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ions," said Nora, with a sigh.

''We have. There is an old heathen saying that
the gods give nothing — they only sell ; and I believe
there is some truth in it. / We can get nothing for
nothing in this world : and I think it is a very good
thing that we can't." )

Thus Michael taught and Nora listened ; and in the
process they grew to know and love each other better
every day.

It happened that while these two were holding
sweet converse on the road from Tetleigh to Way-
side, Laurence and Nancy were holding anything but
sweet converse on their way back from Baxendale
Hall; and the front of their offending was as fol-
lows: A friend of Anthony, Bertie Crawshay by
name, had been spending a few days at Wayside —
nominally with Anthony, but actually with An-
thony's cousin. There is no use disguising the fact
that Nancy had flirted outrageously with this young
man, actuated thereto by two powerful reasons : fl7'st,



COURSE OF TRUE LOVE 143

by a natural desire to make life pleasant to herself;
secondly, by an equally natural if less laudable one to
make it unpleasant to Laurence Baxendale. And in
both respects she had succeeded beyond her utmost
expectations : the flirtation had amused her and an-
noyed Laurence more than she had dared to hope,
and consequently she was in high spirits.

''I haven't seen you for ages," she exclaimed, after
she and Laurence had greeted each other in the Park,
she with an extreme pleasantness, which was meant
to be unpleasant, and he with excessive politeness
which was intended to be rude; "it is at least two
hundred and seventy-five years since we met."

"Is it? I hadn't noticed it, Miss Burton," replied
Laurence stiflly, who knew that exactly four days,
three hours and twenty-five minutes had elapsed
since he last set eyes on Nancy.

"How are you?" she enquired, with engaging
sweetness.

"I'm all right, thank you," was the response, with
no sweetness at all.

"Are you? I'm so glad. I asked because you
don't look particularly grand, you know ; I'm afraid
you've been doing too much this hot weather; and
though it is very jolly, it takes it out of one."

"The weather seems to me perfect, and I can as-
sure you. Miss Burton, that your anxiety as to my
health is entirely misplaced — I never felt better in my
life." He really was very disagreeable; but then
what right had a girl to go about with an ass of a



144 FUEL OF FIRE

fellow such as Crawshay for three days and behave
as if she liked it? he asked himself, in excuse.

''You mean you never felt worse," Miss Nancy
said to herself; but aloud she merely remarked with
the utmost suavity : ''It is so nice to see you again ! ,
Do you know, we haven't met for such centuries that
I had forgotten the colour of your hair and the shape
of your nose ? I really had."

"I am flattered to find that you waste time in striv-
ing to recall my uninteresting features. But, believe
me, you make a mistake ; they are not worth remem-
bering."

Nancy was delighted : Laurence was even angrier
than she had expected him to be : "Oh ! your nose is
well worth remembering, it is such a nice shape ; you
don't do it justice; its loveliness increases, and it will
never pass into nothingness, according to Keats.
But though I did forget the shape of your nose, I
didn't forget you, because I have been telling Bertie
Crawshay all about you, and that has served to keep
my memory green."

Laurence bowed : "Thank you; I am, however, as
unworthy of Mr. Crawshay's notice as of yours.
Sorry you and he could not find a more interesting
subject of conversation than myself."

"Oh ! but we could — heaps upon heaps, and much
more interesting; but you happened to crop up now
and then among the rest."

"Then I have no more to say." Laurence was
very angry. He had held Nancy too sacred to be



COURSE OF TRUE LOVE 145

discussed even between himself and his mother, and
in return Nancy had talked him over with this young
jackanapes. It really was unpardonable, and he had
no intention of pardoning it. So much for the futil-
ity of masculine intentions !

"What ? No more to say, when you haven't seen
me for a whole week? Well, you are a most dis-
appointing person ! I expected you to have no end
to tell me after this long separation."

"Yes, I am disappointing enough; but your error
lay in expecting too much of me. You know,
'Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not
be disappointed ;' that is my favourite Beatitude."

Nancy's blue eyes appeared to be full of sympathy
and interest : "Then do you ever feel disappointed in
people, too, Mr. Baxendale ? Oh ! I am so sorry."
Yes, Laurence was right; she really was unpardon-
able.

"Pray, do not waste upon me sympathy which
might be so much better expended," he replied with
exaggerated ceremony; "you misunderstood my re-
mark : I meant that I don't often meet with disap-
pointment, for the simple reason that I am not such a
fool as to expect much from people."

