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also she had to complete the birthday surprise! It is



AN AGREEABLE SURPRISE 2^-]

all too delightful, and I don't know how to thank Sir
Baldwin for his kindness in thinking out all the details
of this delightful visit."

"But where is Boadicea?" interposed Aunt Caro-
line.

" On the landing. Sitting on her boxes ! " rejoined
Mr. Crabtree airily.

Everyone had forgotten little Boadicea. Sir Bald-
win had greeted her kindly, but she did not follow Aunt
Caroline into the drawing-room. She had just caught
sight of her sister — beautiful as usual, exquisitely
dressed, angered at this invasion of her fashionable
house by this set of country bumpkins, but otherwise
perfectly serene — and the sight of Olive's face, of
those lips that had lied, those eyes that had so cruelly
deceived, brought back in a moment all the acuteness of
the heart ache which had become almost numb in the
past few months.

Boadicea would at that moment have given all she
had in the world to be allowed to run away from here
at once, to go back to lonely sea-girt Thanet, to the old
house and the orchard, which were so full of memories,
but also so full of peace. She could not then have
come forward to greet her sister, to kiss her again, to
lie by word and look again and again.

Nor was Olive any more eager to greet her. She
had caught sight of the little face, so pale now, so dif-
ferent to the childish face of a year ago. It looked
almost wan and quite tiny, with bloodless cheeks and
eyes that seemed unnaturally large. After that quick
exchange of looks the sisters, by tacit consent, turned
away one from the other. On the pretext of giving a



268 MEADOWSWEET

few final directions to Susan, Boadicea went back on to
the landing, and for the moment, luckily, both Sir
Baldwin and Olive were far too deeply absorbed in a
ridiculous situation to pay much attention to her.

She was very tired, so she sat down quietly on one of
Aunt Caroline's boxes, and waited patiently for the
time when some degree of silence would follow the
present babel of talk and of hysterical laughter, and in
the meanwhile screwing up her courage for the ordeal
of meeting Olive — as she would have to do presently
— just as if nothing had happened either to wreck her
life or to destroy her illusions'.

In a moment of impulse she had decided to come to
London because Sir Baldwin had written to say that
Olive was ill, and at that thought all the old fondness
for the beautiful sister had revived. She had come feel-
ing that Olive was ill and had need of her. If Olive had
been really ill, Boadicea could have found it in her heart
to forget and to forgive everything ; but Olive was not
ill and had no need of a sister's sympathy, and in her
eyes there was just that look of hard selfishness which
Boadicea had discovered in them on that one hideous
afternoon when all the world suddenly became black
and ugly with the stains of sin and deceit.



CHAPTER XXIX

AN AWKWARD SITUATION

There was. grave consultation with Thompson, the
majordomo of Lady Jeffreys's household, as to how
the unexpected guests were to be housed.

Though the mansion was fairly large and roomy,
there was no superabundance of space in it, and, as in
most London houses, there were but few spare bed-
rooms. Thompson gravely shook his head when her
ladyship asked him what rooms could be placed at the
disposal of Sir Baldwin's guests.

" If you please, my lady," he said, " there is only the
blue room free now. We thought that Miss Ald-
marshe alone was coming."

''Only the blue room?"

" That's all, my lady. Miss Aldmarshe can then
have the small green room on the east side."

" And," interposed Mr. Crabtree quietly, " Caro-
line and Jasper can go to an adjacent hotel."

"To an hotel," exclaimed Aunt Caroline, a little
horrified at the proposal.

" Yes," interposed Uncle Jasper, with alacrity,
" somewhere near the Royal Society's museum. . . ."

" Shall I tell Cutler, my lady, that that arrangement
will suit?" asked Thompson, who was showing a
lofty contempt for these savages from the country.

" Yes. Send her down here to me."

269



270 MEADOWSWEET

Thompson retired and Mr. Crabtree concluded with
perfect complacency:

" The blue room will do very well for me . . .
though I must tell you, Olive, that I hate blue. . . ."

" But, Cousin Barnaby," protested Olive, " I have
only the one room, and Aunt Caroline . . ."

" She can sleep at the hotel with Jasper, of
course . . . and I can make the blue room do . . ."

" But really, Cousin Barnaby . . ."

" No matter," he interposed loftily. " I can make
it do. Don't apologise. ... I hate blue, but I can
make it do."

Cutler, the housekeeper, In splendid black silk and
lace-edged apron, was already at the door ready to
confirm Thompson's assertion that no other room but
the blue one would be available, and Miss Aldmarshe
would then have to have the smaller green room on
the east side.

