Stewart Edward White - Claim Jumpers by classicbooks

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									Chapter I. A Plenipotentiary
Has no writer ever dealt with the dramatic aspect of theunopened envelope? I cannot recall such
a passage in any of myauthors, and yet to my mind there is much matter for philosophy inwhat is
always the expressionless shell of a boundless possibility.Your friend may run after you in the
street, and you know at aglance whether his news is to be good, bad, or indifferent; but inhis
handwriting on the breakfast-table there is never a hint as tothe nature of his communication.
Whether he has sustained a loss oran addition to his family, whether he wants you to dine with
him atthe club or to lend him ten pounds, his handwriting at least willbe the same, unless, indeed,
he be offended, when he will generallyindite your name with a studious precision and a distant
gracequite foreign to his ordinary caligraphy.

These reflections, trite enough as I know, are neverthelessinevitable if one is to begin one's
unheroic story in the modernmanner, at the latest possible point. That is clearly the point atwhich
a waiter brought me the fatal letter from Catherine Evers.Apart even from its immediate
consequences, the letter had aprima facie interest, of no ordinary kind, as the first foryears from a
once constant correspondent. And so I sat studying theenvelope with a curiosity too piquant not
to be enjoyed. What inthe world could so obsolete a friend find to say to one now? Sixmonths
earlier there had been a certain opportunity for an advance,which at that time could not possibly
have been misconstrued; whenthey landed me, a few later, there was another and perhaps a
betterone. But this was the last summer of the late century, and alreadyI was beginning to get
about like a lamplighter on my two sticks.Now, young men about town, on two walking-sticks,
in the year ofgrace 1900, meant only one thing. Quite a stimulating thing in thebeginning, but
even as I write, in this the next winter but one, anational irritation of which the name alone might
prevent you fromreading another word.

Catherine's handwriting, on the contrary, was still stimulating,if indeed I ever found it more so in
the foolish past. It had notaltered in the least. There was the same sweet pedantry of theAttic e,
the same superiority to the most venialabbreviation, the same inconsistent forest of exclamatory
notes,thick as poplars across the channel. The present plantation startedafter my own Christian
name, to wit "Dear Duncan!!" Yet there wasnothing Germanic in Catherine's ancestry; it was
only herapologetic little way of addressing me as though nothing had everhappened, of asking
whether she might. Her own old tact and charmwere in that tentative burial of the past. In the
first line shehad all but won my entire forgiveness; but the very next interferedwith the effect.

"You promised to do anything for me!"

I should be sorry to deny it, I am sure, for not to this day doI know what I did say on the
occasion to which she evidentlyreferred. But was it kind to break the silence of years with such
areference? Was it even quite decent in Catherine to ignore myexistence until I could be of use to
her, and then to ask thefavour in her first breath? It was true, as she went on to remindme, that
we were more or less connected after all, and at leastconceivable that no one else could help her
as I could, if I would.In any case, it was a certain satisfaction to hear that Catherineherself was of
the last opinion. I read on. She was in adifficulty; but she did not say what the difficulty was. For
oneunworthy moment the thought of money entered my mind, to be ejectedthe next, as the
Catherine of old came more and more into themental focus. Pride was the last thing in which I
had found herwanting, and her letter indicated no change in that respect.

"You may wonder," she wrote just at the end, "why I have neversent you a single word of
inquiry, or sympathy, or congratulation!!Well--suppose it was 'bad blood'!! between us when you
went away!Mind, I never meant it to be so, but suppose it was: could Itreat the dear old you like
that, and the Great New You likesomebody else? You have your own fame to thank for my
unkindness!I am only thankful they haven't given you the V.C.!!Then I should never have dared-
-not even now!!!"

I smoked a cigarette when I had read it all twice over, and as Icrushed the fire out of the stump I
felt I could as soon think oflighting it again as I should have expected Catherine Evers to seta
fresh match to me. That, I was resolved, she should never do; norwas I quite coxcomb enough to
suspect her of the desire for amoment. But a man who has once made a fool of himself,
especiallyabout a woman somewhat older than himself, does not soon get overthe soreness; and
mine returned with the very fascination whichmade itself felt even in the shortest little letter.

Catherine wrote from the old address in Elm Park Gardens, andshe wanted me to call as early as
I could, or to make anyappointment I liked. I therefore telegraphed that I was coming atthree
o'clock that afternoon, and thus made for myself one of thelongest mornings that I can remember
spending in town. I wasstaying at the time at the Kensington Palace Hotel, to be out ofthe central
racket of things, and yet more or less under the eye ofthe surgeon who still hoped to extract the
last bullet in time. Ican remember spending half the morning gazing aimlessly over thegrand old
trees, already prematurely bronzed, and the other half inlimping in their shadow to the Round
Pond, where a few littletownridden boys were sailing their humble craft. It was near themiddle of
August, and for the first time I was thankful that anearlier migration had not been feasible in my
case.

In spite of my telegram Mrs. Evers was not at home when Iarrived, but she had left a message
which more than explainedmatters. She was lunching out, but only in Brechin Place, and I wasto
wait in the study if I did not mind. I did not, and yet I did,for the room in which Catherine
certainly read her books and wroteher letters was also the scene of that which I was beginning
tofind it rather hard work to forget as it was. Nor had it changedany more than her handwriting,
or than the woman herself as Iconfidently expected to find her now. I have often thought that
atabout forty both sexes stand still to the eye, and I did not expectCatherine Evers, who could
barely have reached that rubicon, toshow much symptom of the later marches. To me, here in her
den, theother year was just the other day. My time in India was littlebetter than a dream to me,
while as for angry shots at either endof Africa, it was never I who had been there to hear them. I
musthave come by my sticks in some less romantic fashion. Nothing couldconvince me that I
had ever been many days or miles away from aroom that I knew by heart, and found full as I left
it of familiartrifles and poignant associations.

That was the shelf devoted to her poets; there was no additionthat I could see. Over it hung the
fine photograph of Watts's"Hope," an ironic emblem, and elsewhere one of that intolerably
sadpicture, his "Paolo and Francesca": how I remembered the wet Sundaywhen Catherine took
me to see the original in Melbury Road! The oldpiano which was never touched, the one which
had been in St. Helenawith Napoleon's doctor, there it stood to an inch where it hadstood of old,
a sort of grand-stand for the photographs ofCatherine's friends. I descried my own young effigy
among the rest,in a frame which I recollected giving her at the time. Well, Ilooked all the idiot I
must have been; and there was the veryPersian rug that I had knelt on in my idiocy! I could
afford tosmile at myself to-day; yet now it all seemed yesterday, not eventhe day before, until of
a sudden I caught sight of that otherphotograph in the place of honour on the mantelpiece. It was
one byHills and Sanders, of a tall youth in flannels, armed with along-handled racket, and the
sweet open countenance which RobinEvers had worn from his cradle upward. I should have
known himanywhere and at any age. It was the same dear, honest face; but tothink that this giant
was little Bob! He had not gone to Eton whenI saw him last; now I knew from the sporting
papers that he was upat Cambridge; but it was left to his photograph to bring home theflight of
time.

Certainly his mother would never have done so when all at oncethe door opened and she stood
before me, looking about thirty inthe ample shadow of a cavalier's hat. Simply but admirably
gowned,as I knew she would be, her slender figure looked more youthfulstill; yet in all this there
was no intent; the dry cool smile wasthat of an older woman, and I was prepared for greater
cordialitythan I could honestly detect in the greeting of the small firmhand. But it was kind, as
indeed her whole reception of me was;only it had always been the way of Catherine the
correspondent tomake one expect a little more than mere kindness, and of Catherinethe
companion to disappoint that expectation. Her conversationneeded few exclamatory points.

"Still halt and lame," she murmured over my sticks. "You poorthing, you are to sit down this
instant."

And I obeyed her as one always had, merely remarking that I wasgetting along famously now.

"You must have had an awful time," continued Catherine, seatingherself near me, her calm wise
eyes on mine.

"Blood-poisoning," said I. "It nearly knocked me out, but I'mglad to say it didn't quite."

Indeed, I had never felt quite so glad before.

"Ah! that was too hard and cruel; but I was thinking of the dayitself," explained Catherine, and
paused in some sweet transparentawe of one who had been through it.

"It was a beastly day," said I, forgetting her objection to theepithet until it was out. But Catherine
did not wince. Her fixedeyes were full of thought.

"It was all that here," she said. "One depressing morning I hada telegram from Bob, 'Spion Kop
taken'--"

"So Bob," I nodded, "had it as badly as everybody else!"
"Worse," declared Catherine, her eye hardening; "it was all Icould do to keep him at Cambridge,
though he had only just gone up.He would have given up everything and flown to the Front if I
hadlet him."

And she wore the inexorable face with which I could picture herstanding in his way; and in
Catherine I could admire that doggedlook and all it spelt, because a great passion is always
admirable.The passion of Catherine's life was her boy, the only son of hismother, and she a
widow. It had been so when he was quite small, asI remembered it with a pinch of jealousy
startling as a twinge froman old wound. More than ever must it be so now; that was as naturalas
the maternal embargo in which Catherine seemed almost to glory.And yet, I reflected, if all the
widows had thought only of theironly sons--and of themselves!

"The next depressing morning," continued Catherine, happilyoblivious of what was passing
through one's mind, "the first thingI saw, the first time I put my nose outside, was a great
pinkplacard with 'Spion Kop Abandoned!' Duncan, it was too awful."

"I wish we'd sat tight," I said, "I must confess."

"Tight!" cried Catherine in dry horror. "I should have abandonedit long before. I should have run
away--hard! To think that youdidn't--that's quite enough for me."

And again I sustained the full flattery of that speechless awewhich was yet unembarrassing by
reason of its freedom from unduesolemnity.

"There were some of us who hadn't a leg to run on," I had tosay; "I was one, Mrs. Evers."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Catherine, then." But it put me to the blush.

"Thank you. If you really wish me to call you 'Captain Clephane'you have only to say so; but in
that case I can't ask the favour Ihad made up my mind to ask--of so old a friend."

Her most winning voice was as good a servant as ever; the touchof scorn in it was enough to
stimulate, but not to sting; and itwas the same with the sudden light in the steady intellectualeyes.

"Catherine," I said, "you can't indeed ask any favour of me!There you are quite right. It is not a
word to use between us."

Mrs. Evers gave me one of her deliberate looks beforereplying.

"And I am not so sure that it is a favour," she said softlyenough at last. "It is really your advice I
want to ask, in thefirst place at all events. Duncan, it's about old Bob!"

The corners of her mouth twitched, her eyes filled with a quainthumorous concern, and as a
preamble I was handed the photographwhich I had already studied on my own account.
"Isn't he a dear?" asked Bob's mother. "Would you have knownhim, Duncan?"

"I did know him," said I. "Spotted him at a glance. He's thesame old Bob all over."

I was fortunate enough to meet the swift glance I got for that,for in sheer sweetness and affection
it outdid all rememberedglances of the past. In a moment it was as though I had more
thanregained the lost ground of lost years. And in another moment, onthe heels of the discovery,
came the still more startling one thatI was glad to have regained my ground, was thankful to
bereinstated, and strangely, acutely, yet uneasily happy, as I hadnever been since the old days in
this very room.

Half in a dream I heard Catherine telling of her boy, of hisEton triumphs, how he had been one
of the rackets pair two years,and in the eleven his last, but "in Pop" before he was seventeen,and
yet as simple and unaffected and unspoilt with it all as thesmall boy whom I remembered. And I
did remember him, and knew hismother well enough to believe it all; for she did not chant
hispraises to organ music, but rather hummed them to the banjo; andone felt that her own demure
humour, so signal and so permanent acharm in Catherine, would have been the saving of half-a-
dozenBobs.

"And yet," she wound up at her starting-point, "it's about poorold Bob I want to speak to you!"

"Not in a fix, I hope?"

"I hope not, Duncan."

Catherine was serious now.

"Or mischief?"

"That depends on what you mean by mischief."

Catherine was more serious still.

"Well, there are several brands, but only one or two that reallypoison--unless, of course, a man is
very poor."

And my mind harked back to its first suspicion, of somefinancial embarrassment, now
conceivable enough; but Catherine toldme her boy was not poor, with the air of one who would
have drunkditchwater rather than let the other want for champagne.

"It is just the opposite," she added: "in little more than ayear, when he comes of age, he will have
quite as much as is goodfor him. You know what he is, or rather you don't. I do. And if Iwere not
his mother I should fall in love with him myself!"

Catherine looked down on me as she returned from replacing Bob'sphotograph on the
mantelpiece. The humour had gone out of her eye;in its place was an almost animal glitter, a far
harder light thanhad accompanied the significant reference to the patriotic impulsewhich she had
nipped in the bud. It was probably only the old, oldlook of the lioness whose whelp is threatened,
but it was somethingnew to me in Catherine Evers, something half-repellent and yetalmost
wholly fine.

"You don't mean to say it's that?" I asked aghast.

"No, I don't," Catherine answered, with a hard little laugh."He's not quite twenty, remember; but
I am afraid that he is makinga fool of himself, and I want it stopped."

I waited for more, merely venturing to nod my sympatheticconcern.

"Poor old Bob, as you may suppose, is not a genius. He is fartoo nice," declared Catherine's old
self, "to be anything so nasty.But I always thought he had his head screwed on, and his
heartscrewed in, or I never would have let him loose in a Swiss hotel.As it was, I was only too
glad for him to go with George Kennerley,who was as good at work at Eton as Bob was at
games."

In Catherine's tone, for all the books on her shelves, thepictures on her walls, there was no doubt
at all as to which of thetwo an Eton boy should be good at, and I agreed sincerely withanother
nod.

"They were to read together for an hour or so every day. Ithought it would be a nice little change
for Bob, and it was quitea chance; he must do a certain amount of work, you see. Well, theyonly
went at the beginning of the month, and already they have hadenough of each other's society."

"You don't mean that they've had a row?"

Catherine inclined a mortified head.

"Bob never had such a thing in his life before, nor did I everknow anybody who succeeded in
having one with Bob. It does taketwo, you know. And when one of the two has an angelic
temper, andtact enough for twenty--"

"You naturally blame the other," I put in, as she paused invisible perplexity.

"But I don't, Duncan, and that's just the point. George isdevoted to Bob, and is as nice as he can
be himself, in his ownsober, honest, plodding way. He may not have the temper, hecertainly has
not the tact, but he worships Bob and has come backquite miserable."

"Then he has come back, and you have seen him?"

"He was here last night. You must know that Bob writes to meevery day, even from Cambridge,
if it's only a line; and inyesterday's letter he mentioned quite casually that George had hadenough
of it and was off home. It was a little too casual to bequite natural in old Bob, and there are other
things he has beenmentioning in the same way. If any instinct is to be relied upon itis a mother's,
and mine amounted almost to second sight. I sentMaster George a telegram, and he came in last
night."

"Well?"'

"Not a word! There was bad blood between them, but that was allI could get out of him. Vulgar
disagreeables between Bob, of allpeople, and his greatest friend! If you could have seen the
poorfellow sitting where you are sitting now, like a prisoner in thedock! I put him in the witness-
box instead, and examined him onscraps of Bob's letters to me. It was as unscrupulous as
youplease, but I felt unscrupulous; and the poor dear was too loyal toadmit, yet too honest to
deny, a single thing."

"And?" said I, as Bob's mother paused again.

"And," cried she, with conscious melodrama in the fiery twinkleof her eye--"and, I know all!
There is an odious creature at thehotel--a widow, if you please! A 'ripping widow' Bob called her
inhis first letter; then it was 'Mrs. Lascelles'; but now it is only'some people' whom he escorts
here, there, and everywhere.Some people, indeed!"

Catherine smiled unmercifully. I relied upon my nod.

"I needn't tell you," she went on, "that the creature is atleast twenty years older than my baby,
and not at all nice at that.George didn't tell me, mind, but he couldn't deny a single thing.It was
about her that they fell out. Poor George remonstrated, nottoo diplomatically, I daresay, but I can
quite see that my Bobbehaved as he was never known to behave on land or sea. The poorchild
has been bewitched, neither more nor less."

"He'll get over it," I murmured, with the somewhat shakyconfidence born of my own experience.

Catherine looked at me in mild surprise.

"But it's going on now, Duncan--it's going on still!"

"Well," I added, with all the comfort that my voice would carry,and which an exaggerated
concern seemed to demand: "well,Catherine, it can't go very far at his age!" Nor to this hour can
Iyet conceive a sounder saying, in all the circumstances of thecase, and with one's knowledge of
the type of lad; but my fate wasthe common one of comforters, and I was made speedily and
painfullyaware that I had now indeed said the most unfortunate thing.

Catherine did not stamp her foot, but she did everything elserequired by tradition of the
exasperated lady. Not go far? As if ithad not gone too far already to be tolerated another instant
longerthan was necessary!

"He is making a fool of himself--my boy--my Bob--before a wholehotelful of sharp eyes and
sharper tongues! Is that not far enoughfor it to have gone? Duncan, it must be stopped, and
stopped atonce; but I am not the one to do it. I would rather it went on,"cried Catherine
tragically, as though the pit yawned before us all,"than that his mother should fly to his rescue
before all theworld! But a friend might do it, Duncan--if--"

Her voice had dropped. I bent my ear.

"If only," she sighed, "I had a friend who would!"

Catherine was still looking down when I looked up; but the droopof the slender body, the humble
angle of the cavalier hat, thefaint flush underneath, all formed together a challenge and anappeal
which were the more irresistible for their sweetshamefacedness. Acute consciousness of the past
(I thought), and (Ieven fancied) some penitence for a wrong by no means past undoing,were in
every sensitive inch of her, as she sat a suppliant to theold player of that part. And there are
emotions of which the bodymay be yet more eloquent than the face; there was the figure
ofWatts's "Hope" drooping over as she drooped, not more lissom andspeaking than her own; just
then it caught my eye, and on the spotit was as though the lute's last string of that sweet
masterpiecehad vibrated aloud in Catherine's room.

My hand shook as I reached for my trusty sticks, but I cannotsay that my voice betrayed me
when I inquired the name of the Swisshotel.

"The Riffel Alp," said Catherine--"above Zermatt, you know."

"I start to-morrow morning," I rejoined, "if that will do."

Then Catherine looked up. I cannot describe her look.Transfiguration were the idle word, but the
inadequate, and yetmore than one would scatter the effect of so sudden a burst ofhuman sunlight.

"Would you really go?" she cried. "Do you mean it, Duncan?"

"I only wish," I replied, "that it were to Australia."

"But then you would be weeks too late."

"Ah, that's another story! I may be too late as it is."

Her brightness clouded on the instant; only a gleam of annoyancepierced the cloud.

"Too late for what, may I ask?"

"Everything except stopping the banns."

"Please don't talk nonsense, Duncan. Banns at nineteen!"

"It is nonsense, I agree; at the same time the minorconsequences will be the hardest to deal with.
If they are beingtalked about, well, they are being talked about. You know Bob best:suppose he
is making a fool of himself, is he the sort of fellow tostop because one tells him so? I should say
not, from what I knowof him, and of you."

"I don't know," argued Catherine, looking pleased with hercompliment. "You used to have quite
an influence over him, if youremember."

"That's quite possible; but then he was a small boy, now he is agrown man."

"But you are a much older one."

"Too old to trust to that."

"And you have been wounded in the war."

"The hotel may be full of wounded officers; if not I might get alittle unworthy purchase there. In
any case I'll go. I should haveto go somewhere before many days. It may as well be to that
placeas to another. I have heard that the air is glorious; and I'll keepan eye on Robin, if I can't do
anything else."

"That's enough for me," cried Catherine, warmly. "I havesufficient faith in you to leave all the
rest to your owndiscretion and good sense and better heart. And I never shallforget it, Duncan,
never, never! You are the one person he wouldn'tinstantly suspect as an emissary, besides being
the only one Iever--ever trusted well enough to--to take at your word as I havedone."

I thought myself that the sentence might have pursued a boldercourse without untruth or
necessary complications. Perhaps myconceit was on a scale with my acknowledged infirmity
whereCatherine was concerned. But I did think that there was more thantrust in the eyes that now
melted into mine; there was liking atleast, and gratitude enough to inspire one to win infinitely
more.I went so far as to take in mine the hand to which I had dared toaspire in the temerity of my
youth; nor shall I pretend for amoment that the old aspirations had not already mounted to
theirold seat in my brain. On the contrary, I was only wondering whetherthe honesty of voicing
my hopes would nowise counterbalance thecaddishness of the sort of stipulation they might
imply.

"All I ask," I was saying to myself, "is that you will give meanother chance, and take me
seriously this time, if I prove myselfworthy in the way you want."

But I am glad to think I had not said it when tea came up, andsaved a dangerous situation by
breaking an insidious spell.

I stayed another hour at least, and there are few in my memorywhich passed more deliciously at
the time. In writing of it now Ifeel that I have made too little of Catherine Evers, in my
anxietynot to make too much, yet am about to leave her to stand or to fallin the reader's opinion
by such impression as I have alreadysucceeded in creating in his or her mind. Let me add one
word, ortwo, while yet I may. A baron's daughter (though you might haveknown Catherine some
time without knowing that), she hadnevertheless married for mere love as a very young girl, and
hadbeen left a widow before the birth of her boy. I never knew herhusband, though we were
distant kin, nor yet herself during thelong years through which she mourned him. Catherine
Evers wasbeginning to recover her interest in the world when first we met;but she never returned
to that identical fold of society in whichshe had been born and bred. It was, of course, despite her
ownperformances, a fold to which the worldly wolf was no stranger; andher trouble had turned a
light-hearted little lady into an eager,intellectual, speculative being, with a sort of shame for
herformer estate, and an undoubted reactionary dislike of dominion andof petty pomp. Of her
own high folk one neither saw nor heard athing; her friends were the powerful preachers of
mostdenominations, and one or two only painted or wrote; for she hadbeen greatly exercised
about religion, and somewhat solaced by thearts.

Of her charm for me, a lad with a sneaking regard for the pen,even when I buckled on the sword,
I need not be too analytical. Nodoubt about her kindly interest, in the first instance, in somorbid a
curiosity as a subaltern who cared for books and wasprepared to extend his gracious patronage to
pictures. Thissubaltern had only too much money, and if the truth be known, onlytoo little honest
interest in the career into which he had allowedhimself to drift. An early stage of that career
brought him up toLondon, where family pressure drove him on a day to Elm ParkGardens. The
rest is easily conceived. Here was a woman, stillyoung, though some years older than oneself;
attractive,intellectual, amusing, the soul of sympathy, at once a spiritualinfluence and the best
companion in the world; and for a time, atleast, she had taken a perhaps imprudent interest in a
lad whom sheso greatly interested herself, on so many and various accounts.Must you marvel
that the young fool mistook the interest, on bothsides, for a more intense feeling, of which he for
one had noexperience at the time, and that he fell by his mistake at aridiculously early stage of
his career?

It is, I grant, more surprising to find the same young manplaying Harry Esmond (at due distance)
to the same Lady Castlewoodafter years in India and a taste of two wars. But Catherine's
roomwas Catherine's room, a very haunt of the higher sirens, chargedwith noble promptings and
forgotten influences and impossible vows.And you will please bear in mind that as yet I am but
settingforth, from this rarefied atmosphere, upon my invidiousmission.

Chapter II. The Theatre of War
It is a far cry to Zermatt at the best of times, and that is notthe middle of August. The annual rush
was at its height, the trainscrowded, the heat of them overpowering. I chose to sit up all nightin
my corner of an ordinary compartment, as a lesser evil than thewagon-lit in which you cannot sit
up at all. In the morningone was in Switzerland, with a black collar, a rusty chin, and
acountenance in keeping with its appointments. It was not as thoughthe night had been beguiled
for me by such considerations as areonly proper to the devout pilgrim in his lady's service.

On the contrary, and to tell the honest truth, I found it quiteimpossible to sustain such a serious
view of the very specialservice to which I was foresworn: the more I thought of it, in onesense,
the less in another, until my only chance was to go forwardwith grim humour in the spirit of
impersonal curiosity which thatattitude induces. In a word, and the cant one which yet happens
toexpress my state of mind to a nicety, I had already "weakened" onthe whole business which I
had been in such a foolish hurry toundertake, though not for one reactionary moment upon her
for whomI had undertaken it. I was still entirely eager to "do her behestin pleasure or in pain";
but this particular enterprise I wasbeginning to view apart from its inspiration, on its
intrinsicdemerits, and the more clearly I saw it in its own light, the lesspleasure did the prospect
afford me.

A young giant, whom I had not seen since his childhood, wasmerely understood to be carrying
on a conspicuous, but in allprobability the most innocent, flirtation in a Swiss hotel; andhere was
I, on mere second-hand hearsay, crossing half Europe tospoil his perfectly legitimate sport! I did
not examine my projectfrom the unknown lady's point of view; it made me quite hot enoughto
consider it from that of my own sex. Yet, the day beforeyesterday, I had more than acquiesced in
the dubious plan. I hadeven volunteered for its achievement. The train rattled out onelong,
maddening tune to my own incessant marvellings at my ownsecret apostasy: the stuffy
compartment was not Catherine's sanctumof the quickening memorials and the olden spell.
Catherine herselfwas no longer before me in the vivacious flesh, with her halfplayful pathos of
word and look, her fascinating outward light andshade, her deeper and steadier intellectual glow.
Those, I suppose,were the charms which had undone me, first as well as last; but thememory of
them was no solace in the train. Nor was I tempted todream again of ultimate reward. I could see
now no further than myimmediate part, and a more distasteful mixture of the mean and ofthe
ludicrous I hope never to rehearse again.

One mitigation I might have set against the rest. Dining at theRag the night before I left, I met a
man who knew a man thenstaying at the Riffel Alp. My man was a sapper with whom I had hada
very slight acquaintance out in India, but he happened to be oneof those good-natured creatures
who never hesitate to bestirthemselves or their friends to oblige a mere acquaintance: he askedif
I had secured rooms, and on learning that I had not, insisted ontelegraphing to his friend to do his
best for me. I had nothitherto appreciated the popularity of a resort which I happenedonly to
know by name, nor did I even on getting at Lausanne atelegram to say that a room was duly
reserved for me. It was onlywhen I actually arrived, tired out with travel, toward the
secondevening, and when half of those who had come up with me were sentdown again to
Zermatt for their pains, that I felt as grateful as Iought to have been from the beginning. Here
upon a mere ledge ofthe High Alps was a hotel with tier upon tier of windows winking inthe
setting sun. On every hand were dazzling peaks piled against aturquoise sky, yet drawn
respectfully apart from the incomparableMatterhorn, that proud grim chieftain of them all. The
grandspectacle and the magic air made me thankful to be there, if onlyfor their sake, albeit the
more regretful that a purer purpose hadnot drawn me to so fine a spot.

My unknown friend at court, one Quinby, a civilian, came up andspoke before I had been five
minutes at my destination. He was avery tall and extraordinarily thin man, with an ill-nourished
redmoustache, and an easy geniality of a somewhat acid sort. He had atrick of laughing softly
through his nose, and my two sticks servedto excite a sense of humour as odd as its habitual
expression.

"I'm glad you carry the outward signs," said he, "for I made themost of your wounds and you
really owe your room to them. You see,we're a very representative crowd. That festive old boy,
struttingup and down with his cigar, in the Panama hat, is really best knownin the black cap: it's
old Sankey, the hanging judge. The big manwith his back turned you will know in a moment
when he looks thisway: it's our celebrated friend Belgrave Teale. He comes down inone or other
of his parts every day: to-day it's the genial squire,yesterday it was the haw-haw officer of the
Crimean school. But areal live officer from the Front we don't happen to have had, muchless a
wounded one, and you limp straight into the breach."

I should have resented these pleasantries from an ordinarystranger, but this libertine might be
held to have earned hischarter, and moreover I had further use for him. We were loiteringon the
steps between the glass veranda and the terrace at the backof the hotel. The little sunlit stage was
full of vivid, trivial,transitory life, it seemed as a foil to the vast eternal scene. Thehanging judge
still strutted with his cigar, peering jocosely fromunder the broad brim of his Panama; the great
actor still posedaloof, the human Matterhorn of the group. I descried no showy womanwith a tall
youth dancing attendance; among the brick-red Englishfaces there was not one that bore the least
resemblance to thelatest photograph of Bob Evers.

A little consideration suggested my first move.

"I think I saw a visitors' book in the hall," I said. "I may aswell stick down my name."

But before doing so I ran my eye up and down the pages inscribedby those who had arrived that
month.

"See anybody you know?" inquired Quinby, who hovered obliginglyat my elbow. It was really
necessary to be as disingenuous aspossible, more especially with a person whose own
conversation wasevidently quite unguarded.

"Yes, by Jove I do! Robin Evers, of all people!"

"Do you know him?"

The question came pretty quickly. I was sorry I had said somuch.

"Well, I once knew a small boy of that name; but then they arenot a small clan."

"His mother's the Honourable," said Quinby, with studiousunconcern, yet I fancied with
increased interest in me.

"I used to see something of them both," I deliberately admitted,"when the lad was little. How has
he turned out?"

Quinby gave his peculiar nasal laugh.

"A nice youth," said he. "A very nice youth!"

"Do you mean nice or nasty?" I asked, inclined to bridle at histone.

"Oh, anything but nasty," said Quinby. "Only--well--perhaps abit rapid for his years!"
I stooped and put my name in the book before making any furtherremark. Then I handed Quinby
my cigarette-case, and we sat down onthe nearest lounge.

"Rapid, is he?" said I. "That's quite interesting. And how doesit take him?"

"Oh, not in any way that's discreditable; but as a matter offact, there's a gay young widow here,
and they're fairly goingit!"

I lit my cigarette with a certain unexpected sense of downrightsatisfaction. So there was
something in it after all. It had seemedsuch a fool's errand in the train.

"A young widow," I repeated, emphasising one of Quinby'sepithets and ignoring the other.

"I mean, of course, she's a good deal older than Evers."

"And her name?"

"A Mrs. Lascelles."

I nodded.

"Do you happen to know anything about her, CaptainClephane?"

"I can't say I do."

"No more does anybody else," said Quinby, "except that she's anIndian widow of sorts."

"Indian!" I repeated with more interest.

Quinby looked at me.

"You've been out there yourself, perhaps?"

"It was there I knew Hamilton," said I, naming our common friendin the Engineers.

"Yet you're sure you never came across Mrs. Lascellesthere?"

"India's a large place," I said, smiling as I shook my head.

"I wonder if Hamilton did," speculated Quinby aloud.

"And the Lascelleses," I added, "are another large clan."

"Well," he went on, after a moment's further cogitation,"there's nobody here can place this
particular Mrs. Lascelles; butthere are some who say things which they can tell you
themselves.I'm not going to repeat them if you know anything about the boy. Ionly wish you
knew him well enough to give him a friendly word ofadvice!"

"Is it so bad as all that?"

"My dear sir, I don't say there's anything bad about it,"returned Quinby, who seemed to possess a
pretty gift of suggestivenegation. "But you may hear another opinion from other people, foryou
will find that the whole hotel is talking about it. No," hewent on, watching my eyes, "it's no use
looking for them at thistime of day; they disappear from morning to night; if you want tosee
them you must take a stroll when everybody else is thinking ofturning in. Then you may have
better luck. But here are the lettersat last."

The concierge had appeared, hugging an overflowing armful ofpostal matter. In another minute
there was hardly standing room inthe little hall. My companion uttered his unlovely laugh.

"And here comes the British lion roaring for his London papers!It isn't his letters he's so keen on,
if you notice, CaptainClephane; it's his Daily Mail, with the latest cricket, andafter that the war.
Teale is an exception, of course. He has astack of press-cuttings every day. You will see him
gloating overthem in a minute. Ah! the old judge has got his Sportsman;he reads nothing else
except the Sporting Times, and he'sgoing back for the Leger. Do you see the man with the
bluespectacles and the peeled nose? He was last Vice Chancellor but oneat Cambridge. No, that's
not a Bishop, it's an Archdeacon. All wewant is a Cabinet Minister now; every evening there is a
rumourthat the Colonial Secretary is on his way, and most mornings youwill hear that he has
actually arrived under cloud of night."

The facetious Quinby did not confine his more or less causticcommentary to the well-known folk
of whom there seemed no dearth;in the ten or twenty minutes that we sat together he
furtherrevealed himself as a copious gossip, with a wide net alike for thebig fish and for the
smallest fry. There was a sheepish gentlemanwith a twitching face, and a shaven cleric in close
attendance; theformer a rich brand plucked from burning by the latter, whosetemporal reward
was the present trip, so Quinby assured me duringthe time it took them to pass before our eyes
through the nowemptying hall. A delightfully boyish young American came inquiringwaggishly
for his "best girl"; next moment I was given tounderstand that he meant his bride, who was ten
times too good forhim, with further trivialities to which the dressing-bell put atimely period.
There was no sign of my Etonian when I wentupstairs.

As I dressed in my small low room, with its sloping ceiling ofvarnished wood, at the top of the
house, I felt that after all Ihad learnt nothing really new respecting that disturbing
younggentleman. Quinby had already proved himself such an arrant gossipas to discount every
word that he had said before I placed him inhis proper type: it is one which I have encountered
elsewhere, thatof the middle-aged bachelor who will and must talk, and he hadconfessed his
celibacy almost in his first breath; but a morepronounced specimen of the type I am in no hurry
to meet again. If,however, there was some comfort in the thought of his more thanprobable
exaggerations, there was none at all in the knowledge thatthese would be, if they had not already
been, poured into everytolerant ear in the place, if anything more freely than intomine.
I was somewhat late for dinner, but the scandalous couple werelater still, and all the evening I
saw nothing of them. That,however, was greatly due to this fellow Quinby, whose
determinedoffices one could hardly disdain after once accepting favours fromhim. In the press
after dinner I saw his ferret's face peering thisway and that, a good head higher than any other,
and the moment oureyes met he began elbowing his way toward me. Only an ingrate wouldhave
turned and fled; and for the next hour or two I sufferedQuinby to exploit my wounds and me for
a good deal more than ourintrinsic value. To do the man justice, however, I had no fault tofind
with the very pleasant little circle into which he insisted onushering me, at one end of the glazed
veranda, and should haveenjoyed my evening but for an inquisitive anxiety to get in touchwith
the unsuspecting pair. Meanwhile the lilt of a waltz hadmingled with the click of billiard balls
and the talking andlaughing which make a summer's night vocal in that outpost ofpleasure on the
silent heights; and some of our party had gone offto dance. In the end I followed them, sticks and
all; but there wasno Bob Evers among the dancers, nor in the billiard-room, noranywhere else
indoors.

