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Chapter XV

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« on: November 29, 2022, 05:56:07 am »


"DO you know anything more?"

The voice was Delia's; and the man who had just met her, in the shelter of the wooded walk which ran along the crest of the hill above the Maumsey valley, was instantly aware of the agitation of the speaker.

"Nothing---precise. As I told you last week---you needn't be afraid of anything immediate. But my London informants assure me that elaborate preparations are certainly going on for some great coup as soon as Parliament meets---against Sir Wilfrid. The police are uneasy, though puzzled. They have warned Daunt, and Sir Wilfrid is guarded."

"Then of course our people won't attempt it! It would be far too dangerous."

"Don't be too sure! You and I know Miss Marvell. If she means to burn Monk Lawrence, she'll achieve it, whatever the police may do."

The man and the girl walked on in silence. The January afternoons were lengthening a little, and even under the shadow of the wood Lathrop could see with sufficient plainness Delia's pale beauty---strangely worn and dimmed as it seemed to him. His mind revolted. Couldn't the jealous gods spare even this physical perfection? What on earth had been happening to her? He supposed a Christian would call the face "spiritualised." If so, the Christian---in his opinion---would be a human ass.

"I have written several times to Miss Marvell---very strongly," said Delia at last. "I thought you ought to know that. But I have had no reply."

"Why don't you go---instead of writing?"

"It has been impossible. My maid has been so terribly ill."

Lathrop expressed his sympathy. Delia received it with coldness and a slight frown. She hurried on---"I've written again---but I haven't sent it. Perhaps I oughtn't to have written by post."

"Better not. Shall I be your messenger? Miss Marvell doesn't like me---but that don't matter."

"Oh no, thank you." The voice was hastily emphatic; so that his vanity winced. "There are several members of the League in the village. I shall send one of them."

He smiled---rather maliciously.

"Are you going to tackle Miss Andrews herself?"

"You're still---quite certain---that she's concerned?"

"Quite certain. Since you and I met---a fortnight ago, isn't it?---I have seen her several times, in the neighbourhood of the house---after dark. She has no idea, of course, that I have been prowling round."

"What have you seen?---what can she be doing?" asked Delia. "Of course I remember what you told me---the other day."

Lathrop's belief was that a close watch was now being kept on Daunt---on his goings and comings---with a view perhaps to beguiling him away, and then getting into the house.

"But he has lately got a niece to stay with him, and help look after the children, and the house. His sister, who is married in London, offered to send her down for six months. He was rather surprised, for he had quite lost sight of his sister; but he tells me it's a great relief to his mind."

"So you talk to him?"

"Certainly. Oh, he knows all about me---but he knows too that I'm on the side of the house! He thinks I'm a queer chap---but he can trust me---in that business. And by the way, Miss Blanchflower, perhaps I ought to let you understand that I'm an artist and a writer, before I'm a Suffragist, and if I come across Miss Marvell---engaged in what you and I have been talking of---I shall behave just like any other member of the public, and act for the police. I don't want to sail---with you---under any false pretences!"

"I know," said Delia quietly. "You came to warn me---and we are acting together. I understand perfectly. You---you've promised however"---she could not keep her voice quite normal---"that you'd let me know---that you'd give me notice before you took any step."

Lathrop nodded. "If there's time---I promise. But if Daunt or I come upon Miss Marvell---or any of her minions---torch in hand---there would not be time. Though, of course, if I could help her escape, consistently with saving the house---for your sake---I should do so. I am sure you believe that?"

Delia made no audible reply, but he took her silence for consent.

"And now"---he resumed---"I ought to be informed without delay, whether your messenger finds Miss Marvell, and how she receives your letter."

"I will let you know at once."

"A telegram brings me here--this same spot. But you won't wire from the village?"

"Oh no, from Latchford."

"Well, then, that's settled. Regard me, please, as your henchman. Well!---have you read any Madame de Noailles?"

He fancied he saw a slight impatient movement. "Not yet, I'm afraid. I've been living in a sick room."

