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flower-scented air.

Of course, it was impossible to go into the orchard
now; that was beyond the capacity of any human soul.
It was impossible to stroll in the long grass, or to sit
in the forked branches of the old cherry-tree; the
plums were ripening fast; there would soon come the
awful moment when they, too, must be gathered for
jam-making.

Boadicea, thinking of the day when she would per-
force have to go into the orchard, and perch upon a
ladder that would be resting perhaps against the very
tree where he . . . Boadicea, thinking of that, felt
that life could not hold worse tortures for any living

232



A HOPELESS OUTLOOK 233

heart than the revisiting of places where Happiness
and Love had paid such fleeting visits.

And the worst of it was that in the midst of all this
weariness and monotony there was a part to play.
Boadicea was not the woman — she was a woman now
— to wear her sorrows, the signs of her broken heart,
upon her face. Neither Aunt Caroline nor Uncle Jas-
per nor Cousin Barnaby should see that she was a mis-
erable, broken-hearted creature, who cried half the
night in unspeakable wretchedness, and was wearing
out her young life in bitter regrets. No! they should
see nothing of her misery, and neither should Olive.
Oh, above all, Olive should see nothing, Olive who also
had lied, who also had cheated, Olive who had at last
fallen from the pedestal where her adoring sister had
enshrined her all these years.

Uncle Jasper and Cousin Barnaby were, of course,
too much absorbed — one in his books, the other in
himself — to notice any change in Boadicea. She ac-
companied Uncle Jasper in his birds'-nesting expedi-
tions, and looked after Cousin Barnaby's hot water
bottle, just the same as she had always done.

Aunt Caroline, however, was not quite so blind.
She could not help noticing that the child's eyes were
now always circled with dark lines, that she ate very
little, and that her cheeks and chest were rapidly falling
in. She prescribed rhubarb and treacle and dandelion
root, all of which Boadicea obediently and cheerfully
took, but the girl's appetite did not return, nor did her
cheeks regain their roundness.

All of which greatly puzzled Aunt Caroline. The
situation was altogether beyond her comprehension.



234 MEADOWSWEET

It was Boadicea who had behaved shamefully towards
Lieutenant Carrington — Mamie Carrington's boy —
and yet it was Boadicea who seemed miserable, and
who had lost her appetite; therefore the child's pale
cheeks and loss of appetite could not on the face of it
have anything to do with the broken engagement:

Aunt Caroline tried to question Boadicea, but her
anxiety was met with such placid serenity, and with
such gentle obstinacy that she soon gave up trying to
find out anything from the child.

After that highly improper, unladylike scene in the
museum that evening. Lieutenant Carrington had
called — only once — on the following morning to
proffer his respectful adieux to Mr. and Mrs. Heming-
ford. Boadicea had not come down to see him, and
he went away, after staying exactly ten minutes by the
museum clock, and Aunt Caroline declared that they
were the most uncomfortable ten minutes which she
had ever spent.

H.M.S. Dolphin made tracks for the Mediterranean
that self -same afternoon, and since then one letter had
come from Lieutenant Carrington for Mrs. Heming-
ford, and one for Boadicea. Both letters had been
posted from Cherbourg; in the one written to Aunt
Caroline Jack had endeavoured to express his grati-
tude for all the kindness which had been showered upon
him at Old Manor Farm.

Aunt Caroline had cried when she read the letter ; it
was so beautifully written, she said, and showed what
a noble-hearted fellow Mamie Carrington's boy had
proved himself to be. She expressed the fervent wish



A HOPELESS OUTLOOK 235

that some day he would meet a really nice girl, who
would make him as happy as he deserved to be.

Olive had been in the hall when the postman brought
the two letters ; she it was who persuaded Aunt Caro-
line not to give the other one to Boadicea.

" The child is so very determined," she said, " and
so bitter on the subject of Lieutenant Carrington just
now, that to allow a correspondence to be started be-
tween them at this juncture would only aggravate the
situation and cause a great deal of unhappiness to
both sides."

Aunt Caroline would have demurred, but Olive al-
ways had an irresistible way with her.

" I shouldn't give this letter to Boadicea just now,
Aunt," she said, with that authoritative air of hers
which Aunt Caroline never could disregard. " Let me
put it by for a little while — say, for a month or two
— until the child's curious temper has had time to calm
down, and she is able to look at things a little more
coolly. I do firmly believe that if you will only give
her time, and in the meanwhile do not even mention
Lieutenant Carrington's name to her, everything may
yet be well."