"How very interesting and clever of you! But
don't you find it rather dull?"

"Not disagreeably so. I do not — like you — ex-
pect people who have not seen me for a week to be
ready to greet me with an accumulation of brilliance
which they have been storing up for me at compound



146 FUEL OF FIRE

interest in my absence : on the contrary, I expect
them to have forgotten my very existence in the so-
ciety of more cheerful and congenial companions;
and — unlike you — I admit I am rarely disappointed."

They walked on in silence for a minute or two,
until they came to the gate which separated Baxen-
dale Park from the lanes. Then Nancy asked in her
most airy manner : "I say, shall we go home the long
or the short way ?"

Laurence looked at his watch without in the least
seeing what time it was: *'You must, of course,
please yourself, Miss Burton. I must get back home
as quickly as possible, as I am rather busy to-day."

Then came another silence, and Nancy, knowing
to an inch how short was now the distance to the
turning where the way to Poplar Farm branched off
from the way to Wayside, and having an instinctive
knowledge that Laurence would say good-bye at that
turning and not walk home with her, began to think
it was time for a change in the tactics of her warfare.
"You seem rather cross to-day," she said quite meek-
ly, looking up at Laurence with a face out of which
the mischief had died.

Laurence raised his eyebrows in apparent surprise :
'T, cross ? — what do you mean. Miss Burton ? I am
afraid I must be very bad mannered to give you such
an idea: for which bad manners please accept my
humble apologies."

"Then aren't you cross?" Nancy's voice was
meeker than ever.



COURSE OF TRUE LOVE 147

''Not in the least. What ever put such an idea
into your head?"

Nancy began to get rather frightened. It is one
thing to play with fire and quite another ( and a much
less agreeable one!) to burn one's own fingers. *'I
thought perhaps you were vexed with me about some-
thing."

*'I ? — vexed with you ? Impossible. I am afraid
that too brilliant imagination of yours is leading you
astray. You are inventing offences on my part for
the express purpose of showing resentment on your
own. I fancy you will find that both offence and
resentment are mythical."

Nancy felt it was time to play trumps if she did not
wish to lose the game altogether: **I thought you
were vexed with me about Bertie Crawshay," she
blurted out. It was a most feminine card.

But Laurence held trumps in his hand, too, and
took her queen with his king : ''My dear Miss Burton,
what earthly right have I to dictate to you who shall
be and who shall not be your friends ? It would be
gross impertinence on my part to express annoyance
at anything which you might think fit to do : an im-
pertinence of which I hope I am incapable."

Nancy looked at him sideways, with an expression
in which fear and shame and curiosity were equally
blended. Laurence happened to turn round at that
moment and caught the look : he wished he had not
seen it, as it somewhat weakened his praiseworthy in-
tention to uphold his own dignity in the sight of this



148 FUEL OF FIRE

most insolent and unfeeling young woman. Never-
theless, he continued : "As I said before, I extremely
regret that anything in my unfortunate manner
should have led you to believe me guilty of the un-
pardonable liberty of criticising or even discussing
your conduct; but if you will overlook it this time,
I can promise you that for the future I will take care
to avoid even the appearance of such an evil."

Nancy had nearly lost the game, and she knew it ;
but still she held the ace. The question was, should
she play it, or should she uphold her dignity as high
as Laurence was now upholding his, and throw down
the cards, refusing to play any longer against so de-
termined an adversary? She hesitated a minute,
and looked round : they were in the most secluded of
the lanes, and nobody — not even a scarecrow — was
in sight. Yes, the ace would have to go ; there was
no doubt of that. As far as it was in Nancy to be
shy of anything, she was shy of the strength of her
own feelings ; she generally kept them resolutely out

of sight, and

made a curtain
Out of her laughter to hide her love.

But now she laid an entreating little hand on her
companion's arm, and — for the first time in her
twenty-two years — she allowed her whole heart to
well up into her eyes as she raised them to his and
whispered :

"Laurence, I know I've been a brute; won't you
forgive me?"



COURSE OF TRUE LOVE 149

And then and there, in spite of his praiseworthy-
desire to uphold his own dignity — in spite of his
justifiable intention to properly punish her unbecom-
ing behaviour — in spite of his laudable decision to tell
no woman of his love until he was in a position to
marry her — Laurence Baxendale suddenly took
Nancy in his arms and covered her face with kisses.

