The Fighting Chance - Robert William Chambers - ebook
Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1906

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Robert William Chambers

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About
Chapter 1 - ACQUAINTANCE
Chapter 2 - IMPRUDENCE

About Chambers:

Robert William Chambers (May 26, 1865 – December 16, 1933) was an American artist and writer. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, to William P. Chambers (1827 - 1911), a famous lawyer, and Caroline Chambers (née Boughton), a direct descendant of Roger Williams, the founder of Providence, Rhode Island. Robert's brother was Walter Boughton Chambers, the world famous architect. Robert was first educated at the the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute,and then entered the Art Students' League at around the age of twenty, where the artist Charles Dana Gibson was his fellow student. Chambers studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, and at Académie Julian, in Paris from 1886 to 1893, and his work was displayed at the Salon as early as 1889. On his return to New York, he succeeded in selling his illustrations to Life, Truth, and Vogue magazines. Then, for reasons unclear, he devoted his time to writing, producing his first novel, In the Quarter (written in 1887 in Munich ) . His most famous, and perhaps most meritorious, effort is The King in Yellow, a collection of weird fiction short stories, connected by the theme of a book (to which the title refers) which drives those who read it insane. Chambers' fictitious drama The King in Yellow features in Karl Edward Wagner's story "The River of Night's Dreaming", while James Blish's story "More Light" purports to include much of the actual text of the play. Chambers later turned to writing romantic fiction to earn a living. According to some estimates, Chambers was one of the most successful literary careers of his period, his later novels selling well and a handful achieving best-seller status. Many of his works were also serialized in magazines. After 1924 he devoted himself solely to writing Historical fiction . On July 12, 1898, he married Elsa Vaughn Moller (1882-1939). They had a son, Robert Edward Stuart Chambers (later calling himself Robert Husted Chambers) who also gained some fame as an author. H. P. Lovecraft said of him in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith, "Chambers is like Rupert Hughes and a few other fallen Titans - equipped with the right brains and education but wholly out of the habit of using them." Frederic Taber Cooper commented, "So much of Chambers's work exasperates, because we feel that he might so easily have made it better." He died in New York on December 16th 1933. A critical essay on Chambers' work appears in S. T. Joshi's book The Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004). Source: Wikipedia

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Chapter 1 ACQUAINTANCE

The speed of the train slackened; a broad tidal river flashed into sight below the trestle, spreading away on either hand through yellowing level meadows. And now, above the roaring undertone of the cars, from far ahead floated back the treble bell-notes of the locomotive; there came a gritting vibration of brakes; slowly, more slowly the cars glided to a creaking standstill beside a sun-scorched platform gay with the bright flutter of sunshades and summer gowns.

“Shotover! Shotover!” rang the far cry along the cars; and an absent- minded young man in the Pullman pocketed the uncut magazine he had been dreaming over and, picking up gun case and valise, followed a line of fellow-passengers to the open air, where one by one they were engulfed and lost to view amid the gay confusion on the platform.

The absent-minded young man, however, did not seem to know exactly where he was bound for. He stood hesitating, leisurely inspecting the flashing ranks of vehicles—depot wagons, omnibusses, and motor cars already eddying around a dusty gravel drive centred by the conventional railroad flower bed and fountain.

Sunshine blazed on foliage plants arranged geometrically, on scarlet stars composed of geraniums, on thickets of tall flame-tinted cannas. And around this triumph of landscape gardening, phaeton, Tilbury, Mercedes, and Toledo backed, circled, tooted; gaily gowned women, whips aslant, horses dancing, greeted expected guests; laughing young men climbed into dog-carts and took the reins from nimble grooms; young girls, extravagantly veiled, made room in comfortable touring-cars for feminine guests whose extravagant veils were yet to be unpacked; slim young men in leather trappings, caps adorned with elaborate masks or goggles, manipulated rakish steering-gears; preoccupied machinists were fussing with valve and radiator or were cranking up; and, through the jolly tumult, the melancholy bell of the locomotive sounded, and the long train moved out through the September sunshine amid clouds of snowy steam.

And all this time the young man, gun case in one hand, suit case in the other, looked about him in his good-humoured, leisurely manner for anybody or any vehicle which might be waiting for him. His amiable inspection presently brought a bustling baggage-master within range of vision; and he spoke to this official, mentioning his host’s name.

“Lookin’ for Mr. Ferrall?” repeated the baggage-master, spinning a trunk dexterously into rank with its fellows. “Say, one of Mr. Ferrall’s men was here just now—there he is, over there uncrating that there bird- dog!”

The young man’s eyes followed the direction indicated by the grimy thumb; a red-faced groom in familiar livery was kneeling beside a dog’s travelling crate, attempting to unlock it, while behind the bars an excited white setter whined and thrust forth first one silky paw then the other.

The young man watched the scene for a moment, then:

“Are you one of Mr. Ferrall’s men?” he asked in his agreeable voice.

The groom looked up, then stood up:

“Yis, Sorr.”

“Take these; I’m Mr. Siward—for Shotover House. I dare say you have room for me and the dog, too.”

The groom opened his mouth to speak, but Siward took the crate key from his fingers, knelt, and tried the lock. It resisted. From the depths of the crate a beseeching paw fell upon his cuff.

“Certainly, old fellow,” he said soothingly, “I know how you feel about it; I know you’re in a hurry—and we’ll have you out in a second—steady, boy!—something’s jammed, you see! Only one moment now! There you are!”

The dog attempted to bolt as the crate door opened, but the young man caught him by the leather collar and the groom snapped on a leash.

“Beg pardon, Sorr,” began the groom, carried almost off his feet by the frantic circling of the dog—“beg pardon, Sorr, but I’ll be afther seem’ if anny of Mr. Ferrall’s men drove over for you—”

“Oh! Are you not one of Mr. Ferrall’s men?”

“Yis, Sorr, but I hadn’t anny orders to meet anny wan—”

“Haven’t you anything here to drive me in?”

“Yis, Sorr—I’ll look to see—”

The raw groom, much embarrassed, and keeping his feet with difficulty against the plunging dog, turned toward the gravel drive where now only a steam motor and a depot-wagon remained. As they looked the motor steamed out, honking hoarsely; the depot-wagon followed, leaving the circle at the end of the station empty of vehicles.

“Didn’t Mr. Ferrall expect me?” asked Siward.

