(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The Splendid Folly"

Google 



This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing tliis resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for in forming people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http: //books .google .com/I 



"X 



V 








I -^ . , / 



;i 



>^ 



THE SP LENDID FOLLY 

liARGAKET FEDLEB 



, 'HE WEY/ YORK 

PUBLIC LIBRARY, 

,, 9a954A 

ASTOR. LBKOX AND , 

riLDEN foundations] 

1 ^S.'J r 



THE \^'^ ^ 

SPLENDID FOLLY 



BY 

MARGARET FEDLER 



>!■ 



(MT FAB SKDb" BfO* 



« • 







NEW ^^SmOBK 
H. DOlBAN COIC^AKY 



. * 



i 
* 

1 




. 






OOPYRIGHT, 1081, 
BT MARGABCT PBDLEB 



• < • 



• • » 






fKDfflEOl 0^ TSB tTNITED CfTATBS OV AMESHCiA 



•0 



A) 



I 
I 



TO MY HUSBAND 

W. G. Q. PEDLER 



y 



CONTENTS 

I Thx Vsbdict 11 

II FsLLOW-TRAVKLUBBa . . . . ^ 4 . 23 

ni Ak Encoumtbb with Dsath ..... 33 

IV Crahjno Rectobt 41 

y Thb Second Msshnq 52 

YI Thb Aftermath of an Advbntubx ... 63 

Vn Diana Singb 76 

VIII Mbs. Lawbbncb'b Hospitautt .... 85 

IX A Contest of Wills 06 

X Miss Lermontof's Advice . ^ ... 107 

XI The Year's Fruit 123 

XII Max Erbington's Return .... 133 

XIII The Friend Who Stood By 143 

XIV The Flame of Love 157 

XV Diana's Decision 168 

XVI Baroni's Opinion of Matrimony ... 173 

XVII "Whom God Hath Joined Together" . . 182 

XVIII The Approaching Shadow 188 

XIX The "First Night" Performance ... 197 

XX The Sh^ow Falls 206 

XXI The Other Woman 216 

XXII The Parting of the Ways 229 

•• 

vu 



vm 



XXIII 

XXIV 

XXV 

XXVI 

XXVII 

XXVIII 



CONTENTS 

PAOB 

Pain 236 

The Vision of Lovb 243 

Breaking-Point 250 

The Reaping . 257 

Carlo Baroni Explains 268 

The Awakening . , 274 

Sacrifice 281 



THE SPLENDID FOLLY 



THE HAVEN OF BIEMORY 

Do you ramember 

Our great love's pure unfolding, 
The troth you gave, 

And prayed for God's upholding, 
Long and long ago? 

« 

Out of the past 

A dream— and then the waking-* 
Comes back to me, 

Of love and love's forsaking. 
Ere the sunmier waned. 



Ah! Let me dream 

That still a little kindness 
Dwelt in the smile 

That chid my foolish blindn< 
When you said good-bye. 



Let me remember, 

When I am very lonely, 
How once your love 

But crowned and blessed me only, 
Long kad long agol 



Maroabbt Pbdler. 



•ettincbsrlMdorVpttoia. PubliifaMi by Q. Bieoidi A Go.. 14 EmI 48nl 



Btmi, N«w Yoik. 



THE SPLENDID FOLLY 



CEAPTEBI 



THB VXBDIOT 



npHE Marcli wind swirled boisterously down Ghrellingiiam 
^ Place, catching up particles of grit and scraps of paper 
on his way and making them a torment to the passers-by, 
just as though the latter were not already amply occupied 
in trying to keep their hats on their heads. 

But the blustering fellow cared nothing at all about that 
u he drove rudely against them, slapping their faces and 
Uinding their eyes with eddies of dust; on the oontraryi 
dtec he had swept forwards like a tornado for a matter oi 
^7 yards or so he paused, as if in search of some fresh devil- 
moit, and espied a girl beating her way up the street and 
carrying a roll of music rather loosely in the crook of her 
&niL In an instant he had snatched the roll away and sent 
the sheets spread-eagling up the street, looking like so many 
% white butterflies as they flapped and whirled deliriously 
Hther and thither. 

The girl made an ineifectual grab at them and then dashed 
m pursuit| while a small greengrocer's boy, whose time was 
hifl master's (ergo, his own), joined in iixe chase with en* 
thusiasm* 

Given a high wind and half-a-dozen loose sheets of musjc, 
tile elusive quality of the latter seems to be something almost 
BQpematural, not to say diabolical, and the pursuit would 
probably have been a lengthy one but for the fact that a 

11 



12 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

tall man, who was rapidly advancing from the opposite direo- 
tion, seeing the girl'a predicament, came to her help and 
headed off the truant sheets. Within a few moments the 
combined efforts of the girl, the man, and the greengrocer's, 
boj were successful in gathering them together once more, 
and having tipped the boy, who had entered thoroughly into 
the spirit of the thing and who was grinning broadly, she 
turned, laughing and rather breathless, to thank die man. 

But the laughter died suddenly away from her lips as she 
encountered the absolute lack of response in his face. It 
remained quite grave and unsmiling, exactly as though its 
owner had not been engaged, only two minutes before, in a 
wild and undignified chase after half-a-dozen sheets of pager 
which persisted in pirouetting maddeningly just out of reach. 

The face was that of a man of about thirty-five, clean- 
shaven and fau>skinned, with arresting blue eyes of that 
peculiar piercing quality which seems to read right into tiie 
secret places of one's mind. The features were clear-cut — 
strai^t nose, square diin, the mouth rather sternly set, yet 
with a delicate uplift at its corners that gave it a singularly 
sweet expression. 

The girl faltered. 

^Thank you so much,'' she murmured at last 

The man's deep-set blue eyes swept her from head to foot 
in a single comprehensive glance. 

^'I am very glad to have been of service," he said briefly. 

With a slight bow he raised his hat and passed on, moving 
swiftly down the street, leaving her staring surprisedly after 
him and vaguely feeling that she had been snubbed. 

To Diana Quentin this sensation was something of a nov* 
elty. As a rule, the men who were brought into contact 
with her quite obviously acknowledged her distinctly charm- 
ing personality, but this one had marched away with uncom- 
prcnnising haste and as unconcernedly as though she had 
been merely the greengrocer's boy, and he had been assisting 
him in the recovery of some errant Brussels sprouts. 



THE VERDICT 18 

For a mament an azmued smile hovered about her lipe; 
tben the recollection of her buainees in GrelliTighaTn Place 
came back to her with a saddenly sobering effect and she 
hastened on her way up the street, pausing at last at No. 67. 
She mounted the steps reluctantly, and with a nervous^ 
^smodic intake of the breath pressed the bell-button. 

No one came to answer the door — ^for the good and suf« 
ficient reason that Diana's timid pressure had failed to 
elicit even the faintest sound — ^and its four blank brown 
peseb seemed to stare at her forbiddingly. She stared back 
at them, her heart sinking ever lower and lower the while^ 
for behind those repellent portals dwelt the great man whose 
"Yea'* or ^'Nay'* meant so much to her — Carlo Baroni, the 
&ID0U8 teacher of singing, whose verdict upon any voice 
vu one from which there could be no appeal 

Diana wondered how many other aspirants to fame had 
Hogered like herself upon that doorstep, their hearts beating 
liig^ with hope, ooly to descend the white-washed steps a 
brief hour later with the knowledge that from the standpoint 
of the musical profession their voices were useless for all 
practical purposes, and«with their pockets lighter by two 
goioeas, the moes^o'^ fee for an opinion. 

The wind swept up the street again and Diana shivered, 
her teeth chattering partly with oold but even morg with 
fiffinousness. This was a bad prepaation for the coming 
iatsrview, and with an irritation born ci despair she pressed 
the bell-but4x>n to such gdbd parpdao Ihat she could hear 
footsteps approaxsbing, almort befozie the trill of the beU 
had Yibrated into silence. 

An irreproachable man-servant, with the face of a sphinx, 
opened the door. 

Diana tried to speak, failed, then, moistening her lips, 
jerked out the words : — 

"Signer Baroni ?" 

^'H^ ytru an appbintm^nt f ' came the relentless in^^tuiry, 



14 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

and Diana oould well imagine how inexorably the greatly 
daring who had oome on chance would be turned away. 

**Yes — oh, yes," she stammered* "For three o^clock — 
Miss Diana Quentin." 

^'Come this way, please."' The man stood aside for her 
to enter, and a minute later she found herself following him 
through a narrow haU to the door of a room whence issued 
the sound of a softly-played pianoforte accompaniment. 

The sphinx-like one threw open the door and announced 
her name, and with quaking knees she entered. 

The room was a large ona At its further end stood a 
grand piano, so placed that whoever was playing commanded 
a full view of the remainder of the room, and at this moment 
the piano-stool was occupied by Signer Baroni himself, evi- 
dently in the midst of giving a lesson to a young man who 
was standing at his elbow. He was by no means typically 
Italian in appearance; indeed, his big frame and finely- 
shaped head with its massive, Beethoven brow reminded one 
forcibly of the fact that his mother had been of Oerman 
origiiL But the heavy-lidded, prominent eyes, neither brown 
nor hazel but a mixture of the two, and the sallow skin and 
long, mobile lips— these were unmistakably Italian. The 
nose was slightly Jewish in its dominating quality, and the 
hair that was tossed back over his head and descended to 
the edge of his collar with true musicianly Itixuriance was 
grizzled by sucty years of strenuous life. It would seem 
that God had Ukea an Italian^ a Oerman, and a Jew, and 
out of them welded a surpassing genius. 

Baroni nodded casually towards Diana, and, still con- 
tinuing to play with one hand, gestured towards an easy- 
chair with the other. 

"How do you do? Will you sit down, please," he said, 
speaking with a strong, foreign accent, and then apparently 
forgot all about her. 

*VcN9^'—he tamed to the ytlong man whose lesson her 



THE VERDICT 15 

entry had i&termpted — ^''we will haf this thrcmgfa onoe more. 
Bee-gin, please: 'In aU hunUUiy I warship thee/ " 

Obediently the young man opened his month, and in a 
magnificent baritone voice declaimed that reverently, and 
from a great way off, he ventured to worship at his beloved's 
ahriney while Diana listened spell-bound. 

If this were the only sort of voice Baroni condescended to 
train, what diance had she I And the young man's singing 
jeemed so finished, the fervour of hu passion was so ve- 
hemently rendered, that she humbly wondered that there 
still remained anything for him to learn. It was almost 
like listening to a professional. 

Quite suddenly Baroni dropped his hands from the piano 
and surveyed the singer with such an eloquent mixture of 
disgust and bitter contempt in his extraordinarily expressive 
eyes that Diana positively jumped. 

^ Aoh ! So that is your idea of a humble suitor, is it t" 
he said, and though he never raised his voice above the 
rather husky, whispering tones that seemed habitual to him, 
it eat like a lash. Later, Diana was to learn that Baroni's 
most scathing criticisms and most furious reproofs were 
always delivered in a low, half-whispering tone that fairly 
seared the victim* ''That is your idea, then — ^to shout, and 
ysQ, and bdlow your love like a caged bull t When will you 
leam that music is not noise^ and that love— -love''-— and the 
odd, husky voice thrilled suddenly to a note as soft and tender 
as the cooing of a wood-pigeon— ^''can be expressed fiofno — 
ah, but piomiasimo — as well as by blowing great blasts of 
sound from those leathern bellows which you call your 
famgsr 

The too-forceful baritone stood abashed, shifting uneasily 
from one foot to the other. With a swift motion Baroni 
swept up the music from' the piano and shovelled it pell-mell 
into the ycQxig man's arms» 

^01^ gb alway^ go stwayl^ be said impatieoily. 'Ton 



16 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

are a voice— just a voice — and nothing mora You 
nevaire be an artist t" And he turned his back on hisL 

Very dejectedly the young man made his way towards 
the door, whilst Diana, overcome with sympathy and horror 
at his abrupt dismissali could hardly refrain from rushing 
forward to intercede for him. 

And then, to her intense amazement, Baroni whisked sud- 
denly round, and following the young man to the door, laid 
his hand on his shoulder. 

^'Au revoir, man hrave/' he said, with the utmost bon- 
homie, '^ring the song next time and we will go through 
it again. But do not be discouraged — ^no, for there is no 
need. It will come— -it will coma But remember, piano 
— piano'^-^fnamiarimo r 

And witiii a reassuring pat on the shoulder he pushed the 
young man affectionately through the doorway and dosed 
the door behind him. 

So he had not been dismissed in disgrace after all I Diana 
breathed a sigh of relief, and, looking up, found Signer 
Baroni regarding her with a large and benevolent smUa 

^ou iheeok I wks too severe with him V* he said placidly, 
'^ut no. He is like iron, that young man; he wants ham- 
mer-blowa'* 

*T. tihink he got them," replied Diana crisply, and then 
stopped, BfjtiBSt at her own temerity. She glanced anxiously 
at Baroni to see if he had resented her remark, only to find 
him surv^^ying her wit^ a radiant smile and loddz^ exactly 
like a large, pleased child. 

^^e shall get on, the one with the other," he observed 
contentedly, ^^es, we ^lall get on. And now — ^who are 
you? I do not remember names" — ^with a terrific roll of 
his B*8 — *^t you haf a very pree-ty face — ^and I never 
forget a pree-ly face." 

''I'm — Tm Diana Quentin," she blurted out^ nervousness 
cQoe nttnre tfvtej ik iwhri ng hStfr as she rdatiafed iha:t th% m(»nent 



THE VERDICT 17 

of her ordeal was approaching. ^Tve oome to hare my Toioe 
tried." 

Baroni picked np a memoranduin book from his table, 
mmiiig over the pages till he came to her name. 

*'Ach ! I remember now. Miss Waghome— my old pupil 
•-^ent you. She has been teaching you^ isn't it so I" 
Diana nodded. 

"YeSy Fve had a few lessons from her, and she hoped that 
possibly you would take me as a pupil." 

It was out at last — ^the proposal which now, in the actual 
prasenoe of the great man himself, seemed nothing less than 
a piece of stupendous presumption. 

Signer Baronies eyes roamed inquiringly over the face 
and figure of the girl before him — quito possibly querying 
as to whether or no she possessed the requisite physique for 
a singer. Nevertheless, the great master was by no means 
proof against the argument of a pretty face. There was a 
9tny told of him that, on one occasion, a girl with an ex- 
oepdonally fine voice had been brought to him, some wealthy 
patronees having promised to defray the expenses of her 
training if Baroni would accept her as a pupil. Unf ortu- 
Dstdy, the girl was distinctly plain, with a quite uninterest- 
ing plainness of the pasty, podgy description, and after he 
had heard her sing, the maestro, first dismissing her from 
tlte room, had turned to the lady who was prepared to stand 
sponsor for her, and had said,' with an inimitable shrug of 
ilia massive shoulders : — 

"The voice— it is all right. But the girl — ^heavens, 

aa<^Hme, she is of aju^igliness t And I cannot teach ugly 

people. She. has the face of a peeg — please take her away." 

But ^^Mife was little fear that a similar fate would befall 

^isTiic. Her figure, though slight with the slendemess of im- 

I^Qc^ity, was built on the right lines^ and her young, 

7/er face, in ite frame of raven hair, was as vivid as a 

P:ieer— its clear pallor serving but to emphasise the beauty 

'/the straight, dark brows and of the scarlet mouth with 

1 

• 

/ 
I 



18 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

its ridiculotulj short apper-Hp. Her e^es were of tbs 
peculiarly light grey which, when accompanied, as hers wen 
by thick black lashes, gives an glmoBt startling impreeaio] 
each time the lida are lifted, an odd suggestion of iune 
radiance that was vividly arresting. 

An intense vitality, a carious shy charm, the sensitiTe 
nesB inseparable from the artist nature — all these, ant 
more, Baronl'a ezperioiced eye read in Diana's upturnet 
face, but it yet remained for him to test the quality of her. 
vocal organs. 

~ "Well, we shall aee^" be said ncatoommittally. "I do noi 
take many p>apils." 

Diana's heart sank yet a little lower, and she felt almoei 
tempted to aeek refuge in immediate flight rather than re 
main to face the inevitable dismissal that she guessed would 
be her porticm. 

Baroai, however, put a summary stop to any Bueb wile 
notions by turning on her with the lightning-like chang* 
of mood which she came aft«^rards to know as characteristi 
of him. 

"You haf bron^t some songs t" He bdd out his bant 
"Qood. Let me see thenu" 

He glanced swiftly through the roll of music which ibe 
tendered. 

"This one — we wiB tr; 
the piano — "open your n 

Softly be played thet-^ 
aong, and Diana watmi 
notes speak, and sing, a 
short stumpy fingers that 
would have little enough 

"Now then. Be&gin." 

And Diana began. But she was so nervo^tj 
as thou^ her throat bad suddenly closed up, " 
faint, quavering note issued fnun her lips, brij 
almtptly in a hoarse croak. 



THE YEBDIOT 19 

Baroni stopped playing. 

^Tchut I she is frightened/' he said, and laid an enconrag- 
iBg hand on her shoulder. ''But do not be frightened, mj 
dear. You haf a pree-ty face; if your voice is as pree-ty as 
your face you need not haf fear." 

Diana was furious with herself for failing at the critical 
moment^ and even more angry at Baroni's speech, in which 
flhe sensed a suggestion of the tolerance extended to the 
a^Zl^ge drawing-room singer of mediocre powers. 

'^ doa't want to hav^ a pretty voice !'' she broke out| paa- 
sioiuitely. ''I wouldn't say thank you for it" 

And anger having swallowed up her nervousness, she 
opened her mouth — and her throat with it this timet—and 
ice out the full powers that were hidden within her nice 
big larynx. 

When she ceased, Baroni closed the open pages of the 
scag^ and turning on his stool, regarded her for a moment in 
silence. 

'^o," he said at las^ dispassionately. ''It is certainly 
nsft a pr^^tf voice." 

To Diana'* ears there was such a tone of indifference, 
such an air <yf . <»^ finality about the brief speech, that she 
felt siie 'Wifdl J ^ been eternally grateful now could she 
only have pa»^^ iie low standard demanded by the ppe- 
session of even a laerely "pretty" voice. 

"So this is the voice you'bring me to cultivate t" continued 
the maestro. "This that sounds like the rumblings of a 
sabterranean earthquake! Boom! booo-omi Like that, 
mchtwahrr 

Diana crimsoned, and, feeling her knees giving way be- 
neath her, sank into the nearest chair, while Baroni con- 
tinued to stare at her. 

"Then — ^thoa you cannot take me as a pupilf she said 
faintly. 

Appamtly he did not hear her, for he asked abruptly: — 

"Are you p repa r ed to give up evwything^— everything in 



20 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

the world for art ? She is no easy task-mistress^ remember I 
She will want a great deal of your time, and she will rob 
you of your pleasures, and for her sake you will haf to take 
care of your body — to guard your physical health — ^as though 
it were the most precious thing on earth. To become a great 
singer, a great artiste, means a life of self-deniaL Are you 
prepared for this?" 

"But — ^but '* stammered Diana in astonishment. "If 

my voice is not even pretty — if it is no good " 

^^No goodf* he exclaimed, leaping to his feet with a ra- 
pidity of moTement little short of marvellous in a man of 
his size and bulk. "Gran Dio! No good, did you say? 
But, my child, you haf a voice of gold — ^pure gold. In three 
years of my training it will become the voice of the century. 
Tchut! No good r 

He pranced nimbly to the door and flung it open. 

"Oiulia I Giulia !" he shouted, and a minute later a fat, 
amiable-looking woman, whose likeness to Baroni proclaimed 
them brother and sister, came hurrying downstairs in answer 
to his call "Signora Evanci, my sister,'* he said, nodding 
to Diana. "This, Oiulia, is a new pupil, and I would haf 
you hear her voica It is magnificent — epatant! Open your 
mouth, little singing-bird, once more. This time we will haf 
some scales." 

Bewildered and excited, Diana sang again, Baroni test- 
ing the full compass of her voice until quite suddenly he 
shut down the lid of the piano. 

"It is enough," he said solemnly, and then, turning to 
Signora Evanci, began talking to her in an excited jumble 
of English and Italian. Diana caught broken phrases here 
and there. 

"Of a quality superb! • • . And a beeg compass which 
will grow beeger yet . . • The contralto of the century, 
Giulia." 

And Signora Evanci smiled and nodded agreement^ pat- 
ting Diana's hand, and reminded Baroni that it was time 



THE VERDICT 21 

for his afteriMon cup of coiiaomm£. She was a comfortable 
featheivbed of a woman, whoee mission in life it seemed to 
be to fend off from her brother all sharp comers, and to see 
that he took his food at the proper intervals and changed 
into the thick underclothing necessitated by the horrible 
English climateu 

'^Bnt it will want much training, your voice/' continued 
Baroni, turning once more to Diana. '^It is so beeg that 
it is all over the place — it sounds like a clap of thunder that 
has lost his way in a back garden." And he smiled indul- 
gently. **To beogin with, you will put away all your 
songs — every one. There will be nothing but exercises for 
months yet. And you will come for your first lesson on 
Thursday. Mondays and Thursdays I will teach you, but 
you must come other days, also, and listen at my lessons. 
There is much — ^very much — ^learned by listening, if one 
Ustens with the brain as well as with the ear. Ifow, little 
singing-bird, good-bye. I will go with you myself to the 
door." 

The whole thing seemed too impossibly good to be true. 
Diana felt as if she were in the middle of a beautiful dream 
from which she might at any moment waken to the disap- 
pointing reality of things. Hardly able to believe the evi- 
dence of her senses, she found herself once again in die 
narrow hall, shepherded by the maestro's portly forxo. As 
he held the door open for her to pass out into the street, 
some one ran quickly up the steps, pausing on the topmost. 

^'Ha, Olga!'' exclaimed Baroni, beaming. ^Tou haf 
returned just too late to hear Mees Quentin. But you will 
play for her — ^many times yet." Then, turning to Diana, 
he added by way of introduction: 'This is my accompan- 
ist, Mees Lermontof." 

Biana received the impression of a thin, satirical face^ 
its unusual pallor picked out by the black brows and hair, 
o! a bitter-looking mouth that hardly troubled itself to smile 
in salutatiouj and, above all, of a pair of « queer green eyes^ 



22 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 



which, as the heacvj, opaque white lids above than lifted, 
seemed slowly — and rather ccmtemptuoualy — ^to take her in 
f rcmi head to foot 

She bowed, and as Miss Lermontof inclined her head 
slightly in response, there was a kind of cold aloofness in 
her bearing — a something defiantly repellent — ^which filled 
Diana with a sudden sense of dislike, almost of fear. It 
was as though the sun had all at once gone behind a cloud. 

The Baronies voice fell on her ears> and the disagreeable 
tension snapped. 

'A rivederd, little singing-bird. On Thursday we will 



** a. 1 

99 



The door closed on the maestro* s benevolently smiling face, 
and on that other — ^the dark, satirical face of Olga Ler- 
montof — ^and Diana found herself once again breasting the 
March wind as it came roystering up through Orellingham 
Place. 



GHAPTEB n 



FXLLOW-TBAVXLLXBB 



LOOK ftharp, miaSy jump in! Luggage in the rear vaxu" 
The porter hoisted her almost bodily up the steps of 
the railway carriage^ slamming the door behind her, the 
goard's whistle shrieked, and an instant later the train 
started with a jerk that sent Diana staggering against the 
seat of the compartment, upon which she finally subsided, 
breathless but triumphant 

She had very nearly missed the train. An organised pro- 
cession of some kind had been passing through the streets 
just as she was driving to the station, and her taxi had been 
M up for the full ten minutes' grace which she had al- 
lowed herself^ the metre fairly ticking its heart out in im- 
potent rage behind the policeman's uplifted hand* 

So it was with a sigh of relief that she found herself at 
iHBt comfortably installed in a comer seat of a first-class 
<!&maga She glanced about her to make sure that she had 
not mislaid any of her hand baggage in her frantic haste, 
uid this point being settled to her satisfaction, she pro- 
ceeded to take stock of her fellow-traveller, for there was 
one other person in the compartment besides herself. 

He was sitting in the comer furthest away, his back to 
the engine, apparently entirely oblivious of her presence. 
^ his knee rested a quarto writing-pad, and he appeared 
so much absorbed in what he was writing that Diano doubted 
whether he had even heard the commotion occasioned by 
her sudden entry. 

But flhe was mistaken. As the porter had bundled her 
into the carnage^ the man in the comer had raised a pair 

23 



24 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

of deep-set blue eje^ looked at her for a moxneiit with a 
half-startled glance^ and then^ with the barest flidcer of a 
smile, had let his eyes drop once more upon his writing-pad. 

Then he crossed out the word '^Eismet/' which he had 
inadvertently written. 

Diana regarded him with interest He was probably 
an author, she decided, and since a year's training as a 
professional singer had brought her into contact with all 
kinds of people who earned their livings by their brains, as 
she herself hoped to do some day, she instantly felt a 
friendly interest iji him. She liked; too, the shape of the 
hand that held the fountain-pen ; it was a slender, sensitive- 
looking member with well-kept nails, and Diana always ap- 
preciated nice hands. The man's head was bent over his 
work, so that she could only obtain a foreshortened glimpse 
of his f ace^ but he possessed a supple length of limb that 
even the heavy travelling-rug tucked around his knees failed 
to disguise, and there was a certain soigne air of rightness 
about the way he wore his clothes whidi pleased her. 

Suddenly becoming conscious that she was staring rather 
openly, she turned her eyes away and looked out of the 
window, and immediately encountered a big broad label, 
pasted on to the glass, with the word VReserved*' printed 
on it in capital letters. The letters, of course, appeared re- 
versed to any one inside the carriage^ but they were so big 
and black aiid hectoring that they were quite easily de- 
ciphered. 

Evidently, in his violent haste to get her oa board the 
train, the porter had thrust her into the privacy of some 
one's reserved compartment^ that some one being the man 
opposita What a horrible predicamait I Diana felt hot all 
over with embarrassment, and, starting to her f eet> stanmiered 
out a confused apology. 

The man in the corner raised his head. 

'It does not matter in the leasl^" he assured her indiffe^ 



FELLOW-TRAVELLERS 25 

entlf. 'Tleaae do not distrees yourself. I believe the train 
is Yerj crowded ; you had better sit down again.'' 

The chilly lade of interest in his tones Struck Diana with 
an odd sense of familiarity^ but she was too preoccupied to 
dweU on it, and began hastily to collect together her dressing- 
case and other odds and ends. 

'TU find another seat/' she said stiffly, and made her way 
oat into the corridor of the rocking train. 

Her search, however, proved quite futile; every compart- 
ment was packed with people hurrying out of town for 
Easter, and in a few moments she returned. 

"Pm sorry/* she said,' rather shyly. "Every seat is taken. 
Vm afraid you'll have to put up with ma" 

Just then the carriage gave a violent lurch, as the express 
swung around a bend, and Diana, dropping everything she 
held, made a frantic clutch at the rack above her head, while 
her goods and chattels shot across the floor, her dressing^ase 
sliding gaily along till its wild career was checked against 
tbe foot of the man in the corner. 

With an air of resignation he rose and retrieved her be- 
l<XDgmg8» placing them on the seat opposite her. 

'It would have been better if you had taken my advice," 
he observed, with a sort of weary patienca 

Diana felt unreasonably angry with him. 

''Why don't you say 'I told you so' at once!" she said 
tarUy. 

A whimsical smile crossed his f aoa 

''Well, I did, didn't I ?" 

He stood for a moment looking down at her, steadying 
Mmself with one hand against the doorway, and her ill- 
hnmour vanishing as quickly as it had arisen, she returned 
the smila " 

'Tee, you did. And you were quite right, too," she ao- 

bowledged frankly. 
Be laughed outright 



26 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

''Well done 1'' he cried. "Kot one woman in twenty will 
own herself in the wrong aa a nila'' 

Diana frowned. 

''I don't agree with you at all/' she bristled. ''Men have 
a ridiculous way of lumping all women together and then 
generalising about them." 

"Let's discuss the question/' he said gaily. "May I?'' 
And scarcely waiting for her permission, he deliberately 
mo7ed aside her things and seated himself opposite her. 

"But you were busy writing/' she protested. 

He threw an indifferent glance in the direction of his 
writing-pady where it lay on the seat in the corner. 

"Was If" he answered calmly. "Sometimes there are 
better things to do than scribbling — ^pleasanter ones^ any- 
way." 

Diana flushed. It certainly was an unusual thing to do^ 
to get into oonversation with an unknown man with whom 
one chanced to be travellings and she had never before com- 
mitted such a breach of the conventions — ^would have been 
shocked at the bare idea of it — ^but there was something 
rather irresistible about this man's cool self-possession. He 
seemed to assume that a thing must of necessity be rights 
since he chose to do it 

She looked up and met his eyes watching her with a glint 
of amusement in their depths. 

"No, it isn't quite proper/' he agreed, answering her un- 
spoken thought "But I've never bothered about that if I 
really wanted to do a thing. And don't you think" — still 
with that flicker of laughter in his eyes — ^"that it's rather 
ridiculous^ when two human beings are shut up in a box to- 
gether for several hours^ for each of them to b^ave as 
diongh the other weren't there t" 

He spoke half-mockingly, and Diana felt that within 
himself he was ridiculing her prim little notions of conven- 
tionality. She flushed uncomfortably. 

"YeSy I — ^I suppose so/' she faltered. 



FELLOW-TRAVELLERS 97 

He aeesned to nndenrtand 

'^ozgiTe me," he saidy with a sadden gmtlepwa, *1, 
wBsn't laughibg at you, but only at all the abaord oosfen- 
tioDB By which we cat ooraelYeB off from many an hoar ol 
pleasant interooarae-— jnst as though we had any too many 
pleoaoreB in life! But if you wish it, I'll go back to my 
oomear/' 

'*Noy no, don't go/' returned Diana hastily. ^'It — ^it was 
siQy of me." 

''Then we may talk t Good. I shall behave quite niody, 
I aasore yon." 

Again the curiously familiar quality in his voice 1 She 
was positive she had heard it before — that crisp, unalurred 
enunciation, with its keen perception of syllabic values, so 
unlike the average Englishman's slovenly rendering of his 
moUier-tongue. 

''Of what are you thinking!" he asked, smiling. And 
then the swift, hawk-like glance of the blue eyes brought 
with it a sudden, sure sense of recognition, stinging the 
slumbering cells of memory into activity. A picture shaped 
itself in her mind of a blustering Mardb day, and of a girl, 
a man, and an errand-boy, careering wildly in the roadway 
of a London street, while some stray sheets of music went 
whirling hither and thither in the wind. It had all hap- 
pened a year ago, on that critical day when Baroni had 
consented to accept her as his pupil, but the recollection of 
it, and the odd, snubbed feeling she had experienced in re- 
gard to the man with the blue eyes, was as clear in her 
mind as though it had occurred only yesterday. 

"I believe we have met bef ore, haven't we I" she said. 
The look of gay good-humour vanished suddenly from his 
face and an eacpression of blank inquiry took its placei 
"I think not," he replied. 

"Oh, but I'm sure of it Don't you remember"— ^brightly 
— ^"ahout a year ago. I was carrying some music, and it all 



28 THE SPLENDID FOLLT 

blew away up the street and yoa helped me to collect it 
again ?" 

He shook his head. 

^'I think you must be mistaken/' he answered regretfully. 

^^Noy no/' she persisted, but beginning to experience some 
slight embarrassment. (It is embarrassing to find you have 
betrayed a keen and vivid recollection of a man who has 
apparently forgotten that he ever set eyes on you I) '^Oh, 
you must remember — ^it was in Ghrellingham Place, and the 
greengrocer's boy helped as welL" 

She broke off, reading the polite negation in his f aoa 

^'You must be confusing me with some one else. I 
should not be likely to — ^forget — so charming a rencontre." 

There was surely a veiled mockery in his composed tones, 
irreproachably courteous though they were, and Diana col- 
oured hotly. Somehow, this man possessed the faculty of 
making her feel awkward and self-consdious and horribly 
young; he himself was so essentially of the polished type 
of cosmopolitan that beside him she felt herself to be as raw 
and crude as any bread-and-butter miss fresh from the 
schoolroom. Moreover, she had an inward conviction that 
in reality he recollected the incident in Grellingham Place 
as clearly as she did herself, although he refused to admit it. 

She relapsed into an uncomfortable silence, and presently 
the attendant from the restaurant car came along the cor- 
ri&or and looked in to ask if they were going to have dinner 
on the train. Both nodded an affirmativa 
' ^^Table for twoP he queried, evidently taking them to 
be two friends travelling together. 

Diana was about to enlighten him when her via-onns 
leaned forward hastily. 

'Tlease," he said persuasively, and as she returned no 
answer he apparently took her silence for consent, for some- 
thing passed unobtrusively from his hand to that of the 
attendant, and the latter touched his hat with a smiling — 

"Right you are, sir I I'll reserve a table for twa" 



FELLOW-TRAVELLERS 29 

Diana felt that the acquaintance was progresaing rather 
I faster than she could have wished, but she hardly knew how 
to check it Finally she mustered up courage to say firmly: — 
I "It must only be if I pay for my own dinner." 

'*But, of course/' he answered courteously, with the 
flligfatest tinge of surprise in his tdne% and once again Diana 
felt that she had made a fool of herself and blushed to the 
tips of her ears. 

A faint smile trembled for an instant on his lips^ and 
then, without apparently noticing her confusion, he b^gan 
to talk, passing easily from one subject to another until she 
had regained her confidence, finally leading her almost im- * 
perceptibly into telling him about herself. 

In the middle of dinner she paused, aghast at her own 
loquaci^. 

'^ut what a horrible egotist you must think mel" she 
exclaimed. ''I've been talking about my own affairs all the 
tima" 

"Not at all I'm interested. This Signer Baroni vrilio 
is training your Toice — ^he is the finest teacher in the world. -• 
You must have a very beautiful voice for him to have ao- 
eepted you as a pupil." There was a hint of surprise in his 
tcmes. 

"Oh, no," she hastened to assure him modestly. ^'I ex- 
pect it was more that I had the luck to catch him in a good 
niood that afternoon." 

"And his moods vary considerably, don't they ?" he said, 
sailing as though at some personal recollection. 

"Oh, do you know him f" asked Diana eagerly. 

In an instant his {see became a blank mask; it was as 
though a shutter had descended, blotting out all its vivacious 
mteresL 

"I have met him," he respcmded briefly. Then, turning 
^ subject adroitly, he went on : *^8o now you are on your 
^y home for a well-earned holiday ! Your people must be 



80 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

looking forward to seeing you after so long a time— you 
have been away a year^ didn't you say V^ 

'^esy I spent the othejr two vacations abroad, in Italy, for 
the sake of acquiring the language. Signer Baroni" — 
laughingly — 'Vas horror-stricken at my Italian, so he in- 
sisted. But I have no people — ^not really, you know,'' she 
continued. ''I live with my guardian and his daughter. 
Both my parents died when I was quite young." 

^TTou are not very old now," he interjected. 

'^I'm eighteen," ^e answered seriously. 

''It's a great age^" he acknowledged, with equal gravity. 

Just then a waiter sped forward and with praiseworthy 
agility deposited their coffee on the table without spilling 
a drop, despite the swaying of the train, and Diana's fellow* 
traveller produced his cigarette^utsa 

''Will you smoke?" he asked. 

She looked at the cigarettes longingly. 

"Baroni's forbidden me to smoke^" she said, hesitating a 
little. "Do you think — ^just one— would hurt my voice!" 

The short black lashes flew up, and the light-^ey eyes, 
like a couple of stars between black clouds, met his in irre- 
sistible appeal. 

"I'm sure it wouldn't," he replied promptly. "After all, 

this is just an hour's playtime that we have snatched out 

of lifa Let's enjoy every minute of it — ^we may never meet 

. ft 

again." 

Diana felt her heart contract in a most unexpected fashion. 

"Oh, I hope we shall!" she exclaimed, with ingenuous 
warmth. 

"It is not likely," he returned quietly. He struck a 
match and held it while she lit her cigarette, and for an in- 
stant their fingers touched. His teeth came down hard on 
his under^lip. "No, we mustn't meet again," he repeated in 
a low voice. 

"Oh, well, you never know," insisted Diana, widi cheer- 
ful optimism. 'People run up against each other in the 



FELLOW-TRAVELLERS 81 

xnott eztraordinary faahioiL And I expect we ahaU, too." 
'1 don't think so/' he said. ''If I thoti^t that we 
diould ^" He broke oflf abruptly, frowning. 

''Why, I don't believe you want to meet me again I" ex- 
claimed Diana, with a note in her voice like that of a hurt 
child. 

^0\ for thatl" He shrugged his shoulders. ''If we 
could have what we wanted in this world I Though I mustn't 
complain — ^I have had this hour. And I wanted it I" he 
added, v^ith a sudden intensity. 

"So much that you propose to make it last you for the 
remainder of your lifet" — smiling. 

'^t will have to/' he answered grimly. 

After dinner they made their way back from tiie restau- 
rant car to their compartment, and noticing that she looked 
rather white and tired, he suggested that she should tuck 
herself up on the seat and go to sleep. 

"But supposing I didn't wake at the right timet" she 
objected. "I might be carried past my station and find 
myself heaven knows where in the smaU hours of the morn- 
ing I ... I am sleepy, though." 

"Let me be call-boy," he suggested. "Where do you want 
to get out!" 

"At Craiford Junction. That's the station for Crailing, 
where I'm going. Do you know it at all ? It's a tiny village 
in Devonshire ; my guardian is the Rector there." 

"Crailing?" An odd expression crossed his face and he 
hesitated a moment At last, apparently coming to a deci- 
sion of some kind, he said: 'Then I must wake you up 
when I go, as I'm getting out before that." 

"Can I trust you f' she asked sleepily. 

"Surely." 

She had curled herself up on the seat with her feet 
stretched out in front of her, one narrow foot resting lightly 
on the instep of the other, and she looked up at him speeu- 



82 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

latively from between the double frixige of her short blad: 
lashes. 

^^Yes^ I believe I can/' she acquiesced, with a little smileu 

He tucked his travelling rug deftly round her, and, pull- 
ing on his overcoat, went back to his former corner, where 
he picked up the neglected writing-pad and began scribbling 
in a rather desultory fashion. 

Very soon her even breathing told him that she slept, and 
he laid aside the pad and sat quietly watching her. She 
looked very young and childish as she lay there, with the 
faint shadows of fatigue beneath her closed eyee-— there was 
something appealing about her v^y helplessness. Presently 
the rug slipped a little, and he saw her hand groping vaguely 
for it. Quietly he tiptoed across the compartment and drew 
it more closely about her. 

"Thank you — so much,** she murmured drowsily, and the 
man looking down at her caught his breath sharply betwixt 
his teeth.. Then, with an almost imperceptible shrug of his 
shoulders, he stepped back and resumed his seat 

The express sped on through the night, the little twin 
globes of light high up in the carriage ceiling jumping and 
flickering as it swung along the metals. 

Down the track it flew like a living thing, a red glow 
marking its passage as it deft the darkness, its freight of 
human souls contentedly sleeping, or smoking, or reading, 
as the fancy took them. And half a mile ah^d on the per» 
manent way, Death stood watching — ^watching and waiting 
where, by some hideous accident of fate, a faulty couplings 
rod had snapped asunder in the process of shunting, leaving 
a solitary coal-truck to slide slowly back into the shadows 
of the night, unseen, the while its fellows were safely drawn 
on to a siding. 



\ 



CHAPTEB m 



AN XNOOI7KTBB WITH DEATH 



OliTE moment the even throbbing o( the engine as the train 
slipp&l along through the silenoe of the ooimtry-aide 
^6 nexty and the silenoe was split bj a shattering roar 
and the shock of riven plates, the clash of iron driven against 
iron, and of solid woodwork grinding and grating ba it 
splintered into wreckage. 

Diana, suddenly — ^horribly — awake^ found herself hurled 
from her seat. Absolute darkness lapped her round ; it was 
aa though a thick black curtain had desoended, blotting out 
the whole world, while from behind it^ immeasurably 
HdeoQB in that utter night, uprose an inferno of cries ^d 
duieks — the clamour of panic-stricken humanity. 

Her hands, stretched stiffly out in front of her to ward off 
knew not what impending horror hidden by the dark, 
came in contact with the framework of the window, and in 
an instant she was clinging to it, pressing up against it 
^th her body, her fingers gripping and clutching at it as a 
^t, trapped in a well, daws madly at a projecting bit of 
atonework. It was at least something solid out of that awful 
void. 

'What's happened? What's happened? What's hap- 
pened?" 

She was whispering the question over and over again in 
a queer, whimpering voice without the remotest idea» of what 
die was saying. When a stinging pain shot through her 
am, as a jagged point of broken glass bit into the flesh, and 
with a scream of utter, unreasoning terror she let go her 
Wd. 

38 



84 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

The Heart moment she -felt herself grasped and held by a 
pair of anna, and a voice spoke to her out of the darkneea. 

"Are you hurt! . . . If 7 God, are you hurt ?" 

With a sob of relief she realised that it was the yoioe of 
her fellow-traveller. He was here, close to her, something 
alive and human in the midst of this nightmare of awful, 
unspeakable f ear, and she clung to him^ shuddering. 

'^Speaky can't you!" His utterance sounded hoarse and 

distorted. "You're hurt !" And she felt his hands 

slide searchingly along her limbs, feeling and groping. 

"No— no." 

"Thank Ood !" He spoke under his breath. Then, giving 
her a shake: ''^Come, pull yoursdf together. We must get 
out of ibis." 

He fumbled in his pocket and she heard the rattle of a 
matchbox, and an instant later a flame spurted out in the 
gloom as he lit a bundle of matches togetiier. In the brief 
illumination she could see the floor of the compartment 
steeply tilted up and at its further end what looKod like a 
huge, black cavity. The whole side of the carriage had been 
wrenched away. 

"Come on !" exclaimed the man, catching her by the hand 
and pulling her forward towards that yawning space. "We 
must jump for it. If 11 be a big drop. I'll catch you." 

At the edge of the gulf he paused. Below, with eyes 
grown accustomed to the darkness, she could discern figures 
running to and fro^ and lanterns flashing, while shouts and 
cries rose piercingly above a continuous low undertone of 
moaning. 

"Stand here," he directed her. "I'll let myself down, 
and when I call to you — jump." 

She caught at him frantically. 

**Don't go— don't leave ma" 

He dis^gaged himself roughly from her -clinging hands. 

^^t only wants a moments pluck," he said, "and then 
you'll be safa" 



n 



AN ENC!OUNTER WITH DEATH 85 

The nest minute he was over the side^ hanging by his 
hands from the edge of the bent and twisted flooring of the 
carriage^ and a second afterwards she heard him drop. 
Peering outy she could see him standing on the ground be- 
low, his arms held out towards her. 

"Jump I" he called. 

But she shrank from the drop into the darkness. 

*1 canHI'^ she sobbed helplessly. "I can't P 

He approached a step nearer, and the light frcmx some 
torch close at hand flashed onto his uplifted f aca She could 
see it clearly, tense and set^ the blue eyes blazing. 

'^God in 'heaven I" he cried furiously. ^'Do what I teU 
you. Jumpr 

The fierce, imperative command startled her into action, 
and she jumped blindly, recklessly, out into the night. 
There was one endless moment of uncertainty, and then she 
felt hersdf caught by arms like steel and set gently upon the 
ground. 

'^You little fool!" he said thickly. He was breathing 
heavily as though he had been running; she could feel his 
chest heave as^ for an instant, he held her pressed against 
him. 

He released her almost immediately, and taking her 
by the arm, led her to the embankment^ where he stripped 
off his overcoat and wrapped it about her. But she was 
hardly conscious of what he was doing, for suddenly every- 
thing seemed to be spixming round her. The lights of the 
torches bobbed up and down in a confused blur of twinkling 
stars, the sound of voices and the trampling of feet came 
faintly to her ears as from a great way off, ^hile the grim, 
black bulk of the piled-up coadies of the train seemed' to 
lean nearer and nearer, until finally it swooped down on 
top of her and ^e sank into a sea of impenetrable darkness. 

The next thing she remembered was finding a flask held 
to her lips^ while a-familiar voice commanded her to drink. 
She shook her head feebly. 



X 



86 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

. 'rOrink it at once^" the voice insisted. "Do you hear f 

And because her mind held some dim recollection of the 
futility of gainsaying that peremptory « voice, she opened her 
lips obediently and lei the strong spirit trickle down her 
throat 

"Better now ?" queried the voica 

She nodded, and then, complete consciousness reyturning, 
she sat up^ 

"I^m all right now — ^really," she said. 

The owner of the voice regarded her critically. 

^Tesj I think you'll do now," he returned. "Stay where 
you are. I'm going al<Hig to see if I can help, but Til oome 
back to you again." 

The darkness swallowed him up, and Diana sat very still 
on the embankment, vibrantly conscious in every nerve of 
her of the man's cool, dominating personality. Gradually 
her thoughts returned to the happenings of the moment, and 
then the full horror of what had occurred came back to her. 
She bogan to cry weakly. But the tears did her good, bring- 
ing with them relief from the awful shock which had strained 
her nerves almost to breaking-point, and with return to a 
more normal state of mind came the instinctive wish to 
help— to do something for those who must be suffering so 
pitiably in the noidst of that scarred heap of wreckage on 
the Una 

She scrambled to her ieeit and made her way nearer to 
the mass of crumpled coaches that reared up black against 
the shimmer of the starlit ^y. No one took any notice of 
her; all who were unhurt were working to save and help 
those who had been less fortunate, and every now and then 
some broken wreck of humanity was carried past her, groan- 
ing horribly, or still more horribly silent. 

Suddenly a woman Iwushed against her— ^ young woman 
of the working classes, her plump face sagging and mottled 
with terror, her eyes staring, her clothes torn and dishevelled. 



AN ENCOUNTER WITH DEATH 



87 



'^7 ehiel, mj li'l dhiel !'' she kepi on muttering. '^Wor 
be*eet Wurbe'eer 

Beaching her throogli the dreadful fitrangenees of da»- 
AsteTy the soft Devon dialect smote on Diana's ears with a 
sense of dear familiarity that was almost painfoL She laid 
her hand on the woman's arm. 

''What is it t" she asked. ''Have you lost your child T 

The woman locked at her vagaely, bewildered by the Sfxt- 
rounding horror. 

"IsB. ITa dunnaw wur er^s tu; er's dade^ I reckoiL Aw, 
my 111, lil chiell'* And she rocked to and fro, clutching 
her shawl more closely round her. 

Diana put a few brief questions and elicited that the 
woman and her child had both been taken unhurt out of a 
third-class carriage— of the ten souls who had occupied the 
oompartment the only ones to escape injury. , 

"I'll go and look for him/' she told her. "^ expect he has 
only strayed away and lost sight of you amongst all these 
peopla Four years old and wearing a little red coat, did 
you say t I'll find him for you ; you sit down here." And 
she pushed the poor distraught creature down on a pile of 
shattered woodwork. ''Don't be frightened/' she added re- 
assuringly. "I feel certain he's quite safe." 

She disappeared into the throng, and after searching for 
a while came face to face with her fellow traveller, carrying 
a diubby, red-coated little boy in his arms. He stopped 
afaruptly. 

"What in the world are you doing?" he demanded angrily. 
"You've no business here. Gk> back — ^you'll only see some 
ghastly sights if you cotoe, and you oan't help. Why didn't 
you stay where I told you to f ' 

But Diana paid no heed* 

"I want that child/' she said eagerly, holdinj^ out her 
azm& "The mother's nearly out of her mind — she thinks 
he's killed, and I told her I'd go and look for hinu^ 



j> 



-«- -J 



/ 



98 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

''Is this the child t . . . All right, theiii I'll carry him 
along for you. Where did you leave his mother V* 

Diana led the way to where the woman was sitting, still 
rocking herself to and fro in dumb misery. At the sight of 
the child she leapt up and clutched him in her arms, half 
crazy with joy and gratitude, and a few sympathetic tears 
stole down Diana's cheeks as she and her fellow-helper 
moved away, leaving the mother and child together. 

The man beside her drew her arm brusquely within his. 

'TTou're not going near that — ^that hell again. Do you 
hear f " he said harshly. 

His faca looked white and drawn; it was smeared with 
dirt, and his clothes were torn and dishevelled. Here and 
there his coat was stained with dark, wet patches. Diana 
shuddered a little, guessing what those patches wera 

"You'^ve been helping t" she burst out passionately. ''Did 
you want me to sit still and do nothing while — ^while that 
is going on just below?" And she pointed to where the 
injured were being borne along on roughly improvised 
stretchers. A sob climbed to her throat and her voice shook 
as she continued: "I was safe, you see, thanks to you. 
And — and I felt I must go and help a little, if I could.'' 

"Yes — I -suppose you would feel that^" he acknowledged, 
a sort of grudging approval in his tones. "But there's noth- 
ing more one can do now. An emergency train is coming 
soon and then we shall get away — ^those that are left of us. 
But what's this?" — ^he felt her slveve — "Your arm is all 
wet" He pushed up the loose coat-sleeve and swung the 
light of his lantern upon the thin silk of her blouse be- 
neath it. It was caked with blood, while a trickle of red 
still oozed slowly from under the wristband and ran down 
over her hand. 

"You're hurt f Why didn't you tell me ?" 

"It's nothing," she answered. "I cut it against the glass 
of the carriage window. It doesn't hurt much." 

"Let me look at it Here^ take the lantern." ^^ 



AN ENCOUNTER WITH DEATH 89 

Diana obeyed, laughing a little nesrvcmly^ and he tamed 
back her deeye, exposing a nasty red gash on the slender 
arm. It was only a surface wound however, and hastily 
procuring some water he bathed it^and tied it up with his 
handkerchief. 

'^There, I think that'll be all right now/' he said, pulling 
down her sleeve once more and fastening the wristband with 
deft fingers. ''The emergency 'train will be here directly, 
so I'm going back to our compartment to pick up your be- 
longingSb I can dimb in, I fancy. What did you leave 
behind?" 

Diana laughed. 

'^What a practical man you are! Fancy thinking of such 
things as a forgotten coat and a dressing-bag when we've 
just escaped with our lives I" 

'*Well, you may as well have them,'' he returned gruffly, 
'^ait here." And he disappeared into the darkness, re- 
turning presently with the various odds and ends which she 
had left in the carriaga 

Soon afterwards the emergency train came up, and those 
who could took their places, whilst the injured were lifted 
by kindly, careful hands into the ambulance compartment 
The train drew slowly away from the scene of the accident, 
gradually gathering speed, and Diana, worn out with strain 
and excitement, dozed fitfully to the rhythmic rumbling of 
the wheels. 

She woke with a start to find that the train was slovnng 
down and her companion gathering his belongings togetiier 
preparatory to departure. She sprang up and slipping off 
the overcoat she was still wearing, handed it back to him. 
He seemed reluctant to take it from her. 
"Shall you be warm enough ?" he asked doubtfully. 
"Oh, yes. It's only half-an-hour's run from here to Crai- 
ford Junction, and there they'll meet me with plenty of 
wraps." She hesitated a moment, then went on shyly : "I 
can't thank you properly for all you've dona" i 



40 THE SPLEl^DID FOLLY 

"Don't," he said curtly. "It was little enough. But Tni 
glad I was there." 

The train came to a standstill, and she held out her hand. 

"Good-bje," she said, very low. 

He wrung her hand, and, releasing it abruptly, lifted his 
hat and disappeared amid the throng of people on the plat- 
form. And it was not until the train had steamed out of 
the station again that she remembered that she did not even 
know his name. 

Very slowly she unknotted the handkerchief from about 
her arm, and laying the blood-stained square of linen on her 
knee, proceeded to examine each comer carefully. In one 
of them she found the initials M. E., very finely worked. 



CHAPTER IV 



0RAILII7O SEOTOST 



THE early morning mist still lingered in the valleyB 
and clung about the river banks as the Beverend Alan 
Stair, returning from his matutinal dip in the sea, swung 
up the lane and pushed open the door giving access from it 
to the Rectory grounds. The little wooden door, painted 
green and overhung with ivy, was never bolted. In the 
primitive Devon village of Crailing such a precaution would 
bave been deemed entirely superfluous ; indeed, the looking of 
the door would probably have been regarded by the villagers 
as equivalent to a reflection on their honesty, and should the 
passage of time ultimately bring to the ancient rectory^ a 
^rash parson, obsessed by conventional opinion coi;iLoeming 
the uses of bolts and bars, it is probable that the inhabitants 
of Crailing will manifest their disapproval in the simple and 
direct fashion of the Devon rustic — ^by placidly boycotting 
the diurch of their fathers and betaking themselves to the 
diapel round the corner. The little green door, innocent 
of lock and key, stood as a symbol of the cloee ties that 
bomid the rector and his flock together, and woe betide the 
iconoclast who should venture to tamper with it. 

The Rectory itself was a picturesque old house with latp 
tioed windows and thatdied roof ; the climbing roses, which 
in summer clothed it in a garment of crimson and pink and 
white^ now shrouded its walls with a network of brown 
stems and twigs tipped with emerald buds. Beneath the 
warmth of the morning sun the damp was steaming from 
the weather-stained thatch in a cloud of pearly mist, while 
the starlings^ nesting under the overhanging eaves, broke 

41 



42 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

into a harsh twittering of alarm at the sound of the Hector's 
footsteps. 

Alan Stair was a big, loose-limbed son of Anak, with little 
of the conventional cleric in his appearance as he came 
striding across the dewy lawn, clad in a disreputable old suit 
of grey tweeds and with his bathing-towel slung around his 
shoulders. His hands were thrust deep into his pockets, 
and since he had characteristically omitted to provide him- 
self with a haty his abundant brown hair was rumpled and 
tossed by the wind, giving him an absurdly boyish air. 

Arrived at the flagged path which ran die whole length of 
the house he sent up a Jovian shout, loud enough to arouse 
the most confirmed of sluggards from his slumbers, and one 
of the upper lattice windows flew open in response. 

'That you, Dad V^ called a fresh young voicet 

^'Soimds like it, doesn't it?" he laughed back. ''Come 
down and give me my breakfast. There's a beautifully as- 
sorted smell of coffee and fried bacon wafting out from the 
dining room, and I can't bear it any longer." 

An unfeeling giggle from above was the only answer, 
and the Reverend Alan made his way into the house, pausing 
to sling his bath-towel picturesquely over one of the p^gs 
of the hat-stand as he passed through the hall. 

He was incurably disorderly, and only the strenuous ef- 
forts of his daughter Joan kept the habit within bounds. 
Since the death of her mother, nearly ten years ago, she 
had striven to fill her place and to be to this lovable, grown- 
up boy who was her father all that his adored young wife 
had been. And so far as material matters were concerned, 
she had succeeded. She it was who usually found the MS. 
of his sermon when, just as the bells were calling to service, 
he would come leaping up the stairs, three at a time, to 
inform her tragically that it was lostj she who saw to it 
that his meals were not forgotten in the exigencies of his 
parish work, and who supervised his outward man to tha 
last detail — otherwise, in one of his frequent fits of absent- 



CRAniNG RECTOEY 48 

mindedness^ he would have been quite capable of presenting 
liimself at church in the identical grey tweeds he was now 
wearing. 

Yet notwithstanding the irrepressible note of youth about 
him, which called forth a species of ''mothering'' from every 
woman of his acquaintance, Ala;i Stair was a man to whom 
people instinctively turned for counsel. A child iii the 
material things of this world, he was a giant in spiritual 
development — ^broad-minded and tolerant, his religion spiced 
with a sense of humour and deepened by & sympathetic un- 
derstanding of frail human natura And it was to him that 
Kalph Quentin, when on his death-bed, had confided the 
caie of his motherless little daughter, Diana, appointing 
Iiim her sole guardian and trustee. 

