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Full text of "Tante"

ZCante 




ftante 



BY 



Hnne Douglas Set>0wich 



(MRS. BASIL DE 
AUTHOR or "FRANKLIN WINSLOW KANE," "A FOUNTAIN SEALED,' 



AMABEL CHANNICE, 



THE SHADOW OF LIFE, ETC. 




NEW YORK 

Century Co. 

1911 



Copyright, 1911, by 
THE CENTURY Co. 

Published, December, 1911. 



TANTE 



TANTE 

PART I 

CHAPTEE I 

IT was the evening of Madame Okraska's concert at the old St. 
James's Hall. London was still the place of the muffled 
roar and the endearing ugliness. Horse-'buses plied soberly in 
an unwidened Piccadilly. The private motor was a curiosity. 
Berlin had not been emulated in an altered Mall nor New York 
in the fagades of giant hotels. The Saturday and Monday pops 
were still an institution ; and the bell of the muffin-man, in such 
a wintry season, passed frequently along the foggy streets and 
squares. Already the epoch seems remote. 

Madame Okraska was pausing on her way from St. Petersburg 
to New York and this was the only concert she was to give in 
London that winter. For many hours the enthusiasts who had 
come to secure unreserved seats had been sitting on the stone 
stairs that led to the balcony or gallery, or on the still narrower, 
darker and colder flight that led to the orchestra from Piccadilly 
Place. From the adjacent hall they could hear the strains of the 
Moore & Burgess Minstrels, blatant and innocuously vulgar ; and 
the determined mirth, anatomized by distance, sounded a little 
melancholy. To those of an imaginative turn of mind it might 
have seemed that they waited in a tunnel at one far end of which 
could be perceived the tiny memory of tea at an Aerated Bread 
shop and at the other the vision of the delights to which they 
would emerge. For there was no one in the world like Madame 
Okraska, and to see and hear her was worth cold and weariness 
and hunger. Not only was she the most famous of living pian- 
ists but one of the most beautiful of women; and upon this 
restoring fact many of the most weary stayed themselves, return- 

3 



4 TANTE 

ing again and again to gaze at the pictured face that adorned the 
outer cover of the programme. 

Illuminated by chill gas-jets, armed with books and sand- 
wiches, the serried and devoted ranks were composed of typical 
concert-goers, of types, in some cases, becoming as extinct as the 
muffin-man; young art-students from the suburbs, dressed in 
Liberty serges and velveteens, and reading ninepenny editions of 
Browning and Eossetti though a few, already, were reading 
Yeats ; middle-aged spinsters from Bayswater or South Kensing- 
ton, who took their weekly concert as they took their daily bath; 
many earnest young men, soft-hatted and long-haired, studying 
scores; the usual contingent of the fashionable and economical 
lady; and the pale-faced business man, bringing an air of duty 
to the pursuit of pleasure. 

Some time before the doors opened a growing urgency began 
to make itself felt. People got up from their insecurely balanced 
camp-stools or rose stiffly from the stone steps to turn and stand 
shoulder to shoulder, subtly transformed from comrades in dis- 
comfort to combatants for a hazardous reward. The field for 
personal endeavour was small ; the stairs were narrow and their 
occupants packed like sardines; yet everybody hoped to get a 
better seat than their positions entitled them to hope for. Hope 
and fear increased in intensity with the distance from the doors, 
those mute, mystic doors behind which had not yet been heard a 
chink or a shuffle and against which leaned, now balefully visible, 
the earliest comers of all, jaded, pallid, but insufferably assured. 
The summons came at length in the sound of drawn bolts and 
chains ,and a peremptory official voice, blood-tingling as a 
trumpet-call; and the crowd, shoulder to shoulder and foot to 
foot, with rigid lips and eyes uplifted, began to mount like one 
man. Step by step they went, steady and wary, each pressing 
upon those who went before and presenting a resistant back to 
those who followed after. The close, emulous contacts bred 
stealthy strifes and hatreds. A small lady, with short grey hair 
and thin red face and the conscienceless, smiling eye of a hypno- 
tized creature, drove her way along the wall and mounted with 
the agility of a lizard to a place several steps above. Others 



TANTE 5 

were infected by the successful outlawry and there were some 
moments of swaying and striving before the crowd adjusted itself 
to its self-protective solidity. Emerged upon the broader stairs 
they ascended panting and scurrying, in a wild stampede, to the 
sudden quiet and chill and emptiness of the familiar hall, with 
its high-ranged plaster cupids, whose cheeks and breasts and 
thighs were thrown comically into relief by a thick coating of 
dust. Here a permanent fog seemed to hang under the roof; 
only a few lights twinkled frugally; and the querulous voice of 
the programme-seller punctuated the monotonous torrent of feet. 
Eow upon row, the seats were filled as if by tumultuous waters 
entering appointed channels, programmes rustled, sandwiches 
were drawn from clammy packets, and the thin-faced lady, 
iniquitously ensconced in the middle of the front row in the 
gallery, had taken out a strip of knitting and was blandly ready 
for the evening. 

"I always come up here/' said one of the ladies from Ken- 
sington to a friend. " One hears her pianissimo more perfectly 
than anywhere else. What a magnificent programme! I shall 
be glad to hear her give the Schumann Fantaisie in C Major 
again." 

" I think I look forward more to the Bach Fantaisie than to 
anything," said her companion. 

She exposed herself to a pained protest : " Oh surely not ; 
not Bach ; I do not come for my Bach to Okraska. She belongs 
too definitely to the romantics to grasp Bach. Beethoven, if 
you will; she may give us the Appassionata superbly; but not 
Bach ; she lacks self-effacement." 

" Liszt said that no one played Bach as she did." 

Authority did not serve her. "Liszt may have said it; 
Brahms would not have ; " was the rejoinder. 

Down in the orchestra chairs the audience was roughly to 
be divided into the technical and the personal devotees; those 
who chose seats from which they could dwell upon Madame 
Okraska's full face over the shining surfaces of the piano or upon 
her profile from the side; and those who, from behind her back, 
were dedicated to the study of her magical hands. 



6 TANTE 

"I do hope/' said a girl in the centre of the front row of 
chairs, a place of dizzy joy, for one might almost touch the god- 
dess as she sat at the piano, " I do hope she 's not getting fat. 
Someone said they heard she was. I never want to see her again 
if she gets fat. It would be too awful/' 

The girl with her conjectured sadly that Madame Okraska 
must be well over forty. 

" I beg your pardon/' a massive lady dressed in an embroid- 
ered sack-like garment, and wearing many strings of iridescent 
shells around her throat, leaned forward from behind to say: 
" She is forty-six ; I happen to know ; a friend of mine has met 
Madame Okraska's secretary. Forty-six; but she keeps her 
beauty wonderfully ; her figure is quite beautiful." 

An element of personal excitement was evident in the people 
who sat in these nearest chairs; it constituted a bond, though 
by no means a friendly one. Emulation, the irrepressible desire 
to impart knowledge, broke down normal barriers. The massive 
lady was slightly flushed and her manner almost menacing. 
Her information was received with a vague, half resentful 
murmur. 

" She looks younger/' she continued, while her listeners gave 
her an unwilling yet alert attention. " It is extraordinary how 
she retains her youth. But it tells, it tells, the tragic life ; one 
sees it in her eyes and lips." 

The first girl now put forward with resolution her pawn of 
knowledge. 

"It has been tragic, hasn't it. The dreadful man she was 
married to by her relations when she was hardly more than a 
child, and the death of her second husband. He was the Baron 
von Marwitz; her real name is von Marwitz; Okraska is her 
maiden name. He was drowned in saving her life, you know." 

" The Baron von Marwitz was drowned no one knows how ; 
he was found drowned; she found his body. She went into a 
convent after his death." 

" A convent ? I was reading a life of her in a magazine the 
other day and nothing was said about a convent." 

The massive lady smiled tolerantly: "Nothing would be. 



TANTE 7 

She has a horror of publicity. Yes, she is a mystic as well as 
an artist; she only resigned the religious life because of what 
she felt to be her duty to her adopted daughter. One sees the 
mystical side in her face and hears it in her music." 

Madame Okraska was one of those about whose footsteps 
legends rise, and legend could add little to the romantic facts of 
her life ; the poverty of her youth ; her debut as a child prodigy 
at Warsaw and the sudden fame that had followed it; the coro- 
nets that had been laid at her feet; her private tragedies, cos- 
mopolitan friendships, her scholarship, caprices and generosities. 
She had been the Egeria, smiling in mystery, of half a dozen 
famous men. And it was as satisfactory to the devotee to hear 
that she always wore white and drank coffee for her breakfast, 
as that Eubinstein and Liszt had blessed her and Leschetitsky 
said that she had nothing to learn. Her very origin belonged 
to the realm of romantic fiction. Her father, a Polish music- 
master in New Orleans, had run away with his pupil, a beautiful 
Spanish girl of a good Creole family. Their child had been born 
in Cracow while the Austrians were bombarding it in 1848. 

The lights were now all up and the stalls filling. Ladies and 
gentlemen from the suburbs, over early, were the first comers; 
eager schoolgirls marshalled by governesses; scrupulous students 
with music under their arms, and, finally, the rustling, shining, 
chattering crowd of fashionable London. 

The massive lady had by now her little audience, cowed, if 
still slightly sulky, well in hand. She pointed out each nota- 
bility to them, and indirectly, to all her neighbours. The Duch- 
ess of Bannister and Lady Champney, the famous beauty; the 
Prime Minister, whom the girls could have recognized for them- 
selves, and Sir Alliston Compton, the poet. Had they read his 
sonnet to Madame Okraska, last year, in the " Fortnightly " ? 
They had not. " I wonder who that odd looking girl is with 
him and the old lady ? " one of them ventured. 

"A little grand-daughter, a little niece," said the massive 
lady, who did not know. " Poor Sir Alliston's wife is in a 
lunatic asylum ; is n't it a melancholy head ? " 

But now one of her listeners, a lady also in the front row, 



8 TANTE 

leaned forward to say hurriedly and deprecatingly, her face suf- 
fused with shyness : " That nice young girl is Madame Okraska's 
adopted daughter. The old lady is Mrs. Forrester, Madame 
Okraska's great friend; my sister-in-law was for many years a 
governess in her family, and that is how I come to know." 

All those who had heard her turned their eyes upon the young 
girl, who, in an old-fashioned white cloak, with a collar of swans- 
down turned up round her fair hair, was taking her place with 
her companions in the front row of the orchestra-stalls. Even 
the massive lady was rapt away to silence. 

"But I thought the adopted daughter was an Italian," one 
girl at last commented, having gazed her fill at the being so 
exalted by fortune. " Her skin is rather dark, but that yellow 
hair doesn't look Italian." 

" She is a Norwegian," said the massive lady, keeping how- 
ever an eye on the relative of Mrs. Forrester's governess; "the 
child of Norwegian peasants. Don't you know the story? 
Madame Okraska found the poor little creature lost in a Nor- 
wegian forest, leaped from her carriage and took her into her 
arms ; the parents were destitute and she bought the child from 
them. She is the very soul of generosity." 

" She does n't look like a peasant," said the girl, with a 
flavour of discontent, as though a more apparent rusticity would 
have lent special magnanimity to Madame Okraska's benevolence. 
But the massive lady assured her : " Oh yes, it is the true Norse 
type; their peasantry has its patrician quality. I have been to 
Norway. Sir Alliston looks very much moved, doesn't he? 
He has been in love with Madame Okraska for years." And she 
added with a deep sigh of satisfaction : " There has never been 
a word whispered against her reputation ; never a word ' Pure 
as the foam on midmost ocean tossed/ ' ; 

Among the crowds thronging densely to their places, a young 
man of soldierly aspect, with a dark, narrow face, black hair and 
square blue eyes, was making his way to a seat in the third row 
of stalls. His name was Gregory Jardine ; he was not a soldier 
though he looked one but a barrister, and he was content 
to count himself, not altogether incorrectly, a Philistine in all 



TANTE 9 

matters aesthetic. Good music he listened to with, as he put it, 
unintelligent and barbarous enjoyment; and since he had, shame- 
fully, never yet heard the great pianist, he had bought the best 
stall procurable some weeks before, and now, after a taxing day 
in the law courts, had foregone his after-dinner coffee in order 
not to miss one note of the opening Appassionata ; it was a 
sonata he was very fond of. He sometimes picked out the air 
of the slow movement on the piano with heavy deliberation; his 
musical equipment did not carry him as far as the variations. 

When he reached his seat he found it to be by chance next that 
of his sister-in-law, his brother Oliver's wife, a pretty, jewelled 
and jewel-like young woman, an American of a complicatedly 
cosmopolitan type. Gregory liked Betty Jardine, and always 
wondered how she had come to marry Oliver, whom he rather 
scorned ; but he was not altogether pleased to find her near him. 
He preferred to take his music in solitude; and Betty was very 
talkative. 

" Well, this is nice, Gregory ! " she said. " You and Captain 
Ashton know each other, don't you. No, I couldn't persuade 
Oliver to come; he wouldn't give up his whist. Isn't Oliver 
dreadful ; he moves from the saddle to the whist-table, and back 
again; and that is all. Captain Ashton and I have been com- 
paring notes ; we find that we have missed hardly any of Madame 
Okraska's concerts in London. I was only ten when I heard the 
first she ever gave here; my governess took me; and actually 
Captain Ashton was here on that day, too. Was n't she a miracle 
of loveliness? It was twenty years ago; she had already her 
European reputation. It was just after she had divorced that 
horrible first husband of hers and married the Baron von Mar- 
witz. This is n't your initiation, of course, Gregory ? " 

"Actually my initiation," said Gregory, examining the por- 
trait of Madame Okraska on the cover of the programme. 

" But you 've seen her at Mrs. Forrester's ? She always stays 
with Mrs. Forrester." 

66 1 know ; but I 've always missed her, or, at all events, never 
been asked to meet her." 

"I certainly never have been," said Betty Jardine. "But 



10 TANTE 

Mrs. Forrester thinks of me as frivolity personified, I know, and 
doesn't care to admit anything lower than a cabinet minister 
or a poet laureate when she has her lion domiciled. She is an 
old darling; but, between ourselves, she does take her lions a 
little too seriously, doesn't she. Well, prepare for a coup de 
foudre, Gregory. You'll be sure to fall in love with her. 
Everybody falls in love with her. Captain Ashton has been in 
love with her for twenty years. She is extraordinary," 

"I'm ready to be subjugated," said Gregory. "Do people 
really hang on her hands and kiss them? Shall I want to hang 
on her hands and kiss them ? " 

"There is no telling what she will do with us," said Lady 
Jardine. 

Gregory Jardine's face, however, was not framed to express 
enthusiasm. It was caustic, cold and delicate. His eyes were 
as clear and as hard as a sky of frosty morning, and his small, 
firm lips were hard. His chin and lower lip advanced slightly, 
so that when he smiled his teeth met edge to edge, and the little 
black moustache, to which he often gave an absent upward twist, 
lent an ironic quality to this chill, gay smile, at times almost 
Mephistophelian. He sat twisting the moustache now, leaning 
his head to listen, amidst the babel of voices, to Betty Jardine's 
chatter, and the thrills of infectious expectancy that passed over 
the audience like breezes over a corn-field left him unaffected. 
His observant, indifferent glance had in it something of the 
schoolboy's barbarian calm and something of the disabused im- 
personality of worldly experience. 

" Who is the young lady with Mrs. Forrester ? " he asked 
presently. "In white, with yellow hair. Just in front of us. 
Do you know ? " 

Betty had leaned forward to look. " Don't you even know her 
by sight?" she said. "That is Miss Woodruff, the girl who 
follows Madame Okraska everywhere. She attached herself to 
her years ago, I believe, in Rome or Paris ; some sort of little 
art-student she was. What a bore that sort of devotion must be. 
Is n't she queer ? " 

" I had heard that she 's an adopted daughter," said Captain 



TANTE 11 

Ash ton; "the child of Norwegian peasants, and that Madame 
Okraska found her in a Norwegian forest-*- 'by moonlight; a 
most romantic story." 

"A fable, I think. Someone was telling me about her the 
other day. She is only a camp-follower and protegee; and a 
compatriot of mine. She is an orphan and Madame Okraska 
supports her." 

lf She does n't look like a protegee/' said Gregory Jardine, his 
eyes on the young person thus described ; " she looks like a 
protector." 

" I should think she must be most of all a problem," said 
Betty. "What a price to pay for celebrity these hangers-on 
who make one ridiculous by their infatuation. Madame Okraska 
is incapable of defending herself against them, I hear. The 
child's clothes might have come from Norway ! " 

The protegee, protector or problem, who turned to them now 
and then her oddly blunted, oddly resolute young profile, had 
tawny hair, and a sun-browned skin. She wore a little white 
silk frock with flat bows of dull blue upon it. Her evening cloak 
was bordered with swansdown. Two black bows, one at the 
crown of her head and one at the nape of her neck, secured the 
thick plaits of her hair, which was parted and brushed up from 
her forehead in a bygone school-girlish fashion. She made 
Gregory think of a picture by Alfred Stevens he had seen some- 
where and of an archaic Greek statue, and her appearance and 
demeanour interested him. He continued to look at her while 
the unrest and expectancy of the audience rolled into billows of 
excitement. 

A staid, melancholy man, forerunner of the great artist, had 
appeared and performed his customary and cryptic function. 
"Why do they always screw up the piano-stool at the last mo- 
ment ! " Betty Jardine murmured. " Is it to pepper our tongues 
with anguish before the claret ? Oh, she must be coming now ! 
She always keeps one waiting like this ! " 

The billows had surged to a storm. Signs of frenzy were 
visible in the faces on the platform. They had caught a glimpse 
of the approaching divinity. 



12 TANTE 

" Here she is ! " cried Betty Jardine. Like everybody else she 
was clapping frantically, like everybody, that is, except Gregory 
Jardine; for Gregory, his elbow in his hand, his fingers still 
neatly twisting the end of his moustache, continued to observe 
the young girl in the front row, whose face, illuminated and 
irradiated, was upturned to the figure now mounting to the 
platform. 



CHAPTER II 

rriHE hush that had fallen was like the hush that falls on 
Alpine watchers in the moment before sunrise, and, with 
the great musician's slow emerging from below, it was as if the 
sun had risen. 

She came, with her indolent step, the thunder of hands and 
voices greeting her; and those who gazed at her from the plat- 
form saw the pearl-wreathed hair and opulent white shoulders, 
and those who gazed at her from beneath saw the strange and 
musing face. Then she stood before them and her dark eyes 
dwelt, impassive and melancholy, upon the sea of faces, tumultu- 
ous and blurred with clapping hands. The sound was like the 
roaring of the sea and she stood as a goddess might have stood 
at the brink of the ocean, indifferent and unaware, absorbed in 
dreams of ancient sorrow. The ovation was so prolonged and 
she stood there for so long hardly less the indifferent goddess 
because, from time to time, she bowed her own famous bow, 
stately, old-fashioned, formally and sublimely submissive, that 
every eye in the great audience could feast upon her in a rap- 
turous assurance of leisure. 

She was a woman of forty-eight, of an ample though still 
beautiful figure. Her flowing dress of white brocade made no 
attempt to compress, to sustain or to attenuate. No one could 
say that a woman who stood as she did, with the port of a god- 
dess the small head majestically poised over such shoulders 
and such a breast was getting fat ; yet no one could deny that 
there was redundancy. She was not redundant as other women 
were; she was not elegant as other women were; she seemed in 
nothing like others. Her dress was strange; it had folds and 
amplitudes and dim disks of silver broideries at breast and knee 
that made it like the dress of some Venetian lady, drawn at 
random from an ancestral marriage coffer and put on dreamily 

13 



14 TANTE 

with no thought of aptness. Her hair was strange; no other 
woman's hair was massed and folded as was hers, hair dark 
as night and intertwined and looped with twisted strands of 
pearl and diamond. Her face was strange, that crowning face, 
known to all the world. Disparate racial elements mingled in 
the long Southern oval and the Slavonic modelling of brow and 
cheek-bone. The lips, serene and passionate, deeply sunken at 
the corners and shadowed with a pencilling of down, were the 
lips of Spain ; all the mystery of the South was in the grave and 
tragic eyes. Yet the eyes were cold; and touches of wild an- 
cestral suffering, like the sudden clash of spurs in the languors 
of a Polonaise, marked the wide nostrils and the heavy eyelids 
and the broad, black crooked eye-brows that seemed to stammer 
a little in the perfect sentence of her face. 

She subjugated and she appealed. Her adorers were divided 
between the longing to lie down under her feet and to fold her 
protectingly in their arms. Calf-love is an undying element in 
human-nature, a shame-faced derogatory name for the romantic, 
self-immolating emotion woven from fancy, yearning and the 
infection of other's ardour. Love of this foam and flame quality, 
too tender to be mere aBsthetic absorption in a beautiful object, 
too selfless to be sensual, too intense to be only absurd, rose up 
towards Madame Okraska and encompassed her from hundreds 
of hearts and eyes. The whole audience was for her one vast 
heart of adoration, one fixed face of half-hypnotized tenderness. 
And there she stood before them ; Madame Okraska whom 
crowned heads delighted to honour ; Madame Okraska who got a 
thousand pounds a night; Madame Okraska who played as no 
one in the world could play ; looking down over them, looking up 
and around at them, as if, now, a little troubled by the pro- 
longed adulation, patient yet weary, like a mistress assaulted, 
after long absence, by the violent joy of a great Newfoundland 
dog ; smiling a little, though buffeted, and unwilling to chill the 
ardent heart by a reprimand. And more than all she was like 
a great white rose that, fading in the soft, thick, scented air 
of a hot-house, droops languidly with loosened petals. 

They let her go at last and she took her place at the piano. 



TANTE 15 

Her hands fell softly on a group of dreamy ascending chords. 
Her face, then, in a long pause, took on a rapt expectancy and 
power. She was the priestess waiting before her altar for the 
descent of the god, glorious and dreadful. And it was as if with 
the chill and shudder of a possession that, breathing deeply, 
drawing her shoulders a little together, she lifted her hands and 
played. She became the possessed and articulate priestess, her 
soul, her mind, her passion lent to the message spoken through 
her. The tumult and insatiable outcry of the Appassionata 
spread like a river over her listeners. And as she played her 
face grew more rapt in its brooding concentration, the eyes half- 
closed, the nostrils wide, the jaw dropping and giving to the 
mouth an expression at once relaxed and vigilant. 

To criticize with the spell of Madame Okraska's personality 
upon one was hardly possible. Emerged from the glamour, there 
were those, pretending to professional discriminations, who sug- 
gested that she lacked the masculine and classic disciplines of 
interpretation; that her rendering, though breathed through 
with noble dignities, was coloured by a capricious and passionate 
personality; that it was the feeling rather than the thought of 
the music that she excelled in expressing, its suffering rather 
than its serenity. Only a rare listener, here and there among 
her world-wide audiences, was aware of deeper deficiencies and 
of the slow changes that time had wrought in her art. For it 
was inspiration no longer; it was the memory of inspiration. 
The Nemesis of the artist who expresses, not what he feels, but 
what he is expected to feel, what he has undertaken to feel, had 
fallen upon the great woman. Her art, too, showed the fragrant 
taint of an artificial atmosphere. She had played ten times 
when she should have played once. She lived on her capital of 
experience, no longer renewing her life, and her renderings had 
lost that quality of the greatest, the living communication with 
the experience embodied in the music. It was on the stereotyped 
memories of such communication that she depended, on the half 
hypnotic possession by the past; filling in vacancies with tem- 
peramental caprice or an emotion no longer the music's but her 
own, 



16 TANTB 

But to the enchanted ear of the multitude, professional and 
unprofessional, the essential vitality was there, the vitality em- 
bodied to the enchanted eye by the white figure with its droop- 
ing, pearl-wreathed head and face sunken in sombre ecstasy. 
She gave them all they craved : passion, stormy struggle, the 
tears of hopeless love, the chill smile of lassitude in accepted 
defeat, the unappeasable longing for the past. They listened, 
and their hearts lapsed back from the hallucinated unity of 
enthusiasm each to its own identity, an identity isolated, inten- 
sified, tortured exquisitely by the expression of dim yearnings. 
All that had been beautiful in the pain and joy that through 
long ages had gone to the building up of each human conscious- 
ness, re-entered and possessed it; the fragrance of blossoming 
trees, the farewell gaze of dying eyes, the speechless smile of 
lovers, ancestral memories of Spring-times, loves, and partings, 
evoked by this poignant lure from dim realms of sub-conscious- 
ness, like subterranean rivers rising through creaks and crannies 
towards the lifted wand of the diviner. It seemed the quin- 
tessence of human experience, the ecstasy of perfect and enfran- 
chising sorrow, distilled from the shackling, smirching half- 
sorrows of actual life. Some of the listening faces smiled; 
some were sodden, stupefied rather than enlightened; some 
showed a sensual rudimentary gratification; some, lapped in the 
tide, yet unaware of its significance, were merely silly. But no 
Orpheus, wildly harping through the woods, ever led more en- 
thralled and subjugated listeners. 

Gregory Jardine's face was neither sodden nor silly nor sen- 
sual ; but it did not wear the enchanted look of the true votary. 
Instinctively this young man, though it was emotion that he 
found in music, resisted any too obvious assault upon his feel- 
ings, taking refuge in irony from their force when roused. For 
the form of music, and its intellectual content, he had little 
appreciation, and he was thus the more exposed to its emotional 
appeal; but his intuition of the source and significance of the 
appeal remained singularly just and accurate. He could not 
now have analysed his sense of protest and dissatisfaction; yet, 
while the charm grasped and encircled him, making him, as he 



TANTE 17 

said to himself, idiotically grovel or inanely soar, lie repelled 
the poignant sweetness and the thrills that went through him 
were thrills of a half -unwilling joy. 

He sat straightly, his arms folded, his head bent as he twisted 
the end of his moustache, his eye fixed on the great musician; 
and he wondered what was the matter with him, or with her. 
It was as if he couldn't get at the music. Something inter- 
fered, something exquisite yet ambiguous, alluring yet never 
satisfying. 

His glance fell presently from the pianist's drooping head to 
the face of the protegee, and the contrast between what was 
expressed by this young person's gaze and attitude and what he 
was himself feeling again drew his attention to her. No grovel- 
ling and no soaring was here, but an elation almost stern, a 
brooding concentration almost maternal, a dedicated power. 
Madame Okraska, he reflected, must be an extraordinary person 
if she really deserved that gaze. He didn't believe that she 
quite did. His dissatisfaction with the music extended itself to 
the musician and, looking from her face to the girl's, he remem- 
bered with scepticism Betty's account of their relation, 

A group of Chopin Preludes and a Brahms Ehapsodie Hon- 
groise brought the first half of the concert to a close, and 
Gregory watched with amusement, during the ensuing scene, 
the vagaries of the intoxicated crowd. People rose to their feet, 
clapping, shouting, bellowing, screaming. He saw on the plat- 
form the face of the massive lady, haggard, fierce, devouring; 
the face of the shy lady, suffused, the eyes half dazed with adora- 
tion like those of a saint in rapture. Old Mrs. Forrester, with 
her juvenile auburn head, laughed irrepressibly while she 
clapped, like a happy child. The old poet was nearly moved to 
tears. Only the protegee remained, as it were, outside the in- 
fection. She smiled slightly and steadily, as if in a proud con- 
tentment, and clapped now and then quite softly, and she turned 
once and scanned the audience with eyes accustomed to ovations 
and appraising the significance of this one. 

Madame Okraska was recalled six times, but she could not be 
prevailed upon to give an encore, though for a long time a voice 



18 TANTE 

bayed intermittently : " The Berceuse ! Chopin's Berceuse ! " 
The vast harmonies of entreaty and delight died down to sporadic 
solos, taken up more and more faint-heartedly by weary yet still 
hopeful hands. 

Still smiling slightly, with a preoccupied air, the young girl 
looked about her, or leaned forward to listen to some kindly 
bantering addressed to her by Sir Alliston. She hardly spoke, 
but Gregory perceived that she was by no means shy. She so 
pleasantly engaged his attention that when Sir Alliston got up 
from his seat next hers there was another motive than the mere 
wish to speak to his old friend in his intention of joining Mrs. 
Forrester for a few moments. The project was not definite and 
he abandoned it when his relative, Miss Eleanor Scrotton, tense, 
significant and wearing the sacramental expression customary 
with her on such occasions, hurried to the empty seat and 
dropped into it. Eleanor's enthusiasms oppressed him and 
Betty had told him that Madame Okraska was become the most 
absorbing of them. His mother and Eleanor's had been cousins. 
Her father, the late Sir Jonas Scrotton, heavily distinguished 
in the world of literature and politics, had died only the year 
before. Gregory remembered him as a vindictive and portent- 
ous old man presiding at Miss Scrotton's tea-parties in a black 
silk skull-cap, and one could but admire in Miss Scrotton the 
reverence and devotion that had not only borne with but gloried 
in him. If the amplitude of his mantle had not descended 
upon her one might metaphorically say that the black skull-cap 
had. Gregory felt that he might have liked Eleanor better if 
she had n't been so unintermittently and unilluminatingly intel- 
ligent. She wrote scholarly articles in the graver reviews 
articles that he invariably skipped she was always armed with 
an appreciation and she had the air of thinking the intellectual 
reputation of London very much her responsibility. Above all 
she was dowered with an overwhelming power of enthusiasm. 
Eleanor dressed well and had a handsome, commanding profile 
with small, compressed lips and large, prominent, melancholy 
eyes that wickedly reminded Gregory of the eyes of a beetle. 
Beneath the black feather boa that was thrown round her neck, 



TANTE 19 

her thin shoulder-blades, while she talked to Mrs. Forrester and 
sketched with pouncing fingers the phrasing of certain passages, 
jerked and vibrated oddly. Mrs. Forrester nodded, smiled, 
acquiesced. She was rather fond of Eleanor. Their talk was 
for each other. Miss Woodruff, unheeded, but with nothing of 
the air of one consciously insignificant, sat looking before her. 
Beside Eleanor's vehemence and Mrs. Forrester's vivacity she 
made Gregory think of a tranquil landscape seen at dawn. 

He was thus thinking, and looking at her, when, as though 
sub-consciously aware of his gaze, she suddenly turned her head 
and looked round at him. 

Her eyes, in the long moment while their glances were inter- 
changed, were so clear and deliberate, so unmoved by anything 
but a certain surprise, that he felt no impulse to pretend politely 
that he had not been caught staring. They scrutinized each 
other, gravely, serenely, intently, until a thunder of applause, 
like a tidal wave surging over the hall, seemed to engulf their 
gaze. Madame Okraska was once more emerging. Miss Scrot- 
ton, catching up her boa, her programme and her fan, scuttled 
back to her seat with an air of desperate gravity; Sir Alliston 
returned to his ; Mrs. Forrester welcomed him with a smile and 
a finger at her lips ; and as the pianist seated herself and cast a 
long glance over the still disarranged and cautiously rustling 
audience, Gregory saw that Miss Woodruff had no further thought 
for him. 



CHAPTEE III 

MRS. FOKRESTER was dispensing tea in her lofty draw- 
ing-room which, with its illumined heights and dim 
recesses, gave to the ceremony an almost ritualistic state. Mrs. 
Forrester's drawing-room and Mrs. Forrester herself were long- 
established features of London, and not to have sat beneath the 
Louis Quinze chandelier nor have drunk tea out of the blue 
Worcester cups was to have missed something significant of the 
typical London spectacle. 

The drawing-room seemed most characteristic when one came 
to it from a fog outside, as people had done to-day, and when 
Mrs. Forrester was found presiding over the blue cups. She 
was an old lady with auburn hair elaborately dressed and singu- 
larly bound in snoods of velvet. She wore flowing silken trains 
and loose ruffled sacques of a curious bygone cut, and upon each 
wrist was clasped, mounted on a velvet band, a large square 
emerald, set in heavily chased gold. The glance of her eyes 
was as surprisingly youthful as the color of her hair, and her 
face, though complicatedly wrinkled, had an almost girlish gaiety 
and vigour. Abrupt and merry, Mrs. Forrester was arresting 
to the attention and rather alarming. She swept aside bores; 
she selected the significant; socially she could be rather merci- 
less; but her kindness was without limits when she attached 
herself, and in private life she suffered fools, if not gladly at all 
events humorously, in the persons of her three heavy and ex- 
emplary sons, who had married wives as unimpeachable and as 
uninteresting as themselves and provided her with a multitude 
of grandchildren. Mrs. Forrester fulfilled punctiliously all her 
duties towards these young folk, and it never occurred to her 
sons and daughters-in-law that they and their interests were not 
her chief preoccupation. The energy and variety of her nature 
were, however, given to her social relations and to her personal 

20 



TANTE 21 

friendships, which were many and engrossing. These friend- 
ships were always highly flavoured. Mrs. Forrester had a flair 
for genius and needed no popular accrediting to make it mani- 
fest to her. And it was n't enough to be merely a genius ; there 
were many of the species, eminent and emblazoned, who were 
never asked to come under the Louis Quinze chandelier. She 
asked of her talented friends personal distinction, the power of 
being interesting in more than their art. 

Such a genius, pre-eminently such a one, was Madame von 
Marwitz. She was more than under the chandelier; Mrs. For- 
rester's house, when she was in London, was her home. " I am 
safe with you," she had said to Mrs. Forrester, "with you I 
am never pursued and never bored." Where Mrs. Forrester 
evaded and relegated bores, Madame von Marwitz sombrely and 
helplessly hated them. " What can I do ? " she said. " If no 
one will protect me I am delivered to them. It is a plague of 
locusts. They devour me. Oh their letters ! Oh their flowers ! 
Oh their love and their stupidity ! No, the earth is black with 
them." 

Madame von Marwitz was protected from the swarms while 
she visited her old friend. The habits of the house were altered 
to suit hers. She stayed in her rooms or came down as she 
chose. She had complete liberty in everything. 

To-day she had not as yet appeared, and everyone had come 
with the hope of seeing her. There was Lady Campion, the 
most tactful and discreet of admirers; and Sir Alliston, who 
would be perhaps asked to go up to her if she did not come 
down ; and Eleanor Scrotton who would certainly go up unasked ; 
and old Miss Harding, a former governess of Mrs. Forrester's 
sons and a person privileged, who had come leading an evident 
yet pathetic locust, her brothers widow, little Mrs. Harding, the 
shy lady of the platform. Miss Harding had told Mrs. For- 
rester about this sister-in-law and of how, since her husband's 
death, she had lived for philanthropy, and music in the person 
of Madame Okraska. She had never met her. She did not 
ask to meet her now. She would only sit in a corner and 
gaze. Mrs. Forrester had been moved by the account of such 



22 TANTE 

humble faith and had told Miss Harding to bring her sister- 
in-law. 

"I have sent for Karen/' Mrs. Forrester said, greeting 
Gregory Jardine, who came in after Miss and Mrs. Harding; 
" she will tell us if our chances are good. It was your first time, 
last night, wasn't it, Gregory? I do hope that she may come 
down." 

Gregory Jardine was not a bore, but Mrs. Forrester suspected 
him to be one of the infatuated. He belonged, she imagined, 
seeing him appear so promptly after his initiation, to the cate- 
gory of dazzled circlers who fell into her drawing-room in their 
myriads while Mercedes was with her, like frizzled moths into a 
candle. Mrs. Forrester had sympathy with moths, and was fond 
of Gregory, whom she greeted with significant kindliness. 

" I never ask her to come down," she went on now to explain 
to him and to the Hardings. "Never, never. She could not 
bear that. But she often does come; and she has heard to-day 
from Karen Woodruff that special friends are hoping to see her. 
So your chances are good, I think. Ah, here is Karen." 

Gregory did not trouble to undeceive his old friend. It was 
his habit to have tea with her once or twice a month, and his 
motive in coming to-day had hardly been distinguishable from 
his usual -impulse. If he had come hoping to see anybody, 
it had been to see the protegee, and he watched her now as she 
advanced down the great room with her cheerful, unembar- 
rassed look, the look of a person serenely accustomed to a pub- 
licity in which she had no part. 

Seen thus at full length and in full face he found her more 
than ever like an Alfred Stevens and an archaic Greek statue. 
Long-limbed, thick-waisted, spare and strong, she wore a 
straight, grey dress the dress of a little convent girl coming 
into the parloir on a day of visits which emphasized the 
boyish aspect of her figure. Narrow frills of white were at 
wrist and neck; her shoes were low heeled and square toed; 
and around her neck a gold locket hung on a black velvet 
ribbon. 

Mrs. Forrester held out her hand to her with the undis- 



TANTE 23 

cerning kindliness that greets the mere emissary. "Well, my 
dear, what news of our Tante ? Is she coming, do you think ? " 
she inquired. " This is Lady Campion ; she has never yet met 
Tante." The word was pronounced in German fashion. 

"I am not sure that she will come," said Miss Woodruff, 
looking around the assembled circle, while Mrs. Forrester still 
held her hand. " She is still very tired, so I cannot be sure ; 
I hope so." She smiled calmly at Sir Alliston and Miss Scrot- 
ton who were talking together and then lifted her eyes to 
Gregory who stood near. 

"You know Mr. Jardine?" Mrs. Forrester asked, seeing the 
pleased recognition on the girl's face. "It was his first time 
last night." 

" No, I do not know him," said Miss Woodruff, " but I saw 
him at the concert. Was it his first time ? Think of that." 

" Now sit here, child, and tell me about Tante," said Mrs. 
Forrester, drawing the girl down to a chair beside her. " I 
saw that she was very tired this morning. She had her mas- 
sage ? " Mrs. Forrester questioned in a lower voice. 

"Yes; and fortunately she was able to sleep for two hours 
after that. Then Mr. Schultz came and she had to see him, 
and that was tiring." 

Mr. Schultz was Madame Okraska's secretary. 

"Dear, dear, what a pity that he had to bother her. Did 
she drink the egg-flip I had sent up to her? Mrs. Jenkins 
makes them excellently as a rule." 

"I did my best to persuade her," said Miss Woodruff, "but 
she did not seem to care for it." 

"Didn't care for it? Was it too sweet? I warned Mrs. 
Jenkins that her tendency was to put in too much sugar." 

" That was it," Miss Woodruff smiled at the other's penetra- 
tion. " She tasted it and said : ' Trop Sucre/ and put it 
down. But it was really very nice. I drank it ! " said Miss 
Woodruff. 

"But I am so grieved. I shall speak severely to Mrs. Jen- 
kins," Mrs. Forrester murmured, preoccupied. " I am afraid 
our chances aren't good to-day, Lady Campion," she turned 



24 T A N T E 

from Miss Woodruff to say. "You must come and dine one 
night while she is with me. I am always sure of her for 
dinner/' 

" She really is n't coming down ? " Miss Scrotton leaned over 
the back of Miss Woodruff's chair to ask with some asperity of 
manner. " Shall I wait for a little before I go up to her ? " 

" I can't tell," the young girl replied. " She said she did 
not know whether she would come or not. She is lying down 
and reading." 

" She does not forget that she comes to me for tea to- 
morrow ? " 

" I do not think so, Miss Scrotton." 

"Lady Campion wants to talk to you, Karen," Mrs. For- 
rester now said; "come to this side of the table." And as 
Sir Alliston was engaged with Miss and Mrs. Harding, Gregory 
was left to Eleanor Scrotton. 

Miss Scrotton felt irritation rather than affection for Gregory 
Jardine. Yet he was not unimportant to her. Deeper than 
her pride in old Sir Jonas was her pride in her connection 
with the Fanshawes, and Gregory's mother had been a Fan- 
shawe. Gregory's very indifference to her and to the standards 
of the Scrottons had always given to intercourse with him a 
savour at once acid yet interesting. Though she knew many 
men of more significance, she remained far more aware of him 
and his opinions than of theirs. She would have liked Gregory 
to show more consciousness of her and his relationship, of the 
fact that she, too, had Fanshawe blood in her veins. She would 
have liked to impress, or please or, at worst, to displease him. 
She would very much have liked to secure him more frequently 
for her dinners and her teas. He vexed and he allured her. 

"Do you really mean that last night was the first time you 
ever heard Mercedes Okraska ? " she said, moving to a sofa, to 
which, somewhat unwillingly, Gregory followed her. " It makes 
me sorry for you. It's as if a person were to tell you that 
they 'd never before seen the mountains or the sea. If I 'd 
realised that you'd never met her I could have arranged that 
you should. She often comes to me quite quietly and meets 



T A N T E 25 

a few friends. She was so devoted to dear father; she called 
him The Hammer of the Gods. I have the most wonderful 
letter that she wrote me when he died/' Miss Scrotton said, 
lowering her voice to a reverent pause. "Between ourselves/' 
she went on, " I do sometimes think that our dear Mrs. For- 
rester cherishes her a little too closely. I confess that I love 
nothing more than to share my good things. I don't mean 
that dear Mrs. Forrester does n't ; but I should ask more people, 
frequently and definitely, to meet Mercedes, if I were in her 
place." 

" But if Madame Okraska won't come down and see them ? " 
Gregory inquired. 

" Ah, but she will ; she will," Miss Scrotton said earnestly ; 
" if it is thought out ; arranged for carefully. She does n't, 
naturally, care to come down on chance, like to-day. She does 
want to know whom she 's to meet if she makes the effort. She 
knows of course that Sir Alliston and I are here, and that may 
bring her; I do hope so for your sake; but of course if she 
does not come I go up to her. With Mrs. Forrester I am, I 
think, her nearest friend in England. She has stayed with me 
in the country ; my tiny flat here would hardly accommodate 
her. I am going, did you know it, to America with her next 
week." 

" No ; really ; for a tour ? " 

"Yes; through the States. We shall be gone till next sum- 
mer. I know several very charming people in New York and 
Boston and can help to make it pleasant for Mercedes. Of 
course for me it is the opportunity of a life-time. Quite apart 
from her music, she is the most remarkable woman I have ever 
known." 

" She 's clever ? " 

" Clever is too trivial a word. Her genius goes through 
everything. We read a great deal together Dante, Goethe, 
French essayists, our English poets. To hear her read poetry 
is almost as wonderful an experience as to hear her play. Is n't 
it an extraordinary face? One sees it all in her face, I think." 

" She Is very unusual looking." 



26 TA1STTE 

" Her face," Miss Scrotton pursued, ignoring her com- 
panion's trite comments, " embodies the thoughts and dreams of 
many races. It makes me always think of Pater's Mona Lisa 
you remember : ( Hers is the head upon which all the ends 
of the world are come and the eyelids are a little weary.' She 
is, of course, a profoundly tragic person." 

" Has she been very unfortunate ? " 

"Unfortunate indeed. Her youth was passed in bitter 
poverty; her first marriage was disastrous, and when joy came 
at last in an ideal second marriage it was shattered by her 
husband's mysterious death. Yes; he was drowned; found 
drowned in the lake on their estate in Germany. Mercedes 
has never been there since. She has never recovered. She is 
a broken-hearted woman. She sees life as a dark riddle. She 
counts herself as one of the entombed." 

" Dear me," Gregory murmured. 

Miss Scrotton glanced at him with some sharpness; but 
finding his blue eyes fixed abstractedly on Karen Woodruff ex- 
onerated him from intending to be disagreeable. " Her child- 
lessness has been a final grief," she added ; " a child, as she 
has often told me, would be a resurrection from the dead." 

"And the little girl?" Gregory inquired. "Is she any 
solace? What is the exact relationship? I hear that she calls 
her Tante." 

" The right to call her Tante is one of Mercedes's gifts to 
her. She is no relation at all. Mercedes picked her up, liter- 
ally from the roadside. She is twenty-four, you know; not a 
child." 

" So the story is true, about the Norwegian peasants and the 
forest?" 

" I have to contradict that story at least twice a day," said 
Miss Scrotton with a smile half indulgent and half weary. " It 
is true that Karen was found in a forest, but it was the forest 
of Fontainebleau, tout simplement; and it is true that she has 
Norwegian blood; her mother was a Norwegian; she was the 
wife of a Norwegian artist in Eome, and there Karen's father, 
an American, a sculptor of some talent, I believe, met her and 



TANTE 27 

ran away with her. They were never married. They lived on 
chestnuts up among the mountains in Tuscany, I believe, and 
the mother died when Karen was a little child and the father 
when she was twelve. Some relatives of the father's put her in 
a convent school in Paris and she ran away from it and 
Mercedes found her on the verge of starvation in the forest of 
Fontainebleau. The Baron von Marwitz had known Mr. Wood- 
ruff in Eome and Mercedes persuaded him to take the child into 
their lives. She had n't a friend or a penny in the world. The 
father's relatives were delighted to be rid of her and Mercedes 
has had her on her hands ever since. That is the true story." 

" Is n't she fond of her ? " Gregory asked. 

"Yes, she is fond of her," Miss Scrotton with some im- 
patience replied; "but she is none the less a burden. For a 
woman like Mercedes, with a life over-full and a strength con- 
tinually overtaxed, the care and responsibility is an additional 
weight and weariness." 

"Well, but if she misses children so much; this takes the 
place," Gregory objected. 

"Takes the place," Miss Scrotton repeated, "of a child of 
her own? This little nobody, and an uninteresting nobody, 
too? Oh, she is a good girl, a very good girl; and she makes 
herself fairly useful in elementary ways; but how can you 
imagine that such a tie can satisfy maternal craving ? " 

" How does she make herself useful ? " Gregory asked, waiv- 
ing the question of maternal cravings. He had vexed Miss 
Scrotton a good deal, but the theme was one upon which she 
could not resist enlarging; anything connected with Madame 
von Marwitz was for her of absorbing interest. 

"Well, she is a great deal in Cornwall, at Mercedes's place 
there," she informed him. "It's a wonderfully lovely place; 
Les Solitudes; Mercedes built the house. Karen and 'old Mrs. 
Talcott look after the little farm and keep things in order." 

" Old Mrs. Talcott? Where does she come in ? " 

" Ah, that is another of Mercedes's romantic benevolences. 
Mrs. Talcott is a sort of old pensioner; a distant family con- 
nection ; the funniest old American woman you can conceive of. 



28 TANTE 

She has been with Mercedes since her childhood, and, like 
everybody else, she is so devotedly attached to her that she re- 
gards it as a matter of course that she should be taken care of 
by her for ever. The way Karen takes her advantages as a 
matter of course has always vexed me just a little." 

" Is Mrs. Talcott interesting ? " Gregory pursued his ques- 
tions with a placid persistence that seemed to indicate real 
curiosity. 

" Good heavens, no ! " Miss Scrotton said. " The epitome of 
the commonplace. She looks like some of the queer old Ameri- 
can women one sees in the National Gallery with Baedekers in 
their hands and bags at their belts ; fat, sallow, provincial, with 
defective grammar and horrible twangs; the kind of American, 
you know," said Miss Scrotton, warming to her description as 
she felt that she was amusing Gregory Jardine, "that the 
other kind always tell you they never by any chance would meet 
at home." 

" And what kind of American is Miss Woodruff ? The other 
kind or Mrs. Talcott's kind?" 

" By the other kind I mean Lady Jardine's," said Miss Scrot- 
ton; "or no; she constitutes a further variety; the rarest 
of all; the kind who would never think about Mrs. Talcott one 
way or the other. But surely Karen is no kind at all. Could 
you call her an American? She has never been there. She 
is a sort of racial waif. The only root, the only nationality 
she seems to have is Mercedes ; her very character is constituted 
by her relation to Mercedes; her only charm is her devotion 
for she is indeed sincerely and wholeheartedly devoted. 
Mercedes is a sort of fairy-godmother to her, a sun-goddess, 
who lifted her out of the dust and whirled her away in her 
chariot. But she isn't interesting," Miss Scrotton again as- 
sured him. " She is literal and unemotional, and, in some ways, 
distinctly dull. I have seen the poor fairy-godmother sigh and 
shrug sometimes over her inordinately long letters. She writes 
to her with relentless regularity and I really believe that she 
imagines that Mercedes quite depends on hearing from her. 
No ; I don't mean that she is conceited ; it 's not that exactly ; 



TANTE 29 

she is only dull ; very, very dull ; and I don't know how Mercedes 
endures having her so much with her. She feels that the girl 
depends on her, of course, and she is helplessly generous." 

Gregory Jardine listened to these elucidations, leaning back 
in the sofa, a hand clasping his ankle, his eyes turning now 
on Miss Scrotton and now on the subject of their conversa- 
tion. Miss Scrotton had' amused him. She was entertainingly 
simple if at moments entertainingly intelligent, and he had 
divined that she was jealous of the crumbs that fell to Miss 
Woodruff's share from the table of Madame von Marwitz's 
bounty. A slight malice that had gathered in him during his 
talk with Eleanor Scrotton found expression in his next re- 
mark. " She is certainly charming looking ; anyone so charm- 
ing looking has a right to be dull." But Miss Scrotton did not 
heed him. She had risen to her feet. " Here she is ! " she 
exclaimed, looking towards the door in radiant satisfaction. 
" You will meet her after all. I '11 do my very best so that you 
shall have a little talk with her." 

The door had been thrown open and Madame Okraska had 
appeared upon the threshold. 



CHAPTER IV 

SHE stood for a moment, with her hand resting on the 
lintel, and she surveyed an apparently unexpected audience 
with contemplative melancholy. If she was not pleased to find 
them so many, she was, at all events unresentful, and Gregory 
imagined, from Mrs. Forrester's bright flutter in rising, that 
resentment from the sun-goddess was a peril to be reckoned 
with. Smiling, though languidly smiling, she advanced up the 
room, after her graceful and involuntary pause. White fringes 
rippled softly round her; a white train trailed behind her; on 
her breast the silken cloak that she wore over a transparent 
under-robe was clasped with pearls and silver. She was very 
lovely, very stately, very simple; but she struck her one hyper- 
critical observer as somewhat prepared ; calculated and conscious, 
as well. 

"Thanks, dearest friend," she said to Mrs. Forrester, who, 
meeting her halfway down the room and taking her hand, asked 
her solicitously how she did ; " I am now a little rested ; but it 
has been a bad night and a busy morning." She spoke with a 
slightly foreign accent in a voice at once fatigued and sonorous. 
Her eyes, clear, penetrating and singularly steady, passed over 
the assembled faces, turned, all of them, towards herself. 

She greeted Sir Alliston with a welcoming smile and a lift 
of the strange crooked eyebrows, and to Miss Scrotton, who, 
eager and illuminated, was beside her: " Ah, ma cherie" she 
said, resting her hand affectionately on her shoulder. Mrs. 
Forrester had her other hand, and, so standing between her 
two friends, she bowed gravely and graciously to Lady Campion, 
to Miss Harding, to Mrs. Harding who, in the stress of this 
fulfilment had become plum-coloured and to Gregory Jardine. 
Then she was seated. Mrs. Forrester poured out her tea, Miss 

30 



T A N T E 31 

Harding passed her cake and bread-and-butter, Lady Campion 
bent to her with frank and graceful compliments, Miss Scrot- 
ton sat at her feet on a low settle, and Sir Alliston, leaning 
on the back of her chair, looked down at her with eyes of 
antique devotion. Gregory was left on the outskirts of the 
group and his attention was attracted by the face of little Mrs. 
Harding, who, all unnoticed and unseated, gazed upon Madame 
Okraska with the intent liquid eye of a pious dog; the waver- 
ing, uncertain smile that played upon her lips was like the 
humble thudding of the dog's tail. Gregory remembered her 
face now as one of those, rapt, and hypnotized, that he had 
seen on the platform the night before. In the ovation that 
Madame Okraska had received at the end of the concert he 
had noticed this same plum-coloured little lady seizing and 
kissing the great woman's hand. Shy, by temperament, as he 
saw, to the point of suffering, he felt sure that only the in- 
fection of the crowd had carried her to the act of uncharacter- 
istic daring. He watched her now, finding her piteous and 
absurd. 

But someone beside himself was aware of Mrs. Harding. 
Miss Woodruff approached her, smiling impersonally, with 
rather the air of a kindly verger at a church. Yes, she seemed 
to say, she could find a seat for her. She pointed to the one 
she had risen from. Mrs. Harding, almost tearful in her grati- 
tude, slid into it with the precaution of the reverent sight-seer 
who fears to disturb a congregation at prayer, and Miss Wood- 
ruff, moving away, went to a table and began to turn over the 
illustrated papers that lay upon it. Her manner, retired and 
cheerful, had no humility, none of the poor dependent's un- 
obtrusiveness ; rather, Gregory felt, it showed a happy pride, as 
if, a fortunate priestess in the temple, she had opportunities and 
felicities denied to mere worshippers. She was interested in 
her papers. She examined the pictures with something of a 
child's attentive pleasure. 

Gregory came up to her and raising her eyes she smiled at 
him as though, on the basis of last night's encounter, she took 
him for granted as potentially a friend. 



32 TANTE 

" What are you looking at ? " he asked her, as he might have 
asked a friendly child. 

She turned the paper to him. " The Great Wall of China. 
They are wonderful pictures." 

Gregory stood beside her and looked. The photographs were 
indeed impressive. The sombre landscape, the pallid sky, and, 
winding as if for ever over hill and valley, the astonishing 
structure, like an infinite lonely consciousness. "I should like 
to see that," said Miss Woodruff. 

"Well, you travel a great deal, don't you?" said Gregory. 
" No doubt Madame Okraska will go to China some day." 

Miss Woodruff contemplated the desolate wall. " But this 
is thousands and thousands of miles from the places where con- 
certs could be given; and I do not know that my guardian has 
ever thought of China; no, it is not probable that she will ever 
go there. And then, unfortunately, I do not always go with 
her. I travel a great deal; but I stop at home a great deal, 
too. My guardian likes best to be called von Marwitz in private 
life, by those who know her personally," Miss Woodruff added, 
smiling again as she presented him with the authorized liturgy. 

Gregory was slightly taken aback. He could n't have defined 
Miss Woodruff's manner as assured, yet it was singularly com- 
petent; and no one could have been in less need of benevolent 
attentions. 

" I see," he said. " She looks so much more Polish than Ger- 
man, doesn't she? What do you call home?" he added. 
" Have you lived much in England ? " 

"By home I mean Cornwall," said Miss Woodruff, who was 
evidently used to being asked questions. "My guardian has a 
house there; but it has not been for long. It used to be in 
Germany, and then for a little in Italy; she has only had Les 
Solitudes for four years." She looked across at the group under 
the chandelier. " There is still room for a chair." Her glance 
indicated a gap in Madame von Marwitz's circle. 

This kindly solicitude amused Gregory very much. She had 
him on her mind as a sight-seer, as she had had Mrs. Harding; 
and she was full of sympathy for sight-seers. " Oh thanks 



TANTE 33 

no," he said, his eyes following hers. "I won't go crowd- 
ing in." 

" She won't mind. She will not even notice ; " Miss Wood- 
ruff assured him. 

" Oh, well, I like to be noticed if I do crowd/' Gregory re- 
turned smiling. 

His slight irony was lost upon her; yet, he was sure of it, 
she was not dull. Her smile showed him that she congratulated 
him on an ambitious spirit. "Well, later, then, we will hope," 
she said. "You would of course rather talk with her. And 
here is Mr. Drew, so that this chance is gone." 

" Who is that singular young man ? " Gregory inquired watch- 
ing with Miss Woodruff the newcomer, who found a place at 
once in the gap near Madame von Marwitz and was greeted 
by her with a brighter interest than she had yet shown. 

" Mr. Claude Drew ? " Miss Woodruff replied with some sur- 
prise. " Do you not know ? I thought that everybody in Lon- 
don knew him. He is quite a famous writer. He has written 
poetry and essays. ' Artemis Wedded' is by him that is 
poetry ; and ' The Bow of Ulysses ' the essay on my guardian 
comes in that. Oh, he is quite well known." 

Mr. Claude Drew was suave and elegant, and his high, stock- 
like collar and folded satin neck-gear gave him a somewhat re- 
condite appearance. With his dark eyes, pale skin, full, smooth, 
golden hair, and the vivid red of an advancing Hapsburgian lip, 
he had the look of a young French dandy drawn by Ingres. 

" My guardian is very much interested in him," Miss Wood- 
ruff went on. " She believes that he has a great future. She 
is always interested in promising young men." This, no doubt, 
was why Miss Woodruff had so kindly encouraged him to take 
his chances. 

" He looks a clever fellow," said Gregory. 

" Do you like his face ? " Miss Woodruff inquired. Mr. 
Drew, as if aware of their scrutiny, had turned his eyes upon 
them for a moment. They were large, jaded eyes, lustrous, yet 
with the lustre of a surface rather than of depth ; dense, velvety 
and impenetrable. 



34 TANTE 

" Well, no, I don't," said Gregory, genially decisive. " He 
looks unwholesome, I think." 

" Oh ! Unwholesome ? " Miss Woodruff repeated the word 
thoughtfully rather than interrogatively. "Yes; perhaps it is 
that. It is a danger of talented modern young men, isn't it. 
They are not strong enough to be so intelligent; one must be 
very strong in character, I mean if one is to be so intelli- 
gent. Perhaps he is not strong in character. Perhaps that is 
what one feels. Because I do not like his face, either; and I 
go, greatly by faces." 

" So do I," said Gregory. After a moment, in which they 
both continued to look at Mr. Drew, he went on. " I wondered 
last night what nationality you belonged to. I had been won- 
dering about you for a long while before you looked round at 
me." 

"You had heard about me?" she asked. 

He was pleased to be able to say : " Oh, I wondered about 
you before I heard." 

" People are so often interested in me because of my guardian," 
said Miss Woodruff; "everything about her interests them. 
But I am an American if you were not told; that is to say 
my father was an American and my mother was a Norwegian ; 
but though I have never been to America I count myself as an 
American, and with right, I think," she added. "We always 
spoke English when I was a child, and I remember so many 
of my father's friends. Some day I hope I may go to America. 
Have you been there ? Do you know New England ? My father 
came from New England." 

" No ; I 've never been there. I 'm very insular and un- 
travelled." 

" Are you ? It is a pity not to travel, is n't it," Miss Wood- 
ruff remarked. 

" But you like it here in England ? " 

" Yes, I like it here, with Mrs. Forrester ; and in Cornwall. 
But here with Mrs. Forrester always seems to me more like 
the life of Europe. English life, as a rule, is, I think, rather 
like boxes one inside the other." She was perfectly sweet and 



TANTE 35 

undogmatic, but her air of cosmopolitan competence amused 
Gregory, serenely of opinion, for his part, that English was the 
only life. 

"Well, the great thing is that the boxes should fit comfort-- 
ably into one another, is n't it," he observed ; " and I think that 
on the whole we've come to fit pretty well in England. And 
we all come out of our boxes, don't we," he added, pleased with 
his application of her simile, " for a Madame von Marwitz." 

"Yes, I know," said Miss Woodruff, also, evidently, pleased. 
" That is quite true ; you all come out of your boxes for her. 
But, as a nation, they are not artists, the English, are they? 
They are kind to the beautiful things; they like to see them; 
they will take great trouble to see them; but they do not make 
them. Beauty does not grow here that is what I mean. It 
is in its box, too, and it is taken out and passed round from 
time to time. You do not mind my saying this? You, per- 
haps, are yourself an artist ? " 

" Dear me, no ; I 'm only a lawyer. I 'm shut up in the 
tightest of the boxes," said Gregory. 

Miss Woodruff scrutinized him with a smile. " I should not 
think that of you," she said. " You do not look like an artist, 
it is true; few of us can be artists; but you do not look shut 
into a box, either. Beauty, to you, is something real; not a 
pastime, a fashion; no, I cannot think it. When I saw your 
face last night I thought: Here is one who cares. One counts 
those faces on one's fingers even at a great concert. So many 
think they care who only want to care. To you art is a serious 
thing and an artist the greatest thing a country can produce. 
Is not that so ? " 

Gregory continued to be amused by what he felt to be Miss 
Woodruff's naivete. He was inclined to think that artists, how- 
ever admirable in their functions, were undesirable in their per- 
sons, and the reverent enthusiasm that Miss Woodruff imagined 
in him was singularly uncharacteristic. He did n't quite know 
how to tell her so without seeming rude, so he contented himself 
with confessing that beauty, in his life, was kept, he feared, very 
much in its box. 



36 TANTE 

They went on talking, going to an adjacent sofa where Miss 
Woodruff, while they talked, stroked the deep fur of an im- 
mense Persian cat, Hieronimus by name, who established him- 
self between them. Gregory found her very easy to talk to, 
though they had so few themes in common, and her face he dis- 
covered to be even more charming than he had thought it the 
night before. She was not at all beautiful and he imagined that 
in her world of artists she would not be particularly appreciated ; 
nor would she be appreciated in his own world of convention 
a girl with such a thick waist, such queer clothes, a face so 
broad, so brown, so abruptly modelled. She was, he felt, a grave 
and responsible young person, and something in her face sug- 
gested that she might have been through a great deal; but she 
was very cheerful and she laughed with facility at things he 
said and that she herself said; and when she laughed her eyes 
nearly closed and the tip of her tongue was caught, with an 
effect of child-like gaiety, between her teeth. The darkness of 
her skin made her lips, by contrast, of a pale rose, and her hair, 
where it grew thickly around her brows and neck, of an almost 
infantile fairness. Her broad, brown eyebrows lay far apart and 
her grey eyes were direct, deliberate and limpid. 

From where Gregory sat he had Madame von Marwitz in 
profile and he observed that once or twice, when they laughed, 
she turned her head and looked at them. Presently she leaned 
a little to question Mrs. Forrester and then, rather vexed at a 
sequence, natural but unforeseen, he saw that Mrs. Forrester got 
up to fetch him. 

" Tante has sent for you ! " Miss Woodruff exclaimed. " I 
am so glad." 

It really vexed him a little that he should still be supposed 
to be pining for an introduction; he would so much rather have 
stayed talking to her. On the sofa she continued to stroke 
Hieronimus and to keep a congratulatory gaze upon him while 
he was conducted to a seat beside the great woman. 

Madame von Marwitz was very lovely. She was the type of 
woman with whom, as a boy, he would have fallen desperately 



TANTE 37 

in love, seeing her as poetry personified. And she was the type 
of woman, all indolent and indifferent as she was, who took it 
for granted that people would fall desperately in love with her. 
Her long gaze, now, told him that. It seemed to give him time, 
as it were, to take her in and to arrange with himself how best 
to adjust himself to a changed life. It was not the glance of a 
flirt; it held no petty consciousness; it was the gaze of an en- 
chantress aware of her own inevitable power. Gregory met the 
cold, sweet, melancholy eyes. But as she gazed, as she slowly 
smiled, he was aware, with a perverse pleasure, that his present 
seasoned self was completely immune from her magic. He op- 
posed commonplace to enchantment, and in him Madame von 
Marwitz would find no victim. 

" I have never seen you here before, I think," she said. She 
spoke with a beautiful precision; that of the foreigner perfectly 
at ease in an alien tongue, yet not loving it sufficiently to take 
liberties with it. 

Gregory said, no, she had never seen him there before. 

" Mrs. Forrester is, it seems, a mutual friend," said Madame 
von Marwitz. " She has known you since boyhood. You have 
been very fortunate." 

Gregory assented. 

" She tells me that you are in the law," Madame von Marwitz 
pursued; "a barrister. I should not have thought that. A 
diplomat; a soldier, it should have been. Is it not so? " 

Gregory had not wanted to be a barrister. It did not please 
him that Madame von Marwitz should guess so accurately at a 
disappointment that had made his youth bitter. " I 'm a younger 
son, you see," he said. " And I had to make my living." 

When Madame von Marwitz's gaze grew more intent she did 
not narrow her eyes, but opened them more widely. She opened 
them more widely now, putting back her head a little. " Ah," 
she said. " That was hard. That meant suffering. You are 
caged in a calling you do not care for." 

"Oh, no," said Gregory, smiling; "I'm very well off; I'm 
quite contented." 



38 TANTE 

" Contented ? " she raised her crooked eyebrow. " Are you 
indeed so fortunate ? or so unfortunate ? " 

To 'this large question Gregory made no reply, continuing to 
offer her the non-committal coolness of his smile. He was not 
liking Madame von Marwitz, and he was becoming aware that 
if one did n't like her one did not appear to advantage in talk- 
ing with her. He cast about in his mind for an excuse to get 
away. 

" The law," Madame von Marwitz mused, her eyes dwelling 
on him. " It is stony ; yet with stone one builds. You would 
not be content, I think, with the journeyman's work of the 
average lawyer. You shape; you create; you have before you 
the vision of the strong fortress to be built where the weak may 
find refuge. You are an architect, not a mason. Only so could 
you find contentment in your calling." 

"I'm afraid that I don't think about it like that," said 
Gregory. " I should say that the fortress is built already." 

There was now a change in her cold sweetness; her smile be- 
came a little ambiguous. "You remind me," she said, "that 
I was speaking in somewhat pretentious similes. I was not ask- 
ing you what had been done, but what you hoped to do. I was 
asking it was that that interested me in you, as it does in all 
the young men I meet what was the ideal you brought to 
your calling." 

It was as though, with all her sweetness, she had seen through 
his critical complacency and were correcting the manners of 
a conceited boy. Gregory was a good deal taken aback. And 
it was with a touch of boyish sulkiness that he replied : " I 
don't think, really, that I can claim ideals." 

Definitely, now, the light of mockery shone in her eye. In 
evading her, in refusing to be drawn within her magic circle, 
he had aroused an irony that matched his own. She was not 
the mere phrase-making woman; by no means the mere siren. 
" How afraid you English are of your ideals," she said. " You 
live by them, but you will not look at them. I could say to you 
as Statius to Virgil in the Purgatorio that you carry your 



.TANTE 39 

light behind you so that you light those who follow, but walk 
yourselves in darkness. You will not claim them ; no, and above 
all, you will not talk about them. Do not be afraid, my young 
friend; I shall not tamper with your soul." So she spoke, 
sweetly, deliberately, yet tersely, too, as though to make him feel 
that she had done all she could for him and that he had proved 
himself not worth her trouble. Mr. Claude Drew was still on 
her other hand, carrying on an obviously desultory conversation 
with Miss Scrotton, and to him Madame von Marwitz turned, 
saying : " And what is it you wished to tell me of your Car- 
ducci ? You will send me the proofs ? Good. Oh, I shall not 
be too tired to read what you have written." 

Here was a young man, evidently, who was worth her trouble. 
Gregory sat disposed of and a good deal discomposed, the more 
so since he had to own that he had opened himself to the rebuff. 
He rose and moved away, looking about and seeing that Miss 
Woodruff had left the room; but Mrs. Forrester came to him, 
her brilliant little face somewhat clouded. 

" What is it, my dear Gregory ? " she questioned. " She asked 
to have you brought. Have n't you pleased her ? " 

Mrs. Forrester, who had known not only himself, but his father 
in boyhood, was fond of him, but was not disposed to think of him 
as important. And she expected the unimportant to know, in 
a sense, their place and to show the important that they did know 
it. There was a hint, now, of severity, in her countenance. 

It would sound, he knew, merely boyish and sulky to say: 
" She has n't pleased me." But he could n't resist : " I was n't 
a la hauteur." 

Mrs. Forrester, at this, looked at him hard for a moment. She 
then diagnosed his case as one of bad temper rather than of 
malice, and could forgive it in one who had failed to interest the 
great woman and been discarded in consequence; Mercedes, she 
knew, could discard with decision. 

" Well, when you talk to a woman like Madame von Marwitz, 
you must try to be worthy of your opportunities," she commented, 
tempering her severity with understanding. " You really had an 



40 TANTB 

opportunity. Your face interested her, and your kindness to 
little Karen. She always likes people who are kind to little 
Karen." 

It was pleasantly open to him now to say : " Little Karen has 
been kind to me." 

" A dear, good child," said Mrs. Forrester. " I am glad that 
you talked to her. You pleased Mercedes in that." 

" She is a delightful girl," said Gregory. 

He now took his departure. But he was again to encounter 
Miss Woodruff. She was in the hall, talking French to a sallow 
little woman in black, evidently a ladies' maid, who had the op- 
pressed, anxious countenance and bright, melancholy eyes of a 
monkey. 

" Allans" Miss Woodruff was saying in encouraging tones, 
while she paused on the first step of the stairs, her hand on the 
banister; " ce n'est pas une cause perdue, Louise; nous arrange- 
rons la chose." 

ee Ah, Mademoiselle, c'est que Madame ne sera pas contente, pas 
contente du tout quand elle verra la role" was Louise's mournful 
reply as Gregory came up. 

" I hoped we might go on with our talk," he said. He still 
addressed her somewhat as one addresses a friendly child; "I 
wanted to hear the end of that story about the Hungarian stu- 
dent." 

" He died, in Davos, poor boy," said Miss Woodruff, looking 
down at him from her slightly higher place, while Louise stood by 
dejectedly. "He wrote to my guardian and we went to him 
there and she played to him. It made him so happy. We were 
with him till he died." 

" Shall I see you again ? " Gregory asked. " Will you be here 
for any time ? Are you staying in London ? " 

" My guardian goes to America next week did you not 
know ? with Miss Scrotton." 

" Oh yes, Eleanor told me. And you 're not going too ? 
You ? re not to see America yet ? " 

" No ; not this time. I go to Cornwall." 

" You are to be alone with Mrs. Talcott all the winter ? " 



TANTE 41 

"You know Mrs. Talcott?" Miss Woodruff exclaimed in 
pleased astonishment. 

" No ; I don't know her ; Eleanor told me about her, too/' 

" It is not being alone/' said Miss Woodruff. " She and I 
have a most happy time together. I thought it strange that you 
should know Mrs. Talcott. I never met anyone who knew her 
unless they knew my guardian very well." 

" And when are you coming back ? " 

" From Cornwall ? I do not know. I am afraid we shall not 
see each other oh, for a very long time/' said Miss Woodruff. 
She smiled. She gave him her hand, leaning down to him from 
behind the banister. Gregory said that he had friends in Corn- 
wall and that he might run down and see them one day and 
then he might see her and Les Solitudes, too. And Miss Wood- 
ruff said that that would be very nice. 

He heard the last words of the colloquy with Louise as his coat 
was put on in the hall. " Alors il ne faut pas renvoyer la robe, 
Mademoiselle ? " 

"Mais non, mais non; nous nous tirerons ft 'affaire/' Miss 
Woodruff replied, springing gaily up the stairs, her arm, with a 
sort of dignified familiarity, in which was encouragement and 
protection, cast round Louise's shoulders. 



CHAPTEE V 

EEGOEY walked at a brisk pace from Mrs. Forrester's 
house in Wilton Crescent to Hyde Park Corner, and from 
there, through St. James's Park, to Queen Anne's Mansions 
where he had a flat. He had moved into it from dismal rooms 
when prosperity had first come to him, five or six years ago, and 
was much attached to it. It was high up in the large block of 
buildings and its windows looked over the greys and greens and 
silvers of the park, the water shining in the midst, and the dim 
silhouettes of Whitehall rising in stately significance on the even- 
ing sky. Gregory went to the balcony and overhung his view 
contemplatively for a while. The fog had lifted, and all London 
was alight. 

. The drawing-room behind him expressed an accepted conven- 
tion rather than a personal predilection. It was not the room 
of a young man of conscious tastes. It was solid, cheerful and 
somewhat naif. There was a great deal of very clean white paint 
and a great deal of bright wallpaper. There were deep chairs 
covered with brighter chintz. There were blue and white tiles 
around the fireplace and heavy, polished brass before. On the 
tables lay buff and blue reviews and folded evening papers, mas- 
sive paper-cutters and large silver boxes. Photographs in silver 
frames also stood there, of female relatives in court dress and 
of male relatives in uniform. Behind the photographs were pots 
of growing flowers ; and on the walls etchings and engravings 
after well-known landscapes. It was the room of a young man 
uninfluenced by Whistler, unaware of Chinese screens and in- 
different to the rival claims of Jacobean and Chippendale furni- 
ture. It was civilised, not cultivated; and it was thoroughly 
commonplace. 

Gregory thought of himself as the most commonplace of types ; 
the younger son whose father hadn't been able to do any- 

42 



TANTE 43' 

thing for him beyond educating him ; the younger son who, after 
years of uncongenial drudgery had emerged, tough, stringy, pro- 
fessional, his boyish dreams dead and his boyish tastes atrophied ; 
a useful hard-working, clear-sighted member of society. And 
there was truth in this conception of himself. There was truth, 
too, in Madame von Marwitz's probe. He had more than the 
normal English sensitiveness where ideals were concerned and 
more than the normal English instinct for a protective literalness. 
He did n't intend that anybody should lay their hand on his heart 
and tell him of lofty aims that it would have made him feel awk- 
ward to look at by himself; his fastidiousness was far from 
commonplace, and so were his disdains; they made cheap suc- 
cesses and cheap ambitions impossible to him. He would never 
make a fortune out of the law ; yet already he was distinguished 
among the younger men at the bar. With nothing of the air of 
a paladin he brought into the courts a flavour of classic calm 
and courtesy. He was punctiliously fair. He never frightened 
or bullied or confused. His impartiality could become alarm- 
ing at times to his own clients, and shady cases passed him by. 
Everybody respected Gregory Jardine and a good many people 
disliked him. A few old friends, comrades at Eton and Oxford, 
were devoted to him and looked upon him, in spite of his repu- 
tation for almost merciless commonsense, as still potentially 
Quixotic. As a boy he had been exceptionally tender-hearted; 
but now he was hard, or thought himself so. He had no vanity 
and looked upon his own resolution and dignity as the heritage 
of all men worth their salt; in consequence he was inclined to 
theoretic severity towards the worsted. The sensitiveness of 
youth had steeled itself in irony; he was impatient of delusions 
and exaltations, and scornful of the shambling, shamefaced mo- 
tives that moved so many of the people who came under his 
observation. 

Yet, leaning on the iron railing, his gaze softening to a grave, 
peaceful smile as he looked over the vast, vaporous scene, laced 
with its moving and motionless lines of light, it was this, and its 
mysteries, its delicacies, its reticent radiance, that expressed him 
more truly than the commonplaces of the room behind him, 



44 TANTE 

accurately as these symbolized the activities of his life. The boy 
and youth, emotional and poetic, dreamy if also shrewdly hu- 
morous, still survived in a sub-conscious region of his nature, 
an Atlantis sunken beneath the traffic of the surface ; and, when 
he leaned and gazed, as now, at the lovely evocations of the 
evening, it was like hearing dimly, from far depths, the bells of 
the buried city ringing. 

He was thinking of nothing as he leaned there, though memo- 
ries, linked in their associated loveliness, floated across his mind 
larch-boughs brushed exquisitely against a frosty sky on a 
winter morning in Northumberland, when, a boy, with gun and 
dogs, he had paused on the wooded slopes near his home to look 
round him; or the little well of chill, clear water that he had 
found one summer day gushing from a mossy source under a 
canopy of leaves ; or the silver sky, and hills folded in greys and 
purples, that had surrounded him on a day in late autumn when 
he had walked for miles in loneliness and, again, had paused to 
look, receiving the scene ineffaceably, so that certain moods 
always made it rise before him. And linked by some thread of 
affinity with these pictures, the face of the young girl he had 
met that afternoon rose before him. Not as he had just seen her, 
but as he had seen her, for the first time, the night before at the 
concert. Her face came back to him with the larch-boughs and 
the spring of water and the lonely hills, while he looked at Lon- 
don beneath him. She touched and interested him, and appealed 
to something sub-conscious, as music did. But when he passed 
from picturing her to thinking about her, about her origin and 
environment and future, it was with much the same lucid and 
unmoved insight with which he would have examined some un- 
fortunate creature in the witness-box. 

Miss Woodruff seemed to him very unfortunate. For her 
irregular birth he had contempt and for her haphazard upbring- 
ing only pity. He saw no place in a well-ordered society for 
sculptors who ran away with other men's wives and lived on 
chestnuts and left their illegitimate children to be picked up at 
the roadside. He was the type of young man who, theoretically, 
admitted of and indeed admired all independences in women; 



XANTE 45 

practically he preferred them to be sheltered by their male rela- 
tives and to read no French novels until they married if then. 
Miss Woodruff struck him as at once sheltered and exposed. 
Her niche under the extended wing of the great woman seemed 
to him precarious. He saw no real foothold for her in her pres- 
ent milieu. She only entered Mrs. Forrester's orbit, that was 
evident, as a tiny satellite in attendance on the streaming comet. 
In the wake of the comet she touched, it was true, larger orbits 
than the artistic; but it was in this accidental and transitory 
fashion, and his accurate knowledge of the world saw in the 
nameless and penniless girl the probable bride of some second- 
rate artist, some wandering, dishevelled musician, or ill-educated, 
ill-regulated poet. Girls like that, who had the aristocrat's assur- 
ance and simplicity and unconsciousness of worldly lore, without 
the aristocrat's secure standing in the world, were peculiarly 
in danger of sinking below the level of their own type. 

He went in to dress. He was dining with the Armytages and 
after thinking of Miss Woodruff it was indeed like passing from 
memories of larch-woods into the chintzes and metals and potted 
flowers of the drawing-room to think of Constance Armytage. 
Yet Gregory thought of her very contentedly while he dressed. 
She was well-dowered, well-educated, well-bred; an extremely 
nice and extremely pretty young woman with whom he had 
danced, dined and boated frequently during her first two 
seasons. The Armytages had a house at Pangbourne and he 
spent several week-ends with them every summer. Constance 
liked him and he liked her. He was not in love with her ; but he 
wondered if he might not be. To get married to somebody like 
Constance seemed the next step in his sensible career. He could 
see her established most appropriately in the flat. He could see 
her beautifully burnished chestnut hair, her pretty profile and 
bright blue eyes above the tea-table; he could see her at the end 
of the dinner-table presiding charmingly at a dinner. She 
would be a charming mother, too; the children, when babies, 
would wear blue sashes and would grow up doing all the proper 
things at the proper times, from the French bonne and the Ger- 
man Frdulein to Eton and Oxford and dances and happy mar- 



46 T'ANTE 

riages. She would continue all the traditions of his outer life, 
would fulfil it and carry it on peacefully and honourably into the 
future. 

The Annytages lived in a large house in Queen's Gate Gardens. 
They were not interesting people, but Gregory liked them none 
the less for that. He approved of the Armytage type the 
kind, courageous, intolerant old General who managed to find 
Gladstone responsible for every misfortune that befell the Em- 
pire blithe, easy-going Lady Armytage, the two sons in the 
army and the son in the navy and the two unmarried girls, of 
whom Constance was one and the other still in the school-room. 
It was a small dinner-party that night ; most of the family were 
there and they had music after it, Constance singing very prettily 
she was taking lessons the last two songs she had learned, 
one by Widor and one by Tosti. 

Yet as he drove home late Gregory was aware that Constance 
still remained a pleasant possibility to contemplate and that he 
had come no nearer to being in love with her. It might be 
easier, he mused, if only she could offer some trivial trick or 
imperfection, if she had been freckled, say, or had had a stam- 
mer, or prominent teeth. He could imagine being married to 
her so much more easily than being in love with her, and he was 
a little vexed with himself for his own insusceptibility. 

Constance was the last thing that he thought of before going 
to sleep ; yet it was not of her he dreamed. He dreamed, very 
strangely, of the little cosmopolitan waif whom he had met that 
afternoon. He was walking down a road in a forest. The sky 
above was blue, with white clouds heaving above the dark tree- 
tops, and it was a still, clear day. His mood was the boyish 
mood of romance and expectancy, touched with a little fear. At 
a turning of the road he came suddenly upon Karen Woodruff. 
She was standing at the edge of the forest as if waiting for him, 
and she held a basket of berries, not wild-strawberry and not 
bramble, but a fairy-tale fruit that a Hans Andersen heroine 
might have gathered, and she looked like such a heroine herself, 
young, and strange, and kind, and wearing the funny little dress 
of the concert, the white dress with the flat blue bows. She held 



TANTB 47 

out the basket to him as he approached, and, smiling at each 
other in silence, they ate the fruit with its wild, sweet savour. 
Then, as if he had spoken and she were answering him, she said : 
" And I love you." 

Gregory woke with this. He lay for some moments still half 
dreaming, with no surprise, conscious only of a peaceful wonder. 
He had forgotten the dream in the morning; but it returned to 
him later in the day, and often afterwards. It persisted in his 
memory like a cluster of unforgettable sensations. The taste of 
the berries, the scent of the pine-trees, the sweetness of the girPs 
smile, these things, rather than any significance that they em- 
bodied, remained with him like one of the deep impressions of 
his boyhood. 



CHAPTER VI 

ON the morning that Gregory Jardine had waked from his 
dream, Madame von Marwitz sat at her writing-table tear- 
ing open, with an air of impatient melancholy, note after note 
and letter after letter, and dropping the envelopes into a waste- 
paper basket beside her. A cigarette was between her lips; her 
hair, not dressed, was coiled loosely upon her head; she wore a 
white silk peignoir bordered with white fur and girdled with a 
sash of silver tissue. She had just come from her bath and her 
face, though weary, had the freshness of a prolonged toilet. 

The room where she sat, with its grand piano and its deep 
chairs, its sofa and its capacious writing-table, was accurately 
adjusted to her needs. It, too, was all in white, carpet, curtains 
and dimity coverings. Madame von Marwitz laughed at her 
own vagary; but it had had only once to be clearly expressed, 
and the greens and pinks that had adorned her sitting-room at 
Mrs. Forrester's were banished as well as the rose-sprigged toilet 
set and hangings of the bedroom. "I cannot breathe among 
colours/' she had said. " They seem to press upon me. White 
is like the air; to live among colours, with all their beauty, is 
like swimming under the water; I can only do it with comfort 
for a little while." 

Madame von Marwitz looked up presently at a wonderful little 
clock of gold and enamel that stood before her and then struck, 
not impatiently, but with an intensification of the air of melan- 
choly, an antique silver bell that stood beside the clock. Louise 
entered. 

" Where is Mademoiselle ? " Madame von Marwitz asked, 
speaking in French. Louise answered that Mademoiselle had 
gone out to take Victor for his walk, Victor being Madame von 
Marwitz's St. Bernard who remained in England during his 
unstress's absences. 

48 



TANTE 49 

" You should have taken Victor yourself, Louise/' said 
Madame von Marwitz, not at all unkindly, but with decisive 
condemnation. " You know that I like Mademoiselle to help 
me with my letters in the morning." 

Louise, her permanent plaintiveness enhanced, murmured that 
she had a bad headache and that Mademoiselle had kindly offered 
to take Victor, had said that she would enjoy taking him. 

" Moreover," Madame von Marwitz pursued, as though these 
excuses were not worthy of reply, " I do not care for Made- 
moiselle to be out alone in such a fog. You should have known 
that, too. As for the dress, don't fail to send it back this morn- 
ing as you should have done last night." 

" Mademoiselle thought we might arrange it to please 
Madame." 

" You should have known better, if Mademoiselle did not. 
Mademoiselle has very little taste in such matters, as you are 
well aware. Do my feet now; I think that the nails need a 
little polishing ; but very little ; I do not wish you to make them 
look as though they had been varnished ; it is a trick of yours." 

Madame von Marwitz then resumed her cigarette and her let- 
ters while Louise, fetching files and scissors, powders and polish- 
ers, mournfully knelt before her mistress, and, drawing the mule 
from a beautifully undeformed white foot, began to bring each 
nail to a state of perfected art. In the midst of this ceremony 
Karen Woodruff appeared. She led the great dog by a leash and 
was still wearing her cap and coat. 

" I hope I am not late, Tante," she said, speaking in English 
and going to kiss her guardian's cheek, while Victor stood by, 
majestically benignant. 

" You are late, my Karen, and you had no business to take out 
Victor at this hour. If you want to walk with him let it be 
in the afternoon. A'ie ! die ! Louise ! what are you doing ? 
Have mercy I beg of you ! " Louise had used the file awkwardly. 
" What is that you have, Karen ? " Madame von Marwitz went 
on. Miss Woodruff held in her hand a large bouquet enveloped 
in white paper. 



50 TANTE 

" An offering, Tante ; they just arrived as I came in. Koses, 
I think." 

" I have already sent half a dozen boxes downstairs ' for Mrs. 
Forrester to dispose of in the drawing-room. You will take off 
your things now, child, and help me, please, with all these weary 
people. Bon Dieu! do they really imagine that I am going to 
answer their inept effusions ? " 

Miss Woodruff had unwrapped a magnificent bunch of pink 
roses and laid them beside her guardian. " From that good little 
dark-faced lady of yesterday, Tante." 

Madame von Marwitz, pausing meditatively over a note, 
glanced at them. " The dark-faced lady ? " 

"Don't you remember? Mrs. Harding. Here is her card. 
She sat and gazed at you, so devoutly, while you talked to Mr. 
Drew and Lady Campion. And she looked very poor. It must 
mean a great deal for her to buy roses in January un supreme 
effort," Miss Woodruff quoted, she and her guardian having a 
host of such playful allusions. 

" I see her now," said Madame von Marwitz. " I see her face ; 
congestionnee d 'emotion, riest-ce-pas" She read the card that 
Karen presented. 

" Silly woman. Take them away, child." 

"But no, Tante, it is not silly; it is very touching, I think; 
and you have liked pink roses sometimes. It makes me sorry 
for that good little lady that you shouldn't even look at her 
roses." 

" No. I see her. Dark red and very foolish. I do not like 
her or her flowers. They look stupid flowers thick and pink, 
like fat, smiling cheeks. Take them away." 

"You have read what she says, Tante, here on the back? I 
call that very pretty." 

" I see it. I see it too often. No. Go now, and take your 
hat off. Good heavens, child, why did you wear that ancient 
sealskin cap ? " 

Karen paused at the door, the rejected roses in her arms. 
" Why, Tante, it was snowing a little ; I did n't want to wear my 
best hat for a morning walk." 



TANTE 51 

" Have you no other hat beside the best ? " 

" No, Tante. And I like my little cap. You gave it to me 
years ago don't you remember ; the first time that we went to 
Eussia together/' 

"Years ago, indeed, I should imagine from its appearance. 
Well ; it makes no difference ; you will soon be leaving town and 
it will do for Cornwall and Tallie." 

When Karen returned, Madame von Marwitz, whose feet were 
now finished, took her place in an easy chair and said : " Now 
to work. Leave the accounts for Schultz. I ? ve glanced at some 
of them this morning and, as usual, I seem to be spending twice 
as much as I make. How the money runs away I cannot imag- 
ine. And Tallie sends me a great batch of bills from Cornwall, 
l)on Dieu! " Bon Dieu was a frequent ejaculation with Madame 
von Marwitz, often half sighed, and with the stress laid on the 
first word. 

"Never mind, you will soon be making a great deal more 
money," said Karen. 

" It would be more to the point if I could manage to keep a 
little of what I make. Schultz tells me that my investments in 
the Chinese railroads are going badly, too. Put aside the bills. 
We will go through the rest of the letters." 

For some time they worked at the pile of correspondence. 
Karen would open each letter and read the signature; letters 
from those known to Madame von Marwitz, or from her friends, 
were handed to her ; the letters signed by unknown names Karen 
read aloud : begging letters ; letters requesting an autograph ; 
letters recommending to the great woman's kindly notice some 
budding genius, and letters of sheer adulation, listened to, these 
last, sometimes with a dreamy indifference to the end, inter- 
rupted sometimes with a sudden ef Assez." 

There were a dozen such letters this morning and when Karen 
read the signature of the last : " Your two little adorers Gladys 
and Ethel Bocock," Madame von Marwitz remarked: "We 
need not have that. Put it into the basket." 

" But, Tante," Karen protested, looking round at her with a 
smile, " you must hear it ; it is so funny and so nice." 



52 TANTE 

" So stupid I call it, my dear. They should not be en- 
couraged." 

" But you must be kind, you will be kind, even to the stupid. 
See, here are two of your photographs, they ask you to sign them. 
There is a stamped and addressed envelope to return them in. 
Such love, Tante ! such torrents of love ! You must listen." 

Madame von Marwitz resigned herself, her eyes fixed absently 
on the smoke curling from her cigarette as if, in its fluctuating 
evanescence, she saw a symbol of human folly. Gladys and 
Ethel lived in Clapham and told her that they came in to all 
her concerts and sat for hours waiting on the stairs. Their letter 
ended : " Everyone adores you, but no one can adore you like 
we do. Oh, would you tell us the colour of your eyes ? Gladys 
thinks deep, dark grey, but I think velvety brown; we talk and 
talk about it and can't decide. We mustn't take up any more 
of your precious time. Your two little adorers, Gladys and 
Ethel Bocock." 

" Bocock," Madame von Marwitz commented. " No one can 
adore me like they do. Let us hope not. Petit es sottes" 

"You will sign the photographs, Tante and you will say, 
yes, you must ' To my kind little admirers. 7 Now be merciful/' 

"Bocock," Madame von Marwitz mused, holding out an in- 
dulgent hand for the pen that Karen gave her and allowing the 
blotter with the photographs upon it to be placed upon her knee. 
"And they care for music, parbleu! How many of such ap- 
predators are there, do you think, among my adorers? I do 
this to please you, Karen. It is against my principles to en- 
courage the schwarmerei of school-girls. There," she signed 
quickly across each picture in a large, graceful and illegible hand, 
adding, with a smile up at Karen, " To my kind little ad- 
mirers." 

Karen, satisfied, examined the signatures, held them to the 
fire for a moment to preserve their vivid black in bold relief, 
and then put them into their envelope, dropping in a small slip 
of paper upon which she had written : " Her eyes are grey, 
flecked with black, and are not velvety." 

They had now reached the end of the letters. 



TANTE 53 

" A very good, helpful child it is," said Madame von Marwitz. 
" You are methodical, Karen. You will make a good housewife. 
That has never been my talent." 

" And it is my only one," said Karen. 

" Ah, well, no ; it is a good, solid little head in other directions, 
too. And it is no mean musician that the child has become. 
Yes; there are many well-known artists to whom I would listen 
less willingly than to my Karen. It is only in the direction of 
la toilette/' Madame von Marwitz smiled with a touch of roguish- 
ness, " only in the direction of la toilette that the taste is rather 
rudimentary as yet. I was very cross last night, hein ? " 

" It was disappointing not to have pleased you," said Karen, 
smiling. 

" And I was cross. Louise has her souffre-douleur expression 
this morning to an exasperating degree." 

" We thought we were going to make the dress quite right," 
said Karen. " It seemed very simple to arrange the lace around 
the shoulders; I stood and Louise draped me; and Louise ia 
clever, you know." 

" Not clever enough for that. It was all because with your 
solicitude about Louise you wanted her to escape a scolding. 
She took the lace to Mrs. Eolley too late and did not explain 
as I told her to do. And you did not save her, you see. Put 
those two letters of Mr. Drew's in the portfolio; so. And now 
come and sit, there. I want to have a serious talk with you, 
Karen." 

Karen obeyed. Madame von Marwitz sat in her deep chair, 
the window behind her. The fog had lifted and the pale morn- 
ing sunlight struck softly on the coils of her hair and fell on 
the face of the young girl sitting before her. With her grey 
dress and folded hands and serene gaze Karen looked very like 
the little convent pensionnaire. Madame von Marwitz scruti- 
nized her thoughtfully for some moments. 

" You are how old is it, Karen ? " she said at last. 

" I shall be twenty-four in March," said Karen. 

"Bon Dieu! I had not realised that it was so much; you are 
singularly young for your years." 



54 TANTE 

"Am I, Tante? I don't know," Karen reflected, genially. 
" I often feel, oh far older than the people I talk with/' 

" Do you, mon enfant. Some children, it is true, are far wiser 
than their elders. You are a wise child; but you are young, 
Karen, very young for your years, in appearance, in demeanour, 
in candour of outlook. Tell me; have you ever contemplated 
your future ? asked yourself about it ? " 

Karen, looking gravely at her, shook her head. "Hardly at 
all, Tante. Is that very stupid? " 

" Not stupid, perhaps ; but, again, very child-like. You live 
in the present/' 

" The past was so sad, Tante, and since I have been with you 
I have been so happy. There has seemed no reason for thinking 
of anything but the present." 

" Well, that is right. It is my wish to have you happy. As 
far as material things go, too, your future shall be assured; I 
see to that. But, you are twenty- three years old, Karen; you 
are a woman, and a child no longer. Do you never dream dreams 
of un prince charmant; of a home of your own, and children, 
and a life to build with one who loves you ? If I were to die 
and one can count on nothing in life you would be very deso- 
late." 

Karen, for some silent moments, looked at her guardian, in- 
tently and with a touch of alarm. " No ; I don't dream," she 
said then. " And perhaps that is because you fill my life so, 
Tante. If someone came who loved me very much and whom I 
loved, I should of course be glad to marry ; only not if it 
would take me from you ; I mean that I should want to be often 
with you. And when I look forward at all I always take it for 
granted that that will come in time a husband and children, 
and a home of my own. But there seems no reason to think of 
it now. I am quite contented as I am." 

The kindly melancholy of Madame von Marwitz's gaze con- 
tinued to fix her. " But I am not contented for you," she ob- 
served. " I wish to see you established. Youth passes, all too 
quickly, and its opportunities pass, too. I should blame myself 
if our tie were to cut you off from a wider life. Good husbands 



TANTE 55 

are by no means picked up on every bush. One cannot take these 
things for granted. It is of a possible marriage I wish to speak 
to you this morning, my Karen. We will talk of it quietly." 
Madame von Marwitz raised herself in her chair to stretch her 
hand and take from the mantelpiece a letter lying there. " This 
came this morning, my Karen/' she said. " From our good Lise 
Lippheim." 

Frau Lippheim was a warm-hearted, talented, exuberant Jew- 
ess who had been a fellow student of Madame von Marwitz's in 
girlhood. The eagle-flights of genius had always been beyond 
her, yet her pinions were wide and, unburdened by domestic 
solicitudes, she might have gone far. As it was, married to a 
German musician much her inferior, and immersed in the care 
and support of a huge family, she ranked only as second or third 
rate. She gave music-lessons in Leipsig and from time to time, 
playing in a quintet made up of herself, her eldest son and three 
eldest girls, gave recitals in Germany, France and England. 
The Lippheim quintet, in its sober way, held a small but digni- 
fied position. 

Karen "had been deposited by her guardian more than once 
under the Lippheim's overflowing roof in Leipsig, and it was a 
vision of Frau Lippheim that came to her as her guardian un- 
folded the letter of the near-sighted, pale blue eyes, heavy, 
benignant features, and crinkled, red-brown hair. So very ugly, 
almost repulsively so; yet so kind, so valiant, so untiring. The 
thought of her was touching, and affectionate solicitude almost 
effaced Karen's personal anxiety ; for she could not connect Frau 
Lippheim with any matrimonial project. 

Madame von Marwitz, glancing through her letter, looked up 
from the last sheet. "I have talked with the good Lise more 
than once, Karen/' she said, " about a hope of hers. She first 
spoke of it some two years ago ; but I told her then that I would 
say nothing to you till you were older. Now, hearing that I am 
going away, to leave you for so long, she writes of it again. Did 
you know that Franz was very much attached to you, Karen ? " 
Franz was Frau Lippheim's eldest son. 

The vision that now flashed, luridly, for Karen, was that of an 



56 TANTE 

immense Germanic face with bright, blinking eyes behind 
glasses ; huge lips ; a flattened nose, modelled thickly at the cor- 
ners,, and an enormous laugh that rolled back the lips and re- 
vealed suddenly the Semitic element and a boundless energy and 
kindliness. She had always felt fond of Franz until this mo- 
ment. Now, amazed, appalled, a violent repulsion went through 
her. She became pale. "No. I had not guessed that," she 
said. 

