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On the Tuesday morning after the Carlton dinner, fate fell upon Denzil
and Amaryllis in the way the jade does at times, swooping down upon
them suddenly and then like a whirlwind altering the very current of
their destiny. It came about quite naturally, too, and not by one of
those wildly improbable situations which often prove truth to be
stranger than fiction.
Amaryllis was settled in an empty compartment of the Weymouth express at
Paddington. She had said good-bye to John the evening before, and he had
returned to camp. She was going back to Ardayre, and feeling very
miserable. Everything had been a disillusion. John's reserve seemed to
have augmented, and she had been unable to break it down, and all the
new emotions which she was trembling with and longing to express, had
Presumably John must be pleased at the possibility of having a son since
it was his heart's desire; but it almost seemed as though the subject
embarrassed him! And all the beautiful things which she had meant to say
to him about it remained unspoken.
He was stolidly matter-of-fact.
What could it all mean?
At last she had become deeply hurt and had cried with a tremour in her
voice the morning before he left her:
"Oh! John, how different you have become; it can't be the same you who
once called me 'Sweetheart' and held me so closely in your arms! Have I
done anything to displease you, dearest? Aren't you glad that I am going
to have a baby?"
He had kissed her and assured her gravely that he was glad--overjoyed.
And his eyes had been full of pain, and he had added that he was stupid
and dull, but that she must not mind--it was only his way.
"Alas!" she had answered and nothing more.
She dwelt upon these things as she sat in the train gazing out of the
window on the blank side.
Yes. Joy was turning into dead sea fruit. How moving her thoughts had
been when coming up to meet him!
The marvel of love creating life had exalted her and she had longed to
pour her tender visionings into the ears of--her lover! For John had been
thus enshrined in her fond imagination!
The whole idea of having a child to her was a sacred wonder with little
of earth in it, and she had woven exquisite sentiment round it and had
dreamed fair dreams of how she would whisper her thoughts to John as she
lay clasped to his heart; and John, too, would be thrilled with
exaltation, for was not the glorious mystery his as well--not hers alone?
Now everything looked grey.
Tears rose in her eyes. Then she took herself to task; it was perhaps
only her foolish romance leading her astray once more. The thought
might mean nothing to a man beyond the pride of having a son to carry
on his name. If the baby should be a little girl John might not care
for it at all!
The tears brimmed over and fell upon a big crimson carnation in her coat,
a bunch of which John had ordered to be sent her, and which were now
safely reposing in a card-board box in the rack above her head.
Fortunately she had the carriage to herself. No one had attempted to get
in, and they would soon be off. To be away from London would be a relief.
Then her thoughts flew to Verisschenzko; he had told her that
circumstances in his country might require his frequent presence in
England for the next few months.
She would see him again. What would he tell her to do now? Conquer
emotion and look at things with common sense.
The picture of the dinner at the Carlton then came back to her, and the
face of Denzil across the table, so like, and yet so unlike John!
If Denzil had a wife would he be cold to her? Was it in the nature of
At the very instant the train began to move the carriage was invaded by a
man in khaki who bounded in and almost fell by her knees, and with a
cheery 'Just done it, Sir!' the guard flung in a dressing-bag and slammed
the door, and she realised with conscious interest that the intruder was
"How do you do? By Jove. I am awfully sorry," and he held out his hand.
"I nearly lost the train and I am afraid I have bundled in without asking
leave. I am going down to Bath to say good-bye to my mother. I say, do
forgive me if I startled you," and he looked full of concern.
Amaryllis laughed; she was nervous and overstrung.
"Your entrance was certainly sudden and in this non-stop to Westbury we
shall have to put up with each other till then--shall you mind?"
"Awfully--Must I say that the truth would be that I am enchanted!"
Fortune had flung him these two hours. He had not planned them, his
conscience was clear, and he could not help delight rushing through him.
Two hours with her--alone!
There are some blue eyes which seem to have a spark of the devil lurking
in them always, even when they are serious. Denzil's were such eyes.
Women found it difficult to resist his charm, and indeed had never tried
very hard. Life and its living, knowledge to acquire, work to do, beasts
to hunt, had not left him too much time to be spoiled by them
fortunately, and he had passed through several adventures safely and had
never felt anything but the most transient emotion, until now looking at
Amaryllis sitting opposite him he knew that he was in love with this
dream which had materialised.
Amaryllis studied him while they talked of ordinary things and the war
news and when he would go out. She felt some strong attraction drawing
her to him. Her sense of depression left her. She found herself noticing
how the sun which had broken through a cloud turned his immaculately
brushed hair into bronze. She did a little modelling to amuse herself,
and so appreciated balance and line.
