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Comedies of courtship


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Title:ComediesofCourtship
Author:AnthonyHope
ReleaseDate:April4,2008[EBook#24985]
LastUpdated:November7,2018

Language:English

***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKCOMEDIESOFCOURTSHIP***


COMEDIESOFCOURTSHIP


ByAnthonyHope

1894
“Itisafamiliarfactthattheintensityofapassionvaries
withtheproximityoftheappropriateobject.”
Mr.LeslieStephen,‘ScienceofEthics’
“Howthedevilisitthatfreshfeatures
Havesuchacharmforuspoorhumancreatures?”
LordByron,‘DonJuan’

NOTE
“TheWheelofLove,”publishedinScribner’sMagazineduringthepastyear,
and “The Lady of the Pool,” both protected by American copyright, are here
printedforthefirsttimeinbookform.Thefourotherstoriesappearedwithout
their author’s consent or knowledge, with their titles changed beyond
recognition,andcombinedwithotherunauthorizedmaterial,inasmallvolume
printed by an American firm. They are here given for the first time in their
properformandbymyauthority.
AnthonyHope.

CONTENTS
THEWHEELOFLOVE
CHAPTERI.—THEVIRTUOUSHYPOCRITES
CHAPTERII.—SYMPATHYINSORROW


CHAPTERIII.—APROVIDENTIALDISCLOSURE
CHAPTERIV.—THETALEOFAPOSTMARK
CHAPTERV.—ASECONDEDITION
CHAPTERVI.—AMANWITHATHEORY
CHAPTERVII.—THESIGHTSOFAVIGNON
CHAPTERVIII.—MR.ANDMRS.ASHFORTH(1)
CHAPTERIX.—MR.ANDMRS.ASHFORTH(2)
CHAPTERX.—MR.ANDNOTMRS.ASHFORTH
CHAPTERXI.—ADYNAMITEOUTRAGE
CHAPTERXII.—ANOTHER!
CHAPTERXIII.—FAITHFULTODEATH

THELADYOFTHEPOOL
CHAPTERI.—AFIRMBELIEVER
CHAPTERII.—MISSWALLACE’SFRIEND
CHAPTERIII.—ALLNONSENSE


CHAPTERIV.—ACATASTROPHEATTHEPOOL
CHAPTERV.—ANUNFORESEENCASE
CHAPTERVI.—THEREWASSOMEBODY
CHAPTERVII.—THEINEVITABLEMEETING
CHAPTERVIII.—THEMORALOFIT
CHAPTERIX.—TWOMENOFSPIRIT
CHAPTERX.—THEINCARNATIONOFLADYAGATHA


THECURATEOFPOLTONS
ATHREE-VOLUMENOVEL
THEPHILOSOPHERINTHEAPPLEORCHARD
THEDECREEOFDUKEDEODONATO


THEWHEELOFLOVE


CHAPTERI.—THEVIRTUOUSHYPOCRITES
AT first sight they had as little reason for being unhappy as it is possible to
haveinaworldhalffullofsorrow.Theywereyoungandhealthy;halfadozen
times they had each declared the other more than common good-looking; they
both had, and never knew what it was not to have, money enough for comfort
and,inadditionthatdivinelittlesuperfluitywherefromjoysareborn.Thehouse
wasgoodtolookatandgoodtolivein;therewerehorsestoride,therivertogo
a-rowing on, and a big box from Mudie’s every week. No one worried them;
MissBusseywasgenerallyvisitingthepoor;or,aswasthecaseatthismoment,
asleepinherarm-chair,withPaul,theterrier,inhisbasketbesideher,andthecat
on her lap. Lastly, they were plighted lovers, and John was staying with Miss
Busseyfortheexpresspurposeofdelightingandbeingdelightedbyhisfiancie,
Mary Travers. For these and all their mercies certainly they should have been
trulythankful.
However the heart of man is wicked. This fact alone can explain why Mary
sat sadly in the drawing-room, feeling a letter that was tucked inside her
waistbandandJohnstrodemoodilyupanddownthegravelwalk,acigar,badly
bitten,betweenhisteeth,andhishandoverandagaincovertlystealingtoward
his breast-pocket and pressing a scented note that lay there. In the course of
everyturnJohnwouldpassthewindowofthedrawing-room;thenMarywould
look up with a smile and blow him a kiss, and he nodded and laughed and
returnedthesalute.But,thewindowpassed,bothsigheddeeplyandreturnedto
lingeringthosehiddenmissives.
“Poorlittlegirl!Imustkeepitup,”saidJohn.
“DeargoodJohn!Hemustneverknow,”thoughtMary.
Andthetwofelltothinkingjustwhatwasremarkedafewlinesback,namely,
thatthehumanheartisverywicked;theywereshockedatthemselves;theyoung
oftenare.
MissBusseyawoke,satup,evictedthecat,andfoundherspectacles.
“Where are those children?” said she. “Billing and cooing somewhere, I
suppose.Blessme,whydon’ttheygettiredofit?”