Her eyes were averted. Madame von Marwitz glanced at her 
and vexation clouded her countenance. She knew that flinty, 
unresponsive look. In moments of deep emotion Karen could 
almost disconcert her. Her face expressed no hostility; but a 
sternness, blind and resisting, like that of a rock. At such 
moments she did not look young. 

Madame von Marwitz, after her glance, also averted her eyes, 
sighing impatiently. " I see that you do not care for the poor 
boy. He had hoped, with his mother to back him, that he might 
have some chance of winning you ; though it is not Franz who 
writes." 

She paused ; but Karen said nothing. " You know that Franz 
has talent and is beginning, now, to make money steadily. Lise 
tells me that. And I would give you a little dot; enough to 
assure your future, and his. I only speak of the material things 
because it is part of your childishness never to consider them. 
Of him I would not have spoken at all, had I not believed that 
you felt friendship and affection for him. He is so good, so 
strong, so loyal that I did not think it impossible." 

After another silence Karen found something to say. " I have 
friendship for him. That is quite different." 

" Why so, Karen ? " Madame von Marwitz inquired. " Since 
you are not a romantic school-girl, let us speak soberly. Friend- 
ship, true friendship, for a man whose tastes are yours, whose 
pursuits you understand, is the soundest basis upon which to 
build a marriage." 

" No. Only as a friend, a friend not too near, do I feel affec- 
tion for Franz. It is repulsive to me the thought of anything 
else. It makes me hate him," said Karen. 



TANTE 57 

" Tiens!" Madame von Marwitz opened her eyes in genuine 
surprise. " I could not have imagined such decisive feeling. I 
could not have imagined that you despised the good Franz. 
I need not tell you that I do not agree with you there/' 

" I do not despise him." 

"Ah, there is more than mere negation in your look, your 
voice, my child. It is pride, wounded pride, that speaks ; and it 
is as if you told me that I had less care for your pride than you 
had, and thought less of your claims." 

" I do not think of my claims." 

" You feel them. You feel Franz your inferior." 

" I did not think of such things. I thought of his face, near 
me, and it made me hate him." 

Karen continued to look aside with a sombre gaze. And, after 
examining her for another moment, Madame von Marwitz held 
out her hand. " Come," she said, " come here, child. I have 
blundered. I see that I have blundered. Franz shall be sent 
about his business. Have I hurt you? Do not think of it 
again." 

The girl got up slowly, as if her stress of feeling made her 
awkward. Stumbling, she knelt down beside her guardian and, 
taking the hand and holding it against her eyes, she said in a 
voice heavy with unshed tears : " Am I a burden ? Am I an 
anxiety? Let me go away, then. I can teach. I can teach 
music and languages. I can do translations, so many things. 
You have educated me so well. You will always be my dear 
friend and I shall see you from time to time. But it is as 
you say, I am a woman now. I would rather go away than have 
you troubled by me." 

Madame von Marwitz's face, as she listened to the heavy voice, 
that trembled a little over its careful words, darkened. " It is 
not well what you say, Karen," she replied. " No. You speak 
to me as you have no right to speak, as though you had a griev- 
ance against me. What have I ever done that you should ask me 
whether you are a burden to me ? " 

" Only " said Karen, her voice more noticeably trembling 
" only that it seemed to me that I must be in the way if you 



58 TANTE 

could think of Franz as a husband for me. I do not know why 
I feel that. But it hurt me so much that it seemed to me to be 
true." 

" It has always been my joy to care for you," said Madame von 
Marwitz. " I have always loved you like my own child. I do 
not admit that to think of Franz as a husband for you was to do 
you a wrong. I would not listen to an unfitting suitor for my 
child. It is you who have hurt me deeply hurt me by so 
misunderstanding me." Sorrow and reproach grew in her voice. 

" Forgive me," said Karen, who still held the hand before her 
eyes. , 

Madame von Marwitz drew her hand gently away and raising 
Karen's head so that she could look at her, "I forgive you, 
indeed, Karen," she said. " How could I not forgive you ? But, 
child, do not hurt me so again. Never speak of leaving me 
again. You must never leave me except to go where a fuller 
happiness beckons. You do not know how they stabbed those 
words of yours. That you could think them, believe them! 
No, Karen, it was not well. Not only are you dear to me for 
yourself; there is another bond. You were dear to him. You 
were beside me in the hour of my supreme agony. You desecrate 
our sacred memories when you allow small suspicions and fears 
to enter your thoughts of me. So much has failed me in my 
life. May I not trust that my child will never fail me ? " 

Tragic grief gazed from her eyes and Karen's eyes echoed it. 
" Forgive me, Tante, I have hurt you. I have been stupid," 
she spoke almost dully; but Madame von Marwitz was looking 
into the eyes, deep wells of pain and self-reproach. 

" Yes, you have hurt me, ma cherie" she replied, leaning now 
her cheek against Karen's head. " And it is not loving to forget 
that when a cup of suffering brims, a drop the more makes it 
overflow. You are harsh sometimes, Karen, strangely harsh." 

" Forgive me," Karen repeated. 

Madame von Marwitz put her arms around her, still leaning 
her head against hers. " With all my heart, my child, with all 
my heart," she said. " But do not hurt me so again. Do not 
forget that I live at the edge of a precipice ; an inadvertent foot- 



TANTE 59 

step, and I crash down to the bottom, to lie mangled. Ah, my 
child, may life never tear you, burn you, freeze you, as it has 
torn and burned and frozen me. Ah, the memories, the cruel 
memories ! " Great sighs lifted her breast. She murmured, 
while Karen knelt enfolding her, " His dead face rises before me. 
The face that we saw, Karen. And I know to the full again my 
unutterable woe/' It was rare with Madame von Marwitz to 
allude thus explicitly to the tragedy of her life, the ambiguous, 
the dreadful death of her husband. Karen knelt holding her, 
pale with the shared memory. They were so for a long time. 
Then, sighing softly, "Bon Dieu! bon Dieu!" Madame von 
Marwitz rose and, gently putting the girl aside, she went into 
her bedroom and closed the door. 



CHAPTEE VII 

IT was a hard, chill morning and Gregory, sauntering up and 
down the platform at Euston beside the open doors of the 
long steamer-train, felt that the taste and smell of London was, 
as nowhere else, concentrated, compressed, and presented to one 
in tabloid form, as it were, at a London station on a winter 
morning. It was a taste and smell that he, personally, rather 
liked, singularly compounded as it was, to his fancy, of cold 
metals and warm sooty surfaces; of the savour of kippers cook- 
ing over innumerable London grates and the aroma of mugs of 
beer served out over innumerable London bars; something at 
once acrid yet genial, suggesting sordidness and unlimited possi- 
bility. The vibration of adventure was in it and the sentiment, 
oddly intermingled, of human solidarity and personal detach- 
ment. 

Gregory, as he strolled and waited for his old friend and 
whilom Oxford tutor, Professor Blackburn, whom he had prom- 
ised to see off, had often to pause or to deviate in his course; 
for, though it was still early, and the season not a favourite one 
for crossing, the platform was quite sufficiently crowded, and 
crowded, evidently, with homeward-bound Americans, mostly 
women. Gregory tended to think of America and its people with 
the kindly lightness common to his type. Their samenesses 
didn't interest him, and their differences were sometimes vex- 
atious. He had a vague feeling that they 'd really better have 
been Colonials and be done with it. Professor Blackburn last 
night had reproved this insular levity. He was going over with 
an array of discriminations that Gregory had likened to an ex- 
plorer's charts and instruments. He intended to investigate the 
most minute and measure the most immense, to lecture continu- 
ally, to dine out every evening and to write a book of some real 

60 



TANTB 61 

appropriateness when he came home. Gregory said that all that 
he asked of America was that it should keep its institutions to 
itself and share its pretty girls, and the professor told him that 
he knew more about the latter than the former. There were not 
many pretty girls on the platform this morning, though he re- 
marked one rather pleasing young person who sat idly on a pile 
of luggage and fixed large, speculative, innocently assured eyes 
upon him when he went by, while near her her mother and a 
tawny sister disputed bitterly with a porter. Most of the ladies 
who hastened to and fro seemed, while very energetic, also very 
jaded. They were packed as tightly with experiences as their 
boxes with contraband clothing, and they had both, perhaps, 
rather heavily on their minds, wondering, it was probable, how 
they were to get them through. Some of them, strenuous, eye- 
glassed and scholastic, looked, however, as they marshalled their 
pathetically lean luggage, quite innocent of material trophies. 

Among these alien and unfamiliar visages, Gregory caught 
sight suddenly of one that was alien yet recognizable. He had 
seen the melancholy, simian features before, and after a moment 
he placed the neat, black person, walking beside a truck piled 
high with enormous boxes, as Louise, Madame von Marwitz's 
maid. To recognise Louise was to think of Miss Woodruff. 
Gregory looked around the platform with a new interest. 

Miss Woodruff was nowhere to be seen, but a new element per- 
vaded the dingy place, and it hardly needed the presence of four 
or five richly dressed ladies bearing sheaves of flowers, or that of 
two silk-hatted impresario-looking gentlemen with Jewish noses, 
to lead Gregory to infer that the element was Madame von Mar- 
witz's, and that he had, inadvertently, fallen upon the very 
morning of her departure. Already an awareness and an ex- 
pectancy was abroad that reminded him of that in the concert 
hall. The contagion of celebrity had made itself felt even before 
the celebrity herself was visible; but, in another moment, 
Madame von Marwitz had appeared upon the platform, sur- 
rounded by cohorts of friends. Dressed in a long white cloak 
and flowing in sables, a white lace veil drooping about her shoul- 
ders, a sumptuous white feather curving from her brow to her 



62 TANTE 

back, she moved amidst the scene like a splendid, dreamy ship 
entering some grimy Northern harbour. 

Mrs. Forrester, on heels as high as a fairy-godmother's and 
wearing a strange velvet cloak and a stranger velvet bonnet, 
trotted beside her; Sir Alliston was on the other hand, his deli- 
cate Vandyke features nipped with the cold; Mr. Claude Drew 
walked behind and before went Eleanor Scrotton, smiling a tight, 
stricken smile of triumph and responsibility. As the group 
passed Gregory, Miss Scrotton caught sight of him. 

" We are in plenty of time, I see," she said. " Dear me ! it 
has been a morning! Mercedes is always late. Could you, I 
wonder, induce these people to move away. She so detests being 
stared at." 

Eleanor, as usual, roused a mischievous spirit in Gregory. 
" I 'm afraid I ? m helpless," he replied. " We 're in a public 
place, and a cat may look at a king. Besides, who could help 
looking at those marvellous clothes." 

" It is n't a question of cats but of impertinent human beings," 
Miss Scrotton returned with displeasure. " Allow me, Madam," 
she forged a majestic way through a gazing group. 

" Where is Miss .Woodruff? " Gregory inquired. He was won- 
dering. 

" Tiresome girl," Miss Scrotton said, watching the ladies with 
the flowers who gathered around her idol. " She will be late, 
I ? m afraid. She had forgotten Victor." 

"Victor? Is Victor the courier? Why does Miss Woodruff 
have to remember him ? " 

" No, no. Victor is Mercedes's dog, her dearly loved dog," 
said Miss Scrotton, her impatience with an ignorance that she 
suspected of wilfulness tempered, as usual, by the satisfaction of 
giving any and every information about Madame von Marwitz. 
" It is a sort of superstition with her that he should always be 
on the platform to see her off. It will be serious, really serious, 
if Karen does n't get him here in time. It may depress Mercedes 
for the whole of the voyage." 

" And where has she gone to get him ? " 

" Oh, she turned back nearly at once. She was with us in the 



TANTE 63 

carriage and we passed Louise in the omnibus with the boxes and 
fortunately Karen noticed that Victor was n't with her. It 
turned out, when we stopped and asked Louise about him, that 
she had given him to the footman to take for a walk and she 
thought he had been brought back to Karen. Karen took a 
hansom at once and went back. She really ought to have seen 
to it before starting. I do hope she will get him here in time. 
Madam, if you please ; we really can't get by." 

A little woman, stout but sprightly, in whom Gregory recog- 
nized the agitated mother of the pretty girl, evaded Miss Scrot- 
ton's extended hand and darted past her to place herself in front 
of Madame von Marwitz. She wore a large, box-like hat from 
which a blue veil hung. Her small features, indeterminate in 
form and incoherent in assemblage, expressed to an extraordinary 
degree determination and strategy. She faced the great woman. 

" Baroness," she said, in swift yet deliberate tones ; " allow me 
to present myself; Mrs. Hamilton K. Slifer. We have mutual 
friends ; Mrs. Tollman, Mrs. General Tollman of St. Louis, Mis- 
souri. She had the pleasure of meeting you in Paris some years 
ago. An old family friend of ours. My girls, Baroness ; Maude 
and Beatrice. They won't forget this day. We 're simply wild 
about you, Baroness. We were at your concert the other night." 
Maude, the lean and tawny, and Beatrice, the dark and pretty, 
had followed deftly in their mother's wake and were smiling, 
Maude with steely brightness, Beatrice with nonchalant assur- 
ance, at Madame von Marwitz. 

"Bon Dieu!" the great woman muttered. She gazed away 
from the Slifers and about her with helpless consternation. 
Then, slightly bowing her head and murmuring : " I thank you, 
Madam," she moved on, her friends closing round her. Miss 
Scrotton, pale with wrath, put the Slifers aside as she passed 
them. 

" Well, girls, I knew I could do it ! " Mrs. Slifer ejaculated, 
drawing a deep breath. They stood near Gregory, and Beatrice, 
who had adjusted her camera, was taking a series of snaps of the 
retreating celebrity. " We 've met her, anyway, and perhaps if 
she ever comes on deck we '11 get another chance. That 's a real 



64 T A N T E 

impertinent woman she 's got with her. Did you see her try and 
shove me back ? " 

" Never mind, mother/' said Beatrice, who was evidently easy- 
going ; " I snapped her as she did it and she looked ugly enough 
to turn milk sour. My ! do look at that girl with the queer cap 
and the big dog. She 's a freak and no mistake ! Stand back, 
Maude, and let me have a shot at her." 

" Why, I believe it '& the adopted daughter ! " Maude ex- 
claimed. " Don't you remember. She was in the front row and 
we heard those people talking about her. I think she 's dis- 
tinguee myself. She looks like a Russian countess." 

It was indeed Miss Woodruff who had arrived and Gregory, 
whose eyes followed the Slifers', was aware of a sudden emotion 
on seeing her. It was the emotion of his dream, touched and 
startled and sweet, and even more than in his dream she made 
him think of a Hans Andersen heroine with the little sealskin 
cap on her fair hair, and a long furred coat reaching to her 
ankles. She stood holding Victor by a leash, looking about her 
with a certain anxiety. 

Gregory made his way to her and when she saw him she started 
to meet him, gladly, but without surprise. " Where is Tante ? " 
she said. " Is she already in the train ? Did she send you for 
me?" 

" You are in very good time," he reassured her. " She is over 
there you see her feather now, don't you. I '11 take you to 
her." 

" Thank you so much. It has been a great rush. You have 
heard of the misfortunes ? By good chance I found the quickest 
cab." 

She was walking beside him, her eyes fixed before them on the 
group where she saw her guardian's plume and veil. " I don't 
know what Tante would have done if Victor had not been here 
in time to say good-bye to her." 

Madame von Marwitz was holding a parting reception before 
the open door of her saloon carriage. Flowers and fruits lay 
on the tables. Louise and Miss Scrotton's maid piled rugs 
and cushions on the chairs and divans. One of the Jewish gen- 



TANTE 65 

tlemen stood with his hat pushed off his forehead talking in low, 
important tones to a pallid young newspaper man who made 
rapid notes. 

Madame von Marwitz at once caught sight of Karen and 
Victor. Past the intervening heads she beckoned Karen to come 
to her and she and Gregory exchanged salutes. In her swift 
smile on seeing him he read a mild amusement; she could only 
think that, like everybody else, he had come to see her off. 

The cohorts opened to receive Miss Woodruff and Madame von 
Marwitz enfolded her and stooped to kiss Victor's head. 

Gregory watched the little scene, which was evidently touching 
to all who witnessed it, and then turned to find Professor Black- 
burn at his elbow. He, too, it appeared, had been watching 
Madame von Marwitz. "Yes; I heard her two years ago in 
Oxford," he said; "and even my antique blood was stirred, as 
much by her personality as by her music. A most romantic, 
most pathetic woman. What eyes and what a smile ! " 

" I see that you are one of the stricken/' said Gregory. " Shall 
I introduce you to my old friend, Mrs. Forrester ? She '11 no 
doubt be able to get you a word with Madame Okraska, if you 
want to hear her speak." 

No, the professor said, he preferred to keep his idols remote 
and vaguely blurred with incense. "Who is the young Norse 
maiden ? " he inquired ; " the one you were with. Those singular 
ladies are accosting her now." 

Karen Woodruff, on the outskirts of the group, had been gaz- 
ing at her guardian with a constrained smile in which Gregory 
detected self-mastery, and turned her eyes upon the Slifers as 
the professor asked his question. Mrs. Slifer, marshalling her 
girls, and stooping to pat Victor, was introducing herself, and 
while Gregory told the professor that that was Miss Woodruff, 
Madame Okraska's ward, she bent to expound to the Slifers the 
inscription on Victor's collar, speaking, it was evident, with 
kindness. Gregory was touched by the tolerance with which, in 
the midst of her own sad thoughts, she satisfied the Slifers' 
curiosity. 

" Then she really is Norse," said the professor, 
s 



66 T A N T E 

"Really half Norse." 

"I like her geniality and her reticence," said the professor, 
watching the humours of the little scene. " Those enterprising 
ladies won't get much out of her. Ah, they must relinquish her 
now; her guardian is asking for her. I suppose it's time that 
I got into my compartment." 

The groups were breaking up and the travellers, detaching 
themselves from their friends, were taking their places. Madame 
von Marwitz, poised above a sea of upturned faces on the steps 
of her carriage, bent to enfold Karen Woodruff once more. 
Doors then slammed, whistles blew, green flags fluttered, and the 
long train moved slowly out of the station. 

Standing at a little distance from the crowd, and holding 
Victor by his leash, Miss Woodruff looked after the train with 
a fixed and stiffened smile. She was near tears. The moment 
was not a propitious one for speaking to her; yet Gregory felt 
that he could not go without saying good-bye. He approached 
her and she turned grave eyes upon him. 

" And you are going to Cornwall, now ? " said Gregory, patting 
Victor's head. 

" Yes ; I go to-morrow," said Miss Woodruff in a gentle voice. 

" Have you friends there ? " Gregory asked, " and books ? 
Things to amuse you ? " 

" We see the rector and his wife and one or two old ladies now 
and then. But it is very remote, you know. That is why my 
guardian loves it so much. She needs the solitude after her 
rushing life. But books; oh yes; my guardian has an excellent 
library there ; she is a great reader ; I could read all day, in every 
language, if I wanted to. As for amusement, Mrs. Talcott and 
I are very busy ; we see after the garden and the little farm ; I 
practice and take Victor out for walks." 

She had quite mastered her emotion and Gregory could look 
up at her frankly. " Is n't there something I could send you," 
he said, "to help to pass the time? Magazines? Do you 
have them ? And sweets ? Do you like sweets ? " His man- 
ner was half playful and he smiled at her as he might have 
smiled at a young school-girl. If only those wide braids under 



TANTE 67 

the little cap had been hanging over her shoulders the manner 
would have been justified. As it was, Gregory felt with some 
bewilderment that his behaviour was hardly normal. He was 
not in the habit of offering magazines and sweets to young 
women. But his solicitude expressed itself in these unconven- 
tional forms and luckily she found nothing amiss with them. 
She was accustomed, no doubt, to a world where such offerings 
passed freely. 

" It is very kind of you," said Miss "Woodruff. " I should 
indeed like to see a review now and then. Mr. Drew is writing 
another little article on my guardian, in one of this month's 
reviews, I did not hear which one ; and I would like to see that 
very much. But sweets? No; when I like them I like them 
too much and eat too many and then I am sorry. Please don't 
send me sweets." She was smiling. 

" What do you like to eat, then, that does n't make you sorry 
even when you eat a great deal ? " 

" Eoast-beef ! " she said, laughing, and the tip of her tongue 
was caught between her teeth. He was charmed to feel that, 
for the moment, at least, he had won her from her sadness. 

" But you get roast-beef in Cornwall." 

66 Oh, excellent. I will not have roast-beef, please." 

" Fruit, then ? You like fruit ? " 

"Yes; indeed." 

" And you don't get much fruit in Cornwall in winter." 

" Only apples," she confessed, " and dried apricots." 

He elicited from her that nectarines and grapes were her 
favourite fruits. But in the midst of their talk she became 
suddenly grave again. 

" I do not believe that you had a single word with her after 
I came ! " 

His face betrayed his bewilderment. 

"Tante," she enlightened him. "But before then? You 
did speak with her ? She had sent you to look for me ? " The 
depths of her misconception as to his presence were apparent. 

" No ; it was by chance I saw you," he said. " And I did n't 
have any talk with Madame von Marwitz." He had no time to 



68 TANTB 

undeceive her further if it had been worth while to undeceive 
her, for Mrs. Forrester, detaching herself from the larger group 
of bereaved ones, joined them. 

"I can't give you a lift, Gregory?" she asked. "You are 
going citywards? We are all feeling very bleak and despoiled, 
aren't we? What an awful place a station is when someone 
has gone away from it." 

" Mrs. Forrester," said Karen Woodruff, with wide eyes, " he 
did not have one single word with her ; Mr. Jardine did not get 
any talk at all with Tante. Oh, that should have been 
managed." 

But Mrs. Forrester, though granting to his supposed plight 
a glance of sympathetic concern, was in a hurry to get home 
and he was, again, spared the necessity of a graceless con- 
fession. He piloted them through the crowd, saw them Miss 
Woodruff, Mrs. Forrester and Victor, fitted into Mrs. For- 
rester's brougham, and then himself got into a hansom. It 
was still the atmosphere of the dream that hovered about him 
as he decided at what big fruit-shop he should stop to order a 
box of nectarines. He wanted her to find them waiting for 
her in Cornwall. And the very box of nectarines, the globes 
of sombre red fruit nested in cotton-wool, seemed part of the 
dream. He knew that he was behaving curiously; but she 
was, after all, the little Hans Andersen heroine and one need n't 
think of ordinary customs where she was concerned. 



CHAPTER VIII 

"Les Solitudes, 

"February 2nd. 

:f T~A EAB Mr. Jardine, How very, very kind of you. I could 
I J hardly believe it when Mrs. Talcott told me that a box 
was here for me. I could think of nothing to explain it. 
Then when we opened it and saw, row upon row, those beauti- 
ful things like pearls in a casket it made me feel quite dazed. 
Nectarines are not things that you expect to have, in rows, all 
to yourself. Mrs. Talcott and I ate two at once, standing there 
in the hall where we opened them ; we could n't wait for chairs 
and plates and silver knives; things taste best of all when eaten 
greedily, I think, and I think that these will all be eaten greed- 
ily. It is so kind of you. I thank you very much. Yours 
sincerely, Karen Woodruff." 

"Lea Solitudes, 

"February 9th. 

"Dear Mr. Jardine, It is most kind of you to write me 
this nice note and to send me these reviews. I often have to 
miss the things that come out in the reviews about my guardian, 
for the press-cuttings go to her. Mr. Drew says many clever 
things, does he not; he understands music and he understands 
at least almost what my guardian is to music ; but he does 
not, of course, understand her. He only sees the greatness and 
sees it made out of great things. When one knows a great per- 
son intimately one sees all the little things that make them 
great ; often such very little things ; things that Mr. Drew could 
not know. That is why his article is, to me, rather pretentious ; 
nor will you like it, I think. He fills up with subtleties the 

69 



70 TANTE 

gaps in his knowledge, and that makes it all so artificial. But 
I am most glad to have it. Sincerely yours, 

" Karen Woodruff/' 

" Les Solitudes, 

" February 18th. 

"Dear Mr. Jardine, The beautiful great box of fruit ar- 
rived to-day. It is too good and kind of you. I am wonder- 
ing now whether muscatel grapes are not even more my favourites 
than nectarines! This is a day of rain and wind, soft rain 
blowing in gusts and the wind almost warm. Victor and I 
have come in very wet and now we are both before the large 
wood fire. London seems so far away that New York hardly 
seems further. You heard of the great ovation that my 
guardian had. I had a note from her yesterday and two of 
the New York papers. If you care to read them I will gladly 
send them; they tell in full about the first great concert she 
has given and the criticism is good. I will ask you to let me 
have them back when you have read them. With many, many 
thanks. Sincerely yours, 

"Karen Woodruff." 

" Les Solitudes, 

"February 28th. 

"Dear Mr. Jardine, I am glad that you liked the box of 
snowdrops and that they reached you safely, packed in their 
moss. I got them in a little copse a few miles from here. The 
primroses will soon be coming now and, if you like, I will send 
you some of them. I know one gets them early in London; 
but don't you like best to open yourself a box from the coun- 
try and see them lying in bunches with their leaves. I like 
even the slight flatness they have; but mine are very little 
flattened; I am good at packing flowers! My guardian always 
tells me so! You are probably right in not caring to see the 
papers; they are always much alike in what they say. It was 
only the glimpse of the great enthusiasm they gave that I 
thought might have interested you. Next week she goes to 



TAISTTE 71 

Chicago. I am afraid she will be very tired. But Miss Serot- 
ton will take care of her. Sincerely yours, 

" Karen Woodruff." 

"Les Solitudes, 

"March 17th. 

" Dear Mr. Jardine, I have taken up my pen for only two 
purposes since I left London to write my weekly letter to 
my guardian and to thank you over and over again. Only 
now you have quite spoiled Mrs. Talcott and me for our stewed 
dried fruit that we used to think so nice before we lived on 
grapes and nectarines. Indeed I have not forgotten the prim- 
roses and I shall be so delighted to pick them for you when the 
time comes, though I suspect it is sheer kindness in you that 
gives me the pleasure of sending you something. Your nice 
letter interested me very much. Yes, we have ( Dominique ' in 
the library here, and I will perhaps soon read it; I say per- 
haps, because I am reading 'Wilhelm Meister' my guardian 
was quite horrified with me when she found I had never read 
it and must finish that first, and it is very long. Is 
'Dominique' indeed your favourite French novel? My 
guardian places Stendahl and Flaubert first. For myself I do 
not care much for French novels. I like the Eussians best. 
Sincerely yours, Karen Woodruff." 

"Les Solitudes, 

"April 2nd. 

"Dear Mr. Jardine, You make a charming picture of the 
primroses in the blue and white bowls for me. And of your 
view over the park. London can be so beautiful; I, too, care 
for it very much. It is beautiful here now; the hedges all 
white with blackthorn and the woods full of primroses. My 
guardian must now be in San Francisco ! She is back in 
New York in May, and is to give three more great concerts 
there. I am impatiently waiting for my next letter from her. 
I am so glad you like the primroses. Many, many thanks for 
the fruit. Yours sincerely, Karen Woodruff." 



72 TANTE 

" Les Solitudes, 

"April 5th. 

"Dear Mr. Jardine, What you say makes me feel quite 
troubled. I know you write playfully, yet sometimes one can 
dire la verite en riant, and it is as if you had found my letters 
very empty and unresponsive. I did not mean them to be that 
of course; but I am not at all in the habit of writing letters 
except to people I am very intimate with. Indeed, I am in the 
habit only of writing to my guardian, and it is difficult for me 
to think that other people will be interested in the things I 
am doing. And in one way I do so little here. Nothing that 
I could believe interesting to you ; nothing really but have walks 
and practise my music and read ; and talk sometimes with Mrs. 
Talcott. About once in two months the vicar's wife has tea 
with us, and about once in two months we have tea with her; 
that is all. And I am sure you cannot like descriptions of 
landscapes. I love to look at landscapes and dislike reading 
what other people have to say about them; and is not that the 
same with you? It is quite different that you should write to 
me of things and people; for you see so many and you do so 
much and you know that to someone in the depths of the coun- 
try all this must be very interesting. So do not punish me 
for my dullness by ceasing to write to me. Sincerely yours, 

"Karen Woodruff." 

"Les Solitudes, 

"April 10th. 

" Dear Mr. Jardine, Of course I will write you descriptions 
of landscapes ! and of all my daily routine, if you really care 
to hear. No; I am not lonely, though of course I miss my 
guardian very much. I have the long, long walks with Victor, 
in wet weather over the inland moors along the roads, and in 
fine weather along the high cliff paths; sometimes we walk ten 
miles in an afternoon and come back very tired for tea. In 
the evenings I sit with Mrs. Talcott over the fire. You ask me 
to describe Mrs. Talcott to you, and to tell you all about her. 
She is with me now, and we are in the morning room, where 



T A N T E 73 

we always sit; for the great music-room that opens on the 
verandah and fronts the sea is shut when my guardian is not 
here. This room looks over the sea, too, but from the side of 
the house and through an arabesque of trees. The walls are 
filled with books and flowering bulbs stand in the windows. 
We have had our tea and the sunlight slants in over the white 
freesia and white hyacinths. There are primroses everywhere, 
too, and they make the room seem more full of sunlight. You 
could hardly see a more beautiful room. Mrs. Talcott sits 
before the fire with her skirt turned up and her feet in square- 
toed shoes on the fender and looks into the fire. She is short 
and thick and very old, but she does not seem old; she is 
hard; not soft and withered. She has a large, calm face with 
very yellow skin, and very light blue eyes set deeply under 
white eyebrows. Her hair is white and drawn up tightly to a 
knot at the top of her head. She wears no cap and dresses 
always in black; very plain, with, in the daytime, a collar of 
white lawn turning over a black silk stock and bow, such as 
young girls wear, and, in the evening, a little fichu of white 
net, very often washed, and thin and starchy. And since her 
skirts are always very short, and her figure so square, she makes 
one think of a funny little girl as well as of an old woman. 
She comes from the State of Maine, and she remembers a striv- 
ing, rough existence in a little town on the edge of wilder- 
nesses. She is a very distant relation of my guardian's. My 
guardian's maternal grandparents were Spanish and lived in 
New Orleans, and a sister of Seiior Bastida's (Bastida was the 
name of my guardian's grandfather) married a New Eng- 
lander, from Vermont and that New Englander was an 
uncle of Mrs. Talcott's do you follow ! her uncle married 
my guardian's aunt, you see. Mrs. Talcott, in her youth, 
stayed sometimes in New Orleans, and dearly loved the beauti- 
ful Dolores Bastida who left her home to follow Pavelek 
Okraska. Poor Dolores Okraska had many sorrows. Her hus- 
band was not a good husband and her parents died. She was 
very unhappy and before her baby came she was in Poland 
then, she sent for Mrs. Talcott. Mrs. Talcott had been mar- 



74 TANTE 

ried, too, and had lost her husband and was very poor. But 
she left everything and crossed to Europe in the steerage and 
what it must have been in those days ! imagine ! to join 
her unfortunate relative. My guardian has told me of it; she 
calls Mrs. Talcott: ' Un coeur d'or dans un corps de bois.' 
She stayed with Dolores Okraska until she died a little time 
after. She brought up her child. They were in great want; 
my guardian remembers that she had sometimes not enough to 
eat. When she was older and had already become famous, 
some relatives of the Bastidas heard of her and helped; but 
those were years of great struggle for Mrs. Talcott; and it is 
so strange to think of that provincial, simple American woman 
with her rustic ways and accent, living in Cracow and War- 
saw, and Vienna, and steadily doing what she had set herself 
to do. She speaks French with a most funny accent even yet, 
though she spent so many years abroad, so many in Paris. I 
do not know what would have become of my guardian if it had 
not been for her. Her father loved her, but was very erratic 
and undisciplined. Mrs. Talcott has been with my guardian 
for almost all the time ever since. It is a great and silent 
devotion. She is very reticent. She never speaks of herself. 
She talks to me sometimes in the evenings about her youth in 
Maine, and the long white winters and the sleigh-rides; and 
the tapping of the maple-trees in Spring; and the nutting 
parties in the fall of the year. I think that she likes to re- 
member all this; and I love to hear her, for it reminds me of 
what my father used to tell me of his youth; and I love espe- 
cially to hear of the trailing arbutus, that lovely little flower 
that grows beneath the snow; how one brushes back the snow 
in early Spring and finds the waxen, sweet, pink flowers and 
dark, shining leaves under it. And I always imagine that it 
is a doubled nostalgia that I feel and that my mother's Norway 
in Spring was like it, with snow and wet woods. There is a 
line that brings it all over me : ( In May, when sea-winds 
pierced our solitudes.' It is by Emerson. The Spring here is 
very lovely, too, but it has not the sweetness that arises from 
snow and a long winter. Through the whole winter the fuchsias 



TANTE 75 

keep their green against the white walls of the little village, 
huddled in between the headlands at the edge of the sea be- 
neath us. You know this country, don't you? The cliffs are 
so beautiful. I love best the great headlands towards the 
Lizard, black rock or grey, all spotted with rosettes of orange 
lichen with sweeps of grey-green sward sloping to them. Victor 
becomes quite intoxicated with the wind on these heights and 
goes in circles round and round, like a puppy. Later on, all 
the slopes are veiled in the delicate little pink thrift, and the 
stone walls are festooned with white campion. 

" Then Mrs. Talcott and I have a great deal to do about the 
little farm. Mrs. Talcott is so clever at this. She makes it 
pay besides giving my guardian all the milk and eggs and bacon, 
too, she needs. There is a farmer and his wife, and a gardener 
and a boy; but with the beautiful garden we have here it takes 
most of the day to see to everything. The farmer's wife is a 
stern looking woman, but really very gentle, and she sings 
hymns all the day long while she works. She has a very good 
voice, so that it is sweet to hear her. Yes; I do play. I have 
a piano here in the morning-room, and I am very fond of my 
music. And, as I have told you, I read a good deal, too. So 
there you have all the descriptions and the details. I liked 
so much what you told me of the home of your boyhood. 
When I saw you, I knew that you were a person who cared for 
all these things, even if you were not an artist. What you 
tell me, too, of the law-courts and the strange people you see 
there, and the ugly, funny side of human life amused me, though 
it seems to me more sorrowful than you perhaps feel it. Peo- 
ple amuse me very much sometimes, too; but I have not your 
eye for their foibles. You draw them rather as Forain does; 
I should do it, I suspect, with more sentimentality. The fruit 
comes regularly once a week, and punctual thanks seem in- 
appropriate for what has become an institution. But you know 
how grateful I am. And for the weekly Punch; so gemutlicJi 
and })ien pensant and, often, very, very funny, with a funniness 
that the Continental papers never give one; their jests are 
never the jests of the bien pensant. It is the acrid atmosphere 



76 TANTE 

of the cafe they bring, not that of the dinner party, or, better 
still, for Punch, the picnic. The reviews, too, are very interest- 
ing. Mrs. Talcott reads them a good deal, she who seldom 
reads. She says sometimes very acute and amusing things about 
politics. My guardian has a horror of politics ; but they rather 
interest Mrs. Talcott. I know nothing of them; but I do not 
think that my guardian would agree with what you say ; I think 
that she would belong more to your party of freedom and 
progress. What a long letter I have written to you! I have 
never written such a long one in my life before, except to my 
guardian. Sincerely yours, Karen Woodruff." 

" Les Solitudes, 

"April 15th. 

"Dear Mr. Jardine, How very nice to hear that you are 
coming to Cornwall for Easter and will be near us at least 
Falmouth is quite near with a motor. It is beautiful country 
there, too; I have driven there with my guardian, and it is a 
beautiful town to see, lying in a wide curve around its blue 
bay. It is softer and milder than here. A bend of the coast 
makes so much difference. But why am I telling you all this, 
when of course you know it! I forget that anyone knows 
Cornwall but Mrs. Talcott and my guardian and me. But you 
have not seen this bit of the coast, and it excites me to think 
that I shall introduce you to our cliffs and to Les Solitudes. 
If only my guardian were here! It is not itself, this place, 
without her. It is not to see Les Solitudes if you do not see 
the great music-room opening its four long windows on the 
sea and sky; and my guardian sitting in the shade of the 
verandah looking over the sea. But Mrs. Talcott and I will 
do the honours as best we may and tell you everything about 
my guardian that you will wish to know. Let us hear before- 
hand the day you are coming; for the cook makes excellent 
cakes, and we will have some baked specially for you. How 
very nice to see you again. Sincerely yours, 

"Karen Woodruff." 



CHAPTER IX 

ON" a chill, sunny morning in April, Gregory Jardine went 
out on to his balcony before breakfast and stood leaning 
there as was his wont, looking down over his view. The 
purpling tree-tops in the park emerged from a light morning 
mist. The sky, of the palest blue, seemed very high and was 
streaked with white. Spring was in the air and he could see 
daffodils shining here and there on the slopes of green. 

He had just read Karen Woodruff's last letter, and he was 
in the mood, charmed, amused and touched, that her letters 
always brought. Never, he thought, had there been such sweet 
and such funny letters; so frank and so impersonal; so simple 
and so mature. During these months of their correspondence 
the thought of her had been constantly in his mind, mingling 
now not only with his own deep and distant memories, but, it 
seemed, with hers, so that while she still walked with him over 
the hills of his boyhood and stooped to look with him at the 
spring gushing from under the bracken, they also brushed to- 
gether the dry, soft snow from the trailing arbutus, or stood 
above the sea on the Cornish headlands. Never in his life had 
he so possessed the past and been so aware of it. His youth 
was with him, even though he still thought of his relation to 
Karen Woodruff as a paternal and unequal one; imagining a 
crisis in which his wisdom and knowledge of the world might 
serve her; a foolish love-affair, perhaps, that he would dis- 
entangle; or a disaster connected with the great woman under 
whose protection she lived; he could so easily imagine disasters 
befalling Madame von Marwitz and involving everyone around 
her. And now in a week's time he would be in Cornwall and 
seeing again the little Hans Andersen heroine. This was the 
thought that emerged from the sweet vagrancy of his mood; 



78 T A N T E 

and, as it came, he was pierced suddenly with a strange rapturo 
and fear that had in it the very essence of the spring-time. 

Gregory had continued to think of the girl he was to marry 
in the guise of a Constance Armytage, and although Constance 
Armytage's engagement to another man found him unmoved, 
except with relief for the solution of what had really ceased to 
be a perplexity since, apparently, he could not manage to 
fall in love with her this fact had not been revealing, since 
he still continued to think of Constance as the type, if she had 
ceased to be the person. Karen Woodruff was almost the last 
type he could have fixed upon. She fitted nowhere into his 
actual life. She only fitted into the life of dreams and 
memories. 

So now, still looking down at the trees and daffodils, he 
drew a long breath and tried to smile over what had been a 
trick of the imagination and to relegate Karen to the place 
of half-humorous dreams. He tried to think calmly of her. 
He visualized her in her oddity and child-likeness; seeing the 
flat blue bows of the concert; the old-fashioned gold locket of 
the tea; the sealskin cap of the station. But still, it was ap- 
parent, the infection of the season was working in him; for 
these trivial bits of her personality had become overwhelmingly 
sweet and wonderful. The essential Karen infused them. Her 
limpid grey eyes looked into his. She said, so ridiculously, so 
adorably : " My guardian likes best to be called von Marwitz 
by those who know her personally." She laughed, the tip of 
her tongue caught between her teeth. From the place of dream 
and memory, the living longing for her actual self emerged in- 
domitably. 

Gregory turned from the balcony and went inside. He was 
dazed. Her primroses stood about the room in the white and 
blue bowls. He wanted to kiss them. Controlling the impulse, 
which seemed to him almost insane, he looked at them instead 
and argued with himself. In love? But one didn't fall in 
love like that between shaving and breakfast. What possessed 
him was a transient form of idee fixe, and he had behaved very 
foolishly in playing fairy-godfather to a dear little girl. But 



TANTE 79 

at this relegating phrase his sense of humour rose to mock him. 
He could not relegate Karen Woodruff as a dear little girl. It 
was he who had behaved like a boy, while she had maintained 
the calm simplicities of the mature. He hadn't the faintest 
right to hope that she saw anything in his correspondence but 
what she had herself brought to it. Fear fell more strongly 
upon him. He sat down to his breakfast, his thoughts in in- 
extricable confusion. And while he drank his coffee and glanced 
nervously down the columns of his newspaper, a hundred little 
filaments of memory ran back and linked the beginning to the 
present. It had not been so sudden. It had been there beside 
him, in him; and he had not seen it. The meeting of their 
eyes in the long, grave interchange at the concert had been full 
of presage. And why had he gone to tea at Mrs. Forrester's? 
And why, above all why, had he dreamed that dream? It 
was his real self who had felt no surprise when, at the edge 
of the forest, she had said: "And I love you." The words 
had been spoken in answer to his love. 

Gregory laid down his paper and stared before him. He was 
in love. Should he get over it? Did he want to get over it? 
Was it possible to get over it if he did want to ? And, this was 
the culmination, would she have him? These questions drove 
him forth. 

When Barker, his man, came to clear away the breakfast 
things he found that the bacon and eggs had not been eaten. 
Barker was a stone-grey personage who looked like a mid- 
Victorian Liberal statesman. His gravity often passed into an 
air of despondent responsibility. " Mr. Jardine has n't eaten 
his breakfast," he said to his wife, who was Gregory's cook. 
" It 's this engagement of Miss Armytage's. He was more taken 
with her than we 'd thought." 

Gregory had intended to motor down to Cornwall, still a 
rare opportunity in those days; a friend who was going abroad 
had placed his car at his disposal. But he sent the car ahead 
of him and, on the first day of his freedom, started by train. 
Next day he motored over to the little village near the Lizard. 

It was a pale, crystalline Spring day. From heights, where 



80 TANTE 

the car seemed to poise like a bird in mid-air, one saw the 
tranquil blue of the sea. The woods were veiled in young green 
and the hedges thickly starred with blackthorn. Over the great 
Goonhilly Downs a silvery sheen trembled with impalpable 
colour and the gorse everywhere was breaking into gold. It 
was a day of azure, illimitable distances; of exultation and de- 
light. Even if one were not in love one would feel oneself a 
lover on such a day. 

Gregory had told himself that he would be wise; that he 
would go discreetly and make sure not only that he was really 
in love, but that there was in his love a basis for life. Mar- 
riage must assure and secure his life, not disturb and disin- 
tegrate it ; and a love resisted and put aside unspoken may soon 
be relegated to the place of fond and transient dream. Perhaps 
the little Hans Andersen heroine would settle happily into such 
a dream. How little he had seen of her. But while he thus 
schooled himself, while the white roads curved and beckoned 
and unrolled their long ribbons, the certainties he needed of 
himself merged more and more into the certainties he needed 
of her. And he felt his heart, in the singing speed, lift and fly 
towards the beloved. 

He had written to her and told her the hour of his arrival, 
and at a turning he suddenly saw her standing above the road 
on one of the stone stiles of the country. Dressed in white and 
poised against the blue, while she kept watch for his coming, 
she was like a calm, far-gazing figure-head on a ship, and the 
ship that bore her seemed to have soared into sight. 

She was new, yet unchanged. Her attitude, her smile, as she 
held up an arresting hand to the chauffeur, filled him with de- 
light and anxiety. It disconcerted him to find how new she 
was. He felt that he spoke confusedly to her when she came to 
shake his hand. 

"People often lose their way in coming to see Tante," she 
said, and it struck him, even in the midst of his preoccupation 
with her, as too sweetly absurd that the first sentence she spoke 
to him should sound the familiar chime. " They have gone 
mistakenly down the lane that leads to the cliff path, that one 



TANTE 81 

there, or the road that leads out to the moors. And one poor 
man was quite lost and never found his way to us at all. It 
meant, for he had only a day or two to spend in England, that 
he did not see her for another year. Tante has had signs put 
up since then; but even now people can go wrong." 

She mounted beside the chauffeur so that she could guide 
him down the last bit of road, sitting sideways, her arm laid 
along the back of the seat. From time to time she smiled at 
Gregory. 

She was a person who accepted the unusual easily and with 
no personal conjecture. She was so accustomed, no doubt, to 
the sudden appearance of all sorts of people, that she had no 
discriminations to apply to his case. There was no shyness and 
no surmise in her manner. She smiled at him as composedly 
as she had smiled over the Great Wall of China in Mrs. For- 
rester's drawing-room, and her pleasure in seeing him was 
neither less frank nor more intimate. 

She wore a broad hat of sun-burnt straw and a white serge 
coat and skirt that looked as if they had shrunk in frequent 
washings. Her white blouse had the little frills at neck and 
wrists and around her throat was the gold locket on its black 
ribbon. Her eyes, when she turned them on him and smiled, 
seemed to open distances like the limitlessness of the moorland. 
Her tawny skin and shining golden hair were like the gorse 
and primroses and she in her serenity and gladness like the day 
personified. 

They did not attempt to talk through the loudly purring 
monotones of the car, which picked its way swiftly and delicately 
down the turning road and then skimmed lightly on the level 
ground between hedges of fuchsia and veronica. As the pros- 
pect opened Karen pointed to the golden shoulder of a headland 
bathed in sunlight and the horizon line of the sea beyond. 
They turned among wind-bitten Cornish elms, leaning inland, 
and Gregory saw among them the glimmer of Les Solitudes. 

It was a white-walled house with a high-pitched roof of grey 
shingles, delicately rippling; a house almost rustic, yet more 
nearly noble, very beautiful; simple, yet unobtrusively adapted 

6 



82 TANTE 

to luxury. Simplicity reigned within, though one felt luxury 
there in a chrysalis condition, folded exquisitely and elaborately 
away and waiting the return of the enchantress. 

Karen led him across the shining spaces of the hall and into 
the morning-room. Books, flowers and sunlight seemed to fur- 
nish it, and, with something austere and primitive, to make it 
the most fitting background for herself. But while her pres- 
ence perfected it for him, it was her guardian's absence that 
preoccupied Karen. Again, and comically, she reminded 
Gregory of the sacristan explaining to the sight-seer that the 
famous altar-piece had been temporarily removed and that he 
could not really judge the chapel without its culminating and 
consecrating object. " If only Tante were here ! " she said. 
" It seems so strange that anyone should see Les Solitudes who 
has not seen her in it. I do not remember that it has ever 
happened before. This is the dining-room yes, I like to show 
it all to you she planned it all herself, you know is it not 
a beautiful room? You see, though we are Les Solitudes, we 
can seat a large dinner-party and Tante has sometimes many 
guests; not often though; this is her place of peace and rest. 
She collected all this Jacobean furniture; connoisseurs say that 
it is very beautiful. The music-room, alas, is closed; but I 
will show you the garden and Mrs. Talcott in it. I am eager 
for you and Mrs. Talcott to meet." 

He would rather have stayed and talked to her in the morn- 
ing-room; but she compelled him, rather as a sacristan compels 
the slightly bewildered sight-seer, to pass on to the next point 
of interest. She led him out to the upper terrace of the garden, 
which dropped, ledge by ledge, with low walls and winding 
hedges, down the cliff-side. She pointed out to him the sea- 
front of the house, with its wide verandah and clustered trees 
and the beautiful dip of the roof over the upper windows, far 
gazing little dormer windows above these. Tante, she, told him, 
had designed the house. " That is her room, the corner one," 
she said. " She can see the sunrise from her bed." 

Gregory was interested neither in Madame von Marwitz's 
advantages nor in her achievements. He asked Karen where 



TANTE 83 

her own room was. It was at the back of the house, she said; 
a dear little room, far up. She, too, had a glimpse of the 
Eastern headland and of the sunrise. 

They were walking along the paths, their borders starred as 
yet frugally with hints of later glories; but already the au- 
brietia and arabis made bosses of white or purple on the walls, 
and in a little copse daffodils grew thickly. 

" There is Mrs. Talcott," said Karen, quickening her pace. 
Evidently she considered Mrs. Talcott, in her relation to Tante, 
as an important feature of Les Solitudes. 

It was her relation to Karen that caused Gregory to look with 
interest at the stout old lady, dressed in black alpaca, who was 
stooping over a flower-border at a little distance from them. 
He had often wondered what this sole companion of Karen's 
cloistered life was like. Mrs. Talcott's skirts were short; her 
shoes thick-soled and square-toed, fastening with a strap and 
button over white stockings at the ankle. She wore a round 
straw hat, like a child's, and had a basket of gardening imple- 
ments beside her. 

" Mrs. Talcott, here is Mr. Jardine," Karen announced, as 
they approached her. 

Mrs. Talcott raised herself slowly and turned to them, draw- 
ing off her gardening gloves. She was a funny looking old 
woman, funnier than Karen had prepared him for finding her, 
and uglier. Her large face, wallet-shaped and sallow, was 
scattered over with white moles, or rather, warts, one of which, 
on her eyelid, caused it to droop over her eye and to blink some- 
times, suddenly. She had a short, indefinite nose and long, 
large lips firmly folded. With its updrawn hair and impassivity 
her face recalled that of a Chinese image ; but more than of any- 
thing else she gave Gregory the impression, vaguely and incon- 
gruously tragic, of an old shipwrecked piece of oaken timber, 
washed up, finally, out of reach of the waves, on some high, 
lonely beach ; battered, though still so solid ; salted through and 
through ; crusted with brine, and with odd, bleached excrescences, 
like barnacles, adhering to it. Her look of almost inhuman 
cleanliness added force to the simile. 



84 TANTE 

" Mr. Jardine heard Tante last winter, you know," said Karen,, 
" and met her at Mrs. Forrester's/' 

" I 'm very happy to make your acquaintance, Sir," said Mrs. 
Talcott, giving Gregory her hand. 

" Mrs. Talcott is a great gardener," Karen went on. " Tante 
has the ideas and Mrs. Talcott carries them out. And sometimes 
they are n't easy to carry out, are they, Mrs. Talcott ! " 

Mrs. Talcott, her hands folded at her waist, contemplated her 
work. 

" Mitchell made a mistake about the campanulas, Karen," she 
remarked. " He 's put the clump of blue over yonder, instead 
of the white." 

"Oh, Mrs. Talcott!" Karen turned to look. "And Tante 
specially wanted the white there so that they should be against 
the sea. How very stupid of Mitchell." 

"They'll have to come out, I presume," said Mrs. Talcott, 
but without emotion. 

" And where is the pyramidalis alba ? " 

"Well, he's got that up in the flagged garden where she 
wanted the blue," said Mrs. Talcott. 

" And it will be so bad for them to move them again ! What 
a pity! They have been sent for specially," Karen explained 
to Gregory. "My guardian heard of a particularly beautiful 
kind, and the white were to be for this corner of the wall, you 
see that they would look very lovely against the sea, and the 
blue were to be among the white veronica and white lupins in 
the flagged garden. And now they are all planted wrong, and 
so accurately and solidly wrong," she walked ahead of Mrs. 
Talcott examining the offending plants. " Are you quite sure 
they're wrong, Mrs. Talcott?" 

"Dead sure," Mrs. Talcott made reply. "He did it this 
morning when I was in the dairy. He did n't understand, or 
got muddled, or something. I '11 commence changing them 
round as soon as I 've done this weeding. It '11 be a good two 
hours' work." 

"No, you must not do it till I can help you," said Karen. 
" To-morrow morning." She had a manner at once deferential 



TANTE 85 

and masterful of addressing the old lady. They were friendly 
without being intimate. " Now promise me that you will wait 
till I can help you." 

" Well, I guess I won't promise. I like to get things off my 
mind right away," said Mrs. Talcott. If Karen was masterful, 
she was not yielding. " I '11 see how the time goes after tea. 
Don't you bother about it." 

They left her bending again over her beds. " She is very 
strong, but I think sometimes she works too hard," said Karen. 

By a winding way she led him to the high flagged garden with 
its encompassing trees and far blue prospect, and here they sat 
for a little while in the sunlight and talked. " How different 
all this must be from your home in Northumberland," said 
Karen. "I have never been to Northumberland. Is your 
brother much there? Is he like you? Have you brothers and 
sisters ? " 

She questioned him with the frank interest with which he 
wished to question her. He told her about Oliver and said that 
he was n't like himself. A faint flavour of irony came into his 
voice in speaking of his elder brother and finding Karen's calm 
eyes dwelling on him he wondered if she thought him unfair. 
" We always get on well enough," he said, " but we have n't 
much in common. He is a good, dull fellow, half alive." 

" And you are very much alive." 

"Yes, on the whole, I think so," he answered, smiling, but 
sensitively aware of a possible hint of irony in her. But she 
had intended none. She continued to look at him calmly. 
"You are making use of all of yourself; that is to be alive, 
Tante always says; and I feel that it is true of you. And his 
wife ? the wife of the dull hunting brother ? Does she hunt too 
and think of foxes most ? " 

He could assure her that Betty quite made up in the variety 
of her activities for Oliver's deficiencies. Karen was interested 
in the American Betty and especially in hearing that she had 
been at the concert from which their own acquaintance dated. 
She asked him, walking back to the house, if he had seen Mrs. 
Forrester. " She is an old friend of yours, is n't she ? " she said. 



86 TANTE 

" That must be nice. She was so kind to me that last day in 
London. Tante is very fond of her ; very, very fond. I hardly 
think there is anyone of all her friends she has more feeling for. 
Here is Victor, come to greet you. You remember Victor, and 
how he nearly missed the train." 

The great, benignant dog came down the path to them and as 
they walked Karen laid her hand upon his head, telling Gregory 
that Sir Alliston had given him to Tante when he was quite a 
tiny puppy. "You saw Sir Alliston, that sad, gentle poet? 
There is another person that Tante loves." It was with a slight 
stir of discomfort that Gregory realised more fully from these 
assessments how final for Karen was the question of Tante's likes 
and dislikes. 

They were on the verandah when she paused. " But I think, 
though the music-room is closed, that you must see the por- 
trait." 

" The portrait ? Of you ? " Actually, and sincerely, he was 
off the track. 

"Of me? Oh no," said Karen, laughing a little. "Why 
should it be of me ? Of my guardian, of course. Perhaps you 
know it. It is by Sargent and was in the Eoyal Academy some 
years ago." 

" I must have missed it. Am I to see it now ? " 

" Yes. I will ask Mrs. Talcott for the key and we will draw 
all the blinds and you shall see it." They walked back to the 
garden in search of Mrs. Talcott. 

" Do you like it ? " Gregory asked. 

Karen reflected for a moment and then said ; " He under- 
stands her better than Mr. Drew does, or, at all events, does not 
try to make up for what he does not understand by elaborations. 
But there are blanks ! oh blanks ! However, it is a very mag- 
nificent picture and you shall see. Mrs. Talcott, may I have the 
key of the music-room? I want to show the Sargent to Mr. 
Jardine." 

They had come to the old woman again, and again she slowly 
righted herself from her stooping posture. " It 's in my room, 
I '11 come and get it," said Mrs. Talcott, and on Karen's protest- 



TANTE 87 

ing against this, she observed that it was about tea-time, anyway. 
She preceded them to the house. 

"But I do beg," Karen stopped her in the hall. "Let me 
get it. You shall tell me where it is." 

Mrs. Talcott yielded. "In my left top drawer on the right 
hand side under the pile of handkerchiefs," she recited. 
" Thanks, Karen." 

While Karen was gone, Mrs Talcott in the hall stood in front 
of Gregory and looked past him in silence into the morning- 
room. She did not seem to feel it in any sense incumbent upon 
her to entertain him, though there was nothing forbidding in her 
manner. But happening presently, while they waited, to glance 
at the droll old woman, he found her eyes fixed on him in a sin- 
gularly piercing, if singularly impassive, gaze. She looked away 
again with no change of expression, shifting her weight from one 
hip to the other, and something in the attitude suggested to 
Gregory that she had spent a great part of her life in waiting. 
She had a capacity, he inferred, for indefinite waiting. Karen 
came happily running down the stairs, holding the key. 

They went into the dim, white room where swathed presences 
stood as if austerely welcoming them. Karen drew up the blind 
and Mrs. Talcott, going to the end of the room, mounted a chair 
and dexterously twitched from its place the sheet that covered 
the great portrait. Then, standing beside it, and still holding 
its covering, she looked, not at it, but, meditatively, out at the 
sea that crossed with its horizon line the four long windows. 
Karen, also in silence, came and stood beside Gregory. 

It was indeed a remarkable picture; white and black; silver 
and green. To a painter's eye the arresting balance of these 
colours would have first appealed and the defiant charm with 
which the angular surfaces of the grand piano and the soft curves 
of the woman seated at it were combined. The almost impal- 
pable white of an azalea with its flame-green foliage, and a silver 
statuette, poised high on a slender column of white chalcedony, 
were the only accessories. But after the first delighted draught 
of wonder it was the face of Madame Okraska pre-eminently 
Madame Okraska in this portrait that compelled one to con- 



88 TANTB 

centration. She sat, turning from the piano, her knees crossed, 
one arm cast over them, the other resting along the edge of the 
key-board. The head drooped slightly and the eyes looked out 
just below the spectator's eyes, so that in poise and glance it re- 
called somewhat Michael Angelo's Lorenzo da Medici. And 
something that Gregory had felt in her from the first, and that 
had roused in him dim hostilities and ironies, was now more fully 
revealed. The artist seemed to have looked through the soft mask 
of the woman's flesh, through the disturbing and compelling 
forces of her own consciousness, to the very structure and anat- 
omy of her character. Atavistic, sub-conscious revelations were 
in the face. It was to see, in terms of art, a scientific demon- 
stration of race, temperament, and the results of their interplay 
with environment. The languors, the feverish indolences, the 
caprice of generations of Spanish exiles were there, and the am- 
biguity, the fierceness of Slav ancestry. And, subtly interwoven, 
were the marks of her public life upon her. The face, so 
moulded to indifference, was yet so aware of observation, so 
adjusted to it, so insatiable of it, that, sitting there, absorbed 
and brooding, lovely with her looped pearls and diamonds, her 
silver broideries and silken fringes, she was a product of the 
public, a creature reared on adulation, breathing it in softly, 
peacefully, as the white flowers beside her breathed in light and 
air. Her craftsmanship, her genius, though indicated, were sub- 
merged in this pervasive quality of an indifference based securely 
on the ever present consciousness that none could be indifferent 
to her. And more than the passive acceptance and security was 
indicated. Strange, sleeping potentialities lurked in the face ; as 
at the turn of a kaleidoscope, Gregory could fancy it suddenly 
transformed, by some hostile touch, some menace, to a savage 
violence and rapacity. He was aware, standing between the girl 
who worshipped her and the devoted old woman, of the pang of 
a curious anxiety. 

" Well," said Karen at last, and she looked from the picture to 
him. " What do you think of it ? 

"It's splendid" said Gregory. "It's very fine. And 
beautiful." 



TANTE 89 

" But does it altogether satisfy you ? " Her eyes were again 
on the portrait. "What is lacking, I cannot say; but it seems 
to me that it is painted with intelligence only, not with love. 
It is Madame Okraska, the great genius ; but it is not Tante ; it 
is not even Madame von Marwitz." 

The portrait seemed to Gregory to go so much further and so 
much deeper than what he had himself seen that it was difficult 
to believe that hers might be the deepest vision, but he was glad 
to take refuge in the possibility. " It does seem to me wonder- 
fully like," he said. " But then I don't know ' Tante.' " 

Karen now glanced at Mrs. Talcott. " It is a great bone of 
contention between us," she said, smiling at the old lady, yet 
smiling, Gregory observed, with a touch of challenge. " She 
feels it quite complete. That, in someone who does know Tante, 
I cannot understand." 

Mrs. Talcott, making no reply, glanced up at the portrait and 
then, again, out at the sea. 

Gregory looked at her with awakened curiosity. This agree- 
ment was an unexpected prop for him. "You, too, think it a 
perfect likeness ? " he asked her. Her old blue eyes, old in the 
antique tranquillity of their regard, yet still of such a vivid, un- 
faded turquoise, turned on him and again he had that impression 
of an impassive piercing. 

" It seems to me about as good a picture as anyone 's likely to 
get," said Mrs. Talcott. 

"Yes, but, oh Mrs. Talcott" with controlled impatience 
Karen took her up " surely you see, it is n't Tante. It is a 
genius, a great woman, a beautiful woman, a beautiful and poetic 
creature, of course ; he has seen all that who would n't ? but 
it is almost a woman without a heart. There is something heart- 
less there. I always feel it. And when one thinks of Tante ! " 
And Mrs. Talcott remaining silent, she insisted : " Can you 
really say you don't see what I mean ? " 

" Well, I never cared much about pictures anyway," Mrs. 
Talcott now remarked. 

" Well, but you care for this one more than I do ! " Karen 
returned, with a laugh of vexation. " It is n't a question of 



90 T A N T E 

pictures; it's a question of a likeness. You really think that 
this does Tante justice ? It ? s that I can't understand." 

Mrs. Talcott, thus pursued, again locked up at the portrait, 
and continued, now, to look at it for several moments. And as 
she stood there, looking up, she suddenly and comically reminded 
Gregory of the Frog gardener before the door in " Alice," with 
his stubborn and deliberate misunderstanding. He could almost 
have expected to see Mrs. Talcott advance her thumb and rub the 
portrait, as if to probe the cause of her questioner's persistence. 
When she finally spoke it was only to vary her former judgment : 
" It seems to me about as good a picture as Mercedes is likely to 
get taken," she said. She pronounced the Spanish name: 
" Mursadees." 

Karen, after this, abandoned her attempt to convince Mrs. 
Talcott. Tea was ready, and they went into the morning-room. 
Here Mrs. Talcott presided at the tea-table, and for all his domi- 
nating preoccupation she continued to engage a large part of 
Gregory's attention. She sat, leaning back in her chair, slowly 
eating, her eyes, like tiny, blue stones, immeasurably remote, 
immeasurably sad, fixed on the sea. 

" Is it long since you were in America ? " he asked her. He 
felt drawn to Mrs. Talcott. 

" Why, I guess it 's getting on for twenty-five years now," 
she replied, after considering for a moment ; " since I 've lived 
there. I 've been over three or four times with Mercedes ; on 
tours." 

" Twenty-five years since you came over here ? That is a long 
time." 

" Oh, it 's more than that since I came," said Mrs. Talcott. 
"Twenty-five years since I lived at home. I came over first 
nearly fifty years ago. Yes ; it 's a long time." 

" Dear me ; you have lived most of your life here, then." 

" Yes ; you may say I have." 

" And don't you ever want to go back to America to stay ? " 

" I don't know as I do," said Mrs. Talcott. 

" You 're fonder of it over here, like so many of your com- 
patriots?" 



TANTE 91 

" Well, I don't know as I am," Mrs. Talcott, who had a genius 
it seemed for non-committal statements, varied; and then, as 
though aware that her answers might seem ungracious, she added : 
" All my folks are dead. There 's no reason for my wanting to 
go home that I can think of." 

" Besides, Mrs. Talcott," Karen now helped her on, " home to 
you is where Tante is, is n't it. Mrs. Talcott has lived with 
Tante ever since Tante was born. No one in the world knows 
her as well as she does. It is rather wonderful to think about." 
She had the air, finding Mrs. Talcott appreciated, of putting for- 
ward for her her great claim to distinction. 

"Yes; I know Mercedes pretty well," Mrs. Talcott conceded. 

" How I love to hear about it," said Karen ; " about her first 
concert, you know, Mrs. Talcott, when you curled her hair 
such long, bright brown hair, she had, and so thick, falling below 
her waist, did n't it ? " Mrs. Talcott nodded with a certain com- 
placency. " And she wore a little white muslin frock and white 
shoes and a blue sash ; she was only nine years old ; it was a great 
concert in Warsaw. And she did n't want her hair curled, and 
combed it all out with her fingers just before going on to the 
platform did n't she?" 

Mrs. Talcott was slightly smiling over these reminiscences. 
" Smart little thing," she commented. " She did it the last 
minute so as it was too late for me to fix it again. It made me 
feel dreadful her going on to the platform with her head all 
mussed up like that. She looked mighty pretty all the same." 

" And she was right, too, was n't she ? " said Karen, elated, 
evidently, at having so successfully drawn Mrs. Talcott out. 
" Her hair was never curly, was it. It looked better straight, 
I 'm sure." 

"Well, I don't know about that," said Mrs. Talcott. "I 
always like it curled best, when she was little. But I had to own 
to myself she looked mighty pretty, though I was so mad at her." 

" Tante has always had her own way, I imagine," said Karen, 
" about anything she set her mind on. She had her way about 
being an infant prodigy ; though you were so right about that 
she has often said so, has n't she, and how thankful she is that 



92 TANTE 

you were able to stop it before it did her harm. I must show 
you our photographs of Tante, Mr. Jardine. We have volumes 
and volumes, and boxes and boxes of them. They are far more 
like her, I think, many of them, than the portrait. Some of 
them too dear and quaint when she was quite tiny/' 

Tea was over and Karen, rising, looked towards the shelves 
where, evidently, the volumes and boxes were kept. 

" I really think I ? d rather see some more of this lovely place, 
first/' said Gregory. "Do take me further along the cliff. I 
could see the photographs, you know, the next time I come." 

He, too, had risen and was smiling at her with a little con- 
straint. 

Karen, arrested on her way to the photographs, looked at him 
in surprise. " Will you come again ? You are to be in Cornwall 
so long?" 

" I 'm to be here about a fortnight and I should like to come 
often, if I may." She was unaware, disconcertingly unaware; 
yet her surprise showed the frankest pleasure. 

" How very nice," she said. " I did not think that you could 
come all that way more than once." 

While they spoke, Mrs. Talcott's ancient, turquoise eyes were 
upon them, and in her presence Gregory found it easier to say 
things than it would have been to say them to Karen alone. Al- 
ready, he felt sure, Mrs. Talcott understood, and if it was easy to 
say things in her presence might that not be because he guessed 
that she sympathised? "But I came down to Cornwall to see 
you," he said, leaning on his chair back and tilting it a little 
while he smiled at Karen. 

Her pleasure rose in a flush to her cheek. " To see me ? " 

" Yes ; I felt from our letters that we ought to become great 
friends." 

She looked at him, pondering the unlooked-for possibility he 
put before her. " Great friends ? " she repeated. " I have never 
had a great friend of my own. Friends, of course; the Lipp- 
heims and the Belots; and Strepoff; and you, of course, Mrs. 
Talcott; but never, really, a great friend quite of my own, for 
they are Tante's friends first and come through Tante. Of 



TANTE 93 

course you have come through Tante, too," said Karen, with 
evident satisfaction ; " only not quite in the same way." 

" Not at all in the same way," said Gregory. " Don't forget. 
We met at the concert, and without any introduction! It has 
nothing to do with Madame von Marwitz this time. It 7 s quite 
on our own." 

" Oh, but I would so much rather have it come through her, if 
we are to be great friends," Karen returned, smiling, though 
reflectively. " I think we are to be, for I felt you to be my friend 
from that first moment. But it was at the concert that we met 
and it was Tante's concert. So that it was not quite on our own. 
I want it to be through Tante," she went on, " because it pleases 
me very much to think that we may be great friends, and my 
happy things have come to me through Tante, always." 



CHAPTEE X 

HE came next day and every day. They were favoured with 
the rarely given gift of a perfect spring. They walked 
along the cliffs and headlands. They sat and talked in the 
garden. He took her with Mrs. Talcott for long drives to distant 
parts of the coast which he and Karen would explore, while Mrs. 
Talcott in the car sat, with apparently interminable patience, 
waiting for them. 

Karen played to him in the morning-room ; and this was a new 
revelation of her. She was not a finished performer and her 
music was limited by her incapacity; but she had the gift for 
imparting, with transparent sincerity and unfailing sensitiveness, 
the very heart of what she played. There were Arias from 
Schubert Sonatas, and Bach Preludes, and loving little pieces of 
Schumann, that Gregory thought he had never heard so beauti- 
fully played before. Everything they had to say was said, 
though, it might be, said very softly. He told her that he cared 
more for her music than for any he had listened to, and Karen 
laughed, not at all taking him seriously. " But you do care for 
music, though you are no musician," she said. " I like to play 
to you ; and to someone who does not care it is impossible." 

Her acceptances of their bond might give ground for all 
hope or for none. As for himself there had been, from the mo- 
ment of seeing her again, of knowing in her presence that fear 
and that delight, no further doubt as to his own state and its 
finality. Yet his first perplexities lingered and could at mo- 
ments become painful. 

He felt the beloved creature to be at once inappropriate and 
inevitable. With all that was deepest and most instinctive in 
him her nature chimed; the surfaces, the prejudices, the prin- 
ciples of his life she contradicted and confused. She talked to 
him a great deal, in answer to his questions, about her past life, 

94 



TANTE 95 

and what she told him was often disconcerting. The protective 
tenderness he had felt for her from the first was troubled by his 
realisation of the books she had placidly read under Tante's 
guidance the people whose queer relationships she placidly 
took for granted as in no need of condonation. When he inti- 
mated to her that he disapproved of such contacts and customs, 
she looked at him, puzzled, and then said, with an air of kindly 
maturity at once touching and vexatious: "But that is the 
morality of the Philistines/' 

It was, of course, and Gregory considered it the very best of 
moralities ; but remembering her mother he could not emphasize 
to her how decisively he held by it. 

It was in no vulgar or vicious world that her life, as the child 
of the unconventional sculptor, as the protegee of the great 
pianist, had been passed. But it was a world without religion, 
without institutions, without order. Gregory, though his was not 
the religious temperament, had his reasoned beliefs in the spirit- 
ual realities expressed in institutions and he had his inherited 
instincts of reverence for the rituals that embodied the spiritual 
life of his race. He was impatient with dissent and with facile 
scepticisms. He did not expect a woman to have reasoned be- 
liefs, nor did he ask a credulous, uncritical orthodoxy; but he 
did want the Christian colouring of mind, the Christian outlook ; 
he did want his wife to be a woman who would teach her children 
to say their prayers at her knees. It was with something like 
dismay that he gathered from Karen that her conception of life 
was as untouched by any consciousness of creed as that of a noble 
young pagan. He was angry at himself for feeling it and when 
he found himself applying his rules and measures to her; for 
what had it been from the first but her spiritual strength and 
loveliness that had drawn him to her? Yet he longed to make 
her accept the implications of the formulated faiths that she 
lived by. " Oh, no, you 're not," he said to her when, turning 
unperturbed eyes upon him, she assured him : " Oh yes, I am 
quite, quite a pagan." " I don't think you know what you mean 
when you say you 're a pagan," Gregory continued. 

" But, yes," she returned. " I have no creed. I was brought 



96 TANTE 

up to think of beauty as the only religion. That is my guard- 
ian's religion. It is the religion, she says, of all free souls. 
And my father thought so, too." It was again the assurance of 
a wisdom, not her own, yet possessed by her, a wisdom that she 
did not dream of anybody challenging. Was it not Xante's ? 

"Well/' he remarked, "beauty is a large term. Perhaps it 
includes more than you think." 

Karen looked at him with approbation. "That is what 
Tante says; that it includes everything." And she went on, 
pleased to reveal to him still more of Tante's treasure, since he 
had proved himself thus understanding ; " Tante, you know, be- 
longs to the Catholic Church; it is the only church of beauty, 
she says. But she is not pratiqifante; not croyante in any sense. 
Art is her refuge." 

" I see," said Gregory. " And what is your refuge ? " 

Karen, at this, kept silence for a moment, and then said : " It 
is not that ; not art. I do not feel, perhaps, that I need refuges. 
And I am happier than my dear guardian. I believe in immor- 
tality; oh yes, indeed." She looked round gravely at him 
they were sitting on the turf of a headland above the sea. " I 
believe, that is, in everything that is beautiful and loving going 
on for ever." 

He felt abashed before her. The most dependent and child- 
like of creatures where her trust and love were engaged, she was, 
as well, the most serenely independent. Even Tante, he felt, 
could not touch her faiths. 

" You must n't say that you are a pagan, you see," he said. 

" But Plato believed in immortality," Karen returned, smiling. 
" And you will not tell me that Plato was pr aliquant or croyani" 

He could not claim Plato as a member of the Church of Eng- 
land, though he felt quite ready to demonstrate, before a com- 
petent body of listeners, that, as a nineteenth century English- 
man, Plato would have been. Karen was not likely to follow 
such an argument. She would smile at his seeming sophistries. 

No; he must accept it, and as a very part of her lovableness, 
that she could not be made to fit into the plan of his life as he 
had imagined it. She would not carry on its traditions, for she 



T A N" T E 97 

would not understand them. To win her would be, in a sense, 
to relinquish something of that orderly progression as a profes- 
sional and social creature that he had mapped out for himself, 
though he knew himself to be, through his experience of her, 
already a creature more human, a creature enriched. Karen, if 
she came to love him, would be, through love, infinitely malleable, 
but in the many adjustments that would lie before them it would 
be his part to foresee complications and to do the adjusting. 
Change in her would be a gradual growth, and never towards 
mere conformity. 

He felt it to be the first step towards adjustments when he 
motored Karen and Mrs. Talcott to Guillian House to lunch with 
his friends the Lavingtons. The occasion must mark for him 
the subtle altering of an old tie. Karen and the Lavingtons 
could never be to each other what he and the Lavingtons had 
been. It was part of her breadth that congeniality could never 
for her be based on the half automatic affinities of caste and 
occupation; and it was part of her narrowness, or, rather, of 
her inexperience, that she could see people only as individuals 
and would not recognize the real charm of the Lavingtons, which 
consisted in their being, like their house and park, part of the 
landscape and of an established order of things. Yet, once he 
had her there, he watched the metamorphosis that her presence 
worked in his old associations with pleasure rather than pain. 
It pleased him, intimately, that the Lavingtons should see in 
him a lover as yet uncertain of his chances. It pleased him 
that they should not find in Karen the type that they must 
have expected the future Mrs. Jardine to be, the type of Con- 
stance Armytage and the type of Evelyn Lavington, Colonel and 
Mrs. Lavington's unmarried daughter, who, but for Karen, might 
well have become Mrs. Jardine one day. He observed, with 
a lover's fond pride, that Karen, in her shrunken white serge 
and white straw hat, Karen, with her pleasant imperturbability, 
her mingled simplicity and sophistication, did, most decisively, 
make the Lavingtons seem flavourless. Among them, while Mrs. 
Lavington walked her round the garden and Evelyn elicited with 
kindly concern that she played neither golf, hockey nor tennis, 



98 T A N T E 

and had never ridden to hounds, her demeanour was that of a 
little rustic princess benignly doing her social duty. The only 
reason why she did not appear like this to the Lavingtons was 
that, immutably unimaginative as they were, they knew that she 
wasn't a princess, was, indeed, only the odd appendage of an 
odd celebrity with whom their friend had chosen, oddly, to fall 
in love. They were n't perplexed, because, since he had fallen in 
love with her, she was placed. But they, in the complete con- 
trast they offered, had little recognition of individual values and 
judged a dish by the platter it was served on. A princess was a 
princess, and an appendage an appendage, and a future Mrs. 
Jardine a very recognizable person; just as, had a subtle char- 
lotte russe been brought up to lunch in company with the stewed 
rhubarb they would have eaten it without comment and hardly 
been aware that it was n't an everyday milk-pudding. 

" Did you and Mrs. Lavington and Evelyn and Mrs. Haverfield 
find much to talk of after lunch ? " Gregory asked, as he motored 
Mrs. Talcott and Karen back to Les Solitudes. 

" Yes ; we talked of a good many things," said Karen. " But 
I know about so few of their things and they about so few of 
mine. Miss Lavington was very much surprised to think that 
I had never been to a fox-hunt; and I," Karen smiled, "was 
very much surprised to think that they had never heard Tante 
play." 

"They hardly ever get up to town, you see," said Gregory. 
" But surely they knew about her ? " 

" Not much," said Karen. " Mrs. Lavington asked me about 
her for something pleasant to say and they were such 
strange questions; as though one should be asked whether Mr. 
Arthur Balf our were a Russian nihilist or Metchnikoff an Italian 
poet." Karen spoke quite without grievance or irony. 

" And after your Sargent," said Gregory, " you must have been 
pained by that portrait of Mrs. Haverfield in the drawing- 
room." 

" Mrs. Lavington pointed it out to me specially," said Karen, 
laughing, " and told me that it had been in the Academy. What 
a sad thing; with all those eyelashes! And yet opposite to it 



TANTE 99 

hung the beautiful Gainsborough of a great-grandmother. Mrs. 
Lavington saw no difference, I think." 

" They have n't been trained to see differences," said Gregory, 
and he summed up the Lavingtons in the aphorism to himself 
as well as to Karen; "only to accept samenesses." He hoped 
indeed, by sacrificing the a3sthetic quality of the Lavingtons, to 
win some approbation of their virtues; but Karen, though not 
inclined to proffer unasked criticism, found, evidently, no occa- 
sion for commendation. Later on, when they were back at Les 
Solitudes and walking in the garden, she returned to the subject 
of his friends and said : " I was a little disturbed about Mrs. 
Talcott; did you notice? no one talked to her at all, hardly. 
It was as if they thought her my dame de compagnie. She is n't 
my dame de compagnie; and if she were, I think that she should 
have been talked to." 

Gregory had observed this fact and had hoped that it might 
have escaped Karen's notice. To the Lavingtons Mrs. Talcott's 
platter had been unrecognizable and they had tended to let its 
contents alone. 

" It 's as I said, you know," he put forward a mitigation ; 
" they 've not been trained to see differences ; she is very different, 
isn't she?" 

"Well, but so am I," said Karen, "and they talked to me. 
I don't mean to complain of your friends; that would be very 
rude when they were so nice and kind; and, besides, are your 
friends. But people's thoughtlessness displeases me, not that 
I am not often very thoughtless myself." 

Gregory was anxious to exonerate himself. "I hope she 
did n't feel left out ; " he said. " I did notice that she was n't 
talking. I found her in the garden, alone she seemed to be 
enjoying that, too and she and I went about for quite a long 
time together." 

"I know you did," said Karen. "You are not thoughtless. 
As for her, one never knows what she feels. I don't think that 
she does feel things of that sort at all; she has been used to it 
all her life, one may say ; but there ? s very little she does n't notice 
and understand. She understands oh, perfectly well that 



100 TANTE 

she is a queer old piece of furniture standing in the background, 
and one has to remember not to treat her like a piece of fur- 
niture. It 's a part of grace and tact, is n't it, not to take such 
obvious things for granted. You did n't take them for granted 
with her, or with me," said Karen, smiling her recognition at 
him. " For, of course, to most people I am furniture, too ; and 
if Tante is about, there is, of course, nothing to blame in that; 
everybody becomes furniture when Tante is there." 

"Oh no; I can't agree to that," said Gregory. "Not every- 
body." 

" You know what I mean," Karen rejoined. " If you will 
not agree to it for me, it is because from the first you felt me to 
be your friend; that is different." They were walking in the 
flagged garden where the blue campanulas were now safely 
established in their places and the low afternoon sun slanted 
in among the trees. Karen still wore her hat and motoring veil 
and the smoky grey substance flowed softly back about her 
shoulders. Her face seemed to emerge from a cloud. It had 
always to Gregory's eyes the air of steadfast advance; the way 
in which her hair swept back and up from her brows gave it a 
wind-blown, lifted look. He glanced at her now from time to 
time, while, in a meditative and communicative mood, she con- 
tinued to share her reflections with him. Gregory was very 
happy. 

"Even Tante doesn't always remember enough about Mrs. 
Talcott," she went on. " That is of course because Mrs. Talcott 
is so much a part of her life that she sometimes hardly sees her. 
She is, for her, the dear old restful chair that she sinks back into 
and forgets about. Besides, some people have a right not to see 
things. One does n't ask from giants the same sort of perception 
that one does from pygmies." 

This was indeed hard on the Lavingtons ; but Gregory was not 
thinking of the Lavingtons, who could take care of themselves. 
He was wondering, as he more and more wondered, about 
Madame von Marwitz, and what she saw and what she permitted 
herself not to see. 

" You are n't invisible to her sometimes ? " he inquired. 



TANTE 101 

Her innocence before his ironies made him ashamed always 
of having spoken them. " It is just that that makes me feel 
sometimes so badly about Mrs. Talcott," she answered now; 
" just because she is, in a sense, sometimes invisible, and I 'm 
not. Mrs. Talcott, of course, counts for a great deal more in the 
way of comfort and confidence than I do; I don't believe that 
Tante really is as intimate with anybody in the world as with 
Mrs. Talcott ; but she does n't count as much as I do, I am nearly 
sure, in the way of tenderness. I really think that in the way 
of tenderness I am nearer than anybody." 

They left the flagged garden now, and came down to a lower 
terrace. Here the sun shone fully; they walked to and fro in 
the radiance. " Of course/' Karen continued to define and con- 
fide, " as far as interest goes any one of her real friends counts 
for more than I do, and you must n't think that I mean to 3ay 
that I believe myself the most loved; not at all. But I am the 
tender, home thing in her life ; the thing to pet and care for and 
find waiting. It is that that is so beautiful for me and so tragic 
for her." 

" Why tragic ? " 

"Oh, but you do not feel it? A woman like that, such a 
heart, and such a spirit and no one nearer than 'I am ? That 
she should have no husband and no child? I am a makeshift 
for all that she has lost, or never had." 

"And Mrs. Talcott?" said Gregory after a moment. "Is it 
Mrs. Talcott's tragedy to have missed even a makeshift ? " 

Karen now turned her eyes on him, and her face, as she scruti- 
nized him, showed a slight severity. "Hardly that. She has 
Tante." 

" Has her as the chair has her, you mean ? " He could n't for 
the life of him control the question. It seemed indeed due to 
their friendship that he should not conceal from her the fact that 
he found disproportionate elements in her devotion. Yet it was 
not the right way in which to be frank, and Karen showed him 
so in her reply. " I mean that Tante is everything to her and 
that, in the nature of things, she cannot be so much to Tante. 
You mustn't take quite literally what I said of the chair, you 



102 TANTE 

know. It can hardly be a makeshift to have somebody like Tante 
to love and care for. I don't quite know what you mean by 
speaking like that," Karen said. Her gaze, in meeting his, had 
become almost stern. She seemed to scan him from a distance. 

Gregory, though he felt a pang of disquietude, felt no dis- 
position to retreat. He intended that she should be made to 
understand what he meant. " I think that what it comes to is 
that it is you I am thinking of, rather than of Mrs. Talcott," he 
said. " I don't know your guardian, and I do know you, and 
it is what she gets rather than what she gives that is most ap- 
parent to me." 

" Gets? From me? What may that be? " Karen continued 
to return his gaze almost with haughtiness. 

"The most precious thing I can imagine," said Gregory. 
" Your love. I hope that she is properly grateful for it." 

She looked at him and the slow colour mounted to her cheeks ; 
but it was as if in unconscious response to his feeling ; it hardly, 
even yet, signified self-consciousness. She had stood still in 
asking her last question and she still did not move as she said : 
" I do not like to hear you speak so. It shows me that you under- 
stand nothing." 

" Does it ? I want to understand everything." 

" You care for me," said Karen, standing still, her eyes on his, 
"and I care for you; but what I most wish in such a friend is 
that he should see and understand. May I tell you something? 
Will you wait while I tell you about my life ? " 

" Please tell me." 

"I want you to see and understand Tante," said Karen. 
" And how much I love her ; and why." 

They walked on, from the terrace to the cliff-path. Karen 
stopped when they had gone a little way and leaned her elbows 
on the stone wall looking out at the sea. " She has been every- 
thing to me," she said. " Everything." 

He was aware, as he leaned beside her in the mellow evening 
light, of a great uneasiness mingling with the beautiful gravity 
of the moment. She was near him as she had never yet been 
near. She had almost recognized his love. It was there between 



TANTE 103 

them, and it was as if, not turning from it, she yet pointed to 
something beyond and above it, something that it was his deep 
instinct to evade and hers to show him. He must not take a 
step towards her, she seemed to tell him, until he had proved to 
her that he had seen what she did. And nothing she could say 
would, he felt sure of it, alter his fundamental distrust of 
Madame von Marwitz. 

" I want to tell you about my life," said Karen, looking out at 
the sea from between her hands. "You have heard my story, 
of course ; people are always told it ; but you have never heard it 
from my side. You have heard no doubt about my father and 
mother, and how she left the man she did not love for him. My 
mother died when I was quite little; so, though I remember her 
well she does not come into the part of my story that I want to 
tell you. But I was thirteen years old when my father died, and 
that begins the part that leads to Tante. It was in Rome, in 
winter when he died ; and I was alone with him ; and there was 
no money, and I had more to bear than a child's mind and heart 
should have. He died. And then there were dreadful days. 
Cold, coarse people came and took me and put me in a convent in 
Paris. That convent was like hell to me. I was so miserable. 
And I had never known restraint or unkindness, and the French 
girls, so sly and so small in their thoughts, were hateful to me. 
And I did not like the nuns. I was punished and punished 
rightly no doubt. I was fierce and sullen, I remember, and would 
not obey. Then I heard, by chance, from a girl whose family 
had been to her concert in Paris, that Madame Okraska was with 
her husband at Fontainebleau. Of her I knew nothing but the 
lovely face in the shop-windows. But her husband's name 
brought back distant days to me. He had known my father; 
I remembered him the fair, large, kindly smiling, very sad 
man in my father's studio among the clay and marble. He 
bought once a little head my father had done of me when I was a 
child. So I ran away from the convent 'oh, it was very bad; 
I knocked down a nun and escaped the portress, and hid for a 
long time in the streets. And I made my way through Paris 
and walked for a day and night to Fontainebleau; and there in 



104 T A N T E 

the forest, in the evening, I was lost, and almost dead with 
hunger and fatigue. And as I stood by the road I saw the car- 
riage approaching from very far away and saw sitting in it, as 
it came nearer, the beautiful woman. Shall I ever forget it? 
The dark forest and the evening sky above and her face looking 
at me looking, looking, full of pity and wonder. She has told 
me that I was the most unhappy thing that she had ever seen. 
My father's friend was with her; but though I saw him and 
knew that I was safe, I had eyes only for her. Her face was like 
heaven opening. When the carriage stopped and she leaned to 
me, I sprang to her and she put her arms around me. They 
have been round me ever since/' said Karen, joining her fingers 
over her eyes and leaning her forehead upon them so that her 
face was hidden ; and for a moment she did not speak. " Ever 
since," she went on presently, " she has been joy and splendour 
and beauty. What she has given me is nothing. It is what she 
is herself that lifts the lives of other people. Those who do 
not know her seem to me to have lives so sad and colourless com- 
pared to mine. You cannot imagine it, anyone so great, yet at 
the same time so little and so sweet. She is merry like no one 
.else, and witty, and full of cajoleries, like a child. One cannot 
be dull with her, not for one moment. And there is through it 
all her genius, the great flood of wonderful music ; can you think 
what it is like to live with that? And under-lying everything 
is the great irremediable sorrow. I was with her when it came ; 
the terrible thing. I did not live with them while he was alive, 
you know, my Onkel Ernst ; he was so good and kind always 
the kindest of friends to me; but he loved her too deeply to be 
able to share their life, and how well one understands that in 
her husband. He had me put at a school in Dresden. I did 
not like that much, either. But, even if I were lonely, I knew 
that my wonderful friends my Tante and my Onkel were 
there, like the sun behind the grey day, and I tried to study and 
be dutiful to please them. And in my holidays I was always 
with them, twice it was, at their beautiful estate in Germany. 
And it was there that the horror came that wrecked her life; 
her husband's death, his death that cannot be explained or under- 



TANTB 105 

stood. He drowned himself. We never say it, but we know it. 
That is the fear, the mystery. All his joy with her, his love 
and happiness to leave them ; it was madness ; he had al- 
ways been a sad man ; one saw that in his face ; the doctors said 
it was madness. He disappeared without a word one day. For 
three weeks nothing. Tante was like a creature crying out 
on the rack. And it was I who found him by the lake-edge one 
morning. She was walking in the park, I knew; she used to 
walk and walk fast, fast, quite silent; and with horrible fear I 
thought: If I can keep her from seeing. I turned and she 
was beside me. I could not save her. Ah poor woman ! " 
Karen closed her hands over her face. 

They stood for a long time in silence, Gregory leaning beside 
her and looking down at the sea. His thought was not with the 
stricken figure she put before him; it dwelt on the girl facing 
horror, on the child bearing more than a child should bear. Yet 
he was glad to feel, as a background to his thoughts, that 
Madame von Marwitz was indeed very pitiful. 

"You understand/ 7 said Karen, straightening herself at last 
and laying her hands on the wall. " You see how it is." 

" Yes," said Gregory. 

" It is kind of you, and beautiful, to feel me, as your friend, 
a person of value/' said Karen. " But it does not please me to 
have the great fact of my life belittled." 

" I have n't meant to do that, really. I see why it means so 
much to you. But I see you before I see the facts of your life ; 
they interest me because of you," said Gregory. "You come 
first to me. It 's that I want you to understand." 

Karen had at last turned her eyes upon his and they met them 
in a long encounter that recalled to Gregory their first. It was 
not the moment for explicit recognitions or avowals ; the shadow 
of the past lay too darkly upon her. But that their relation had 
changed her deepened gaze accepted. She took his hand, she 
had a fashion almost boyish of taking his rather than giving her 
hand, and said: "We shall both understand more and more; 
that is so, is it not? And some day you will know her. Until 
you know her you cannot really understand." 



CHAPTER XI 

KAREN" and he had walked back to the house in silence, and 
at the door, where she stood to see him off, it had been 
arranged that he was to lunch at Les Solitudes next day and that 
she was to show him a favourite headland, one not far away, 
but that he had never yet been shown. From the sweetness, yet 
gravity, of her look and voice he could infer nothing but that 
she recognized change and a new significance. Her manner had 
neither the confusion nor the pretended unconsciousness of ordi- 
nary girlhood. She was calm, but with a new thoughtfulness. 
He arrived a little early next day and found Mrs. Talcott alone 
in the morning-room writing letters. He noticed, as she rose 
from the bureau, her large, immature, considered writing. 
" Karen '11 be down in a minute or two, I guess," she said. 
" Take a chair." 

"Don't let me interrupt you," said Gregory, as Mrs. Talcott 
seated herself before him, her hands folded at her waist. But 
Mrs. Talcott, remarking briefly, " Don't mention it," did not 
move back to her former place. She examined him and he ex- 
amined her and he felt that she probed through his composure 
to his unrest. " I wanted a little talk," she observed presently. 
" You 've gotten pretty fond of Karen, have n't you, Mr. Jar- 
dine?" 

This was to come at once to the point. "Very fond," said 
Gregory, wondering if she had been diagnosing his fondness in a 
letter to Madame von Marwitz. 

" She has n't got many friends," Mrs. Talcott, after another 
moment of contemplation, went on. " She 's always been a lone- 
some sort of child." 

" That 's what has struck me, too," said Gregory. 

" Sometimes Mercedes takes her along ; but sometimes she 

106 



TANTE 107 

don't/' Mrs. Talcott pursued. " It ain't a particularly lively sort 
of life for a young girl, going on in an out-of-the-way place like 
this with an old woman like me. She 'a spent most of her time 
with me, when you come to reckon it up." There was no air of 
criticism or confidence in Mrs. Talcott. She put forward these 
remarks with unbiassed placidity. 

" I suppose Madame von Marwitz could n't arrange always to 
take her ? " Gregory asked after a pause. 

" It ain't always convenient toting a young girl round with 
you," said Mrs. Talcott. " Sometimes Mercedes feels like it and 
sometimes she don't. Karen and I stay at home, now that I 'm 
too old to go about with her, and we see her when she 's home. 
That 's the idea. But she ain't much at home. She 's mostly 
travelling and staying around with folks." 

" It is n't a particularly lively time, it seems to me, for either 
of you," said Gregory. It was his instinct to blame Madame von 
Marwitz for the featureless lives led by her dependents, though 
he could but own that it might, perhaps, be difficult to fit them 
into the vagabondage of a great pianist's existence. 

" Well, it 's good enough for me," said Mrs. Talcott. " I 'm 
very contented if it comes to that ; and so is Karen. She 's 
known so much that 's worse, the same as I have. But she 's 
known what's better, too; she was a pretty big girl when her 
Poppa died and she was a companion to him and I reckon that 
without figuring it up much to herself she's lonesome a good 
deal." 

Gregory for a moment was silent. Then he found it quite 
natural to say to Mrs. Talcott : " What I hope is that she will 
marry me." 

" I hope so, too," said Mrs. Talcott with no alteration of tone. 
" I hoped so the moment I set eyes on you. I saw that you were 
a good young man and that you'd make her a good kind 
husband." 

" Thanks, very much," said Gregory, smiling yet deeply 
touched. "I hope I may be. I intend to be if she will have 
me." 

" The child is mighty fond of you," said Mrs. Talcott. " And 



108 TANTB 

it 's not as if she took easy to people. She don't. She 's never 
seemed to need folks. But I can see that she 's mighty fond of 
you, and what I want to say is, even if it don't seem to work out 
like you want it to right away, you hang on, Mr. Jardine ; that 's 
my advice ; an old woman like me understands young girls better 
than they understand themselves. Karen is so wrapped up in 
Mercedes and thinks such a sight of her that perhaps she '11 feel 
she don't want to leave her and that sort of thing; but just you 
hang on." 

" I intend to/' said Gregory. " I can't say how much I thank 
you for being on my side." 

" Yes ; I 'm on your side, and I 'm on Karen's side ; and I want 
to see this thing put through," said Mrs. Talcott. 

Something seemed to hover between them now, a fourth figure 
that must be added to the trio they made. He wondered, if he 
did hang on successfully and if it did work out as he intended 
that it should, how that fourth figure would work in. He 
couldn't see a shared life with Karen from which it could be 
eliminated, nor did he, of course, wish to see it eliminated; but 
he did not see himself, either, as forming one of a band of 
satellites, and the main fact about the fourth figure seemed to 
be that any relation to it involved one, apparently, in disciple- 
ship. There seemed even some disloyalty to Mrs. Talcott in 
accepting her sympathy while anxieties and repudiations such as 
these were passing through his mind; for she, no doubt, saw in 
Karen's relation to Madame von Marwitz the chief asset with 
which she could present a husband; and he expected Mrs. 
Talcott, now, to make some reference to this asset; but none 
came; and if she expected from him some recognition of it, no 
expectancy was visible in the old blue eyes fixed on his face. 
A silence fell between them, and as it grew longer it grew 
the more consoling. Into their compact of understanding she 
let him see, he could almost fancy, that the question of Madame 
von Marwitz was not to enter. 

Karen, when she appeared, was looking preoccupied, and after 
shaking his hand and giving him, for a moment, the sweet, 
grave smile with which they had parted, she glanced at the 



TANTE 109 

writing-table. " You are writing to Tante, Mrs. Talcott ? " she 
said. " You heard from her this morning ? " 

"Yes; I heard from her/' said Mrs. Talcott Gregory at 
once inferred that Madame von Marwitz had been writing for 
information concerning himself. 

She must by now have become aware of his correspondence 
with Karen and its significant continuity. 

" Are there any messages ? any news ? " asked Karen, and 
she could not keep dejection from her voice. She had had no 
letter. 

"It's only a business note/' said Mrs. Talcott. "Hasn't 
Miss Scrotton written ? " 

" Does my cousin keep you posted as a rule ? " Gregory 
asked, as Karen shook her head. 

"No; but Tante asks her to write sometimes, when she is 
too tired or rushed; and I had a letter from her, giving me 
their plans, only a few days ago; so that I know that all is 
well. It is only that I am always greedy for Tante's letters, 
and this is the day on which they often come." 

