"Tell me, Julien," she demanded, "you really did write that letter to
"And she gave it to her husband?"
For once the Duchess was perfectly and delightfully natural.
"That woman," she declared, "is a detestable cat! Mind, Julien," she
added, "I don't mean by that that you were not hideously and entirely
to blame. I can't feel that you deserve a single grain of sympathy. All
the same, a woman who can do a thing like that should not be
Julien smiled grimly. He was perfectly well aware that at that moment
Mrs. Carraby was passing from the list of the Duchess's acquaintances.
It was all so inconsequent.
"Can I have that one word with Anne?" he begged.
The Duchess looked doubtful.
"I am going abroad to-night. I should like to say good-bye to her."
"Isn't it a little foolish?" she asked. "I don't mean your going
abroad - that, I suppose, is almost necessary - but why do you want to
see Anne? I can give her all the proper messages."
Julien laughed bitterly.
"There are some things," he said, "which can scarcely be altogether
ignored. It may have escaped your memory that Anne was to have been my
"Not at all," the Duchess replied. "The only thing I do not understand
is why, as any such arrangement is of course now ridiculous, you should
want to see her again. What can you possibly have to say to her?" "An
affair of sentiment," he explained. "I have a fancy to say good-bye."
The Duchess shook her head.
"Those sort of things don't belong to us," she declared. "You ought to
know better, my dear Julien. I can see no possible object in it. I will
give her any message you like, and so far as she is concerned I can
assure you that she has not the slightest ill-feeling. She is really
quite angelic about it."
"Duchess," Julien said steadily, "I came here expecting that these
would be your views. You are Anne's mother and of course you are in
authority, but when two people of our age are engaged to marry one
another, they pass just a little beyond the sphere of their parents'
influence. Anne and I have been in that position. Don't think for a
moment that I wish to dispute your authority when I say that I intend
to see her before I leave."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Ah! my dear Julien," she murmured, "if you had only been as firm with
that foolish woman. Still, if you have really made up your mind, I am
sure I don't want to be disagreeable. Perhaps it would be just as well
to get the thing over."
She touched the bell.
"Ask Lady Anne to step this way," she told the servant.
The man withdrew and the door was closed again. The Duchess showed no
signs of being about to take her leave.
"This matter has already, I presume, been fully discussed between you
and Anne?" Julien remarked. "It will not be necessary for you even to
give her a parting word of advice?"
"You amusing person!" she laughed. "There are no words of advice of
mine needed in a case like this. To tell you the truth, Julien,
although I always liked you, as you know, I hated your engagement to
Anne. You were a very charming young man to have about the house and I
was always pleased to see my girls flirt with you, but as a son-in-law
I ranked you from the first amongst the undesirables. Your income, so
far as I know, is a little less than nothing at all, and politics, as
you are discovering to-day, are a precarious form of livelihood. Anne
hasn't a copper and never will have. She ought to marry a rich man, and
I intend now that she shall. Here she is. Now do get this stupid affair
The door was opened and Lady Anne came in. She was taller than her
mother, of more serious aspect, and her hair was a shade darker. There
was something of the same expression about the eyes. She came straight
over to Julien and gave him both her hands.
"My dear Julien," she exclaimed, "this is shocking! Run away, if you
please, mother. I must see Julien for a moment alone."
The Duchess left the room. They both waited until the door was closed.
Then she turned and faced him.
"I suppose it's all true?" she asked.
"Every word of it, Anne," he answered. "Please don't misunderstand the
reason of my coming. I am absolutely a ruined man and I absolutely
deserve everything that has come to me. But there was one thing I
wanted to say to you before I went."
"There was also one thing," she remarked, looking at him intently,
"which I intended to ask you, provided you gave me the opportunity."
"It is about Mrs. Carraby," he said firmly.
"So was my question," she murmured.
"The friendship between Mrs. Carraby and myself," Julien continued,
"has been patent to every one for a great many years. I knew her long
before I did you. It began, in fact, when we were little more than
children. It finished - to-day. There is only one thing I want to say to
you about it, and that is this. Our friendship was of that sort which
is fairly well recognized and even approved of by the world in which we
live. It contained, of course, certain elements of flirtation - I am not
denying that. There was never at any time, however, anything in that
friendship which made it an error even of taste on my part to ask you
to become my wife."