Theyhad—notindeedofbillingandcooingingeneral,fornooneattheirage
doesoroughttogettiredofthat—butofbillingandcooingwithoneanother.
Itwillbeobservedthatthesituationpromisedwellforatragedy.Nevertheless
thisisnotthestoryofanunhappymarriage.
If there be one thing which Government should forbid, it is a secret
engagement.Engagementsshouldbeadvertisedasmarriagesare;butunlesswe
happen to be persons of social importance, or considerable notoriety, no such
precautions are taken. Of course there are engagement rings; but a man never
knowsonewhenheseesitonalady’shand—itwouldindeedbeimpertinentto
look too closely—and when he goes out alone he generally puts his in his
pocket,consideringthattheeveningwillthusberenderedmoreenjoyable.The
Ashforth—Travers engagement was not a secret now, but it had been, and had
been too long. Hence, when Mary went to Scotland and met Charlie Ellerton,
and when John went to Switzerland and met Dora Bellairs-the truth is, they
oughtnevertohaveseparated,andMissBussey(whowasoneofthepeoplein
the secret) had been quite right when she remarked that it seemed a curious
arrangement. John and Mary had scoffed at the idea of a few weeks’ absence
having any effect on their feelings except, if indeed it were possible, that of
intensifyingthem.
“IreallythinkIoughttogoandfindthem,”saidMissBussey.“Come,Paul!”
She took a parasol, for the April sun was bright, and went into the garden.
“Whenshecametothedrawing-roomwindowJohnwasawayattheendofthe
walk.Shelookedathim:hewasreadingaletter.Shelookedinatthewindow:
Marywasreadingaletter.
“Well!” exclaimed Miss Bussey. “Have they had a tiff?” And she slowly
waddled (truth imposes this word-she was very stout) toward the unconscious
John.Headvancedtowardherstillreading;notonlydidhenotseeher,buthe
failed to notice that Paul had got under his feet. He fell over Paul, and as he
stumbledtheletterflutteredoutofhishand.Paulseizeditandbegantotossit
aboutingreatglee.
“Gooddoggie!”CriedMissBussey.“Comethen!Bringittome,dear.Good
Paul!”
John’sfacewasdistortedwithagony.HedartedtowardPaul,fellonhim,and
gripped him closely. Paul yelped and Miss Bussey observed, in an indignant


tone,thatJohnneednotthrottlethedog.Johnmutteredsomething.
“Isthelettersoveryprecious?”askedhishostessironically.
“Precious!”criedJohn.“Yes!—No!—It’snothingatall.”
ButheopenedPaul’smouthandtookouthistreasurewithwonderfulcare.
“And why,” inquired Miss Bussey, “are you not with Mary, young man?
You’reveryneglectful.”
“Neglectful! Surely, Miss Bussey, you haven’t noticed anything—like
neglect?Don’tsay——”
“Blesstheboy!Iwasonlyjoking.You’reamodellover.”
“Thank you, thank you. I’ll go to her at once,” and he sped towards the
window, opened it and walked up to Mary. Miss Bussey followed him and
arrived just in time to see the lovers locked in one another’s arms, their faces
expressingallappropriaterapture.
“There’s nothing much wrong,” said Miss Bussey; wherein Miss Bussey
herselfwasmuchwrong.
“Whatashame!I’veleftyoualoneformorethananhour!”saidJohn.“Have
you been very unhappy?” and he added, “darling.” It sounded like an
afterthought.
“I have been rather unhappy,” answered Mary, and her answer was true. As
she said it she tucked in a projecting edge of her letter. John had hurriedly
slippedhis(itwasrathertheworseforitsmauling)intohistrousers-pocket.
“You—youdidn’tthinkmeneglectful?”
“Oh,no.”
“Iwasthinkingofyouallthetime,”
“AndIwasthinkingofyou,dear.”
“Areyouveryhappy?”
“Yes,John;aren’tyou?”
“Of course I am. Happy! I should think so,” and he kissed her with


