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When Amaryllis awoke in the morning her head rested on John's breast, and
his arm encircled her. She raised herself on her elbow and looked at him.
He was still asleep--and his face was infinitely sad. She bent over and
kissed him with shy tenderness, but he did not move, he only sighed
heavily as he lay there.
Why should he look so sad, when they were so happy?
She thought of loving things he had said to her at dinner--and then the
afterwards!--and she thrilled with emotion. Life seemed a glorious thing
and--But John was sad, of course, because he must go away. The
recollection of this fact came upon her suddenly like a blast of cold
air. They must part. War hung there with its hideous shadow, and John
must be conscious of it even in his dreams, that was why he sighed.
The irony of things--now--when--Oh! how cruel that he must go.
Then John awoke with a shudder, and saw her there leaning over him with a
new soft love light in her eyes, and he realised that the anguish of his
calvary had only just begun.
She was perfectly exquisite at breakfast, a fresh and tender graciousness
radiated in her every glance; she was subtle and captivating, teasing him
that he had been so silent in the night. "Why wouldn't you talk to me,
John? But it was all divine, I did not mind." Then she became full of
winsome ways and caresses, which she had hitherto been too timid to
express; and every fond word she spoke stabbed John's heart.
Could she not come and stay somewhere near so as to be with him while he
was in training? It was unbearable to remain alone.
But he told her that this would be impossible and that she must go back
"I will get leave, if there is a chance, dear little girl."
"Oh! John, you must indeed."
After he had gone out to the War Office, she sang as she undid a bundle
of late roses he had sent her from Soloman's, on his way.
She must herself put them in water; no servant should have this pleasing
task. Was it the thought of the imminence of separation which had altered
John into so dear a lover? She went over his words there in the library.
She relived the joy of his sudden fierce kiss, when he had said that he
must teach her as to what her emotions meant.
Ah! how good to learn, how all glorious was life and love!
"Sweetheart," the word rang in her ears. He had never called her that
before! Indeed, John rarely ever used any term of endearment, and never
got beyond "Dear" or "Darling" before. But now it was an exquisite
remembrance! Just the murmured word "Sweetheart!" whispered softly again
and again in the night.
John came back to lunch, but two of the de la Paule family dropped in
also, and the talk was all of war, and the difficulty of getting money at
the banks, and how food would go on, and what the whole thing would mean.
But over Amaryllis some spell had fallen--nothing seemed a reality, she
could not attend to ordinary things, she felt that she but moved and
spoke as one still in a dream.
The world, and life, and death, and love, were all a blended mystery
which was but beginning to unravel for her and drew her nearer to John.
The days went on apace.
John in camp thanked God for the strenuous work of his training that it
kept him so occupied that he had barely time to think of Amaryllis or the
tragedy of things. When he had left her on the following afternoon, the
seventh of August, she had returned to Ardayre alone and began the
knitting and shirt-making and amateurish hospital committees which all
well-meaning English women vaguely grasped at before the stern
necessities brought them organised work to do. Amaryllis wrote constantly
to John--all through August--and many of the letters contained loving
allusions which made him wince with pain.
Then the awful news came of Mons, then the Marne--and the Aisne--awful
and glorious, and a hush and mourning fell over the land, and Amaryllis,
like every one else, lost interest in all personal things for a time.
A young cousin had been killed and many of her season's partners and
friends, and now she knew that the North Somerset Yeomanry would shortly
go out and fight as they had volunteered at once. She was very
miserable. But when September grew, in spite of all this general sorrow,
a new horizon presented itself, lit up as if by approaching dawn, for a
hope had gradually developed--a hope which would mean the rejoicing of
And the day when first this possibility of future fulfilment was
pronounced a certainty was one of almost exalted beatitude, and when
Doctor Geddis drove away down the Northern Avenue, Amaryllis seized a
coat from the folded pile of John's in the hall, and walked out into the
park hatless, the wind blowing the curly tendrils of her soft brown hair,
a radiance not of earth in her eyes. The late September sun was sinking
and gilding the windows of the noble house, and she turned and looked
back at it when she was far across the lake.
