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Mrs. Cricklander, at Carlsbad, was not altogether pleased to receive the
news of her _fianc�'s_ accession to fortune. She realized that John
Derringham was not the sort of man to give up his will to any woman
unless the woman had entirely the whip hand, as she would have had if he
had been dependent upon her for the financial aid wherewith to obtain
his ambitions. She would have practically no hold over him now, and,
when he was well, he was so attractive that she might even grow to care
too deeply for him for her own welfare. To allow herself to become in
love with a husband who was answerable to her for his very food and
lodging, and whom she could punish and keep in bondage when she pleased,
was quite a different matter to experiencing that emotion towards an
imperious, independent creature going his own way, and even, perhaps,
compelling her to conform to his.
"How stupid of the old man, Mr. Scroope, to have married so late!" she
said to herself, as usual finding everyone wrong who in any way
interfered with her wishes.
John Derringham's letters--only two a week she received from him--were
his usual masterpieces of style, and in them he employed his skill to
say everything--and nothing.
She felt pleased as she read, and then resentful when she thought over
them. He had never once used a word of personal endearment, although the
letters were beautifully expressed. He seemed most happy and comfortable
with Arabella. After all, perhaps she would not go and stay with Prince
Brunemetz at Brudenstein. She might make John come out and join her and
go on to St. Moritz--that would do him good. She could wire for
Arabella. The _convenances_ were so dear to her. The wedding should take
place in October, she decided.
And two days after John Derringham had arrived in London at his old
rooms in Duke Street, she wrote and suggested this plan to him--and then
the first preliminary crossing of swords between them happened. He
answered that he would come and join her later, but until the session
was over he could not leave town, and he begged her to go and stay with
Prince Brunemetz, or do anything else which would amuse her. He was
still upon crutches, he said, and not fitted to be a cavalier to any
She shut her mouth with a snap, and, sitting down, wrote a long letter
to Mr. Hanbury-Green, with whom she kept up a brisk correspondence. Very
well, then! she would go to Brudenstein; she would not martyrize herself
by being with a man on crutches! So half of her August passed in a most
agreeable manner, and towards the end of the month she summoned her
_fianc�_ to Florence. He could walk with a stick now--and to meet her
there and go on to Venice and out to the Lido would be quite delightful,
and could not hurt him. She deserved some attention after this long
The end of the session had come, and still the Government hung on, but
it was obvious that they had been so much discredited that the end could
not be long postponed, and that, as soon as Parliament met again, a
hostile vote would be carried against them. But for the time there was
nothing to keep John Derringham in England, and with intense reluctance
he started for Italy, the ever-nearing date for his wedding looming in
front of him like some heavy cloud. He had plunged headlong into work
when he had returned from Wendover, for which he was still quite unfit.
His whole system had received a terrible shock, and it would be months
before he could hope to be his old robust self again; and an unutterable
depression was upon him. The total silence of Halcyone, her
disappearance from the face of the earth as far as he was concerned,
seemed like something incredible.
There were no traces of her. Mrs. Porrit was out, and the orchard house
shut up, so, he obtained no information. He had stopped there to enquire
on his way to the station when he had left Wendover. La Sarthe Chase was
entirely closed, except for a woman and her husband from the village who
slept there. But what right had he to be interested now, in any case? He
had better shut the whole matter out of his mind, and keep his thoughts
upon his coming marriage with Cecilia Cricklander.
And it was this frame of mind which caused him to plunge recklessly into
work as soon as he reached London, though he found that nothing really
assuaged his misery.
It was a glorious day towards the end of August when he got onto the
boat at Dover, and there ran across Miss Cora Lutworth, bent upon
_trousseau_ business in Paris. She was with her friend, the lady who
chaperoned her, and greeted him with her usual breezy charm.
They sat down together in a comfortable corner on deck, while the lady
went to have a sleep. They talked of many things and mutual friends. He
was doing what was a comparatively rare thing in those days, taking over
a motor to tour down to Venice in, and Cora was duly interested. Freynie
adored motoring, too, she said, and that was how they intended to spend
their honeymoon. She was going to be married in a few weeks, and was
This was the first time she had seen John Derringham since his
engagement and his accident, and the great change in him gave her an
unpleasant shock. There were quite a number of silver threads in his
dark hair above the temples, and he looked haggard and gaunt and
lifeless. Cora's kind heart was touched.
