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of the Boulevard St. Michel. Eve came alone.

"And where's Patty?" he asked, grasping her hand heartily in return for
the smile of unfeigned pleasure with which she welcomed him.

"Ah, where indeed? Getting near to Charing Cross by now, I think."

"She has gone back?"

"Went this very morning, before I had your card - let us get out of the
way of people. She has been dreadfully home-sick. About a fortnight ago
a mysterious letter came for her she hid it away from me. A few days
after another came, and she shut herself up for a long time, and when
she came out again I saw she had been crying. Then we talked it over.
She had written to Mr. Dally and got an answer that made her miserable;
that was the _first_ letter. She wrote again, and had a reply that made
her still more wretched; and that was the _second_. Two or three more
came, and yesterday she could bear it no longer."

"Then she has gone home to make it up with him?"

"Of course. He declared that she has utterly lost her character and
that no honest man could have anything more to say to her! I shouldn't
wonder if they are married in a few weeks' time."

Hilliard laughed light-heartedly.

"I was to beg you on my knees to forgive her," pursued Eve. "But I
can't very well do that in the middle of the street, can I? Really, she
thinks she has behaved disgracefully to you. She wouldn't write a
letter - she was ashamed. 'Tell him to forget all about me!' she kept
saying."

"Good little girl! And what sort of a husband will this fellow Dally
make her?"

"No worse than husbands in general, I dare say - but how well you look!
How you must have been enjoying yourself!"

"I can say exactly the same about you!"

"Oh, but you are sunburnt, and look quite a different man!"

"And you have an exquisite colour in your cheeks, and eyes twice as
bright as they used to be; and one would think you had never known a
care."

"I feel almost like that," said Eve, laughing.

He tried to meet her eyes; she eluded him.

"I have an Alpine hunger; where shall we dine?"

The point called for no long discussion, and presently they were seated
in the cool restaurant. Whilst he nibbled an olive, Hilliard ran over
the story of his Swiss tour.

"If only _you_ had been there! It was the one thing lacking."

"You wouldn't have enjoyed yourself half so much. You amused me by your
description of Mr. Narramore, in the letter from Geneva."

"The laziest rascal born! But the best-tempered, the easiest to live
with. A thoroughly good fellow; I like him better than ever. Of course
he is improved by coming in for money - who wouldn't be, that has any
good in him at all? But it amazes me that he can be content to go back
to Birmingham and his brass bedsteads. Sheer lack of energy, I suppose.
He'll grow dreadfully fat, I fear, and by when he becomes really a rich
man - it's awful to think of."

Eve asked many questions about Narramore; his image gave mirthful
occupation to her fancy. The dinner went merrily on, and when the black
coffee was set before them:

"Why not have it outside?" said Eve. "You would like to smoke, I know."

Hilliard assented, and they seated themselves under the awning. The
boulevard glowed in a golden light of sunset; the sound of its traffic
was subdued to a lulling rhythm.

"There's a month yet before the leaves will begin to fall," murmured
the young man, when he had smoked awhile in silence.

"Yes," was the answer. "I shall be glad to have a little summer still
in Birmingham."

"Do you wish to go?"

"I shall go to-morrow, or the day after," Eve replied quietly.

Then again there came silence.

"Something has been proposed to me," said Hilliard, at length, leaning
forward with his elbows upon the table. "I mentioned that our friend
Birching is an architect. He's in partnership with his brother, a much
older man. Well, they nave offered to take me into their office if I
pay a premium of fifty guineas. As soon as I can qualify myself to be
of use to them, they'll give me a salary. And I shall have the chance
of eventually doing much better than I ever could at the old grind,
where, in fact, I had no prospect whatever."

"That's very good news," Eve remarked, gazing across the street.

"You think I ought to accept?"

"I suppose you can pay the fifty guineas, and still leave yourself
enough to live upon?"

"Enough till I earn something," Hilliard answered with a smile.

"Then I should think there's no doubt."

"The question is this - are you perfectly willing to go back to
Birmingham?"

"I'm _anxious_ to go."

"You feel quite restored to health?"

"I was never so well in my life."

