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followed by Eve Madeley. Patty glanced up, and smiled consciously as
she discovered the face she had expected to see; but Eve remained for
some minutes unaware of her acquaintance's proximity. Scrutinising her
appearance, as he could at his ease, Hilliard thought she looked far
from well: she had a tired, dispirited expression, and paid no heed to
the people about her. Her dress was much plainer than that she wore a
month ago.

He saw Patty whispering to her companion, and, as a result, Eve's eyes
turned in his direction. He met her look, and had no difficulty in
making his way down two or three steps, to join her. The reception she
gave him was one of civil indifference. Hilliard made no remark on what
seemed the chance of their encounter, nor did he speak of her absence
from London; they talked, as far as talk was possible under the
circumstances, of theatrical and kindred subjects. He could not
perceive that the girl was either glad or sorry to have met him again;
but by degrees her mood brightened a little, and she exclaimed with
pleasure when the opening of the door caused an upward movement.

"You have been away," he said, when they were in their places, he at
one side of Eve, Patty on the other.

"Yes. At Dudley."

"Did you see Mrs. Brewer?"

"Several times. She hasn't got another lodger yet, and wishes you would
go back again. A most excellent character she gave you."

This sounded satirical.

"I deserved the best she could say of me," Hilliard answered.

Eve glanced at him, smiled doubtfully, and turned to talk with Patty
Ringrose. Through the evening there was no further mention of Dudley.
Eve could with difficulty be induced to converse at all, and when the
entertainment was over she pointedly took leave of him within the
theatre. But while shaking hands with Patty, he saw something in that
young lady's face which caused him to nod and smile.




CHAPTER IX


There came an afternoon early in July when Hilliard, tired with a long
ramble in search of old City churches - his architectural interests
never failed - sought rest and coolness in a Fleet Street tavern of
time-honoured name. It was long since he had yielded to any
extravagance; to-day his palate demanded wine, and with wine he solaced
it. When he went forth again into the roaring highway things glowed
before him in a mellow light: the sounds of Fleet Street made music to
his ears; he looked with joyous benignity into the faces of men and
women, and nowhere discovered a countenance inharmonious with his
gallant mood.

No longer weary, he strolled westward, content with the satisfactions
of each passing moment. "This," he said to himself, "is the joy of
life. Past and future are alike powerless over me; I live in the
glorious sunlight of this summer day, under the benediction of a
greathearted wine. Noble wine! Friend of the friendless, companion of
the solitary, lifter-up of hearts that are oppressed, inspirer of brave
thoughts in them that fail beneath the burden of being. Thanks to thee,
O priceless wine!"

A bookseller's window arrested him. There, open to the gaze of every
pedestrian, stood a volume of which the sight made him thrill with
rapture; a finely illustrated folio, a treatise on the Cathedrals of
France. Five guineas was the price it bore. A moment's lingering,
restrained by some ignoble spirit of thrift which the wine had not
utterly overcome, and he entered the shop. He purchased the volume. It
would have pleased him to carry it away, but in mere good-nature he
allowed the shopman's suggestion to prevail, and gave his address that
the great tome might be sent to him.

How cheap it was - five guineas for so much instant delight and such
boundless joy of anticipation!

On one of the benches in Trafalgar Square he sat for a long time
watching the fountains, and ever and anon letting them lead his eyes
upwards to the great snowy clouds that gleamed upon the profound blue.
Some ragged children were at play near him; he searched his pocket,
collected coppers and small silver, and with a friendly cry of "Holloa,
you ragamuffins!" scattered amazement and delight.

St. Martin's Church told him that the hour was turned of six. Then a
purpose that had hung vaguely in his mind like a golden mist took form
and substance. He set off to walk northward, came out into Holborn, and
loitered in the neighbourhood of a certain place of business, which of
late he had many times observed. It was not long that he had to wait.
Presently there came forth someone whom he knew, and with quick steps
he gained her side.

Eve Madeley perceived him without surprise.

"Yes," he said, "I am here again. If it's disagreeable to you, tell me,
and I will go my own way at once."

"I have no wish to send you away," she answered, with a smile of
self-possession. "But all the same, I think it would be wiser if you
did go."

"Ah, then, if you leave me to judge for myself - - ! You look tired this
evening. I have something to say to you; let us turn for a moment up
this byway."

