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Milbanke did not laugh. looked at me, with his eyebrows lifted, in an inquiring way. To tell the truth, I thought he might have kept his information about poor Harding's misfortunes to himself.

It is stupid, it is rather womanish, to come out with everything you know, when it isn't your business to know it. But then, you can't tell how these things seem to another man any more than you can tell what will make some women laugh. So I left the two to their own enjoyment of the situation, and went back to the children.

They were all ready for tea. That is the best of children: whatever happens with them

can be rounded up and finished off with a meal, which is really the right and proper termination of most mundane affairs. There was a gorgeous tea in the dining-room, a kind of rainbow-coloured meal. Nobody understands that sort of thing better than Hilda. I have often wondered at her imagination in the line of meals, because she eats like a sparrow herself, and always of most unattractive things. But these children were fed like fightingcocks, and grew very merry and noisy round the table.

It comes back to me now the noise they made round that table, which I enjoyed at the time, and still do, when I think of it. Perhaps there was a kind of warning at the back of my mind that it was the last time I should help to make merry in this company. I seem to remember some such notion going through my head, the sort of thing one dismisses at the moment as morbid, and remembers afterwards uncertaily.

Very soon the noise was all over, and the children gone. It was dusk, and quite warm for an autumn evening, with a glimmering moon. I went out, for I hate wasting a long evening in the house, and I had lots to think about.


When I came back, it was nearly dinner-time. Hilda was in the drawing-room, stretched

on a lounge in a dramatic pose of exhaustion and a long white garment of some sort, which

evidently struck David with were going to my head like apprehension, for he advanced slowly to the fire, inquiring"Is that what you call a rest-gown, Hilda ? It looks pretty-ah, pretty restful."

Hilda only let her hands drop wearily and closed her eyes, as one dead to the world. David whistled hopelessly.

"Cheer up, Hilda!" Joey called out from the door, entering along with the music of the gong. "You've had a ripping afternoon, you know you have; the children played up like anything. As for me, I'm so excited over the discovery of Patsy's ancestry, that I don't know how to contain myself."

David made a wry face, as he followed her into the dining



You needn't discuss it before the servants, you know," he reminded her.

Joey would have discussed anything on the smallest provocation. She was excited, whatever the reason was. Her mood changed ten times in about twenty minutes and I began to feel excited, like herself, as I watched the changes reflected on her mobile delicate face, and the blue glint in her eyes. It's a thing not often seen— blue eyes with dark hair and eyebrows. Yes, it's a fascinating combination. But you don't suppose I was boy enough not to see where I was going? I said to myself quite deliberately that Joey was right about my having fallen in love with her, only she didn't know how much. Her light sweet laughs

wine; and, by the way, we weren't drinking any wine, either of us. I leaned back in my chair, and firmly resolved that I would not lose one day. I would ask Joey to-night, if I got the chance, and I would send Tom Milbanke about his business.

That was a curious hour. I don't know in the least what those other two were thinking of, or if they somehow divined a hidden excitement near them. But Hilda lost her languid air, and began to ask questions, while David's cheerfulness returned. And then Patsy came in.

She was accustomed to appear among us every evening at the interesting moment of dessert, and her chair was beside Hilda's. This time, instead of occupying her chair, she went straight up to David, and announced to him—


"I want that donkey Judy." 'Do you, Patsy?" said David kindly. "But you see it belongs to one of the Winder boys."

"I want Judy for myself," she repeated, clearly and dispassionately.

"Well, I'll get you a donkey just as soon as I can. It won't be Judy, but perhaps just as good as Judy, you know. How will that do?"

"That will do," she replied, and marched off to her chair without thanking him. I never heard her thank any one, unless Hilda obliged her to do it.

In the next ten minutes this


happened. There was a dish present herself again. We had of grapes on the table, resting a long quiet evening, which on green vine-leaves. under the leaves an earwig crept out and ran about the table.

"Horrid thing!" said Hilda, with the usual shudder.

But Joey deftly headed the earwig towards Patsy, and Patsy headed it back again. Hilda had finished her cigarette and got up to go. Then Joey lifted the silver grape-scissors that was lying near the grapes, and nodded at Patsy, who was leaning eagerly over the table. She picked up the wriggling earwig between the points of the scissors, and cut it neatly in two, laughing as she did so. The child was in an ecstasy. She smiled just as I had seen her smile when she reddened her fingers with the blood on the pheasant's neck. At that moment I hated Joey as if she had been the daughter of Herodias. It was the smallness of the act that made it so sickening. I had to open the door for them to pass out, and her laughing face turned up to me was more than I could stand. "You little cruel brute!" I said to her, under my breath; and the laugh turned to a stare and a shrug.

Whether David had either seen or understood I don't know. He looked white and tired, and we didn't talk to each other. A message was sent to us presently that there would be no bridge in the drawing-room, for Hilda had gone upstairs, and Joey did not

was followed by a long night's rain. I know that, because I lay and listened to it falling for hours.

