sick! But he was too much in love with himself to be capable of even an animal passion for anybody else. And he made a great point of his virtue. I heard a lot about it—oh! a lot!"
For a minute or two Poppy sat silent. Then she turned to Mr. Iglesias, smiling, as those smile who refuse submission to some cruel pain.
"I wasn't born bad, dear man," she said, "and I held out longer than most women in my profession would, where morals are easy and it's lightly come and lightly go in respect of lovers and love. But one fine day I packed up my traps and cleared out. He'd been whining for years, and some little thing he said or did—I really forget exactly what—raised Cain in me, and I thought I'd jolly well give him something to whine about. I knew perfectly well he wouldn't divorce me. He wanted me too much, at the end of a string, to torment, and to get money from when times were bad. Not that I cared for a divorce. I consider it the clumsiest invention out for setting wrongs right. I have too great a respect for marriage, which ought, if it means anything, to mean motherhood and children, and a clean, wholesome start in life for the second generation. When a woman breaks away and crosses the lines, she only makes bad worse, in my opinion, by the hypocritical respectability of a marriage while her husband is still alive. Let's be honest sinners any way, if sin we must."
Again she paused, looking backward in thought, seeing and hearing things which, for the honour of others, it was kindest not to repeat. The carriage moved slowly, the horse slackening its pace in climbing the last steep piece of hill which leads to the pond on Hampstead Heath.
"And now it's over," Poppy said, letting her hands drop in her lap. "Done with. The poor wretched thing's dead—has killed himself. That is a fitting conclusion. He was always his own worst enemy.—Well, as far as I am concerned, let him rest in peace."
"Amen," Iglesias responded, "so let him rest. 'Shall not the judge of all the world do right,' counting his merits as well as his demerits, making all just excuses for his lapses and wrong-doings; knowing, as we can never know, exactly how far he was and was not accountable for his own and for others' sins. And now, dear friend, as you have said, this long misery is over and done with. Whatever remains of practical business you can leave safely to me. His memory shall be shielded as far as foresight and sympathy can shield it, and your name need not appear."
The Lady of the Windswept Dust took his hand and held it.
"I don't know," she said brokenly, "why all this should all come upon you."
"For a very simple reason," he answered. "What did you tell me yourself? You stand first. And that is true."
But it may be remarked in passing that there are limits to the passive obedience of even the best-trained of men-servants. Those of Poppy's coachman had been reached. At the top of the hill he drew up, vigorously determined to drive no farther into the wilderness, without renewed and very distinct information as to why and where he went, perceiving which Dominic Iglesias opened the carriage door and stepped out.
"The night is fine and dry," he said. "Let us walk a little, and then let us drive home. You have your work to-morrow—or, rather, to-day—and you must have a reasonable amount of rest first. The stream of your life has been arrested, diverted from its natural channel; but it still runs strong and clear yet. You have genius, real, not imagined, so you must husband your energies.—Come and walk. Let the air soothe and calm you; and then, leaving all the past in Almighty God's safe keeping, go home and rest."
Here the high-road stretches along the ridge of the hill, a giant causeway, the broken land of the open heath falling away sharply to left and right. It was windless. The sky was covered, and the atmosphere, though not foggy at this height, was thick as with smoke; so that the road, with its long avenue of sparse-set lamps—dwindling in the extreme distance to faintest sparks—was as a pale bridge thrown across the void of black unsounded space. All, save the road itself, the lamps, and seats, and broken fringe of grass edging the raised footpath of it, was formless and vague, peopled by shapes, dark against darkness, such as the eye itself fearfully produces in straining to penetrate unyielding obscurity. The effect was one of intense isolation, of divorce from humanity and the works and ways of it, so present and overpowering it might well seem that, reaching the far end of that pale bridge, the wayfarer would part company with the things of time altogether and pass into another state of being.
And this so worked upon Poppy that, some fifty yards along the causeway, her black and silver skirts gathered ankle-high about her, she stopped, drawing very close to Iglesias and laying her hand upon his arm.
"Listen to the silence," she said. "Look at the emptiness. I don't quite like it, even with you. It's too suggestive of death, death with no sure hope of life beyond it.—I am quite good now, quite sane and reasonable. I have put aside all bitterness. I'll never say another hard word of him, or, in as far as I can, think a hard thought."
Then turning, suddenly she gave a cry, perceiving that east and south all London lay below them—formless, too, indefinite, enormous, a City of the Plains, unseen in detail but indicated through the gloom as a vast semi-circle of smouldering fire.
Poppy stretched out both arms, letting her splendid draperies trail in the dust.
"Ah! how I love it, how I love it," she cried. "Let us go back, dear man. For it belongs to me and I belong to it. In the name of my art I must try conclusions with it. I must play to it, and conquer it, and enchant, and possess it, since I am free at last—I am free."
Serena's manner, though gracious, was lofty, almost regal. She had, indeed, lately looked upon crowned heads, and the glory of them seemed, somehow, to have rubbed off on her.
"Yes," she said, "I came up for the Queen's funeral. Lady Samuelson felt it was a thing I ought not to miss, and I agreed with her. It was inconvenient to leave home, because I had a number of engagements. Still, I felt I might regret it afterwards if I did not see it. And then, of course, Lady Samuelson was so kind the year before last, when I had so very much to worry me, that I feel I owe it to her to stay with her whenever she asks me to do so. Where did you see the procession from, Rhoda?"