Then, last of all, I looked where Quinby had advised me to look,and there sure enough, on the
almost deserted terrace, were thecouple whom I had come several hundred miles to put
asunder.Hitherto I had only realised the distasteful character of my task;now at a glance I had my
first inkling of its difficulty; and thereended the premature satisfaction with which I had learnt
that therewas "something in" the rumour which had reached Catherine'sears.

There was no moon, but the mountain stars were the brightest Ihave ever seen in Europe. The
mountains themselves stood back, asit were, darkling and unobtrusive; all that was left of
theMatterhorn was a towering gap in the stars; and in the faint coldlight stood my friends,
somewhat close together, and I thought Isaw the red tips of two cigarettes. There was at least no
mistakingthe long loose limbs in the light overcoat. And because a womanalways looks
relatively taller than a man, this woman looked nearlyas tall as this lad.

"Bob Evers? You may not remember me, but my name'sClephane--Duncan, you know!"

I felt the veriest scoundrel, and yet the words came out assmoothly as I have written them, as if
to show me that I had been apotential scoundrel all my life.

"Duncan Clephane? Why, of course I remember you. I should thinkI did! I say, though, you must
have had a shocking time!"

Bob's voice was quite quiet for all his astonishment, his mannera miracle, though it was too dark
to read the face; and his righthand held tenderly to mine, as his eyes fell upon my sticks, whilehis
left poised a steady cigarette. And now I saw that there wasonly one red tip after all.

"I read your name in the visitors' book," said I, feeling toobig a brute to acknowledge the boy's
solicitude for me. "I--I feltcertain it must be you."

"How splendid!" cried the great fellow in his easy, soft,unconscious voice, "By the way, may I
introduce you to Mrs.Lascelles? Captain Clephane's one of our very oldest friends, justback from
the Front, and precious nearly blown to bits!"
Chapter III. First Blood
Mrs. Lascelles and I exchanged our bows. For a dangerous womanthere was a rather striking
want of study in her attire. Over thegarment which I believe is called a "rain-coat," the night
beingchilly, she had put on her golf-cape as well, and the effect was alittle heterogeneous. It also
argued qualities other than those forwhich I was naturally on the watch. Of the lady's face I could
seeeven less than of Bob's, for the hood of the cape was upturned intoa cowl, and even in
Switzerland the stars are only stars. But whileI peered she let me hear her voice, and a very rich
one itwas--almost deep in tone--the voice of a woman who would singcontralto.

"Have you really been fighting?" she asked, in a way that waseither put on, or else the expression
of a more understandingsympathy than one usually provoked; for pity and admiration, andeven a
helpless woman's envy, might all have been discovered by anear less critical and more charitable
than mine.

"Like anything!" answered Bob, in his unaffected speech.

"Until they knocked me out," I felt bound to add, "and that,unfortunately, was before very long."

"You must have been dreadfully wounded!" said Mrs. Lascelles,raising her eyes from my sticks
and gazing at me, I fancied, withsome intentness; but at her expression I could only guess.

"Bowled over on Spion Kop," said Bob, "and fairly riddled as helay."

"But only about the legs, Mrs. Lascelles," I explained; "and yousee I didn't lose either, so I've no
cause to complain. I hadhardly a graze higher up."

"Were you up there the whole of that awful day?" asked Mrs.Lascelles, on a low but thrilling
note.

"I'd got to be," said I, trying to lighten the subject with alaugh. But Bob's tone was little better.

"So he went staggering about among his men," he must needs chimein, with other superfluities,
"for I remember reading all about itin the papers, and boasting like anything about having known
you,Duncan, but feeling simply sick with envy all the time. I say,you'll be a tremendous hero up
here, you know! I'm awfully gladyou've come. It's quite funny, all the same. I suppose you came
toget bucked up? He couldn't have gone to a better place, could he,Mrs. Lascelles?"

"Indeed he could not. I only wish we could empty the hotel andfill every bed with our poor
wounded!"

I do not know why I should have felt so much surprised. I hadmade unto myself my own image
of Mrs. Lascelles, and neither herappearance, nor a single word that had fallen from her, was in
theleast in keeping with my conception. Prepared for a certain type ofwoman, I was quite
confounded by its unconventional embodiment, andinclined to believe that this was not the type
at all. I ought tohave known life better. The most scheming mind may well entertainan
enthusiasm for arms, genuine enough in itself, at a martialcrisis, and a natural manner is by no
means incompatible with thecardinal vices. That manner and that enthusiasm were absolutely
allthat I as yet knew in favour of this Mrs. Lascelles; but they wereenough to cause me irritation.
I wished to be honest with somebody;let me at least be honestly inimical to her. I took out
mycigarette-case, and when about to help myself, handed it, with avile pretence at impulse, to
Mrs. Lascelles instead.

Mrs. Lascelles thanked me, in a higher key, but declined.

"Don't you smoke?" I asked blandly.

"Sometimes."

"Ah! then I wasn't mistaken. I thought I saw two cigarettes justnow."

Indeed, I had first smelt and afterward discovered the secondcigarette smouldering on the
ground. Bob was smoking his still. Thechances were that they had both been lighted at the same
time;therefore the other had been thrown away unfinished at my approach.And that was one
more variation from the type of my confidentpreconceptions.

Young Robin had meanwhile had a quick eye on us both, and thestump of his own cigarette was
glowing between a firmer pair oflips than I had looked for in that boyish face.

"It's so funny," said he (but there was no fun in his voice),"the prejudice some people have
against ladies smoking. Whyshouldn't they? Where's the harm?"

Now there is no new plea to be advanced on either side of thiseternal question, nor is it one upon
which I ever felt strongly,but just then I felt tempted to speak as though I did. I will notnow
dissect my motive, but it was vaguely connected with mymission, and not unrighteous from that
standpoint. I said it wasnot a question of harm at all, but of what one admired in a woman,and
what one did not: a man loved to look upon a woman as somethingabove and beyond him, and
there could be no doubt that the gapseemed a little less when both were smoking like twin
funnels.That, I thought, was the adverse point of view; I did not say thatit was mine.

"I'm glad to hear it," said Bob Evers, with the faintestcoldness in his tone, though I fancied he
was fuming within, andadmired both his chivalry and his self-control. "To me it's quitefunny. I
call it sheer selfishness. We enjoy a cigarette ourselves;why shouldn't they? We don't force them
to be teetotal, do we? Isit bad form for a lady to drink a glass of wine? You mightn'tbicycle once,
might you, Mrs. Lascelles? I daresay Captain Clephanedoesn't approve of that yet!"

"That's hitting below the belt," said I, laughing. "I wasn'tgiving you my opinion, but only the old-
fashioned view of thematter. I wish you'd take one, Mrs. Lascelles, or I shall thinkI've been
misunderstood all round!"

"No, thank you, Captain Clephane. That old-fashioned feeling isinfectious."
"Then I will," cried Bob, "to show there's no ill-feeling. Youold fire-eater, I believe you just put
up the argument to changethe conversation. Wouldn't you like a chair for those gamelegs?"

"No, I've got to use them in moderation. I was going to have astroll when I spotted you at last."

"Then we'll all take one together," cried the genial old Bobonce more. "It's a bit cold standing
here, don't you think, Mrs.Lascelles? After you with the match!"

But I held it so long that he had to strike another, for I hadlooked on Mrs. Lascelles at last. It was
not an obviouslyinteresting face, like Catherine's, but interest there was ofanother kind. There
was nothing intellectual in the low brow, noenthusiasm for books and pictures in the bold eyes,
no witticismwaiting on the full lips; but in the curve of those lips and thelook from those eyes, as
in the deep chin and the carriage of thehooded head, there was something perhaps not lower than
intellectin the scale of personal equipment. There was, at all events,character and to spare. Even
by the brief glimmer of a single matchI could see that (and more) for myself. Then came a
moment'sinterval before Bob struck his light, and in that moment her facechanged. As I saw it
next, it appealed, it entreated, until thesecond match was flung away. And the appeal was to such
purposethat I do not think I was five seconds silent.

"And what do you do with yourself up here all day? I mean youhale people; of course, I can only
potter in the sun."

The question, perhaps, was better in intention than in tact. Idid not mean them to take it to
themselves, but Bob's answer showedthat it was open to misconstruction.

"Some people climb," said he; "you'll know them by their noses.The glaciers are almost as bad,
though, aren't they, Mrs.Lascelles? Lots of people potter about the glaciers. It's rathersport in the
serracs; you've got to rope. But you'll find lots moreloafing about the place all day, reading
Tauchnitz novels, andwatching people on the Matterhorn through the telescope. That's thesort of
thing, isn't it, Mrs. Lascelles?"

She also had misunderstood the drift of my unlucky question. Butthere was nothing disingenuous
in her reply. It reminded me of hereyes, as I had seen them by the light of the first match.

"Mr. Evers doesn't say that he is a climber himself, CaptainClephane; but he is a very keen one,
and so am I. We are bothbeginners, so we have begun together. It's such fun. We do somelittle
thing every day; to-day we did the Schwarzee. You won't beany wiser, and the real climbers
wouldn't call it climbing, but itmeans three thousand feet first and last. To-morrow we are going
tothe Monte Rosa hut. There is no saying where we shall end up, ifthis weather holds."

In this fashion Mrs. Lascelles not only made me a contemptuouspresent of information which I
had never sought, but tacitlyrebuked poor Bob for his gratuitous attempt at concealment.Clearly,
they had nothing to conceal; and the hotel talk wasneither more nor less than hotel talk. There
was, nevertheless, acertain self-consciousness in the attitude of either (unless Igrossly misread
them both) which of itself afforded some excuse forthe gossips in my own mind.
Yet I did not know; every moment gave me a new point of view. Onmy remarking, genuinely
enough, that I only wished I could go withthem, Bob Evers echoed the wish so heartily that I
could not butbelieve that he meant what he said. On his side, in that case,there could be
absolutely nothing. And yet, again, when Mrs.Lascelles had left us, as she did ere long in the
easiest and mostnatural manner, and when we had started a last cigarette together,then once more
I was not so sure of him.

"That's rather a handsome woman," said I, with perhaps more thanthe authority to which my
years entitled me. But I fancied it would"draw" poor Bob. And it did.

"Rather handsome!" said he, with a soft little laugh notaltogether complimentary to me. "Yes, I
should almost go as farmyself. Still I don't see how you know; you haven't so muchas seen her,
my dear fellow."

"Haven't we been walking up and down outside this lightedveranda for the last ten minutes?"

Bob emitted a pitying puff. "Wait till you see her in thesunlight! There's not many of them can
stand it, as they get it uphere. But she can--like anything!"

"She has made an impression on you, Bob," said I, but in sosedulously inoffensive a manner that
his self-betrayal was all thegreater when he told me quite hotly not to be an ass.

Now I was more than ten years his senior, and Bob's manners wereas charming as only the
manners of a nice Eton boy can be;therefore I held my peace, but with difficulty refrained
fromnodding sapiently to myself. We took a couple of steps in silence,then Bob stopped short. I
did the same. He was still a littlestern; we were just within range of the veranda lights, and I
cansee and hear him to this day, almost as clearly as I did thatnight.

"I'm not much good at making apologies," he began, with ratherless grace than becomes an
apologist; but it was more than enoughfor me from Bob.

"Nor I at receiving them, my dear Bob."

"Well, you've got to receive one now, whether you accept it ornot. I was the ass myself, and I
beg your pardon!"

Somehow I felt it was a good deal for a lad to say, at that age,and with Bob's upbringing and
popularity, even though he said itrather scornfully in the fewest words. The scorn was really
forhimself, and I could well understand it. Nay, I was glad to havesomething to forgive in the
beginning, I with my unforgivablemission, and would have laughed the matter off without
another wordif Bob had let me.

"I'm a bit raw on the point," said he, taking my arm for a lastturn, "and that's the truth. There was
a fellow who came out withme, quite a good chap really, and a tremendous pal of mine at
Eton,yet he behaved like a lunatic about this very thing. Poor chap, hereads like anything, and I
suppose he'd been overdoing it, for heactually asked me to choose between Mrs. Lascelles and
himself!What could a fellow do but let the poor old simpleton go? They seemto think you can't
be pals with a woman without wanting to makelove to her. Such utter rot! I confess I lose my
hair with them;but that doesn't excuse me in the least for losing it withyou."

I assured him, on the other hand, that his very naturalirritability on the subject made all the
difference in the world."But whom," I added, "do you mean by 'them'? Not anybody else inthe
hotel?"

"Good heavens, no!" cried Bob, finding a fair target for hisscorn at last. "Do you think I care
twopence what's said or thoughtby people I never saw in my life before and am never likely to
seeagain? I know how I'm behaving. What does it matter what theythink? Not that they're likely
to bother their heads about us anymore than we do about them."

"You don't know that."

"I certainly don't care," declared my lordly youth, with obvioussincerity. "No, I was only
thinking of poor old George Kennerleyand people like him, if there are any. I did care what he
thought,that is until I saw he was as mad as anything on the subject. Itwas too silly. I tell you
what, though, I'd value your opinion!"And he came to another stop and confronted me again, but
this timesuch a picture of boyish impulse and of innocent trust in me (evenby that faint light) that
I was myself strongly inclined to behonest with him on the spot. But I only smiled and shook
myhead.

"Oh, no, you wouldn't," I assured him.

"But I tell you I would!" he cried. "Do you think there'sany harm in my going about with Mrs.
Lascelles because I ratherlike her and she rather likes me? I won't condescend to give you
myword that I mean none."

What answer could I give? His charming frankness quite disarmedme, and the more completely
because I felt that a dignifiedreticence would have been yet more characteristic of this
clean,sweet youth, with his noble unconsciousness alike of evil and ofevil speaking. I told him
the truth--that there could be no harm atall with such a fellow as himself. And he wrung my hand
until hehurt it; but the physical pain was a relief.

Never can I remember going up to bed with a better opinion ofanother person, or a worse one of
myself. How could I go on with mythrice detestable undertaking? Now that I was so sure of him,
whyshould I even think of it for another moment? Why not go back toLondon and tell his mother
that her early confidence had not beenmisplaced, that the lad did know how to take care of
himself, andbetter still of any woman whom he chose to honour with his bright,pure-hearted
friendship? All this I felt as strongly as anyconviction I have ever held. Why, then, could I not
write it atonce to Catherine in as many words?

Strange how one forgets, how I had forgotten in half an hour!The reason came home to me on
the stairs, and for the secondtime.
It had come home first by the light of those two matches, struckoutside in the dark part of the
deserted terrace. It was not thelad whom I distrusted, but the woman of whose face I had
thenobtained my only glimpse--that night.

I had known her, after all, in India years before.

Chapter IV. A Little Knowledge
Once in the Town Hall at Simla (the only time I was ever there)it was my fortune to dance with a
Mrs. Heymann of Lahore, a tallwoman, but a featherweight partner, and in all my dancing days
Inever had a better waltz. To my delight she had one other left,though near the end, and we were
actually dancing when an excitableperson came out of the card-room, flushed with liquor and
losses,and carried her off in the most preposterous manner. It was a shockto me at the time to
learn that this outrageous little man was mypartner's husband. Months later, when I came across
their case inthe papers, it was, I am afraid, without much sympathy for theinjured husband. The
man was quite unpresentable, and I had seen nomore of him at Simla, but of the woman just
enough to know her bymatchlight on the terrace at the Riffel Alp.

And this was Bob's widow, this dashing divorcee! Dashingshe was as I now remembered her,
fine in mould, finer in spirit,reckless and rebellious as she well might be. I had seen her
submitbefore a ball-room, but with the contempt that leads captivitycaptive. Seldom have I
admired anything more. It was splendid evento remember, the ready outward obedience, the not
less apparentindifference and disdain. There was a woman whom any man mightadmire, who
had had it in her to be all things to some man! But BobEvers was not a man at all. And this--and
this--was his widow!

Was she one at all? How could I tell? Yes, it was Lascelles, theother name in the case, to the best
of my recollection. But had sheany right to bear it? And even supposing they had married, what
hadhappened to the second husband? Widow or no widow, second marriageor no second
marriage, defensible or indefensible, was this theright friend for a lad still fresh from Eton, the
only son of hismother, who had sent me in secret to his side?

There was only one answer to the last question, whatever mightbe said or urged in reply to all the
rest. I could not but feelthat Catherine Evers had been justified in her instinct to analmost
miraculous degree; that her worst fears were true enough, sofar as the lady was concerned; and
that Providence alone could haveinspired her to call in an agent who knew what I knew, and
whotherefore saw his duty as plainly as I already saw mine. But it isone thing to recognise a
painful duty and quite another thing toknow how to minimise the pain to those most affected by
itsperformance. The problem was no easy one to my mind, and I layawake upon it far into the
night.

Tired out with travel, I fell asleep in the end, to awake with astart in broad daylight. The sun was
pouring through theuncurtained dormer-window of my room under the roof. And in thesunlight,
looking his best in knickerbockers, as only thin men do,with face greased against wind and glare,
and blue spectacles inrest upon an Alpine wideawake, stood the lad who had taken hisshare in
keeping me awake.
"I'm awfully sorry," he began. "It's horrid cheek, but when Isaw your room full of light I thought
you might have been evenearlier than I was. You must get them to give you curtains uphere."

He had a note in his hand and I thought by his manner there wassomething that he wished and
yet hesitated to tell me. Iaccordingly asked him what it was.

"It's what we were speaking about last night!" burst out Bob."That's why I've come to you. It's
these silly fools who can't mindtheir own business and think everybody else is like
themselves!Here's a note from Mrs. Lascelles which makes it plain that thatold idiot George is
not the only one who has been talking about us,and some of the talk has reached her ears. She
doesn't say so in somany words, but I can see it's that. She wants to get out of ourexpedition to
Monte Rosa hut--wants me to go alone. The questionis, ought I to let her get out of it? Does it
matter one rap whatthis rabble says about us? I've come to ask your advice--you weresuch a
brick about it all last night--and what you say I'lldo."

I had begun to smile at Bob's notion of "a rabble": this onehappened to include a few quite
eminent men, as you have seen, tosay nothing of the average quality of the crowd, of which I
hadbeen able to form some opinion of my own. But I had already noticedin Bob the
exclusiveness of the type to which he belonged, and hadwelcomed it as one does welcome the
little faults of the well-nightfaultless. It was his last sentence that made me feel too great
ahypocrite to go on smiling.

"It may not matter to you," I said at length, "but it may to thelady."

"I suppose it does matter more to them?"

The sunburnt face, puckered with a wry wistfulness, was onlycomic in its incongruous coat of
grease. But I was under notemptation to smile. I had to confine my mind pretty closely to
thegeneral principle, and rather studiously to ignore the particularinstance, before I could bring
myself to answer the almostinfantile inquiry in those honest eyes.

"My dear fellow, it must!"

Bob looked disappointed but resigned.

"Well, then, I won't press it, though I'm not sure that I agree.You see, it's not as though there was
or ever would be anythingbetween us. The idea's absurd. We are absolute pals and nothingelse.
That's what makes all this such a silly bore. It's sounnecessary. Now she wants me to go alone,
but I don't see the funof that."

"Does she ask you to go alone?"

"She does. That's the worst of it."

I nodded, and he asked me why.
"She probably thinks it would be the best answer to thetittle-tattlers, Bob."

That was not a deliberate lie; not until the words were out didit occur to me that Mrs. Lascelles
might now have another object ingetting rid of her swain for the day. But Bob's eyes lighted in
away that made me feel a deliberate liar.

"By Jove!" he said, "I never thought of that. I don't agree withher, mind, but if that's her game I'll
play it like a book. Solong, Duncan! I'm not one of those chaps who ask a man's advicewithout
the slightest intention of ever taking it!"

"But I haven't ventured to advise you," I reminded the boy, witha cowardly eye to the remotest
consequences.

"Perhaps not, but you've shown me what's the proper thing todo." And he went away to do it
there and then, like the blamelessexception that I found him to so many human rules.

I had my breakfast upstairs after this, and lay for someconsiderable time a prey to feelings which
I shall make no furthereffort to expound; for this interview had not altered, but onlyintensified
them; and in any case they must be obvious to those whotake the trouble to conceive themselves
in my unenviableposition.

And it was my ironic luck to be so circumstanced in a placewhere I could have enjoyed life to
the hilt! Only to lie with thewindow open was to breathe air of a keener purity, a finer temper,a
more exhilarating freshness, than had ever before entered mylungs; and to get up and look out of
the window was to peer intothe limpid brilliance of a gigantic crystal, where the smallestobject
was in startling focus, and the very sunbeams cut withscissors. The people below trailed shadows
like running ink. Thelight was ultra-tropical. One looked for drill suits and pithheadgear, and was
amazed to find pajamas insufficient at the openwindow.

Upon the terrace on the other side, when I eventually came down,there were cane chairs and
Tauchnitz novels under the umbrellatents, and the telescope out and trained upon a party on
theMatterhorn. A group of people were waiting turns at the telescope,my friend Quinby and the
hanging judge among them. But I searchedunder the umbrella tents as well as one could from the
top of thesteps before hobbling down to join the group.

"I have looked for an accident through that telescope," said thejocose judge, "fifteen Augusts
running. They usually have one theday after I go."

"Good morning, sir!" was Quinby's greeting; and I was instantlyintroduced to Sir John Sankey,
with such a parade of my militaryhistory as made me wince and Sir John's eye twinkle. I fancied
hehad formed an unkind estimate of my rather overpowering friend, andlived to hear my
impression confirmed in unjudicial language. Butour first conversation was about the war, and it
lasted until thejudge's turn came for the telescope.

"Black with people!" he ejaculated. "They ought to have aconstable up there to regulate the
traffic."
But when I looked it was long enough before my inexperienced eyecould discern the three
midges strung on the single strand ofcobweb against the sloping snow.

"They are coming down," explained the obliging Quinby. "That'sone of the most difficult places,
the lower edge of the top slope.It's just a little way along to the right where the first
accidentwas.... By the way, your friend Evers says he's going to do theMatterhorn before he
goes."

It was unwelcome hearing, for Quinby had paused to regale mewith a lightning sketch of the first
accident, and no one hadcontradicted his gruesome details.

"Is young Evers a friend of yours?" inquired thejudge.

"He is."

The judge did not say another word. But Quinby availed himselfof the first opportunity of
playing Ancient Mariner to my WeddingGuest.

"I saw you talking to them," he told me confidentially, "lastnight, you know!"

"Indeed."

He took me by the sleeve.

"Of course I don't know what you said, but it's evidently had aneffect. Evers has gone off alone
for the first time since he hasbeen here."

I shifted my position.

"You evidently keep an eye on him, Mr. Quinby."

"I do, Clephane. I find him a diverting study. He is not theonly one in this hotel. There's old
Teale on his balcony at thepresent minute, if you look up. He has the best room in the hotel;the
only trouble is that it doesn't face the sun all day; he's notused to being in the shade, and you'll
hear him damn thelimelight-man in heaps one of these fine mornings. But yourenterprising
young friend is a more amusing person than BelgraveTeale."

I had heard enough of my enterprising young friend from thisquarter.

"Do you never make any expeditions yourself, Mr. Quinby?"

"Sometimes." Quinby looked puzzled. "Why do you ask?" he wasconstrained to add.

"You should have volunteered instead of Mrs. Lascelles to-day.It would have been an excellent
opportunity for prosecuting yourown rather enterprising studies."
One would have thought that one's displeasure was plain enoughat last; but not a bit of it. So far
from resenting the rebuff, thefellow plucked my sleeve, and I saw at a glance that he had noteven
listened to my too elaborate sarcasm.

"Talk of the--lady!" he whispered. "Here she comes."

And a second glance intercepted Mrs. Lascelles on the steps,with her bold good looks and her
fine upstanding carriage, cutclean as a diamond in that intensifying atmosphere, and hardly
lessdazzling to the eye. Yet her cotton gown was simplicity's self; itwas the right setting for such
natural brilliance, a brilliance ofeyes and teeth and colouring, a more uncommon brilliance
ofexpression. Indeed it was a wonderful expression, brave rather thansweet, yet capable of
sweetness too, and for the moment at leastnobly free from the defensive bitterness which was to
mark itlater. So she stood upon the steps, the talk of the hotel,trailing, with characteristic
independence, a cane chair behindher, while she sought a shady place for it, even as I had
stoodseeking for her: before she found one I was hobbling towardher.

"Oh, thanks, Captain Clephane, but I couldn't think of allowingyou! Well, then, between us, if
you insist. Here under the wall, Ithink, is as good a place as any."

She pointed out a clear space in the rapidly narrowing ribbon ofshade, and there I soon saw Mrs.
Lascelles settled with her book (atrashy novel, that somehow brought Catherine Evers rather
sharplybefore my mind's eye) in an isolation as complete as could be foundupon the crowded
terrace, and too intentional on her part to permitof an intrusion on mine. I lingered a moment,
nevertheless.

"So you didn't go to that hut after all, Mrs. Lascelles?"

"No." She waited a moment before looking up at me. "And I'mafraid Mr. Evers will never
forgive me," she added after her look,in the rich undertone that had impressed me overnight,
before thecigarette controversy.

I was not going to say that I had seen Bob before he started,but it was an opportunity of speaking
generally of the lad. Thus Ifound myself commenting on the coincidence of our meeting again--
heand I--and again lying before I realised that it was a lie. ButMrs. Lascelles sat looking up at me
with her fine and candid eyes,as though she knew as well as I which was the real coincidence,
andknew that I knew into the bargain. It gave me the disconcertingsensation of being detected
and convicted at one blow. Bob Eversfailed me as a topic, and I stood like the fool I felt.

"I am sure you ought not to stand about so much, CaptainClephane."

Mrs. Lascelles was smiling faintly as I prepared to take herhint.

"Doesn't it really do you any harm?" she inquired in time todetain me.

"No, just the opposite. I am ordered to take all the exercise Ican."
"Even walking?"

"Even hobbling, Mrs. Lascelles, if I don't overdo it."

She sat some moments in thought. I guessed what she wasthinking, and I was right.

"There are some lovely walks quite near, Captain Clephane. Butyou have to climb a little, either
going or coming."

"I could climb a little," said I, making up my mind. "It'swithin the meaning of the act--it would
do me good. Which way willyou take me, Mrs. Lascelles?"

Mrs. Lascelles looked up quickly, surprised at a boldness onwhich I was already complimenting
myself. But it is the only waywith a bold woman.

"Did I say I would take you at all, Captain Clephane?"

"No, but I very much hope you will."

And our eyes met as fairly as they had done by matchlight thenight before.

"Then I will," said Mrs. Lascelles, "because I want to speak toyou."

Chapter V. A Marked Woman
We had come farther than was wise without a rest, but all theseats on the way were in full view
of the hotel, and I had beenirritated by divers looks and whisperings as we traversed thealways
crowded terrace. Bob Evers, no doubt, would have turned adeaf ear and a blind eye to them. I
myself could pretend to do so,but pretence was evidently one of my strong points. I had not
Bob'sfine natural regardlessness, for all my seniority and presumablysuperior knowledge of the
world.

So we had climbed the zigzags to the right of the Riffelberg andfollowed the footpath
overlooking the glacier, in the silenceenjoined by single file, but at last we were seated on
thehillside, a trifle beyond that emerald patch which some humouristhas christened the Cricket-
ground. Beneath us were the serracs ofthe Gorner Glacier, teased and tousled like a fringe of
frozenbreakers. Beyond the serracs was the main stream of comparativelysmooth ice, with its
mourning band of moraine, and beyond that themammoth sweep and curve of the Theodule
where these glaciers join.Peak after peak of dazzling snow dwindled away to the left. Onlythe
gaunt Riffelhorn reared a brown head against the blue. Andthere we sat, Mrs. Lascelles and I,
with all this before us and arock behind, while I wondered what my companion meant to say,
andhow she would begin.

I had not to wonder long.

"You were very good to me last night, Captain Clephane."
There was evidently no beating about the bush for Mrs.Lascelles. I thoroughly approved, but was
nevertheless somewhatembarrassed for the moment.

"I--really I don't know how, Mrs. Lascelles!"

"Oh, yes, you do, Captain Clephane; you recognised me at aglance, as I did you."

"I certainly thought I did," said I, poking about with theferrule of one of my sticks.

"You know you did."

"You are making me know it."

"Captain Clephane, you knew it all along; but we won't arguethat point. I am not going to deny
my identity. It is very good ofyou to give me the chance, if rather unnecessary. I am not
acriminal. Still you could have made me feel like one, last night,and heaps of men would have
done so, either for the fun of it orfrom want of tact."

I looked inquiringly at Mrs. Lascelles. She could tell me whatshe pleased, but I was not going to
anticipate her by displaying anindependent knowledge of matters which she might still care to
keepto herself. If she chose to open up a painful subject, well, thepain be upon her own head. Yet
I must say that there was verylittle of it in her face as our eyes met. There was the eagercandour
that one could not help admiring, with the glowing look ofgratitude which I had done so
ridiculously little to earn; but thefine flushed face betrayed neither pain, nor shame, nor
theaffectation of one or the other. There was a certain shyness withthe candour. That was all.

"You know quite well what I mean," continued Mrs. Lascelles,with a genuine smile at my
disingenuous face. "When you met mebefore it was under another name, which you have
probably quiteforgotten."

"No, I remember it."

"Do you remember my husband?"

"Perfectly."

"Did you ever hear--"

Her lip trembled. I dropped my eyes.

"Yes," I admitted, "or rather I saw it for myself in the papers.It's no use pretending I didn't, nor
yet that I was the least bitsurprised or--or anything else!"

That was not one of my tactful speeches. It was culpably, mightindeed have been wilfully,
ambiguous; and yet it was the kind ofclumsy and impulsive utterance which has the ring of a
goodintention, and is thus inoffensive except to such as seek excusesfor offence. My instincts
about Mrs. Lascelles did not place her inthis category at all. Nevertheless, the ensuing pause was
longenough to make me feel uneasy, and my companion only broke it as Iwas in the act of
framing an apology.

"May I bore you, Captain Clephane?" she asked abruptly. I lookedat her once more. She had
regained an equal mastery of face andvoice, and the admirable candour of her eyes was
undimmed by thesmallest trace of tears.

"You may try," said I, smiling with the obvious gallantry.

"If I tell you something about myself from that time on, willyou believe what I say?"

"You are the last person whom I should think ofdisbelieving."

"Thank you, Captain Clephane."

"On the other hand, I would much rather you didn't say anythingthat gave you pain, or that you
might afterward regret."

There was a touch of weariness in Mrs. Lascelles's smile, arather pathetic touch to my mind, as
she shook her head.

"I am not very sensitive to pain," she remarked. "That is theone thing to be said for having to
bear a good deal while you arefairly young. I want you to know more about me, because I
believeyou are the only person here who knows anything at all. Andthen--you didn't give me
away last night!"

I pointed to the grassy ledge in front of us, such a vivid greenagainst the house now a hundred
feet below.

"I am not pushing you over there," I said. "I take about as muchcredit for that."

"Ah," sighed Mrs. Lascelles, "but that dear boy, who turns outto be a friend of yours, he knows
less than anybody else! Hedoesn't even suspect. It would have hurt me, yes, it would havehurt
even me, to be given away to him! You didn't do it while I wasthere, and I know you didn't when
I had turned my back."

"Of course you know I didn't," I echoed rather testily as I tookout a cigarette. The case reminded
me of the night before. But Idid not again hand it to Mrs. Lascelles.

"Well, then," she continued, "since you didn't give me away,even without thinking, I want you to
know that after all thereisn't quite so much to give away as there might have been. Adivorce, of
course, is always a divorce; there is no getting awayfrom that, or from mine. But I really did
marry again. And I reallyam the widow they think I am."
I looked quickly up at her, in pure pity and compassion for onegone so far in sorrow and yet such
a little way in life. It was asudden feeling, an unpremeditated look, but I might as well
havespoken aloud. Mrs. Lascelles read me unerringly, and she shook herhead, sadly but
decidedly, while her eyes gazed calmly intomine.

"It was not a happy marriage, either," she said, asimpersonally as if speaking of another woman.
"You may think whatyou like of me for saying so to a comparative stranger; but I won'thave your
sympathy on false pretences, simply because MajorLascelles is dead. Did you ever meet him, by
the way?"

And she mentioned an Indian regiment. But the major and I hadnever met.

"Well, it was not very happy for either of us. I suppose suchmarriages never are. I know they are
never supposed to be. Even ifthe couple are everything to each other, there is all the world
topoint his finger, and all the world's wife to turn her back, andyou have to care a good deal to
get over that. But you may havebeen desperate in the first instance; you may have said to
yourselfthat the fire couldn't be much worse than the frying-pan. In thatcase, of course, you
deserve no sympathy, and nothing is moreirritating to me than the sympathy I don't deserve. It's a
matterof temperament; I'm obliged to speak out, even if it puts peoplemore against me than they
were already. No, you needn't sayanything, Captain Clephane; you didn't express your sympathy,
Istopped you in time.... And yet it is rather hard, when one's stillreasonably young, with almost
everything before one--to be a markedwoman all one's time!"

Up to her last words, despite an inviting pause after almostevery sentence, I had succeeded in
holding my tongue; though shewas looking wistfully now at the distant snow-peaks and
obviouslybestowing upon herself the sympathy she did not want from me (as Ihad been told in so
many words, if not more plainly in theaccompanying brief encounter between our eyes), yet had
I resistedevery temptation to put in my word, until these last two or threefrom Mrs. Lascelles.
They, however, demanded a denial, and I toldher it was absurd to describe herself in such terms.

"I am marked," she persisted, "wherever I go I may be known, asyou knew me here. If it hadn't
been you it would have been somebodyelse, and I should have known of it indirectly instead of
directly;but even supposing I had escaped altogether at this hotel, the nextone would probably
have made up for it."

