|Chapter Title||Which Revolves Around a Bat.|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||More about Misrule|
MORE ABOUT MISRULE.
CHAPTER IX.—Which Revolves Around a Rat.
By ETHEL TURNER.
Lylie was too spiritual and at the same time too spiritless to attempt to protest against her brother's wishes, but Jack the seven-year-old brother was just a healthy and perfectly
ordinary little boy. From the hour he dis- covered the next-door Peter—Peter engaged in exercising the fowls with a three-legged race no power had been able to keep him quite away from the dividing fence. He was either pressed up close against it with his eye to a knot-hole, or sitting astride it, or poking bits of whittled wood or marbles or tops to Peter through a place where the wood had shrunk up an inch or two away from the ground. It was he who extended the invitation to watch the closing scene in the life of a rat. And Peter had accepted it in the noble spirit in which it had been offered; he swarmed over without a word of ado; it never occurred to him to inquire whether his visit might be dis- tasteful to the lady of the house. "Come on," he said, "where is it? In your kitchen ? If it is, some silly idiot will go and open the door and you'll have lost it." Jack said "H'sh," and gave a troubled glance at his house. "Lie down flat," he said. " Yes, like that; can you crawl that way up to the stables ? If she sees you, you'll have to go." Peter progressed along cheerfully on his hands and knees, close to the fence, for a hundred feet or so. " Now yon can stand up," Jack said, and Peter became relievedly upright once more, for they were well behind the sheltering walls of the stables. They spent an exhilarating hour in the corn- room setting the rat at liberty, and then urging on the eager fox-terrier to the chase. Jack, from long training, only hurrahed softly at exciting periods, but Peter, accus- tomed to freest shoutings and yellings in Mis- rule paddocks—who could expect him to modu- late his voice? The unusual noise penetrated into the gray kitchen, and presently down came the youngest of the New Guinea boys to suppress it " You clear out of this, Charlie," said Jack boldly, showing off before his new friend. " Young white boy better go home straight way off," Charlie said. But he was only 16, and when the rat rushed up the wall and leapt a corn-box, and used an old saddle for a bridge to take him to the comparative safety of a low rafter, Charlie leaned with his elbows on a bin and became as absorbed as the other boys. Down came the inky cook and banged Char- lie about the head as a preliminary rite. Char- lie grinned cheerfully, and Peter waxed bold at the sight. There was nothing alarming after all about these black-faced fellows—indeed an ebony smile seemed a good deal merrier and more boyish a thing than a white one. Peter stood his ground. " I'll go home when he's caught," he said, and gave another yell and rushed after the terrier and kicked his excited heels on any and every sounding zinc box in the place. Down came the gardener. Peter mocked at him from the vantage ground of a beam up to which he had swung himself. His humour for all alien races was the same. " Welly ni cabbagee—allee flesh cabbagee," he said. The sable-handed gardener adjured him, in very respectable English, to return to his own dwelling. "Tleepence—nofeah—too muchee money," replied Peter. The cook stepped on to a box and tried to dislodge the invader by force. " You, boy Charlie, climb up other side," he said, and the boy Charlie, grinning, went to obey. But Peter, agile as any monkey swarmed up higher still. "Muchee fine cabbagee," he said, "sick-a- pen, all li, some oder day, eh ?" " I say," said Jack, "you'd better go—here's mother coming." Peter dropped down among the blackboys like a plummet. " Isn't there another door?" he said with a hunted look round. Jack gave his head a melancholy shake. "Get out of the way, then," said Peter, and made a dash at the door and reached it and sprang across the path, and shot over the grass and scraped up over his own fence all in less than one minute. He even had his foot planted ready for further flight, lest his own territory should not be sufficient and the stronghold of his walls be required for absolute safety. But the lady showed no signs of climbing after him; with his eye to the hole in the fence he saw her re- turning to the house, Jack walking dejectedly before her, and the dark-faced procession behind. Three days, however, sufficed for the re- covery of Jack's spirit, and he was at the fence again, making that cheerful hole a little larger with a bit of sharp iron. By the time Peter had—for his mind's health that morning— stated the fact, in bad writing and worse Latin, that " the Gauls laid waste the lands of the Romans far and wide," and " before all others Demosthenes and Cicero were the most re- nowned orators"; had wrestled with the wretched rhyme of masculine exceptions to the rule that the termination is is feminine— "Panis, piscis, crinis, finis, Ignis, lapis, pulvis, cinis, Orbis, amnis, and canalis, Sanguis, unguis, glis, annalis;" had limped miserably through the French verb to boil, and been rendered vacant-eyed by the statement that it was a neuter verb, and with its literal meaning only used in the infini- tive, preceded by the verb faire in any tense and person whenever the subject was a noun (or a pronoun) referring to a person ; had sat through, along with Poppet, while Essie merely wrote a baby copy, an object lesson on the