“Aw, yis, Sorr; but the gintlemen for Shotover House does ginerally allways coom by Black Fells, Sorr—”

“Oh, Lord!” said the young man, “I remember now. I should have gone on to Black Fells Crossing; Mr. Ferrall wrote me!” Then, amused: “I suppose you have only a baggage-wagon here?”

“No, Sorr—a phayton”—he hesitated.

“Well? Isn’t a phaeton all right?”

“Yis, Sorr—if th’ yoong lady says so—beg pardon, Sorr, Miss Landis is driving.”

“Oh—h! I see. … Is Miss Landis a guest at Shotover House?”

“Yis, Sorr. An’ if ye would joost ask her—the phayton do be coming now, Sorr!”

The phaeton was coming; the horse, a showy animal, executed side-steps; blue ribbons fluttered from the glittering head-stall; a young girl in white was driving.

Siward advanced to the platform’s edge as the phaeton drew up; the young lady looked inquiringly at the groom, at the dog, and leisurely at him.

So he took off his hat, naming himself in that well-bred and agreeable manner characteristic of men of his sort,—and even his smile appeared to be part and parcel of a conventional ensemble so harmonious as to remain inconspicuous.

“You should have gone on to Black Fells Crossing,” observed Miss Landis, coolly controlling the nervous horse. “Didn’t you know it?”

He said he remembered now that such were the directions given him.

The girl glanced at him incuriously, and with more curiosity at the dog. “Is that the Sagamore pup, Flynn?” she asked.

“It is, Miss.”

“Can’t you take him on the rumble with you?” And, to Siward: “There is room for your gun and suit case.”

“And for me?” he asked, smiling.

“I think so. Be careful of that Sagamore pup, Flynn. Hold him between your knees. Are you ready, Mr. Siward?”

So he climbed in; the groom hoisted the dog to the rumble and sprang up behind; the horse danced and misbehaved, making a spectacle of himself and an agreeable picture of his driver; then the pretty little phaeton swung northward out of the gravel drive and went whirling along a road all misty with puffs of yellow dust which the afternoon sun turned to floating golden powder.

“Did you send my telegram, Flynn?” she asked without turning her head.

“I did, Miss.”

It being the most important telegram she had ever sent in all her life, Miss Landis became preoccupied,—quite oblivious to extraneous details, including Siward, until the horse began acting badly again. Her slightly disdainful and perfect control of the reins interested the young man. He might have said something civil and conventional about that, but did not make the effort to invade a reserve which appeared to embarrass nobody.

A stacatto note from the dog, prolonged infinitely in hysterical crescendo, demanded comment from somebody.

“What is the matter with him, Flynn?” she asked.

Siward said: “You should let him run, Miss Landis.”

She nodded, smiling, inattentive, absorbed in her own affairs, still theorising concerning her telegram. She drove on for a while, and might have forgotten the dog entirely had he not once more lifted his voice in melancholy.

“You say he ought to run for a mile or two? Do you think he’ll bolt, Mr. Siward?”

“Is he a new dog?”

“Yes, fresh from the kennels; supposed to be house-and wagon-broken, steady to shot and wing—” She shrugged her pretty shoulders. “You see how he’s acting already!”

“Do you mind if I try him?” suggested Siward.

“You mean that you are going to let him run?”

“I think so.”

“And if he bolts?”

“I’ll take my chances.”

“Yes, but please consider my chances, Mr. Siward. The dog doesn’t belong to me.”

“But he ought to run—”

“But suppose he runs away? He’s a horridly expensive creature—if you care to take the risk.”

“I’ll take the risk,” said Siward, smiling as she drew rein. “Now Flynn, give me the leash. Quiet! Quiet, puppy! Everything is coming your way; that’s the beauty of patience; great thing, patience!” He took the leader; the dog sprang from the rumble. “Now, my friend, look at me! No, don’t twist and squirm and scramble; look me square in the eye; so! … Now we know each ether and we respect each other—because you are going to be a good puppy … and obey … Down charge!”

The dog, trembling with eager comprehension, dropped like a shot, muzzle laid flat between his paws. Siward unleashed him, looked down at him for a second, stooped and caressed the silky head, then with a laugh swung himself into the phaeton beside the driver, who, pretty head turned, had been looking on intently.

“Your dog is yard-broken,” he said. “Look at him.”

“I see. Do you think he will follow us?”

“I think so.”

The horse started, Miss Landis looking back over her shoulder at the dog who lay motionless, crouched flat in the road.

Then Siward turned. “Come on, Sagamore!” he said gaily; and the dog sprang forward, circled about the moving phaeton, splitting the air with yelps of ecstasy, then tore ahead, mad with the delight of stretching cramped muscles amid the long rank grass and shrubbery of the roadside.

The girl watched him doubtfully; when he disappeared far away up the road she turned the blue inquiry of her eyes on Siward.

“He’ll be back,” said the young fellow, laughing; and presently the dog reappeared on a tearing gallop, white flag tossing, glorious in his new liberty, enchanted with the confidence this tall young man had reposed in him—this adorable young man, this wonderful friend who had suddenly appeared to release him from an undignified and abominable situation in a crate.

“A good dog,” said Siward; and the girl looked around at him, partly because his voice was pleasant, partly because a vague memory was beginning to stir within her, coupling something unpleasant with the name of Siward.

She had been conscious of it when he first named himself, but, absorbed in the overwhelming importance of her telegram, had left the analysis of the matter for the future.

She thought again of her telegram, theorised a little, came to no conclusion except to let the matter rest for the present, and mentally turned to the next and far less important problem—the question of this rather attractive young man at her side, and why the name of Siward should be linked in her mind with anything disagreeable.

Tentatively following the elusive mental dews that might awaken something definite concerning her hazy impression of the man beside her, she spoke pleasantly, conventionally, touching idly any topic that might have a bearing; and, under a self-possession so detached as to give an impression of indifference, eyes, ears, and intelligence admitted that he was agreeable to look at, pleasant of voice, and difficult to reconcile with anything unpleasant.

Which gradually aroused her interest—the incongruous usually interesting girls of her age—for he had wit enough to amuse her, sufficient inconsequence to please her, and something listless, at times almost absent-minded, almost inattentive, that might have piqued her had it not inoculated her, as it always does any woman, with the nascent germ of curiosity. Besides, there was, in the hint of his momentary preoccupation, a certain charm.

