Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

» me.

arm.

“And do you believe me? You maine only shook his head with used always to believe me.” a perplexed air. That was before you deceived

I can't follow what you say

I am not clever enough; and I Maud's hand dropped from his don't know either what has made

“You never loved me," she you change your mind back again said, with curling lip. “You are about-about me. I only know like the other men. I thought that you have told me a lie, and you were constant, I thought you that I could never believe you were true." It was the very word again-never, never !” he cried she ought not to have used, and passionately.

passionately. "I don't know how she broke off abruptly, but Ger- it is,” he went on, with his brows maine had taken it up.

drawn together as though in pain“True!” he said, turning upon ful thought, “I don't think I can her with shining eyes and heaving explain it, but perhaps if I had breast; “ do you tell me that I not loved you so much, so very have not been true? I have been much—if I had not thought you too true. I have believed every so perfect—I could have stood it thing,—but it is over now," he better. If it had been any one said, dropping his voice; “I can else, perhaps I might have been believe nothing more.” He looked able to forgive. But the shock so masterful in his sudden move was too great; the change, - I ment and with his proud gaze, could never get used to it—not that Maud felt a new pang. At in you," stumbled on Germaine, that moment she could almost have growing very hot in the endeavour married him penniless. With all to make his meaning clear. “I her cleverness she had mistaken thought you were without a speck, bim all along, perhaps becáuse without a flaw, Don't cry," he nature so elaborately trained as said piteously—“don't cry ; it hers was morally unable to do breaks my heart !” For Maud justice to a nature so simple as had her hands pressed to her face his. There had always been a and was sobbing helplessly. touch of contempt in her affec “If it breaks your heart you tion; she had overvalued his must love me still,” she gasped. credulity and undervalued his “ Yes," sighed Germaine, perintellect.

plexed, “I am afraid I love you “Yes,” she said, “you believed still.” too much ; that was the mistake.' Then take me back-oh, take

“I believed you were an angel,” me back! Believe me, trust me, said Germaine, brokenly.

give me another chance ! ” “ Exactly, And

“ After you have once deceived found out I was not, you put me?” said Germaine, opening his me down as the opposite, instead

“I could not, I could of calling mo simply a woman. never believe you again. My faith Oh, you men! you men ! Will in

you

is
gone.

It's like I don't nothing but extremes do for you? know what it's like; it's like a Does not being an angel neces tree that has been cut down; sarily mean that you are a devil ? there is only a stump of it now. And because you have not got

The stump

can't grow again. wings, will nothing serve but that Another tree may grow, perhaps, you must have horns ?”

She was

but it won't be the same thing; trying again to smile, but Ger it won't be my faith in you." IA

[ocr errors]

when you

eyes wide.

raised his hands and dropped them nian being hung for sheep-stealing heavily to his sides.

« I can't ex after he had conınıitted patriplain it otherwise," he said ; "I cide. comfortably undetected. Oh, am too slow with ny words. But whimsical irony of fate ! that is how it is."

Laughing and crying, she strug. Though he could not explain. gled against it, would not believe Maud understood, and in the it-would not be convinced. eyen midst of her tears she was angry

when she heard him say good-bye, with him for having put up her so hopelessly, so sadly, but without image so high that the first fall had a shade of wavering. But when shattered it to atoms.

From an

she looked up and saw that he had altar of reasonable height the idol left her, then both her tears and could have fallen and only been her laugh stopped suddenly short. bruised, but what woman that ever The word she had been addressing lived could liope to keep her balance to him broke off, the hand she had on that preposterous pinnacle of stretched towards him, thinking perfection to which he had in- he was still there, remained poised sisted on raising her, despite her and rigid, like a hand of stone. own protest? Who could hope to In wide-eyed wonder she gazed at exist at that giddy lieight? Well, his retreating figure, and as she it was over now; she would never looked, tenderness was fast turning be asked to stand there again. to anger, regret was changing to That “terrible faith " which had the rage of the woman who has worried her so sorely was dead plotted and finds herself baffled, now, dead of a sudden death. It who has humbled herself to the had not died in lingering torments, point of offering her love and sees it had not languished through it refused. fer erish stages to its end. All Until the bend of the road hid his great and beautiful faith had him she stood like a statue; then, been killed by one mortal stab, and only then, did she finally struck at the very core of its understand that he

lost. being.

