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The lamp in the desert


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Title:TheLampintheDesert
Author:EthelM.Dell
ReleaseDate:October16,2004[eBook#13763]
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Language:English
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TheLampintheDesert

ByEthelM.Dell
TheWayofanEagle
TheKnaveofDiamonds
TheRocksofValpré
TheSwindler,andOtherStories
TheKeeperoftheDoor
TheBarsofIron
TheHundredthChance
TheSafetyCurtain,andOtherStories
Greatheart

Hekneltbesideher,hisarmscomfortinglyaroundher.
DrawnbyD.C.HutchinsonChapterV.


TheLampintheDesert
By


EthelM.Dell
AuthorofTheWayofanEagle,TheHundredthChance,etc.

1919

IDEDICATETHISBOOKTO
MYDEARLY-LOVED
ELIZABETH
ANDTOTHEMEMORYOFHERGREATGOODNESS
WHENSHEWALKEDINTHE
DESERTWITHME

"Heledthemallthenightthroughwithalightoffire."
PSALMlxxviii,14
Lampsthatgleaminthecity,
Lampsthatflareonthewall,
Lampsthatshineonthewaysofmen,
Kindledbymenareall.
Butthedesertofburnt-outashes,
Whichonlythelosthavetrod,
Darkandbarrenandflowerless,


IslitbytheHandofGod.


Tolightentheouterdarkness,
Tohastenthehaltingfeet,
Heliftsalampinthedesert
Likethelampsofmeninthestreet.
Onlythewanderersknowit,
Thelostwiththosewhomourn,
Thatlampinthedesertdarkness,
Andthejoythatcomesinthedawn.
Thatthelostmaycomeintosafety,
Andthemournersmayceasetodoubt,
TheLampofGodwillbeshiningstill
Whenthelampsofmengoout.
PARTI
I.—BEGGAR'SCHOICE
II.—THEPRISONERATTHEBAR
III.—THETRIUMPH
IV.—THEBRIDE
V.—THEDREAM
VI.—THEGARDEN
VII.—THESERPENTINTHEGARDEN
VIII.—THEFORBIDDENPARADISE
PARTII
I.—THEMINISTERINGANGEL
II.—THERETURN
III.—THEBARRENSOIL
IV.—THESUMMONS
V.—THEMORNING
VI.—THENIGHT-WATCH
VII.—SERVICERENDERED
VIII.—THETRUCE
IX.—THEOASIS
X.—THESURRENDER


PARTIII
I.—BLUEBEARD'SCHAMBER
II.—EVILTIDINGS
III.—THEBEASTOFPREY
IV.—THEFLAMINGSWORD
V.—TESSA
VI.—THEARRIVAL
VII.—FALSEPRETENCES
VIII.—THEWRATHOFTHEGODS
PARTIV
I.—DEVIL'SDICE
II.—OUTOFTHEDARKNESS
III.—PRINCESSBLUEBELL
IV.—THESERPENTINTHEDESERT
V.—THEWOMAN'SWAY
VI.—THESURPRISEPARTY
VII.—RUSTAMKARIN
VIII.—PETER
IX.—THECONSUMINGFIRE
X.—THEDESERTPLACE
PARTV
I.—GREATERTHANDEATH
II.—THELAMP
III.—TESSA'SMOTHER
IV.—THEBROADROAD
V.—THEDARKNIGHT
VI.—THEFIRSTGLIMMER
VII.—THEFIRSTVICTIM
VIII.—THEFIERYVORTEX
IX.—THEDESERTOFASHES
X.—THEANGEL
XI.—THEDAWN
XII.—THEBLUEJAY



PARTI
CHAPTERI
BEGGAR'SCHOICE

AgreatroarofBritishvoicespiercedthejewelledcurtainoftheIndiannight.A
toastwithmusicalhonourswasbeingdrunkintheswelteringdining-roomofthe
officers' mess. The enthusiastic hubbub spread far, for every door and window
wasflungwide.Thoughtheseasonwasyetinitsinfancy,theheatwasintense.
Markestan had the reputation in the Indian Army for being one of the hottest
corners in the Empire in more senses than one, and Kurrumpore, the military
centre, had not been chosen for any especial advantages of climate. So few
indeed did it possess in the eyes of Europeans that none ever went there save
those whom an inexorable fate compelled. The rickety, wooden bungalows
scattered about the cantonment were temporary lodgings, not abiding-places.
The women of the community, like migratory birds, dwelt in them for barely
fourmonthsintheyear,flittingwiththecomingofthepitilessheattoBhulwana,
theirlittleparadiseintheHills.Butthatwasatwenty-fourhours'journeyaway,
andthemenhadtobecontentwithanoccasionalweek'sleavefromthedepths
oftheirinferno,unless,asTommyDenversputit,theywereluckyenoughtogo
sick,inwhichcasetheirsojourninparadisewasprolonged,muchtothedelight
oftheangels.
Butonthathotnighttheannualflittingoftheangelshadnotyetcometopass,
andnotwithstandingtheheatthelastdanceoftheseasonwastotakeplaceatthe
Club House. The occasion was an exceptional one, as the jovial sounds that
issued from the officers' mess-house testified. Round after round of cheers
followedthenoisytoast,fillingthenightwiththemerryuproarthatechoedfar
andwide.Aconfusionofvoicessucceededthese;andthenbydegreesthebabel
died down, and a single voice made itself heard. It spoke with easy fluency to
theevidentappreciationofitslisteners,andwhenitceasedtherecameanother
heartycheer.ThenwithjokesandcarelesslaughterthelittlecompanyofBritish
officersbegantodisperse.Theycameforthinlounginggroupsontothestepsof


