Josephine was saying good-bye to Lady Severn and Amber was doing her best to induce her to stay. As the two men paused outside the drawing-room door there was a frou-frou of laughter within the room—the rustle of the drapery of a flying jest at Amber’s insistence.

“You will not go, please,” said Pierce when Amber appealed to him to stand between the door and Josephine. “You cannot go just at the moment of my return, especially as Miss Severn has promised to show me the roses.”

“The argument is irresistible,” said Josephine with a little shrug following a moment of irresolution. “But that was not Amber’s argument, I assure you.”

“I merely said that I expected some of my friends to come to me to report their progress,” said Amber.

“That seems to me to be an irresistible reason for a hurried departure,” said Sir Creighton.

“Oh, I wouldn’t suggest that they were so interesting as that,” said Josephine, with a laugh, a laugh that made one—some one—think of the laughter of a brook among mossy stones.

“Interesting enough to run away from?” said Pierce. “Well, any one who is interesting enough for Miss West to run away from is certainly interesting enough for an ordinary person to stay for—but for that matter, I did not suggest that I was going away.”

“You saved us the trouble of insisting on your staying—for some time, at any rate,” said Lady Severn.

“As long as you can after the arrival of the objects of interest,” said Sir Creighton.

“And now I think we may go among the roses without reproach,” said Josephine.

She led the way out to the terrace and then down the steps into the garden, and was followed by Amber and Pierce, and for half an hour they strolled about the rose beds, Amber being every minute more amazed at the self-repression of Josephine in regard to Mr. Winwood. Although she had frankly acknowledged that she had formed a dislike to Mr. Winwood, she had not only come to lunch when she knew that he would be the only other guest, but she had allowed herself to be easily persuaded to stay on after the hour when without being thought impolite, she might have gone away.

And she was not even content with these tokens of self-abnegation, for here she was after the lapse of half an hour, still conversing with Mr. Winwood when really she had no need to remain for longer than ten minutes in the garden!

And she was actually pretending to take an interest in all that he was saying, an interest so absorbing as to give Amber herself an impression of being neglected.

She had always felt that Josephine was indeed a true friend, but she had never before had offered to her so impressive a series of tokens of her friendship. The friendship that dissembles a rooted dislike for a fellow-visitor is of sterling quality Amber felt; and with this feeling there was joined one of admiration for the way in which her friend played her part.

Poor Mr. Winwood! He might really have believed from her manner that he had favourably impressed Josephine. Once or twice Amber fancied that she saw on his face a certain look that suggested that he was gratified at his success in holding the attention of the fair dissembler by his side.

Poor Mr. Winwood!

Perhaps Josephine was carrying the thing too far—perhaps she was over-emphasising her attitude of polite attention. It would, the kind-hearted young woman felt, be a very melancholy thing if so good a sort of man as this Mr. Winwood were led to fancy that—that—oh, well, no doubt in the colonies young men were more simple-minded than those at home—more susceptible to the charming manners of a beautiful girl, being less aware of the frequency with which charming manners are used—innocently perhaps—to cloak a girl’s real feelings. It would, she felt, be truly sad if this man were to go away under the belief that he was creating a lasting impression upon Josephine; whereas, all the time, it was only her exquisite sense of what was due to her host and hostess—it was only her delicate appreciation of what her friendship for Amber herself demanded of her, that led her to simulate a certain pleasure from associating with Mr. Winwood.

The kind thoughtfulness of Miss Severn not merely for the present but for the future comfort of at least one of her guests was causing her some slight uneasiness. She became aware of the fact that her mother was making a sign to her from one of the windows of the drawing-room that opened upon the terrace walk.

“Some of my visitors must have arrived already,” she cried. “Oh, yes, it is Guy. You must not run away. He would feel that you were rude.”

“And he would be right: he has his sensitive intervals,” said Winwood. “We should not hurt his feelings.”

“You will not run away at once?” said Amber tripping towards the house. “Oh, thank you.”

They showed no sign of having any great desire to run away.

