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"When did you see her last?" Patty inquired.

"More than a week ago. Two or three days before I came here."

"Had you noticed anything?"

"Nothing unusual."

"No more did I, till last Monday night. Then I saw that something was
wrong. Hush!"

She gripped his arm, and they listened. But no sound could be heard.

"And since then," Patty pursued, with tremulous eagerness, "she's been
very queer. I know she doesn't sleep at night, and she's getting ill,
and she's had letters from - someone she oughtn't to have anything to do
with."

"Having told so much, you had better tell me all," said Hilliard
impatiently. There was a cold sweat on his forehead, and his heart beat
painfully.

"No. I can't. I can only give you a warning."

"But what's the use of that? What can I do? How can I interfere?"

"I don't know," replied the girl, with a helpless sigh. "She's in
danger, that's all I call tell you."

"Patty, don't be a fool! Out with it! Who is the man? Is it some one
you know?"

"I don't exactly know him I've seen him."

"Is he - a sort of gentleman?"

"Oh, yes, he's a gentleman. And you'd never think to look at him that
he could do anything that wasn't right."

"Very well. What reason have you for supposing that he's doing wrong?"

Patty kept silence. A band of rowdy fellows just then came shouting
along the street, and one of them crashed up against the shop door,
making Patty jump and scream. Oaths and foul language followed; and
then the uproar passed away.

"Look here," said Hilliard. "You'll drive me out of my senses. Eve is
in love with this man, is she?"

"I'm afraid so. She was."

"Before she went away, you mean. And, of course, her going away had
something to do with it?"

"Yes, it had."

Hilliard laid his hands on the girl's shoulders.

"You've got to tell me the plain truth, and be quick about it. I
suppose you haven't any idea of the torments I'm suffering. I shall
begin to think you're making a fool of me, and that there's nothing
but - though that's bad enough for me."

"Very well, I'll tell you. She went away because it came out that the
man was married."

"Oh, that's it?" He spoke from a dry throat. "She told you herself?"

"Yes, not long after she came back. She said, of course, she could have
no more to do with him. She used to meet him pretty often - - "

"Stay, how did she get to know him first?"

"Just by chance - somewhere."

"I understand," said Hilliard grimly. "Go on."

"And his wife got someone to spy on him, and they found out he was
meeting Eve, and she jumped out on them when they were walking
somewhere together, and told Eve everything. He wasn't living with his
wife, and hasn't been for a long time."

"What's his position?"

"He's in business, and seems to have lots of money; but I don't exactly
know what it is he does."

"You are afraid, then, that Eve is being drawn back to him?"

"I feel sure she is - and it's dreadful."

"What I should like to know," said Hilliard, harshly, "is whether she
really cares for him, or only for his money."

"Oh! How horrid you are! I never thought you could say such a thing!"

"Perhaps you didn't. All the same, it's a question. I don't pretend to
understand Eve Madeley, and I'm afraid you are just as far from knowing
her."

"I don't know her? Why, what are you talking about, Mr. Hilliard?"

"What do you think of her, then? Is she a good-hearted girl or - - "

"Or what? Of course she's good-hearted. The things that men do say!
They seem to be all alike."

"Women are so far from being all alike that one may think she
understands another, and be utterly deceived. Eve has shown her best
side to you, no doubt. With me, she hasn't taken any trouble to do so.
And if - - "

"Hush!"

This time the alarm was justified. A latchkey rattled at the
house-door, the door opened, and in the same moment Patty turned out
the light.

"It's my uncle," she whispered, terror-stricken. "Don't stir."




CHAPTER XII


A heavy footstep sounded in the passage, and Hilliard, to whose
emotions was now added a sense of ludicrous indignity, heard talk
between Patty and her uncle.

"You mustn't lock up yet," said the girl, "Eve is out."

"What's she doing?"

"I don't know. At the theatre with friends, I dare say."

"If we'd been staying on here, that young woman would have had to look
out for another lodging. There's something I don't like about her, and
if you take my advice, Patty, you'll shake her off. She'll do you no
good, my girl."

They passed together into the room behind the shop, and though their
voices were still audible, Hilliard could no longer follow the
conversation. He stood motionless, just where Patty had left him, with
a hand resting on the top of the piano, and it seemed to him that at
least half an hour went by. Then a sound close by made him start; it
was the snapping of a violin string; the note reverberated through the
silent shop. But by this time the murmur of conversation had ceased,
and Hilliard hoped that Patty's uncle had gone upstairs to bed.

