E. Phillips (Edward Phillips) Oppenheim.

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The WXY of




He sprang past her to the middle of the room. FRONTISPIECE.
See Page 356.









Copyright, 1913, 1915,

All rights reserved

Published, September, 1916





He sprang past her to the middle of the room


His companion was looking at him stead-
fastly . . . . . . PAGE 23

"My God!" he exclaimed. "What's hap-
pened here ? " 92

" Can't you see that I have come a suppliant?

I want my husband " . 322



There were only three passengers who alighted at
Wickombe Annerley station from the five-thirty train.
Two of them were, however, in their way, people of con-
sequence. From the first-class smoking carriage next
the engine stepped Henry Aynesworth, Marquis of
Lakenham, six foot two and a half, broad and burly,
with features stained by the suns of tropical countries
and coarsened by a career of excesses so regettably
flagrant that, notwithstanding the remains of his for-
tune and his ancient name, he was heard of more often
in the circles of Bohemia than in the great world to
which by birth he belonged. He wore a light flannel
suit, and a straw hat adorned with the colors of a noted
cricket club. He was smoking a large cigar, and he
stood by while his servant collected his belongings,
watching the proceedings with an air of prosperous
arrogance wholly and objectionably British. He was
forty-two years of age and he looked older. He had
a ruddy brown complexion, a stiff, fair mustache and
a heavy jaw. His eyes were a little watery but his
carriage still retained traces of his soldier training.
His voice was always raised a note or two louder than
was actually necessary.


" Anything here from Annerley Court? " he asked
the station-master.

A long-coated footman who was on his way to the
other end of the platform paused and touched his

" The motor is here, my lord," he said. " Sir
Jermyn did not expect you, I think, until the later
train. We had orders to meet the half -past seven."

" Changed my mind at the last moment," Lord
Lakenham declared. " Fact is, it was so hot in town
I was glad to get away. Have you come to meet
any one else ? "

" A young lady, sir," the footman replied, edging off.

" Well, there'll be room for me, I dare say," the
Marquis remarked. " What's Sir Jermyn doing to-
day? Cricket, eh?"

" Sir Jermyn is playing against Yorkshire, my lord.
The match should be over in good time."

The Marquis nodded and strolled towards the exit.
The footman hurried to the other end of the platform,
where two young ladies were standing in front of a
small pile of luggage, from which a maid was collect-
ing their belongings. The younger one was only a
child, with fair, freckled face, rather a large mouth,
and a very earnest expression. Her elder sister
there was no mistaking their relationship was ex-
ceedingly dainty and charming. Her eyes were a trifle
dark for her complexion, her hair fair and wavy, her
complexion pale but flawless. She was dressed in the
smartest of white linen traveling gowns, with white
silk stockings and black shoes. Her voice when she
addressed the footman, to whom her sister had called
her attention, was singularly soft.


" Are you from Annerley Court ? " she inquired.

The footman touched his hat.

" Yes, miss," he answered. " Sir Jermyn desired me
to present his compliments and to say that he was
exceedingly sorry he was not able to come to the sta-
tion. He said that he would explain immediately upon
your arrival. He hopes to be at the Court as soon as
we are. There is a cart waiting for the luggage and
for your maid, and a motor for you and the gentleman,

For the first time she glanced down the platform
and noticed the disappearing form of her fellow pas-

" There is some one else going to Annerley Court,
then? "

The footman, who was assisting with the baggage,
turned around for a moment.

" Yes, miss," he replied. " Lord Lakenham has ar-
rived by the same train."

The footman was now entirely intent upon super-
intending the removal of the luggage, and incidentally
ingratiating himself with the young lady's maid, of
whose appearance he approved. The station-master
had escorted his distinguished arrival to the motor-
car, the solitary porter was busy hoisting luggage to
the top of the luggage cart, and the child had wandered
off to admire the roses in the station-master's garden.
It was a little country station on a branch line, with
a row of white palings, a single seat, a tiny shed, and
on the other side of the single line of metals, a thick
wood. There was no one there to witness what, in its
way, was almost a tragedy. The girl, whom an en-
tire press and a not ungenerous profession had done


their best to spoil, had forgotten to act. She stood
quite still, gazing at the faint line of smoke which
marked the track of the departing train as though
it were carrying away her last hope. All the soft,
delicate girlishness of her features seemed to have
vanished. Her mouth was set, her eyes distended with
fear. There was no one of her admirers who would
have recognized her at that moment. All the little
color which she possessed seemed to have been drawn
from her face, all the life and lissome grace to have
passed from her limbs. As the departing train van-
ished around the distant curve, she gazed about her
wildly, as though seeking for some way of escape.
She shrank as though instinctively away from the little
shed outside which the motor-car was waiting.

