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twice during his loudly-spoken tirade endeavoured to
stop his flow of eloquence, but in vain. He was just
letting himself go. He had in many ways suffered as
much as the man whose cause he was pleading. He,
too, had been treated with cruel indifference, mocked
at, ignored, deeply wronged, and it was his own griev-
ances so long held secret in his heart that gushed forth
now clothed in vigorous words.

Olive had become pale to the lips. She would — if
she could then have done it — have annihilated her
meddlesome husband, with her looks of anger border-
ing on absolute hatred. The crisis, which she had
really hoped would now be avoided, was being precipi-
tated by what she termed Sir Baldwin's impudent in-



284 MEADOWSWEET

terference. An explanation with Boadicea would
now, she feared, be inevitable, and what the outcome
of that would be she hardly dared to guess.

" 'Twas well said, Sir Baldwin," said Aunt Caro-
line, with her usual cheerful complacency. " I've been
much too weak all this time past, else I would have
given her a good straight talk myself."

" I thank you for what you have said, Sir Baldwin,"
said Boadicea coldly. " But unfortunately what is
done cannot now be undone."

" It can be mended, at any rate," he retorted.

"How?"

" You talk it over with your sister. She under-
stands young men and their ways. She'll be of good
counsel to you, eh, Olive?"

" Yes, yes, of course. I'll talk it all over with
Boadicea some time," said Olive impatiently; "but
surely not now when the barouche is at the door.
Unless they go soon to seek for rooms, every decent
hotel will be closed against them. Hotel-keepers have
no liking for travellers who arrive too late."

" Yes, yes," said Aunt Caroline, " let us go now,
Sir Baldwin, we may have to visit several hotels be-
fore we find suitable rooms. I must be on the south
side, you know, because of my asthma."

" Yes, yes," assented Sir Baldwin, " I will accom-
pany you, ma'am, if you will allow me, on your tour
of inspection. Our desire would have been to enter-
tain you here, you know, only that Mr. Crabtree has
unfortunately interfered with that pleasant arrange-
ment."

" He would come, dear Sir Baldwin, though I tried



AN HONEST MAN 285

to persuade him to return to his sister's, poor dear,
who usually looks after him, and who is glad, I dare
swear, to be rid of him for a while. However, he
simply insisted on coming with us. But never you
worry about it. Sir Baldwin, your uncle and I will do
very well in lodgings, now that Boadicea has also de-
cided on being with us. Eh, Jasper? Do set Sir
Baldwin's mind at ease, and tell him that we shall do
very well in lodgings."

Thus roused from the perusal of a book which he
had surreptitiously concealed in his pocket at the last
moment when leaving home, Uncle Jasper assented
meekly :

" Somewhere near the Royal Society's museum,"
he said.

" We'll find something close by, at any rate," con-
cluded Sir Baldwin.

He rang the bell, and Thompson, the solemn major-
domo, opened the doors for the party to file out.

" We shall be quite comfortable wherever you put
us. Sir Baldwin," said Aunt Caroline who had got
Uncle Jasper by the arm, and was forcibly taking him
along. "Are you coming, Boadicea?" she added,
turning back to the young girl, who had made no
movement to follow.

Boadicea was deliberately undoing her bonnet
strings. She looked frail and tired, but very resolute.
Olive was watching her with ever-growing apprehen-
sion. The inevitable explanation was closer at hand
than she had imagined, and it was not likely to prove
an easy one for her.

*' I think, Aunt, if you will excuse me," said Boadi-



286 MEADOWSWEET

cea, taking off her bonnet and settling down on a cor-
ner of the sofa, " I would rather stay with Olive for a
little while. Someone no doubt will later on pilot me
to the hotel which you will have chosen, once Sir Bald-
win returns and tells us where it is."



CHAPTER XXXI

A LITTLE FOOL

Silence reigned in the large elegantly-furnished
drawing-room of the stately house in St. James's-
street. The party from Thanet was heard descending
the stairs, and presently entering the barouche and be-
ing driven away in the direction of Piccadilly.

Olive was at the window, with her back towards her
sister, apparently deeply immersed in watching Aunt
Caroline and Uncle Jasper and after them Sir Baldwin
— finally followed by Susan — getting into the car-
riage; but in reality she w^as wondering in her own
mind how in the world she could get out of the pres-
ent extremely uncomfortable situation without too
much hurt to her vanity and to her self-esteem.