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composition of the air, and had his brain stanned with phrases like "carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen, component elements, mole- cules" ;—by the time he had undergone and overcome all these wearinesses and gone dash- ing out, Essie at his heel, to the fence, lo, the knot-hole was large enough for you to shake hands through and see each other's faces in quarterly sections, instead of sixteenthly as heretofore. " Did you get it on Monday ?" he inquired. " No, it got loose again," said Jack. Peter had forgotten the rat; he was inquir- ing after the punishment that he expected had been meted out to his suffering friend, for Poppet's imagination had seen him stretched on a species of inquisitorial rack in a dark cellar, and Essie had opined that he had been thrashed with a cat-o'-nine-tails like the stow- away in Peter's book. "Oh," said Jack laconically when the deli- cate inquiry was repeated, " had to learn a page of exports and imports—no, that was for telling a stuffer about the tarts—had to sit on a stool for an hour—no, that was for shouting , up the staircase—oh, forget what it was— come on, what'll we do ?" Peter cast about for an employment, but it was the woman who tempted him to the fall. " You come over here," said Essie. Jack and Peter both looked a trifle diffident " Where is she ?" asked Peter nervously. " Gone out in the Box," said Jack. (It was by this slighting term he referred to the expen- ive closed brougham in which his mother took a daily drive.) " Oh, well, come on," said Peter relievedly; he had had an unpleasant vision at the moment of Essie's suggestion, of the tall figure striding across their own safe, sunny paddocks in vengeful pursuit of her son. But safe in the Box! " Come on," he said, " you'd better not lose any time, or she may come back." Jack, urged thus by two, put a half-fearful foot into the hole, and then the rest was so easy he was over in a new world in a second, his conscience cast behind him as a snake sheds its skin. " and I can shout as much as I like, you said I could," was his first remark. " Of course you can," Peter said, staring at him. But it took Essie, accustomed as she was to Peter's racket, a little time to get used to the yells and halloos and hurrahs with which the small youth from the other side of the fence sought to let off his long suppressed steam. Indeed, so very unusual were the noises that Esther actually put on her golden-hat at last and went down a long paddock, to the shed to make quite sure her two children were not hanging by their tortured hair to the ratters, or being burnt at a stake. " Why, who is this ?" she exclaimed; " and what are you doing to him, Peter ?—have you been fighting the poor little fellow ?" All three laughed cheerfully for answer. "But," said Esther, troubled, "my dear little boy, I can't let you stay here, though I should like to. You know your mother will not allow you to come to play." Peter and Essie signed impatiently,—why could not Esther have stayed up in the quiet house where there were no problems for her moral senses to wrestle with? Jack looked at her quietly. He was a pale rather stunted-looking little lad, with Lylee's expression, but very wise eyes. He opened his lips. "Mother's compliments, and would you mind letting me stay in your place for a little while this morning, so I can shout as much as I like?" Peter and Essie stared at their new friend with black faces; their own moral rect- itude had been so carefully attended to by Esther that they found it hard to grasp such an astonishing want of principle. But Esther was a very unsuspicious woman and looked merely relieved. "I shall be very pleased to have you," she said; "stay as long as you like and shout as much as you like." " Why won't you be let shout at your house?" asked Peter. "Does it make her headache?" " It's not her," said Jack, fondling the latest guinea-pig, " it's the secret." " What secret ?" demanded the two children eagerly. But Jack looked cautious again instantly. "Don't let's waste time," he said; "let's do something," and Esther, thus dismissed, re- turned to the house. "Why didn't you tell us she said you could come ?" demanded Peter. But Jack merely gave a peculiar wink he had copied from Charlie, and went on stirring up the little sleepy guinea-pigs. The luncheon bell rang. Peter and Essie dragged their guest up to the house. "He says he can stay to dinner," they said. Esther duly expressed her sense of honour and delight, and drew up a chair for him at the table, and asked Martha to bring another knife and fork and a tumbler. " But you must promise to let me go at 2," he said; " that's the time we have dinner, and I wouldn't like the pater to be lonely. What room's your pater having his dinner in ?" Esther was busily engaged carving the roast mutton, and Nellie with three vegetables to apportion also had her attention distracted. It was Poppet who answered that her father was away in town, at the barracks, and only came home for late dinner. " Do you take it in turns to stop with him ?" Peter replied that his father and mother and Pip and Nellie and Bunty all had dinner together. Jack digested the information thoughtfully, " It must look funny," he said. "What must?" said Esther, resting on her oars a little moment. "You and him having dinner in the same room," returned Jack. Esther looked puzzled, but returned to her labours. "Don't your father and mother?" said Pop- pet curiously, "Course they don't." said Jack. "Mother has hers in the study. And father has his in the breakfast-room. And Lylie and me takes it in turns where we have it, I had breakfast with mother, so I'll have lunch with pater." Esther looked troubled, for every one was listening now. " Jack dear, " she said gently.
