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when he comes here."

"Can't I see him first, Dad," she asked, "when he comes here?"

"No, darling. Look here, B, I didn't want to bother you last night. I
was too pleased to see you again. But I don't want you to marry
Lassigny. I don't like the idea of it at all."

She looked up at him with eyes wide open. "Why not, Dad?" she asked.

"I hate the idea of your marrying a Frenchman. I've never thought of
such a thing. I wouldn't have asked him down to Abington if I had."

She looked down on her plate, and then looked up again. "You're not
going to tell him we can't be married, are you?" she asked.

"I don't know what I'm going to tell him. I want to hear what he has to
say first. That's only fair."

She seemed puzzled more than distressed. "I thought you liked him," she
said. "I thought you only didn't like our getting engaged before he had
spoken to you. You did like him at Abington, Dad; and he was a friend of
Caroline's before he was a friend of mine. You didn't mind that. Why
don't you want me to marry him? I love him awfully; and he loves me."

He was sorry he had said so much. He hadn't meant to say anything before
his interview with Lassigny. But the idea that by a miracle Lassigny
might prove himself worthy of her had faded; and her almost indifference
towards him had made it not painful, as it would have been the night
before, to throw a shadow over her expectations.

"You're very young," he said. "In any case I couldn't let you marry
yet."

"I was afraid you'd say that," she said quietly. "René said you
wouldn't. If you let us marry at all, there would be no reason why we
shouldn't be married quite soon. How long should we have to wait, Dad?"

Her submissiveness touched him again. "I don't know, darling," he said.
"I can't say anything till I've seen him. Don't ask me any more
questions now. Look here, you'd better go round to Hans Place this
morning and stay there to lunch. Aunt Mary's in London, I know. Go round
early, so as you can catch her. I shall go straight to the station from
the City. Meet me for the 4.50. I'll take your tickets."

"But what about René?" she asked. "Aren't you going to let him see me,
when you've talked to him?"

He was in for it now. His tone was harder than he meant it to be as he
said: "In any case, B, I'm not going to let him see you for six months.
I've made up my mind about that. And there's to be no engagement either.
He won't expect that. You must make yourself happy at home."

"Daddy darling!" Her tone was one of pained and surprised expostulation.
She seemed such a child as she looked at him out of her wide eyes that
again he recoiled from hurting her.

"Six months is nothing," he said. "If you can't wait six months, B - - "

He couldn't finish. It seemed mean to give her to understand that this
would be his sole stipulation, when he was going to do all he could to
stop her marrying Lassigny at all. But neither could he tell her that.

She was silent for a time. Then she said with a deep sigh: "I was afraid
you'd say something of the sort. You're a hard old Daddy. But I made up
my mind coming down in the train that I wouldn't go against you. I love
René so much that I don't mind waiting for him - if it isn't too long."
Another little pause, and another deep sigh. "I've been frightfully
happy the last two days. But somehow I didn't think it could last - quite
like that."

She saw him out of the house later on. As she put up her face to be
kissed, she said: "You do love your little daughter, don't you? You
won't do anything to make her unhappy."

He walked to the end of Sloane Street and took a taxi. His mind was
greatly disturbed. B had behaved beautifully. She had bowed to his
decision with hardly a word of protest, and he knew well enough by the
look on her face when she had asked him her last question what it had
cost her to do so. It was impossible to take refuge in the thought that
she couldn't love this fellow much, if she resigned herself so easily to
doing without him for six months. She had resigned out of love for her
father, and trust in him. It was beastly to feel that he had not yet
told her everything, and that her faith in him not to make her
unhappy - at least in the present - was unfounded. Again he felt himself
undecided. But what could he do? How was it possible that she could
judge of a man of Lassigny's type. Her love for him was pure and
innocent. What was his love for her?

Well, he would find that out. The fellow should have his chance. He
would not take it for granted that he had just taken a fancy - the latest
of many - to a pretty face, and the charm and freshness of a very young
girl; and since she happened to be of the sort that he could marry, was
willing to gain possession of her in that way.

Lassigny was announced a little after twelve o'clock. His card was
brought in: "Marquis de Clermont-Lassigny," in letters of print, all on
a larger scale than English orthodoxy dictates. His card was vaguely
distasteful to Grafton.