“I never felt less inclined to run away than I do just now,” said Winwood, looking at the girl who remained by his side.

“You are so fond of roses—you said so.”

She was holding up to her face a handful of crimson petals that she had picked off one of the beds.

“Yes, I am fond of—of roses,” he said. “Somehow England and all things that I like in England are associated in my mind with roses.”

“It is the association of the East with the West,” said she. “The rose that breathes its scent through every eastern love song is still an English emblem; just as that typical Oriental animal, the cat, suggests no more of its native jungle than is to be found in the Rectory Garden.”

“And the turtle of the tropics does not send one’s thoughts straying to Enoch Arden’s island and the coral lagoon but only to the Mansion House and a city dinner.”

She laughed.

“I am sorry I mentioned the cat,” she said. “The first English rose I ever saw was when we were in camp with Methuen at the Modder River,” he said.

He had taken her by surprise. “You went through the campaign?” she cried and he saw a new interest shining in her eyes. “I did not hear that you had been a soldier. You did not mention it when you sat beside me at Ranelagh. You were one of the Australians?”

“We were talking of roses,” said he. “It was out there I saw an English rose at Christmas. It had been sent out to a trooper who had been at Chelsea Barracks, by his sweetheart. Her brother was a gardener and the rose had evidently been grown under glass to send out to him.”

“There is one English love-story with the scent of the rose breathing through it,” she cried. “‘My luv is like a redde redde rose’ is an English song—the rose you speak of was red, of course.”

“Yes,” he replied after a little pause; “it was red—red when I found it—under his tunic.”

She caught her breath with the sound of a little sob in her throat.

“The pity of it! the pity of it! she had sent it out for his grave.”

She put her face once again down to the crimson petals which remained in her hands; and when she let them drop to the grass he saw that two of them were clinging together.

“That was the first time I saw an English rose,” he said, “and I have never seen one since without thinking of what it symbolised. The love that is stronger than death.”

“Yes,” she said, “yes.”

And, curiously enough, it seemed that that word was the most complete commentary upon the little story that he had told to her in so few sentences. It also seemed to suggest something of the nature of a comment upon his last remark—a confidential comment.

He nodded, repeating the word, but with a longer interval between the repetition of it:


For a few moments they stood together in silence. The sound of voices—a faint murmur—came from the open window of the drawing-room. The note of a blackbird from Kensington Gardens thrilled through the air.

As if under the influence of the one impulse, Josephine and her companion walked once more down the garden—slowly—musingly—silently. It was not until they had made a complete circuit of the rose beds and had returned to the parterre where they had been standing, that he said:

“Yes—yes: I know that I shall never see a rose again without thinking that—that—I have been among the roses with you.”

He noticed that she gave a little start—was it a shudder?—and then glanced quickly towards him. She made a motion with one of her hands—she drew a sudden breath and said quickly in a low tone:

“Mr. Winwood—I think—that is—oh, let us go into the house. I never wish to walk in a garden of roses again.”

He knew that whatever she had meant to say when she drew that long breath, she had not said it: she had broken down and uttered something quite different from what had been on her mind—on her lips.

Already she was half way to the terrace steps, and she had run up them and was within the room before he moved.

She was greeting some one in the room. How loud her laugh was!

And yet he had thought half an hour before that he had never heard so low a laugh as hers!—the laughter of a brook among mossy stones.

But a spate had taken place.

He went down once more to the end of the garden alone thinking his thoughts.

And when, five minutes later, he went slowly up the terrace steps he found that Josephine had gone away.

“She said good-bye to you before she left the garden, did she not?” cried Amber, while he glanced round the room.

“Oh, yes, she said good-bye,” he replied.

And then he cried out, seeing Guy Overton on a stool:

“Hullo, you here? Why, I thought that this was one of your school days.”

Amber had never before heard him speak in so boisterous a tone. He usually spoke in a low voice.

And she had also noticed that Josephine had laughed much louder than was her wont.

But she was sure that Josephine had not been rude to him. Josephine was not one of those horrid girls who cannot be clever without being rude.

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