"No, let us walk straight on."

"I beg of you! - Now you are kind. I am going to dine at a restaurant.
Usually, I eat my dinner at home - a bad dinner and a cheerless room. On
such an evening as this I can't go back and appease hunger in that
animal way. But when I sit down in the restaurant I shall be alone.
It's miserable to see the groups of people enjoying themselves all
round and to sit lonely. I can't tell you how long it is since I had a
meal in company. Will you come and dine with me?"

"I can't do that."

"Where's the impossibility?"

"I shouldn't like to do it."

"But would it be so very disagreeable to sit and talk? Or, I won't ask
you to talk; only to let me talk to you. Give me an hour or two of your
time - that's what I ask. It means so much to me, and to you, what does
it matter?"

Eve walked on in silence; his entreaties kept pace with her. At length
she stopped.

"It's all the same to me - if you wish it - - "

"Thank you a thousand times!"

They walked back into Holborn, and Hilliard, talking merely of trifles,
led the way to a great hall, where some scores of people were already
dining. He selected a nook which gave assurance of privacy, sketched to
the waiter a modest but carefully chosen repast, and from his seat on
the opposite side of the table laughed silently at Eve as she leaned
back on the plush cushions. In no way disconcerted by the show of
luxury about her, Eve seemed to be reflecting, not without enjoyment.

"You would rather be here than going home in the Camden Town 'bus?"

"Of course."

"That's what I like in you. You have courage to tell the truth. When
you said that you couldn't come, it was what you really thought Now
that you have learnt your mistake, you confess it."

"I couldn't have done it if I hadn't made up my mind that it was all
the same, whether I came or refused."

"All the same to you. Yes; I'm quite willing that you should think it
so. It puts me at my ease. I have nothing to reproach myself with. Ah,
but how good it is to sit here and talk!"

"Don't you know anyone else who would come with you? Haven't you made
any friends?"

"Not one. You and Miss Ringrose are the only persons I know in London."

"I can't understand why you live in that way."

"How should I make friends - among men? Why, it's harder than making
money - which I have never done yet, and never shall, I'm afraid."

Eve averted her eyes, and again seemed to meditate.

"I'll tell you," pursued the young man "how the money came to me that I
am living on now. It'll fill up the few moments while we are waiting."

He made of it an entertaining narrative, which he concluded just as the
soup was laid before them. Eve listened with frank curiosity, with an
amused smile. Then came a lull in the conversation. Hilliard began his
dinner with appetite and gusto; the girl, after a few sips, neglected
her soup and glanced about the neighboring tables.

"In my position," said Hilliard at length, "what would you have done?"

"It's a difficult thing to put myself in your position."

"Is it, really? Why, then, I will tell you something more of myself.
You say that Mrs. Brewer gave me an excellent character?"

"I certainly shouldn't have known you from her description."

Hilliard laughed.

"I seem to you so disreputable?"

"Not exactly that," replied Eve thoughtfully. "But you seem altogether
a different person from what you seemed to her."

"Yes, I can understand that. And it gives me an opportunity for saying
that you, Miss Madeley, are as different as possible from the idea I
formed of you when I heard Mrs. Brewer's description."

"She described me? I should so like to hear what she said."

The changing of plates imposed a brief silence. Hilliard drank a glass
of wine and saw that Eve just touched hers with her lips.

"You shall hear that - but not now. I want to enable you to judge me,
and if I let you know the facts while dinner goes on it won't be so
tiresome as if I began solemnly to tell you my life, as people do in
novels."

He erred, if anything, on the side of brevity, but in the succeeding
quarter of an hour Eve was able to gather from his careless talk, which
sedulously avoided the pathetic note, a fair notion of what his
existence had been from boyhood upward. It supplemented the account of
himself she had received from him when they met for the first time. As
he proceeded she grew more attentive, and occasionally allowed her eyes
to encounter his.

"There's only one other person who has heard all this from me," he said
at length. "That's a friend of mine at Birmingham - a man called
Narramore. When I got Dengate's money I went to Narramore, and I told
him what use I was going to make of it."

"That's what you haven't told me," remarked the listener.

"I will, now that you can understand me. I resolved to go right away
from all the sights and sounds that I hated, and to live a man's life,
for just as long as the money would last."