The two men had been friends from boyhood, and perhaps 
no one had better understood than Ralph, who had earlier 
saffered a similar loss, the terrible blank which the death of 
Iiifl wife had occasioned in Stair's life. The fellowship of 
suffering had drawn the two men together in a way that 
nothing else could have done, so that When Quentin made 
known his final wishes concerning his daughter, Alan Stair 
had gladly accepted the charge laid upon him, and Diana, 
then a child of ten, had made her permanent home at Orail- 
ing Rectory, speedily coming to look upon her guardian as 
a beloved elder brother, and upon his daughter, who was but 
two years her senior, as her greatest friend. 

From the point of view of the Stairs themselves, the ar- 
nmgement was not without its material advantages. Diana 
had inherited three hundred a year of her own, and ihe sum 
she contributed to ''cover the cost of her upkeep," as she 
laughingly termed it when she was old enough to understand 
financial matters, was a very welcome addition to the slender 
I'QBoarces provided by the value of the living. 

But even had the circumstances be^i quite other than they 
were, so that the fulfilment of Ralph Quentin's last behest, 
umtead of being an assistance to the household exchequer, 



44 THE SPLEJTDID FOLLY 

had proved to be a drain upon it^ Alan Stair would have 
acted in precisely the same way — ^for the simple reason that 
there was never any Umit to his large conception of the 
meaning of the word friendship and of its liabilities. 

Diana had speedily carred for herself a niche of her oiwn 
in the Rectory household, so that when the exigencies of 
her musical training, as viewed through Carlo Baroni's eyes^ 
had necessitated her departure from Crailing for a whole 
year. Stair and his daughter had felt her absence keenly, 
and they welcomed her back with >open arms. 

The account of the railway accident which had attended 
her homeward journey had filled them with amdety lest 
she should suffer from the effects of shock, and they had 
insisted that she should breakfast in bed this first morning 
of her arrival, inclining to treat her rather as thou^ she 
were. a semi-invalid. 

'^Have you been to see Diana?'' asked Stair anxiously, as 
his daughter joined him in the dining-room. ^ 

She shook her head. 

'^No need. Diana's been in to see me ! There^s no break- 
fast in bed about her ; she'll be down directly. Even bar arm 
doesn't pain her much." 

Stair laughed. 

^'What a girl it is !" he exclaimed. **One would have ex- 
pected her to feel a bit shaken up after her experience yes- 
terday." 

'^I fancy something else must have happened beside the 
railway accident," observed Joan wisely. ^'Something inter- 
esting enough to have outweighed the shock of the smash-up. 
She's in quite absurdly good spirits for some xmknown rea- 
son." 

The Hector chuckled. 

'Terhaps a gallant rescuer was added to the experience, 
eh f " he said. 

"Perhaps so," replied his daughter, faintly smiling as 
she proceeded to pour out the coffee. 



C5EAILING RECTORY , 46 

Joan Stair was a typical English conntry girl, strictly 
tailor-made in her appearance, with a predisposition towards 
stiff linen collars and neat ties. In figure she was slight al- 
most to boyishness and she had no pretensions whatever to 
good looks^ but there was net^ertheless something frank and 
wholesome and sweet about her — something of the charm of a 
nice boy — ^that counterbalanced her undeniable plainness. As 
she had once told Diana : ^^I'm not beautiful, so I'm obliged 
to be good. You're not compelled by the same necessity, 
and I may yet see you sliding down the primrose path, 
whereas I shall inevitably end my days in the odour of 
Bxnctity — ^probably a parii^ worker to some celibate vicar !" 

The Rector and Joan were half-way through their break- 
fast when a light step sounded in the hall outside, and a 
niinute later the door flew open to admit Diana. 

"Good morning, dear people," she exclaimed gaily. "Am 
I late? It looks like it from the devastated appearance of 
the bacon dish. Pobs, you've eaten all the breakfast I" And 
fihe dropped a light kiss on the top of the Rector's head. 
'TTgh ! Your hair's all wet with sea-water. Why don't you 
dry yourself when you take a bath, Pobs dear t- I'll come 
with you to-morrow — ^not to dry you, I mean, but just to 
bathe." 

Stair surveyed her with a twinkle as he retrieved her 
plate of kidneys and bacon from the hearth where it had 
t)e6n set down to keep hot. 

''Diana, I regret to observe that your conversation lacks 
the flavour of respectability demanded by your present cir- 
cumstances," he remarked. "I fear you'll never be an orna- 
ment to any clerical household." 

''S'o. Pas mon mStier. Respectability isn't in the least 
& sine qua nan for a prima donna — ^f ar from it I" 

Stair chuckled. 

''To hear you talk, no one would imagine that in leality 
7^ were the most conventional of prudes^" he flung at her. 

"Oh, but I'm growing out of it," she returned hopefully. 



\ 



46 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

* 

'TTesterday, for instance, I palled up with a perfectly- 
strange young man. We conversed together as though we 
had known each other all our livee^ shared the same table 
for dinner ^^ 

''You didn't ?" broke in Joan^ a trifle shocked. 

Diana nodded serenely. 

"Indeed I did. And what was tihe reward of my mis- 
deeds? Why, there he was at hand to save me when the 
smash camel" 

"Who was he?" asked Joan curiously. "Any one from 
this part of the world ?" 

"I haven't the faintest idea," replied Diana. "I actually 
never inquired to whom I was indebted for my life and the 
various other trifles which he rescued for me from the 
wreck of our compartment. The only clue I have is the 
handkerchief he bound round my arm. It's very Muggy 
and it's marked M. E." 

"M. E.," repeated the Hector. "Well, there must bo 
plenty of M. E.'s in the world. Did he get out at Oraiford V* 

"He didn't," said Diana. "No; at present he is 'wropt 
in mist'ry,' but I feel sure we shall run up against each 
other again. I told him so." 

"Did you, indeed ?" Stair laughed. "And was he pleased 
at the prospect ?"' 

"Well, frankly, Fobs, I can't say he seemed enraptured. 
On the contrary, he appeared to regard it in the light of 
a highly improbable and quite undesirable contingency." 

'^e must be lacking in appreciation," murmured Stair 
modsingly, pinching her cheek as he passed her on his way 
to select a pipe from the array that adorned the chimney- 
pieca 

''Are you going ^parishing^ this morning?" ""inquired 
Diana, as she watched him fill and light his pipe. 

'7es, I promised to visit Susan Gumey — die^s laid up 
with rheumatism, poor old soul." 



CRAILINQ EECTORY 47 

'Tbea Til drive you, ahall I ? I suppose youVe still got 
Tommy and the ralli-cart ?'' 

*Tes," replied Stair gravely. "Notwithstanding dimin* 
ishing tithes and increasing taxes. Tommy is still left to us. 
Apparently he thrives on a penurious diet, for he is fatter 
than ever/' 

Accordingly, half an hour later, the two set out behind 
the fat pony on a round of parochial visits. Underneath 
the seat of the trap reposed the numerous little packages of 
tea and tobacco with which the Rector, whose hand was 
always in his pocket, rarely omitted to season his visits to 
the sick among his parishioners. 

"And why not?" he would say, when charged with pam- 
pering them by some stardhy member of his congregation 
who considered that parochial visitation should be embet 
lished solely by the delivery of appropriate tracts. "And 
why not pamper them a bi^ poor souls? A pipe of baccy 
goes ^ lomg way towards taking your thoughts off a bad leg 
— «8 I found out for myself when I was laid up with an 
attack of the gout my maternal grandfather bequeathed ma" 

Whilst the Rector paid his visits, Diana waited outside 
the various cottages, driving the pony-trap slowly up and 
down the road, and stopping every now and again to ex- 
change a few words with one or another of the village folk 
as they passed. 

She was frankly delighted to be. home again, and was 
experiencing that peculiar charm of the Devonshire village 
which lies in the fact that you may go away from it for 
several years and return to find it almost unchanged. In 
the wildls of Devon affairs move leisurely, and such changes 
^ do occur creep in so gradually as to be almost impercep- 
tible. No brand-new houses start into existence with light- 
i^uig-like rapidity, for the all-sufficient reason that in sudi 
sparsely populated districts the enterjMrising builder would 
stand an excellent chance of having his attractive villa 
'ttideoees left empty on his hands. IToj new houses are 



48 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

bailt to order, if at all. In the same way, it ia rare to find 
a fresh shop spring into being in a small village, and should 
it happen, in all probability a year or two will see the shut- 
tero up and the disgruntled proprietor departing in search 
of pastures new. For the villagers who have always dealt 
with the local butcher, baker, and grocer, and whose f athars 
have probably dealt with iheir fathers before them, are not 
eaaily to be cajoled into transferring their custom — and cer- 
tainly not to the establishment of any one who has had the 
misfortune to be bom outside the confines of the county, and 
is therefore to be briefly sommed up in the one damning 
word ^Siirriner." * 

So that Diana, returning to Crailing for a brief holiday 
after a year's absence, found the tiny fishing village quite 
unchanged, and this fact imparted an air almost of unreality 
to the twelve busy, eventful months which had intervened. 
She felt as if she had never been away, as though the Diana 
Quentin who had been living in London and studying sing- 
ing under the greatest master of the day were, some one quite 
apart from the girl who had passed so many quiet, happy 
years at Orailing Bectory. 

The new and unaccustomed student's life, the two golden 
visits which ^e had paid to Italy, the introduction into a 
milieu of clever, gifted people all struggling to maJke the 
most of their talents^ had been such an immense change from 
the placid, humdrum existence which had preceded it, that 
it still held for her an almost dreamlike charm of novelty, 
and this was intensified at the present moment by her return 
to Crailiuj^ to find everything going on just in the same 
old way, precisely as though there had been no break at all. 

As though to convince herself that the student life in 
London was a substantial reality, and not a mero figment 
of the imagination, she hummed a few bars of a song, and 
as she listened to the deep, rich notes of her voice, poised 
with that sureness which only comes of first-dass training, 

^AngUos: foreigner. 



ORAILING RECTORY 49 

fibe smiidd a littte, leflectiog that if nothing elfle liad changed, 
hssre at least was a palpable outcome of that dreamlike year. 

''Bravo I" The Rector's cheery tones broke in upon her 
thoo^ts as he came out from a neighbouring gateway and 
swung himself up into the trap beside her. 'fDi, Fve got 
to hear that voice before long. What does Signer Baroni 
say about itf' 

^'Ofa, I think he's quite pleased/' she answered, whipping 
up the fat pony, who responded reluctantly. ^'But he's a 
fearful martinet He nearly frightens me to death when he 
gets into one of his royal Italian rages — ^though he's al- 
ways particularly sweet afterwards I Fobs, I wonder who 
my man in the train was?" she added inconsequently. 

The Rector lodged at her narrowly. He had wondered 
more than a little why the shock of the railway accident had 
apparently affected her so sli^tly, and although he had 
joked with Joan about some possible ^^gallant rescuer" who 
ought have diverted her thoughts he had really attributed 
it partly to the youthful resiliency of Diana's nature^ and 
P&itly to the fact that when one has narrowly escaped a 
Berioua injury, or death itself, the sense of relief is so 
intense as frequently to overpower for the moment every 
o&er feeling. 

But now he was thrown back on the gallant rescuer theory ; 
obviously the man, whoever he was^ had impressed himself 
father forcibly on Diana's mind, and the Rector acknowl- 
edged that this was almost inevitable from the circumstances 
in which they had been thrown together. 

*^Tou know," continued the girl, "I'm certain I've seen 
iim before — ^the day I first went to Baroni to have my voice 
tested. It was in Qrellingham Place, and all my songs 
blew away up the street, and I'm positive M. E. was the 
man who rescued them for ma" 

''Rescuing seems to be his hobby," commented the Rector 
dryly. "Did you remind him that you had met before ?" 

'Tes, and he wouldn't recollect it." 



60 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

**TS[Oy wouldn't. I have a diatinct feeting that he did 
remember all about it^ and did recognise me again, but he 
wouldn't acknowledge it and politely assured me I must be 
mistaken." 

The Beotor smiled. 

'Terhaps he has a prejudice against making the promia'- 
euous acquaintance of beautiful young women in trains." 

Diana sniffed. 

'^Ohy well, if he didn't think 1 was good enough to 

know ^" She paused. "He had rather a superior way 

with him, a sort of independent, lordly manner, as though 
no one had a right to question anything he chose to do. And 
he was in a first-class reserved compartment too." 

"Oh, was he? And did you force your way into his re- 
served compartment^ may I ask t" 

Diana giggled. 

"I didn't force my way into it ; I was pitchforked in by 
a porter. The train was packed, and I was late. Of course 
I offered to go and find another seat, but there wasn't one 
anywhere." 

"So the young man yielded to force majeure and allowed 
you to travel with him ?" said the Bector, adding seriously : 
"I'm very thankful he did. To think of you — alone — in 
that awful smash! . . . This morning's paper says there 
were forty people killed." • 

Diana gave a little nervous shiver, and th^i quite suddenly 
began to cry. 

Stair quietly took the reins from her hand, and patted her 
shoulder, but he made no effort to check her tears. He had 
felt worried all morning by her curious detachment con- 
cerning the accident; it was unnatural, and he feared that 
later on the shodc which she must have received might re- 
veal itself in some abnormal nervousness regarding railway 
travelling. These tears would bring relief, and he welccmied 
them, allowing her to cry, comfortably leaning against his 



CRAILING KECTORY 61 

flhonlder, as the pony meandered up the Mlly lane whicb led 
to the BeGtory. 

At the gates they both descended from the trap, and 
Stair ^wBa preparing to lead the ])ony into the stable-yard 
when Diana saddenly flung her arms round him, kiseing 
him impulsively. 

''Oh, Pobs^ dear/' she said half-laughing, half-crying. 
'Tou're snoh a darling — ^you always understand everything. 
I feel hfiape better now, thank you." 



CHAPTER V 



THB 8BOOND MJfiBTING 



DIANA threw back the beddothes and thrust an ex- 
tremely pretty but reluctant foot over the edge of the 
bed. She did not experience in the least that sensation of 
exhilaration with which the idea of getting up invariably 
seems to inspire the heroine of a novel, prompting her to 
spring lightly from her couch and trip across to the window 
to see what sort of weather the author has provided. On 
the contrary, she was sorely tempted to snuggle down again 
amongst the pillows^ but the knowledge that it wanted only 
half an hour to breakfast-time exercised a deterrent influence 
and she made her way with all haste to the bath-room, some- 
what shamefully pleased to reflect that> being Easter Sun- 
day, Fobs would be officiating at the early service^ so that 
she "would escape the long trudge down to the sea with him 
for their usual morning swim. 

By the time she had bathed and dressed, however, she 
felt better able to face the day with a cheerful spirit, and 
the sun, streaming in through the diamond panes of her 
window, added a last vivifying touch and finally sent her 
downstairs on tbe best of terms with herself and the world 
at large. 

There was no one about, as Joan had accompanied her 
father to church, so Diana sauntered out on to the flagged 
path and paced idly up and down, waiting for their return. 
The square, grey tower of the church, hardly more than a 
stone^s throw distant from the Bectory, was visible through a 
gap in the trees where a short cut, known as the '^chureh path" 
wound its way through the oopse that hedged the garden. It 

62 



THE SECOND MEETING 58 

was an andeoat little bhnrch, boasting a very beautiful thiip- 
teetath oentory window, which, in a Philistine past^ had been 
built np and rough-east outsideip and had only been discovered 
in the courae of acme repairs that were being made to one 
of the walla. The inhabitants of Orailing were very proud 
of that thirteenth century window when it was disinterred; 
they had a proprietary feeling about it — since, after all, it 
had really belonged to them for a little matter of seven ceu- 
tories or so, although they^had been unaware of the fact 

Below the slope of the Rectory grounds the thatched roofs 
of the village bobbed into view, some gleaming golden in all 
the pride of recent thatching, others with their crown of 
straw mellowed by sun and rain to a deeper colour and 
patdied with clumps of moss, vividly green as an emerald. 

The village itself straggled down to the edge of the sea 
in untidy fashion, its cob-walled cottages in some places 
huddling together as though for company, in others standing 
far apart, with spaces of waste land between them where 
you might often see the women sitting mending the fishing 
nets and gossiping together as they worked. 

Diana's eyes wandered affectionately over the picturesque 
little houses; she loved every quaint, thatched roof among 
them, but more than all she loved the glimpse of the sea 
that lay beyond them, pierced by the bold headland of red 
sandstone^ Culver Point, which thrust itself into the blue 
of the water like an arm stretched out to shelter the little 
vUlage nestling in its curve from the storms of the Atlantic. 
Presently she heard the distant didk of a gate, and very 
soon the Bector and Joan appeared, Stair with the dreaming, 
far-away expression in his eyes of one who has been com- 
muning with the saints. 

Diana went to meet them and slipped her arm confidingly 
throu^ his. 

"Come back to earth, Pobs, dear,*' she coaxed gaily. "You 
look like Moses might have done when he descended from 
the Mount" 



64 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

The glory faded bIowIj oilt of his eyes. 

''Come back to heaven, Di/' he retorted a little sadly. 
^'Thatfs where you came from, you know/' 

Diana shook her head* 

"You did, 1 verily believe," she declared afiFectionately. 
^'But there's only a very small slice of heaven in my compo- 
sition, Fm afraid." 

Stair looked down at her thoughtfully, at the clean line 
of the cheek curving into the pointed, determined little chin^ 
at the sensitive, eager mouth, imconsciously sensuous in the 
lovely curve of its short upper-lip, at the ardent, glowing 
eyes — ^the whole face vital with the passionate demand of 
youth for the kingdoms of the earth. 

"We've all got our share of heaven, my dear," he said at 
last, fgniling a littla "But I'm thinking yours may need 
some hard chiselling of fate to bring it into prominence." 

Diana wriggled her shoulders. 

"It doesn't sound nice, Fobs. I don't in the least want 
to be chiselled into shape; it reminds one too much of the 
dentist" 

"The gentleman who chisels out decay! You're exactly 
canying out my metaphor to its bitter end," returned Stair 
composedly. 

"Oh, Joan, do stop him," exclaimed Diana appealingly. 
"I'm going to church this morning, and if he lectures me 
like this I shall have no appetite left for spiritual things." 

"I didn't know you ever had — ^much," replied Joan, 
laughing. 

"Well, anyway, I've a thoroughly healthy appetite for 
my bveakfast," said Diana, as they went into the dining- 
room. "I'm feeling particularly cheerful just this moment. 
I ha;ve a presentiment that something very delightful is going 
to happen to me to-day — ^though, to be sure^ Sunday isn't 
usually a day when exciting things occur." 

'^Dreams generally go by contraries," observed Joan 
sagely. "And I rather think the same applies to presenti- 



THE SECOND MEETING 65 

mentSL I know that whenever I have felt a comfortable afr- 
suranoe that everything was going flmoothly, it has gBQerally 
been followed bj one of the servants giving notice, or the 
of the kitchm boiler, or something equally dis- 
a" 



gargled unfeelingly. 

''Oh, thoee are merely ^e oommonplaces of existence/' 
she replied. '^I was meaning" — ^waving her hand ezpan- 
flively— ''big things." 

"And when you've got your own house, my dear," re- 
torted Joan, "you'll find tiiose commonplaces of existence 
assume alarmingly big proportions." 

Soon after Stair had finished his after-breakfast pipe, the 
chiming of the bells annotmced that it was time to prepare 
for church. The Bectory pew was situated close to the pul- 
pit, at ri^t angles to the body of the church, and Diana 
and Joan took their places one at either end of it. As the 
former was wont to remark: "It's such a comfort when 
there's no competition for the comer seats." 

The organ had ceased playing, and the words *' Dearly 
beloved** had already fallen from the Hector's lips, when 
the churchdoor opened once again to admit some late arrivals. 
Instinctively Diana looked up from her prayer-book, and, 
as her glance fell upon the newscomers, the pupils of her eyes 
dilated untU they looked almost black, while a wave of 
colour rushed over her face, dyeing it scarlet from brow to 
throat. 

Two ladies were coming up the aisle, the one bordering 
on middle age^ the other young and of uncommon beauty, 
but it was upon neither of these that Diana's startled eyes 
were fixed. Behind them, and evidently of their party, 
came a tall, fair man whose supple length of limb and very 
blue eyes sent a little thrill of recognition through her 
veins. 

It was her fellow-traveller of that memorable journey 
down from townl 



56 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

She dosed her eyes a moment. Once again she could hear 
the horrifying crash as the engine hurled itself against the 
truck that blocked the metals, feel the swift paU of darkness 
dose about her, rife with a thousand terrors^ and then, out 
of that hideous night, the grip of strong arms folded round 
her, and a voice, harsh with fear, beating against her ears: 
**Are you hurt? . . . My God, are you hurt?" 

When she opened her eyes again, the little party of three 
had taken their places and were composedly following the 
servica Apparently he had not seen her, and Diana shrank 
a little closer into the friendly shadow of the pulpit, feeling 
for tlte moment an odd, nervous fear of encountering his 
eyes. 

But she soon realised that she need not have been alarmed. 
He was evidently quite unaware of her proximity, for his 
glance never once strayed in her direction, and, gradually 
gaining courage as she appreciated this, Diana ventured to let 
her eyes turn frequently during the service towards the pew 
where the newcomers were sitting. 

That they were strangers to the neighbourhood she was 
sure; she had certainly never seen either of the two women 
before. The elder of the two was a plump, round-faced little 
lady, with bright brown eyes^ and pretty, crinkly brown hair 
lightly powdered with grey. She was very fashionably^ 
dressed, and the careful detail of her 'toilet pointed to no 
lack of means. The younger woman, too, waa exquisitely 
turned out, l^ut there was something so individual about 
her personality that it dominated everything else, relegating 
her clothes to a very secondary position* As in the case of 
an unusually beautiful gem, it was the jewel itself which 
impressed one, rather than the setting which framed it 
ro<imd. 

She was very fair, with quantities of pale golden hair 
rather daborately dressed, and her eyes were blue — ^not the 
keen, brilliant Uue of those of the man beside her, but a 
soft bluegrey, like the sky on a misty summer's morning. 



THE SECOND MEETING 57 

Her small, exquiaite features were clean-cat as a cameo^ 
and she carried herself with a little touch of hauteur — an 
air of aloofness, as it were. There was nothing ungracious 
abolit it, but it was unmistakably there— a slightly empha- 
sised hint of personal dignity. 

Diana regarded her with some perplexity; the girl's face 
was vaguely familiar to her, yet at ^e same time she felt 
perfectly certain that she had never seen her before. She 
wandered whether she were any relation- to the man with 
her, but there was no particular resemblance between the 
two^ except that both were fair and bore themselves with a 
certain subtle air of distinction that rather singled them out 
f rcmi amongst their fellows. 

In repose, Diana noticed, the man's face was grave almost 
to sternness, and there was a slightly worn look about it as 
of one who had passed through some fiery discipline of ex- 
perience and had forced himself to meet its demands. The 
lines around the mouth, and the firm closing of the lips, held 
a suggestion of suffering, but there was no rebellion in the 
f aee^ rather a look of inflexible enduranca 

Diana wondered what lay behind that curiously controlled 
expression, and the memory of certain words he had let 
fall during their journey together suddenly recurred to her 
with a new significance attached to them. . . . ^^Just as 
thon^^we had any too many pleasures in life!" he had said. 
And again: ^'Oh, for that! If we could have what we 
wanted in this world ! . • /' 

Uttered in his light^ half-bantering tones, the 6itter flavour 
of the words had passed her by, but now, as she studied the 
rather stem set of his features, they returned to her with 
fresh meaning and she felt that their mocking philosophy 
was to a certain extent indicative of the man's attitude to* 
wards life. 

So absorbed was she in her thoughts that the stir and 
rustle of the congregation issuing from their seats at the 
conclusion of the service came upon her in the light of a 



68 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

surprise; ^^e had not realised that the service — in whic^ 
she had been taking a reprehensibly perfunctory pert — ^had 
drawn to its close^ and she aknost jumped when Joan nudged 
her unobtrusiyelj and whispered : — 

"Oome along, I believe you^re half asleep.*' 

She shook her head^ smiling^ and gathering up her gloves 
and prayer-book, she followed Joan down the aisle and out 
into the churchyard where people were standing about in 
little groups, exchanging the time of day with that air of 
a renewal of interest in worldly topics which synchronises 
with the end of Lent 

The Bector had not yet appeared, and as Joan was 
chatting with Mrs. Mowbray, the local doctor's wife, Diana, 
who had an intense dislike for Mrs. Mowbray and all her 
works — ^there were six of the latter, ranging from a lanky 
girl of twelve to a fat baby still in the perambulator stage 
— ^made her way out of the churchyard and stood waiting by 
the beautiful old lichgate, which, equally with the thirteenth 
century window, was a source of pride and satisfaction to 
the good folk of Crailing. 

A big limousine had pulled up beside the footpath, and 
an immaculate footman was standing by its open door, rug 
in hand. Diana wondered idly whose car it could be, and 
it occurred to her that very probably it belonged to the 
strangers who had attended the service that morning. 

A minute later her assumption was confirmed, as the 
middle-aged lady, followed by the young, pretty one, came 
quickly through the lichgate and entered the car. The foot- 
man hesitated, still holding the door open, and the elder lady 
leaned forward to say: — 

"It's all right, Baker. Mr. Errington is walking back.'' 

Errington ! So that was his name — ^that was what the E. 
on the handkerchief stood for! Diana thought she could 
hazard a reasonable guess as to why he had elected to walk 
homa He must have caught sight of her in church after 
all, and it was but natural that, after the experience they 



THE SECOND MEETING 69 

had petted throng together, he shonld wish to renew his 
acquaintanoe with her. When two people have been as near 
to death in oompanj as they had been, it can hardly be ez^ 
pected that they will regard each other in the light of total 
strangers should they chance to meet again. 

Hidden from his sl^t by an intervening yew tree^ she 
watched him coming down the church path, conscious of a 
somewhat pleasurable sense of anticipation, and when he had 
passed under the lichgate and, turning to the left, came 
face to face with her, she bowed and smiled, holding out ^er 
hand. 

To her utter amazement he looked at her without the 
faintest sign of recognition on his face, pausing oidy for 
the fraction of a second as a man may when some stranger 
claims his acquaintance by mistake; then with a murmured 
^'Pardon t" he raised his hat slightly and passed on. 

Diana's hand dropped slowly to her sida She felt 
stunned. The thing seemed incredible. Less than a week 
ago she and this man had travelled companionably together 
in the train, dined at the same table, and t(^ether shared 
the same dreadful menace which had brought death very 
dose to both of them, and now he passed her by with the 
cool stare of an utter stranger I If he had knocked her down 
she would hardly have been more astonished. 

Moreover, it was not as though her companionship had 
been forced upon him in the train ; he had deliberately sought 
it Two people can travel side by side without advancing 
a single hairsbreadth towards acquaintance if they choose. 
But he had not so choaeii — ^most assuredly he had not 
He had quietly, with a charmingly persuasive insistence, 
broken through the conventions of custom, and had mibse- 
quently proved himself as considerate and as thoughtful for 
her comfort as any actual friend could have been. More 
than that, in those moments of tense excitement, immediately 
after the collision had occurred, she could have sworn that 



60 / THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

real feelings genuine concern for her safety, had vibrated in 
his voice. 

And now, just as deliberately, just as coniposedly as he 
had begun the acquaintance, so he had closed it. 

Diana's cheeks burned with shama She felt humiliated. 
Evidently he had regarded he!r merely as some one with 
whom it might be agreeable to idle away the tedium of a 
journey — ^but that was all. It was obviously his intention 
that^that should be the beginning and the end of it 

In a dream she crossed the road and, opening the gate 
that admitted to the ^^chundi path," made her way home 
alona She felt she must have a few minutes to herself 
before she faced the Bector and Joan at the Bectory mid- 
day dinner. Fortunately, they were both in ignorance of 
this amazing, stupefying fact that her fellow-travelle!]>»- 
the ^'gallant rescuer^' about whom Fobs had so joyously 
chaffed her — ^had signified in the most unmistakable fashion 
that he wanted nothing more to do with her, and by the time 
the dinnei>bell sounded, Diana had herself well in hand — 
so weU that she was even able to ask in tones of quite casual 
interest if any one knew who were the strangers in church 
that morning? 

"Yes, Mowbray told me,'' replied the Rector. "They are 
the new people who have taken Bed Gables — that pretty 
little place on the Woodway Bead. The girl is Adrienne 
de Gervais, the actress, and the elderly lady is a Mrs. Adams^ 
her chaperon." 

^'Ob, then that's why her face seemed so familiar!" ex- 
claimed Diana, a light breaking in upon her. "I mean 
Miss de Gervais' — ^not the chaperon's. Of course I must 
have seen her picture in the illustrated papers dozens of 
times." 

"And the man who was with them is Max Errington, 
who writes nearly all the plays in which she takes part," 
chimed in Joan, '^e's supposed to be in love with her. 
TTiat piece of information 1 acquired from Mrs. Mowbray." 



THE SECOND MEETING 61 

''I detest Mrs. Mowbray/' said Diana, with sudden vi- 
donsness. ^'SWs the sort of person who has nothing what^ 
ever to talk abont and spends honrs doing it" 

The others laughed. 

"Shefs rather a gasrbag, I must admit," acknowledged 
Stair. "But, you know, a country doctor's wife is usually 
the emporium for all the local gossip. It's e^^pected of 
her." 

"Then I'm sure Mra Mowbray will never disappoint 
any one. She fully comes up to expectations," observed 
Diana grimly. 

"I suppose we shall have to call on these new people at 
Bed Oables, Dad?" asked Joan, after a brief interval 

Diana bent her head suddenly over her plate to hide 
the scarlet flush which flew into her cheeks at the sugges- 
tion. She would not call upon them — a thousand times 
no ! Max Errington had shown her very distinctly in what 
estimation he held the honour of her friendship, and he 
should never have the chance of believing she had tried to 
thrust it on him. 

"Well" — the Rector was replying leisurely to Joan's in- 
quiry — "I understand they are only going to be at Red 
(jhibles now and then — when Miss de Gbrvais wants a rest 
from her professional work, I expect But still, as they 
have come to our church and are strangers in the district, 
it would perhaps be neighbourly to call, wouldn't it ?" 

"Can't you call on l^em, PobsJ" suggested Diana. "A 
sort of ^rectorial' visit, you know. That would surely be 
sufficient" / 

The Rector hesitated. 

"I don't know about that, DL Don't you think it would 
look rather unfriendly on the pert of you girls t Rather 
snubby, eh ?" 

That was precisely what Diana had thought^ and the . 
reflection had afforded her no small satisfaction. She 
wanted to hit baok — and hit hard — and now Fobs' kindly. 



62 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

hospitable nature was nnoonsciouslv patting the brake on 

the wheel of retribution. 

She shrugged her shoulders with an air of indifferenca 
^'Oh^ well, you and Joan can calL I don't think aotresses, 

and authors who love them and write plays for them, are 

much in my line,'' she replied distantly. 

It would seem as though Joan's dictum that presenti- 

mentSy like dreams, go by contraries^ had been founded upon 

the nxidk of experience, for, in truth, Diana's premonition 

that something delightful was about to happen to her had 

been fulfilled in a sorry f aahioxu 



CHAPTEE VI 

THX AFTBB3CATH OF AK ADYIBNTUBB 

DTANA awoke with a start Before sleep had over- 
taken her she had been lying on a shallow slope of 
sandy leaning against a rock, with her elbow resting on its 
flat surface and her book propped up in front of her. Grad- 
ually the rhythmic rise and fall of the waves on the shore 
had lulled her into slumber — ^the plop as they broke in eddies 
of creaming foam, and then the sibilant hushrshrsh — like a 
long-drawn sigh — as the water receded only to gather itself 
afresh into a crested billow. 

Scarcely more than half awake she sat up and stared 
about her, dreamily wondering how she came to be there. 
She felt very stiff, and the arm on which she had been lean- 
ing ached horribly. She rubbed it a little, dully conscious 
of the pain, and as the blood began to course through the 
veins again, the sharp, pricking sensation commonly known 
&s ''pins and needles" aroused her effectually, and die recol- 
lected that she had walked out to Culver Point and estab- 
lished herself in one of the numerous little bays that fringed 
the foot of the great red cliff, intending to spend a pleasant 
afternoon in company with a new novel. And then the 
I^tman (idling about until his duties proper should com- 
mence in the evening) had come by and touched her eyelids 
and she had fallen fast asleep. 

Bat she was thoroughly wide awake now, and she looked 
^mnd her with a rather startled expression, realising that 
she must have slept for some considerable time, for the sun, 
which had been high in the heavens, had already dipped 
towards the horizon and was shedding a rosy track of lig^t 

OS 



64 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

across the surface of the water. The tide, too, had come up 
a long way smce she had dozed off into slumber^ and waves 
were now breaking oidj a few yards distant from her feet 

She cast a hasly glance to right and left, where the arms 
of the little cove stretched out to meet the sea, strewn with 
big boulders clothed in shell and seaweed. But there were 
no rocks to be seen. The grey water was lapping lazily 
against the ^rface of the cliff itself and she was cut off 
on either sida 

For a minute or so her heart beat Unpleasantly fast; 
then, with a quick sense of relief, she recollected that only 
at spring tides was the little bay where she stood entirely 
under water. There was no danger, she reflected, but never- 
theless her position was decidedly unenviabla It was Tiot 
yet high tide, so it would be some hours at least before she 
would be able to make her way home, and meanwhile the 
sun was sinking fast, it was growing unpleasantly cold, and 
she was decidedly hungry. In the course of another hour 
or two she would probably be hungrier still, but with no 
nearer prospect of dinner, while the Rector and Joan would 
be consumed with anxiety as to what had become of her. 

Anxiously she scanned the sea, hoping she might sight 
some homing fishing-boat which she could hail, but no wel- 
come red or brown sail broke the monotonous grey waste 
of water, and in hopes of warming herself a little she b^an 
to walk briskly up and down the little beach still keeping a 
sharp look-out at sea for any passing boat 

An interminable hour crawled by. The sun dipped a lit- 
tle lower, flinging long streamers of scarlet and gold across 
the sea. Far in the blue vault of the sky a single star twin- 
kled into view, while a little sighing breeze arose and whis* 
pered of coming night 

Diana shivered in her thin blouse. She had brought no 
coat with her, and, now that the mist was rising, she felt 
chilled to the bone, and she heartily anath^natised her care- 
lessness for getting into such a scrape. ^ 



THE AFTERMATH OF AN ADVENTURE 65 

And then^ all at once, across the water came the welcome 
soimd of a hmnan voice: — 

''Ahojl Ahoy there r 

A small brown boat and the figare of the man in it^ rest- 
ing on his oard^ showed sharply etched against the back- 
ground of the sunset sky. 

Diana waved her handkerchief wildly and the man waved 
back, promptly setting the boat with her nose towards the 
shore and sculling with long^ rhythmic strokes that speedily 
lessened the distance between him and the eager figure wait- 
ing at the water's edge. 

As he drew nearer, Diana was struck by something oddly 
familiar in his appearance, and when he gknced back over 
his shoulder to gauge his distance from the shore, she reoog^ 
nised with a sudden shocked sense of dismay that the man 
in the boat was none other than Max Errington ! 

She retreated a few steps hastily, and stood waiting, tense 
with misery and discomfort. Had it still been possible she 
would have signalled to him to go on and leave her ; the bare 
thought of being indebted to him — ^to this man who had 
coolly cut her in the street — ^fdr escape from her present 
predicament filled her with helpless rage. 

But it was too late. Errington gave a final pull, shipped 
his oars, and, as the boat rode in on the top of a wave, leaped 
out on the shore and beached her safely. Then he turned 
and strode towards Diana, his face wearing just that same 
concerned, half -angry look that it had done when he found 
her, shortly after the railway collision, trying to help the 
woman who had lost her child. 

"What in the name of heaven and earth are you doing 
here?" he demanded brusquely. 

Apparently he had entirely forgotten the more recent 
episode of Easter Sunday and was prepared to scold her 
roundly, exactly as he had done on that same former occa- 
sion. The humour of the situation suddenly caught hold of 



66 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Diana, and for the moment ahe^ too^ forgot that ahe had rea- 
son to be bitterly offended with this man. 

''Waiting for you to rescue me — as usual/' she retorted 
frivolously. ''You seem to be making quite a habit of it'' 

He smiled grimly. 

"I'm making a virtue of necessity/' he flung back at her. 
"What on earth do your people mean by letting you roam 
about by yourself like this? You're not fit to be alone! 
As though a railway accident weren't sufficient excitement 
for any average woman, you must needs try to drown your- 
self. Are you so particularly anxious to get quit of this 
.world?" 

"D^own myself?" she returned scornfully. "How could 
I — when the sea doesn't come up within a dozen yards of 
the cliff except at spring tide?" 

"And I suppose it hadn't occurred to you that this is a 
spring tide?" he said drily. "In another hour or so there'll 
be six feet of water where we're standing now." 

The abrupt realisation that once again she had escaped 
death by so narrow a margin shook her for a moment^ and 
she swayed a little where she stood^ while her face went 
suddenly very white. 

In an instant his arm was round her, supporting her. "I 
oughtn't to have told you," he said hastily. "Forgive me. 
You're tired — ^and, merciful heavens! child, you're half- 
frozen. Your teeth are chattering with cold." 

He stripped off his coat and made as though to help her 
on with it. 

"No — ^no," she protested. "I shall be quite warm di- 
rectly. Please put on your coat again." 

He shook his head, smiling down at her, and taking first 
one of her arms^ and then the other, he thrust them into 
the empty sleeves^ patting the coat on her as one would 
drees a child. 

"Fm used to having my own way," he observed coolly, 
as ha proceeded to button it round her. 



THE AFTEEMATH OF AN ADVENTUKB «7 

''But joai " Bhe faltered^ looking at liie iSUn tfilk 

o{ his shirt 

''I'm not a ladj with a beautifal voice that moat be taken 
care of. What would Signer Baroni say to thia af temoon^a 
exploit r 

''Ohy then yon haven't forgotten V^ Diana asked eoriofafllj. 

The intensely blue ^yes swept over her f aoa 

''No/' he replied shortly, "I haven't forgotten.'' 

In silence he helped her into the boat, and she sat quiedy 
in the stem as he bent to his oars and sent the littb skiff 
speeding hcmiewards towards the harbour. 

She felt strangely content The fact that he had delib- 
erately refused to recognise her seemed a matter of very 
small moment now that he had spoken to her again — scold- 
ing her and enforcing her obedience to his wishes in that 
oddly masterful way of his^ which yet had something of a 
possessive tenderness about it that appealed irreriatiUy to 
the woinan in her. 

Arrived at the quay of the little harbour, he helped her 
up the steps, slimy with weed and worn by the ceasdees 
lapping of the water, and the firm dasp of his hand on hers 
conveyed a curious sense of security, extending beyond just 
the mere safety of the moment She had a feeling that 
there was something immutably strong and sure about this 
man — a calm, steadfast self-reliance to which one could un- 
hesitatingly trust. 

His voice broke in abruptly on her thoughts. 

"My car's waiting at the quayside," he said. "I shall 
drive you back to the Eectory." 

Diana assented — not, as she thought to herself with a 
somewhat wry smile, that it would have made the very 
slightest difference had she refused point-blank. Since he 
had decided that she was to travel in his car, travel in it 
she would, willy-nilly. But as a matter of fact, ahe woe 
so tired that she was only too thankful to sink boiic on 
to the s(^ luxurious cushions of the big limousine. 



68 THE SPLENDID J'OLLY 

Errington tucked tlie rugB carefully round her, substi-^ 
tutiug one of them for the coat ahe was wearing, apoke a 
few words to the chauffeur^ and then seated himself oppo- 
site her. 

Diana thought the car seemed to be travelling raliher 
slowly as it began the steep ascent from the harbour to the 
Beotory. Possibly the chauffeur who had taken his mas- 
ter's instructions might have thrown some light on the sub- 
ject had he so chosen. 

"Quite warm now ?" queried Errington. 

Diana snuggled luxuriously into her comer.. 

"Quite, thanks,^' she replied. ^Tou're rapidly qualifying 
as a good Samaritan poor excellence, thanks to the constant 
opportunities I afford you." 

He laughed shortly and relapsed into silence, leaning his 
elbow on the cushioned ledge beside him and shading his 
face with his hand. Beneath its shelter, the keen blue eyes 
stared at the girl opposite with an odd, thwarted eccpression 
in their depths. 

Presently Diana spoke again, a tinge of irony in her tones. 

"And — after this — ^when next we meet . . . are you go- 
ing to cut me again ? • • . It must have been very tiresome 
for you that an unkind fate insisted on your inaking my 
closer acquaintanoa" 

He dropped his hand suddenly. 

"Oh, forgive me 1" he exclaimed, with a quick gesture of 
deprecation. "It — it was trnpardonable of me . . ." His 
voice vibrated with some strong emotion, and Diana re- 
garded him curiously. 

"Then you meant itt" she said slowly. . "It was delib- 
erate?" 

He bent his head afiSrmatively. 

"Yes," he replied. ^^ suppose you think it unforgivable. 
And yet — and yet it would have been better so."' 

"Better? But why? Pm generally"— dimpling a li^ 
tie— "considered rather nice." 



THE AFTERMATH OF AN ADVENTURE 69 



U 



^Bather nice^?" he repeated in a peculiar tona ''Oh, 
yes — ^that does not sorprifle ma" 

"And some day," she continued gaily, "although Pm no- 
body juat now, I may become a really famous person — and 
then you might be quite happy to know me t" 

Her eyes danced with mirth aa she rallied him. 

He looked at her strangely. 

"No— it can never bring me happiness. • . . Ah, mads 
jamais!" he added, with sudden passion. 

Diana was startled. 

"It — it was horrid of you to cut me^" she said in a 
troubled voice. 

"My punishment lies in your hands," he returned. 
**When I leave you at the Rectory — after to^lay — you can 
end our acquaintance if you choose. And I suppose — ^you 
will choose. It would be contrary to human nature to throw 
away such an excellent opportunity for retaliation — ^femi- 
nine human nature, anyway." 

He spoke with a kind of half-savage raillery, and Diana 
winced under it. His moods changed so rapidly that she 
was bewildered. At one moment there would be an ex- 
quisite gentleness in his manner when he spoke to her, at 
^e next a contemptuous irony that cut like a whip. 

^TVould it be — a punidiment ?" she asked at last. 

H^ checked a sudden movement towards her. 

^*What do you suppose?" he said quietly. 

"I don't know what to think. If it would be a punish- 
ment, why were you so anxious to take it out of my hands? 
It was you who ended our acquaintance on Sunday, remeai- 

ber." 

'TTes, I know. Twice I've closed the door between us, and 
twice fate has seen fit to open it again." 

"TWice? . . . Then — ^then it was you — in Grellingham 
Plafee that day?" 

^TTes," he acknowledged simply. 



70 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

^ • 

Diana bent her head to hide the small, secret smile that 
curved her lips. 

At lasty after a pause — 

"But why — ^why do you not want to know me?** she asked 
wonderingly. 

"Not want to?" he muttered below his breath. "Gk)d 
in heaven! Not want to!" His hand moved restlessly. 
After a minute he answered her, speaking very gently. 

"Because I think you were bom to stand in the sun- 
shina Some of us stand always in the shadow; it creeps 
about our feet, following us wherever we go. And I would 
not darken the sunlit places of your life with the shadow 
that clings to mina'' ^ 

There was an undercurrent of deep sadness in his tones. 

"Oan't you — can't you banish the shadow?" faltered 
Diana. A sense of tragedy oppressed her. "Life is surely 
made for happiness," she added, a little wistfully. 

"Your life, I hopa" He smiled across at her. "So 
don't let us talk any more about the shadow. Only" — 
gently — ^"if I came nearer to you — ^ihe shadow might engulf 
you, too." He paused, then continued more lightly : "But 
if you'll forgive my barbarous incivility of Sunday, perhaps 
— ^perhaps I may be allowed to stand just on the outskirts 
of your life — watch you pass by on your road to fame, and 
toss a flower at your feet when all the world and his wife 
are crowding to hear the new prvma dorma/* He had 
dropped back into the vein of light, ironical mockery which 
Diana was learning to recognise as characteristic of the man. 
It was like the rapier play of a skilled duellist, his weapon 
flashing hither and thither, parrying every thrust of his op- 
ponent, and with consummate ease keeping him ever at a 
distanca / 

"I wonder" — ^he regarded her with an expression of 
amused curiosity — "I wonder whether you would stoop to 
pick up my flower if I threw one ? But, no" — ^he answered 
his own question hastily, giving her no time to reply — 



THE AFTERMATH OF AN ADVENTUBE 71 

^^jtm wcmid poah it oontemptuoasly aside with the point of 
yofor little white slipper, and say to yonr crowd of admir- 
ers standing around you : That flower is the gift of a man 
— a rough boor of a man — ^who was atrociously rude to me 
oncei I don't even value it enough to pick it up.' Where- 
upon every one — quite rightly, too! — would cry shame on 
the man who had dared to insult so charming a lady — ^prob- 
ably adding that if bad luck befell him it would be no more 
than he deserved! . . . And I've no doubt he^U get his 
deserts," he added carelessly. 

Diana felt the tears very near her eyes and her lip quiv- 
ered. This man had the power of hurting her — ^wounding 
her to the quick — ^with his bitter raiUery. 

When she spoke again her voice shook a littla 

'7ou are wrong," she said, ^^quite wrong. I should pick 
up the flower and" — steadily — "I diould keep it, because 
it was thrown to me by a man who had twice done me the 
greatest service in his power." 

Onoe again he checked, as if by sheer force of wUl, a 
sudden eager movement towards her. 

''Would you?" he said quickly. "Would you do that? 
But you would be mistaken ; I should be gaining your kind- 
ness under false pretences. The greatest service in my 
power would be for me to go away and never see you again. 
. . . And I can't do that — now," he added, his voice vibratr 
ing oddly. 

His eyes held her, and at the sound of that sudden note 
of passion in his tone she felt some new, indefinable emotion 
stir within her that was half pain, half pleasura Her eye- 
lids closed, and she stretched out her hands a little grop- 
ingly, almost as if she were trying to ward away something 
that threatened her. 

There was appeal in the gesture — a pathetic, half-childish 
appeal, as though the shy, virginal youUi of her sensed the 
distant tumult of awakening passion and would fain delay 
its coming. 



72 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

She was just a frank, whole-hearted girl, knowing noth- 
ing of love and its strange, inevitable claim, but deep within 
her spoke that instinct^ premonition — call it what you will 
— ^which seems in some mysterious way to warn every woman 
when the great miracle of love is drawing near. It is as 
though Love's shadow fell across her heart and she were 
afraid to turn and face him — ^shrinking with the terror of a 
trapped wild thing from meeting his imperious demand. 

Errington, watching her, saw the childish gesture, ' the 
quiver of her mouth, the soft fall of the shadowed lids, and 
with a swift, impetuous movement he leaned forward and 
caught her by the arms, pulling her towards him. Instino- 
tively she resisted, struggling in his grip, her eyes^ wide 
and startled, gazing into his. 

The word seemed wrung from him, and as though some- 
thing within her answered to its note of urgency, she sud- 
denly yielded, stumbling forward on to her knees. His arms 
closed round her, holding her as in a vice, and die lay there, 
helpless in his grasp, her head thrown back a little, her 
young, slight breast fluttering beneath the thin silk of her 
blouse. 

For a moment he held her so, staring down at her, his 
breath hard-drawn between his teeth; then swiftly, with a 
stifled exclamation he stooped his head, kissing her sav- 
agely, bruising, crushing her lips beneath his own. 

She felt her strength going from her — it seemed as though 
he were drawing her soul out from her body — and then, 
just as sheer consciousness itself was wavering, he took his 
mouth from hers, and she could see his face, white and. 
strained, bent above her. 

She leaned away from him, panting a little, her shoulders 
against the side of the car. 

"God I" she heard him mutter. 

For a space the throb of the motor was the only sound 
that broke the stillness, but presentlyi after what seemed 



THE APTERMATH OF AN* ADVENTUEE 78 



an eternity,^ he raised her from the floor, where she still 
knelt inerdy, and set her on the seat again. She sabmitted 
passively. 

When he had resumed his plac^ he spoke in dry, level 
tones. 

''I suppose I'm damned beyond forgiveness after thisf^ 

She made no answer. She was listening with a curious 
fascination to the throb of her heart and the measured beat 
of the engine; the two seemed to meet and mingle into one 
great pulse, thundering against her tired brain. 

^Q!)iana" — ^he spoke again, still in the same toneless voice 
— ^'^am I to be forbidden even the outskirts of your life 
now ?" 

i^he moved her head restlessly. 

"I don't know — oh, I don't know," she whispered. 

She was utterly spent and exhausted. Unconsciously 
every nerve in her had responded to the fierce passion of 
that suffocating kiss^ and now that the tense moment was 
over she felt drained of all vitality. Her head drooped list- 
lessly against the cushions of the car and dark shadows 
stained her cheeks beneath the wideK>pened eyes— -eyes that 
held the startled, frightened ezpreesion of one who has heard 
for the first time the beat of Passion's wings. 

(Gradually, as Errington watched her, the strained look left 
his face and was replaced by one of infinite solicituda She 
looked so young as she lay there, huddled against the cush- 
ions — ^hardly more than a child — and he knew what that 
mad moment had done for her. It had wakened the woman 
within her. He cursed himself softly. 

^^Diana," he said, leaning forward* ^'For Gk)d's sake^ say 
you forgive me, chUd." 

The deep pain in his voice pierced through her dulled 



"Why — ^why did you do itf she asked tremulously. 
^T. did it— -oh, because for the moment I forgot that I'm 
a man barred out from all that makes life worth living! 



74 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

• • • I forgot about the flhadow, Diana. . • • Yon — made 
me forget" 

He spcke with oonoentrated bittemesa^ adding mock- 
ingly:— 

^^After ally there^s a great deal to be said in favour of the 
Turkish yaahmak. It at leoBt removes temptation/' 

Diana's hand flew to her lips — they burned still at the 
memory of those kisses — and he smiled ironically at the in- 
stinctive gesture. 

'^I hate you I" she said suddenly. 

^'Quite the most suitable thing you could do/' he an* 
swered composedly. All the softened feeling of a few mo- 
ments ago had vanished : he seemed to have relapsed into his 
usual sardonic humour, putting a barrier between himself 
and her that set them mi^es apart. 

Diana was conscious of a fury of resentment against his 
calm readjustment of the situation. He was the offender; 
it was for her to dictate the terms of peace, and he had sud- 
denly cut the ground from under her feet. Her pride rose 
in arms. If he could so contemptuously sweep aside the 
memory of the last ten minutes, careless whether his plea 
for forgiveness were granted or no, she would show him 
that for her, too, the incident was closed. But she would 
not forgive him— ever. 

She opened her campaign at onca 

^'Surely we must be almost at the Bectory by now ?" she 
began in politely conventional tones. 

A sudden gleam of wicked mirth flashed across his face. 

''Has the time^ then, seemed so long?" he demanded 
coolly. 

Diana's lips trembled in the vain effort to repress a smila 
The man was impossible! It was also very difficulty she 
found, to ranain righteously angry with such an impoe- 
sible person. 

If he saw the smile, he gave no indication of it. Rub- 
bing the window with his hand he peered out 



THE AFTERMATH OF AN ADVENTURE 76 

^ tihiiik we are just taming in at the Reotoiy gatesy'' 
he remarked oareleeslj. 

In another minute the motor had throbbed to a stand- 
still and the chauffeor was standing at the open door. 

''I'm sorrj we've been so long coming, sir/' he said, tonchr 
ing hia hat. '1 took a wrong taming — ^lost me way a bit." 

Then, as Errington and Diana passed into the house, he 
added lliou^tfally, addressing his engine: — 

''She^s a {H-etty little bit of skirt and no mistaka I won- 
der, now, if we was lost long enough, eh, Billy I" 



CHAPTER Vn 



DiAXA smos 



I FEEL that we are yery mudi indebted to yoa^ Mr. 
Errington/' said Stair, when he and Joan had listened 
to an account of the afternoon's proceedings — the major 
portion of them, that is. Oertain details were not included 
in the veracious history. ^^You seem to have a happy knack 
of turning up just at the moment, you are most needed/' 
he added pleasantly. 

^'I think I must plead indebtedness to Miss Quentin for 
allowing me such unique opportunities of playing knight 
errant/' replied Max, smiling. ^^Such chances are rare in 
this twentieth century of ours^^ and Miss Quentin always 
kindly arranges so that I run no serious risks — ^to life and 
limb, at least," he acided, his mocking eyes challenging 
Diana's. 

She flushed indignantly. Evidently he wished her to un- 
derstand that that breathless moment in the car counted for 
nothing — ^must not be taken seriously. He had only been 
amusing himself with her — just as he had amused himself 
by chatting in the train — and again a wave of resentment 
against him, against the cool, dominating insolence of the 
man, surged through her. 

"I hope you'll stay and join us at dinner," the Eector was 
saying — ^'unless it's hopelessly spoilt by waiting so long. 
Is it, Joan ?" 

^^Oh, no. I think tiiere'll be some surviving remnants^" 
die assured him. 

"Then if you'll overlook any discrepancies," pursued 
Stair, smiling at Errington, "do stay." 

76 



DIANA SINGS 77 

''Say, rather, if yoall overlook discrepanciee^^' answered 
Errington, mniling back — ^there was something infectious 
aboat Stair's geniality. "I'm afraid a boiled shirt is out 
of the question — ^unless I go home to fetch it I'' 

Diana stared at him. Was he really going to stay — to 
aooept the invitation — after all that had occurred? If he 
did, she thought scornfully, it was only in keeping with that 
calm arrogance of his by which he aUocated to himself the 
ri^t to do precisely as he chose, irrespective of convention 
—or of other people's feelings. 

Meanwhile Stair was twinkling humorously across at his 
visitor. 

'^If you can bear to eat your dinner without being en- 
cased in the regulation starch," he said, "I don't think I 
ahonld advise risking what remains of it by any further 
delay." 

^'Then I aooept with pleasure^" replied Errington. 

As he spoke, his eyes sought Diana's cmce again. It al- 
most seemed as though they pleaded with her for under- 
fitanding. The half-sad, half-bitter mouth smiled faintly, 
the smile accentuating that upward curve at the comers of 
the lips which lent sudi an unexpected sweetness to its stem 
lines. 

Diana looked away quickly, refusing to endorse the Beo- 
tor^s invitation, and, escaping to her own room, she made 
a hasty toilet, slipping into a simple little black gown open 
at the throat Meanwhile^ she tortured herself with quee* 
tioning as to why — ^if all that had passed meant nothing to 
him — ^he had chosen to stay. Once she hid her burning face 
in her hands as the memory of those kisses rushed over her 
afresh, sending little, new, delicious thrills coursing through 
her veins. Then once more the maddening doubt assailed 
her— were they but a bitter humiliation which she would 
remember for the rest of her lifet 

When she came downstairs again, Max Errington and 
Stair were conversing happily together, evidently on the 



78 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

best of temns with themaelyes and each other. Erriogton 
WBB speaking as she entered the Toom, bat he stopped 
abruptly, biting his words off short, while his keen eyes 
swept over the slim, black-gowned figure hesitating in iho 
doorway. 

^'Mr. Stair has been pledging your word during your ab- 
seneei^" he said, '^e has promised that youHl sing to us 
after dinner." 

"I? Oh"— nervously— **I don't think I want to sing 
this evening." 

^'Why not ? Have the" — he made an infinitesimal pause^ 
regarding her the while with quizzical eyes — ^'^events of l^e 
afternoon robbed you of your voice?" 