As proved to be the case. Presently the door opened, and a voice called
to him in a whisper. He obeyed the summons, and, not without stumbling,
followed Patty into the open air.

"She hasn't come yet."

"What's the time?"

"Half-past eleven. I shall sit up for her. Did you hear what my uncle
said? You mustn't think anything of that; he's always finding fault
with people."

"Do you think she will come at all?" asked Hilliard.

"Oh, of course she will!"

"I shall wait about. Don't stand here. Good-night."

"You won't let her know what I've told you?" said Patty, retaining his
hand.

"No, I won't. If she doesn't come back at all, I'll see you to-morrow."

He moved away, and the door closed.

Many people were still passing along the street. In his uncertainty as
to the direction by which Eve would return - if return she did - Hilliard
ventured only a few yards away. He had waited for about a quarter of an
hour, when his eye distinguished a well-known figure quickly
approaching. He hurried forward, and Eve stopped before he had quite
come up to her.

"Where have you been to-night?" were his first words, sounding more
roughly than he in tended.

"I wanted to see you, I passed your lodgings and saw there was no light
in the windows, else I should have asked for you."

She spoke in so strange a voice, with such show of agitation, that
Hilliard stood gazing at her till she again broke silence,

"Have you been waiting here for me?"

"Yes. Patty told me you weren't back."

"Why did you come?"

"Why do I ever come to meet you?"

"We can't talk here," said Eve, turning away. "Come into a quieter
place."

They walked in silence to the foot of High Street, and there turned
aside into the shadowed solitude of Mornington Crescent. Eve checked
her steps and said abruptly -

"I want to ask you for something."

"What is it?"

"Now that it comes to saying it, I - I'm afraid. And yet if I had asked
you that evening when we were at the restaurant - - "

"What is it?" Hilliard repeated gruffly.

"That isn't your usual way of speaking to me."

"Will you tell me where you have been tonight?"

"Nowhere - walking about - - "

"Do you often walk about the streets till midnight?"

"Indeed I don't."

The reply surprised him by its humility. Her voice all but broke on the
words. As well as the dim light would allow, he searched her face, and
it seemed to him that her eyes had a redness, as if from shedding tears.

"You haven't been alone?"

"No - I've been with a friend."

"Well, I have no claim upon you. It's nothing to me what friends you go
about with. What were you going to ask of me?"

"You have changed so all at once. I thought you would never talk in
this way."

"I didn't mean to," said Hilliard. "I have lost control of myself,
that's all. But you can say whatever you meant to say - just as you
would have done at the restaurant. I'm the same man I was then."

Eve moved a few steps, but he did not follow her, and she returned. A
policeman passing threw a glance at them.

"It's no use asking what I meant to ask," she said, with her eyes on
the ground. "You won't grant it me."

"How can I say till I know what it is? There are not many things in my
power that I wouldn't do for you."

"I was going to ask for money."

"Money? Why, it depends what you are going to do with it. If it will do
you any good, all the money I have is yours, as you know well enough.
But I must understand why you want it."

"I can't tell you that. I don't want you to give me money - only to lend
it. You shall have it back again, though I can't promise the exact
time. If you hadn't changed so, I should have found it easy enough to
ask. Hut I don't know you to-night; it's like talking to a stranger.
What has happened to make you so different?"

"I have been waiting a long time for you, that's all," Hilliard
replied, endeavouring to use the tone of frank friendliness in which he
had been wont to address her. "I got nervous and irritable. I felt
uneasy about you. It's all right now: Let us walk on a little. You want
money. Well, I have three hundred pounds and more. Call it mine, call
it yours. But I must know that you're not going to do anything foolish.
Of course, you don't tell me everything; I have no right to expect it.
You haven't misled me; I knew from the first that - well, a girl of your
age, and with your face, doesn't live alone in London without
adventures. I shouldn't think of telling you all mine, and I don't ask
to know yours - unless I begin to have a part in them. There's something
wrong: of course, I can see that. I think you've been crying, and you
don't shed tears for a trifle. Now you come and ask me for money. If it
will do you good, take all you want. But I've an uncomfortable
suspicion that harm may come of it."