"Do you stay much in hotels?"

There had been something in the mellow voice which made such aquestion only natural, yet it
was scarcely asked before I wouldhave given a good deal to recall it.

"There is nowhere else to stay," said Mrs. Lascelles, "unlessone sets up house alone, which is
costlier and far lesscomfortable. You see, one does make a friend or twosometimes--before one
is found out."

"But surely your people--"
This time I did check myself.

"My people," said Mrs. Lascelles, "have washed their hands ofme."

"But Major Lascelles--surely his people--"

"They washed their hands of him! You see, they would be thefirst to tell you, he had always been
rather wild; but his crowningact of madness in their eyes was his marriage. It was worse thanthe
worst thing he had ever done before. Still, it is not for me tosay anything, or feel anything,
against his family...."

And then I knew that they were making her an allowance; it wasmore than I wanted to know; the
ground was too delicate, and lednowhere in particular. Still, it was difficult not to take acertain
amount of interest in a handsome woman who had made such awreck of her life so young, who
was so utterly alone, so proud andindependent in her loneliness, and apparently quite fine-
heartedand unspoilt. But for Bob Evers and his mother, the interest that Itook might have been a
little different in kind; but even with mysolicitude for them there mingled already no small
considerationfor the social solitary whom I watched now as she sat peeringacross the glacier, the
foremost figure in a world of high lightsand great backgrounds, and whom to watch was to
admire, evenagainst the greatest of them all. Alas! mere admiration could notchange my task or
stay my hand; it could but clog me by destroyingmy singleness of purpose, and giving me a
double heart to match mydouble face.

Since, however, a detestable duty had been undertaken, and sinceas a duty it was more apparent
than I had dreamt of finding it,there was nothing for it but to go through with the thing and
makeimmediate enemies of my friends. So I set my teeth and talked ofBob. I was glad Mrs.
Lascelles liked him. His father was a remoteconnection of mine, whom I had never met. But I
had once known hismother very well.

"And what is she like?" asked Mrs. Lascelles, calling her fineeyes home from infinity, and fixing
them once more on me.

Chapter VI. Out of Action
Now if, upon a warm, soft, summer evening, you were suddenlyasked to describe the perfect
winter's day, either you would haveto stop and think a little, or your imagination is more
elasticthan mine. Yet you might have a passionate preference for cold sunand bracing airs. To
me, Catherine Evers and this Mrs. Lascelleswere as opposite to each other as winter and summer,
or the poles,or any other notorious antitheses. There was no comparison betweenthem in my
mind, yet as I sat with one among the sunlit, unfamiliarAlps, it was a distinct effort to picture the
other in the littleLondon room I knew so well. For it was always among her books andpictures
that I thought of Catherine, and to think was to wishmyself there at her side, rather than to wish
her here at mine.Catherine's appeal, I used to think, was to the highest and thebest in me, to brain
and soul, and young ambition, and withal toone's love of wit and sense of humour. Mrs.
Lascelles, on the otherhand, struck me primarily in the light of some splendid andspirited animal.
I still liked to dwell upon her dancing. Shesatisfied the mere eye more and more. But I had no
reason tosuppose that she knew right from wrong in art or literature, anymore than she would
seem to have distinguished between them in lifeitself. Her Tauchnitz novel lay beside her on the
grass and I againreflected that it would not have found a place on Catherine'sloftiest shelf.
Catherine would have raved about the view and madedelicious fun of Quinby and the judge, and
we should have sattogether talking poetry and harmless scandal by the happy hour.Mrs.
Lascelles probably took place and people alike for granted.But she had lived, and as an animal
she was superb! I looked againinto her healthy face and speaking eyes, with their
bitterknowledge of good and evil, their scorn of scorn, their redeeminghonesty and candour. The
contrast was complete in every detailexcept the widowhood of both women; but I did not pursue
it anyfarther; for once more there was but one woman in my thoughts, andshe sat near me under
a red parasol--clashing so humanly with theeverlasting snows!

"You don't answer my question, Captain Clephane. How much foryour thoughts?"

"I'll make you a present of them, Mrs. Lascelles. I wasbeginning to think that a lot of rot has
been written about theeternal snows and the mountain-tops and all the rest of it. There afew lines
in that last little volume of Browning--"

I stopped of my own accord, for upon reflection the lines wouldhave made a rather embarrassing
quotation. But meanwhile Mrs.Lascelles had taken alarm on other grounds.

"Oh, don't quote Browning!"

"Why not?"

"He is far too deep for me; besides, I don't care for poetry,and I was asking you about Mrs.
Evers."

"Well," I said, with some little severity, "she's a very cleverwoman."

"Clever enough to understand Browning?"

"Quite."

If this was irony, it was also self-restraint, for it was toCatherine's enthusiasm that I owed my
own. The debt was one of suchmagnitude as a life of devotion could scarcely have repaid, for
towhom do we owe so much as to those who first lifted the scales fromour eyes and awakened
within us a soul for all such things?Catherine had been to me what I instantly desired to become
to thisbenighted beauty; but the desire was not worth entertaining, sinceI hardly expected to be
many minutes longer on speaking terms withMrs. Lascelles. I recalled the fact that it was I who
had broachedthe subject of Bob Evers and his mother, together with myunpalatable motive for so
doing. And I was seeking in my mind,against the grain, I must confess, for a short cut back to
Bob,when Mrs. Lascelles suddenly led the way.

"I don't think," said she, "that Mr. Evers takes after hismother."
"I'm afraid he doesn't," I replied, "in that respect."

"And I am glad," she said. "I do like a boy to be a boy. Theonly son of his mother is always in
danger of becoming somethingelse. Tell me, Captain Clephane, are they very devoted to
eachother?"

There was some new note in that expressive voice of hers. Was itmerely wistful, was it really
jealous, or was either element theproduct of my own imagination? I made answer while I
wondered:

"Absolutely devoted, I should say; but it's years since I sawthem together. Bob was a small boy
then, and one of the jolliest.Still I never expected him to grow up the charming chap he isnow."

Mrs. Lascelles sat gazing at the great curve of TheoduleGlacier. I watched her face.

"He is charming," she said at length. "I am not sure thatI ever met anybody quite like him, or
rather I am quite sure that Inever did. He is so quiet, in a way, and yet so wonderfullyconfident
and at ease!"

"That's Eton," said I. "He is the best type of Eton boy, and thebest type of Eton boy," I declared,
airing the little conditionwith a flourish, "is one of the greatest works of God."

"I daresay you're right," said Mrs. Lascelles, smilingindulgently; "but what is it? How do you
define it? It isn't'side,' and yet I can quite imagine people who don't know himthinking that it is.
He is cocksure of himself, but of nothingelse; that seems to me to be the difference. No one
could possiblybe more simple in himself. He may have the assurance of a man offifty, yet it isn't
put on; it's neither bumptious nor affected,but just as natural in Mr. Evers as shyness and
awkwardness in theordinary youth one meets. And he has the savoir faire not toask questions!"

Were we all mistaken? Was this the way in which a designingwoman would speak of the object
of her designs? Not that I thoughtso hardly of Mrs. Lascelles myself; but I did think that she
mightwell fall in love with Bob Evers, at least as well as he with her.Was this, then, the way in
which a woman would be likely to speakof the young man with whom she had fallen in love? To
me theappreciation sounded too frank and discerning and acute. Yet Icould not call it
dispassionate, and frankness was this woman'soutstanding merit, though I was beginning to
discover others aswell. Moreover, the fact remained that they had been greatly talkedabout; that
at any rate must be stopped and I was there to stopit.

I began to pick my words.

"It's all Eton, except what is in the blood, and it's all aquestion of manners, or rather of manner.
Don't misunderstand me,Mrs. Lascelles. I don't say that Bob isn't independent in characteras well
as in his ways, but only that when all's said he's still aboy and not a man. He can't possibly have
a man's experience of theworld, or even of himself. He has a young head on his shoulders,after
all, if not a younger one than many a boy with half theassurance that you admire in him."
Mrs. Lascelles looked at me point-blank.

"Do you mean that he can't take care of himself?"

"I don't say that."

"Then what do you say?"

The fine eyes met mine without a flicker. The full mouth wascurved at the corners in a tolerant,
unsuspecting smile. It washard to have to make an enemy of so handsome and good-humoured
awoman. And was it necessary, was it even wise? As I hesitated sheturned and glanced
downward once more toward the glacier, then roseand went to the lip of our grassy ledge, and as
she returned Icaught the sound which she had been the first to hear. It was thegritty planting of
nailed boots upon a hard, smooth rock.

"I'm afraid you can't say it now," whispered Mrs. Lascelles."Here's Mr. Evers himself, coming
this way back from the Monte Rosahut! I'm going to give him a surprise!"

And it was a genuine one that she gave him, for I heard hisboyish greeting before I saw his hot
brown face, and there was nomistaking the sudden delight of both. It was sudden
andspontaneous, complete, until his eyes lit on me. Even then hissmile did not disappear, but it
changed, as did his tone.

"Good heavens!" cried Bob. "How on earth did you get uphere? By rail to the Riffelberg, I
hope?"

"On my sticks."

"It was much too far for him," added Mrs. Lascelles, "and all myfault for showing him the way.
But I'm afraid there wascontributory obstinacy in Captain Clephane, because he simplywouldn't
turn back. And now tell us about yourself, Mr. Evers;surely we were not coming back this way?"

"We were not," said Bob, with a something sardonic in hislittle laugh, "but I thought I might as
well. It's the long way,six miles on end upon the glacier."

"But have you really been to the hut?"

"Rather!"

"And where's our guide?"

"Oh, I wouldn't be bothered with a guide all to myself."

"My dear young man, you might have stepped straight into acrevasse!"
"I precious nearly did," laughed Bob, again with something oddabout his laughter; "but I say, do
you know, if you won't think meawfully rude, I'll push on back and get changed. I'm as hot
asanything and not fit to be seen."

And he was gone after very little more than a minute from firstto last, gone with rather an
elaborate salute to Mrs. Lascelles,and rather a cavalier nod to me. But then neither of us had
madeany effort to detain him and a notable omission I thought it inMrs. Lascelles, though to the
lad himself it may well have seemedas strange in the old friend as in the new.

"What was it," asked Mrs. Lascelles, when we were on our wayhome, "that you were going to
say about Mr. Evers when he appearedin the flesh in that extraordinary way?"

"I forget," said I, immorally.

"Really? So soon? Don't you remember, I thought you meant thathe couldn't take care of himself,
and you were just going to tellme what you did mean?"

"Oh, well, it wasn't that, because he can!"

But, as a matter of fact, I had seen my way to taking care ofMaster Bob without saying a word
either to him or to Mrs.Lascelles, or at all events without making enemies of themboth.

Chapter VII. Second Fiddle
My plan was quite obvious in its simplicity, and not in theleast discreditable from my point of
view. It was perhapsinevitable that a boy like Bob should imagine I was trying to "cuthim out,"
as my blunt friend Quinby phrased it to my face. I hadnot, of course, the smallest desire to do
any such vulgar thing.All I wanted was to make myself, if possible, as agreeable to
Mrs.Lascelles as this youth had done before me, and in any case toshare with him all the perils of
her society. In other words Imeant to squeeze into "the imminent deadly breach" beside
BobEvers, not necessarily in front of him. But if there was nothingdastardly in this, neither was
there anything heroic, since I wasproof against that kind of deadliness if Bob was not.

On the other hand, the whole character of my mission wasaffected by the decision at which I had
now arrived. There was nolonger a necessity to speak plainly to anybody. That odious dutywas
eliminated from my plan of campaign, and the "frontal attack"of recent history discarded for the
"turning movement" of the day.So I had learnt something in South Africa after all. I had
learnthow to avoid hard knocks which might very well do more harm thangood to the cause I had
at heart. That cause was still sharplydefined before my mind. It was the first and most
sacredconsideration. I wrote a reassuring despatch to Catherine Evers,and took it myself to the
little post-office opposite the hotelthat very evening before dressing for dinner. But I cannot say
thatI was thinking of Catherine when I proceeded to spoil threesuccessive ties in the tying.

Yet I can only repeat that I felt absolutely "proof" against thereal cause of my solicitude. It is the
most delightful feelingwhere a handsome woman is concerned. The judgment is not warped
bypassion or clouded by emotion; you see the woman as she is, not asyou wish to see her, and if
she disappoint it does not matter. Youare not left to choose between systematic self-deception
and ahumiliating admission of your mistake. The lady has not been placedupon an impossible
pedestal, and she has not toppled down. In thiscase the lady started at the most advantageous
disadvantage; everyadmirable quality, her candour, her courage, her spiritedindependence, her
evident determination to piece a broken lifetogether again and make the best of it, told doubly in
her favourto me with my special knowledge of her past. It would be too muchto say that I was
deeply interested; but Mrs. Lascelles hadinspired me with a certain sympathy and dispassionate
regard.Cultivated she was not, in the conventional sense, but she knewmore than can be imbibed
from books. She knew life at first hand,had drained the cup for herself, and yet could savour the
lees. Notthat she enlarged any further on her own past. Mrs. Lascelles wasnever a great talker,
like Catherine; but she was certainly a womanto whom one could talk. And talk to her I did
thenceforward, with aconscientious conviction that I was doing my duty, and only anoccasional
qualm for its congenial character, while Bob listenedwith a wondering eye, or went his own way
without a word.

It is easy to criticise my conduct now. It would have beendifficult to act otherwise at the time. I
am speaking of theevening after my walk with Mrs. Lascelles, of the next day when itrained, and
now of my third night at the hotel. The sky hadcleared. The glass was high. There was a finer
edge than ever onthe silhouetted mountains against the stars. It appeared that Boband Mrs.
Lascelles had talked of taking their lunch to the FindelenGlacier on the next fine day, for he
came up and reminded her of itas she sat with me in the glazed veranda after dinner. I had
seenhim standing alone under the stars a few minutes before: so thiswas the result of his
cogitation. But in his manner there wasnothing studied, much less awkward, and his smile even
included me,though he had not spoken to me alone all day.

"Oh, no, I hadn't forgotten, Mr. Evers. I am looking forward toit," said my companion, with a
smile of her own to which the mostjealous swain could not have taken exception.

Bob Evers looked hard at me.

"You'd better come, too," he said.

"It's probably too far," said I, quite intending to play secondfiddle next day, for it was really
Bob's turn.

"Not for a man who has been up to the Cricket-ground," herejoined.

"But it's dreadfully slippery," put in Mrs. Lascelles, with asympathetic glance at my sticks.

"Let him get them shod like alpenstocks," quoth Bob, "and nailsin his boots; then they'll be ready
when he does theMatterhorn!"

It might have passed for boyish banter, but I knew that it wassomething more; the use of the third
person changed from chaff toscorn as I listened, and my sympathetic resolution went to
thewinds.
"Thank you," I replied; "in that case I shall be delighted tocome, and I'll take your tip at once by
giving orders about myboots."

And with that I resigned my chair to Bob, not sorry for thechance; he should not be able to say
that I had monopolised Mrs.Lascelles without intermission from the first. Nevertheless, I
wasannoyed with him for what he had said, and for the moment myactions were no part of my
scheme. Consequently I was thus in thelast mood for a familiarity from Quinby, who was
hanging about thedoor between the veranda and the hall, and who would not let mepass.

"That's awfully nice of you," he had the impudence towhisper.

"What do you mean?"

"Giving that poor young beggar another chance!"

"I don't understand you."

"Oh, I like that! You know very well that you've gone in on themilitary ticket and deliberately
cut the poor youngster--"

I did not wait to hear the end of this gratuitous observation.It was very rude of me, but in another
minute I should have beenguilty of a worse affront. My annoyance had deepened into
somethinglike dismay. It was not only Bob Evers who was misconstruing mylittle attentions to
Mrs. Lascelles. I was more or less preparedfor that. But here were outsiders talking about us--the
three ofus! So far from putting a stop to the talk, I had given it aregular fillip: here were Quinby
and his friends as keen aspossible to see what would happen next, if not betting on a row.The
situation had taken a sudden turn for the worse. I forgot thepleasant hours that I had passed with
Mrs. Lascelles, and began towish myself well out of the whole affair. But I had now nointention
of getting out of the glacier expedition. I would nothave missed it on any account. Bob had
brought that on himself.

And I daresay we seemed a sufficiently united trio as we marchedalong the pretty winding path
to the Findelen next morning. DearBob was not only such a gentleman, but such a man, that it
wasalmost a pleasure to be at secret issue with him; he would make wayfor me at our lady's side,
listen with interest when she made mespin my martial yarns, laugh if there was aught to laugh at,
and ina word, give me every conceivable chance. His manners might havefailed him for one
heated moment overnight; they were beyond allpraise this morning; and I repeatedly discerned a
morbid sportingdread of giving the adversary less than fair play. It was sad to meto consider
myself as such to Catherine's son, but I was determinednot to let the thought depress me, and
there was much outwardoccasion for good cheer. The morning was a perfect one in everyway.
The rain had released all the pungent aromas of the mountainwoods through which we passed.
Snowy height came in dazzlingcontrast with a turquoise sky. The toy town of Zermatt
spatteredthe green hollow far below. And before me on the narrow path wentBob Evers in a
flannel suit, followed by Mrs. Lascelles and her redparasol, though he carried her alpenstock
with his own in readinessfor the glacier.
Thither we came in this order, I at least very hot from hardhobbling to keep up; but the first
breath from the glacier cooledme like a bath, and the next like the great drink in the secondstanza
of the Ode to a Nightingale. I could have shouted out forpleasure, and must have done so but for
the engrossing business ofkeeping a footing on the sloping ice with its soiled margin of yetmore
treacherous moraine. Yet on the glacier itself I wasless handicapped than I had been on the way,
and hopped alongfinely with my two shod sticks and the sharp new nails in my boots.Bob,
however, was invariably in the van, and Mrs. Lascelles seemedmore disposed to wait for me than
to hurry after him. I think hepushed the pace unwittingly, under the prick of those
emotionswhich otherwise were in such excellent control. I can see him now,continually waiting
for us on the brow of some glisteningice-slope, leaning on his alpenstock and looking back, jet-
black bycontrast between the blinding hues of ice and sky.

But once he waited on the brink of some unfathomable crevasse,and then we all three cowered
together and peeped down; the sideswere green and smooth and sinister, like a crack in the sea,
but soclose together that one could not have fallen out of sight; yetwhen Bob loosened a lump of
ice and kicked it in we heard itclattering from wall to wall in prolonged diminuendo before
thefaint splash just reached our ears. Mrs. Lascelles shuddered, andthrew out a hand to prevent
me from peering farther over. Thegesture was obviously impersonal and instinctive, as an older
eyewould have seen, but Bob's was smouldering when mine met it next,and in the ensuing
advance he left us farther behind than ever. Buton the rock where we had our lunch he was once
more himself, brightand boyish, careless and assured. So he continued till the end ofthat chapter.
On the way home, moreover, he never once forgedahead, but was always ready with a hand for
Mrs. Lascelles at theawkward places; and on the way through the woods, nothing wouldserve
him but that I should set the pace, that we might all keeptogether. Judge therefore of my surprise
when he came to my room,as I was dressing for the absurdly early dinner which is the oneblot
upon Riffel Alp arrangements, with the startling remark thatwe "might as well run straight with
one another."

"By all means, my dear fellow," said I, turning to him with thelather on my chin. He was dressed
already, as perfectly as usual,and his hands were in his pockets. But his fresh brown face was
asgrave as any judge's, and his mouth as stern. I went on to ask,disingenuously enough, if we had
not been "running straight witheach other" as it was.

"Not quite," said Bob Evers, dryly; "and we might as well, youknow!"

"To be sure; but don't mind if I go on shaving, and pray speakfor yourself."

"I will," he rejoined. "Do you remember our conversation thenight you came?"

"More or less."

"I mean when you and I were alone together, before we turnedin."

"Oh, yes. I remember something about it."
"It would be too silly to expect you to remember much," he wenton after a pause, with a more
delicate irony than heretofore. "But,as a matter of fact, I believe I said it was all rot that
peopletalked about the impossibility of being mere pals with a woman, andall that sort of thing."

"I believe you did.'"

"Well, then, that was rot. That's all."

I turned round with my razor in mid-air,

"My dear fellow!" I exclaimed.

"Quite funny, isn't it?" he laughed, but rather harshly, whilehis mountain bronze deepened under
my scrutiny.

"You are not in earnest, Bob!" said I; and on the word hislaughter ended, his colour went.

"I am," he answered through his teeth. "Areyou?"

Never was war carried more suddenly into the enemy's country, orthat enemy's breath more
completely taken away than mine. Whatcould I say? "As much as you are, I should hope!" was
what Iultimately said.

The lad stood raking me with a steady fire from his blueeyes.

"I mean to marry her," he said, "if she will have me."

There was no laughing at him. Though barely twenty, as I knew,he was man enough for any age
as we faced each other in my room,and a man who knew his own mind into the bargain.

"But, my dear Bob," I ventured to remonstrate, "you are yearstoo young--"

"That's my business. I am in earnest. What about you?"

I breathed again.

"My good fellow," said I, "you are at perfect liberty to giveyourself away to me, but you really
mustn't expect me to do quitethe same for you."

"I expect precious little, I can tell you!" the lad rejoinedhotly. "Not that it matters twopence so
long as you are not misledby anything I said the other day. I prefer to run straight withyou--you
can run as you like with me. I only didn't want you tothink that I was saying one thing and doing
another. As a matter offact I meant all I said at the time, or thought I did, until youcame along
and made me look into myself rather more closely than Ihad done before. I won't say how you
managed it. You will probablysee for yourself. But I'm very much obliged to you,
whateverhappens. And now that we understand each other there's no more tobe said, and I'll clear
out."

There was, indeed, no more to be said, and I made no attempt todetain him; for I did see for
myself, only too clearly andprecisely, how I had managed to precipitate the very thing which
Ihad come out from England expressly to prevent.

Chapter VIII. Prayers and Parables
I had quite forgotten one element which plays its part in mostaffairs of the affections. I mean, of
course, the element of pique.Bob Evers, with the field to himself, had been sensible and
safeenough; it was my intrusion, and nothing else, which had fanned hisboyish flame into this
premature conflagration. Of that I feltconvinced. But Bob would not believe me if I told him so;
and whatelse was there for me to tell him? To betray Catherine and thesecret of my presence,
would simply hasten an irrevocable step. Tobetray Mrs. Lascelles, and her secret, would
certainly notprevent one. Both courses were out of the question upon othergrounds. Yet what
else was left?

To speak out boldly to Mrs. Lascelles, to betray Catherine andmyself to her?

I shrank from that; nor had I any right to reveal a secret whichwas not only mine. What then was
I to do? Here was this ladprofessedly on the point of proposing to this woman. It was uselessto
speak to the lad; it was impossible to speak to the woman. To besure, she might not accept him;
but the mere knowledge that she wasto have the chance seemed enormously to increase my
responsibilityin the matter. As for the dilemma in which I now found myself,deservedly as you
please, there was no comparing it with any formerphase of this affair.

"O, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!"

The hackneyed lines sprang unbidden, as though to augment mypunishment; then suddenly I
reflected that it was not in my owninterest I had begun to practise my deceit; and the thought
ofCatherine braced me up, perhaps partly because I felt that itshould. I put myself back into the
fascinating little room in ElmPark Gardens. I saw the slender figure in the picture hat, I heardthe
half-humorous and half-pathetic voice. After all, it was forCatherine I had undertaken this
ridiculous mission; she wastherefore my first and had much better be my only consideration.
Icould not run with the hare after hunting with the hounds. And Ishould like to have seen
Catherine's face if I had expressed anysympathy with the hare!

No; it was better to be unscrupulously stanch to one woman thanweakly chivalrous toward both;
and my mind was made up by the endof dinner. There was only one chance now of saving the
wretchedBob, or rather one way of setting to work to save him; and that wasby actually adopting
the course with which he had already creditedme. He thought I was "trying to cut him out." Well,
I wouldtry!

But the more I thought of him, of Mrs. Lascelles, of them both,the less sanguine I felt of success;
for had I been she (I couldnot help admitting it to myself), as lonely, as reckless, asunlucky, I
would have married the dear young idiot on the spot. Notthat my own marriage (with Mrs.
Lascelles) was an end that Icontemplated for a moment as I took my cynical resolve. And now
Itrust that I have made both my position and my intentions veryplain, and have written myself
down neither more of a fool nor lessof a knave than circumstances (and one's own infirmities)
combinedto make me at this juncture of my career.

The design was still something bolder than its execution, and ifBob did not propose that night it
was certainly no fault of mine. Isaw him with Mrs. Lascelles on the terrace after dinner; but I
hadneither the heart nor the face to thrust myself upon them.Everything was altered since Bob
had shown me his hand; there werecertain rules of the game which even I must now observe. So
I lefthim in undisputed possession of the perilous ground, and being in aheavy glow from the
strong air of the glacier, went early to myroom; where I lay long enough without a wink, but
quite preparedfor Bob, with news of his engagement, at every step in thecorridor.

Next day was Sunday, and chiefly, I am afraid, because there wasneither blind nor curtain to my
dormer-window, and the morning sunstreamed full upon my pillow, I got up and went to early
service inthe little tin Protestant Church. It was wonderfully well attended.Quinby was there, a
head taller than anybody else, and some sizessmaller in heads. The American bridegroom came
in late with his"best girl." The late Vice Chancellor, with the peeled nose, andMr. Belgrave
Teale, fit for Church Parade, or for the afternoon actin one of his own fashion-plays, took round
the offertory bags,into which Mr. Justice Sankey (in race-course checks) dropped gold.It was not
the sort of service at which one cares to look aboutone, but I was among the early comers, and I
could not help it.Mrs. Lascelles, however, was there before me, whereas Bob Evers wasnot there
at all. Nevertheless, I did not mean to walk back withher until I saw her walking very much
alone, a sort of cynosureeven on the way from church, though humble and grave andunconscious
as any country maid. I watched her with the rest, butin a spirit of my own. Some subtle change I
seemed to detect inMrs. Lascelles as in Bob. Had he really declared himself overnight,and had
she actually accepted him? A new load seemed to rest uponher shoulders, a new anxiety, a new
care; and as if to confirm myidea, she started and changed colour as I came up.

"I didn't see you in church," she remarked, in her own naturalfashion, when we had exchanged
the ordinary salutations.

"I am afraid you wouldn't expect to see me, Mrs. Lascelles."

"Well, as a matter of fact, I didn't, but I suppose," added Mrs.Lascelles, as her rich voice fell into
a pensive (but not apathetic) key, "I suppose it is you who are much more surprised atseeing me.
I can't help it if you are, Captain Clephane. I am notreally a religious person. I have not flown to
that extreme as yet.But it has been a comfort to me, sometimes; and so, sometimes, Igo."

It was very simply said, but with a sigh at the end that left mewondering whether she was in any
new need of spiritual solace. Didshe already find herself in the dilemma in which I had
imaginedher, and was it really a dilemma to her? New hopes began to chasemy fears, and were
gaining upon them when a flannel suit on thesunlit steps caused a temporary check: there was
Bob waiting forus, his hands in his pockets, a smile upon his face, yet in theslope of his
shoulders and the carriage of his head a certainindefinable but very visible attention and intent.
"Is Mrs. Evers a religious woman?" asked my companion, her stepslowing ever so slightly as we
approached.

"Not exactly; but she knows all about it," I replied.

"And doesn't believe very much? Then we shouldn't hit it off,"exclaimed Mrs. Lascelles, "for I
know nothing and believe all Ican! Nevertheless, I'm not going to church again to-day."

The last words were in a sort of aside, and I afterwards heardthat Bob and Mrs. Lascelles had
attended the later service togetheron the previous Sunday; but I guessed almost as much on the
spot,and it put out of my head both the unjust assumption of the earlierremark, concerning
Catherine, and the contrast between them whichMrs. Lascelles could hardly afford to emphasise.

"Let's go somewhere else instead--Zermatt--or anywhere else youlike," I suggested, eagerly; but
we were close to the steps, andbefore she could reply Bob had taken off his straw hat to
Mrs.Lascelles, and flung me a nod.

"How very energetic!" he cried. "I only hope it's a trueindication of form, for I've got a scheme:
instead of putting inanother chapel I propose we stroll down to Zermatt for lunch andcome back
by the train."

Bob's proposal was made pointedly to Mrs. Lascelles, and aspointedly excluded me, but she
stood between the two of us with acharming smile of good-humoured perplexity.

"Now what am I to say? Captain Clephane was in the very act ofmaking the same suggestion!"

Bob glared on me for an instant in spite of Eton and all hisancestors.

"We'll all go together," I cried before he could speak. "Whynot?"

Nor was this mere unreasoning or good-natured impulse, since Bobcould scarcely have pressed
his suit in my presence, while I shouldcertainly have done my best to retard it; still, it was rather
arelief to me to see him shake his head with some return of hisnatural grace.

"My idea was to show Mrs. Lascelles the gorge," said Bob, "butyou can do that as well as I can;
you can't miss it; besides, I'veseen it, and I really ought to stay up here, as a matter of fact,for I'm
on the track of a guide for the Matterhorn."

We looked at him narrowly with one accord, but he betrayed nosigns of desperate impulse, only
those of "climbing fever," and Iat least breathed again.

"But if you want a guide," said I, "Zermatt's full of them."

"I know," said he, "but it's a particular swell I'm after, andhe hangs out up here in the season.
They expect him back from a bigtrip any moment, and I really ought to be on the spot to snap
himup."
So Bob retired, in very fair order after all, and not withouthis laughing apologies to Mrs.
Lascelles; but it was sad to me tonote the spurious ring his laugh had now; it was like thedeath-
knell of the simple and the single heart that it had been mylot, if not my mission, to poison and to
warp. But the less saidabout my odious task, the sooner to its fulfilment, which nowseemed close
at hand.

It was not in fact so imminent as I supposed, for the descentinto Zermatt is somewhat too steep
for the conduct of a necessarilydelicate debate. Sound legs go down at a compulsory run, and
mycompanion was continually waiting for me to catch her up, only toshoot ahead again perforce.
Or the path was too narrow for us towalk abreast, and you cannot become confidential in single
file; orthe noise of falling waters drowned our voices, when we stoodtogether on that precarious
platform in the cool depths of thegorge, otherwise such an admirable setting for the scene that
Iforesaw. Then it was a beautiful walk in itself, with its shorttacks in the precipitous pine-woods
above, its sudden plunge intothe sunken gorge below, its final sweep across the green
valleybeyond; and it was all so new to us both that there wereimpressions to exchange or to
compare at every turn. In fine, andwith all the will in the world, it was quite impossible to get in
aword about Bob before luncheon at the Monte Rosa, and by that timeI for one was in no mood
to introduce so difficult a topic.

But an opportunity there came, an opportunity such as even Icould not neglect; on the contrary, I
made too much of it, as thesequel will show. It was in the little museum which every touristgoes
to see. We had shuddered over the gruesome relics of the firstand worst catastrophe on the
Matterhorn, and were looking insilence upon the primitive portraits of the two younger
Englishmenwho had lost their lives on that historic occasion. It appearedthat they had both been
about the same age as Bob Evers, and Ipointed this out to my companion. It was a particularly
obviousremark to make; but Mrs. Lascelles turned her face quickly to mine,and the colour left it
in the half-lit, half-haunted little room,which we happened to have all to ourselves.

"Don't let him go up, Captain Clephane; don't let him,please!"

"Do you mean Bob Evers?" I asked, to gain time while Iconsidered what to say; for the intensity
of her manner took meaback.

"You know I do," said Mrs. Lascelles, impatiently; "don't lethim go up the Matterhorn to-night,
or to-morrow morning, orwhenever it is that he means to start."

"But, my dear Mrs. Lascelles, who am I to prevent that younggentleman from doing what he
likes?"

"I thought you were more or less related?"

"Rather less than more."

"But aren't you very intimate with his mother?"

I had to meet a pretty penetrating look.
"I was once."

"Well, then, for his mother's sake you ought to do your best tokeep him out of danger, Captain
Clephane."

It was my turn to repay the look which I had just received. Nodoubt I did so with only too much
interest; no doubt I was equallyclumsy of speech; but it was my opportunity, and something or
othermust be said.

"Quite so, Mrs. Lascelles; and for his mother's sake," said I,"I not only will do, I have already
done, my best to keep the ladout of harm's way. He is the apple of her eye; they are simply allthe
world to one another. It would break her heart if anythinghappened to him--anything--if she were
to lose him in any sense ofthe word."

I waited a moment, thinking she would speak, prepared on my sideto be as explicit as she
pleased; but Mrs. Lascelles only looked atme with her mouth tight shut and her eyes wide open;
and Iconcluded--somewhat uneasily, I will confess--that she saw forherself what I meant.

"As for the Matterhorn," I went on, "that, I believe, is notsuch a very dangerous exploit in these
days. There are permanentchains and things where there used to be polished precipices. Itmakes
the real mountaineers rather scornful; anyone with legs and ahead, they will tell you, can climb
the Matterhorn nowadays. If Ihad the legs I'd go with him, like a shot."

"To share the danger, I suppose?"

"And the sport."

"Ah," said Mrs. Lascelles, "and the sport, of course! I hadforgotten that!"

Yet I did not perceive that I had been found out, for nothingwas further from my mind than to
prolong the parable to which I hadstooped in passing a few moments before. It had served its
purpose,I conceived. I had given my veiled warning; it never occurred to methat Mrs. Lascelles
might be indulging in a veiled retort. Ithought she was annoyed at the hint that I had given her. I
beganto repent of that myself. It had quite spoilt our day, and so manyand long were the silences,
as we wandered from little shop tolittle shop, and finally with relief to the train, that I hadplenty
of time to remember how much we had found to talk about allthe morning.

But matters were coming to a head in spite of me, for Bob Everswaylaid us on our return, and,
with hardly a word to Mrs.Lascelles, straightway followed me to my room. He was pale with
asuppressed anger which flared up even as he closed my door behindhim, but though his honest
face was now in flames, he still keptcontrol of his tongue.

"I want you to lend me one of those sticks of yours," he said,quietly; "the heaviest, for choice."