They discussed shooting and the opening of the season; dogs and the training of dogs; and why some go gun-shy and why some ace blinkers. From sport and its justification, they became inconsequential; and she was beginning to enjoy the freshness of their chance acquaintance, his nice attitude toward things, his irrelevancy, his gaiety.

Laughter thawed her; for notwithstanding the fearless confidence she had been taught for men of her own kind, self-possession and reserve, if not inherent, had also been drilled into her, and she required a great deal in a man before she paid him the tribute of one of her pretty laughs.

Apparently they were advancing rather rapidly.

“Don’t you think we ought to call the dog in, Mr. Siward?”

“Yes; he’s had enough!”

She drew rein; he sprang out and whistled; and the Sagamore pup, dusty and happy came romping back. Siward motioned him to the rumble, but the dog leaped to the front.

“I don’t mind,” said the girl. “Let him sit here between us. And you might occupy yourself by pulling some of those burrs from his ears—if you will?”

“Of course I will. Look up here, puppy! No! Don’t try to lick my face, for that is bad manners. Demonstrations are odious, as the poet says.”

“It’s always bad manners, isn’t it?” asked Miss Landis.

“What? Being affectionate?”

“Yes, and admitting it.”

“I believe it is. Do you hear that—Sagamore? But never mind; I’ll break the rules some day when we’re alone.”

The dog laid one paw on Siward’s knee, looking him wistfully in the eyes.

“More demonstrations,” observed the girl. “Mr. Siward! You are hugging him! This amounts to a dual conspiracy in bad manners.”

“Awfully glad to admit you to the conspiracy,” he said. “There’s one vacancy—if you are eligible.”

“I am; I was discovered recently kissing my saddle-mare.”

“That settles it! Sagamore, give the young lady the grip.”

Sylvia Landis glanced at the dog, then impulsively shifting the whip to her left hand, held out the right. And very gravely the Sagamore pup laid one paw in her dainty white gloved palm.

“You darling!” murmured the girl, resuming her whip.

“I notice,” observed Siward, “that you are perfectly qualified for membership in our association for the promotion of bad manners. In fact I should suggest you for the presidency—”

“I suppose you think all sorts of things because I gushed over that dog.”

“Of course I do.”

“Well you need not,” she rejoined, delicate nose up-tilted. “I never kissed a baby in all my life—and never mean to. Which is probably more than you can say.”

“Yes, its more than I can say.

“That admission elects you president,” she concluded. But after a moment’s silent driving she turned partly toward him with mock seriousness: “Is it not horridly unnatural in me to feel that way about babies? And about people, too; I simply cannot endure demonstrations. As for dogs and horses—well, I’ve admitted how I behave; and, being so shamelessly affectionate by disposition, why can’t I be nice to babies? I’ve a hazy but dreadful notion that there’s something wrong about me, Mr. Siward.”

He scrutinised the pretty features, anxiously; “I can’t see it,” he said.

“But I mean it—almost seriously. I don’t want to be so aloof, but—I don’t like to touch other people. It is rather horrid of me I suppose to be like those silky, plumy, luxurious Angora cats who never are civil to you and who always jump out of your arms at the first opportunity.”

He laughed—and there was malice in his eyes, but he did not know her well enough to pursue the subject through so easy an opening.

It had occurred to her, too, that her simile might invite elaboration, and she sensed the laugh in his silence, and liked him for remaining silent where he might easily have been wittily otherwise.

This set her so much at ease, left her so confident, that they were on terms of gayest understanding presently, she gossiping about the guests at Shotover House, outlining the diversions planned for the two weeks before them.

“But we shall see little of one another; you will be shooting most of the time,” she said—with the very faintest hint of challenge—too delicate, too impersonal to savour of coquetry. But the germ of it was there.

“Do you shoot?”

“Yes; why?”

“I am reconciled to the shooting, then.”

“Oh, that is awfully civil of you. Sometimes I’d rather play Bridge.”

“So should I—sometimes.”

“I’ll remember that, Mr. Siward; and when all the men are waiting for you to start out after grouse perhaps I may take that moment to whisper: ‘May I play?’”

He laughed.

“You mean that you really would stay and play double dummy when every other living man will be off to the coverts? Double dummy—to improve my game?”

“Certainly! I need improvement.”

“Then there is something wrong with you, too, Mr. Siward.”

She laughed and started to flick her whip, but at her first motion the horse gave trouble.

“The bit doesn’t fit,” observed Siward.

“You are perfectly right,” she returned, surprised. “I ought to have remembered; it is shameful to drive a horse improperly bitted.” And, after a moment: “You are considerate toward animals; it is good in a man.”

“Oh, it’s no merit. When animals are uncomfortable it worries me. It’s one sort of selfishness, you see.”

“What nonsense,” she said; and her smile was very friendly. “Why doesn’t a nice man ever admit he’s nice when told so?”

It seems they had advanced that far. For she was beginning to find this young man not only safe but promising; she had met nobody recently half as amusing, and the outlook at Shotover House had been unpromising with only the overgrateful Page twins to practise on—the other men collectively and individually boring her. And suddenly, welcome as manna from the sky, behold this highly agreeable boy to play with—until Quarrier arrived. Her telegram had been addressed to Mr. Quarrier.

“What was it you were saying about selfishness?” she asked. “Oh, I remember. It was nonsense.”

“Certainly.”

She laughed, adding: “Selfishness is so simply defined you know.”

“Is it? How.”

“A refusal to renounce. That covers everything,” she concluded.

“Sometimes renunciation is weakness—isn’t it?” he suggested.

“In what case for example?”

“Well, suppose we take love.”

“Very well, you may take it if you like it.”

“Suppose you loved a man!” he insisted.

“Let him beware! What then?”

“—And, suppose it would distress your family if you married him?”

“I’d give him up.”

“If you loved him?”

“Love? That is the poorest excuse for selfishness, Mr. Siward.”

“So you would ruin your happiness and his—”

“A girl ought to find more happiness in renouncing a selfish love than in love itself,” announced Miss Landis with that serious conviction characteristic of her years.

“Of course,” assented Siward with a touch of malice, “if you really do find more happiness in renouncing love than in love itself, it would be foolish not to do it—”

“Mr. Siward! You are derisive. Besides, you are not acute. A woman is always an opportunist. When the event takes place I shall know what to do.”

“You mean when you want to marry the man you mustn’t?

“Exactly. I probably shall.”

“Marry him?

“Wish to!”

“I see. But you won’t, of course.”

