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strings that made those marionettes dance to her tune.

Sir Baldwin came straight upstairs to the drawing-
room. He had escorted Aunt Caroline and Uncle
Jasper to a nice quiet hotel he knew of in Bloomsbury
— The Coptic. He had deposited them there with
Susan, and himself had returned in his barouche,
which he now wished to place at Boadicea's disposal,
that she might rejoin her uncle and aunt.

" It is almost a pity that the child is not going to
stop in the house," he said. " Curse that interfering



302 MEADOWSWEET

old Crabtree! She must come back here to-night,
though. I have practically arranged that Carrington
should be here."

" She has written to Carrington." Olive was quite
calm and indifferent. She had Boadicea's letter in her
hand and the child was even now coming downstairs.

"Ah! What did she say?"

" Oh, I think she only asks for a few hours' time in
which to consider her decision. She probably means
to grant Lieutenant Carrington the interview which he
desires ; but I wouldn't worry her any more just now,
Baldwin, if I were you. She seems to have written a
nice letter to Jack and if you don't interfere I have no
doubt that everything will be for the best. I have her
letter here; she shall give it to you herself."

Boadicea, who looked her best just now, with eyes
very bright with excitement, and curved lips quivering
with eagerness, was even now at the door.

" Here, child, come in," said Olive lightly. " Sir
Baldwin thinks he may be seeing Lieutenant Carring-
ton to-day. He can take your letter to him, if you
like."

" Yes, Olive. Have you read my letter? "

" I only glanced at it." And Olive was handing the
letter to Sir Baldwin, who was about to take it from
her when Boadicea put out her hand and quietly took
possession of it herself.

" On the whole," she said, " I think I had best not
send this letter. H Sir Baldwin will be seeing Lieu-
tenant Carrington to-day, he may as well take a verbal
message."

She folded the envelope in half and slipped it into



A STROKE OF DIPLOMACY 303

her pocket. Olive thought that her brain must be
reeHng. The wahs of the room were spinning round
and round ; her throat seemed to be closing up so that
for the moment she could not draw her breath.

Fortunately Sir Baldwin was not looking at her.
He had turned to Boadicea, and was saying with his
habitual pompous complacency :

" Of course a much wiser plan, my dear; or, better
still, let me send the carriage for you this evening.
Lieutenant Carrington will be here then, and a verbal
message will come far better from your own lips than
from mine."

" I thank you, Sir Baldwin ! " said Boadicea de-
murely.

Olive, had she dared, would have gasped with hor-
ror, she would have raved, she would have protested.
But fortunately for herself she had just a sufficiency
of commonsense left in her to make a supreme effort
to control both her rage and her fears.

" I think " — and she contrived to speak calmly, so
that Boadicea alone saw the awful effort which it cost
her to do so — " I think that it would be better for
your letter to go first, child."

" Do you really think so, Olive ? " asked Boadicea.

No one, I think, will begrudge her this tiny pin-prick
of malice which she administered to her sister. She
was but a girl after all, and was holding the trump card
now. Triumph had exhilarated her, and it was she
now who felt contempt for her sister, and who could
readily have murmured : " You little fool ! "

" Yes," said Olive, catching at this feeble straw of
hope — " yes. Let Sir Baldwin take your letter now.



304 MEADOWSWEET

You can then easily arrange to see Lieutenant Carring-
ton to-morrow."

Boadicea seemed to be hesitating for a moment,
whilst Sir Baldwin remained coldly neutral, determined
not to interfere again in women's affairs; his interfer-
ence not having succeeded overwell hitherto. Olive
was thus kept on tenterhooks for a few minutes.
Boadicea was not cruel, but she enjoyed this moment
of mental torture which she was deliberately inflicting
on her sister. And even then Olive's punishment was
in no way commensurate with her fault ; and the worst
of it for Olive was that she knew that her sister was
punishing her, and that she had not the power of re-
taliation either now or for the future.

" I have changed my mind ! " Boadicea's decision
came almost as a relief ; the suspense had been agonis-
ing, even the worst — and this undoubtedly was the
worst that could happen — was better than the horror
of anticipation.

" That's a good girl ! " said Sir Baldwin cheerfully.
" Now I think I had better drive back to the hotel and
tell Mr. and Mrs. Hemingford that you will not join
them until this evening. You stay here quietly with
Olive. Have a good talk with her; she seems a little
nervy this afternoon."

He was very fussy and excited. His diplomacy was
succeeding overwell, after all. Olive made no at-
tempt to stop him from going ; events had come to such
a pass that it did not greatly matter now who came or
stayed, what anybody did or did not do.

And once more the two sisters were left alone to-
gether.



CHAPTER XXXIII

A SUBLIME CONCLUSION

Olive no longer made attempt to hide either her
wrath or her fears. As soon as Sir Baldwin was
safely out of earshot her piercing voice rang out, shrill
and quivering.

"What is the meaning of all this nonsense?" she
cried.

There was no mistaking the look of rage, nor even
that of hate with which she met Boadicea's quiet
glance.

" It means that I have been seeking for the truth,"
And Boadicea took the letter out of her pocket and
held it tightly clasped between her hands. *' It lies
here," she said, " in this letter."

" What do you mean? Give me that letter."

" Yes. I will give it you, Olive, directly. I need
not read it now."

She sat down on the corner of the sofa, just as she
had done before, when some hidden power in her sug-
gested this stroke of diplomacy v^^hich had culminated
in the present situation. The letter she still clutched
with both her hands. Her cheeks were glowing with
suppressed excitement, her large, eager eyes followed
her sister's restless walk up and down the room.

" I need not read this letter, Olive," she said. " I
can read all I want in your disturbed face and in your

305



3o6 MEADOWSWEET

shrinking eyes. You lied to me, Olive. You lied
when you tried to part me from the man whom I loved,
and who loved me. . . . You lied when you tried to
prove him false and base, a liar and a cheat. . . . You
trapped and duped me — me, your own sister — the
country wench whom you used as a tool for just as
long as you needed her, and whose heart you broke
once she herself became useless."

" Be quiet, girl ! " cried Olive, in a last futile attempt
to gain the mastery over the silly wench whom she
used to dominate long ago. " I will not listen to all
this nonsense, this impudence. . . ."

" You must listen, Olive," broke in Boadicea firmly ;
" you have got to listen, for it is my turn now. You
have had the upper hand for so long, for you are clever
and you always know what you want, and what you
want that you make up your mind to get. But God
gave me country wits, not much of these, I dare say.
You think me a ninny and an unsophisticated savage,
but I have pitted my wits against your intrigues, and it
seems that my wits were the keener. I wished to
know who — you or he — had lied to me. You or
he! The alternative was horrible, for I loved you,
Olive, and believed in you ; but to him I had given my
whole heart. Do you think that I really meant to
send a letter to him? Not I ... I only wanted to
know, and it was my turn to lay a trap for you and
to make a fool of you. . . . Yes, a fool — a miser-
able, cringing fool; and see how I succeeded! Your
excitement, your terror, the many purposeless little
lies which you had already told, had roused my sus-
picions — and somehow I thought of writing the letter



A SUBLIME CONCLUSION 307

and then of leaving it — open — in your hands to see
what you would do. I never meant to give the letter
to Sir Baldwin. I had only thought out a way of
finding out whether Jack Carrington had been lying to
me last year, or whether you were lying to me now.
Now you see that country wits are sometimes keener
than town wits. You fell into my trap just like a
bird. When my back was turned you stole my letter.
You were terror-stricken lest he — the man whose ad-
miration you covet for the mere gratification of your
own vanity — should know how you had lied to me,
and shamed yourself before me so as to part me from
him. You stole my letter, Olive, and in its place you
wrote another — another — with your hand. I don't
know what you wrote. ... I don't care how you put
it . . . but this I know that in this envelope now lies
the proof of your falsehood and of his loyalty."

It was a severe ordeal for a young girl, this act of
accusation, spoken with a great effort at self-control
and at dignity. Nor, whilst she was actually speaking,
did that self-control and dignity forsake her. Her
voice perhaps had gradually become a little more
trenchant as excitement took stronger and yet stronger
hold of her. She had risen to her feet, and it was
Olive now who sat cowering and weeping, unable to
find the requisite words with which to silence her sis-
ter's indictment against her.

But when Boadicea had finished speaking, when
with every moment the conviction grew upon her that
she had not been mistaken, that her sister had lied,
deliberately lied to her, but that the man whom she
loved had been loyal and very deeply wronged, then



3o8 MEADOWSWEET

for an instant her self-control entirely left her. She
was only a young girl, after all — little more than
a child, with a heart filled with passionate love for a
man whom for a whole year she had believed a liar
and a cheat.

The load of intense misery, of bitter disillusionment
which she had borne silently for so long was lifted
from her with amazing suddenness, and she who had
never given way under the weight of so much sor-
row, and such cruel disappointment, did so now with
the completeness of her relief.

Her voice broke down in a great sob. Hot tears
rushed to her eyes. She covered her face with her hands
and crying and laughing hysterically she fell on her
knees beside the sofa and murmured through her
tears :

" I knew it. ... I really knew it all the time. . . .
Oh, my God, my God! I thank thee! I thank thee
that he has not lied to me ! "

That was the great hosanna, the heavenly paeon of
gratitude that went up from her overburdened heart,
straight to God the Maker of all things good. He
had not lied — he was true and loyal, for this she
thanked God on her knees. Nothing else mattered
now, not the pain and misery of the past year, not the
sister's treachery, not even the hopeless dreariness of
future years! All that was as nothing, for he was
just as she had thought him, true and loyal. The
sky once more was beautiful and blue, the clouds but
filmy gossamer of silver tissue, the nightingale had
an exquisite note in its tiny throat, and the scent of
cherry blossom was exquisite in its fragrance.



A SUBLIME CONCLUSION 309

" Thank God, thank God, he did not lie to me ! "

This mood of Boadicea's was wholly incomprehen-
sible to the older sister, so incomprehensible, in fact,
that it irritated her. She ceased her own crying, the
tears of shame and of rage died in her eyes, even be-
fore they fell. At first she gazed on her sister as she
would on a person who had suddenly become demented.
She wiped her eyes and sat straight up in her chair.
Then contempt — that innate contempt which she had
always felt for the country-bred ninny — once more
reasserted itself.

Bah! the child was, after all, nothing but a fool, and
she — Olive — had been but a silly dolt, thus to allow
herself to be cowed by a wench like that. The child
was a fool, of that there was no doubt, else why should
she now seem so overwhelmed with joy when in reality
there was nothing yet to exult over. Nay, what's
more, Olive would — even at this eleventh hour — see
that nothing should occur to justify tears of gratitude
and of joy.

She was not one to take a beating easily, and did not
by any means consider herself beaten yet. Check to
her queen — perhaps — her queen who was called self-
love — but not checkmate by a long way yet.

But she waited patiently until Boadicea's paroxysm
had somewhat calmed down. At last the girl rose to
her feet again, and still a little hysterical, still quiver-
ing with excitement, she was drying her tears, and
making quick, jerky attempts to smooth the tendrils of
brown hair that clung, moist, to her temples.

By this time Olive had wholly composed herself.
She was well-schooled in the art of passing from parox-



3IO MEADOWSWEET

ysm of tears or anger to apparent complete indiffer-
ence. She embraced her sister's elegant young figure
with one contemptuous and comprehensive glance, then
she said lightly :

" My dear child, let me congratulate you ! Your
heroics are positively wonderful ! "

This sobered Boadicea completely. She was not
really ashamed of her outburst before the sister who
was so uncomprehending and so profoundly cynical,
but she was angry with herself for having allowed that
sister a peep into her simple, ardent soul. Her young
face, tanned by sun and sea, beaten by the breezes of
Thanet, had not learnt the art of concealing the strong
emotions which surged up from the depths of her pas-
sionate and unsophisticated heart.

Olive — had she been more keenly observant —
could easily have read in her sister's glowing eyes every
thought that coursed through the young brain. But
she cared so little what that sister thought and felt that
now she merely shrugged her shoulders and said flip-
pantly :

" Well, I admit that I have lied. What, then ? I
admit that I was fond of Jack Carrington. I am fond
of Jack Carrington, and he is fond of me. He may
have paid you some attention which your silly childish
vanity construed into declarations of love, but he was
and is fond of me. I lied in order to keep you away
from him. What then? I admit it. There! You
can call me a liar, and despise me as much as you like.
But all your weeping will not bring him back to you
now. I'll see to that."

Boadicea listened to Olive's cynical tirade with a



A SUBLIME CONCLUSION 311

smile on her lips, and a look of supreme joy on her
face. Neither joy nor smile fled from her when Olive
ceased speaking.

" But he did not lie to me," she said simply.

" To-morrow he leaves in the Dolphin for China,
You cannot stay in my house against my wish. You
must go now, for I shall send you away, and you will
not have the chance of seeing Lieutenant Carrington
before he leaves."

