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head from side to side in contemplation of the
" undulations " of the elaborate coiffure now
protected by a net to retain its precision till the
dowager should sally forth to an admiring public.

Philippa watched her aunt with disguised dis
gust. " Great, ugly thing ! She thinks she s a
beauty," she commented, inwardly, for Philippa
loathed vanity in others. She turned her head,
gasped with the pain the movement caused her
aching eyeballs, arose, and walked gingerly to the
violet-hung bed.

" I m going to lie down," she said. " I do
feel so ill tell Marie to come to me. I want my
lavender-water, and the shades pulled down. I
wonder if I shall die! "

" You ve got a nervous headache you won t
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die," said Mrs. Ford, scornfully. "Well, I ll
leave you to your favorite contemplation of your
self much joy may you get out of it this time! "
With her silken gown flying about her like
waving banners, the drum-major marched to the
door, which she closed with a bang that made
Philippa start with pain, and proceeded down the
hallway to her own apartments. In its seclusion
she was pushed and packed into her precise tailor
costume, the net removed from her hair, her fin
ger-nails duly polished, and her fingers loaded
with a choice assortment of rings. Then, with
a last glance at her image in the pier-glass, she
descended to the drawing-room to await the com
ing of her ex-nephew-to-be. She moved about,
busily readjusting Sevres, Dresden figures, and
Dutch-silver toys. She rearranged her collection
of miniatures in the glass-topped show-table, and
wound up the gilt and enamel clock on the mantel
shelf. Mrs. Ford was always busy with some
superfluity when she was not engaged in her
favorite pursuit of advancing her social impor
tance.



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The butler passed through from the dining-
room to answer the electric ring of the door-bell.

" If that is Mr. Conway, Charles," she said,
" show him in here, and remember I am at home
to no one else for the present."

The butler bowed, and went on.

A moment later Morton was introduced into the
discreet twilight of the drawing-room and the
presence of Mrs. Ford, whose face had suddenly
become clouded and grave. She held out her hand
frankly, but forbore to smile.

" First, let me tell you, that we hope Philippa
may escape the consequences of her collapse. She
has at last fallen asleep, under the influence of
opiates, it is true."

Morton nodded. " I am glad to hear it," he
said, coldly.

" She is in a very desperate state of mind," the
aunt went on. " She raves about the wrong she
has unwittingly done Victoria, and fairly implores
and begs to have her friends admitted that she
may tell them of her fearful mistake. I really
did not suspect Philippa of so much conscience.



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She is frantic now that she realizes that she was
so completely misled."

Morton s face relaxed a trifle.

" The whole thing has been a frightful shock to
her. She put absolute confidence in Valdeck, and
he was clever enough to convince her he was ter
ribly in love with her. Of course, she was a fool
to listen to him, or permit him to speak at all,
but she was flattered, as, indeed, what girl would
not be? She told me from time to time of his
unfortunate passion for her, and deplored it. She
hoped by assisting him in what she thought was
a charitable enterprise, she would be helping him
to a readier acceptance of his hopeless position
aiding him to fix his mind, as it were, on a
laudable aim and end of life. What that aim was,
we all know."

Morton bowed.

" He enjoined her to absolute secrecy when he
entrusted her with the treasure he could no longer
safely keep himself, and allayed all her question
ings by this story of a watch being kept upon his
movements. If you could see how broken and



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distressed she is, you would, I am sure, forgive
her."

Morton smiled grimly. He was not to be
taken in with the half-truth now. But the picture
of the distressed Philippa brought up affectionate
images. He remembered her innocent eyes, her
trick of blushing, her childlike manner and his
anger slipped away from him. He knew her
for what she was, yet felt sorry for her in her
trouble.

" Of course, Mrs. Ford," he said, directly and
simply, " there can be no question of an engage
ment between us now. That was the matter I
most particularly wished to set before you. As
it was never made public, there will be no com
ment. But this matter of Valdeck has awakened
me from my dream, and I must, in duty to my
self and to Philippa, relieve her - He broke off,
hesitating.

Mrs. Ford nodded. " I quite understand,
though in the matter of that unfortunate dinner,
I believe her quite innocent, except for following
a foolish girl s impulse. He induced her to go
there, that he might, so rie said, in perfect se-
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curity, tell her certain secrets concerning this
Polish Educational League. I fancy he wished
her to be compromised by appearances, that he
might obtain a hold over her in case she should
discover the real nature of the society. As to
Gagano s, of course Philippa had never even heard
of the place, and hadn t the remotest notion
of its reputation. She trusted to Valdeck not
to take her to any objectionable resort. I am
greatly incensed against her myself, Mr. Conway,
for this, but I try to do the girl justice."

Morton bethought him of sundry allusions of
Philippa s, and doubted her complete ignorance
of the name and nature of the infamous little
restaurant, but he said nothing.

" For the sake of old times," Mrs. Ford went
bravely on, " I want you to help me save the
child s reputation. Do what you can to prevent
this miserable story from getting into circulation.
People who do not know Philippa s character
as we do, might misjudge her in the matter of
the dinner if it should become known. I hope we
may be able to prevent the letters she gave in
evidence from being made public. She has, I find,

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other notes written to her before he made his
dastardly profession of love for her, which show
identically the same thing his use of his vic
tim s interest in charity to induce her to assist
him. We will substitute these earlier letters, which
cover the same ground, for the later ones she
so unwisely permitted to be read. It was her
very innocence that made her careless. She never
dreamed that any one would imagine that she re
turned his devotion."

Morton smiled inwardly. The farce of it be
gan to appeal to him. But after all, why not
protect Philippa ? She was a woman and he
had loved her once how long ago, and absurd
it seemed.

" Of course," he said, " nothing shall become
known through me, and my uncle, Mr. Courncey,
assured me that if Victoria were fully cleared,
nothing should be learned from him or Mr. Fan-
shaw. If the substitution of the letters can be
made, I see no reason why anything but sympathy
should be attached to your niece."

Mrs. Ford drew a long breath. She was ac
complishing her work most skilfully. Never
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again would there be such a perfectly successful
coat of whitewash.

" And Victoria Qaudel ? " she asked, tenta
tively. " She has been the injured party, you
know and women are so hard upon each
other." This last remark completed the irony of
the situation.

Morton smiled. " Victoria never harmed a fly
in all her life. She s too much of a man to strike
a fallen enemy, and, besides, once her own charac
ter is cleared, she ll never think about the matter
again she has too many things of more im
portance to employ her mind, she s too busy."

The lady looked incredulous. " I hardly
think," she said, sententiously, " that you under
stand women, Mr. Conway."

Morton rose. " I don t pretend to, Mrs. Ford,
I assure you. But Victoria is particularly a tom
boy, and I think I can answer for her mental pro
gressions. I assure you that you will really be
quite annoyed by the very little importance she ll
attach to it all, once the clouds have blown over.
I think we quite understand each other now, Mrs.
Ford. I thank you for receiving me, and the

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way you have permitted me to explain my very
unpleasant and delicate mission."

The drum-major rose with stately and studied
grace. " I am sure, Mr. Conway, my niece ought
to be very grateful to you for your assurances
of good-will. Of course, she knows nothing of
my intervention on her behalf. She is too ill to
have painful subjects broached at all. And I
promise you in her name and my own, that Miss
Claudel shall have thorough and complete vin
dication."

They shook hands warmly. Mrs. Ford very
much as if she were conferring a cross of honor
upon a valorous warrior. Morton, with an
amused delight at the comedy. He bowed him
self out, and in the hall passed Ethel Tracy, who
nodded sweetly and inquired with an air of arch
knowledge for the latest news of Philippa. Mor
ton s amusement deepened as he foresaw the scene
to follow between the artless curiosity of the girl
and the wily generalship of the drum-major.

" You had better see Mrs. Ford, she will tell
you all the particulars, Miss Tracy," he said.



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" She is in the drawing-room go right in. I
know she will wish to see you."

" Is that you, Ethel, dear? " Mrs. Ford s voice
sounded mellow through the portieres. " Come
in; poor Philippa is very ill to-day, but I fancy
she will insist on seeing you."

The slim figure of the girl disappeared between
the curtains, and Morton heard the hostess s
resounding kiss, as she drew the fly into her
parlor, and began diligently spinning the web of
poor Philippa s innocent heart-break about her
willing listener.