Again he expressed polite sympathy, while his thoughts repeated---"What waste!---what absurdity!"

"She might distract you---especially in these winter days. Her verse is the very quintessence of summer---of hot gardens and their scents---of roses---and June twilights. It takes one out of this leafless North." He stretched a hand to the landscape.

And suddenly, while his heavy face kindled, he began to recite. His French was immaculate even to a sensitive and well-trained ear; and his voice, which in speaking was disagreeable, took in reciting deep and beautiful notes, which easily communicated to a listener the thrill, the passion, of sensuous pleasure, which certain poetry produced in himself.

But it communicated no such thrill to Delia. She was only irritably conscious of the uncouthness of his large cadaverous face, and straggling fair hair; of his ragged ulster, his loosened tie, and all the other untidy details of his dress. "And I shall have to go on meeting him!" she thought, with repulsion. "And at the end of this walk (the gate was in sight) I shall have to shake hands with him---and he'll hold my hand."

She loathed the thought of it; but she knew very well that she was under coercion---for Gertrude's sake. The recollection of Winnington--away in Wanchester on county business---smote her sharply. But how could she help it? She must---must keep in touch with this man---who had Gertrude in his power.

While these thoughts were running through her mind, he stopped his recitation abruptly.

"Am I to help you any more---with the jewels?"

Delia started. Lathrop was smiling at her, and she resented the smile. She had forgotten. But there was no help for it. She must have more money. It might be, in the last resort, the means of bargaining with Gertrude. And how could she ask Mark Winnington! So she hurriedly thanked him, naming a tiara and two pendants, that she thought must be valuable.

"All right," said Lathrop, taking out a note-book from his breast pocket, and looking at certain entries he had made on the occasion of his visit to Maumsey. "I remember---worth a couple of thousand at least. When shall I have them?"

"I will send them registered---to-morrow---from Latchford."

"Très bien! I will do my best. You know Mr. Winnington has offered me a commission?" His eyes laughed.

Delia turned upon him. "And you ought to accept it, Mr. Lathrop! It would be kinder to all of us."

She spoke with spirit and dignity. But he laughed again and shook his head.

"My reward, you see, is just not to be paid. My fee is your presence---in this wood---your little word of thanks---and the hand you give me---on the bargain!"

They had reached the gate, and he held out his hand. Delia had flushed violently, but she yielded her own. He pressed it lingeringly, as she had foreseen, then released it and opened the gate for her.

"Good-bye, then. A word commands me---when you wish. We keep watch---and each informs the other---barring accidents. That is, I think, the bargain."

She murmured assent, and they parted. Half way back towards his own cottage, Lathrop paused at a spot where the trees were thin, and the slopes of the valley below could be clearly seen. He could still make out her figure nearing the first houses of the village.

"I think she hates me. Never mind! I command her, and meet me she must---when I please to summon her. There is some sweetness in that---and in teasing the stupid fellow who no doubt will own her some day."

And he thought exultantly of Winnington's letter to him, and his own insolent reply. It had been a perfectly civil letter---and a perfectly proper thing for a guardian to do. But---for the moment---

"I have the whip hand---and it amuses me to keep it.---Now then for Blaydes!"

For there, in the doorway of the cottage, stood the young journalist, waiting and smoking. He was evidently in good humour.

"Well? She came?"

"Of course she came. But it doesn't matter to you."

"Oh, doesn't it! I suppose she wants you to sell something more for her?"

Lathrop did not reply. Concerning Gertrude Marvell, he had not breathed a word to Blaydes.

They entered the hut together, and Lathrop re-kindled the fire. The two men sat over it smoking. Blaydes plied his companion with eager questions, to which Lathrop returned the scantiest answers. At last he said with a sarcastic look---"I was offered four hundred pounds this afternoon---and refused it."

"The deuce you did!" cried Blaydes fiercely. "What about my debt---and what do you mean?"