"Well, on the whole I thought it better to remain at home," Mrs. Lovegrove confessed, "though Georgie was most pressing I should go with him. You are slender, Serena, and that makes a great deal of difference in going about. But I find crowds and excitement very trying. And then it must all have been very affecting and solemn. I doubted if I could witness it without giving way too much and troubling others. It is mortifying to feel you are spoiling the pleasure of those that are with you, and I wanted poor Georgie to enjoy himself as much as he could."
"In that case it was certainly better to remain at home," Serena rejoined. "I have my feelings very much under control. Even when I was quite a child that used to be said of me. It used to irritate Susan."
"Susan has a more impetuous nature," Mrs. Lovegrove observed. The day of domestic eclipse was happily passed. She had come into her own again; consequently she was disposed to be slightly argumentative, sitting here upon her own Chesterfield sofa in her own drawing-room, even with Serena.
"I wonder if she has—I mean I wonder whether Susan really has a more impetuous nature," the latter rejoined, "or whether she is only more wanting in self-control. I often think people get credit for strong feelings, when it is only that they make no effort to control themselves. And that is unfair. I never have been able to see why it was considered so creditable to have strong feelings. They usually give a lot of inconvenience to other people. I am not sure that it is not self-indulgent to have strong feelings.—We had excellent places just opposite the Marble Arch. Of course Lady Samuelson has a great deal of interest; and we saw everything. In some ways I think, as a sight, the procession was overrated. But I am glad I went. You can never tell whether anything is worth seeing or not until you have seen it; and so I certainly might have regretted if I had not gone. Still, I think you were quite wise in not going, Rhoda, if you were likely to be upset; and then, as you say, it must be unpleasant getting about if one is very stout. Of course, I cannot really enter into that. I take after mamma's family. They are always slender. But the Lovegroves often grow stout. George, of course, has, and I should not be surprised if Susan did when she is older. But then Susan and I are entirely different in almost everything."
"I suppose you have heard of our dear vicar being appointed to the new bishopric of Slowby, Serena," Mrs. Lovegrove remarked. The amplitude, or non-amplitude, of the family figure was beginning to get upon her nerves.
"Oh! dear, yes, of course I have," Serena answered with raised eyebrows and a condescending expression of countenance. "Not that it will make very much difference to me, I suppose. I am so little at home now. But naturally people, hearing we knew the Nevingtons, came to us for information about them. I don't think anybody had ever heard of Dr. Nevington at Slowby, and so they were very glad to learn anything we could tell them. Of course it is a very great rise for Dr. Nevington, though he will only be a suffragan bishop. Still, he must be very much flattered, after merely having a parish of this kind. Susan is very pleased at the appointment. She wrote to Dr. Nevington immediately and has had a number of letters from him. I was quite willing she should write, but she told him how popular his appointment was in Midlandshire. And I thought that was going rather far, because Susan has no real means of knowing whether it is popular or not. She could only know that she thought she liked it herself, and had praised him among her friends. And I wonder whether she is right—I mean I wonder whether she really will like it. Of course Susan has been very prominent and has had everything her own way with most of the clergymen's wives in Slowby. I think that has been rather bad for Susan and given her an undue idea of her own importance. Now naturally Mrs. Nevington will be the head of everything and the clergymen's wives will go for advice to her. I do not see how Susan can help disliking that. And then Mrs. Nevington is said to be a very good public speaker. I am perfectly certain Susan will dislike that. For I always observe that people who speak a great deal themselves, like Susan, never get on well with other good speakers."—She moved a little, throwing back the fronts of her black beaded jacket—her complimentary mourning was scrupulously correct—and adjusting the black silk tie at her throat. "Of course I may be mistaken," she added, "but if you ask me, Rhoda, I fancy you will find that Susan and Mrs. Nevington will not remain friends for very long."
"I am distressed to hear you express such an opinion, Serena," Mrs. Lovegrove returned. The tone of mingled patronage and possession in which her guest spoke of her own two particular sacred totems, vicar and vicaress, incensed her highly. She wished she had not introduced the subject of the Slowby bishopric.—"When the object in view is a truly good one," she added, with some severity, "I should suppose all right-meaning people would strive to sink petty rivalries and cooperate. I should quite believe it would prove so in Susan's case."
"Of course she would not give Mrs. Nevington's speaking well as her reason, if they did not remain on friendly terms," Serena returned negligently. "But then people so very seldom give their real reasons for what they do, Rhoda. Surely you must have observed that. I think they are generally very willing to deceive themselves a good deal."
"I am afraid it is so with too many, Serena, and with some who would be the last to own it when applied to themselves."—Then the wife determined by a piece of daring strategy to carry the war into the enemy's country.—"And that reminds me," she said. "I suppose you have heard that Mr. Iglesias has left Trimmer's Green?"
"I do not the least know what right you have to suppose anything of the kind, Rhoda," the lady addressed replied with a haste and asperity far from regal. "You must have very odd ideas of the people I meet, either at Lady Samuelson's or at Slowby, if you imagine I am likely to hear anything about Mr. Iglesias from them. If I had not met him here, of course, I should never have heard of him at all; and if I had never heard of him I should have been spared a great deal. Still, after all that has occurred, I can quiet see that Mr. Iglesias might find it better to leave Trimmer's Green."
