Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

And you came in to ask me something, Joyce ? ' he said, when he had explained this.

“Yes, father. I have heard from Mr. Lathom, asking when he can come down to see his picture framed and in its place—I suppose any day will do, will it not ? Shall I ask him to stay the night?' Philip had been expecting this. He remembered a cordial

. invitation conveyed by his mother to the artist to come back and see his handiwork when it was framed and in the room of the original picture. But it was a little uncomfortable to be obliged to give a reply so different from that which Joyce expected, and there was nothing in the world which he disliked so much as being uncomfortable. Bodily discomfort, of course, was the worst form of that imperfection, but mental discomfort was odious also.

'I think Mr. Lathom may take it for granted that his picture looks well, and pleases me,' he said. “We have less than three weeks here, before we actually start for Egypt. There is an infinity of things to do. You will be very busy without the extra burden of entertaining people.'

Joyce did not at once assent to this, or even reply to it. All her secret knowledge seethed within her.

“He was asked to come to see it,' she said.

A more definite statement was necessary. Philip had been glad enough of Craddock's information, but he did not find it quite easy to use it with Joyce's young eager face looking at him. Yet its eagerness gave him an added courage. It was too eager; in spite of the excellent reasonableness of her words, he felt the unreasonable wish behind them.

'By my mother,' he said, ' who does not regulate all my affairs. Frankly, my dear Joyce, I do not want Mr. Lathom in my house again. I do not hear a very good account of him. To copy a picture for me is one thing; to have him proposing himself, even though asked, is quite another. You may take it that we have finished with Mr. Lathom.'

Joyce's instinct and desire urged her.

I don't see how I can write a letter to him on those lines, she said. “Am I to say that you don't wish to see him again ? If that is so, father, you must write it yourself. I-I was very friendly with him when he was here. Why should I appear to cease to be so?'

Philip went into the rage of a weak man. He had not meant to argue the point with Joyce. He had, in his imagination, framed

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

this interview on quite different lines. In his imagination it
was enough for him to have said that Charles' proposed visit was
inconvenient to cause Joyce to write a note that should em-
body his wish. But while he delayed and fussed with the little
appurtenances of his writing-table, adjusting sealing-wax and
putting pens level, Joyce spoke again.

'He isn't quite like a bootmaker or a tailor,' she said, ' whom
you can order down, and who will send in what you have com-
manded. He has been staying with us. I can't say to him that
we have finished with him.'

The weak rage burst out.

That is what you are to say,' he cried. 'You will make it clear that he is not to come here again. You will show me your note when you have written it. Quite polite, of course, but it must be made clear that we have finished with him. He came to paint a portrait, and he has done so, and he has been paid, no doubt, for his trouble. That is all. We are going to Egypt within a week or two. His visit will be inconvenient. He may come after we have gone away, if he chooses, and look at his picture. He wants to see it : very well, he shall see it, after the third week in November.'

He beat with his feeble closed hand on his table.

'Do you understand ?' he said. “You will tell him that he may come here when we are gone. Not before, and not after we get back. He can look at his picture every day for three months. You may tell him that if you choose. And you have no consideration for me, Joyce; you make me excited, and make me raise my voice, which, as you know quite well, always gives me a fit of coughing.'

Joyce came back from the window, and sat down by her father at his table.

'If I am to write such a letter, father,' she said, 'I must know why I write it. You must tell me something which accounts for it.'

She had her voice perfectly in control, but she could not control her colour. She felt that her face had become white; and though she detested herself for this palpable sign of emotion, she was powerless to prevent it.

' It is easy for me to account for it,' said Philip, - though I should have hoped that my wish was enough.'

'It isn't enough,' said Joyce quietly. “I have treated him like a friend.'

* You must treat him as a friend no longer, and as an

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

acquaintance no longer. He is not a desirable friend for you nor an acquaintance. He is nothing to you. He painted a portrait; he begins and ends with that. He is not the sort of man I want to know, or want my daughter to know.'

The weak rage subsided; but the calmer tone which followed was not less ineffectual.

'You must take my word for it, dear Joyce,' he said. 'You are young and inexperienced, and you must obey me, and not see any more of this young man. I have excellent authority for telling you that he is undesirable as friend or acquaintance. I am sorry for it: he seemed harmless enough and even well-bred!'

Joyce got up. The accumulated weight of the habit of filial obedience was heavy, but her heart was in declared rebellion. Nor did she believe what had been told her.