She took his face between her hands and deliberately kissed him.
"That's just what I wanted to know, Julien," she declared. "Now shake
hands, be off, and do the best you can for yourself. I wish you the
best of luck, the very best. That's all we can say to one another,
"Quite all," he admitted.
"You are a dear, good fellow," she went on, "and I have been quite fond
of you, although I think that I bored you now and then. I should have
made you an excellent wife, perhaps a better one than I shall the next
man who comes along. Don't stay any longer, there's a dear, because
although I never pretended to have much heart, this sort of thing does
upset one, you know, and I want to look my best to-night. Write me
sometimes, if you will. I'd love to hear that you'd found some interest
in life to help you gather up the threads. And here - this is for luck."
She took a little turquoise pin from her waistband and stuck it in his
black tie. Then, before he could stop her, she touched the bell with
one hand and gave him the other.
"Please kiss my fingers, Julien, and tell me I've behaved nicely."
He looked steadily into her eyes and then away out of the window,
across the square. It was such a natural ending, this. It was foolish
that his heart should shake, even for a second. And yet there had been
one occasion - at Clonarty - when she had lain very close to him in his
arms, and the moonlight had been falling through the pine trees in
little dappled places around them, and the wind had been making faint
music among the swinging boughs - for these few moments, at any rate,
the other things had shone in her face. Were they illusions really,
those moments of agitation, he wondered - simply one long, sensuous
period passing like breath from a looking-glass and leaving nothing
behind? He looked into her face. There was no sign there. Then he
dropped the fingers which he had been holding. Women were wonderful!
"Do write," she begged, as she walked into the hall with him. "Dear me,
what a strange-looking person you have with you in the taxicab!"
"He is a friend," Julien said quietly, "a journalist. I might say the
same of the young man who is watching us from the drawing-room, Anne!
Who is he?"
She made a little face at him and whispered in his ear.
"Semitic, as you see, and positively appalling. He is entirely mother's
choice. He arrived ten minutes after the evening papers were out, but
somehow or other I don't fancy that we shall make anything of him. It's
young Harbord, you know."
Julien made his effort. He touched her fingers once more in
conventional fashion. He leaned towards her earnestly.
"My dear Anne," he said, "that young man has an income of at least a
hundred thousand a year. Have you ever considered what a wonderful
thing it is to possess an income like that? You could surround yourself
with it like a halo. You could eat it, wear it, and breathe it every
second of your life. You could even use it as a means of escaping as
often as possible from the somewhat inevitable but highly objectionable
adjunct who seems now to be peering at us through the door. Be a wise
girl, Anne. An income like that doesn't depend upon discretions or
indiscretions. Besides, as a matter of fact, I really do not think that
that young man knows what it is to be indiscreet. Remember, I am quite
serious. A hundred thousand a year should lift any man beyond the pale
"Yes!" the girl replied, looking at him as he walked down the steps. "I
shall remember. Good-bye!"
"We are getting on," Julien declared lightly, as he took his place in
the taxicab. "Really, it is astonishing how much a man can get through
in a day if he sets his mind to it. Is there any place where we could
get a drink, do you think, Kendricks? I have just passed through a
trying and affecting interview. I have said farewell to the lady who
was to have been my wife. That sort of thing upsets one."
"You are behaving, my dear Julien," Kendricks admitted, "like a man of
sense. In a moment or two we shall pass Very's, on our way to the
restaurant where I am going to entertain you at dinner. It will
probably be such a dinner as you have never eaten before in your life!
You will not need an _aperitif_. I am not sure, indeed, that it is not
tempting providence and inviting indigestion to offer you a mixed
vermouth here. However, come along. One experience more or less in such
a day will not disturb you."
They entered the cafe and sat down at a small, marble-topped table.
Julien lit a cigarette and Kendricks affected not to notice that the
hand which held the match was shaking. A crowd of people, mostly
foreigners, were sitting about the place. Julien, as he sipped his
vermouth, noticed a familiar face nearly opposite him - a young,
somewhat sandy-complexioned man, quietly dressed, insignificant, and
yet with some sort of personality.