Diana gave him back his lo(& defiantly. How dared be 
— ckj how dared hef — she thought indigioantly. 

'^My adventures weren't serious enough for that/' she re- 
plied oomposedly. 

The ^ost of a smile flickered across his f aca 

'Then you will sing ?" he persisted. 

'TTes, if you lika" 

He nodded contentedly, and as they went in to dixmer he 
whispered : — 

"I found the adventure — ^rather serious." 

Dinner passed pleasantly enough. Errington and Stair 
contributed most of the conversation, the former proving 
himself a charming guest, and it was evident that the two 
men had taken a great li]dng to each other. It would have 
been a difficult subject indeed who did not feel attracted by 
Alan Stair; he was so unconventionally frank and dncere, 
brimming over with humour, and he regarded every man 
as his friend until he had proved him otherwise — and even 
then he was disposed to think that the fault must lie some- 
where in himself. 

<Tm not surprised that your diurch was so full on Sun- 
day," Errington told him, '^ow that Fve met you. If the 
Objuidi of En^and clergy, as a whole^ were as human as 



DIANA SINGS 79 

joa are^ yon would have fewer offahoots from your Estab- 
lished C!hiircL I always think" — ^remiBisceatly — ^'^that 
that is where the strength of the Boman Catholic padre Ues 
— ^in his intecQse hamannesa.*' 

The Bector looked up in surprisa 

''Then you're not a member of our Church f' he asked. 

For a moment Errington looked embarrassed, as though 
he had said more than he wished ta 

''Oh, I was merely comparing the two/' he relied eva- 
sively. "I have lived abroad a good bit, you know,'' 

"Ah I That explains it> then," said Stair. "You've 
caught some little foreign turns of speech. Several times 
I've wondered if you were entirely English." 

Errington's face, as he turned to reply, wore that politely 
blank expression which Diana had encountered more than 
once when conversing with him — always should she chance 
to touch on any subject the natural answer to which might 
have revealed something of the man's private life. 

"Oh," he answered the Bector lightly, "I believe there's 
a dash of foreign blood in my veins^ but I've a right to call 
mjrself an Ei^ishman." 

After dinner, while the two men had their smoke, Diana, 
heedless of Joan's commonHsense remonstrance on the score 
of dew-drenched grass, flung on a doak and wandered rest* 
lessly out into the moonlit garden. She felt that it would 
be an utter impossibility to sit still, waiting until the men 
came into the drawing-room, and she paced slowly backwards 
and forwards across the lawn, a slight, shadowy figure bi the 
patdi of silver light 

Presently she saw the French window of the dining-room 
open, and Hax Errington step across the threshold and 
come swiftly over the lawn towards her. 

"I see you are bent on courting rheumatic fever — ^to say 
nothing of a sore throat," he sdd quietly, "and Tve come 
to take you indoors." 



80 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Diana was instantly filled with a perverse desire to re* 
main where she was. 

^^Fm not in the least cold, thank you/' she replied stiffly. 
"And— I like it out here.'' 

'TToii may not be cold," he returned composedly. 'TBut 
Fm quite sure your feet are damp. Come along." 

He put his arm under hers, impelling her gently in the 
direction of the house, and, rather to her own surprise^ she 
found herself accompanying him without further opposition. 

Arrived at the house, he knelt down and, taking up her 
foot in his hand, deliberately removed the little pointed 
.slipper. 

'There," he said conduaively, exhibiting its sole, dank 
with dew. "Go up and put on a poir of dry shoes and then 
come down and sing to ma" 

And once again she found herself meekly obeying hinu 

By the time she had returned to the drawing-room, Poba 
and Errington were choosing the songs they wanted her to 
sing, while Joan was laughingly protesting that they had 
selected all those with the most difficult accompaniments. 

^'However, FU do my best, Di," she added, as she seated 
herself at the piano. 

Joan's ''best" as a pianist did not amount to very much 
at any time, and she altogether lacked that intuitive un- 
derstanding and sympathy which is the sine qoA rum of a 
good accompanist Diana, accustomed to the trained per- 
fection of Olga Lermontof, found herself considerably han- 
dicapped, and her rendering of the song in question, Saintr 
Saens' A mown, viens adder, left a good deal to be desired in 
consequence — a fact of which no one was more conscious than 
she herself. 

But the voice! As the full rich notes hung on the air^ 
vibrant with that indescribably thrilling quality which seema 
the prerogative of the contralto, Errington recognised at 
once that here was a singer destined to make her mark. 
The slight surprise which he had evinced on first learning 



DIANA SINGS 81 

that ahe waa a pupil of the great Baroni vanished instantly* 
No maater could be better fitted to have the handling of aach 
a Toioe— and oertainly, he added mentally, Joan Stair waa 
a Indicroaaly inadequate accompanist, only to be ezcuaed 
by her frank acknowledgment of the fact. 

^Tm dreadfully aorry, Di/' ahe aaid at the conduaion of 
the aong. ^'But I really can't manage the accompaniment'' 

Erringtou rose and crossed the room to the piano. 

"Will you allow me to take your place?" he said pleaa- 
anily. '^That ia^ if Miss Quentin permits? It ia hard 
liitea to be auddenly called upon to read accompanimenta if 
you are not accustomed to it" 

"Oh, do you play?" exclaimed Joan, vacating her aeat 
gladly. ^^Then pleaae do. I feel aa if I were committing 
murder when I atumble through Diana'a aonga." 

She joined the Bector at the far end of the room, adding 
with a aoiile: — 

"I make a much better audience than performer." 

"What ahaU it bet" aaid ErriBgtoi., turning over the pile 
of songs, 

''What you like," returned Diana indifferently. She waa 
rather pale^ and her hand shook a little as ahe fidgeted reat- 
^Mly with a aheet of music. It almoat seemed aa though 
the projected change of accompaniat were distasteful to her. 

Max laid hia own hand over hera an instant 

"Pleaae let me play for you," he aaid aimply. 

There w^ & ^^te of appeal in hia voice — rather as if he 
^ere seeking to soften her resentment against him, and 
^ould regard the pemussion to accompany her aa a token 
of forgiveneaa. She met his glance, wavered a moment, then 
bent her head in silence, and each of them waa conscious 
that in aome mysterioua way, without the interchange of 
further worda, an armiatice had been declared between 
them. 

With Erringtou at the piano the music took on a differ- 
ent aspect He waa an incomparable accompanist^ and 



82 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Diana, feeling herself supported and upborne, sang with a 
beauty of interpretation, an intensity of feeling, that had 
been impossible befora And through it all she was axmtely 
conscious of Max Errington's proximity — ^knew instinctively 
that the passion of thci song ^as shaking him equally with 
herself. It was as though some intangible live wire were 
stretched between them so that each could sense the emotion 
of the other — as though the garment with which we so per- 
sistently conceal our souls from one another's eyes were 
suddenly stripped away. 

There was a tense look in Max's face as the last note trem- 
bled into silence, and Diana, meeting his glance, flushed 
rosily. 

"I can't sing any more," she said, her voice uneven. 

"No." 

He added nothing to the lacopic n^ative, but his eyes held 
hers remorselessly. 

Then Fobs' cheerful tones fell on their ears and the taut 
moment passed. 

"Di, you amazing diild!" he exclaimed delightfully. 
"Where did you find a voice like that ? I realise now that 
we've been entertaining genius unawares all this time. 
Joan, my dear, henceforth two commonplace bodies like you 
and me must resign ourselves to taking a back seat" 

"I don't mind," returned Joan philosophically. "I think 
I was bom with a humdrum nature ; a quiet life was always 
my idea of bliss." 

"Sing something else, Di," begged Stair. But Diana 
shook her head. 

"I'm too tired, Fobs," she said quietly. Turning abruptly 
to Errington she continued : "Will you play instead ?" 

Max hesitated a moment, then resumed his place at the 
piano, and, after a pause, the three grave notes with which 
Rachmaninoff's wonderful "Prelude" opens, broke the si- 
lenca 

It was speedily evident that Errington was a musician 



DIANA SINQS 88 

of no mean order; indeed many a profeeaional repatatiou 
has been based on a lees solid foundation. The Baeh- 
maninoff was followed hj Chopin, Tchaikowaky, Debussy, 
a^d others of the modem school, and when finally he dropped 
his hands from the piano, laughingly declaring that he must 
be thinking of taking his departure before he jdayed them 
all to sleep, Joan burst out bluntly: — 

^^e understood you were a dramatist, Mr. Errington. 
It seems to me you have missed your vocation." 

Every one laughed. 

'^Bather a "two-edged compliment, Fm afraid, Joan," 
chuckled Stair delightfully. 

Joan blushed, overcome with confusion, and remained 
depressed until Errington, on the point of leaving, reas- 
sured her good-humouredly. 

^'Don't brood over your f atherj^ unkind references to two- 
edged compliments. Miss Stair. I entirely decline to see any 
but one meaning to your speech — and that a very pleasant 
ona" 

He shook hands with the Bector and Diana, holding the 
latter's hand an instant longer than was absolutely neces- 
sary, to ask, rather low : — 

"Is it peace, then ?" 

But the softening spell of the music was broken, and Di- 
ana felt her resentment against him rise up anew. 

Silently she withdrew her hand, refusing him an answer, 
defying him with a courage bom of the near neighbourhood 
of the Bector and Joan, and a few minutes later the hum 
of his motor could be heard as it sped away down the drive. 

Diana lay long awake that nighty her thoughts centred 
round the man who had come so strangely into her lif ei 
It was as though he had been forced thither by a resistless 
fate which there was no eluding — ^for, on his own confes- 
si(m, he had deliberately sought to avoid meeting her again. 

His whole attitude was utterly incomprehensible— a study 
of violently opposing contrasts. Diana felt bruised and 



84 TH^ SPLENDID FOLLY 

shaken by the fierce contradictions of his moods^ the temper- 
amental heat and ioe which he had meted out to her. It 
seemed as if he were fighting against the attraction she had 
for him, prepared to contest every inch of ground — discount- 
ing each look and word wrung from him in some moment of 
emotion by the mocking raillery with which he followed 
it up. 

More than once he had hinted at some harrier, spoken of 
a diadow that dogged his steps, as if complete freedom of 
action were denied hinu Could it be— was it conceivable, 
that he was already married? And at the thought Diana 
hid hot chedss against her pillow, living over again that 
moment in the car — ^that moment which had suddenly called 
into being emotions before whose overmastering possibilities 
she trembled. 

At length, mentally and physically weary, she dropped 
into an uneasy slumber, vaguely wondering what the mor- 
row would bring forth. 

It brought the unexpected news that the occupants of 
Bed Gables had suddenly left for Londcnx by the morning 
train. 



CHAPTER yni 

ICBS. LAWIUCNOS'S HOBPITAUTT 

yfN Officer's Widow offers hospitality to studerds wnd 
-^^ prof essiorud women. Excellent cumne;marirservant; 
moderate terms. Apply: Mrs, L., 24 Brutton Square, N. W/' 

So ran the advertisement which Mrs. Lawrence period- 
ically inserted in one of the leading London dailies. She 
was well-pleased with the wording of it, consideriixg that 
it combined both veracity and attractiveness — two things 
which do not invariably ran smoothly in conjunction with 
each other. 

The opening phrase had reference to the fact that her 
hnsbandy the defunct major, had been an army doctor, and 
the word hospitality pleasantly suggested the idea of a home 
frcHn home, whilst the afterthought conveyed by the moder- 
ate terms delicately indicated that the hospitality was not 
entirely of a gratuitous natura The man-servant, on closer 
inspection, resolved himself into a French-Swiss waiter, 
whose agility and condition were such that he could negoti- 
ate the whole ninety stairs of the house, three at a time, 
without once pausing for breath till he reached the top. 

Little Miss Bunting, the lady-help, who lived with Mrs. 
Lawrence on the understanding that she gave ^'assistance in 
light household duties in return for hospitality," was not 
quite so nimble as Henri, the waiter, and often found her 
heart beating quite uncomfortably fast by the time she had 
climbed the ninety stairs to the little cupboard of a room 
which Mrs. Lawrence's conception of hospitality allotted 
tor her use. ' She did the work of two servants and ate 

85 



86 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

rather less than one^ and, seeing that she receiyed nb wages 
and was incurably conscientious, Mrs. Lawrence found the 
arrangement eminently satisfactory. Possibly Miss Bunting 
herself regarded the matter with somewhat less enthusiasm, 
but she was a plucky little person and made no complaint. 
As she wrote to her invalid mother, shortly after taking up 
her duties at Brutton Square: ''After all, dearest of little 
mothers, I have a roof over my head and food to eat, and 
I'm not costing you anything except a few pounds for my 
clothes. And perhaps when I leave here, if Mrs. Lawrence 
gives me a good reference, I shall be able to get a situation 
with a salary attached to it" 

So Miss Bunting stuck to her guns and spent her days 
in supplementing the deficiencies of careless servants, 
smoothing the path of the boarders, and generally enabling 
Mrs. Lawrence to devote much more time to what she termed 
her ''social life" than would otherwise have been the case. 

The boarders usually numbered anything from twelve to 
fifteen — ^all of the gentler sex — and were composed chiefly 
of students at one or other of the London schools of art or 
music, together with a sprinkling of visiting teachers of 
various kinds, and one or two young professional musicians 
whose earnings did not yet warrant their launching out into 
the independence of fiat life. This meant that three times 
a year, when the schools closed for their regular vacations, 
a general exodus took place from 24 Brutton Square, and 
Mrs. Lawrence was happily enabled to go away and visit her 
friends, leaving the conscientious Miss Bunting to look after 
the reduced establishment and cater for the one or two re- 
maining boarders who were not released by regular holi- 
days. It was an admirable arrangement, profitable with- 
out being too exigeant. 

At the end of each vacation Mrs. Lawrence always sum- 
moned Miss Bunting to her presence and ran through the 
list of boarders for the coming term, noting their various re- 
quirements. She was thus occupied one afternoon towards 



MRS. LAWRENCE'S HOSPITALITY 87 

the end of ApriL The spring gnnshine poured in through 
the windows^ lending an added cheerfulness of aspect to the 
itxHns of the tall London house that made them, appear 
worth quite five shillings a week more than was actually 
charged for them, and Mrs. Lawrence smiled, well satisfied. 
She was a handsome woman, still in the early forties, and 
the word '^stylish" inevitably leaped to one^s mind at the 
si^t of her full, well-corseted figure, fashionable raiment, 
and carefully coiffured hair. There was nothing whatever 
of the boarding-house keeper about her; in fact, at first 
si^t^ she rather gave the impression of a pleasant, sociable 
woman who, having a house somewhat larger than she 
needed for her own requirements, accepted a few paying 
guests to keep the rooms aired. 

This was just the impression she wished to convey, and 
it was usually some considerable time before her boarders 
grasped the fact that they were dealing with a thoroughly 
shrewd, calculating business woman, who was bent on mak- 
ing every penny out of them that she cotdd, compatibly with 
running the house on such lines as would ensure its an- 
swering to the advertised description. 

^^Fm glad it's a sunny day," she remarked to Miss Bunt- 
ing. ^'First impressions are everything, and that pupil of 
Signer Baroni's, Miss Quentin, arrives to-day. I hope her 
rooms are quite ready?" 

"Quite, Mrs. Lawrence," replied the lady-help. "I put 
a few flowers in the vases just to make it look a little home- 
like." 

**Very thoughtful of you. Miss Bunting," Mrs. Lawrence 
returned graciously. "Miss Quentin's is rather a special 
casa To begin with, she has engaged a private sitting-room, 
and in addition to that she was recommended to come here 
by Signer Baroni himself." 

The good word of a teacher of such standing as Baroni 
was a matter of the first importance to a lady offering a 
home from home to musical students, though possibly had 



88 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Mrs. Lawrence' heard the exact form taken by Baroni's 
recommendation she might have felt lees elated. 

^'The Lawrence woman is a bit of a shark^ my dear/' he 
had told Diana^ when she had explained that, owing to the 
retirement from business of her former landlady, she>wouId 
be compelled after Easter to sedk fresh rooms. ^'But she 
caters specially for musical students, and as she is there- 
fore obliged to keep the schools pleased, she feeds her board- 
ers, on the whole, better than do most of her species. And 
remember, my dear Mees Quentin^, that good food, and plenty 
of good food, means — ^voica" 

So Diana had nodded and written to Mrs. Lawrence to 
ask if a bed-room and sittin^room opening one into the 
other ootdd be at her disposal, receiving an aflGbrmative re- 

piy- 

^'Begarding coals. Miss Bunting^'' proceeded Mrs. La^p^- 
rence thoughtfully, '^I told Miss Quentin that the charge 
wotdd be sixpence per scuttla" (This was in pre-war 
times, it must be ranembered, and the scuttles wei:e of pain- 
fully meagre proportions.) ^'It might be as well to put 
that hurge coal-box in her room — ^you know the one I mean 
— ^and make the charge eightpenoa" 

The box in question was certainly of imposing exterior 
proportions, but its tin lining was of a quite difiFerent do- 
mestic period and made no pretensions as to fitting. It lay 
loosely inside its sham mahogany casing like the shrivelled 
kernel of a nut in its shelL 

"The big coal-scuttle really doesn't hold twopennyworth 
more coal than the others," observed Miss Bunting tenta- 
tively. 

A dull flush mounted to Mra Lawrence's oheek. She 
liked the prospect of screwing an extra twopence out of one 
of her boarders, but she hated having the fact so dearly 
pointed out to her. There were times when she found Miss 
Bunting's conscientiousness something of a trial. 

"It's a much larger box," she protested sharply. 



MRS. LAWKENOE'S HOSPITALITY 89 

t 

'Tea. I know it is — outdide. But the lining only holda 
two more knobs than the sixpenny ones." 

Mrs. Lawrence frowned. 

'T3o I nnderstand that you — ^you actually measured the 
amount it contains }'' she asked, with bitterness. 

'TTes," retorted Miss Bunting valiantly. "And c(»npared 
it with the others. It was when you told me to put the 
eightpenny scuttle in Miss Jenkins' room. She complained 
at once." 

'^Then you exceeded your duties, Miss Bunting. You 
should have referred Miss Jenkins to ma'^ 

Miss Bunting made no reply. She h4id acted precisely 
in the way suggested, but Miss Jenkins, a young art-student 
oi independent opinions, had flatly declined to be "referred" 
to Mrs. Lawrenoa 

"It's not the least use^ Bunty dear," she had said. "I'm 
not going to have half an hour's acrimonious conversation 
with Mrs. Lawrence on the subject of twopennyworth of 
ooaL At the same time I haven't the remotest intention of 
paying twopence extra for those two lumps of excess lug- 
gage so to speak. So you can just trot that sarcophagus 
away, like the darling you are, and bring me back my six- 
pemiy scuttle again." 

And little Miss Bunting, in her capacity of buffer state 
between Mra Lawrence and her boarders, had obeyed and 
said nothing more about the matter. 

**I have to go out now," continued Mrs. Lawrence, after 
a pause pregnant with rebuka "You will receive Miss 
QueiLtin on her arrival and attend to her comfort And put 
the large coal-box in her sitting-room as I directed," she 
added firmly. 

So it came about that when, half an hour later, a taxi- 
cab buzzed up to the door of No. 24, with Diana and a large 
quantity of luggage on board, the former found herself met 
in the hall by a cheerful little person with pretty brown 
eyon and a friendly smile to whom she took an instant liking. 



90 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

MisB Bunting escorted Diana np to her rooms on the sec- 
ond floor^ while Henri brought up the rear, staggering man- 
fully beneath the weight of Miss Quentin's trunk. 

A cheerful fire was blazing in the grate^ and that, to- 
gether with the daffodils that gleamed from a bowl on the 
table like a splash of gold, gave the room a pleasant and 
welcoming appearance. 

''But, surely/' said Diana hesitatingly, ''you are not Mrs. 
Lawrence V^ 
^ Miss Bunting laughed outright 

"Oh, dear no," she answered. "Mrs. Lawrence is out, 
and she asked me to see that you had everything you wanted. 
I^m the lady-help, you know." 

Diana regarded her commiseratingly. She seemed such 
a jolly, bright little thing to be occupying that anomalous 
position. 

"Oh, are you? Then it was you" — with a sudden in- 
spiration — "who put these lovely daffodils here, wasn't it? 
. . . Thank you so much for thinking of it — it was kind 
of you." And she held out her hand with the frank charm 
of manner which invariably turned Diana's acquaintances 
into friends inside ten minutes. 

Little Miss Bunting flushed delightedly, and from that 
moment onward became one of the new boarder's most de- 
voted adherents. 

"You'd like some tea, I expect," she said presently. "Will 
you have it up here — or in the dining-room with the other 
boarders in half an hour's time?" 

"Oh, up here, pleasa I can't possibly wait half an 
hour." 

"I ought to tell you," Miss Bunting continued, dimpling a 
little^ "that it will be sixpence extra if you have it up here. 
*AU meals served in rooms, sixpence extra* " she read out, 
pointing to the printed list of rules and regulations hanging 
prominently above the chimney-piece. 

Diana regarded it with amusement 



MRS. LAWRENCE'S HOSPITALITY 91 



tc 



^Thej ought to be written on tablets of stone like the Ten 
ConunandmentSy'^ she commented frivolouslj. ''It rather 
reminds me of being at school again. I've never lived in a 
boarding-house bef ore^ you know ; I had rooms in the house 
of an old servant of ours. WeU, here goes !" — ^twisting the 
framed set of rules round with its face to the wall. ''Now, 
if I break the laws of the Medes and Persians I can't be 
blamed, because I haven't read them." 

Miss Bunting privately thought that the new boair^er, 
recommended by so great a personage as Signer Baroni, 
stood an excellent chance of being allowed a generous lati- 
tude as regards conforming to the rules at Ko. 24 — provided 
she paid her bills promptly and without too careful a scru- 
tiny of the "extras." Bunly, indeed, retained few illusions 
concerning her employer, and perhaps this was just as well 
— ^for the fewer the illusions by which you're handicapped, 
the fewer your disappointments before the journey's end. 

"Tou haven't told me your name," said Diana, when the 
lady-help reappeared with a small tea-tray in her hand. 

"Bunting," came &e smiling reply. "But most of the 
boarders call me Bunty." 

"I shall, too, may 1 1 — ^And oh, why haven't you brought 
two cups? I wanted you to have tea with me — ^if you've 
time, that is f 

"If I had brought a second cup, 'Tea far two* would have 
been charged to your account," observed Miss Bunting. 

"What?" Diana's eyes grew round with astonishment* 
"With the same sized teapot ?" 

The other nodded humorously. 

"Well, Mrs. Lawrence's logic is beyond me," pursued 
Diana. "However, we'll obviate the diflBculty. I'll have tea 
out of my tooth-glass" — glancing towards the washstand in 
the adjoining room where that article, inverted, capped the 
water-bottle— "and you, being the honoured guest, shall lux- 
uriate in the cup." 

Bunty modestly protested, but Diana had her own way in 



\ 



192 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

the matter^ and when finally the little lady-help went down- 
stairs to pour out tea in the dining-room for the rest of the 
boarders, it was with that pleasantly warm glow about the 
region of the heart which the experience of an unexpected 
kindness is prone to produca 

Meanwhile Diana busied herself unpacking her clothes 
and putting them away in the rather limited cupboard ao- 
oommodation provided, and in fbdng up a few pictures, reck- 
lessly hammering the requisite nails into the walls in happy 
disregard of Eule III of the printed list^ which emphati- 
cally stated that: *^No nails must be driven into the vniUa 
mthout permission/' 

By the time she had completed these operations a dressr 
ing-bell sounded, and quickly exchanging hw travelling coe- 
tume for a filmy little dinner dress of some sof t^ shimmering 
material, she sallied downstairs in search of the dining-room. 

Mrs. Lawrence met her on the threshold, warmly wel- 
coming, and conducting her to her allotted place at the 
lower end of a long table, around which were seated — as it 
appeared to Diana in that first dizzy moment of arrival — 
dozens of young women varying from twenty to thirty years 
of age. In reality there were but a baker's dozen of them, 
and they all painstakingly abstained from glancing in her 
direction lest they might be thought guilty of rudely staring 
at a newcomer. 

Diana's vis-Orvis at table was the redoubtable Miss Jen- 
kins of coal-box fame, and her neighbours on either hand 
two students of one of the musical colleges. Next to Miss 
Jenkins, Diana observed a vacant place; presiimably its 
owner was dining out. She also noticed that she alone among 
the boarders had attempted to make any kind of evesiing 
toilet. The others had "changed" from their workaday 
clothes, it is true, but a light silk blouse, worn with a darker 
skirt, appeared to be generally r^arded as a sufficient recog- 
nition of the occasion. 

Diana's near neighbours were at first somewhat tongue- 



MRS, LAWEENCE'S HOSPITALITY 98 

with a nervous stiffnesB common to the Britisher, but 
they thawed a little as the meal progressed, and when the 
musieal students, Miss Jones and Miss Allen, had elicited 
that she was actually a pupil of the great Baroni, envy and 
a certain awed admiration combined to unseal the fountains 
of their speech. 

Just as the fish was being removed, the door opened to 
admit a tall, thin woman, wearing outdoor costume, who 
passed quickly down the room and took the vacant place at 
the taUe, murmuring a curt apology to Mrs. Lawrence on 
her way. To Diana's astonishment she recognised in the 
newcomer Olga Lermontof , Baronies accompanist 

^^Mias Lermontof 1" she exclaimed. '^I had no idea that 
you lived here.*' 

Miss Lermontof nodded a brief greeting. 

*Tiow d'you do ? Yes, I Ve lived here for some tima But 
I didn't know that you were coming. I thought you had 
rooms somewhere?" 

^'So I had. But I was obliged to give them up, and Sig- 
ner Baroni suggested this instead." 

^^Hope you'll like it," returned Miss Lermontof shortly. 
''At any rata^ it has the advantage of being only quarter of 
an hour's walk from Orellingham Place. I've just come 
from thera" And with that she relapsed into silence. 

Although Olga Lermontof had frequently accompanied 
Diana during her lessons with Baroni, the acquaintance be- 
tween the t^3 had made but small progress. There had 
been but little opportunily for conversation on those occa- 
sions, and Diana, instinctively resenting the accompanist's 
oool and rather off-hand manner, had never sought to become 
better acquainted with her. It was generally supposed that 
she was a Kussian, and she was undoubtedly a highly gifted 
musician, but there was something oddly disagreeable and 
lepellent about her personality. Whenever Diana had thought 
about her at all, she had mentally likened her to Ishmael, 
whose hand was against every man and every man's hand 



94 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

against hia. And now ahe found herself involved with this 
strange woman in the rather close intimacy of daily life 
consequent upon becoming fellow-boarders in the same house. 

Seen amidst so many strange faces, the familiarity of 
Olga Lermontof's clever but rather forbidding visage bred 
a certain new sense of comradeship, and Diana made several 
tentative efforts to draw her into conversation. The results 
were meagre, however, the Russian confining herself to mon- 
osyllabic answers until some one — one of the musical stu- 
dents — chanced to mention that she had recently been to the 
Premier Theatre to see Adrienne de Oervais in a new play, 
"The Grey Gown,*' which had just been produced thera 

It was then that Miss Lermontof apparently awoke to the 
fact that the English language contains further possibilities 
than a bare "yes" or "no." 

"I consider Adrienne de Gervais a most overrated ac- 
tress," she remarked succinctly. 

A chorus of disagreement greeted this announcement. 

"Why, only think how quickly she's got (»," argued Miss 
Jones. "No one three years ago — tnd to-day Max Erring- 
Um writes all his plays round her." 

"Precisely. And it's easy enough to 'create a part' suc- 
cessfully if that part has been previously written specially 
to suit you," retorted Miss Lermontof unmoved. 

The discussion of Adrienne de Gervais' merits, or de- 
merits, threatened to develop into a violent disagreement, 
and Diana was struck by a certain personal acrimony that 
seemed to flavour Miss Lermontof's criticism of the popular 
actress. Finally, with the idea of averting a quarrel between 
the disputants, she mentioned that the actress, accompanied 
by her chaperon, had been staying in the neighbourhood of 
her own homa 

"Mr. Errington was with them also," she added. 

'^e usually is^" commented Miss Lermontof disagree- 
ably. 



MES. LAWEENCE'S HOSPITALITY 95 

'^e's a remarkably fine pianist/' said Diana, '^o you 
Imow him personally at all ?" 

'^I've met him/' replied Olga. Her green eyes narrowed 
suddenly, and she r^arded Diana with a rather curious ex- 
pression on her faoa 

''Is he a professional pianist 7" pursued Diana. She was 
conscious of an intense curiosity concerning Errington, 
quite apart from the personal episodes which had linked 
them together. The man of mystery invariably exerts a 
peculiar fascination over the feminine mind. Hence the un* 
merited popularity not infrequently enjoyed by the dark, 
saturnine, brooding individual whose conversation savours 
of the tensely monosyllabic 

Olga Lermontof paused a moment before replying to 
Diana's query. The she said briefly: — 

"No. He's a dramatist. I shouldn't allow myself to be- 
come too interested in him if I were you." 

She smiled a trifle grimly at Diana's sudden flush, and her 
manner indicated that, as far as she was concerned, the 
subject was closed. 

Diana felt an inward conviction that Miss Lermontof 
knew much more concerning Max Errington than she chose 
to admit, and when she fell asleep that night it was to dream 
that she and Errington were trying to find each other 
through the gloom of a thick fog, whilst all the time the 
dark4>rowed, sinister face of Olga Lermontof kept appear- 
ing and disappearing between them, smiling tauntingly at 
their e£Forts. 



CHAPTER IX 



A OONTBST OF WILLS 



DIAI^A waa sitting in Baroni's mnsie-rooniy waiting, 
with more or less patience^ for a singing lesson. The 
old maestro was in an unmistakable ill-humonr this morn- 
ing, and he had detained the pupil whose lesson preceded her 
own far beyond the allotted time, storming at the unfortu- 
nate young man until Diana marvelled that the latter had 
sufficient nerve to continue singing at all. 

In a whirl of fury Baroni informed him that he was ex- 
actly suited to be a third-rate music-hall artiste — ^the young 
man, be it said, was making a special study of oratorio— 
and that it was profanation for any one with so incalculably 
little idea of the very first principles of art to attempt to 
interpret the works of the great masters, logether with much 
more of a like explosive character. Finally, he dismissed 
him abruptly and turned to Diana. 

'^Ah — ^Mees Quentin." He softened a littla He had a 
great affection for this promising pupil of his, and welcomed 
her with a smile. ''I am seek of that young man with his 
voice of an archangel and his brains of a feesh! ... So! 
You haf come back from your visit to the country? And 
how goes it with the voice?" 

"I expect I*m a bit rusty after my holiday," she replied 
diplomatically, fondly hoping to pave the way for more 
leni^t treatment than had been accorded to the luckless 
student of oratorio. 

Unfortunately, however, it chanced to be one of those 
sharply chilly days to which May occasionally treats us. 
Baroni frankly detested cold weather — ^it upset both his 

9S 



A CONTEST OF WILLS 97 

nerves and his temper — and Diana speedily realised that 
no ezGUses would avail to smooth her path on this oocafdon. 

^^Scales/' oommanded Baroni, and struck a chord. 

She b^gan to sing obediently^ but at the end of the third 
scale he stopped her. 

^^Bah! It sounds like an elephant coming downstairs I 
Be-r-r-rump . . . be-r^r-rump . . . be^r-rump . . .bp-r-ruml 
Do not^ please, sing as an elephant walks.'' 

Diana coloured and tried again, but without maiSced 0a#- 
oesa She was genuinely out of practice, and the nervous* 
ness with which Baroni's obvious ill-humour inspired her 
did not mend matters. 

''But what haf you been doing during the holidays !" exr 
claimed the maestro at last^ his odd, husky voice fierce with 
annoyanca "There is no ease — ^no flexibility. You are aa 
stiff as a rusty hinga Aoh I But you will haf to work — 
not play any mora" 

He frowned portentously, then with a swift change to a 
more reasonable mood, he continued: — 

''Let us haf some songs — Saint-Saens' Amour, viens oXder. 
Perhaps that will wake you up, heinf 

Instead, it carried Diana swiftly back to the Hectory at 
Crailing, to the evening when she had sung this very song 
to Max Errington, with the unhappy Joan stumbling through 
the accompaniment She began to sing, her mind occupied 
with quite other matters than Delilah's passion of vengeance^ 
and her fa^e expressive of nothing more stirring than a 
gentle reminisoenca Baroni stopped abruptly and placed a 
big mirror in front of her. 

'Tlease to look at your face, Mees Quentin," he said 
scathingly. "It is as wooden as your singing." 

He was a confirmed advocate of the importance of facial 
expression in a singer, and Diana's vague, abstracted look 
waB rapidly raising his ira Becalled by the biting scorn 
in his tones^ she made a gallant effort to throw herself more 
effectually into the song, but the memory of Errington's 



r 
98 ' THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

grave, intent f ace, as he had sat listening to her that nighty 
kept coming betwixt her and the meaning of the musio — and 
the result was even more unpromising than befora 

Li another moment Baroni was on his f eet^ literallj danc- 
ing with rage. 

^^ut do you then call yourself an artidef* he broke out 
furiously. ''Why has the good God given you eyes and a 
mouth ? That they may express nothing — nothing at all ? 
Bah I You haf the face of a gootta-per-r-rcha doll 1" 

And snatching up the music from the piano in an un- 
controllable burst of fury, he flung it straight at her, and the 
two of them stood glaring at each other for a few moments 
in silenca Then Baroni pointed to the song, lying open 
on the floor between them, and said explosively : — 

"Pick that up." 

Diana regarded him coolly, her small face set like a 
flint 

"No." She fairly threw the negative at\hinL 

He stared at her — he was accustomed to more docile pupils 
— and the two girls who had remained in the room to listen 
to the lessons following their own huddled together with 
scared faces. The maestro in a royal rage was ever, in their 
opinion, to be regarded from much the same viewpoint as a 
thunderbolt, and that any one of his pupils should dare to 
defy him was unheard-of. In the same situation as that in 
which Diana found herself, either of the two girls in ques- 
tion would have meekly pidced up the music and, dissolving 
into tears, made the continuance of the lesson an impossi- 
bility, only to be bullied by tiie fnoe^rro even more execrably 
next time. 

*Tick that up," repeated Baroni stormily. 

"I shall do nothing of the kind," retorted Diana promptly. 
"You threw it there, and you can pick it up. I'm going 
home." And, turning her back upon him, she marched to- 
wards the door. 



A CONTEST OF WILLS 99 

A sadden twinkle showed itself in Baroni's eyes. With 
nnaccustomed celerily he pranoed after her. 

'^Oome back, little Pepper-pot^ ocHne back, then, and we 
will continue the lesson." 

Diana turned and stood hesitating. 

''Who's going to pick up that music ?'' she demanded un- 
flinchingly. 

''Why, I will, thou most obstinate child" — suiting the 
action to the word. "Because it is true that professors 
should not throw music at their pupils, no matter" — mali- 
ciously — "how stupid nor how dull they may be at their 
lesson." 

Diana flushed, immediately repentant 

"I'm sorry," she acknowledged frankly. "I was being 
abominably inattentive; I was tJiinking of something else." 

The little scene was characteristic of her — ^unbendingly 
determined and obstinate when she thought she was wronged 
and unjustly treated, impulsively ready to ask pardon when 
she saw herself at fault 

Baroni patted her hand affectionately. 

"See, my dear, I am a cross^ained, u^y old man, am I 
noti" he said placidly. 

"Yes, you are," agreed Diana, to the awed amazement of 
the other two pupils, at the aame time bestowing a radiant 
smile upon him. 

Baroni beamed back at her benevolently. 

"So I Thus we agree — we are at one^ as master and pupil 
should be. Is it not so ?" 

Diana nodded, amusement in her eyes. 

"Then, being agreed, we can continue our lesson. Imagine 
yourself, please, to be Delilah, brooding on your vengeance, 
gloating over what you are about to accomplish. Can you 
not picture her to yourself — ^beautiful, sinister, like a snake 
that winds itself about the body" — his voice fell to a pene- 
trating whisper— "and, in her heart, dreaming of the triumph 
that shall bring Samson at last a captive to destruction t" 



%^^^^ 



100 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Something in the tense ezcitement of his whiBpering taoBB 
gtmdc an answering chord within Diana, and oblivioiiB for 
the moment of all elae except Delilah's passionate durst 
far Tengeance^ she sang with her whole soul, so that when 
she ceased, Baroni, in a sadden access of artistic fervour, 
leapt from his seat and eiAbraced her rapturously. 

'^Well done ! That is true art — art and intelligence allied 
to the voice of gold which the good God has given you.'' 

Absorbed in the music, neither master nor pupil had ob- 
served that during the course of the song the door had been 
softly unlatched from outside and held ajar, and now, just 
as Diana was somewhat blushingly extricating herself from 
Baroni's fervent dasp, it was thrown 6pen and the unseen 
listener came into the room. 

Baroni whirled round and advanced with outstretched 
hands, his face wreathed in smiles. 

**A la bonne heure ! You haf come just Ht a good moment, 
Mees de Oervais, to hear this pupil of mine ^o will some 
day be one of the world's great singers." 

Adriepne de (Oervais shook hand& 

''I've been listening, Baroni. She has a marvellous voice. 
But" — ^looking at Diana pleasantly — ^''we are neighbours^ 
surely? I have seen you in Crailing — ^where we have just 
taken a house called Bed Gables." 

''Yes, I live at Crailing," replied Diana, a little shyly. 

"An<]l I saw you there one day — ^you were sitting in a 
pony-trap, waiting outside a cottage, and singing to your* 
self. I noticed the quality of her' voice then," added Miss 
de Gervais^ turning to the maestro. 

"Yes," said Baroni, with placid content "It is superb." 

Adrienne turned bade to Diana with a delightful smila 

"Since we are nei^bours in the country. Miss Quentin, 
we ought to be friends in tovnu Won't you come and see 
tne one day }" 

Diana flushed. She was undoubtedly attracted by the 
actress's charming personality, but beyond this lay the 



A CONTEST OF WILLS 101 

knowledge that it waB more than likely that at her houae 
she might again enoounter ErringtoiL* And though Diana 
told hereelf that he waa nothing to heir — in f act, that ghe 
disliked him rather than otfaerwiae— the ohance of meeting 
him onee more was not to be foregone — if only for the op- 
portoliity it would give her of showiii^ him hdw much sjie 
disliked him I 

*^ should like to oome very muoh/' she answered. 

"Then oome and have tea with me to-morrow — ^no, to- 
morrow I'm engaged. Shall we say Thursday ?" 

Diana aoquieeced, and Miss de Oervais turned to Baroni 
with a rather mischievous smiley saying something in a 
foreign tongue which Diana took to be Sussian. Baroni 
replied in the same language, frowningly, and although she 
could not understand the tenor of his answer, Diana was 
positive that she caught her own name and that of Max 
Errington uttered in conjunction with each other. 

It strudk her as an odd coincidence that Baroni should be 
acquainted both with Miss de Gervais and with Errington, 
and at her next lesson she ventured to comment on t^e 
former's visit. Baroni's answer, however, furnished a per- 
fectly simple explanation of it 

"Mees de Gervais t Oh, yes, she sings a song in her new 
play, *The Qrey Gown,' and I haf always coached her in 
her songs. She has a pree-ty voice — ^nothing beeg, but 
quite pree-ty." 

Diana set forth on her visit to Adrienne with a certain 
amount of trepidation. Much as she longed to see Max 
Errington again, she felt that the first meeting after that 
last episode of their acquaintance might well partake of the 
somewhat doubtful pleasure of skating on thin ica 

It was therefore not without a feeling of relief that she 
found the actress and her chaperon the only occupants of 
the former's pretty drawing-room. They both welcomed 
her cordially. 

''I have heard so much about you," said Mra Adams, 



102 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

pleasantly^ ''that I've been longing to meet you^ Miss Quen- 
tin. Adrienne calls you the.'girl with the golden voice/ 
and I'm hoping to have the pleasure of hearing you sing." 
Diana was getting used to having her voice referred to. 
as something rather wonderful; it no longer embarrassed 
her^ so she murmured an appropriate answer and the con- 
versation then drifted naturally to Crailing and to the lucky 
chance which had brought Errington past Culver Point 
the day Diana was marooned therey and Diana explained that 
the Bector and his daughter had intended calling upon the 
occupants of Eed (Jables, but had been prevented by th^r 
sudden departure. 

Adrienne laughed. i 

"Yes, I expect every one thought we were quite mad to 
run away like that so soon aft^ our arrival! It was a 
sudden idea of Mr. Errington's^ He declared he was not 
satisfied about something in the staging of 'The Grey Gowi^' 
and of course we must needs all rush up to town to see about 
it. There wasn't the least necessity, as it turned out, but 
when Max takes an idea into his head there's no stopping 

"No," added Mrs. Adams. "And the sheer cruelty of 
bustling an elderly person like me from one end of England 
to the other just to suit his whims doesn't seem to move 
him in the slightest." 

She was smiling broadly as she spoke, and it was evident 
to Diana that to both these women Max Errington's word 
was law — a law they obeyed, however, with the utmost 
cheerfulness. 

"But, of course, we are coming back again," pursued Miss 
de Gervais. "I tBink Crailing is a delightful little place, 
and I am going to regard Red Gables as a haven of refuge 
from the storms of professional life. So I hope" — smilingly 
— ^"that the Eectory will call on Red Gables when next we 
are 'in residence.' " 

The time passed quickly, and When tea was disposed of 



A CONTEST OF WILLS 103 

^driexme looked out from amongBt her songs one or two 
which were known to Diana, and Mrs. Adams was given the 
opportunity of hearing the "golden voiceu" 

And then, just as Diana was preparing to leave^ a maid 
threw open a door and announced: — 

^'Mr. Errington." 

Diana felt her heart contract suddenly, and the sound of 
his voice, as he greeted Adrienne and Mrs. Adams, sent a 
; ihrill through every nerve in her body. 

'^You mustn't go now.'' She was vaguely conscious that 
Adrienne was speaking to her. "Max, here is Miss Quen* 
tin, whom you gallantly rescued from Culver Point." 

The actress was dimpling and smiling, a spice of mischief 
in her soft blue eyes. She and Mr& Adams had not omitted 
• to chaff Errington about his involuntary knight-errantry, 
and the former had even lau^ingly declared it her firm be- 
lief that his journey to town the next day partook more of 
the nature of flight than anything elsa To all of which 
Errington had submitted composecUy, declining to add any- 
thing further to his bare statement of the incident of Oulver 
Point — ^mention of which had been entailed by his unex- 
pected absence from Bed Gables that evening. 

He gave a scarcely perceptible start of surprise as his 
eyes fell upon Diana, bt^t he betrayed no pleasure at seeing 
her again. His face showed nothing beyond the polite, im- 
personal interest which any stranger might exhibit 

"I have just missed the pleasure of hearing you sing, I'm 
afraid," he said, shaking hands. 'OBLave you been back in 
town long. Miss Quentin f " 

"No, only a few days," she answered. "I had my first 
lesson with Signer Baroni the other day, and it waa then 
that I met Miss de Gbrvais." 

"At Baroni's?" Diana intercepted a swift glance pass 
between him and Adrienne. 

"Yes," said the latter quickly. "I went to rehearse my 



104 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

song in ^The Grey Gown' with hinL He was rather croche^ 
that day/' she added, smilmg. 

Diana smUed in sympathy. 

'*Well, if he was crochety with you, Miss de Gtervais,'' 
she obsenred, ^^you can perhaps imagine what he was like 
to me !" 

**Wa8 he so very bad V^ asked Adrienne, laughing. **Every 
one says his temper is diabolical/' 

"It is/' replied Diana, with conviction. 

"Still," broke in Errington's quiet voice, "I should have 
thought hq would have found it somewhat difficult to be very 
angiy with Miss Quentin." 

Diana fancied she detected the familiar flavour of irony 
in the cool tones. 

"On the contrary, he apparently found it perfectly sim- 
ple," she retorted sharply. 

"And yet," interposed Adriemie, "from the panegyrics 
he indulged in upon the subject of your voice after you had 
gotne, I'm sure he thinks the world of you." 

^H)h, I'm just a voice to him — nolhing more," said Diana. 

"To be ^just a voiced to Baroni means to be the most im- 
portant thing on earth/' oflbserved Errington. ' "I believe 
he would imperil his immortal soul to give a supremely beau- 
tiful voice to the world." 

"Konsense, Maz," protested Adrienna ^HTou talk as if 
he were perfectly consoienceleBs." 

"So he is, except in so far as art is concerned, and then 
his conscience assumes the form of sheer idolatry. I be- 
lieve he would sacrifice anything and anybody for the sake 
of it" 

"Well, it's to be hoped you're wrong," said Adrienne, 
smiling, and again Diana thought she detected a glance of 
mutual understanding pass between the actress and Max 
Errington. 

A little uncomfortable sense as of being de trop invaded 
her. She felt that for some reason Errington would be 



A CONTEST OF WILLS 106 

glad when she had gona Poflsibly he had oome to see Mias 
de Gervais about some boBineas matter in connection with 
the plaj he had written, and was only awaiting her departure 
to discoss iU He had not appeared in the least pleased to 
find her there on his arrival, and from that moment onward 
the oonversation had become distinctly laboured. 

She wished very much that Miss de Oervais had not 
pressed her to stay when he came, and at the first oppor- 
tunity ahe rose to go. This time, Adrienne made no effort 
to detain her, although she asked her cordially to come again 
another day. 

Aa Diana drove back in a taxi to Brutton Square she 
was conscious of a queer sense of disappointment in the out- 
eome of her meeting with Max Errington. It had been so 
utterly different from anything she had expected — quite 
oamnumplace and ordinary, exactly as though they had been 
no more than the most casual acquaintances. 

She hardly knew what she had actually anticipated. 
Certainly, she told herself irritably, she could not have 
ezpoc5ted him to have treated her with marked warmth of 
manner in the presence of others, and therefore his be- 
haviour had been just what the circumstanoes demanded. 
But^ notwithstanding the assurance she gave herself that this 
waa the common-sense view to take of the matter, she had 
an instinctive feeling that, even had there been no one else 
to consider, Errington'a manner would still have shown no 
greater cordiality. For some reason he had decided to lock 
the door on the past, and the polite friendly indifference 
with which he had treated her was intended to indicate 
quite dearly the attitude he proposed to adopt. 

She supposed he r^)ented that brief, vivid moment in 
the car, and wished her to understand that it held no sig- 
nificance — ^that it was merely a chance incident in this world 
where one amuses oneself aa occasion offers. Presumably 
he feared that, not being a woman of the world, she mi^t 



106 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

attach a deeper meaning to it than the circumstances war- 
ranted, and was anxious to set her right on that point. 

Her pride rose in revolt Olga Lermontof s words re- 
turned to her mind with fresh enlightenment : ^^I shouldn't 
allow myself to become too interested in him, if I were 
you." Surely she had intended this as a friendly warning 
to Diana not to take anything Max Errington might do or 
say very seriously ! 

Well, there would be no danger of that in the future; 
she had learned her lesson and would take care to profit 
by it 



\ ' 



CHAPTER X 



MISS lebmontof's adviob 



As Diana entered the somewhat dingy hall at 24 Bratton 
Square on her return from visiting Adrienne^ the first 
person she encountered was Olga Lermontof. She still re- 
tained her dislike of the accompanist and was preparing 
to pass by with a casual remark upon the coldness of the 
weather, when something in the Russian's pale, fatigued 
face arrested her. 

**How frightfully tired you look!" she exclaimed, paus- 
ing on the staircase as the two made their way up together. 

"I am, rather," returned Miss Lermontof indifferently. 
'Tve been playing accompaniments all afternoon, and Tve 
had no tea." 

Diana hesitated an instant, then she said impulsively — 

'^Oh, do come into my room and let me make you a 
cup." 

Olga Lermontof regarded her with a faint surprise. 

"Thanks," she said in her abrupt way. "I will." 

A cheerful little fire was burning in the grate, and the 
room presented a very comfortable and home-like appear- 
ance, for Diana had added a couple of easy-chairs and sev- 
eral Liberty cushions to its somewhat sparse furniture. A 
heavy curtain, hung in front of the door to exclude draughts, 
gave an additional cosy touch, and fresh flowers adorned 
both chimney-piece and tabla 

Olga Lermontof let her long, lithe figure down into one 

of the easy-chairs with a sigh of satisfaction, while Diana 

, set the kettle on the fire to boil, and produced from the 

107 



108 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

depths of a cnpboard a canisteir of tea and a tiA of at- 
traotive-lookmg bisouita. 

'^I often make my own tea up here^" she obeerred. '^I 
deteet having it in that great banack of a dining-room down- 
stairs. The bread-and-batter is always so thick — ^Uke door- 
steps! — ^and the cake is very emphatically of the 'plain, 
home-made' variety.^! 

Olga nodded. 

"Yoa look very comfortable here," she replied. If you 
saw my tiny bandbox of a room on the fourth floor you'd 
realise what a sybarite you ara" 

Diana wondered a little why Olga Lermoctof should need 
to economise by having such a small room and one so hi^ 
ap. She was invariably well-dressed — ^Diana had frequently 
caught glimpses of silken petticoats and expensive shoes — . 
and she had not in thd least the air of a woman who is 
accustomed to small means. 

Almost as though she had uttered her thought alond^ 
Miss Lermontof replied to it, smiling rather satirically. 

'You're thinking I don't look the part ? It's true I haven't 
always been so poor as I am now. But a lot of my money 
is invested in Eu — abroad^ and owing to — ^to various things" 
— she stammered a little — ^**I can't get hold of it just at 
present, so I'm dependent on what I make. And an accom- 
panist doesn't earn a fortune, you know. But I can't quite 
forego pretty clothes — ^I wasn't brought up that way. So I 
economise over my room." 

Diana was rather touched by the little confidence ; some- ' 
how she didn't fancy the other had found it very easy to 
make, and she liked her all the better for it. , 

''No/' she ag!reed, as she poured out two steaming cups 
of tea. "I suppose accompanying doesn't pay as well as 
some other things — ^the stage, for example. I should think 
Adrienne de Gervais makes plenty of money." 

''She has private means, I believe," returned Miss Ler- 
mentof. "But, of course, she gets an enormous salary." 



MISS LEEM0NT0F8 ADVICE 109 

Sha waa drinking Iier tea appreciatively^ and a lifde 
ooloar had crept into her cheeks^ althon^ the flhadows still 
lay heavily beneath her light-green eyes. They -were of a 
cmioaa translucent greeny the more noticeable against the 
contraating daikneas of her hair and brows; they rteiinded 
one of the colour of Ohineie jada 

^^IVe juat been to tea with Miss de Oervaia^'' volunteered 
IHana, after a pause. 

A swift look of surprise crossed Olga Lermontofs face. 

'^I didn't know you had met her/' she said slowly. 

^HTesy we met at Signor Baroni's the other day. She 
came in during my lesson. I believe I told you she had 
taken a house at Crailing, jio that at home we are neighbours^ 
you see." 

Miss Lermontof consumed a biscuit in silence. Then she 
said abruptly: — 

'^iss Quentin, I know you don^t like me^ but — ^well, I 
have an odd sort of wish to do you a good turn. You had 
better have nothing to do with Adrienne de Gervais." 

Diana stared at her in undisguised amazement, the quick 
colour ihishing into her face as it always did when she was 
startled or surprised. 

^'But — ^but why?" she stammered. 

^^I can't tell you why* Only take my advice and leave 
her alone." 

"But I thought her delightful," protested Diana. "And" 
— ^wistfully — "I haven't many friends in London." 

'^iss de Gervais isn't quite all she seems. And your art 
should be your friend — you don't need any other." 

Diana laughed. 

"You talk like old Baroni himself ! But indeed I do want 
friends — ^I haven't nearly reached the stage when art can 
take the place of nice human people." 

Miss Lermontof regarded her dispassionately. 

"Thaf s only because you're young — ^horribly young and 
warm-hearted." 



110 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

''You talk as if you yourself ware a near relation of 
Methuselah I" — ^laughing. 

"I^m thirty-five," returned Olga. "And that's old enough 
to know that nine-tenthB of your 'nice human people' axe 
self-seeking vampires living on the generosity of the other 
tenth. Besides, you have only to wait till you come out 
professionally and you can have as many so-called friends 
as you choosa You'll scarcely need to lift' your little finger 
and they'll come flocking round you. I don't think" — 
looking at her speculatively — ^"that you've any conception 
what your voice is going to do for you. You see^ it isn't 
just an ordinary good voice — it's one of the exceptional 
voices that are only vouchsafed once or twice in a century." 

"Still, I think I should like to have a few friends — 
now. My friend^ I mean — not just the friends of my voice I" 
— ^with a smile. 

"Well, don't include Miss de Qervais in the number — or 
Max Errington either*" 

She watched Diana's sudden flush, and shrugging her 
shoulders, added sardonically : — 

. "I suppose, however, it's useless to try and stop a maxlitle 
rolling down hill. • . . Well, later on, remember that I 
warned you." 

Diana stared into the fire for a moment in silenca Then 
she asked with apparent irrelevance : — 

"Is Mr. Errington married ?" 

"He is not." Diana's heart suddenly sang within her. 
"Nor," continued Miss Lermontof keenly, "is there any 
likelihood of his ever marrying." 

The song broke off abruptly. 

"I should have thought," said Diana slowly, "that he 
was just the kind of man who would marry. He is" — ^with 
a little effort— "very delightful." 

Miss Lermontof got up to go. 

"You have a saying in England: AU is not gold that gUt- 
iers. It ia very good sense," she observed. 



MISS LERMONTOPS ADVICE 111 



^*^Do joa mean" — Diana's eyes wore sdddenly apprehen* 
mve — ^''do you mean that he has done anything wrong-*^ 
diflhonoarable P 

^ think/' replied Olga Lermontof incisively^ ^'that it 
would be very dishonourable of him if he tried to— to make 
you care for him." 

She moved towards the door as she spoke^ and Diana fol- 
lowed her. 

*^ut why — ^why do you tell me this I" she faltered. 

The Bussian's queer green eyes held an odd ezpression 
as she answered : — 

'T^rhaps it's because I like you very much better than 
you do ma You're one of the few genuine warm-hearted 
people I've met— and I don't want you to be unhappy. 
Good-bye," she added carelessly, ^'thank you for my tea." 

The door closed behind her, and Diana, retoming to her 
seat by the fire, sat staring into the flames, puzzling over 
what she had heard. 

Miss Lermontofs curious warning .had frightened her a 
littla She apparently possessed some intimate knowledge 
of the affairs both of Max Errington and Adrienne de Ger- 
vais^ and what she knew did not appear to be very favour- 
able to either of them. 

Diana had intuitively felt frcon the very beginning of 
her acquaintance with Errington tliat there was something 
secret, something hidden, about him, and in a way this had 
added to her interest in him. It had seized hold of her 
imagination, kept him vividly before her mind as nothing 
else could have done, and now Olga Lermontof s strange 
hints and innuendos gave a fresh fillip to her desire to 
know in what way Mas Errington differed from his fel- 
lows. 

'^t would be dishonourable of him to make you care," 
Miss Lermontof had Sfud* 

The words seemed to ring in Diana's ears, and side by side 
with them, as though to add a substance of reality, came 



113 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

the memory of Errington's own bitter esclamation : 'T, 
forgot that Fm a man barred out from all that makee life 
worth living 1" 

She felt as thougii she had drawn near some invisible 
web^ of which every now and then a single filament brushed 
against her — almost impalpable^ yet touching her with the 
fleetest and lightest of oontacta 

During the weeks that followed, Diana became mars or 
less ftn intimate at Adrienne's house in Somervell Street. 
The actress seemed to have taken a great fancy to her, and 
although she was several years Diana's senior, the differenoe 
in age formed no appreciable stnmhling4)look to the growth 
of the friendship between them. 