Still smiling and triumphant, Boadicea repeated:

" But he did not lie to me ! "

" Bah ! You may never see him again. He may
never return from China."

And once again came the sublime, all-embracing an-
swer: " But he did not lie to me! "



CHAPTER XXXIV

A SIMPLE WAY

After awhile Olive left her to herself. There was
nothing to be done with the girl. I think that for the
first time in all these months of many and of varied
intrigues she felt herself on the verge of being check-
mated.

But she could no longer remain in the presence of
her sister. That optimistic exultation irritated her be-
yond her powers of endurance. She still clung to the
hope that Carrington and Boadicea need not meet this
evening, and to the determination that Jack now should
follow his original intention and leave for China the
next day.

At any rate, she had a good many hours during
which she could think things out.

Sir Baldwin had gone to Bloomsbury. At the
quickest computation he could not go there and back
and have a brief talk with Aunt Caroline under about
an hour. No one could have a brief talk with Aunt
Caroline, for she saw to it that it was anything but
brief, so that in all probability Sir Baldwin would be
gone over an hour, and he had left the house a quarter
of an hour ago.

If Boadicea left St. James's-street in half an hour
from now in a hackney coach which moved very slowly
indeed she' would be well out of the way before Sir

312



A SIMPLE WAY 313

Baldwin could possibly return, and would reach the
Bloomsbury hotel some time after Sir Baldwin had
left it.

And surely whilst Lady Jeffreys in the meanwhile
sat listening to Lady Malvern's musicians she could
think out some little scheme whereby she could keep
Sir Baldwin from interfering this evening when Lieu-
tenant Carrington paid his promised visit.

Carrington would be in St. James' s-street this even-
ing, Boadicea at the Bloomsbury hotel, and that Fate
would be a very malignant one indeed that did not
keep those two young people apart for another twenty-
four hours. As Olive had harshly intimated to her
sister, the latter could not possibly remain in the house
when the hostess had bade her go.

After to-night Lieutenant Jack could start for China
and Boadicea for Thanet, leaving Lady Jeffreys's repu-
tation still immaculate in Jack's eyes, even if it had
been irretrievably sullied in those of her sister.

Twenty- four hours ! Surely Fate was not going to
deal cruelly with the prettiest woman in London at this
important crisis in her life?

A little buoyed up by hope again, a little fearful,
and very irate against her sister, Olive made up her
mind that by far the best and simplest thing to do now
would be, firstly, to order Thompson to call a hackney
coach for Miss Aldmarshe in half an hour, and to
direct the driver to take the young lady quietly as far
as the Coptic Hotel in Bloomsbury, and after that for
herself to endeavour to forget her w'orries in the social
triumphs which awaited her at Lady Malvern's re-
ception.



314 MEADOWSWEET

Therefore she tried resohitely to conquer that In-
tense sense of irritation which was in her still, and
which might even now have betrayed to Boadicea the
fact that her sister's intriguing mind was once more in
activity.

Resolutely she went to the door as if by her de-
parture she meant to imply that she was vacating the
battlefield and leaving Boadicea there alone and tri-
umphant. At the door, however, she turned to her
sister and spoke to her acidly over her shoulder :

" You will understand, child," she said, " that your
presence in my house can no longer be very agreeable
to me. I will instruct Thompson to call a hackney
coach for you. It may be some time before he can
get one, but when he does, he will instruct the driver
to take you straight to the Bloomsbury hotel, where
Aunt and Uncle must be getting anxious about you.
You have the address, I think."

" Yes, Olive," replied Boadicea, " I have the address
Sir Baldwin mentioned — the name of the hotel, the
Coptic, wasn't it ? I have no doubt that the coachman
can find it."

** Of course he can. Good-bye, then! I may bring
myself to go and see you again before you leave, for
Aunt's sake, of course. She need not know how im-
pertinently you have treated me, and how angry I am
with you for your rough, bullying ways. Outwardly
we can yet remain friends."

" Yes. Outwardly, Olive."

" I must go now. Your impertinence and all the
nonsense that you have talked have made me miss one
of the finest concerts of the season."



A SIMPLE WAY 315



((



I am sorry! "

" And I cannot help thinking, child, that your pri-
mary object in making all this fuss was to make mis-
chief between Sir Baldwin and me."

" I don't think, Olive, that you will seriously believe
that when you have thought the whole matter over
seriously."

