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attention, the young man began to feel assured that she was consciously
acting a part. That she should be able to carry it off so well, therein
lay the marvel. Of course, London had done much for her. Possessing no
common gifts, she must have developed remarkably under changed
conditions, and must, indeed, have become a very different person from
the country girl who toiled to support her drunken father's family.
Hilliard remembered the mention of her sister who had gone to
Birmingham disappeared; it suggested a characteristic of the Madeley
blood, which possibly must be borne in mind if he would interpret Eve.

She rested her arms on the little round table.

"So Mrs. Brewer asked you to come and find me?"

"It was only a suggestion, and I may as well tell you how it came
about. I used to have my meals in Mrs. Brewer's parlour, and to amuse
myself I looked over her album. There I found your portrait, and - well,
it interested me, and I asked the name of the original."

Hilliard was now in command of himself; he spoke with simple
directness, as his desires dictated.

"And Mrs. Brewer," said Eve, with averted eyes, "told you about me?"

"She spoke of you as her daughter's friend," was the evasive answer.
Eve seemed to accept it as sufficient, and there was a long silence.

"My name is Hilliard," the young man resumed. "I am taking the first
holiday, worth speaking of, that I have known for a good many years. At
Dudley my business was to make mechanical drawings, and I can't say
that I enjoyed the occupation."

"Are you going back to it?"

"Not just yet. I have been in France, and I may go abroad again before
long."

"For your pleasure?" Eve asked, with interest.

"To answer 'Yes' wouldn't quite express what I mean. I am learning to
live."

She hastily searched his face for the interpretation of these words,
then looked away, with grave, thoughtful countenance.

"By good fortune," Hilliard pursued. "I have become possessed of money
enough to live upon for a year or two. At the end of it I may find
myself in the old position, and have to be a living machine once more.
But I shall be able to remember that I was once a man."

Eve regarded him strangely, with wide, in tent eyes, as though his
speech had made a peculiar impression upon her.

"Can you see any sense in that?" he asked, smiling.

"Yes. I think I understand you."

She spoke slowly, and Hilliard, watching her, saw in her face more of
the expression of her portrait than he had yet discovered. Her soft
tone was much more like what he had expected to hear than her
utterances hitherto.

"Have you always lived at Dudley?" she asked.

He sketched rapidly the course of his life, without reference to
domestic circumstances. Before he had ceased speaking he saw that Eve's
look was directed towards something at a distance behind him; she
smiled, and at length nodded, in recognition of some person who
approached. Then a voice caused him to look round.

"Oh, there you are! I have been hunting for you ever so long."

As soon as Hilliard saw the speaker, he had no difficulty in
remembering her. It was Eve's companion of the day before yesterday,
with whom she had started for the theatre. The girl evidently felt some
surprise at discovering her friend in conversation with a man she did
not know; but Eve was equal to the situation, and spoke calmly.

"This gentleman is from my part of the world - from Dudley. Mr.
Hilliard - Miss Ringrose."

Hilliard stood up. Miss Ringrose, after attempting a bow of formal
dignity, jerked out her hand, gave a shy little laugh, and said with
amusing abruptness -

"Do you really come from Dudley?"

"I do really, Miss Ringrose. Why does it sound strange to you?"

"Oh, I don't mean that it sounds strange." She spoke in a high but not
unmusical note, very quickly, and with timid glances to either side of
her collocutor. "But Eve - Miss Madeley - gave me the idea that Dudley
people must be great, rough, sooty men. Don't laugh at me, please. You
know very well, Eve, that you always talk in that way. Of course, I
knew that there must be people of a different kind, but - there now,
you're making me confused, and I don't know what I meant to say."

She was a thin-faced, but rather pretty girl, with auburn hair.
Belonging to a class which, especially in its women, has little
intelligence to boast of, she yet redeemed herself from the charge of
commonness by a certain vivacity of feature and an agreeable suggestion
of good feeling in her would-be frank but nervous manner. Hilliard
laughed merrily at the vision in her mind of "great, rough, sooty men."

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, Miss Ringrose."

"No, but really - what sort of a place is Dudley? Is it true that they
call it the Black Country?"

"Let us walk about," interposed Eve. "Mr. Hilliard will tell you all he
can about the Black Country."