Hilliard looked into her face, and could easily believe that she spoke
the truth. His memory would no longer recall the photograph in Mrs.
Brewer's album; the living Eve, with her progressive changes of
countenance, had obliterated that pale image of her bygone self. He saw
her now as a beautiful woman, mysterious to him still in many respects,
yet familiar as though they had been friends for years.

"Then, whatever life is before me," he said. "I shall have done _one_
thing that is worth doing."

"Perhaps - if everyone's life is worth saving," Eve answered in a voice
just audible.

"Everyone's is not; but yours was."

Two men who had been sitting not far from them rose and walked away. As
if more at her ease for this secession, Eve looked at her companion,
and said in a tone of intimacy:

"How I must have puzzled you when you first saw me in London!"

He answered softly:

"To be sure you did. And the thought of it puzzles me still."

"Oh, but can't you understand? No; of course you can't - I have told you
so little. Just give me an idea of what sort of person you expected to
find."

"Yes, I will. Judging from your portrait, and from what I was told of
you, I looked for a sad, solitary, hard-working girl - rather poorly
dressed - taking no pleasure - going much to chapel - shrinking from the
ordinary world."

"And you felt disappointed?"

"At first, yes; or, rather, bewildered - utterly unable to understand
you."

"You are disappointed still?" she asked.

"I wouldn't have you anything but what you are."

"Still, that other girl was the one you _wished_ to meet."

"Yes, before I had seen you. It was the sort of resemblance between her
life and my own. I thought of sympathy between us. And the face of the
portrait - but I see better things in the face that is looking at me
now."

"Don't be quite sure of that - yes, perhaps. It's better to be healthy,
and enjoy life, than broken-spirited and hopeless. The strange thing is
that you were right - you fancied me just the kind of a girl I was: sad
and solitary, and shrinking from people - true enough. And I went to
chapel, and got comfort from it - as I hope to do again. Don't think
that I have no religion. But I was so unhealthy, and suffered so in
every way. Work and anxiety without cease, from when I was twelve years
old. You know all about my father? If I hadn't been clever at figures,
what would have become of me? I should have drudged at some wretched
occupation until the work and the misery of everything killed me."

Hilliard listened intently, his eyes never stirring from her face.

"The change in me began when father came back to us, and I began to
feel my freedom. Then I wanted to get away, and to live by myself. I
thought of London - I've told you how much I always thought of
London - but I hadn't the courage to go there. In Birmingham I began to
change my old habits; but more in what I thought than what I did. I
wished to enjoy myself like other girls, but I couldn't. For one thing,
I thought it wicked; and then I was so afraid of spending a penny - I
had so often known what it was to be in want of a copper to buy food.
So I lived quite alone; sat in my room every evening and read books.
You could hardly believe what a number of books I read in that year.
Sometimes I didn't go to bed till two or three o'clock."

"What sort of books?"

"I got them from the Free Library - books of all kinds; not only novels.
I've never been particularly fond of novels; they always made me feel
my own lot all the harder. I never could understand what people mean
when they say that reading novels takes them 'out of themselves.' It
was never so with me. I liked travels and lives of people, and books
about the stars. Why do you laugh?"

"You escaped from yourself _there_, at all events."

"At last I saw an advertisement in a newspaper - a London paper in the
reading-room - which I was tempted to answer; and I got an engagement in
London. When the time came for starting I was so afraid and
low-spirited that I all but gave it up. I should have done, if I could
have known what was before me. The first year in London was all
loneliness and ill-health. I didn't make a friend, and I starved
myself, all to save money. Out of my pound a week I saved several
shillings - just because it was the habit of my whole life to pinch and
pare and deny myself. I was obliged to dress decently, and that came
out of my food. It's certain I must have a very good constitution to
have gone through all that and be as well as I am to-day."

"It will never come again," said Hilliard.

"How can I be sure of that? I told you once before that I'm often in
dread of the future. It would be ever so much worse, after knowing what
it means to enjoy one's life. How do people feel who are quite sure
they can never want as long as they live? I have tried to imagine it,
but I can't; it would be too wonderful."

"You may know it some day."

Eve reflected.