On her part, Diana regarded Adrienne with the entfansiaa- 
tic devotion which an older woman — more especially if she 
happens to be ver^ beautiful and occupying a somewhat 
unique position — ^frequently inspires in one younger tiian 
herself, and Olga Lermontof s grave warning might just aa 
well have been uttered to the empty air. Diana's warm.- 
hearted, spontaneous nature swept it aside with an almost 
passionate loyalty and belief in her new*f ound friend. 

Once Miss L^montof had referred to it rather disagree- 
ably. 

''So you'iro decided to make a friend of Miss de Gervais 
after allf' she said. 

'TTes. And I think you've misjudged her utterly," Diana 
warmly assured her. ''Of course," she added, sensitively 
afraid that the other might misconstrue* her meaning, "I 
know you believed what you were saying, and that you only 
said it out of kindness to ma But you were mistaken 
— ^really you wera" 

"Humph P' The Hussian's eyes narrowed until libey 
looked likeitwo slits of green fira "Humph ! I was wrong, 
was I i Kevertheless^ I'm perfectly sure that Adrienne do 



MISS LEKMONTOFS ADVICE 113 

Gervais' part is a closed book to you — although yoa call 
yourself her friend !" 

Diana turned away without reply. It was true — Olga 
Lermontof had laid a finger on the weak spot in her friend- 
ship with Adrienna The latter never talked to her of her 
past life; their mutual attachment was built solely around 
the present^ and if by chance any question of Diana's acci- 
dentally probed into the past, it was adroitly parried. Even 
of Adrienne's nationality she was in ignorance, merely un- 
derstanding, along with the rest of the world, that she was 
of French extraction. This assumption had probably been 
founded in the first instance upon her name, and Adrienne 
never troubled either to confirm or contradict it. 

Mr& Adams^ her companion-chaperon, always nmde Diana 
especially welcome at the house in Somervell Street 

'7ou must come again soon, my dear," she would say 
cordially. "Adrienne makes few friends — and your visits 
are such a relaxation to her. The life she leads is rather 
a strain, you know." 

At times Diana noticed a curious aloofness in her friend, 
as thou^ her professional success occupied a position of 
relatively small importance in her estimation, and once 
she had commented on it half jokingly. 

^TTou don't seem to value your laurels one bit," she had 
said, as Adrienne contemptuously tossed aside a newspaper 
containing a eulogy of her claims to distinction which most 
actresses would have carefully cut out and pasted into their 
book of critiques. 

"Fame?" Adrienne had answered. "What is it? Merely 
the bubble of a day." 

'^ell," returned Diana, laughing, "it's the aim and ob- 
ject of a good many peo|de's lives. It's the bubble Fm in 
pursuit of, and if I obtain one half the reoognitioji you have 
had, I shall be very content" 

Adrienne regarded her musingly. 



U4 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

'7ou will be famous when the name of Adrienne de Ger- 
vaiB is known no longer/' she said at last 

Diana stared at her in surpriaa 

^rBut why? Even if I should saooeed within the next 
few yeors^ you will still be Adriezme de Gervais^ the famous 
aotresa'' 

Adrienne smiled across at her. 

"Ah, I cannot tell you why," she said li^tiiy. ''But — I 
think it will be like that" 

Her eyes gazed dreamily into space, as thou^ she per- 
ceived some vision of the future^ but whether that future 
were of rose and gold or only of a dull grey, Diana oould 
not telL 

Of Max Erringtx>n she saw veary littla It seemed as 
though he were determined to avoid her, for she frequently 
saw him leaving Adrienne's house on a day when she was 
ezpeoted there — ^hurrying away just as she herself was ap- 
proaching from the opposite end of the street 

Only once or twioe^ when she had chanced to pay an un- 
expected visit, had he come in and found her there. On 
these occasions his manner had been studiously odd and 
indifferent^ and any effort on her pert towards establishing 
a more friendly footing had been invariably checked by 
some cruelly ironical remark, which had brot^t the blood 
to her cheeks and, almost, the tears to her eyes. She re- 
flected grimly that Olga Lermontofs warning words had 
proved decidedly superfluous 

Meanwhile, she had struck up a friendship with Erring- 
ton's private secretary, a young man of the name of Jerry 
Leigh, who was a frequent visitor at Adrienne's house* 
Jerry was, in truth, the sort of person with whom it was 
impossible to be olJierwise than friendly. He was of a 
delightful ugliness, twenty-five years of age^ penniless ex- 
cept for the salary he received from Errington, and he pos- 
sessed a talent for friendship much as other folk possess a 
talent for music or art or dancing. 



MISS LEBliONTOFS ADVICE 115 

Diaiia's first meeting with him had oocurred quite by 
cfaanca Both Adriemie and Mra. Adams happened to be 
out one afternoon when she called, and she was awaiting 
their return when the door of the drawing-room saddenlj 
opened to admit a remarkably plain young man, who, on 
seeing her ensconced in one of the big arm-chairs, stood hesi- 
tating as though undecided whether to remain or to take 
refuge in instant flight. 

Adrienne had talke4 so much about Jerry— of whom 
she was exceedingly fond — and had so often described his 
charming ugliness to Diana that the latter was in no doubt 
at all as to whom the newcomer might be. 

She nodded to him reassuringly. 

**Don't run away," she said calmly, "I don't bita" 

The young man promptly closed the door and advanced 
into the room. 

^Tkm^t you ?" he said in relieved tones. ''Thank you for 
telling ma One never knows." 

''If you've come to see Miss de G^ervais, Fm afraid you 
can't at present, as she's out^" pursued Diana. "I'm wait- 
ing for her." 

"Then we can wait together," returned Mr. Leigh, with 
an engaging smila "It will be much more amusing than 
waiting in solitude, won't it !" 

"That I can't tell you — ^yet," replied Diana demurely. 

"FU ask you again in half an hour," he returned unr 
daunted. "I'm Leigh, you know, Jerry Leigh, Errington'a 
secretary." 

"I suppose^ then, you're a very busy person t" 

"Well, pretty much so in the mornings and sometimes 
up tin late at night, but Errington's a rattling good 1)068' 
and very often gives me an 'afternoon out.' Thafs why 
I'm here now. I'm off duty and Miss de Gervais told me 
I might come to tea whenever I'm f rea You see^' — con- 
fidentially — "I've very few friends in London.'' 

"Same here," responded Diana shortly. 



116 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

'^Noy not (really ?" — with olmoiis satisfaction. ''Then 
^e on^t to pal up togetber, ou^tn't wef" 

^^on't you want my credentials ?" asked Diana, smiling. 

'^Lord, no I One has only to look at you.'' 

Dian% laughed outright. 

'That's quite the nicest compliment I've ever received, 
Mr. Lei^/' she said. 

(It was odd that while Errington always made her feel 
rather small and depressingly young, with Jerry Leigh she 
felt herself to be quite a woman of the world. ) 

"It isn't a compliment," protested Jerry stoutly. "It's 
just the plain, unvarnished truth." 

"I'm afraid your *bo8s' wouldn't agree with you."/ 

"Oh, nonsense 1" 

"Indeed it isn't. He always treats me as though I were 
a hot potato, and he were afraid of burning his fingers." 

Jerry roared. 

"Well, perhaps he's got good reason." 

Diana shook her head smilingly. 

"Oh, no. It's not that Mr. Errington doesn't like 



ma" 



Jerry stared at her reflectively. 

"That couldn't be tri^e," he said at last^ with conviction. 

"I don't know that I like him — ^very much — either," pur- 
sued Diana. 

"You would if you really knew him," said the boy eagerly. 
'^He's one of the very best." 

'^e's rather a mysterious person, don't you think ?" 

Jerry r^arded her very straightly. 

"Oh, well," he returned bluntly, "every man's a rig^t to 
have his own private affairs." 

Then there vhis something ! 

Diana felt her heart beat a little faster. She had thrown 
out the remark as the merest feeler, and now his own secre- 
tary, the man who must be nearer to him than any other. 



MISS LERMONTOFS ADVICE 117 

liad given what was tantanumnt to an acknowledgment of 
the fact that Errington's life held some secret 

"Anyway*' — Jerry was speaking again — "I've got good 
reason to he gratef id to him. I was on my uppers when he 
iiappened along — ^and without any prospect of re-soling. I'd 
played the fool at Monte Carlo, and, like a brick, he offered 
me the job of private secretary, and I've been with him ever 
since. I'd no references, either — ^he just took me on trust '^ 

"That was very kind of him," said Diana slowly. 

'^ind! There isn't one man in a hundred who'll give 
a chance like that to a young ass that's played the goat as 
I did." 

^^o," agreed Diana. "But," she added, rather low, 'Qie 
isn't always kind." 

At this moment the door opened, and the subject of their 
conversation entered the room. He paused on the threshold, 
and for an instant Diana could have sworn that as his eyes 
met her own a sudden light of pleasure flashed into their 
blue depths^ only to be immediately replaced by his usual 
look of cold indifference^ He glanced round the room, ap- 
parently somewhat surprised to find Diana and his secretary 
its sole occupants. 

"We're all here now except our hostess^" observed the 
latter cheerfully, following his thought 

"So it seems. I didn't know" — ^looking across from Jerry 
to Diana in a pu2zled way — ^Hhat you two were acquainted 
with each other." 

"We aren't — ^at least, we weren't," replied Jerry. "We 
met by chance, like two angels that have made a bid for the 
same cloud." 

Errington smiled faintly. 

"And did you persuade your — ^fellow angel— *to sing to 
3roiat" he asked drily. 

^^o. Does she sing?" 

''2>oe9 she amgt • • • Jerry, my young and ignorant 



118 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

fricsnd, let me introduce you to Mias Diana Qaentin, 
the '' 

"Good Lord I*' broke in Jerry, hiB face falling. **Are you 
Mis8 Quentin — the Miss Quentin ? Of oourse IVe heard all 
about you — ^you're going to be the biggest star in the musical 
firmament — and here have I been gassing away about my 
little affairs just as though you were an ordinary mortal like 
myself." 

Diana was beginning to laugh at the boy's nonsense when 
Errington cut in quietly. 

"Then you've been making a great mistake, Jerry," he 
said. "Miss Quentin doesn't in the least resemble ordinary 
mortals. She isn't afflicted by like passions with ourselves, 
and she doesn't imderstand — or forgive them." 

The words, uttered as though in jest^ held an undercurrent 
of meaning for Diana that sent the colour flying up under 
her clear skin. There was a bitter taunt in tihem &at none 
knew better than she how to interpret 

She winced under it, and a fierce resentment flared up 
within her that he should dare to reproach her — ^he, who 
had been the offender from first to last Always^ now, he 
seemed to be laughing at her, mocking her. He appeared 
an entirely different person from the man who had been so 
careful of her welfare during the eventful journey they had 
made together. 

She lifted her head a little defiantly. 

"ITo," she said, with significance. ^^ certainly don't un- 
derstand — some peopla" 

"Perhaps it's just as well, retorted Errington, unmoved. 

Jerry, sensing electricity in the atmosphere, looked trou- 
bled and uncomf ortabla He hadn't the faintest idea what 
they were talking about, but it was perfectly dear to him 
tiiat everything was not quite as it should be between his 
beloved Max and this new friend, this jolly little girl with 
the wonderful eyes — ^just like a pair of s^^mi, by Jovel — 
and, if rumour spoke truly, the even more wonderful voicei 



MISS LERMONTOFS ADVICE 119 

Baahfollj nrarmuriiig sometfaing about '^'going down to 
Bee if Mias de Geivais had oome in yet/' he bolted out of ^ 
room^ leaving Max and Diana alone together. 

Suddenly ahe turned and faced him. 

''Why — ^why are you always id unkind to meP ahe burst 
out^ a little breathleaaly. 

He lifted his browa. 

'It. . • My dear Mias Quentin, I have no right to be 
either kind — or unkind — to yon. That is surely the privi- 
lege of friends. And you showed me quite clearly, down at 
Crailing, that you did not intend to admit me to your 
friendship.'' 

''I didn't/' she exclaimed, and rushed on desperaldy. 
''Was it likely that I should feel anything but gratitude— 
and liking for any one who had done ns much for me as 
yon had I" 

"You forget," he said quietly. "Afterwards — ^I trans- 
gressed. And you let me see that the transgression had 
wiped out my meritorious deeds— completely. It was quite 
the best thing tihiat could happen," he added hastily, as she 
would have spoken. "I had no right, less right than any 
man on earth, to do — ^what I did. I abide by your decision." 

The last words came slowly, meaningly. He was politely 
telling her that any overtures of friendship would be re- 
jected. 

Diana's pride lay in the dust, but she was determined 
he should not know it With her head held high, she said* 
stiffly:— 

"I don't think 111 wait any longer for Adrienna Will 
you tell her, please^ that I've gone back to Brutton Square!" 

"Brutton Square f he repeated swiftly. "Do yoa live 
there?" 

"Yea Have you any objection ?" 

He disregarded her mocking query and continued >— 

"A Miss Lermontof Uvea thera Is sheu by any chance^ 



120 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

a friend of yours?" There seemed a hint of disapproyal in 
his voioe, and Diana countered with another question* 

"Why f Do you think I ought not to be friends with her f ' 

"I ? Oh, I don't think about it at all''— with a little half- 
foreign shrug of ^is shoulders. ^'Miss Quentin's choice of 
friends is no concern of ndne." 

Unbidden tears leaped into Diana's eyes at the cold sa- 
tirical tones. Surely, surely he had h^urt her enough for 
one dayl Without a word she turned and made her way 
blindly out of the room and down the stairs. In the hall 
she almost ran into Jerry's arms. 

"Oh, are you going?" he asked, in tones of disappoint- 
ment 

"Yes, I'm afraid I mustn't wait any longer for Adrienna 
I have some work to do when I get back." 

Her voice ahook a little, and Jerry, giving her a swift 
glance, could see that her lashes were wet and her eyes 
misty with tears. 

"The brute I" he ejaculated mentally. "What's he done 
to her?" 

Aloud he merely said : — 

"Will you have a taxi?" 

She nodded, and hailing one that chanced to be passing, 
he put her carefully into it 

"And — ^and I say," he said anxiously. "You didn't mind 
my talking to you this afternoon, did you, Miss Quentin? 
I made 'rather free,' as the servants say." 

"No, of course I didn't mind," ahe replied warmly, her 
spirits rising a littla He was such a nice boy — the sort of 
boy one could be pals with. "You must come and see me 
at Brutton Squara Come to tea one day, will you ?" 

"Fan'* /r he said heartily. "Good-bye." And the taxi 
swept away down the street 

Jerry returned to the drawin^room to find Errington star- 
ing moodily out of the window. 

*T. say, MaZ)" he said, affectionately linking his arm in 



MISS LEKMONTOPS ADVICE 121 

that of the older man. ^'What had you beea saying to upset 
that dear little person !" 

"I?" 

^Tfes. She was — crying." 

Jerry felt the arm against his own twitch, and continued 
relentlessly : — ^ 

"I believe youVe been snubbing her. You know, old man, 
you have a sort of horribly lordly, touch-me-not air about 
you when you choose. But I don't see why you should 
choose with Miss Quentin. She's such an awfully good 
sort." 

^^Yes," agreed Errington. ^^Miss Quentin is quite charm- 
ing." 

"She thinks you don't like her," pursued Jerry, after a 
moment's pause. 

"I— not like Miss Quentin? Absurd 1" 

^^ell, that's what she thinks, anyway," persisted Jerry. 
''She told me so, and she seemed really sorry about it. 
She believes you don't want to be friends with her." 

''Miss Quentin's friendship would be delightfuL But — 
you don't understand, Jerry — ^it's one of the delights I 
must forego." 

When Errington spoke with such a definite air of finality, 
his young secretary knew from experience that he might as 
well drop the subject He could get nothing further out of 
Mas, once the latter had adopted that tone over any mat- 
ter. So Jerry, being wise in his generation, held his peace. 

Suddenly Errington faced round and laid his hands on 
the boy's dioulder. 

"Jerry," he said, and his voice shook with some deep 
emotion. "Thank God — ^thank Him every day of your life 
— ^that you're free and untrammelled. All the world's 
yours if you choose to take it. Some of us are shackled — 
our arms tied b^ind our backs. And oh, my God! How 
they ache to be free I" 

The blue eyes were full of a keen anguish, the stem mouth 



122 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

wry with pain. Never before had Jerry seen him thus 
with the maak off, and he felt as though he were watching 
a soul's agony unveiled. 

'^Max • . . dear old chap • • /' he stammered. ^'Can't 
I helpr 

With an obvious effort Errington regained his oomposure, 
but his faoe was grey as he answered: — 

"Neither you nor, any one else, Jerry, boy. I must dree 
my weird, as the Scotcli say. And that's the hard part of 
it — to be your own judge and jury. A man ought not to be 
compelled to play the double role of victim and executioner." 

"And must you ? . . • No way out ?" 

"Nona TJnlefls" — ^with a hard laugh — ^**the executioner 
throws up the game and — ^runs away, allowing the victim to 
escape. And that's impossible! . • . Impossible!" he re- 
iterated vehemently, as though arguing against some inner 
voice. 

"Let him rip," suggested Jerry. "Give the accused a 
chancel" 

Errington laughed more naturally. He was rapidly re- 
gaining his usual self-possession. 

"Jerry, you're a good pal, but a bad adviser. Get thee 
behind me." 

Steps sounded on the stairs outsida Adrienne and Mrs. 
Adams had come back, and Errington turned composedly to 
greet them, the veil of reticence, momentarily swept aside 
by the surge of a sudden emotion^ f aUing <mce more into 
itsplaoa 



CHAPTER XI 



THE TSAb's FBUIT 



SPRING had slipped into sammery summer had gi^en 
plaoe again to winter, and once more April was 
oome, with her soft breath blowing upon the sticky green 
buds and bidding them open, whilst daffodils and tulips, 
like slim sentinels, swayed above the brown earth in a riot 
of tender colour. 

There is something very fresh and charming about London 
in April. The parks are aglow with young green, and the 
trees nod cheerfully to the little breeze that dances round 
them, whispering of summer. Even the houses perk up un- 
der their spruce new coats of paint, while every window 
that can afford it puts forth its carefully tended box of 
flowers. It is as though the old city suddenly awoke from 
her winter slumber and preened herself like a bird making 
its toilet; there is an atmosphere of renewal abroad — the 
very carters and cabmen seem conscious of it, and adknowl- 
edge it with good-humoured smiles and a flower worn 
jauntily in the buttonhole. 

Diana leaned far out of the open window of her room at 
Brutton Square, sniffing up the air with its veiled, faint 
fragrance of spring, and gazing down in satisfaction at the 
delicate shimmer of green which clothed the trees and 
shrubs in the square below. 

The realisation that a year had slipped away since last 
the trees had worn that tender green amazed her ; it seemed 
almost incredible that twelve whole months had gone by 
since the day when she had first come to Brutton Square 

123 



/ 

124 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

and alie and Bunty had joked together about the ten com- 
mand • lents on the wall. 

The year had brou^t both pleasure and pain — as most 
years do-r-pleasure in the friends she had gathered ronnd 
her, Adrienne and Jerry and Bunty — even with Olga Ler- 
montof an odd, rather one-sided friendship had sprung up, 
bom of the circumstances which had knit their paths to- 
gether — pain in the soreness which still lingered from the 
hurt that Errington had dealt her. Albeit, her life had 
been so filled with work and play, her mind so much occu- 
pied, that a surface skin, as it were, had formed over the 
wound, and it was only now and again that a sudden throb 
reminded her of its existence. Love had brushed her with 
his wings in passing, but she was hardly yet a fully awakened 
woman. 

^Nevertheless, the brief episodes of her early acquaintance 
with Errington had cut deep into a mind which had hitherto 
reflected nothing beyond the simple happenings of a girlhood 
passed at a country rectory, and the romantic flair of youth 
had given their memory a certain sacred niche in her heart. 
Some day Fate would come along and take them down from 
that shelf where they were stored, and dust them and pro- 
sent them to her af r^ with a new significance. 

For a brief moment Erriijgton's kiss had roused her dor- 
mant womanhood, and then the events of daily life had 
crowded round and lulled it asleep once more. In swift 
succession there had followed the vivid interest of increasing 
musical study, the stirrings of ambition, and a whole world 
of new people to meet and rub shoulders with. 

So that the end of her second year in London found Diana 
still little more than an impetuous, impulsive girl, pos- 
sessed of a warm, undisciplined nature, and of an uncon- 
scious desire to fulfil her being along the most natural and 
easy lines, while in spirit she leaped forward to the time 
when she should be plunged into professional Ufa 
, The whole of her training under Baroni, with the big 
future that it held, tended to give her a somewhat ^otistical 



THE YEAE'S FEUIT 126 

cmtlook, an instinctive feeling that esrerything must of ne* 
cessity sabordinate itself to her depiands — an excellent 
foundation, no doubt, on which to build up a reputation as 
a famous singer in a world where people are apt to take 
you very much at your own valuation, but a poor preparation 
for the sacrifices and self-immolation that love not infro* 
quently demands. 

Above all else, this second year of study had brought in 
fullest measure the development and enriching of her voice. 
Baroni had schooled it with the utmost care, keeping always 
in view his purpose that the coming June should witness her 
debut, and Diana, catching fire from his enthusiasm, had 
answered to every demand he had made upon her. 

Her voice was now something to marvel at. It had ma- 
tured into a rich contralto of amazing compass, and with a 
peculiar thrilling quality about it which gripped and held 
you almost as though some one had laid a hand upon your 
heart. Baroni hugged himself as he realised what a furore 
in the musical world this voice would create when at last he 
allowed the silence to be broken. Already there were whis- 
pers flying about of the wonderful contralto he was training, 
of whom it was rumoured that she would have the whole 
world at her feet from the moment that Baroni produced 
her. 

The old maestro had his plans all cut and dried. Early 
in June, just when the season should be in full swing, there 
was to be a concert — a recital with only Kirolski, the Polish 
violinist, and Madame Berthe Louvigny, the famous French 
pianist, to assist. Those two names alone would inevitably 
draw a big crowd of all the musical people who mattered, 
and Diana's golden voice would do the rest. 

This was to be the solitary concert for the season, but, to 
whet the appetite of society, Diana was also to appear at a 
single big reception — ^^^Baroni won't look at anything less 
than a ducal house with Royalty present,'' as Jerry banter- 
ingly asserted — and then, while the world was still agape 
with interest and excitement, the singer was to be whisked 



126 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

away to Crailing for three montlis' holiday, and to accept; 
no more engagements until the winter. By that time, 
Baroni anticipated, people would be feverishly impatient f or 
her reappearance, and the winter campaign would resolve 
itself into one long trail of glory. 

Diana had been better able latterly to devote herself to 
her work, as Errington had been out of England for a time. 
So long as there was the likelihood of meeting him at any 
moment, her nerves had been more or less in a state of ten- 
sion. There was that betw/^en them which made it impossible 
for her to regard him with the cool, indifferent friendship 
which he himself seemed so well able to assume. Despite 
herself, the sound of his voice, the touch of his hand, caused 
a curious little fluttering within her, like the flicker of a 
compass needle when it quivers to the north. If he entered 
the same room as herself, she was instantly aware of it, even 
though she might not chance to be looking in his direction 
at the moment. Indeed, her consciousness of him was so 
acute, so vital, that she sometimes wondered how it was pos- 
sible that one person could mean so much to another and 
yet ^himself feel no reciprocal interest And that he did 
feel none, his unvarying indifference of manner had at last 
convinced her. 

But, even so, she was unable to banish him from her 
thoughts. This was the first day of her return to London 
after the Easter holidays, which she had spent as usual at 
Crailing Bectory, and already she was wondering rather 
wistfully whether Errington would be back in England dur- 
ing the summer. She felt that if only she could know why 
he had changed so completely towards her, why the interest 
she had so obviously awakened in him upon first meeting 
had waned and died, she might be able to thrust him com- 
pletely out of her thoughts, and accept him merely as the 
casual acquaintance which was all he apparently claimed to 
be. But the restless, irritable longing to know, to have his 
incomprehensible bdiaviour explained, kept him ever in 
her mind. 



THE TEAE'S FRUIT 127 

Only once or twice had his name been mentioned between 
Olga Lermentof and beraelf , and on each occasion the former 
had repeated her caution, admonishing Diana to Eaye noth- 
ing to do with him. It almost seemed as thou^ ahe had 
some personal feeling of dislike towards hinu Indeed Diana 
had accofied her of it, only to be met with a quiet negative. 

^^No/' she had replied serenely. ^'I don't dislike him. 
But I disapprove of much that he does.'' 

'^e IB rather an attractive person/' Biana ventured ten- 
tatively. 

Olga Lermontof shot a keen glance at her. 

*^ell, I advise you not to give him your friendship," she 
said, "or" — sneeringly — ^'^ything of greater value." 

A sharp rat-tat at the door of her sitting-room recalled 
IKana's wandering thoughts to the present. She threw a 
glance of half-comic dismay at the state of her sitting-room 
— «very available chair and table seemed to be strewn with 
the contents of the trunks she was unpacking — and then, 
with a resigned shrug of her shoulders, she crossed to the 
door and threw it open. Bunty was standing outside. 

''What is it!" Diana was beginning, when she cau^t 
ai^t of a pleasant^ ugly face appearing over little Miss 
Bunting's shoulder, '^h, Jerry, is it you f" she exclaimed 
delightedly. 

'^e insisted on coming up, Miss Quentin," said Bunty, 
'^although I told him you had only just arrived and would 
he in the middle of unpacking." 

"I've got an important message to deliver," asswted Jerry, 
grinning, and shaking both Diana's hands exuberantly. 

"Oh, never mind the unpacking," cried Diana, beginning 
to btmdle the things off the tables and chairs back into one 
of the open trunks. "Bunty darling, help me to dear a 
spacer and then go and order tea for two up here— and ex- 
pense be blowed I Oh, and I'll put a match to the fire — it's 
quite cold enough. Come in, Jerry, and tell me all the news." 

"I'll light that fire firsts" said Jerry, practically. "We 
een talk when Bunty darling brings our tea." 



128 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Miss Bunting shook her head at him and tried to frown, 
but as no one ever minded in the least what Jerry said^ her 
effort at propriety, was a failure, and she retreated to see 
about the tea, observing maliciously: — 

"I'll send *Mrs. Lawrence darling' up to talk to you, Mr. 
Leigh." 

"Great Jehosaphat!" — Jerry flew after her to the door — 
"If you do, I'm off. That woman upsets my digestion — 
she's .so beastly effusive. I thought she was going to kiss 
me last time." 

Miss Bunting laughed as she disappeared downstairs. 

"You're safe to-day," she threw back at him. "She's 
out." 

Jerry returned to his smouldering fire and proceeded to 
encourage it with the bellows till, by the time the tea came 
up, the flames were leaping and crackling dieerfully in the 
little grata 

"And now," said Diana, as they settled themselves for a 
comfortable yarn over the teacups, "tell me all the news. Oh, 
by the way, what's your important message? I don't be- 
lieve" — regarding him severely — "that you've got one at 
all. It was just an excuse." 

"It wasn't, honour bright. It's from Miss de Gervais 
— she sent me round to see you expressly. You know, while 
Errington's away I call at her place for orders like the 
butcher's boy every morning. The boss asked me to look 
after her and make myself useful during his absence." 

"Well," said Diana impatiently. "What's the message?" 
It did not interest her in the least to hear about the ar- 
rangements Max had made for Adrienne's convenience. 

"Miss de Gervais is having a reception — ^ans Breitmann 
gif a barty,' you know ^" 

"Of course I know," broke in Diana irritably, "seeing that 
I'm ai^ed to it" 

Jerry continued patiently. 

"And she wants you as a special favour to sing for her. 
As a matter of fact there are to be one or two bigwigs there 



THE YEAE'S FRUIT 129 

whom she tfainks it might be nsefal for you to meet — in- 
fluence^ you know/' he added^ waving his hand expansively, 
"piifih, i^ove, backing, wire-pulling " 

"Oh, be quiet, Jerry," interrupted Diana, laughing in 
spite of herself. "It's no good, you know. It's dear of 
Adrienne to think of it, but Baroni won't let me do it. He 
hasn't allowed me to sing anywhere this last year." 

'T)oe6n't want to take the cream off the milk, I suppose," 
said Jerry, with a grin. "But, as a matter of fact, he has 
given permission this tima Miss de Gervais went to see him 
about it herself, and he's consented. I've got a letter for 
you from the old chap" — producing it as he spoke. 

"Adrienne is a marvel," said Diana, as she slit the flap of 
the envelope. "I'm sure Baroni would have refused any one 
else, but she seems to be able to twist him round her little 
finger." 

"Dear Miss Quentin" — ^Baroni had written in his funny, 
cramped handwriting — ^^Tou may sing for Miss de Gervais. 
I have seen the list of guests, and it can do no harm — pos- 
sibly a little good. Yours very sincerely, Cablo Baboih." 

"Miss de Gervais must have a *way' with her," said 
Jerry meditatively. *T! observe that even my boss always 
does her bidding like a lamb." 

Diana poured herself out a second cup of tea before she 
asked negligently: — 

"When's your Iboss' returning? It seems to me he's al- 
lowing you to live the life of the idle rich. Will he bo back 
for Adrienne's reception ?" 

"No. About a week afterwards, I expect." 

^'Where's he been ?" 

"Oh, all over the shop — ^I've had letters from him from 
half the capitals in Europe. But he's been in Eussia longest 
of aU, I think." 

^Tlussia t" — amusingly. "I suppose he isn't a Bussian by 
any chance?" 

"I've never asked him," returned Jerry shortly. 

'^e is certainly not pure English. Look at his hi^ 



130 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

cheek-bones. And his temperament isn't Englidli, either," 
she added, with a secret smila 

Jerry remained silent 

''Don't you think it's rather fanny that we none of us 
know anything about him I — ^I mean beyond the mere fa^ct 
that his name is Errington and that he^s a well-known play- 
wright" 

'^Why do you want to know more ?" growled Jeny. 

''Well, I think there is something behind, something odd 
about him. Olga Lennontof is always hinting that there 
is." 

"Look here, Diana," said Jerry, getting ra&er red. 
"Don't lef 8 talk about Errington. You know we always get 
shirty with each other when we do. Fm not going to pry 
into hia private concerns — and as for Miss Lermontof, she's 
the type of woman who simply revels in making mischief." 

"But it 19 funny Mr. Errington should be so — so reserved 
about himself," persisted Diana. "Hasn't he ever told you 
anything?" 

"No, he has not," replied Jerry curtly. "Nor should I 
ever ask him to. I'm quite content to take him aa I find 
him." 

"All llie same, I believe Miss Lermontof knows some- 
thing about him— something not quite to his credit" 

"I swear she doesn't," burst out Jerry violently. "Just 
because he doesn't choose to blab out all his private affairs 
to the world at large, that black-browed female Tartar must 
needs imagine he has something to conceal. It^s damnable 1 
rd stake my life Errington's as straight aa a die — and al- 
ways hrid been." 

"You're a good friend, Jerry," said Diana, rather wist- 
fully. 

"Yes, I am," he returned stoutly. "And so are you, as a 

rola I can't think why you're ao baaafcly unfair to Er- 
ringkm." 



THE YEAE'S FRUIT 131 

'TToa foiTgot," ahe said swiftly, *1ie*B not my friend. And 
— ^perhaps — ^he hasn^t always been quite fair to me." 

"Oh, well, let's drop the subject noV — Jerry wriggled 
his broad shoulders uncomfortably. ^^Tell me, how are the 
Hector and — and Miss Stair f ' 

The previous summer Jerry had spent a week at Bed 
Gables, and had made Joan's acquaintanca Apparently 
the two had found each other's society somewhat absorbing, 
for Adrienne had laughingly declared that she didn't quite 
know whether Jerry were really staying at Bed Gables or at 
the Bectory. 

^'Pobs and Joan sent all sorts of nice messages for you," 
said Diana, smiling a little. ^'They're both coming up to 
town for my recital, you know." 

"Are they?" — eagerly. "Hurrah 1 . . . We must go on 
the bust when it's over. The concert will be in the after- 
noon, won't it?" Diana nodded. "Then we must have a 
commemoration dinner in the evening. Oh, why am I not 
a millionaire? Then I'd stand you all dinner a^ the ^Oaxl- 
ton.'" 

He was silent a moment, then went on quiddy : 

*1 shall have to make money somehow. A man oan't 
marry on my screw as a secretary, you know." 

Diana hastily concealed a smile, 

"I didn't know you were contemplating matrimony," she 
observed. 

"I'm not" — ^reddening a littla "But — well, one day I 
expect I shall. It's quite the usual sort of thing — done by 
all the best people. But it can't be managed on two hun- 
dred a year ! And that's the net amount of my princely in- 
come." 

"But I thought that your people had plenty of money?" 

"So they have — trucks of it Coal-trucks 1" — ^with a deb- 
onair reference to the fact that Leigh pere was a wealthy 
ooatowner. *rBut, you see, when I was having my fling, 
whioh oame to such an abrupt end at Monte, the governor 



182 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

got downright ratty with me — ^kicked up no end of a shineL 
Told me not to darken his doors again, and that I might take 
my own road to the devil for all he cared, and generally 
played the part of the outraged parent I must say/' he 
added ingenuously, ^^that the old boy had paid my del^ and 
set me straight a good many times before he did cut up 
rusty." 

"You're the only child, aren't you f" Jerry nodded. "Oh, 
well then, of course he'll come round in time — ^they always 
do. I shouldn't worry a bit if I were you." 

"Well," said Jerry hesitatingly, "I did think that per- 
haps if I went to him some day with a certificate of good 
character and steady work from Errington, it might smooth 
matters a bit. I'm fond of the governor, you know, in spite 
of his damn bad temper — and it must be rather rotten for 
the old chap living all by himself at Abbotsleigh." 

^^es, it must. One fine day you'll make it up with him, 
Jerry, and he'll slay the fatted calf and you'll have no end 
of a good time." 

Just then the clock of a neighbouring church chimed the 
half-hour, and Jerry jumped to his feet in a hurry. 

"My hat ! Half -past six I I must be toddling. What a 
squanderer of unconsidered hours you are, Diana! • • • 
Well, by-bye, old girl; it's good to see you back in town. 
Then I may tell Miss de Gervais that you'll sing for her t" 

Diana nodded. 

"Of course I wilL It will be a sort of preliminary canter 
for my recital." 

"And when that event comes off, you'll sail past the post 
lengths in front of any one else." 

And with that Jerry took his departure. A minute later 
Diana heard the front door bang, and from the window 
watched him striding along the street He looked back, 
just before he turned the corner, and waved his hand cheerily. 

"Nice boy!" she murmured, and then set about her un* 
packing in good earnest. 



CHAPTER XII 



MAX EBBIKGTON'b BBTUBN 



IT was the evening of Adrienne's reception, and Diana 
waB adding a few last touches to her toilette for the oc- 
casion. Bnnty had been playing the part of lady's maid, 
and now they both stood back to observe the result of their 
laboura 

'Tou do look nice!" remarked Miss Bunting, in a tone 
of satisf action* 

Diana glanced half-ahyly into the long glass panel of the 
wardrobe door. There was something vivid and arresting 
about her to-night, as though she were tremulously aware 
that she was about to take the first step along her road as 
a public singer. A touch of excitement had added an un- 
wonted brilliance to her eyes, while a faint flush came and 
went swiftly in her cheeks. 

Bunty, without knowing quite what it was that appealed, 
was suddenly conscious of the sheer physical charm of her. 

^TTou are rather wonderful," she said consideringly. 

A sense of the sharp contrast between them smote Diana 
almost painfully — she herself, young and radiant, holding 
in her slender throat a key that would unlock the doors of 
the whole world, and beside her the little boarding-house 
help, equally young, and with all youth's big demands pent 
up within her, yet ahead of her only a drab vista of other 
boarding-houses — some better, some worse, mayhap — ^but al- 
ways eating the bread of servitude, her only possible way of 
escape by means of matrimony with some little underpaid 
derk. 

And what had Bunty done to deserve so poor a lot? Hem 

133 



134 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

waa unqueBtionably by far the finer character of the two, aa 
Diana frankly admitted to herself. In truth, the apparent 
injustices of fiite made a riddle hard to read. 

"And you" — ^Diana spoke impulsively — "you are the dear- 
est thing imaginable. I wish you were coming with ma" 

"I should like to hear you sing in those big rooms," ac- 
knowledged Bunty, a little wistfully. 

**When I give my recital you shall have a seat in the front 
row," Diana promised, as she picked up her gloves and 

A tap sounded at the door. 

"Are you ready ?" inquired Olga Lermontofs voice from 
outside. 

Bunty opened the door. 

"Oh, come in. Miss Lermontof. Yes, Miss Quentin is 
quite ready, and I must run away now." 

Olga came in and stood for a moment looking a;t Diana. 
Then she deliberately stepped dose to her, so that their re- 
flections showed side by side in the big mirror. 

"Black and white angels — quite symbolical," she ob- 
served, with a short laugh. 

She was dressed entirely in black, and her sable figure 
made a startling foil to Diana's slender whiteness. 

"Nervous?" she asked laconically, noticing the restless 
tapping of the other's foot 

"I believe I am," replied Diana, smiling a litda 

"You needn't be." 

"I should be terrified if anyone else were accompanying 
me. But^ somehow, I think you always give me ocmfidence 
when I'm singing." 

"Probably because I'm always firmly convinced of your 
ultimate success." 

"No, no. It isn't that. It's because you're the most per- 
fect accompanist any one could hava" 

Miss Lermontof swept her a mocking curtsey. , 

''Utile r enter dtnerds!" Then she laughed rather oddlj. 



MAX EERINGTON^S EETUEIT W6 

''I believe 70a still have no oanoeption of the gloty of jcmr 
Yoioe^ 70a queer child.'' 

*^Jb it reall7 so good V* aaked Diana, with the gamine art- 
ist's oraving to be reassured. 

Olga Lermontof looked at her 8p6culatiyel7. 

''I suppose 70U oan't understand it at presaoti" she said, 
after a pause. ^'You will^ though, when 7ou've given a few 
concerts and seen its effect upon the audienoa Now, come 
along; it's time we started." 

The7 found Adrienne's rooms fairl7 full, but not in the 
least oyercrowded. The big double doors between the two 
drawing-nx>ms had been thrown open, and the tide of people 
flowed back and forth from one room to the other. A small 
platform had been erected at one end, and as Diana and 
Miss Lermontof entered, a French dta&use was just ascend- 
ing it preparatoiy to reciting in her native tongua 

The recitation — vivid, accompanied b7 the direct, ex- 
pressive gesture for which MademoiseUe de Bonvouloir was 
so famous — ^was followed at appropriate intervals b7 one or 
two items of instrumental music, and then Diana found hear- 
se mounting the little platform, and a hush descended anew 
upon the throng of people^ the last eager chatterers twitter- 
ing into silence as Olga Lermontof struck the first note of 
the song's prelude. 

Diana was conscious of a small sea of faces all turned 
towards her, most of them unfamiliar. She could just see 
Adrienne smiling at her from the back of the room, and 
near the double doors Jerry was standing next a tall man 
whose back was towards the platform as he bent to move 
aside a chair that was in the wa7. The next moneDt he 
had strai^tened himadf and turned round, and wiAi a 
sudden, almost agonising leap of the heart Diana saw that it 
was Max Enington. 

He had come back ! After that first wild durob her keart 
seemed to stand still, ibe room grew dark around het, and 
she swaTed a little where she stood. 



V 



ETUEN 141 

leu fiercenees. 
knew the temptation 
at jou offer I" 
nile that carved her 
i thttu with, a soft 

IV 

\ windov, stood with 
ght. 

DtuitiTely she knew 
ilf. She had always 
in t^eir intercourse, 
ised into a definite 
red to be her friend 
well, whispered per- 
.ght back, restrained 
e hindrance to their 
lorant 

1 she gathered from 
eoision. In the mo- 
lad time to be aware 
and instinctively she 
)uld reed and under- 



to her ears. With 
regarding her with' 
kery had Bed. They 
on she had ever be- 
er throat contracted 
Land quickly, plead- 

it with the delicate 
rful of hurting it. 
>u offer me. Heaven 
, . . worlds between 



138 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

the days of I^er jotsSl But, of course^ at that time he was 
quite unknown and altogedier ineligible^ so she married the 
late I)ake, who was old enough to be her father. By the 
time he died the opera singer was dead, too." 

That was Diana's first taste of the power of a beantifal 
voice to nnlo<i the closed chambers of the heart where lie 
our hidden memories — the long pain of years^ sometimes 
unveiled to those whose gifts appeal directly to the emotiona. 
It sobered her a Uttla This^ then, she thought^ tiiis leaf of 
rue that seemed to faring the sadness of the world so dose, 
was inter w uveu with the crown of laureL 

^^on't you say how do you do to me^ Miss Quentin t Fve 
been deputed by Miss de Qervais to see that you have some 
supper after bieaking all oar hearts with your singing." 

Diana, roused from her thoughts^ looked up to see Max 
ErringtoQ regarding her with the old, faintly amused mock- 
ery in his eyea» 

She shook hands. 

'^ dosi't believe you've got a heart to break," she retorted, 
smiting, 

'^Oh, mine was farofcea long before I heard you sing. 
Otherwise I would not answer for the consequeuoes of that 
sad little song of youra What is it calledf ' 

'^'The Haven of Memory/" replied Diana, as Erring^ 
ton skilfully piloted her to a small table standing by itself 
in an alcove of the supper-room. 

'"What a misleading name 1 Wouldn't 'The ffsR of Mem- 
ory* be more appropriate — more true to life!" 

*^ suppose," answered Diana soberly, ''that it might ap- 
pear differently to different peopla" 

'^ou mean that the garden <^ memory may have several 
aspects — like a houset I'm afraid mine faces north. Yours, 
I expect, is full of sprinig flowers^' — smiling a little quisri- 
caUy. 

"With the addition of a few weeds," she answered. 

'^eedst Surely not t Who planted them there!" His 
keen, penetrating eyes were fixed on her f aea 



MAX EERINGTON^S RETURN 189 



Diana was sileint, her fingers trifling nervously with the 
salt in one of the little silver cruets^ first pili:9g it up into a 
tiny monnd, and then flattening it down again and pattern- 
ing its surface with crissrcross lines. 

There was no one near. In the alcove Errington had 
chosen, the two were completely screened from the rest of 
the room by a carved oak pillar and velvet curtaina 

He laid his hand over the restlees fingers, holding them 
in a sore, firm clasp that brought back vividly to her mind 
the remembrance of that day when he had helped her up 
the steps of the quayside at Orailing. 

^^iana" — his voice deepened a little — '^am I responsible 
for any of the weeds in your garden V* 

Her hand trembled a little under his. After a moment 
she threw back her head defiantly and met his glanca 

'Terhaps there's a stinging-nettle or two labelled with 
your name^" she answered lightly. ^^The NeHlew^ Er- 
ringtonia,*' she added, smiling. 

Diana was growing up rapidly. 

^'I suppose/' he said slowly, ^^you wouldn't believe me if 
I told you that I'm sorry — ^that I'd uproot them if I could ?" 

She looked away from him in silenoa He could not see 
her expression, only the pure outline of her cheek and a little 
pulse that was beating rapidly in her throat 

With a sudden, impetuous movement he released her hand, 
almost flinging it from him. 

^My application for the post of gardener is refused, I 
see^" he saifL. ^'And quite rightly, too. It was great pre- 
sumption on my part. After all" — ^with bitter mockery — 
'Vhat are a handful of nettles in the garden of a prima 
dotmat They'll soon be stifled beneath the wreaths of laurel 
and bouquets that the world will throw you. You'll ne?er 
even feel their sting." 

^TTou are wrong," said Diana, very low, "quite wrong. 
They hove stung ma Mr. Errington" — and as she turned 
to Um he saw that her eyes were brimming with feais — 
'Srhy can't we be friends!' You — yoa have helped me so 



140 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

many timeB that I don't understand why jcm treat me now 
. • • almost as though I were an enemy?" 

"An enemy! . . . Youf 

'Tes^'' she said steadily. 

He was silent 

"I don't wish to be," she went on, an odd wistfolness in 
her voica "Can't we — be friends ?" 

Errington pushed his plate aside abruptly. 

"You don't know what you're offering me^" he said, in 
hurrying tones. "If I could only take it! . . • But I'tb 
no right to make friends — ^no right. I think I've been 
singled out by fate to live alone." 

"Yet you are friends with Mise de Gtoryais^" she said 
quickly. 

"I write plays for her," he replied evasively. "So that 
we are obliged to see a good deal of each other." 

"And apparently you don't want to be friends with me." 

"There can be little in common between a mere quill- 
driver and — a prima dotmcu** 

She turned on him swiftly. 

'HTou seem to forget that at present you are a famous 
dramatist, while I am merely a musical student." 

"You divested yourself of that title for ever this eve* 
ning," he returned. "It was no ^student' who sang 'The 
Haven of Memory.' " 

"All the same I shall have to study for a long time yet, 
Baroni tells me," — smiling a littla 

"In that sense a great artiste is always a student But 
what I meant by saying that a mere writer has no place in 
a prima donna's life was that, whereas my work is more or 
less a hobby, and my little bit of 'fame' — as you choose to 
call it — ^merely a side-issue^ yovo' work will be your whole 
existence. You will live for it entirely — ^your art and the 
world's recognition of it will absorb every thought. There 
will be no rpom in your life for the friendship of insigoifi- 
oant people like myself." 

''Try me^" she said demurely. 



MAX ERRINGTON'S RETUIIN 141 

He BWtmg round on her with a sadden fierceneea. 

''By God I" he exclaimed. ^^If you knew the temptation 
• • . if you knew how I long to take what you offer!" 

She smiled at him — a slow, sweet smile that curved her 
mouth, and climbing to her eyes lit them with a soft 
radiancei 

'"Wear' she said quietly. ^'Why not?" 

He got up abruptly, and going to the window, stood with 
his back to her, looking out into the night 

She watched him consideringly. Intuitively she knew 
that he was fighting a battle with himself. She had always 
been conscious of the element of friction in their intercourse. 
This evening it had suddenly crystallised into a definite 
realisation that although this man desired to be her friend 
— Truth, at the bottom of her mental well, whispered per- 
haps even something more — ^he was caught back, restrained 
by the knowledge of some obstacle, some hindrance to their 
friendship of which she was entirely ignwant. 

She waited in silenca 

Presently he tumpd back to her, and she gathered from 
his expression that he had come to a decision. In the mo- 
ment that elapsed before he spoke she had time to be aware 
of a sudden, almost breathless anxiety, and instinctively she 
let her lids fall over her eyes lest he should read and under- 
stand the apprehension in them. ^ 

^TJiana." 

His voice came gently and gravely to her ear& With 
an effort she looked up and found him regarding her with' 
eyes from which all the old ironical mockery had fied. They 
were very steady and kind — ^kinder than she had ever be- 
lieved it possible for them to be. Her throat contracted 
painfully, and she stretched out her hand quickly, plead- 
ingly, like a child. 

He took it between both his, holding it with the delicate 
care one accords a flower, as though fearful of hurting it. 

"Diana, I'm going to accept — ^what you offer me. Heaven 
knows I Ve little right to I There are • . . worlds between 



142 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

jou and me. . . . But if a man dying of thirst in the desert 
finds a pool — a pool of crystal water — is he to be blamed if 
he drinks — if he quenches his thirst for a moment? He 
knows the pool is not his — ^never can be his. And when 
the rightful owner comes along — why, he'll go away, back 
to the loneliness of the desert again. But he'll always re- 
member that his Kps have once drunk from the pool — and 
been refreshed." 

Diana spoke very low and wistfully. 

"He — he must go back to the desert?" 

Errington bent his head. 

*TBe must go back," he answered. "The gods have de- 
creed him outcast from lifers pleasant places ; he is ordained 
to wander alone — ^always." 

Diana drew her hand suddenly away frcmi his, and the 
hasty movement knocked over the little silver salt-cellar 
on the table, scattering the salt on the cloth between them. 

"Oh I" she cried, flushing with distress. "I've spilled tiie 
salt between us — ^we shall quarreL" 

The electricity in the atmosphere was gone, and Erring- 
ton laughed gaily. 

"I'm not afraid* See," — he filled their glasses with, wine 
— *1et's drink to our compact of friendship." 

He raised his glass, clinking it gently against hers, and 
they drank. But as Diana replaced her glass on the table, 
she looked once more in a troubled way ut the little heap of 
salt that lay on the white doth. 

"I wish I hadn't spilled it," she said uncertainly. ''It's 
an ill omen. Some day we shall quarrel." 

Her ^es were grave and brooding, as though, some 
prescience of evil weighed upon her. 

Errington lifted his glass, smiling. 

"Far be the day," he said lightly. 

But her eyei^ meeting his, were still douded with fore- 
boding. 



csHAPTER xrn 



THE PBIBND WHO STOOD BT 



AS tlie day fixed for her recital approached, Diaiia be- 
oame a prej to intermittent attacks of nervea. 

^'SuppoBing I eboald fail f she would eometimeB exdaim, 
in a sudden apasm of despair. 

Then Baroni would reply quite oontentedly : — 

'^7 dear Mees Quentin, yon will not fail. God has 
given yon the instnunent^ and I, Baroni^ I haf taught you 
how to use it GmnDiot Eailt" This last aooompamed 
by a snort of contempt 

Or it might he Olga Lermontof to whom Diana would con- 
fide her fears. She, equally with the old maedro, derided 
tiie possibility of failure^ and there was something about 
her cool assurance of success that always sufficed to steady 
Diana's nerves, at least for the time being. 

*^Ab I have you to accompany me," Diana told her one 
day, when she was ridiculing ihe idea of failure^ ^^I may 
perhaps get through all ri^t I simply lean on you when 
I'm singing. I feel like a boat floating on deep water — 
almost as though I couldn't sink." 

^Well, you can't" Miss Lermontof spoke with ccnvio- 
tion. "I shan't break down — ^I could play everything you 
sing blindfold I — and your voice is • • • Oh, weU" — ^hastily 
— ^**I can't talk about your voice. But I believe I eould 
forgive you anything in the world when you sing." 

Diana stared at her in surprijsa She had no idea that 
Olga was particularly affected by her singing. 

'^fs rather absurd, isn't it?" continued the Bussian, a 
mocking light in her eyes that somehow reminded Diana 

143 



144 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

of Max Errmgfx>iL ^'But there it is. A little triangular 
box in your throat and a breath of air from your lungs — 
and immediately you hold one's heart in your hands T' 

Alau Stair and Joan came up to London the day before 
that on which the recital was to take place^ since 'Diana 
had insisted that they must fix their visit so that the major 
part of it should follow, instead of preceding the concert 

"For*' — as she told them — "if I fail, it will be nice to 
have you two dear people to console me, and if I succeed^ I 
shall be just in the right mood to take a holiday and play 
about with you both. Whereas until my fate is sealed, one 
way or the other, I shall be like a bear with a sore head." 

But when the day actually arrived her nervousness com- 
pletely vanished, and she drove down to the hall composedly 
a;s though she were about to appear at her fiftieth concert 
rather than at her first. Olga Lermontof regarded her with 
some anxiety. She would have preferred her to show a 
little natural nervous excitement beforehand; there would 
be less danger of a sudden attack of stage-fright at the last 
moment. 

Baroni was in the artistes' room when they arrived, out- 
wardly cool, but inwardly seething with mingled pride and 
excitement and vicarious apprehension. He hun*ied for- 
ward to greet them, shaking Diana by both hands and then 
leading her up to the great French pianist, Madame Berthe 
Louvigny. 

The latter was a tall, grave-looking woman, with a pair 
of the most lustrous brown eyes Diana had ever seen. They 
seemed to glow with a kind of inward fire under the wide 
brow revealed beneath the sweep of her dark hair. 

"So thees ees your worder-pupil. Signer," she said, hw 
smile radiating kindness and good-humour. "Mademoiselle, 
I weesh you all the success that I know Signer Baroni hopes 
for you." 

She talked very rapidly, with a strong foreign accent, and 
her gesture was so expressive that one felt it was almost 
superfluous to add speech to the quick^ controlled movement. 



THE FRIEND WHO STOOD BY 145 

Sandfly f ace^ shouldeirs — she seemed to speak with heir whole 
body, yet without convejiBg any impression of restlessnesa 
There was not a single meaningless movement; each added 
point to the rapid flow of speech, throwing it into vivid re- 
lief like the shading of a picture. 

While she was still chatting to Diana, a slender man with 
bright hair tossed hack over a finely shaped head came into 
the artistes' room, carrying in his hand a violin-case which 
lie deposited on the tahle with as much care as though it 
^were a bahy. He shook hands with Olga Lermontof, and 
then Baroni swept him into his net. 

''Kirolskiy let me present you to Miss Quentin. She will 
one day stand amongst singers where you stand amongst 
the world's violinists." 

Eirolski bowed, and glanced smilingly from Baroni to 
Diana. 

'Tve no doubt Miss Quentin will do more than that^" he 
said. ^'A friend of mine heard her sing at Miss de Oer- 
vais' reception not long ago, and he has talked of nothing 
else ever since. I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Quen- 
tin." And he bowed again. 

Diana was touched by the simple, unaffected kindness of 
tiie two great artistes who were to assist at her redtaL It 
surprised her a little; she had anticipated the disparaging,, 
almost inimical attitude towards a new star so frequently 
credited to professional musicians, and had steeled herself 
to meet it with indifference. She forgot that when you 
are at the top of the tree there is little cause for envy or 
heart-burning, and graciousness becomes an easy habit. It 
is in the struggle to reach the top that the ugly passions 
leap into Ufa 

Presently there came sounds of clapping from the body 
of the hall ; some of the audience were growing impatient^ 
and the news that there was a packed- house filtered into 
the artistes' room. Almost as in a dream Diana watched 
Eirolski lift his violin from its cushiony bed and run his 
fingers lightly over the strings in a swift arpeggia Then 



I 



146 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

he tigfateodd his bow and rabbed the resin along ita length 
of hair, while Olga Lermontof looked through a little pile 
of mnsLo for the dnet for violin and piano with which the 
reoital was to commenca 

The outbreaks of clapping from in front grew more per- 
sistant^ cahninating in a veritable roar of welcome as Kircd- 
ski led the pianist on to the platf omu Then came a breath- 
less^ CKpeotant silence, broken at last by the stately melody 
of the first movement. 

To Diana it seemed as though the duet were very quickly 
over, and although the applause and recalls werQ persistent, 
no encore was given. Then she saw Olga Lermontof mount- 
ing the platform steps preparatbry to accompanying Kirol- 
ski's solo, and with a sudden violent reaction from her calm 
composure she realised that the following item on the pro- 
gramme must be the first group of her own songs. 

For an instant the room swayed round her, then with a 
little gasp she clutched Baroni's arm. 

"I can't do it! • • . I can't do it!" Her voice waa shak- 
ing, and every drop of colour had drained away frcmi her 
faca 

Baroni turned instantly, his eyes full of concenu 

^'My dear, but that is nonsensa You cannot h^lp doing 
it — ^you know those songs inside out and upside down. You 
need haf no fear. Do not think about it at alL Trust 
your voice — ^it will sing what it knows." 

But Diana still clung helplessly to his arm, shivering from 
head to foot, and Madame de Louvigny hurried across the 
room and joined her assurances to those of the old maestro. 
She also added a liqueur-glass of brandy to her soothing, 
encouraging little speeches, but Diana refused the former 
with a gesture of repugnance, and seemed scarcely to hear 
the latter. She was dazed by sheer nervous terror, and 
stood there with her hands tightly clasped together, her 
body rigid and taut with misery. 