Aunt Caroline thought that the majestic house-
keeper looked a pert minx, and tried to tell her so by
a withering look. Mr. Crabtree had risen from the
sofa. Totally una wed by the glance of contemptuous
astonishment which Cutler threw at him, he stalked up
to her, rug and travelling-pillow in hand. Without
more ado he thrust these things into the indignant
housekeeper's arms.

" Here, woman, take my things into the blue room,"
he said.

Poor Cutler nearly dropped the things on to the
floor. She had never been so insulted in all her life.
Nothing but respect for her master and mistress pre-
vented her making a scene then and there, and in her



AN AWKWARD SITUATION 271

mind she determined that if these people stayed more
than one night in the house she herself would promptly
give a month's notice. For the moment she vainly
looked to Sir Baldwin — whom she had served faith-
fully for twenty years — for support against this in-
sult.

" Mr. Crabtree," said Sir Baldwin, somewhat fee-
bly, for, poor man, his spirits had been somewhat
cowed during the past half hour — "Mr. Crabtree, I
really must ask you to . . ."

" Don't apologise, don't apologise ! " broke in Cousin
Barnaby in his usual summary manner. " I hate blue,
but I can stand it for a few days. Let your woman
show the vv^ay. Get along, girl, can't you ? "

"What am I to do, my lady?" asked Cutler, who
was on the point of bursting into tears.

" Show me the way to the blue room, and don't
argue," concluded Mr. Crabtree.

It is a very curious fact in life that very selfish and
very self-assertive persons invariably succeed in im-
posing their wishes on others. In this case Mr. Crab-
tree had it entirely his own way. Sir Baldwin felt far
too bewildered and far too sheepish to do his duty as
host or master of the house. Olive, on the other
hand, was much too resentful and really not in a nor-
mal state of mind to attend to the most elementary
duties of hospitality towards her uncle and aunt.

Thus the perplexed and irate housekeeper, finding
no support from her master or mistress, was obliged
to obey that muffled-up scarecrow who insulted her
and ordered her about as if she had been a kitchen-
maid.



272 MEADOWSWEET

Wrapping herself up in a perfect mantle of offended
dignity, she threw one withering glance on Barnaby
Crabtree, and asked him, with ironical deference,
kindly to follow her up the stairs. This he did quite
contentedly, whilst Aunt Caroline said blandly :

" Cousin Barnaby insisted on coming, you know,
my dear Olive; I do hope that it is not inconvenient? "

" Oh, not at all — not at all, my dear Aunt ! We
are charmed, I assure you. . . . Are we not. Sir Bald-
win?"

" Delighted. Delighted, of course! "

" But," rejoined Olive, with a laugh, " unless you
and Uncle Jasper will sleep on the drawing-room floor
I am afraid that you will have to go to an hotel."

" Somewhere near the Royal Society's museum,"
murmured Uncle Jasper mildly.

"At any rate, we'll see to that later on. For the
moment we must have some luncheon. The bell will
ring in a quarter of an hour. Come to my room,
Aunt, will you? Sir Baldwin, will you see to Uncle
Jasper in the meanwhile ? "

" And that poor child ! " exclaimed Aunt Caroline,
suddenly recollecting Boadicea.

" She is still sitting on her boxes, I suppose."

But Boadicea was no longer on the landing. She
and Susan had found their way upstairs. They had
enlisted the housekeeper's sympathy, and had been
shown into their rooms.

The meeting between the two sisters had again been
postponed, but, of course, it could not be put off in-
definitely. Olive frowned with impatience at herself
for being so strangely disturbed in her younger sis-



AN AWKWARD SITUATION 273

ter's presence. She deposited Aunt Caroline in front
of a basin full of hot water in her own room, and then
deliberately went upstairs to the small green room on
the east side which Boadicea would have to occupy, if
she stayed in St. James's-street.

She knocked at the door and went in. Boadicea
was standing beside her boxes looking listless and
apathetic. She made no movement to embrace her
sister, and Olive felt strangely ill at ease at sight of
the thin, pinched little face so different to the apple-
cheeked, rosy one of awhile ago.

Not that there was any feeling of remorse or of
shame in her. She was not in the least ashamed of
what she had done, either of the lie which she had told
or of what that lie implied with regard to herself; nor
was she remorseful, for she had no conception of the
gravity of her action. Being wholly incapable of
deep and passionate attachment, she did not believe in
the existence of it. She thought that Boadicea — at
most — had had just the same passing fancy for Lieu-
tenant Carrington as she had had herself, that her
vanity had been agreeably tickled by the young man's
attentions, and that a sense of pique and of disap-
pointment was all that the young girl could possibly
feel at the present moment.