305



CHAPTER XL

V^/NE stormy February afternoon, some two
months later, the wet snow smothered the air
and lay, sodden and gray, on the steaming streets.
Early twilight lurked in the sky, and the street-
lamps, giving out a dim, yellow haze, made the
half-lights more confusing.

In Mrs. Durham s rooms the lamps were not
yet lighted. In the dusk the four occupants of easy
chairs luxuriated in comfortable companionship.
Three cigarette-lights punctuated the mysterious
penumbra Morton s, Victoria s, and Sonia
Palintzka, Countess Krempelkin s. Mrs. Dur
ham did not indulge ; instead she chewed her cork-
tipped penholder.

" Must you go to Washington on Wednes
day, Sonia?" inquired Victoria, beseechingly.
" You ve only been here a week."

" I m afraid so," the countess answered, smil-
306



ing. " You see, since my older sister married,
there s no one to do the honors, and that sort of
thing. If it weren t for that, I should still be
in Paris, or next door to your studio. But there
is not a female soul at the embassy, and my father
is becoming restive."

" Oh, dear ! " said Victoria.

" Now suppose," Sonia continued, " you and
Mrs. Durham pack your boxes and come with me
for a month or two, or three what do you say,
old lady?"

The old lady ceased chewing the penholder.
" Well, if Victoria will pull out for a week or
so, I will but I haven t any clothes to speak
of "

" Don t speak of them, then."

" You re doing me out of my pet lounging-
place," Morton growled. " What am / to do for
my woman s club ? "

You might come, too. Aren t you jealous ?
Aren t you afraid to let Victoria be seen among
all our good-looking, uniformed Russians ? " de
manded Sonia, as one with a grievance.

" No," broke in Mrs. Durham, with annoyance

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in her tone; "he isn t he isn t jealous at all.
Did you ever see two people so beautifully suited,
who simply don t want to get married? They
wont fall in love it s disgusting ! "

"I rather like it myself," said Victoria; "it
saves such lots of bother. Now, it will all ar
range itself quite simply. Mort, there, will marry
some fool or other who will hate me, and forbid
him to drop in except on Thursdays from four
till six, and he ll dote on her and accept the
situation. Then, I ll probably marry somebody
who will beat me, and I shall like it, and it will
make Morty so mad he won t be able to come
around any more. Then we ll each think how
nice the other one was all our lives."

" I can t marry a boy," Morton protested.
"And if any one tried to beat Victoria, it wouldn t
be Victoria who would go to the hospital. The
fact of the matter is, the only thing for her is
a nice, slender, yellow, fuzzy-haired pet from
Madame Despard s kennels. She could ruffle it
and love it, and go right on her rejoiceful way
without worrying it or herself or any one else."

" Oh, don t ! " exclaimed Sonia. " I can fairly
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see myself kicking the thing out of the way when
ever I should come into the room."

" Why worry about the inevitable," murmured
Victoria, as she lit another cigarette and flung
the finished one dexterously on the hearth. " I
never cared sentimentally, that is, but once. He
was a nice fellow, and rather clever; but he
didn t think I liked him and was too proud to
inquire, and I well, I was too proud to inform
him so well that s all "

"Who was it?" demanded Mrs. Durham,
bristling with curiosity. " And you, Victoria !
I should have expected you to come right out
and speak your mind."

" So should I," said Victoria; "but somehow
I wouldn t work that way there, must have
been something wrong with the machinery."

" I think he was an idiot ! " exclaimed Sonia.

" I think so too," said Victoria.

" Here is one of the incongruities of life," Mor
ton observed, regretfully. " Three stunning
women gathered together, and not a romance
among them."



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" But I ve just finished one," Mrs. Durham
murmured, modestly.

"Oh," said Victoria, "it s finished, is it?
You ve been working like a beaver on that book.
What is the title to be? "

Mrs. Durham bit her pen, and an expression
only to be classed as " grin " came over her
face the grin of a bad, small child but the
expression was lost in the dusk.

" It s to be called Whitewash, " she drawled.

" You re not ! " exclaimed Victoria.

" Yes, I am," said Mrs. Durham, " and you re
all in it every one."

" I call that a mean advantage to take of one s
friends. And who, pray, is the heroine? "

" I shall leave that to the discriminating public.
But I can assure you the portraiture is faithful,
and I ve written the story verbatim. I haven t
added a thing in fact, I ve left out some."

