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Julian stared straight in front of him. It seemed to him as if he heard again the music of Chaliapine-the unconquerable music of souls that have outlasted their defeat. He lost the sound of Mr. Travers's punctilious, carefully lowered voice. When he heard it again, Mr. Travers was saying:
"It came to my knowledge through an interview with the younger Miss Waring, who has also become one of our staff, that she had regrettably misinformed you as to her sister's point of view. The younger Miss Waring acts at times impetuously and without judgment, but she had no intention whatever of harming her sister. She had been deeply anxious about her for the last few months, and she at length communicated her anxiety to me."
"Anxious," exclaimed Julian, sharply. "What the devil 's she anxious about?"
"Her sister's state of health is not at all what it should be," Mr. Travers said gravely. "She looks weak and thin, and she occasionally forgets things. This is a most unusual and serious sign in a woman of her capacity."
"Damn her capacity!" said Julian, savagely. "Why on earth could n't you stop her working?"
"It is not in my province to stop people earning their daily bread," said Mr. Travers, coldly, "and I have never discussed this or any other private question with the elder Miss Waring since her return. When she came back to the town hall she refused to displace her sister, who had undertaken her former work, and went into the surveyor's office."
"All right, all right," said Julian, hastily. "I dare say you could n't have helped it; but how on earth did you find out, if you've never talked to Miss Waring, what had happened?”
"Investigated the matter," said Mr. Travers, "with the younger Miss Waring. She confessed to me, under some slight pressure on my part, her very mistaken conclusions, and the action she had based upon them. I sent her at once, without mentioning what action I had decided to take myself, to her sister."
"You should n't have done that," said Julian, with the singular injustice Mr. Travers had previously noted and disliked in members of the upper classes. "There was n't any need to give Eurydice away to her; I could have managed without that."
"You forget," said Mr. Travers, steadily, "the younger Miss Waring had forfeited her sister's confidence; it would have been impossible to avoid clearing up the situation by bringing all the facts to light. It will not, I feel sure, cause permanent ill feeling between the two sisters."
Julian gave a long, curious sigh. His relief was so intense that he could hardly believe in it; but he could believe, not without reluctance, in the hand that had set him free. It had taken a town clerk to show him where he stood.
"It would be difficult," he began-"By Jove! it 's impossible to express thanks for this kind of thing! You won't expect it, perhaps, and I know, of course, you did n't do it for me. For all that, I'm not ungrateful. I-well-I think you 're more of a man than I am, Travers."
"Not at all, Sir Julian," said Mr. Travers, who privately felt surprised that there should be any doubt upon the matter. "Any one would have done precisely the same who had the good fortune to know the elder Miss Waring."
"Perhaps they would," said Julian, smiling, "or, you might add, the misfortune to come across the erratic proceedings of the younger one."
Mr. Travers looked graver still.
"There I cannot agree with you," he said quietly. "Perhaps I should have mentioned the matter before, but it scarcely seemed germane to the occasion: I am about to marry Miss Eurydice."
A vivid memory of Eurydice shot through Julian's mind. He saw her advancing down the grass path arrayed in the purple garment, with the scarlet hat. and the dangling pomegranates; and the thought of her in conjunction with the town clerk was too much for him. Laughter seized him uncontrollably and
shook him. He flung back his head and roared with laughter, and the graver and more disapproving Mr. Travers looked, the more helplessly and shamelessly Julian laughed.
"I'm most frightfully sorry," he gasped, "but I can't help it. Are you sure you 're going to marry her? I mean, must you?"
There was something in the back of Mr. Travers, receding tidily into the middle distance, which set Julian off again. Mr. Travers heard him; he heard him through the anteroom and out into the hall.
For the first time since Mr. Travers had known her, he found himself doubting the judgment of the elder Miss
Mr. Travers took his hat and gloves Waring. carefully in his hand.
"This is not a subject I care to discuss with you, Sir Julian," he said, with dignity, "nor is your tone a suitable one in which to refer to a lady. A man of my type does not shilly-shally on the question of matrimony; either he is affianced or he is not. I have already told you that I am. You may have some excuse for misjudging the younger Miss Waring; but there can be no excuse whatever for your flippant manner of referring to our marriage. It is most uncalled for. I might say, offensive."
A spasm of returning laughter threatened Julian again, but he succeeded in controlling it.
"My dear Travers," he said, holding out his hand, "please don't go away with a grievance. I am thoroughly ashamed. of myself as it is, and more grateful to you than I can possibly express. You'll forgive me for not getting up, won't you? And try to overlook my bad manners."