And the whole of her spirit rose in thankfulness to God, while her soul
sang a glad magnificat.
She, too, might hand on this great and splendid inheritance! She, too,
would be the mother of Ardayres!
And now to write to John!
That was a fresh pleasure! What would he say? What would he feel? Dear
John! His letters had been calm and matter of fact, but that was his way.
She did not mind it now. He loved her, and what did words matter with
this glorious knowledge in her heart?
To have a baby! Her very own--and John's!
How wonderful! How utterly divine--!
Her little feet hardly touched the moss beneath them, she wanted to
skip and sing.
Next May! Next May! A Spring flower--a little life to care for when
war, of course, would have ended and all the world again could be happy
And then she returned by the tiny ancient church. She had the key of it,
a golden one which John had given her on their first coming down. It hung
on her bracelet with her own private key.
The sun was pouring through the western window, carpeting the altar steps
in translucent cloth of gold.
Amaryllis stole up the short aisle, and paused when she came between the
two tall canopied tombs of recumbent sixteenth century knights, which
made so dignified a screen for the little side aisles--and then she moved
on and knelt in the shaft of the sunlight there at the carved rails.
And no one ever raised to God a purer or more fervent prayer.
She stayed until the sun sunk below the window, and then she rose and
went back to the house, and up to her cedar room. And now she must
write to John!
She began--once--twice--but tore up each sheet. Her news was a supreme
happiness, but so difficult to transmit!
At last she finished three sides of her own rather large sized
note-paper, but as she read over what she had written, she was not quite
content; it did not express all that she desired John to know.
But how could a mere letter convey the wordless gladness in her heart?
She wanted to tell him how she would worship their baby, and how she
would pray that they should be given a son--and how she would remember
all his love words spoken that last time they were together, and weave
the joy of them round the little form, so that it should grow strong and
beautiful and radiant, and come to earth welcomed and blessed!
Something of all this finally did get written, and she concluded thus:
"John, is it not all wonderful and blissful and mysterious, this coming
proof of our love? And when I lie awake I say over and over again the
sweet name you called me, and which I want to sign! I am not just
Amaryllis any longer, but your very own 'Sweetheart'!"
John received this letter by the afternoon post in camp. He sat down
alone in his tent and read and re-read each line. Then he stiffened and
remained icily still.
He could not have analysed his emotions. They were so intermixed with
thankfulness and pain--and underneath there was a fierce, primitive
"Sweetheart!" he said aloud, as though the word were anathema! "And must
I call her that 'Sweetheart'! Oh! God, it is too hard!" and he clenched
By the same post came a letter from Denzil, of whose movements he had
asked to be kept informed, saying that the 110th Hussars were going out
at once, so that they would probably soon meet in France.
Then John wrote to Amaryllis. The very force of his feelings seemed to
freeze his power of expression, and when he had finished he knew that it
was but a cold, lifeless thing he had produced, quite inadequate as an
answer to her tender, exalted words.
"My poor little girl," he sighed as he read it. "I know this will
disappoint her. What a hideous, sickening mockery everything is."
He forced himself to add a postscript, a practice very foreign
to his usual methodical rule. "Never forget that I love you,
Amaryllis--Sweetheart!" he said.
And then he went to his Colonel and asked for two days' leave, and when
it was granted for the following Saturday and Monday he wired to his wife
asking her to meet him in Brook Street.
"I must see her--I cannot bear it," he cried to himself.
And late at night he wrote to Denzil--it was just that he should do this.
"My wife is going to have a baby--if only it should be a son, then it
will not so much matter if both of us are killed, at least the family
will be saved, and be able to carry oh."