"when you come here yon mustn't tell us things that go on at your house—no gentleman does that—just talk about your games and pets and things like that." "What did I say?" demanded Jack aggrievedly. " I've not told you anything. I never let out a word about the secret." "What pets have you at home?" asked Esther, striving to steer into safe waters. " There's my dog Blinker," said Jack, "and on the station I used to have a kangaroo what would eat oat of my hand, only then it got cranky and father sent it away. Wish I had a little kangaroo now." " Why don't you get your mamma to ask your father to let you have another?" asked Essie, who was always making use of an am- bassador herself. Jack looked at her scornfully. "What a silly yon are!" he said; " how could she when they don't speak to each other, scarcely never? Only when Lylie gets ill, or that time I fell out a window, and when——" " Baked apples, Jack ?" cried Esther, " and rice to them, and cream? Pass this to Jack, Poppet. The apples are from the orchard and the cream from that nice brown-and-white cow you were admiring." "I'll have the cream," said Jack, "and if you've got a little cake I can scoop it out and fill it up and it'll be a cream-cake. You can give the apples and rice to him," and he pointed a careless finger at Peter. "But I should like you to have something substantial," said Esther. "Oh, I'm keeping myself a bit hungry," said Jack. Tairoa was making jellied things with meat inside them, and I always helped father eat them, 'cause mother thinks he likes them a lot and gen'allyy looks to see if he's emptied the dish. One time when she had been crying a lot—— " "Jack," said Esther, "it is 2 o'clock, you had bettor ran off at once." Jack rose at once and gave a glance through the open window. "Yon didn't happen to gee that Box thing of ours go past yet, did you ?" he asked. "He means their buggy with the big lid," said Essie. "No," said Esther, "but I think you had bettor go now, dear." "All right, but I'll come another day," pro- mised the guest, and went off munching the remains of his improvised cream-cake. (to be continued.) THE BEAUTY OF A SEASON By Mrs. PARR. Quite suddenly the world of fashion had awakened to the discovery that Mrs. Roger Townley was one of the prettiest women of the season, and this discovery once made, it follows that no party was com- plete without her. Half-a-dozen of the best men were always at her side ; she was courted, abused, envied, flattered ; in short, she threatened to become the rage. It was not that her really charming face was one bit more attractive than it had been the year before, when nobody troubled himself to give her more than a passing word of admiration ; but, to let the cat out of the bag, last year Sir Egerton Cran- bourne and Mrs. Gage were—well, better than the best of friends ; they were never to be seen apart, and Sir Egerton was without a rival. Happy man ! how secure he stood until Tom Hervey appeared : and then, to the bewilderment of everybody, Mrs. Gage coolly threw Sir Egerton over. Now, no one need be told that a better looking man than Egerton Cranbourne you very seldom see ; and to find himself flung on one side, bowled out by a red-haired en- sign with a cast in his eye, was an in- dignity not to be suffered calmly. " Revenge ! Revenge!" was his cry. Yes, but revenge how ? What form could it take ? To quarrel with Tom Hervey would be to render himself still more ridiculous ; be- sides, it was not against Tom that the fire of his anger burnt, it was the fickle she he wanted to punish. His desire was to make that incomprehensible, fascinating weathercock of a widow suffer ; and cast- ing about as to how this could be effected, his good—or his bad—genius whispered in his ear, " Set up a rival." Why, of course, the very thing ! Here was vengeance in- deed. Nothing but his admiration had brought Mrs. Gage into fashion. Until he had gone raving all over the place about her, she had been a nobody, quite out of the social swim. Sir Egerton rose with the air of a giant refreshed ; he took up a score of invita- tions, carefully considered them one by one, and selected those most calculated to serve his purpose ; and, fortune favouring his inspiration, he met that night, for the first time, Mrs. Roger Townley. To recount the herculean labours of Sir Egerton, while striving to establish his newly found beauty in society's favour, would be beyond the power of the pen. Suffice it to say, so skillful were his manoeuvres, that before the season was many weeks older not one among that e- vied circle which counts itself " the world