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When Amaryllis knew that John was going to get a few days' leave at
Christmas a strange nervousness took possession of her. The personality
of Denzil had been growing more real to her ever since they had parted,
in spite of her endeavours to discipline her mind and control all
emotion. The thought of him and the thought of the baby were inseparable
and were seldom absent from her consciousness. All sorts of wonderful
emotions held her, and exalted her imagination until she felt that Denzil
was part of her daily life--and with the double interest her love for him
grew and grew.
She had only seen John during the day when he had come to bid her
good-bye before leaving for the Front, and most of the time they had been
surrounded by the de la Paule family. But now she would have to face the
fact of living with him again in an intimate relationship.
The thought appeared awful to her. There was something in her nature
which resembled that of the bride of King Caudaules. She could not
support the idea of belonging now to John; it seemed to her that he must
have no rights at all. She had written to him dutifully each week letters
about the place and her Committees in the County. She had not once
mentioned the coming child.
Denzil's mother had been ill and the visit to Bath had been postponed,
and after a fortnight alone at Ardayre she had come up to London. She had
too much time to think there.
St�pan had left her a list of books to get and she had been steadily
How horribly ignorant she had been! She realised that what knowledge she
had possessed had never been centralised or brought to any use. She had
known isolated histories of Europe, and never had studied them
collectively or contemporarily to discover their effect upon human
evolution. She had learned many things, and then never employed her
critical faculties about them. A whole new world seemed to be opening to
her view. She had determined not to be unhappy and not to look ahead, but
in spite of these good resolutions she would often dream in the firelight
of the joy of being clasped in Denzil's arms.
When she thought of John it was with tolerance more than affection. What
did he really mean to her, denuded of the glamour with which she herself
had surrounded him?
Practically nothing at all.
She was quite aware that her state of being was rendering all her mental
and emotional faculties particularly sensitive, and she did her utmost to
remember all Verisschenzko's counsel to discipline herself and remain
serene. The morning John was expected to arrive she had a hard fight with
herself. She felt very nervous and ill at ease. Above all things, she
must not be unkind.
He was bronzed and looked well, he was more expansive also and plainly
very glad to see her.
He held her close to him and bent to kiss her lips; but some undefined
reluctance came over her, and she moved her head aside.
Something in her resented the caress. Her lips were now for Denzil and
for no other man. It was she who was recalcitrant and turned the
conversation into everyday things.
The de la Paule family had been summoned for luncheon and the
afternoon passed among them all, and then the evening and the
t�te-�-t�te dinner came.
John knocked at the door of her room while she was dressing. Her maid had
just finished her hair and she wondered at herself that she should
experience a sense of shyness and have to suppress an inclination to
refuse to let him come in. And once any of these little intimate
happenings would have given her joy!
She kept Adams there, and hurried into her tea-gown and then walked
towards the door.
John had not spoken much, but stood by the fire.
How changed things were! Once he had to be persuaded and enticed to stay
with her at such moments, and it was he who now seemed to desire to do
so, and it was she who discouraged his wishes!
In Amaryllis' mind an agitation grew. What could she say to him
presently--if he suggested coming to sleep in her room?
The knowledge in her breast rose as an insurmountable barrier
During dinner she kept the conversation entirely upon his life at the
Front--which indeed really interested her. She was not cold or stiff in
her manner, but she was unconsciously aloof.
Then they went back into the library, each feeling exceedingly depressed.
When coffee had come and they were quite alone Amaryllis felt she could
not stand the strain, and went to the piano. She played for quite a long
time all the things she remembered that John liked best. She wanted the
music to calm her, and she wanted to gain time. John sat in one of the
monster chairs and gazed into the fire. He seemed to see pictures in the
The strange relentless fate which had pursued him always as far as
happiness was concerned!
He remembered what his mother had said to him when she lay a-dying with a
"John, we cannot see what God means in it all. There must be some
explanation because He cannot be unjust. It is because we have missed the
point of some lesson, probably, and so are given it again to learn. Do
not ever be rebellious, my son, and perhaps some day light will come."
He had read an article in some paper lately ridiculing the theory that we
have had former lives, but, after all, perhaps there was some foundation
for the belief. Perhaps he was paying in this one for sins in a previous
birth. That would account for the seeming inexorableness of the
misfortunes which fell upon him now, since common sense told him that in
this life such cruel blows were undeserved.
Amaryllis glanced at his face from the piano as she played. It was
A great pity grew in her heart. What ought she to do not to be unkind?