"What do you mean by a man's life?"

"Why, a life of enjoyment, instead of a life not worthy to be called
life at all. This is part of it, this evening. I have had enjoyable
hours since I left Dudley, but never yet one like this. And because I
owe it to you, I shall remember you with gratitude as long as I
remember anything at all."

"That's a mistake," said Eve. "You owe the enjoyment, whatever it is,
to your money, not to me."

"You prefer to look at it in that way. Be it so. I had a delightful
month in Paris, but I was driven back to England by loneliness. Now, if
_you_ had been there! If I could have seen you each evening for an hour
or two, had dinner with you at the restaurant, talked with you about
what I had seen in the day - but that would have been perfection, and I
have never hoped for more than moderate, average pleasure - such as
ordinary well-to-do men take as their right."

"What did you do in Paris?"

"Saw things I have longed to see any time the last fifteen years or so.
Learned to talk a little French. Got to feel a better educated man than
I was before."

"Didn't Dudley seem a long way off when you were there?" asked Eve half
absently.

"In another planet. - You thought once of going to Paris; Miss Ringrose
told me."

Eve knitted her brows, and made no answer.




CHAPTER X


When fruit had been set before them - and as he was peeling a banana:

"What a vast difference," said Hilliard, "between the life of people
who dine, and of those who don't! It isn't the mere pleasure of eating,
the quality of the food - though that must have a great influence on
mind and character. But to sit for an hour or two each evening in
quiet, orderly enjoyment, with graceful things about one, talking of
whatever is pleasant - how it civilises! Until three months ago I never
dined in my life, and I know well what a change it has made in me."

"I never dined till this evening," said Eve.

"Never? This is the first time you have been at a restaurant?"

"For dinner - yes."

Hilliard heard the avowal with surprise and delight. After all, there
could not have been much intimacy between her and the man she met at
the Exhibition.

"When I go back to slavery," he continued, "I shall bear it more
philosophically. It was making me a brute, but I think there'll be no
more danger of that. The memory of civilisation will abide with me. I
shall remind myself that I was once a free man, and that will support
me."

Eve regarded him with curiosity.

"Is there no choice?" she asked. "While you have money, couldn't you
find some better way of earning a living?"

"I have given it a thought now and then, but it's very doubtful.
There's only one thing at which I might have done well, and that's
architecture. From studying it just for my own pleasure, I believe I
know more about architecture than most men who are not in the
profession; but it would take a long time before I could earn money by
it. I could prepare myself to be an architectural draughtsman, no
doubt, and might do as well that way as drawing machinery. But - - "

"Then why don't you go to work! It would save you from living in
hideous places."

"After all, does it matter much? If I had anything else to gain.
Suppose I had any hope of marriage, for instance - - "

He said it playfully. Eve turned her eyes away, but gave no other sign
of self-consciousness.

"I have no such hope. I have seen too much of marriage in poverty."

"So have I," said his companion, with quiet emphasis.

"And when a man's absolutely sure that he will never have an income of
more than a hundred and fifty pounds - - "

"It's a crime if he asks a woman to share it," Eve added coldly.

"I agree with you. It's well to understand each other on that
point. - Talking of architecture, I bought a grand book this afternoon."

He described the purchase, and mentioned what it cost.

"But at that rate," said Eve, "your days of slavery will come again
very soon."

"Oh! it's so rarely that I spend a large sum. On most days I satisfy
myself with the feeling of freedom, and live as poorly as ever I did.
Still, don't suppose that I am bent on making my money last a very long
time. I can imagine myself spending it all in a week or two, and
feeling I had its worth. The only question is, how can I get most
enjoyment? The very best of a lifetime may come within a single day.
Indeed, I believe it very often does."

"I doubt that - at least, I know that it couldn't be so with me."

"Well, what do you aim at?" Hilliard asked disinterestedly.

"Safety," was the prompt reply.

"Safety? From what?"

"From years of struggle to keep myself alive, and a miserable old age."

"Then you might have said - a safety-match."

The jest, and its unexpectedness, struck sudden laughter from Eve.
Hilliard joined in her mirth.

After that she suggested, "Hadn't we better go?"

"Yes. Let us walk quietly on. The streets are pleasant after sunset."