But when he went in to him, in the old-fashioned parlour reserved for
visitors, he could not have told, if he had not known, that he was not
an Englishman. His clothes were exactly 'right' in every particular. His
dark moustache was clipped to the English fashion. His undoubted good
looks were not markedly of the Latin type.

The two men shook hands, Lassigny with a smile, Grafton without one.

"You had my letter?" Lassigny asked.

"Yes," said Grafton, motioning him to a chair and taking one himself.

"It ought to have been written," said Lassigny, "before I spoke to
Beatrix. But I trust you will understand it was not from want of
respect to you that it wasn't. I have come now to ask your
permission - to affiance myself to your daughter."

"I wish you hadn't," said Grafton, looking at him with a half-smile. He
couldn't treat this man whom he had last seen as a welcome guest in his
own house as the enemy he had since felt him to be.

Lassigny made a slight gesture with shoulders and hands that was not
English. "Ah," he said, "she is very young, and you don't want to lose
her. She said you would feel like that. I shouldn't want to lose her
myself if she were my daughter. But I hope you will give her to me, all
the same. I did not concern myself with business arrangements in my
letter, but my lawyers - - "

"Oh, we haven't come to talking about lawyers yet," Grafton interrupted
him. "Look here, Lassigny; Beatrix is hardly more than a child; you
ought not to have made love to her without at least coming to me first.
You wouldn't do it in your own country, you know."

He had not meant to say that, or anything like it. But it was very
difficult to know what to say.

"In my own country," said Lassigny " - but you must remember that I am
only half French - one makes love, and one also marries. The two things
don't of necessity go together. But I have known England for a long
enough time to prefer the English way."

This was exactly the opening that Grafton wanted, but had hardly
expected to be given in so obvious a way.

"Exactly so!" he said, leaning forward a little, with his arm on the
table by his side. "You marry and you make love, and the two things
don't go together. Well, with us they do go together; and that's why I
won't let my daughters marry anybody but Englishmen, if I can help it."

Lassigny looked merely surprised. "But what do you think I meant?" he
asked. "I love Beatrix. I love her with the utmost respect. I pay her
all the honour I can in asking her to be my wife."

"And how many women have you loved before?" asked Grafton. "And how many
are you going to love afterwards?"

Lassigny recoiled, with a dark flush on his face. "But do you want to
insult me?" he asked.

"Look here, Lassigny," said Grafton again. "We belong to two different
nations. I'm not going to pick my words, or disguise my meaning, out of
compliment to you. It's far too serious. You must take me as an
Englishman. You know enough about us to be able to do it."

"Well!" said Lassigny, grudgingly, after a pause. "You asked me a
question. You asked me two questions. I think they are not the questions
that one gentleman ought to ask of another. It should be enough that I
pay honour to the one I love. My name is old, and has dignity. I
have - - "

"Oh, we needn't go into that," Grafton interrupted him. "We treat as
equals there, with the advantage on your side, if it's anywhere."

"But, pardon me; we must go into it. It is essential. What more can I do
than to offer my honourable name to your daughter? It means much to me.
If I honour it, as I do, I honour her."

"I know you honour her, in your way. It isn't our way. I ask you another
question of the sort you say one gentleman ought not to ask of another.
Should you consider it dishonouring your name, or dishonouring the woman
you've given it to, to make love to somebody else, after you've been
married a year or two, if the fancy takes you?"

Lassigny rose to his feet. "Mr. Grafton," he said, "I don't understand
you. I think it is you who are dishonouring your own daughter, whom I
love, and shall always love."

Grafton, without rising, held up a finger at him. "How am I dishonouring
her?" he asked with insistence. "Tell me why you say I'm dishonouring
her."

Lassigny looked down at him. "To me," he said slowly, "she is the most
beautiful and the sweetest girl on the earth. Don't you think so too? I
thought you did."

Grafton rose. "You've said it; it's her beauty," he said more quickly.
"If she loses that, - as she will lose it with her youth, - she loses you.
I'm not going to let her in for that kind of disillusionment."