They went in to lunch. Karen spoke little during the meal. 
Gregory and Mrs. Talcott carried on a desultory conversation 
about hotels and the different merits of different countries in 
this respect. Mrs. Talcott had a vast experience of hotels. 
From Germany to Australia, from New York to St. Petersburg, 
they were known to her. 

After lunch he and Karen started on their walk. It had 
been a morning of white fog and the mist still lay thickly over 
the sea, so that from the high cliff-path, a clear, pale sky above 
them, they looked down into milky gulfs of space. Then, as 
the sun shone softly and a gentle breeze arose, a rift of dark, 
still blue appeared below, as the sky appears behind dissolving 
clouds, and fold upon fold, slumbrously, the mist rolled back 
upon itself. The sea lay like a floor of polished sapphire be- 
neath the thick, soft webs. Far below, in a cavern, the sound 
of lapping water clucked, and a sea-gull, indolently intent, 
drifted by slowly on dazzling wings. 

Karen and Gregory reached their headland and, seating them- 



110 TANTE 

selves on the short, warm turf, looked out over the sea. During 
the walk they had hardly spoken, and he had wondered whether 
her thoughts were with him and with their last words yesterday, 
or dwelling still on her disappointment. But presently, as if 
her preoccupation had drifted from her as the fog had drifted 
from the sea, Karen turned tranquil eyes upon him and said: 
"I suddenly thought, and the stillness made me think it, and 
Mrs. Talcott's hotels, too, perhaps, of all that is going on in the 
world while we sit here so lonely and so peaceful. Frenchmen 
with fat cheeks and flat-brimmed silk hats sitting at little tin 
tables in boulevards ; is n't it difficult to realize that they exist ? 
and Arabs on camels crossing deserts ; they are quite imaginable ; 
and nuns praying in convent cells ; and stokers, all stripped and 
sweating, under the engines of great steamers; and a little 
Japanese artist carving so carefully the soles of the feet of some 
tiny image; there they are, all going on; as real to themselves 
as we are, at the very moment that we sit here and feel that 
only we, in all the world, are real." She might almost have 
been confiding her fancies to a husband whose sympathy had 
been tested by years of fond companionship. 

Gregory, wondering at her, loving her, pulled at the short 
turf as he lay, propped on an elbow, beside her, and said: 
" What nice thoughts you have." 

" You have them, too, I think," said Karen, smiling down at 
him. " And nicer ones. Mine are usually only amusing, like 
those; but yours are often beautiful. I see that in your face, 
you know. It is a face that makes me think always of a cold, 
clear, steely pool ; that is what it looks like if one does not 
look down into it but only across it, as it were; but if one 
bends over and looks down, deep down, one sees the sky and 
passing white clouds and boughs of trees. I saw deep down at 
once. That is why," her eyes rested upon him, "we were 
friends from the first." 

" It ? s what you bring that you see," said Gregory ; " you make 
me think of all those things." 

"Ah, but you think them for yourself, too; when you are 
alone you think them." 



T A N T E 111 

"But when I am alone and think them, without you in the 
thought of them, it 's always with sadness, for something I 've 
lost. You bring them back, with happiness. The thought of 
you is always happy. I have never known anyone who seemed 
to me so peacefully happy as you do. You are very happy, 
are n't you ? " Gregory looked down at his little tufts of turf 
as he asked this question. 

" I am glad I seem to you like that," said Karen. " I think 
I am usually quiet and gay and full of confidence; I some- 
times wonder at my confidence. But it is not always so. No, 
I am not always happy. Sometimes, when I think and remem- 
ber, it is like feeling a great hole being dug in my heart as 
if the iron went down and turned up dark forgotten things. I 
have that feeling sometimes; and then I wonder that I can 
ever be happy." 

"What things, dear Karen?" 

"You know, I think." Karen looked out at the sea. 
"Tante's face when I found her husband's body. And my 
father's face when he was dying; he did not know what was to 
become of me; he was quite weak, like a little child, and he 
cried on my breast. And my mother's face when she died. I 
have not told you anything of my mother." 

"Will you? I want to hear everything about you; every- 
thing," said Gregory. 

"This is her locket," Karen said, putting her hand over it. 
"Her face is in it; would you like to see it?" 

He held out his hand, and slipping the ribbon over her head 
she pressed the little spring and laid the open locket in it. 

He saw the tinted photograph of a young girl's head, a girl 
younger than Karen and with her fair hair and straight brows 
and square chin; but it was a gentler face and a clumsier, and 
strange with its alien nationality. 

" I always feel as if she were my child and I her mother when 
I look at that," said Karen. " It was taken before I was born. 
She had a happy life, and yet my memory of her breaks my 
heart. She was so very young and it frightened her so much 
to die ; she could not bear to leave us." 



112 . TANTE 

Gregory, holding the little locket, looked at it silently. Then 
he put it to his lips. " You care for me, don't you, Karen ? " 
he said. 

"You know, I think," said Karen, repeating her former 
words. 

He laid the locket in her hand, and the moment had for him 
a sacramental holiness so that the locket was like a wedding- 
ring; holding it and her hand together he said, lifting his eyes 
to hers, " I love you. Do you love me ? " 

Her eyes had filled with tears when he had kissed her 
mother's face, and there was young awe in her gaze; but no 
shadow, no surprise. 

"Yes," she said, unhesitatingly. "Yes, I love you, dear 
Gregory." 

The simplicity, the inevitableness of his bliss overwhelmed 
him. He held her hand and looked down at it. All about 
them was the blue. All her past, its beauty, its dark, forgot- 
ten things, she had given to him. She was his for ever. " Oh, 
my darling Karen," he murmured. 

She bent down to look at him now, smiling and unclosing 
her hand from his gently, so that she could look at her mother's 
face. "How glad she would be if she could know," she said. 
" Perhaps she does know. Do you not think so ? " 

"Dear I don't know what I think about those hopes. I 
hope." 

" Oh, it is more than hope, my belief that she is there ; that 
she is not lost. Only one cannot tell how or when or where 
it all may be. For that, yes, it can be only hope. She, too, 
would love you, I am sure," Karen continued. 

" Would she ? I 'm glad you think so, darling." 

"We are so much alike, you see, that it is natural to feel 
sure that we should think alike. Do you not think that her 
face is much like mine? What happiness! I am glad it is 
not a day of rain for our happiness." And she then added, 
" I hope we may be married." 

"Why, we are to be married, dear child," Gregory said, 



TANTE 113 

smiling at her. " There is no ' may ' about it, since you love 
me." 

" Only one," said Karen, who still looked at her mother's 
face. " And perhaps it will he well not to speak much of our 
love till we can know. But I feel sure that she will say this 
happiness is for me." 

" She ? " Gregory repeated. For a moment he imagined that 
she meant some superstition connected with her mother. 

Karen, slipping the ribbon over her head, had returned the 
locket to its place. "Yes; Tante," she said, still with the 
locket in her hand. 

" Tante ? " Gregory repeated. 

At his tone, its change, she lifted startled eyes to his. 

"What has she to do with it?" Gregory asked after a mo- 
ment in which she continued to gaze at him. 

" What has Tante to do with it ? " said Karen in a wonder- 
ing voice. "Do you think I could marry without Tante's 
consent ? " 

" But you love me ? " 

" I do not understand you. Was it wrong of me to have said 
so before I had her consent? Was that not right? Not fair 
to you?" 

" Since you love me you ought to be willing to marry me 
whether you have your guardian's consent or not." His voice 
strove to control its bitterness; but the day had darkened; all 
his happiness was blurred. He felt as if a great injury had 
been done him. 

Karen continued to gaze at him in astonishment. "Would 
you have expected me to marry you without my mother's con- 
sent? She is in my mother's place." 

" If you loved me I should certainly expect you to say that 
you would marry me whether your mother consented or not. 
You are of age. There is nothing against me. Those are n't 
English ideas at all, Karen." 

"But I am not English," said Karen, "my guardian is not 
English. They are our ideas." 



114 TANTE 

"You mean, you seriously mean, tha^t, loving me, you would 
give me up if she told you to ? " 

"Yes," said Karen, now with the heaviness of their recog- 
nized division. " She would not refuse her consent unless it 
were right that I should give you up." 

For some moments after this Gregory, in silence, looked 
down at the grass between them, clasping his knees ; for he now 
sat upright. Then, controlling his anger to argumentative 
rationality, he said, while again wrenching away at the strongly 
rooted tufts : " If she did refuse, what reason could she give 
for refusing ? As I say, there 'B absolutely nothing against 
me." 

Karen had kept her troubled eyes on his downcast face. 
" There might be things she did not like ; things she would not 
believe for my happiness in married life," she replied. 

" And you would take her word against mine ? " 

"You forget, I think," he had lifted his eyes to hers and 
she looked back at him, steadily, with no entreaty, but with 
all the perplexity of her deep pain. " She has known me for 
eleven years. I have only known you for three months." 

He could not now control the bitterness or the dismay; for, 
coldly, cuttingly he knew it, it was quite possible that Madame 
von Marwitz would not " like things " in him. Their one en- 
counter had not been of a nature to endear him to her. "It 
simply means," he said, looking into her eyes, "that you 
have n't any conception of what love is. It means that you don't 
love me." 

They looked at each other for a moment and then Karen 
said, " That is hard." And after another moment she rose 
to her feet. Gregory got up and they went down the cliff-path 
towards Les Solitudes. 

He had not spoken recklessly. His words expressed his sense 
of her remoteness. He could not imagine what sort of love it 
was that could so composedly be put aside. And making no 
feminine appeal or protest, she walked steadily, in silence, be- 
fore him. Only at a turning of the way did he see that her 
lips were compressed and tears upon her cheeks. 



T A N T E 115 

" Karen/' he said, looking into her face as he now walked 
beside her; " won't you talk it over? You astonish me so 
unspeakably. Can she destroy our friendship, too ? Would you 
give me up as a friend if she did n't like things in me ? " 

The tears expressed no yielding, for she answered " Yes." 

"And how far do you push submission? If she told you to 
marry someone she chose for you, would you consent, whether 
you loved him or not ? " 

" It is not submission," said Karen. " It is our love, hers 
and mine. She would not wish me to marry a man I did not 
love. The contrary is true. My guardian before she went 
away spoke to me of a young man she had chosen for me, some- 
one for whom she had the highest regard and affection; and I, 
too, am very fond of him. She felt that it would be for my 
happiness to marry him, and she hoped that I would consent. 
But I did not love him. I told her that I could never love him ; 
and so it ended immediately. You do her injustice in your 
thoughts of her; and you do me injustice, too, if you think of 
me as a person who would marry where I did not love." 

He walked beside her, bitterly revolving the sorry comfort 
of this last speech. "Who was the young man?" he asked. 
Not that he really cared to know. 

"His name is Herr Franz Lippheim," said Karen, gravely. 
"He is a young musician." 

"Herr Franz Lippheim," Gregory repeated, with an irrita- 
tion glad to wreak itself on this sudden object presented op- 
portunely. " How could you have been imagined as marrying 
someone called Lippheim ? " 

"Why not, pray?" 

"Is he a German Jew?" Gregory inquired after a moment. 

"He is, indeed, of Joachim's nationality," Karen answered, 
in a voice from which the tears were gone. 

They walked on, side by side, the estrangement cutting deep 
between their new-won nearness. Yet in the estrangement was 
an intimacy deeper than that of the merely blissful state. 
They seemed in the last miserable half hour to have advanced 
by years their knowledge of each other. Mrs. Talcott and tea 



116 TANTE 

were waiting for them in the morning-room. The old woman 
fixed her eyes upon each face in turn and then gave her atten- 
tion to her tea-pot. 

"I am sorry, Mrs. Talcott, that we are so late," Karen said. 
Her composure was kept only by an effort that gave to her tones 
a stately conventionality. 

" Don't mention it," said Mrs. Talcott. " I 'm only just in 
myself." 

" Has it not been a beautiful afternoon ? " Karen continued. 
" What have you been doing in the garden, Mrs. Talcott ? " 

"I sowed a big bed of mignonette down by the arbour, and 
Mitchell and I set out a good lot of plants." 

Mrs. Talcott made her replies to the questions that Karen 
continued to ask, in an even voice in which Gregory, who kept 
his dismal eyes upon her, detected a melancholy patience. Mrs. 
Talcott must perceive his state to be already one of "hanging 
on." Of her sympathy he was, at all events, assured. She 
showed it by rising as soon as he and Karen had drunk their tea. 
" I Ve got some more things to do," she said. " Good-bye, Mr. 
Jardine. Are you coming over to-morrow ? " 

" No," said Gregory taking Mrs. Talcott's hand. " My holi- 
day is over. I shall be going back to town to-morrow." 

Mrs. Talcott looked into his eyes. " Well, that 's too bad," 
she observed. 

" Is n't it ? I 'd far rather stay here, I can assure you," said 
Gregory. 

" We '11 miss you, I guess," said Mrs. Talcott. " I 'm very 
glad to have had the pleasure of making your acquaintance." 

" And I of making yours." 

Mrs. Talcott departed and Gregory turned to Karen. She 
was standing near the window, looking at him. 

"We must say good-bye, too, I suppose," said Gregory, mas- 
tering his grief. "You will give me your guardian's address 
so that I can write to her at once ? " 

Her face had worn the aspect of a grey, passive sheet of 
water; a radiant pallor now seemed struck from its dulled 
surface. 



TANTE 117 

" You are going to write to Tante ? " she said. 

"Isn't that the next step?" Gregory asked. "You will 
write, too, won't you ? Or is it part of my ordeal that I 'm to 
plead my cause alone?" 

Karen had clasped her hands together on her breast and, in 
the eyes fixed on his, tears gathered. " Do not speak harshly," 
she said. "I am so sorry there must be the ordeal. But so 
happy, too so suddenly. Because I believed that you were 
going to leave me since you thought me so wrong and so un- 
loving." 

" Going to leave you, Karen ? " Gregory repeated in amaze- 
ment. Desperate amusement struggled in his face with self- 
reproach. "My darling child, what must you think of me? 
And, actually, you 'd have let me go ? " He had come to her 
and taken her hands in his. 

"What else could I do?" 

" Such an idiot would have deserved it ? Could you believe 
me such an idiot? Darling, you so astonish me. What a 
strange, indomitable creature you are." 

" What else could I do, Gregory ? " she repeated, looking into 
his face and not smiling in answer to his smiling, frowning 
gaze. 

" Love me more ; that 's what you could have done a great 
deal more," said Gregory. " That 's what you must do, Karen. 
I can't bear to think that you would n't marry me without her 
consent. I can't bear to think that you don't love me enough. 
But leave you because you don't love me as much as I want you 
to love me ! My darling, how little you understand." 

" You seemed very angry," said Karen. " I was so unhappy. 
I don't know how I should have borne it if you had gone away 
and left me like this. But love should not make one weak, 
Gregory. There you are wrong, to think it is because I do not 
love you." 

" Ah, you '11 find out if I 'm wrong ! " Gregory exclaimed 
with tender conviction. " You '11 find out how much more you 
are to love me. Oh, yes, I will kiss you good-bye, Karen. I 
don't care if all the Tantes in the world forbid it ! " 



118 TANTE 

In thinking afterwards of these last moments that they had 
had together, the discomfitures and dismays of the afternoon 
tended to resolve themselves for Gregory into the memory of 
the final yielding. She had let him take her into his arms, 
and with the joy was the added sweetness of knowing that in 
permitting and reciprocating his unauthorized kiss she sacrificed 
some principles, at all events, for his sake. 



CHAPTEE XII 

MADAME VON MARWITZ was sitting on the great ter- 
race of a country-house in Massachusetts, opening and 
reading her post, as we have already seen her do. Impatient 
and weary as the occupation often made her, she yet depended 
upon the morning waves of adulation that lapped in upon her 
from every quarter of the earth. To miss the fullness of the 
tide gave her, when by chance there was deficiency, the feeling 
that badly made cafe au lait gave her at the beginning of the 
day; something was wrong; the expected stimulant lacked in 
force or in flavour, and coffee that was not strong and sweet 
and aromatic was a mishap so unusual that, when it occurred, 
it became an offence almost gross and unnatural, as did a post 
that brought few letters of homage and appreciation. To-day 
the mental coffee was as strong and as perfumed as that of 
which she had shortly before partaken in her lovely little Louis 
Quinze boudoir, after she had come in from her bath. The 
bath-room was like that of a Roman Empress, all white marble, 
with a square of emerald water into which one descended down 
shallow marble steps. Madame von Marwitz was amused by 
the complexities of luxury among which she found herself, 
some of which, even to her, were novel. "Eh, eh, ma chere" 
she had said to Miss Scrotton, " beautiful if you will, and very 
beautiful ; but its nails are too much polished, its hair too much 
ondule. I prefer a porcelain to a marble bath-tub." But the 
ingenuities of hospitality which the Aspreys earnest and ac- 
complished millionaires lavished upon their guests made one, 
she owned, balmily comfortable. And as she sat now in her soft 
white draperies under a great silken sunshade, raised on a stand 
above her and looking in the sunlight like a silver bell, the 
beauty of her surroundings the splendid Italian gardens, a 
miracle of achievement even if lacking, as the miraculous may, 

119 



120 TANTE 

an obvious relation with its surroundings; the landscape with 
its inlaid lake and wood and hill and great arch of bluest sky; 
the tall, transparent, Turneresque trees in the middle distance; 
all this stately serenity seemed to have wrought in her an 
answering suavity and gladness. There was almost a latent 
gaiety in her glance, as, with her large, white, securely moving 
hands, which seemed to express their potential genius in every 
deft and delicate gesture, she took up and cut open and un- 
folded her letters, pausing between them now and then to 
tweak off and eat a grape as large as a plum from the bunch 
lying on its leaves in a Veronese-like silver platter beside her. 

This suavity, this gladness and even gaiety of demeanour 
were apparent to Miss Eleanor Scrotton when she presently 
emerged from the house and advanced slowly along the terrace, 
pausing at intervals beside its balustrade to gaze with a some- 
what melancholy eye over the prospect. 

Miss Scrotton was struggling with a half formulated sense of 
grievance. It was she who had brought Madame von Marwitz 
and the Aspreys together. Madame von Marwitz already knew, 
of course, most of the people in America who were worth 
knowing; if she hadn't met them there she had met them in 
Europe; but the Aspreys she had, till then, never met, and 
they had been, indisputably, Miss Scrotton's possession. Miss 
Scrotton had known them slightly for several years ; her father 
and Mr. Asprey had corresponded on some sociological theme 
and the Aspreys had called on him in London in a mood of 
proper deference and awe. She had written to the Aspreys be- 
fore sailing with Mercedes, had found that they were winter- 
ing in Egypt, but would be back in Amercia in Spring, ready 
to receive Madame von Marwitz and herself with open arms; 
and within those arms she had, a week ago, placed her treasure. 
No doubt someone else would have done it if she hadn't; and 
perhaps she had been too eager in her determination that no 
one else should do it. Perhaps she was altogether a little too 
eager. Madame von Marwitz liked people to care for her and 
showed a pretty gratitude for pains endured on her behalf; at 
least she usually did so; but it may well have been that the 



TANTE 121 

great woman, at once vaguely aloof and ironically observant, 
had become a little irked, or bored, or merely amused at hearing 
so continually, as it were, her good Scrotton panting be- 
side her, tense, determined and watchful of opportunity. How- 
ever that may have been, Miss Scrotton, as Madame von Mar- 
witz's glance now lifted and rested upon herself, detected the 
sharper gaiety defined by the French as "malice" lighting, 
though ever so mildly, her friend's eyes and lips. Like most 
devotees Miss Scrotton had something of the valet in her com- 
position, and with the valet's capacity for obsequiousness went 
a valet-like shrewdness of perception. She hadn't spent four 
months travelling about America with Madame von Marwitz 
without seeing her in undress. She had long since become un- 
comfortably aware that when Madame von Marwitz found one 
a little ridiculous she could be unkind, and that when one 
added plaintiveness to folly she often amused herself by giving 
one, to speak metaphorically, soft yet sharp little pinches that 
left one nervously uncertain of whether a caress or an aggres- 
sion had been intended. 

Miss Scrotton was plaintive, and she could not conceal it. 
Glory as she might in the role of second fiddle, she was very 
tenaciously aware of what was due to that subservient but by 
no means insignificant performer; and the Aspreys had not 
shown themselves enough aware, Mercedes had not shown her- 
self aware at all, of what they all owed to her sustaining, dis- 
creet and harmonious accompaniment. In the carefully selected 
party assembled at Belle Vue for Madame von Marwitz's de- 
lectation, she had been made a little to feel that she was but 
one of the indistinguishable orchestra that plucked out from 
accommodating strings a mellow bass to the one thrilling solo. 
Not for one moment did she grudge any of the recognitions 
that were her great friend's due; but she did expect to bask 
beside her; she did expect to find transmitted to her an im- 
portant satellite's share of beams; and, it wasn't to be denied, 
Mercedes had been too much occupied with other people 
and with one other in particular to shine upon her in any 
distinguishing degree. Mercedes had the faculty, chafe against 



122 TANTE 

it as one might and her very fondness, her very familiarity 
were a part of the effect of making one show as an unim- 
portant satellite, as something that would revolve when wanted 
and be contentedly invisible when that was fitting. " I might 
almost as well be a paid dame de compagnie," Miss Scrotton 
had more than once murmured to herself with a lip that 
trembled; and, obscurely, she realised that close association 
with the great might reveal one as insignificant rather than as 
glorified. It was therefore with her air of melancholy that 
she paused in her advance along the terrace to gaze out at the 
prospect, and with an air of emphasized calm and dignity that 
she finally came towards her friend; and, as she came, thus 
armed, the blitheness deepened in the great woman's eyes. 

" Well, ma cherie" she remarked, " How goes it ? " She spoke 
in French. 

"Very well, ma lien aimee," Miss Scrotton replied in the 
same language. Her French was correct, but Mercedes often 
made playful sallies at the expense of her accent. She pre- 
ferred not to talk in French. And when Madame von Marwitz 
went on to ask her where her fellow convives were, it was in 
English that she answered, " I don't know where they all are 
I have been busy writing letters; Mrs. Asprey and Lady 
Rose are driving, I know, and Mr. Asprey and Mr. Drew I 
saw in the smoking-room as I passed. The Marquis I don't 
think is down yet, nor Mrs. Furnivall; the young people are 
playing tennis, I suppose." 

Miss Scrotton looked about the terrace with its rhythmic 
tubs of flowering trees, its groups of chairs, its white silk 
parasols, and then wandered to the parapet to turn and glance 
up at the splendid copy of an Italian villa that rose above it. 
" It is really very beautiful, Mercedes," she observed. " It be- 
comes the more significant from being so isolated, so divorced 
from what we are accustomed to find in Europe as a setting 
for such a place, does n't it ? Just as, I always think, the 
people of the Asprey type, the best this country has to offer, 
are more significant, too, for being picked out from so much 
that is indistinguishable. I do flatter myself, darling, that 



TANTE 123 

in this visit, at least, I've been able to offer you something 
really worth your while, something that adds to your ex- 
perience of people and places. You are enjoying yourself," 
said Miss Scrotton with a manner of sad satisfaction. 

"Yes; truly/' Madame von Marwitz made genial reply. 
"The more so for finding myself surrounded by so many old 
acquaintances. It is a particular pleasure to see again Lady 
Eose and the vivacious and intelligent Mrs. Furnivall; it was 
in Venice that we last met; her Palazzo there you must one 
day see. Monsieur de Hautefeuille and Mr. Drew I counted 
already as friends in Europe." 

" And Mrs. Asprey you will soon count as one, I hope. She 
is really a somewhat remarkable woman. She comes, you 
know, of one of their best and oldest families." 

" Oh, for that, no ; not remarkable. Good, if you will 
bon comme du pain; it strikes me much, that goodness, among 
these American rich whom we are accustomed to hear so crudely 
caricatured in Europe; and it is quite a respectable little 
aristocracy. They ally themselves, as we see here in our ex- 
cellent host and hostess, with what there is of old blood in the 
country and win tradition to guide their power. They are not 
the flaunting, vulgar rich, of whom we hear so much from 
those who do not know them, but the anxious, thoughtful, vir- 
tuous rich, oppressed by their responsibilities and all studying 
so hard, poor dears, at stiff, deep books, in order to fulfil them 
worthily. They all go to conferences, these ladies, it seems, 
and study sociology. They take life with a seriousness that I 
have never seen equalled. Mrs. Asprey is like them all; good, 
oh, but yes. And I am pleased to know her, too. Mrs. Fur- 
nivall had promised her long since, she tells me, that it should 
be. She and Mrs. Furnivall are old school-mates." 

Miss Scrotton, all her merit thus mildly withdrawn from her, 
stood silent for some moments looking away at the lake and the 
Turneresque trees. 

" It was so very kind of you, Mercedes, to have had Mr. Drew 
asked here," she observed at last, very casually. "It is a real 
opportunity for a young bohemian of that type; you are a true 



124: TANTE 

fairy-godmother to him; first Mrs. Forrester and now the 
Aspreys. Curious, wasn't it, his appearing over here so sud- 
denly?" 

" Curious ? It did not strike me so," said Madame von Mar- 
witz, showing no consciousness of the thrust her friend had 
ventured to essay. " People come to America a great deal, 
do they not; and often suddenly. It is the country of sud- 
denness. His books are much read here, it seems, and he had 
business with his publishers. He knew, too, that I was here; 
and that to him was also an attraction. Why curious, my 
Scrotton?-" 

Miss Scrotton disliked , intensely being called "my Scrotton;" 
but she had never yet found the necessary courage to protest 
against the appellation. " Oh, only because I had had no hint 
of it until he appeared/' she returned. " And I wondered if 
you had had. Yes; I suppose he would be a good deal read 
over here. It is a very derivative and artificial talent, don't 
you think, darling ? " 

"Rather derivative; rather artificial," Madame von Marwitz 
replied serenely. 

" He does n't look well, does he ? " Miss Scrotton pursued, 
after a little pause. " I don't like that puffiness about the eye- 
lids and chin. It will be fatal for him to become fat." 

"No," said Madame von Marwitz, as serenely as before, her 
eyes now on a letter that she held. "Ah, no; he could rise 
above fat, that young man. I can see him fat with impunity. 
Would it become, then, somewhat the Talleyrand type? How 
many distinguished men have been fat. Napoleon, Renan, 
Gibbon, Dr. Johnson " she turned her sheet as she mildly 
brought out the desultory list. "And all seem to end in n, 
do they not ? I am glad that I asked Mr. Drew. He flavours 
the dish like an aromatic herb ; and what a success he has been ; 
hein ? But he is the type of personal success. He is independ- 
ent, indifferent, individual." 

"Ah, my dear, you are too generous to that young man," 
Miss Scrotton mused. " It 's beautiful, it 's wonderful to watch ; 
but you are, indeed, too kind to him." She mused, she was 



TANTB 125 

absent, yet she knew, and knew that Mercedes knew, that never 
before in all their intercourse had she ventured on such a speech. 
It implied watchfulness; it implied criticism; it implied, even, 
anxiety; it implied all manner of things that it was not per- 
mitted for a satellite to say. 

The Baroness's eyes were on her letter, and though she did 
not raise them her dark brows lifted. " Tiens" she continued, 
" you find that I am too kind to him ? " 

Miss Scrotton, to keep up the appearance of ingenuousness, 
was forced to further definition. " I don't think, darling, that in 
your sympathy, your solicitude, where young talent is concerned, 
you quite realize how much you give, how much you can be 
made use of. The man admires you, ' of course, and has, of 
course, talent of a sort. Yet, when I see you together, I 
confess that I receive sometimes the impression of a scattering 
of pearls." 

Madame von Marwitz laid down her letter. " Ah ! ah ! oh ! 
oh ! ma bonne" she said. She laughed out. Her eyes were 
lit with dancing sparks. "Do you know you speak as if you 
were very, very jealous of this young man who is found so 
charming ? " 

"Jealous, my dear Mercedes?" Miss Scrotton's emotion 
showed itself in a dark flush. 

" Mais oui; mais oui; you tell me that my friend is a swine. 
Does that not mean that you, of late, have received too few 
pearls?" 

" My dear Mercedes ! Who called him a swine ? " 

" One does n't speak of scattered pearls without rousing these 
associations." Her tone was beaming. 

Was it possible to swallow such an affront? Was it possible 
not to? And she had brought it upon herself. There was 
comfort and a certain restoration of dignity in this thought. 
Miss Scrotton, struggling inwardly, feigned lightness. " So few 
of us are worthy of your pearls, dear. Unworthiness does n't, 
I hope, consign us to the porcine category. Perhaps it is that 
being, like him, a little person, I 'm able to see Mr. Drew's merits 
and demerits more impartially than you do. That is all. I 



126 TANTE 

really ought to know a good deal about Mr. Drew/' Miss Scrotton 
pursued, regaining more self-control, now that she had steered 
her way out of the dreadful shoals where her friend's words had 
threatened to sink her ; " I Ve known him since the days when 
he was at Oxford and I used to stay there with my uncle the 
Dean. He was sitting, then, at the feet of Pater. It ? s a deriva- 
tive, a parvenu talent, and, I do feel it, I confess I do, a derivative 
personality altogether, like that of so many of these clever young 
men nowadays. He is, you know, of anything but distinguished 
antecedents, and his reaction from his own milieu has been, 
perhaps, from the first, a little marked. Unfortunately his mar- 
riage is there to remind people of it, and I never see Mr. Drew 
dans le monde without, irrepressibly, thinking of the dismal little 
wife in Surbiton whom I once called upon, and his swarms 
but swarms, my dear of large-mouthed children/' 

Miss Scrotton wondered, as she proceeded, whether she had 
again too far abandoned discretion. 

The Baroness examined her next letter for a moment before 
opening it and if she, too, had received her sting, she abandoned 
nothing. 

She answered with complete, though perhaps ominous, mild- 
ness : " He is rather like Shelley, I always think, a sophisticated 
Shelley who had sat at the feet of Pater. Shelley, too, had 
swarms of children, and it is possible that they were large- 
mouthed. The plebeian origin that you tell me of rather attracts 
me. I care, especially, for the fine flame that mounts from dark- 
ness ; and I, too, on one side, as you will remember, ma bonne, am 
du peuple" 

" My dear Mercedes ! Your father was an artist, a man of 
genius; and if your parents had risen from the gutter, you, by 
your own genius, transcend the question of rank as completely as 
a Shakespeare." 

The continued mildness was alarming Miss Scrotton; an 
eagerness to make amends was in her eye. 

" Ah but did he, poor man ! " Madame von Marwitz mused, 
rather irrelevantly, her eyes on her letter. " One hears now, not. 
But thank you, my Scrotton, you mean to be consoling. I have, 



TANTE 127 

however, no dread of the gutter. Tiens," she turned a page, 
" here is news indeed/' 

Miss Scrotton had now taken a chair beside her and her fingers 
tapped a little impatiently as the Baroness's eye far from the 
thought of pearls and swine went over the letter. 

" Tiens, liens" Madame von Marwitz repeated ; " the little 
Karen is sought in marriage." 

"Really," said Miss Scrotton, "how very fortunate for the 
poor little thing. Who is the young man, and how, in heaven's 
name, has she secured a young man in the wilds of Cornwall ? " 

Madame von Marwitz made no reply. She was absorbed in 
another letter. And Miss Scrotton now perceived, with amaze- 
ment and indignation, that the one laid down was written in the 
hand of Gregory Jardine. 

" You don't mean to tell me/' Miss Scrotton said, after some 
moments of hardly held patience, " that it 's Gregory ? " 

Madame von Marwitz, having finished her second letter, was 
gazing before her with a somewhat ambiguous expression. 

" Tallie speaks well of him," she remarked at last. " He has 
made a very good impression on Tallie." 

" Are you speaking of Gregory Jardine, Mercedes ? " Miss 
Scrotton repeated. 

Madame von Marwitz now looked at her and as she looked the 
tricksy light of malice again grew in her eye. " Mais oui; mais 
oui. You have guessed correctly, my Scrotton," she said. " And 
you may read his letter. It is pleasant to me to see that stiff, 
self-satisfied young man brought to his knees. Read it, ma chere, 
read it. It is an excellent letter." 

Miss Scrotton read, and, while she read, Madame von Marwitz's 
cold, deep eyes rested on her, still vaguely smiling. 

" How very extraordinary," said Mis Scrotton. She handed 
back the letter. 

" Extraordinary ? Now, why, ma bonne ? " her friend in- 
quired, all limpid frankness. " He looked indeed, a stockish, chill 
young man, of the cold-nosed type ah, que je n'aime pas Qa ! 
but he is a good young man ; a most unimpeachable young man ; 
and our little Karen has melted him ; how much his letter shows." 



128 T A N T E 

"Gregory Jardine is a very able and a very distinguished 
person/' said Miss Scrotton, " and of an excellent county family. 
His mother and mine were cousins, as you know, and I have al- 
ways taken the greatest interest in him. One can't but wonder 
how the child managed it." Mercedes, she knew, was drawing a 
peculiar satisfaction from her displeasure ; but she could n't con- 
trol it. 

" Ah, the child is not a manager. She is so far from manag- 
ing it, you see, that she leaves it to me to manage. It touches 
and surprises me, I confess, to find that her devotion to me rules 
her even at a moment like this. Yes ; Karen has pleased me very 
much." 

" Of course that old-fashioned formality would in itself charm 
Gregory. He is very conventional. But I do hope, my dear 
Mercedes, that you will think it over a little before giving your 
consent. It is really a most unsuitable match. Karen's feelings 
are, evidently, not at all deeply engaged and with Gregory it must 
be a momentary infatuation. He will get over it in time and 
thank you for saving him ; and Karen will marry Herr Lippheim, 
as you hoped she would." 

" Now upon my word, my Scrotton," said Madame von Mar- 
witz in a manner as near insolence as its grace permitted, "I 
do not follow you. A barrister, a dingy little London barrister, 
to marry my ward? You call that an unsuitable marriage? I 
protest that I do not follow you and I assert, to the contrary, 
that he has played his cards well. Who is he ? A nobody. You 
speak of your county families ; what do they signify outside their 
county? Karen in herself is, I grant you, also a nobody; but 
she stands to me in a relation . almost filial if I chose to call 
it so ; and I signify more than the families of many counties put 
together. Let us be frank. He opens no doors to Karen. She 
opens doors to him." 

Miss Scrotton, addressed in these measured and determined 
tones, changed colour. " My dear Mercedes, of course you are 
right there. Of course in one sense, if you take Gregory in as 
you have taken Karen in, you open doors to him. I only meant 
that a young man in his position, with his way to make in the 



TANTE 129 

world, ought to marry some well-born woman with a little money. 
He must have money if he is to get on. He ought to be in 
Parliament one day; and Karen is without a penny, you have 
often told me so, as well as illegitimate. Of course if you in- 
tend to make her a large allowance, that is a different matter; 
but can you really afford to do that, darling ? " 

"I consider your young man very fortunate to get Karen 
without one penny," Madame von Marwitz pursued, in the same 
measured tones, " and I shall certainly make him no present of 
my hard-earned money. Let him earn the money for Karen, 
now, as I have done for so many years. Had she married my 
good Franz, it would have been a very different thing. This 
young man is well able to support her in comfort. No; it all 
comes most opportunely. I wanted Karen to settle and to settle 
soon. I shall cable my consent and my blessings to them at 
once. Will you kindly find me a servant, ma chere." 

Miss Scrotton, as she rose automatically to carry out this 
request, was feeling that it is possible almost to hate one's idols. 
She had transgressed, and she knew it, and Mercedes had been 
aware of what she had done and had punished her for it. She 
even wondered if the quick determination to accept Gregory as 
Karen's suitor hadn't been part of the punishment. Mercedes 
knew that she had a pride in her cousin and had determined to 
humble it. She had perhaps herself to thank for having riveted 
this most disastrous match upon him. It was with a bitter heart 
that she walked on into the house. 

As she went in Mr. Claude Drew came out and Miss Scrotton 
gave him a chill greeting. She certainly hated Mr. Claude Drew. 

Claude Drew blinked a little in the bright sunlight and had 
somewhat the air of a graceful, nocturnal bird emerging into the 
day. He was dressed with an appropriateness to the circum- 
stances of stately villegiature so exquisite as to have a touch of 
the fantastic. 

Madame von Marwitz sat with her back to him in the limpid 
shadow of the great white parasol and was again looking, not at 
Karen's, but at Gregory Jardine's, letter. One hand hung over 
the arm of her chair. 



130 TANTE 

Mr. Drew approached with quiet paces and, taking this hand, 
before Madame von Marwitz could see him, he bowed over it and 
kissed it. The manner of the salutation made of it at once a 
formality and a caress. 

Madame von Marwitz looked up quickly and withdrew her 
hand. " You startled me, my young friend," she said. In her 
gaze was a mingled severity and softness and she smiled as if 
irrepressibly. 

Mr. Drew smiled back. " I Ve been wearying to escape from 
our host and come to you," he said. " He will talk to me about 
the reform of American politics. Why reform them ? They are 
much more amusing unreformed, are n't they ? And why talk to 
me about them. I think he wants me to write about them. If 
I were to write a book for the Americans, I would tell them that 
it is their mission to be amusing. Democracies must be either 
absurd or uninteresting. America began by being uninteresting ; 
and now it has quite taken its place as absurd. I love to hear 
about their fat, bribed, clean-shaven senators; just as I love to 
read the advertisements of tooth-brushes and breakfast foods and 
underwear in their magazines, written in the language of per- 
suasive, familiar fraternity. It was difficult not to confess this 
to Mr. Asprey; but I do not think he would have understood 
me." Mr. Drew spoke in a soft, slightly sibilant voice, with 
little smiling pauses between sentences that all seemed vaguely 
shuffled together. He paused now, smiling, and looking down at 
Madame von Marwitz. 

" You speak foolishly," said Madame von Marwitz. " But 
he would have thought you wicked." 

" Because I like beauty and don't like democracy. I suppose 
so." Still smiling at her he added, " One forgets democracies 
when one looks at you. You are very beautiful this morning." 

" I am not, this morning, in a mood for unconventionalities," 
Madame von Marwitz returned, meeting his gaze with her 
mingled severity and softness. 

And again, with composure, he ignored her severity and re- 
turned her smile. It would have been unfair to say that there 
was effrontery in Mr. Drew's gaze; it merely had its way with 



TANTE 131 

you and, if you did n't like its way, passed from you unperturbed. 
With, all his rather sickly grace and ambiguous placidity, Mr. 
Drew was not lacking in character. He had risen superior to 
a good many things, the dismal wife at Surbiton and the large- 
mouthed children perhaps among them, and he had won his 
detachment. The homage he offered was not unalloyed by 
humour. To a person of Madame von Marwitz's calibre, he 
seemed to say, he would not pretend to raptures or reverences 
they had both long since seen through. It would bore him to 
be rapturous or reverent, and if you didn't like him, so his 
whole demeanour mildly demonstrated, you could leave him, 
or, rather, he could leave you. So that when Madame von 
Marwitz sought to quell him she found herself met with a gentle 
unawareness, even a gentle indifference. Cogitation and a cer- 
tain disquiet were often in her eye when it rested on this devotee. 

" Does one make conventional speeches to the moon ? " he 
now remarked, taking a chair beside her and turning the brim 
of his white hat over his eyes so that of his face only the sensual, 
delicate mouth and chin were in sunlight. " I should n't want 
to make speeches to you if you were conventional. You are 
done with your letters ? I may talk to you ? " 

" Yes, I have done. You may talk, as foolishly as you please, 
but not unconventionally ; whether I am or am not conventional 
is not a matter that concerns you. I have had good news to-day. 
My little Karen is to marry." 

"Your little Karen? Which of all the myriads is this 
adorer?" 

" The child you saw with me in London. The one who stays 
in Cornwall." 

"You mean the fair, square girl who calls you Tante? I 
only remember of her that she was fair and square and called 
you Tante." 

"That is she. She is to marry an excellent young man, a 
young man," said Madame von Marwitz, slightly smiling at 
him, "who would never wish to make speeches to the moon, 
who is, indeed, not aware of the moon. But he is very much 
aware of Karen; so much so," and she continued to smile, as 



132 TANTE 

if over an amusing if still slightly perplexing memory, "that 
when she is there he is not aware of me. What do you say to 
that?" 

" I say," Mr. Drew replied, " that the barbarians will always 
be many and the civilized few. Who is this barbarian ? " 

" A Mr. Gregory Jardine." 

" Jardine ? Connais-pas" said Mr. Drew. 

" He is a cousin of our Scrotton's," said Madame von Marwitz, 
" and a man of law. Very stiff and clean like a roll of expen- 
sive paper. He has asked me very nicely if he may inscribe 
the name of Mrs. Jardine upon a page of it. He is the sort of 
young man of law, I think I distinguish," Madame von Marwitz 
mused, her eyes on the landscape, " who does not smoke a briar 
wood pipe and ride on an omnibus, but who keeps good cigars in 
a silver box and always takes a hansom. He will make Karen 
comfortable and, I gather from her letter, happy. It will be a 
strange change of milieu for the child, but I have, I think, made 
her independent of milieus. She will write more than Mrs. 
Jardine on his scroll. It is a child of character." 

" And she will no longer be in Cornwall," Mr. Drew observed. 
" I am glad of that." 

"Why, pray? I am not glad of it. I shall miss my Karen 
at Les Solitudes." 

"But I, you see, don't want to have other worshippers there 
when I go to stay with you," said Mr. Drew ; " for, you know, 
you are going to let me stay a great deal with you in Cornwall. 
You will play to me, and I will write something that you will, 
perhaps, care to read. And the moon will be very kind and 
listen to many speeches. You know," he added, with a change 
of tone, "that I am in love with you. I must be alone with 
you at Les Solitudes." 

" Let us have none of that, if you please," said Madame von 
Marwitz. She looked away from him along the sunny stretches 
of the terrace and she frowned slightly, though smiling on, as 
if with tolerant affection. And in her look was something half 
dazed and half resentful like the look of a fierce wild bird, sub- 
dued by the warmth and firmness of an enclosing hand. 



CHAPTER XIII 

RE GORY went down to Cornwall again only nine days 
\J[ after he had left it. He and Karen met as if under an 
arch of infinite blessings. He had his cable to show her and she 
hers to show him, and, although Gregory did not see them as 
the exquisite documents that Karen felt them to be, they did 
for him all that he asked Madame von Marwitz to do. 

" I give her to you. Be worthy of my trust. Mercedes von 
Marwitz " his read. And Karen's : " I could only yield you 
to a greater joy than you can find with me but it could not 
be to a greater love. Do not forget me in your happiness. You 
are mine, my beloved child, not less but more than ever. Tante." 

Karen's joy was unshadowed. It made him think of prim- 
roses and crystal springs. She was not shy ; he was shyer than 
she, made a little dumb, a little helpless, by his man's reverence, 
his man's awed sense of the beloved's dawn-like wonder. She 
was not changed; any change in Karen would come as quiet 
growth, not as transformation. Gregory's gladness had not this 
simplicity. It revealed to him a new world, a world newly 
beautiful but newly perilous, and a changed self, the self of 
boyhood, renewed yet transformed, through whose joy ran the 
reactionary melancholy that, in a happiness attained, glances at 
fear, and at a climax of life, is aware of gulfs of sorrow as yet 
unsounded. More than his lover's passion was a tenderness for 
her and for her unquestioning acceptances that seemed near 
tears. Karen was in character so wrought and in nature so 
simple. Her subtleties were all objective, subtleties of sympathy, 
of recognition, of adaptation to the requirements of devoted ac- 
tion; her simplicity was that of a whole-heartedness unaware at 
high moments of all but the essential. 

She had to tell him fully, holding his hand and looking into 
his eyes, all about her side of it ; what she had thought when she 

133 



134 TANTE 

saw him at the concert certain assumptions there gave Gregory 
his stir of uneasiness " You were caring just as much as I was 
in the same way for her music " ; what she had thought at 
Mrs. Forrester's, and at the railway station, and when the letters 
went on and on. She had of course seen what was coming that 
evening after they had been to the Lavington's; "When you 
did n't understand about me and Tante, you know ; and I made 
you understand/' And then he had made her understand how 
much he cared for her and she for him; only it had all come 
so quietly ; " I did not think a great deal about it, or wonder ; 
it sank into me like stars one sees in a still lake, so that next 
day it was no surprise at all, when you told me; it was like 
looking up and seeing all the real stars in the sky. Afterwards 
it was dreadful for a little while, was n't it ? " Karen held his 
hand for a moment to her cheek. 

When all the past had been looked at together, Gregory asked 
her if she would not marry him quite soon ; he hoped, indeed, that 
it might be within the month. " You see, why not ? " he said. 
" I miss you so dreadfully and I can't be here ; and why should 
you be? Let me come down and marry you in that nice little 
church on the other side of the village as soon as our banns can 
be called." 

But, for the first time, a slight anxiety showed in her eyes. 
" I miss you dreadfully, too," she said. " But you forget, Tante 
will not be back till July. We must wait for Tante, Gregory. 
We are in May now, it is not so far to July. You will not mind 
too much ? " 

He felt, sitting under the arch of blessings as he was, that it 
would be most ungrateful and inappropriate to mind. But then, 
he said, if they must put it off like that, Karen would have to 
come to London. She must come and stay with Betty. " And 
get your trousseau"; this was a brilliant idea. "You'll have 
to get your trousseau, you know, and Betty is an authority on 
clothes." 

" Oh, but clothes. I never have clothes in that sense," said 
Karen. " A little seamstress down here makes most of them 
and Louise helps her sometimes if she has time. Tante gave me 



TANTE 135 

twenty pounds before she went away; would twenty pounds do 
for a trousseau ? " 

" Betty would think twenty pounds just about enough for your 
gloves and stockings, I imagine/' said Gregory. 

"And will you expect me to be so luxurious? You are not 
rich ? We shall not live richly ? " 

" I 'm not at all rich ; but I want you to have pretty things 
layers and layers of the nice, white, soft things brides always 
have, and a great many new hats and dresses. Could n't I give 
you a little tip to begin the trousseau ? " 

" Ah, it can wait, can't it ? " said Karen easily. " No ; you 
can't give me a tip. Tante, I am sure, will see that I have a 
nice trousseau. She may even give me a little dot when I marry. 
I have no money at all; not one penny, you know. Do you 
mind?" 

" I ? d far rather have you without a penny because I want to 
give you everything. If Tante doesn't give you the little dot, 
I shall." 

Karen was pondering a little seriously. " I don't know what 
Tante will feel since you have enough for us both. It was when 
she wished me to marry Franz that she spoke of a dot. And 
Franz is of course very poor and has a great family of brothers 
and sisters to help support. You will know Franz one day. 
You did not speak very nicely of Franz that time, you know; 
that was another reason why I thought you were so angry. And 
it made me angry, too," said Karen, smiling at him. 

" Was n't I nice ? I am sure Franz is." 

" Oh, so good and kind and true. And very talented. And 
his mother would be a wonderful musician if she had not so 
many children to take care of; that has harmed her music. And 
she, too, is a golden-hearted person; she used often to help me 
with my dresses. Do you remember that little white silk dress 
of mine? perhaps so; I wore it at the concert, such a pretty 
dress, I think. Frau Lippheim helped me with that she and 
a little German seamstress in Leipsig. I see us now, all bending 
over the rustling silk, round the table with the lamp on it. We 
had to make it so quickly. Tante had sent for me to come to 



136 TANTE 

her in Vienna and I had nothing to wear at the great concert 
she was to give. We sat up till twelve to finish it. Franz and 
Lotta cooked our supper for us and we only stopped long enough 
to eat. Dear Frau Lippheim. Some day you will know all the 
Lippheims." 

He listened to her with dreamy, amused delight, seeing her 
bending in the ugly German room over the little white silk 
dress and only vaguely aware of the queer figures she put before 
him. He had no inclination to know Franz and his mother, 
and no curiosity about them. But Karen continued. " That is 
the one, the only thing I can give you," she said, reflecting. 
"You know so few artists, don't you; so few people of talent. 
As to people, your life is narrow, isn't it so? I have met so 
many great people in my life, first through my father and then 
through Tante. Painters, poets, musicians. You will probably 
know them now, too ; some of them certainly, for some are also 
friends of mine. Strepoff, for example; oh how I shall like 
you to meet him. You have read him, of course, and about his 
escape from Siberia and his long exile." 

"Strepoff? Yes, I think so. A dismal sort of fellow, isn't 
he?" 

Gregory's delight was merging now in a more definite amuse- 
ment, tinged, it may be confessed, with alarm. He remembered 
to have seen a photograph of this celebrity, very turbulently 
haired and very fixed and fiery of eye. He remembered a large 
bare throat and a defiant necktie. He had no wish to make 
Strepoff's acquaintance. It was quite enough to read about him 
in the magazines and admire his exploits from a distance. 

"Dismal?" Karen had repeated, with a touch of severity. 
"Who would not be after such a life? Yes, he is a sad man, 
and the thought of Eussia never leaves him. But he is full of 
gaiety, too. He spent some months with us two years ago at the 
Italian lakes and I grew so fond of him. We had great jokes 
together, he and I. And he sometimes writes to me now, such 
teasing, funny letters. The last was from San Francisco. He 
is giving lectures out there, raising money; for he never ceases 
the struggle. He calls me Liebchen. He is very fond of me." 



TANTE 137 

" What do you call him ? " Gregory inquired. 

"Just Strepoff; everybody calls him that. Dear Belot, too," 
Karen pursued. "He could not fail to interest you. Perhaps 
you have already met him. He has been in London." 

" Belot? Does he write poetry ? " 

" Poetry ? No. Belot is a painter ; a great painter. Surely 
you have heard of Belot ? " 

" Well, I 'm afraid that if I have I 've forgotten. You see, as 
you say, I live so out of the world of art." 

" Did you not see his portrait of Susanne Mauret the 
great French actress? It has been exhibited through all the 
world." 

" Of course I have. Belot of course. The impressionist 
painter. It looked to me, I confess, awfully queer; but I could 
see that it was very clever." 

" Impressionist ? No ; Belot would not rank himself among 
the impressionists. And he would not like to hear his work 
called clever ; I warn you of that. He has a horror of cleverness. 
It was not a clever picture, but sober, strange, beautiful. Well, 
I know Belot and his wife quite intimately. They are great 
friends of the Lippheims, too, and call themselves the Franco- 
Prussian alliance. Madame Belot is a dear little woman. You 
must have often seen his pictures of her and the children. He 
has numbers of children and adores them. La petite Margot is 
my special pet and she always sends me a little present on my 
birthday. Madame Belot was once his model," Karen added, 
" and is quite du peuple, and I believe that some of his friends 
were sorry that he married her ; but she makes him very happy. 
That beautiful nude in the Luxembourg by Chantefoy is of her 
long before she married, of course. She does not sit for the 
ensemble now, and indeed I fear it has lost all its beauty, for she 
is very fat. It would be nice to go to Paris on our wedding- 
tour and see the Belots," said Karen. 

Gregory made an evasive answer. He reflected that once he 
had married her it would probably be easy to detach Karen from 
these most undesirable associates. He hoped that she would 
take to Betty. Betty would be an excellent antidote. "And 



138 TANTE 

you think your sister-in-law will want me ? " said Karen, when 
he brought her from the Belots back to Betty. " She does n't 
know me/' 

" She must begin to know you as soon as possible. You will 
have Mrs. Forrester at hand, you see, if my family should op- 
press you too much. Barring Betty, who hardly counts as one 
of them, they are n't interesting, I warn you." 

" I may oppress them," said Karen, with the shrewdness that 
often surprised him. " Who will they take refuge with ? " 

" Oh, they have all London to fall back upon. They do noth- 
ing when they're up but go out. That's my plan; that they 
should leave you a good deal when they go out, and leave you to 
me." 

" That will be nice," said Karen. " But Mrs. Forrester, you 
know," she went on, " is not exactly an intimate of mine that I 
could fall back upon. I am, in her eyes, only a little appendage 
of Tante's." 

" Ah, but you have ceased, now, to be an appendage of Tante's. 
And Mrs. Forrester is an intimate, an old one, of mine." 

" She '11 take me in as your appendage," Karen smiled. 

" Not at all. It 's you, now, who are the person to whom the 
appendage belongs. I 'm your appendage. That quite alters 
the situation. You will have to stand in the foreground and do 
all the conventional things." 

" Shall I ? " smiled Karen, unperturbed. She was, as he 
knew, not to be disconcerted by any novel social situation. She 
had witnessed so many situations and such complicated ones 
that the merely conventional were, in her eyes, relatively insig- 
nificant and irrevelant. There would be for her none of the 
debutante's sense of awkwardness or insufficiency. Again she 
reminded him of the rustic little princess, unaware of alien cus- 
toms, and ready to learn and to laugh at her own blunders. 

It was arranged, Mrs. Talcott's appearance helping to de- 
cisions, that as soon as Karen heard from her guardian, who 
might have plans to suggest, she should come up to London and 
stay with Lady Jardine. 

Mrs. Talcott, on entering, had grasped Gregory's hand and 



TANTE 139 

shaken it vigorously, remarking : " I 'm very pleased to see you 
back again." 

" I did n't tell Mrs. Talcott anything, Gregory," said Karen. 
" But I am svre she guessed." 

" Mrs. Talcott and I had our understandings/' said Gregory, 
" but I 'm sure she guessed from the moment she saw me down 
here. She was much quicker than you, Karen." 

" I 've seen a good many young folks in my time," Mrs. Tal- 
cott conceded. 

Gregory's sense of the deepened significance in all things lent 
a special pathos to his conjectures to-day about Mrs. Talcott. 
He did not know how far her affection for Karen went and 
whether it were more than the mere kindly solicitude of the 
aged for the young ; but the girl's presence in her life must give 
at least interest and colour, and after Mrs. Talcott had spoken 
her congratulations and declared that she believed they'd be 
real happy together, he said, the idea striking him as an apt 
one, "And Mrs. Talcott, you must come up and stay with us 
in London sometimes, won't you ? " 

"Oh, Mrs. Talcott yes, yes;" said Karen, delighted. He 
had never seen her kiss Mrs. Talcott, but she now clasped her 
arm, standing beside her. Mrs. Talcott did not smile; but, 
after a moment, the aspect of her face changed; it always took 
some moments for Mrs. Talcott's expression to change. Now 
it was like seeing the briny old piece of shipwrecked oak mildly 
illuminated with sunlight on its lonely beach. 

" That 's real kind of you ; real kind," said Mrs. Talcott re- 
flectively. " I don't expect I ? 11 get up there. I 'm not much 
of a traveller these days. But it's real kind of you to have 
thought of it." 

"But it must be," Karen declared. "Only think; I should 
pour out your coffee for you in the morning, after all these years 
when you 've poured out mine ; and we would walk in the park 
Gregory's flat overlooks the park you know and we would 
drive in hansoms don't you like hansoms and go to the 
play in the evening. But yes, indeed, you shall come." 

Mrs. Talcott listened to these projects, still with her mild 



140 T A 1ST T E 

illumination, remarking when Karen had done, " I guess not, 
Karen ; I guess I '11 stay here. I 've been moving round con- 
siderable all my life long and now I expect I '11 just stay put. 
There 's no one to look after things here but me and they 'd get 
pretty muddled if I was away, I expect. Mitchell is n't a very 
bright man." 

" The real difficulty is," said Karen, holding Mrs. Talcott's 
arm and looking at her with affectionate exasperation, "that 
she doesn't like to leave Les Solitudes lest she should miss a 
moment of Tante. Tante sometimes turns up almost at a mo- 
ment's notice. We shall have to get Tante safely away to Eussia, 
or America again, before we can ask you ; is n't that the truth, 
Mrs. Talcott?" 

" Well, I don't know. Perhaps there 's something in it," Mrs. 
Talcott admitted. " Mercedes likes to know I 'm here seeing to 
things. She might n't feel easy in her mind if I was away." 

"We'll lay it before her, then," said Karen. "I know she 
will say that you must come." 



CHAPTER XIV 

IT was not until some three weeks after that Karen paid her 
visit to London. Tante had not written at once and Greg- 
ory had to control his discontent and impatience as best he 
might. He and Karen wrote to each other every day and he 
was aware of a fretful anxiety in his letters which contrasted 
strangely with the serenity of hers. Once more she made him 
feel that she was the more mature. In his brooding imag- 
inativeness he was like the most youthful of lovers, seeing his 
treasure menaced on every hand by the hazards of life. He 
warned Karen against cliff-edges; he warned her, now that 
motors were every day becoming more common, against their 
sudden eruption in "cornery" lanes; he begged her repeatedly 
to keep safe and sound until he could himself take care of her. 
Karen replied with sober reassurances and promises and showed 
no corresponding alarms on his behalf. She had, evidently, 
more confidence in the law of probability. 

She wired at last to say that she had heard from Tante and 
would come up next day if Lady Jardine could have her at such 
short notice. Gregory had made his arrangements with Betty, 
who showed a most charming sympathy for his situation, and 
when, at the station, he saw Karen's face smiling at him from 
a window, when he seized her arm and drew her forth, it was 
with a sense of relief and triumph as great as though she were 
restored to him after actual perils. 

" Darling, it has seemed such ages," he said. 

He was conscious, delightedly, absorbedly, of everything about 
her. She wore her little straw hat with the black bow and a 
long hooded cape of thin grey cloth. In her hand she held 
a small basket containing her knitting she was knitting him 
a pair of golf stockings and a book. 

He piloted her to the cab he had in waiting. Her one small 
shabby box was put on the top and a very large dressing-case, 

141 



142 TANTE 

curiously contrasting in its battered and discoloured magnifi- 
cence with the box, placed inside; ft was a discarded one of 
Madame von Marwitz's, as its tarnished initials told him. It 
was only as the cab rolled out of the station, after he had kissed 
Karen and was holding her hand, that he realized that she was 
far less aware of him than he of her. Not that she was not 
glad; she sighed deeply with content, smiling at him, holding 
his hand closely; but there was a shadow of preoccupation on her. 

" Tell me, darling, is everything all right ? " he asked. " You 
have had good news from your guardian ? " 

She said nothing for a moment, looking out of the window, 
and then back at him. Then she said : " She is beautiful to 
me. But I have made her sad." 

" Made her sad ? Why have you made her sad ? " Gregory 
suppressed only just suppressed an indignant note. 

" I did not think of it myself," said Karen. " I did n't think 
of her side at all, I ? m afraid, because I did not realise how much 
I was to her. But you remember what I told you I was, the 
little home thing; I am that even more deeply than I had 
thought ; and she feels dear, dear one that that is gone 
from her, that it can never be the same again." She turned her 
eyes from him and the tears gathered thickly in them. 

" But, dearest," said Gregory, " she can't want to make you 
sad, can she? She must really be glad to have you happy. 
She herself wanted you to get married, and had found Franz 
Lippheim for you, you know." Instinct warned him to go 
carefully. 

Karen shook her head with a little impatience. " One may 
be glad to have someone happy, yet sad for oneself. She is sad. 
Very, very sad." 

" May I see her letter ? " Gregory asked after a moment, and 
Karen, hesitating, then drew it from the pocket of her cloak, 
saying, as she handed it to him, and as if to atone for the im- 
patience, " It does n't make me love you any less you under- 
stand that, dear Gregory because she is sad. It only makes 
me feel, in my own happiness, how much I love her." 

Gregory read. The address was " Belle Vue." 



TANTE 143 

" My Darling Child, A week has passed since I had your 
letter and now the second has come and I must write to you. 
My Karen knows that when in pain it is my instinct to shut 
myself away, to be quite still, quite silent, and so to let the waves 
go over me. That is why, she will understand, I have not writ- 
ten yet. I have waited for the strength and courage to come 
back to me so that I might look my sorrow in the face. For 
though it is joy for you, and I rejoice in it, it is sorrow, could 
it be otherwise, for me. So the years go on and so our cherished 
flowers drop from us; so we feel our roots of life chilling and 
growing old ; and the marriage-veil that we wrap round a beloved 
child becomes the symbol of the shroud that is to fold us from 
her. I knew that I should one day have to give up my Karen; 
I wished it ; she knows that ; but now that it has come and that 
the torch is in her hand, I can only feel the darkness in which 
her going leaves me. Not to find my little Karen there, in my 
life, part of my life; that is the thought that pierces me. 
In how many places have I found her, for years and years; do 
you remember them all, Karen? I know that in heart we are 
not to be severed; I know that, as I cabled to you, you are not 
less but more mine than ever; but the body cries out for the 
dear presence; for the warm little hand in my tired hand, the 
loving eyes in my sad eyes, the loving heart to lean my stricken 
heart upon. How shall I bear the loneliness and the silence 
of my life without you ? 

" Do not forget me, my Karen. Ah, I know you will not, yet 
the cry arises. Do not let this new love that has come to you 
in your youth and gladness shut me out more than it must. Do 
not forget the old, the lonely Tante. Ah, these poor tears, they 
fall and fall. I am sad, sad to death, my Karen. Great dark- 
nesses are behind me, and before me I see the darkness to which 
I go. 

" Farewell, my darling. Lebewolil. Tell Mr. Jardine that 
he must make my child happy indeed if I am to forgive him for 
my loss. 

" Yes ; it shall be in July, when I return. I send you a little 
gift that my Karen may make herself the fine lady, ready for all 



144 TANTE 

the gaieties of the new life. He will wish it to be a joyful one, 
I know ; he will wish her to drink deep of all that the world has 
to offer of splendid, and rare, and noble. My child is worthy 
of a great life, I have equipped her for it. Go forward, my 
Karen, with your husband, into the light. My heart is with you 
always. Tante." 

Gregory read, and instinctively, while he read, he glanced at 
Karen, steadying his face lest she should guess from its tremor 
of contempt how latent antagonisms hardened to a more ironic 
dislike. But Karen gazed from the window grave, preoccu- 
pied. Such suspicions were far indeed from her. Gregory 
could give himself to the letter and its intimations undiscovered. 
Suffering? Perhaps Madame von Marwitz was suffering; but 
she had no business to say it. Forgive him indeed; well, if 
those were the terms of forgiveness, he promised himself that 
he should deserve it. Meanwhile he must conceal his resent- 
ment. 

" I ? m so sorry, darling," he said, giving the letter back to 
Karen. " We shall have to cheer her up, shan't we ? When she 
sees how very happy you are with me I am sure she '11 feel 
happier." He was n't at all sure. 

"I don't know, Gregory. I am afraid that my happiness 
cannot make her less lonely." 

Karen's griefs were not to be lightly dispersed. But she was 
not a person to enlarge upon them. After another moment she 
pointed out something from the window and laughed; but the 
unshadowed gladness that he had imagined for their meeting was 
overcast. 

Betty awaited them with tea in her Pont Street drawing-room, 
a room of polished, glittering, softly lustrous surfaces. Precious 
objects stood grouped on little Empire tables or ranged in Em- 
pire cabinets. Flat, firm cushions of rose-coloured satin stood 
against the backs of Empire chairs and sofas. On the walls 
were French engravings and a delicate portrait of Betty done 
at the time of her marriage by Boutet de Monvel. The room, 
like Betty herself, combined elegance and cordiality. 



TANTE 145 

I was there, you know, at the very beginning/' she said, 
taking Karen's hands and scanning her with her jewel-like eyes. 
"It was love at first sight. He asked who you were at once 
and I 'm pleased to think that it was I who gave him his first 
information. Now that I look back upon it," said Betty, taking 
her place at the tea-table and holding Karen still with her bright 
and friendly gaze, " I remember that he was far more interested 
in you than in anything else that evening. I don't believe that 
Madame Okraska existed for him." Betty was drawing on her 
imagination in a manner that she took for granted to be pleasing. 

" I should be sorry to think that," Karen observed and Greg- 
ory was relieved to see that she did not take Betty's supposition 
seriously. She watched her pretty hands move among the tea- 
cups with an air of pleased interest. 

" Would you really ? You would want him to retain all his 
esthetic faculties even while he was falling in love? Do you 
think one could ? " Betty asked her questions smiling. " Or 
perhaps you think that one would fall in love the more securely 
from listening to Madame Okraska at the same time. I think 
perhaps I should. I do admire her so much. I hope now that 
some day I shall know her. She must be, I am sure, as lovely 
as she looks." 

" Yes, indeed," said Karen. " And you will meet her very 
soon, you see, for she comes back in July." 

Gregory sat and listened to their talk, satisfied that they were 
to get on, yet with a slight discomfort. Betty questioned and 
Karen replied, unaware that she revealed aspects of her past 
that Betty might not interpret as she would feel it natural that 
they should be interpreted, supremely unaware that any criticism 
could attach itself to her guardian as a result of these revela- 
tions. Yes; she had met so-and-so and this and that, in Eome, 
in Paris, in London or St. Petersburg; but no, evidently, she 
could hardly say that she knew any of these people, friends of 
Tante's though they were. The ambiguity of her status as 
little camp-follower became defined for Betty's penetrating and 
appraising eyes and the inappropriateness of the letter, with 
its broken-hearted maternal tone, returned to Gregory with re- 



146 TANTE 

newed irony. He didn't want to share with Betty his hidden 
animosities and once or twice, when her eye glanced past Karen 
and rested reflectively upon himself, he knew that Betty was 
wondering how much he saw and how he liked it. The Lipp- 
heims again made their socially unillustrious appearance; 
Karen had so often stayed with them before Les Solitudes had 
been built and while Tante travelled with Mrs. Talcott; she 
had never stayed Gregory was thankful for small mercies 
with the Belots; Tante, after all, had her own definite dis- 
criminations; she would not have placed Karen in the charge 
of Chantefoy's lady of the Luxembourg, however reputable her 
present position; but Gregory was uneasy lest Karen should 
disclose how simply she took Madame Belot's past. The fact 
that Karen's opportunities in regard to dress were so obviously 
haphazard, coming up with the question of the trousseau, was 
somewhat atoned for by the sum that Madame von Marwitz 
now sent Gregory had forgotten to ask the amount. " A 
hundred pounds " ; said Betty cheerfully ; " Oh, yes ; we can 
get you very nicely started on that." 

" Tante seems to think," said Karen, " that I shall have to 
be very gay and have a great many dresses; but I hope it will 
not have to be so very much. I am fond of quiet things." 

" Well, especially at first, I suppose you will have a good many 
dinners and dances; Gregory is fond of dancing, you know. 
But I don't think you lead such a taxing social life, do you, 
Gregory ? You are a rather sober person, are n't you ? " 

"That is what I thought," said Karen. "For I am sober, 
too, and I want to read so many things, in the evening, you 
know, Gregory. I want to read Political Economy and under- 
stand about politics; Tante does not care for politics, but she 
always finds me too ignorant of the large social questions. You 
will teach me all that, won't you? And we must hear so much 
music; and travel, too, in your holidays; I do not see how we 
can have much time for many dinners. As for dances, I do 
not know how to dance; would that make any difference, when 
you went? I could sit and look on, could n't I? " 

" y$Q ? indeed ; you can't sit and look on ; jou '11 have to dance 



TANTE 147 

with me," said Gregory. "I will teach you dancing as well 
as Political Economy. She must have lessons, mustn't she, 
Betty? Of course you must learn to dance." 

" I do not think I shall learn easily," Karen said, smiling 
from him to Betty. " I do not think I should do you credit in 
a ballroom. But I will try, of course." 

Gregory was quite prepared for Betty's probes when Karen 
went upstairs to her room. "What a dear she is, Gregory," 
she said; "and how clever it was of you to find her, hidden 
away as she has been. I suppose the life of a great musician 
doesn't admit of formalities. She never had time to intro- 
duce, as it were, her adopted daughter." 

"Well, no; a great musician could hardly take an adopted 
or a real daughter around to dances; and Karen isn't exactly 
adopted." 

" No, I see." Betty's eyes sounded him. " She is really 
very nice I suppose, Madame von Marwitz? You like her very 
much? Mrs. Forrester dotes upon her, of course; but Mrs. 
Forrester is an enthusiast." 

" And I 'm not, as you know," Gregory returned, he flattered 
himself, with skill. "I don't think that I shall ever dote on 
Madame von Marwitz. When I know her I hope to like her 
very much. At present I hardly know her better than you 
do." 

"Ah but you must know a great deal about her from 
Karen," said Betty, who could combine tact with pertinacity; 
" but she, too, in that respect, is an enthusiast, I suppose." 

" Well, naturally. It 's been a wonderful relationship. You 
remember you felt that so much in telling me about Karen at 
the very first." 

"Of course; and it's all true, isn't it; the forest and all the 
rest of it. Only, not having met Karen, one did n't realize how 
much Madame von Marwitz was in luck." Betty, it was evi- 
dent, had already begun to wonder whether Tante was as lovely 
as she looked. 



CHAPTEK XV 

'< I "YEAR Mrs. Forrester, you know that I worship the ground 
I J she treads on" said Miss Scrotton; "but it can't be de- 
nied can you deny it ? that Mercedes is capricious." 

It was one day only after Miss Scrotton's return from America 
and she had returned alone, and it was to this fact that she 
alluded rather than to the more general results of Madame von 
Marwitz's sudden postponement. Owing to the postponement, 
Karen to-day was being married in Cornwall without her 
guardian's presence. Miss Scrotton had touched on that. She 
had said that she did n't think Mercedes would like it, she had 
added that she could n't herself, however inconvenient delay 
might have been, understand how Karen and Gregory could 
have done it. But she had not at first much conjecture to give 
to the bridal pair. It was upon the fact that Mercedes, at the 
last moment, had thrown all plans overboard, that she dwelt, 
with a nipped and tightened utterance and a gaze, fixed on the 
wall above the tea-table, almost tragic. Mrs. Forrester was 
the one person in whom she could confide. It was through 
Mrs. Forrester that she had met Mercedes; her devotion to 
Mercedes constituted to Mrs. Forrester, as she was aware, her 
chief merit. Not that Mrs. Forrester wasn't fond of her; she 
had been fond of her ever since, as a relative of the Jardines' 
and a precociously intelligent little girl who had published a 
book on Port-Royal at the age of eighteen, she had first at- 
tracted her attention at a literary tea-party. But Mrs. For- 
rester would not have sat so long or listened so patiently to any 
other theme than the one that so absorbed them both and that 
so united them in their absorption. Miss Scrotton even sus- 
pected that a tinge of bland and kindly pity coloured Mrs. 
Forrester's readiness to sympathize. She must know Mercedes 

148 



TANTE 149 

well enough to know that she could give her devotees bad half 
hours, though the galling thing was to suspect that Mrs. For- 
rester was one of the few people to whom she wouldn't give 
them. Mrs. Forrester might worship as devoutly as anybody, 
yet her devotion never let her in for so much forbearance and 
sacrifice. Perhaps, poor Miss Scrotton worked it out, the rea- 
son was that to Mrs. Forrester Mercedes was but one among 
many, whereas to herself Mercedes was the central prize and 
treasure. Mrs. Forrester was incapable of a pang of jealousy 
or emulation; she was always delighted yet never eager. When, 
in the first flow of intimacy with Mercedes, Miss Scrotton had 
actually imagined, for an ecstatic and solemn fortnight, that 
she stood first with her, Mrs. Forrester had met her air of 
irrepressible triumph with a geniality in which was no trace of 
grievance or humiliation. The downfall had been swift; Mer- 
cedes had snubbed her one day, delicately and accurately, in 
Mrs. Forrester's presence, and Miss Scrotton's cheek still burned 
when she remembered it. There were thus all sorts of un- 
spoken things between her and Mrs. Forrester, and not the 
least of them was that her folly should have endeared her. Miss 
Scrotton at once chafed against and relied upon her old friend's 
magnanimity. Her intercourse with her was largely made up 
of a gloomy demand for sympathy and a stately evasion of it. 

Mrs. Forrester now poured her out a second cup of tea, answer- 
ing, soothingly, "Yes, she is capricious. But what do you 
expect, my dear Eleanor? She is a force of nature, above our 
little solidarities and laws. What do you expect? When one 
worships a force of nature, il faut subir son sort." It was kind 
of Mrs. Forrester to include herself in these submissions. 

" I had really built all my summer about the plans that we 
had made/' Miss Scrotton said. " Mercedes was to have come 
back with me, I was to have stopped in Cornwall for Karen's 
marriage and after my month here in London I was to have 
joined her at Les Solitudes for August. Now August is empty 
and I had refused more than one very pleasant invitation in 
order to go to Mercedes. She is n't coming back for another 
three months." 



150 TANTE 

"You didn't care to go with the Aspreys to the Adiron- 
dacks?" 

" How could I go, dear Mrs. Forrester, when I was full of 
engagements here in London for July? And, moreover, they 
didn't ask me. It is rather curious when one comes to think 
of it. I brought the Aspreys and Mercedes together, I gave 
her to them, one may say, but, I am afraid I must own it, they 
seized her and looked upon me as a useful rung in the ladder 
that reached her. It has been a disillusionizing experience, 
I can't deny it; but passons for the Aspreys and their kind. 
The fact is," said Miss Scrotton, dropping her voice a little, 
" the real fact is, dear Mrs. Forrester, that the Aspreys are n't 
responsible. It was n't for them she 'd have stayed, and I think 
they must realize it. No, it is all Claude Drew. He is at the 
bottom of everything that I feel as strange and altered in Mer- 
cedes. He has an unholy influence over her, oh, yes, I mean 
it, Mrs. Forrester. I have never seen Mercedes so swayed be- 
fore." 

" Swayed ? " Mrs. Forrester questioned. 

" Oh, but yes, indeed. He managed the whole thing and 
when I think that he would in all probability never have seen 
the Aspreys if it had not been for me ! Mercedes had him 
asked there, you know; they are very, but very, very fashionable 
people, they know everybody worth knowing all over the world. 
I needn't tell you that, of course. But it was all arranged, 
he and Mercedes, and Lady Rose and the Marquis de Haute- 
feuille, and a young American couple with the Aspreys in 
the background as universal providers it made a little group 
where I was plainly de trop. Mr. Drew planned everything 
with her. She is to have her piano and he is to write a book 
under her aegis. And they are to live in the pinewoods with 
the most elaborate simplicity. However, I am sure the 
Adirondacks will soon bore her." 

" And how soon will Mr. Drew bore her ? " asked Mrs. For- 
rester, who had listened to these rather pitiful revelations with, 
now and then, a slight elevation of her intelligent eyebrows. 

The question gave Miss Scrotton an opportunity for almost 



TANTE 151 

ominous emphasis; she paused over it, holding Mrs. Forrester 
with a brooding eye. 

" He won't bore her," she then brought out. 

" What, never ? never ? " Mrs. Forrester questioned gaily. 

" Never, never," Miss Scrotton repeated. " He is too clever. 
He will keep her interested and uncertain." 

" "Well," Mrs. Forrester returned, as if *this were all to the 
good, " it is a comfort to think that the poor darling has found 
a distraction." 

"You feel it that? I wish I could. I wish I could feel it 
anything but an infatuation. If only he were n't so much the 
type of a great woman's folly ; if only he were n't so of the re- 
gion of whispers. It isn't like our wonderful Sir Alliston; 
one sees her there standing high on a mountain peak with the 
winds of heaven about her. To see her with Mr. Drew is like 
seeing her through some ambiguous, sticky fog. Oh, I can't 
deny that it has all made me very, very unhappy." Tears 
blinked in Miss Scrotton's eyes. 

Mrs.. Forrester was kind, she leaned forward and patted Miss 
Scrotton's hand, she smiled reassuringly, and she refused, for 
a moment, to share her anxiety. " No, no, no," she said, " you 
are troubling yourself quite needlessly, my dear Eleanor. Mer- 
cedes is amusing herself and the young man is an interesting 
young man ; she has talked to me and written to me about him. 
And I think she needed distraction just now, I think this mar- 
riage of little Karen's has affected her a good deal. The child 
is of course connected in her mind with so much that is dear 
and tragic in the past." 

" Oh, Karen ! " said Miss Scrotton, who, drying her eyes, 
had accepted Mrs. Forrester's consolations with a slight sulki- 
ness, " she has n't given a thought to Karen, I can assure you." 

" No ; you can't assure me, Eleanor," Mrs. Forrester re- 
turned, now with a touch of severity. " I don't think you quite 
understand how deep a bond of that sort can be for Mercedes 
even if she seldom speaks of it. She has written to me very 
affectingly about it. I only hope she will not take it to heart 
that they could not wait for her. I could not blame them. 



152 TANTE 

Everything was arranged ; a house in the Highlands lent to them 
for the honeymoon/' 

" Take it to heart ? Dear me no ; she won't like it, probably ; 
but that is a different matter." 

" Gregory is radiant, you know." 

" Is he ? " said Miss Scrotton gloomily. " I wish I could feel 
radiant about that match ; but I can't. I did hope that Gregory 
would marry well." 

"It isn't perhaps quite what one would have expected for 
him," Mrs. Forrester conceded; "but she is a dear girl. She 
behaved very prettily while she was here with Lady Jardine." 

" Did she ? It is a very different marriage, is n't. it, from 
the one that Mercedes had thought suitable. She told you, I 
suppose, about Franz Lippheim." 

"Yes; I heard about that. Mercedes was a good deal dis- 
appointed. She is very much attached to the young man and 
thought that Karen was, too. I have never seen him." 

" From what I 've heard he seemed to me as eminently suit- 
able a husband for Karen as my poor Gregory is unsuitable. 
What he can have discovered in the girl, I can't imagine. But 
I remember now how much interested in her he was on that 
day that he met her here at tea. She is such a dull girl," said 
Miss Scrotton sadly. " Such a heavy, clumsy person. And 
Gregory has so much wit and irony. It is very curious." 

"These things always are. Well, they are married now, and 
I wish them joy." 

" No one is at the wedding, I suppose, but old Mrs. Talcott. 
The next thing we shall hear will be that Sir Alliston has fallen 
in love with Mrs. Talcott," said Miss Scrotton, indulging her 
gloomy humour. 

" Oh, yes ; the Jardines went down, and Mrs. Morton ; " 
Mrs. Morton was a married sister of Gregory's. "Lady Jar- 
dine has very much taken to the child you know. They have 
given her a lovely little tiara." 

" Dear me," said Miss Scrotton ; " it is a case of Cinderella. 
No; I can't rejoice over it, though, of course I wish them joy; 



TANTE 153 

I wired to them this morning and I'm sending them a very 
handsome paper-cutter of dear father's. Gregory will appreciate 
that, I think. But no; I shall always be sorry that she didn't 
marry Franz Lippheim." 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE Jardines did not come back to London till October. 
They had spent a month in Scotland and a month in Italy 
and two weeks in France, returning by way of Paris, where 
Gregory passed through the ordeal of the Belots. He saw 
Madame Belot clasp Karen to her breast and the long line of 
little Belots swarm up to be kissed successively, Monsieur Belot, 
a short, stout, ruddy man, with outstanding grey hair and a 
square grey beard, watching the scene benignantly, his palette 
on his thumb. Madame Belot didn't any longer suggest 
Chantefoy's picture; she suggested nothing artistic and every- 
thing domestic. From a wistful Burne-Jones type with large 
eyes and a drooping mouth she had relapsed to her plebeian 
origins and now, fat, kind, cheerful, she was nothing but wife 
and mother, with a figure like a sack and cheap tortoise-shell 
combs stuck, apparently at random, in the untidy bandeaux of 
her hair. 

Following Karen and Monsieur Belot about the big studio, 
among canvases on easels and canvases leaned against the walls, 
Gregory felt himself rather bewildered, and not quite as he had 
expected to be bewildered. They might be impossible, Madame 
Belot of course was impossible; but they were not vulgar and 
they were extremely intelligent, and their intelligence displayed 
itself in realms to which he was almost disconcertingly a 
stranger. Even Madame Belot, holding a stalwart, brown- 
fisted baby on her arm, could comment on her husband's work 
with a discerning aptness of phrase which made his own ap- 
preciation seem very trite and tentative. He might be putting 
up with the Belots, but it was quite as likely, he perceived, that 
they might be putting up with him. He realized, in this world 
of the Belots, the significance, the laboriousness, the high level 

154 



TANTE 155 

of vitality, and he realized that to the Belots his own world 
was probably seen as a dull, half useful, half obstructive fact, 
significant mainly for its purchasing power. For its power of 
appreciation they had no respect at all. " II radote, ma cherie," 
Monsieur Belot said to Karen of a famous person, now, after 
years of neglect, loudly acclaimed in London at the moment 
when, by fellow-artists, he was seen as defunct. " He no longer 
lives; he repeats himself. Ah, it is the peril," Monsieur Belot 
turned kindly including eyes on Gregory; "if one is not born 
anew, continually, the artist dies; it becomes machinery/' 

Karen was at home among the Belot's standards. She talked 
with Belot, of processes, methods, technique, the talk of artists, 
not artistic talk. " Et la grande Tante?" he asked her, when 
they were all seated at a nondescript meal about a long table 
of uncovered oak, the children unpleasantly clamorous and 
Madame Belot dispensing, from one end, strange, tepid tea, 
but excellent chocolate, while Belot, from the other, sent round 
plates of fruit and buttered rolls. Karen was laughing with 
la petite Margot, whom she held in her lap. 

" She is coming/' said Karen. " At last. In three weeks I 
shall see her now. She has been spending the summer in 
America, you know; among the mountains." 

One of the boys inquired whether there were not danger to 
Madame von Marwitz from les Peaux-Eouges, and when he was 
reassured and the question of buffaloes disposed of Madame 
Belot was able to make herself heard, informing Karen that the 
Lippheims, Franz, Frau Lippheim, Lotta, Minna and Elizabeth, 
were to give three concerts in Paris that winter. "You have 
not seen them yet, Karen ? " she asked. " They have not yet 
met Monsieur Jardine?" And when Karen said no, not yet; 
but that she had heard from Frau Lippheim that they were 
to come to London after Paris, Madame Belot suggested that 
the young couple might have time now to travel up to Leipsig 
and take the Lippheims by surprise. " Voild de braves gens et 
de Ions artistes/' said Monsieur Belot. 

"You did like my dear Belots," Karen said, as she and 
^Gregory drove away. She had, since her marriage, grown in 



156 TANTE 

perception; Gregory would have found it difficult, now, to hide 
ironies and antipathies from her. Even retrospectively she saw 
things which at the time she had not seen, saw, for instance, 
that the idea of the Belots had not been alluring to him. He 
knew, too, that she would have considered dislike of the Belots 
as showing defect in him not in them, but cheerfully, if with 
a touch of her severity. She had an infinite tolerance for the 
defects and foibles of those she loved. He was glad to be able 
to reply with full sincerity: "Us sont de braves gens et do 
Ions artistes/' 

" But/' Karen said, looking closely at him, and with a smile, 
"you would not care to pass your life with them. And you 
were quite disturbed lest I should say that I wanted to go and 
take the Lippheims by surprise at Leipsig. You like Us gens 
du monde better than artists, Gregory/' 

"What are you?" Gregory smiled back at her. "I like you 
better." 

"I? I am gens du monde manque and artiste manque. I 
am neither fish, flesh nor fowl," said Karen. "I'm only 
positively my husband's wife and Tante's ward. And that 
quite satisfies me." 

He knew that it did. Their happiness was flawless; flawless 
as far as her husband's wife was concerned. It was in regard 
to Tante's ward that Gregory was more and more conscious of 
keeping something from Karen, while more and more it grew 
difficult to keep anything from her. Already, if sub-con- 
sciously, she must have become aware that her guardian's un- 
abated mournfulness did not affect her husband as it did herself. 
She had showed him no more of Tante's letters, and they had 
been quite frequent. She had told him while they were in 
Scotland that it had hurt Tante very much that they should 
not have waited till her return; but she did not enlarge on the 
theme; and Gregory knew why; to enlarge would have been to 
reproach him. Karen had yielded, against her own wishes, to 
his entreaties. She had agreed that their marriage should not 
be so postponed at the last minute. In his vehemence Gregory 
had been skilful; he had said not one word of reproach against 



TANTE 157 

Madame von Marwitz for her disconcerting change of plan. 
It was not surprising to him; it was what he had expected of 
Madame von Marwitz, that she would put Karen aside for a 
whim. Karen would not see her guardian's action in this 
light; yet she must know that her beloved was vulnerable to 
the charge, at all events, of inconsiderateness, and she had been 
grateful to him, no doubt, for showing no consciousness of it. 
She had consented, perhaps, partly through gratitude, though 
she had felt her pledged word, too, as binding. Once she had 
consented, whatever the results, Gregory knew that she would 
not visit them on him. It was of her own responsibility that 
she was thinking when, with a grave face, she had told him of 
Tante's hurt. "After all, dearest," Gregory had ventured, 
" we did want her, did n't we ? It was really she who chose 
not to come, was n't it ? " 

"I am sure that Tante wanted to see me married," said 
Karen, touching on her own hidden wound. 

He helped her there, knowing, in his guile, that to exonerate 
Tante was to help not only Karen but himself. " Of course ; 
but she does n't think things out, does she ? She is accustomed 
to having things arranged for her. I suppose she didn't a bit 
realise all that had been settled over here, nor what an impatient 
lover it was who held you to your word." 

Her face cleared as he showed her that he recognised Tante's 
case as so explicable. " I 'm so glad that you see it all," she 
said. "For you do. She is oh! so unpractical, poor darling; 
she would forget everything, you know, unless I or Mrs. Talcott 
were there to keep reminding her except her music, of course ; 
but that is like breathing to her. And I am so sorry, so dread- 
fully sorry; because, of course, to know that she hurt me by 
not coming must hurt her more. But we will make it up to 
her. And oh ! Gregory, only think, she says she may come and 
stay with us." 

One of her first exclamations on going over his flat with him 
was that they could put up Tante, if she would come. The 
drawing-room could be devoted to her music; for there was 
ample room for the grand piano which accompanied Madame 



158 TANTE 

von Marwitz as invariably as her tooth-brush; and the spare- 
bedroom had a dressing-room attached that would do nicely for 
Louise. Now there seemed hope of this dream being realised. 

Karen had not yet received a wedding-present from her 
guardian, but in Paris, on the homeward way, she heard that 
it had been dispatched from New York and would be awaiting 
her in London, and it was of this gift that she had been talk- 
ing as she and Gregory drove from the station to St. James's 
on a warm October evening. Tante had not told her what 
the present was, but had written that Karen would care for it 
very much. " To find her present waiting for us is like having 
Tante to welcome us," Karen said. After her surmise about 
the present 'she relapsed into happy musings and Gregory, too, 
was silent, able only to give a side-glance of gratitude, as it 
were, at the thought that Tante was to welcome them by proxy. 

His mood was one of almost tremulous elation. He was 
bringing her home after bridal wanderings that had never lost 
their element of dream-like unreality. There had always been 
the feeling that he might wake any day to find Italy and 
Karen both equally illusory. But to see Karen in his home, 
taking her place in his accustomed life, would be to feel his joy 
linking itself securely with reality. 

The look of London at this sunny hour of late afternoon and 
at this autumnal season matched his consciousness of a tranquil 
metamorphosis. Idle still and empty of its more vivid signifi- 
cance, one yet felt in it the soft stirrings of a re-entering tide 
of life. Cabs passed, piled with brightly badged luggage; the 
drowsily reminiscent shop-windows showed here and there an 
adventurous forecast, and a house or two, among the rows of 
dumb, sleeping faces, opened wide eyes at the leisurely streets. 
The pale, high pinks of the sky drooped and melted into the 
greys and whites and buffs below, and blurred the heavy greens 
of the park with falling veils of rose. The scene seemed drawn 
in flat delicate tones of pastel. 

Karen sat beside him in the cab and, while she gazed before 
her, she had slipped her hand into his. She had preserved 
much of the look of the unmarried Karen in her dress. The 



TANTE 159 

difference was in the achievement of an ideal rather than in 
a change. The line of her little grey travelling hat above her 
brows was still unusual; with her grey gloves and long grey 
silken coat she had an air, cool, competent, prepared for any 
emergency of travel. She would have looked equally appro- 
priate dozing under the hooded light in a railway carriage, tak- 
ing her place at a table d'hote in a provincial French town, or 
walking in the wind and sun along a foreign plage. After 
looking at the London to which he brought her, Gregory looked 
at her. Marriage had worked none of its even superficial dis- 
enchantments in him. After three months of intimacy, Karen 
still constantly arrested him with a sense of the undiscovered, 
the unforeseen. What it consisted in he could hot have de- 
fined ; she was simple, even guileless, still ; she had no reticences ; 
yet she seemed to express so much of which she was unaware 
that he felt himself to be continually making her acquaintance. 
That quiet slipping now of her hand into his, while her gaze 
maintained its calm detachment, the charm of her mingled ten- 
derness and independence, had its vague sting for Gregory. 
She accepted him and whatever he might mean with something 
of the happy matter-of-fact with which she accepted all that 
was hers. She loved him with a completeness and selflessness 
that had made the world suddenly close round him with gentle 
arms; but Gregory often wondered if she were in love with 
him. Eapture, restlessness and fear all seemed alien to her, and 
to turn from thoughts of her and of their love to Karen herself 
was like passing from dreams of poignant, starry ecstasy to a 
clear, white dawn, with dew on the grass and a lark rising and 
the waking sweetness of a world at once poetical and practical 
about one. She strengthened and stilled his passion for her. 
And she seemed unaware of passion. 

They arrived at the great, hive-like mansion and in the lift, 
which took them almost to the top, Karen, standing near him, 
again put her hand in his and smiled at him. She was not 
feeling his tremor, but she was limpidly happy and as conscious 
as he of an epoch-making moment. 

JSarker opened the door to them, murmuring a decorous wel- 



160 TANTE 

come and they went down the passage towards the drawing- 
room. They must at once inaugurate their home-coming, 
Gregory said, by going out on the balcony and looking at the 
view together. 

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Barker, who followed after 
them, " but I hope you and Mrs. Jardine will think it best what 
I 've done with the large case, sir, that has come. I did n't 
know where you'd like it put, and it was a job getting it in 
anywhere. There was n't room to leave it standing here." 

" Tante's present ! " Karen exclaimed. " Oh, where is it ? " 

"I had it put in the drawing-room, Ma'am," said Barker. 
"It made a hole in the wall and knocked down two prints, 
sir ; I 'm very sorry, but there was no handling it conveniently." 

They turned down the next passage; the drawing-room was 
at the end. Gregory threw open the door and he and Karen 
paused upon the threshold. Standing in the middle of the 
room, high and dark against the half-obliterated windows, was 
a huge packing-case, an incredibly huge packing-case. At a 
first glance it had blotted out the room. The furniture, hud- 
dled in the corners, seemed to have drawn back from the ap- 
parition, scared and startled, and Gregory, in confronting it, 
felt an actual twinge of fear. The vast, unexpected form 
loomed to his imagination, for a moment, like a tidal-wave 
rising terrifically in familiar surroundings and poised in menace 
above him and his wife. He controlled an exclamation of dis- 
may, and the ominous simile receded before a familiar indigna- 
tion ; that, too, he controlled ; he could not say : " How 
stupid!" 

" Is it a piano ? " Karen, after their long pause, asked in a 
hushed, tentative voice. 

" It 's too high for a piano, darling," said Gregory, who had 
her arm in his " and I have my little upright, you see. I 
can't imagine." 

" Shall I get the porter, sir, to help open it while you and 
Mrs. Jardine have tea?" Barker asked. "I laid tea in the 
dining-room, Ma'am." 

" Yes ; let us have it opened at once," said Karen. " But I 



TANTE 161 

must be here when it is opened/' She drew her arm from 
Gregory's and made the tour of the case. " It. is probably 
something very fragile and that is why it is packed in such a 
great box; it cannot itself be so big." 

" Barker will begin peeling off the outer husks while we get 
ready for tea; we shall have plenty of time," said Gregory. 
" Get the porter up at once, Barker. I 'm afraid your guardian 
has an exaggerated idea of the size of our domain, darling. 
The present looks as if only baronial halls could accommodate 
it." 

She glanced up at him while he led her to their room and 
he knew that something in his voice struck her ; he had n't been 
able to control it and it sounded like ill-temper. Perhaps it was 
ill-temper. It was with a feeling of relief, and almost of 
escape, that he shut the door of the room upon tidal-waves and 
put his arms around his wife. " Darling," he said, " this is 
really it at last our home-coming." 

She returned his clasp and kiss with her frank, sweet fervour, 
though he saw in her eyes a slight bewilderment. He insisted 
he had often during their travels been her maid on taking 
off her hat and shoes for her before going into his adjoining 
dressing-room. Karen always protested. " It is so dear and 
foolish; I am so used to waiting on myself; I am so unused to 
being the fine idle lady." And she protested now, adding, as he 
knelt before her, and putting her hand on his head : " And 
besides, I believe that in some ways I am stronger than you. 
It should not be you to take care of me." 

" Stronger ? In what ways ? Upon my word, Madam ! " 
Gregory exclaimed smiling up at her, " Do you know that I was 
one of the best men of my time at Oxford ? " 

" I don't mean in body, I mean in feelings, in nerves," said 
Karen. " It is more like Tante." 

He wondered, while in his little dressing-room he splashed 
restoringly in hot water, what she quite did mean. Did she 
guess at the queer, morbid moment that had struck at his bliss- 
ful mood? It was indeed disconcerting to have her find him 
like Tante. 



162 TANTE 

"Do you mind," said Karen, when he joined her again, 
smiling at him and clasping her hands in playful entreaty, 
" seeing at once what the present is before we have tea ? I do 
not know how I could eat tea while I had not seen it." 

" Mind ? I ? m eager to see it, too," said Gregory, with a pang 
of self-reproach. " Of course we must wait tea." 

The porter, in the passage, was carrying away the outer 
boards of the packing-case and in the drawing-room they found 
Barker, knee deep in straw, ripping the heavy sacking covering 
that enveloped a much diminished but still enormous parcel. 

Gregory came to his aid. They drew forth fine shavings and 
unwrapped layers of paper, neatly secured; slowly the core of 
the mystery disclosed itself in a temple-like .form with a roof 
of dull black lacquer and dimly gilded inner walls, a thickly 
swathed figure wedged between them. The gift was, they now 
perceived, a Chinese Bouddha in his shrine, and, as Gregory 
and Barker disengaged the figure and laid it upon the ground, 
amusement, though still of an acrid sort, overcame Gregory's 
vexation. " A Bouddha, upon my word ! " he said. " This is 
a gorgeous gift." 

Karen stooped to help unroll as if from a mummy, the multi- 
tudinous bandages of fine paper; the passive bronze visage of 
the idol was revealed, and by degrees, the seated figure, 
ludicrously prone. They moved the temple to the end of the 
room, where two pictures were taken down and a sofa pushed 
away to make room for it; the Bouddha was hoisted, with dif- 
ficulty, on to its lotus, and there, dark on its glimmering back- 
ground of gold, it sat and ambiguously blessed them. 

Karen had worked with them neatly and expeditiously, and 
in silence, and Gregory, glancing at her face from time to time, 
felt sure that she was adjusting herself to a mingled bewilder- 
ment and disappointment; to the wish also, that she might be 
worthy of her new possession. She stood now before the 
Bouddha and gazed at it. 

They had turned up the electric lights, but the curtains 
were not drawn and the scent, and light, and vague, diffused 
roar of London at this evening hour came in at the open 



TANTE 163 

windows. Barker, the porter and the housemaid were carrying 
away the litter of paper and straw. The bright cheerful room 
with its lovable banality and familiar comfort smiled its wel- 
come; and there, in the midst, the majestic and alien presence 
sat, overpowering, and grotesque in its inappropriateness. 

Karen now turned her eyes en her husband and slightly 
smiled. " It is very wonderful/ 7 she said, " but I feel as if 
Tante expected a great, deal of me in giving it to me a great 
deal more than is in me. It ought to be a very deep and 
mystic person to have that Bouddha." 