On rising, after he had paid the bill, Hilliard chanced to see himself
in a mirror. He had flushed cheeks, and his hair was somewhat
disorderly. In contrast with Eve's colourless composure, his appearance
was decidedly bacchanalian; but the thought merely amused him.

They crossed Holborn, and took their way up Southampton Row, neither
speaking until they were within sight of Russell Square.

"I like this part of London," said Hilliard at length, pointing before
him. "I often walk about the squares late at night. It's quiet, and the
trees make the air taste fresh."

"I did the same, sometimes, when I lived in Gower Place."

"Doesn't it strike you that we are rather like each other in some
things?"

"Oh, yes!" Eve replied frankly. "I have noticed that."

"You have? Even in the lives we have led there's a sort of resemblance,
isn't there?"

"Yes, I see now that there is."

In Russell Square they turned from the pavement, and walked along the
edge of the enclosure.

"I wish Patty had been with us," said Eve all at once. "She would have
enjoyed it so thoroughly."

"To be sure she would. Well, we can dine again, and have Patty with us.
But, after all, dining in London can't be quite what it is in Paris. I
wish you hadn't gone back to work again. Do you know what I should have
proposed?"

She glanced inquiringly at him.

"Why shouldn't we all have gone to Paris for a holiday? You and Patty
could have lived together, and I should have seen you every day."

Eve laughed.

"Why not? Patty and I have both so much more money than we know what to
do with," she answered.

"Money? Oh, what of that! I have money."

She laughed again.

Hilliard was startled.

"You are talking rather wildly. Leaving myself out of the question,
what would Mr. Dally say to such a proposal?"

"Who's Mr. Dally?"

"Don't you know? Hasn't Patty told you that she is engaged?"

"Ah! No; she hasn't spoken of it. But I think I must have seen him at
the music-shop one day. Is she likely to marry him?"

"It isn't the wisest thing she could do, but that may be the end of it.
He's in an auctioneer's office, and may have a pretty good income some
day."

A long silence followed. They passed out of Russell into Woburn Square.
Night was now darkening the latest tints of the sky, and the lamps
shone golden against dusty green. At one of the houses in the narrow
square festivities were toward; carriages drew up before the entrance,
from which a red carpet was laid down across the pavement; within
sounded music.

"Does this kind of thing excite any ambition in you?" Hilliard asked,
coming to a pause a few yards away from the carriage which was
discharging its occupants.

"Yes, I suppose it does. At all events, it makes me feel discontented."

"I have settled all that with myself. I am content to look on as if it
were a play. Those people have an idea of life quite different from
mine. I shouldn't enjoy myself among them. You, perhaps, would."

"I might," Eve replied absently. And she turned away to the other side
of the square.

"By-the-bye, you _have_ a friend in Paris. Do you ever hear from her?"

"She wrote once or twice after she went back; but it has come to an
end."

"Still, you might find her again, if you were there."

Eve delayed her reply a little, then spoke impatiently.

"What is the use of setting my thoughts upon such things? Day after day
I try to forget what I most wish for. Talk about yourself, and I will
listen with pleasure; but never talk about me."

"It's very hard to lay that rule upon me. I want to hear you speak of
yourself. As yet, I hardly know you, and I never shall unless you - - "

"Why should you know me?" she interrupted, in a voice of irritation.

"Only because I wish it more than anything else, I have wished it from
the day when I first saw your portrait."

"Oh! that wretched portrait! I should be sorry if I thought it was at
all like me."

"It is both like and unlike," said Hilliard. "What I see of it in your
face is the part of you that most pleases me."

"And that isn't my real self at all."

"Perhaps not. And yet, perhaps, you are mistaken. That is what I want
to learn. From the portrait, I formed an idea of you. When I met you,
it seemed to me that I was hopelessly astray; yet now I don't feel sure
of it."

"You would like to know what has changed me from the kind of girl I was
at Dudley?"

"_Are_ you changed?"

"In some ways, no doubt. You, at all events, seem to think so."

"I can wait. You will tell me all about it some day."

"You mustn't take that for granted. We have made friends in a sort of
way just because we happened to come from the same place, and know the
same people. But - - "

He waited.

"Well, I was going to say that there's no use in our thinking much
about each other."

"I don't ask you to think of me. But I shall think a great deal about
you for long enough to come."