Lassigny was very stiff now, and entirely un-English in manner, and even
in appearance. "Pardon me, Mr. Grafton, for having misunderstood your
point of view. If it is a Puritan you want for your daughter I fear I
am out of the running. I withdraw my application to you for her hand."

"That's another thing," said Grafton, as Lassigny turned to leave him.
"I wouldn't let a daughter of mine marry a Catholic."

Lassigny went out, without another word.




CHAPTER XV

BEATRIX COMES HOME


Beatrix and her maid were already at the station when Grafton arrived.
He had only allowed himself ten minutes, and was busy getting tickets,
finding a carriage and buying papers, until it was nearly time for the
train to start. Then he found somebody to talk to, and only joined
Beatrix at the last moment.

She had given him rather a pathetic look of enquiry when he had first
come up to them waiting for him in the booking-office. Now she sat in
her corner of the carriage, very quiet. They were alone together.

He sat down opposite to her, and took her hand in his. "My darling," he
said, "he isn't the right man for you. You must forget him."

She left her hand lying in his, inertly. Her eyes were wide and her face
pale as she asked: "Have you told him he can't marry me at all?"

He changed his seat to one beside her. "B darling," he said, "you know I
wouldn't hurt you if I could help it. I hated the idea of it so much
last night that I couldn't tell you, as perhaps I ought to have done,
that I didn't think you'd see him again. I wasn't quite sure. He might
have been different from what I thought him. But he isn't the husband
for a girl like you, darling. He made that quite plain."

Her hands lay in her lap, and she was looking out of the window. "Did
you send him away?" she asked, turning her head towards him. "Isn't he
going to see me again - or write to me?"

"He won't see you again. I didn't tell him he wasn't to write to you,
but I don't think he will; I hope he won't. It's no good, darling. The
break has come; it must make you very unhappy for a time, I know that,
my dear little girl. But I hope it won't be for long. We all love you
dearly at home, you know. We shall make it up to you in time."

He felt, as he said this, how entirely devoid of comfort such words must
be to her. The love of those nearest to her, which had been
all-sufficing, would count as nothing in the balance against the new
love that she wanted. She had told him the night before that the new
love heightened and increased the old; and so it would, as long as he,
who had hitherto come first with her, stepped willingly down from that
eminence, and added his tribute to hers. Opposition instead of tribute
would wipe out, for the time at least, all that she had felt for him
during all the years of her life. The current of all her love was
pouring into the new channel that had been opened up. There would be
none to water the old channels, unless they led into the new one.

She turned to him again. There was a look in her face that he had never
seen there before, and it struck through to his heart. It was the
dawning of hostility, which put her apart from him as nothing else could
have done; for it meant that there were tracts in her as yet
unexplored, and perhaps unsuspected, and there was no knowing what arid
spaces he would have to traverse in them. "I can't understand it at
all," she said quietly. "Why did you send him away, and why did he go? I
_know_ he loves me; and he knows I love him, and forgive him anything
that was wrong. What _is_ wrong? You ought to tell me that."

He stirred uneasily in his seat. How could he tell her what was wrong?
She was so innocent of evil. If he felt, as he did, that Lassigny's
desire for her touched her with it, he had diverted that from her. He
couldn't plunge her into it again by explanations that would only
justify himself.

"Darling child," he said. "It's all wrong. You must trust me to know.
I've made no mistake. If he had been what the man who marries you must
be he wouldn't have gone away from me as he did, in offence. He'd have
justified himself, or tried to. And I'd have listened to him too. As it
was, I don't think we were together for ten minutes. He gave you up, B.
He was offended, and he gave you up - before I had asked him to. Yes,
certainly before I had said anything final."

She looked out of the window again. "I wish I knew what had happened,"
she said as quietly as before. "I can't understand his giving me up - of
his own free will. I wish I knew what you had said to him."

This hardened him a little. He did not want to make too much of
Lassigny's having so easily given up his claims. He was not yet sure
that he had entirely given them up. But, at any rate, the offence to his
pride had been enough to have caused him to do so unconditionally for
the time being. Beatrix had been given up for it without a struggle to
retain her, and it was not Beatrix's father who had made any conditions
as to his seeing her or writing to her again, or had needed to do so.
Yet she would not accept it, that the renunciation could have been on
the part of the man whom she hardly knew. It must have been some
injustice or harshness on his part, from whom she had had nothing but
love all her life.

