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Title: Moss Rose
Author: Marjorie Bowen writing as Joseph Shearing
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1306191h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  Nov 2013
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Moss Rose


Marjorie Bowen
writing as Joseph Shearing

Cover Image

First published by Heinemann, London, 1934

"Terrors take hold on him like waters, a tempest stealeth him away in the night. The East wind carrieth him afar and he departeth and as a storm it sweepeth him out of his place."
Book of Job.


"The police always suspected a connection between the two unpunished crimes, which they believed to be the work of one of those malefactors who have an extra-ordinary power of keeping up appearances in society while capable of the most monstrous actions."
Memoirs of Mr. E. M., 1875

Cover Image

Moss Rose, Heinemann, London, 1934


SOME of the early incidents in the following novel are founded upon a well-known murder mystery which took place in 1872. The facts of this case can easily be ascertained; an account of the crime is included in several collections of studies in criminology.

Nothing but the bare outline and a few unimportant details have been used, and all the characters are entirely imaginary and are not portraits, in any way, of those connected with the actual crime of 1872 and the two arrests that followed.

Even where fiction has to follow fact as to type in dealing with detective, magistrate, landlady, waiter, etc., the characters that fulfil these parts are fictional and in no way even based upon those of the persons who were involved in the circumstances on which the first part of this novel is founded.

"YOU look as if you was going to cut your throat."

"Funny, Min, I was thinking of it."

"Got any beer or gin—a mouthful of the real 'knock me down'?"

"No, I haven't."

"Oh, ain't it shocking. Any luck for the pantomime?"

"No—I'm not sure—"

"I've had an offer for one dance and the chorus-but only twenty-five shillings."

"I can't get that, I don't think. Well what did you come in here for? I'm thinking of suicide, I tell you; a pity you disturbed me. Oh, I'm tired."

"Who isn't?"

Minnie Palmer flopped on to the broken stool inside the dressing-room underneath the stage; her dirty white muslin skirts and the tarnished spangles on her tattered bodice were crudely fashioned to represent the petals and calyx of a lily, a torn wig was pulled over her head, her small features were heavily outlined in cheap greasepaint.

The other woman glanced at her visitor with cool ease; she was seated by a deal table which was scattered with hares' feet, rags, glass jewels, pots of cream and rouge, odd thumbed playing cards, mugs and empty bottles—all flyblown and filthy.

Her green and red dress was meant to represent a moss rose, a green cap was tied over her yellow wig; her face, without make-up or powder, looked pallid, almost featureless in the harsh light of the gas-jet which, enclosed in a wire cage, flared from a bracket on the dirty plaster wall, above which were open rafters hung with cobwebs. This bare acrid flame was reflected in the three-cornered fragment of mirror that stood on the dressing-table.

"Why don't you get some paint on your face?" complained Minnie Palmer. "You look a sight."

"Go away—I haven't drink—no gin—no beer—no port wine."

"Who's got anything? You're unlucky, aren't you, dearie? I always thought you had such style, too—but no one seems to notice it."

The other's light-grey eyes flashed and hardened beneath the absurd curls of false hair.

"You little fool, who are you to notice anything? Leave me alone, can't you?"

"I want a bit of company—seems dismal here to-night--the last performance—the house isn't half-full, and outside it's as cold as hell—a black frost, too."

"Christmas Eve, darling. Don't forget to hang your stocking up."

"Well, you needn't speak so bitter." Minnie Palmer, the lily, stretched out her plump pink legs in wrinkling cotton flesh-coloured-stockings. "I've had a bottle of scent—'Jockey Club,' too—from Charlie—and Jim's coming along with some bottled porter and fruit from Covent Garden. Ain't you got anyone? Seems a pity—"

"That you interrupted me—yes—when I was about to cut my throat?" smiled Belle Adair; she picked up from the table a clasp-knife near a platter on which was an end of a loaf, a cold half-eaten red herring and some trimmings of ham fat.

"Well, I never! You needn't make such silly jokes," protested Minnie Palmer uneasily. "You always were a rum 'un, you were. Everyone says so—"

"Do they?"

"You don't make friends easy, do you? The girls are all a bit afraid of you, you know—"

"Are they?"

"I suppose it's because you're a lady."

"What makes you think that I'm—a—a 'lady'?" asked Belle, still fingering the knife; the steel plade was tarnished with vinegar drops.

"Anyone can see it; and a nice life of it you've had, to come to this, eh, Belle? Don't stare so, dearie. I like you."

Minnie Palmer rose, hesitated when she pulled open the door and looked into the dark passage and stairs on to which the dressing-rooms gave. The scrapings of the small orchestra sounded from the stage above.

"Pretty—isn't it? I'd like to dance to that—it's better than the music we've got; they're using it for the pantomime, too."

"It's old—The Sicilian Vespers.' I remember it in Paris. No, I don't, I don't remember anything." Belle put down the knife and, taking up the hare's foot, began to brush rouge into her pasty cheeks.

"You've been to Paris, have you?" sighed Minnie. "I'll bet you have, and other places, too. You're a rum 'un. Jenny's gone to Paris—he took her after all. My, it makes your mouth water—there's the great Exhibition next year and the Prince over there, and I don't know how many other Kings and Queens."

"Except the Queen of Spain, I suppose."

"Oh, they don't ask her—that's funny, ain't it? A Queen and no better than we are." Minnie Palmer laughed, yawned and stretched. "Wouldn't it be grand? Just to think of it makes you curl up inside—"

"Does it? What difference will it make to Jenny or would it make to you? Neither of you is so very pretty nor so very young, and neither of you has any talent at all. Think of all the charming creatures with money to spend who will be offering themselves for sale in Paris now."

"I don't like your way of putting things, I'm sure." Minnie Palmer tossed up her head with the artificial flaxen curls and dirty lilies, but her face was wrinkled as if she were about to cry. "The world's not so bad, sneer as you like, and we are better off than some. Poor Daisy's been round here again."

Belle Adair was carelessly rubbing powdered charcoal round her eyes as she interrupted in her low, incisive voice:

"Has she? She can't get work for the pantomime. They won't look at her."

"Doesn't she know it? She wanted to see you it was when you were on the stage—she's coming back."

"What for?" Belle blew the dust off the top of the rice powder in a lidless cardboard box printed with bunches of violets. "I see her every night."

"She said she was going out this evening, she wanted to borrow your salmon-pink feathers."

Belle Adair was silent; her face looked odd and ugly under the disfigurement of rice powder and rouge, her eyes were restless and impatient in the smudges of black.

Minnie Palmer rose; her healthy young body, inclined to fullness, seemed about to burst the sweat-stained, spangled bodice; she hitched up one of the sagging pink stockings and tightened the garter of frazzled ribbon.

"What would you give to get out of all this?" she asked vigorously, turning her insolent, good-humoured direct glance towards the red and green figure staring into the fragment of mirror. "I don't know how you stand it, that I don't. How do they think I'm going on in these shoes? Mind you, I went past Claridge's to-day—well, why shouldn't we have a taste of it? I mean we don't have any luck." Probing the other's silence she added: "You've known what it might be—before you got into trouble. Oh, I'm cold! A glass of port with a lot of sugar in it—or threepennyworth of 'cream of the valley'—haven't you sixpence, Belle, dear? Bobs would run for it in a moment. Just to warm us up before we go on?"

"I've nothing. You asked me what I'd give to get out of here? Well, I've nothing to give, don't you understand? Nothing to offer you for drink, nothing to give—nothing—"

"Stop a bit!" cried Minnie Palmer, in a half-whispering tone. "You frighten me speaking so cruel—it is Christmas Eve, as you said, and I mean to have some merry-making—"

"Go away! Go away!" Belle looked over her shoulder and spoke with quiet vehemence; Minnie, afraid, paused at the door.

"There's the call—well, don't you be late, or it will be the deuce and all—"

Tapping her small foot in the worn pink ballet shoe, Belle repeated:

"Go away!—will you, go away!"

Minnie Palmer hunched up her thick shoulders impudently, to cover her timidity.

"Oh, here's a set-out! Don't bother yourself, my pet, about me."

As soon as she had flounced away, Belle went swiftly to the cupboard, in the corner of which hung some theatrical dresses, skirts, gowns and shawls, bonnets and pairs of cloth boots which, tied by their laces, dangled from a peg. In the pocket of a trailing skirt of white gauze she found a flask of gin and with an air of dry reserve, tipped it up and drank.

* * *

It was a pretty scene, this divertissement that was one of the music-hall 'turns.' At the back of the stage a transparency showed a terrace of blooms behind a gigantic silver cobweb spangled with dew-drops. Either side, leaves of gold tinsel quivered on invisible net. In the centre the fairies from the flowers gathered round the "Queen of the Flowers," a white rose, holding a wand on the end of which sparkled a glistening star. Her two principal attendants were Minnie Palmer, the lily, and Belle Adair, the moss rose; beyond them was the violet, the carnation, the tiger lily, the sunflower, the iris and the hollyhock, an odd bouquet swiftly forming under the rosey glow from the lanterns in the wings, in front of which red paper had been fixed. The foot-lights had also been shrouded with soft shades and this warm hue of the foreground contrasted with the ethereal silverness of the enchanted distance.

The music, taken from popular tunes, was soft and flowing; particularly pleasing was the little waltz to which the Moss Rose circled for her short pas seul. This melody, dedicated to a lovely and beloved English Princess on her recovery from rheumatic fever, was well known and much liked in London, and the audience tapped feet and half-emptied beer mugs, hummed with zest as the familiar opening bars were struck up by violins and piano.

The flower fairies withdrew into the painted side-slips and the Moss Rose pirouetted on her toes; Minnie Palmer, striking an attitude beside her, whispered: "Pretty, isn't it? Don't you wish that you were dancing it with a real gentleman?"

With her arms folded on her breast Belle Adair waltzed round the stage; she was taller, more slender than any of the other dancers, she had a good ear and was light of foot. In the flattering blurred light she gave an illusion of beauty; the swirling pink skirts like petals, the green bodice like folded leaves, the gracefully held head with the verdant cap—something ardent, proud and swift in poise and movement—had a transient quality of enchantment. But the audience was not pleased, the applause was feeble; it was always the same with Belle, she never made a success, there was something remote and alien about her, some quality of disdain and coldness that made people uneasy, even hostile. The music jerked into a polka, Minnie. Palmer bounced forward, and, winking and grinning, flung her shapely legs, in the pink stockings and laced boots, about in a frenzied caricature of a ball dance. The audience roared with delight. The Moss Rose, forgotten, slipped in amidst the other fairies and, mechanically smiling, raised one end of a garland of paper blossoms that was lowered from the flies to enchain the girls with festoons of flowers as the curtain fell and the stage hands came on to clear the stage for the next turn—a Chinese juggler.

* * *

"I ought to have the waltz in the pantomime," complained Minnie Palmer. "I look better in pink, too. Say, please, that I ought to have the waltz!"

She stood in the wings, breathing hard, clinging to the arm of the tired stage manager who leant against one of the roughly painted boards that was daubed to look like a tree..

"You do fine and well as you are, don't you, Missus?" He had been playing the clown in an earlier turn with the ventriloquist and his face was still streaked with red and white.

"Pretty well, but Belle's no good—and that's such a sweet, pretty tune." She hummed a bar of "Moss Rose."

"Please now—Belle's more like a lily, I'm sure."

He laughed so loud that she was startled: "We'll see in the morning, Missus. Belle's a fine dancer as I think, and 'Moss Rose' is her style—genteel and dainty. You can see that she's a lady."

"Do you think that's what they want? Genteel indeed! Why doesn't she go where she belongs if she's a lady—a real, high-born lady?"

"The more's the pity if she's a lady, Missus. But, I'd have to ask Mr. Lode about changing parts, and it's getting late and damned cold, so be off with you. Besides, this is the last performance before the pantomime and I don't know as the ballet will go into 'Puss in Boots' even now."

Belle passed them as they were talking; she had been lingering at the back of the darkened, draughty stage where, without the lights and the music, the scene before which she had danced was merely tinfoil paper, dirty rags and chalked canvas. An odious spot, but less odious than the streets; a smell of sawdust, oranges and stale beer came from behind the drop-cloth that formed the background for the juggler.

She knew at once that they were discussing her and that Minnie Palmer was trying to get the "Moss Rose" dance for the pantomime which opened on Boxing Day. Perhaps they would turn her out of "Puss in Boots" for which she had been engaged; she was not very successful and they would be glad to save the thirty shillings a week. Even if they allowed her to stay she would not get another engagement easily afterwards; she could not please, no, never had she been able to please a crowd—nor even single individuals, "save a few, and they are lost." Failure everywhere, failure. "Genteel and dainty," she had heard the miserable Figg call her, and yet any coarse fellow, drunk on bottled porter or gin, would pass her by for Minnie Palmer.

"What am I thinking? I am tired, tired out. If only I had some more drink or some opium, and a little poison to put in it, so that I could sleep and never wake again."

When she returned to the dismal little dressing-room, screened off so carelessly from the piled-up properties and the green room, she found that the three girls with whom she shared it had left the theatre, but that Daisy Arrow was waiting for her.

"Oh, you!" Belle tore off the green cap, the wig. "Why do you come here pestering me?"

"I want the pink feathers, my pet. Minnie told you, did she? I'm going out to-night."


"Oh, the Argyll Rooms or the Alhambra, anywhere there's a bit of fun."

"You're a fool," said Belle with an emphasis of her detached air of cold ease. "Who will you find to-night? A fog, cold Christmas Eve—and those feathers aren't for the winter—they'll seem silly a night like this."

"Maybe they'll make someone look at me—Belle, if I find—"

"Stop—you know I won't hear of these things—from you. Be quiet. Why should I give you the feathers? They're fresh and clean, aren't they? I'm keeping them for the summer."

"I'll pay for them to-morrow, if I have any luck. I suppose you'd like a couple of shillings, my love?" Daisy Arrow spoke flatly without wheedling or insolence. "I heard from Min that they didn't like your dance—'Moss Rose' is so sweet, too. The Lord Harry knows what they do want. Come with me to the Argyll, Belle, dear."


"We might pick someone up. Oh, don't stare at me with that sneer; maybe I'm not good enough for the back row of the ballet—but I might find some fool—drunk enough."

"Did I say I wouldn't have any of your nasty talk?"

"What's the use of being so hoity-toity?" Daisy Arrow spoke without hope or anger. "If you won't come, well, lend me your feathers."

"A night like this! No. No one but a drab would wear pink feathers in the street in a fog."

"No one but a drab would be in the street, would she—dearie—a night like this?" Daisy Arrow spoke in the same quiet tone. "They won't have me for the pantomime—it's remembered against me that I'm not strong and cough, and sometimes faint. I've got one and three-pence and I owe Mother Bulke fifteen shillings."

Belle Adair stripped off her stage clothes until she stood in her broken stays and faded petticoat, a beautifully shaped woman with exquisite arms and shoulders. Her hair, flattened and greasy from the wig, was dark, the colour of a dried bay-leaf, and was fastened in a knot at the base of her neck; her face, on which the paint flared and melted, was pinched, faintly distorted.

"Ma Bulke wouldn't turn you out, Christmas Eve. And if she did?—What's before either of us? As well now as tomorrow, or the next day."

"You'll speak different when you've a drain inside you. Make haste, it'll soon be too late for anything." Daisy Arrow sat up. "I'm hungry."

She was a delicate-looking woman who had been lovely; her hair was a magnificent chestnut-copper hue and contrasted finely with the exquisite outline of her small features. Her throat was long and graceful, but her complexion was blotched, her teeth broken and her large dark eyes injected with blood, while her wide lips were ragged and shapeless. Beneath her cleverly worn Cashmere shawl, threadbare and smelling of the cleaner's resin and sulphur, showed a dark skirt with carefully mended flounces and thin-soled boots, varnished over the cracks. On the knot of her sumptuous hair was a faded bonnet of green taffeta that emphasised her shabbiness; her air was one of lassitude and fatigue.

Belle Adair glanced over her, then pulling open the cupboard, took out from beneath the white gauze skirt, in the pocket of which was the empty gin bottle, a lidless cardboard box; in this, wrapped in silver paper, was a plume of curled ostrich feathers of an unusual tint of livid pink. Why she had kept and treasured this scrap of finery when all else had gone, Belle did not know; she had worn it on the stage once when she had played a super's part of a society beauty at a fête of pasteboard grass and paper flowers. She kept it at the theatre as the other women at Mrs. Bulke's would always be wanting to borrow it, and even here it was not safe; even Daisy Arrow had to remember and come after it. Belle glanced at the dirty knife by the red herring and the curling, glistening strips of ham fat, and smiled. How odd that she was concerned with this worthless piece of rubbish, she who had been about to make herself ready for a pauper's grave. She flung the plume on to the dressing-table.

"Take it—and go away."

With a flash of animation that made her appear quite charming, Daisy Arrow snatched the feathers; the mount was garnished by a cluster of dried grasses and the iris-hued head of a bird of paradise. With a skilful hand the young woman, peering into the scrap of mirror, arranged the plumes at the side of her bonnet and pinned it into place so that the rosy fronds fell becomingly on to the lustrous hair.

Belle, huddling into her dark street clothes, studied her keenly, curiously.

"I wonder what you've been in your time, Daisy Arrow? And what your name really is, or how it is that you're quite so friendless, wretched and desperately poor?"

"I suppose, my pet, I could put all these questions to you and get no answer. What does it matter?"

"You're right—what does it matter? But you're a little better than the others," retorted Belle with her dry, casual ease. "I should say you'd had some education. Shall I take this umbrella? No, it's foggy, not raining, and the cover is full of holes—yet I've no other shawl, and if this were to get sodden...I ought to have used the knife."

"You're a rum 'un," said Daisy Arrow, pulling out her curls under the bright feathers. "The things you think of! Come to the Argyll Rooms and you'll forget about umbrellas and shawls—and the foggy night." She peered closer with a sudden keenness at the other woman: "Used the knife? What do you mean?" She put her hand across her throat and as Belle disdained to answer, added: "I see—well, here's temptation out of the way, dearie." She picked up the coarse clasp-knife, shut it, and slipped it into her beaded reticule. "I'll throw it away—"

"Get along or you'll be late," said Belle, watching her without comment on her action.

Daisy Arrow rose; she had a certain art in arranging her worn clothes that made her look quite elegant; the fantastic feathers did not appear unsuitable on that well-set burnished hair; she peered at herself in the mirror, turning her head gracefully over her shoulder.

"You think that I look like a lady, do you?" she smiled.

"No, you are just lady-like, genteel. I dare say you were a gentlewoman's maid or in a small shop—haberdasher's, milliner's, or something like that."

For a second Daisy Arrow looked startled, then her weary indolence dropped over her like a veil.

"Well, it ain't no good for us to pry into each other's past, is it, dearie? They all say that you're a real born lady—but that hasn't helped you much, has it?"

"No, I'm as nasty a slut as you are, or as Minnie Palmer is, or as Mrs. Bulke herself. I'm turning out the gas before old Bobs comes in, scolding and swearing."

Daisy Arrow pulled open the door.

"Well, wish me good luck, my pet."

"Good luck," said Belle, and as the other young woman drifted away into the darkness beyond the door, she added listlessly: "What good luck could you have, save to drop into the earth—easily, quickly?"

* * *

Belle Adair hesitated as she left the Cambridge Music Hall; in front of the lit portico the bills for the pantomime were already in place; above the door a huge painted, booted cat stared into the fog, and the gaslights flared on the crimson letters: "Puss in Boots." The bitter frost and fog had cleared the streets of all but the homeless; the huddled filth of Holborn was bidden by the thick swathes of dirty vapour that the street lamps only faintly dispersed. Belle, whose clothes were plain and dark, and about whose person there was nothing flamboyant or voluptuous, did not in the least resemble the capering Moss Rose fairy in the pink tights and rosy skirts, but rather seemed a nursery governess or some shabby genteel widow. As, urged by a sudden impulse, she turned into the fog, there was nothing remarkable about her, save her proud poise and the swiftness of her walk. Pulling her veil over the face from which the grease-paint had been too hastily wiped, leaving stains behind on the small features, she made her rapid simple calculations. Thirty shillings when she was paid yesterday—ten shillings for two weeks' rent, five shillings for food and gin—fifteen shillings, then, to last the week and she must have new stockings, soap, her shoes mended. She had meant to buy Tommy Bulke a toy for Christmas, but apathy had prevented her and now the shops would be shut. Supposing the Cambridge decided that they did not want her in the pantomime and gave the Moss Rose waltz to lively Minnie Palmer? Perhaps she was a fool not to have gone with Daisy Arrow to the Alhambra or the Argyll Rooms—but it would have been no good, shabby, dull and weary as she was. Even Daisy, who was prettier, would be disappointed; she would come home alone and cry herself to sleep as she so often did—what an odious thing that her room was so near that you could hear almost everything that she did.

Bell paused in the fog; a constable in his oilskin cape passed, eyeing her suspiciously. "I suppose, if I go on like this, I shall get to prison. It might happen any night. Why didn't I use that knife? I was too tired. There's the river, but it's too far. Daisy said that she was hungry—well, so am I—it will be too late to ask Mrs. Bulke for anything. I had better get a drink. Sixpence, a shilling, yes, that would be well spent on a drink, something strong."

* * *

The gin palaces of Holborn were nearly as sumptuous as those of the Tottenham Court Road or Drury Lane. Belle had the choice of several brilliant establishments as she proceeded slowly over the greasy pavement through the murk. The performance at the Cambridge would not yet be over; it was about eleven o'clock and the shopkeepers were putting up shutters and lowering their blinds; there was a glimpse through the fog of scarlet cheese and pallid butter as the cheesemonger shrouded his windows; there was the tinkle of the chemist's shop-door bell as it closed for the night, a glow of light from the baked-potato man's fire, where a few ragged children clustered to enjoy the warmth, and in the gutter a woman trailed with her arms folded in a ragged shawl, muttering a song in a broken falsetto. Belle passed these, into the darkness of the fog again that caused her eyes to smart and started her coughing; she then paused before the gas lamps in gilt burners flaring behind the plate-glass window of "The Bunch of Grapes." Belle pushed open the ground-glass door marked "Wine promenade" and joined the close-pressed crowd about the gleaming mahogany bar beyond which rows of painted casks showed behind the carefully polished brass rail. Belle edged through the crowd with a detached air and leant against the counter, eyeing the baskets of soft biscuits and raisin cake with disgust. She ordered half a quarters of gin and peppermint hot from the young woman with the large blue glass beads who was dispensing the spirits. As her lips sipped the mixture her cold eyes, under the dirty veil turned up to just above her mouth, glanced at some of her companions; the man in the moth-eaten fur cap with the diseased face, three bonnetless washerwomen drinking rum-shrub, the Irish labourer, the tattered women munching stale seed-cake and sipping port—all ill, wretched, hideous.

"If I continue to drink I shall soon be like these—how long would it take? It has not really got hold of me yet. I could stop it if I wanted. Sometimes I take nothing for days together—yes, if it were worth while and something else offered, I could stop. But it is not worth while and nothing else offers."

No one took any notice of her; when she had first entered public-houses she had been the object of much ribald attention, now she could stay as long as she pleased and no one troubled her, save for a formal commonplace or a maudlin confidence.

"I must be beginning to look just like these others—a draggled hussy—no one sees that my hands, my figure are different, perhaps they are not different any longer. When did I begin to be so familiar with this? When I left him—but haven't I decided that I won't remember anything?"

Behind the blur given to her senses by fatigue and alcohol her mind was cool and acute, she did not for a moment lose her reserved dignity; when she had finished her drink she pulled down her veil. After the sordid filth of the under-stage dressing-room from which she had come, and before the sordid misery of her cold bedroom in Great Hogarth Street, there was a certain solace in the opulent vulgarity of the gin palace, in the gilt, the bright new paint, the stucco flowers, the polished mirrors, the gleaming casks, the fan-shaped flares of gas which ate up the dirty yellow fog. But she spent no more on drink than the shilling she had allowed herself. When she had reached that limit she lifted her faded flounces from the sanded floor and with a lady's smile of detached courtesy, passed through the drinkers and out into the fog which had become so dense that the street lamps were but dim haloes in the dingy murk. Belle knew her way perfectly; for some time she had been going between Great Hogarth Street and the Cambridge; she knew all the shops, the chemists with the poppy-heads, the chandlers, the sweetstuff woman where the lollipops were boiled in the basement and filled the air with a smell of hot sugar, the baker, the bird fancier, and, at the corner where she had to turn, the pawnbroker who called himself a silversmith. Even through the fog the transparency at the door with three red balls on a blue ground and some rubbed letters showed brightly against the gaslight behind. There were some of Belle's one-time possessions among the stringless fiddles, cracked flutes, riveted china and cheap silver articles in the pawnshop windows, among them a plain ring which was inscribed inside with a man's name and the motto "Thine, for ever and ever." Belle turned this corner guided by the smear of red and blue on the door and saw a woman seated huddled in the entrance—it was the singer whom she had passed in the gutter before she entered the gin palace. Belle paused; the creature reminded her of Daisy Arrow—the reddish hair, the tattered silk bonnet, the thin burst shoes, the dirty pink stockings full of holes—Daisy, perhaps next year or the year after, Daisy, gripped by consumption and refused admittance to the Alhambra or the Argyll Rooms. "Myself, next year or the year after."

She took a shilling from her pocket and stooped over the woman who seemed unconscious or asleep or drunk.

"If I were to give you this, would you know where to get a lodging for the night?"

"Eh?" The woman looked up from the damp step, coughed and pulled together her gawdy thin attire round her. "What did you say?"

"A shilling is all I can spare."

The woman clutched it, muttering stupidly.

"Can you find a bed?" asked Belle.

"A bed? What use is a bed to me?" She tottered to her feet. "Are the public-houses still open?"

"Yes, I have just come from 'The Bunch of Grapes.'"

"That's across the road, isn't it?"

"Yes; good-night."

Belle watched the slovenly figure stagger from her huddled position and disappear into the fog; there was someone more wretched than herself, someone who would not be employed even at the Cambridge, to whom even Mrs. Bulke would not give a room, someone who had no hope of anything save a bed at a pauper ward, a grave in the pauper's ditch. "I don't know why I don't end it now, I really don't."

Without haste or agitation Belle went down the long street with the broken flagstone pavement, passed better shops shuttered against thieves, passed genteel houses darkened for the night, with here and there the light of a Christmas party showing through a chink in the curtains and shutters, passed the open spaces, crowded with bare trees, of handsome squares, and so to Great Hogarth Street and to No. 12 of a row of neatly built houses with closely veiled, dirty windows with broken panes, with worn doors that stood ajar, and broken rusty railings guarding areas. There was a light in the basement of No. 12 and the sound of cheerful, hoarse voices; across the tattered muslin at the barred windows had been hung a festoon of artificial flowers.

Belle entered; the door slipped from her cold hand and slammed. A voice shouted up from the basement:

"Who's that?"

"Belle—shall I leave the door shut?"

"Not yet, Daisy ain't back—give her a bit longer."

"But it's nearly midnight, dark and foggy—someone might slip in."

"Not here, dearie!" bellowed the voice from below good-humouredly. "They know us—come along down and have a drain. We are having a bit o' supper, Tommy and all, ain't we—Tommy, my love?"

Belle left the door ajar and leant against the dirty wall of the narrow passage; darkness was round her in rising waves; she had wished for death, attempted death that very evening, but now, suddenly, she was in a panic at the thought of the darkness of annihilation, of the damp clay of a London grave, afraid of the end, even of the end of misery. She clasped her bosom and her eyes fluttered for a second as if a mortal chill was on her flesh. The hoarse invitation was repeated from the basement. Belle fled from the dark and stumbled down the stairs to the light.

* * *

The little kitchen was cheerful, the large grate had been newly blackened, there were sprigs of holly behind the pictures of Her Majesty and the Duke of Wellington, a stiff bough of evergreen had been thrust behind the dark print of The Last Judgment. There was a white twill cloth on the table and plenty of food remains, kidney pies, cold ham, cakes, Dorset butter, Dr. Kitchener's Zest, Harvey's Relish, bottles of stout, of sherry and of port. Molly, the Irish servant, was looking after Tommy, a pallid boy of ten years old who was wearing a blue paper cap and hugging a wooden horse painted with large black spots. Mrs. Bulke was making tea from a huge sooty kettle for a few of her lodgers who declared themselves "off the drink," being already crying drunk and supporting themselves against the table while they exchanged reminiscences of some lost or imagined gentility when Christmas Eve had been "different." The company was completed by a very old woman who kept a cast clothes shop of the better sort and who found many clients among the ladies of No. 12. Wrapped in a pale Andalusian shawl, still exquisite in texture even though long since discarded by some fastidious lady's maid, Mrs. MacKinnon sipped her port quietly and contributed nothing to the merriment which Mrs. Bulke sustained with lively talk, with winks, with snatches of song, and at all of which Molly, joggling the boy on her knee, laughed inordinately.

With ready kindness the landlady pushed Belle into the shiny horse-hair chair by the grate.

"If your feet ain't wet, dearie. And you late! Such a night! Daisy said she was going to fetch you—why didn't you go with her?"

"I didn't wish to—I was tired."

"You'll do yourself no good moping. Fill Mrs. Mac's glass, Molly. There ain't so many good people in the world that one can afford to miss 'em."

"Not in these hard times," croaked the old woman, extending a dirty gnarled hand holding her empty tumbler, tapping her forehead with a finger of the other.

"Isn't Tommy up very late?" shuddered Belle, crouching over the red coals showing behind the bars to which hung fragments of half-burnt orange peel and sausage skin.

"Bless 'is heart! It's a party, ain't it? And he's enjoying his little self, ain't he?"

Fanny Bulke smiled round good-humouredly on her guests; she was a handsome woman with a hard-grained red in her cheeks, a dark down on her upper lip, a coil of brassy gold hair round her head. She had been in a circus in her youth, a trick rider until she broke her hip-bone, and there was something strong and bold about her, as if she was used to handling a whip. Her second-hand dress of puce cloth, garnished with torn braid and rows of buttons with gaps in their ranks, and the heavy folds of thick cloth, gave an almost monstrous air to her massive figure. She seemed to loom, to swell, to fill the room, there was a certain menace even in her limp.

"Can't you give us a tune, Belle? Can't you play and sing to us a bit? That 'Moss Rose' now, that you danced in so nicely."

"I don't think I'm going to dance in it any more; if they keep it for the pantomime, they'll give it to Minnie Palmer."

Mrs. Bulke was always loud in sympathy, in condemnation, too.

"You ought to make more of yourself, you don't take any trouble; there's some burnt cork on your face still and not a bit of rouge."

"Well, you find me past everything, no doubt," said Belle, crouching over the grate and peering into the ashes which were mingled with egg-shells and apple parings. "And I do too, I think."

"I wouldn't go so far as to say that, dearie." Mrs. Bulke lowered her powerful voice. "But you seem to make no effort, not generally speaking. Why, you're not so old—and with a bit of trouble you might take heart again."

Belle glanced over her shoulder with a smile so bitter and ironical that even Mrs. Bulke became a little downcast and sighed, smoothing the waist of the puce frock. But she was not silenced.

"There's Florrie and May," she whispered, jerking her gawdy head towards the two women at the table. "They're a bit older than you, aren't they? They don't take much trouble with themselves, do they?"

"No, I've often wondered why you keep them on or how they pay their rent and buy their food."

Mrs. Bulke winked, and they gave a drunken grin.

"You might 'ave guessed. They find me new lodgers. They go to the stations and the coach-stops, and if there's any nice fresh young girl as doesn't know where to go, Florrie and May make up to her and tell her of No. 12 and the cosy place it is."

"Oh!" whispered Belle; she stared down at her hands, opening and shutting them, examining them as if she had never seen them before.

"They brought Jenny here."

"Jenny who went to Paris? I remember how she cried, poor little dear."

"Well," smiled Mrs. Bulke, "we all cried once, I dare say, and I don't suppose she's crying now, do you, dearie? What I was thinking was, if you're out of luck, or they don't keep you on at the 'ails—why, you might go out with Florrie and May sometimes. You're genteel, Belle, a lady born, like. And there are some as wouldn't come for the others who'd listen to you."

"Who would they be?"

"Young, silly girls as come from good homes who want a bit of fun, but who'd be scared of Florrie—and May's not too careful with her talk."

Belle rose suddenly; she lurched forward and it seemed as if she were about to fall.

"Eh, dearie, you take a cup of tea, good and strong—it's the drink on an empty stomach."

"I haven't touched a drop of your stuff."

"But you had some on the way, I know you did, now then? Come now, a cup of tea."

"Nothing like it," nodded Mrs. MacKinnon, "nothing like it," she repeated with a shrill giggle, stroking Maggie Tealeaves the cat.

Belle moved to the piano with the stained and faded, pleated red silk front that stood in the corner, and sank on to the rubbed leather music-stool. It had been left behind by a lodger who had stayed a year at No. 12, then gone out one day and never come back.

"That's right," smiled Mrs. Bulke. "Now, Tommy, pet, you listen to the pretty tune. La, la"—she hummed to herself.

Belle had her back to them all so that no one could see the distortions of her face. As her fingers ran over the stained keys, some of which were mute and some jangled, she stared at the picture of The Last Judgment under the fly-spotted glass that hung before her and above the piano, half-shadowed by that stiff bough of green yew. Such riven heavens, such split rocks, such cascades of fire, such giving up of the quick and the dead to the terrors of eternity! Did the painter think that grandiose scene could frighten anyone, those clean, cool angels, that wide expanse of pure black sky, even those darkling pits—could they alarm one who had not the courage to slit her throat? One who had just been asked to wheedle young, pretty, fresh girls to No. 12?

Belle played on the broken piano.

"She's got a good figure," mused Mrs. Bulke to herself, looking at the neat shape on the fat stool. "And with a nice pair of stays—I don't know why she don't do better."

They listened to the music, all but Tommy, whose wizened, dirty face had fallen against Molly's slatternly bosom in uneasy sleep and wheezy, heavy breathing.

Belle began to sing; she had a low pleasing voice, true and clear.

The five women were impressed, not pleased; the song was sad, remote, you couldn't beat time to it; when Belle finished abruptly Florrie sniffed with relief.

"What's the name of that?" asked old Mrs. MacKinnon shakily and cautiously.

"'The Wanderer to the Moon'—it ought to be sung by a man."

"I don't think it ought to be sung at all," complained May. "Makes you think of a hymn."

"When did you last hear a hymn?" Belle swung round on the stool.

"Oh, I don't know," muttered the sleepy fat woman, taken aback. "Hark! there's the door!" cried Mrs. Bulke with a smart vivacity that silenced the others. "Daisy at last, and she ain't alone, neither. No," added the landlady, pulling the door open and listening up the basement stairs—"She's brought a gentleman home."

* * *

Florrie and May, startled out of their drowsy, cosy reminiscences, echoed with drunken gravity: "Daisy's brought a gentleman home!"

The kitchen door, which Mrs. Bulke had hung ajar, was pushed open and Daisy's head, with crooked pink plume, tattered, loosened green bonnet, slipping knot of red hair, flushed face, looked in. Her air was one of triumph. Belle had never seen her look so young and well.

"Come in, dearie," said Mrs. Bulke, in a carefully lowered voice, "come in and tell us all about it."

Daisy entered; she had been drinking and was walking unsteadily; in her arms was a large bag of apples, oranges and nuts.

"Here's something for your Christmas, Ma, we came round by Covent Garden."

She tumbled the fruit in front of the two women seated at the table and laughed to see the walnuts and chestnuts roll among the soiled glasses and cups.

"You don't know the luck I've had," she leered with her hand on her full bosom.

"Well, I'm glad, I'm sure, dearie, if it wasn't time! What about the rent?"

"I'll pay you in the morning."

"Only my joke—why not ask the gentleman in—for a drain—a cold night like this?"

The words seemed to penetrate Daisy's stupid bemusement; she looked round the kitchen and at the occupants, all of whom were staring at her; Belle, observing her from the piano-stool, saw a look of cunning come into the large eyes inflamed from fog and drink.

"No—he is a gentleman," said Daisy sharply. "And I don't want any more drink—no, I've got to keep sober."

"Sober!" grinned Morrie with a hiccough. "And a gentleman! My! We're quite the lady, aren't we?"

"You've never seen a gentleman—not to speak to," retorted Daisy fiercely.

"Not here, not at No. 12—that I ain't—and as for you, my beauty, as for you, you vixen—"

Florrie had squared her elbows in a threatening attitude; Mrs. Bulke intervened.

"Leave her alone, can't you? What business is it of yourn?" She added a few sharp foul words that reduced the other to a whining submission, then turned to Daisy. "Well, dearie, if you won't bring him down, you go up to him—you don't want him to think better of it, do you, and slip away out into the fog?"

"He'd wait for me. All night and all day, he'd wait for me!"

She snatched the bonnet from her graceful head and swirled it round on her hand.

"It brought me luck, Belle, didn't it? Your beautiful plume! It was that he noticed, the pink plume on my chestnut hair—it reminded him—never mind of what. You'd hie it back, wouldn't you, dearie?"

"No, I don't want it any more. It's dirty from the fog and uncurled from the damp."

Daisy Arrow tossed her head, sending the shining hair in waves of brightness down her back, laughed unsteadily, and swayed to the door, muttering: "You don't know my luck."

Belle rose from the piano-stool.

"Tommy ought to be in bed—look at him now—he's fast asleep."

"The pet," said Mrs. Bulke absently. "Take him along, Molly, do." She stood at the door, listening intently.

A man's step, a man's voice in the passage above and Daisy Arrow laughing shrilly.

"Can't hear what he says," muttered Mrs. Bulke, "but he do sound like a gentleman—well, well—" she patted her hair; her expression was satirical and incredulous. "Come along, Florrie. Come along, May. I'm going to put the gas out—you'll have to be finding your way home, Mrs. Mac—or p'raps Molly will go with you when she's put Tommy to bed."

* * *

Mrs. Bulke and Belle remained alone in the kitchen; the landlady was sorting out what was worth preserving among the eatables and putting them into a cupboard, then stacking up the dirty crocks for Molly to take into the scullery.

Belle remained on the piano-stool, her hands clasped on her knees.

"Ain't you tired, dearie?" asked the yawning landlady pointedly.

"Yes, I'm tired, but I don't feel as if I could sleep tonight. My room is so cold."

"Them what pays for fires gets them," said Mrs. Bulke pleasantly. "And you've a grate what draws fine."

As Belle didn't reply, the landlady continued, jerking off the soiled white cloth:

"You think about what I was saying about helping Florrie—that would mean a bit of fire whenever you felt like it have this drain of porter?" She held up a nearly empty bottle to the gas and peered at the contents.

"No—I've had enough."

"You're wise. I've always been careful, too. Never let the drink get the better of you—not once—or you're done. Who is this coming down?"

A light, uncertain step on the stair, a push at the door, and Daisy Arrow entered, her bright hair fallen on her shoulders, her bodice open on her white bosom. She held her gaping reticule in her hand and took from it half a sovereign.

"Here you are, Ma—ten shillings off the rent."

"Thank you, dearie; anything I can do for you?"

"No." Daisy Arrow stared at Belle, who rose and came to the table. "Sure you don't want your feathers back?"

"I've said I don't. Daisy, who is it you've got upstairs?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"I heard his voice," replied Belle dryly, "and 'I thought it sounded like that of a gentleman—an educated man—it seemed curious to hear such accents in this place—and it didn't sound quite English—"

Dairy Arrow laughed.

"I'm sorry I can't show him to you, Belle, my pet—he's a foreigner—and shy."

"A foreigner!" echoed Mrs. Bulke in disgust.

"Don't you turn up your nose, Ma, you wait till tomorrow—I'll give you a Christmas present—I'll have a few things to show you, see if I don't."

"Be quiet, Dairy Arrow—and shut up your bag—look, you've still got that dirty clasp-knife in it." As Belle spoke she snapped the gilt clasps of the reticule from which the white china beads dripped off the broken threads, and drew Daisy towards the door; again the light, uncertain step on the stair, ascending unsteadily now.

"Well," yawned Mrs. Bulke, "there's an end of her, I hopes—Mrs. Mac's been took home, Tommy's in bed, and Moll's snoozing off—that'll be enough for to-day."

She stretched up to turn off the gas. Belle had found and lit a candle; as the hard brilliance in the glass globe faded out, there was only the glow from the embers and the weak flame of the hard candle.

* * *

The two women were standing in the flame-shot dark, pausing, one reluctant and alert, one yawning and sleepy, about to leave the kitchen, when again there was the swish of flounces, the tap of unsteady heels, and Daisy Arrow entered, she also with a candle in a tin stick held in a shaking hand.

"What now?" asked Mrs. Bulke with an air of authority, peering through the crossing light of the flames.

"I want some champagne," smiled Daisy.

"Champagne? That's a gentleman's drink, ain't it?"

"I want it for a gentleman."

"Well, he won't find it here, as you ought to know, beauty."

"Brandy then, he said—champagne or fine old brandy."

"I've neither. And all what hasn't been drunk of what I have got has been put away and will stay put away. You've had enough."

Daisy Arrow made as if to open the reticule which still dangled on her arm.

"Can't Moll run and fetch some? I've got the money, plenty of money."

"What time do you think it is? The public-houses and the wine shops is all shut up. It's past midnight."

"It's Christmas Day," said Belle, smiling above her smoking candle. "Peace on earth, goodwill towards men."

Daisy Arrow stared at her, seemed to shudder, to wince a little, frowned, then tossed her head and once more left the kitchen, holding her candle aslant so that the wax dripped on her skirt.

"Well," remarked Mrs. Bulke with her air of resigned indignation. "He's a foreigner all right—champagne and fine old brandy for Daisy Arrow! Who does he think she is?" Suddenly laughing in her throat the landlady limped out on to the stairs. "He doesn't know his way about, that's what it is, dearie; he thinks we're Claridge's, here at No. 12, that's what he thinks." Laboriously mounting the low worn stairs, she added, "Or less he's blind drunk."

"I heard his voice," said Belle following slowly, shivering in the draughts that were so keen outside the stale warmth oft the kitchen. "And he's sober enough, quite sober."

* * *

Belle tried to cheat the cold, the half-dark, her own dreadful thoughts, by persistently conning over the things for which she lusted; a warm, luxurious room, a soft bed with down pillows and silken coverlets, a shaded lamp, fine, fashionable clothes, delicate foods, rare wines, attentive servants, a lover devoted and reverent—music, a box at the Opera, a carriage and pair...all these things were in the world and she had none of them and no chance of ever being able to obtain them—no chance. Yet they were enjoyed and despised by thousands of women no wiser than herself—no cleverer, no prettier, no more unscrupulous.

A low hum of talk in the next room to hers distracted her. Daisy Arrow and the foreigner, of course. Belle frowned with ugly distaste.

She had a front room that looked, from the top of the three-storeyed house, on to the straight, prim street. Daisy had the corresponding room at the back, which looked on to the gritty, sooty garden, the backs of dark houses and ash-bins. The other side of the small landing at the stair-head were the empty rooms reserved by Mrs. Bulke for occasional use, or for transient lodgers.

Belle, moving about to keep herself warm, detected the man's tones, and sorted them from those of the woman—a warm, pleasant, manly voice—she could not distinguish what he was saying, not even in what language he spoke—but English, of course, what other tongue did Daisy Arrow understand?

"My God! What have they to talk about? How could he, who speaks so well, have even looked at Daisy with her cough, her broken teeth, her gawdy rags and her vulgar air?"

She felt vicariously disgraced by the thought of this man of her own class in the next room with Daisy Arrow, as if he had been a brother—at least a relative, and angrily she tried to reason herself out of this folly.

"To-morrow is Christmas Day—I'll pile all my clothes on the bed and try to sleep until it is time for me to go to the Cambridge on Boxing Night. Moll will bring me up a cup of tea. Yes, I'll try to sleep."

She wondered where she could get opium—wasn't that a short cut to the inevitable end? Totty Belville had got some opium, but Belle did not know where, and Totty had long since disappeared. The East End, no doubt—but Belle was afraid of the East End with the sailors and Chinamen, she was still an alien to the underworld, still shuddered on the edge of those filthy morasses that soon she must sink into—unless she had the courage—"Curse Daisy for taking that knife away, I believe I could have done it now."

She began to undress, but the room was so cold that she huddled on her clothes again. She intended to wash her face and hands, but Moll had not emptied the soiled soapy water in the hand-basin, nor put fresh water in the lipless ewer. The short candle was fast burning out, there was only just sufficient uncertain light to see the gaunt shape of the iron bed with the bleak white cotton coverlet and thin blanket, the worn piece of drugget on the floor, the rain stains and marks on the ceiling, the broken window pane patched with brown paper, the chairs with the rushes of the seats sprouting from the frames beneath, the tilting chest of drawers with the top used as a dressing-table.

Throwing her shawl and a rubbed fur jacket on the bed, Belle blew out the candle and still in her clothes got between the ragged sheets, and forced herself, with the obstinacy of despair, to sleep. "Wanderer to the Moon—Wanderer to the Moon."

* * *

She woke, uneasy, unable to achieve, even in her dreams, her journey to the skies, hardly able to dream at all. The drone of voices next door struck disagreeably on her waking ear. The man's low notes and Daisy Arrow's shrill tones filled Belle with uncontrollable exasperation. She struggled from the bed into the bleak cold, crossed to the inner wall and knocked sharply. There was an instant silence as complete as if her knock had been a spell to turn the speakers into stone.

Belle scrambled into bed and drew the clothes to her chin. She was conscious of an utter stillness in the house, and on that stillness her senses, half drugged by fatigue, drifted into oblivion.

* * *

When Belle woke, a blur of bitter daylight was in the room; she had forgotten to pull down the blinds, and her windows, on which the frost had made patterns, looked east. She thought she could hear church bells. What time was it? Six, seven? At what time did it get light on December 25th?

She was wide awake and strove to keep herself so, despite her yesterday's resolution of remaining in bed; she had had an unpleasant dream which she wished to shake off. What had it been? She could not remember the circumstances, only the horror. Something about the knife which Daisy Arrow had put into her reticule. Well, that wasn't strange after all, seeing what she had intended to do with that knife yesterday, what she might have done had she been a little braver and if Minnie Palmer had not come in, nosing for "Cream of the Valley."

She walked about the room, instinctively setting her dress to rights; she looked into the blotched scrap of mirror and was shocked to see her face grimed with fog, swollen from unhealthy sleep, stained by burnt cork and rouge, with the greasy hair plastered flat round her eyes and ears. To wash herself became a necessity. She picked up the empty ewer, intending to go down to the basement for water; the light was still uncertain, it must be very early—Sunday and Christmas morning, no one would be stirring for hours yet.

As she turned to the door she heard footsteps in Daisy Arrow's room and paused with a sudden, angry, hurt recollection of that cultured masculine voice. She heard the other door open and shut, heard a man's step descending, and with a sudden hot curiosity pulled open her own door and stared down the twilit stairs. He had reached the little landing at the end of the first flight. Hearing her movements he looked round and, coming to a stand, stared up at her. He was a stranger to Belle and not in the least like the man whom she had expected to see; he could scarcely have been surprised at her appearance, for she was just such a figure as he in such a house might have been prepared to meet. Yet, they stared at one another as if in full and dreadful recognition, as if each said to the other: "You—here?"

He was neatly, handsomely dressed, wore a full light-grey coat buttoned at the waist, and held a high hat. A pale silk neck-cloth was folded under his chin and his brown hair was carefully brushed.

Belle tried to speak, but could not form a sentence; the stranger, still staring as if in extreme surprise, made an odd gesture with his free hand, as if he drew a cross in the air between them, but so quickly was the movement made and so detached was it from the expression of his face that she almost doubted if he had made it at all, but if it were not, rather, some extension of her own fancy.

Then he was gone, so rapidly that again she doubted if she had seen him at all. She heard the front door slam violently as she stood leaning against the dirty wallpaper of the landing.

Once she had been fond of sketching, of making little notes in pencil of things that had impressed or pleased her; she had for some time forgotten this small talent, now it occurred to her and she began committing to memory the features of that upturned face as if she would, when possible, draw the stranger's portrait.

She hesitated on the landing, in the murky light, disturbed by an uneasy curiosity.

"Perhaps Daisy has some fresh water—why shouldn't I ask her now she's alone?"

In front of the other woman's door, with her hand raised to knock, she hesitated again.

"Why do I want to go in? It will make me sick. Yet I can't resist—and surely I can induce Daisy to tell me something; besides, I do want the water, without going downstairs."

She knocked, and, as there was no answer, entered; the room was hideously like her own, the same kind of cheap furniture, the same worn carpet, the same odds and ends of soiled feminine litter; the holland blind was down, the dingy chenille curtains half-drawn so that the place was full of shadows. Daisy Arrow lay on the far side of the bed with the clothes pulled up all round her so that her face was invisible and only a coil of her red hair showed on the pillow.

"Well, as she's asleep I'll leave it—why should I want to talk about him?—how dark her hair is and I never knew that she had so much of it."

Belle turned to the wooden wash-hand-stand which was a duplicate of her own; her foot struck an object on the floor—a book—a small, thick book. Daisy Arrow never read anything but the Police News. Belle set down her ewer, picked up the volume—a German Bible. She glanced towards the bed, but Daisy Arrow had not moved. "She must be very sound asleep, I can't even hear her breathing."

Placing the Bible on a chair, Belle looked in the other ewer—empty, and a glass drinking-bottle empty, too. All the water had been poured into the basin, this was full to the brim—evidently Daisy had been washing off her heavy rouge, for the water was stained a brownish red. A towel with a strip torn off was folded across the stand. Belle noticed, with a spasm of rage, her pink plumes on the floor; she picked them up, some of the stain that polluted the water, wet rouge, whatever it was, disfigured the iris-coloured breast of the bird-head on the mount, as if the sharp beak had pierced the smooth feathers, drawing—

"Blood," said Belle aloud, then she put her hand to her mouth and stood still.

Well, a little accident, a cut finger, washed here and dried here. Yes, there are marks on the other towel, too, something had dripped on the feathers which were thrown on to the floor.

She steadied herself and approached the bed.

"Daisy Arrow—Daisy. It is Christmas morning, time to get up."

To herself she muttered: "Why do I say that? Why am I afraid to turn the clothes down?"

"Daisy, I came to fetch the pink feathers and the knife—you had no right to take the knife, Daisy Arrow."

She retreated from the bed and saw it the knife, as if it had been conjured into existence by her thought. It lay on a chair unclasped, and the blade was much stained, even more stained than it had been from the vinegar of Belle's midday meal.

Light and swift, Belle returned to the bed; that was not all hair on the pillow—the red locks lay on a deep stain the same colour as themselves. With rigidly extended finger and thumb, Belle pulled back the sheet an inch or so—far enough to see Daisy Arrow's eyes, set dull and staring. Another inch or so, enough to see Daisy Arrow's livid cheeks on which was the imprint of a hand in red. Another inch or so, enough to see Daisy Arrow's throat bound tightly by a strip of towel.

Belle admired her own fortitude; she relished her own control, she was excited by this sense of utter horror and of struggling with and overcoming it as she had struggled and overcome the terror of her forgotten dream.

She put back the bedclothes, she picked up the Bible, the ewer, the feather, and returned to her own room. When she had put these articles on her wash-stand, she found that she could not move; her limbs seemed paralysed, and a deep nausea weakened her; but there was something else to be done; the sense of her own courage upheld her.

"Sometimes she sends up that poor little brat to rouse people."

She forced herself to move, she kept down her retching, she returned to Daisy Arrow's room. The key was on the inside, she moved it to the outside, locked the door and brought the key into her own room.

After this most painful effort, she again felt her strength leave her and crouched on her tumbled bed, holding her throat while nervous convulsions shook her body.

She knew that she could not long remain inactive—there were things to be done, unless she wanted trouble.

First, the key. She found a knot hole in the boards of the floor, slipped the key in, pulled the drugget over the place. The pink feathers she flung, without looking at them, into one of her drawers. The Bible she looked through eagerly. A name inside, several names, inscriptions—no time now to understand or consider these no time to think or to plan. She wrapped the book in a handkerchief and put it in the carpet-bag, which was her sole article of luggage.

She felt ill, but no longer dulled by despair; as she took off her clothes, this time not noticing the cold, put on a nightgown and got into bed, she knew, through an ecstasy of horror, that the murder of Daisy Arrow had given her something for which to live. She put her hand firmly under her face to prevent her teeth from chattering.

* * *

Daisy Arrow had been taken to St. Pancras mortuary. Belle, from behind the dirty muslin curtain on the slack string, watched her go in the twilight of the Christmas afternoon. It was a journey that she had thought to have taken herself, and about at this time.

Yesterday, when she had sat over the food she could not eat, in the dingy dressing-room under the stage of the Cambridge, she had considered just such a scene—the parish undertaker's men, the poor hearse, the knot of curious gazers, ragged boys, lounging men, slatternly women, the swathes of yellow fog, darkening in the winter sky of the brief daylight—all a rough, fairly clean-made pattern. But she had pictured herself, Belle, inside the hearse, with that same necklet about her throat, with that same unmeaning stare in her eyes, with that same locking of secrets behind a rigid mouth.

Yes, but there was one particular in the tragedy that was changed—not only were the women different, not only was it Daisy Arrow instead of Belle Adair, but the manner of the creature's death was murder, not as Belle had thought it would be—suicide.

When she had handled the clasp-knife which had been brought to her to cut some dry bread, she had wondered if its blade would be spoiled by the vinegar stain. That would make a task, already to be dreaded, even more difficult. She considered how the same knife would look afterwards, when there were other stains upon it. But she had never considered this—that it might find a victim in Daisy Arrow, instead of in herself, and that a man's, not a woman's hand might guide it skilfully, swiftly, with that firmness and decision which she had prayed for, but not been able to achieve, on the task of sending misery to corrupt in the London clay.

Belle was upheld and even stimulated by the tragedy and by her part in it. Here was what she had longed for and needed—action, suspense, excitement. She had purposely put off an examination of the little German Bible, not only because she was afraid to take this out of the carpet bag while the police were in the house, but because she liked to postpone a pleasure and tantalise herself with the thought of an entrancing interest in the near future.

When she had, by sheer force of mind, overcome her physical sickness, she was cool and calm, for her emotions had not been touched. She had always disliked Daisy Arrow as being, in a way, a caricature of herself, of her sex, her age, her chances and her downfall, even, in a part, of her arts and graces. The murdered woman had also possessed a shapely figure, straight features, smooth hands, a genteel manner, and a certain air of irony and intelligence which set her apart from creatures like Minnie Palmer, Mrs. Bulke, or any other of the girls and women among whom Belle Adair, for several months now, had moved.

Well, there went the last of Daisy Arrow.

Belle opened the window cautiously and peered out into the fog, watching the hearse proceeding with indecorous haste into the yellow mist. The crowd in the street was too occupied with the drama of Daisy Arrow to notice the cool curiosity of the woman, who, with her elbows on the sooty sill, was watching the long black box of a carriage and the rusty black limbs of the horse disappear into the obscurity of darkness and mist.

The loiterers did not immediately disperse, but lingered by the broken area railing, expressing among themselves regret and sympathy for the sordid event of the night before.

Belle Adair withdrew silently from her window, but continued to peer into the street from above the broken pane that was patched with brown paper. The crowd, mostly bleared, bloated or drunken-eyed, began to stare with bleak curiosity at the drab front of the house which had been for so long elegant and respectable, and for even longer, miserable and degraded. Pressing to the railings, they peered down at the basement window where the wreath of paper roses, put up in celebration of Christmas, still hung behind the fly-blown pane, and where a child's wooden horse, dabbed with splashes of black paint, could be seen flung on top of a workbasket full of discoloured cottons and cards of faded wool.

Christmas Day, thought Belle, and things going on just the same. People at the mortuary ready to bring round the hearse, doctors and policemen on duty, and all that crowd of idlers in the Street, with nothing better to do than just stare at the house where a stupid woman, for whom nobody cared, was murdered last night.

She moved about the room with her quick, light step. She was thinking deeply. A fire, the first she had had that winter, burned in the grate with a pure green-gold flame.