Everything in Denzil was in the right place, she decided, and above all
he looked so peculiarly alive. He seemed, indeed, to be the reality of
what her imagination had built up round the personality of John in the
weeks of their separation. Denzil believed that he was talking quite
casually, but his glance was ardent, and atmosphere becomes charged when
emotions are strong no matter how insignificant words may be. Amaryllis
_felt_ that he was deeply interested in her.
"You know my friend Verisschenzko well, it seems," she said presently.
"Is not he a fascinating creature? I always feel stimulated when I am
with him, and as if I must accomplish great things."
"St�pan is a wonder--we were at Oxford together--he can do anything he
desires. He is a musician and an artist and is chock full of common
sense, and there's not a touch of rot. He would have taken honours if he
had not been sent down."
Amaryllis wanted to know about this, and listened amazedly to the story
of the mad freak which had so scandalised the Dons.
She had recovered from her nervousness, she was natural and delightful,
and although the peculiar situation was filling Denzil with excitement
and emotion, he was too much a man of the world to experience any _g�ne_.
So they talked for a while with friendliness upon interesting things.
Then a pause came and Amaryllis looked out of the window, and Denzil had
time to grow aware that he must hold himself with a tighter hand, a sense
almost of intoxication had begun to steal over him.
Suddenly Amaryllis grew very pale and her eyelids flickered a little; for
the first time in her life she felt faint.
He bent forward in anxiety as she leaned her head against the
"Oh! what is it, you poor little darling! what can I do for you?" he
exclaimed, unconscious that he had used a word of endearment; but even
though things had grown vague for her Amaryllis caught the tenderly
pronounced 'darling' and, physically ill as she felt, her spirit thrilled
with some agreeable surprise. He came nearer and pushing up the padded
divisions between the seats, he lifted her as though she had been a baby
and laid her flat down. He got out his flask from his dressing bag and
poured some brandy between her pale lips, then he rubbed her hands,
murmuring he knew not what of commiseration. She looked so fragile and
helpless and the probable reason of her indisposition was of such
infinite solicitude to himself.
"To think that she is feeling like that because--Ah!--and I may not even
kiss her and comfort her, or tell her I adore her and understand." So his
Presently Amaryllis sat up and opened her eyes. She had not actually
fainted, but for a few moments everything had grown dim and she was not
certain of what had happened, or if she had dreamed that Denzil had
spoken a love word, or whether it was true--she smiled feebly.
"I did feel so queer," she explained. "How silly of me! I have never felt
faint before--it is stupid"--and then she blushed deeply, remembering
what certainly must be the cause.
"I am going to open the window wide," he said, appreciating the blush,
and let it down. "You ought not to sit with your back to the engine like
that, let us change sides."
He took command and drew her to her feet, and placed her gently in his
vacant seat; then he sat down opposite her and looked at her with
"I sit that way as a rule because of avoiding the dust, but, of course,
it was that. I am not generally such a goose though--it is the nastiest
feeling that I have ever known."
"You poor dear little girl," his deep voice said. "You must shut your
eyes and not talk now."
She obeyed, and he watched her intently as she lay back with her eyes
closed, the long lashes resting upon her pale cheeks. She looked childish
and a little pathetic, and every fibre of his being quivered with desire
to protect her. He had never felt so profoundly in his life--and the
whole thing was so complicated. He tried to force himself to remember
that he was not travelling with _his_ wife whom he could take care of and
cherish because she was going to have _his_ child, but that he was
travelling with John's wife whom he hardly knew and must take no more
interest in than any Ardayre would in the wife of the head of the family!
He could have laughed at the extraordinary irony of the thing, if it had
not been so moving.
Verisschenzko, had he been there and known the circumstances, would have
taken joy in analysing what nature was saying to them both!
Amaryllis was only conscious that Denzil seemed the reality of her dream
of John, and that she liked his nearness--and Denzil only knew that he
loved her extremely and must banish emotion and remember his given word.
So he pulled himself together when she sat up presently and began
talking again, and gradually the atmosphere of throbbing excitement
between them calmed. They spoke of each other's tastes and likings and
found many to be the same. Then they spoke of books, and each discovered
that the other was sufficiently well read to be able to discuss varied
An understanding and sympathy had grown up between them before they
reached Westbury, and yet Denzil was really trying to keep his word in
the spirit as well as the letter.
Amaryllis felt no constraint--she was more friendly than she would have
been with any other man she knew so slightly. Were they not cousins, and
was it not perfectly natural!
They talked of Oxford and of the effect it had upon young men, and again
they spoke of St�pan and of the dream he and Denzil shared.