"It doesn't matter what I said to him, or what he said to me," he
answered her. "If he had been the right sort of man for you nothing that
I said to him would have caused him offence. He took offence, and
withdrew. You must accept that, B darling. I didn't, actually, send him
away. I shouldn't have sent him away, if he had justified himself to me
in any degree. You know how much I love you, don't you? Surely you can
trust me a little?"

He put his hand out to take hers, in a way that she had never yet failed
to respond to. But she did not take it. It wasn't, apparently, of the
least interest to her to be told how much he loved her. There was no
comfort at all in that, to her who had so often shown herself hungry for
the caresses that showed his love.

She sat still, looking out of the window, and saying nothing for a long
time. He said nothing either, but took up one of the papers he had
bought. He made himself read it with attention, and succeeded in taking
in what he read after a few attempts. His heart was heavy enough; there
would be a great deal more to go through yet before there could be any
return to the old conditions of affection and contentment between him
and this dear hurt child of his. But all had been said that could
profitably be said. It would be much better to put it aside now, and act
as if it were not there, as far as it was possible, and encourage her to
do so.

She was strangely quiet, sitting there half-turned away from him with
her eyes always fixed upon the summer landscape now flowing steadily
past them; and yet she was, by temperament, more emotional than any of
his children. None of them had ever cried much - they had had very little
in their lives to cry about - but Beatrix had been more easily moved to
tears than the others. She might have been expected to cry over what she
was feeling now. Perhaps she wouldn't begin to get over the blow that
had been dealt her until she did cry.

He felt an immense pity and tenderness for her, sitting there as still
as a mouse. He would have liked to put his arm around her and draw her
to him, and soothe her trouble, which she should have sobbed out on his
shoulder as she had done with the little troubles of her childhood. But
that unknown quantity in her restrained him. He knew instinctively that
she would reject him as the consoler of this trouble. He was the cause
of it in her poor wounded groping little mind.

Presently she roused herself and took up an illustrated paper, which she
glanced through, saying as she did so, in a colourless voice: "Shall we
be able to get some tea at Ganton? I've got rather a headache."

"Have you, my darling?" he said tenderly. "Yes, we shall have five
minutes there. Haven't you any phenacetin in your bag?"

"Yes; but it isn't as bad as that," she said. "I'll take some when I get
home, if it's worse."

"Give me a kiss, my little B," he said. "You do love your old Daddy,
don't you?"

She kissed him obediently. "Yes, of course," she said, and returned to
her paper.

They spoke little after that until they reached the station for
Abington. If he said anything she replied to it, and sometimes she made
a remark herself. But there was never anything like conversation between
them. He was in deep trouble about her all the time, and could never
afterwards look out on certain landmarks of that journey without
inwardly flinching. He would not try to comfort her again. He knew that
was beyond his power. She must get used to it first; and nobody could
help her. And he would not bother her by talking; just a few words now
and then were as necessary to her as to him.

Only Caroline had come to meet them. Beatrix clung to her a little as
she kissed her, but that was all the sign she made, and she exerted
herself a little more than she had done to talk naturally, until they
reached home.

Barbara and Bunting were in front of the house as they came up. After a
sharp glance at her and their father, they greeted her with the usual
affection that this family habitually showed to one another, and both
said that they were glad to see her home again, as if they meant it.
Miss Waterhouse was behind them, and said: "You look pale, B darling.
Hadn't you better go straight to your room and lie down?"

She went upstairs with her. Barbara and Bunting, with a glance at one
another, took themselves off. Caroline followed her father into the
library.

"It's all over," he said shortly. "I saw him this morning. He's what I
thought he was. She's well rid of him, poor child. But, of course, she's
taking it very hard. You must look after her, darling. I can't do
anything for her yet. She's closed up against me."

"Poor old Daddy," said Caroline, feeling in her sensitive fibre the hurt
in him. "Was it very difficult for you?"