unimpeachablefervor.
When a conscientious person makes up his mind that he ought, for good
reasons, to deceive somebody, there is no one like him for thorough-paced
hypocrisy. When two conscientious people resolve; to deceive one another, on
grounds of duty, the acme of duplicity is in a fair way to be reached. John
AshforthandMaryTraversillustratedthisproposition.Theformerhadbeenall
hislifeagoodson,andwasnowatrustworthypartner,tohisfather,whojustly
relied no less on his character than on his brains. The latter, since her parents’
earlydeathhadlefthertoheraunt’scare,hadbeenthecomfortandpropofMiss
Bussey’slife.Itisdifficulttodescribegoodpeoplewithoutmakingthemseem
dull;butluckilynatureisdefterthannovelists,anditisquitepossibletobegood
without being dull. Neither Mary nor John was dull; a trifle limited, perhaps,
theywere,athoughtsevereintheirjudgmentsofothersaswellasofthemselves;
a little exacting with their friends and more than a little with themselves. One
description paints them both; doubtless their harmony of mind had contributed
morethanMary’ssweetexpressionandfinelycutfeatures,orJohn’supstanding
six feet, and honest capable face, to produce that attachment between them
whichhad,sixmonthsbeforethisstorybegins,culminatedintheirengagement.
Once arrived at, this ending seemed to have been inevitable. Everybody
discoveredthattheyhadforetolditfromthefirst,andmodestlydisclaimedany
credit for anticipating a union between a couple so obviously made for one
another.
The distress into which lovers such as these fell when they discovered by
personalexperiencethatsincerelytovoweternalloveisonething,andsincerely
to give it quite another, may be well imagined, and may well be left to be
imagined.Theybothwentthroughaterribleperiodoftemptation,whereinthey
listened longingly to the seductive pleading of their hearts; but both emerged
triumphant, resolved to stifle their mad fancy, to prefer good faith to mere
inclination,andtoavoid,atallcosts,woundingonetowhomtheyhadswornto
be true. Thus far their steadfastness carried them, but not beyond. They could
partfromtheirlovedones,andtheydid;buttheycouldnotleavethemwithouta
word. Each wrote, after leaving Scotland and Switzerland respectively, a few
lines of adieu, confessing the love they felt, but with resolute sadness saying
farewellforever.Theybelongedtoanother.
It was the answers that Mary and John were reading when Miss Bussey
discoveredthem.


Mary’sran:
“MY DEAR MISS TRAVERS: I have received your letter. I can’t tell you
whatitmeanstome.Yousayallmustbeoverbetweenus.Don’tbeoffended—
butIwon’tsaythatyet.Itcan’tbeyourdutytomarryamanyoudon’tlove.You
forbid me to write or come to you; and you ask only for a word of good-by. I
won’tsaygood-by.I’llsayAurevoir—aurevoir,mydarling.”
“Charlie.”
“Burnthis.”
ThiswasJohn’s:
“MY DEAR MR. ASHFORTH: What am I to say to you? Oh, why, why
didn’t you tell me before? I oughtn’t to say that, but it is too late to conceal
anything from you. Yes, you are right. It must be good-by. Yes, I will try to
forgetyou.Butoh,John,it’svery,very,verydifficult.Idon’tknowhowtosign
this—so I won’t. You’ll know who it comes from, won’t you? Good-by. Burn
this.”
Theseletters,nodoubt,makeitplainthattherehadbeenatleastamomentary
weakness both in Mary and in John; but in a true and charitable view their
conductinrisingsuperiortotemptationfinallywasallthemoreremarkableand
praiseworthy.Theyhadindeed,forthetime,beencarriedaway.EvennowMary
found it hard not to make allowances for herself, little as she was prone to
weakness when she thought of the impetuous abandon and conquering whirl
withwhichCharlieEllertonhadwooedher;andJohnconfessedthatflightalone,
a hasty flight from Interlaken after a certain evening spent in gazing at the
Jungfrau,hadsavedhimfromcastingeverythingtothewindsandyieldingtothe
slaveryofDoraBellairs’ssunnysmilesandcharmingcoquetries.Hehadalways
thoughtthatthatsortofgirlhadnoattractionsforhim,justasMaryhaddespised
‘butterfly-men’likeCharlieEllerton.Well,theywerewrong.Theonlycomfort
was that shallow natures felt these sorrows less; it would have broken Mary’s
heart(thoughtJohn),orJohn’s(thoughtMary),butDoraandCharliewouldsoon
find consolation in another. But here, oddly enough, John generally swore
heartily and Mary always began to search for her handkerchief. “They’re as
affectionate as one could wish when they’re together,” mused Miss Bussey, as
shestrokedthecat,“butatothertimesthey’regloomycompany.Isupposethey
can’t be happy apart. Dear! dear!” and the good old lady fell to wondering
whethershehadeverbeensofoolishherself.