She drew rein, bringing the horse to a walk at the foot of a long hill.

“We are going much too fast,” said Miss Landis, smiling.

“Driving too fast for—”

“No, not driving, going—you and I.”

“Oh, you mean—”

“Yes I do. We are on all sorts of terms, already.”

“In the country, you know, people—”

“Yes I know all about it, and what old and valued friends one makes at a week’s end. But it has been a matter of half-hours with us, Mr. Siward.”

“Let us sit very still and think it over,” he suggested. And they both laughed.

It was perhaps the reaction of her gaiety that recalled to her mind her telegram. The telegram had been her promised answer after she had had time to consider a suggestion made to her by a Mr. Howard Quarrier. The last week at Shotover permitted reflection; and while her telegram was no complete answer to the suggestion he had made, it contained material of interest in the eight words: “I will consider your request when you arrive.

“I wonder if you know Howard Quarrier?” she said.

After a second’s hesitation he replied: “Yes—a little. Everybody does.”

“You do know him?”

“Only at—the club.”

“Oh, the Lenox?”

“The Lenox—and the Patroons.”

Preoccupied, driving with careless, almost inattentive perfection, she thought idly of her twenty-three years, wondering how life could have passed so quickly leaving her already stranded on the shoals of an engagement to marry Howard Quarrier. Then her thoughts, errant, wandered half the world over before they returned to Siward; and when at length they did, and meaning to be civil, she spoke again of his acquaintance with Quarrier at the Patroons Club—the club itself being sufficient to settle Siward’s status in every community.

“I’m trying to remember what it is I have heard about you,” she continued amiably; “you are—”

An odd expression in his eyes arrested her—long enough to note their colour and expression—and she continued, pleasantly; “—you are Stephen Siward, are you not? You see I know your name perfectly well—” Her straight brows contracted a trifle; she drove on, lips compressed, following an elusive train of thought which vaguely, persistently, coupled his name with something indefinitely unpleasant. And she could not reconcile this with his appearance. However, the train of unlinked ideas which she pursued began to form the semblance of a chain. Coupling his name with Quarrier’s, and with a club, aroused memory; vague uneasiness stirred her to a glimmering comprehension. Siward? Stephen Siward? One of the New York Siwards then;—one of that race—

Suddenly the truth flashed upon her,—the crude truth lacking definite detail, lacking circumstance and colour and atmosphere,—merely the raw and ugly truth.

Had he looked at her—and he did, once—he could have seen only the unruffled and very sweet profile of a young girl. Composure was one of the masks she had learned to wear—when she chose.

And she was thinking very hard all the while; “So this is the man? I might have known his name. Where were my five wits? Siward!—Stephen Siward! … He is very young, too … much too young to be so horrid. … Yet—it wasn’t so dreadful, after all; only the publicity! Dear me! I knew we were going too fast.”

“Miss Landis,” he said.

“Mr. Siward?”—very gently. It was her way to be gentle when generous.

“I think,” he said, “that you are beginning to remember where you may have heard my name.”

“Yes—a little—” She looked at him with the direct gaze of a child, but the lovely eyes were troubled. His smile was not very genuine, but he met her gaze steadily enough.

“It was rather nice of Mrs. Ferrall to ask me,” he said, “after the mess I made of things last spring.”

“Grace Ferrall is a dear,” she replied.

After a moment he ventured: “I suppose you saw it in the papers.”

“I think so; I had completely forgotten it; your name seemed to—”

“I see.” Then, listlessly: “I couldn’t have ventured to remind you that—that perhaps you might not care to be so amiable—”

“Mr. Siward,” she said impulsively, “you are nice to me! Why shouldn’t I be amiable? It was—it was—I’ve forgotten just how dreadfully you did behave—”

“Pretty badly.”

“Very?”

“They say so.”

“And what is your opinion Mr. Siward?”

“Oh, I ought to have known better.” Something about him reminded her of a bad small boy; and suddenly in spite of her better sense, in spite of her instinctive caution, she found herself on the very verge of laughter. What was it in the man that disarmed and invited a confidence—scarcely justified it appeared? What was it now that moved her to overlook what few overlook—not the fault, but its publicity? Was it his agreeable bearing, his pleasant badinage, his amiably listless moments of preoccupation, his youth that appealed to her—aroused her charity, her generosity, her curiosity?

And had other people continued to accept him, too? What would Quarrier think of his presence at Shotover? She began to realise that she was a little afraid of Quarrier’s opinions. And his opinions were always judgments. However Grace Ferrall had thought it proper to ask him, and that meant social absolution. As far as that went she also was perfectly ready to absolve him if he needed it. But perhaps he didn’t care!—She looked at him, furtively. He seemed to be tranquil enough in his abstraction. Trouble appeared to slide very easily from his broad young shoulders. Perhaps he was already taking much for granted in her gentleness with him. And gradually speculation became interest and interest a young girl’s innocent curiosity to learn something of a man whose record it seemed almost impossible to reconcile with his personality.

“I was wondering,” he said looking up to encounter her clear eyes, “whose house that is over there?”

“Beverly Plank’s shooting-box; Black Fells,” she replied nodding toward the vast pile of blackish rocks against the sky, upon which sprawled a heavy stone house infested with chimneys.

“Plank? Oh yes.”

He smiled to remember the battering blows rained upon the ramparts of society by the master of Black Fells.

But the smile faded; and, glancing at him, the girl was surprised to see the subtle change in his face—the white worn look, then the old listless apathy which, all at once to her, hinted of something graver than preoccupation.

“Are we near the sea?” he asked.

“Very near. Only a moment to the top of this hill. … Now look!”

There lay the sea—the same grey-blue crawling void that had ever fascinated and repelled him—always wrinkled, always in flat monotonous motion, spreading away, away to the sad world’s ends.

“Full of menace—always,” he said, unconscious that he had spoken aloud.

“The sea!”

He spoke without turning: “The sea is a relentless thing for a man to fight. … There are other tides more persistent than the sea, but like it—like it in its menace.”

His face seemed thinner, older; she noticed his cheek bones for the first time. Then, meeting her eyes, youth returned with a laugh and a touch of colour; and, without understanding exactly how, she was aware, presently, that they had insensibly slipped back to their light badinage and gay inconsequences—back to a footing which, strangely, seemed to be already an old footing, familiar, pleasant, and natural to return to.

“Is that Shotover House?” he asked as they came to the crest of the last hillock between them and the sea.