"Miss Eliza Hart, if you please, ma'am," this from the house-parlourmaid.
In accordance with established precedent, Serena should have risen from the place of honour, upon the sofa, making room for the newcomer. But she defied precedent. Acknowledging the said newcomer with the stiffest of bows, she sat tight. Her hostess, however, proved equal to the occasion.
"Dear me, Miss Hart," she began, "I am sure you are quite the stranger. Take that chair, will you not? And how is Mrs. Porcher? The numbers, I trust, filling up again at Cedar Lodge? Mr. Lovegrove and myself did truly sympathise in Mrs. Porcher's trouble in the autumn. Such a terrible occurrence to have in your house! Of course very damaging, for a time, to all prospects. And I shall always believe it was the great exertions he made then that broke down poor Mr. Iglesias' health.—Yes, indeed, Miss Hart, I regret to say he does remain very ailing. Mr. Lovegrove sees him almost daily. He has run round to Holland Street now, has Georgie; but I expect him back any minute.—We were just speaking of Mr. Iglesias—were we not, Serena?—and I was about to tell Miss Lovegrove what a sweet pretty house he has. You have seen it often no doubt, Miss Hart."
But here Serena arose, with much dignity, and retired in the direction of the window.
"Pray do not think about me, Rhoda," she said over her shoulder, "or let me interrupt your and your friend's conversation. I am going to see if the carriage is here. Lady Samuelson said she might be able to send it for me. She could not be sure, but she might. And I told her I would be on the watch, as she objects to the horses being kept standing in this weather. But pray do not think about me. Until it comes I can quite well amuse myself."
Holding aside the lace curtain she looked out. Upon the rawly green grass remnants of discoloured snow lay in unsightly patches, while the bare branches of the plane-trees and balsam-poplars shuddered in the harsh blast. The prospect was far from alluring, and Serena surveyed it with a wrathful eye.
"Really, Rhoda's behaviour to me is most extraordinary," she said to herself. "I had to mark my displeasure. For poor George's sake she ought not to be allowed to go too far. She has grown so very self-assertive. Last year her manner was much better. I suppose she and George have made it up again. People who are not really ladies, like Rhoda, are always so very much nicer when they are depressed. I wonder what has happened to make George make it up with her!"
And then she fell very furiously to listening.
"We did talk it over, did Peachie Porcher and myself," the great Eliza was saying, "for I do not deny, at the time of our trouble, a certain gentleman came out very well. He may have had his reasons, but I will not go into that, Mrs. Lovegrove. I am all for giving everybody his due. But Peachie felt when he left it would be better the connection should cease as far as visiting went. 'Should Mr. Iglesias call here, dear Liz,' she said to me, 'I should not refuse to see him. But, after what has passed and situated as I am, I cannot be too careful. And calling on a bachelor living privately, with whom your name has been at all associated, must invite comment. Throughout all,' she said, 'my conscience tells me I have done my duty, and in that I must find my reward.' Very affecting, was it not?"
"Yes," the other lady admitted, candour and natural goodness of heart getting the better alike of resentment and diplomacy. "I always have maintained there were many sterling qualities in Mrs. Porcher."
"So there are, the sweet pet!" Eliza responded warmly. "And I sometimes question, Mrs. Lovegrove, whether a certain gentleman, now that he has cut himself adrift from her, may not be beginning to find that out and wish he had been less stand-offish and stony. Not that it would be any use now. For, if he did not appreciate Peachie Porcher, there are other and younger gentlemen, not a thousand miles from here, who do. I am not at liberty to speak more plainly at present, as the poor young fellow is very shy about his secret. A long attachment, and some might think it rather derogatory to Peachie's position to entertain it. But straws tell which way the wind blows; and a little bird seems to twitter to me, Mrs. Lovegrove, that if Charlie Farge did come to the point—why—"
Miss Hart shook her leonine mane and laid her finger on her lip in an arch and playful manner. But before her hostess could rally sufficiently from the stupor into which this announcement plunged her to make suitable rejoinder, a fine booming clerical voice and large clerical presence invaded the room.
"How d'ye do, Mrs. Lovegrove? I come unannounced but not unsanctioned. I met with your good husband in the street just now, and he encouraged me to look in on you. Good-day to you, Miss Hart. All is well, I trust, with our excellent friend Mrs. Porcher.—Ah! and here is Miss Serena Lovegrove.—An unexpected piece of good fortune."
Promptly Serena had emerged from her self-imposed exile; and it was with an air of assured proprietorship that she greeted the clergyman.
"Mrs. Nevington heard from your kind sister only this morning," he continued. "Full of active helpfulness as usual, Mrs. Lovegrove.—She proposes that we should quarter ourselves upon you and her for a few days, Miss Serena, while we are seeking a temporary residence. She kindly gives us the names of several houses which she considers worth inspection."
Here by an adroit flank movement, rapidly executed, Serena managed to possess herself once again of the seat of honour upon the sofa, thereby interposing a thin but impenetrable barrier between her hostess and the latter's own particular fetish, the bishop-designate.