of London" but had grown familiar with her name. As for the pretty little woman herself— quite ignorant of how her triumph had been, brought about —no wonder that her small head was turned. It takes a strong amount of good sense to carry the fact philosophically that all the great constella- tions you have gazed at from below have suddenly fallen at your feet, ready and anxious to be picked up by you. As the turmoil of the London season increased, so the tide of Mrs. Townley's success swell- ed higher. Courted, flattered, run after, life to her seemed a Paradise. Mr. Roger Townley—" Mrs. Townley's husband," as he began to feel himself— hardly took such a happy view of this change in their state. At first he had thoroughly rejoiced in Vera's success, and had felt very proud to see the rosebud he had discovered in a hidden-away village feted and made much of. He had a strong belief in her good sense, and was certain that with her hand she had also given her heart to him. It was this certainty that had converted him into a married man, for—ten years older
than Vera—Roger's first experience of love had not been a happy one. He had placed his affections on a woman much older than himself, one whose many past sorrows had made her tender towards those for whom life was only opening. And when by a great effort—for Roger's attachment had become more dear than even to herself she would allow—she arranged to live abroad and insisted that he should not follow her. Roger had felt very bitter, and he had parted with her in anger, imprecating the worldly wisdom for which she told him he would one day thank her. Well, that time had arrived. Two years after Mrs. Gra- ham left England he had met Vera—the very embodiment of a fresh young girl, the pages of her nineteen years as white and unmarked as a blank sheet of paper. They had been married now for more than twelve months, and as his love and his happiness became more secure, so did his tenderness increase to the memory of that good friend who had counselled him so wisely. Too much a man of the world to be mis- led by jealousy, Roger saw this and that one come and go with perfect equanimity. If it pleased Vera to indulge in a little harmless flirtation, it did not disturb him. She was young—a mere fledgeling yet—and to be so surrounded and singled out was enough to stir up the wisest woman's vanity. No, no, that did not affect Roger. He wanted her to have plenty of enjoyment, to get such a fill of gaiety that she would be surfeited by it, and be quite ready to settle down again in their quiet country home. From that Mentor of past days, whose sayings often returned to him, he had learnt a good deal about women and the mistakes men, who have exhausted the, pleasures of life, make in their treatment of them. So Vera danced at balls, mounted coaches, sold at fancy fairs, was seen at Sandown, Ascot, Hurlingham—everywhere by every one, and always in the most becoming of fresh toilettes, which Roger paid for without a grumble, although the extravagance of his country-bred madam did make him stare. But a pig isn't killed every day, and they need not come to town next year. Back in the country, and he would tell her that they must draw in their horns a bit, as they had been getting through their money a little too rapidly. At length the season was over. Now then ? Now then, what ? The regattas had begun. Oh, she must go to Cowes. She had promised Lord Powderham, who had made up a party for his yacht of the very smartest people. Egerton Cranbourne had moved heaven and earth to get her invited instead of Mrs. Gage, so that to throw that over was im- possible. " Well, then, let Cowes stand ; but when that is over ?" Vera's answer was to hold before Roger's eyes a list of engagements at country houses as long as her arm. "I never for a moment thought you'd mind if I accepted," and she made her big eyes look as round as an owl's. " You know that I had arranged to get some shooting," said Roger sternly. " Yes ; but I didn't suppose it would matter about me. Kitely isn't the most lively place, with no one but Sholto and we two. I— " But without waiting for further com- ment, Roger had walked out of the room. For the first time he had caught sight of the little rift which might widen until the harmony of his life was destroyed. Had he been deceived in thinking that Vera loved him ? After that first loosening of the knot the husband and wife drifted rapidly apart. There were many, houses where Roger was welcomed for his own sake, and not because their owners wanted to count among their guests the pretty Mrs. Town- ley ; and, inconsistently enough, that same pretty Mrs. Townley often felt aggrieved and sad because she told herself that her husband no longer loved her as he had, or he would wish to be always with her, and not care to take enjoyment in his own way. And one evening, when the moon was shining—flooding every place and every person with soft sentimentality; —Vera, to be in touch with the hour, hinted at a mask of gaiety being often worn to conceal the canker of sorrow. At which her companion, with more curiosity than discretion, asked her if Roger had ever spoken of Mrs. Grahame. " Mrs. Grahame ? No. Why ?" "Oh, nothing—only I thought perhaps he might." And the subject was abruptly changed. Vera was too proud to put any more questions, and not being suspicious, the matter dropped out of her mind, until a week or so after, when walking with Roger, he raised his hat to a lady, hesitated as if wishing to stop her, and then went on. " Who is that ?" Vera was struck by the glance she had caught of a face which, though no longer young, was very sweet. " No one you know," said Roger, rather flurried by the unexpected meeting ; and turning round from looking after the retreating figure, he added : "A very dear friend of mine—at least, she used to be. I haven't seen her for years now." "'What is her name ?" "Grahame." " Mrs. Grahame ?" " Mrs. Grahame." Vera had a momentary struggle with a horridly spiteful feeling. " She looked as if she had been good-looking." 'She was obliged to lay a little stress on the " had," which riled Roger into replying : " She must very much altered if she is not good-looking now. It was one of the most lovely faces I have ever seen. Hers isn't a beauty that alters in a day." "In a day, no ; but in from thirty-five to forty years—for that's about her age, shouldn't you say ?" "I really never thought about her age. One seldom does with a charming com- panion such as she can be." Vera felt herself suddenly filled with hatred of Mrs. Grahame. She gave a scorn- ful little laugh as prelude to : " She didn't show herself very desirous of renewing your intimacy." "I am afraid she does not," said Roger;
emphatically. " Last time I saw her I made a fool of myself." "Oh, really! Not a very pleasant re- collection, then ?" " No." " Perhaps if you entreated her very humbly she would look over the offence and forgive you." " Thanks for the suggestion. I'll go and see her and try." And the two walked on boiling with sup- pressed anger, although what about neither could have exactly said. The incident rankled in Vera's mind all day. She longed for an opportunity to punish Roger, to wound him and make him suffer ; but noth- ing occurred to her mind. Evening came, and she began to dress for a partie carree arranged by Egerton Cranbourne to dine at the Carlton and go to a play. Roger was also dining out, but it had not occurred to Vera to ask where. Now, putting her head into his dressing-room, she said : " Is it to the Quentins you are going, Roger ?" "The Quentins ? No." Vera stepped into the room, but Roger did not turn; he was at the glass arranging his tie. " Then is it at the club you are dining?" " Confound this thing I can't get it to sit straight. Eh ? What did you say ? Am I dining at the club ? Why ?" "harm in my asking you," and she went out of the room, shutting the door with un- necessary violence. In the middle of dinner, during a pause in the conversation, Vera suddenly asked : " Who is a Mrs. Grahame ? Do any of you chance to know ?" "Mrs. Grabame ?" each one repeated slowly: " "Yes; elegant—has been pretty—has been younger." " What a graphic description !" said Sir Egerton. " Feel if there weren't so many about of the same pattern. I should recog- nise her on a desert island." They all began to laugh ; and Mrs. Grahame was forgotten. Evidently she had no interest for them, neither had she for Vera, beyond that increasing suspicion which began connecting her with all that Roger did or did not do. After that chance meeting Vera noticed that Roger had grown very silent. He hardly opens his lips to me." she said; "and never a word of where he is going or where he has been." A telegram had just been handed to her— "Shall not dine at home to-day"—and Vera, feeling horribly bitter, thrust it into her pocket with a letter she had received that morning: which had set the crown of cer- tainty on her former suspicions. The letter was merely a few words of warning, and ran : " Some one to whom your husband was much attached is back in London. Take care that her influence is not restored." There was no signature. The handwriting was feigned. " It is