“At last, Mr. Siward,” she said mockingly; “and now your troubles are nearly ended.”

“And yours, Miss Landis?”

“I don’t know,” she murmured to herself, thinking of the telegram with the faintest misgiving.

For she was very young, and she had not had half enough out of life as yet; and besides, her theories and preconceived plans for the safe and sound ordering of her life appeared to lack weight—nay, they were dwindling already into insignificance.

Theory had almost decided her to answer Mr. Quarrier’s suggestion with a ‘Yes.’ However, he was coming from the Lakes in a day or two. She could decide definitely when she had discussed the matter with him.

“I wish that I owned this dog,” observed Siward, as the phaeton entered the macadamised drive.

“I wish so, too,” she said, “but he belongs to Mr. Quarrier.”


Chapter 2 IMPRUDENCE

A house of native stone built into and among weather-scarred rocks, one massive wing butting seaward, others nosing north and south among cedars and outcropping ledges—the whole silver-grey mass of masonry reddening under a westering sun, every dormer, every leaded diamond pane aflame; this was Shotover as Siward first beheld it.

Like the craggy vertebrae of a half-buried fossil splitting the sod, a ragged line of rock rose as a barrier to inland winds; the foreland, set here and there with tiny lawns and pockets of bright flowers, fell away to the cliffs; and here, sheer wet black rocks fronted the eternal battering of the Atlantic.

As the phaeton drew up under a pillared porte-cochere, one or two servants appeared; a rather imposing specimen bowed them through the doors into the hall where, in a wide chimney place, the embers of a drift-wood fire glimmered like a heap of dusty jewels. Bars of sunlight slanted on wall and rug, on stone floor and carved staircase, on the bronze foliations of the railed gallery above, where, in the golden gloom through a high window, sun-tipped tree tops against a sky of azure stirred like burnished foliage in a tapestry.

“There is nobody here, of course,” observed Miss Landis to Siward as they halted in front of the fire-place; “the season opens to-day in this county, you see.” She shrugged her pretty shoulders: “And the women who don’t shoot make the first field-luncheon a function.”

She turned, nodded her adieux, then, over her shoulder, casually: “If you haven’t an appointment with the Sand-Man before dinner you may find me in the gun-room.”

“I’ll be there in about three minutes,” he said; “and what about this dog?”—looking down at the Sagamore pup who stood before him, wagging, attentive, always the gentleman to the tips of his toes.

Miss Landis laughed. “Take him to your room if you like. Dogs have the run of the house.”

So he followed a servant to the floor above where a smiling and very ornamental maid preceded him through a corridor and into that heavy wing of the house which fronted the sea.

“Tea is served in the gun-room, sir,” said the pretty maid, and disappeared to give place to a melancholy and silent young man who turned on the bath, laid out fresh raiment, and whispering, “Scotch or Irish, sir?” presently effaced himself.

Before he quenched his own thirst Siward filled a bowl and set it on the floor, and it seemed as though the dog would never finish gulping and slobbering in the limpid icy water.

“It’s the salt air, my boy,” commented the young man, gravely refilling his own glass as though accepting the excuse on his own account.

Then man and beast completed ablutions and grooming and filed out through the wide corridor, around the gallery, and down the broad stairway to the gun-room—an oaken vaulted place illuminated by the sun, where mellow lights sparkled on glass-cased rows of fowling pieces and rifles, on the polished antlers of shaggy moose heads.

Miss Landis sat curled up in a cushioned corner under the open casement panes, offering herself a cup of tea. She looked up, nodding invitation; he found a place beside her. A servant whispered, “Scotch or Irish, sir,” then set the crystal paraphernalia at his elbow.

He said something about the salt air, casually; the girl gazed meditatively at space.

The sound of wheels on the gravel outside aroused her from a silence which had become a brown study; and, to Siward, presently, she said: “Here endeth our first rendezvous.”

“Then let us arrange another immediately,” he said, stirring the ice in his glass.

The girl considered him with speculative eyes: “I shouldn’t exactly know what to do with you for the next hour if I didn’t abandon you.”

“Why bother to do anything with me? Why even give yourself the trouble of deserting me? That solves the problem.”

“I really don’t mean that you are a problem to me, Mr. Siward,” she said, amused; “I mean that I am going to drive again.”

“I see.”

“No you don’t see at all. There’s a telegram; I’m not driving for pleasure—”

She had not meant that either, and it annoyed her that she had expressed herself in such terms. As a matter of fact, at the telegraphed request of Mr. Quarrier, she was going to Black Fells Crossing to meet his train from the Lakes and drive him back to Shotover. The drive, therefore, was of course a drive for pleasure.

“I see,” repeated Siward amiably.

“Perhaps you do,” she observed, rising to her graceful height. He was on his feet at once, so carelessly, so good-humouredly acquiescent that without any reason at all she hesitated.

“I had meant to show you about—the cliffs—the kennels and stables; I’m sorry,” she concluded, lingering.

“I’m awfully sorry,” he rejoined without meaning anything in particular. That was the trouble, whatever he said, apparently meant so much.

With the agreeable sensation of being regretted, she leisurely gloved herself, then walked through the gun-room and hall, Siward strolling beside her.

The dog followed them as they turned toward the door and passed out across the terraced veranda to the driveway where a Tandem cart was drawn up, faultlessly appointed. Quarrier’s mania was Tandem. She thought it rather nice of her to remember this.

She inspected the ensemble without visible interest for a few moments; the wind freshened from the sea, fluttering her veil, and she turned toward the east to face it. In the golden splendour of declining day the white sails of yachts crowded landward on the last leg before beating westward into Blue Harbour; a small white cruiser, steaming south, left a mile long stratum of rose-tinted smoke hanging parallel to the horizon’s plane; the westering sun struck sparks from her bright-work.

The magic light on land and water seemed to fascinate the girl; she had walked a little way toward the cliffs, Siward following silently, offering no comment on the beauty of sky and cliff. As they halted once more the enchantment seemed to spread; a delicate haze enveloped the sea; hints of rose colour tinted the waves; over the uplands a pale mauve bloom grew; the sunlight turned redder, slanting on the rocks, and every kelp-covered reef became a spongy golden mound, sprayed with liquid flame.

They had turned their backs to the Tandem; the grooms looked after them, standing motionless at the horses’ heads.

“Mr. Siward, this is too fine to miss,” she said. “I will walk as far as the headland with you. … Please smoke if you care to.”

