THE lady of Eastmead fronted her neighbour with a certain grimness. “ She has seen him they’ve patched it up.”
Breathless with curiosity, Tony yet made but a bite of her news. “ It’s on again it’s all right? ”
“It’s whatever you like to call it. I only know what Paul tells me.”
Paul, at this, stopped in his slow retreat, wheeling about. “ I only know what I had just now from Jean.”
Tony’s expression, in the presence of his young friend’s, dropped almost comically into the con siderate. “Oh, but I daresay it’s so, old man. I was there when they met,” he explained to Mrs. Beever, “ and I saw for myself pretty well how it would go.”
“I confess I didn’t,” she replied. Then she added: “It must have gone with a jump! ”
“With a jump, precisely and the jump was hers!” laughed Tony. “ All’s well that ends well! ” He was heated he wiped his excited brow, and Mrs. Beever looked at him as if it struck her that she had helped him to more emotion than she wished him. “ She’s a most extraordinary girl,” he went on
“and the effort she made there, all unprepared for it” he nodded at the very spot of the exploit “was magnificent in its way, one of the finest things I’ve ever seen.” His appreciation of the results of this effort seemed almost feverish, and his elation deepened so that he turned, rather blindly, to poor Paul. “ Upon my honour she’s cleverer, she has more domestic resources, as one may say, than I don’t care whom! ”
“Oh, we all know how clever she is!” Mrs. Beever impatiently grunted.
Tony’s enthusiasm, none the less, overflowed; he was nervous for joy. “ I thought I did myself, but she had a lot more to show me!” He addressed himself again to Paul. “ She told you with her coolness? ”
Paul was occupied with another cigarette; he emitted no sound, and his mother, with a glance at him, spoke for him. “ Didn’t you hear him say it was Jean who told him? ”
“Oh, Jean!”Tony looked graver. “ She told Jean?” But his gaiety, at this image, quickly came back. “ That was charming of her I ”
Mrs. Beever remained cold. “ Why on earth was it charming? ”
Tony, though he reddened, was pulled up but an instant his spirits carried him on. “ Oh, because there hasn’t been much between them, and it was a pretty mark of confidence.” He glanced at his watch. “ They’re in the house? ”
“Not in mine in yours.”
Tony looked surprised. “ Rose and Vidal? ”
Paul spoke at last. “ Jean also went over went after them.”
Tony thought a moment. “ ‘ After them ’ Jean? How long ago? ”
“About a quarter of an hour,” said Paul.
Tony continued to wonder. “ Aren’t you mis taken? They’re not there now.”
“How do you know,” asked Mrs. Beever, “if you’ve not been home? ”
“I have been home I was there five minutes ago.”
“Then how did you get here? ”
“By the long way? I took a fly. I went back to get a paper I had stupidly forgotten and that I needed for a fellow with whom I had to talk. Our talk was a bore for the want of it, so I drove over there and got it, and, as he had his train to catch, I then overtook him at the station. I ran it close, but I saw him off; and here I am.” Tony shook his head. “ There’s no one at Bounds.”
Mrs. Beever looked at Paul. “Then where’s Effie? ”
“Effie’s not here?” Tony asked.
“Miss Armiger took her home,” said Paul.
“You saw them go? ”
“No, but Jean told me.”
“Then where’s Miss Armiger?” Tony continued. “And where’s Jean herself? ”
“Where’s Effie herself that’s the question,” said Mrs. Beever.
“No,” Tony laughed, “ the question’s Where’s
Vidal? He’s the fellow I want to catch. I asked him to stay with me, and he said he’d go over, and it was my finding just now he hadn’t come over that made me drive on here from the station to pick him up.”
Mrs. Beever gave ear to this statement, but she gave nothing else. “ Mr. Vidal can take care of himself; but if Effie’s not at home, where is she?” She pressed her son. “ Are you sure of what Jean said to you? ”
Paul bethought himself. “ Perfectly, mamma. She said Miss Armiger carried off the little girl.”
Tony appeared struck with this. “ That’s exactly what Rose told me she meant to do. Then they’re simply in the garden they simply hadn’t come in.”
“They’ve been in gardens enough!” Mrs. Beever declared. “ I should like to know the child’s simply in bed.”
“So should I,” said Tony with an irritation that was just perceptible; “ but I none the less deprecate the time-honoured custom of a flurry I may say indeed of a panic whenever she’s for a moment out of sight.” He spoke almost as if Mrs. Beever were trying to spoil for him by the note of anxiety the pleasantness of the news about Rose. The next moment, however, he questioned Paul with an evident return of the sense that toward a young man to whom such a hope was lost it was a time for special tact. “You, at any rate, dear boy, .saw Jean go? ”
“Oh, yes I saw Jean go.”