"Ten per cent. commission," said Lathrop, drawing quietly at his cigar. "Sales up to two thou., a fortnight ago. I shall get the same money---or more---for the next batch."

"Well, that's all right! No need to get it out of the lady, if you're particular. Get it out of the other side. Any fool could manage that."

"I shall not get a farthing out of the other side. I shall not make a doit out of the whole transaction!"

"Then you're a damned fool," said Blaydes, in a passion. "And a dishonest fool besides!"

"Easy, please! What hold should I have on this girl---this splendid creature---if I were merely to make money out of her? As it is, she's obliged to me---she treats me like a gentleman."

"I thought you had matrimonial ideas. I don't believe you've got the ghost of a chance!" grumbled Blaydes, his mind smarting under the thought of the lost four hundred pounds, out of which his debt might have been paid.

"Nor do I," said Lathrop coolly. "But I choose to keep on equal terms with her. You can sell me up when you like."

He lounged to the window, and threw it open. The January day was closing, not in any glory of sunset, but with interwoven greys and pearls, and delicate yellow lights slipping through the clouds.

"I shall always have this"---he said to himself, passionately, as he drank in the air and the beauty---"whatever happens."

Recollection brought back to him Delia's proud, virginal youth, and her springing step as she walked beside him through the wood. His mind wavered again between triumph and self-disgust. His muddy past returned upon him, mingled, as always, with that invincible respect for, and belief in, something high and unstained in the depths of his own nature, to which his weakened and corrupt will was yet unable to give any effect.

"What I have done is not 'me'"---he thought. "At any rate not all 'me.' I am better than it. I suspect Winnington has told her something---measuring it chastely out. All the same---I shall see her again."

---

Meanwhile Delia was descending the hill pursued by doubts and terrors. The day was now darkening fast, and heavy snow-clouds were coming down over the valley. The wind had dropped, but the heavy air was bitter-cold and lifeless, as though the earth waited sadly for the silencing and muffling of the snow. And in Delia's heart there was a like dumb expectancy of change. The old enthusiasms and ideals and causes seemed for the moment to lie veiled and frozen within her. Only two figures emerged sharply in the landscape of thought---Gertrude---and Winnington.

Since that day, the day before Weston's operation, when Paul Lathrop had brought her evidence---collected partly from small incidents and observations on the spot, partly from information supplied him by friends in London---which had sharpened all her own suspicions into certainties, she had never known an hour free from fear. Her letters had remained wholly unanswered. She did not even know where Gertrude was; though it seemed to her that letters addressed to the head office of the League of Revolt must have been forwarded. No! She must face the truth---at any rate the strong probability---that Gertrude was really planning this hateful thing: the destruction of this beautiful and historic house, with all its memories and its treasures, in order to punish a Cabinet Minister for his opposition to Woman Suffrage, and so terrorise others. Moreover it meant the risking of human life---Daunt---his children; complete indifference also to Delia's feelings, Delia's pain.

What was she to do? Betray her friend?---go to Winnington for help? But he was a magistrate. If such a plot were really on foot---and Lathrop was himself convinced that petroleum and explosives were already stored somewhere in the neighbourhood of the house---Winnington could only treat such a thing as a public servant, as a guardian of the law. Any appeal to him to let private interests---even her interests---interfere, would, she felt certain, be entirely fruitless. Once go to him, the police must be informed---it would be his clear duty; and if such proofs of the plot existed as Lathrop believed, Gertrude would be arrested, and her accomplices. Including Delia herself?

That possibility, instead of frightening her, gave the girl some momentary comfort. For that might perhaps secure Winnington's silence?

But no!---her common sense dismissed the notion. Winnington would discover at once that she had had no connection whatever with the business. Lathrop's evidence alone would be enough. And that being so, her confession would simply hand Gertrude over to Winnington's conscience. And Mark Winnington's conscience was a thing to fear. And yet the yearning to go to him---like the yearning of an unhappy child---was so strong!

Traitor!---yes, traitor!---double-dyed.