her they mean. I knew it—l felt it. He has been different ever since we met her." And flinging herself down in an abandonment of grief, she sobbed : " Oh, Roger, how cruel —how cruel of you !" During the week which followed Vera questioned Roger, played the spy on his movements, dogged his footsteps like a shadow. She was down each morning to see what letters were brought him. She threw over her engagements, gave out that she was suffering from a severe cold, and was too unwell to go anywhere or to see any one, and during this interval she spent her time in eating her heart out with jealousy and in rehearsing the scenes to which she would treat her husband. But when the two met, either her courage failed her, or she had hit on some better plan. And so eight days passed, and not a hint had she dropped about that letter or warning. " Poor little soul !" Roger said a dozen times, his honest heart yearning to give her comfort, and beating triumphantly at every fresh betrayal of her jealousy. For it was not with Mrs. Grahame he spent his evenings, although he acted so as to give colour to Vera's suspicions. Mrs. Grahame and he had met but once since. It had been one morning in the Row, and she had stopped, held out her hand, and said, " Roger." Oh, what a gulf was bridged over by that one word, and the way in which she saidit ! Roger felt that he had found his friend again, that he had never lost her and that all those wicked, bitter, mistaken reproaches he had flung at her were swept from her mind and forgotten. Very little was said between them, and that of the most commonplace description until, after he had put her into her carriage, she said at parting : " I know that now you will bring your wife to see me. Mary Grant wrote to ell me what a charming young girl you had married, and that you were very happy. Ah, Roger, let me claim a woman's privilege and say 'I told you so.'" He nodded in reply and turned away, too stirred by the reawakening of old memories to think calmly. All day his thoughts troubled him, and when evening came and, his solitary club dinner over, he turned out for a stroll— knowing that there was no one to bear him company at home—these troubles became more defined and heavier. He seemed to see for the first time how widely apart he and Vera were drifting— that they no longer sought each other's company. How could he take her to see Mrs. Grahame ? That wise observer would soon see that something was wrong. " Why not go and ask her advice *" Happily Roger recognised the voice of the tempter. He understood himself well enough to know that to put himself again under that spell would be fatal to him. He was a man who was willingly governed by a firm, soft hand ; and one of the pleasant surprises of his married life was that Vera looked up to him, considered him the master, and his character was gaining strength by having to take that part. Still, there could be no possible objec- tion to his dropping in for an hour's chat at Green-street. (He was already un- consciously walking in that direction.) He might say that Vera was dining with some friends, and then in a casual way, without betraying what he wanted, he might might what ? Open that sanctum of mar- ried life and violate its sacredness by the admission of a third person ? No, even his dear Mentor would be out of place there : it was she who had taught
him this precept of delicacy ; and before words like these had time to shape them- selves in his mind, he had hailed a pass- ing cab and was being driven with all speed to his own home. Sitting in his room, with his hands deep in his pockets and his eyes fixed on the fire, Roger, realising the danger he had escaped, and knowing from past experience that he might not be always so strong, gradually devised a snare, the result of which should influence his future. He wrote a few lines in a feigned hand, put them into an envelope, directed it ; and when Vera—just returned from the play—was listening, with door ajar, to his steps, he had come back from posting this letter to her. Well, so far nothing could have succeeded better. The bait had been swallowed greedily, and Vera was behaving with all the inconsistency and absurdity of a jealous woman who is very much in earnest. What mattered it to her that a host of her admirers, called every day and pro- fessed themselves filled with despair at her sudden indisposition ? She did not care : they might live, they might die, might do what they pleased, might go where they pleased. What was any one to her if she was to lose Roger ? Oh, that, dreadful Mrs. Grahame !