Infomotions, Inc.Innocent : her fancy and his fact / Corelli, Marie, 1855-1924



Author: Corelli, Marie, 1855-1924
Title: Innocent : her fancy and his fact
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): jocelyn; amadis; priscilla; briar farm; robin; sieur amadis; blythe; armitage; briar; miss leigh; innocent; leigh; lord blythe; clifford; dad; pierce armitage; robin clifford; farm; farmer jocelyn; lady blythe; ned landon; miss armitage; hugo jocelyn
Contributor(s):
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 124,890 words (average) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 68 (easy)
Identifier: etext5165
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Innocent, by Marie Corelli
#10 in our series by Marie Corelli

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing
this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.

This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project
Gutenberg file.  Please do not remove it.  Do not change or edit the
header without written permission.

Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the
eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of this file.  Included is
important information about your specific rights and restrictions in
how the file may be used.  You can also find out about how to make a
donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.


**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts**

**eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971**

*****These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!*****


Title: Innocent
       Her Fancy and His Fact

Author: Marie Corelli

Release Date: February, 2004 [EBook #5165]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on May 27, 2002]
[Date last updated: July 18, 2005]

Edition: 10

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK INNOCENT ***




Produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team




INNOCENT

Her Fancy and His Fact


By MARIE CORELLI


Author of "God's Good Man," "The Treasure of Heaven," Etc.




BOOK ONE: HER FANCY




INNOCENT


BOOK ONE

CHAPTER I

The old by-road went rambling down into a dell of deep green
shadow. It was a reprobate of a road,--a vagrant of the land,--
having long ago wandered out of straight and even courses and
taken to meandering aimlessly into many ruts and furrows under
arching trees, which in wet weather poured their weight of
dripping rain upon it and made it little more than a mud pool.
Between straggling bushes of elder and hazel, blackberry and
thorn, it made its solitary shambling way, so sunken into itself
with long disuse that neither to the right nor to the left of it
could anything be seen of the surrounding country. Hidden behind
the intervening foliage on either hand were rich pastures and
ploughed fields, but with these the old road had nothing in
common. There were many things better suited to its nature, such
as the melodious notes of the birds which made their homes year
after year amid its bordering thickets, or the gathering together
in springtime of thousands of primroses, whose pale, small, elfin
faces peeped out from every mossy corner,--or the scent of secret
violets in the grass, filling the air with the delicate sweetness
of a breathing made warm by the April sun. Or when the thrill of
summer drew the wild roses running quickly from the earth skyward,
twining their stems together in fantastic arches and tufts of deep
pink and flush-white blossom, and the briony wreaths with their
small bright green stars swung pendent from over-shadowing boughs
like garlands for a sylvan festival. Or the thousands of tiny
unassuming herbs which grew up with the growing speargrass,
bringing with them pungent odours from the soil as from some deep-
laid storehouse of precious spices. These choice delights were the
old by-road's peculiar possession, and through a wild maze of
beauty and fragrance it strayed on with a careless awkwardness,
getting more and more involved in tangles of green,--till at last,
recoiling abruptly as it were upon its own steps, it stopped short
at the entrance to a cleared space in front of a farmyard. With
this the old by-road had evidently no sort of business whatever,
and ended altogether, as it were, with a rough shock of surprise
at finding itself in such open quarters. No arching trees or
twining brambles were here,--it was a wide, clean brick-paved
place chiefly possessed by a goodly company of promising fowls,
and a huge cart-horse. The horse was tied to his manger in an open
shed, and munched and munched with all the steadiness and goodwill
of the sailor's wife who offended Macbeth's first witch. Beyond
the farmyard was the farmhouse itself,--a long, low, timbered
building with a broad tiled roof supported by huge oaken rafters
and crowned with many gables,--a building proudly declaring itself
as of the days of Elizabeth's yeomen, and bearing about it the
honourable marks of age and long stress of weather. No such
farmhouses are built nowadays, for life has become with us less
than a temporary thing,--a coin to be spent rapidly as soon as
gained, too valueless for any interest upon it to be sought or
desired. In olden times it was apparently not considered such
cheap currency. Men built their homes to last not only for their
own lifetime, but for the lifetime of their children and their
children's children; and the idea that their children's children
might possibly fail to appreciate the strenuousness and worth of
their labours never entered their simple brains.

The farmyard was terminated at its other end by a broad stone
archway, which showed as in a semi-circular frame the glint of
scarlet geraniums in the distance, and in the shadow cast by this
embrasure was the small unobtrusive figure of a girl. She stood
idly watching the hens pecking at their food and driving away
their offspring from every chance of sharing bit or sup with
them,--and as she noted the greedy triumph of the strong over the
weak, the great over the small, her brows drew together in a
slight frown of something like scorn. Yet hers was not a face that
naturally expressed any of the unkind or harsh emotions. It was
soft and delicately featured, and its rose-white tints were
illumined by grave, deeply-set grey eyes that were full of wistful
and questioning pathos. In stature she was below the middle height
and slight of build, so that she seemed a mere child at first
sight, with nothing particularly attractive about her except,
perhaps, her hands. These were daintily shaped and characteristic
of inbred refinement, and as they hung listlessly at her sides
looked scarcely less white than the white cotton frock she wore.
She turned presently with a movement of impatience away from the
sight of the fussy and quarrelsome fowls, and looking up at the
quaint gables of the farmhouse uttered a low, caressing call. A
white dove flew down to her instantly, followed by another and yet
another. She smiled and extended her arms, and a whole flock of
the birds came fluttering about her in a whirl of wings, perching
on her shoulders and alighting at her feet. One that seemed to
enjoy a position of special favouritism, flew straight against her
breast,--she caught it and held it there. It remained with her
quite contentedly, while she stroked its velvety neck.

"Poor Cupid!" she murmured. "You love me, don't you? Oh yes, ever
so much! Only you can't tell me so! I'm glad! You wouldn't be half
so sweet if you could!"

She kissed the bird's soft head, and still stroking it scattered
all the others around her by a slight gesture, and went, followed
by a snowy cloud of them, through the archway into the garden
beyond. Here there were flower-beds formally cut and arranged in
the old-fashioned Dutch manner, full of sweet-smelling old-
fashioned things, such as stocks and lupins, verbena and
mignonette,--there were box-borders and clumps of saxifrage,
fuchsias, and geraniums,--and roses that grew in every possible
way that roses have ever grown, or can ever grow. The farmhouse
fronted fully on this garden, and a magnificent "Glory" rose
covered it from its deep black oaken porch to its highest gable,
wreathing it with hundreds of pale golden balls of perfume. A real
"old" rose it was, without any doubt of its own intrinsic worth
and sweetness,--a rose before which the most highly trained
hybrids might hang their heads for shame or wither away with envy,
for the air around it was wholly perfumed with its honey-scented
nectar, distilled from peaceful years upon years of sunbeams and
stainless dew. The girl, still carrying her pet dove, walked
slowly along the narrow gravelled paths that encircled the flower-
beds and box-borders, till, reaching a low green door at the
further end of the garden, she opened it and passed through into a
newly mown field, where several lads and men were about busily
employed in raking together the last swaths of a full crop of hay
and adding them to the last waggon which stood in the centre of
the ground, horseless, and piled to an almost toppling height. One
young fellow, with a crimson silk tie knotted about his open
shirt-collar, stood on top of the lofty fragrant load, fork in
hand, tossing the additional heaps together as they were thrown up
to him. The afternoon sun blazed burningly down on his uncovered
head and bare brown arms, and as he shook and turned the hay with
untiring energy, his movements were full of the easy grace and
picturesqueness which are often the unconscious endowment of those
whose labour keeps them daily in the fresh air. Occasional bursts
of laughter and scraps of rough song came from the others at work,
and there was only one absolutely quiet figure among them, that of
an old man sitting on an upturned barrel which had been but
recently emptied of its home-brewed beer, meditatively smoking a
long clay pipe. He wore a smock frock and straw hat, and under the
brim of the straw hat, which was well pulled down over his
forehead, his filmy eyes gleamed with an alert watchfulness. He
seemed to be counting every morsel of hay that was being added to
the load and pricing it in his mind, but there was no actual
expression of either pleasure or interest on his features. As the
girl entered the field, and her gown made a gleam of white on the
grass, he turned his head and looked at her, puffing hard at his
pipe and watching her approach only a little less narrowly than he
watched the piling up of the hay. When she drew sufficiently near
him he spoke.

"Coming to ride home on last load?"

She hesitated.

"I don't know. I'm not sure," she answered.

"It'll please Robin if you do," he said.

A little smile trembled on her lips. She bent her head over the
dove she held against her bosom.

"Why should I please Robin?" she asked.

His dull eyes sparkled with a gleam of anger.

"Please Robin, please ME," he said, sharply--"Please yourself,
please nobody."

"I do my best to please YOU, Dad!" she said, gently, yet with
emphasis.

He was silent, sucking at his pipe-stem. Just then a whistle
struck the air like the near note of a thrush. It came from the
man on top of the haywaggon. He had paused in his labour, and his
face was turned towards the old man and the girl. It was a
handsome face, lighted by a smile which seemed to have caught a
reflex of the sun.

"All ready, Uncle!" he shouted--"Ready and waiting!"

The old man drew his pipe from his mouth.

"There you are!" he said, addressing the girl in a softer tone,--
"He's wanting you."

She moved away at once. As she went, the men who were raking in
the last sweepings of the hay stood aside for her to pass. One of
them put a ladder against the wheel of the waggon.

"Going up, miss?" he asked, with a cheerful grin.

She smiled a response, but said nothing.

The young fellow on top of the load looked down. His blue eyes
sparkled merrily as he saw her.

"Are you coming?" he called.

She glanced up.

"If you like," she answered.

"If I like!" he echoed, half-mockingly, half-tenderly; "You know I
like! Why, you've got that wretched bird with you!"

"He's not a wretched bird," she said,--"He's a darling!"

"Well, you can't climb up here hugging him like that! Let him go,
--and then I'll help you."

For all answer she ascended the ladder lightly without assistance,
still holding the dove, and in another minute was seated beside
him.

"There!" she said, as she settled herself comfortably down in the
soft, sweet-smelling hay. "Now you've got your wish, and I hope
Dad is happy."