"Why not treat me just like a man-friend? I'm old enough to take care
of myself."

"You think so, but I know better. Wait a moment. How much money do you
want?"

"Thirty-five pounds."

"Exactly thirty-five? And it isn't for your own use?"

"I can't tell you any more. I am in very great need of the money, and
if you will lend it me I shall feel very grateful."

"I want no gratitude, I want nothing from you, Eve, except what you
can't give me. I can imagine a man in my position giving you money in
the hope that it might be your ruin just to see you brought down,
humiliated. There's so much of the brute in us all. But I don't feel
that desire."

"Why should you?" she asked, with a change to coldness. "What harm have
I done you?"

"No harm at all, and perhaps a great deal of good. I say that I wish
you nothing but well. Suppose a gift of all the money I have would
smooth your whole life before you, and make you the happy wife of some
other man. I would give it you gladly. That kind of thing has often
been said, when it meant nothing: it isn't so with me. It has always
been more pleasure to me to give than to receive. No merit of mine; I
have it from my father. Make clear to me that you are to benefit by
this money, and you shall have the cheque as soon as you please."

"I shall benefit by it, because it will relieve me from a dreadful
anxiety."

"Or, in other words, will relieve someone else?"

"I can speak only of myself. The kindness will be done to me."

"I must know more than that. Come now, we assume that there's someone
in the background. A friend of yours, let us say. I can't Imagine why
this friend of yours wants money, but so it is. You don't contradict
me?"

Eve remained mute, her head bent.

"What about your friend and you in the future? Are you bound to this
friend in any irredeemable way?"

"No - I am not," she answered, with emotion.

"There's nothing between you but - let us call it mere friendship."

"Nothing - nothing!"

"So far, so good." He looked keenly into her face. "But how about the
future?"

"There will never be anything more - there can't be."

"Let us say that you think so at present. Perhaps I don't feel quite so
sure of it. I say again, it's nothing to me, unless I get drawn into it
by you yourself. I am not your guardian. If I tell you to be careful,
it's an impertinence. But the money; that's another affair. I won't
help you to misery."

"You will be helping me _out_ of misery!" Eve exclaimed.

"Yes, for the present. I will make a bargain with you."

She looked at him with startled eyes.

"You shall have your thirty-five pounds on condition that you go to
live, for as long as I choose, in Paris. You are to leave London in a
day or two. Patty shall go with you; her uncle doesn't want her, and
she seems to have quarrelled with the man she was engaged to. The
expenses are my affair. I shall go to Paris myself, and be there while
you are, but you need see no more of me than you like. Those are the
terms."

"I can't think you are serious," said Eve.

"Then I'll explain why I wish you to do this. I've thought about you a
great deal; in fact, since we first met, my chief occupation has been
thinking about you. And I have come to the conclusion that you are
suffering from an illness, the result of years of hardship and misery.
We have agreed, you remember, that there are a good many points of
resemblance between your life and mine, and perhaps between your
character and mine. Now I myself, when I escaped from Dudley, was
thoroughly ill - body and soul. The only hope for me was a complete
change of circumstances - to throw off the weight of my past life, and
learn the meaning of repose, satisfaction, enjoyment. I prescribe the
same for you. I am your physician; I undertake your cure. If you refuse
to let me, there's an end of everything between us; I shall say
good-bye to you tonight, and to-morrow set off for some foreign
country."

"How can I leave my work at a moment's notice?"

"The devil take your work - for he alone is the originator of such
accursed toil!"

"How can I live at your expense?"

"That's a paltry obstacle. Oh, if you are too proud, say so, and
there's an end of it. You know me well enough to feel the absolute
truth of what I say, when I assure you that you will remain just as
independent of me as you ever were. I shall be spending my money in a
way that gives me pleasure; the matter will never appear to me in any
other light. Why, call it an additional loan, if it will give any
satisfaction to you. You are to pay me back some time. Here in London
you perish; across the Channel there, health of body and mind is
awaiting you; and are we to talk about money? I shall begin to swear
like a trooper; the thing is too preposterous."

Eve said nothing: she stood half turned from him.

"Of course," he pursued, "you may object to leave London. Perhaps the
sacrifice is too great. In that case, I should only do right if I
carried you off by main force; but I'm afraid it can't be; I must leave
you to perish."

