There could be no doubt whatever that, after all, he had not proposed to her.

That was what Herbert Courtland’s fellow-guests said when they learned that he had left for London by an early train on Monday morning.

And the way she had thrown herself at his head, too!

Of course she pretended not to feel his departure any more than the rest of the party; and equally as a matter of course, Mrs. Linton protested that Mr. Courtland had disappointed her.

And perhaps he had, too, some of the guests whispered to one another.

Mr. Linton shrugged his shoulders and remarked that business was business.

Everyone agreed with the general accuracy of this assertion, but it was not one that required much boldness to make, and what it had to do with Mr. Courtland’s hurried departure no one seemed quite able to perceive.

The general idea that had prevailed at The Mooring on the subject of Mr. Courtland was that he would remain at the house after all the other guests—Miss Ayrton only excepted—had left.

During Monday several were to return to town, and the remainder on Tuesday, including Miss Ayrton. She required to do so to be in time for a grand function at which Royalty was to be present on that night. Mrs. Linton herself meant to return on Wednesday afternoon.

It was late on Sunday night when Herbert had gone to Ella’s side and told her that he found it necessary to leave for town early in the morning instead of waiting until Tuesday evening.

“Good Heavens!” she cried; “what is the meaning of this? What will people say? You do not mean to tell me that she—she——Oh, no; that would be impossible!”

“Nothing is impossible,” said he. “Nothing—not even my running away.”

“You have told her——”

“I have told her nothing. I am not sure that I have anything to tell her. I am going away to make sure.”

“Oh! very well. But I must say that I think you are wrong—quite wrong. There is that Mr. Holland; he is coming into greater prominence than ever since that article of his appeared in the Zeit Geist. Stephen says he will certainly have to leave the Church.”

“What has Mr. Holland got to say to——”

“More than meets the eye. You must remember that three months ago she was engaged to marry him. Now, though I don’t mean to say that she ever truly loved him, yet there is no smoke without fire; it is very often that two persons who have become engaged to be married love each other. Now, if Phyllis ever had a tender feeling for Mr. Holland, and only threw him over because his theories are not those of Philistia, in the midst of which she had always lived, that feeling is certain to become tenderer if he is about to be made a martyr of. Would you like to see her thrown away upon George Holland?”

Herbert looked at the woman who could thus plead the cause—if that was not too strong a phrase—of the girl whom he had come to love. He felt that he was only beginning to know something about woman and her nature.

“I must go,” he said. “I must go. I am not sure of myself.”

“You had best make sure of her, and then you will become sure of yourself,” said Ella.

“That would be to do her an injustice. No. I feel that I must go,” he cried.

And go he did.

Those of the guests who remained during Monday did their best to find out how Phyllis was disposed to regard his departure; and there was a consensus of opinion among them that she seemed greatly mortified, though she made a splendid fight, trying to appear utterly indifferent.

There was, however, no ignoring the circumstance that Ella was elated at his departure; some of her guests even went so far as to suggest that she had accelerated his departure, giving him to understand that, however a young woman might throw herself at his head,—and didn’t Phyllis just throw herself at his head?—he had no right to give her all his attention; a hostess has a right to claim some of his spare moments.

It was not until Tuesday, when Mr. Linton had left for London, and Phyllis was alone with Ella for an hour before lunch, that the latter endeavored to find out what she thought of Herbert Courtland.

“Has Stephen been speaking to you about George Holland?” she inquired. She thought that the best way to lead Phyllis to talk about Herbert would be by beginning to talk about George Holland.

“Oh, yes!” said Phyllis. “He appears to be greatly interested in Mr. Holland. He thinks that he must leave the Church.”

“That would be very sad,” remarked Ella. “It would seem very like persecution, would it not?”

“I cannot see that there would be any injustice in the matter,” said Phyllis. “If a man chooses to write such things as he has written, he must take the consequences. I, for my part, intend keeping away from the church as long as Mr. Holland remains in the pulpit.”

She did not think it necessary to refer to the remarks made by Mr. Holland upon the occasion of his last visit to her, though these words might not be without interest to Ella.

“But it seems hard, doesn’t it, to deprive a man of his profession simply because he holds certain views on what is, after all, an abstract subject—the patriarchs, or the prophets and things of that sort?” said Ella.

“Lady Earlscourt said that he should be forgiven, because he really didn’t hold the views which he had preached,” laughed Phyllis. “She also said that he should not be regarded as an atheist, because he believed not only in one God, but in two.”

“I wonder how many Herbert Courtland believes in,” said Ella. “You told me he talked to you on that topic the first night you met. Was it about God you and he have been talking lately?”

“I’m afraid it was not.”

“Oh! you found a more interesting topic, and one of more importance to two people in the bloom of youth?”