Taking advantage of the distraction of the other lodgers and the overthrow of Mrs. Bulke, she had been down to the coal-cellar herself, and, unobserved by anyone, brought up coal and wood and newspaper, and lit the cheerful fire. Still unobserved by anyone, she had fetched fresh water and a good piece of coarse soap from the kitchen, washed her hands and face, and then cooked herself a breakfast from the bacon and eggs, carefully stored at the back of the cupboard, that Mrs. Bulke reserved for her own consumption. Then warmed, fed and bathed, and acting, as it seemed to herself, under the stimulus of a considerable pleasure and excitement, Belle Adair tidied her room and rearranged her dress, stitching up the torn, fallen flounces of her skirt, refastening the burst buttons of the bodice, and taking away needless frills of dirty lace at wrists and neck. She had then brushed and combed her curiously-coloured hair into a plain knot at the nape of her neck. She knew, when this leisurely toilet was finished, that she looked quite different from any of the other women in that house—quite different indeed from any other woman in that street. Without a trace of make-up or a scrap of finery, not as much as a string of glass beads or a silver brooch, and her face quite colourless and composed, she appeared a gentlewoman, shabby and forlorn indeed, but dignified and cultured, one who was enduring with patient fortitude an ill-deserved poverty.

The early hours of the day had been very ugly indeed, but she had weathered them as a stout mariner might weather a black storm which, at times, had threatened to engulf him utterly in darkness. Fighting against her strong impulse to scream or faint, or rouse the house, she had held herself mute in bed, clasping her chin to stop the rattling of her teeth, counting the faded leaves in the greenish-coloured wallpaper, reciting to herself moral poems learned at school, listening to the church bells outside, and then, to a street singer brawling a carol, watching the murky, yellowish light of the London day brighten and then fade again as the fog came up with the rising of the sun. All this skilful employment of her faculties was to prevent her from thinking of what lay in the next room—from anticipating the moment when what lay in the next room must be discovered, and she herself involved in a tumult of horror which claimed an explanation.

As the hours had worn on, and the house was yet still, her mind, refusing to be diverted by the ingenuous employment she had given it, fell to considering the practical issue of the case. The police would be called in. She would be asked questions. More than that she did not know. As yet she had escaped the activities of Scotland Yard. She tried to recall cases that might have been related to her or that she might have glanced at in the paper.

What exactly happened?

On a sudden fear that her room might be searched, she rose from bed, and, putting her shawl over her nightgown, removed the mount of vivid pink plumes from the drawer and put them in the carpet bag with the small German Bible. The stain on the breast of the humming bird was now dry. It was quite a little stain after all, and no one, unless they examined it very carefully, would even suspect what it was. Besides, she might have a tale for that—a scratched finger. She checked herself. "I mustn't be too cunning, too ingenuous. I had better not tell any more lies than I need." She looked anxiously at her ewer. Was it in the least marked? It might have been. She had set it down by that other ewer, by the wash-hand-stand on which was a basin of polluted water. But, no, there were no marks on the crock, beyond smudges of soot and outlines of dirty water. The floor, the clothes she had worn—any mark or stain whatever? It had been a half-light, and she hardly conscious of her actions; and yet that was not true either. She had been most careful. From the first second that she had suspected, she had taken the sheet between her finger and thumb and drawn it down as delicately as if she had been uncovering the tender limbs of a sleeping baby. There had been nothing, either on her clothes or on the floor. Of that fact she had made herself quite certain. She was comfortable in her mind, too, about the plume of feathers. She had a simple story ready to account for that if Mrs. Bulke, or one of the other women, should question how it came to be in her possession when Daisy Arrow had been seen late last night twirling it in her unsteady hand. She had repeated this story over and over to herself. She would always find it useful, and, resolving to tell a lie, she must first persuade herself that it was true.

"I went upstairs and Daisy was still awake and restless. She bounced out on the landing and thrust the feathers into my hand, and I, not wishing to have any more conversation with her, took them to stop further argument, went into my room and shut the door."

That was most likely and nobody would be able to contradict such a tale.

The key. She pulled aside the drugget and went down on her knees beside the gaping hole where a knot had fallen out of the worn boards. Nothing to be seen. She prodded down with a pin that fastened her bodice and could feel with the end of the steel the solid substance of the key lying on a thick bed of dust. Nobody would think of looking there, surely. Yet she felt a little uneasy. Still, what else could she do with it?

She was a little sorry about her impulsive action. It would have been better to have kept it. She could have taken it downstairs when she had cooked her breakfast and fetched her water, and thrown it into the area. That would have been a very likely place for a murderer to have cast a key.

She was glad, however, she had locked the door, because it had happened as she had supposed it might, for, as she had lain in the bed with her knees drawn up and her hands still clasped under her chin, her teeth still slightly chattering as if the convulsions which had seized her were only just passing away, she had heard a child's footsteps outside, and a child's feeble knock on Daisy Arrow's door, and a child's voice shrilling away in weary, careless tones that "it was nearly twelve o'clock, and Mother said Daisy had better come down if she wanted a bit of breakfast."

Belle had not been able to resist sitting up in bed and listening alertly for the silence which she knew must follow any summons on Daisy Arrow's door.

The child had knocked, and knocked again. Belle had heard a repeated shouting, and then there was a pause. Perhaps he was spying through the keyhole. She had not thought of that. But even if he did, what would he see to alarm him?

She thought of springing from bed, pulling open her own door, yawning on the landing, and saying, "Why, Tommy, what's the matter? Can't you leave poor Daisy alone? She's tired. It is Christmas Day; besides, is it so late?"

Though this action and these words had flowed so smoothly in her mind, she had not brought herself to put them into practice. She had remained there sitting on the edge of her bed listening until the child ceased chattering and ran away.

There had been another long pause in the sluggish household—at least an hour, she supposed. She thought of the murderer. He had had a good start over any possible pursuers.

Then had come a heavier step on the stairs, and with it the panting breaths of a stout woman, a hoarse voice calling on Daisy Arrow and asking why she did not get up?—why she had locked herself in?—and why she did not answer? at first lazily and indifferently, and then, to the relief of the tension of the young woman who listened so keenly in the front room, a sudden panic—shouting, screaming.

"I can't pretend not to have heard that," thought Belle.

She leapt from the bed, snatched up her shawl, opened her door, and out on the landing, said—almost she felt without her own volition—

"What's the matter, Florrie? It's Christmas Day, and is it so late? Why shouldn't Daisy Arrow sleep if she wants to?"

Florrie had taken no heed of her, but, leaning over the stair rails, had continued to shout up the house.

Mrs. Bulke, and May, and the pale servant, and Tommy, and a young girl who had only been in the house two days and whose name no one seemed to know, all came quickly, readily, keen for any excitement or unusual event. There had been more knockings and shouting and twisting of the handle, and Belle, hastily putting on her clothes, as if she too were disturbed and astonished, had the curious thought: "Supposing Daisy Arrow were to get off her bed and come to open to them with that red hand-print on her face and those two gashes in her throat showing through the bandage?"

It was Mrs. Bulke who had taken charge of the situation.

"I've never known Daisy Arrow lock her door before, and I've never known her lie abed so long," she said, and in sharp words she sent Moll, who had begun to whimper and shiver, to fetch the policeman who would be on beat duty at the corner of the square.

Florrie had been violently against this proceeding and had argued vehemently that—"it was a folly, and a wicked folly, to let the police meddle in your affairs. No. 12 wasn't the sort of place to have the law interfering and constables nosing round, and that no matter what had happened to palsy Arrow they'd best keep it to themselves."

At these words and the bitter and sinister tone in which they were spoken, the nameless girl began to sob and hide her face in her skirt and wish she "were out of it." Even Mrs. Bulke hesitated and wondered if she could force the door herself with a heave of her own stout shoulder.

But Moll, without waiting for counter-orders, had fled down the rickety stairs, a loose shoe flapping on her foot encased in a wrinkled and torn stocking.

It was at this point that Belle had slipped downstairs and cooked her breakfast, fetched her water, and touched up her attire, nobody taking any heed of her at all.

When she had seen the policemen—two fresh-faced fellows who looked, she thought, like countrymen—enter the house, dwarfing it with their massive figures and oilskin capes, she had drawn little Tommy into her own room and shut the door on what was happening outside.

There had been quite a crowd in No. 12 by then. Several people—women cleaning doorsteps, others bustling round the little general shop which was open for a few hours on Christmas morning—seeing Moll flying for the policemen, seeing Moll returning with the policemen, had followed up and tried to slip somehow into the house.

Mrs. MacKinnon was there and the woman from the rag-and-bone shop, and the old bird-fancier, the piebaker from whom Mrs. Bulke, when in a generous and lazy mood, had so often ordered a late and tasty ready-cooked meal.

"Tommy," Belle Adair said, "none of what is happening outside has anything to do with us. See, I have a pack of cards here. Let us have a game. The table is not large enough and is lumbered besides; but I have made the bed and drawn the cover smooth and we can play on that."

The boy, who was always eager for a grown-up person to give him attention, had sat down obediently on the chair with the rushes of the seat sprouting beneath the frame where the bands were broken, and began to play "beggar-my-neighbour."

Belle kept her eyes on the cards—"the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker"—a set of old nursery snap cards she had had a long while. Why had she kept them? Perhaps because they were so worthless. It was a long while since she had looked at them. They had lain in the bottom drawer from which she had just taken them, together with a worn goatskin dice-shaker.

The first game over, they played another, and Tommy was quite content.

Disturbances, sudden emergencies, calls and alarms were not so unusual at No. 12 that he was much interested in them. He had even seen policeman there before, questioning people like they were being questioned now—Mother answering them—sharp but shrewd-like as she was.

Belle had listened while she played her game of snap.

The door had soon broken down. Then there had been heavy tramping feet in the next room, and voices, and, what she had carefully schooled herself to hear, dismal shrieks.

Moll had broken in on the peaceful game of cards, with her face quite greenish and distorted, had flopped on her knees by the bed, had begun to retch and sob together.

Belle had then taken command of the situation; she found a certain pleasure in doing so. She had checked the girl's incoherent lamentation. She had taken Tommy in one hand and Moll in the other, and led them, unresisting, out of the clamour in the house, and round the corner through the increasing throng, to the shop of the little chandler, who was just putting up his shutters.

"Moll," she had said, "don't go back to No. 12. Stay here with Tommy."

She had taken a shilling from her pocket. She remembered that the last coin she had handled had been that other shilling which she had given to the woman in the faded satin, who had been crouching in the pawn-broker's doorway in front of the transparency of red and blue.

The little servant, gaping at her new air of authority, the child wondering but submissive, had given in to her. She had given, in a whisper, a few words of explanation to the ready ear of the chandler's kindly wife. "Something horrible had happened at No. 12 there had been an accident—a bad accident. It seemed a shame to have the child and the little maid in the way—she would tell the police where they were. Meanwhile, perhaps Mrs. Ellet would keep these two and give them a little dinner?" She had handed the boy a packet of sweets from the counter, then she had gone back to the house through the fog, made her way, detached, reserved, through the crowd on the stairs, and so into her own room, where she had waited with an odd fiery patience.

* * *

Now it was all over. Daisy Arrow had been taken to the mortuary, the doctor had come and gone; the back room where Belle had heard that man's pleasant voice which had been silenced by her exasperated knocking, had been sealed up and put in charge of the police.

That, as Belle had foreknown, was a mere formula, because the whole apartment had already been carefully searched and had revealed nothing extraordinary, except the large stained clasp-knife with which the crime had been committed—the overbrimming basin in which the murderer had washed his hands, and the torn towel on which he had wiped them. For the rest, nothing but trivial commonplace things—some of Daisy Arrow's finery on a hook—some of Daisy Arrow's finery in the drawer—cheap furniture, already well-worn and marked before ever Daisy Arrow had taken up her residence in the room—several flat, empty glass flasks—pots of caking cold cream and drying rouge. On the washstand, a half-peeled orange; on the chairs and the bed, one or two cracked nutshells, an empty stained glass, an empty brandy flask on the chest of drawers.

Belle had found an intellectual interest in watching the police methods. She had had to go down into the kitchen with the other women.

The first questioning was brief; there was so little that anyone could say, so very little that anyone knew.

The last actions of Daisy Arrow's life had been so ordinary. She had visited the Cambridge and had borrowed the pink plumes; she had attempted to persuade Belle to accompany her to the Argyll Rooms or the Alhambra. Nothing odd in this or in her return to No. 12 late at night, slightly drunk; with a bag of fruit, her paying of ten shillings off her rent, her tale of the gentleman whom she had met and whom she had brought home with her; there was nothing in this the least peculiar or suspicious. No one—and this was very vexatious to the police—had seen the stranger. They had heard his step, his voice, but that was all.

Daisy Arrow had said he was a foreigner. There Was nothing even peculiar about that. Several foreigners had been at No 12 before. Mrs. Bulke had even had a foreign lodger—a French gentleman she thought he was—for a considerable time.

Even the sharp and practised questioning of Superintendent Matchwell of Division E, who, by the afternoon, had been sent round to take charge of the enquiry, could not elicit from any of the inhabitants of No. 12—even including poor Moll, who had been brought round from her refuge at the chandler's shop—anything that might throw the least light on the end of Daisy Arrow.

The only two out-of-the-way circumstances that the long cross-examination of these women produced, were these: the fact of Daisy Arrow's air of excitement and triumph, for she was usually, it seemed—even when she had been drinking—melancholy and reserved, rather dull in her manner, and the fact that she had come down for the third time into the kitchen, asking for two most unusual forms of refreshment—champagne and fine old brandy. "Which had never been asked for in this house before, I suppose, ma'am," remarked Superintendent Matchwell.

He was a refined-looking man with a shrewd pock-marked face and sandy whiskers. Though he conducted the enquiry quietly and gave the least possible trouble and offence, Mrs. Bulke disliked him intensely. She had always detested the new detective police. She had known her way about with the old Bow Street constables, but this new force was composed of a different class of man, from whom the landlady of No. 12 had a distinct aversion.

"And why, ma'am," asked Superintendent Matchwell, with his trained glance keenly and unobtrusively on the florid face of the landlady, "should the young woman have asked for champagne and brandy?"

"How should I know? I told her it was a gentleman's drink, but she said she wanted it for a gentleman, and I think he was, too, from what I could hear of his voice."

The detective made a note of that—a foreigner and a gentleman.

"That would be," he suggested, tentatively, tapping his feet and his pencil, "that would be a bit unusual here, wouldn't it, ma'am—a gentleman?"

Mrs. Bulke, with the air of one who disdained subterfuge, admitted "that it would be unusual."

* * *

Belle's fire was sinking out; she wanted more coal; it would soon be dark and she had neither lamp nor candle. It was all very well in the daytime, with the bright flames in the narrow grate, the house full of people, and something to do to occupy oneself. But, at night, surely no one would expect her to spend the night on that empty floor with Daisy Arrow's unoccupied room the other side of her thin wall. She would have to take another room downstairs, though it was odious to think of sleeping with one of those women. They might even let her leave the house if she had had anywhere to go. She seemed to have soon satisfied the police, although she was the person who had been nearest to the scene of the murder, that the criminal at his work, or the victim waking for the last time, might have heard her as she restlessly tossed on her creaking iron bed.

Her evidence had been soon given. She had been a witness to Daisy Arrow's three visits to the kitchen; she had seen her on the top of the stairs when she, herself, had gone to bed; she had returned to her the feather that she had borrowed to wear at the Argyll Rooms. She had herself been tired, for not only had she played in the evening performance at the Cambridge, but she had been rehearsing all day, trial dances and scenes in the hope of obtaining some work in the pantomime "Puss in Boots," opening to-morrow, and in which, at the last minute, changes had been made. Therefore, she had gone to bed and was asleep at once; her candle confirmed that; it had not been above three inches when Mrs. Bulke had given it to her, and not one inch was burnt down.

And so, she had slept heavily; just waking once or twice—hearing the bells of Christmas morning—seeing the foggy London light in the room—and in her idleness and fatigue, going to sleep again till, finally, she had been roused by Florrie's unrestrained shrieks on the staircase.

The police did not seem in the least to doubt her story and questioned her hardly at all. A search of her room had proved fruitless and what she had said sounded so reasonable.

She was asked if she had heard the front door slam about half-past six?

The pale girl—who so far had been nameless, but who now, it seemed, was called Lily Mason—had said with many convulsive sobs and tears that she had been roused about half-past six—she thought it was—by the front door slamming; and Mrs. Bulke, also, admitted to hearing this noise, but had agreed that it was not an infrequent occurrence at No. 12—the front door closing noisily in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning. Therefore, she had taken no notice.

Belle said quietly, No, she had not heard that, and she too had admitted that doors often slammed either in that house or up the street, and that she also, living in Great Hogarth Street, had become accustomed to such disturbances.

So far—so safe.

There had only remained the question of the knife, and she felt that she had better face that. She was sure that they would be able to trace it, so she had told, as casually as she was able, of Daisy Arrow's visit to the Cambridge (which could, of course, have been ascertained from other sources), of her interview with her in the dressing-room under the stage, and of her taking up the clasp-knife which old Bobs, the stage hand, had brought in for her to use with her food (the cook-shop having forgotten to send a knife over) and of Daisy Arrow putting it in her reticule, under the excuse that she was going to have supper in her room and wanted a knife with which to cut sandwiches and fruit.

Belle thought, even as she told it, that this story sounded weak and unlikely. She wished she had thought of the point before, then she might have been able to invent something more convincing. It was difficult to think of a good excuse for Daisy Arrow taking that ugly stained knife away from the Cambridge in her silly beaded bag.

Belle had thought rapidly: "If I tell them the truth, first, they won't believe me, and if they did, they would consider that a woman who was in the condition to be seriously contemplating suicide-and such an ugly form of suicide—was an object of suspicion. It would be very foolish of me to admit that I associated that knife with a woman's throat being cut. They might think that Daisy and I had quarrelled."

But no such suspicion seemed to enter Superintendent Matchwell's mind. He accepted Belle Adair's story—corroborated the details of it from Mr. Figg of the Cambridge Theatre—from Minnie Palmer—from the other women of No. 12—and he even obtained, to Bell's surprise, evidence in support of her invented tale of the knife-borrowing, for he elicited from Mrs. Bulke that she did not like her ladies to bring in food and eat in their bedrooms and that she had frequently refused Daisy Arrow knives, forks and crockery to use in her bedroom. The rooms of No. 12 had been searched but nothing of interest found; it had been quite easy for Belle to hide the German Bible in the pocket under her skirt.

* * *

Well, another day was over, and Daisy Arrow had gone to the St. Pancras mortuary, but Belle Adair was alive and alert. She had thirteen shillings in her pocket. She felt now certain of work in the pantomime. Perhaps they would be glad to keep her so long as the Police News and the Morning Advertiser were full of the murder of Daisy Arrow. She would be quite an attraction.

Then this expectant hope was clouded over. Mr. Lode liked to keep up convention, all his young ladies were respectable, the Cambridge was a nice family place, and wasn't "Puss in Boots" supposed to be an entertainment for children and decent, homely, kindly people, many of whom did not even know of the existence of such establishments as No. 12? The management of the music hall might want the whole ugly affair hushed up—they might not want to employ anyone who had the least connection with it she might find herself without work or prospects.

A chill, almost amounting to despair, fell over the heart which had been at a high pitch of excitement and anticipation since that early hour when she had picked up the German Bible in Daisy Arrow's room.

As she stood over the darkening embers of the small fire, her shabby neat gown and smooth hair banded on either side of her pale face, she rebuked herself sharply, as if she had been talking to another person, for this stupid elevation of mood.

Why, after all, had she supposed that the ugly end of Daisy Arrow would be of any use to her? Why had she had that curious and unaccountable sense of power, when she had picked up the German Bible, as if a weapon with which to achieve—what word should she use?—progress, a release from her present degradation, had been put into her hand? Well, at least as if a weapon had been put into her hands. There had been no reason for hope—none at all.

There was no clue—at least the police had no clue to the murderer—and could she use any possible clue that she might have, to her advantage?

She would have to go to work very carefully, and meanwhile, for the sake of her nerves and peace of mind, she had better, if she could, get out of the house.

Superintendent Matchwell was still in the basement kitchen, and there was a sergeant walking up and down outside the house by the broken railing, moving on the crowd of clustering sightseers, who had gathered to pry up through the fog at the dingy windows and to wonder among themselves—which concealed the room where Daisy Arrow had slept for the last time?

The word "murder," borne on their low fog-hoarsened voices, rose with the power of an evil smell round the fated house.

Belle Adair went downstairs. All the women were, at last, out of the way—scared or quietened, or gossiping in their bedrooms in subdued tones. The house was quite silent.

Superintendent Matchwell was smoking a small cigar and drinking a cup of tea which he appeared to have made himself. Belle wondered—annoyed with herself for being interested in such a triviality—who had lit the fire that morning?—who had swept away the sausage skins and apple parings from the rusty bars of the grate?—who had emptied the ashes, the egg-shells? Someone had been at work; the kitchen was quite trim—the curtains had been pulled straight—the dirty work-basket and the toy removed—the tawdry paper flowers taken away—the chairs set straight—the tablecloth pulled level—the piano dusted. The trivial sprays of holly with the sparse berries had been taken down from behind the portrait of Her Majesty the Queen, and His Grace the Duke of Wellington. Only behind the dark print of The Last Judgment above the piano remained a stiff bough of yew.

As Belle Adair glanced at it two trains of thought merged in one in her overstimulated mind. What song had she sung there last night? "The Wanderer to the Moon." Perhaps Daisy Arrow was now free to travel to the moon. Yew trees grew out of graves in country churchyards. Nothing, thought Belle, would ever grow out of Daisy's grave.

With her reserved and ladylike air she approached the superintendent. She was gratified to see that he rose at her entry. It was a long time since any man had shown her that courtesy. His air of self-respect, trim clothes (he was not in uniform), his shining cleanliness, and the earnest sincerity in his light eyes, seemed to make of the little kitchen a pleasanter place than it had seemed to Belle, since she had first known No. 12.

Unconsciously, with the air of one who is mistress in her own home, she asked him to be seated and herself took the horse-hair by the grate which she had occupied last night.

"This place looks neater and tidier than I have ever seen it before—neater and tidier, indeed, than I ever thought it could be."

"I got the girls to work on it, ma'am—Moll, as I think you call her—and the other little creature, Lily Mason. They were glad to have something to do, and quite willing to work. They're good girls when you take them right."

She was aware of his cautious professional glance. There could not be a single detail of her appearance which escaped his trained observation. She was aware, too, of a slight, though skilfully concealed, astonishment on his part at her faded gentility—at her ladylike manners—at her grace and reserve—at the fact that she should be a resident at No. 12—a companion of women like Florrie and Daisy Arrow like May and Mrs. Bulke.

Slowly, like one who enters cautiously, but with definite aim, into an engagement of wits, she began:

"The street is full of people staring at the house. I see the constable has difficulty in moving them on. Is it not strange that there should be so much interest in a tragedy, which is, after all, not such an uncommon tragedy—at least not in Bloomsbury, in a street like this?"

"I expect, ma'am," said the superintendent quietly and pleasantly, "it's being Christmas Day, and there being so many people with nothing to do; and then there's a bit of mystery about it at least for those folks out there. Would you like a cup of tea, ma'am? I made it myself—it has not brewed long in the pot."

"Thank you."

Belle rose, fetched a cup and saucer from the dresser, poured out some of the tea.

"A mystery," she said, returning to the horse-hair chair, "to those people out there, Mr. Matchwell, but not perhaps to you."

If the detective thought that she was endeavouring to draw him, he showed no resentment, finding it perhaps the best method to humour her and so, in his turn, probe her mind.

"I can't say as I see much mystery, ma'am. The young woman picked up a stranger last night—brought him home in her way of business, poor thing—and they quarrelled—he, having the drink in and the knife out, made away with her."

"That's very strange to me," said Belle in a low voice, between dainty sips of her tea; "murder; what could the quarrel have been about?"

"Money, as one may suppose, ma'am."

"But she wasn't robbed."

"No, ma'am. There was nothing to rob but a few silly glass trinkets, no one would risk a fortnight in the 'lockup' for them. Yet, it might have been about money she was trying to get from him."

"I still don't understand," said Belle, fixing her cool glance on the flame between the rusty bars of the grate.

"Well, he may have been a criminal—one who's used to these things—quarrelling and knives."

"If there had been a quarrel," said Belle, "I, who was sleeping next door, surely should have heard. It is true I had a dream—I may have been a little disturbed."

"They may," said the detective quietly, "have quarrelled before they came here. She may have thought it had blown over, and he was cherishing it all the while and looking for his opportunity. You see, ma'am, we don't know whom we're dealing with. They talk of a foreigner and a gentleman; they said, too, he was a stranger to her." Mr. Matchwell looked alertly at Belle. "Well, he may not have been a stranger. He might have been somebody she'd known before. We can't have any idea at present who he was, or what there was between them."

"At present," repeated Belle. "You think, then, you might be able to find out?"

"I hope that we'll find out. I've solved more difficult problems, ma'am, and been in charge of more mysterious cases. On the other hand there may not be what you'd call a mystery about it at all. He may have been a kind of madman. That's well known to Scotland Yard. Creatures who seem on the surface quite sane, yet must commit these fearful crimes. Cunning they are, too, and often escape; and it would surprise you, ma'am, to see them. They often look most unlike what they are."

"Do they?" said Belle, peering at Mr. Matchwell with a fearful interest. "Do they?—and what is it that they really are?"

"What you might call monsters, ma'am," said the detective dryly.

"And what, Detective Matchwell, might one of these monsters look like?" asked Belle in a hurried, slurred voice. "Could he, just for instance, by chance, look like a pleasant young man, well dressed, with a handsome open face?"

"He might, ma'am, look exactly like that." The detective emptied his cup and then asked simply: "You haven't seen anyone like that, either in the company of the poor young woman or hanging about the house?"

"No! No, indeed," said Belle. "I tell you, I only just heard the voice last night. I couldn't even say what language he spoke. There was only Daisy's word for it that he was a foreigner. I suppose," she added rapidly, "it couldn't possibly have been suicide? I know, if perhaps you don't, Mr. Matchwell, the kind of life that Daisy Arrow led."

"I think I know that well enough, ma'am."

"Yes, yes, that was a silly thing for me to say—but I mean her inner life—how melancholy and despondent she was, and ill, too—consumptive, you know, I think. She really had nothing to live for, and she gave rather a silly excuse for taking that knife from the dressing-room, didn't she? Mightn't she, when this friend had gone, say, perhaps, in some anger and disgust for his not showing her enough kindness or not giving her the present that she had expected—mightn't she—I tell you she was a very moody creature, Mr. Matchwell might she not perhaps have disposed of herself?"

"You forget the basin," smiled the detective. "A man nor a woman neither, can't cut their own throat, get off the bed, wash their hands and get back again; not with two gashes like that, ma'am—and they can't dip their hands in their own blood and imprint it on their own face—at least not with two gashes like that, nor tear a strip off a towel and make a bandage."

Belle cast down her smooth white lids.

"Was there that on her face?"

"There was, ma'am; one may suppose he rested his hand there when he made the second wound. She was asleep, we might take it. Don't distress yourself, ma'am, I don't suppose she suffered much. You didn't hear a struggle and there wasn't a sign of one, and as you say, she'd got nothing much to live for."

"Not any more than anyone in this house has got much to live for, or anything at all," said Belle with a cold smile. "Perhaps you wondered a little, Mr. Matchwell, what I am doing here? Well, it's easily explained." She hurried on without waiting for his answer. "I've been very unfortunate. You won't want to hear my history, but it has been one of misfortune. It is very difficult for a woman to earn her living in London, sir, and keep out of places like this. Mrs. Bulke seemed to me a kind sort of woman, and her room was cheap. I've been on the stage for some years now—not very successfully. I didn't know when I came here what kind of house this was. I have not been here very much. When I haven't been performing I've been giving music lessons in a little room in Baker Street."

She fluttered her eyes up and saw that the kindly light gaze of the detective regarded impartially her clever acting.

"This has been to me unutterably horrible, unutterably disgusting. I want to leave the house. I suppose you would understand that, wouldn't you, sir? Might I try to find a room somewhere else?"

"I can understand your feeling, ma'am. I can see for myself you're out of place here. I certainly was surprised to see a lady like yourself in—well—this house. I don't know that I should have any objection to your moving, but you would hardly find another room easily on Christmas Day, and, of course, you will be called on as a witness at the inquest."

"Oh, need I?" said Belle, wrinkling her brow in distress. "I've nothing to say."

"It's a matter of form, ma'am. I had better light the gas—it's getting very dark."

"Yes, that's what I don't like," said Belle rapidly. "I don't feel as if I could stay in this house another night. After all, I've had a good deal to put up with."

"I think, ma'am, you've behaved admirably," said the detective.

As he rose, his dark, neat figure blotted the fire from her view for a second; then he had taken matches from his pocket and a spurt of flame dispersed the thick shadows and showed the piano with the red pleated silk front, the picture of The Last Judgment with the bough of yew above. When he had lit the gas, Belle asked:

"Will there be any witnesses besides the people in this house?" She answered herself, saying, "How could there be?"

"Well, ma'am, I expect there'll be several. I know of two at least, for the young woman brought in a bag of fruit. There's a name on that—Arthur Lummin.' We found him easily enough—a fruiterer in Covent Garden. There's a waiter at the Argyll Rooms, too. He knew Miss Daisy Arrow quite well by sight, and the fruiterer remembered the young woman and her companion quite well, too."

"And her companion?" echoed Belle.

The acrid light of the gas shot up from the heart-shaped flame in the glass globe.

"And her companion, too, ma'am," said the detective quietly.

"I wonder what happened to the key?"

"Thrown away by the murderer—as usual."

Belle smiled.

* * *

Belle, Lily Mason, Moll and the little boy all slept in the kitchen that night with the fire kept going—the gas turned low, all resting as best they could on chairs and mattresses on the floor. The other women were huddled somehow into Mrs. Bulke's bedroom; a constable kept guard in the parlour.

Belle had procured herself another good meal, and a glass of old sherry from Mrs. Bulke's store. She had washed again in warm water, with a cake of good soap that Lily Mason had shyly proffered. She felt refreshed—raised in her own esteem, as if she were a more estimable member of society than she had been the day before.

Yes, even lying on a mattress in the kitchen that was so much cleaner and neater than it had been yesterday, even part of this sordid excitement and wretched upset, she felt she had regained something of her own self-respect.

That conversation with Superintendent Matchwell, when he had treated her as a sensible human being—treated her as a lady, that had soothed her bruised and broken pride which she had believed only a short while before to be utterly crushed.

As she lay there—shawls and blankets over her—on the mattress, her head propped on a pillow, staring at the fire which Lily Mason had made up just before they had tried to sleep, she felt as if she were once more part of an ordered existence, not a mere waif or outcast who had no useful or necessary place in the world. She knew, she reasoned with herself acutely, that she had no firm foundation for this belief and hope, but they were there. She looked at her fine hands, smoothly-turned wrists, and delicate forearms, in the fire-light. A little good food, such as she had had to-day, a little warmth and ease of mind—she might be a lively pretty woman again.

Had that acute detective, used as he must be to dealing with human nature and with the underworld, believed he simple story?—a gentlewoman struggling to earn her live'; hood—an actress of the better sort, not knowing to what manner of house she had gone? Had he believed about the little music shop in Baker Street?—would there be enquiries into her past life? She did not think so.

She would have to give evidence at the inquest, but it would not be of much importance. She could soon, with her intelligence and her respectful air, impress the coroner that she had spoken the truth. She would appear for a moment in the coroner's court, and disappear again. That would do her no harm. Her name was easily changed. She need not be for long contaminated by any association with Daisy Arrow.

Meanwhile, how to get out of this? She almost formed the question aloud, anxious as she was not to disturb the other uneasy sleepers in the kitchen.

She longed, as she had hardly ever longed before, to find a few pounds and decent lodgings—some foothold in the world of respectability.

"I thought that I had forgotten how to care, and now I care a great deal—more than I ever thought possible. Am I a fool to think that I can regain anything, lust when everything seems so lost—just when I seem to be indifferent that it was lost? Was it only yesterday that I had in my hand that knife, which is now, as I suppose, at Scotland Yard? I had better not think about it. I must try to sleep a little or I shall be quite upset and give way."

She readjusted her pillow—under it was the carpetbag in which lay the plumes and the German Bible.

Lily Mason was crying and gurgling in her sleep. Moll was restless with ugly twitches of body and face.

Strange, thought Belle contemptuously, that last night when it really happened we were all at peace, and tonight, when there is nothing to be afraid of, we are all in a panic.

After all, she could not sleep. She pulled herself to her knees on the warm mattress—the shawls and blankets fell off her slender figure. She clasped her hands before her lips and muttered:

"O God! O God, give me a chance."

* * *

The inquest on Daisy Arrow was a mere formality. In the official language of Superintendent Matchwell, this first enquiry into the murder elicited "no information which could assist the course of justice."

The inhabitants of No. 12, Great Hogarth Street, repeated the evidence which they had already given in private examination.

The Covent Garden greengrocer remembered Daisy Arrow—who was well known to him by sight—pausing with a companion to buy fruit late on Christmas Eve, but, owing to the fog and the ill illumination in his shop (he, being just on the point of closing, having turned the gas out, had fetched the fruit by the light of a candle), could not give a very satisfactory description of this same companion, who was muffled hi a light greatcoat, had his hands in his pockets, a scarf round his neck, and his hat pulled down over his eyes. He was well-dressed—the fruiterer had noticed that, because he had usually seen Daisy Arrow with men in shabby or flashy attire. But this stranger's clothes had been good, and he seemed a gentleman.

This evidence thus corroborated the impression given to Mrs. Bulke, to Belle Adair, and to the other women in the kitchen of No. 12 on the night of the murder, when they had heard the soft yet emphatic masculine tones in the passage above.

Another witness was the waiter at the Argyll Rooms. He deposed to having seen Daisy Arrow there on Christmas Eve. He had noticed that she drank a good deal more than was customary with her, and that in contradiction to her usual demeanour, she had been very excited and gay. Unfortunately this man, who seemed stupid and had great difficulty in expressing himself, had not taken much heed of Daisy Arrow's companion. He could only repeat that he had himself been tired, the place had been so noisy and so full of people and cigar smoke. Daisy Arrow had been with several gentlemen, exchanging jokes, merriment and drinks. He could recall that she had been drawn apart by a tall, well-dressed man, who seemed to be speaking to her in a foreign language. They had been talking earnestly and with great animation at one of the small tables in the alcove, but the waiter could give no description of the person of this gentleman.

Belle Adair, seated on the witnesses' bench in the ugly dull Coroner's Court, listened to all this futile evidence with a secret and exultant sense of power. She did not yet in the least know how she could make use of that glimpse of the stranger for whom the detective was searching, or of the Bible, still safely hidden in her carpet-bag, but the mere fact that she knew more than all the other people, more than the coroner or the detective or the police or any of the witnesses, gave her keen pleasure. The knowledge that they were all stumbling after she had—clearly and precisely. She could have described the wanted man with each detail of his attire. She could have drawn his portrait. She believed that, from the inscriptions in the German Bible, she knew his name, and something of his history.

She had given her own evidence in a quiet, respectful and regretful manner that she was sure had impressed the coroner. He had spoken to her in quite a different tone from that he had used to the other women. She was gratified that she had made a good effect in her shabby, neat clothes and her pale face devoid of paint—with her decorous veil and bonnet, and her bay-leaf-coloured hair knotted through the strings in the nape of her neck. She had persuaded them, she was almost sure, that she was an unfortunate gentlewoman and, only by accident, had found herself in such company as Mrs. Bulke kept at No. 12.

These false pretenses, however, which at first had seemed to her so secure, were shaken, and the woman herself was angered into both fear and rebellion by what she learned of the activities of the police who were employed on the case.

In the space of a very few days, Scotland Yard had discovered without difficulty, and produced as a matter of course the real identity of the people by whom Belle had been for some time surrounded; people who were very careful never to reveal, or even to hint at, what they really were behind their tricks and poses. The cool, matter-of-fact, disinterested evidence of the police destroyed all these gaudy shams, and named, with cool exactitude, people and things that Belle had tried never even to think of in their correct colours.

Even the dead woman was, as it were, pursued into her grave—unmasked and exposed. There was no such person as Daisy Arrow. It was Martha Owen—aged thirty-three, unmarried, with a child of eight years of age, formerly lodging in the Waterloo Road and in the Tottenham Court Road—well-known to the police—belonging to what was usually termed "an unfortunate class of woman," but branded now by a plainer name—who had had her throat cut at No. 12, Great Hogarth Street on Christmas Eve.

There was a plain name, too, for No. 12, and for Mrs. Bulke—Sarah Jones, also unmarried, who had been in prison twice, once in Exeter and once in Bodmin—formerly a circus rider, but for many years earning her living in a fashion which had frequently brought her to the notice of the police. To escape their warnings, she had moved frequently from place to place, changing her name but never her profession.

Minnie Palmer's name was Mary Jenkins. She, too, had been in prison, and the coroner spoke to her in a manner of kind rebuke that reduced her to passionate tears of sentimental vanity.

When Belle's turn had come to give evidence, she had thought bitterly—"I suppose they have found out all about me." Yet she wondered if that were possible. She had been, she was sure, so clever, covered up her tracks so adroitly. She was prepared to defy their utmost ingenuity—to lie and lie again.

But they did not drive her to this expedient, perhaps because she was unknown to the police and had never been involved in any criminal case. They accepted her as Belle Adair, an actress and dancer. She admitted that that was her stage name, but she had acted under others, Belle Beaumont, Rose Vere, and she had asked with a look of candour at the coroner which she endeavoured to render as appealing as possible, "Need I, sir, reveal my true name here? I have relatives, you understand—my family—"

The coroner replied that he could understand and respect her reason. She was allowed to retain her incognita. She thanked him graciously, and gave her evidence with satisfactory precision and clarity. Then that was over—an open verdict returned—"Murder against some person or persons unknown."

* * *

"I am glad," thought Belle, "that I didn't have to identify the body. I don't suppose poor Daisy looks very pretty by now."

She had been maliciously pleased to see how downcast and sick the members of the jury looked when they filed back to their places, after having returned through the brown varnished door that concealed the room where Daisy Arrow lay—"smug, respectable, selfish people, all of them," thought Belle. "It will do them good to hear of this kind of thing—it will do them good to see this kind of thing—indeed, it will."

Mrs. Bulke's evil eyes, hard and sullen, had identified Daisy Arrow; a cockney young man, awkward and ashamed in a tight blue coat with brass buttons, who kept twisting his cap round and round in his hands, a much younger brother, who had not seen his sister for ten years or more, but who knew her story as he had heard it often enough from her father who had died last year, had also looked on the body and had said that it was that of Martha Owen, his sister.

John Owen, of Welsh origin, had been a baker in Clerkenwell. His son, awkward and nervous in the witness-box, had insisted that they were all respectable people, and his other sisters were married to decent men; one of them had bought the bakery. He—Roger Owen—was a button-maker himself, and did well he had his own little business and lodged with his sister.

But Martha had always gone on her own. She had been in service as quite a young girl and had run away—some trouble with a footman. Her parents had found her, though with great difficulty, another place. Again she had been disgraced, and this time dismissed. Then, they had lost sight of the light pretty creature.

She had come home once—too gaily dressed, too much money in her purse. Her tale was plausible. She had found a post as companion to a lady. She seemed, indeed, in the eyes of her simple kinsfolk, to have an air of gentility. She had picked up, it seemed to her relations, some airs and graces of society, and they thought her clothes tasteful.

She had then disappeared. She had written to them from abroad—France, the young man thought it was. He had lost the letter. He remembered that his mother had given it to him to write to that address, but he had not had the heart or the courage to do so. His parents had died soon after; he had washed his hands of Martha; probably if his mother had lived she herself would have written. It was a good many years ago and he was sure that the letter was lost.

The police were a little vexed about this. There seemed some possible connection between Daisy Arrow's visit abroad and the foreigner whom she had brought home with her on the last night of her life. But, as the letter could not be found and the young man's memory was not reliable, this small clue could not be followed up.

* * *

When Belle Adair left the ugly brick building, she did not go her way, but walked up and down the dingy, greasy street. It was the first week of January, the very dead time of the year. It was all very well, no doubt, for those who were happy or active or enclosed in their own homes, but completely stagnant and dismal for those who had neither activity nor happiness, but who remained shut out from all festivities, tasting only the staleness of the winter, the filth of the city, the bitterness of the bleak season.

It was Roger Owen for whom Belle waited. He came out quickly with his awkward step, his flushed face frowning, nervously playing with his cap.

She spoke to him at once, with her well-bred air of assurance.

"I was a friend, Mr. Owen, of your sister's, when she had very few friends. Might I speak to you? Just a few words."

He glanced at her with dismay and shame. Belle noticed that he had reddish hair like Daisy, and good straight features like Daisy, though his cheek-bones were too high and flat, his complexion dull and pock-marked.

"Yes, ma'am," he said hastily, "of course—as you please—as you wish."

He fell into step beside her elegant shabbiness.

She sensed his relief at her difference from the other women who had also been his sister's companions, and who had filled him, she was sure, with terror and disgust; for honesty and respectability shone in the young man, from his thick, carefully blacked boots to his smoothly brushed, shining hair. She noted that he did not wear mourning, but had a crape band on his right arm.

"You must not think of me, Mr. Owen, as being the same as those other creatures who lived in Mrs. Bulke's house. I only took a room there by chance for quite a short time. I have—as you may remember came out in the evidence—a part in the pantomime 'Puss in Boots' at the Cambridge. Belle Adair, as you may also remember, is my stage name. Illness and foolish speculation reduced my family to such straits that I was forced to earn my living in the only way open to a gentlewoman." A sidelong look assured her that he was impressed, if bewildered, by her explanation, and that he was quite overawed by, and powerless before, her direct and well-bred personality. "You are going towards Holborn?" she asked. "The fog seems dense in that direction, and how cold it is! I will, however, walk with you a little way." She leaned towards him, as she did so, lowering her veil over her too brilliant eyes. "What a pity, Mr. Owen, that you lost that letter from France. Do you know, I had the impression that you hadn't lost it."

"Had you?" said he, starting violently and gaping at her. "Had you now, ma'am?"

"Yes, and I think if the police had been a little more clever—or should we say, a little more interested—they would have forced you to say that you'd got it—and perhaps other papers about poor Daisy."

"It were no business of theirs," said the young man, embarrassed and sullen. "She is dead, ain't she? And paid for all. I'd like to see the hanging of the man who did it. Poor Martha, she couldn't help the way she went—she was good-hearted, too—she used to send us money at one time. I expect it was villains getting hold of her in the beginning."

"I expect so," said Belle smoothly, "it nearly always is. If one is young and gay and fond of pleasure, it is very difficult to avoid trouble. Now, won't you tell me about those letters, Mr. Owen? If you've got one or several and would let me read them, I perhaps could help you. I could advise you—whether you should take them to the police or perhaps to a lawyer. You see, you want the murderer of Daisy discovered, don't you? There might be a clue in those letters."

"I know, ma'am. I can't say what came over me to give the gentleman the lie like that. But I didn't want to go into it somehow—I didn't see what good it 'ud do, and I am not clever at talking—not at making myself clear, as you might say."

"I understand. But don't you think if I were to come over with you to Clerkenwell now, and you were to show me those letters, it would be quite a wise action on your part? And you could easily explain away your denial to the coroner; you could say that you had found the letters by chance—that the subject having been brought again to your mind, you had looked once more, and had discovered them in some unlikely place."

She saw him glance at her through the thickening fog—with admiration for her obvious sharpness, and mistrust of her possible duplicity. She saw his stupid eyes travel over her person, and she sensed, with some amusement, his relief at the quiet neatness of her appearance. He would not be ashamed of taking her to his sister's home—he would not mind letting the neighbours know that this had been a friend of poor Martha. Belle believed that the young man, in his simplicity, would be quite gratified to let his little circle in Clerkenwell—a little circle of such honest and hard-working respectable people—know that poor Martha, whose story had been well blown abroad in the daily newspapers, had had a real lady, like herself, for a friend.

* * *

The management of the Cambridge had been rather doubtful about the propriety of retaining the services of any ladies who had been involved in the tragedy of Daisy Arrow. But after the inquest was over and the police had arrested no one, and there had not been, after all, very much sensation about the dismal, but hardly surprising end of a nobody, and when it had been found that the name of Belle Adair, displayed on the placards outside the Cambridge, had attracted a certain amount of curiosity-mongers, she was allowed to continue in the part, and even to dance every night the pas seul to the Moss Rose waltz.

Mocking at herself with detached irony, she had taken two resolutions on New Year's Day—she would have nothing more to do with Mrs. Bulke and her young women, and she would stop drinking. She had found, for ten shillings a week, a tiny upper room in Holborn, and, as no more shillings went on gin or sherry, or even bottled porter, the other pound stood her very well for food and other necessaries. It pleased her to think that she could thus readily, and hardly without any effort or pain, stop drinking, and it gave her a sense of power to be sober among people who were nearly always in various stages of drunkenness.

Like bats when an old building is pulled down and the daylight let in, Mrs. Bulke and her lodgers had flapped away into another darkness and No. 12 was to let—a prey to sightseers. What arrangements Mrs. Bulke had made about the landlord, or the rent, or the furniture, whether or no she had fled on warnings from the police, Belle was ignorant, but it gave her a certain acrid satisfaction to know that the house was empty, shuttered and bolted. The brown paper would have fallen from the broken pane in her room, the stained pillow would have been removed from Daisy Arrow's room, and the drugget would have been taken up from the knot in the boards where she had thrown the key. She had a qualm there—supposing someone were to alter the house, to rebuild or take the floor up—and find the key? It would probably be at once connected with the murder—with Belle herself who had been the occupant of that room on Christmas Eve.

Yet, this was unlikely. It was much more probable that the house would remain for long untenanted, and when it was let, taken by someone far too feckless to spend any money on repairs.

* * *

Belle Adair had, besides the Bible and the pink plumes, something else, useful perhaps, and curious certainly in her carpet-bag—the two slender letters which had been given her by Roger Owen. She could not very well understand their meaning, though the sentences were plain enough; one was in German, a language with which she was well acquainted, and was an enclosure in an epistle which Daisy Arrow had sent from Germany about five years before. Yes, that was clear from the date on the letter.

Roger Owen, of course, had not been able to make head or tail of this, and could scarcely, with his own poor scholarship and Daisy's poor scrawl, spell out his sister's letter.

Belle had told him smoothly that there was nothing of importance on the two flimsy sheets. Good-hearted Daisy had merely written from abroad to say that she had found a situation in a well-placed family as a kind of nursery governess—that she was quite happy and hoped to send some money soon. Then, pretending to translate the letter in the foreign language, Belle had said it was merely a few lines from the lady who had employed Daisy, stating how satisfactory the girl was, and promising to keep her in her service.

Roger Owen accepted this information without demur. It confirmed his own opinion and that of his late parents—"a bit of Martha's nonsense, writing like that from foreign parts."

"You see, ma'am, it was no good for me to keep them letters, and I might as well have said—as I did say to the coroner—that I had lost them. For, after all, it would have been no good to bring up that business about Martha being in France; then perhaps they'd have made enquiries and found that she had got into disgrace there, and had to be sent home—for that is what must have happened, for she was back soon enough and no more heard of it."

Belle thought so too. Daisy was so reckless, flighty, so fond of pleasure—really incorrigible; no doubt by her own bad behaviour she had lost the chance abroad as she had lost several chances in England.

A pity! The girl had been bright, intelligent, graceful and pretty above her station.

Belle had said that she would like to keep the letters as a souvenir of poor Daisy. Roger Owen had been touched. He had been fond of his sister himself, although he remembered so little of her silly gentle ways.

Belle had slipped the thin packet packet with the foreign stamps into her reticule and talked of other things, and now it lay safely in the carpet-bag next the plume of pink feathers and the German Bible.

* * *

In the beginning of February, Belle went to Scotland Yard and asked to see Superintendent Matchwell. She was told that if she returned in half an hour or so, she might see him, so she went to the fruit-pie-maker's at the corner, and asked for a tart and a glass of milk. When sherry, as a matter of course, was offered her, she declined it with a smile.

Daisy's father had been a baker. In Clerkenwell, Belle had seen the little shop, with rolls and seed-cake in the window, where Daisy must often have played about as a child—a charming, radiant little child, no doubt.

Belle thought of the picture of The Last Judgment with the thick spray of yew stuck above the bird's-eye maple frame. Who had taken that down? Who had flung aside the bough of evergreen that was the only funeral wreath that Daisy Arrow had ever had?

Belle nibbled her tart and looked out of the clean window at the large new public-house they were building at the corner—at the row of new, neat shops that had lately been erected—at the eating-house, where the colliers up from the coal barges moored in the Thames, went for their rough refreshments.

She was very trimly dressed, but she wished she could have had another few pounds—say five or six pounds—to lay out on her appearance. She was still a little too shabby—with all her care and skill, with cleaning, with needle and thread, her garments were patched and darned. Save for her bright, vigilant eyes and her erect personable carriage, her swift walk and graceful poise, she knew that she looked like a creature in need of charity; and it was not her intention, at the present moment, to appear so obviously poor. Still, she had done her best, and luck might, somehow, turn.

Strange that she, who had been at such a complete point of desperation, handling a heavy vinegar-stained clasp-knife before a cracked mirror, should once again have begun to plan—to hope—to crave—to scheme, and to set up pretences, not only before others, but even before herself. Yes, she was re-valuing herself in her own eyes, hiding away much of the past, only remembering what she wished to remember.

Superintendent Matchwell received Belle in a room as neat, as formal, as non-committal as his own personality.

She seated herself with deliberate grace on one of the varnished chairs. As she folded her hands in her lap, she had the pleasurable sensation that she folded them round a weapon, and that she was about to engage in a duel with one whose skill would excitingly exert all her reserves of courage and of intelligence.

Knowing that he would soon lose patience with her if she wasted his time, she came at once to what she thought would be of some importance to him.

"Mr. Matchwell, or Superintendent Matchwell—indeed, I don't quite know the correct way of addressing a detective—I have come to you because I have been, ever since that dreadful night at No. 12, anxious and worried."

As she paused he put in smoothly:

"But you have no cause to be, that I can see, ma'am."

"Yes, I have cause."

Behind her cheap veil, her cool guarded eyes surveyed his cheerful, dry pock-marked face as he smiled at her with an indifferent, kindly indulgence.

"I have been wondering if you believe my evidence."

"I believe, ma'am, the coroner was quite satisfied, was he not?"

"Oh, yes, sir, as I suppose," said Belle, "but you're in charge of the case, are you not? You are continuing investigations, and it doesn't mean, does it, because an inquest is closed with an open verdict, it ends the matter?"

"No, it doesn't mean so at all," replied the detective quietly. "I'm going on working, of course. I always do go on working. The more mysterious the case is at first, the longer it takes—the fewer the clues are the greater the labour we have to put into solving them."

"Are there some mysteries which are never solved—some clues which lead nowhere?"

"Naturally there are," nodded the detective; "naturally."

"And do you think this is such a case?"

"I couldn't tell you that, ma'am, now, could I? I don't think it's a very important or interesting case."

"No," agreed Belle; "Daisy Arrow wasn't very important or interesting, was she? But I haven't come to you about that. I have been uneasy lately—wondering if you thought that I knew more than I told."

"I never thought of that, ma'am." With a sudden change to a stern, decisive note the detective added: "And I don't think you ever thought I did. You have come here for another purpose, and, as my time's not my own, I'd be glad, ma'am, if you'd come to it direct."

"You're mistaken," said Belle, unmoved. "I did think that you suspected me. I was really the only intelligent and educated witness, and you never took any trouble to examine me—or to try to force me to say what I didn't want to say—or to take me by surprise and wear me out—but just accepted my evidence as you accepted that of those others."

"And what deduction did you make from that, ma'am?"

"This deduction—that you thought that whatever you did, I should be too much for you and that you'd never get the truth from me."

The detective smiled as if he were rather bored by this interview, but accepted it placidly as part of the tedious duty of the day.

"And what is your object in coming to me now, ma'am?"

"I don't feel free, and I don't feel easy," repeated Belle. "I thought that when I went to Clerkenwell to see Roger Owen I was watched."

"And so you were, ma'am, as a matter of course."

"You thought it was rather a peculiar thing that I should go to visit Daisy Arrow's brother."

"I don't say that."

"Well, Mr. Matchwell, there really was nothing peculiar in it at all. I daresay you know a good deal of most things—I expect you know everything of the kind of woman that Daisy Arrow was; the sort of world she moved in. But believe me, Mr. Matchwell, there is a great deal you do not know about the sort of woman I am."

"That's very likely, too, ma'am," the detective agreed pleasantly, gazing at two drab sparrows on the drab sill beyond the clean window pane.

"I have thought to myself lately," said Belle, glancing down at her hands which she was folding placidly in her shabby lap, "that you didn't believe me. You thought I knew something about the crime—could give you, perhaps, some clues, but that it was not my wish to do so. I thought that I might be watched. The idea of that was odious to me. And so it came to me that I would seek you out and tell you plainly that you were mistaken."

"That's very likely, too, ma'am. To what particular mistake do you refer?"

"Your idea—that you are cherishing even at this moment, Mr. Matchwell—that I can be of any use to you in this case. Believe me, I liked Daisy, I was fond of her, I was quite shocked by the wretched story that came out at the inquest. I was once able to do her small kindnesses—there was some good in the girl."

She wondered what impression she was making on the cool, neat man seated opposite, if she was being quite as clever as she thought she was, and if it would not have been better, after all, to have left Scotland Yard alone.

But she was enjoying herself; it was long since she had had any intellectual pleasure comparable to this, long since she had been in a position of equality with a person of responsibility and good sense. She desired to prolong the interview, which at least consolidated and clarified the personality she was creating out of Belle Adair. Sighing, she repeated:

"Daisy Arrow had a difficult life, many temptations."

"Very likely, ma'am, very likely."

"This being so, you well may imagine the manner of her death was a tremendous shock to me! Waking up on that Christmas morning and hearing that clamour outside, and learning what had happened next door! That, Mr. Matchwell, nearly unhinged my mind."

"And so it would have done, ma'am. Everyone admired, I'm sure, the courage with which you gave your evidence; many ladies would have collapsed, fainted, or perhaps, screamed out, but you was admirably cool, ma'am—admirably."

Belle flashed him a steady look.

"It was because of my affection for Daisy Arrow and the pain that I had received at her murder that I went home with Roger Owen. I could see that he was stupid, bewildered, as if the coroner had frightened him and he was ashamed of what he had to confess about his poor sister before all those strangers. And I thought that if I could get him to myself and obtain his confidence, I might find out a little more than the coroner seemed to—"

"Very commendable in you, I am sure, ma'am," smiled the detective, stroking his sandy whiskers with a blunt, well-kept hand. "And what precisely might be your reason for wanting this extra bit of knowledge?"

"I wanted to find out the murderer of Daisy. When he spoke of a foreign letter, I believed there might be a clue."

"He said he'd destroyed the letters," remarked the detective blandly.

"Yes, but you didn't quite believe that, did you? I didn't. I thought that he just told the coroner the lie as an ignorant bewildered person will. And it was a lie, Mr. Matchwell; there were letters."

"Ah, indeed, ma'am, and are they in your possession?"

"No; I found that Roger Owen was almost illiterate—that he could scarcely read them; poor Daisy's writing and spelling were childish, too. He had kept them from reasons of sentiment, I suppose. There was nothing in them. They were written from France."

"Ah, yes?"

"France, where, evidently, Daisy was in some post as maid to the daughter of a retired officer living near Paris—Chantilly—you know it perhaps?"

"I have heard of it, ma'am; where there's a big palace belonging to a French prince."

"Precisely, Mr. Matchwell. And as there was nothing in the letters at all, and as Roger Owen seemed overset at me seeing them, I just tore them up in his presence and threw them into the fire." Belle rose. "I thought, to ease your necessary curiosity, Mr. Matchwell, that I should tell you this."

"It is kind of you, indeed, I am sure, ma'am."