themess-house,theforemostofthem—TommyDenvers—holdingthearmofhis
captain,whosufferedthefamiliarityashesufferedmostthings,withtheutmost
indifference. None but Tommy ever attempted to get on familiar terms with
EverardMonck.Hewasessentiallyamanwhostoodalone.Buttheslim,fairhaired young subaltern worshipped him openly and with reason. For Monck it
waswho,grimlyresolute,hadpulledhimthroughtheworstillnesshehadever
known,accomplishingbysheerforceofwillwhatRalston,thedoctor,hadfailed
to accomplish by any other means. And in consequence and for all time the
youngestsubalterninthemesshadbecomeMonck'sdevotedadherent.
TheystoodtogetherforamomentatthetopofthestepswhileMonck,hisdark,
leanfacewhollyunresponsiveandinscrutable,tookoutacigar.Thenightwasa
wonderland of deep spaces and glittering stars. Somewhere far away a native
tom-tomthrobbedlikethebeatingofafeveredpulse,quickeningspasmodically
at intervals and then dying away again into mere monotony. The air was
scentless,still,andheavy.
"It'sgoingtobedeucedwarm,"saidTommy.
"Haveasmoke?"saidMonck,profferinghiscase.
Theboysmiledwithswiftgratification."Oh,thanksawfully!Butit'sashameto
hurryoveragoodcigar,andIpromisedStellatogostraightback."
"Apromiseisapromise,"saidMonck."Haveitlater!"Headdedrathercurtly,
"I'mgoingyourwaymyself."
"Good!"saidTommyheartily."Butaren'tyougoingtoshowattheClubHouse?
Aren'tyougoingtodance?"
Monck tossed down his lighted match and set his heel on it. "I'm keeping my
dancingforto-morrow,"hesaid."Thebestmanalwayshasmorethanenoughof
that."
Tommy made a gloomy sound that was like a groan and began to descend the
stepsbyhisside.Theywalkedseveralpacesalongthedimroadinsilence;then
quitesuddenlyheburstintoimpulsivespeech.
"I'lltellyouwhatitis,Monck!"
"Ishouldn't,"saidMonck.


Tommycheckedabruptly,lookingathimoddly,uncertainly."Howdoyouknow
whatIwasgoingtosay?"hedemanded.
"Idon't,"saidMonck.
"Ibelieveyoudo,"saidTommy,unconvinced.
Monck blew forth a cloud of smoke and laughed in his brief, rather grudging
way."You'regettingquitecleverforachildofyourage,"heobserved."Butdon't
overdoit,myson!Don'tgetprecocious!"
Tommy's hand grasped his arm confidentially. "Monck, if I don't speak out to
someone,Ishallbust!Surelyyoudon'tmindmyspeakingouttoyou!"
"Notifthere'sanythingtobegainedbyit,"saidMonck.
He ignored the friendly, persuasive hand on his arm, but yet in some fashion
Tommyknewthatitwasnotunwelcome.Hekeptitthereashemadereply.
"There isn't. Only, you know, old chap, it does a fellow good to unburden
himself.AndI'mbotheredtodeathaboutthisbusiness."
"Abitlateintheday,isn'tit?"suggestedMonck.
"Oh yes, I know; too late to do anything. But," Tommy spoke with force, "the
neareritgets,theworseIfeel.I'mdownrightsickaboutit,andthat'sthetruth.
Howwouldyoufeel,Iwonder,ifyouknewyouroneandonlysisterwasgoing
tomarryarotter?Wouldyoubesatisfiedtoletthingsdrift?"
Monckwassilentforaspace.Theywalkedonoverthedustyroadwiththefree
swingoftheconqueringrace.Oneortwo'rickshawsmetthemastheywent,and
a woman's voice called a greeting; but though they both responded, it scarcely
servedasadiversion.Thesilencebetweenthemremained.
Monck spoke at last, briefly, with grim restraint. "That's rather a sweeping
assertionofyours.Ishouldn'trepeatitifIwereyou."
"It'strueallthesame,"maintainedTommy."Youknowit'strue."
"Iknownothing,"saidMonck."I'venothingwhateveragainstDacre."
"You'venothinginfavourofhimanyway,"growledTommy.
"Nothingparticular;butIpresumeyoursisterhas."Therewasjustahintofirony


