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well; and when now she had been asked to receive
him she had consented, and had done so as a friend.

She had no distinct motive or project in her mind;
she was actuated partly by pride, which moved her to
conceal her wound, and partly by a vague desire not
to lose sight of his life altogether.

She broke the silence at last.

"Your wife is very lovely," she said again. "Quite
an English beauty, but with something more sensitive
in it and more suggestive than there is in most English
girls' faces. Is she facile? Because you are not, my
dear friend, and in marriage it is extremely necessary
that one at least should be so. She is a child, you say?
Yes, I see she is a child at present, but she will not be
always a child; and in marriage so very often one is
so inconveniently in love for a long time while the
other has forgotten and rebels."

Guilderoy gave an impatient gesture. He had not
come there to discuss the philosophy of marriage with
the wife of Soria.

"You do not like to talk about her?" said the


"There is nothing to talk about; she is very young,
and she has seen nothing of the world."

"The real ingenue? It is so strange, but men of
the world are so often enamoured of that type; and
yet there are few things more tiresome than a mind
which is incapable of sympathy, because it has no
knowledge and no experience. Some women are tire-
some like that all their lives — they are the good
women ! "

She laughed a little, and added:

"I will come and see her to-morrow. What hour
suits her?"

Guilderoy coloured. He wished to Heaven that
they should never meet, and yet it was impossible to
prevent it; and perhaps it was merely a folly on his
part to feel that sensitiveness about it. The world was
full of such meetings.

"Any hour you will like to name; I will bring her
to you," he said, with a visible reluctance which his
companion did not choose to observe.

"To-morrow, then, at five."

Guilderoy bowed. He was thinking to himself — it
must be that she cares for someone else, or she could
never be so cold?

A swift and hateful suspicion flashed through his
mind also. Was it possible that she was in real truth
indiflerent because already she had replaced him? Was
that the explanation of her silence, of her apparent for-
giveness? Six months and more had gone by since
their last meeting. There was time — more than time
— for a woman of the Avorld to have substituted one
sentiment for another.


He hated the thought. It seemed impossible to
him that the love she had borne him could have al-
ready gone elsewhere; and yet had not his own passion
faded and been false to her? Had he any title to ex-
pect from her a constancy which he had not given?

He sat beside her embarrassed and mute; and she
watched him under her dreamy long-lashed eyelids. A
great depression came over him like a weight of lead;
something seemed suddenly to have gone out of his
life and left it blank. For many months he had been
used to the thoughts of this Avoman wholly devoted to
himself, and suffering from his absence and his incon-
stancy. He had rebuked himself and hated himself
for what had been in his own eyes the cruelty of his
desertion of her. In a passionate scene he would have
been at his ease, because he would have had what he
expected, what he was used to; but before this cool,
languid, half- friendly, half-hostile reception of him by
a woman whom he had known alternately furious or
tender, exquisitely devoted or violently dominant, he
was at a loss what to do or what to say. He longed
to fall at her feet and implore her pardon, but he felt
afraid lest it should seem to her a greater insult than
the original offence. If she chose to treat his marriage
as a thing without import or interest to her, it was not
for him to force on her memories which should remind
her that it had been an infidelity to her which she had
every right to resent and to condemn.

She had played with him often when he was really
hers; she had created his jealousy and irritated his
temper; she had often been way^vard, despotic, and
disposed to overstrain the great power which she had


at one time possessed. At the beginning his love had
been much more passionate than hers, but soon the
proportions had been reversed, and gradually, as years
went on, it had become on her side much greater than
on his own. She had allov/ed her heart to be drawn
into what she had once intended should be only a
pastime, and she had, with all the fractiousness of
passion, set her soul more and more on her kingdom
as she felt that its sceptre was more and more likely
to slide with time from her grasp. She had really
loved him; and it was the knowledge of that which,
when he had thought of her, had moved him to the
pain of remorse.

And now he found that all his remorse had been
needless, all his self-reproaches the exaggerated ap-
prehensions of vanity; for it Avas evident that of all
indifferent matters his marriage had been the most in-
different to this woman, who for five years had seemed
to live only through his love!