was

With tight-set lips she turned Through her tears Maud laughed her face back towards Flounderfiercely to think what that stab shayle; all thoughts of her errand had been; to think that Germaine, were swept out of her mind for who was so far from recognising the moment, as all thoughts of the height and the depth of her the post-office had apparently been treason to him, who so completely swept out of his; for, instead of missed the real point of her mer proceeding on their way, they had cenary motive, should be lost to

each instinctively turned to retrace her through a simple lie, perhaps their steps. the most harmless lie that she had Maud was quite breathless when ever told in her life, and certainly she reached the inn, though she the most clumsy. Such a lie might had no particular cause for burry have been told by women of ten —nothing to do when she got there, times her worth, and yet gone but to sit down and try to think unpunished; it might almost have over the situation as it now stood been told in the nursery, and have in this new and unexpected light. been amply atoned for by half an But fate had arranged quite otherhour in a dark corner : and to wise. Fate, in the shape of the Maud it was to cost a life's hap- laudlady, received her at the door piness. It was ludicrous-like a with the announcement

that a

gentleman had called to see her, For a minute she gazed at him and was at that moment waitingo somewhat vacantly.

He was so in the sitting-room, had in fact disconnected with her present been there for quite half an hour. thoughts that it almost cost

“Indeed," said Maud, indiffer- her an effort to recognise him. ently; and without pausing to " What on earth

_” she was reflect upon who the visitor might beginning, then interrupted herbe, or even to ascertain whether self with a quick laughi. “Oh, her hat was straight or not, she I see, of course; I had forgotten; flung open the door of the sitting- you have brought me the gloves, room and immediately found her- I suppose.

This is indeed answer. self face to face with Mr Carbury. ing my letter by return of post!"

.

CHAPTER XXXI.-"LAUNCE."

“Who would have thought my shrivelled lieart

Could have recovered greennesse?"

a

[ocr errors]

Mr Carbury had not brought plain furniture and its scantily the gloves, in fact he had forgotten decorated walls, he was greeted as all about them, but he had brought a ray of sunshine might be greeted & piece of news. Or perhaps it by a secluded flower-bed. To these would be more correct to say that three women he did indeed reprethe piece of news had brought him: sent all the sunshine that ever its essence, at any rate, was the shone upon their lives, not because immediate cause of his presence he was warm or tender, or even here.

particularly grateful, but because As usual, the crisis had come they had sacrificed everything to about casually. Mr Carbury, feel- him, and he had been good enough ing desirous of a breath of air, and to accept it; also, perhaps, because discovering that he had just time he was so tall and dark and so for a run round to his club before distinctly remarkable, while they dinner, was much provoked at were so small and colourless and being brought up by the want of a' so hopelessly insignificant. If such button on his glove, and Williams contrast in a family does not prochancing to be out, went off in duce jealousy, it is pretty certain anything but a serene humour in to produce blind adoration. search of one of his sisters. It The glove being flung on the was extremely annoying of them table, was immediately clutched at not to have seen to it before. by three hands, and triumphantly What was the good of having three secured by Miss Christina Carbury. sisters and a mother, and what was Would he have it sewed on with the good of their continually fuss- black or white silk? He would have ing over one's drawers and ward- it sewed on with any colour of the robe if one's gloves were to be rainbow, so long as it was done buttonless at the end of it? quick; he was suffocating in here;

Three meek, middle-aged heads couldn't imagine how they could were raised at his entrance, and put up with gas; why didn't they three pairs of mild grey eyes burn candles? Much the pleasantanxiously sought his face. In this est light. Because they liked gas, quiet little back-room, with its Miss Bessie Carbury unblushingly

asserted. Why should Launce be trouble for himself? With a gesworried by being reminded that ture, half impatience, half resigthe number of wax candles weekly nation, he stood up and walked consumed in his room made it ad away to the window. What was visable to light the rest of the house the use of fighting them about it? on a more economical principle ? The hooks and eyes were not his ;

Miss Henrietta Carbury added and besides, it certainly was true, that she hoped this much of the as Bessie said, stooping did make gas wouldn't give Launce a head- him hot — it was a deuce of a ache; was he quite sure he hadn't bore. Better leave it to them; a headache already! He was they seemed to like picking up looking rather pale. She had a

hooks and eyes.