"You will go into Parliament, I suppose, when you come back from the
war?" she remarked at last. "If you have dreams they should become
"That is what I intend to do. The war may last a long time though--but it
ought to teach one something, and England will be a vastly different
place after it, and perhaps the younger men who have fought may have a
"You have pet theories, of course."
"I suppose so--I believe that the first great step will be to give the
people better homes--the housing question is what I am going to devote my
energy to. I am sure it is the root of nearly every evil. Every man and
woman who works should have the right to a good home. I have two supreme
interests--that is one, and the other is elimination of the wastrels and
the unfit. I am quite ruthless, perhaps, you will think. But there is
such a sickening lot of mawkish sentiment mixed up with nearly every
scheme to benefit workers. I agree with St�pan who always preaches: Get
down to the commonsense point of view about a thing. Prune the convention
and religion and sentimentality first and then you can judge."
Amaryllis thought for a moment; her eyes became wide and dreamy, and her
charmingly set head was a little thrown back. Denzil took in the line of
her white throat and the curve of her chin--it was not weak. Why was it
that women with the possibilities of this one always seemed to be some
other man's property! He had never come across such charm in girls. Or
was it that marriage developed charm?
They neither of them spoke for a minute or two, each busy with
"I want to do something," Amaryllis said at last, "not, only just make
shirts and socks," and then the pink flushed her cheeks again suddenly as
she remembered that she would not be fit for more strenuous work for
quite a long time--and then the war would be over, of course.
Denzil thought the same thing without the last qualification. He was
under no delusions as to the speedy end of strife.
He could not help visioning the wonderful interest the hope of a son
would be to him if she really were his wife--how filled with supreme
sympathy and tenderness would be the months coming on. How they would
talk together about their wishes and the mystery and the glory of the
evolution of life. And here she had blushed at some thought concerning
it, and no words must pass between them about this sacred thing. He
longed to ask her many questions--and then a pang of jealousy shook him.
She would confide to John, not to him, all the emotions aroused by the
thought of the child--then. He wondered what she would do in the winter
all alone. Had she relations she was fond of? He wished that she knew his
Mother, who was the kindest sweetest lady in the world. He said aloud:
"I would like you to meet my Mother. She is going to be at Bath for a
month. She is almost an invalid with rheumatism in her ankle where she
broke it five years ago. I believe you would get on."
"I should love to--it is not an impossible distance from us. I will go
over to see her, if you will tell her about me--so that she won't think
some stranger is descending upon her some day!"
"She will be so pleased," and he thought that he would be happier knowing
that they were friends.
"Does she mean a great deal to you? Some mothers do," and she
sighed--her own was less than emptiness--they had never been near, and
now her stepfather and the step-family claimed all the affection her
mother could feel.
"She is a great dear--one of my best friends," and his eyes beamed. "We
have always been pals--because I have no brothers and sisters I suppose
she spoilt me!"
"I daresay you were quite a nice little boy!" Amaryllis smiled--"and it
must be divine to have a son--I expect it would be easy to spoil one."
Denzil clasped his hands rather tightly--she looked so adorable as she
said that, her eyes soft with inward knowledge of her great hope. How
impossible it all was that they must remain strangers--casual cousins and
"It must be an awful responsibility to have children," he said, watching
her. "Don't you think so?"
The pink flared up again as she answered a rather solemn "Yes."
Then she went on, a little hurriedly:
"One would try to study their characters and lead them to the highest
good, as gardeners watch over and train plants until they come to
perfection. But what funny, serious things we are talking about," and she
gave a little, nervous laugh--"Like two old grandfather philosophers."
"It is rather a treat to talk seriously; one so seldom has the chance to
meet any one who understands."
"To understand!" and she sighed. "Alas--How quite perfect life would
be--" and then she stopped abruptly. If she continued her words might
contain a reflection upon John.
Denzil bent forward eagerly--what had she been going to say?
She saw his blue attractive eyes gazing at her so ardently and some
delicious thrill passed through her. But Denzil recovered himself, and
leaned back in his seat--while he abruptly changed the conversation by
"I have never seen Ardayre. I would love to look at our common ancestors.
My father used to say there was an Elizabethan Denzil who was rather like
me. I suppose we are all stamped with the same brand."
"I know him!" Amaryllis cried delightedly. "He is up at the end of the
gallery in puffed white satin and a ruff. Of course, you must come and
see him; he has exactly the same eyes."
"The whole family are alive I believe--we were a tenacious lot!"
"If you and John both get leave at Christmas you must come with him and
spend it at Ardayre--I shall have made your Mother's acquaintance by
then, and we must persuade her too."
He gave some friendly answer--while he felt that John might not endorse
this invitation. If the places were reversed, how would he himself act?
Difficult as the situation was for him, it was infinitely harder for
John. Then the train stopped at Westbury.
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