" Yes, it 's a wonderful thing ; quite awesome. Perhaps she 
expects you to become deep and mystic," said Gregory. " Please 
don't." 

66 There is no danger of that/' said Karen. " Of course it is 
the beauty of it and the strangeness, that made Tante care for 
it. It is the sort of thing she would love to have herself." 

" Where on earth is he to go ? " Gregory surmised. " Yes, 
he might look well in that big music-room at Les Solitudes, or 
in some vast hall where he would be more of an episode and 
less of a white elephant. I hardly thing he'll fit anywhere 
into the passage/' he ventured. 

Karen had been looking from him to the Bouddha. "But 
Gregory, of course he must stay here," she said, "in the room 
we live in. Tante, I am sure, meant that." Her voice had a 
tremor. " I am sure it would hurt her dreadfully if we put 
him out of the way." 

Barker was now gone and Gregory put his arm around her. 
"But it makes all the room wrong, doesn't it? It will make 
us all wrong that's what I rather feel. We aren't a la 
hauteur/" He remembered, after speaking them, that these 
were the words he had used of his one colloquy with Madame von 
Marwitz. 

" I don't think," said Karen after a moment, " that you are 
quite kind." 

" Darling I 'm only teasing you," said Gregory. " I '11 
like the thing if you want me to, and make offerings to him 
every morning he looks in need of sacrifices and offerings, 



164 XANTE 

doesn't he? And what a queer Oriental scent is in the air. 
Eather nice, that." 

" Please don't call it the ' thing/ " said Karen. He saw into 
her divided loyalty. And his comfort was to know that she 
didn't like the Bouddha either. 

" I won't," he promised. " It is n't a thing, but a duty, a 
privilege, a responsibility. He shall stay here, where he is. 
He really won't crowd us too impossibly, and that sofa can go." 

" You see," said Karen, and tears now came to her eyes, " it 
would hurt her so dreadfully if she could dream that we did not 
love it very, very much." 

" I know," said Gregory, kissing her. " I perfectly under- 
stand. We will love it very, very much. Come now, you must 
be hungry; let us have our tea." 



CHAPTER XVII 

MADAME VON MARWITZ sat in the deep chintz sofa 
with Karen beside her, and while she talked to the 
young couple, Karen's hand in hers, her eyes continually went 
about the room with an expression that did not seem to match 
her alert, if rather mechanical, conversation. Karen had 
already seen her, the day before, when she had gone to the 
station to meet her and had driven with her to Mrs. Forrester's. 
But Miss Scrotton had been there, too, almost tearful in her 
welcoming back of "her great friend, and there had been little 
opportunity for talk in the carriage. Tante had smiled upon 
her, deeply, had held her hand, closely, and had asked, with 
the playful air which forestalls gratitude, how she liked her 
present. "You will see it, my Scrotton; a Bouddha in his 
shrine of the best period; a thing really rare and beautiful. 
Mr. Asprey told me of it, at a sale in New York; and I was 
able to secure it. Hein, ma petite; you were pleased? " 

" Oh, Tante, my letter told you that,' 7 said Karen. 

" And your husband ? He was pleased ? " 

"He thought that it was gorgeous," said Karen, but after a 
momentary hesitation not lost upon her guardian. 

"I was sorely tempted to keep it myself," said Madame von 
Marwitz. "I could see it in the music-room at Les Solitudes. 
But at once I felt it is Karen's. My only anxiety was for 
its background. I have never seen Mr. Jardine's flat. But I 
knew that I could trust the man my child had chosen to have 
beauty about him." 

" It is n't exactly a beautiful room," Karen confessed, smil- 
ing. " It is n't like the music-room ; you won't expect that 
from a London flat or from us. But it is very bright and 
comfortable and, yes, pretty. I hope that you will like my 
home." 

105 



166 T A N T E 

Miss Scrotton, Karen felt, while she made these preparatory 
statements, had eyed her in a somewhat gaunt manner; but 
she was accustomed to a gaunt manner from Miss Scrotton, 
and Miss Scrotton's drawing-room, certainly, was not as nice 
as Gregory's. Karen had not cared at all for its quality of 
earnest effort. Miss Scrotton, not many years ago, had been 
surrounded with art-tinted hangings and photographs from 
Eossetti, and the austerity of her eighteenth-century reaction 
was now almost defiant. Her drawing-room, in its arid chastity, 
challenged you, as it were, to dare remember the aesthetics of 
South Kensington. 

Karen did not feel that Gregory's drawing-room required 
apologies and Tante had been so mild and sweet, if also a little 
absent, that she trusted her to show leniency. 

She had, as yet, to-day, said nothing about the Bouddha or 
the background on which she found him. She talked to 
Gregory, while they waited for tea, asking him a great many 
questions, not seeming, always, to listen to his answers. " Ah, 
yes. Well done. Bravo," she said at intervals, as he told her 
about their wedding-trip and how he and Karen had enjoyed 
this or that. When Barker brought in the tea-tray and set it 
on a little table before Karen, she took up one of the cups 
they were of an old English ware with a wreath of roses inside 
and lines of half obliterated gilt and said it was her first 
comment on the background ff Tiens, c'est joli. Is this one 
of your presents, Karen ? " 

Karen told her that the tea-set was not a present; it had be- 
longed to a great-grandmother of Gregory's. 

Madame von Marwitz continued to examine the cup and, as 
she set it down among the others, with the deliberate nicety of 
gesture that gave at once power and grace to her slightest move- 
ment, she said: "You were fortunate in your great-grand- 
mother, Mr. Jardine." 

Her voice, her glance, her gestures, were already affecting 
Gregory unpleasantly. There was in them a quality of con- 
sidered control, as though she recognised difficulty and were 
gently and warily evading it. Seated on his chintz sofa in the 



TANTE 167 

bright, burnished room, all in white, with a white lace head- 
dress, half veil, half turban, binding her hair and falling on 
her shoulders, she made him think, in her inappropriateness 
and splendour, of her own Bouddha, who, in his glimmering 
shrine, lifted his hand as if in a gesture of bland exorcism be- 
fore which the mirage of a vulgar and trivial age must presently 
fade away. The Bouddha looked permanent and the room 
looked transient; the only thing in it that could stand up 
against him, as it were, was Karen. To her husband's eye, 
newly aware of esthetic discriminations, Karen seemed to in- 
terpret and justify her surroundings, to show their common- 
place as part of their charm and to make the Bouddha and 
Madame von Marwitz herself, in all their portentous distinction, 
look like incidental ornaments. 

Madame von Marwitz's silence in regard to the Bouddha had 
already become a blight, but it was, perhaps, the growing crisp 
decision in Gregory's manner that made Karen first aware of 
constraint. Her eyes then turned from Tante to the shrine 
at the end of the room, and she said : " You don't care for the 
way it looks here, Tante, do you your present ? " 

Madame von Marwitz had finished her tea and she turned in 
the sofa so that she could consider the Bouddha no longer 
incidentally but decisively. " I am glad that it is yours, ma 
ch'erie" she said, after the, pause of her contemplation. " Some 
day you must place it more happily. You don't intend, do 
you, Mr. Jardine, to live for any length of time in these 
rooms ? " 

" Oh, but I like it here so much, Tante," Karen took upon 
herself the reply. " I want to go on living where Gregory has 
lived for so long. We have such a view, you see ; and such air." 

Madame von Marwitz mused upon her for a moment and 
then giving her chin a little pinch, half meditative, half caress- 
ing, she inquired, with Continental frankness : " A very pretty 
sentiment, ma petite, but what will you do when the babies 
come?" 

Karen was not disconcerted. " I rather hope we may not 
have babies for a year or two, Tante; and when they do come 



168 TANTE 

there will be room, quite happily, for several. You don't know 
how big the flat is ; you will see. Gregory has always been able 
to put up his married sister and her husband; that gives us one 
quite big room over and a small one." 

" But then you can have no friends if your rooms are full 
of babies/' Madame von Marwitz objected, still with mild play- 
fulness. 

"No," Karen had to admit it; "but while they were very 
small I do not think I should have much time for friends in 
the house, should I. And we think, Gregory and I, of soon 
taking a tiny cottage in the country, too." 

" Then, while you remain here, and unless my Bouddha is to 
look very foolish," said Madame von Marwitz, "you must, I 
think, change your drawing-room. It can be changed," she 
gazed about her with a touch of wildness. " Something could 
be done. It could be darkened ; quieted ; it talks too much and 
too loudly now, does it not? But you could move these so 
large chairs and couches away and have sober furniture, of a 
good period; one can still pick up good things if one is clever; 
a Chinese screen here and there; a fine old mirror; a touch of 
splendour; a flavour of dignity. The shape of the room is not 
impossible; the outlook, as you say, gives space and breathing; 
something could be done." 

Karen's gaze followed hers, cogitating but not acquiescent. 
"But you see, Tante," she remarked, "these are things that 
Gregory has lived with. And I like them so, too. I should not 
like them changed." 

" But they are not things that you have lived with, parbleu ! " 
said Madame von Marwitz laughing gently. "It is a pretty 
sentiment, ma petite, it does you honour; you are but oh! 
so deeply the wife, already, are you not, my Karen ? but I am 
sure that your husband will not wish you to sacrifice your taste 
to your devotion. Young men, many of them do not care for 
these domestic matters; do not see them. My Karen must not 
pretend to me that she does not care and see. I am right, am I 
not, Mr. Jardine? you would not wish to deprive Karen of the 
bride's distinctive pleasure the furnishing of her own nest." 



TANTE 169 

Gregory's eyes met hers ; it seemed to be their second long 
encounter; eyes like jewels, these of Madame von Marwitz; 
full of intense life, intense colour, still, bright and cold, tragically 
cold. He seemed to see suddenly that all the face the long 
eyebrows, with the plaintive ripple of irregularity bending their 
line, the languid lips, the mournful eyelids, the soft contours of 
cheek and throat, were a veil for the coldness of her eyes. To 
look into them was like coming suddenly through dusky woods 
to a lonely mountain tarn, lying fathomless and icy beneath a 
moonlit sky. Gregory was aware, as if newly and more strongly 
than before, of how ambiguous was her beauty, how sinister her 
coldness. 

Above the depths where these impressions were received was 
his consciousness that he must be careful if Karen were not to 
guess how much he was disliking her guardian. It was not dif- 
ficult for him to smile at a person he disliked, but it was difficult 
not to smile sardonically. This was an apparently trivial occa- 
sion on which to feel that it was a contest that she had inaugu- 
rated between them ; but he did feel it. " Karen knows that she 
can burn everything in the room as far as I 'm concerned," he 
said. " Even your Bouddha," he added, smiling a little more 
nonchalantly, " I 'd gladly sacrifice if it gave her pleasure." 

Nothing was lost upon Madame von Marwitz, of that he was 
convinced. She saw, perhaps, further than he did; for he did 
not see, nor wish to, beyond the moment of guarded hostility. 
And it was with the utmost gentleness and precaution, with, 
indeed, the air of one who draws softly aside from a sleeping 
viper found upon the path, that she answered : " I trust, indeed, 
that it may never be my Karen's pleasure, or yours, Mr. Jardine, 
to destroy what is precious; that would hurt me very much. 
And now, child, may I not see the rest of this beloved domain ? " 
She turned from him to Karen. 

Gregory rose; he had told Karen that he would leave them 
alone after tea ; he had letters to write and he would see Madame 
von Marwitz before she went. He had the sense, as he closed the 
door, of flying before temptation. What might he not say to 
Madame von Marwitz if he saw too much of her ? 



170 TANTE 

When she and Karen were left alone, Madame von Marwitz's 
expression changed. The veils of lightness fell away; her face 
became profoundly melancholy; she gazed in silence at Karen 
and then held out her arms to her; Karen came closer and was 
enfolded in their embrace. 

" My child, my child/ 7 said Madame von Marwitz, leaning, as 
was her wont at these moments, her forehead against Karen's 
cheek. 

" Dear Tante," said Karen. " You are not sad ? " she mur- 
mured. 

" Sad ? " her guardian repeated after a moment. " Am I ever 
anything but sad ? But it is not of my sadness that I wish to 
speak. It is of you. Are you happy, my dear one ? " 

" Oh, Tante so happy, so very happy ; more than I* can say." 

" Is it so ? " Madame von Marwitz lifted her head and stroked 
back the girl's hair. " Is it so indeed ? He loves you very much, 
Karen?" 

" Oh, yes, Tante." 

" It is a great love ? selfless ? passionate ? It is a love worthy 
of my child?" 

"Yes, indeed." A slight austerity was now apparent in 
Karen's tone. Silence fell between them for a moment, and 
then, stroking again the golden head, Madame von Marwitz con- 
tinued, with great tenderness ; " It is well. It is what I have 
prayed for for my child. And let me not cast one shadow, 
even of memory, upon your happiness. Yet ah ah Karen 
if you could have let me share in the sunshine a little. If you 
could have remembered how dark was my way, how lonely. 
That my child should have married without me. It hurts. It 
hurts" 

She did not wish to cast a shadow, yet she was weeping, the 
silent, undisfigured weeping that Karen knew so well, showing 
only in the slow welling of tears from darkened eyes. 

" Oh, Tante," Karen now leaned her head to her guardian's 
shoulder, " I did not dream you would mind so much. It was 
so difficult to know what to do." 



TANTE 171 

" Have I shown myself so indifferent to you in the past, my 
Karen, that you should have thought I would not mind ? " 

" I do not mean that, Tante. I thought that you would feel 
that it was what it was best for me to do. I had given my word. 
All the plans were made/' 

" You had given your word ? Would he not have let you put 
me before your word? For once? For that one time in all 
our lives ? " 

" It was not that, Tante. Gregory would have done what I 
wished. You must not think that I was forced in any way." 
Karen now had raised her head. " But we had waited for you. 
We thought that you were coming. It was only at the last 
moment that you let us know, Tante, and you did not even say 
when you were coming back." 

Madame von Marwitz kept silence for some moments after 
this, savouring perhaps in the words though Karen's eyes, in 
speaking them, had also filled with tears some hint of resist- 
ance. She looked away from the girl, keeping her hand in hers, 
as she said: "I could not come. I could not tell you when I 
was to come. There were reasons that bound me; ties; claims; 
a tangle of troubled human lives the threads passing through 
my fingers. No; I was not free; and there I would have had 
you trust me. No, no, my Karen, we will speak of it no farther. 
I understand young hearts they are forgetful; they cannot 
dwell on the shadowed places. Let us put it aside, the great 
grief. What surprises me is to find that the littlest, littlest ones 
cling so closely. I am foolish, Karen. I have had much to 
bear lately, and I cannot shake off the little griefs. That others 
than myself should have chosen my child's trousseau; oh, it is 
small so very small a thing ; yet it hurts ; it hurts. That the 
joy of seeking all the pretty clothes together that, that, too, 
should have been taken from me. Do not weep, child." 

" Tante, you could not come, and the things had to be made 
ready. They all Mrs. Forrester Betty seemed to feel 
there was no time to lose. And I have always chosen my own 
clothes ; I did not know that you would feel this so." 



172 XANTE 

" Betty ? Who is Betty ? " Madame von Marwitz mournfully 
yet alertly inquired. 

" Lady Jar dine, Gregory's sister-in-law. You remember, 
Tante, I have written of her. She has been so kind." 

" Betty," Madame von Marwitz repeated, sadly. " Yes, I re- 
member; she was at your wedding, I think. There, dry your 
eyes, child. I understand. It is a loving heart, but it forgot. 
The sad old Tante was crowded out by new friends new joys." 

" No, you must not say that, Tante. It is not true." 

The hardness that Madame von Marwitz knew how to interpret 
was showing itself on Karen's face, despite the tears. Her 
guardian rose, passing her arm around her shoulders. " It is 
not true, then, cherie. When one is very sad one is foolish. 
Ah, I know it; one imagines too quickly things that are not 
true. They float and then they cling, like the tiny barbed down 
of the thistle, and then, behold, one's brain is choked with thorny 
weeds. That is how it comes, my Karen. Forgive me. There ; 
kiss me." 

"Darling Tante," Karen murmured, clasping her closely. 
" Nothing, nothing crowded you out. Nothing could ever 
crowd you out. Say that you believe me. Say that all the 
thistles are rooted up and thrown away." 

" Booted up and burned burned root and branch, my child. 
I promise it. I trust my child; she is mine; my loving one. 
Ainsi soit-il. And now," Madame von Marwitz spoke with sud- 
den gaiety, " and now show me your home, my Karen, show me 
all over this home of yours to which already you are so attached. 
Ah it is a child in love ! " 

They went from room to room, their arms around each other's 
waists. Madame von Marwitz cast her spell over Mrs. Barker 
in the kitchen, and smiled a long smile upon Rose, the house- 
maid. " Yes, yes, very nice, very pretty," she said, in the spare- 
room, the little dressing-room, the dining-room and kitchen. In 
Karen's room, with its rose-budded chintz and many photographs 
of herself, of Gregory, she paused and looked about. "Very, 
very pretty," she repeated. "You like bedsteads of brass, my 
Karen?" 



TANTE 173 

" Yes, Tante. They look so clean and bright." 

" So clean and bright. I do not think that I could sleep in 
brass/ 7 Madame von Marwitz mused. " But it is a simple child/' 

" Yes, that is just it, Tante/' said Karen, smiling. " And I 
wanted to explain to you about the drawing-room. You see it 
is that; I am simple; not a sea-anemone of taste, like you. I 
quite well see things. I see that Les Solitudes is beautiful, and 
that this is not like Les Solitudes. Yet I like it here just as 
it is." 

" Because it is his, is it not so, my child-in-love ? Ah, she 
must not be teased. You can be happy, then, among so much 
brass ? so many things that glitter and are highly coloured ? " 

" Yes, indeed. And it is a pretty bedroom, Tante. You must 
say that it is a pretty bedroom ? " 

" Is it ? Must I ? Pretty ? Yes, no doubt it is pretty. Yet 
I could have wished that my Karen's nest had more distinction, 
expressed a finer sense of personality. I imagine that every 
young woman in this vast beehive of homes has just such a 
bedroom." 

"You think so, Tante? I am afraid that if you think this 
like everybody's room you will find Gregory's library even worse. 
You must see that now ; it is all that you have not seen." Karen 
took her last bull by the horns, leading her out. 

"Has it red wall-paper, sealing-wax red; with racing prints 
on the walls and a very large photograph over the mantelpiece 
of a rowing-crew at Oxford ? " Madame von Marwitz questioned 
with a mixture of roguishness and resignation. 

" Yes, yes, you wicked Tante. How did you know ? " 

" I know ; I see it," said Madame von Marwitz. " But a man's 
room expresses a man's past. One cannot complain of that." 

They went to the library. Madame von Marwitz had de- 
scribed it with singular accuracy. Gregory rose from his letters 
and his eyes went from her face to Karen's, both showing their 
traces of tears. 

" It is au revoir, then," said Madame von Marwitz, standing 
before him, her arm round Karen's shoulders. " I am happy in 
my child's happiness, Mr. Jardine. You have made her happy, 



174 TANTE 

and I thank you. You will lend her to me, sometimes? You 
will be generous with me and let me see her ? " 

" Of course ; whenever you want to ; whenever she wants to/' 
said Gregory, leaning his hands on the back of his chair and 
tilting it a little while he smiled the fullest acquiescence. 

Madame von Marwitz's eyes brooded on him. " That is kind," 
she said gently. 

" Oh no, it is n't," Gregory returned. 

"I think," said Madame von Marwitz, becoming even more 
gentle,- "that you misunderstand my meaning. When people 
love, it is hard sometimes not to be selfish in the joy of love, and 
the lesser claims tend to be forgotten. I only ask that you should 
make it easy for Karen to come to me." 

To this Gregory did not reply. He continued to tilt his chair 
and to smile at Madame von Marwitz. 

" This husband of yours, Karen," said Madame von Marwitz, 
" does not understand me yet. You must interpret me to him. 
Adieu, Mr. Jardine. Will you come with me alone to the door, 
Karen. It is our first farewell in a home I do not give you." 

She gave Gregory her hand. They left him and went down 
the passage together. Madame von Marwitz kept her arm round 
the girl's shoulders, but its grasp had tightened. 

" My child ! my own child ! " she murmured, as, at the door, 
she turned and clasped her. Her voice strove with deep emotion. 

" Dear, dear Tante," said Karen, also with a faltering voice. 

Madame von Marwitz achieved an uncertain smile. " Fare- 
well, my dear one. I bless you. My blessing be upon you." 
Then, on the threshold she paused. " Try to make your husband 
like me a little, my Karen," she said. 

Karen did not come back to him in the smoking-room and 
Gregory presently got up and went -to look for her. He found 
her in the drawing-room, sitting in the twilight, her elbow on 
her knee, her chin in her hand. He did not know what she 
could be feeling; the fact that dominated in his own mind was 
that her guardian had made her weep. 

"Well, darling," he said. He stooped over her and put his 
hand on her shoulder. 



T A N T E 175 

The face she lifted to him was ambiguous. She had not wept 
again; on the contrary, he felt sure that she had been intently 
thinking. The result of her thought, now, was a look of resolute 
serenity. But he was sure that she did not feel serene. For 
the first time, Karen was hiding her feeling from him. " Well, 
darling," she replied. 

She got up and put her arms around his neck ; she looked at 
him, smiling calmly ; then, as if struck by a sudden memory, she 
said : " It is the night of the dance, Gregory." 

They were to dine at Edith Morton's and go on to Karen's 
first dance. Under Betty's supervision she had already made 
progress through half-a-dozen lessons, though she had not, she 
confessed to Gregory, greatly distinguished herself at them. 
"I'll get you. round all right/' he had promised her. They 
looked forward to the dance. 

" So it is/' said Gregory. " It ? s not time to dress yet, is it ? " 

" It 's only half-past six. Shall I wear my white silk, Greg- 
ory, with the little white rose wreath ? " 

" Yes, and the nice little square-toed white silk shoes like 
a Eeynolds lady's and like nobody else's. I do so like your 
square toes." 

" I cannot bear pinched toes/' said Karen. " My father gave 
me a horror of that ; and Tante. Her feet are as perfect as her 
hands. She has all her shoes made for her by a wonderful old 
man in Vienna who is an artist in shoes. She was looking well, 
was n't she, Tante ? " Karen added, in even tones. Gregory and 
she were sitting now on the sofa together, their arms linked 
and hand-in-hand. 

" Beautiful," said Gregory with sincerity. " How well that 
odd head-dress became her." 

" Did n't it ? It was nice that she liked those pretty tea-cups, 
was n't it. And appreciated our view ; even though," Karen 
smiled, taking now another bull by the horns, " she was so hard 
on our flat. I 'm afraid she feels her Bouddha en travestie here." 

" Well, he is, of course. I do hope," said Gregory, also seizing 
his bull, " that she did n't think me rude in my joke about being 
willing to burn him. And you will change everything burn 



176 TANTE 

anything barring the Bouddha and the tea-cups that you 
want to, won't you, dear ? " 

" No ; I would n't, even if I wanted to ; and I don't want to. 
Perhaps Tante did not quite understand. I think it may take 
a little time for her to understand your jokes or you her out- 
spokenness. She is like a child in her candour about the things 
she likes or dislikes." A fuller ease had come to her voice. By 
her brave pretence that all was well she was persuading herself 
that all could be made well. 

Perhaps it might be, thought Gregory, if only he could go on 
keeping his temper with Madame von Marwitz and if Karen, 
wise and courageous darling, could accept the unspoken between 
them, and spare him definitions and declarations. A situation 
undefined is so often a situation saved. Life grows over and 
around it. It becomes a mere mummied fly, preserved in amber ; 
unsightly perhaps; but unpernicious. After all, he told himself 
and he went on thinking over the incidents of the afternoon 
while he dressed after all, Madame von Marwitz might not 
be much in London ; she was a comet and her course would lead 
her streaming all over the world for the greater part of her time. 
And above all and mercifully, Madame von Marwitz was not a 
person upon whose affections one would have to count. He 
seemed to have found out all sorts of things about her this 
afternoon: he could have given Sargent points. The main 
strength of her feeling for anyone, deep instinct told him, was 
an insatiable demand that they should feel sufficiently for her. 
And the chief difficulty he refused to dignify it by the name 
of danger was that Madame von Marwitz had her deep in- 
stincts, too, and had, no doubt, found out all sorts of things 
about him. He did not like her ; he had not liked her from the 
first; and she could hardly fail to feel that he liked her less and 
less. He was able to do Madame von Marwitz justice. Even 
a selflessly devoted mother could hardly rejoice wholeheartedly 
in the marriage of a daughter to a man who disliked herself; 
and how much less could Madame von Marwitz, who was not a 
mother and not selflessly devoted to anybody, rejoice in Karen's 
marriage. She was right in feeling that it menaced her own 



T A N T E 177 

position. He did her justice ; he made every allowance for her ; 
he intended to be straight with her; but the fact that stood out 
for Gregory was that, already, she was not straight with him. 
Already she was picking surreptitiously, craftily, at his life ; and 
this was to pick at Karen's. 

He would give her a long string and make every allowance for 
the vexations of her situation; but if she began seriously to 
tarnish Karen's happiness he would have to pull the string 
smartly. The difficulty he refused to see this as danger either 
was that he could not pull the string upon Madame von 
Marwitz without, by the same gesture, upsetting himself as well. 



CHAPTEK XVIII 

THE unspoken, for the first month or so of Madame von 
Marwitz's return, remained accepted. There were no dec- 
larations and no definitions, and Gregory's immunity was 
founded on something more reassuring than the mere fact that 
Madame von Marwitz frequently went away. When she was in 
London, it became apparent, he was to see very little of her, 
and as long as they did not meet too often he felt that he was, 
in so far, safe. Madame von Marwitz was tremendously busy. 
She paid many week-end visits ; she sat to Belot who had come 
to London to paint it for a great portrait ; she was to give 
three concerts in London during the winter and two in Paris, 
and it was natural enough that she had not found time to come 
to the fiat again. 

But although Gregory saw so little of her, although she was 
not in his life as a presence, he felt her in it as an influence. 
She might have been the invisible but portentous comet moving 
majestically on the far confines of his solar system; and one 
accounted for oddities of behaviour in the visible planets by 
inferring that the comet was the cause of them. If he saw very 
little of Madame von Marwitz, he saw, too, much less of his twin 
planet, Karen. It was not so much that Karen's course was odd 
as that it was altered. If Madame von Marwitz sent for her 
very intermittently, she had, all the same, in all her life, as she 
told Gregory, never seen so much of her guardian. She frankly 
displayed to him the radiance of her state, wishing him, as he 
guessed, to share to the full every detail of her privileges, and to 
realise to the full her gratitude to him for proving so conclu- 
sively to Tante that there was none of the selfishness of love in 
him. Tante must see that he made it very easy for her to go 
to her, and Gregory derived his own secret satisfaction from the 
thought that Karen's radiance was the best of retorts to Madame 

178 



TANTE 179 

von Marwitz's veiled intimations. As long as she made Karen 
happy and let him alone, he seemed to himself to tell her, he 
would get on very well; and he suspected that her clutch of 
Karen would soon loosen when she found it unchallenged. In 
the meantime there was not much satisfaction for him elsewhere. 
Karen's altered course left him often lonely. Not only had the 
readings of Political Economy, begun with so much ardour in 
in their spare evenings, almost lapsed for lack of consecutive- 
ness ; but he frequently found on coming home tired for his tea, 
and eager for the sight of his wife, a little note from her telling 
him that she had been summoned to Mrs. Forrester's as Tante 
was " with Faf ner in his cave " and wanted her. 

Fafner was the name that Madame von Marwitz gave to her 
moods of sometimes tragic and sometimes petulant melancholy. 
Karen had told him all about Fafner and how, in the cave, Tante 
would lie sometimes for long hours, silent, her eyes closed, hold- 
ing her hand; sometimes asking her to read to her, English, 
French, German or Italian poetry ; their range of reading always 
astonished Gregory. 

He gathered, too, from Karen's confidences, how little, until 
now, he had gauged the variety of the great woman's resources, 
how little done justice to her capacity for being merely delight- 
ful. She could be whimsically gay in the midst of melancholy, 
and her jests and merriment were the more touching, the more 
exquisite, from the fact that they flowered upon the dark back- 
ground of the cave. It was, he saw, with a richer flavour that 
Karen tasted again the charm of old days, when, after some great 
musical or social event, in which the girl had played her part 
of contented observer, they had laughed together over follies and 
appreciated qualities, in the familiar language of allusion evolved 
from long community in experience. 

Karen repeated to him Tante's sallies at the expense of this 
or that person and the phrase with which she introduced these 
transformations of human foolishness to the service of comedy. 
" Come, let us make meringues of them." 

The dull or ludicrous creatures, so to be whipped up and baked 
crisp, revealed, in the light of the analogy, the tempting vacuity 



180 TANTE 

of a bowl of white of egg. When Tante introduced her wit into 
the colourless substance she frothed it to a sparkling work of art. 

Gregory was aware sometimes of a pang as he listened. He 
and Karen had, indeed, their many little jokes, and their stock 
of common association was growing; but there was nothing like 
the range of reference, nothing like the variety of experience, 
that her life with Madame von Marwitz had given her to draw 
upon. It was to her companionship, intermittent as it had been, 
with the world-wandering genius that she owed the security of 
judgment that often amused yet often disconcerted him, the 
catholicity of taste beside which, though he would not acknowl- 
edge its final validity, he felt his own taste to be sometimes 
narrow and sometimes guileless. He saw that Karen had every 
ground for feeling her own point of view a larger one than his. 
It was no personal complacency that her assurance expressed, 
but the modest recognition of privilege. Beyond their personal 
tie, so her whole demeanour showed him, he had nothing to add 
to her highly dowered life. 

Gregory had known that his world would mean nothing to 
Karen ; yet when, under Betty's guidance, she fulfilled her social 
duties, dined out, gave dinners, received and returned visits, the 
very compliance of her indifference, while always amusing, vexed 
him a little, and a little alarmed him, too. He had known that 
he would have to make all the adjustments, but how adjust one- 
self to a permanent separation between one's private and one's 
social life ? Old ties, lacking new elements of growth, tended to 
become formalities. When Karen was not there, he did not care 
to go without her to see people, and when she was with him the 
very charm of her personality was a barrier between him and 
them. His life became narrower as well as lonelier. There was 
nothing much to be done with people to whom one's wife was 
indifferent. 

It was very obvious to him that she found the sober, conven- 
tional people who were his friends very flavourless, especially 
when she came to them from Fafner's cave. He had always 
taken his friends for granted, as part of the pleasant routine of 
life, like one's breakfast or one's bath; but now, seeing them 



TANTE 181 

anew, through Karen's eyes, he was inclined more and more to 
believe that they were n't as dull as she found them. She lacked 
the fundamental experience of a rooted life. She was yet to 
learn he hoped, he determined, she should learn that a 
social system of harmonious people, significant perhaps more be- 
cause of their places in the system than as units, and bound to- 
gether by a highly evolved code, was, when all was said and done, 
a more satisfactory place in which to spend one's life than an 
anarchic world of erratic, undisciplined, independent individuals. 
Karen, however, did not understand the use of the system and 
she saw its members with eyes as clear to their defects as were 
Gregory's to the defects of Madame von Marwitz. 

Gregory's friends belonged to that orderly and efficient section 
of the nation that moves contentedly between the simply pro- 
fessional and the ultra fashionable. They had a great many 
duties, social, political and domestic, which they took with a 
pleasant seriousness, and a great many pleasures which they took 
seriously, too. They " came up " from the quiet responsibilities 
of the country-side for a season and " did " the concerts and 
exhibitions as they " did " their shopping and their balls. Art, 
to most of them, was a thing accepted on authority, like the 
latest cut for sleeves or the latest fashion for dressing the hair. 
A few of them, like the Cornish Lavingtons, had never heard 
Madame Okraska; a great many of them had never heard of 
Belot. The Madame Okraskas and the Belots of the world were 
to them a queer, alien people, regarded with only a mild, deriva- 
tive interest. They recognized the artist as a decorative appur- 
tenance of civilized life, very much as they recognized the dentist 
OP the undertaker as its convenient appurtenances. It still 
struck them as rather strange that one should meet artists so- 
cially and, perhaps, as rather regrettable, their traditional 
standard of good faith requiring that the people one met socially 
should, on the whole, be people whom one wouldn't mind one's 
sons and daughters marrying ; and they did n't conceive of artists 
as entering that category. 

Gregory, with all his acuteness, did not gauge the astonish- 
ment with which Karen came to realize these standards of his 



1S2 TANTE 

world. Her cheerful evenness of demeanour was a cloak, some- 
times for indignation antl sometimes for mirth. She could only 
face the fact that this world must, in a sense, be hers, by rele- 
gating it and all that it meant to the merest background in their 
lives. Her real life consisted in Gregory; in Tante. All that 
she had to do with these people oh, so nice and kind they were, 
she saw that well, but oh so stupid, most of them, so inconceiv- 
ably blind to everything of value in life all that she had to 
do was, from time to time, to open their box, their well-padded, 
well-provendered box, and look at them pleasantly. She felt 
sure that for Gregory's sake, if not for theirs, she should always 
be able to look pleasantly ; unless she had been afraid of this 
sometimes they should say or do things that in their blindness 
struck at Tante and at the realities that Tante stood for. But 
all had gone so well, so Karen believed, that she felt no mis- 
givings when Tante expressed a wish to look into the box with 
her and said, " You must give a little dinner-party for me, my 
Karen, so that I may see your new milieu." 

Gregory controlled a dry little grimace when Karen reported 
this speech to him. He could n't but suspect Tante's motives in 
wanting them to give a little dinner-party for her. But he 
feigned the most genial interest in the plan and agreed with 
Karen that they must ask their very nicest to meet Tante. 

Betty had helped Karen with all her dinners; she had seen 
as yet very little of the great woman, and entered fully into 
Karen's eagerness that everything should be very nice. 

" Gregory will take her in," said Betty ; " and we ? 11 put 
Bertram Fraser on her other side. He's always delightful. 
And we '11 have the Canning-Thompsons and the Overtons and 
the Byngs ; the Byngs are so decorative ! " Constance Armytage 
was now Mrs. Byng. 

" And my dear old General," said Karen, sitting at her desk 
with a paper on her knee and an obedient pencil in her hand; 
" I forget his name, but we met him at the dinner that you gave 
after we married ; you know, Betty, with the thin russet face and 
the little blue eyes. May he take me in ? " 

"General Montgomery. Yes; that is a good idea; glorious 



TANTE 183 

old man. Though Lady Montgomery is rather a stodge/' said 
Betty ; " but Oliver can have her." 

" I remember, a sleek, small head like a turtle with 
salmon-pink feathers on it. Poor Oliver. Will he mind ? " 

" Not a bit. He never minds anything but the dinner ; and 
with Mrs. Barker we can trust to that/' 

"Tante often likes soldiers," said Karen, pleased with her 
good idea. " Our flags, she says, they are, and that the world 
would be drab-coloured without them." 

So it was arranged. Bertram Fraser was an old family friend 
of the Jardines'. His father was still the rector of their North- 
umberland parish, and he and Gregory and Oliver had hunted 
and fished and shot and gone to Oxford together. Bertram had 
been a traveller in strange countries since those days, had writ- 
ten one or two clever books and was now in Parliament. The 
Overtons, also country neighbours, were fond of music as well 
as of hunting, and Mr. Canning-Thompson was an eminent, if 
rather ponderous, Q.C., for whose wife, the gentle and emaciated 
Lady Mary, Gregory had a special affection. She was a great 
philanthropist and a patient student of early Italian art, and 
he and she talked gardens and pictures together. 

Betty and Oliver were the first to arrive on the festal night, 
Betty's efficiency, expressed by all her diamonds and a dress of 
rose-coloured velvet, making up for whatever there might be of 
inefficiency in Karen's appearance and deportment. Karen was 
still, touchingly so to her husband's eyes, the little Hans Ander- 
sen heroine in appearance. She wore to-night the white silk 
dress and the wreath of little white roses. 

Oliver and Gregory chatted desultorily until the Byngs arrived. 
Oliver was fair and ruddy and his air of dozing contentment 
was always vexatious to his younger brother. He had every 
reason for contentment. Betty's money had securely buttressed 
the family fortunes and he had three delightful little boys to 
buttress Betty's money. Gregory grew a little out of temper 
after talking for five minutes to Oliver and this was not a fortu- 
nate mood in which to realise, as the Montgomerys, the Overtons 
and the Canning- Thompsons followed the Byngs, at eight-fifteen, 



184 TANTE 

that Madame von Marwitz was probably going to be late. At 
eight-thirty, Karen, looking at him with some anxiety expressed 
in her raised brows, silently conveyed to him her fear that the 
soup, at the very least, would be spoiled. At eight-forty Betty 
murmured to Karen that they had perhaps better begin without 
Madame von Marwitz hadn't they? She must, for some 
reason, be unable to come. Dinner was for eight. " Oh, but we 
must wait longer," said Karen. " She would have telephoned 
or Mrs. Forrester would if she had not been coming. 
Tante is always late; but always, always/' she added, without 
condemnation if with anxiety. " And there is the bell now. 
Yes, I heard it." 

It was a quarter to nine when Madame von Marwitz, with 
Karen, who had hastened out to meet her, following behind, 
appeared at last, benign and unperturbed as a moon sliding from 
clouds. In the doorway she made her accustomed pause, the 
pause of one not surveying her audience but indulgently allow- 
ing her audience to survey her. It was the attitude in which 
Belot was painting his great portrait of her. But it was not met 
to-night by the eyes to which she was accustomed. The hungry 
guests looked at Madame von Marwitz with austere relief and 
looked only long enough to satisfy themselves that her appear- 
ance really meant dinner. 

Gregory led the way with her into the dining-room and sus- 
pected in her air of absent musing a certain discomfiture. 

She was, as usual, strangely and beautifully attired, as though 
for the operatic stage rather than for a dinner-party. Strings 
of pearls fell from either side of her head to her shoulders and a 
wide tiara of pearls banded her forehead in a manner recalling 
a Eussian head-dress. She looked, though so lovely, also so con- 
spicuous that there was a certain ludicrousness in her appearance. 
It apparently displeased or surprised Lady Montgomery, who, 
on Gregory's other hand, her head adorned with the salmon-pink, 
ostrich feathers, raised a long tortoiseshell lorgnette and fixed 
Madame von Marwitz through it for a mute, resentful moment. 
Madame von Marwitz, erect and sublime as a goddess in a shrine, 



TANTE 185 

looked back. It was a look lifted far above the region of Lady 
Montgomery's formal, and after all only tentative, disapproba- 
tions ; divine impertinence, sovereign disdain informed it. Lady 
Montgomery dropped her lorgnette with a little clatter and, 
adjusting her heavy diamond bracelets, turned her sleek mid- 
Victorian head to her neighbour. Gregory did not know whether 
to be amused or vexed. 

It was now his part to carry on a conversation with the great 
woman : and he found the task difficult. She was not silent, nor 
unresponsive. She listened to his remarks with the almost dis- 
concerting closeness of attention that* he had observed in her on 
their meeting of the other day, seeming to seek in them some 
savour that still escaped her good-will. She answered him 
alertly, swiftly, and often at random, as though by her intelli- 
gence and competence to cover his ineptitude. Her smile was 
brightly mechanical ; her voice at once insistent and monotonous. 
She had an air, which Gregory felt more and more to be almost 
insolent, of doing her duty. 

Bertram Eraser's turn came and he rose to it with his usual 
buoyancy. He was interested in meeting Madame von Marwitz ; 
but he was a young man who had made his way in the world and 
perhaps exaggerated his achievement. He expected people to be 
interested also in meeting him. He expected from the great 
genius a reciprocal buoyancy. Madame von Marwitz bent her 
brows upon him. Irony grew in her smile, a staccato crispness 
in her utterance. Cool and competent as he was, Bertram pres- 
ently looked disconcerted; he did not easily forgive those who 
disconcerted him, and, making no further effort to carry on the 
conversation, he sat silent, smiling a little, and waited for his 
partner to turn to him again. Had Gregory not taken up his 
talk, lamely and coldly, with Madame von Marwitz, she would 
have been left in an awkward isolation. 

She answered him now in a voice of lassitude and melancholy. 
Leaning back in her chair, strange and almost stupefying object 
that she was, her eyes moved slowly round the table with a wintry 
desolation of glance, until, meeting Karen's eyes, they beamed 



186 TANTE 

forth a brave warmth of cherishing, encouraging sweetness. 
" Yes, ma cherie," they seemed to say ; " Bear up, I am bearing 
up. I will make meringues of them for you/' 

She could make meringues of them; Gregory didn't doubt it. 
Yet, and here was the glow of malicious satisfaction that atoned 
to him for the discomforts he endured, they were, every one of 
them, making meringues of her. 

In their narrowness, in their defects, ran an instinct, as shrewd 
as it was unconscious, that was a match for Madame von Mar- 
witz's intelligence. They were so unperceiving that no one of 
them, except perhaps Betty and Karen who of course didn't 
count among them at all was aware of the wintry wind of 
Madame von Marwitz's boredom; yet if it had been recognised 
it would have been felt as insignificant. They knew that she 
was a genius, and that she was very odd looking and that, as 
Mrs. Jardine's guardian, she had not come in a professional 
capacity and might therefore not play to them after dinner. 
So defined, she was seen, with all her splendour of association, 
as incidental. 

Only perhaps in this particular section of the British people 
could this particular effect of cheerful imperviousness have been 
achieved. They were not of the voracious, cultured hordes who 
make their way by their well-trained appreciations, nor of the 
fashionable lion-collecting tribe who do not need to make their 
way but who need to have their way made amusing. Well-bred, 
securely stationed, untouched by boredom or anxiety, they were 
at once too dull and too intelligent to be fluttered by the pres- 
ence of a celebrity. They wanted nothing of her, except, perhaps, 
that after their coffee she should give them some music, and they 
did not want this at all eagerly. 

If Madame von Marwitz had come to crush, to subjugate or 
to enchant, she had failed in every respect and Gregory saw that 
her failure was not lost upon her. Her manner, as the con- 
sciousness grew, became more frankly that of the vain, ill- 
tempered child, ignored. She ceased to speak ; her eyes, fixed on 
the wall over Sir Oliver's head, enlarged in a sullen despondency. 

Lady Montgomery was making her way through a bunch of 



T A N T E 187 

grapes and Lady Mary had only peeled her peach, when, sud- 
denly, taking upon herself the prerogative of a hostess, Madame 
von Marwitz caught up her fan and gloves with a gesture of 
open impatience, and swept to the door almost before Gregory 
had time to reach it or the startled guests to rise from their places. 



CHAPTER XIX 

WHEN" the time came for going to the drawing-room, 
Gregory found Betty entertaining the company there, 
while Karen, on a distant sofa, was apparently engaged in show- 
ing her guardian a book of photographs. He took in the situa- 
tion at a glance, and, as he took it in, he was aware that part 
of its significance lay in the fact that it obliged him to a swift 
interchange with Betty, an interchange that irked him, defining 
as it did a community of understanding from which Karen, in 
her simplicity, was shut out. 

He went across to the couple on the sofa. Only sudden illness 
could have excused Madame von Marwitz's departure from the 
dining-room, yet he determined to ask no questions, and to leave 
any explanations to her. 

Karen's eyes, in looking at him, were grave and a little 
anxious; but the anxiety, he saw, was not on his account. 
" Tante wanted to see our kodaks," she said. " Do sit here with 
us, Gregory. Betty is talking to everybody so beautifully." 

" But you must go and talk to everybody beautifully, too, now, 
darling," said Gregory. He put his hand on her shoulder and 
looked down at her smiling. The gesture, with its marital as- 
surance, the smile that was almost a caress, were involuntary; 
yet they expressed more than his tender pride and solicitude, 
they defined his possession of her, and they excluded Tante. 
" It 's been a nice little dinner, has n't it," he went on, continuing 
to look at her and not at Madame von Marwitz. " I saw that 
the General was enjoying you immensely. There he is, looking 
over at you now ; he wants to go on talking about Garibaldi with 
you. He said he 'd never met a young woman so well up in 
modern history." 

Madame von Marwitz's brooding eyes were on him while he 
thus spoke. He ignored them. 

188 



TANTB 189 

Karen looked a little perplexed. " Did you think it went so 
well, then, Gregory ? " 

"Why, didn't yon?" 

" I am not sure. I don't think I shall ever much like dinners, 
when I give them," she addressed herself to her guardian as well 
as to her husband. " They make one feel so responsible." 

"Well, as far as you were responsible for this one you were 
responsible for its being very nice. Everybody enjoyed them- 
selves. Now go and talk to the General." 

" I did enjoy him," said Karen, half closing her book. " But 
Tante has rather a headache I am afraid she is tired. You 
saw at dinner that she was tired." 

" Yes, oh yes, indeed, I thought that you must be feeling a 
little ill, perhaps," Gregory observed blandly, turning his eyes 
now on Madame von Marwitz. "Well, you see, Karen, I will 
take your place here, and it will give me a chance for a quiet 
talk with your guardian." 

" People must not bother her," Karen rose, pleased, he could 
see, with this arrangement, and hoping, he knew, that the oppor- 
tunity was a propitious one, and that in it her dear ones might 
draw together. " You will see that they don't bother her, Greg- 
ory, and go on showing her these." 

" They won't bother a bit, I promise," said Gregory, taking 
her place as she rose. " They are all very happily engaged, and 
Madame von Marwitz and I will look at the photographs in per- 
fect peace." 

Something in these words and in the manner with which her 
guardian received them, with a deepening of her long, steady 
glance, arrested Karen's departure. She stood above them, half 
confident, yet half hesitating. 

" Go, mon enfant/' said Madame von Marwitz, turning the 
steady glance on her. " Go. Nobody here, as your husband 
truly says, is thinking of me. I shall be quite untroubled." 

Still with her look of preoccupation Karen moved away. 

Cheerfully and deliberately Gregory now proceeded to turn 
the pages of the kodak album, and to point out with painstaking 
geniality the charms and associations of each view. " Tu I'as 



190 TANTE 

voulu, Georges Dandin" expressed his thought, for he didn't 
believe that Madame von Marwitz, more than any person not 
completely self-abnegating, could tolerate looking at other 
people's kodaks. But since it was her chosen occupation, the 
best she could find to do with their dinner-party, she should be 
gratified; should be shown Karen standing on a peak in the 
Tyrol; Karen feeding the pigeons before St. Mark's; Karen, 
again was n't it rather nice of her ? in a gondola. Madame 
von Marwitz bent her head with its swinging pearls above the 
pictures, proffering now and then a low murmur of assent. 

But in the midst of the Paris pictures she lifted her head and 
looked at him. It was again the steady, penetrating look, and 
now it seemed, with the smile that veiled it, to claim some com- 
mon understanding rather than seek it. " Enough," she said. 
She dismissed the kodaks with a tap of her fan. "I wish to 
talk with you. I wish to talk with you of our Karen." 

Gregory closed the volume. Madame von Marwitz's attitude 
as she leaned back, her arms lightly folded, affected him in its 
deliberate grace and power as newly significant. Keeping his 
frosty, observant eyes upon her, Gregory waited for what she 
had to say. " I am glad, very glad, that you have given me 
this opportunity for a quiet conversation," so she took up the 
threads of her intention. " I have wanted, for long, to consult 
with you about various matters concerning Karen, and, in 
especial, about her future life. Tell me this is what I wish 
in particular to ask you you are going, are you not, in time, 
when she has learned more skill in social arts, to take my Karen 
into the world dans le monde" Madame von Marwitz repeated, 
as though to make her meaning genially clear. " Skill she is 
as yet too young to have mastered or cared to master. But 
she had always been at ease on the largest stage, and she will do 
you credit, I assure you." 

It was rather, to Gregory's imagination always quick at 
similes as though she had struck a well-aimed blow right in 
the centre of a huge gong hanging between them. There she 
was, the blow said. It was this she meant. No open avowal of 
hostility could have been more reverberating or purposeful, and 



TANTE 191 

no open avowal of hostility would have been so sinister. But 
Gregory, though his ears seemed to ring with the clang of it, was 
ready for her. He, too, with folded arms, sat leaning back and 
he, too, smiled genially. " That 's rather crushing, you know," 
he made reply, " or did n't you ? Karen is in my world. This 
is my world." 

Madame von Marwitz gazed at him for a moment as if to 
gauge his seriousness. And then she turned her eyes on his 
world and gazed at that. It was mildly chatting. It was placid, 
cheerful, unaware of deficiency. It thought that it was enjoying 
itself. It was, indeed, enjoying itself, if with the slightest of 
materials. Betty and Bertram Fraser laughed together; Lady 
Mary and Oliver ever so slowly conversed. Constance Byng and 
Mr. Overton discussed the latest opera, young Byng had joined 
Karen and the General, and a comfortable drone of politics came 
from Mrs. Overton and Mr. Canning-Thompson. Removed a 
little from these groups Lady Montgomery, very much like a 
turtle, sat with her head erect and her eyes half closed, evidently 
sleepy. It was upon Lady Montgomery that Madame von Mar- 
witz's gaze dwelt longest. 

" You are contented," she then said to Gregory, " with these 
good people ; for yourself and for your wife ? " 

"Perfectly," said Gregory. "You see, Karen has married a 
commonplace person." 

Madame von Marwitz paused again, and again her eyes dwelt 
on Lady Montgomery, whose pink feathers had given a sudden 
nod and then serenely righted themselves. "I see," she then 
remarked. " But she is not contented." 

" Ah, come," said Gregory. " You can't shatter the conceit of 
a happy husband so easily, Madame von Marwitz. You ask too 
much of me if you ask me to believe that Karen makes confi- 
dences to you that she doesn't to me. I can't take it on, you 
know," he continued to smile. 

He had already felt that the loveliness of Madame von Mar- 
witz's face was a veil for its coldness, and hints had come to him 
that it masked, also, some more sinister quality. And now, 
for a moment, as if a primeval creature peeped at him from 



192 TANTE 

among delicate woodlands, a racial savagery crossed her face 
with a strange, distorting tremor. The blood mounted to her 
brow; her skin darkened curiously, and her eyes became hot 
and heavy as though the very irises felt the glow. 

" You do not accept my word, Mr. Jardine ? " she said. Her 
voice was controlled, but he had a disagreeable sensation of 
scorching, as though a hot iron had been passed slowly before 
his face. 

Gregory shook his foot a little, clasping his ankle. " I don't 
say that, of course. But I 'm glad to think you 're mistaken/' 

"Let me tell you, Mr. Jardine," she returned, still with the 
curbed elemental fury colouring her face and voice, " that 
even a happy husband's conceit is no match for a mother's in- 
tuition. Karen is like my child to me; and to its mother a 
child makes confidences that it is unaware of making. Karen 
finds your world narrow; borne; it does not afford her the wide 
life she has known." 

" You mean," said Gregory, " the life she led with Mrs. Tal- 
cott?" 

He had not meant to say it. If he had paused to think it 
over he would have seen that it exposed him to her as con- 
sciously hostile and also as almost feminine in his malice. And, 
as if this recognition of his false move restored to her her full 
self-mastery, she met his irony with a masculine sincerity, put- 
ting him, as on the occasion of their first encounter, lamentably 
in the wrong. " Ah," she commented, her eyes dwelling on 
him. " Ah, I see. You have wondered. You have criticized. 
You have, I think, Mr. Jardine, misunderstood my life and its 
capacities. Allow me to explain. Your wife is the creature 
dearest to me in the world, and if you misread my devotion to 
her you endanger our relation. You would not, I am sure, wish 
to do that; is it not so? Allow me therefore to exculpate my- 
self. I am a woman who, since childhood, has had to labour 
for my livelihood and for that of those I love. You can know 
nothing of what that labour of the artist's life entails, in- 
terminable journeys, suffocating ennui, the unwholesome 
monotony and publicity of a life passed in hotels and trains. 



T A N T E 193 

It was not fit that a young and growing girl should share that 
life. As much as has been possible I have guarded Karen 
from its dust and weariness. I have had, of necessity, to leave 
her much alone, and she has needed protection, stability, peace. 
I could have placed her in no lovelier spot than my Cornish 
home, nor in safer hands than those of the guardian and com- 
panion of my own youth. Do you not feel it a little unworthy, 
Mr. Jardine, when you have all the present and all the future, 
to grudge me even my past with my child ? " 

She spoke slowly, with a noble dignity, all hint of sultry 
menace passed; willing, for Karen's sake, to stoop to this self- 
justification before Karen's husband. And, for Karen's sake, 
she had the air of holding in steady hands their relation, hers 
and his, assailed so gracelessly by his taunting words. Gregory, 
for the first time in his knowledge of her, felt a little be- 
wildered. It was she who had opened hostilities, yet she almost 
made him forget it; she almost made him feel that he alone 
had been graceless. " I do beg your pardon," he said. " Yes ; 
I had wondered a little about it; and I understand better now." 
But he gathered his wits together sufficiently to add, on -a fairer 
foothold : " I am sure you gave Karen all you could. What 
I meant was, I think, that you should be generous enough to 
believe that I am giving her all I can." 

Madame von Marwitz rose as he said this and he also got up. 
It was not so much, Gregory was aware, that they had fought 
to a truce as that they had openly crossed swords. Her eyes 
still dwelt on him, and now as if in a sad wonder. "But you 
are young. You are a man. You have ambition. You wish 
to give more to the loved woman." 

" I don't really quite know what you mean by more, Madame 
von Marwitz," said Gregory. "If it applies to my world, I 
don't expect, or wish, to give Karen a better one." 

They stood and confronted each other for a moment of 
silence. 

" Bien" Madame von Marwitz then said, unemphatically, 
mildly. " Bien. I must see what I can do." She turned her 
eyes on Karen, who, immediately aware of her glance, hastened 
13 



194 TANTE 

to her. Madame von Marwitz laid an arm about her neck. 
" I must bid you good-night, ma cherie. I am very tired." 

"Tante, dear, I saw that you were so tired, I am so sorry. 
It has all been a weariness to you," Karen murmured. 

" No, my child ; no," Madame von Marwitz smiled down into 
her eyes, passing her hand lightly over the little white-rose 
wreath. " I have seen you, and seen you happy ; that is hap- 
piness enough for me. Good-night, Mr. Jardine. Karen will 
come with me." 

pausing for no further farewells, Madame von Marwitz 
passed from the room with a majestic, generalized bending of 
the head. 

Betty joined her brother-in-law. "Dear me, Gregory," she 
said. " We 've had the tragic muse to supper, have n't we. 
What is the matter, what has been the matter with Madame von 
Marwitz? Is she ill?" 

" She says she 's tired," said Gregory. 

" It was disconcerting, was n't it, her trailing suddenly out 
of the dining-room in that singular fashion," said Betty. " Do 
you know, Gregory, that I 'm getting quite vexed with Madame 
von Marwitz." 

"Keally? Why, Betty?" 

" Well, it has been accumulating. I 'm a very easy-going 
person, you know ; but I 've been noticing that whenever I 
want Karen, Madame von Marwitz always nips in and cuts me 
out, so that I have hardly seen her at all since her guardian 
came to London. And then it did rather rile me, I confess, to 
find that the one hat in Karen's trousseau that I specially chose 
for her is the one the only one that Madame von Marwitz 
objects to. Karen never wears it now. She certainly behaved 
very absurdly to-night, Gregory. I suppose she expected us to 
sit round in a circle and stare." 

" Perhaps she did," Gregory acquiesced. " Perhaps we should 
have." 

He was anxious to maintain the appearance of bland light- 
ness before Betty. Karen had re-entered as they spoke and 



TANTE 195 

Betty called her to them. "Tell me, Karen dear, is Madame 
von Marwitz ill ? She did n't give me a chance to say good- 
night to her." Betty had the air of wishing to exonerate her- 
self. 

" She is n't ill," said Karen, whose face was grave. " But 
very tired." 

" Now what made her tired, I wonder ? " Betty mused. " She 
looks such a robust person." 

It was bad of Betty, and as Karen stood before them, looking 
from one to the other, Gregory saw that she suspected them. 
Her face hardened. "A great artist needs to be robust," she 
said. " My guardian works every day at her piano for five or 
six hours." 

" Dear me," Betty murmured. " How splendid. I 'd no 
idea the big ones had to keep it up like that." 

" There is great ignorance about an artist's life," Karen con- 
tinued coldly to inform her. " Do you not know what von 
Bulow said: If I miss my practising for one day I notice it; 
if for two days my friends notice it; if I miss it for three days 
the public notices it. The artist is like an acrobat, juggling 
always, intent always on his three golden balls kept flying in 
the air. That is what it is like. Every atom of their strength 
is used. People, like my guardian, literally give their lives for 
the world." 

" Oh, yes, it is wonderful, of course," Betty assented. " But 
of course they must enjoy it ; it can hardly be called a sacrifice." 

" Enjoy is a very small word to apply to such a great thing," 
said Karen. "You may say also, if you like, that the saint 
enjoys his life of suffering for others. It is his life to give 
himself to goodness; it is the artist's life to give himself to 
beauty. But it is beauty and goodness they seek, not enjoy- 
ment; we must not try to measure these great people by our 
standards." 

Before this arraignment Betty showed a tact for which 
Gregory was grateful to her. He, as so often, found Karen, 
in her innocent sententiousness, at once absurd and adorable, 



196 TANTE 

but he could grant that to Betty she might seem absurd 
only. 

" Don't be cross with me, Karen," she said. " I suppose I 
am feeling sore at being snubbed by Madame von Marwitz." 

"But indeed she did not mean to snub you, Betty," said 
Karen earnestly. " And I am not cross ; please do not think 
that. Only I cannot bear to -hear some of the things that are 
said of artists." 

" Well, prove that you 're not cross," said Betty, smiling, " by 
at last giving me an afternoon when we can do something to- 
gether. Will you come and see the pictures at Burlington 
House with me to-morrow and have tea with me afterwards? 
I 've really seen nothing of you for so long." 

" To-morrow is promised to Tante, Betty. I 'm so sorry. 
Her great concert is to be on Friday, you know; and till then, 
and on the Saturday, I have said that I will be with her. She 
gets so very tired. And I know how to take care of her when 
she is tired like that." 

" Oh, dear ! " Betty sighed. " There is no hope for us poor 
little people, is there, while Madame von Marwitz is in London. 
Well, on Monday, then, Karen. Will you promise me Monday 
afternoon ? " 

"Monday is free, and I shall like so very much to come, 
Betty," Karen replied. 

Wlien Gregory and his wife were left alone together, they 
stood for some moments without speaking on either side of the 
fire, and, as Karen's eyes were on the flames, Gregory, looking 
at her carefully, read on her face the signs of stress and self- 
command. The irony, the irritation and the oppression that 
Madame von Marwitz had aroused in him this evening merged 
suddenly, as he looked at Karen into intense anger. What 
had she not done to them already, sinister woman? It was 
because of her that constraint, reticence and uncertainty were 
rising again between him and Karen. 

"Darling," he said, putting out his hand and drawing her 
to him ; " you look very tired." 

She came, he fancied, with at first a little reluctance, but, as 



TANTE 197 

he put his arm around her, she leaned her head against his 
shoulder with a sigh. " I am tired, Gregory." 

They stood thus for some moments and then, as if the con- 
fident tenderness their attitude expressed forced her to face 
with him their difficulty, she said carefully : " Gregory, dear, 
did you say anything to depress Tante this evening?" 

"Why do you ask, darling?" Gregory, after a slight pause, 
also carefully inquired. 

" Only that she seemed depressed, very much depressed. I 
thought, I hoped that you and she were talking so nicely, so 
happily." 

There was another little pause and then Gregory said : " She 
rather depressed me, I think." 

" Depressed you ? But how, Gregory ? " 

He must indeed be very careful. It was far too late, now, for 
simple frankness; simple frankness had, perhaps, from the be- 
ginning been impossible and in that fact lay the insecurity of 
his position, and the immense advantage of Madame von Mar- 
witz's. And as he paused and sought his words it was as if, in 
the image of the Bouddha, looking down upon him and Karen, 
Madame von Marwitz were with them now, a tranquil and 
ironic witness of his discomfiture. " Well," he said, " she made 
me feel that I had only a very dingy sort of life to offer you 
and that my friends were all very tiresome borne was the 
word she used. That did rather well dash my spirits." 

Standing there within his arm, of her face, seen from above, 
only the brow, the eyelashes, the cheek visible, she was very still 
for a long moment. Then, gently, she said and in the gentle- 
ness he felt that she put aside the too natural suspicion that he 
was complaining of Tante behind her back : " She does n't 
realise that I don't care at all about people. And they are 
rather ~bornes, are n't they, Gregory." 

"I don't find them so," said Gregory, reasonably. "They 
are n't geniuses, of course, or acrobats, or saints, or anything of 
that sort; but they seem to me, on the whole, a very nice lot of 
people." 

"Very nice indeed, Gregory. But I don't think it is saints 



198 TANTE 

and geniuses that Tante misses here ; she misses minds that are 
able to recognise genius." Her quick ear had caught the in- 
voluntary irony of his quotation. 

"Ah, but, dear, you mustn't expect to find the average nice 
person able to pay homage at a dinner-party. There is a time 
and a place for everything, is n't there." 

" It was not that I meant, Gregory, or that Tante meant. 
There is always a place for intelligence. It was n't an interest- 
ing dinner, you must have felt that as well as I, not the sort of 
dinner Tante would naturally expect. They were only inter- 
ested in their own things, were n't they ? And quite apart from 
homage, there is such a thing as realisation. Mr. Eraser talked 
to Tante I saw it all quite well as he might have talked to 
the next dowager he met. Tante is n't used to being talked to 
as if she were toute comme une autre; she isn't toute comme 
une auire" 

" But one must pretend to be, at a dinner-party," Gregory 
returned. To have to defend his friends when it was Tante 
who stood so lamentably in need of defence had begun to work 
upon his nerves. " And some dowagers are as interesting as 
anybody. There are all sorts of ways of being interesting. 
Dowagers are as intelligent as geniuses sometimes." His light- 
ness was not unprovocative. 

" It is n't funny, Gregory, to see Tante put into a false posi- 
tion." 

" But, my dear, we did the best we could for her." 

" I know that we did ; and our best is n't good enough for her. 
That is all that I ask you to realise," said Karen. 

She was angry, and from the depths of his anger against 
Madame von Marwitz Gregory felt a little gush of anger against 
Karen rise. " You are telling me what she told me," he said ; 
" that my best is n't good enough for her. You may say it and 
think it, of course ; but it 's a thing that Madame von Marwitz 
has no right to say." 

Karen moved away from his arm. Something more than the 
old girlish sternness was in the look with which she faced him, 
though that flashed at him, a shield rather than a weapon. He 



TANTE 199 

recognised the hidden pain and astonishment and his anger faded 
in tenderness. How could she but resent and repell any hint 
that belittled Tante's claims and justifications? how could she 
hear but with dismay the half threat of his last words, the inti- 
mation that from her he would accept what he would not accept 
from Tante? The sudden compunction of his comprehension 
almost brought the tears to his eyes. Karen saw that his re- 
sistance melted and the sternness fell from her look. " But 
Gregory/' she said, her voice a little trembling, " Tante did not 
say that. Please don't make mistakes. It is so dreadful to mis- 
understand; nothing frightens me so much. I say it; that our 
best isn't good enough, and I am thinking of Tante; only of 
Tante; but she too sweetly and mistakenly was thinking 
of me. Tante does n't care, for herself, about our world ; why 
should she ? And she is mistaken to care about it for me ; be- 
cause it makes no difference, none at all, to me, if it is borne. 
All that I care about, you know that, Gregory, is you and 
Tante." 

Gregory had his arms around her. " Do forgive me, darling," 
he said. 

" But was I horrid ? " Karen asked. 

"No. It was I who was stupid," he said. "Do you know, 
I believe we were almost quarrelling, Karen." 

" And we can quarrel safely you and I, Gregory, can't we ? " 
Karen said, her voice still trembling. 

He leaned his head against her hair. " Of course we can. 
Only don't let us quarrel ever. It is so dreadful." 

" Is n't it dreadful, Gregory. But we must not let it frighten 
us, ever, because of course we must quarrel now and then. And 
we often have already, have n't we," she went on, reassuring him, 
and herself. " Do you remember, in the Tyrol, about the black 
bread ! And I was right that time. And the terrible conflict 
in Paris, about La Gaine d'Or; when I said you were a Philis- 
.tine." 

" Well, you owned afterwards, after you read about the beastly 
thing, that you were glad we had n't gone." 

"Yes; I was glad. You were right there. Sometimes it is 



200 TANTE 

you and sometimes I," Karen declared, as if that were the happy 
solution. 

So, in their mutual love, they put aside the menacing differ- 
ence. Something had happened, they could but be aware of 
that ; but their love tided them over. They did not argue further 
as to who was right and who wrong that evening. 



CHAPTER XX 

THE first of Madame von Marwitz's great concerts was given 
on Friday, and Karen spent the whole of that day and of 
Saturday with her, summoned by an urgent telephone message 
early in the morning. On Sunday she was still secluded in her 
rooms, and Miss Scrotton, breaking in determinedly upon her, 
found her lying prone upon the sofa, Karen beside her. 

u I cannot see yx>u, my Scrotton," said Madame von Marwitz, 
with kindly yet listless decision. " Did they not tell you below 
that I was seeing nobody? Karen is with me to watch over my 
ill-temper. She is a soothing little milk-poultice and I can bear 
nothing else. I am worn out." 

Before poor Miss Scrotton's brow of gloom Karen suggested 
that she should herself go down to Mrs. Forrester for tea and 
leave her place to Miss Scrotton, but, with a weary shake of the 
head, Madame von Marwitz rejected the proposal. " No ; Scrot- 
ton is too intelligent for me to-day/' she said. "You will go 
down to Mrs. Forrester for your tea, my Scrotton, and wait for 
another day to see me." 

Miss Scrotton went down nearly in tears. 

" She refused to see Sir Alliston," Mrs. Forrester said, sooth- 
ingly. " She really is fit for nothing. I have never seen her so 
exhausted." 

"Yet Karen Jardine always manages to force her way in," 
said Miss Scrotton, controlling the tears with difficulty. " She 
has absolutely taken possession of Mercedes. It really is almost 
absurd, such devotion, and in a married woman. Gregory 
does n't like it at all. Oh, I know it. Betty Jardine gave me 
a hint only yesterday of how matters stand." 

" Lady Jardine has always seemed to me a rather trivial little 
person. I should not accept her impression of a situation," said- 
Mrs. Forrester. " Mercedes sends for Karen constantly. And I 

201 



202 TANTB 

am sure that Gregory is glad to think that she can be of use to 
Mercedes." 

" Oh, Betty Jardine thinks, too, that it is Mercedes who takes 
Karen from her husband. But I really can't agree with her, or 
with you, dear Mrs. Forrester, there. Mercedes is simply too 
indolent and kind-hearted to defend herself from the sort of 
habit the girl has imposed upon her. As for Gregory being 
grateful I can only assure you that you are entirely mistaken. 
My own impression is that he is beginning to dislike Mercedes. 
Oh, he is a very jealous temperament; I have always felt it in 
him. He is one of those cold, passionate men who become the 
most infatuated and tyrannical of husbands." 

" My dear Eleanor," Mrs. Forrester raised her eyebrows. " I 
see no sign of tyranny. He allows Karen to come here con- 
stantly." 

" Yes ; because he knows that to refuse would be to endanger 
his relation to her. Mercedes is angelic to him of course, and 
does n't give him a chance for making things difficult for Karen. 
But it is quite obvious to me that he hates the whole situation." 

" I hope not," said Mrs. Forrester, gravely now. " I hope not. 
It would be tragical indeed if this last close relation in Mercedes's 
life were to be spoiled for her. I could not forgive Gregory if he 
made it difficult in any way for Karen to be with her guardian." 

" Well, as long as he can conceal his jealousy, Mercedes will 
manage, I suppose, to keep things smooth. But I can't see it 
as you do, Mrs. Forrester. I can't believe for a moment that 
Mercedes needs Karen or that the tie is such a close one. She 
only likes to see her now because she is bored and impatient and 
unhappy, and Karen is she said it just now, before the girl 
a poultice for. her nerves. And the reason for her nerves isn't 
far to seek. I must be frank with you, dear Mrs. Forrester ; you 
know I always have been, and I ? m distressed, deeply distressed 
about Mercedes. She expected Claude Drew to be back from 
America by now and I heard yesterday from that horrid young 
friend of his, Algernon Bently, that he has again postponed his 
return. It's that that agonizes and infuriates Mercedes, it's 
that that makes her unwilling to be alone with me. I 've seen 



T A N T E 203 

too much ; I know too much ; she fears me, Mrs. Forrester. She 
knows that I know that Claude Drew is punishing her now for 
having snubbed him in America." 

" My dear Eleanor," Mrs. Forrester murmured distressfully. 
" You exaggerate that young man's significance." 

"Dear Mrs. Forrester," Miss Scrotton returned, almost now 
with a solemn exasperation, " I wish it were possible to exag- 
gerate it. I watched it grow. His very effrontery fascinates 
her. We know, you and I, what Mercedes expects in devotion 
from a man who cares for her. They must adore her on their 
knees. Now Mr. Drew adored standing nonchalantly on his 
feet and looking coolly into her eyes. She resented it; she had 
constantly to put him in his place. But she would rather have 
him out of his place than not have him there at all. That is 
what she is feeling now. That is why she is so worn out. She 
is wishing that Claude Drew would come back from America, 
and she is wanting to write one letter to his ten and finding 
that she writes five. He writes to her constantly, I suppose ? " 

" I believe he does," Mrs. Forrester conceded. " Mercedes is 
quite open about the frequency of his letters. I am sure that 
you exaggerate, Eleanor. He interests her, and he charms her if 
you will. Like every woman, she is aware of devotion and pleased 
by it. I don't believe it 's anything more." 

" I believe," said Miss Scrotton, after a moment, and with 
resolution, " that it 's a great passion ; the last great passion of 
her life." 

" Oh, my dear ! " 

" A great passion," Miss Scrotton persisted, " and for a man 
whom she knows not to be in any way her equal. It is that 
that exasperates her." 

Mrs. Forrester meditated for a little while and then, owning 
to a certain mutual recognition of facts, she said : " I don't 
believe that it ? s a great passion ; but I think that a woman like 
Mercedes, a genius of that scope, needs always to feel in her life 
the elements of a .' situation ? and life always provides such 
women with a choice of situations. They are stimulants. Mr. 
Drew and his like, with whatever unrest and emotion they may 



204 T A N T E 

cause her, nourish her art. Even a great passion would be a 
tempest that filled her sails and drove her on; in the midst of it 
she would never lose the power of steering. She has essentially 
the strength and detachment of genius. She watches her own 
emotions and makes use of them. Did you ever hear her play 
more magnificently than on Friday? If Mr. Drew y etait pour 
quelque chose, it was in the sense that she made mincemeat of 
him and presented us in consequence with a magnificent sausage." 

Miss Scrotton, who had somewhat forgotten her personal 
grievance in the exhilaration of these analyses, granted the 
sausage and granted that Mercedes made mincemeat of Mr. Drew 
and of her friends into the bargain. " But my contention 
and my fear is," she said, " that he will make mincemeat of her 
before he is done with her." 

Miss Scrotton did not rank highly for wisdom in Mrs. For- 
rester's estimation; but for her perspicacity and intelligence she 
had more regard than she cared to admit. Echoes of Eleanor's 
distrusts and fears remained with her, and, though it was but a 
minor one, such an echo vibrated loudly on Monday afternoon 
when Betty Jardine appeared at tea-time with Karen. 

It was the afternoon that Karen had promised to Betty, and 
when this fact had been made known to Tante it was no griev- 
ance and no protest that she showed, only a slight hesitation, a 
slight gravity, and then, as if with cheerful courage in the face 
of an old sadness : " Eh bien" she said. " Bring her back here 
to tea, ma cherie. So I shall come to know this new friend of 
my Karen's better." 

Betty was not at all pleased at being brought back to tea. But 
Karen asked her so gravely and prettily and said so urgently 
that Tante wanted especially to know her better, and asked, 
moreover, if Betty would let her come to lunch with her instead 
of tea, so that they should have their full time together, that 
Betty once more pocketed her suspicions of a design on Madame 
von Marwitz's part. The suspicion was there, however, in her 
pocket, and she kept her hand on it rather as if it were a small 
but efficacious pistol which she carried about in case of an 
emergency. Betty was one who could aim steadily and shoot 



TANTE 205 

straight when occasion demanded. It was a latent antagonist 
who entered Mrs. Forrester's drawing-room on that Monday 
afternoon, Karen, all guileless, following after. Mrs. Forrester 
and the Baroness were alone and, in a deep Chesterfield near the 
tea-table, Madame von Marwitz leaned an arm, bared to the 
elbow, in cushions and rested a meditative head on her hand. 
She half rose to greet Betty. " This is kind of you, Lady Jar- 
dine," she said. " I feared that I had lost my Karen for the 
afternoon. EHe me manque toujours; she knows that." Smil- 
ing up at Karen she drew her down beside her, studying her 
with eyes of fond, maternal solicitude. " My child looks well, 
does she not, Mrs. Forrester ? And the pretty hat ! I am glad 
not to see the foolish green one." 

" Oh, I like the green one very much, Tante," said Karen. 
" But you shall not see it again." 

" I hope I 'm to see it again," said Betty, turning over her 
pistol. " I chose it, you know." 

Madame von Marwitz turned startled eyes upon her. " Ah 
but I did not know. Did you tell me this, Karen ? " the eyes of 
distress now turned to Karen. "Have I forgotten? Was the 
green hat, the little green hat with the wing, indeed of Lady 
Jardine's choosing ? Have I been so very rude ? " 

"Betty will understand, Tante," said Karen while Mrs. 
Forrester, softly chinking among her blue "Worcester teacups, 
kept a cogitating eye on Betty Jardine " that I have so many 
new hats now that you must easily forget which is which." 

" All I ask," said Betty, laughing over her mishap, " is that I, 
sometimes, may see Karen in the green hat, for I think it 
charming." 

" Indeed, Betty, so do I," said Karen, smiling. 

"And I must be forgiven for not liking the green hat," 
Madame von Marwitz returned. 

Betty and Karen were supplied with tea, and after they had 
selected their cakes, and a few inconsequent remarks had been 
exchanged, Madame von Marwitz said : 

"And now, my Karen, I have a little plan to tell you of; a 
little treat that I have arranged for you. We are to go together, 



206 TANTE 

on this next Saturday, to stay at Thole Castle with my friends 
the Duke and Duchess of Bannister. I have told them that I 
wish to bring my child." 

" But how delightful, Tante. It is to be in the country ? We 
shall be there, you and I and Gregory, till Monday ? " 

" I thought that I should please you. Yes ; till Monday. 
And in beautiful country. But it is to be our own small treat; 
yours and mine. Your husband will lend you to me for those 
two days/' Holding the girl's hand Madame von Marwitz smiled 
indulgently at her, with eyes only for her. Betty, however, was 
listening. 

" But cannot Gregory come, too, Tante ? " Karen questioned, 
her pleasure dashed. 

" These friends of mine, my Karen," said Madame von Mar- 
witz, " have heard of you as mine only. It is as my child that 
you will come with me ; just as it is as your husband's wife that 
you see his friends. That is quite clear, quite happy, quite 
understood." 

Karen's eyes now turned on Betty. They did not seek counsel, 
they asked no question of Betty; but they gave her, in their 
slight bewilderment, her opportunity. 

" But Karen, I think you are right," so she took up the gage 
that Madame von Marwitz had flung. " I don't think that you 
must accept this invitation without, at least, consulting 
Gregory." 

Madame von Marwitz did not look at her. She continued to 
gaze as serenely at Karen as though Betty were a dog that 
had barked irrelevantly from the hearth-rug. But Karen fixed 
widened eyes upon her. 

" I do not need to consult Gregory, Betty," she said. " "We 
have, I know, no engagements for this Saturday to Monday, and 
he will be delighted for me that I am to go with Tante." 

" That may be, my dear," Betty returned with a manner as 
imperturbable as Madame von Marwitz's ; " but I think that you 
should give him an opportunity of saying so. He may not care 
for his wife to go to strangers without him." 



T A N T E 207 

" They are not strangers. They are friends of Tante's." 

" Gregory may not care for you to make as Madame von 
Marwitz suggests a different set of friends from his own." 

" If they become my friends they will become his/' said Karen. 

During this little altercation, Madame von Marwitz, large and 
white, her profile turned to Betty, sat holding Karen's hand and 
gazing at her with an almost slumbrous melancholy. 

Mrs. Forrester, controlling her displeasure with some difficulty, 
interposed. " I don't think Lady Jardine really quite under- 
stands the position, Karen," she said. " It is n't the normal 
one, Lady Jardine. Madame von Marwitz stands, really, to 
Karen in a mother's place." 

" Oh, but I can't agree with you, Mrs. Forrester," Betty re- 
plied. " Madame von Marwitz does n't strike me as being in the 
least like Karen's mother. And she is n't Karen's mother. And 
Karen's husband, now, should certainly stand first in her life." 

A silence followed the sharp report. Mrs. Forrester's and 
Karen's eyes had turned on the Baroness who sat still, as though 
her breast had received the shot. With tragic eyes she gazed 
out above Karen's head ; then : " It is true," she said in a low 
voice, as though communing with herself ; " I am indeed alone." 
She rose. With the slow step of a Niobe she moved down the 
room and disappeared. 

" I do not forgive you for this, Betty," said Karen, following 
her guardian. Betty, like a naughty school-girl, was left con- 
fronting Mrs. Forrester across the tea-table. 

"Lady Jardine," said the old lady, fixing her bright eyes on 
her guest, " I don't think you can have realised what you were 
saying. Madame von Marwitz's isolation is one of the many 
tragedies of her life, and you have made it clear to her." 

" I 'm very sorry," said Betty. " But I feel what Madame von 
Marwitz is doing to be so mistaken, so wrong." 

" These formalities don't obtain nowadays, especially if a wife 
is so singularly related to a woman like Madame von Marwitz. 
And Mercedes is quite above all such little consciousnesses, I 
assure you. She is not aware of sets, in that petty way. It is 



208 TANTE 

merely a treat she is giving the child, for she knows how much 
Karen loves to be with her. And it is only in her train that 
Karen goes." 

" Precisely." Betty had risen and stood smoothing her muff 
and not feigning to smile. " In her train. I don't think that 
Gregory's wife should go in anybody's train." 

" It was markedly in Mercedes's train that he found her." 

" All the more reason for wishing now to withdraw her from 
it. Karen has become something more than Madame von Mar- 
witz's panache/' 

Mrs. Forrester at this fixed Betty very hard and echoes of 
Miss Scrotton rang loudly. " You must let me warn you, Lady 
Jardine," she said, " that you are making a position, difficult 
already for Mercedes, more difficult still. It would be a grievous 
thing if Karen were to recognize her husband's jealousy. I 'm 
afraid I can't avoid seeing what you have made so plain to-day, 
that Gregory is trying to undermine Karen's relation to her 
guardian." 

At this Betty had actually to laugh. "But don't you see 
that it is simply the other way round ? " she said. " It is 
Madame von Marwitz who is trying to undermine Karen's rela- 
tion to Gregory. It is she who is jealous. It's that I can't 
avoid seeing." 

" I don't think we have anything to gain by continuing this 
conversation," Mrs. Forrester replied. " May I give you some 
more tea before you go ? " 

" No, thanks. Is Karen coming with me, I wonder ? We had 
arranged that I was to take her home." 

Mrs. Forrester rang the bell and she and Betty stood in an 
uneasy silence until the man returned to say that Mrs. Jardine 
was to spend the evening with Madame von Marwitz who had 
suddenly been taken very ill. 

" Oh, dear ! Oh, dear ! " Mrs. Forrester almost moaned. 
" This means one of her terrible headaches and we were to have 
dined out. I must telephone excuses at once." 

" I wish I had n't had to make you think me such a pig," said 
Betty. 



TANTE 209 

"I don't think you a pig/' said Mrs. Forrester, "but I do 
think you a very mistaken and a very unwise woman. And I 
do beg you, for Gregory and for Karen's sake, to be careful what 
you do." 



CHAPTER XXI 

'M afraid you think that I've made a dreadful mess of 
things, Gregory. I simply could n't help myself," said 
Betty, half an hour later. " If only she had n't gone on gazing 
at Karen in that aggressive way I might have curbed my tongue, 
and if only, afterwards, Mrs. Forrester hadn't shown herself 
such an infatuated partisan. But I 'm afraid she was right in 
saying that I was an unwise woman. Certainly I have n't made 
things easier for you, unless you want a situation nette. It's 
there to your hand if you do want it, and in your place I should. 
It was a challenge she gave, you know, to you through me. 
After the other night there was no mistaking it. I should for- 
bid Karen to go on Saturday." 

Gregory stood before her still wearing his overcoat, for they 
had driven up simultaneously to the door below, his hands in 
his pockets and eyes of deep cogitation fixed on his sister-in-law. 
He was inclined to think that she had made a dreadful mess of 
things ; yet, at the same time, he was feeling a certain elation in 
the chaos thus created. 

" You advise me to declare war on Madame von Marwitz ? " 
he inquired. " Come ; the situation is hardly nette enough to 
warrant that; what? " 

" Ah ; you do see it then ! " Betty from the sofa where she 
sat erect, her hands in her muff, almost joyfully declared. " You 
do see, then, what she is after ! " 

He did n't intend to let Betty see what he saw, if that were 
now possible. " She 's after Karen, of course ; but why not ? 
It's a jealous and exacting affection, that is evident; but as 
long as Karen cares to satisfy it I 'm quite pleased that she 
should. I can't declare war on Madame von Marwitz, Betty, 
even if I wanted to. Because, if she is fond of Karen, Karen is 
ten times fonder of her." 

21P 



TANTE 

" Expose her to Karen ! " Betty magnificently urged. " You 
can, I 'm sure. You 've been seeing things more and more 
clearly, just as I have; you've been seeing that Madame von 
Marwitz, as far as her character goes, is a fraud. Trip her up. 
Have things out. Gregory, I warn you, she 'a a dangerous 
woman, and Karen is a very simple one." 

" But that 's just it, my dear Betty. If Karen is too simple 
to see, now, that she's dangerous, how shall I make her look so ? 
It 's I who '11 look the jealous idiot Mrs. Forrester thinks me," 
Gregory half mused to himself. "And, besides, I really don't 
know that I should want to trip her up. I don't know that I 
should like to have Karen disillusioned. She 's a fraud if you 
like, and Karen, as I say, is ten times fonder of her than she is 
of Karen ; but she is fond of Karen ; I do believe that. And she 
has been a fairy-godmother to her. And they have been through 
all sorts of things together. No; their relationship is one that 
has its rights. I see it, and I intend to make Madame von Mar- 
witz feel that I see it. So that my only plan is to go on being 
suave and acquiescent." 

66 Well ; you may have to sacrifice me, then. Karen is indig- 
nant with me, I warn you." 

" I 'm a resourceful person, Betty. I shan't sacrifice you. 
And you must be patient with Karen." 

Betty, who had risen, stood for a moment looking at the 
Bouddha. " Patient ? I should think so. She is the one I 'm 
sorriest for. Are you going to keep that ridiculous thing in here 
permanently, Gregory ? " 

" It 's symbolic, is n't it ? " said Gregory. " It will stay here, 
I suppose, as long as Madame von Marwitz and Karen go on 
caring for each other. With all my griefs and suspicions I hope 
that the Bouddha is a fixture." 

He felt, after Betty had gone, that he had burned a good many 
of his boats in thus making her, to some extent, his confidant. 
He had confessed that he had griefs and suspicions, and that, in 
itself, was to involve still further his relation to his wife. But 
he had kept from Betty how grave were his grounds for sus- 
picion, The bearing away of Karen to the ducal week-end 



212 TANTE 

was n't really, in itself, so alarming an incident ; but, as a sequel 
to Madame von Marwitz's parting declaration of the other even- 
ing, her supremely insolent, " I must see what I can do," it 
became sinister and affected him like the sound of a second, 
more prolonged, more reverberating clash upon the gong. To 
submit was to show himself in Madame von Marwitz's eyes as 
contemptibly supine; to protest was to appear in Karen's as 
meanly petty. 

His reflections were interrupted by the ringing of the tele- 
phone and when he went to it Karen's voice told him that she 
was spending the evening with Tante, who was ill, and that she 
would not be back till ten. Something chill and authoritative 
in the tones affected him unpleasantly. Karen considered that 
she had a grievance and perhaps suspected him of being its cause. 
After all, he thought, hanging up the receiver with some abrupt- 
ness, there was such a thing as being too simple. One had, 
indeed, to be very patient with her. And one thing he prom- 
ised himself whatever came of it ; he was n't going to sacrifice 
Betty by one jot or tittle to his duel with Madame von 
Marwitz. 

It was past ten when Karen returned and his mood of latent 
hostility melted when he saw how tired she looked and how 
unhappy. She, too, had steeled herself in advance against some- 
thing that she expected to find in him and he was thankful to 
feel that she would n't find it. She was to find him suave and 
acquiescent ; he would consent without a murmur to Madame von 
Marwitz's plan for the week-end. 

" Darling, I 'm so sorry that she 's ill, your guardian," he said, 
taking her hat and coat from her as she sank wearily on the sofa. 
" How is she now ? " 

She looked up at him in the rosy light of the electric lamps 
and her face showed no temporizing recognitions or gratitudes. 
" Gregory," she said abruptly, " do you mind does it displease 
you if I go with Tante next Saturday to stay with some 
friends of hers ? " 

"Mind? Why should I?" said Gregory, standing before her 
with his hands in his pockets. " I 'd rather have you here, of 



TANTE 213 

course. I 've been feeling a little deserted lately. But I want 
you to do anything that gives you pleasure." 

She studied him. " Betty thought it a wrong thing for me to 
do. She hurt Tante's feelings deeply this afternoon. She spoke 
as if she had some authority to come between you and me and 
between me and Tante. I am very much displeased with her/' 
said Karen, with her strangely mature decision. 

The moment had come, decisively, not to sacrifice Betty. 
"Betty sees things more conventionally and perhaps more 
wisely/' he said, "than you or I or Madame von Marwitz, 
even, perhaps. She feels a sense of responsibility towards you 
and towards me. Anything she said she meant kindly, I ? m 
sure." 

Karen listened carefully as though mastering herself. "Ke- 
sponsibility towards me? Why should she? I feel none to- 
wards her." 

"But, my dear child, that wouldn't be in your place," he 
could not control the ironic note. " You are a younger woman 
and a much more inexperienced one. It's merely as if you'd 
married into a family where there was an elder sister to look 
after you." 

Karen's eyes dwelt on him and her face was cold, rocky. " Do 
you forget, as she does, that I have still with me a person who, 
for years, has looked after me, a person older still and more 
experienced still than the little Betty? I don't need any guid- 
ance from your sister ; for I have my guardian to tell me, as she 
always has, what is best for me to do. It is impertinent of 
Betty to imagine that she has any right to interfere. And she 
was more than impertinent. I had not wished to tell you ; but 
you must understand that Betty has been insolent." 

" Come, Karen ; don't use such unsuitable words. Hasty per- 
haps ; not insolent. Betty herself has told me all about it." 

A steely penetration came to Karen's eyes. " She has told 
you ? She has been here ? " 

" Yes." 

" She complained of Tante to you ? " 

" She thinks her wrong." 



214: TANTE 

" And you ; you think her wrong ? " 

Gregory paused and looked at the young girl on the sofa, his 
wife. There was that in her attitude, exhausted yet unappeal- 
ing, in her face, weary yet implacable, which, while it made her 
seem pitiful to him, made her also almost a stranger ; this armed 
hostility towards himself, who loved her, this quickness of re- 
sentment, this cold assurance of right. He could understand 
and pity; but he, too, was tired and overwrought. What had 
he done to deserve such a look and such a tone from her except 
endure, with unexampled patience, the pressure upon his life, 
soft, unremitting, sinister, of something hateful to him and 
menacing to their happiness ? What, above all, was his place in 
this deep but narrow young heart? It seemed filled with but 
one absorbing preoccupation, one passion of devotion. 

He turned from her and went to the mantelpiece, and shifting 
the vases upon it as he spoke, remembering with a bitter upper 
layer of consciousness how Madame von Marwitz's blighting gaze 
had rested upon these ornaments in her first visit ; " I 'm not 
going to discuss your guardian with you, Karen/ 5 he said ; " I 
have n't said that I thought her wrong. I 've consented that you 
should do as she wishes. You have no right to ask anything 
more of me. I certainly am not going to be forced by you into 
saying that I think Betty wrong. If you are not unfair to 
Betty you are certainly most unfair to me and it seems to me 
that it is your tendency to be fair to one person only. I 'm in 
no danger of forgetting her control and guidance of your life, 
I assure you. If you were to let me forget it, she would n't. 
She is showing me now after telling me the other night what 
she thought of my monde how she controls you. It's very 
natural of her, no doubt, and very natural of you to feel her 
right; and I submit. So that you have no ground of grievance 
against me." He turned to her again. " And now I think you 
had better go to bed. You look very tired. I 've some work to 
get through, so I '11 say good-night to you, Karen dear/' 

She rose with a curious automatic obedience, and, coming to 
him, lifted her forehead, like a child, for his kiss. Her face 
showed, perhaps, a bleak wonder, but it showed no softness. She 



TANTE 215 

might be bewildered by this sudden change in their relation, but 
she was not weakened. She went away, softly closing the door 
behind her. 

In their room, Karen stood for a moment before undressing 
and looked about her. Something had happened, and though 
she could not clearly see what it was it seemed to have altered 
the aspect of everything, so that this pretty room, full of light 
and comfort, was strange to her. She felt an alien in it; and 
as she looked round it she thought of how her little room at Les 
Solitudes where, with such an untroubled heart, she had" slept 
and waked for so many years. 

Three large photographs of Tante hung on the walls, and their 
eyes met hers as if with an unfaltering love and comprehension. 
And on the dressing-table was a photograph of Gregory ; the new 
thing in her life ; the thing that menaced the old. She went and 
took it up, and Gregory's face, too, was suddenly strange to her ; 
cold, hard, sardonic. She wondered, gazing at it, that she had 
never seen before how cold and hard it was. Quickly undress- 
ing she lay down and closed her eyes. A succession of images 
passed with processional steadiness before her mind ; the carriage 
in the Forest of Fontainebleau and Tante in it looking at her; 
Tante in the hotel at Fontainebleau, her arm around the little 
waif, saying : " But it is a Norse child ; her name and her hair 
and her eyes ; " Tante's dreadful face as she tottered back to 
Karen's arms from the sight at the lake-edge ; Tante that even- 
ing lying white and sombre on her pillows with eyelids pressed 
down as if on tears, saying : " Do they wish to take my child, 
too, from me ? " 

Then came the other face, the new face ; like a sword ; thrust- 
ing among the sacred visions. Consciously she saw her hus- 
band's face now, as she had often, with a half wilful unconscious- 
ness, seen it, looking at Tante -ah, a fierce resentment flamed 
up in her at last with the unavoidable clearness of her vision 
looking at Tante with a courteous blankness that cloaked hostil- 
ity ; with cold curiosity ; with mastered irony, suspicion, dislike. 
He was, then, a man not generous, not large and wise of heart, 
a man without the loving humour that would have enabled him 



316 TANTE 

to see past the defects and flaws of greatness, nor with the heart 
and mind to recognize and love it when he saw it. He was petty, 
too, and narrow, and arrogantly sure of his own small measures. 
Her memories heaped themselves into the overwhelming realisa- 
tion. She was married to a man who was hostile to what 
until he had come had been the dearest thing in her life. She 
had taken to her heart something that killed its very pulse. 
How could she love a man who looked such things at Tante 
who thought such things of Tante ? How love him without dis- 
loyalty to the older tie? Already her forbearance, her hiding 
from him of her fear, had been disloyalty, a cowardly acqui- 
escence in something that, from the first hint of it, she should 
openly have rebelled against. Slow flames of shame and anger 
burned her. How could she not hate him? But how could 
she not love him? He was part of her life, as unquestionably, 
as indissolubly, as Tante. 

Then, the visions crumbling, the flames falling, a chaos of 
mere feeling overwhelmed her. It was as though her blood were 
running backward, knotting itself in clots of darkness and agony. 
He had sent her away unlovingly punishing her for her 
fidelity. Her love for Tante destroyed his love for her. He 
must have known her pain; yet he could speak like that to her; 
look like that. The tears rose to her eyes and rolled down her 
cheeks as she lay straightly in the bed, on her back, the clothes 
drawn to her throat, her hands clasped tightly on her breast. 
Hours had passed and here she lay alone. 

Hours had passed and she heard at last his careful step along 
the passage, and the shock of it tingled through her with a re- 
newal of fear and irrepressible joy. He opened, carefully, the 
dressing-room door. She listened, stilling her breaths. 

He would come to her. They would speak together. He 
would not leave her when she was so unhappy. Even the 
thought of Tante's wrongs was effaced by the fear and yearning, 
and, as the bedroom door opened and Gregory came in, her heart 
seemed to lift and dissolve in a throb of relief and blissfulness. 

But, with her joy, the thought of Tante hovered like a heavy 
darkness above her eyes, keeping them closed. She lay still, 



T A N T E 217 

ashamed of so much gladness, yet knowing that if he took her in 
his arms her arms could but close about him. 

The stillness deceived Gregory. In the dim light from the 
dressing-room he saw her, as he thought, sleeping placidly, her 
broad braids lying along the sheet. 

He looked at her for a moment. Then, not stooping to her, 
he turned away. 



CHAPTER XXII 

IF only, Gregory often felt, in thinking it over and over in 
the days of outer unity and inner estrangement that fol- 
lowed, she had not been able to go to sleep so placidly. 

All resentment had faded from his heart when he went in to 
her. He had longed for reconciliation and for reassurance. But 
as he had looked at the seeming calm of Karen's face his tender- 
ness and compunction passed into a bitter consciousness of frus- 
trated love. Her calm was like a repulse. Their personal 
estrangement and misunderstanding left her unmoved. She had 
said what she had to say to him ; she had vindicated her guard- 
ian; and now she slept, unmindful of him. He asked himself, 
and for the first time clearly and steadily, as he lay awake for 
hours afterwards in the little dressing-room bed, whether Karen's 
feelings for him passed beyond a faithful, sober affection that 
took him for granted, unhesitatingly and uncritically, as a new 
asset in a life dedicated elsewhere. Romance for her was per- 
sonified in Tante, and her husband was a creature of mere kindly 
domesticity. It was to think too bitterly of Karen's love for 
him to see it thus, he knew, even while the torment grasped him ; 
but the pressure of his own love for her, the loveliness, the ro- 
mance that she so supremely personified for him, surged too 
strongly against the barrier of her mute, unanswering face, for 
him to feel temperately and weigh fairly. There was a lack in 
her, and because of it she hurt him thus cruelly. 

They met next morning over a mutual misinterpretation, and, 
with a sense of mingled discord and relief, found themselves 
kissing and smiling as if nothing had happened. Pride sus- 
tained them; the hope that, since the other seemed so uncon- 
scious, a hurt dealt so unconsciously need not, for pride's sake, 
be resented; the fear that explanation or protest might empha- 

218 



TANTE 219 

sise estrangement. The easiest thing to do was to go on acting 
as if nothing had happened. Karen poured out his coffee and 
questioned him about the latest political news. He helped her 
to eggs and bacon and took an interest in her letters. 