"What the devil for?" I demanded, thinking for the moment of noshoulders but my own.
"To give that bounder Quinby the licking he deserves!" criedBob: "to give it him now at once,
when the post comes in, and thereare plenty of people about to see the fun. Do you know what
he'sbeen saying and spreading all over the place?"

"No," I answered, my heart sinking within me. "What has he beensaying?"

The colour altered on Bob's face, altered and softened to averitable blush, and his eyes avoided
mine.

"I'm ashamed to tell you, it makes me so sick," he said,disgustedly. "But the fact is that he's been
spreading a reportabout Mrs. Lascelles; it has nothing on earth to do with me. Itappears he only
heard it himself this morning, by letter, but thebrute has made good use of his time! I only got
wind of itan hour or two ago, of course quite by accident, and I haven't seenthe fellow since; but
he's particularly keen on his letters, andeither he explains himself to my satisfaction or I make an
exampleof him before the hotel. It's a thing I never dreamt of doing in mylife, and I'm sorry the
poor beast is such a scarecrow; but it's aduty to punish that sort of crime against a woman, and
now I'm sureyou'll lend me one of your sticks. I am only sorry I didn't bringone with me."

"But wait a bit, my dear fellow," said I, for he was actuallyholding out his hand: "you have still
to tell me what the reportwas."

"Divorce!" he answered in a tragic voice. "Clephane, the fellowsays she was divorced in India,
and that it was--that it was herfault!"

He turned away his face. It was in a flame.

"And you are going to thrash Quinby for saying that?"

"If he sticks to it, I most certainly am," said Bob, the firesettling in his blue eyes.

"I should think twice about it, Bob, if I were you."

"My dear man, what else do you suppose I have been thinking ofall the afternoon?"

"It will make a fresh scandal, you see."

"I can't help that."

And Bob shut his mouth with a self-willed snap.

"But what good will it do?"

"A liar will be punished, that's all! It's no use talking,Clephane; my mind is made up."

"But are you so sure that it's a lie?" I was obliged to say itat last, reluctantly enough, yet with a
wretched feeling that Imight just as well have said it in the beginning.
"Sure?" he echoed, his innocent eyes widening before mine. "Why,of course I'm sure! You don't
know what pals we've been. Of courseI never asked questions, but she's told me heaps and heaps
ofthings; it would fit in with some of them, if it were true."

Then I told him that it was true, and how I knew that it wastrue, and my reason for having kept
all that knowledge to myselfuntil now. "I could not give her away even to you, Bob, nor yettell
you that I had known her before; for you would have beencertain to ask when and how; and it
was in her first husband'stime, and under his name."

It was a comfort to be quite honest for once with one of them,and it is a relief even now to
remember that I was absolutelyhonest with Bob Evers about this. He said almost at once that
hewould have done the same himself, and even as he spoke his wholemanner changed toward
me. His face had darkened at my unexpectedconfirmation of the odious rumour, but already it
was beginning tolighten toward me, as though he found my attitude the one redeemingfeature in
the new aspect of affairs. He even thanked me for mylate reserve, obviously from his heart, and
in a way that went tomine on more grounds than one. It was as though a kindness to
Mrs.Lascelles was already the greatest possible kindness to him.

"But I am glad you have told me now," he added, "for it explainsmany things. I was inclined to
look upon you, Duncan--you won'tmind my telling you now--as a bit of a deliberate interloper!
Butall the time you knew her first, and that alters everything. I hopeto out you still, but I sha'n't
any longer bear you a grudge if youout me!"

I was horrified.

"My dear fellow," I cried, "do you mean to say this makes nodifference?"

"It does to Quinby. I must keep my hands off him, I suppose,though to my mind he deserves his
licking all the more."

"But does it make no difference to you? My good boy, canyou at your age seriously think of
marrying a woman who has beenmarried twice already, and divorced once?"

"I didn't know that when I thought of it first," he answered,doggedly, "and I am not going to let it
make a difference now. Doyou suppose I would stand away from her because of anything
that'spast and over? Do they stand away from us for--that sort ofthing?"

Of course I said that was rather different, with as muchconviction as though the ancient dogma
had been my own.

"But, Duncan, you know it's the very last thing you're dreamingof doing yourself!"

And again I argued, as feebly as you please, that it was quitedifferent in my case--that I was a
good ten years older than he,and not my mother's only son.

Bob stiffened on the spot.
"My mother must take care of herself," said he; "and I," headded, "I must take care of myself, if
you don't mind. And I hopeyou won't, for you've been most awfully good to me, you know!
Inever thought so until these last few minutes; but now I sha'n'tforget it, no matter how it all
turns out!"

Chapter IX. Sub Judice
Well, I made a belated attempt to earn my young friend's goodopinion. I kept out of his way after
dinner, and went in search ofQuinby instead. I felt I had a crow of my own to pluck with
thisgentleman, who owed to my timely intervention a far greaterimmunity than he deserved. It
was in the little billiard-room Ifound him, pachydermatously applauding the creditable attempts
ofSir John Sankey at the cannon game, and as studiously ignoring theexcellent shots of an
undistinguished clergyman who was beating thejudge. Quinby made room for me beside him,
with a civility whichmight have caused me some compunction, but I repaid him by
comingpromptly to my point.

"What's this report about Mrs. Lascelles?" I asked, not angrilyat all, for naturally my feeling in
the matter was not so strong asBob's, but with a certain contemptuous interest, if a man can
judgeof his own outward manner from his inner temper at the time.

Quinby favoured me with a narrow though a sidelong look; theroom was very full, and in the
general chit-chat, punctuated by theconstant clicking of the heavy balls, there was very little
dangerof our being overheard. But Quinby was careful to lower hisvoice.

"It's perfectly true," said he, "if you mean about her beingdivorced."

"Yes, that was what I heard; but who started the report?"

"Who started it. You may well ask! Who starts anything in aplace like this? Ah, good shot, Sir
John, good shot!"

"Never mind the good shots, Quinby. I really rather want to talkto you about this. I sha'n't keep
you long."

"Talk away, then. I am listening."

"Mrs. Lascelles and I are rather friends."

"So I can see."

"Very well, then, I want to know who started all this. It may beperfectly true, as you say, but
who found it out? If you can't tellme I must ask somebody else."

The ruddy Alpine colouring had suddenly become accentuated inthe case of Quinby.
"As a matter of fact," said he, "it was I who first heard of it,quite by chance. You can't blame me
for that, Clephane."

"Of course not," said I encouragingly.

"Well, unfortunately I let it out; and you know how things getabout in an hotel."

"It was unfortunate," I agreed. "But how on earth did you cometo hear?"

Quinby hummed and hawed; he had heard from a soldier friend, aman who had known her in
India, a man whom I knew myself, in factHamilton the sapper, who had telegraphed to Quinby to
secure me myroom. I ought to have been disarmed by the coincidence; but Irecalled our initial
conversation, about India and Hamilton andMrs. Lascelles, and I could not consider it a
coincidence atall.

"You don't mean to tell me," said I, aping the surprise I mighthave felt, "that our friend wrote and
gave Mrs. Lascelles away toyou of his own accord?"

But Quinby did not vouchsafe an answer. "Hard luck, Sir John!"cried he, as the judge missed an
easy cannon, leaving his opponenta still easier one, which lost him the game. I proceeded to
pressmy question in a somewhat stronger form, though still with all thesuavity at my command.

"Surely," I urged, "you must have written to ask him about herfirst?"

"That's my business, I fancy," said Quinby, with a peculiarlyaggressive specimen of the nasal
snigger of which enough was madein a previous chapter, but of which Quinby himself never
tired.

"Quite," I agreed; "but do you also consider it your business toinquire deliberately into the past
life of a lady whom I believeyou only know by sight, and to spread the result of your
inquiriesbroadcast in the hotel? Is that your idea of chivalry? I shall askSir John Sankey whether
it is his," I added, as the judge joined uswith genial condescension, and I recollected that his
proverbialharshness toward the male offender was redeemed by an extraordinarysympathy with
the women. Thereupon I laid a general case before SirJohn, asking him point-blank whether he
considered such conduct asQuinby's (but I did not say whose the conduct was) eitherjustifiable in
itself or conducive to the enjoyment of a holidaycommunity like ours.

"It depends," said the judge, cocking a critical eye on the nowfurious Quinby. "I am afraid we
most of us enjoy our scandal, andfor my part I always like to see a humbug catch it hot. But if
thescandal's about a woman, and if it's an old scandal, and if she's alonely woman, that quite
alters the case, and in my opinion theauthor of it deserves all he gets."

At this Quinby burst out, with an unrestrained heat that did notlower him in my estimation,
though the whole of his tirade wasdirected exclusively against me. I had been talking "at" him,
hedeclared. I might as well have been straightforward while I wasabout it. He, for his part, was
not afraid to take theresponsibility for anything he might have said. It was perfectlytrue, to begin
with. The so-called Mrs. Lascelles, who was such afriend of mine, had been the wife of a
German Jew in Lahore, whohad divorced her on her elopement with a Major Lascelles, whom
shehad left in his turn, and whose name she had not the smallest rightto bear. Quinby exercised
some restraint in the utterances of thesecalumnies, or the whole room must have heard them, but
even as itwas we had more listeners than the judge when my turn came.

"I won't give you the lie, Quinby, because I am quite sure youdon't know you are telling one,"
said I; "but as a matter of factyou are giving currency to two. In the first place, this lady isMrs.
Lascelles, for the major did marry her; in the second place,Major Lascelles is dead."

"And how do you know?" inquired Quinby, with a touch of genuinesurprise to mitigate an
insolent disbelief.

"You forget," said I, "that it was in India I knew your owninformant. I can only say that my
information in all this matter isa good deal better than his. I knew Mrs. Lascelles herself
quitewell out there; I knew the other side of her case. It doesn't seemto have struck you, Quinby,
that such a woman must have suffered agood deal before, and after, taking such a step. Or I don't
supposeyou would have spread yourself to make her suffer a littlemore,"

And I still consider that a charitable view of his behaviour;but Quinby was of another opinion,
which he expressed with hisoffensive little laugh as he lifted his long body from thesettee.

"This is what one gets for securing a room for a man one doesn'tknow!" said he.

"On the contrary," I retorted, "I haven't forgotten that, and Ihave saved you something because of
it. I happen to have saved youno less than a severe thrashing from a stronger man than
myself,who is even more indignant with you than I am, and who wanted toborrow one of my
sticks for the purpose!"

"And it would have served him perfectly right," was the oldjudge's comment, when the mischief-
maker had departed withoutreturning my parting shot. "I suppose you meant young
Evers,Captain Clephane?"

"I did indeed, Sir John. I had to tell him the truth in order torestrain him."

The old judge raised his eyebrows.

"Then you hadn't to tell him it before? You are certainlyconsistent, and I rather admire your
position as regards the lady.But I am not so sure that it was altogether fair toward the lad. Itis one
thing to stand up for the poor soul, my dear sir, but itwould be another thing to let a nice boy like
that go and marryher!"

So that was the opinion of this ripe old citizen of the world!It ought not to have irritated me as it
did. It would beCatherine's opinion, of course; but a dispassionate view was not tobe expected
from her. I had not hitherto thought otherwise, myself;but now I experienced a perverse
inclination to take the oppositeside. Was it so utterly impossible for a woman with this
woman'srecord to make a good wife to some man yet? I did not admit it foran instant; he would
be a lucky man who won so healthy and so gooda heart; thus I argued to myself with Mrs.
Lascelles in my mind,and nobody else. But Bob Evers was not a man, I was not sure thathe was
out of his teens, and to think of him was to think at oncewith Sir John Sankey and all the rest.
Yes, yes, it would bemadness and suicide in such a youth; there could be no two opinionsabout
that; and yet I felt indignant at the mildest expression ofthat which I myself could not deny.

Such was my somewhat chaotic state of mind when I had fled thebilliard-room in my turn, and
put on my overcoat and cap to communewith myself outside. Nobody did justice to Mrs.
Lascelles; it wasterribly hard to do her justice; those were perhaps the ideas thatwere oftenest
uppermost. I did not see how I was to be theexception and prove the rule; my brief was for Bob,
and there wasan end of it. It was foolish to worry, especially on such a night.The moon had
waxed since my arrival, and now hung almost round andaltogether dazzling in the little sky the
mountains left us. Yet Ihad the terrace all to myself; the magnificent voice of our latestcelebrity
had drawn everybody else in doors, or under the opendrawing-room windows through which it
poured out into the gloriousnight. And in the vivid moonlight the very mountains seemed to
havegathered about the little human hive upon their heights, to belistening to the grand rich notes
that had some right to breaktheir ancient silence.

"If doughty deeds my lady please, Right soon I'll mount my steed; And strong his arm, and fast
his seat, That bears frae me the meed. I'll wear thy colours in my cap, Thy picture at my heart;
And he that bends not to thine eye Shall rue it to his smart!"

It was a brave new setting to brave old lines, as simple anddirect as themselves, studiously in
keeping, passionate, virile,almost inspired; and the whole so justly given that the great notesdid
not drown the words as they often will, but all came clean tothe ear. No wonder the hotel held its
breath! I was standingentranced myself, an outpost of the audience underneath thewindows,
whose fringe I could just see round the uttermost angle ofthe hotel, when Bob Evers ran down
the steps, and came toward me insuch guise that I could not swear to him till the last yard.

"Don't say a word," he whispered excitedly. "I'm just off!"

"Off where?" I gasped, for he had changed into fullmountaineering garb, and there was his
greased face beaming in themoonlight, and the blue spectacles twinkling about his hat-band,
athalf-past nine at night.

"Up the Matterhorn!"

"At this time of night?"

"It is a bit late, and that's why I want it kept quiet. I don'twant any fuss or advice. I've got a
couple of excellent guideswaiting for me just below by the shoemaker's hut. I told you I wason
their tracks. Well, it was to-night or never as far as they wereconcerned, they are so
tremendously full up. So to-night it is, anddon't you remind me of my mother!"
I was thinking of her when he spoke; for the song had swungthrough a worthy refrain into
another verse, and now I knew itbetter. It was Catherine who had introduced me to all my lyrics;
itwas to Catherine I had once hymned this one in my unformedheart.

"But I thought," said I, as I forced myself to think, "thateverybody went up to the Cabane
overnight, and started freshfrom there in the morning?"

"Most people do, but it's as broad as it's long," declared Bob,airily, rapidly, and with the same
unwonted excitement, born as Ithought of his unwonted enterprise. "You have a ripping
moonlightwalk instead of a so-called night's rest in a frowsy hut. We shallget our breakfast there
instead, and I expect to start fresher thanif I had slept there and been knocked up at two o'clock
in themorning. That's all settled, anyhow, and you can look for me on topthrough the telescope
after breakfast. I shall be back before dark,and then--"

"Well, what then?" I asked, for Bob had made a significant andyet irresolute pause, as though he
could not quite bring himself totell me something that was on his mind.

"Well," he echoed nonchalantly at last, as though he had nothesitated at all, "as a matter of fact,
to-morrow night I am toknow my fate. I have asked Mrs. Lascelles to marry me, and shehasn't
said no, but I am giving her till to-morrow night. That'sall, Clephane. I thought it a fair thing to
let you know. If youwant to waltz in and try your luck while I'm gone, there's nothingon earth to
prevent you, and it might be most satisfactory toeverybody. As a matter of fact, I'm only going
so as to get overthe time and keep out of the way."

"As a matter of fact?" I queried, waving a little stick towardthe lighted windows. "Listen a
minute, and then tell me!"

And we listened together to the last and clearest rendering ofthe refrain--

"Then tell me how to woo thee, Love; O tell me how to woo thee! For thy dear sake, nae care I'll
take, Tho' ne'er another trow me!"

"What tosh!" shouted Bob (his mother should have heard him)through the applause. "Of course
I'm going to take care of myself,and of course I meant to rush the Matterhorn while I'm here,
butbetween ourselves that's my only reason for rushing itto-night."

Yet had he no boyish vision of quick promotion in the lady'sheart, no primitive desire to show
his mettle out of hand, to sether trembling while he did or died? He had, I thought, and he
hadnot; that shining face could only have reflected a single andcandid heart. But it is these very
natures, so simple andsweet-hearted and transparent, that are least to be trusted on thesubject of
their own motives and emotions, for they are the soonestdeceived, not only by others but in
themselves. Or so I venture tothink, and even then reflected, as I shook my dear lad's hand bythe
side parapet of the moonlit terrace, and watched him run downinto the shadows of the fir-trees
and so out of my sight with twodark and stalwart figures that promptly detached themselves
fromthe shadows of the shoemaker's hut. A third figure mounted to whereI now sat listening to
the easy, swinging, confident steps, as theyfell fainter and fainter upon the ear; it was the
shoemaker himselfwho had shod my two sticks with spikes and my boots with formidablenails;
and we exchanged a few words in a mixture of languages whichI should be very sorry to
reproduce.

"Do you know those two guides?" is what I first asked ineffect.

"Very well, monsieur."

"Are they good guides?"

"The very best, monsieur."

Chapter X. The Last Word
"Is that you?"

It was an hour or so later, but still I sat ruminating upon theparapet, within a yard or two of the
spot where I had firstaccosted Bob Evers and Mrs. Lascelles. I had retraced the littlesequence of
subsequent events, paltry enough in themselves, yet ofa certain symmetry and some importance
as a whole. I had attackedand defended my own conduct down to that hour, when I ought to
havebeen formulating its logical conclusion, and during my unprofitabledeliberations the night
had aged and altered (as it were) behind myback. There was no more music in the drawing-room.
There were nomore people under the drawing-room windows. The lights in all thelower windows
were not what they had been; it was the bedroom tiersthat were illuminated now. But I did not
realise that there wasless light outside until I awoke to the fact that Mrs. Lascelleswas peering
tentatively toward me, and putting her question in suchan uncertain tone.

"That depends who I am supposed to be," I answered, laughing asI rose to put my personality
beyond doubt.

"How stupid of me!" laughed Mrs. Lascelles in her turn, thoughrather nervously to my fancy. "I
thought it was Mr. Evers!"

I had hard work to suppress an exclamation. So he had not toldher what he was going to do, and
yet he had not forbidden me totell her. Poor Bob was more subtle than I had supposed, but it
wasa simple subtlety, a strange chord but still in key with hischaracter as I knew it.

"I am sorry to disappoint you," said I. "But I am afraid youwon't see any more of Bob Evers to-
night."

"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Lascelles, suspiciously.

"I wonder he didn't tell you," I replied, to gain time in whichto decide how to make the best use
of such an unforeseenopportunity.

"Well, he didn't; so please will you, Captain Clephane?"
"Bob Evers," said I, with befitting gravity, "is climbing theMatterhorn at this moment."

"Never!"

"At least he has started."

"When did he start?"

"An hour or more ago, with a couple of guides."

"He told you, then?"

"Only just as he was starting."

"Was it a sudden idea?"

"More or less, I think."

I waited for the next question, but that was the last of them.Just then the interloping cloud floated
clear of the moon, and Isaw that my companion was wrapped up as on the earlier night, inthe
same unconventional combination of rain-coat and golf-cape; butnow the hood hung down, and
the sudden rush of moonlight showed mea face as full of sheer perplexity and annoyance as I
could havehoped to find it, and as free from deeper feeling.

"The silly boy!" exclaimed Mrs. Lascelles at last. "I suppose itreally is pretty safe, Captain
Clephane?"

"Safer than most dangerous things, I believe; and they are thesafest, as you know, because you
take most care. He has a couple ofexcellent guides; the chance of getting them was partly why
hewent. In all human probability we shall have him back safe andsound, and fearfully pleased
with himself, long before this timeto-morrow. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lascelles," I continued with the
courageof my opportunity, "it is a very good chance for me to speak to youabout our friend Bob.
I have wanted to do so for some littletime."

"Have you, indeed?" said Mrs. Lascelles, coldly.

"I have," I answered imperturbably; "and if it wasn't so late Ishould ask for a hearing now."

"Oh, let us get it over, by all means!"

But as she spoke Mrs. Lascelles glanced over the shoulder thatshe shrugged so contemptuously,
toward the lights in the bedroomwindows, most of which were wide open.

"We could walk toward the zig-zags," I suggested. "There is aseat within a hundred yards, if you
don't think it too cold to sit,but in any case I needn't keep you many minutes. Bob Evers,"
Icontinued, as my suggestion was tacitly accepted, "paid me thecompliment of confiding in me
somewhat freely before he started onthis hare-brained expedition of his."

"So it appears."

"Ah, but he didn't only tell me what he was going to do; he toldme why he was doing it," said I,
as we sauntered on our way side byside. "It was difficult to believe," I added, when I had
waitedlong enough for the question upon which I had reckoned.

"Indeed?"

"He said he had proposed to you."

And again I waited, but never a word.

"That child!" I added with deliberate scorn.

But a further pause was broken only by my companion's measuredsteps and my own awkward
shuffle.

"That baby!" I insisted.

"Did you tell him he was one, Captain Clephane?" asked Mrs.Lascelles, dryly, but drawn so far
at last.

"I spared his feelings. But can it be true, Mrs. Lascelles?"

"It is true."

"Is it a fact that you didn't give him a definite answer?"

"I don't know what business it is of yours," said Mrs.Lascelles, bluntly; "and since he seems to
have told youeverything, neither do I know why you should ask me. However, it isquite true that
I did not finally refuse him on the spot."

This carefully qualified confirmation should have afforded meabundant satisfaction. I was over-
eager in the matter, however, andI cried out impetuously:

"But you will?"

"Will what?"

"Refuse the boy!"
We had reached the seat, but neither of us sat down. Mrs.Lascelles appeared to be surveying me
with equal resentment anddefiance. I, on the other hand, having shot my bolt, did my best tolook
conciliatory.

"Why should I refuse him?" she asked at length, with lessemotion and more dignity than her
bearing had led me to expect."You seem so sure about it, you know!"

"He is such a boy--such an utter child--as I said just now." Iwas conscious of the weakness of
saying it again, and it alone, butmy strongest arguments were too strong for direct statement.

This one, however, was not unfruitful in the end.

"And I," said Mrs. Lascelles, "how old do you think I am?Thirty-five?"

"Of course not," I replied, with obvious gallantry. "But I doubtif Bob is even twenty."

"Well, then, you won't believe me, but I was married before Iwas his age, and I am just six-and-
twenty now."

It was a surprise to me. I did not doubt it for a moment; onenever did doubt Mrs. Lascelles. It
was indeed easy enough tobelieve (so much I told her) if one looked upon the woman as shewas,
and only difficult in the prejudicial light of her matrimonialrecord. I did not add these things.
"But you are a good dealolder," I could not help saying, "in the ways of the world, and itis there
that Bob is such an absolute infant."

"But I thought an Eton boy was a man of the world?" said Mrs.Lascelles, quoting me against
myself with the utmost readiness.

"Ah, in some things," I had to concede. "Only in some things,however."

"Well," she rejoined, "of course I know what you mean by theother things. They matter to your
mind much more than mere age,even if I had been fifteen years older, instead of five or six.It's
the old story, from the man's point of view. You can liveanything down, but you won't let us.
There is no fresh start for awoman; there never was and never will be."

I protested that this was unfair. "I never said that, oranything like it, Mrs. Lascellcs!"

"No, you don't say it, but you think it!" she cried back. "It isthe one thing you have in your mind.
I was unhappy, I did wrong, soI can never be happy, I can never do right! I am unfit to
marryagain, to marry a good man, even if he loves me, even if I lovehim!"

"I neither say nor think anything of the kind," I reiterated,and with some slight effect this time.
Mrs. Lascelles put no moreabsurdities into my mouth.

"Then what do you say?" she demanded, her deep voice vibrantwith scornful indignation, though
there were tears in it too.
"I think he will be a lucky fellow who gets you," I said, andmeant every word, as I looked at her
well in the moonlight, withher shining eyes, and curling lip, and fighting flush.

"Thank you, Captain Clephane!"

And I thought I was to be honoured with a contemptuous courtesy;but I was not.

"He ought to be a man, however," I went on, "and not a boy, andstill less the only child of a
woman with whom you would never geton."

"So you are as sure of that," exclaimed Mrs. Lascelles, "as ofeverything else!" It seemed,
however, to soften her, or at least tochange the current of her thoughts. "Yet you get on with
her?" sheadded with a wistful intonation.

I could not deny that I got on with Catherine Evers.

"You are even fond of her?"

"Quite fond."

"Then do you find me a very disagreeable person, that she and Icouldn't possibly hit it off, in
your opinion?"

"It isn't that, Mrs. Lascelles," said I, almost wearily. "Youmust know what it is. You want to
marry her son--"

Mrs. Lascelles smiled.

"Well, let us suppose you do. That would be quite enough forMrs. Evers. No matter who you
were, how peerless, how incomparablein every way, she would rather die than let you marry him
at hisage. I don't say she's wrong--I don't say she's right. I give youthe plain fact for what it is
worth: you would find her from thefirst a clever and determined adversary, a regular little
lionesswith her cub, and absolutely intolerant on that particularpoint."

I could see Catherine as I spoke, the Catherine I had seen last,and liked least to remember; but
the vision faded before themoonlit reality of Mrs. Lascelles, laughing to herself like agreat,
naughty, pretty child.

"I really think I must marry him," she said, "and see whathappens!"

"If you do," I answered, in all seriousness, "you will begin byseparating mother and son, and end
by making both their livesmiserable, and bringing the last misery into your own."

And either my tone impressed her, or the covert reminder in mylast words; for the bold smile
faded from her face, and she lookedlonger and more searchingly in mine than she had done as
yet.
"You know Mrs. Evers exceedingly well," Mrs. Lascellesremarked.

"I did years ago," I guardedly replied.

"Do you mean to say," urged my companion, "that you have notseen her for years?"

I did not altogether like her tone. Yet it was so downright andstraightforward, it was hard to be
the very reverse in answer toit, and I shied idiotically at the honest lie. I had quite lostsight both
of Bob and his mother, I declared, from the day I wentto India until now.

"You mean until you came out here?" persisted Mrs.Lascelles.

"Until the other day," I said, relying on a carefullyaffirmative tone to close the subject. There
was a pause. I beganto hope I had succeeded. The flattering tale was neverfinished.

"I believe," said Mrs. Lascelles, "that you saw Mrs. Evers intown before you started."

It was too late to lie.

"As a matter of fact," I answered easily, "I did."

I built no hopes on the pause which followed that. Somehow I hadmy face to the moon, and Mrs.
Lascelles had her back. Yet I knewthat her scrutiny of me was more critical than ever.

"How funny of Bob never to have told me!" she said.

"Told you what?"

"That you saw his mother just before you left."

"I didn't tell him," I said at length.

"That was funny of you, Captain Clephane."

"On the contrary," I argued, with the impudence which was now myonly chance, "it was only
natural. Bob was rather raw with hisfriend Kennerley, you see. You knew about that?"

"Oh, yes."

"And why they fell out?"

"Yes."

"Well, he might have thought the other fellow had been tellingtales, and that I had come out to
have an eye on him, if he hadknown that I happened to see his mother just before I started."
There was another pause; but now I was committed to an attitude,and prepared for the worst.

"Perhaps there would have been some truth in it?" suggested Mrs.Lascelles.

"Perhaps," I agreed, "a little."

The pause now was the longest of all. It had no terrors for me.Another cloud had come between
us and the moon. I was sorry forthat. I felt that I was missing something. Even the fine
upstandingfigure before me was no longer sharp enough to be expressive.

"I have been harking back," explained Mrs. Lascelles,eventually. "Now I begin to follow. You
saw his mother, you heard areport, and you volunteered or at least consented to come out
andkeep an eye on the dear boy, as you say yourself. Am I not more orless right so far, Captain
Clephane?"

Her tone was frozen honey.

"More or less," I admitted ironically.

"Of course, I don't know what report that other miserable youngman may have carried home with
him. I don't want to know. But I canguess. One does not stay in hotel after hotel without getting
apretty shrewd idea of the way people talk about one. I know thesort of things they have been
saying here. You would hear themyourself, no doubt, Captain Clephane, as soon as you arrived."

I admitted that I had, but reminded Mrs. Lascelles that thefirst person I had spoken to was also
the greatest gossip in thehotel. She paid no attention to the remark, but stood looking at meagain,
with the look that I could never quite see to read.

"And then," she went on, "you found out who it was, and youremembered all about me, and your
worst fears were confirmed. Thatmust have been an interesting moment. I wonder how you
felt.... Didit never occur to you to speak plainly to anybody?"

"I wasn't going to give you away," I said, stolidly, though withno conscious parade of virtue.

"Yet, you see, it would have made no difference if you had! Didyou seriously think it would
make much difference, CaptainClephane, to a really chivalrous young man?" I bowed my head
to thewell-earned taunt. "But," she went on, "there was no need for youto speak to Mr. Evers.
You might have spoken to me. Why did you notdo that?"

"Because I didn't want to quarrel with you," I answered quitehonestly; "because I enjoyed your
society too much myself."

"That was very nice of you," said Mrs. Lascelles, with a suddenalthough subtle return of the
good-nature which had alwaysattracted me. "If it is sincere," she added, as an
apparentafterthought.
"I am perfectly sincere now."

"Then what do you think I should do?" she asked me, in the softnew tone which actually flattered
me with the idea that she wasmaking up her mind to take my advice.

"Refuse this lad!"

"And then?" she almost whispered.

"And then--"

I hesitated. I found it hard to say what I thought, hard evenupon myself. We had been good
friends. I admired the womancordially; her society was pleasant to me, as it always had
been.Nevertheless, we had just engaged in a duel of no friendlycharacter; and now that we
seemed of a sudden to have becomefriends again, it was the harder to give her the only advice
whichI considered compatible alike with my duty and the varied demandsof the situation. If she
took it as she seemed disposed to do, theimmediate loss would be mine, and I foresaw besides a
much moredisagreeable reckoning with Bob Evers than the one now approachingan amicable
conclusion. I should have to stay behind to face themusic of his wrath alone. Still, at the risk of
appearing brutal Imade my proposal in plain terms; but, to minimise that risk, Iventured to take
the lady's hand and was glad to find thefamiliarity permitted in the same friendly spirit in which
it wasindulged.

"I would have no 'and then,'" I said, "if I were you. I shouldrefuse him under such circumstances
that he couldn't possiblybother you, or himself about you, again. Now is youropportunity."

"Is it?" she asked, a thrilling timbre in her low voice. And Ifancied there was a kindred tremor in
the firm warm hand withinmine.

"The best of opportunities," I replied, "if you are not toowedded to this place, and can tear
yourself away from the rest ofus." (Her hand lay loose in mine.) "Mrs. Lascelles, I should goto-
morrow morning" (her hand fell away altogether), "while he isstill up the Matterhorn and I
shouldn't let him know whereI--shouldn't give him a chance of finding out--"

A sudden peal of laughter cut me short. I could not havebelieved it came from my companion.
But no other soul was near us,though I looked all ways. It was the merriest laughter
imaginable,only the merriment was harsh and hard.

"Oh, thank you, Captain Clephane! You are too delicious! I sawit coming; I only wondered
whether I could contain myself until itcame. Yet I could hardly believe that even you would
commityourself to that finishing touch of impudence! Certainly it is anopportunity, his being out
of the way. You were notlong in making use of it, were you? It will amuse him when he
comesdown, though it may open his eyes. I shall tell him everything, soI give you warning.
Every single thing, that you have had theinsolence to tell me!"
She had caught up her skirts from the ground, she had halfturned away from me, toward the
hotel. The false merriment had diedout of her. The true indignation remained, ringing in every
accentof the deep sweet voice, and drawn up in every inch of the tallstraight figure. I do not
remember whether the moon was hid orshining at the moment. I only know that my lady's eyes
shone brightenough for me to see them then and ever after, bright and dry witha scorn that burnt
too hot for tears; and that I admired her evenwhile she scorned me, as I had never thought to
admire any womanbut one, but this woman least of all.

So we both stood, intent, some seconds, looking our last uponeach other if I was wise. Then I
lifted my hat, and offered mycongratulations (more sincere than they sounded) to her andBob.

"Did I tell you why he is going up?" I added. "It is to pass thetime until he knows his fate. If only
we could let him know itnow!"

Mrs. Lascelles glanced toward the mountain, and my eyes followedhers. A great cloud hid the
grim outstanding summit.

"If only you had prevented him from going!" she cried back at mein a last reproach; and to me
her tone was conclusive, it rang sotrue, and so invidiously free from the smaller emotions which
ithad been my own unhappiness to inspire. It was the real woman whohad spoken out once more,
suddenly, perhaps unthinkingly, butobviously from her heart. And as she turned, I followed her
veryslowly and without a word; for now was I surely and deservedlyundone.

Chapter XI. The Lion's Mouth
It was a chilly morning, with rather a high wind; from the hazeabout the mountains of the
Zermatt valley, which were all that Icould see from my bedroom window, it occurred to me that I
mightlook in vain for the Matterhorn from the other side of the hotel.It was still visible, however,
when I came down, a white cloudwound about its middle like a cloth, and the hotel
telescopealready trained upon its summit from the shelter of the glassveranda.

"See anybody?" I asked of a man who sat at the telescope asthough his eye was frozen to the
lens. He might have beenwitnessing the most exciting adventure, where the naked eye sawonly
rock and snow, and cold grey sky; but he rose at last with ashake of the head, a great gaunt man
with kind keen eyes, and theskin peeled off his nose.

"No," said he, "I can't see anybody, and I'm very glad I can't.It's about as bad a morning for it as
you could possibly have; yetlast night was so fine that some fellows might have got up to thehut,
and been foolish enough not to come down again. But have alook for yourself."

"Oh, thanks," said I, considerably relieved at what I heard,"but if you can't see anybody I'm sure
I can't. You have done ityourself, I daresay?"

The gaunt man smiled demurely, and the keen eyes twinkled in hisflayed face. He was, indeed, a
palpable mountaineer.
"What, the Matterhorn?" said he, lowering his voice and lookingabout him as if on the point of
some discreditable admission. "Oh,yes, I've done the Matterhorn, back and front and both sides,
withand without guides; but everybody has, in these days. It's nothingwhen you know the ropes
and chains and things. They've goteverything up there now except an iron staircase. Still, I
shouldbe sorry to tackle it to-day, even if they had a lift!"