"You have enough room? I do not crowd you, Rhoda?" she remarked parenthetically. Then turning sideways, so as to present an expanse of neatly clad back and shoulder to her outraged relative, she continued:—"I wonder which, Dr. Nevington—I mean I wonder which houses Susan has recommended. Of course there is the Priory. But nobody has lived in it for ages and ages. It is in a very low neighbourhood, close to the canal and brickfields on the Tullingworth Road. I should think it was dreadfully damp and unwholesome. And there is old Mrs. Waghorn's in Abney Park. That is well situated and the grounds are rather nice. But the reception-rooms are poor, I always think. Susan was fond of Mrs. Waghorn. I cannot say I ever cared for her myself; but there is a tower to it, of course."
"Ah! we hardly need towers yet, Miss Lovegrove. A 'suffering bishop'—you recall the well-worn joke?—such as myself, must not aspire to anything approaching castles or palaces, but be content with a very modest place of residence."
Here his unhappy hostess, sitting quite perilously near the edge of the sofa, craned round the interposing barrier.
"But that is only a matter of time, Dr. Nevington," she said, "surely. There is but one voice all round the Green, and through the parish generally, that this is but the first step for you; and that it will lead on—though I am far from wishing to hasten the death of the present archbishop—to the primacy."
"Hardly that, hardly that," he rejoined with becoming modesty. Yet the speech was not unpalatable to him. "Out of the mouth of babes," he said to himself, leaning back in his chair, and eyeing—in imagination—the chaste outline of an episcopal apron and well-cut black gaiter, while visions of Lambeth and Canterbury floated enticingly before him.—"Hardly that. This is little more than an embryo bishopric. Still, though it is a wrench to leave my dear old congregation, here in this wonderful London of ours, I cannot refuse the call to a wider sphere of usefulness. My views as a churchman are well known. I have never, even though it might have been professionally advantageous to me to do so, attempted any concealment."
"No, truly," Rhoda put in, still balancing and craning. "Everyone, I am sure, must bear witness you have always been most nobly outspoken."
"I trust so," he returned. "I have never disguised the fact that I take my stand upon the Reformation Settlement. Therefore I cannot but think it a most hopeful sign of the times that I should receive this call to the episcopate.—Ah, here is Lovegrove. You find us deep in matters ecclesiastical. I only hope I am not taxing your ladies' patience too heavily by talking on such serious subjects.—In Slowby itself that grand old stalwart, the late Dr. Colthurst—a positively Cromwellian figure—has left a sound Protestant tradition. But I hear—your good sister confirms the rumour, Miss Serena—that there is a strong ritualistic party at Tullingworth. I shall deal very roundly with persons of that persuasion. My conviction is that we must suit our teaching to the progressive spirit of this modern world of ours. Personally I am willing, if necessary, to sacrifice very much so-called dogma to conciliate our worthy Nonconformist brethren; while I shall lose no opportunity of cutting at the roots of those Romanising tendencies which are so lamentably and insidiously active in the very heart of our dear old National Church."
While the great drum-like voice was thus rolling and booming, George Lovegrove had shaken hands with Serena. But there was none of the accustomed respectful enthusiasm in his greeting. He wore a preoccupied and dejected air. For once he looked upon that pearl of spinsterhood with a lack-lustre and indifferent eye.
"I wonder what can have happened to George," the lady in question said to herself, in high displeasure. "I think his manner is really very odd—nearly as odd as Rhoda's. I wish I had not come. But then if I had not come I should have had no opportunity of showing Rhoda what intimate terms Susan and I are upon with the Nevingtons. And I think it is right she should know.—Oh! that detestable Miss Hart is going. What a dreadfully vulgar purple blouse she has on! And her hair is so unpleasant. It always looks damp and shows the marks of the comb. I wonder why hair of that particular colour always does look damp." Here she bowed stiffly without rising.—"I shall simply ignore George, and not speak to him. I think that will be sufficiently marked. But I shall stay as long as Dr. Nevington does—I don't for one moment believe Miranda Samuelson really intended to send the carriage—so I will just wait and go when he goes. I think I owe it to myself to show George and Rhoda that they cannot drive me away against my will, however much they may wish to do so."
Having come to which amiable decision Serena turned her mind and conversation to questions of house-hunting in Slowby. The subject, however, began to pall, before long, upon her companion. Dr. Nevington changed his position more than once. His replies became vague and perfunctory, while his attention evidently strayed to the conversation taking place at the other end of the sofa.
"I fear you did not find Mr. Iglesias very bright then to-day?" the wife was inquiring in her kindliest tones.
George Lovegrove shook his head sadly. "No, my dear, I am sorry to say not. I have been rather broken up. I will tell you all later."
The clergyman had risen.
"Iglesias?—ah yes," he said. "I remember meeting a person of that name here once, eh, Lovegrove? One of our parochial oversights, unfortunately. He proved to be a dweller. His appearance pleased me and I proposed to call on him; and then in the press of my many duties the matter was forgotten."
Serena had risen likewise. A spot of colour burned on either of her cheeks. Her eyes snapped. She carried her small head high. Her presence asserted itself quite forcibly. Her skirts rustled. At that moment she was young and very passably pretty—an elegant spirited Serena of eighteen, rather than a faded and, alas! spiteful Serena of close upon fifty.