She moved on, and they rambled aimlessly; among cigar-smoking clerks
and shopmen, each with the female of his kind in wondrous hat and
drapery; among domestic groups from the middle-class suburbs, and from
regions of the artisan; among the frankly rowdy and the solemnly
superior; here and there a man in evening dress, generally conscious of
his white tie and starched shirt, and a sprinkling of unattached young
women with roving eyes. Hilliard, excited by the success of his
advances, and by companionship after long solitude, became very unlike
himself, talking and jesting freely. Most of the conversation passed
between him and Miss Ringrose; Eve had fallen into an absent mood,
answered carelessly when addressed, laughed without genuine amusement,
and sometimes wore the look of trouble which Hilliard had observed
whilst in the train.

Before long she declared that it was time to go home.

"What's the hurry?" said her friend. "It's nothing like ten o'clock
yet - is it, Mr. Hilliard?"

"I don't wish to stay any longer. Of course you needn't go unless you
like, Patty."

Hilliard had counted on travelling back with her; to his great
disappointment, Eve answered his request to be allowed to do so with a
coldly civil refusal which there was no misunderstanding.

"But I hope you will let me see you again?"

"As you live so near me," she answered, "we are pretty sure to meet.
Are you coming or not, Patty?"

"Oh, of course I shall go if you do."

The young man shook hands with them; rather formally with Eve, with
Patty Ringrose as cordially as if they were old friends. And then he
lost sight of them amid the throng.




CHAPTER VII


How did Eve Madeley contrive to lead this life of leisure and
amusement? The question occupied Hilliard well on into the small hours;
he could hit upon no explanation which had the least plausibility.

Was she engaged to be married to the man who met her at the Exhibition?
Her behaviour in his company by no means supported such a surmise; yet
there must be something more than ordinary acquaintance between the two.

Might not Patty Ringrose be able and willing to solve for him the
riddle of Eve's existence? But he had no idea where Patty lived. He
recalled her words in Gower Street: "You _are_ going it, Eve!" and they
stirred miserable doubts; yet something more than mere hope inclined
him to believe that the girl's life was innocent. Her look, her talk
reassured him; so did her friendship with such a person as the
ingenuous Patty. On learning that he dwelt close by her she gave no
sign of an uneasy conscience.

In any case, the contrast between her actual life and that suggested by
Mrs. Brewer's talk about her was singular enough. It supplied him with
a problem of which the interest would not easily be exhausted. But he
must pursue the study with due regard to honour and delicacy; he would
act the spy no more. As Eve had said, they were pretty sure to meet
before long; if his patience failed it was always possible for him to
write a letter.

Four days went by and he saw nothing of her. On the fifth, as he was
walking homeward in the afternoon, he came face to face with Miss
Madeley in Gower Street. She stopped at once, and offered a friendly
hand.

"Will you let me walk a little way with you?" he asked.

"Certainly. I'm just going to change a book at Mudie's." She carried a
little handbag. "I suppose you have been going about London a great
deal? Don't the streets look beautiful at this time of the year?"

"Beautiful? I'm not sure that I see much beauty."

"Oh, don't you? I delight in London. I had dreamt of it all my life
before I came here. I always said to myself I should some day live in
London."

Her voice to-day had a vibrant quality which seemed to result from some
agreeable emotion. Hilliard remarked a gleam in her eyes and a colour
in her cheeks which gave her an appearance of better health than a few
days ago.

"You never go into the country?" he said, feeling unable to join in her
praise of London, though it was intelligible enough to him.

"I go now and then as far as Hampstead Heath," Eve answered with a
smile. "If it's fine I shall be there next Sunday with Patty Ringrose."

Hilliard grasped the opportunity. Would she permit him to meet her and
Miss Ringrose at Hampstead? Without shadow of constraint or
affectation, Eve replied that such a meeting would give her pleasure:
she mentioned place and time at which they might conveniently encounter.

He walked with her all the way to the library, and attended her back to
Gower Place. The result of this conversation was merely to intensify
the conflict of feelings which Eve had excited in him. Her friendliness
gave him no genuine satisfaction; her animated mood, in spite of the
charm to which he submitted, disturbed him with mistrust. Nothing she
said sounded quite sincere, yet it was more difficult than ever to
imagine that she played a part quite alien to her disposition.