And pausing just outside the village, at a field gate, Delia leant over it, gazing into the lowering sky, and piteously crying to some power beyond---some God "if any Zeus there be," on whom the heart in its trouble might throw itself.

Her thought ran backwards and forwards over the past months and years. The burning moments of revolt through which she had lived---the meetings of the League with their multitudes of faces---strained, fierce faces, alive, many of them, with hatreds new to English life, new perhaps to civilised history,---and the intermittent gusts of pity and fury which had swept through her own young ignorance as she listened, making a hideous thing of the future and of human fate:---she lived through them all again. Individual personalities recurred to her, the wild looks of delicate, frenzied women, who had lost health, employment, and the love of friends---suffered in body, mind and estate for this "cause" to which she too had vowed herself. Was she alone to desert, to fail---both the cause and her friend, who had taught her everything?

"It's not my will---not my will---that shrinks"---she moaned to herself. "If I believed---if I still believed!"

But why was the fire gone out of the old faiths, the savour from the old hopes? Was she less moved by the sufferings, the toils, the weakness of her sex? She could remember nights of weeping over the wrongs of women, after an impassioned evening with Gertrude. And now---had the heart of flesh become a heart of stone? Was she no longer worthy of the great crusade, the vast upheaval?

She could not tell. She only knew that the glamour of it all was gone---that there were many hours when the Movement lay like lead upon her life. Was it simply that her intelligence had revolted, that she had come to see the folly, the sheer, ludicrous folly of a "physical force" policy which opposed the pinpricks of women to the strength of men? Or was it something else---something far more compelling---more convincing---more humiliating?

"I've just fallen in love!---fallen in love!"---the words repeated themselves brazenly, desperately, in her mind:---"and I can't think for myself---judge for myself any longer! It's abominable---but it's true!"

The very thought of Winnington's voice and look made her tremble as she walked. Eternal weakness of the eternal woman! She scorned herself, yet a bewildering joy sang through her senses.

Nevertheless she held it at bay. She had her promised word---her honour---to think of. Gertrude still expected her in London---on the scene of action.

"And I shall go," she said to herself with resolute inconsistency, "I shall go!"

What an angel Mark Winnington had been to her, this last fortnight! She recalled the day of Weston's operation, and all the long days since. The poor gentle creature had suffered terribly; death had been just held off, from hour to hour; and was only now withdrawing. And Delia, sitting by the bed, or stealing with hushed foot about the house, was not only torn by pity for the living sufferer, she was haunted again by all the memories of her father's dying struggle---bitter and miserable days! And with what tenderness, what strength, what infinite delicacy of thought and care, had she been upheld through it all! Her heart melted within her. "There are such men in the world---there are!---and a year ago I should have simply despised anyone who told me so!"

Yet after these weeks of deepening experience, and sacred feeling, in which she had come to love Mark Winnington with all the strength of her young heart, and to realise that she loved him, the first use that she was making of a free hour was to go, unknown to him---for he was away on county business at Wanchester---and meet Paul Lathrop!

"But he would understand," she said to herself, drearily, as she moved on again. "If he knew, he would understand."

---

Now she must hurry on. She turned into the broad High Street of the village, observed by many people, and half-way down, she stopped at a door on which was a brass plate, "Miss Toogood, Dressmaker."

The lame woman greeted her with delight, and there in the back parlour of the little shop she found them gathered,---Kitty Foster, the science mistress Miss Jackson, and Miss Toogood,---the three "Daughters," who were now coldly looked on in the village, and found pleasure chiefly in each other's society. Marion Andrews was not there. Delia indeed fancied she had seen her in the dusk, walking in a side lane, that led into the Monk Lawrence road, with another girl, whom Delia did not know.

It was a relief, however, not to find her---for the moment. The faces of the three women in the back parlour were all strained and nervous; they spoke low, and they gathered round Delia with an eagerness which betrayed their own sense of isolation---of being left leaderless.

"You will be going up soon, won't you?" whispered Miss Toogood, as she stroked the sleeve of Delia's jacket. "The Tocsin says there'll be great doings next week---the day Parliament meets."