"Oh! really, I think it was just as well you did not call, Dr. Nevington," she cried. "I do not think it would have been in the least suitable. Of course I may be wrong, but I do not think you would have found anything to like in Mr. Iglesias. There was so much that was never really explained about him.—You know you acknowledged that yourself at one time, Rhoda. But now you and George seem to have gone round again completely.—One cannot help knowing he associated with such very odd people; and then the way in which he turned Roman Catholic, all of a sudden, really was disgraceful."
Dr. Nevington's cold, watchful glance steadied on to the speaker, then travelled to the two other members of the little company in sharp inquiry. George Lovegrove's innocent countenance bore an expression of agonised entreaty, of yearning, of apology, yet of defiance. The corners of Rhoda's mouth drooped, her large soft cheeks shook; yet she stood firm, her sorrow tempered, and her whole warm-hearted person rendered stubborn, by virtuous indignation.
"You forget yourself greatly, Serena," she said, "and when you have time to think it over will repent having passed such cruel remarks. They are liable to create a very wrong impression, and cannot fail to cause severe pain to others."
For an appreciable space the clergyman hesitated. But Slowby and the bishopric were ahead of him; Trimmer's Green and all its quaint unimportant little inhabitants behind. She was tedious, no doubt; but her sister promised to be very useful, so he threw in his lot with Serena.
"Ah, well, ah, well, for I my part I admire zeal, I must confess, Mrs. Lovegrove," he said. "No doubt these terrible lapses will occur. Superstition and bigotry will claim their victims even in our enlightened century, and this free England of ours. I would not judge the case of this poor fellow, Iglesias, too harshly. Race influences are strong; and we of the Anglo-Saxon stock, with our enormous advantages of brain, and grit, and hard-headed manliness of character, can afford—deeply though we deplore their weakness and errors—to be lenient toward the less favoured foreigner. Our mission is to educate him.—And this I think you should not have forgotten, Lovegrove. You should have acted upon it. You should have brought your unfortunate friend to me. I should have been quite willing to give him half an hour, or even longer. A few facts, a little plain speaking, might have saved him from more than I quite care to contemplate, both here and hereafter.—However, good-bye to you, Mrs. Lovegrove. You are starting, too, Miss Serena? Assure your good, kind sister, when you write, how gladly Mrs. Nevington and I shall avail ourselves of her proffered hospitality."
"Don't fret, don't take it too much to heart, Georgie dear," the wife said soothingly later. "The vicar did seem very stern, but that was owing to Serena. I am afraid she's a terrible mischief-maker, is Serena. She turns things inside out so in saying them, that you do not recognise your own words again. All this afternoon she was most trying. If Dr. Nevington heard the real story, he would never blame you. You must not fret."
"I am not fretting about Dr. Nevington," he answered, "but about Dominic. I am afraid we shall not have him with us very much longer, Rhoda."
"Oh! dear, oh! dear, you don't mean it? Never!" she cried in accents of genuine distress. "Did you see him, Georgie?"
"No, Miss St. John was there."
The wife's large cheeks shook again.
"You know," she said, "I am never very partial to hearing anything about that Miss St. John. Actresses are all very well in the theatre, I daresay, but they are out of place in private houses. And from what I hear, though there may be nothing really wrong with many of them, they are all sadly free in their manners. I should be very hurt if you got into the habit of frequenting their society much, Georgie.—But there, I'm sure I cannot tell what is coming to all the women nowadays! You don't seem as if you could be safe with any one of them. To think of a middle-aged person like Mrs. Porcher, for instance, taking up with that little snip of a Farge, and she old enough to be his mother!"
The wife bustled about the room straightening the chairs, patting cushions into place, folding up the handkerchief which, in the interests of human conversation, had been thrown over the cage of the all-too-articulate parrot.
"I feel terribly stirred up somehow," she said, "what with the vicar, and Serena, and all the talk about Roman Catholics and Protestants, and Mrs. Porcher's engagement, too, and then this bad news of Mr. Iglesias—not but that I am sure enough we shall meet him in heaven some day, if we can ever contrive to get there ourselves in all this chatter and worry—"
She laid the handkerchief away in the drawer of the work-table.
"Such an afternoon," she declared, "what with one thing and another! I always do say there's nothing for making unpleasantnesses like religion and marriages.—But, thank God, through all of it you are spared to me, Georgie."
Outside, the slanting spring sunshine visited the sheltered strip of garden in clear lights and transparent shadows. The small grass-plat surrounding the rockery was brightly green. In the stone basin the surface of the water trembled, glistening in broken curves of silver white. Along the narrow border, beneath the soot-stained eastern wall, yellow and mauve crocuses and yellow aconites opened wide, greeting the gentle warmth. Trees in the neighbouring gardens were thick with bud. Busily the sparrows and starlings came and went.