Baroni was nearly demented. If she should fail ix> re- 
gain her nerve the whole concert would be a disastrous fiasca 



THE FRIEND WHO STOOD BY 147 

Possible headlines from the morrow's newspapers danced 
before his eyes: "Nebvoub Oollapsb of Miss Diana 
QuBNTiN," "SioNOE Baboni's Nbw Pbima Donna Fails 
TO Matsbialise.'' 

* "Diavohr he exclaimed distractedly. ^'But what shall 
we do ? What shall we da?" 

"What is the matter ?" 

At the sound of the cool, level tones the little agitated 
group of three in the artistes' room broke asunder, and 
Saroni hurried towards the newcomer. 

"Mr. Errington, we are in despair '* And with a 

gesture towards Diana he briefly explained the predioament. 

Max nodded, his keen eyes considering the shrinking fig- 
ure leaning against the walL 

'T>on't worry, Barom," he said quietly. "1*11 pull her 
round." Then, a^ a burst of applause crashed out from 
the hall, he whispered hastily: "Get Kirolski to give an 
encore. It will allow her a little more tima" 

Baroni nodded, and a minute or two later the audience 
was cheering the violinist's reappearance, whilst Errington 
strode across the room to Diana's side. 

"How d'you do?^' he said, holding out his hand exactly 
as though nothing in the world were the matter. "I thought 
you'd allow me to come round and wish you luck, so here 
I am." 

He spoke in such perfectly normal, everyday tones that 
unconsciously Diana's rigid muscles relaxed and she ex- 
tended her hand in responsa 

"I'm feeling sick with fright," she replied, giving him a 
wavering smila 

Max laughed easily. 

"Of course. Otherwise you wouldn't be the artiste that 
you are. But it will all go the moment you're on the platr 
form." 

She looked up at him with a faint hope in her eyea 

''Do you really think so f ' she whispered* 



148 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

"I^m sura It always does," he lied cheerfully. *T11 
tell you who is far more nervous than you are, and thaf s 
the Hector. Miss Stair and Jerry were almost forcibly 
holding him down in his seat when I left them. He's dis- 
posed to bolt out of the hall and await results at the hoteL" 

Diana laughed outright. 

"How like him! Poor Fobs I" 

"You'd better give him a special smile when you get on 
the platform to reassure him/' ^continued Max, his blue 
«yes smiling down at her. 

The violin solo had drawn to a close— Kirolski had al- 
ready returned a third time to bow his acknowledgments 
— and Errington was relieved to see that the look of strain 
had gone out of her face, although she still appeared rather 
pale and shaken. 

One or two friends of the violinist's were coming in at 
the door of the artistes' room as Olga Lermontof preceded 
him down the platform steps. There was a little confusion, 
the sound of a fall, and simultaneously some one inad- 
vertently pushed the door to. The next minute the accom- 
panist was the centre of a small crowd of anxious, question- 
ing peopla She had tripped and stumbled to her knees on 
the threshold of the room, and, as she instinctively stretched 
out her hand to save herself, the door had swung back trap- 
ping two of her fingers in the hinga 

A hubbub of dismay arose. Olga was white with pain, 
and her hand was so badly squeezed and bruised that it was 
quite obvious she would be unable to play any more that 
day. 

"I'm so sorry. Miss Quentin," she murmured faintly. 

In her distress about the accident, Diana had for the mo- 
ment overlooked the fact that it would affect her person- , 
ally, but now, as Olga's words reminded her that the ao- 
companist on whom she placed such utter reliance would be 
forced to cede her place to a substitute^ her former nervous- 
ness returned with redoubled force. It began to look as 



THE FEIEND WHO STOOD BY 14» 



though she would really be unable to appear, and 
wrung his hands in despair. 

It was a moment for speedy action. The audience were 
breaking into impatient clapping, and from the back of 
the hall came an undertone of stamping, and the sound of 
umbrellas banging on the floor. Errington turned swiftly 
to Diana. 

'^ill you trust me, with the accompaniments ?" he said^ 
his blue eyes fixed on hers. 
*Trou?" she faltered. 

**Yes. I swear I won't fail you." His voice dropped to 
a lower note^, but his dominating eyes still held her. ^'See, 
you offered nie your friendship. Trust me now. Let me 
'stand by/ as a friend should." 

There was an instant's pause, then suddenly Diana bent 
her head in acquiescenca 

''Thank heaven ! thank heaven I" exclaimed Baroni, wring- 
ing Max's hand. ''You haf saved the situation, Mr. Er- 
rington." 

A minute later Diana found herself mounting the plat- 
form steps, her hand in Max's. His close, firm clasp stead- 
ied and reassured her. Again she was aware of that curious 
sense of well-being, as of leaning on some sure, unfailing 
strength, which the touch of his hand had before inspired. 
As he led her on to the platform she met his eyes, full of 
a kind good-comradeehip and confidenca 
"All right ?" he whispered cheerfully. 
A little comforting warmth crept about her heart. She 
was not alone, facing all those hundreds of curious, critical 
eyes in the hall below; there was a friend "standing by." 
She nodded to him reassuringly, suddenly conscious of 
complete self-mastery. She no longer feared those ranks 
of upturned faces, row upon row, receding into shadow at 
the further end of the hall, and she bowed composedly in 
reeponse to the applause that greeted her. Then she heard 
Max strike die opening chord of the song, and a minute late? 



150 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

the big concert-hall was thrilling to the matdiless beauty 
of her Toice, as it floated out on to the waiting stillneBS^ 

The five songs of the group followed each other in quick 
succession, the clapping that broke out between each of them 
only checking so that the next one might be heard, but when 
the final number had been given, and the last note had 
drifted tenderly away into silence, the vast audience rose to 
its feet almost as one man, shouting and clapping and wav- 
ing in a timiultuous outburst of enthusiasm. 

Diana stood quite still, almost frightened by the uproar, 
until Max touched her arm and escorted her off the plat- 
form. 

In the artistes' room every one crowded round her poui> 
ing out congratulations. Baroni s^ed both her hands and 
kissed them ; then he kissed her cheek, the tears in his eyes. 
And all the time came the thunder of applause from the 
auditorium, beating up in steady, rhythmic waves of sound. 

"Go I — Go back, my child, and bow." Baroni impelled 
her gently towards the door. '^Qran Diol What a suc- 
cess I . . . What a voice of heaven 1" 

Bather nervously, Diana mounted the platform once more, 
stepping forward a little shyly ; her cheeks were flushed, and 
her wonderful eyes shone like grey stars. A fillet of pale 
green leaves bound her smoke-black hair, and the slender, 
girlish figure in its sea-green gown, toudied here and there 
with gold embroidery, reminded one of spring, and the young 
green and gold of daffodils. 

Instantly the, applause redoubled. People were surging 
forward towards the platform, pressing round an unfortu- 
nate usher who was endeavouring to hand up a sheaf of roses 
to the singer. Diana bowed, and bowed again. Then she 
stooped and accepted the roses, and a fresh burst of dapping 
ensued. A vnreath of laurel, and a huge bunch of white 
heather, for luck, followed the sheaf of roses, and finally, 
her arms full of floweri^ smiling, bowing still, she escaped 
from the platform. 



THE FRIEND WHO STOOD BY 151 

Back igain in the artistes' roomy she found that a num* 
ber of her friends in front had come round to offer their 
congratulations. Alan Stair and Joan, Jerry, and Adrienne 
de Gervais were amongst them, and Diana at once became 
the centre of a little excited throng, all laughing and talk- 
ing and shaking her by the hand. Every one seemed to be 
speaking at once, and behind it all still rose and fell the 
cannonade of shouts and clapping from the halL 

Four times Diana returned to the platform to acknowledge 
the tremendous ovation which her singing had called forth, 
and at length, since Baroni forbade an encore until after her 
second group of songs, Madame de Louvigny went on to 
give her solo. 

"They weel not want to hear me— after you, Mees Quen- 
tin/' she said laughingly. 

But the British public is always very faithful to its fa- 
vourites, and the audience, realising at last that the new 
singer was not going to bestow an encore, promptly exerted 
itself to welcome the French pianist in a befitting manner. 
When Diana reappeared for her second group of songs 
the etKcitement was intensa Whilst she was singing a pin 
could have been heard to fall; it almost seemed as though 
the huge concourse of people held its breath so that not a 
single note of the wonderful voice should be missed, and 
when she ceased there fell a silence — ^that brief silence^ like 
a sigh of ecstasy, which is the greatest tribute that any 
artiste can receive. 

Then, with a crash like thunder, the applause broke out 
once more, and presently, reappearing with the sheaf of roses 
in her hand, Diana sang "The Haven of Memory" as an 
encora 

Let me remember, 

When I am very lone^, 
How once jonr love 

But erowned and bleesed ma only, 
Long and long ago. 



152 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

The plaintive rhythm died away and the dapping which 
suoeeeded it was quieter, less boisterous, than hitherto. 
Some people were crying openly, and many surreptitiously 
wiped away a tear or so in the intervals of applauding. The 
audience was shaken by the tender, sorrowful emotion of 
the song, its big, sentimental British heart throbbing to the 
haunting quality of the most beautiful voice in Europe. 

Diana herself had tears in her eyes. She was experienc- 
ing for the first time the passionate exultation bom of the 
knowledge that she could sway the hearts of a multitude by 
the sheer beauty of her singing — ^an abiding recompense 
bestowed for all the sacrifices which art demands from those 
who learn her secrets. 

Her fingers, gripping with unconscious intensity the flow- 
ers she held, detached a white rose from the sheaf, and it 
had barely time to reach the floor before a young man from 
the audience, eager^yed, his face pale with excitement, 
sprang forward and snatdied it up from beneath her feet 

In an instant there was an uproar. Men and women lost 
their heads and clambered up on to the platform, pressing 
round the singer, besieging her for a spray of leaves or a 
flower from the sheaf she carried. Some even tried to se- 
cure a bit of the gold embroidery f rtmi off her gown by way 
of memento. 

"Oh, please . . . please . . .*' 

A crowd that is overwrought, either by anger or enthusi- 
asm, is a difficult thing to handle, and Diana retreated des- 
perately, frightened by the storm she had evoked. One 
man was kneeling beside her, rapturously kissing the hem 
of her gown, and the eager, excited f aces^ the outstretched 
hands, the vision of the surging throng below, and the tu- 
mult and clamour that filled the concert-hall terrified her. 

Suddenly a strong arm intervened between her and the 
group of enthusiasts who were flocking round her, and she 
found that she was being quietly drawn aside into safety. 
Max Errington's tall form had interposed itself between 



THE FRIEND WHO STOOD BY 158 

her and her too ei^er worflhii^)er8. With a little gasp of 
relief she let him lead her down the steps of the platf onn 
and back into the comparative calm of the artistes' rocnn, 
while two of the nshto hurried forward and dispersed the 
memento-seekerSy shej^erding them back iz^ the hall bel6W| 
so that the concert might continue 

The latter part of the programme was heard with at- 
tention, but not even the final duo for violin and piano, 
exquisite though it was, succeeded in rousing the audience 
to a normal pitch of fervour again. Emotion and enthusi- 
asm were alike exhausted, and now that Diana's share in tiie 
recital was over, the big assemblage of people listened to the 
remaining numbers inuch as a child, tired with play, may 
listen to a lullaby — ^placidly appreciative, but without oyer^ 
whelming excitement 

^^ell, what did I tell yout" demanded Jerry, tri-* 
umphantly, of the little party of friends who gathered to- 
gether for tea in Diana's sitting-room, when at length the 
great event of the afternoon was over. ^^What did I tell 
you! ... I said Diana would just romp past the post — 
all the others nowhere. And behold 1 It came to pass." 

^'It's a good thing Madame Louvigny and Kirol^i can't 
hear you," observed Joan sagely. ^'They've probably got 
quite nice natures, but you'd strain the forbearance of an 
early Christian martyr, Jerry. Besides, yoti needn't be so 
folsome to Diana ; it isn't good for her." 

Jerry retorted with spirit, and the two drifted into a pleas- 
ant little wrangle — ^the kind of sparring match by which 
youths and maidens frequently endeavour to convince them- 
selves, and the world at large, of the purely Platonic nature 
of their sentiments. 

Bunty, who had rejoiced in her promised seat in the front 
row at the concert, was hurrying to and fro, a maid-servant 
in attendance, bringing in tea, while Mrs. Lawrence, who 
had also been Ihe recipient of a complimentary ticket, looked 
in for a few minutes to felicitate the heroine of the day. 



164 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

She mentally patted herself on the back for the diaoem- 
ment ahe had evinced in making certain relazationa of her 
stringent roles in favour of this particular boarder. It 
was quite evident that before long Miie Quentin would be 
distinctly a ^'personage," ahedding a delectable eSulgenoe 
upon her immediate surroundingSy and Mrs. Lawrence was 
fimdy decided that, if any effort of hero could cofnpaaa i% 
those surroundings should continue to be No. 24 Brutton 
Squara 

Diana herself looked tired but irrepreasibly happy. Now 
that it was all over, and success assured, she realised how 
intensely she had dreaded the ordeal of this first recital 

Olga Lermontof, her injured hand resting in a aling, 
chaffed her with some amusement 

^'I suppose, at last, you're beginning to understand that 
your voice is really something out of the ordinary," she 
said. '^Its effect on the audience this afternoon is a bet- 
ter criterion than all the notices in to-morrow's newspapers 
put together." 

Diana laughed. 

'^ell, I hope it won't make a habit of producing that ef- 
fect!" she said, pulling a little face of disgust at ihe recol- 
lection. ^'I don't know what would have happened if Mr. 
Errington hadn't come to my rescua" 

Max smiled across at her. 

'?ou'd have been torn to bits and the pieces distributed 
amongst the audience — ^like souvenir programme^r— I imag- 
ine," he replied. Then, turning towards the accompanist, 
he continu^: '^How does your hand feel now, Miss Ler^ 
montof ?" 

There was a curious change in his voice as he addressed 
the Buasian, and Diana, glancing quickly towards her, sur- 
prised a strangely wistful look in her eyes as they rested 
upon Errington's face. 

^'Oh, it is much better. I shall be able to play again in 






€i' 



THE FRIEND WHO STOOD BY 155 

a few days. But it was fortunate you were at the oonoert 
to-day, and able to take my place." 

"So you approve of me — ^f or once V^ he queried^ with a 
rather twisted little smile. 

Olga remained silent for a moment, her eyes searching 
his face. Then she said very deliberately: — 

^I am glad you wei^ able to play for Miss Quentin." 

^But you won't oommit yourself so far as to say that I 
have your approval — even once ?" 

Miss Lermontof leaned forward impetuously. 

^How can I ?" she said, in hurried tones. ^'It's all wrong 
I you know that it's all wrong." 

£rriiigton shrugged his shoulders. 

"I'm afraid we can never see eye to eye," he answered. 
,"Let us^ then, be philosophical over the matter and agree 
to differ." 

Olga's green eyes flamed with sudden anger, but she ab- 
stained from making any reply, turning away from him 
abruptly. 

Diana, whose attention had beea claimed by the Bector, 
had not caught the quickly spoken sentences which had 
passed between the two, but she was puzzled over the oddly 
yearning look she had surprised in Olga's eyes. There had 
been a tenderness, a species of wistful longing in her gaze, 
as she had turned towards Max Errington, which tallied ill 
with the bitter incisiveness of the remarks she let fall at 
times oonceming him. 

**Well, my dear" — ^the Rector's voice recalled Diana's 
wandering thoughts — ^''Joan and I must be getting back 
to our hotel, if we are to be dressed in time for the dinner 
Miss de Gervais is giving in your honour to-nigiht." 

Diana glanced at the clock and nodded. 

''Indeed you must. Fobs darling. And I wiU send away 
these other good people too. As we're all going to meet 
again at dinner we can bear to be separated for an hour or 



166 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

8o— cr^en Jerry and Joan^ I suppose?" she added whim- 
aicallj, in a lower ton& 

''It's invidious to mention names^'' murmured Stair, ''or 
I might '' 

Diana laid her hand lightly across his mouth. 

"No, you mightn't,*' she said firlnly. "Put on your coat 
and that nice squashy hat of yours, and trot back to your 
hotel like a good Pobs." 

Stair laughed, looking down at her with kind eyes. 

"Very well, little autocrat." He put his hand under her 
chin and tilted her face up. "I've not congratulated you 
yet, my dear. It's a big thing you've done— captured Lon- 
don in a day. But it's a bigger thing you'll have to do." 

"You mean Paris — ^Vienna ?" 

He shook his head, still with the kind smile in his eyes. 
. "No. I mean, keep me the little Diana I love — don't 
let me lose her in the public singer." 

"Oh, Pobs I" — ^reproachfully. "As though I should ever 
change !" 

"Not deliberately — ^not willingly, I'm sure. But — suc- 
cess is a difficult sea to swim." 

He sighed, kissed her upturned face, and then, with a 
twist of his shoulders, pulled on his overcoat and prepared 
to depart 

Success is exhilarating. It goes to the head like wine, 
and yet, as Diana lay in bed that night, staring with wide 
eyes into the darkness, the memory that stood out in vivid 
relief from amongst the crowded events of the day was not 
the triumph of the afternoon, nor the merry evening which 
succeeded it, when "the coming prima donna'' had been 
toasted amid a fusillade of brilliant little speeches and light- 
hearted laughter, but the remembrance of a pair of pas- 
sionate^ demanding blue eyes and of a low, tense voice say- 
ing:— 

"I swear I won't fail you. Let me 'stand by.' " 



CHAPTER XIV 



THB FUIMB OF LOVB 



DIANA'S gaze wandered idly over the blue stretch of 
water, ks it lay beneath the blazing August sun, while 
the sea-gulls, like streaks of white light, wheeled through 
the shimmering haze of the atmosphere. Her hands were 
loosely clasped around her knees, and a little evanescent 
smile played about her lips. Behind her, the great red 
cliffs of Oulver Point reared up against the sapphire of the 
sky, and she was thinking dreamily of that day, nearly 
eighteen months ago, when she had been sitting in the self- 
same place, leaning against the self-same rock, whilst a grey 
waste of water crept hungrily up to her very feet, threaten- 
ing to claim her as its prey. And then Errington had come, 
and straightway all the danger was passed. 

Looking back, it seemed as though that had always been 
the way of things. Some menace had arisen, either by land 
or sea — or even, as at her recital, out of the very intensity 
of feeling which her singing had inspired — and immediately 
If ax had intervened and the danger had been averted. 

She laid her hand caressingly on the sun-warmed surface 
of the rock. How many things had happened since she had 
last leaned against its uncomfortable excrescences ! She felt 
quite affectionately towards it^ as one who has journeyed 
far may feel towards some old landmark of his youth which 
he finds unaltered on his return from wandering in strange 
lands. The immutability of things, as compared with the 
constant fluctuation of life and circumstance, struck her 
poignantly. Here was this rock— cast up from the bowels 

157 



158 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

of the earth thousands of years ago and washed by the 
waves of a million tides— still unchanged and changeless, 
while^ for her, the face of the whole world had altered in 
little more than a year I 

From a young girl-student^ one insignificant person 
among scores of others similarly insignificant^ she had be- 
come a prominent personality, some one in whom even the 
great^ busy, hurrying world paused to take an interest, and 
of whom the newspapers wrote eulc^stic notices, heralding 
her as the coming English prima donna. She felt rather 
like a mole which has been working quietly in the dark, 
tunnelling a passage for itself, unseen and unsuspected, and 
which has stiddenly emerged above the surface of the earth, 
much to its own — ^and every one else's — astonishment ! 

Then, too,, how utterly changed were her relations with 
Max Errington! At the beginning of their acquaintance 
he had held himself deliberately aloof, but since that eve- 
ning at Adrienne de Oervais' house, when they had formed 
a compact of friendship, he had, apparently, completely 
blotted out from his mind the remembrance of the obstacle, 
whatever it might be, which he had contended must render 
any friendship between them out of the question* 

And during these last few months Diana had gradually 
come to know the lofty strain of idealism which ran through 
the man's whole natura Passionate, obstinate, unyielding 
— he could be each and all in turn, but, side by side with 
these exterior characteristics, there ran a streak of almost 
feminine delicacy of perception and ideality of purpose. 
Diana had once told him, laughingly, that he was of the 
stuff of which martyrs were made in the old days of perse- 
cution, and in this she had haphazard lit upon the funda- 
mental force that shaped his actions. The burden which 
f ate^ or his own deeds, might lay upon his shoulders, that 
ke would bear, be it what it might i 

'^Everything's got to be paid for," he had said one day. 
'It^s insvitaUa So what's the use of jibing at the 
price?" 



THE FLAME OF LOVE 169 

X>iaiia wondered whether the price of that mysterious 
isctiething which lay in his past, and which not even inti- 
TntL>e friendship had revealed to her, would mean that this 
oonuadeship must always remain only that — and never any- 
thing more f 

A warm flush mounted to her face as the unbidden thought 
crept into her mind. Errington had been down at Crailing 
most of the summer, staying at Bed Gables, and during the 
long, lazy days they had spent together, motoring, or sailing, 
or tramping over Dartmoor with the keen moorland air, like 
sparkling wine, in their nostrils, it seemed as though a deeper 
note had sounded than merely that of friendship. 

And yet he had said nothing, although his eyes had spoken 
— those vivid blue eyes which sometimes blazed with a white 
heat of smouldering passion that set her heart racing madly 
within her. 

She flinched shyly away from her own thoughts^ pulling 
restlessly at the dried weed which clung about the surface 
of the rock. A little brown crab ran out from a crevice^ 
and, terrified by the big human hand which he espied med- 
dling with the clump of weed and threatening to interfere 
with the liberty of the subject^ skedaddled sideways into the 
safety of another cranny. 

The hurried rush of the little live thing roused Diana from 
her day-dreams, and looking up, she saw Max coming to her 
across the sands. 

She watched the proud, free gait of the tall figure with 
appreciation in her eyes. There was something very indi- 
vidual and characteristic about Max^s walk — a su^estion 
as of immense vitality held in check, together with a certain 
air of haughty resolution and command. 

'^I thought I mi^t find you here," he said, when they 
had shaken hands. 

'TJid you want me ?" 

He looked at her with a oorious ezpcession in his eyes. 

^ always want you, I think,'' he said singly. 

'^ell, you seem to have a faculty for alwaya tomfaig 



160 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

up when / want you," she replied. '^I was just thirjking 
how often you had appeared in the very nick of tima Seri- 
ousiy^ — ^her voice took on a, graver note — ^**I feel T can't 
ever r^)ay you — ^you've come to my help so often.'' 

"There is a way," he said, very low, and then fell silent. 

"Tell me," she urged him, smilingly. "I like to pay my 
debts." 

He made no answer, and Diana, suddenly nervous and 
puzzled, continued a little breathlessly: — 

"Have I — ^have I offended you f I — I thought" — her lips 
quivered — ^**we had agreed to be friends." 

Max was silent a moment. Then he said slowly: — 

"I can't keep that compact." 

Diana's heart contracted with a sudden fear. 

"Can't keep it?" she repeated dully. She could not pic- 
ture her life—no — ^robbed of this friendship! 

"iN'o." His hands hung clenched at his sides, and he 
stood staring at her from beneath bent brows, his mouth 
set in a straight line. It was as though he were holding 
himself under a rigid restraint, against which sometliing 
within him battled, striving for releasa 

All at once his control snapped. 

"I love you ! . . . God in heaven ! Haven't you guessed 
it?" 

The words broke from him like a bitter cry — the cry of 
a heart torn in twain by love and thwarted longing. Diana 
felt the urgency of its demand thrill through her whole 
being. 

"Max . . ." 

It was the merest whisper, reaching his ears like the touch 
of a butterfly's wing — ^hesitantly shy, and honey-sweet with 
the promise of summer. 

The next instant his arms were round her and he was 
holding her as though he would never let her go, passion- 
ately kissing the soft mouth, so close beneath his own. He 
lifted her off her feet, crushing her to him, and Diana, the 
woman in her definitely^ vividly aroused at last, dung to 



1 

I 

THE ELAME OF LOVE 161 

liim, yielding, bat half-terrified hy the tempeet of emoticMa 
fiihe had waked. 

'"My belovedl . . . My awir 

His voice was vehement with the love and paasion at 
length unleashed from bondage; his kisses hurt her. There 
was something torrential, overwhelming, in his imperious 
'V^ooing. He held her with the fieroe, possessive grip of 
primitive man claiming the chosen woman as his mate. 

She struggled f aintlj against him. 

^Ahl Max — Max. • • • Let me ga^ You're frigfaten- 
ing ma" 

She heard him draw his breath hard, and then slowly, 
reluctantly, as though by a sheer effort of will, he set her 
down. He was white to the lips^ and his eyes glowed like 
blue flame in their pallid setting. 

'brighten you 1" he repeated hoarsely. ^7ou don't know 
what love means — you English." 

Diana stared at him. 
' ''7ou English!' What — ^what are you saying? Maa 
aren't you English after all ?" 

He threw back his head with a laugh. 

''Oh, yes^ I'm Englidi. But I'm something else as well. 
• • • There^s warmer blood in my veins, and I can't lov« 
like an Englishman. Oh, Diana, heart's beloved, let m« 
teach you what love is I" 

Impetuously he caught her in his arms again, and once 
more she f dt the storm of his passion sweep ov^r her as he 
rained fierce kisses on eyes and throat and lips. For a 
space it seemed as if the whole world were blotted out and 
there were only they two alone together — shaken to the vary 
foundations of their being by the tremendous force of the 
whirlwind of love which had engulfed them. 

Wheiu at length he released her, all her reserves were 
down. 

''Max • • • Max ... I love youl" 

The confession fell from her Ups with a timid, exquisite 



162 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

abandoxL He was her mate and she reoognised it He had 
conquered her. 

Presently he pat her from him, very gently, but de- 
cisively. 

^^Diana, heart's dearest, there is something more — some- 
thing I have not told you yet" 

She looked at him with sudden apprehension in her eyea. 

'^MazI • • . Nothing— nothing that need come between 
us?'' 

Memories of the past, of all the inoomprdiieiiMbie ^isodes 
of their acquaintance — his refusal to reoogDiae hw, his re- 
luctance to accept her friendship — came crowcUng in upon 
her, thi^eatening the destruction of her new-found happiness. 

"Not if you can be strong — ^not if you'll trust mei" He 
looked at her searchingly. 

"Trust you! But I do trust you. Should I have . . . 
Oh, Maxl" the warm colour dyed her face from chin to 
brow — "Could I love you if I didn't trust you ?" 

There was a tender, almost compassionate expression in 
his eyes as he answered, rather sadly: — 

"Ah, my dear, we doa^t know what ^trusf really means 
until we are called upon to give it. • • • And I want so 
much from you 1" 

Diana slipped her hand confidently into his. 

"Tell me," she said, smiling at him. "I don't think I 
shall fail you." 

He was silent for a while^ wondering if the next words 
he spoke would set them as far apart as though the previous 
hour had never been. At last he spoke. 

^1)0 you believe that husbands and wives should have no 
secrets from one another ?" he asked abruptly. 

Diana had never really given the matter consideration 
— never formulated such a question in her mind. But now, 
in the lig^t of love's awakening, she instinctively knew the 



THE FLAME OP LOVE 163 

answer to it Her opinion leaped into life folly formed; 
she waa aware^ without tlie ahadow of a donbt^ of her own 
feelings on the subject 

'^Certainly they shouldn't^" she answered promptly. 
'^Why^ Max, that would be breaking the very link that 
binds them together — their amness each with the other. 
You think that^ too, don't you 9 Why — ^why did you ask 
me?" A premcmition of evil assailed her, and her voice 
trembled a littla 

'^I asked you because — ^because if you marry me you will 
have to face the fact that there is a aeoret in my life which 
I cannot share with you — something I can't tell you about" 
Then, as he saw the blank hx^ on her f ace^ he went on rajh 
idly : ^'It will be the only thing, beloved. There shall be 
nothing else in life that will not be ^ours,' between us, shared 
by us both. I swear iti . • . Diana, I must make you un- 
derstand. It was because of this — this secret — ^that I kept 
away from you« You couldn't understand — oh I I saw it 
in your face sometimes. You were hurt by what I did and 
said, and it tortured me to hurt you — to see your lip quiver, 
your eyes suddenly grow misty, and to know it was I who 
had wounded you, I, who would give the last drop of blood 
in my body to save you pain." 

There was a curious strick^i expression on the face Diana 
turned towards him. 

"So that was it I" 

^Y'es, that was it I tried to put you out of my life^ 
for I'd no right to ask you into it And I've failed! I 
can't do without you" — ^his voice gathered intensity — "I 
want you — ^body and soul I want you. And yet — ^a secret 
between husband and wife is a burden no man should ask a 
woman to bear." 

When neict Diana spoke it was in a curiously cold, col- 
lected voica She felt stonned. A great wall seemed to be 
rising up betwixt herself and Max; all her golden visions 
for the future were falling about h^ in ruins. 



164 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

^cfa are righy ehe aaid alowly. '^o man flhoold ask 
-Hthat— of his wifa'* 

Errin^n's face twisted with paizL 

*T, never meant to let jcm know I cared," he answered. 
*^ fou^t down my love for 70a just beeaose of that And 
then — ^it grew too strong for ma • • • My Qodl If yon 
knew what it's been like— to be near you, with you, con- 
stantly, and yet to feel that you were as far removed from 
me as the sun itself. Diana — ^beloved — can't you trust me 
over this one thing! Isn't your love strong enough for 
that!" 

She turned on him passi<mately. 

^Oh, you are unfair to me— cruelly unfair! You ask me 
to trust you ! And your veiy asking implies that you caib* 
not trust mer 

There was bitter anger in her voica 

^*I know it looks like that," he said wearily. '^And I 
can't explain. I can only ask you to believe in me and 
trust ma I thought . . . perhaps • . • you loved me 
enough to do it" His mouth twitched with a little smiley 
half sad, half ironicaL ^^y usual presumption, I sup- 
posa" 

She made no answer, but after a moment asked 
abruptly: — 

^oes this— this secret concern only you!" 

'That I cannot tell you. I can't answer any qtiestiona 
If — ^if you come to me^ it must be in absolute blind trust '^ 
He paused, his eyes entreating her. '^Is it • • • too much 
to ask!" 

Diana was fdlent, looking away from him across the 
water. The sun slipped behind a cloud, and a grey shadow 
spread like a bli^t over the summer sea. It lay leaden 
and dull, tufted with little white crests of f oanu 

1%e man and woman stood side by side^ motionless^ un- 
responsiva It was as ^ugh a sword had suddenly de- 
sccttdedi deaviog then asunder. 



THE FLAME OF LOVE 165 

Presently she heard him mutter in a low tone of an- 
goifih: — 

''So this — ihia, too— mnst be added to the prioet" 

The pain in his voice pulled at her hearL She atretohed 
out her hands towards him. 

*fMaxI Give me timel" 

He wheeled round, and the tense look of misery in his 
face hurt her almost physically. 

''What do you mean f " he asked hoarsely. 

"I must have time to think Husband and wife ought 
to be ona What — ^what happiness can there be if ... if 
we marry . • • like thist" 

He bent his head. 

"None— unless you can have faitL There can be no 
happiness for us without that" 

He todc a sudden step towards her. 

"Oh, my dear, my dearl I love you soP' 

Diana b^gan to cry softly — helpless, pathetic; weeping, 
like a child's. 

"And — ^and I thought we were so happy," she sobbed. 
"Now it's all spoiled and broken. And you've spoilt itt" 

"Don't!" he said unsteadily. "Don't cry like that I 
oan't stand it." 

He made an instinctive movement to take her in his 
arms, but she slipped aside, turning on him in sudden, ]pas* 
sionate reproacL 

"Why did you try and make me love you when you knew 
• • • all this? I was quite happy before you came— oh, 
so happy 1" — ^with a sudden yearning recollection of the 
days of uxxawakened girlhood. "If — ^if you had let me 
alone, I should have been happy stilL" 

The unthinking selfishness of youth rang in her voice^ 
asserting its infinite demand for the joy and pleasure of Ufa 

"And II" he said, very low. "Does my unhappiness 
count for nothing) I'm paying too. Ood knows, I wish 
we had never met" 



166 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Never to have met! Not to have known all that those 
months of friendship and a single hour of love had held! 
The words brought a sadden awakening to Diana — a new, 
wonderful knowledge that, cost what they might in bitter- 
ness and future pain, she would rather bear the oost than 
know her life emptied of those memories^ ^ 

She had ceased crying. After a few moments she spoke 
with a gentle^ wistful composura 

"I was wrong, Max. You're not to blame — you couldn't 
help it any more than I could." 

"I might have gone away — ^kept away frotn you,*' he 
said tonelessly. 

A faint, wintry little smile curved her lips. * 

"I'm glad you didn't" 

'^ianal" He sprang forward impetuously. *T)o you 
mean that?" 

She nodded slowly. 

"Yes. Even if — if we can't ever marry, wei've had . . • 
t<Hiay." 

A smouldering fire lit itself in the man's blue eyes. He 
had spoken but the bare truth when he had said that warmer 
blood ran in his veins than that of the cold northern peo- 
ples. 

"Yes," he said, his voice tense. ^'We've had to-day." 

Diana trembled a little. The memory of that fierce, wild 
love-making of his rushed over her once more, and the prim- 
itive woman in her longed to yield to its mastery. But the 
cooler characteristics of her nature bade her pause and 
weigh the full significance of marrying a man whose life 
was tinged with mystery, and who frankly acknowledged 
that he bore a secret which must remain hidden, even from 
his wife. 

It would be taking a leap in tlie dark, and Diana shrank 
from it 

*T. must have time to think," she repeated. "I can't de- 
cide to-day." 



THE FLAME OF LOVE 167 

'^Oy" lie said, ^'yo^'re right Fve known that all the 
time, only — only — ^his voice 6hook — ^'Hhe touch of you, the 
neameea of yoa, blinded me." He paused. '^Don't keep 
me waiting for your answer longer than you can help, Di- 
ana," he added, with a quiet intensi^. 

^^You'U go away from Crailingt" she asked nervously. 

He smiled a little sadly. 

"Yes, I'll go away. I'll leave you quite free to make your 
decision," he replied. 

She breathed a sigh of relief. She knew that if he were 
to remain at Crailing, if they were to continue seeing each, 
other almost daily, there could be but one end to the mat- 
ter — ^her conviction that no happiness could result from 
such a marriage would go by the board. It could not stand 
against the breathless impetuosity of Max's love-making — 
not when her own heart was eager and aching to respond. 

^'Thank you, Max," she said simply, extending her hand. 

He put it aside, drawing her into his embrace. 

^'Beloved," he said, and now there was no passion, no 
fierceness of desire in his voicei^ only unutterable tender- 
ness. ^^Beloved, please God you will find it in your heart 
to be good to ma All my thoughts are yours^ but for that 
one thing over which I need your faith. ... I think no 
man ever loved a woman so utterly as I love you. And 
oh ! little white English rose of my heart, I'd never ask more 
than you could giva Love isn't all passion. It's tender- 
ness and shielding and service, dear, as well as fire and 
flame. A man loves his wife in all the little ways of daily 
life aa well as in the big ways of eternity." 

He stooped his head, and a shaft of sunlight flickered 
across his bright hair. Diana watched it with a curious 
sense of detachment. Very gently he laid her hands against 
his lips, and the next moment he was swinging away from 
her across the stretch of yellow sand, leaving her alone once 
more with the sea and the sky and the wheeling gulls. 



CHAPTER XV 



DIAITa's DBOIBIOir 



MAX had beea gone a week — a week of diatrees and 
iniBerable indecision for Diana, racked as she waa 
between her love and her conviction that marriage under 
the only circumstances possible would inevitably bring un- 
happiness. Over and above this fear there was the instinc- 
tive recoil she felt from Errington's demand for such blind 
f aitL Her pride rebelled against it If he loved her and 
had confid^ice in her, why couldn't he trust her withi his 
secret? It was treating her like a child, and it would be 
wrong — all wrong — she argued, to b^gin their married life 
with concealment and secrecy for its foundation. 

One morning she even wrote to him, telling him defi- 
nitely either that he must trust her altogether, or that they 
must part irrevocably* But the letter was torn up the same 
afternoon, and Diana went to bed that night witii her de- 
cisicm still untaken. 

For several nights she had slept but little, and once again 
she passed long hours tossing feverishly from side to side 
of the bed or pacing up and down her room, love and pride 
fighting a stubborn battle within her. Had Max remained 
at Crailing, love would have gained an easy victory, but^ 
true to his promise^ he had gone away, leaving her to make 
her decision free and untrammelled by his influenca 

Diana's face was beginning to show signs of the mental 
straggle through which she was passing. Dark shadows lay 
beneath her eyes, and her cheeks, even in so short a time^ 
had hdlowed a litda She was irritable^ too^ and unlike 



DIAKA'S DECISION 189 

hemlf y and at last Stair, ^oee watchful eyes had noted 
all these things, though he had refrained from comment^ 
taxed her with keeping him outside her oonfidenca 

^Can't I help, Di f ' he asked, laying his hand on. her 
ehoulder, and twisting her round so ^at she faced him. 

The quick colour flew into her cheeks. For a moment 
Ab hesitated, while Stair, releasing his hold of her, dropped 
into a chair and busied himself filling and lighting his 
pipa 

* Well f ' he queried at lasl^ smiling whimsically. "Won't 
jou give me an old friend's right to ask impertinent quee- 
HansV 

Impulsively she yielded. 

^Tou needn't, Fobs. I'll tell you all about it" 

When she had finished, a long silence ensued. Not that 
Stair was in any doubt as to what form his advice should 
take — ^idealist that he was, there did not seem to him to be 
any question in the matter. He only hesitated as to how 
he could best word his counsel. 

At last he spcke^ very gently, his eyes lit with that inner 
radiance which gave such an arresting charm of ezpree- 
flion to his faca 

'^y dear," he said, "it seems to me that if you love him 
yon needs mnist trust him. ^Perfect love casteth out fear.' " 

Diana shook her head. 

"Mightn't you reverse that^ Pobs^ and say that he would^ 
trust me — if he loves me ?" 

^'No, not necessarily." Alan sucked at his pipe, '^e 
knows what his secret is, and whether it is right or wrong 
for you to share it You ' haven't that knowledga And 
thaf 3 where your trust must come in. You have to believe 
in him enough to leave it to him to decide whether you 
on^t to be told or not Have you no confidence in his 
judgment 9" 

"I don't think husbands and wives should have secrets 
from one another," protested Diana obstinately. 



ITO THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

''Does he propose to have anj other than this one!*' 

"No." 

''Then I don't see that you need complain. The pres- 
ent and the fature are yours, but you've no right to demand 
the past as welL And this secret^ whatever it may be, be- 
longs to the past" 

''As far as I can see it will be cropping up in the future 
as well/' said Diana ruefully. "It seems to be a 'oontinued 
in our next' kind of mysteiy." 

Stair laughed boyishly. 

"It should add a zest to life if that's the case^" he re- 
torted. 

Diana was silent a moment. Then she said suddenly : — 

"Fobs, what am I to do ?" 

Instantly Stair became grave again. 

"My dear, do you love himt" 

Diana nodded, her eyes replying. 

"Then nothing else matters a straw. If you love him 
enough to trust bim with the whole of the rest of your lif e^ 
you can surely trust him over a twopenny-halfpenny little 
secret which, after all, has nothing in the world to do with 
you. If you can't, do you know what it looks like?" 

^he regarded him questioningly. 

"It looks as though you suspected the secret of being a 
disgraceful one — something of whicb Max is ashamed to 
tell you. Do you"— sharply— "think that?" 

"Of course I don't !" she burst out indignantly. 

"Then why trouble? Possibly the matter concerns some 
one, else besides himself, and he may not be at liberty to 
tell you anything — ^he might have a dozen different reasons 
for keeping his own counsel. And the woman who loves 
him and is ready to be his wife is the first to doubt and 
distrust him I Diana, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. 
If my wife" — ^his voice shook a little — "had ever doubted 
me — ^no matter how black things might have looked against 
think it would have broken my heart." 



DIANA'S DECISION 171 

Diana's head drooped lower and lower as lie apoke, and 
presently her hand stole out^ seeking his. In a moment it 
^aa taken and held in a close and kindly clasp. 

"Ill — ^I'U marry him, Pobs," she whispered. 

So it came abont that when, two days later, Max took 
his way to 24 Brutton Square, the gods had better gifts in 
store for him than he had dared to hope. 

He was pacing restlessly up and down her little sitting- 
room when she entered it, and she could see that his face 
l)ore traces of the last few days' anxiety. There were new 
lines about his mouth, and his eyes were so darkly shadowed 
as to seem almost sunken in their sockets. 

^7ou have come back I" he said, stepping eagerly towards 
her. ^^iana" — ^there was a note of strain in his voice — 
'Vhichisit? Yes — or no!" 

She held out her handEk 

*'It's— it's 'yes,' Max." 

A stifled exclamation broke from him, almost like a sob. 
He folded her in his arms and laid his lips to hers. 

''My beloved! . . • Oh, Diana, if you could guess the 
agony — the torture of the last ten daysl" And he leaned 
his cheek against her hair, and stood silently for a little 
8pac& 

Presently fear overcame him again — quick fear lest she 
should ever regret having given herself to him. 

''Heart's dearest^ have you realised that it will be very 
hard sometimes? You will ask me to explain things — and 
I shan't be able to. Is your trust big enough — great enough 
for this?" 

Diana raised her head from his shoulder. 

"I love you," she answered steadily. 

''Do you forget the shadow? It is there still, dogging 
my steps. Not even your love can alter that" 

For a moment Diana rose to the heights of her wonuur 
hood- 



178 THE SPLENBID FOLLY 

'Hi there mxist be a shadow,'' she said, ' Ve will walk in 
it together." 

''But — don't yon see % — I shall know what it ia. To yon 
it will always be something unknown, hidden, mysterioaa 
Ghild! Childl I wander if I am 3right to let yoa join 
your life to minel" 

But Diana only repeated: — 

"I love yon." 

And at last he flnng all tihooghtB of warning and doabt 
aside, and seeore in that reiterated '1 love youl" yielded to 
the unutterahle joy of the 



iriMit: II 



CHAPTER XVI 
bjlBohx's opzmoir of matexmoSt 

PER Dial What ia this 70a tell met That you are 
to be loamedt . • • My dear Mees Quentin, pleaae 
put all such thoDghtB of f ooliahneBB out of your mind. You 
are conseorated to art The young man must find another 
hrida'' 

It was thu5 that Carlo Baroni reoeived the news of Di- 
ana's engagement — ^at first with unmitigated horror^ then 
sweeping it aside as though it were a matter of no oonse- 
quenoe whatever. 

Diana laughed, dimpling with amusement at the maea- 
iro*s indignation. Now that-she had given her faith, re- 
fusing to allow anything to stand between her and Max, she 
was so supremely happy that she felt she oould afford to 
lau^ at sudi relativdy small obstacles as would be raised 
by her old singing-master. 

'Tm afraid the ^oung man' wouldn't agree to that^" she 
returned gaily, ^^e would say you must find another 
pupiL" 

Baroni surveyed her with anxiety. 

'?ou are not serious P' he queried at last 

'Indeed I am. I'm actually engaged — now, at this mo- 
ment — and we propose to get married before Christmas." 

'^ut it is impossible! Qvuato Ciehi But impossible!" 
reiterated the eld man. '^ees Quentin, you cannot haf 
understood. Perhaps, in my anxiety that you should strain 
every nerve to improve, I haf not praised you enough — 
and so you haf not understood Leesten, then. You haf 
a vo(ioe than which there is not one so good in the whole 



174 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

of Europa It is superb— manrelloua — ^the voice of the cen- 
tury. With that voice you will haf the whole world at 
your feet; before long you will commaiid almost fabulous 
iee&j and more, far more than this, you can interpret the 
music of the great masters as they themselves would wish to 
hear it. Me, Baroni, I know it. And you would fling such 
possibilities, such a career, aside for mere matrimony! It 
is nonsense, I tell you, sheer nonsense I" 

He paused for breath, and Diana laid her hand deprecat- 
ingly on his arm. 

"Dear Maestro/' she said, "it's good of you to tell mo 
all this, and — ^and you mustn't think for one moment that 
I ever forget all you've done for mei It's you who've made 
my voice what it is. But there isn't the least reason why 
I should give up singing because I'm going to be married. 
I don't intend to, I assure you." 

"I haf no doubt you mean well. But I haf heard other 
young singers say the same thing, and then the husband 
— the so English husband ! — ^he objects to his wife's appear* 
ing in public, and presto! • • . Away goes the career! No 
singer should marry until she is well established in her 
profession. You are young. Marry in ten years' time and 
you shall haf my blessing." 

"I shall want your blessing sooner than that," laughed 
Diana. "But I'm not marrying a ^so English husband'! 
He's only partly English, and he's quite willing for me to 
go on singing." 

Baroni regarded her seriously. 

"Is that so ? Good ! Then I will talk to the young man, 
so that he may realise that he is not marrying just Mees 
Diana Quentin, but a voice — a heaven-bestowed voica 
What is his name ?" 

'?ou know him," she answered smilingly, ^^t's Max 
Errington." 

She was utterly unprepared for the effect of her words. 
Baroni's face darkened like a stormy sky, and his eyes lit- 



BABONrS OPINION OF MATRIMONY 176 

arally biased at her from beneath their peoithouae of shaggy 
brow. 

''Max Errington I Dofinerwettert But that is the worst 

of aur 

Diana stared at him m mute amazement^ and, despite 
herself, her heart sank with a sudden desperate apprehen- 
sion. What did it mean? Why should the mere mention 
of Max's name have roused the old maestro to such a fever 
of indignation ? 

Presently Baroni turned to her again, speaking more com- 
posedly, although little sparks of anger still flidcered in his 
eyes ready to leap into flame at the slightest provocation. 

'^I haf met Mr. Errington. He is a charming man. But 
if you marry him, my dear Mees Quentin — good-bye to 
your career as a ^world-artiste, good-bye to the most mar- 
vellous voice that the good God has ever let me hear.'' 

**I don't see why. Max thoroughly understands profes- 
sional life." 

"Nevertheless, believe me, there will — ^there must come 
a time when Max Errington's wife will not be able to appear 
bef(M^ the world as a public singer. I who speak, I know." 

Diana flashed round upon him suddenly. 

"You — ^you know his secret ?" 

"I know it." 

So, then, the secret which must be hidden from his wife 
was yet known to Carlo Baroni I Diana felt her former 
resentment surge up anew within her. It was unfair — 
shamefully unfair for Max to treat her in this way 1 It was 
nmln'Tig g mockory of their love. 

Baroni's keen old eyes read the conflict of emotions in 
her face, and he laid his finger unerringly upon the sore 
spot. His one idea was to prevent Diana from marrying, 
to guard her — as he mentally phrased it — ^for the art he 
loved so well, and he was prepared to stick at nothing that 
might aid his cause. 

"So he has not told you?" he said slowly. "Do yon not 
think it strange of him ?" 



176 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Diana's bieart rose and fell tomnltaonsly. Baroni was 
taming the knife in the wound with a Tengeanoa 

^'Maestro, tell me^" — her voioe came nnei^enly — ''tell m& 
Ib it'' — flhe turned her head away — ^''ia it a • • • shanaefol 
. . . secret?" 

Inwardly she loathed herself for asking such a thing, but 
the words seemed dragged from her without her own voli- 
tion. 

Baroni hesitated. All his hopes and ambitions oeatred 
roond Diana and her marvellous voic& He had given of 
his best to train it to its present perfection, and now be 
saw the fruit of his labour about to be snatched from him. 
It was more than human nature could endura Errington 
meant nothing to him, Diana and her voice eveiythiug; end 
he was prepared to sacrifice no matter whom to secure her 
career as an artista By implication he sacrificed Er- 
rington. 

''It is not possible for me to say mora But be advised, 
my dear pupiL Out of my great love for you I say i^— 
let Max Errington go his way/* 

And with those words — sinister, warning — rin^ng in her 
ears, Diana returned to Brutton Squara 

But Baroni was not content to let matters remain as they 
stood, trusting that his warning would do its woA. He 
was determined to leave no stone unturned, and he forthwith 
sought out Errington in his own bouse and deliberately 
broached the subject of his engagement to Diana. 

Max greeted him affectionately. 

''It's a long while since you honoured me with a visit," 
he said, shaking hands. "I suppose^' — ^lau^ingly — ^"you've 
come to congratulate me ?" 

The old man shook bis head 

"Far from it I haf come to ask you to give ber upi" 

"To give her up t" repeated Max, in undisguised amaso' 
ment. 

"Yea Mees Quentin is not for marriaga She is dedi- 
cated to Art" 



BAEOlSrrS OPINION OF MATRIMONY 177 

Max smiled indulgently. 

'To Art? Yes. But she's for me^ too, thank Qod! 
Dear old friend/ yon need not look so anxious and oon- 
cemed. Fve no wish to interfere with Diana's profes- 
sional work. You shall have her voice?' — smiling — "Fll be 
content to hold her heart" 

But there was no answering smile on Baroni's lips. 

^'Does Ae hnou? — everythmgf' he asked sternly. 

Max shook his head. 

''No. How could she? • . . Ten must realise the im- 
possibility of that/' he answered slowly. 

"And yoa think it rig^t to let her inaxry yoa in i«no- 
ranoef* 

Max hesitated. Then — 

''She trusts me," he said at last 

"PishI For how long? . • . Whan she sees daily under 
her eyes things that she cannot explain, unaccountable 
things, how long will she remain satisfied, I ask you? And 
then will begin unhappinesa" 

Errington stiffened. 

"And what has our-^«upposititiou9— unhappiness to do 
with you, Signer Baroni ?" he asked haughtily. 

''Your unhappiness ? Nothing. It is the price you must 
pay — ^your inheritanca But hers? Everything. Tears, 
fretting, vexation — and that beautiful voice, that perfect 
organ, may be impaired. Think ! Think what you are do- 
ing! Just for your own personal happiness you axe risk- 
ing the voice of the century, the voice that will give pleas- 
ure to tens of thousands — to millions. You are committing 
a crime against Art" 

Max smiled in spite of himself. 

"Truly, Maestro, I had not thou^t of it like that," he 
admitted. "But I think her faith in ma will carry us 
through," he added confidently. 

"Never! Never! Women are not made like that." 

"And perhaps, later on, if things go well, I shall be able 
to teH her alL" 



178 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

^'Aad mnak good that will do I Diavolo! When the time 
com6B that things go wdl — ^if it e^er does o(Hne ^' 

mwilL It shall/' said Max firmly. 

^'Well, if it does — ^I ask you, can she then continae her 
life as an artiste?" 

Max reflected* 

^7es^ if I remain in England — which I hope to d<K I 
oonnted on that when I asked her to many ma I think I 
shall be able to arrange it" 

^^If I If 1 Are you going to hang your wife's happiness 
upon an 'if?" Baroni spoke with intense anger. ''And 
4f you caminot remain in England, if you haf to go back — 
ther^f Can your wife still appear as a public singer?" 

^^NOy" acknowledged Max slowly. '? suppose not" 

''No I Her career will be ruined. And all this is the 
price she will haf to pay for her — UvgH Oive it up^ give it 
up — set her free." 

Kax flung himself into a chair, leaning his arms wearily 
on the table, and stared straight in front of him, his eyeo 
daric with pain. 

"I can't," he said, in a low Toice. 'ITot now. I meant 
to-^I tried to — ^but now she has promised and I can't let 
her ga Good God, Maestro T — a sudd^i ring of passion 
in his tones — "Must I give up everything? Am I to have 
nothing in the world ? Always to be a tool and never live 
an individual man's life of my own ?" 

Baroni's face softened a little. 

"One cannot escape one's destiny," he said sadly. ^'Che 
99a^aa/r^. . . . But you can spare-— her. Tell her tiie truth, 
and in common fairness let her judge for herself — not rush 
blindfold into such a wek" 

Max shook his head. 

"You know I can't do that," he replied quietly. 

Baroni threw out his arms in despair. 

"I would teU her Ae whole truth myself — but for the 
mmsomj of one who is dead." Sudden teon dimmed the 



BAEONI'S OPINION OF MATRIMONY 179 

fierce old eyes. ''For the sake of that sainted martyr — 
martyr in life as well as in death — ^I will hold my peaea" 

A half-sad, half-hnmoroos smile flashed across Erring 
ton's faoa 

''We're all of na martyrs — ^more or less," he obaorved 
drily. 

"And yon wish to add Mees Quentin to the listt" re- 
torted Baroni. "Well, I warn you, I shall fight against it 
I will do everything in my power to stop this marriage^'' 

Max shrogged his shoulders. 

"I'm sore you will," he said, smiling faintly. "But— 
forgive me^ Maestro— 1 don't think you will saooeed." 

Ab soon as Baroni had taken his departure^ Max called 
a taxi, and hurried ofiF to see Adrienne de Gervais. He 
had arranged to talk over with her a certain scene in the 
play he was now writing for her, and which was to be pro- 
duced early in the New Year. 

Adrienne wdoomed him good-humouredly. 

"A little late," she observed, glancing at tlie dootk. "But 
I suppose one must not expect punctuality when a man's 
in love." 

"I know Fm late, but I can assure you" — ^with a grim 
«mile — "love had little enough to do with it." 

Adrienne looked up sharply, struck by the bitter note in 
liis voice. 

"Then what had?" she asked. "What haa gone wrong, 
Max ! You look fagged out" 

"Baroni has been round to see me — ^to ask me to break 
off my engagement" He laughed shortly. 

"He doesn't approve, I supposed' 

"That's a mild way of expressing his attitude" 

Adrienne was silent a moment Then she spoke^ slowly, 
oonsiderin^y. 

"I don't — approve— eiliier. It isn't righty Max." 

He bit his lip. 

"So you — ^you, too, are against me I" 

She stretohed out her band impulsively. 



180 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

^^Not against yon. Max! Ke^er that I How ooald I be) 
• • • But I don't think you're bring quite fair to Diana. 
You ought to tell her the truth." 

He wheeled round. 

*^No one knows better than 70a how impossible that is." 

^'Don't jou trust her then — the woman you're asking to 
be your wifef'^ 

The tinge of irony in her voice brought a sudden li^t of 
anger to his eye& 

^'That's not very just of you, Adrienne," he said coldly. 
**! would trust her with my life. But I have no ri^t to 
pledge the trust of others — and that's what I .should be 
doing if I told her. We have our duty — you and I — and 
all this ... is part of it" 

Adrienne hesitated. 

'^Couldn't you — ask the others to release yout" 

He shook his head. 

''What right have I to ask them to trust an English- 
woman with their secret — just for my pleasure ?" 

"For your happiness," corrected Adrienne softly. 

''Or for my happiness ? My happiness doesn't count with 
them one straw." 

''It does with ma I don't see why she shouldn't be told. 
Baroni knows, and Olga — ^you have to trust them." 

"Baroni will be silent for the sake of the dead, and Olga 
out of her love — or fear" — ^with a bitter smile — ^"of met" 

"And wouldn't Diana, too, be silent for your sake?" 

"My dear Adrienne" — a little irritably — "English- 
women are so frank — so indiscreetly trusting. That's where 
the difficulty lies, and I dare not risk it There^s too much 
at stake. J3ut can you imagine any agent they may have 
put upon our track surprising her knowledge out of Olga )" 
He laughed contemptuously. "I fancy not ! If Olga hadn't 
been a woman she'd have made her mark in the Diplomatic 
Servica" 

"Yet what is there to make her keep faith with us I'' said 
Adrwnne doubtfolly. "She is poor ^" 



BAEONrS OPINION OF MATRIMONY 181 

'^er own doing, that I" 

^'Tme, bat the fact remains. And those others would 
pay a fortune for the information she could giva Besides^ 
I believe she frankly hates me." 