" I may or I may not. Good-bye now ! "

"Good-bye, Olive!"

The door was opened and shut again. There was a
frou-frou of silk skirts and a tripping of lightly shod
feet up the carpeted stairs; and one sister passed en-
tirely out of the life of the other.

For a second or two Boadicea was conscious of the
irresistible impulse to run to the door to call after the
sister whom she had once loved so dearly, whom even
now she was willing, even eager to forgive. But she
fought that impulse down. Nothing at this moment
could be gained by making appeal to Olive's finer feel-



ings.



With a sigh Boadicea was bound to admit that Olive
had very few fine feelings in her. But what did that
matter? What did anything matter since he had
proved himself loyal and true.

Even if he went to China to-morrow, even if she
should never see him again in life, she would never
again be so hopelessly wretched as she had been in the
past year. Death — his death — the most terrible
thing now that her mind was able to contemplate,
would not seem such a cruel thing, since she knew that
he was true and loyal, and that he had not lied to her.

As — a year ago — she had sat alone in her little



3i6 MEADOWSWEET

room at Old Manor Farm gazing on the very abject-
ness of her own misery, so now she gazed upon that
one great and glorious fact; he had not lied; he was
true and loyal. All her belief in him was justified.
The one terrestrial idol which her virgin heart had
set up had not fallen to ashes and dust at her feet, and
her lips had never been defiled by the kiss of a traitor.

On this she dwelt, on this her heart fed now, as
probably it might have to feed for many years to come :
just on the memory of that kiss, in the shadow of the
big cherry-tree when the thrush sang so exultantly:
" He did it! He did it! " and when the scent of to-
bacco flowers, pungent and intoxicating, filled the air
with its exquisite fragrance.

She heard her sister's footsteps once more descend-
ing the stairs, she heard the harsh, high-pitched voice
ordering a hackney coach to be brought to the door in
half an hour. She heard the heavy front door opening
and shutting as the fashionable Lady Jeffreys sallied
forth into the streets to walk the few hundred steps
which would lead her to Lady Malvern's mansion.

Then she felt the silence of the big house. She sat
in the drawing-room, quite still, waiting for the hack-
ney coach to arrive which would take her away from
her sister's house, probably never to return.

Olive had passed out of her life, so no doubt would
Sir Baldwin. To-morrow she thought that she could
persuade Aunt and Uncle to go back to dear old
Thanet, where there were no intrigues, no lies, no false
appearance of affection, no lying lips, but where mem-
ory dwelt under the cherry-trees, and was kept sweet
and young in the fragrance of spring flowers.



A SIMPLE WAY 317

She was content thus to sit quietly, to dream and to
wait. OHve had apparently ordered the coach to
be brought round in half an hour. She wondered —
in the same vague and dreamy way — why Olive
should have wished her to wait half an hour before
leaving. But it really did not matter. When thoughts
are so full and the soul so far away from the body,
time is of little account, and the small details of life do
not really exist,

A coach eventually did drive up to the door. Boadi-
cea heard it and made ready to go. She felt more
than ever like a person in a dream, only vaguely realis-
ing that she must adjust her bonnet, tie its strings and
slip on her gloves. Equally vaguely the thought
crossed her mind as to what would become of Cousin
Barnaby.

" Olive will turn him out of the house to-morrow
for certain. She is not in a mood to care about Mr.
Crabtree's tantrums." And she smiled in an absent,
dreamy kind of way, as she pictured to herself Bar-
naby Crabtree being hastily and unceremoniously bun-
dled out of the house.

She thought every minute that Thompson would
come in and tell her that the hackney coach was at the
door, and she was, in the meanwhile, struggling with a
recalcitrant glove.

Presently she heard Sir Baldwin's voice down be-
low. He had evidently returned once again from
Bloomsbury. His coachman must have driven very
quickly, for Boadicea had an idea that Bloomsbury was
a very long way off.

Still, she was glad that Sir Baldwin had returned,



3i8 MEADOWSWEET

and that she would be able to say " Good-bye " to him
before she left. Sir Baldwin had been very kind all
along, and even the severity of his judgment on her
was due to the kindness of his heart.

A man's footsteps were heard ascending the stairs
very quickly. It was Sir Baldwin, of course; and the
coach was at the door, and she must really go now.

Then the door was thrown open, and it was not Sir
Baldwin who was standing there.


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