“Oh, my dear, I don’t mean anything dreadful. Only, you know as well as I do that a healthy man and a healthy woman will never talk, when they are alone together, about God, when they can talk about each other. I think Herbert Courtland is about the healthiest man I know, and I’m sure that you are the healthiest girl. You and he are most sympathetic companions. You are not at all stupidly coy, my sweet maiden.”

“I like Mr. Courtland, and why should I be coy?”

“Why, indeed? I wonder what the people who have just left us will say about it?”

“About it? About what!”

“You coyness—or absence of coyness. Will they say that you threw yourself at his head?”

(As a matter of fact, as is already known, that is just what the majority of the guests did say about her.)

Phyllis reddened and seemed—for a moment or two—almost angry. Then she made a little gesture, expressive of indifference, as she cried:

“After all, what does it matter what they said? I don’t care about them. It is for you I care, Ella—you, only you.”

“Heavens! how seriously you say that!” cried Ella. “There’s no cause for seriousness, I hope, even if you do care a great deal for me, which I know you do. If you said so much to a man,—say, Herbert Courtland,—it would be quite another matter. There would be sufficient cause for seriousness then. But you didn’t say so much to him. He ran away before you could say it.”

“Oh, Ella! please don’t talk in that way. It is not like yourself to talk in that way.”

“How do you know what is like myself and what is not? You have only seen one side of me, and I don’t think that you have understood even what you have seen. Great Heavens! how could I expect that you should. Not until within a few months ago had I myself any idea that my nature was made up of more than one element. Do you fancy now that you will always be in the future as you have been in the past? The same placid, sweet English girl, with serious thoughts at times about your own soul and other people’s souls? a maiden living with her feet only touching the common clay of this earth? Wait until your hour comes—your hour of love; your hour of fate; your hour of self-abandonment, and pray to your God that you may come through it as well as I came through mine.”

“Ella, dearest Ella!”

“You know nothing of that hour—that terrible hour! Wait until it comes to you before you think a word of evil against any woman that lives in the world. Wait until your hour of jealousy comes—wait until you find that your hair is turning gray. The most tragical moment in a woman’s life is when she finds that the gray hairs will not be kept back. That is the time when she thinks of Heaven most seriously. I have not yet found a single gray hair in my head, but I have suffered all else; and I have been an astonishment to myself—as I have been to you more than once before now, and as I certainly am to you at the present moment.”

She had spoken at first with quivering lips, her fingers interlaced, her eyes flashing. She had sprung from her seat and had begun to pace the room just as she had paced Phyllis’ drawing room on that night when she had missed the performance of “Romeo and Juliet,” but she ended with a laugh, which was meant to make a mock of the seriousness of her impassioned words, but which only had the effect of emphasizing her passion in the ears of the girl.

While she was still lying back, laughing, in the chair into which she had thrown herself once more, Phyllis went to her and knelt at her feet, taking her hands just as Herbert had taken her hands in the evening when he had knelt at her feet in her own house after the little dinner at Mr. Ayrton’s.

“Ella, Ella,” she whispered, “I also am a woman. Oh, my dearest! I think that I can understand something of your heart. I know a little. Oh, Ella, Ella! I would do anything in the world to help you—anything—anything!”

“Would you?” cried the woman. “Would you do anything? Would you give up Herbert Courtland in order to help me?”

She had grasped Phyllis by the wrists and had bent her own head forward until her face was within an inch of Phyllis’. Their breaths mingled. Their faces were too close to admit of either of them seeing the expression that was in the eyes of the other.

“Dearest Ella, you will not break my heart!” said the girl piteously.

“Will you give him up for your love of me?” the woman cried again, and Phyllis felt her hands tighten upon her wrists.

“I will forget that you have said such words,” said the girl.

The woman flung away her hands after retaining them for a few moments in silence, and then throwing herself back in her chair, laughed loud and long.

Phyllis rose to her feet.

“You poor dear!” cried Ella. “It was a shame—a shame to play such a jest upon you! But I felt in a tragic mood, and the line between comedy and tragedy is a very fine one. Forgive my little freak, dear; and let us be human beings once more, living in a world that cannot be taken so seriously. Don’t go by the evening train, Phyllis; stay all night with me. I have so much to say to you. I want to talk to you. How can you leave me here all alone?”

Phyllis could have told her that how she could leave her all alone was because Herbert Courtland had left for London on the previous day. She did not make an explanation to her on this basis, however; she merely said that it would interfere with her plans to remain longer at The Moorings. She had to attend that great function with her father that night.

Ella called her very unkind, but showed no desire to revert to the topic upon which they had been conversing, when she had thought fit to ask her that jocular question which Phyllis had said she would forget.