A wave of hot anger rose over his soul. He re-
gretted his visit to her. He felt that he was insigni-
ficant in her eyes, and he longed to reveal to her a
thousand things which it was impossible for him even
to hint at, since she chose to ignore all their past re-
lations. He could not blame her; he had no possible
right to do so. He was aware that most men in his
place would have been grateful to her for passing over
with so much lightness a difficult and embarrassing
position. He knew that he ought to be thankful for
her forbearance and her indifference, and yet he felt
that he would have preferred that she should have up-
braided him, reviled him, struck him, done anything to


him rather than tell him in that tranquil mode to bring
his wife to see her.

"Women have no real feeling," he thought furiously;
and if she had met him with reproaches he would have
said "Women have no comprehension!"

It was one of those situations in which the man
must always be irritated with the woman, let her do
what she may, because, as he is conscious of having
acted ill to her, her forgiveness or her invective must
alike appear a rebuke to him. If she had indeed met
him with any of that constancy and fervour of passion
which had tired him in her, she would have reconciled
him to himself. As it was, he felt, with passionate an-
noyance at his own weakness, that it was quite possible
for him to become in the future as much in love with
her again as he had been five years before. He rose
abruptly, being afraid of what he might be betrayed
into if he sat much longer beside her in the silence of
this flower-scented, dimly lighted, painted chamber,
with no sound on their ear except the ripple of the
Avater below the windows, or the distant cry of some
passing gondolier. He had had many affections in his
life, but in some ways he had cared more for Bea-
trice Soria than for any other woman, and cared
longer. Now that he was again in her presence, it
seemed strange and unnatural that they should meet
and part as mere acquaintances. He was a man of
tender heart if of variable passions, and he could not
wholly restrain some of the emotion which he felt.

"You will, at least, allow me to be always your
friend?" he murmured, as he bent over her hand.


"Why not?" she replied, with a charmed sweetness
in the words; but they were wholly calm, and had no
answei'ing emotion in them.

He held her hand a moment, then touched it with
his lips and left her. The heavy tapestry hanging be-
fore the door closed on him. Alone, she rose from her
couch with the feverish impetuosity of some wounded
animal, and paced to and fro the length of the chamber
with quick, nervous, agitated steps.

Strong passions and deep pain, scorn, regret, and
desire, and the wrath of a proud nature under insult,
all which she had successfully repressed and hidden in
his presence, over-mastered her in solitude.

As she heard the sound of the oars in the water as
his gondola left the palace steps, she threw herself face
forward on the cushions of her couch once more, and
with her head bowed on her beautiful bare arms she
wept bitterly.

She was a woman of the world, and she had worn
the mask of the worldly: partly from pride, partly from
desire to renew an association which would perforce be
severed for ever were any angry words exchanged.
She knew that the impetuosity and dominance of her
temper had wearied out a love which she had prized
more than any other she had ever enjoyed, and she had
subjugated her will and subdued her sense of passionate
resentment, to make them the slaves of her purpose and
her desire to regain her lost influence.

But the reaction was great, and when alone she
had no composure to affect, no indifference to simulate,
she abandoned herself to the convulsive and unrestrained


grief of a woman who is only sensible ihat she has, for
the time at least, lost all which has made existence sweet
to her.


The next day at five o'clock he was not at his
ease, and Gladys was timid and silent. The Duchess
Sorla alone was at her ease; full of charm and anima-
tion, graciously kind, and most brilliant, as she could
be when she chose. Nothing could be more admirable
than her manner to the young girl, and Gladys looked
and listened with a vague perception of what he had
meant by his warning to herself on the Piazzetta.

She could never be like this exquisite woman with
her perfect grace, her low sweet laugh, her easy glid-
ing from one language to another, her delicate touches
of wit which just brushed its subject and left an epigram
on it, as though her lips dropped diamonds like the
queen's of the fairy story. The sense of her own in-
feriority made the girl twice as shy and twice as self-
conscious as she had ever been before. All the child-
like frankness and courage which had been so naturally
hers before her marriage had evaporated. She was
almost mute, and blushed painfully whenever she was
forced to speak.

