Philip Verrill Mighels.

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could wish you looked as happy as you did the night
we met you first."

" I must do so, or prove myself an ingrate," he
agreed, smiling at her gravely.

" You are never that," she told him, glancing past
him to where some new arrivals were approaching.
" Now say some nice things to my guests. You re-
member meeting Viscount Farron, Herr Comanche?"

She glided away to meet the friends who had just
arrived, and Roger nodded to a man he remembered
to have seen before. This bewhiskered person bobbed
his head in return.

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THE INEVITABLE



" The weather has turned much warmer," said Gor-
don.

" Bally warm weather for golf," replied the viscount,
bow, " you are a cruel as well as a wicked man."

" Herr Comanche," said a pleasant voice at his el-
bow, " you are a cruel, as well as a wicked man."

He turned about and saw the bare arms and shoul-
ders and the beautiful neck and hair and face of Lady
Fitzhenry. On her damask cheek flamed a color more
warm that that of the roses she wore at the top of her
corsage, where they rested against the creamy white-
ness of her bosom.

" I have to be all that you say," Roger said, " to
keep fresh the interest which I may thereby excite."

" Then you admit, shamelessly, that it has been de-
liberate cruelty that kept you from coming to see me ?"

" I confess I have been cruel to myself."

"Oh! Then I cannot forgive you, after all," she
told him. " To break my heart might be excusable,
but to pain my friends is a deadly sin. You didn't
really wish to come?"

" My wishes have never been conspicuously well re-
ceived by fate," he answered, equivocally.

" That is not an answer. You did not really wish
to see me."

"You do yourself an injustice," he assured her.
" But had I seen you a hundred times, you would not

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THE WAY OF A MAN



have appeared to greater advantage than you do to-
night."

She looked at him out of her soft brown eyes caress-
ingly. " I wish I might believe you," she murmured.

" Oh, you may," was his cheerful answer, for he
had meant far less than might have been supposed.

" I will if you will take me for something cool,"
she answered, and, slipping her hand beneath his arm
so far that it lay upon his wrist, she guided him away
from the room.

Despite himself, he felt the fascination which this
beautiful young widow exercised, when she so desired,
for any man. She was always so fragrant, so bright,
so voluptuously radiant. Temptations to drift with
her whither she listed had become more natural and
more insidious. Yet he found himself looking rest-
lessly, yearningly about for one sweet face, the mem-
ory of which, in its whiteness, haunted him day and
night. She was not to be seen. She was there, how-
ever, jealously watching the movements of Lady Fitz-
henry.

To think at all of Genevra made Gordon's heart ache
dully. He knew, as he searched the faces there, that
the time had come when he must leave the scenes in
which he beheld her from time to time. His farce,
so far as it had gone, had wrung him till his heart
was weary of the thought of courage.

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THE INEVITABLE



" Oh, why didn't I think before ?" said Lady Fitz-
henry. " The conservatory is the most delightfully
cooling place in the house."

She opened a door that led to the house of glass, and
took him away from the sound of the chatter, with easy
art. The perfume of leaves and blossoms, the plash
of a tiny fountain, and the sense of calm made the
place delightful. A rustling movement, in the ferns
on the farther side, escaped their attention.

" This is where your charity begins," said Roger,
referring to her thoughtfulness in conducting him into
such a peaceful bower.

" And charity should never end," she told him, as
they came to a rustic bench, in which she sat, and drew
him to a place beside her. " I could tell you the name
of a king who sat here once."

" Indeed ? Then I must make this seat an inch
higher at once, or refuse to sit here longer."

" And he broke a lady's heart," she added.

" Ah, well," he answered, " a king can do no wrong.
And I have found that a duke can do but about a fifth
of a wrong, a marquis only about two-fifths of a
wrong, an earl about a third of a wrong, a baron less
than half of one, and even a capitalist less than a
whole wrong. It is only the plain, poor citizen who
can commit a whole wrong in this world."

" But it is more than a wrong, it is a sacrilege, to
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THE WAY OF A MAN



break a lady's heart," she answered. " And even a
king could commit a sacrilege."

" I believe a few have tried the experiment," he
said.

" But the man who wouldn't break a woman's heart
is the true king after all," she told him, looking in
his eyes candidly.

" And they say something about ' uneasy is the head
that wears a crown/ " Roger replied, with an indiffer-
ence he found it hard to assume.

" Then wouldn't you care to be a king of that
sort?"

" So many zealots might desire my abdication," he
answered, guardedly.

" But no one could make you abdicate, if a woman's
heart were your throne."

"Thrones and women's hearts have much in com-
mon, I agree," said Roger. " I wonder if all thrones
are as hard as this bench."

" They are soft enough when they are women's
hearts," she murmured. " I should think you would
like to to try one."

" I should never feel sure I knew what sort I want
these days," he told her, without revealing the emo-
tion she had stirred within him.

" But if you married some woman who could help
you who liked you very much, and who had the

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THE INEVITABLE



means, so that you could do your great work at

ease It might be some advantage if she had a

little money and could make you happy, or wouldn't
you wish to marry?"

He looked at her, only for a second. Her eyes were
ablaze with a passionate light ; her cheeks were flushed,
as if with the consciousness of their own warm beauty ;
her bosom moved rapidly, as she caught her breath
through her red, parted lips.

Roger was half intoxicated in that one second. She
infatuated all his senses for the moment. A madness
was in his brain, but he gripped himself, as if by
habit.

" A woman is so hard to please, according to some
one," he said, huskily. " He would be a bold man who
felt sure that " and he left it unfinished.

" Sure that a woman loved him ?" she supplied, in
excitement only half concealed. " Oh, but you should
know the signs. Have you ever played ' She loves
me ; she loves me not' ? Here, take one of these roses
and play it."

She leaned towards him so that the roses fastened
to her corsage were presented to him irresistibly.
They trembled, as if to the thrill which surged through
him, racing with the blood that leaped in his veins.
For a second, deprived of the power to think, he raised
his hands to one of the buds that was touching her

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THE WAY OF A MAN



bosom. His fingers shook. Why not? Why should
he not?

" Oh, there is a pin !" she gasped, and suddenly
catching his hand in hers, as if the pin were hurting,
she pressed it, with roses and all, against her cool,
soft flesh which instantly heated beneath the contact
of his touch.

His senses reeled. He felt he should clasp her in
both his arms, kiss her on her lips, her shoulders,
crush her, so fragrant and velvet soft she was.

Then strangely it seemed as if something in his
heart cried out in pain.

" I am sorry you were hurt," he stammered,
thickly. " I was awkward. I'll go and open the door
for air."

He had extricated his hand from hers with one
strong movement. He arose at once, unsteadily but
doggedly.

" Don't go not for a moment," she gasped. " I
can't

" I know the heat," he said, master of himself
again in a flash. " I hope you will not faint. I'll open
the door. I'll ask Lady Denby to bring you her salts."

She had started to her feet, to restrain him. But,
as if in great solicitude for her health, he strode away.
She sank on the bench, breathing like a spent doe.

Gordon, who had no intention of calling Lady Denby
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THE INEVITABLE



into requisition, went swiftly to the door that led to
the garden. Somewhat to his surprise he found it
already open. He went out.

A faint sound, as of some one crying, attracted his
notice at once. He peered through the weakened light
cast in the garden from the windows, and saw the
figure of a girl, who was leaning against a tree and
softly sobbing.



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XXII
FOUND



HE knew who it was. He knew she had heard,
how much could make but little difference. Now that
the all he had started out to do was accomplished, he
broke down in all his resolution.

" God help me ! I can't endure it any longer !" he
cried to himself, in anguish, and going down from the
low veranda he stood in the grass and wrung his hands
in silence.

" Oh, Roger," came in a little cry to his ears.

He thought she had called him. She had not. She
had only breathed his name, while she threw herself
against the tree and buried her face in the curve of
her arm.

" Genevra I'll tell you I'll tell you everything,"
he said, as he went towards her with his hands pressed
painfully against his breast.

She turned about instantly and faced him. She
caught at the tree and held herself away from it as
she looked at him, wildly.

" Go away. I don't wish to see you. I hate you !"
she said, in a voice still shaken. " You can have her.
I wish you would leave me at once !"

" I'll tell you," he repeated, simply. " I don't
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THE INEVITABLE



care, now. I'd rather tell you and let you hate me
more."

" I don't wish to listen. I don't wish to see you.
You've no right to come here," said Genevra, still
clinging to the tree for support. " I don't care for
anything about you. I never cared never!" She
stamped her foot in anger. " Leave me directly !"
she commanded.