"That's what I want to prevent."

"Why?"

"Because, in the end, it might be troublesome to me."

Hilliard kept silence awhile, then laughed. When he spoke again, it was
of things indifferent natures.




CHAPTER XI


Laziest of men and worst of correspondents, Robert Narramore had as yet
sent no reply to the letters in which Hilliard acquainted him with his
adventures in London and abroad; but at the end of July he vouchsafed a
perfunctory scrawl. "Too bad not to write before, but I've been floored
every evening after business in this furious heat. You may like to hear
that my uncle's property didn't make a bad show. I have come in for a
round five thousand, and am putting it into brass bedsteads. Sha'n't be
able to get away until the end of August. May see you then." Hilliard
mused enviously on the brass bedstead business.

On looking in at the Camden Town music-shop about this time he found
Patty Ringrose flurried and vexed by an event which disturbed her
prospects. Her uncle the shopkeeper, a widower of about fifty, had
announced his intention of marrying again, and, worse still, of giving
up his business.

"It's the landlady of the public-house where he goes to play
billiards," said Patty with scornful mirth; "a great fat woman! Oh! And
he's going to turn publican. And my aunt and me will have to look out
for ourselves."

This aunt was the shopkeeper's maiden sister who had hitherto kept
house for him. "She had been promised an allowance," said Patty, "but a
very mean one."

"I don't care much for myself," the girl went on; "there's plenty of
shops where I can get an engagement, but of course it won't be the same
as here, which has been home for me ever since I was a child. There!
the things that men will do! I've told him plain to his face that he
ought to be ashamed of himself, and so has aunt. And he _is_ ashamed,
what's more. Don't you call it disgusting, such a marriage as that?"

Hilliard avoided the delicate question.

"I shouldn't wonder if it hastens another marriage," he said with a
smile.

"I know what you mean, but the chances are that marriage won't come off
at all. I'm getting tired of men; they're so selfish and unreasonable.
Of course I don't mean you, Mr. Hilliard, but - oh! you know what I
mean."

"Mr. Dally has fallen under your displeasure?"

"Please don't talk about him. If he thinks he's going to lay down the
law to me he'll find his mistake; and it's better he should find it out
before it's too late."

They were interrupted by the entrance of Patty's amorous uncle, who
returned from his billiards earlier than usual to-day. He scowled at
the stranger, but passed into the house without speaking. Hilliard
spoke a hurried word or two about Eve and went his way.

Something less than a week after this he chanced to be away from home
throughout the whole day, and on returning he was surprised to see a
telegram upon his table. It came from Patty Ringrose, and asked him to
call at the shop without fail between one and two that day. The hour
was now nearly ten; the despatch had arrived at eleven in the morning.

Without a minute's delay he ran out in search of a cab, and was driven
to High Street. Here, of course, he found the shop closed, but it was
much too early for the household to have retired to rest; risking an
indiscretion, he was about to ring the house bell when the door opened,
and Patty showed herself.

"Oh, is it _you_, Mr. Hilliard!" she exclaimed, in a flurried voice. "I
heard the cab stop, and I thought it might be - - You'd better come
in - quick!"

He followed her along the passage and into the shop, where one gas-jet
was burning low.

"Listen!" she resumed, whispering hurriedly. "If Eve comes - she'll let
herself in with the latchkey - you must stand quiet here. I shall turn
out the gas, and I'll let you out after she's gone upstairs? Couldn't
you come before?"

Hilliard explained, and begged her to tell him what was the matter. But
Patty kept him in suspense.

"Uncle won't be in till after twelve, so there's no fear. Aunt has gone
to bed - she's upset with quarrelling about this marriage. Mind! You
won't stir if Eve comes in. Don't talk loud; I must keep listening for
the door."

"But what is it? Where is Eve?"

"I don't know. She didn't come home till very late last night, and I
don't know where she was. You remember what you asked me to promise?"

"To let me know if you were anxious about her."

"Yes, and I am. She's in danger I only hope - - "

"What?"

"I don't like to tell you all I know. It doesn't seem right. But I'm so
afraid for Eve."

"I can only imagine one kind of danger - - "

"Yes - of course, it's that - you know what I mean. But there's more than
you could fancy."

"Tell me, then, what has alarmed you?"


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