Presently she finished a soft chord and got up and came to his side.
They were both suffering cruelly--but John was going back to fight. She
must have some explanation with him which could make him return to France
at peace in a measure. It was cowardly to shirk telling him the truth,
and she could not let him go again into danger with this black shadow
He looked up at her and rose from his chair.
"You play so beautifully," he said hastily. "You take one out of
oneself. Now it is late and the day has been long. Let us go to bed,
Amaryllis stiffened suddenly--the moment that she dreaded had come.
"I would rather that you slept in your dressing-room. I have ordered that
to be prepared--"
He looked at her startled--and then he took her hand.
"Amaryllis--tell me everything. Why are you so changed?"
"I'm trying not to be, John."
"You are trying--that proves that you are, if you must try. Please tell
me what this means."
She endeavoured to remain calm and not become unhinged.
"It was you yourself who altered me. I came to you all loving and human
and you froze me. There is nothing to be done."
"Yes, there is. You know that I love you."
"Perhaps you do, but the family matters more to you than I do, or
anything else in the world."
"That may have been so once, but not now," his voice throbbed with
"Alas!" was all she answered and looked down. John longed to appeal to
her--but he was too honest to seek to soften her through the link of the
child. Indeed, the thought of it had grown hateful to him. He only knew
that he had played for a stake which now seemed worthless. Amaryllis and
her love mattered more than any child.
He clenched his hands tightly; the pain of things seemed hard to bear.
Why had he not broken the thongs of reserve which held him long days ago
and made love to her in words? But that would have been dishonest. He
must at least be true; and he realised now that he had starved her--no
matter what his motive had been.
"Amaryllis, tell me everything, please," and he held out his hands and
drew her to the sofa and sat down by her side.
She could not control her emotion any longer, and her voice shook as she
"I know that it was not you--but Denzil, John--and the baby is his,
His face altered. He had not been prepared to hear this thing and he
"Ferdinand is an awful possibility to contemplate there at Ardayre, if
you have no son--" She went on, trying to be calm, "but do you not think
that you might have told me? Surely a woman has the right to select the
father of her child."
John could not answer her. He covered his face with his hands.
"You see it is all pitiful," she continued, her voice deep and broken
with almost a sob in it. "Denzil is so like you--it was an easy
transition to find that I loved him--because I was only loving the
imaginary you I had made for myself. I cannot explain myself and do not
make any excuse. There is something in me, whenever I think of the baby,
that draws me to Denzil and makes me remember that night. John, we must
just face the situation and try to find some way to avoid as much pain as
we can. I hate to think it is hurting you, too."
"Did Denzil tell you this?" his voice was icy cold.
"No--it came to me suddenly when I heard him say a word."
"'Sweetheart'!" and now John's eyes flashed. "He called you again
"No, he did not--he used the word simply in speaking of a picture--but I
recognised his voice then immediately--it is a little deeper than yours."
"When did you see Denzil?"
She told him the exact truth about their meeting and his coming to
Ardayre, and how Denzil had endeavoured to keep his word.
"He would never have spoken to me--it was fate which sent him into the
train, and then I made him speak--I could not bear it. After I
recognised him, I made him admit that it was he. Denzil is not to blame.
He left immediately and I have never seen him or heard from him since.
It is I alone who must be counted with, John--Denzil will try never to
see me again."
John groaned aloud.
"Oh God--the misery of it all!"
"John, I must tell you everything now while we are talking of these
things. I love Denzil utterly. I thrill when I think of him; he seems to
me my husband, not even only a lover. John, not long ago, when I felt
the first movement of the child, I shook with longing for him--I found
myself murmuring his name aloud. So you must think what it all means to
me, so strongly passionate as I am. But I would never cheat you, John--I
had to be honest. I could not go on pretending to be your wife and
living a lie."
Tears of agony gathered in John Ardayre's blue eyes and rolled down
He suddenly understood the suffering, that she, too, must be undergoing.
What right had he to have taken this young and loving woman and then to
have used her for his own aims, however high?
"Amaryllis--you cannot forgive me. I see now that I was wrong."
But the sympathy which she had felt when she had looked at him from the
piano welled up again in Amaryllis's heart and drowned all resentment.
She knew that he must be enduring pain greater than hers, so she
stretched out her hands to him, and he took them and held them in his.
"Of course, I forgive you, John--but I cannot cease from loving Denzil,
that is the tragedy of the thing. I am his really, not yours, even if I
never see him again, and that is why we must not make any pretences.