"Did he tell you to come, or did you come of your own accord?"
asked the young man, with a touch of curiosity.

"He told me, of course," she answered; "I should never have come
of my own accord."

He bit his lip vexedly. Turning away from her he called to the
haymakers:

"That'll do, boys! Fetch Roger, and haul in!"

The sun was nearing the western horizon and a deep apricot glow
warmed the mown field and the undulating foliage in the far
distance. The men began to scatter here and there, putting aside
their long wooden rakes, and two of them went off to bring Roger,
the cart-horse, from his shed.

"Uncle Hugo!"

The old man, who still sat impassively on the beer-barrel, looked
up.

"Ay! What is it?"

"Are you coming along with us?"

Uncle Hugo shook his head despondently.

"Why not? It's the last load this year!"

"Ay!" He lifted his straw hat and waved it in a kind of farewell
salute towards the waggon, repeating mechanically: "The last load!
The very last!"

Then there came a cessation of movement everywhere for the moment.
It was a kind of breathing pause in Nature's everlasting chorus,--
a sudden rest, as it seemed, in the very spaces of the air. The
young man threw himself down on the hay-load so that he faced the
girl, who sat quiet, caressing the dove she held. He was
undeniably good-looking, with an open nobility of feature which is
uncommon enough among well-born and carefully-nurtured specimens
of the human race, and is perhaps still more rarely to be found
among those whose lot in life is one of continuous hard manual
labour. Just now he looked singularly attractive, the more so,
perhaps, because he was unconscious of it. He stretched out one
hand towards the girl and touched the hem of her white frock.

"Are you feeling kind?"

Her eyes lightened with a gleam of merriment.

"I am always kind."

"Not to me! Not as kind as you are to that bird."

"Oh, poor Cupid! You're jealous of him!"

He moved a little nearer to her.

"Perhaps I am!" And he spoke in a lower tone. "Perhaps I am,
Innocent! I grudge him the privilege of lying there on your dear
little white breast! I am envious when you kiss him! I want you to
kiss ME!"

His voice was tremulous,--he turned up his face audaciously.

She looked at him with a smile.

"I will if you like!" she said. "I should think no more of kissing
you than of kissing Cupid!"

He drew back with a gesture of annoyance.

"I wouldn't be kissed at all that way," he said, hotly.

"Why not?"

"Because it's not the right way. A bird is not a man!"

She laughed merrily.

"Nor a man a bird, though he may have a bird's name!" she said.
"Oh, Robin, how clever you are!"

He leaned closer.

"Let Cupid go!" he pleaded,--"I want to ride home on the last load
with you alone."

Another little peal of laughter escaped her.

"I declare you think Cupid an actual person!" she said. "If he'll
go, he shall. But I think he'll stay."

She loosened her hold of the dove, which, released, gravely hopped
up to her shoulder and sat there pruning its wing. She glanced
round at it.

"I told you so!" she said,--"He's a fixture."

"I don't mind him so much up there," said Robin, and he ventured
to take one of her hands in his own,--"but he always has so much
of you; he nestles under your chin and is caressed by your sweet
lips,--he has all, and I have,--nothing!"

"You have one hand," said Innocent, with demure gravity.

"But no heart with it!" he said, wistfully. "Innocent, can you
never love me?"

She was silent, looking at him critically,--then she gave a little
sigh.

"I'm afraid not! But I have often thought about it."

"You have?"--and his eyes grew very tender.

"Oh yes, often! You see, it isn't your fault at all. You are--
well!"--here she surveyed him with a whimsical air of admiration,
--"you are quite a beautiful man! You have a splendid figure and a
good face, and kind eyes and well-shaped feet and hands,--and I
like the look of you just now with that open collar and that gleam
of sunlight in your curly hair--and your throat is almost white,
except for a touch of sunburn, which is RATHER becoming!--
especially with that crimson silk tie! I suppose you put that tie
on for effect, didn't you?"

He flushed, and laughed lightly.

"Naturally! To please YOU!"

"Really? How thoughtful of you! Well, you are charming,--and I
shouldn't mind kissing you at all. But it wouldn't be for love."

"Wouldn't it? What would it be for, then?"

Her face lightened up with the illumination of an inward mirth and
mischief.

"Only because you look pretty!" she answered.

He threw aside her hand with an angry gesture of impatience.

"You want to make a fool of me!" he said, petulantly.

"I'm sure I don't! You are just lovely, and I tell you so. That is
not making a fool of you!"

"Yes, it is! A man is never lovely. A woman may be."

"Well, I'm not," said Innocent, placidly. "That's why I admire the
loveliness of others."

"You are lovely to me," he declared, passionately.

She smiled. There was a touch of compassion in the smile.

"Poor Robin!" she said.

At that moment the hidden goddess in her soul arose and asserted
her claim to beauty. A rare indefinable charm of exquisite
tenderness and fascination seemed to environ her small and
delicate personality with an atmosphere of resistless attraction.
The man beside her felt it, and his heart beat quickly with a
thrilling hope of conquest.

"So you pity me!" he said,--"Pity is akin to love."

"But kinsfolk seldom agree," she replied. "I only pity you because
you are foolish. No one but a very foolish fellow would think ME
lovely."

He raised himself a little and peered over the edge of the hay-
load to see if there was any sign of the men returning with Roger,
but there was no one in the field now except the venerable
personage he called Uncle Hugo, who was still smoking away his
thoughts, as it were, in a dream of tobacco. And he once more
caught the hand he had just let go and covered it with kisses.

"There!" he said, lifting his head and showing an eager face lit
by amorous eyes. "Now you know how lovely you are to me! I should
like to kiss your mouth like that,--for you have the sweetest
mouth in the world! And you have the prettiest hair,--not raw gold
which I hate,--but soft brown, with delicious little sunbeams lost
in it,--and such a lot of it! I've seen it all down, remember! And
your eyes would draw the heart out of any man and send him
anywhere,--yes, Innocent!--anywhere,--to Heaven or to Hell!"

She coloured a little.

"That's beautiful talk!" she said,--"It's like poetry, but it
isn't true!"

"It is true!" he said, with fond insistence. "And I'll MAKE you
love me!"

"Ah, no!" A look of the coldest scorn suddenly passed over her
features--"that's not possible. You could never MAKE me do
anything! And--it's rude of you to speak in such a way. Please let
go my hand!"

He dropped it instantly, and sprang erect.

"All right! I'll leave you to yourself,--and Cupid!" Here he
laughed rather bitterly. "What made you give that bird such a
name?"

"I found it in a book," she answered,--"It's a name that was given
to the god of Love when he was a little boy."

"I know that! Please don't teach me my A.B.C.," said Robin, half-
sulkily.

She leaned back laughing, and singing softly:

     "Love was once a little boy,
        Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho!
      Then 'twas sweet with him to toy,
        Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho!"

Her eyes sparkled in the sun,--a tress of her hair, ruffled by the
hay, escaped and flew like a little web of sunbeams against her
cheek. He looked at her moodily.

"You might go on with the song," he said,--"'Love is now a little
man--'"

"'And a very naughty one!'" she hummed, with a mischievous upward
glance.

Despite his inward vexation, he smiled.

"Say what you like, Cupid is a ridiculous name for a dove," he
said.

"It rhymes to stupid," she replied, demurely,--"And the rhyme
expresses the nature of the bird and--the god!"

"Pooh! You think that clever!"

"I don't! I never said a clever thing in my life. I shouldn't know
how. Everything clever has been written over and over again by
people in books."

"Hang books!" he exclaimed. "It's always books with you! I wish we
had never found that old chest of musty volumes in the panelled
room."

"Do you? Then you are sillier than I thought you were. The books
taught me all I know,--about love!"

"About love! You don't know what love means!" he declared,
trampling the hay he stood upon with impatience. "You read and
read, and you get the queerest ideas into your head, and all the
time the world goes on in ways that are quite different from what
YOU are thinking about,--and lovers walk through the fields and
lanes everywhere near us every year, and you never appear to see
them or to envy them--"

"Envy them!" The girl opened her eyes wide. "Envy them! Oh, Cupid,
hear! Envy them! Why should I envy them? Who could envy Mr. and
Mrs. Pettigrew?"

"What nonsense you talk!" he exclaimed,--"Mr. and Mrs. Pettigrew
are married folk, not lovers!"

"But they were lovers once," she said,--"and only three years ago.
I remember them, walking through the lanes and fields as you say,
with arms round each other,--and Mrs. Pettigrew's hands were
always dreadfully red, and Mr. Pettigrew's fingers were always
dirty,--and they married very quickly,--and now they've got two
dreadful babies that scream all day and all night, and Mrs.
Pettigrew's hair is never tidy and Pettigrew himself--well, you
know what he does!--"

"Gets drunk every night," interrupted Robin, crossly,--"I know!
And I suppose you think I'm another Pettigrew?"

"Oh dear, no!" And she laughed with the heartiest merriment. "You
never could, you never would be a Pettigrew! But it all comes to
the same thing--love ends in marriage, doesn't it?"

"It ought to," said Robin, sententiously.

"And marriage ends--in Pettigrews!"

"Innocent!"

"Don't say 'Innocent' in that reproachful way! It makes me feel
quite guilty! Now,--if you talk of names,--THERE'S a name to give
a poor girl,--Innocent! Nobody ever heard of such a name--"

"You're wrong. There were thirteen Popes named Innocent between
the years 402 and 1724," said Robin, promptly,--"and one of them,
Innocent the Eleventh, is a character in Browning's 'Ring and the
Book.'"

"Dear me!" And her eyes flashed provocatively. "You astound me
with your wisdom, Robin! But all the same, I don't believe any
girl ever had such a name as Innocent, in spite of thirteen Popes.
And perhaps the Thirteen had other names?"

"They had other baptismal names," he explained, with a learned
air. "For instance, Pope Innocent the Third was Cardinal Lothario
before he became Pope, and he wrote a book called 'De Contemptu
Mundi sive de Miseria Humanae Conditionis!'"

She looked at him as he uttered the sonorous sounding Latin, with
a comically respectful air of attention, and then laughed like a
child,--laughed till the tears came into her eyes.