But Phyllis did not keep her word. On the contrary she thought of nothing else but that question all the time she was in the railway carriage going to Paddington.

It was a terrible question in Phyllis’ eyes for a woman with a husband to put to her girl-friend.

More than once during the week Phyllis had been led to ask herself if she was quite certain that her terrible surmise regarding the influence which dominated Ella’s recent actions was true. Now and again she felt an impulse to fall upon her knees and pray, as she had once before prayed, that the sin of that horrible suspicion might be forgiven her. How could it be possible, she thought, that Ella should forget all that a true woman should ever remember!

But now—now, as she sat in the train on her way back to London, there was no room left in her mind for doubt on this matter. The tragic earnestness with which Ella had asked her that question, tightening her fingers upon her wrists? “Will you give up Herbert Courtland in order to help me?”—the passionate whisper, the quivering lips—all told her with overwhelming force that what she had surmised was the truth.

She felt that Ella had confessed to her that her infatuation—Phyllis called it infatuation—had not passed away, though she had been strong enough upon that night, when her husband had so suddenly returned, to fly from its consequences. No, her infatuation had not died.

But Herbert Courtland—what of him? He had also had strength—once. Would he have strength again? He had told her, while they were together in one of the boats drifting down the placid river, that he believed in the influence which a woman could exercise upon a man’s life being capable of changing his nature so completely as if a miracle had been formed upon him. She had not had the courage to ask him if he had any particular instance in his mind that impressed this belief upon him.

Had he been led to cast that infatuation—if he had ever been subjected to it—behind him, by reason of her influence over him since she had repeated to him the pathetic words of Mrs. Haddon, and he had gone straight aboard the yacht on that strange cruise?

She could scarcely doubt that he was ready to acknowledge how great had been her influence upon his life. He had shown her in countless ways that she had accomplished all that she had sought to achieve. She had had no need to throw herself at his head—the phrase which Ella suggested her fellow-guests would probably employ in referring to the relative positions of Phyllis and Herbert. No, she had ever found him by her side, and it did not need her to exercise much cleverness to keep him there.

But then, why had he so suddenly hurried away from that pleasant life beside the still waters?

This was the question which was on her mind as the train ran into the station at Paddington. She got out of the carriage, and while her maid went to look after the luggage, she glanced down the platform for the footman. He came up to her in a moment and took her dressing-bag and jewel-case.

“The brougham is here, I suppose?” she said, as she walked down the platform.

It was at the entrance to the station, he told her.

She paused for a moment, and glanced back to see if there had been much luggage in the train which she had left—if her maid would be likely to be kept waiting for long. At that instant a porter, with a portmanteau on his shoulder and a Gladstone bag in his hand, hurrying up by the side of the train which was ready to depart from the next platform, shouted to a group of Eton boys who were blocking the way:

“By your leave, gents!”

She started and took a step to one side, and that instant was sufficient to make her aware of the fact that the portmanteau carried by the porter to the train which was about to leave for Maidenhead was Herbert Courtland’s. There was no mistaking it. It bore on one end his initials and his private sign.

She took a few steps nearer the train by which she had come, and followed the porter with her eyes.

He put the portmanteau into the luggage van, and then returned with the Gladstone bag to the side of a compartment. She saw him place it in the network, and touch his cap as he received his douceur from the passenger who sat at the door with an evening paper in his hand.

She saw that that passenger was Herbert Courtland.

She told the footman who stood beside her to take her bag and case to the brougham and then return to help her maid with the rest of the luggage. He followed her down the platform.

In a short time she was being driven home, her maid following with the luggage in another vehicle.

She did not begin to change her traveling dress immediately on retiring to her room. She did not even take off her hat. She stood at the window looking out over a scene very different from that which had been before her eyes every day during the previous week. After a quarter of an hour’s listlessness at the window, she spent another quarter of an hour sitting motionless in a chair. Then she rose and looked at herself in a mirror that showed her herself from head to foot. She examined her feet with curious deliberation, and then looked with a critical side glance at the reflection of her face. (She could not fail to have noticed that it was unusually pale.) She removed her hat, surveyed herself once more, then, turning away with an exclamation of impatience, she crumpled up her hat with both her hands and flung it, just as a wicked child would have flung it, across the room.

“Let them both go together to perdition—to perdition—to perdition!” she said with a bitterness that had never previously been in her voice. “Let them go together. I have done my best for them—for her—for her. I give them up now for evermore.”

After a minute or two of statuesque passion she went across the room and picked up her bruised hat. She looked at it, turning it round in her hands. Then she dropped it suddenly, and flung herself upon the sofa, crying out in a whirlwind of tears:

“Oh, Ella, Ella, I would have saved you—I meant to save you, indeed! I would have done everything to save you—everything!”

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