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gay, in the way she loved, and such is the maid came to tell her that a person wished force of habit, two more novelists and a to see, nay, insisted on seeing her. minor poet fell in love with her without “A person, Plover?" making the vestige of an attempt to con- “Yes, Madame," Plover was quite sure ceal it!
that the person was a person. But Maud and I, not being great or “Then tell him I am engaged.” beloved of the great, saw little of her. “It 's a-woman, Madame, and she We heard from time to time that she was says she must see you. It 's something entertaining such and such a great man at lit’ry, Madame, I think.” dinner, or had dined at such and such a Mrs. Herraday at once became subtly, house. She was, we knew, painted by a wordlessly, a patron of letters. "Ah, then very celebrated Academician, and was to perhaps - you don't mind, March?" be hung on the line at Burlington House, Anticipating more delight and really but we saw her very seldom.
enjoying my friend's enjoyment of her When the time came, I went to see the own situation, I assured her that I minded picture.
nothing short of being sent tea-less away, It represented her, dressed in black vel- and Plover retired. vet and ermine—when I had known her . The person proved, a minute later, to well, she had no ermine-coming down a be a shabby, tired-looking woman of fifty marble staircase that could have found or thereabouts, with hollow, tear-worn room in no house in London that I ever eyes, and the remains of a certain kind of saw. But then there are London houses good looks. that I have not seen.
She reminded me, in a way I cannot She looked six feet tall in the portrait, quite define, of the ruin of a once beautiwhereas she was about five feet seven. ful building, -and, also, vaguely, I wished But that does n't matter, perhaps, when that ivy of some kind had draped the uglithe painting is as fine as no one can deny ness of her decay. this to be.
She wore decent enough black garIt would, of course, be preposterous to ments; indeed she bore no striking marks pretend that Lady Grizel Hay presented of poverty; but there was misery of some her at Court because Godfrey Clandon kind written all over her. had wanted to marry her, but the one fact “Won't you sit down?" asked Wilmot certainly had some bearing on the other. Herraday in her gentle voice. But the She was presented at the second Court woman remained standing, her hands, enthat spring, and shortly afterward bought cased in new black thread gloves, folded her motor.
on her stomach, which was high. It was a small one and painted a very “I am sorry to disturb you, Madam," demure dark green, but these modest facts she said decently. "I have thought a lot did not appreciably modify the ire raised about it-" in some quarters by her purchase. Even "You are not disturbing me if I can be nice women may be cats at times.
of any use to you,” returned Wilmot. Where she went in the summer I do "Please sit down, Mrs." not know, but in October, when it all “Mrs. Pegram. It was my name when happened, she was back in Queen Anne's —when we first met," answered the other, Gate. I was, I am, fond of Wilmot Her- still with her air of decency; "and I never raday, as I trust I have already proved. changed it." But I cannot find it in my heart to regret "When you met whom?" asked Wilthat I was present at the great scene with mot, pleasantly, but glancing at me as if Mrs. Pegram.
she expected to be amused.
"Him," Mrs. Pegram said, pressing her We were sitting in her library that after- hands to her lips for a second, as if to noon and she had just shown me some steady them, “Clandon." books she had picked up in Paris. That If she had said Julius Cæsar we could she should be picking up books at all was not, for the moment, have thought her very amusing, but her choice was to me
more mad. quite delightfully absurd. I was exam- "Clandon!" I ejaculated, coming a litining them with great gravity when the tle nearer to Wilmot.
The woman noticed my movement and said, “and you are only distressing Mrs. smiled, a strange, weary, patient little Herraday. What is it you have come for? smile,
Please tell me in as few words as pos“You need n't be afraid, sir,” she said. sible." "I am not going to do any one any harm. "Yes, sir," she answered, submissively. I don't want anything, either. That is to “I am sorry to 'ave upset Mrs. Herraday. say, I don't want money."
I know it 's all a mistake. But for the "But what do you want? And what children's sake—" do you mean by talking about Mr. Clan- “Yes," I urged her, glancing at Wildon?" Mrs. Herraday walked, as she mot, who now sat bolt upright in her spoke, away from me, and toward the chair, and was listening eagerly, "you see strange woman by the door. “I am not Mrs. Herraday has no possible interest in afraid, -only I don't understand.”
the children-" “That,” Mrs. Pegram replied, immov- “Oh, but I have, March,” she called ably, "is only to be expected.”