No word had fallen from her which threw light upon her present
circumstances, and he feared to ask any direct question. It had
surprised him to learn that she subscribed to Mudie's. The book she
brought away with her was a newly published novel, and in the few words
they exchanged on the subject while standing at the library counter she
seemed to him to exhibit a surprising acquaintance with the literature
of the day. Of his own shortcomings in this respect he was but too
sensible, and he began to feel himself an intellectual inferior, where
every probability had prepared him for the reverse.

The next morning he went to Mudie's on his own account, and came away
with volumes chosen from those which lay on the counter. He was tired
of wandering about the town, and might as well pass his time in reading.

When Sunday came, he sought the appointed spot at Hampstead, and there,
after an hour's waiting, met the two friends. Eve was no longer in her
vivacious mood; brilliant sunshine, and the breeze upon the heath, had
no power to inspirit her; spoke in monosyllables, and behaved with
unaccountable reserve. Hilliard had no choice but to converse with
Patty, who was as gay and entertaining as ever. In the course of their
gossip he learnt that Miss Ringrose was employed at a music-shop, kept
by her uncle, where she sold the latest songs and dances, and "tried
over" on a piano any unfamiliar piece which a customer might think of
purchasing. It was not easy to understand how these two girls came to
be so intimate, for they seemed to have very little in common. Compared
with Eve Madeley, Patty was an insignificant little person; but of her
moral uprightness Hilliard felt only the more assured the longer he
talked with her, and this still had a favourable effect upon his
estimate of Eve.

Again there passed a few days without event. But about nine o'clock on
Wednesday evening, as he sat at home over a book, his landlady entered
the room with a surprising announcement.

"There's a young lady wishes to see you, Sir. Miss Ringrose is the
name."

Hilliard sprang up.

"Please ask her to come in."

The woman eyed him in a manner he was too excited to understand.

"She would like to speak to you at the door, Sir, if you wouldn't mind
going out."

He hastened thither. The front door stood open, and a light from the
passage shone on Patty's face. In the girl's look he saw at once that
something was wrong.

"Oh, Mr. Hilliard - I didn't know your number - I've been to a lot of
houses asking for you - - "

"What is it?" he inquired, going out on to the doorstep.

"I called to see Eve, and - I don't know what it meant, but she's gone
away. The landlady says she left this morning with her luggage - went
away for good. And it's so strange that she hasn't let me know
anything. I can't understand it. I wanted to ask if you know - - "

Hilliard stared at the house opposite.

"I? I know nothing whatever about it. Come in and tell me - - "

"If you wouldn't mind coming out - - "

"Yes, yes. One moment; I'll get my hat."

He rejoined the girl, and they turned in the direction of Euston
Square, where people were few.

"I couldn't help coming to see you, Mr. Hilliard," said Patty, whose
manner indicated the gravest concern. "It has put me in such a fright.
I haven't seen her since Sunday. I came to-night, as soon as I could
get away from the shop, because I didn't feel easy in my mind about
her."

"Why did you feel anxious? What has been going on?"

He search her face. Patty turned away, kept silence for a moment, al at
length, with one of her wonted outbursts of confidence, said nervously:

"It's something I can't explain. But as you were a friend of hers - - "

A man came by, and Patty broke off.




CHAPTER VIII


Hilliard waited for her to continue, but Patty kept her eyes down and
said no more.

"Did you think," he asked, "that I was likely to be in Miss Madeley's
confidence?"

"You've known her a long time, haven't you?"

This proof of reticence, or perhaps of deliberate misleading, on Eve's
part astonished Hilliard. He replied evasively that he had very little
acquaintance with Miss Madeley's affairs, and added:

"May she not simply have changed her lodgings?"

"Why should she go so suddenly, and without letting me know?"

"What had the landlady to say?"

"She heard her tell the cab to drive to Mudie's - the library, you know."

"Why," said Hilliard; "that meant, perhaps, that she wanted to return a
book before leaving London. Is there any chance that she has gone
home - to Dudley? Perhaps her father is ill, and she was sent for."

Patty admitted this possibility, but with every sign of doubt.

"The landlady said she had a letter this morning."

"Did she? Then it may have been from Dudley. But you know her so much
better than I do. Of course, you mustn't tell me anything you don't
feel it right to speak of; still, did it occur to you that I could be
of any use?"