"It was Patty Ringrose," she continued, "who taught me to take life
more easily. I was astonished to find how much enjoyment she could get
out of an hour or two of liberty, with sixpence to spend. She did me
good by laughing at me, and in the end I astonished _her_. Wasn't it
natural that I should be reckless as soon as I got the chance?"

"I begin to understand."

"The chance came in this way. One Sunday morning I went by myself to
Hampstead, and as I was wandering about on the Heath I kicked against
something. It was a cash-box, which I saw couldn't have been lying
there very long. I found it had been broken open, and inside it were a
lot of letters - old letters in envelopes; nothing else. The addresses
on the envelopes were all the same - to a gentleman living at Hampstead.
I thought the best I could do was to go and inquire for this address;
and I found it, and rang the door-bell. When I told the servant what I
wanted - it was a large house - she asked me to come in, and after I had
waited a little she took me into a library, where a gentleman was
sitting. I had to answer a good many questions, and the man talked
rather gruffly to me. When he had made a note of my name and where I
lived, he said that I should hear from him, and so I went away. Of
course I hoped to have a reward, but for two or three days I heard
nothing; then, when I was at business, someone asked to see me - a man I
didn't know. He said he had come from Mr. So and So, the gentleman at
Hampstead, and had brought something for me - four five-pound notes. The
cash-box had been stolen by someone, with other things, the night
before I found it, and the letters in it, which disappointed the thief,
had a great value for their owner. All sorts of inquiries had been made
about me and no doubt I very nearly got into the hands of the police,
but it was all right, and I had twenty pounds reward. Think! twenty
pounds!"

Hilliard nodded.

"I told no one about it - not even Patty. And I put the money into the
Post Office savings bank. I meant it to stay there till I might be in
need; but I thought of it day and night. And only a fortnight after, my
employers shut up their place of business, and I had nothing to do. All
one night I lay awake, and when I got up in the morning I felt as if I
was no longer my old self. I saw everything in a different way - felt
altogether changed. I had made up my mind not to look for a new place,
but to take my money out of the Post Office - I had more than
twenty-five pounds there altogether - and spend it for my pleasure. It
was just as if something had enraged me, and I was bent on avenging
myself. All that day I walked about the town, looking at shops, and
thinking what I should like to buy: but I only spent a shilling or two,
for meals. The next day I bought some new clothing. The day after that
I took Patty to the theatre, and astonished her by my extravagance; but
I gave her no explanation, and to this day she doesn't understand how I
got my money. In a sort of way, I _did_ enjoy myself. For one thing, I
took a subscription at Mudie's, and began to read once more. You can't
think how it pleased me to get my books - new books - where rich people
do. I changed a volume about every other day - I had so many hours I
didn't know what to do with. Patty was the only friend I had made, so I
took her about with me whenever she could get away in the evening."

"Yet never once dined at a restaurant," remarked Hilliard, laughing.
"There's the difference between man and woman."

"My ideas of extravagance were very modest, after all."

Hilliard, fingering his coffee-cup, said in a lower voice:

"Yet you haven't told me everything."

Eve looked away, and kept silence.

"By the time I met you" - he spoke in his ordinary tone - "you had begun
to grow tired of it."

"Yes - and - - " She rose. "We won't sit here any longer."

When they had walked for a few minutes:

"How long shall you stay in Paris?" she asked.

"Won't you let me travel with you?"

"I do whatever you wish," Eve answered simply.




CHAPTER XVII


Her accent of submission did not affect Hilliard as formerly; with a
nervous thrill, he felt that she spoke as her heart dictated. In his
absence Eve had come to regard him, if not with the feeling he desired,
with something that resembled it; he read the change in her eyes. As
they walked slowly away she kept nearer to him than of wont; now and
then her arm touched his, and the contact gave him a delicious
sensation. Askance he observed her figure, its graceful, rather
languid, movement; to-night she had a new power over him, and excited
with a passion which made his earlier desires seem spiritless.

"One day more of Paris?" he asked softly.

"Wouldn't it be better - - ?" she hesitated in the objection.

"Do you wish to break the journey in London?"

"No; let us go straight on."

"To-morrow, then?"

"I don't think we ought to put it off. The holiday is over."

Hilliard nodded with satisfaction. An incident of the street occupied
them for a few minutes, and their serious conversation was only resumed
when they had crossed to the south side of the river, where they turned
eastwards and went along the quays.