"Do you think guides would?" I asked, less reassured than I hadfelt at first.

"It depends on the guides. They are not the first to turn back,as a rule; but they like wind and
mist even less than we do. Theguides know what wind and mist mean."

I now understood the special disadvantages of the day andrealised the obvious dangers. I could
only hope that either BobEvers or his guides had shown the one kind of courage required bythe
occasion, the moral courage of turning back. But I was not atall sure of Bob. His stimulus was
not that of the single-minded,level-headed mountaineer; in his romantic exaltation he was
capableof hailing the very perils as so many more means of grace in thesight of Mrs. Lascelles;
yet without doubt he would have repudiatedany such incentive, and that in all the sincerity of his
simpleheart. He did not know himself as I knew him.

My fears were soon confirmed. Returning to the glass veranda,after the stock breakfast of the
Swiss hotel, with its horseshoerolls and fabricated honey, I found the telescope the centre of
anominous crowd, on whose fringe hovered my new friend themountaineer.

"We were wrong," he muttered to me. "Some fools are up there,after all."

"How many?" I asked quickly.

"I don't know. There's no getting near the telescope now, andwon't be till the clouds blot them
out altogether."

I looked out at the Matterhorn. The loincloth of cloud hadshaken itself out into a flowing robe,
from which only the brownskull of the mountain protruded in its white skull-cap.

"There are three of them," announced a nasal voice from theheart of the little crowd. "A great
long chap and two guides."

"He can't possibly know that," remarked the mountaineer to me,"but let's hope it is so."

"They're as plain as pike-staffs," continued Quinby, whose bentblond head I now distinguished,
as he occupied the congenial postof Sister Anne. "They seem stuck.... No, they're getting up on
tothe snow-slope, and the front man's cutting steps."

"Then they're all right for the present," said the mountaineer."It's the getting down that's
ticklish."
"You can see the rope blowing about between them ... what a windthere must be ... it's bent out
taut like a bow, you can see itagainst the snow, and they're bending themselves more thanforty-
five degrees to meet it."

"All very well going up," murmured the mountaineer: therewas a sinister innuendo in the curt
comments of the practicalman.

I turned into the hall. It, however, was quite deserted. I hadhoped I might see something of Mrs.
Lascelles; she was not one ofthose in the glass veranda. I now looked in the drawing-room,
butneither was she there. Returning to the empty hall, I passed aminute peering through the
locked glass door of the pigeon-holes inwhich the careful concierge files the unclaimed letters.
There wasnothing for me that I could discern, in the C pigeon-hole; but nextdoor but one, under
E, there lay on the very top a letter whichcaught my eye and more. It had not been through any
post. It was anote directed to R. Evers, Esq., in a hand that I knewinstinctively to be that of Mrs.
Lascelles, though I had never seenit in my life before. It was a good hand, but large and bold
anddownright as herself.

The concierge stood in the doorway, one eye on the disappearingMatterhorn, one on the experts
and others in animated conclaveround the still inaccessible telescope. I touched the concierge
onthe arm.

"Did you see Mrs. Lascelles this morning?"

The man's eyes opened before his lips.

"She has gone away, sir."

"I know," I said, having indeed divined no less. "What train didshe catch?"

"The first one from here. That also catches the early train fromZermatt."

"I am sorry," I said after a pause. "I hoped to see Mrs.Lascelles before she went; now I must
write. She left you anaddress, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes, sir."

"I shall ask you for it later on. No letters for me, Isuppose?"

"No, sir."

"Sure?"

"I will look again."

And I looked with him, over his shoulder; but there was nothing;and the note for Bob Evers now
inspired me with a tripartite blendof curiosity, envy, and apprehension. I would have had a last
wordfrom the same hand myself; had it been never so scornful, thissilent scorn was the harder
sort to bear. Also I wanted much toknow what her last word was to Bob--and dreaded more what
it mightbe.

There remained the unexpected triumph of having got rid of mylady after all. That is not to be
belittled even now. It is atriumph to succeed in any undertaking, more especially when one
hasabandoned one's own last hope of such success. The unpleasantcharacter of this particular
emprise made its eventualaccomplishment in some ways the greater matter for congratulationin
my eyes. At least I had done my part. I had come to hate it, butthe thing was done, and it had
been a fairly difficult thing to do.It was impossible not to plume oneself a little on the whole,
butthe feeling was a superficial one, with deeper and uneasierfeelings underneath. Still, I had
practically redeemed my impulsivepromise to Catherine Evers; her son and this woman once
parted, itshould be easy to keep them apart, and my knowledge of the womanforbade me to deny
the fullest significance to her departure. Shehad gone away to stay away--from Bob. She had
listened to me theless with her ears, because her reason and her heart had beencompelled to heed.
To be sure, she saw the unsuitability, theimpossibility, as clearly as we did. But it was I who, at
allevents, had helped to make her see it; wherefore I deserved well ofCatherine Evers, if of no
other person in the world.

Oddly enough, this last consideration afforded me leastsatisfaction; it seemed to bring home to
me by force of contrastthe poor figure that I must assuredly cut in the eyes of the othertwo, the
still poorer opinion that they would have of me if everthey knew all. I did not care to pursue this
train of thought. Itwas a subject upon which I was not prepared to examine myself; tochange it, I
thought of Bob's present peril, which I had almostforgotten as I lounged abstractedly in the
empty hall. If anythingwere to happen to him, in the vulgar sense! What an irony, whatpoetic
punishment for us survivors! And yet, even as I rehearsedthe ghastly climax in my mind, I told
myself that the mother wouldrather see him even thus, than married to a widow who had also
beendivorced; it was the younger woman who would never forgive me, orherself.

Disappointed faces met me on my next visit to the veranda. Thelittle crowd there had dwindled
to a group. I could have had thetelescope now for as long as I liked: the upper part of
theMatterhorn was finally and utterly effaced and swallowed up bydense white mist and cloud.
My friend the mountaineer looked grave,but his disfigured face did not wear the baulked
expression ofothers to which he drew my attention.

"It is like the curtain coming down with the man's head still inthe lion's mouth," said he.

"I hope," said I devoutly, "that you don't seriously thinkthere's any analogy?"

The climber looked at me steadily, and then smiled.

"Well, no, perhaps I don't think it quite so bad as all that.But it's no use pretending it isn't
dangerous. May I ask if youknow who the foolhardy fellow is?"

I said I did not know, but mentioned my suspicion, only beggingmy climbing friend not to let the
name go any farther. It was intoo many mouths already, in quite another connection, I was
goingon to explain; but the mountaineer nodded, as much as to warn methat even he knew all
about that. It was Bob's office, however, toprovide the hotel with its sensation while he
remained, and he wasnot allowed to perform anonymously very long. His departure overnight
leaked out. I was asked if it was true. The flight of Mrs.Lascelles was the next discovery;
desperate deductions were drawnat once. She had jilted the unlucky youth and sent him in
utterrecklessness on his intentionally suicidal ascent. Nobody anylonger expected to see him
come down alive; so much I gathered fromthe fragments of conversation that reached my ears;
and never wasbetter occupation for a bad day than appeared to be afforded by thediscussion of
the supposititious tragedy in all its imaginarydetails. As, however, the talk invariably abated at
my approach,giving place to uncomplimentary glances in my direction, I couldnot but infer that
public opinion had assigned me an unenviablepart in the piece. Perhaps I deserved it, though not
from theirpoint of view.

The afternoon was at once a dreariness and a dread. There was noray of sun without, no sort of
warmth within. The Matterhorn neverreappeared, but seemed the grimmer monster for this
sinisterinvisibility. I gathered that there was real occasion for anxiety,if not for alarm, and I
nursed mine chiefly in my own room until Iheard the news when I went down for my letters. Bob
Evers hadwalked in as though nothing had happened, and gone straight up tohis room with a note
that the concierge handed him. Some one hadasked him whether it was he who had been up the
Matterhorn in themorning, and young Evers had vouchsafed the barest affirmativecompatible
with civility. The sunburnt climber was myinformant.

"And I don't mind telling you it is a relief to me," he added,"and to everybody, though I shouldn't
wonder if there was a littleunconscious disappointment in the air as well. I congratulate you,for I
could see you were anxious, and I must find an opportunity ofcongratulating your young friend
himself."

Meanwhile no such opportunity was afforded me, though I quiteexpected and was fully prepared
for another visit from Bob in myroom. I waited for him there until dinner-time, but he never
came,and I was beginning to wish he would. It was like the wrapping ofthe Matterhorn in mist; it
only widened the field of apprehension;and yet it was not for me to go to the boy. My unrest was
furtheraggravated by a letter which I had just received from the boy'smother in answer to my
first to her. It was not a very dreadfulletter; but I only trusted that no evil impulse had
causedCatherine to write in anything like the same strain to Bob; forneither was it a very
charitable letter, nor one that a man couldbe glad to get from the woman whom he had set out on
an enduringpinnacle. There was only this to be said for it, that years ago Ihad sought in vain for a
really human weakness in Catherine Evers,and now at last I had found one. She was rather too
human aboutMrs. Lascelles.

I looked for Bob both at and after dinner, but we were neverwithin speaking distance and I
fancied he avoided even my eye. Whathad Mrs. Lascelles said? He looked redder and browner
and rougherin the face, but I heard that he would hardly open his lips attable, that he was almost
surly on the subject of his exploit.Everybody else appeared to me to be speaking of it, or of
Bobhimself; but I had him on my nerves and may well have formed anexaggerated impression
about it all. Only I do not forget some ofthe things I did overhear that day, and night; and they
now had theeffect of sending me in search of Bob, since Bob would not comenear me. "I will
have it out with him," I grimly decided, "and thenget out of this myself by the first train going." I
had had quiteenough of the place that had enchanted me up to the lastfour-and-twenty hours. I
began to see myself back in Elm ParkGardens. There, at least, if also there alone, I should get
somecredit for what I had done.

It was no use looking for Bob upon the terrace now; yet I didlook there, among other obvious
places, before I could bring myselfto knock at his door. There was a light in his room, so I knew
thathe was there, and he cried out admittance in so sharp a tone that Ifancied he also knew who
knocked. I found him packing in hisshirt-sleeves. He received me with a stare in exact keeping
withhis tone. What on earth had Mrs. Lascelles said?

"Going away?" I asked, as a mere preliminary, and I shut thedoor behind me. Bob followed the
action with raised eyebrows, thenflung me the shortest possible affirmative, as he bent once
moreover the suit-case on the bed.

But in a few seconds he looked up.

"Anything I can do for you, Clephane?"

"That depends where you are going."

Bob went on packing with a smile. I guessed where he was going."I thought there might be
something pressing," he remarked, withoutlooking up again.

"There is," said I. "There is something you can do for me on thespot. You can try to believe that I
have not meant to be quite sucha skunk as I may have seemed--to you," I was on the point
ofadding, but I stopped short of that advisedly, as I thought of Mrs.Lascelles also.

"Oh, that's all right," said Bob, in a would-be airy tone thatcarried its own contradiction. "All's
fair, according to theproverb; I no more blame you than you would have blamed me. I hope,on
the contrary, that I may congratulate you."

And he stood up with a look which, coupled with his words, madeit my turn to stare.

"Indeed you may not," said I.

"Aren't you engaged to her?" he asked.

"Good God, no!" I cried. "What made you think so?"

"Everything!" exclaimed Bob, after a moment's pause of obviousbewilderment. "I--you see--I
had a note from Mrs. Lascellesherself!"

"Yes?" said I, carefully careless, but I wanted more than everto know that missive's gist.
"Only a few lines," Bob went on, ruefully; "they are the firstthing I heard or saw when I got
down, and they almost made me wishI'd come down with a run! Well, it's no use talking about it,
Ionly thought you'd know. It was the usual smack in the eye, Isuppose, only nicely put and all
that. She didn't tell me where shewas going, or why; she told me I had better ask you."

"But you wouldn't condescend."

Bob gave a rather friendly little laugh.

"I said I'd see you damned!" he admitted. "But of course Ithought you were the lucky man. I still
half believe you are!"

"Well, I'm not."

"Do you mean to say that she's refused you too?"

"She hasn't had the chance."

Bob's eyes opened to an infantile width.

"But you told me you were in earnest!" he urged.

"As much in earnest as you were, I believe was what I said."

"That's the same thing," returned Bob, sharply. "You may notthink it is. I don't care what you
think. But I'm very sorry yousaid you were in earnest if you were not."

And his tone convinced me that he was no longer commiseratinghimself; he was sorry on some
new account, and the evident realityof his regret filled me in turn with all the qualms of a
guiltyconscience.

"Why are you sorry?" I demanded.

"Oh, not on my own account," said Bob. "I'm delighted,personally, of course."

"Then do you mean to say--you actually told her--I was as muchin earnest as you were?"

Bob Evers smiled openly in my face; it was the only revenge heever took; and even it was
tempered by the inextinguishablesweetness of expression and the childlike wide-eyed candour
whichwere Bob's even in the hour of his humiliation, and will be, onehopes, all his days.

"Not in so many words," he said, "but I am afraid I did tell herin effect. You see, I took you at
your word. I thought it was quitetrue. I'm awfully sorry, Duncan. But it really does serve
youright!"
I made no answer. I was looking at the suit-case on the bed. Bobseemed to have lost all interest
in his packing. I turned to leavehim without a word.

"I am awfully sorry!" he was the one to say again. I began towonder when he would see all round
the point, and how it wouldaffect his feeling (to say nothing of his actions) when he
did.Meanwhile it was Bob who was holding out his hand.

"So am I," I said, taking it.

And for once I, too, was not thinking about myself.

Chapter XII. A Stern Chase
Where had Bob been going, and where was he going now? If thesewere not the first questions
that I asked myself on coming awayfrom him, they were at all events among my last thoughts
thatnight, and as it happened, quite my first next morning. His voicehad reached me through my
bedroom window, on the head of a dreamabout himself. I got up and looked out; there was Bob
Evers seeingthe suit-case into the tiny train which brings your baggage (andyourself, if you like)
to the very door of the Riffel Alp Hotel.Bob did not like and I watched him out of sight down the
windingpath threaded by the shining rails. He walked slowly, head andshoulders bent, it might
be with dogged resolve, it might be inmere depression; there was never a glimpse of his face, nor
abackward glance as he swung round the final corner, with hisgreat-coat over his arm.

In spite of my curiosity as to his destination, I made noattempt to discover it for myself, but on
consideration I wasguilty of certain inquiries concerning that of Mrs. Lascelles. Theyhad not to
be very exhaustive; she had made no secret of heroriginal plans upon leaving the Riffel Alp, and
they did not appearto have undergone much change. I myself left the same forenoon, andlay that
night amid the smells of Brigues, after a little tour ofits hotels, in one of which I found the name
of Mrs. Lascelles inthe register, while in every one I was prepared to light upon BobEvers in the
flesh. But that encounter did not occur.

In the early morning I was one of a shivering handful whoawaited the diligence for the Furka
Pass; and an ominous drizzlemade me thankful that my telegram of the previous day had been
toolate to secure me an outside seat. It was quite damp enough within.Nor did the day improve as
we drove, or the view attract me in theleast. It was at its worst as a sight, and I at mine as
asightseer. I have as little recollection of my fellow-passengers;but I still see the page in the hotel
register at the RhoneGlacier, with the name I sought written boldly in its place, justtwenty-four
hours earlier.

The Furka Pass has its European reputation; it would gainnothing from my enthusiastic praises,
had I any enthusiasm to drawupon, or the descriptive powers to do it justice. But what I
bestremember is the time it took us to climb those interminablezig-zags, and to shake off the too
tenacious sight of the hotel inthe hollow where I had seen a signature and eaten my lunch. Now
Ithink of it, there were two couples who had come so far with us,but at the Rhone Glacier they
exchanged their mutuallydemonstrative adieux, and I thought the couple who came on
wouldnever have done waving to the couple who stayed behind. They keptit up for at least an
hour, and then broke out again at each of ourmany last glimpses of the hotel, now hundreds of
feet below. Thatwas the only diversion until these energetic people went to see theglacier cave at
the summit of the pass. I am glad to remember thatI preferred refreshment at the inn. After that,
night fell upon ascene whose desolation impressed me more than its grandeur, and soin the end
we rattled into Andermatt: here was a huge hotel all butempty, with a perfect tome of a visitors'
book, and in it sureenough the fine free autograph which I was beginning to know sowell.

"Yes, sare," said the concierge, "the season end suddenly mitthe bad vedder at the beginning of
the veek. You know that lady?She has been here last night; she go avay again to-day, on
toGoeschenen and Zuerich. Yes, sare, she shall be in Zuerichto-night."

I was in Zuerich myself the night after. I knew the hotel to goto, knew it from Mrs. Lascelles
herself, whose experience ofcontinental hotels was so pathetically extensive. This was the bestin
Switzerland, so she had assured me in one of our talks: shecould never pass through Zuerich
without making a night of it atthe Baur au Lac. But one night of it appeared to be enough, or soit
had proved on this occasion, for again I missed her by a fewhours. I was annoyed. I agreed with
Mrs. Lascelles about thishotel. Since I had made up my mind to overtake her first or last,it might
as well have been a comfortable place like this, wherethere was good cooking and good music
and all the comforts which Imay or may not have needed, but which I was certainly beginning
todesire.

What a contrast to the place at which I found myself thefollowing night. It was a place called
Triberg, in the BlackForest, which I had never penetrated before, and certainly nevershall again.
It seemed to me an uttermost end of the earth, but itwas raining when I arrived, and the rain
never ceased for aninstant while I was there. About a dozen hotel omnibuses met thetrain, from
which only three passengers alighted; the other twowere a young married couple at whom I
would not have looked twice,though we all boarded the same lucky 'bus, had not the young
manstared very hard at me.

"Captain Clephane," said he, "I guess you've forgotten me; butyou may remember my best gurl?"

It was our good-natured young American from the Riffel Alp, whohad not only joined in the
daily laugh against himself up there,but must needs raise it as soon as ever he met one of us
again. Irather think his best girl did not hear him, for she was staringthrough the streaming
omnibus windows into an absolutely desertedcountry street, and I feared that her eyes would
soon resemble thepanes. She brightened, however, in a very flattering way, as Ithought, on
finding a third soul for one or both of them to speakto, for a change. I only wished I could have
returned thecompliment in my heart.

"Captain Clephane," continued the young bridegroom, "we camedown Monday last. Say, who do
you guess came down along withus?"

"A friend of yours," prompted the bride, as I put on as blank anexpression as possible.

I opened my eyes a little wider. It seemed the only thing todo.
"Captain Clephane," said the bridegroom, beaming all over hisgood-humoured face, "it was a
lady named Lascelles, and it's to heradvice we owe this pleasure. We travelled together as far
asLoocerne. We guess we'll put salt on her at this hotel."

"So does the Captain," announced the bride, who could not lookat me without a smile, which I
altogether declined to return. But Ineed hardly confess that she was right. It was from Mrs.
Lascellesthat I also had heard of the dismal spot to which we were come, asher own ultimate
objective after Switzerland. It was the onlyaddress with which she had provided the concierge at
the RiffelAlp. All day I had regretted the night wasted at Zuerich, on thechance of saving a day;
but until this moment I had been sanguineof bringing my dubious quest to a successful issue here
in Triberg.Now I was no longer even anxious to do so. I did not desirewitnesses of a meeting
which might well be of a characterhumiliating to myself. Still less should I have chosen for
suchwitnesses a couple who were plainly disposed to put the usualmisconstruction upon the
relations of any man with any woman.

My disappointment was consequently less than theirs when wedrove up to as gloomy a hostelry
as I have ever beheld, with theblue-black forest smoking wet behind it, to find that here also
thefoul weather had brought the season to a premature and sudden end,literally emptying this
particular hotel. Nor did the landlord giveus the welcome we might have expected on a hasty
consideration ofthe circumstances. He said that he had been on the point ofshutting up that house
until next season and hinted at less profitthan loss upon three persons only.

"But there's a fourth person coming," declared the disconsolatebride. "We figured on finding her
right here!"

"A Mrs. Lascelles," her husband explained.

"Been and gone," said the landlord, grinning sardonically. "Toolonely for the lady. She has
arrived last night, and gone awayagain this morning. You will find her at the Darmstaedterhof,
inBaden-Baden, unless she changes her mind on the way."

I caught his grin. It had been the same story, at every stage ofmy journey; the chances were that
it would be the same thing againat Baden-Baden. There may have been something, however, of
which Iwas unaware in my smile; for I found myself under close observationby the bride; and as
our eyes met her hand slipped within herhusband's arm.

"I guess we won't find her there," she said. "I guesswe'll just light out for ourselves, and wish the
captain luck."

A stern chase is proverbially protracted, but on dry land it hasusually one end. Mine ended in
Baden on the fifth (and first fine)day, rather early in the afternoon. On arrival I drove straight
tothe Darmstaedterhof, and asked to see no visitors' books, for thefive days had taken the edge
off my finesse, but inquired at oncewhether a Mrs. Lascelles was staying there or not. She was.
Itseemed incredible. Were they sure she had not just left? They weresure. But she was not in; at
my request they made equally sure ofthat. She had probably gone to the Conversationshaus, to
listen tothe band. All Baden went there in the afternoon, to listen to thatband. It was a very good
band. Baden-Baden was a very good place.There was no better hotel in Baden-Baden than the
Darmstaedterhof;there were no such baths in the other hotels, these came straightfrom the spring,
at their natural temperature. They were matchlessfor rheumatism, especially in the legs. The old
Empress, Augusta,when in Baden, used to patronise this very hotel and no other. Theycould
show me the actual bath, and I myself could have pension(baths excluded) for eight marks and
fifty a day. If I would be sokind as to step into the lift, I should see the room for myself,and then
with my permission they would bring in my luggage and paythe cab.

All this by degrees, from a pale youth in frock-coat andforage-cap, and a more prosperous
personage with pince-nezand a paunch (yet another concierge and my latest
landlordrespectively), while I stood making up my mind. The closingproposition was of some
assistance to me. I had no luggage on thecab, of which the cabman's hat alone was visible, at the
bottom ofa flight of steps, at the far end of the flagged approach. I hadleft my luggage at the
station, but I only recollected the factupon being recalled from a mental forecast of the interview
beforeme to these exceedingly petty preliminaries.

There and then I paid off the cab and found my own way to thisConversationshaus. I liked the
look of the trim, fresh town in itsperfect amphitheatre of pine-clad hills, covered in by a rich
bluesky from which the last clouds were exhaling like breath from amirror. The well-drained
streets were drying clean as in a blackfrost; checkered with sharp shadows, twinkling with shop
windows,and strikingly free from the more cumbrous forms of traffic. Ifthis was Germany, I
could dispense with certain discreditableprejudices. I had to inquire my way of a policeman in a
flaminghelm; because I could not understand his copious directions, he ledme to a tiny bridge
within earshot of the band, and there refusedmy proferred coin with the dignity of a
Hohenzollern. Under thetiny bridge there ran the shallowest and clearest of little rivers.Up the
white walls of the houses clambered a deal of Virginiacreeper, brought on by the rain, and now
almost scarlet in thestrong sunlight. Presently at some gates there was a mark to pay,or it may
have been two; immediate admittance to an avenue offascinating shops, with an inner avenue of
trees, little tablesunder them, and the crash of the band growing louder at every yard.Eventual
access to a fine, broad terrace, a fine, long facade, abandstand, and people listening and walking
up and down, peoplelistening and drinking beer or coffee at more little tables, peoplelistening
and reading on rows of chairs, people standing to listenwith all their ears; but not for a long time
the person Isought.

*****

Not for a very long time, but yet, at last, and all alone, amongthe readers on the chairs, deep in a
Tauchnitz volume even here asin the Alps; more daintily yet not less simply dressed, in
pinkmuslin and a big black hat; and blessed here as there with suchblooming health, such
inimitable freshness, such a general air ofwell-being and of deep content, as almost to disgust me
after mywhole week's search and my own hourly qualms.

So I found Mrs. Lascelles in the end, and so I saw her until shelooked up and saw me; then the
picture changed; but I am not goingto describe the change.

"Well, really!" she cried out.
"It has taken me all the week to find you," said I, as Ireplaced my hat.

Her eyes flashed again.

"Has it, indeed! And now you have found me, aren't yousatisfied? Pray have a good look,
Captain Clephane. You won't findanybody else!"

Her meaning dawned on me at last.

"I didn't expect to, Mrs. Lascelles."

"Am I to believe that?"

"You must do as you please. It is the truth. Mrs. Lascelles, Ihave been all the week looking for
you and you alone."

I spoke with some warmth, for not only did I speak the truth,but it had become more and more
the truth at every stage of myjourney since Brigues. Mrs. Lascelles leant back in her chair
andsurveyed me with less anger, but with the purer and more perniciousscorn.

"And what business had you to do that?" she asked calmly. "Howdare you, I should like to
know?"

"I dared," said I, "because I owed you a debt which, I felt,must be paid in person, or it would
never be paid at all. Mrs.Lascelles, I owed and do owe you about the most abject apology
manever made! I have followed you all this way for no other earthlyreason than to make it, in all
sincere humility. But it has takenme more or less since Tuesday morning; and I can't kneel here.
Doyou mind if I sit down?"

Mrs. Lascelles drew in the hem of her pink muslin, with an allbut insufferable gesture of
unwilling resignation. I took the nextchair but one, but, leaning my elbow on the chair-back
between us,was rather the gainer by the intervening inches, which enabled meto study a perfect
profile and the most wonderful colouring as Icould scarcely have done at still closer range. She
never turned tolook at me, but simply listened while the band played, and peoplepassed, and I
said my say. It was very short: there was so littlethat she did not know. There was the excitement
about Bob, hissubsequent reappearance, our scene in his room and my last sight ofhim in the
morning; but the bare facts went into few words, andthere was no demand for details. Mrs.
Lascelles seemed to have lostall interest in her latest lover; but when I tried to speak of myown
hateful hand in that affair, to explain what I could of it, butto extenuate nothing, and to apologise
from my heart for it all,then there was a change in her, then her blood mounted, then herbosom
heaved, and I was silenced by a single flash from hereyes.

"Yes," said she, "you could let him think you were in earnest,you could pose as his rival, you
could pretend all that! Not to me,I grant you! Even you did not go quite so far as that; or was
itthat you knew that I should see through you? You made up for it,however, the other night. That
I never, never, never shall forgive.I, who had never seriously thought of accepting him, who was
onlyhesitating in order to refuse him in the most deliberate and finalmanner imaginable--I, to
have the word put into my mouth--by you!I, who was going in any case, of my own accord, to be
told togo--by you! One thing you will never know, Captain Clephane, andthat is how nearly you
drove me into marrying him just to spite youand his miserable mother. I meant to do it, that night
when I leftyou. It would have served you right if I had!"

She did not rise. She did not look at me again. But I saw thetears standing in her eyes, one I saw
roll down her cheek, and thesight smote me harder than her hardest word, though more
wordsfollowed in broken whispers.

"It wasn't because I cared ... that you hurt me as you did. Inever did care for him ... like that. It
was ... because ... youseemed to think my society contamination ... to an honest boy. Idid care for
him, but not like that. I cared too much for him tolet him marry me ... to contaminate him for
life!"

I repudiated the reiterated word with all my might. I had neverused it, even in my thoughts; it
had never once occurred to me inconnection with her. Had I not shown as much? Had I behaved
asthough I feared contamination for myself? I rapped out thesequestions with undue triumph, in
my heat, only to perceive theirsecond edge as it cut me to the quick.

"But you were playing a part," retorted Mrs. Lascelles. "Youdon't deny it. Are you proud of it,
that you rub it in? Or are yougoing to begin denying it now?"

Unfortunately, that was impossible. Tt was too late for denials.But, driven into my last corner, as
it seemed, I relapsed for themoment into thought, and my thoughts took the form of a
rapidretrospect of all the hours that this angry woman and I had spenttogether. I was introduced
to her again by poor Bob. I recognisedher again by the light of a match, and accosted her next
morning inthe strong sunshine. We went for our first walk together. We sattogether on the green
ledge overlooking the glaciers, and first shetalked about herself, and then we both talked about
Bob, and thenBob appeared in the flesh and gave me my disastrous idea. Thenthere was the day
on the Findelen that we had all three spenttogether. Then there was the walk home from early
church (short asit had been), the subsequent expedition to Zermatt and back, withits bright
beginning and its clouded end. Up to that point, at allevents, they had been happy hours, so many
of them unburdened by asingle thought of Bob Evers and his folly, not one of them hauntedby
the usual sense of a part that is played. I almost wondered as Irealised this. I supposed it would
be no use attempting to expressmyself to Mrs. Lascelles, but I felt I must say something before
Iwent, so I said:

"I deny nothing, and I'm proud of nothing, but neither am Iquite so ashamed as perhaps I ought
to be. Shall I tell you why,Mrs. Lascelles? It may have been an insolent and an infamous part,as
you imply; but I enjoyed playing it, and I used often to forgetit was a part at all. So much so that
even now I'm not so sure thatit was one! There--I suppose that makes it all ten times worse. ButI
won't apologise again. Do you mind giving me that stick?"
I had rested the two of them against the chair between us. Mrs.Lascelles had taken possession of
one, with which she wasmethodically probing the path, for there had been no time to drawtheir
Alpine teeth. She did not comply with my request. She smiledinstead.

"I mind very much," her old voice said. "Now we have finishedfighting, perhaps you will listen
to the Meistersinger--forit is worth listening to on that band--and try to appreciate Badenwhile
you are here. There are no more trains for hours."

The wooded hills rose over the bandstand, against the brightblue sky. The shadow of the
colonnade lay sharp and black beyondour feet, with people passing, and the band crashing, in
thesunlight beyond. That was Baden. I should not have found it adifficult place to appreciate, a
week or so before; even now it wasno hardship to sit there listening to the one bit of Wagner that
myear welcomes as a friend, and furtively to watch my companion asshe sat and listened too.
You will perceive by what train ofassociations my eyes soon fell upon the Tauchnitz volume
which shemust have placed without thinking on the chair between us. I tookit up. Heavens! It
was one of the volumes of Browning's Poems. Andback I sped in spirit to a green ledge
overlooking the GornerGlacier, to think what we had said about Browning up there, butonly to
remember how I had longed to be to Mrs. Lascelles whatCatherine Evers had been to me. There
were some sharp edges to thereminiscence, but I turned the pages while they did their worst,and
so cut myself to the heart upon a sharper than them all. It wasin a poem I remembered, a poem
whose title pained me into glancingfarther. And see what leapt to meet me from the printed page:

"And I,--what I seem to my friend, you see: What I soon shall seem to his love, you guess: What
I seem to myself, do you ask of me? No hero, I confess."

True, too true; no hero, indeed; anything in the wide worldelse! But that I should read it there by
the woman's side! And yet,even that was no such coincidence; had we not talked about thepoet,
had I not implied what Catherine thought of him, whateverybody ought to think?

Of a sudden a strange thrill stirred me; sidelong I glanced atmy companion. She had turned her
head away; her cheek was deeplydyed. She knew what I was doing; she might divine my
thoughts. Ishut the book lest she should see the vile title of a thing I hadhitherto liked. And the
Prizelied crashed back into theear.

Chapter XIII. Number Three
It was the middle of November when I was shown once more intothe old room at the old number
in Elm Park Gardens. There was afire, the windows were shut, and the electric light was a
distinctimprovement when the maid put it on; otherwise all was exactly as Ihad left it in August,
and so often pictured it since. There was"Hope," presiding over the shelf of poets, and here
"Paolo andFrancesca," reminiscent as ever of Melbury Road, upon a wet Sunday,years and years
ago. The day's Times and the week'sSpectator were not less prominent than the last new
problemnovel; all three lay precisely where their predecessors had alwayslain; and my own dead
self stood in its own old place upon thepiano which had been in St. Helena with Napoleon. It is
vanity'sdeserts to come across these unnecessary memorials of a decentlyburied boyhood; there
is always something stultifying about them,and I longed to confiscate this one of me.
But there was a photograph on the chimney-piece that interestedme keenly; it was evidently the
very latest of Bob Evers, and Istudied it with a painful curiosity. Was the boy really altered,
ordid I only imagine it from my secret knowledge of his affairs? Tome he seemed graver, more
sedate, less angelically trustful inexpression, and yet something finer and manlier withal: to
confirmthe idea one had only to compare this new one with the racketphotograph now relegated
to a rear rank. The round-eyed look wasgone. Had I here yet another memorial of yet another
buriedboyhood? If so, I felt I was the sexton, and I might be ashamed,and I was.

"Looking at Bob? Isn't it a dear one of him? You see--he is nonethe worse!"

And Catherine Evers stood smiling as warmly, as gratefully, asshe grasped my hand; but with
her warmth there was a certainnervousness of manner, which had the odd effect of putting
meperversely at my ease; and I found myself looking critically atCatherine, really critically, for I
suppose the first time in mylife.

"He is playing foot-ball," she continued, full as ever of herboy. "I had a letter from him only this
morning. He had his coloursat Eton, you know (he had them for everything there), but he
neverdreamt of getting them at Cambridge, yet now he really thinks hehas a chance! They tried
him the other day, and he kicked a goal.Dear old Bob! If he does get them he will be a Blue and
a half, hesays. He writes so happily, Duncan! I have so much to be thankfulfor--to thank you
for!"

Yes, Catherine was good to look at; there was no doubt of it;and this time she was not wearing
any hat. Discoursing of the lad,she was animated, eager, for once as exclamatory as her pen,
withlight and life in every look of the thin intellectual face, inevery glance of the large,
intellectual eyes, and in everyintonation of the keen dry voice. A sweet woman; a young woman;
awoman with a full heart of love and sympathy and tenderness--forBob! Yet, when she thanked
me at the end, either upon an impulse,or because she thought she must, her eyes fell, and again
Idetected that slight embarrassment which was none the less arevelation, to me, in Catherine
Evers, of all women in theworld.

"We won't speak of that," I said, "if you don't mind. I am notproud of it."