CHAPTERII.—SYMPATHYINSORROW
“Giveme,”observedSirRogerDeane,“Cannes,afineday,agoodsettolook
at, a beehive chair, a good cigar, a cocktail on one side and a nice girl on the
other,andthereIam!Idon’twantanythingelse.”
GeneralBellairs pulledhiswhitemustacheandexaminedSirRoger’sfigure
andsurroundingswithasmile.
“ThenonlyLadyDeaneiswantingtoyourcompletehappiness,”saidhe.
“Maudiscertainlyanicegirl,butwhenshedesertsme——”
“Whereisshe?”
“Idon’tknow.”
“Ido,”interposedayoungman,whoworeaneye—glassandwasinchargeof
alargejug.“She’sgonetoMonte.”
“I might have known,” said Sir Roger. “Being missed here always means
you’ve gone to Monte—like not being at church means you’ve gone to
Brighton.”
“Surelyshedoesn’tplay?”askedtheGeneral.
“Notshe!She’sgoingtoputitinabook.Shewritesbooksyouknow.Sheput
meinthelast—mademeadashedfool,too,byJove!”
“Thatwasunkind,”saidtheGeneral,“fromyourwife.”
“Oh,Lordloveyou,shedidn’tmeanit.Iwasthehero.That’showIcameto
besuchanass.Thedeargirlmeanteverythingthatwaskind.Who’stakenherto
Monte?”
“CharlieEllerton,”saidtheyoungmanwiththeeye-glass.
“There!Itoldyoushewasakindgirl.She’stryingtopulloldCharlieupapeg
ortwo.He’shadthedeuceofafacer,youknow.”
“Ithoughtheseemedlesscheerfulthanusual.”


“Oh,rather.Hemetagirlsomewhereorother—Ialwaysforgetplaces—Miss
—Miss—hang it, I can’t remember names—and got awfully smitten, and
everythingwentpleasantlyandshetooktohimlikeanything—,andatlastold
Charliespokeuplikeaman,and——”SirRogerpauseddramatically.
“Well?”askedtheGeneral.
“She was engaged to another fellow. Rough, wasn’t it? She told old Charlie
shelikedhiminfernally,butpromiseswerepromises,don’tyouknow,andshe’d
thank him to take his hook. And he had to take it, by Gad! Rough, don’t you
know?SoMaud’sbeencheeringhimup.Thedevil!”
“What’sthematternow?”inquiredtheGeneral.
“Why, I’ve just remembered that I promised to say nothing about it. I say,
don’tyourepeatit,General,noryoueither,Laing.”
TheGenerallaughed.
“Well,”saidSirRoger,“heoughtn’ttohavebeensuchafoolastotellme.He
knowsIneverremembertokeepthingsdark.It’snotmyfault.”
Agirlcameoutofthehotelandstrolleduptowherethegroupwas.Shewas
dark,slight,andratherbelowmiddleheight;hercomplexionatthismomentwas
a trifle sallow and her eyes listless, but it seemed rather as though she had
dressedherfaceintoatragiccast,thesetofthefeaturesbeingnaturallymirthful.
Sheacknowledgedthemen’ssalutationsandsatdownwithasigh.
“Not on to-day?” asked Sir Roger, waving his cigar toward the lawn-tennis
courts.
“No,”saidMissBellairs.
“Areyouseedy,Dolly?”inquiredtheGeneral.
“No,”saidMissBellairs.
Mr.Laingfixedhiseye-glassandsurveyedtheyounglady.
“Areyoutakingany?”saidhe,indicatingthejug.
“Idon’tseeanyfuninvulgarity,”observedMissBellairs.
TheGeneralsmiled.SirRoger’slipsassumedtheshapeforawhistle.