Boadicea still sat on the corner of the sofa, very
still, with her hands folded in her lap and her eyes
fixed upon her sister, as if from right through the
back of Olive's head she would wish to extract the
solution of that riddle which was puzzling her own
mind so painfully.

The silence became oppressive.

With a forced little laugh Olive suddenly turned
and faced Boadicea.

"Thank goodness!" she said lightly, "they have
driven off at last. Some of that eloquent sermon was,
of course, meant for me. Oh, dear me, what we poor

287



288 MEADOWSWEET

women have to suffer when we are bound for Hfe
to a veritable walking dictionaiy of whole-hearted
abuse."

She yawned affectedly, and, going to the nearest,
most conveniently placed mirror, she readjusted the
curls of her elaborate chignon.

" Well, child," she said after awhile, " I am afraid
that you have not chosen the most pleasant way of
spending your first afternoon in London ! I am truly
sorry, but I cannot possibly entertain you. I have
promised to put in an appearance at Lady Malvern's
concert this afternoon, and it is already unconsciona-
bly late. I must go and put on my hat now. Will
you wait for me here till I come down again ? "

" Don't go yet, Olive," said Boadicea, with a wistful
little tone of entreaty. "I want to ask you some-
thing."

" Well, what is it ? " queried Olive, with an indif-
ference which she was very far from feeling. She
was wishing with all her might that some one or other
of her numerous fashionable friends would take this
opportunity of paying her an afternoon call and inter-
rupt this unpleasant tcte-a-tete. On most days during
the season her drawing-room was filled with visitors
who were not always welcome. It was more than
provoking, therefore, that just to-day, when she pined
for interruption, she should be left so severely alone.

Across the younger girl's smooth forehead there had
appeared a deep frown of puzzlement.

" What did Sir Baldwin mean," she asked, " about
those messages which he says I sent to — to Lieuten-
ant Carrington? "



A LITTLE FOOL 289

" I am sure I don't know, child," replied Olive im-
patiently. " How should I ? Sir Baldwin was talk-
ing at random. He often does when he has an imagi-
nary grievance against me."

" But Sir Baldwin said that my messages were sent
in my letters to you."

" Well, yes, he did say that. I tell you, child, that
he was talking at random."

"Yes, now! But, then?"

" What do you mean by * then ' ? "

" When those messages were delivered to Lieuten-
ant Carrington: was someone talking at random
then?"

" Oh," said Olive, with yet a greater show of indif-
ference, " I thought that surely you would not wish
to see Lieutenant Carrington."

"Why not?"

" It seems to me that your own good sense ought to
tell you why not. I should have imagined that you
would see for yourself that an interview could not
possibly lead to anything, but would only be painful to
you both."

" An interview ? Sir Baldwin did say something
about my refusing to see Lieutenant Carrington. Had
he asked for an interview then ? "

" Well, he did say something about it. But really,
child, I haven't got the time to waste over all this silly
talk. I am due at Lady Malvern's now."

" One moment, Olive. I won't keep you long.
You have just told me that Lieutenant Carrington said
something about an interview. What did he say ? "

" He only spoke vaguely, I tell you."



290 MEADOWSWEET

" But you were not going to tell me anything about
it?"

Olive was getting nervous and fidgetty. This close
questioning under her younger sister's calm gaze had
taken all her self-assurance from her. Yet, strangely
enough, she made no attempt to run away. Instinc-
tively she felt that the situation had become so acute,
and Boadicea so determined, that to evade both would
only mean disaster to herself, to all her desires and,
above all, to her position before her sister, before
Jack, and even perhaps before her husband.

On the whole she thought it best to hold her ground
now, trusting to her kind ally Chance, and to her own
wits to lead her triumphantly out of this unpleasant if
temporary cul-de-sac.

" You took it upon yourself to refuse him then and
there in my name ? " asked Boadicea, whose voice had
suddenly become hard and trenchant even as her face
became more calm and set. " You took it upon your-
self without consulting me? "

" I thought it best," retorted Olive boldly, " so did
Sir Baldwin at the time. He was present when Lieu-
tenant Carrington made his request, and we both
thought ..."

Boadicea quickly interrupted her.

" His request? " she said. " He did request an in-
terview then? Just now you said that he merely
spoke vaguely about it."

" Tush, child ! " said Olive, with angry impatience.
" I'll not be cross-examined like this ! The whole
thing only amounts to a row of pins, and why you
should make such a fuss now and behave so rudely to



A LITTLE FOOL 291

me, I can't think. Lieutenant Carrington did make
the suggestion that an interview between him and you
might be desirable before he left for China. Sir Bald-
win was present at the time, as I told you, and
so . . ."