" Do you really think so, Olive ? " said Aunt Caro-
line, with a sigh.

" I do really. I am sure you would be doing an
infinity of harm by giving the child this letter at the
present moment. You know what she is: impulsive
and wilful to a degree! She would, in her present
mood, probably send an answer back to Lieutenant
Carrington which would offend him beyond the hope



236 MEADOWSWEET

of his ever forgiving her. Silence and his continued
absence are the best chances of reconcihation."

Of course, Aunt CaroHne was far too unsophisti-
cated to see through OHve's clever machinations. She
firmly believed that her worldly niece's advice could
not help but be sound, and never for a moment did it
enter her head that Olive's desire to gain time and to
keep Boadicea and Lieutenant Carrington apart was
solely actuated by her selfish hope that she in the
meanwhile would succeed in regaining Jack's regard
and in once more enchaining his truant allegiance to
herself.

" Very well," said Aunt Caroline after a brief mo-
ment of hesitation, " I'll put the letter by, and only
give it to Boadicea when I see that she is in a better
frame of mind."

" No, no," protested Olive. " If you put that let-
ter by. Aunt, you will never be able to find it when the
time comes for giving it to the child. Let me take
charge of it. I'll give it her just at the right moment,
you may be sure of that."

Thus did Olive's scheme succeed most admirably.
After a little more persuasion she got Aunt Caroline
round to her way of thinking, nor had the good soul
any thought of seriously opposing her niece in such a
matter. Lady Jeffreys, who was one of the most
prominent members of London society, would be sure
to know exactly what had best be done under these
very trying conditions. Aunt Caroline soon became
convinced that it was distinctly her duty to withhold
Lieutenant Carrington's letter from Boadicea, at any



A HOPELESS OUTLOOK . 237

rate, temporarily, whereupon she handed it over with-
out further demur to OHve.

After the episode Aunt Caroline became greatly ab-
sorbed in the making of jams, pickles, and preserves,
and it was small wonder that, in the midst of these
important duties, she wholly forgot all about Lieu-
tenant Carrington's letter. In fact, after a while she
managed to forget all about Lieutenant Carrington
himself and his engagement to Boadicea. A day or
two after the incident of the letter Olive announced
her intention of leaving Old Manor Farm at the end
of her prolonged visit. She proposed to spend the re-
mainder of the summer at a fashionable watering-place
on the Continent.

Boadicea took farewell of the sister — whom she
had so dearly loved — almost with a feeling of relief.
Olive's presence in the house had greatly added to her
misery. She felt how completely shipwrecked were
all her illusions and all her joys of life. The man
whom she had loved, the sister whom she had trusted,
had been the two first teachers who had taught her
how base and deceitful human creatures could be. It
was a lesson which she was not likely to forget. The
shadow which now hung over her life would no doubt
never be lifted. It had altered her entirely, her soul
and her mind were alike different to what they had
been before, even her body had undergone a change.
She felt no longer young, no longer full of life and
joy, things which before had delighted her no longer
pleased her now. She did not care what happened,
for nothing could happen that would ease the load of
sorrow and of disappointment from her heart.



CHAPTER XXV

A SENTIMENTAL CONVERSATION

And then the summer and the autumn went by.

Aunt CaroHne had made strawberry jam, then
cherry jam, then walnut pickle, and finally damson
cheese, after which came the curing of bacon, the fat-
tening of the Christmas turkey, the making of the
twelve Christmas puddings — one for the first Sunday
of every month, to be eaten throughout the year when
the Vicar of Minster came over to dine at Old Manor
Farm after the Communion service.

Sir Baldwin and Lady Jeffreys had spent a couple
of months on the Continent, then they settled down
at Ashford Great Court — their country residence —
for the shooting, and Lady Jeffreys gave some very
smart parties there during the autumn. The echo of
these fashionable entertainments did reach sometimes
as far as Old Manor Farm, Mr. Culpepper riding over
every now and again from the Abbey to take tea with
Mr. Hemingford, and bringing over the news with
him, but Aunt Caroline was too busy about the house
to take a great deal of interest in social events, and it
really seemed now as if Olive and her world were very
far removed from the humble folk in Thanet.