"I wonder who that fellow is?" he remarked. "I seem to know his face."
Kendricks looked incuriously across the room.
"One knows every one by sight in London," he said. "The fellow is
probably a clerk in some office where you have been, or a salesman
behind the counter at one of the shops you patronize. It's odd
sometimes how a face will pursue you like that. That's a pretty little
girl with whom he's shaking hands."
Julien watched the two idly for a moment. The man had risen to greet
his newly-arrived companion, who was chattering to him in fluent
French. All the time Julien was aware that now and then the former's
eyes strayed over towards him. It was odd that, notwithstanding his
somewhat disturbed state of mind, he was conscious of a distinct
curiosity as to this young man's identity.
"Come along," Kendricks suggested. "We shan't get a table at all at the
place where I am going to take you to dine, unless we are punctual."
They finished their vermouth and left the cafe. Kendricks knocked out
the ashes from his pipe and leaned a little forward in the taxicab.
"We go now," he continued, "into a foreign land - foreign, at least, to
you, my young Exquisite - the land of journalists, of foreigners, of
hairdressers and anarchists, and cutthroats of every description.
Nevertheless, we shall dine well, and if you will only drink enough of
the chianti which I shall order, I can promise you a nap on your way to
Dover. You look as though you could do with it."
Julien suddenly remembered that his eyes were hot, and almost
simultaneously he felt the weight that was dragging down his heart. He
"I'll eat your dinner, David," he promised, "and I'll do justice to
your chianti. From what you tell me about our expedition, I should
imagine that we are going into the land to which I shall soon belong."
"It's a wonderful country," Kendricks muttered, looking out of the
window. "It may not be flowing exactly with milk and honey, but its
sinews are supple and its blood is red. For absolute vitality, I'd back
the Cafe l'Athenee against the Carlton any day. Here we are."
AT THE CAFE L'ATHENEE
The Cafe L'Athenee was in a narrow back street and consisted of a
ground floor apartment of moderate size, and a number of small rooms,
most of which were already crowded with diners. There were no
smooth-faced _maitres d'hotel_ to conduct new arrivals to a table, no
lift to the upper rooms, no palm-lined stairways, or any of the modern
appurtenances of restaurant life. Kendricks, taking the lead as an
habitue, pushed his way up to the first floor, pushed his way past the
hurrying and perspiring waiters, who did not even stop to answer
questions, and finally pounced upon a table which was just being
vacated by three other people. The two men sat down before the debris
and waited patiently for its removal.
"Don't turn your nose up yet," Kendricks begged. "Wait till you've
tasted the spaghetti. And don't look at the tablecloth as though it
would bite you. They'll put a clean napkin over it directly and you'll
forget all about those stains. This is where one takes off the kid
gloves and deals with the realities of eating and drinking. I am
inclined to think sometimes, Julien, as a humble admirer from a long
way off, that you've worn those kid gloves a little too long."
Julien looked across at his friend. Kendricks was still smoking his
pipe and he was evidently in earnest. It was obvious, too, that he had
more to say.
"You know," he continued, loudly summoning a waiter and pointing to the
table before them, "you know, Julien, I have always had this feeling
about you. I think that life has been made a trifle too easy for you.
You have slipped with so little effort into the polished places. You
never had to take your coat and waistcoat off and try a
rough-and-tumble struggle with life. No man is the worse for it.
Prosperity and smooth-traveling along the easy ways, even though they
come to one as the reward of brainwork, lead to a certain flabbiness in
life, lead to many moments when you have to stop and ask whether things
are worth while, lead sometimes, I think, to that curious neuroticism
from which clever, successful people suffer as well as the butterflies
of fashion. You are up against it now, Julien, real and hard. You don't
feel that you've got a day to live that you care a snap of the fingers
about. You look at what you think are the pieces of your life and you
imagine yourself a gaunt spectator of what has been, gazing down at
them, and you've quite made up your mind that it isn't a bit of good
trying to collect the fragments. Such d - - d nonsense, Julien! You may
have made a jolly hash of things as a Cabinet Minister, but that isn't
any reason why you shouldn't make a success of life as a man. Look
here, Carlo," he added, addressing the waiter, "the table d'hote
dinner - everything, and serve it hot. Bring us fresh butter with our
spaghetti, and a flask of chianti."