"I've got my orders!"--said Kitty Foster, tossing her red hair mysteriously. "Father won't keep me down here any longer. I've made arrangements to go up to-morrow and lodge with a cousin in Battersea. She's as deep in it as I am."

"And I'm hoping they'll find room for me in the League office," said the science mistress. "I can't stand this life here much longer. My Governors are always shewing me they think us all criminals, and they'll find an excuse for getting rid of me whenever they can. I daren't even put up the 'Daughters' colours in my room now."

Her hollow, anxious eyes, with the fanatical light in them, clung to Delia---to the girl's noble head, and the young face flushed with the winter wind.

"But we shall get it this session, shan't we?" said Miss Toogood eagerly, still stroking Delia's fur. "The Government will give in---they must give in."

And she began to talk with hushed enthusiasm of the last month's tale of outrages---houses burnt, windows broken, Downing Street attacked, red pepper thrown over a Minister, ballot-boxes spoiled---

Suddenly it all seemed to Delia so absurd---so pathetic---

"I don't think we shall get the Bill!" she said sombrely. "We shall be tricked again."

"Dear, dear!" said Miss Toogood helplessly. "Then we shall have to go on. It's war. We can't stop."

And as she stood there, sadly contemplating the "war," in which, poor soul, she had never yet joined, except by sympathy, a little bill-distributing and a modest subscription, she seemed to carry on her shoulders the whole burden of the Movement---herself, the little lame dressmaker, on the one side---and a truculent British Empire on the other.

"We'll make them smart anyway!" cried Kitty Foster. "See if we don't!"

Delia hurriedly opened her business. Would one of them take a letter for her to London---an important letter to Miss Marvell that she didn't want to trust to the post. Whoever took it must go to the League office and find out where Miss Marvell was, and deliver it---personally. She couldn't go herself---till after the doctors' consultation, which was to be held on Monday---if then.

Miss Jackson at once volunteered. Her face lightened eagerly. "It's Saturday. I shall be free. And then I shall see for myself---at the office---if they can give me anything to do. When they write, they seem to put me off."

Delia gave her the letter, and stayed talking with them a little. They, it was evident, knew nothing of the anxiety which possessed her. And as to their hopes and expectations---why was it they now seemed to her so foolish and so ignorant? She had shared them all, such a little while before.

And meanwhile they made much of her. They tried to keep her with them in the little stuffy parlour, with its books which had belonged to Miss Toogood's father, and the engraving of Winchester cathedral, and the portrait of Mr. Keble. That "Miss Blanchflower" was with them, seemed to reflect a glory on their little despised coterie. They admired her and listened to her, loth to let her go.

But at last Delia said Good-Bye, and stepped out again into the lights of the village street. As she walked rapidly towards Maumsey, and the village houses thinned and fell away, she suddenly noticed a dark figure in front of her. It was Marion Andrews. Delia ran to overtake her.

Marion stopped uncertainly when she heard herself called. Delia, breathless, laid a hand on her arm. "I wanted to speak to you!"

"Yes!" The girl stood quiet. It was too dark now to see her face.

"I wanted to tell you---that there are suspicions---about Monk Lawrence. You are being watched. I want you to promise to give it up!"

There was no one on the road, above which some frosty stars had begun to come out. Marion Andrews moved on slowly. "I don't know what you mean, Miss Blanchflower."

"Don't, please, try to deceive me!" cried Delia, with low-voiced urgency. "You have been seen at night---following Daunt about---examining the doors and windows. The person who suspects won't betray us. I've seen to that. But you must give it up---you must! I have written to Miss Marvell."

Marion Andrews laughed,---a sound of defiance. "All right. I don't take my orders from anyone but her. But you are mistaken, Miss Blanchflower, quite mistaken. Good night."

And turning quickly to the left, she entered a field path leading to her brother's house, and was immediately out of sight.