Within, the house—though not uncheerful, thanks to a scrupulous cleanliness, warm colourings, and the peculiar mellowness which comes to rooms and furnishings that, through prolonged association, have grown in a great mutual friendliness of aspect—was very still, with the strange, almost eerie, stillness which seems to listen and to wait.—A singular stillness, from which the rough utilitarian activities of ordinary life are banished, the rude noise of them suspended, while spiritual presences, rare apprehensions, exquisite memories and hopes, mysterious invitations of mingled alarm and ecstasy, come forth, taking on form and voice, passing lightly to and fro—an enchantment, yet in a manner fearful from the subtlety of their being and piercing intimacy of their speech. Personality, that supreme moral and emotional factor in human life, must of necessity create an atmosphere about it, permeated with its individual tastes and mental attributes, distinct and powerful in proportion to its individual distinction and its strength. And, without being overfanciful, it may be confidently asserted that, for some weeks now, ever since indeed the specialists—summoned in consultation at the good Lovegroves' and the Lady of the Windswept Dust's urgent request—had pronounced the cardiac affection, from which Dominic Iglesias suffered, likely to terminate fatally in the near future, this living stillness, this alert tranquillity, had been more or less sensible to all those who entered the house, offering an arresting contrast to the multitudinous rush and clamour of London without. But to-day the impression was no longer an intermittent and fugitive one, as heretofore. It was constant and complete, those spiritual visitants being, as it would seem, in full possession; so that the hours appeared to move reluctantly, and as though enjoining watchfulness, a carefulness and economy even in prevailing repose, lest any remaining moment and the message of it should be overlooked and lost.
It was characteristic of Iglesias that learning, in as far as the consultant doctors could diagnose it, the exact conditions of his physical state, he should refuse all experiment, however humane in intention or plausible in theory. For he had no sympathy with the modern greediness and worship of physical life, which is willing to sacrifice the decencies and dignities of it to its possible prolongation. Courteously but plainly he bade his advisers depart. The body, though an excellent servant, is a contemptible master; and Iglesias proposed that, while his soul continued to inhabit it, it should, as always before, be kept very much in its place. It must remain unobtrusive, obedient, not daring to usurp, in its present hour of failure and impediment, an interest and consideration to which, in its full usefulness and vigour, it had not presumed to aspire. Therefore Dominic Iglesias held calmly on his way, seeing the circle of his occupations, pleasures, and activities dwindle and decrease, yet maintaining not only his serenity of mind, but his accustomed self-respecting outward refinement of bearing and habit. To meet death with a gracious stoicism, well-dressed and standing upright, is, rightly considered, a very fine art, reflecting much credit upon the successful professor of it.
And it was thus that, on the day in question, Mr. Iglesias sat waiting, in the quaint irregularly shaped drawing-room of the old house in Holland Street, himself the centre of that peopled stillness, that alert tranquillity, which so strangely and sensibly filled it. Looking out of the low window, he could see the shadow of the houses shrink and the light broaden in the little garden below, as the sun travelled westward. Looking into the room itself, the many familiar objects and rich sober colours of it, quickened by a flickering of fire-light, were pleasant to his sense. The images which passed before him, whether actually visible or not he hardly knew, appeared beautiful. Words and phrases which occurred to him were beautiful likewise. But all were seen and heard remotely, as through some softly dazzling medium which, while heightening the charm of them, produced a delicate confusion leaving him uncertain whether he really slept or woke. More than once, not without effort, he roused himself; but only to slip back again into the same state of fair yet gently distracted vision.
At last the sound of opening casements in the dining-room underneath and of a voice, touched with laughter, reached him.
"There, you absurdities—skip, scuttle, take exercise, catch birds, improve your figures!" Poppy cried, clapping her hands encouragingly as she stood at the head of the flight of iron steps down which, with her foot, she shot the toy spaniels unceremoniously into the sunny garden below.
The little creatures, welcoming their freedom, forgetful for once of their languid overbred airs, scampered away yapping and skirmishing in the merriest fashion about the grass-plat and flower-beds. The window closed again and there followed a sound of voices, interjectional on Poppy's part, low and continuous on that of Mrs. Peters, the house-keeper. Then a pause, so prolonged that Iglesias, who had rallied all his energy and prepared to rise and to go forward to meet his guest, sank away once more into half-consciousness which neither actually sleeps or wakes. When he came fully to himself Poppy was sitting on the low window-seat close beside him. Her back was to the light and his sight was somewhat clouded, so that at first he failed to see her clearly; but he knew that her mood had changed and her laughter departed, through the sympathy of her touch, she holding his hand as it lay along the arm of the chair. He would have spoken, but she stopped him.
"No, dear man, don't hurry," she said. "I know already. Peters has just told me, now, downstairs, that you received the Last Sacraments this morning. That's why I didn't come up sooner. I couldn't see you directly, somehow. I had—well, I had to get my second wind, dearly beloved, so to speak. You see it's such a heavenly day that I couldn't help feeling happier about you. I had persuaded myself those doctors were a pack of croaking old grannies whose collective wisdom had eventuated in a wild mistake, and that, given time and summer weather, you would be better again—you know you have had ups and downs lots of times before—and that then, when the theatre closes and I have my holiday, I'd carry you off, somewhere, anywhere, back to your own fierce, passionate Spain, perhaps, and nurse and coax and care for you till living grew so pretty a business you really wouldn't have the conscience to quit."
Poppy's voice was sweet with caressing tones, sympathetic in quality as her lingering touch.
"Haven't you, perhaps, been a little premature after all?" she said. "Has it really and truly come to that? Mightn't you have put off those last grim ceremonies a trifle longer, and let them wait?"
"They are not grim, dearest friend, but full of strong consolation," Iglesias answered, smiling. He began to see her face more clearly. Her expression was tragic, a world of anguish in it, for all the restraint of her manner and playful glibness of her speech. "Nor, in any case," he added, "can they hasten the event."
"I'm not altogether sure of that," Poppy declared rebelliously.