"I am sure he does not care a rush for Cis," she thought to herself,
"and I am sure he did for that sweet Halcyone. He and Cis are not
married yet; there can be no harm in my mentioning her." So aloud she
"You remember our meeting that charming Miss Halcyone La Sarthe across
the haw-haw on Easter Sunday? Well, fancy, I came across her in London
at the end of June--in Kensington Gardens, sitting with the long-haired
old Professor. I was surprised; somehow one could not picture her out of
her own park." She watched John Derringham's face carefully, and saw
that this information moved him.
"Did you?" he said, with an intense tone in his deep voice. "What was
she doing there, I wonder?"
"She looked too sweet," Cora went on. "She was wearing becoming modern
clothes, and seemed to me to have grown so pretty. But she was very pale
and quiet. She came to tea with me the next day--I cannot say how she
fascinates me. I just love her--and then, on the Saturday she was to go
abroad with the Professor."
"Really?" said John Derringham, while he could feel his heart begin to
beat very fast. "Where were they going, do you know? I would like to run
across, my old master."
"I think to Brittany for July, and then Switzerland; but they intended
to get into Italy as soon as it was cool enough. They seemed to be going
to have a lovely trip and take a long time about it."
"I had no idea Miss La Sarthe had any relations in London," he said.
"Who was she staying with there? Did she tell you?"
"Her stepfather, I think," Cora said. "Her mother married twice, it
appears, and then died, and the man married again. This second wife, her
sort of stepmother, came and fetched her from La Sarthe Chase quite
suddenly one day."
"I cannot think of her in London," said John Derringham. "Did she like
it, do you think? And was she changed?"
"Yes, very changed," Cora answered, and made her voice casual. "She
looked as if the joy of life had fled forever, and as if she were just
getting through the time. Perhaps she hated being with her
step-family--people often do."
Then she glanced at him stealthily as he stared out at the sea, while
she thought: "I am sure some awful tragedy is here underneath; it is not
only his broken ankle and his illness that has made him such a wreck. I
wish I could help them. I would not care a snap for Cis, who is a
rattlesnake if she wants something."
"When was it, exactly, you saw her?" John Derringham asked. "But perhaps
you don't remember the date?"
"Yes, I do," Cora responded quickly. "It was the day your engagement was
announced in the papers, because we spoke about it."
"Did you?" he said, and drew in his breath a little. "And what did you
"Just the usual things--how fortunate you were. And Halcyone said you
were clever and great."
John Derringham did not answer for a moment. This stunned him. Then he
replied, very low, "That was good of her," and Cora noticed that even
with the fresh wind blowing in his face he had grown very pale.
"Cis writes you are going to be married at the beginning of October,"
she said, to change the conversation. "I do hope you will be awfully
happy. It is so exquisite to be in love, isn't it? I adore being
But John Derringham could not bear this--the two things were so widely
severed in his case. He did not answer, and Cora saw, although his face
remained unmoved, that pain grew deep in his eyes.
"Mr. Derringham," she said, "I am going to say something indiscreet and
perhaps in frightful taste--but I am so happy I can't bear to think that
possibly others are not quite. I know Cis awfully well--her character, I
mean. Is there anything I can do for you?"
John Derringham turned with a chillingly haughty glance intended to
wither, but when he saw her sweet face full of frank sympathy and
kindness, it touched him and his manner changed.
"We have each of us to fulfill our fates," he said. "I suppose we each
deserve what we receive, and I am so glad yours seems to be such a very
Then he made some excuse to get up and leave her--he could bear no more.
And Cora, left alone, smiled sadly to herself while she reflected what a
foolish thing pride was, and all the other shams which robbed life of
the only thing really worth having.
"Well, I should not let any of that nonsense ever stand between Freynie
and me, thank goodness!" she concluded.