He did care to; several matches were extinguished by the wind until she spread her skids as a barrier; and kneeling in their shelter he got his light.

“Tobacco smoke diluted with sea breeze is delicious,” she said, as the wind whirled the aromatic smoke of his cigarette up into her face. “Don’t move, Mr. Siward; I like it; there is to me always a faint odour of sweet-brier in the mélange. Did you ever notice it?”

The breeze-blown conversation became fragmentary, veering as capriciously as the purple wind-flaws that spread across the shoals. But always to her question or comment she found in his response the charm of freshness, of quick intelligence, or of a humourous and idle perversity which stimulates without demanding.

Once, glancing back at the house where the T-cart and horses stood, she said that she had better return; or perhaps she only thought she said it, for he made no response that time. And a few moments later they reached the headland, and the Atlantic lay below, flowing azure from horizon to horizon—under a universe of depthless blue. And for a long while neither spoke.

With her the spell endured until conscience began to stir. Then she awoke, uneasy as always, under the shadow of restraint or pressure, until her eyes fell on him and lingered.

A subtle change had come into his face; its leanness struck her for the first time; that, and an utter detachment from his surroundings, a sombre oblivion to everything—and to her.

How curiously had his face altered, how shadowy it had grown, effacing the charm of youth, in it.

The slight amusement with which she had become conscious of her own personal exclusion grew to an interest tinged with curiosity.

The interest continued, but when his silence became irksome to her she said so very frankly. His absent eyes, still clouded, met hers, unsmiling.

“I hate the sea,” he said.

“You—hate it!” she repeated, too incredulous to be disappointed.

“There’s no rest in it; it tires. A man who plays with it must be on his guard every second. To spend a lifetime on it is ridiculous—a whole life of intelligent effort, against perpetual, brutal, inanimate resistance— one endless uninterrupted fight—a ceaseless human manoeuvre against senseless menace; and then the counter attack of the lifeless monster, the bellowing advance, the shock—and no battle won—nothing final, nothing settled, no! only the same eternal nightmare of surveillance, the same sleepless watch for stupid treachery.”

“But—you don’t have to fight it!” she said, astonished.

“No; but it is no secret—what it does to those who do. … Some escape; but only by dying ashore before it gets them. That is the way some of us reach Heaven; we die too quick for the Enemy to catch us.”

He was laughing when she said: “It is not a fight with the sea; it is the battle of Life itself you mean.”

“Yes, in a way, the battle of Life.”

“Oh, you are morbid then. Is there anybody ever born who has not a fight on his hands?”

“No; only I have known men tired out, unfairly, before life had declared war on them.”

“Just what do you mean?”

“Oh, something about fair play—what our popular idol summarises as a ‘square deal’.” He laughed again, easily, his face clearing.

“Nobody worth a square deal ever laments because he hasn’t had it,” she said.

“I dare say that’s true, too,” he admitted listlessly.

“Mr. Siward, exactly what did you mean?”

“I was thinking of men I knew; for example a man who through generations has inherited every impulse and desire that he should not harbour—a man with intellect enough to be aware of it, with decency enough to desire decency. … What chance has he with the storms which have been brewing for him even before he opened his eyes on earth? Is that a square deal?”

The troubled concentration of her face was reflected now in his own; the wind came whipping and flicking at them from league-wide tossing wastes; the steady thunder of the sea accented the silence.

She said: “I suppose everybody has infinite capacity for decency or mischief. I know that I have. And I fancy that this capacity always remains, no matter how moral one’s life may be. ‘Watch and pray’ was not addressed to the guilty alone, Mr. Siward.”

“Oh, yes, of course. As for the balanced capacity for good and evil, how about the inherited desire for the latter?”

“Who is free from that, too? Do you suppose anybody really desires to be good?”

“You mean most people are so afraid not to be, that virtue becomes a habit?”

“Perhaps. It’s a plain business proposition anyway. It pays.”

“Celestial insurance?” he asked, laughing.

“I don’t know, Mr. Siward; do you?”

But he, turning to the sea, had become engrossed in his own thoughts again; and again she was first curious, then impatient at the ease with which he excluded her. She remembered, too, that the cart was waiting; that she had scarcely time now to make the train.

She stood irresolute, inert, disinclined to bestir herself. An inborn aptitude for drifting, which threatened to become a talent for indecision, had always alternated in her with sudden impulsive conclusions; and when her pride was involved, in decisions which sometimes scarcely withstood the analysis of reason.

Physically healthy, mentally unawakened, sentimentally incredulous, totally ignorant of any master passion, and conventionally drilled, her beauty and sweet temper had carried her easily on the frothy crest of her first season, over the eligible and ineligible alike, leaving her at Lenox, a rather tired and breathless girl, in love with pleasure and the world which treated her so well.

The death of her mother abroad had made little impression upon her—her uncle, Major Belwether, having cared for her since her father’s death when she was ten years old. So, although the scandal of her mother’s self-exile had been in a measure condoned by a tardy marriage to the man for whom she had left everything, her daughter had grown up ignorant of any particular feeling for a mother she could scarcely remember.

However, she wore black and went nowhere for the second winter, during which time she learned a great deal concerning the unconventional proclivities of the women of her race and family, enough to impress her so seriously that on an exaggerated impulse she had come to one of her characteristic decisions.

That decision was to break the unsavoury record at the first justifiable opportunity. And the opportunity came in the shape of Quarrier. As though wedlock were actually the sanctuary which an alarmed nation pretends it to be!

Now, approaching the threshold of a third and last season, and having put away her almost meaningless mourning, there had stolen into her sense of security something irksome in the promise she had made to give Quarrier a definite answer before winter.

Perhaps it had been the lack of interest in the people at Shotover, perhaps a mental review of her ancestors’ capricious records—perhaps a characteristic impulse that had directed a telegram to Quarrier after a midnight confab with Grace Ferrall.

However it may have been, she had summoned him. And now he was on his way to get his answer, the best whip, the most eagerly discussed, and one of the wealthiest unmarried men in America.

Lingering irresolutely, considering with idle eyes the shadows lengthening across the sun-shot moorland, the sound of Siward’s even voice aroused her from a meditation bordering on lassitude.

She answered vaguely. He spoke again; all the agreeable, gentle, humourous charm dominant once more—releasing her from the growing tension of her own thoughts, absolving her from the duty of immediate decision.