"You see, Mr. Matchwell, I can't be of the least use to you. This has been, from one aspect, a mere waste of time on your part—perhaps on mine—but as I thought perhaps that you were having me watched, and I was to you an object of suspicion, I decided to tell you the little scrap I knew. I can't help it, can I?—whether you believe me or not. It's the truth."

"It's very kind of you, indeed, ma'am, very conscientious and very laudable, and I'm much obliged to you."

Belle moved towards the door and paused by the window, and looked out on the river, the colour of ashes where the coal-barges were moored, above which the soiled yellowish vapour of the clouds trailed across a leaden-coloured sky.

"I've never come in contact with the police before, Superintendent."

"I know that, ma'am."

"And I was much impressed," continued Belle, with a polite smile, "by the fact that you knew, or could discover so soon, the histories of all those people with whom I was associated, and which were so different from the stories they had told me and which I, with my inexperience, had believed. I suppose," she added, "there's nothing you don't know or couldn't find out about anyone?"

"I wouldn't go so far as to say that, ma'am, but there isn't much difficulty in tracing most people."

Belle, still smiling and glancing from the dull prospect of the river and the coal-barges to her own elegant hands, asked:

"Would you be able to find out about me, a miserable, insignificant creature like myself?"

"If needs were, I suppose we could, ma'am."

"Then, if you ever do, Mr. Matchwell, and the story seems to my discredit, I hope you will remember how difficult it is for a woman, who has few or no relatives, who has little or no money, and who is pursued by a series of misfortunes."

"The world is hard on women, ma'am, there's no doubt of that."

"And particularly hard, Mr. Matchwell, on some types of woman, and the woman who's a little more intelligent than her fellows, a little more high-spirited, and yet hasn't got quite enough talent, quite enough attraction to make a success of herself."

"That's easy to see and sad to know," said the detective. "Yes, the world's a hard place for women, ma'am, especially the divorced women."

"Yes," agreed Belle quickly, "divorce makes it all the more difficult, especially if one is divorced with ignominy, perhaps undeserved, and left without a penny, and forsaken by the man for whose sake one has risked everything. Such a situation would leave a woman, Mr. Matchwell, in a miserable, an undefended position."

"Especially," said the detective, with a stiff little bow, "a proud, an elegant, and an intelligent woman."

"If," said Belle, with a sidelong glance at his commonplace composure, "a gentleman had those thoughts, he would be discreet and merciful, Mr. Matchwell."

The detective bowed again without replying. Belle moved slowly, her ruined but neat flounces trailing on the bare floor. At the door she paused.

"I suppose, sir, you haven't any prospects of an arrest—any suspicions? No; that is a foolish question—you would not be likely to tell me if you had."

"I'm sure I don't mind telling you, ma'am, because it'll be in all the evening papers. We made an arrest a couple of hours ago."

"Oh!" exclaimed Belle. "Oh!" Then hastily: "Why didn't you tell me that before?"

"It wasn't, I suppose, ma'am, what you came here to talk about. I was listening to information—not giving it."

"So, an arrest has been made. I wonder if that is the murderer?"

"I don't know, I am sure, ma'am. It will have to be, as I suppose, a judge and jury who decide that, if he gets past the magistrate. He'll be charged at Bow Street."

"Who is he, Mr. Matchwell?"

"A German, a ship's doctor—Dr. Christian Schoppe"—the detective precisely spelt out the name: "s-c-h-o-p-p-e."

"A doctor? A respectable man?"

"Yes, the ship's surgeon on a good-sized passenger steamer put in at Ramsgate and going on to Brazil. Lucky for him, ma'am, that he is a German and respectable; those points will go in his favour."

"Why did you suspect him? What made you arrest him?"

"As to our methods and our business," replied Mr. Matchwell, opening the door to get rid of her, "I shouldn't care to trouble you with them."

Belle, with her foot over the threshold, yet turned and looked back over her shoulder to murmur:

"What kind of a man is he? It makes one feel dizzy to think of it! He must be a monster!"

"There is, ma'am, no doubt he's a monster if he is the murderer," replied Mr. Matchwell quietly; "but as for my describing him to you, I haven't seen him myself yet."

"Where is he?"

"In a cell at Bow Street Station."

"And what—what will be the next step that you will take?"

"We shall bring him face to face with the waiter in the Argyll Rooms and the Covent Garden fruiterer, and see if they can identify him."

"But both these men said that they hardly remembered poor Daisy's companion."

"Well, we shall see that," said the detective, still patiently holding the door ready for Belle to depart. "It's a question of clothes, and height, and face, and voice."

"Ah, yes—voice! I heard his voice quite distinctly, not only through the door, but when I was awakened at night."

"Ah, was you awakened at night? You never said so at the inquest."

"Perhaps I didn't. It may have escaped my mind. It is so trivial—it wouldn't have helped anything."

"It might. It might have fixed the time of the murder."

"But I don't know when I heard the voice. It was dark; even if it had been light, I had no clock."

"But you did hear them—voices—those of this stranger and the murdered young woman?"

"Yes, I heard them—just a murmur. The man's tones were peculiar and fixed themselves in my mind. If I could hear them again I might be able to identify them."

"You shall have your opportunity."

Belle still hesitated.

"Please tell me why he was suspected."

"Well, simple enough. They found a bit of his ship's writing paper in the alcove where the poor woman was seen with the foreigner. It smelt of medicine or drugs—was stained with 'em. That gave us his profession."

* * *

Belle bought an evening paper and, by the candlelight in her wretched little room, pondered over it deeply. The case that had been to the curious only a nine days wonder, and in which no great popular interest had ever been taken, had suddenly achieved a considerable notoriety by the arrest of such an unlikely person as the suspect doctor. The information given to the Press was, however, scanty; there was no description of the unfortunate German—merely a comment on his worthy profession, responsible position, and his unblemished respectability.

Belle folded up the paper and smiled—not one of those elegant and artificial smiles, with which she was wont to arm herself against the crowd, but an unconscious smile of gratified power, of expectant hope. With an instant exercise, however, of her natural strong sense, she checked this sensation of hope—hope of what? She had, really, no prospects of any sort. The pantomime would in a few weeks come to an end, and with it her meagre livelihood. Perhaps, when the murder of No. 12 was revived in the public mind, she would become an object of too much curiosity to be employed any longer at the Cambridge. Perhaps, if there was a trial for murder, too many unpleasant details as to her companions and her past life would come out, for any theatre to employ her ever again.

She did not know to what uses she could turn the notoriety of having been a friend of Daisy Arrow, except those, most vile and base, which were completely abhorrent to her; she wanted to climb out of the pit, not sink lower. As far as, on logical grounds, the matter could be reasoned out, it looked as if her present position as witness in the case, as companion of the murdered woman, as an inhabitant of No. 12, would serve rather to thrust her further down into that despair from which she had, on Christmas Eve, so little hope of escape that she had intended to use on herself the weapon the murderer had used on Daisy Arrow.

Yet, in the mind of this young woman, sitting pale and graceful in her shabby clothes in the light of the piece of candle, was this unconquerable hope—that somehow, some way, she would, out of all this tragedy, be able to rise into something of the life she had always longed to enjoy.

It was late at night, she was tired from her work at the theatre, but she had no thought of sleep or rest. Rising impatiently and humming, without knowing that she did so, the "Moss Rose" waltz half under her breath, she went to the carpet-bag, opened it, and took out the Bible with the two letters folded inside, and the plume of livid pink feathers with the bird of paradise's head as a mount. Slowly, and with great satisfaction, she read over the names on the fly-leaf of the Bible, the address and the name on the German letter, and Daisy's thick, ugly scrawl.

"Could I turn these to any use of any sort?" made her quiver with excitement. Perhaps she might, in so boldly confronting Mr. Matchwell, have convinced that shrewd man that she indeed knew nothing about the affair. She had been quite clever, surely, to admit having gone to Roger Owen's house in Clerkenwell to see if there were any letters. It had been still cleverer, surely, to say there were letters—that they were from France and of no importance and had been destroyed. She had been at pains to assure Roger Owen of the same story when she had taken the long, dirty walk to Clerkenwell with him to the baker-shop, now kept by his sister, with whom he lodged. She had told him that she had found it very painful to keep poor Daisy's letters, so she had destroyed them as of no importance at all, "no, none whatever."

Roger Owen, attracted by her, afraid of her, bewildered by her as before, had given her an old-fashioned silver brooch with a swallow scratched on it. He said that his sister had worn it as a child, and Belle had accepted the trifle graciously. Her impulse had been to throw the scrap of cheap servant's finery into the gutter on her way home, but she had refrained with an impulse of prudence—it might be referred to—it might be necessary to produce it in court.

She returned the German Bible, the plume and the two letters to the carpet-bag, and put out her candle. It would have to last her three or four nights; she was most desperately poor.

She did not go to bed nor try to sleep sitting up in her hard chair, but remained by the window looking out over the roof-tops and the smoky reddish glow in the lower sky from the city lamps. She stared at it until it changed into the dirty colour of dawn, all the while pondering, considering deeply—thinking of that man in a cell at Bow Street police station, and Mr. Matchwell patiently drawing a net about him—herself so obscure and insignificant, yet with power, perhaps, to open the door of that cell, however carefully locked, and break the threads of that net, however finely woven.

* * *

Belle waited at Bow Street Station with the other witnesses who had been called to identify Dr. Schoppe, German ship's surgeon, as the companion of Daisy Arrow on the last day of her life. There were now others beside those already known to Belle—Arthur Lummin, the thick-set, rough and uneasy fruiterer from Covent Garden Market in his workaday clothes—John Garratt, the lean and fatigued waiter in his rusty black from the Argyll Rooms, and the inhabitants of No. 12, who might have been supposed to have heard the stranger's voice. Other witnesses who had come forward since the inquest were a little maid-servant who had been out in that murky dawn of Christmas Day cleaning a doorstep a few doors from No. 12, and another waiter, a man younger, more alert and superior to John Garratt, who came, Belle learned, from Jarvis's Royal Hotel.

Superintendent Matchwell was present in the bare room, and so prevented these people from doing what they so longed to do—discuss the case. Belle sat apart from the others on a separate chair, while they occupied a common bench. She had brought with her a small book of French verse and affected to be absorbed in its contents; so complete was her air of detachment, so coldly indifferent the stare that she turned on Mrs. Bulke and the other women who had once resided in No. 12, that they were almost persuaded that she was, indeed, what she seemed to wish to appear—a stranger. Even Mrs. Bulke's effrontery sank a little both from the atmosphere of the police station and from Belle's cold, reserved manner. After all, what had she known of the young actress? She had always kept herself to herself, and that she was superior to her companions—superior in every way—would have been apparent to a fool.

Mr. Matchwell, walking up and down with his firm, trained step, made a little speech to his motley collection of witnesses.

He reminded them that he was in charge of the case, that it was a difficult case, and that there was a great deal of public feeling aroused at the arrest of a most respectable man as a suspect murderer; "and I don't wish for a moment, ladies and gentlemen, for you to forget that Dr. Schoppe is a most respectable man. He has called to his assistance a London lawyer, Mr. Peter Thorne, who is a gentleman above suspicion, and it is only fair to say that he stakes his reputation on the innocence of Dr. Schoppe, who, it seems, is quite well known in London. So," added Mr. Matchwell mildly, looking from one to another of those facing him on the bench, "you'll bear that in mind. Though we've had all watched, taking our own private steps, and being led, as we thought, to the right man, there is always a chance—and a good chance that we were mistaken."

He glanced at Belle, who had courteously closed her book and listened with an air of indifferent attention.

"And I am sure, ladies and gentlemen, it's not necessary for me to warn you—but at the same time, perhaps, it is only fair that I should warn you—that if anyone should make any mistakes out of excitement or forgetfulness, or blinded by the wish to see someone brought to justice for a horrid crime, that's liable to cause trouble, and will be found out sooner or later—probably much sooner than later. Remember, if this gentleman—this Dr. Schoppe—is charged with the crime, there will be a long and exhaustive trial when," concluded the detective gravely, "all the truth will come out, and false witnesses be shown up."

A little wave of uneasiness passed through the witnesses—they shuffled on the bench, and the two waiters and the fruiterer, the only men of the party, were heard to mutter that they really had not seen enough of the gentleman—"not to swear to, as it were."

At this, Mr. Matchwell, still with an amiable smile, picked up Robert Halliday, waiter at Jarvis's Royal Hotel, and reminded him smartly that he had opportunity to observe closely—and must have observed closely—the foreign gentleman who had called at Jarvis's early on Christmas morning and ordered breakfast, and asked for turpentine with which to rub certain stains off his coat, and who had left behind in the room in which he had made his toilet, as a relic of his brief occupation, a large linen handkerchief rolled into a ball and completely saturated with blood; which handkerchief was then in the possession of the police.

Robert Halliday, who had come forward with a good deal of eagerness to give his testimony, and who had at first declared that he had a tolerably shrewd recollection of the mysterious foreigner, both because of the unusual day on which he had visited the hotel and the short while he had stayed there—now shuffled and retracted; he said that the morning had been dark, he much occupied with permanent guests, and that he had not really paid much attention to the gentleman who had sat in a far corner of the dining-room some distance from the gas-lamp, which it had been necessary to light on Christmas Day.

"It seems to me, Mr. Halliday," said the superintendent mildly, "that you'll be rather an unreliable witness, and I still think it's an odd thing—and an unexplained thing—that you didn't come forward at the inquest." At which Mr. Halliday protested, as he had protested before, that that very Christmas Day he had been taken ill and shivery with a sore throat and had remained in bed at home until a day or two ago, and so had not heard of the crime, he being too heavy-headed to read the papers and his missus not liking horrors.

Belle listened curiously to this little dialogue. She felt an odd harsh dislike of her companions, especially of the women, raddled, florid, drab, defiant and sullen in expression; the faces of the men—coarse-featured, uneasy, vapid, also filled her with disgust. She dropped her glance and gazed on to her book.

When they were all summoned to another room she walked behind the others, elegantly holding up the edges of her miserable flounces from the soiled boards of the corridor.

* * *

There was a high-set window in the room, through which the voices of the people in the next apartment floated plainly.

"The prisoner is in there," whispered Mr. Matchwell; "you will hear him speak—listen carefully and hear if any of you recognise his voice. Remember," added the superintendent sternly, "how much depends on this."

"And little reliance you'll give to any of us, I suppose, unless it suits you," muttered Mrs. Bulke insolently.

Belle stepped up to the detective, and speaking to him as if they were equals in authority and intelligence and the others vastly inferior, she whispered:

"Would not emotion, fear, and agitation, and indignation much alter a voice, Mr. Matchwell?"

"Maybe, ma'am, but the gentleman is quite calm now; he certainly has been furious—almost beside himself. But he has his own lawyer and has sent for two of his friends, and he is perfectly satisfied that he will be able to prove himself innocent."

Through the high-placed aperture came the sound of two voices speaking in German—talking together as if under some constraint. Then one voice ceased and the other continued—smooth, voluble, with a slightly monotonous rise and fall in cadence.

The witnesses glanced at each other and at Mr. Matchwell, who nodded shrewdly. They shook their heads, compressed their mouths, shut their lips, and considered each other's expressions.

The women were the first to speak. They all agreed, in tones half nervous and half disappointed, "that it wasn't the voice, no, not that they could remember."

Mr. Matchwell turned to Belle. She knew that he could place more reliance on her than on all the others put together. She was supposed to have heard the voice twice—once down the short kitchen stairs, and once through the thin wall of her bedroom. She shook her head and declared precisely:

"No, that is not the voice."

"You can be quite sure of that?"

"Yes, I think—quite sure."

"Listen again," said Mr. Matchwell, without any sign of either satisfaction or regret. "I've arranged with Sergeant Harris to get him to speak English. He does—excellently."

The flow of German words was checked. They could hear the robust tones of the policeman, the lighter tones of the English lawyer, then the voice that had spoken German saying in English:

"Yes, I shall speak your language if you desire. I can do so quite well, though I am not so proficient as once I was. Will you please let the Consul come to me and my friends—those two friends whom from the first I have asked for—the pastor, Herr Morl, and Herr Leutner?"

The voice ran on fluently in the foreign language, the accent becoming more emphatic, the tone more raised and harsh.

But the witnesses in the little bare room again shook their heads. It was odd how cautious they seemed in committing themselves, and how they, usually so fond of sensation, appeared to dislike their parts. With a certain reluctance they wished to be rid of the whole affair. They coughed, and shrugged, and shuffled, and muttered:

"No, that wasn't the voice—not as far as they knew—not as far as they could remember."

Again Mr. Matchwell glanced at Belle, and she said, with a look that assured him he could trust her recollection:

"No, that was not the voice."

* * *

The witnesses were taken into the yard, which was high- walled, bleak and grey, cut out, a square of open, paved space in the midst of a huddle of houses with roofs sloping at different angles and chimney-pots of different heights, with odd-shaped cowls and hoods spinning in the wind and above all, a sky the colour of vinegar and ashes, from which a few flakes of snow were falling. In their unsuitable finery the women hunched their shoulders sullenly.

Mr. Matchwell bade them all observe a procession that would soon come through the door opposite. He had scarcely spoken before this was opened and ten men, walking close together, entered the yard, of whom only one—Sergeant Harris, who was assisting Superintendent Matchwell in the investigation of the case—was known to the witnesses. The others were all well-dressed and of various ages and complexions.

Belle raised her veil and stared at the nine strangers with an intense curiosity that caused her to forget her companions and almost her surroundings; a curiosity which rendered her oblivious to the piercing cold—for the east wind had penetrated her thin shawl and the damp of the flag-stones had penetrated her thin shoes.

When she had stared with darting keenness in turn at each of the nine men as they paraded across the yard, she heaved a deep sigh, bit her lips, and looked down. It was only then that, her own immediate curiosity satisfied, she glanced at her companions. They, too, had been curious; a certain excitement had made them forgetful of their own uneasiness and their mistrust of the police. The women pried with inquisitive, hard, malicious glances at the nine men.

Belle wondered why they had been brought into the yard. Not one of them confessed to having seen Daisy Arrow's companion. Perhaps Mr. Matchwell believed that amid all these unreliable characters there was one who was lying, and that she might be startled into some kind of recognition. It would have been quite natural, of course, if Mrs. Bulke, or Florrie, or Moll, the servant, or May, had seen Daisy Arrow's companion, and quite natural, too, that she should, to save herself trouble, deny having done so. "If he thinks that, he's fairly shrewd," thought Belle, smiling, "but it's at them he's looking—not at me."

She lowered her veil again, and with an almost imperceptible signal passing between the detective and Sergeant Harris, the ten men left the yard.

Neither of the two waiters, the fruiterer, nor the little servant girl, Annie Western, who had been cleaning steps in Great Hogarth Street early that Christmas morning, could identify the glimpsed foreigner with any of those whom they had seen parade in Bow Street police courtyard. They all agreed that there was not one gentleman in the least like the personage whom they had noticed. No, not even allowing for the fog, their bad memories, and the little importance they had attached to the stranger's appearance at the time. There wasn't one there that fitted the description, and it was clearly to be observed that they were, indeed, all "at sea" because when they fell to talking to themselves—as Mr. Matchwell allowed them to talk—first this man and then that, out of the nine, was opined to be the suspected German.

The detective then, not in the least disconcerted, informed them:

"You're all wrong, and it looks rather as if we were wrong too. The German, Dr. Schoppe, was the tall, stoutish man with a ginger greyish whisker, in the blue overcoat, who stood at the end of the line."

Genuine stupid amazement showed in the faces of most of the witnesses. It was clear that not one of them had even imagined the supposed murderer like that—a stoutish, fatherly-looking gentleman of fifty-five or more, with grey whiskers.

Mrs. Bulke, gaining confidence, smiled her derision. She was now quite sure that the voice she had heard coming down the kitchen stairs had been different—a younger, lighter voice.

Annie Western, the little maidservant, was also quite sure that the gentleman she had seen hurrying in the murky light down the steps of No. 12 and disappearing up the street towards the square, had been not in the least like any of the gentlemen who had just walked across the yard. No, younger, taller—dark, too, she was certain.

Mr. Robert Halliday, the waiter from Jarvis's Hotel, could also be quite positive, however imperfect his recollection of the stranger who had visited the hotel on Christmas Day was, that he had been quite a different sort of gentleman from any he had just seen. Certainly not a stout gentleman with grey whiskers.

* * *

Belle followed Mr. Matchwell into the police station. She longed to question him as to what would be his immediate action—what course the case would take now? She knew that to do this would be a display of weakness and folly, so she remained silent, her fingers tightly clasped round the little book of French verse.

She supposed she was not wanted any more, and would be allowed to depart without any questions. She did not want to do this. There was excitement to her in the drab and ugly atmosphere of the police station, in the rooms with the stucco walls, the plaster busts of Justice and The Sovereign, the spittoon on the floor, and the flagging fires in the narrow iron grate. So she hesitated, pretending to adjust slowly her shawl, which had slipped down, to brush the wet stains left by melting snowflakes off her shabby skirt.

Moll, the little servant from No. 12, lingered beside her. The girl was under-clad, and tried to warm herself at the small reluctant flame.

"I'm glad they didn't find him, aren't you, miss?" she said shivering. "I don't want to think of anyone being hanged—not for the sake of a poor thing like Daisy Arrow."

"Don't you?" asked Belle, with her clear cold stare into the child's feeble face. "You don't want to see the horrible murderer—one who could do so atrocious a deed—punished?"

"No, I don't," asserted Moll obstinately, shaking her tousled head in the broken bonnet. "I don't want to see no more punishment as long as I live, that I don't. I've seen enough already, that I have."

As Mr. Matchwell entered the room, Belle replied in a slightly raised voice:

"Surely, Molly, however tender-hearted you are, you would wish there to be punishment in this case for a crime so unprovoked, so hideous?"

"That's all very well," maintained the little servant obstinately. "We don't know what there was between them, do we? She wasn't no good, that Daisy Arrow. She was sly and don't I know it—one who pretended to forget things and then hold them over you. She may have driven him to it, that she may." Belle drew away from the fire. "Well, I suppose I'll have to go back. It's been a short holiday, hasn't it?" She paused suddenly—jerked back her head, and an expression of horror came over her thin chilled features. "Why, who's that speaking?"

There was a murmur of voices outside. The girl appeared to be listening intently. "Why, isn't that—" The words trailed off, she put her dirty fingers to her lips. But Mr. Matchwell had heard, had seen.

"Do you recognise the voice, miss?"

"No, no!" exclaimed Moll suddenly.

"You'd better be careful," warned Mr. Matchwell sternly.

"But how could I have heard him?" pleaded Moll miserably. "How could I, sir? When everyone said that he wasn't there? Them as have seen him said he wasn't there!"

"Would you," asked Belle sharply, "know that voice again, Moll?"

"No, miss, that I shouldn't."

The girl still seemed deeply alarmed. She gathered her shawl round the base of her throat and turned as if to make a quick running exit from the police station.

But Mr. Matchwell had her by the thin arm. "I daresay it was only fancy," he admitted coolly, "but we'd better investigate."

* * *

Dr. Schoppe and two of his friends who had been his companions on the German steamer Der König von Bayern, passed down the corridor of the police station. A few paces behind them was the English lawyer, Peter Thorne, and the German Consul. They turned to the head of the stairs which led to the cells, where the doctor, who was protesting deeply but in a firm controlled voice against this insufferable indignity, was to be confined. They met Mr. Matchwell and some of his witnesses—the waiter from "Jarvis's," the servant girl from Great Hogarth Street. Robert Halliday exclaimed instantly:

"That's him, or his twin brother."

"Hush," said Mr. Matchwell, sternly. "Hush."

The little party disappeared into the cell and the detective asked the waiter:

"Now please, explain."

"That's him," gasped Robert Halliday in a lower and awed tone, "I recognise him at once. Funny, that is—though you don't think you remember a person, you find you do when you see 'em again. The tall young good-looking gent with the dark overcoat and a scarf right up to his neck. Yes, I remember that. He had that silk kerchief that comes right up under his ears, but his coat was light. What with that muffling and his face being so pale, I thought he seemed like one who'd had his throat cut himself. That I did."

"We don't want none of these silly fancies," rebuked Mr. Matchwell sternly. He glanced over his shoulders at the other witnesses who had been behind him and who had come to a stop when he and the waiter had blocked the way. "Any of you see anyone you recognised, or thought you recognised, among them gentlemen following Sergeant Harris who has just gone below?"

The waiter from the Argyll Rooms, who looked pasty and overthrown—as if a horror had suddenly passed his path, stammered:

"That was he-the tall one—him walking on the far side of the doctor what you thought did it."

Annie Western broke in to confirm this:

"He's right, I'd know him," she said, "anywhere—from the way he has of walking—upright and his shoulders back." She glanced defiantly at Moll, who was weeping into the corner of her shawl. "She knew his voice too. She tried to keep it back but she couldn't. She heard it all right."

"No, I didn't," sobbed Moll. "I don't want no one punished for nothing, I don't."

* * *

Dr. Schoppe and his two friends, who had arrived at the police station five minutes before to visit him, having come by train straight from Der König von Bayern, then at Ramsgate Harbour, were brought up from the cells, and bewildered and on guard, though resolute, confronted with Mr. Matchwell's witnesses, who crowded the small antechamber to the police-court.

Belle scarcely glanced at Dr. Schoppe nor at one of his companions—a man about his own age and something of his complexion, pompously dressed and agitated in manner Her glance fell long and searchingly on the third foreigner—a tall, dark young man, in a black overcoat, who stood with his hat in his hand and stared about him as if utterly uncomprehending the scene or the circumstance.

It was to this young man that four of the witnesses severally and with deliberation pointed—the fruiterer, the two waiters, and Annie Western. "He was," they declared, each with a kind of trembling agitation, as if horror-struck at being brought so close to anything so wicked, "the man who had been Daisy Arrow's companion at the Argyll Rooms, who had walked up and down in the fog whilst she bought the fruit from Covent Garden late on Christmas Eve, who had left No. 12 early on Christmas morning, slamming the door behind him and hurrying into the yellow mist towards the Square, and who had gone to Jarvis's Royal Hotel, asking for breakfast and turpentine to take the stains off his coat, and who had left Jarvis's Hotel, having flung down in the corner of the room he had so briefly hired a handkerchief soaked with blood."

Mr. Matchwell turned briskly to the accused man:

"Well, sir, what have you got to say to this? Speak, sir, speak."

At this, the young man, glancing round the ring of faces, every one of which was gazing at him with hostility, with astonishment, with avid curiosity, stammered in English:

"But I don't understand at all, and I don't know anything about it."

Mr. Matchwell, raising his eyes, glanced at Belle. "Do you know the voice, miss?"

She shook her head. "It doesn't sound to me in the least the same. Of course, I may be mistaken."

"Well," said the detective quietly, "I think it's good enough without that." He nodded at Sergeant Harris. "You can release Dr. Schoppe, Sergeant, and arrest this gentleman. Who is he, by the by?"

Upon this Dr. Schoppe exclaimed in a voice shrill with indignation and bewilderment:

"He's a pastor, the Rev. Maarten Morl, the chaplain from the steamer. You must all be mad—mad, I say. What have you to go on but the paper? Anyone might have dropped that."

* * *

Belle noticed eagerly the surges of public opinion about the Daisy Arrow murder, that had suddenly become of such newspaper importance and a topic of conversation in so many different circles of society. Although the reporters were confined to a mere turning over of known facts and a mere re-hashing of harmless suppositions, the tongues of the public were free and bold in their comments. Some thought that the police had, with rare skill and cunning, caught the murderer with praiseworthy speed. Others said that it was an outrage even to suspect a respectable member of the same nation as that to which The Royal House belonged, one which was so favoured by Sacred Majesty's regard, so popular and respected in every walk of life. A German, a clergyman, a man of unblemished character! It seemed fantastic to connect such a person, even remotely, with so sordid a crime. How could the witnesses, poor, illiterate, by their own confession unobservant and careless, identify a man whom they had seen so briefly, and through a fog or in a dark corner or muffled up? Anyone could have lost the scrap of note-paper.

In the opinion of these defenders of Pastor Morl, the case seemed to fall to pieces before it had begun.

But in the opinion of a great many other people, it was considered very strange that four independent people should have picked out this young man when they had completely failed to identify his companion, Dr. Schoppe, who had been first arrested for the crime.

It looked, too, as if, although the police were on the wrong trail, they had been on a trail very near the right one. The murderer had come from the suspect's ship. He had been his companion, they had been about London together. It was quite natural that the police should make this mistake—they had been so nearly right. The note-paper was, surely, a definite clue.

As for the crime being motiveless and it being ludicrous to associate such a man with such a deed, those who believed in the guilt of Pastor Morl were not shaken by these difficulties. Who knew what story was behind the events of Christmas Eve? Who could tell what might not be elicited at the trial? Many a man with a smooth face and decent character and good manners had been discovered to be a criminal.

Belle went her way discreetly, listening wherever she could listen to these conflicting ideas and various opinions. Although she was herself the centre of much curiosity as being so closely connected with the crime, she continued to preserve her air of detachment, to hold herself aloof from the whole ugly business, and every night she danced at the Cambridge the dainty pas seul of the "Moss Rose" waltz.

* * *

Two days after his arrest Pastor Morl was charged at Bow Street before the magistrate, Mr. Miles Clinner, with the murder of Martha Owen on the night of the 24th of December, and was remanded for a week, leaving public curiosity, as it were, to hang in space, and public fantasy to hint in darkness.

The prisoner had made but a moment's appearance in the dock at Bow Street. The eager spectators who had crowded the court had had only a glimpse of a tall, young foreigner who, it was obvious, kept his face, with an effort, expressionless, who was well-dressed and well-barbered, and who possessed, as was instantly noticed by everyone present, that peculiar, almost indefinable type of comeliness known as romantic good looks.

Belle had been present. She had studied the prisoner's pale, composed countenance—unnaturally pale and unnaturally composed—with an even deeper zest than that felt by her companions. She had marked every line and shadow in those lineaments, as she had been used to mark every line and shadow in a face that she had intended to paint, in the days when she had exercised her small talent of draughtsmanship.

Minnie Palmer edged next to her in the crowd as the spectators of this prelude to drama, their appetites whetted, swarmed out into the wet street:

"He seems to feel his position, don't he, dearie? Looks as if he were dead already, but they go purple in the face, don't they—not yellow like he was?"

"You'd look yellow yourself, Minnie, if you were standing up there," said Belle dryly.

"I don't see that that's any sign of his guilt nor of his innocence either," laughed the other young woman. "A queer thing, isn't it? We was all thinking how we'd like to meet a real gentleman, and poor Daisy did—and that's what happened to her."

"He's not condemned yet," Belle reminded her. "I don't think the evidence against him is very strong. As far as it goes with me, I'm sure it wasn't his voice I heard."

"Don't you be too sure, my pet. I wish I'd been there," Minnie Palmer replied with jealousy, "then I'd have been a more important witness. I don't know if they will call me at all. I can't say anything except that Daisy turned up at the Cambridge and was after you. That's not of much importance."

"Not of any importance in the least," smiled Belle.

She conquered, for her own ends, her distaste for the other young woman's company as they separated from the crowd, and passed with her along the front of Covent Garden Market, the two women treading cautiously their worn, half-broken shoes among the rotting cabbage-stumps and fallen leaves from winter vegetables.

"Oh my," said Minnie with a shudder, "it must have been somewhere round here she walked with him. It's not very nice to think of, is it? It do make one careful, doesn't it?"

"Well, as it has happened so recently, I suppose it's not likely to happen again," smiled Belle. "Not just yet."

"Oh, I don't know," said Minnie. "There was that young Jewess in the Tottenham Court Road—that's not so long ago, is it? They never found that fellow. They say that the girl always gets killed because of jealousy or money. It couldn't have been either in this case, could it? How could he have been jealous of her when he had only been in London a day? He couldn't have seen her before they had met at the Argyll Rooms," added Minnie uneasily, pulling her jacket together at her throat, "and as for money, he must get more in a week than Daisy ever 'ad in a month. Besides, her things wasn't touched. I wonder what's become of them?" she added reflectively. "There was a brooch or two I'd have liked."

"The police have got them," said Belle. "Would you really have liked them, Minnie Palmer, liked to have worn some of poor Daisy Arrow's glass brooches and tinfoil bangles?"

"Oh, I don't know. You needn't get so bitter about it. Live and let live, I say. Probably she'd have been glad for me to have them. People seem to think the right man's been caught—they think the police have been very clever. Lord, don't it make you shudder—to think of a nice-looking young gentleman like that!"

"I don't think he did it," said Belle quickly and smoothly. "But you can't judge by the look of people. It's the crime of a madman, that is what I think—yes, a madman. You can't always tell them, you know, Detective Matchwell told me that himself. The police often have to deal with crimes committed by madmen. They're, curiously enough, generally the people who get away."

"Well," smiled Minnie Palmer, "I hope this one hasn't got away. I hope that's the murderer they have got safe in a Bow Street cell. It makes you nervous who you speak to late at night. I don't like the place where I am much in Hare Street. Couldn't I come and live with you, dearie? Haven't you got room for me, or couldn't you find some place near you?"

"No," said Belle decidedly. "When the trial's over (I don't suppose it'll take long), I shall leave London. I'm going on tour, and the room that I have is very small."

"Oh, you don't want my company, I can see! Well, goodbye, dearie. See you at the theatre to-night. It's been what I call a nasty piece of business."

Until Minnie Palmer was out of sight, Belle continued to walk in the direction of her own lodging in Holborn; but as soon as the other young woman's faded shawl and broken yellow feather had disappeared round the corner of the street, Belle came to a pause and took her bearings thoughtfully; she had gone deliberately out of her way to accompany Minnie Palmer. She had wanted to hear what that foolish, lively young woman still thought of the case, for, no doubt, her opinion would be the same as that of many other silly people, and it was as well to know the general impression.

After a brief hesitancy, Belle turned resolutely away from the direction of Holborn and down towards the Strand. She never paused in her swift walk, to which her erect carriage and the elegancy with which she wore her poor clothes, gave an obstinate grace, till she came to a small private hotel in Norfolk Street. There she asked boldly, casually, for Dr. Schoppe. The porter, hardly waiting for the words to be out of her mouth, told her that the doctor, who had just returned from Bow Street police station in a hackney cab, would not see anyone except chosen friends.

"Don't you suppose I might be one of those, as I know the address?" said Belle quietly. She saw the man hesitate, a little confused at the jar between her clothes and her manner. "Give me," she said, "a paper and pencil."

When he had reluctantly handed a scrap of paper to her, she wrote on it: "Please see me. It's very important with regard to your friend, the Reverend Maarten Morl." With an air of authority she gave the paper to the porter, and passing him briskly, took a seat on the chair beneath the polished clock in the hall. It was a neat, respectable place, frequented by foreigners of the better sort. Belle's nostrils dilated; she liked the smell of cleanliness; her eyes sparkled; she liked the polish on the stair-rail and the stair edge; she liked the gleaming veneer of the clock, the neat quiet dial; everything about the place was so orderly, so decent.

The porter gave the note to a waiter who emerged from the side-door, and returned to his own post at the entrance, but not without a furtive, half-suspicious glance at Belle.

In a moment or two he returned and asked Belle to follow him. He ushered her upstairs to a pleasant parlour on the first floor, furnished with conventional comforts and lit by the steady blaze of a large fire.

Standing in front of this fire, his hands clasped behind his coat and with an anxious frown on his broad face, was the bald, stoutish, florid gentleman with the grey whiskers whom Belle had first seen in the yard of Bow Street police court. He recognised her at once as one of that (to him) strange and horrible group of people who, with craning necks and prying eyes, had tried to identify him on that bleak snowy day last week as a murderer.

"What can you have to say, madame?" he began in his strong emphatic English. "I do not know why I see you, but I cling to every hope."

As Belle did not immediately answer, but stood looking at him, patiently smiling, as if to impress on him her personality, he added with a deepening suspicion:

"I would be much tormented with people, but no one knows I'm here: I and Herr Leutner, we live here quietly till this terrible thing is over."

"So I can understand."

"I don't know how you got my address, madame."

"Oh, I took means to find out," said Belle. "You see I think what I have to say is rather important. Will you give me perhaps ten minutes of your time?"

"If you wish," pleaded the harassed doctor, impressed, despite himself, by this strange woman in her shabby and entirely decorous attire, with her out-of-place elegance. She was in her simplicity, without a single gawdy ornament—without a touch of rouge or powder—entirely different from what he, Dr. Schoppe, supposed she was, from what he supposed she must be—a companion of the infamous Daisy Arrow, living in that disreputable house where the unaccountable crime that had suddenly shattered all his compact little world had occurred.

"Please seat yourself, madame," he said, then checked himself, for it occurred to him through his pain and bewilderment, that here possibly was an ally, someone who really might be useful; though he supposed that the English police would not allow him to see this woman if they knew of it. Wouldn't it be called "tampering with witnesses?" He knew that she had been called at the inquest—he knew she had occupied the room next to that in which Daisy Arrow had slept.

He rang the bell abruptly and, when the waiter came, ordered cakes and coffee.

"Thank you," said Belle. "I am, indeed, cold and hungry."

"This refreshment need not delay our talk."

"Before it comes, let me tell you that I was rather fond of poor Daisy Arrow. She was only a little servant girl, you know, but unusually pretty and refined for her class. And that's what led her astray. I daresay you have read all that came out in the inquest."

"Yes, yes, I have read the newspapers, all that at the inquest was said I have read. But what has that to do with me or this wretched woman—it is my young friend of whom I have to think. It is, too, a little of myself, since I was arrested for something so horrible and so strange." Then a sudden recollection came into his agitated mind and he demanded quickly: "So, you did not identify the voice, is not that it? One did—the miserable little servant, I think—but you, no?"

Belle looked at him directly.

"I wasn't quite sure about the voice," she said in a loud tone. "It might come back to me in one way or another. I might, when I came to be examined, say that I remembered it or that I didn't remember it. Do you understand, Dr. Schoppe?"

The waiter entered with the refreshments on a tray, and Belle rose with the air of an accomplished hostess and began to pour out the coffee and to arrange the cakes on the little blue china plates.

Dr. Schoppe stared at her. His hands had now come from behind his back and his thumbs were stuck in the armholes of his brightly-coloured waistcoat.

"So," he said, breathing rather quickly. "So."

"I am in a very peculiar position and all the notoriety this trial will give me is very hateful to me, Dr. Schoppe," said Belle, handing him a cup of coffee and the little plate of cakes, as if she were the one who was dispensing hospitality. "I am an actress—one who has not been successful. You could see that by my attire. I hope there is something else, Dr. Schoppe, that you can see from my attire also, and that is," said Belle Adair deliberately, "that I am not the kind of woman that Daisy Arrow was—not the kind of woman that her companions are. I didn't know what manner of house I had got into. I had been there only a few weeks. I have had great misfortune."

"Yes, yes," said the German uneasily, eyeing her with suspicion and, as she thought, alarm.

"Why trouble you with all that, you will think. We have come into touch with one another in the strangest possible way."

"It is more than strange, it is monstrous," put in the doctor angrily. "My young friend, that young clergyman-why, it is absurd! I cannot understand your police, I cannot understand the imbecile witnesses. Never mind—he will be acquitted."

"Will he?" said Belle. "Funny about the note-paper."

Dr. Schoppe broke into German in his emphatic assertion of his friend's innocence, and Belle replied in the same language:

"You can speak German if you like, Dr. Schoppe; I know the language quite well, we had a German governess. I was at school in Switzerland and afterwards in Germany I remember the woods and how we used to enjoy the picnics there."

He seemed startled, and with added respect said, half awkwardly, also in German:

"Ah, madame, that would be a relief to me. Though I know your language well, my own at such a moment as this comes, of course, more easily. So, you speak German. I could see you were a gentlewoman."

"Thank you." Belle bent her head. "I shall be a little rusty in your language, but I can make myself understood."

"Well, madame, what do you want me to understand?"

With a trembling hand Dr. Schoppe seized the cup, threw the coffee down his throat, and held the cup out for her to refill it, which she did, with a gracious look and gesture.

"I am in very low water," said Belle, "very low indeed. I'm like one on the edge of a morass, in fact I should say one about whom the morass already sucks. On Christmas Eve I was thinking of death, not of the death of Daisy Arrow, but of myself. I wanted to die because everything around me was so degraded and so miserable, and I saw no way out. You can understand?"

"I am a medical man I am not a young man either. I know the world."

"Well then, I daresay you've often heard of women like myself who have committed suicide in despair. Such was my position on Christmas Eve. My real name, of course, is not that absurd one of Belle Adair. The coroner was kind enough not to force me to disclose myself. Oh, I'm not a person of any importance. But there are people who might be hurt if they knew who I am."

"Well, well," said the doctor with a trembling, badly-controlled impatience. "You have all my sympathy, madame, and you excite my interest. But what has this to do with my poor friend, who must come first?"

"I am very sorry for him, I hope he will be acquitted. It will help him, of course, if I can't identify the voice."

"But I think you have already said, madame, that you do not identify the voice."

She looked at him, smiled, and with an air of cool ease, said:

"It is very near to your heart to have your friend acquitted, Dr. Schoppe?"

"My God, yes, for very many reasons," he declared, eyeing her from under his thick brows.

"And it is very near my heart, sir, for very many reasons, to rise from where I have fallen. I am earning thirty shillings a week at present, playing at the Cambridge Music Hall. I do a dance in the pantomime 'Puss in Boots,' Moss Rose. I daresay you have heard the tune. A waltz."

"Come to the point, madame," entreated Dr. Schoppe, with considerable agitation. "I have so little time that is my own. I must see my lawyer this morning—all my affairs are upset."

"I understand. I am nearly at an end. It seemed to me that we might help one another—that I might be of assistance to your friend who is in such desperate need."

"Yes," said the stout German, smiling and peering nervously at her. "Yes."

"When I go into the witness-box I should like to be dressed like a decent woman—not in these turned-about clothes which make people stare at me. I am trying to leave Mrs. Bulke and her young women, and all that they stood for; I want to get away. You understand? It's that or death for me. It's release or death, Dr. Schoppe," she added quietly, with a smile on her thin lips, "just as it's release or death for your young friend at Bow Street."

"Death! Don't say that, madame!"

"I do say it—and I mean it—"

She looked at him steadily; there was, she was sure, little need for more words; this experienced man understood desperation, determination, when he saw them.

"What do you want?" he asked sharply.

"A few pounds. Lend me five pounds, please, Dr. Schoppe, then I shall be independent. There is only one way by which a woman situated as I am could earn money and I don't want to take that way." Her smile deepened. "I daresay you think it odd that I should be so fastidious. One is. It is more a matter of nerves than morals. I wasn't born a—the kind of woman that Daisy Arrow was." She marked his hesitation, and it occurred to her that he suspected her of being a police spy, sent to trap him into the indiscretion of bribery. "Let me assure you, Dr. Schoppe, that I am in no one's pay. I've come to you for the money because I thought you were the only person who would have it and who would be likely to give it to me. I daresay you've often heard this story before from destitute people who want to make a fresh start, but this time it happens to be true; besides," she added, "it also happens that this destitute wretch"—she drew her breath with such vehemence, such passion that he was startled—"this wretched creature who seems quite lost and has no one to whom she can turn, might do you a service."

The doctor looked at her keenly and his eyes dropped. He fetched out a pocket-book—a purse, then awkwardly and slowly counted out five sovereigns and laid them beside the coffee tray.

"You are ashamed of this transaction, are you not? And so am I," said Belle, "as I have been ashamed so often before. You need not be afraid, I came here quite openly—the porter and the waiter saw me, I daresay the police did too—I think they watch me. Everyone knows who I am, or soon will. You can tell them that I came to you in great distress, to assure you, Dr. Schoppe, that I did not recognise the voice of your friend."

He began muttering excuses for his own behaviour, which he seemed to feel was weak and stupid.

"There is more in this than you think, for me, madame. Herr Morl and I were—are—engaged in an enterprise together that seemed truly blessed. I am a religious man. I look, in all I do, for the hand of God."

"I, too, have looked for that, often enough, Dr. Schoppe."

"Have you?" He peered at her, fumbled his spectacles out of his pocket, put them on, and gazed at her sadly. "It seems a pity that you have—must have—made some great mistake."

"Several," admitted Belle insolently. "But, after all, my situation is better than that of your friend, who only a short time ago seemed so safe and happy."

"The ways of the Lord are inscrutable," muttered Dr. Schoppe uneasily.

"You are fortunate that you can drug yourself with commonplace nonsense," smiled Belle. She picked up the sovereigns, slipped them into her tattered reticule and pulled down her veil with a swiftness that made the two movements into one, then left the room before the German could speak again.

Belle went out swiftly into the narrow street and the winter air. It was a fine day and the winter fog seemed lifted at last. Large white clouds were flowing up along the river from the sea; they raced overhead, first obscuring, then revealing the pale cold gloom of the pallid sky.

Belle felt exhilarated by success. Five pounds, easily obtained! It was worth far more than mere money to her, for with it she could buy, by using great economy and visiting a second-hand shop of the better-class that she knew of, a suit of decent clothes that was necessary to her for the part she had set herself to play.

She returned to her little room threw herself on the bed and rested, her eyes closed and her mind racing wildly. Then she rose up suddenly, went to the carpetbag, opened it, and counted over her treasures: the soiled livid pink feather, the little German Bible, the two dirty letters.

Who would be startled, who would be shocked into utmost horror, were she to appear in the witness-box wearing those gay, dirty plumes? Who would know where to look on the breast of the bird of paradise for the dark stain that clotted the fine feathers together? And if, when she was asked to swear, to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, she rejected the thumbed and dirty Testament offered her by the clerk of the court and in place of that, if she were to take this thick small Bible from her bag and say: "No, on this I swear," who there would be shocked and startled, maybe, into a shrieking confession?

Smiling, she returned her treasures cautiously to the carpetbag, which she kept under the bed. Always, when she went out, she locked her room and took the key with her. She lit a candle, then seated herself at the bare, stained deal table, took a pencil and a sheet of paper from the drawer with the white china handle, that was so stiff to pull out and so hard to push back, and began to draw a face—a face startled—a face composed—a face staring—a face glancing down—never a face smiling—and always the same face.

When she was satisfied that she had achieved a good likeness, she leant back in her chair with her head on one side, and surveyed her handiwork with a smile.

She then tore up the piece of paper into tiny fragments and threw them on to the narrow iron grate where a tiny fire was burning to one side. As the scraps of paper smouldered on the coals she considered deeply the only problem that had ever concerned her—that of herself. "What do I want? First, what has brought me here without the rewards of either what they call virtue or vice? My birth was a bad handicap, but I had a good education, plenty of chances. I was too impatient, and I never could put up with fools. What bad luck that I should have met such unmanageable men. After a while no one seems to like me even—and as for love, it goes in a breath."

She crouched over the meagre fire and her fine features quivered with an expression of bitterness. "Why should I have to care whether men love or like me? That is what is so galling, and I suppose that brings me to what I want—independence. To be able to be indifferent to all of them. Love, for instance!"

The echo of the word in her mind mocked her; she was cured of love as she was cured of drunkenness. Indulgence had soon brought her to a point of nausea; she had never given anyone tenderness or affection, and the recollection of dead passions that had ended in disgust and rage was like the recollection of the stench of decay. Even more loathsome was the memory of simulated emotions for pay—for poor pay, for a mere existence. She winced where she sat at the thought of No. 12 and the police description of it and of Mrs. Bulke. No virtue entered into this aversion from what her life had become, it was a matter of nerves, of squeamishness, of daintiness, one with her love of fine linen, of delicate food, of good manners. She had been bred a gentlewoman; sin did not offend her in the least, but grossness of behaviour was as detestable to her as a badly-cut shoe or a cheap glove. She had once scornfully repressed wild and violent ideals of love, but these had long been cast aside. The only man who had seemed to be worth consideration had proved a creature worthy only, she thought, of contempt. Her passion for him had been the most sincere, disinterested feeling of her life—and that which had gone furthest to ruin her fortunes.

"I lost my head—only a little, but enough. Will it happen again, ever?"

She stirred the fire, she watched the ashes of the scraps of paper stir, rise and float up the chimney.

"No, not again. I've done with drink, with lust—you can't be what Daisy was unless you're born to it. I wasn't. As for love! No—I feel cold, cold—there isn't a man living—What else is there in life? As I have decided to live, what is there to live for? Independence—some position of authority and power."

The ashes had floated away, the fire was almost extinct, the candle had nearly burnt down; the young woman was conscious of neither cold nor dark, only of her own resolution, which so burnt and shone in her heart that as she folded her arms over her breast she felt as if both warmed and lit by her own ardour.

* * *

There was much excited public interest in the arrest of young Pastor Morl for the murder of Daisy Arrow. One would have thought that nothing so sensational had ever happened before; yet what was it but the rather commonplace end of a rather commonplace young woman? But if the victim was ordinary enough, surely there was something extraordinary about the supposed murderer. Surely no one could ever remember before when a clergyman of an unblemished record and of a favoured nationality had been accused of a crime so sordid, so purposeless and so hideous.

If the profession of Daisy Arrow had been any different or the profession of Maarten Morl any different, there might have been less public commotion about the affair. The contrast between these two, she, in common estimation, so deep a sinner, he, in common estimation, of such complete rectitude—she so low and outcast, hopelessly poor and wretched, broken in health, and he so prosperous, so wellborn and healthy. Victim and supposed murderer were much of an age (the young man was thirty-two years old, one year less than Daisy Arrow), both were of uncommon good looks, for the murdered girl's defects were forgotten now and she was usually spoken of as beautiful and usually praised as graceful and refined—above her class—"the lovely Daisy Arrow."

Yes, that was the remarkable, that was the romantic and dramatic part of the affair—that these two creatures, so different in so much, even in nationality, indeed, in everything opposite, save in youth and handsomeness, should have been, as it were, violently brought together, if not by the actual deed, at least by the accusation.

That Christmas night, that Christmas dawn, were vividly revived to satisfy the curiosity of these who had spent the time of festival in peace and happiness. The mean, dirty street, the outside of the empty, barred and locked house were visited by hundreds. Crowds of sightseers passed over the worn paving-stones, which had been so deserted when Annie Western, coming out to slop over her steps on Christmas morning, had seen the young man hurry away from No. 12 and disappear towards the Square into the fog. Every commonplace little detail of that evening was discussed; the bag of fruit and nuts—why had they stopped to buy that? Then the three visits of Daisy Arrow to the kitchen, once to boast of her visitor and to leave her fruit, once to offer the half-sovereign for the rent, once to beg for champagne or brandy—what was there behind those? All these most ordinary incidents seemed, in the minds of the gossiping scandalmongers, to take on an extraordinary significance. Even Daisy's high spirits, which at the time had merely been put down to the fact that she had been drinking heavily and to the excitement she had experienced in meeting what she termed "a well-to-do friend with plenty of money," were now attributed to something else—some mystery, some fatality, some extraordinary occurrence of which no one knew. After all, it was argued, there were many inexplicable things about that evening at No. 12.

How was it, people argued, that Daisy Arrow had had all that money in her possession? What sort of a man would have met Daisy Arrow at the Argyll Rooms, stopped for her to buy a bag of cheap fruit, given her money, gold (it was half a sovereign that she had offered Mrs. Bulke), sent her down to ask for champagne or brandy? If he had been a drunken ruffian, a rustic fool, this behaviour might have been considered unremarkable, but how reconcile it with a man who was sober, who impressed those who saw him as well-bred—a gentleman? Then, the scrap of German note-paper.

Belle turned all these questions over in her mind; she could not herself find any solution to the many problems that the case presented. She looked frequently at the names written inside the small German Bible, and read over and over again that sentimental little love-letter in German, signed only with "M.," with the only address that of "München," which Daisy had sent to her family, enclosed with a scrawl boasting: "I'm doing very well for myself and getting on fine, as this will show."

"Perhaps," Belle would think, "I am wrong and none of this has anything to do with the murder." She turned over carefully the different reasons that were put forward for Daisy's odd behaviour on the last night of her life, the speculations as to who the man was, what his motives were for going home with Daisy Arrow, all the fantastic explanations given for the bag of fruit, for the money, for the request for the expensive wine. "If only," thought Belle, "I could have heard what they were saying that night in her room—perhaps if I had listened carefully I might have done so."

As the young pastor had merely, on his first brief appearance at Bow Street, put forward the plea of "not guilty" and reserved his defence, there was a widespread curiosity and excitement as to what line would be taken by the lawyer, Mr. Peter Thorne, who had undertaken the case on the prisoner's behalf. No one believed that it would be possible to upset the evidence of the witnesses for the prosecution, who had procured so impressive an effect at the inquest when describing the stranger seen in Daisy Arrow's company on Christmas Eve and who had so unfalteringly identified him as Pastor Mori. Everyone thought that the magistrate would commit the prisoner for trial, and that the police court was but the prelude to the Old Bailey.

Belle Adair was early at Bow Street that dark spring day; the rain fell heavily, washing the dirt off the houses, down the gutters, and soaking into the piles of refuse round Covent Garden. She took her place quietly in the little stuffy room reserved for the witnesses, and kept apart from the company by seating herself in the corner and affecting to read in a little book, a device that had been so useful to her before. It was a little manual of water-colour painting which had been given to her at school as a prize for good deportment that she had chosen for to-day's distraction. Through the tension in her mind swung the rhythm of the "Moss Rose" waltz; it seemed the melody, incongruous and unescapable, to which her life was set.

* * *

The dingy case proceeded in the dingy court; the rain slashed at the high-set window which gave a bleak light that gleamed on the polished bald head of the magistrate, from which the arteries stood out in dull purple cords, the gold pin in his satin cravat, and on the starched linen of his cuffs, as he fumbled with papers and his spectacles.

The prisoner stood upright in the dock, his back to the light which fell on his shoulders and stiff hair, which was dark yet bright, and left his face and the front of his person in shadow. His spirit seemed in shadow too, all his personality was so suppressed and veiled that he seemed a dummy standing in a suit of well-cut clothes. Not only all the colour, but all the fine contours seemed to have been wiped off his face, which appeared like a wax mask defaced by a lick of flame and then, coarsened and blurred, made for ever rigid.

The case for the prosecution was formal, even dull; Mr.

James Churton, who had the case for the Crown, put his witnesses in the box, one after another. All persisted in their identification of the prisoner. The evidence taken at the inquest was gone over again, together with that of Robert Halliday, the waiter from Jarvis's Royal Hotel.

This florid, middle-aged man, comfortably dressed, respectable, not unintelligent, though nervous in manner, held the eager attention of the people packed on to the benches in the body of the court.

With impressive deliberation and keeping his gaze fearfully on the prisoner, Robert Halliday described how a well-dressed and agitated young stranger had come to the hotel on Christmas Day and ordered breakfast, had partaken of this refreshment seated in an obscure corner of the dining-room, and afterwards had asked for a bed-room in which to make his toilet, and some turpentine to take the stains off his coat, and who had left behind him a twisted ball of handkerchief saturated with blood.

It seemed to those who listened so eagerly to the unfolding of the case, that a most suspicious, even damning circumstance was the fact that this stained handkerchief was found to have in one corner the initial "M." The experts to whom it had been submitted had also declared that it was of a foreign make.

Not the utmost efforts that Mr. Thorne made could shake Robert Halliday from his conviction that this young man whom he had served at Jarvis's Royal Hotel on Christmas Day was the young man who now stood in the dock.

Arthur Lummin, the fruiterer, was also sure that the figure that had paced up and down in the fog at Covent Garden while Daisy Arrow made her Christmas purchases, muffled, with his overcoat-collar turned up and his hat pulled over his eyes, was the same as that of the prisoner.

To the scornful objections to his evidence made by the lawyer for the defence, to reminders of the fog and the muffling and the little importance that he would have attached to the stranger on such a casual occasion, the fruiterer replied stubbornly:

"You forgets someone till you see them, sir, and then you remember them well enough—and that's the gentleman himself in very truth."

Annie Western was sure, too, that the young man who had slammed the door at No. 12, and who had hurried down the street on that dirty Christmas morning, was he who stood in the dock.