"I am quite willing to go away," said Eve in a low voice. "But the
shame of it - to be supported by you."

"Why, you don't hate me?"

"You know I do not."

"You even have a certain liking for me. I amuse you; you think me an
odd sort of fellow, perhaps with more good than bad in me. At all
events, you can trust me?"

"I can trust you perfectly."

"And it ain't as if I wished you to go alone. Patty will be off her
head with delight when the thing is proposed to her."

"But how can I explain to her?"

"Don't attempt to. Leave her curiosity a good hard nut to crack. Simply
say you are off to Paris, and that if she'll go with you, you will bear
all her expenses."

"It's so difficult to believe that you are in earnest."

"You must somehow bring yourself to believe it. There will be a cheque
ready for you to-morrow morning, to take or refuse. If you take it, you
are bound in honour to leave England not later than - we'll say
Thursday. That you are to be trusted, I believe, just as firmly as you
believe it of me."

"I can't decide to-night."

"I can give you only till to-morrow morning. If I don't hear from you
by midday, I am gone."

"You shall hear from me - one way or the other."

"Then don't wait here any longer. It's after midnight, and Patty will
be alarmed about you. No, we won't shake hands; not that till we strike
a bargain."

Eve seemed about to walk away, but she hesitated and turned again.

"I will do as you wish - I will go."

"Excellent! Then speak of it to Patty as soon as possible, and tell me
what she says when we meet to-morrow - where and when you like."

"In this same place, at nine o'clock."

"So be it. I will bring the cheque."

"But I must be able to cash it at once."

"So you can. It will be on a London bank. I'll get the cash myself if
you like."

Then they shook hands and went in opposite directions.




CHAPTER XIII


On the evening of the next day, just after he had lit his lamp,
Hilliard's attention was drawn by a sound as of someone tapping at the
window. He stood to listen, and the sound was repeated - an unmistakable
tap of fingers on the glass. In a moment he was out in the street,
where he discovered Patty Ringrose.

"Why didn't you come to see me?" she asked excitedly.

"I was afraid _she_ might be there. Did she go to business, as usual?"

"Yes. At least I suppose so. She only got home at the usual time. I've
left her there: I was bound to see you. Do you know what she told me
last night when she came in?"

"I dare say I could guess."

Hilliard began to walk down the street. Patty, keeping close at his
side, regarded him with glances of wonder.

"Is it true that we're going to Paris? I couldn't make out whether she
meant it, and this morning I couldn't get a word from her."

"Are you willing to go with her?"

"And have all my expenses paid?"

"Of course."

"I should think I am! But I daren't let my uncle and aunt know; there'd
be no end of bother. I shall have to make up some sort of tale to
satisfy my aunt, and get my things sent to the station while uncle's
playing billiards. How long is it for?"

"Impossible to say. Three months - half a year - I don't know. What about
Mr. Daily?"

"Oh, I've done with _him_!"

"And you are perfectly sure that you can get employment whenever you
need it?"

"Quite sure: no need to trouble about that. I'm very good friends with
aunt, and she'll take me in for as long as I want when I come back. But
it's easy enough for anybody like me to get a place. I've had two or
three offers the last half-year, from good shops where they were losing
their young ladies. We're always getting married, in our business, and
places have to be filled up."

"That settles it, then."

"But I want to know - I can't make it out - Eve won't tell me how she's
managing to go. Are _you_ going to pay for her?"

"We won't talk of that, Patty. She's going; that's enough."

"You persuaded her, last night?"

"Yes, I persuaded her. And I am to hear by the first post in the
morning whether she will go to-morrow or Thursday. She'll arrange
things with you to-night, I should think."

"It didn't look like it. She's shut herself in her room."

"I can understand that. She is ill. That's why I'm getting her away
from London. Wait till we've been in Paris a few weeks, and you'll see
how she changes. At present she is downright ill - ill enough to go to
bed and be nursed, if that would do any good. It's your part to look
after her. I don't want you to be her servant."

"Oh, I don't mind doing anything for her."

"No, because you are a very good sort of girl. You 'Ii live at a hotel,
and what you have to do is to make her enjoy herself. I shouldn't
wonder if you find it difficult at first, but we shall get her round
before long."