"I could not quite trust myself as to what the day might bring forth," Iglesias continued. "In point of fact, I have gained strength as it has gone on.—And so it seemed wisest and most fitting to ask for the performance of those sacred rites while I was still of sound mind, and ready in my perception of that in which I was taking part."
"You have suffered?" Poppy said.
"Nothing unendurable. The nights are somewhat wearisome, since I cannot lie down, in ordinary fashion, to rest. But I sit here, or wander through the quiet, kindly house, contentedly enough. And I am well cared for—have no fear as to that. Peters is a faithful creature. She nursed my mother at the last, and her presence is grateful to me, for association's sake."
Iglesias straightened himself up.
"There, there," he said, "do not be too sad. The road is not such a very hard one to tread. The last few months have been the happiest I remember since my childhood. Any anxieties I felt concerning you are set at rest. You are famous, and will be more famous yet, and I know I shall live in your remembrance while you live. It is no slight thing, after all, for a man to have been loved so well by the two women whom he loved. And for the rest, dearest friend, as one draws near to the edge of the great shadow, which we call death, one begins to trust more and fuss less; looking to the next step only, so that one may take it neither with faltering nor with presumptuous haste."
"Ah!" Poppy cried, "that's all very well for you. But where do I come in? I lose you."
Iglesias smiled, lifting his shoulders slightly and raising his hands.
"Yes," he said, "it seems that sorrow, here on earth, is always, sooner or later, the guerdon of love. Why, I know not; but so it is, as the most sacred and august of all examples testifies. Only let us be thankful, you and I, that to us this parting, and the inevitable pain of it, comes while love is still in its full strength, having endured nothing unworthy, no shame, or diminution, or disillusionment. The more bitter the wrench, the finer the memory, and the more desirable the meeting which lies ahead, however far distant in time it may be and in difference of condition."
"Yes, dear man, yes, I dare say—no doubt," Poppy answered brokenly. "Only I can't rise to these philosophic heights. I'm right here, don't you see, my feet well on the floor, planted in brutal commonplace. I shall want you—just simply I shall want you, and you won't be there, and I shall be most cut-throat horribly lonely and sad. But, looking at you, still I don't believe it. I won't believe it. I shall keep you a long while yet."
She leaned over and kissed him gently on the cheek.
"Now I must go," she said, "if I'm to get any dinner before the theatre. I would have liked to stay, and put my poor little understudy on, so as to give her a chance. She's a nice little girl—not half stupid, and really keen to learn and to work. But I can't. I'm in honour bound to appear to-night. You see, it's our second century—the first one we could not observe, because it came at the end of January just in the general mourning—so there's an awful to-do and tomasha to-night, souvenir programmes and I don't know what all, also a rather extra special audience. It would be little too bad if I played them false. But," she added, rising, "when it's over I shall come back—yes, I will, I will, I tell you. Don't flatter yourself you can prevent me, beloved lunatic, for you jolly well can't.—I shall come back directly the performance is over, and watch with you, through the bad hours till the dawn."
Dominic Iglesias had risen, too. He crossed the room, going to the door and holding it open for her; then, standing on the little landing, he watched her as she went down the narrow crooked stairs. And so doing, it came to him, with a movement of thankfulness and of satisfied pride, how very fully in the past six months the Lady of the Windswept Dust had realised and fulfilled all the finer promise of her complex nature. Just as her figure had matured, retaining its admirable proportions and suppleness while gaining in distinction and dignity, her mind had matured likewise. Her splendid fearlessness was no longer that of naughty dare-devil audacity, but of secure position and recognised success. Indeed, she had grown into a somewhat imperial creature, for whom the world, and rightly, is very willing to make place.
At the bottom of the flight Poppy paused, looking up and kissing her hand.
"Till to-night," she cried. "Now I go to herd those two small miseries, W. O. and Cappadocia.—Take most precious care of yourself until I come back, dear man. Good-bye and God keep you, till to-night."
Mr. Iglesias crossed the drawing-room, glad at heart, erect and stately as in the fulness of health. For a minute or so he stood looking out into the garden, at the stone basin full to the lip—in which the sparrows, relieved of the presence of the toy spaniels, washed with much fluttering of sooty wings—and at the spring flowers, beginning to close their delicate blossoms as the sun declined towards its setting in the gold and grey of the west. In the recovered stillness, those same spiritual presences, rare apprehensions, exquisite memories, mysterious invitations, once again obtained possession, coming forth, passing lightly to and fro, filling all the place. In aspect and sentiment they were benign, all fearfulness having gone from out them—they telling of fair things only, of human relations unbroken by treachery or self-seeking, unsullied by lust; telling, too, of godly endeavour faithfully to travel the road which leads to the far horizon touched by the illimitable glory of the Uncreated Light.
But presently Dominic Iglesias became aware that he was very, very tired. He sat down in the chair again.
"Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy," he murmured, crossing himself. "I think the day's work is over. I will sleep."
That night Poppy St. John played as she had never played before; and her audience, taking her astonishing manifestation of talent as a compliment to themselves, cried with her and laughed with her in most wholehearted fashion.
Antony Hammond, in the stage box on the right, turned to Adolphus Carr, his companion, saying:
"Did I really write such admirable drama as this? I have girded at that term, 'creating a part,' as an example of the colossal vanity of the actor, and his very inadequate reverence for his maker, the playwright. But, I give you my word, after to-night I hide my diminished head. The player and playing are greater than any fondest conception of mine, when I put those words on paper."