inthequietrejoinder.
Tommywinced."Stella!GreatScott,no!Shedoesn'tcarethetossofahalfpenny
for him.Iknowthatnow.Sheonlyacceptedhimbecause shefound herselfin
such a beastly anomalous position, with all the spiteful cats of the regiment
arrayedagainsther,treatingherlikeapariah."
"Didshetellyouso?"TherewasnoironyinMonck'stonethistime.Itfellshort
andstern.
AgainTommyglancedathimasoneuncertain."Notlikely,"hesaid.
"Thenwhydoyoumaketheassertion?Whatgroundshaveyouformakingthe
assertion?"Monckspokewithinsistenceasonewhomeanttohaveananswer.
Andtheboyansweredhim,albeitshamefacedly."Ireallycan'tsay,Monck.I'm
thesortoffoolthatseesthingswithoutbeingabletoexplainhow.ButthatStella
hasthefaintestsparkofrealloveforthatfellowDacre,—well,I'dtakemydying
oaththatshehasn't."
"Somewomendon'tgoinforthatsortofthing,"commentedMonckdryly.
"Stellaisn'tthatsortofwoman."HotlycameTommy'sdefence."Youdon'tknow
her.She'salotdeeperthanIam."
Moncklaughedalittle."Oh,you'redeepenough,Tommy.Butyou'retransparent
aswell.Nowyoursisterontheotherhandisquiteinscrutable.Butitisnotforus
tointerfere.Sheprobablyknowswhatsheisdoing—verywellindeed."
"That'sjustit.Doessheknow?Isn'tshetakingamostawfulleapinthedark?"
Keen anxiety sounded in Tommy's voice. "It's been such horribly quick work,
youknow.Why,shehasn'tbeenoutheresixweeks.It'sashameforanygirlto
marry on such short notice as that. I said so to her, and she—she laughed and
said,'Oh,that'sbeggar'schoice!DoyouthinkIcouldenjoylifewithyourangels
inparadiseinunmarriedbliss?I'dsoonerstaydowninhellwithyou.'Andshe'd
have done it too, Monck. And it would probably have killed her. That's partly
howIcametoknow."
"Haven'tthewomenbeendecenttoher?"Monck'squestionfellcurtly,asifthe
subjectwereonewhichhewasreluctanttodiscuss.
Tommylookedathimthroughthestarlight."Youknowwhattheyare,"hesaid


bluntly. "They'd hunt anybody if once Lady Harriet gave tongue. She chose to
eyeStellaaskancefromtheveryoutset,andofcoursealltherestfollowedsuit.
Mrs. Ralston is the only one in the whole crowd who has ever treated her
decently,butofcourseshe'snobody.Everyonesitsonher.Asif,"hespokewith
heat,"Stellaweren'tasgoodasthebestof'em—andbetter!Whatrighthavethey
to treat her like a social outcast just because she came out here to me on her
own?It'shateful!It'siniquitous!Whatelsecouldshehavedone?"
"Itseemsreasonable—fromaman'spointofview,"saidMonck.
"Itwasreasonable.Itwastheonlythingpossible.Andjustforthattheychoseto
turnthecoldshoulderonher,—toostracizeherpractically.Whathadshedoneto
them?Whatrighthadtheytotreatherlikethat?"Fierceresentmentsoundedin
Tommy'svoice.
"I'lltellyouifyouwanttoknow,"saidMonckabruptly."It'sthelawofthepack
torendanoutsider.Andyoursisterwillalwaysbethat—marriedorotherwise.
They may fawn upon her later, Dacre being one to hold his own with women.
Buttheywillalwayshateherintheirhearts.Yousee,sheisbeautiful."
"Isshe?"saidTommyinsurprise."Doyouknow,Ineverthoughtofthat!"
Moncklaughed—acold,sardoniclaugh."Quiteso!Youwouldn't!ButDacrehas
—andafewmoreofus."
"Oh, confound Dacre!" Tommy's irritation returned with a rush. "I detest the
man!Hebehavesasifhewereconferringa favour.Whenhewasmakingthat
speechto-night,Iwantedtoflingmyglassathim."
"Ah,butyoumustn'tdothosethings."Monckspokereprovingly."Youmaybe
young,butyou'repasttheschoolboystage.Dacreismoreofawoman'sfavourite
thanaman's,youmustremember.Ifyoursisterisnotinlovewithhim,sheis
abouttheonlywomaninthestationwhoisn't."
"That's the disgusting part of it," fumed Tommy. "He makes love to every
womanhemeets."
Theyhadreachedashadowycompoundthatborderedthedustyroadforafew
yards.Alittleeddyingwindmadeamysteriouswhisperamongitsthirstyshrubs.
The bungalow it surrounded showed dimly in the starlight, a wooden structure
witharaisedverandahandaflightofstepsleadinguptoit.Alightthrownbya
red-shaded lamp shone out from one of the rooms, casting a shaft of ruddy


brillianceintothenightasthoughitdefiedthesplendourwithout.Itshoneupon
Tommy'sfaceashepaused,showingittroubledandanxious.
"Youmayaswellcomein,"hesaid."Sheissuretobeready.Comeinandhave
adrink!"
Monckstoodstill.Hisdarkfacewasinshadow.Heseemedtobedebatingsome
pointwithhimself.
Finally, "All right. Just for a minute," he said. "But, look here, Tommy! Don't
you let your sister suspect that you've been making a confidant of me! I don't
fancy it would please her. Put on a grin, man! Don't look bowed down with
familycares!Sheisprobablyquitecapableoflookingafterherself—liketherest
of'em."
He clapped a careless hand on the lad's shoulder as they turned up the path
togethertowardsthestreamingredlight.
"You'reabitofawoman-hater,aren'tyou?"saidTommy.
AndMoncklaughedagainhisshort,ratherbitterlaugh;buthesaidnowordin
answer.

CHAPTERII
THEPRISONERATTHEBAR

Intheroomwiththecrimson-shadedlampStellaDenverssatwaiting.Thered
glowcompassedherwarmly,strikingwonderfulcoppergleamsintheburnished
coils of her hair. Her face was bent over the long white gloves that she was
pulling over her wrists, a pale face that yet was extraordinarily vivid, with
featuresthatweredelicateandproud,andlipsthathadtheexquisitesoftnessand
purityofaflower.
Sheraisedhereyesfromhertaskatsoundofthestepsbelowthewindow,and
their starry brightness under her straight black brows gave her an infinite
allurement.Certainlyabeautifulwoman,asMonckhadsaid,andpossessingthe
brillianceandthewonderofyouthtoanalmostdazzlingdegree!Perhapsitwas


not altogether surprising that the ladies of the regiment had not been too
enthusiastic in their welcome of this sister of Tommy's who had come so
suddenly into their midst, defying convention. Her advent had been utterly
unexpected—a total surprise even to Tommy, who, returning one day from the
polo-ground,hadfoundherawaitinghiminthebachelorquarterswhichhehad
shared with three other subalterns. And her arrival had set the whole station
buzzing.
LedbytheColonel'swife,LadyHarrietMansfield,thewomenoftheregiment
had—with the single exception of Mrs. Ralston whose opinion was of no
account—risen and condemned the splendid stranger who had come amongst
themwithsuchsupremeaudacityandeclipsedthefairestofthem.Stella'sown
simpleexplanationthatshehad,uponattaininghermajorityandfiftypoundsa
year,decidedtoquitthehomeofsomedistantrelativeswhodidnotwantherand
joinTommywhowastheonlynearrelationshehad,hadsatisfiednoone.She
wasaninterloper,andassuchtheyunitedtotreather.AsLadyHarrietsaid,no
nicegirlwouldhavedreamedoftakingsuchanextraordinarystep,andshehad
not the smallest intention of offering her the chaperonage that she so
conspicuously lacked. If Mrs. Ralston chose to do so, that was her own affair.
Such action on the part of the surgeon's very ordinary wife would make no
difference to any one. She was glad to think that all the other ladies were too
well-bredtoacceptwithoutreservationsounconventionalatype.
ThefactthatshewasTommy'ssisterwastheonlyconsiderationinherfavour.
Tommywasquiteaniceboy,andtheycouldnotforhissakeentirelyexcludeher
from the regimental society, but to no intimate gathering was she ever invited,
norfromthefemaleportionofthecommunitywasthereanywelcomeforherat
theClub.
Theattitudeoftheofficersoftheregimentwasofatotallydifferentnature.They
hadacceptedherwithenthusiasm,possiblyallthemoremarkedonaccountof
thealoofnessoftheirwomenfolk,andinaveryshorttimetheywerepayingher
homageasoneman.ThesubalternswhohadsharedtheirquarterswithTommy
turned out to make room for her, treating her like a queen suddenly come into
herown,andlikeaqueensheenteredintopossession,acceptingallcourtesyjust
assheignoredallslightswithadelicateself-possessionthatyetknewhowtobe
graciouswhenoccasiondemanded.
Mrs.Ralstonwouldhaveofferedherharbouragehadshedesiredit,buttherewas
prideinStella—apridethatsurgedandrebelledveryfarbelowherserenity.She


receivedfavoursfromnone.
Andso,unshackledandunchaperoned,shehadgoneherwayamonghercritics,
and no one—not even Tommy—suspected how deep was the wound that their
barely-veiledhostilityhadinflicted.Inbitternessofsoulshehiditfromallthe
world, and only her brother and her brother's grim and somewhat
unapproachablecaptainwereevenvaguelyawareofitsexistence.
EverardMonckwasoneoftheveryfewmenwhohadnotlaidthemselvesdown
before her dainty feet, and she had gradually come to believe that this man
sharedthesilent,side-longdisapprovalmanifestedbythewomen.Verystrangely
thatbeliefhurtherevenmoredeeply,inasubtle,incomprehensiblefashion,than
anyslightsinflictedbyherownsex.PossiblyTommy'swarmenthusiasmforthe
manhadmadehermoresensitiveregardinghisgoodopinion.Andpossiblyshe
was over ready to read condemnation in his grave eyes. But—whatever the
reason—shewouldhavegivenmuchtohavehadhimonherside.Somehowit
matteredtoher,andmatteredvitally.
But Monck had never joined her retinue of courtiers. He was never other than
courteoustoher,buthedidnotseekherout.Perhapshehadbetterthingstodo.
Aloof,impenetrable,cold,hepassedherby,andshewouldhavebeenevenmore
amazedthanTommyhadsheheardhimdescribeherasbeautiful,soconvinced
wasshethathesawinhernocharm.
It had been a disheartening struggle, this hewing for herself a way along the
rockypathsofprejudice,andmanyhadbeenthethornsunderherfeet.Though
she kept a brave heart and never faltered, she had tired inevitably of the
perpetual effort it entailed. Three weeks after her arrival, when the annual
exodusoftheladiesoftheregimenttotheHillswasdrawingnear,shebecame
engaged to Ralph Dacre, the handsomest and most irresponsible man in the
mess.
With him at least her power to attract was paramount. He was blindly, almost
fulsomely, in love. Her beauty went to his head from the outset; it fired his
blood.Heworshippedherhotly,andpursuedheruntiringly,caringlittlewhether
she returned his devotion so long as he ultimately took possession. And when
finally, half-disdainfully, she yielded to his insistence, his one all-mastering
thoughtbecametoclinchthebargainbeforeshecouldrepentofit.Itwasamad
andheadlongpassionthatdrovehim—notforthefirsttimeinhislife;andthe
subtle pride of her and the soft reserve made her all the more desirable in his


eyes.
Hehad wonher;hedidnotstoptoaskhimselfhow.Thewomensaidthatthe
luck was all on her side. The men forebore to express an opinion. Dacre had
attained his captaincy, but he was not regarded with great respect by any one.
His fellow-officers shrugged their shoulders over him, and the commanding
officer,ColonelMansfield,hadbeenheardtocallhim"thecraziestmadmanit
hadeverbeenhisfatetomeet."Noone,exceptTommy,activelydislikedhim,
andhehadnogroundsforsodoing,asMonckhadpointedout.Monck,whotill
thenhadoccupiedthesamebungalow,declaredhehadnothingagainsthim,and
he was surely in a position to form a very shrewd opinion. For Monck was
neither fool nor madman, and there was very little that escaped his silent
observation.
Hewasactingasbestmanatthemorrow'sceremony,thefunctionhavingbeen
almost thrust upon him by Dacre who, oddly enough, shared something of
Tommy's veneration for his very reticent brother-officer. There was scant
friendshipbetweenthem.Eachhadbeenaccustomedtogohisownwaywholly
independentoftheother.Theywerenomorethancasualacquaintances,andthey
were content to remain such. But undoubtedly Dacre entertained a certain
respectforMonckandobservedawarinessofbehaviourinhispresencethathe
nevertroubledtoassumeforanyotherman.Hewascarefulinhisdealingswith
him,beingatalltimesnotwhollycertainofhisground.
Other men felt the same uncertainty in connection with Monck. None—save
Tommy—was sure what manner of man he was. Tommy alone took him for
granted with whole-hearted admiration, and at his earnest wish it had been
arrangedbetweenthemthatMonckshouldtakeuphisabodewithhimwhenthe
forthcomingmarriagehaddeprivedeachofacompanion.Tommywasdelighted
withtheidea,andhehadagratifyingsuspicionthatMonckhimselfwasinclined
tobepleasedwithitalso.
The Green Bungalow had become considerably more homelike since Stella's
arrival,andTommymeanttokeepitso.HewassurethatMonckandhewould
havethesametastes.
And so on that eve of his sister's wedding, the thought of their coming
companionshipwasthesoleredeemingfeatureofthewholeaffair,andheturned
inhisimpulsivefashiontosaysojustastheyreachedtheverandahsteps.
Butthewordsdidnotleavehislips,fortheredglowflungfromthelamphad


foundMonck'supturnedface,andsomething—somethingaboutit—checkedall
speech for the moment. He was looking straight up at the lighted window and
thefaceofabeautifulwomanwhogazedforthintothenight.Andhiseyeswere
no longer cold and unresponsive, but burning, ardent, intensely alive. Tommy
forgotwhathewasgoingtosayandonlystared.
Themomentpassed;itwasscarcelysomuchasamoment.AndMonckmoved
oninhiscalm,unfalteringway.
"Yoursisterisreadyandwaiting,"hesaid.
Theyascendedthestepstogether,andthegirlwhosatbytheopenwindowrose
withastatelymovementandsteppedforwardtomeetthem.
"Hullo,Stella!"wasTommy'sgreeting."HopeI'mnotawfullylate.Theywasted
suchaconfoundedtimeovertoastsatmessto-night.Yourswasoneof'em,andI
had to reply. I hadn't a notion what to say. Captain Monck thinks I made an
awfulhashofitthoughheistooconsideratetosayso."
"On the contrary I said 'Hear, hear!' to every stutter," said Monck, bowing
slightlyashetookthehandsheoffered.
She was wearing a black lace dress with a glittering spangled scarf of Indian
gauzefloatingabouther.Herneckandshouldersgleamedinthesoftredglow.
Shewassuperbthatnight.
ShesmiledatMonck,andhersmilewasasashiningcloakhidinghersoul."So
youhavestarteduponyourofficialdutiesalready!"shesaid."Itisthebestman's
businesstoencourageandconsoleeveryoneconcerned,isn'tit?"
The faint cynicism of her speech was like her smile. It held back all intrusive
curiosity. And the man's answering smile had something of the same quality.
Reservemetreserve.
"IhopeIshallnotfinditveryarduousinthatrespect,"hesaid."Ididnotcome
hereinthatcapacity."
"Iamgladofthat,"shesaid."Won'tyoucomeinandsitdown?"
Shemotionedhimwithinwithaqueenlygesture,butherinvitationwaswholly
lackinginwarmth.ItwasTommywhopressedforwardwitheagerhospitality.
"Yes,andhaveadrink!It'sathirstyright.It'sgettinginfernallyhot.Stella,you're


luckytobegoingoutofit."
"Oh,Iamverylucky,"Stellasaid.
Theyenteredthelightedroom,andTommywentinsearchofrefreshment.
"Won'tyousitdown?"saidStella.
Hervoicewasdeepandpure,andthemusicinitmadehimwonderifshesang.
Hesatfacingherwhileshereturnedwithapparentabsorptiontothefasteningof
hergloves.Shespokeagainafteramomentwithoutraisinghereyes."Areyou
proposingtotakeupyourabodehereto-morrow?"
"That'stheidea,"saidMonck.
"IhopeyouandTommywillbequitecomfortable,"shesaid."Nodoubthewill
beagooddealhappierwithyouthanhehasbeenforthepastfewweekswith
me."
"Idon'tknowwhyheshouldbe,"saidMonck.
"No?"Shewasfrowningslightlyoverherglove."Yousee,mysojournherehas
notbeen—agreatsuccess.IthinkpoorTommyhasfeltitratherbadly.Helikesa
genialatmosphere."
"Hewon'tgetmuchofthatinmycompany,"observedMonck.
She smiled momentarily. "Perhaps not. But I think he will not be sorry to be
relievedoffamilycares.Theyhaveweighedratherheavilyuponhim."
"Hewillbesorrytoloseyou,"saidMonck.
"Oh,ofcourse,inaway.Buthewillsoongetoverthat."Shelookedupathim
suddenly. "You will all be rather thankful when I am safely married, Captain
Monck,"shesaid.
There was a second or two of silence. Monck's eyes looked straight back into
herswhileitlasted,buttheyheldnowarmth,scarcelyeveninterest.
"Ireallydon'tknowwhyyoushouldsaythat,MissDenvers,"hesaidstifflyat
length.
Stella'sglovedhandsclaspedeachother.Shewasbreathingsomewhathard,yet
herbearingwaswhollyregal,evendisdainful.


"Only because I realize that I have been a great anxiety to all the respectable
portion of the community," she made careless reply. "I think I am right in
classingyouunderthatheading,amInot?"
He heard the challenge in her tone, delicately though she presented it, and
somethinginhimthatwasfierceandunrestrainedspranguptomeetit.Buthe
forceditback.Hisexpressionremainedwhollyinscrutable.
"I don't think I can claim to be anything else," he said. "But that fact scarcely
makesmeinanysenseoneofacommunity.IthinkIprefertostandalone."
Herblueeyessparkledalittle."Strangely,Ihavethesamepreference,"shesaid.
"It has never appealed to me to be one of a crowd. I like independence—
whatever the crowd may say. But I am quite aware that in a woman that is
consideredadangeroustaste.Awomanshouldalwaysconformtorule."
"Ihaveneverstudiedthesubject,"saidMonck.
Hespokebriefly.Tommy'sconfidenceshadstirredwithinhimthatwhichcould
not be expressed. The whole soul of him shrank with an almost angry
repugnancefromdiscussingthematterwithher.Nodiscussioncouldmakeany
differenceatthisstage.
Againforasecondhesawherslightfrown.Thensheleanedbackinherchair,
stretching up her arms as if weary of the matter. "In fact you avoid all things
feminine,"shesaid."Howdiscreetofyou!"
Alargewhitemothfloatedsuddenlyinandbegantobeatitselfagainstthelampshade. Monck's eyes watched it with a grim concentration. Stella's were halfclosed. She seemed to have dismissed him from her mind as an unimportant
detail.Thesilencewidenedbetweenthem.
Suddenlytherewasamovement.Theflutteringcreaturehadfoundtheflameand
fallendazeduponthetable.AlmostinthesamesecondMonckstoopedforward
swiftlyandsilently,andcrushedthethingwithhisclosedfist.
Stelladrewaquickbreath.Hereyeswerewideopenagain.Shesatup.
"Whydidyoudothat?"
Helookedatheragain,asmoulderinggleaminhiseyes."Itwasonitswayto
destruction,"hesaid.


"Andsoyouhelpedit!"
Henodded."Yes.Long-drawn-outagoniesdon'tattractme."
Stellalaughedsoftly,yetwithatouchofmockery."Oh,itwasanactofmercy,
wasit?Youdidn'tlookparticularlymerciful.Infact,thatisaboutthelastquality
Ishouldhaveattributedtoyou."
"Idon'tthink,"Moncksaidveryquietly,"thatyouareinapositiontojudgeme."
She leaned forward. He saw that her bosom was heaving. "That is your
prerogative,isn'tit?"shesaid."I—Iamjusttheprisoneratthebar,and—likethe
moth—Ihavebeencondemned—withoutmercy."
Heraisedhisbrowssharply.Forasecondhehadthelookofamanwhohasbeen
stabbedintheback.Thenwithaswiftefforthepulledhimselftogether.
InthesamemomentStellarose.Shewassmiling,andtherewasaredflushin
hercheeks.Shetookherfanfromthetable.
"Andnow,"shesaid,"Iamgoingtodance—allnightlong.Everyofficerinthe
mess—saveone—hasaskedmeforadance."
Hewasonhisfeetinaninstant.Hehadcheckedone impulse,buteventohis
endurancetherewerelimits.Hespokeasonegoaded.
"Willyougivemeone?"
Shelookedhimsquarelyintheeyes."No,CaptainMonck."
Hisdarkfacelookedsuddenlystubborn."Idon'toftendance,"hesaid."Iwasn't
goingtodanceto-night.But—Iwillhaveone—Imusthaveone—withyou."
"Why?" Her question fell with a crystal clearness. There was something of
crystalhardnessinhereyes.
Butthemanwasundaunted."Becauseyouhavewrongedme,andyouoweme
reparation."
"I—havewronged—you!"Shespokethewordsslowly,stilllookinghiminthe
eyes.
He made an abrupt gesture as of holding back some inner force that strongly
urgedhim."Iamnotoneofyourpersecutors,"hesaid."Ihaveneverinmylife
presumedtojudgeyou—farlesscondemnyou."


Hisvoicevibratedasthoughsomeemotionfoughtfiercelyforthemastery.They
stood facing each other in what might have been open antagonism but for that
deepquiverintheman'svoice.
Stellaspokeafterthelapseofseconds.Shehadbeguntotremble.
"Thenwhy—whydidyouletmethinkso?Whydidyoualwaysstandaloof?"
There was a tremor in her voice also, but her eyes were shining with the light
half-eager,half-anxious,ofonewhoseeksforburiedtreasure.
Monck'sanswerwaspitchedverylow.Itwasasifthesoulofhimgaveutterance
tothewords."Itismynaturetostandaloof.Iwaswaiting."
"Waiting?" Her two hands gripped suddenly hard upon her fan, but still her
shiningeyesdidnotflinchfromhis.Stillwithaquiveringheartshesearched.
Almostinawhispercamehisreply."Iwaswaiting—tillmyturnshouldcome."
"Ah!"Thefansnappedbetweenherhands;shecastitfromherwithamovement
thatwasalmostviolent.
Monck drew back sharply. With a smile that was grimly cynical he veiled his
soul. "I was a fool, of course, and I am quite aware that my foolishness is
nothing to you. But at least you know now how little cause you have to hate
me."
Shehadturnedfromhimandgonetotheopenwindow.Shestoodtherebending
slightly forward, as one who strains for a last glimpse of something that has
passedfromsight.
Monck remained motionless, watching her. From another room near by there
camethesoundofTommy'shummingandthecheerypopofawithdrawncork.
Stella spoke at last, in a whisper, and as she spoke the strain went out of her
attitudeandshedroopedagainstthewood-workofthewindowasifspent."Yes;
butIknow—toolate."
Thewordsreachedhimthoughhescarcelyfeltthattheywereintendedtodoso.
Hesufferedthemtogointosilence;thetimeforspeechwaspast.
Thesecondsthrobbedawaybetweenthem.Stelladidnotmoveorspeakagain,
and at last Monck turned from her. He picked up the broken fan, and with a


curiousreverencehelaiditoutofsightamongsomebooksonthetable.
Thenhestoodimmovableasgraniteandwaited.
There came the sound of Tommy's footsteps, and in a moment the door was
flungopen.Tommyadvancedwithallahost'ssolicitude.
"Oh,Isay,I'mawfullysorrytohavekeptyouwaitingsolong.Thatsillyassofa
khithadclearedoffandleftusnothingtodrink.Stella,weshallmissallthefun
ifwedon'thurryup.Comeon,Monck,oldchap,saywhen!"
Hestoppedatthetable,andStellaturnedfromthewindowandmovedforward.
Herfacewaspale,butshewassmiling.
"CaptainMonckiscomingwithus,Tommy,"shesaid.
"What?"Tommylookedupsharply."Really?Isay,Monck,I'mpleased.It'lldo
yougood."
Monck was smiling also, faintly, grimly. "Don't mix any strong waters for me,
Tommy!" he said. "And you had better not be too generous to yourself!
Remember,youwillhavetodancewithLadyHarriet!"
Tommygrimacedabovetheglasses."Allright.Havesomelime-juice!Youwill
havetodancewithhertoo.That'ssomeconsolation!"
"I?"saidMonck.HetooktheglassandhandedittoStella,thenassheshookher
headheputittohisownlipsanddrankasamandrinkstoamemory."No,"he
saidthen."Iamdancingonlyonedanceto-night,andthatwillnotbewithLady
HarrietMansfield."
"Whothen?"questionedTommy.
ItwasStellawhoansweredhim,inhervoiceanotethatsoundedhalf-reckless,
half-defiant. "It isn't given to every woman to dance at her own funeral," she
said:"CaptainMonckhaskindlyconsentedtoassistattheorgyofmine."
"Stella!"protestedTommy,flushing."Ihatetohearyoutalkinglikethat!"
Stellalaughedalittle,softly,asthoughatthevagariesofachild."PoorTommy!"
shesaid."Whatitistobesoyoung!"
"I'dsoonerbeababeinarmsthanacynic,"saidTommybluntly.