He tried to make the letter cordial. Denzil had behaved with the most
perfect delicacy throughout, he must admit, and although they had met
once and exchanged several letters, not the faintest allusion to the
subject of their talk in the library at Brook Street had ever been
made by him.
Denzil had indeed acted and written as though such knowledge between
them did not exist. He--Denzil--in these last seven weeks had been
extremely occupied, and while his forces were concentrated upon the
exhilarating preparations for war, it would happen in rare moments
before sleep claimed him at night that he would let his thoughts conjure
a waking dream, infinitely, mystically sweet. And every pulse would
thrill with ecstasy, and then his will would banish it, and he would
think of other subjects.
He could not face the marvel of his emotions at this period, nor dwell
upon the romantically exciting aspect of some things.
He was up in London upon equipment business on the very Saturday that
John got leave, and he was due to dine at the Carlton with Verisschenzko
who had that day arrived on vital matters bent.
As they came into the hall, a man stopped to talk to the Russian, and
Denzil's eyes wandered over the unnumerous and depressed looking company
collected waiting for their parties to arrive. War had even in those
early Autumn days set its grim seal upon this festive spot. People looked
rather ashamed of being seen and no one smiled. He nodded to one or two
friends, and then his glance fell upon a beautiful, slim, brown-haired
girl, sitting quietly waiting in an armchair by the restaurant steps.
She wore a plain black frock, but in her belt one huge crimson clove
carnation was unostentatiously tucked.
"What a lovely creature!" his thoughts ran, and Verisschenzko
turning from his acquaintance that moment, he said to him as they
started to advance:
"St�pan, if you want to see something typically English and perfectly
exquisite, look at that girl in the armchair opposite where the band used
to be. I wonder who she is?"
"What luck!" cried Verisschenzko. "That is your cousin, Amaryllis
And in a second Denzil found himself being introduced to her, and being
greeted by her with interested cordiality, as befitted their cousinly
But Verisschenzko, whose eyes missed nothing, remarked that under his
sunburn, Denzil had grown suddenly very pale. Amaryllis was enchanted to
see her friend, the Russian. John had gone to the telephone, it
appeared--and yes, they were dining alone--and, of course, she was sure
John would love to amalgamate parties, it was so nice of Verisschenzko to
think of it! There was John now.
The blood rushed back to Denzil's heart, and the colour to his face--he
had only murmured a few conventional words. Mercifully John would decide
the matter--it was not his doing that he and Amaryllis had met.
John caught sight of the three as he came along the balcony from the
telephone, so that he had time to take in the situation; he saw that the
meeting was quite _impr�vu_, and he had, of course, no choice but to
accept Verisschenzko's suggestion with a show of grace. At that very
moment, before they could enter the restaurant, and re-arrange their
tables, Harietta Boleski and her husband swept upon them--they were
staying in the hotel. Harietta was enraptured.
What a delightful surprise meeting them! Were they all just together,
would they not dine with her?
She purred to John, while her eyes took in with satisfaction Denzil's
extraordinary good looks--and there was St�pan, too! Nothing could be
more agreeable than to scintillate for them both.
John hailed their advent with relief: it would relax the intolerable
strain which both he and Denzil would be bound to have to experience. So
looking at the rest of the party, he indicated that he thought they would
accept. It suited Verisschenzko also for his own reasons. And any
suggestion to enlarge the intimate number of four would have been
received by Denzil with graciousness.
He had not imagined that he would feel such profound emotion on seeing
Amaryllis, the intensity of it caused him displeasure. It was altogether
such a remarkable situation. He knew that it would have been of thrilling
interest to him had it not been for the presence of John. His knowledge
of what John must be suffering, and the knowledge that John was aware of
what he also must be feeling, turned the whole circumstance into
As soon as he recalled himself to Madame Boleski they all went into the
restaurant to the Boleski table, just inside the door, by the window on
the right. Harietta put John on one side of her and Denzil at the other,
and beyond were Verisschenzko and her husband, with Amaryllis between,
who thus sat nearly opposite Denzil, with her back to the room.