“That’sanastyoneforme,”saidLaing.
“Ah, here you are, Roger,” exclaimed a fresh clear voice from behind the
chairs. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere. We’ve seen everything—Mr.
Ellertonwasmostkind—andIdosowanttotellyoumyimpressions.”
The new-comer was Lady Deane, a tall young woman, plainly dressed in a
serviceableclothwalking-gown.ByhersidestoodCharlieEllertoninaflannel
suitofpronouncedstriping;heworealittleyellowmustache,hadblueeyesand
curlyhair,andhisfacewastannedawholesomeruddy-brown.Helookedvery
melancholy.
“LettersfromHell,”murmuredSirRoger.
“But I was so distressed,” continued his wife. “Mr. Ellerton would gamble,
andhelosteversomuchmoney.”
“A fellow must amuse himself,” remarked Charlie gloomily, and with
apparentunconsciousnesshetookaglassfromLainganddrainedit.
“Gamblinganddrink—whatdoesthatmean?”askedSirRoger.
“Shutup,Deane,”saidCharlie.
Miss Bellairs rose suddenly and walked away. Her movement expressed
impatience with her surroundings. After a moment Charlie Ellerton slowly
saunteredafterher.Shesatdownonagarden-seatsomewayoff.Charlieplaced
himselfattheoppositeend.Alongpauseensued.
“I’mafraidI’mpreciouspoorcompany,”saidCharlie.
“I didn’t want you to be company at all,” answered Miss Bellairs, and she
slopedherparasoluntilitobstructedhisviewofherface.
“I’m awfully sorry, but I can’t stand the sort of rot Deane and Laing are
talking.”
“Can’tyou?NeithercanI.”
“They never seem to be serious about anything, you know,” and Charlie
sigheddeeply,andforthreeminutestherewassilence.
“DoyouknowScotlandatall?”askedCharlieatlast.


“Onlyalittle.”
“Therelastyear?”
“No,IwasinSwitzerland.”
“Oh.”
“DoyouknowInterlaken?”
“No.”
“Oh.”
“MayIhaveacigarette?”
“Ofcourse,ifyoulike.”
Charlielithiscigaretteandsmokedsilentlyforaminuteortwo.
“Icallthisabeastlyplace,”saidhe.
“Yes, horrid,” she answered, and the force of sympathy made her move the
parasol and turn her face towards her companion. “But I thought,” she
continued,“youcamehereeveryspring?”
“Oh,Idon’tmindtheplacesomuch.It’sthepeople.”
“Yes,isn’tit?Iknowwhatyoumean.”
“Youcan’tmakeajokeofeverything,canyou?”
“Indeedno,”sighedDora.
Charlie looked at his cigarette, and, his eyes carefully fixed on it, said in a
timidtone:
“What’sthepoint,forinstance,oftalkingasiflovewasallbosh?”
Dora’sparasolsweptdownagainswiftly,butCharliewasstilllookingatthe
cigaretteandhedidnotnoticeitsdescent,norcouldheseethatMissBellairs’s
cheekwasnolongersallow.
“It’s such cheap rot,” he continued, “and when a fellow’s—I say, Miss
Bellairs,I’mnotboringyou?”


Theparasolwaveredandfinallymoved.
“No,”saidMissBellairs.
“Idon’tknowwhetheryou—no,Imustn’tsaythat;butIknowwhatitistobe
in love, Miss Bellairs; but what’s the good of talking about it? Everybody
laughs.”
MissBellairsputdownherparasol.
“I shouldn’t laugh,” she said softly. “It’s horrid to laugh at people when
they’reintrouble,”andhereyeswereverysympathetic.
“Youarekind.Idon’tmindtalkingaboutittoyou.YouknowI’mnotthesort
offellowwhofallsinlovewitheverygirlhemeets;soofcourseit’sworsewhen
Ido.”
“Wasitjustlately?”murmuredDora.
“Lastsummer.”
“Ah!And—anddidn’tshe——?”
“Oh,Idon’tknow.Yes,hangit,Ibelieveshedid.Shewasperfectlystraight,
Miss Bellairs. I don’t say a word against her. She-I think she didn’t know her
ownfeelingsuntil—untilIspoke,youknow—andthen——”
“Dogoon,if—ifitdoesn’t——”
“Why,then,thepoorgirlcriedandsaiditcouldn’tbebecauseshe—shewas
engagedtoanotherfellow;andshesentmeaway.”
MissBellairswaslisteningattentively.
“And,”continuedCharlie,“shewroteandsaiditmustbegood-byand—and
——”
“Andyouthinkshe——?”
“She told me so,” whispered Charlie. “She said she couldn’t part without
tellingme.Oh,Isay,MissBellairs,isn’titalldamnable?Ibegyourpardon.”
Dorawastracinglittlefiguresonthegravelwithherparasol.
“Nowwhatwouldyoudo?”criedCharlie.“Shelovesme,Iknowshedoes,