“And you understood from her that Rose and Effie went with Vidal? ”
Paul consulted his memory. “ I think Mr. Vidal went first.”
Tony thought a moment. “ Thanks so much, old chap.” Then with an exaggerated gaiety that might have struck his companions had it not been the sign of so much of his conversation: “ They’re all a jolly party in the garden together. I’ll go over.”
Mrs. Beever had been watching the bridge. “ Here comes Rose she’ll tell us.”
Tony looked, but their friend had already dropped on the hither side, and he turned to Paul. “ You wouldn’t object a to dining? ”
“To meet Mr. Vidal?” Mrs. Beever interposed. “Poor Paul,” she laughed, “ you’re between two fires! You and your guest,” she said to her neighbour, “ had better dine here.”
“Both fires at once?” Tony smiled at her son. “Should you like that better? ”
Paul, where he stood, was lost in the act of watching for Rose. He shook his head absently. “I don’t care a rap!” Then he turned away again, and his mother, addressing Tony, dropped her voice.
“He won’t show.”
“Do you mean his feelings? ”
“I mean for either of us.”
Tony observed him a moment. “ Poor lad, I’ll bring him round!” After which, “ Do you mind if I speak to her of it?” he abruptly inquired.
“To Rose of this news?” Mrs. Beever looked at him hard, and it led her to reply with severity: “Tony Bream, I don’t know what to make of you! ” She was apparently on the point of making some thing rather bad, but she now saw Rose at the bottom of the slope and straightway hailed her. “ You took Effie home? ”
Rose came quickly up. “ Not I! She isn’t here? ”
“She’s gone,” said Mrs. Beever, “Where is she? ”
“I’m afraid I don’t know. I gave her up.” Paul had wheeled round at her first negation; Tony had not moved. Bright and handsome, but a little out of breath, she looked from one of her friends to the other. “ You’re sure she’s not here?” Her sur prise was fine.
Mrs. Beever’s, however, had greater freedom. “How can she be, when Jean says you took her away? ”
Rose Armiger stared; she threw back her head. “ ‘Jean says’?” She looked round her. “Where is ‘Jean ’? ”
“She’s nowhere about she’s not in the house.” Mrs. Beever challenged the two men, echoing the question as if it were indeed pertinent. “ Where is the girl? ”
“She has gone to Bounds,” said Tony. “ She’s not in my garden? ”
“She wasn’t five minutes ago I’ve just come out of it.”
“Then what took you there?” asked Mrs. Beever.
“Mr. Vidal.” Rose smiled at Tony: “ You know what!” She turned again to Mrs. Beever, looking her full in the face. “ I’ve seen him. I went over with him.”
“Leaving Effie with Jean precisely,” said Tony, in his arranging way.
“She came out she begged so hard,” Rose explained to Mrs. Beever. “ So I gave in.”
“And yet Jean says the contrary?” this lady demanded in stupefaction of her son.
Rose turned, incredulous, to Paul. “ She said to you anything so false? ”
“My dear boy, you simply didn’t understand! ” Tony laughed. “ Give me a cigarette.”
Paul’s eyes, contracted to the pin-points we have already seen them become in his moments of emotion, had been attached, while he smoked still harder, to Rose’s face. He turned very red and, before answering her, held out his cigarette-case. “ That was what I remember she said that you had gone with Effie to Bounds.”
Rose stood wonderstruck. “ When she had taken her from me herself? ”
Mrs. Beever referred her to Paul. “ But she wasn’t with Jean when he saw her! ”
Rose appealed to him. “ You saw Miss Martle alone? ”
“Oh yes, quite alone.” Paul now was crimson and without visible sight.
“My dear boy,” cried Tony, impatient, “you simply don’ I remember.”
“Yes, Tony. I remember.”
Rose had turned grave she gave Paul a sombre stare. “ Then what on earth had she done with her? ”
“What she had done was evident: she had taken her home!” Tony declared with an air of incipient disgust. They made a silly mystery of nothing.
Rose gave him a quick, strained smile. “ But if the child’s not there? ”
“You just told us yourself she isn’t!” Mrs. Beever reminded him.
He hunched his shoulders as if there might be many explanations. “ Then she’s somewhere else. She’s wherever Jean took her.”
“But if Jean was here without her? ”
“Then Jean, my dear lady, had come back.”
“Come back to lie?” asked Mrs. Beever.
Tony coloured at this, but he controlled himself. “Dearest Mrs. Beever, Jean doesn’t lie.”
“Then somebody does!” Mrs. Beever roundly brought out.
“It’s not you, Mr. Paul, I know!” Rose declared, discomposed but still smiling. “Was it you who saw her go over? ”
“Yes; she left me here.”