But John Derringham limped off to the bows of the ship, quivering with
pain. So Halcyone had spoken of his engagement and said he was "clever
and great." What could it all mean? Did he no longer interest her
then--even at that period? This stung him deeply. There was no light
anywhere. When once he had grasped the full significance of his own
conduct he was much too fine an intelligence to deceive himself, or
persuade himself to see any other aspect but the hopeless one, that the
entire chain of events was the result of his own action. But surely
there must be some way out? If he wrote straight to Cecilia and told her
the truth? And then he almost laughed bitterly as he realized the
futility of this plan. What would the truth matter to Mrs. Cricklander?
She could very well retort that he had known all this truth from the
beginning, and had been willing to marry her while his financial
position made it an advantage to himself, but was now _recalcitrant_
only because fortune had otherwise poured gold into his lap.
No, there was no hope. He must go through with it.
So he crushed down his emotions and forced himself to return to Miss
Lutworth and talk brightly to her until they landed.
And when they parted at the Gare du Nord, Cora was left with the
impression that, whatever might be the undercurrent, John Derringham was
strong enough to face his fate, and not give anyone the satisfaction of
knowing whether in it he found pleasure or pain.
When he arrived about ten days later at the hotel in Florence, where
Mrs. Cricklander was staying, waiting for him to accompany her on to
Venice, he found her in a very bad temper. She felt that she had not
been treated with that deference and respect which was her due, to say
nothing of the ardor that a lover ought to have shown by hastening to
her side. Why had he motored, spending ten days on a journey that he
could have accomplished in two? And he made no excuses, and seemed quite
unimpressed by her mood one way or another. He was so changed, too!
Gaunt and haggard--he had certainly lost every one of his good looks,
except his distinction--that seemed more marked than ever. His arrogant
air that she had once admired so much now only caused her to feel a
great irritation. He had made the excuse of the waiter not having quite
closed the door, apparently, for only kissing her hand by way of
greeting, and then he said just the right thing about her beauty and his
pleasure in seeing her, and sat down by her side upon the sofa in far
too collected a manner for a lover to have shown after these weeks of
separation. Mrs. Cricklander grew very angry indeed. Cold and capricious
behavior should only be shown upon a woman's side, she felt!
"Your Government made a colossal mess of things before the session was
over, did they not?" she said by way of something to start upon. "Mr.
Hanbury-Green tells me you will have to face a hostile vote when you
reassemble, and that the whole thing is a played-out game. How long
would the Radicals last if they do come in?--and it looks like a
certainty that they will."
"Seven years, most likely," said John Derringham a little bitterly. "Or
perhaps to the end of time. Your friend Mr. Green could tell you more
accurately than I. Does the fact interest you very deeply?"
"Yes," she said, and narrowed her eyes. "I am wildly interested in
everything that concerns you, of course--that is obvious."
"You will help me to fight, then, for the Opposition. Your social
talents are so great, dear Cecilia, you will make a most brilliant Tory
hostess," and he took her hand--he felt he must do something.
"I have always been on the winning side," she said, not more than half
playfully. "I do not know how I should like seven years of fighting an
uncertain fight. I might get extremely bored by it. I had no idea it
would last so long." And she laughed a little uncomfortably. "However,
we are perfectly modern, aren't we, John, and need not spend the entire
year fighting together--fortunately?"
"No," he said. "I am sure we shall be an admirable pair of citizens of
the world. And now I suppose I must let you go and dress for dinner. How
is our estimable friend, Miss Clinker? She is with you, I suppose?--or
have you friends staying in the hotel? You did not tell me in your
"I never waste sweetness upon the desert air," she said, smiling, with a
glitter in her eyes. "You did not appear over anxious to hear of my
doings. Our correspondence made me laugh sometimes. You never wrote as
though you had received any of my letters--yours were just masterpieces
of how little to say--and of how to say it beautifully!"
John Derringham shrugged his shoulders slightly; he did not defend
himself, and her anger rose. So that she was leaving the room with her
head in the air and two bright spots of pink in her cheeks.
Then he felt constrained to vindicate his position, so he put his arm
round her and drew her to him, intending to kiss her. But she looked up
into his face with an expression in her eyes which left him completely
repulsed. It was mocking and bitter and cunning, and she put out her
hand and pushed him from her.
"I do not want any of your caresses to-night," she said. "When I do,
I'll pay for them." And she swept from the room, leaving him quivering
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