andshe’sgoingtomarrythisotherfellowbecauseshepromisedhimfirst.Idon’t
supposesheknewwhatlovewasthen.”
“Oh,I’msureshedidn’t,”exclaimedDoraearnestly.
“Youcan’tblameher,youknow.Andit’sabsurdto—to—to—notto—well,to
marryafellowyoudon’tcareforwhenyoucareforanotherfellow,youknow!”
“Yes.”
“Of course you can hardly imagine yourself in that position, but suppose a
manlikedyouand-andwasplacedlikethat,youknow,whatshouldyoufeelyou
oughttodo?”
“Oh,Idon’tknow,”exclaimedDora,claspingherhands.“Oh,dotellmewhat
youthink!I’dgivetheworldtoknow!”
Charlie’ssurprisedglancewarnedherofherbetrayal.“Youmustn’taskme.”
sheexclaimedhastily.
“Iwon’taskaword.I—I’mawfullysorry,MissBellairs.”
“Nobodyknows,”shemurmured.
“Nobodyshallthroughme.”
“You’renotvery—?I’mveryashamed.”
“Why?Andbecauseofme!AfterwhatI’vetoldyou!”
Charlierosesuddenly.
“I’mnotgoingtostandit,”heannounced.
Doralookedupeagerly.
“What?You’regoingto——?”
“I’mgoingtohaveashotatit.AmItostandbyandseeher——?I’mhanged
ifIdo.Couldthatberight?”
“Ishouldliketoknowwhatone’sdutyis?”
“Thistalkwithyouhasmademequiteclear.We’vereasoneditout,yousee.
They’re not to be married for two or three months. A lot can be done in that


time.”
“Ah,you’reaman!”
“Ishallwritefirst.Ifthatdoesn’tdo,Ishallgotoher.”
Dorashookherheadmournfully.
“Now,lookhere,MissBellairsyoudon’tmindmeadvisingyou?”
“Ioughtnottohaveletyousee,butasitis—”
“You do as I do, you stick to it. Confound it, you know, when one’s life’s
happinessisatstake—”
“Oh,yes,yes!”
“Onemustn’tbesqueamish,mustone?”
AndDoraBellairs,inaverylowwhisper,answered,“No.”
“Ishallwriteto-night.”
“Oh!To-night?”
“Yes.Nowpromisemeyouwilltoo.”
“It’sharderformethanyou.”
“Notifhereally——.”
“Oh,indeed,hereallydoes,Mr.Ellerton.”
“Thenyou’llwrite?”
“Perhaps.”
“No.Promise!”
“Well—itmustberight.Yes,Iwill.”
“Ifeelthebetterforourtalk,MissBellairs,don’tyou?”
“Idoalittle.”
“Weshallbefriendsnow,youknow;evenifIbringitoffIshan’tbecontent


unlessyoudotoo.Won’tyougivemeyourgoodwishes?”
“IndeedIwill.”
“Shakehandsonit.”
Theyshookhandsandbegantostrollbacktothetennis-courts.
“Theylookalittlebetter,”observedSirRogerDeane,whohadbeenlistening
toaneloquentdescriptionofthegaming-tables.
DoraandCharliewalkedontowardsthehotel.
“Hi!”shoutedSirRoger.“Tea’scomingouthere.”
“I’vegotalettertowrite,”saidCharlie.
“Well,MissBellairs,youmustcome.Who’stopouritout?”
“Imustcatchthepost,SirRoger,”answeredDora.
Theywentintothehousetogether.Inthehalltheyparted.
“You’ll let me know what happens, Mr. Ellerton, won’t you? I’m so
interested.”
“Andyou?”
“Oh—well,perhaps,”andthesallowofhercheekshadturnedtoafinedusky
redassheranupstairs.
ThusithappenedthatasecondletterforJohnAshforthandasecondletterfor
MaryTraversleftCannesthatnight.
And if it seems a curious coincidence that Dora and Charlie should meet at
Cannes,itcanonlybeansweredthattheywereeachofthemjustaslikelytobe
at Cannes as anywhere else. Besides, who knows that these things are all
coincidence?