And since it was easiest to begin so, it was easiest so to go on. 
The routine of their shared life blurred for them the sharp reali- 
sations of the night. But while the fact that such suffering 
had come to them was one that could, perhaps, be lived down, 
the fact that they did not speak of it spread through all their 
life with a strange, new savour. 

Karen went to her ducal week-end; but she did not, when 
she came back from it, regale her husband with her usual wealth 
of detailed description. She could no longer assume the air 
of happy confidence where Tante and her doings with Tante 
were concerned. That air of determined cheerfulness, that 
pretence that nothing was really the matter and that Tante 
and Gregory were bound to get on together if she took it for 
granted that they would, had broken down. There was relief 
for Gregory, though relief of a chill, grey order, in seeing 
that Karen had accepted the fact that he and Tante were not 
to get on. Yet he smarted from the new sense of being shut 
out from her life. 

It was he who assumed the air; he who pretended that noth- 
ing was the matter. He questioned her genially about the visit, 
and Karen answered all his questions as genially. Yes; it had 
been very nice; the great house sometimes very beautiful and 
sometimes very ugly ; the beauty seemed, in a funny way, almost 
as accidental as the ugliness. The people had been very inter- 
esting to look at; so many slender pretty women; there were 
no fat women and no ugly women at all, or, if they were, they 
contrived not to look it. It all seemed perfectly arranged. 

Had she talked to many of them? Gregory asked. Had she 
come across anybody she liked? Karen shook her head. She 
had liked them all to look at but it had gone no further 
than that; she had talked very little with any of them; and, 
soberly, unemphatically, she had added : " They were all too 
much occupied with Tante or with each other to think 



220 TANTE 

much of me. I was the only one not slender and not beauti- 
ful!" 

Gregory asked who had taken her in to dinner on the two 
nights, and masked ironic inner comments when he heard that 
on Saturday it had been a young actor who, she thought, had 
been a little cross at having her as his portion. " He did n't 
try to talk to me; nor I to him, when I found that he was 
cross," she said. " I did n't like him at all. He had fat cheeks 
and very shrewd black eyes." On Sunday it had been a young 
son of the house, a boy at Eton. " Very, very dear and nice. 
We had a great talk about climbing Swiss mountains, which I 
have done a good deal, you know." 

Tante, it appeared, had had- the ambassador on Saturday and 
the Duke himself on Sunday. And she and Tante, as usual, had 
had great fun in their own rooms every night, talking everybody 
over when the day was done. Karen said nothing to emphasise 
the contrast between the duke's friends and Gregory's, but she 
could n't have failed to draw her comparison. Here was a monde 
where Tante was fully appreciated. That she herself had not 
been was not a matter to engage her thoughts. But it engaged 
Gregory's. The position in which she had been placed was a 
further proof to him of Tante's lack of consideration. Where 
Karen was placed depended, precisely, he felt sure of it, on 
where Madame von Marwitz wished her to be placed. It was 
as the little camp-follower that she had taken her. 

After this event came a pause in the fortunes of our young 
couple. Madame von Marwitz, with Mrs. Forrester, went to 
Paris to give her two concerts there and was gone for a fortnight. 
In this fortnight he and Karen resumed, though warily, as it 
were, some old customs. They read their political economy 
again in the evenings when they did not go out, and he found 
her at tea-time waiting for him as she had used to do. She 
shared his life ; she was gentle and thoughtful ; yet she had never 
been less near. He felt that she guarded herself against ad- 
missions. To come near now would be to grant that it had 
been Tante's presence that had parted them. 

She wrote to Madame von Marwitz, and heard from her, con- 



TANTE 221 

stantly. Madame von Marwitz sent her presents from Paris; 
a wonderful white silk dressing-gown; a box of chocolate; a 
charming bit of old enamel picked up in a rive gauche curiosity 
shop. Then one day she wrote to say that Tallie had been quite 
ill povera vecchia and would Karen be a kind, kind child 
and run down and see her at Les Solitudes. 

Gregory had not forgotten the plan for having Mrs. Talcott 
with them that winter and had reminded Karen of it, but it 
appeared then that she had not forgotten, either; had indeed, 
spoken to Tante of it; but that Tante had not seemed to think 
it a good plan. Tante said that Mrs. Talcott did not like leav- 
ing Les Solitudes; and, moreover, that she herself, might be 
going down there for the inside of a week at any moment and 
Karen knew how Tallie would hate the idea of not being on 
the spot to prepare for her. Let them postpone the idea of a 
visit ; at all events until she was no longer in England. 

Gregory now suggested that Karen might bring Mrs. Talcott 
back with her. There was some guile in the suggestion. En- 
circling this little oasis of peace where he and Karen could, at 
all events, draw their breaths, were storms and arid wastes. 
Madame von Marwitz would soon be back. She might even be 
thinking of redeeming her promise of coming to stay with 
them. If old Mrs. Talcott, slightly invalided, could be installed 
before the great woman's return, she might keep her out for 
the rest of her stay in London, and must, certainly, keep Karen 
in to a greater extent than when she had no guest to entertain. 

Karen could not suspect his motive; he saw that from her 
frank look of pleasure. She promised to do her best. It was 
worth while, he reflected, to lose her for a few days if she were 
to bring back such a bulwark as Mrs. Talcott might prove her- 
self to be. And, besides, he would be sincerely glad to see the 
old woman. The thought of her gave him a sense of comfort 
and security. 

He saw Karen off next morning. She was to be at Les Soli- 
tudes for three or four days, and on the second day of her 
stay he had his first letter from her. It was strange to hear 
from her again, from Cornwall. It was the first letter he had 



222 TANTE 

had from Karen since their marriage and, with all its odd 
recalling of the girlish formality of tone, it was a sweet one. 
She had found Mrs. Talcott much better, but still quite weak 
and jaded, and very glad indeed to see her. And Mrs. Talcott 
really seemed to think that she would like to get away. Karen 
believed that Mrs. Talcott had actually been feeling lonely, un- 
characteristic as that seemed. She would probably bring her 
back on Saturday. The letter ended : " My dear husband, 
your loving Karen." 

Mrs. Talcott, therefore, was expected, and Mrs. Barker was 
told to make ready for her. 

But on Saturday morning, when Karen was starting, he had 
a wire from her telling him that plans were altered and that 
she was coming back alone. 

He went to meet her at Paddington, remembering the meet- 
ing when she had come up after their engagement. It was 
a different Karen, a Karen furred and finished and nearly ele- 
gant, who stepped from the train; but she had, as then, her 
little basket with the knitting and the book; and the girlish 
face was scarcely altered; there was even a preoccupation on 
it that recalled still more vividly the former meeting at Pad- 
dington. " Well, dearest, and why is n't Mrs. Talcott here, 
too ? " were his first words. 

Karen took his arm as he steered her towards the luggage. 
"It is only put off, I hope, that visit," she said, "because I 
heard this morning, Gregory, and wired to you then, that Tante 
asks if she may come to us next week." Her voice was not 
artificial; it expressed determination as well as gentleness and 
seemed to warn him that he must not show her if he were not 
pleased. Yet duplicity, in his unpleasant surprise, was dif- 
ficult to assume. 

"Keally. At last. How nice," he said; and his voice rang 
oddly. " But poor old Mrs. Talcott. Madame von Marwitz 
didn't know, I suppose," he went on, "that we'd just been 
planning to have her ? " 

Karen, her arm still in his, stood looking over the heaped up 



TANTE 223 

luggage and now pointed out her box to the porter. Then, as 
they turned away and went towards their cab, she said, more 
gently and more determinedly: "Yes; she did know we had 
planned it. I wrote and told her so, and that is why she wrote 
back so quickly to ask if we could not put off Mrs. Talcott for 
her; because she will be leaving London very soon and it will 
be, this next week, her only chance of being with us. Mrs. 
Talcott did not mind at all. I don't think she really wanted to 
come so much, Gregory. It is as Tante says, you know," 
Karen settled herself in a corner of the hansom, " she really 
does not like leaving Les Solitudes." 

Gregory had the feeling of being enmeshed. Why had 
Madame von Marwitz thrown this web ? Had she really divined 
in a flash his hope and his intention? Was there any truth 
in her sudden statement that this was the only week she could 
give them ? " Oh ! Beally," was all that he found to say to 
Karen's explanations, and then, "Where is Madame von Mar- 
witz going when she leaves us then?" 

" To the Eiviera, with the Duchess of Bannister, I think it 
is arranged. I may wire to her, then, Gregory, at once, and 
say that she is to come ? " 

" Of course. How long are we to have the pleasure of en- 
tertaining her ? " 

" She did not say ; for a week at least, I hope. Perhaps, 
even, for a fortnight if that will be convenient for you. It 
will be a great joy to me," Karen went on, "if only" she 
was speaking with that determined steadiness, looking before 
her as they drove; now, suddenly, she turned her eyes on him 
" if only you will try to enjoy it, too, Gregory." 

It was, in a sense, a challenge, yet it was, too, almost an 
appeal, and it brought them nearer than they had been for 
weeks. 

Gregory's hand caught hers and, holding it tightly, smiling 
at her rather tremulously, he said : " I enjoy anything, darling, 
that makes you happy." 

"Ah, but/' said Karen, her voice keeping its earnest con- 



224: TANTE 

trol, " I cannot be happy with you and Tante unless you can 
enjoy her for yourself. Try to know Tante, Gregory," she 
went on, now with a little breathlessness ; " she wants that so 
much. One of the first things she asked me when she came 
back was that I should try to make you care for her. She felt 
at once and oh ! so did I, Gregory that something was not 
happy between you." 

Her hand holding his tightly, her earnest eyes on his, Gregory 
felt his blood turn a little cold as he recognized once more the 
soft, unremitting pressure. It had begun, then, so early. She 
had asked Karen that when she first came back. "But you 
see, dearest," he said, trying to keep his head between realiza- 
tions of Madame von Marwitz's craft and Karen's candour, 
" I 've never been able to feel that Madame von Marwitz wanted 
me to care for her or to come in at all, as it were. I don't 
mean anything unkind; only that I imagined that what she 
did ask of me was to keep outside and leave your relation and 
hers alone. And that 's what I 've tried to do." 

" Oh, you mistake Tante, Gregory, you mistake her." 
Karen's hand grasped his more tightly in the urgency of her 
opportunity. " She cared for me too much yes, it is there 
that you do not understand to feel what you think. For 
she knows that I cannot be happy while you shut yourself away 
from her." 

"Then it's not she who shuts me out?" he tried to smile. 

" No ; no ; oh, no, Gregory." 

" I must push in, even when I seem to feel I 'm not wanted ? *' 

She would not yield to his attempted lightness. "You 
mustn't push in; you must be in; with us, with Tante and 
me." 

" Do you mean literally ? I 'm to be a third at your tete-a- 
tetes?" 

" No, Gregory, I do not mean that ; but in thought, in sym- 
pathy. You will try to know Tante. You will make her feel 
that you and I are not parted when she is there." 

She saw it all, all Tante's side, with a dreadful clearness. 
And it was impossible that she should see what he did. He 



TANTE 225 

must submit to seeming blurred and dull, to pretending not to 
see anything. At all events her hand was in his. He felt able 
to face the duel at close quarters with Madame von Marwitz as 
long as Karen let him keep her hand. 



CHAPTEK XXIII 

TANTE arrived on Monday afternoon and the arrival re- 
minded Gregory of the Bouddha's installation; but, 
whereas the Bouddha had overflowed the drawing-room only, 
Madame von Marwitz overflowed the flat. 

A multitude of boxes were borne into the passages where, 
end to end, like a good's train on a main line, they stood im- 
peding traffic. 

Louise, harassed and sallow, hurried from room to room, 
expostulating, explaining, replying in shrill tones to Madame 
von Marwitz's sonorous orders. Victor, led by Mrs. Forrester's 
footman, made his appearance shortly after his mistress, and, 
set at large, penetrated unerringly to the kitchen where he 
lapped up a dish of custard ; while Mrs. Barker, in the drawing- 
room, already with signs of resentment on her face, was re- 
ceiving minute directions from Madame von Marwitz in regard 
to a cup of chocolate. In the dining-room, Gregory found two 
strange-looking men, to whom Barker, also clouded, had served 
whisky and soda; one of these was Madame von Marwitz's sec- 
retary, Schultz; the other a concert impresario. They greeted 
Gregory with a disconcerting affability. 

In the midst of the confusion Madame von Marwitz moved, 
weary and benignant, her arm around Karen's shoulders, or 
seated herself at the piano to run her fingers appraisingly over 
it in a majestic surge of arpeggios. Gregory found her hat 
and veil tossed on the bed in his and Karen's room, and when 
he went into his dressing-room he stumbled over three band- 
boxes, just arrived from a modiste's, and hastily thrust there 
by Louise. 

Victor bounded to greet him as he sought refuge in the 
library, and overturned a table that stood in the hall with two 

22.6 



T A N T E 227 

fine pieces of oriental china upon it. The splintering crash of 
crockery filled the flat. Mrs. Barker had taken the chocolate 
to the drawing-room some time since, and Madame von Mar- 
witz, the cup in her hand, appeared upon the threshold with 
Karen. " Alas ! The bad dog ! " she said, surveying the wreck- 
age while she sipped her chocolate. 

Eose was summoned to sweep up the pieces and Karen stooped 
over them with murmured regret. 

" Were they wedding-presents, my Karen ? " Madame von 
Marwitz asked. " Console yourself ; they were not of a good 
period I noticed them. I will give you better." 

The vases had belonged to Gregory's mother. He was aware 
that he stood rather blankly looking at the fragments, as Rose 
collected them. " Oh, Gregory, I am so sorry," said Karen, 
taking upon herself the responsibility for Victor's mischance. 
" I am afraid they are broken to bits. See, this is the largest 
piece of all. They can't be mended. No, Tante, they were not 
wedding-presents; they belonged to Gregory and we were very 
fond of them." 

" Alas ! " said Madame von Marwitz above her chocolate, and 
on a deeper note. 

Gregory was convinced that she had known they were not 
wedding-presents. But her manner was flawless and he saw 
that she intended to keep it so. She dined with them alone 
and at the table addressed her talk to him, fixing, as ill-luck 
would have it, on the theatre as her theme, and on La Gaine d'Or 
as the piece which, in Paris, had particularly interested her. 
"You and Karen, of course, saw it when you were there," she 
said. 

It was the piece of sinister fame to which he had refused to 
take Karen. He owned that they had not seen it. 

" Ah, but that is a pity, truly a pity," said Madame von Mar- 
witz. " How did it happen ? You cannot have failed to hear 
of it." 

Unable to plead Karen as the cause for his abstention since 
Madame von Marwitz regretted that Karen had missed the 
piece, Gregory said that he had heard too much perhaps. "I 



228 TANTE 

don't believe I should care for anything the man wrote," he 
confessed. 

"Tiens!" said Madame von Marwitz, opening her eyes. 
"You know him?" 

" Heaven forbid ! " Gregory ejaculated, smiling with some 
tartness. 

" But why this rigour ? What have you against M. Saumier ? " 

It was difficult for a young Englishman of conventional tastes 
to formulate what he had against M. Saumier. Gregory took 
refuge in evasions. " Oh, I 've glanced at reviews of his plays ; 
seen his face in illustrated papers. One gets an idea of a man's 
personality and the kind of thing he ? s likely to write." 

"A great artist," Madame von Marwitz mildly suggested. 
" One of our greatest." 

" Is he really ? I 'd hardly grasped that. I had an idea that 
he was merely one of the clever lot. But I never can see why 
one should put oneself, through a man's art, into contact with 
the sort of person one would avoid having anything to do with 
in life." 

Madame von Marwitz listened attentively. "Do you refuse 
to look at a Cellini bronze ? " 

" Literature is different, is n't it ? It ? s more personal. 
There 's more life in it. If a man 's a low fellow I don't interest 
myself in his interpretation of life. He's seen nothing that 
I ? m likely to want to see." 

Madame von Marwitz smiled, now with a touch of irony. 
" But you frighten me. How am I to tell you that I know M. 
Saumier ? " 

Gregory was decidedly taken back. "That's a penalty you 
have to pay for being a celebrity, no doubt," he said. " All 
celebrities know each other, I suppose." 

"By no means. I allow no one to be thrust upon me, I 
assure you. And I have the greatest admiration for M. 
Saumier's talent. A great artist cannot be a low fellow; if he 
were one he would be so much more than that that the social 
defect would be negligible. Few great artists, I imagine, have 
been of such a character as would win the approval of a garden 



TANTE 229 

party at Lambeth Palace. I am sorry, indeed sorry, that you 
and Karen missed La Game d'Or. It is not a play for the 
jeune fille; no; though, holding as I do that nothing so fortifies 
and arms the taste as liberty, I should have allowed Karen to 
see it even before her marriage. It is a play cruel and acrid 
and beautiful. Yes; there is great beauty, and it flowers, as 
so often, on a bitter root. Ah, well, you will waive your 
scruples now, I trust. I will take Karen with me to see it 
when we are next in Paris together, and that must be soon. 
We will go for a night or two. You would like to see Paris 
with me again; pas vrai, cherie?" 

Gregory had been uncomfortably aware of Karen's contempla- 
tion while he defended his prejudices, and he was prepared for 
an open espousal of her guardian's point of view; it was, he 
knew, her own. But he received once more, as he had received 
already on several occasions, an unexpected and gratifying proof 
of Karen's recognition of marital responsibility. "I should 
like to be in Paris with you again, Tante," she said, "but not 
to go to that play. I agreed not to go to it when Gregory and 
I were there. I should not care to go when he so much dis- 
likes it." Her eyes met her guardian's while she spoke. They 
were gentle and non-committal ; they gave Gregory no cause for 
triumph, nor Tante for humiliation; they expressed merely her 
own recognition of a bond. 

Madame von Marwitz rose to the occasion, but oh, it was 
there, the soft pressure, never more present to Gregory's con- 
sciousness than when it seemed most absent she rose too em- 
phatically, as if to a need. Her eyes mused on the girl's face, 
tenderly brooded and understood. And Karen's voice and look 
had asked her not to understand. 

" Ah, that is right ; that is a wif e," she murmured. 
" Though, believe me, cherie, I did not know that I was so trans- 
gressing." And turning her glance on Gregory, " Je vous fais 
mes compliments/' she added. 

Karen said that he must bring his cigar into the drawing- 
room, for Tante would smoke her cigarette with him, and there, 
until bedtime, things went as well as they had at dinner or 



230 TANTE 

as badly; for part of their badness, Gregory more and more 
resentfully became aware, was that they were made to seem 
to go well, from her side, not from his. 

She had a genius, veritably uncanny for, with all sweetness 
and hesitancy, revealing him as stiff and unresponsively com- 
placent. It was impossible for him to talk freely with a person 
uncongenial to him of the things he felt deeply; and, pertina- 
ciously, over her coffee and cigarettes, it was the deep things 
that she softly wooed him to share with her. 

He might be stiff and stupid, but he flattered himself that 
he wasn't once short or sharp as he would have been over 
and over again with any other woman who so bothered him. 
And he was sincerely unaware that his courtesy, in its dry 
evasiveness, was more repudiating than rudeness. 

When Karen went with her guardian to her room that night, 
the little room that looked so choked and overcrowded with 
the great woman's multiplied necessities, Madame von Mar- 
witz, sinking on the sofa, drew her to her and looked closely 
at her, with an intentness almost tragic, tenderly smoothing 
back her hair. 

Karen looked back at her very firmly. 

" Tell me, my child/' Madame von Marwitz said, as if, sud- 
denly, taking refuge in the inessential from the pressure of her 
own thoughts, " how did you find our Tallie ? I have not heard 
of that from you yet." 

" She is looking rather pale and thin, Tante ; but she is quite 
well again; already she will go out into the garden," Karen 
answered, with, perhaps, an evident relief. 

" That is well," said Madame von Marwitz with quiet satis- 
faction. " That is well. I cannot think of Tallie as ill. She 
is never ill. It is perhaps the peaceful, happy life she leads 
povera that preserves her. And the air, the wonderful air of 
our Cornwall. I fixed on Cornwall for the sake of Tallie, in 
great part ; I sought for a truly halcyon spot where that faithful 
one might end her days in joy. You knew that, Karen ? " 

" No, Tante ; you never told me that." 

" It is so," Madame von Marwitz continued to muse, her 



TANTE 231 

eyes on the fire, " It is so. I have given great thought to my 
Tallie's happiness. She has earned it." And after a moment, 
in the same quiet tone, she went on. " This idea of yours, my 
Karen, of bringing Tallie up to town; was it wise, do you 
think ?" 

Karen, also, had been looking at the flames. She brought her 
eyes now back to her guardian. " Was n't it wise, Tante ? We 
had asked her to come and stay long ago, you know." 

" Had she seemed eager ? " 

" Eager ? No ; I can't imagine Mrs. Talcott eager about 
anything. We hoped we could persuade her, that was all. Why 
not wise, Tante ? " 

" Only, my child, that after the quiet life there, the solitude 
that she loves and that I chose for her sake, the pure sea air 
and the life among her flowers, London, I fear, would much 
weary and fatigue her. Tallie is getting old. We must not 
forget that Tallie is very old. This illness warns us. It does 
not seem to me a good plan. It was your plan, Karen ? " 

Karen was listening, with a little bewilderment. " It seemed 
to me very good. I had not thought of Mrs. Talcott as so old 
as that. I always think of her as old, but so strong and 
tough. It was Gregory who suggested it, in the first place, and 
this time, too. When I told him that I was going he thought of 
our plan at once and told me that now I must persuade her to 
come to us for a good long visit. He is really very fond of Mrs. 
Talcott, Tante, and she of him, I think. It would please you 
to see them together." 

Karen spoke on innocently; but, as she spoke, she became 
aware from a new steadiness in her guardian's look, that her 
words had conveyed some significance of which she was herself 
unconscious. 

Madame von Marwitz's hand had tightened on hers. " Ah," 
she said after a moment. She looked away. 

" What is it, Tante ? " Karen asked. 

Madame von Marwitz had begun to draw deep, slow breaths. 
Karen knew the sound ; it meant a painful control. " Tante, 
what is it ? " she repeated. 



232 TANTE 

" Nothing. Nothing, my child." Madame von Marwitz laid 
her arm around Karen's shoulders and continued to look away 
from her. 

"But it isn't nothing," said Karen, after a little pause. 
" Something that I have said troubles or hurts you." 

"Is it so? Perhaps you say the truth, my child. Hurts 
are not new to me. No, my Karen, no. It is nothing for us 
to speak of. I understand. But your husband, Karen, he 
must have found it thoughtless in me, indelicate, to force my- 
self in when he had hoped so strongly for another guest." 

A slow flush mounted to Karen's cheek. She kept silence 
for a moment, then in a careful voice she said : " No, Tante ; 
I do not believe that." 

" No? " said Madame von Marwitz. " No, my Karen? " 

" He knew, on the contrary, that I hoped to have you soon 
at any time that you could come," said Karen, in slightly 
trembling tones. 

Madame von Marwitz nodded. " He knew that, as you tell 
me; and, knowing it, he asked Tallie; hoping that with her 
installed for a long visit my stay might be prevented. Do 
not let us hide from each other, my Karen. We have hidden 
too long and it is the beginning of the end if we may not say to 
each other what we see/ 7 

Sitting with downcast eyes, Karen was silent, struggling per- 
haps with new realisations. 

Madame von Marwitz bent to kiss her forehead and then, 
resuming the tender stroking of her hair, she went on : " Your 
husband dislikes me. Let us look the ugly thing full in the 
face. You know it, and I know it, and parbleu! he knows 
it well. There; the truth is out. Ah, the brave little heart; 
it sought to hide its sorrow from me. But Tante is not so 
dull a person. The loneliness of heart must cease for you. 
And the sorrow, too, may pass away. Be patient, Karen. You 
will see. He may come to feel more kindly towards the woman 
who so loves his wife. Strange, is it not, and a chastisement 
for my egotism, if I have still any of that frothy element linger- 
ing in my nature, that I should find, suddenly, at the end of 



TANTE 233 

my life so near me, bound to me by such ties one who is 
unwilling to trust me, oh, for the least little bit ; so unwilling to 
accept me at merely my face value. Most people," she added, 
" have loved me easily." . 

Karen sat on in silence. Her guardian knew this apathetic 
silence, and that it was symptomatic in her of deep emotion. 
And, the contagion of the suffering beside her gaining upon 
her, her own fictitious calm wavered. She bent again to look 
into the girl's averted face. " Karen, clierie" she said, and 
now with a quicker utterance; "it is not worse than I yet 
realise? You do not hide something that I have not yet seen. 
It is dislike; I accept it. It is aversion, even. But his love 
for you; that is strong, sincere? He will not make it too dif- 
ficult for me ? I am not wrong in coming here to be with my 
child?" 

Karen at length turned her eyes on her guardian with a 
heavy look. " What would you find too difficult ? " she asked. 

Madame von Marwitz hesitated slightly, taken aback. But 
she grasped in an instant her advantage. " That by being here 
I should feel that I came between you and your husband. That 
by being here I made it more difficult for you." 

" I should not be happier if you were away if what you 
think is true, should I ? " said Karen. 

" Yes, my child," Madame von Marwitz returned, and now 
almost with severity. " You would. You would not so sharply 
feel your husband's aversion for me if I were not here. You 
would not have it in your ears; before your eyes." 

" I thought that you talked together quite easily to-night," 
Karen continued. " I saw, of course, that you did not under- 
stand each other; but with time that might be. I thought 
that if you were here he would by degrees come to know you, 
for he does not know you yet." 

"We talked easily, did we not, my child, to shield you, and 
you were not more deceived by the ease than he or I. He does 
not understand me? I hope so indeed. But to say that I do 
not understand him shows already your wish to shield him, and 
at my expense. I do understand him; too well. And if there 



234 TANTE 

is this repugnance in him now, may it not grow with the en- 
forced intimacy? That is my fear, my dread." 

" He has never said that he disliked you." 

" Said it? To you? I should imagine not, parbleu! " 

" He has only said," Karen pursued with a curious dogged- 
ness, " that he did not feel that you cared for him to care." 

" Ah ! Is it so ? You have talked of it, then ? And he has 
said that ? And did you believe it ? Of me ? " 

But the growing passion and urgency of her voice seemed to 
shut Karen more closely in upon herself rather than sweep her 
into impulsive confidence. There was a hot exasperation in 
Madame von Marwitz's eye as it studied the averted, stubborn 
head. " No," was the reply she received. 

"No, no, indeed. It was not the truth that he said to you 
and you know that it was not the truth. Oh, I make no ac- 
cusation against your husband; he believed it the truth; but 
you cannot believe that I would rest satisfied with what must 
make you unhappy. And how can you be happy if your hus- 
band does not care for me? How can you be happy if he 
feels repugnance for me? You cannot be. Is it not so? Or 
am I wrong ? " 

" No," Karen again repeated. 

" Then," said Madame von Marwitz, and a sob now lifted her 
voice, " then do not let him put it upon me. Not that ! Oh 
promise me, my Karen ! For that would be the end." 

Karen turned to her suddenly, and passed her arms around 
her. " Tante Tante," she said ; " what are you saying ? The 
end? There could not be an end for us! Do not speak so. 
Do not. Do not." She was trembling. 

"Ah could there not! Could there not!" With the 
words Madame von Marwitz broke into violent sobs. " Has it 
not been my doom, always always to have what I love taken 
from me! You love this man who hates me! You defend 
him! He will part you from me! I foresee it! From the 
first it has been my dread ! " 

" No one can ever part us, Tante. No one. Ever." Karen 
whispered, holding her tightly, and her face, bending above the 



T ANTE 235 

sobbing woman, was suddenly old and stricken in its tormented 
and almost maternal love. " Tante ; remember your own 
words. You gave me courage. Will you not be patient? For 
my sake? Be patient, Tante. Be patient. He does not know 
you yet." 



CHAPTER XXIV 

REGORY heard no word of the revealing talk; yet, when 
he and Karen were alone, he was aware of a new chill, or 
a new discretion, in the atmosphere. It was as if a veil of ice, 
invisible yet impassable, hung between them, and he could only 
infer that she had something to hide, he could only suspect, 
with a bitterer resentment, that Madame von Marwitz had been 
more directly exerting her pressure. 

The pressure, whatever it had been, had the effect of mak- 
ing Karen, when they were all three confronted, more calm, 
more mildly cheerful than before, more than ever the fond wife 
who did not even suspect that a flaw might be imagined in her 
happiness. 

Gregory had an idea his only comfort in this sorry maze 
where he found himself so involved that this attitude of 
Karen's, combined with his own undeviating consideration, had 
a disconcerting effect upon Madame von Marwitz and at mo- 
ments induced her to show her weapon too openly in their 
wary duel. If he ever betrayed his dislike Karen must see that 
it was Tante who would n't allow him to conceal it, who, sorrow- 
fully and gently, turned herself about in the light she elicited 
and displayed herself to Karen as rejected and uncomplaining. 
He hoped that Karen saw it. But he could be sure of nothing 
that Karen saw. The flawless loyalty of her outward bearing 
might be but the shield for a deepening hurt. All that he could 
do was what, in former days and in different conditions, Mrs. 
Talcott had advised him to do ; " hang on," and parry Madame 
von Marwitz's thrusts. She had come, he more and more felt 
sure of it, urged by her itching jealousy, for the purpose of 
making mischief; and if it was not a motive of which she was 
conscious, that made her but the more dangerous with her deep, 
instinctive craft. 

236 



TANTE 237 

Meanwhile if there were fundamental anxieties to fret one's 
heart, there were superficial irritations that abraded one's nerves. 

Karen was accustomed to the turmoil that surrounded the 
guarded shrine where genius slept or worked, too much accus- 
tomed, without doubt, to realise its effect upon her husband. 

The electric bells were never silent. Seated figures, bearing 
band-boxes or rolls of music, filled the hall at all hours of the 
day and night. Alert interviewers button-holed him on his way 
in and out and asked for a few details about Mrs. Jardine's 
youth, and her relationship to Madame Okraska. 

Madame von Marwitz rose capriciously and ate capriciously; 
trays with strange meals upon them were carried at strange 
hours to her rooms, and Barker, Mrs. Barker and Eose all quar- 
relled with Louise. 

Madame von Marwitz also showed oddities of temper which, 
with all her determination to appear at her best, it did not occur 
to her to control, oddities that met, from Karen, with a fond 
tolerance. 

It startled Gregory when they saw Madame von Marwitz, 
emerging from her room, administer two smart boxes upon 
Louise's ears, remarking as she did so, with gravity rather than 
anger : rf Voild pour toi, ma fille." 

" Is Madame von Marwitz in the habit of slapping her serv- 
ants ? " he asked Karen in their room, aware that his frigid 
mien required justification. 

She looked at him through the veil of ice. " Tante's serv- 
ants adore her." 

" Well, it seems a pity to take such an advantage of their 
adoration." 

" Louise is sometimes very clumsy and impertinent." 

" I can't help thinking that that sort of treatment makes 
servants impertinent." 

" I do not care to hear your criticism of my guardian, 
Gregory." 

" I beg your pardon," said Gregory. 

Betty Jardine met him on a windy April evening in Queen 
Anne's Gate. " I see that you had to sacrifice me, Gregory," 



38 TANTE 

she said. She smiled; she bore no grudge; but her smile was 
tinged with a shrewd pity. 

He felt that he flushed. " You mean that you ? ve not been to 
see us since the occasion." 

" I Ve not been asked ! " Betty laughed. 

" Madame von Marwitz is with us, you know," Gregory 
proffered rather lamely. 

" Yes ; I do know. How do you like having a genius domi- 
ciled? I hear that she is introducing Karen into a very artistic 
set. After the Bannisters, Mr. Claude Drew. He is back from 
America at last, it seems, and is an assiduous adorer. You have 
seen a good deal of him ? " 

" I have n't seen him at all. Has he been back for long? " 

" Four or five days only, I believe ; but I don't know how 
often he and Madame von Marwitz and Karen have been seen 
together. Don't think me a cat, Gregory; but if she- is engaged 
in a flirtation with that most unpleasant young man I hope 
you will see to it that Karen is n't used as a screen. There have 
been some really horrid stories about him, you know." 

Gregory parted from his sister-in-law, perturbed. Indiscreet 
and naughty she might be, but Betty was not a cat. The veil 
of ice was so impenetrable that no sound of Karen's daily life 
came to him through it. He had not an idea of what she did 
with herself when he was n't there, or, rather, of what Madame 
von Marwitz did with her. 

" You 've been seeing something of Mr. Claude Drew, I hear," 
he said to Karen that evening. " Do you like him better than 
you used to do ? " They were in the drawing-room before dinner 
and dinner had been, as usual, waiting for half an hour for 
Madame von Marwitz. 

Gregory's voice betrayed more than a kindly interest, and 
Karen answered coldly, if without suspicion ; " No ; I do not 
like him better. But Tante likes him. It is not I who see 
him, it is Tante. I am only with them sometimes." 

" And I ? Am I to be with them sometimes ? " Gregory in- 
quired with an air of gaiety. 

"If you will come back to tea to-morrow, Gregory," she an- 



TANTE 239 

swered gravely, "you will meet him. He comes to tea then." 

For the last few days Gregory had fallen into the habit of 
only getting back in time for dinner. " You know it 's only be- 
cause I usually find that you've gone out with your guardian 
that I have n't come back in time for tea," he observed. 

" I know," Karen returned, without aggressiveness. " And 
so, to-morrow, you will find us if you come." 

He got back at tea-time next day, expecting to make a fourth 
only of the small group; but, on his way to the drawing-room, 
he paused, arrested, in the hall, where a collection of the oddest 
looking hats and coats he had ever seen were piled and hung. 

One of the hats was a large, discoloured, cream-coloured felt, 
much battered, with its brown band awry ; one was of the type of 
flat-brimmed silk, known in Paris as the Latin Quartier; another 
was an enormous sombrero. Gregory stood frowning at these 
strange signs somewhat as if they had been a drove of cock- 
roaches. He had, as never yet before, the sense of an alien and 
offensive invasion of his home, and an old, almost forgotten 
disquiet smote upon him in the thought that what to him was 
strange was to Karen normal. This was her life and she had 
never really entered his. 

In the drawing-room, he paused again at the door, and looked 
over the company assembled under the Bouddha's smile. Ma- 
dame von Marwitz was its centre; pearl-wreathed, silken and 
silver, she leaned opulently on the cushions of the sofa where 
she sat, and Karen at the tea-table seemed curiously to have 
relapsed into the background place where he had first found 
her. She was watching, with her old contented placidity, a 
scene in which she had little part. No, mercifully, though in 
it she was not of it. This was Gregory's relieving thought as 
his eye ran over them, the women with powdered faces and ex- 
travagant clothes and the men with the oddest collars and boots 
and hair. " Shoddy Bohemians," was his terse definition of 
them; an inaccurate definition; for though, in the main, Bohe- 
mians, they were not, in the main, shoddy. 

Belot was there, with his massive head and sagacious eyes ; and 
a famous actress, ugly, thin, with a long, slightly crooked face, 



240 TANTE 

tinted hair, and the melancholy, mysterious eyes of a llama. 
Claude Drew, at a little table behind Madame von Marwitz, negli- 
gently turned the leaves of a book. Lady Eose Harding, the only 
one of the company with whom Gregory felt an affinity, though a 
dubious one, talked to the French actress and to Madame von 
Marwitz. Lady Rose had ridden across deserts on camels, and 
sketched strange Asiatic mountains, and paid a pilgrimage to 
Tolstoi, and written books on all these exploits ; and she had been 
to the Adirondacks that summer with the Aspreys and Madame 
von Marwitz, and was now writing a book on that. In a corner a 
vast, though youthful, German Jew, with finely crisped red-gold 
hair, large lips and small, kind eyes blinking near-sightedly be- 
hind gold-rimmed spectacles, sat with another young man, his 
hands on his widely parted knees, in an attitude suggesting a 
capacity to cope with the most unwieldy instruments of an or- 
chestra; his companion, black and emaciated, talked in Ger- 
man, with violent gestures and a strange accent, jerking con- 
stantly a lock of hair out of his eyes. A squat, fat little woman, 
bundled up, clasping her knees with her joined hands, sat on 
a footstool at Madame von Marwitz's feet, gazing at her and lis- 
tening to her with a smile of obsequious attention, and now 
and then, suddenly, and as if irrelevantly, breaking into a jubi- 
lant laugh. Her dusty hair looked as though, like the White 
Queen's, a comb and brush might be entangled in its masses; 
the low cut neck of her bodice displayed a ruddy throat 
wreathed in many strings of dirty seed-pearls, and her grey 
satin dress was garnished with dirty lace. 

Gregory had stood for an appreciable moment at the door 
surveying the scene, before either Karen or her guardian saw 
him, and it was then the latter who did the honours of the oc- 
casion, naming him to the bundled lady, who was an English 
poetess, and to Mile. Suzanne Mauret, the French actress. The 
inky-locked youth turned out to be a famous Russian violinist, 
and the vast young German Jew none other than Herr Franz 
Lippheim, to whom this was the fact that at once, violently, 
engaged Gregory's attention Madame von Marwitz had 
destined Karen. 



TANTE 

Franz Lippheim, after Gregory had spoken to everybody and 
when he at last was introduced, sprang to his feet and came 
forward, beaming so intently from behind his spectacles that 
Gregory, fearing that he might, conceivably, be about to kiss 
him, made an involuntary gesture of withdrawal. But Herr 
Lippheim, all unaware, grasped his hand the more vigorously. 
"Our little Karen's husband!" "Unserer kleinen Karen's 
Mann ! " he uttered in a deeply moved German. 

In the driest of tones Gregory asked Karen for some tea, and 
while he stood above her Herr Lippheim's beam continued to 
include them both. 

" Sit down here, Franz, near me," said Karen. She, too, 
had smiled joyously as Herr Lippheim greeted her husband. 
The expression of her face now had changed. 

Herr Lippheim obeyed, placing, as before, his hands on his 
knees, the elbows turned outward, and contemplating Karen's 
husband with a gaze that might have softened a heart less steeled 
than Gregory's. 

This, then, was Madame von Marwitz's next move; her next 
experiment in seeing what she could " do." Was not Herr 
Lippheim a taunt? And with what did he so unpleasantly 
associate the name of the French actress? The link clicked 
suddenly. La Gaine d?0r, in its veiling French, was about to 
be produced in London, and it was Mile. Mauret who had created 
the heroine's role in Paris. These were the people by means 
of whom Madame von Marwitz displayed her power over Karen's 
life; a depraved woman (he knew and cared nothing about 
Mile. Mauret's private morality; she was the more repulsive 
to him if her morals were n't bad ; only a woman of no morals 
should be capable of acting in La Gaine d'Or;) that impudent 
puppy Drew, and this preposterous young man who addressed 
Karen by her Christian name and included himself in his in- 
appropriate enthusiasm. 

He drank his tea, standing in silence by Karen's side, and 
avoiding all encounter with Herr Lippheim's genial eyes. 

66 It is like old times, is n't it, Franz ? " said Karen, ignoring 
her husband and addressing her former suitor. " It has been 



16 



242 TANTE 

oh, years since I have heard such talk. Tante needs all of 
you, really, to draw her out. She has been wonderful this 
afternoon, has n't she ? " 

"Ah, Tcolossal!" said Herr Lippheim, making no gesture, 
but expressing the depths of his appreciation by an emphasized 
solemnity of gaze. 

" You are right, I think, and so does Tante, evidently," Karen 
continued, " about the tempo rubato in the Mozart. It is strange 
that Monsieur Ivanowski does n't feel it." 

" Ah ! but that is it, he does feel it ; it is only that he does 
not think it/' said Herr Lippheim, now running his fingers 
through his hair. " Hear him play the Mozart. He then con- 
tradicts in his music all that his words have said." 

But though Karen talked so pointedly to him, Herr Lippheim 
could not keep his eyes or his thoughts from Gregory. "You 
are a musician, too, Mr. Jardine ? " he smiled, bending forward, 
blinking up through his glasses and laboriously carving out his 
excellent English. " You do not express, but you have the sou! 
of an artist? Or perhaps you, too, play, like our Karen here." 

" No," Gregory returned, with a chill utterance. " I know 
nothing about music." 

" Is it so, Karen ? " Herr Lippheim questioned, his guileless 
warmth hardly tempered. 

"My husband is no artist," Karen answered. 

It was from her tone rather than from Gregory's that Herr 
Lippheim seemed to receive his intimation; he was a little 
disconcerted ; he could interpret Karen's tones. " Ach so ! 
Ach so ! " he said ; but, his goodwill still seeking to find its way 
to the polished and ambiguous person who had gained Karen's 
heart, "But now you will live amongst artists, Mr. Jardine, 
and you will hear music, great music, played to you by the 
greatest. So you will 'come to feel it in the heart." And as 
Gregory, to this, made no reply, "You will educate him, 
Karen ; is it not so ? With you and the great Tante, how could 
it be otherwise ? " 

" I am afraid that one cannot create the love of art when it 
is not there, Franz," Karen returned. She was neither plaintive 



TANTE 243 

nor confiding; yet there was an edge in her voice which Gregory 
felt and which, he knew, he was intended to feel. Karen was 
angry with him. 

" Have you seen Belot's portrait of Tante, yet, Franz ? " she 
again excluded her husband ; " It is just finished." 

Herr Lippheim had seen it only that morning and he repeated, 
but now in preoccupied tones, " Kolossal!" 

They talked, and Gregory stood above them, aloof from their 
conversation frigidly gazing over the company, his elbow in his 
hand, his neat fingers twisting his moustache. If he was giving 
Madame von Marwitz a handle against him he couldn't help 
it. Over the heads of Karen and Herr Lippheim his eyes for 
a moment encountered hers. They looked at each other steadily 
and neither feigned a smile. 

Eleanor Scrotton arrived at six, flushed and flustered. 

" Thank heaven, I have n't missed her ! " she said to Gregory, 
to whom, to-day, Eleanor was an almost welcome sight. Her 
eyes had fixed themselves on Mile. Mauret. "Have you had 
a talk with her yet ? " 

"I haven't had a talk and I yield my claim to you," said 
Gregory. " Are you very eager to meet the lady ? " 

"Who wouldn't be, my dear Gregory! What a wonderful 
face ! What thought and suffering ! Oh, it has been the most 
extraordinary of stories. You don't know ? Well, I will tell you 
about her some time. She is, doubtless, one of the greatest 
living actresses. And she is still quite young. Barely forty." 

He watched Eleanor make her way to the actress's side, reflect- 
ing sardonically upon the modern growths of British tolerance. 
Half the respectable matrons in London would, no doubt, take 
their girls to see La, Gaine d'Or; mercifully, they would in all 
probability not understand it; but if they did, was there any- 
thing that inartistic London would not swallow in its terror 
of being accused of philistinism ? 

The company was dispersing. Herr Lippheim stood holding 
Karen's hands saying, as she shook them, that he would bring 
das Mutterchen and die Schwesterchen to-morrow. Belot came 
for a last cup of tea and drank it in sonorous draughts, exchang- 



244 TANTE 

ing a few words with Gregory. He had nothing against Belot. 
Mr. Drew leaned on Madame von Marwitz's sofa and spoke to 
her in a low voice while she looked at him inscrutably, her eyes 
half closed. 

"Lucky man," said Lady Rose to Gregory, on her way out, 
"to have her under your roof. I hope you are a scrupulous 
Boswell and taking notes." In the hall Barker was assorting the 
sombrero, the Latin Quartier and the cream-coloured felt; the 
last belonged to Herr Lippheim, who was putting it on when 
Gregory escorted Lady Rose to the door. 

Gregory gave the young man a listless hand. He couldn't 
forgive Herr Lippheim. That he should ever, under whatever 
encouragements from Karen's guardian, have dared to aspire to 
her, was a monstrous fact. 

He watched the thick rims of Herr Lippheim's ears, under the 
cream-coloured felt, descending in the lift and wondered if the 
sight was to be often inflicted upon him. 

When he went back to the drawing-room, Karen was alone. 
Madame von Marwitz had taken Miss Scrotton to her own room. 
Karen was standing by the tea-table, looking down at it, her 
hands on the back of the chair from which she had risen to say 
good-bye to her guardian's guests. She raised her eyes as her 
husband came in and they rested on him with a strange expres- 
sion. 



CHAPTEK XXV 

""T~TTILL you shut the door, Gregory ? " Karen said. " I want 
\ \ to speak to you." The feeling with which he looked at 
her was that with which he had faced her sleeping, as he thought, 
after their former dispute. The sense of failure and disillusion 
was upon him. As before, it was only of her guardian that she 
was thinking. He knew that he had given Madame von Mar- 
witz a handle against him. 

He obeyed her and when he came and stood before her she 
went on. " Before we all meet at dinner again, I must ask you 
something. Do not make your contempt of Tante's guests 
and of mine more plain to her than you have already done 
this afternoon." 

" Did I make it plain ? " Gregory asked, after a moment. 

" I think that if I felt it so strongly, Tante must have felt it," 
said Karen, and to this, after another pause, Gregory found 
nothing further to say than " I'm sorry." 

" I hardly think," said Karen, holding the back of her chair 
tightly and looking down again while she spoke, "that you can 
have realized that Herr Lippheim is not only Tante's friend, but 
mine. I don't think you can have realized how you treated him. 
I know that he is very simple and unworldly ; but he is good and 
kind and faithful ; he is a true artist almost a great one, and he 
has the heart of a child. And beside him, while you were hurt- 
ing and bewildering him so to-day, you looked to me how shall 
I say it petty, yes, and foolish, yes, and full of self-conceit." 

The emotion with which Gregory heard her speak these words, 
deliberately, if in a hardened and controlled voice, expressed 
itself, as emotion did with him, in a slight, fixed smile. He 
could not pause to examine Karen's possible justice; that she 
should speak so, to him, was the overpowering fact. 

" I imagined that I behaved with courtesy," he said. 

245 



246 T A 1ST T E 

"Yes, you were courteous/' Karen replied. "You made me 
think of a painted piece of wood while he was like a growing 
tree/' 

"Your simile is certainly very mortifying/' said Gregory, 
continuing to smile. But he was not mortified. He was cruelly 
hurt. 

"I do not wish to mortify you. I have not mortified you, 
because you think yourself above it all. But I would like, if I 
could," said Karen, " to make you see the truth. I would like 
to make you see that in behaving as you have you show yourself 
not above it but below it." 

" And I would like to make you see the truth, too," Gregory 
returned, in the voice of his bitter hurt ; " and I ask you, if your 
prejudice will permit of it, to make some allowance for my feeling 
when I found you surrounded by this rabble." 

"Babble? My guardian's friends?" Karen had grown 
ashen. 

" I hope they ? re not ; but I 'm not concerned with her friends ; 
I 'm concerned with you. She can take people in, on the artistic 
plane, whom it 's not fit that you should meet. That horrible 
actress, I wouldn't have her come within sight of you if I 
could help it. Your guardian knows my feeling about the parts 
she plays. She had no business to ask her here. As for Herr 
Lippheim, I have no doubt that he is an admirable person in 
his own walk of life, but he is a preposterous person, and it is 
preposterous that your guardian should have thought of him as 
a possible husband for you." Gregory imagined that he was 
speaking carefully and choosing his words, but he was aware 
that his anger coloured his voice. He had also been aware, 
some little time before, in a lower layer of consciousness, of the 
stir and rustle of steps and dresses in the passage outside 
Madame von Marwitz conducting Eleanor Scrotton to the door. 
And now had she actually been listening, or did his words 
coincide with the sudden opening of the door? Madame von 
Marwitz herself appeared upon the threshold. 

Her face made the catastrophe all too evident. She had heard 
him. She had, he felt convinced, crept quietly back and stood 



TANTE 247 

to listen before entering. His memory reconstructed the long 
pause between the departing rustle and this apparition. 

Madame von Marwitz's face had its curious look of smothered 
heat. The whites of her eyes were suffused though her cheeks 
were pale. 

"I must apologise/' she said. "I overheard you as I en- 
tered, Mr. Jar dine, and what I heard I cannot ignore. What 
is it that you say to Karen? What is it that you say of the 
man I thought of as a possible husband for her ? " 

She advanced into the room and laying her arm round Karen's 
shoulders she stood confronting him. 

"I don't think I can discuss this with you," said Gregory. 
" I am very sorry that you overheard me." The slight smile of 
his pain had gone. He looked at Madame von Marwitz with a 
flinty eye. 

"Ah, but you must discuss it; you shall," said Madame von 
Marwitz. " You say things to my child that I am not to over- 
hear. You seek to poison her mind against me. You take her 
from me and then blacken me in her eyes. A possible hus- 
band! Would to God," said Madame von Marwitz, with som- 
bre fury, "that the possibility had been fulfilled! Would to 
God that it were my brave, deep-hearted Franz who were her 
husband not you, most ungrateful, most ungenerous of men." 

" Tante," said Karen, who still stood looking down, grasping 
her chair-back and encircled by her guardian's arm, " he did not 
mean you to hear him. Forgive him." 

" I beg your pardon, Karen," said Gregory, " I am very sorry 
that Madame von Marwitz overheard me; but I have said noth- 
ing for which I wish to apologize." 

" Ah ! You hear him ! " cried Madame von Marwitz, and the 
inner conflagration now glittered in her eyes like flames behind 
the windows of a burning house. "You hear him, Karen? 
Forgive him! How can I forgive him when he has made you 
wretched ! How can I ever forgive him when he tears your life 
by thrusting me forth from it me and everything I am and 
mean! You have witnessed it, Karen you have seen my ef- 
forts to win your husband. You have seen his contempt for me, 



248 T A N T E 

his rancour, his half -hidden insolence. Never ah, never in 
my life have I faced such humiliation as has been offered to me 
beneath his roof humiliations, endured for your sake, Karen 
for yours only ! Ah " releasing Karen suddenly, she ad- 
vanced a step towards Gregory, with a startling cry, stretching 
out her arm "ungrateful and ungenerous indeed! And you 
find yourself one to scorn my Franz! You find yourself one 
to sneer at my friends, to stand and look at them and me as if 
we were vermin infesting your room ! Did I not see it ! You ! 
justes deux! with your bourgeois little world; your little little 
world so small so small ! your people like dull beasts pac- 
ing in a cage, believing that in the meat thrust in between 
their bars and the number of steps to be taken from side to 
side lies all the meaning of life; people who survey with their 
heavy eyes of surfeit the free souls of the world ! Hypocrites ! 
Pharisees ! And to this cage you have consigned my child ! and 
you would make of her, too, a creature of counted paces and of 
unearned meat ! You would shut her in from the life of beauty 
and freedom that she has known ! Ah never ! never ! there you 
do not triumph ! You have taken her from me ; you have won 
her love ; but her mind is not yours ; she sees the cage as I do ; 
you do not share the deep things of the soul with her. And in 
her loyal heart ah, I know it will be the cry, undying, 
for one whose heart you have trod upon and broken ! " 

With these last words, gasped forth on rising sobs, Madame 
von Marwitz sank into the chair where Karen still leaned and 
broke into passionate tears. 

Gregory again was smiling, with the smile now of decorum 
at bay, of embarrassment rather than contempt ; but to Karen's 
eyes it was the smile of supercilious arrogance. She looked at 
him sternly over her guardian's bowed and oddly rolling head. 
" Speak, Gregory ! Speak ! " she commanded. 

" My dear/' said Gregory their voices seemed to pass above 
the clash and uproar of stormy waters, Madame von Marwitz had 
abandoned herself to an elemental grief "I have nothing to 
say to your guardian." 

" To me, then," Karen clenched her hands on the back of the 



TANTE 249 

chair ; " to me, then, you have something to say. Is it not true ? 
Have you not repulsed her efforts to come near you ? Have you 
not, behind her back, permitted yourself to speak with scorn of 
the man she hoped I would marry ?" 

Gregory paused, and in the pause, as he observed, Madame 
von Marwitz was able to withhold for a moment her strange 
groans and gaspings while she listened. "I don't think there 
has been any such effort/' he said. " We were both keeping up 
appearances, your guardian and I ; and I think that I kept them 
up best. As for Herr Lippheim, it was only when you accused 
me of rudeness to him that I confessed how much it astonished 
me to find that he was the man your guardian had wished you 
to marry. It does astonish me. Herr Lippheim isn't even a 
gentleman/' 

" Enough ! " cried Madame von Marwitz. She sprang to her 
feet. " Enough ! " she said, half suffocated. " It is the voice 
of the cage! We will not stay to hear its standards applied. 
Come with me, Karen, that I may say farewell to you." 

She caught Karen by the arm. Her face was strange, savage, 
suffused. Gregory went to open the door for them. "Base 
one ! " she said to him. " Ignominious one ! " 

She drew Karen swiftly along the passage and, still keeping 
her sharp clasp of her wrist while she opened and closed the door 
of her room, she sank, encircling her with her arms, upon the 
sofa, and wept loudly over her. 

Karen, too, was now weeping; heavy, shaking sobs. 

" My child ! My poor child ! " Madame von Marwitz mur- 
mured brokenly after a little time had gone. " I would have 
spared you this. It has come. We have both seen it. And 
now, so that your life may not be ruined, I must leave it." 

"But Tante my Tante " sobbed Karen Madame von 
Marwitz did not remember that Karen had ever so sobbed 
before "you cannot mean those words. What shall I do if 
you say this ? What is left for me ? " 

" My child, your life is left you," said Madame von Marwitz, 
holding her close and speaking with her lips in the girl's hair. 
" Your husband's love is left ; the happiness that you chose and 



250 TANTE 

that I shall shatter if I stay; ah, yes, my Karen, how deny it 
now ? I see my path. It is plain before me. To-night I go to 
Mrs. Forrester and to-morrow I breathe the air of Cornwall." 

" But Tante wait wait. You will see Gregory again ? 
You will let him explain ? Oh, let me first talk with him ! He 
says bitter things, but so do you, Tante; and he does not mean 
to offend as much as you think." 

At this, after a little pause, Madame von Marwitz drew her- 
self slightly away and put her handkerchief to her eyes and 
cheeks. The violence of her grief was over. " Does he still 
so blind you, Karen ? " she then asked. " Do you still not see 
that your husband hates me and has hated me from the be- 
ginning ? " 

" Not hate ! Not hate ! " Karen sobbed. " He does not un- 
derstand you that is all. Only wait till to-morrow. Only 
let me talk to him ! " 

" No. He does not understand. That is evident," said 
Madame von Marwitz with a bitter smile. "Nor will he ever 
understand. Will you talk to him, Karen, so that he shall ex- 
plain why he smirches my love and my sincerity? You know 
as well as I what was the meaning of those words of his. Can 
you, loving me, ask me to sue further for the favour of a man 
who has so insulted me? No. It cannot be. I cannot see 
him again. You and I are still to meet, I trust; but it cannot 
again be under this roof." 

Karen now sobbed helplessly, leaning forward, her face in her 
hands, and Madame von Marwitz, again laying an arm around 
her shoulders, gazed with majestic sorrow into the fire. " Even 
so," she said at last, when Karen's sobs had sunken to long, 
broken breaths; "even so. It is the law of life. Sacrifice: 
sacrifice: to the very end. Life, to the artist, must be this al- 
tar where he lays his joys. We are destined to be alone, Karen. 
We are driven forth into the wilderness for the sins of the peo- 
ple. So I have often seen it, and cried out against it in my 
tortured youth, and struggled against it in my strength and in 
my folly. But now, with another strength, I am enabled to 



TANTE 251 

stand upright and to face the vision of my destiny. I am to 
be alone. So be it." 

No answer came from Karen and Madame von Marwitz, after 
a pause, continued, in gentler, if no less solemn tones : " And 
my child, too, is brave. She, too, will stand upright. She, too, 
has her destiny to fulfil in the world not in the wilderness. 
And if the burden should ever grow too heavy, and the road cut 
her feet too sharply, and the joy turn to dust, she will remember 
always that Tante's arms and heart are open to her at 
all times, in all places, and to the end of life. And now," this, 
with a sigh of fatigue, came on a more matter-of-fact note 
" let a cab be called for me. Louise will follow with my boxes." 

Karen's tears had ceased. She made no further protest or 
appeal. 

Eising, she dried her eyes, rang and ordered the cab to be called 
and found her guardian's white cloak and veiled hat. 

And while she shrouded her in these, Madame von Marwitz, 
still gazing, as if at visions, in the fire, lifted her arms and bent 
her head with almost the passivity of a dead thing. Once or 
twice she murmured broken phrases: "My ewe-lamb; 
taken ; I am very weary. Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, and is this, 
then, the end. . . ." 

She rested heavily on Karen's shoulder in rising. "Forgive 
me," she said, leaning her head against hers, " forgive me, be- 
loved one. I have done harm where I meant to make a safer 
happiness. Forgive me, too, for my bitter words. I should 
not have spoken as I did. My child knows that it is a hot and 
passionate heart." 

Karen, in silence, turned her face to her guardian's breast. 

"And do not," said Madame von Marwitz, speaking with 
infinite tenderness, while she stroked the bent head, " judge your 
husband too hardly because of this. He gives what love he can ; 
as he knows love. It is as my child said; he does not under- 
stand. It is not given to some to understand. He has lived in 
a narrow world. Do not judge him hardly, Karen; it is for 
the wiser, stronger, more loving soul to lift the smaller towards 



252 TANTB 

the light. He can still give my child happiness. In that trust 
I find my strength." 

They went down the passage together. Gregory came to the 
drawing-room door. He would have spoken, have questioned, 
but, shrinking from him and against Karen, as if from an in- 
tolerable searing, Madame von Marwitz hastened past him. He 
heard the front door open and the last silent pause of farewell on 
the threshold. 

Louise scuttled by past him to her mistress's vacated rooms. 
She did not see him and he heard that she muttered under 
her breath: "Ah! par exemple! C'est trop fort, ma parole 
d'honneur! " 

As Karen came back from the door he went to meet her. 

" Karen," he said, " will you come and talk with me, now ? " 

She put aside his hand. "I cannot talk. Do not come to 
me," she said. "I must think." And going into their room 
she shut the door. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

THE telephone sounded while Gregory next morning ate 
his solitary breakfast, and the voice of Mrs. Forrester, dis- 
embodied of all but its gravity, asked him, if he would, to come 
and see her immediately. 

Gregory asked if Madame von Marwitz were with her. He was 
not willing, after the final affront that she had put upon him, 
to encounter Madame von Marwitz again in circumstances where 
he might seem to be justifying himself. But, with a deeper drop, 
the disembodied voice informed him that Madame von Marwitz, 
ten minutes before, had driven to the station on her way to Corn- 
wall. "You will understand, I think, Gregory," said Mrs. 
Forrester, " that it is hardly possible for her to face in London, 
as yet, the situation that you have made for her." 

Gregory, to this, replied, shortly, that he would come to her 
at once, reserving his comments on the imputed blame. 

He had passed an almost sleepless night, lying in his little 
dressing-room bed where, by a tacit agreement, never explicitly 
recognized, he had slept, now, for so many nights. Cold fears, 
shaped at last in definite forms, stood round him and bade him 
see the truth. His wife did not love him. From the beginning 
he had been as nothing to her compared with her guardian. 
The pale, hard light of her eyes as she had said to him that 
afternoon, " Speak ! " seemed to light the darkness with bitter 
revelations. He knew that he was what would be called, senti- 
mentally, a broken-hearted man; but it seemed that the process 
of breaking had been gradual; so that now, when his heart lay 
in pieces, his main feeling was not of sharp pain but of dull 
fatigue, not of tragic night, but of a grey commonplace from 
which all sunlight had slowly ebbed away. 

He found Mrs. Forrester in her morning-room among loudly 
singing canaries and pots of jonquils ; and as he shook hands with 

253 



254 TANTE 

her he saw that this old friend, so old and so accustomed that she 
was like a part of his life, was embarrassed. The wrinkles on 
her withered, but oddly juvenile, face seemed to have shifted 
to a pattern of perplexity and pained resolution. He was not 
embarrassed, though he was beaten and done in a way Mrs. For- 
rester could not guess at ; yet he felt an awkwardness. 

They had known each other for a life-time, he and Mrs. 
Forrester, but they were not intimate; and how intimate they 
would have to become if they were to discuss with anything like 
frankness the causes and consequences of Madame von Marwitz's 
conduct ! A gloomy indifference settled on Gregory as he realized 
that her dear friend's conduct was the one factor in the causes 
and consequences that Mrs. Forrester would not be able to 
appraise at its true significance. 

She shook his hand, and seating herself at a little table and 
slightly tapping it with her fingers, " Now, my dear Gregory/' 
she said, "will you, please, tell me why you have acted like 
this?" 

"Isn't my case prejudged?" Gregory asked, reconstructing 
the scene that must have taken place last night when Madame 
von Marwitz had appeared before her friend. 

" No, Gregory ; it is not," Mrs. Forrester returned with some 
terseness, for she felt his remark to be unbecoming. " I hope to 
have some sort of explanation from you." 

" I 'm quite ready to explain ; but it 's hardly possible that my 
explanation will satisfy you," said Gregory. " You spoke, just 
now, when you called me up, of a situation and said I ? d made 
it. My explanation can only consist in saying that I didn't 
make it; that Madame von Marwitz made it; that she came to 
us in order to make it and then to fix the odium of it on me." 

Already Mrs. Forrester had flushed. She looked hard at the 
pot of jonquils near her. " You really believe that ? " 

" I do. She can't forgive me for not liking her," said Gregory. 

" And you don't like her. You own to it." 

" I don't like her. I own to it," Gregory replied with a cer- 
tain frosty relief. It was like taking off damp, threadbare gar- 



TANTE 255 

ments that had chilled one for a long time and facing the winter 
wind, naked, but invigorated. " I dislike her very much." 

"May I ask why?" Mrs. Forrester inquired, with careful 
courtesy. 

" I distrust her," said Gregory. " I think she 's dangerous, 
and tyrannous, and unscrupulous. I think that she 's devoured 
by egotism. I'm sorry. But if you ask me why, I can only 
tell you." 

Mrs. Forrester sat silent for a moment, and then, the flush on 
her delicate old cheek deepening, she murmured : " It is worse, 
far worse, than Mercedes told me. Even Mercedes didn't sus- 
pect this. Gregory, I must ask you another question: Do 
you really imagine that you and your cruel thoughts of her 
would be of the slightest consequence to Mercedes Okraska, if 
you had not married the child for whose happiness she holds 
herself responsible?" 

" Of course not. She would n't give me another thought, if I 
were n't there, in her path ; I am in her path, and she feels that I 
don't like her, and she has n't been able to let me alone." 

" She has not let you alone because she hoped to make your 
marriage secure in the only way in which security was possible for 
you and Karen. What happiness could she see for Karen's 
future if she were to have cut herself apart from her life; 
dropped you, and Karen with you ? That, doubtless, would have 
been the easy thing to do. There is indeed no reason why 
women like Mercedes Okraska, women with the world at their 
feet, should trouble to think of the young men they may chance 
to meet, whose exacting moral sense they don't satisfy. I am 
glad you see that," said Mrs. Forrester, tapping her table. 

" It would have been far kinder to have dropped Karen than 
deliberately to set to work, as she has done, to ruin her happiness. 
She hasn't been able to keep her hands off it. She couldn't 
stand it a happiness she hadn't given; a happiness for which 
gratitude was n't due to her." 

" Gregory, Gregory," Mrs. Forrester raised her eyes to him 
now ; " you are frank with me, very frank ; and I must be frank 



256 TANTE 

with you. There is more than dislike here, and distrust, and 
morbid prejudice. There is jealousy. Hints of it have come to 
me ; I 've tried to put them aside ; I 've tried to believe, as my 
poor Mercedes did, that, by degrees, you would adjust yourself 
to the claims on Karen's life, and be generous and understand- 
ing, even when you had no spontaneous sympathy to give. But 
it is all quite clear to me now. You can't accept the fact of 
your wife's relation to Mercedes. You can't accept the fact of 
a devotion not wholly directed towards yourself. I 've known 
you since boyhood, Gregory, and I've always had regard and 
fondness for you; but this is a serious breach between us. You 
seem to me more wrong and arrogant than I could trust my- 
self to say. And you have behaved cruelly to a woman for whom 
my feeling is more than mere friendship. In many ways my 
feeling for Mercedes Okraska is one of reverence. She is one 
of the great people of the world. To know her has been a pos- 
session, a privilege. Anyone might be proud to know such a 
woman. And when I think of what you have now said of her 
to me when I think of how I saw her here last night, 
broken crushed, after so many sorrows " 

Tears had risen to Mrs. Forrester's eyes. She turned her 
head aside. 

" Do you mean/' said Gregory after a moment, in which it 
seemed to him that his grey world preceptibly, if slightly, 
darkened, " do you mean that I've lost your friendship because 
of Madame von Marwitz ? " 

" I don't know, Gregory ; I can't tell you/' said Mrs. Forrester, 
not looking at him. " I don't recognize you. As to Karen, 
I cannot imagine what your position with her can be. How is 
she to bear it when she knows that it is said that you insulted 
her guardian's friends and then turned her out of your house ? " 

" I did n't turn her out," said Gregory ; he walked to the 
window and stared into the street. " She went because that 
was the most venomous thing she could do. And I didn't in- 
sult her friends." 

" You said to her that the man she had thought of as a hus- 
band for Karen was not a gentleman. You said that you did 



TAN T E 257 

not understand how Mercedes could have chosen such a man for 
her. You said this with the child standing between you. Oh, 
you cannot deny it, Gregory. I have heard in detail what took 
place. Mercedes saw that unless she left you Karen's position 
was an impossible one. It was to save Karen and your rela- 
tion to Karen that she went." 

Gregory, still standing at the window, was silent, and then 
asked : " Have you seen Herr Lippheim ? " 

" No, Gregory/' Mrs. Forrester returned, and now with 
trenchancy, the concrete case being easier to deal with openly. 
"No; I have not seen him; but Mercedes spoke to me about 
him last winter, when she hoped for the match, and told me, 
moreover, that she was surprised by Karen's refusal, as the child 
was much attached to him. I have not seen him; but I know 
the type and intimately. He is a warm-hearted and intelli- 
gent musician." 

" Your bootmaker may be warm-hearted and intelligent." 

" That is petulant almost an insolent simile, Gregory. It 
only reveals, pitifully, your narrowness and prejudice and, 
I will add, your ignorance. Herr Lippheim is an artist ; a man 
of character and significance. Many of my dearest friends have 
been such ; hearts of gold ; the salt of the world." 

"Would you have allowed a daughter of yours, may I ask, 
to marry one of these hearts of gold ? " 

" Certainly ; most certainly," said Mrs. Forrester, but with a 
haste and heat somewhat suspicious. " If she loved him." 

" If he were personally fit, you mean. Herr Lippheim is un- 
doubtedly warm-hearted and, in his own way, intelligent, but 
he is as unfit to be Karen's husband as your bootmaker to be 
yours." 

They had come now, on this lower, easier level, to one of the 
points where temper betrays itself as it cannot do on the heights 
of contest. Gregory's reiteration of the bootmaker greatly in- 
censed Mrs. Forrester. 

" My dear Gregory," she said, " I yield to no one in my appre- 
ciation of Karen ; owing to the education and opportunities that 
Mercedes has given her, she is a charming young woman. But, 
17 



258 TANTE 

since we are dealing with facts, the bare, bald, worldly aspects 
of things, we must not forget the facts of Karen's parentage 
and antecedents. Herr Lippheim is, in these respects, I imag- 
ine, altogether her equal. A rising young musician, the friend 
and protege of one of the world's great geniuses, and a penniless, 
illegitimate girl. Do not let your rancour, your jealousy, 
blind you so completely." 

Gregory turned from the window at this, smiling a pallid, 
frosty smile and Mrs. Forrester was now aware that she had 
made him very angry. " I may be narrow," he said, " and 
conventional and ignorant ; but I 'm unconventional and clear- 
sighted enough to judge people by their actual, not their market, 
value. Of Herr Lippheim I know nothing, except that his 
parentage and antecedents haven't made a gentleman, or any- 
thing resembling one, of him; while of Karen I know that hers, 
unfortunate as they certainly were, have made a lady and a 
very perfect one. I don't forgive Madame von Marwitz for a 
great many things in regard to her treatment of Karen," 
Gregory went on with growing bitterness, " chief among them 
that she has taken her at her market value and allowed her 
friends to do the same. I 've been able, thank goodness, to rescue 
Karen, at all events, from that. Madame von Marwitz can't 
carry her about any longer like a badge from some charitable so- 
ciety on her shoulder. No woman who really loved Karen, or 
who really appreciated her," Gregory added, falling back on his 
concrete fact, " could have thought of Herr Lippheim as a hus- 
band for her." 

Mrs. Forrester sat looking up at him, and she was genuinely 
aghast. 

"You are incredible to me, Gregory," she said. "You set 
your one year of devotion to Karen against Mercedes's life-time, 
and you presume to discredit hers." 

" Yes. I do. I don't believe in her devotion to Karen." 

" Do you realize that your attitude may mean a complete 
rupture between Karen and her guardian ? " 

" No such luck ; I 'm afraid ! " said Gregory with a grim laugh. 
"My only hope is that it may mean a complete rupture be- 






TANTE 259 

tween Madame von Marwitz and me. It goes without saying, 
feeling as I do, that, if it would n't break Karen's heart, I ? d do 
my best to prevent Madame von Marwitz from ever seeing her 
again." 

There was a little silence and then Mrs. Forrester got up 
sharply. 

" Very well, Gregory," she said. " That will do." 

" Are you going to shake hands with me ? " he asked, still 
with the grim smile. 

" Yes. I will shake hands with you, Gregory," Mrs. Forres- 
ter replied. " Because, in spite of everything, I am fond of you. 
But you must not come here again. Not now." 

"Never any more, do you really mean?" 

"Not until you are less wickedly blind." 

" I 'm sorry," said Gregory. " It 3 s never any more then, I 'm 
afraid." 

He was very sorry. He knew that as he walked away. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

MRS. FORRESTER remained among her canaries and 
jonquils, thinking. She was seriously perturbed. She 
was, as she had said, fond of Gregory, but she was fonder, far, 
of Mercedes von Marwitz, whom Gregory had caused to suffer 
and whom he would, evidently, cause to suffer still more. 

She controlled the impulse to telephone to Eleanor Scrotton 
and consult with her ; a vague instinct of loyalty towards Gregory 
restrained her from that. Eleanor would, in a day or two, hear 
from Cornwall and what she would hear could not be so bad as 
what Mrs. Forrester herself could tell her. After thinking for 
the rest of the morning, Mrs. Forrester decided to go and see 
Karen. She was not very fond of Karen. She had always been 
inclined to think that Mercedes exaggerated the significance of 
the girl's devotion, and Gregory's exaggeration, now, of her 
general significance explicable as it might be in an infatuated 
young husband disposed her the less kindly towards her. 
She felt that Karen had been clumsy, dull, in the whole affair. 
She felt that, at bottom, she was somewhat responsible for it. 
How had Gregory been able, living with Karen, to have formed 
such an insensate conception of Mercedes ? The girl was stupid, 
acquiescent ; she had shown no tact, no skill, no clarifying cour- 
age. Mrs. Forrester determined to show them all to talk to 
Karen. 

She drove to St. James's at four o'clock that afternoon and 
Barker told her that Mrs. Jardine was in the drawing-room. 
Visitors, evidently, were with her, and it affected Mrs. Forrester 
very unpleasantly, as Barker led her along the passage, to hear 
rich harmonies of music filling the flat. She had expected to be 
perhaps ushered into a darkened bedroom ; to administer comfort 
and sympathy to a shattered creature before administering re- 
proof and counsel. But Karen not only was up; she was not 

260 



TANTE 261 

alone. The strains were those of chamber-music, and a half- 
perplexed delight mingled with Mrs. Forrester's displeasure as 
she recognized the heavenly melodies of Schumann's Pianoforte 
Quintet. The performers were in the third movement. 

Karen rose, as Barker announced her, from the side of a stout 
lady at the piano, and Mrs. Forrester, nodding, her finger at her 
lips, dropped into a chair and listened. 

The stout lady at the piano had a pale, fat, pear-shaped face, 
her grizzled hair parted above it and twisted to a large outstand- 
ing knob behind. She wore eyeglasses and peered through them 
at her music with intelligent intensity and profound humility. 
The violin was played by an enormous young man with red hair, 
and the viola, second violin and 'cello by three young women, all 
of the black-and-tan Semitic type. 

Mrs. Forrester was too much preoccupied with her wonder to 
listen as she would have wished to, but by the time the end of 
the movement was come she had realized that they played ex- 
tremely well. 

Karen came forward in the interval. She was undoubtedly 
pale and heavy-eyed ; but in her little dress of dark blue silk, with 
her narrow lawn ruffles and locket and shining hair, she showed 
none of the desperate signs appropriate to her circumstances 
nor any embarrassment at the incongruous situation in which 
Mrs. Forrester found her. 

" This is Frau Lippheim, Mrs. Forrester," she said. " And 
these are Fraulein Lotta and Minna and Elizabeth, and this is 
Herr Franz. I think you have often heard Tante speak of our 
friends." 

Her ears buzzing with the name of Lippheim since the night 
before, Mrs. Forrester was aware that she showed confusion, also 
that for a brief, sharp instant, while her eyes rested on Herr 
Franz, a pang of perverse sympathy for Gregory, in a certain 
aspect of his wickedness, disintegrated her state of mind. ' He 
was singular looking indeed, this untidy young man, whose ill- 
kept clothes had a look of insecurity, like arrested avalanches on 
a mountain. " No, I can feel for Gregory somewhat in this," 
Mrs. Forrester said to herself. 



263 TANTE 

"We are having some music, you see," said Karen. "Herr 
Lippheim promised me yesterday that they would all come and 
play to me. Can you stay and listen for a little while? They 
must go before tea, for they have a rehearsal for their con- 
cert," she added, as though to let Mrs. Forrester know that she 
was not unconscious of the matter that must have brought her. 

There was really no reason why she should n't stay. She 
could not very well ask to have the Lippheims and their instru- 
ments turned out. Moreover she was very fond of the Quintet. 
Mrs. Forrester said that she would be glad to stay. 

When they went on to the fourth movement, and while she 
listened, giving her mind to the music, Mrs. Forrester's disin- 
tegration slowly recomposed itself. It was not only that the 
music was heavenly and that they played so well. She liked 
these people; they were the sort of people she had always liked. 
She forgot Herr Franz's uncouth and mountainous aspect. His 
great head leaning sideways, his eyes half closed, with the musi- 
cian's look of mingled voluptuous rapture and cold, grave, listen- 
ing intellect, he had a certain majesty. The mother, too, all 
devout concentration, was an artist of the right sort; the girls 
had the gentle benignity that comes of sincere self-dedication. 
They pleased Mrs. Forrester greatly and, as she listened, her 
severity towards Gregory shaped itself anew and more forcibly. 
Narrow, blind, bigoted young man. And it was amusing to 
think, as a comment on his fierce consciousness of Herr Lipp- 
heim's unfitness, that here Herr Lippheim was, admitted to the 
very heart of Karen's sorrow. It was inconceivable that anyone 
but very near and dear friends should have been tolerated by 
her to-day. Karen, too, after her fashion, was an artist. The 
music, no doubt, was helpful to her. Soft thoughts of her great, 
lacerated friend, speeding now towards her solitudes, filled Mrs. 
Forrester's eyes more than once with tears. 

They finished and Frau Lippheim, rubbing her hands with her 
handkerchief, stood smiling near-sightedly, while Mrs. Forrester 
expressed her great pleasure and asked all the Lippheims to 
come and see her. She planned already a musical. Karen's 
face showed a pale beam of gladness. 



TANTE 263 

"And now, my dear child/' said Mrs. Forrester, when the 
Lippheims had departed and she and Karen were alone and 
seated side by side on the sofa, " we must talk. I have come, of 
course you know, to talk about this miserable affair." She put 
her hand on Karen's; but already something in the girl's de- 
meanour renewed her first displeasure. She looked heavy, she 
looked phlegmatic; there was no response, no softness in her 
glance. 

"You have perhaps a message to me, Mrs. Forrester, from 
Tante," she said. 

" No, Karen, no," Mrs. Forrester with irrepressible severity 
returned. " I have no message for you. Any message, I think 
should come from your husband and not from your guardian." 

Karen sat silent, her eyes moving away from her visitor's face 
and fixing themselves on the wall above her head. 

The impulse that had brought Mrs. Forrester was suffering 
alterations. 

Gregory had revealed the case to her as worse than she had 
supposed; Karen emphasized the revelation. And what of 
Mercedes between these two young egoists ? "I must ask you, 
Karen," she said, "whether you realise how Gregory has be- 
haved, to the woman to whom you, and he, owe so much ? " 

Karen continued to look fixedly at the wall and after a mo- 
ment of deliberation replied : " Tante did not speak rightly to 
Gregory, Mrs. Forrester. She lost her temper very much. You 
know that Tante can lose her temper." 

Mrs. Forrester, at this, almost lost hers. " You surprise me, 
Karen. Your husband had spoken insultingly of her friends 
and yours to her. Why attempt to shield him ? I heard 
the whole story, in detail, from your guardian, you must re- 
member." 

Again Karen withdrew into a considering silence ; but, though 
her face remained impassive, Mrs. Forrester observed that a 
slight flush rose to her cheeks. 

" Gregory did not intend Tante to overhear what he said," 
she produced at last. "It was said to me and I had ques- 
tioned him not to her. Tante came in by chance. It is not 



264 TANTB 

likely, Mrs. Forrester, that my version would differ in any way 
from hers." 

"You mustn't take offence at what I say, Karen/' Mrs. 
Forrester spoke with more severity; "your version does differ. 
To my astonishment you seem actually to defend your husband." 

" Yes ; from what is not true : that is not to differ from Tante 
as to what took place." Karen brought her eyes to Mrs. For- 
rester's. 

" From what is not true. Very well. You will not deny 
that he so intensely dislikes your guardian and has shown it so 
plainly to her that she has had to leave you. You will not deny 
that, Karen?" 

" No. I will not deny that," Karen replied. 

" My poor child it is true, and it is only a small part of the 
truth. I don't know what Gregory has said to you in private, 
but even Mercedes had not prepared me for what he said to me 
this morning." 

" What did he say to you this morning, Mrs. Forrester ? " 

"He believes her to be a bad woman, Karen; do you realise 
that; has he told you that; can you bear it? Dangerous, un- 
scrupulous, tyrannous, devoured by egotism, were the words he 
used of her. I shall not forget them. He accused her of hy- 
pocrisy in her feeling for you. He hoped that you might never 
see her again. It is terrible, Karen. Terrible. It puts us all 
all of us who love Mercedes, and you through her, into the 
most impossible position." 

Karen sat, her head erect, her eyes downcast, with a rigidity of 
expression almost torpid. 

"Do you see the position he puts us in, Karen?" Mrs, 
Forrester went on with insistence. " Have you had the matter 
out with Gregory ? Did you realise its gravity ? I must really 
beg you to answer me." 

" I have not yet spoken with my husband," said Karen, in a 
chill, lifeless tone. 

" But you will ? You cannot let it pass ? " 

" No,. Mrs. Forrester. I will not let it pass." 



TANTE 265 

"You will insist that he shall make a full apology to Mer- 
cedes?" 

" Is he to apologise to her for hating her ? " Karen at this 
asked suddenly. 

"For hating her? What do you mean?" Mrs. Forrester 
was taken aback. 

" If he is to apologise/' said Karen, in a still colder, still more 
lifeless voice, " it must be for something that can be changed. 
How can he apologise to her for hating her if he continues to 
hate her?" 

" He can apologise for having spoken insultingly to her." 

" He has not done that. It was Tante who overheard what 
she was not intended to hear. And it was Tante who spoke 
with violence." 

" It amazes me to hear you put it on her shoulders, Karen. 
He can apologise, then, for what he has said to me," said Mrs. 
Forrester with indignation. "You will not deny that what he 
said of her to me was insulting." 

" He is to tell her that he has said those words and then 
apologise, Mrs. Forrester ? Oh, no ; you do not think what you 
say." 

" Eeally, my dear Karen, you have a most singular fashion of 
speaking to a person three times your age ! " Mrs. Forrester ex- 
claimed, the more incensed for the confusion of thought into 
which the girl's persistence threw her. " The long and short of 
it is that he must make it possible for Mercedes to meet him, 
with decency, in the future." 

" But I do not know how that can be," said Karen, rising as 
Mrs. Forrester rose ; " I do not know how Tante, now, can see 
him. If he thinks these things and does not say them, there 
may be pretence; but if he says them, to Tante's friends, how 
can there be pretence ? " 

There was no appeal in her voice. She put the facts, so evi- 
dent to herself, before her visitor and asked her to look at them. 
Mrs. Forrester was suddenly aware that her advice might have 
been somewhat hasty. She also felt suddenly as though, on a 



266 TANTE 

reconnoitring march down a rough but open path, she found 
herself merging in the gloomy mysteries of a forest. There 
were hidden things in Karen's voice. 

"Well, well," she said, taking the girl's hand and casting 
about in her mind for a retreat ; " that 's to see it as hopeless, 
is n't it, and we don't want to do that, do we ? We want to bring 
Gregory to reason, and you are the person best fitted to do that. 
We want to clear up these dreadful ideas he has got into his 
head, heaven knows how. And no one but you can do it. No 
one in the world, my dear Karen, is more fitted than you to 
make him understand what our wonderful Tante really is. 
There is the trouble, Karen," said Mrs. Forrester, finding now 
the original clue with which she had started on her expedition; 
"he shouldn't have been able, living with you, seeing your 
devotion, seeing from your life, as you must have told him of 
it, what it was founded on, he should n't have been able to form 
such a monstrous conception of our great, dear one. You have 
been in fault there, my dear, you see it now, I am sure. At 
the first hint you should have made things clear to him. I know 
that it is hard for a young wife to oppose the man she loves; 
but love must n't make us cowardly," Mrs. Forrester murmured 
on more cheerfully as they moved down the passage, " and Greg- 
ory will only love you more wisely and deeply if he is made 
to recognize, once for all, that you will not sacrifice your guard- 
ian to please him." 

They were now at the door and Karen had not said a word. 

"Well, good-bye, my dear," said Mrs. Forrester. Oddly she 
did not feel able to urge more strongly upon Karen that she 
should not sacrifice her guardian to her husband. " I hope I 've 
made things clearer by coming. It was better that you should 
realize just what your guardian's friends felt and would feel 
about it, was n't it ? " Karen still made no reply and on 
the threshold Mrs. Forrester paused to add, with some urgency : 
" It was right, you see that, don't you, Karen, that you should 
know what Gregory is really feeling ? " 

"Yes," Karen now assented. "It is better that I should 
know that." 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

RE GORY when he came in that evening thought at first, 
\JT with a pang of fear, that Karen had gone out. It was 
time for dressing and she was not in their room. In the draw- 
ing-room it was dark; he stood in the door- way for a moment 
and looked about it, sad and tired and troubled, wondering 
if Karen had gone to Mrs. Forrester's, wondering whether, in 
her grave displeasure with him, she had even followed her guard- 
ian. And then, from beside him, came her voice. "I am 
here, Gregory. I have been waiting for you." 

His relief was so intense that, turning up the lights, seeing 
her sitting there on a little sofa near the door, he bent involun- 
tarily over her to kiss her. 

But her hand put him away. 

" No ; I must speak to you," she said. 

Gregory straightened himself, compressing his lips. 

Karen had evidently not thought of changing. She wore her 
dark-blue silk dress. She had, indeed, been sitting there since 
Mrs. Forrester went. He looked about the room, noting, with 
dull wonder, the grouped chairs, and open piano. "You have 
had people here ? " 

"Yes. The Lippheims came and played to me. I would 
have written to them and told them not to come; but I for- 
got. And Mrs. Forrester has been here." 

" Quite a reception/' said Gregory. He walked to the window 
and looked out. "Well," he said, not turning to his wife, 
"what have you to say to me, Karen?" His tone was dry 
and even ironic. 

" Mrs. Forrester came to tell me," said Karen, " that you had 
seen her this morning." 

"Yes. Well?" 

'* And she told me," Karen went on, " that you had a great 

267 



268 TANTE 

deal to say to her about my guardian things that you have 
never dared to say to me." 

He turned to her now and her eyes from across the room fixed 
themselves upon him. 

" I will say them to you if you like," said Gregory, after a 
moment. He leaned against the side of the window and folded 
his arms. And he examined his wife with, apparently, the cold 
attention that he would have given to a strange witness in the 
box. And indeed she was strange to him. Over his aching 
and dispossessed heart he steeled himself in an impartial 
scrutiny. 

" It is true, then," said Karen, " that you believe her tyrannous 
and dangerous and unscrupulous, and that you think her de- 
voured by egotism, and hypocritical in her feeling for me, and 
that you hope that I may never see her again ? " 

She catalogued the morning's declarations accurately, like the 
witness giving unimpeachable testimony. But it was rather 
absurd 'to see her as the witness, when, so unmistakably, she 
considered herself the judge and him the criminal in the dock. 
There was relief in pleading guilty to everything. " Yes : it ? s 
perfectly true," he said. 

She looked at him and he could discover no emotion on her 
face. 

" Why did you not tell me this when you asked me to marry 
you ? " she questioned. 

"Oh I was n't so sure of it then," said Gregory. " And I 
loved you and hoped it would never come out. I did n't want to 
give you pain. That 9 s why I never dared tell you, as you put 
it." 

"You wanted to marry me and you knew that if you told 
me the truth I would not marry you; that is the reason you did 
not dare," said Karen. 

" Well, there 's probably truth in that," Gregory assented, 
smiling ; " I 'm afraid I was an infatuated creature, perhaps a 
dishonest one. I can't expect you to make allowances for my 
condition, I know." 

She lowered her eyes and sat for so long in silence that pres- 



TANTE 269 

ently, rather ashamed of the bitterness of his last words, he went 
on in a kinder tone : " I know that I can never make you un- 
derstand. You have your infatuation and it blinds you. 
You've been blind to the way in which, from the very begin- 
ning, she has tracked me down. You 've been blind to the fact 
that the thing that has moved her has n't been love for you but 
spite, malicious spite, against me for not giving her the sort 
of admiration she 's accustomed to. If I ? ve come to hate her 
I didn't in the least at first, of course it's only fair to 
say that she hates me ten times worse. I only asked that she 
should let me alone." 

" And let me alone," said Karen, who had listened without 
a movement. 

" Oh no," Gregory said, " that ? s not at all true. You surely 
will be fair enough to own that it 's not ; that I did everything 
I could to give you both complete liberty." 

"As when you applauded and upheld Betty for her insolent 
interference; as when you complained to me of my guardian 
because she asked that I should have a wider life; as when you 
hoped to have Mrs. Talcott here so that my guardian might be 
kept out." 

" Did she suggest that?" 

" She showed it to me. I had not seen it even then. Do 
you deny it?" 

" No ; I don't suppose I can, though it was nothing so def- 
inite. But I certainly hoped that Madame von Marwitz would 
not come here." 

"And yet you can tell me that you have not tried to come 
between us." 

"Yes; I can. I never tried to come between you. I tried 
to keep away. It's been she, as I say, who has tracked me 
down. That was what I was afraid of if she came here; that 
she 'd force me to show my dislike. Can you deny, Karen, I ask 
you this, that from the beginning she has made capital to you 
out of my dislike, and pointed it out to you?" 

" I will not discuss that with you," said Karen ; " I know 
that you can twist all her words and actions." 



270 TANTE 

" I don't want to do that. I can see a certain justice in her 
malice. It was hard for her, of course, to find that you'd 
married a man she did n't take to and who did n't take to her ; 
but why couldn't she have left it at that?" 

"It couldn't be left at that. It wasn't only that," said 
Karen. "If she had liked you, you would never have liked 
her ; and if you had liked her she would have liked you." 

The steadiness of her voice as she thus placed the heart of the 
matter before him brought him a certain relief. Perhaps, in 
spite of his cold realizations and the death of all illusion as to 
Karen's love for him, they could really, now, come to an under- 
standing, an accepted compromise. His heart ached and would 
go on aching until time had blunted its hurts, and a compromise 
was all he had to hope for. He had nothing to expect from 
Karen but acceptance of fact and faithful domesticity. But, 
after all the uncertainties and turmoils, this bitter peace had 
its balms. He took up her last words. 

" Ah, well, she 'd have liked my liking," he analysed it. " I 
don't know that she'd have liked me; unless I could have 
managed to give her actual worship, as you and her friends 
do. But I 'm not going to say anything more against her. She 
has forced the truth from me, and now we may bury it. You 
shall see her, of course, whenever you want to. But I hope that 
I shall never have to speak of her to you again." 

The talk seemed to have been brought to an end. Karen 
had risen and Barker, entering at the moment, announced 
dinner. 

"By Jove, is it as late as that," Gregory muttered, nodding 
to him. He turned to Karen when Barker was gone and, the 
pink electric lights falling upon her face, he saw as he had not 
seen before how grey and sunken it was. She had made no 
movement towards the door. 

" Gregory," she said, fixing her eyes upon him, and he then 
saw that he had misinterpreted her quiet, " I tell you that these 
things 'are not true. They are not true. Will you believe me ? " 

" What things ? " he asked. But he was temporizing. He 
saw that the end had not come. 



TANTE 271 

" The things you believe of Tante. That she is a heartless 
woman, using those who love her feeding on their love. I 
say it is not true. Will you believe me?" 

She stood on the other side of the room, her arms hanging at 
her sides, her hands hanging open, all her being concentrated 
in the ultimate demand of her compelling gaze. 

"Karen," he said, "I know that she must be lovable; I 
know, of course, that she has power, and charm, and tenderness. 
I think I can understand why you feel for her as you do. But I 
don't think that there is any chance that I shall change my 
opinion of her; not for anything you say. I believe that she 
takes you in completely." 

Karen gazed at him. "You will still believe that she is 
tyrannous, and dangerous, and false, whatever I may say?" 

" Yes, Karen. I know it sounds horrible to you. You must 
try to forgive me for it. We won't speak of it again ; I promise 
you." 

She turned from him, looking before her at the Bouddha, 
but not as if she saw it. "We shall never speak of it again," 
she said. " I am going to leave you, Gregory." 

For a moment he stared at her. Then he smiled. "You 
mustn't punish me for telling you the truth, Karen, by silly 
threats." 

"I do not punish you. You have done rightly to tell me 
the truth. But I cannot live with a man who believes these 
things." 

She still gazed at the Bouddha and again Gregory stared at 
her. His face hardened. " Don't be absurd, Karen. You can- 
not mean what you say." 

" I am going to-night. Now," said Karen. 

"Going? Where?" 

" To Cornwall, back to my guardian. She will take care of me 
again. I will not live with you." 

"If you really mean what you say," said Gregory, after a 
moment, " you are telling me that you don't love me. I 've 
suspected it for some time." 

" I feel as if that were true," said Karen, looking now down 



272 TANTE 

upon the ground. " I think I have no more love for you. I find 
you a petty man/' It was impossible to hope that she was 
speaking recklessly or passionately. She had come to the con- 
clusion with deliberation; she had been thinking of it since last 
night. She was willing to cast him off because he could not love 
where she loved. How deeply the roots of hope still knotted 
themselves in him he was now to realize. He felt his heart and 
mind rock with the reverberation of the shattering, the pulver- 
izing explosion, and he saw his life lying in a wilderness of dust 
about him. 

Yet the words he found were not the words of his despair. 
" Even if you feel like this, Karen/' he said, " there is no neces- 
sity for behaving like a lunatic. Go and stay with your guard- 
ian, by all means, and whenever you like. Start to-morrow 
morning. Spend most of your time with her. I shall not put 
the smallest difficulty in your way. But if only for your own 
sake have some common-sense and keep up appearances. You 
must remain my wife in name and the mistress of my house." 

" Thank you, you mean to be kind, I know," said Karen, who 
had not looked at him since her declaration ; " But I am not a 
conventional woman and I do not wish to live with a man who is 
no longer my husband. 1 do not wish to keep up appearances. 
I do not wish it to be said by those who know my guardian and 
what she has done for me and been to me that I keep up the 
appearance of regard for a man who hates her. I made a mis- 
take in marrying you ; you allowed me to make it. Now, as far 
as I can, I undo it by leaving you. Perhaps/' she added, " you 
could divorce me. That would set you free." 

The remark in its childishness, callousness, and considerate- 
ness struck him as one of the most revealing she had made. He 
laughed icily. " Our laws only allow of divorce for one cause 
and I advise you not to seek freedom for yourself or for me 
by disgracing yourself. It 's not worth it. The conventions you 
scorn have their solid value." 

She had now turned her head and was looking at him. " I 
think you are insulting me," she said. 

For the first time he observed a trembling in her voice and 



TANTE 273 

interpreted it as anger. It gave him a hurting satisfaction to 
have made her angry. She had appalled and shattered him. 

" I am not insulting you, I am warning you, Karen/' he said. 
"A woman who can behave as you are behaving is capable of 
acts of criminal folly. You don't believe in convention, and in 
your guardian's world you will meet many men who don't." 
" What do you mean by criminal folly ? " 
" I mean living with a man you 're not married to." 
He had simply and sincerely forgotten something. Karen's 
face grew ashen. 

" You mean that my mother was a criminal ? " 
Even at this moment of his despair Gregory was horribly 
sorry. Yet the memory that she recalled brought a deeper fear 
for her future. He had spoken with irony of her suggestion 
about divorce and freedom. But did not her very blood, as well 
as her environment, give him reason to emphasise his warn- 
ing? 

" I did n't mean that. I was n't thinking of that," he said, 
"as you must know. And to be criminally foolish is a very dif- 
ferent thing from being a criminal. But I 'm convinced that to 
break social laws and these laws about men and women have 
deeper than merely social sanctions to break them, I 'm con- 
vinced, can bring no happiness. I feel about your mother, and 
what she did I say it with all reverence that she was as 
mistaken as she was unfortunate. And I beg of you, Karen, 
never to follow her example." 

" It is not for you to speak of her ! " Karen said, not moving 
from her place but uttering the words with a still and sudden 
passion that he had never heard from her. " It is not for you 
to preach sermons to me on the text of my mother's misfortunes. 
I do not call them misfortunes nor did she. I do not accept 
your laws, and she was not afraid of them. How dare you call 
her unfortunate? She lost nothing that she valued and she 
gained great happiness, and gave it, for she was happy with 
my father. It was a truer marriage than any I have known. 
She was more married than you or I have ever been or could 
ever have been; for there was deep love between them, and 

18 



274 T A N T E 

trust and understanding. Do not speak to me of her. I for- 
bid it/' 

She turned to the door. Gregory sprang to her side and seized 
her wrist. " Karen ! Where are you going ? Wait till to- 
morrow ! " he exclaimed, fear for her actual safety surmounting 
every other feeling. 

She stood still under his hand and looked at him with her still 
passion of repudiation. " I will not wait. I shall go to-night to 
Frau Lippheim. And to-morrow I shall go to Cornwall. I shall 
tell Mrs. Barker to pack my clothes and send them to me there." 

"You have no money." 

" Frau Lippheim will lend me money. My guardian will take 
care of me. It is not for you to have any thought for me." 

He dropped her arm. " Very well. Go then," he said. 

He turned from her. He heard that she paused, the knob of 
the door in her hand. " Good-bye," she then said. 

Again it was, inconceivably, the mingled childishness, callous- 
ness and considerateness. That, at the moment, she could 
think of the formality, suffocated him. " Good-bye," he replied, 
not looking round. 

The door opened and closed. He heard her swift feet passing 
down the passage to their room. 