" The luggage is quite all right, madame," the foot-
man announced, turning round. " If you and the
young lady will be so good as to follow me? "

The child, who had clambered up the white palings,
sprang lightly down.

"Aren't you glad it's a car, Sybil?" she exclaimed.
" It will be just lovely riding in the open air after that
stuffy train. Come along."

The young lady to whom she appealed nerved her-
self for an effort. She let fall her traveling veil of
white gauze and with her hand in her sister's followed
the footman down the platform, through the wooden
shed and out into the little circular space where a very
handsome motor-car was waiting for them. Lord
Lakenham, who was standing by its side, raised his
hat. He was in one of his very best moods, for he
threw away his cigar. .

" We are to be feUow passengers to Annerley Court,


I hear," he said. " May I introduce myself? My
name is Lakenham. Will you allow me? "

She stepped into the car with a slight inclination of
the head. For a moment or two Lord Lakenham
seemed to forget his manners. The child passed by
him unaided. He stood as though turned to stone,
staring at the half-concealed countenance of the young
lady, who was already ensconced in a corner of the

" Are you not coming? " she asked calmly. " There
is plenty of room."

Lord Lakenham recovered himself with a little ef-

" Of course I am," he answered. "I well, I for-
got where I was for a moment. Now we're all right."

He took the seat opposite the two girls and the car
glided off. His eyes still seemed to be seeking to
penetrate that closely drawn veil.

" Delicious, this is, after the train, isn't it? " he re-
marked. " May I not have the privilege of knowing
your name? We are to be fellow-guests at Annerley,
I believe, so I shall only be anticipating a few minutes."

" My name is Cluley," she told him, " and this is my
little sister Mary Cluley. We are only making a
very brief visit to Annerley."

" Cluley," he repeated, thoughtfully. " Seems a fa-
miliar name to me, somehow. I wonder why? . . .
Ah! of course, there's Sybil Cluley, the girl at th
Imperial Theatre, who seems to have turned the heads
of half the men in London."

" My name is Sybil Cluley," she said quietly.

Lord Lakenham slapped his knee and chuckled.

" By Jove, then, that accounts for it ! " he exclaimed.


" I knew I'd seen you before. Came over me for a
certainty directly you got into the motor, only I
couldn't imagine where. You were mixed up with
something in my mind and I couldn't work it out. I
am delighted to know you, Miss Cluley. Had the
pleasure of seeing you act, of course."

The girl inclined her head. Her sister leaned for-
ward from her seat.

" Nearly every one, wherever we go, knows Sybil
by sight," she told Lord Lakenham confidentially.
" It's so funny sometimes when we are out in the streets
together. People stop and turn round, and in the
shops I can often hear them whispering and telling
one another who Sybil is. Have you seen * The
Tangled Web'?"

" Several times," Lord Lakenham assured her.
" Parts of it are a trifle too clever for me but it's a
jolly good show, all the same. Your sister's the mak-
ing of it, to my mind."

" Sybil is ripping ! " Mary declared. " Everybody
says so. It's quite her best part. The manager told
me himself the other day that he didn't think there was
any one else in London who could have created it as
she has done."

Lord Lakenham smiled tolerantly.

" I should imagine he was quite right," he agreed.
" I expect you're keen to grow up and go on the stage
yourself, eh? "

The child looked across at her sister doubtfully.
Sybil Cluley was lying back in her corner seat with
half-closed eyes, as though anxious to escape as much
as possible from the conversation. She opened them
now, however, wide enough.


" Mary will never go upon the stage," she said
firmly. " I have made other plans for her."