"Oh Robin, Robin!" she cried--"You are simply delicious! The most
enchanting boy! That crimson tie and that Latin! No wonder the
village girls adore you! 'De,'--what is it? 'Contemptu Mundi,' and
Misery Human Conditions! Poor Pope! He never sat on top of a hay-
load in his life I'm sure! But you see his name was Lothario,--not
Innocent."

"His baptismal name was Lothario," said Robin, severely.

She was suddenly silent.

"Well! I suppose _I_ was baptised?" she queried, after a pause.

"I suppose so."

"I wonder if I have any other name? I must ask Dad."

Robin looked at her curiously;--then his thoughts were diverted by
the sight of a squat stout woman in a brown spotted print gown and
white sunbonnet, who just then trotted briskly into the hay-field,
calling at the top of her voice:

"Mister Jocelyn! Mister Jocelyn! You're wanted!"

"There's Priscilla calling Uncle in," he said, and making a hollow
of his hands he shouted:

"Hullo, Priscilla! What is it?"

The sunbonnet gave an upward jerk in his direction and the wearer
shrilled out:

"Doctor's come! Wantin' yer Uncle!"

The old man, who had been so long quietly seated on the upturned
barrel, now rose stiffly, and knocking out the ashes of his pipe
turned towards the farmhouse. But before he went he raised his
straw hat again and stood for a moment bareheaded in the roseate
glory of the sinking sun. Innocent sprang upright on the load of
hay, and standing almost at the very edge of it, shaded her eyes
with one hand from the strong light, and looked at him.

"Dad!" she called--"Dad, shall I come?"

He turned his head towards her.

"No, lass, no! Stay where you are, with Robin."

He walked slowly, and with evident feebleness, across the length
of the field which divided him from the farmhouse garden, and
opening the green gate leading thereto, disappeared. The sun-
bonneted individual called Priscilla walked or rather waddled
towards the hay-waggon, and setting her arms akimbo on her broad
hips, looked up with a grin at the young people on top.

"Well! Ye're a fine couple up there! What are ye a-doin' of?"

"Never mind what we're doing," said Robin, impatiently. "I say,
Priscilla, do you think Uncle Hugo is really ill?"

Priscilla's face, which was the colour of an ancient nutmeg, and
almost as deeply marked with contrasting lines of brown and
yellow, showed no emotion.

"He ain't hisself," she said, bluntly.

"No," said Innocent, seriously,--"I'm sure he isn't." Priscilla
jerked her sunbonnet a little further back, showing some tags of
dusty grey hair.

"He ain't been hisself for this past year," she went on--"Mr.
Slowton, bein' only a kind of village physic-bottle, don't know
much, an' yer uncle ain't bin satisfied. Now there's another
doctor from London staying up 'ere for 'is own poor 'elth, and yer
Uncle said he'd like to 'ave 'is opinion,--so Mr. Slowton, bein'
obligin' though ignorant, 'as got 'im in to see yer Uncle, and
there they both is, in the best parlour, with special wine an'
seedies on the table."

"Oh, it'll be all right!" said Robin, cheerfully,--"Uncle Hugo is
getting old, of course, and he's a bit fanciful."

Priscilla sniffed the air.

"Mebbe--and mebbe not! What are you two waitin' for now?"

"For the men to come back with Roger. Then we'll haul home."

"You'll 'ave to wait a bit longer, I'm thinkin'," said Priscilla--
"They's all drinkin' beer in the yard now an' tappin' another
barrel to drink at when the waggon comes in. There's no animals on
earth as ever thirsty as men! Well, good luck t'ye! I must go, or
there'll be a smell of burnin' supper-cakes."

She settled her sunbonnet anew and trotted away,--looking rather
like a large spotted mushroom mysteriously set in motion and
rolling, rather than walking, off the field.

When she was gone, Innocent sat down again upon the hay, this time
without Cupid. He had flown off to join his mates on the farmhouse
gables.

"Dad is really not well," she said, thoughtfully; "I feel anxious
about him. If he were to die,--" At the mere thought her eyes
filled with tears. "He must die some day," answered Robin,
gently,--"and he's old,--nigh on eighty."

"Oh, I don't want to remember that," she murmured. "It's the
cruellest part of life--that people should grow old, and die, and
pass away from us. What should I do without Dad? I should be all
alone, with no one in the world to care what becomes of me."

"_I_ care!" he said, softly.

"Yes, you care--just now"--she answered, with a sigh; "and it's
very kind of you. I wish I could care--in the way you want me to--
but--"

"Will you try?" he pleaded.

"I do try--really I do try hard," she said, with quite a piteous
earnestness,--"but I can't feel what isn't HERE,"--and she pressed
both hands on her breast--"I care more for Roger the horse, and
Cupid the dove, than I do for you! It's quite awful of me--but
there it is! I love--I simply adore"--and she threw out her arms
with an embracing gesture--"all the trees and plants and birds!--
and everything about the farm and the farmhouse itself--it's just
the sweetest home in the world! There's not a brick or a stone in
it that I would not want to kiss if I had to leave it--but I never
felt that way for you! And yet I like you very, very much, Robin!
--I wish I could see you married to some nice girl, only I don't
know one really nice enough."

"Nor do I!" he answered, with a laugh, "except yourself! But never
mind, dear!--we won't talk of it any more, just now at any rate.
I'm a patient sort of chap. I can wait!"

"How long?" she queried, with a wondering glance.

"All my life!" he answered, simply.

A silence fell between them. Some inward touch of embarrassment
troubled the girl, for the colour came and went flatteringly in
her soft cheeks and her eyes drooped under his fervent gaze. The
glowing light of the sky deepened, and the sun began to sink in a
mist of bright orange, which was reflected over all the visible
landscape with a warm and vivid glory. That strange sense of
beauty and mystery which thrills the air with the approach of
evening, made all the simple pastoral scene a dream of
incommunicable loveliness,--and the two youthful figures, throned
on their high dais of golden-green hay, might have passed for the
rustic Adam and Eve of some newly created Eden. They were both
very quiet,--with the tense quietness of hearts that are too full
for speech. A joy in the present was shadowed with a dim
unconscious fear of the future in both their thoughts,--though
neither of them would have expressed their feelings in this regard
one to the other. A thrush warbled in a hedge close by, and the
doves on the farmhouse gables spread their white wings to the late
sunlight, cooing amorously. And again the man spoke, with a gentle
firmness:

"All my life I shall love you, Innocent! Whatever happens,
remember that! All my life!"




CHAPTER II

The swinging open of a great gate at the further end of the field
disturbed the momentary silence which followed his words. The
returning haymakers appeared on the scene, leading Roger at their
head, and Innocent jumped up eagerly, glad of the interruption.

"Here comes old Roger!" she cried,--"bless his heart! Now, Robin,
you must try to look very stately! Are you going to ride home
standing or sitting?"

He was visibly annoyed at her light indifference.

"Unless I may sit beside you with my arm round your waist, in the
Pettigrew fashion, I'd rather stand!" he retorted. "You said
Pettigrew's hands were always dirty--so are mine. I'd better keep
my distance from you. One can't make hay and remain altogether as
clean as a new pin!"

She gave an impatient gesture.

"You always take things up in the wrong way," she said--"I never
thought you a bit like Pettigrew! Your hands are not really
dirty!"

"They are!" he answered, obstinately. "Besides, you don't want my
arm round your waist, do you?"

"Certainly not!" she replied, quickly.

"Then I'll stand," he said;--"You shall be enthroned like a queen
and I'll be your bodyguard. Here, wait a minute!"

He piled up the hay in the middle of the load till it made a high
cushion where, in obedience to his gesture, Innocent seated
herself. The men leading the horse were now close about the
waggon, and one of them, grinning sheepishly at the girl, offered
her a daintily-made wreath of wild roses, from which all the
thorns had been carefully removed.

"Looks prutty, don't it?" he said.

She accepted it with a smile.

"Is it for me? Oh, Larry, how nice of you! Am I to wear it?"

"If ye loike!" This with another grin.

She set it on her uncovered head and became at once a model for a
Romney; the wild roses with their delicate pink and white against
her brown hair suited the hues of her complexion and the tender
grey of her eyes;--and when, thus adorned, she looked up at her
companion, he was fain to turn away quickly lest his admiration
should be too plainly made manifest before profane witnesses.

Roger, meanwhile, was being harnessed to the waggon. He was a
handsome creature of his kind, and he knew it. As he turned his
bright soft glance from side to side with a conscious pride in
himself and his surroundings, he seemed to be perfectly aware that
the knots of bright red ribbon tied in his long and heavy mane
meant some sort of festival. When all was done the haymakers
gathered round.

"Good luck to the last load, Mr. Clifford!" they shouted.

"Good luck to you all!" answered Robin, cheerily.

"Good luck t'ye, Miss!" and they raised their sun-browned faces to
the girl as she looked down upon them. "As fine a crop and as fair
a load next year!"

"Good luck to you!" she responded--then suddenly bending a little
forward she said almost breathlessly: "Please wish luck to Dad!
He's not well--and he isn't here! Oh, please don't forget him!"

They all stared at her for a moment, as if startled or surprised,
then they all joined in a stentorian shout.

"That's right, Miss! Good luck to the master! Many good years of
life to him, and better crops every year!"

She drew back, smiling her thanks, but there were tears in her
eyes. And then they all started in a pretty procession--the men
leading Roger, who paced along the meadow with equine dignity,
shaking his ribbons now and again as if he were fully conscious of
carrying something more valuable than mere hay,--and above them
all smiled the girl's young face, framed in its soft brown hair
and crowned with the wild roses, while at her side stood the very
type of a model Englishman, with all the promise of splendid life
and vigour in the build of his form, the set of his shoulders and
the poise of his handsome head. It was a picture of youth and
beauty and lovely nature set against the warm evening tint of the
sky,--one of those pictures which, though drawn for the moment
only on the minds of those who see it, is yet never forgotten.

Arriving presently at a vast enclosure, in which already two loads
of hay were being stacked, they were hailed with a cheery shout by
several other labourers at work, and very soon a strong smell of
beer began to mingle with the odour of the hay and the dewy scent
of the elder flowers and sweet briar in the hedges close by.

"Have a drop, Mr. Clifford!" said one tall, powerful-looking man
who seemed to be a leader among the others, holding out a pewter
tankard full and frothing over.