. 'Will you tell me who this excellent authority is ? ' she asked. ‘No; you must take its excellence on trust from me.'

Joyce turned to him. She spoke quite respectfully, but quite firmly.

• Then I can't write that letter,' she said. “I am very sorry, but it is quite impossible.'

'And do you intend also to disobey me with regard to neither seeing nor communicating with Mr. Lathom again ? '

Joyce hesitated.

‘No; I intend to obey you,' she said. “At least—at least I promise to tell you if I ever intend to do otherwise.'

For the first time it struck him that he was dealing with a force greater than any that was at his command. Hitherto, Joyce had never put herself into open opposition to him, and he had had no experience of the power which her habitual serenity held within it.

'You are vastly obliging,' he said. “I had no idea I had so obedient a daughter.'

'I am sorry, father,' she said. “But you have been asking me to do things I can't do.

Things you won't do,' said he. 'You have made me feel very unwell with your obstinacy.'

'I am sorry for that, too,' she said.

(To be continued.)

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

BERNARD GRYFFYDD was killed in February 1901, at Haartebeestefontein ; and Edith was sorrowfully reading the account of the action in which he fell, when she received an agonised letter from Mrs. Loveden, entreating her either to go herself, or to send a kind and experienced nurse, upon whom she could rely, to Aberfraw. She learned that, on the receipt of the War Office telegram announcing her son's death, Lady Gryffydd had been seized with paralysis, and now lay between life and death ; and that her sister was hastening to her side, and to the assistance of the little inexperienced daughter and sole surviving child, Thekla.

Colonel Bertwald was comparatively well for the moment, and Edith longed for change of air and surroundings, so that she made up her mind, with the promptness that characterised her, to undertake herself the business of nursing Lady Gryffydd. She despatched a couple of telegrams, packed her trunk, and met Mrs. Loveden at Paddington in time to accompany her by the mid-day train to Wales.

'I thought Thekla had become a nun,' said Edith to the poor lady, who, dressed in deepest mourning, sat in the opposite corner of the railway carriage, holding fast a purse, a handkerchief, and a small black bag containing her rosary, a bottle of salts, and a flask of port wine and water, provided by Sims for the journey. She became a postulant immediately after her sister Winefride's

a death,' said Mrs. Loveden. But she only remained six months. Her health broke down. You know it is a very hard life in that Order; and besides, it was decided that she had no vocation. Poor little thing, it was a bitter disappointment to her, and to her

1 Copyright, 1913, by Lady Clifford, in the United States of America. VOL. XXXIV.-NO. 204, N.S.

46

mother; but God knows best, and you see, my dear, He would not allow my poor sister to be left all alone after her long life of devotion to her children. And Thekla was always her favourite. Yet she was so willing to give her up. But then, of course, she thought there would always be dear Bernard—'

Under her thick crêpe veil the poor lady wept bitterly, and Edith uttered a little murmur of sympathy, leaned back in her corner, and asked no more questions.

She grieved for Mrs. Loveden, and for the stricken mother, whose strength had given way under the weight of accumulated sorrows, and for the little sister ; and for Michael, whom she knew to be mourning passionately for his friend. But for the dead boy himself she did not grieve, for it appeared to her that to be shot through the heart on the battlefield was a fate infinitely preferable to the living death of lifelong incarceration in a monastic cell.

There was almost a hint of spring in the air as they reached the little picturesque station of Aberfraw, and entered the brougham which had been sent to meet them. In spite of the late hour of the afternoon, the daylight had not altogether faded from the west, and the air was at once milder and fresher than in the London they had left.

As the laden station-brougham moved slowly up the steep drive, the rooks were cawing and birds calling and twittering to each other, and a line of shut crocuses edged the road with gold.

Mrs. Loveden left Sims to concern herself with wraps and handbags, and took Edith to the big library before she went to her sister; and Edith looked round the gloomy, lofty room, with its oaken ceiling and heraldic shields, and the innumerable books, real and sham, which lined the walls. She shivered a little after her journey, in spite of the blazing fire of logs and fir-cones on the stone hearth.

She moved to the great windows, and stood looking out into the gathering twilight-the outline of the leafless trees against the clear tender light of the sky,—and thought of Michael and of the tragic end of his love-story, and of the young owner of the castle, dead in South Africa.

On the massive writing-table stood the pile of brown ledgers which held so many entries in Bernard's writing; and, beside them, the replica of a striking photograph she had seen at Mrs. Loveden's house.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »