November 27
Red Hair, or The Vicissitudes of Evangeline
Author:Elinor Glyn

CLARIDGE'S, Sunday evening, November 27th.

I have a great deal to write, and yet it is only a few hours since I shut up this book and replaced the key on my bracelet.

By a quarter-past three I was making my way through Grosvenor Square. Everything was misty and blurred, but not actually a thick fog--or any chance of being lost. By the time I got into the park it had lifted a little. It seemed close and warm, and as I went on I got more depressed. I have never been out alone before--that in itself seemed strange, and ought to have amused me.

The image of Christopher kept floating in front of me; his face seemed to have the expression of a satyr. Well, at all events, he would never be able to break my heart like "Alicia Verney's"--nothing could ever make me care for him. I tried to think of all the good I was going to get out of the affair, and how really fond I was of Branches.

I walked very fast; people loomed at me, and then disappeared in the mist. It was getting almost dusk, and suddenly I felt tired and sat down on a bench.

I had wandered into a side path where there were no chairs. On the bench before mine I saw, as I passed, a tramp huddled up. I wondered what his thoughts were, and if he felt any more miserable than I did. I dare say I was crouching in a depressed position, too.

Not many people went by, and every moment it grew darker. In all my life, even on the days when Mrs. Carruthers taunted me about mamma being nobody, I have never felt so wretched. Tears kept rising in my eyes, and I did not even worry to blink them away. Who would see me, and who in the world would care if they did see?

Suddenly I was conscious that a very perfect figure was coming out of the mist towards me, but not until he was close to me, and stopping, with a start, peered into my face, did I recognize it was Lord Robert.

"Evangeline!" he exclaimed, in a voice of consternation. "I--what, oh! what is the matter?"

No wonder he was surprised. Why he had not taken me for some tramp, too, and passed on, I don't know.

"Nothing," I said, as well as I could, and tried to tilt my hat over my eyes. I had no veil on, unfortunately.

"I have just been for a walk. Why do you call me Evangeline and why are you not in Northumberland?"

He looked so tall and beautiful, and his face had no expression of contempt or anger now, only distress and sympathy.

"I was suddenly put on guard yesterday, and could not get leave. I am going to-morrow," he said, not answering the first part, "but, oh, I can't bear to see you sitting here alone and looking so, so miserable. Mayn't I take you home? You will catch cold in the damp."

"Oh no, not yet. I won't go back yet," I said, hardly realizing what I was saying. He sat down beside me and slipped his hand into my muff, pressing my clasped fingers, the gentlest, friendliest caress a child might have made in sympathy. It touched some foolish chord in my nature, some want of self-control inherited from mamma's ordinary mother, I suppose; anyway the tears poured down my face. I could not help it. Oh, the shame of it! To sit crying in the park, in front of Lord Robert, of all people in the world, too!

"Dear, dear little girl," he said, "tell me about it," and he held my hand in my muff with his strong, warm hand.

"I--I have nothing to tell," I said, choking down a sob. "I am ashamed for you to see me like this, only--I am feeling so very miserable."

"Dear child!" he said. "Well, you are not to be--I won't have it. Has some one been unkind to you? Tell me, tell me." His voice was trembling with distress.

"It's--it's nothing," I mumbled.

I dared not look at him, I knew his eyebrows would be up in that way that attracts me so dreadfully.

"Listen," he whispered almost, and bent over me. "I want you to be friends with me so that I can help you. I want you to go back to the time we packed your books together. God knows what has come between us since--it is not of my doing. But I want to take care of you, dear little girl, to-day. It--oh, it hurts me so to see you crying here!"

"I--would like to be friends," I said. "I never wanted to be anything else, but I could not help it, and I can't now."

"Won't you tell me the reason?" he pleaded. "You have made me so dreadfully unhappy about it. I thought all sorts of things. You know I am a jealous beast."

There can't in the world be another voice as engaging as Lord Robert's, and he has a trick of pronouncing words that is too attractive; and the way his mouth goes when he is speaking, showing his perfectly chiselled lips under the little mustache! There is no use pretending. I was sitting there on the bench going through thrills of emotion and longing for him to take me in his arms. It is too frightful to think of. I must be bad, after all.

"Now you are going to tell me everything about it," he commanded. "To begin with: what made you suddenly change at Trylands after the first afternoon--and then, what is it that makes you so unhappy now?"

"I can't tell you either," I said, very low. I hoped the common grandmother would not take me as far as doing mean tricks to Lady Ver.

"Oh, you have made me wild!" he exclaimed, letting go my hand and leaning both elbows on his knees, while he pushed his hat to the back of his head--"perfectly mad with fury and jealousy! That brute Malcolm! And then looking at Campion at dinner, and, worst of all, Christopher in the box at 'Carmen'! Wicked, naughty little thing! And yet underneath I have a feeling it is for some absurd reason, and not for sheer devilment. If I thought that, I would soon get not to care. I did think it at 'Carmen.'"

"Yes, I know," I said.

"You know what?" he looked up, startled; then he took my hand again and sat close to me.

"Oh, please, please don't, Lord Robert!" I said.

It really made me quiver so with the loveliest feeling I have ever known, that I knew I should never be able to keep my head if he went on.

"Please, please don't hold my hand," I said. "It--it makes me not able to behave nicely."

"Darling," he whispered, "then it shows that you like me, and I sha'n't let go until you tell me every little bit."

"Oh, I can't, I can't!" I felt too tortured, and yet, waves of joy were rushing over me. That is a word, "darling," for giving feelings down the back.

"Evangeline," he said, quite sternly, "will you answer this question, then: Do you like me, or do you hate me? Because, as you must know very well, I love you."

Oh, the wild joy of hearing him say that! What in the world did anything else matter? For a moment there was a singing in my ears, and I forgot everything but our two selves. Then the picture of Christopher waiting for me, with his cold cynic's face and eyes blazing with passion, rushed into my vision, and the duke's critical, suspicious, disapproving scrutiny, and I felt as if a cry of pain, like a wounded animal, escaped me.

"Darling, darling, what is it? Did I hurt your dear little hand?" Lord Robert exclaimed, tenderly.

"No," I whispered, brokenly; "but I cannot listen to you. I am going back to Claridge's now, and I am going to marry Mr. Carruthers."

He dropped my hand as if it stung him.

"Good God! Then it is true," was all he said.

In fear I glanced at him, his face looked gray in the quickly gathering mist.

"Oh, Robert!" I said, in anguish, unable to help myself. "It isn't because I want to. I--I--oh, probably I love you, but I must; there is nothing else to be done."

"Isn't there?" he said, all the life and joy coming back to his face. "Do you think I will let Christopher, or any other man in the world have you, now that you have confessed that?" and, fortunately, there was no one in sight, because he put his arms round my neck and drew me close and kissed my lips.

Oh, what nonsense people talk of heaven! Sitting on clouds and singing psalms and things like that! There can't be any heaven half so lovely as being kissed by Robert. I felt quite giddy with happiness for several exquisite seconds, then I woke up. It was all absolutely impossible, I knew, and I must keep my head.

"Now you belong to me," he said, letting his arm slip down to my waist, "so you must begin at the beginning, and tell me everything."

"No, no," I said, struggling feebly to free myself, and feeling so glad he held me tight. "It is impossible, all the same, and that only makes it harder. Christopher is coming to see me at four, and I promised Lady Ver I would not be a fool, and would marry him."

"A fig for Lady Ver," he said, calmly. "If that is all, you leave her to me--she never argues with me."

"It is not only that; I--I promised I would never play with you."

"And you certainly never shall," he said, and I could see a look in his eye as he purposely misconstrued my words, and then he deliberately kissed me again. Oh, I like it better than anything else in the world! How could any one keep their head with Robert quite close, like that?

"You certainly never--never--shall," he said again, with a kiss between each word. "I will take care of that. Your time of playing with people is over, mademoiselle. When you are married to me, I shall fight with any one who dares to look at you."

"But I shall never be married to you, Robert," I said, though as I could only be happy for such a few moments I did not think it necessary to move away out of his arms. How thankful I was to the fog! and no one passing! I shall always adore fogs.

"Yes, you will," he announced, with perfect certainty, "in about a fortnight, I should think. I can't and won't have you staying at Claridge's by yourself. I shall take you back this afternoon to Aunt Sophia. Only all that we can settle presently; now for the moment I want you to tell me you love me, and that you are sorry for being such a little brute all this time."

"I did not know it until just now, but I think--I probably do love you--Robert," I said.

He was holding my hand in my muff again, the other arm round my waist. Absolutely disgraceful behavior in the park. We might have been Susan Jane and Thomas Augustus, and yet I was perfectly happy, and felt it was the only natural way to sit.

A figure appeared in the distance--we started apart.

"Oh, really, really--" I gasped--"we---- you--must be different."

He leaned back and laughed.

"You sweet darling! Well, come, we will go for a drive in a hansom; we will choose one without a light inside. Albert Gate is quite close--come!" and he rose, and taking my arm, not offering his to me, like in books, he drew me on down the path.

I am sure any one would be terribly shocked to read what I have written, but not so much if they knew Robert, and how utterly adorable he is, and how masterful, and simple, and direct. He does not split straws or bandy words. I had made the admission that I loved him, and that was enough to go upon.

As we walked along I tried to tell him it was impossible, that I must go back to Christopher, that Lady Ver would think I had broken my word about it. I did not, of course, tell him of her bargain with me over him, but he probably guessed that, because before we got into the hansom even, he had begun to put me through a searching cross-examination as to the reasons for my behavior at Tryland, and Park Street, and the opera. I felt like a child with a strong man, and every moment more idiotically happy and in love with him.

He told the cabman to drive to Hammersmith, and then put his arm round my waist again, and held my hand, pulling my glove off backward first. It is a great, big, granny muff of sable I have, Mrs. Carruthers's present on my last birthday. I never thought then to what charming use it would be put.

"Now I think we have demolished all your silly little reasons for making me miserable," he said. "What others have you to bring forward as to why you can't marry me in a fortnight?"

I was silent--I did not know how to say it--the principal reason of all.

"Evangeline, darling," he pleaded. "Oh, why will you make us both unhappy? Tell me, at least."

"Your brother, the duke," I said, very low. "He will never consent to your marrying a person like me, with no relations."

He was silent for a second, then: "My brother is an awfully good fellow," he said; "but his mind is warped by his infirmity. You must not think hardly of him; he will love you directly he sees you, like every one else."

"I saw him yesterday," I said.

Robert was so astonished.

"Where did you see him?" he asked.

Then I told him about meeting Lady Merrenden, and her asking me to luncheon, and about her having been in love with papa, and about the duke having looked me through and through with an expression of dislike.

"Oh, I see it all," said Robert, holding me closer. "Aunt Sophia and I are great friends, you know; she has always been like my mother, who died when I was a baby. I told her all about you when I came from Branches, and how I had fallen deeply in love with you at first sight, and that she must help me to see you at Tryland; and she did, and then I thought you had grown to dislike me, so when I came back she guessed I was unhappy about something, and this is her first step to find out how she can do me a good turn. Oh, she is a dear!"

"Yes, indeed, she is," I said.

"Of course she is extra interested in you if she was in love with your father. So that is all right, darling; she must know all about your family, and can tell Torquilstone. Why, we have nothing to fear!"

"Oh yes, we have," I said. "I know all the story of what your brother is toqué about. Lady Ver told me. You see, the awkward part is mamma was really nobody; her father and mother forgot to get married, and although mamma was lovely and had been beautifully brought up by two old ladies at Brighton, it was a disgrace for papa marrying her. Mrs. Carruthers has often taunted me with this."

"Darling!" he interrupted, and began to kiss me again, and that gave me such feeling I could not collect my thoughts to go on with what I was saying for a few minutes. We both were rather silly, if it is silly to be madly, wildly happy, and oblivious of everything else.

"I will go straight to Aunt Sophia now, when I take you back to Claridge's," he said, presently, when we had got a little calmer.

I wonder what kisses do that it makes one have that perfectly lovely sensation down the back, just like certain music does, only much, much more so. I thought they would be dreadful things when it was a question of Christopher, but Robert! Oh, well, as I said before, I can't think of any other heaven.

"What time is it?" I had sense enough to ask presently.

He lit a match and looked at his watch.

"Ten minutes past five," he exclaimed.

"And Christopher was coming about four," I said; "and if you had not chanced to meet me in the park by now I should have been engaged to him, and probably trying to bear his kissing me."

"My God!" said Robert, fiercely; "it makes me rave to think of it," and he held me so tight for a moment I could hardly breathe.

"You won't have any one else's kisses ever again in this world, and that I tell you," he said, through his teeth.

"I--I don't want them," I whispered creeping closer to him. "And I never have had any, never any one but you, Robert."

"Darling," he said, "how that pleases me!"

Of course, if I wanted to I could go on writing pages and pages of all the lovely things we said to each other, but it would sound, even to read to myself, such nonsense that I can't, and I couldn't make the tone of Robert's voice, or the exquisite fascination of his ways--tender, and adoring, and masterful. It must all stay in my heart, but oh! it is as if a fairy with a wand had passed and said "bloom" to a winter tree. Numbers of emotions that I had never dreamed about were surging through me--the floodgates of everything in my soul seemed opening in one rush of love and joy. While we were together nothing appeared to matter, all barriers melted away.

Fate would be sure to be kind to lovers like us.

We got back to Claridge's about six, and Robert would not let me go up to my sitting-room until he had found out if Christopher had gone.

Yes, he had come at four, we discovered, and had waited twenty minutes, and then left, saying he would come again at half-past six.

"Then you will write him a note, and give it to the porter for him, saying you are engaged to me and can't see him," Robert said.

"No, I won't do that. I am not engaged to you, and cannot be until your family consent and are nice to me," I said.

"Darling!" he faltered, and his voice trembled with emotion. "Darling, love is between you and me--it is our lives. However, that can go. The ways of my family--nothing shall ever separate you from me or me from you, I swear it! Write to Christopher."

I sat down at a table in the hall and wrote: "DEAR MR. CARRUTHERS,-"I am sorry I was out," then I bit the end of my pen. "Don't come and see me this evening. I will tell you why in a day or two.

"Yours sincerely, "EVANGELINE TRAVERS.

"Will that do?" I said, and I handed it to Robert, while I addressed the envelope.

"Yes," he said, and waited while I sealed it up and gave it to the porter. Then, with a surreptitious squeeze of the hand, he left me to go to Lady Merrenden.

I have come up to my little sitting-room a changed being. The whole world revolves for me upon another axis, and all within the space of three short hours.

CLARIDGE'S, Sunday night, November 27th.

Late this evening, about eight o'clock, when I had relocked my journal, I got a note from Robert. I was just going to begin my dinner.

I tore it open, inside was another; I did not wait to look who from, I was too eager to read his. I paste it in: "CARLTON HOUSE TERRACE.

"MY DARLING,-"I have had a long talk with Aunt Sophia, and she is everything that is sweet and kind, but she fears Torquilstone will be a little difficult (I don't care, nothing shall separate us now). She asks me not to go and see you again to-night as she thinks it would be better for you that I should not go to the hotel so late. Darling, read her note, and you will see how nice she is. I shall come round to-morrow, the moment the beastly stables are finished, about twelve o'clock. Oh, take care of yourself! What a difference to-night and last night! I was feeling horribly miserable and reckless, and to-night! Well, you can guess. I am not half good enough for you, darling beautiful queen, but I think I shall know how to make you happy. I love you.

"Good-night my own.


"Do please send me a tiny line by my servant. I have told him to wait."

I have never had a love-letter before. What lovely things they are. I felt thrills of delight over bits of it. Of course I see now that I must have been dreadfully in love with Robert all along, only I did not know it quite. I fell into a kind of blissful dream, and then I roused myself up to read Lady Merrenden's. I sha'n't put hers in, too; it fills up too much, and I can't shut the clasp of my journal. It is a perfectly sweet little letter, just saying Robert had told her the news, and that she was prepared to welcome me as her dearest niece, and to do all she could for us. She hoped I would not think her very tiresome and old-fashioned suggesting Robert had better not see me again to-night, and, if it would not inconvenience me, she would herself come round to-morrow morning and discuss what was best to be done.

Véronique said Lord Robert's valet was waiting outside the door, so I flew to my table and began to write. My hand trembled so I made a blot, and had to tear that sheet up; then I wrote another. Just a little word. I was frightened; I couldn't say loving things in a letter; I had not even spoken many to him--yet.

"I loved your note," I began; "and I think Lady Merrenden is quite right. I will be here at twelve, and very pleased to see you." I wanted to say I loved him, and thought twelve o'clock a long way off, but of course one could not write such things as that, so I ended with just, "Love from "EVANGELINE."

Then I read it over, and it did sound "missish" and silly. However, with the man waiting there in the passage, and Véronique fussing in and out of my bedroom, besides the waiters bringing up my dinner, I could not go tearing up sheets and writing others, it looked so flurried, so it was put into an envelope. Then, in one of the seconds I was alone, I nipped off a violet from a bunch on the table and pushed it in, too. I wonder if he will think it sentimental of me! When I had written the name, I had not an idea where to address it. His was written from Carlton House Terrace, but he was evidently not there now, as his servant had brought it. I felt so nervous and excited, it was too ridiculous--I am very calm as a rule. I called the man, and asked him where was his lordship now? I did not like to say I was ignorant of where he lived.

"His Lordship is at Vavasour House, madam," he said, respectfully, but with the faintest shade of surprise that I should not know. "His lordship dines at home this evening with his grace."

I scribbled a note to Lady Merrenden. I would be delighted to see her in the morning at whatever time suited her. I would not go out at all, and I thanked her. It was much easier to write sweet things to her than to Robert.

When I was alone I could not eat. Véronique came in to try and persuade me. I looked so very pale, she said, she feared I had taken cold. She was in one of her "old-mother" moods, when she drops the third person sometimes, and calls me "mon enfant."

"Oh, Véronique, I have not got a cold; I am only wildly happy," I said.

"Mademoiselle is doubtless fiancée to Mr. Carruthers. Oh, mon enfant adorée," she cried, "que je suis contente!"

"Gracious, no!" I exclaimed. This brought me back to Christopher with a start. What would he say when he heard?

"No, Véronique, to some one much nicer--Lord Robert Vavasour."

Véronique was frightfully interested. Mr. Carruthers she would have preferred, to me, she admitted, as being more solid, more "rangé," "plus à la fin de ses bêtises," but, no doubt, "milor" was charming too, and for certain one day mademoiselle would be duchess. In the meanwhile what kind of coronet would mademoiselle have on her trousseau?

I was obliged to explain that I should not have any, or any trousseau, for an indefinite time, as nothing was settled yet. This damped her a little.

"Un frère de duc, et pas de couronne!" After seven years in England she was yet unable to understand these strange habitudes, she said.

She insisted upon putting me to bed directly after dinner, "to be prettier for milor demain!" and then when she had tucked me up, and was turning out the light in the centre of the room, she looked back. "Mademoiselle is too beautiful like that," she said, as if it slipped from her. "Mon Dieu! il ne s'embêterai pas, le monsieur!"

CLARIDGE'S, Monday morning.

I wonder how I lived before I met Robert. I wonder what use were the days. Oh, and I wonder, I wonder, if the duke continues to be obdurate about me, if I shall ever have the strength of mind to part from him so as not to spoil his future.

Such a short time ago--not yet four weeks--since I was still at Branches, and wondering what made the clock go round, the great, big clock of life.

Oh, now I know. It is being in love--frightfully in love, as we are. I must try and keep my head, though, and remember all the remarks of Lady Ver about things and men. Fighters all of them, and they must never feel quite sure. It will be dreadfully difficult to tease Robert, because he is so direct and simple, but I must try, I suppose. Perhaps being so very pretty as I am, and having all the male creatures looking at me with interest, will do, and be enough to keep him worried, and I won't have to be tiresome myself. I hope so, because I really do love him so extremely, I would like to let myself go, and be as sweet as I want to.

I am doing all the things I thought perfectly silly to hear of before. I kissed his letter, and slept with it on the pillow beside me, and this morning woke at six, and turned on the electric light to read it again. The part where the "darlings" come is quite blurry, I see, in daylight--that is where I kissed most, I know.

I seem to be numb to everything else. Whether Lady Ver is angry or not does not bother me. I did play fair. She could not expect me to go on pretending when Robert had said straight out he loved me. But I am sure she will be angry, though, and probably rather spiteful about it.

I will write her the simple truth in a day or two, when we see how things go. She will guess by Robert not going to Sedgwick.

CLARIDGE'S Monday afternoon.

At half-past eleven this morning Lady Merrenden came, and the room was all full of flowers that Robert had sent, bunches and bunches of violets and gardenias. She kissed me, and held me tight for a moment, and we did not speak. Then she said, in a voice that trembled a little: "Robert is so very dear to me--almost my own child--that I want him to be happy; and you, too, Evangeline--I may call you that, may not I?"

I squeezed her hand.

"You are the echo of my youth, when I, too, knew the wild spring-time of love. So, dear, I need not tell you that you may count upon my doing what I can for you both."

Then we talked and talked.

"I must admit," she said at last, "that I was prejudiced in your favor for your dear father's sake, but in any case my opinion of Robert's judgment is so high, I would have been prepared to find you charming, even without that. He has the rarest qualities, he is the truest, most untarnished soul in this world.

"I don't say," she went on, "that he is not just as the other young men of his age and class; he is no Galahad, as no one can be with truth who is human and lives in the world. And I dare say kind friends will tell you stories of actresses and other diversions, but I who know him tell you, you have won the best and greatest darling in London."

"Oh, I am sure of it," I said. "I don't know why he loves me so much, he has seen me so little; but it began from the very first minute, I think, with both of us. He is such a nice shape."

She laughed. Then she asked me if she was right in supposing all these contretemps we had had were the doing of Lady Ver. "You need not answer, dear," she said. "I know Ianthe. She is in love with Robert herself; she can't help it; she means no harm, but she often gets these attacks, and they pass off. I think she is devoted to Sir Charles, really."

"Yes," I said.

"It is a queer world we live in, child," she continued, "and true love and suitability of character are such a rare combination, but from what I can judge, you and Robert possess them."

"Oh, how dear of you to say so!" I exclaimed.

"You don't think I must be bad, then, because of my coloring?"

"What a ridiculous idea, you sweet child!" she laughed. "Who has told you that!"

"Oh, Mrs. Carruthers always said so--and--and the old gentlemen, and--even Mr. Carruthers hinted I probably had some odd qualities. But you do think I shall be able to be fairly good--don't you?"

She was amused, I could see, but I was serious.

"I think you probably might have been a little wicked if you had married a man like Mr. Carruthers," she said, smiling, "but with Robert I am sure you will be good. He will never leave you a moment, and he will love you so much you won't have time for anything else."

"Oh, that is what I shall like--being loved," I said.

"I think all women like that," she sighed. "We could all of us be good if the person we love went on being demonstrative. It is the cold, matter-of-fact devotion that kills love, and makes one want to look elsewhere to find it again."

Then we talked of possibilities about the duke. I told her I knew his toquade, and she, of course, was fully acquainted with mamma's history.

"I must tell you, dear, I fear he will be difficult," she said. "He is a strangely prejudiced person, and obstinate to a degree, and he worships Robert, as we all do."

I would not ask her if the duke had taken a dislike to me, because I knew he had.

"I asked you to meet him on Saturday on purpose," she continued. "I felt sure your charm would impress him, as it had done me, and as it did my husband, but I wonder now if it would have been better to wait. He said after you were gone that you were much too beautiful for the peace of any family, and he pitied Mr. Carruthers if he married you. I don't mean to hurt you, child; I am only telling you everything, so that we may consult how best to act."

"Yes, I know," I said, and I squeezed her hand again; she does not put out claws like Lady Ver.

"How did he know anything about Mr. Carruthers"--I asked--"or me, or anything?" She looked ashamed.

"One can never tell how he hears things. He was intensely interested to meet you, and seemed to be acquainted with more of the affair than I am. I almost fear he must obtain his information from the servants."

"Oh, does not that show the housemaid in him? Poor fellow!" I said. "He can't help it, then, any more than I could help crying yesterday before Robert in the park. Of course we would neither of us have done these things if it were not for the tache in our backgrounds, only, fortunately for me, mine wasn't a housemaid, and was one generation farther back, so I would not be likely to have any of those tricks."

She leaned back in her chair and laughed. "You quaint, quaint child, Evangeline," she said.

Just then it was twelve o'clock, and Robert came in.

Oh, talk of hearts beating! If mine is going to go on jumping like this every time Robert enters a room, I shall get a disease in it in less than a year.

He looked too intensely attractive. He was not in London clothes; just serge things, and a guard's tie, and his face was beaming, and his eyes shining like blue stars.

We behaved nicely--he only kissed my hand, and Lady Merrenden looked away at the clock even for that. She has tact.

"Isn't my Evangeline a darling, Aunt Sophia?" he said. "And don't you love her red hair?"

"It is beautiful," said Lady Merrenden.

"When you leave us alone I am going to pull it all down"; and he whispered, "Darling, I love you," so close that his lips touched my ear, while he pretended he was not doing anything. I say, again, Robert has ways that would charm a stone image.

"How was Torquilstone last night?" Lady Merrenden asked, "and did you tell him anything?"

"Not a word," said Robert. "I wanted to wait and consult you both which would be best. Shall I go to him at once, or shall he be made to meet my Evangeline again, and let her fascinate him, as she is bound to do, and then tell him?"

"Oh, tell him straight!" I exclaimed, remembering his proclivities about the servants and that Véronique knows. "Then he cannot ever say we have deceived him."