out in a queer little high voice, “if I can Wilmot told me later that her first idea help them. Can I help them, Mrs. Pehad been that Mrs. Pegram must have at gram?" some time served Clandon in some menial Mrs. Pegram shook her head with a capacity. Such a thought did not occur certain dignity. “No, Madam, thank you. to me. I don't think I definitely thought We have plenty of money. It 's-it's the anything, but I most certainly knew that other thing, you see. Clandon was always something amazing was about to happen. very good to us, and that fond of the chil
“Sit down, Wilmot," I said, and she dren. Miss Clandon can tell you, but obeyed me. “Mrs. Herraday has just re- that must n't be taken from us. Oh, covered from a serious illness," I said, ma'am,” she hurried on, clasping her "and is not yet very strong. Now,—what hands in their large wrinkled gloves in a is it?!
very piteous way I shall never forget, “It 's this, then, sir. It is the book. “not that!” Miss Clandon herself sent it to me. She "Mrs. Herraday will take nothing was always very kind to me-kinder than from them,” I said, gently, “only you could have been expected. She 'ad the must explain. We do not quite underpublisher send it, and then (when she had stand. What do you fear may be taken read it, I suppose) wrote and told me not from your children?” to read it, that there was a mistake of The poor creature looked fearfully at some kind. Of course,” she added in the me for a minute and then burst out in full same voice, “I read it. It 's a lovely book spate. “That, sir,- that though 'e never and all perfectly true except the one married me, I was a respectable woman, thing."
and that he loved me. It 's in his letters I saw that Wilmot had changed color, - in dozens; I 've got them all, every line and sat huddled queerly in her chair. 'e ever wrote me. That it was me he
“Well, go on,” I said, sharply, "and loved. And he did, sir, he did; though it's try to be clear."
hard to believe now; he did, indeed!” “I am very clear, sir. Why, I 'm that Somehow, as she spoke, it seemed sudclear—" she broke off, as if in admiration denly, to me, not so hard to believe. The of her own unqualified clarity, but hurried bones of her face were well placed, her on as I was about to speak again.
eyes, even now, large and of a lustrous “The Fleur Blanche letters, it is," she brown. So he had loved her! said. “The gentleman says they were "And when Godfrey read that in the written to 'er,-to Mrs. Herraday. And book, he-he said things to me, sir. 'E that is why I 've come. You see, sir, it hurt me. They had always believed it is n't fair to the children."
before, but that made it seem-oh, I "To whom? To what children?" can't explain it, sir; but it was awful!"
"To his, sir. Clandon's--and mine. “I think I see,” I said, slowly, “but the Godfrey is twenty now and Grace Powell letters to Mrs. Herraday, you is eighteen. Little Geraldine is—"
know." I rose and went close to her. “All this Mrs. Pegram glanced hurriedly at Wilis no business of ours, Mrs. Pegram,” I mot, and then turned once more to me.
"No, sir, not the Fleur Blanche letters; don's poverty, the heroic retirer from his he wrote them five-and-twenty years ago, glories. - to me."
"Surely he wished to marry you?" I It should have been utterly ridiculous, asked, romantically. but for some reason it was n't. For my "Yes, sir. After Godfrey came he did part, I never doubted the absolute truth of his best. But, I thought it best for him everything she said.
to remain free. And it was best. I should "To you?"
n't have been a fit wife for him. But,” "Yes, sir. You may laugh if you like, she added, proudly, "he never loved anybut it 's true. We were going to be mar- body else. And that 's why I came. The ried, you see, and then 'e lost his money
Fleur Blanche letters, my letters, you see that 's in the book all right, and I 'ad n't - I don't hardly think they ought to be in a penny. It was while 'e was at Cam- the book at all, do you, sir? But if they bridge, that was. It was his guardian's 'ave to be, I think it ought to say they fault. So he 'ad to leave, and go to work, were to—just an unknown lady." and my father died and I had to work. I The great dignity with which she came up to London, sir, and was in a shop said this seemed such a rebuke to Mrs. in Notting 'Ill. Nobody would buy his Herraday, that I turned to her half things at first, and at last he got ill. He in defense. To my surprise she said, was all alone in the world, sir,” she quietly: pleaded, “of course, I went to
"Mrs. Pegram, I quite agree with you. 'im"
It has all been a mistake, and it shall be “Of course you did," I assented, heart- corrected. Will you excuse me now? I ily, “and of course, when he was better, am extremely tired.” As she spoke her you stayed."
weight on my arm suddenly increased, and “Yes, sir," she assented, her sunken eyes I caught her, seeing that she had nearly full of gratitude. “And then quite sud- fainted. denly, 'Hesleydale' made a big hit, and- We helped her to the sofa, and Mrs. it was all changed. His cousins turned up Pegram supported her in her arms, while that lived in Eaton Place, and he met peo- I rushed to the dining-room for brandy. ple and they all spoiled 'im-not that 'e When she was better, Mrs. Pegram ever was spoiled," she added, loyally. I took her leave. liked Mrs. Pegram.