“How long ago? ”
Paul looked as if fifty persons had been watching him. “ Oh, not long! ”
Rose addressed herself to the trio. “ Then why on earth haven’t I met her? She must explain her astounding statement! ”
“You’ll see that she’ll explain it easily,” said Tony.
“Ah, but, meanwhile, where’s your daughter, don’t you know?” Rose demanded with resent ment.
“I’m just going over to see.”
“Then please go!” she replied with a nervous laugh. She presented to the others, as a criticism of his inaction, a white, uneasy face.
“I want first,” said Tony, “ to express to you my real joy. Please believe in it.”
She thought she seemed to come back from a distance. “ Oh, you know?” Then to Paul: “She told you? It’s a detail,” she added impa tiently. “ The question ” she thought again “ is the poor child.” Once more she appealed to Paul. “Will you go and see?”
“Yes, go, boy.” Tony patted his back.
“Go this moment,” his mother put in.
He none the less lingered long enough to offer Rose his blind face. “ I want also to express ”
She took him up with a wonderful laugh. “ Your real joy, dear Mr. Paul? ”
“Please believe in that too.” And Paul, at an unwonted pace, took his way.
“I believe in everything I believe in every one,”
Rose went on. “ But I don’t believe ” She hesitated, then checked herself. “ No matter. Can you forgive me?” she asked of Mrs. Beever.
“For giving up the child?” The lady of East-mead looked at her hard. “ No!” she said curtly, and, turning straight away, went and dropped into a seat from which she watched the retreating figures of her two parlourmaids, who carried off between them a basket containing the paraphernalia of tea. Rose, with a queer expression, but with her straight back to the painful past, quietly transferred her plea to Tony. “ It was his coming it made the difference. It upset me.”
“Upset you? You were splendid! ”
The light of what had happened was in her face as she considered him. “ You are!” she replied. Then she added: “ But he’s finer than either of us!”
“I told you four years ago what he is. He’s all right.”
“Yes,” said Rose “ he’s all right. And I am now,” she went on. “ You’ve been good to me.” She put out her hand. “ Good-bye.”
“Good-bye? You’re going? ”
“He takes me away.”
“But not to-night!” Tony’s native kindness, expressed in his inflection, felt that it could now risk almost all the forms he essentially liked.
From the depth of Rose’s eyes peeped a dis tracted, ironic sense of this. But she said with all quietude: ”To-morrow early. I may not see you.”
“Don’t be absurd!” laughed Tony.
“Ah, well if you will!” She stood a moment looking down; then raising her eyes, “ Don’t hold my hand so long,” she abruptly said. “ Mrs. Beever, who has dismissed the servants, is watching us.”
Tony had the appearance of having felt as if he had let it go; but at this, after a glance at the person indicated, staring and smiling with a clear face, he retained his grasp of it. “ How in the world, with your back turned, can you see that? ”
“It’s with my back turned that I see most. She’s looking at us hard.”
“I don’t care a hang!” said Tony gaily.
“Oh, I don’t say it for myself!” But Rose with drew her hand.
Tony put both his own into his pockets. “ I hope you’ll let me say to you very simply that I believe you’ll be very happy.”
“I shall be as happy as a woman can be who has abandoned her post.”
“Oh, your post!” Tony made a joke of that now. But he instantly added: “ Your post will be to honour us with your company at Bounds again; which, as a married woman, you see, you’ll be per fectly able to do.”
She smiled at him. li How you arrange things! ” Then with a musing headshake: “ We leave Eng land.”
“How you arrange them!” Tony exclaimed. “He goes back to China? ”
“Very soon he’s doing so well.”
Tony hesitated. “ I hope he has made money.”
“A great deal. I should look better shouldn’t I? if he hadn’t. But I show you enough how little I care how I look. I blow hot and cold; I’m all there then I’m off. No matter,” she repeated. In a moment she added: “I accept your hopes for my happiness. It will do, no doubt, soon as I
learn!” Her voice dropped for impatience;
she turned to the quarter of the approach from the other house.
“That Effie’s all right?” Tony saw their mes senger already in the shrubbery. “ Here comes Paul to tell us.”
Mrs. Beever rejoined them as he spoke. “ It wasn’t Paul on the bridge. It was the Doctor-without his hat.”
“Without his hat?” Rose murmured.
“He has it in his hand,” Tony cheerfully asserted as their good friend emerged from cover.
But he hadn’t it in his hand, and at sight of them on the top of the slope he stopped short, stopped long enough to give Rose time to call eagerly: “Is Effie there? ”
It was long enough also to give them all time to see, across the space, that his hair was disordered and his look at them strange; but they had no sooner done so than he made a violent gesture a motion to check the downward rush that he evidently felt his aspect would provoke. It was so imperative that, coming up, he was with them before they had moved, showing them splashed, wet clothes and a little hard white face that Wilverley had never seen. “There has been an accident.” Neither had Wilverley, gathered into three pair of ears, heard that voice.