'^Possibly. But she would never, I think, allow her per- 
sonal feelings to override everything elsa After all, obe 
M^BA one of ns — ^is still, really, iJiough she would gladly die- 
o^vm the connection." 

''Wdl, when youVe looked at every side of the matter, 
i9ire only come back to the same point. I think you're act- 
iTtg vmmglj. You're letting Diana pledge herself blindly, 
i9irhen you're not free to give her the confidence a man 
should give his wife — when you don't even know— -yet — 
how it may all end." 

Almost Baroni's very words t Max winced, 
'^o. I don't know how it will end, as you say. But 
surely there wiil come a time when I shall be free to live 
my own life?" 

Adrienne smiled a trifle wistfully. 
'If your conscience ever lets you," she said. 
There was a long silence. Presently she resumed) — , 
"I never thought, when you ^ first told me about your 
engagement, that the position of affairs need make any 
differenca I was so pleased to think that you cared for 
each other ! And now — ^where will it all end ? How many 
lives are going to be darkened by the same shadow? Oh, 
it's terrible. Max, terrible I" 
The tears filled her eyes. 

"Don't I" said Max unsteadily. "Don't I I know if s bad 
enough. Perhaps you're right — 1 ou^tn't to have spoken 
to Diana. I hoped things would right themselves even- 
tually, but you and Baroni have put another complexion 
upon matters. It's all an inextricable tangle^ whichever way 
one looks at it — come good luck or bad! ... I suppose 
I was wrong — I ought to have waited. But now . . . now 
. • . Before God, Adrienne! I can't give her up — not 
now!" 



CHAPTER XVn 
''whom ood hath joined toosthsb'^ 

MAX and Diana were married shortly before the fid- 
lowing Chrigtmaa. The wedding todk place very 
quietly at Orailing, only a few intimate friends being aaked 
to iL For, as Max pointed out, either their inyitations 
must be limited to a dozen or so, or else Diana must resign 
herself to a fashionable wedding in town, with all the world 
and his wife as guests at the subsequent reception* No 
middle course is possible when a well-known dramatist elects 
to marry the latest sensation in the musical world I 

So it was in the tiny grey church overlooking the sea 
that Max and Diana were made one, with the distant mur^ 
mnr of the waves in their ears, and with Alan Stair to speak 
the solemn words that joined their lives together, and when 
the little intimate luncheon which followed the ceremony 
was over, they drove away in Max's car to the wild, beau- 
tiful coast of Cornwall, there to spend the first perfect days 
of tiiair married lif & 

And they were perfect days I Afterwards^ when clouds 
had dimmed the radiance of the sun, and doubts and ugly 
questionings were beating up on every side, Diana had al- 
ways that radiant fortnight by the Cornish sea — she and 
Max alone together — to look back upon. 

The woman whose married life holds sorrow, and who 
has no such golden memory stored away, is bereft indeed! 

On thmr return to London, the Erringtons established 
theonselves at Lilac Lodge, a charming old-fashioned house 
in Hampstead, where the creeper-<^lad walls and great bushes 
of lUac reminded Diana pleasantly of the old fiectory at 

182 



*^WHOM GOD HATH JOINED TOGETHER'' 188 

Crailing. Jerry made one of the honaeliold — ^'resideBi aeo- 
retary" as he proudly termed himaelfy and his cheery, good- 
huznonred presence was invaltiable whenever diffioalties 



[But at first there were few, indeed, of the latter to eon- 
teaad with. Owing to the illness of an important member of 
the cast, without whose servipes Adrienne declined to per- 
form, the production of Max's new play, '^Mra. Fleming^s 
Susband," was delayed until the autumn. This postpone- 
ment left him free to devote much more of his time to his 
wife than would otherwise have been possible^ and for the 
first few months after their marriage it seemed as though 
no shadow could ever fall athwart their happiness. 

In this respect Baroni's prognostications of evil had failed 
to materialise, but his fears that marriage woidd interfere 
^th Diana's musical career were better founded. Quite 
easily and naturally she slipped out of the professional life 
i^hicb had just been opening its doors to her. She felt no 
inclination to continue singing in public Max filled her 
existence, and although she still persevered with her musi- 
cal training under Baroni, she told him with a frank en- 
joyment of .the situation that she was far too happy and 
enjoying herself far too much to have any desire at pres- 
ent to take up the arduous work of a public singer! 

Baroni was immeasurably disappointed, and not all Di- 
ana's assurances that in a year, or two at most, she would 
go back into harness once more sufficed to cheer him. 

*^A year — two years!" he exclaimed. "Two years lost 
at the critical time — ^just at the commencement of your 
career! Ah, my dear Mrs. Errington, you had better haf 
lost four years later on when you haf established your- 
self." 

To Max himself the old maestro was short and to the point 
when chance gave him the opportuni^ of a few moments 
alone with him. 



184 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

^?aa haf stolen her from me;. Max Errington — you Jiaf 
broken your promise that she should be free to sing/' 

Max responded good-humouredly : — 

'^She is free, Maedro, free to do exactly as she chooeeB. 
And she has chosen — ^to be my wif e^ to live for a time the 
pieasant, peaceful life that ordinary, everyday folk may 
lire, who are not rushed hither and thither at the call of a 
career. Can you honestly say she hasn't chosen the better 
part?'' 

Baroni was silent 

"Don't grudge her a year or two of freedcHn," pursued 
Max. You know, you old slaveniriver, you," — ^laughing 
— "that it is only because you want her for your beloved 
Art — ^because you want her voice! Otherwise you would 
rejoice in her happiness." 

"And you — ^what is it you want?" retorted Baroni, un- 
appeesed. "You want her soul! Whereas I would give 
her soul wings that she might send it singing forth into an 
enraptured world." 

But Baroni's words fell upon stony ground, and Max and 
Diana went their way, absorbed in one another and in the 
wonderful happiness which love had brought than. 

Thus spring slipped away into summer, and the season 
was in full swing when fate tossed the first pebble into their 
imruffled pool of joy. 

It was only a brief paragraph, sandwiched in between the 
musical notes of a morning paper, to which Olga Lermon- 
tof, who came daily to Lilac Lodge to practise with Diana, 
drew the latter's attention. The paragraph recalled the fact 
that it was just a year since Miss Quentin had made her 
debut, and then went on to comment lightly upon the brief 
and meteoric character of her professional appearances. 

'rOomesticity should not have claimed Miss Quentin" — 
so ran the actual words. "Hers was a voice the like of 
which we may not hear again, and the public grudges its 



"WHOM GOD HATH JOINED TOGETHER" 186 

withdrawal. Apropos, we had always thoaght (until cir- 
cTiTnfitanoes proved us hopelessly wrong) that the fortunate 
man, whose gain Has heen such a loss to the musical world, 
aeemed horn to write plays for a certain charming actress 
she to play the part which he assigned her." 



Diana showed the paragraj^ to Max, who frowned as 
lie read it, and finally tore the newspaper in which it had 
appeared across and across^ flinging the pieces into the 
grate. 

Then he turned and laid his hands on Diana's shoulders^ 
gazing searchingly into her f aca 

'^ave you felt — anything of what that paragraph sug- 
gests?" he demanded. ''Am I taking too much from you, 
Diana! I love to keep you to myself — ^not to have to share 
you with the world, but I won't stand in your light, or hold 
you back if you wish to go— -not even" — ^with a wry smile— 
"if it should mean your absence on a tour." 

"Silly boy I" Diana patted his head reprovingly. 'T[ 
don't want to sing in public — at least, not now, not yet. 
Later on, I dare say, I shall like to take it up again. And as 
for leaving you and going on tour" — ^laughingly — ^''the lair 
ter half of the paragraph should serve as a warning to me 
not to think of such a thing!" 

To her surprise Max did not laugh with her. Instead, he 
answered coldly: — 

''I hope you have more sense than to pay attention to what 
any damned newspaper may have to say about me — or about 
Hiss de Gervais either." 

"Why, Max,-Max— " 

Diana stared at him in dismay, flushing a little. It was 
the first time he had spoken harshly to her since their mar- 
riage. 

In an instant he had caught her in his arms, passionately 
repentant 

"Dearest, forgive met It was only — only that you are 



18« THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

bonnd to read such thingii^ and it angered me lor a momeoit 
MiflB de Gervais and I see too much of eadi other to escape 
all QommenV^ 

Diana withdrew herself slowly from his ann& 

''And — ^and must you see so much of her now t Now that 
we are married ?" she asked^ rather wistfully. 

''Why, of course. We hare so many profeaaianal matters 
to discuss. You must be prepared for that, Diana. When 
we begin rehearsing 'Mrs. Fleming's Husband|' I shall be 
down at the theatre e^ery day." 

"Oh> yes, at the theatra But — but you go to see Adriecme 
rather often now, don't yout And the rehearaak havenH 
b^gun yet" 

Max hesitated a moment Then he said quietly: — 

"Dear, you must learn not to be jealous of my work. 
There are always — many things — ^that I hare to diseoss 
with Miss de Gervais." 

And so, for the time being, the subject dropped. But 
the shadow had flitted for a moment across the face of the 
sun. A little cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, had shown 
itself upon the horizon. 

In July the Erringtons left town to spend a brief holiday 
at Orailing Bectory, and on their return the preparations 
for the production of "Mrs. Fleming's Husband" went for- 
ward in good earnest 

They had not been back in town a week before Diana 
realised that, as the wife of a dramatist on the eve of the 
production of a play, she must be prepared to cede her prior 
right in her husband to the innumerable people who daimed 
his time on matters relating to the forthcoming production, 
and, above all, to the actress who was playing the leading 
part in it 

And it was in respect of this latter demand that Diana 
found the matrimonial shoe begin to pinch. To her, it 
seemed as though Adrienne were for ever 'phoning Max to 
come and see her, and invariably he set everything else 



*^WH01I GOD HATH JOINED TOGETHER" 187 

aside — e¥«L Diana herself^ if needs be — and obeyed her 
behest 

^'I oan't see why Adrienne wants to consult you so often," 
Diana protested one day. ^^She is perpetually ringing you 
up to go round to Somervell Street— or if it's not that^ then 
she is writing to you." 

Max laughed her protest asida 

'^dl, there's a lot to consult about, you see," he said 
vaguely. 

^^So it seems. I shall be glad when it is all finished and 
I have you to myself again. When will the play be on t" 

'^Atxmt the middle of October," he replied, fidgeting rest- 
lessly with the papers that strewed his desk. They were 
talking in his own particular den, and Diana's eyes ruefully 
followed the restless gesture. 

"I suppose^" she said slowly, "you want me to go ?" 

**WeU"— apologetically— "I have a lot to attend to this 
morning: Will you send Jerry to me — do you mind, dear- 
est!" 

"It wouldn't make much difference if I did," she re- 
sponded grimly, as she went towards the door. 

Max looked after her thoughtfully in silence. When she 
had gone^ he leaned his head rather wearily upon his hand. 

"It^s better 00," he muttered. "Better she should think 
it's only the play that binds me to Adrienna" 



CHAPTER XVm 



THB AFFBOAOHIirO SHADOW 



DIANA gathered up her BongB and slowly dropped them 
into lier musioKsase, while Baroni stared at her wit^ 
a pozsledy brooding look in his eyes. 

At last he spoke: — 

^?oa are throwing away the great gift Ood has given 
you« Firsts you will take no more eagagementa^ and now 
— ^what is it t Where is yoor voice ?" 

Diana, conscious of having done herself less than justice 
at the lesson which was just concluded, shook her heed* 

^'I don't know," she said simply. '? don't seem able to 
sing now, somehow.'^ 

Baroni shrugged his shoulders. 

^7ou are fretting," he declared. ''And so the voice suf- 
fers." 

^Fretting t I don't know that I've anything to fret 
about"— ^vaguely. *'Only I shall be glad when 'Mrs. Flem- 
ing's Husband' is actually produced. Just now" — ^with a 
rather wistful smile — ^^'I don't seem to have a husband to 
call my own. Miss de (Jervais claims so much of his tima" 

Baroni's brow grew stormy. 

''Mees de Oervais ? Of course ! It is inevitable I" he mut- 
tei:^ ''I knew it must be like that" 

Diana regarded him curiously. 

''But why? Do — do all dramatists have to consult so 
much with the leading actress in the play ?" 

The old maestro made a sweeping gesture with his ann, 
as though disavowing any knowledge of the matter. 

188 



THE APPROAOHrNG SHADOW 189 

'^Do not aak me !" he said bitterly. ^'Ask Max Errin^n 
— aak your husband these questions." , 

At the condemnation in his voice her loyalty asserted it- 
self indignantly. 

''You are right/' she said quickly. ''I ought not to have 
asked you. Good-bye^ signer." 

But Diana's loyalty was hard put to it to fight the newly 
awakened jealousy that was stirring in her heart, and it 
seemed as though just now everything and everybody com- 
bined to add fuel to the fire, for, only a few days later, when 
Mibs Lermontof came to Lilac Lodge to practise with Diana, 
she, too, added her quota of disturbing comment 

'Tou're looking very pale," she remarked, aU the end of 
the hour. "And you're shockingly out of voice! What's 
the matter ?" 

Then, as Diana made no answer, she added teasingly: 
''Matrimony doesn't seem to have agreed with you too wedl. 
Doesn't Max play the. devoted husband satisfactorily f " 

Diana flushed. 

"You've no right to talk like that, Olga, even in jest," 
she said, with a little touch of matronly dignity that sat 
rather quaintly and sweetly upon her. "I know you don't 
like lifax — ^never have liked him — ^but please recollect that 
you're speaking of my husband." 

"Tou misunderstand me^" replied the Eussian, coolly, as 
she drew on her gloves. "I doni dislike him; but I do 
think he ought to be perfectly frank with you. As you say, 
he is your husband" — ^pointedly. 

"Perfectly frank with me!" 

Miss Lermontof nodded. * 

"Yes." 

"He has been," affirmed Diana. 

"Has he, indeed t Have you ever asked him" — she paused 
significantly — ^"who he is?" 

''Who he 18 f* Diana felt her heart contract. What new 
mystery waa this at which the other was hinting! 



190 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

''Who he isr she repeated. **Why— why— wImU do joa 
meanP 

The aooampanist's queer green eyes narrowed between 
their heavy lids. 

"Aflk him — ^thaf s all," she replied shortly. 

She drew her furs around her shoulders preparatory to 
departure, but Diana stepped in front of her^ Iftyi^g a de- 
taining hand on her arm. 

**What do you mean?" she demanded hotly. •Are you 
implying now that Max is going about under a false name ? 
I hate your hints ! Always^ always youVe tried to innnu- 
ate something against Max. . . • NoV* — as the Buaaian en- 
deavoured to free herself from her clasp — **No t You shan't 
leave this house till youVe answered my question. You've 
made' an accusation and you shall prove it — ^if I have to 
bring you face to face with Max himself I" 

^'I've made no accusation — ^merely a suggestion that you 
should ask him who he is. And as to bringing me face to 
face with him — I can assure you" — ^there was an inflectior. 
of ironical amusement in her light tones — ^'no one would be 
less anxious for such a denotiement than Max Errington 
himself. [N^ow, good-bye; think over what I've said. And 
remember" — ^mockingly — "Adrienne de Gervaia is a bad 
friend for the man one loves!" 

She flitted through the doorway, and Diana was left to 
deal as best she might with the innuendo contained in h^ 
speech. 

''Adrierme de Oervais is <i bad friend for the man one 
loves/* 

The phrase seemed to c^'ystallise in words the whole 
vague trouble that had been knocking at her heart, and ahe 
realised suddenly, with a shock of unbearable dismay, that 
she was jealous — jealous of Adrievmet Hitherto, she had 
not in the least understood the feeling of depression and 
malaise which had assailed her. She had only known that 
she felt restless and discontented when Max was oat of her 



rit 



! APPROACHING SHADOW 191 



sight, irritated at the amount of his time whicli TihsB de 
GervaiB claimed, and she had ascribed these things to the 
depth of her lo^e for him I But now, with a sudden flash 
of insight, engendered by the Russian's dexterous sng- 
gestion, sl^ realised that it was jealousy, sheer primitive 
jealousy of another woman that had gripped her, and her 
young, wholesome, spontaneous nature reooiled in horrified 
8elf-<x>ntempt at the reali^tion. 

Fobs' good counsel came back to her mind: '^It seems 
to me that if you love him, you needs must trust him." Ah I 
but that was uttered in regard to another matter — the secret 
which shadowed Max's life — and she had trusted him over 
that, she told herself. This, this jealousy of another woman, 
was an altogether different thing, something which had 
crept insidiously into her heart, and woven its toils about 
her almost before she was aware of it. 

And behind it all there loomed a new terror. Olga Ler- 
montof 8 advice : ''Ask him who he is/* beat at the back of 
her brain, fraught with fresh mystery, the forerunner of a 
I whole host of new suspicions. 

Secrecy and concealment of any kind were utterly alien 
to Diana's nature. Impulsive, warm-hearted, quick-tem- 
pered, she was the last woman in the world to have been 
thrust by an unkind fate into an atmosphere of intrigue 
and mystery. She was like a pretty, fluttering, summer 
moth, caught in the gossamer web of a spider — terrified, 
struggling, battling against something she did not under- 
standy and utterly without the patience and strong deter- 
mination requisite to free herself. 

For hours after Olga's departure she fought down th 
temptation to foUow her advice and question her husba^ 
She could not bring herself to hurt him — as it must do , 
guessed that she distrusted him. But neither cou^^ , ^ 
conquer the suspicions that had leaped to life witb' , 
At last, for the time being, love obtained the mastet' ^^^^ 

Ibe first round of the stru^le. , . 

^^ * iechauf- 



198 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

^'I wiU trust him/' she told herself. '^And — and whether 
I trust him or not," she ended up defiantly, ^'at least he 
shall never know, never see it> if — ^if I can't" 

So that it was a very sweet and r^)entanty if rather wan, 
Diana that greeted her husband when he returned from 
the afternoon rehearsal at the theatra 

Max's keen eyes swept the white, shadowed face. 

^^as Miss Lermontof been here to-day?" he asked ab- 
ruptly. 

^^es." A burning flush chased away her pallor bs she 
answered his question. 

"I see." 

**Tou see?" — ^nervously. ''What do you see?" 

A very gentle expression came into Max's eyes. 

"I see," he s^d kindly, "that I have a tired wifa You 
mustn't let Baroni and Misa Lermontof work you too hard 
^between them." 

"Oh, they don't, Max." 

"All right, then. Only" — cupping her chin in his'hand 
and tumiiig her face up to his — "I notice I often have a 
somewhat worried-looking wife after one of Miss Lermon- 
tof s visits. I don't think she is too good a friend for you, 
Diana. Couldn't you get some one else to accompany you ?" 

Diana hesitated. She would have beeti quite glad to 
dispense with Olga's services had it been possibla The 
Sussian was for ever hinting at something in connection 
either with Max or iMiss de Gtervais; to-day she had but 
gone a step further than usual. 

"Well ?" queried Max, reading the doubt in Diana's eyes. 

^ "I'm afraid I couldn't engage any one else to accompany 

vagui» gjj^ g^j^ j^|. jj^g^ 'TTou see, Olga is Baroni's chosen 

^^^/ oanist, and — it might make troubla" 

she wa .j^^g expression crossed his f aca 

not in i > jj^ agreed slowly. "It might — ^make trouble^ as 

^'"^^ ^ Well, why not ask Joan to stay with you for a 

she felt rt counterbalance matters I" 




THE APPEOACHING SHADOW 198 

^^ExoeDent suggestion !" exclaimed Diana, her spirits go- 
ing up with a bound. Joan was always so satisfactory and 
cheerful and commonplace that she felt as though her mere 
presenoe in the house would serve to dispel the vague, in- 
definable atmosphere of suspicion that seemed closing round 
her. "I'll write to her at once." 

^^60, do. If she can qome next month, she will be here 
for the first night of 'Mrs. Fleming^s Husband.' '' 

Diana went away to write her letter, while Max remained 
pacing thoughtfully up and down the room, tapping rest- 
lessly with his fingers on his chest as he 'walked. His face 
showed signs of fatigue — ^the hard work in connection with 
the production of his play was telling on him — ^and since 
the brief interview with his wife, a new look of anxiety, an 
alert, startled expression, had dawned in his eyes. 

He seemed tobe taming Bomethmg over in his mind as 
he paced to and fro. At last, apparently, he came to a 
decision. 

'^'11 do it," he said aloud. "It's a possible chance of 
silencing her." 

He made his way downstairs, pausing at the door of the 
library, where Diana was poring over her letter to Joan. 

"I find I must go out again," he said. "But I shall be 
back in time for dinner." 

Diana looked up in dismay. 

"But youVe had no tea, Max," she protested. 

"Cw^'t stay for it now, dear." 

He dropped a light kiss on her hair and was gone, while 
Diana, flinging down her pen, exclaimed aloud •.» — 

"It's that woman again ! I know it is I She's rung him 
up!" 

And it never dawned upon her that the fact that she 
had unthinkingly referred to Adrienne de Gervais as "that 
woman" marked a turning-point in her attitude towards 
her. 

Meanwhile Errington hailed a taxi and directed the chauf « 



194 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

fear to drive liim to 24 Brutton Square, where he aaked to 
see Miss Lermontof. 

He was shown into the big and rather gloomj-lookiiig 
public drawing-room, of which none of Mrs. Lawrence's 
student-boarders made use except when receiving male 
visitors, much preferring the cheery comfort of their own 
bed-sitting-rooms — ^for Diana had been the only one amongst 
them whose means had permitted the luxury of a separate 
sitting-room — ^and in a few minutes Olga joined him there. 

There was a curiously hostile look in her face as she 
greeted him. 

"This is — an unexpected pleasure, Max/' she began mock- 
ingly. "To what am I indebted V 

Errington hesitated a moment. Then, his keen eyes rest- 
ing piercingly on hers, he said quietly : — 

"I want to know how we stand, Olga. Are you trying to 
make mischief for me with my wife ?" 

"Then shtf s asked you ?" exclaimed Olga triumphantly. 

"Diana has asked me nothing. Though I have no doubt 
that you have been hinting and suggesting things to her 
that she would ask me about if it weren't for her splendid 
loyalty. You have the tongue of an asp, Olga! Always, 
after your visits, I can see that Diana is worried and un- 
happy." 

"How can she ever be happy — as your wife?" 

Errington winced. 

"I could make her happy — if you — ^you and Baroni — 
would let me. I know I must regard you as an enemy in — 
that other matter ... as' a ^passive resister,' at least," he 
amended, with a bitter smile. "But am I to regard you as 
an enemy to my marriage, too ? Or, is it your idea of pun- 
ishment, perhaps — ^to wreck my happiness ?" 

Olga shrugged her shoulders, and, walking to the window, 
stood there silently, staring out into the street. When she 
turned back again, her eyes were full of tears. 

"Max," she said earnestly, "you may not believe it, but 



^ THE APPROACHING SHADOW 195 

I want your happiness above everything else in the world. 
There is no one I love as I love you. Give up— that other 
a£Fair. Wash your hands of it Let Adrienne go, and take 
your happiness with Diana. That's what I'm working for — 
to niake you choose between Diana and that interloper. You 
won't give her up for me ; but perhaps, if Diana — if your 
wife — ^insists, you will shake yourself free, break with Adri- 
enne de Gervais at last. Sometimes I'm almost tempted 
to tell Diana the truth, to force your hand !" 
Errington's eyes blazed. 

"If you did that," he said quietly, "I would never see, 
or speak to you, again." 
Olga shivered a little. 

"Your honour is mine," he went on. "Kemember that." 
"It isn't fair," she burst out passionately. "It isn't fair 
to put it like that Why should I, and you, and Diana — 
all of us — ^be sacrificed for Adrienne t" 

"Because you and I are — ^what we are, and because 
Diana is my wife." 

Olga looked at him curiously. 

"Then — if it came to a choice — ^you would actually sac- 
rifice Diana ?" 

Errington's face whitened. 

"It will not — it shall not !" he said vehemently. "Diana's 
faith will pull us through." 
Olga smiled contemptuously. 

"Don't be too sure. After all, a woman's trust won't 
stand everything, and you're asking a great deal from 
Diana — a blind faith, under circumstances which might 
shake the confidence of any one. Already" — she leaned f or^ 
ward a little — "already she is beginning to be jealous of 
Adrienna" 

"And whom have I to thank for that ? You — ^you, from 
whom, more than from any other^ I might have expected 
loyalty." 
Olga shook her head. 



196 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

"Noy not ma But the fact that no wife worth (lie y 
will stand quietly by and see her husband at the 
call of another woman." 

''More especially when there is some one who 
poison in her ear day by day," he retorted. ^" 

^TTes," she acknowledged frankly. "If I can bring 
ters to a head, force you to a dioice between Adrienno «. . . 
Diana, I shall do it. And then, before God, Max ! I believe 
youMl free yourself from that woman." 

"No," he answered quietly, "I shall not." 

'TTou'U sacrifice Diana?" — incredulously. 

A smile of confidence lightened his face. 

"I don't think it will come to that. I'm stakinir — eveEry- 
thing-^ Diana's trust in ma" 

"Then you'll lose — ^lose, I tell you." 

"No," he said steadily. "I shall win." 

Olga smote her hands together. 

'^as there ev^ c^ch a fool! I tell you, no woman's 
trust can hold out for ever. And since you oan't explain 
to her " 

"It won't be for ever," he broke in quickly. ''Everything 
goes well. Before long all the concealment will be at an 
end. And I shall be free." 

Olga turned away. 

"I can't wish you success," she said bitterly. "The day 
that brings you success will be the blackest hour of my life." 

Errington's face softened a little. 

"Olga, you are unreasonable ^" 

"Unreasonable, am I ? Because I grudge paying for the 
sins of others? ... If that is unreasonable — ^yes, then, I 
am unreasonable I Now, go. Go, and remember, Max, we 
are on opposite sides of the camp." 

Errington paused at the door. 

"So long as you keep your honour — our honomv-dean," 
he said, "do what you like I I have utter, abeofaite inist in 
Diana." 



. w 
[he 
iSa' 

^j CHAPTER XIX 

wn-f 

THK "PIBST wight" PBKFOBMAWOB 

THE curtain fell amidst a roar of applause, and the lights 
flashed up over the auditorium once more. It was the 
first night porformanee of ^^Mrs. Fleming's Husband/' and 
the house was packed with the usual crowd of firstruighters, 
critics, and members of *Hhe" profession who were anxious 
to see Miss de Genrais in the new part Max Errington had 
created for her. 

Diana and Joan Stair were in a box, escorted only by 
Jerry, since Max had firmly refused to come down to the 
theatre for the first performance. 

^'I can't stand first nights," he had said. ^^At least, not 
of my own plays." And not even Diana's persuasions had 
availed to move him from this decision. 
Joan was ecstatic in her praisa 

''Isn't Adrienne simply wonderful?" she exclaimed, as 
the music of the entr'acte stole out from the hidden or- 
chestra, 

" 'M, yes." Diana's reply lacked enthusiasm. 
Joan, if she could not boast great powers of intuition, 
was dowered with a keen observation, and she had not spent 
a week at Lilac Lodge without putting two and two tc^ther 
and making four of them. She had noticed a great 
change in Diana. The girl was moody and unusually silent ; 
her gay good spirits had entirely vanished, and more than 
once Joan had caught her regarding her husband with a 
curious mixture of resentment and contempt in her eyes. 
Joan was frankly worried over the state of affairs. 

197 



198 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

^^Whj this nU adndrari attitude?" she asked, '^ave 70a 
and Adrienne quarrelled?" , 

"Quarrelled?" Diana raised her brows ev^ so slightly. 
**What should we quarrel about? As a matter of fact, I 
really don't see very much of her nowadays." 

"So I imagined," replied Joan calmly. "When I stayed 
with you last May, either she came to the Lodge, or you 
went to Somervell Street, every day of the week* This 
time, you've not seen each other since I came." 

"No? I don't think"— lightly— "that Adrienne cares 
muoh for members of her own sex. She prefers — ^therr 
husbands." 

Joan stared in amazement The little acid speech was so 
unlike Diana that she felt convinced it sprang from some 
new and strong antagonism towards the actress. What 
could be the cause of it? Diana and Adrienne had be^i 
warm friends only a few months ago! 

Joan's eyes travelled from Diana's small, set face to 
Jerry's pleasant boyish one. The latter had opened his 
mouth to speak, then thought better of it, and closed it 
again, reddening uncomfortably, and his dismayed ex- 
pression was so obvious as to be almost comic. 

The rise of the curtain for the third and last act put a 
summary end to any further conversation, and Joan bent 
her attention on the stage once more, though all the time 
that her eyes and ears were absorbing the shifting scenes 
and brilliant dialogue of the play a little, persistent, inner 
voice at the back of her brain kept repeating Diana's non- 
chalant "J really don't see very much of her nouxidays/' 
and querying irrepressibly, ''Why not?*' 

Meanwhile, Diana, unconscious^ of the uneasy curiosity 
she had awakened in the mind of Joan, was watching the 
progress of the play intently. How designedly it was writ^ 
ten around Adrienne de Gervais — calculated to give every 
possible opportunity to a fine emotional actress! Her lips 
closed a little m<^re tightly together as the thought took hold 



THE "FIRST NIGHT" PERFORMANCE 199 

of her. The author mast have studied Adriennei watched 
her every mood^ learned every twist of h^ temperament, 
to have portrayed a character so absolutely suited to her as 
that of Mrs. Fleming. And how could a man know a 
woman's soul so well unless — ^unless it were the soul of the 
^woman he loved ? That was it; that was the explanation of 
all those things which ha(d puzzled and bewildered her for 
so long. And the author was her husband 1 

Diana, staring down from her box at that exquisite, 
breathing incarnation of grace on the stage below, felt that 
she hated Adrienne. She had never hated any one before, 
and the intensity of her feeling frightened her. Since a few 
months ago, strange, deep emotions had stirred within her 
— ^a passion of love and a passion of hatred such as in the 
days of her simple girlhood she would not have believed to 
be possible to any ordinary well-brought-up young English- 
woman. That Max was capable of a fierce heat of passion, 
she knew. But then, he was not all English ; wilder blood 
ran in his veins. She could imagine his killing a man if 
driven by the lash of passionate jealousy. But she had 
never pictured herself obsessed by hate of a like quality. 

And yet, now, as her eyes followed Adrienne's slender 
figure, with its curious little air of hauteur that always 
set her so apart from other women, moving hither and 
thither on the stage, her hands clenched themselves fiercely, 
and her grey eyes dilated with the intensity of her hatred. 
Almost — ^almost she could understand how men and women 
killed each other in the grip of a jealous leva • . • 

The play was ended. Adriem^j^ij^jixi bowed repeatedly in 
response to the wild enthusiasm of the audience, and of a 
sudden a new cry mingled with the shouts and clapping. 

"Author! Author!" 

Adrienne came forward again and bowed, smilingly shak- 
ing her head, gesturing a n^ative with her hands. But 
still the cry went on, "Author I Author I" — the steady, per* 



200 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

sistent drone of an audience which doea not mean to be 
denied. 

Diana experienced a brief thrill of triumph. She felt 
convinced that Adrienne would have liked to have Max 
standing beside her at this moment. It would have set the 
seal on an evening of glorious success, completed it^ as it 
were. And he had refused to come, declined — so Diana 
put it to herself — ^to share the evening^s trium|^ with the 
actress who had so well interpreted his work. At least this 
would be a pin-prick in the enemy's side! 

And then — ^then — ^a hand pulled aside the heavy folds of 
the stage curtain, and the next moment Max and Adrienne 
were standing there together, bowing and smiling, while the 
audience roared and cheered its enthusiasm. 

Diana could hardly believe her eyes. Max had told her 
so emphatically that he would not coma And now, he was 
here! He had lied to her! The affair had been pre-ar- 
ranged between him and Adrienne all the time! Only she 
— ^the wife! — had been kept in the dark. Probably he had 
spent the entire evening behind the scenes. • • • In her 
overwrought condition, no supposition was too wild for 
credenca 

Vaguely she heard some one at the back of the house shout 
^^Speech !" and the cry was taken up by a dozen voices, but 
Max only laughed and shook his head, and once more the 
heavy curtains fell together, shutting him and Adrienne 
from her sight. ' 

Mechanically Diana gathered up her wraps and prepared 
to leave the box. 

'^Aren't you coming round behind to congratulate them, 
Mrs. Enington?" 

Jerry's astonished tones broke on her ears as she turned 
down the corridor in the direction of the vestibule. 

"No," she replied quietly. "I'm going home.'' 



THE ^TIBST NIGHT" PEKFORMANCE 201 

'HTou told me you wouldn't come to the theatre — and you 
intended going all the time!" 

Diana's wraps were flung on the chair beside her, and 
she stood, a slim, pliant figure in her white evening gown, 
defiantly facing her husband. 

*^NOy I'd no intention of going. I detest first nights," 
lie answered. 

"Then why were you there? Oh, I don't believe it — ^I 

don't believe it I You simply wanted to spend the evening 

'with Adrienne; that was why you refused to go with me." 

*^Diana!" Max epoke incredulously. "You can't believe 

— ^you can't think that I" 

"But I do think that!" — imperiously. "What else can 
I think ?" Her long-pent jealousy had broken forth at last, 
and the words raced from her lips. "You refused to come 
when I ajsked you — offered me Jerry as an escort instead- 
Jerry I" — scornfully — "I'm to be content with my husband's 
secretary^ I suppose, so that my husband himself can dance 
attendance on Adrienne de Gervais?" 
Max stood motionless, his eyes like steel. 
"You are being — ^rather childish," he said at last, with 
slow deliberation. His cool, contemptuous tones cut like a 
whip. 

She had been rapidly losing her self-command, and, read- 
ing the intense anger beneath his outward calm, she jpiade 
an effort to pull herself together. , *• 

"Childish ?" she retorted. "Yes> I suppose it is childish 
to mind being deceived. I ought to have been prepared for 
it— expected it." 

At the note of suffering, in her voice the anger died swiftly 
out of his eyes. 

**You don't mean that, Diana," he said, more gently. 
^TTes, I do. You warned me — didn't you? — ^that there 
would be things you couldn't explain. I suppose" — ^bitterly 
— "this is one of them I" 

"1^0, it is not. I can explain this. I didn't intend com- 



203 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

jog to-night^ as I told you. But Miss de Geryais rang np 
from the theatre and bagged me to come^ so, of course^ u 
ahe wished it ^^ 

'^ ^As she wished it !' Are her wishes, then, of so much 
more importance than mine?" 

Errington was silent for a moment At last he replied 
quietly : — 

'^Tou know they are not But in this case^ in the matter 
of the play, ahe is entitled to every consideration." 

Diana's eyes searched his face. Beneath the soft laces 
of her gown her breast still rose and fell stormily, but she 
had herself in hand now. 

^^Max, when I married you I took . • . something . . . 
on trust" She spoke slowly, weighing her words, **But I 
didn't expect that something to include — ^Adrienne! What 
has she to do with you ?" 

Errington's brows came sharply together. He drew a 
quick, short breath as though bracing himself to meet some 
unforeseen danger. 

"Fve written a play for her," he answered shortly. 

''Yes, I know. But is that all that there is between you 
—this play ?" 

^'I can't answer that question," he replied quietly. 

Diana flung out her hand with a sudden, passionate ges- 
ture. 

'^You've answered it, I think," she said soomfoUy. 

He took a quick stride towards her, catching her by the 
arms. 

"Diana" — ^his voice vibrated — "won't you trust me I" 

"Trust you I How can I?" she broke out wildly. "If 

trusting you meanft standing by whilst Adrienne Oh, I 

can't bear it You're asking too much of me. Max. I didn't 
know . . . when you asked me to trust you • . . that it 
meant — this! • • . And there's something else, too. Who 
are you ? What is your real name ? I don't even know"— 
bitterly — ^"whom I've married I" 



THE "FIKST NIGHT" PERFOEMANCE 208 
Se released her suddenly, almost as thougli she had struck 



^'Who has been talking to you ?" he demanded thickly. 

^'Thm U's truer 

Diana's hands fell to her sides and every drop of colour 
drained away from her face. The question had been lying 
dormant in her mind ever since the day ^hen Olga Ler- 
montof had first implanted it there. iNow it had sprung 
from her lips, dragged forth by the emotion of the moment. 
A.nd he couldn't answer itl 

**Then it's true ?" she repeated. 

Errington's face set like a mask. 

''That is a question you shouldn't have asked/' he replied 
coldly. 

''And one you cannot answer i" 

He bent his head. 

"And one I cannot answer." 

Very slowly she picked up her wraps. 

"Thank you," she said imsteadily. "I'll— 111 go now." 

He laid his hand deliberately on the door-handle. 

"No," he said. "No, you won't go. I've heard what you 
have to say; now you'll listen to me. Good God, Diana!" 
he continued passionately, '^o you think I'm going to 
stand quietly by and see our happiness wrecked?" 

"I don't see how you can prevent it," she said dully. 

"I? No; I can do nothing. But you can. Diana, be- 
loved, have faith in me! I can't explain these things to 
you — ^not now. Some day, please God, I shall be able to, 
but till that day comes — ^trust me!" There was a depth 
of supplication and entreaty in his tone, but it left her un* 
moved. She felt frozen — ^passionless. 

"Do you mean — do you mean that Adrienne, your name, 
everything, is all part of — of what you can't tell me ? Part 
of — ^the shadow ?" 

He was silent a moment Then he answered steadily : — 

"Yes. That much I may tell you." 



204 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

She pat np bar hand and piuhed back her Kair impa- 
tiently from her forehead. 

^'I can't understand it . • • I can't understand iV' flhe 
muttered* 

*T)eaTy most one understand — ^to lovef • . . Oan'i jou 
have faith r 

His ejes^ those blue ejes of his which could be by tarns 
so fierce, so unrelenting^ and — did she not know it to her 
heart's undoing ? — so unutterably tender, besought her. But, 
for once, they awakened no responsa She felt cold— quite 
cold and indifferent. 

**Noy Max," she answered wearily. ^T. don't think I can. 
You ask me to believe that there is need for you to see so 
much of Adrienna At first you said it was because of the 
play. If ow you say it has to do with this — this thing I may 
not know. • • . I'm afraid I can't believe it I think a 
man's wife should come first — ^first of anything. I've tried 
— oh, I've tried not to mind when you left me so often to 
go to Adrienna I tised to tell myself that it was only on 
account of the play. I tried to believe it, because — because 
I loved you so. But" — ^with a bitter little smile — '1 don't 
think I ever really believed it — ^I only cheated myself. • • • 
There^s something else, too— the shadow. Baroni knows 
what it is — and Olga Lermontof • Only I — your wife — ^I 
know nothing." 

She paused, as though expecting some reply, but Max 
remained silent, his arms folded across his chest, his head 
a little bent 

^^I was only a child when you married me^ Max," she 
went on presently. "I didn't realise what it meant for a 
husband to have some secret business which he cannot tell 
his wifa But I know now what it means. It's merely an 
excuse to be always with another woman ^" 

In a stride Max was beside her, his eyes blazing, his 
hands gripping her shoulders with a clasp that hurt her. 



THE ''FIRST NIGHT" PERFORMANCE 205 

"How dare you?" he ezdaimed. "tJnBay that — ^take il 
back ? Do you hear !" 

She shrank a little, twisting in his graspi but he held 
her remorselessly. 

"N^o> I won't take it back. ... Ah I Let me go, Max^ 
you're hurting ine 1" 

He released her instantly, and, as his hands fell away 
from her shoulders, the white flesh reddened into bars where 
his fingers had gripped her. His eyes rested for a moment 
on the angry-looking marks^ and then, with an inarticulate 
cry, he caught her to him, pressing his lips against the 
bruised flesh, against her eyes^ her mouth, crushing her in 
his arms. 

She lay there passively; but her body stiffened a little, 
and her lips remained quite still and unrespwsive beneath 



*'DianaI . . . Beloved! . . .'' 

She thrust her hands against his chest. 

''Let me go," she whispered breathlessly. '^Let me go. t 
can't bear you to touch ma" 

With a quick, determined 'movement she freed herself , 
and stood a little away from him, panting. 

''Don't ever ... do that . • . again. I — ^I can't bear 
you to touch me . . . not now." 

She made a wavering step towards the door. He held it 
open for her, and in silence she passed out and up the stairs. 
Presently, from the landing above^ he heard the lock of her 
bedroom ^oor click into its socket 



• • • 






\ 



«c* . \* 




-^ it<* 






^^i=»^ 







6 






cold- ^* 
01g» 
"I ca 
tbAtbri 
Hrrii 



/ 



G^^ 



-cs^ 






'>^ 



l--^<^ 






^ 






<<r«^': V 




tt- 



..<*■ 



... te 


















¥ 



*'^y 



THE SHADOW FALLS 207 

T the same dogged, unbending obBtinaxsj which, in a 
i smaller way, had evinced itself when Baroni had 
7n the music at her and had subsequently bade her pi(& 

at now that sense of wild rebellion against injustice, 
Qst personal injury, was magnified a thousandfold. For 
ths she had been drifting steadily apart from her hus- 
i, acutely conscious of that secret thing in his life, and 
3ely resentful of its imperceptible, yet binding influence 
all his actions. Again and again she had been perplexed 
I. mystified by certain incomprehensible things which she 
I observed — for instance, the fact that, as she knew, part 
Max's correspondence was conducted in cipher; that at 
les he seemed quite unaccountably worried and depressed ; 
d, above all, that he was for ever at the beck and call of 
irienne de (Jervais. 

Gradually . she had b^gun to connect the two things — 
drienne, and that secret which dwelt like a shadowy men- 
2e at the back of everything. It was clear, too, that they 
'ere also linked together in the minds both of Baroni and 
)lga Lermontof — ^a dropped sentence here, a hint there, had 
issured her of that. 

Then had come Olga's definite suggestion, ^^Adrienne de 
Grervais is a bad friend for the man (me loves I" And from 
that point onward Diana had seen new meanings in all that 
passed between her husband and the actress, and a blind 
jealousy had taken possession of her. Something out of the 
past bound her husband and Adrieoiie together, of that she 
felt convinced. She believed that the knowledge which Max 
had chosen to withhold from her — ^his vnie — ^he shared with 
Adrienne — ^and all Diana's fierce young sense of possession 
rose up in opposition. 

Last night, the sight of her husband and the actress, stand* 
ing together on the stage, had seemed to her to epitomise 
their relative positions — ^Max and Adrienne, working to* 



^ 



208 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

gether, fully in each oth^s confidenoe^ whilst she hera^ 
was the outsidery only the onlooker in the hoz I 

''Well?" she said, defiantly turning to her husband. 
'* Well ? What is it you wish to say to me ?" 

"I want an explanation of your conductr-^last night." 

''And I/' she retorted impetuously, "I want an explant- 
tion of your conduct — ever since we've heen married I" 

He swept her demand aside as though it were the irre- 
sponsible prattle of a child, ignored it utterly. He was con- 
scious ol only one thing — ^that she had barred herself away 
from him, humiliated him, dealt their mutual love a blov 
beneath which it reeled. 

The bolted door itself counted for nothing. What mat- 
tered was that it was she who had closed it, deliberate!; 
choosing to shut him outside her life, and cutting every cord 
of love and trust and belief that bound them together. 

An Englishman might have stormed or laughed, as the 
mood took him, and comforted himself with the reflection 
that she would "get over it" But not so Max. The sensi- 
tiveness which he hid from the world at large, but which 
revealed itself in the lines of that finoK^ut mouth of his, 
winced under the humiliation she had put upon him. Love, 
in his idea, was a thing so delicate, so rare^ that Diana's 
crude handling of the situation bore for him a far deeper 
meaning than the impulsive, headlong action of the over- 
wrought girl had rightly held. To Max, it signified the end 
— ^the denial of all the exquisite trust and understanding 
which love should represent. If she could think for an in- 
stant that he would have asked aught from her at a moment 
when they were so far apart in spirit, then she had not 
understood the ideal oneness of body and soul which love 
signified to him, and the knowledge that she had actually 
sought to protect herself from him had hurt him unbearably. 

"Last night," he said slowly, "you showed me that you 
have no trust, no faith in me any longer." 

And Diana, misunderstanding, thinking of the secret 



THE SHADOW FALLS 20? 

^wliich he would not share with her, and impelled by the 
jealousy that obsessed her, replied impetuoual j : — 

'^Tes, I meant to show you that Tou refuse me your 
confidence, and expect me to believe in you I You set me 
aside for Adrienne de Gervais, and then you ask me to— 
trust you ? How can I ? . . . I^m not a fool, Max.'' 

''So it's that? The one thing over whidi I asked your 
faith }" The limitless scorn in his voice lashed her. 

"You had no right to ask itl" she broke out bitterly. "Oh, 
you knew what it would mean. I, I was too young to realise. 
I didn't think — ^I didn't understand what a horrible thing 
a secret between husband and wife ndght be. But I can't 
bear it — I can't bear it any longer ! I sometimes wonder,'' 
she added slowly, "if you ever loved me t" 

"If I ever loved you?" he repeated. "There hai| never 
been any other woman in the world for me. There never 
will be." 

The utter, absolute conviction of his tones knocked at her 
beart, but fear and jealousy were stronger than love. 

"Then prove it !" she retorted. "Take me into your con- 
fidence; put Adrienne out of your life." 

"It isn't possible — ^not yet," he said wearily. 'TTou're 
asking what I caxmot do." 
She took a step nearer. 

"Tell me this, then. What did Olga Lermontof mean^ 
when she bade me ask your name? Oh!" — ^with a quick 
intake of her breath — "you must answer that. Max ; you tnust 
tell me that. I have a right to know it !" 

For a moment he was silent, while she waited, eager-eyed, 
tremulously appealing, for his answer. At last it came. 

"No," he said inflexibly. "You have no— right — ^to ask 
anything I haven't chosen to tell you. When you gave me 
your love, you gave me your faith, too. I warned you what 
it might mean — ^but you gave it And I" — ^his voice deepened 
— ^*'I worshipped you for iti . . . But I see now, I asked 



210 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

too much of you, Morrf' — cynically — ^'than any woman has 
to giva" 

"Then — ^then" — her voice trembled — ^^'you mean you 
won't tell me anything more ?" 

"I can't^' 

"And — ^and Adrienne? Everything must go on just the 
aame?" 

"Just the same" — ^implacably. 

She looked at him curiously. 

"And you expect me still to feel the same towards you, I 
suppose? To behave as though nothing had come between 
us?" 

For a moment his control gave way. 

"I expect nothing/' he si^id hoarsely. , "I shall never ask 
you for anything again — ^neither love nor friendship. As 
you have decreed, so it shall be !" 

Slowly, with bent head, Diana turned and left the room. 

So this was the end I She had made her appeal, ri^ed 
everything on his love for her — ^and lost Adrienne de 
Gervais was stronger than she! 

Hereafter, she supposed, they would live as so many other 
husbands and wives lived — outwardly good friends, but actu- 
ally with all the beautiful links of love and understanding 
shattered and broken. 



"Since the first night of the play they've hardly said a 
word to each other — only when it's absolutely necessary." 
Joan spoke dejectedly, her chin cupped in her hand. 

Jerry nodded. 

"I know," he agreed. "It's pretty awfuL" 

He and Joan were having tea alone together, oosUy, by 
the library fire. Diana had gone out to a singing-lesson, 
and Errington was shut up in his study attending to certain 
letters^ written in cipher — ^letters which reached him fre- 
quently, bearing a foreign postmark, and the answers to 
which he never by any chance dictated to his secretary. 



THE SHADOW FALLS 211 

"Surely they can't have quarrelled, just because he didn't 
come to the theatre with us that night," pursued Joan. '^Do 
you think Diana could have been offended because he came 
down afterwards to please Miss Oervais?" 

^Tartly that But it's a lot of things together, really. 
I've seen it coming. Diana's been getting restive for some 
time. There are — Look here! I don't wish to pry into 
what's not my business, but a fellow can't live in a house 
without seeing things, and there's something in Errington's 
life which Di knows nothing about And it's that — ^just the 
not knowing — ^which is coming between them." 

''Well, then, why on earth doesn't he teU her about it, 
whatever it is?" 

Jerry shrugged his shoulders. 

''Can't say. / don't know what it is; it's not my boaineas to 
know. But his wife's another proposition altogether." 

"I suppose he expects her to trust him over it," said Joan 
thoughtfully. 

"That's about the size of it And Diana isn't taking any." 

"I should trust him with anything in the world — a man 
with that face I" observed Joan, after a pause. 

"There you go!" cried Jerry discontentedly. "There 
you go, with your unfailing faith in the visible object A 
man's got to look a hero before you think twice about him t 
Mark my words, Jo— many a saint's face has hidden the 
heart of a devil." 

Joan surveyed him consideringly. 

• "I've never observed that you have a saint's face, Jerry," 
she remarked calmly. 

"Beast I Joan" — ^he made a dive for her hand, but she 
eluded him with the skill of frequent practice — "how much 
longer are you going to keep me on tenterhooks ? Tou know 
I'm the prodigal son, and that I'm only waiting for you to 
gay 'yes,' to return to the family bosom ^" 

"And you propose to use me as a stepping stone! I know. 
You think that if you return as an engaged young man ^" 



212 THT SPLENDID FOLLY 

'^ith a good reference from my last sitaation^'' intei^ 
polated Jerry, grinning. 

^TTes — that too, then your father will forget all yoor 
peccadilloes and say, ^Bless you, my children' " 

^'Limelight on the blushing bur-ridel And they lived 
happily ever after ! Yes, that's it I Jolly good programme, 
isn't itr 

And somehow Jerry's big boyish arm slipped itself round 
Joan's shoulders — and Joan raised no objectiona. 

'^But — about Max and Diana ?" resumed Miss Stair after 
a judicious interval. ' 

"Well, what about them ?" 

"Can't we — can't we do anything ? Talk to them f ' 

"I just see myself talking to Erringtont" murmured 
Jerry. "I'd about as soon discuss its private and internal 
arrangements with a volcano! My dear kid, it aU depends 
upon Diana and whether she's content to trust her husband 
or not rd trust Max throu^ thick and thin, and no ques- 
tions asked. If he blew up the Houses of Parliament, I 
should believe he'd some good reason for doing it • . . 
But then, I'm not his wife I" 

*^ell, I shall talk to Diana," said Joan seriously. *Tm 
sure Dad would, if he were hera And I do think, Jerry, 
you might screw up courage to speak to Max. He oan't eat 
you! And — and I simply hate to see those two at eroas 
purposes ! They were so happy at the banning." 

The mention of matrimonial happiness started a new train 
of thought, and the oonversation became of a more personal 
nature— the kind of conversation wherein every second or 
third sentence starts with "when we are married," and 
thence launches out into roBe-red visions of the great ad- 
Ventura 

Presently the house door danged, and a minute later 
Diana came into the zoom. She threw aside her fun and 
looked round hastilyl 

"Where's Maxt" ahe asked sharply. 



THE SHADOW FALLS 218 

'Ifot concealed beneath the Chesterfield/' volunteered 
Jerry flippantly. Then, as he caught a hostile sx)arkle of 
irritation in her grey eyea, he added hastily, ^^He's in his 
study." 

Diana nodded, and, without further remark, went away in 
search of her husband 

'^Are you busy, Max V\ she asked, pausing on the threshold 
of the room where he was working. 

He rose at once^ placing a chair for her with the chilly 
courtesy which he had accorded her since their last interview 
in this same room. 

"Not too busy to attend to you,'* he replied. ''Where will 
yousitt Bythefirer 

Diana shook her head. She was a little flushed, and her 
eyes were bright with some suppressed excitement 

"No thanks,'' she replied. "I only came to tell you that 
I've been having a talk with Baroni about my voice, and — 
and that I've decided to begin singing again this winter — 
professionally, I mean. It seems a pity to waste any more 
tima" 

She spoke rapidly, and with a certain nervousness. 

For an instant a look of acute pain leaped into Erring- 
ton's eyes, but it was gone almost at once, and he turned to 
her composedly. 

"Is that the only reason, Diana?" he said. "The waste 
of time?" 

She was silent a moment, busying herself stripping off her 
gloves. Presently she looked up, forcing herself to meet his 
gaze. 

"No," she said steadily. "It isn't." 

"May I know the— other reasons?" 

Her lip curled. 

"I should have thought they were obvious. Our marriage 
has been a mistake. It's a failure. And I can't bear this 
life any longer. ... I must have something to do." 

'*Need we live like this ?" he asked suddenly. "Strangers 



214 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

to each other in our own home ? It was your decree, remem- 
ber . • • that night . . . when you locked your door against 
me." 

She looked at him defiantly. 

^'It has been locked every night . . . since." 

A glint of slumbering fire showed itself in his eyes. 

^'I know." His voice shook a littla ^'Sometimes • • . I 
wonder I haven't robbed you of the key !" 

"Oh nof — ^no!" She shrank away from him, and the 
fear in her eyes made him winca 

"Do you hate me so much then?" He spoke with intense 
weariness. **You needn't be afraid — ^I won't ask for what 
you can't give, Diana. I'm to blama I ought never to have 
married you. And I'll pay the price you've fixed* Per- 
haps — some day — ^we shall find happiness again to- 
gether " 

"No," she broke in quickly. **We shan't do that I think 
you've killed my love. Max. This secret of yours — ^it's like 
a great wall between us. We can't ever get near to each other 
because of it, and because of — ^Adrienna" 

He gave a short laugh. 

"If only you knew how little you need resent my friend- 
ship with Adriennel" 

Diana took a step towards him. 

"Then give her up I" she said. "Cut her out of your lif a 

If — if you did that. Max ^" She broke off, but her eyes, 

suddenly radiant and misty, told him all that a man need 
know. 

"If I did that — ^you would come back to me ?" The words 
leaped from his lips. 

She bent her head, still with that soft shining in her eyes. 

There was a long pause. Errington's eyes were fixed on 
hers, his face tense with some inward struggla Once he 
made a groping movement towards her, but his aima f^ 
limply again to his sida At last — 

"I can't !" he said hoarsely. *1 can't do what you ask." 



THE SHADOW FALLS 215 

Instantly the light died out of her face. 

'^Then that is the end/' she said coldly. '^I don't think 
we need discuss the matter again. There need be no gossip^ 
So long as I live in your house and bear your name — ^that's 
all the world demands of us. I shaU go back to my pro- 
fession, and — and I suppose we can be decently civil to 
each other? That's all, I think." 

Suddenly Errington threw back his shoulders. 

^^No/' he said, and there was almost a ring of triumph in 
his voice. ^^It's not all. ' Your love is no more dead than 
mine ! Love doesn't die ; and you won't be able to bear this 
miserable farce of a life that you're planning for us." 

She turned on him swiftly. 

'^My pride's greater than my love, Max. If ever the time 
comes when I can't bear it — ^I shall go away." 

The door closed behind her, and for a moment Max stood 
silently staring into space, the bitter threat of her last words 
ringing in his ears. Then he dropped into a chair, his face 
hidden in his arms. 

''Ood I" he muttered. ''God I Is there no way out t" 



/ 



CHAPTER XXI 



THB OTHEB WOMAN 



CARLO BAROINI'S joy knew no bounds when he under- 
stood that Diana had definitely decided to return to 
the concert platform. His first action was to order her awav 
for a complete change and rest^ so she and Joan obediently 
packed their trunks and departed to Switzerland, where they 
forgot for a time the existence of such things as London 
fogs, either real or figurative, and threw themselves heart 
and soul into the winter sports that were going forward. 