“Will you just glance at these, sir?" “Then 'e wrote 'The Valletorts' and she said, handing me a packet of letters. well, of course 'e could n't marry me then. “Just to prove that I have spoken the I understood, quite. Godfrey was born a truth,- for the children's sake. I would little while afterward,--he very n't ’ave anyone else see them, but you pleased. Oh, he loved me," she added, must know" proudly.
"What are they?" I asked, giving them “He should have married you,” de- back to her. “We do not need to read clared Mrs. Herraday, suddenly, coming them to know that you have told us the to where I stood and passing her hand truth.” through my arm.
She pulled one of the letters from its The other woman looked at her quietly. yellowed envelop and handed it to me. I "Perhaps, Madam," she said, always in glanced at it, and recognized one of those her de ferential way, "you don't quite un- which, published in the chapter called derstand.”
“The Fleur Blanche Letters," had created "Never mind that,” I interrupted. so much admiring talk. "Go on with your story, Mrs. Pegram; “I see,” I said. we are very much interested.”
“Yes, sir. No one but me and God“Yes, sir. Well,—I was pretty then frey 'as ever seen them, and no one ever I brought you my picture to show you,". shall. It 's only for their sakes, sir, that I fumbling under her cloak, she produced a came at all —” faded morocco case, which she handed to “We quite understand, Mrs. Pegram, me. She had, indeed, been pretty, poor - poor Mrs. Pegram,” said Wilmot. soul, and better than pretty. I could see "Good Mrs. Pegram," I added, holding her in her youth, the brave sharer of Clan- out my hand.
Her eyes filled with tears. "Thank you, you once suggested to me that I might be sir,” she said.
going to marry him? Well, - the idea I noticed that from the first she had Aattered me. I liked to have you think it liked me more than she had liked Mrs. possible, but it was n't true, as I told you." Herraday.
I nodded again. I remembered her de“Then I may tell Godfrey ?”
nial, but also remembered her hesitancy. "I will write to you, Mrs. Pegram, if “And you were not in love with him, you will leave your address," answered either ?" I ventured, in the great closeness Wilmot, "and explain to you that I will of the moment. have the—the blunder corrected. And I “No, never. He was too- too great for will myself see Mr. Cave—the author of me to think of except with-with reverthe book about that chapter. Will you ence.” trust me?"
“Even when he devoured lemon-cakes?” "Oh, yes, Madam. And I thank you." “Yes, even then."
She gave me her address, said good-by The sonnet referred to in the letters she to us, and then, at the door, turned back. had treasured among her papers and she
"And would you mind saying in the lets showed it to me. ter that he did n't ask you to marry him? “He sent it to me, saying I was a little I know 'e did n't, because he promised me like the princess the sonnet was to. He 'e never would ask any one but, just for had written the sonnet years before, when Godfrey, if you would n't mind" he was at Cambridge."
And then Wilmot Herraday did that “To Mrs. Pegram!" thing for which I shall always love her. “No. To no one. Then, I suppose,
She went to the other woman, took her when he fell in love with-with Mrs. Pehand, looked her straight in her poor gram, he gave the name to her. It is all sunken eyes, and said: "Mrs. Pegram, I quite clear." will write that in the letter - for Godfrey But to me it was n't, and I set to work - but I want to tell you now, on my word to elicit from her, by means of a series of of honor as a lady, that Godfrey Clandon pointed questions the plain facts of the not only never asked me to marry him, but case. They were these : never had for ma the very slightest feeling He, always the kindest of men, and fond beyond that of friendship. It has all been of her in his way, had to her great delight, a mistake, and I can't explain any more, proposed to her that they should write a but that is the truth. Also—he told me little book together. It was to be in the about you, and that he had loved only you form, considered by him as the simplest for all his life. So, there you are!”
a tyro, of letters. She was then at MarMrs. Pegram went her way with large gate. His letters she had believed to be tears rolling down her cheeks, and Wilmot original, composed specially for their book, shut the door.
but were, it now appeared, copies of copies “Well,” she said, “and what do you his thrifty literary spirit had caused him to think of me now?”