This was the bottle of smelling-salts here, - sort of thing that was always happerhaps

pening. Carbury's family life had “Oh, hang it all!” said Carbury, been but a daily repetition of the with the laugh of a goaded man, hook-and-eyè incident. And ceras he violently backed before the tainly, whether they liked it or scent - bottle. “ Confound it !” not, there could be no doubt that came next, with a peculiarly it was no more than poetical jusbrotherly growl, as, in his re- ice if the Miss Carburys were treat, he stumbled over the skirt reduced to picking up their own which Bessie Carbury was en- hooks and eyes. That brother of gaged in turning for her own theirs, of whom they were so winter use ; for the Miss Car- proud, was a work of their own burys would have thought it hands; it was they who had made wicked to indulge in a lady's-maid him what he was—let them take as long as there was Launce's the consequences. valet to be provided for. Bessie "By the by, Launce," began was immediately covered with con- Miss Christina hurriedly, as she fusion and filled with remorse at regained her place and repossessed her own awkwardness in having herself of the glove, “what did left the skirt to trail on the floor. you think of the last telegrams Launce must excuse her stupidity, from St Petersburg ?” Not that and he must on no account think Miss Christina Carbury cared at of picking up the hooks and eyes all about the telegrams from St which he had upset in his stumble. Petersburg, but it was necessary To grope about on the floor would to keep Launco in good humour only make him hot-would make until his glove was ready, and the his head ache worse than it did al St Petersburg telegrams would do ready. For Carbury, perhaps half as well as anything else. ashamed of his ungracious gesture,

" Haven't looked at the paper had stooped down to remedy the to-day," came sulkily from the evil he had occasioned. But it window. was waste of trouble. At sight “Then you haven't seen about of Launce on the floor, the three Miss Greeve's marriage," broke horrified Miss Carburys had already in Bessie, coming to Christina's risen to their feet and precipitated rescue –"(there's your thimble,

“ themselves upon the hooks and Chrissy), nor about Captain eyes. Was it likely that they would Trayner's promotion ? It isn't allow him to take any trouble for an amusing paper,” rambled on them, considering that they had Bessie, whose interest in politios never consented to his taking any was considerably less keen than

her interest in her friends' doings, apartment, furnished with both and to whom newspapers in general taste and cost, well supplied with were simply birth, death, and mar comfortable seats, hung with riage columns. "Scarcely a name stamped leather, and adorned one knows mentioned except those with valuable engravings. There two.”

was something suggestive about “And Sir Peter Wyndhurst," the medley of objects on all sides. added Henrietta. “I suppose it's Sometimes in the evening dusk, the same one that Launce met in just before the candles were lit, Scotland.”

they would seem to crowd about “What about him?" asked Car- Carbury like shadows—the shabury, sharply.

dows of his old life. There were "Nothing about him ; only the engravings on the wall, telling something about his yacht, which how Laurence Carbury had once he has had to bring into harbour cared for art; the skins on the for repairs, it seems, having en- floor, telling how he had once countered some heavy weather in cared for sport ; the groups of the North Sea."

strange, outlandish knick-knacks, “ What ?said Carbury, turning proclaiming how he once cared for suddenly from the window.

travel. There were fishing - rod “But there's nothing happened cases, too, in the corners, and to the yacht, you know,” Henrietta books upon the shelves; but there hastened to add, somewhat aghast was dust upon them all, not merely at the effect of her announcement; the tangible, inevitable dust of the indeed she had had no idea that London day that was past, but a Launce had been so fond of Sir more suggestive and a more melanPeter as to be agitated by the news choly sort of dust, eloquent of dead of his yacht having been knocked pursuits that have been denied about in the North Sea.

even the decency of burial, and are yacht's quite safe in harbour.” condemned to grow rusty and mus

“Was that in this morning's ty and mouldy upon their .shelves paper ?” asked Carbury, sternly. and in their cases. If any one had!

They hastened to assure him taken the trouble to investigate, it that it was.

would have been found that the " And that means that Wynd- joints of the fishing-rods had long hurst is in England now?” ago forgotten how to fit into each

They supposed that, according other, and it would have been obto logical deduction, it could mean served that the newest volume of nothing else.

fiction on the shelves bore a date “ That'll do," he said in a chok- of ten years back. ing voice, as he brushed past his This was the place where, when astonished sisters to the door. immoderately bored by family

“And he's gone without his affection, Carbury could take reglove!” gasped Christina, putting fuge in luxurious solitude. Here in the final stitch just as the door also had he sat and brooded over closed.

his wrongs, nursing his wounded Mr Carbury did not want his vanity in jealous seclusion, eating glove, for he did not go for his out his heart, away from the sight breath of air that night. He of his fellow-men. Within these went straight back to his own four walls, and these four last room, and shut himself in there. months, what wild thoughts had It was a large and handsome not crossed his mind; what frantic

" The

« НазадПродовжити »