" And so you told a lie," broke in Boadicea calmly.

" Pshaw ! . . . What would be the good of such an
interview? "

" I don't know. Lieutenant Carrington may really
be puzzled at my attitude towards him. He may not
have understood things clearly, and may have wished
for an explanation."

" What nonsense, child ! You are a regular country
ninny! Lieutenant Carrington knows as well as you
and I the real cause of the rupture between you."

" He knows? . . . That you have told me? . . ."

" Or that you guessed . . ."

" That he had been your . . ."

" Why . . . yes. . . ."

" One does not guess such things all of a sudden.
... If one guessed one would wish to make sure."

^ " That's just it. Lieutenant Carrington, I think,
only wanted to assure himself that you were not quite
sure."

"Then he really wished for that interview?"

" Only because of that, I think."

" And was he disappointed at your refusal ? "

" I don't think so."

" But Sir Baldwin said just now that he had never
seen a man so broken-hearted and so altered in appear-
ance as was Lieutenant Carrington. . . . Why do you
go on lying to me, Olive ? "



292 MEADOWSWEET

" Bah, child ! " retorted Olive in uncontrolled exas-
peration. " You are excited and very impertinent. I
really have no time to listen to all this nonsense. I
am over late now for Lady Malvern's concert. You
have really been too provoking."

" I am sorry, Olive," rejoined the young girl quietly.
" Do go and put on your hat now. I won't detain you
any longer."

" Ah, that's better ! Really you have been very ex-
asperating, child, keeping me here all this while with
all that senseless talk. What will you do with your-
self while I am gone? "

" I'll wait for Sir Baldwin."

"And then?"

"Ask him to kindly take a message from me to
Lieutenant Carrington."

" A message ? What message ? "

" That I will grant him the interview which he de-
sires."

" Oh, he no longer desires it ! "

" Perhaps not. But I do ! "

" My dear child ! You cannot ask for an interview
with a gentleman. It would be a most improper thing
to do."

" Then I'll do an improper thing."

" Listen to me, child . . ." urged Olive, whose
nervous excitement was growing with every new
phase of her sister's sudden determination.

" I'll not listen to you, Olive," replied Boadicea.
" I'll wait for Sir Baldwin. You go and get your hat
on, or you'll be late for Lady Malvern's concert."



A LITTLE FOOL 293



((



But, my dear child, Sir Baldwin won't be able to
help you."

"Why not?"

" He does not know where Lieutenant Carrington
lodges. ^ He cannot go and look for him in the Lon-
don streets."

" I'll write a letter to Lieutenant Carrington, and
Sir Baldwin will give it to him when next he sees
him."

" Sir Baldwin is not the proper person to deliver a
young girl's letter to another man."

" I think that Sir Baldwin would be willing for once
to override the conventions."

" Moreover, it's too late, anyway. Lieutenant Car-
rington leaves London to-night and England to-mor-



row."



" Then my letter addressed to H.MS. Dolphin will
reach him without fail."

" Too late for the interview which you seem to de-
sire," cried Olive, with a mighty effort at self-restraint.

" But not too late for him to hear the truth," re-
torted Boadicea simply.

"The truth? What truth?"

Boadicea had risen. Looking round the room she
saw the bureau that stood at one angle, with blotter,
pen and ink and sandbox ready to hand. She walked
quietly up to the bureau, and sat down in front of it,
Olive watching her the while with eyes that looked
black with anger, and with a sense of impotence and
of fear.

Boadicea opened the blotter, found paper and enve-
lope, and taking up a pen she began to write.



294 MEADOWSWEET



((



Lieutenant Carrington may be killed in some en-
gagement," she said quietly, even whilst the sound of
her pen scraping against the paper set every one of
Olive's nerves tingling. " He must not die under the
misapprehension that I do not know the truth."

The callousness — not to say the effrontery of this
pronouncement on the part of her young, unsophisti-
cated sister, struck Olive dumb with amazement. She
stood there in the middle of the room almost like a
person dazed with a sudden blow on the head. Her
■wide-open eyes watched as if fascinated with the hor-
ror of it, her sister's small, sun-tanned hand running
rapidly from left to right of the sheet of notepaper in
front of her. The scraping of the quill pen alone dis-
turbed the silence that had fallen between these two
women ; outside cabriolets and barouches rattled along
the stone pavement, street-criers proclaimed their
wares : " Sweet lavender ! Won't you buy sweet
lavender?" or "Knives and scissors to grind!" or



" All a-blowin' and a-growin'."