keep, of real love letters sent in his youth Then she told me the whole story. to Mrs. Pegram. By this time it was all
clear to me, as well as to her. It was quite true that Clandon had nei- But
letters to him?" I asked. ther loved her nor asked her to marry “Ah, that is where I failed! Can't you him. He had told her that he had in all remember, March, the day before Mr. his life loved but once, and that once be
Cave first called on me, your asking me neath him. “I think,” she added, "that he about the letters? I distinctly recall saywas sorry he could not love again. Men- ing to you, ‘I was a grotesque failure!' tally, he was roma
mantic, of course, but his Well, that 's what I meant." -well, his power of loving seemed to have
And I, silly ass, thought you been exhausted by the one affair of his meant-yes, I remember your words and youth."
also your saying you 'simply could n't do I nodded. “And you he liked simply as it'—I thought you meant you could not, a friend."
well, live up to him!" “Yes, March. Anything else never oc- She nodded thoughtfully. We both uncurred to either of us. Do you remember derstood now; how we had talked at cross
purposes; how strange she had thought my the only one who had throughout behaved manner; how curiously, unexpectedly in- quite perfectly. It was, therefore, to her I delicate her standpoint had seemed to me. must go in the hope of being helped. And with Cave, for all his eagerness,
I took a taxi and made my way to things had been much the same. He had Barnes. I was by this time in a state of feared to rouse in her the sense of delicacy mental pulp, and more than willing to that would have been so inimical to his hand over my burden to another. Mrs. purpose. They, too, had discussed two dis- Pegram, I decided, should do it all. I tinct subjects, believing them to be one, should be a passive instrument in her hands. and he had gone away, delighted by her Finding the house — The Laburnums, was permission, as he believed, to publish God- its name—without any difficulty, I made frey Clandon's love story, leaving her won- my way up the sloppy gravel path and rang. dering if her vanity had led her too far in The house was a fairly large one and persuading her to allow to be made public possessed the luxury of a big bow-window, the fact that the great man had considered in which grew several arum lilies. A beher worthy of literary collaboration with capped maid opened the door and I was
shown, in quite the politest way, into the Then, when finally her nurse had al- drawing-room. It was really rather a lowed her to read the proofs, and she charming room in that it was well-lighted learned the real facts, and had gone to and obviously the gathering place of a Bedford Street to see and to tell the truth pleasant family. There was a drawingand have the fatal chapter changed, Cave board at one window, surrounded by had met her at the door of the publishing brushes and paint-boxes and all the parahouse and persuaded her, she hardly knew phernalia of that innocent sport, waterhow, to do nothing.
color sketching. There was an upright “ 'It was too late,' he said, and I was piano with “Mélisande” open on it, and too ill to argue much and besides —Oh, there were, on the large table, many yards March, he seemed to think it so wonderful of some thin white material, and a halfa thing that those letters should have been finished "body" of the same. written to me! Remember, too, I believed On the walls were pictures, evidently, I that they had in a sense been written to thought, chosen by Clandon with a view to me! I was very wicked, and very foolish, educating the eyes of his children, and one I know, but "
or two handsome and costly pieces of furFor a long time we deliberated. The niture and ornaments again testified to position, the sternest caviler will admit, some higher taste than that of Mrs. Pewas a difficult one. If we made Cave re- gram. I was deep in speculation concernwrite that chapter and say that the letters ing the children of this strange couple, were not written to Mrs. Herraday, she when the door opened and a tall youth in could never again show her face. And yet a flowing brown silk tie came in, and stood - poor Mrs. Pegram, and Godfrey, whom looking pugnaciously at me. I vaguely felt to be a tyrannical son to his “My mother will be down in a minute, mother!
or rather in,” he said. “She is in the kitBefore I left Queen Anne's Gate I was chen now, cooking." forced to assure Mrs. Herraday, who was "Is she, indeed ?" now exhausted, that I would find some “Yes. We are not grand people," he way out of the difficulty. I hope she slept went on. He hated me, I could see, and well. I did not.
he wished to forestall any patronage I All the next day I cudgeled my brains might extend to him by a rudeness that he for a solution, and found none. I needed believed would lower my pretensions. help if ever a man did, and yet, to whom I said nothing, and after a minute, he could I apply?
went on: “Well, have you brought letI was standing by my study window ter from Mrs. Herraday?" looking out at the little back yard into “Yes." which a chill rain was pelting malignantly “Where is it?" when the answer to my question fashed "In my pocket. Where it will stay uninto my mind. To Mrs. Pegram, of til I can give it to Mrs. Pegram, whom I course! She, of the whole lot of them, was suppose to be your unfortunate mother.”