"He's got another kind of coat on," she said, looking at the prisoner narrowly, "but it was him all right. As he went past me, I saw he had got his hand stuck in his waistcoat like he's got it now."

At this the prisoner, who had maintained his wooden attitude, started, took his hand from his bosom, snatched his handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it to his lips, as if he had been stung on the mouth. At this indication that he was not without feeling there was a little movement of sympathy among the women present; his control and his refinement, his good clothes and his profession were so definitely in contrast to the crime he stood charged with, that the sentiment of those staring at him in relentless curiosity veered this way and that—now he was a monster, now "he couldn't have done it, poor fellow."

Who was he, this stranger, this foreigner?

His brief history had been, in the course of the case, briefly touched upon.

* * *

Maarten Morl was of a good family; at the beginning of his career he had been attached in a small but honourable capacity to one of the German courts—that of the King of Wurttemberg. There had been an elder brother, heir to a not inconsiderable estate. Martin, as second son, had had an income sufficient to maintain a good appearance. When he was twenty-six years of age he had, despite the success he had made of his chosen career, changed all his plans and entered the Lutheran Church—devoting himself to the spiritual labours with great zeal and enthusiasm. On the death of his elder brother, two years afterwards, he had come into possession of the family fortune, but had, nevertheless, continued unchanged his modest, laborious life. He was then a man of some considerable property, the bulk of the income of which he devoted to work among the poor of Augsburg, the city nearest his estates at Maartensdorf, on the Württemberg-Bavarian borders.

Until his present trouble his life had been uneventful; his presence in London was owing to a voyage to Brazil which he, Dr. Schoppe, and Herr Leutner were undertaking—a missionary enterprise to the Indians in the centre of South America, which the young man had himself financed, organized and supported with zeal and labour. The little party had come up from Ramsgate, where the ship Der König von Bayern had put in for a few days, in order to spend Christmas in London, a city with which Pastor Morl was fairly familiar, and where he had some friends.

Belle, piecing together this simple history from whispers, chance remarks, a word here and there, tried to fit it in to what she knew, or what she might guess about the man in Bow Street dock.

Young, comely, devoted to good works? All very well, but if the matter were gone into more deeply? She wished she were the lawyer for the Crown.

The Court rose for the luncheon interval; Belle had not yet given her evidence; the defence had not been heard.

Minnie Palmer again attached herself to Belle, and plagued her with her stupid chatter.

"He never could have done it, could he, Belle? He could have never known, even known a girl like Daisy—not a good young man like that. Too good, isn't he?—a prig, I'd call him. That's it, I suppose. If anyone seems as good as that you may be sure there's something hidden behind. Yet, I'm sure he didn't do it. He's a gentleman you can see that—although he's a foreigner."

"Yes, you can see that," said Belle. "That's what impressed everybody in the kitchen, wasn't it—that it was the voice of a gentleman we heard."

"But not the voice of that gentleman, I'm sure," said Minnie Palmer stoutly. She yawned as they shivered out into the January air. "I don't think it's so exciting after all, it's rather dull. I'm getting tired of it. I wish they'd let him go and done with it."

"That's what I say," said Moll, the servant, sidling up to the two women as they left the police court in the press. "Let him go and done with it. He ain't the man they're looking for."

"Those other witnesses seem sure enough," said Belle, sharply, "don't they? And you seemed to identify his voice when you first heard it, didn't you, Moll? Why, it turned you quite sick and faint, made you cry out when you heard it in the corridor outside."

"No, it didn't," replied the servant girl obstinately, "and I'll never say so neither. As for them others, they may be mistaken easy enough. That girl who saw him in the fog—ain't she used to men coming in the early morning down Great Hogarth Street? I daresay she saw several, even on Christmas morning. And as for them two waiters, neither of 'em had taken any notice."

"What makes you so sure he didn't do it?" asked Belle. "He's a gentleman," said Moll sullenly.

Belle smiled. "Do you think a gentleman couldn't do a thing like that?"

"No, not that sort of gentleman. You can laugh if you like, but I think he's a good man. He wouldn't have been in the Argyll Rooms. He wouldn't have picked up with anyone like Daisy Arrow."

"Well," said Belle, "we must wait and see what the defence is. I'm curious, too, very curious."

She refused to accompany the other women into a public-house for bread and cheese and some beer. She continued to dissociate herself from them as much as possible, as far as she could without exciting their noisy and violent antagonism.

It was to her own room that she returned, and where she ate her humble sandwich and drank her lonely cup of tea—she had not touched wine or beer since Christmas Eve, and this continued abstinence from what had begun to be a darling vice, gave her a very pleasing sense of power.

* * *

In the afternoon, as the light was beginning to fail, Belle was again in the witness-box, repeating the evidence she had given at the inquest.

It was very brief, and her precise business-like manner gave the lawyers no trouble.

She had not, she declared, recognised the voice of the prisoner as that of the man she had heard on Christmas Eve at No. 12.

As she spoke she looked directly and for the first time across at the prisoner. He was again standing erect in the dock, having again slipped his left hand, with the gesture that he had so convulsively changed in the morning when the servant-girl had remarked on it, into the bosom of his coat, his chin was sunk in the folds of his cravat, which was full and wide in the foreign fashion.

He met Belle's look with a stare so expressionless and features so rightly composed, that his face might have been settling into the final blackness of death. She felt a gulf of shadows between them; the body of the court seemed like a pit. Surely it was time the gas was lit.

Both the lawyers, prosecution and defence, questioned Belle rather sternly about the episode of the knife. It was a peculiar circumstance that Daisy Arrow should have taken up the clasp-knife from the theatre dressing-room table and should have carried it about with her for the rest of the night, thus taking with her the instrument of her own death.

Belle admitted that it was peculiar. She said, without flippancy:

"It may be the hand of fate that was in it, for, as I suppose, if the murderer had not had that weapon ready he could not have committed his crime, though maybe he would have strangled her with his hands."

She was reproved for this. She was not there to give her opinion or suppositions. The magistrate, Mr. Clinner, called her peremptorily to order. She had no other explanation to give as to why Daisy Arrow had taken the knife, and neither of the lawyers could think of one, so that point was allowed to pass.

The prisoner here asked for a glass of water, his tone was so low and his words so gruff, slurred by a foreign accent, that at first no one understood him. He repeated his request and, when the water was handed to him, asked if he might sit down. This also was allowed. There was a little murmur among the crowd, a pushing movement, a craning of the women's necks, that they might the better catch sight of the tortured man. He rose almost immediately, thanked the magistrate, and again stood erect.

The clasp-knife which killed Daisy Arrow was produced in court. Belle identified it as that which had been taken from the Cambridge Theatre, so did the owner, a stage hand who had lent it to Belle.

She was asked what had become of the plume of pink feathers which, according to Minnie Palmer's evidence, she had promised to lend to the dead woman? Belle repeated her tale: Daisy had come out by the stair-head and had returned the ornament before going into her own room and closing the door.

The case for the Crown concluded, the prosecuting lawyer declared that it was an unanswerable case. "It was not," said he, "a question of motive, it was well known that the most unlikely people would commit the most extraordinary crimes."

There was not the slightest evidence that the prisoner had formerly been acquainted with Daisy Arrow. He was of a religious, almost of a fanatically religious temperament, and it was known that such people suffered from strange manias, obsessions, and even insanity. One of these might be the explanation of what seemed on the surface a motiveless crime. It was not for him to search into the dark recesses of the human heart, or the horrible potentialities of the human spirit; it was for him to press the strong circumstantial evidence before them. There was the clue of the note-paper.

Then, four independent witnesses had sworn to the prisoner. They might be called, all of them, trained observers. It is well known that waiters in the course of their occupations become used to noting their various clients more or less mechanically. It was part of their duty to do so.

The waiter at the Argyll Rooms, however tired he had been, however crowded the company in which he had moved on Christmas Eve, would instinctively note the peculiarity of the young foreigner with Daisy Arrow, who was an habituée of the rooms well known to him.

The waiter at that very respectable and highly commended hotel, Jarvis's Royal, would, despite the fog and the dark corner in which his customer had sat, instinctively and mechanically have noted this young man, especially as he had come in at an unusual hour and seemed to be a foreigner.

The little maid cleaning the steps would also have her wits sharpened by constant contact with people coming and going, would take a lively interest in the happenings of the street, and glancing up when that door slammed, would also instinctively note the person of the man hurrying from No. 12, specially as he would instantly seem to her different from the usual type of man she had watched going into or leaving that establishment.

The fruiterer also, a busy tradesman in the heart of London, would be a shrewd man, as the magistrate could judge—as he had proved himself in his evidence—one with his eyes about him He knew Daisy Arrow by sight, and his attention would certainly be called to her companion, when she came to his shop so late at night to buy her Christmas fruit.

It had been argued, and no doubt would be still further argued, that recognition would be difficult owing to the fog, the muffling of the gentleman, the crowd in the Argyll Rooms, and so on, and so on; but he, the lawyer for the Crown, appealed to the magistrate to consider if there was not something about a personality which penetrated the thickest disguise—something that could be instantly recognised?—the carriage, the peculiarity of movement, something in height, gesture, "and," added the lawyer for the Crown, "I think all will agree that the prisoner has quite a striking personality. I ask for a committal for trial."

The prisoner leant from the dock and whispered a few words to Mr. Peter Thorne, who sat directly below him. He turned and spoke to him energetically and encouragingly. Herr Morl smiled blandly and returned to his rigid attitude of attention.

"It makes me feel sick to think how he must be suffering," whispered the woman next to Belle. She continued, nevertheless, to gaze with relentless curiosity at the prisoner.

"It's nothing," whispered her companion, "to what he's got to go through when there's a proper trial at the Old Bailey—that'll be days and days of it."

Mr. Peter Thorne opened the case for the defence; it was a very simple one; on behalf of the prisoner he pleaded a complete alibi.

The first witness was Dr. Schoppe, the man who himself had been the first arrested for the murder of Daisy Arrow.

A murmur of sympathy and good-will rose as the stout figure of the doctor, who was obviously nearly overwhelmed by agitation and distress, entered the witness-box; fog was coming up with the dusk; people coughed and choked; the gas-lamps made yellow rings in the thickening vapour. Dr. Schoppe seemed more agitated than the prisoner; he stared about him vaguely and his attention wandered; when he began to speak, his English was incoherent and an interpreter was suggested. At this he made an effort, asked the indulgence of the magistrate, and gave his evidence in tolerable English.

He testified that Der König von Bayern, having been in port at Ramsgate for several days at Christmas, a party of the ship's officers had gone to London and taken rooms at the Hobart Hotel in the Strand.

Both he (Dr. Schoppe), Herr Leutner, and Pastor Morl had friends in London, and they intended to spend their brief holiday visiting these, and in showing something of the sights of the great city, already familiar to them, to the only woman of the party, his daughter, Fräulein Lili Schoppe.

On Christmas Eve, he, his daughter, Herr Leutner and

Pastor Morl had visited the Tower. They had afterwards gone to a bazaar in Baker Street and purchased some little trifles. They had then returned and taken dinner at the Hobart Hotel. In the evening the hotel had given a little concert, followed by a dance. This had continued till nearly midnight.

All the while (Dr. Schoppe was most emphatic on this point) Maarten Morl had been under his own close observation. He had only parted with him at his bedroom door, their two chambers being adjoining.

He had been unable to sleep, being over-fatigued and disturbed by the noise of the people leaving the party, which was continued far into the night. So he had arisen—it was two o'clock by his watch when he struck a light and lit his candle—and had gone into Pastor Morl's room to beg him for the return of some sleeping-tablets which he had lent him during the voyage when the young man had suffered from sea-sickness. He would not, in the ordinary way, have done this, because he would have been reluctant to disturb his friend's sleep, but he had heard him not only moving in bed, but walking about the room.

He had found him in his dressing-gown with his candle lit endeavouring to read a book on Brazil to relieve his sleeplessness. Herr Morl had been much excited about the missionary enterprise, the journey to Brazil, and the prospect of founding a Lutheran settlement in the interior, after the model of the Jesuit compounds. He had been full of plans for building a church, a hospital, and a school; in the pages of the book were drawings of buildings, lists of stores, medicines—all the material that the young minister had been so enthusiastically studying during the voyage. Nothing could have been further, Dr. Schoppe could swear, from the young man's thoughts than any visit to such a place as the Argyll Rooms.

The stout doctor gained confidence as he proceeded with his evidence, which made a favourable impression on the eager audience.

Under the careful examination of Mr. Thorne, the German drew a most sympathetic picture of his young friend, so studious, so devout, so set, with all his faculties, all his fortunes, on a venture idealistic and not without peril. He described emphatically his interview with Herr Morl on Christmas Eve, at the very hour when, according to medical evidence, Daisy Arrow must have been meeting her death.

In the neat pleasant room of Hobart's Hotel the young man, so soon to be accused of so fearful a crime, had, mercifully for himself, been under the observation of his friend from two until nearly four o'clock of the morning of the murder. They had talked together about the plans of which both were so full, then the doctor had prescribed one of the sleeping-tablets for his friend, taking one himself, and had returned to his room, still, however, without being able to sleep.

He had seen Maarten Morl early the next morning, about nine o'clock, when he had gone into his chamber to share his breakfast. Herr Leutner, a ship-owner, and a member of the proposed expedition, had also been of their company, to which effect he gave evidence.

This totally unexpected alibi caused a revulsion of feeling towards the unhappy young man, who had seemed, on the report of the police, without a hope. Was it, after all, possible that there had been some mistake?

The people in the dark court stared at the prisoner as if they would force him to look at them. He kept his eyes cast down and his glance on his hands, which were folded on the edge of the dock.

Mr. Thorne produced the other witnesses.

Fräulein Lili Schoppe, the little chamber-maid from "The Hobart," and a number of people who had seen and spoken to Pastor Morl on Christmas Eve during the festivities in that hotel confirmed the alibi. The most interesting of all who testified in the prisoner's favour was this young German girl, Dr. Schoppe's daughter. The first few questions put to her elicited the fact that she was betrothed to the accused man.

The young Lili was a charming figure. She was attired in grey of a puritanical simplicity, with a white collar fastened by a large cameo brooch. She appeared about seventeen years of age, and was very pale, slender and dove-like; her hair was looped smoothly beneath her bonnet, her contours unblemished as those of a child.

Her agitation was extreme; she could scarcely speak for her deep distress. The capricious championship of the crowd went out to her because she was so young, so innocent, and seemed so stricken by this sordid horror, a great deal of which must be incomprehensible to her sweet ignorance.

What could she—the promised bride of a missionary dedicated to toil, privation, faith and service in the cause of God—know of such women as Daisy Arrow, or of such impulses as those which led men to No. 12?

Mr. Thorne noted with satisfaction the effect of her mere presence on the magistrate. This was more decisively in the prisoner's favour than what she said. It occurred to everyone that the fact that he was engaged to this fair, delicate creature made it still more unlikely that Maarten Morl would hang about the Argyll Rooms making acquaintanceship with creatures like Daisy Arrow—still more unlikely that he was leaving his bride-to-be, his father-in-law-to-be, and all his friends, the gay and cheerful surroundings of the Hobart Hotel, and accompanying the tawdry Daisy Arrow to an establishment like that kept by Mrs. Bulke.

Conquering her nervous terror, and with an effort that had something of the heroic in it, Lili Schoppe gave her evidence.

She swore that her lover had never left her company during Christmas Eve until she had said good night to him at the foot of the stairs near twelve o'clock; when he had not been actually with her—dancing with her or seated beside her—he had been moving about the room where she could see him.

Herr Leutner's evidence was to the same effect; so was that of the waiters, the chamber-maids, the porter and the manager of "Hobart's."

There were even other points in favour of the prisoner:

No overcoat had been found in his wardrobe that had recently been cleaned with turpentine, nor any light overcoat like that the alleged murderer was described as wearing; the blood-stained handkerchief of foreign make with the single "M" left behind at Jarvis's Hotel did not match those owned by the prisoner, which were marked by a double "M" enlaced, and were of Irish manufacture. The prisoner prided himself on the fineness of his linen and always sent to a Belfast house for his supply. He had, on the occasion of this visit, purchased several dozen of these double-initial handkerchiefs at a shop in Bond Street. On the train journey from Ramsgate a valise had been stolen that contained a packet of ship's papers. This loss had been notified before the murder. The valise had not been traced. Anyone might be in possession of the German note-paper.

The alibi seemed complete; even allowing that it was an unlikely supposition that the prisoner's friend, his future father-in-law, and his betrothed were committing perjury on his behalf, there remained a number of people, quite indifferent and impartial, who swore to his presence at the party on Christmas Eve at the Hobart Hotel.

* * *

In the room reserved for the witnesses, Belle studied the young German girl. Minnie Palmer had excitedly whispered: "That's his sweetheart." Belle turned her attention from the book at which she had been looking steadily during most of the tedious hours to Lili Schoppe, and with an intense and womanly inquisitiveness, considered her in every detail as she sat drooping and shuddering, yet holding herself with an intense reserve, on the end of the hard bench.

Belle gazed across the gas-lit room at Lili Schoppe until her surroundings were a mere blur to her; she studied the young girl as a botanist might study a flower under a microscopic lens, committing to heart the texture, the veining, the delicate root, the tender heart, the whole transparent and lovely structure, and as the botanist thinks at the end of his scrupulous examination that he knows his flower, so Belle Adair thought she knew the young German—so simple, so innocent, so utterly unarmed and unprepared for assault.

The corner in which Belle sat was some distance from where Lili Schoppe drooped against the dingy wall, but presently, as if drawn, without knowing why and against her own volition, by that intense gaze of the other woman, she raised her slender neck and looked round like one who thinks that she has heard herself called, and searched among those curious faces about her until she discovered Belle's gaze fixed on her. She returned this stare with a look that held an agony of bewilderment.

Belle smiled directly at the girl as if already there was a familiarity between them, then turned away and looked again at her book.

"You and I, my girl," she thought to herself, "will have to see something of each other in the future, as I suppose, and it is well that we should begin by a good acquaintance."

Yes, Belle believed that she was quite familiar with the simple heart and candid soul of Lili Schoppe.

* * *

The case was nearly at an end; the witnesses had given their evidence, the prisoner his complete denial of the charges, the lawyers had made their speeches. Everyone was excited and weary. The fog had thickened in the court-room. It was a damp winter evening—chilly outside the building, but inside rank and heated from foul air.

The prisoner refused to sit down. He must have been standing for hours. Everyone seemed to have lost count of the time. Surely for hours that rigid figure with the hand thrust into the breast of the coat had been erect there behind the wooden rail.

"It's nearly over now," said Belle to herself, "it's coming to an end at last. Well, I, too, am tired. This has been very tedious. It will, however, soon be over," she repeated, lilting the words in her mind to the "Moss Rose" waltz; she smiled, pressing her handkerchief to her lips. "How soon everything will be over—even life itself."

That sense of the brevity of human existence had much to do with her detached courage, with her quiet reserve, for she was sustained by the precise and arid philosophy that considers all action, virtuous or vile, as so much mere passing of the hours before the final annihilation.

In these closing stages of the case, when everyone in the police court was thinking intensely of the prisoner, of the drama of his situation—speculating with a fierce curiosity as to his possible fate—Belle, alone among the witnesses, was thinking only of herself; she was free, she supposed, to leave, but she had no wish to do this.

She had noticed with an ironic amusement that she had made a little stir when she had appeared in the witness-box. She was very neatly dressed in grey, cut with prudish severity that suited her grace, her refined pallor, and that yet showed off her shape a little too well, and to which her cold brilliant eyes, with their air of sophistication, gave an odd air of a deliberate and self-conscious simplicity, which was very different from the careless and natural simplicity of Lili Schoppe.

She knew that they had all wondered at the great difference between her appearance and her profession; she did not look like an actress, she did not look like a woman who had lodged at No. 12, with Mrs. Bulke for a landlady. That little touch of mystery about the assumed name—that, too, had been effective. She had seen Roger Owen, the murdered woman's brother, gazing at her with a fascination, touched—she thought, and was glad to think—with fear. He had followed in his evidence (unconsciously, no doubt, as stupid people will repeat by rote instructions given them) her promptings. He had been questioned about the letter from abroad that his sister had received—and he had said that it was from Paris and of no importance, written merely to tell her family that she was in a good situation, and that he had destroyed it, as he had sworn at the inquest.

Thinking of these things with satisfaction, Belle continued to gaze at Lili Schoppe, who, regardless of the agitated, whispered consolations of her father, leant against the wall with her face averted from them all, her bonnet in her slack fingers, her hair falling in the nape of her neck.

"I wonder," mused Belle, "who is suffering the more, he or she? Where have I seen some face like hers before? As colourless, as insipid as a glass of water!"

She remembered; the avenging angels descending from the black clouds in The Last Judgment hanging above Mrs. Bulke's piano had had firm features resembling those of the German girl, and smooth blonde hair banded over their ears in the same fashion as her lint-coloured locks. Belle was amused. Lili Schoppe, with her air of a rustic Sunday-school teacher, like one of God's messengers of doom!

How long the case was taking, perhaps it would not finish to-day, after all. Belle began to feel drowsy, to sense another scene behind the present one—odd that, some scene from her childhood—girls on a lawn, lilac with upright blooms, laburnum with drooping tresses, the smell of trodden grass, of damp earth; the hum of picnic laughter, a little girl like Lili Schoppe standing erect in the sunshine, as if she had been suddenly created by the power of the summer day.

Belle roused herself by a stern effort of will; she did not often day-dream; she must be half-drugged by fatigue, by foul air, by the drifting fog in eyes and throat, by the sight of the stupid, weary, excited faces of the other witnesses. Why didn't that foolish German cease his hoarse, half-hysteric whispering to his daughter? The guttural sounds among which she constantly heard the word "God" rasped on Belle's nerves. She tried to read, but between her eyes and the print floated the simple face and figure of Lili Schoppe—as an angel, as a schoolgirl, cleaving the monstrous clouds that rolled beneath the Judgment Seat, pausing beneath the spring blossoms of a childish festival.

* * *

After all the prolonged tension of waiting, judgment was pronounced by the thin, bald magistrate blinking through the fog.

"To my mind," said Mr. Gunner gravely, "it has been conclusively shown that Mr. Morl, who stands accused of this crime, was not the companion of the murdered woman on Christmas Eve."

He paused as if to allow the breath of suspense and relief time to rise and fall, as if to give the prisoner time to compose himself after this shock of an acquittal.

Everyone was looking at Maarten Morl. He had not changed his demeanour in the least. "Perhaps," some thought, "he has not quite understood what the magistrate has said."

Mr. Clinner continued:

"The evidence of the witnesses for the prosecution at first undoubtedly pointed to Mr. Morl as having been in the company of Daisy Arrow, and therefore the police were justified in taking the course they did. The case had been now most fully investigated and the witnesses on both sides have been subject to a close and searching examination and I am satisfied that the witnesses who have spoken as to the identity of the prisoner as having been the last companion of this unhappy young woman are entirely in error. The loss of the valise containing the note-paper makes that of no value as evidence. The thief might be the murderer."

This time the prisoner did move; he raised his right hand from his breast and put it across his eyes, and his whole body was shaken by a violent convulsion—as if he had been not acquitted, but condemned, so expressive of dread and fear was the sound that came from him.

His lawyer and the German Consul, who was sitting near him, sprang up as if in some way to encourage the young minister, but the magistrate made a sign for silence.

Maarten Morl recovered, to some extent, his composure, but remained standing half-turned away from the court—still with his hand before his eyes.

"Even supposing," continued Mr. Clinner, "that the evidence for the prosecution had been more free from discrepancies, I should have considered the case on the part of the prosecution entirely destroyed by the evidence of the witnesses for the defence. It is, therefore," added the magistrate, slightly raising his voice, "my duty, and a duty I discharge with great satisfaction to myself, to state that the prisoner is released, and as far as I can see, I can say that he leaves the court without suspicion."

Mr. Clinner glanced towards the prisoner, then, perhaps suspecting that the young German did not quite understand what had been said, he directly addressed him, adding:

"Mr. Morl, you are a free man. You are acquitted. You leave the court without the least suspicion resting upon you."

* * *

The news of the acquittal was instantly in the room occupied by the witnesses; the policeman moved from the door and the weary men and women came eagerly out into the corridor and pressed towards the court.

Belle Adair looked at Lili Schoppe being half-dragged along by her father.

"Now I suppose, you little fool, you'll faint and make a scene, or go and hang round his neck, like the ninny you are."

She pushed her way through the crowd into the court, which was full of people muttering with surprise, almost disappointment, sympathy, excitement. Belle stood firm in the press and stared at Lili Schoppe.

Her father had hurried across to the dock; he and the other Germans were standing close to the prisoner, who seemed incapable of movement and who, although the sergeant who had stood beside him during the proceedings offered to assist him down the two steps that led to the floor, remained rigid at his post, like a sentinel who, after a long and arduous vigil, is too broken to understand the word of release when it comes.

Lili Schoppe did not run to her lover; she did not, as Belle had expected, give any display of emotion. She fell away from her father and on to a bench, her hands twisted in her lap, her head hanging on her breast so that the smooth loops of her hair hid her face.

In their own language the Germans were saying heartily:

"It is over, Maarten! It is over! You understand? You are free, it has all been an incredible mistake. Let's get away from this horrible place."

The haggard prisoner stared over their heads and said loud and distinctly in English:

"There is someone here to whom I must speak."

"Lili!" cried Dr. Schoppe, calling his daughter over his shoulder. "Come, Maarten wants to speak to you. You must be the very first to clasp his hand."

The prisoner shook his head.

"No, not Lili, there is someone else."

Belle smiled, drew her handkerchief across her lips and looked down.

"Maarten," pleaded the doctor in deep agitation, "come down from that dreadful place where you stand. All your friends are round you. There is no one else here to whom you should speak: they are all foreigners, strangers, cruel people who have come to stare."

At these insistent words the young man started, stared down into the honest, disturbed face of Christian Schoppe, shook his head in a bewildered fashion, and made as if at last he would leave the dock. He had not made one step before he fell. Mr. Thorne caught at him—the unexpected and heavy burden was too much for the lawyer's strength. The young man half-slipped, and lay against the steps from the dock. Some of the women began to shed facile tears.

"The poor gentleman. It had been a torment, no doubt, all those hours of it and he innocent, after all—as anyone could have seen from the look of him!"

Belle, deliberately turning, edged through the crowd—the ushers were in vain endeavouring to clear the court—she did not go to the little group about the unconscious man to whom the police surgeon was attending, she turned instead to one who had been forgotten—Lili Schoppe, still seated on the now empty bench, still drooping against the dingy wall. Belle sat down beside her, close to her as a shadow.

"Don't you want to go and see your lover?" she whispered. "He has fainted, the shock has been too much. Don't you think you ought to be the first person to find him when he recovers?"

The other girl raised her head. She looked like one suddenly recalled from deep sleep or vivid dreams.

"Who are you?" she stammered. "Ah, yes, you are one of those—" She could not find the word nor would not name the thing, but was silent, staring at Belle with her finger on her mouth, her lips apart, and her face, Belle thought, with much of that ugly, bloodless pallor that Daisy Arrow's face had had on that Christmas morning as she lay at rest on her soaked pillow, with her red hair spread over that other red that defiled the cheap cotton pillow-case.

"I'm one of the witnesses, yes," said Belle quietly. "I was quite a useful witness to your lover, too, was I not? If I had recognised his voice it would have made a difference. If I had chanced to see him it would have made a difference, too. I was a friend of the poor girl who was killed so horribly. These things are dreadful, are they not?" went on Belle in a low rapid tone. "So much agony and distress! I suppose you understood very little of it."

"I do not," murmured Lili Schoppe, with a painful attempt at control, "understand English so very well."

"You might understand it, but still not understand this case," said Belle. "You are so very young."

Lili Schoppe struggled clumsily to her feet.

"I must go to my father. I must go to Maarten."

"Why, that's what I said," smiled Belle. "I wondered why you were sitting apart."

Lili rose, but found she could not stand alone.

"I do not know what to do," she sighed. She sat down, and her expression of childish woe deepened.

"There is nothing for you to do," said Belle. "Look, the court is clearing, soon there will be nobody here but your friends, and you will be able to go away with your father. Where are you staying? At the Hobart Hotel in the Strand?"

"Yes, so far we have been there."

"And your lover, too? Remember he is now quite safe. Will you continue your voyage to Brazil?"

"I don't know," muttered Lili. "I don't know. I don't quite understand what you say nor why you question me. I think everything will be different now."

"Oh, will it?" asked Belle, rising, "will it?"

"Yes, yes," nodded Lili. "Perhaps after all we shall not go. Perhaps we'll return to Germany. I do not know."

She edged away on the bench from Belle and put her hands before her face.

Belle walked gracefully through the empty benches. The police had succeeded in clearing the court. Only the personal friends of the prisoner, the surgeon and a few police officers remained by the unconscious man, whose feet had been propped up on some hassocks and whose head, drenched with water, was low on the dirty floor. Belle approached this group with such an air of intimacy and authority that all, far from questioning her right to be there, made way for her as if sure that her mission was one of importance.

It was Dr. Schoppe to whom she spoke the while she was staring down at the prostrate man.

"You should go to your daughter, she is sitting over there alone."

"Ach, Lili, Lili," muttered the doctor distractedly. "Yes, I should go to her. She has suffered quite as much as Mr. Morl, don't you think? She should have a little attention."

Smiling and holding up her skirts, the young woman made an elegant half-bow to the group of men who stared at her so curiously, and looked down at that distracted, unconscious face with the pinched nostrils and fallen jaw. How well she knew every detail of it, how accurately she could sketch it from memory! She had a pleasing sensation of power that increased her self-respect.

"Ah, well," she said, "ah, well. I shall have to be getting along to the Cambridge," and she turned away.

In the outer room she met Mr. Matchwell. He had been employed in clearing away from the corridors and entrances of Bow Street police station all the idling gossipers who had wished to linger in the warmth and shelter to discuss this extraordinary case.

"Ah, Mr. Matchwell," smiled Belle. "It must be vexatious for you to feel you have made such a bad mistake, but no doubt you are pleased to see a fellow-creature escape such an atrocious fate."

"That's mere copy-book talk," replied the superintendent quietly, "and if I were you, I shouldn't use it, not when you expect to be believed. And what's your interest, ma'am, in this case, anyhow? Don't waste time, ma'am," added the detective, who never before had spoken so plainly to Belle, "in telling me that you was a friend of the murdered woman."

"I wasn't," admitted Belle, unmoved. She lingered in the doorway, drawing on her neat cotton gloves. "It's a very strange affair, Mr. Matchwell—so many for, so many against. Now who was lying?"

"Maybe nobody. It's merely a question of a mistake—a mistaken identity. You've heard of that, haven't you, ma'am?"

"Oh yes, and I've heard of faked alibis, too."

Mr. Matchwell shook his head.

"The Germans, maybe, but not those people at the hotel."

"Well, I suppose you won't let the murderer slip through your fingers, nevertheless, Mr. Matchwell, but will still go on searching until you find him?"

"Searching and searching, as you might say, ma'am."

"But what about this unfortunate gentleman, Mr. Matchwell?—this poor virtuous clergyman who gave up everything to serve God and the poor? Hasn't he been greatly wronged through your mistake?"

"If he has, I suppose he'll get compensation," said the detective sternly, "but that's not for me to discuss, ma'am—nor you either, as far as I can see."

"I daresay not, but it will be discussed, and by all London." Belle paused and looked keenly into the weary pockmarked face of the neat detective. "What possible clue have you now? That would much interest me to know. I can't help wondering, in a case like this, what there can be to go on?"

"Perhaps nothing, ma'am. But he might give himself away—they sometimes do."


"By doing it again."

"How do you mean—by doing it again?"

"Cutting another woman's throat."

"That seems unlikely, doesn't it?"

"Oh, they do, you know. Likely enough he was mad, or near mad, and likely enough he'll break out again—when he's pushed or provoked."

* * *

Belle waited outside the police court in the chill dark; after about a quarter of an hour the Germans, a close group, hurried into the street, the young clergyman, muffled to the throat and his hat over his eyes, in their midst. A considerable number of curious people had gathered to see him come out, and among them Belle passed unnoticed, for she was careful to keep behind the others. She could see both Pastor Morl and Dr. Schoppe look sharply and keenly through the gas-light.

"For me," she thought, "no doubt—for me."

Lili had pulled her veil down, but obscured as she was, she gave Belle that odd reminder of lilac, a sunny day. The Last Judgment. The party got into a hackney carriage, Dr. Schoppe gave the address—Hobart's Hotel, the Strand.

Belle followed leisurely on foot, with her easy stride and erect carriage, through the foggy gloom, through the fine rain that was darkening the greasy pavement.

"No time to be lost," she said to herself, "no, none at all. This is fatiguing and tedious. I would much rather go home and rest before my dance."

She turned into a little stationer's shop opposite St. Clement Dane's church, and bought for a penny an envelope and a sheet of paper, and asked for the loan of a pencil. Then, leaning on the little counter in the space between the large jars of lollipops, liquorice and peppermints, she wrote a line in her clear, finicky hand, sealed the flimsy envelope, addressed it, and then offered the stationer's boy twopence for delivering it just round the corner at the Hobart Hotel, and waiting for an answer. "If you insist on getting the answer quickly and bringing it to me immediately I shall give you sixpence."

The boy ran gladly, and Belle lingered at the corner of the street while he did his errand. A thick, soiled vapour was creeping up from the unseen river at the bottom of the sloping side street. This seemed to crowd about Belle in coils as she paced about, slowly, patiently; the dark clouds that hid the evening sky, full of the sooty smoke of the city, seemed also to press down on her as she waited, so that she was hidden by fog, by darkness, by vapour on vapour, by sluggish, dirty twilight.

The boy might have some difficulty—they would be on their guard, no doubt, against curiosity-mongers, inquisitive visitors, journalists. But it seemed that he had not met with any delays, for he returned almost before Belle had expected him, and gave her a small envelope, on the back of which was the name of the hotel; Belle produced sixpence with a smile As he, jingling his pence and the silver coin, ran back into the yellow light of the shop, she went her way.

It gave her such an oddly pleasurable sensation to hold the clean, small, square envelope, that she delayed the other pleasure of opening it and reading the contents.

"What time is it?"

There was a clock on the church tower, but she could not make that out for the fog.

"How long before I am due at the theatre?"

There was something else that, in spite of her fatigue, she wished to do. Surely there would be time, as her dance did not come on until well into the middle of the pantomime. She hastened her steps in the direction of the hotel where the party of Germans from Der König von Bayern had spent Christmas Eve.

At this family establishment, which was one of great respectability, Belle, with her most impressive air of reserve and decorum, made enquiries of the porter as to her uncle and aunt—a certain Dean and his lady—due, she thought, in London that day or the next and about whom she had become concerned since they had not called on her as she had hoped; she feared their train had been delayed by the fog.

While enquiries were being made on her behalf Belle looked round the handsome entrance with an air of admiration. She remarked to the porter that the place looked far finer and more commodious than she would have supposed from the exterior, and added that some relations of hers, who usually came to London in the winter and who had declared themselves ill-lodged in their present choice of hotel, would be glad to know of this. She ingenuously asked if they did not give a good many festivities during the holiday season, upon which the porter said: "Yes, Christmas week there was a party and a concert every night."

Belle thereupon very courteously asked if she might have a list of these pleasant entertainments to send to her relatives. Were there not some printed programmes or bills of fare?

The porter said there were, and, he believed, some still left in the office. He would fetch them if the lady would wait.

The lady waited in as inconspicuous a place as possible, for she feared that some of the waiters and chambermaids who had given evidence at Bow Street that afternoon, might return and recognise her; not that it would matter very much, she reminded herself, or really interfere with her plans at all, but she would prefer to come and go unobserved.

The waiter returned with a polite regret that nothing was known of the Rev. Dean and his wife, nor of any room that was booked for such people. Belle also had her regrets—she was sorry to have given so much trouble. Perhaps she had mistaken the hotel.

With a smile of gratitude she accepted the little package of papers which the hall porter gave her and slipped them into her reticule beside the note which the stationer's boy had brought her from the Hobart. Then she was out again in the fog.

Time to go home? No, better go direct to the theatre. She would be an object of curiosity there to-night. How they would question her—how they would crowd about her. If only she could get away from the Cambridge—and the very name of "Belle Adair."

Nothing much could be done while she was thus enmeshed in circumstances and while she had her living to get. There was that ugly fact—the thirty shillings a week at the Cambridge was her only means of existence, and even though she spent nothing on drink, even though she had had the five pounds to set her up in a new habit, it was still necessary to be very careful. If only she could have a dressing-mom to herself—six or seven girls now had to use that wretched cubicle under the stage where she had to put on nightly the bedraggled pink skirt, the soiled green bodice, the yellow wig, the fantastic cap like the calyx of a flower.

"Well, well, it's no use thinking like that. I must be sure not to make a mistake. So far everything has been lucky—or not so lucky? What of Lili Schoppe?—was that luck?" She did not know. "Am I quite sure of Roger Owen? A fool." But Belle had had the most poignant experience of how perilous fools could be. Then Superintendent Matchwell, that shrewd, experienced, quiet man—he would not drop the case, even though Herr Morl might be acquitted. He would be—slowly, patiently, secretly, no doubt—investigating into the mystery of the murder of Daisy Arrow—into the mystery of the identity of the tall young man who had been seen at the Argyll Rooms, waiting outside the fruiterer's shop while Daisy Arrow made her Christmas purchase, hurrying down the empty, foggy, stained street by Annie Western slopping over the step and finally by the waiter that drab Christmas morning in the breakfast-room of Jarvis's Royal Hotel.

Walking, for all her energy, very slowly towards the theatre, Belle came to a pause beneath a street lamp, opened her reticule, and glanced at the papers before her the programme of concerts and dances on December 22nd, December 23rd, December 24th, 1868. She slipped these back and pulled out the envelope and slit it open. This contained, besides the date and the two initials "MM" at the bottom, four words: "I shall be there."

* * *

Belle knelt on the rough red hassock, her elbows on the pale, varnished pew, her face in her hands. It was an uncomfortable attitude—she maintained it as a penance for her own impatience. She had bought a knot of snowdrops when passing through Covent Garden—early costly flowers, cold and strong—she had laid them beside the rubbed broken-backed Prayer Book, and through her fingers she looked steadily at these two objects, the dingy book, the cluster of the pure flowers. She had never been in St. Paul's church before. It was, she thought, a dismal harbourage from the dirt and turmoil of the common street. The atmosphere was not unlike that of Bow Street police court; here, as there, an unnatural light from high-placed windows gleamed on light varnished seats, but in the church instead of a royal likeness and framed sheets of rules and regulations, there were busts of the dead in dusty niches and mural tablets that marked their praises with Latin inscriptions, and instead of the magistrate's seat, a prim altar with brassy ornaments. An old pew-opener was shuffling about with a duster and a broom. "Why," thought Belle, "does she keep looking at me? Is it so strange for someone to come in here to pray?" She had not reckoned on the company of that crooked, coughing woman. She had thought, indeed, that she would have the church to herself—that was why she had chosen this peculiar place. The presence of this contemptible stranger spying on her with hostile eyes, which seemed to penetrate her own concentration on her own designs, a little shook her courage.

She was attempting something very difficult, and she had no one to advise or help her—a single false step and she might be in a deeper morass than that from which she was endeavouring to extricate herself. Not, of course, she instantly reminded herself, that she had anything to lose, but since Christmas morning, when hope had suddenly revived in her shocked heart, she had found herself building plans for the future. Now, suddenly, all her schemes seemed impossible.

Supposing he did not come? Supposing that he defied her and escaped? He had plenty of means of leaving the country. What could she, penniless and forlorn, do in the way of pursuit if he should choose that course? Surely he would think of that—escape and the impossibility of her pursuit.

Yet she comforted herself by the reflection that his sudden and sensational popularity would bold him in London. He had become a hero of the people—he could not be so ungracious or so tactless as to fly from these lavish amends for an atrocious mistake that were being so generously offered?

Why won't that woman leave off shuffling about with her broom and her duster? As if anything would ever get the dirt off this place. She never thinks of those statues up there, with dust on them like grey wigs and cobwebs among their antique robes.

Belle shifted from her cramped position, dropped her hands from her face and gave the old pew-opener, who was quite close to her, a prolonged stare. She was glad to see that this caused the prying woman some uneasiness; she shuffled away, and presently went into the vestry.

"She's afraid, I suppose, that I might complain that she was disturbing my devotions. Now, what time can it be? There's no clock in this place; I suppose he's going to be late, but then I was too early—it may not be much past the time."

All her senses were naturally acute, and now, on the alert. She heard the church door open cautiously and cautiously close—she did not need to look round. Then a hushed step came up the aisle; he would see her at once, of course; she did not envy him his sensation on entering the bleak church and seeing that one neat figure in the decorous grey kneeling in the empty pew awaiting him with ruthless patience.

She picked up the little bunch of snowdrops and held them in her pretty hands; how early they were—forced under glass or from the South of England. Why had she bought them? It was a long time since she had purchased flowers.

He entered the pew and knelt down a few paces away. She glanced at him quickly, sideways. He was praying, his face hidden in his hands.

"There's no need for such hypocrisy," she thought contemptuously, and then it occurred to her that perhaps the young man's supplication was genuine—the overflowing of a sincere anguish.

He remained so long thus—with his shoulders bowed and his face hidden—that she became impatient; she feared the reappearance of the pew-opener from the vestry; she rose, moved towards him and whispered:

"We can't stay here—there's an old woman about. I did not think of that; I'm not used to churches."

Without looking up he asked under his breath:

"Where, then, shall we go? Are you being watched or followed?"

"I don't think so."

He raised his head at that, but did not look at her, but stared straight ahead of him at the bare altar, on which were three metallic gleams on the brass crucifix and the two brass vases.

"I don't want to be seen here," he muttered.

"We must talk," said Belle, "but we can't here; even this whispering may bring here that old creature."

"Need we talk? I suppose what you want is very simple—what you have to say is soon said?"

"Perhaps not so simple nor so soon said," she replied. "I await your suggestions."

At that the young man looked at her, and she was the one who flinched He seemed to have greatly changed since she had seen him in the dock at Bow Street police station, since she had stared at him prone on the dirty floor. Which was the true personality—this or that?

"What shall I call you?"

"Miss Adair—that will do for the present."

"So—then, Miss Adair, it seems to me that we have this church to ourselves; Dr. Schoppe told me you could speak German?" It was in that language he addressed her; she nodded, and he continued: "Tell me what you have to say here and now."

"I don't think I know German well enough to tell you all I have to. I might lose a shade of meaning," whispered Belle.

"So might I in your language, with which I am not so very familiar."

Belle glanced down at his hands grasping his high hat. She was quite certain that he was more nearly her equal and more to be respected and admired than she had supposed. Yes, that air of bewildered innocence, of manly simplicity that he had maintained so skilfully in the dock must have been a pose. This conviction of his strength made her more ruthless.

"Come outside," she said, "it is growing dark and we can walk about a little while without being observed."

She picked up the bunch of snowdrops and went slowly through the pale fading light, passed the dusty likenesses of 'the dead and the mural tablets blurring into the shadows, and so came out through the heavy door into the little paved yard which was full of tombstones.

He had followed her with a stealthy movement; she noted that he was light of foot.

"Were you really praying just now?" she asked him as they come to pause side by side among the neat graves.

"If I was, you would be scarcely able to understand why. Need we talk of that?"

"No, I suppose not. Tell me, sir, for how long are you in London? Der König von Bayern has sailed."

"Yes, without me and without Dr. Schoppe. I don't think I'm going to South America. Everything has changed."

"Oh, why?" smiled Belle. "You are the hero of the hour—they are getting up a public subscription for you, are they not? I believe that will amount to a great deal of money. After all, this mistake on the part of the police has proved very fortunate for you."

When he did not reply nor look at her, but stood rigid with something of that fixity in his attitude that he had shown in the dock, she added:

"This money, this public money, collected as an expression of horror and regret at the mistake made by the English police—it will be very useful to you, will it not, in your missionary efforts?"

"What do you want from me?" he asked. "They will be locking up the church soon, and the woman mustn't come out and see us here."

"Locking up the church?" smiled Belle. "There is nothing to treasure there. I wonder why they lock it." She added: "Let us walk along, it is certainly cold standing."

They passed out of the tall, narrow, iron gates into the street; through the gathering evening vapours gleamed the last radiance of the faint winter sunlight. Belle luxuriously drew her warm, new, grey shawl about her shoulders; the young man stuck his chin in the collar of his coat and his hands into his pockets; they fell into step.

"I suppose you want money?"

"Yes," said Belle, "and at once. I suppose Dr. Schoppe told you what I said to him when I went to see him?"

"Yes, he told me, and said he was a fool to have given you those five pounds, and that he regretted it, but at the time he was upset, half crazy. And now once he's begun to give you money, I suppose he must go on."

"I suppose, so," said Belle. "But stop, let us look into this shop window." The lights were not yet lit, but they could see the case of boots and shoes. "Anyone who passes would take us for a young husband and wife. Look, you should be choosing me a pair of boots—those grey cloth ones with the black strappings, eh?"

He did as she suggested, and stood staring through the plate-glass of the bootmaker's shop at the three or four pairs of ladies' boots arranged on wooden trees daintily arrayed on the shelves.

"I want more than money," whispered Belle close to him.

"Perhaps Dr. Schoppe will have prepared you for my demands? I want a chance to get out from where I am. But there's no need to dwell on my business nor my prospects—we won't ever mention them again. It's quite enough for you to know that I'd decided to do for myself what someone else did for Daisy Arrow—and with the same weapon, too. Well, I hadn't the courage and I hadn't the interest."

"What do you want of me?"

"We shall come to that. There is no need for you to be impatient, Mr. Morl. After all, we shall probably have to meet quite a good deal and so become used to one another; but first we must find some place where we can talk."

"Tell me what you want!" He repeated his demand in a harsher tone.

"I've said—a chance."

"A chance of what?"

"Of returning to the life I've left and doing something more worth while than anything I've been doing for some years now."

"Do you think that I can give you such a chance?"

"Hush, don't speak so loud."

"There is no one about," he replied, "let's walk on. The wind in the street seems to blow sharp as—a knife."

"I had not noticed any wind at all, although it's cold."

They walked slowly over the greasy, uneven pavements, he still with his hands in his pockets and she holding up her skirts; in the crook of her arm dangled her large new reticule.

"First," said she, "I want sufficient money to enable me to leave the Cambridge, where I dance in rags every night to a stupid piece of music that I have heard so often that it's for ever beating in my brain. I loathe the place and the people I meet there. I want to disappear from that life and those people. Do you understand?"

"How much money?"

"Whatever you've brought with you. I suppose you didn't come empty-handed?"

"Oh no, I understood that it would be a case of blackmail!"

"Don't use ugly words," said Belle, "I don't like them. I want to get away from vile language and odious terms."

Without looking at her or taking any notice of her close presence, the young man said:

"I've brought a hundred pounds with me—it was as much as I could get in English money. It seems to me quite enough. Perhaps you will take it and go away."

"You must know," replied Belle, "that I'm not the same sort of woman as Daisy Arrow—a hundred pounds isn't so very much to me."

"No?" he replied in an expressionless voice. "Well, perhaps what you can do for that hundred pounds is not so much to me. I have been acquitted of a very absurd charge, the mistake the police made is causing quite a scandal."

"Quite a scandal," echoed Belle. "We had better be careful; we are in a neighbourhood where we are both quite well known; let us turn by the back streets towards the City, now we're beginning to get near the neighbourhood of Holborn again."

Muttering, "I don't know my way about your infernal town," the young man followed Belle's directions.

"Please walk quite close to me and listen clearly to what I have to say," she said. "You think that a hundred pounds should be sufficient for the service I can render you. Now what do you think that service is?"

"Merely not to lie about me. I know quite well that it is in your power to invent some sort of tale. You might, for instance, even have gone so far as to say that you saw me on Christmas morning—say on the stairs—say pausing on the landing; you might have identified that voice you heard as my voice. It was because Dr. Schoppe thought that you were a most dangerous and unscrupulous woman that he gave you the five pounds, and it's because I share his opinion, Miss Adair, that I'm willing to offer you a hundred pounds."

"It didn't occur to you that any of those other women living at No. 12 were dangerous and unscrupulous?"

"They didn't threaten us, they didn't try blackmail," replied the young clergyman, "they were content to speak the truth, miserable wretches that they were."

"I should be quite content to speak the truth."

"If you altered the tale you told in the witness-box, you would have to confess to perjury. I suppose you haven't forgotten that?"

"No, I haven't, but that wouldn't matter very much; I should be let off quite lightly. I could make up a very good tale."

"Could you? Do you think it would be believed?"

They walked on towards the City through back ways; the vapour of dusk thickened around them. They were away from the route of the traffic, the omnibuses, cabs and private carriages taking business men home. Save for a few beggars, they had the dismal streets to themselves.

"Need we prolong this?" asked the young man. "I cannot be away so long without being questioned as to my whereabouts. It is very difficult for me."

"Why did you come at all?" asked Belle. "Why do you concern yourself about a poor, nameless, homeless woman, one of Mrs. Bulke's lodgers at No. 12, who's trying to blackmail you with a few lies? I should have thought you'd have gone to your advisers—to your Consul, to your lawyer—and put them on the track of the insolent wretch; besides, Mr. Morl," she said, peering round and up at his face through the thick vapours of the dusk, "it would very much add to the sympathy that the public feels for you, if they thought that such an atrocious trick was being played on you."

"I don't want any more trouble. I don't want to hear anything about it at all. I loathe the sensation that is being made. I don't want their money or their apology, I want to get away—to forget. I've others to think of—Oh, God!"

"I have not any others or any God to think of," said Belle. "I've only myself. I am in that position that I can concentrate upon myself. When I've thought of others I've made mistakes, I've been a fool through those others. Now, you understand, I'm just thinking of myself. You can give me before you leave me that hundred pounds, and we must meet again, and quickly—there's no time to lose."

He put his hand into the bosom of his coat, the attitude with which she had become so familiar when he had stood in the dock.

"I have the money here. Can't you let that be an end of it?"

"No, no, it's only the beginning of it. You used the word 'blackmail' just now, and I didn't like it. Well, if you are thinking of blackmail, you ought to know that a blackmailer never stops."

The young man paused, still with his hands in the bosom of his coat. He stared down at Belle; she noted with approval that he was a fine young creature, half a head taller than she was, for all her slender height; comely, unusual: why had she not noticed that before?

"You have some courage," he said, with a quick smile that seemed for the first time to recognise her personality.

"Have I? Yes, I think I was born fearless; it never helped me much."

He looked at her keenly for the first time since they had met. She could see that he was forcing himself to this scrutiny—studying her with a dreadful curiosity and a lively apprehension, as she had studied him when he had stood in the dock. His strong teeth dragged at his lips as he stared at her under a dark frowning brow he moved back from her a scarcely perceptible pace.

"I was wrong—you are not fearless, only infinitely degraded—you no longer know what fear is, nor shame, nor dignity, nor decency."

Belle sighed, pulled her handkerchief from her wrist, and wiped her lips. "I've never cut anybody's throat."

In reply, the young man took her elbow and moved her quickly forward, forcing her into a rapid walk.

"Don't you understand," he muttered hoarsely, "that it was a case of suicide, that was what those fools of police couldn't grasp—so busy hunting for a murderer—there is no murderer—they'll never find the murderer of Daisy Arrow, no such person exists."

"That's quite clever," gasped Belle as they hurried along, "but you forget the water in the basin, the marks on the towel and even on her face—the print of a hand, you know."

"How did you know?" he asked her suddenly.

"Oh, it's all in the evidence at the inquest and the magistrate's inquiry."

"Was it?" he muttered to himself. "Was it?" Then impetuously: "But that's nothing to do with it—the truth is what neither you nor anyone seem to understand. She wounded herself and killed herself, and the unfortunate, the unhappy man who happened to be with her, tried to stanch the bleeding. There was a bandage round her throat, wasn't there?"

Belle did not reply, but still hurried with him along over the foul pavement, past the blank, dark houses. Dusk was closing in on them; a street lamplighter moved a little ahead of them—one after another the gas-lamps flared up till there was a chain of dull lights ahead of them.

"He tried to save her—to help her, in doing that he stained his hands and had to wash them."

"Nobody," panted Belle, "would believe such a story. Is that what you would have brought forward if somebody had identified you definitely as the man who had been her companion? Is that what your lawyer suggested? What about the note-paper? The lost valise?"

The young man did not reply. Belle said coolly:

"It wouldn't do. It's the excuse every murderer brings up—suicide, and that he was afraid, so he tried to conceal it. Clever, but never any use."

"Yet, you believe it, you must believe it, or I suppose you'd scarcely be here with me now. After all, Daisy Arrow wasn't the first woman of her class to get murdered, and won't be the last. I really lost the bag."

"You're talking wildly," sighed Belle. "Step back under this lamp for a moment and let the lighter get a little further ahead of us. Now, you can give me the money; no one's watching us, I shan't be robbed. It's rather late for a respectable woman to be out alone in the street—after dark, eh? You may, if you please, take me back to my room. Tomorrow I shall be in a decent lodging. You lost the bag, but there was no note-paper in it."

He stopped, as she suggested, and took his hand from his bosom with a package in it and gave it to her. She glanced at the notes in the elastic band and then transferred them to her bosom, unfastening two buttons of the tight, grey bodice.

"Now cannot that be an end of it? Indeed, I think it's got to be an end of it. I shall not take any more notice of anything you say or do."

"Don't waste time," she replied, "with talk like that. I must see you again to-morrow. I've got some property of yours to return. Come, let us go back. It is very dismal here, so cold, so dark."

The young man was silent. Belle noticed, and with admiration, his control, which she was sure he was having a hard fight to maintain. Only when he had advanced his theory that the death of Daisy Arrow was a suicide had he shown any emotion, and that had died down as quickly as it had flared up; quickly he had been cold again, cold as hell, she had thought, thinking of that picture of The Last Judgment she could not get out of her mind.

Belle did not find it necessary to say anything at all. They walked side by side until they were within a few yards of where she lodged in Holborn. Then she paused and asked:

"You heard what I said?—that I'll give you your property."

"Yes, but I don't understand."

"I shall have to explain it all—but not here, to-morrow afternoon in the Museum—in the long sculpture gallery."

"I cannot come." He spoke with a hint of anguish breaking his control. "It will cause suspicion—I shall be questioned."

"That is your affair. You must come, Mr. Morl, it's very important."

* * *

They met behind the monstrous sarcophagus of dark granite, whose heavy shadow darkened the already heavy gloom of the sculpture gallery. Either side of them were towering statues of uncouth gods looming into obscurity; the air was close and stale, yet chilly.

When they peered round the involved shadows they could see winged, crowned creatures, inhuman and implacable, dark as midnight and gigantic beyond the horrid enlargement of dreams.

They had met without difficulty behind one of the pillars of the portico that was so large that they had appeared to themselves and each other as dwarfed and insignificant.

For a while they had wandered in the enclosed winter half-light of the gallery, neither speaking. Then they had paused behind the sarcophagus; save for one or two sightseers, who silently and, it seemed, timidly tiptoed through the galleries, they were alone.

His first words came unexpectedly to her ear:

"What has happened to the snowdrops you wore yesterday?"

"They became soiled and faded and I threw them away."

There was a small highly-polished bench against the wall; behind it there was in a glass case a portion of sandstone frieze traced with figures in violent red and blue.

She seated herself and invited him to do so also.

"I see you have changed your attire," he muttered, "to mourning and a crape veil."

"I, have changed everything since yesterday," she answered. "I have found a decent room in Gower Street: Everything that I possessed, at least nearly everything that I possessed, everything except the contents of a certain carpet-bag, I have destroyed. Another woman will dance the 'Moss Rose' waltz to-night at the Cambridge. They think that I have gone away to Paris. I have left no trace with anyone."

"Or so you think," he answered. "What you try to do will not be easy to accomplish; you are of a very theatrical turn of mind—all these tricks are very effective until someone tries to find you out."

"But nobody will," answered Belle. "I'm not important enough." She added in a low, confidential tone: "I see you, too have changed your attire—that is another coat from that you were wearing yesterday. You buy your clothes in London, sometimes ready-made, like your handkerchiefs, eh?"