It was the first time during the interview that Mr. Travers realized Julian's disabilities, but they did not make him. feel more lenient.
Mr. Travers liked an invalid to behave as if he were an invalid, and he thought that a man in Julian's position should not indulge in unseemly mirth.
"Pray don't get up," he said coldly. "I am bound to accept your apology, of course, though I must confess I think your laughter very ill timed."
Julian took this rebuke with extraordinary humility. He insisted on giving Mr. Travers an unnecessarily cordial hand-shake, and invited him to drop in again at some hour when he would have a drink.
JULIAN'S first impulse was to drive to the town hall and carry Stella off. He was debarred from doing so only by a secret fear that she might refuse to come. He was a little afraid of this first meeting with Stella. She might haul him over the coals as much as she liked; but he wanted to stage-manage the position of the coals.
He decided after a few moments of reflection to ring her up on the telephone. The porter at the other end said that Miss Waring was still at work, and seemed to think that this settled the question of any further effort on his part. Julian speedily undeceived him. He used language to the town hall porter which would have lifted every separate hair from Mr. Travers's head. It did not have this effect upon the porter. He was a man who appreciated language, and he understood that there was an expert at the other end of the line. It even spurred him into a successful search for Stella.
"That you, Stella?" Julian asked, "Do you know who 's speaking to you?" There was a pause before she answered a little unsteadily:
"Well," said Julian, with an anxiety he could hardly keep out of his voice, “I want to see you for a few minutes if you can spare the time. Will you come to the Carlton to tea? I suppose I must n't ask you to my rooms."
"I can't do "I'm too busy. urday?"
either," replied Stella. Can't you wait till Sat
"Impossible," Julian replied firmly.
"May I come and fetch you in a taxi? I suppose you don't dine and sleep at the town hall, do you?"
"No, you must n't do that," said Stella,
quickly; "but you can come to the Express Dairy Company, which is just opposite here, if you like. I shall go there for a cup of tea at five o'clock. I can spare you half an hour, perhaps."
"Oh, you will, will you?" said Julian, grimly. "I suppose I must be thankful for what I can get. Five sharp, then, at the what-you-may-call-'em.”
Stella put up the receiver, but Julian thought before she did so that he heard her laugh.
Julian had never been to an Express Dairy Company before. It was a very nice, clean, useful little shop, and there was no necessity for him to take such an intense dislike to it. The rooms are usually full, and for reasons of space the tables are placed close together. The tables are marble-topped and generally clean. There is, not more smell of inferior food than is customary in the cheaper restaurants of London.
Julian arrived at five minutes to the hour, and he turned the place literally upside down. It did no good, because Express Dairy Companies are democratic, and do not turn upside down to advantage. He only succeeded in upsetting a manageress and several waitresses, and terrifying an unfortunate shop-girl who was occupying the only table in the room at which Julian could consent to sit by standing over her until she had finished her tea, half of which she left in consequence.
Stella was ten minutes late; by the time she arrived Julian had driven away the shop-girl, had the table cleared, and frozen every one in the neighborhood who cast longing glances at the empty place in front of him. He was consumed with fury at the thought that in all probability Stella had had two meals a day for six months in what he most unfairly characterized as a "loathsome, stinking hole."
As a matter of fact Stella had not been able to afford the Express Dairy Company. She had had her meals at the
A. B. C., which is a little cheaper and not quite so nice. Julian's anger failed him when he saw Stella's face. She looked
He could not speak at first, and Stella made no attempt whatever to help him. She merely dropped her umbrella at his feet, sat down opposite him, and trembled.
"How dare you come to this infernal place?" Julian asked her at last, with readjusted annoyance, "and why did n't you tell me you were ill?" Then he ordered tea from a hovering waitress. "If you have anything decent to eat, you can bring it," he said savagely.
Stella smiled deprecatingly at the outraged waitress before she answered Julian.
"I'm not ill," she said gently, "and I could n't very well tell you anything, could I when I did n't know where you were?"
"Of course, if you make a point of eating and drinking poison," said Julian, bitterly, "you are n't likely to be very well. I suppose you could have told my mother, but no doubt that did n't occur to you. You simply wished-" He stopped abruptly at the approach of the waitress.
Stella did not try to pour out the tea; she showed no proper spirit under Julian's unjust remarks. She simply put her elbows on the table and looked at him.