— for she felt sure it was she who was taking Roger from her. " Almost old enough to be his mother," she would cry, the outrage to her youth barbing this arrow. What could she do ? How be revenged? She would leave him—she would go away. He should think that something dreadful had happened—that she was dead. But perhaps he would not care. He would be, free to marry that woman. " Oh, Roger, how cruel of you—how cruel!" Why should she not make him jealous ? The idea came as an inspiration. Yes, Roger should suffer —Roger should know what it was to feel that all you cared for in life had been stolen from you—stolen by a treacherous friend. She must get herself talked about ; be seen everywhere with only one person—only she did not want to be seen at all : she had given out that she was ill. Suppose she began that very afternoon by saying that she was not at home to any one but —but . . . and here she stopped. " Not Sir Egerton," and the puckering of her pretty face was not complimentary to him. " Not Lord Powderham"— she could not endure Lord Powderham. Who should she say. Why, Cissy Blake, she would do, and he had written to say that he was coming that afternoon, as he had found a dog for her. Yes, she would begin with Cissy and think, of somebody else later on for it would be of no use thinking that Roger could be made jealous of Cissy, whom he had known since a boy. " Not at home to anv one exceptt Mr. Blake ; I will see him if he calls." were the orders given. Therefore, when the door was answered to Sir Egerton, he was told that Mrs. Townley was not at home. " I hope that does not mean she is not so well ?" said Sir Egerton anxiously. And Saunders, with the best intention, replied : " I don't think so, sir, 'cos Mr. Blake's with her. I dessay when he's gone— " " Oh. no, no," said Sir Egerton. What! Be cut out by another callow-faced ensign ? The door and everything about seemed to spin before him. " Give your lady my card, and my regret that I am not able to make my adieux in person, but I am leaving town." And he turned sharply round, to almost fall into the arms of Lord Powderham, who exclaimed : " Ah! Been seeing Mrs. Townley?" " Only had time to leave a card on her. Will you say so ?—he was jumping into his hansom—"I'm off for some fishing. By- bye." "In a deuce of a hurry, it seems." And, tuning to the man, who still stood at the door, hiss lordship asked for Mrs. Townley. " She isn't at home, my lord ; but I think she's better to-day." " But not equal yet to seeing any one ?" Saunders hesitated. His lordship was such a very nice gentleman, so free with his money, he couldn't bear not to give him a chance, coming so often to inquire; so in a burst of sympathy he said : " Shall I just step up and ask, my lord ? I fancy Mr. Blake must be going ; he's been here some time now." "Not on my account. I wouldn't have her disturbed for the world." And his lordship smiled pleasantly, and, taking out a card, he in his turn pencilled " P. P. C." in the corner. Giving it to Saunders, he said : " Tell your lady from me that I am delighted she is able to admit her friends, again." And as the door closed on him the bell rang for Mr. Blake to be shown out. Vera had sent him away as soon as they had settled the question of the dog. Having arrived at the decision that the effort of rousing Roger's jealousy and driv- ing him to despair was beyond her, she would bear the present state of things no longer. That evening she would have it out with Roger. She would ask him point blank whiere he went and with whom he spent all his time, and then she would show him the letter and tell him that she was aware of all his falseness and treach- ery. Had Vera been rehearsing for a trans- pontine tragedy, she could hardly have conceived more harrowing situations or have indulged in more high-flown senti- ment. Dining by herself did not mend mat- ters, and after sitting alone until 1 o'clock was striking—for Roger had an old uncle spending a week in town, who being past 70 could indulge in late hours and gaiety unrestrainedly—Vera was worked up to a state of frenzy, she did not give Roger the opportunity of going upstairs. She was sitting in the dining-room, the door of which she opened, and met him. " Hullo ! you still up ?" he said careless- ly ; and coming into the room he pulled forward a chair, adding, " I declare it's not half bad to find oneself in front of a good fire." Oh, what scathing speeches Vera had prepared to say, only the words were ut- terly gone from her, and all she could find to replace them with was the com- monplace, " Why, Roger, where have you been ? Do you know the hour ?"