Robin Clifford smiled and put his lips to it.

"Just to your health, Landon!" he said--"I'm not a drinking man."

"Haymaking's thirsty work," commented the other. "Will Miss
Jocelyn do us the honour?"

The girl made a wry little face.

"I don't like beer, Mr. Landon," she said--"It's horrid stuff,
even when it's home-brewed! I help to make it, you see!"

She laughed gaily--they all laughed with her, and then there was a
little altercation which ended in her putting her lips to the
tankard just offered to Robin and sipping the merest fleck of its
foam. Landon watched her,--and as she returned the cup, put his
own mouth to the place hers had touched and drank the whole
draught off greedily. Robin did not see his action, but the girl
did, and a deep blush of offence suffused her cheeks. She rose, a
little nervously.

"I'll go in now," she said--"Dad must be alone by this time."

"All right!" And Robin jumped lightly from the top of the load to
the ground and put the ladder up for her to descend. She came down
daintily, turning her back to him so that the hem of her neat
white skirt fell like a little snowflake over each rung of the
ladder, veiling not only her slim ankles but the very heels of her
shoes. When she was nearly at the bottom, he caught her up and set
her lightly on the ground.

"There you are!" he said, with a laugh--"When you get into the
house you can tell Uncle that you are a Rose Queen, a Hay Queen,
and Queen of everything and everyone on Briar Farm, including your
very humble servant, Robin Clifford!"

"And your humblest of slaves, Ned Landon!" added Landon, with a
quick glance, doffing his cap. "Mr. Clifford mustn't expect to
have it all his own way!"

"What the devil are you talking about?" demanded Robin, turning
upon him with a sudden fierceness.

Innocent gave him an appealing look.

"Don't!--Oh, don't quarrel!" she whispered,--and with a parting
nod to the whole party of workers she hurried away.

With her disappearance came a brief pause among the men. Then
Robin, turning away from Landon, proceeded to give various orders.
He was a person in authority, and as everyone knew, was likely to
be the owner of the farm when his uncle was dead. Landon went
close up to him.

"Mr. Clifford," he said, somewhat thickly, "you heard what I said
just now? You mustn't expect to have it all your own way! There's
other men after the girl as well as you!"

Clifford glanced him up and down.

"Yourself, I suppose?" he retorted.

"And why not?" sneered Landon.

"Only because there are two sides to every question," said
Clifford, carelessly, with a laugh. "And no decision can be
arrived at till both are heard!"

He climbed up among the other men and set to work, stacking
steadily, and singing in a fine soft baritone the old fifteenth-
century song:

   "Yonder comes a courteous knight,
      Lustily raking over the hay,
   He was well aware of a bonny lass,
      As she came wandering over the way.
   Then she sang Downe a downe, hey downe derry!

   "Jove you speed, fair ladye, he said,
      Among the leaves that be so greene,
   If I were a king and wore a crown,
      Full soon faire Ladye shouldst thou be queene.
   Then she sang Downe a downe, hey downe derry!"

Landon looked up at him with a dark smile.

"Those laugh best who laugh last!" he muttered, "And a whistling
throstle has had its neck wrung before now!"

Meanwhile Innocent had entered the farmhouse. Passing through the
hall, which,--unaltered since the days of its original building,--
was vaulted high and heavily timbered, she went first into the
kitchen to see Priscilla, who, assisted by a couple of strong
rosy-cheeked girls, did all the housework and cooking of the farm.
She found that personage rolling out pastry and talking volubly as
she rolled:

"Ah! YOU'LL never come to much good, Jenny Spinner," she cried.
"What with a muck of dirty dishes in one corner and a muddle of
ragged clouts in another, you're the very model of a wife for a
farm hand! Can't sew a gown for yerself neither, but bound to send
it into town to be made for ye, and couldn't put a button on a
pair of breeches for fear of 'urtin' yer delicate fingers! Well!
God 'elp ye when the man comes as ye're lookin' for! He'll be a
fool anyhow, for all men are that,--but he'll be twice a fool if
he takes you for a life-satchel on his shoulders!"

Jenny Spinner endured this tirade patiently, and went on with the
washing-up in which she was engaged, only turning her head to look
at Innocent as she appeared suddenly in the kitchen doorway, with
her hair slightly dishevelled and the wreath of wild roses
crowning her brows.

"Priscilla, where's Dad?" she asked.

"Lord save us, lovey! You gave me a real scare coming in like that
with them roses on yer head like a pixie out of the woods! The
master? He's just where the doctors left 'im, sittin' in his easy-
chair and looking out o' window."

"Was it--was it all right, do you think?" asked the girl,
hesitatingly.

"Now, lovey, don't ask me about doctors, 'cos I don't know nothin'
and wants to know nothin', for they be close-tongued folk who
never sez what they thinks lest they get their blessed selves into
hot water. And whether it's all right or all wrong, I couldn't
tell ye, for the two o' them went out together, and Mr. Slowton
sez 'Good-arternoon, Miss Friday!' quite perlite like, and the
other gentleman he lifts 'is 'at quite civil, so I should say
'twas all wrong. For if you mark me, lovey, men's allus extra
perlite when they thinks there's goin' to be trouble, hopin'
they'll get somethin' for theirselves out of it."

Innocent hardly waited to hear her last words.

"I'm going to Dad," she said, quickly, and disappeared.

Priscilla Friday stopped for a minute in the rolling-cut of her
pastry. Some great stress of thought appeared to be working behind
her wrinkled brow, for she shook her head, pursed her lips and
rolled up her eyes a great many times. Then she gave a short sigh
and went on with her work.

The farmhouse was a rambling old place, full of quaint corners,
arches and odd little steps up and down leading to cupboards,
mysterious recesses and devious winding ways which turned into
dark narrow passages, branching right and left through the whole
breadth of the house. It was along one of these that Innocent ran
swiftly on leaving the kitchen, till she reached a closed door,
where pausing, she listened a moment-then, hearing no sound,
opened it and went softly in. The room she entered was filled with
soft shadows of the gradually falling dusk, yet partially lit by a
golden flame of the after-glow which shone through the open
latticed window from the western sky. Close to the waning light
sat the master of the farm, still clad in his smock frock, with
his straw hat on the table beside him and his stick leaning
against the arm of his chair. He was very quiet,--so quiet, that a
late beam of the sun, touching the rough silver white of his hair,
seemed almost obtrusive, as suggesting an interruption to the
moveless peace of his attitude. Innocent stopped short, with a
tremor of nervous fear.

"Dad!" she said, softly.

He turned towards her.

"Ay, lass! What is it?"

She did not answer, but came up and knelt down beside him, taking
one of his brown wrinkled hands in her own and caressing it. The
silence between them was unbroken for quite two or three minutes;
then he said:

"Last load in all safe?"

"Yes, Dad!"

"Not a drop of rain to wet it, and no hard words to toughen it,
eh?"

"No, Dad."

She gave the answer a little hesitatingly. She was thinking of Ned
Landon. He caught the slight falter in her voice and looked at her
suspiciously.

"Been quarrelling with Robin?"

"Dear Dad, no! We're the best of friends."

He loosened his hand from her clasp and patted her head with it.

"That's right! That's as it should be! Be friends with Robin,
child! Be friends!--be lovers!"

She was silent. The after-glow warmed the tints of her hair to
russet-gold and turned to a deeper pink the petals of the roses in
the wreath she wore. He touched the blossoms and spoke with great
gentleness.

"Did Robin crown thee?"

She looked up, smiling.

"No, it's Larry's wreath."

"Larry! Ay, poor Larry! A good lad--but he can eat for two and
only work for one. 'Tis the way of men nowadays!"

Another pause ensued, and the western gold of the sky began to
fade into misty grey.

"Dad," said the girl then, in a low tone--"Do tell me--what did
the London doctor say?"

He lifted his head quickly, and his old eyes for a moment flashed
as though suddenly illumined by a flame from within.

"Say! What should he say, lass, but that I am old and must expect
to die? It's natural enough--only I haven't thought about it. It's
just that--I haven't thought about it!"

"Why should you think about it?" she asked, with quick tenderness
--"You will not die yet--not for many years. You are not so very
old. And you are strong."

He patted her head again.

"Poor little wilding!" he said--"If you had your way I should live
for ever, no doubt! But an' you were wise with modern wisdom, you
would say I had already lived too long!"

For answer, she drew down his hand and kissed it.

"I do not want any modern wisdom," she said--"I am your little
girl and I love you!"

A shadow flitted across his face and he moved uneasily. She looked
up at him.

"You will not tell me?"

"Tell you what?"

"All that the London doctor said."

He was silent for a minute's space--then he answered.

"Yes, I will tell you, but not now. To-night after supper will be
time enough. And then--"

"Yes--then?" she repeated, anxiously.

"Then you shall know--you will have to know--" Here he broke off
abruptly. "Innocent!"

"Yes, Dad?"

"How old are you now?"

"Eighteen."

"Ay, so you are!" And he looked at her searchingly. "Quite a
woman! Time flies! You're old enough to learn--"

"I have always tried to learn," she said--"and I like studying
things out of books--"

"Ay! But there are worse things in life than ever were written in
books," he answered, wearily--"things that people hide away and
are ashamed to speak of! Ay, poor wilding! Things that I've tried
to keep from you as long as possible--but--time presses, and, I
shall have to speak--"

She looked at him earnestly. Her face paled and her eyes grew dark
and wondering.

"Have I done anything wrong?" she asked.

"You? No! Not you! You are not to blame, child! But you've heard
the law set out in church on Sundays that 'The sins of the fathers
shall be visited on the children even unto the third and fourth
generation.' You've heard that?"

"Yes, Dad!"

"Ay!--and who dare say the fourth generation are to blame! Yet,
though they are guiltless, they suffer most! No just God ever made
such a law, though they say 'tis God speaking. _I_ say 'tis the
devil!"

His voice grew harsh and loud, and finding his stick near his
chair, he took hold of it and struck it against the ground to
emphasise his words.

"I say 'tis the devil!"

The girl rose from her kneeling attitude and put her arms gently
round his shoulders.