"No, I didn't think; I only came because I was so upset when I found
her gone. I knew you lived in Gower Place somewhere, and I thought you
might have seen her since Sunday."

"I have not. But surely you will hear from her very soon. You may even
get a letter tonight, or to-morrow morning."

Patty gave a little spring of hopefulness.

"Yes; a letter might come by the last post to-night. I'll go home at
once."

"And I will come with you," said Hilliard. "Then you can tell me
whether you have any news."

They turned and walked towards the foot of Hampstead Road, whence they
could go by tram-car to Patty's abode in High Street, Camden Town.
Supported by the hope of finding a letter when she arrived, Miss
Ringrose grew more like herself.

"You must have wondered what _ever_ I meant by calling to see you, Mr.
Hilliard. I went to five or six houses before I hit on the right one. I
do wish now that I'd waited a little, but I'm always doing things in
that way and being sorry for them directly after. Eve is my best
friend, you know, and that makes me so anxious about her."

"How long have you known her?"

"Oh, ever so long - about a year."

The temptation to make another inquiry was too strong for Hilliard.

"Where has she been employed of late?"

Patty looked up at him with surprise.

"Oh, don't you know? She isn't doing anything now. The people where she
was went bankrupt, and she's been out of a place for more than a month."

"Can't find another engagement?"

"She hasn't tried yet. She's taking a holiday. It isn't very nice work,
adding up money all day. I'm sure it would drive me out of my senses
very soon. I think she might find something better than that."

Miss Ringrose continued to talk of her friend all the way to Camden
Town, but the information he gathered did not serve to advance Hilliard
in his understanding of Eve's character. That she was keeping back
something of grave import the girl had already confessed, and in her
chatter she frequently checked herself on the verge of an indiscretion.
Hilliard took for granted that the mystery had to do with the man he
had seen at Earl's Court. If Eve actually disappeared, he would not
scruple to extract from Patty all that she knew; but he must see first
whether Eve would communicate with her friend.

In High Street Patty entered a small shop which was on the point of
being closed for the night.

Hilliard waited for her a few yards away; on her return he saw at once
that she was disappointed.

"There's nothing!"

"It may come in the morning. I should like to know whether you hear or
not."

"Would this be out of your way?" asked Patty. "I'm generally alone in
the shop from half-past one to half-past two. There's very seldom any
business going on then."

"Then I will come to-morrow at that time."

"Do, please? If I haven't heard anything I shall be that nervous."

They talked to no purpose for a few minutes, and bade each other
good-night.

Next day, at the hour Patty had appointed, Hilliard was again in High
Street. As he approached the shop he heard from within the jingle of a
piano. A survey through the closed glass door showed him Miss Ringrose
playing for her own amusement. He entered, and Patty jumped up with a
smile of welcome.

"It's all right! I had a letter this morning. She _has_ gone to Dudley."

"Ah! I am glad to hear it. Any reason given?"

"Nothing particular," answered the girl, striking a note on the piano
with her forefinger. "She thought she might as well go home for a week
or two before taking another place. She has heard of something in
Holborn."

"So your alarm was groundless."

"Oh - I didn't really feel alarmed, Mr. Hilliard. You mustn't think
that. I often do silly things."

Patty's look and tone were far from reassuring. Evidently she had been
relieved from her suspense, but no less plainly did she seek to avoid
an explanation of it. Hilliard began to glance about the shop.

"My uncle," resumed Patty, turning with her wonted sprightliness to
another subject, "always goes out for an hour or two in the middle of
the day to play billiards. I can tell by his face when he comes back
whether he's lost or won; he does so take it to heart, silly man! Do
_you_ play billiards?"

The other shook his head.

"I thought not. You have a serious look."

Hilliard did not relish this compliment. He imagined he had cast away
his gloom; he desired to look like the men who take life with easy
courage. As he gazed through the glass door into the street, a figure
suddenly blocked his prospect, and a face looked in. Then the door
opened, and there entered a young man of clerkly appearance, who
glanced from Miss Ringrose to her companion with an air of severity.
Patty had reddened a little.

"What are _you_ doing here at this time of day?" she asked familiarly.

"Oh - business - had to look up a man over here. Thought I'd speak a word
as I passed."

Hilliard drew aside.

"Who has opened this new shop opposite?" added the young man, beckoning
from the doorway.