The first effect of these things was to hold it an instant while Tony cried: “ She’s hurt? ”
“She’s killed?” cried Mrs. Beever.
“Stay where you are!” was the Doctor’s stern response. Tony had given a bound, but, caught by the arm, found himself jerked, flaming red, face to face with Rose, who had been caught as tightly by the wrist. The Doctor closed his eyes for a second with this effort of restraint, but in the force he had put into it, which was not all of the hands, his captives submissively quivered. “ You’re not to go! ” he declared quite as if it were for their own good.
“She’s dead?” Tony panted.
“Who’s with her who was?” cried Rose.
“Paul’s with her by the water.”
“By the water?” Rose shrieked.
“My child’s drowned?” Tony’s cry was strange.
The Doctor had been looking from one of them to the other; then he looked at Mrs. Beever, who, instantly, admirably, with a strength quickly acknow ledged by the mute motion of his expressive little chin toward her, had stilled herself into the appeal of a blanched, breathless wait. “ May I go? ” sovereignly came from her.
“Go. There’s no one else,” he said as she bounced down the bank.
“No one else? Then where’s that girl?”Rose’s question was fierce. She gave, as fiercely, to free herself, a great wrench of her arm, but the Doctor held her as if still to spare her what he himself had too dreadfully seen. He looked at Tony, who said with quick quietness
“Ramage, have I lost my child? ”
“You’ll see be brave. Not yet I’ve told Paul.
Be quiet!” the Doctor repeated; then his hand dropped on feeling that the movement he had meant to check in his friend was the vibration of a man stricken to weakness and sickened on the spot. Tony’s face had turned black; he was rooted to the ground; he stared at Rose, to whom the Doctor said: “Who, Miss Armiger, was with her? ”
All her lividness wondered. “ When was it? ”
“God knows! > She was there against the bridge.”
“Against the bridge where I passed just now? I saw nothing!” Rose jerked, while Tony dumbly closed his eyes.
“I came over because she wasn’t at the house, and from the bank there she was. I reached her with the boat, with a push. She might have been half an hour ”
“It was half an hour ago she took her!” Rose broke in. “ She’s not there? ”
The Doctor looked at her hard. “ Of whom do you speak? ”
“Why, of Miss Martle whose hands are never off her.” Rose’s mask was the mask of Medusa. “What has become of Miss Martle? ”
Dr. Ramage turned with the question to Tony, whose eyes, open now, were half out of his head. “What has become of her? ”
“She’s not there?” Tony articulated.
“There’s no one there.”
“Not Dennis?” sprang bewilderedly from Rose.
The Doctor stared. “Mr. Vidal? No, thank
God only Paul.” Then pressing Tony: “ Miss Martle was with her? ”
Tony’s eyes rolled over all space. “ No not Miss Martle.”
“But somebody was!” Rose clamoured. “ She wasn’t alone! ”
Tony fixed her an instant. “ Not Miss Martle,” he repeated.
“But who then? And where is she now? ”
“It’s positive she’s not here?” the Doctor asked of Rose.
“Positive Mrs. Beever knew. Where is she? ” Rose rang out.
“Where in the name?” passed, as with the dawn of a deeper horror, from their companion to Tony.
Tony’s eyes sounded Rose’s, and hers blazed back. His silence was an anguish, his face a convulsion. “It isn’t half an hour,” he at last brought out.
“Since it happened?” The Doctor blinked at his sudden knowledge. “ Then when? ”
Tony looked at him straight. “When I was there.”
“And when was that? ”
“After I called for you.”
“To leave word for me to go?” The Doctor set his face. “ But you were not going home then.”
“I did go I had a reason. You know it,” Tony said to Rose.
“When you went for your paper?” She thought. “But Effie wasn’t there then.”
“Why not? She was there, but Miss Martle wasn’t with her.”
“Then, in God’s name, who was?” cried the Doctor.
“ I was,” said Tony.
Rose gave the inarticulate cry of a person who has been holding her breath, and the Doctor an equally loud, but more stupefied “You?”
Tony fixed upon Rose a gaze that seemed to count her respirations. “ I was with her,” he re peated; “ and I was with her alone. And what was done I did.” He paused while they both gasped: then he looked at the Doctor. “ Now you know.” They continued to gasp; his confession was a blinding glare, in the shock of which the Doctor staggered back from Rose and she fell away with a liberated spring. “ God forgive me!” howled Tony he broke now into a storm of sobs. He dropped upon a bench with his wretched face in his hands, while Rose, with a passionate wail, threw herself, appalled, on the grass, and their companion, in a colder dismay, looked from one prostrate figure to the other.
Last updated Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 21:02