Not anything to make a fuss over, surely.

She thought that the child was exhibiting a sulki-
ness of temper altogether unwarranted under the cir-
cumstances, and it was almost with a feeling of ag-
grieved dignity that she said :

" Good gracious, child, are you so tired as all that ?
You don't seem overjoyed at seeing me."



274 MEADOWSWEET

She made pretence to kiss Boadicea with some show
of affection, and immediately afterwards began to talk
glibly of the present ridiculous situation.

" It is quite intolerable. You see that for yourself,
don't you, little one?" she said. "I am, of course,
delighted to have you, but what in the world shall I do
with Aunt and Uncle, and that odious Crabtree? I
haven't the room in this house, and Barnaby will up-
set all my servants."

" I am very sorry, Olive," said Boadicea, and for
the first time for many months a twinkle of amuse-
ment crept into her large, purple-circled eyes. " I did
what I could to stop the crowd of us coming all to-
gether. But Aunt made all the arrangements. ... I
was not allowed to speak a word."

" Aunt is really in her dotage. As for Uncle, he has
no business to be let loose in London like that."

" Aunt will do her best to look after him."

" They'll both come to grief in London," was
Olive's decided pronouncement. "And I am obliged
to send them to an hotel where Aunt will quarrel with
the chambermaid and the head waiter and set the man-
agement by the ears. As for paying her bill without
a terrible row with the cashier, she is simply incapable
of it. Little one, I am very, very sorry, but much as
I would like to have you here with me, I honestly
think that it is your duty to go to the hotel with them."

"Yes, Olive?"

" You will have to come back to me later on in the
season; and then I must see that you come alone.
Your visit this time has been spoilt, anyhow ; and I do



AN AWKWARD SITUATION 275

think that it is not safe for Aunt and Uncle to be alone
in a London hotel."

Boadicea cared so little as to where she went or
what she did, that she acquiesced readily in her sister's
wish.

, " I won't unpack my box, then," she said simply,
" and after luncheon we can all go to some hotel near
the Museum, as Uncle Jasper wishes."

" Yes, dear. And I wouldn't stay in London longer
than a few days. You could easily make Aunt under-
stand that London does not agree with you. And
then, you see, little one, the sooner you and the family
go back this time, the sooner you can return to me,
say, at the beginning of July, when the season is still
at its height, and we can spend a nice time together."

Boadicea could not help smiling, in spite of the pain
which Olive was causing her by her shallow pretences.
Oh, how well she had learnt to read in her sister's
heart! How clearly she saw the deceit that pierced
through this show of affection! She knew that Olive
no more meant what she said, no more meant her to
come back to London this year or any other year than
she had done in the years that were past.

" You need not be afraid, Olive," she said, gently.
" I won't stay in London a day longer than I can
help."

" My dear child . . ."

"No, no, dear! Never mind about trying to pro-
test what you don't feel. It's no good, Olive, things
will never be quite the same between us as they were
in the past."

" You are such a country ninny, child. You judge



2y(y MEADOWSWEET

me harshly because of what I told you. Why, every
woman in London — if she be good-looking — has
more than one lover. Let me tell you that, and no
one thinks any the worse of her for that."

" I am not judging you, Olive, or thinking harshly
of you. I only judge myself for having been silly and
vanity-stricken. But don't let us talk about all that.
It is all over and done with."

" That is a very sensible way of looking at it, child.
It is all over and done with, as you say. Lieutenant
Carrington has forgotten all about you by now, I dare
say, and you are very wise to forget all about him.
And you are sure you don't mind going to an hotel
with Aunt and Uncle ? "

*' Of course I don't mind."

" And after to-day you must all come over for
meals. To-night, I am sorry to say, I shall not be
able to entertain you. I have a dinner-party first and
go to a rout afterwards. You wouldii't care for
either, would you, dear?"

" No, Olive, I should not."

" Then perhaps we can arrange for you to leave
London to-morrow. Sir Baldwin has any number of
horses in town. I am sure that he will readily send
you back in his coach."

" It would be very kind of him."

" And, really, dear, I ask you, in all fairness, what
could I do with that odious Crabtree for more than
one day? "

The luncheon-bell sounded now for the second time.
Boadicea had already smoothed her hair and washed
her face and hands. She was quite ready to go down-



AN AWKWARD SITUATION ^-jy

stairs with her sister. On the whole she was not
greatly hurt at her sister's obvious desire to be rid of
her again as quickly as possible. Was she herself not
conscious of a strong desire to put mile upon mile of
road between her and Olive ?