Delia went on, smarting and bewildered. How clear it was that she was no longer trusted---no longer in the inner circle---and that Gertrude herself had given the cue! The silent and stubborn Marion Andrews was of a very different type from the three excitable or helpless women gathered in Miss Toogood's parlour. She had ability, passion, and the power to hold her tongue. Her connection with Gertrude Marvell had begun in London, at the "Daughters" office, as Delia now knew, long before her own appearance at Maumsey. When Gertrude came to the Abbey, she and this strange, determined woman were already well acquainted, though Delia herself had not been aware of it till quite lately. "I have been a child in their hands!---they have never trusted me!" Heart and vanity were equally wounded.

As she neared the Maumsey gate, suddenly a sound---a voice---a tall figure in the twilight.

"Ah, there you are!" said Winnington. "Lady Tonbridge sent me to look for you."

"Aren't you back very early?" Delia attempted her usual voice. But the man who joined her at once detected the note of effort, of tired pre-occupation.

"Yes---our business collapsed. Our clerk's too good---leaves us nothing to do. So I've been having a talk with Lady Tonbridge."

Delia was startled; not by the words, but by the manner of them. While she seemed to Winnington to be thinking of something other than the moment---the actual moment, her impression was the precise opposite, as of a sharp, intense consciousness of the moment in him, which presently communicated its own emotion to her.

They walked up the drive together.

"At last I have got a horse for you," said Winnington, after a pause. "Shall I bring it tomorrow? Weston is going on so well to-night, France tells me, that he may be able to say 'out of danger' to-morrow. If so, let me take you far afield, into the Forest. We might have a jolly run."

Delia hesitated. It was very good of him. But she was out of practice. She hadn't ridden for a long time.

Winnington laughed aloud. He told---deliberately---a tale of a young lady on a black mare, whom no one else could ride---of a Valkyrie---a Brunhilde---who had exchanged a Tyrolese hotel for a forest lodge, and ranged the wide world alone---

"Oh!"---cried Delia, "where did you hear that?"

He described the talk of the little Swedish lady, and that evening on the heights when he had first heard her name.

"Next day came the lawyers' letter---and yours---both in a bundle."

"You'll agree---I did all I could---to put you off!"

"So I understood---at once. You never beat about the bush."

There was a tender laughter in his voice. But she had not the heart to spar with him. He felt rather than saw her drooping. Alarm---anxiety---rushed upon him, mingled in a tempest-driven mind with all that Madeleine Tonbridge, in the Maumsey drawing-room, had just been saying to him. That had been indeed the plain speaking of a friend!---attacking his qualms and scruples up and down, denouncing them even; asking him indignantly, who else could save this child?---who else could free her from the sordid entanglement into which her life had slipped---but he? "You---you only, can do it!" The words were still thundering through his blood. Yet he had not meant to listen to his old friend. He had indeed withstood her firmly. But this sad and languid Delia began, again, to put resistance to flight---to tempt---to justify him---driving him into action that his cooler will had just refused.

Suddenly, as they walked under the overshadowing trees of the drive, her ungloved hand hanging beside her, she felt it taken, enclosed in a warm strong clasp. A thrill, a shiver ran through her. But she let it stay. Neither spoke. Only as they neared the front door with the lamp, she softly withdrew her fingers.

There was no one in the drawing-room, which was scented with early hyacinths, and pleasantly aglow with fire-light. Winnington closed the door, and they stood facing each other. Delia wanted to cry out---to prevent him from speaking---but she seemed struck dumb.

He approached her. "Delia!"

She looked at him, still helplessly silent. She had thrown off her hat and furs, and, in her short walking-dress, she looked singularly young and fragile. The change which had tempered the splendid---or insolent---exuberance of her beauty, which Lathrop had perceived, had made it in Winnington's eyes infinitely more appealing, infinitely more seductive. Love and fear, mingled, had "passed into her face," like the sculptor's last subtle touches on the clay.