Though Ashford was distant from Old Manor
Farm only twenty-two miles. Lady Jeffreys never
came throughout the autumn to visit her uncle and

?38



A SENTIMENTAL CONVERSATION 239

aunt. She wrote several pleasant and chatty letters to
Boadicea, and made many agreeable, if somewhat
vague, suggestions that the child should come and
spend a few days at Ash ford Great Court. But to
these Invitations Boadicea gave no reply, nor did Olive
seem to expect any; she never fixed any definite time
for the visit, and so it never came about.

Twice during that autumn did Sir Baldwin come
riding over in the morning, having made an early start
from home ; but he only stayed to dinner and returned
in the afternoon. He seemed more morose even than
usual, and was apparently very wrathful with Boadi-
cea for her treatment of Lieutenant Carrington. But
he was far too well-bred and far too reserved In his
speech to make open allusion to such matters, since he
would not consider it his business to do so.

Directly after Christmas he and Lady Jeffreys went
to Bath, as was customary with them and a great many
fashionable folk. They stayed there some little time,
Sir Baldwin being greatly troubled with gout that
year ; but exactly how long they were there I could not
tell you, nor where they went to after that. All
I know Is that In May they had once more returned
to their town house In St. James's-street, which had
been beautifully redecorated in view of the coming
season, and that all the fashionable journals of that
year speak In glowing terms of Lady Jeffreys' entranc-
ing beauty, and of her charm as one of the leading
hostesses of the day.

The King and Queen, as you know, graced her
house with their presence on one occasion, and she con-
stantly entertai)l?4 the elite of fashionable London



240 MEADOWSWEET

society. Never, in fact, had Olive more cause to be
satisfied with her own dainty person and with the cir-
cumstances of Hfe which rendered all things extremely
pleasant to her.

Jack Carrington was home on leave after nine
months spent in Malta. He had been invalided home,
as he had greatly suffered from low fever, a fact not
to be wondered at, considering the heat of the climate
of Malta and the primitive methods of sanitation dis-
played at that otherwise delightful station.

At first Olive had been greatly shocked at Lieuten-
ant Jack's altered appearance. He looked like a mid-
dle-aged man, with bowed shoulders, and a touch of
grey on the temples. Low fever was evidently a very
trying complaint, one that affects the mind as well as
the body, for Jack's spirits had lost all their buoyancy.
He seemed listless and apathetic even in the presence
of the prettiest woman in London, and Olive vainly
waited for those charming tokens of gallantry with
which Lieutenant Jack had delighted her and won her
regard a year ago.

Of course, the task of looking after the bodily wel-
fare of a young and well-looking naval lieutenant is
often a pleasing one, more especially when that naval
lieutenant is interesting to a large circle of ladies, who
become rivals for his attentions. Jack Carrington was
always popular in London society, but seemed doubly
so now that his appearance suggested something of
sorrowful romance. Olive — • whose powers of hint-
ing and insinuating were far above the average —
soon drew these suggestions of romance toward her-
self.



A SENTIMENTAL CONVERSATION 241

She quickly managed to persuade her friends that
Jack Carrington's altered appearance and listless man-
ner were due to his hopeless attachment for her; and
from persuading her friends in this manner she soon
succeeded in persuading herself.

She became quite convinced that Lieutenant Jack
was pining himself into an early grave because of his
thwarted love for her, and his chivalrous sense of
duty as opposed to his burning passion.

Whereupon she increased her show of kindness to-
ward him. She was in turn motherly, sisterly,
friendly, tender, sorrowing, pitying, until he — over
grateful for her charity and hating that very society
which he used formerly to enjoy — found pleasure
only in his visits to her.

During all this while he never once mentioned
Boadicea in his conversation, and on this Lady Jeff-
reys looked as a good sign. But in her work of re-
capturing his wandering allegiance she went charily
to work. She had almost alienated him once by over-
impulsive actions, and she was far too great an adept
in the art of winning an admirer to fall twice into the
same error.

It was one evening in the conservatory, during one
of her most brilliant receptions, that Olive received the
first shock which told her that everything was not go-
ing on quite as well as she could have wished.

She was looking radiantly beautiful that night, and
was conscious of her own irresistible charm. Whilst
a string-band was discoursing a dreamy motet by
Lully, she lured Jack Carrington into the conservatory.
It was filled with lilies, and the air all round was soft



242 MEADOWSWEET

and fragrant. The sound of the music penetrated
faintly to this distant part of the room, and dim hghts
burned low among the fronds of ferns and the gently
swaying curtains of maiden-hair or of grevillea.