"There, Dad!" she said soothingly,--"Don't worry! Church and
church things seem to rub you up all the wrong way! Don't think
about them! Supper will be ready in a little while and after
supper we'll have a long talk. And then you'll tell me what the
doctor said."

His angry excitement subsided suddenly and his head sank on his
breast.

"Ay! After supper. Then--then I'll tell you what the doctor said."

His speech faltered. He turned and looked out on the garden, full
of luxuriant blossom, the colours of which were gradually merging
into indistinguishable masses under the darkening grey of the
dusk.

She moved softly about the room, setting things straight, and
lighting two candles in a pair of tall brass candlesticks which
stood one on either side of a carved oak press. The room thus
illumined showed itself to be a roughly-timbered apartment in the
style of the earliest Tudor times, and all the furniture in it was
of the same period. The thick gate-legged table--the curious
chairs, picturesque, but uncomfortable--the two old dower chests--
the quaint three-legged stools and upright settles, were a
collection that would have been precious to the art dealer and
curio hunter, as would the massive eight-day clock with its
grotesquely painted face, delineating not only the hours and days
but the lunar months, and possessing a sonorous chime which just
now struck eight with a boom as deep as that of a cathedral bell.
The sound appeared to startle the old farmer with a kind of shock,
for he rose from his chair and grasped his stick, looking about
him as though for the moment uncertain of his bearings.

"How fast the hours go by!" he muttered, dreamily. "When we're
young they don't count--but when we're old we know that every hour
brings us nearer to the end-the end, the end of all! Another night
closing in--and the last load cleared from the field--Innocent!"

The name broke from his lips like a cry of suffering, and she ran
to him trembling.

"Dad, dear, what is it?"

He caught her outstretched hands and held them close.

"Nothing--nothing!" he answered, drawing his breath quick and
hard--"Nothing, lass! No pain--no--not that! I'm only frightened!
Frightened!--think of it!--me frightened who never knew fear! And
I--I wouldn't tell it to anyone but you--I'm afraid of what's
coming--of what's bound to come! 'Twould always have come, I know
--but I never thought about it--it never seemed real! It never
seemed real--"

Here the door opened, admitting a flood of cheerful light from the
outside passage, and Robin Clifford entered.

"Hullo, Uncle! Supper's ready!"

The old man's face changed instantly. Its worn and scared
expression smoothed into a smile, and, loosening his hold of
Innocent, he straightened himself and stood erect.

"All right, my lad! You've worked pretty late!"

"Yes, and we've not done yet. But we shall finish stacking
tomorrow," answered Clifford--"Just now we're all tired and
hungry."

"Don't say you're thirsty!" said the old farmer, his smile
broadening. "How many barrels have been tapped to-day?"

"Oh, well! You'd better ask Landon,"--and Clifford's light laugh
had a touch of scorn in it,--"he's the man for the beer! I hardly
ever touch it--Innocent knows that."

"More work's done on water after all," said Jocelyn. "The horses
that draw for us and the cattle that make food for us prove that.
But we think we're a bit higher than the beasts, and some of us
get drunk to prove it! That's one of our strange ways as men! Come
along, lad! And you, child,"--here he turned to Innocent--"run and
tell Priscilla we're waiting in the Great Hall."

He seemed to have suddenly lost all feebleness, and walked with a
firm step into what he called the Great Hall, which was
distinguished by this name from the lesser or entrance hall of the
house. It was a nobly proportioned, very lofty apartment, richly
timbered, the roof being supported by huge arched beams curiously
and intricately carved. Long narrow boards on stout old trestles
occupied the centre, and these were spread with cloths of coarse
but spotlessly clean linen and furnished with antique plates,
tankards and other vessels of pewter which would have sold for a
far larger sum in the market than solid silver. A tall carved
chair was set at the head of the largest table, and in this Farmer
Jocelyn seated himself. The men now began to come in from the
fields in their work-a-day clothes, escorted by Ned Landon, their
only attempt at a toilet having been a wash and brush up in the
outhouses; and soon the hall presented a scene of lively bustle
and activity. Priscilla, entering it from the kitchen with her two
assistants, brought in three huge smoking joints on enormous
pewter dishes,--then followed other good things of all sorts,--
vegetables, puddings, pasties, cakes and fruit, which Innocent
helped to set out all along the boards in tempting array. It was a
generous supper fit for a "Harvest Home"--yet it was only Farmer
Jocelyn's ordinary way of celebrating the end of the haymaking,--
the real harvest home was another and bigger festival yet to come.
Robin Clifford began to carve a sirloin of beef,--Ned Landon, who
was nearly opposite him, actively apportioned slices of roast
pork, the delicacy most favoured by the majority, and when all the
knives and forks were going and voices began to be loud and
tongues discursive, Innocent slipped into a chair by Farmer
Jocelyn and sat between him and Priscilla. For not only the farm
hands but all the servants on the place were at table, this
haymaking supper being the annual order of the household. The
girl's small delicate head, with its coronal of wild roses, looked
strange and incongruous among the rough specimens of manhood about
her, and sometimes as the laughter became boisterous, or some
bucolic witticism caught her ear, a faint flush coloured the
paleness of her cheeks and a little nervous tremor ran through her
frame. She drew as closely as she could to the old farmer, who sat
rigidly upright and quiet, eating nothing but a morsel of bread
with a bowl of hot salted milk Priscilla had put before him. Beer
was served freely, and was passed from man to man in leather
"blackjacks" such as were commonly used in olden times, but which
are now considered mere curiosities. They were, however, ordinary
wear at Briar Farm, and had been so since very early days. The
Great Hall was lighted by tall windows reaching almost to the roof
and traversed with shafts of solid stonework; the one immediately
opposite Farmer Jocelyn's chair showed the very last parting glow
of the sunset like a dull red gleam on a dark sea. For the rest,
thick home-made candles of a torch shape fixed into iron sconces
round the walls illumined the room, and burned with unsteady
flare, giving rise to curious lights and shadows as though ghostly
figures were passing to and fro, ruffling the air with their
unseen presences. Priscilla Priday, her wizened yellow face just
now reddened to the tint of a winter apple by her recent exertions
in the kitchen, was not so much engaged in eating her supper as in
watching her master. Her beady brown eyes roved from him to the
slight delicate girl beside him with inquisitive alertness. She
felt and saw that the old man's thoughts were far away, and that
something of an unusual nature was troubling his mind. Priscilla
was an odd-looking creature but faithful;--her attachments were
strong, and her dislikes only a shade more violent,--and just now
she entertained very uncomplimentary sentiments towards "them
doctors" who had, as she surmised, put her master out of sorts
with himself, and caused anxiety to the "darling child," as she
invariably called Innocent when recommending her to the guidance
of the Almighty in her daily and nightly prayers. Meanwhile the
noise at the supper table grew louder and more incessant, and
sundry deep potations of home-brewed ale began to do their work.
One man, seated near Ned Landon, was holding forth in very slow
thick accents on the subject of education:

"Be eddicated!" he said, articulating his words with difficulty,--
"That's what I says, boys! Be eddicated! Then everything's right
for us! We can kick all the rich out into the mud and take their
goods and enjoy 'em for ourselves. Eddication does it! Makes us
all we wants to be,--members o' Parli'ment and what not! I've only
one boy,--but he'll be eddicated as his father never was--"

"And learn to despise his father!" said Robin, suddenly, his clear
voice ringing out above the other's husky loquacity. "You're
right! That's the best way to train a boy in the way he should
go!"

There was a brief silence. Then came a fresh murmur of voices and
Ned Landon's voice rose above them.

"I don't agree with you, Mr. Clifford," he said--"There's no
reason why a well-educated lad should despise his father."

"But he often does," said Robin--"reason or no reason."

"Well, you're educated yourself," retorted Landon, with a touch of
envy,--"You won a scholarship at your grammar school, and you've
been to a University."

"What's that done for me?" demanded Robin, carelessly,--"Where has
it put me? Just nowhere, but exactly where I might have stood all
the time. I didn't learn farming at Oxford!"

"But you didn't learn to despise your father either, did you,
sir?" queried one of the farm hands, respectfully.

"My father's dead," answered Robin, curtly,--"and I honour his
memory."

"So your own argument goes to the wall!" said Landon. "Education
has not made you think less of him."

"In my case, no," said Robin,--"but in dozens of other cases it
works out differently. Besides, you've got to decide what
education IS. The man who knows how to plough a field rightly is
as usefully educated as the man who knows how to read a book, in
my opinion."

"Education," interposed a strong voice, "is first to learn one's
place in the world and then know how to keep it!"

All eyes turned towards the head of the table. It was Farmer
Jocelyn who spoke, and he went on speaking:

"What's called education nowadays," he said, "is a mere smattering
and does no good. The children are taught, especially in small
villages like ours, by men and women who often know less than the
children themselves. What do you make of Danvers, for example,
boys?"

A roar of laughter went round the table.

"Danvers!" exclaimed a huge red-faced fellow at the other end of
the board,--"Why he talks yer 'ead off about what he's picked up
here and there like, and when I asked him to tell me where my son
is as went to Mexico, blowed if he didn't say it was a town
somewheres near New York!"

Another roar went round the table. Farmer Jocelyn smiled and held
up his hand to enjoin silence.

"Mr. Danvers is a teacher selected by the Government," he then
observed, with mock gravity. "And if he teaches us that Mexico is
a town near New York, we poor ignorant farm-folk are bound to
believe him!"

They all laughed again, and he continued:

"I'm old enough, boys, to have seen many changes, and I tell you,
all things considered, that the worst change is the education
business, so far as the strength and the health of the country
goes. That, and machine work. When I was a youngster, nearly every
field-hand knew how to mow,--now we've trouble enough to find an
extra man who can use a scythe. And you may put a machine on the
grass as much as you like, you'll never get the quality that
you'll get with a well-curved blade and a man's arm and hand
wielding it. Longer work maybe, and risk of rain--but, taking the
odds for and against, men are better than machines. Forty years
we've scythed the grass on Briar Farm, and haven't we had the
finest crops of hay in the county?"

A chorus of gruff voices answered him:

"Ay, Mister Jocelyn!"

"That's right!"

"I never 'member more'n two wet seasons and then we got last load
in 'tween showers," observed one man, thoughtfully.