Guilderoy felt passionately angered against her.

"She will make the other think that I have married
a fool!" he said bitterly to himself, with the same rest-
less irritating consciousness that a man feels who has


bought a jewel at great price, and sees it subject to
the contemplation of a supreme connoisseur in gems,
only to be condemned as worthless.

There was a look in the eyes of Beatrice Soria
which made him writhe; not quite derision, not quite
contempt, but cruelly hinting both.

"Is it for this you have left me?" said the lustrous
and languid glance of those eyes in which he had once
seen all his heaven, and was so tempted to see it still.

"What inferior creatures we are to women!" thought
Guilderoy. "We are fools enough to be troubled by
what seems to us an equivocal situation, a want of
decency or dignity, but a woman carries off any false
position with the most consummate ease; she is never
at a loss for brilliant conventionalities, she is never
shaken by a consciousness of inopportune memories;
you may have left her chamber half-an-hour before, but
she will present you with perfect self-possession to her
acquaintances in her drawing-rooms!"

If she had refused to receive his wife, he would
have accused her of jealousy, and of the desire to
create a painful scene; he would have said that women
carried so far too much earnestness into passing pas-
sions, and desired to give permanence to intimacies
which should be evanescent.

But he, who thought that he knew the whole
gamut of female emotions, was perplexed to explain to
himself, now, the motive and the character of her feelings.

There was an unaffected kindliness and sweetness
in her manner to Gladys which was the perfection of
acting, if acting it were. The young girl was bewitched
and fascinated by it; and, when they had left the


Palazzo Contarini, was full of the expressions of her
admiration, to which he found it somewhat difficult to

For one moment, as they glided over the water
homeward, he felt an impulse to tell her the story of
his relations to the Duchess Soria. He felt that it
would create a certain confidence and clearness between
them; that it would enable her to guide her own con-
duct and understand his own in the future; but the
words were difficult to utter. He had the intimate
sense which every man who is a gentleman feels so
strongly, that to speak of a woman's passion for him-
self is a cowardice and a vulgarity. He felt that he
should repent it for ever after if he were to be guilty
of such an offence against the unwritten laws of honour.
Moreover, he was conscious that he could not speak of
her with total indifference, because he was not indif-
ferent. And then, again, what would Gladys com-
prehend? She was such a child: she would probably
be disgusted, alarmed, and wholly unable to under-
stand either the confession or his motives for making
it. So he kept silence, and merely responded with ac-
quiescence to her repeated interrogations and affirma-
tions of enthusiastic admiration of the grace, the beauty,
and the charm of her great rival.

"You will be as charming yourself when you know
a little more of the world," he replied, with a touch of
impatience at the last.

"I shall never be like that," said the girl de-

"You do not want to be; you are young; youth has
its own charm."


"But you told me I wanted to improve so much?"

"If I did I was a fool. You need not always take
seriously what I say, my dear. Men often have bo 11 lades;
they are only spoilt children. Women are very unwise,
and are always very unhappy, who attach too much
importance to our idle words."

Gladys was silent. She was wondering how she
was to know when he wished to have his words taken
seriously and when he did not. Her father's clear,
limpid, straightforward speech had always been so in-
telligible to her. She had had no experience of the
caprices and involutions of speech used only to conceal
the speaker's thoughts, or aimlessly to discharge the
doubts and the desires at war in the speaker's mind.
But her intelligence and the delicacy of her apprehen-
sions told her that in some way her praise of the
Duchess Soria was distasteful to him. She talked of
her no more.

After leaving the Palace they had gone down the
Grand Canal and out towards the Lido. Venice was at
her most beautiful moment (unless, indeed, daybreak
be not still more beautiful), the sun was setting behind
the city, and the golden glow suffused the water, the
sky, the earth, and made the ships and the isles, and
the buildings of the Schiavone look like the translucent
images seen in a mirage.