"Till I can find something to do," Eve said at length, "I shall live at
Dudley. Father will be very glad to have me there. He wished me to stay
longer."

"I am wondering whether it is really necessary for you to go back to
your drudgery."

"Oh, of course it is," she answered quickly. "I mustn't be idle. That's
the very worst thing for me. And how am I to live?"

"I have still plenty of money," said Hilliard, regarding her.

"No more than you will need."

"But think - how little more it costs for two than for one - - "

He spoke in spite of himself, having purposed no such suggestion. Eve
quickened her step.

"No, no, no! You have a struggle before you; you don't know what - - "

"And if it would make it easier for me? - there's no real doubt about my
getting on well enough - - "

"Everything is doubtful." She spoke in a voice of agitation. "We can't
see a day before us. We have arranged everything very well - - "

Hilliard was looking across the river. He walked more and more slowly,
and turned at length to stand by the parapet. His companion remained
apart from him, waiting. But he did not turn towards her again, and she
moved to his side.

"I know how ungrateful I must seem." She spoke without looking at him.
"I have no right to refuse anything after all you - - "

"Don't say that," he interrupted impatiently. "That's the one thing I
shall never like to think of."

"I shall think of it always, and be glad to remember it - - "

"Come nearer - give me your hand - - "

Holding it, he drew her against his side, and they stood in silence
looking upon the Seine, now dark beneath the clouding night.

"I can't feel sure of you," fell at length from Hilliard.

"I promise - - "

"Yes; here, now, in Paris. But when you are back in that hell - - "

"What difference can it make in me? It can't change what I feel now.
You have altered all my life, my thoughts about everything. When I look
back, I don't know myself. You were right; I must have been suffering
from an illness that affected my mind. It seems impossible that I could
ever have done such things. I ought to tell you. Do you wish me to tell
you everything?"

Hilliard spoke no answer, but he pressed her hand more tightly in his
own.

"You knew it from Patty, didn't you?"

"She told me as much as she knew that night when I waited for you in
High Street. She said you were in danger, and I compelled her to tell
all she could."

"I _was_ in danger, though I can't understand now how it went so far as
that. It was he who came to me with the money, from the gentleman at
Hampstead. That was how I first met him. The next day he waited for me
when I came away from business."

"It was the first time that anything of that kind had happened?"

"The first time. And you know what the state of my mind was then. But
to the end I never felt any - I never really loved him. We met and went
to places together. After my loneliness - you can understand. But I
distrusted him. Did Patty tell you why I left London so suddenly?"

"Yes."

"When that happened I knew my instinct had been right from the first.
It gave me very little pain, but I was ashamed and disgusted. He hadn't
tried to deceive me in words; he never spoke of marriage; and from what
I found out then, I saw that he was very much to be pitied."

"You seem to contradict yourself," said Hilliard. "Why were you ashamed
and disgusted?"

"At finding myself in the power of such a woman. He married her when
she was very young, and I could imagine the life he had led with her
until he freed himself. A hateful woman!"

"Hateful to you, I see," muttered the listener, with something tight at
his heart.

"Not because I felt anything like jealousy. You must believe me. I
should never have spoken if I hadn't meant to tell you the simple
truth."

Again he pressed her hand. The warmth of her body had raised his blood
to fever-heat.

"When we met again, after I came back, it was by chance. I refused to
speak to him, but he followed me all along the street, and I didn't
know it till I was nearly home. Then he came up again, and implored me
to hear what he had to say. I knew he would wait for me again in High
Street, so I had no choice but to listen, and then tell him that there
couldn't be anything more between us. And, for all that, he followed me
another day. And again I had to listen to him."

Hilliard fancied that he could feel her heart beat against his arm.

"Be quick!" he said. "Tell all, and have done with it."

"He told me, at last, that he was ruined. His wife had brought him into
money difficulties; she ran up bills that he was obliged to pay, and
left him scarcely enough to live upon. And he had used money that was
not his own - he would have to give an account of it in a day or two. He
was trying to borrow, but no one would lend him half what he needed - - "

"That's enough," Hilliard broke in, as her voice became inaudible.