" I am glad you have never cared," he said, in his
melancholy calm. " But I cared so much I couldn't
tell you couldn't bear to have you know that I'm
that I'm not an Indian."

" I don't know what you mean," she said. " I don't
want you to tell me anything. Why should I care to
hear anything about you and Lady Fitzhenry? I
wish to be alone."

" I knew you would, as soon as you knew about
me," he told her. " I was too big a coward to tell
you before, and to go away, but now I want you
to know it all. I don't care anything about Lady
Fitzhenry, but I couldn't bear to tell you the truth
before."

" Perhaps you are breaking her heart, as you broke
I don't wish to speak to you again. Why don't you
go away?"

She had turned about to face him, with her shoulder
to the tree. She was trying to stifle her pent-up emo-

220



FOUND

tions and to dash away her tears with her handker-
chief.

" I am going now that I've told you what I am
an octoroon," he said. He hesitated for a moment and
then added : " Good-by."

He turned, as she made no reply, and started away.

" Roger Mr. Gordon," she said, " you I have a
right to know what you mean."

He came back, still clutching one of his hands in
the other and gripping it till it ached.

" I have told you all there is to tell," he said. " I
found out who I am, and why my face is dark, the
morning after the recital. I am not part Indian, as
you have always thought. It is worse than that." He
hesitated for a moment, and gazed at her wistfully out
of his brilliant, mournful eyes. " I was cursed, I was
sickened, all my boyhood through, by my darkened
face," he continued, unflinchingly ; " but the darkness
came because my father's mother was mulatto. I
couldn't bear to tell this to you. I knew you would
scorn me. But it is better as it is. I'll go, for that is
all there is to say."

" No, it isn't," she answered, almost impatiently.
" I don't care anything about all that. But you !
the things you have done! I didn't think you could
treat me so after all that you knew after every-
thing. That is what I want explained."

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THE INEVITABLE



" I have confessed I was too great a coward to let
you know what I am," Roger repeated, patiently. " I
could not bear to have you know and turn away from
me for that. I have been a greater coward in what I
have done. I tried to make you think me unworthy
and you see how well I succeeded."

" Do you mean you have done these things to make
me despise you?"

" That is a harsh way to say it yes."

" I don't see how you could," she said, brokenly,
and turned with her face again to the tree.

Gordon was terribly wrung. He came closer to
where she was.

"I thought it would fall on me," he said. "It
was all because I loved you so because I have loved
you so long, so wholly."

" You ! love !" she laughed, in a paroxysm of cry-
ing. The sound was dreadful. " If I could only hate
you! if I could if I could! I do! and I wish
you'd go away and leave me now !"

" I'll go," he answered, still patiently. " But I have
loved you beter than life all these years. Won't
you say good-by?"

"If you loved me you would have trusted me com-
pletely; you would have known I shouldn't care for
anything but what you are to me," she said, less in
anger. " You haven't told me the truth."

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FOUND

" Oh, Genevra, send me away," he begged. " I
have told you everything more than I thought I could
tell to any one. I have told you because I love you
love you more than happiness, or pride, or life.
Please believe that only believe that and I can go."

She was silent for a moment. His words, in all
their poignancy, had gone deep into her heart.

" If you wish to leave me, Roger, go," she fal-
tered, and looking at him fondly, with the tears still
in her eyes, she held out her hand.

He knew at last that he could not go.

" You do not care for what I am ?" he said. And
the answer in her eyes was all his heart could wish.

Almost overcome, he took her in his arms and held
her gently to his breast. His lips trembled, but he
could not speak. She clung to him, shaken convul-
sively, weakened by the tumult of reaction and happi-
ness suddenly come upon her.

" Oh, Roger, oh, Roger," was all she could murmur
as she lay against his shoulder.

He kissed her on the lips, and she laughed and
cried together. He kissed her hands and her hair,
and crooned her name till she felt all the sadness in
his nature laid bare at last, when this joy came to
open wide his heart. It was almost terrible to feel,
as she did, what his sensitive nature had suffered. A
thousand days of protestations could not have borne

223



THE INEVITABLE



in the truth of his love at this one brief moment of
mingled pain and ecstasy was doing now.

" Oh, Roger, my own darling Roger," she whis-
pered at last, " I am sorry, dear, for all I said. How
could I know? My heart was breaking. Had you
really gone, my heart would have stopped its beat-
ing."