"That is how I feel," said Robert.

"You take Evangeline to lunch, Aunt Sophia, and I will go back and feed with him, and tell him, and then come to you after."

"Yes, that will be best," she said, and it was settled that she should come in again and fetch me in an hour, when Robert should leave to go to Vavasour House. He went with her to the lift, and then he came back.

No--even in this locked book I am not going to write of that hour--it was too divine. If I had thought just sitting in the park was heaven, I now know there are degrees of heaven, and that Robert is teaching me up towards the seventh.

Monday afternoon. (Continued.) I forgot to say a note came from Christopher by this morning's post--it made me laugh when I read it, then it went out of my head; but when Lady Merrenden returned for me, and we were more or less sane again--Robert and I--I thought of it; so apparently did he. "Did you by chance hear from Christopher, whether he got your note last night or no?" he said.

I went and fetched it from my bedroom when I put on my hat. Robert read it aloud: "TRAVELLER'S CLUB "Sunday night.

"'Souvent femme varie--fol qui se fie!' Hope you found your variation worth while!

C. C."

"What dam cheek!" he said, in his old way. He hasn't used any "ornaments to conversation" since we have been--oh, I want to say it--engaged!

Then his eyes flashed. "Christopher had better be careful of himself! He will have to be answerable to me now."

"Do be prudent, Evangeline dear," Lady Merrenden said, gayly, "or you will have Robert breaking the head of every man in the street who even glances at you. He is frantically jealous."

"Yes, I know I am," said Robert, rearranging the tie on my blouse with that air of sans gêne and possession that pleases me so.

I belong to him now, and if my tie isn't as he likes he has a perfect right to retie it, no matter who is there. That is his attitude--not the least ceremony or stuff, everything perfectly simple and natural.

It does make things agreeable. When I was, "Miss Travers" and he "Lord Robert," he was always respectful and unfamiliar--except that one night when rage made him pinch my finger. But now that I am his Evangeline and he is my Robert (thus he explained it to me in our paradise hour), I am his queen and his darling, but at the same time his possession and belonging, just the same as his watch or his coat--I adore it--and it does not make me the least "uppish," as one might have thought.

"Come, come, children," Lady Merrenden said at last, "we shall all be late."

So we started, dropping Robert at Vavasour House on our way. It is a splendid place, down one of those side streets looking on the Green Park, and has a small garden that side. I had never been down to the little square where it is before, but, of course, every one can see its splendid frontage from St. James's Park, though I had never realized it was Vavasour House.

"Good luck!" whispered Lady Merrenden as Robert got out, and then we drove on.

Several people were lunching at Carlton House Terrace: cabinet ministers, and a clever novelist, and the great portrait painter, besides two or three charming women--one as pretty and smart as Lady Ver, but the others more ordinary looking, only so well mannered. No real frumps like the Montgomeries. We had a delightful lunch, and I tried to talk nicely and do my best to please my dear hostess. When they had all left I think we both began to feel excited, and long apprehensively for the arrival of Robert. So we talked of the late guests.

"It amuses my husband to see a number of different kinds of people," she said; "but we had nothing very exciting to-day, I must confess, though sometimes the authors and authoresses bore me, and they are often very disappointing--one does not any longer care to read their books after seeing them."

I said I could quite believe that.

"I do not go in for budding geniuses," she continued. "I prefer to wait until they have arrived, no matter their origin; then they have acquired a certain outside behavior on the way up, and it does not froissé one so. Merrenden is a great judge of human nature, and variety entertains him. Left to myself, I fear I should be quite contented with less gifted people who were simply of one's own world."

In all her talk one can see her thought and consideration for Lord Merrenden and his wishes and tastes.

"I always feel it is so cruel for him, our having no children," she said. "The earldom becomes extinct, so I must make him as happy as I can."

What a dear and just woman!

At last we spoke of Robert, and she told me stories of his boyhood, amusing Eton scrapes, and later feats. And how brave and splendid he had been in the war; and how the people all adored him at Torquilstone; and of his popularity and influence with them. "You must make him go into Parliament," she said.

Then Robert came into the room. Oh, his darling face spoke, there was no need for words. The duke, one could see, had been obdurate.

"Well," said Lady Merrenden.

Robert came straight over to me and took my face in his two hands. "Darling," he said, "before everything I want you to know I love you better than anything else in the world, and nothing will make any difference," and he kissed me deliberately before his aunt. His voice was so moved, and we all felt a slight lump in our throats I know; then he stood in front of us, but he held my hand.