The middle of February found them once more in Eng- 
land, and Joan rejoined her father, while Diana went back 
to Lilac Lodge. She was greatly relieved to discover that 
the break had simplified several problems and made it much 
easier for her to meet her husband and b^n life again on 
fresh terms. Max, indeed, seemed to have accepted the new 
regime with that same mocking philosophy with which he in- 
variably faced the problems of life — and which so success- 
fully cloaked his hurt from prying eyes. 

He was uniformly kind in his noianner to his wife— with 
that light, half-cynical kindness which he had accorded her 
in the train on their first memorable journey together, and 
which effectually set them as far apart from each other as 
though they stood at the opposite ends of the earth. 

Unreasonably enough, Diana bitterly resented this atti- 
tude. Womanlike, she made more than one attempt to re- 
op^i the matter over which they had quarrelled, but each was 
skilfully turned aside^ and the fact that after his one re- 
jected effort at reconciliation, Max had clilmly accepted the 
new order of things, added fuel to the jealous 'fire that 

216 



THE OTHER WOMAN 217 

burned within her. She told herself that if he still cared for 
her, if he were not utterly absorbed in Adrienne de Oeirais, 
'he would never have rested until he had restored the old, 
happy relations between them. 

Instinctively she sought to dull the pain at her heart by 
plunging headlong into professional life. Her voice^ thanks 
to the rest and change of her visit to Switzerland, had re- 
gained all its former beauty, and her return to the concert 
platform was received with an outburst of popular en- 
thusiasm. The newspapers devoted half a column apiece to 
the subject, and several of them prophesied that it was in 
grand opera that Madame Diana Quentin would eventually 
find the setting best suited to her gifts. 

"Mere concert work" — ^wrote one critic — "will never give 
her the scope which both her temperament and her marvel- 
lous voice demand." 

And with this opinion Baroni cordially concurred. It was 
his ultimate ambition for Diana that she should study for 
grand opera, and she herself, only too thankful to find some- 
thing that would occupy her thoughts and take her right out 
of herself, as it were, enabling her to forget the overthrow 
of her happiness, flung herself into the work with enthusiasm. 

Gradually, as time passed on, her bitter feelings towards 
Max softened a little. That light, half-ironical manner he 
had assumed brought back to her so vividly the Max Erring- 
ton of the early days of their acquaintance that it recalled, 
too, a measure of tlie odd attraction he had held for her in 
that far-away time. 

That he still visited Adrienne very frequently she was 
aware^ bat often, on his return from Somervell Street, he 
seemed so much depressed that she began at last to wondw 
whether those visits were really productive of any actual 
enjoyment Possibly she had misjudged them — ^her husband 
and her friend — and it might conceivably be really only busi- 
nets matters which bound them together after alL 



218 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

If so— -if that were true— how wantonly she had flung 
away her happiness ! 

Late one afternoon. Max, who had heen out since early 
morning, came in looking thoroughly worn out His eyes, 
ringed with fatigue, held an alert look of strain and anxiety 
for which Diana was at a loss to account* 

She was at the piano when he entered the room, idly trying 
over some MS. songs that had been submitted by aspiring 
composers anxious to secure her interest. 

'^Why, Max,'' she exclaimed, genuine concern in her 
yoice, as she rose from the piano. ^'How worried you look ! 
What is the matter V^ 

^'Nothing," he returned. "At least, nothing in whidi you 
can help," he added hastily. "Unless ^^ 

"Unless what ? Please ... let me help ... if I can." 
Diana spoke rather nervously. She was suddenly struck 
by the fact that the last few months had be^i reepcmsible 
for a great change in her husband's appearance. He looked 
much thinner and older than formerly, she thought. There 
were harassed lines in his face, and its worn contours and 
shadowed eyes called aloud to the compassionate womanhood 
within her, to the mother-instinct that involuntarily longs to 
heal and sootha 

"Tell me what I can do, MaxT 

A smile curved lis lips, half whintisical, half sad. 

"You can do for me what you do for all the rest of the 
world — I won't ask more of you," he replied. "Sing to me." 

Diana coloured warmly. The first part of his speech 
stung her unbearably. 

"Sing to you ?" she repeated. 

'?es. I'm very tired, and nothing is more restful than 
music" Then, as she hesitated, he added, "Unless, of 
course, I'm asking too much." 

*Trou know you are not," she answered swiftly. 

She resumed her place at the piano, and, while he lay 
back in his chair with closed eyes, she sang to him — ^the 



THE OTHER WOMAN 219 

musio of the old masters who loved melody, and into whose 
aongB the bitterness and unrest of the twentieth centary had 
not crept 

Presently, she thought, he slept, and very softly her hands 
strayed into the simple, sorrowful music of ^^The Haven of 
Memory," and a note of wistful appeal, not all of art^ added 
a new depth to the exquisite voice. 

How onee your love 
But erowned and blessed me only, 
Long and long ago. 

The refrain died into silence, and Diana, looking up, found 
Max's piercing blue eyes fixed upon her. He was not 
asleep^ then, after alL 

He smiled slightly as their glances met 

^'Do you remember I once told you I thought The Hell 
of Memory* would be a more appropriate title! • • • I was 
quite right" 

^<Max — *^ Diana's voice quavered and brdse. 

A sudden eager light sprang into his f aca Swiftly he 
came to her side and stood looking down at her. 

^^Diana," he said tensely, ^%ust it always remain — the 
hell of memory T' 

They were very near to each other in that moment; the 
great wall fashioned of jealousy and distrust was tottering 
to its foundations. 

And then, from the street below came the high-pitched, 
raucous sound of the newsboy's voice : — 

''Attempted Murder of Miss Adrian JervisI Premier 
Theatre Besieged/' 

The words, with their deadly import, cut between husband 
and wife like a sword. 

''Good God I" The exclamation burst from Max with a 
cry of horror. Ii^ an instant he was out of the room, down 
the stairs, and running bareheaded along the street in pur- 
suit of the newsboy, and a few seconds later he was back 
with a newspaper, damp from the press, in his hands. 



320 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Diana had remained sitting just as he had left her. She 
felt numbed. The look of dread and consternation that had 
leaped into her husband's f aoe^ as the news came shrilling 
up from the street below, had told her, more eloquently than 
any words could do, how abaolutdy his life was bound up in 
that of Adrienne de Oervais. A man whose heart'a desire 
has been suddenly snatched from him might look so; no 
other. 

Max, oblivious of everything else, was reading the brief 
newspaper account at lightning speed. At last— 

'^I must go!'' he said. ^'I must go round to Somervell 
Street at onca" 

When he had gone, Diana picked up the newspaper frcHn 
the floor where he had tossed it^ and smoothing oat its 
orumpled sheet, proceeded to read the short paragraph, soi^ 
mounted by staring head-lines, which had sent her hoaband 
hurrying hotrf oot to Adrienne's house. 

'^UBDEsous Attack on Miss Ajynjxsnn db 

Okbvaib. 

''As Miss Adrienne de Gervaisy the popular actress^ was 
leaving the Premier Theatre after the matinee performance 
to-day, a man rushed out from a side street and fired three 
shots at her, wounding her severely. Miss de Oervais was 
carried into the theatre, where a doctor who dianced to be 
passing rendered first aid. Within a very few minutes the 
news of the outrage became known and the theatre was be- 
sieged by inquirers. The would-be assassin, who made good 
his escape, was a man of unmistakably foreign appearance." 

Diana laid Ae paper down veiy quietly. This, then, was 
the news which had power to bring that look of fear and 
dread to her husband's face — ^which could instantly veipe out 
from his mind all thoughts of his wife and of everything 
that concerned her. 



THE OTHER WOMAN ?21 

PerhapSy she rafleeted soomfally, it was as well that the 
revelation had come when it did! Otherwise — otherwise^ 
she had been almost on the verge of forgetting her just cause 
for jealousy, forgetting all the past months of misery^ and 
believing in her husband once again. 

The trill of the telephone from below checked her bitter 
thoughts^ and hurrying downstairs into the hall, she lifted 
the receiver and held it to her ear* 
'TTes. Who is it?" 

Possibly something was wrong with the wire, or perhaps 
it was oidy that Diana's voice;, particularly deep and low- 
pitched for a woman, misled the speaker at the other end 
Whatever it may have been, Adrienne's voice, rather tremu- 
lous and shaky, came through the 'phone, and she was ob* 
viously under the impressicm that she was speaking to 
Diana's husband. 

''Oh, is that you, Max? Don't be frightened. I'm not 
badly hurt I hear it's already in the papers, and as I knew 
you'd be nearly mad with anxiety, I've made the doctor let 
me 'phone you myself. Of course you can guess who did 
it. It was not the man you caught waiting about outside the 
theatra It was the taller one of the two we saw at Charing 
Cross that day. Please come round as soon as you can." 

Diana's lips set in a straight line. Very deliberately she 
replaced the receiver and rang off without reply. A small, 
' fine smile curved her lips as she reflected that, within a few 
minutes, Max's arrival at Somervell Street would enlighten 
Miss de Oervais as to the fact that she had been pouring out 
her reassuring remarks to the wrong person* 

Half an hour later Diana came slowly downstairs^ dressed 
for dinner. Jerry was waiting for her in the hall. 

''There^s a 'phone message just come through from Max," 
he said, a trifle awkwardly. (Jerry had not lived through 
the past few months at Lilac Lodge without realising the 
tenns on which the Erringtons stood with each other.) '^He 
won't be back till lata" 



222 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Diana bestowed her sweetest smile upon bixn. 

^'Then we shall be dining teterOrtete. How aioel Cosne 
along." 

She took his arm and they went in together. 

''This is a very serious thing about Miss de Gervaifl^ isn't 
it {" she said conversationallyy as they sat down. 

''A dastardly business/' assented Jerry, with indignatioii. 

''I suppose-^did Max give you any further particulars T 

''The bullef s broken her arm just above the elbow. Of 
course she won't be able to play for some time to ooma'' 

''How her understudy must be rejoicnng^" mnrmizred 
Diana reflectively. 

"It seems," pursued Jerry, "that the shot was fired by 
some shady actor fellow. Down on his luck, yon know, and 
jealous of Miss de Oervais' success. At leasts that^s what 
they suspect, and Max has 'phoned me to send a paragraph 
to all the morning papers to that effect" 

"That's very curious," commented Diana. 

"Why ? I should think it's a jolly good guess." 

Diana smiled enigmatically. 

"Anyhow, it sounds a very natural supposition,'' she 
agreed lightly, and then switched the conversation on to 
other subjects. Jerry, however, seemed rather absent and 
distrait, and presently, when at last the servants had handed 
the coffee and withdrawn, he blurted out : — 

"It sounds beastly selfish of me, but this affair has upset 
my own little plans rather badly." 

"Tours, Jerry ?" said Diana kindly. "HoVs that t Give 
me a cigarette and tell me whaf s gone wrong." 

"What would Baroni say to your smoking?" queried 
Jerry, as he tendered his case and held a match for her to 
light her cigaretta 

"I'm not singing anywhere for a week," laughed Diana, 
"So this orgy is quite legitimata" And she inhaled lux* 
uriously. "Now, go on, Jerry, what plana of yours have 
been upset?" 



THE OTHEE WOMAN 228 

'Well*' — Jerry reddened — ^*'I wrote to my governor the 
other day. It — ^it was to please Joan, you know." 

Diana nodded, hef grey eyes dancing. 

*'0f course/' she said gravely, "I quite understand.'' 

"And — and here's his answer I" 

He opened his pocket-book, and extracting a letter from 
the bundle it contained, handed it to Diana. 

"You mean you want me to read this?" 

"Please." 

Diana unfolded it, and read the following terse com- 
munication : — 

"Come home and hring the lady. Am fattening the calf. 
— ^Your affectionate Father." 

"Jerry, I should adore your father," said Diana, as she 
gave him back the letter, ^^e must be a perfect gem 
amongst parents." 

"He's not a bad old chap," acknowledged Jerry, as he re- 
placed the paternal invitation in his pocketrbook. "But you 
see the difficulty? I was going to ask Errington to give 
me a few days' leave, and I don't like to bother him now 
that he has all this worry about Miss de Gervais on his 
hands." 

Diana flushed hotly at Jerry's tacit acceptance of the fact 
that Adrienne's affairs were naturally of so much moment 
to her husband. It was another pin-prick in the wound 
that had been festering for so long. She ignored it, how- 
ever, and answered quietly: — 

"Yes, I see. Perhaps you had better leave it for a few 
days. What about Pobs ? He'll have to be consulted in the 
. matter, won't he ?" 

"I told him, long ago, that I wanted Joan. Before" — 
with a grin — "I ever summoned up pluck to tell Joan her- 
self I He was a brick about it, but he thought I ought to 
make it up with the governor before Joan and I were for- 
mally engaged. So I did — ^and I'm jolly glad of it And 



«24 THE SPLENDID FOLLT 

now I want to go down to Orailing, and fetch Joan, and take 
her with me to Abbotsleigh. So I ahould want at least a 
week oflF/* 

'^ell, wait till Max comes back," advised Diana, '^e 
shall know more about the matter then. And — and — 
Jerry I'' She stretched out her hand, which immediately 
disappeared within Jerry's big, boyie^ fist ''Good luck, 
old boyr 



Max returned at about ten o'clock, and Diana proceeded 
to offer polite inquiries about Miss de Qervaii^ welfare. 
She wondered if/ he would rem^nber how near they had 
been to each other just for an instant before the news of the 
attempt upon Adrienne's life had reached them. 

But apparently he had forgotten all about it. His 
thoughts were entirely concerned with Adrienne^ and he 
was unusually grave and preoccupied. 

He ordered a servant to bring him some sandwichee and 
a glass of wine, and when he and Diana were once more 
alone, he announced abruptly: — 

''I shall have to leave home for a few days." 

''Leave home ?" echoed Diana. 

"Yes. Adrienne must go out of town, and I'm going to 
run down to some little country place and find rooms for 
her and Mrs. Adams." 

"Find rooms?" Diana stared at him amazedly. "But 
surely — ^won't they go to Bed Gables ?" 

Max shook his head. 

"No. It wouldn't be safe after this — ^this affair. The 
same brute might try to get her again. You see, it's quite 
well known that she has a house at Crailing." 

"Who is it that is such such an en^ny of hers t" 

Max hesitated a moment 

"It might very well be some former actor, some poor devil 
of a fellow down on his luck, who has brooded over his 
fancied wrongs till he was half-mad," he said, at lengtL 



THE OTHER WOllAN S&5 

Diana's f^fw flashed. So that item of news intended for 
the morning papers was also to be handed oat for home oon- 
Bumption I 

''What steps are yoa taking to trace the manf' . 

Again Max paused before replying. To Diana, his hesi^ 
tation strengthened her conviction that he was^ as nsaal, 
withholding something from her. 

''Well?" she repeated. "What steps are yoa taking T 

"None^'' he answered at last reluctantly. "Adiienne 
doesn't wish any fuss made over the matter." 

And yet^ Diana reAected, both her husband and Miss de 
Oervais knew quite well who the assailant was I "The taller 
of the two/' Adrienne had said throng the telephona 
Why, then, with that due in her hands^ did she refuse to 
prosecute? 

Suddenly, into Diana's mind flashed an answer to the 
question — to the multitude of questions which had perjdezed 
her for so long. She felt as a traveller may who has been 
journeying along an unknown way in the dark, hnrt and 
bruised by stones and pitfalls he could not see;, when sud- 
denly a light shines out, revealing aU the dangers of the 
path. 

The explanation of all those perplezitieB and suspi- 
cions of the past was so simple^ so obvious, that she mar- 
velled why it had never occurred to hec before. Adrienne 
de Oervais was neither more or lees than an adventuress 
—one of the vampire type of woman who preys upon man- 
kind, drawing them into her net by her beauty and charm, 
even as she had drawn Max himself 1 This^ this supplied 
the key to the whole matter — all that had gone before, and 
all that was now making such a mockery of her married Ufa 

And the "poor devil of a fellow" who had attempted 
Adrienne's life had probably figured largely in her past^ one 
of her dupes^ and now, imderstanding at last what kind of 
woman it was for whom he had very likely sacrificed aU. 
that made eodstenoe worth while^ he was obsessed with a 



236 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

orajey desire for yengeano^-— yengeanoe at any prioa And 
Adrienne^ of coarse, in her extremity, had turned to her 
latest captLve^ Max himself, for protection 1 

OhI it was all quite dear nowl The scattered pieoes of 
the puzzle were fitting together and making a de&iite pio 
tura 

* Stray remarks of Olga Lermontof s came hack to her— 
those Uttle pointed arrows wherewith the Russian had akjlj 
fully found out the joints in her armour — ^'^Miss de GervaiB 
is not quite what die seem&'' And again, 'Tm perfectly 
cRire Adrienne de Gervais' past is a closed hook to yon." 
Proof positive that Olga had known all along what Diana 
had only just this moment perceived to he the truth. 

Diana's small hands clenched themselves until the nails 
dug into the soft palms^ as she remembered how those same 
hands had been held out in friendship to this very adven- 
turess — to the woman who had wrecked her happiness, and 
for whom Max was ready at any time to set her and her 
wishes upon one side! What a blind, trusting fool she 
had beeni Well, that was all ended now; she knew where 
she stood. Never again would Max or Adrienne be able to 
deceive her. The scales had at last fallen from her ejea* 

^Tm sorry, Diana" — Max's cool, quiet tones broke in on 
tiie torment of her thoughts. ''I'm sorry, but I shall prob- 
ably have to be away several days." 

''Have you forgotten we're giving a big reception here 
next Wednesday?" 

"Wednesday, is it I And to-day is Saturday. I shall 
find rooms somewhere to-morrow, and take Adrienne and 
Mrs. Adams down to them the next day. . . • Ko, I can't 
possibly be back for Wednesday." 

"But you must 1" — ^impetuously. 

"It's impossiblOi I shall stay with Adrienne and Mrs. 
Adams until I'm quite sure that the place is safe for them 
— "(hat that fellow hasn't traced them and isn't lurking about 
in the nei^bourhood. You mustn't expect me hack before 



THE OTHEE WOMAN 227 

Saturday at tlie earliest You and Jerry oan manage ibe 
reception. I hate those big crowds^ as you know." 

For a moment Diana sat in stony silenoa So he in- 
tended to leave her to entertain half London — ^that half of 
London that mattered and would talk about it — ^while he 
spent a pleasant week j^landering down in the country with 
Adrienne de Gervais, under the aegis of Mrs. Adams' ohap- 
eronage I 

Yery slowly Diana rose to her feet. Her small faoe 
was white and set, her little pointed ohin thrust out, and 
her grey eyes were almost black with the intense angor that 
gripped her. 

''Do you mean this?" she asked oolleotedly. 
''Why, of course. Don't you see that I must, Diana ? I 
can't let Adrienne run a risk like that" 

"Eut you can subject your wife to an insult like that 
without thinking twice about itl" — contemptuously. ''It 
hasn't occurred to you, I suppose^ what people will say 
when they find that I have been left entirely alone to enter- 
tain our friends, while my husband passes a pleasant week 
in the country with Miss de Gervais^ and her^-chaperon t 
It's an insult to our guests as well as to me. But I quite 
understand. I, and my friends, simply don't covmi when 
Adrienne de Gervais wants you." 

"I can't help it," he answered stubbornly, her scorn 
moving him less th^ the waves that break in a shower of 
foam at the foot of a diff. "You knew you would have 
to trust ma" 

^'Traat youf cried Diana, shaken out of her composure. 
"Yes I But I never promised to stand trustingly by while 
you put another woman in my placa This is the end, 
Max. I've had enough." 

A sudden look of apprehension dawned in his eyes. 
"What do you meant" he asked sharply. 
"What do I mean ?"— bleakly. "Oh, nothing. I nearer 
do mean anything, do It • • • Well, good-bye. I aspeot 



ns THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Tou'fl have left the house before I ccme down to-manov 
momixig. I hope • • • you'll enjoy your visit to the ooim- 

She waited a momeiity as thou^ expeotiiig some reply; 
then, as he neither stirred nor spoke, she went quickly out 
o£ the room, closing the door behind her. 



OHAPTEE XXn 



THX PABTIKO OV THX WAYS 



JEBRy — ^Diana oame into her Imsband's stady, where 
hiB eeoretaryy who had nothijig further to do until his 
emploTer'a return^ was pottering about putting the book- 
shelves to rights. ''Jerry, Fm going to give you a holiday. 
You can go down to Crailing tonlay." 

Jerry turned round in surjN-isa 

''But, I say, Diana, I oan% you know — ^not while Max 
is away. I'm supposed to make myself useful to you." 

"Well, I think you did make yourself — ^very useful-^ — 
last night, didn't you f " 

"Oh, that I" Jerry shrugged his shoulders. Then, sur- 
veying- her critically, he added : "You look awfully tired 
this morning, Di I" 

She did. There were purple shadows beneath her eyes, 
and her face looked white and drawn. The previous eve- 
ning had been the occasion of her reception, and she had 
carried it pluckily through single-handed. Quiet and com- 
posed, she had moved about amongst her guests, covering 
Max's absence with a light touch and pretty apology, her 
demeanour so natural and unembarrassed that the tongues^ 
which would otherwise have wagged swiftly enough, were 
inevitably stilled. 

But the strain had told upon her. This morning she 
looked haggard and ill, more fit to be in bed than anything 
elsei 

"Oh, I shall be all right after a night's rest," she answerad 
cheerfully. "And as to making yourself useful thano^s 

229 



380 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

really nothing I want you to do for me. But I do want yon 
to go and make your peace with your father, and take Joax 
to him. I'm sure he^U love her 1 So Fm writing to Max, 
telling him that IVe given you leave of abaenca He ^won't 
be returning till Saturday at the earliest, and probably not 
Ihen. If he wants you back on Monday, we'll wire.'' 

Jerry hesitated. 

*^Are you sure it wiU be quite all right? I don't really 
like leaving you.'' 

'^Quite all right/' she assured him. ^'I did want you for 
the parly last night, and you were the greatest possible help 
to me. But now, I don't want you a bit for anything. If 
you're quick, you can catoh the two o'clock down express 
and" — twinkling — ^''see Joan this evening." 

''Diana, you're a bridal" And Jerry dashed upstairs 
to pack his suit-case. 

Diana heaved a sigh of relief when, a few hours later, a 
triumphant and joyous Jerry departed in search of a bride. 
She wanted him out of the houses for that which she had 
decided to do would be more easily accomplished without 
the boy's honest, affectionate ef'*^ beseeching her. 

All her arrangements were oumpleted, and to-morrow — 
to-morrow she was going to leave Lilac Lodge for ever. 
'Never again would she share the life of the man who had 
shown her clearly that, although she was his wife^ she 
counted with him so infinitely less than that other — ^than 
Adrienne de Gervais. Her pride might break in the leav- 
ing, but it would bend to living under the same roof with 
him no longer. 

Only one thing still remained — ^to write a letter to her 
husband and leave it in his study for him to find upon hia 
return. It savoured a little of tiie theatrical, she reflected, 
but there seemed no other way possible She didn't want 
Max to come in search of her, so she must make it dear 
to him that she was leaving him deliberately and with no 
intention of ever returning. 



THE PAETINQ OF THE WAYS 281 

She had* told the aervants that she waa going away on a 
few days' viedt^ and after Jerry's departure she gave her 
xnaid instructions concerning her packing. She intended to 
leave the house quite openly the following morning. That 
was much the easiest method of running away. 

^'Shall you require me with you, madam?" asked her 
maid respectfully. 

Diana regarded her thoughtfully. She was an eocoel- 
lent servant and thoroughly understood maiding a jurofes- 
sional singer ; moreover, she was much attached to her wjor 
tress. Probably she would be glad of her services later on. 
''Oh, if I should make a long stay, I'll send for you. 
Milling, and you can bring on the rest of my things. I shall 
want some of my concert gowns the week after next," she 
tolcTher, in casual tones. 

As soon as she had dismissed the girl to her work, Diana 
made her way into her husband's study, and, seating herself 
at his dedr, drew a sheet of notepaper towards her. 

She b^gan to write impulsively, as she did everything 
else: — 

"This is just to say good-bye^" — her pen flew over the 
paper — "I can't bear our life together any longer, so Pm 
going away Perhaps you will blame me because my faith 
wasn't equal to the task you set it But I don't think any 
woman's would be — ^not if she cared at alL And I did care^ 
Max. It hurts to care as I did — ^and I'm so tired of being 
hurt that I'm running away from it It will be of no use 
your asking me to return, because I have made up my mind 
never to come back to you again. I told you that you must 
choose between Adrienne and me, and you've chosen — ^Adri- 
enne. I am going to live with Baroni and his sister, Signora 
Evanci. It is all arranged. They are glad to have me, and 
it will be much easier for me as regards my singing. So 
you needn't worry about ma — ^But perhaps you wouldn't 
have done I ''Diana. 



282 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

4 

'T.S. — Please don't be vazed with Jerry for going awaj. 
I gave him leave of absence myself, and I told him I would 
make it all xight with you. — D." 

She folded the letter with a curious kind of precision, 
slipped it into an envelope^ sealed and addressed it, and 
propped it up against the inkpot on her husband's desk, 
so that he could not fail to find it 

Then, when it was time to dress for dinner, she went up- 
stairs and let her maid put her into an evening frock, ex- 
acdy as though nothing out of the ordinary were going on, 
just as though to^y — ^the 'last day she would ever spend in 
her husband's home — ^were no different from any other day. 

She made a pr^;e9ice of eating dinner, and afterwards 
sat in her own little sitting-room, with a book in front of 
her, of which she read not a single lina 

Presently, when she was quite sure that all the servants 
had gone to bed, she made a pilgrimage through the house, 
moving reluctantly from room to room, taking a silent fare- 
well of the place where she ha4 known sudi happiness — 
and afterwards, such pain. 

At last she went to bed, but she felt too restless and 
keyed up to sleep, so she slipped into a soft, silken wrapper 
and established herself in a big easy^chair by the fira 

The latter had died down into a dull, red glow, but q^e 
prodded the embers into a flame, adding fresh coal, and as 
the pleasant warmth of it lapped her round, a feeling of 
gentle languor gradually sUAe over her, and at length she 
slept. • • • 

She woke with a start Some one was trying the handle 
of the door — ^very quietly, but yet not at aU as thou^ mak- 
ing any attempt to conceal the fact 

Something must be amiss, and one of the maids had come 
to warn her. The possibility that the house was on fire, 
or that burglars had broken in, flawed through her mind. 



THE PAJRTING OF THE WAYS 288 

She sprang to her feet, and switchiiig on the lights called 
out sharply: — 

''Who is it?" 

She had not fastened the lodk ovemi^t^ and her heart 
"beat in great suffocating throbs as she watched the handle 
turn. 

The next moment some ope came quickly into the room 
and closed the door. 

It was Max! 

Diana fell back a step, staring incredulously. 

''Your she exclaimed, breathlessly. ''Your 

He advanced a few paces into the room. He was very 
pale^ and his face wore a curiously excited expression. 
His eyes were brilliant — ^fiercely exultant, yet with an odd 
gleam of the old, familiar mockery in their depths, as 
though something in the situation amused him. 

"Yes," he said. "Are you surprised to see me?" 

"You — ^you said you were not returning till Saturday," 
she stanunered. 

"I found I could get away sooner than I expected, so I 
caught the last up-train — and here I am." 

There was a rakish, devil-may-care note in his voice that 
filled her with a vague apprehension. Summoning up her 
courage, she faced him, striving to keep her voice steady. 

"And why — ^why have you come to me — ^now ?" 

"I found your note — ^the note you had left on my desk, 
so I thought I would like to say good-bye," he answered 
carelessly. 

^TTou could have waited till to-morrow morning," she re- 
turned coldly. ^TTou — you" — she stammered a little^ and 
a faint flush tinged her pallor— "you should not have come 
. • . hera" 

A sudden- light gleamed in his eyee^ mocking and tri- 
lunphant. 

"It is my wife's room. A husband" — slowly — ^'Tias 
certain rights." 



884 THE SPLENDID EOLLY 

''Ah-hl'' She cau^t her breathy and her hand flew to 
her throoL 

^'And sinoey'' he ocmtinued oruelly, never taking hia eyes 
from her f ace^ ''since those rights are to be reseinded to- 
morrow for ever — ^why, then, to-night ** 

''No I • • • No!" She shrank from him, her hands 
stretched out as though to ward him off. 

"YouVe said 'no' to me for the last six months^" he said 
grimly. "But — that's ended now." 

Her eyes searched his face wildly^ reading only a set de- 
termination in it Slowly, desperately, she backed away 
from him ; then, suddenly, she made a little rush, and, reach* 
ing the door, pulled at the handle. But it remained fast 
shut 

**H^g lockedr she cried, frantically tag^ng at it She 
flashed round upon him. "The key! Where's the keyP' 
The words came sobbingly. 

He put his fingers in his pocket 

"Here^" he answered coolly. 

Despairingly she retreated from the door. There was aa 
expression in his eyes that terrified her — a fumaoe heat 
of passion barely held in check. The Englishman withia 
him was in abeyance; the hot, foreign blood was leaping in 
his veinsw 

"Mazi" she faltered appealingly. 

He crossed swiftly to her side, gripping her soft, bare 
arms in a hold so fierce that his fingers scored them with 
red weals. 

"By God, Diana! What do you think I'm made of T 
he burst out violently. "For months you've shut yourself 
away from me and I've borne it^ waiting — ^waiting always 
for you to come back to ma Do you think it's been easy !" 
His limbs were shaking, and his eyes burned into hers. 
"And now — ^now you tell me that you've done with ma • . . 
You take everything from met My love is to count for 
nothing I" 



* THE PAETING OF THE WAYS 285 

'TTou never loved me!" she protested^ with low, breath- 
less vehemence. ^'It — it could never have been love/' 

For a moment he was silent^ staring at her. 

Then he laughed. 

**Very well. Call it desire, paasion — ^what you will 1" he 
eccclaimed brutally. ^'But — you married me, you know I" 

She cowered away from him, looking to right and left 
like a trapped animal seeking to escape^ but he held her 
ruthlessly, forcing her to face him. 

All at once, her nerve gave way, and she began to cry 
— ^helpless, despairing weeping that rocked the slight form 
^in his grasp. As she stood thus, the soft silk of her wrap- 
per falling in straight folda about her, her loosened hair 
shadowing her white face, she looked pathetically small and 
young, and Errington suddenly relinquished his hold of 
her and stepped back, his handa slowly clenching in the ef- 
fort not to tfJs:e her in his arms. 

Something tugged at his hearty pulling against the desire 
that ran riot in his veins — something of the infinite tender- 
ness of love which exists side by side with its passion. 

"Don't look like that," he said hoarsely. "FU— Fll go." 

He crossed the room, reeling a litUe in his stride^ and, 
unlocking the door, flung it open. 

She stared at him) incredulous relief in her faoe^ ^diile 
the tears still slid unchecked down her cheeks. 

"Max — ^" she stammered. 

*^es," he returned. 'TTou're free of ma I don't sup- 
pose you'll believe it, byt I love you too much to . • . take 
. . . what you won't give." 

A minute later the door dosed behind him and she heard 
his footsteps descending the stairs. 

With a low moan she sank down beside the bed, her face 
hidden in her hands^ sobbing convulsively. 



I 



CHAPTER XXm 



SUIOCER had oome and gone, and Diana, after a brief 
visit to Crailing, had returned to town for the winter 
season. 

The Orailing visit had not been altogether withoat its 
^nbarrassments. It was true that Bed Gables was doeed 
and shuttered, so that she had run no risk of meeting either 
her husband or Adrienne, but Jerry, in the character of 
an engaged young man, had heen staying at the Rectory, and 
he had allowed Diana to see plainly that his sympathies 
lay pre-eminently with Max, and that he utterly condemned 
her lack of faith in her husband. 

^'Some day, Diana, you'll be sorry that you diueked ene 
of the best chaps in the world," he told her, with a fierce 
young championship that was rather touching, warring, as 
it did, with bis honest affection for Diana herself. ''Oh ! It 
makes me sick I You two ought to have had such a splendid 
life together." 

Rather wistfully, Diana asked the Rector if he^ too, 
blamed her entirely for what bad occurred. But Alan 
Stair's wide charity held no room for censure. 

"My dear," he told her, "I don't think I want to blame 
either you or Max. The situation was difficult, and you 
weren't quite strong enough to cope with it. That's all. But" 
— ^with one of his rare smiles that flashed out like sunshine 
after rain — "you haven't reached the end of the chapter yet" 

Diana shook her head. 

"I think we have, Fobs. I, for one^ shall never reopen 

236 



PAIN MT 

the pftges. My xnufliGal work is going to fill my life in tur 
tura" 

Stair's eyes twinkled with a quiet humour. 
Sponge cake is filling, my dear, very/' he responded. 
But it's not satisfying — ^like bread." 



it 



Since Diana had left her husband, fate had so willed it 
that they had never chanced to meet She had appeared 
very litUe in society, excusing herself on the plea that her 
professional engagements demanded all her energies. And 
certainly, since the immediate and overwhelming success 
which she had achieved At Covent Garden, her operatic 
work had made immense demands both upon her time and 
physical strengtL 

But^ with the advent of autumn, the probabilities of a 
meeting between husband and wife were increased a hun- 
dredfold, since Diana's engagements included a considerable 
number of private receptions in addition to her concert 
work, and she never sang at a big society crush without an 
inward apprehension that she might encounter Max amongst 
the guests. 

She shrank from meeting him again as a woxmded man 
shrinks from an accidental touch upon his hurt It had 
been easy enough, in the first intolerant passion which had 
overwhelmed her, to contemplate life apart from him. In- 
deed, to leave him had seemed the only obvious course to 
save her from the daily flagellation of her love, the hourly 
insult to her dignity, that his relations with Adrienne de 
Gervais and the whole mystery which hung about his actions 
had engendered. 

But when once the cord had been cut^ and life in its ac- 
tuality had to be faced apart from him, Diana found that 
love, hurt and buffeted though it may be, still remains love^ 
a thing of flame and fire^ its very essence a desire for the 
loved one's presence. 

Every fibre of her being cried aloud for Max, and there 



288 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

were times when the longing for the warm, human touch of 
his hand, for the sound of his voice^ grew almost unhear- 
able. Yet any meeting between them could be but a bar- 
ren reminder of the past, revitalising the dull ache of long- 
ing into a quick and overmastering agony; and, realising 
this^ Diana recoiled from the possibility with a fear almost 
bordering upon panic. 

She achieved a certain feeling of securily in the fact that 
she had made her home with Baroni and his sister. Signora 
Evanci mothered her and petted her and fussed over her, 
much as she did over Baroni himself, and the old maestro, 
aware of the tangle of Diana's matrimonial affairs, and am- 
bitious for her artistic future^ was likely to do his utmost to 
avert a meeting between husband and wife — since emotional 
crises are apt to impair the voice. 

From Baroni's point of view, the happenings of life were 
chiefly of importance in so far as they tended towards the 
perfecting of the artbta 

^^Love is good," he had said on one occasion. *No (me 
can interpret romantic music who has not loved. And a 
broken heart in the past, and plenly of good food in the 
present — ^these may very well make a great artista But a 
heart that keeps on breaking, that is not permitted to heal 
itself — ^no, that is not good. A la fin, the voice breaks 
also.'' 

Hence he regarded his favourite pupil with considerable 
anxiety. To his experienced eye it was palpable that the 
happenings of her married life had tried Diana's strength 
almost to breaking pointy and that the enthusiasm and en* 
eigy with which, seeking an anodyne to pain, she had flung 
herself into her work, would act either one way or the other 
^-woald either finish the job, so that the frayed nerves 
gave way, cuhninating in a serious breakdown of her health, 
or so fill her horizon that the memories of the past grad- 
ually receded into insignificance. 

The cup of f ame^ newly held to her lips^ could not but 



PAIN 989 

prove an intoxicatiiig draught. There was a raahing excite- 
ment, an exhilaration about her life as a well-known public 
singer J which acted as a constant stimulus. The enthusiasr- 
tio acclamations with which she was everywhere received^ 
the adulation that invariably surrounded her, and the in* 
tense joy which, as a genuine artist, she derived from the 
ivork itself, all acted as a narcotic to the pain of memory, 
and out of these she tried to build up a new life for herself, 
a life in which love should have neither part nor lot, but 
^wherein added fame and recognition was to be the ultimate 
£oal. 

Her singing had improved; there was a new depth of 
feeling in her interpretation which her own pain and suf« 
f ering had taught her, and it was no infrequent thing for 
part of her audience to be moved to tears^ wistfully reminded 
of some long^iead romance, when she sang "The Haven of 
Memory" — a song which came to be associated with her 
name much in the same way that "Home, Sweet Homo^' was 
associated with another great singer, whose golden voice 
gave new meaning to the familiar words. 

Olga Lermontof still remained her accompanist For 
some unfathomed reason she no longer flung out the bitter 
gibes and thrusts at Errington which had formerly sprung 
so readily to her lips, and Diana grimly ascribed this for- 
bearance to an odd kind of delicacy — ^the generosity of the 
victor who refuses to triumph openly over the vanquished! 
Once;, in a bitter mood, Diana had taxed her with it 
"You must feel satisfied now that you have achieved your 
object," she told her. 

The Russian, idly improvising on the piano, dropped her 
hands from the keys, and her eyes held a queer kind of pain 
in them as she made answer. 

"And what exactly did you think my object wast" she 
queried. 

"Surely it was obvious?" replied Diana lightly. "When 
Max and I were together, you never ceased to sow 



240 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 



betweoQ ua — ittSkif^ why you hated him so, I cannot teD 
— ^and now that we have separated, I suppose jcm are oo&* 
tent'* 

^'Content}" Olga laiighed shortly. ^^ never wanted yoa 
to separate. And" — she hesitated — '^I never hated Max £r- 
rington.'' 

'^I don't helieve itl" The assertion leaped involnntarilj 
from Diana's lips. 

''I can understand that" Olga spoke witli a cnrioos 
kind of patience. ^^But, believe it or not as you will, I -was 
working for quite other ends. And I've failed/' she added 
dispiritedly. 

With the opening of the autmnn season and the ensaing 
rebirth of musical and theatrical lif e^ London received an 
unexpected shocL It was announced that Adrienne de Ger 
vais was retiring from her position as leading lady at the 
Premier Theatre, and for a few days after the launching 
of this thunderbolt the theatre-going world hummed with 
the startling news, while a dozen rumours were set on foot 
to account for what must surely prove little less than a 
disaster to the management of the Premier. 

But, as usual, after the first buzz of surprise and excite- 
ment had spent itself, people settled down, and reluctantlj 
accepted the official explanation furnished by the news- 
papers — ^namely, that the popular actress had suffered con- 
siderably in health from the strain of several suooeeeive 
heavy seasons and intended to winter abroad. 

To Diana the news yielded an odd sense of comfort 
Somehow the thought of Adrienne's absence from England 
seemed to bring Max nearer, to make him more her own 
again. Even though they were separated, there waa a cer- 
tain consolation in the knowledge that the woman whose 
close friendship with her husband had helped to make ship- 
wreck of their happiness was going out of his life^ thon^ 
it might be only for a little tima 

One day, impelled by an irresistible desire to test the 



PAIN 241 

"^nith of the newspaper reports, Diana ^ok her way to 
SonoLervell Street^ pausing opposite the house that had been 
Adrienne^s. She found it invested with a curious air of 
unf amiliaritj, facing the street with blank and shuttered 
vHbadowB, like blind eyes staring back at her unreoognie- 
ingly. 

So it was truel Adrienne had gone away and the house 
was empty and closed. 

Diana retraced her steps homeward, conscious of a queer 
feeling of satisfaction. Often the thought that Max and 
Adrienne might be together had tortured her almost be- 
yond endurance, adding a keener edge to the pain of sepa- 
ration. 

Pain I Life seemed made up of pain these days. Some- 
times she wondered how much a single human being was 
capable of bearing. 

It was months — an eternity — since she and Max had 
parted, and still her heart cried out for him, fighting the 
bitter anger and distrust that had driven her from him. 

She felt she could have borne it more easily had he died. 
Then the remembrance of his love would still have been hers 
to hold and keep, something most precious and unspoilt. 
But now, each memory of their life together was tarnished 
with doubt and suspicion and mistrust She had put him 
to the test, bade him choose betwixt her and Adrienne, claim- 
ing his confidence as her right — and he had chosen Adri* 
enne and declined to trust her with his secret. 

She told herself that had he loved her, he mtui have 
yielded. ISfo man who cared could have refused her, and the 
scourge of wounded pride drove her into that outer dark- 
ness where bitterness and '^pr(^r self-respect" defile the 
face of Love. 

She had turned desperately to her work for distrac- 
tion from the ceaseless torture of her thou^ts, but not aU 
the work in the world had been able to ailenoe the ery of her 
heart 



242 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

For work can do no more than fill the day, and tfaoo^ 
Diana feverishly crammed each day so full that theire ^^aa 
little time to think and remember^ the ni^te remained— 
the interminable nights^ when she was alone with her owb 
aonly and when the memories which the day's work had 
beaten back came pressing in upon her. 

Ohy Qod 1 The nights — ^the endless^ intolerable ni^tal . • « 



CHAPTER XXIV 



THB VISION OF LOVE 



A WEEK after her visit to Somervell Street, the tiling 
which Diana had dreaded came to pass. 

She was attending a reception at the French Emhaasy, 
and as she made her way through the crowded rooms^ fol- 
lowed by Olga Lermontof — ^who frequently added to the du* 
ties of accompanist those of dame de campagnie to the great 
prima dotma — she came suddenly face to face with Max. 

To many of us the anticipation of an unpleasant happen- 
ing is far more agonising than the actual thing itself. The 
mind, brooding apprehensively upon what may conceivably 
occur, exaggerates the possibilities of tiie situation, en- 
hancing all the disagreeable details, and oblivious of any 
mitigating circumstances which may, quite probably, asoom- 
pany it. There is sound sense and infinite comfort, if you 
look for it, in the old saying which bids us not to cross our 
bridges till we come to them. 

The fear of the unknown, the unexperienced, is a more 
haunting, insidious fear than any other, and sometimes one 
positively longs to hasten the advent of an unwelcome or- 
deal, in order that the worst may be known and the menace 
of the future be transformed into a memory of the past 

So it was with Diana. She had been for so long beset 
by her fear of the first meeting that she experienced a sen- 
sation almost of relief when her eyes fell at last upon the 
tall figure of her husband* 

He was deep in conversation with the French Ambassador 
at the moment, but as Diana approached it was as though 
some sensitive, invisible live wire had vibrated, apprising 

243 



844 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

him of her neamesSy and he looked up saddaoly, his hlue 
eyes gazing straight into hers. 

To Diana, the brief encounter proved amazingly simpb 
and easj in oontrast with the shrinking apprehansiona she 
had formed. A slight bow from her, its grave retain froo 
him, and the dreaded moment was past 

It was only afterwards that she realised, with a seoae of 
sidk dismay, how terribly he had altered. She caught at 
the aocompanist's arm with nervous force. 

"Olgal" she whispered- "Did you see?" 

The Russian's expression answered her. Her f aoe wore 
a curious stunned look, and her mouth twitched as she tried 
to control the sudden trembling of her lips. 

"Come outside — on to this balcony." Olga spoke with 
a fierce imperativeness as she saw Diana sway unoertainlj 
and her face whiten. 

Once outside in the cool shelter of the balcony, dimly lit 
by swaying Chinese lanterns, Diana sank into a chair, ahak» 
and unnerved. For an instant her eyes strayed back to 
where, through the open French window, she could see Max 
still conversing with the Ambassador, but she averted them 
swiftly. 

The change in him hurt her like the sudden stab of a 
btiife. His face was worn and lined ; there was something 
aacotic-looking in the hollowed line from cheek-bone to chin 
and in the stern, austere closing of the lips, while the eyes 
— the mocking blue eyes with the laughter always lurking 
at the back of them — ^held an expression of deep, unalter- 
aHTe sadness. 

"Olga I" The word broke from Diana's white lips lite 
a cry of appeal, tremulous and uncertain. 

But Miss Lermontof made no responsa She seemed 
quite unmoved by the distress of the woman sitting huddled 
in the chair before her, and her light green eyes shone with 
a curious savage glint like the eyes of a cat 

Diana spoke again nervously. 



THE VISION OF LOVE 245 



it 



^Aro you — angry with me?" 

'Angry I" The Russian ahnost spat out the word ^Ast- 
gry I Don't you see what you're doing f ' 

"What I'm doing f repeated Diana. **What am I do- 
ing?'' 

Olga replied with a grim incisiveness. 

"You're killing Max — ^that's alL This — this is going to 
break him — ^break him utterly," 

There was a long silence, and the dewy dusk of the nighty 
shaken into peply mist where the flickering light of the 
Chinese lanterns illumined it, seemed to dose round the two 
women like a filmy curtain, shutting them off from the chat- 
tering throng in the adjoining room. 

Presently a cart rattled past in the street below, rasping 
the tense silence. 

Diana lifted her head. 

'^I didn't know!" she said helplessly. ^'I didn't 
know I . . ." 

"And yet you professed to love him!" Olga spoke con- 
sideringly, an element of contemptuous wonder in hpr voice. 

The memory of words that Max had uttered long ago 
stirred in Diana's mind. 

*'You don't know what love means/'* 

Limned against the darkness she could see once more the 
sun-warmed beach at Culver Point, the blue, sparkling sea 
with the white gulls wheeling above it, and Max — Max 
standing tall and straight beside her, with a shaft of sun- 
light flickering across his hair, and love illimitable in his 
eyes. 

"You don't know what love means !" 

The words penetrated to her innermost consciousness, 
cleaving their way sheer through the fog of doubt and mis- 
trust and pride as the sharp blade of the surgeon's knife 
cuts deep into a festering wound. And before their clari- 
fying, essential truth, Diana's soul recoiled in dumb dismay. 

Ko, she hadn't known what love meant — ^love, which, with 



246 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

an exquisite unreasonableness^ believes when there is ground 
for doubt — hadn't understood it as even this cjnioeLl, bitte^ 
tongued Bussian understood it And she reoogniaed the 
soom on Olga's white, contemptuous face as the nnlovdj 
sheath of an ideal of love immeasurably beyond her own 
achieving. 

The vision of Culver Point faded away, and an impalpabk 
wall of darkness seemed to close about her. Dimlj, as 
though it were some one else's voice speaking, she heard het- 
self say slowly: — 

"I thought I loved him." Then, after a pause, ''Will 
you go? Please go. I should like to be . . . quiet • . . 
a little while." 

For a moment Olga gazed down at her, eagerly, almost 
hungrily, as though silently beseeching her. Then, still si- 
lently, she went away. 

Diana sat very still. Above her, the gay-coloured Chi- 
nese lanterns swayed to and fro in the litUe breeee that 
drifted up the street, and above again, far off in the sombre 
sky, the stars looked down — ^pitiless^ unmoved, as they have 
looked down through all the ages upon the pigmy joys aud 
sufferings of humanity. 

For the first time Diana was awake to the limitations she 
had set to love. 

The meeting with her husband had shaken her to the 
very foundations of her being, the shock of his changed ap- 
pearance sweeping away at a single blow the whole fabric 
of artificial happiness that she had been trying to build up. 

She had thought that the wound in her heart would heal, 
that she could teach herself to forget the past And lo! 
At the first sight of his face the old love and longing had re- 
awakened with a strength she was powerless to withstand. 

The old love, but changed into something immeasurably 
more than it had ever been before, and holding in its depths 
a finer understanding. And with this clearer vision came 
a sudden new knowledge— a knowledge fraught with pais 



THE VISION OF LOVE 247 

and yet bearmg deep within it an xinntterable sense of joy. 
Max had cared all the time — cared still I It was written 
in the lines of suffering on his f aoe, in the quiet endurance 
of the dose^ut mouth. Despite the bitter, pitiful misun- 
derstandings of their married life^ despite his inexplicable 
friendship for Adrienne, despite all that had gone before, 
Diana was sure, in the light of this larger understanding 
which had come to her, that through it all he had loved her. 
With an absolute certainty of conviction, she knew that it 
was her hand which had graved those fresh lines about 
his mouth, brought that look of calm sadness to his eyes, 
and the realisation held a strange mingling of exquisite 
joy and keen anguish. 

She hid her face in her hands, hid it from the stars end 
the shrouding dark^ tremulously abashed at the wonderful 
significance of leva 

She almost laughed to think how she had allowed so small 
a thing as the secret which Max could not tell her to corrode 
and eat into the heart of happiness. Looking back from 
the 8tandp<Hnt she had now gained, it seemed so pitifully 
mean and paltry, a profanation of the whole inner, hidden 
meaning of love. 

So long as she and Max cared for each other, nothing 
else mattered, nothing in the whole world. And the long 
battle between love and pride — ^between love, that had 
turned her days and nights into one endless ache of longing 
to return to Max, and pride, that had barred the way inflex- 
ibly — ^was over, done with. 

Love had won, hands down. She would go back to Max, 
and all thought that it might be weak-minded' of her, hu- 
miliating to her self-respect^ was swept aside. Love, tlie 
great teacher, had brou^t her through the dark places where 
the lesser gods hold sway, out into the light of day, and she 
knew that to return to Max, to give herself afresh to him, 
would be the veritable triumph of love itself. 
She would go back, back to the shelter of his love which 



246 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

had been waiting for her all the time, Bxiavteryiiig and vn- 
reproaching. She had read it in his eyes when they had 
met her own an hour ago. 

^'I want you — ^body and soul I want you!" he had told 
her there by the clifiFs at Culver. 

And she had not given him all her eouL She had kep*. 
baok that supreme belief in the beloved which is an inte- 
gral part of lova But now, now she would go to him and 
give with both hands royally — ^faith and trust, blindly, a^ 
love demanded. 

She smiled a littla Happiness and the haven of Max'c 
ancna seemed very near her just then. 

She was very silent as she and Olga Lermontof drove 
home together from the Embassy, but just at the last^ when 
the limousine stopped at Baroni's house, she leaned doeer 
to Olga in the semi-darkness> and whispered a little breath- 
leesly: — 

"Fm going back to him, Olga.^' 

Somehow the mere putting of it into words seemed to 
give it substance, convert it into an actual fact that oould 
be talked about^ just like the weather, or one's favourite 
play, or any other commonplace matter which can be spok^i 
of beoause it has a knowledgeable existenca And the Rus- 
sian's quick 'Thank God I" set the seal of assuredness upon it 

''Yes — ^thank God," answered Diana simjdy. 

The car, which was to take the accompanist on to Brutr 
ton Square, slipped away down the lam^lit street, and 
Diana fled upstairs to her roouL 

She must be alone — alone with her thoughts. She no 
longer dreaded the night and its quiet solituda It was a 
solitude pervaded by a deep, abiding peace^ the anteroom 
of happiness. 

To-morrow she would go to Max, and tell him that love 
had taught her belief and faith — all that he had asked of 
her and that she had so failed to give. 



THE VISION OF LOVE 249 

She lay long awake^ gazing into the dark, dreamily oon- 
aciooB of utter peace and eaJnu To-morrow . • . to-mor* 
row. • • . Presently her eyes closed and she slept Once 
she stirred and smiled a little in her sleep, while the word 
''Max'' fluttered from hetween her lips^ almost as though 
it had been a prayer. 



CHAPTER XXV 



BSBAKIKO-POIKT 



WHEN Diana woke the following morning it wbb to t 
drowsy sense of utter peace and content She won- 
dered vaguely what had given rise to it Usually^ when 
she came back to the waking world, it was with a shrinking 
almost akin to terror that a new day had begun and must 
be lived through — ^twelve empty, meaningless hours of it 

As full consciousness returned, the remembrance of yes- 
terday's meeting with Max, and of all that had sucoeeded 
it, flashed into her mind like a sudden ray of sunli^ty and 
she realised that what had tinged her thou^ts with rose- 
colour was the quiet happiness, bred of her determination 
to return to her husband, which had lain stored at the ba^ 
of her brain during the hours of unconsciousness. 

She sat up in bed, vividly, joyously awake, just aa her 
maid came in with her breakfast tray. 

'liake haste. Milling," she exclaimed, a thrill of eager 
excitement in her voice. ^'It's a lovely morning, and there's 
so much going to happen to-day that I can't waste any time 
over breakfast" 

It was the old, impetuous Diana who spoke^ impokively 
carried away by the emotion of the moment. 

''Is there, madam?" Milling, arranging the breakfast 
things on a little table beside the bed, regarded her mistress 
affectionately. It was long, very long, since she had seen 
her with that look of happy anticipation in her face — never 
sinoe the good days at Lilac Lodge, before she had quar- 
relled so irrevocably with her husband — and the maid won* 
dered whether it foretokened a reconciliation, 'la there^ 
madam t Then I'm glad it's a fine day. It's a good omen." 

250 



BKEAKING-POINT - 251 

smiled at her. 

'Tea^" she repeated contentedly. '^It's a good omen." 

MiUing paused on her way out of the room. 

''If you please^ madam. Signer Baroni would lilte to 
know at what time you will be ready to rehearse yoxu* songB 
for to-night^ so that he can telephone through to Miss L^ 
montof." 

To rehearse 1 Diana's face clouded suddenly. She had 
entirely forgotten that she had promised to give her serv- 
ices that night at a reception^ organised in aid of some char- 
ity by the Duchess of linfield — ^the shrewish old woman 
who had paid Diana her first tribute of tears — and the 
recollection of it sounded the knell to her hopes of seeing 
Max that day. The morning must perforce be devoted to 
practising, the afternoon to the necessary rest %which Baroni 
insisted upon, and after that there would be only time to 
dress and partake of a light meal before she drove to the 
Duchess's house. 

It would not be possible to see Max! Even had there 
been time she dared not risk the probable consequences to 
her voice which the strain and emotion of such an interview 
must necessarily carry in their train. 

For a moment she felt tempted to break her engagement, 
to throw it over at the last instant and telephone to the 
DuchesB to find a substitute. And then her sense of duty 
to her public — ^to the big, warm-hearted public who had al- 
ways welcomed and supported her — ^pushed itself to the fore, 
forbidding her to take this way out of the difSculty. 

How could ahe^ who had never yet broken a contract when 
her appearance involved a big fee, fail now, on an occa- 
sion when she had consented to give her services, and when 
it was her name alone on the programme which had 
charmed so much money from the pockets of the v^ealthy, 
that not a single seat of all that could be crowded into the 
Duchess's rooms remained unsold ? Oh, it was impossible 1 

Had it meant the renouncing of the biggest fee ever of- 
fered her, Diana would have impetuously sacrificed it and 



909 THE SPLENDID POLLY 

Aung her patrons overboard. But it meant ficnoeCimig more 
than that It was a debt of honour, her prof esBuxnal hoaioor. 

After all, the fulfilment of her promise to aing woald 
only mean setting her own affairs aside for twantj-foor 
hoars, and somehow she felt that Max wonld vnderatand 
and approva He would never wish to snatch a few earlier 
hours of happiness if they must needs be purohaBed at the 
price of a broken promise. But her heart sank as she faced 
the only alternative. 

She turned to Milling, the haj^y exultation thai had lit 
her eyes suddenly quendied. 

''Ask the Maekro kindly to 'phone Miss Lermontof thai 
I shall be ready at elevea," she said quietly. 

In some curious way this unlooked-for upset to her plans 
seemed to have cast a shadow across her path. The warm 
surety of coming happiness which had lapped her round 
receded, and a vague^ indefinable apprehension inraded her 
consciousness. It was as though she sensed something sin- 
ister that lay in wait for her round the next oomer^ and 
all her efforts to recapture the radiant exultation of her 
mood of yestereve, to shake off the nervous dread that had 
laid hold of her, failed miserably. 