She was not reckless. She needed her hat and coat at least. 
Quiet, rational determination was in all her actions. 

Yet, as he waited to hear her come out again, a hope that he 
knew to be chimerical rose in him. She would, perhaps, return, 
throw herself in his arms and, weeping, say that she loved him 
and could not leave him. Gregory's heart beat quickly. 

But when he heard her footsteps again they were not return- 
ing. They passed along to the kitchen ; she was speaking to Mrs. 
Barker Gregory had a shoot of surface thought for Mrs. Bark- 
er's astonishment; they entered the hall again, the hall door 
closed behind them. 

Gregory stood looking at the Bouddha. The tears kept mount- 
ing to his throat and eyes and, furiously, he choked them back. 
He did not see the Bouddha. 



TANTE 275 

But, suddenly becoming aware of the bland contemplative 
gaze of the great bronze image, his eyes fixed themselves on it. 

He had known it from the first to be an enemy. Its presage 
was fulfilled. The tidal wave had broken over his life. 



PAET II 



CHAPTER XXIX 

KAREN sat in her corner of the railway carriage looking out 
at familiar scenery. 

Reading and the spring-tide beauties of the Thames valley 
had gone by in the morning. Then, after the attendant had 
passed along the corridor announcing lunch, and those who were 
lunching had followed him in single file, had come the lonely 
majesty of the Somerset downs, lying like great headlands along 
the plain, a vast sky of rippled blue and silver above them. 
They had passed Plymouth where she had always used to look 
down from the high bridges and wonder over the lives of the 
midshipmen on the training-ships, and now they were winding 
through wooded Cornish valleys. 

Karen had looked out of her window all day. She had not 
read, though kind Frau Lippheim had put the latest tendenz- 
roman, paper-bound, into the little basket, which was also 
stocked with stout beef-sandwiches, a bottle of milk, and the 
packet of chocolate and bun in paper bag that Franz had added 
to it at the station. 

Poor Franz. He and his mother had come to see her off and 
they had both wept as the train moved away, and strange indeed 
it must have been for them to see the Karen Jardine who, only 
yesterday, had been, apparently, so happy, and so secure in her 
new life, carried back to the old; a wife who had left her hus- 
band. 

Karen had slept little the night before, and kind Franz must 
have slept less; for he had given her his meagre bedroom and 
spent the night on the narrowest, hardest, most slippery of sofas 

277, 



278 TANTE 

in the sitting-room of the Bayswater lodging-house where Karen 
had found the Lippheims very cheaply, very grimly, not to say 
greasily, installed. It was no wonder that Franz's eyes had 
been so heavy, his face so puffed and pale that morning; and 
his tears had given the last touch of desolation to his counte- 
nance. 

Karen herself had not wept, either at the parting or at the 
meeting of the night before. She had told them, with no ex- 
planations at all, that she had left her husband and was going 
back to her guardian, and the Lippheims had asked no ques- 
tions. 

It might have been possible that Franz, as he sat at the table, 
his fingers run through his hair, clutching his head while he and 
his mother listened to her, was not so dazed and lost as was Frau 
Lippheim, who had not seen Gregory. Franz might have his 
vague perceptions. "Ach! Ach!" he had ejaculated once or 
twice while she spoke. 

And Frau Lippheim had only said: " Liebes Kind! Liebes, 
armes Kind!" 

She was, after all, going back to the great Tante and they felt, 
no doubt, that no grief could be ultimate which had that com- 
pensatory refuge. 

She was going back to Tante. As the valleys, in their deep- 
ened shadows, streamed past her, Karen remembered that it had 
hardly been at all of Tante that she had thought while the long 
hours passed and her eyes observed the flying hills and fields. 
Perhaps she had thought of nothing. The heavy feeling, as of 
a stone resting on her heart, of doom, defeat and bitterness, 
could hardly have been defined as thought. She had thought 
and thought and thought during these last dreadful days ; every 
mental cog had been adjusted, every wheel had turned; she had 
held herself together as never before in all her life, in order to 
give thought every chance. For was n't that to give him every 
chance? and wasn't that, above all, to give herself any chance 
that might still be left her ? 

And now the machinery seemed to lie wrecked. There was not 
an ember of hope left with which to kindle its activity. How 



TANTE 279 

much hope there must have been to have made it work so firmly 
and so furiously during these last days ! how much, she had n't 
known until her husband had come in last night, and, at last, 
spoken openly. 

Even Mrs. Forrester's revelations, though they had paralyzed 
her, had not put out the fires. She had still hoped that he could 
deny, explain, recant, own that he had been hasty, perhaps; 
perhaps mistaken; give her some loophole. She could have 
understood oh, to a degree almost abject his point of view. 
Mrs. Forrester had accused her of that. And Tante had accused 
her of it, too. But no; it had been slowly to freeze to stillness 
to hear his clear cold utterance of shameful words, see the 
folly of his arrogance and his complacency, realise, in his glacial 
look and glib, ironic smile, that he was blind to what he was 
destroying in her. For he could not have torn her heart to shreds 
and then stood bland, unaware of what he had done, had he loved 
her. Her young spirit, unversed in irony, drank in the bitter 
draught of disillusion. They had never loved each other; or, 
worse, far worse, they had loved and love was this puny thing 
that a blow could kill. His love for her was dead. 

.She still trembled when the ultimate realization surged over 
her, looking fixedly out of the window lest she should weep 
aloud. 

She had only one travelling companion, an old woman who got 
out at Plymouth. Karen had found her curiously repulsive 
and that was one reason why she had kept her eyes fixed on the 
landscape. She had been afraid that the old woman would talk 
to her, perhaps offer her refreshments, or sympathy ; for she was 
a kind old woman, with bland eyes and a moist warm face and 
two oily curls hanging forward from her old-fashioned bonnet 
upon her shoulders. She was stout, dressed in tight black cash- 
mere, and she sat with her knees apart and her hands, gloved 
in grey thread gloves, lying on them. She held a handkerchief 
rolled into a ball, and from time to time, as if furtively, she 
would raise this handkerchief to her brow and wipe it. And 
all the time, Karen felt, she looked mildly and humbly at her 
and seemed to divine her distress. 



280 TANTE 

Karen was thankful when she got out. She had been ashamed 
of her antipathy. 

Bodmin Road was now passed and the early spring sunset 
shone over the tree-tops in the valleys below. Karen leaned her 
head back and closed her eyes. She was suddenly aware of her 
great fatigue, and when they reached Gwinear Road she found 
that she had been dozing. 

The fresh, chill air, as she walked along the platform, waiting 
for the change of trains, revived her. She had not been able to 
eat her beef sandwiches and the thought that so much of Frau 
Lippheim's good food should be wasted troubled her; she was 
glad to find a little wandering fox-terrier who ate the meat 
eagerly. She herself, sitting beside the dog, nibbled at Franz's 
chocolate. She had had nothing on her journey but the milk 
and part of the bun which Franz had given her. 

Now she was in the little local train and the bleak Cornish 
country, nearing the coast, spread before her eyes like a map of 
her future life. She began to think of the future, and of 
Tante. 

She had not sent word to Tante that she was coming. She 
felt that it would be easiest to appear before her in silence and 
Tante would understand. There need be no explanations. 

She imagined that Tante would find it best that she should 
live, permanently now, in Cornwall with Mrs. Talcott. It could 
hardly be convenient for her to take about with her a wife who 
had left her husband. Karen quite realized that her status must 
be a very different one from that of the unshadowed young girl. 

And it would be strange to take up the old life again and to 
look back from it at the months of life with Gregory that 
mirage of happiness receding as if to a blur of light seen over 
a stretch of desert. Still with her quiet and unrevealing young 
face turned towards the evening landscape, Karen felt as if she 
had grown very old and were looking back, after a life-time 
without Gregory, at the mirage. How faint and far it would 
seem to be when she was really old like a nebulous star trem- 
bling on the horizon. But it would never grow invisible; she 
would never forget it; oh never; nor the dreadful pain of loss. 



TANTE 281 

To the very end of life, she was sure of it, she would keep the 
pang of the shining memory. 

When they reached Helston, dusk had fallen. She found a 
carriage that would drive her the twelve miles to the coast. It 
was a quiet, grey evening and as they jolted slowly along the 
dusty roads and climbed the steep hills at a snail's pace, she 
leaned back too tired to feel anything any longer. And now 
they were out upon the moors where the gorse was breaking 
into flowers; and now, over the sea, she saw at last the great 
beacon of the Lizard lighthouse sweeping the country with its 
vast, desolate, yet benignant beam. 

They reached the long road and the stile where, a year before, 
she had met Gregory. Here was the hedge of fuchsia ; here the 
tamarisks on their high bank; here the entrance to Les Soli- 
tudes. The steeply pitched grey roofs rose before her, and the 
white walls with their squares of orange light glimmered among 
the trees. 

She alighted, paid the man, and rang. 

A maid, unknown to her, came to the door and showed 
surprise at seeing her there with her bag. 

Yes; Madame von Marwitz was within. Karen had entered 
with the asking. " Whom shall I announce, Madam ? " the maid 
inquired. 

Karen looked at her vaguely. " She is in the music-room ? I 
do not need to be announced. That will go to my room." She 
put down the bag and crossed the hall. 

She was not aware of feeling any emotion ; yet a sob had taken 
her by the throat and tears had risen to her eyes ; she opened 
them widely as she entered the dusky room, presenting a strange 
face. 

Madame von Marwitz rose from a distant sofa. 

In her astonishment, she stood still for a moment ; then, like a 
great, white, widely-winged moth, she came forward, rapidly, yet 
with hesitant, reconnoitring pauses, her eyes on the girl who 
stood in the doorway looking blindly towards her. 

" Karen ! " she exclaimed sharply. " What brings you here ? " 

" I have come back to you, Tante," said Karen. 



282 T A N T E 

Tante stood before her, not taking her into her arms, not tak- 
ing her hands. 

" Come back to me ? What do you mean ? " 

" I have left Gregory," said Karen. She was bewildered now. 
What had happened? She did not know; but it was some- 
thing that made it impossible to throw herself in Tante's arms 
and weep. 

Then she saw that another person was with them. A man 
was seated on the distant sofa. He rose, wandering slowly down 
the room, and revealed himself in the dim light that came from 
the evening sky and sea as Mr. Claude Drew. Pausing at some 
little distance he fixed his eyes on Karen, and in the midst of all 
the impressions, striking like chill, moulding blows on the melted 
iron of her mood, she was aware of these large, dark eyes of Mr. 
Brew's and of their intent curiosity. 

The predominant impression, however, was of a changed aspect 
in everything, and as Tante, now holding her hands, still stood 
silent, also looking at her with intent curiosity, the impression 
vaguely and terribly shaped itself for her as a piercing question : 
Was Tante not glad to have her back? 

There came from Tante in another moment a more accustomed 
note. 

" You have left your husband because of me my poor 
child ? 

Karen nodded. Mr. Drew's presence made speech impossible. 

"He made it too difficult for you?" 

Karen nodded again. 

"And you have come back to me." Madame von Marwitz 
summed it up rather than inquired. And then, after another 
pause, she folded Karen in her arms. 

The piercing question seemed answered. Yet Karen could not 
now have wept. A dry, hard desolation filled her. " May I go 
to my room, Tante ? " 

"Yes, my child. Go to your room. You will find Tallie. 
Tallie is in the house, I think or did I send her in to Hel- 
ston? no, that was for to-morrow." She held Karen's hand 
at a stretch of her arm while she seemed, with difficulty still, to 



TANTE 283 

collect her thoughts. " But I will come with you myself. Yes ; 
that is best. Wait here, Claude." This to the silent, dusky 
figure behind them. 

" Do not let me be a trouble/' Karen controlled the trembling 
of her voice. " I know my way." 

" No trouble, my child ; no trouble. Or none that I am not 
glad to take." 

Tante had her now on the stair her arm around her 
shoulders. " You will find us at sixes and sevens ; a household 
hastily organized, but Tallie, directed by wires, has done won- 
ders. So. My poor Karen. You have left him. For good? 
Or is it only to punish him that you come to me ? " 

" I have left him for good." 

" So," Madame von Marwitz repeated. 

With all the veils and fluctuations, one thing was growing 
clear to Karen. Tante might be glad to have her back; but 
she was confused, trying to think swiftly, to adjust her thoughts. 
They were in Karen's little room overlooking the trees at the 
corner of the house. It was dismantled; a bare dressing-table, 
the ewer upturned in the basin, the bed and its piled bedding 
covered with a sheet. Madame von Marwitz sat down on the 
bed and drew Karen beside her. 

" But is not that to punish him too much ? " 

" It is not to punish him. I cannot live with him any 
longer." 

"I see; I see;" said Madame von Marwitz, with a certain 
briskness, as though, still, to give herself time to think. " It 
might have been wiser to wait to wait for a little. I would 
have written to you. We could have consulted. It is serious, 
you know, my Karen, very serious, to leave one's husband. I 
went away so that this should not come to you." 

" I could not wait. I could not stay with him any longer," 
said Karen heavily. 

" There is more, you mean. You had words ? He hates me 
more than you thought ? " 

Karen paused, and then assented : " Yes ; more than I 
thought." 



284: TANTE 

Above the girl's head, which she held pressed down on her 
shoulder, Madame von Marwitz pondered for some moments. 
" Alas ! " she then uttered in a deep voice. And, Karen saying 
nothing, she repeated on a yet more melancholy note : " Alas ! " 

Karen now raised herself from Tante's shoulder; but, at the 
gesture of withdrawal, Madame von Marwitz caught her close 
again and embraced her. " I feared it," she said. " I saw it. 
I hoped to hide it by my flight. My poor child! My beloved 
Karen ! " 

They held each other for some silent moments. Then Madame 
von Marwitz rose. " You are weary, my Karen ; you must rest ; 
is it not so ? I will send Tallie to you. You will see Tallie 
she is a perfection of discretion ; you do not shrink from Tallie. 
And you need tell her nothing; she will not question you. 
Between ourselves; is it not so? Yes; that is best. For the 
present. I will come again, later I have guests, a guest, you 
see. Rest here, my Karen/' She moved towards the door. 

Karen looked after her. An intolerable fear pressed on her. 
She could not bear, in her physical weakness, to be left alone with 
it. " Tante ! " she exclaimed. 

Madame von Marwitz turned. "My child?' 7 

" Tante you are glad to have me back ? " 

Her pride broke in a sob. She hid her face in her hands. 

Madame von Marwitz returned to the bed. 

"Glad, my child?" she said. "For all the sorrow that it 
means? and to know that I am the cause? How can I be glad 
for my child's unhappiness ? " 

She spoke with a touch of severity, as though in Karen's tears 
she felt an unexpressed accusation. 

"Not for that," Karen spoke with difficulty. "But to have 
me with you again. It will not be a trouble ? " 

There was a little silence and then, her severity passing to 
melancholy reproof, Madame von Marwitz said : " Did we not, 
long since, speak of this, Karen? Have you forgotten? Can 
you so wound me once again ? Only my child's grief can excuse 
her. It is a sorrow to see your life in ruins ; I had hoped before 
I died to see it joyous and secure. It is a sorrow to know that 



TANTE 285 

you have maimed yourself; that you are tied to an unworthy 
man. But how could it be a trouble to me to have you with me ? 
It is a consolation my only consolation in this calamity. With 
me you shall find peace and happiness again/ 5 

She laid her hand on Karen's head. Karen put her hand to 
her lips. 

" There. That is well," said Madame von Marwitz with a 
sigh, bending to kiss her. "That is my child. Tante is sad 
at heart. It is a heavy blow. But her child is welcome." 

When she had gone Karen lay, her face in the billows of the 
bed, while she fixed her thoughts on Tante's last words. 

They became a sing-song monotone. " Tante is sad at heart. 
But her child is welcome. It is a heavy blow. But her child is 
welcome." 

After the anguish there was a certain ease. She rested in the 
given reassurance. Yet the sing-song monotone oppressed her. 

.She felt presently that her hat, wrenched to one side, and still 
fixed to her hair by its pins, was hurting her. She unfastened it 
and dropped it to the floor. She felt too tired to do more just 
then. 

Soon after this the door opened and Mrs. Talcott appeared 
carrying a candle, a can of hot water, towels and sheets. 

Karen drew herself up, murmuring some vague words of wel- 
come, and Mrs. Talcott, after setting the candle on the dressing- 
table and the hot water in the basin, remarked : " Just you lie 
down again, Karen, and let me wash your face for you. You 
must be pretty tired and dirty after that long journey." 

But Karen put her feet to the ground. They just sustained 
her. " Thank you, Mrs. Talcott. I will do it," she said. 

She bent over the water, and, while she washed, Mrs. Talcott, 
with deliberate skill, made up the bed. Karen sank in a chair. 

"You poor thing," said Mrs. Talcott, turning to her as she 
smoothed down the sheet ; " Why you 're green. Sit right there 
and I '11 undress you. Yes ; you ? re only fit to be put to bed." 

She spoke with mild authority, and Karen, under her hands, 
relapsed to childhood. 

" This all the baggage you 've brought ? " Mrs. Talcott in- 



286 TANTE 

quired, finding a nightdress in Karen's dressing-case. She ex- 
pressed no surprise when Karen said that it was all, passed the 
nightdress over her head and, when she had lain down, tucked 
the bed-clothes round her. 

" Now what you want is a hot- water bottle and some dinner. 
I guess you 're hungry. Did you have any lunch on the train ? " 

" I 've had some chocolate and a bun and some milk, oh yes, I 
had enough," said Karen faintly, raising her hand to her fore- 
head ; " but I must be hungry ; for my head aches so badly. 
How kind you are, Mrs. Talcott." 

" You lie right there and I '11 bring you some dinner." Mrs. 
Talcott was swiftly tidying the room. 

"But what of yours, Mrs. Talcott? Isn't it your dinner- 
time ? " 

" I 've had my supper. I have supper early these days." 

Karen dimly reflected, when she was gone, that this was an 
innovation. Whoever Madame von Marwitz's guests, Mrs. Tal- 
cott had, until now, always made an acte de presence at every 
meal. She was tired and not feeling well enough after her ill- 
ness, she thought. 

Mrs. Talcott soon returned with a tray on which were set out 
hot consommee and chicken and salad, a peach beside them. 
Hot-house fruit was never wanting when Madame von Marwitz 
was at Les Solitudes. 

" Lie back. I '11 feed it to you," said Mrs. Talcott. " It 's 
good and strong. You know Adolphe can make as good a 
consommee as anybody, if he 's a mind to." 

" Is Adolphe here ? " Karen asked as she swallowed the spoon- 
fuls. 

"Yes, I sent for Adolphe to Paris a week ago," said Mrs. 
Talcott. " Mercedes wrote that she 'd soon be coming with 
friends and wanted him. He 'd just taken a situation, but he 
dropped it. Her new motor 's here, too, down from London. 
The chauffeur seems a mighty nice man, a sight nicer than 
Hammond." Hammond had been Madame von Marwitz's recent 
coachman. Mrs. Talcott talked on mildly while she fed Karen 
who, in the whirl of trivial thoughts, turning and turning like 



TANTE 287 

midges over a deep pool, questioned herself, with a vague won- 
der that she was too tired to follow : " Did Tante say anything 
to me about coming to Cornwall ? " 

Mrs. Talcott, meanwhile, as Madame von Marwitz had prophe- 
sied, asked no questions. 

" Now you have a good long sleep," she said, when she rose to 
go. " That '& what you need." 

She needed it very much. The midges turned more and more 
slowly, then sank into the pool; mist enveloped everything, and 
darkness. 



CHAPTER XXX 

KAREN was waked next morning by the familiar sound of 
the Wohltemperirtes Clavier. 

Tante was at work in the music-room and was playing the 
prelude in D flat, a special favourite of Karen's. 

She lay and listened with a curious, cautious pleasure, like that 
with which, half awake, one may guide a charming dream, know- 
ing it to be a dream. There was so much waiting to be remem- 
bered; so much waiting to be thought. Tante's beautiful notes, 
rising to her like the bubbles of a spring through clear water, 
seemed to encircle her, ringing her in from the wider con- 
sciousness. 

While she listened she looked out at the branches of young 
leaves, softly stirring against the morning sky. There was her 
wall-paper, with the little pink flower creeping up it. She was in 
her own little bed. Tante was practising. How sweet, how 
safe, it was. A drowsy peace filled her. It was slowly that 
memory, lapping in, like the sinister, dark waters of a flood un- 
der doors and through crevices, made its way into her mind, 
obliterating peace, at first, rather than revealing pain. There 
was a fear formless and featureless; and there was loss, dread- 
ful loss. And as the sense of loss grew upon her, consciousness 
grew more vivid, bringing its visions. 

This hour of awakening. Gregory's eyes smiling at her, not 
cold, not hard eyes then. His hand stretched out to hers ; their 
morning kiss. Tears suddenly streamed down her face. 

It was impossible to hide them from Mrs. Talcott, who came in 
carrying a breakfast tray; but Karen checked them, and dried 
her eyes. 

Mrs. Talcott set the tray down on the little table near the 
bed. 

"Is it late, Mrs. Talcott?" Karen asked. 

288 



TANTE 289 

" It 's just nine ; Mercedes is up early so as to get some work in 
before she goes out motoring/ 5 

" She is going motoring ? " 

"Yes, she and Mr. Drew are going off for the day." Mrs. 
Talcott adjusted Karen's pillow. 

" But I shall see Tante before she goes ? " It was the form- 
less, featureless fear that came closer. 

"My, yes! You'll see her all right/' said Mrs. Talcott. 
" She was asking after you the first thing and hoped you 'd 
stay in bed till lunch. Now you eat your breakfast right away 
like a good girl." 

Karen tried to eat her breakfast like a good girl and the 
sound of the Wohltemperirtes Clavier seemed again to encircle 
and sustain her. 

" How 'd you sleep, honey ? " Mrs. Talcott inquired. The 
term hardly expressed endearment, yet it was such an unusual 
one from Mrs. Talcott that Karen could only surmise that her 
tears had touched the old woman. 

" Very, very well," she said. 

" How 'd you like me to bring up some mending I 've got 
to do and sit by you till Mercedes comes ? " Mrs. Talcott pur- 
sued. 

" Oh, please do, Mrs. Talcott," said Karen. She felt that she 
would like to have Mrs. Talcott there with her very much. 
She would probably cry unless Mrs. Talcott stayed with her, 
and she did not want Tante to find her crying. 

So Mrs. Talcott brought her basket of mending and sat by the 
window, sewing in silence for the most part, but exchanging with 
Karen now and then a quiet remark about the state of the garden 
and how the plants were doing. 

At eleven the sound of the piano ceased and soon after the 
stately tread of Madame von Marwitz was heard outside. Mrs. 
Talcott, saying that she would come back later on, gathered up 
her mending as she appeared. She was dressed for motoring, 
with a long white cloak lined with white fur and her head bound 
in nun-like fashion with a white coif and veil. Beautiful she 
looked, and sad, and gentle ; a succouring Madonna ; and Karen's 
19 



290 TANTE 

heart rose up to her. It clung to her and prayed ; and the reali- 
sation of her own need, her own dependence, was a new thing. 
She had never before felt dependence on Tante as anything but 
proud and glad. To pray to her now that she should never 
belie her loveliness, to cling to that faith in her without which 
all her life would be a thing distorted and unrecognisable, was 
not pride or gladness and seemed to be the other side of fear. 
Yet so gentle were the eyes, so tender the smile and the firm 
clasp of the hands taking hers, while Tante murmured, stoop- 
ing to kiss her : " Good morning to my child," that the prayer 
seemed answered, the faith approved. 

If Madame von Marwitz had been taken by surprise the night 
before, if she had had to give herself time to think, she had now, 
it was evident, done her thinking. The result was this warmly 
cherishing tenderness. 

" Ah," she said, still stooping over Karen, while she put back 
her hair, " it is good to have my child back again, mine quite 
mine once more." 

"I have slept so well, Tante," said Karen. She was able to 
smile up at her. 

Madame von Marwitz looked about the room. "And now it 
is to gather the dear old life closely about her again. Gardening, 
and reading; and quiet times with Tante and Tallie. Though, 
for the moment, I must be much with my guest; I am helping 
him with his work. He has talent, yes ; it is a strange and com- 
plicated nature. You did not expect to find him here ? " 

Karen held Tante's hand and her gaze was innocent of surmise. 
Mr. Drew had never entered her thoughts. "No. Yes. No, 
Tante. He came with you?" 

" Yes, he came with me," said Madame von Marwitz. " I had 
promised him that he should see Les Solitudes one day. I was 
glad to find an occupation for my thoughts in helping him. I 
told him that if he were free he might join me. It is good, in 
great sorrow, to think of others. Now it is, for the young man 
and for me, our work. Work, work; we must all work, ma 
cherie. It is our only clue in the darkness of life; our only 



TANTE 291 

nourishment in the desert places." Again she looked about the 
room. " You came without boxes ? " 

" Yes, Mrs. Barker is to send them to me/' 

"Ah, yes. When," said Madame von Marwitz, in a lower 
voice, " did you leave ? Yesterday morning ? " 

" No, Tante. The night before." 

" The night before ? So ? And where did you spend the 
night? With Mrs. Forrester? With Scrotton? I have not yet 
written to Scrotton." 

" No. I went to the Lippheims." 

"The Lippheims? So?" 

" The others, Tante, would have talked to me ; and questioned 
me. I could not have borne that. The Lippheims were so 
kind." 

" I can believe it. They have hearts of gold, those Lippheims. 
They would cut themselves in four to help one. And the good 
Lise? How is she? I am sorry to have missed Lise." 

" And she was, oh, so sorry to have missed you, Tante. She is 
well, I think, though tired; she is always tired, you remember. 
She has too much to do." 

" Indeed, yes ; poor Lise. She might have been an artist of 
the first rank if she had not given herself over to the making of 
children. Why did she not stop at Franz and Lotta and Minna ? 
That would have given her the quartette," Madame von Mar- 
witz smiled she was in a mildly merry mood. " But on they 
go four, five, six, seven, eight how many are there 
bon Dieu! of how many am I the god-mother? One grows 
bewildered. It is almost a rat's family. Lise is not unlike a 
white mother-rat, with the small round eye and the fat body." 

" Oh not a rat, Tante," Karen protested, a little pained. 

" A rabbit, you think ? And a rabbit, too, is prolific. No ; 
for the rabbit has not the sharpness, not the pointed nose, the 
anxious, eager look is not so the mother, indeed. Rat it is, 
my Karen; and rat with a golden heart. How do you find 
Tallie ? She has been with you all the morning ? You have not 
talked with Tallie of our calamities ? " 



292 TANTE 

" Oh, no, Tante." 

" She is a wise person, Tallie ; wise, silent, discreet. And I 
find her looking well ; but very, very well ; this air preserves her. 
And how old is Tallie now ? " she mused. 

Though she talked so sweetly there was, Karen felt it now, a 
perfunctoriness in Tante's remarks. She was, for all the play of 
her nimble fancy, preoccupied, and the sound of the motor-horn 
below seemed a signal for release. "Tallie is, mon Dieu" she 
computed, rising "she was twenty- three when I was born 
and I am nearly fifty " Madame von Marwitz was as far 
above cowardly reticences about her age as a timeless goddess 
" Tallie is actually seventy-two. Well, I must be off, ma 
cherie. We have a long trip to make to-day. We go to Fowey. 
He wishes to see Fowey. I pray the weather may continue fine. 
You will be with us this evening ? You will get up ? You will 
come to dinner?" 

She paused at the mantelpiece to adjust her veil, and Karen, 
in the glass, saw that her eyes were fixed on hers with a certain 
intentness. 

" Yes, I will get up this morning, Tante," she said. " I will 
help Mrs. Talcott with the garden. But dinner? Mrs. Talcott 
says that she has supper now. Shall I not have my supper with 
her? Perhaps she would like that?" 

"That would perhaps be well," said Madame von Marwitz. 
" That is perhaps well thought." Still she paused and still, in 
the glass, she fixed cogitating eyes on Karen. She turned, then, 
abruptly. " But no ; I do not think so. On second thoughts I 
do not think so. You will dine with us. Tallie is quite happy 
alone. She is pleased with the early supper. I shall see you, 
then, this evening." 

A slight irritation lay on her brows; but she leaned with all 
her tenderness to kiss Karen, murmuring, " Adieu, mon enfant." 

When the sound of the motor had died away Karen got up, 
dressed and went downstairs. 

The music-room, its windows open to the sea, was full of the 
signs of occupancy. 



ffANTE 393 

The great piano stood open. Karen went to it and, standing 
over it, played softly the dearly loved notes of the prelude in 
D flat. 

She practised, always, on the upright piano in the morning- 
room; but when Tante was at home and left the grand piano 
open she often played on that. It was a privilege rarely to be 
resisted and to-day she sat down and played the fugue through, 
still very softly. Then, covering the keys, she shut the lid and 
looked more carefully about the room. 

Flowers and books were everywhere. Mrs. Talcott arranged 
flowers beautifully; Karen recognized her skilful hand in the 
tall branches of budding green standing high in a corner, the 
glasses of violets, the bowls of anemones and the flat dishes of 
Italian earthenware filled with primroses. 

On a table lay a pile of manuscript; she knew Mr. Drew's 
small, thick handwriting. A square silver box for cigarettes 
stood near by ; it was marked with Mr. Drew's initials in Tante's 
hand. How kind she was to that young man; but Tante had 
always been lavish with those of whom she was fond. 

Out on the verandah the vine-tendrils were already green 
against the sky, and on a lower terrace she saw Mrs. Talcott at 
work, as usual, among the borders. Mrs. Talcott then, had not 
yet gone to Helston and she would not be alone and she was 
glad of that. In the little cupboard near the pantry she found 
a pair of old gardening gloves and her own old gardening hat. 
The day was peaceful and balmy ; all was as it had always been, 
except herself. 

She worked all the morning in the garden and walked in the 
afternoon on the cliffs with Victor. Victor had come down with 
Tante. 

Mrs. Talcott had adjourned the trip to Helston; so they had 
tea together. Her boxes had not yet come and when it was 
time to dress for dinner she had nothing to change to but the 
little white silk with the flat blue bows upon it, the dress in which 
Gregory had first seen her. She had left it behind her when she 
married and found it now hanging in a cupboard in her room. 



294 TANTE 

The horn of the returning motor did not sound until she was 
dressed and on going down she had the music-room to herself 
for nearly half an hour. Then Mr. Drew appeared. 

The tall white lamps with their white shades had been brought 
in, but the light from the windows mingled a pale azure with the 
gold. Mr. Drew, Karen reflected, looked in the dual illumina- 
tion like a portrait by Besnard. He had, certainly, an unusual 
and an interesting face, and it pleased her to verify and em- 
phasize this fact ; for, accustomed as she was to watching Tante's 
preoccupations with interesting people, she could not quite ac- 
custom herself to her preoccupation with Mr. Drew. To account 
for it he must be so very interesting. 

She was not embarrassed by conjectures as to what, after her 
entry of last night, Mr. Drew might be thinking about her. It 
occurred to her no more than in the past to imagine that any- 
body attached to Tante could spare thought to her. And as in 
the past, despite all the inner desolation, it was easy to assume to 
this guest of Tante's the attitude so habitual to her of the at- 
tendant in the temple, the attendant who, rising from his seat at 
the door, comes forward tranquilly to greet the worshipper and 
entertain him with quiet comment until the goddess shall de- 
scend. 

" Did you have a nice drive ? " she inquired. " The weather 
has been beautiful." 

Mr. Drew, coming up to her as she stood in the open window, 
looked at her with his impenetrable, melancholy eyes, smiling at 
her a little. 

There was no tastelessness in his gaze, nothing that suggested 
a recollection of what he had heard or seen last night ; yet Karen 
was made vaguely aware from his look that she had acquired 
some sort of significance for him. 

" Yes, it 's been nice/' he said. " I ? m very fond of motoring. 
I 'd like to spend my days in a motor always going faster and 
faster; and then drop down in a blissful torpor at night. 
Madame von Marwitz was so kind and made the chauffeur go 
very fast/' 

Karen was somewhat disturbed by this suggestion. "I am 



TANTE 295 

sure that she, too, would like going very fast. I hope you will 
not tempt her." 

" Oh, but I 'm afraid I do," Mr. Drew confessed. " What is 
the good of a motor unless you go too fast in it? A motor has 
no meaning unless it 's a method of intoxication." 

Karen received the remark with inattention. She looked out 
over the sea, preoccupied with the thought of Tante's reckless- 
ness. " I do not think that going so fast can be good for her 
music/' she said. 

" Oh, but yes," Mr. Drew assured her, e< nothing is so good for 
art as intoxication. Art is rooted in intoxication. It's all a 
question of how to get it." 

"But with motoring you only get torpor, you say," Karen 
remarked. And, going on with her own train of thoughts, " So 
much shaking will be bad, perhaps, for the muscles. And there 
is always the danger to consider. I hope she will not go too 
fast. She is too important a person to take risks." There was 
no suggestion that Mr. Drew should not take them. 

" Don't you like going fast? Don't you like taking risks? 
Don't you like intoxication ? " Mr. Drew inquired, and his eyes 
travelled from the blue bows on her breast to the blue bows on 
her elbow-sleeves. 

" I have never been intoxicated," said Karen calmly she was 
quite accustomed to all manner of fantastic visitors in the temple 
" I do not think that I should like it. And I prefer walking 
to any kind of driving. No, I do not like risks." 

" Ah yes, I can see that. 'Yes, that 's altogether in character," 
said Mr. Drew. He turned, then, as Madame von Marwitz came 
in, but remained standing in the window while Karen went 
forward to greet her guardian. Madame von Marwitz, as she 
took her hands and kissed her, looked over Karen's shoulder at 
Mr. Drew. 

" Why did you not come to my room, cherie ? " she asked. " I 
had hoped to see you alone before I came down." 

" I thought you might be tired and perhaps resting, Tante," 
said Karen, who had, indeed, paused before her guardian's door 
on her way down, and then passed on with a certain sense of 



296 TANTE 

shyness ; slie did not want in any way to force herself on Tante. 

" But you know that I like to have you with me when I am 
tired/' Madame 'von Marwitz returned. "And I am not tired: 
no : it has been a day of wings." 

She walked down the long room, her arm around Karen, with 
a buoyancy of tread and demeanour in which, however, Karen, 
so deep an adept in her moods discovered excitement rather than 
gaiety. " Has it been a good day for my child ? " she questioned ; 
" a happy, peaceful day ? Yes ? You have been much with 
Tallie ? I told Tallie that she must postpone the trip to Helston 
so that she might stay with you." Tante on the sofa encircled 
her and looked brightly at her ; yet her eye swerved to the window 
where Mr. Drew remained looking at a paper. 

Karen said that she had been gardening and walking. 

" Good ; bravo ! " said Tante, and then, in a lower voice : " No 
news, I suppose?" 

" No ; oh no. That could not be, Tante," said Karen, with a 
startled look, and Tante went on quickly : " But no ; I see. It 
could not be. And it has, then, been a, happy day for my Karen. 
What is it you read, Claude?" 

Karen's sense of slight perplexity in regard to Tante's interest 
in Mr. Drew was deepened when she called him Claude, and her 
tone now, half vexed, half light, was perplexing. 

" Some silly things that are being said in the House," Mr. 
Drew returned, going on reading. 

" What things ? " said Tante sharply. 

" Oh, you wouldn't expect me to read a stupid debate to you," 
said Mr. Drew, lifting his eyes with a smile. 

Dinner- was announced and they went in, Tante keeping her 
arm around Karen's shoulders and sweeping ahead with an effect 
of unawareness as to her other guest. She had, perhaps, a little 
lost her temper with him ; and his manner was, Karen reflected, 
by no means assiduous. At the table, however, Tante showed 
herself suave and sweet. 

One reason why things seemed a little strange, Karen further 
reflected, was that Mrs. Talcott came no longer to dinner; and 
she was vaguely sorry for this. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

KAEEN'S boxes arrived next day, neatly packed by Mrs. 
Barker. And not only her clothes were in them. She 
had left behind her the jewel-box with the pearl necklace that 
Gregory had given her, the pearl and sapphire ring, the old 
enamel brooch and clasp and chain, his presents all. The box 
was kept locked, and in a cupboard of which Gregory had the 
key ; so that he must have given it to Mrs. Barker. The photo- 
graphs, too, from their room, not those of him, but those of 
Tante; of her father; and a half a dozen little porcelain and 
silver trinkets from the drawing-room, presents and purchases 
particularly hers. 

It was right, quite right, that he should send them. She knew 
it. It was right that he should accept their parting as final. 
Yet that he should so accurately select and send to her every- 
thing that could remind him of her seemed to roll the stone be- 
fore the tomb. 

She looked at the necklace, the ring, all the pretty things, and 
shut the box. Impossible that she should keep them yet impos- 
sible to send them back as if in a bandying of rebuffs. She 
would wait for some years to pass and then they should be re- 
turned without comment. 

And the clothes, all these dear clothes of her married life; 
every dress and hat was associated with Gregory. She could 
never wear them again. And it felt, not so much that she was 
locking them away, as that Gregory had locked her out into 
darkness and loneliness. She took up the round of the days. 
She practised; she gardened, she walked and read. Of Tante 
she saw little. 

She was accustomed to seeing little of Tante, even when Tante 
was there; quite accustomed to Tante's preoccupations. t Yet, 

297 



298 T A N T E 

through the fog of her own unhappiness, it came to her, like an 
object dimly perceived, that in this preoccupation of Tante's 
there was a difference. It showed itself in a high-pitched rest- 
lessness, verging now and again on irritation not with her, 
Karen, but with Mr. Drew. To Karen she was brightly, punc- 
tually tender, yet it was a tenderness that held her away rather 
than drew her near. 

Karen did not need to be put aside. She had always known 
how to efface herself; she needed no atonement for the so ap- 
parent fact that Tante wanted to be left alone with Mr. Drew as 
much as possible. The difficulty in leaving her came with per- 
ceiving that though Tante wanted her to go she did not want to 
seem to want it. 

She caressed Karen; she addressed her talk to her; she kept 
her ; yet, under the smile of the eyes, there was an intentness that 
Karen could interpret. It devolved upon her to find the excuse, 
the necessity, for withdrawal. Mrs. Talcott, in the morning- 
room, was a solution. Karen could go to her almost directly 
after dinner, as soon as coffee had been served; for on the first 
occasion when she rose, saying that she would have her coffee 
with Mrs. Talcott, Tante said with some sharpness after a 
hesitation : " No ; you will have your coffee here. Tallie does 
not have coffee." Groping her way, Karen seemed to touch 
strange forms. Tante cared so much about this young man ; so 
much that it was almost as if she would be willing to abandon 
her dignity for him. It was more than the indulgent, indolent 
interest, wholly Olympian, that she had so often seen her be- 
stow. She really cared. And the strangeness for Karen was 
in part made up of pain for Tante; for it almost seemed that 
Tante cared more than Mr. Drew did. Karen had seen so many 
men care for Tante; so many who were, obviously, in love with 
her; but she had seen Tante always throned high above the 
prostrate adorers, idly kind; holding out a hand, perhaps, for 
them to kiss; smiling, from time to time, if they, fortunately, 
pleased her ; but never, oh never, stepping down towards them. 

It seemed to her now that she had seen Tante stepping down. 
It was only a step ; she could never become the suppliant, the 



TANTE 299 

pursuing goddess ; and, as if with her hand still laid on the arm 
of her throne, she kept all her air of high command. 

But had she kept its power? Mr. Drew's demeanour re- 
minded Karen sometimes of a cat's. Before the glance and 
voice of authority he would, metaphorically, pace away ; pausing 
to blink up at some object that attracted his attention or to in- 
terest himself in the furbishing of flank or chest. At a hint of 
anger or coercion, he would tranquilly disappear. Tante, con- 
trolling indignation, was left to stare after him and to regain 
the throne as best she might, and at these moments Karen felt 
that Tante's eye turned on her, gauging her power of interpreta- 
tion, ready, did she not feign the right degree of unconsciousness, 
to wreak on her something of the controlled emotion. The fear 
that had come on the night of her arrival pressed closely on 
Karen then, but, more closely still, the pain for Tante. Tante's 
clear dignity was blurred; her image, in its rebuffed and in- 
effectual autocracy, became hovering, uncertain, piteous. And, 
in seeing and feeling all these things, as if with a lacerated sensi- 
tiveness, Karen was aware that, in this last week of her life, she 
had grown much older. She felt herself in some ways older than 
her guardian. 

It was on the morning of her seventh day at Les Solitudes 
that she met Mr. Drew walking early in the garden. 

The sea was glittering blue and gold; the air was melancholy 
in its sweetness; birds whistled. 

Karen examined Mr. Drew as he approached her along the 
sunny upper terrace. 

With his dense, dark eyes, delicate face and golden hair, his 
white clothes and loose black tie, she was able to recognize in 
him an object that might charm and even subjugate. To Karen 
he seemed but one among the many strange young men she had 
seen surrounding Tante; yet this morning, clearly, and for the 
first time, she saw why he subjugated Tante and why she re- 
sented her subjugation. There was more in him than mere pose 
and peculiarity ; he had some power ; the power of the cat : he 
was sincerely indifferent to anything that did not attract him. 
And at the same time he was unimportant; insignificant in all 



300 TANTE 

but his sincerity. He was not a great writer; Tante could 
never make a great writer out of him. And he was, when all 
was said and done, but one among many strange young men. 

" Good morning," he said. He doffed his hat. He turned 
and walked beside her. They were in full view of the house. 
" I hoped that I might find you. Let us go up to the flagged 
garden," he suggested ; " the sea is glittering like a million scimi- 
tars. One has a better view up there." 

" But it is not so warm," said Karen. " I am walking here 
to be in the sun." 

Mr. Drew had also been walking there to be in the sun; but 
they were in full view of the house and he was aware of a hand 
at Madame von Marwitz's window-curtain. He continued, how- 
ever, to walk beside Karen up and down the terrace. 

"I think of you," he said, "as a person always in the sun. 
You suggest glaciers and fields of snow and meadows full of 
flowers the sun pouring down on all of them. I always imag- 
ine Apollo as a Norse God. Are you really a Norwegian ? " 

Karen was, as we have said, accustomed to young men who 
talked in a fantastic manner. She answered placidly : " Yes. 
I am half Norwegian." 

" Your name, then, is really yours ? your untamed, yet inti- 
mate, name. It is like a wild bird that feeds out of one's hand." 

" Yes ; it is really mine. It is quite a common name in Nor- 
way." 

" Wild birds are common," Mr. Drew observed, smiling softly. 

He found her literalness charming. He was finding her alto- 
gether charming. From the moment that she had appeared at 
the door in the dusk, with her white, blind, searching face, she 
had begun to interest him. She was stupid and delightful; a 
limpid and indomitable young creature who, in a clash of loyal- 
ties, had chosen, without a hesitation, to leave the obvious one. 
Also she was married yet unawakened, and this, to Mr. Drew, 
was a pre-eminently charming combination. The question of 
the awakened and the unawakened, of the human attitude to 
passion, preoccupied him, practically, more than any other. His 
art dealt mainly in themes of emotion as an end in itself. 



TANTE 301 

The possibilities of passion in Madame von Marwitz, as artist 
and genius, had strongly attracted him. He had genuinely been 
in love with Madame von Marwitz. But the mere woman, as 
she more and more helplessly revealed herself, was beginning to 
oppress and bore him. 

He had amused himself, of late, by imaging his relation to 
her in the fable of the sun and the traveller. Her beams from 
their high, sublime solitudes had filled him with delight and 
exhilaration. Then the radiance had concentrated itself, had 
begun to follow him rather in the manner of stage sunlight 
very unflaggingly. He had wished for intervals of shade. 
He had been aware, even during his long absence in America, 
of sultriness brooding over him, and now, at these close quar- 
ters, he had begun to throw off his cloak of allegiance. She 
bored him. It was n't good enough. She pretended to be sub- 
lime and far; but she wasn't sublime and far; she was near 
and watchful and exacting; as watchful and exacting as a mis- 
tress and as haughty as a Diana. She was not, and had, evi- 
dently, no intention of being, his mistress, and for the mere 
pleasure of adoring her Mr. Drew found the price too high 
to pay. He did not care to proffer, indefinitely, a reverent pas- 
sion, and he did not like people, when he showed his weariness, 
to lose their tempers with him. Already Madame von Mar- 
witz had lost hers. He did not forget what she looked like 
nor what she said on these occasions. .She had mentioned the 
large-mouthed children at Wimbledon facts that he preferred 
to forget as much as possible and he did not know that he 
forgave her. There was a tranquil malice in realizing that as 
Madame von Marwitz became more and more displeasing to 
him, Mrs. Jardine, more and more, became pleasing. A new 
savour had come into his life since her appearance and he had 
determined to postpone a final rupture with his great friend 
and remain on for some time longer at Les Solitudes. He 
wondered if it would be possible to awaken Mrs. Jardine. 

" Have n't I heard you practising, once or twice lately ? " he 
asked her now, as they turned at the end of the terrace and 
walked back. 



302 TANTE 

" Yes," said Karen ; " I practise every morning." 

" I 'd no idea you played, too." 

"It is hardly a case of 'too', is it," Karen said, mildly 
amused. 

" I don't know. Perhaps it is. One may look at a Memling 
after a Michael Angelo, you know. I wish you 'd play to me." 

" I am no Memling, I assure you." 

"You can't, until I hear you. Do play to me. Brahms; a 
little Brahms." 

" I have practised no Brahms for a long time. I find him 
too difficult." 

" I heard you doing a Bach prelude yesterday ; play that." 

" Certainly, if you wish it, I will play it to you," said Karen, 
"though I do not think that you will much enjoy it." 

Mrs. Talcott was in the morning-room over accounts; so 
Karen went with the young man into the music-room and 
opened the grand piano there. 

She then played her prelude, delicately, carefully, composedly. 
She knew Mr. Drew to be musicianly; she did not mind play- 
ing to him. 

More and more, Mr. Drew reflected, looking down at her, she 
reminded him of flower-brimmed, inaccessible mountain-slopes. 
He must discover some method of ascent ; for the music brought 
her no nearer ; he was aware, indeed, that it removed her. She 
quite forgot him as she played. 

The last bars had been reached when the door opened sud- 
denly and Madame von Marwitz appeared. 

She had come in haste that was evident and a mingled 
fatigue and excitement was on her face. Her white cheeks 
had soft, sodden depressions and under her eyes were little 
pinches in the skin, as though hot fingers had nipped her there. 
She looked almost old, and she smiled a determined, adjusted 
smile, with heavy eyes. " Tiens, liens," she said, and, turn- 
ing elaborately, she shut the door. 

Karen finished her bars and rose. 

" This is a new departure," said Madame von Marwitz. She 
came swiftly to them, her loose lace sleeves flowing back from 



TANTE 303 

her bare arms. "I do not like my piano touched, you know, 
Karen, unless permission is given. No matter, no matter, my 
child. Let it not occur again, that is all. You have not found 
the right balance of that phrase," she stooped and reiterated 
with emphasis a fragment of the prelude. "And now I will 
begin my work, if you please. Tallie waits for you, I think, 
in the garden, and would be glad of your help. Tallie grows 
old. It does not do to forget her." 

"Am I to go into the garden, too?" Mr. Drew inquired, as 
Madame von Marwitz seated herself and ran her fingers over 
the keys. " I thought we were to motor this morning." 

"We will motor when I have done my work. Go into the 
garden, by all means, if you wish to." 

" May I come into the garden with you ? May I help you 
there ? " Mr. Drew serenely drawled, addressing Karen, who, 
with a curious, concentrated look, stood gazing at her guard- 
ian. 

She turned her eyes on him and her glance put him far, far 
away, like an object scarcely perceived. "I am not going 
into the garden," she said. "Mrs. Talcott is working in the 
morning-room and does not need me yet." 

" Ah. She is in the morning-room," Madame von Marwitz 
murmured, still not raising her eyes, and still running loud and 
soft scales up and down. Karen left the room. 

As the door closed upon her, Madame von Marwitz, with a 
singular effect of control, began to weave a spider's-web of in- 
tricate, nearly impalpable, sound. " Go, if you please," she said 
to Mr. Drew. 

He stood beside her, placid. " Why are you angry ? " he 
asked. 

"I am not pleased that my rules should be broken. Karen 
has many privileges. She must learn not to take, always, the 
extra inch when the ell is so gladly granted." 

He leaned on the piano. Her controlled face, bent with ab- 
sorption above the lacey pattern of sound that she evoked, inter- 
ested him. 

" When you are angry and harness your anger to your art like 



304 T A N T E 

this, you become singularly beautiful/' he remarked. He felt 
it; and, after all, if he were to remain at Les Solitudes and at- 
tempt to scale those Alpine slopes he must keep on good terms 
with Madame von Marwitz. 

66 So," was her only reply. Yet her eyes softened. 

He raised the lace wing of her sleeve and kissed it, keeping it 
in his hand. 

" No foolishness if you please," said Madame von Marwitz. 
" Of what have you and Karen been talking ? " 

" I can't get her to talk/' said Mr. Drew. " But I like to 
hear her play." 

" She plays with right feeling," said Madame von Marwitz. 
" She is not a child to express herself in speech. Her music 
reveals her more truly." 

" Nur wo du list sei dlles, immer Tcindlich" Mr. Drew mused. 
"That is what she makes me think of." With anybody of 
Madame von Marwitz's intelligence, frankness was far more 
likely to allay suspicion than guile. And for very pride now 
she was forced to seem reassured. "Yes. That is so," she 
said. And she continued to play. 



CHAPTER XXXII 

KAREN meanwhile made her way to the cliff-path and, 
seating herself on a grassy slope, she clasped her knees 
with her hands and gazed out over the sea. She was think- 
ing hard of something, and trying to think only of that. It 
was true, the permission had been that she was to play on the 
grand-piano when it was left open. There had been no rule 
set ; it had not been said that she was not to play at other times 
and indeed, on many occasions, she had played unrebuked, be- 
fore Tante came down. But the thing to remember now, with 
all her power, was that, technically, Tante had been right. To 
hold fast to that thought was to beat away a fear that hovered 
about her, like a horrible bird of prey. She sat there for a 
long time, and she became aware at last that though she held 
so tightly to her thought, it had, as it were, become something 
lifeless, inefficacious, and that fear had invaded her. Tante 
had been unkind, unjust, unloving. 

It was as though, in taking refuge with Tante, she had leaped 
from a great height, seeing security beneath, and as though, 
alighting, she slipped and stumbled on a sloping surface with 
no foothold anywhere. Since she came, there had been only 
this sliding, sliding, and now it seemed to be down to unseen 
depths. For this was more and worse than the first fear of 
her coming. Tante had been unkind, and she so loved Mr. 
Drew that she forgot herself when he bestowed his least at- 
tention elsewhere. 

Karen rose to her feet suddenly, aware that she was trembling. 

She looked over the sea and the bright day was dreadful to 
her. Where was she and what was she, and what was Tante, 
if this fear were true? Not even on that far day of child- 
hood when she had lost herself in the forest had such a horror 
of loneliness filled her. She was a lost, an unwanted creature. 
20 305 



306 T A N T E 

She turned from the unanswering immensities and ran down 
the cliff-path towards Les Solitudes. She could not be alone. 
To think these things was to feel herself drowning in fear. 

Emerging from the higher trees she caught sight below her of 
Mrs. Talcott's old straw hat moving among the borders; and, 
in the midst of the emptiness, the sight was strength and hope. 
The whole world seemed to narrow to Mrs. Talcott. She was 
secure and real. She was a spar to be clung to. The night- 
mare would reveal itself as illusion if she kept near Mrs. Tal- 
cott. She ran down to her. 

Mrs. Talcott was slaying slugs. She had placed pieces of 
orange-peel around cherished young plants to attract the depre- 
dators and she held a jar of soot; into the soot the slugs were 
dropped as she discovered them. 

The sight of her was like a draught of water to parching lips. 
Reality slowly grew round Karen once more. Tante had been 
hasty, even unkind; but she was piteous, absorbed in this great 
devotion; and Tante loved her. 

She walked beside Mrs. Talcott and helped her with the 
slugs. 

"Been out for a walk, Karen ?" Mrs. Talcott inquired. 
They had reached the end of the border and moved on to a 
higher one. 

" Only to the cliff," said Karen. 

" You look kind of tired," Mrs. Talcott remarked, and Karen 
owned that she felt tired. " It 's so warm to-day/' she said. 

"Yes; it's real hot. Let's walk under the trees." Mrs. 
Talcott took out her handkerchief and wiped her large, saffron- 
coloured forehead. 

They walked slowly in the thin shadow of the young foliage. 

" You 're staying on for a while, aren't you?" Mrs. Talcott 
inquired presently. She had as yet asked Karen no question 
and Karen felt that something in her own demeanour had 
caused this one. 

" For more than a while," she said. " I am not going away 
again.", In the sound of the words she found a curious reas- 
surance. Was it not her home, Les Solitudes? 



TANTE 307 

Mrs. Talcott said nothing for some moments, stooping to nip 
a drooping leaf from a plant they passed. Then she questioned 
further : " Is Mr. Jardine coming down here ? " 

" I have left my husband/' said Karen. 

For some moments, Mrs. Talcott, again, said nothing, but she 
no longer had an eye for the plants. Neither did she look at 
Karen ; her gaze was fixed before her. " Is that so/' was at last 
her comment. 

The phrase might have expressed amazement, commiseration 
or protest; its sound remained ambiguous. They had come to 
a rustic bench. " Let 's sit down for a while/' she said ; " I 'm 
not as young as I was." 

They sat down, the old woman heavily, and she drew a sigh of 
relief. Looking at her Karen saw that she, too, was very tired. 
And she, too was it not strange that to-day she should see it 
for the first time ? was very lonely. A sudden pity, profound 
and almost passionate, filled her for Mrs. Talcott. 

"You'll not mind having me here for all the time now 
again, will you ? " she asked, smiling a little, with determina- 
tion, for she did not wish Mrs. Talcott to guess what she had 
seen. 

" No/' said Mrs. Talcott, continuing to gaze before her, and 
shaking her head. " No, I '11 be glad of that. We get on real 
well together, I think." And, after another moment of silence, 
she went on in the same contemplative tone: "I used to 
quarrel pretty bad with my husband when I was first married, 
Karen. He was the nicest, mildest kind of man, as loving as 
could be. But I guess most young things find it hard to get 
used to each other all at once. It ain't easy, married life; at 
least not at the beginning. You expect such a high standard 
of each other and everything seems to hurt. After a while 
you get so discouraged, perhaps, finding it isn't like what you 
expected, that you commence to think you don't care any more 
and it was all a mistake. I guess every young wife thinks that 
in the first year, and it makes you feel mighty sick. Why, if 
marriage didn't tie people up so tight, most of 'em would 
fly apart in the first year and think they just hated each other, 



308 TANTE 

and that 's why it 's such a good thing that they 're tied so 
tight. Why I remember once the only thing that seemed to 
keep me back was thinking how Homer Homer was my 
husband's name, Homer G. Talcott sort of snorted when 
he laughed. I was awful mad with him and it seemed as if 
he 'd behaved so mean and misunderstood me so that I 'd got 
to go; but when I thought of that sort of childish snort he'd 
give sometimes, I felt I could n't leave him. It 's mighty queer, 
human nature, and the teeny things that seem to decide your 
mind for you ; I guess they 're not as teeny as they seem. But 
those hurt feelings are almost always a mistake I 'm pretty 
sure of it. Any two people find it hard to live together and 
get used to each other; it don't make any difference how much 
in love they are/' 

There was no urgency in Mrs. Talcott's voice and no pathos of 
retrospect. Its contemplative placidity might have been invit- 
ing another sad and wise old woman to recognize these facts 
of life with her. 

Karen's mood, while she listened to her, was hardening to the 
iron of her final realization, the realization that had divided her 
and Gregory. " It is n't so with us, Mrs. Talcott," she said. 
"He has shown himself a man I cannot live with. None of 
our feelings are the same. All my sacred things he despises." 

" Mercedes, you mean ? " Mrs. Talcott suggested after a mo- 
ment's silence. 

"Yes. And more." Karen could not name her mother. 

Mrs. Talcott sat silent. 

" Has Tante not told you why I was here ? " Karen presently 
asked. 

" No," said Mrs. Talcott. " I have n't had a real talk with 
Mercedes since she got back. Her mind is pretty well taken up 
with this young man." 

To this Karen, glancing at Mrs. Talcott in a slight bewil- 
derment, was able to say nothing, and Mrs. Talcott pursued, re- 
suming her former tone : " There 's another upsetting thing 
about marriage, Karen, and that is that you can't expect your 
families to feel about each other like you feel. It is n't in 



TANTE 309 

nature that they should, and that's one of the things that 
young married people can't make up their minds to. Now 
Mr. Jardine isn't the sort of young man to care about many 
people; few and far between they are, I should infer, and Mer- 
cedes ain't one of them. Mercedes would n't appeal to him one 
mite. I saw that as plain as could be from the first." 

"He should have told me so/' said Karen, with her rocky 
face and voice. 

" Well, he did n't tell you he found her attractive, did he ? " 

" No. But though I saw that there was blindness, I thought 
it was because he did not know her. I thought that when he 
knew her he would care for her. And I could forgive his not 
caring. I could forgive so much. But it is worse, far worse 
than that. He accuses Tante of dreadful things. It is hatred 
that he feels for her. He has confessed it." The colour had 
risen to Karen's cheeks and burned there as she spoke. 

" Well now ! " Mrs. Talcott imperturbably ejaculated. 

"You can see that I could not live with a man who hated 
Tante," said Karen. 

" What sort of things for instance ? " Mrs. Talcott took up her 
former statement. 

" How can I tell you, Mrs. Talcott. It burns me to think of 
them. Hypocrisy in her feeling for me ; selfishness and tyranny 
and deceit. It is terrible. In his eyes she is a malignant 
woman." 

" Teh ! Teh ! " Mrs. Talcott made an indeterminate cluck 
with her tongue. 

" I struggled not to see," said Karen, and her voice took on a 
sombre energy, " and Tante struggled, too, for me. She, too, 
saw from the very first what it might mean. .She asked me, on 
the very first day that they met, Mrs. Talcott, when she came 
back, she asked me to try and make him like her. She was so 
sweet, so magnanimous," her voice trembled. Oh the deep 
relief, so deep that it seemed to cut like a knife of remem- 
bering, pressing to her, what Tante had done for her, endured 
for her ! " So sweet, so magnanimous, Mrs. Talcott. She did 
all that she could and so did I to give him time. For it 



310 TANTE 

was not that I lacked love for rny husband. No. I loved him. 
More, even more, than I loved Tante. There was perhaps the 
wrong. I was perhaps cowardly, for his sake. I would not see. 
And it was all useless. It grew worse and worse. He was not 
rude to her. It was not that. It was worse. He was so care- 
ful oh I see it now not to put himself in the wrong. He 
tried, instead, to put her in the wrong. He misread every word 
and look. He sneered oh, I saw it, and shut my eyes 
at her little foibles and weaknesses; why should she not have 
them as well as other people, Mrs. Talcott? And he was blind 
blind blind/' Karen's voice trembled more violently, " to 
all the rest. So that it had to end," she went on in broken 
sentences. " Tante went because she could bear it no longer. 
And because she saw that I could bear it no longer. She 
hoped, by leaving me, to save my happiness. But that could 
not be. Mrs. Talcott, even then I might have tried to go on 
living with that chasm between Tante and my husband 
in my life ; but I learned the whole truth as even I had n't seen 
it; as even she hadn't seen it. Mrs. Forrester came to me, 
Mrs. Talcott, and told me what Gregory had said to her of 
Tante. He believes her a malignant woman," said Karen, re- 
peating her former words and rising as she spoke. " And to 
me he did not deny it. Everything, then, was finished for us. 
We saw that we did not love each other any longer." 

She stood before Mrs. Talcott in the path, her hands hanging 
at her sides, her eyes fixed on the wall above Mrs. Talcott's 
head. 

Mrs. Talcott did not rise. She sat silent, looking up at 
Karen, and so for some moments they said nothing, while in 
the spring sunshine about them the birds whistled and an early 
white butterfly dipped and fluttered by. 

" I feel mighty tired, Karen," Mrs. Talcott then said. Her 
eyelid with the white mole twitched over her eye, the lines of 
her large, firm old mouth were relaxed. Karen's eyes went to 
her and pity filled her. 

"It is my miserable story," she said. "I am so sorry." 

"Yes, I feel mighty tired," Mrs. Talcott repeated, looking 



TANTE 311 

away and out at the sea. " It 's discouraging. I thought you 
were fixed up all safe and happy for life." 

"Dear Mrs. Talcott," said Karen, earnestly. 

" I don't like to see things that ought to turn out right turn- 
ing out wrong/' Mrs. Talcott continued, " and I 've seen a sight 
too many of them in my life. Things turning out wrong that 
were meant to go right. Things spoiled. Poeple, nice, good 
people, like you and Mr. Jardine, all upset and miserable. I 've 
seen worse things, too/' Mrs. Talcott slowly rose as she spoke. 
" Yes, I 've seen about as bad things happen as can happen, 
and it 's always been when Mercedes is about." 

She stood still beside Karen, her bleak, intense old gaze fixed 
on the sea. 

Karen thought that she had misheard her last words. " When 
Tante is about?" she repeated. "You mean that dreadful 
things happen to her ? That is one of the worst parts of it now, 
Mrs. Talcott only that I am so selfish that I do not think of 
it enough to know that I have added to Tante's troubles." 

"No." Mrs. Talcott now said, and with a curious mildness 
and firmness. " No, that ain't what I mean. Mercedes has had 
a sight of trouble. I don't deny it, but that ain't what I mean. 
She makes trouble. She makes it for herself and she makes it 
for other people. There 's always trouble going, of some sort or 
other, when Mercedes is about." 

"I don't understand you, Mrs. Talcott," said Karen. An 
uncanny feeling had crept over her while the old woman spoke. 
It was as if, helplessly, she were listening to a sleep-walker who, 
in tranced unconsciousness, spoke forth mildly the hidden 
thought of his waking life. 

" No, you don't understand, yet," said Mrs. Talcott. " Per- 
hape it 's fair that you don't. Perhaps she can't help it. She 
was born so, I guess." Mrs. Talcott turned and walked to- 
wards the house. 

The panic of the cliff was rising in Karen again. Mrs. Tal- 
cott was worse than the cliff and the unanswering immensities. 
She walked beside her, trying to control her terror. 

" You mean, I think/' she said, " that Tante is a tragic per- 



312 TANTE 

son and people who love her must suffer because of all that 
she has had to suffer/' 

" Yes, she 's tragic all right," said Mrs. Talcott. " She 's had 
about as bad a time as they make 'em off and on. But she 
spoils things. And it makes me tired to see it going on. I 've 
had too much of it/' said Mrs. Talcott, " and if this can't come 
right this between you and your nice young husband I 
don't feel like I could get over it somehow." Leaning on 
Karen's arm with both hands she had paused and looked in- 
tently down at the path. 

" But Mrs. Talcott," Karen's voice trembled ; it was in- 
credible, yet one was forced by Mrs. Talcott's whole demeanour 
to ask the question without indignation " you speak as if you 
were blaming Tante for something. You do not blame her, do 
you?" 

Mrs. Talcott still paused and still looked down, as if deeply 
pondering. " I 've done a lot of thinking about that very point, 
Karen," she said. " And I don't know as 1 've made up my 
mind yet. It 's a mighty intricate question. Perhaps we 've all 
got only so much will-power and when most of it is ladled out 
into one thing there 's nothing left to ladle out into the others. 
That's the way I try, sometimes, to figure it out to myself. 
Mercedes has got a powerful sight of will-power; but look at all 
she 's got to use up in her piano-playing. There she is, working 
up to the last notch all the time, taking it out of herself, get- 
ting all wrought up. Well, to live so as you won't be spoiling 
things for other people needs about as much will-power as piano- 
playing, I guess, when you're as big a person as Mercedes and 
want as many things. And if you ain't got any will-power left 
you just do the easiest thing ; you just take what you 've a mind 
to; you just let yourself go in every other way to make up for 
the one way you held yourself in. That 's how it is, perhaps/' 

" But Mrs. Talcott," said Karen in a low voice, " all this 
about me and my husband has come because Tante has 
thought too much of us and too little of herself. It would have 
been much easier for her to let us alone and not try and make 



TANTE 313 

Gregory like her. I do not recognise her in what you are 
saying. You are saying dreadful things." 

"Well, dreadful things have happened, I guess," said Mrs. 
Talcott. " I want you to go back to your nice husband, Karen." 

" No ; no. Never. I can never go back to him," said Karen, 
walking on. 

"Because he hates Mercedes?" 

" Not only that. No. He is not what I thought. Do not 
ask me, Mrs. Talcott. We do not love each other any longer. 
It is over." 

"Well, I won't say anything about it, then," said Mrs. Tal- 
cott, who, walking beside her, kept her hand on her arm. " Only 
I liked Mr. Jardine. I took to him right off, and I don't take 
to people so easy. And I take to you, Karen, more than you 
know, I guess. And I '11 lay my bottom dollar there 's some 
mistake between you and him, and that Mercedes is the reason 
of it." 

They had reached the house. 

" But wait," said Karen, turning to her. She laid both her 
hands on the old woman's arm while she steadied her voice to 
speak this last thought. " Wait. You are so kind to me, Mrs. 
Talcott ; but you have made everything strange and dreadful. 
I must ask you one question, Mrs. Talcott. You have been 
with Tante all her life. No one knows her as you do. Tell me, 
Mrs. Talcott. You love Tante?" 

They faced each other at the top of the steps, on the verandah. 
And the young eyes plunged deep into the old eyes, passionately 
searching. 

For a moment Mrs. Talcott did not reply. When she did 
speak, it was decisively as if, while recognising Karen's right 
to ask, Karen must recognise that the answer must suffice. 
" I 'd be pretty badly off if I did n't love Mercedes. She 's all 
I 've got in the world." 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

THE sound of the motor, whirring skilfully among the lanes, 
was heard at six, and shortly after Madame von Marwitz's 
return Mrs. Talcott knocked at her door. 

Madame von Marwitz was lying on the sofa. Louise had 
removed her wraps and dress and was drawing off her shoes. 
Her eyes were closed. She seemed weary. 

" I '11 see to Madame," said Mrs. Talcott with her air of 
composed and unassuming authority. It was somewhat the air 
of an old nurse, sure of her prerogatives in the nursery. 

Louise went and Mrs. Talcott took off the other shoe and 
fetched the white silk mules. 

Madame von Marwitz had only opened her eye for a glimmer 
of recognition, but as Mrs. Talcott adjusted a mule, she tipped 
it off and muttered gloomily: ".Stockings, please. I want 
fresh stockings/' 

There was oddity as Mrs. Talcott found, and came back, 
with a pair of white silk stockings in the sight of the 
opulent, middle-aged figure on the sofa, childishly stretching 
out first one large bare leg and then the other to be clothed; 
and it might have aroused in Mrs. Talcott a vista of memories 
ending with the picture of a child in the same attitude, a child 
as idle and as autocratic. 

" Thank you, Tallie," Madame von Marwitz said, wearily but 
kindly, when the stockings were changed. 

Mrs. Talcott drew a chair in front of the sofa, seated herself 
and clasped her hands at her waist. " I Ve come for a talk, 
Mercedes/' she said. 

Madame von Marwitz now was sleepily observing her. 

"A talk! Bon Dieu! But I have been talking all day 
long!" 

She yawned, putting a folded arm under her head so that, 

314 



TANTE 315 

slightly raising it, she could look at Mrs. Talcott more com- 
fortably. " What do you want to talk about ? " she inquired. 

Mrs. Talcott's eyes, with their melancholy, immovable gaze, 
rested upon her. "About Karen and her husband," she said. 
" I gathered from some talk I had with Karen to-day that you 
let her think you came away from London simply and solely 
because you'd had a quarrel with Mr. Jardine." 

Madame von Marwitz lay as if arrested by these words for 
some moments of an almost lethargic interchange, and then 
in an impatient voice she returned: "What business is it of 
Karen's, pray, if I didn't leave London simply and solely on 
account of my quarrel with her husband? I had found it in- 
tolerable to be under his roof and I took the first opportunity 
for leaving it. The opportunity happened to coincide with my 
arrangements for coming here. What has that to do with 
Karen?" 

" It has to do with her, Mercedes, because the child believes 
you were thinking about her when, as a matter of fact, you 
weren't thinking about her or about anyone but this young 
man you 've gotten so taken up with. Karen believes you care 
for her something in the same way she does for you, and it 's 
a sin and a shame, Mercedes," Mrs. Talcott spoke with no 
vehemence at all of tone or look, but with decision, " a sin and 
a shame to let that child ruin her life because of you." 

Again Maaame von Marwitz, now turning her eyes on the 
ceiling, seemed to reflect dispassionately. " I never conceived 
it possible that she would leave him," she then said. " I found 
him insufferable and I saw that unless I went Karen also would 
come to see him as insufferable. To spare the poor child this I 
came away. And I was amazed when she appeared here. 
Amazed and distressed," said Madame von Marwitz. And after 
another moment she took up : " As for him, he has what he 
deserves." 

Mrs. Talcott eyed her. " And what do you deserve, I ? d like 
to know, for going meddling with those poor happy young 
things? Why couldn't you let them alone? Karen's been a 
bother to you for years. W T hy could n't you be satisfied at hav- 



316 TANTE 

ing her nicely fixed up and let her tend to her own potato- 
patch while you tended to yours? You can't make me believe 
that it was n't your fault the whole thing right from the 
beginning. I know you too well, Mercedes." 

Again Madame von Marwitz lay, surprisingly still and sur- 
prisingly unresentful. It was as if, placidly, she were willing 
to be undressed, body or soul, by her old nurse and guardian. 
But after a moment, and with sudden indignation, she took up 
one of Mrs. Talcott's sentences. 

" A bother to me ? I am very fond of Karen. I am devoted 
to Karen. I should much like to know what right you have to 
intimate that my feeling for her is n't sincere. My life proves 
the contrary. As for saying that it is my fault, that is merely 
your habit. Everything is always my fault with you." 

" It always has been, as far as I 've been able to keep an eye 
on your tracks," Mrs. Talcott remarked. 

" Well, this is not. I deny it. I absolutely," said Madame 
von Marwitz, and now with some excitement, " deny it. Did I 
not give her to him? Did I not go to them with tenderest 
solicitude and strive to make possible between him and me some 
relation of bare good fellowship? Did I not curb my spirit, 
and it is a proud and impatient one, as you know, to endure, 
lest she should see it, his veiled insolence and hostility? Oh! 
when I think of what I have borne with from that young man, 
I marvel at my own forbearance. I have nothing to reproach 
myself with, Tallie; nothing; and if his life is ruined I can 
say, with my hand on my heart," Madame von Marwitz laid 
it there "that he alone is to blame for it. A more odious, 
arrogant, ignorant being," she added, "I have never encount- 
ered. Karen is well rid of him." 

Mrs. Talcott remained unmoved. "You don't like him be- 
cause he don't like you and that's about all you 've got against 
him, I reckon, if the truth were known," she said. " You 
can make yourself see it all like that if you 've a mind to, but you 
can't make me; I know you too well, Mercedes. You were 
mad at him because he didn't admire you like you're used to 
being admired, and you went to work pinching and picking here 



TANTE 317 

and there, pretending it was all on Karen's account, but really 
so as you could get even with him. You could n't stand their 
being happy all off by themselves without you. Why I can see 
it all as plain and clear as if I 'd been there right along. Just 
think of your telling that poor deluded child that you wanted 
her to make her husband like you. That was a nice way, was n't 
it, for setting her heart at rest about you and him. If you 
did n't like him and saw he did n't like you, why did n't you keep 
your mouth shut? That's all you had to do, and keep out of 
their way all you could. If you'd been a stupid woman there 
might have been some excuse for you, but you ain't a stupid 
woman, and you know precious well what you're about all the 
time. I don't say you intended to blow up the whole concern 
like you ? ve done ; but you wanted to get even with Mr. Jardine 
and show him that Karen cared as much for you as she did for 
him, and you did n't mind two straws what happened to Karen 
while you were doing it." 

Madame von Marwitz had listened, turning on her back and 
with her eyes still on the ceiling, and the calm of her face might 
have been that of indifference or meditation. But now, after a 
moment of receptive silence, indignation again seemed to seize 
her. " It 's false ! " she exclaimed. 

" No it ain't false, Mercedes, and you know it ain't," said 
Mrs. Talcott gloomily. 

" False, and absolutely false ! " Madame von Marwitz re- 
peated. "How could I keep my mouth shut as you del- 
icately put it when I saw that Karen saw? How keep my 
mouth shut without warping her relation to me? I spoke to 
her with lightest, most tender understanding, so that she should 
know that my heart was with her while never dreaming of the 
chasms that I saw in her happiness. It was he who forced me 
to an open declaration and he who forced me to leave; for how 
was happiness possible for Karen if I remained with them? 
No. He hated me, and was devoured by jealousy of Karen's 
love for me." 

" I guess if it comes to jealousy you 've got enough for two in 
any situation. It don't do for you to talk to me about jealousy, 



318 TANTE 

Mercedes," Mrs. Talcott returned, " I 've seen too much of you. 
You can't persuade me it was n't your fault, not if you were to 
talk till the cows come home. I don't deny but what it was 
pretty hard for you to see that Mr. Jardine did n't admire you. 
I make allowances for that; but my gracious me," said Mrs. 
Talcott with melancholy emphasis, " was that any reason for a 
big middle-aged woman like you behaving like a spiteful child? 
Was it any reason for your setting to work to spoil Karen's life ? 
No, Mercedes, you 've done about as mean a thing as any I 've 
seen you up to and what I want to know now is what you're 
going to do about it." 

" Do about it ? " Madame von Marwitz wrathfully repeated. 
" What more can I do ? I open my house and my heart to the 
child. I take her back. I mend the life that he has broken. 
What more do you expect of me ? " 

" Don't talk that sort of stage talk to me, Mercedes. What I 
want you to do is to make it possible so as he can get her back." 

" He is welcome to get her back if he can. I shall not stand 
in his way. It would be a profound relief to me were he to get 
her back." 

" I can see that well enough. But how '11 you help standing in 
his way? The only thing you could do to get out of his way 
would be to help Karen to be quit of you. Make her see that 
you're just as bad as he thinks you. I guess if you told her 
some things about yourself she 'd begin to see that her hus- 
band was n't so far wrong about you." 

"Par exemple!" said Madame von Marwitz with a short 
laugh. She raised herself to give her pillow a blow and turn- 
ing on her side and contemplating more directly her ancient 
monitress she said, " I sometimes wonder what I keep you here 
for." 

" I do, too, sometimes," said Mrs. Talcott, " and I make it out 
that you need me." 

" I make it out," Madame von Marwitz repeated the phrase 
with a noble dignity of manner, " that I am too kind of heart, 
too aware of what I owe you in gratitude, to resent, as I have 



TANTE 319 

every right to do, the license you allow yourself in speaking to 
me." 

" Yes ; you '11 always get plain speaking from me, Mercedes," 
Mrs. Talcott remarked, "just as long as you have anything to 
do with me." 

" Indeed I shall. I am but too well aware of the fact," said 
Madame von Marwitz, "and I only tolerate it because of our 
life-long tie." 

" You '11 go on tolerating it, I guess, Mercedes. You 'd feel 
mighty queer, I expect, if the one person in the world who knew 
you through and through and had stood by you through every- 
thing wasn't there to fall back on." 

" I deny that you know me through and through," Madame 
von Marwitz declared, but with a drop from her high manner; 
sulkily rather than with conviction. "You have always seen 
me with the eye of a lizard." Her simile amused her and she 
suddenly laughed. " You have somewhat the vision of a lizard, 
Tallie. You scrutinize the cracks and the fissures, but of the 
mountain itself you are unaware. I have cracks and fissures, 
no doubt, like all the rest of our sad humanity; but, ~bon Dieu! 
I am a mountain, and you, Tallie," she went on, laughing 
softly, " are a lizard on the mountain. As for Mr. Jardine, he 
is a mole. But if you think that Karen will be happier bur- 
rowing underground with him than here with me, I will do my 
best. Yes;" she reflected; "I will write to Mrs. Forrester. 
She shall see the mole and tell him that when he sends me 
an apology I send him Karen. It is a wild thing to leave one's 
husband like this. I will make her see it." 

" Now you see here, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, rising and 
fixing an acute gaze upon her, " don't you go and make things 
worse than they are. Don't you go interfering between Karen 
and her husband. The first move 's got to come from them. I 
don't trust you round the corner where your vanity comes in, and 
I guess what you 've got in your mind now is that you 'd like to 
make it out to your friends how you \e tried to reconcile Karen 
and her husband after he 's treated you so bad. If you want to 



320 TANTB 

tell Karen that he was right in all the things he believed about 
you and that this is n't the first time by a long shot that you 've 
wrecked people with your jealousy, and that he loves her ten 
times more than you do, that 's a different thing, and I '11 stand 
by you through it. But I won't have you meddling any more 
with those two poor young things, so you may as well take it 
in right here." 

Madame von Marwitz's good humour fell away. " And for 
you, may I ask you kindly to mind your own business ? " she 
demanded. 

" I '11 make this affair of Karen's my business if you ain't real 
careful, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, standing solid and thick 
and black, in the centre of the room. " Yes, you 'd better 
go slow and sure or you '11 find there are some things I can't put 
up with. This affair of Karen has made me feel pretty sick, I 
can tell you. I 've seen you do a sight of mean things in your 
life, but I don't know as I 've seen you do a meaner. I guess," 
Mrs. Talcott continued, turning her eyes on the evening sea out- 
side, " it would make your friends sit up all these folks who 
admire you so much if they could know a thing or two you 've 
done." 

" Leave the room," said Madame von Marwitz, now raising 
herself on her elbow and pointing to the door. " Leave the 
room at once. I refuse to lie here and be threatened and in- 
sulted and brow-beaten by you. Out of my sight." 

Mrs. Talcott looked at the sea for a moment longer, in no 
provocative manner, but rather as if she had hardly heard the 
words addressed to her; and then she looked at Mercedes, who, 
still raised on her elbow, still held her arm very effectively 
outstretched. This, too, was no doubt a scene to which she was 
fully accustomed. 

" All right," she said, " I 'm going." She moved towards the 
door. At the door she halted, turned and faced Madame von 
Marwitz again. "But don't you forget, Mercedes Okraska," 
she said, " that I '11 make it my affair if you ain't careful." 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

KAREN", during the two or three days that followed her 
strange conversation with Mrs. Talcott, felt that while 
she pitied and cared for Mrs. Talcott as she had never yet pitied 
and cared for her, she was also afraid of her. Mrs. Talcott 
had spoken no further word and her eyes rested on her with no 
more than their customary steadiness; but Karen knew that 
there were many words she could speak. What were they? 
What was it that Mrs. Talcott knew? What secrets were they 
that she carried about in her lonely, ancient heart ? 

Mrs. Talcott loomed before her like a veiled figure of destiny 
bearing an urn within which lay the ashes of dead hopes. Mrs. 
Talcott's eyes looked at her above the urn. It was always with 
them. When they gardened together it was as if Mrs. Talcott 
set it down on the ground between them and as if she took it 
up again with a sigh of fatigue it was heavy when they 
turned to go. Karen felt herself tremble as she scrutinized the 
funereal shape. There was no refuge with Mrs. Talcott. Mrs. 
Talcott holding her urn was worse than the lonely fears. 

And, for those two or three days of balmy, melancholy spring, 
the lonely fears did not press so closely. They wheeled far away 
against the blue. Tante was kinder to her and was more aware 
of her. She almost seemed a little ashamed of the scene with the 
piano. She spoke to Karen of it, flushing a little, explaining 
that she had slept badly and that Karen's rendering of the Bach 
had made her nervous, emphasizing, too, the rule, new in its 
explicitness, that the grand piano was only to be played on by 
Karen when it was left open. "You did not understand. 
But it is well to understand rules, is it not, my child ?" said 
Madame von Marwitz. "And this one, I know, you will not 
transgress again." 

Karen said that she understood. She had something of her 
21 321 



322 T A N T E 

rocky manner in receiving these implicit apologies and com- 
mands, yet her guardian could see an almost sick relief rising 
in her jaded young eyes. 

Other things were different. Tante seemed now to wish very 
constantly to have her there when Mr. Drew was with her. She 
made much of her to Mr. Drew. She called his attention to her 
skill in gardening, to her directness of speech, to her individu- 
ality of taste in dress. These expositions made Karen un- 
comfortable, yet they seemed an expression of Tante's desire to 
make amends. And Mr. Drew, with his vague, impenetrable 
regard, helped her to bear them. It was as if, a clumsy child, 
she were continually pushed forward by a fond, tactless mother, 
and as if, mildly shaking her hand, the guest before whom she 
was displayed showed her, by kind, inattentive eyes, that he 
was paying very little attention to her. Mr. Drew put her at 
her ease and Tante embarrassed her. She became, even, a 
little grateful to Mr. Drew. But now, aware of this strange 
bond, it was more difficult to talk to him when they were alone 
and when, once or twice, he met her in the garden or house, 
she made always an excuse to leave him. She and Mr. Drew 
% could have nothing to say to each other when Tante was not 
there. 

One evening, returning to Les Solitudes after a walk along 
the cliffs, Karen found that tea was over, as she had intended 
that it should be, Tante and Mr. Drew not yet come in from 
their motoring, and Mrs. Talcott safely busied in the garden. 
There was not one of them with whom she could be happily 
alone, and she was glad to find the morning-room empty. Mrs. 
Talcott had left the kettle boiling for her on the tea-table and 
the small tea-pot, which they used in their usual tete-a-tete, 
ready, and Karen made herself a cup. 

She was tired. She sat down, when she had had her tea, near 
the window and looked out over the ranged white flowers grow- 
ing in their low white pots on the window-seat, at the pale sea 
and sky. She sat quietly, her cheek on one hand, the other in 
her lap, and from time to time a great involuntary sigh lifted 
her breast. It seemed nearer peace than fear, this mood of 



TANTE 323 

immeasurable, pale sorrow. It folded her round like the twi- 
light falling outside. 

The room was dim when she heard the sound of the return- 
ing motor and she sat on, believing that here she would be un- 
disturbed. Tante rarely came to the morning-room. But it 
was Tante who presently appeared, wearing still her motoring 
cloak and veil, the nun-like veil bound round her head. Karen 
thought, as she rose, and looked at her, that she was like one 
of the ghost-like white flowers. And there was no joy for 
her in seeing her. .She seemed to be part of the sadness. 

She turned and closed the door with some elaboration, and as 
she came nearer Karen recognized in her eyes the piteous look of 
quelled watchfulness. 

" You are sitting here, alone, my child ? " she said, laying her 
hand, but for a moment only, on Karen's shoulder. Karen had 
resumed her seat, and Tante moved away at once to take up a 
vase of flowers from the mantelpiece, smell the flowers, and set 
it back. " Where is Tallie ? " 

" Still in the garden, I think. I worked with her this morn- 
ing and before tea. Since tea I have had a walk/' 

"Where did you walk?" Madame von Marwitz inquired, 
moving now over to the upright piano and bending to examine 
in the dusk the music that stood on it. Karen described her 
route. 

" But it is lonely, very lonely, for you, is it not ? " Tante mur- 
mured after a moment's silence. Karen said nothing and she 
went on, "And it will be still more lonely if, as I think prob- 
able, I must leave you here before long. I shall be going; per- 
haps to Italy." 

A sensation of oppression that she could not have analyzed 
passed over Karen. Why was Tante going to Italy ? Why must 
she leave Les Solitudes? Her mind could not rest on the sup- 
position that her own presence drove Tante forth, that the 
broken tete-a-tete was to be resumed under less disturbing cir- 
cumstances. She could not ask Tante if Mr. Drew was to be 
in Italy; yet this was the question that pressed on her heart. 

" Oh, but I am very used to Les Solitudes/' she said. 



324 T A N T E 

" Used to it. Yes. Too used to it" said Madame von Mar- 
witz, seating herself now near Karen, her eyes still moving 
about the room. "But it is not right, it is not fitting, that 
you should spend your youth here. That was not the destiny 
I had hoped for you. I came here to find you, Karen, so that 
I might talk to you." Her fingers slightly tapped her chair- 
arm. "We must talk. We must see what is to be done." 

" Do you mean about me, Tante ? " Karen asked after a 
moment. The look of the ghostly room and of the white, en- 
folded figure seated before her with its restless eyes seemed part 
of the chill that Tante's words brought. 

"About you. Yes. About who else, paMeu!" said Madame 
von Marwitz with a slight laugh, her eyes shifting about the 
room ; and with a change of tone she added : " I have it on my 
heart your situation day and night. Something must be 
done and I am prepared to do it." 

" To do what ? " asked Karen. Her voice, too, had changed, 
but not, as Madame von Marwitz's, to a greater sweetness. 

" Well, to save it the situation ; to help you." Madame von 
Marwitz's ear was quick to catch the change. "And I have 
come, my Karen, to consult with you. It is a matter, many 
would say, for my pride to consider; but I will not count my 
pride. Your happiness, your dignity, your future are the 
things that weigh with me. I am prostrated, made ill, by the 
miserable affair; you see it, you see that I am not myself. I 
cannot sleep. It haunts me you and your broken life. And 
what I have to propose," Tante looked down at her tapping 
fingers while she spoke, " is that I offer myself as intermediary. 
Your husband will not take the first step forward. So be it. 
I will take it. I will write to Mrs. Forrester. I will tell her 
that if your husband will but offer me the formal word of 
apology I will myself induce you to return to him. What do 
you say, my Karen? Oh, to me, as you know, the forms are 
indifferent; it is of you and your dignity that I think. I know 
you; without that apology from him to me you could not con- 
template a reconciliation. But he has now had his lesson, 
your young man, and when he knows that, through me, you 



TANTE 325 

would hold out the olive-branch, he will, I predict, spring to 
grasp it. After all, he is in love with you and has had time 
to find it out; and even if he were not, his mere man's pride 
must writhe to see himself abandoned. And you, too, have had 
your lesson, my poor Karen, and have seen that romance is a 
treacherous sand to build one's life upon. Dignity, fitness, one's 
rightful place in life have their claims. You are one, as I 
told you, to work out your destiny in the world, not in the 
wilderness. What do you say, Karen ? I would not write with- 
out consulting you. Hein ! What is it ? " 

Karen had risen, and Madame von Marwitz's eyelashes flut- 
tered a little in looking up at her. 

"I will never forgive you, I will never forgive you," said 
Karen in a harsh voice, " if you speak of this again." 

" What is this that you say to me, Karen ? " Madame von 
Marwitz, too, rose. 

" Never speak to me of this again," said Karen. 

In the darkening room they looked at each other as they had 
never in all their lives looked before. They were equals in 
maturity of demand. 

For a strange moment sheer fury struggled with subtler emo- 
tions in Madame von Marwitz's face, and then self-pity, over- 
powering, engulfing all else. " And is this the return you make 
me for my love?" she cried. Her voice broke in desperate 
sobs and long-pent misery found relief. She sank into her 
chair. 

"I asked for no reconciliation," said Karen. "I left him 
and we knew that we were parting forever. There is no love 
between us. Have you no understanding at all, and no thought 
of my pride ? " 

It was woman addressing woman. The child Karen was 
gone. 

s Your pride ? " Madame von Marwitz repeated in her sobs. 
" And what of mine ? Was it not for you, stony-hearted girl ? 
Is it not your happiness I seek ? If I have been mistaken in my 
hopes for you, is that a reason for turning upon me like a 
serpent ! " 



326 TANTE 

Karen had walked to the long window that opened to the 
verandah and looked out, pressing her forehead to the pane. 
" You must forgive me if I was unkind. What you said burned 
me." 

" Ah, it is well for you to speak of burnings ! " Madame von 
Marwitz sobbed, aware that Karen's wrath was quelled. "I 
am scorched by all of you ! by all of you ! " she repeated in- 
coherently. " All the burdens fall upon me and, in reward, I 
am spurned and spat upon by those I seek to serve ! " 

" I am sorry, Tante. It was what you said. That you 
should think it possible/' 

" Sorry ! Sorry ! It is easy to say that you are sorry when 
you have rolled me in the dust of your insults and your in- 
gratitude ! " Yet the sobs were quieter. 

" Let us say, then, that it has been misunderstanding," said 
Karen. She still stood in the window, but as she spoke the 
words she drew back suddenly. She had found herself looking 
into Mr. Drew's eyes. His face, gazing in oddly upon her, was 
at the other side of the pane, and' in the apparition, its sud- 
denness, its pallor, rising from the dusk, there was something 
almost horrible. 

" Who is that ? " came Tante's voice, as Karen drew away. 
She had turned in her chair. 

It seemed to Karen, then, that the room was filled with the 
whirring wings of wild emotions, caught and crushed together. 
Tante had sprung up and came with long, swift strides to the 
window. .She, too, pressed her face against the pane. "Ah! 
It is Claude," she said, in a hushed strange voice, " and he did 
not see that I was here. What does he mean by looking in 
like that ? " she spoke now angrily, drying her eyes as she spoke. 
She threw open the window. " Claude. Come here." 

Mr. Drew, whose face seemed to have sunk, like a drowned 
face, back into dark water, returned to the threshold and paused, 
arrested by his friend's wretched aspect. " Come in. Enter," 
said Madame von Marwitz, with a withering stateliness of utter- 
ance. "You have the manner of a spy. Did you think that 
Karen and I were quarrelling?" 



TANTE 327 

"I couldn't think that/' said Mr. Drew, stepping into the 
room, "for I didn't see that you were here." 

" We have had a misunderstanding," said Madame von Mar- 
witz. " No more. And now we understand again. Is it not 
so, my Karen? You are going?" 

" I think I will go to my room," said Karen, who looked at 
neither Madame von Marwitz nor Mr. Drew. "You will not 
mind if I do not come to dinner to-night." 

" Certainly not. No. Do as you please. You are tired. I 
see it. And I, too, am tired." She followed Karen to the door, 
murmuring: "Sans rancune, n'est-ce-pas? " 

"Yes, Tante." 

As the door closed upon Karen, Madame von Marwitz turned 
to Mr. Drew. 

" If you wish to see her, why not seek her openly ? Who 
makes it difficult for you to approach her?" Her voice had 
the sharpness of splintering ice. 

" Why, no one, ma chere" said Mr. Drew. " I was n't seek- 
ing her." 

" No ? And what did it mean, then, your face pressed close 
to hers, there at the window ? " 

"It meant that I couldn't see who it was who stood there. 
Just as I can hardly now see more than that you are unhappy. 
What is the matter, my dear and beautiful friend ? " His voice 
was solicitous. 

Madame von Marwitz dropped again into her chair and lean- 
ing forward, her hands hanging clasped between her knees, she 
again wept. " The matter is the old one," she sobbed. " In- 
gratitude! Ingratitude on every hand! My crime now has 
been that I have sought at the sacrifice of my own pride 
to bring a reconciliation between that stubborn child and her 
husband, and for my reward she overwhelms me with abuse ! " 

" Tell me about it," said Mr. Drew, seating himself beside 
her and, unreproved, taking her hand. 



CHAPTER XXXV 

KAKEN did not go to her room. She was afraid that Mrs. 
Talcott would come to her there. She asked the cook 
for a few sandwiches and going to one of the lower terraces she 
found a seat there and sat down. She felt ill. Her mind was 
sore and vague. She sat leaning her head on her hand, as she 
had sat in the morning-room, her eyes closed, and did not try 
to think. 

She had escaped something mercifully. Yes, the supreme 
humiliation that Tante had prepared for her was frustrated. 
And she had been strangely hard and harsh to Tante and in 
return Tante had been piteous yet unmoving. Her heart was 
dulled towards Tante. She felt that she saw her from a great 
distance. 

The moon had risen and was shining brightly when she at last 
got up and climbed the winding paths up to the house. 

A definite thought, after the hours that she had sat there, had 
at last risen through the dull waters of her mind. Why should 
Tante go away? Why should not she herself go? There need 
be no affront to Tante, no alienation. But, for a time, at least, 
would it not be well to prove to Tante that she could be some- 
thing more than a problem and a burden? Could she not go 
to the Lippheims in Germany and teach English and French 
and Italian there she knew them all and make a little 
money, and, when Tante wanted her again to come to Les Soli- 
tudes, come as an independent person? 

It was a curious thought. It contradicted the assumptions 
upon which her life was founded ; for was she not Tante's child 
and Tante's home her home ? So curious it was that she con- 
templated it like an intricate weapon laid in her hand, its oddity 
concealing its significance. 

She turned the weapon over. She might be Tante's child and 

328 



TANTE 329 

Tante's home might be hers; yet a child could gain its own 
bread, could it not? What was there to pierce and shatter in 
the thought that it would be well for her to gain her bread? 
" Tante has worked for me too long/' she said to herself. She 
was not pierced or shattered. Something very strange was in 
her hand, but she was only reasonable. 

She had stood still, in the midst of her swift climbing to- 
wards the house, to think it all out clearly, and it was as she 
stood there that she saw the light of a cigarette approaching 
her. It was Mr. Drew and he had seen her. Karen was aware 
of a deep stirring of displeasure and weariness. " But, please," 
he said, as, slightly bowing her head, and murmuring, " Good- 
nigh t," she passed him; "I want I very particularly want 
to see you/' He turned to walk beside her, tossing away 
his cigarette. " There is something I particularly want to 
say/' 

His tone was grave and kind and urgent. It reproached her 
impatient impulse. He might have come with a message from 
Tante. 

" Where is my guardian ? " she asked. 

" She has gone to bed. She has a horrible headache, poor 
thing," said Mr. Drew, who was leading her through the little 
copse of trees and along the upper paths. " Here, shall we sit 
down here ? You are not cold ? " 

They were in the flagged garden. Karen, vaguely expectant, 
sat down on the rustic bench and Mr. Drew sat beside her. The 
moonlight shone through the trees and fell fantastically on the 
young man's face and figure and on Karen, sitting upright, her 
little shawl of white knitted wool drawn closely about her shoul- 
ders and enfolding her arms. " Not for long, please," she said. 
"It is growing late and although I am not cold I am tired. 
What have you to say, Mr. Drew ? " 

He had so much -fco say and it was, so obviously, his oppor- 
tunity, his complete opportunity at last, that, before the exquisite 
and perilous task of awakening this creature of flowers and 
glaciers, Mr. Drew collected his resources with something of 
the skill and composure of an artist preparing canvas and 



330 TANTE 

palette. He must begin delicately and discreetly, and then he 
must be sudden and decisive. 

" I want to make you feel, in the first place, if I can/' he said, 
leaning forward to look into her face and observing with satisfac- 
tion that she made no movement of withdrawal as he came a 
little nearer in so doing, " that I 'm your friend. Can I, do you 
think, succeed in making you feel that ? " His experience had 
told him that it really did n't matter so much what one said. To 
come near was the point, and to look deeply. " I 've had so few 
chances of showing you how much your friend I am." 

" Thank you," said Karen. " You are kind." She did not say 
that he would succeed in making her feel him a friend. 

"We have been talking about you, talking a great deal, 
since you left us, your guardian and I," Mr. Drew continued, and 
he looked at the one of Karen's hands that was visible, emerging 
from the shawl to clasp her elbow, the left hand with its wedding- 
ring, " and ludicrous as it may seem to you, I can't but feel that I 
understand you a great deal better than she does. She still 
thinks of you as a child a child whose little problems can be 
solved by facile solutions. Forgive me, I know it may sound 
fatuous to you, but I see what she does not see, that you are a 
suffering woman, and that for some problems there are no solu- 
tions." His eyes now came back to hers and found them fixed 
on him with a wide astonished gaze. 