"Si, signor!" the man replied, gazing for a moment in wonder at this
shock-headed individual who spoke his own language so perfectly.
Kendricks laid down the menu and glanced across the table at Julien's
face with its slightly weary smile.
"Of course, I know how you're feeling now," he went on, - "rotten! - so
would any one. Try and forget it, try and forget yourself. Look about
you. What do these people do for a living, do you think? They weren't
born with a title. There's no one in this room who went to Eton and
Oxford, played cricket for their university, and lolled their way into
life as you did. Look at them all. The thin chap in the corner is a
barber, got a small shop of his own now. I go there sometimes for a
shave. He lived on thirteen shillings a week for six years, while he
saved the money to start for himself. It was touch and go with him
afterwards. In three months he'd nearly lost the lot. He'd married a
little wife who stood behind the counter and had worked almost as hard
as he, but somehow or other the customers wouldn't come. Then she had a
baby, was laid up for a time, he had to engage some one to take her
place, and at that time he had about fifteen shillings left in the
world. I used to be shaved there every day then. I knew all about it. I
used to hear him, when he thought no one was listening, go and call a
cheerful word up the stairs - 'Shop full of customers!' 'Sold another
bottle of hair restorer!' or something of that sort. Then some one lent
him a fiver, and, by Jove, he turned the corner! He's doing well now.
That's his wife - the plump little woman who's straightening his tie.
They come here every Wednesday night and they can afford it. Yet he was
up against it badly once, Julien. That's right, look at him, be
interested. He's a common-looking little beast, isn't he? - but he's got
a stout heart."
"I think," Julien said, "that I could guess the name of the man who
lent him the fiver."
"You'd be a mug if you couldn't," Kendricks retorted. "It's doing that
sort of thing that helps you to smile sometimes when the knocks come. I
tell you, Julien, some of the people - these small shopkeepers,
especially - do have the devil of a fight to get their ounce of pleasure
out of life. Nothing's made easy for them. They don't know anything
about that big west-end world, with pleasures tuned up to the latest
pitch, where you do even your work with every luxury at hand to make it
easy. There's a little chap there - an Italian. See him? He's sitting by
the side of the old man with the gray beard. That man's his father.
They both landed over here with scarcely a copper. The young fellow
worked like a slave - sixteen shillings a week I think he was getting,
and he kept the old man on it. Then he lost his job, couldn't get
another. The old man had to go to the workhouse, the young man slept on
the Embankment, ate free soup, picked up scraps, lived on the garbage
heap of life. He pulled himself together, though, got another job,
improved it, saved a few shillings, drove up in a cab and took the old
man out. Look at them now. He's got a little tailor's shop not a
hundred yards from here, and somehow or other one or two people on the
stage - they're a good-hearted lot - have taken him up He gets lots of
work and brings the old man here now and then for a treat. How are you,
Pietro?" he called across the room. "When are you going to send me that
The young man grinned.
"Too many orders to make you that coat, sir," he declared.
"No one can deny that I need a new coat," he said. "I told Pietro when
things were slack that he could make me one, but he gets lots of orders
now. See the little girl in the corner? She's going out - no, she's
going to stay here; they've found her room at that table. I suppose
you'd turn your nose up at her because she has a lot too much powder on
her cheeks, and you don't like that lace collar around her neck. It
isn't clean, I know, and the make-up on her face is clumsy. Must be
uncomfortable, too, but she's done her best. She's been dancing at the
_Hippodrome_ this afternoon, probably rehearsing afterwards. She's got
an hour now before she goes back to the evening performance. She's
taking the eighteenpenny dinner, you see. She'll get a glass of chianti
free with it. I am in luck to-night. I can tell you about nearly all
these people. Her name is Bessie Hazell - Sarah Ann Jinks, very likely,
but that's what she calls herself, anyway. She married an acrobat two
years ago and they started doing quite well. Then he got a cough, had
to give up work, the doctors all shook their heads at him, wanted to
tell him it was consumption. Bless you, she wouldn't listen to it! She
got him down to Bournemouth somehow and they patched him up. He came
back and started again, caught cold, and had another bad spell. Still,
she wouldn't have it that there was anything serious the matter with
him! He'd be all right, she said, if it weren't for the climate, and
every night she danced, mind - danced twice a day. She's quite clever,
they say - might have done well if she'd only herself to think of and
could spare a little of her money for lessons. Not she! She sent him to
Davos, paid for it somehow. He's back again now. He can't go on the
stage, but he's got a light job somewhere. I don't know that he's
earning anything particular. They've got a baby to keep, but they do it
all right between them. She isn't pleasant to look at, is she? What's
that matter? She's a bit of real life, anyhow."