People went about on their business or their pleas-
ure, the indifferent, the gay, the sad, they all went on
just the same, whilst one sister in her innocence was
calmly writing the condemnation of the other.

It was some time before Olive could again trust her-
self to speak, and even then her voice sounded harsh
and hollow, as if her throat were parched.

And by that time the letter was nearly finished.

" Are you . . . are you telling Lieutenant Carring-
ton the reason why you broke your engagement off
with him ? " she asked at last.



A LITTLE FOOL 295

" Certainly ! " replied the other, without looking up
from her writing.

" That . . . that you knew that his relations with
me . . . had not been quite . . . quite innocent?"

"Yes!"

" And that I had told you so? "

" That you had confessed this to me. Yes ... I
am telling him that."

** And you propose to entrust a letter like that — a
letter which would compromise me hopelessly . . .
you propose to entrust it to Sir Baldwin ? " stammered
Olive, who now was forced to give up all attempt at
concealing her own agitation, for she no longer could
control her voice, which was trembling, or her blood,
which fled from her cheeks and left them visibly grey
even beneath the delicate coating of rouge.

" It is monstrous . . . abominable ..." she gasped
and incontinently burst into tears.

But Boadicea finished her letter very calmly. She
signed her name boldly and with an elegant flourish,
then she addressed the envelope, and finally strewed
sand over the wet ink.

" Don't disturb yourself, Olive dear," she said
quietly, and — her sister thought — very callously.
" Sir Baldwin is an honourable gentleman. I will
close and seal the envelope myself; he would never
think of tampering with a closed letter."

" Oh, you never know what Sir Baldwin might or
might not do ! " said Olive through her tears. " His
jealousy is always there ; even when it seems quite dor-
mant the merest suspicion calls it back to life."

" You need not worry, dear ; I have so worded the



296 MEADOWSWEET

letter that no one but Lieutenant Carrington himself
could read your name between the lines."

" You don't know Sir Baldwin as I do."

Boadicea was even now folding the letter, prepara-
tory to slipping it into its envelope. She paused in
the act, and, rising from her chair, she turned quickly
towards her sister.

" Would you like to see the letter? " she asked.

The change of front was so sudden, the suggestion
so unexpected that for the moment Olive was quite
thrown off her balance. The blood rushed back to her
cheeks. She was alternately pale and then flushed,
and her eyes gave a quick flash of eagerness.

But Lady Jeffreys was essentially a woman of the
world, and primarily now she was a woman fighting
for her own prestige in the eyes of others, and for the
realisation of her own desires. If for a moment she
had lost control over herself, it was only because every
phase of this extraordinary interview with her sister
had been so wholly unexpected.

Boadicea within the last quarter of an hour had not
only been a totally different woman to the ignorant
tomboy whom Olive had known so superficially, but
she had been many women in turns. She had been a
hard, determined woman, with a cross-examining legal
mind ; she had been a callous one, unresponsive to the
feelings of her sister, of the man whom she had pre-
tended to love; she had been a bold woman, too, for
she had done a thing which no young girl with any
sense of shame could possibly have done when she
wrote what she called " the truth " to a man who in the
future would remain an utter stranger to her.



A LITTLE FOOL 297

But now equally suddenly the unsophisticated coun-
try ninny reappeared. With her own hands she was
handing over to her sister the very letter which Olive
had every intention should never reach the man for
whom it was intended.

No wonder that for a second or two the clever
woman of the world was thrown off her balance by^
this naive- move. But she recovered herself quickly
enough, and made no movement to take the letter from
her sister.

" Oh, I'll read it if you like ! " she said, with perfect
indifference.

"Just as you like," rejoined Boadicea, not a whit
less self-possessed or less indifferent. " It is no secret
from you. If I may, I'll just run up to your room,
and put on my bonnet there, in front of your glass.
Perhaps Sir Baldwin will have returned by the time I
am down again."

Olive took the letter from her. Truly the girl was
astonishing — astonishing by her very trustfulness,
which, in Olive's opinion, was not far removed from
idiocy. She picked up her bonnet, and as she did so
she was humming some song or other quietly to her-
self. She certainly looked a little flushed, but then
she had been very pale before, and the argument had
been lengthy and exciting.