And Lionel Gordon, his habitual imperturbability altogether broken up by excitement, stamped up and down stammering:
"Ge-ge-hanna, gehanna, what possesses the woman? I'd tour creation with her. She must be made to sign a three years' contract. If she can act like this there's nothing less than a cool half-million sterling in her."
And Alaric Barking, lean and haggard, invalided home from South Africa, escaping for one evening from the ministrations of gentle Lady Constance Decies and his pretty fiancee, sat huddled together at the end of a row at the back of the pit, hoping, "The deuce! nobody would see him," with a choke in his throat. He would love, honour, and cherish his pretty, high-bred, innocent maiden; but Poppy's voice tore at his very vitals. And he asked himself how had he ever borne to give her up, forgetting, as is the habit of civilised man in such slightly humiliating circumstances, that it was Poppy herself, not he, who loved and rode away.
Twice the curtain was raised at the end of the performance, and the Lady of the Windswept Dust made her bow with the rest of the company.—Now she could depart; thank heaven! she could go back to the strangely still house in Holland Street and fulfil her promise to Dominic Iglesias to watch with him till dawn. All through the play, the passion and excitement and pathos and mirth of it, her anxiety had deepened, her yearning increased, so that the joy of her public triumph was barred and seared by intimate pain. Now she could go. Already the carpenters were beginning their nightly work of destruction, metamorphosing the so-lately brilliant stage into a vast unsightly cavern of gaunt timbers, creaking pulleys, noisy mechanical contrivances, gaudy painted surfaces of canvas and paper, piled-up properties, of uncertain lights and draughts many and chill. Careless of all save that determination of going, Poppy moved away. But still the unseen audience clamoured. A fury had taken it, a madness such as will sometimes attack even the soberest and most aristocratic crowd, excitement reacting upon itself and stimulating excitement, till the demand which had begun in kindly enthusiasm became oddly violent, even brutal, men and women standing up, applauding, drumming, shouting a single name.
"There, it's over, thank the powers! Now let me get out of all this infernal din," she said, putting her hands over her ears as she pushed into the wings.
But Lionel Gordon met her, barring her passage, his face working with nervous agitation, and caught hold of her unceremoniously by both arms.
"What's the matter?" she cried angrily. "I can't stay. I have a case of illness on hand."
"Hang illness!" he answered. "My good girl, pull yourself together. Go back. Don't be a blooming fool. Listen—it's you they're splitting their throats for—yes, you—about the most fastidious audience in Europe yelling like a pack of drunken bookies! Gehenna! you're the luckiest woman living. You're made, great heavens, you're made!"
He dragged her aside, pushing her into the mouth of the narrow passage between the curtain and the footlights, where the roar of the house and the welter of faces met her like a breaking wave.
* * * * *
Standing against the edge of the pavement in front of Mr. Iglesias' house, in Holland Street, was a covered van. As Poppy drove up a couple of men came down the steps, in the black and white of the moonlight. Their dark clothing and somewhat sleek appearance were repulsive to her. She swept past them, swept past Frederick holding open the door, and on up the stairs. Her hands were encumbered by her trailing draperies of velvet and silver tissue, and by an extravagant bouquet of orchids, lilies, and roses, with long yellow satin streamers to it. She had not stayed even to wash the grease paint off her face. Just as she was, the stamp of her calling upon her, eager, fictitious, courageous, triumphant, pushed by a great fear, she came. But in the doorway she faltered, set her teeth, bowed her head, and paused.
For in the centre of the room a bier was dressed, and on either side of it stood lighted tapers of brownish wax, in tall black and gold candlesticks. At the foot, some distance apart, two low-seated rush-bottomed high-backed prie-dieu had been placed. Upon the one on the left a little nun knelt, her loose black habit concealing all the outline of her figure. The white linen pall was turned back, across the chest of the corpse, to where the shapely long-fingered hands were folded upon an ebony and silver crucifix. By some harsh irony of imagination Lionel Gordon's voice rang in Poppy's ears: "My good girl, pull yourself together. Gehenna! you're the luckiest woman living. You're made, great heavens, you're made!"—while, blank despair in her heart, she went forward, the little nun looking up momentarily from her prayers, and stood beside the bier. Beautiful in death as in life, serene, proud, austere, but young now with the eternal youth of those who have believed, and attained, and reached the Land of the Far Horizon, Dominic Iglesias lay before her.
Presently a sound of sobbing broke up the stillness, and turning, Poppy descried good George Lovegrove, sitting in the dusky far corner of the room, his knees wide apart, his shiny forehead showing high above the handkerchief he pressed against his eyes. She backed away from the corpse, as in all reverence from the presence of a personage august and sacred. Coming close to him, she laid her hand gently upon George Lovegrove's shoulder. "Go home, my best beetle," she said, very tenderly. "You're worn out with sorrow. Come back in the morning if you will. I promised Dominic I would watch with him till the dawn. I keep my promise."
Then the Lady of the Windswept Dust laid her extravagant bouquet with its yellow streamers, on the floor, at the foot of the bier; and kneeling upon the vacant prie-dieu, beside the little nun, buried her painted face in her hands and wept.