"I have no wish to be recognised; if you'd look at the papers you would see that I have become a person of importance. I have had a letter of apology from your Prime Minister—I am invited to see him, the public sent him large sums for a subscription to be opened for my benefit."

He spoke without irony or humour; he attracted Belle more than she had believed it possible he could do. He had interested her as a prisoner in the dock; she had thought him wild and wilful, a little effeminate—somewhat raw; there was, in reality, she decided, nothing of those defects about him He had none of the qualities she disliked; he possessed, on the contrary, the qualities that she much admired, cool elegance of mind and person, of speech and gesture, hard sophistication—he seemed a man who had fashioned his own personality to his own liking as she had fashioned her own personality to her own liking.

But he had been successful where she had failed—yet not so successful either. Was he not, seated beside her now, hiding, under his hard-fought-for reserve, torment of humiliation and rage?

She liked him well enough to endeavour, before she came directly to her business (which was, of course, her chief, almost her only concern), to reassure what she guessed must be his private apprehension and alarm.

"I don't want you to suppose," she said in a very low tone, after glancing round the sarcophagus to see if there was any possible spy impinging on them, "that I was carried away by all this hue and cry and clamour—about the murder, I mean—I shouldn't altogether loathe and despise whoever it was that put an end to Daisy Arrow. Understand me—I should not shrink from such a man or dread him or fear him; I think there might be a good reason; I don't think that she was worth very much. I haven't any longer conventional ideas of morality of these things."

"It doesn't matter," he replied in a tone that was even lower than hers. "Daisy Arrow killed herself."

"Oh well," said Belle, "at any rate, the whole affair has proved very fortunate for you—I must make my count out of it, too."

She hesitated—she who so seldom hesitated—for a moment; then studied his outline, which was almost as dark as the surroundings; though he was not in complete mourning, he was most soberly dressed. She wished she knew more of his history. That tale now—it seemed to satisfy the police—about the noble wealthy youth giving up everything to enter the Church—good works—the missionary efforts—engagement to a girl like Lili Schoppe. Nonsense, thought Belle; but that was no business of hers nor pertinent to the matter in hand; she must be careful not to confuse issues nor to lose sight of her own advantage.

"I daresay," she whispered, "you are a little curious about me. I confess I am a little curious about you, but we cannot indulge ourselves; perhaps in time we shall find out more about one another."

"I hope," said he, looking down at the cold stone of the pavement, "I shall never see you again."

"But you will certainly see me again, sir. I want you to take me with you when you return to Germany."

He sat so still that he did not seem even to breathe, the shadows and his dark clothing, his hunched and huddled attitude gave him an uncouth shape, a harsh outline almost like that of one of the statues of the menacing half-gods, half-monsters, behind him.

Belle put forward what she had to say in concise, carefully rehearsed words; it was so important that he should understand her earnestness, should not in the least mistake her intentions, should not for a second endeavour to make her swerve from them.

"Over here I can do nothing. It would be too difficult. As you yourself remarked just now—any poor pretences I might put about myself could soon be torn away. I want to start again, I want to have another chance. I am only seven-and-twenty—younger, I think, by five years than you are. You must know what it is to want another chance, you must have felt that as you stood in the dock. Well, you got it, didn't you? I want mine."

"Through me?" he asked in a low voice, so low that the two words seemed blended in one sigh.

"Of course, who else is there?"

"I suppose Dr. Schoppe will help you?"

She put her proposal before him flatly.

He was to allow her to come to Germany under his protection and that of his friends; he was to introduce her somehow to some post in his native country—governess, companion, secretary—where she might begin a new life, find a fresh foothold in society. She assured him that she had credentials, that she had been in such posts before; it would only be a question of altering the names and dates and that she was able to do. No one must ever associate her with Belle Adair. Dr. Schoppe would know, of course, so would Lili his daughter, "but she will lie for you like she did before," smiled Belle quietly, "in the witness-box."

He looked at her over his shoulder, only his eyes visible above the upturned collar of his coat, his words coming muffled through the thick cloth.

"Lili did not lie for me, she told the truth; but, of course, I couldn't have her brought into this or in the company of a woman like yourself. Neither could I take you to my own country and introduce you to anyone. Besides, I don't know who needs a companion or a governess."

"No doubt there will be difficulties," conceded Belle, "but they are your difficulties, not mine. I don't expect to go into court society or even into city life, at least not at once. I want respectability about me again; I want to be treated like a gentlewoman; I want to have servants under me and respectable women as my friends; I want to have a chance to show my talents. There are quite a number of things I can do very well—sketch for one, Mr. Morl. I am most clever at sketching likenesses, from life and from memory. I am well educated," she added, "I can speak French and German; I know the piano. Well, never mind my accomplishments, I shall not disgrace you, whatever post you decide for me."

"How could I possibly," he said, "explain you after all this scandal, this uproar here in London?—how bring you back with me?"

"You could arrange that with Dr. Schoppe, I suppose, like you arranged, well, other things—your alibi for one."

"I arranged nothing with Dr. Schoppe. You are mistaken again."

"Well, then, your lawyer did. You know you weren't present at that ball that party—whatever they called it—on Christmas Eve."

"Was I not? There were a great number of people who said I was."

"They were either bribed or confused. I've been to the hotel. I have a list of their festivities for Christmas week; there was one every night. I heard from Mr. Matchwell that that was quite an easy way to fake an alibi—to transfer the events of one day to those of another. No doubt, some of those people gave what they thought was honest evidence."

"There was no concocted tale," he insisted sternly, "nobody told a lie."

"I think the little girl did. Why was she so overwhelmed? Why wasn't she better pleased when you got off?"

"Don't forget that young, innocent people suffer needless emotion owing to sheer delicacy of feeling."

"Bah! Lili had been over-persuaded or bullied by her father or your lawyer or your friends into giving the testimony that she did."

"Lili couldn't lie," he protested in a faint voice. "It would kill her to tell a falsehood."

"Perhaps it will kill her," said Belle, "but it's no concern of mine. I don't think she'll be difficult, though I'm worried about it a little. She may suspect me and hate me, but after all, I suppose she knows nothing; she doesn't even understand me very well. She was quite ill from shock and that effort she made to give false witness, I suppose. Don't try to deceive me; whoever was speaking the truth, she wasn't, and she knew it," added Belle firmly, peering through the shadows.

"We won't speak of her, Miss Adair."

"As you please. I would, indeed, rather speak of myself. But I am no longer Miss Adair—I am Miss Rastell, my mother's name, I have a certain right to it."

"All these masquerades are fantastic." But he made no effort to leave her or to bring the conversation to a close.

"Yes, we are getting too wordy, and that is what I wish to avoid. But it is difficult, with a few sentences, to make everything clear."

"There are some things, however, madame, that I must have clear. You say that you have some property of mine."

"Ah, yes."

"And that you were minded to return it."

"Did I? Well, I haven't got it with me now, but I will show it to you soon. It is very inconvenient that we should have to meet like this—isn't it?"

"What can it be that you have in mind? I think you are merely trying to gain a hold over me."

"I'll tell you one thing," said Belle rapidly ("speak very low, there are two people coming to look at the sarcophagus, or don't speak at all. No, they have merely gaped and moved on. What fools to come to this place to look at these monstrous horrors in the half-dark!). Well, what was I saying—some property of yours? Yes, a letter you wrote once, several years ago, and I have it. It was given me by Mr. Roger Owen—that's Daisy Arrow's brother, Martha Owen was her real name, you know."

The two sightseers, heavy country folk, came round the black sarcophagus, and stared sheepishly at the young man and woman as if they feared they had disturbed two lovers hiding from prying curiosity in this gloomy seclusion. Then they were gone and there was only the echo of their footfalls in the high dreary gallery with the lowering statues, half-men, half-beasts, half-gods and half-angels; it seemed as if a moment of rigidity had given a false likeness of coherence to chaos.

The young man and the young woman remained sitting on the pale, shiny, varnished bench, she in her cheap ready-made, slightly ill-fitting mourning, with the heavy crape veil; he, in his clumsy ready-made overcoat, both of them thus disguised, not only from possible enemies, but from themselves.

Belle respected her opponent's silence, which she took to be a flag of truce held out while he arranged the terms of his proffered capitulation; but he was not so near surrender as she supposed.

When he did speak it was to mutter:

"I don't believe you could prove anything."

She replied at once and with deadly emphasis:

"Daisy Arrow's murderer left something behind in her room."

At this he turned and stared at her—she saw nothing but the dark, tired, strained eyes above the thick coat collar.

"If he had, the police would have found it."

"No," said Belle, "I was there before the police."

He turned his head away—she saw his profile sharply cut, as if in black paper, against the blur of light sent from the high-placed window.

The keeper's bell sounded—a dismal clang echoing beyond the gallery—"All out, all out."

"Do you hear? Closing time," said Belle, rising. "Come along, we must not attract attention by lingering here."

He rose also and said on a half-sigh:

"Very well, I will come and see you to-morrow morning. What is your address?"

* * *

In the neat, drab little parlour which, having housed so many different individualities, had retained no impression of any of these individualities, Belle turned over a pile of newspapers and read the different accounts, written from varying angles, of the scandalous mistake of the police in the affair of Daisy Arrow and the crime at No. 12, Great Hogarth Street; and of the national remorse so widespread and so sincere, towards the falsely-accused young man.

Oh, there was so much in his favour! He was a German, he was a clergyman; he was of romantic good looks, and given to a career of impeccable piety. A most regrettable, a most dreadful mistake had indeed been made. The British Government had offered compensation: Mr. Morl's fare, nay the fares of all his friends and their expenses during their involuntary detention in London, either to South America, which was supposed to be their destination, or back to Germany, if their plans had been altered through the ghastly misfortune they had so unhappily encountered in London. The Prime Minister's letter to the aggrieved young pastor was printed in full in the papers; not only was the Government prepared to pay the cost of the defence and all other possible expenses incurred through the mistake of the police, but wrote Mr. Lestrange of the Treasury:

I am further desired by the Prime Minister to request you to express to Mr. Morl his sympathy for the painful position in which he has been placed.

Belle folded up the papers neatly, relaxed in the deep, comfortable arm-chair, placing her hands gracefully behind her small head, and stared down at the large fire.

Yes, this was an improvement on her life of the last few years; warmth and good food, clean rooms with decent clothes, and a little maid to say "ma'am" to her.

She was very pleased that she had been able, in her equivocal circumstances, to find such a respectable lodging. It had not been easy for her, a single woman with new luggage, to persuade the silly respectable little landlady into accepting her. But Belle had done it with her cool easy manner and her quietly affecting story of the death of her sole surviving parent and the following necessity of her coming to London to settle her affairs, and her casual display of a pocket-book full of notes to show that she was able to pay well for everything. She was so obviously correct in her behaviour; her clothes, her manner, her luggage, everything about her was so exactly as the landlady had thought it should be, that she had been, only a few hours after leaving the Cambridge Theatre for the last time, placidly installed in this decent harbourage.

The success of this first move and the comfort of these genteel surroundings were like a strong cordial to her, while the thought of the sum of money—nearly eighty pounds—unspent, locked away upstairs in her new trunk, was to her the source of almost inexhaustible contentment.

She lay there at her ease, the reflection of the tall leaping flame gleaming in the folds of her full black skirt. She smiled with irony at herself; she was quite capable of mocking at the idiosyncrasies, the contradictions, the twists and the turns she found in her own character.

This was really a dingy, ugly room in a dingy, ugly house, and she had been forced to buy hideous clothes—funereal, unbecoming—all the pretty things she had seen in the shops in her hurried visit that morning she had been obliged to forgo.

Yet, she was full of joy, she the very woman who only a few years ago would have refused to set foot in such a house as this, who would have refused to wear such clothes as these, who would have scornfully rejected anything less than luxury, gaiety and beauty.

"Strange, indeed," she mocked to herself, "that a short time in houses like No. 12, a brief period in work like that I was doing at the Cambridge, and a few weeks of walking the streets, should make me so greedy of this scarecrow, respectability, like a starving dog is greedy of a drink in a puddle, or a rotten bone. Of what value is this place? I am superior to the woman who keeps it and everyone else who has ever lived here. Probably at heart she is no better than Mrs. Bulke, and I daresay not so good company. Those two pinched-looking spinsters on the first floor—they're not so amusing as Florrie and May, and I don't suppose that red-nosed chit of a servant girl is as good-hearted as poor Moll."

She looked around her with contempt.

"Everything here is ugly—the wall-paper, the furniture, the pictures, the carpet—detestable. Yet, I am thankful to be here—and quite happy in this pretence of being a poor, quiet, country creature—bereaved, alone in London, looking for work."

* * *

She heard the bell ring and the maid go to the door. She did not move from her careless attitude.

He was punctual; the black marble clock gave the exact hour that she had indicated; it was well that he should from the first learn to be obedient.

But her complacency turned to rage when the door opened and the maid's "A gentleman to see you, miss," introduced Dr. Schoppe.

She kept her head, however, instantly reflecting that this benevolent-looking elderly man would keep up her character in the house; he would pass very well for the family doctor or lawyer, or some uncle, or her father's friend, as long as he was not already too notorious in London, and recognised even by these sober people who never, of course, went to the police courts and seldom, she supposed, read the reports of criminal cases in the papers.

Belle had been forced to rise for the sake of appearances in front of the maid when Dr. Schoppe had entered, had even greeted him with some appearance of cordiality. But when the door had closed she flung herself again in the deep arm-chair in a casual attitude, and said at once:

"This is all a waste of time, you know. It is your friend whom I want to see."

"He is my friend," replied the German stoutly, "and I am in his confidence. That's why I am here. He cannot come, it was most unwise of him to see you again. His time is scarcely his own. You know what people do for him."

"Oh yes, I was reading about it—a subscription of money, a letter from the Prime Minister."

"Yes, and other things, too. He is much in favour. The Prime Minister has asked him to wait on him. People are very indignant at this dreadful mistake."

"I've just been reading all that in the paper," said Belle energetically, "So don't let us waste time talking about it. Don't you know me by now, Dr. Schoppe. You say you are in your friend's confidence—then he has told you what I want. Are you returning to Germany?"

"Yes, yes, we do not now go to Brazil—all that is changed."

"Why?" asked Belle directly. "Mr. Morl has been triumphantly cleared, has he not? He will have all this extra money to spend among the heathens, or the savages, or whatever they are, out there."

"I have my daughter."

"Ah, she won't go, I suppose."

"No, my poor girl prefers to return to our own country—to Germany."

"Very well. Mr. Morl has told you what I want of you—some introduction to some decent post. I needn't go all over it again, I suppose?"

"No, you needn't go over it again," replied Dr. Schoppe heavily. "I may sit down? You did not ask me, but I am very tired."

"Oh, sit down, but I don't think we shall have much to say to one another."

The stout man sat down wearily with a little groan, which Belle did not think was caused by physical distress.

"Listen," he said in a low, but emphatic voice. "What you ask is impossible. I could not have you associated with my daughter. Besides, she would recognise you. You have been kind—we were foreigners, and you helped us in a most dreadful situation-that is understood. We have made our acknowledgment."

"A hundred pounds."

"I beg your pardon, a hundred and five pounds, is it not? We can do no more," said Dr. Schoppe, wiping his forehead and breathing quickly. "You must understand that we can do no more. You can have nothing to say that would be of the least interest to the police; besides, the case is closed."

"It could soon be opened again. But, sir, I don't want to argue about it. We could lose ourselves in words about this business. I am quite ready to return to Germany with you. I could take a passage on the same boat, or on the same train if you go overland; I can arrange that our departure together will not be in the least conspicuous. Then when we are in Germany, I will come forward under the name I now use and you and your friends must introduce me to some decent means of earning my livelihood. Is it so much to ask?"

"Perhaps not," conceded Dr. Schoppe, speaking uneasily and glancing from side to side, down at the pattern of crimson roses in the new carpet. "Perhaps not, naturally one likes to help the unfortunate. In return for what you have done for us it would be pleasant to give you a fresh start, but we know no such household where you would be acceptable. We are not aware of any lady who is looking for a companion; if we knew of such a one, how could we guarantee that she would accept you on our recommendation?"

"That may be," said Belle coolly, "but, as I told Mr. Morl yesterday, these difficulties are yours, not mine."

"I have to think of my daughter, I have to think of my daughter."

"Think of her as much as you please, Dr. Schoppe, but I have to think of myself. If there is no one who is likely to be able to offer me a place, you must one of you take me into your own home."

"Ah, not that! You are a woman of sense—you must understand that you ask the impossible!"

"Please, Dr. Schoppe, this is a quiet house and I don't wish attention attracted to us. Will you lower your voice? Your heard my terms."

"Terms! You name them terms."

"Oh," exclaimed Belle impatiently and wearily, "I find all this so tedious. Perhaps you have no establishment to which I could go. I do not know if you are a widower or not. But the young clergyman, Mr. Morl, he has a mother. Well, I take it she is not so young. Surely he has sufficient influence with her to decide that she requires a companion—a quiet, cultured Englishwoman, kind to him and his Lili during their great trouble in London, of which, of course, she will hear something, if not everything, or even very much?"

Dr. Schoppe made a gesture with his thick hand as if violently repelled by this suggestion; he controlled himself and remarked quietly:

"You would not like it, she's a very quiet lady and lives in just an ordinary house in the woods, what you would call a villa—nothing splendid, no life, no gaiety, not the kind of time you want."

"You don't know the kind of time I want," smiled Belle. "You don't know what I've been through, how I've suffered. But never mind. I should like that—a house in the woods—it would mean repose, quiet; besides, I suppose she doesn't always live in her country house, she might go to town sometimes; I mightn't even stay there long. I just want a place where I can get my health and strength—I'm not so well as I used to be—where I could learn to forget things. I've a good deal to forget, Dr. Schoppe. You see I'm young enough to want to start again. It would satisfy me quite well if Pastor Morl would take me to live with his mother."

"It's a disgusting and shameful thing to ask," broke from the stiff lips of the German.

"Perhaps," said Belle, "it's a disgusting and shameful thing that I am asked to conceal."

"If you refer to the death of that miserable woman, I would to God she had never been born. It was suicide; an unfortunate coincidence—a devilish combination of circumstances. My friend is innocent, do you hear? If it were not so could he still be my friend?"

"I don't know about that," replied Belle. "You are all strangers to me. But I do know enough to make you all uneasy if I spoke."

"Do you, do you?"

"Well, it wouldn't be very pleasant, would it, for this pious young clergyman, or for his betrothed wife, your daughter Lili, an innocent young girl, if I said what I know. Why, he might as well confess to being the murderer, as confess to being Daisy Arrow's companion that night at No. 12."

Dr. Schoppe stared at her, then put his thick hand before his eyes.

Belle continued rapidly and with emphasis:

"I don't know what you all arranged to do, or how many lies you've told. That alibi was never looked into—there was great prejudice in his favour—because of his nationality and profession, I suppose, and the sheer unlikelihood of the crime. Why, a little more cross-examination and the whole defence would have broken down! You know you just shifted that entertainment and all those events, the sleeping powders and what-not, from one night to another. You may have persuaded yourself that you were speaking the truth, but I'm sure Lili wasn't persuaded. She's a very pious girl, I'm sure; it nearly killed her to stand up there and say those lies, just because you bullied her into believing they weren't lies and because she knew her darling sweetheart might be hanged if she didn't say them."

"You've no right to talk like that. Every word you say you make it more impossible for me—for us—to take you to Germany. Is there anything else you want? Money?—we could find more with this subscription coming in, though Maarten Morl is not really wealthy."

"No, money's no use to me in England. I could never begin again here. I've no talent for the stage. I couldn't straighten things out that way—by making a success on the stage or as a dancer. Besides, I've tried that type of life and I don't want it."

"But you might live another kind of life. You might get married with a little dowry, eh?"

"I don't want to get married. I don't want any love affairs; I'm sick of all that too, and I don't want to be a kept woman or to walk the streets. I want comfort and protection, ease of mind and self-respect. Perhaps it's a matter of mood—for the moment, I want those things. I see my chance of getting them."

"You could get them in this country; you have managed to come here, change your name—"

"This wouldn't last long; it would all fall to pieces on the first investigation. I've had to pretend that I've got relatives, but I couldn't produce them. I can't live like a hermit. Every kind of society is closed to me except that kind I loathe. It's only in another country that I've any chance. Do you hear?" she cried almost, at the end of her nerves. "Do you hear?"

"I hear, but we cannot do it."

"Then there's something I can do, Dr. Schoppe. As your friend has told you so much, hasn't he told you about those letters I've got? There is something else, too, he left behind in Daisy Arrow's room—a little Bible with your daughter's name in it. Would you like me to return it to her and tell her how I got it? What about the valise with the note-paper? A silly tale!"

* * *

Belle's cab slowed to a decorous pace, following the hired carriage proceeding to the Prime Minister's residence.

She had forced her victim to keep her informed of all his actions; so far, he had not dared to disobey. There had been a hint of this honour in the newspapers, but from him had come the precise place and hour.

She dismissed the cab at the corner of the street; an east wind was blowing up from the river; she shivered a little and luxuriously drew about her her thick warm black shawl. It gave her a sense of delicious luxury—being thus cosily clad against the cold, and feeling good leather under her feet and thick gloves on her hands. She enjoyed paying the cabman so handsomely that he saluted her with great respect.

All these things were good, the outward signs of success. She gripped her reticule closely, pleased to think of its comforting contents, not only the purse, well-filled with money, but the tiny linen handkerchief, the cut-glass scent bottle, the little rose-coloured cachous in the pretty pink box. Belle, in the midst of her self-satisfaction, yet smiled secretly—ironically.

How very low she had been brought, to rejoice so acutely in this newly-acquired comfort and this safety! Two years ago she would have despised a hired cab, and considered this mourning outfit hideous; two years ago her bag would have been full of elegant trifles in gold, and she would not have had thick soles to her shoes, because she would have been riding in a carriage and her delicate slippers would scarcely have ever touched the pavement.

She reached a small group of people gathered outside the railings of the Prime Minister's house, which was so grey, heavy and bleak that it had the air rather of a monument than of a dwelling. News had been whispered here and there, by the considerable number of people who had arrived to see what they could of an odd occasion; a clergyman, falsely accused of murder, wait upon the minister who was to express a nation's distress at an outrageous error.

Belle slipped into the crowd—one more quietly-dressed woman of whom no one took any notice. The glance she darted from behind her veil showed her that her companions were in a considerable state of emotion; many of the women wept and the men seemed uneasy and moved.

As the hired carriage stopped and Maarten Morl descended, there was a low murmur of pity and friendliness among the onlookers. Several of the men raised their hats—several of the women said timidly: "God bless you, sir," and many whispered to each other in excited tones, comments on the young man's good looks and fine bearing, and on the unforgivable stupidity of the police in even suspecting him of any crime whatsoever.

Belle saw him glance apprehensively to right and left; she had the satisfaction of knowing that so now he would always glance.

He was looking for her? yes, he had seen her. As she smiled behind her veil he passed, with an increased stiffness in his carriage, into the large gloomy house, the ponderous door of which opened and closed on him with silent ease.

Belle would have liked to be present at that interview. She had tormented herself, trying to think of some excuse for accompanying him. She had invented several adroit and plausible tales, but she was clever enough to know that none of these would have been accepted. Only a hair-line after all separated her present from her former life, and unless she were very careful she might at any moment be recognised as Belle Adair, who had lodged with Mrs. Bulke at No. 12, who had the next room to that occupied by the murdered girl. A pity she had had to be a witness at the inquest and the trial. Yet, that had been inevitable. At least, she had been able to remind him of herself, even at the very last minute before the important interview; it would be difficult for him to forget her; the thought of her might even make him falter a little in the smooth demeanour which she both admired and envied.

She listened with relish to the comments of the crowd, their sympathy was deep and indignant; a woman's refined voice sighed:

"So charming a young man engaged on so noble a work!"

Everyone was interested in the labours of the missionaries. It was at once a fashion, a cult, an article of faith and a social amusement to follow eagerly the activities of the missionaries—to encourage them, to work for them, to read their books and listen to their lectures.

"I wonder," thought Belle, walking up and down on the edge of the crowd to keep herself warm, "if anyone here, or even in London, knows much or cares anything about those savages, or whatever they are, in Brazil? I wonder what it would really be like to go to those queer hot places and preach Christianity to the heathens? I wonder if that young man taking sanctuary in that hideous house will ever again try to convert anyone—in Brazil or anywhere else."

* * *

The scene at which Belle would have given so much to be present she visualised thus: it took place in the Prime Minister's study at the back of the house—a room too lofty for elegance and too heavily furnished for comfort, but impressive in its air of austerity and grandeur. All the pieces of furniture, dark and highly-polished, were too large for the room; the windows with the enormous red velvet curtains, every fold of which was precisely in place, were too tall for the walls. On a huge desk were the gloomy essentials of writing—blotting-pad, ink-stand, pen, all without ornamentation. An enormous bust of some heathen statesman—frowning, with a toga knotted over a bare chest—stood in a niche between two columns of cases filled with pious works and books of reference. The gas in an opal globe had just been lit, and the manservant who had preceded the young German into the study, drew the dark curtains over the pale, thickening twilight.

The Prime Minister was of a piece with his house, and his room—massive, imposing, with an air of immutability, and a refusal at once bland and rigid to concede to any changes of thought or fashion that should not first be thoroughly inspected and completely approved of by himself. Seldom could a statesman have been more typical of his country and of his moment. In person he was like a clever drawing done swiftly by an adroit artist, the heavy features put in with bold lines, the stiff-coated figure and the white collar done with a few angular sweeps of the brush.

He received the young German with a stiff graciousness, but his small, deep-set eyes were lively with curiosity and interest. He kept his large, shapely white hands outspread on the blotting-pad before him and looked at them now and then during the conversation, as if he were surprised into recognition of anything so vital as those strong fingers and stout wrists as belonging to his own reserved personality, which he contrived to make appear as rectitude, honour, and all the essentials of the English character embodied, as if, indeed, he were no man, but a symbol of Protestantism and of England.

With aristocratic ease he began to speak, regretting, in smooth and conventional tones and frowns, the hideous mistake made by the police.

"It certainly shows, Herr Morl, a strange lack of judgment on the part of Superintendent Matchwell—who was, I understand, in charge of the case—that he should have arrested you on suspicion of a crime so sordid, so atrocious. That note-paper was no clue at all."

"Yes," replied the young man, sitting upright in his plain dark clothes on the horsehair chair which the manservant had placed for him. "Yes, sir, most sordid and most atrocious."

"But your alibi was complete. Need I say I was overjoyed, overwhelmed with relief? Yes, the expression would scarcely be too strong. Believe me, sir, the British Government would have been profoundly distressed had that alibi not been complete. Had there," continued the Prime Minister, with an emphasis on his well-rounded words, "had there been the least loop-hole for suspicion, the sensation—the scandal—would have been as tremendous as regrettable."

A faint spasm passed over the pale set features of the young man

"I cannot understand how I came to find myself," he said, "in such a position. Indeed, sir, it is all incomprehensible to me—like an evil dream."

"Severest measures shall be taken that no such mistake is possible in the future, that no other unfortunate foreigner—But I can see that I distress you, sir. It is obvious that you have suffered a great shock. I had hoped that my letter of sympathy might in some degree make amends."

"You have, indeed," said Herr Morl in his laboured voice, "done, sir, all that it was in anyone's power to do—your tact, your graciousness—indeed, my most profound thanks." He began to speak incoherently, he pulled out his handkerchief and pressed it to his lips, while he stared across the noble head of the statesman, the fine massive forehead with the thick greying hair, at the monstrous bust of the placid hero with the blank eyeballs and knotted toga.

"Your emotion does you credit, Herr Morl. If there is any further way in which I can help—"

The young man broke in, "No, sir, no. If I could only get away—leave London—your pardon! I interrupted you, I forget even my manners."

The Prime Minister bent his head in stately acknowledgment of the apology. He was not, indeed, used to interruptions, but he magnanimously made allowances for the peculiar poignancy of the young man's situation.

"I need hardly ask you, Herr Morl, whether you have ever, in the course of your visits to our capital (and I believe these have not been infrequent), been in such places as those mentioned in the investigation?"

He stared down at his hands, now beating a lively little tattoo on the blotter.

"What places, sir?" asked the young German stupidly.

"The Alhambra and the Argyll Rooms, where this poor, wretched, unfortunate creature plied her trade, Herr Mort, plied her trade."

"I know, indeed, nothing of such haunts," replied the young man with a haughty awkwardness; "why should I? And this time specially—I come here with my father-in-law-to-be and my betrothed."

"So I understand, so I understand," replied the minister in soothing tones; "that is what makes your case so shocking. It must have been a sad trial for the poor young lady."

"Yes, sir, but she is not a weakling, she was prepared to be a missionary's wife—to go out with me to Brazil, to work, even to suffer in a strange and unknown land."

"Ah yes, indeed; so much I learned, so much I approve"—again the Prime Minister made a short gracious bow—"but those kinds of fatigue and trouble would be very different from what she was, so regrettably, forced to undergo in London."

The young German did not reply. He had the air of being exhausted and having come to the end of his nervous force.

The Prime Minister permitted a slight tinge of surprise to pass over the stern serenity of his features. He even permitted himself to say:

"Every effort has been made to compensate you, Herr Morl, and as some time has elapsed I trust that you have totally recovered from your most unpleasant experience."

At that the young man moved round in his chair and stared at his host as if he had forgotten what an august personage he was, and in what solemn and formal surroundings he was himself placed.

"Forget it?" he said. "Do you think one ever could? Those days and nights in the cell—standing in the dock at Bow Street—hearing it discussed over and over again, just how she was found lying, the knife—I can see it all—the room, the bed."

"Tut, tut," protested the Prime Minister, "don't let your imagination run away with you, sir. These are things that should not even be mentioned."

"I had to hear them mentioned," said the young German, "again and again, as I say. First one witness, then another, all dwelling on the same thing—until I don't feel as if I should ever get the thought—of—Martha—out of my mind."

"Was not the name of this poor and unhappy lost creature Daisy Arrow?" asked the Prime Minister.

"Didn't I say it, didn't I say Daisy Arrow?"

"No, you mentioned one name and that was Martha."

"Yes, her name was Martha Owen, and that somehow seems to have stayed with me more than the other." He rose. "I think I ought to go now, sir. I don't think I ought to disturb you any more. I can't—I really can't—express my thanks, my gratitude."

The Prime Minister remained seated, and with a gesture stayed his agitated guest.

"There is one thing I wish to say to you, Herr Morl, that might have some weight to you as coming from a man so much your elder—coming from one who is invested with a certain authority."

He paused; the young German did not answer.

"Do you not think," added the minister with an impressive grandeur of speech and manner, "that God in His mysterious ways may not have sent you this experience for His own purposes? Think, sir, how many wretched creatures there be who daily and nightly brave the fate this most miserable young woman met! You are a clergyman—I understand you have private means which you were disposed to devote to missionary work."

As he paused the young man muttered:

"Yes, yes, sir, but that is all altered now."

"Let it be altered for the better," said the Prime Minister, raising his vigorous voice, "take up your labours among these unfortunate creatures! A Christian could have no better opportunity to exercise his faith. There is much to be done. I myself have had some experience—this young lady, whose devotion to you has already suffered so severe a trial, why should she not be your helpmate in the noble task?"

The Prime Minister seemed to wait for an answer; the young man stammered:

"I scarcely know what you mean, sir."

"I regret I did not make myself more explicit. I see you are still agitated. I will not detain you."

"To work among these fallen women—ah, that?" stammered the young German.

He thrust his hand into the bosom of his coat in the attitude that he had used in the dock; he seemed to clutch it there as if he dragged at the flesh above his heart.

"It is the noblest work possible to Christian charity," insisted the Prime Minister. "Where could a Christian clergyman and his Christian wife find greater scope for their love and zeal than following in Our Lord's footsteps to save these Magdalenes, sir? These poor Magdalenes!"

As the young pastor did not reply, the Prime Minister rose and, in a tone almost of rebuke, added:

"Could you hear, sir, unfolded—as you say yourself you heard unfolded—a story so dreadful, so poignant, so shocking, without feeling moved by it beyond the terror you felt at your own peril? Could you have listened to that most dismal revelation of vice and crime in a great city, vice and crime perhaps unknown to you in your innocent absorption in your own work, and not have vowed in your heard to dedicate yourself to some mission to reform, to reclaim—"

"I had not thought if it," stammered the young German.

"Think of it now, Herr Morl, think of it now—if not in London, in Berlin, for in this particular, I regret to say, all cities are the same."

"Yes," conceded the German, "yes, it's very shocking, sir, very shocking. But you know it was not of those vile degraded women I was thinking, but of the murderer."

"The—murderer?" repeated the Prime Minister, with an accent of slight astonishment and even disgust, as if an element of bad taste had been introduced into the conversation.

"There must be a murderer somewhere, you know," whispered Herr Morl, "unless you accept the theory of suicide, and I don't know whether anyone would accept that—the police wouldn't for a moment. Well, I suppose this Superintendent Matchwell, sir, is still looking for the murderer, perhaps, the thief of the valise."

"The affair is in the hands of the police and, of course, I trust they will not make another blunder," replied the Prime Minister dryly. "I trust the valise will be traced."

"It was that I was thinking of as I stood in the dock—of the murderer, sir. He was described pretty accurately—young, not ill-looking, well dressed, the air and voice of a gentleman—but he did that—now, sir, can you explain?"

"There are dark places in the human heart into which it is not good to look," remarked the statesman, still with an air of slight reproach and astonishment. "It is an unpleasant subject—and in the hands of the police, to whom we leave—all speculations."

"They may not find anyone, sir—they may make another blunder—as you said yourself. Meanwhile, this creature, this monster is abroad."

"It's not on that aspect of the affair I would have you dwell, Herr Morl. It was not to discuss this that I asked you to come here. I thought that you might have seen the hand of God, as I said, in your terrible experience, directing you to devote yourself to these poor lost women."

The young man shook his head and again his hands seemed to be clutching at something under his coat.

"It was of the lost man I thought. The woman didn't seem to me to matter so much."

The Prime Minister touched the little bell on his table. He had already exceeded the time that he had intended to give to his visitor, but he had felt it his duty to put before this young stranger, who had been so desperately unfortunate, a point of view of his faith that had come to him—an experienced statesman—with such clarity that he felt it well might be an inspiration from on high.

As he dismissed him with further gracious regrets and condolences and renewed promises of the British Government's assistance and protection, he again recommended to the young clergyman the case of the poor Magdalenes:

"The dregs of our far from perfect social system, Herr Morl." He added sharply and with that look of invincible curiosity in his small deep-set eyes: "And some of them, as I have heard, are astonishingly beautiful women."

Belle, drifting to and fro in the crowd outside, thus imagined this grotesque interview.

* * *

As the huge door opened and closed swiftly and silently again and Maarten Morl found himself on the grey steps in front of the grey house, more like a monument than a dwelling, he looked at once, and eagerly, at the press of people beyond the railing, and sought out that tall slender figure in black, with the crape veil and the reticule under the arm, in a warm woollen shawl—all bought with his money.

He came down the steps slowly, pulling at his gloves—the east wind had strengthened in intensity, there was only a sufficient glimmer of light left in the February day for him to sense the strong outline of the city, the huge government buildings, the greasy pavements, the dark roads, the little knots of loiterers and their drab clothes, the black figure in that imitation mourning waiting for him.

As he got into his hired carriage, again with the murmured sympathy and blessings of the crowd (Many of the women in tears), he noticed a cab waiting at the corner of the street; he guessed for whom it was waiting; yes, there she was, gliding over the pavement, giving her directions to the driver, springing lightly to the seat—there was the cab, with the flip-flop of the horse's hoofs coming behind him. She was not behind him for long; she had not troubled to follow him; the cab passed the carriage; she leant out, threw back her veil and smiled in what seemed an amiable recognition, then was gone into the thickening twilight.

* * *

Belle waited in the clean pleasant parlour of the Hobart Hotel; she was quite sure that she had not been recognised as the young woman who had called there before for Dr. Schoppe. She kept her voice low and her veil down. The porter had expressed no surprise when she had given her name as Miss Rose Rastell.

"Why 'Rose'," she had asked herself. She hated it really, but it had been tingling in her mind from the "Moss Rose" waltz; she could not get away from it. With a half-cold ironic perverse desire to torment herself that often afflicted her, she had, as it were, pinned on her breast that Moss Rose—that wretched bloom of rags and paper that had flaunted nightly on the stage of the Cambridge Music Hall.

He did not keep her waiting long—she was sure that he never would keep her waiting at any of their appointments. With more than a lover's eagerness he would always hasten to their trysts.

Without any preliminaries she asked him, at once, what his plans were? When he was returning to Germany? If he had made arrangements to take her with him? If he had spoken of her to his Lili, who must be prepared to put up with her company during the journey and perhaps afterwards?

When she had finished this he did not reply.

She moved towards the clean-swept hearth, where a bright fire burned and close to which, too, was the long bell-rope.

"Perhaps you do not realise how important I am to you?" she demanded.

At that he replied in the manner of a man well schooled:

"Dr. Schoppe told me something. I hardly think he could have understood you rightly."

"About the book I found in Daisy Arrow's room? You know you lost it."

"Perhaps I've lost—a book—but not there."

"Are you so sure?" She opened her recticule and took out the small fat German Bible. "Don't spring at me and try to snatch it and cast it into the fire. I'm standing by the bell-rope on purpose. One false move on your part and I'll ruin you. Remember I've nothing to lose—the worst that can happen to me is to become Belle Adair again, picking up thirty shillings at the Cambridge or in worse ways."

He looked at the woman and at the book she held, and remained standing still, by what effort of will she well could guess, at the table; it was covered with a dark-blue chenille cloth, she noted.

"This Bible is yours," said Belle. "It has your name in it and several little entries, as if you had used the fly-leaf as a kind of diary. It has your Lili's name in it: 'Lili and I are betrothed to-day—God help us both.' What did you mean, Mr. Morl, when you wrote 'God help us both'? Why did you drop that paper in the Argyll Rooms?"

He did not reply and she continued quietly:

"I think if I wanted you to take an oath I should ask you to swear on this."

"Oh, it would be no use for us to swear anything to one another;" his teeth were pulling at his lower lip and his right hand clasped on the table's edge, dragging the cloth awry.

"Would it not? No, I suppose not, yet perhaps I should like you swear on this that you will give me my terms. You were careless that night—the paper, the book!"

"How much money do you want?" he asked. "For what money will you give me that book?—and go away so that I may never see you or hear of you again?"

"More money than you or any man possesses," she replied. "I've explained all that to Dr. Schoppe—it would be a weariness to go over it again."

"Nobody would believe you," he replied doggedly; "remember that. All this sounds very fine now, spoken to me or to Dr. Schoppe, but if you were in the witness box again—a very good excuse would have to be found for your having that book."

"And for these letters too, I suppose," said Belle, drawing a package from the pages of the Bible. "They are signed by poor Daisy when she was in Bavaria. You know, perhaps, to what they refer."

She was herself surprised at the effect of these words upon the young man; all his carefully-sustained courage left him; he sank on the nearest chair and stared down at the floor in the attitude of one who has been suddenly struck through all armour of reserve and pride, straight to the brain.

"I had them from Daisy's brother—the fool didn't realise what they were. I do; I can read German, as you know, and it seems to me they're more important than ever I thought they were. Why do they upset you so?"

"You're all wrong," he muttered, "everything that you think is wrong. You are mistaken and you have built it all up falsely from the beginning."

"Perhaps, I have taken no trouble to investigate, but I believe that if I were to go to Superintendent Matchwell and say—I saw the young man on the stairs when he left her room—I went into her room to fetch water and I found this Bible on the floor, just a few minutes after, mind you; if I were to go to Superintendent Matchwell and say—Those letters that Roger Owen gave me weren't from Paris, but from Germany; well, however trivial and unimportant they are—merely a little love letter and a reference to some common secret—I suppose at least it would be important to prove that you and Daisy were not strangers when you met that night at the Argyll Rooms?'

"What would it matter?" he asked listlessly, "what would it matter?"

"It might give a motive for the crime, I suppose," cried Belle impatiently. "But what of that, we always waste so much time in talking. Come, will you give me my terms or no?"

"I have already arranged them."

She admired the way he had recovered his courage in such a short space of time, for, indeed, the production of the letters must have been a considerable shock to him.

"I will present you to Lili. I am, as it seems, through ugly circumstance, more or less at your mercy. You shall return with us to Germany. The missionary scheme is abandoned. I do not know to whom I can take you in my own country; I should think there might be someone—some lady who requires a companion—yet—"

She filled up his desperate pause:

"I know what you would say—'It's against your conscience to introduce me'—believe me you need not be so squeamish, I am as good as many women who hold such posts, as good as many women who offer them. I should behave myself. I am well-bred and accomplished. Do not get your values so confused."

"I must take you first to my mother's house," he replied dryly; "she is rather a peculiar woman; she lives very quietly and never has expressed the least wish for a companion; but I can gloss that over."

"It will be your business to do so," replied Belle. "Now when do we leave for Germany? It seems to me that you can get no more out of your popularity in England, you've had a good deal of flattery, a good deal of money, is it not time to make an end?"

"I have to go to the castle," replied the young pastor in a low hurried voice. "It is a great honour, you understand, I cannot evade it, though there are many things I would rather do. You see, what might have been a tragedy is being turned into a farce—I become ridiculous."

"I suppose," remarked Belle casually, "it is better to be ridiculous than hanged for murder. No doubt you will have some fine sight-seeing. What did the Prime Minister, who is so good and conscientious a man, tell you?"

The young pastor smiled in a manner which caused even Belle to move a little nearer the bell-rope, for about that convulsive twitching of the minister's comely mouth was a suggestion of a maniac's grin.

"He told me to concern myself with fallen women. It seems that is a charity he has much next to his heart. He suggested that Lili and I might give up our missionary work and spend our lives in that service."

"That gives me," said Belle, "a good idea. It will be one of those people that I will be from now on—a lady, early orphaned, of some small means, who has devoted herself to this (what do you call it—rescue—social work, a kind of half-nun? I must find out what these creatures are, and what they call themselves). Yes, I shall be one of those—Miss Rose Rastell, the social worker."

"I think you're half-lunatic," muttered the young man, "I never met anyone like you before. You make a silly jest of what is so unbelievably horrible that even I—"

"Because I'm used to horror and because I've nothing to lose," replied Belle contemptuously. "Does not my plan suit you, Herr Morl? What a pretty tale to tell your Lili and your good mother and all your friends in Germany! You can say that that was how you made my acquaintance. I was working among these poor women and I was kind to you and your Lili."

He interrupted her by rising violently.

"As well that tale as another. It will do for the present; we must work things out hereafter. But why do you call yourself Rose?" he asked with an air of disgust.

"Why not? I hate the name myself. It comes from that little waltz 'Moss Rose,' 'Moss Rose.'"

He made a movement of repugnance.

"I detest them."

"Moss Roses? Why? They are such charming little flowers."

"I don't know—an association, a coincidence—I begin not to think very clearly—need I see you again?—cannot this be arranged between you and Dr. Schoppe?"

"Oh, if you please, as you please. I just want to get out of the country, like you do. I need scarcely see you at all during the journey if you don't wish it. I don't suppose I shall stay long in your mother's house; it's only just to give myself a little rest—a chance of something else."

She moved towards the door, but he stayed her, getting in her way.

"And if I do this—give you this chance that you, you queer creature, say you want, will you do your part?—give me back that book, that letter?—give me your oath, for what it may be worth, that you won't disturb me any more in the future?"

"Yes, yes, I'll do that," said Belle. "I'm not a vulgar blackmailer. I'm only taking the chance that came my way, as, I suppose, you took yours when you met Daisy at the Argyll and dropped the paper, like a fool."

"You mustn't keep saying those names. You want me to keep sane, I suppose? You don't want me to go mad and scream it all out? That wouldn't suit your purpose, would it?"

"Oh, you've courage enough, I think," replied Belle slowly, "you're able to control yourself. I watched you going into the Prime Minister's house, and coming out; you didn't seem shaken at all."

"Courage," he said. "I don't know. I can't be sure of myself from one day to another—sometimes it's this way and sometimes that."

He took her wrists (it was the first time they had touched save by formal finger-tips) and held her so, as if he forced her to remain thus against her will. She did not flinch, though it was an effort to repress an exclamation—to keep her head high and stare at him undaunted.

"You don't seem afraid of me," he said. "You believe that Daisy Arrow destroyed herself, don't you?"

"I don't think about it at all, only of the future. Do you recall what that stupid pious man said to you after he had been preaching and talking about his Magdalenes?—he said, 'some of them are very beautiful women'."

"That's a strange thought," smiled Herr Morl, "to come into his head then and into your head now. What do you mean by it? Some of them were beautiful women perhaps. How do you know what he said? You weren't there."

"It seems to me as if I was. I thought about it so much while I waited outside."

"Did you? You think of me too much." He opened his fingers and freed her wrists. "You are a beautiful woman," he said dryly.

Belle opened her lips, but could not speak; everything seemed in an ebb and flow about her; old emotions, old memories, broken fantasies, crowded on to this present moment, distorting the present circumstances. She was even oppressed by the thought of the scent of trodden grass, of lilac buds that had come to her at the first sight of Lili Schoppe, by the resemblance of the girl's face to those of the wooden-looking angels in the print of The Last Judgment. She thought in despair: "I shall never do anything, never get anywhere, for I can't make anything seem real; it's fighting shadows all the time, as if I was in a suppressed delirium."

But the resolution at the core of her spirit held firmly; she edged towards the door, firmly gripping the reticule that held the Bible and the letters.

The young man watched, his hand was on his hip.

"Don't you like being called beautiful?"

"I used to. Oh yes, flattery once meant something to me." She smiled, thinking that she had put that weakness behind her, together with her longing for drink. "I had enough, never again—there isn't a man living—"

Herr Morl laughed suddenly; what he said surprised her considerably.

"I felt like that about women—until I met Lili. There is something angelic about Lili."

Angelic? Queer that he should use that word, as if he too had seen that dark picture in Mrs. Bulke's kitchen.

She had her fingers on the door-handle when he spoke again, staring at her with candid sullenness.

"I'll do what I can for you, I don't want any trouble. Only don't interfere between me and Lili. I don't think that God would allow that—no, not that."

Belle went away silently; as she closed the door she heard him mutter:

"Beautiful, yes, but beauty isn't what we think it is. What did St. Paul say? 'Whether in or out of the body I cannot tell, but God knoweth.'"

* * *

The phrase lingered in Belle's mind. Perhaps God knew the key to that problem of herself which she could not solve. Perhaps He knew what she wanted, what she might hope to have, what was the meaning of that life of hers, so dull and ordinary on the surface, so full of tumult within. At this juncture in her fortunes she felt as if her circumstances were chaos made rigid, like the jumble of huge statues in the museum; a whirl of disconnected events suddenly stilled into a grotesque, meaningless, pattern in the centre of which stared the dull eyes of Daisy Arrow from her red-soaked pillow.

"Can I build up anything from such a basis as that? Lost, hopeless as I was, perhaps I was better then than I am now. What do I tell myself? That I am trying to rise from unspeakable degradation? Why, I suppose I never was so degraded as I am now. Perjury and blackmail. But those are mere words. It is no shame to fight with the only weapons I have. Who are these people that I should not take advantage of their follies, their weaknesses—their faults? There was always someone to take advantage of me."

She shrank from the memories of the men who had said that they admired and valued her, and then, at the first quarrel or the first disgust, left her without the least concern. "That it was in their power to do that!" she thought, most bitterly, "that they had the money, the position, and I—nothing! But now a man is in my power. What do I want of him?" That question ran round in her mind like a rat in a trap. She had done with lusts, with emotions, she believed, as a child, sick from surfeit, has done with sweets. All passions seemed to her tawdry, what she had heard named love seemed but the tinsel dressing to disguise bestiality. She needed only the icy solitude of the mind, something to feed her pride, to glut her active malice against all mankind. "For the rest, I cannot tell what I shall do until I am free of all these miseries, until I have been, for a while, well fed, well housed, well treated."

* * *

She dreamt that they moved slowly through the State Apartments. It seemed to Belle that she took with her a peculiar atmosphere as if it was a perfume that she carried; the lodging-houses, the dressing-rooms beneath the stage, the police court, the church, the museum, all had been full of this dusty gloom, this stagnant air, this sense of ugly objects cherished by people long dead and preserved, not from love, but from avarice. Nowhere was there gaiety, music, that voluptuous ease, sensual and intelligent, of which she had once dreamed. This dream palace was no more pleasing to Belle than the rooms in Gower Street or the prim parlours of Hobart's Hotel. It was, of course, a great honour to be there; she tried to console her disappointment by remembering that. A great honour, and one that when awake she would never have thought of ever possibly attaining. But she could not laugh inwardly as she wanted to at Belle Adair of No. 12 mincing through these respectable and royal gloms, where none but the impeccable were permitted to tread.

This high privilege had been accorded to Miss Rose Rastell, missionary and social worker of nebulous identity, who had been so kind to the forlorn band of Germans for whom the British public were so profoundly sorry; she was with the wronged young minister in place of the dove-like Lili, who had refused the unprecedented honour with a modesty approaching panic. She was, besides, ill, quite unable, the doctor said, to stand on her feet. It was natural that her anxious father should not leave her bedside, and it was also natural that this young English lady, Miss Rose Rastell, whose services to the distressed girl were supposed to be beyond reckoning, should be by authority allowed to share the privilege granted the young pastor so strangely wronged, to inspect the treasures in the colossal palace, which was usually closed to all but the more favoured of foreign visitors. Thus, it was in her heavy dream.

No fear of recognition impinged on Belle's fond enjoyment of the moment. She was moving here in a world that had never touched on her own. Besides, she believed that in the last few weeks her appearance had changed considerably. With great satisfaction she viewed herself in one of the vast mirrors, which reflected an endless vista of gorgeous apartments. Her figure was really very good; she had almost forgotten the sleek elegance of her own shape. She wore her clothes well, perhaps a little too well for the part she was playing; and how pleasant to see herself set off so attractively! She had modified that rather ostentatious mourning that first she had affected; her present costume was no more than a decorous black gown with lawn cuffs and collar. How charmingly the little bonnet sat on the back of her smooth swathes of hair—how gracefully the light veil fell over her pure forehead! With a smile she endured the ironic tyrannies of circumstances.

Peering at herself in the royal mirror, she thought she fitted very well into these august surroundings. Had she been born to a high social place she would have graced it excellently. Her mind darted into the future and the possibility of getting a foothold in some German court. Then there was Paris—the Emperor was not critical or squeamish, and women like herself had done very well at courts before now.

Studying her pure complexion, which was now flawless and of pearl-like texture, great gusts of gratitude towards someone, somewhere, rose in her heart because she had been able to give up drinking; yes, she never touched even a drop of sherry now, and up to that Christmas Eve she had been taking far too much. She could remember the sense of chilled emptiness which had so often tormented her—a compound of fatigue and despair—and the relief brought by a sudden draught of spirit or wine. "That is all over now," she thought. "Whatever is to come, not that, or any entanglement with a man."

Belle took her attention from her reflection and glanced at her companion; their prim and portly guide was a few paces ahead in the gloom of the nightmare.

"Doesn't this amuse you?" she whispered from behind the fine handkerchief she held to her lips. Her knowledge of him added to her subtle enjoyment of the episode.

"I have never found life very amusing," he muttered, "and this is infinitely tedious."

"If you want to be respected and honoured you have to put up with being bored. I thought this sort of thing was all tedious and odious too, until I lost it. Now you know what I'm doing to get it back."

With solemn exclamations of wonder and gratitude they followed the guide through the state apartments—huge pictures, drawn canopies, immense curtains with much braiding and flouncing and gilding, portraits of dead kings and queens, most of whom looked like so many dolls stuffed with hay, long vistas of useless galleries and endless corridors, bleak windows glimpsing a prospect drowned in rain, a steady downward pour of water only lightened by a pale smear of sky.

The huge untenanted rooms were so cold, the carpets so thick under foot, the voice of the guide so awestruck that Belle felt as she glided through this monotony of an eventless dream, where there was eternity in this silent passage through grandiose and empty scenes. She wondered when that massive upholstery, whose folds seemed as heavy as if cut in stone, had first been sewn and nailed into place. Surely those monstrous pictures that gloomed so forbiddingly through the shadows had never glistened with wet paint on an easel while the sitter yawned in his chair! No, they seemed immovable, permanent, and as if they had never been touched by human hands.

Everywhere mirrors; a hundred times and more, surely, Belle could see those tall windows, the panes drenched in water, those looped curtains of imperial crimson, her own neat frail figure and that other figure beside her own in the black frock-coat and light cravat—that odd companion at whom she laughed sometimes and sometimes glanced at with a touch of panic, as if the magnificence of the castle had waned about them and they were again on the mean stairs of No. 12, with the dawn light like a smear in the drab shadow and they—alone where many slept and one was dead—stared at one another. Between a bit of paper, smelling of drugs.

What had changed with them save the pattern of their behaviour? Nothing: she knew they were the same now as then, and who would care to name them?

She took his arm, suddenly conscious of their separate lonelinesses. The guide was laboriously explaining the objects in a glass case that stood between two of those tall windows that framed the expanse of wet glass, against which the raindrops crawled.

They did not listen to the pompous, official account of these withered treasures, letters, ribbons, locks of hair, all faded, senseless, out-worn, though they kept their glances on the polished glass of the case in which were reflected the wet panes, the sliding raindrops, the blurred overcast brilliance of the deeply-veiled sky.

Belle stared up once at her companion's face, blank in expression, but not like a mask in the white light. It was not a coarse face, not one sensual, or cruel, or cunning; he must, she thought, be well-schooled to be able to keep that patient expression. The features were well modelled, precise in outline, and the light grey eyes, flatly set beneath dark lashes and brows, had a silvern look. It was a face full of a vital energy. Belle felt her curiosity baffled; she thought, with a sense of weariness and confusion: "We shall never escape from each other, we shall never understand one another—eternal enemies, eternal companions. Yes, that, for I do not mean to let him go."

She clung to his impassive arm, really glad of the support, for she felt giddy with the rasping drone of the guide's voice, the reflection of glass in glass, the slow trickle of the silent rain, the monstrous chill of the stately apartments. Her head ached as if she peered into the dark backwards in an effort to glimpse what must be for ever hidden. She tried to wake and could not.

The guide ceased to speak; they passed on and had to pause again to admire a colossal clock where an angel in harsh metallic gold stood guardian over Time.

"Like Lili Schoppe," whispered Belle, against her own wish, for she thought impatiently, "Why is that girl always in my mind?"

He stared at the figure in the long stiff robe, with the straight infantile features and harshly-crimped hair.

"Lili is very ill," he whispered. "We ought not to be here when Lili is very ill."

She looked at her gloved hand on his arm, wishing suddenly that they were different, not so masked from each other, from the world, in pretences.

* * *

The dull dream reached a fantastic climax. Belle felt tense and strained, as if she could endure no more. She kept saying to herself: "Be quiet, be quiet, it will soon be over, surely we have seen everything?"

Her head ached very much. It had been stupid to come as she had come, on this impossible expedition, just to emphasise her pride and power.

A door opened suddenly as they stared at a cabinet of porcelain where pale china figures glittered in the murk. A gentleman entered the huge apartment and whispered to the guide. Belle thought of the police court, where there had also been so many officials whispering, where the air had also been so stale and chill, where her own limbs had felt cold and her head heavy, as they felt now. She stared at her companion, and it seemed to her that she looked at a husk.

They were solemnly beckoned forward; there was the opening and closing of doors and they were in a small, well-warmed gallery prettily furnished with pots of flowers and chairs covered with a chintz printed with shells and bunches of seaweed.