" Has my guardian asked you to say anything to me ? " she 
said. 

" No, not exactly that," said Mr. Drew, a little disconcerted 
by her tone and look, while at the same time he was marvelling 
at the greater and greater beauty he found in the impassive moon- 
lit face how had he been so unconscionably stupid as not to see 
for so long how beautiful she was ! " No, she certainly has n't 
asked me to say anything to you. She is going away, you know, 
to Italy ; it 's a sudden decision and she ? s been telling me about it. 
I can't go with her. I don't think it a good plan. I can stay on 
here, but I can't go to Italy. Perhaps she '11 give it up. She 
did n't find me altogether sympathetic and I 'm afraid we 've had 
something of a disagreement. I am sure you've seen since 



TANTE 331 

you 've been here that if your guardian does n't understand you 
she does n't understand me, either." 

"But I cannot speak of my guardian to you/' said Karen. 
She had kept her eyes steadily upon him waiting to hear what 
he might have to say, hut now the thought of Tante in her re- 
jected queenliness broke insufferably upon her making her sick 
with pity. This man did not love Tante. She rose as she spoke. 

" Do not speak of her to me," she said. 

" But we will not speak of her. I do not wish to speak of her/' 
said Mr. Drew, also rising, a stress of excitement and anxiety 
making itself felt in his soft, sibilant, hurried tones ; " I under- 
stand every exquisite loyalty that hedges your path. And I ? m 
hedged, too; you see that. Wait, wait please listen. We 
won't speak of her. What I want to speak of is you. I want 
to ask you to make use of me. I want to ask you to trust me. 
You love her, but how can you depend on her ? She is a child, 
an undisciplined, capricious child, and she is displeased with you, 
seriously displeased. Who is there in the world you can depend 
on ? You are unutterably alone. And I ask you to turn to me." 

Her frosty scrutiny disconcerted him. He had not touched her 
in the least. 

" These are things you cannot say to me," she said. " There 
is nothing that you can do for me. I only know you as my 
guardian's friend; you forgot that, I think, when you brought 
me here." She turned from him. 

" Oh, but you do not understand ! I have made you angry ! 
Oh, please, Mrs. Jardine ; " his voice rose to sharp distress. He 
caught her hand with a supplicating yet determined grasp. 
" You can't understand. You are so inconceivably unaware. It 
is because of you ; all because of you. Have n't you really seen 
or understood? She can't forgive you because I love you. I 
love you, you adorable child. I have only stayed on and borne 
with her because of you ! " 

His passion flamed before her frozen face. And as, for a trans- 

. fixed moment of stupor, she stood still, held by him, he read into 

her stillness the pause of the woman to whom the apple of the 

tree of life is proffered, amazed, afraid, yet thrilled through all 



332 TANTE 

her being, tempted by the very suddenness, incapable of swift 
repudiation. He threw his arms around her, taking, in a 
draught of delight, the impression of silvery, glacial loveliness 
that sent dancing stars of metaphor streaming in his head, and 
pressed his lips to her cheek. 

It was but one moment of attainment. The thrust that drove 
him from her was that, indeed, of the strong young goddess, 
implacable and outraged. Yet even as he read his deep mis- 
calculation in her aspect he felt that the moment had been worth 
it. Not many men, not even many poets, could say that they 
had held, in such a scene, on such a night, an unwilling goddess 
to their breast. 

She did not speak. Her eyes did not pause to wither. They 
passed over him. He had an image of the goddess wheeling to 
mount some chariot of the sky as, with no indignity of haste, she 
turned from him. She turned. And in the path, in the entrance 
to the flagged garden, Tante stood confronting them. 

She stood before them in the moonlight with a majesty at once 
magnificent and ludicrous. She had come swiftly, borne on the 
wings of a devouring suspicion, and she maintained for a long 
moment her Medusa stare of horror. Then, it was the ugliest 
thing that Karen had ever seen, the mask broke. Hatred, fury, 
malice, blind, atavistic passions distorted her face. It was to fall 
from one nightmare to another and a worse ; for Tante seized her 
by the shoulders and shook and shook and shook her, till the blood 
sprang and rang in her ears and eyeballs, and her teeth chattered 
together, and her hair, loosened by the great jerks, fell down 
upon her shoulders and about her face. And while she shook her, 
Tante snarled seeming to crush the words between her grind- 
ing teeth, "Ah! per fide I perfide! perfide!" 

From behind, other hands grasped Karen's shoulders. Mr. 
Brew grappled with Tante for possession of her. 

"Leave me with my guardian," she gathered her broken 
breath to say. She repeated it and Mr. Drew, invisible to her,- 
replied, " I can't. She '11 tear you to pieces.* 

"Ah! You have still to hear from me vile seducer r 
Madame von Marwitz cried, addressing the young man over 



TANTE 333 

Karen's shoulder. " Do you dare dispute my right to save her 
from you foul serpent ! Leave us ! Does she not tell you to 
leave us ? " 

" I '11 see her safely out of your hands before I leave her/' said 
Mr. Drew. " How dare you speak of perfidy when you saw her 
repulse me ? You 'd have found it easier to forgive, no doubt, 
if she had n't." 

These insolent words, hurled at it, convulsed the livid face that 
fronted Karen. And suddenly, holding Karen's shoulders and 
leaning forward, Madame von Marwitz broke into tears, horrible 
tears in all her life Karen had never pitied her as she pitied her 
then sobbing with raking breaths : " No, no ; it is too much. 
Have I not loved him with a saintly love, seeking to uplift what 
would draw me down? Has he not loved me? Has he not 
sought to be my lover ? And he can spit upon me in the dust ! " 
She raised her head. "Did you believe me blind, infatuated? 
Did you think by your tricks and pretences to evade me ? Did I 
not see, from the moment that she came, that your false heart 
had turned from me?" Her eyes came back to Karen's face 
and fury again seized her. " And as for you, ungrateful girl 
perfidious, yes, and insolent one you deserve to be denounced 
to the world. Oh, we understand those retreats. What more 
alluring to the man who pursues than the woman who flees? 
What more inflaming than the pose of white, idiotic innocence ? 
You did not know. You did not understand " fiercely, in a 
mincing voice, she mimicked a supposed exculpation. "You 
are so young, so ignorant of life so immer Tcindlich ! Ah ! " 
she laughed, half strangled, "until the man seizes you in his 
arms you are quite unaware but quite, quite unaware of 
what he seeks from you. Little fool! And more than fool. 
Have I not seen your wiles? From day to day have I not 
watched you? Now it is the piano. You must play him your 
favourite little piece; so small; you have so little talent; but 
you will do your best. Now the chance meeting in the garden; 
you are so fond of flowers; you so love the open air, the sea, 
the wandering on the cliffs; such a free, wild creature you are. 
And now we have the frustrated rendezvous of this evening; 



334 TANTE 

he should find you dreaming, among your flowers, in the dusk. 
The pretty picture. And no, you want no dinner; you will 
go to your own room. But you are not to be found in your own 
room. Oh, no; it is again the garden; the moon; the sea and 
solitude that you seek ! Be silent ! " this was almost shouted at 
Claude Drew, who broke in with savage denials. " Do you think 
still to impose on me you traitor ? No," her eyes burned on 
Karen's face. " No ; you are wiser. You do not speak. You 
know that the time for insolence has passed. What ! You take 
refuge with me here. You fly from your husband and throw 
yourself on my hands and say to me," again she assumed the 
mincing tones " Yes, here I am again. Continue, pray, to 
work for me ; continue, pray, to clothe and feed and lodge me ; 
continue to share your life with me and all of rich and wide 
and brilliant it can offer ; continue, in a word, to hold me high 
but very high above the gutter from which I came and 
I take you, I receive you in my arms, I shelter you from mali- 
cious tongues, I humble myself in seeking to mend your shat- 
tered life; and for my reward you steal from me the heart of 
the one creature in the world I loved the one the only 
one ! Until you came he was mine. Until you came he yearned 
for me only for me. Oh, my heart is broken! broken! 
broken ! " She leaned forward, wildly sobbing, and raising her- 
self she shook the girl with all her force, crying : " Out of 
my sight ! Be off ! Let me see no more of you ! " Covering 
her face with her hands, she reeled back, and Karen fled 
down the path, hearing a clamour of sobs and outcries behind 
her. 

She fled along the cliff-path and an incomparable horror was 
in her soul. Her life had been struck from her. It seemed a 
ghost that ran, watched by the moon, among the trees. 

On the open cliff-path it was very light. The sky was with- 
out a cloud. The sea lay like a vast cloth of silk, diapered in 
silver. 

Karen ran to where the path led to a rocky verge. 

From here, in daylight, one looked down into a vast hollow 
in the coast and saw at the bottom, far beneath, a stony beach, 



TANTE 335 

always sad, and set with rocks. To-night the enormous cup 
was brimmed with blackness. 

Karen, pausing and leaning forward, resting on her hands, 
stared across the appalling gulf of inky dark, and down into the 
nothingness. 

Horror had driven her to the spot, and horror, like a presence, 
rose from the void, and beckoned her down to oblivion. Why 
not? Why not? The question of despair seemed, like a vast 
pendulum, to swing her to and fro between the sky and the 
blackness, so that, blind and deaf and dumb, she felt only the 
horror, and her own pulse of life suspended over annihilation. 
And while her fingers clutched tightly at the rock, the thought 
of Gregory's face, as it had loved her, dimly, like a far beacon, 
flashed before her. Their love was dead. He did not love her. 
But they had loved. She moved back, trembling. She did not 
want to die. She lay down with her face to the ground on the 
grassy cliff. 

When she raised herself it was as if after a long slumber. She 
was immensely weary, with leaden limbs. Horror was spent; 
but a dull oppression urged her up and on. There was some- 
thing that she must never see again ; something that would open 
before her again the black abyss of nothingness ; something like 
the moon, that once had lived, but was now a ghost, white, 
ghastly, glittering. She must go. At once. And, as if far away, 
a tiny picture rose before her of some little German town, where 
she might earn a living and be hidden and forgotten. 

But first she must see Mrs. Talcott. .She must say good-bye 
to Mrs. Talcott. There was nothing now that Mrs. Talcott could 
show her. 

She went back softly and carefully, pausing to listen, pushing 
through unused, overgrown paths and among thickets of gorse 
and stunted Cornish elms. In the garden all was still; the 
dreadful clamour had ceased. By the back way she stole up to 
her room. 

A form rose to meet her as she opened the door. Mrs. Tal- 
cott had been waiting for her. Taking her hand, Mrs. Talcott 
drew her in and closed the door. 



CHAPTER XXXVI 

MRS. TALCOTT sat down on the bed and Karen knelt 
before her with her head in her lap. The old woman's 
hand passed quietly over her hair while she wept, and the 
homely gentleness, like the simplicity of milk to famished lips, 
flowed into her horror-haunted mind. 

She tried to tell Mrs. Talcott what had happened. " She does 
not love me, Mrs. Talcott. She has turned me out. Tante has 
told me to go/' 

" I 've seen her," said Mrs. Talcott, stroking on. " I was just 
going out to look for you if you did n't come in. Did she tear 
your hair down like this? It's all undone." 

" It was when she shook me, Mrs. Talcott. She found me with 
Mr. Drew. He had kissed me. I could not help it. She knew 
that I could not help it. She knows that I am not a bad 
woman." 

" You must n't take Mercedes at her word when she 's in a 
state like that, Karen. She 's in an awful state. She 's parted 
from that young man." 

" And I am going, Mrs. Talcott." 

"Well, I've wanted you to go, from the first. Now you've 
found her out, this ain't any place for you. You can't go 
hanging on for all your life, like I 've done." 

"But Mrs. Talcott what does it mean? What have I 
found out? What is Tante?" Karen sobbed. "For all these 
years so beautiful so beautiful to me, and suddenly to be- 
come my enemy someone I do not know." 

"You never got in her way before. She's got no mercy, 
Mercedes has n't, if you get in her way. Where 'd you thought 
of going, Karen?" 

"To Frau Lippheim. She is still in London, I think. I 



TANTE 337 

could join her there. You could lend me a little money, Mrs. 
Talcott. Enough to take me to London." 

Mrs. Talcott was silent for a moment. " Come up here, on the 
bed, Karen," she then said. " Here, wrap this cloak around you ; 
you 're awful cold. That >s right. Now I want you to sit quiet 
while I explain things to you the best I can. I 've made up my 
mind to do it; Mercedes will be in her right mind to-morrow 
and frantic to get hold of you again and get you to forgive her. 
Oh, I know her. And I don't want her to get hold of you again. 
I want you to be quit of her. I want you to see, as clear as day, 
how your husband was right about Mercedes, all along." 

" Oh, do not speak of him " Karen moaned, covering her 
face as she sat on the bed beside Mrs. Talcott. 

" I ain't going to speak about him. I 'm going to tell you 
about me and Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott. " I 'm going to 
explain Mercedes. And I 'm going way back to the very be- 
ginning to do it." 

" Explain it to me. What is she ? Has it all been false 
all her loveliness ? " 

"I don't know about false," said Mrs. Talcott. "Mercedes 
ain't all bad ; not by a long shot. She feels good sometimes, like 
most folks, when it ain't too much trouble. You know how it 
began, Karen. You know how I 'm a sort of connection of Mer- 
cedes's mother and I 've told you about Dolores. The prettiest 
creature you ever set eyes on. Meredes looks like her; only it 
was a softer face than Mercedes's with great, big black eyes. 
I can see her now, walking round the galleries of that lovely 
house in New Orleans with a big white camellia in her black hair 
and a white muslin dress, standing out round her like they 
wore then; singing singing so young and happy it al- 
most breaks my heart to think about her. I ? ve told you about 
Mercedes's father, too, Pavelek Okraski, and how he came out 
to New Orleans and gave lessons to Dolores Bastida and made 
love to her on the sly and got her to run away with him 
poor silly thing. When I think it all over I seem to piece things 
out and see how Mercedes came to be what she is. Her mother 
was just as sweet and loving as she could be, but scatter-brained 



338 TANTE 

and hot-tempered. And Pavelek was a mighty mean man and 
a mighty bad man, too, a queer, tricky, sly sort of man; but 
geniusy, with very attractive manners. Mercedes has got his 
eyes and his way of laughing; she shows her teeth just like he 
used to do when he laughed. Well, he took Dolores off to 
Poland and spent all her money as fast as he could get it, and 
then Senor Bastida and the two boys nice, hot-tempered boys 
they were and perfect pictures all got killed in a vendetta 
they had with another family in Louisiana, and poor Senora 
Bastida got sick and died and all the family fortunes went to 
pieces and there was no more home and no more money either, 
for Dolores. She just lost everything straight off. 

" She sent for me then. Her baby was coming and Pavelek 
had gone off and she did n't know where he was and she was 
about distracted. I 'd been married before she ran away with 
Pavelek, but Homer only lived four years and I was a widow 
then. I had folks left still in Maine; but no one very near 
and there was n't anybody I seemed to take to so much as I 
always had to Dolores. You may say she had a sort of fasci- 
nation for me. So I sold out what I had and came. My, what 
a queer journey that was. I don't know how I got to Cracow. 
I only spoke English and travelling was n't what it is nowadays. 
But I got there somehow and found that poor child. She was 
the wretchedest creature you ever set eyes on; thin as thin; 
and all haggard and wild. Pavelek neglected her and ran after 
other women and drank, and when he got drunk and she used 
to fly out at him for she was as hot-tempered as she could 
be he used to beat her. Yes ; that man used to beat Dolores." 
A note of profound and enduring anger was in Mrs. Talcott's 
voice. 

" He came back after I got there. I guess he thought I 'd 
brought some money, and he came in drunk one day and tried to 
hit her before me. He did n't ever try it again after that. I 
just got up and struck him with all my might and main right 
in the face and he fell down and hurt his head pretty bad and 
Dolores began to shriek and said I 'd killed her husband ; but 
he didn't try it again. He was sort of scared of me, I guess. 



TANTE 339 

No: I ain't forgiven Pavelek Okraski yet and I reckon I never 
shall. I don't seem to want to forgive him,, neither in this world 
nor the next if there is a next," Mrs. Talcott commented. 

" Well, the time for the baby came and on the day Mercedes 
was born the Austrians bombarded Cracow; it was in '48. I 
took Dolores down to the cellar and all day long we heard the 
shells bursting, and the people screeching. And that was the 
time Mercedes came into the world. Dolores most died, but she 
got through. But afterwards I could n't get proper care for her, 
or food either. She just pined off and died five months after the 
baby came. Pavelek most went off his head. He was always 
fond of her in his own mean way, and I guess he suffered con- 
siderable when she died. He went off, saying he 'd send some 
money for me and the baby, but precious little of it did I ever 
see. I made some by sewing and giving lessons in English I 
reckon some of those young Poles got queer ways of speaking 
from me, I was never what you 'd call a polished speaker and 
I scraped on. Time and time again we were near starving. 
My ! that little garret room, and that big church Panna Marya 
they called it where I 'd go and sit with the baby when the 
services were on to see if I could keep warm in the crowd ! And 
the big fire in '50, when I carried the baby out in a field with 
lots of other people and slept out. It lasted for ten days that 
fire. 

"It seems like a dream sometimes, all that time," Mrs. Tal- 
cott mused, and the distant sorrow of her voice was like the 
blowing of a winter wind. " It seems like a dream to think 
I got through with the child alive, and that my sweet, pretty 
little Dolores went under. There 's some things that don't bear 
thinking about. Well, I kept that baby warm and I kept it fat, 
and it got to be the prettiest, proudest thing you ever set eyes on. 
She might have been a queen from the very beginning. And 
as for Pavelek, she just ruled him from the time she began 
to have any sense. It was mighty queer to see that man, who 
had behaved so bad to her mother, cringing before that child. 
He doted on her, and she didn't care a button for him. It 
used to make me feel almost sorry for Pavelek, sometimes. 



340 TANTE 

She 'd look at him, when he tried to please her and amuse her, 
like he was a performing dog. It kept Pavelek in order, I can 
tell you, and made things easier for me. She'd just say she 
wanted things and if she did n't get them straight off she 'd go 
into a black rage, and he 'd be scared out of his life and go and 
work and get 'em for her. And then she began to show she was 
a prodigy. Pavelek taught her the violin first and then the 
piano and when he realized she was a genius he most went off 
his head with pride. Why that man the selfishest, laziest 
creature by nature - worked himself to skin and bone so that she 
should have the best lessons and everything she needed. We 
both held our noses to the grindstone just as tight as ever we 
could, and Mercedes was brought up pretty well, I think, con- 
sidering. 

"She gave that first concert in Warsaw we'd moved to 
Warsaw and then Pavelek seemed to go to pieces. He just 
drank himself to death. Well, after that, rich relations of Mer- 
cedes's turned up cousins of the Bastidas', who lived in Paris. 
Thej had n't lifted a finger to help Dolores, or me with the baby 
after Dolores died ; but they remembered about us now Mercedes 
was famous and made us come to live with them in Paris and said 
they had first claim on Mercedes. I did n't take to the Bastidas. 
But I stayed on because of Mercedes. I got to be a sort of nurse 
for her, you may say. Well, as she got older, and prettier and 
prettier, and everyone just crazy about her, I saw she did n't have 
much use for me. I did n't judge her too hard ; but I began to 
see through her then. She 'd behaved mighty bad to me again 
and again, she used to fly at me and bite me and tear my hair, 
when she was a child, if I thwarted her; but I always believed 
she really loved me ; perhaps she did, as much as she can. But 
after these rich folks turned up and her life got so bright and 
easy she just seemed to forget all about me. So I went home. 

" I stayed home for four or five years and then Mercedes sent 
for me. She used to write now and then to her ' Dearest Tallie ' 
as she always called me, and I 'd heard all about how she 'd 
come out in Paris and Vienna as a great pianist, and how she 'd 
quarrelled with her relations and how she 'd run away with a 



TANTE 341 

young English painter and got married to him. It was an awful 
silly match, and they 'd all opposed it ; but it pleased me some- 
how. I thought it showed that Mercedes was soft-hearted like 
her mother, and unworldly. Well, she wrote that she was miser- 
able and that her husband was a fiend and broke her heart and 
that she hated all her relations and they'd all behaved like 
serpents to her Mercedes is always running across serpents 
and how I was the only true friend she had and the only 
one who understood her, and how she longed for her dear Tallie. 
So I sold out again I 'd just started a sort of little farm near 
the old place in Maine, raising chickens and making jam 
and came over again. I don't know what it is about Mercedes, 
but she gets a hold over you. And guess I always felt like she 
was my own baby. I had a baby, but it died when it was born. 
Well, she was living in Paris then and they had a fine flat and 
a big studio, and when Mercedes got into a passion with her 
husband she 'd take a knife and slash up his canvases. She 
quarrelled with him day and night, and I was n't long with them 
before I saw that it was all her fault and that he was a weak, 
harmless sort of young creature he had yellow hair, longish, 
and used to wear a black velvet cap and paint sort of dismal 
pictures of girls with long necks and wild sort of eyes but 
that the truth was she was sick of him and wanted to marry 
the Baron von Marwitz. 

"You can commence to get hold of the story now, Karen. 
You remember the Baron. A sad, stately man he was, as cul- 
tured and intellectual as could be and going in the best society. 
Mercedes had found pretty quick that there wasn't much fun 
in being married to a yellow-haired boy who lived on the money 
she made and wasn't a mite in society. And the Baron was 
just crazy over her in his dignified, reverential way. Poor fel- 
low ! " said Mrs. Talcott pausing in a retrospect over this van- 
ished figure, " Poor fellow ! I guess he came to rue the day 
he ever cot eyes on her. Well, Mercedes made out to him how 
terrible her life was and how she was tied to a dissipated, worth- 
less man who lived on her and was unfaithful to her. And it 's 
true that Baldwin Tanner behaved as he should n't ; but he was a 



342 TANTE 

weak creature and she'd disillusionized him so and made him 
so miserable that he just got reckless. And he'd never asked 
any more than to live in a garret with her and adore her, and 
paint his lanky people and eat bread and cheese; he told me 
so, poor boy; he just used to lay his head down on my lap and 
cry like a baby sometimes. But Mercedes made it out that 
she was a victim and he was a serpent ; and she believed it, too ; 
that's the power of her; she's just determined to be in the 
right always. So at last she made it all out. She couldn't 
divorce Baldwin, being a Catholic; but she made it out that 
she wasn't really married to him. It appears he didn't get 
baptized by his folks; they hadn't believed in baptizing; they 
were free-thinkers. And the Baron got his powerful friends to 
help and they all set to work at the Pope, and they got him to 
fix it up, and Mercedes's marriage was annulled and she was 
free to marry again. That 's what was in her mind in sending 
for me, you see ; she 'd quarrelled with her folks and she wanted 
a steady respectable person who knew all about her to stand 
by her and chaperon her while she was getting rid of Baldwin. 
Mercedes has always been pretty careful about her reputation; 
she 's hardly ever taken any risks. 

"Well, she was free and she married the Baron, and poor 
Baldwin got a nice young English girl to marry him, and she 
reformed him, and they 're alive and happy to this day, and I 
guess he paints pretty poor pictures. And it makes Mercedes 
awful mad to hear about how happy they are; she has a sort of 
idea, I imagine, that Baldwin didn't have any right to get 
married again. I've always had a good deal of satisfaction 
over Baldwin," said Mrs. Talcott. "It's queer to realize that 
Mercedes was once just plain Mrs. Baldwin Tanner, ain't it? 
It was a silly match and no mistake. Well, it took two or three 
years to work it all out, and Mercedes was twenty-five when she 
married the Baron. I didn't see much of them for a while. 
They put me around in their houses to look after things and 
be there when Mercedes wanted me. .She'd found out she 
could n't get along without me in those two or three years. 
Mercedes was the most beautiful creature alive at that time, I 



TANTE 343 

do believe, and all Europe was wild about her. She and the 
Baron went about and she gave concerts, and it was just a 
triumphal tour. But after a spell I began to see that things 
were n't going smooth. Mercedes is the sort of person who 's 
never satisfied with what she's got. And the Baron was be- 
ginning to find her out. My ! I used to be sorry for that man. 
I '11 never forget his white, sick face the first time she flew out 
at him and made one of her scenes. ' Emprisonne ma jeunesse,' " 
Mrs. Talcott quoted with a heavy accent. " That 's what she 
said he'd done to her. He was twenty years older than Mer- 
cedes, the Baron. Mercedes always liked to have men who were 
in love with her hanging about, and that's what the trouble 
was over. The more they cared the worse she treated them, 
and the Baron was a very dignified man and did n't like .having 
them around. And she was dreadful jealous of him, too, and 
used to fly out at him if he so much as looked at another 
woman ; in her way I guess he was the person Mercedes cared for 
most in all her life; she respected him, too, and she knew he 
was as clever as she was and more so, and as for him, in spite 
of everything, he always stayed in love with her. They used to 
have reconciliations, and when he 'd look at her sort of scornful 
and loving and sad all together, it would make her go all to 
pieces. She 'd throw herself in his arms and cry and cry. No, 
she ain't all bad, Mercedes. And she thought she could make 
things all right with him after she 'd let herself go ; she de- 
pended on his caring for her so much and being sorry for her. 
But I saw well enough as the years went on that he got more and 
more depressed. He was a depressed man by nature, I reckon, 
and he read a sight of philosophy of the gloomy kind that 
writer .Schopenhauer was a favourite of his, I recollect, and 
Mercedes thought a sight of him, too and after ten years or so 
of Mercedes I expect the Baron was pretty sick of life. 

" Well, you came. You thought it was Mercedes who was so 
good to you, and it was in a way. But it was poor Ernst who 
really cared. He took to you the moment he set eyes on you, 
and he 'd liked your father. And he wanted to have you to live 
with them and be their adopted daughter and inherit their 



344 TANTE 

money when they died. It had always been a grief to him that 
Mercedes wouldn't have any children. She just had a horror 
of having children, and he had to give up any hope of it. 
Well, the moment Mercedes realized how he cared for you she 
got jealous and they had a scene over you right off, in that 
hotel at Fontainebleau. She took on like her heart would break 
and put it that she could n't bear to have any one with them for 
good, she loved him so. It was true in a way. I did n't count 
of course. He looked at her, sick and scornful and loving, and 
he gave way. That was why you were put to school. She 
tried to make up by being awful nice to you when you came 
for your holidays now and then; but she never liked having 
you round much and Ernst saw it and never showed how much 
he cared for you. But he did care. You had a real friend in 
him, Karen. Well, after that came the worst thing Mercedes 
ever did." Mrs. Talcott paused, gazing before her in the dimly 
lighted room. " Poor things ! Poor Mercedes ! It nearly 
killed her. She's never been the same since. And it was all 
her fault and she knows it and that 's why she 's afraid. That 's 
why," she added in a lower voice, "you're sorry for her and 
put up with everything, because you know she's a miserable 
woman and it would n't do for her to be alone. 

"A young man turned up. His name don't matter now, 
poor fellow. He was just a clever all-over-the-place young 
man like so many of them, thinking they know more about 
everything than God Almighty ; like this young man in a way, 
only not a bad young man like him ; and downright sick with 
love of Mercedes. He followed her about all over Europe and 
went to every concert she gave and laid himself out to please 
her in all the ways he could. And he had a great charm of 
manner he was a Eussian and very high-bred and he sort 
of fascinated her, and she liked it all, I can tell you. Her 
youth was beginning to go, and the Baron was mighty gloomy, 
and she just basked in this young man's love, and pretty soon 
she began to think she was in love with him perhaps she was 
and had never loved before, and she certainly worked herself 
up to suffer considerably. Well, the Baron saw it. He saw 



T A N T E 345 



she did n't treat him the way she 'd treated the others ; she was 
kind of humble and tender and distracted all the time. The 
Baron saw it all, but she never noticed that he was getting 
gloomier and gloomier. I sometimes wonder if things might 
have been different if he 'd been willing to confide in me some. 
It does folks a sight of good if there's someone they can tell 
things to. But the Baron was very reserved and never said a 
word. And at last she burst out with a dreadful scene. You 
were with them; yes, it was that summer at Felsenschloss ; but 
you did n't know anything about it of course. I was pretty 
much in the thick of it all, as far as Mercedes went, and I tried 
to make her see reason and told her she was a sinful woman 
to treat her husband so; but I couldn't hold her back. She 
broke out at him one day and told him he was like a jailor 
to her, and that he suffocated her talent and that he hung on 
her like a vampire and sucked her youth, and that she loved 
the other man. I can see her now, rushing up and down that 
long saloon on that afternoon, with the white blinds drawn 
down and the sun filtering through them, snatching with her 
hands at her dress and waving her arms up and down in the 
air. And the Baron sat on a sofa leaning on his elbow with 
his hand up over his eyes and watched her under it. And he 
did n't say one word. When she fell down on another sofa and 
cried and cried, he got up and looked at her for a moment; 
but it wasn't the scornful, loving look; it was a queer, dark, 
dead way. And he just went out. And we never saw him 
alive again. 

"You know the rest, Karen. You found him. But no one 
knows why he did it, no one but you and me. He put an end 
to himself, because he couldn't stand it any longer, and to set 
her free. They called it suicidal mania and the doctors said 
he must have had melancholia for years. But I shan't ever 
forget his face when he went out, and no more will Mercedes. 
After he was gone she thought she 'd never cared for anything 
in the world but him. She never saw that young man again. 
She wrote him a letter and laid the blame on him, and said he 'd 
tried to take her from her adored husband and that she 'd never 



346 



forgive him and loathed the thought of him, and that he had 
made her the most wretched of women, and he went and blew his 
brains out and that was the end of him. I had considerable 
difficulty in getting hold of that letter. It was on him when he 
killed himself. But I managed to talk over the police and hush 
it up. Mercedes gave me plenty of money to manage with. I 
don't know what she thinks about that poor fellow ; she 's never 
named his name since that day. And she went on like a mad 
thing for two years or more. You remember about that, Karen. 
She said she'd never play the piano again or see anybody and 
wanted to go and be a nun. But she had a friend who was a 
prioress of a convent, and she advised her not to. I guess poor 
Mercedes would n't have stayed long in a convent. And the 
reason she was nice to you was because the Baron had been fond 
of you and she wanted to make up all she could for that dreadful 
thing in her life. She had you to come and live with her. You 
did n't interfere with anything any longer and it sort of soothed 
her to think it was what he ? d have liked. She ? s fond of you, 
too. She wouldn't have put up with you for so long if she 
had n't been. She ? d have found some excuse for being quit of 
you. But as for loving you, Karen child, like you thought she 
did, or like you love her, why it's pitiful. I used to wonder 
how long it would be before you found her out." 

Karen's face was hidden; she had rested it upon her hands, 
leaning forward, her elbows on her knees, and she had not 
moved while Mrs. Talcott told her story. Now, as Mrs. Talcott 
sat silent, she stirred slightly. 

" Tante ! Tante ! " she muttered. " My beautiful ! 
Mrs. Talcott did not reply to this for some moments; then she 
laid her hand on Karen's shoulder. " That 's it," she said. 
" She 's beautiful and it most kills us to find out how cruel and 
bad she can be. But I guess we can't judge people like Mer- 
cedes, Karen. When you go through life like a mowing-ma- 
chine and see everyone flatten out before you, you must get 
kind of exalted ideas about yourself. If anything happens 
that makes a hitch, or if anybody don't flatten out, why it 
must seem to you as if they were wrong in some way, doing 



.TANTE 347 



you an injury. That's the way it is with Mercedes. She don't 
mean to be cruel, she don't mean to be bad ; but she 's a mowing- 
machine and if you get in her way she'll cut you up fine and 
leave you behind. And the thing for you to do, Karen, is to 
get out of her way as quick as you can." 

" Yes, I am going," said Karen. 

Again Mrs. Talcott sat silent. " I 'd like to talk to you about 
that, Karen," she then said. " I want to ask you to give up 
going to Frau Lippheim. There ain't any sense in that. It 's 
a poor plan. What you ought to do, Karen, is to go right back 
to your nice young husband." 

Karen, who sat on as if crushed beyond the point where 
anything could crush her further, shook her head. "Do not 
ask me that, Mrs. Talcott," she said. " I can never go back to 
him." 

"But, Karen, I guess you've got to own now that he was 
right and you were wrong in that quarrel of yours. I guess 
you '11 have to own that it must have made him pretty sick to see 
her putting him in the wrong with you all the time and spoiling 
everything ; and there 's no one on earth can do that better than 
Mercedes." 

" I see it all," said Karen. " But that does not change what 
happened between Gregory and me. He does not love me. I 
I saw it plainly. If he had me back it would only be because he 
cares for conventions. He said cruel things to me," 

" I guess you said cruel things to him, Karen." 

Karen shook her head slightly, with weariness rather than im- 
patience. 

" No, for he saw that it was my loyalty to her my love of 
her that he was wounding. And he never understood. He 
never helped me. I can never go back to him, for he does not 
love me." 

" Now, see here, Karen," said Mrs. Talcott, after a pause, " you 
just let me work it out. You '11 have a good sleep and to-mor- 
row morning I '11 see you off, before Mercedes is up, to a nice 
little farm near here that I know about just a little way by 
train and there you '11 stay, nice and quiet, and I '11 not let 



348 TANTE 

Mercedes know where you are. And I '11 write to Mr. Jardine 
and tell him just what's happened and what you meant to do, 
and that you want to go to Frau Lippheim; and you mark my 
words, Karen, that nice young husband of yours '11 be here 
quicker than you can say Jack Eobinson." 

Karen had dropped her hands and was looking at her old 
friend intently. "Mrs. Talcott, you do not understand/' she 
said. " You cannot write to him. Have I not told you that he 
does not love me ? " 

" Shucks ! " said Mrs. Talcott. " He '11 love you fast enough 
now that Mercedes is out of the way." 

" But, Mrs. Talcott," said Karen, rising and looking down at 
the old woman, whose face, in the dim light, had assumed to her 
reeling mind an aspect of dangerous infatuation " I do not 
think you know what you are saying. What do I want of a man 
who only loves me when I cease to love my guardian ? " 

"Well, say you give up love, then," Mrs. Talcott persisted, 
and a panic seized Karen as she heard the unmoved tones. " Say 
you don't love him and he don't love you. You can have 
conventions, then he wants that you say, and so can you 
and a good home and a nice husband who won't treat you bad 
in any way. That's better than batting about the world all by 
yourself, Karen; you take my word for it. And you can take 
my word for it, too, that if you behave sensible and do as I say, 
you '11 find out that all this is just a miserable mistake and that 
he loves you just as much as ever. Now, see here," Mrs. Tal- 
cott, also, had risen, and stood in her habitual attitude, resting 
heavily on one hip, " you 're not fit to talk and I 'm not going 
to worry you any more. You go to sleep and we '11 see about 
what to do to-morrow. You go right to sleep, Karen," she 
patted the girl's shoulder. 

The panic was deepening in Karen. She saw guile on Mrs. 
Talcott's storm-beaten and immutable face; and she heard 
specious reassurance in her voice. Mrs. Talcott was dangerous. 
She had set her heart on this last desire of her passionless, im- 
personal life and had determined that she and Gregory should 
come together again. It was this desire that had unsealed her 



TANTE 349 

lips : she would never relinquish it. She might write to Gregory ; 
she might appeal to him and put before him the desperate plight 
in which his wife was placed. And he might come. What were 
a wife's powers if she was homeless and penniless, and a husband 
claimed her? Karen did not know; but panic breathed upon 
her, and she felt that she must fly. She, too, could use guile. 
" Yes," she said. " I will go to sleep. And to-morrow we will 
talk. But what you hope cannot be. Good-night, Mrs. Talcott." 

" Good-night, child," said Mrs. Talcott. 

They had joined hands and the strangeness of this farewell, 
the knowledge that she might never see Mrs. Talcott again, and 
that she was leaving her to a life empty of all that she had be- 
lieved it to contain, rose up in Karen so strongly that it blotted 
out for a moment her own terror. 

" You have been so good to me," she said, in a trembling 
voice. " Never shall I forget what you have done for me, Mrs. 
Talcott. May I kiss you good-night ? " 

They had never kissed. 

Mrs. Talcott's eyes blinked rapidly, and a curious contortion 
puckered her mouth and chin. Karen thought that she was 
going to cry and her own eyes filled with tears. 

But Mrs. Talcott in another moment had mastered her 
emotion, or, more probably, it could find no outlet. The silent, 
stoic years had sealed the fount of weeping. Only that dry con- 
tortion of her face spoke of her deep feeling. Karen put her 
arms around her and they kissed each other. 

" Good-night, child," Mrs. Talcott then said in a muffled voice, 
and disengaging herself she went out quickly. 

Karen stood listening to the sound of her footsteps passing 
down the corridor. They went down the little flight of stairs 
that led to another side of the house and faded away. All was 
still. 

She did not pause or hesitate. She did not seem to think. 
Swiftly and accurately she found her walking-shoes and put them 
on, her hat and cloak ; her purse with its half-crown, its sixpence 
and its few coppers. Swiftly she laid together a change of under- 
wear and took from her dressing-table its few toilet appur- 



350 TANTE 

tenances. She paused then, looking at the ornaments of her girl- 
hood. She must have money. .She must sell something; yet all 
these her guardian had given her 

No; not all. Her little gold watch ticked peacefully, lying 
on the table beside her bed as it had lain beside her for so many 
years; her beautiful little watch, treasured by her since the dis- 
tant birthday when Onkel Ernst had given it. 

She clutched it tightly in her hand and it seemed to her, as 
she had once said to Gregory, that the iron drove deep into her 
heart and turned up not only dark forgotten things but dark 
and dreadful things never seen before. 

She leaned against the table, putting the hand that held 
Onkel Ernst's watch to her eyes, and his agony became part of 
her own. How he had suffered. And the other man, the young, 
forgotten Eussian. Mrs. Talcott's story became real to her as it 
had not yet been. It entered her; it filled her past; it linked 
itself with everything that she had been and done and believed. 
And the iron drove down deeper, until of her heart there seemed 
only to be left a deep black hole. 



CHAPTER XXXVII 

}S. TALCOTT had a broken night and it was like a con- 
tinuation of some difficult and troubled dream when she 
teard the voice of Mercedes saying to her : " Tallie, Tallie, 
wake up. Tallie, will you wake ! Bon Dieu ! how she sleeps ! " 

The voice of Mercedes when she had heard it last had been the 
voice of passion and desperation, but its tone was changed this 
morning ; it was fretful, feverishly irritable, rather than frantic. 

Mrs. Talcott opened her eyes and sat up in bed. She wore a 
Jaeger nightgown and her head, with its white hair coiled at 
the top, was curiously unaltered by its informal setting. 

" What do you mean by coming waking me up like this after 
the night you 've given me," she demanded, fully awakened now. 
" Go right straight away or I '11 put you out." 

" Don't be a fool, Tallie," said Madame von Marwitz, who, in 
a silken dressing-gown and with her hair unbound, had an ap- 
pearance at once childish and damaged. " Where is Karen ? 
I 've been to her room and she is not there. The door down- 
stairs is unbolted. Is she gone out to walk so early ? " 

Mrs. Talcott sat still and upright in her bed. " What time 
is it ? " she asked. 

" It is seven. I have been awake since dawn. Do you imagine 
that I have had a pleasant night ? " 

Mrs. Talcott did not answer this query. She sprang out of 
bed. 

" Perhaps she 's gone to meet the bus at the cross-roads. But 
I told her I was going to take her. Tell Burton to come round 
with the car as quick as he can. I '11 go after her and see that 
she 's all right. Why, the child has n't got any money," Mrs. 
Talcott muttered, deftly drawing on her clothes beneath her 
nightgown which she held by the edge of the neck between her 
teeth. 

351 



352 TANTE 

Madame von Marwitz listened to her impeded utterance 
frowning. 

" The bus ? What do you mean ? Why is she meeting the 
bus?" 

" To take her to London where she 's going to the Lipp- 
heims," said Mrs. Talcott, casting aside the nightgown and re- 
vealing herself in chemise and petticoat. "You go and order 
that car, Mercedes/' she added, as she buckled together her 
sturdy, widely-waisted stays. " This ain't no time for talk." 

Madame von Marwitz looked at her for another moment and 
then rang the bell. She put her head outside the door to await 
the housemaid and, as this person made some delay, shouted in 
a loud voice : " Handcock ! Jane ! Louise ! Where are you ? 
Faineantes!" she stamped her foot, and, as the housemaid ap- 
peared, running ; " Burton," she commanded. " The car. At 
once. And tell Louise to bring me my tea-gown, my shoes and 
stockings, my fur cloak, at once ; but at once ; make haste ! " 

" What are you up to, Mercedes ? " Mrs. Talcott inquired, as 
Madame von Marwitz thrust her aside from the dressing-table 
and began to wind up her hair before the mirror. 

"I am getting ready to go with you, parbleu!" Madame von 
Marwitz replied. " Is that you, Louise ? Come in. You have 
the things? Put on my shoes and stockings; quickly; mais 
depecliez-vous done ! The tea-gown yes, over this over it I 
say! So. Now bring me a motor-veil and gloves. I shall do 
thus." 

Mrs. Talcott, while Louise with an air of profoundest gloom 
arrayed her mistress, kept silence, but when Louise had gone in 
search of the motor-veil she remarked in a low but imperative 
voice : " You '11 get out at the roa^-side and wait for me, that 's 
what you'll do. I won't have you along when I meet Karen. 
She could n't bear the sight of you." 

" Peace ! " Madame von Marwitz commanded, adjusting the 
sash of her tea-gown. " I shall see Karen. The deplorable mis- 
understanding of last night shall be set right. Her behaviour 
has been undignified and underhanded ; but I misunderstood her, 
and, pierced to the heart by the treachery of a man I trusted, I 



TANTE 353 

spoke wildly, without thought. Karen will understand. I know 
my Karen." 

It was not the moment for dispute. Louise had re-entered 
with the veil and Madame von Marwitz bound it about her head/ 
standing before the mirror, and gazing at herself, fixedly and 
unseeingly, with dark eyes set in purpled orbits. She turned 
then and swept from the room and Mrs. Talcott, pinning on her 
hat as she went, followed her. 

Not until they were speeding through the fresh, chill air, did 
Mrs. Talcott speak. Madame von Marwitz, leaning to one side 
of the open car, scanned the stretch of road before them, 
melancholy and monotonous under the pale morning sky, and 
Mrs. Talcott, moving round determinedly in her corner, faced 
her. 

" I want to tell you, right now, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, 
" that Karen 's done with you. There 's no use in your coming, 
for you '11 never get her back. I 've told her all about you, Mer- 
cedes; yes, I ain't afraid of you and you know it; I told 
her. I made up my mind to it last night after I 'd seen you 
and heard all your shameful story and how you'd treated her. 
I made up my mind that you should n't get hold of her again, 
not if I could help it. The time had come to tell that child that 
her husband was right all along and that you ain't a woman to 
be trusted. She'd seen for herself what you could do, and I 
made a sure lihmg of it. I 've held my tongue for all my life, 
but I spoke out last night. I want her to be quit of you for 
good. I want her to go back to her husband. Yes, Mercedes; 
I 've burst up the whole concern." 

Madame von Marwitz, her hand holding tightly the side of 
the car and her eyes like large, dark stones in her white face, 
was sitting upright and was staring at her. She could not 
speak and Mrs. Talcott went on. 

" She knows all about you now ; about you and Baldwin 
Tanner and you and Ernst, and about that pitiful young Eus- 
sian. She knows how you treated them. She knows how it 
was n't you but Ernst who was her real friend, and how you 
didn't want her to live with you. .She knows that you're a 
23 



354 TANTE 

mighty unfortunate creature and a mighty dangerous one; and 
what I advise you to do, Mercedes, is to get out here and go 
right home. Karen won't ever come back to you again, I 'm 
as sure of it as I 'm sure my name 's Hannah Talcott." 

They sped, with softly singing speed, through the chill morn- 
ing air. The hard, tight, dark eyeballs still fixed themselves on 
the old woman almost lifelessly, and still she sat grasping the 
side of the car. She had the look of a creature shot through the 
heart and maintaining the poise and pride of its startled and 
arrested life. Mechanical forces rather than volition seemed to 
sustain her. 

"Say, Mercedes, will you get out?" Mrs. Talcott repeated. 
And the rigid figure then moved its head slightly in negation. 

They reached the cross-roads where a few carts and an ancient 
fly stood waiting for the arrival of the omnibus that plied be- 
tween the Lizard and Helston. Karen was nowhere to be seen. 

" Perhaps she went across the fields and got into the bus at 
the Lizard," said Mrs. Talcott. "We '11 wait and see, and if 
she isn't in the bus we'll go on to Helston. Perhaps she's 
walking." 

Madame von Marwitz continued to say nothing, and in a mo- 
ment they heard behind them the clashing and creaking of the 
omnibus. It drew up at the halt and Karen was not in it. 

" To Helston," said Mrs. Talcott, standing up to speak to the 
chauffeur. 

They sped on before the omnibus had resumed its journey. 

Tints of azure and purple crept over the moors ; the whitening 
sky showed rifts of blue; it was a beautiful morning. Mrs. 
Talcott, keeping a keen eye on the surrounding country, be- 
came aware presently that Mercedes had turned her gaze upon 
her and was examining her. 

She looked round. 

There was no anger, no resentment, even, on the pallid face. 
It seemed engaged, rather, in a deep perplexity that of a child 
struck down by the hand that, till then, had cherished it. It 
brooded in sick wonder on Mrs. Talcott, and Mrs. Talcott looked 



TANTE 355 

back with her ancient, weary eyes. Madame von Marwitz broke 
the silence. She spoke in a toneless voice. " Tallie how 
could you ? " she said. " Oh, Tallie how could you have told 
her?" 

" Mercedes/' said Mrs. Talcott, gently but implacably, " I had 
to. It was right to make sure you shouldn't get hold of her 
again. She had to go, and she had to go for good. If you want 
me to go, too, I will, but it 's only fair to tell you that I never 
felt much sorrier for you than I do at this minute." 

" There have been tragedies in my life," Madame von Mar- 
witz went on in the low, dulled voice. " I have been a passion- 
tossed woman. Yes, I have not been guiltless. But how could 
you cut out my heart with all its scars and show it to my 
child?" 

"It was right to do it, Mercedes, so as you shouldn't ruin 
her life. She 's not your child, and you 've shown her she 's not. 
A mother don't behave so to her child, however off her head she 
goes." 

" I was mad last night." The tears ran slowly down Madame 
von Marwitz's cheeks. "I can tell that to Karen. I can ex- 
plain. I can throw myself on her mercy. I loved him and my 
heart was broken. One is not responsible. It is the animal, 
wounded to death, that shrieks and tears at the spear it feels 
entering its flesh." 

" I 'm awful sorry for you, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott. 

And now, hiding her face in her hands and leaning back in 
her cushions, Madame von Marwitz began to weep with the soft 
reiterated sobbing of a miserable child. "I have no one left. 
I am alone," she sobbed. "Even you have turned against 
me." 

" No, I have n't turned against you," said Mrs. Talcott. 
" I 'm here." And presently, while Mercedes wept, Mrs. Tal- 
cott took her hand and held it. 

They reached Helston and climbed the steep, stony road to 
the station. There was no sign of Karen. Mrs. Talcott got out 
and made inquiries. She might have gone to London by the 



356 TANTE 

train that left at dawn; but no one had noticed such a young 
lady. Mrs. Talcott came back to the car with her fruitless 
story. 

Mercedes, by this time, had dried her eyes and was regain- 
ing, apparently, her more normal energies. " Not here ? Not 
seen? Not heard of?" she repeated. "But where is she 
then?" 

Mrs. Talcott stood at the door of the car and looked at her 
charge. " Well, I 'm afraid she made off in the night, straight 
away, after I 'd talked to her;" 

" Made off in the night ? " A dark colour suddenly suffused 
Madame von Marwitz's face. 

" Yes, that 's it, I reckon. I must have said something to 
scare her about her going back to her husband. Perhaps she 
thought I 'd bring him down without her knowing, and per- 
haps she was n't far wrong. I 'm afraid I 've played the fool. 
She thought I 'd round on her in some way and so she just lit 
out." 

Madame von Marwitz stared at her. The expression of her 
face had entirely altered; there was no trace of the dazed and 
wretched child. Dark forces lit her eyes and the relaxed lines 
of her lips tightened. 

" Get in," she commanded. " Tell him to drive back, and get 
in." And when Mrs. Talcott had taken her place beside her 
she went on in a low, concentrated voice : " Is it not possible 
that she has joined that vile seducer ? " 

Mrs. Talcott eyed her with the fixity of a lion-tamer. Their 
moment of instinctive closeness had passed. " Now see here, 
Mercedes," she said ; " I advise you to be careful what you say." 

" Careful ! I am half mad ! Between you all you will drive 
me mad ! " said Madame von Marwitz with intensity of fury. 
"You fill Karen's mind with lies about my past oh, there 
are two sides to every story ! she shall hear my side ! you drive 
her forth with your threats to hand her over to the man she 
loathes, and she takes refuge where else? with that mis- 
creant. Why not? Where else had she to go? You say that 
she had no money. We call now at the hotel. If he is gone, 



fTANTE 357 

and if within the day we do not hear that she is with Lise, we 
will send at once for detectives/' 

"You'd better control yourself, Mercedes/' said Mrs. Tal- 
cott. "If Karen ain't found it'll be a mighty ugly story for 
you to face up to, and if she 's found it won't be all plain sail- 
ing for you either ; you 7 ve got to pay the price for what you 've 
done. But if it gets round that you drove her out and then 
spread scandal about her, you '11 do for yourself just keep your 
mind on that if you can." 

" Scandal ! What scandal shall I spread ? If he disappears 
and she with him, will the facts not shriek aloud? If she is 
found she will be found by me. I will wire at once to Lise." 

" We '11 wire to Lise and we '11 wire to Mr. Jardine, that 's 
what we '11 do. Karen may have changed her mind. She may 
have felt shy of telling me she had. She may have come to 
see that he 's the thing she 's got to hang on to. What I hope 
for is that if she ain't in London already with him, she 's hiding 
somewhere about here and has sent for him herself." 

"Ah, I understand your hope; it is of a piece with all your 
treachery," said Madame von Marwitz in a voice suffocated by 
conflicting angers. " If she is with her husband he, too, will 
hear the story the false, garbled story of my crimes. He is 
my enemy, you know it; my malignant enemy; you know that 
he will spread this affair broadcast. And you can rejoice in 
this ! You are glad for my disgrace and ruin ! " Tears again 
streamed from her eyes. 

"Don't take on so, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott. "If 
Karen 's with her husband all they 're likely to be thinking about 
is that he was right and has got her back again. Karen 's bound 
to tell him something about what happened, and you can de- 
pend upon Karen for saying as little as she can. But if you 
imagine that you 're going to be let off from being found out 
by that young man, you're letting yourself in for a big dis- 
appointment, and you can take my word for it. It's because 
he 's right about you that Karen '11 go back to him." 

Madame von Marwitz turned her head away and fixed her 
eyes on the landscape. 



358 TANTE 

They reached the little village near Les Solitudes, and at the 
little hotel, with its drowsy, out-of-season air, Mrs. Talcott 
descended, leaving Mercedes proudly seated in the car, indifferent 
to the possible gaze from above of her faithless devotee. Mrs. 
Talcott returned with the information that Mr. Drew was up- 
stairs and not yet awake. " Go up. Go up to him," said the 
tormented woman, after a moment of realized relief or dis- 
appointment who can say ? " He may have seen her. He 
may have given her money for her journey. They may have 
arranged to meet later." 

Mrs. Talcott again disappeared and she only returned after 
some ten minutes. " Home," she then said to Burton, climbing 
heavily into the car. " Yes, there he was, sleeping as peaceful 
as a dormouse in his silk pyjamas," she remarked. " I startled 
him some, I reckon, when I waked him up. No, he don't know 
anything about her. Wanted to jump up and look for her when 
I told him she was missing. Keep still, Mercedes what do 
you mean by bouncing about like that folks can see you. I 
talked to him pretty short and sharp, that young man, and I told 
him the best thing he could do now was to pack his grip-sack and 
clear out. He 's going right away and he promised to send me 
a telegram from London to-night. He can catch the second 
train." 

Madame von Marwitz leaned back. She closed her eyes. The 
car had climbed to the entrance of Les Solitudes and the fuchsia 
hedge was passing on each side. Mrs. Talcott, looking at her 
companion, saw that she had either actually fainted or was 
simulating a very realistic fainting-fit. Mercedes often had 
fainting-fits at moments of crisis; but she was a robust woman, 
and Mrs. Talcott had no reason to believe that any of them 
had been genuine. She did not believe that this one was genuine, 
yet she had to own, looking at the leaden eyelids and ashen face, 
that Mercedes had been through enough in the last twelve hours 
to break down a stronger person. And it was appropriate that 
she should return to her desolate home in a prostrate condition. 

Mrs. Talcott, as often before, played her part. The maids 
were summoned; they supported Madame von Marwitz's body; 



TANTE 359 

Burton took her shoulders and Mrs. Talcott her feet. So the 
afflicted woman was carried into the house and upstairs and laid 
upon her bed. 

Mrs. Talcott then went and sent telegrams to Frau Lippheim 
and to Gregory Jardine. She asked them to let her know if 
Karen arrived in London during the day. She had her answers 
that evening. That from Gregory ran " Not seen or heard of 
Karen. What has happened? Write by return. Or shall I 
come to you ? " The other was from the Lippheims' landlady 
and said that the Lippheims had returned to Germany four days 
before and that no one had arrived to see them. 

The evening post had gone. Mrs. Talcott went out and an- 
swered Gregory by wire : " Writing to-morrow morning. We 
think Karen is in London. Stay where you are." 



CHAPTEK XXXVIII 

MRS. TALCOTT went early to Madame von Marwitz's room 
next morning, as soon, in fact, as she had seen her break- 
fast-tray carried away. She had shown Mercedes her tele- 
grams the evening before, and Mercedes, lying on her bed where 
she had passed the day in heavy slumbers, had muttered, " Let 
me sleep. The post is gone. We can do nothing more till to- 
morrow/' Like a wounded creature she was regaining strength 
and wholeness in oblivion. When Mrs. Talcott had gone softly 
into her room at bed-time, she had found her soundly sleeping. 

But the fumes and torpors of grief and pain were this morning 
dispersed. Mercedes sat at the desk in her bedroom attired in 
a robe-de-chambre, and rapidly and feverishly wrote. 

" I 'm glad to see you 're feeling better, Mercedes," said Mrs. 
Talcott, closing the door and coming to her side. " We ? ve got a 
lot to talk over this morning. I guess we'll have to send for 
those detectives. What are you writing there ? " 

Madame von Marwitz, whose face had the sodden, slumbrous 
look that follows long repose, drew the paper quickly to one side 
and replied : " You may mind your affairs and leave me to mind 
my own. I write to my friend. I write to Mrs. Forrester." 

" You hand me that letter, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, in a 
mild but singularly determined tone, and after a moment Ma- 
dame von Marwitz did hand it to her. 

Mrs. Talcott perused the first page. Then she lifted her eyes 
to her companion, who, averting hers with a sullen look, fixed 
them on the sea outside. It was raining and the sea was leaden. 

" Now just you listen to me,' Mercedes Okraska," said Mrs. 
Talcott, heavily emphasizing her words and leaning the hand that 
held the letter on the writing-table, " I '11 go straight up to 
London and tell the whole story to Mr. Jardine and Mrs. For- 
rester the same as I told it to Karen with all that's hap- 

360 



TANTE 361 

pened here besides I will as sure as my name 's Hannah Tal- 
co tt if you write one word of that shameful idea to your 
friends. Lay down that pen." 

Madame von Marwitz did not lay it down, but she turned in 
her chair and confronted her accuser, though with averted eyes. 
" You say ' shameful. 7 I say, yes ; shameful, and true. She has 
not gone to her husband. She has not gone to the Lippheims. 
I believe that he has joined her. I believe that it was arranged. 
I believe that she is with him now." 

"You can't look me in the eye and say you believe it, Mer- 
cedes," said Mrs. Talcott. 

Madame von Marwitz looked her in the eye, sombrely, and she 
then varied her former statement. " He has pursued her. He 
has found her. He will try to keep her. He is a depraved and 
dangerous man." 

" We '11 let him alone. We 're done with him for good and all, 
I guess. My point is this: don't you write any lies to your 
friends thinking that you 're going to whiten yourself by black- 
ening Karen. I 'm speaking the sober truth when I say I '11 go 
straight off to London and tell Mr. Jardine and Mrs. Forrester 
the whole story, unless you write a letter, right now, as you sit 
here, that I can pass." 

Again averting her eyes, Madame von Marwitz clutched her 
pen in rigid fingers and sat silent. 

" It is blackmail ! Tyranny ! " she ejaculated presently. 

"All right. Call it any name you like. But my advice to 
you, Mercedes, is to pull yourself together and see this thing 
straight for your own sake. I know what 's the matter with you, 
you pitiful, silly thing; it's this young man; it makes you be- 
have like a distracted creature. But don't you see as plain as 
can be that what Karen's probably done is to go to London and 
that Mr. Jardine '11 find her in a day or two. Now when those 
two young people come together again, what kind of a story will 
Karen tell her husband about you what '11 he think of you 
what '11 your friends think of you if they all find out that in. 
addition to behaving like a wild-cat to that poor child because 
you were fairly daft with jealousy, and driving her away oh, 



362 T A N T E 

yes you did, Mercedes, it don't do any good to deny it now 
if in addition to all that they find out that you 've been trying 
to save your face by blackening her character? Why, they'll 
think you're the meanest skunk that ever walked on two legs; 
and they '11 be about right. Whereas, Mercedes," Mrs. Talcott 
had been standing square and erect for some time in front of her 
companion, and now, as her tone became more argumentative and 
persuasive, she allowed her tired old body to sag and rest heavily 
on one hip "whereas if you write a nice, kind, loving, self- 
reproachful letter, all full of your dreadful anxiety and affection 

why, if Karen ever sees it it'll soften her towards you per- 
haps; and it'll make all your friends sorry for you, too, and 
inclined to hush things up if Mr. Drew spreads the story around 

won't it, Mercedes?" Madame von Marwitz had turned 
in her chair and was staring before her with a deeply thoughtful 
eye. " Why, it 's as plain as can be, Mercedes, that that 's your 
line." 

"True," Madame von Marwitz now said. "True." Her 
voice was deep and almost solemn. " You are right. Yes ; you 
are right, Tallie." 

She leaned her forehead on her hand, shading her eyes as she 
pondered. "A letter of noble admission; of sorrow; of love. 
Ah ! you recall me to my better self. It will touch her, Tallie ; it 
is bound to touch her, is it not ? She cannot feel the bitterness 
she now feels if she reads such a letter ; is not that so, Tallie ? " 

" That 's so. You 've got it," said Mrs. Talcott. 

Madame von Marwitz, however, continued to lean on her desk 
and to shade her eyes, and some moments of silence passed thus. 
Then, as she leaned, the abjectness of her own position seemed 
suddenly borne in upon her. She pushed back her chair and 
clutching the edge of the desk with both hands, gave a low cry. 

Mrs. Talcott looked at her, inquiring, but unmoved. 

" Oh it is easy for you standing there watching my 
humiliation making your terms ! " Madame von Marwitz ex- 
claimed in bitter, trembling tones. "You see me in the dust, 

and it is you who strike me there. I am to drag myself 
with precautions apologies to that child's feet that waif ! 



TANTE 363 

that bastard ! that thing I picked up and made ! I am to 
be glad because I may hope to move her to mercy ! Ah ! it 
is too much! too much! I curs^ the day that I saw her! I 
had a presentiment I remember it now as I saw her stand- 
ing there in the forest with her foolish face. I felt in my inmost 
soul that she was to bring me sorrow. She takes him from me ! 
She puts me to shame before the world ! And I am to implore 
her to take pity on me ! " 

She had extended her clenched hand in speaking and now 
struck it violently on the desk. The silver blotter, the candle- 
sticks, the pen-tray and ink-stand leaped in their places and the 
ink, splashing up, spattered her white silk robe. 

" There now," said Mrs. Talcott, eyeing her impassively, 
" you 've gone and spoiled your nice dress/' 

" Damn the dress ! " said Madame von Marwitz. Leaning her 
elbows on the desk and her face on her hands, she wept ; the tears 
trickled between her fingers. 

But in a very little while the storm passed. She straightened 
herself, found her lace-edged handkerchief and dried her eyes 
and cheeks; then, taking a long breath, she drew forward a 
pad of paper. 

" I am a fool, am I not, Tallie," she remarked. <e And you are 
wise ; a traitor, yet wise. I will do as you say. Wait there and 
you shall see/' 

Mrs. Talcott now subsided heavily into a chair and for some 
fifteen minutes there was no sound but the scratching of Ma- 
dame von Marwitz's pen and the deep sighs that from time to 
time she heaved. 

Then: "So: will that do?" she asked, leaning back with 
the deepest of the sighs and handing the pages to Mrs. Talcott, 

Her dark, cold eyes, all clouded with weeping, had a singularly 
childlike expression as she thus passed on her letter for inspec- 
tion. And as when she had stretched out her legs for Mrs. 
Talcott to put on her stockings one saw beyond the in- 
stinctively confiding gesture a long series of scenes reaching back 
to childhood, scenes where, in crises, her own craft and violence 
and unscrupulous resource having undone her, she had fallen 



364 TASTTE 

back in fundamental dependence on the one stable and inalienable 
figure in her life. 
Mrs. Talcott read: 

" My Friend Dearest and best Beloved, I am in the straits 
of a terrible grief. I am blind with weeping, dazed from a sleep- 
less night and a day of anguish. My child, my Karen, is gone 
and, oh my friend, I am in part to blame. I am hot of blood, 
quick of tongue, as you know, and you know that Karen is 
haughty, resentful, unwilling to brook reproof even from me. 
But I do not attempt to exonerate myself. I will open my heart 
to you and my friend will read aright and interpret the broken 
words. You know that I cared for Claude Drew; you guessed 
perhaps how strong was the hold upon me of the frail, ambiguous, 
yet so intelligent modern spirit. It was to feel the Spring 
blossom once more on my frosty branches when this young life 
fell at my knees and seemed to find in me its source and goal. 
Mine was a sacred love and pain mingled with my maternal 
tenderness when he revealed himself to me as seeking from me 
the lesser things of love, the things I could not give, that ele- 
mental soil of sense and passion without which a man's devo- 
tion so strangely withers, I could give him water from the 
wells and light from the air; I could not give him earth. My 
friend, he was here when Karen came, and, already I had seen 
it, his love was passing from me. Her youth, her guilelessness, 
her courage and the loyalty of her return to me, aroused his 
curiosity, his indolent and you will remember his unsatis- 
fied, passion. I saw at once, and I saw danger. I knew him 
to be a man believing in neither good nor evil, seeking only 
beauty and the satisfaction of desire. Not once but twice, 
thrice, did I warn Karen, and she resented my warnings. She 
is a creature profoundly pure and profoundly simple and her 
stubborn spirit rests in security upon its own assurances. She 
resented my warnings and she repulsed my attempts to lead 
and guard her. Another difference had also come between us. 
I hoped to effect a reconciliation between her and her husband; 
I suggested to Karen that I should write to you and offer myself 



TANTE 365 

as an intermediary; I could not bear to see her young life ruined 
for my sake. Karen was not kind to me; the thought of her 
husband is intolerable to her and she turned upon me with 
bitterness. I was hurt and I told her so. She brought me to 
tears. My friend, it was late on the night of that day the 
night before last that I found her with Claude Drew in the 
garden; and found her in his arms. Do not misunderstand; 
she had not returned his love ; she repulsed him as I came upon 
them; but I, in my consternation, my anger, my dismay, 
snatched her from him and spoke to them both with passionate 
reproof. I sent Karen to the house and remained behind to 
deal with the creature who had so betrayed my trust. He is 
now my avowed enemy. So be it. I do not see him again. 

" At dawn, after a sleepless night, I went to Karen's room to 
take her in my arms and to ask her pardon for my harsh words. 
She was gone. Gone, my friend. Tallie tells me that she be- 
lieved me to have said that unless she could obey me I must 
forbid her to remain under my roof. These were not my words ; 
but she had misunderstood and had fiercely resented my dis- 
pleasure. She told Tallie that she would go to the Lippheims, 
for them, as I have told you, she has a deep affection. Tallie 
urged upon her that she should communicate with her husband, 
let him know what had happened, return to him even if it 
were to blacken me in his eyes and would to God that it had 
been so ! But she repulsed the suggestion with bitterness. It 
must also have filled her with terror lest we should ourselves 
make some further attempt to bring about a reconciliation; for 
it was in the night, and immediately after her talk with Tallie, 
that she went, although she and Tallie had arranged that she 
was to go to the Lippheims next day. 

" We have wired to the Lippheims and find that they have left 
England. And we have wired to Mr. Jardine, and she is not 
with him. She may be on her way to Germany; she may be 
concealed in the country near here; she may be in London. 
Unless we have news of her to-morrow I send for a detective. 
Oh, to hold her in my arms! I am crushed to the earth with 



366 TANTE 

sorrow and remorse. Show this letter to her husband. I have 
no thought of pride. 

"Your devoted and unhappy Mercedes." 

Mrs. Talcott read and remained for some moments reflecting 
after she had read. "Well, I suppose that's got to do," she 
commented, "though I don't call it a satisfactory letter. 
You ? ve fixed it up real smart, but it 's a long way off the truth." 

Madame von Marwitz, while Mrs. Talcott read, had been put- 
ting back the disordered strands of her hair, adjusting her laces, 
and dabbing vaguely with her handkerchief at the splashes of 
ink that disfigured the front of her dress thereby ruining the 
handkerchief; she looked up sharply now. 

" I deny that it is a long way off the truth." 

"A long way off," Mrs. Talcott repeated colourlessly; "but 
I guess it '11 have to do. I 'm willing you should make the best 
story out for yourself you can to your friends, so long as Karen 
knows the truth and so long as you don't spread scandal about 
her. Now I '11 write to Mr. Jardine." 

Madame von Marwitz's eyes were still fixed sharply on her 
and a sudden suspicion leapt to them. " Here then ! " she ex- 
claimed. " You write in my presence as I have done in yours. 
And we go to the village together that I may see you post the 
self -same letter. I have had enough of betrayals ! " 

Mrs. Talcott allowed a grim smile to touch her lips. "My, 
but you 're silly, Mercedes," she said. " Get up, then, and let me 
sit there. I 'd just as leave I 'm sure. You know I 'm deter- 
mined that Karen shall go back to her husband and that I 'm go- 
ing to do all I can so as she shall. So there 's nothing I want 
to hide." 

She took up the pen and Madame von Marwitz leaned over her 
shoulder and read as she wrote: 

"Dear Mr. Jardine, Mercedes and Karen have had a dis- 
agreement and Karen took it very hard and has made off, we 
don't know where. Go round to Mrs. Forrester and see what 
Mercedes has got to say about it. Karen will tell you her side 



TANTE 367 

when you see her. She feels very bad about you yet ; and thinks 
things are over between you ; but you hang on, Mr. Jardine, and 
it '11 all come right. You 'd better find out whether Karen 's 
called at the Lippheims' and get a detective and try and trace her 
out. If she 'a with them in Germany I advise you to go right 
over and see her. Yours sincerely, 

" Hannah Talcott." 

Mrs. Talcott, as she finished, heard that the breathing of Mer- 
cedes, close upon her, had become heavier. She did not look at 
her. .She knew what Mercedes was feeling, and dreading; and 
that Mercedes was helpless. 

" There 's no reason under the sun why Handcock should n't 
take these letters as usual," she remarked ; " but if you 're set on 
it that you 're being betrayed, put on your shoes and dress and 
we '11 walk down and mail them together." 



CHAPTER XXXIX 

IT was on the second morning after this that the letters were 
brought in to Madame von Marwitz while she and Mrs. 
Talcott sat in the music-room together. 

The two days had told upon them both. The face of Mer- 
cedes was like a beautiful fruit, rain-sodden and gnawed at 
the heart by a worm. Mrs. Talcott's was more bleached, more 
desolate, more austere. 

The one letter that Handcock brought to Mrs. Talcott was 
from Gregory Jardine: 

" Dear Mrs. Talcott," it said, " Thank you for your kind note. 
I am very unhappy and only a little less unhappy than when 
Karen left me. One cause of our estrangement is, perhaps, re- 
moved ; but the fact borne in upon me at the time of that part- 
ing was that, while she was everything in life to me, she hardly 
knew the meaning of the words love and marriage. I need not 
tell you that I will do all in my power to induce her to return 
to me, and all in my power to win her heart. It was useless 
to make any attempt at reconciliation while her guardian stood 
between us. I cannot pretend that I feel more kindly towards 
Madame von Marwitz now; rather the reverse. It is plain to 
me that she has treated Karen shamefully. You must for- 
give me for my frankness. Sincerely yours, 

" Gregory Jardine." 

Mrs. Talcott when she looked up from this letter saw that 
Mercedes was absorbed in hers. Her expression had stiffened 
as she read, and when she ?^ad finished the hand holding it 
dropped to her side. She sat looking down in a dark con- 
templation. 

868 



TANTE 369 

Mrs. Talcott asked no question. United in the practical exi- 
gencies of their search for Karen, united in their indestructible 
relation of respective dependence and stability, which the last 
catastrophe had hardly touched for Mercedes had accepted her 
betrayal with a singular passivity, as if it had been a force of 
nature that had overtaken her there was yet a whole new re- 
gion of distrust between them. She and Mercedes, as Mrs. 
Talcott cheerlessly imaged it, were like a constable and his cap- 
tive adrift, by a curious turn of fortune, on the waters of a 
sudden inundation. Together they baled out water and worked 
at the oar, but both were aware that when the present peril was 
past a sentence had still to be carried out on one of them. Mer- 
cedes could not evade her punishment. If Karen were found 
Gregory Jardine must come to know that her guardian had, 
literally, driven her from her home. In that case it rested with 
Gregory's sense of mercy whether Mercedes should be exposed 
to the world or not. And after reading Gregory's letter Mrs. 
Talcott reflected that there was not much to hope of mercy from 
him. So she showed a tactful consideration of her companion's 
state of nerves by pressing her no further than was necessary. 

On this occasion, however, there was no need for pressure; 
Mercedes, in her dismal plight, turned to her with the latest 
development of it. 

" Ah," she said, while she still continued to gaze down fixedly, 
" this it is to have true friends. This is human loyalty. It is 
well." 

" What 's the matter, Mercedes ? " Mrs. Talcott asked, as she 
was evidently invited to do. 

" Eead if you will," said Madame von Marwitz. She held out 
the letter which Mrs. Talcott rose to take. 

It was from Mrs. Forrester and was full of sympathy for her 
afflicted friend, and full of sympathy for foolish, headstrong little 
Karen. The mingled sympathies rang strangely. She avowed 
self-reproach. She was afraid that she had precipitated the 
rupture between Karen and her husband, not quite, perhaps, 
understanding the facts. She had seen Gregory, she was very 

sorry for him. She was, apparently, sorry for everyone; except 

24 



370 TANTE 

of course, Mr. Drew, the villain of the piece; but of Mr. Drew 
and of Mercedes's sacred love for him, she made no mention. 
Mrs. Forrester was fond, but she was wary. She had received, 
evidently, her dim thrust of disillusion. Mercedes had blamed 
herself and Mrs. Forrester did not deny that Mercedes must be 
to blame. 

" Yes ; she 's feeling pretty sick," Mrs. Talcott commented 
when she had read. " The trouble is that anybody who knows 
how much Karen loved you knows that she would n't have made 
off like that without you'd treated her ugly. That'll be the 
trouble with most of your friends, I reckon. Who 's your other 
letter from?" 

Madame von Marwitz roused herself from her state of con- 
templation. She opened the second letter saying, tersely: 
" Scrotton." 

" She ain't likely to take sides with Karen," Mrs. Talcott 
observed, inserting her hand once more in the stocking she was 
darning, these homely occupations having for the last few days 
been brought into the music-room, since Mercedes would not be 
left alone. ".She was always just as jealous of Karen as could 
be." 

She proceeded to darn and Madame von Marwitz to read, and 
as she read a dark flush mounted to her face. Clenching her 
hand on Miss Scrotton's letter, she brought it down heavily on 
the back of the chair she sat in. Then, without speaking, she 
got up, tossed the letter to Mrs. Talcott, and began to pace the 
room, setting the furniture that she encountered out of her way 
with vindictive violence. 

"My Darling, Darling Mercedes," Miss Scrotton wrote, 
" This is too terrible. Shall I come to you at once ? I thought 
this morning after I had seen Mrs. Forrester and read your heart- 
breaking letter that I would start to-day; but let me hear from 
you , you may be coming up to town. If you stay in Cornwall, 
Mercedes, you must not be alone; you must not; and I am, as 
you know, devoted heart and soul. If all the world turned 
against you, Mercedes, I should keep my faith in you. I need 



TANTE 371 

hardly tell you what is being said. Claude Drew is in London 
and though, naturally, he does not dare face your friends with 
his story, rumours are abroad. Betty Jardine does not know 
him, but already she has heard ; I met her only a few hours ago 
and the miserable little creature was full of malicious satisfac- 
tion. The story that she has heard and believes and that 
London will believe is the crude, gross one that facts, so dis- 
astrously, have lent colour to; you, in a fit of furious jealousy, 
driving Karen away. My poor, great, suffering friend, I need 
not tell you that I understand. Your letter rings true to me 
in every line, and is but too magnanimous. Oh Mercedes ! 
had you but listened to my warnings about that wretched man. 
Do you remember that I told you that you were scattering your 
pearls before swine? And your exculpation of Karen did not 
convince me as it seemed to do Mrs. Forrester. A really guile- 
less woman is not found late at night in a man's arms. 
I cannot forget Karen's origins. There must be in her the ele- 
ment of reckless passion. Mr. Drew is spreading a highly 
idealised account of her and says that to see you together was 
to see Antigone in the clutches of Clytemnestra. There is some 
satisfaction in knowing that the miserable man is quite distracted 
and is haunted by the idea that Karen may have committed 
suicide. Betty Jardine says that in that case you and he would 
have to appear at the inquest. Oh, my poor Mercedes ! But 
I feel sure that this is impossible. Temper, not tragedy, drove 
Karen from you and it was on her part a dastardly action. I 
am seeing everybody that I can; they shall have my version. 
The Duchess is in the country ; I have wired to her that I will go 
to her at once if you do not send for me ; it is important that she 
should have the facts as I see them before these abominable 
rumours reach her. Dear Mrs. Forrester means, I am sure, to 
do loyally ; you may count upon her to listen to no scandal ; but 
its breath alarms and chills her: she does not interpret your 
letter as I do. 

" Good-bye, my dear one. Wire to me please, at once. 
Ever and always ton Eleanor devouee." 



372 TANTE 

" Well/' Mrs. Talcott commented warily, folding the letter and 
glancing at Madame von Marwitz ; " she don't let any grass grow 
under her feet, does she ? Do you want her down ? " 

"Want her! Why should I want her! The insufferable 
fool ! " cried Madame von Marwitz still striding to and fro with 
tigerish regularity. " Does she think me, too, a fool, to be taken 
in by her grimaces of loyalty when it is as apparent as the day 
that delight is her chief emotion. Here is her opportunity 
parlleu! At last ! I am in the dust and if also in the dock 
so much the better. She will stand by me when others fall away. 
She will defend the prostrate Titaness from the vultures that 
prey upon her and gain at last the significance she has, for so 
long, so eagerly and so fruitlessly pursued. Ah ! par exemple ! 
Let her come to me expecting gratitude. I will spurn her from 
me like a dog ! " Madame von Marwitz, varying her course, 
struck a chair aside as she spoke. 

"Well, I shouldn't fly out at her if I was you," said Mrs. 
Talcott. " She 's as silly as they make 'em, I allow, but it 's 
all to the good if her silliness keeps her sticking to you through 
thick and thin. It's just as well to have someone around to 
drive off the vultures, even if it 's only a scarecrow and Miss 
Scrotton is better than that. She 's a pretty brainy woman, for 
all her silliness, and she 's pretty fond of you, too, only you 
haven't treated her as well as she thinks you ought to have, 
and it makes her feel kind of spry and cheerful to see that her 
time 's come to show you what a fine fellow she is. Most folks 
are like that, I guess/' Mrs. Talcott mused, returning to her 
stocking, (< they don't suffer so powerful over their friends' 
misfortunes if it gives them a chance of showing what fine fel- 
lows they are." 

" Friends ! " Madame von Marwitz repeated with scorching 
emphasis. " Friends ! Truly I have proved them, these friends 
of mine. Cowards and traitors all, or crouching hounds. 1 am 
to be left, I perceive, with the Scrotton as my sole companion/' 
But now she paused in her course, struck by a belated memory. 
" You had a letter. You have heard from the husband." 

" Yes, I have/' said Mrs. Talcott, " and you may as well see it." 



TANTE 373 

She drew forth Gregory's letter from under the heap of darning 
appliances on her lap. 

Madame von Marwitz snatched it from her and read it, once 
rapidly, once slowly; and then, absorbed again in dark medita- 
tions, she stood holding it, her eyes fixed on the ground. 

" He ain't as violent as might be expected, is he ? " Mrs. Tal- 
cott suggested. Distrust was abroad in the air between her and 
Mercedes; she offered the fact of Gregory's temperateness as 
one that might mitigate some anticipations. 

" He is as insolent as might be expected/' said Madame von 
Marwitz. She flung the letter back to Mrs. Talcott, resuming 
her pacing, with a bitter laugh. " And to think," she said pres- 
ently, " that I hoped but truly hoped with all my heart 
to reconcile them! To think that I offered myself to Karen as 
an intermediary. It was true yes, literally true what I told 
Mrs. Forrester that I spoke to Karen of it with all love 
and gentleness and that she turned upon me like a tigress." 

" And you '11 recollect," said Mrs. Talcott, " that I told you to 
keep your hands off them and that you 'd made enough mischief 
as it was. Why I guess you did hope she'd go back. You 
wanted to get rid of Karen and to have that young man to 
yourself ; that 's the truth, but you did n't tell that to Mrs. For- 
rester." 

" I deny it," said Madame von Marwitz ; but mechanically ; 
her thoughts were elsewhere. She still paced. 

"Well," said Mrs. Talcott, "you'd better send that telegram 
to Miss Scrotton, telling her not to come, or you'll have her 
down here as soon as she 's seen the Duchess." 

" Send it ; send it at once," said Madame von Marwitz. " Tell 
her that I do not need her. Tell her that I will write." The 
force of her fury had passed; counsels of discretion were mak- 
ing themselves felt. " Go at once and send it." 

She paused again as Mrs. Talcott rose. "If Karen is not 
found within three days, Tallie, I go to London. I believe that 
she is in London." 

Mrs. Talcott faced her. " If she 's in London she '11 be found 
as soon by Mr. Jardine as by you." 



374 TANTE 

" Yes ; that may be," said Mercedes, and discretion, now, had 
evidently the mastery; "but Karen will not refuse to see me. 
I must see her. I must implore her forgiveness. You would not 
oppose that, would you, Tallie ? " 

" No, I 'd not oppose your asking her to forgive you," Mrs. 
Talcott conceded, " when she 's got back to her husband. Only I 
advise you to stay where you are till you hear she's found." 

"I will do as you say, Tallie," said Madame von Marwitz 
meekly. She went to the piano, and seating herself began to 
play the Wohltemperirtes Clavier, 



CHAPTER XL 

SIX days had passed since Karen's disappearance. The coun- 
try had been searched; London, still, was being examined, 
and the papers were beginning to break into portraits of the 
missing girl. Karen became remote, non-existent, more than 
dead, it seemed, when her face, like that of some heroine of 
a newspaper novelette, gazed at one from the breakfast-table. 
The first time that this happened, Madame von Marwitz, fling- 
ing the sheet from her, had burst into a violent storm of weep- 
ing. 

She sat, on the afternoon of the sixth day, in a sunny corner of 
the lower terrace and turned the leaves of a book with a listless 
hand. She was to be alone till dinner-time ; Tallie had gone in 
to Helston by bus, and she had the air of one who feels solitude 
at once an oppression and a relief. She read little, raising her 
eyes to gaze unseeingly over the blue expanses stretched beneath 
her or to look down as vaguely into the eyes of Victor, who 
lay at her feet. The restless spirit of the house had reached 
Victor. He lay with his head on his extended paws in an atti- 
tude of quiescence; but his ears were pricked to watchfulness, 
his eyes, as he turned them now and again up to his mistress, 
were troubled. Aware of his glance, on one occasion, Madame 
von Marwitz stooped and caressed his head, murmuring: 
"Nous sommes des infortunes, hem, mon chien." Her voice 
was profoundly sad. Victor understood her. Slightly thudding 
his tail he gave a soft responsive groan; and it was then, while 
she still leaned to him and still caressed his head, that shrill, 
emphatic voices struck on Madame von Marwitz's ear. 

The gravelled nook where she sat, her garden chair, with its 
adjusted cushions, set against a wall, was linked by ascending 
paths and terraces to the cliff-path, and this again, though only 
through a way overgrown with gorse and bramble, to the public 

375 



376 TANTE 

coast-guards' path along the cliff-top. The white stones that 
marked the way for the coast-guards made a wide detour behind 
Madame von Marwitz's property and this nearer egress to the 
cliff was guarded by a large placard warning off trespassers. 
Yet, looking in the direction of the voices, Madame von Mar- 
witz, to her astonishment, saw that three ladies, braving the 
interdict, were actually marching down in single file upon her. 

One was elderly and two were young; they wore travelling 
dress, and, as she gazed at them in chill displeasure, the features 
of the first became dimly familiar to her. Where, she could not 
have said, yet she had seen that neat, grey head before, that box- 
like hat with its depending veil, that firmly corseted, matronly 
form, with its silver-set pouch, suggesting, typical of the travel- 
ling American lady as it was, a marsupial species. She did not 
know where she had seen this lady; but she was a travelling 
American; she accosted one in determined tones, and, at some 
time in the past, she had waylaid and inconvenienced her. Ma- 
dame von Marwitz, as the three trooped down upon her, did 
not rise. She pointed to the lower terrace. " This is private 
property," she said, and her aspect might well have turned the 
unwary visitors, Acteon-like, into stags, " I must ask you to 
leave it at once. You see the small door in the garden wall 
below; it is unlocked and it leads to the village. Good-day to 
you/ 5 

But, with a singularly bright and puckered look, the look of a 
surf -bather, who measures with swift eye the height of the roll- 
ing breaker and plunges therein, the elderly lady addressed her 
with extraordinary volubility. 

"Baroness, you don't remember us but we've met before, 
we have a mutual friend : Mrs. General Tollman of St. Paul's, 
Minnesota. Allow me to introduce myself again : Mrs. Slif er 
Mrs. Hamilton K. .Slifer: my girls, Maude and Beatrice. 
We had the privilege of making your acquaintance over a year 
ago, Baroness, at the station in London, just before you sailed, 
and we had some talks on the steamer to that perfectly charm- 
ing woman, Miss Scrotton. I hope she 's well. We 're over 
again this year, you see; we pine for dear old England and 



TANTE 377 

come just as often as we can. We feel we belong here more 
than over there sometimes, I 'm afraid," Mrs. Slifer laughed 
swiftly and deprecatingly. "My girls are so often taken for 
English girls, the Burne- Jones type you know. We've got 
friends staying at Mullion, so we thought we 'd just drop down 
on Cornwall for a little tour after we landed at Southampton, 
and we drove over this afternoon and came down by the cliff 
we are just crazy about your scenery, Baroness it's just 
the right setting for you we 've been saying so all day 
to have a peek at the house we've heard so much about; and 
we don't want to disturb you, but it 's the greatest possible pleas- 
ure, Baroness, to have this beautiful glimpse of you with your 
splendid dog how d' ye do, Victor why I do believe he re- 
members me; we petted him so much at the station when your 
niece was holding him. We saw Mrs. Jardine the other day, 
Baroness such a pleasant surprise that was, too only we 're 
sorry to see she 's so delicate. The New Forest will be just the 
place for her. We stayed there three days after landing, be- 
cause my Beatrice here was very sea-sick and I wanted her to 
have a little rest. We were simply crazy over it. I do hope 
Mrs. Jardine 's getting better/' 

All this had been delivered with such speed, such an air of 
decision and purpose, that Madame von Marwitz, who had risen 
in her bewildered indignation and stood, her book beneath hei> 
arm, her white cloak caught about her, had found no opportunity 
to check the torrent of speech, and as these last words came as 
swiftly and as casually as the rest she could hardly, for a mo- 
ment, collect her faculties. 

" My niece ? Mrs. Jardine ? " she repeated, with a wild, wan 
utterance. "What do you say of her?" 

It was at this moment that Miss Beatrice began, in the back- 
ground, to adjust her camera. She told her mother and sister 
afterwards that she seemed to feel it in her bones that some- 
thing was doing. 

Mrs. Slifer, emerging from her breaker in triumph, struck out, 
blinking and smiling affably. " We heard all about the wedding 
in America," she said, " and we thought we might call upon her 



378 TANTE 

in London and see that splendid temple you'd given her we 
heard all about that, too. I never saw a picture of him, but I 
knew her in a minute, naturally, though she did look so pulled 
down. Why, Baroness what 's the matter ! " 

Madame von Marwitz had suddenly clutched Mrs. Slifer's arm 
with an almost appalling violence of mien and gesture. 

" What is the matter ? " Madame von Marwitz repeated, shak- 
ing Mrs. Slifer's arm. "Do you know what you are saying? 
My niece has been lost for a week ! The whole country is search- 
ing for her! Where have you seen her? When was it? An- 
swer me at once ! " 

" Why Baroness, by all means, but you need n't shake my head 
off," said Mrs. Slifer, not without dignity, raising her free hand 
to straighten her hat. "We've never heard a word about it. 
Why this is perfectly providential. Baroness I must ask you 
not to go on shaking me like that. I 've got a very delicate 
stomach and the least thing upsets my digestion." 

" Jusies deux!" Madame von Marwitz cried, dropping Mrs. 
Slifer's arm and raising her hands to her head, while, in the 
background, Miss Beatrice's kodak gave a click "Will the 
woman drive me mad ! Karen ! My child ! Where is she ! " 

"Why, we saw her at the station at Brockenhurst in the 
New Forest did n't we Maude," said Mrs. Slifer, " and it must 
have been now let me see " poor Mrs. Slifer collected her 
wits, a bent forefinger at her lips. " To-day 's Thursday and 
we got to Mullion yesterday and we stopped at Winchester 
for a day and night on our way to the New Forest, it was on 
Saturday last of course. We 'd been having a drive about that 
part of the forest and we were taking the train and they had 
just come and we saw them on the opposite platform. He was 
just helping her out of the train and we did n't have any time 
to go round and speak to them " 

" They ! " Madame von Marwitz nearly shouted. " She was 
with a man! Last Saturday! Who was it? Describe him to 
me ! Was he slender with fair hair dark eyes the air 
of a poet ? " She panted. And her aspect was so singular 



TANTE 379 

that Miss Beatrice, startled out of her professional readiness, 
failed to snap it. 

" Why no," said Mrs. Slifer, keeping her clue. " I should n't 
say a poetical looking man, should you, Maude? A fleshy man 
very big and fleshy, and he was taking such good care of her 
and looked so kind of tender and worried that I concluded he 
was her husband. She looked like a very sick woman, Baroness." 

" Fleshy ? " Madame von Marwitz repeated, and the word, in 
her moan, was almost graceful. " Fleshy, you say ? An old 
man? A stout old man?" she held her hands distractedly 
pressed to her head. " What stout old man does Karen know ? 
Is it a stranger she has met?" 

" No, he was n't old. This was a young man, Baroness. He 
had now let me see his hair was sort of red I remember 
noticing his hair ; and he wore knee-pants and a soft hat with a 
feather in it and was very high coloured." 

" Bon Dieu!" Madame von Marwitz gasped. She had again, 
while Mrs. Slifer spoke, seized her by the arm as though afraid 
that she might escape her and she now gazed with a fixed gaze 
above Mrs. Slifer's head and through the absorbed Maude and 
Beatrice. " Eed hair ? A large young man ? Was he clean 
shaven? Did he wear eyeglasses? Had he the face of a musi- 
cian? Did he look like an Englishman an English gentle- 
man?" 

Mrs. Slifer, nodding earnest assent to the first questions, 
shook her head at the latter. " No, he did n't. What I said to 
Maude and Beatrice was that Mr. Jardine looked more German 
than English. He looked just like a German student, Baroness." 

" Franz Lippheim ! " cried Madame von Marwitz. She sank 
back upon the seat from which she had risen, putting a hand 
before her eyes. 

Victor, at her knees, laid a paw upon her lap and whined an 
interrogative sympathy. The three American ladies gathered 
near and gazed in silence upon the great woman, and Beatrice, 
carefully adjusting her camera, again took a snap. The picture 
of Madame von Marwitz, with her hand before her eyes, her 



380 TANTE 

anxious dog at her knees, found its way into the American press 
and illustrated touchingly the story of the lost adopted child. 
Madame von Marwitz was not sorry when, among a batch of 
press-cuttings, she came across the photograph and saw that her 
most genuine emotion had been thus made public. 

She looked up at last, and the dizziness of untried and 
perilous freedom was in her eyes ; but curious, now, of other ob- 
jects, they took in, weighed and measured the little group before 
her ; power grew in them, an upwelling of force and strategy. 

She smiled upon the Slifers and she rose. 

" You have done me an immeasurable service," she said, and 
as she spoke she took Mrs. Slifer's hand with a noble dignity. 
" You have lifted me from despair. It is blessed news that you 
bring. My child is safe with a good, a talented man; one for 
whom I have the deepest affection. And in the New Forest 
at Brockenhurst on .Saturday. Ah, I shall soon have her in 
my arms." 

Still holding Mrs. Slifer's hand she led them up the terraces 
and towards the house. " The poor child is ill, distraught. She 
had parted from her husband fled from him. Ah, it has been 
a miserable affair, that marriage. But now, all will be well. 
Bon Dieu! what joy! What peace of heart you have brought 
me ! I shall be with her to-morrow. I start at once. And you, 
my good friends, let me hear your plans. Let me be of service 
to you. Come with me for the last stage of your journey. I 
will not part with you willingly." 

" It ? s all simply too wonderful, Baroness," Mrs. Slifer gasped, 
as she skipped along on her short legs beside the goddess-like 
stride of the great woman, who held her who held her very 
tightly. " We were just going to drift along up to Tintagel and 
then work up to London, taking in all the cathedrals we could 
on our way." 

"And you will change your route in order to give me the 
pleasure of your company. You will forfeit Tintagel: is it not 
so ? " Madame von Marwitz smiled divinely. " You will come 
with me in my car to Truro where we take the train and I will 
drop you to-night at the feet of a cathedral. So. Your luggage 



TANTE 381 

is at Mullion? That is simple. We wire to your friends to 
pack and send it on at once. Leave it to me. You are in my 
hands. It is a kindness that you will do me. I need you, Mrs. 
Slifer," she pressed the lady's arm. " My old friend, who lives 
with me, has left me for the day, and, moreover, she is too 
old to travel. I must not be alone. I need you. It is a kind- 
ness that you will do me. Now you will wait for me here and 
tea will be brought to you. I shall keep you waiting but for a 
few moments." 

It was to be lifted on the back of a genie. She had wafted 
them up, along the garden paths, across the verandah, into the 
serenity and spaciousness and dim whites and greens and silvers 
of the great music-room, with a backward gaze that had, in all 
its sweetness, something of hypnotic force and fixity. 

She left them with the Sargent portrait looking down at 
them and the room in its strangeness and beauty seemed part 
of the spell she laid upon them. The Slifers, herded together 
in the middle of it, gazed about them half awe-struck and spoke 
almost in whispers. 

" Why, girls," said Mrs. Slifer, who was the first to find words, 
" this is the most thrilling thing I ever came across." 

"You've pulled it off this time, mother, and no mistake," 
said Maude, glancing somewhat furtively up at the Sargent. 
"Do look at that perfectly lovely dress she has on in that 
picture. Did you ever see such pearls; and the eyes seem to 
follow you, don't they ? " 

"The poor, distracted thing just clings to us," said Mrs. 
Slifer. " I should n't wonder if she was as lonely as could be." 

" All the same," Beatrice, the doubting Thomas of the group, 
now commented, "I don't think however excited she was she 
ought to have shaken you like that, mother." Beatrice had ex- 
amined the appurtenances of the great room with a touch of 
'nonchalance. It was she whom Gregory had seen at the station, 
seated on the pile of luggage. 

" That 's petty of you, Bee," said Mrs. Slifer gravely. " Eeal 
small and petty. It's a great soul at white heat we've been 
looking at." 



382 TANTE 

Handcock at this point brought in tea, and after she had 
placed the tray and disposed the plates of cake and bread-and- 
butter and left the Slifers alone again, Mrs. Slifer went on 
under her breath, seating herself to pour out the tea. "And 
do look at this teapot, girls ; is n't it too cute for words. My ! 
What will the Jones say when they hear about this! They'd 
give their eye-teeth to be with us now." 

The Slifers, indeed, were never to forget their adventure. It 
was to be impressed upon their minds not only by its supreme 
enviableness but by its supreme discomfort. It was almost five 
when, like three Ganymedes uplifted by the talons of a fierce, 
bright bird, they soared with Madame von Marwitz towards 
Truro, and at Truro, in spite of a reckless speed which desper- 
ately dishevelled their hair and hats, they arrived too late to 
catch the 6.40 train for Exeter. 

Madame von Marwitz strode majestically along the platform, 
her white cloak trailing in the dust, called for station-masters, 
demanded special trains, fixed haughty, uncomprehending eyes 
upon the officials who informed her that she could not possibly 
get a train until ten, resigned herself, with sundry exclamations 
of indignation and stamps of the foot, to the tedious wait, sailed 
into the refreshment room only to sail out again, mounted the 
car not yet dismissed, bore the Slifers to a hotel where they had 
a dinner over which she murmured at intervals "Bon Dieu, 
est-ce-donc possible!" and then, in the chill, dark evening, 
toured about in the adjacent country until ten, when Burton 
was sent back to Les Solitudes and when they all got into the 
train for Exeter. 

She had never in all her life travelled alone before. She 
hardly knew how to procure her ticket, and her helplessness in 
regard to box and dressing-case was so apparent that Mrs. 
Slifer saw to the one and Maude carried the other, together 
with the fur-lined coat when this was thrown aside. 

The hours that they passed with her in the train were the 
strangest that the Slifers had ever passed. They were chilled, 
they were sleepy, they were utterly exhausted; but they kept 



TANTE 383 

their eyes fixed on the perplexing, resplendent object that up- 
bore them. 

Beatrice, it is true, showed by degrees, a slight sulkiness. 
She had not liked it when, at Truro, Madame von Marwitz 
had supervised their wires to the Jones, and she liked it less 
when Madame von Marwitz explained to them in the train 
that she relied upon them not to let the Jones or anybody 
for the present know anything about Mrs. Jardine. Some- 
thing in Madame von Marwitz' s low-toned and richly murmured 
confidences as she told Maude and Mrs. Slifer that it was im- 
portant for Mrs. Jardine's peace of mind, and for her very 
sanity, that her dreaded husband should not hear of her where- 
abouts, made Beatrice, as she expressed it to herself, " tired." 