He looked in her eyes. Such fathomless depths of
emotion as she saw in his gaze filled her soul with awe
of the sacredness of love.

" It is terrible to love any one as I love you, Ge-
nevra," he told her presently. " I love you more than
my hope of heaven and God forgive me more than
God Himself."

She nestled to him. " I am so glad. My Roger,"
she answered.

From the open windows came sounds of music.
Then they heard the voice of Lady Denby.

" Genevra, where are you, child ?" called her lady-
ship.

Genevra held up her lips and Roger kissed her once
again. She tucked her little hand in his and they
started together for the house.

Near the door of the open conservatory Lady Fitz-
henry glided away to the cover of a shadow, and with
anger and scorn in her blazing eyes watched the pair
as they entered with their hostess.

224



XXIII

ROGER'S ADVOCATE



GENEVRA'S father considered that he best performed
the functions of a mother to his otherwise motherless
girl when he exercised his privilege of consenting to
whatsoever she very much desired. If her mother had
lived, he argued, the two of them together would have
inveigled all manner of consents from him anyway,
wherefore his mind should always be made up as if
the mother and bairn had worked their will upon it.

Impulsive as he knew Genevra to be, he had never
yet had occasion to regret his complaisance with her
moods. He loved her dearly and trusted her im-
plicitly. Fortunately, he told himself, she had never
desired to do anything unwholesome or indiscreet. He
was waiting for that day to come in which she would
tell him she had chosen a mate, with all the patience
he would have expended on any microscopic subject.
That such a day had not yet arrived seemed to him,
when he thought upon it, rather peculiar. Genevra
was a beautiful child, and she was clever, good, and
honest.

They had moved up to Datchet, on the Thames, for
the summer. He was carefully rearranging his micro-
scopes and their attendant paraphernalia in one of the
15 225



THE INEVITABLE



sunny rooms that faced the river when Genevra came
in upon him. She was flushed with the happiness of
youth and love; she must needs run across the room
to where he was, to express her mood of liveliness.
She kissed him on top of his head, then on the cheeks,
and then on the lips.

" That's the sign of the four," she said.

" Yes. I thought it was coming the moment you
entered the room, my dear," he said, as he pushed his
glasses up on his forehead and gripped the lower part
of his smooth-shaven face in his big, freckled hand.
" So you want my consent to something you deem
important."

" You shall be deemster yourself," she said, tossing
up a handful of rose leaves and catching only two.
" I am going to be married. Do you deem that im-
portant."

Her father sat down and took his glasses entirely
off. " You might fare far and come back to me with
something more trivial," he said. " When is the inci-
dent to happen?"

" Well, I am only engaged at present," she amended.
" Do you remember all that I read you about the won-
derful young composer, Herr Comanche?"

" Not quite all, but some of it, yes. You have not
told him that I possess a Strad ? He is not asking your
hand to obtain your daddy's violin?"

226



ROGER'S ADVOCATE



" Indeed, he thinks I am far more valuable," said
Genevra. " He knows me better than you do, dad-
kins, already."

"Yes, I suppose he does. That's the way of the
world. And yet I know so much of you, after all,
that I have thought of this moment most earnestly
and with many of a foolish old man's regrets. Who is
this Herr Comanche?"

" Dear dadkins, we have got on together famously,
and I love you so much," she said, as a preliminary.
" And now I want you to read this paper, for he said
I must have you read it first, and then I want you to
bless us directly and then something else. Read it
fast, dadkins, it's only one of his whims."

She gave him a sheet of paper on which Roger
had copied everything explanatory of his lineage
which his father had written for his final perusal.
Gordon had insisted that Genevra's father should know
who and what he was without delay. To this Genevra
had consented the more readily as she knew her own
powers of argument with her parent.

" Gallop through it, dadkins, I've something else I
want to say," she said, impatiently. " It is only to
satisfy poor, morbid Roger."

" He asked you to show me this ?" said the man,
when he had read to the vital point of what was
written.

227



THE INEVITABLE



" Yes. Have you read it through ?"

" You don't mind this," said he, with his finger on
the paper, " this strain of darker blood ?"

" No ; of course not. Why should I ? He is mostly
Scotch, like us, and German, French, and English,"
she answered. " It's only an eighth. It doesn't
amount to anything at all."

" You should be very sure that what you feel is not
infatuation, merely," he told her. " Genuine love is
bad enough. I thought you liked young Lennox
perhaps that way."