Her breakfast was standing untouched on the table be- 
side her bed. She regarded it distastefully. Then, re- 
calling with a wry smile Baroni's dictum that "good 
♦• food, and plenty of good food, means voices" she reluo- 

tantly began to eat, idly turning over the while the pages of 
one of the newspapers which Milling had placed beside 
the breakfast tray. It was an illustrated weekly, and num- 
bered amongst its staff an enterprising young journalist, 
possessed of an absolute genius for nosing out such mat- 
ters as the principal people concerned in them particularly 
desired kept secret. These the enterprising young journal- 
ist's paper served up piping-hot in their Tattle of the Town 
column — a column denounced by the piUoried few and de- 
voured with eager interest by the rest of the world 

Diana, sipping her coffee, turned to it half-heartedly, hop- 



BBEAEING-POIKT t5S 

ing to find ■ome odd bit of newB tliat miglit flerre t» dia^ 
tract her thooghta. 

There wore the usual aly hits at several well-known soci- 
ety women whose public charities covered a multitude of 
private sina^ followed by a very inadequately veiled refer* 
ence to the chief actors in a recent divorce case, and then — > 

Diana's eyes glued themselves to the printed page before 
her. Very deliberately she set down her cup on the tra; 
beside her, and taking up the paper again, re-read the para* 
graph which had so suddenly riveted her attention. It ran 
ae follows: — 

'^Is it true that the nom de plume of a dramatist, well- 
known in London circles^ masks the identity of the son of 
a certain romantic royal duke who contracted a morganatic 
marriage with one of the most beautiful Englishwomen 
of the seventies t 

^'It would be curious if there proved to be a connecting 
link between this whisper and the recent disappearance 
from the stage of the popular actress who has been so closely 
associated with the plays emanating from the gifted pen 
of that same dramatist 

^'Interested readers should carefully watch forthcoming 
events in the little state of Buvania." 

Diana stared at the newspaper incredulously, and a half- 
stifled exclamation broke from her. 

There was — ^theri could be — no possible doubt to whom 
the paragraph bore reference. '^A wellrlcnovm dramatist 
and the popular actress so closely associated with his works" 
— ^why, to any one with the most superficial knowledge of 
plays and players of the moment, it was as obvious as though 
the names had been written in capitals. 

Max and Adrienne ! Their identities linked together and 
woven into a fresh tissue of mystery and innuendo I 

Diana smiled a little at the suggestion that Max might 
be the son of a royal duke. It was so very far-fetched — 
fantastic in the extreme. 



'254 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

And then, all at once, she remembered Olga'a significant 
query of long ago : ''Have you ever asked him who he isf" 
and Max's stem refusal to answer the question when she 
had put it to him. 

At the time it had only, given an additional twist to the 
threads of the intolerable web of mystery which had en- 
meshed her married life. But now it suddenly blazed out 
like a beacon illumining the dark places. Supposing it 
were true — supposing Max had been masquerading under 
another name all the time — ^then this suggestive little para- 
grajdi contained a clue from which she might perhaps un- 
ravel the whole hateful mystery. 

Her brows drew together as she puzzled over the mat- 
ter. This history of a moi^anatic marriage— it held a 
faint ring of familiarity. Vaguely she recollected having 
heard the story of some royal duke who had married an Eng- 
lishwoman many years ago. 

For a few minutes she racked her brain, unable to place 
the incident Then, her eyes falling absently upon the 
newspaper once more, the last word of the paragraph sud- 
denly unlocked the rusty door of memory. 

Bti^ama! She remembered the story now I There had 
once been a younger brother and heir of a reigning grand- 
duke of Kuvania who had fallen so headlong in love with 
a beautiful Englishwoman that he had renounced his royal 
state and his claims to the grand ducal throne^ and had 
married the lady of his choice, thereafter living the life of 
a simple country gentleman. 

The affair had taken place a good many years prior to 
Diana's ^itry into life, but at the time it had made such a 
romantic appeal to the sentimental heart of the world at 
large that it had never been quite forgotten, and had been 
retold in Diana's hearing on more than one occasion. 

Indeed, she recollected having once seen a newspaper 
containing an early portrait of a family group composed of 
Duke Boris and his morganatic wife and children. There 
had been two of the latter, a boy and a girl, and Diana 



BREAKINaPOINT 955 

suddesily realised, with an irrepressible little flutter of ten- 
der exeitement, that if the fantastic story hinted at in Tat^ 
tie of the Town were trae, then the boy whom, years agoy she 
Had seen pictured in the photograph must have been ac- 
tually Max himself. 

And — again if it were true — ^how naturally and easily 
it explained that little unconscious air of hauteur and au- 
thority that she had so often observed in him — ^the 'lordly" 
air upon which she had laughingly remarked to Pobs^ when 
describing the man who had been her companion on that 
memorable riailway journey, when death had drawn very 
near them both and then had passed them by. 

Her thoughts raced onward, envisaging the possibilities 
involved. 

There were no dukes of Ruvania now; that she knew. 
The little State^ close on the borders of Russia, had been 
— like 80 many of the smaller Eaatem States — convulsed by 
a revolution some ten years ago, and since then had been 
governed by a republic 

Was the explanation of all that had so mystified her to 
be found in the fact that Max was a political exile t 

The Tattle of the Town paragraph practically suggested 
that the affairs of the 'Veil-known dramatist" were in some 
way bound up with the destiny of Ruvania. That was in- 
dicated plainly enough in the reference to ''forthooming 
events," 

Diana's head whirled with the throng of confused ideas 
that poured in upon her. 

And Adrienne de Gervais? What part did she play in 
this strange medley ? Tattle of the Town assigned her one. 
Max and Adrienne and Ruvania were all inextricably tan- 
gled up together in the * thought-provoking paragraph. 

Suddenly, Diana's heart gave a great leap as a possible 
explanation of the whole matter sprang into her mind. 
There had been two children of the morganatic marriage, 
a 9oa and a daughter. Was it conceivable that Adrienne 
de Oervais was the daughter ? 



258 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Adrienne, Max's sister I That would aocoimi Ibr his m- 
Qzplicablj close friendsliip with her, his devotion to her 
welfare^ and — if she, like himself, were exiled — the eecrecj 
whioh he had maintained 

Slowly the conviction tliat this was the trUe explanatiaii 
of all that had caused her such bitter heartboming in the 
unhappy post grew and deepened in Diana's mind. A chill 
feeling of dismay crept about her heart. If it were true, 
then how hideously — ^how unforgivably — she had ntifljitdged 
her husband! 

She drew a sharp, agonised breath, her whating fingers 
gripping the bedclothes like a frightened child'a 

^'Oh, not that ! Don't let it be that !" she whispered pite- 
ously. 

She looked round the room with scared eyes. Who oould 
help her — tell her the truth — set at rest this new fear which 
had assailed her ? There must be some one . . . flome ona 
• • . Yes, there was Olgal She knew — ^had knofwn Max's 
secret all along. But would she speak! Would she reveal 
the truth? Something — ^heaven knew what! — ^had kept her 
silent hitherto, save for the utterance of those maddening 
taunts and innuendoes which had so often lodged in Diana's 
heart and festered there. 

Feveridily Diana sprang out of bed and began to dress^ 
flinging on her clothes in a very frenzy of hasta She would 
see Olga, and b^, p^ajy beseech her, if necessary, to tell 
her all she knew. 

If she failed, if the Russian woman obstinately denied 
her, she would know np peace of mind — no rest She felt 
she had reached breaking-point — she could endure no more. 

But she would not faiL When Olga came — and she 
would be here soon, very soon now — ^she would play np the 
knowledge she had gleaned from the newspaper ffff all it 
was worth, and she would force the truth from her, willing 
or unwilling. 

Whether that truth spelt heaven, or the utter, fijoal wveck- 
ing of all her lif e^ she must know it 



CHAPTEEXXVI 



THB BSAFINO 



HALF an hour later Diana deeoended to the big muskH 
roam, where she usually rehearsed, to find Olga Ler*. 
montof already awaiting her there. 

By a sheer effort of will she had fought down the storm 
of emotion which had threatened to overwhelm her, and 
now, as she greeted her accompanist, she was quite cool 
and composed, though rather pale and with tired ahadowa 
beneath her eyes. 

There was something almost unnatural in her calm, an<| 
the shrewd Russian eyed her with a sudden apprehension. 
This was not the same woman whom she had left last ni^t,, 
thrilling and softly tremulous with leva 

She began speaking quickly, an undercurrent of snpv 
pressed excitement in her tones. 

'There's some mistake^ isn't there? You don't want ma 
— ^this morning ?" 

Diana regarded her composedly. 

"Certainly I want you — ^to rehearse for to-night" 

"To rehearse? Behearse?" Olga's voice rose in a aharpi 
crescendo of amazement. "Surely" — ^bending forward to 
peer into Diana's face— "surely you are not going to keep 
Max waiting while you — reJiearset** 

"It's impossible for us to meet to-day," replied Diana, 
steadily. "I had — ^forgotten — the Duchess's reception." 

Olga made a gesture of impatienca 

"But you must meet to-day," she said imperiously. '^oi\ 
must/ To-morrow it will be too lata" 

"Too late ? How too late f " 

257 



258 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

If ifls Lennontof liesitated a moment. Then Ab aud 
quietly : — 

'^I happen to know that Max is leaving "Rugl^yMl to- 
ni^t'^ 

Diana ehrngged her Bhouldera 

^^eU, he will oome hack, I sappoBeu" 

The other looked at her curiously. 

'^Diaua, what has come to yout You are ao— eiianged 
— since last night.'' 

'^e^re told that ^ni^t unto night showetib knowledge^' ^ 
retorted Diana bitterly. 'Perhaps my knowledge has in- 
creased since — ^last night" She watched the puaJed ex- 
pression deepen on Olga's faca Then she added: ''So I 
can afford to wait a little longer to see Max." 

Again Miss Lennontof hesitated. Then, as thouj^ im- 
pelled to speak despite her better judgment^ she bursi out 
impetuously : — 

''But you can't I You can't wait He isn't ooming back 
again." 

There was a queer tense note in Diana's Toiea aa she 
played her first big card. 

''Then I suppose I shall have to follow him to— BnTaoiay" 
she said very quietly. 

"To Ruvaniaf Olga repeated, and by the sudden nai^ 
rowing of her eyes, as though she were all at onoe ''on 
guard/' Diana knew that her shot in the dark had gcme 
homa "What do you meant Why — ^Buvaxua?" 

Diana faced her squarely. Despite her feverish desire to 
wring the truth from the other woman^ she had herself well 
in hand, and when she spoke it was with a certain dignity. 

"Don't you think that the time for pretence and hypocrisy 
has gone by t Tou know — ^all that I ought to know. Now 
that even the newspapers are aware of Max's — ^and Adri* 
enne^s — connection with Buvania, do you still think it nec- 
essary that I, his wife, should be kept in the^ dark f 

"The newspapers t" Olga spoke with sudden eaaitement 



— -1 

THE HEAPING 259 

ow much do they knQw ? What do they say t . . . After 
11, though/' she added more quietly^ ^'it doesn't muoh mat- 
Bor — now. Everything is settled — ^for good or ilL Bmt if 

h.e papers had got hold of it sooner ^" 

''Well ?" queried Diana coolly, intent on driving her into 
fiving up her knowledge. "What if they had ?" 
Olga surveyed her ironically. ^ 

"What if they had? Only that, if they had, probably 
^ou wouldn't have possessed a husband a few hours later. 
A. knife in the back is a quick road out of life, you know." 
Diana caught her breath, and her self-<x>mmand gave way 
suddenly. 

''For God's sake, what do you mean ? Tell me — you must 
toll me — everything, everything ! I can't bear it any longer. 

I know too miiph ^" She broke off with a dry, choking 

soh. 

Olga's face softened. 

"You poor child !" she muttered to herself. Then, aloud, 
ahe said gently: "Tell me — ^how much do you knowP' 
With an effort Diana mastered herself again. 
"I know Max's parentage," she began steadily. 
"You know that?" — with quick surprise. 
"Yes. And that he has a sister." 
Olga nodded, smiling rather oddly. 
"YesI He has a sister," she adniitted. 
'^And that he is involved in Kuvanian politics. Some- 
thing is going to happen there, in Buvania ^" 

'Yes to that also. Something is going to happen there. 
The republic is down and out, and the last of the Mazaroffs 
is going to receive back the ducal crown." There was a 
tinge of mockery in Miss Lermontofs curt tones. 
Diana gave a cry of dismay. 

"Not — ^not Max ?" she stammered. All at once, he seemed 
to have receded very far away from her, to have been 
snatched into a world whither she would never be aUe to 
follow him. 



280 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

*'KbxV' Olga'B face darkened. ''No— not Max, bot 
Nacdine Mazaroff.'' 

''Nadine Mazaroff t^' repeated Diana unocHnpreiieiuiiiigly. 
"Who is Nadine Mazaroff ?" 

''She is the woman you knew as Adrienne de Gerrais." 

"Adrienne? Is that her nama— Nadine Mazaroff! 
Then — ^then" — ^Diana's breath came unevenly — ^"ahe's not 
Max's sister!" 

"No" — shortly. "She is— or will be within a week — ^the 
Grand Duchess of Buvania." 

"Go on," urged Diana, as the other paused. "Go on. 
Tell me everything. I know so much already that it can't 
be breaking faith with any one for you to tell me the whole 
truth now." 

Olga looked at her consideringly. 

"No. I suppose, since the journalists have ferreted it 
out, it won't be a secret much longer," she conceded grimly. 
'^And, in any case, it doesn't matter now. It's all settled.'* 
She sighed. "Besides"— with a faint smUe— "if I tell 
you, it will save Max a long story when you meet." 

"Yes," replied Diana, an odd expression flitting across 
her face. "It will save Max a long story — when we meet 
Tell me," she continued, with an effort, 'Hell me about — 
Nadine Mazaroff." 

"Nadine?" cried Olga, with sudden violenca "Nadine 
Mazaroff is the woman I hate more than any other on this 
earth!" Her eyes gleamed malevolently. "She stands 
where Max should stand. If it were not for her the Bu- 
vanian people would have accepted him as their ruler — and 
overlooked his English mother. But Nadine is the legiti- 
mate heir, the child of the late Grand Duke — and Max is 
thrust out of the succession because our father's marriage 
was a morganatic one." 

^Tow father?" 

"Yes" — ^with a brief smile— "I am the sister whoee ear 
istenee you discovered." 



THE REAPING %$1 

!For a moment Diana was silent. It had never ooewrred 

lier to oonnect Max and Olga in any way ; the latter had 

\ii7'ay8 seemed to her to be more or less at open enmity 



Immediately her heart contracted with the old haunting 
lar. What, then, was Adrienne to Max ? 
^^Qo on/' she whispered at last, nnder her breatL ^60 



1." 



«' 



^I've never forgiven my father" — Olga spoke with in^ 
•easing passion. ''For his happiness with his English wif e^ 
[ax and I have paid every day of our lives! ... As soon 
9 I was of age, I refused the State allowance granted me 
9 a daughter of Boris Mazaroff, and left the Ruvanian Oourt, 
»ince then I've lived in England as plain Miss Lermontof,, 
nd earned my own living. Kot one penny of their tainted 
aoney will I touch!" — fiercely. 

"But Max — Max!" broke in Diana. "Tell me about 
if ax!" Olga's personal quarrel with her country held ne 
nterest for a woman on the rack. 

"Max?" Olga shrugged her shoulders. "Max is either 
I saint or a fool — God knows which! For his loyalty to 
;he House that branded him with a stigma, and to the 
KToman who robbed him of his heritage, has never failed." 

"You mean — ^Adrienne?" whispered Diana, as Olga 
paused an instant, shaken by emotion. 

"Yes, I mean Adrienne — Nadine Mazaroff. Her parents 
were killed in the Kuvanian revolution — ^butchered by the 
mob on the very steps of the palace. But she herself was 
saved by my brother. At the time the revolt broke out, he 
was Uving in Borovnitz, the capital, and he rushed off to the 
palace and contrived to rescue Nadine and get her away 
to England. Since then, while the Boyalist party have been 
working day and night for the restoration of the Mazaroffs, 
Max has watched over her safety." She paused, resuming 
with an accent of jealous resentment: "And it has been 
no easy task. Oerman money backed the revolution, im tha 



268 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

hope that when Buvania grew tired of her peiuiT^fftrthing 
republic — as she was bound to do — GFermany mi^t atep in | 
again and convert Kuvania into a little dependent State lat 
der Prussia. There's always a Oerman princeling handj 
for any vacant throne I" — contemptuously — ''and in the 
event of a big European War, Buvania in Oerman hands 
would provide an easy entrance into Bussia. So yaa see, 
Nadine, alive and in safety, was a perpetual menace to the | 
Oerman plans. For some years she was hidden in a omivent 
down in the West Country, not very far from Crailing", and 
after a while people came to believe that she^ too, had pei^ 
ished in the revolution. It was only then that Max allowed 
her to emerge from the convent, and by that time she had 
grown from a young, unformed girl into a woman, so that 
there was little danger of her being recognised by any casual 
observer — or even by the agents of the anti-royalist party." 

"Mjblx seems to have done — a great deal — ^for her/' said 
Diana, speaking slowly and rather painfully. 

Olga flashed her a brief look of understanding. 

^^Yes," she said quietly. ''He has done everything that 
patriotism demanded of him— even" — ^meaningly — "to the 
sacrificing of his own personal happiness. ... It was en* 
tirely his idea that Nadine should pass as an actress. She 
always had dramatic talent, and when she came out of the 
convent he arranged that she should study for the ataga 
He believed that there was no safer way of concealing her 
identity than by providing her with an entirely different one 
— ^and a very obvious one at that And events have |m>ved 
him right. After all, people only become suspicious when 
they see signs of secrecy, and there is no one more con- 
stantly in the public eye than an actresa The laat place 
you would look for a missing grand duchess is on the Exig^ 
lish stage! The very daring and publicity of the thing 
made it a suocesa. No one guessed who she waa^ and only 
I, I and Carlo Baroni, knew. Oh, yesi, I was sworn to se- 
crecy" — as she read the question in Diana's eye— -'^and when 



THE EEAPING 208 

£ saw joa and Max driftiiig apart, and knew that a word 
f roza me oould set things right, I've been tempted again and 
again, to break my oath. Thank God I" — ^passionately — 
"Ohy thank Ood! I can speak now!'' 

She twisted her shoulders as though freed from some 
heavy borden. 

'Ton thank Qod ? Youf^* Diana spoke with bitter un- 
helief. '^Why, it was you who made things a thousand 
times worse between us — ^you who goaded me into fresh sus- 
picions. You never helped me to believe in him — althou^ 
jou knew the truth ! You tried to part us I" 

"I know. I did try," acknowledged Olga frankly. "I'd 

home it all for years — ^watched my brother sheltering Na- 

dine, working for her, using his genius to write plays for 

her — spilling all his happiness at her feet — ^and I couldn't 

endure it any longer. I thought — oh 1 I prayed that when 

it came to a choice between you and Nadine he would give 

way — ^let Nadine fend for herself. And that was why I 

tried to anger you against him — ^to drive you into forcing 

his hand." She paused, her breast heaving tumultuously. 

^'But the plan failed. Max remained staunch, and only his 

happiness came crashing down about his ears instead. There 

is" — ^bleakly — ^''no saving saints and martyrs against their 

vnlL" 

A silence f dl between them, and Diana made a few waver- 
ing steps towards a chair and sat down. She felt as though 
her legs would no longer support her. 

In a mad moment, half-crazed by the new fear whidi the 
newspaper paragraph had inspired in her, she had closed the 
only road which might have led her back to Max. Yesterday, 
still unwitting of how infinitdy she had wronged him, pas- 
sionately, humbly ready to give him the trust he had de- 
manded, she might have gone to him. But to-day, her knowl- 
edge of the truth had taken from her the power to make 
atonement, and had raised a barrier between herself and 
Max which nothing in the world could ever break down. 



idem 












1 ^*^ <ft'* '' 



tv" 






4 




Ifered bo much. Forget 

maj think 1 Throw 

onlj that he lovea joa 

Diana's. No nutter 
id they were nun;, 
I — at least, in her de 
lontof approached rerj 

at Diana Bpc^e in low, 

all neror f tn-give mjaelf . 
ma . . . He oonldn't. 



11, garing with hard eyes 
drooping lines of utter 
t no Bonnd cama Then 
ng footstops, and a min- 
9d quietly again bebind 



266 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

you e^er love him, I wctnder, that you're too proud to Bak his 
forgiyenoBB now — ^now when you know what you've dcHief* \ 

Diana's lips moved in a pitiful attempt at a smile. i 

'^Oh, no/' she said, shaking her head. '^It's not that ' 
I've ... no pride . . . left, I think. But I can't be mean ( 
— mean enough to crawl back now." She paused, then went 
on with an inflection of irony in her low, broken voice. 
^^ HiThatsoever a man soweth, tiiat shall he also reap.' • . . | 
Well, I'm reaping— that's all." 

Like the keen thrust of a knife came Olga's answer. 

"And must he, too, reap your sowing? For that's what I 
it amounts to— that Max must suffer for your sin. Oh! 
He's paid enough for others I • . . Diana" — imploringly — 
"Max is leaving England to-night 60 beck to him now — | 
don't wait until it's too lata" 

"No." Diana spoke in dead, flat tones^ "Oan't you un> 
derstand (" — amoving her head restlessly. ^'Do you suppose 
—even if he forgave me— that he could ever believe in me 
again f He would never be certain that I really trusted him. 
He would always feel unsure of ma" 

^Tf you can think that, then you haven't understood Max 
— ^r his love for you," retorted Olga vehemently. **0h! 
How can I make you see it ? You keep onr balancing this 
against that — ^what you can give, what Max can believe — 
weighing out love as though it were sold by the ounce I Max 
loves you — loves yout And there arenH any limitations to 
level" She broke off abruptly, her voice shaking. '^Can't 
you believe it ?" she added helplessly, after a minuta 

Diana shook her head. 

^^I think you mean to be kind," she said patiently. ''But 
love is a giving. And I — ^have nothing to giva" 

"And you're too proud to taka" 

"Yes • . . if you call that prida I can't take — ^whenFve 
nothing to giva" 

"Then you don't love! You don't know what it means 
to level Diana" — Olga's voice rose in passionate entreaty — 



THE REAPING 267 

''for Ood's sake go to him 1 He's suffered so mucb. Forget 
i^hat people may think — ^what even he may think 1 Throw 
your pride overboard and remember only that he loves you 
and has need of you. Oo to himt** 

She ceased, and her eyes implored Diana's. No matter 
i^hat may have been her diortcomings — and they were many, 
for she was a hard, embittered woman — at least> in her de- 
votion to her brother, Olga Lermontof approached very 
nearly to the heroic 

There was a long silenca At last Diana spoke in low, 
shaken tones, her head bowed* 

**I can't I" she whispered. "I shall never forgive myself. 
And I can't ask Max to— forgive ma • . • He couldn't 
The last words were hardly audibla 

For a momait Olga stood quite still, gazing with hard eyes 
at the slight figure hunched into drooping lines of utter 
weariness. Once her lips moved, but no sound cama Then 
she tamed away, walking with lagging footsteps, and a min- 
ute later the door opened and closed quietly again behind 
her. 



{ 



CHAFFEE XXVn 



GAXLO BABOin SXPLAnfTB 



DIANA sat on, very still, very silent^ staring strai^t in 
front of her with wide, tearless eyes. Only now and 
again a long, shuddering sigh escaped her, like the can^t 
breath of a child that has cried till it is utterly exhausted 
and can cry no more. 

She felt that she had oome to an end of things. Nothing 
could undo the past, and ahead of her stretched the future, 
empty and void of promise. 

Presently the creak of the door reopening roused her, and 
she turned, instantly on the defensive, anticipating that 
Olga had come back to renew the struggla But it waA only 
Baroni, who approached her with a look of infinite oonoem 
on his kind old face. 

"My child r he began. "My childl . . . So, tibenl You 
know all that there is to know." 

Diana looked up wearily. 

'TTes," she replied. "I know it alL" 

The old mciestro's eyes softened as they rested upon her, 
and when he spoke again, his queer husl^ voice was toned 
to a note of extraordinary sweetness. 

"My dear pupil, if it had been possible, I would haf spared 
you this knowledge. It was wrong of Olga to tell you — 
above all" — ^his face creasing with anxiety aa the ruling pas- 
sion asserted itself irrepressibly — "to tell you on a day when 
you haf to sing 1" 

"I made her," answered Diana ^listlessly. She passed her 
hand wearily across her forehead. "Don^t worry, Maestro, 
I shall be able to sing to-night" 

288 



OABLO BABONI EXPLAINS 269 

^'Timml Bat joa are aU to pieoes^ my child 1 You will 
drink a glasB of champagne— now^ at onoe," he insisted, 
adding persoasiyely as she shook her head, '^To please me, 
is it not so ('' 

Diana's lips carved in a tired smila 

^^Is champagne the cure for a heartache^ then, Maestro f* 

Baroni's eyes grew suddenly sad. 

"Ah, my dear, only death— or a great love — can heal the 
iivoand that lies in the heart," he answered gently. He 
paused, then resumed crisply: "But, meanwhile, we haf to 
live — ^and prima donnas haf to sing. So • • • the little glass 
of wine in my room, is it not?'' 

He tacked her arm within his^ patting her hand paternally, 
and led her into his own sanctum, where he settled her 
oomf ortably in a big easy-chair beside the fire, and poured 
her out a glass of wine, watching her sip it with a glow of 
satisfaction in his eyes. 

"That goes better, hem? This Olga — she had not reflected 
sufficiently. It was too late for the truth to do good; it 
oould only pain and grieve you." 

^^es," said Diana. "It is too late now. . . . Fve paid 
for my ignorance with my happiness — ^and Max's," she added 
in a low^ tona She looked across at Baroni with sudden 
resentment. "And you — you TcnewT she continued. "Why 
didn't you tell met . . . Oh, but I can guess!" — scornfully. 
*lX suited your purpose for me to quarrel with my husband ; 
it brought me back to the conciert platform. My happiness 
counted for nothing — ^against that 1" 

Baroni regarded her patiently. 

"And do you regret it? Would you be willing, now, to 
give up your career as a prima donna — and all that it 
means ?" 

A vision rose up before Diana of what life would be de- 
nuded of the glamour and excitement^ the perpetual 
triojuphsi the thrilling sense of power her singing gave her 



270 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

— ^the dully flat monotony of it^ and ahe caught her breath 
sharply in instinctive recoil. 

**No," she admitted slowly. "I couldn't give it up— 

An odd look of satisfaction overspread Baroni's f aoa 

'^Then do not blame me, my child. For haf I not given 
yon a consolation for the troubles of life t" 

'^I need never have had those troubles to hear if you had 
been frank with met'' she flashed back. "You — you were 
not bound by any oath of secrecy. Oh I It was cruel of 
you, Maestro r* 

Her eyes, bitterly accusing, searched his face; 

'Tchut I Tchut I But you are too quick to think evil of 
your old maestro/* He hesitated, then went on slowly: '^t 
is a long story, my dear — and sometimes a very sad story. 
I did not think it would pass my lips again in this world. 
But for you, who are so dear to me^ I will break the silencB 
of years. • . • Listen, then. When you, my little Pepper- 
^ pot) had not yet come to earth to torment your parents^ but 
were still just a tiny thought in the comer of God's mind, 
I — your old Baroni — ^I was in Euvania.'* < 

'TTou— in Euvaniar 

He nodded. 

'7es.' I went there first as a professor of singing at the 
Borovnitz Conservatoire — per Baccol But they haf the very 
soul of music, those RuvaniansI And I was appointed to 
attend also at the palace to give lessons to the Gband Duchess. 
Her voice was only a little less beautiful than your own.'' 
He hesitated, as though he found it difScult to continue. At 
last he said almost shyly : ^^Thou, my child, thou hast known 
love. ... To me, too, at the palace, came that best gift of 
the good God." 

He paused, and Diana whispered stanmieringly : 

*'No1>— not the Grand Duchess?" 

"Yes — Sonia." The old maeslro's eyes kindled with a 
soft luminance as his whispering voice caressed the little 



OAKLO BAEONI EXPLAINS 871 

nama '^ers, of course^ had been merely a marriage dic- 
tated by reafloiuf of State, and from tlie time of our first 
zneetiDg^ oar hearts inrere in each other's keeping. Bnt she 
never failed in duty or in loyalty. Only once, when I was 
leaving Bnvania, never to return, did ^e give me her lips 
at parting." Again he fell silent, his thou^ts straying back 
across the years between ,to that day when he had taken 
farewell of the woman who had held his very soul between 
her hands. Presently, with an effort, he resumed his story. 
'^I stayed at the Buvanian Court many years — there was a 
post of Court musician which I filled — and for both of us 
those years held much of sadness. The Grand Duke Anton 
^was a dofnineering man, hated by every one; and his wife's 
liappiness counted for nothing with Um. She had failed 
to give him a son, and for that he never pardoned her. I 
think my jHnesence comforted her a littla That — and the 
child — ^the little Nadine. . • • Ab much as Anton was dis- 
liked, so much was his brother Boris beloved of the people. 
His story you know. Of this I am sure — that he lived and 
died without once regretting the step he had taken in marry- 
ing an Englishwoman. They were lovers to the end, those 
twa" 

Listening to the little history of those two tender love 
tales that had run their course side by side^ Diana almost 
f oigot for a moment how the ripples of their influence, flow- 
ing out in ever-widening circles, had touched, at last^ even 
her own life, and had engulfed her happiness. 

But, as* Baroni ceased, the recollection of her own bitter 
share in' the matter returned with overwhehning f oroe^ and 
once more she arraigned him for his silenc& 

^1 still see no reason why you should not have told me 
the truth about Adriemie— about If adine Mazaroff. Max 
couldn't — ^I see that; nor Olga. But you were bound by no 
oath." 

''My child, I was bound by something stronger than an 
oaiL'* 



272 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

The old man crossed the room to where tiicro stood on a 
shelf a little ebony cabinet^ clamped with doll sUtot of 
foreign workmanship. He unlocked it, and withdrew frcHn 
it a letter, the paper faintly yellowed and brittle with the 
paasage of tima 

He held it out to Diana. 

'^No eyes but mine haf e^er rested on it since it was given 
into my hand after her death/' he said very gently, '^nt 
you, my chUd, you shall read it; you are hurt and unhappy, 
battering against fate, and believing that those who love you 
haf served you ill. But we were all bound in different ways. 

. • Bead the letter, little one^ and ihou wilt see that I, too, 
was not f rea*' 

Hesitatingly Diana unfolded the thin -sheet and read the 
few faded lines it contained. 

"Carlo mio, 

"I think the end is ooming for Anton and for ma 
The revolt of the people is beyond all quelling. If y only 
fear is for Ifadine; my only hope for her ultimate safety 
lies in Max. If ever, in the time to come, your silence or 
your speech can do aught for my child — ^in the name of the 
love you gave me, I b^ it of you. In serving her, you will 
be serving ma 

Very slowly Diana handed the letter back to Baitmi. 

"So— that was why," she whispered. 

Baroni bent his heeuL 

"That was why. I could noti speeL But I did all that 
lay in my power to prevent this marriage of youra" 

"You did." A wan little smile tilted the comers of her 
mouth at the remembranca 

"Afterwards — ^your happiness was on the knees of the 
godsP' 

^^o^'' said Diana suddenly, ^^a It was in my own 



CARLO BARONI EXPLAINS J78 

i^^jL&nds. Had I believed in Max we should have been bappy 
^ rtdll- . • . But I failed hixn." 

JL loDg ailenoe followed. At last she lose^ holding oat her 
''^azida 

''Thank yoo,'' she said aimply. ''Thank yoa for dunpng 

me the letter/' 

^ Saioni stooped his head and carried her hands to his lips. 

''My dear^ we make our mistakes and then we pay. It 

ia always so in Ufa Lo7e^' — and the odd, dooded voice 

" shook a little — ^'liOve brings — great happiness — and groat 

, pain. Yet we would not be without it" 



OHAPTEE XXVm 



THX AWAKXNISQ 



SOMEHOW the iBterminable hoars of the day had at hst 
MiroTR to evening, and Diana found herself standing is 
front of a big mirror, listlessly watching Milling as she 
bustled round her, putting the last touches to her dress for 
the Duchess of Linfield's reception. The same thing had 
to be gone through every concert night — the same patient 
waiting while the exquisite toilette, appropriate to a prim 
donna, was consummated by Milling's dever fingers* 

Only, this evening, every nerve in Diana's body was quiv- 
ering in rebellion. 

What was it Olga had saidt ''Max is leaving England to- 
night/* So, while she was being dressed like a doU for the 
pleasuring of the people who had paid to hear her sing, Max 
was being borne away out of her ken, out of her existence 
for ever. 

What a farce it all seemedl In a little while she would 
be singing as perfectly as usual, bowing and smiling as 
usual, and not one amongst the crowded audience would 
know that in reality it was only the husk of a woman who 
stood there before them — the mere outer shelL All that mat- 
tered, the heart and soul of her, was dead. - She knew that 
quite welL Probably she would feel glad about it in time^ 
die thou^t, because when one was dead things didn't hurt 
any mora It was dying that hurt • • . 

^^Your train, madam." 

She started at the sound of Milling's respectful voice. 
What a lop-sided thing a civilised sense of values seemed to 
bel Even when you had dragged the white robes of your 

274 



THE AWAKENING 275 

spirit deep in the mire^ you must still be scrupulously care- 
ful not to soil the hem of the white satin that clothed your 
body. 

She almost laughed aloud, then bit the laugh back, pic- 
turing Milling's astonished face. The girl would think she 
^was mad. Perhaps she was. It didn't matter much^ any- 
way. 

Mechanically she held out her arm for Milling to throw 
the train of her gown across it, and, picking up her gloves^ 
^went slowly downstairs. / 

Baroni, his face wearing an eixpression of acute anxiety, 
was waiting for her in the hall^ restlessly pacing to and fro. 
"Ah. — ^h!" His face cleared as by magic when the 
slender, white^lad figure appeared round the last bend of 
the stairway. He had half feared tEat at the last moment 
the strain of the day's emotion might exact its penalty, and 
Diana prove unequal to the evening's demands. 

To hide his obvious relief, he turned sharply to the maid, 
who had followed her mistress downstairs, carrying her 
opera coat and furs. 

"Madame's cloak — make haste!" he commanded curtly. 
And when Diana had entered the car, he waved aside the 
manservant and himself tucked the big fur rug carefully 
round her^^ There was something rather pathetic, almost 
maternal, in the old man's care of her, and Diana's lips 
quivered. 

^'Thank you, dear Ma^rof* she said, gently pressing his 
arm with her hand. 

The Duchess's house was packed with a complacent crowd 
of people, congratulating themselves upon being able, for 
once, to combine duly and pleasure, since the purchase- 
money of their tickets for the evening's entertainment con- 
tributed to a well-known charity, and at the same time pro- 
cured them the privilege of hearing once more €beir favour- 
ite singer. Some there were who had grounds for additional 



278 THE SPLENDID EOLLY 

aatiflf action in the fact that^ nndar the wide doak of cSiarity, 
they had managed to squeeze through the ezbliisLye portals |i 
of Linfield House for the first — and i^robably the laat— time 
in their lives. } 

Aa the singer nuule her way through the thronged hall, i 
those who knew her personally bowed and smiled effoaiyei j, 
whilst those who didnH looked on from, afar and wished 
they did. It was not unlike a royal progress^ and Diant 
heaved a quick sigh of relief when at last she found heorself 
in the quiet of the little apartment set aside aa an artistes' 

Olga Lennontof waa already there^ and Piana greeted 
her rather nervously. She felt horribly uncertain what atti- 
tude Miss Lennontof might be expected to adopt in tlie cir- 
cumstanoea. 

But she need have had no anxiety on that acorek Olga 
seemed to be just her usual self — grave and self-contained, 
her thin, dark-browed face wearing its habitual half-mocking 
expression. Apparently she had wiped out the day's hap- 
penings from her mind, and had become once more merely 
the quiet, ccnnpetent accompanist to a well-known singer. 

There was no one else in the artistes' toool The other 
performers were minglix^ with the guests, only withdrawing 
from the chattering crowd when claimed by their part in 
the evening's entertainment. 

''How far on are theyf asked Diana, piddng up the 
programme and running her eye down it 

''Your songs are the next item but one^" replied Miss 
Lennontof. 

A violin solo preceded the two songs whidi, bradceted 
together in the middle of the programme aa its cuhninating 
point, made the sum total of Diajm's part in it, and she 
waited quietly in the little anteroom while the violinist 
played, was encored and played again, and throughout the 
brief interval that followed. She felt that to-night she 
oould not face the cheap^ everyday flow of talk and 




THE AWAKENING 

nxent She wcmld sing because die had pro" 
would, bat as soon as her part was done she^^HMQ slip 
sLvrsLj and go home — home^ where she could sit alone by ibe 
dead embers of her happiness. 

A little flutter of excitement rippled throu^ the big rooms 
Allien at last she mounted the platf orpi. People who had 
faitberto been content to remain in the hall, regarding the 
music as a pleasant accompaniment to the interchange of 
the day's news and gossip, now came flocking in throng^ the 
doorways, hoping to find seats> and mostly haying to oontoit 
themselves with standing-room. 

' Almost as in a dream Diana waited for the applause to 
subside, her eyes roaming half-unconsciously over the big 
assembly. 

It was all so stalely familiar — the little rustle of ezoite- 
ment, the preliminary dapping, the settling down to listen, 
and then the sea of upturned faces spread out beneath her. 
The memory of the first time that die had song in public, 
at Adrienne's house in Somervell Street, came back to her. 
It had been just such an occasion as this. • . • 

(Olga was playing the introductory bars of acoompani- 
ment to her song, and, still as in a dream, she began to sing, 
the exquisite voice thrilling out into the vast room, golden 
and perfect.) 

• • • Adrienne had smiled at her encouragix^ly from 
across the room, and Jerry Leigh had been standing at the 
far end near some big double doors. There were double 
doors to this room, too, flung wide open. (It was odd how 
clearly she could recall it all ; her mind seemed to be work- 
ing quite independently of what was going on around her.) 
And Max had been thera She remembered how she had 
believed him to be still abroad, and then, how she had looked 
up and suddenly met his gaze across those rows and rows of 
unfamiliar faces. He had come back. 

Instinctively she glanced towards the far end of the room, 
where, on that other night and in that other room, he had 



278 TH 

IE SPLENDID FOLLY 
_^^8^iflf action in tbr 

Bc^Nkad maif^ and then . • . then . • • was it still only 

the a^Mtfn^ the memory of long agot ... Or had God 

worked a miracle? . . . Over the heads of the people^ Max's 

eyes^ grave and tender, but unspeakably sad^ looked into hers! 

A hand seemed to grip her heart, squeezing it so that she 
could not draw her breath. Everything grew blurred and 
dim about her, but through the blur she could still see Max, 
standing with his head thrown back against the panelling of 
the door, his arms folded across his chest, and his eyes — 
those grave, questioning eyes — fixed on her face. 

Presently the darkness cleared away and she found that 
she was still singing — ^mechanically her voice had answered 
to the long training of years. But the audience had heard 
the great prima donna catch her breath and falter in her 
song. For an instant it had seemed almost as though she 
might break down. Then the tension passed, and the lovely 
voice, upborne by a limitless technique, had floated out again, 
golden and perfect as bef ora 

It was only the habit of surpassing art which had enabled 
Diana to finish her song. Since last night, when she had 
seen Max for that brief moment at the Embassy, she had 
passed through the whole gamut of emotion, glimpsed the 
vision of coming happiness, only to believe that with her 
own hands she had pushed it aside. And now she was con- 
scious of nothing but that Max — ^Max, the man she loved — 
was here, close to her once again, and that her heart was 
crying out for him. He was hers^ her mate out of the whole 
world, and in a sudden blinding flash of self-revelation^ she 
recognised in her refusal to return to him a sheer denial of 
the divine altruism of love. 

The blank, bewildering chaos of the last twelve hours, 
with its turmoil of conflicting passions, took on a new aspect, 
and all at once that which had been dark was become light. 

From the moment she had learned the truth about her 
husband, her thoughts had centred solely round herself, 
dwelling — in all humility, it is true— but still dwelling none 



THE AWAKENING 279 

the lesB egotistically upon her personal failure^ her own ir- 
reparable mistake, her self-wrought bankruptcy of all the 
faith and absolute belief a woman loves to give her lover. 
She had thrust these things before his happiness^ whereas 
the stem and simple creed of love places the loved one first 
and everything else immeasurably second. 

But now, in this quickened moment of revelation, Diana 
knew that she loved Max utterly and entirely, that his happi- 
ness was her supreme need, and that if she let him go from 
her again, life would be henceforth a poor, maimed thing, 
shorn of all meaning. 

It no longer mattered that she had sinned against him, 
that she had nothing to bring, that she must go to him a 
beggar. The scales had fallen from her eyes, and she realised 
that in love there is no reckoning — ^no pitiful making^up of 
accounts. The pride that cannot take has no place there; 
where love is, giving and taking are one and indivisibla 

Nothing mattered any longer — ^nothing except that Max 
was here — ^here, within reach of the great love in her heart 
that was stretching out its arms to him . • . calling him 
back. 

The audience, ardently applauding her first song, saw her 
turn and give some brief instruction to her accompanist, 
who nodded, laying aside the song which she had just placed 
upon the music-desk. A little whisper ran through the as- 
sembly as people asked each other what song was about to be 
substituted for the one on the programme, and when the sad, 
appealing music of 'The Haven of Memory," stole out into 
the room, they smiled and nodded to one another, pleased 
that the great singer was giving them the song in which they 
loved best to hear her. 

Do you remember 

Our great love'f pure unfolding. 
The troth you gave. 

And prayed for God's upholding, 
Long and long agoY 



S80 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Oat of the pufe 

A dieAm— «nd tbeii tlie waking — 
OoniM baek to me 

Of loTo, and love's fomkiiig^ 
En the auinziier waned. 

Aht Let me dream 

That am a Uttle kindnen 
Dwelt in the smile 

That ehid mj foolish blindneai^ 
When yon said good-bTa. 

liet me lemember 

When I am -mrj lone^. 
How onee your Ioto 

Bat erowned and blessed me on^. 
Long and long ago. 

Thffe was no faltering now. The beantifol voioe had 
never been more touching in its exquisite appeaL All the 
unutteraUe sweetness and humility and faith, the wistful 
memories^ the passion and surrender that love holds^ dwelt 
in the throbbing notes. 

To Max, standing a little apart, the width of the room 
betwixt him a^d the woman singing, it seemed as though she 
were entreating him . . • calling to him. • • • 

The sadi tender words, poignant with regret and infinite 
beseeching, clamoured against his heart, and as the last note 
trembled into silence^ he turned and inade his way blindl j 
out of the room. 



CHAPTER XXIX 



8A0BIFI0B 



F^ Ji> you mean Uf' 

JL^ Errington's Toioe broke harshly throu^ the sil^ioe 
of the little anteroom where Diana waited alone. It had a 
eurioii% csraoked soimd^ and his breath laboured like that of 
a man who has run himself* put 

For a momeDt she kept her face ^udden^ trying to steady 
heirself , but at last she turned towards him, and in her eyes 
waa a soft nhining — a strange^ sweet fira 

'^MazP' The whispered name was hardly audible; trem- 
ulous and wistful it aeemed to creep across the nxmL 

But he heard it In a moment his arms were round her, 
and he had gathered her dose against his heart And so 
they remained for a f^mce^ neither speaking. 

Presently Diana lifted her head. 

^'MaZy it was because I loved you so that I was so hard 
and bitter— only because I loved you so." 

^^I know/' was all he said. And he kissed her hair. 

"Do you t** — wistfully. "I wonder if-rif a man can un- 
derstand how a woman can be so cruel to what she loves I'* 

And as he had no answer to this (sinoe, after all, a man 
cannot be expected to understand all — or even very much — 
that a woman does)^ he kissed her lips. 

She crept a little nearer to him. 

'^Mazl Do you still care for me— like thatf' There 
was wonder and thanksgiving in her voica ^'Oh, my dear, 
I'm down in the dust at your feet — ^IVe failed you utterly, 
wronged you every way. Even if you forgive me^ I shall 
never forgive myself. But I'm — all yours^ Max." 

2S1 



282 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

With a sudden jealous movement he folded her more 
closely in his arms. 

'^Let me have a few moments of this," he muttered, a littfe 
hreathlessly. '^A few moments of thinking jon have oome 
back to me." 

''But I have come back to you I" Her eyes grew wide and 
startled with a sudden, desperate apprehension. 'Ton won't 
send me away again — ^not now?" 

His face twisted with pain. 

''Beloved, I must I God knows how hard it will be — ^bat 
there is no other way." 

'^No other way ?" She broke from his arms^ seardiing his 
face with her frightened eyes. "What do you meant . • . 
What do you mean? Don't you — care — ^any longer?" 

He smiled, as a man may who is asked whether the sun 
will rise to-morrow. 

"iN'ot that, beloved. Never that IVe always oared, and 
I shall go on caring through this world and into the next — 
even though, after to-night, we may never be together again." 

"Never — ^together again ?" She clung to him. "Oh, why 
do you say such things? I can't — ^I can't live without you 
now. Max, I'm sorry — sorry I I've been punished enough 
— don't punish me any more by sending me away from you^" 

"Punish you I Heart's dearest, there has never been any 
thought of punishment in my mind. Heaven knows, I've re- 
proached myself bitterly enough for all the misery I've 
brought on you." 

'*Then why — ^why do you talk of sending me away ?" 

"I'm not going to send you away. It is I who have to go. 
Oh, beloved I I ought never to have come here this evening. 
But I thought if I might see you — ^just once again — ^before 
I went out into the night, I should at least have that to re- 
member. • . . And then you sang, and it seemed as though 
yc!h were calling me. ..." 

"Yes," she said very softly. "I called you. I wanted you 
80." Then, after a moment, with sudden, womanish curi^ 



SACRIFICE 288 

osity: 'CEow did you know I was singing here to-night?" 

^^Olga told ma She's bitterly opposed to all that I've been 
doing, but" — smiling faintly — ^**she has occasional spasms 
of compassion when she remembers that, after all, I'm a 
poor devil who's being thrust out of paradise." 

"She loves you,'* Diana answered simply. "I think she 
has loved you — ^better — than I did, Max., But not more!'* 
she added jealously. "No one could love you more, dear." 

After a pauses she asked: 

"I suppose Olga told you that I know — everything?" 

"Yes. I'm glad you know" — quietly. "It makes it easier 
for me to tell you why I must go away — out of your life." 

She leaned nearer to him, her hands on his shoulders. 

"Don't go 1" she whispered. "Ah, don't go I" 

"I must," he said" hoarsely. "Listen, beloved, and then 
you will see that there is no other way. ... I married you, 
believing that when Nadine would be safely settled on the 
throne, I should be free to live my own life, free to come 
back to England — and you. If I had not believed that, I 
shouldn't have told you that I cared; I should have gone 
away and never seen you again. But now — now I know that 
I shall never be free, never able to live in England." 

He paused, gathering her a little closer into his arms. 

"Everything is settled. Bussia has helped, and Ruvania 
is ready to welcome 2^adine's return. • . . She is in Paris, 
now, waiting for me to take her there. ... It has been a 
long and difficult matter, and the responsibility of I^adine's 
well-being in England has been immense. A year ago, the 
truth as to her identity leaked out somehow — ^reached our 
enemies' ears^ and since then I've never really known an in- 
stant's peace concerning her safety. You remember the 
attack which was made on her outside the theatre?^' 

Diana nodded, shame-faced, remembering its ultimate oit* 
coma 

^^ell, the man who shot at her was in the piiy of the 
Bepublio — German pay, actually. That yam about the 



S84 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

Aotor down on his luck was oooked up for tibe papon^ just to 
throw dost in the eyes of the paUia ... To waAoh over 
Kadine^B safely has been mj work. Now the time has oome 
when she can go back and take her place as Grand Dnclhen 
of Rnyania. And I must go wUh her/* 

''Noy na Why need yon gol Yoall have done your 
work, set her securdy on the tiirona Ah, Max I don't Bpeek 
of going, dear." Her voice shook incontroUabiy. 

''There is other work still to be done, beloved — harder 
work, man's work. And I can't torn away and take my 
shoalder from the wheel. It needs no great foien^t to teU 
that there is trouble brewing on the (continent; a very little 
thing would set the whole of Europe in a blaze. And when 
that time arrives, if Ruvania is to come out of the s^aroggle 
with her independence unimpaired, it will only be by the 
utmost effort of all her sons. Nadine cannot stand alone. 
What can a woman do unaided when the nations are fight- 
ing for supremacy ' The country will need a man at the 
helm, and I must stand by Nadina" 

"But why you ? Why not another f " 

''No other is under the same compulsion as L As you 
know, my father put his wife first and his countiy second. 
It is diOBcuIt to blame him . . . she was very beautiful, my 
mother. But no man has \he right to turn away f rcmi his 
allotted task. And because my father did that, the call to 
me to serve my country is douUy strong. I have to pay 
back that of which he robbed her." 

"And have I no claim ? Max I Max I Doesn't your love 
count at all ?" 

The4ad, grieving words wrung his heart. 

"Why, yes," he said unsteadily. "That's the biggest thmg 
in the world — our love — ^isn't it ? But this other b a debt of 
honour, and you wouldn't want me to shirk that, would you, 
sweett I must pay-reven if it costs me my happiness. . . . 
It may seem to you as though I'd set your happiness, too, 
aside. God knows, it hasn't been easy I But what oould I 



SACRIFIOE 285 

dot I oonoeive that a man's honour stands before every- 
thing. That was why I let you believe — what you did. My 
word was given. I couldn't clear myself. ... So you see^ 
now, beloved, why we must part.'' 

''No," she said quietly. ''I don't see. Why can't I come 
to Ruvania with you ?" 

A sadden light leaped into his eyes^ but it died away al- 
most instantly. He shook his head. 

''No, you can't come with me. Because — don't you see, 
dear !" — ^very gently and pitifully. "As my wife, as cousin 
of the Grand Duchess herself, you couldn't still be — a pro- 
fessional singer." 

There was a long silence. Slowly Diana drew away from 
her husband, staring at him with dilated eyes. 

"Then that — thai was what Baroni meant when he told 
me a time would come when your wife could no longer sing 
in public t" 

Max bent his head. 

"Yes. That was what he meant." 

Diana stood silently clasping and unclasping her hands. 
Presently she spoke again, and there was a new note in her 
voice—a note of quiet gravity and steadfast decision. 

"Dear, I am coming with you. The singing" — smiling a 
little tremulously-— "doesn't count — against lova" 

Has made a sudden moviNnent as though to take her in 
his arms, then checked himself as suddenly. 

"No," he said quietly. "You can't come with me. It 
-would be impossible — out of the question. You haven't 
realised all it would entail. After being a famous singer — 
to become merely a private gentlewoman — ^a lady of a little 
unimportant Court ! The very idea is absurd. Always you 
would miss the splendour of your life, the triumphs, the 
heing feted and made much of — everything that your singing 
has brought you. It would be inevitable. And I couldn't 
endure to see the regret growing in your eyes day by day. 
Oh, my dear, don't think I don't realise the generosity of the 



286 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

thought — and bless you for it a thousaiid timeBl But I 
won't let you pay wiUi the rest of your life for a heayeii4diid 
impulse of the moment." 

His words fell on Diana's consciousness^ each (me wm^ted 
with a world of significance. For she knew, even as she 
listened, that he spoke but the bare truth. 

Very quietly she moved away from him and stood by the 
chimney-piece, staring down into the grate where the embers 
l^y dying. It seemed to typify what her life would be, 
shorn of the glamour with which her glorious voice had 
decked it. It would be as though one had plucked out the 
glowing heart of a fire, leaving only ashes — dead aahes of 
nranembranca 

And in exchange for the joyous freedom of Bohemia, the 
happy brotherhood of artistes, there would be the deadly, 
daily ceremonial of a court, the petty jealousies and intrigaes 
of a palace! 

Very clearly Diana saw what the choice involved, and 
with that clear vision came the realisation that here was a 
sacrifice which she, who had so profaned love's temple, 
oould yet make at the foot of the altar. And within her grew 
and deepened the certainty that no sacrifice in the world is 
too great to make for the sake of love, except the sacrifice' 
of honour. 

Here at last was something she could give to the man 
she loved. She need not go to him with empty hands. . . . 

She turned again to her husband, and her eyes were 
radiant with the same soft shining that had lit them when 
he had first come to her in answer to her singing. 

'Q>ear," she said, and her voice broke softly. ^'Take me 
with you. Oh, but you must think me very slow and stupid 
not to have learned — ^yet — ^what love means ! . . . Ah, Max ! 
Max I What am I to do, dear, if you won't let me go with 
yoaf What shall I do with all the love that is in my heart 
*— if you won't take it?" For a moment she stood there 
tremulously smiling, while he stared at her, in his eyes a 



SACEIilCE 287 

of bewilderment and nnbelief fighting the dawn of an 
unutterable joy. 

Then at last he understood, and his arms went round 
her. 

^^ I won't take it!" he cried, his voice all shaken with 
the wonder of it. ^^Oh, my sweet I I'll take it as a beggar 
takes a gift, as a blind man sight — on my knees^ thanking 
God for it — ^and for you." 

And so Diana came again into her kingdom, whence she 
had wandered outcast so many bitter months. 

Presently she drew him down beside her on to a big, 
cushioned divan. 

''Max, what a lot of time we've wasted 1" 

''So much, sweet, that all the rest of life we'll be making- 
up for it." And he kissed her on the mouth by way of a 
beginning. 

"What will Baroni say}" she whispered, with a covert 
smile. 

"He'll wish he was young, as we are, so that he could 
love— as we do," he replied triumphantly. 

Diana lauded at him for an arrogant lover, then sighed 
at a memory she knew of. 

"I think he has loved — as we do," she chided gently. 

Max's arm tightened round her. 

"Then he's in need of envy, beloved, for love like ours is 
the most wonderful thing life has to give." 

They were silent a moment, and then the quick instinct 
of lovers told them they were no longer alona 

Baroni stood on the threshold of the room, frowning 
heavily. 

"Sol" he exclaimed, grimly addressing Max. "This, 
then, is how you travel in haste to Paris ?" 

Startled, Diana sprang to her feet, and would have drawn 
herself away, but Max laughed joyously, and still keeping 
her hand in his, led her towards Baroni. 



288 THE SPLENDID FOLLY 

"W6 trayel to Paris to-morrow," he said. *Won*t ycMt- 
wish us luck, Baroni P' 

But luck was the last thing which the old maestro was by 
way of wishing them. For long he argued and eKpoatulatad 
upon the madness^ as he termed it^ of Diana's ranoiuicixig 
her career, trying his utmost to dissuade her. 

^'Yoa haf not counted the cost!" he fumed at her. 'Ton 
cannot haf counted the cost I'' 

But Diana only smiled at him. 

''Yes, I hava And Pm glad it's going to cost me some- 
thing — ^a good deal, in fact — ^to go back to Max Don't you 
see^ Maestro, it kind of squares things the tiniest bit P* She 
paused, adding, after a moment: ''And ifs snob a litde 
price to pay — ^for love." 

Baroni, who, after all, knew a good deal about love 9b well 
as music, regarded her a mcHnent in silence. Then, with a 
characteristic shrug of his massive sbould^^ he yielded. 

"So, then, the most marvellous voice of the century is to 
be wasted reading aloud to a Grand Duchess I Ahl Dearest 
of all my pupils^ there is no folly in all the worid at once so 
foolish and so splendid as the f oUy of love." 



THX XND 



I 




\ 



N 



t 7 \^l^. 




\