"Delia!" How all life seemed to have passed into a name! "I'm not sure that I ought to speak---I'm not sure it's fair. It seems like taking advantage. If you think so, don't imagine I shall ever press it again. I'm twenty years older than you---I've had my youth. I thought everything was closed for me, but---" He paused a moment---then his voice broke into a low cry---"Dear! what have you done to make me love you so?" He came nearer. His look spoke the rest.

Delia retreated. "What have I done?" she said passionately. "Made your life one long worry!---ever since you saw me. How can you love me?---you oughtn't!---you oughtn't!"

He laughed. "Every quarrel we had I loved you the better. From our very first talk in this room---"

She cried out, putting up her hands, as though to protect herself against the power that breathed from his face, and shining eyes. "Don't---don't---I can't bear it!"

His expression changed. "Delia!"

"Oh, I do thank you!" she said piteously. "I would---if I could. I---I shall never care for anyone else---but I can't---I can't."

He was silent a moment, and then said, taking her hands, and putting them to his lips---"Won't you explain?"

"Yes, I'll try---I ought to. You see"---she looked up in an anguish---"I'm not my own---to give---and I---No, no, I couldn't make you happy!"

"You mean---you're---you're too deeply pledged to this Society?"

He had dropped her hands and stood looking at her, as if he would read her through.

"I must go up to town next week," she said hurriedly. "I must go, and I must do what Gertrude tells me. Perhaps---I can protect---save her. I don't know. I dare say I'm absurd to think so---but I might---and I'm bound. I'm promised---promised in honour---and I can't---get free. I can't give up Gertrude---and you---you could never bear with her---or accept her. And so---you see---I should just make you miserable!"

He walked away, his hands in his pockets, and came back. Then suddenly he took her by the shoulders.

"You don't imagine I shall acquiesce in this!" he said passionately---"that I shall endure to see you tied and chained by a woman whom I know you have ceased to respect, and I believe you have ceased to love!"

"No!---no!---" she protested.

"I think it is so," he said steadily. "That is how I read it."

She gave a sob---quickly repressed. Then she violently mastered herself.

"If it were true---I can't marry you. I won't be treacherous---nor a coward. I've got myself into a hopeless coil. I must take the consequences. But I won't ruin your life. Dear Mr. Mark---it's quite, quite impossible! Let's never talk of it again."

And straightening all her slender body, she faced him with that foolish courage, that senseless heroism, which women have so terribly at command.

So far, however, from obliging her, he broke into a tempest of discussion, bringing to bear upon her all the arguments that love or common sense dictated. If she really cared for him at all, if she even thought it possible she might care, was she going to refuse all help---all advice---from one to whom she had grown so dear?---to whom everything she did was now of such vital, such desperate importance? He pleaded for himself---guessing it to be the more hopeful way.

"It's been a lonely life, Delia, till you came! And now you've filled it. For God's sake, listen to me! Let me protect you, dear---let me advise you---trust yourself to me. Do you imagine I should want to dictate to you---or tyrannise over you? Do you imagine I don't sympathise with your faiths, your ideals---that I don't feel for women---what they suffer---what they endure---in this hard world? Delia, we'd work together!---it mightn't be always in the same way---nor always with the same opinions---but we'd teach---we'd help each other. Your own conscience---your own mind---I see it plainly---have turned against this horrible campaign---and the woman who's led you into it. How she's treated you! Would any friend, any real friend, have left you alone through this Weston business? And you've given her everything---your house, your money, yourself! It makes me mad."

He paused, putting a strong force upon himself, and resumed more calmly---

"I do implore you to break with her---as gently, as generously as you like---but free yourself! And then!"---he drew a long breath---"what a life we'd make together!"

He sat down beside her. Under the strong overhanging brows, his grey eyes still pleaded with her---silently.

But she was just strong enough---the poor child!---to resist him. She scarcely replied; but her bitter loyalty held the gate---against his onslaughts. And at last she tottered to her feet.

"Mr. Mark---dear Mr. Mark!---let me go!"

Her voice, her aspect struck him dumb. And before he could rally his forces again, the door shut, and she was gone.

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