" Thank heavens ! " sighed Morton. " What
have you cut out? "

" Well, Madame Chateau-Lamion s final per
formance. It was so spectacular that the modern



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novel couldn t stand for it unless I set the whole
story back a few hundred years."

" But," objected Sonia, " from our Russian
standpoint there s nothing so remarkable in that.
It was a well-executed vengeance. The lady goes
to the prison to identify the former maid which
she does, and promptly shoots the woman. Then
foolish doctors declare the lady insane, and lock
her up. / think she showed determination and
good sense. She knew that the court, at best,
would only condemn the creature as an accessory.
The countess wanted blood for blood, and, be
sides, she believed she was fulfilling a Christian
obligation which she probably was. That whole
episode appears to me far more plausible than
the usual run of facts."

" It s picturesque enough, of course," said Vic
toria, " but you know it s melodrama, pure and
simple, and the Muse doesn t want to be classed
by the unthinking as rantish. What would
Madame Despard s souls say to such goriness
and undue display of the untender passion ? "

" How do you end it, then? " asked Sonia.

" If you will light a lamp, or turn on a light,



WHITEWASH

I ll read you the last few pages, provided, Morty,
that you go away. I haven t the face to speak
out before you. I can t help feeling I ve taken an
unfair advantage particularly of your affairs.
I feel guilty but, with Victoria, I will just
brazen it out."

Mrs. Durham arose, fumbled in her escritoire,
and returned with several closely written sheets.
She settled herself cosily beside her lamp, and
waved a good-by to Morton, who departed re
luctantly and under strong compulsion.

" This is the first half of the last chapter," she
began :

" The babel of voices had reached a climax,
the flower and palm-embowered rooms were
jammed to suffocation with monkeys, parrots,
and peacocks your pardon, I mean well-
dressed men, charming debutantes, and glitter
ing matrons. - Tea, consisting of every variety
of drinkable liquid, was being served by despair
ing waiters, struggling to fray a passage between
velvet trains and lace flounces.

" A lady in black and sables, standing near
the mantelpiece, looked on with interest. Beside
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her lounged an elderly gentleman in immaculate
frock coat and waistcoat, regarding the crowd
through a pince-nez that gave him an aristocratic
hauteur of expression, for it refused to stay on
if he lowered the angle of his head. The lady was
no other than the Marchioness of Kilgare, for
merly Fanny Colcourt of New York, returned
now for the first time in many years.

" That girl by the punch-bowl/ explained Mr.
Belgrave Gerome (the former fiance and present
Virgil of the coroneted Fanny), that girl is
Bella Claxmore, Belle Carter s daughter, you
remember her, don t you? The tall woman in
chinchilla and gray is Mortmeer Dent s second
wife/

" Really, exclaimed Lady Kilgare, as she
elevated her lorgnette with a well-bred insolence.
How could Mortmeer marry such a frump after
suffering the loss of that sweet bit of Dresden
Molly!

" A million or so, said Gerome.

Ah, I see trade, of course. Forgive me,
I was in London for the moment. What was
it ? Cutlery, cookstoves, or calico ?

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" Patent medicine, I believe. She was a
Bently, of " Bently s Best Bilious Bitters."
" Ah, I see. Poor Mortmeer !

That lean young man is Toppy Van
Deuxer, 2d. Toppy, ist, married Clara Taguerra
you must recall her. She was that immensely
rich Cuban planter s daughter that the Holders
chaperoned and married off. I heard that they
received a very nice per cent, on the " dot."

I remember her/ the marchioness nodded.
She was a charmingly pretty thing. W r ho is
the personage in green? I seem to recognize
her.

" That s Mrs. Trevy-Portman.

Good heavens ! I must dissemble. I knew
her ever so slightly as Patty Winston, and now
she is chasing me every day title, I suppose
leaves cards and flowers. I hope she won t see
me, now my back is toward her. Dear me,
what a pretty girl ! This last remark was caused
by the entrance of Philippa, ravishingly gowned
and more charming than ever; with her loomed
Mrs. Ford, gorgeous in cadet blue and astrachan.

That/ said the guide, as he acknowledged

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Philippa s bow, is Miss Ford and her aunt. The
old lady is a pusher and a scrouger, but the girl
is really a very delightful young person, a refresh
ing change from the average. She is not over
vain, she s good-hearted, she s well-read, and has
excellent taste, also can talk intelligently quite
a rara avis.