''My darling," he murmured, "I love you, I love
you! It was I who was the brute; but I shouldn't
have been if I had not cared for vou so much and
been so confoundedly jealous."

Nancy laughed as well as she could in the circum-
stances. ''You silly boy, were you very jealous?"
'Rather ! Couldn't you see it ?"
'Distinctly ; a blind bat could have seen it with his
eyes shut. And, do you know, I think jealousy is
my favourite virtue in a man? — when it's about me,
of course, I mean."

"And I'm a brute to make love to you now, consid-
ering that Tm such a poor beggar I shan't be able to
ask you to marry me for years and years probably ;
but I simply couldn't help it when you looked at me
like that."

'Then do you love me very much ?"

'My darling, I adore you."

After another hiatus in the conversation, Laurence
said: "You haven't told me yet that you love me,
sweetheart. Nancy, do you love me ?"

Then Nancy put her two hands on his shoulders
and pushed him away from her, looking him full in



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150 FUEL OF FIRE

the face with her heart still in her eyes : "I love you
with all my heart and soul and strength, and I always
shall love you : and there never has been and never
will be any man in the world for me except you : and
now let us be funny again, and forget that we're so
badly in love."

So the ace won the trick after all.



CHAPTER IX.

ANOTHER WOMAN TEMPTS.

"The woman tempted me and I did eat:"
Such the apology once made by Adam,
Who paved a way more trodden by men's feet
Than any fashioned by the great Macadam.

The following afternoon Nancy was silent with
the silence which accompanies excessive happiness,
even in the most loquacious people. When one has
just been treading the highways to Zion and behold-
ing visions of angels, it is difficult to bring oneself
down to the level of ordinary conversation with one's
fellow creatures — particularly when those fellow
creatures happen to be relations. And so Nancy
found it.

Anthony, in fraternal fashion, was not slow to ob-
serve this unusual reticence on the part of his gener-
ally loquacious kinswoman.

**What is the matter with our beloved Nancy?" he
asked of Nora, in a stage whisper loud enough to
have pierced ears much more remote than Nancy's :
*'is it her liver or her lover that is out of order, and
so produces this distressing and unnatural depres-
sion?"

*'You must ask her," replied Nora; but Nancy did



152 FUEL OF FIRE



not take any notice. She found Laurence's past re-
marks much more nourishing food for meditation
than Anthony's present ones — a not unprecedented
experience of female relations.

Tony gazed at her pensively : then murmured,

"Oh, that those lips had language ! Life has passed
But slowly with me and Nora since we heard thee last."

Then the mystic roused herself sufficiently to
speak: and her speech was to the point: ''Don't be
an ass," was all she said.

*'I will try not — indeed I will; but, as I have re-
marked before, it runs in the Burton family, as it did
in Balaam's. The only difference being that Balaam
was amazed when his ass spoke ; we, on the contrary,
marvel when ours is silent."

Nora laughed, and Nancy tried not to do so.

''But the reason for the upset is the same in both
cases," Anthony went on : ''the ass saw an angel in
the way."

"I'd rather hold my tongue till doomsday than talk
as much nonsense as you do," said Nancy.

"Nevertheless, your daily walk and conversation
give the lie to this statement," Anthony sighed.
"Would that it were not so!"

"What are you going to do after tea, Tony?"
asked Nora, who naturally did not take an absorbing
interest in this accurate diagnosis of her sister's ama-
tory condition.

"I shall go for a stroll in the lanes, I think, in or-



ANOTHER WOMAN TEMPTS 153

der that my always delicate digestion may recuperate
itself between the efforts of tea and dinner. I al-
ways find, if I don't take exercise at this particular
hour, that I am incontinently launched upon my din-
ner before I have duly forgotten my tea. And there
is something rather indecent in that — like marrying
again before one's first wife is sufficiently dead, don't
you know?"

Whereupon Nancy woke up thoroughly: "You
can't go for a stroll in the lanes, then — I am occupy-
ing the lanes myself this evening," she said, as if she
were referring to a common bathroom which was
used in turns.

Anthony fairly gloated over her discomfiture:
"Ah ! now we have hit the nail — that is to say, our
beloved Nancy — upon the head. Then how are Nora
and I to get such exercise as the state of our diges-
tions and the size of our teas demand, I should like to
know ?"