When I got up next morning, I sent for my bags and packed them before breakfast. I didn't know what train I should take, but I meant it to be an early one.

David said it was "all rot " my leaving; but he helped me off, like the good friend he always was, and asked no questions.

Hilda gave no worry, for she never appeared at all that morning; but Patsy stuck to us like a burr, demanding of David, about once in five minutes, when that donkey would come which he had promised her.

"It's coming, Patsy, all right. But I can't fetch it in the car, so I don't think there'd be any use in your going along with us," David explained.

She consented to stay behind, mistrustfully. She put no confidence in any human being, but like the widow in the parable, trusted to her own importunity.

"I'm glad she wants a donkey to ride," he remarked, as we drove to the station. "It's the first thing I've noticed in her that's like a human child. I'll go and see about a donkey at Sivyer's farm as soon as I've seen you off.”

He put his head in at the window, just as my train was beginning to move.

"Let me have your address,

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I promised, of course. I had not yet decided where I was going, after London. never stay more than three consecutive days in London, unless there is somebody I absolutely have to see. But I put in those three days fairly often when I am in England.

This time I was not in the best of spirits. It is not cheering to reflect that you have made a fool of yourself about a girl who is well, I have not the least desire to say what Joey is. In fact, I couldn't, for I don't believe there is a word to express her. She had given me clear warning too, as one might say, that my affections were in danger. How absurd it sounds! And after that, she had bowled me clean over by-what shall I call it that sheer fascination of hers. I had lost my head as completely as any lad of twenty; and though you may say that ought to have been a great pleasure to such a cold-blooded animal as I am, it was anything but a pleasure to remember the ugly jar that concluded that brief episode. Of course, there remained at the bottom of everything the sense of having had an escape, a sneaking consolation which I suspect no man is entirely free from when he reflects that he might have been tied up for life. Liberty is sweet. That is what he really feels when he gives his last sigh over the whole busi

ness. And when a woman gives her last sigh, isn't it because she thinks in her heart it's a pity?

But who is sufficient for these things?

Only I hope you don't suppose I am alluding to Joey as heaving a sigh, or giving vent to any emotion whatever. Not likely.

During these days I pondered a good deal over David and his affairs. I have not concealed from you the fact that I was very fond of David. About the time when he was married, I was speaking of him one day to a friend of his own, a pretty and witty lady who expressed herself to me on that occasion rather mysteriously.

"I think," she said, "when our friends get married, we must accept it just as we do when they die. We must take it for granted that they have gone to heaven. We shall never know."

I remember how she nodded her head, and we avoided discussing Hilda. He was thoroughly in love with Hilda, and there was nothing to be done but to take the little lady's advice. After all, the case did not amount to a tragedy then ; and even now, what would you call it? There is a certain left-handedness in human affairs, some one has said.

I soon discovered that marriage separates chief friends. It was not that David changed, it was not that I changed, but we could not be together for long.

Hilda's jealousy was

she had exchanged them for the intense preoccupation with her own health, which had caused the nurse to alarm David. It was always herself in one form or another.

And then to hear women preach about the selfishness of men!

of the irrational feminine type appeared to me possible that that requires no tangible cause, but refuses to be pacified. I think it was like one of those queer rootless plants that nourish themselves on air, and never seem to die. We two really had no secret understanding, and no sort of plot that we concealed from her, but she thought we had both, or she made herself think that she thought so. The only way was to separate, and not let things grow to an embittered stage. One always felt when the atmosphere was getting charged, as it were, and then it was time to go. We never discussed it, of course. Some of life's perplexities can be a good deal cleared up by discussion between friends; but for this kind of intimate undignified trouble, silence is best.

It is odd what a great part jealousy plays in all the complications of human affairs, public and private. There is no possibility of providing against it; every one would admit that it is a low kind of influence, yet every one has to come up against it, sooner or later, and suffer the consequences. I imagine that David, who had the charitable turn of mind that is born with some people, felt a pity for Hilda's jealousy, just as if it were a physical affliction. For my part, I pitied those who had to live with her. But this last time, she seemed to have dropped her old jealous delusions to a great extent. It


Not that I resent that, because every man knows that a large part of his duty obliges him to be selfish. Or, if that seems a brutal way of putting it, that his professional efficiency is inconsistent with unselfishness, which sounds better, and means exactly the same thing. If David had been properly selfish it would have been a lot better for them all. Then he would not have let Hilda's whims and fancies play the devil with all their peace in life, and he would have refused point-blank to adopt another man's child, and lay up goodness knows how many different kinds of trouble for their respective futures. When you come to think of it, really it is rather wonderful the way parents put up with the manifold trials and difficulties in which they are involved by their own offspring. But who on earth could expect them to do it for other people's children? And what kind of a future would you predict anyway for a creature like that Patsy child, who was not even white ? From Milbanke's report you might have supposed her mother to have been a halfbreed. Not very likely. Yet

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