“I feel curiously lazy,” she said; “perhaps from our long drive.” She seated herself on the turf. “Talk to me, Mr. Siward—in that lazy way of yours.”

What he had to say proved inconsequent enough, an irrelevant suggestion concerning the training of field-dogs for close covert work and the reasons for not breaking such dogs on quail. Then the question of cross- breeding came up, and he gave his opinion on the qualities of “droppers.” To which she replied, sleepily; and the conversation veered again toward the mystery of heredity, and the hopelessness of escape from its laws as illustrated now by the Sagamore pup, galloping nose in the wind, having scented afar the traces of the forbidden rabbit.

“His ancestors turned ‘round and ‘round to flatten the long reeds and grasses in their lairs before lying down,” observed Siward. “He does it, too, where there is nothing to flatten out. Did you ever notice how many times a dog turns around before lying down? And there goes the carefully schooled Sagamore, chasing rabbits! Why? Because his wild ancestors chased rabbits. … Heredity? It’s a steady, unseen, pulling, dragging force. Like lightning, too, it shatters, sometimes, where there is resistance.”

“Do you mean, Mr. Siward, that heredity is an excuse for moral weakness?”

“I don’t know. Those inheriting nothing of evil say it is no excuse.”

“It is no excuse.”

“You speak with authority,” he said.

“With more than you are aware of,” she murmured, not meaning to say it.

She stood up impulsively, her fresh face turned to the distant house, her rounded young figure poised in relief against the sky.

“Inherited or not, idleness, procrastination, are my besetting sins. Can’t you suggest the remedy, Mr. Siward?”

“But they are only the thieves of Time; and we kill the poor old gentleman.”

“Leagued assassins,” she repeated pensively.

Her gown had caught on the cliff briers; he knelt to release it, she looking down, noting an ugly tear in the fabric.

“Payment for my iniquities—the first instalment,” she said, still looking down over his shoulder and watching his efforts to release her. “Thank you, Mr. Siward. I think we ought to start, don’t you?”

He straightened up, smiling, awaiting her further pleasure. Her pleasure being capricious, she seated herself again, saying: “What I meant to say was this: evils that spring from heredity are no excuse for misconduct in people of our sort. Environment, not heredity, counts. And it’s our business, who have every chance in the world, to make good!”

He looked down, amused at the piquant incongruity of voice and vernacular.

“What time is it?” she asked irrelevantly.

He glanced at his watch. She turned her eyes toward the level sun, conscious, and a little conscience-stricken that it was too late for her to drive to Black Fells Crossing—unless she started at once.

The sun hung low over the pines; all the scrubby foreland ran molten gold in every tufted furrow; flock after flock of twittering little birds whirled into the briers and out again, scattering inland into undulating flight.

The zenith turned shell pink; through clotted shoals of clouds spread spaces of palest green like calm lakes in the sky.

It grew stiller; the wind went down with the sun.

Doubtless he had forgotten to tell her the time; she had almost forgotten that she had asked him. With the silence of sunset a languor, the indolence of content, crept over her; she saw him close his watch with the absent-minded air which she already associated with him, and she let the question go from sheer disinclination for the effort of repetition—let the projected drive go—acquiescent, content that matters shape themselves without any interference from her. The sense of ease, of physical well-being invaded her with an agreeable relaxation as though tension somewhere had slackened.

They chatted on, casually, impersonally, in rather subdued tones. The dog returned now and then to see that all was well. All was well enough, it appeared, for she sat beside Siward, quite content, knees clasped in her hands, exchanging impressions of life with a man who so far had been sympathetically considerate in demanding from her no intellectual effort.

The conversation drifted illogically; sometimes he stirred her to amusement, even a hushed laughter; sometimes she smilingly agreed with his views, sometimes she let them go, uncriticised; or, intent on her own ideas, shook her small head in amused disapproval.

The stillness over all, the deepening mellow light, the blessed indolence of the young world—and their few years in it—Youth! That was perhaps the key to it all, after all.

“To-morrow,” she mused aloud, knees cradled in her clasped fingers, “to-morrow they’ll shoot—with great circumstance and fuss—a few native woodcock—there’s no flight yet from the north!—a few grouse, fewer snipe, a stray duck or two. Others will drive motor cars over bad roads; others will ride, sail, golf—anything to kill the eternal enemy.”

“And you?”

“Je n’en sais rien, monsieur.”

“Mais je voudrais savoir.”

“Pourquoi?”

“To lay a true course by the stars”; he looked at her blue eyes and she laughed easily under the laughing flattery.

“You must seek another compass—to-morrow,” she said. Then it occurred to her that nobody could guess her decision in regard to Quarrier; and she partly raised her eyes, looking at him, indolent speculation under the white lids.

She liked him already; in fact she had liked few men as well on such brief acquaintance.

“You know the majority of the people here, or coming, don’t you?” she inquired.

“Who are they?”

She began: “The Leroy Mortimers?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Lord Alderdene and Captain Voucher, and the Page twins and Marion?”

“Yes.”

“Rena Bonnesdel, the Tassel girl, Agatha Caithness, Mrs. Vendenning—all sorts, all sets.” And, with an effort: “If I’m to drive, I should like—to—to know what time it is?”

He informed her; and she, too indolent to pretend surprise, and finding reproach easier, told him that he had no business to permit her to forget.

His smiling serenity under the rebuke aroused in her a slight resentment as though he had taken something for granted.

Besides, she had grown uneasy; she had wired Quarrier, saying she would meet him and drive him over. He had replied at once, naming his train. He was an exact man and expected method and precision in others. She didn’t exactly know how it might affect him if his reasonable demand was unsatisfied. She did not know him very well yet, only well enough to be aware that he was a gentleman so precisely, so judiciously constructed, that, contemplating his equitable perfections, her awe and admiration grew as one on whom dawns the exquisite adjustments of an almost human machine.

And, thinking of him now, she again made up her mind to give him the answer which he now had every reason to expect from her. This decision appeared to lubricate her conscience; it ran more smoothly now, emitting fewer creaks.

“You say that you know Mr. Quarrier?” she began thoughtfully.

“Not well.”

“I—hope you will like him, Mr. Siward.”

“I do not think he likes me, Miss Landis. He has reasons not to.”