Olive chose a low seat on which to recline, a seat
nestling in a clump of palms and lilies artistically
grouped, and she allowed Jack to sit close beside her,
so that the perfume from her hair and her handker-
chief mingled agreeably with that of the flowers.

The folds of her pretty gown fell gracefully across
his knee, and her hand fell listlessly to her side and
came in gentle contact with his.

Everything, as you see, was well disposed for senti-
mental conversation. Olive sighed with satisfaction
and pleasurable anticipation, and wielded her fan pre-
paratory to embarking on those delightful paths where
the ice is very thin indeed, and every footstep might
lead to dangerous falls. And yet, in spite of the lilies
and of the fragrance in the air, in spite of the folds of
her gown and the proximity of her hand, Lieutenant
Carrington engaged the conversation by a reference
to Old Manor Farm. He would talk of Aunt Caro-
line and of her excellent dinners, of Cousin Barnaby's
ill temper and Uncle Jasper's eccentricities, and this
despite the fact that Olive looked bored from the first
and subsequently grew markedly impatient.

Time was getting on. An attentive hostess could not
absent herself from her guests for more than fifteen
minutes, and ten had already gone by in a discussion
of Aunt Caroline's pickles. It was truly exasperating.
A daintily shod foot was tapping the ground in angry
impatience. But Lieutenant Carrington seemed quite



A SENTIMENTAL CONVERSATION 243

oblivious of this fact; his conversation rambled on, and
presently he mentioned Boadicea's name.

He did not say much, and while he spoke of the girl
his voice certainly had none of that softness of tone
which might suggest latent tenderness. Olive, there-
fore, had no cause for pique, and yet she bit her lower
lip almost viciously, so angry was she at Jack's want of
tact.

Soon the subject was dropped. Two or three other
couples had wandered into the conservatory, and there
was no longer any chance on this perfect occasion for
the sentimental conversation which Olive had desired.

She felt very provoked and dismissed Lieutenant
Jack with unusual curtness. He seemed quite uncon-
scious of having offended her, and at the last, when he
kissed the tips of her fingers bidding her adieu, he
actually had the effrontery to beg of her to use her
influence with Boadicea, that the young girl should
grant him a personal interview.

" I cannot help feeling convinced," he had said
earnestly, " that her extraordinary attitude towards
me is the result of a grave misunderstanding, which
perhaps two words freely exchanged would put right.
I would kneel to you now, Lady Jeffreys, if I dared,
and thus beg you to use your influence with her that
she should grant me one short interview."

It would not have been either dignified or politic to
refuse. Olive promised him that she would do what
she could.



CHAPTER XXVI

A BUNCH OF ROSES

That was a week ago, and since then Olive had met
Jack Carrington several times, and never once did he
allude to Boadicea or to his request for an interview
with her. Of course, he knew that some days must
elapse for letters to pass between the sisters to and fro,
but Olive consoled herself with the thought that if he
really cared for the interview he would not keep such
persistent silence about it.

He came to see her on the morning of her birthday,
having taken the gallant precaution to send a bouquet
of La France roses to propitiate the goddess who he
hoped would do so much for him. On Olive alone —
so he thought — depended his chances of an interview
with his dear little Meadowsweet — still infinitely dear
despite the hurt which she had so wantonly inflicted
upon him. From Olive he hoped at last to get the
welcome news that he might journey down to Thanet
with the certainty of seeing once more that exquisite
childlike face, the great wondering eyes, and tender
mouth that meant earthly happiness to him.

But Olive had no idea that La France roses sent on
her birthday morning could possibly mean anything
but discreet and respectful admiration for herself, and
when presently Jack Carrington was shown into her

244



A BUNCH OF ROSES 245

pretty mauve and blue room, she extended a very
gracious hand to him.

" How kind of you to come, Jack ! " she said, with
one of her most bewitching smiles.

" Kind? " he exclaimed. " I should be an ungrate-
ful wretch, indeed, if I did not at least pay my respects
to you, Lady Jeffreys, on your birthday. You have
always been such a good friend to me."

" So many women have been that to you. Jack ! "

" Friends ? No, I think not. People in London
have been more than kind. But on the whole I shall
not be sorry to leave England. Society is not much
in my line now, is it. Lady Jeffreys ? "

" Oh, I don't know ! You seem to get on in it
remarkably well. But what makes you talk of leaving
England ? You are not going away ? "

" Indeed I am. The Dolphin leaves for the China
seas early in next week."