She had only come because she believed that Olive
was ill. Now she realised how impossible it would be
for her to be constantly with her sister day after day,
in the same house, at meals, at all times.

But Olive was triumphant. Her strategy had suc-
ceeded beyond her fondest hopes. Sir Baldwin's
clumsy plan had been most cleverly outwitted, and if
Lieutenant Carrington, acting upon the hint dropped
to him, did turn up at sunset this evening, it would be-
come a very easy matter indeed to persuade him that
Boadicea had fled because of his approach. In fact,
chance had been so kind that she had arranged the
situation altogether for the best.

Boadicea in London and to all appearances refusing
to meet Lieutenant Carrington, was a far more satis-
factory asset in Olive's schemes than she had been in
distant Thanet.

Olive was quite longing for Jack's visit this even-
ing; there would be no need for him now to go to the
China seas. He could accept the appointment at the
Admiralty and remain in London, worshipping com-
fortably at the feet of beautiful Lady Jeffreys, for she
would make him understand how thoroughly at an
end was that silly romance, which — surely against his
own will and judgment — had kept him bound in a
cold spirit of chivalry to the little savage whom he
had met in Thanet.



CHAPTER XXX

AN HONEST MAN

After luncheon Mr. Crabtree retired to the blue
room for rest until tea-time. He hated blue, but pro-
fessed himself willing to sacrifice his prejudices for
the sake of peace, which he hoped to find in London.

It was arranged that Sir Baldwin's barouche would
conduct the rest of the Thanet party to a good hotel
in the neighbourhood of the Royal Society's museum,
which was situated at some little distance from St.
James's-street, and Olive — an irreproachably charm-
ing hostess now, full of spirits and brimming over
with smiles — was dispensing coffee in the drawing-
room whilst waiting for the advent of the barouche.

No wonder that she was in a good humour. In
less than a quarter of an hour from now Boadicea
would be safely out of the house, after which the
manoeuvring of keeping her and Lieutenant Jack apart
for a day or two longer would become a very simple
matter. No one had mentioned Lieutenant Carring-
ton at luncheon, and now Aunt Caroline and Boadicea
had their bonnets on, ready to start, and if all went
well the whole party would have left London in less
than forty-eight hours from now.

Sir Baldwin was making vigorous efforts to enter-
tain Uncle Jasper with travellers' tales. Aunt Caro-

278



AN HONEST MAN 279

line talked volubly and incessantly whilst stirring her
coffee.

She talked of Susan's misdeeds, of jams and of
pickles, of Topcoat's rheumatism, and Mr. Friday, the
Minster grocer's bankruptcy. Finally, she talked of
Boadicea's lack of appetite, which had sat heavily on
her own mind of late.

" But now," she said cheerfully, " that she will be
near you, Olive, I dare say that the roses will soon
return to her cheeks. Not that I believe in London
air, mind you, but I have done my best with her, giv-
ing her dandelion tea and liquorice, before every meal,
and no woman can do more."

" But I am very well. Aunt," said Boadicea in that
listless way which seemed to have become habit-
ual with her. " I am sure that I have no need of
physic."

Whereupon Sir Baldwin broke off in his conversa-
tion with Uncle Jasper, and said tartly, his temper be-
ing none of the best by now:

" The physic the chit wants is a contented mind."

" Good, Sir Baldwin ! " protested Aunt Caroline.

" Aye, you'll have to excuse me, ma'am ! " he con-
tinued, speaking loudly and bluntly. " I had intended
speaking straight words to the minx when she came.
It is time, I say, that heartless coquettes heard the
truth spoken openly to them by honest men."

" Pay no attention, Aunt," interposed Olive hastily,
for she did not like the turn which the conversation
had taken so unexpectedly. " Sir Baldwin is aiming
a shaft at me: a pleasing practice to which he is often
addicted."



28o MEADOWSWEET

Then she turned with a sad and patient smile to her
sister.

" Dear child," she said, sighing prettily, " I hope for
your sake that you will never be plagued with a jealous
husband."

But Boadicea replied very earnestly, and turning
large, sad eyes on Sir Baldwin :

" No, no, Olive ! Sir Baldwin is quite right in what
he says, though of course he does not understand."

"Understand?" exclaimed Sir Baldwin hotly.
" What is there to understand, if you please, save that
like a wanton chit you amused yourself by toying with
the love of an honest man, and now go about your
business smiling and contented whilst he is breaking
his heart? "

" Breaking his heart ? " she protested, with a con-
temptuous shrug of the shoulders. " Oh, as to
that . . ."