"There ain't never been nothin' wrong with Briar Farm hay crops
anyway--all the buyers knows that for thirty mile round," said
another.

"And the wheat and the corn and the barley and the oats the same,"
struck in the old farmer again--"all the seed sown by hand and the
harvest reaped by hand, and every man and boy in the village or
near it has found work enough to keep him in his native place,
spring, summer, autumn and winter, isn't that so?"

"Ay, ay!"

"Never a day out o' work!"

"Talk of unemployed trouble," went on Jocelyn, "if the old ways
were kept up and work done in the old fashion, there'd be plenty
for all England's men to do, and to feed fair and hearty! But the
idea nowadays is to rush everything just to get finished with it,
and then to play cards or football, and get drunk till the legs
don't know whether it's land or water they're standing on! It's
the wrong way about, boys! It's the wrong way about! You may hurry
and scurry along as fast as you please, but you miss most good
things by the way; and there's only one end to your racing--the
grave! There's no such haste to drop into THAT, boys! It'll wait!
It's always waiting! And the quicker you go the quicker you'll get
to it! Take time while you're young! That time for me is past!"

He lifted his head and looked round upon them all. There was a
strange wild look in his old eyes,--and a sudden sense of awe fell
on the rest of the company. Farmer Jocelyn seemed all at once
removed from them to a height of dignity above his ordinary
bearing. Innocent's rose-crowned head drooped, and tears sprang
involuntarily to her eyes. She tried to hide them, not so well,
however, but that Priscilla Priday saw them.

"Now, lovey child!" she whispered,--"Don't take on! It's only the
doctors that's made him low like and feelin' blue, and he ain't
takin' sup or morsel, but we'll make him have a bite in his own
room afterwards. Don't you swell your pretty eyes and make 'em
red, for that won't suit me nor Mr. Robin neither, come, come!--
that it won't!"

Innocent put one of her little hands furtively under the board and
pressed Priscilla's rough knuckles tenderly, but she said nothing.
The silence was broken by one of the oldest men present, who rose,
tankard in hand.

"The time for good farming is never past!" he said, in a hearty
voice--"And no one will ever beat Farmer Jocelyn at that! Full
cups, boys! And the master's health! Long life to him!"

The response was immediate, every man rising to his feet. None of
them were particularly unsteady except Ned Landon, who nearly fell
over the table as he got up, though he managed to straighten
himself in time.

"Farmer Jocelyn!"

"To Briar Farm and the master!"

"Health and good luck!"

These salutations were roared loudly round the table, and then the
whole company gave vent to a hearty 'Hip-hip-hurrah!' that roused
echoes from the vaulted roof and made its flaring lights tremble.

"One more!" shouted Landon, suddenly, turning his flushed face
from side to side upon those immediately near him--"Miss Jocelyn!"

There followed a deafening volley of cheering,--tankards clinked
together and shone in the flickering light and every eye looked
towards the girl, who, colouring deeply, shrank from the tumult
around her like a leaf shivering in a storm-wind. Robin glanced at
her with a half-jealous, half-anxious look, but her face was
turned away from him. He lifted his tankard and, bowing towards
her, drank the contents. When the toast was fully pledged, Farmer
Jocelyn got up, amid much clapping of hands, stamping of feet and
thumping on the boards. He waited till quiet was restored, and
then, speaking in strong resonant accents, said:

"Boys, I thank you! You're all boys to me, young and old, for
you've worked on the farm so long that I seem to know your faces
as well as I know the shape of the land and the trees on the
ridges. You've wished me health and long life--and I take it that
your wishes are honest--but I've had a long life already and
mustn't expect much more of it. However, the farm will go on just
the same whether I'm here or elsewhere,--and no man that works
well on it will be turned away from it,--that I can promise you!
And the advice I've always given to you I give to you again,--
stick to the land and the work of the land! There's nothing finer
in the world than the fresh air and the scent of the good brown
earth that gives you the reward of your labour, always providing
it is labour and not 'scamp' service. When I'm gone you'll perhaps
remember what I say,--and think it not so badly said either. I
thank you for your good wishes and"--here he hesitated--"my little
girl here thanks you too. Next time you make the hay--if I'm not
with you--I ask you to be as merry as you are to-night and to
drink to my memory! For whenever one master of Briar Farm has gone
there's always been another in his place!--and there always will
be!" He paused,--then lifting a full tankard which had been put
beside him, he drank a few drops of its contents--"God bless you
all! May you long have the will to work and the health to enjoy
the fruits of honest labour!"

There was another outburst of noisy cheering, followed by a new
kind of clamour,

"A song!"

"A song!"

"Who'll begin?"

"Where's Steevy?"

"Little Steevy!"

"Steevy! Wheer be ye got to?" roared one old fellow with very
white hair and a very red face--"ye're not so small as ye can hide
in yer mother's thimble!"

A young giant of a man stood up in response to this adjuration,
blushing and smiling bashfully.

"Here I be!"

"Sing away, lad, sing away!"

"Wet yer pipe, and whistle!"

"Tune up, my blackbird!"

Steevy, thus adjured, straightened himself to his full stature of
over six feet and drank off a cupful of ale. Then he began in a
remarkably fine and mellow tenor:

    "Would you choose a wife
    For a happy life,
      Leave the town and the country take;
    Where Susan and Doll,
    And Jenny and Moll,
    Follow Harry and John,
    While harvest goes on,
      And merrily, merrily rake!"

    "The lass give me here,
    As brown as my beer,
      That knows how to govern a farm;
    That can milk a cow,
    Or farrow a sow,
    Make butter and cheese,
    And gather green peas,
      And guard the poultry from harm."


    "This, this is the girl,
    Worth rubies and pearl,
      The wife that a home will make!
    We farmers need
    No quality breed,
    But a woman that's won
    While harvest goes on,
      And we merrily, merrily rake!"

[Footnote: Old Song 1740.]

A dozen or more stentorian voices joined in the refrain:

  "A woman that's won
   While harvest goes on,
    And we merrily, merrily rake."

"Bravo!"

"Good for you, Steevy!"

"First-class!"

"Here's to you, my lad!"

The shouting, laughter and applause continued for many minutes,
then came more singing of songs from various rivals to the tuneful
Steevy. And presently all joined together in a boisterous chorus
which ran thus:

  "A glass is good and a lass is good,
    And a pipe is good in cold weather,
  The world is good and the people are good,
    And we're all good fellows together!"

In the middle of this performance Farmer Jocelyn rose from his
place and left the hall, Innocent accompanying him. Once he looked
back on the gay scene presented to him--the disordered supper-
table, the easy lounging attitudes of the well-fed men, the flare
of the lights which cast a ruddy glow on old and young faces and
sparkled over the burnished pewter,--then with a strange yearning
pain in his eyes he turned slowly away, leaning on the arm of the
girl beside him, and went,--leaving the merry-makers to
themselves.




CHAPTER III

Returning to the room where he had sat alone before supper, he
sank heavily into the armchair he had previously occupied. The
window was still open, and the scent of roses stole in with every
breath of air,--a few stars sparkled in the sky, and a faint line
of silver in the east showed where the moon would shortly rise. He
looked out in dreamy silence, and for some minutes seemed too much
absorbed in thought to notice the presence of Innocent, who had
seated herself at a small table near him, on which she had set a
lit candle, and was quietly sewing. She had forgotten that she
still wore the wreath of wild roses,--the fragile flowers were
drooping and dying in her hair, and as she bent over her work and
the candlelight illumined her delicate profile, there was
something almost sculptural in the shape of the leaves as they
encircled her brow, making her look like a young Greek nymph or
goddess brought to life out of the poetic dreams of the elder
world. She was troubled and anxious, but she tried not to let this
seem apparent. She knew from her life's experience of his ways and
whims that it was best to wait till the old man chose to speak,
rather than urge him into talk before he was ready or willing. She
glanced up from her sewing now and again and saw that he looked
very pale and worn, and she felt that he suffered. Her tender
young heart ached with longing to comfort him, yet she knew not
what she should say. So she sat quiet, as full of loving thoughts
as a Madonna lily may be full of the dew of Heaven, yet mute as
the angelic blossom itself. Presently he moved restlessly, and
turning in his chair looked at her intently. The fixity of his
gaze drew her like a magnet from her work and she put down her
sewing.

"Do you want anything, Dad?"

He rose, and began to fumble with the buttons of his smock.

"Ay--just help me to get this off. The working day is over,--the
working clothes can go!"

She was at his side instantly and with her light deft fingers soon
disembarrassed him of the homely garment. When it was taken off a
noticeable transformation was effected in his appearance. Clad in
plain dark homespun, which was fashioned into a suit somewhat
resembling the doublet and hose of olden times, his tall thin
figure had a distinctly aristocratic look and bearing which was
lacking when clothed in the labourer's garb. Old as he was, there
were traces of intellect and even beauty in his features,--his
head, on which the thin white hair shone like spun silver, was
proudly set on his shoulders in that unmistakable line which
indicates the power and the will to command; and as he
unconsciously drew himself upright he looked more like some old
hero of a hundred battles than a farmer whose chief pride was the
excellence of his crops and the prosperity of his farm managed by
hand work only. For despite the jeers of his neighbours, who were
never tired of remonstrating with him for not "going with the
times," Jocelyn had one fixed rule of farming, and this was that
no modern machinery should be used on his lands. He was the best
employer of labour for many and many a mile round, and the most
generous as well as the most exact paymaster, and though people
asserted that there was no reasonable explanation for it,
nevertheless it annually happened that the hand-sown, hand-reaped
crops of Briar Farm were finer and richer in grain and quality,
and of much better value than the machine-sown, machine-reaped
crops of any other farm in the county or for that matter in the
three counties adjoining. He stood now for a minute or two
watching Innocent as she looked carefully over his smock frock to
see if there were any buttons missing or anything to be done
requiring the services of her quick needle and thread,--then as
she folded it and put it aside on a chair he said with a thrill of
compassion in his voice:

"Poor little child, thou hast eaten no supper! I saw thee playing
with the bread and touching no morsel. Art not well?"

She looked up at him and tried to smile, but tears came into her
eyes despite her efforts to keep them back.

"Dear Dad, I am only anxious," she murmured, tremulously. "You,
too, have had nothing. Shall I fetch you a glass of the old wine?
It will do you good."