The child laughed gayly enough, yet with a note of

" Sybil's saving all her money," she explained to her
companion, " so that soon after I leave school we can
travel together for a time and then live somewhere
down in the country. I don't believe she's a bit fond
of acting, really. Isn't it stupid ! "

Lord Lakenham stroked his stubbly moustache and
gazed a little curiously at the eager-faced child who
sat opposite to him.

" I have heard a good many young ladies of your
sister's age talk like that," he declared, " especially
after the first excitement of their success has worn off.
It doesn't last, though. There's no profession in the
world, they say, like the stage for holding one."

Mary seemed doubtful.

" Sybil doesn't often change her mind," she told him.
" In fact she's what I should call stubborn about most

" Nice character your young sister's giving you,"
Lord Lakenham said, turning to his elder companion
with a smile.

Sybil shrugged her shoulders slightly. She seemed
curiously anxious to remain in the background.

61 Mary doesn't know everything," she murmured,
" nor does she always mean exactly what she says."

" The natural proclivity of her sex asserting itself
in youth ! " Lord Lakenham remarked, didactically.

Sybil only smiled very faintly and looked away
with the air of one whom the conversation had ceased


to interest. The car had climbed a hill and was rush-
ing down now into the valley. Mary was leaning back
in her seat with a keen air of enjoyment.

" Isn't it lovely to be in the country again ! " she
cried. " Look at those glorious woods, Sybil ! Are
we anywhere near Sir Jermyn's house, Lord Laken-

" We shall turn in at the gates in a few moments,"
the Marquis replied. " You can see them straight
ahead there. Nice little place of its sort, Annerley
Court. Have you ever been down before, Miss
Cluley ? " he added, turning to the girl by his side.

She shook her head.

" Never," she answered. " Sir Jermyn has asked me
once or twice but I have not been able to leave the
theatre. Now I have a short vacation and we are go-
ing to read his new play together. Mine is really a
business visit, you see."

Lord Lakenham nodded with a sudden understand-
ing. The coming of Miss Sybil Cluley to Annerley
Court had been puzzling him immensely.

" Why, of course ! " he exclaimed. " I read in one
of the papers only this morning that Jermyn had a
new play almost finished, and that you were to take the
leading part. Clever chap, Jermyn, in his way. Have
you known him long, Miss Cluley? "

" I have known Sir Jermyn for about a year," she
answered quietly. " He is certainly very clever, in-
deed. I have played in a short sketch he wrote some
time ago, at the Hay market."

" I remember it quite well," Lord Lakenham de-
clared. " Dismal sort of affair it was, too ! I can't
make out why Jermyn never ends up anything he


writes, happily. It may be artistic, and all that, but
I'm hanged if I like it ! "

She raised her eyebrows very slightly.

" Do you believe, then," she asked, " that everything
in life should end happily? "

" I am afraid I am one of those obvious sort of per-
sons who want it to in the books I read and the plays
I go to see," he admitted. " What do you say, Miss
Mary? Don't you want the fairy prince to marry the
right girl, and all that sort of thing, at the end of the
story, eh? "

" Of course I do," the child answered, confidently.
" So does every one."

" Not always," Lord Lakenham objected. " Our
host doesn't, for one."

" Sir Jermyn is an artist," Sybil murmured.

" Daresay he is," Lord Lakenham assented. " All
the same, I'd like to see him a little more cheerful
sometimes. I don't see the use of writing about prob-
lems that never solve themselves, or marriages that al-
ways go wrong, or lovers who never come together.
Waste of time, I call it. Sort of cousin of mine,
Jermyn, you know, Miss Cluley."

She accepted the information without any great sign
of interest. They had turned off the main road now,
through some plain iron gates, and were crossing a
park dotted here and there with dwarfed oak trees.
Mary clapped her hands.

" Deer ! " she cried, with enthusiasm. " Do you see,
Sybil, there are actually deer! I wonder if they are
very wild ? "

" Not a bit of it," Lord Lakenham assured her.
" They'd be all right, anyhow, at this time of the year.


Eat biscuits out of your hand, I daresay. We'll try
them to-morrow. I haven't been here for ages," he
went on, looking around him. " Ripping little golf
course one could make here. Do you play golf, Miss

She shook her head.

" I haven't time for that sort of thing," she told him.
" Mary plays games for us both. I am quite con-
tented if I can get an hour's walk every morning."