"Torquilstone was horrid, I can see," said Lady Merrenden. "What did he say, Robert? Tell us everything. Evangeline would wish it too, I am sure, as well as I."

Robert looked very pale and stern; one can see how firm his jaw is in reality, and how steady his dear, blue eyes.

"I told him I loved Evangeline, whom I understood he had met yesterday, and that I intended to marry her."

"And he said?" asked Lady Merrenden, breathless.

I only held tighter Robert's hand.

"He swore like a trooper, he thumped his glass down on the table and smashed it--a disgusting exhibition of temper--I was ashamed of him. Then he said never, as long as he lived and could prevent it; that he had heard something of my infatuation, so as I am not given that way he had made inquiries, and found the family was most unsatisfactory. Then he had come here yesterday on purpose to see you--darling," turning to me, "and that he had judged for himself. The girl was a 'devilish beauty' (his words, not mine), with the naughtiest, provoking eyes, and a mouth--No, I can't say the rest, it makes me too mad," and Robert's eyes flashed.

Lady Merrenden rose from her seat and came and took my other hand. I felt as if I could not stand too tall and straight.

"The long and short of it is, he has absolutely refused to have anything to do with the matter, says I need expect nothing further from him, and we have parted for good and all."

"Oh, Robert!" It was almost a cry from Lady Merrenden.

Robert put his arms round me, and his face changed to radiance.

"Well, I don't care; what does it matter? A few places and thousands in the dim future--the loss of them is nothing to me if I only have my Evangeline now."

"But, Robert dearest," Lady Merrenden said, "you can't possibly live without what he allows you--what have you of your own? About eighteen hundred a year, I suppose, and you know, darling boy, you are often in debt. Why, he paid five thousand for you as lately as last Easter. Oh, what is to be done?" and she clasped her hands.

I felt as if turned to stone. Was all this divine happiness going to slip from my grasp? Yes, it looked like it, for I could never drag Robert into poverty and spoil his great future.

"He can't leave away Torquilstone, and those thousands of profitless acres," Lady Merrenden went on; "but, unfortunately, all the London property is at his disposition. Oh, I must go and talk to him!"

"No," said Robert. "It would not be the least use, and would look as if we were pleading." His face had fallen to intense sadness as Lady Merrenden spoke of his money.

"Darling," he said, in a broken voice. "No, it is true it would not be fair to make you a beggar. I should be a cad to ask you. We must think of some way of softening my brother after all."

Then I spoke.

"Robert," I said, "if you were only John Smith I would say I would willingly go and live with you in a cottage, or even in a slum; but you are not, and I would not for anything in the world drag you down out of what is your position in life. That would be a poor sort of love. Oh, my dear," and I clasped tight his hand, "if everything fails, then we must part and you must forget me."

He folded me in his arms, and we heard the door shut. Lady Merrenden had left us alone. Oh, it was anguish and divine bliss at the same time the next half-hour.

"I will never forget you, and never in this world will I take another woman, I swear to God!" he said, at the end of it. "If we must part, then life is finished for me of all joy."

"And for me, too, Robert!"

We said the most passionate vows of love to each other, but I will not write them here; there is another locked book where I keep them--the book of my soul.

"Would it be any good if Colonel Tom Carden went and spoke to him?" I asked, presently. "He was best man at papa's wedding, and knows all there is to be known of poor mamma; and do you think that as mamma's father was Lord de Brandreth--a very old barony I believe it is--oh, can it make any difference to the children's actual breeding, their parents not having been through the marriage ceremony? I--I--don't know much of that sort of things."

"My sweet," said Robert, and through all our sorrow he smiled and kissed me--"my sweet, sweet Evangeline."

"But does the duke know all the details of the history?" I asked, when I could speak; one can't when one is being kissed.

"Every little bit, it seems. He says he will not discuss the matter of that--I must know it is quite enough, as I have always known his views; but if it was not sufficient, your wild, wicked beauty is. You would not be faithful to me for a year, he said. I could hardly keep from killing him when he hurled that at my head."

I felt my temper rising. How frightfully unjust--how cruel! I went over and looked in the glass--a big mirror between the windows--drawing Robert with me.

"Oh, tell me, tell me, what is it? Am I so very bad looking? It is a curse, surely, that is upon me."