Olive watched her almost In amazement, whilst
twirling between her fingers that compromising letter
which had caused her so much agitation, and such un-
reasoning terror. Boadicea was actually leaving It in
her hands, and was preparing to go out of the room
with her bonnet swinging by its ribbon on her arm.



298 MEADOWSWEET

" I think I'll take a peep at Cousin Barnaby," she
said as she was about to go. " Aunt Caroline will be
sure to worry me with questions about him."

" Don't be long, dear," said Olive calmly.

" I shan't be ten minutes. I must just take the
ink off my fingers. If you think the letter is all right,
will you close it? It is addressed."

And she went out of the room.

Olive could hear her running upstairs to the room
immediately overhead, she could hear her open and
shut the door of that room, and immediately after-
wards handling ewer and basin and singing all the
time.

And the letter, with the envelope fully addressed was
in Olive's hand. She took it out of the envelope and
read it quickly from beginning to end.

And all that she said was :

" The little fool ! The little fool ! "



CHAPTER XXXII

A STROKE OF DIPLOMACY

And Olive went on repeating those three words:
"The little fool!" over and over again to herself.
Thus to express her contempt of Boadicea's naive con-
duct seemed to ease her mind and to calm her nerves.
The fact that the young girl had by that same conduct
really played Olive's game for her did not in the least
mitigate the latter's contempt.

Thank goodness, that silly letter need never reach
Lieutenant Jack now. Olive was twirling and turning
it between her fingers, quite enjoying the sudden and
unexpected respite from the terrible anxiety of awhile
ago.

Overhead she could hear her sister's light footstep
moving about the room, and her voice humming one of
those eternal old songs of which she was so fond.

" Little fool ! " murmured Olive once more, as she
folded up the compromising letter and thrust it into
the pocket of her gown. " What would Jack have
thought of me, if he had read this impudent epistle?
. . . For an unsophisticated country wench I must say
that my young sister puts matters very clearly."

To have lied on such a subject, and then to be found
out in the lie, would have been an humiliation which
Lady Jeffreys had hardly dared to contemplate.

She now sat down at the bureau, and drew pen and

299



300 MEADOWSWEET

paper towards her. The letter which she meant to
write needed no great effort in composition. It should
be crisp and to the point.

" Miss Aldmarshe desires to inform Lieutenant Car-
rington that she has no desire for a personal interview
with him."

There, nothing could be better! Olive contem-
plated her handiwork with supreme satisfaction. She
had not even taken the trouble to imitate Boadicea's
handwriting; to do so would have been both clumsy
and unnecessary. All being well, the girl would with
her own hands give the letter to Sir Baldwin, who, of
course, would transmit it to Lieutenant Carrington this
very evening.

" Boadicea gave me this letter for you ! " Sir Bald-
win would be bound to say that. Olive closing her
eyes could picture the whole scene as it would be en-
acted presently. Sir Baldwin, pompous and correct,
handing over the letter, she herself, trying to look
calmly sympathetic, whilst Jack, of course, would be
somewhat disturbed and even gloomy after he had
mastered the contents of the curt epistle.

"She gave you this herself?" he would probably
insist. "With her own hands?"

And, of course. Sir Baldwin would be bound to an-
swer " Yes ! " to both these questions.

It really was all too delightful and almost funny.
Even Olive's somewhat dormant sense of humour
woke to the comical side of the situation. And she
felt no genuine sympathy for Jack.

" He will have forgotten her in three months," she
concluded as she folded up the missive, slipped it



A STROKE OF DIPLOMACY 301

back into the same envelope which had been addressed
by Boadicea and finally folded and fastened the whole
thing up neatly.

" There's no reason for him to go to the China seas
now." And instinctively Olive's fingers went up to
the golden curls that needed slight readjustment, and
her eyes wandered to the nearest mirror. " That ap-
pointment at the Admiralty will keep him in London
and . . ."

And at the lady's feet, no doubt. That would be
the final outcome of the stormy interview which had
ended so satisfactorily.

A few moments later Sir Baldwin's voice was heard
down in the hall. A thrill of pleasure went right
through Olive's heart; the curtain was about to be
raised on one of the most exciting little bits of drama
that she had ever witnessed ; and the charm of it all was
that, though she would be sitting by as an apparently
indifferent spectator, she would really be the chief
actor, the chief mover in the scene; the other two —
Sir Baldwin and Boadicea — would be the marion-
ettes, she — Olive Jeffreys — would be pulling the


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