Venice is the heaven of lovers; yet Guilderoy al-
ready felt that he had ceased to be a lover as he
drifted through the sparkling sunshine or the starry
nights by the side of his young companion. When
there is absolutely no response, passion soon grows
tired alike of its demands and of its persuasions. He


had been used to women who studied, stimulated,
caressed, and tempted him. She was too young to do
the first of these, and too ignorant of her own charms
and powers to do the others. He remained wholly
unaware of the mingled and contradictory emotions
with Avhich this mute soul regarded him. The eloquent
expression of passion is more than half its attraction,
and the devotion of the heart is useless unless the in-
telligence is sufficiently awake to unite it to influence.

"I shall not see Madame Soria again?" she said, as
the gondola drifted up the canal an hour later, and
passed the Contarini Palace, in which the windows
were all lighted a giorno.

"Why should you want to see her?" he replied
with petulance. "I thought you were shy of strangers.
Be quite sure, however, that you will see her, over and
over again, in the world."

He turned his head away as they neared the lighted
palace; he hated to think that others were there beside
Beatrice Sorla, others perchance who had succeeded to
the same privileges and the same intimacy which had
once been his.

He had voluntarily abandoned them, but he re-
regretted them bitterly now; even as a man might in a
fit of passion fling a collar of pearls into the green
water of the canal, and regret his act when it had sunk
for ever out of sight under the seaweed and the sand.

"Do you intend to be mute for ever, as you were
before her, before all my friends?" he said irritably, as
they passed under San Giorgio Maggiore, feeling forced
to vent his irritation in some way. "I really cannot
understand you, my dear; you have spirit enough when


you choose. Do you mean lo sit like a country mouse
in all London and Paris drawing-rooms? Do you mean
lo make no effort to attain the tone and the air of the
world you have to live in? You will make me supremely
absurd if you remain a mere country girl. In your
present position "

He checked himself, for his good breeding made
him conscious that he could not reproach or remind
her of social advantages which she had received from

Gladys' eyes filled with tears. Whenever her father
had reproved her it had been with gentle gravity
and reasonableness, not with petulant irritation like

"For Heaven's sake do not do that!" cried Guilde-
roy, angry with himself, and so still more angered
against her. '"■ Les femmes pleureuses are my abhorrence.
If there be anything on earth I have avoided all my
life it is tears!"

"I beg your pardon," said the girl coldly. There
was a menace he did not like in the tone, and he said

"Will she not be facile a vivre?" he thought un-
easily; it was the quality he most prized: he had never
met with it. His sister did not possess it; Beatrice
Soria had not possessed it, nor had any one of the many
women he had loved; it seemed to him the one good
thing upon earth, chiefly because he had always sought
and never found it. And, indeed, in a sense he was
right in his estimate, if his estimate sprang from his
own selfishness. Of what use is it for those who love
us lo say that they do so if they cannot bear with our


infirmities, pardon our weaknesses, and make the at-
mosphere of our lives sweet and clear?

"If you would like to go to England," he said ab-
ruptly, "I have no objection. You can go to the first
Drawing-room instead of the second, and we can go to
Ladysrood for Whitsuntide. Your father would be
pleased, no doubt."

The warmth with which she thanked him made him
feel very insincere towards her. If she could have
known his motives for being desirous to leave Venice,
she would have seen that consideration of her wishes or
of John Vernon's pleasure had very little to do with it.

But ignorance, that kindest friend of trustful natures,
kept her from such knowledge, and she was grateful
and happy.

On the morrow he sent a letter to the Palazzo Con-
tarini, in which he expressed his regret that he was
recalled suddenly to England, and must thus lose the
honour of seeing the Duchess Soria again in Venice.
It flattered Beatrice Soria to learn that he should have
left Venice with so much precipitation.

Men only flee from what they fear, not from what
is indifferent.

"What is the use of his flying from me?" she
thought. "The world — our world — is so narrow; we
must meet again and again in it."

He had killed what was best and warmest and
sweetest in her, as men do without thinking how they
destroy the better qualities of women. They think that
they have full title to a woman's fealty and forbearance,
though they may have shown neither forbearance nor
fealty themselves, and they demand from her super-

Guilderoy. /. II


human virtues at the very hour that they do things to
her which would make an angel a fiend. There arose
in her now, in the place of her warm impetuous pas-
sions, a colder and unkinder passion, which had the
patience to wait and the wisdom to affect tranquillity.