Catherine scanned me more narrowly. I knew her better with thatlook. "Then tell me about
yourself, and do sit down," she said,drawing a chair near the fire, but sitting on the other side of
itherself. "I needn't ask you how you are. I never saw you looking sowell. That comes of going
right away and not hurrying back. I thinkyou were so wise! But, Duncan, I am sorry to see both
sticks still!Have you seen your man since you came back?"

"I have."

"Well?"

"I'm afraid there's no more soldiering for me."
Catherine seemed more than sorry and disappointed; she lookedquite indignant with the eminent
specialist who had finallypronounced this opinion. Was I sure he was the very best man forthat
kind of thing? She would have a second opinion, if she wereme. Very well, then, a third and
fourth! If there was one man shepitied from the bottom of her heart, it was the man without
aprofession or an occupation of some kind. Catherine looked,however, as though her pity were
almost akin to horror.

"I have a trifle, luckily," I said. "I must try somethingelse."

Catherine stared into the fire, as though thinking of somethingelse for me to try. She seemed full
of apprehension on myaccount.

"Don't you worry about me," I went on. "I came here to talkabout somebody else, of course."

Catherine almost started.

"I've told you about Bob," she said, with a suspicious upwardglance from the fire.

"I don't mean Bob," said I, "or anything you may think I did forhim or you. I said just now that I
didn't want to speak of it andno more I do. Yet, as a matter of fact, I do want to speak to
youabout the lady in that case."

Catherine's face betrayed the mixed emotions of relief and freshalarm.

"You don't mean to say the creature--? But it's impossible. Iheard from Bob only this morning.
He wrote so happily!"

I could not help smiling at the nature and quality of thealarm.

"They have seen nothing more of each other, if that's what youfear," said I. "But what I do want
to speak about is this creature,as you call her, and no one else. She has done nothing to
deservequite so much contempt. I want you to be just to her,Catherine."

I was serious. I may have been ridiculous. Catherine evidentlyfound me so, for, after gauging me
with that wry but humourous lookwhich I knew so well of old, for which I had been waiting
thisafternoon, she went off into the decorous little fit of laughter inwhich it had invariably ended.

"Forgive me, Duncan dear! But you do look so serious, and youare so dreadfully broad! I never
was. I hope you rememberthat? Broad minds and easy principles--the combination isinevitable.
But, really though, Duncan, is there anything to besaid for her? Was she a possible person, in any
sense of theword?"

"Quite a probable person," I assured Catherine.

"But I have heard all sorts of things about her!"
"From Bob?"

"No, he never mentioned her."

"Nor me, perhaps?"

"Nor you, Duncan. I am afraid there may be just a drop of badblood there! You see, he looked
upon you as a successful rival. Youwrote and told me so, if you remember, from some place on
your waydown from the mountains. Your letter and Bob arrived the samenight."

I nodded.

"It was so clever of you!" pursued Catherine. "Quite brilliant;but I don't quite know what to say
to your letting my baby climbthat awful Matterhorn; in a fog, too!"

And there was real though momentary reproach in the firelitface.

"I couldn't very well stop him, you know. Besides," I added, "itwas such a chance."

"Of what?"

"Of getting rid of Mrs. Lascelles. I thought you would think itworth the risk."

"I do," declared Catherine, on due consultation with the fire."I really do! Bob is all I have--all I
want--in this world, Duncan;and it may seem a dreadful thing to say, and you mayn't believe
itwhen I've said it, but--yes!--I'd rather he had never come home atall than come home married,
at his age, and to an Indian widow,whose first husband had divorced her! I mean it, Duncan; I
doindeed!"

"I am sure you do," said I. "It was just what I said tomyself."

"To think of my Bob being Number Three!" murmured Catherine,with that plaintive drollery of
hers which I had found irresistiblein the days of old.

I was able to resist it now. "So those were the things youheard?" I remarked.

"Yes," said Catherine; "haven't you heard them?"

"I didn't need. I knew her in India years ago."

Catherine's eyes opened.

"You knew this Mrs. Lascelles?"

"Before that was her name. I have also met her original husband.If you had known him, you
would be less hard on her."
Catherine's eyes were still wide open. They were rather hardeyes, after all. "Why did you not tell
me you had known her, whenyou wrote?" she asked.

"It wouldn't have done any good. I did what you wanted done, youknow. I thought that was
enough."

"It was enough," echoed Catherine, with a quick return of grace.She looked into the fire. "I don't
want to be hard upon the poorthing, Duncan! I know you think we women always are, upon
eachother. But to have come back married--at his age--to even thenicest woman in the world! It
would have been madness ... ruination... Duncan, T'm going to say something else that may
shockyou."

"Say away," said I.

Her voice had fallen. She was looking at me very narrowly, as ifto measure the effect of her
unspoken words.

"I am not so very sure about marriage," she went on, "at anyage! Don't misunderstand me ... I
was very happy ... but I for onecould never marry again ... and I am not sure that I ever want
tosee Bob...."

Catherine had spoken very gently, looking once more in the fire;when she ceased there was a
space of utter silence in the littleroom. Then her eyes came back furtively to mine; and presently
theywere twinkling with their old staid merriment.

"But to be Number Three!" she said again. "My poor old Bob!"

And she smiled upon me, tenderly, from the depths of heralter-egoism.

"Well," I said, "he never will be."

"God forbid!" cried Catherine.

"He has forbidden. It will never happen."

"Is she dead?" asked Catherine, but not too quickly for commondecency. She was not one to pass
such bounds.

"Not that I know of."

It was hard to repress a sneer.

"Then what makes you so sure--that he never could?"

"Well, he never will in my time!"
"You are good to me," said Catherine, gratefully.

"Not a bit good," said I, "or--only to myself ... I have beengood to no one else in this whole
matter. That's what it allamounts to, and that's what I really came to tell you. Catherine... I am
married to her myself!"

THE END

Chapter XIV. The Pioneer's Picnic
The Lawtons were not going to the picnic. Bennington was to takeMary down to Rapid, where
the girl was to stay with a certain Dr.McPherson of the School of Mines.

An early start was accomplished. They rode down the gulchthrough the dwarf oaks, past the
farthermost point, and so out intothe hard level dirt road of Battle Creek canon. Beyond were
thepines, and a rugged road, flint-edged, full of dips and rises,turns and twists, hovering on
edges, or bosoming itself in deeprock-strewn cuts. Mary's little pony cantered recklessly through
itall, scampering along like a playful dog after a stone, leadingBennington's larger animal by
several feet. He had full leisure tonotice the regular flop of the Tam o'Shanter over the lighter
danceof the hair, the increasing rosiness of the cheeks dimpled intoalmost continual laughter, to
catch stray snatches of gay littleremarks thrown out at random as they tore along. After a time
theydrew out from the shadow of the pines into the clearing atRockerville, where the hydraulic
"giants" had eaten away thehill-sides, and left in them ugly unhealed sores. Then more
roughpine-shadowed roads, from which occasionally would open for amoment broad vistas of
endless glades, clear as parks, breathlessdescents, or sharp steep cuts at the bottom of which
Spring Creek,or as much of it as was not turned into the Rockerville sluices,brawled or idled
along. It was time for lunch, so they dismountednear a deep still pool and ate. The ponies
cropped the sparsegrasses, or twisted on their backs, all four legs in the air.Squirrels chattered
and scolded overhead. Some of theindigo-coloured jays of the lowlands shot in long level
flightbetween the trees. The girl and the boy helped each other, hinderedeach other, playing here
and there near the Question, but swervingalways deliciously just in time.

After lunch, more riding through more pines. The road dippedstrongly once, then again; and then
abruptly the forest ceased, andthey found themselves cantering over broad rolling meadowsknee-
high with grasses, from which meadow larks rose in alldirections like grasshoppers. Soon after
they passed the canvas"schooners" of some who had started the evening before. Down thenext
long slope the ponies dropped cautiously with bunched feet andtentative steps. Spring Creek was
forded for the last time, anothersteep grassy hill was surmounted, and they looked abroad into
RapidValley and over to the prairie beyond.

Behind them the Hills lay, dark with the everlasting greenery ofthe North--even, low, with only
sun-browned Harney to raise itscliff-like front above the rest of the range. As though by a
commonimpulse they reined in their horses and looked back.

"I wonder just where the Rock is?" she mused.
They tried to guess at its location.

The treeless ridge on which they were now standing ran like abelt outside the Hills. They
journeyed along its summit until latein the afternoon, and then all at once found the city of
Rapidlying below them at the mouth of a mighty canon, like a toy villageon fine velvet brown.

In the city they separated, Mary going to the McPhersons',Bennington to the hotel. It was now
near to sunset, so it wasagreed that Bennington was to come round the following morning toget
her. At the hotel Bennington spent an interesting eveningviewing the pioneers with their variety
of costume, manners, andspeech. He heard many good stories, humorous and blood-curdling,and
it was very late before he finally got to bed.

The immediate consequence was that he was equally late tobreakfast. He hurried through that
meal and stepped out into thestreet, with the intention of hastening to Dr. McPherson's forMary,
but this he found to be impossible because of the overcrowdedcondition of the streets. The sports
of the day had already begun.From curb to curb the way was jammed with a dense mass of
men,women, and children, through whom he had to worm his way. After tenfeet of this, he heard
his name called, and looking up, caughtsight of Mary herself, perched on a dry-goods box,
franticallywaving a handkerchief in his direction.

"You're a nice one!" she cried in mock reproach as he struggledtoward her. Her eyes were bright
and her cheeks flew red signals ofenjoyment.

Bennington explained.

"I know. Well, it didn't matter, any way. I just captured thisbox. Climb up. There's room. I've lost
the doctor and Mrs.McPherson already."

Two mounted men, decorated with huge tin marshals' badges, rodeslowly along forcing the
crowd back to the right and to the left.The first horse race was on. Suddenly there was an eager
scramble,a cloud of dust, a swift impression of dim ghostlike figures. Itwas over. The crowd
flowed into the street again.

The two pressed together, hand in hand, on the top of thedry-goods box. They laughed at each
other and everything. Somethingbeautiful was very near to them, for this was the Pioneer's
Picnic,and both remembered that the Pioneer's Picnic marked the limit ofmany things.

"What's next? What's next?" she called excitedly to a tall youngcattleman.

The cowboy looked up at her, and his face relaxed into a pleasedsmile.

"Why, it's a drillin' match over in the next street, miss," heanswered politely. "You'd better run
right along over and get agood place." He glanced at de Laney, smiled again, and turned
away,apparently to follow his own advice.

"Come on, we'll follow him," cried Mary, jumping down.
"And abandon our box?" objected Bennington. But she was alreadyin full pursuit of the tall
cowboy.

The ring around the large boulder--dragged by mule team from thehills--had just begun to form
when they arrived, so they wereenabled to secure good places near the front rank, where
theykneeled on their handkerchiefs, and the crowd hemmed them in at theback. The drilling
match was to determine which pair of contestantscould in a given time, with sledge and drill, cut
the deepest holein a granite boulder. To one who stood apart, the sight must havebeen
picturesque in the extreme. The white dust, stirred byrestless feet, rose lazily across the heated
air. The sun shonedown clear and hot with a certain wide-eyed glare that is seen onlyin the
rarefied atmosphere of the West. Around the outer edge ofthe ring hovered a few anxious small
boys, agonized that they weremissing part of the show. Stolidly indifferent Indians,
wrappedclose in their blankets, smoked silently, awaiting the next ponyrace, the riders of which
were skylarking about trying to pull eachother from their horses' backs.

When the last pair had finished, the judges measured the depthsof the holes drilled, and
announced the victors.

The crowd shouted and broke for the saloons. The latter had beenplying a brisk business, so that
men were about ready to embrace inbrotherhood or in battle with equal alacrity.

Suddenly it was the dinner hour. The crowd broke. Bennington andMary realized they had been
wandering about hand in hand. Theydirected their steps toward the McPhersons with the
greatestpropriety. It was a glorious picnic.

The house was gratefully cool and dark after the summer heat outof doors. The little doctor sat in
the darkest room and dissertatedcannily on the strange variety of subjects which a Scotchman
canalways bring up on the most ordinary occasions.

The doctor was not only a learned man, as was evidenced by hisposition in the School of Mines
and his wonderful collections, butwas a scout of long standing, a physician of merit, and an
Indianauthority of acknowledged weight. Withal he was so modest thatthese things became
known only by implication or hearsay, never bydirect evidence. Mrs. McPherson was not Scotch
at all, but plaincomfortable American, redolent of wholesome cleanliness and goodtemper, and
beaming with kindliness and round spectacles. Never wassuch a doctor; never was such a Mrs.
McPherson; never was such adinner! And they brought in after-dinner coffee in small cups.

"Ah, ha! Mr. de Laney," laughed the doctor, who had beenwatching him with quizzical eye.
"We're pretty bad, but we aren'tgot quite to savagery yet."

Bennington hastened to disavow.

"That's all right," the doctor reassured him; "that's all right.I didn't wonder at ye in this country,
but Mrs. McPherson andmysel' jest take a wee trip occasionally to keep our wits bright.Isn't it so,
Mrs. Mac?"
"It is that," said she with a doubtful inner thought as to thepropriety of offering cream.

"And as for you," went on the doctor dissertatively, "I supposeye're getting to be somewhat of a
miner yourself. I mind me we dida bit of assay work for your people the other day--the Crazy
Horse,wasn't it? A good claim I should judge, from the sample, and so Iwrote Davidson."

"When was this?" asked the Easterner, puzzled.

"The last week."

"I didn't know he had had any assaying done."

"O weel," said the doctor comfortably, "it may not have occurredto him to report yet. It was
rich."

"Mrs. McPherson, let's talk about dresses," called Mary acrossthe table. "Here we've come down
for a holiday and theyinsist on talking mining."

And so the subject was dropped, but Bennington could not get itout of his mind. Why should
Mizzou have had the Crazy Horse assayedwithout saying anything about it to him? Why had he
not reportedthe result? How did it happen that the doctor's assistants hadfound the ore rich when
the company's assayers East had proved itpoor? Why should Mizzou have it assayed at all, since
he was nolonger connected with the company? But, above all, supposing he haddone this with
the intention of keeping it secret from Bennington,what possible benefit or advantage could the
old man derive fromsuch an action?

He puzzled over this. It seemed to still the effervescence ofhis joy. He realized suddenly that he
had been very careless in agreat many respects. The work had all been trusted to Davidson,while
he, often, had never even seen it. He had been entirelyoccupied with the girl. He experienced that
sudden sinking feelingwhich always comes to a man whom neglected duty wakes frompleasure.

What was Davidson's object? Could it be that he hoped to "buyin" a rich claim at a low figure,
and to that end had sent poorsamples East? The more he thought of this the more reasonable
itseemed. His resignation was for the purpose of putting him in theposition of outside purchaser.

He resolved to carry through the affair diplomatically. Duringthe afternoon he ruminated on how
this was to be done. Mary couldnot understand his preoccupation. It piqued her. A
slightstrangeness sprang up between them which he was too distraitto notice. Finally, as he
tumbled into bed that night, an idea sobrilliant came to him that he sat bolt upright in sheer
delight athis own astuteness.

He would ask Dr. McPherson for a copy of the assays. If hissuspicions were correct, these assays
would represent the richestsamples. He would send them at once to Bishop with a statement
ofthe case, in that manner putting the capitalist on his guard. Therewas something exquisitely
humorous to him in the idea of thusturning to his own use the information which Davidson
hadaccumulated for his fraudulent purposes. He went to sleep chucklingover it.
Chapter XV. The Girl on the Train
The next morning the young man had quite regained his goodspirits. The girl, on the other hand,
was rather quiet.

Dr. McPherson made no objections to furnishing a copy of theassays. The records, however,
were at the School of Mines. He drovedown to get them, and in the interim the two young
people, at Mrs.McPherson's suggestion, went to see the train come in.

The platform of the station was filled to suffocation. Assumingthat the crowd's intention was to
view the unaccustomed locomotive,it was strange it did not occur to them that the opposite side
ofthe track or the adjacent prairie would afford more elbow room.They huddled together on the
boards of the platform as though theappearance of the spectacle depended on every last
individual'skeeping his feet from the naked earth. They pushed good-naturedlyhere and there,
expostulating, calling to one another facetiously,looking anxiously down the straight, dwindling
track for the firstglimpse of the locomotive.

Mary and Bennington found themselves caught up at once into thevortex. After a few moments
of desperate clinging together, theywere forced into the front row, where they stood on the very
edge,braced back against the pressure, half laughing, half vexed.

The train drew in with a grinding rush. From the step swung theconductor. Faces looked from the
open windows.

On the platform of one of the last cars stood a young girl andthree men. One of the men was
elderly, with white hair and sidewhiskers. The other two were young and well dressed. The girl
wasof our best patrician type--the type that may know little, thinklittle, say little, and generally
amount to little, and yet carryits negative qualities with so used an air of polite society as toraise
them by sheer force to the dignity of positive virtues. Fromhead to foot she was faultlessly
groomed. From eye to attitude shewas languidly superior--the impolitic would say bored. Yet
everyfeature of her appearance and bearing, even to the very tips of herenamelled and sensibly
thick boots, implied that she was of adifferent class from the ordinary, and satisfied on "common
people"that impulse which attracts her lesser sisters to the vulgarmenagerie. She belonged to the
proper street--at the proper time ofday. Any one acquainted with the species would have known
at oncethat this private-car trip to Deadwood was to please theprosperous-looking gentleman
with the side whiskers, and that itwas made bearable only by the two smooth-shaven individuals
in thebackground.

She caught sight of the pair directly in front of her, andraised her lorgnette with a languid wrist.

Her stare was from the outside-the-menagerie standpoint.Bennington was not used to it. For the
moment he had the FifthAvenue feeling, and knew that he was not properly dressed.Therefore,
naturally, he was confused. He lowered his head andblushed a little. Then he became conscious
that Mary's clear eyeswere examining him in a very troubled fashion.
Three hours and a half afterward it suddenly occurred to himthat she might have thought he had
blushed and lowered his headbecause he was ashamed to be seen by this other girl in
hercompany; but it was then too late.

The train pulled out. The Westerners at once scattered in alldirections. Half an hour later the
choking cloud dusts rose likesmoke from the different trails that led north or south or west tothe
heart of the Hills.

"The picnic is over," he suggested gently at their noon campingplace.

"Yes, thank Heaven!"

"You remember your promise?"

"What promise?"

"That you would explain your 'mystery.'"

"I've changed my mind."

A leaf floated slowly down the wind. A raven croaked. The breezemade the sunbeams waver.

"Mary, the picnic is over," he repeated again very gently.

"Yes, yes, yes!"

"I love you, Mary."

The raven spread his wings and flew away.

"Do you love me?" he insisted gently.

"I want you to come to dinner at our house to-morrow noon."

"That is a strange answer, Mary."

"It is all the answer you'll get to-day."

"Why are you so cross? Is anything the matter?"

"Nothing."

"I love you, Mary. I love you, girl. At least I can say thatnow."

"Yes, you can say it--now."
Chapter XVI. A Noon Dinner
Bennington did not know what to make of his invitation. At onemoment he told himself it must
mean that Mary loved him, and thatshe wished him to meet her parents on that account. At the
next hetormented himself with the conviction that she thus merely avoidedthe issue. Between
these moods he alternated, without being able toabide in either. He forgot all about Old Mizzou.

Promptly at noon the following day he turned up the littleright-hand trail for the first time.

The Lawton house he found, first of all, to be scrupulouslyneat. It stood on a knoll, as do most
gulch cabins, in order thatoccasional freshets might pass below, and the knoll looked asthough it
had been clipped with a pair of scissors. Not a crookedlittle juniper bush was allowed to intrude
its plebeian sprawlamong the dignified pines and the gracefully infrequent bushes. Infront of the
cabin itself was a "rockery" of pink quartz, on whichwere piled elk antlers. The building was L-
shaped, of two lowstories, had a veranda with a railing, and possessed variousornamental wood
edgings, all of which were painted. The wholeaffair was mathematically squared and
correspondingly neat. Someboxes and pots of flowers adorned the window ledges.

Bennington's knock was answered by an elderly woman, whointroduced herself at once as Mrs.
Lawton. She commenced a volubleand slightly embarrassed explanation of how "she" would be
down ina moment or so, at the same time leading the way into the parlour.While this explanation
was going forward, Bennington had a goodchance to examine his hostess and her surroundings.

Mrs. Lawton was of the fat but energetic variety. She fairlyshone with cleanliness and with an
insistent determination to keepbusy. You could see that all the time her tongue was utteringpolite
platitudes concerning the weather, her mind was hoveringlike a dragon fly over this or that
flower of domestic economy. Shewas one of the women who carry their housekeeping to a
perfectionuncomfortable both to herself and everybody else, and then deludethemselves into the
martyrlike belief that she is doing it allentirely for others. As a consequence, she exhibited much
of thetime an aggrieved air that comported but ludicrously with hertendency to bustle. And it
must be confessed that in other waysMrs. Lawton was ludicrous. Her dumpy little form was
dressed in theloudest of prints, the figures of which turned her into a hugeflower bed of brilliant
cabbage-like blooms. Over this chaos ofcolours peered her round little face with its snapping
eyes. Shediscoursed in sentences which began coherently, but frayed out sooninto nothingness
under the stress of inner thought. "I don't seewhere that husban' of mine is. I reckon you'll think
we're justawful rude, Mr. de Laney, and that gal, an' Maude. I declare it'sjest enough to try any
one's patience, it surely is. You've noidea, Mr. de Laney, what with the hens settin', and this
mis'abledry spell that sends th' dust all over everything and every one'way behin' hand on
everythin'----" Her eye was becoming vacant asshe wondered about certain biscuits.

"I'm sure it must be," agreed Bennington uncomfortably.

"What was I a-sayin'? You must excuse me, Mr. de Laney, but you,being a man, can have no
idea of the life us poor women folks lead,slavin' our very lives away to keep things runnin', and
then nothanks fer it a'ter all. I'd just like t' see Bill Lawton try itfer jest one week. He'd be a ravin'
lunatic, an' thet I tellhim often. This country's jest awful, too. I tell him he must getout
sometimes, and I 'spect he will, when he's made his pile, poorman, an' then we'll have a chanst to
go back East again. When welived East, Mr. de Laney, we had a house--not like this littleshack;
a good house with nigh on to a dozen rooms, and I had a galto help me and some chanst to buy
things once in a while, but nowthat Bill Lawton's moved West, what's goin' to become o' me I
don'tknow. I'm nigh wore out with it all."

"Then you lived East once?" asked Bennington.

"Law, yes! We lived in Illinoy once, and th' Lord only knows Iwisht we lived there yet, though
the farmin' was a sight of workand no pay sometimes." The inner doubts as to the biscuits
provedtoo much for her. "Heaven knows, you ain't t' git much to eat," shecried, jumping up, "but
you ain't goin' to git anythin' a tall if Idon't run right off and tend to them biscuit."

She bustled out. Bennington had time then to notice thedecorations of the "parlour." They
offered to the eye a strangemixture of the East and West--reminiscences of the old home
in"Illinoy" and trophies of the new camping-out on the frontier. Fromthe ceiling hung a heavy
lamp with prismatic danglers, surroundedby a globe on which were depicted stags in the act of
leapingsix-barred gates. By way of complement to this gorgeouscentrepiece, the paper on the
walls showed, in infinitely recurringduplicate, a huntress in green habit and big hat carrying on
adesperate flirtation with a young man in the habiliments of thefifteenth century, while across the
background a huddle of dogspursued a mammoth deer. Mathematically beneath the lamp stood
atable covered with a red-figured spread. On the table was a glassbell, underneath which were
wax flowers and a poorly-stuffed robin.In one angle of the room austerely huddled a three-
cornered"whatnot" of four shelves. Two china pugs and a statuette of asimpering pair of children
under a massive umbrella adorned thisarticle of furniture. On the wall ticked an old-fashioned
squarewooden clock. The floor was concealed by a rag carpet. So much forthe East. The West
contributed brilliant green copper ore, flakywhite tin ore, glittering white quartz ore, shining
pyrites, andone or two businesslike specimens of oxygenated quartz, all ofwhich occupied points
of exhibit on the "whatnot." Over the carpetwere spread a deer skin, and a rug made from the
hide of a timberwolf. Bennington found all this interesting but depressing. He wasglad when
Mrs. Lawton returned and took up her volublediscourse.

In the midst of a dissertation on the relation of corn meal toeggs the door opened, and Mr.
Lawton sidled in.

"Oh, here y' are at last!" observed his spouse scornfully, andrattled on. Lawton nodded
awkwardly, and perched himself on theedge of a chair. He had assumed an ill-fitting suit of
storeclothes, in which he unaccustomedly writhed, and evidently, tojudge from the sleekness of
his hair, had recently plunged his headin a pail of water. He said nothing, but whenever Mrs.
Lawton wasnot looking he winked elaborately and solemnly at Bennington asthough to imply
that circumstances alone prevented any more openshow of cordiality. At last, catching the young
man's eye at a morethan usually propitious moment, he went through the pantomime ofopening a
bottle, then furtively arose and disappeared. Mrs.Lawton, remembering her cakes, ran out.
Bennington was left aloneagain. He had not spoken six words.
The door slowly opened, and another member of the family sidledin. Bennington owned a
helpless feeling that this was a sort ofshow, and that these various actors in it were parading
theirentrances and their exits before him. Or that he himself were theobject of inspection on
whom the others were satisfying their owncuriosity.

The newcomer was a child, a little girl about eight or ten yearsold. Bennington liked children as
a usual thing. No one on earthcould have become possessed in this one's favour. She was
acreature of regular but mean features, extreme gravity, andevidently of an inquiring disposition.
On seeing her for the firsttime, one sophisticated would have expected a deluge of
questions.Bennington did. But she merely stood and stared withoutwinking.

"Hullo, little girl!" Bennington greeted her uneasily.

The creature only stared the harder.

"My doll's name is Garnet M-a-ay," she observed suddenly, with along-drawn nasal accent.

After this interesting bit of information another silencefell.

"What is your name, little girl?" Bennington asked desperatelyat last.

"Maude," remarked the phenomenon briefly.

This statement she delivered in that whining tone which theextremely self-conscious infant
imagines to indicate playfulchildishness. She approached.

"D' you want t' see my picters?" she whimpered confidingly.

Bennington expressed his delight.

For seven geological ages did he gaze upon cheap and horriblewoodcuts of gentlemen in
fashionable raiment trying to lean againstconspicuously inadequate rustic gates; equally
fashionable ladies,with flat chests, and rat's nest hair; and animals whose attitudesdenoted
playful sportiveness of disposition. Each of these pictureswas explained in minute detail.
Bennington's distress becameapathy. Mrs. Lawton returned from the cakes presently, yet
hervoice seemed to break in on the duration of centuries.

"Now, Maude!" she exclaimed, with a proper maternal pride, "youmustn't be botherin' the
gentleman." She paused to receive theexpected disclaimer. It was made, albeit a little weakly.
"Maude isvery good with her Book," she explained. "Miss Brown, that's theschool teacher that
comes over from Hill Town summers, she saysMaude reads a sight better than lots as is two or
three yearsolder. Now how old would you think she was, Mr. de Laney?"

Mr. de Laney tried to appraise, while the object hung her headself-consciously and twisted her
feet. He had no idea of children'sages.
"About eleven," he guessed, with an air of wisdom.

"Jest eight an' a half!" cried the dame, folding her handstriumphantly. She let her fond maternal
gaze rest on the prodigy.Suddenly she darted forward with extraordinary agility for one sowell
endowed with flesh, and seized her offspring in relentlessgrasp.

"I do declare, Maude Eliza!" she exclaimed in horror-strickentones, "you ain't washed your ears!
You come with me!"

They disappeared in a blue mist of wails.

As though this were his cue, the crafty features of Lawtonappeared cautiously in the doorway,
bestowed a furtive andsearching inspection on the room, and finally winked solemnly atits only
occupant. A hand was inserted. The forefinger beckoned.Bennington arose wearily and went out.

Lawton led the way to a little oat shed standing at somedistance from the house. Behind this he
paused. From beneath hiscoat he drew a round bottle and two glass tumblers.

"No joke skippin' th' ole lady," he chuckled in an undertone. Hepoured out a liberal portion for
himself, and passed the bottlealong. Bennington was unwilling to hurt the old fellow's
feelingsafter he had taken so much trouble on his account, but he wasequally unwilling to drink
the whisky. So he threw it away whenLawton was not looking.

They walked leisurely toward the house, Lawton explainingvarious improvements in a loud tone
of voice, intended more to lullhis wife's suspicions than to edify the young man. The lady
lookedon them sternly, and announced dinner. At the table Benningtonfound Mary already
seated.

The Easterner was placed next to Mrs. Lawton. At his other handwas Maude Eliza. Mary sat
opposite. Throughout the meal she saidlittle, and only looked up from her plate when
Bennington'sattention was called another way.

Her mere presence, however, seemed to open to the young man adifferent point of view. He
found Mrs. Lawton's lengthydissertations amusing; he considered Mr. Lawton in the light of
aunique character, and Maude Eliza, while as disagreeable as ever,came in for various excuses
and explanations on her own behalf inthe young man's mind. He became more responsive. He
told a numberof very good stories, at which the others laughed. He detailed someexperiences of
his own at places in the world far remote, selected,it must be confessed, with some slight
reference to their dazzlingeffect on the company. Without actually "showing off," he managedto
get the effect of it. The result of his efforts was to harmonizeto some extent these diverse
elements. Mrs. Lawton became morecoherent, Mr. Lawton more communicative; Maude Eliza
stoppedwhining--occasionally and temporarily. Bennington had rarely beenin such high spirits.
He was surprised himself, but then was notthat day of moment to him, and would he not have
been a strangesort of individual to have seen in the world aught butbrightness?
But Mary responded not at all. Rather, as Bennington arose, shefell, until at last she hardly even
moved in her place.

"Chirk up, chirk up!" cried Mrs. Lawton gaily, for her. "I knowsome one who ought to be happy,
anyhow." She glanced meaningly fromone to the other and laughed heartily.

Bennington felt a momentary disgust at her tactlessness, butcovered it with some laughing sally
of his own. The meal broke upin great good humour. Mrs. Lawton and Maude Eliza remained to
clearaway the dishes. Mr. Lawton remarked that he must get back to work,and shook hands in
farewell most elaborately. Bennington laughinglypromised them all that he would surely come
again. Then he escaped,and followed Mary up the hill, surmising truly enough that she hadgone
on toward the Rock. He thought he caught a glimpse of herthrough the elders. He hastened his
footsteps. At this he stumbledslightly. From his pocket fell a letter he had received thatmorning.
He picked it up and looked at it idly.

It was from his mother and covered a number of closely-writtenpages. As he was about to thrust
it back into his pocket a singlesentence caught his eye. It read: "Sally Ogletree gave a supperlast
week, which was a very pretty affair."

He stopped short on the trail, and the world seemed to go blackaround him. He almost fell. Then
resumed his way, but step now washesitating and slow, and he walked with his eyes bent
thoughtfullyon the ground.

Chapter XVII. Noblesse Oblige
The thought which caused Bennington de Lane so suddenly lookgrave was suggested by the
sentence in his mother's letter. For thefirst time he realized that these people, up to now so
amusing,were possibly destined to come into intimate relations withhimself. Old Bill Lawton
was Mary's father; while Mrs. Lawton wasMary's mother; Maude was Mary's sister.

The next instant a great rush of love into his heart drove thisfeeling from it. What matter
anything, provided she loved him andhe loved her? Generous sentiment so filled him that there
was roomfor nothing else. He even experienced dimly in the depths of hisconsciousness, a faint
pale joy that in thus accepting what wasdisagreeable to his finer sensibilities, he was proving
more trulyto his own self the boundlessness of his love. For the moment hewas exalted by this
instant revulsion against anything calculatingin his passion. And then slowly, one by one, the
objections stoleback, like a flock of noisome sombre creatures put to flight by asudden
movement, but now returning to their old nesting places. Thevery unassuming method of their
recurrence lent them an addedinfluence. Almost before Bennington knew it they had established
acase, and he found himself face to face with a very uglyproblem.

Perhaps it will be a little difficult for the average anddemocratic reader to realize fully the
terrible proportions of thisproblem. We whose lives assume little, require little of
them.Intangible objections to the desires of our hearts do not count formuch against their
realization; there needs the rough attrition ofreality to turn back our calm, complacent acquisition
of that whichwe see to be for our best interest in the emotional world. Claimsof ancestry mean
nothing. Claims of society mean not much more.Claims of wealth are considered as evanescent
among a class of menwho, by their efforts and genius, are able to render absolutewealth itself an
evanescent quality. When one of us loves, hequestions the worth of the object of his passion.
That established,nothing else is of great importance. There is a grand and noblequality in this,
but it misses much. About the other state ofaffairs--wherein the woman's appurtenances of all
kinds, as well asthe woman herself, are significant--is a delicate and subtle auraof the higher
refinement--the long refinement of the spirit throughmany generations--which, to an eye
accustomed to look forgradations of moral beauty, possesses a peach-blow iridescence ofits own.
From one point of view, the old-fashioned forms of thoughtand courtesy are stilted and useless.
From another they retainstill the lofty dignity of noblesse oblige.

So we would have none set down Bennington de Laney as a prig ora snob because he did not at
once decide for his heart as againsthis aristocratic instincts. Not only all his early education,
butthe life lessons of many generations of ancestors had taught him toset a fictitious value on
social position. He was a de Laney onboth sides. He had never been allowed to forget it. A long
line offorefathers, proud-eyed in their gilded frames, mutely gazed theirsense of the obligations
they had bequeathed to this lastrepresentative of their race. When one belongs to a great family
hecan not live entirely for himself. His disgrace or failure reflectsnot alone on his own
reputation, but it sullies the fair fame ofmen long dead and buried; and this is a dreadful thing.
For allthese old Puritans and Cavaliers, these knights and barons, theseking's councillors and
scholars, have perchance lived out the longyears of their lives with all good intent and purpose
and with allearnestness of execution, merely that they might build and senddown to posterity this
same fair fame. It is a bold man, or awicked man, who will dare lightly to bring the efforts of so
manylives to naught! In the thought of these centuries of endeavour,the sacrifice of mere
personal happiness does not seem so great anaffair after all. The Family Name has taken to itself
a soul. It isa living thing. It may be worked for, it may be nourished byaffection, it may even be
worshipped. Men may give their lives toit with as great a devotion, with as exalted a sense
ofrenunciation, and as lofty a joy in that renunciation, as those whovow allegiance to St. Francis
or St. Dominic. The tearing of theheart from the bosom often proves to be a mortal hurt when
there isnothing to put in the gap of its emptiness. Not so when a traditionlike this may partly take
its place.