She looked out of the window while her mother and sister 
murmured, "Why certainly, Baroness; why yes; we perfectly 
understand/' leaning forward in the illuminated carriage like 
docile conspirators. 

After this Madame von Marwitz said that she would try to 
sleep; but, propped in her corner, she complained so piteously 
of discomfort that Mrs. Slifer and Maude finally divested 
themselves of their jackets and contrived a pillow for her out 
of them. They assured her that they were not cold and Madame 
von Marwitz, reclining now at full length, murmured " Mille 
remerdements" Soon she fell asleep and Mrs. Slifer and 
Maude, very cold and very unresentful, sat and watched her 
slumbers. From time to time she softly snored. She was very 
comfortable in her fur-lined cloak. 

It was one o'clock when they reached Exeter and drove, dazed 
and numbed, to a hotel. Here Madame von Marwitz further 
availed herself of the services of Maude and Mrs. Slifer, for she 
was incapable of unpacking her box and dressing-case. Mrs. 
Slifer maided her while Maude, with difficulty at the late hour, 
procured her hot water, bouillon and toast. Beatrice mean- 
while, callously avowing her unworthiness, said that she was 
" dead tired " and went to bed. 

Madame von Marwitz bade Mrs. Slifer and Maude the kindest 



384 T A N T E 

good-night, smiling dimly at them over her bed-room candle- 
stick as she ushered them to the door. " So," she said ; " I 
leave yon to your cathedral." 

When the .Slifers arose next day, late, for they were very 
weary, they found that Madame von Marwitz had departed by 
an early train. 

Meanwhile, at Les Solitudes, old Mrs. Talcott turned from 
side to side all night, sleepless. Her heart was heavy with 
anxiety. 

Karen was found and to-morrow Mercedes would be with her ; 
she had sent for Mercedes, so the note pinned to Mrs. Talcott's 
dressing-table had informed her, and Mercedes would write. 

What had happened ? Who were the unknown ladies who had 
appeared from no one knew where during her absence at Helston 
and departed with Mercedes for Truro? 

" Something ? s wrong. Something 's wrong," Mrs. Talcott 
muttered to herself during the long hours. " I don't believe 
she 's sent for Mercedes not unless she 's gone crazy." 

At dawn she fell at last into an uneasy sleep. She dreamed 
that she and Mercedes were walking in the streets of Cracow, 
and Mercedes was a little child. She jumped beside Mrs. 
Talcott, holding her by the hand. The scene was innocent, yet 
the presage of disaster filled it with a strange horror. Mrs. 
Talcott woke bathed in sweat. 

" I '11 get an answer to my telegram this morning," she said 
to herself. She had telegraphed to Gregory last night, at once : 
"Karen is found. Mercedes has gone to her. That's all I 
know yet." 

She clung to the thought of Gregory's answer. Perhaps he, 
too, had news. But she had no answer to her telegram. The 
post, instead, brought her a letter from Gregory that had been 
written the morning before. 

"Dear Mrs. Talcott," it ran. "Karen is found. The de- 
tectives discovered that Mr. Franz Lippheim had not gone to 
Germany with his family. They traced him to an inn in the 



TANTE 385 

New Forest. Karen is with him and has taken his name. May 
I ask you, if possible, to keep this fact from her guardian for 
the present. Yours sincerely, 

" Gregory Jardine." 

When Mrs. Talcott had read this she felt herself overcome by 
a sudden sickness and trembling. She had not yet well re- 
covered from her illness of the Spring. She crept upstairs to 
her room and went to bed. 



CHAPTEK XLI 

IT seemed to Karen, after hours had passed, that she had 
ceased to be tired and that her body, wafted by an involun- 
tary rhythm, was as light as thistle-down on the wind. 

She had crossed the Goonhilly Downs where the moonlight, 
spreading far and wide with vast unearthly brightness, filled all 
the vision with immensities of space and brought memories of 
strains from Schubert's symphonies, silver monotonies of never- 
ending sound. 

She had plunged down winding roads, blackly shadowed by 
their hedgerow trees, passing sometimes a cottage that slept 
between its clumps of fuchsia and veronica. She had climbed 
bare hill-sides where abandoned mines or quarries had left 
desolate mementoes that looked in the moonlight like ancient 
tombs and catacombs. 

Horror lay behind her at Les Solitudes, a long, low cloud on 
the horizon to which she had turned her back. The misery that 
had overpowered and made her one with its dread realities lay 
beneath her feet. She was lifted above it in a strange, dis- 
embodied enfranchisement all the night, and the steady blowing 
of the wind, the leagues of silver, the mighty sky with its far, 
high priestess, were part of an ecstasy of sadness, impersonal, 
serene, hallucinated, like that of the music that accompanied 
the rhythm of her feet. 

The night was almost over and dawn was coming, when, on a 
long uphill road, she felt her heart flag and her footsteps 
stagger. 

The moon still rode sharp and high, but its light seemed con- 
centrated in its own glittering disk and the world was visible in 
an uncanny darkness that was not dark. The magic of the night 
had vanished and the beat of vast, winding melodies melted 

386 






TANTE 387 

from Karen's mind leaving her dry and brittle and empty, 
like a shell from which the tides have drawn away. 

She knew what she had still to do. At the top of the road 
she was to turn and cut across fields to a headland above Fal- 
mouth from which a path she knew led to the town. She 
had not gone to Helston, but had taken this cross-country way 
to Falmouth because she knew that at any hour of the night 
she might be missed and followed and captured. They would 
not think of Falmouth; they would not dream that she could 
walk so far. In the town she would pawn Onkel Ernst's watch 
and take the early train to London and by evening she would be 
with Frau Lippheim. So she had seen it all, in flashes, last 
night. 

But now, toiling up the interminable road, clots of darkness 
floating before her eyes, cold sweats standing on her forehead, 
the sense of her exhaustion crushed down upon her. She tried 
to fix her thoughts on the trivial memories and forecasts that 
danced in her mind. The odd blinking of Mrs. Talcott's eyelid 
as she had told her story; the pattern of the breakfast set that 
she and Gregory had used ah, no ! not that ! she must not 
fix that memory ! the roofs and chimneys of some little Ger- 
man town where she was to find a refuge; for though it was to 
join the Lippheims that she fled, she did not see her life as led 
with theirs. Leaning upon these pictures as if upon a staff she 
held, she reached the hill-top. Her head now seemed to dance 
like a balloon, buffeted by the great throbs of her blood. She 
trailed with leaden feet across the fields. In the last high meadow 
she paused and looked down at the bend of the great bay under 
the pallid sky and at the town lying like a scattering of shells 
along its edge. How distant it was. How like a mirage. 

A little tree was beside her and its leaves in the uncanny light 
looked like crisp black metal. The sea was grey. The sunrise 
was still far off. Karen sank beneath the tree and leaned her 
head against it. What should she do if she were unable to 
walk on ? There was still time hours and hours of time 
till the train left Falmouth; but how was she to reach Falmouth? 
Fears rolled in upon her like dark breakers, heaping them- 



388 TANTE 

selves one upon the other, stealthy, swift, not to be escaped. 
She saw the horrible kindness in Mrs. Talcott's eyes, relegated, 
not relinquished. She saw herself pursued, entrapped, con- 
fronted by Gregory, equally entrapped, forced by her need, 
her helplessness, to come to her and coldly determined as 
she had seen him on that dreadful evening of their parting 
to do his duty by her, to make her and to keep her safe, and 
his own dignity secure. To see him again, to strive against 
him again, weaponless, now, without refuge, and revealed to 
herself and to him as a creature whose whole life had been 
founded on illusion, to strive not only against his ironic au- 
thority but, worst of all, against a longing, unavowed, unlocked 
at, a longing that crippled and unstrung her, and that ran 
under everything like a hidden river under granite hills 
she would die, she felt, rather than endure it. 

She had closed her eyes as she leaned her head against the 
tree and when she opened them she saw that the leaves of the 
tree had turned from black to green and that the grass was 
green and the sea and sky faintly blue. Above her head the 
long, carved ripples of the morning cirri flushed with a heavenly 
pink and there came from a thicket of a little wood the first 
soft whistle of a wakened bird. Another came and then an- 
other, and suddenly the air was full of an almost jangling 
sweetness. Karen felt herself trembling. Shudders ran over 
her. .She was ravished to life, yet without the answering power 
of life. Her longing, her loneliness, her fear, were part of the 
intolerable loveliness and they pierced her through and through. 

She struggled to her feet, holding the tree in her clasp, and, 
after the galvanised effort, she closed her eyes again, and again 
leaned her head upon the bark. 

Then it was that she heard footsteps, sudden footsteps, near. 
For a moment a paralysis of fear held down her eyelids. " Ach 
Goti!" she heard. And opening her eyes, she saw Franz Lipp- 
heim before her. 

Franz Lippheim was dressed, very strangely dressed, in tweeds 
and knicker-bockers and wore a soft round hat with a quill in 
it the oddest of hats and had a knapsack on his back. 



TANTE 389 

The colours of the coming day were caricatured in his ruddy 
face and red-gold hair, his bright green stockings and bright 
red tic. He was Germanic, flagrant, incredible, and a Perseus, 
an undreamed of, God-sent Perseus. 

" Ach Gott! Can it be so ! " he was saying, as he approached 
her, walking softly as though in fear of dispersing a vision. 

And as, not speaking, still clasping her tree, she held out her 
hand to him, he saw the extremity of her exhaustion and put his 
arm around her. 

She did not faint ; she kept her consciousness of the blue sky 
and the cirri golden now and even of Franz's tie and 
eyeglasses, glistening golden in the rising sun-light; but he had 
lowered her gently to the ground, kneeling beside her, and was 
supporting her shoulders and putting brandy to her lips. After 
a little while he made her drink some milk and then she could 
speak to him. 

She must speak and she must tell him that she had left her 
guardian. She must speak of Tante. But what to say of her? 
The shame and pity that had gone with her for days laid their 
fingers on her lips as she thought of Tante and of why she had 
left her. Her mind groped for some availing substitute. 

" Franz/' she said, " you must help me. I have left Tante. 
You will not question me. There is a breach between us; she 
has been unkind to me. I can never see her again." And now 
with clearer thought she found a sufficient truth. " She has not 
understood about me and my husband. She has tried to make 
me go back to him; and I have fled from her because I was 
afraid that she would send for him. She is not as fond of me 
as I thought she was, Franz, and I was a burden to her when I 
came. Franz, will you take me to London, to your mother? 
I am going with you all to Germany. I am going to earn my 
living there." 

" Du lieber Gott!" Herr Lippheim ejaculated. He stared 
at Karen in consternation. " Our great lady our great Tante 
has been unkind to you ? Is it then possible, Karen ? " 

" Yes, Franz ; you must believe me. You must not ques- 
tion me." 



390 TANTE 

" Trust me, my Karen/' said Herr Lippheim now ; " do not 
fear. It shall be as you say. But I cannot take you to the 
Miitterchen in London, for she is not there. They have gone 
back to Germany, Karen, and it is to Germany that we must go." 

" Can you take me there, Franz, at once ? I have no money ; 
but I am going to pawn this watch that Onkel Ernst gave me." 

" That is all simple, my Karen. I have money. I took with 
me the money for my tour ; I was on a walking-tour, do you see, 
and reached Falmouth last night and had but started now to 
pay my respects at Les Solitudes. I wished to see you, Karen, 
and to see if you were well. But it is very far to your village. 
How have you come so far, at night?" 

" I walked. I have walked all night. I am so tired, Franz. 
So tired. I do not know how I shall go any further." She 
closed her eyes; her head rested against his shoulder. 

Franz Lippheim looked down 'at her with an infinite com- 
passion and gentleness. " It will all be well, my Karen ; do not 
fear," he said. " The train does not go from Falmouth for 
three hours still. We will take it then and go to Southampton 
and sail for Germany to-night. And for now, you will drink 
this milk so, yes; that is well; and eat this chocolate; 
you cannot; it will be for later then. And you will lie still 
with my cloak around you, so; and you will sleep. And I will 
sit beside you and you will have no troubled thoughts. You 
are with your friends, my Karen." While he spoke he had 
wrapped her round and laid her head softly on a folded gar- 
ment that he drew from his knapsack; and in a few moments 
he saw that she slept, the profound sleep of complete ex- 
haustion. 

Franz Lippheim sat above her, not daring to light his pipe for 
fear of waking her. He watched the glory of the sunrise. It 
was perhaps the most wonderful hour in Franz's life. 

Phrases of splendid music passed through his mind, mingling 
with the sound of the sea. No personal pain and no personal 
hope was in his heart. He was uplifted, translated, with the 
beauty of the hour and its significance. 

Karen needed him. Karen was to come to them. He waa 



TANTE 391 

to see her henceforward in his life. He was to guard and help 
her. He was her friend. The splendour and the peace of the 
golden sky and golden sea were the angels of a great initiation. 
Nothing could henceforth be as it had been. His brain stirred 
with exquisite intuitions, finding form for them in the loved 
music that, henceforth, he would play as he had never before 
played it. And when he looked from the sea and sky down 
at the sleeping face beside him, wasted and drawn and piteous 
in its repose, large tears rose in his eyes and flowed down his 
cheeks, and the sadness was more beautiful than any joy that 
he had known. 

What she had suffered ! the dear one. What they must 
help her to forget ! To her, also, the hour would send it angels : 
she would wake to a new life. 

He turned his eyes again to the rising sun, and his heart 
silently chanted its love and pride and sadness in the phrases 
of Beethoven, of Schubert and of Brahms, and from time to 
time, softly, he muttered to himself, this stout young German 
Jew with the red neck-tie and the strange round hat : " Susses 
Kind! UngliicTcliches Kind! Oh der schone Tag!" 



CHAPTER XLII 

MADAME VON MARWITZ looked out from her fly at the 
ugly little wayside inn with its narrow lawn and its bands 
of early flowers. Trees rose round it, the moors of the forest 
stretched before. It was remote and very silent. 

Here it was, she had learned at the station, some miles away, 
that the German lady and gentleman were staying, and the 
lady was said to be very ill. Madame von Marwitz's glance, 
as it rested upon the goal of her journey, had in it the look 
of vast, constructive power, as when, for the first time, it 
rested on a new piece of music, realized it, mastered it, pos- 
sessed it, actual, in her mind, before her fingers gave it to the 
world. So, now, she realized and mastered and possessed the 
scene that was to be enacted. 

She got out of the fly and told the man to carry in her box 
and dressing-case and then to wait. She opened the little gate, 
and as she did so, glancing up, she saw Franz Lippheim stand- 
ing looking out at her from a ground-floor window. His gaze 
was stark in its astonishment. She returned it with a solemn 
smile. In another moment she had put the landlady aside 
with benign authority and was in the little sitting-room. " My 
Franz ! " she exclaimed in German. " Thank God ! " She 
threw her arms around his neck and burst into sobs. 

Franz, holding a pipe extended in his hand, stood for a 
moment in silence his eyes still staring their innocent dismay 
,over her shoulder. Then he said : " How have you come here, 
gnddige Frau? " 

" Come, Franz ! " Madame von Marwitz echoed, weeping : 
" Have I not been seeking my child for the last six days ! Love 
such as mine is a torch that lights one's path ! Come ! Yes ; I 
am come. I have found her! She is safe, and with my 
Franz ! " 

392 



TANTE 393 

" But Karen is ill, very ill indeed/' said Franz, speaking with 
some difficulty, locked as he was in the great woman's arms. 
" The doctor feared for her life three days ago. She has been 
delirious. And it is you, gnddige Frau, whom she fears; 
you and her husband." 

Madame von Marwitz leaned back her head to draw her hand 
across her eyes, clearing them of tears. 

" But do I not know it, Franz ? " she said, smiling a trem- 
bling smile at him. " Do I not know it ? I have been in fault ; 
yes ; and I will make confession to you. But oh ! my child 
has punished me too cruelly. To leave me without a word! 
At night ! It was the terror of her husband that drove her to 
it, Franz. Yes; it has been a delirium of terror. She was 
ill when she went from me." 

She had released him now, though keeping his hands in hers, 
and she still held them as they sat down at the centre table in 
the little room, he on one side, she on the other, she leaning to 
him across it; and she read in his face his deep discomfort. 

" But you see, gnddige Frau" Franz again took up his theme ; 
"she believes that you wish to send her back to him; she has 
said it; she could not trust you. And so she fled from you. 
And I have promised to take care of her. I am to take her to 
my mother in Germany as soon as she can travel. We were 
on our way to Southampton and would have been, days since, 
with the Miitterchen, if in the train Karen had not become so 
ill so very ill. It was a fever that grew on her, and delirium. 
I did not know what was best to do. And I remembered this 
little inn where the Miitterchen and we four stayed some years 
ago, when we came first to England. The landlady was very 
good; and so I thought of her and brought Karen here. But 
when she is better I must take her to Germany, gnddige Frau. 
I have promised it." 

While Franz thus spoke a new steadiness had come to Madame 
von Marwitz's eyes. They dilated singularly, and with them 
her nostrils, as though she drew a deep new breath of realisation. 
It was as if Franz had let down a barrier; pointed out a way. 



394 TANTE 

There was no confession to be made to Franz. Karen had 
spared her. 

She looked at him, looked and looked, and she shook her head 
with infinite gentleness. " But Franz," she said, " I do not 
wish her to go back to her husband. I was in fault, yes, grave 
fault, to urge it upon her ; but Karen's terror was her mistake, 
her delirium. It was for my sake that she had left him, Franz, 
because to me he had shown insolence and insult; for your 
sake, too, Franz, for he tried to part her from all her friends and 
of you he spoke with an unworthy jealousy. But though my 
heart bled that Karen should be tied to such a man, I knew 
him to be not a bad man; hard, narrow, but in his narrowness 
upright, and fond, I truly believed it, of his wife. And I could 
not let her break her marriage do you not see, Franz, if 
it were for my sake. I could not see her young life ruined in 
its dawn. I wished to write to my good friend Mrs. Forrester 
who is also Karen's friend, and his, and I offered myself as 
intermediary, as intercessor from him to Karen, if need be. 
Was it so black, my fault? For it was this that Karen re- 
sented so cruelly, Franz. Our Karen can be harsh and quick, 
you know that, Franz. But no! Can she can you, believe 
for one moment that I would now have her return to him, if, 
indeed, it were any longer possible? No, Franz; no; no; no; 
Karen shall never see that man again. Only over my dead body 
should he pass to her. I swear it, not only to you, but to myself. 
And Franz, dear Franz, what I think of now is you, and your 
love and loyalty to my Karen. You have saved her; you have 
saved me; it is life you bring a new life, Franz," and smil- 
ing upon him, her cheeks still wet with tears, she softly sang 
Tristan's phrase to Kurvenal: "Holder! Treuer! wie soil dir 
Tristan danken!" 

Her joy, her ecstasy of gratitude, shone upon him. She was 
the tutelary goddess of his family. Trust, for himself and for 
his loved Karen, went out to her and took refuge beneath the 
great wings she spread. And as she held his hands and smiled 
upon him he told her in his earnest, honest German, all that had 
happened to him and Karen; of his walking-tour; and of the 



TANTE 395 

meeting on the Falmouth headland at dawn; and of their 
journey here. " And one thing, gnddige Frau" he said, " that 
troubled me, but that will now be well, since you are come to 
us, is that I have told them here that Karen is my wife. See 
you, gnddige Frau, the good landlady knows us all and knows 
that Lotta, Minna and Elizabeth are the only daughters that 
the Miitterchen has besides the little ones. I remembered 
that the Miitterchen had told her this; she talked much with 
her; it was but three years ago, gnddige Frau; it was not time 
enough for a very little one to grow up ; so I could not say that 
Karen was my sister; and I have to be much with her; I sit 
beside her all through the night for she is afraid to be alone, 
the armes Kind; and the good landlady and the maid must 
sleep. So it seemed to me that it was right to tell them that 
Karen was my wife. You think so, too, nicht wahr, gnddige 
Frau?" 

Madame von Marwitz had listened, her deeply smiling eyes 
following, understanding all; and as the last phase of the story 
came they deepened to only a greater sweetness. They showed 
no surprise. A content almost blissful shone on Franz Lipp- 
heim. 

" It is well, Franz," she said. " Yes, you have done rightly. 
All is well ; more well than you yet perhaps see. Karen is safe, 
and Karen shall be free. What has happened is God-sent. 
The situation is in our hands." 

For a further moment, silent and weighty, she gazed at him 
and then she added : " There need be no fear for you and Karen. 
I will face all pain and difficulty for you both. You are to 
marry Karen, Franz." 

The shuttle that held the great gold thread of her plan was 
thrown. She saw the pattern stretch firm and fair before her. 
Silently and sweetly, with the intentness of a sibyl who pours 
and holds forth a deep potion, she smiled at him across the 
table. 

Franz, who all this time had been leaning on his arms, his 
hands in hers, his eyes, through their enlarging pince-nez, fixed 
on her, did not move for some moments after the astounding 



396 TANTE 

statement reached him. His stillness and his look of arrested 
stupor suggested, indeed, a large blue-bottle slung securely in 
the subtle threads of a spider's web and reduced to torpid 
acquiescence by the spider's stealthy ministrations. He gazed 
with mildness, almost with blandness, upon the enchantress, as 
if some prodigy of nature overtopping all human power of com- 
ment had taken place before him. Then in a small, feeble voice 
he said : " Wass meinen Sie, gnddige Frau ? " 

"Dear, dear Franz/' Madame von Marwitz murmured, press- 
ing his hands with maternal solicitude, and thus giving him 
more time to adjust himself to his situation. " It is not as 
strange as your humility finds it. And it is now inevitable. 
You do not I think realize the position in which you and Karen 
are placed. I am not the only witness ; the landlady, the doctor, 
the maid, and who knows who else, all will testify that you 
have been here with Karen as your wife, that you have been 
with her day and night. Do not imagine that Mr. Jardine 
has sought to take Karen back or would try to. He has made 
no movement to get her back. He has most completely ac- 
quiesced in their estrangement. And when he hears that she 
has fled with you, that she has passed here, for a week almost, 
as your wife, he will be delighted but delighted, with all his 
anger against you to seize the opportunity for divorcing her 
and setting himself free." 

But while she spoke Franz's large and ruddy face had paled. 
He had drawn his hands from hers though she tried to retain 
them. He rose from his chair. " But, gnddige Frau/' he said, 
" that is not right. No ; that is wrong. He may not divorce 
Karen." 

" How will you prevent him from divorcing her, Franz ? " 
Madame von Marwitz returned, holding him with her eye, while, 
in great agitation, he passed his hand repeatedly over his fore- 
head and hair. " You have been seen. I have been told by 
those who had seen you that you and Karen were here. Already 
Karen's husband must know it. And if you could prevent it, 
would you wish to, Franz? Would you wish, if you could, to 
bind her to this man for life ? Try to think clearly, my friend. 



TANTE 397 

It is Karen's happiness that hangs in the balance. It is upon 
that that we must fix our eyes. My faith forbids divorce; but 
I am not devote, and Karen is not of my faith, nor is her 
husband, nor are you. I take my stand beside Karen. I say 
that one so young, so blameless, so unfortunate, shall not have 
her life wrecked by one mistake. With me as your champion 
you and Karen can afford to snap your fingers at the world's 
gross verdict. Karen will be with me. I will take her abroad. 
I will cherish her as never child was cherished. We make no 
defence. In less than a year the case is over. Then you will 
come for Karen and you will be married from my house. I 
will give Karen a large dot; she shall want for nothing in her 
life. And you and she will live in Germany, with your friends 
and your great music, and your babies, Franz. What I had 
hoped for two years ago shall come to pass and this bad dream 
shall be forgotten." 

'Franz, looking dazedly about him while she spoke, now 
dropped heavily on his chair and joining his hands before his 
eyes leaned his head upon them. He muttered broken ejacula- 
tions. " Ach Gott! Unbegreiflich! Such happiness is not to 
think on ! You are kind, kind, gnddige Frau. You believe that 
all is for the best. But Karen gnddige Frau, our little 
Karen ! She does not love me. How could she be happy with 
me? Never for one moment have I hoped. It was against 
my wish that the Miitterchen wrote to you that time two years 
ago. No; always I saw it; she had kindness only for me and 
friendliness; but no love; never any love. And it will be to 
smirch our Karen's name, gnddige Frau. It will be to accept 
disgrace for her. We must defend her from this accusation, 
for it is not true. Ah, gnddige Frau, you are powerful in the 
world. Can you not make it known that it is untrue, that 
Karen did not come to me ? " 

He leaned his forehead on his clasped hands, protesting, ap- 
pealing, expostulating, and Madame von Marwitz, leaning 
slightly back in her chair, resting her cheek against her finger, 
scrutinized his bent head with a change of expression. In- 
tently, almost fiercely, with half -closed lids, . she examined 



398 TANTE 

Franz's crisp upstanding hair, the thick rims of his ruddy 
ears, the thick fingers with their square and rather dirty nails 
and the large turquoise that adorned one of them. Cogitation, 
self-control and fierce determination were in her gaze; then it 
veiled itself again in gentleness and, with a steady and insistent 
patience, she said : " You are astray, my friend, much astray, 
and very ignorant. Look with me at fact, and then say, if you 
can, that we can make it known that it is untrue. You are 
known to be in love with Karen; you are known to have asked 
me for her hand. Karen makes a marriage that is unhappy; 
it is known that she is not happy with her husband. Did you 
not yourself see that all was not well with them? It has been 
known for long. You arrive in London ; Karen sees you again ; 
next day she flies from Mr. Jardine and takes refuge with you 
at your lodgings. Yes, you will say, but your mother, your 
sisters, too, were there. Yes, the world will answer, and she 
came to me to wait till they were gone and you free to join 
her. In a fortnight's time she seizes a pretext for leaving me 
I speak of what the world will say Franz and meets you. 
Will the world, will Karen's husband, believe that it was by 
chance? She is found hidden with you here, those who see 
you come to me; it is so I find you, and she is here bearing 
your name. Come, my friend, it is no question of saving Karen 
from smirches; the world will say that it is your duty as an 
honourable man to marry Karen. Better that she should be 
known as your wife than as your abandoned mistress. So 
speaks the world, Franz. And though we know that it speaks 
falsely we have no power to undeceive it. But now, mark me, 
my friend; I have no wish to undeceive it. I do not see the 
story, told even in these terms, as disgraceful; I do not see my 
Karen smirched. I am not one who weighs the human heart 
and its needs in the measures of convention. Bravely and in 
truth, Karen frees herself. So be it. You say that she does 
not love you. I say, Franz, how do you know that? I say 
that if she does not love you yet, she will love you; and I add, 
Franz, for the full ease of your conscience, that if Karen, when 
she is free, does not wish to marry you, then it is very simple 



TANTE 399 

she remains with me and does not marry. But what I ask 
of you now is bravery and discretion, for our Karen's sake. 
She must be freed; in your heart you know that it is well that 
Karen should be freed. In your heart you know that Karen 
must not be bound till death to this man she loathes and dreads 
and will never see again. If not you, Franz, is it not possible 
that Karen may love another man one day ? But it is you that 
she will love; nay, it is you she loves. I know my Karen's 
heart. Tell me, Franz, am I not right in what I say ? " 

For some time now Franz had been looking at her and her 
voice grew more tender and more soft as she saw that he found 
no word of protest. He sat upright, still, at intervals, run- 
ning his fingers through his hair, breathing deeply, near tears, 
yet arrested and appeased. And hope, beautiful, strange hope, 
linking itself to the intuitions of the dawn when he had sat 
above Karen's sleep, stole into his heart. Why could it not 
be true? Why should not Karen come to love him? She 
would be with him, free, knowing how deep and tender was his 
love for her, and that it made no claim. Would not her heart 
answer his one day? And as if guessing at his thoughts 
Madame von Marwitz added, the dimness of tears in her own 
eyes : " See, my Franz, let it be in this wise. I bring Karen 
to your mother in a few days; she will be strong enough for 
travel in a few days, is it not so? She will then be with you 
and yours in Germany, and I watching over you. So you will 
see her from day to day? So you will gently mend the torn 
young heart and come to read it. And you may trust a wise 
old woman, Franz, when I prophesy to you that Karen's heart 
will turn and grow to yours. You may trust one wise in hearts 
when she tells you that Karen is to be your loving wife." 

She rose, and the sincerity of her voice was unfeigned. She 
was moved, deeply moved, by the beauty of the pattern she 
wove. She was deeply convinced by her own creation. 

Franz, too, got up, stumbling. 

" And now, Franz," she said, <( we say au revoir. I have 
come and it is not seemly that you remain here longer. You 
go to Germany to make ready for us and I write to your mother 



400 TANTE 

to-day. Ah ! the dear Lise ! Her heart will rejoice ! Where 
is your room, Franz, and where is Karen's ? " 

There were three doors in the little sitting-room. She had 
entered from the passage by one. She looked now towards the 
others. 

Franz opened one, it showed a flight of stairs. "Karen's 
room is up those stairs," he said, closing it very softly. " And 
mine is here, next this one where we are. We are very quiet, 
you see, and shut in to ourselves. There is no other way to 
Karen's room but this, and her room is at the back, so that no dis- 
turbance reaches her. I think that she still sleeps, gnddige 
Frau; we must not wake her if she sleeps. I will take you to 
her as soon as she is awake." 

Madame von Marwitz, with her unchanging smile, was press- 
ing him towards the door of his own room. 

"I will wait. I will wait until she wakes, Franz. Your 
luggage? It is here? I will help you to pack, my Franz." 

She had drawn him into his room, her arm passed into his, 
and, even while she spoke, she pointed out the few effects scat- 
tered here and there. And, with his torpid look of a creature 
hypnotized, Franz obeyed her, taking from her hands the worn 
brush, the shaving appliances, the socks and book and nightshirt. 

When all were laid together in his knapsack and he had drawn 
the straps, he turned to her, still with the dazzled gaze. " But 
this may wait," he said, " until I have said good-bye to Karen." 

Madame von Marwitz looked at him with an almost musing 
sweetness. She had the aspect of a conjuror who, with a last 
light puff of breath or touch of a magic finger, puts forth 
the final resource of a stupefying dexterity. So delicately, so 
softly, with a calm that knew no doubt or hesitation, she shook 
her head. " No ; no farewells, now, my Franz. That would 
not be well. That would agitate her. She could not listen to 
all our story. She could not understand. Later, when she is 
in my arms, at peace, I will tell her all and that you are gone 
to wait for us, and give her your adieu." 

He gazed at the conjuror. " But, gnddige Frau, may I not 



TA1STTE 401 

say good-bye to Karen ? Together we could tell her. It will be 
strange to her to wake and find that I am gone/' 

Her arm was passed in his again. She was leading him 
through the sitting-room. And she repeated with no change 
of voice : " No, my Franz. I know these illnesses. A little 
agitation is very bad. You will write to her daily. She shall 
have your letters, every day. You promise me but I need not 
ask it of our Franz to write. In three days, or in four, we 
will be with you/' 

She had got him out of his room, out of the sitting-room, into 
the passage. The cab still waited, the cabman dozed on his box 
in the spring sunlight. Before the landlady Madame von 
Marwitz embraced Franz and kissed and blessed him. She kept 
an arm round him till she had him at the cab-door. She almost 
lifted him in. 

"You will tell Karen that you did not find it right that 
I should say good-bye to her," he stammered. 

And with a last long pressure of the hand she said : " I will 
tell her, Franz. We will talk much of you, Karen and I. Trust 
me, I am with you both. In my hands you are safe." 

The cab rolled away and Franz's face, from under the round 
hat and the quill, looked back at the triumphant conjuror, dulled 
and dazed rather than elated, by the spectacle of her inconceiv- 
able skill. 



CHAPTEK XLIII 

KAEEN lay sleeping in the little room above. She had 
slept so much since they had carried her, Franz, and the 
two women with kind faces, into this little room ; deep draughts 
of sleep, as though her exhausted nature could never rest enough. 
Fever still drowsed in her blood and a haze of half delirious 
visions often accompanied her waking. They seemed to gather 
round her now, as, in confused and painful dreams, she rose 
from the depths towards consciousness again. Dimly she heard 
the sound of voices and her dream wove them into images of 
fear and sorrow. 

She was running along the cliff-top. She had run for miles 
and it was night and beside her yawned the black gulfs of the 
cliff-edge. And from far below, in the darkness, she heard a 
voice wailing as if from some creature lost upon the rocky beach. 
It was Gregory in some great peril. Pity and fear beat upon 
her like black wings as she ran, and whether it was to escape 
him or to succour him she did not know. 

Then from the waking world came distinctly the sound of 
rolling wheels, and opening her eyes she looked out upon her 
room, its low uneven ceiling, its coloured print of Queen Victoria 
over the mantelpiece, its text above the washhand-stand and 
chest of drawers. On the little table beside her bed Onkel 
Ernst's watch ticked softly. The window was open and a tree 
rustled outside. And through these small, familiar sounds she 
still heard the rolling of retreating wheels. The terror of her 
dream fastened upon this sound until another seemed to strike, 
like a soft, stealthy blow, upon her consciousness. 

Footsteps were mounting the stairs to her room. Not Franz's 
footsteps, nor the doctor's, nor the landlady's, nor Annie the 
housemaid's. .She knew all these. 

Who was it then who mounted, softly rustling, towards her? 

402 



TANTE 403 

The terror of the dream vanished in a tense, frozen panic of 
actuality. 

She wished to scream, and could not; she wished to leap up 
and fly, but there was no way of escape. It was Tante who 
came, slowly, softly, rustling in silken fabrics; the very scent 
of her garments seemed wafted before her, and Karen's heart 
stopped in its heavy beating as the door handle gently turned 
and Tante stood within the room. 

Karen looked at her and Madame von Marwitz looked back, 
and Madame von Marwitz's face was almost as white as the 
death-like face on the pillow. She said no word, nor did Karen, 
and in the long stillness delirium again flickered through Karen's 
brain, and Tante, standing there, became a nightmare presence, 
dead, gazing, immutable. Then she moved again, and the slow, 
soft moving was more dreadful than the stillness, and coming 
forward Tante fell on her knees beside the bed and hid her face 
in the bedclothes. 

Karen gave a strange hoarse cry. She heard herself crying, 
and the sound of her own voice seemed to waken her again to 
reality : " Franz ! Franz ! Franz ! " 

Madame von Marwitz was weeping; her large white shoulders 
shook with sobs. " Karen," she said, " forgive me ! Karen, it 
is I. Forgive me ! " 

" Franz ! " Karen repeated, turning her head away on the 
pillow. 

" Karen, you know me ? " said Madame von Marwitz. She 
had lifted her head and she gazed through her tears at the 
strange, changed, yet so intimately known, profile. It was as if 
Karen were the more herself, reduced to the bare elements of 
personality ; rocky, wasted, alienated. " Do not kill me, my 
child," she sobbed, " Listen to me, Karen ! I have come to ex- 
plain all, and to implore for your forgiveness." She possessed 
herself of one of the hot, emaciated hands. Karen drew it away, 
but she turned her head towards her. 

Tante's tears, her words and attitude of abjection, dispersed 
the nightmare horror. She understood that Tante had come not 
as a ghastly wraith ; not as a pursuing fury ; but as a suppliant. 



404 TANTE 

Her eyes rested on her guardian and their gaze, now, was like 
cold, calm daylight. " Why are you here ? " she asked. 

Madame von Marwitz's sobs, at this, broke forth more vio- 
lently. "You remember our parting, my child! You remem- 
ber my mad and shameful words ! How could I not come ! " 
she articulated brokenly. " Oh, I have sought you in terror, in 
unspeakable longing ! My child it was a madness. Did you 
not see it ? I went to you at dawn that day to kneel before you, 
as I kneel now, and to implore your pardon. And you were 
gone ! Oh, Karen you will listen to me now ! " 

" You need not tell me," said Karen. " I understand." 

" Ah, no : ah, no : " said Madame von Marwitz, laying her 
supplicating hand on the sleeve of Karen's nightdress. " You 
do not understand. How could you young and cold and flaw- 
less understand my heart, my wild, stained heart, Karen, my 
fierce and desolate and broken heart. You are air and water; 
I am earth and fire ; how could you understand my darkness and 
my rage?" She spoke, sobbing, with a sincerity dreadful and 
irrefragable, as if she stripped herself and showed a body scarred 
and burning. With all the forces of her nature she threw her- 
self on Karen's pity, tearing from herself, with a humility far 
above pride and shame, the glamour that had held Karen's heart 
to hers. Deep instinct guided her spontaneity. Her glamour, 
now, must consist in having none; her nobility must consist 
in abasement, her greatness in being piteous. 

" Listen to me, Karen," she sobbed, " The world knows but 
one side of me you have known but one side ; even Tallie, 
who knows so much, who understands so much does not know 
the other the dark and tortured soul. I am not a good 
woman, Karen, the blood that flows in my veins is tainted, 
ambiguous. I have sinned. I have been savage and dastardly; 
but it has always been in a madness when I could not seize 
my better self: flames seem to sweep me on. Listen, Karen, 
you are so strong, so calm, how could you dream of what a 
woman's last wild passion can be, a woman whose whole soul 
is passion? Love! it is all that I have craved. Love! love! 
all my inner life has been enmeshed in it in craving, in seek- 



TANTB 405 

ing, in destroying. It is like a curse upon me, Karen. You 
will not understand; yet that love of love, is it not so with all 
us wretched women; do we not long, always, all of us, for the 
great flame to which we may surrender, the flame that will ap- 
pease and exalt us, annihilate us, yet give us life in its suprem- 
acy? So I have always longed; and not grossly; mine has 
never been the sensual passion ; it has been beauty and the heights 
of life that I have sought. And my curse has been that for me 
has come no appeasement, no exaltation, but only, always, a 
dark smouldering of joylessness. With my own hand I broke 
the great and sacred devotion that blessed my life, because I was 
thus cursed. Jealousy, the craving for a more complete posses- 
sion, for the ecstasy I had not found, blind forces in my blood, 
drove me on to the destruction of that precious thing. I wrecked 
myself, I killed him. Oh, Karen, you know of whom I speak." 
Convulsively, the blackness of her memories assailing her in their 
old forms of horror, Madame von Marwitz sobbed, burying her 
face in the bed-clothes, her hand forgetting to clutch at Karen's 
sleeve. She lifted her face and the tears streamed from under 
her closed lids. "Let me not think of it or I shall go mad. 
How could I, having known that devotion, sink to the place 
where you have seen me? Be pitiful. He needed me so much 
I believed. My youth was fading ; I was growing old. Soon 
the time was to come when no man's heart would turn to me. 
Be pitiful. You do not know what it is to look without and see 
life slowly growing dark and look within and see only sinister 
memories. It came to me like late sunlight like cool, sweet 
water his love. I believed in it. I loved him. Oh " she 
sobbed, " how I loved him, Karen ! How my heart was torn 
with sick jealousy when I saw that his had turned from me to 
you. I loved you, Karen, yet I hated you. Open your generous 
heart to me, my child; do not spurn me from you. Under- 
stand how it may be that one can strike at the thing one loves. 
I knew myself in the grasp of an evil passion, but I could not 
tear it from me. I even feared, with a savage fear that seemed 
to eat into my brain, that you responded to his love. Oh, Karen, 
it was not I who spoke those shameful words, when I found 



406 TANTE 

you with him, but a creature maddened with pain and jealousy, 
who for days had fought against her madness and knew when 
she spoke that she was mad. When I had sent him from me, 
when he was gone from my life, and I knew that all was over, 
the evil fury passed from my brain like a mist. I knew my- 
self again. I saw again the sweet and sacred places of my life. 
I saw you, Karen. Oh, my child/' again the pleading hand 
trembled on Karen's sleeve, " it has not all been misplaced, your 
love for me; not all illusion. I am still the woman who has 
loved you through so many years. You will not let one hour 
of frenzy efface our happy years together ? " 

The words, the sobbing questions that waited for no answer, 
the wailing supplications, had been poured forth in one great 
upwelling. Through the tears that streamed she had seen 
Karen's face in blurred glimpses, lying in profile to her on its 
pillow. Now, when all had been said and her mind was empty, 
waiting, she passed her hand over her eyes, clearing them of 
tears, and fixed them on Karen. 

And silence followed. So long a silence that wonder came. 
Had she understood? Was she half unconscious? Had all the 
long appeal been wasted? 

But Karen at last spoke and the words, in their calm, seemed 
to the listening woman to pass like a cold wind over buds and 
tendrils of reviving life, blighting them. 

" I am sorry for you," said Karen. " And I understand." 

Madame von Marwitz stared at her for another silent moment. 
" Yes," she then said, " you are sorry for me. You understand. 
It is my child's great heart. And you forgive me, Karen ? " 

Again came silence ; then, restlessly turning her head as if the 
effort to think pained her, Karen said, " What do you mean by 
forgiveness ? " 

" I mean pity, Karen," said Madame von Marwitz. " And 
compassion, and tenderness. To be forgiven is to be taken 
back." 

" Taken back? Karen repeated. " But I do not feel that I 
love you any longer." She spoke in a dull, calm voice. 

Madame von Marwitz remained kneeling for some moments 



TANTE 407 

longer. Then a dark flush mounted to her face. She became 
aware that her knees were stiff with kneeling and her cheeks salt 
with tears. Her head ached and a feeling of nausea made her 
giddy. She rose and looked about her with dim eyes. 

A small wooden chair stood against the wall at a little distance 
from the bed. She went to it and sank down upon it, and lean- 
ing her head upon her hand she wept softly to herself. Her 
desolation was extreme. 

Karen listened to her for a long time, and without any emo- 
tion. Now that the horror had passed, her only feeling was one 
of sorrow and oppression. She was very sorry for the weeping 
woman ; but she wished that she would go away. And her mind 
at last wandered from the thought of Tante. "Where is 
Franz?" she asked. 

The fount of Madame von Marwitz's tears was exhausted. 
She dried her eyes and cheeks. She blew her nose. She 
gathered together her thoughts. " Karen/' she said, " I will not 
speak of myself. You say that you do not love me. I can only 
pray that my love for you may in time win you to me again. 
Never again, I know it, can I stand before you, untarnished, 
as I stood before; but I will trust my child's deep heart as 
strength once more comes to her. Pity will grow to love. I 
will love you; that will be enough. But I have come to you 
not only as a mother to her child. I have come to you as a 
friend to whom your welfare is of the first importance. I have 
much to say to you, Karen." 

Madame von Marwitz rose. She went to the washhand-stand 
and bathed her face. The triumph that she had held in her 
hand seemed melting through her fingers ; but, thinking rapidly 
and deeply, she drew the scattered threads of the plan together 
once more, faced her peril and computed her resources. 

The still face on the pillow was unchanged, its eyes still calmly 
closed. She could not attempt to take the hand of this alien 
Karen, nor even to touch her sleeve. She went back to her 
chair. 

" Karen," she said, " if you cannot love me, you can still think 
of me as your friend and counsellor. I am glad to hear you 



408 TANTE 

speak of our Franz. That lights my way. I have had much 
talk with our good and faithful Franz. Together we have faced 
all that there is of difficult and sad to face. My child shall 
be spared all that could trouble her. Franz and I are beside 
you through it all. Your husband, Karen, is to divorce you 
because of Franz. You are to be set free, my child." 

A strange thing happened then. If Madame von Marwitz had 
plunged a dagger into Karen's heart, the change that trans- 
formed her deathly face could hardly have been more violent. 
It was as if all the amazed and desperate life fled to her eyes 
and lips and cheeks. Colour flooded her. Her eyes opened and 
shone. Her lips parted, trembled, uttered a loud cry. She 
turned her head and looked at her guardian. Her dream was 
with her. What was that loud cry for help, hers or his? 

Madame von Marwitz looked back and her face, too, was 
changed. Eealizations, till then evaded, flashed over it as 
though from Karen's it caught the bright up-flaming of the 
truth. Fear followed, darkening it. Karen's truth threatened 
the whole fabric of the plan, threatened her life in all that 
it held of value. Eesentment for a moment convulsed it. Then, 
with a steady mastery, yet the glance, sunken, sickened, of one 
who holds off disabling pity while he presses out a fluttering 
life beneath his hand, she said: "Yes, my child. Your wild 
adventure is known. You have been here for days and nights 
with this young man who loves you and he has given you his 
name. Your husband seizes the opportunity to free himself. 
Can you not rejoice, Karen, that it is to set you free also? It 
is of that only that I have thought. I have rejoiced for you. 
And I have told Franz that I will stand by you and by him 
so that no breath of shame or difficulty shall touch you. In 
me you have the staunchest friend." 

Madame von Marwitz, while she addressed these remarks to 
the strange, vivid face that stared at her with wide and shining 
eyes, was aware of a sense of nausea and giddiness so acute that 
she feared she might succumb to sickness. She put her hand 
before her eyes, reflecting that she must have some food if she 
were to think clearly. She sat thus for some moments, strugr 



TANTE 409 

gling against the invading weakness. When she looked up 
again, the flame whose up-leaping had so arrested her ? which 
had, to be just, so horrified her, was fallen to ashes. 

Karen's eyes were closed. A bitter composure, like that some- 
times seen on the face of the dead, folded her lips. 

Madame von Marwitz, suddenly afraid, rose and went to her 
and stooped over her. And, for a dreadful moment, she did not 
know whether it was with fear or hope that she scanned the 
deathly face. Abysses of horror seemed to fall within her as she 
thus bent over Karen and wondered whether she had died. 

It had been a foolish fear. The child had not even fainted. 
Madame von Marwitz's breath came back to her, almost in a 
sob, as, not opening her eyes, Karen repeated her former ques- 
tion : " Where is Franz ? " 

" He will be back soon ; Franz will soon be here," said Madame 
von Marwitz gently and soothingly. 

" I must see him," said Karen. 

"You shall. You shall see him, my Karen," said Madame 
von Marwitz. "You are with those who love you. Have no 
fear. Franz is of my mind in this matter, Karen. You will not 
wish to defend yourself against your husband's suit, is it not 
so ? Defence, I fear, my Karen, would be useless. The chain of 
evidence against you is complete. But even if it were not, if 
there were defence to make, you would not wish to sue to your 
husband to take you back ? " 

Karen still with closed eyes, turned her head away on the pil- 
low. " Let him be free/' she said. " He knows that I wished 
him to be free. When I left him I told him that I hoped to 
set him free. Let him believe that I have done so." 

Madame von Marwitz still leaned above her and, as when 
Franz had imparted the unlooked-for tidings of Karen's 
reticence, so now her eyes dilated with a deepened hope. 

" You told him so, Karen ? " she repeated gently, after a 
moment. 

'' Yes," said Karen, " I told him so. I shall make no defence. 
Will you go now ? I am tired. And will you send Franz to me 
when he conies back ? " 



410 TANTE 

"Yes, my child; yes/' said Madame von Marwitz. "It is 
well. I will be below. I will watch over you." She raised 
herself at last. " There is nothing that I can do for you, my 
Karen?" 

" Nothing," said Karen. Her voice, too, seemed sinking into 
ashes. 

Madame von Marwitz opened the door to the dark little stair- 
case and closed it. In the cloaking darkness she paused and 
leaned against the wall. "Bon Dieu!" she murmured to her- 
self "Bon Dieu!" 

She felt sick. She wished to sleep. But she could not sleep 
yet. She must eat and restore her strength. And she had 
letters to write ; a letter to Mrs. Forrester, a letter to Frau Lipp- 
heim, and a note to Tallie. It was as if she had thrown her 
shuttle across a vast loom that, drawing her after the thread 
she held, enmeshed her now with all the others in its moving web. 
She no longer wove; she was being woven into the pattern. 
Even if she would she could not extricate herself. 

The thought of this overmastering destiny sustained and 
fortified her. She went on down the stairs and into the little 
sitting-room. 



CHAPTER XLIV 

THE days that passed after her arrival at the inn were to live 
in Madame von Marwitz's memory as a glare of intolerable 
anxiety, obliterating all details in its heat and urgency. She 
might, during the hours when she knelt supplicating beside 
Karen's bed, have been imaged as a furnace and Karen as a 
corpse lying in it, strangely unconsumed, passive and un- 
responsive. There was no cruelty in Karen's coldness, no un- 
kindness even. Pity and comprehension were there; but they 
were rocks against which Madame von Marwitz dashed herself 
in vain. 

When she would slip from her kneeling position and lie grovel- 
ling and groaning on the ground, Karen sometimes would say: 
" Please get up. Please don't cry," in a tone of distress. But 
when the question, repeated in every key, came : " Karen, will 
you not love me again ? " Karen's answer was a helpless 
silence. 

Schooling the fury of her eagerness, and in another mood, 
Madame von Marwitz, after long cogitations in the little sitting- 
room, would mount to point out to Karen that to persist in her 
refusal to marry Franz, when she was freed, would be to disgrace 
herself and him, and to this Karen monotonously and immovably 
would reply that she would not marry Franz. 

Madame von Marwitz had not been able to keep from her 
beyond the evening of the first day that Franz had gone. " To 
Germany, my Karen, where he will wait for you." Karen's eyes 
had dwelt widely, but dully, on her when she made this announce- 
ment and she had spoken no word ; nor had she made any com- 
ment on Madame von Marwitz's further explanations. 

" He felt it right to go at once, now that I had come, and 
bring no further scandal on your head. He would not have you 
waked to say good-bye." 

411 



412 T A N T E 

Karen lay silent, but the impassive bitterness deepened on her 
lips. When Franz's first letter to Karen arrived Madame von 
Marwitz opened, read and destroyed it. It revealed too plainly, 
in its ingenuous solicitude and sorrow, the coercion under which 
Franz had departed. Yes ; the plan was there and they were all 
enmeshed in it; but what was to happen if Karen would not 
marry Franz ? How could that be made to match the story she 
had now written to Mrs. Forrester ? And what was to happen if 
Karen refused to come with her ? It would not do, Madame von 
Marwitz saw that clearly, for an alienated Karen to be taken to 
the Lippheims'. Comparisons and disclosures would ensue that 
would send the loom, with a mighty whirr, weaving rapidly in an 
opposite direction to that of the plan. Franz, in Germany, must 
be pacified, and Karen be carried off to some lovely, lonely spot 
until the husband's suit was safely won. It was not fatal to the 
plan that Karen should be supposed, finally, to refuse to marry 
Franz; that might be mitigated, explained away when the time 
came ; but a loveless Karen at large in the world was a figure only 
less terrifying than a Karen reunited to her husband. She felt as 
if she had drawn herself up from the bottom of the well where 
Karen's flight had precipitated her and as if, breathing the air, 
seeing the light of the happy world, she swung in a circle, clutch- 
ing her wet rope, horrible depths below her and no helping hand 
put out to draw her to the brink. 

Gregory's letter in answer to the letter she had sent to Mrs. 
Forrester, with the request that he should be informed of its con- 
tents, came on the second morning. It fortified her. There was 
no questioning; no doubt. He formally assured her that he 
would at once take steps to set Karen free. 

" Ah, he does not love her, that is evident," said Madame von 
Marwitz to herself, and with a sense of quieted pulses. The 
letter was shown to Karen. 

Mrs. Forrester's note was not quite reassuring. It, also, ac- 
cepted her story ; but its dismay constituted a lack of sympathy, 
even, Madame von Marwitz felt, a reproach. 

She wrote of Gregory's broken heart. She lamented the breach 



TANTE 413 

that had come between him and Karen and made this disaster 
possible. 

Miss Scrotton's paean was what it inevitably would be. From 
Tallie came no word, and this implied that Tallie, too, was con- 
vinced, though Tallie, no doubt, was furious, and would, as usual, 
lay the blame on her. 

Danger, however, lurked in Tallie's direction, and until she 
was safely out of England with Karen she should not feel herself 
secure. Pertinaciously and blandly she insisted to the doctor 
that Frau Lippheim was now quite well enough to make a short 
sea voyage. She would secure the best of yachts and the best of 
trained nurses, and a little voyage would be the very thing for 
her. The doctor was recalcitrant, and Madame von Marwitz was 
in terror lest, during the moments they spent by her bedside, 
Karen should burst forth in a sudden appeal to him. 

A change for the worse, very much for the worse, had, he said, 
come over his patient. He was troubled and perplexed. " Has 
anything happened to disturb her ? " he asked in the little sitting- 
room, and something in his chill manner reminded her un- 
pleasantly of Gregory Jardine; "her husband's sudden de- 
parture?" 

Madame von Marwitz felt it advisable, then, to take the doctor 
into her confidence. He grew graver as she spoke. He looked 
at her with eyes more scrutinizing, more troubled and more per- 
plexed. But, reluctantly, he saw her point. The unfortunate 
young woman upstairs, a fugitive from her husband, must be 
spared the shock of a possible brutal encounter. Perhaps, in a 
day or two, it might be possible to move her. She could be taken 
in her bed to Southampton and carried on board the yacht. 

Madame von Marwitz wired at once and secured the yacht. 

It was after this interview with the doctor, after the sending of 
the wire, that she mounted the staircase to Karen's room with the 
most difficult part of her task still before her. She had as yet 
not openly broached to Karen the question of what the imme- 
diate future should be. She approached it now by a circuitous 
way, seating herself near Karen's bed and unfolding and handing 



414 T A N T E 

to her a letter she had that morning received from Franz. It 
was a letter she could show. Franz was in Germany. 

" The dear Franz. The good Franz/' Madame von Marwitz 
mused, when Karen had finished and her weak hand dropped with 
the letter to the sheet. " No woman had ever a truer friend than 
Franz. You see how he writes, Karen. He will never trouble 
you with his hopes/ 5 

" No ; Franz will never trouble me," said Karen. 

" Poor Franz/' Madame von Marwitz repeated. " He will be 
seen by the world as a man who refuses to marry his mistress 
when she is freed." 

" I am not his mistress/' said Karen, who, for all her apathy, 
could show at moments a disconcerting vehemence. 

" You will be thought so, my child." 

"Not by him," said Karen. 

"No; not by him," Madame von Marwitz assented with 
melancholy. 

" Not by his mother and sisters," said Karen. " And not by 
Mrs. Talcott." 

" Nor by me, my Karen," said Madame von Marwitz with a 
more profound gloom. 

"No; not by you. No one who knows me will think so," 
said Karen. 

Madame von Marwitz paused after this for a few moments. 
Experience had taught her that to abandon herself to her grief 
was not the way to move Karen. When she spoke again it was 
in a firm, calm voice. 

" Listen, my Karen," she said. " I see that you are fixed in 
this resolve and I will plead with you no further. I will weary 
you no more. Remember only, in fairness, that it is for your 
sake that I have pleaded. You will be divorced ; so be it. And 
you will not marry Franz. But after this Karen? and until 
this ? " 

Karen lay silent for a moment and then turned her head rest- 
lessly away. 

" Why do you ask me ? How can I tell ? " she said. " I wish 



TANTE 415 

to go to Frau Lippheim. When I am well again I wish to work 
and make my living/' 

" But, my Karen/' said Madame von Marwitz with great 
gentleness, " do you not see that for you to go to Franz's mother 
now, in her joy and belief in you, is a cruelty? Later on, yes; 
you could then perhaps go to her, though it will be at any time, 
with this scandal behind you, to place our poor Lise, our poor 
Franz, in an ambiguous position indeed. But now, Karen? 
While the case is going on? Your husband says, you remem- 
ber, that he starts proceedings at once." 

Karen lay still. And suddenly the tears ran down her cheeks. 
" Why cannot I see Franz ? " she said. " Why do you ask me 
questions that I cannot answer? How do I know what I shall 
do ? " She sobbed, quick, dry, alarming sobs. 

" Karen my Karen," Madame von Marwitz murmured, " do 
not weep, my dear one. You exhaust yourself. Do not speak so 
harshly to me, Karen. Will you let me think for you ? See, my 
child, I accept all. I ask for nothing. You do not forgive me 
oh, not truely you do not love me. Our old life is dead. 
I have killed it with my own hand. I see it all, Karen. And 
I accept my doom. But even so, can you not be merciful to 
me and let me help you now ? Do not break my heart, my child. 
Do not crush me down into the dust. Come with me. I will 
take you to quiet and beautiful shores. I will trouble you in 
nothing. There will be no more pleading; no more urgency. 
You shall do as it pleases you in all things, and I will ask only 
to watch over you. Let me do this until you are free and can 
choose your own life. Do not tell me that you hate me so much 
that you will not do this for me." 

Her voice was weighted with its longing, its humility, its 
tenderness. The sound of it seemed to beat its way to Karen 
through mists that lay about her as Tante's cries and tears had 
not done. A sharper thrust of pity pierced her. " I do not 
hate you," she said. " You must not think that. I understand 
and I am very sorry. But I do not love you. I shall not love 
you again. And how could I come with you ? You said what 



416 T A N T E 

did you say that night ?" She put her hand before her eyes 
in the effort of memory. " That I was ungrateful ; that you 
fed and clothed me ; that I took all and gave nothing. And 
other, worse things; you said them to me. How can that be 
again? How could I come with a person who said those things 
tome?" 

" Oh but my child " Madame von Marwitz's voice 
trembled in its hope and fear, though she restrained herself from 
rising and bending to the girl : " did I not make you believe me 
when I told you that I was mad ? Do you not know that the vile 
words were the weapons I took up against you in my madness? 
That you gave nothing, Karen ? When you are my only stay in 
life, the only thing near me in the world you and Tallie the 
thing that I have thought of as mine as if you were my child. 
And if you came to me now you would give still more. If it is 
known that you will not return that you will not forgive me 
and come with me I am disgraced, my child. All the world 
will believe that I have been cruel to you. All the world will 
believe that you hate me and that hatred is all that I have de- 
served from you." 

Karen again had put her hand to her head. " What do you 
mean?" she questioned faintly. "Will it help you if I come 
with you?" 

Madame von Marwitz steadied her voice that now shook with 
rising sobs. " If you will not come I am ruined." 

" You ask to have me to come though I do not love you ? " 

" I ask you to come on any terms, my Karen. And because 
I love you; because you will always be the thing dearest in the 
world to me." 

" I could go to Frau Lippheim, if you would help to send me 
to her," said Karen, still holding her hand to her head ; " I 
could, I am sure, explain to her and to Franz so that they would 
not blame me. But people must not think that I hate you." 

" No ; no ? " Madame von Marwitz hardly breathed. 

" They must not think that ; for it is not true. I do not love 
you, but I have no hatred for you," said Karen. 

" You will come then, Karen ? " 



TANTE 417 

Still with her eyes hidden the girl hesitated as if bewildered 
by the pressure of new realisations. " You would leave me much 
alone ? You would not talk to me ? I should be quiet ? " 

" Oh, my Karen quiet quiet " Madame von Marwitz 
was now sobbing. " You will send for me if you feel that you 
can see me; unless you send I do not obtrude myself on you. 
You will have an attendant of your own. All shall be as you 
wish." 

"And when I am free I may choose my own life?" 

" Free ! free ! the world before you ! all that I have at your 
feet, to spurn or stoop to ! " Tante moaned incoherently. 

" When will it be that we must go ? " Karen then, more 
faintly, asked. Madame von Marwitz had risen to her feet. 
In her ecstasy of gladness she could have clapped her hands 
above her head and danced. And the strong control she put 
upon herself gave to her face almost the grimace of a child that 
masters its weeping. She was drawn from her well. She stood 
upon firm ground. " In two days, my child, if you are strong 
enough. In two days we will set sail/' 

" In two days/' Karen repeated. And, dully, she repeated 
again ; " I come with you in two days/' 

Madame von Marwitz now noticed that tears ran from under 
the hand. These tears of Karen's alarmed her. She had not 
wept at all before to-day. 

" My child is worn and tired. She would rest. Is it not so ? 
Shall I leave her ? " she leaned above the girl to ask. 

" Yes ; I am tired," said Karen. 

And leaning there, above the hidden face, above the heart 
wrung with its secret agony, in all her ecstasy and profound 
relief, Madame von Marwitz knew one of the bitterest moments 
of her life. She had gained safety. But what was her loss, her 
irreparable loss? In the dark little staircase she leaned, as on 
the day of her coming, against the wall, and murmured, as she 
had murmured then : " Bon Dieu! Bon Dieu! " But the words 
were broken by the sobs that, now uncontrollably, shook her as 
she stumbled on in the darkness. 

27 



CHAPTER XLV 

SOME years had passed since Mrs. Talcott had been in Lon- 
don, and it seemed to her, coming up from her solitudes, 
noisier, more crowded, more oppressive than when she had seen 
it last. She had a jaded yet an acute eye for its various aspects, 
as she drove from Paddington towards St. James's, and a dis- 
taste, born of her many years of life in cities, took more definite 
shape in her, even while the excitement of the movement and 
uproar accompanied not inappropriately the strong impulses that 
moved her valorous soul. 

Mrs. Talcott wore a small, round, black straw hat trimmed 
with a black bow. It was the shape that she had worn for years ; 
it was unaffected by the weather and indifferent to the shifting 
of fashion. Her neck-gear was the one invariable with her in 
the day-time; a collar of lawn turned down over a black silk 
stock. About her shoulders was a black cloth cape. Sitting 
there in her hansom, she looked very old, and she looked also 
very national and typical ; the adventurous, indomitable old girl 
of America, bent on seeing all that there was to see, emerged 
for the first time in her life from her provinces, and carrying, it 
might have been, a Baedeker under her arm. 

It was many years since Mrs. Talcott had passed beyond the 
need of Baedekers, and her provinces were a distant memory; 
yet she, too, was engaged, like the old American girl, in the final 
adventure of her life. She did not know, as she drove along in 
her hansom with her shabby little box on the roof, whether she 
were ever to see Les Solitudes again. 

" Carry it right up," she said to the porter at the mansions in 
St. James's when she arrived there. " I 've come for the night, 
I expect." 

The porter had told her that Mr. Jardine had come in. And 
he looked at Mrs. Talcott curiously. 

418 



TANTE 419 

At the door of Gregory's flat Mrs. Talcott encountered a check. 
Barker, mournful and low-toned as an undertaker, informed her 
firmly that Mr. Jardine was seeing nobody. He fixed an aston- 
ished eye upon Mrs. Talcott's box which was being taken from 
the lift. 

" That 's all right/' said Mrs. Talcott. " Mr. Jardine '11 see 
me. You tell him that Mrs. Talcott is here." 

She had walked past Barker into the hall and her box was 
placed beside her. 

Barker was very much disconcerted, yet he felt Mrs. Talcott 
to be a person of weight. He ushered her into the drawing-room. 

In the late sunlight it was as gay and as crisp as 'ever, but for 
the lack of flowers, and the Bouddha still sat presiding in his 
golden niche. 

" Mr. Jardine is in the smoking-room, Madam," said Barker, 
and, gauging still further the peculiar significance of this guest 
whose name he now recovered as one familiar to him on letters, 
he added in a low voice : " He has not used this room since 
Mrs. Jardine left us." 

" Is that so ? " said Mrs. Talcott gravely. " Well, you go and 
bring him here right away." 

Mrs. Talcott stood in the centre of the room when Barker had 
gone and gazed at the Bouddha. And again her figure strongly 
suggested that of the sight-seer, unperturbed and adequate 
amidst strange and alien surroundings. Gregory found her be- 
fore the Bouddha when he came in. If Mrs. Talcott had been 
in any doubt as to one of the deep intuitions that had, from the 
first, sustained her, Gregory's face would have reassured her. 
It had a look of suffocated grief ; it was ravaged ; it asked noth- 
ing and gave nothing; it was fixed on its one devouring pre- 
occupation. 

" How do you do, Mrs. Talcott," he said. They shook hands. 
His voice was curiously soft. 

" I 've come up, you see," said Mrs. Talcott. " I 've come up 
to see you, Mr. Jardine." 

" Yes ? " said Gregory gently. He had placed a chair for her 
but, when she sat down, he remained standing. He did not, it 



420 T A N T E 

was evident, imagine her errand to be one that would require 
a prolonged attention from him. 

t( Mr. Jardine," said Mrs. Talcott, " what was your idea when 
you first found out about Karen from the detective and asked 
me not to tell ? " 

Gregory collected his thoughts, with difficulty. " I don't know 
that I had any idea/' he answered. " I was stunned. I wanted 
time to think." 

" And you hoped it was n't true, perhaps ? " 

" No ; I had n't any hope. I knew it was true. Karen had 
said things to me that made it nothing of a surprise. But per- 
haps my idea was that she would be sorry for what she had done 
and write to me, or to you. I think I wanted to give Karen 
time." 

"Well, and then?" Mrs. Talcott asked. "If she had writ- 
ten?" 

" Well, then, I 'd have gone to her." 

"You'd have taken her back?" 

"If she would have come, of course," said Gregory, in his 
voice of wraith-like gentleness. 

"You wanted her back if she'd gone off with another man 
like that and did n't love you any more ? " 

Gregory was silent for a moment and she saw that her persist- 
ence troubled and perplexed him. 

" As to love," he said, " Karen was a child in some things. I 
believe that she would have grown to love me if her guardian 
had n't come between us. And it might have been to escape from 
her guardian as well as with the idea of freeing herself from me 
that she took refuge with this man. I am convinced that her 
guardian behaved badly to her. It 's rather difficult for me to 
talk to you, Mrs. Talcott," said Gregory, " though I am grateful 
for your kindness, because I so inexpressibly detest a person 
whom you care for." 

" Mr. Jardine," said Mrs. Talcott, fixing her eyes upon him, 
" I want to say something right here, so as there shan't be any 
mistake about it. You were right about Mercedes, all along; 
do you take that in? I don't want to say any more about Mer- 



TANTE 421 

cedes than I 've got to ; I 've cut loose from my moorings, but 
I guess I do care more about Mercedes than anyone 's ever done 
who 's known her as well as I do. But you were right about her. 
And I 'm your friend and I 'm Karen's friend, and it pretty 
near killed me when all this happened." 

Gregory now had taken a chair before her and his eyes, with a 
new look, gazed deeply into hers as she went on : "I would n't 
have accepted what your letter said, not for a minute, if I had n't 
got Mercedes's next thing and if I had n't seen that Mercedes, for 
a wonder, was n't telling lies. I was a mighty sick woman, Mr. 
Jar dine, for a few days; I just seemed to give up. But then I 
got to thinking. I got to thinking, and the more I thought the 
more I could n't lie there and take it. I thought about Mercedes, 
and what she 's capable of ; and I thought about you and how I 
felt dead sure you loved Karen; and I thought about that poor 
child and all she 'd gone through ; and the long and short of it 
was that I felt it in my bones that Mercedes was up to mischief. 
Karen sent for her, she said ; but I don't believe Karen sent for 
her ; I believe she got wind somehow of where Karen was and 
lit out before I could stop her; yes, I was away that day, Mr. 
Jardine, and when I came back I found that three ladies had 
come for Mercedes and she'd made off with them. It may be 
true about Karen; she may have done this wicked thing; but 
if she's done it I don't believe it's the way Mercedes says she 
has. And I 've worked it out to this : you must see Karen, Mr. 
Jardine; you must have it from her own mouth that she loves 
Franz and wants to go off with him and marry him before you 
give her up." 

Gregory's face, as these last words were spoken, showed a deli- 
cate stiffening. " She won't see me," he said. 

" Who says so ? " asked Mrs. Talcott. 

" Don't imagine that I 'd have accepted her guardian's word 
for it," said Gregory, " but everything Madame von Marwitz has 
written has been merely corroborative. She told us that Karen 
was there with this man and I knew it already. She said that 
Karen had begun to look to him as a rescuer from me on the 
day she saw him here in London, and what I remembered of that 



422 T A N T E 

day bore it out. .She said that I should remember that on the 
night we parted Karen told me that she would try to set herself 
free. Karen has confided in her; it was true. And it's true, 
is n't it, that Karen was in terror of falling into my hands. You 
can't deny this, can you ? Why should I torture Karen and my- 
self by seeing her ? " said Gregory. He had averted his eyes as 
he spoke. 

" But do you want her back, Mr. Jardine ? " Mrs. Talcott 
had faced his catalogue of evidence immovably. 

" Not if she loves this man," said Gregory. " And that 's the 
final fact. I know Karen; she couldn't have done this unless 
she loved him. The provocation was n't extreme enough other- 
wise. She would n't, from sheer generosity, disgrace herself to 
free me, especially since she knew that I considered that that 
would be to disgrace me, too. No ; her guardian's story has all 
the marks of truth on it. She loves the man and she had 
planned to meet him. And all I 've got to do now is to see that 
she is free to marry him as soon as possible." He got up as he 
spoke and walked up and down the room. 

Mrs. Talcott's eye followed him and his despair seemed a fuel 
to her faith. " Mr. Jardine," she said, after a moment of silence, 
" I '11 stake my life on it you ? re wrong. I know Karen better 
than you do; I guess women understand each other better than 
a man ever understands them. The bed-rock fact about a woman 
is that she '11 hide the thing she feels most and she '11 say what 
she hopes ain't true so as to give the man a chance for con- 
vincing her it ain't true. And the blamed foolishness of the 
man is that he never does. He just goes off, sick and mournful, 
and leaves her to fight it out the best she can. Karen don't 
love Franz Lippheim, Mr. Jardine ; nothing '11 make me believe 
she loves him. And nothing '11 make me believe but what you 
could have got her to stay that time she left you if you'd un- 
derstood women better. She loves you, Mr. Jardine, though 
she may n't know it, and it 's on the cards she knows it so well 
that she 's dead scared of showing it. Because Karen 's a wife 
through and through ; can't you see it in her face ? You 're 
youngish, yet, and a man, so I don't feel as angry with you as 



TANTE 423 

you deserve, perhaps, for not understanding better and for letting 
Karen get it into her head you did n't love her any more ; for 
that 's what she believes, Mr. Jardine. And what I 'm as sure 
of as that my name 's Hannah Talcott is that she '11 never get 
over you. She 's that kind of woman ; a rare kind ; rocky ; she 
don't change. And if she 's gone and done this thing, like it ap- 
pears she has, it isn't in the way Mercedes says; it's only to 
set you free and to get away from the fear of being handed 
over to a man who don't love her. For she did n't understand, 
either, Mr. Jardine. Women are blamed foolish in their way, 
too." 

Gregory had stopped in his walk and was standing before Mrs. 
Talcott looking down at her; and while Mrs. Talcott fixed the 
intense blue of her eyes upon him he became aware of an impres- 
sion almost physical in its vividness. It was as if Mrs. Talcott 
were the most wise, most skilful, most benevolent of doctors who, 
by some miraculous modern invention, were pumping blood into 
his veins from her own superabundance. It seemed to find its 
way along hardened arteries, to creep, to run, to tingle ; to spread 
with a radiant glow through all his chilled and weary body. 
Hope and fear mounted in him suddenly. 

He could not have said, after that, exactly what happened, but 
he could afterwards recall, brokenly, that he must have shed 
tears; for his first distinct recollection was that he was leaning 
against the end of the piano and that Mrs. Talcott, who had risen, 
was holding him by the hand and saying : " There now, yes, 
I guess you 've had a pretty bad time. You hang on, Mr. Jar- 
dine, and we '11 get her back yet." 

He wanted to put his head on Mrs. Talcott's shoulder and be 
held by her to her broad breast for a long time ; but, since such 
action would have been startlingly uncharacteristic of them both, 
he only, when he could speak, thanked her. 

" What shall I do, now ? " he asked. He was in Mrs. Talcott's 
hands. " It 's no good writing to Karen. Madame von Marwitz 
will intercept my letter if what you believe is true. Shall we go 
down to the New Forest directly? Shall I force my way in on 
Karen?" 



424 T A N T E 

"That's just what you'll have to do; I don't doubt it," said 
Mrs. Talcott. " And I '11 go with you, to manage Mercedes while 
you get hold of Karen. And I 'm not fit for it till 1 7 ve had a 
night's rest, so we '11 go down first thing to-morrow, Mr. Jardine. 
I 'm spending the night here so as we can talk it all out to-night. 
But first I 'm going round to Mrs. Forrester's. If I 'm right, 
Mr. Jardine, and there ain't any ' if ' about it in my own mind, 
it's important that people should know what the truth is now, 
before we go. We don't want to have to seem to work up a story 
to shield Karen if she comes back to you. I 'm going to Mrs. 
Forrester's and I 'm going to that mighty silly woman, Miss 
Scrotton, and I '11 have to tell them a thing or two that '11 make 
them sit up." 

" But wait first, you must be so tired. Do have some tea first," 
Gregory urged, as the indomitable old woman made her way to- 
wards the door. " And what can you say to them, after all ? 
We are sure of nothing." 

Mrs. Talcott paused with her hand on the door knob. " I 'm 
sure of one thing, and they 've got to hear it ; and that is that 
Mercedes treated Karen so bad she had to go. Mercedes is n't 
going to get let off that. I told her so. I told her I 'd come 
right up and tell her friends about her if she stole a march on 
me, and that 's what she 's done. Yes," said Mrs. Talcott, open- 
ing the door, " I 've cut loose from my moorings and Mercedes's 
friends have got to hear the truth of that story and I 'm going 
to see that they do right away. Good-bye, Mr. Jardine. I don't 
want any tea ; I '11 be back in time for dinner, I guess." 



CHAPTER XLVI 

PEACE had descended upon the little room where Karen 
lay, cold, still peace. There were no longer any tears or 
clamour, no appeals and agonies. Tante was often with her; 
but she seldom spoke now and Karen had ceased to feel more 
than a dull discomfort when she came into the room. 

Tante smiled at her with the soft, unmurmuring patience of 
her exile, she tended her carefully, she told her that in a day or 
two, at furthest, they would be out at sea in the most beautiful 
of yachts. " All has been chosen for my child," she said. " The 
nurse meets us at Southampton and we wing our way straight to 
Sicily." 

Karen was willing that anything should be done with her 
except the one thing. It had surprised her to find how much it 
meant to Tante that she should consent to go back to her. It 
had not been difficult to consent, when she understood that that 
was all that Tante wanted and why she wanted it so much. It 
was the easier since in her heart she believed that she was dy- 
ing. 

All these days it had been like holding her way through a 
whirlpool. The foam and uproar of the water had beat upon 
her fragile bark of life, had twisted it and turned it again and 
again to the one goal where she would not be. Tante had been 
the torrent, at once stealthy and impetuous, and the goal where 
she had wished to drive her had been marriage to Franz. 
Karen had known no fear of yielding, it would have been im- 
possible to her to yield ; yet she had thought sometimes that the 
bark would crack under the onslaught of the torrent and she be 
dragged down finally to unconsciousness. 

All that torment was over. She seemed to be sliding rapidly 
and smoothly down a misty river. She could see no banks, 
no sky; all was white, soft, silent. There was no strength left 

425 



426 TANTE 

in her with which to struggle against the thought of death, no 
strength with which to fear it. 

But, as she lay in the little room, her hands folded on her 
breast, corpse-like already in her placidity, something wailed 
within her and lamented. And sometimes tears rose slowly and 
swelled her eyelids and she felt herself a creature coffined and 
underground, put away and forgotten, though not yet a creature 
dead. Her heart in the darkness still lived and throbbed. 
Thoughts of Gregory were with her always, memories of him 
and of their life together which, now that she had lost him for- 
ever, she might cherish. She felt, though she lay so still, that 
she put out her hands always, in supplication, to Gregory. He 
would forget her, or remember her only as his disgrace. It 
seemed to her that if she could feel Gregory lean to her and kiss 
her forehead in tenderness and reconciliation her breath could 
sweetly cease. 

The day before the departure was come and it was a warm, 
quiet afternoon. Tante had been with her in the morning, en^ 
gaged in preparations for the journey. She had brought to show 
to Karen the exquisite nightgowns and wrappers, of softest wool 
and silk, that she was to wear on the yacht. The long cloak, too, 
of silk all lined with swansdown, such a garment as the tenderest, 
most cherished of mortals should wear. This was for Karen 
when she lay on deck in the sun. And there was a heavier fur- 
lined cloak for chilly days and the loveliest of shoes and stockings 
and scarves. All these things Tante had sent for for Karen, and 
Karen thanked her, as she displayed them before her, gently and 
coldly. She felt that Tante was piteous at these moments, but 
nothing in her was moved towards her. Already she was dead 
to Tante. 

She was alone now, again, and she would not see Tante till 
tea-time. Tante had asked her if she could sleep and she had 
said yes. She lay with eyes closed, vaguely aware of the sounds 
that rose to her from the room beneath, where Tante was en- 
gaged with the landlady in arranging the new possessions in 
boxes, and of the fainter sounds from the road in front of the 
house. Wheels rolled up and stopped. They often came, during 



TANTB 427 

these last days; Tante's purchases were arriving by every post. 
And the voices below seemed presently to alter in pitch and 
rhythm, mounting to her in a sonorous murmur, dully rising and 
falling. Karen listened in indifference. 

But suddenly there came another sound and this was sharp 
and near. 

There was only one window in the little room; it was open, 
and it looked out at the back of the house over a straggling 
garden set round with trees and shrubberies. The sound was 
outside the window, below it and approaching it, the strangest 
sound, scratching, cautious, deliberate. 

Karen opened her eyes and fixed them on the window. The 
tree outside hardly stirred against the blue spring sky. Some- 
one was climbing up to her window. 

She felt no fear and little surprise. She wondered, placidly, 
fixing her eyes upon the patterned square of blue and green. 
And upon this background, like that of some old Italian picture, 
there rose the head and shoulders of Mrs. Talcott. 

Karen raised herself on her elbow and stared. The river 
stopped in its gliding; the mists rolled away; the world rocked 
and swayed and settled firmly into a solid, visible reality; Mrs. 
Talcott's face and her round black straw hat and her black caped 
shoulders, hoisting themselves up to the window-sill. Never in 
her life was she to forget the silhouette on the sky and the 
branching tree, nor Mrs. Talcott's resolute, large, old, face, nor 
the gaze that Mrs. Talcott's eyes fixed on her as she came. 

Mrs. Talcott put her knee on the window-sill and then strug- 
gled for a moment, her foot engaged in the last rung of the 
ladder; then she turned and stepped down backwards into the 
room. 

Karen, raised on her elbow, was trembling. 

" Lay down, honey/' said Mrs. Talcott, gently and gravely, 
as they looked at each other; and, as she came towards the bed, 
Karen .obeyed her and joined her hands together. " Oh, will 
you come with us ? " she breathed. " Will you stay with me ? 
I can live if you stay with me, Mrs. Talcott dear Mrs. Tal- 
cott." 



428 TANTB 

She stretched out her hands to her, and Mrs. Talcott, sitting 
down on the bed beside her, took her in her arms. 

" You 're all right, now, honey. I 'm not going to leave you," 
she said, stroking back Karen's hair. 

Karen leaned her head against her breast, and closed her eyes. 

" Listen, honey," said Mrs. Talcott, who spoke in low, careful 
tones: "I want to ask you something. Do you love Franz 
Lippheim ? Just answer me quiet and easy now. I 'm right 
here, and you 're as safe as safe can be." 

Karen, on Mrs. Talcott's breast, shook her head. " Oh, no, 
Mrs. Talcott; you could not believe that. Why should I love 
dear Franz ? " 

" Then it 's only so as to set your husband free that you 're 
marrying Franz ? " Mrs. Talcott went on in the same even voice. 

"But no, Mrs. Talcott," said Karen, "I am not going to 
marry Franz." And now she lifted her head and looked at 
Mrs. Talcott. " Why do you ask me that ? Who has told you 
that I am to marry Franz ? " 

Mrs. Talcott, keeping an arm around her, laid her back on the 
pillow. 

"But, Karen, if you run off like that with Franz and come 
here and stay as his wife," she said, " and get your husband to 
divorce you by acting so, it 's natural that people should think 
that you 're going to marry the young man, ain't it ? " 

A burning red had mounted to Karen's wasted cheeks. Her 
sunken eyes dwelt on Mrs. Talcott with a sort of horror. " It 
is true," she said. "He may think that; he must think that; 
because unless he does he cannot divorce me and set himself 
free, and he must be free, Mrs. Talcott; he has said that he 
wishes to be free. But I did not run away with Franz. I met 
him, on the headland, that morning, and he was to take me to 
his mother, and I was so ill that he brought me here. That 
was all." 

Mrs. Talcott smoothed back her hair. " Take it easy, honey," 
she said. " There 's nothing to worry over one mite. And now 
I 've asked my questions and had my answers, and I 've got 
something to tell. Karen, child, it's all been a pack of lies 



TANTE 429 

that Mercedes has told so as to get hold of you, and so as he 
shouldn't so as your husband should n't, Karen. Listen, 
honey : your husband loves you just for all he 's worth. I 've 
seen him. 1 went up to him. And he told me how you were 
all the world to him, and how, if only you did n't love this young 
man and didn't want to be free, he'd do anything to get you 
back, and how if you 'd done the wicked thing he 'd been told 
and then gotten sorry, he'd want you back just the same be- 
cause you were his dear wife, and the one woman he loved. But 
he could n't force himself on you if you loved someone else and 
hated him. So I just told him that I did n't believe you loved 
Franz ; and I got him to hope it, too, and we came down together, 
Karen, and Mercedes is like a lion at bay downstairs, and she 's 
in front of that door that leads up here and swears it '11 kill you 
to see us ; and I 'd seen the ladder leaning on the wall and I 
just nipped out while she was talking, and brought it round to 
what I calculated would be your window and climbed up, and 
that 's what I 've come to tell you, Karen, that he loves you, and 
that he 's downstairs, and that he 's waiting to know whether 
you '11 see him." 

Mrs. Talcott rose and stood by the bed looking down into 
Karen's eyes. "Honey, I can bring him up, can't I?" she 
asked. 

Karen's eyes looked up at her with an intensity that had 
passed beyond joy or appeal. Her life was concentrated in her 
gaze. 

" You would not lie to me ? " she said. " It is not pity ? He 
loves me ? " 

66 No, I would n't lie to you, dearie," said Mrs. Talcott, with 
infinite tenderness; "lies ain't my line. It's not pity. He 
loves you, Karen." 

" Bring him," Karen whispered. " I have always loved him. 
Don't let me die before he comes." 



CHAPTEE XLVII 

MRS. TALCOTT, as she descended the staircase, heard in 
the little sitting-room a voice, the voice of Mercedes, speak- 
ing on and on, in a deep-toned, continuous roll of vehement 
demonstration, passionate protest, subtle threat and pleading. 
Gregory's voice she did not hear. No doubt he stood where she 
had left him, at the other side of the table, confronting his 
antagonist. 

Mrs. Talcott turned the knob of the door and slightly pushed 
it. A heavy weight at once was flung against it. 

"You shall not come in! You shall not! I forbid it! I 
will not be disturbed ! " cried the voice of Mercedes, who must, 
in the moment, have guessed that she had been foiled. 

" Quit that foolishness," said Mrs. Talcott sternly. She 
leaned against the door and forced it open, and Mercedes, di- 
shevelled, with eyes that seemed to pant on her like eyes from 
some dangerous jungle, flung herself once more upon the door 
and stood with her back against it. 

" Mr. Jardine/' said Mrs. Talcott, not looking at her recovered 
captive, " Karen is upstairs and wants to see you. She does n't 
love Franz Lippheim and she isn't going to marry him. She 
did n't run away with him ; she met him when she 'd run away 
from her guardian and he was going to take her to his mother, 
only she got sick and he had to bring her here. She was told 
that you wanted to divorce her and wanted to be free. She loves 
you, Mr. Jardine, and she's waiting up there; only be mighty 
gentle with her, because she's been brought to death's door by 
all that she 's been through." 

" I forbid it ! I forbid it ! " shrieked Madame von Marwitz 
from her place before the door, spreading her arms across it. 
" She is mad ! She is delirious ! The doctor has said so ! I 
have promised Franz that you shall not come to her unless across 

430 



TANTE 431 

my dead body. I have sworn it! I keep my promise to 
Franz!" 

Gregory advanced to the door, eyeing her. " Let me pass/' he 
said. " Let me go to my wife." 

" No ! no ! and no ! " screamed the desperate woman. " You 
shall not ! It will kill her ! You shall be arrested ! You wish 
to kill a woman who has fled from you ! Help ! Help ! " He 
had her by the wrists and her teeth seized his hands. She fought 
him with incredible fury. 

"Hold on tight, Mr. Jardine," Mrs. Talcott's voice came to 
him from below. " There ; I 've got hold of her ankles. Put 
her down." 

With a loud, clashing wail through clenched and grinding 
teeth, Madame von Marwitz, like a pine-tree uprooted, was laid 
upon the floor. Mrs. Talcott knelt at her feet, pinioning them. 
She looked along the large white form to Gregory at the other 
end, who was holding down Madame von Marwitz's shoulders. 
" Go on, Mr. Jardine," she said. " Eight up those stairs. 
She '11 calm down now. I 've had her like this before." 

Gregory rose, yet paused, torn by his longing, yet fearful of 
leaving the old woman with the demoniac creature. But 
Madame von Marwitz lay as if in a trance. Her lids were closed. 
Her breast rose and fell with heavy, regular breaths. 

" Go on, Mr. Jardine," said Mrs. Talcott. So he left them 
there. 

He went up the little stairs, dark and warm, and smelling 
he was never to forget the smell of apples and dust, and 
entered a small, light room where a window made a square of 
blue and green. Beyond it in a narrow bed lay Karen. She did 
not move or speak ; her eyes were fixed on his ; she did not smile. 
And as he looked at her Mrs. Talcott's words flashed in his 
mind: "Karen's that kind: rocky: she don't change." 

But she had changed. She was his as she had never been, 
never could have been, if the sinister presence lying there down- 
stairs had not finally revealed itself. He knelt beside her and 
she was in his arms and his head was laid in the old sacred way 
beside his darling's head. They did not seem to speak to each 



432 TANTE 

other for a long time nor did they look into each other's eyes. 
He held her hand and looked at that, and sometimes kissed it 
gently. But after words had come and their eyes had dared to 
meet in joy, Karen said to him : " And I must tell you of 
Franz, Gregory, dear Franz. He is suffering, I know. He, too, 
was lied to, and he was sent away without seeing me again. 
We will write to Franz at once. And you will care for my 
Franz, Gregory ?" 

"Yes; I will care for your Franz; bless your Franz/ 5 said 
Gregory, with tears, his lips on her hand. 

" He came to me like an angel that morning," Karen said in 
her breath of voice; "and he has been like a beautiful mother 
to me; he has taken care of me like a mother. It was on the 
headland over Falmouth that he came. Oh, Gregory/' she 
turned her face to her husband's breast, " the birds were be- 
ginning to sing* and I thought that I should never see you 
again." 



CHAPTER XLVIII 

WHEN the door had shut behind Gregory, Madame von 
Marwitz spoke, her eyes still closed : 

" Am I now permitted to rise ? " 

Mrs. Talcott released her ankles and stood up. 

" You 7 ve made a pretty spectacle of yourself, Mercedes," she 
remarked as Madame von Marwitz raised herself with extraordi- 
nary stateliness. " I 7 ve seen you behave like you were a devil 
before, but I never saw you behave like you were quite such a 
fool. What made you fight him and bite him like that ? What 
did you expect to gain by it 1 7 d like to know ? As if you could 
keep that strong young man from his wife/ 7 

Madame von Marwitz had walked to the small mirror over the 
mantelpiece and was adjusting her hair. Her face, reflected 
between a blue and gold shepherd and shepherdess holding 
cornucopias of dried honesty, was still ashen, but she possessed all 
her faculties. " This is to kill Karen/ 7 she now said. " And 
yours will be the responsibility. 77 

" Taken, 77 Mrs. Talcott replied, but with no facetiousness. 

Several of the large tortoiseshell pins that held Madame von 
Marwitz 7 s abundant locks were scattered on the floor. She 
turned and looked for them, stooped and picked them up. Then 
returning to the mirror she continued, awkwardly, to twist up 
and fasten her hair. She was unaccustomed to doing her own 
hair and even the few days without a maid had given her no 
facility. 

Mrs. Talcott watched her for a moment and then remarked: 
" You 're getting it all 'screwed round to one side, Mercedes. 
You 7 d better let me do it for you. 77 

Madame von Marwitz for a moment made no reply. Her 
eyes fixed upon her own mirrored eyes, .she continued to 
insert the pins with an air of stubborn impassivity; but when 
28 433 



434 TANTB 

a large loop fell to her neck she allowed her arms to drop. She 
sank upon a chair and, still with unflawed stateliness, presented 
the back of her head to Mrs. Talcott's skilful manipulations. 
Mrs. Talcott, in silence, wreathed and coiled and pinned and the 
beautiful head resumed its usual outlines. 

When this was accomplished Madame von Marwitz rose. 
" Thank you," she uttered. She moved towards the door of her 
room. 

" What are you going to do now, Mercedes ? " Mrs. Talcott 
inquired. Her eyes, which deepened and darkened, as if all her 
years of silent watchfulness opened long vistas in them, were 
fixed upon Mercedes. 

"I am going to pack and return to my home," Madame von 
Marwitz replied. 

" Well," said Mrs. Talcott, " you '11 want me to pack for you, 
I expect." 

Madame von Marwitz had opened her door and her hand was 
on the door-knob. She paused so and again, for a long mo- 
ment, she made no reply. " Thank you," she then repeated. 
But she turned and looked at Mrs. Talcott. " You have been 
a traitor to me," she said after she had contemplated her for 
some moments, " you, in whom I completely trusted. You have 
ruined me in the eyes of those I love." 

" Yes, I \e gone back on you, Mercedes, that 's a fact," said 
Mrs. Talcott. 

"You have handed Karen over to bondage/' Madame von 
Marwitz went on. " She and this man are utterly unsuited. 
I would have freed her and given her to a more worthy mate." 
Her voice had the dignity of a disinterested and deep regret. 

Mrs. Talcott made no reply. The long vistas of her eyes dwelt 
on Mercedes. After another moment of this mutual contempla- 
tion Madame von Marwitz closed the door, though she still kept 
her hand on the door-knob. 

"May I ask what you have been saying of me to Mrs. For- 
rester, to Mr. Jardine ? " 

"Well, as to Mr. Jardine, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, 
"there was no need of saying anything, was there, if I turned 



TANTB 435 

out right in what I told him I suspected. He sees I 'm right. 
He 'd been fed up, along with the rest of them, on lies, and 
Karen can help him out with the details if he wants to ask for 
them. As for the old lady, I gave her the truth of the story 
about Karen running away. I made her see, and see straight, 
that your one idea was to keep Karen's husband from getting 
her back because you knew that if he did the truth about you 
would come out. I let you down as easy as I could and put it 
that you weren't responsible exactly for the things you said 
when you went off your head in a rage and that you were awful 
sorry when you found Karen had taken you at your word and 
made off. But that old lady feels mighty sick, Mercedes, and 
I allow she '11 feel sicker when she 's seen Mr. Jardine. As for 
Miss Scrotton, I saw her, too, and she 's come out strong ; you 've 
got a friend there, Mercedes, sure; she won't believe anything 
against her beloved Mercedes," a dry smile touched Mrs. Tal- 
cott's grave face as she echoed Miss Scrotton's phraseology, 
"until she hears from her own lips what she has to say in ex- 
planation of the story. You'll be able to fix her up all right, 
Mercedes, and most of the others, too, I expect. I 'd advise you 
to lie low for a while and let it blow over. People are mighty 
glad to be given the chance for forgetting things against any- 
one like you. It'll simmer down and work out, I expect, to 
a bad quarrel you had with Karen that 's parted you. And 
as for the outside world, why it won't mind a mite what you 
do. Why you can murder your grandmother and eat her, I 
expect, and the world '11 manage to overlook it, if you 're a 
genius." 

" I thank you," said Madame von Marwitz, her hand clasping 
and unclasping the door-knob. " I thank you indeed for your 
reassurance. I have murdered and eaten my grandmother, but 
I am to escape hanging because I am a genius. That is a most 
gratifying piece of information. You, personally, I infer, con- 
sider that the penalty should be paid, however gifted the 
criminal." 

"I don't know, Mercedes, I don't know," said Mrs. Talcott 
in a voice of profound sadness. "I don't know who deserves 



436 TA1STTE 

penalties and who don't, if you begin to argue it out to your- 
self." Mrs. Talcott, who had seated herself at the other side of 
the table, laid an arm upon it, looking before her and not at 
Mercedes, as she spoke. "You're a bad woman; that ain't to 
be denied. You 're a bad, dangerous woman, and perhaps what 
you've been trying to do now is the worst thing you've ever 
done. But I guess I'm way past feeling angry at anything 
you do. I guess I 'm way past wanting you to get come up with. 
I can't make out how to think about a person like you. Maybe 
you figured it all out to yourself different from the way it looks. 
Maybe you persuaded yourself to believe that Karen would be 
better off apart from her husband. I guess that 's the way with 
most criminals, don't you? They figure things out different 
from the way other people do. I expect you can't help it. I 
expect you were born so. And I guess you can't change. Some 
bad folks seem to manage to get religion and that brings 'em 
round ; but I expect you ain't that kind." 

Madame von Marwitz, while Mrs. Talcott thus shared her 
psychological musings with her, was not looking at the old 
woman: her eyes were fixed on the floor and she seemed to 
consider. 

" No," she said presently. " I am not that kind." 

She raised her eyes and they met Mrs. Talcott's. " What are 
you going to do now ? " she asked. 

"Well," said Mrs. Talcott, drawing a long sigh of fatigue, 
" I 've been thinking that over and I guess I '11 stay over here. 
There ain't any place for me in America now; all my folks are 
dead. You know that money my Uncle Adam left me a long 
time ago that I bought the annuity with. Well, I 've saved 
most of that annuity ; I 'd always intended that Karen should 
have what I'd saved when I died. But Karen don't need it 
now. It'll buy me a nice little cottage somewhere and I can 
settle down and have a garden and chickens and live on what 
I 've got." 

" How much was it, the annuity ? " Madame von Marwitz 
asked after a moment. 

" A hundred and ten pounds a year," said Mrs. Talcott. 



TANTE 437 

"But you cannot live on that/' Madame von Marwitz, after 
another moment, said. 

" Why, gracious sakes, of course I can, Mercedes/' Mrs. Tal- 
cott replied, smiling dimly. 

Again there was silence and then Madame von Marwitz said, 
in a voice a little forced : " You have not got much out of life, 
have you, Tallie?" 

"Well, no; I don't expect you would say as I had," Mrs. 
Talcott acquiesced, showing a slight surprise. 

" You have n't even got me now have you/' Madame von 
Marwitz went on, looking down at her door-knob and running 
her hand slowly round it while she spoke. " Not even the 
criminal. But that is a gain, you feel, no doubt, rather than a 
loss." 

"No, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott mildly; "I don't feel that 
way. I feel it 's a loss, I guess. You see you 're all the family 
I 've got left." 

" And you," said Madame von Marwitz, still looking down at 
her knob, " are all the family I have left." 

Mrs. Talcott now looked at her. Mercedes did not raise her 
eyes. Her face was sad and very pale and it had not lost its 
stateliness. Mrs. Talcott looked at her for what seemed to be a 
long time and the vistas of her eyes deepened with a new 
acceptance. 

It was without any elation and yet without any regret that 
she said in her mild voice: "Do you want me to come back 
with you, Mercedes ? " 

" Will you ? " Madame von Marwitz asked in a low voice. 

" Why, yes, of course I '11 come if you want me, Mercedes," 
said Mrs. Talcott. 

Madame von Marwitz now opened her door. " Thank you, 
Tallie," she said. 

" You look pretty tired," Mrs. Talcott, following her into the 
bedroom, remarked. <e You 'd better lie down and take a rest 
while I do the packing. Let 's clear out as soon as we can." 

THE END 



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