"And Lady Guilderoy, what is she like?" asked an
old friend of Lady Sunbury, in a crowded London

"She is a charming child, but such a child!" she
replied with a sigh,

"You have forgiven her, then?" asked Lord Aubrey,
who was standing near.

"There is nothing to forgive. Your advice was
sound. It would have been very stupid to quarrel. But
if you ask me whether I believe the marriage is for
Guilderoy's ultimate peace, I do not."


"For a thousand reasons. You always repent at
leisure when you marry in haste. Then she is too
young. A great charm you say? Yes, but sometimes
a very costly one. She will only be happy in the country,
and he is only happy in the world. Is he in love, do
you say? My impression is that he is not. She is!"

"That is ominous, and early. If he is not, why on
earth did he marry?"


Lady Sunbury moved her fan in a gesture suggestive


of her impotence to account for the extravagancies of
any man. "Evelyn is very capricious and has coups de
tete which are often wholly unaccountable. This was a
roup de tete. Now that he has outgrown its momentary
excitement I think he looks at his wife and wonders
what he was about."

"A happy prospect for her."

" On s'habitue a tout," said Lady Sunbury with
little sympathy in troubles of the soul. "He will always
be very kind to her — Evelyn can be unkind to nothing
— and he will be very courteous and generous: if she
be reasonable she will not want more; she can enjoy
herself in any way she likes. I hope she will be

"How old did you say she was?"

"Seventeen, I think."

"It is not the age of reason," said Lord Aubrey,
and as he wandered away through the rooms he felt a
vague pity for this young girl whom he had never seen,
who was to be content with the courtesy of her hus-
band, and with the power of spending money. Most
women wanted no more, it was true, but here and there
was a woman who did want more, and who having no
more was wretched.

Aubrey attended the Drawing-room a few days
later with some feeling of curiosity. Presentations
seldom interested him. He did not care much for
women. But this time he looked on with interest, as
Lady Sunbury presented her young sister-in-law.

"She may be a child, but she has the sang-froid of
race in her," he thought, as he saw Gladys come before
the throne with the same calmness with which she had


fronted the Cherriton lads on the Ladysrood moors.
She scarcely looked her best, because the Court dress
was too stately for her extreme youth, and the Guilderoy
jewels seemed too many and too heavy for her small
head and her childlike shoulders to sustain; but she
carried lierself with perfect grace and repose. She was
undisturbed by the novelty of the scene and the magni-
ficence of the crowd; and her cheeks were as cool, and
her pulse as even, as though she had been in the porch
under the apple boughs and the ivy of Christslea.

"There is the Princess royal in your lovely Perdita,"
said Aubrey to Guilderoy.

Guilderoy assented with a smile: he was proud of
her and, for the moment, content. Occasionally, as his
sister had guessed, he surveyed what he had done with
a sense of wonder and vague uneasiness, half troubled
even whilst half pleased to find her always before him.
But he was well satisfied that she should be his as he
heard the murmurs of admiration around him.

"I do not wonder any longer that you married her,"
said Aubrey.

"I wonder myself still sometimes," said Guilderoy.
"But I am disposed to hope that it was the one wise
act of a not wise life."

Aubrey was silent. The wisdom of it did not seem
to him so apparent as the temptation to it. He admired
his cousin in many things, but in others he blamed, and
in others he doubted him. "He has been a spoiled
child of pleasure and of women so long," he thought,
"will he understand the fragility of this new plaything,
or care for it if he do understand it?"

"You are thinking that I shall ill-treat her," said


Guilderoy, annoyed by what he fancied the other's
silence meant. "I assure you every one has prophesied
the same, even her father and my sister. I do not
know why; I have not been in the habit of ill-treating

"You have been in the habit of leaving them," said
Aubrey. "Sometimes that comes to the same thing."

They were at that moment separated by the crush,

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