These, and more subtle considerations, were the noblest elementsof Bennington de Laney's
doubts. But perhaps they were no morepotent than some others which rushed through the breach
made forthem in the young man's decision.

He had always lived so much at home that he had come to acceptthe home point of view without
question. That is to say, he neverexamined the value of his parent's ideas, because it never
occurredto him to doubt them. He had no perspective.

In a way, then, he accepted as axioms the social tenets held byhis mother, or the business
methods practised by his father. Hebelieved that elderly men should speak precisely, and
ingrammatical, but colourless English. He believed also that peopleshould, in society, conduct
themselves according to thefashion-plate pattern designed by Mrs. de Laney. He believed
thesethings, not because he was a fool, or shallow, or lacking inhumour, or snobbish, but because
nothing had ever happened to causehim to examine his beliefs closely, that he might appreciate
whatthey really were. One of these views was, that cultured people wereof a class in themselves,
and could not and should not mix withother classes. Mrs. de Laney entertained a horror of
vulgarity. Sodeep-rooted was this horror that a remote taint of it wassufficient to thrust forever
outside the pale of her approbationany unfortunate who exhibited it. She preferred stupidity to
commonsense, when the former was allied with good form, and the latteronly with plain
kindliness. This was partly instinct and partly theresult of cultivation. She would shrink, with
uncontrollabledisgust, from any of the lower classes with whom she cameunavoidably in contact.
A slight breach of the conventions earnedher distrust of one of her own caste. As this personal
idiosyncrasyfell in line with the de Laney pride, it was approved by the headof the family. Under
encouragement it became almost amonomania.

Bennington pictured to himself only too vividly the effect ofthe Lawtons on this lady's
aristocratic prejudices. He knew, onlytoo well, that Bill Lawton's table manners would not be
allowedeven in her kitchen. He could imagine Mrs. Lawton's fatuousconversation in the de
Laney's drawing-room, or Maude Eliza'sdressed-up self-consciousness. The experience of having
the threeWesterners to dinner just once would, Bennington knew, drive hislady mother to the
verge of nervous prostration--he remembered hisfather's one and only experience in bringing
business connectionshome to lunch--; his imagination failed to picture the effect ofher having to
endure them as actual members of the family! As ifthis were not bad enough, his restless fancy
carried him a stepfarther. He perceived the agonies of shame and mortification, realeven though
they were conventional, she would have to endure in theface of society. That the de Laneys,
social leaders, rigid inrespectability, should be forced to the humiliation ofacknowledging a
misalliance, should be forced to the addedhumiliation of confessing that this marriage was not
only with afamily of inferior social standing, but with one actuallyunlettered and vulgar!
Bennington knew only too well the temper ofhis mother--and of society.

It would not be difficult to expand these doubts, to amplifythese reasons, and even to adduce
others which occurred to theunhappy young man as he climbed the hill. But enough has been
said.Surely the reader, no matter how removed in sympathy from that lineof argument, must be
able now at least to sympathize, to perceivethat Bennington de Laney had some reason for
thought, some excusefor the tardiness of his steps as they carried him to a meetingwith the girl he
loved.

For he did love her, perhaps the more tenderly that doubts must,perforce, arise. All these
considerations affected not at all histhought of her. But now, for the first time, Bennington de
Laneywas weighing the relative claims of duty and happiness. Hishappiness depended upon his
love. That his duty to his race, hisparents, his caste had some reality in fact, and a very
solidreality in his own estimation, the author hopes he has shown. Ifnot, several pages have been
written in vain.

The conflict in his mind had carried him to the Rock. Here, ashe expected, he found Mary
already arrived. He ascended to thelittle plateau and dropped wearily to the moss. His face had
gonevery white in the last quarter of an hour.

"You see now why I asked you to come to-day," she said withoutpreliminary. "Now you have
seen them, and there is nothing more toconceal."
"I know, I know," he replied dully. "I am trying to think itout. I can't see it yet."

They took entirely for granted that each knew the subject of theother's thoughts. The girl seemed
much the more self-possessed ofthe two.

"We may as well understand each other," she said quietly,without emotion. "You have told me a
certain thing, and have askedme for a certain answer. I could not give it to you before
withoutdeceiving you. Now the answer depends on you. I have deceived youin a way," she went
on more earnestly, "but I did not mean to. Idid not realize the difference, truly I didn't, until I saw
thegirl on the train. Then I knew the difference between her and me,and between her's and mine.
And when you turned away, I saw thatyou were her kind, and I saw, too, that you ought to
knoweverything there was about me. Then you spoke."

"I meant what I said, too," he interrupted. "You must believethat, Mary, whatever comes."

"I was sorry you did," she went on, as though she had not heardhim. Then with just a touch of
impatience tingeing the even calm ofher voice, "Oh, why will men insist on saying those things!"
shecried. "The way to win a girl is not thus. He should see her often,without speaking of love,
being everything to her, until at lastshe finds she can not live without him."

"Have I been that to you, Mary? Has it come to that with me?" heasked wistfully.

"Heaven help me, I am afraid it has!" she cried, burying herface in her hands.

A great gladness leaped up into his face, and died as the blazeof a fire leaps up and expires.

"That makes it easier--and harder," he said. "It is bad enoughas it is. I don't know how I can
make you understand, dear."

"I understand more than you think," she replied, becoming calmagain, and letting her hands fall
into her lap. "I am going tospeak quite plainly. You love me, Ben--ah, don't I know it!" shecried,
with a sudden burst of passion. "I have seen it in your eyesthese many days. I have heard it in
your voice. I have felt itwelling out from your great heart. It has been sweet to me--sosweet! You
can not know, no man ever could know, how that love ofyours has filled my soul and my heart
until there was room fornothing else in the whole wide world!"

"You love me!" he said wonderingly.

"If I had not known that, do you think I would have endured amoment's hesitation after you had
seen the objectionable featuresof my life? Do you think that if I had the slightest doubts of
yourlove, I could now understand why you hesitate? But I do, andI honour you for it."

"You love me!" he repeated.

"Yes, yes, Ben dear, I do love you. I love you as I neverthought to be permitted to love. Do you
want to know what I didthat second day on the Rock--the day you first showed me what
youreally were? The day you told me of your old home and the greattree? It was all so peaceful,
and tender, and comforting, so sweetand pure, that it rested me. I felt, here is a man at last
whocould not misunderstand me, could not be abrupt, and harsh, andcruel. I said to myself, 'He
is not perfect nor does he expectperfection.' I shut my eyes, and then something choked me, and
thetears came. I cried out loud, 'Oh, to be what I was, to give againwhat I have not! O God, give
me back my heart as it once was, andlet me love!' Yes, Ben dear, I said 'love.' And then I was
nothappy any more all day. But God answered that prayer, Ben dear, andwe do love one another
now, and that is why we can look at thingstogether, and see what is best for us both."

"You love me!" he exclaimed for the third time.

"And now, dear, we must talk plainly and calmly. You have seenwhat my family is."

"I don't know, Mary, that I can make you understand at all,"began Bennington helplessly. "I can't
express it even to myself.Our people are so different. My training has been so different. Allthis
sort of thing means so much to us, and so little to you."

"I know exactly," she interrupted. "I have read, and I havelived East. I can appreciate just how it
is. See if I can not readyour thoughts. My family is uneducated. If it becomes your family,your
own parents will be more than grieved, and your friends willhave little to do with you. You have
also duties toward yourfamily, as a family. Is that it?"

"Yes, that is it," answered he, "but there are so manythings it does not say. It seems to me it has
come to be a horribledilemma with me. If I do what I am afraid is my duty to my familyand my
people, I will be unhappy without you forever. And if Ifollow my heart, then it seems to me I
will wrong myself, and willbe unhappy that way. It seems a choice of just in what manner Iwill
be miserable!" he ended with a ghastly laugh.

"And which is the most worth while?" she asked in a stillvoice.

"I don't know, I don't know!" he cried miserably. "I mustthink."

He looked out straight ahead of him for some time. "Whicheverway I decide," he said after a
little, "I want you to know this,Mary: I love you, and I always will love you, and the fact that
Ichoose my duty, if I do, is only that if I did not, I would notconsider myself worthy even to look
at you." A silence fell on themagain.

"I can not live West," said he again, as though he had beenarguing this point in his mind and had
just reached the conclusionof it. "My life is East; I never knew it until now." He
hesitated."Would you--that is, could you--I mean, would your family have tolive East too?"

She caught his meaning and drew herself up, with a little pridein the movement.

"Wherever I go, whatever I do, my people must be free to go ordo. You have your duty to your
family. I have my duty to mine!"
He bowed his head quietly in assent. She looked at the struggledepicted in the lines of his face
with eyes in which, strangelyenough, was much pity, but no unhappiness or doubt. Could it
bethat she was so sure of the result?

At last he raised his head slowly and turned to her with an airof decision.

"Mary----" he began.

At that moment there became audible a sudden rattle of stonesbelow the Rock, and at the same
instant a harsh voice broke inrudely upon their conversation.

Chapter XVIII. The Claim Jumpers
Bennington instinctively put his finger on his lips to enjoinsilence, and peered cautiously over
the edge of the dike. Perhapshe was glad that this diversion had occurred to postpone even for
ashort time the announcement of a decision it had cost him so muchto make. Perhaps he
recognised the voice.

Three men were clambering a trifle laboriously over the brokenrocks at the foot of the dike,
swearing a little at their unstablefooting, but all apparently much in earnest in their
conversation.Even as Bennington looked they came to a halt, and then sank downeach on a
convenient rock, talking interestedly. One was OldMizzou, one was the man Arthur, the third
was a stranger whomBennington had never seen.

The latter had hardly the air of the country.

He was a dapper little man dressed in a dark gray bob-tailedcutaway, and a brown derby hat,
which was pushed far back on hishead. His face, however, was keen and alert and brown, all of
whichcharacteristics indicated an active Western life at no very remoteday. The words which had
so powerfully arrested Bennington deLaney's attention were delivered by Old Mizzou to
thisstranger.

"Thar!" the old man had said, "ain't that Crazy Hoss Lode 'boutas good-lookin' a lead as they
make 'em?"

"So, so; so, so;" replied the man in the derby in a high voice."Your vein is a fissure vein all right
enough, and you've got agood wide lead. If it holds up in quality, I don't know but whatyou're
right."

"I shows you them assays of McPherson's, don't I?" arguedMizzou, "an' any quartz in this kentry
that assays twenty-fourdollars ain't no ways cheap."

This speech was so significantly in line with Bennington'ssurmise that he caught his breath and
drew back cautiously out ofsight, but still in such a position that he could hear plainlyevery word
uttered by the group below. The girl was watching himwith bright, interested eyes.
"Listen carefully!" he whispered, bringing his mouth close toher ear. "I think there's some sort of
plot here."

She nodded ready comprehension, and they settled themselves tohear the following conversation:

"I saw the assay," replied the stranger's voice to Mizzou's laststatement, "but who's this
McPherson? How do I know the assays areall right?"

"Why, he's that thar professer at th' School of Mines,"expostulated Mizzou.

"Oh, yes!" cried the stranger, as though suddenly enlightened."If those are his assays, they're all
right. Let's see themagain."

There followed a rustling of papers.

"Well, I've looked over your layout," went on the stranger aftera moment, "and pretty thoroughly
in the last few days. I know whatyou've got here. Now what's your proposition?"

There was a pause.

"I knows you a good while, Slayton----" began Mizzou, but wasinterrupted almost immediately
by a third voice, that of Arthur."The point is this," said the latter sharply, "Davidson here is ina
position to give you possession of this group o' claims, but heain't in a position to appear in th'
transaction. How are you goin'to purtect him an' me so we gets something out of it?"

"Wait a minute," put in the stranger, "I want to ask a fewquestions myself. These claims belong
to the Holy Smoke Companynow, don't they?"

"Well, that's the idea."

"Are either of you the agent of that Company?"

"Not directly, perhaps."

"Are you indirectly?"

"Seems to me you haven't got any call t' look into that, if weguarantee t' give you good title."

"How do I know you can give me good title?"

"Ain't I tellin' you so?"

"Yes, but why should I believe you?"

"You shouldn't, unless you've got sense enough to see that weain't gettin' you 'way up here, an'
we ain't living round theseparts a couple of years on a busted proposition."
The stranger evidently debated this.

"How would it be if you took equal shares with me on the claims,your shares to be paid from the
earnings? That would be fair allround. You would get nothing unless the title was good. I
wouldrisk no more than you did," he suggested.

"Isn't I tellin' yo' I don't appear a tall in this yeretransaction?" objected Mizzou.

The stranger laughed a little.

"I can see through a millstone," he said. "Why don't you oldturtlebacks come out of your shells
and play square? You've gotsome shady game on here that you're working underhand. Spin
youryarn and I'll tell you what I think of it."

"How do I know you don't leave us out a'ter we tells you,"objected Mizzou, returning to his
original idea.

"You don't!" answered the stranger impatiently, "you don't! Butit seems to me if you expect to
get anything out of a shadytransaction, you've got to risk something."

"That's right," put in Arthur, "that's right! 'Nuff said! Now,Slayton, we'll agree to git you full
legal control of these yereclaims if you'll develop them at your expense, an' gin Davidson andme
a third interest between us fer our influence. That's ourproposition, an' that goes. If you don't
play squar', I knows howt' make ye."

"Spin your yarn," repeated the stranger quietly. "I'll agree togive you and Davidson a third
interest, provided I take holdof the thing at all."

"An' Jack Slayton," put in Mizzou threateningly, "if you don'tplay us squar', I swar I'll shoot ye
like a dog!"

"Oh, stow that, Davidson," rejoined the stranger in an irritatedvoice; "that rot don't do any good.
I know you, and you know me. Inever went back on a game yet, and you know it."

"I does know it, Jack!" came up Davidson's voice repentantly,"but this is a big deal, an' y' can't
be too careful!"

"All right, all right," the stranger responded "Now tell us yourscheme. How can you get hold of
the property?"

"By jumping the claims," replied Arthur calmly. There ensued ashort pause. Then:

"Don't be a fool," exclaimed Slayton with contempt; "this is nohold-up country. You can't drive a
man off his property with agun."

"I knows that. These claims can be 'jumped' quiet andlegal."
"How?"

"They ain't be'n a stroke of assessment work done on 'em sincewe came. Th' Company's title's
gone long ago. They lost their joblast January. Them claims is open to any one who cares to
have'em."

The stranger uttered a long whistle. Old Mizzou chuckledcunningly. "I has charge of them
claims from th' time they quitswork on 'em 'till now. They ain't be'n a pick raised on
'em.Anybody could a-jumped 'em any time since las' January."

"But how about the Company?" asked Slayton. "How did you foolthem?"

"Oh, I sends 'em bills fer work reg'lar enough! And I didn'tthrow away th' money neither!"

"Yes, that'd be easy enough. But how about the people aroundhere? Why haven't they jumped
the claims long ago?"

"Wall, I argues about this a-way. These yere gents sees I hascharge, an' they says to themselves,
'Ole Davidson takes care ofthem assessment works all right,' an' so they never thinks it'sworth
while t' see whether it is done or not."

"You trusted to their thinking you were performing yourduties?"

"Thet's it."

"Well, it was a pretty big risk!"

"Ev'rything t' gain an' nothin' t' lose," quoted Old Mizzoucomfortably.

"How about this new man the Company has out here--de Laney? Ishe in this deal too?"

"Oh, him!" said Davidson with vast contempt. "He don' knowenough t' dodge a brick! I tells him
th' assessment work is alldone. He believes it, an' never looks t' see. I gets him fooled soeasy it's
shore funny."

"Hold on!" put in Slayton sharply. "I'm not so sure you aren'tliable there somewhere. Of course
your failure to do the assessmentwork while you were alone here was negligence, but that is all.
TheCompany could fire you for failing to do your duty, but theycouldn't prove any fraud against
you. But when this de Laney camealong it changed things."

"How is that?"

"Well, you told him the assessment work had been done, in somany words, didn't you? The
Company can prove that you were usingyour official information to deceive him for the purposes
of fraud.In other words, you were an officer of the Company, and youdeceived another officer in
your official capacity. I don't knowbut you'd be liable to a criminal action."
"Not on your tin-type," said Old Mizzou with confidence.

"Have you looked it up?"

"I does better than that. At that point I shore becomes subtle.I resigns from th' Company! A'ter
that I talks assessmentwork. I tells him advice, jest as a friend. If he believes th'same, an' it ain't
so, why thet's unfort'nit, but they can't doanythin' t' me. I'm jest an outsider. He is responsible to
th'Company, an' if he wants information, he ought to go to th' books,and not to frien's who may
deceive him."

"Davidson, you're a genius!" exclaimed the strangerheartily.

"I tells you I becomes subtle," acknowledged the old man withjust pride. "But now you sees it
ain't delikit that my name appearsin th' case a tall. Folks is so suspicious these yere days, that ifI
has a share, and Arthur yere has a share, they says p'rhaps wehas this yere scheme in view right
along. But if Slayton gets themlapsed claims by hisself, Slayton bein' a stranger, they thinks
howfortinit that Slayton is t' git onto it, and they puts pore OleMizzou down as becomin' fergitful
in his old age."

The stranger laughed.

"It's easy," he remarked. "We get them for nothing, and you canbet your sweet life I'll push 'em
through for all there is in it.Why, boys, you're rich! You won't have anything more to do the
restof your mortal days, unless you want to."

"I ain't seekin' no manual employment," observed Mizzou.

"I'm willin' to quit work," agreed Arthur.

"Well, you'll have a chance. Now we better hustle this thingthrough lively. We've got to make
our discoveries on the quiet sono one will get on to us."

"It ain't goin' t' take us long t' tack up them notices, now 'twe've agreed. We kin do th' most on it
this evenin'. Jest lay low,that's all."

"Ain't de Laney going to get onto us sasshaying off with a lotof notices?"

"If he does," remarked Old Mizzou grimly, "I knows a dark holewhar we retires that young man
for th' day! If it comes t' that,though, you got t' tend to it, Slayton. I ain't showin' in thisdeal y'
know."

The stranger laughed unpleasantly.

"You show me the hole and I'll take care of Mr. man," he agreed.He laughed again. "By the way,
it strikes me that fellow's going torun up against a good deal of tribulation before he
getsthrough."
"Wall, thet thar Comp'ny ain't goin' to raise his pay when theyfinds it out," agreed Mizzou. "Thet
Bishop, he gets tolerableanxious 'bout them assessment works now, and writes frequent. I gota
whole bunch of his letters up t' camp that I keeps for th' goodof his health. Ain't no wise healthy
t' worry 'bout business, youknow."

"Wonder th' little idiot didn't miss his mail," growledArthur.

"Oh, I coaxes him on with th' letters from his mammy and pappy.They's harmless enough."

The three men fell into a discussion of various specimens ofquartz which they took from their
pockets, and, after what seemedto be an interminable time, arose and moved slowly down thehill.

The girl looked at her companion with wide-open eyes. "Ben!" shegasped, "what have you
done?"

"Made a fool of myself," he responded curtly.

"What are you going to do about it?"

"I don't know."

He knit his brows deeply. She cast about for an expedient.

"I wish I knew more about mining!" she cried. "I know there issome way to get legal possession
of a claim by patenting it, but Idon't know how you do it."

He did not reply.

"There must be some way out of this," she went on, all alert."They haven't done anything yet.
Why don't you go down to camp andinquire?"

"Every man would be in the hills in less than an hour. Icouldn't trust them," he replied brusquely.

"Oh, I know!" she cried with relief. "You must hunt up Jim. Heknows all about those things, and
you could rely on him."

"Jim? What Jim?"

"Jim Fay. Oh, that's just it! Run, Ben; go at once; don't wait aminute!"

"I want nothing whatever to do with that man," he saiddeliberately. "He has insulted me at every
opportunity. He hastreated me in a manner that was even more than insulting every timewe have
met. If I were dying, and he had but to turn his headtoward me to save me, I would not ask him
to do so!"
"Oh, don't be foolish, Ben!" cried she, wringing her hands indespair. "Don't let your pride stand
in your way! Do you notrealize the disgrace this will be to you--to lose all these richclaims just
by carelessness? Do you realize that it means somethingto me, for I have been the reason of that
carelessness. I know it!Just this once, forget all he has done to you. You can trust him.Don't be
afraid of that. Tell him that I sent you, if you don'twant to trust him on your own account----" she
broke off. "Whereare you going?" she asked anxiously.

"To do something," he answered, shutting his teeth together witha snap.

"Will you see Jim?" she begged, following him to the edge of theRock as he swung himself
down the tree.

"No!" he said, without looking back.

After he disappeared--in the direction of the Holy Smoke camp,as she noticed--she descended
rapidly to the ground and hurried,sobbing excitedly, away toward Spanish Gulch. She was all
alivewith distress. She had never realized until the moment of hisfailure how much she had loved
this man. Near the village shepaused, bathed her eyes in the brook, and, assuming an air
ofdeliberation and calmness, began making inquiries as to thewhereabouts of Jim Fay.

Chapter XIX. Bennington Proves Game
Bennington de Laney sat on the pile of rocks at the entrance tothe Holy Smoke shaft. Across his
knees lay the thirty-calibrerifle. His face was very white and set. Perhaps he was thinking ofhis
return to New York in disgrace, of his interview with Bishop,of his inevitable meeting with a
multitude of friends, who wouldread in the daily papers the accounts of his incompetence--
criminalincompetence, they would call it. The shadows were beginning tolengthen across the
slope of the hill. Up the gulch cow bellstinkled, up the hill birds sang, and through the little
hollowstwilight flowed like a vapour. The wild roses on the hillside wereblooming--late in this
high altitude. The pines were singing theirendless song. But Bennington de Laney was looking
upon none ofthese softer beauties of the Hills. Rather he watched intently thelower gulch with its
flood-wracked, water-twisted skeleton laidbare. Could it be that in the destruction there figured
forth hecaught the symbol of his own condition? That the dreary gloom ofthat ruin typified the
chaos of sombre thoughts that occupied hisown remorseful mind? If so, the fancy must have
absorbed him. Themoments slipped by one by one, the shadows grew longer, the birdsongs
louder, and still the figure with the rifle sat motionless,his face white and still, watching the
lower gulch.

Or could it be that Bennington de Laney waited for some one, andthat therefore his gaze was so
fixed? It would seem so. For whenthe beat of hoofs became audible, the white face quickened
intoalertness, and the motionless figure stirred somewhat.

The rider came in sight, rising and falling in a steady,unhesitating lope. He swung rapidly to the
left, and ascended theknoll. Opposite the shaft of the Holy Smoke lode he reined in hisbronco
and dismounted. The rider was Jim Fay.
Bennington de Laney did not move. He looked up at the newcomerwith dull resignation. "He
takes it hard, poor fellow!" thoughtFay.

"Well, what's to be done?" asked the Easterner in a strainedvoice. "I suppose you know all about
it, or you wouldn't behere."

"Yes, I know all about it," said Fay gently. "You mustn't takeit so hard. Perhaps we can do
something. We'll be able to save oneor two claims, any way, if we're quick about it."

"I've heard something about patenting claims," went on de Laneyin the same strange, dull tones;
"could that be done?"

"No. You have to do five hundred dollars' worth of work, andadvertise for sixty days. There isn't
time."

"That settles it. I don't know what we can do then."

"Well, that depends. I've come to help do something. We've gotto get an everlasting hustle on us,
that's all; and I'm afraid weare beginning a little behindhand in the race. You ought to
havehunted me up at once."

"I don't see what there is to do," repeated Benningtonthickly.

"Don't you? The assessment work hasn't been done--that's theidea, isn't it?--and so the claims
have reverted to the Government.They are therefore open to location, as in the beginning, and
thatis just what Davidson and that crowd are going to do to them. Well,they're just as much open
to us. We'll just jump our ownclaims!"

"What!" cried the Easterner, excited.

"Well, relocate them ourselves, if that suits you better."

Bennington's dull eyes began to light up.

"So get a move on you," went on Fay; "hustle out some paper sowe can make location notices.
Under the terms of a relocation, wecan use the old stakes and 'discovery,' so all we have to do is
totack up a new notice all round. That's the trouble. That gang's gottheir notices all written, and
I'm afraid they've got ahead of us.Come on!"

Bennington, who had up to this time remained seated on the pileof stones, seemed filled with a
new and great excitement. Hetottered to his feet, throwing his hands aloft.

"Thank God! Thank God!" he cried, catching his breathconvulsively.

Fay turned to look at him curiously. "We aren't that much out ofthe woods," he remarked; "the
other gang'll get in their work,don't you fret."
"They never will, they never will!" cried the Easternerexultantly. "They can't. We'll locate 'em
all!" The tears welledover his eyes and ran down his cheeks.

"What do you mean?" asked Fay, beginning to fear the excitementhad unsettled his companion's
wits.

"Because they're there!" cried Bennington, pointing to the mouthof the shaft near which he had
been sitting. "Davidson, Slayton,Arthur--they're all there, and they can't get away! I didn't
knowwhat else to do. I had to do something!"

Fay cast an understanding glance at the young man's rifle, andsprang to the entrance of the shaft.
As though in directcorroboration of his speech, Fay could perceive, just emerging fromthe
shadow, the sinister figure of the man Arthur creepingcautiously up the ladder, evidently
encouraged to an attempt toescape by the sound of the conversation above. The
Westernersnatched his pistol from his holster and presented it down theshaft.

"Kindly return!" he commanded in a soft voice. The upward motionof the dim figure ceased, and
in a moment it had faded from view inthe descent. Fay waited a moment. "In five minutes," he
announcedin louder tones, "I'm going to let loose this six-shooter down thatshaft. I should advise
you gentlemen to retire to the tunnel." Hepeered down again intently. A sudden clatter and thud
behind himstartled him. He looked around. Bennington had fallen at fulllength across the stones,
and his rifle, falling, had clashedagainst the broken ore.

Fay, with a slight shrug of contempt at such womanish weakness,ran to his assistance. He
straightened the Easterner out and placedhis folded coat under his head. "He'll come around in a
minute," hemuttered. He glanced toward the gulch and then back to the shaft."Can't leave that
lay-out," he went on. He bent over the prostratefigure and began to loosen the band of his shirt.
Something aboutthe boy's clothing attracted his attention, so, drawing his knife,he deftly and
gently ripped away the coat and shirt. Then he arosesoftly to his feet and bared his head.

"I apologize to you," said he, addressing the recumbent form;"you are game."

In the fleshy part of the naked shoulder was a small round hole,clotted and smeared with blood.

Jim Fay stooped and examined the wound closely. The bullet hadentered near the point of the
shoulder, but a little below, so thatit had merely cut a secant through the curve of the muscle. If
ithad struck a quarter of an inch to the left it would have gouged afurrow; a quarter of an inch
beyond that would have caused it tomiss entirely. Fay saw that the hurt itself was slight, and
thatthe Easterner had fainted more because of loss of blood than fromthe shock. This determined
to his satisfaction, he moved quickly tothe mouth of the shaft. "Way below!" he cried in a sharp
voice, anddischarged his revolver twice down the opening. Then he stolenoiselessly away, and
ran at speed to the kitchen of the shack,whence he immediately returned with a pail of water and
a number oftowels. He set these down, and again peered down the shaft. "Waybelow!" he
repeated, and dropped down a sizable chunk of ore.Apparently satisfied that the prisoners were
well warned, he gavehis whole attention to his patient.
He washed the wound carefully. Then he made a compress of one ofthe towels, and bound it
with the other two. Looking up, hediscovered Bennington watching him intently.

"It's all right!" he assured the latter in answer to thequestion in his eyes. "Nothing but a scratch.
Lie still a minutetill I get this fastened, and you can sit up and watch the rat holewhile I get you
some clothes."

In another moment or so the young man was propped up against anempty ore "bucket," his
shoulder bound, and his hand slungcomfortably in a sling from his neck.

"There you are," said Jim cheerily. "Now you take my six-shooterand watch that aggregation till
I get back. They won't come outany, but you may as well be sure."

He handed Bennington his revolver, and moved off in thedirection of the cabin, whistling
cheerfully. The young man lookedafter him thoughtfully. Nothing could have been more
consideratethan the Westerner's manner, nothing could have been kinder thanhis prompt action--
Bennington saw that his pony, now cropping thebrush near at hand, was black with sweat--
nothing could have beenmore straightforward than his assistance in the matter of theclaims. And
yet Bennington de Laney was not satisfied. He felt heowed the sudden change of front to a word
spoken in his behalf bythe girl. This was a strange influence she possessed, thus to altera man's
attitude entirely by the mere voicing of a wish.

The Westerner returned carrying a loose shirt and a coat, whichhe drew entire over the injured
shoulder, which left one sleeveempty.

"I guess that fixes you," said he with satisfaction.

"Look here," put in Bennington suddenly, "you've been mightygood to me in all this. If you
hadn't come along as you did, thesefellows would have nabbed me sooner or later, and probably
I'd havelost the claims any way. I feel I owe you a lot. But I want you toknow before you go any
further that that don't square us. You'vehad it in for me ever since I came out here, and you've
made itmighty unpleasant for me. I can't forget that all at once. I wantto tell you plainly that,
although I am grateful enough, I knowjust why you have done all this. It is because she asked
youto. And knowing that, I can't accept what you do for me as from afriend, for I don't feel
friendly toward you in the least." Hisface flushed painfully. "I'm not trying to insult you or
beboorish," he said; "I just want you to understand how I feel aboutit. And now that you know, I
suppose you'd better let the mattergo, although I'm much obliged to you for fixing me up."

He glanced at his shoulder.

Fay listened to this speech quietly and with patience. "What doyou intend to do?" he asked, when
the other had quite finished.

"I don't know yet. If you'll say nothing down below--and I'msure you will not--I'll contrive some
way of keeping thisprocession down the hole, and of feeding them, and then I'llrelocate the
claims myself."
"With one arm?"

"Yes, with one arm!" cried Bennington fiercely; "with no arms atall, if need be!" he broke off
suddenly, with the New Yorker'singrained instinct of repression. "I beg your pardon. I mean
I'lldo as well as I can, of course."

"How about the woman--Arthur's wife? She'll give youtrouble."

"She has locked herself in her cabin already. I will assist herto continue the imprisonment."

Fay laughed outright. "And you expect, with one arm and wounded,to feed four people, keep
them in confinement, and at the same timeto relocate eighteen claims lying scattered all over the
hills!Well, you're optimistic, to say the least."

"I'll do the best I can," repeated Bennington doggedly.

"And you won't ask help of a friend ready to give it?"

"Not as a friend."

"Well," Fay chuckled, apparently not displeased, "you're anobstinate young man, or rather a pig-
headed young man, but I don'tknow as that counts against you. I'll help you out, anyway--if notas
a friend, then as an enemy. You see, I have my marching ordersfrom someone else, and you
haven't anything to do with it."

Bennington bowed coldly, but his immense relief flickered intohis face in spite of himself.
"What should we do first?" he askedformally.

"Sit here and wait for the kids," responded Jim.

"Who are the kids?"

"Friends of mine--trustworthy."

Jim rearranged Bennington's coverings and lit a pipe. "Tell usabout it," said he.

"There isn't much to tell. I knew I had to do something, so Ijust held them up and made them get
down the shaft. I didn't knowwhat I was going to do next, but I was glad to have them out of
theway to get time to think."

"Who plugged you?" inquired Fay, motioning with the mouthpieceof his pipe toward the
wounded shoulder.

"That was Arthur. He had a little gun in his coat pocket and heshot from inside the pocket. I'd
made them drop all the guns theyhad, I thought."
"Did you take a crack at him then?" asked Fay, interested.

"Oh, no. I just covered him and made him shell out. As a matterof fact I don't believe any one of
them knew I was hit."

Fay smoked on in silence, glancing from time to time withsatisfaction at the youth opposite.
During the passage of theseevents the day had not far advanced. The shadow of Harney had
notyet reached out to the edge of the hills.

"Hullo! The kids!" said Fay suddenly.

Two pedestrians emerged from the lower gulch and bent theirsteps toward the camp. As they
came nearer, Bennington, with a gaspof surprise, recognised the Leslies.

The sprightly youths were dressed just alike, in knickerbockersand Norfolk jackets of dark
brown plaid, and small college caps tomatch--an outfit which Bennington had always believed
would attracttoo vivid attention in this country. As they came nearer he sawthat the jackets were
fitted with pockets of great size. In thepockets were sketch books and bulging articles. They
caught sightof the two figures on the ore heap simultaneously.

"Behold our attentive host!" cried Jeems. "He is now in the actof receiving us with all honour!"

Bennington's face fairly shone with pleasure at the encounter."Hullo fellows! Hullo there!" he
cried out delightedly again andagain, and rose slowly to his feet. This disclosed the fact of
hisinjury, and the brothers ran forward, with real sympathy andconcern expressed on their lively
countenances. There ensued arapid fire of questions and answers. The Leslies proved to
bealready familiar with the details of the attempt to jump theclaims, and understood at once Fay's
brief account of the presentsituation, over which they rejoiced in the well-known Lesliefashion.
They exploded in genuine admiration of Bennington'sadventure, and praised that young man
enthusiastically. Benningtoncould feel, even before this, that he stood on a different footingthan
formerly with these self-reliant young men. They treated himas familiarly as ever, but with a new
respect. The truth is, theirastuteness in reading character, which is as essentially anattribute of
the artistic temperament in black and white as inwords and phrases, had shown them already that
their oldacquaintance had grown from boy to man since last they had met.They knew this even
before they learned of its manifestation. Soastounding was the change that they gave it credit,
perhaps, forbeing more thorough than it was. After the situation had been madeplain, Bennington
reverted to the unexpectedness of theirappearance.

"But you haven't told me yet how you happen to be here," hesuggested. "I'd as soon have
expected to see Ethel Henry coming upthe gulch!"