" Not exactly, but I believe my watch is still going. Why ?" That dreadful lump that would rise in her throat, and had to be swallowed down before she could get out : " Perhaps you imagine that I am ignorant of your pro- ceedings, but allow me to inform you that I am fully aware of who it is who occupies and engrosses you." " All right. Only now you have so little time to spare, I didn't feel certain that you two would hit it off together." " Then may I ask if you had the idea of bringing your friend to see me ?" " Most certainly I had. Why shouldn't I ? The house is open to all your friends. You can hardly suppose that I fancy Powderham, Cranbourne, Cissy Blake, and a host of others come here because of me." "Powderham, Cranbourne, Cissy Blake!" Vera's face was ablaze with indignation. "Do you dare for a moment to insinuate that either of them is on the same terms of familiarity with me that you and that—that odious person are." " Odious person ! Come, isn't that talk- ing rather strongly ?" " Not in the least; but, if you would rather —Mrs. Grahame. The terms are synonymous with me." Roger's face did not move a muscle. In vain Vera tried to rally. The pent-up tears would have their way, and she hid her face, sobbing : " Roger, Roger, how could you deceive me so cruelly ? I gave my whole heart to you. I was so proud of your love—of you— of—of " But Roger had already, caught her in his arms. "My own dear little wife," he was saving, "tell me what it is that distresses you." " Read this," she said at length, grown somewhat calmer ; and she put into his hand his own letter. He let his eyes rest as if reading it. " Well, but I see no mention of Mrs. Grahame's name here." "Ah, but it is she they mean." And Vera gave a gasp of sorrow. " I noticed your manner when we met her. You have never been the same since that day ; be- sides, when you told me her name, I re- membered that Clement Frant had asked me in a most meaning way if you had ever mentioned Mrs. Grahame to me. Of course, you hadn't then ; you hadn't seen her. Now and Vera threw into her face a de- spairing expression of hapless love which might have melted a heart of stone. " Well, now. I have seen her twice—that once when you were with me, and once since, when we met in the Row, and she asked me to bring you to see her." " But—whom, then, have you spent the last week with ?" " Uncle Warren, who has bees staying at the Savoy;" . "The notes were not from Uncle War- ren ?" " No; they came from Topsy, who is having something done to her throat, and to amuse her we are trying to: guess a puzzle of cricketers together." Vera's face grew cloudy. The situation in which she had placed herself displeased her. "You are wondering why I did not tell you, and ask you to come here ?" Roger went on to say. " Well, this is why : We have not been quite the same these past six months past, have we ? There has been a horrid feeling of drifting apart from each other." And Roger laid his hand on Vera's hand, and looked at her. Something in his look made Vera drop her eyes. " I am sure I do not know why." she said confusedly. It was not the first time that conscience had upbraided her. " I only know"—and now she looked at him—"that I am not half as happy." During the next few minutes there was little coherent conversation, only disjoint- ed whispers of mutual amendment, forgive- ness, and renewed affection. "And now let me tell you," said Roger, " all about my good friend Mrs. Grahame. Perhaps I ought to have told you before. but—well, I hoped that one day you would know her, and that then my little wife would find many excuses for my former folly. And Roger laid bare that wound of love which Mary Grahame had caused, and which Vera had completely healed. The listener gave her sympathy in a language which has no need of words ; and when Roger, bent on making a clean breast of the whole matter, repeated the tempta- tion which had assailed him after his lonely dinner, Vera's arms tightened round him as she sobbed : "I see how wrong, how wicked I have been. Oh, Roger, had I lost you, it would have been all my own fault." But Roger was too generous to admit this. He insisted that they had both been to blame, but now it was past and over, and they were going to begin their old life again. "And we'll give up London and go back to dear old quiet Kitely." " No. no," said Roger. " I should be ac- cused of burying you alive. What an ogre the world would call me!" "And if they did, what need we mind ? I shan't care what people say." "But the host of admirers—Cranbourne, Powderham—what will they say?" "They have gone—both of them. Sir Egerton called to-day to bid me good-bye, and Lord Powderham left his card with 'P.P.C' I don't know to where they are off. I have not been able to be bothered with them this week." Roger gave way to a hearty laugh. "Then it's not half a bad thing that you have me to fall back on." " That is not being kind—and I have been generous to you : I have said nothing more about that letter or who could have sent it to me." " I think I know." " You do ?" " Yes ; somebody who wanted to do right this time, although he has sometimes been my worst enemy." " Worst enemy ! Yours• ? Who is he ? " Vera's face was aflame, and Roger, smil- ing at her sudden indignation, said : "Come over to the glass and I'll show him to you." "Show him to me!" Then, seeing by. his look his meaning, she flung her arms round him, crying, " OH Roger, it was you —it was you !"—" Pall Mall Magazine."