"You can go for a walk along the road. The high-
road is good enough for relations," replied Nancy in-
differently.

Anthony clasped his hands in mock admiration:
"Oh, wise young judge, how I do honour thee!
Where did you learn all these truisms, my dear young
friend?"

"Oh ! in various places."

"I am going to write a new version of Eyes and
No Eyes/' said Tony; "it will be about a good little
girl who never made eyes, and so the highroad was



154 FUEL OF FIRE

as uninteresting and uninstructive to her as the love-
liest lane : and about a naughty little girl who always
made eyes wherever she went, so long as there was
somebody (it didn't matter who) to make eyes to:
and in consequence the dullest field paths to her were
full of delightful and sentimental memories ; and the
less frequented a road by ordinary traffic the more
pleasure she got out of it."

"It will be a very nice story," applauded Nora, to
whom also the lanes at the back of Wayside were not
altogether untrodden ground.

Anthony sighed : *'*Then do you agree with Nancy
in exiling yourself and me from the cool, sequestered
lanes of life, and condemning our tottering footsteps
to the 'ammer, 'ammer, 'ammer of the 'ard 'igh-
road?"

Nora nodded: ''Nancy and I always play fair
about the lanes. We never enter them when they
are being occupied by the others; and we keep the
rest of the family away, too."

*'How do you keep my esteemed aunt and uncle
away on these interesting occasions?"

Nora smiled demurelv : "We tell mother that there
are tramps about, and father that it is damp under
foot."

Anthony shouted with laughter : "Well, you and
Nan are two for a pair, as my old nurse used to
say."

"We certainly are intelligent young women," said
Nora, with complacency.



ANOTHER WOMAN TEMPTS 155

Then Anthony again turned his attention to the
elder sister : ''If I were you I should learn a lesson
from the sermons in stone — those stones which are
laid down for the prevention of traffic by the County
Council : and I should station at the entrance to your
particular lane a youth with a red banner bearing the
strange device, 'This road is closed for repairs with-
out the re.' Now I call that a distinctly neat idea."

Nancy could not help laughing, although she was
in love. "Really, Tony, you are killing! Your bit-
terest enemy couldn't deny that you are convulsing
at times."

''With which compliment let us withdraw, lest you
should think better of it and add a codicil or a post-
script which might give me pain, and undermine that
absolute self-appreciation which is the keystone to
my interesting and complex character," said An-
thony, getting up from the easy-chair where he had
been lounging and going out of the room. "Come
along, Nora, and we'll get the dogs, and leave our
dear Nan to derive what intellectual pleasure she can
from the society of one who is a man but not a
brother."

"All right." And Nora obediently followed him.

When the others had started for their walk, Nancy
put on her hat and wandered through the orchard
and across the field to the iron gate which led straight
into fairyland; and as she strolled along the grassy
road, with its high green hedges on either side shut-
ting off the common workaday world, she wondered



156 FUEL OF FIRE



how anybody could ever feel unhappy on such a
beautiful earth as this. She had always been sus-
ceptible to the beauties of nature, though hitherto
they had awakened in her a sort of indefinable crav-
ing — what for she did not know — a sort of uncon-
scious questioning, to which apparently there was no
answer. Sometimes there had seemed to her to be
a useless prodigality of beauty, as if the foolish old
earth had put on her glorious apparel and decked
herself with her jewels for a gala day which never
came. Surely simpler garments would have been
sufficient for the trivial rounds and the common tasks
which do not furnish all we ask — even if they fur-
nish all we ought to ask — when we are on the sunny
side of thirty. But now at last Nancy understood
why the earth beneath her was paved with emerald,
and the heavens above her were crowned with a sap-
phire dome — why each wild flower was a marvel of
exquisite workmanship, and each star in the firma-
ment had its place in that majestic choir whose Te
Deuni was begun in the dawn of creation by the sons
of God. It was because the "birthday of her life had
come — because her love had come to her," that she
found out why the earth had been made so beautiful ;
for Laurence's feet the emerald pavement had been
laid down — over Laurence's head the canopy of sap-
phire had been suspended — and now, because Lau-
rence loved her and told her so, the mountains and
the hills broke forth before her into singing, and all
the trees of the field clapped their hands.