John dearest, let us be friends--and live as friends, then everything
won't be so hard."
He let her hands drop and got up and paced the room. He was suffering
acutely--must he renounce even the joy of holding her in his arms?
"But I love you, Amaryllis--I love you, dearest child--"
And now again she said "Alas!"--and that was all.
"Amaryllis--this is a frightful sacrifice to me--must you insist upon
Then her eyes seemed to flash fire and her cheeks grew rose--and she
stood up and faced him.
"I tell you, John, you do not know me. You have seen a well brought up,
conventional girl--milk and water, ready to obey your slightest will--I
had not found myself. I am a creature as primitive and passionate as a
savage"--her breath came in little pants with her great emotion,--"I
_could not_ belong to two men--it would utterly degrade me, then I do not
know what I should become. I love Denzil, body and soul--and while he
lives no other man shall ever touch me; that is what passion means to
me--fidelity to the thing I love! He is my Beloved and my darling, and I
must go away from you altogether and throw off the thought of the family,
and implore Denzil to take me when he comes home if you can agree to the
only terms I can offer you now."
John bowed his head. Life seemed over for him and done.
Amaryllis came close to him, then she stood on tiptoe and kissed his
brow. Her vehemence had died down in her sorrow for his pain.
"John," she whispered softly, "won't you always be my dearest friend? And
when the baby comes it will be a deep interest to us both, and you must
love it because it is mine and an Ardayre--and the comfort of that must
fill our lives. I truly believe that you did everything, meaning it for
the best, only perhaps it is dangerous to play with the creation of
life--perhaps that is why fate forced me to know."
John drew her to him, he smoothed the soft brown hair back from her brow
and kissed her tenderly, but not on the lips--those he told himself he
must renounce for evermore.
"Amaryllis,"--his voice was husky still, "yes--I will be your friend,
darling--and I will love your child. I was very wrong to marry you, but
it was not quite hopeless then, and you were so young and splendid and
living--and I was growing to love you, and for these reasons I hoped
against hope--and then when I knew that everything was impossible--I
felt that I must make it up to you in every other way I could. I don't
know how to put things into words, I always was dull, but I thought if I
gratified all your wishes perhaps--Ah!--I see it was very cruel. Darling,
I would have told you the truth--presently--but then the war came, and
the thought of Ferdinand here drove me mad and it forced my hand."
She looked up at him with her sweet true eyes--her one idea was now to
comfort him since she need no longer fear.
"John, if you had explained the whole thing to me--I do not know, perhaps
I should have agreed with you, for I, too, have much of this family
pride, and I cannot bear to think of Ferdinand--or his children which may
be, at Ardayre. I might have voluntarily consented--I cannot be sure. But
somehow just lately I have been thinking very much about spiritual
things, things I mean beyond the material, those great forces which must
be all around us, and I have wondered if we are not perhaps too ignorant
yet to upset any laws. Perhaps I am stupid--I don't know really. I have
only been wondering--but perhaps there are powerful currents connected
with laws, whether they are just or unjust, simply because of the force
of people's thoughts for hundreds of years around them."
They went to the sofa then and sat down. It made John happier to hear
her talk. His strong will was now conquering the outward show of his
emotion at last.
"It may be so--"
"You see, supposing anything should happen to Ferdinand," she went on,
"then Denzil would have been naturally the next heir--and now--if the
child is a boy--"
"We neither of us thought of that."
"But nothing is likely to happen to Ferdinand; he won't enlist--it is
only you, dear John, who are in danger, and Denzil, too--but surely the
war cannot go on long now?"
John wondered if he should tell her what he really felt about this, or
whether it were wiser to keep her quietly in this hopeful dream of a
speedy end. He decided to say nothing; it was better for her health not
to agitate her mind--events would speak for themselves, alas, presently.
He talked quietly then of Ardayre and of his boyhood and of its sorrows;
he was determined to break down his own reserve, and Amaryllis listened
interestedly, and gradually some kind of peace and calm seemed to come
to them both, and they resolutely banished the thought of the future,
and sought only to think of the present. And then at last John rose and
took her hand:
"Go to bed now, dear girl,--and to-morrow I shall have quite conquered
all the feelings which could disturb you, and just remember always that I
am indeed your friend."
She understood at last the greatness of his sacrifice and the fineness of
his soul, and she fell into a passion of weeping and ran from the room.
But John, left alone, sank down into the same chair as he had done once
before on the night he was waiting for Denzil, and, as then, he buried
his face in his hands.
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