" I do like Algy, of course, but not that way. But
Roger I have loved for years," she said, with all
that sincerity and out-spoken honesty he knew so
well. " When you took me abroad to the States I was
only a child, but I saw him then, just once. Don't
you remember? he was the boy who saved me from
the snake. And I have liked him ever since, and
now more than ever. Is that an infatuation, dadkins,
do you think?"

" You never told me that you felt like that towards
any boy."

" No, dadkins. What would have been the use, if
we had never met again ? Or even if he had not cared
for me when we did meet, there would have been no
reason for telling. But now, you see, I want your
consent and your blessing for us both."

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ROGER'S ADVOCATE



" It is a serious matter. I always liked Lennox. I
wish you to marry well wisely," he said.

" And happily oh, happily first !" she replied.
" You did that yourself."

" He is a gentleman ?" said the man, evasively.

" He is, oh, he is and he's a man as well," she
answered, proudly. " He is so refined, so modest, so
gifted ! All London is at his feet, and he doesn't seem
to know it. They have called him a genius; they
have made him a social lion, but none of them knows
how truly great he is, nor what he can do. He has
won his fame already. The critics call him a genius
of the greatest magnitude, but how unspoiled he
is ! How gentle and cultured he always is ! He's
the real, noble-hearted gentleman that my own dad-
kins has always been or how could I love him as
I do?"

" And how much a year will his music earn ?" he
inquired.

" Oh, nearly anything he wishes," said Genevra,
with ingenuous assurance. " But his father left him
what he calls a little fortune, so that will be quite
all right."

" Do you love him enough to run away with him,
lass, if I refused my consent?" her father asked her,
gravely.

" Yes, dadkins," she told him, frankly, " I do. You
229



THE INEVITABLE



ran away with my mother, you know. But you will
not refuse your consent. You mustn't you can't."

" He appears to be honest, to send me this," he said,
as he gave her the paper. " I should like to meet
him, before we say anything further on the subject."

" I want you to see him. I want you to ask him
to come to Datchet and stop with us for the summer,"
she answered, slipping her arm about his neck. " Then
you will be the first one to tell me I am not a foolish
child."

" I hope so," he told her. " I am sorry it isn't
Lennox, but we shall see."

" I am not afraid to trust some to your judg-
ment," she said, eagerly. " I know you will like him.
You are always such a dear, kind dadkins and wise.
I'll telegraph him directly to come." She kissed him
fondly and ran away to summon Gordon forthwith to
the scene.

She and her father met him at the train, for which
little courtesy they found themselves obliged to go
to the station three several times before he arrived.

Genevra ran to him gayly and dragged him by both
his hands to her " stern, forbidding parent," as she
dubbed her father when she introduced the dignified
Gordon.

Harberton looked at him critically. He had not
been prepared to find him so dark, but he had expected

230



ROGER'S ADVOCATE



features far less classical and a manner a little spe-
cious. He mentally agreed that Gordon was a gentle-
man, handsome enough, and evidently cultured. He
even found himself forgetting soon that the man's face
was of so deep a bronze.

Whatsoever the affinity was that Roger possessed
for Genevra, it was somewhat communicated to her
father. Harberton's prejudice slipped from him
swiftly.

" If you are certain you prefer him to all the world,"
he said to Genevra in the evening, " I suppose I shall
have to consent."



231



XXIV

THEIR DAY OF SUMMER



FROM Hampton Court to the long calm reaches of
the river beyond Windsor there was not a nook of
beauty and seclusion that Roger and Genevra failed
to find. Morning, mid-day, and evening the Thames
is a thing of beauty and charm. With pollarded wil-
lows, meadows that slope away from its brink, trees
that hang Narcissus-like on the bank, to catch their
own reflected loveliness, windings that lay the sky
at the feet of swans or wading boys, and with swal-
lows dipping throughout the lazy day, it entices first
to its bosom, and next to its bank, and then again to
its placid breast till its magic excites the senses to a
species of ecstatic desperation.

" I could float here forever, with only you," said
Genevra one day, from her seat on the cushions in the
bottom of the punt, " and yet we love the woods so
much, we should spend a day, at least once a week,
in some of the forests. Let's begin to-morrow with
Burnham Beeches. Dadkins is getting to be a regular


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Online LibraryPhilip Verrill MighelsThe inevitable : a novel → online text (page 11 of 18)