"I never thought there was anything the' matter with her."

"Perhaps not, but I understand her better. Of course you won't say a
word of this to her. You take it as a holiday - as good fun. No doubt I
shall be able to have a few words in private with you now and then. But
at other times we must talk as if nothing special had passed between
us."

Patty mused. The lightness of her step told in what a spirit of gaiety
she looked forward to the expedition.

"Do you think," she asked presently, "that it'll all come to an
end - what I told you of?"

"Yes, I think so."

"You didn't let her know that I'd been talking - - "

"Of course not. And, as I don't want her to know that you've seen me
to-night, you had better stay no longer. She's sure to have something
to tell you to-night or to-morrow morning. Get your packing done, and
be ready at any moment. When I hear from Eve in the morning, I shall
send her a telegram. Most likely we sha'n't see each other again until
we meet at Charing Cross. I hope it may be tomorrow; but Thursday is
the latest."

So Patty took her departure, tripping briskly homeward. As for
Hilliard, he returned to his sitting-room, and was busy for some time
with the pencilling of computations in English and French money.
Towards midnight, he walked as far as High Street, and looked at the
windows above the music-shop. All was dark.

He rose very early next morning, and as post-time drew near he walked
about the street in agonies of suspense. He watched the letter-carrier
from house to house, followed him up, and saw him pass the number at
which he felt assured that he would deliver a letter. In frenzy of
disappointment a fierce oath burst from his lips.

"That's what comes of trusting a woman! - she is going to cheat me. She
has gained her end, and will put me off with excuses."

But perhaps a telegram would come. He made a pretence of breakfasting,
and paced his room for an hour like a caged animal. When the monotony
of circulating movement had all but stupefied him, he was awakened by a
double postman's knock at the front door, the signal that announces a
telegram.

Again from Patty, and again a request that he would come to the shop at
mid-day.

"Just as I foresaw - excuses - postponement. What woman ever had the
sense of honour!"

To get through the morning he drank - an occupation suggested by the
heat of the day, which blazed cloudless. The liquor did not cheer him,
but inspired a sullen courage, a reckless resolve. And in this frame of
mind he presented himself before Patty Ringrose.

"She can't go to-day," said Patty, with an air of concern. "You were
quite right - she is really ill."

"Has she gone out?"

"No, she's upstairs, lying on the bed. She says she has a dreadful
headache, and if you saw her you'd believe it. She looks shocking. It's
the second night she hasn't closed her eyes."

A savage jealousy was burning Hilliard's vitals. He had tried to make
light of the connection between Eve and that unknown man, even after
her extraordinary request for money, which all but confessedly she
wanted on his account. He had blurred the significance of such a
situation, persuading himself that neither was Eve capable of a great
passion, nor the man he had seen able to inspire one. Now he rushed to
the conviction that Eve had fooled him with a falsehood.

"Tell her this." He glared at Patty with eyes which made the girl
shrink in alarm. "If she isn't at Charing Cross Station by a quarter to
eleven to-morrow, there's an end of it. I shall be there, and shall go
on without her. It's her only chance."

"But if she really _can't_ - - "

"Then it's her misfortune - she must suffer for it. She goes to-morrow
or not at all. Can you make her understand that?"

"I'll tell her."

"Listen, Patty. If you bring her safe to the station to-morrow you
shall have a ten-pound note, to buy what you like in Paris."

The girl reddened, half in delight, half in shame.

"I don't want it - she shall come - - "

"Very well; good-bye till to-morrow, or for good."

"No, no; she shall come."

He was drenched in perspiration, yet walked for a mile or two at his
topmost speed. Then a consuming thirst drove him into the nearest place
where drink was sold. At six o'clock he remembered that he had not
eaten since breakfast; he dined extravagantly, and afterwards fell
asleep in the smoking-room of the restaurant. A waiter with difficulty
aroused him, and persuaded him to try the effect of the evening air. An
hour later he sank in exhaustion on one of the benches near the river,
and there slept profoundly until stirred by a policeman.

"What's the time?" was his inquiry, as he looked up at the starry sky.

He felt for his watch, but no watch was discoverable. Together with the
gold chain it had disappeared.

"Damnation! someone has robbed me."

The policeman was sympathetic, but reproachful.

"Why do you go to sleep on the Embankment at this time of night? Lost


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