" But you are not going in her? "

"Please God, lam!"

" But you have been offered an appointment in the
Admiralty?"

" Yes. Entirely through your kind influence. Lady
Jeffreys, and no one could be more profoundly grateful
than I am to you, but . . ."

He paused, hesitating somewhat, knowing instinc-
tively — though Heaven knows he was not proud of it
— that the announcement which he was about to make
would affect her very unpleasantly.

He questioned her with a look, and saw that she
was frowning, and that her face was hard and set, just



246 MEADOWSWEET

as it often was when anything in Hfe occurred in op-
position to her wishes.

"You have refused the appointment?" she asked
curtly.

" My letter of refusal and of thanks goes in to-
night."

" Don't post that letter, Jack ! " she entreated.

" I really must, Lady Jeffreys."

"But why?" she asked.

" I can't bear to stay in England," he replied dully.
" I cannot bear it. I would far rather go away, un-
less . . ."

"Unless what?"

" Can't you guess ? "

" No. I cannot," she said more softly, thinking in-
deed that she could guess how her own harshness was
driving him away from England. " Tell me, Jack,
what is it that would keep you in London ? "

Then as he did not reply immediately, she said
more languishingly still :

" Why do you hesitate, Jack ? Tell me. I might
be able to help you."

" You can help me, Lady Jeffreys," he said eagerly.
" That brief interview with Boadicea. . . . Have you
asked her? "

" Yes," replied Olive drily.

Gone was all the softness in her voice, the languor-
ous look in her eyes. Her sister's name, spoken by
Jack at this moment, had acted like a shower of icy
water upon her temperament, so ready to yield and to
sentimentalise. But Jack was quite unconscious of
the change in her voice. He did not notice her annoy-



A BUNCH OF ROSES 247'

ance any more than he had understood her more pas-
sionate mood. His thoughts were of Meadowsweet,
and of the hope of seeing her, and everything else was
as if it never existed at all.

" Will she . . . will she grant me the interview ? "
he asked.

" She refuses to see you."

"But why — in Heaven's name? Why?" he
urged.

" I cannot tell you," she replied harshly. " Boadi-
cea is a curious child, as you know. She lent herself
readily enough at first to the brief farce of an engage-
ment with you ; but she only did it for my sake, and
because she really thought that Sir Baldwin was at
that moment capable of doing me an injury. She
never cared for you . . . you know."

" I thought that she did," he murmured almost in-
voluntarily, for his thoughts had quickly flown back
to that glorious day in June, to the orchard fragrant
with spring flowers, to the old cherry-tree in the forked
branch of which had sat his little Meadowsweet with
the bright, wondering eyes, and the red lips that were
so good to kiss.

" Ah!" said Olive more gently, as she put a hand
upon the young man's shoulder; "that is where a
man's heart is so strange. Jack. It so often seeks love
where none exists, and passes true love indifferently
by."

" You think, Lady Jeffreys," he insisted with that
sublime tactlessness of a heart filled with the image of
another woman, " you really think that there is no
hope for me? "



248 MEADOWSWEET

" Hope ? " she retorted. " Why should you speak
of hope in connection with a heartless, wayward
child ? The sooner you forget her the better for your
own dignity, I should imagine. Your vanity alone is
wounded, Jack, believe me. You will soon get over
it. There are others, you know, who could well show
you of what depths of affection a woman's heart is
capable."

" But the whole thing puzzles me so hopelessly.
Lady Jeffreys. ... It seems to me as if I should
never know another happy hour until I have seen
daylight through that amazing veil of mystery. It is
all so unlike Boadicea . . . she is so simple-hearted
... so true and loyal in her disposition. I no more
can think of her playing such a cruel game as she
seems to have done than I would think of a Madonna
being a fickle coquette."

" Lord bless my soul, man," exclaimed Olive, whose
patience was now utterly exhausted, and who took no
longer any pains to hide her anger, " did you come to
see me to-day for the sole purpose of gushing over my
sister's perfections? For, if so, let me tell you that
your rodomontades are not at all to my liking."

" A thousand pardons. Lady Jeffreys ! " he rejoined
quite humbly. " I seem, indeed, to have lost myself
as well as my manners recently. You are quite right.
I must not plague you with my troubles. May I take


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