" Really? She seems very popular; people
are fairly falling over one another to speak with
her.

" She is just home from Paris, you see; been
away three months it s quite a story; do you
want to hear it ?

" Yes, that s a nice frock.

Well, some little time ago, a foreigner came
here, named Valdeck. He had managed some
how to obtain letters from the New Orleans
Pointues -

" The Chateau-Lamion affair oh, yes,
is that the Miss Ford? Heavens! yes, it was a
nine days wonder even in London, quite sen
sational. Dear me

Well, you know poor Philippa was taken
in by the charitable side of her nature. Inci-

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dentally Valdeck told I don t know what ridic
ulous scandal about Victoria Claudel, who, you
know, happened to recognize him for what he
was a burglar. He wanted to gain time, and
in this ingenious way made a most excellent spy
of the innocent Philippa. Of course you know
the extraordinary denouement Valdeck s sui
cide, the murder of the maid and Madame La-
mion s final incarceration " a Charenton."

" When Philippa found out the real state of
affairs, she was wild that she should have helped
to hurt her friend s character, for, girl-like, she
had talked, and the whole set was quite agog over
it. She made the fullest possible reparation ;
insisted on seeing the people to whom she had
repeated the slander, and was most contrite and
humble. But Victoria Claudel never would for
give her, and Morton Conway, whom we all
thought engaged to Philippa, has quite dropped
away. People say Victoria took him deliberately
they are inseparable now.

" So that s the Miss Ford, said the marchion
ess again. I don t wonder that they make such



WHITEWASH

a buzz over her. It seems odd what you tell
me of Miss Claudel. I never knew her to bear
malice. And as to Mr. Conway, they have always
been friends. She used to show me his letters
when we were in Paris.

" You know her, then?

" Naturally. She is the Countess Palintzka s
most intimate friend.

" Ah ! said Gerome, with a slightly defer
ential tone.

" His companion looked up amused. And
why not, pray? She s the best born American
I know. She could use her arms by real right
if she chose, and show quartering^ enough to
make her a chanoinesse; but she doesn t think
of anything but her work.

"Her work?

" Dear me, yes. You ve heard of Camille
Descartes, haven t you? Of course. Well, you
don t mean to tell me that you didn t know that
was her nom de plume! She writes in French,
you know. But this Miss Ford I can t imagine
her anything but a beautiful injured angel. Look



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at those violet eyes of hers ! But then, of course,
Victoria must have been exasperated.

" I can assure you Victoria is very generally
blamed, said Gerome. Miss Ford was very ill
immediately after the affair, and every one says
it was brain fever, brought on by Miss Claudel s
refusal to see her. She left for Europe quite
broken in health, and this is her first appearance
since her return. Town Topics had it last week
that her engagement was rumored to young Lord
Pelham

" Dopey Pelham ! exclaimed Lady Kilgare,
impossible ! He is a little, bald-headed, dried-up
rat of a man, with a stutter, you know, and the
worst manners. To be sure he has the title and
a sweetly pretty country house with no end of
gee-gees, and the old place in Devonshire, but
he s dear me quite the simpleton !

" Has that Trevey-Portman woman gone?
Am I safe if I turn my face toward the table?
Yes? Ah, that s better. Why, there s Celia van
Cordlier I must speak with her ! and with
that she dismissed Miss Ford and her affairs from
her aristocratic mind."



WHITEWASH

A silence as Mrs. Durham ceased reading.

" You don t approve ? " she asked, with raised
eyebrows.

"No," said Victoria, "I don t! The whole
thing is horridly personal."

" But I ve changed all the names," pleaded the
authoress. " I read them to you with the real
ones just for a lark."

" As if everybody couldn t place the thing! "

" But I ve made you very nice, Victoria."

" And how have you treated me? " demanded
Sonia.

" Excellently, I ve only been truthful."

" Thank goodness for that," Victoria groaned.
" You have saved us and punished yourself.
Your reputation as a realist will be ruined, and
we shall escape. I breathe again and so would
Philippa, if she knew. Her beautiful coat of
immaculate whitewash will remain unspotted
by the world."

" I disapprove of slang and puns, but in this
instance we ll let it pass," said Mrs. Durham.

THE END.



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