He still bent his brows thoughtfully upon her.

"Presently--presently--not now," he answered. "Come and sit by me
at the window and I'll tell you--I'll tell you what you must know.
But see you, child, if you are going to cry or fret, you will be
no help to me and I'll just hold my peace!"

She drew a quick breath, and her face paled.

"I will not cry," she said,--"I will not fret. I promise you,
Dad!"

She came close up to him as she spoke. He took her gently in his
arms and kissed her.

"That's a brave girl!" And holding her by the hand he drew her
towards the open window--"Look out there! See how the stars shine!
Always the same, no matter what happens to us poor folk down
here,--they twinkle as merrily over our graves as over our
gardens,--and yet if we're to believe what we're taught nowadays,
they're all worlds more or less like our own, full of living
creatures that suffer and die like ourselves. It's a queer plan of
the Almighty, to keep on making wonderful and beautiful things
just to destroy them! There seems no sense in it!"

He sat down again in his chair, and she, obeying his gesture,
brought a low stool to his feet and settled herself upon it,
leaning against his knee. Her face was upturned to his and the
flickering light of the tall candles quivering over it showed the
wistful tender watchfulness of its expression--a look which seemed
to trouble him, for he avoided her eyes.

"You want to know what the London doctor said," he began. "Well,
child, you'll not be any the better for knowing, but it's as I
thought. I've got my death-warrant. Slowton was not sure about
me,--but this man, ill as he is himself, has had too much
experience to make mistakes. There's no cure for me. I may last
out another twelve months--perhaps not so long--certainly not
longer."

He saw her cheeks grow white with the ashy whiteness of a sudden
shock. Her eyes dilated with pain and fear, and a quick sigh
escaped her, then she set her lips hard.

"I don't believe it," she said, adding with stronger emphasis--"I
WON'T believe it!"

He patted the small hand that rested on his knee.

"You won't? Poor little girl, you must believe it!--and more than
that, you must be prepared for it. Even a year's none too much for
all that has to be done,--'twill almost take me that time to look
the thing square in the face and give up the farm for good."--Here
he paused with a kind of horror at his own words--"Give up the
farm!--My God! And for ever! How strange it seems!"

The tumult in her mind found sudden speech.

"Dad, dear! Dad! It isn't true! Don't think it! Don't mind what
the doctor says. He's wrong--I'm sure he's wrong! You'll live for
many and many a happy year yet--oh yes, Dad, you will! I'm sure of
it! You won't die, darling Dad! Why should you?"

She broke off with a half-smothered sob.

"Why should I?" he said, with a perplexed frown; "Ah!--that's more
than I can tell you! There's neither rhyme nor reason in it that I
can see. But it's the rule of life that it should end in death.
For some the end is swift--for some it's slow--some know when it's
coming--some don't,--the last are the happiest. I've been told,
you see,--and it's no use my fighting against the fact,--a year at
the most, perhaps less, is the longest term I have of Briar Farm.
Your eyes are wet--you promised you wouldn't cry."

She furtively dashed away the drops that were shining on her
lashes. Then she forced a faint quivering smile.

"I'm not crying, Dad," she said. "There's nothing to cry for," and
she fondled his hand in her own--"The doctors are wrong. You're
only a little weak and run down--you'll be all right with rest and
care--and--and you shan't die! You shan't die! I won't let you."

He drew a long breath and passed his hand across his forehead as
though he were puzzled or in pain.

"That's foolish talk," he said, with some harshness; "You've got
trouble to meet, and you must meet it. I'm bound to show you
trouble--but I can show you a way out of it as well."

He paused a moment,--a light wind outside the lattice swayed a
branch of roses to and fro, shaking out their perfume as from a
swung censer.

"The first thing I must tell you," he went on, "is about yourself.
It's time you should know who you are."

She looked up at him startled.

"Who I am?" she repeated,--then as she saw the stern expression on
his face a sudden sense of fear ran through her nerves like the
chill of an icy wind and she waited dumbly for his next word. He
gripped her hand hard in his own.

"Now hear me out, child!" he said--"Let me speak on without
interruption, or I shall never get through the tale. Perhaps I
ought to have told you before, but I've put it off and put it off,
thinking 'twould be time enough when you and Robin were wed. You
and Robin--you and Robin!--your marriage bells have rung through
my brain many and many a night for the past two years and never a
bit nearer are you to the end of your wooing, such fanciful
children as you both are! And you're so long about it and I've so
short a time before me that I've made up my mind it's best to let
you have all the truth about yourself before anything happens to
me. All the truth about yourself--as far as I know it."

He paused again. She was perfectly silent. She trembled a little--
wondering what she was going to hear. It must be something
dreadful, she thought,--something for which she was unprepared,--
something that might, perhaps, like a sudden change in the
currents of the air, create darkness where there had been
sunshine, storm instead of calm. His grip on her hand was strong
enough to hurt her, but she was not conscious of it. She only
wished he would tell her the worst at once and quickly. The
worst,--for she instinctively felt there was no best.

"It was eighteen years ago this very haymaking time," he went on,
with a dreamy retrospective air as though he were talking to
himself,--"The last load had been taken in. Supper was over. The
men had gone home,--Priscilla was clearing the great hall, when
there came on a sudden storm--just a flash of lightning--I can see
it now, striking a blue fork across the windows--a clap of
thunder--and then a regular downpour of rain. Heavy rain, too,--
buckets-full--for it washed the yard out and almost swamped the
garden. I didn't think much about it,--the hay was hauled in dry,
and that was all my concern. I stood under a shed in the yard and
watched the rain falling in straight sheets out of a sky black as
pitch--I could scarcely see my own hand if I stretched it out
before me, the night was so dark. All at once I heard the quick
gallop of a horse's hoofs some way off,--then the sound seemed to
die away,--but presently I heard the hoofs coming at a slow steady
pace down our muddy old by-road--no one can gallop THAT, in any
weather. And almost before I knew how it came there, the horse was
standing at the farmyard gate, with a man in the saddle carrying a
bundle in front of him. He was the handsomest fellow I ever saw,
and when he dismounted and came towards me, and took off his cap
in the pouring rain and smiled at me, I was fairly taken with his
looks. I thought he must be something of a king or other great
personage by his very manner. 'Will you do me a kindness?' he
said, as gently as you please. 'This is a farm, I believe. I want
to leave my little child here in safe keeping for a night. She is
such a baby,--I cannot carry her any further through this storm.'
And he put aside the wrappings of the bundle he carried and showed
me a small pale infant asleep. 'She's motherless,' he added, 'and
I'm taking her to my relatives. But I have to ride some distance
from here on very urgent business, and if you will look after her
for to-night I'll call for her to-morrow. Poor little innocent!
She's hungry and fretful. I haven't anything to give her and the
storm looks like continuing. Will you let her stay with you?'
'Certainly!' said I, without thinking a bit further about it.
'Leave her here by all means. We'll see she gets all she wants.'
He gave me the child at once and said in a very soft voice: 'You
are most generous!--"verily I have not found so great a faith, no
not in Israel!" You're sure you don't mind?' 'Not at all!' I
answered him,--'You'll come back for her to-morrow, of course.' He
smiled and said--'Oh yes, of course! To-morrow! I'm really very
much obliged to you!' Then he seemed to think for a moment and put
his hand in his pocket, but I stopped him--'No, sir,' I said,
'excuse me, but I don't want any pay for giving a babe a night's
shelter.' He looked at me very straight with his big clear hazel
eyes, and then shook hands with me. 'You're an honest fellow,' he
said,--and he stooped and kissed the child he had put into my
arms. 'I'm extremely sorry to trouble you, but the storm is too
much for this helpless little creature.' 'You yourself are wet
through,' I interrupted. 'That doesn't matter,' he answered,--'for
me nothing matters. Thank you a thousand times! Good-night!' The
rain was coming down faster than ever and I stepped back into the
shed, covering the child up so that the drifting wet should not
beat upon it. He came after me and kissed it again, saying 'Good-
night, poor little innocent, good-night!' three or four times.
Then he went off quickly and sprang into his saddle and in the
blur of rain I saw horse and man turn away. He waved his hand once
and his handsome pale face gleamed upon me like that of a ghost in
the storm. 'Till to-morrow!' he called, and was gone. I took the
child into the house and called Priscilla. She was always a rough
one as you know, even in her younger days, and she at once laid
her tongue to with a will and as far as she dared called me a fool
for my pains. And so I was, for when I came to think of it the man
was a stranger to me, and I had never asked him his name. It was
just his handsome face and the way he had with him that had thrown
me off my guard as it were; so I stood and looked silly enough, I
suppose, while Priscilla fussed about with the baby, for it had
wakened and was crying. Well!"--and Jocelyn heaved a short sigh--
"That's about all! We never saw the man again, and the child was
never claimed; but every six months I received a couple of bank-
notes in an envelope bearing a different postmark each time, with
the words: 'For Innocent' written inside--"

She uttered a quick, almost terrified exclamation, and drew her
hand away from his.

"Every six months for a steady twelve years on end," he went on,--
"then the money suddenly stopped. Now you understand, don't you?
YOU were the babe that was left with me that stormy night; and
you've been with me ever since. But you're not MY child. I don't
know whose child you are!"

He stopped, looking at her.

She had risen from her seat beside him and was standing up. She
was trembling violently, and her face seemed changed from the
round and mobile softness of youth to the worn pallor and thinness
of age. Her eyes were luminous with a hard and feverish
brilliancy.

"You--you don't know whose child I am!" she repeated,--"I am not
yours--and you don't know--you don't know who I belong to! Oh, it
hurts me!--it hurts me, Dad! I can't realise it! I thought you
were my own dear father!--and I loved you!--oh, how much I loved
you!--yet you have deceived me all along!"

"I haven't deceived you," he answered, impatiently. "I've done all
for the best--I meant to tell you when you married Robin--"

A flush of indignation flew over her cheeks.

"Marry Robin!" she exclaimed--"How could I marry Robin? I'm
nothing! I'm nobody! I have not even a name!"

She covered her face with her hands and an uncontrollable sob
broke from her.

"Not even a name!" she murmured--"Not even a name!"