"Why didn't you bring me here before, Kendricks?" Julien asked.
The man leaned back and laughed.
"Ask yourself that question, not me," he replied. "You - Sir Julien
Portel, caricatured as the best-dressed man in the House of Commons,
member of the most fashionable clubs, brilliant debater, successful
politician, future Prime Minister, and all that sort of twaddle. You
were living too far up in the clouds, my friend, to come down here. You
see, I am not offering you much sympathy, Julien. I don't think you
need it. You were soaring up to the skies just because of your gifts
and your position and your opportunities. You are down now. Well,
you're thundering sorry for yourself. I don't know that I'm sorry for
you. I'll tell you in ten years' time. By Jove, here's your
sandy-headed little friend!"
The man, with the girl upon his arm, had entered the room and had taken
seats at a table in the corner, for which, apparently, they had been
waiting. Julien looked at them curiously.
"Why," he exclaimed suddenly, leaning across the table, "I remember him
now! He's at the shop - I mean he's an Intelligence man."
"Just the sort of inconspicuous-looking person who could go anywhere
without being noticed."
"I recollect him quite well," Julien continued. "It's not in my
department, of course, but I remember being told he was a very useful
"I should say, without a doubt," Kendricks declared, "that he was at
present working hard for the safety and welfare of the British Empire.
If you've suddenly recognized the man, I'll tell you who the girl is.
She's a manicurist at the Milan."
Julien looked round and watched them for a moment curiously. Again he
noticed that his interest in the young man was at least reciprocated.
"The fellow has recognized me, of course," he said. "You know,
Kendricks, I remember two or three years ago a most amazing item of
news was brought to us - one that made a real difference, too - through a
"Shouldn't be a bit surprised," Kendricks replied.
"Things drop out in the most unexpected places, as you'd find out if
you'd been a journalist."
"She was sent for into the room of some princess - at Claridge's, I
think it was, or one of the west-end hotels - and while she was there a
man came from one of the inner rooms and said a few words in Russian.
The girl had been in St. Petersburg and understood. It made quite a
difference. I remember the story."
"Might have been the same man and the same manicurist," Kendricks
Julien shook his head.
"There was trouble about the manicurist," he said, "and she had to
leave the country. She's in South Africa now."
"I can't say that I like the appearance of the fellow," Kendricks
declared. "Don't funk the soup, Julien - it's better than it looks. He's
a slimy-looking sort of chap. I have a theory that the modern sort of
Secret Service agent ought to be a person like myself - breezy and
obvious. Julien, if that girl doesn't stop gazing at you sideways,
you'll be in trouble with your late employee."
Julien looked across at the opposite table. The girl, as he had noticed
before, was stealing frequent glances at him. For some reason or other,
she seemed anxious to attract his attention.
"Quite a conquest!" Kendricks murmured. "Drink some more of that
chianti, man, and bring some color to your cheeks. There's a charming
little manicurist wants to flirt with you. What teeth and what a
"Considering that she has been listening to my history for the last
quarter of an hour, I imagine that her interest is of a less
sentimental nature," Julien said. "I have probably been pointed out to
her as the biggest fool in Christendom."
"Not you," Kendricks declared. "I assure you that I am a critic in such
matters. She looks when the young man who is with her is engaged upon
his dinner, or speaking to the waiter. I am not positive, even, that