Harietta, when she desired to be, was always an inspiriting hostess,
making things go. She intended to do her best to-night. The turn affairs
had taken, England being at war, was quite too tiresome. It had spoilt
all her country house visits and nullified much of the pleasure and
profit she was intending to reap from her now secured position in this
Stanislass, too, had been difficult, he had threatened to go back to
Poland immediately, which he explained was his obvious duty to do--but
she had fortunately been able to crush that idea completely with tears
and scenes. Then he suggested Paris, but information from Hans gave her
occasion to think this might not be a comfortable or indeed quite a safe
spot, and in all cases if the Frenchmen were fighting for dear life they
would not have leisure to entertain her, therefore, dull and gloomy as
England had become, she preferred to remain.
Hans, too, had given her orders. For the present London must be her home,
and the lease of the Mount Lennard house in Grosvenor Square having
expired, they had moved to the Carlton Hotel.
The misery of war, the holocaust of all that was noblest, left her
absolutely cold. It was certainly a pity that those darling young
guardsmen she had danced with should have had to be killed, but there was
never any use in crying over spilt milk--better look out for new ones
coming on. She was quite indifferent as to which country won. It was
still a great bother collecting information for her former husband, but
he threatened terrible reprisals if she refused to go on, and as in her
secret heart she thought that there was no doubt as to who would be
victor, she felt it might be wiser to remain on good terms with the power
she believed would win!
Ferdinand Ardayre had been very helpful all the summer--he had moved from
the Constantinople branch of his business to one in Holland and had just
returned to England now; he was, in fact, coming to see her later on when
she should have packed Stanislass safely off to the St. James' Club.
Harietta had no imagination to be inflamed by terrible descriptions of
things. She saw no actual horrors, therefore war to her was only a
nuisance--nothing ghastly or to be feared. But it was a disgusting
nuisance and caused her fatigue. She had continually to remember to
simulate proper sympathy, and concern and to subdue her vivacity, and
show enthusiasm for any agreeable war work which could divert her dull
days. If she had not been more than doubtful of her reception in America,
even as a Polish magnate's wife, she would have gone over there to escape
as far as possible from the whole situation, and she had been bored to
death now for several days. People were too occupied and too grieved to
go out of their way now to make much of her, and she had been left alone
to brood. Thus the advent of Verisschenzko, who thrilled her always, and
a possible new admirer in Denzil, seemed a heaven-sent occurrence.
Amaryllis and John were undesired but unavoidable appendages who had to
Denzil's type particularly attracted her. There was an insouciance about
him, a _d�bonnair sans g�ne_ which increased the charm of his good looks;
he had everything of attraction about him which John Ardayre lacked.
Amaryllis, against her will, before the end of the dinner, was conscious
of the fact also, though Denzil studiously avoided any conversation with
her beyond what the exigencies of politeness required. He devoted himself
entirely to Harietta, to her delight, and Verisschenzko and Amaryllis
talked while John was left to Stanislass. But the very fact of Denzil's
likeness to John made Amaryllis look at him, and she resented his
attraction and the interest he aroused in her.
His voice was perhaps even deeper than John's, and how extraordinarily
well his bronze hair was planted on his forehead; and how perfectly
groomed and brushed and soldierly he looked!
He seemingly had taken the measure of Madame Boleski, too, and was
apparently enjoying with a cultivated subtlety the drawing of her out. He
was no novice it seemed, and there was a whimsical light in his eyes and
once or twice they had inadvertently met hers with understanding when
Verisschenzko had made some especially cryptic remark. She knew that she
would very much have liked to talk to him.
Verisschenzko was observing Amaryllis carefully. There was a new
expression in her eyes which puzzled him. Her features seemed to be drawn
with finer lines and pale violet shadows lay beneath her grey eyes. Was
it the gloom of the war which oppressed her? It could not be altogether
that, because her regard was serene and even happy.