A short middle-aged lady came slowly towards them where they stood at a loss inside the door; she walked clumsily and her ungainliness was increased by the heavy mourning that she wore, which was stiff and shining, as if varnished. Her face was soft and chinless, the arched ruffle at her neck rubbed against the sagging flesh of her jowl; her eyes were pale, prominent and very heavily lidded; as she stared with her small mouth slightly open she seemed to Belle like a pallid fish come to a pause in a tank and gazing blankly through the glass; even her smooth, flabby pink complexion had a sodden quality, as if it had been long under water, her thin hair gleamed beneath the ugly lace cap. She was as inhuman as an idol and as ordinary as any stout woman who is inquisitive and sad.

Belle curtsied before this emphatic personality, the young minister bowed low, Majesty hesitated, pried at the strangers, so non-committal in their attitude of rigid respect, then said:

"I hope that you liked my beautiful palace."

Belle curtsied again—how easily that school training came back to her—she felt that she was what she feigned to be, yes, in her dream, she was innocent.

Majesty continued to gaze at them with melancholy curiosity. In Belle's nightmare the thick, short figure seemed to rise and swell until it filled the entire bulk of the monstrous castle, and the whole of the afternoon as well as the whole of the building seemed to be nothing but the Queen, just as those fat, prosperous-looking coins that Belle had found recently, so scarce and so precious, to be nothing but the Queen.

Belle held herself effaced against the wall, quite confused in her dull dream by memories of her childhood, of learning deportment in a bare dancing-room while someone said:

"Some day you may meet the Queen."

Mingled with this was the drowsy sense of summer, of picnic, of girls at play, a glimpse of Lili Schoppe staring across the police court.

Majesty was talking amiably in a voice very forceful for a small woman; she appeared to like the young German, she remarked that she had heard of "the case," and that it "was monstrous." Her manner ignored all that was not genteel in the affair. Save for the curiosity in her prominent eyes, it would have seemed impossible to have thought of her as existing in the same world as Daisy Arrow.

"I suppose she knows nothing," thought Belle. "Lili ought to have come, she would have liked Lili."

The rain slid over the pale windows behind the lace curtains; despite the warm atmosphere, the gallery seemed as cold as an icicle to Belle—as if they were all in a glass case sunk in water, and would remain so, immobile for ever.

Herr Morl was at ease, even fluent; was he not one on whom the pale, full eye of Majesty had fallen before during an august visit to a minor court?

Belle listened to the question and answer that went to and fro to the accompaniment of the ticking of the clock, to the spatter of the rain, now agitated by a rising wind, against the window-panes.

Majesty enquired about Herr Morl's missionary work, which was a subject in which she took the deepest interest. Majesty was sorry that he had changed his mind and was returning to Germany instead of continuing his voyage to Brazil—

"For I have heard that the efforts of Christian missionaries are much needed there."

She spoke in German with an affectionate caress in her voice, as if she loved the language that she used.

"I hear that it is very pretty in Brazil, but very hot. Some of the native Indians are quite savages, isn't that true, Herr Morl?"

"Yes, madame. That is why I was so anxious to organise this expedition—it was fantastic, perhaps—"

"It is all fantastic," thought Belle, as Majesty's benevolent stare, touched by that probing curiosity as if she gazed at some odd object being prodded under a microscope, rested on her.

"You are not the brave young lady who was going out to Brazil?"

Belle explained herself modestly as Rose Rastell, a social worker, who had been able to render some service to Fräulein Lili Schoppe in the distressing position in which she had found herself.

"It was all very terrible," said Majesty, "it was a great mistake. It was something that no clergyman or German should have been accused of."

Majesty stared with quick and amiable approval at the correctly drab appearance of the two young people; Belle's shawl muffled her fine figure and she kept her bold eyes prudently downcast.

"I am glad, Herr Morl, that there was an English lady ready to take care of Fräulein Schoppe. You will be rewarded, Miss Rastell, for your pity for the sufferings of others."

Majesty glanced at her own black dress as if she compared all suffering with her own supreme sorrow. Then she asked Belle about her work; she commended it; and Belle contrived some murmured references to her labours as a member of the mission of rescue at work in police courts, in prisons, in workhouses and in squalid homes, loving labour of reclaim and reformation. Majesty, looking down at her small, fat, dimpled hands, sighed and approved.

"You do a good work. It must be difficult for a lady, Miss Rastell."

"If only it would cease raining, if only I could get away," thought Belle. "If only I could wake."

The clock ticked, the rain beat on the pane. Majesty was amiably garrulous about missionaries, about Brazil, about Germany, and all the while her eyes were sharp and curious, eager and probing, as if she did not ask about the things that she really wanted to know.

She was suddenly silent, then, in the respectful pause, remarked:

"It is quite a wet day. I hope that you brought umbrellas."

She bent her head and passed down the warm gallery; she seemed to have forgotten them before she had gone a step; Belle wondered if that drooping, turned-down mouth, melancholy as a spaniel's, knew how to smile.

The door behind the couch with the seaweed-imprinted chintz opened, the bland gentleman conducted them to the state apartments, where the guide received them in the tall shadows from which the scanty light was already receding.

Unutterable greyness engulfed them as they left the palace; it seemed impossible that anyone lived in that dark pile; there was not a light in any of the windows. Clouds were piling up over the bare park as they were piling up in the picture in Mrs. Bulke's kitchen—the picture with the yew bough beneath that had been Daisy Arrow's only funeral wreath.

They walked to the gates beyond which, in the wet street, their hired carriage waited.

"I suppose," whispered Belle, "that was the first time she has seen a—what I am—and a—what you are."

"You shouldn't have come," he muttered, holding his hat against the wind. "You really must be careful how you force yourself on me."

"I wish I hadn't come. It was just a whim, it didn't do me any good. I shan't have any more whims."

He watched her get into the carriage, and ordered the coachman to drive to the station.

"I shall walk and take a later train."

Peering from the carriage window, she watched him go, bending before the gusts of wind. The clouds high above the castle, and the flag seemed to dissolve the scene into darkness, into nothingness as a wax model will dissolve before flame, until there was no reality left but the rain and her tenacious resolve to live.

Majesty, the castle, had not existed, the seaweeds and shells on the glazed chintz had been sinking through an empty sea of dreams; in the half-heard echoes and half-glimpsed shapes, sounds as hesitant as raindrops on leaves, wraiths as impalpable as the fumes from an alembic that formed Belle's world, only herself and her resolve were real. "Why did I dream that? An absurdity?"

* * *

Belle bent over the prim bed in the hotel room where Lili Schoppe lay and spoke rapidly. She did not intend to have any trouble with the girl, and wished their future relationship to be made clear.

"Your father has told you, Fräulein, that I am accompanying you to Germany?"

Lili did not reply nor raise her head, with the long fair plaits, from the pillow. Her attitude was one of complete exhaustion and despair. The plain white wrapper she wore revealed contours as slight as those of a child, her hands were laid flatly over each other; on her finger shone the betrothal ring.

"I think you are under some mistake about me," said Belle, with smooth patience. "I don't know who you think I am. I am a woman who has always had to work for my living since my father died. Rose Rastell, my name is."

At that Lili spoke faintly from the pillow:

"You had another name when you were in the witness box—I heard it—Belle Adair you were then. Why did you come and sit beside me afterwards?"

"What strange questions you ask, child. I was sorry for you, I suppose. Yes, I had another name; as I explained, I was on the stage for a short while; that is how I came to know some of those odd women, very slightly—just to know them. Tell me, what did you think it all was?"

In her heart Belle decided: "Better to know this now, better to get it straight and clear."

"Come, answer me," she insisted aloud, impatiently.

Lili sighed, sat up and as if to support herself clasped her pale hands round her knees.

"I didn't know, Miss Rastell. It seemed to me that it was just like a den of thieves—everybody so horrible. What sort of house was it—I mean, why should anyone go there? They all looked wicked."

"That's what they were. You find them in great cities—people like that, you know. They do live by stealing, pilfering, receiving stolen goods, selling second-hand things—oh, anything you like. You must have known there were such people."

"I didn't think I'd ever see them. I didn't think that Maarten would ever be in the midst of them."

"Well, he wasn't, was he? It was all a mistake."

"But he was in the midst of them—in the police court, I mean—and you, I don't understand who you are."

"I'm not one of them, Fräulein, you must see I am different."

"Yes, I see that, but why are you coming to Germany with us?"

"I am very interested in religious work—in missionary work. I'm very much alone, all my relatives are dead. I thought I'd like to get abroad. Your father and your promised husband, both were kind enough to think that I was a little of use to them."

"In what way—of use?" asked Lili in a sudden sharp tone.

Belle stared at the small, pinched face, then decided to make her shot in the dark:

"Fräulein, you know you lied when you swore that Herr Morl had been with you all Christmas Eve."

The young girl had no defences against this attack. She said at once:

"It is killing me, you see, it is killing me."

"I thought you looked like one who couldn't tell a lie and live," smiled Belle; then checking her contempt and changing her tone, she added: "What harm was in it? You knew in your heart he was innocent, and it would have complicated things a great, deal if you had said you hadn't been with him. Come now, what was the truth? The entertainment was the night before, wasn't it?"

"Yes, that was it. I'm sure of it, but Father and Herr Leutner and the lawyer, they all persuaded me that it wasn't so, and you heard all the waiters, the chambermaid, and people, they also thought it was that night."

"They were confused or bribed, I suppose. I believe it is quite usual to fake an alibi like that—change it from one date to another. Well, what of it? I mean on Christmas Eve? You didn't see him, of course?"

"No, not at all. He didn't come to the ball, but he was in the hotel," stammered Lili, with a deep passion. "Father saw him—that's why I was justified in what I said. I know he was here. He had one of his headaches, one of his bad moods, and was upstairs in his room; Father went up to him several times with his medicine; and so when I said, 'Father, I don't think I can—not a lie like that,' he said, 'It wouldn't be a lie, Lili, I know he was in the hotel—only just a question of us all standing together.'"

Lili began to weep; the tears ran slowly down her unprotected face.

"What does it matter? I oughtn't to have spoken to you about it, but I could see there was something on your mind; you weren't as happy as you ought to have been at the acquittal—you were thinking of yourself and the damage to your own soul, I suppose." Belle tried to speak soothingly, but her eyes were bright with curiosity.

"Oh, I feel ill. It was horrible to have to tell a lie and to persist in it when they tried to make me take it back (I mean the other lawyer). 'Whosoever shall break one of the least of these commandments'"—Lili checked herself and added: "And how did Maarten come to be arrested? Oh, if you're a friend and understand, perhaps you could tell me that—you see, I don't know English so very well—and who was this woman?"

"She was some actress," replied Belle quietly and casually, "in very poor circumstances."

"But this actress meets a man and he goes home with her? And they were together in one room as if they had been husband and wife?"

"I suppose," said Belle, "that shocked you very much, but then we don't know the details, do we? It might have been an old friend."

"But in her bedroom," sobbed Lili. "She was a vile woman, and yet he went with her."

"Don't concern yourself about her," advised Belle; "you're all well out of the trouble now; only I want you to accept me and think of me as a friend, one who did try to help."

"And how," asked Lili sharply, "how did you help?"

Belle did not answer that direct appeal.

"I work among these poor women, that's why I took that part (you see, I am confiding in you, child, it's really a little secret)—I pretended to be an actress to get among them; I tried to get them from the sort of life they lead, to encourage them to do better, to find them work. Your father, your future husband, both think that I might have the chance of some such work in a social mission in Germany."

The girl did not reply, but put her frail hand in front of her large blue eyes.

"Tell me," asked Belle, rising and speaking curiously, "is it because of you they're not going on to Brazil?"

"Yes, I couldn't do it—and I was so happy—it is all spoiled; it seemed as if the blessing had gone from the whole thing. Can't you understand?"

"Yes, I suppose I can; it seems a pity, too, but as you know, he is innocent and the whole wretched business had nothing to do with you—"

"It isn't the same," said Lili, "it isn't the same. I know about these things now; I saw him in the dock and I swore a lie, and I don't feel as if any of us could go on preaching God to the heathens after that."

Belle did not reply; she kept her face smooth and noncommittal; it suited her far better that the party of Germans should return to their own country than go on to Brazil, a part of the world she had no great mind to investigate. In any case, she knew now that in dealing with Lili Schoppe she would have to deal with a fanatic. She was fairly experienced, but she had never yet had to handle simple, single-minded piety, which she sensed could have an iron resolution behind it, for surely Lili's look of a china angel concealed a stern obstinacy of purpose.

And Belle remembered that she owed this interview that she had so much wanted to Lili; it was the German girl who had implored her father to allow her to see alone the stranger who was to return with them to Germany.

Belle moved about the neat room, which reminded her of other characterless, trim rooms in which she had as a girl, as a young woman, lived. She held the hotel concert programmes and looked at them as intently as Lili, seated in her bed, with tear-wet face and her hands clasped round her knees, was looking at her; Belle had a strong desire to get everything clear between Lili and herself, not only because of her own plans, which were as vague as they were determined, as because of the longing to satisfy a deep curiosity.

"You have been very frank with me, Fräulein, I want to help you all I can. See, how curious, they played 'Moss Rose' waltz at the hotel on Christmas Eve—I daresay you danced to it—"

"Yes, with my father."

"I was dancing to it also," smiled Belle, wondering if Lili knew of the existence of such places as the Cambridge. "Meanwhile, Herr Morl—he was in his room, with one of his headaches—in a bad mood, eh?"

"Who," asked Lili "was the young man so like Maarten who was abroad on Christmas Eve? Who threw that bloodstained handkerchief away?"

"He must be a murderer. A monster. Don't think of him."

"Someone lied. Someone was mistaken." Lili sprang from bed and drew a long white shawl over her shoulders. "I lied, for one. And now we are not going to Brazil—everyone wanted to go. We seemed blessed—Maarten said that he had never been happy before. Now all is over. And that lost valise with the note-paper."

Lili stood erect in the straight white garment with the shawl folded over her thin shoulders and the smooth, heavy hair hanging either side of her childish face, she brought to mind the angels of The Last Judgment that she so absurdly resembled. Belle smiled at the grotesque thought.

"How long have you known Herr Morl, Fräulein Schoppe?"

"About two years. My father is the doctor at Maartensdorf, near Schloss Morl—he, Maarten, was taken with a sudden illness once, he fell off his horse in the road. My father is a very God-fearing man—he—I—we got hold on Maarten's soul. He became a changed man."

"Changed from what?"

"I mean—he was, though a minister, gloomy, lonely. I don't know why I am telling you all this. I suppose I am trying to get it clear for myself."

Belle gave her a look of malice. Got hold on his soul! And on his money, too—inducing him to finance that crazy missionary expedition—"why, you prudish little bigot, you are only a sharp adventuress yourself," she thought.

Lili sat down in the deep arm-chair by the fire.

"We sold our home at Maartensdorf. I don't know what we shall do now." She looked straightly over her shoulder at Belle. "Maarten Morl loves me, you see."

"Does he? I suppose so. Why didn't you marry him before you went to South America?"

Lili did not answer.

"Why wait?" urged Belle.

"I am too young, my father thought. I had no great wish—for such a responsibility. I don't know, it was my father's advice. Other friends were coming out, my father thought we should wait until we knew something of the country—"

"Or something more of Herr Morl," thought Belle.

Lili rose.

"I think that you ought to go now. I'm very, very tired. I've never been strong."


"My mother died of consumption. After she was dead she used to visit me; sometimes I've thought that meant that I, too, should die young." Lili wept quietly. "Would I had died before I swore a lie. Where can there be forgiveness for that? 'God shall destroy thee for ever, thou deceitful tongue.'"

"A weak visionary, after all," thought Belle. She was suddenly weary of the girl, of the place, of the interview. She turned abruptly to go, putting her papers back into her reticule.

Lili Schoppe called after her in a tone that made her pause by the open door.

"Maarten Mori loves me, Miss Rastell. There is something strong between us. Though I am so young and silly, he holds to me in a way—he has his bad moments, and I can help him."

"Well, Fräulein Schoppe, well?"

"Don't interfere with us," pleaded the young girl wildly. "'There are some sins written with a pen of iron and the point of a diamond—the deceitful heart cannot deceive God.'"

Her tears overwhelmed her; as she hid her face in her hands Belle left the room.

Dr. Schoppe was waiting outside on the landing; he glanced at Belle, his face twitching with anxiety, but asked no questions as he hurried in to his daughter.

* * *

On the journey it all seemed stupid and became the most flimsy and ridiculous of masquerades. It had been, of course, from the first moment of its inception, a grotesque scheme. Belle, who had always prided herself on her common sense, was bitter in self-blame. The prolonged, tedious journey across the flats of Holland and Germany, alone in the red plush upholstered first-class carriage, was like being in a moving cage—unable to escape by any action whatsoever the company of one's own thoughts. Impossible to read, to sew, to scribble; impossible to do anything but to ponder over her own absurd position.

When she rubbed aside the dirt and moisture on the thick glass of the carriage window, she could only see a flat grey landscape, a heavy sky; here was no change of scene to raise her spirit; she had not escaped winter by escaping England. She was alone, yet they were on the same train—her victims—now she almost felt them to be her masters.

In what she had done, she had been, so far and outwardly, successful, but it was, she now assured herself, too brittle to be of long permanency. One does not change oneself by violently altering one's clothes, one's name, by moving from one lodging to another. Now it seemed to her, looking back on all her actions since Christmas Eve, that she had behaved like one in a delirium, with a hectic self-possession and a deliberate precision of gesture and speech, belonging properly to one whose mind is confused and whose defences are overthrown, but who, by a stern exercise of the intelligence, retains command of his faculties.

"Surely I have been a little mad ever since I went into Daisy's room on Christmas morning? And they must have been a little mad to endure me."

She tried to bring everything down to the basic facts, to a bed-rock of common sense; she had a terrible hold over them, and they knew it.

How skilfully Dr. Schoppe had laboured in his friend's behalf! When they had stopped for the first night he had chosen her hotel for her, had attended to her with great solicitude so that, she was sure, the people at the hotel had taken him for a kindly father or guardian. Then, when he had seen to her comfort, her meal, her wine, her fire, her luggage, he had spoken to her a few important words.

As she sat in the rocking train that was speeding onwards with what seemed to her a desperate and futile pace, she recalled in a blurred fashion that interview.

She had been so tired; she had been persuaded after her long abstinence to take two glasses of wine; she had then felt drowsy, while the good man standing there, stout, upright, with shining watch-chain and glittering eyes, but with his face ugly, discoloured, had talked to her so earnestly in his native language, which she understood so well.

What had he said? Ah, she could not remember the words, but well enough she knew the drift of them. He had endeavoured to persuade her that Daisy Arrow had died by her own hand.

"I will not deny," he had admitted, with greater courage, now they were out of England, "that Maarten was there."

"You couldn't deny it," she had retorted. "I saw him on the stairs," and she had closed her eyes as she had spoken, so vividly had come before her the image of the young man in the light overcoat which she had never seen him wear since, with the kerchief tucked up under his chin—standing at pause, as if she had spoken a word of enchantment or command, on the wretched little landing, and making that strange gesture (or had he made it or she imagined it?) as if he drew a cross in the air between them.

"I know, I know," Dr. Schoppe had said, bending low above her so that she, and she alone, should hear him distinctly, "Maarten was abroad that night, but Lili doesn't know it; I told her the tale that he was in his room with one of his headaches—he has them, you know, terrible headaches when he is scarcely accountable for what he does because of the pain—and it was true that he did have one that night and that I went upstairs once to give him some medicine—the second time he had gone out. Perhaps the paper was round the tablets."

"He had gone out," Belle had repeated, drowsy again, half asleep after the long travel, the warm fire and the two glasses of wine.

"Yes, but for no evil purpose. Do you understand? He is at heart a missionary, and went out just for a little fresh air; he couldn't resist the poor creature whom he saw begging, or so it seemed to him, begging in the gutter."

How long had Dr. Schoppe talked like that?—Belle thought she had slept and woken again, and dreamt several times over that she was slipping a key into a knothole in a board, and putting into a carpet bag a pink plume that was slightly stained on the mount.

Well, what kind of a story had Dr. Schoppe tried to make out?

In an excess of compassion and in his own depression, Herr Morl had spoken to poor Daisy Arrow, whom he had seen disconsolate, weeping in her shabby garb, he had taken her for warmth and food to a forsaken little table in an alcove in the Argyll Rooms.

"How had he got to the Argyll Rooms?" pondered Belle. "Did I ask Dr. Schoppe that? What does it matter! I can hardly expect him to repeat the tale."

What did it amount to, after all? The young minister had gone home with the whimpering wretch who so roused his pity in order to persuade her that there was hope on earth and in heaven—hope even for such as she. He had read to her out of the little Bible which Belle had afterwards picked up on the floor of her room; and then exhaustion and a kind of exultation caused by his headache, the medicine that Dr. Schoppe had given him, the lateness of the hour, and the strangeness of his situation, had come over him and he had fallen asleep. When he had woken, there had been Daisy, those two wounds in her neck, the pillow straight and the sheet falling off her body.

Then the young man's courage had gone. (Oh yes, Dr. Schoppe had admitted that frankly.) He had behaved like a fool and a coward.

"Perhaps not in the end so much like a fool and a coward," Belle had commented, "seeing that he was acquitted."

At first he had thought that he could save the girl; he had tried to staunch the wounds, had torn up a towel and put a bandage round her throat—then he had seen his own hands and his coat—stained; he had washed his hands in the basin, using all the water there was. By this time his agitation had been so overwhelming that he had not noticed the Bible which had fallen down on the floor, no, nor the knife, as he had not seen the note-paper pulled from his pocket, dropped in the Argyll Rooms.

"What happened next, you know."

"Why do you tell me all this?" Belle had asked impatiently. "I don't suppose we any of us want to dwell on it. Why refer to it again?"

And then the German had said heavily, even with an air of menace:

"Because we are all honest and respectable people, and it is not pleasant for me—for him—to think that we are being blackmailed, and by a woman like you; and what we do for you we do because we are sorry for you as he was sorry for her. We allow you to come into Germany; we are willing to put up with your pretences and your false name, but you must not think, even for a moment in your secret heart, that Maarten was guilty of this crime."

Belle had smiled:

"Perhaps it is better for me if he thinks that he didn't do it, considering that I must have something to do with him, I suppose, in the future."

Then Dr. Schoppe had come quickly to a proposal.

Maarten, very naturally Dr. Schoppe agreed, did not wish to keep any of the money subscribed to him by the British public, but it would have caused too much of a sensation to have refused it. Between the subscription and the expenses paid so lavishly by the British Government, there was something like two thousand pounds. Wouldn't she, Belle Adair or Rose Ras tell—whatever name she chose to take—accept this money and leave them?

Never for a moment had she been tempted by that offer, though now as, lolling uncomfortably in the swaying railway carriage, she thought it seemed absurdly generous.

Two thousand pounds to get rid of her! No doubt, though, they wanted to be rid of the money, too—it seemed tainted to them, a reminder of a most hideous episode.

But she did not want it, or not the money alone. She was determined that they should supply not only her needs, but her luxuries; she would not accept one final sum and let them be rid of her for ever.

So she had refused, shaking her head from side to side on the cushion on the back of the long chair.

"You can't buy me off, Dr. Schoppe, and pray don't offer to do so again."

Then the tender heart of the man's anguish and terror had come out.

He was thinking of his daughter—of his Lili—who was pining, yes, fretting and pining about a tragedy she had not understood, about this strange companion so oddly forced upon her, about the lie to which she, so honest, so pure-minded and chaste, had sworn in the witness-box.

Belle had not been in the least moved by pity at the thought of Lili; she thought the girl tiresome and priggish—sickly and dull.

She had listened with a cold, detached curiosity to Dr. Schoppe's genuine anguish; he had tried to move her by telling her the core of his own troubles which she had already heard from the girl herself.

"I persuaded her, you see; I told her that she could rely on it that he had been in the house all that evening, but it was not so. She relied on me and I told her a lie, I, who trained her to be so truthful."

"That is a stupid training to give anyone," said Belle. "Life's a little too subtle and complicated to be dealt with on terms of absolute candour, Dr. Schoppe."

Then he had begged her to let him know what she wanted.

She had repeated, weary of his insistence, that she only wanted his protection and countenance—a position in some decent household—a chance to look round—to regain what she had lost.

Now, alone in the red-plush-lined carriage, gazing through the blurred glass at the drab landscape flying past, she realised the absurdity of these demands.

What did she really want and what could they really give her? Would it not have been better to have taken the two thousand pounds and to have gone to Paris?

She asked herself with some bitterness why it was that she, who had been so early and so passionately avid after the lusts of the flesh, now found all vanity distasteful. She was young to be so sickened of what she had once longed for; the coveted sweets had cloyed on her stomach very soon. She was surprised at her own disdain of worldliness.

With that stern habit she had of facing her own moods and whims she pried into the recesses of her own mind and discovered that she did not want to queen it in the underworld, or hang on to the fringe of the half-world with Pastor Morl's two thousand pounds.

What, then, did she want? And how could she indulge that desire to be safe, respected, comfortable and honoured, which had seemed lately her one longing?

"My heart must be dead—really like ashes."

She began to think again, the first time for many months, of love. She believed that, after all, she might be capable of love, yes, an emotion beyond friendship or passion—far beyond whim or caprice or self-interest.

Well then, to begin anew, throw off the past, as a butterfly throws off the withered chrysalis, to find somewhere—what? A lover, marriage?

* * *

Her tangled thoughts fatigued her; she pulled the cushions into a more comfortable position under her head, and half fell asleep, oppressed by the swift monotonous movement, by the strong yet fading light that came through the blurred glass window, by the weight of her own cumbrous travelling clothes. Her personality expanded into a half-dream which was staged in a room, at once opulent and gaudy, of a royal palace, with windows with long, monstrous curtains, with great vistas of corridors and audience-chambers; she was hurrying through these with Pastor Morl by her side, and they moved as figures do in a dream, without touching the floor, without, it seemed, either wings or feet; and there in a little closet no bigger than a cupboard sat Majesty, who stared at them with heavy, vivid, pale blue eyes, and said in a tone of bland authority:

"Such a mistake should never have been made with a German, with a clergyman—with a man of your religion, with a man of your nationality."

Belle moved, shaking off the obsession, but not able to regain her senses; she was lulled again into the insistent nightmare.

She thought she was cowering under the poor bedclothes at No. 12, listening to those voices that sounded through the partition.

"Reading the Bible to her, wasn't he? And what did she say?"

She was out on the stair-head again, the empty crock in her hand; she was looking down at him, and he was looking up at her; then she was walking endlessly through the London streets over the greasy pavement, the fog overhead pressing down on her, stinging her eyes, nostrils and on her lips—in front of her the lights, red and blue, of the pawnbroker's door—in front of her another woman singing for a few coppers—not another woman—Herself? Not herself, but Daisy Arrow.

She stirred and tried to wake. Another figure had joined her in the empty carriage now; she was seated opposite, blotting out the dusty plush, pointing with a smile to the red marks on the throat that showed between the soiled bow of the white bonnet-strings—herself or Daisy Arrow? Neither—but all the women whom she had ever known fused into one symbolic figure—Lily Mason, too, the girl who had seemed at first nameless, appeared melting into tears as if ashamed of her own grief. And that other Lili—a priggish, silly little missionary, whose fanatic piety was so tedious; all these women in one fair-haired phantasm, seated opposite in the dusk, pointing to her throat.

Belle sat up, roused herself with an effort of will; she wanted to escape from the train, from the confinement of the carriage, from the motion; she flung herself on the valise that was on the seat beside her, unlocked it hastily and took out some headache-drops.

Supposing she was to be ill! That chance reflection shook her dreams aside. They would put her into a hospital and get rid of her that way; she must maintain a command over her senses.

They were nearing a station; she saw the dim, shadow—submerged lights of a large town from out the window. Why were they so infinitely melancholy? When she had formerly approached a large station she had felt some excitement, that of expectation, of arrival, of hope. But now there was only this sense of intense loneliness.

She opened the window, unable to endure any longer the sense of captivity; the cool air flew in, and like a wet rag flicked across her face; across the murky smudge of sunset sky rose church steeples and factory chimneys in black; the stagnant smoke obscured the twilight sky; there was a whistling of trains, a grinding of wheels, the clanging of metal on metal.

They had reached their destination—she had been told that they should be there before it was dark. She had been to Augsburg before, but under happier circumstances and in the summer-time.

How long would they stay here and how would she pass the time? Stolen interviews with him in picture-galleries and public parks? She would have to endure the crazy adventure because there was nothing else for her to do. Cowering from her load of uneasy dreams, she made a pattern with words in her disturbed mind:

"It has all gone to pieces, shivered into little bits; it was all a make-belief, a makeshift, a sham. Why didn't I see from the first that while I was supposed to be deep in degradation—wasn't the word I used for myself?—I have never been more degraded than I am now."

A profound inner loneliness overwhelmed her; she bowed herself on the red-plush seat as if she was newly bereaved, and bitterly wondered why there was this clinging to life when all that life could give was exhausted or lost. In that moment she pitied the man whom she was tormenting, for his existence seemed like her own, out of control, distorted, dark and unescapable.

What she could piece together of his history seemed pitiful, the tale of one driven by nameless furies into the desperate refuge of religious fanaticism. "I don't deny," Dr. Schoppe had said, "that there were tales about his youth, and both his father and his brother, but that is over—"

Belle had not wanted to know any more; it was with the man's future, not his past, that she had to deal. However dangerous, strange or unstable he was, she could control him, yes, and control that silly little gawk with the wooden angel face to whom he had turned in an excess of revulsion against himself, or so Belle supposed.

The train jolted to a standstill. Belle rose and saw the long blank line of the grey platform with trucks and sheds beyond.

She would almost as soon have died as have gone on with the project on which she was engaged, only a tenacious courage held her resolute to continue the flickering fantasy of the nebulous adventure.

She opened the carriage door and peered down the drab length of the train. There were not many passengers for Augsburg; in the pool of dirty light cast by one of the large overhead gas-lamps she saw the little group of people to whom she had attached herself, Dr. Schoppe heavy in clumsy travelling-clothes, Lili in an unbecoming ulster, the young minister with his overcoat collar turned up and a valise in his hand. How commonplace, almost droll they looked, tired, irritable travellers fussing over their luggage.

Through Belle's lassitude darted the question:

"Did he kill Daisy Arrow?"

* * *

Herr Mort came to see Belle in a second-floor parlour at the comfortable hotel where she was staying. From the tall window she could glimpse a monstrous statue of a poet, with laurels and lyre, staring down on to a Square which was grey and dirty under the heavy slash of the rain; the whole place was beyond belief hateful, to Belle it had an odious quality of artificiality. That London life which she had been so desperate to end, even with a vinegar-stained clasp-knife, had at least been part of a pattern; it had grown out of herself, her circumstances, her character, her downfall and her misfortunes, every day little familiar occurrences and actions had carried out, with a certain logic, that pattern until it had acquired a certain familiar orderliness. But in this foreign city there was nothing that bore any relation to anything sane or permanent, only a torn fragment of time and place that seemed to swing in a void, that belonged to the impossible creature whom she had invented—Rose Rastell, missionary worker, who was not a human being at all, but merely a suit of decent clothes, a coil of neatly-combed hair, a reticule well filled with money.

She had braced herself for arguments, entreaties, menaces. No doubt Herr Morl had come to offer her again the money—the two thousand pounds—which she found herself thinking of with longing.

"Why not take it and go away?" She could travel far with that bribe, to the South again, somewhere where the sun shone. Surely she still knew a few people who would receive her if she were well dressed and had a little money to spend. She waited for the offer and half meant to take it, anything to get away.

But Pastor Morl did not speak of the money. He said at once and deliberately as he sat poised on the edge of one of the stiff arm-chairs with the wide-fringed chenille seat.

"To-morrow I shall take you to my mother as we arranged. Lili and her father are not coming. They go to Maartensdorf to Dr. Schoppe's sister."

"I think it would be better if they came with us. It would make the whole thing seem less absurd."

"Would it?" he replied, with a wooden stare. "But Lili is not very well—the journey overwhelmed her—and she is not happy, as you know."

"She concerns herself too much about me. I have taken no notice of her—she has hardly seen me at all."

"I know, but she is aware that you are there with us."

"Well, Fräulein Schoppe is no concern of mine."

Belle stared across the room with the stiff, ugly furniture at the stiff, ugly statue and the rain without.

Could any of this be endured? Only by thinking of the alternative that offered—her return to England—to London, where she would be nothing, nobody, where she might be marked and watched by Mr. Matchwell, or she might be seized on again by Mrs. Bulke, where she might find herself trapesing from public-house to public-house with Minnie Palmer.

"I suppose," she said quickly, "you are wondering why I didn't take the money. It would have been the most reasonable and sensible thing to do, and I expect you think of me as someone who is, above everything else, reasonable and sensible. Well, I'm not—no—when Dr. Schoppe offered me the two thousand I should have taken it, shouldn't I? I wanted other things besides money. The first thing was comfort and ease and getting away from—what seemed to me unendurable. Now that desire has been satisfied—I'm well fed and clothed and a few people have treated me respectfully."

"What, then, do you want now?"

He had moved to the window as if he preferred that utterly dreary prospect to gazing at her where she sat on the long, stiff, horsehair sofa.

"I want some interest in life. I've never been satisfied yet," she said restlessly.

"And you think you might find that interest with us? I have told you that my mother lives very, very quietly."

"Never mind that. I think it is you, Herr Morl, who attract me. I wonder about you so much. I am troubled by the whole story. I'm involved now and I can't let go even if I wanted to. At first I thrust myself in and it was an effort, but now I can't draw back."

"Sometimes I wonder about you, too, but there hasn't been much time for that."

"No, I suppose not." She made an effort to snatch at commonplace. "What are you going to do? I mean, I don't know anything about you, really. You belong to a church somewhere?"

"Not now. I have resigned my chaplaincy—Dr. Schoppe, too, all is changed for him. He left his practice, you see, to go with us to Brazil—sold it, he is not young, though he is so vigorous, and I don't suppose he'll have much heart for his work just now."

She sat silent, pondering irritably how the death of Daisy Arrow had altered all their lives; she felt very despondent and wished that event, which had seemed to her at first full of such exultant results for herself, had never happened. If only she could have used the knife on herself before Minnie Palmer had run into that underground dressing-room! Why, then probably Daisy would still be alive...

Pastor Morl was staring at her from the window.

"You don't seem to be very well," he said. "I thought you'd find it difficult to brazen it out. Perhaps you're thinking it was foolish of you to leave your own country to come here, a stranger, relying on the kind of man you must think I am."

"Dr. Schoppe told me never to think of you as anything—" Belle could not find the words; she saw him smiling over his shoulder—"I mean I promised Dr. Schoppe that I would consider it suicide."

"Oh yes, and so it was, but that makes me a coward and worse, doesn't it? A liar, too. Think of the perjury I involved all those people in."

"I don't want to think of it. I want to look into the future, not into the past," said Belle, huddled into a corner of the sofa.

She was amazed herself at her own lack of courage. She was shivering in apprehension and despondency. This dismal room and the view without—that statue, those blank houses, and the rain were defeating her, like so many ranked enemies.

"It is just a question of a point of view," replied the young man. "The future might be very gay and magnificent and amusing; it might offer just the sort of life that you, I should think, like."

"Can you get it for me?" she asked. "After a while? I mean that sort of life."

"What should I know of it?" he replied suddenly. "I gave it up, all up, didn't I, when I entered the Church?" He turned on her suddenly: "I think it would be better for you—it doesn't matter so much for me—but I think it would be better for you if you took the money and left us—left me."

"I can't," sighed Belle, "I can't. I'm too tired to travel any more. Let me have a little rest."

He approached her, blocking out the light with his slightly gaunt high-shouldered outline. She found him more pleasing to look at than the formal ugly room, than the prospect of the wet square, with that banal colossal statue holding the huge lyre, from the strings of which the caught raindrops fell.

"I don't mean you any harm," she whispered. "I only ask you to help me because I was able to help you—I don't judge you—"

"Why should you?"

He spoke so harshly that she frowned.

"Well, Herr Morl, you, not I, stood in the dock."

"I was tried and acquitted. Perhaps when you stand your trial you will be condemned."

She recalled that blackmail was as definitely an offence against the law as murder.

"Oh, I don't take much risk," she replied, smiling and staring up at him "If it comes to plain speaking—"

"What else but plain speaking should there be between us? You think I am a murderer and I know that you are a harlot."

Belle put the back of her hand over her mouth and sighed deeply.

"You try to disguise it," continued the young minister quietly, "even from yourself—but that is what you are—a woman of the streets who was living in a brothel. You would be there now but for the money you've extorted from me."

"Isn't it foolish to talk to me like that, Herr Morl? You might find no money that you could pay me would keep me quiet—"

"I don't know that you are so much to be feared—a creature of no character, confessing to perjury—"

"Stop! I am educated, intelligent, I could make them believe me. Besides, if the case was reopened your alibi would fall to pieces, you know that you slipped through the fingers of the police very easily—"

The young man came closer to the couch; his shadow was completely over her huddled figure, which was drawn against the stiff cushions.

"I was acquitted," he said. "They couldn't arrest me again."

"You weren't on trial—only charged at the police court. Besides, what does that matter? I could always tell what I know to—well, say to your Lili."

She was exasperated to see the pain and terror, amounting to anguish, that this provoked in Herr Morl; he stood helpless, abject before that threat.

"What is there in that little bigot that you care about so much!" she exclaimed, and she thought with gratification and contempt: "There is the hold on him—there is the core of it for him."

"Lili wouldn't believe it," he whispered.

"No? Lili guesses too much already to be very incredulous. Even if you offered her your explanation of—suicide—how account for your presence in No. 12, which was, as you said just now, a brothel?"

"Take the money and go away."

"Presently, perhaps. I want a rest. I'm tired, tired. I'm curious, too."

"About me?"

"About you and Lili."

She rose and so stood facing him, so close that they almost touched; now she was reassured as to her hold on him she felt at ease, mistress of herself and of him; he would never be free of her while she had it in her power to tell her tale to Lili.

"You'll never understand about me and Lili," he said sullenly. "Never, never, do you hear?"

"Of course I understand. Lili seemed a guardian angel—but I wonder why you needed one?"

Pastor Morl moved away from her towards the window; his dark outline was that of the man who had stood in the dock at Bow Street.

"Are there not some whom the Lord hath vowed to root out and destroy utterly?" he muttered looking sideways into the dark, wet Square. "Are there not those of whom the Lord has said—'Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself and to all thy friends'?"

Belle sank on to the sofa and clasped her hands on her knees; this furtive, odd personality excited, almost attracted her; she felt that she was becoming more interested in the man than in what she hoped to obtain from him. It was a strange face on which the grey light fell, and it looked now as it had looked when she had first seen it on the landing of Mrs. Bulke's house. Pale shadows modelled the hollows of the fine features, the eyes, of that shade of grey that is near lavender, had an odd blank, silver look under the dark brows, so that they appeared dices of metal. The sensitive mouth with the arched upper lip, pale but firmly set, the slightly-aquiline nose with the thin nostrils, combined to give that appearance of romantic good looks that had proved so useful to Maarten Morl in London; there was a sheen of dark gold in the harsh, stiff brown hair and no other brightness in the head and face that was like, in this dead-toned light, a bust in deep-toned alabaster with silver eyes. Belle, in her fascinated scrutiny of this stranger who had become of such absorbing importance in her life, could not decide if this lean countenance expressed weakness or strength, cruelty or nobility—none, she thought. Yet all these qualities were in reserve in those handsome features. How heavily he was dressed in dark clothes and a white kerchief—a clerical attire, she supposed.

"How much longer do you want to stare at me?" he demanded.

"I don't know. You are staring at me. I suppose we are very curious about one another."

She glanced sideways at herself in the long, black-spotted mirror that hung behind the side-table with the thumbed time-tables and guide-books. She was worthy to hold a man's gaze—a different creature from she who had gazed at herself in the scrap of mirror in the dressing-room under the stage of the Cambridge. Her smooth elegance of attire, of banded hair, of pure carnation, of delicate straight feature, was carefully set off by her ardent air, her graceful poise; her eyes sparkled, there was a lustre on her lip, her cheek, and the line of the long throat and slight bosom was flawless.

"Well," muttered the young minister, "well, I shall come to-morrow to take you to Schloss Morl—I don't suppose that it is in the least like what you imagine—"

"I don't care—it is in the forest?"

"In the forest, yes."

"Well, then, that will do. Somewhere where I can rest. I'm so tired."

"And for the future? You will go away—with money, of course, but you will go away, so that we—Lili and I—"

She was vexed by that broken sentence; the hold of that sickly young bigot on this strange man annoyed her; she remembered what Dr. Schoppe had told her of the lovers' first meeting—the fainting fit, the fall from the horse, the nursing by the doctor's daughter. In the dock also he had fallen unconscious—perhaps he was a man haunted, whose daemon became at times suddenly visible, perhaps Lili was the charmer whose presence kept the demon at bay. 'Wanderer to the Moon. Wanderer to the Moon.'

"I can't answer for the future," she said.

Herr Morl picked up his hat and stick and left her as if dismissed.

"The rebuke of the Lord cometh in flames of fire," he whispered, and was gone, walking softly.

* * *

The railway line came to an end where the last outpost trees of the pine forests sloped down from the hills. The rest of the way to Schloss Morl they had to take a carriage. Belle noted at once that it was a commodious, fashionable equipage, drawn by two glossy horses and driven by a comfortable-looking servant in clean livery. Her spirits, which had been so profoundly depressed by the crooked, wet city, rose again with the keen freshness of the air, the distant blue vistas of mountains, the noble forest of dark pine-trees that were beginning to be burnished by the spring, to right and left.

This was a new world surely—a fresh experience, which would help to make the past remote, even to blot it out altogether.

But her pleasure was soon overclouded; she remembered days of her youth spent in Germany, picnics in some such woods as these, joyful excursions with light-hearted friends, the gathering of early wind-flowers, so frail that it seemed indeed as if the west breeze had scattered them and would blow them away again. Under some such dark trees she had experienced too much for too brief a time. In early days life had been spoilt for her and was now likely to be a barren waste, unless she could fill it with some high fantastic passion, some strange and gaudy adventure.

She was intensely conscious of the young minister sitting beside her in the carriage; lately he had began to absorb much of her attention—more of her attention than she had ever given to anyone save herself. An intense curiosity—which it was not by any means, as she frequently reminded herself, to her advantage to gratify—troubled her with regard to Pastor Morl. She had, for her own convenience and conscience' sake, persuaded herself that the story of Daisy Arrow's suicide was true, but, though she had so persuaded herself, how overlook the little German letter that she had taken from Roger Owen? How prevent her mind from dwelling in a teasing fashion on the relations of those two people, the dead woman, the man accused of slaying her? What could these two have been when they had first met years ago in Germany? Was it by arrangement or mere coincidence that they had met again in the Argyll Rooms? And what manner of man was this who had impressed a character like Dr. Schoppe's (of whose simplicity and sincerity Belle had no doubt) with his piety and missionary zeal, and who yet had been entangled in some affair, ordinary and sordid enough no doubt, but likely to be regarded with horror by Lili and her father.

Belle tried resolutely to put these problems from her mind. In anger she warned herself, "I shall go on thinking of him till there's nothing else in my mind."

She begged him to let down the window that the cool air might blow in; as he obeyed she leaned forward and stared into the rich gloom of the forest.

With an instinct of breeding she endeavoured to assure him with regard to his mother. She addressed him formally, for through precision she endeavoured to put some reality into their fantastic relations.

"I want you to believe, Herr Morl, that nothing that I shall do or say could possible offend your mother. I will try all I can to be an amiable companion to her. I suppose I shan't stay there long. You will be able to think of something else for me, no doubt."

He gave her a look which she thought was barbed with irony, and asked:

"What do you want me to do for you, once again—what?"

"You must know somebody in some German city—oh, a long way from here if you please—I only need a proper introduction. Perhaps I shall keep a small academy for deportment and elocution and music—I know enough to teach a little, and that would be an opening into society."

"Yes, I might find you that. Anything if you will go away. Here, if you please, we get down and walk."

He opened the door and sprang from the carriage.

"The road any further is impossible for the horses. For them it is miles round and I become impatient after the railway carriage."

"Yes," said Belle, "I, too, should like to walk."

"Your luggage will go round the long way, and now we are free."

He set a quick pace and they stepped side by side up the slope that was covered thickly by tall pines; underneath were last year's cones, brown and open in stiff wooden petals, and a thick carpet of pine-needles, soft to the feet.

Belle felt a deep sensation of relief and pleasure. There was something inspiring in walking quickly, in climbing, keeping one's face upwards turned to some high objective; it was, she thought, delightful.

Her companion seemed pleased, too—a different man from the man whom she had known in London, or on the journey, or in that drab room in Augsburg.

"Is it not strange," he said, "how much one can forget?"

"You are fortunate. I, alas, remember everything."

"I know," he looked about him, "I remember this and the games I used to have here when I was a boy home for holidays, and country walks too, when I used to fancy I was going to be a poet and come here to write verses. Oh, I had some high ideas, I assure you."

"Well, then, you are like me, Herr Morl, you remember everything."

"Little trivial things like that—but a great many more important things I forget. It's just as well, don't you think? If everything remained on one's mind surely one would go mad."

She had thought that they would climb for hours, and she had lost a sense of their destination, when suddenly he said: "There is the house," and with a sense of shock she saw the building appear behind the dark plumes and rough orange-red stems of the pines.

It was a modest, severe white mansion with a blank façade, set in the midst of 'the forest, with a small garden back and front, and the ground rising behind covered by the thinning pine-trees.

"It was the hunting lodge of the old Schloss," said Herr Morl, "but that has long gone to ruins and we have lived here for about a hundred years. We have never been a large family and this is big enough."

Belle was disappointed. In the hideous commonplace of the London she had known she had thirsted for something that was fantastic—magnificent, and this was neither, but an ordinary house with a drab look.

"You heard, I think, that I was very wealthy—that's the tale they told in London, but it was exaggerated. We never had so much and my brother was extravagant. Many of the farms and estates worth money were sold."

Belle hardly heard what the young minister said. She was considering the place, the house, from her own point of view. Could she live there contentedly? Was this a haven? What manner of creature was his mother, and how many servants did they keep? What society was there?

These questions rushed to her lips, but she repressed them. Better to go on quietly and see what happened from day to day.

Her hold over him seemed very frail now. In London she had been almost intoxicated with a sense of power, but now even the Bible and the letters, so securely locked away in the bottom of her valise, seemed futile and rather silly. And this was not the castle in the forest of which she had dreamt.

They came round, walking over pine-needles, to the front of the house, which was flat, save for the classic portico of the large door, either side of which was carved a hound in stone. At the left side was the ruin of an enormous lime-tree far older than the building, buckled with iron to keep rain water from rotting it, and supported by chains and staves of metal.

"What manner of tree is that?"

"A lime; it still bears a few flowers, of which they make tilleul tea in the summer. It is supposed to be six hundred years old."

"Summer," sighed Belle. "I wish it were summer now—how many more months? Can one find now a few flowers in the woods?"

He pulled the chain that hung by the neat door—she heard the clang of an iron clapper; it seemed to echo into emptiness.

"Flowers?" said Herr Morl. "You have already had the snowdrops in London."

She was surprised that he cared to remind her of that, surprised that he was smiling at her quite complacently.

A clean, agreeable-looking manservant in a neat livery opened to them.

The white-washed hall was plain, save for, high on the walls, a painted wooden escutcheon, with stags' head either side; it was a very ordinary house; Belle remembered many such places from her schooldays. Herr Morl's wealth and importance had indeed been exaggerated.

She followed the servant into a good-sized room at the back of the house. The high windows were uncurtained and the pine-trees they showed were so near that they seemed to enter and dominate the house. Yes, everywhere Belle looked—a window, and the pine woods, a glimpse of the hillside between them, and the day closing down into a clear twilight.

The furnishing was austere—some old highly-polished dark pieces, harsh against the white walls, a heavy lantern hanging from the centre of the ornate stucco ceiling, no cushions, draperies, or mirrors, no glow of any flames; a large white porcelain stove gave out a heavy heat.

A stout lady with thin iron-grey hair, tightly-banded either side of her large ears, and a round red face, was waiting for them in the centre of this room.

She greeted the young clergyman with a controlled but emphatic interest, and gave Belle her hand, looking at her without either curiosity or doubt; by nothing did she betray what this meeting might mean to her—what anxiety she had endured or felt now.

Belle was confounded—a little disappointed. It seemed as if all her calculations were wrong. Why had she supposed that the young man's mother would be a delicate, simple, shy creature? What silly convention had made her after all her experience associate the word "mother" with some frail, half-sickly creature? This woman was robust and vigorous, with small clever eyes and a heavy jaw.

Belle, trying to gather her wits together, wondered how much she knew of the Daisy Arrow affair? What version, distorted or glossed over, had been told her? Had she seen any of the English newspapers?

The young man had introduced her by merely saying:

"This is Miss Rastell, mother, of whom I told you. She is to be your guest for a while."

With that he left her alone with Frau Morl, who had questioned her in a courteous, ordinary way as to the details of her journey—her impressions of Germany—and all the other little commonplaces usually employed to put strangers at their ease.

Belle, though it cost her an effort, thought it as well to break through this at once.

"You must wonder at me and why I am here."

"Not at all, my dear; sit down, take off your bonnet—your coat and gloves too, it is warm in here with the stove."

"I don't know how much your son has told you about me, Frau Mori."

"He has said that you were a very good friend to him and to little Lili and to Dr. Schoppe, in London—that you had tastes in common, is it not so?"

"Yes," replied Belle steadily; "I am interested in missionary work. I was doing some of that in London."

"So," nodded Frau Morl, looking at her steadily. "It is a good work and I congratulate you."

"Before that," said Belle, slightly closing her eyes like one who takes a fence—a high fence—"I was on the stage."

"Were you? So, too," smiled the stout lady, "was I. Does it surprise you?" she added, with a swift smile which made her broad face attractive. "I used to be a singer, even in opera a little, and before that—before I found I had a voice—I used to act. But when I married I left the stage."

"You know something, then," said Belle, "of what that life is like?"

She thought to herself: "I wondered why he didn't make more trouble at bringing me here. I can see that his mother is very well able to look after herself. I think myself so clever, and yet I was such a fool as to imagine some silly shrinking old lady who knew nothing."

"You are very welcome," said Frau Morl, taking from Belle her jacket and bonnet. "My son says that we can do no less than let you stay here as long as you will, and I am very pleased. But you will find it dull until you are used to it. I found it dull, even with a husband and two sons." She smiled again, and her small deep-set eyes never moved from Belle's face. "Forgive me, but you are very pretty and elegant to be a missionary worker. You look pale, too; you need a rest, no doubt."

"Yes," admitted Belle faintly. "I'm tired, Frau Morl, tired."

"Do you know Germany?"

"Yes, I was here as a schoolgirl."

"Ah, that is why you speak our language so well. That's a good thing, for I know no English."

Belle suddenly found herself talking in a high rapid voice that sounded unnatural in her own ears.

"It must seem very odd to you, Frau Morl, for me to come here like this—and I find it odd too. You know, it's all been so strange—my meeting with your son—the queer episode."

Belle was then silent suddenly, again wondering how much this stout woman with the high colour knew of the crime at No. 12.

"It was stupid of me not to have asked him that. I thought I was so sharp, but after all I have been quite stupid—what am I doing here? What use will this place, this woman be to me?"

"Yes, you were saying?" asked Frau Morl pleasantly.

"Only—that I don't know quite what your son told you—or if Dr. Schoppe wrote to you?"

The other woman smiled at her without replying.

"Oh," said Belle, "you do know something, do you not, Frau Morl?"

The room was certainly overheated; she put her hand to her head and made an effort to speak again.

Frau Morl checked her.

"I know something. You were good to Lili, that is enough. I hope the dear child will soon come here—she is so fond of you."

"Has she been writing to you of me?"

"Oh yes, she has written such long letters, all of your goodness and kindness. Now think no more of anything. I am glad to make this little return—to offer you this little holiday. I will go to see that the supper is all nice for you; I will send them in with candles and here is a maid who will take you to your room."

* * *

"Has this really happened to me?" thought Belle. "I don't believe any of it."

She had been shown into a large plain room with whitewashed walls and stuccoed ceiling, on which was a heavy bas-relief of flowers and shells; two tall windows at which were plain muslin curtains, opened out on to the pine forest. She had the impression here that she had had in other rooms in the house—that the forest was crowding in, shadowing every corner of every apartment—the atmosphere was quite different from anything to which she had been used. The bed had white dimity curtains, a white coverlet; there was hot water in a can of shining brass; a small white porcelain stove, which seemed to have been newly lit, did no more than take the chill off the keen air. There was a shelf of devotional books between the windows; there was one candle, one only, on the table by the bed.

Frau Morl looked in to see if her guest was comfortable.

"She can't have heard," thought Belle, "of what happened in London. She is far too calm."

"Do you feel at home?" asked the German lady pleasantly, "everything is agreeable to you? To-morrow, I hope we have little Lili. All this has been very sad for her."

"Lili has been very brave," said Belle in a noncommittal tone. Then, at a tangent, guarding herself by foolishness: "She speaks English very well."

"Yes, and I not a word," Frau Morl laughed, went to the window and peered out between the muslin blinds. "You saw the lime-tree?—it's supposed to be very, very old. From your window you can see it."

"Yes, how odd it looks! All chained and plated and supported with iron."

"Yes. Sometimes when the wind is high the chains rattle, but I sleep so heavily I do not notice it."

"You have no garden?" asked Belle.

The twilight had thickened; the other woman's personality, the other woman's house oppressed her roused senses.

"No, not here. We are on the slope and in the middle of the woods and it is difficult. But a little way down I have a garden, yes, just a small garden. There is not much that grows in it, but I have some pretty moss roses."

"What did you say?" asked Belle.

"What did I say? I say that in my little garden there grow some moss roses."

* * *

Belle savoured in the first few days of her stay the new life carefully and deliberately, as an epicure will turn over on his palate a fresh flavour, finding a certain gusto even in the novelty.

This was quite different from what she had expected when she had decided impetuously to try her fortunes in Germany. She had longed for splendour, a touch of fantasy, a hint of magnificence, but there was nothing of that. She had hoped at least for luxury—stiff and old-fashioned perhaps—but there was none. Frau Morl lived with monotonous precision. Repose and comfort might be obtained in her house in the pine woods, there was good, if coarse, food, long hours of leisure, regular service, but no more.

"My son," said Frau Morl, "almost insists that I need a companion. He told me that he had found one in you, and though you are very pleasant, dear Miss Rastell, pray don't be offended with me when I said that I don't really need a companion."

She was a very ordinary woman, yet, because of this, perhaps, strange to Belle. She occupied herself in her household, in helping to manage the affairs of her son's estate. She had a little room set up as an office and every day the steward called, walking over from his own house a little lower down the wooded slope, to discuss business with her. She managed too, and by herself, her household, the maidservants, the menservants, the stables, the dogs, the forest and the arable land adjoining them.

"You wonder how I learnt all this?" she smiled to Belle, "when I was brought up so differently—for the stage and music. Well, my dear, there was nothing else to do."

For Belle there was nothing to do now. She made herself little tasks; she tried to help Frau Morl in her energetic duties, but she was not necessary to the ordered life of the placid household; she had too much leisure.

Yet the acrid flavour of this new life was not altogether displeasing, nor was the cool company of this capable woman, who seemed to take her for granted, without a soothing effect.

"It is," she would say to herself, when she would put out her one candle and lie down in the bed with the white dimity curtains, and listen to the sighs of the pine branches without, "a pleasant interlude; one need not worry as to what should happen next."

She walked in the woods alone or with the dogs, as Frau Morl seldom left the house save on Sundays to go to their church in the village. She was pious in a practical fashion; strangely enough—Lutheran, in a country largely Roman Catholic. Belle learned that it was owing to her powerful persuasion that her younger son had entered the Church.

Belle had prepared several plausible stories to account for herself, for her past, for the police-court affair in London, but Frau Morl never questioned her on any of these subjects. This made everything easier for Belle; yet, perversely, she longed to talk about her strange situation. She was almost fretted because Frau Morl never said to her: "Who are you after all? What are you doing here?"