"There, drink that," he said, "if you can. It's the last chance you'll get of this particular brand. They call it China, and it looks like dust out of a rubbishheap. I don't know what you call that thing on the plate in front of you, but I suppose it 's meant to eat. So you may as well try to eat it."
"Food," said Stella, with the ghost of her old fugitive smile, "is n't everything, Julian."
"It's all you 'll get me to talk about in a place like this," said Julian, firmly. "I wonder you did n't suggest our meeting in one of those shelters in the Strand! Do you realize that there's a Hindu two yards to your right, a family of Belgian refugees behind us, and the most inde
scribable women hemming us in on every side? How can you expect us to talk here?"
"But you and I are here," said Stella, quietly. "Julian, how could you believe what Eurydice told you?"
Julian lowered his eyes.
"Must I tell you now?" he asked gravely. "I'd rather not."
"Yes, I think you must," said Stella, relentlessly. "You need n't tell me much, but you must say enough for me to go on
with. If you don't, I can't talk at all; I can only be afraid."
Julian kept his eyes on a tea-stained spot of marble. There was no confidence in his voice now.
"I made a mistake," he said. "You were n't there. I wanted you to have everything there was. I can't explain. I ought to have let you choose, but if you 'd chosen wrong, I should have felt such a cur. I can't say any more here. Please, Stella!"
She was quick to let him off.
"I ought n't to have left you so soon," she said penitently; "that was quite my fault."
Julian made no answer. He drew an imaginary pattern on the table with a fork; he could n't think why they 'd given him a fork unless it was a prevision that he would need something to fidget with. It helped him to recover his assurance.
"I suppose you know," he said reflectively, contemplating the unsuspicious Hindu on his right, "that I 'm never going to let you out of my sight again?"
"I dare say I shall like being alone sometimes," replied Stella; "but I don't want you to go calmly off and arrange things that break us both to pieces. I'd never see you again rather than stand that!"
"Now," said Julian, "you 've roused. the Belgians; they 're awfully interested. I'll never go off again, though you 're not very accurate; it was you that went off first. I only arranged things, badly I admit, when I was left alone. I was n't. so awfully calm. As far as that goes, I've been calmer than I am now. Have you
taxi," said Julian, hailing one from the door.
Stella looked at him searchingly. should be really angry if you tried to carry me off," she warned him.
"My dear Stella," said Julian, meeting her eyes imperturbably, "I have n't the nerve to try such an experiment. I'm far too much afraid of you. Get in, won't you? The man 'll give me a hand." He turned to the driver. "Drive wherever you like for a quarter of an hour," he explained, "and then stop at the town hall."
The car swung into the darkened thoroughfare, and Julian caught Stella in his arms and kissed her as if he could never let her go.
"Not very clever of you," he murmured, "not to guess why I wanted a taxi."
Stella clung to him speechlessly. She did not know what to say; she only knew that he was there and that the desperate loneliness of the empty world was gone.
She wanted to speak of the things that she believed in, she wanted not to forget to reassure him, in this great subdual of her heart; but she did not have to make "You know it's you I mind about," the effort. It was Julian who spoke of said Stella, under her breath.
had enough tea?"
"You must n't say that kind of thing in a tea-shop," said Julian, severely. "You 're very nearly crying, and though I'd simply love to have you cry, I believe it's against the regulations. And there's a fat lady oozing parcels to my left who thinks it's all my fault, and wants to tell me so."
"I'm not crying," said Stella, fiercely. "I'm going back to work. I don't believe you care about anything but teasing."
"I don't believe I do," agreed Julian, with twinkling eyes; "but I have n't teased any one for six one for six months, you know, Stella. How much may I tip the waitress? Let's make it something handsome; I 've enjoyed my tea. I'll take you across to the town hall."
these things first.
He spoke hurriedly, with little pauses for breath, as if he were running.
"I know now," he said, "I 've been a fool and worse. I saw it as soon as I looked at you; it broke me all up. How could I tell you 'd mind losing a man like me? I'm glad it 's dark; I 'm glad you can't see me. I'm ashamed. Stella, the fact is, I gave you up because I could n't stick it; my nerve gave way."
"I should n't have left you so soon; it was all my fault for leaving you."
"That rather gives the show away, does n't it," asked Julian, "not to be able to stand being left?"
"You were n't thinking only of yourself," Stella urged defensively.
"Was n't I?" said Julian. "I kept
"It 's only just the other side of the telling myself I was behaving decently road," Stella objected.
when I was only being grand. Is n't that
"Still, I'd like you to get into this thinking of yourself?"