Some note in her tone or was it the curve of her
head as she leaned sideways to look up into the woods?
stirred in him once more that curious sense of a
half-awakened memory. It was more than curiosity
which he felt it was an interest which had almost an
emotional side.

" It's a rum thing ! " he exclaimed, meditatively, with
his eyes fixed upon her. " Every now and then, Miss
Cluley, I get a sort of an idea that I've seen you be-
fore, not on the stage at all."

She did not answer him for a moment. Unseen, her
right hand was gripping the leather strap by her side.
She kept her eyes fixed upon the house, which had just
come into sight. If only she could control her voice !
If only she could check his efforts at recollection !

" I think it most unlikely, Lord Lakenham," she
said coldly. " I go out very little and I have few

" And I am quite sure that we never knew anybody
who was a marquis before, did we ? " Mary chimed
in, with a triumphant sense of administering a coup de
grace to the subject. " Is this really the house? Oh,
Sybil, isn't it lovely ! "

" Beautiful, dear," Sybil assented.


Lord Lakenham eyed the structure disparagingly.

" Not much of a place," he said. " I don't care
about these plain Georgian mansions. Never seen
Lakenham, by the bye, have you, Miss Cluley? "

She shook her head.

" I do not even know where it is."

He laughed boisterously.

" That's a nasty one for me," he declared. " Rather
a show place, you know, Miss Cluley. Never mind, I
hope you'll see it some day. There's old Jermyn got
here first, after all. I wonder who the dickens he's
got to play hostess ? I'm hanged if I don't believe
why, it's Lucille ! "


Jermyn Annerley was, in the parlance of the gossip-
ing journalists of the day, a very interesting figure in
Society. He was tall, and he had the good looks which
go with clean-cut features a little on the large side,
a very sensitive mouth, and deep-set, keen, but rather
introspective gray eyes. He had done exceedingly well
at college but had distinguished himself chiefly in
athletics. Nothing, the sporting critics declared, but a
certain lack of enthusiasm had prevented him from be-
coming one of the most brilliant amateur batsmen of
the day. He had actually, however, had the astound-
ing strength of will to give up cricket altogether for
two years which he spent in traveling, and a curious
inclination to regard the game as a recreation rather
than as an all-engrossing pursuit had more than once
mystified the little body of gentlemen who from the
neighborhood of St. John's Wood controlled the cricket
destinies of their country. He had never entered a
profession, and although he had gone out to South
Africa as a matter of course, the army as a career pre-
sented no attractions to him. He had written a novel
which was too clever to be successful, a few articles in
the reviews which had attracted a great deal of at-
tention, and the most popular Society comedy of the
day. He was known to be rich; he was unmarried,
charming to all women but obviously unimpressionable.


The worst thing that had been said about him was that
he was a prig.

He stood now at the open door, waiting to receive
his guests, composed and yet a little eager as his eyes
followed the approach of the car. The woman who
stood by his side watched him curiously from under-
neath the lace of the parasol which she held over her
head. From the first she had been suspicious of the
coming of this girl.

" Who is Lucille ? " Sybil Cluley asked, as the auto-
mobile glided around the last bend of the avenue.

" Duchesse de Sayers," Lord Lakenham replied.
" She is a sort of cousin of ours was an Aynesworth,
you know. She married a Frenchman who turned out
a regular rotter, and divorced him. She hates her
name and hates her title, so nearly every one calls her
Lucille. Great pal of Jermyn's."

The car drew up in front of the house. Jermyn
held out both his hands to Sybil as he assisted her to

" This is delightful ! " he exclaimed. " I shall never
be able to make sufficient apologies for not having been
at the station to receive you, but if there is a greater
autocrat in this world than your enemy the call-boy,
it is the captain of a county cricket team. Mary,
you've grown since last week, but you've got to kiss me
all the same because I'm your host. Glad to see you,
Lakenham. We didn't expect you till the later train.
Miss Cluley," he went on, " I want to present you to
my far-away cousin, who is good enough to be hostess
for me sometimes the Duchesse de Sayers."

" I am very glad to welcome you to Annerley,"
Lucille said slowly, as she held out her hand. " I have


been anxious to meet you ever since I saw your wonder-
ful performance in Jermyn's play."