She looked up, suddenly remembering: “Oh—since that scrape? What has Mr. Quarrier to do—” She did not finish the sentence. A troubled silence followed; she was trying to remember the details—something she had paid small attention to at the time—something so foreign to her, so distant from her comprehension that it had not touched her closely enough for her to remember exactly what this young man might have done to forfeit the good-will of Howard Quarrier.

She looked at Siward; it was impossible that anything very bad could come from such a man. And, pursuing her reasoning aloud: “It couldn’t have been very awful,” she argued; “something foolish about an actress, was it not? And that could not concern Mr. Quarrier.”

“I thought you did know; I thought you—remembered—while you were driving me over from the station—that I was dropped from my club.”

She flushed up: “Oh!—but—what had Mr. Quarrier to do with that?”

“He is a governor of that club.”

“You mean that Mr. Quarrier had you—dropped?”

“What else could he do? A man who is idiot enough to risk making his own club notorious, must take the consequences. And they say I took that risk. Therefore Mr. Quarrier, Major Belwether—all the governors did their duty. I—I naturally conclude that no governor of the Patroons Club feels very kindly toward me.”

Miss Landis sat very still, her small head bent, a flush still brightening her fair face.

She recalled a few of the details now—the scandal—something of the story. Which particular actress it was she could not remember; but some men who had dined too freely had made the wager, and this boy sitting beside her had accepted it—and won it, by bringing into the sacred precincts of the Patroons Club a foolish, shameless girl disguised in a man’s evening dress.

That was bad enough; that somebody promptly discovered it was worse; but worst of all was the publicity, the club’s name smirched, the young man expelled from one of the two best clubs in the metropolis.

To read of such things in the columns of a daily paper had meant little to her except to repell her; to hear it mentioned among people of her own sort had left her incurious and indifferent. But now she saw it in a new light, with the man who had figured in it seated beside her. Did such men as he—such attractive, well-bred, amusing men as he—do that sort of thing?

There he sat, hat off, the sun touching his short, thick hair which waved a little at the temples—a boyish mould to head and shoulders, a cleanly outlined check and chin, a thoroughbred ear set close—a good face. What sort of a man, then, was a woman to feel at ease with? What eye, what mouth, what manner, what bearing was a woman to trust?

“Is that the kind of man you are, Mr. Siward?” she said impulsively.

“It appears that I was; I don’t know what I am—or may be.”

“The pity of it!” she said, still swayed by impulse. “Why did you do—didn’t you know—realize what you were doing—bringing discredit on your own club?”

“I was in no condition to know, Miss Landis.”

The crude brutality of the expression might merely have hurt or disgusted her had she been less intelligent. Nor, as it was, did she fully understand why he chose to use it—unless that he meant it in self- punishment.

“It’s rather shameful!” she said hotly.

“Yes,” he assented; “it’s a bad beginning.”

“A—beginning! Do you mean to go on?”

He did not reply; his head was partly turned from her. She sat silent for a while. The dog had returned to lie at Siward’s feet, its brown eyes tirelessly watching the man it had chosen for its friend; and the man, without turning his eyes, dropped one hand on the dog’s head, caressing the silky ears.

Some sentimentalist had once said that no man who cared for animals could be wholly bad. Inexperience inclined her to believe it. Then too, she had that inclination for overlooking offences committed against precept, which appears to be one of those edifying human traits peculiar to neither sex and common to both. Besides, her knowledge of such matters was as vague as her mind was healthy and body wholesome. Men who dined incautiously were not remarkable for their rarity; the actress habit, being incomprehensible to her, meant nothing; and she said, innocently: “What men like you can find attractive in a common woman I do not understand; there are plenty of pretty women of your own sort. The actress cult is beyond my comprehension; I only know it is generally condoned. But it is not for such things that we drop men, Mr. Siward. You know that, of course.”

“For what do you drop men?”

“For falsehood, deception, any dishonesty.”

“And you don’t drop a man when you read in the papers that one of the two best clubs in town has expelled him?”

She gave him a troubled glance; and, naively: “But you are still a member of the other, are you not?” Then hardening: “It was common! common!—thoroughly disgraceful and incomprehensible!”—and with every word uttered insensibly warming in her heart toward him whom she was chastening; “it was not even bad—it was worse than being simply bad; it was stupid!”

He nodded, one hand slowly caressing the dog’s head where it lay across his knees.

She watched him a moment, hesitated, then smiling a little: “So now I know the worst about you; do I not?” she concluded.

He did not answer; she waited, the smile still curving her red mouth. Had she been too severe? She wondered. “You may help me to my feet,” she said sweetly. She was very young.

He rose at once, holding out his hands to aid her in that pleasantly impersonal manner so suited to him; and now they stood together in the purple dusk of the uplands—two people young enough to take one another seriously.

“Let me tell you something,” she said, facing him, white hands loosely linked behind her. “I don’t exactly understand how it has happened, but you know as well as I do that we have formed a—an acquaintance—the sort that under normal conditions requires a long time and several conventional and preliminary chapters. … I should like to know what you think of our performance.”

“I think,” he said laughing, “that it is charming.”

“Oh, yes; men usually find the unconventional agreeable. What I want to know is why I find it so, too?”

“Do you?” A dull colour stained his cheek-bones.

“Certainly I do. Is it because I’ve had a delightful chance to admonish a sinner—and be—just a little sorry—that he had made such a silly spectacle of himself?”

He laughed, wincing a trifle.

“Hence this agreeably righteous glow suffusing me,” she concluded. “So now that I have answered my own question, I think that we had better go. … Don’t you?”

They walked for a while, subdued, soberly picking their path through the dusk. After a few moments she began to feel doubtful, a little uneasy, partly from a reaction which was natural, partly because she was not at all sure what either Quarrier or Major Belwether would think of the terms she was already on with Siward. Suppose they objected? She had never thwarted either of these gentlemen. Besides she already had a temporary interest in Siward—the interest that women always cherish, quite unconsciously, for the man whose shortcomings they have consented to overlook.

As they crossed the headland, through the deepening dusk the acetylene lamps on a cluster of motor cars spread a blinding light across the scrub. The windows of Shotover House were brilliantly illuminated.

“Our shooting-party has returned,” she said.

They crossed the drive through the white glare of the motor lamps; people were passing, grooms with dogs and guns and fluffy bunches of game-birds, several women in motor costumes, veils afloat, a man or two in shooting-tweeds or khaki.

As they entered the hall together, she turned to him, an indefinable smile curving her lips; then, with a little nod, friendly and sweet, she left him standing at the open door of the gun-room.