"It wasn't difficult to get rid of him," he said. "I didn't have to. He
retired of his own accord. Whether he'll think better of his offence and
try to come back again I don't know. But my mind's quite made up about
him. However she feels about it I'm not going to give her to a man like
that. She'll thank me for it by and by. Or if she doesn't I can't help
it. I'm not going through this for my own sake."

She asked him a few questions as to how Beatrix had carried herself, and
then she went up to her.

Beatrix was undressing, and crying softly. She had sent Miss Waterhouse
away, saying that she was coming down to dinner, and it was time to
dress. But when she had left her she had broken down, and decided to go
to bed.

She threw herself into Caroline's arms, and cried as if her heart would
break. Caroline said nothing until the storm had subsided a little,
which it did very soon. "I can't help crying - just once," she said. "But
I'm not going to let myself be like that. Why does he make me so
unhappy? I thought he loved me."

Caroline thought she meant Lassigny. All that she had been told was that
he had given her up. Fortunately she did not answer before Beatrix said:
"He won't tell me what's wrong, and what he said to him, to make him go
away. Oh, it's very cruel. I do love him, and I shall never love anybody
else. And we were so happy together. And now he comes in and spoils it
all. I shall never see him again; he said so."

Caroline had no difficulty now in disengaging the personalities of the
various 'he's' and 'him's.'

"Daddy's awfully sad about it, B," she said. "You know he couldn't be
cruel to any of us."

"He's been cruel to me," said Beatrix. "I came down when he told me to,
although I didn't want to, and I made up my mind that if he wanted us to
put it off, even for as long as a year, I would ask René to, because I
did love him and wanted to please him. And he was all right about it
last night - and yet all the time he meant to do this. I call that cruel.
And what has my poor René done? He won't tell me. Has he told you?"

"I don't think it's anything that he's done," said Caroline slowly. "He
says he isn't - - "

"Oh, I know," said Beatrix, breaking in on her. "He isn't a fit husband
for me. He told me that. How does he know? He says he only talked to him
for ten minutes, and then he said something that made him go away. Oh,
why did he go away like that? He does love me, I know. Isn't he ever
going to try to see me again, or even to write to me, to say good-bye?"

Caroline's heart was torn, but she couldn't merely soothe and sympathise
with her. "It's frightfully hard for you, darling, I know," she said.
"But he wouldn't just have gone away and given you up - M. de Lassigny, I
mean - if Daddy hadn't been right about him."

"Oh, of course, you take his side!" said Beatrix. "I trusted him too,
and he's been cruel to me."

Caroline helped her to bed. Her heart was heavy, both for Beatrix and
for her father. She tried no more to defend him. It was of no use at
present. Beatrix must work that out for herself. At present she was more
in need of consolation than he was, and she tried her best to give it to
her. But that was of little use either. Her grievance against her father
was now rising to resentment. As she poured out her trouble, which after
all did give her some relief, although she was unaware of it, Caroline
could only say, "Oh, no, B darling, you mustn't say that"; or, "You know
how much he loves you; he must be right about it." But in the end she
was a little shaken in her own faith. She thought that Beatrix ought to
have known more. She would have wanted to know more herself, if she had
been in her place.

Later on in the evening she and Miss Waterhouse sat with him in the
library, to which he had taken himself instinctively after dinner, as
the room of the master of the house. Caroline had told him, what there
was no use in keeping back, that Beatrix thought he had been unjust to
her, and he was very unhappy.

He talked up and down about it for some time, and then said, with a
reversion to the direct speech that was more characteristic of him:
"She's bound to think I've been unjust to her, I suppose. Do you think
so too?"

Miss Waterhouse did not reply. Caroline said, after a short pause: "I
think if I were B I should want to know why you thought he wasn't fit
for me. If it's anything that he's done - - "

"It's the way he and men like him look upon marriage," he said. "I can't
go into details - I really can't, either to you or her."

"But if he loves her very much - mightn't it be all right with them?"

"Yes, it might," he answered without any hesitation. "If he loved her in
the right way."

"Are you quite sure he doesn't, darling? If he had a chance of proving
it!"

"He hasn't asked for the chance."

"It really comes back to that," said Miss Waterhouse, speaking almost


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