" Miss Cluley and I are much too modest for that
sort of thing," Jermyn laughed. " There is some tea
on the other side of the house, in the gardens. I hope
that you want yours, Mary, as badly as I do. Come

There was some further interchange of conventional
speeches and they all moved slowly together into the
great hall. Jermyn led the way across the white stone
flags, smooth with age and shining like marble, past
the broad staircase, to where at the end of a corridor,
through an open door, was a vista of terraced gar-
dens, cool and brilliant.

" I do hope that you will like it here," he whispered
in Sybil's ear. " I have been looking forward so much
to your visit."

She raised her eyes to his and he was suddenly struck
with the new thing which he saw there. It was the
look of a frightened animal, the weak craving protec-
tion from the strong.

" It will be lovely," she answered. " I am sure tliat
it will be lovely."

" You have felt the heat, I am afraid? It must
have been a terribly trying journey."

She shook her head.

" It was nothing," she replied. " I had a good many
things to see to before I could get away, and traveling
generally gives me a headache. Directly I sit down
in your garden it will have passed."

" My garden," he smiled, " shall be like the garden
of the Eastern sage. When you open the gate and
step inside, all manner of evil things shall pass away."


The corridor was hung with portraits. Right over
the door through which they were to pass, the face of
a man in scarlet uniform frowned down upon them.

" Who is that ? " she asked, a little sharply.

He glanced up carelessly.

" A great-uncle the third Marquis of Lakenham
Lakenham's grandfather, by the bye."

She shivered distinctly. Once more he caught the
look in her eyes which had puzzled him.

" I am afraid," he remarked, smiling, " that you
don't like the look of my ancestors ! "

She glanced cautiously around. The others had
paused for a moment while Mary made friends with
some dogs.

" I do not like Lord Lakenham," she whispered.
" No, don't look so horrified, please. Of course he
hasn't been rude to me, or anything of that sort, but
I heard of him once I didn't like what I heard. He
somehow he frightens me."

Jermyn looked genuinely distressed.

" My dear Sybil," he exclaimed, " I am so sorry ! It
is quite a fluke his being here. I had no idea, even,
that he was coming until yesterday. He is on his way
to Scotland. To-morrow I will give him a hint."

She shook her head.

" You mustn't," she begged. " He would guess at
once. Don't say anything. This is really quite fool-
ish, you know, and I am very, very sorry," she added,
a little wistfully.

He drew her arm through his.

" Come," he insisted, " let us forget it. I am long-
ing to show you my gardens. Those cedar trees are
over five hundred years old. The critics, you among


them sometimes, tell me often that I am too imagina-
tive. Tell me, if you had been brought up in their
shadow, in these gardens, wouldn't you, too, open your
heart to fancies? "

They had passed now through the doorway and she
looked around her in mingled amazement and delight.
This was really the front of the house, surrounded by
a long, stone-flagged walk, bordered on the garden
side by a low stone terrace. Before them were steps
leading on to the lawn, and below, shelving gardens,
brilliant with color, dropped to the lake; and beyond
the lake, the woods. The lawn upon which they stood
was as smooth as velvet, green with the eternal green
of age. Beneath the cedar trees were many cushioned
chairs and a glittering tea equipage; upon another
table, jugs of cool drinks and bowls of fruit.

" It is wonderful," she murmured. " It is a little
Paradise, this, in which you live."

For one marvelous moment she forgot. The change
from her little flat in Kensington, which she had
scarcely left through many months of unceasing work
and anxiety, was too complete. It was indeed like
fairyland to her. Then Lakenham's voice behind
a loud, strident voice struck fear once more into her

" Let's go and find your sister, Miss Mary. Just
like Jermyn to make off with her like this. Come and
see fair play. And, Parkes, before you do another
thing mix me a large whisky and soda with a chunk
of ice, please."

Sybil half closed her eyes. Her fairyland seemed
to be crumbling up. Jermyn watched her with a shade
of real anxiety upon his face.


" He isn't really so bad, dear," he whispered, " and
we'll escape nearly all the time."

Once more she looked up at him with that self-
same air, the air of the child who seeks protection.

" Escape ! " she faltered. " Yes, we must escape ! "


" I call this a most interesting situation," Lucille

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Online LibraryE. Phillips (Edward Phillips) OppenheimThe way of these women → online text (page 1 of 22)