"No, you ought to know more than I have told you. Of course he didn't
ask me for money; he had no idea that I could lend him even a pound.
But what I wish you to know is that he hadn't spoken to me again in the
old way. He said he had done wrong, when he first came to know me; he
begged me to forgive him that, and only wanted me to be his friend."

"Of course."

"Oh, don't be ungenerous: that's so unlike you."

"I didn't mean it ungenerously. In his position I should have done
exactly as he did."

"Say you believe me. There was not a word of love between us. He told
me all about the miseries of his life - that was all; and I pitied him
so. I felt he was so sincere."

"I believe it perfectly."

"There was no excuse for what I did. How I had the courage - the
shamelessness - is more than I can understand now."

Hilliard stirred himself, and tried to laugh.

"As it turned out, you couldn't have done better. Well, there's an end
of it. Come."

He walked on, and Eve kept closely beside him, looking up into his face.

"I am sure he will pay the money back," she said presently.

"Hang the money!"

Then he stood still.

"How is he to pay it back? I mean, how is he to communicate with you?"

"I gave him my address at Dudley."

Again Hilliard moved on.

"Why should it annoy you?" Eve asked. "If ever he writes to me, I shall
let you know at once: you shall see the letter. It is quite certain
that he _will_ pay his debt; and I shall be very glad when he does."

"What explanation did you give him?"

"The true one. I said I had borrowed from a friend. He was in despair,
and couldn't refuse what I offered."

"We'll talk no more of it. It was right to tell me. I'm glad now it's
all over. Look at the moon rising - harvest moon, isn't it?"

Eve turned aside again, and leaned on the parapet. He, lingering apart
for a moment, at length drew nearer. Of her own accord she put her
hands in his.

"In future," she said, "you shall know everything I do. You can trust
me: there will be no more secrets."

"Yet you are afraid - - "

"It's for your sake. You must be free for the next year or two. I shall
be glad to get to work again. I am well and strong and cheerful."

Her eyes drew him with the temptation he had ever yet resisted. Eve did
not refuse her lips.

"You must write to Patty," she said, when they were at the place of
parting. "I shall have her new address in a day or two."

"Yes, I will write to her."




CHAPTER XVIII


By the end of November Hilliard was well at work in the office of
Messrs. Birching, encouraged by his progress and looking forward as
hopefully as a not very sanguine temperament would allow. He lived
penuriously, and toiled at professional study night as well as day. Now
and then he passed an evening with Robert Narramore, who had moved to
cozy bachelor quarters a little distance out of town, in the Halesowen
direction. Once a week, generally on Saturday, he saw Eve. Other
society he had none, nor greatly desired any.

But Eve had as yet found no employment. Good fortune in this respect
seemed to have deserted her, and at her meetings with Hilliard she grew
fretful over repeated disappointments. Of her day-to-day life she made
no complaint, but Hilliard saw too clearly that her spirits were
failing beneath a burden of monotonous dulness. That the healthy glow
she had brought back in her cheeks should give way to pallor was no
more than he had expected, but he watched with anxiety the return of
mental symptoms which he had tried to cheat himself into believing
would not reappear. Eve did not fail in pleasant smiles, in hopeful
words; but they cost her an effort which she lacked the art to conceal.
He felt a coldness in her, divined a struggle between conscience and
inclination. However, for this also he was prepared; all the more need
for vigour and animation on his own part.

Hilliard had read of the woman who, in the strength of her love and
loyalty, heartens a man through all the labours he must front he
believed in her existence, but had never encountered her - as indeed
very few men have. From Eve he looked for nothing of the kind. If she
would permit herself to rest upon his sinews, that was all he desired.
The mood of their last night in Paris might perchance return, but only
with like conditions. Of his workaday passion she knew nothing; habit
of familiarity and sense of obligation must supply its place with her
until a brightening future once more set her emotions to the gladsome
tune.

Now that the days of sun and warmth were past, it was difficult to
arrange for a meeting under circumstances that allowed of free
comfortable colloquy. Eve declared that her father's house offered no
sort of convenience; it was only a poor cottage, and Hilliard would be
altogether out of place there. To his lodgings she could not come. Of
necessity they had recourse to public places in Birmingham, where an


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