CHAPTERIII.—APROVIDENTIAL
DISCLOSURE
OnWednesdaytheeleventhofApril,JohnAshforthrosefromhisbedfullofa
greatandmomentousresolution.Thereisnothingverystrangeinthat,perhapsit
isjustthetimeofdaywhensuchthingscometoaman,and,inordinarycases,
they are very prone to disappear with the relics of breakfast. But John was of
sternerstuff.Hehadpassedarestlessnight,tossedtoandfrobyverydisturbing
gustsofemotion,andhearosewiththefirmconvictionthatifhewouldescape
shipwreckhemustsecurehisbarkbyimmovableanchorswhilehewas,though
not in honor, yet in law and fact, free; he could not trust himself. Sorrowfully
admittinghisweakness,heturnedtothetrue,theright,theheroicremedy.
“I’llmarryMary to—day fortnight,” saidhe.“WhenwearemanandwifeI
shallforgetthismadnessandloveherasIusedto.”
Hewentdowntobreakfast,ateabitoftoastanddrankacupofverystrong
tea. PresentlyMary appearedandgreetedhimwithremarkabletenderness.His
heartsmotehim,andhisremorsestrengthenedhisdetermination.
“Iwanttospeaktoyouafterbreakfast,”hetoldher.
His manner was so significant that a sudden gleam of hope flashed into her
mind.Coulditbethathehadseen,thathewouldbegenerous?Shebanishedthe
shamefulhope.Shewouldnotacceptgenerosityattheexpenseofpaintohim.
Miss Bussey, professing to find bed the best place in the world, was in the
habitoftakingherbreakfastthere.Theloverswerealone,and,themealended,
theypassedtogetherintotheconservatory.MarysatdownandJohnleantagainst
theglassdooroppositeher.
“Well?”saidshe,smilingathim.
It suddenly struck John that, in a scene of this nature, it ill-befitted him to
standthreeyardsfromthelady.Hetookachairanddrewitclosebesideher.The
thinghadtobedoneanditshouldbedoneproperly.
“We’vemadeamistake,Mary,”heannounced,takingherhandandspeaking


inarallyingtone.
“Amistake!”shecried;“oh,how?”
“Infixingourmarriage——.”
“Sosoon?”
“Mydarling!”saidJohn(anditwasimpossibletodenyadmirationtothetone
hesaiditin),“no.Solate!Whatarewewaitingfor?Whyarewewastingallthis
precioustime?”
Marycouldnotspeak,butconsternationpassedforanappropriateconfusion,
and John pursued his passionate pleadings. As Mary felt his grasp and looked
intohishonesteyes,herdutylayplainbeforeher.Shewouldnotstooptopaltry
excusesonthescoreofclothes,invitations,orsuchtrifles.Shehadmadeupher
mindtothething;surelysheoughttodoitinthewaymostgraciousandmost
pleasingtoherlover.
“IfAuntconsents,”shemurmuredatlast,“doasyoulike,Johndear,”andthe
embracewhicheachfelttobeinevitableatsuchacrisispassedbetweenthem.
A discreet cough separated them. The butler stood in the doorway, with two
lettersonasalver.OnehehandedtoMary,theothertoJohn,andwalkedaway
withatwinkleinhiseye.Howeverevenourbutlersdonotknoweverythingthat
happens inourhouses(tosay nothingofour hearts), although much they may
thinktheydo.
John looked at his letter, started violently and crushed it into his pocket. He
glancedatMary;herletterlayneglectedonherlap.Shewaslookingsteadilyout
ofthewindow.
“Well,that’ssettled,”saidJohn.“I—IthinkI’llhaveacigar,dear.”
“Yes,do,darling,”saidMary,andJohnwentout.
These second letters were unfortunately so long as to make it impossible to
reproducethem.Theywerealsoveryaffecting,Dora’sfromitspathos,Charlie’s
from its passion. But the waves of emotion beat fruitlessly on the rock-built
walls of conscience. At almost the same moment, Mary, brushing away a tear,
andJohn,blowinghisnose,satdowntowriteabrief,afinalanswer.“Weareto
be married today fortnight,” they said. They closed the envelopes without a