The young clergyman himself was, as she supposed, in Augsburg or Maartensdorf. He never came to the house during those last weeks of winter. If he wrote to his mother Belle did not know of it; but she felt secure; as long as she was there in his home she could not lose her hold on him; but she began to wonder if to keep her hold on him was what she most desired.

Often she would beguile the long hours of the cold spring evenings, when the needlework she had forced on herself would drop from her hands, or the book she had laid on her knee would close over her fingers, by laying her plans for the future.

This could not go on. There was something in the house—in the mistress of the house, even in the servants, that acted like a drug or a charm. She could believe that she was under some light enchantment—there in this clockwork routine, which was really so futile and meaningless, in the middle of these monstrous woods backed by these huge mountains, waiting, always waiting, and glad to wait.

"He must have something to suggest, or I must suggest something," and her mind turned over projects—a little academy for girls down in the city, or a position as companion to a lady of rank. "How tired I must be—tired of myself and of the world—to endure this at all."

Once she asked Frau Mori about Lili Schoppe.

The answer was short and to the point:

"The girl is not well—she seems to be fretting, she is with her father at Maartensdorf."

"What! Still not well and still fretting?"

"Yes," said Frau Morl decidedly, "the marriage has had to be postponed. It was to have been in May, you know. I cannot persuade her to come up here; I thought she would have been so pleased to be with you."

* * *

Belle decided that she did not like the house—so plain, so old-fashioned, so blank, inside and out, with bare whitewashed walls and stucco ceilings and the large and highly-polished furniture—that sense of the woods encroaching on it, overwhelming it—the stout woman in her widow's dress with her key-basket, going cheerfully, practically, about her tasks, and the well-kept servants in their clean liveries.

What was wrong with all this? What was wrong? What was so dreadfully amiss?

There were times when Belle would have preferred to have found herself in Mrs. Bulke's kitchen.

She persuaded herself that there was nothing wrong with Schloss Morl. What, indeed, could there have been? It was, as her knowledge of Germany told her, an ordinary establishment of an ordinary country gentleman. There was nothing peculiar in Frau Morl's monotonous existence, though it seemed odd after Belle's London life. The widow was lonely no doubt, but she had her friends, elderly people, quietly dressed, who came on brief occasional visits; she had her days when the carriage was ordered and she drove through the forest—to Maartensdorf, Belle supposed, or to a neighbouring house. She never asked her guest to accompany her on these drives, and she never went with Belle on those walks that the Englishwoman took through the woods or down to the village. Frau Morl's courtesy had a blank quality; she seemed to take her guest for granted in a fashion that set her more completely the other side of a barrier than any resentment or rage could have done. She seemed quite indifferent as to whether this was a serpent or a dove that she cherished in the midst of her austere household; never by a look or gesture did she betray what her feelings were towards her dead husband and her dead son, or towards Maarten and Lili, how she had viewed the expedition to Brazil, or how that sudden cancellation of that project and the disaster that had led to her son's return to Germany.

Belle asked herself continually:

"What does she know?"

The servants were as reserved as their mistress; cheerful, well-trained and industrious, they accepted the Englishwoman as a matter of course, and Belle could not penetrate behind their hard civility. She tried to engage the chambermaid who waited on her, the woman she saw sweeping out the large rooms, the boy bringing up bundles of faggots to the outhouse, the man coming from the stables with dogs to exercise in cunningly casual conversation as to the history of the Mod' family. She wanted to know something of Maarten's father, of his brother who had died so young, of Maarten's childhood and youth, of the impression his entering the ministry had made on his friends and servants. Her curiosity had to remain unsatisfied, she could not break down a taciturnity that was either deep loyalty or intense stupidity. Her resentment grew; she had from the first disliked Frau Morl, and she looked forward to the moment when that stolid woman, either so firmly controlled or so completely ignorant, would have to learn that Miss Rastell had not come to Schloss Morl merely to amuse herself. Yet so weary was Belle, so grateful for ease, peace and comfort, that she was content to delay all action. The precise, spacious house, the orderly service, the austerity and purity of the dark forest, seemed to be slowly cleansing her from the soilure of incredible humiliations. Because of that, she endured everything.

There was an acrid satisfaction in the sounds of the routine of labour, the steady swish-swish of a broom, the splash of water from a tap, the gush of water from a pail, the voices of the grooms and stable boys as they were dressing the horses, the brisk rubbing of cloths on the waxed furniture; there was a bitter-sweet train of memory aroused by the smell of coffee and hot bread, of savoury dishes and wood burning. There was something soothing in the spotless rooms, the white finely-starched coverlets and curtains in her bedchamber, the brilliantly-polished windows, the cool linen sheets, faintly smelling of herbs, the gleaming porcelain and heavy silver of the table services. All these details made up a pattern of life that was decent, self-respecting, of almost conventual peace and austerity. To such a life had Belle been trained; misfortune had brought a violent dislocation of ingrained habits, had outraged carefully-trained refinements and delicacies, and the sudden return to what she had feared was for ever lost seemed all she wanted. Yet there were times when she felt so alien, so forlorn, so purposeless, set in this strange background that almost she would have been again in London.

But fatigue and relief conquered this restless revulsion against futile monotony—she was safe, she was cleansed, she had struggled out of the filth.

Once the young minister came to Schloss Morl. Belle, peering from her window as the dusk fell, saw the neat carriage drive up the well-gravelled drive and Herr Morl alight. It had been a wet day, a streak of cold light showed behind the gaunt twisted outline of the old iron-chained, iron-propped lime-tree, the harsh, stiff boughs of the firs glittered with raindrops; Belle felt a rising excitement at the presence of this man and at the thought of the power she had over him. Had he come to make a final reckoning with her?

She was quite ready for that, though she did not know what she wanted of him.

But she did not see him. Her dinner was served alone in the large white-walled dining-room. Frau Morl dined with her son in her little apartment where she interviewed the steward, the tenants and the servants.

"Do they think that they can evade me like that? Well, I can wait. I'm tired and there is no great hurry. I'm tired."

She felt restless and could not eat; the thought of the interview between mother and son teased her; how much were they in each other's confidence? Perhaps they were planning defences against her, perhaps he was telling that cool, reserved woman a tale full of lies, perhaps they were discussing Lili...

Belle contrived to pass along the corridor outside Frau Morl's room; she could hear the murmur of voices—the man's clear, deep tones, the woman's harsh hum. She hurried on. She had been reminded of that same male voice as she had heard it through the walls of Daisy Arrow's room.

The past impinged on the present, destroying it; Belle hastened to the large salon where she usually spent her evenings; it was an apartment too large for intimate comfort; the shutters had not been closed, and Belle saw the dark sky behind the darker pines. A servant was attending to the fire; Belle had a longing to talk to someone, but hardly knew what to say to the florid, neat girl who knelt before the rising flames. At random she asked:

"Don't you find it lonely here?"

"No, Fräulein."

"Not even in the winter?"

"No, Fräulein."

Belle seated herself close to the fire.

"Do you remember the late Herr Morl?"

"No, Fräulein."

"The elder son, then? He must have died young."

"That was before I came here." The girl rose from her knees and carefully dusted her apron with her thick fingers.

"Well, you have heard something, I suppose?" said Belle sharply. "You need not be so careful, I know more about this family than you think."

The servant gave a glance of apprehension that betrayed her; Belle smiled.

"Ah, you're afraid. You've been told to keep quiet. Well, it doesn't really matter."

"I don't know anything, Fräulein."

The girl moved away.

Belle rose impatiently and without speaking again left the room as the servant was closing the shutters, hiding the dark sky, the darker trees.

In her bed-chamber Belle saw them again, for her windows were still unguarded to the night. The white draperies of the bed and dressing-table showed cold as ice in the thick dusk. Belle lit her candle, unlocked her wardrobe, and took out her valise. She felt herself forced to open it now and then, to handle the Bible, the plume of livid pink feathers, the two silly letters she had obtained from Roger Owen.

On her knees by the valise, the Bible in her hands, she stared up at the two black squares of the windows as if she feared watchful eyes were prying from the dense blackness of the pine boughs, as if she heard his voice murmuring amid the faint sounds of the forest.

* * *

When Belle came down in the morning she learnt that Herr Morl had departed very early.

She was disappointed and angry.

"How easily he takes it! I must begin to let him understand that I am not to be played with—does he spend his time with Lili?"

Frau Morl was also abroad; she had gone down to Maartensdorf and would not return until late in the day. An almost intolerable loneliness possessed Belle; she went out into the forest, climbing the mountain flank where the tall pines thinned. All was fair and lovely after the rain; as the impatient woman hurried on she was brought to a pause by the sight of lilies of the valley, trembling white bells in pale leaves, growing in the shadow of the trees.

This beauty scattered on the earth caused her to lift her eyes to the sky; a golden warmth in the tender azure beyond the mountains, a perfume in the pure air she breathed, a sudden shrill call of a bird, all were gentle signs of the turn of the year.

Belle stood still; she was moved by some undefinable emotion of nostalgia and regret; words once familiar but long unfamiliar came to her mind, almost to her lips as she stood caressed by the breath of spring—"according to Thy promise."

She stooped to gather the frail lilies from out the cool shade, but a sudden memory stayed her as sharply as if someone had clutched her arm warning her of danger. The insipid blossoms reminded her of a sick girl, a plaster angel, the nameless creature who had called herself Lily Mason—Lili, the little missionary in her nightgown and white shawl, as she had seen her in the London hotel.

Belle returned sullenly to Schloss Morl; she was no longer conscious that it was spring-tide in the wood.

* * *

When she reached the house she noticed that the large bed- chamber in the front was being prepared for a guest, and she learnt that when Frau Morl returned she would bring Fräulein Lili with her for a long visit.

The young lady had been ill, the chambermaid said, and the doctors thought that the pines, the mountain air and the constant company of Herr Morl would effect a cure.

"He is returning too, your master?"

"Yes. We have also to get his rooms ready. It is a long time since he stayed here for more than a night. What a pity that there are no flowers for Fräulein Lili's room."

"I saw some in the forest to-day."

"I meant garden flowers, Fräulein. There is nothing out in Frau Morl's garden, nothing at all."

"Why is she coming here?" thought Belle with restless anger. "Because she is suspicious of me? Trying to defeat me? Why can't she let him go? How could he be destined for her?"

She was conscious of an irritation against Lili Schoppe that almost amounted to hatred; she had almost decided that she could no longer endure Schloss Morl and that the moment had come to force Herr Morl to do something else for her, but now that he was bringing Lili to this house, Belle decided to remain and to keep these two under her observation. She began to find that these strange emotions of curiosity, interest, attraction and dislike were more important to her than her own advantage.

* * *

During the first days of Lili's visit Belle watched keenly the three people in whom she took so absorbing an interest. The young minister and his promised wife seemed on terms of common devotion; they were seldom apart; Herr Morl took no notice of Belle whatever and little of his mother; the large parlour with the white porcelain stove, which had been the first room that Belle had entered in the prim mansion, was given up to their use.

Lili was not able to go abroad even on the mild spring days; she would sit beside the stove wrapped in a thick white shawl, her small feet on a foot-stool, an unread book or an unfurled roll of knitting across her knee; and the young man would sit opposite—reading or talking earnestly—trying to interest her, to amuse her; no doubt, thought Belle, trying to make her forget.

Belle often saw them like that as she passed the open door, or went in front of the long windows and glimpsed them from behind the clean tightly-drawn muslin curtains. She learned much of the lovers from the conversation of Frau Morl, who often spoke of her son and Lili. As the quiet woman sat with her guest in the evenings she would dwell on Lili, on her quiet childhood in Maartensdorf, where she had been brought up in a most rigid and narrow piety by a mother who had been, Frau Mori declared, almost a saint. Lili had never had a thought beyond her religion—her Bible, her prayer-book, her church services, her Sunday School classes, until she had met Maarten Mort.

She had early considered herself dedicated to missionary work, of which she had heard much from her father who, as a youth, had gone as a doctor with several missions to Africa and Jamaica.

"She met my son," said Frau Morl, knitting vigorously, and never looking up from the flashing steel needles, "under peculiar circumstances when he was ill. He was attracted to her at once; they became betrothed within a few weeks; a few months more and the mission to Brazil was arranged. You can see how suitable it all seemed. Lili thought the hand of God was in it—that they were reserved for great blessings—and I," added Frau Morl, "thought so too."

Belle replied cautiously—she had grown into the habit of always using prudence when she spoke to her pleasant, reserved hostess.

"I don't see why they gave it up. They had every encouragement to proceed—even if the ship had to sail from England without them, there must have been several others."

"It was Lili," said Frau Morl, still with her glance on the small stitches she was lifting from one needle to another. "It seems just as if her heart had been broken. My son," she added with emphasis, "was acquitted, but I think Lili was condemned."

Tempted beyond complete prudence Belle asked:

"Do you know, Frau Morl, quite what happened in London? I suppose a good deal of it would be kept from you."

"A good deal," nodded the elder woman, "but I know the facts. My son was accused of murdering a woman of the streets. He was acquitted at the first enquiry, but Lili can't forget."

"It was a horrible experience and, no doubt, a shock," said Belle coolly, "but if she wants to lead a life of self-sacrifice—"

Frau Mori looked up from above the needles, then down again without speaking.

"I don't see," added Belle, still in the same high tone, "why everything was spoilt for her—why she had to get ill."

"She has her ideas," nodded Frau Morl, "her very rigid ideas. She is a good girl—she thinks she has done something that displeases God, and perhaps," added the stout woman, putting her knitting in her lap and gazing directly at Belle, "perhaps she has done so, who knows?"

"Will they be married now, or soon?"

"I don't know, I can't say. I should be very willing, but she has no energy even to make a decision. You see how ill she is, and she seems worse from day to day."

Belle rose and went to the tall brilliantly-clean window; it was twilight, they were waiting for dinner.

Everything in the house was so spotless and polished, so white and bare. This, which at first soothed, now annoyed Belle. There was a bleak quality in the last light of the long spring day; it was brilliancy without sunshine, there was no lustre or colour anywhere—the house all whiteness, with dark furniture—the plain clothes of Frau Morl and the drab liveries of the servants; the forest was so dark too, and the plumes of the pine-trees so dense; and even the few flowers that had appeared were pallid snowdrops and frail wind-flowers scattered in the clearings, or the pale spikes of white hyacinths pushing through the dead pine-needles. There was about house and landscape a northern air—a late cold spring, with cloudy days and chilly nights.

"I ought to go," said Belle from the window where she stood; "I've no right to stay here any longer."

"I was afraid you'd find it dull," replied the quiet voice of the woman seated by the stove. "You can stay or go as it pleases you, Fräulein Rastell, it really makes no difference to me."

Belle glanced at her over her shoulder.

"You've been very patient with me, Frau Morl; I don't mind telling you that you're quite a different woman from what I thought you would be."

"Perhaps I've had experiences other than you had imagined," smiled the other woman.

"I dare say it would be impertinent for me to ask you about that—we've come together very strangely—nothing's worked out quite as I thought it would."

"It never does," said Frau Mort "One can't plan for success or for happiness; they take you by surprise, like love."

"Do you think love takes you by surprise and one can't plan for that either?"

"Yes," said Frau Morl, "nor evade it when it comes. I don't want to know anything about you, Fräulein; I understand that you were kind to my son and to Lili in London, that you expressed a desire to come to Germany again; and I'm very pleased to give you this rather dull hospitality." As Belle did not answer she added: "It is all I have, but I know quite well that it is not what really satisfies a woman like you—for long."

"What sort of woman do you think I am?"

"Oh, I can guess. I told you that I was on the stage myself, and before I married, before my husband died, before a few strange things happened to me, I was quite different." She disclosed, as she folded up her knitting, that she was making a pair of small white stockings; she said deliberately: "But don't stay here for me. I dare say you must be tired of it now. Perhaps you have had the rest that you required—your own people, your own friends will, no doubt, want to see you again."

Belle moved from the window.

"What are you knitting?" she asked listlessly. "Do you wear white stockings like those?"

Frau Morl smiled without replying to that question.

"Yes, I ought to go—but I really don't know what to do. I have no relations, I am very much alone."

"You have your friends, your work in London?"

"Yes, but I am so tired."

Belle felt an exasperated longing to throw off all pretences, to say: "Don't you know that I saw your son coming out of that murdered trollop's room and that I am here to blackmail him?" It was quite likely that this stolid woman knew everything and mocked her secretly; it was impossible that she should not show more curiosity if she were really ignorant of what her guest really was.

"Tired?" repeated Frau Mort "Of what? Of your worthy labours among the outcast?"

Belle thought this obvious irony and in revenge asked coolly:

"It must have been very sad for you to lose your elder son, Frau Morl. Was it a sudden illness?"

She had the satisfaction of seeing the thick hands quiver on the rolled-up white socks, but the strongly-modelled face did not change as Frau Morl replied:

"You walk much in the woods. One day you will see my men putting up an obelisk on the spot where my son was killed. He was shot, by accident, quite a common sort of accident—he tripped over a tree-stump and his gun went off."

"I thought," said Belle, "that there had been some such tragedy."

"Did you? Why?"

"Everyone is too discreet."

"Perhaps that is only because you are too curious." Frau Morl rose; there was a likeness to her son in her pale eyes, her locked expression. "But stay as long as you please, you will find out nothing that I do not wish you to discover."

Belle responded at once to the challenge.

"What has your son told you of me?"

"I have no answer to that, Fräulein Rastell, nor to anything else that you are likely to ask. I thank my God I trust in Him. I believe that He will protect us against Evil."

"Thank Him, indeed, if you believe that," said Belle bitterly.

"I do. I do."

The two women faced one another. Belle was swift in realising that her chief advantage lay in control, in waiting.

"You have dropped one of your white stockings, Frau Morl."

She stooped and with graceful courtesy handed the other woman the length of soft white woollen knitting which she had let fall by the stove. Frau Morl winced, for all her courage, and muttered:

"I think the dinner will be ready. Shall we go?"

Belle had a sense of victory—but over whom? And what should be the prize?

* * *

Lili sent for Belle, begging her to see her in the room with the white-tiled stove, where she passed most of her days; Belle thought of their last interview in the London hotel—what more was there to be said between them?

Yet she was curious as to what the silly little creature could have to say—how tenacious she was! Why didn't she go away, return to her quiet life of parish doctor's daughter and housekeeper at Maartensdorf and leave these people, with whom she had really nothing to do, alone?

Yet it was with a sense of pleasure that Belle entered the lofty room, for not only did she promise herself the gratification of her curiosity by questioning the candid Lili, but she intended to indulge her feeling of power over someone whom she despised and disliked. This interlude at Schloss Morl could not continue much longer, no matter what acrid satisfaction it held for her. She must soon decide what use she intended to make of the hold she had over Maarten Mott Perhaps this interview with Lili Schoppe would help that decision.

When Belle, with her alert, graceful bearing, came round the screen that sheltered the girl from any possible draughts, she had a sudden impression that some very powerful presence was in the room, a spirit of vital energy and uncommon resolution. But she was alone with Lili, who sat in a low easy-chair, wrapped in a thick white shawl, her head, with the pale bands of smooth hair, resting on a cushion in a spotless linen cover.

The sick girl was without colour, and, as Belle thought, without charm; her wasted hands rested over a small Bible, the companion, Belle noted, of that which she had picked up in Daisy Arrow's room.

"Well, Fräulein Schoppe, you wished to see me?"

Belle seated herself on the other side of the gleaming stove; the wretched appearance of the drooping girl filled her with satisfaction; she felt, in contrast, so strong, so full of vigour and purpose, so blooming and radiant—yes, she was beginning, with the return of health, of nervous poise, of self-respect, to feel too full of life for Schloss Mod.

"Why are you here?" demanded Lili.

"Hasn't Herr Morl told you?"

"Nothing but what I was told in London."

"Well, perhaps that is all there is to tell."

"No. I feel that there is something else," said Lili earnestly. "It is very strange that you should be here."

"Frau Morl accepts me as a matter of course."

"She is afraid to question."

"Ah, I thought so." Belle smoothed the folds of her grey skirt, and admired the charming contours of her fine hand, set off by the neat white cuff.

"Frau Morl is a very brave woman. She has had great misfortunes."

"I thought that, too. What were they?"

Lili sighed.

"I don't know much, everything that went on here was always kept very quiet. Besides, I ought not to tell you. It was never a happy life for Frau Morl—her husband was strange and violent, and there was that horrible accident to the elder son."

"Accident?" queried Belle.

"Why—what do you think it was?"

Belle smiled.

"Well, it doesn't matter, but when people are too discreet one begins to suspect—almost anything—besides, there is Herr Maarten to account for—I wonder if it would have helped him in London if his family history had been brought out."

Lili's fingers tightened over the Bible.

"He never did anything wrong—he was only wild and unsettled and given to fits of horrible melancholy. He joined the ministry—to—"

"To try to keep sane, perhaps?" Belle filled in the pause.

"Sane?" echoed Lili. "You think there is madness in the family?" Hastily she answered herself: "And if there was madness is only a devil to be cast out. Since Maarten met me he has been quiet and happy, full of enthusiasm for his work, of joy in the future—"

"Do you then, Fräulein Schoppe, think that you have the power to cast out devils?" mocked Belle.

Lili gazed at her steadily and leant forward so that the soft white shawl fell apart on her thin throat; the hollows above the collar-bone showed above her starched tucker.

"'Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion and turneth the shadow of death into morning—the Lord is His name.' By His help I—even I—Miss Rastell, could save this young man."

"Could you, and from what?"

"From himself—from you."

"Ah, from me! Isn't that rather silly, theatrical talk, Fräulein Schoppe?"

Lili closed her brilliant eyes; so frail, hollow and ill did she seem with her lids closed that it was almost like a face without life, but her low voice was full of intense energy.

"'Thou exaltest thyself as the eagle, and though thou settest thy nest among the stars—I will bring thee down—the pride of thy heart hath deceived thee.' Do you never think of God, Miss Rastell?"

"I am much impressed by your texts, Fräulein Schoppe—but I suppose that you have nothing better to do all day than to read the Bible."

Lili opened her eyes, they glistened with tears.

"Please leave us. This must be a dull life for you. Don't come between me and Maarten."

"How could I—if you love each other?" Belle mocked. The personality of Lili exasperated her into cruelty. "You are very sentimental and fanatical, Fräulein Schoppe—please tell me why you wanted to see me. Has Herr Morl told you anything of me."

"Nothing. Nor have I asked."

"Well then, what do you suspect?" Belle leant forward. "Who do you think I am? Why, only Rose Rastell, a missionary worker, who did you a little service when you were in trouble and who is having a rest, a holiday here, peace and quiet—"

"What was that service?" breathed Lili.

"Ask Herr Morl."

"He will not tell me. No, even though I swore a lie for him he will not be open with me."

"But what do you want him to be open about? He was acquitted, was he not, and handsome compensation made for a hideous mistake? A case of mistaken identity. And even if you did swear to a false alibi, you have your father's word that Herr Mori was in the hotel during the whole of Christmas Eve."

Lili put her hand over her eyes in silence, her narrow breast heaved under the pale cashmere bodice.

"Besides," insisted Belle quietly, "how could a man like Herr Morl have even thought of going to a place like the Argyll Rooms and taking such a woman as Daisy Arrow for his companion?"

"You torment me, Miss Rastell," muttered Lili. "And I am trying to be strong. The Lord tries me sorely—'evil shall come upon thee and thou shalt not know from whence—mischief shall fall on thee and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly'—that is my case. I move in the dark—but I will not be overwhelmed."

She dropped her hand from her eyes and clasped it over the Bible on her lap, spots of red showed on her cheek-bones; she stared at Belle with the desperate energy of one endeavouring to resist an enchantment.

"Leave us, Miss Rastell. I implore you, I warn you. Whoever you are, whatever you know, go away—leave us."

"Why should you dislike—fear me so much?" challenged

Belle, half amused, half stung.

Lili touched her heart.

"Something here—tells me. Frau Morl feels it too—"

"Has her son told her anything?"


Belle rose, flicked into movement by impatience.

"Well then—neither of you know anything—why don't you leave me alone? I don't intrigue with women, my business is with Herr Morl."

Lili sat with bent head, as if bowed beneath an invisible burden.

"What is—your—business?"

"That is between him and me."

"You think that—you—can make—your profit out of it?"

Lili raised her Bible to her breast—a gesture that exasperated Belle.

"I also have a Bible—a little German Bible like that, Fräulein Schoppe."

"Oh, what do you want?"

Lili rose; her white shawl fell to the ground, revealing her lean stooping figure.

"Nothing to do with you. Nothing at all."

"Do you want Maarten?"

Belle was startled through all her defences; the question was one that in the depth of her heart she had put to herself.

"He is mine," whispered Lili.. "If you try to take him you will destroy yourself."

"You really talk very foolishly, Fräulein Schoppe."

Frau Mori came round the screen, she had a bottle, a glass, and some flat biscuits on a tray.

"Come, Lili, here is your medicine. You have talked long enough. Miss Rastell must please excuse you."

Belle read loathing in the pale eyes of the stout woman and her rage against both of them flared.

"This is stupid behaviour on the part of both of you—I am more important than perhaps you think."

Lili gazed at Frau Morl.

"She is important, you hear, mother? What is her importance? 'She gathered it of the hire of a harlot, and to the hire of a harlot she shall return.'"

Belle stood rigid. Frau Mori said sharply:

"Please leave us."

Belle opened her mouth, but did not speak; she turned away, holding her full neat skirts off her feet. She hated both of them. "I suppose she was listening, that old woman—that silly girl with her imbecile look of a plaster angel—'harlot'—that was a shot in the dark, but I—never mind, what do I want? The man, as she said?"

Belle had gained her own room, and stood brooding in the midst of the clean-swept floor, enveloped by the shadows of the trees that pressed against the tall windows. She smiled, shrugged her pretty shoulders. After all those two women did not matter, she could afford to despise: them. They knew nothing—he had not dared to tell them anything. Lili was a fool, crazy with ideas of self-sacrifice, of duty, of divine guidance, infatuated with a wild, melancholy young man born> her superior—nothing more.

"If she frets like this she will soon be dead, and who will miss her? But for me? What do I want? An academy for young ladies—a post with a German lady—a continuance of this?"

She laughed out loud into the interlacing shadows, so thick, so restless about her erect figure. She was no longer fatigued, she was well fed, she was restored to self-confidence, her energy and her pride had revived after the shocks and humiliations of her downfall, she was young and desirable--spring-tide began to stir in the forest air. "'To the hire of a harlot,'" she repeated to herself with dark irony. "Is it likely I can live long like this? Would not that be a proper end to the adventure—to go away from, this sanctuary and take him with me?"

She went restlessly to the window and pressed her face to the shining pane; the dark plumes of the pines almost brushed her cheek—would have brushed it but for the clear glass.

The strange young man attracted her; he suited the scene, her mood, her jaded appetite, her desire for a powerful passion, a wilful emotion; she smiled to herself, secure in her own pride, courage and power, she forgot Daisy Arrow.

* * *

That night she could not sleep. There was a great wind without, and the chains of the old lime-tree shook and rattled as if manacled men danced under the scudding clouds. Belle tossed in the wide bed under the white coverlets; a shaft of moonlight penetrated the thick hurrying vapours and showed a black bough outlined beyond the window. The sleepless, restless woman thought of that other dark bough which had, on Christmas Eve, been fixed under the picture of The Last Judgment that hung above the piano in Mrs. Bulke's kitchen.

* * *

Herr Mori made an occasion to seek out his guest: he had been nearly two weeks in the house and only spoken to her in the presence of others at meal-times, or hurriedly as they passed on the stairs or in the corridors. Now he sought her out where she stood musing, the day after the great wind under the old shackled lime-tree that was supported and plated by iron, and gave as yet no sign of bud.

He asked her immediately if she could come with him to the island on the lake?

"A lake and an island? I did not know of them."

"You have hardly left the house, I suppose?"

"Oh yes, I have taken walks with the dogs, but always upwards through the woods; and once I went to your mother's little garden, but it was too early the Year, there was nothing in it."

"The lake is not far," said the young man, "we can easily walk to it. I shall be glad of exercise, have been closed in the house so long."

"Yes, with Lili."

She picked up her gloves, which she had flung over a withered branch of the ancient tree.

"How is she to-day?"

"Worse—that is how it is that I am free. She is in bed and will see no one. The doctor is staying with her, and her father is coming to-morrow."

"Why did he ever let her out of his sight?" asked Belle listlessly. "I thought they were so devoted to one another."

"For that reason he let her go. He thought that his distress was affecting her. Now she is past those considerations."

They began to descend through the pine-woods.

"How cloudy it is," complained Belle, "day after day, and never any sun, and in these woods, not much light." Then she became suddenly weary of subterfuge, and demanded: "What is it you want from me? To ask. I suppose, why I have stayed so long, when I am going, and where? Well, Herr Morl, I suppose there is no one to overhear us here?"

"No one," he said, "to see us or to hear us."

His manner was placid. She disliked his great self-control. She would rather have seen him more moved. She was tired of the problem which he presented, weary of endeavouring to probe his sincerity.

"Well, it was only a bargain," she said harshly, "that you were to bring me here, and to give me this chance, and I was to give you back the book and the letters. But you haven't asked for them."

"I had almost forgotten them. There have been times lately when they have quite gone out of my mind."

"Were you so absorbed in Lili?"

"Yes," he admitted, "but you would never be able to understand what it means—something mere," he said, as if answering a question in his own heart, "than love."

Belle paused—they had come to an opening in the woods and there was a scatter of frail white flowers, delicate feathery leaves at their feet.

"I understand you—I read you more clearly than you think," she said. "Do you believe that girl's untried virtue, her narrow piety, her conception of God and goodness, is strong enough to save your soul?"

He did not answer. He was staring at the moist ground, grinding the fragile flowers into the earth with his feet.

"I had thought," said Belle, "better of you than that—you, the man you are, or affect to be, hoping to save yourself by clutching at the skirts of a plaster saint, a mawkish school-girl."

"I suppose you call it superstition," replied the young man, seemingly not in the least offended by these sneers, "but she does represent something to me, and so does the work we meant to do together, and so does her faith—our faith, No doubt to you it seems very paltry and childish, but to me—no."

She looked at him furtively, doubtful as to whether he mocked her or not. It was impossible for her to gauge the extent of his sincerity.

Again she had an impatient feeling of being weary and baffled. She could hardly persuade herself that this was the same man who had stood in the dock at Bow Street, who had walked beside her on the greasy London pavement, the fog in their faces, who had knelt beside her in the grim London church. It was not so long ago either. She had had a bunch of forced snowdrops on the yellow shining varnish of the pew, and there were snowdrops out now in the woods. He was differently dressed, but there was no alteration in his smooth handsome face, the long features and the slanting light eyes. Yet, how different he seemed.

He stood there, continuing to grind the flowers into the earth, moving from one frail plant to another.

"I suppose you think," he said harshly, "that it is clever not to believe in angels, but if you'd ever been haunted (yes, it isn't a lie about the furies) or desperately unhappy, or horribly tormented, you'd snatch at anything that gave you relief."

"Would you," said Belle contemptuously, "even at Lili Schoppe?"

He began to move away violently through the woods—she had difficulty in keeping pace with him.

"She's dying for me," he said, "dying because of the whole foul business." He used the words that his mother employed: "They acquitted me, but they condemned her."

"Why did she take it so to heart?"

"She's very sensitive and very quick—she didn't understand all, but she understood enough, and she mistrusts you—she can't understand why you are here, she doesn't believe me when I tell her it is—nothing."

"Blame yourself more than me for your Lili's distresses," replied Belle lightly. "I knew from the first moment that I saw her at Bow Street police court that she was struck to the heart—not because of me, Herr Mori, but because she had to stand up there and swear a lie to save you—that shattered her world—that brought her down."

He did not reply to this, but at a tangent asked:

"What do you think of my home, my mother?"

"She is not the kind of woman I thought she would be."

"No, I know what you were imagining. If she had been like that, I should not at any cost have brought you here. My mother has had her experiences—probably she can read you quite well—"

"I dare say," replied Belle, "but I don't suppose she knows why I'm here."

"She wouldn't question that. She leaves everything in the hands of God. She, too, is very devout."

"Are we going towards your island?" asked Belle. "We seem to be walking at random."

"Did you see a little boy?" he asked. "He would be about seven years old."

"The woodman's child? No, why do you ask?"

He did not answer.

They had come to a clearing where the stumps of trees, fringed by spring flowers, broke the spread of last year's leaves. In the centre of this was a small obelisk of grey stone. Belle approached it and read the new-cut inscription. A name, Heinrich Morl—a date, a day in August a few years ago.

"Your brother?"

"Yes, here he died and 'all Sodom and Gomorrah mourned for him.'"

"An accident?"

"Is death ever an accident?"

"I think, Herr Morl, you have not a very agreeable family history. Shall we go on?"

She thought: "He is at odds with himself like I am, searching, lonely—we ought to suit each other very well."

They passed on, side by side, through the sloping woods; everywhere were flowers, anemones, snowdrops, bluebells, lilies-of-the-valley; the air was soft and sweet, the birds chattering. They reached the garden in the woods laid out by the whim of some Rimer owner of Schloss Mod.

Belle looked tenderly at her companion; she wanted to comfort him, to gladden him, to take him away to gaiety and ease. How much more important he was than those two virtuous women! Surely he was attracted to her as she was to him; she must make him understand that he had nothing to fear from her, also that he must leave that moping Lili.

He had come to a pause and taken off his hat; the wind stirred his thick hair on his brow.

"Here is your mother's garden. Let us go through it and see if there are any flowers yet."

They entered the light iron gate which gave admission to a square of cultivated ground surrounded by a low stone wall. It was like a large terrace levelled straight on the final slope of the hill. On these lower levels there were no pines but groves of birch, elm and oak frees—all now faintly bloomed with buds, so that they were veiled by a shimmer of pale pink and silver grey. There were no trees in the garden which was laid out in the formal Italian fashion, most incongruous to the landscape. There were stone walks bordered by clipped wych-elms, a stone fountain, a small pavilion or summerhouse. A few pale flowers had broken through the soil; clumps of narcissus, white stars among the green spikes, clusters of primroses low on the earth strewn with dead leaves like knots fallen from a lady's dress.

"Frau Mod said there were some moss roses here. That's a curious coincidence—they're such old-fashioned flowers at home."

She moved along the damp stone-flagged path, round the fountain in which there was no water, along the beds, bare but for those few rare clusters of early flowers—with restless discontent. It was, save for the situation so far from the house, an ordinary garden laid out with a. dull conventional taste, as ordinary as the house. "Yes," she assured herself, "that, too, was dull and conventional. Why did she dislike them both so much, the garden as well as the house?"

"Let us go on," she said, "to your lake and island."

The young clergyman had sunk on to the stone bench that, was partly darkened by a pollarded clump of wych-elm, whose stunted boughs were covered with new leaves. His heavy overcoat concealed his figure, his hands were clasped before him, his head bent forward.

"A strange, moody creature. I really am behaving rather recklessly. I. don't know quite whom I'm dealing with, but I like him, he excites me."

She stared at him as she walked up and down. He seemed to have forgotten she was there. Twice she reminded him of the lake and the island—but he took no heed.

"I'd' better perhaps take what money I can get and go. This is played out—there is nothing more I can do;" and even as she forced herself to form this thought, she knew that she and this man were hopelessly involved, whether she would or no.

In a corner near the summer-house she found the moss rose-tree. She knew it by the peculiar shape of the tiny leaves, which, encouraged by its sheltered position, it had put forth in tiny scrolls.

The memories it brought up were all unpleasant—the melody of the lilting, sugary waltz rang in her ears, disturbing the outer silence. She saw herself seated at the cracked piano in Mrs. Bulke's kitchen and playing that silly tune, and staring up at the black picture of The Last Judgment with the riven rocks and the thunder-clouds, and the blank, stupid angels descending to deliver the punishment He had said "No doubt you consider it clever not to believe in angels;" that meant that he did believe. Well, his Lili had much that same look—silly, placid—frightened to death at the mere thought of evil.

Evil! Her mind stopped at the word; she looked at the summer-house with a sudden sense of apprehension. It was in the shape of a cupola supported on ugly mock classic pillars of dingy stone. She could see clearly into it—no mystery nor secrets there, yet the place, the moss rose-tree—indeed, the whole garden was becoming hateful.

She walked swiftly to the stone bench where Pastor Mod still sat, and flung herself down beside him. She said rapidly, leaning towards him and almost whispering in his ear, as if they were in the midst of a crowd instead of a solitude:

"It has all.. to pieces and come to, an end. I shall go away again. You will never hear of me any more. See, you can have your book and your letter."

He did not seem greatly relieved by her reassurances given so suddenly and so nervously, but looked up peering at her over the high collar of his coat so that she only saw his eyes. This had happened before, she remembered, and that moment and this became mingled in her alarmed mind.

"What letter is it that you have got?"

"A little love-letter in German that you wrote to a girl who couldn't understand German, but I suppose she was pleased to get it just the same."

"Yes," he said, on a short sigh, "she was pleased to get it, and I was pleased to write it. She was a worthless little slut, but I didn't know that then, I was too young."

"What does it matter?—you can have the letter again."

"It is too late," he muttered. "I don't care much whether I get it back or not. Let us get out of this garden."

"Yes, I want to go, too; it seems as if there were a spell here and one couldn't move."

They walked slowly down the damp flagged path.

"It is a dismal little place," said Belle, walking beside him, "although it is so well kept. There should be more flowers here and the moss scraped off the fountain basin and the paths. Yes, when I look at it again it's not so well-kept, but quite neglected."

She was glad when they were out of the garden and had closed the iron gates behind them; clouds were obscuring the sun. It was very lonely in the forest.

Belle stared at her companion, trying to focus his personality and to clarify her conception of him; she could not do so, his spirit seemed always slightly blurred, indistinct, shifting, although in appearance he was, definite enough, a well-built comely young man with a face of more than ordinary good looks; yet whenever she stared at him or thought of him there was this impression of something chaotic, indistinct.

She found herself trying to reassure and comfort him. She told him again and again that she was not a common blackmailer. She repeated—though it was difficult to bring out the words, which came in broken whispers—that she believed in the suicide of Daisy Arrow.

He did not reply to any of these assertions which, as his silence continued, grew more and more passionate.

They came—suddenly, as it seemed to her, for she had been so absorbed in him that she had not noticed their surroundings—on the lake, a boat-house just before them with two boats moored to the staples. It was not a large lake you could easily see the other shore, with a crescent shaped pine-wood rising stiffly into the colourless sky, the dim outline of the veiled mountains beyond. In the middle of the smooth sheet of water that was like silver dimmed by breath, bright and yet not shining, was a small island, no more than a few tussets of grass, some low thorn-bushes, and three slender fir-trees.

"Let us row out to that," he said, suddenly breaking his silence. "There we can talk quite undisturbed."

"It's undisturbed and solitary enough here—it was in the garden," said Belle. "Do you really want to go out there? The daylight is waning, and won't Lili and your mother be asking for you?"

"An hour or two will make no difference," he said as he loosened the boat and motioned her to step in.

She obeyed.

He rowed her out to the island. She noted with idle pleasure the pattern the boat made on the still surface of the lake. She heard with idle pleasure the splash of the oars as he moved them leisurely up and down. How the water dripped from the wet blades, how odd that she should notice these and other details—the shape of the boat, of his hands, the cracked paint and rusty metal of the rowlocks.

He had flung off his coat and his hat. He seemed to be, as she was herself, soothed by the scene, by the movement of the boat, by the action of rowing, by the sense of space given by the expanse of water.

He landed on the island and moored the boat to one of the old thorn-trees.

She found then that what he had said was quite true. They seemed more utterly alone among the tussocks underneath the three trees with the water all about them than they could possibly have been even in the woods.

He took his overcoat out of the boat and flung it down and told her to sit on it. She obeyed, drawing her shawl closely around her shoulders. She did not suppose that they would see much more of each other after to-day. The fantastic, sordid, incredible adventure which she had forced on him, and in a manner on herself in a moment's desperation was surely over, despite her wish to prolong it. The Bible, the letter, the stained plume of feathers seemed to her of no importance, if she had had them there she would have thrown them into the lake, yes, picked up one of the smooth stones that were lying there under the fir-trees, tied them all together with her handkerchief and cast them to the bottom of the lake. Of what importance were they, after all? She would go away, and at once, whether or no he would give her any money. She felt, and for the first time in her life, the need to confess. She had always sneered before at the thought of such a necessity. How could bringing the past across one's lips in a string of words be in any sense a purging or an expiation? So it had always seemed to her, but now she flung herself down on the overcoat, propping her face in her hands, ruffling her smooth bay-leaf-coloured hair with her fingers. She began to talk about herself, her childhood and the days when she had been like Lili.

He stared down at her seated on the pale overcoat which faintly smelt of turpentine; he was picking up and throwing down little handfuls of grass.

"None of this if of any interest to me," he said in a kindly, smooth fashion.

She continued to speak just as if a spell was on her. A little wind came up. She paused in her hurried thoughts to wonder where the winds came from. Suddenly they were there, ruffling the surface of the lake, the curling, fine hair on her brow, lifting the heavy locks shaded his brow.

She did not look at him as she spoke, but, through the network made by the twisted boughs of the thorn-bush, at the pale water.

What was she saying? She was trying to talk of herself as a child:

She was well educated in a good school, but without father or mother. Oh yes, they were living, but it was not convenient for either of them to own her. She was misbegotten—she repeated that awkward word with emphasis, it was so true—a foundling; she did not quite know now who had paid for her; she had been sent to Germany—"out of the way, as I suppose;" she had been sent to Paris—secretly sent here and there. She had been well treated to a certain point because she had been well paid for; soon, she had guessed, she who had always been shrewd, the true state of affairs. She had always been difficult, full of rebellion and fury and bitterness—very proud, worse than proud—vain.

She heard his voice interrupting:

"What does any of this matter?"

Yet she believed he was listening with interest.

There had been trouble and scandal during her schooldays; she had only just averted open disaster. She had married the first man who had come along, the brother of a school friend, an officer who had taken her to India. Married and husband, how curious the words sounded in connection with herself—it was long since she had taken them on her lips. It had soon come to an end. After two years she had been divorced with ignominy. But in the world to which her mother belonged she had enjoyed herself. She had found a man who had spent money on her. She had thrown herself avidly into bought pleasures; she had believed herself loved and loving.

She sat up, pulling her shawl about her, and stared at the thorn-tree.

"When do the leaves begin to break out?" she asked. "It is quite late in the spring, after all, yet nowhere can I see any leaves on the thorn-tree."

"Everything is delayed this year," replied the young man, "summer will be here before the spring has come. Are you getting cold? Shall we go home?"

"Home!" repeated Belle, "that's a strange word, isn't it? What was I saying?"

"There is no need to say any more."

"No, I suppose not. It's quite a commonplace story—I ran through it all rather quickly—I quarrelled and people grew tired. They found me out before I thought they would. I must have been, I suppose, just a fool. My confession has fallen flat since you have taken no notice of it at all. I suppose," she said, "you didn't bring me here for me to talk about myself?"

"I thought you would, but you never were any mystery to me."

"Tell me about yourself."

"What do you want to know about me? It's just an ordinary tale like yours. I was too ambitious and too much my own master—yet, that's not it—we're an old family, not great nobility, you understand—we used to be the stewards of the lords who had the great castle, but they're extinct now. We were gentlefolk, and I was galled about my mother—and that's not it—I've never told you about my father and my elder brother, have I? Well, they don't concern it either. I suppose"—he gave her a direct yet quiet glance—"you're curious to know how I was involved with—never mind the name."

"I don't want to know," said Belle, shivering, the wind bad become keener. "It's so strange how we've come together."

"Yes, it's very strange," he agreed. Then completely, as she thought, at a tangent he added: "Since I've been in the Church, about seven years now, strange things have come my way—most poignant stories—I'll tell you one, if you like, perhaps you can make something of it. I met the man two years ago. He was an ordinary person, he had led what you call a wild life at his university. He had enough money and no great talent. He had some sort of small position at one of our little courts. He told me what his pleasures were and how he spent his idle time, and something of his family history. I won't repeat any of that, it's not good hearing."

"What's this to do with me?" sighed Belle, fascinated, not by what the young man said—she gave little heed to that— but by his voice and his gestures and the impelling look he turned on her and the way the wind was lifting the dark hair from his shapely head. "Don't you want to get back to Lili?" she said, with effort, as if trying to shake off an enchantment. "Never mind Lili now. I am telling you of this young man. The worst part of his story began when he met a woman, a foreigner, in Augsburg. I suppose she was the most commonplace sort of person, but in her he seemed to see something he had dreamt of and was looking for. He became most infatuated with her, and if she hadn't been quite so easy, I believe he'd have married her. She never thought of that, you see, she accepted him as her lover so soon that he never had need to bother about the marriage. They were happy while it lasted—yes, he assured me of that, odd as it may sound."

"Why should it sound odd?" asked Belle, with her shawl close around her shoulders.

"Because she was only an adventuress, as you call them, and he associated her with evil, you see."

"The poor wretch—I mean the girl. Why should he associate her with evil?"

"I don't know, I couldn't say, but he did. He always had two forces striving in his nature—I suppose most of us have. Things had happened to him when he was a boy that troubled him very much, and this girl in some way reminded him of them. He thought of her as evil and as moving him to evil. And so," added the young man, with sudden emphasis, "she did."

"Yes," said Belle listlessly, "yes, but what has this story to do with you or me?"

Taking no heed of her comment, he continued earnestly:

"I won't trouble you with the details. There was crime between them as well as sin. He asked her to conceal it, just out of fear. He hadn't very much money—he had overdrawn his allowance again and again, mortgaged,all he had and got into debt, too. She began to get tired of him when she saw him in difficulties, and, of course, when she got tired, he realised how little she had ever cared."

"The usual story—we-waste time thinking about it. What do you mean—there was a crime between them?"

"Do you call it a crime to murder a new-born infant?" asked the young clergyman in a hushed tone. "I suppose it has an immortal soul that might lie in wait for you—might it not?"

"Is that what they did?" asked Belle, drawing back her upper lip. "I've heard of such things, they've come my way, too, One doesn't think much about it, as I suppose."

"No, but he had to think. You see, there was the body to get rid of—that's always a difficulty—the body of a full-grown male child, I suppose that would be deemed a crime to stifle that, to strangle it? Well, I don't know, but this young man thought so."

"It was stupid," said Belle steadily; "there would have been so many other ways out of it."

"Would there? But you don't know the circumstances, do you?-I have forgotten them, too. He was pressed for money, trying to keep up appearances—and so, in a way was she—she used to dance at the little theatre of a beer garden. She was very angry that she had to give up this work. He did what he could, found her lodging—hidden away."

"I don't want to hear all this," said Belle restlessly. "It: won't make an difference to anything—the twilight is coming—how dark the pine-woods look—you would no longer think it was spring."

The young man looked round the island, the thorn-trees, the lake, the sombre landscape beyond.

"I never thought I should come back here," he murmured. "I thought that I should escape—I longed for South America, where everything is so different—where all is warm, luscious—yes, that was why I wanted to get away—to serve God, and to escape."

"Don't tell me any more."

"I can't forget that story. She sent for him and gave him the child. That was the last time he saw her. She said it had died—but he knew differently, he knew what they had agreed upon—well, he travelled out by train to a lonely place and buried it."

"Well, there was nothing much in that," sighed Belle. "How did he get rid of the woman?"

"She went back to the beer garden and there she met someone else who took her away." Herr Morl looked keenly at Belle. "Doesn't this story seem to you horrible?"

"Yes, yes, of course. But there is so much that is horrible—one gets used to it. Can't we shake off these things? Can't we find a little pleasure, a little satisfaction somewhere?"

"Not if we are wicked," he replied, with a childish gravity that caused her to break into unsteady laughter. "Don't laugh. It's true. If one has done foul things—if one is mad and dark within—if one has one's moods when—never mind." He moved near to her. "Lili asked you to go. You torment her, you torment my mother. Lili can't endure to be in the same house with you."

"What nonsense. Why did she come to Schloss Morl when she knew I was there?"

"She thought it her duty for face you, to plead with you. Understand that though she knows nothing she guesses—she will always stand by me."

"Will she?" asked Belle impatiently. "I detest her—I prefer your drab of the beer gardens. This talk of God and salvation! What arrogance! She is a narrow egoist. She has never been tempted—save by this scheme of a marriage to you, and she didn't resist that."

"Will you go?" he insisted, ignoring her anger. "You can have the money, all that English money."

Belle, shivering in the chill half-light, thought: "It is my interest to accept." But a passion of pride, of curiosity, an intense interest in her companion, a desire to defeat two women whom she disliked, urged her to refuse. Even the sense of his keen expectancy as he waited for an answer goaded her to refuse.

She considered what life would be without this exciting sense of power, this hold over, another human being—what life would be without this odd intimacy with a man who began to stir her senses and hold her fancy in a way that had not, for long, happened to her—what, what money would compensate?

"I don't choose to go yet."

To her surprise he did not plead or menace, but quickly, with a sigh, accepted her decision.

"Very well, things must work themselves out."

He rose, a dark figure on the dark island against the pale water and the pale sky.

"Did I finish that story?" he asked, looking down at her. "It was a day something ,like this when he came into the woods carrying what seemed an ordinary valise. He thought that he did It quite reverently. He planted a little tree to mark the spot; he was much shaken and could never forget."

The young man stopped abruptly.

"Well,that's all I have to say."

"You need not have told me," said Belle. "I've heard too many stories like that before. Is this you way of making your confession?

"No, it' has nothing whatever to do with me. Why should it?"

Moving away from the thorn-trees he pulled the boat up on the foreshore.

"What are you thinking of?" he demanded, looking back at Belle, who remained prone on the light overcoat, her face propped in her hand, her hair falling down, her whole figure blurred in the thickening light.

"I'm thinking that some such story as that would 'account for you and Daisy Arrow. I was imagining what you or any man must have felt meeting her by chance that night in the Argyll Radius. Why did you go there? But one can understand that, too; you always had it in your blood to fancy places like. that. And she would see you there—see that you had become prosperous, and try to blackmail you, I suppose. You went home with her to keep her quiet, and then you couldn't do that and you didn't want to be exposed and to lose Lili and all your good reputation, and so—"

"That might have happened to some other man," he said, "but it never happened to me."

Again the sensation of being tired and baffled overwhelmed Belle to the exclusion of all other emotions. She rose and watched him shake out his overcoat and put it on. It would be chilly crossing the lake. She got, into the boat beside him and they, rowed, back to the shore.

Did she believe him or not? What was the clue to his behaviour? It really did not matter. She was quite sure that they would soon be leaving each other. More to herself than to him she said as they landed and he fastened the boat again to the staple outside the boat-house:

"I wish I could, go away, but I can't"

There was ecstasy in the complete loneliness about them.

"I don't know why you won't go," he muttered, putting his hand to his forehead, where the wind-blown hair lay tangled.

They spoke no more, but walked up side by side through the pine-woods, where the night thickened about them. They avoided the garden, the dry fountain and the empty summerhouse.

She asked herself—what possible matter their past experience could be to either of them? What could it concern them if they had come out of darkness to meet one another? Yet she could see no future for them—none. That did not matter, either; they were both vague, transient, incoherent creatures of base instincts and brutal passions; she judged herself as no better than he was; even if he had, cornered and desperate, struck down Daisy Arrow, she had been able, without pity, to turn that to her own advantage. She had not been sorry for a stupid trull who had tried clumsy blackmail. If there were some little bones rotting in the wood somewhere, she was not sorry for that, either; Daisy had been punished for that, all was over. Then, perhaps none of it was true; he was wild, fantastic, unbalanced, perhaps he had told her a silly tale, perhaps Daisy, drunk, exhausted, remorseful, had cut her own throat.

What did it matter? She, the nameless woman, who had had so many names, was alive and out of her life began to bloom again passion, desire, a yearning for the lusts of the flesh. Not for her the cold-blooded blackmailing she had proposed herself in her grim misery in London. She was lovely again, well-fed, sleek; Lili's words sounded like an undertone to the noises of the night—"the hire of a harlot." Yes, she returned to that, she began to ply her trade in the old, dark, beautiful forest. Lili, who had seemed to know nothing, had known that; she had had that word—harlotry—very ready on her tongue.

"Oh, stop, the path is so steep, I am out of breath," she panted, pulling at his sleeve.

He stood still beside her under the black boughs of the pines that were drowned by the heavy twilight, and so moved darkness within darkness.

"What have you been thinking of since we left the lake? You have said nothing at all."

"What should I say to you?"

"What, indeed? You know that my threats were all nonsense—I couldn't go on with it. Oh, don't think of it again."

"What, then, shall I think of? I've met women of your sort before," he sighed; he was standing very close to her. "One is never free. Now, I'm only considering Lili."

Belle laughed; through the dark came the faint perfume of the white flowers, anemones, tiny lilies, snowdrops, ineffable, chill, pure.

"Couldn't you love me?" She took his hand and pressed it to her cheek. "Couldn't we go away together? We don't belong to these people, you and I—"

"Love you? That would be one way."

"Yes, the best—let us forget everything else, all the scheming, the trouble. You said once that I was beautiful."

"So you are. I thought so even when I first saw you," he muttered; though she could not see him clearly, she thought that he strained away from her, and she held him closer, tightly, with both hands.

"Then I was ill, miserable, in rags; now I am changed—Oh, kiss me, what does anything else matter?"

He put his arms about her, then traced his fingers over her soft cheek and neck and kissed the words silent on her lips; he laughed gently.

"Let us go up to the house."

She obeyed; they walked languidly along the forest path, so well known to him, which he had hoped never to see again. A fine rain fell, intangible as a noonday phantom was the sense and the scent of the unseen, frail, white flowers.

* * *

When they reached the house it was dark, the white front showed dimly through the dim twilight. They paused under the ancient lime-tree; the chains were rattling in the rising wind. Holding each others hands they looked up at the light in Lili's room, the only light in the blank, shuttered facade. As they stared a figure came, a dark outline, and drew to the shutters of the sick-chamber, hiding the lamp-rays and closing them outside. The wind with invisible menace bowed the pine-tree tops into waves of sound; the fine rain was dashed in her face as she leant against him in sweet languor and thought of all the events of the day, of the scenes through which she had moved—what they would be like now—clothed in darkness? The lake would no longer be shining nor placid; invisible wavelets would be breaking on to the shores of the invisible island; the empty summerhouse would be full of dense shadows; no one, even if darkling they wandered there, would be able now to see the dry fountain or the corner where the moss rose-bush grew. It would be impossible to see the flowers—the pale wind-flowers which Maarten had trampled on in the forest, as it was impossible for anyone to see them, the two lovers, so near the house, under the ancient chained tree, whose boughs were creaking in the rising wind, whose chains were rattling.

She could not tell if this ecstasy were pleasure or pain; she did not know what quality it was that she had all her life sought for in that passion named love. She knew that she had found it now—some deep satisfaction of some obscure need—some satisfying of some nameless desire—an odd relief from intense anguish which seemed to rise from the heart like a vapour and disappear into the turmoil of the chill, austere night; all feeling of fatigue and distress gone—all problems of bewilderment and doubt, not solved, but dismissed as futile.

He held her close. She did not remember when nor how she had met him, only that he was there now. He whispered in her ears, lifting up her fallen hair to do so, that "she was lovely and had always been by him desired, yes, even when he had first seen her at that poor rat-hole in London." At this she did not flinch, it brought no hint or horror to her mind—only the picture of they two standing there in the dawn light, gazing one at the other.

"We should," he whispered, "have met before, everything comes too late."

"Not too late, not too late."

She turned, and, straining up to him into the darkness that was so beautiful, under the sound, that was so magnificent, of the sighing boughs in the wind, she kissed the words from his lips as he had kissed words from her lips when they had paused in the woods. She was at ease, at rest, as happy as when she had first loved, and she had thought that passion was immortal.

The wind and the rain, clean, fresh, chill, pleased her, the thought of the silent lake, with the island and the thorn-trees lying deserted, unseen in the stillness of the night, pleased her. The memory of the wind-flowers that he had uprooted, of the dying girl, helpless, forlorn, whose lover she had stolen, pleased her also.

The great old tree rattled its chains and the plates of rusty iron clanged in the wind. The rain fell pattering on all the invisible, growing plants in the forest; these sounds seemed to Belle to gather into the beat of the moss rose valse, which was no longer tedious or disgusting, but full of joy and pleasure.

"Don't stare up at that shuttered window," she whispered, her hands clasped behind his neck. "That girl has nothing to do with you—no, nothing to do with you any more."

"Nothing to do with me any more? I'm shut out, eh?"

"Yes, with me."

She drew his head down so that he could no longer gaze up at the chunk of light showing between Lili's shutters.

Again, as he kissed her, his fingers touched her throat, which was wet from the rain.

* * *

Lili was dying in the clean, white, lofty room in the bleak cold light of the early spring morning: the boughs of the pines without made a shadow on her smooth coverlet. The figures of those attendant on her moved quietly to and fro, darkly clad as if already in mourning. The stout father, putty-faced, his mouth slobbering, knelt at the side of the bed and prayed, his voice out of control, now sinking and inaudible, now rising with sudden sharp harshness. The dying girl prayed, too—incoherently and with a fervour that defied her bodily distresses. Her features were sharp and pinched, her hair was parted in the middle of her head and two pale plaits fell over her shoulder on the flat bosom of her precise, clean, linen night-gown. Although her promised husband had been so diligent in her illness, she would not allow him to enter her room. She seemed even to sense when he was in the next chamber, and would faintly implore her father or the clergyman or the doctor to send him farther away. Frau Morl thought this uncharitable towards her son; she believed the girl a saint, but this showed some strange human weakness.

Earnestly, a stout dark figure in the bleak, pale night, she bent over the neat bed, saying:

"Lili, you ought to forgive; you know how it is with him—you know that he can't help himself."

But Lili shook her head on the broad pillow, and continued to pray as if she had no concern for anything save her own soul.

Seeing that her appeals were of no avail, Frau Mori went on her knees, and she, too, began to pray, although she pleaded in a different tone from that of the doctor and his daughter, pleaded as if she rejoiced in the punishment meted out to her by heavenly intervention. Refreshed by her vigorous acceptance of divine chastisement, Frau Morl again bent over Lili.

"Tell us what you know. Tell us what you think. It is only fair to us. Besides, Lili, you ought to forgive both of them."

Dr. Schoppe paused in his prayers: "What do you mean—'both of them'—Frau Morl? What do you ask of Lili?"

"She means," said the dying girl, "Maartin and the English woman. Yes, I see, but don't let them come near me, not now nor when I am dead."

She lifted up her hand as if in supplication, and the wide sleeve of the night-gown fell apart from her bony wrist and her thin arm. There was nothing bright nor lustrous about her, save the two long plaits of hair.

Outside the tall windows with the pure muslin curtains, the blue-black boughs of the pines waved and tossed; in the upper panes of the window they were clearly visible, and a strengthening gleam of sun falling through the hurrying clouds cast their shapes more distinctly over the panes.

* * *

Belle wished that she could have left the house before this gloomy incident; it seemed to her bad taste on the part of Lili to have come to Schloss Morl to die. Why could she not have remained at home? Why need she have died at all? A mere foolish fretting, a mere morbid vanity had brought her to the death from which she had helped to save her lover. Belle felt neither pity nor sympathy, only distaste and impatience mingled with a faint disgust. Yes, there was something disgusting in this prolonged agony, in this misery of prayers and tears, in this narrow cold piety touched by neurotic egotism.

"If they think she is going to be an angel in Paradise, why do they make such a fuss about it? These Christians never seem ready to put their faith to the proof."

She controlled her impatience by dwelling on the future when Lili would be under the sandy mountain soil as Daisy was under the London clay, and she would be alive, alive with him, her new, strange lover.

Where should they go? He must have plenty of money. Munich would be more fashionable, more gay than Augsburg. She would have new clothes, a maid—she was tired of this silly prim disguise of grey or black, this pose of a pious, dull woman that had, after all, taken no one in; she had to thank her careful, good breeding that she had been able to do it all.

She wished that she could go away at once; she was an alien here, no one liked her, she was suspected, perhaps even blamed for hysterical, foolish Lili's death, and she was weary of the austere white mansion, of the orderly ways of the household, of the heavy, reserved presence of Frau Morl, even weary of the forest which at first she had found so full of health, peace and purification.

No one interfered with her; all her comforts were attended to; there were her meals, her easy bed, her shining cans of hot water, her finely laundered linen laid out neatly in her precise room, but she was weary of it all, and now that she had walked in the woods with a lover, she no longer wanted to walk in them alone.

How dull, how tedious it was, waiting for Lili to die!

Belle supposed that the young man was also suffering; he kept out of her way, and she knew that Lili refused to see him. They chanced to meet in the large room where Lili used to sit; Belle had come in, lightly, thinking that, if she closed the doors and played softly, she might amuse herself with the piano.

He was there, seated opposite Lili's empty chair, his face in his hands, his black clothes like a blot in the pale room.

"I daresay you are almost at the end of your nerves, of your patience," said Belle, approaching him softly. "It is a pity that we could not have gone away before. But it will soon be over now."

He did not move, and Belle seated herself on the piano-stool and opened the piano. A tall window was opposite to her, through the brilliantly polished glass she could see the light, colourless day, the dark boughs of the pines. The last time that she had been seated at a piano had been in Mrs. Bulke's kitchen the night of Daisy Arrow's death. It gave her pleasure to remember that because then she had been in utter despair, and now life was opening about her like a many-coloured flower.

Then, as now, a dark bough had been before her, and peering into those high-tossed clouds she could imagine that she saw the blank faces of the avenging angels, whose imbecile countenances were like those of Lili Schoppe.

She began to play, very softly, "Wanderer to the Moon," and her mind was still on last Christmas Eve, just for the pleasure of the contrast. Odd and fascinating to think that this man seated motionless by the white-tiled stove was the man whose voice she had heard on the stairs of No. 12. "Why," she thought idly, "did he send down for champagne or fine brandy? Some day I shall ask him. How pleased Daisy was! She thought that it was such a piece of good fortune to have met him—"

Belle continued to play, her fingers slipped into the melody of the "Moss Rose" waltz; that gave her pleasure, yes, that tune that had once been so detestable, now only served to remind her of humiliations passed. When she danced again it would not be on a public stage for the plaudits of tenth-rate merry-makers.

"You should not play now," said Herr Morl; he had dropped his hands and was staring at her over his shoulder.

"No—it just came to my fingers, and I don't suppose anyone can hear us." She turned round on the stool. "Why don't you go away? If she won't see you, why remain? We could meet in Munich. I'd like to go, too—if you'd arrange it."

"I can't arrange anything now."

Belle sighed.

"But—if it is all over! You're not blaming yourself, are you? It is all her fault, if you look at it sanely. Something like this was sure to happen to her—"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, a woman who set herself up to be a saint, to save souls—to reform people, never to tell a lie—"

"You don't believe in goodness."

"Not if you call that goodness—it's idiocy, really."

"Can't you understand what it meant to Lili—my London disaster—and your following us, your presence here, can't you understand that?"

"Of course I can understand," smiled Belle.

"No, you can't, you can't understand anything, but—never mind. She won't see me."

"You ought to be glad, it will save you a painful scene. What is the matter with you? You were not like this in the woods last night."

"I was thinking," said Herr Morl, drawing nearer the stove, "of that interrupted journey, of Brazil—the work we were to have done together, the faith, the exaltation, and then the warmth, the colour, the brightness. I should have forgotten everything. Yes, it would have been a new life."

"A dream. One can't escape from oneself like that—you would not have liked the country, you would have tired of that absurd missionary project, and, of course, you would have tired of Lili, too. The whole thing was only a mood, a phase."

"Was it?"

"Of course." Stung by his intent look, by his forgetfulness of last night, she added: "If you were so absorbed in Lili and her Christianity, why did you wander out that night and find yourself in the Argyll Rooms? If you hadn't done that you might have gone to Brazil—without anyone interfering."

Without replying to that, he said:

"I shall go upstairs again. Perhaps she will see me now."

Belle sprang up and ran over to him.

"You're not forgetting what we arranged last night? You're not allowing these dismal people to get between us?"

"No, no," he answered quickly. "We shall arrange everything—only you must be patient."

He left her alone in the warm, pleasant room with the white stove and polished furniture and the pine-trees tossing without the brilliant panes of the tall window.

She felt satisfied, and thought with pleasure of material things, even, with zest, of the brown olives and curded cheese, fresh bread and honey-cakes that there would be for supper, and all of which she liked so much, even of the smell of freshly ground coffee that there would be presently when the afternoon refreshment was served.

* * *

Frau Morl took her son by the hand and led him to Lili's bedside; the dying girl had made a gesture that seemed of assent when the older woman had renewed her entreaties for this interview, whispering into the pillow, above the bands of pale hair that fell over Lili's ear:

"You know what I've suffered, Lili, you know what I've been through, don't forsake me now, don't do it."

Lili opened her eyes and stared up at the tall young man who blocked the light from the window.

He muttered:

"Don't go away. Don't let go of me. Don't you remember when we first met, you promised that you would always stay by me and help me?"

"You left me, Maarten, you left me—and for what?—'the well- favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts.'" Lili's fingers quivered on the edge of the sheet that she had nervously pleated together; she smiled faintly as if at some inner thought. "You promised, Maarten. Then you forsook everything. 'My heritage was laid waste for the dragons of the wilderness.'"

"Lili," said Frau Mod strongly, "that is my son standing there; you know how it is with him. Did you not promise to fight the unclean spirit and drive out the abomination?"

"I'm tired," whispered Lili. "God will hear you, Mother, judgment, judgment shall come."

"Yes," said the young man, bending over her pillow, "but what for me?"

"'The wicked shall be as stubble as ashes under foot,'" Lili sighed. "I can do no more. I begin to forget. The angel who walked with me went forth—he is gone and I follow."

"She does not know what she says," whispered Frau Mod. "She is unconscious."

"There is, then, no ease for me, no peace." The young man stood erect and looked at the grey clouds beyond the pine-trees. "But I shall know what to do."

"Judgment," gasped Lili, beginning to struggle in a last effort to find her breath. "Judgment—"

"Ay, judgment," repeated the young minister.

Lili's head suddenly twisted aside into an unnatural position—she lay as if her neck was broken.

"Dead!" said Frau Morl. Addressing the corpse as if she was alone with it, she said: "You needn't have died, you know, Lili. With a little more courage you could have stayed alive and helped him."

She took no notice of any of them, but turned aside, and with a heavy step went downstairs to the room where Belle was sitting, musing over the white stove.

"She's dead," said Frau Morl harshly. "Lili is dead."

"Oh!" said Belle. She was arranging some wet white flowers, full of rain-drops, that someone had brought to the house out of the woods; with careful fingers she set them in a low dish of pink lustre. "I'm sorry. Is there anything I can do? Of course, I am going away very soon."

"Yes," continued the other woman in a strong voice, "she had no courage, no strength, and once she was disgusted she had to die."

"To die of disgust?"

"Yes, like you might if you bit into a fruit and found it full of maggots; you might go on retching until you died of it, I suppose."

Frau Mod pulled open the drawer of a dark cabinet and took out the pair of white socks that she had been knitting for the last few days. She looked at these with some satisfaction; they had, after all, been finished in time. Then she took from the drawer a pair of small shoes made by herself from thick white silk. They had no soles, but were two pieces sewn together with a fancy stitch; they were not meant to be walked upon.

"I am going away," said Belle; "I am going away."

Frau Morl nodded at her: "I shall speak to you later—for the moment, you will stay here."

She went upstairs with the white socks that would never require mending, and the white shoes that were without soles because they would never be trodden upon.

* * *

There was a strong wind on the day of Li funeral, which seemed to Belle to blow away much besides the scattered vapours of the clouds above the pine-tree tops. Her own life and conduct seemed as clear as the pale sky revealed when the light clouds were driven apart. Everything that had happened to her up the present moment was, after all, very trivial, even the death of Daisy Arrow—what was that but a sordid police-court case? Even her own silly little cunning practices—the hold she had tried to acquire over a suspected man and his friends, her false witness, her falsely given evidence—how futile it all seemed now.

She stood there in the little Lutheran graveyard in her decorous black dress, letting that strong fresh wind blow full upon her uncovered face.

"Lili is dead."

Belle regarded the short coffin with indifference, as with indifference she had regarded the short coffin of Daisy Arrow being borne out of the house in Great Hogath Street as she had leaned on the dusty window-sill and watched the hearse go through the fog towards St. Pancras mortuary.

Only very simple people would be sorry at such deaths as these, she thought. It was strange to her to see the stout father quite overwhelmed—hideous with grief—standing there at the graveside twisting a black-bordered handkerchief ("How had he got that so soon?" Bell wondered) in his thick hand, his broad shoulders seemed still heaving, as if they would split the seams of his smooth cloth coat.

Well, he would have to accept his desolation, live without that pretty little creature who had wanted to be a saint—an impossibly immaculate sort of creature, as meaningless as the little confections of sugar seen on a Christmas-cake, with tinselled haloes and spun-glass wings. She had wanted to be a saint! At the first touch of real difficulty or trouble she had faded and died; no use to anyone, looking like a wan little monkey on her death-bed, her plaits, carefully crimped by Frau Morl, tied under her chin so precisely, the bony hands folded neatly on her thin chest.

The Lutheran burial-ground was on the side of the hill. A break in the trees showed the valley bright in sudden sunshine. The bell tolled dutifully with laboured pauses between the strokes which the bell-man was counting under his breath.

Belle glanced round at her fellow-mourners: Frau Morl was praying—there could be no doubt of her sincerity—her broad face was quite disfigured with emotion, her pudgy hands were clasped firmly in the cotton gloves.

"She doesn't believe that there is anyone to pray to," thought Belle contemptuously. "She's trying to persuade herself so. She believes she was once a wicked woman—she's trying to do penance—perhaps she'd been trying to do penance for years. I suppose that she, too, like her son, was clinging to Lili as a means of salvation."

Belle then, and with the relish of one who performs an action full of delight, looked across the open grave at the young clergyman. He, she thought, must really be glad to be rid of Lili—must see that it had all been a weakness, a stupid mistake. There must be some flaw in his character which had made him attach himself to that futile and empty creature, which had caused him to give up his pleasures, to renounce his bold, amusing life, for a narrow piety, for anything so childish as missionary work and marriage to a girl like Lili Schoppe.

The funeral service was over—the sandy soil had been heaped above the grave. Belle noticed the small roots of flowers among it. She saw the long heap smoothed by the sexton's mattock, particles of sand flew loose around the graveyard over the head-stones and the funeral wreaths of tarnished leaves.

The mourners moved away, but Dr. Schoppe remained by the grave of his only child. He had put his hands in a ridiculous and childish gesture across his face.

Belle lingered to look at him with curiosity, and as she pried at his emotion, she saw that the stout man was staring at her, behind his crossed fingers; his swollen eyes were lively with hatred. For a second she experienced a sensation of uneasiness, the more horrible as it had no reason at all, any more than the feeling of apprehension she had experienced in the commonplace empty garden had any foundation.

She shook off this strange dread with a feeling of disgust for her own weakness.

"Why should he possibly blame me? I've done nothing. He ought to know that I could have made it much worse. Supposing I had said all I knew, well, wouldn't that, too, have killed his Lili? To know her lover hanged?"

Suddenly she moved away from the graveyard, her nerves well in control, her temper soothed. For she assured herself she loved this fantastic and, no doubt, she assured herself, wild and dangerous young man, quite generously and passionately—no matter what he was or had been, no matter how it crossed her own interests; she could see no reason why they should not share enjoyment of what they both valued. Walking daintily among the graves, holding the ends of her shawl together so that the fringes might not catch on the sharp arms of the iron memorial crosses, she thought with delight of the night when they had stood together under the ancient chained tree with the rising wind about them. She had not thought that life had any such experience to offer.

He stood waiting at the graveyard gate, holding it open for her; she looked at him as she passed with a grave inclination of her head in return for a formal courtesy. She was quite sure of him—she had him bewitched and he had her enchanted. Even when Lili's open grave was between them, he had had eyes for no one but herself. He, and he alone, had recognised and valued the beauty, the grace, the power that she was conscious of possessing, but which had always seemed till now in eclipse. Even those men who had desired her, who had petted her, spent money on her, given her praises and caresses, had been very soon disenchanted. They had treated her as if she were, after all, nothing out of the common—merely a pretty complacent woman, with some breeding and no scruples. Belle believed she was much more than that, and that he, this last lover, knew it.

At the gate of the graveyard Dr. Schoppe turned abruptly and went his way without any farewell, merely a nod to all of them and a hand-clasp to the clergyman who had read the funeral service.

Frau Morl watched the figure in the ungainly-looking black frock-coat disappear down the sandy path. "He has gone away," she said, "he has done with all of us." She looked at her son and at Belle—"He wouldn't even come up to the house to drink a cup of coffee."

The other mourners—neighbours, servants—left them. The three walked up alone through the pines. The sunlight slanted across the trunks in strong rays, the fronds of ferns were uncurling—everywhere suddenly was the brightness of green, the deepening blue of wild hyacinths, the dark boughs of the trees were tipped with a paler colour.

"The spring—the summer here all at once," said Frau Morl, panting a little as she climbed the upward path. "Soon we shall have the roses."

Belle did not answer; she was wondering how soon they could get away and where they should go? She disliked more and more the pale clean house, and the large rooms, and the whitewashed walls, and the dark furniture, and the precise monotony of the comfortable routine. She even disliked the pine-woods that seemed to crowd in through the tall windows and terrace doors.

She no longer thought of establishing herself in society, of trying to edge into the circle of some small German court, of starting an academy for elocution and deportment, of becoming a companion to some old lady of title, of trying to teach some whining child English or music—that, of course, had all been part of a delusion. She was not that kind of woman at all. She had merely yearned for those things as one who is starved may yearn for a flavour of which they have long been deprived, but which they remember pleasantly, only to find, when they are glutted with this long-forgone dainty, that all taste for it was dead before they began to glut themselves.

She knew now that it was only because she had been so unsuccessful with vice, because she had been forced to mix with people who were filthy and degraded, because she had to wear dirty clothes, eat poor food and live in a miserable room, that she had longed for comfort, security and respectability.

She paused in the pine forest and took off her shawl.

"The sunshine is quite warm," she said triumphantly.

It was, at last, spring—a warmer, richer spring than she had ever known in England. She shook off all her memories. She was young.

Herr Morl waited beside her; ahead of them toiled the stout figure of Frau Mori climbing up the steep sandy path, steadily, never looking back nor pausing.

"So there's an end of Lili," said Herr Morl; he thrust the ferrule of the stick he carried into the sandy ground, disturbing the light surface to show the rich, damp, orange colour beneath. She noticed that he could never be in the woods, but he must worry at the soil either with his stick or his foot, or, when he was seated, with his fingers always digging.

"So there's an end of Lili," he repeated—his tone, like his face, was passive. "She is only part of the ground now, just a handful of earth."

"No doubt she is an angel in heaven," said Belle, "but there is no need for us to think of her. What was she to you? An obsession, I suppose."

He replied moodily:

"How can I tell you what I've suffered?"

"Don't suffer any more," said Belle urgently, "don't. Look at me."

He obeyed her; and she smiled at the intensity with which he regarded her, as if he stared at once on a wonder and a long familiar friend; their need for each other, she thought, was serious and obvious.

"There is no reason to suffer," she urged, "there really isn't, no matter what either of us has been. You became involved with such simple people—they confuse one and make things so difficult—all this talk of sin and wickedness, of God and angels."

"They're quite sincere, though," he replied; "you know that, don't you? When they tell you you're damned, they mean it."

"It doesn't matter," smiled Belle.

There jumped again fantastically before her mind Mrs. Bulke's kitchen and the picture of The Last Judgment—the angels, who were like Lili Schoppe with their yellow hair and straight features and white gowns, bending out of a whirlwind of black clouds on to a chaos of split rocks.

"She's dead, and her father's gone. We need not think of them any more."

"No," he said strongly, "no. Anyhow, I know what to do." He shook his shoulders as if he threw off a burden. "Of course, in the future I intend to do exactly as I please. Let us go on to the house, my mother is almost out of sight."

They proceeded slowly up the sandy path. The sun turned the rough trunks of the pine-trees a reddish orange, the hard curled fronds of the ferns appeared as if cut from jade and amber.

"I want to leave the house at once," whispered Belle. "I'm playing a part here, and it begins to irk. I'm quite tired of it, really."

"It's dull," he said, as if to himself. "Yes, it's dull."

"No," she answered, "I don't mean that so much. I wanted that—rest and quiet—but I don't know, there's something about the place; of course, your mother doesn't like me. She's a strong type of woman, and she wouldn't ask questions, but she suspects me as a mischief-maker."

"Do you want money?"

"No. I've still got plenty left of what you gave me. You see, I've had no expenses."

They were out of the woods, on a stretch of level ground that was blurred with the open sunshine. "Besides," added Belle hurriedly, "I can't stay here, in the house where that girl died—you understand—with your mother watching me."

"No," he agreed vigorously. "No, besides, I want you all to myself, somewhere alone—where no one can spy on us and see what we do."

She shuddered with pleasure at that. She was conscious that she looked quite beautiful—strong and healthy, clear-skinned, flushed from sun and wind—how different from the tawdy creature who had crept home through the fog that Christmas Eve, regretting the clasp-knife that Daisy Arrow had taken.

"Yes, indeed, I want you all to myself—quite alone. Come down to the city—to Munich—I will arrange everything."

"Yes," she smiled joyously. "To think we have years and years before us! I will give you back your Bible, too, and that letter. It has not really your name on it, you know, nor this address, only the letter 'M.' I exaggerated a little to—well—to help myself."

"It does not matter," replied the young man indifferently, "about those things, no, not at all."

"I suppose not," she said. She, too, was indifferent about what once had been so important. She never even considered what the value of these objects might mean, nor if it would be possible for her to return to England and reopen the case of Daisy Arrow. All that was over and done with. She was as averse from the idea of Maarten Morl receiving any punishment as Lili Schoppe had been at his first arrest.

Before they came in sight of the flat-fronted white house, where the green shutters had been closed both in sign of mourning and as protection against the first strong sun of the year, he had written an address on a scrap of paper torn from his pocket-book—a hotel in Munich, where she would be well received.

"I shall leave here to-night," he added hurriedly. "I don't care to stay here any longer. It is, indeed, gloomy and melancholy. Do you remember that story I told you the day we were on the island, about the little murdered child and how they buried it in a wood? I suppose it was a wood something like this. I never pass along here without thinking of it."

"You will think of it no more when you are in the city with me."

"No, no—expiation."

"Why do you say that word?"

"Oh, I was just thinking how everything is worked out—the crime, the punishment, whether one repents or not."

"Come into the house and say good-bye to your mother. She will think it strange if you leave me here. When am I to join you?"

"You know—I told you."

She looked up at the house with aversion. "I don't like this place."

"You can come away when you will. The rooms will be ready for you—I shall see to that to-day."

"Well then, to-morrow—I shall leave here to-morrow if I can get a carriage to take my luggage to the station. I want to go to the shops, I want to buy some clothes. I have nothing but this dowdy mourning."

"Ah," said Herr Mori, smiling, "you will be glad to see the shops again, my pretty one—to buy yourself some finery. I, too, shall be pleased to see you in charming clothes."

He caught her hand as they were proceeding up the path, and brought her to a stand. It seemed careless—they might be observed from the windows.

"You don't believe, of course," he asked, "I mean about that night in London—I mean, you think that I was justly acquitted?"

"Of course," sighed Belle, "I do—I must. The poor fool destroyed herself."

Why did he remind her of that? What did it matter? He, standing there in front of his respectable, prosperous-looking house, seemed to have no affinity with the man who had stood in Bow Street police-court dock; that ugly London episode only concerned Belle in as far as it had been a means of bringing them together.

She sighed again, with delight, to think how firm must be her hold on his senses, for he did not seem spent, baffled or overwhelmed by the loss of Lili, but eager, keen, exultant, as he remained, rigid as a sentinel, gazing at her out of those eyes so pale that they seemed in this light, blind, discs of silver in the lean face.

No, he was not thinking of Lili in her shroud beneath the sandy soil of the lonely graveyard, nor of her desolate virtue, nor of her cold piety, nor of her chill cowardice, nor of the betrayal of her death; he was thinking of her, Belle Adair, Rose Rastell—she, the nameless one, the well-bred, dainty harlot, cleansed by months of abstinence from lust, decked for her hire, soft, smiling, brilliant-eyed, promising joy and oblivion. He knew how tame and tiresome was any other kind of woman compared to the kind she was.

He said nothing; with his hat held against the breast of his mourning coat, his hair stirred on his forehead by the forest wind, he stared at her triumphant smile, which was full of promise, of cunning allurement, and neither moved nor spoke.

She passed into the house, she was utterly sure of him; her step went to the rhythm of a dance, she laughed, gay as when she had felt secure of her first lover. At the first window she passed she peered through the chinks of the shutters and saw him walking through the forest; overhead the dark boughs, underfoot the driftage of white flowers, walking rapidly, blank as a shadow in the sunshine.

* * *

Everything inside the prim mansion was very quiet. The green shutters allowed only a watery pallid light to filter through the slats. There was no one about—the polished furniture, so dark and heavy, was precisely in place: There was no sound save, from the kitchen below, the rush of running water. Belle went lightly from room to room.

In one, refreshments had been laid out on a long table for the mourners, but no one had come from the graveyard to the house. The plates of cold meat, the loaves of dark bread, the flagons of beer, were all untouched. For the first time that year the white stoves had not been lit and the house was cold.

Belle went, with a proud step, upstairs, with a glance of dislike at the seated lions on each newel-post. They had human faces, which their manes surrounded like periwigs.

"Why should that," she asked herself, "seem so unpleasant? Why do they loom so important in the chilly empty house? Not quite an empty house—"

The door of the dead girl's room was open and within was Frau Morl polishing the shining chest of drawers, which stood between the windows, with a large clean rag. The Holland cover had been removed from the looking-glass, which had remained shrouded since the death of Lili. Glancing up into this Frau Morl saw Belle pass the door, and called to her:

"Come in here, please, a moment."

Belle obeyed.

The room had already been swept and dusted, the curtains taken down from the bed, the mattress rolled and covered, all signs of illness, even of occupation, had been removed. The large pale chamber was as if it had never been lived in. The further window had been unshuttered and opened, and the sunlight coming through the branches of the pines, made a dancing reflection, like that of water, on the greenish-toned wall-paper.

"I'm going away to-morrow," said Belle. "You have been very kind to me. You've asked no questions, and I suppose it would be too late for any explanations now."

"I need none," replied Frau Morl, still intent on her housewife's work. "What I can't guess, I don't want to know."

"Very well, then. If it will be quite convenient to you, I'm going away to-morrow—it is convenient, I suppose—"

Belle could see the woman's coarse flat face in the glass, with her banded hair and a starched tucker above the thick neck of her black bodice. It was difficult to think of her as dancing and singing on the stage—difficult to think of her as ever young or attractive.

"When one gets old," thought Belle, standing by the dismantled bed, "one must be like either her or Mrs. Bulke, I suppose."

Fingering the cold surface of a pile of linen with her fat fingers, Frau Morl said quietly:

"You're very concerned, Miss Rastell, about what I don't know of you, but not about what you don't know of me or my son."

"Indeed, that doesn't matter."

"Perhaps not. There's a good deal that I could tell you but, as I suppose, it's not worth while. You've never asked my history nor that of my husband, nor how my eldest son died."

"No," replied Belle flatly; she was longing to be away from the presence of this woman, from the room, from the house and the forest, longing to join her lover.

"Well, leave it then," said Frau Morl. Belle, looking at her reflected face in the mirror, saw that she smiled. "It is not for me to interfere in God's designs, nor in His Judgments."

"I'll deal with those," smiled Belle proudly. "Don't concern yourself, pray, Frau Morl, with me." She feared some tedious talk about her soul and salvation, and moved towards the door.

"I'm not warning you about God, but about my son."

At that Belle paused, her fingers on the door-handle; she was shuddering slightly; the room where Lili had died was so chilly.

"Now that Maarten has lost Lili," added the other woman steadily, "I suppose he will become like he was before. You say you're not curious, that you don't want to know anything, but I thought it was my duty as a fellow human being, just to tell you—"

She paused and stared into the mirror, the pile of linen in her hands. Belle saw that her thick upper lip was twitching, and her forehead beaded with sweat.

"Of course," she continued in a hurried, slurred voice, "that was a mistake in London. I haven't been able to endure to go into the details, but there was some horrible mistake. He had a perfectly good alibi, hadn't he?"

"Yes," said Belle, "yes. But what do you mean by warning me against him?"

The tip of Frau Morl's tongue travelled slowly round her lips.

"I don't know if you intend to see anything of Maarten after you leave me."

"Would it matter to you if I did?"

"Not to me," replied Frau Morl, with emphasis on the last word, "not to me."

She went down suddenly, with the quick awkwardness of heavy middle-age, on her knees, and pulled open the bottom drawer and began to rearrange the pile of pillow- and-bolster-cases that laid there neatly tied with pink tape.

"What do you want to say?" asked Belle, standing at the open door. "I'm sorry, but I'm tired, I've my packing to do. Won't you please let me go?"

"I've nothing to say," replied Frau Morl—"nothing at all."

"I wonder," thought Belle, "why she always keeps her back to me. She hasn't looked me in the face once since I came in—only stared at me in the mirror."

"I don't suppose it would be any use," muttered the kneeling woman. "God wouldn't allow me to interfere. Lili couldn't do it, neither can I."

Belle suddenly thought that the woman kneeling there was not concerned with the rearranging of her linen in the large bottom drawer, but was praying.

"I'm sorry," she said, though this fanaticism wearied her. She had no patience with childish, mawkish piety. "I think I can understand what you want to tell me, Frau Morl. It is, as I suppose, that your son is not likely to marry anyone, now that Lili is dead."

"It wasn't that," replied the kneeling woman in a muffled tone—"It wasn't that. But I've nothing to say—nothing."

* * *

Belle did not see her hostess again that day. She spent the lonely hours walking in the pine-woods. The sun was like company, and there were so many flowers out. Soon it would be May—and summer. She thought most curiously of her future, which had bloomed from all the slime, dirt and corruption of the past, from Daisy Arrow's grave in the London clay, from Lili Schoppe's grave in the German sand, like a gaudy flower which has its roots in filth. She might be happy to the full limits of her nature.

She sang to herself as she walked along, snatches of English tunes; she did not notice that one of them was the "Moss Rose" waltz. She would have some fine clothes again.

She began to plan her dresses in her mind. She scarcely knew what the fashions were now, but she would discover something that would suit her with her tall figure and her trim waist, and the air she had of trailing her skirts and shawl and picking up her flounces to show her small feet. She did not know how much money he had. It seemed clear that his fortune had been exaggerated in England. But there was the two thousand pounds subscribed to him by the generous English public. Belle laughed aloud, but not entirely in mockery. She was happy. There were no spectres in the woods for her; she avoided the garden with the stucco pavilion and the moss rose-tree, she did not go down to the lake, where the boat-house stood on the sandy foreshore, where the empty boat awaited someone to come and row out to the little island with the thorn-trees. But she was free of the upper woods, she had no heed of the white flowers that she trod underfoot, she did not wince when she came upon the obelisk set up to commemorate the solitary death of Maarten's brother.

"What did he say? 'All Sodom and Gomorrah mourned for him!' How fond they all are of these high-sounding Biblical quotations, even that old woman couldn't let me go without talking of Judgment—God's Judgment—well, if all Babylon should mourn for me, I should be well content."

The lonely woman paused by the lonely obelisk, taking pleasure in the thought of all these dead people, while she was alive; while she, after long denial, was to partake of the joys of life again. How much sweeter would be the embrace of passion after the long revulsion that satiety had brought, how much more delicious would be the taste of wine, after a long sobriety, how charming it would be to go gorgeously clad after months of drab or black clothes only fit for a prisoner or a nun. He did not know what she could look like nor how lovely her body was under her heavy garments. Thinking of these delights to come, her hand traced idly over the new-cut letters on the obelisk, and she smiled in a way that she allowed few people to see.

The woods were full of buds, of the stir of living, growing things, of the calls of unseen birds; there was a web of veiled light crossing and re-crossing in the dark bluish-green boughs, on the ground where the white flowers trembled, as vaporous clouds shifted across the pale sunshine that filled the sky; cold and pure the air blew on Belle's firm cheeks as she stood erect, smiling by the obelisk.

She had forgotten where she was as she thought of the delights of the city, of all the foregone pleasures for which she had once paid so recklessly and then lost so foolishly, that were to be hers again.

* * *

The neat carriage came punctually to the trim gates; this time Belle decided to drive to the station round by the long road, for she had no companion to walk with her through the woods.

Frau Morl allowed her to depart with no more than the casual courtesy due to a casual guest. The servants who waited on her at the last were blank-faced, impassive. Only her fancy played her false, when she thought there was an odious grin on the human faces of the lions at the foot of the stairs.

It was a queer house for fancies, seeing that it was so blank, devoid of everything save the massive dark furniture, the white porcelain stoves, the whitewashed walls on which were the stags' heads—so commonplace, so precise, and yet—"A queer house for fancies," said Belle to herself, stepping into the carriage.

She was glad when they had turned the corner and could no longer see the house through the pines, when the old chained lime-tree, which was beginning to put forth small leaves, was no longer visible with the last sunshine showing the rust on the iron plates, on the looped chains, which had rattled in the wind the night she and Maarten had stood there together in the warm rush of wind and rain.

Down through the dark forest, along the wide sandy road, rutted from the weight of the wheels of the woodman's cart, the birds, startled from the growing ferns, whirling upwards at the clop-clop of the carriage horses' hoofs. They did not go near the lake with the island with the bare thorns, through which she had looked as she had told him about herself. Or had she?—was not that a dream within a dream—something that she had imagined as she lay awake on one of those windy nights when the boughs of the pines tossed outside and made, as she thought, shadows even in the darkness of her lofty bedroom?

Through the woods in the neat carriage with the carefully-groomed horses and the comfortable-looking coachman in his spick-and-span livery, Belle saw the railway station with a sensation of relief. "Oh, I'm glad to be away, I'm glad to be away."

Her luggage—she had after all very little—was taken out from under the box-seat. She fee'd the coachman and was glad of his respectful acceptance of her money. There was sometimes a strong sedative for excited nerves in these ordinary details.

With pleasure she watched the neat equipage drive away; she thought of it taking the dusty road across the plain, then the sandy road through the pine-woods, up to the blank face of the pale mansion where Frau Morl would be putting her house to rights after the intrusion of her three visitors: Lili, Belle, and Death.

* * *

It was very gay in the city, full of sudden, sweet spring air, and Belle had charming apartments in a hotel that looked on a square bright with budding trees. The florists' shops were full of early roses, late violets, and waxy blooms grown under glass, smiling women were driving abroad in open carriages, with pale shawls and frilled dresses, all light and delicate, holding aloft little lace parasols to protect their pure complexions from the first strong sun of the year.

Belle changed the English money hoarded at the bottom of her carpet-bag into German coin, which she spent freely, with a lavishness she had used before, the prodigality of a woman who has no past, no future, but who gratifies the moment's desire with the moment's gain.

How hot it was! She hired a carriage for her shopping, and bought a thin frock with a silk jacket, a hat of chipped straw, and a coquettish little fringed sunshade, silk stockings and fine slippers, a casket of perfume, a gold-and-silver embroidered bag and other trifles, until her room at the hotel was scattered with milliners' boxes and tissue-paper, and freshly-cut string and ribbon.

She had never felt so sure of any man before, not even that smooth-faced schoolboy fool of an officer who had married her and worshipped her for six months at lea$, nor even of that other, for whose sake she had thrown safety to the winds, he whose ring lay in the pawnbroker's shop in London.

Yet for two days she did not hear from him nor see him. But never for a second was she apprehensive. She ate well, slept well—bloomed beautiful out of her dark story, like a rose on a ditch briar. She had thrown aside all disguises; she was not Belle Adair nor Rose Rastell nor any other of her aliases, but Laura Pryde, which was as nearly her own name as any name could be; the first given her in her furtive, hurried baptism, the second that of her unmarried mother.

On the third day of her stay in the city she took out the Bible and the letter which she had almost forgotten, so little of importance were they to her now. Her conduct had long been without motive. She would return them to him, of course, making the most of that concession. Some women, she flattered herself, would keep them in hope of some future hold over him, but she had no such thoughts. She turned the Bible over on her silk knee. After all, she had almost persuaded herself that she had never seen him at Mrs. Bulke's establishment—that someone else had dropped the thick small book in Daisy Arrow's room; for she had lied when she had said that his name and that of Lili Schoppe were on the fly-leaf; there were names there, but they were strange to her—common German names, only the "M" betrayed him a little—but there were many other people who had that initial.

It was the same with the letter that Daisy had sent home to her brother, Roger Owen. It was a very silly love-letter written in German, with some of the words translated into English underneath—a sentimental, mawkish affair that disgusted Belle, and it was signed with "M" and the address at the top was merely München. Daisy's scrawl that had been sent with it read in her laboured hand:

I'll not tell you where I am—that doesn't matter—I'll send you some money—what I can afford. You see, I am having a very good time. This is the sort of letter a gentleman sends me often. I hope you can read it.

* * *

There was very little clue in that after all—merely proving that Daisy had been in Munich, but not by any means definitely connecting her with Maarten Morl; yet at the time it seemed to her so important, as if she held the gallows' rope in her hand.

She stretched herself luxuriously on the long, easy hotel sofa. The city blazed beyond the sunblinds. She could hear music in the street. She was intoxicated with herself, with every breath she took, in all the gay noises of the city she could hear the steps of her approaching lover.

* * *

On the third day he came, freshly clothed, elegantly barbered, full of a strong excitement.

Holding her tightly in his arms he told her in a sweet voice of all the plans he had made for her—the sumptuous little apartment that he had taken; a servant he had engaged. Ah, he knew how to do this sort of thing very well. They would be happy, even indefinitely perhaps. Then he held her away from him and admired her in her graceful summer attire—indeed, she had chosen her dress with great taste and pains. Everything ugly was forgotten.

"Who is there," said Belle to herself, "who has not something to forget?" It did not seem possible that Daisy Arrow or Lili Schoppe had ever lived or died, that she had ever stared at a picture of Judgment, that Frau Morl, folding away clean linen, had ever stared at her in a mirror, warning her—of what?

The young man told her lightly and yet with a certain emphasis that he had left the church—that he was no longer in Holy Orders. She had expected that and was glad of it, yet she listened with a certain indifference, for she had never thought of him as a clergyman—that surely had only been a passing whim, the expression of a transient phase of his character, as her desperate desire to scramble into respectability, after her experience at Mrs. Bulke's, had been a transient phase of her character. They laughed about it together.

He said they must go out to dine at the most fashionable restaurant in Munich to celebrate their extraordinary happiness.

Belle was willing enough to show off her beauty and her clothes and the possession of this fine new lover whom, she persuaded herself, she did really love. She had taken great pains with herself—her charming dress of pink French silk, her bonnet of golden straw, so becomingly poised on the curls which the French hairdresser had so skilfully arranged. She was quite a lovely woman. "Odd," she thought with regret for the last wasted years, "that I have been so long in eclipse."

She considered herself critically in the long mirror that hung in the pretty little sitting-room, as different from the broken fragment into which she had peered at the Cambridge as she was different from the woman who had danced the "Moss Rose" waltz.

More anxious for her own approval than for his, she regarded keenly her well-appointed elegance, the trim waist of glistening silk, the full bosom delicately veiled by lace, the flounces, one above the other, nestling to the floor—her graceful head, set off by the fashionable bonnet with the tuft of mauve feathers, the cluster of velvet Parma violets, the narrow strings of watered pink ribbon knotted under the round white chin. The smallest touch of rouge had made brilliant the lips and cheeks, touched to the purity of health by the forest air.

"Yes," said Herr Morl, seated on the flowery-patterned chair, his hands resting on his cane held before him, "yes, you are a beautiful woman. Charming! I hope that you have not stinted yourself. Remember that you can have all the money you want."

"Well, I've spent nearly all I had, and run up some bills. You'll expect me to be expensive? Rose Rastell knew how to economise—I don't."

"You are a very accomplished actress."

"Yet I was never any good on the stage, the footlights seemed to put me out. I'm not acting now, you know that?" She turned to him, smiling brilliantly, offering him all her grace, beauty and charm in return for his passion, his money—"the hire of a harlot."

"Did you bring me any flowers?"

"No, you shall buy what you want, the shops are still open—what do you like?"

"Anything with colour, I am sick of white flowers—the flowers of the woods. I should like something costly, grown under glass."

"The shops are full of such blooms," he smiled quietly. "How strange that you should be so happy to be with me!"

"Why?" she challenged him to remind her of how they had met, of what was between them. "Do you want to warn me what an unstable sad creature you are? Your mother did—"

"My mother? What did she say? She knows nothing of me." He was pushing at the carpet with his cane, as in the woods he pushed at the sand and uprooted the flowerets.

"I daresay not, but I don't think that she trusts you very much. She wanted, I think, to tell me about your father and brother, but I didn't want to hear."

"Didn't you? You might have found it an interesting story."

"What has it to do with me? I couldn't be bothered—you see, I'm quite reckless."

"You weren't like this when you decided to attach yourself to me."

"Oh, I was different, then; starved, desperate, humiliated—"

"All you wanted was money and a lover."

"I suppose so," she laughed. "I thought I wanted other things, but I soon sickened of them. Safety, respectability! I'd sooner be dead than live as your mother does. Shall we go? I want to drive through the city before it is dark—such a lovely half-light as there is!"

He rose, he had put aside every trace of mourning; he wore a light overcoat, carried pale gloves; it was certain that he had forgotten Lili.

She slipped her arm through his and they left the pretty little room, with its charming litter of trifles, together.

How she delighted in the sound of her flounces on the stairs, on the perfume that came from her own body, in the smiles and bows of the porter who opened the door of the smart little carriage, in the delicious spring evening, in her fine young lover.

* * *

It was the last of daylight as they drove through the streets towards the extravagant restaurant where they were to dine. The well-kept houses were in azure shadow, the sky was still blue, the sunshine lingered in the golden air. There were gay voices abroad—echoes of music and of laughter.

The restaurant and the people dining there were exactly to Belle's taste. She liked this kind of company—disreputable, unscrupulous people, well-dressed and well-behaved, she liked elegant debauchery, so rare and so costly.

Herr Morl nodded to several acquaintances. Belle noticed that no one came to speak to them—they were left alone at their table. It surely must be her fancy that those who had recognised him had glanced at him a little askance, and had whispered furtively together as if they discussed him and perhaps her. Well, perhaps not her fancy! Naturally he would be associated with that stupid affair in London—people would wonder who she was. Well, they would soon know Laura Pryde, an expensive leader of the demi-monde.

She looked at her companion with pride across the spikes of red flowers and the wax candles. How tall, handsome, how well-dressed he was! How fastidious as to his linen. She must not remember him as she had seen him in London.

He knew how to order their dinner, how to treat her, to surround her with an aroma of admiration, yes, even respect. They had champagne; Belle drank again for the first time for many months. Yes, the first time, save for the sherry on the journey, since Christmas Eve—then it had been gin, not champagne. It was a pity that she had to remember it was champagne which Daisy Arrow had asked for when she had come down into Mrs. Bulke's kitchen. It was odd that one could not control memory; there was so much one would like to wipe out for ever. She was glad of the wine after the long abstinence. The glow of the alcohol in her veins mounted soon to her head. She saw everything in brilliant colours with heightened perception—the gilt walls, the many mirrors, the flowers and silver on the little tables, the well-dressed, insolent women and their escorts.

Herr Morl drank, too. She had always thought his sobriety strange. She set her delicately rounded elbows on the table and raised the low, flat glass in her long fingers to her lips, nodding at him over the brim. They began to laugh and talk together quite freely. He ridiculed everything in life that had not been connected with her—his religion, the Church, Dr. Schoppe, the mission to Brazil, all that mawkish sentimentality in London—he mocked and jeered at it with a pleasant humour she had not known him to possess. He even sneered at Lili, who had been such a short while dead and for whom he should have been in mourning.

"Ah yes," Belle thought suddenly, understanding those looks which his fellow-diners had given him when they had entered the room. "Of course, some of them knew, no doubt, that the girl to whom he was betrothed had died lately."

She laughed louder; it mattered so little what these people thought; their disapproval gave a piquancy to a delightful evening.

It was rather curious that he dwelt so on Lili, whom he had not mentioned before since her death, but Belle encouraged him. There was nothing in the girl, really—she had been a tedious bore, let Lili be wafted away for ever on the breath of their mockery. The more he drank, the more he began to talk of Lili, tilt he seemed quite beside himself with amusement; his pale eyes sparkled with merriment.

"What a ridiculous-looking creature she was! Her neck was too long, her hands were too large—she had flat feet. Why, even in that straight night-gown in which she had died she looked absurd."

As he said this Belle slightly drew back and set down her glass.

"Don't you think so?" he insisted, leaning across the table, the flowers and the candles towards her; she decided to humour him.

"Why, yes! There's no reason why one shouldn't wear something becoming even on one's death-bed." Belle put her hands over the cluster of gardenias fastened into the lace at her breast; the edges of the thick petals were beginning to turn brown; the air was hot, and, despite all the different scents, becoming tainted. She felt slightly giddy, the wine was heady, and headier still the thought of the hours before them, when they would lie in each other's arms in the dark. There would be many such nights, perhaps many such lovers, she had noticed several men staring at her greedily—she who had draggled unnoticed along the London streets, unable to entice any but shabby drunkards, she, well fed, well clothed, triumphant with success, might queen it yet in this foreign city full of rich, idle men.

The young man, whose usually pale face was faintly flushed and whose habitual air of reserve had given place to a wild excitement, continued to talk of the dead girl.

"What," he asked, "is she but a wraith on the wind now?"

"Not that, not that—she has gone, as we all shall go—but while our span lasts, let us enjoy ourselves."

* * *

After the supper they danced, first on the terrace then in the garden that was hung with fairy-lamps and where a Hungarian orchestra played waltz after waltz. Belle had thought she had forgotten how to dance. Surely one of the melodies that came floating through pots of exotic shrubs, the boxes of flowers and the festoons of coloured lights, was "Moss Rose"? It was quite possible—the tune was popular all over Europe. She rested on his breast—their step matched perfectly. Belle found it all as it should be—a world made exactly to her measure. She drank again when they rested at one of the little side tables, more champagne, glass after glass, until she became dizzy from the dancing and the wine and faint with voluptuous desire; she begged that they might go—the new apartment was ready, was it not? Let him take her there.

"Let us get away from all these people," she whispered to him, hanging on his neck—her bonnet had fallen back from the curls pinned up by the hairdresser, the gardenias had dropped out of her bosom and been trampled underfoot by the dancers, one of her flounces was torn.

"Yes, yes, let us go—it is time now, there must be no longer any delay."

He swung her through the languidly waltzing couples, through the restaurant, and out on to the pavement, where the air blew fresh and chill on Belle's bare breast, over which, with an unsteady hand, she drew the torn lace, and on her hot cheeks on which the rouge and powder had melted.

"My flowers. I've lost my flowers—"

"Never mind, when you are with me you'll not need them."

He helped her into the waiting carriage. Belle sank against his shoulder in a languor of happiness.

"You promised me that book, you know," he said, "but, of course, it doesn't matter."

"It does matter, I want to keep my word. Tell the driver to stop at that hotel where I am staying and I will send up for them—the Bible and the letter, I still keep them in the little carpet-bag."

He let down the window and called out directions to the driver, then returned to his place beside her; very pleasant was the motion of the carriage and the darkness flicked now and then by the light of the street lamps; there was an air of festival about the city; the roadside trees were grey with buds, everything seemed perfumed. Ah, she was glad that she was here, away from the prim house in the forest, away from the dark pines, safe from the garden with the stucco pavilion, the lake with the thorn-set island, the endless clouds of white flowers, the obelisk, the grave where Lili lay. How had she endured it so long when she was fashioned for nights like this—and nothing else!

The carriage drew up at the hotel where she was staying; music came from the open windows, she wondered where the apartment he had taken for her was, she was drowsy with the anticipation of pleasure—surely she loved him beyond the snug joy of the senses satisfied?

"A little carpet-bag?" he asked as he descended from the carriage.


She watched while he, a dark outline in the gas-lit square in front of the hotel, gave his directions to the porter.

"My keys!" she called out—dizzy and dazed as she was, she had forgotten them. She took them from her reticule and tossed them to him across the pavement. Even this delay was insufficient to mar a perfect experience, she even enjoyed it, she had thus longer to count over the pleasures to come.

He returned to the carriage with the carpet-bag, and they drove on through the city, which was now quite dark save for the gas-lamps along the pavement. She lay against him, smiling, sighing. They soon left the wide gay thoroughfares and turned into silent by-ways. Belle, voluptuously against her lover's shoulder, took no heed of their direction. When the carriage stopped and he flung open the door, she roused herself with a start, almost falling when his support was removed, and shivering in the keen air that came in through the open door of the vehicle. After all, it was still early in the year, and the nights yet cold.

"My shawl," she said foolishly, "I must have left it behind."

"Never mind, you won't need it."

He helped her from the carriage and paid the man. They stood together alone on the pavement watching the vehicle disappear into the lonely darkness of the deserted street. Belle did not like the quarter, the street, it seemed to her narrow, gloomy—too much like that in which Mrs. Bulke had kept her establishment. Of course, she had drunk too much champagne, she was a little confused, she had not that firm grip on actualities which she usually possessed. Well, never mind, she was happy.

He opened the door with a key he took from his pocket and she followed him into a confined passage. She had an absurd sensation that she was walking into No. 12, Great Hogarth Street. Surely those were the stairs up to the room where Daisy Arrow had lodged, and those the stairs down to the kitchen where Mrs. Bulke kept the cracked piano and the picture of The Last Judgment.

Belle leant against the wall laughing cautiously. He was carrying the small carpet-bag. How ridiculous that looked contrasted with his elegant evening attire, which was, however, a little disordered.

She followed him upstairs—one floor—a landing with a small gas- jet and a wire bracket; two floors—another landing, another gas-jet and wire bracket. He pushed open a door and they entered a room at the back. He struck a match and lit a candle.

"Why, this is a wretched place," complained Belle, drawing back.

"Never mind." He set the carpet-bag down on one of the broken chairs. "The apartment is not quite ready—they will not give me the key until to-morrow, and I didn't want to wait. I wanted you alone and all to myself to-night."

"But we needn't have come here," contended Belle drowsily. "Why, the place where we had dinner—"

"There is no accommodation there."

"Well then, where I am staying?"

"Nor there either. This will do very well. What more do you want?" He leant against the chimney-piece, looking at her.

Belle laughed—she felt lost, foolish, out of touch with actuality.

"Surely this is Daisy Arrow's room?—the bed just there, the rickety chest of drawers, the curtains sagging on a string, the worn piece of drugget, the small wash-hand-stand, the ewer and the basin?"

No, it was only that she had a little lost command of herself. Of course, such rooms, like such people, were common everywhere. What did it matter? They were absorbed in love of one another, and it ceased to be a question of their surroundings; he had not given her many praises or caresses, but she sensed the passion that consumed him.

"The book," she heard him say, "the book and the paper?"

"The key is on that bunch I gave you outside the hotel." He went on one knee and unlocked it. "How quiet the place is. I can't hear anything."

"It is very late—the middle of the night—and these people sleep soundly; on this floor, too, we are alone."

"Oh!" She tried to be gay, to be lively, surely she felt happy, what could be more desirable than this, and, of course, his excuse about the apartment was quite reasonable.

She waited patiently, her flounces spread out on the rickety chair; there was a bottle of champagne, a glass on the washing-stand, a scrap of paper.

"We've had enough of that," she laughed, but he had poured her out some of the pale amber wine, and she drank, kissing his fingers as he offered her the glass.

He took off his light overcoat and hung it on one of the brass knobs of the bedstead. She took off her bonnet and dangled it by the ribbon strings.

What was that he was pulling out of the carpet-bag? A draggled pink feather which had caught in the metal clasp of the Bible. She had forgotten that. He shook it off and it fell on the floor at her feet. She picked it up, not knowing what she did. There was a hard caked mark on the down of the humming bird's breast, that formed the mount of the plume, twisted with it was a silver brooch on which a swallow was engraved.

"Ah, so you've kept that, too," he said, staring. "I remember that very well—so you kept it."

"Yes," muttered Belle, "I don't know why." She repeated it as if it was an incantation. "I don't know why. I don't know why. I kept everything, except the key."

She saw him pick up the plume and stick it into the bonnet that dangled in her hand.

"Wear that. It will suit you very well. It was yours once, wasn't it?"

"Yes, but I couldn't wear it now—what are you thinking of? Daisy wore it when she—I found it on her floor—"

"Wear it again—it becomes you—"

"I'm so tired—that dancing, after doing nothing for so long." She tried to unhook her bodice, but her fingers felt stiff and unnatural, she could not find the fastenings; she stood up and tried to undo her flounced skirt, but again she fumbled in vain; she stared into the cheap mirror—was that Frau Morl's face behind her own, whispering: "Judgment?" No, she was confused by a memory of that stupid picture where the angels had the silly face of Lili—that darkness before her eyes was not the yew spray from Mrs. Bulke's kitchen, nor yet a bough from the forest—it was faintness, a failure of the senses.

She sank on to the chair again, laughing, protesting, trying to take off her clothes. She heard him say: "No need to undress."

He tried to put the bonnet, from which the pink plume hung grotesquely, on her fallen head. She resisted. He tried to put his arms round her, but she struggled fiercely, though she had meant to be passionately yielding to his first touch. But her strength was slipping. He soon overpowered her; she had never thought that he was as strong as that; he dragged her to the bed and flung her on it; she heard the frame creak, she saw the white, heavy, honeycombed quilt and the two large pillows with coarse clean covers. His light overcoat, why had she never noticed, when she had rested on it, on the island, that it smelt of turpentine.

She lay there giggling foolishly with the pink plume which be had thrust into the golden, chipped, straw bonnet crushed under her head. It was quite beyond her power to move, she must have drunk far more wine than she had thought. She lay still, watching him through what seemed a veil of hallucination.

He moved about the room with a deliberate air of one fulfilling a set task. He snuffed the candle—the flame sprang up bright, casting the shadows of the shabby pieces of furniture on to the soiled wall.

He turned over the pages of the Bible eagerly; his shadow fell over Belle on the bed—the candle was behind him on the chest of drawers. She could see, too, the shadow of the ewer and the basin on the wash-hand-stand where the paint was worn away from the rough wood. "Why doesn't he come to me?"

The young man put down the Bible and turned to the basin, pouring water from the ewer until it was nearly full. Then he took the towel from its place, unfolded it, tore a strip off it, and lay it, as if in readiness for something, across the back of a chair.

Belle began to be vaguely interested in his movements.

Curious! Why didn't he come to her? Why were her senses so overpowered? Surely it would take more than wine to make her thus stupid—helpless? Surely a few glasses of champagne couldn't deprive her of the power of movement—of speech? What was he doing now? Turning back his cuffs, his shirt-sleeves.

She heard his voice, harsh, sweet, coming from an immense distance:

"Lili was all I had. Did you suppose I wouldn't get even with you for Lili?"

No, he hadn't said that; she had imagined it; be had been quite silent, moving busily about the room, preparing for something.

She wished she could rise—it was so stupid to lie there inert, foolish, unable to move her head from that uncomfortable bonnet and broken plume, unable to unfasten her bodice or unhook her skirt, unable to be rid of all these cumbrous clothes, unable to call out.

The candle was flickering now; surely there must be a draught from somewhere. What was he taking from his pocket?

He was looking at her over his shoulder. She could see nothing of his face but his eyes. Drugged, she realised, with a last flicker of intelligence. Of course, that's what he did before—put a drug in the drink.

She tried to shriek, but her jaw would not move; unable to scream or to stir, she saw him take a large clasp-knife from the pocket of his light overcoat, which smelt faintly of turpentine.


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