"Didn't you get our letters?" cried Bert in astonishment.

"No, I haven't received any letters. Did you write?"
"Did we write! Well, I should think so! We wrote three times,telling you we were coming and
when to expect us. Jeems and Iwondered why you didn't meet us. That explains it. Seems funny
youdidn't get any of those letters!"

"No, I don't believe it is so funny after all," respondedBennington, who had been thinking it over.
"I remember now thatDavidson told the others he had been intercepting my letters fromthe
Company, and I suppose he got yours too."

"That's it, of course. I'll have to interview that Davidsonlater. Well, we used to train around here
off and on, as I told youonce, and this year Jeems and I thought we'd do our summersketching
here, and sort of revive old times. So we packed up andcame."

"I'm mighty glad you came, anyway," replied Benningtonfervently.

"So'm I. We're just in time to help foil the villain. As foilersJeems and I are an artistic success.
We have studied foiling underthe best masters in the Bowery and Sixth Avenue theatres."

"Where's Bill?" asked Jim suddenly.

"Will be around in the morning. You're to report progress atonce. Didn't dare to come up until
after the row. Dreadful anxiousthough. Would have come if Jeems and I hadn't forbidden it."

Bennington wondered vaguely who Bill might be, but he wasbeginning to feel a little tired from
the excitement and his wound,so he said nothing.

"The next thing is grub," remarked Fay, rising and gathering hispony's reins. "I'll mosey up to the
shack and see about supper. Youfellows can sit around and talk until I get organized."

He turned to move away, leading his horse.

"Hold on a minute, Jim," called Bert. "You might lend me yourbronc, and I'll lope down and set
Bill's mind easy. It won't takelong."

"Good scheme!" approved Jim heartily. "That's thoughtful of you,Bertie!"

He dropped the reins where he stood, and the pony, with theusual well-trained Western docility,
hung his head and halted. Bertarose and looked down the shaft.

"Supper will be served shortly, gentlemen," he observed suavely.He turned toward the pony.

"Bert," called Bennington in a different voice, "did you say youwere going down the gulch?"

"Yes."

"Do you want to do something for me?"
"Why, surely. What is it?"

"Would you just as soon stop at the Lawtons' and tell MissLawton for me that it's all right! You'll
find the Lawtonhouse----"

"Yes, I know where the Lawton house is," interrupted Bert, "butMiss Lawton, you said?"

"Don't you remember, Bert," put in James, "there is a kidthere--Maude, or something of that
sort?"

"No, no, not Maude," persisted Bennington, still more bashfully."I mean Miss Lawton, the young
lady."

He felt that both the youths were looking keenly at him withdawning wonder and delight. "Hold
on, Bert," interposed James, asthe other was about to exclaim, "do you mean, Ben, the one
you'vebeen giving such a rush for the last two months?"

"Miss Lawton and I are very good friends," replied Benningtonwith dignity, wondering whence
James had his information.

Bert drew in his breath sharply, and opened his mouth tospeak.

"Hold on, Bert," interposed James again. "There arepossibilities in this. Don't destroy artistic
development by unduehaste. What did you call the young lady, Ben?"

"Miss Lawton, of course!"

"Daughter of Bill Lawton?"

"Why, yes."

"Oh, my eye!" ejaculated James.

"And you have eyes in your head!" he cried after a moment. "Youhave ears in your head!
Blamed if you haven't everything in yourhead but brains! She's a good one! I didn't appreciate
the subtletyof that woman before. Ben, you everlasting idiot, do you mean totell me that you've
seen that girl every day for the last twomonths, and don't know yet that she's too good to belong
to BillLawton?"

Bert began to laugh hysterically.

"What do you mean!" cried Bennington.

"What I say. She isn't Bill Lawton's daughter. Her nameisn't Lawton at all. O glory! He don't
even know her name!" Jamesin his turn went into a fit of laughing. In uncontrollableexcitement
Bennington seized him with his sound hand.
"What is it? Tell me! What is her name, then?"

"O Lord! Don't squeeze so! I'll tell you! Letup!"

James dashed the back of his hand across his eyes.

"What is her name?" repeated Bennington fiercely.

"Wilhelmina Fay. We call her Bill for short."

"And Jim Fay?"

"Is her brother."

"And the Lawtons?"

"They board there."

Across Bennington's mind flashed vaguely a suspicion that turnedhim faint with mortification.

"Who is this Jim Fay?" he asked.

"He's Jim Fay--James Leicester Fay, of Boston."

"Not----"

"Yes, exactly. The Boston Fays."

Bert swung himself into the saddle. "Better not say anything toBill about the young 'un's
shoulder," called after him theever-thoughtful James.

Chapter XX. Masks Off
Now that it was all explained, it seemed to Bennington de Laneyto be ridiculously simple. He
wondered how he could have been soblind. For the moment, however, all other emotions were
swallowedup in intense mortification over the density he had displayed, andthe ridiculous light in
which he must have appeared to all theactors in the comedy. His companion perceived this, and
kindlyhastened to relieve it.

"You're wondering how it all happened," said he, "but you don'twant to ask about it. I'm going to
tell you the story of your life.You see, Bert and I knew the Fays very well in Boston, and we
knewalso that they were out here in the Hills. That's what tickled usso when you said you were
coming out to this very place. You knowyourself, Ben, that you were pretty green when you
were in NewYork--you must know it, because you have got over it so nicelysince--and it struck
us, after you talked so much about the 'WildWest,' that it would be a shame if you didn't get
some of it. So wewrote Jim that you were coming, and to see to it that you had atime."
Jim chuckled a little. "From his letters, I guess you had it. Hewrote about that horse he sprung on
you, and the time they lynchedyou, and all the rest of it, and we thought we had done prettywell,
especially since Jim wrote he thought you weren't half bad,and had come through in good shape.
He wrote, too, that you had runagainst Bill, and that Bill was fooling you up in some way--
wayunspecified. He seemed to be a little afraid that Bill was triflingwith your young affections--
how is it Ben, anyway?--but he saidthat Bill was very haughty on the subject, and as he'd never
beenable to do anything with her before, he didn't believe he'd havemuch success if he should try
now. I suggested that Bill might getin a little deep herself," went on James, watching his
listener'sface keenly, "but Bert seemed inclined to the opinion that any oneas experienced as Bill
was perfectly able to take care of herselfanywhere. She's a mighty fine girl, Ben, old man,"
suddenlyconcluded this startling youth, holding out his hand, "and I wishyou every success in the
world in getting her!"

"Thank you, Jeems," replied Bennington simply, withoutattempting to deny the state of affairs.
"I'm sure I'm glad of yourgood wishes, but I'm afraid I haven't any show now." He sigheddeeply.

"I'll give an opinion on that after I see Bill again," observedthe artist sagely.

"It always struck me as being queer that two of the most refinedpeople about here should happen
to be living in the same house,"commented Bennington, only just aware that it had so struckhim.

"Did it, indeed?" said Leslie drolly. "You're just bursting withsagacity now, aren't you? And your
Sherlock-Holmes intellect isseething with conjecture. The lover's soul is far above the
sordidearthly considerations which interest us ordinary mortals, but I'llbet a hat you are
wondering how it comes that a Boston girl is outhere without any more restraint on her actions
than a carelessbrother who doesn't bother himself, and why she's out here at all,and a few things
like that. 'Fess up."

"Well," acknowledged Bennington a trifle reluctantly, "of courseit is a little out of the ordinary,
but then it's all right,somehow, I'll swear."

"All right! Of course it's all right! They haven't any father ormother, you know, and they are
independent of action, as you've nodoubt noticed. Bill kept house for Jim for some time--and
they usedto keep a great house, I tell you," said James, smacking his lipsin recollection. "Bert
and I used to visit there a good deal.That's why they call me Jeems--to distinguish me from Jim.
Then Jimgot tired of doing nothing--they possess everlasting rocks--youknow their lamented dad
was a sort of amateur Croesus--and hedecided to monkey with mines. Bert and I were here one
summer, soBill and Jim just pulled up stakes and came along too. They havebeen here ever
since. They're both true sports and like the life,and all that; and, besides, Jim has kept busy
monkeying with miningspeculation. They're the salt of the earth, that pair, if theydo worry poor
old Boston to death with their ways of doingthings. That's one reason I like 'em so much. Society
has fits overtheir doings, but it can't get along without them."

"The Fays are a pretty good family, aren't they?" inquiredBennington. He was irresistibly
impelled to ask this question.
"Best going. Mayflower, William the Conqueror, and all that rot.You must know of the Boston
Fays."

"I do. That is, I've heard of them; but I didn't know whetherthey were the same."

Jeems perceived that the topic interested the young fellow, sohe descanted at length concerning
the Fays, their belongings, andtheir doings. Time passed rapidly. Bennington was surprised to
seeJim coming down to them through the afterglow of sunset announcingvociferously that the
meal was at last prepared.

"I've fed the old lady," he announced, "and unlocked her. Shedoesn't know what's up anyway.
She just sits there like a gravenimage, scared to death. She doesn't know a relocation from
atelegraph pole. I told her to get a move on her and fix us up somebunks, and I guess she's at it
now."

They consulted as to the best means of guarding the prisoners.It was finally agreed that Leslie
should stand sentinel until theothers had finished supper.

"I want to watch the effect of this light on the hills," heannounced positively, "and I'm not
hungry, and Jim ought to cooloff before coming out into the air, and Ben's shoulder ought to
betaken care of. Get along with ye!"

Bennington accompanied Jim to the meal very cheerfully. Thefacts as to the latter's persecutions
remained the same, but insome way they did not hold the same proportions as heretofore.
Themere item that Jim Fay was Mary's brother, instead of her lover,made all the difference in the
world. He chattered in a livelyfashion concerning the method of work to be adopted. Suddenly
hepulled himself up short.

"I think I must beg your pardon," he said. "I heard about it allfrom Jim Leslie. I have been very
green, and you were quite right.If you still want to do so, let's go into this together asfriends."

"No pardon coming to me," responded Fay heartily. "I've been alittle tough on you occasionally,
that I'll admit, and if I've donetoo much, I'm sure I beg your pardon. I saw you had theright stuff
in you that day when you stuck to the horse until yourode him, and I've always liked you first-
rate since then. And Iwouldn't worry about this last matter. You were green to thecountry, and
were put down here without definite instructions. Youtrusted Davidson, of course, and got fooled
in it; but then youjust followed Bishop's lead in that. He'd been trusting Davidsonbefore you got
here, and if he hadn't trusted him right along, youcan bet you'd have had your directions from A
to Z. He was as muchto blame as you were, and you'll find that he knows it."

"I'm afraid you can't make me feel any better about that,"objected Bennington, shaking his head
despondently.

"Well, you'll feel better after a time, and anyway there's noactual harm done."

At this moment Bert Leslie entered.
"Bill's tickled to death," he announced. "She says she's comingup first thing in the morning. She
wanted to come right off andcook supper, but I wouldn't let her. She couldn't very well stayhere
all night, and it's pretty late now. What you got here? Pork?Coffee? Murphies?"

He sat down and began to eat hungrily. Jim arose to relieve thesentinel at the mouth of the shaft,
at the same time advising deLaney to go to bed as soon as possible.

"You're tired," he said, "and need rest. Wet that compress wellwith Pond's Extract, and we'll
dress it again in the morning."

In the kitchen he found the strange sombre woman sitting boltupright in silence, her arms folded
rigidly across her flat bosom.She looked straight in front of her, and rocked slowly to and froon
her chair.

"You mustn't worry, Mrs. Arthur," consoled Fay kindly, pausingfor a moment. "There isn't going
to be any trouble. It's just alittle matter of mining law. We'll have to keep your husband lockedup
for a few days, but he won't be harmed."

The woman made no reply. Fay looked at her sharply again, andpassed out.

"Jeems," he directed that individual at the mouth of the shaft,"go get your grub. Send the kid to
bed right off, and then you andBert come down here and we'll fix up these prairie dogs of
oursdown the hole."

Jeems and his brother therefore helped the wounded hero to bed,and left him to a much-needed
slumber; after which they returned tothe spot of light in the darkness which marked the glow of
Fay'spipe. That capable individual issued directions. First of all theylowered, by means of a light
cord, food and water to theirprisoners. The latter maintained a sullen silence, and it was onlyby
the lightening of the burden at the end of the line that thoseabove knew their provisions had been
appropriated. Then followedblankets. The Leslies were strongly in favour of as uncomfortable
aconfinement as possible, and so disapproved of blankets, but Fayinsisted. After that the brothers
manned the windlass and let Jimdown in a bowline about twenty feet, while he detached and
removedtwo lengths of the shaft ladder. This left no means of ascent, asthe walls of the shaft
were smoothly timbered; but, to make matterssure, they covered the mouth with inch thick
boards on which theypiled large chunks of ore.

"You don't suppose they'll smother?" suggested Bert.

"Not much! There's only three of them, and often men drillingwill stay down ten or twelve hours
at a time without using up theair."

"Sweet dreams, gentlemen!" called the irrepressible Jeems infarewell.

"There's one other thing," said Jim, "and then we can crawlin."
He approached the cabin in which Arthur and his wife wereaccustomed to sleep, and listened
until he had satisfied himselfthat Mrs. Arthur was inside. Then he softly locked the door, thekey
of which he had appropriated immediately after supper, andpropped shut the heavy wooden
shutter of the window.

"No dramatic escapes in ours, thank you!" he muttered. He drewback and surveyed his work with
satisfaction. "Come on, boys, let'sturn in. To-morrow we slave."

Chapter XXI. The Land of Visions
Although he had retired so early, and in so exhausted acondition, Bennington de Laney could not
sleep. He had taken aslight fever, and the wound in his shoulder was stiff and painful.For hours
on end he lay flat on his back, staring at the dimilluminations of the windows and listening to the
faint out-of-doornoises or the sharper borings of insects in the logs of thestructure. His mind was
not active. He lay in a semi-torpor, whosemost vivid consciousness was that of mental
discomfort and theinterminability of time.

The events of the day rose up before him, but he seemed toloathe them merely because they had
been of so active a character,and now he could not bear to have his brain teased even with
theirimpalpable shadow.

Strangely enough, this altitude seemed to create a certain deadpolarity between him and them.
They lay sullenly outside his brain,repelled by this dead polarity, and he looked at them
languidly,against the dim illumination of the window, with a dull joy thatthey could not come
near him and enter the realm of his thoughts.All this was the fever.

In a little time these events became endowed with more palpablebodies which moved. The
square of semilucent window faded intosomething indescribable, and that into something
indescribable, andthat into something else, still indescribable.

They moved swiftly, and things happened. He found himselfsuddenly in a long gallery, half in
the dusk, half in thelamplight, pacing slowly back and forth, waiting for something, heknew not
what. To him came a bustling motherly old woman with amaid's cap on, who said, "Sure, Master
Ben, the moon is shining,and, let me tell ye, at the end of the hall is a balcony of iron,and Miss
Mary will be glad you know that same." And at that heseemed to himself to be hunting for a coin
with which to tip her.He discovered it turned to lead between his fingers, whereupon theold
woman laughed shrilly and disappeared, and he found himselfalone on the prairie at midnight.

His mind seemed to be filled with great thoughts which wouldmake him famous. Over and over
again he said to himself: "The rainpours and the people down below chuckle as they move about
eachunder his little umbrella of self-conceit. They look up to themountain, saying, 'The fool!
Why looks he so high? He is lost inthe mists up there, and he might be safe and dry with us.' But
themountain has over him the arch of the universe, and sleeps calmlyin the sun of truth. Little
recks he of the clouds below, and knowsnot at all the little self-satisfied fools who pity him," and
hethought this was the sum of all wisdom, and that with it would comeimmortality.
Then a bell began to boom, a deep-toned bell, whose tolling wasinexpressibly solemn, and
poured into his heart a sadness too deepfor sorrow. As though there dwelt an enchantment in the
very sounditself, the dark prairies shifted like a scene, and in their steadhe saw, in a cold gray
twilight, a high doorway built of a coldgray stone, rough-hewed and heavy. Through its arch
passed then afile of gray-cowled monks, their faces concealed. Each carried atorch, whose
flickering, wavering light cast weird cowled figureson the gray stone, and in their midst was
borne a bier, coveredwith white. And as the deep bell boomed on through all the vision,like a
subtle thrilling presence, Bennington seemed to himself tostand, finger on lip, the eternal
custodian of the Secret of itall--the secret that each of these cowled figures was a Man--adivine
soul and a body, with ears, and eyes, and a brain; that hehad thoughts, and his life that is and is to
come was of thesethoughts; that there beat hearts beneath that gray, and that theirvoices must not
be heeded; that in the morning these wearied eyesawaited but the eve, and that the evening
brought no hope for a newday; that these silent, awesome beings lived within the heavystones
alone with monotony, until the bell tolled, as now, and theywere carried through the arched
doorway into the night; and, aboveall, that to each there were sixty minutes in the hour,
andtwenty-four hours in the day, and years and years of these days.This was the Secret, and he
was its custodian. None of the othersknew of it; but its awfulness made him sad and stern. He
checkedthe days, he numbered the hours, he counted the minutes rigorouslylest one escape. One
did escape, and he turned back to catch it,and pursued it far away from the stone doorway and
the dulltwilight, and even the sound of the bell, off into a land wherethere were many hills and
valleys, among which the fugitive Minutehid elusively. And he pursued the Minute, calling upon
it to cometo him, and the name by which he called it was Mary. Then he sawthat the square of
the window had become yellow with the sun, andthat through it he could hear plainly the voices
of the Lesliestalking in high tones.

His brain was very clear, more so than usual, and he not onlyreceived many impressions, and
ordered them with ease and despatch,but his very senses seemed more than ordinarily acute. He
coulddistinguish even by day, when the night stillness had withdrawn itsfavouring conditions,
the borings of the sawdust insects in thelogs of the cabin. Only he was very tired. His hands
seemed a longdistance away, as though it would require an extraordinary effortof the will to lift
them. So he lay quiet and listened.

The conversation, of which he was the eavesdropper, was carriedon by fits and starts. First a
sentence would be delivered by oneof the Leslies; then would ensue a pause as though for a
reply,inaudible to any but the interlocutors themselves; then anothersentence; and so on, like a
man at a telephone. After a moment'spuzzling over it, Bennington understood that Jim Leslie
was talkingto one of the prisoners down the shaft.

"You have the true sporting spirit, sir," cried the voice ofJeems. "I honour you for it. But so
philosophical a resignation,while it inclines our souls to know more of you
personally,nevertheless renders you much less interesting in such a junctureas the present. I
would like to hear from Mr. Davidson."

Pause.
"That was a performance, Mr. Davidson, which I can not entirelycommend. It is fluent, to be
sure, but it lacks variety. A trueartist would have interspersed those finer shades and gradations
ofmeaning which go to express the numerous and clashing emotionswhich must necessarily
agitate your venerable bosom. You surelymean more than damn. Damn is expressive and
forceful,because capable of being enunciated at one explosive effort of thebreath, but it is
monotonous when too freely employed. To be sure,you might with some justice reply that you
had qualified saidadjective strongly--but the qualification was trite thoughblasphemous. And you
limited it very nicely--but the limitation tomyself is unjust, as it overlooks my brother's equitable
claims tonotice."

Pause.

"I beg pardon! Kindly repeat!"

Pause.

"Delicious! Mr. Davidson, you have redeemed yourself. Bertie,did you hear Mr. Davidson's last
remark?"

"No!" replied another voice. "Couldn't be bothered. What wasit?"

"Mr. Davidson, with a polished sarcasm that amounted to genius,advised me in his picturesque
vernacular 't' set thet jaw of minegoin', and then go away an' leave it!'"

Pause.

"I beg you, Mr. Slayton, do not think of such a thing. I wouldnot have him repressed for anything
in the world. As you value ourfuture acquaintanceship, do not end our interview. Thank you!
Iappreciate your compliment, and in return will repeat that, thoughin a pretty sharp game, you
are a true sport. Our friend Arthur isstrangely silent. I have never met Mr. Arthur. I have heard
thateither his face or his hat looks like a fried egg, but I forget forthe moment which was so
characterized."

Pause.

"Fie, fie! Mr. Arthur. Addison, in his most intoxicated moments,would never have used such
language."

And then the man in the cabin, lying on the bed, began to laughin a low tone. His laugh was not
pleasant to hear. He was realizinghow funny things were to other people--things that had not
beenfunny to him at all. For the first time he caught a focus on hisfather, with his pompous pride
and his stilted diction; on hismother's social creed. He cared as much for them as ever and
hisrespect was as great, but now he realized that outsiders couldnever understand them as he did,
and that always to others theymust appear ridiculous. So he laughed. And, too, he perceived
thatthe world would see something grimly humorous in his insistence onthe girl's parentage,
when all the time, in the home to which hewas to bring her, dwelt these unlovable, snobbish old
parents ofhis own. So he laughed. And he thought of how he had been fooled,and played with,
and duped, and cheated, and all but disgraced bythe very people on whom he had looked down
from a fanciedsuperiority. And so he laughed. And as he laughed his hands swelledup to the size
of pillows, and he thought that he was dressed in aloose garment spotted all over with great
spots, and that he wasstanding on a stage before these grave, silent hillmen. The lightcame in
through a golden-yellow square just behind them. In thefront row sat Mary, looking at him with
wide-open, trusting eyes.And he was revolving these hands like pillows around each other,trying
to make the sombre men and the wistful girl laugh with him,while over and over certain words
slipped in between hiscachinnations, like stray bird-notes through a rattle of drums.

"I have no fresh motley for my lady's amusement," he was sayingto her, "no new philosophies to
spread out for my lady'sinspection, no bright pictures to display for my lady's pleasure,and so I,
like a poor poverty-stricken minstrel whose harp has beenbroken, yet dare beg at the castle gate
for a crumb of my lady'sbounty." At which he would have wept, but could only laugh louderand
louder.

Then dimly he knew again he was in his own room, and he feltthat several people were moving
back and forth quickly. He tried torise, but could not, and he knew that he was slipping back to
thehall and the solemn crowd of men. He did not want to go. He graspedconvulsively at the
blanket with his sound hand, and shriekedaloud.

"I am sick! I am sick! I am sick!" he cried louder andlouder.

Some one laid a cool hand on his forehead, and he lay quiet andsmiled contentedly. The room
and the people became wraithlike. Hesaw them still, but he saw through them to a reality of
softmeadows and summer skies, from which Mary leaned, resting her handon his brow. Voices
spoke, but muffled, as though by many veils.They talked of various things.

"It's the mountain fever," he heard one say. "It's a wonder heescaped it so long."

Then the cool hand was withdrawn from his brow, and inexorablyhe was hurried back into the
land of visions.

Chapter XXII. Flower O' the World
Bennington de Laney found himself lying comfortably in bed,listening with closed eyes to a
number of sounds. Of these theremost impressed him two. They were a certain rhythmical
muffledbeat, punctuated at intervals by a slight rustling of paper; and aseries of metallic clicks,
softened somewhat by distance. After atime it occurred to him to open his eyes. At once he
noticed twothings more--that he had some way acquired fresh white sheets forhis bed, and that
on a little table near the foot of his bunk stooda vase of flowers. These two new impressions
satisfied him for sometime. He brooded over them slowly, for his brain was weak. Then
heallowed his gaze to wander to the window. From above its upper sashdepended two long white
curtains of some lacelike material, freshlystarched and with deep edges, ruffled slightly in a
pleasingfashion. They stirred slowly in the warm air from the window.Bennington watched them
lazily, breathing with pleasure the balmysmell of pine, and listening to the sounds. The clinking
noisescame through the open window. He knew now that they meant theimpact of sledge on
drill. Some one was drilling somewhere. Hisglance roved on, and rested without surprise on a
girl in a rockingchair swaying softly to and fro, and reading a book, the turning ofwhose leaves
had caused the rustling of paper which he had noticedfirst.

For a long time he lay silent and contented. Her fine brown hairhad been drawn back smoothly
away from her forehead into a looseknot. She was dressed in a simple gown of white--soft, and
restingon the curves of her slender figure as lightly as down on thesurface of the warm meadows.
From beneath the full skirt peeped alittle slippered foot, which tapped the floor rhythmically as
thechair rocked to and fro. Finally she glanced up and discovered himlocking at her. She arose
and came to the bedside, her finger onher lips.

"You mustn't talk," she said sweetly, a great joy in her eyes."I'm so glad you're better."

She left the room, and returned in a little time with a bowl ofchicken broth, which she fed him
with a spoon. It tasted very goodto him, and he felt the stronger for it, but as yet his voiceseemed
a long distance away. When she turned to leave the room,however, he murmured inarticulately
and attempted to stir. She cameback to the bed at once.

"I'll be back in a minute," she said gently, but seeing somelook of pleading in his eyes, she put
the empty bowl and spoon onthe little table and sat down on the floor near the bed. He
smiled,and then, closing his eyes, fell asleep--outside the borders of theland of visions, and with
the music of a woman's voice haunting thelast moments of his consciousness.

After the fever had once broken, his return to strength wasrapid. Although accompanied by
delirium, and though running itsfull course of weeks, the "mountain fever" is not as intense
astyphoid. The exhaustion of the vital forces is not as great, andrecuperation is easier. In two
days Bennington was sitting up inbed, possessed of an appetite that threatened to
depopulateentirely the little log chicken coop. He found that the tenancy ofthe camp had
materially changed. Mrs. Lawton and Miss Fay had movedin, bag and baggage--but without the
inquisitive Maude, Benningtonwas glad to observe.

Mrs. Lawton, in the presence of an emergency, turned out to behelpful in every way. She knew
all about mountain fevers for onething, and as the country was not yet blessed with a doctor,
thiswas not an unimportant item. Then, too, she was a most capablehousekeeper--she cooked,
marketed, swept, dusted, and tyrannizedover the mere men in a manner to be envied even by a
New Englanddame. Fay and the Leslies had also taken up their quarters in thecamp. Old Mizzou
and the Arthurs had gone. The old "bunk house" nowaccommodated a good-sized gang of
miners, who had been engaged byFay to do the necessary assessment work. Altogether the camp
wasvery populous and lively.

After a little Bennington learned of everything that hadhappened during the three weeks of his
sickness. It all came out ina series of charming conversations, when, in the evening twilight,they
gathered in the room where the sick man lay. Mary--asBennington still liked to name her--
occupied the rocking chair, andthe three young men distributed themselves as best suited them.
Itwas most homelike and resting. Bennington had never beforeexperienced the delight of seeing
a young girl about a house, andhe enjoyed to the utmost the deft little touches by which
isimparted that airily feminine appearance to a room; or, moresubtly, the mere spirit of daintiness
which breathes always from awoman of the right sort. He felt there was added a newer and
calmerelement of joy to his love.

During the first period of his illness, then, Jim Fay and theLeslie brothers had worked
energetically relocating the claims,while Mrs. Lawton and Miss Fay had taken charge of the
house. Bythe end of the first day the job was finished. The question thencame up as to the
disposition of the prisoners.

"We didn't want the nuisance of a prosecution," said Fay,"because that would mean that these
mossbacks could drag us off toRapid City any old time as witnesses, and keep us
thereindefinitely. Neither did we want to let them off scot-free. They'dmade us altogether too
much trouble for that! Bert here suggested avery simple way out. I went down to Spanish Gulch
and told the boysthe whole story from start to finish. Well, it isn't hard to handlea Western crowd
if you go at it right. The boys always thought youhad good stuff in you since you rode the horse
and smashed Leary'sface that night. It would have been easy to have cooked up allkinds of
trouble for our precious gang, but I managed to get theboys in a frivolous mood, so they merely
came up and had fun."

"I should say they did!" Bert interjected. "They dragged thecrowd out of the shaft--and they were
a tough-looking proposition,I can tell you!--and stood them up in a row. They shaved half
ofDavidson's head and half his beard, on opposite sides. They lefttufts of hair all over Arthur.
They made a six-pointed star on thetop of Slayton's crown. Then they put the men's clothes on
wrongside before, and tied them facing the rear on three scrubby littleburros. Then the whole
outfit was started toward Deadwood. The boystook them as far as Blue Lead, where they
delivered them over tothe gang there, with instructions to pass them along. They probablygot to
Deadwood. I don't know what's become of them since."

"I think it was cruel!" put in Miss Fay decidedly.

"Perhaps. But it was better than hanging them."

"What became of Mrs. Arthur?" asked the invalid.

"I shipped her to Deadwood with a little money. Poor creature!It would be a good thing for her if
her husband never did show up.She'd get along better without him."

The claims located and the sharpers got rid of, Fay proceeded atonce to put the assessment work
under way. In this, his longWestern experience, and his intimate acquaintance with the
men,stood him in such good stead that he was enabled to contract thework at a cheaper rate than
Bishop's estimate.

"I wrote to Bishop," he said, "and told him all about it. In hisanswer, which I'll show you, he
took all the blame to himself, justas I anticipated he would, and he's so tickled to death over
theshowing made by the assays that he's coming out here himself to seeabout development. So
I'm afraid you're going to lose yourjob."

"I'm not sorry to go home. But I'm sorry to leave the Hills." Helooked wistfully through the
twilight toward Mary's slender figure,outlined against the window. The three men caught the
glance, andbegan at once to talk in low tones to each other. In a moment theywent out.
Somehow, on returning from the land of visions, Ben foundthat the world had moved, and that
one of the results of themovement was that many things were taken for granted by the
littlecommunity of four who surrounded him. It was as though the tanglehad unravelled quietly
while he slept. She leaned toward him shyly,and whispered something to his ear. He smiled
contentedly.

They talked then long and comfortably in the dusk--about how theLeslies had written the letter,
how much trouble she had taken toconceal her real identity, and all the rest.

"I sent Bill Lawton up to warn your camp the first day I metyou," said she.

"Why, I remember!" he cried. "He was there when I got back."

And they talked on of their many experiences, in the fashion oflovers, and how they had come to
care for each other, and when.

"I made up my mind it was so foolish a joke," she confessed,"that I determined to tell you all
about it. You remember I hadsomething to tell you at the Pioneer's Picnic? That was it. Butthen
you remember the girl in the train, and how, when she lookedat us, you turned away?"

"I remember that well enough," replied Bennington. "But what hasthat to do with it?"

"It was a perfectly natural thing to do, dearest. I see thatplainly enough now. But it hurt me a
little that you should beashamed of me as a Western girl, and I made up my mind to testyou."

"Why, I wasn't thinking of that at all," cried Bennington. "Iwas just ashamed of my clothes. I
never thought of you!"

She reached out and patted his hand. "I'm glad to hear that, Bendear, after all. It did hurt. And I
was so foolish. I thought ifyou were ashamed of me, you would never stand the thought of
theLawtons. So I did not tell you the truth then, but resolved to testyou in that way."

"Foolish little girl!" said he tenderly. "But it came out allright, didn't it?"

"Yes," she sighed, with a happy gesture of the hands. They fellsilent.

"I want you to tell me something, dear," said Bennington after awhile. "You needn't unless you
want to, but I've thought about it agreat deal."
"I will tell you, Ben, anything in the world. We ought to befrank with each other now, don't you
think so?"

"I don't know as I ought to say anything about it, after all,"he hesitated, evidently embarrassed.
"But, Mary, you know you havehinted a little at it yourself. You remember you said
somethingonce about losing faith, and being made hard, and----"

She took both his hands in hers and drew them closely to herbreast. Although he could not see
her eyes against the dusk, heknew that she was looking at him steadily.

"Listen quietly, Ben dear, and I will tell you. Before I cameout here I thought I loved a man, and
he--well, he did not treat mewell. I had trusted him and every one else implicitly until thevery
moment when----I felt it very much, and I came West with Jimto get away from the old scenes.
Now I know that it was onlyfascination, but it was very real then. You do not like that, Ben,do
you? The memory is not pleasant to me, and yet," she said, witha wistful little break of the voice,
"if it hadn't been for that Iwould not have been the woman I am, and I could not love you,dearest,
as I do. It is never in the same way twice, but each timesomething better and higher is added to
it. Oh, my darling, Ido love you, I do love you so much, and you must be alwaysmy generous,
poetic boy, as you are now."

She strained his hands to her as though afraid he would slipfrom her clasp. "All that is ideal so
soon hardens. I can not bearto think of your changing."

Bennington leaned forward and their lips met. "We will forgivehim," he murmured.

And what that remark had to do with it only our gentler readerswill be able to say.

Ah, the delicious throbbing silence after the first kiss!

"What was your decision that afternoon on the Rock, Ben? Younever told me." She asked
presently, in a lighter tone, "Would youhave taken me in spite of my family?"

He laughed with faint mischief.

"Before I tell you, I want to ask you something," he saidin his turn. "Supposing I had decided
that, even though I lovedyou, I must give you up because of my duty to my family--supposethat,
I say--what would you have done? Would your love forme have been so strong that you would
have finally confessed to methe fact that the Lawtons were not your parents? Or would you
havethrown me over entirely because you thought I did not love youenough to take you for
yourself?"

She considered the matter seriously for some little time.

"Ben, I don't know," she confessed at last frankly. "I can'ttell."

"No more can I, sweetheart. I hadn't decided."
She puckered her brows in the darkness with genuine distress.Women worry more than men over
past intangibilities. He smiledcomfortably to himself, for in his grasp he held, unresisting,
thedearest little hand in the world. Outside, the ever-charming,ever-mysterious night of the Hills
was stealing here and there insighs and silences. From the darkness came the high sweet tenor
ofBert Leslie's voice in the words of a song:

"A Sailor to the Sea, a Hunter to the Pines, And Sea and Pines alike to joy the Rover, The Wood-
smells to the nostrils of the Lover of the Trail, And Hearts to Hearts the whole World over!"

Through and through the words of the song, like a fine silverwire through richer cloth of gold,
twined the long-drawn, tremulousnotes of the white-throated sparrow, the nightingale of
theNorth.

"The dear old Hills," he murmured tenderly. "We must come backto them often, sweetheart."

"I wish, I wish I knew!" she cried, holding his handtighter.

"Knew what?" he asked, surprised.

"What you'd have done, and what I'd have done!"

"Well," he replied, with a happy sigh, "I know what I'mgoing to do, and that's quite enough for
me."

THE END

								
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