moment’s delay and went to drop their letters in the box. The servant was
already waiting to go to the post with them and a second later the fateful
documentswereontheirwaytoCannes.
“Now,” said John, with a ghastly smile, “we can have a glorious long day
together!”
Marywasdeterminedtoleaveherselfnoloophole.
“We must tell Aunt what—what we have decided upon this morning,” she
remindedhim.“Itmeansthattheweddingmustbeveryquiet.”
“Ishan’tmindthat.Shallyou?”
“Ishalllikeitofallthings.”sheanswered.“ComeandfindAuntSarah.”
MissBusseyhadalways—oratleastforagreatmanyyearsback—maintained
the general proposition that young people do not know their own minds. This
morning’snewsconfirmedheropinion.
“Why the other day you both agreed that the middle of June would do
perfectly.Nowyouwantitalldoneinascramble.”
Thepairstoodbeforeher,lookingveryguilty.
“What is the meaning of this—this (she very nearly said ‘indecent’)
extraordinaryhaste?”
Miss Bussey asked only one indulgence from her friends. Before she did a
kindthingshelikedtobeallowedtosayoneortwosharpones.Herniecewas
awareofthisfancyofhersandtookrefugeinsilence.John,lessexperiencedin
hishostess’sways,launchedintotheprotestsappropriatetoanimpatientlover.
“Well,”saidMissBussey,“Imustsayyoulookproperlyashamedofyourself
[Johncertainlydid],soI’llseewhatcanbedone.Whataflusterweshalllivein!
Uponmywordyoumightaswellhavemadeittomorrow.Thefusswouldhave
beennoworseandagooddealshorter.”
The next few days passed, as Miss Bussey had predicted, in a fluster. Mary
wasrunningafterdressmakers,Johnafterlicenses,Cook’stickets,abestman,
andalltheimpedimentaofamarriage.Theintercourseoftheloverswasmuch
interrupted, and to this Miss Bussey attributed the low spirits that Mary
sometimesdisplayed.


“There,there,mydear,”shewouldsayimpatiently—forthecheerfuloldlady
hatedlongfaces—“you’llhaveenoughofhimandtosparebyandby.”
CuriouslythispointofviewdidnotcomfortMary.ShelikedJohnverymuch,
she esteemed him even more than she liked him, he would, she thought, have
madeanidealbrother.Ah,whyhadshenotmadeabrotherofhimwhilethere
wastime?Thenshewouldhaveenjoyedhisconstantfriendshipallherlife;forit
was not with him as with that foolish boy Charlie, all or nothing. John was
reasonable; he would not have threatened—well, reading—his letter one way,
Charlie almost seemed to be tampering with propriety. John would never have
done that. And these reflections, all of which should have pleaded for John,
endedinweepingoverthelostcharmsofCharlie.
Oneevening,justaweekbeforethewedding,sherousedherselffromsome
such sad meditations, and, duty-driven, sought John in the smoking-room. The
doorwashalfopenandsheenterednoiselessly.Johnwassittingatthetable;his
arms were outspread on it, and his face buried in his hands. Thinking he was
asleepsheapproachedontiptoeandleantoverhisshoulder.Asshe didsoher
eyesfellonasheetofnote-paper;itwasclutchedinJohn’srighthand,andthe
encircling grasp covered it, save at the top. The top was visible, and Mary,
beforesheknewwhatshewasdoing,hadreadtheembossedheading—nothing
else,justtheembossedheading—HoteldeLuxe,Cannes,AlpesMaritimes.
Thedramateachesushowoftenaguiltymindrushes,onsometriflingcause,
to self-revelation. Like a flash came the conviction that Charlie had written to
John,thathersecretwasknown,andJohn’sheartbroken.Inamomentshefell
on her knees crying, “Oh, how wicked I’ve been! Forgive me, do forgive me!
Oh,John,canyouforgiveme?”
Johnwasnotasleep,healsowasmerelymeditating;butifhehadbeenavery
RipVanWinklethiscryofagonywouldhaverousedhim.Hestartedviolently—
aswellhemight—fromhisseat,lookedatMary,andcrumpledtheletterintoa
shapelessball.
“Youdidn’tsee?”heaskedhoarsely.
“No,butIknow.ImeanIsawtheheading,andknewitmustbefromhim.Oh,
John!”
“Fromhim!”


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