CHAPTERIII
THETRIUMPH

Lady Harriet's lorgnettes were brought piercingly to bear upon the bride-elect
thatnight,andherthin,refinedfeaturesneverrelaxedduringtheoperation.She
was looking upon such youth and loveliness as seldom came her way; but the
sightgavehernopleasure.ShedeemeditextremelyunsuitablethatStellashould
danceatallontheeveofherwedding,andwhensherealizedthatnearlyevery
manintheroomwashavinghisturn,herdisapprovalbynomeansdiminished.
ShewonderedaudiblytooneafteranotherofherfollowerswhatCaptainDacre
was about to permit such a thing. And when Monck—Everard Monck of all
peoplewhousuallyavoidedallgatheringsattheClubandhadneverbeenknown
to dance if he could find any legitimate means of excusing himself—waltzed
Stellathroughthethrong,herindignationamountedalmosttoanger.Themess
hadyieldedtothelastman.
"Icallitalmostbrazen,"shesaidtoMrs.Burton,theMajor'swife."Sheflaunts
herunconventionalityinourfaces."
"Agravemistake,"agreedMrs.Burton."Itwillnotmakeusthinkanythemore
highlyofherwhensheismarried."
"I am in two minds about calling on her," declared Lady Harriet. "I am very
doubtful as to the advisability of inviting any one so obviously unsuitable into
ourinnercircle.OfcourseMrs.Ralston,"sheraisedherlongpointedchinupon
thename,"willpleaseherselfinthematter.Shewillprobablybethefirsttotry
anddrawherin,butwhatMrs.RalstondoesandwhatIdoaretwoverydifferent
things.Sheisnotparticularastothesocietyshekeeps,andtheresultisthather
opinionisveryjustlyregardedasworthless."
"Oh, quite," agreed Mrs. Burton, sending an obviously false smile in the
directionoftheladylastnamedwhowasapproachingtheminthecompanyof
Mrs.Ermsted,theAdjutant'swife,alittlesmartwomanwhomTommyhadlong
sincesurnamed"TheLizard."
Mrs. Ralston, the surgeon's wife, had once been a pretty girl, and there were


occasions still on which her prettiness lingered like the gleams of a fading
sunset.Shehadadiffidentmannerinsociety,butyetshewastheonlywomanin
thestationwhorefusedtofollowLadyHarriet'slead.AsTommyhadsaid,she
was a nobody. Her influence was of no account, but yet with unobtrusive
insistenceshetookherownway,andnonecouldturnhertherefrom.
Mrs.Ermstedheldheruptoridiculeopenly,andyetverystrangelyshedidnot
seemtodisliketheAdjutant'ssharp-tonguedlittlewife.Shehadbeenverygood
to her on more than one occasion, and the most appreciative remark that Mrs.
Ermsted had ever found to make regarding her was that the poor thing was so
fond of drudging for somebody that it was a real kindness to let her. Mrs.
Ermstedwasquitewillingtobekindtoanyoneinthatrespect.
They approached now, and Lady Harriet gave to each her distinctive smile of
royalcondescension.
"Iexpectedtoseeyoudancing,Mrs.Ermsted,"shesaid.
"Oh, it's too hot," declared Mrs. Ermsted. "You want the temperament of a
salamandertodanceonanightlikethis."
ShecastabarbedglancetowardsStellaasshespokeasMonckguidedhertothe
leastcrowdedcorneroftheball-room.Stella'sdelicatefacewasflushed,butit
wastheexquisiteflushofablush-rose.Hereyeswereofastarrybrightness;she
hadtheradiantlookofonewhohasachievedherheart'sdesire.
"Whatavisionoftriumph!"commentedMrs.Ermsted."It'ssoothinganywayto
knowthatthatwild-rosecomplexionwon'tsurvivethesummer.CaptainMonck
lookscuriouslyoutofhiselement.Nodoubtheprefersthebazaars."
"ButStellaDenversisenchantingto-night,"murmuredMrs.Ralston.
LadyHarrietoverheardthemurmur,andheraquilinenosewasinstantlyelevated
alittlehigher."Somanypeopleneverseebeyondtheouterhusk,"shesaid.
Mrs. Burton smiled out of her slitty eyes. "I should scarcely imagine Captain
Moncktobeoneofthem,"shesaid."Heisobviouslyhereasamatterofform
to-night.Thebestmanmustbeciviltothebride—whateverhisfeelings."
Lady Harriet's face cleared a little, although her estimate of Mrs. Burton's
opinion was not a very high one. "That may account for Captain Dacre's
extremelycomplacentattitude,"shesaid."Heregardstheattentionspaidtohis


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