ANOTHER WOMAN TEMPTS 157

Nancy's friends, with the singular bhndness of
those who have known us from our youth up, would
have said (in fact, did say) that she was too shallow
and light-hearted to fall in love in the ordinary ac-
cepted use of the term. Because she continually
laughed and hardly ever cried, they decided that the
deeper things of life were a closed book to her merry
blue eyes : and because she chose to wear upon her
sleeve such selections from her heart as she consid-
ered suitable for publication, they made up their
minds that these selections constituted her whole
property in that line, and that — because she talked
freely about some of her feelings — such feelings as
she did not talk about were non-existent.

There are no people so sorely misjudged in this
world as the people who go through life as laughing
philosophers; just as there is no figure in nursery
lore so pathetic as that of the jolly miller who lived
by the river Dee. Does any one imagine the man of
malt would have troubled to have informed his world
that he cared for nobody and nobody cared for him
if such a statement had indeed been true ? Not he !
He would rather have made affecting speeches at
charity organization meetings — and wept copiously
at the imaginary woes portrayed in theatres — and
told pathetic stories of his early love affairs — and
generally conducted himself as all such elderly gen-
tlemen conduct themselves who are actually what the
(so-called) jolly miller pretended to be. It was be-
cause he cared so much that he pretended to care so



158 FUEL OF FIRE

little. Nevertheless, he thereby deceived all chil-
dren, both of smaller and of larger growth : which,
after all, is what he desired and intended to do.

Nancy had not wandered far along the land when
she saw a well-known figure in a light tweed suit
coming toward her from the direction of Poplar
Farm. For a second she was possessed with an in-
sane desire to run away and hide herself where that
tweed-clad figure could not find her ; and yet she was
fully aware that — for the rest of her days — all roads
that did not lead to that figure would be unfit for
traffic, as far as her feet were concerned. Such is
the contrariety of the feminine mind.

There was a look in Laurence's grey eyes as he
greeted her which made her want more than ever to
run away from him at once, and never to run away
from him at all as long as she lived — two desires
which naturally were incompatible. So she gave
herself — and him — the benefit of the doubt and re-
mained.

After they had strolled together right down into
the heart of fairyland, using by the way such fond
talk as lovers are wont to use when no reporter hap-
pens to be present, they finally arrived at a stile set in
the middle of an unfrequented field, as far from the
madding crowd as it is possible to be in Mershire.
And upon this stile they sat, side by side, after the
approved fashion of Robert Burns and his Mary.

Why tradition has assigned a stile as the seemly



ANOTHER WOMAN TEMPTS 159

resting place for lovers is an interesting problem.
Taken as a seat, qita seat, it is indefensible, combin-
ing, as it does, the minimum of comfort in remaining
on with the maximum of danger in falling off; and
even putting so commonplace a consideration as com-
fort out of the question, the difficulty of balancing
oneself for any length of time on so limited a space
must always in some degree interfere with the flu-
ency of conversation of persons thus delicately bal-
anced. Nevertheless, a stile has always been, and
always will be, the regulation throne of King Cupid ;
and any attempt to substitute for it a more con-
venient and less uncomfortable resting place would
be on a par with reorganising a monarchy or dis-
establishing a State church.

"Are you quite sure you love me, sweetheart?"
asked Laurence, all the big heart of him shining out
of his large grey eyes.

Nancy nodded : "Absolutely certain. I'd take an
oath to that effect before a magistrate's clerk or a
coroner's jury without running the slightest risk of
seven years for perjury."

"You silly little child, what nice nonsense you
talk !"

"So do you. Do you know, you really have been
frightfully silly this afternoon?"

"I know that, baby. I like being silly. Anybody
can be clever — in fact, I was clever myself long be-
fore I'd ever seen you. But it takes a man who is



ct

if



i6o FUEL OF FIRE

absolutely and devotedly in love to be becomingly
silly : and there are precious few of that sort in this
v^icked world, T can assure you, Miss Burton."
'How much do you love me?" asked Nancy.
'As much as I can ; and that's a jolly lot."
'But how much can you ?"

''As much as this," replied Laurence, covering her
face with kisses.

''That's no answer; it's like saying 'as big as a
lump of chalk.' You're as bad as hie, when I once
wrote to a bookseller's shop and ordered a prayer-
book the same size as a birthday text-book. You
can imagine how father and Tom roared at me."

"I can."

"I want you to tell me exactly how much you love


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