" Well, you know, child," broke in Aunt Caroline,
with her usual complacency, " I have always told you
that you did not treat Lieutenant Carrington quite
fairly."

" For gracious' sake," cried Olive, with angry im-
patience, " do not revive that old, forgotten story now,
Aunt. It is all past and forgotten. It certainly did
not redound to anybody's credit, so I really do not see
why you should wish to dig it up again."

" The story is not past and forgotten," protested Sir
Baldwin vigorously.

" At any rate, it never concerned you. Sir Baldwin."

" A story of that type concerns every honest man."

" There's too much talk of honest men, it seems to



AN HONEST MAN 281

me," concluded Olive, trying to conceal beneath the
appearance of indifference, the fear and anger which
she now felt. " Good wine needs no bush. More-
over, the barouche is at the door."

" It can wait," rejoined Sir Baldwin curtly ; " at any
rate, until I, too, have told Miss Boadicea that she
did not treat Lieutenant Carrington fairly. Fairly ! "
he reiterated, with a suppressed oath, " Heaven's
sakes alive, girl ! Is it fair to send such heartless mes-
sages to a man so sorely stricken with grief already? "

" Sir Baldwin," said Olive in a harsh, high-pitched
voice, " I must insist on your ceasing to interfere in
my sister's affairs."

But Boadicea, very bewildered, had frowned in
obvious puzzlement, and was murmuring :

" Messages ? What messages ? "

She gazed inquiringly from her sister to Sir Bald-
win, and then back to her sister again. Olive was
flushed and looked more and more angered, her eyes,
too, appeared restless, avoiding Boadicea's direct gaze.
Something of the truth — a mere glimmer, of course
— struggled to the young girl's comprehension.
There was no mistaking Olive's furtive looks, and Sir
Baldwin seemed very sure of his assertion.

" In your letters to your sister," he said hotly, " your
messages were positively heartless. How many times
did you send Carrington a message, pray, saying that
you never wish to look on his face again ? "

" Poor young man," murmured Aunt Caroline,
" M'hy did you say that, child? "

" I . . . don't know . . ." said Boadicea slowly,
for she was beginning to understand that some kind



282 MEADOWSWEET

of treachery had been at work. What it was or who
had been guilty, and for what object she could not at
present conceive, but Olive looked frightened, as she
had done on that memorable evening a year ago, and
Boadicea now, as then, was far too loyal to give her
away.

" You don't know ? " queried Sir Baldwin.

"Sir Baldwin," protested Olive, "the barouche is
at the door. This is not the time . . ."

But Sir Baldwin once launched on the subject which
he had so much at heart, was not in a humour to be
interrupted. He turned to Boadicea and once more
demanded sternly :

"You don't know?"

" I had forgotten," she replied meekly.

" Forgotten, have you ? " he retorted. " Lord bless
my soul, girl, have you no heart, no feeling, no honest
sentiment in you ? And you a mere child, and already
so versed in the perverse arts of wanton coquettes ! "

" Sir Baldwin ..." cried Olive.

" Let me talk to her, I tell you. I must talk to her,
and she has got to listen. It is time someone spoke a
brave mind to her. You, Miss Boadicea, have broken
an honest man's heart, let me tell you that. You have
ruined his hopes and blighted his career. He is in
London at the present moment looking the very wreck
of his former self, old before his time, sober in mien,
pale and gnawed by fever. He had to be invalided
home from Malta. He, a young man, not eight-and-
twenty, who should enjoy the best of healths. All
that is your work, let me tell you. Yours, and you
don't seem to care ! You calmly say that you never



AN HONEST MAN 283

wish to see his face again. Well, you won't, for he
will be underground before you have time to repent of
your heartlessness. Next week he sails for the China
seas, far away from home, from kindred, and from
friends. In his present state of apathy and feeble
health, I doubt if he will ever come back from there.
Shame on you, child, I say — shame on you! If you
have no pity on a man whose life you have ruined, at
least you must have shame for your unwarrantable
conduct. What harm had he done you? What sin
had he committed ? And now, when a poor, innocent
man's heart is broken by your indifference and your
cruelty, you stand calmly here and say stolidly, * I do
not know — I had forgotten ! ' Shame, I say —
shame ! "

Sir Baldwin Jeffreys had worked himself up into a
violent state of anger — a state which rendered him
unusually persuasive and eloquent. Olive had once or


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