"Did I not know that nothing could be more unlikely, I should say she was
going to have a child. What is the mystery?" He found himself very much
interested. Especially he was anxious to watch what impression Denzil
made upon her. He saw, as the dinner went on, that Amaryllis was aware
that he was an attractive creature.
"There is the beginning of a chapter of necessary and
expedient--romance--here," he decided. "If only Denzil is not killed."
But what did his growing so pale on learning that she was his cousin
mean...? that was not a natural circumstance--some deep undercurrents
were stirred. And in what way was all this going to affect the lady
of his soul?
They could not have any intimate conversation at dinner; they spoke of
ordinary things and the war and the horror of it. Russia was moving
forward, but Verisschenzko did not appear to be very optimistic in spite
of this. There were things in his country, he told Amaryllis, which might
handicap the fighting.
Stanislass Boleski looked extremely depressed. He had a hang-dog,
strained mien and Verisschenzko's contemptuously friendly attitude
towards him wounded him deeply. Once he had shone as a leader and chief
in St�pan's life, and now after the stormy scene in the smoking-room at
Ardayre, that he could greet him casually and not turn from him in anger,
showed, alas! to where he had sunk in Verisschenzko's estimation--a thing
of nought--not even worth his disapproval. The dinner to him was a
John also was far from content. He had been longing to see Amaryllis, and
yet the sight of her and her fond and insinuating words and caresses had
caused him exquisite suffering. His emotions were so varied and complex.
His prayer had been answered, but apart from his natural loathing for all
subterfuge, every new tenderness towards himself which Amaryllis
displayed aroused some indefinable jealousy. She had been so glad to see
him and he had been conscious himself that he had been even unusually
stolid and self-contained towards her. He knew that she grew disappointed
and that probably the exalted sentiment which her letter had indicated
that she was feeling had been chilled before she could put it into words.
All this distressed him, and yet he could not break through the reserve
of his nature.
And now to crown unfortunate things, there was Denzil brought by fate and
no one's manoeuvring into Amaryllis' company! Of all things he had hoped
that they need not meet before he and his cousin should go to the Front.
And it was all brought about by his own action in insisting that they had
better dine at a restaurant, as the kitchenmaid, who always remained at
Brook Street, had gone to see a wounded brother.
Amaryllis had sighed a little as she had consented, with the faint
protest that they could have eaten something cold.
But on their drive to the Carlton she had become fondly affectionate
again, nestling close to him, and then she had pulled out the carnation
from her belt and held it for him to smell.
"I picked it in the greenhouse this morning, the last of them; I have had
them all around me while there were any, because they remind me of you,
dearest--and of everything divine."
John felt that he should always now hate that clove stuff for the hair
and could no longer bear to use it.
He was perfectly aware that Denzil on his hostess' other hand was
looking everything that a woman could desire, and that his easy
casualness of manner would be likely to charm. He saw that Amaryllis,
too, observed him with unconscious interest, and a feeling akin to
despair filled his heart.
Life for him had always been difficult, and he was accustomed to blows,
but this one was particularly hard to bear, because he really loved
Amaryllis and desired happiness with her which he knew could never really
Only Harietta of the whole party was quite content. She intended to annex
St�pan when they should be drinking coffee in the hall. She looked upon
Denzil's conquest now as almost an accomplished fact, and so felt that
she might let him talk to Amaryllis, since the Russian was her real
object. His ugly rugged face and odd Calmuck eyes always attracted her.
"Why aren't you staying in the hotel, darling Brute?'" she whispered to
him as they left the restaurant. "If you had been--"
"I am," said Verisschenzko, and leaving her for a moment he went and
telephoned to his not unintelligent Russian servant at the Ritz to
arrange about the transference of his rooms.
"She requires the most careful watching--I must waste no time."
And then he returned to the party in the hall.
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