A more transparent pretext for drawing Patty away could not have been
conceived; but she readily lent herself to it, and followed. The door
closed behind them. In a few minutes Patty returned alone, with rosy
cheeks and mutinous lips.

"I'm very sorry to have been in the way," said Hilliard, smiling.

"Oh, not you. It's all right. Someone I know. He can be sensible enough
when he likes, but sometimes he's such a silly there's no putting up
with him. Have you heard the new waltz - the Ballroom Queen?"

She sat down and rattled over this exhilarating masterpiece.

"Thank you," said Hilliard. "You play very cleverly."

"Oh, so can anybody - that's nothing."

"Does Miss Madeley play at all?"

"No. She's always saying she wishes she could but I tell her, what does
it matter? She knows no end of things that I don't, and I'd a good deal
rather have that."

"She reads a good deal, I suppose?"

"Oh, I should think she does, just! And she can speak French."

"Indeed? How did she learn?"

"At the place where she was bookkeeper there was a young lady from
Paris, and they shared lodgings, and Eve learnt it from her. Then her
friend went to Paris again, and Eve wanted very much to go with her,
but she didn't see how to manage it. Eve," she added, with a laugh, "is
always wanting to do something that's impossible."

A week later, Hilliard again called at the music-shop, and talked for
half an hour with Miss Ringrose, who had no fresh news from Eve. His
visits were repeated at intervals of a few days, and at length, towards
the end of June, he learnt that Miss Madeley was about to return to
London; she had obtained a new engagement, at the establishment in
Holborn of which Patty had spoken.

"And will she come back to her old lodgings?" he inquired.

Patty shook her head.

"She'll stay with me. I wanted her to come here before, but she didn't
care about it. Now she's altered her mind, and I'm very glad."

Hilliard hesitated in putting the next question.

"Do you still feel anxious about her?"

The girl met his eyes for an instant.

"No. It's all right now."

"There's one thing I should like you to tell me - if you can."

"About Miss Madeley?"

"I don't think there can be any harm in your saying yes or no. Is she
engaged to be married?"

Patty replied with a certain eagerness.

"No! Indeed she isn't. And she never has been."

"Thank you." Hilliard gave a sigh of relief. "I'm very glad to know
that."

"Of course you are," Patty answered, with a laugh.

As usual, after one of her frank remarks, she turned away and struck
chords on the piano. Hilliard meditated the while, until his companion
spoke again.

"You'll see her before long, I dare say?"

"Perhaps. I don't know."

"At all events, you'll _want_ to see her."

"Most likely."

"Will you promise me something?"

"If it's in my power to keep the promise."

"It's only - I should be so glad if you wouldn't mention anything about
my coming to see you that night in Gower Place."

"I won't speak of it."

"Quite sure?"

"You may depend upon me. Would you rather she didn't know that I have
seen you at all?"

"Oh, there's no harm in that. I should be sure to let it out. I shall
say we met by chance somewhere."

"Very well. I feel tempted to ask a promise iii return."

Patty stood with her hands behind her, eyes wide and lips slightly
apart.

"It is this," he continued, lowering his voice. "If ever you should
begin to feel anxious again about her will you let me know?"

Her reply was delayed; it came at length in the form of an embarrassed
nod. Thereupon Hilliard pressed her hand and departed.

He knew the day on which Eve would arrive in London; from morning to
night a feverish unrest drove him about the streets. On the morrow he
was scarcely more at ease, and for several days he lived totally
without occupation, save in his harassing thoughts. He paced and
repaced the length of Holborn, wondering where it was that Eve had
found employment; but from Camden Town he held aloof.

One morning there arrived for him a postcard on which was scribbled:
"We are going to the Savoy on Saturday night. Gallery." No signature,
no address; but of course the writer must be Patty Ringrose. Mentally,
he thanked her with much fervour. And on the stated evening, nearly an
hour before the opening of the doors, he climbed the stone steps
leading to the gallery entrance of the Savoy Theatre. At the summit two
or three persons were already waiting - strangers to him. He leaned
against the wall, and read an evening paper. At every sound of
approaching feet his eyes watched with covert eagerness. Presently he
heard a laugh, echoing from below, and recognised Patty's voice; then
Miss Ringrose appeared round the winding in the staircase, and was


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