With a sudden impulsive movement she knelt down in front of him
like a child about to say its prayers.

"Oh, help me, Dad!" she said, piteously--"Comfort me! Say
something--anything! I feel so lost--so astray! All my life seems
gone!--I can't realise it! Yes, I know! You have been very kind,--
all kindness, just as if I had been your own little girl. Oh, why
did you tell me I was your own?--I was so proud to be your
daughter--and now--it's so hard--so hard! Only a few moments ago I
was a happy girl with a loving father as I thought--now I know I'm
only a poor nameless creature,--deserted by my parents and left on
your hands. Oh, Dad dear! I've given you years of trouble!--I hope
I've been good to you! It's not my fault that I am what I am!"

He laid his wrinkled hand on her bowed head.

"Dear child, of course it's not your fault! That's what I've said
all along. You're innocent, like your name,--and you've been a
blessing to me all your days,--the farm has been brighter for your
living on it,--so you've no cause to worry me or yourself about
what's past long ago and can't be helped. No one knows your story
but Priscilla,--no one need ever know."

She sprang up from her kneeling attitude.

"Priscilla!" she echoed--"She knew, and she never said a word!"

"If she had, she'd have got the sack," answered Jocelyn, bluntly.
"You were brought up always as MY child."

He broke off, startled by the tragic intensity of her look.

"I want to know how that was," she said, slowly. "You told me my
mother died when I was born."

He avoided her eyes.

"Well, that was true, or so I suppose," he said. "The man who
brought you said you were motherless. But I--I have never
married."

"Then how could you tell Robin--and everyone else about here that
I was your daughter?"

He grew suddenly angry.

"Child, don't stare at me like that!" he exclaimed, with all an
old man's petulance. "It doesn't matter what I said--I had to let
the neighbours think you were mine--"

A light flashed in upon her, and she gave vent to a shuddering
cry.

"Dad! Oh, Dad!"

Gripping both arms of his chair he raised himself into an upright
posture.

"What now?" he demanded, almost fiercely--"What trouble are you
going to make of it?"

"Oh, if it were only trouble," she exclaimed, forlornly. "It's far
worse! You've branded me with shame! Oh, I understand now! I
understand at last why the girls about here never make friends
with me! I understand why Robin seems to pity me so much! Oh, how
shall I ever look people in the face again!"

His fuzzy brows met in a heavy frown.

"Little fool!" he said, roughly,--"What shame are you talking of?
I see no shame in laying claim to a child of my own, even though
the claim has no reality. Look at the thing squarely! Here comes a
strange man with a baby and leaves it on my hands. You know what a
scandalous, gossiping little place this is,--and it was better to
say at once the baby was mine than leave it to the neighbours to
say the same thing and that I wouldn't acknowledge it. Not a soul
about here would have believed the true story if I had told it to
them. I've done everything for the best--I know I have. And
there'll never be a word said if you marry Robin."

Her face had grown very white. She put up her hand to her head and
her fingers touched the faded wreath of wild roses. She drew it
off and let it drop to the ground.

"I shall never marry Robin!" she said, with quiet firmness--"And I
will not be considered your illegitimate child any longer. It's
cruel of you to have made me live on a lie!--yes, cruel!--though
you've been so kind in other things. You don't know who my parents
were--you've no right to think they were not honest!"

He stared at her amazed. For the first time in eighteen years he
began to see the folly of what he had thought his own special
wisdom. This girl, with her pale sad face and steadfast eyes,
confronted him with the calm reproachful air of an accusing angel.

"What right have you?" she went on. "The man who brought me to
you,--poor wretched me!--if he was my father, may have been good
and true. He said I was motherless; and he, or someone else, sent
you money for me till I was twelve. That did not look as if I was
forgotten. Now you say the money has stopped--well!--my father may
be dead." Her lips quivered and a few tears rolled down her
cheeks. "But there is nothing in all this that should make you
think me basely born,--nothing that should have persuaded you to
put shame upon me!"

He was taken aback for a minute by her words and attitude--then he
burst out angrily:

"It's the old story, I see! Do a good action and it turns out a
curse! Basely born! Of course you are basely born, if that's the
way you put it! What man alive would leave his own lawful child at
a strange farm off the high-road and never claim it again? You're
a fool, I tell you! This man who brought you to me was by his look
and bearing some fine gentleman or other who had just the one idea
in his head--to get rid of an encumbrance. And so he got rid of
you--"

"Don't go over the whole thing again!" she interrupted, with weary
patience-"-I was an encumbrance to him--I've been an encumbrance
to you. I'm sorry! But in no case had you the right to set a
stigma on me which perhaps does not exist. That was wrong!"

She paused a moment, then went on slowly:

"I've been a burden on you for six years now,--it's six years, you
say, since the money stopped. I wish I could do something in
return for what I've cost you all those six years,--I've tried to
be useful."

The pathos in her voice touched him to the quick.

"Innocent!" he exclaimed, and held out his arms.

She looked at him with a very pitiful smile and shook her head.

"No! I can't do that! Not just yet! You see, it's all so
unexpected--things have changed altogether in a moment. I can't
feel quite the same--my heart seems so sore and cold."

He leaned back in his chair again.

"Ah, well, it is as I thought!" he said, irritably. "You're more
concerned about yourself than about me. A few minutes ago you only
cared to know what the doctors thought of my illness, but now it's
nothing to you that I shall be dead in a year. Your mind is set on
your own trouble, or what you choose to consider a trouble."

She heard him like one in a dream. It seemed very strange to her
that he should have dealt her a blow and yet reproach her for
feeling the force of it.

"I am sorry!" she said, patiently. "But this is the first time I
have known real trouble--you forget that!--and you must forgive me
if I am stupid about it. And if the doctors really believe you are
to die in a year I wish I could take your place, Dad!--I would
rather be dead than live shamed. And there's nothing left for me
now,--not even a name--"

Here she paused and seemed to reflect.

"Why am I called Innocent?"

"Why? Because that's the name that was written on every slip of
paper that came with each six months' money," he answered,
testily. "That's the only reason I know."

"Was I baptised by that name?" she asked.

He moved uneasily.

"You were never baptised."

"Never baptised!" She echoed the words despairingly,--and then was
silent for a minute's space. "Could you not have done that much
for me?" she asked, plaintively, at last--"Would it have been
impossible?"

He was vaguely ashamed. Her eyes, pure as a young child's, were
fixed upon him in appealing sorrow. He began to feel that he had
done her a grievous wrong, though he had never entirely realised
it till now. He answered her with some hesitation and an effort at
excuse.

"Not impossible--no,--maybe I could have baptised you myself if I
had thought about it. 'Tis but a sprinkle of water and 'In the Name
of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.' But somehow I never worried
my head--for as long as you were a baby I looked for the man who
brought you day after day, and in my own mind left all that sort
of business for him to attend to--and when he didn't come and you
grew older, it fairly slipped my remembrance altogether. I'm not
fond of the Church or its ways,--and you've done as well without
baptism as with it, surely. Innocent is a good name for you, and
fits your case. For you're innocent of the faults of your parents
whatever they were, and you're innocent of my blunders. You're
free to make your own life pleasant if you'll only put a bright
face on it and make the best of an awkward business."

She was silent, standing before him like a little statuesque
figure of desolation.

"As for the tale I told the neighbours," he went on--"it was the
best thing I could think of. If I had said you were a child I had
taken in to adopt, not one of them would have believed me; 'twas a
case of telling one lie or t'other, the real truth being so queer
and out of the common, so I chose the easiest. And it's been all
right with you, my girl, whichever way you put it. There may be a
few stuck-up young huzzies in the village that aren't friendly to
you, but you may take it that it's more out of jealousy of Robin's
liking for you than anything else. Robin loves you--you know he
does; and all you've got to do is to make him happy. Marry him,
for the farm will be his when I'm dead, and it'll give me a bit of
comfort to feel that you're settled down with him in the old home.
For then I know it'll go on just the same--just the same--"

His words trailed off brokenly. His head sank on his chest, and
some slow tears made their difficult way out of his eyes and
dropped on his silver beard.

She watched him with a certain grave compassion, but she did not
at once go, as she would usually have done, to put her arms round
his neck and console him. She seemed to herself removed miles away
from him and from everything she had ever known. Just then there
was a noise of rough but cheery voices outside shouting "good-
night" to each other, and she said in a quiet tone:

"The men are away now. Is there anything you want before I go to
bed?"

With a sudden access of energy, which contrasted strangely with
his former feebleness, he rose and confronted her.

"No, there's nothing I want!" he said, in vehement tones--"Nothing
but peace and quietness! I've told you your story, and you take it
ill. But recollect, girl, that if you consider any shame has been
put on you, I've put equal shame on myself for your sake--I, Hugo
Jocelyn,--against whom never a word has been said but this,--which
is a lie--that my child, mine!--was born out of wedlock! I
suffered this against myself solely for your sake--I, who never
wronged a woman in my life!--I, who never loved but one woman, who
died before I had the chance to marry her!--and I say and I swear
I have sacrificed something of my name and reputation to you! So
that you need not make trouble because you also share in the
sacrifice. Robin thinks you're my child, and therefore his
cousin,--and he counts nothing against you, for he knows that what
the world would count against you must be my fault and would be my
fault, if the lie I started against myself was true. Marry Robin,
I tell you!--and if you care to make me happy, marry him before I
die. Then you're safe out of all harm's way. If you DON'T marry
him--"

Her breath came and went quickly--she folded her hands across her
bosom, trying to still the loud and rapid beating of her heart,
but her eyes were very bright and steadfast.

"Yes? What then?" she asked, calmly.

"Then you must take the consequences," he said. "The farm and all
I have is left to Robin,--he's my dead sister's son and my nearest
living kin--"

"I know that," she said, simply, "and I'm glad he has everything.
It's right that it should be so. I shall not be in his way. You
may be quite sure of that. But I shall not marry him."

"You'll not marry him?" he repeated, and seemed about to give vent
to a torrent of invective when she extended her hands clasped
together appealingly.

"Dad, don't be angry!--it only hurts you and it does no good! Just
before supper you reminded me of what they say in Church that 'the
sins of the fathers should be visited on the children, even unto
the third and fourth generation.' I will not visit the sin of my
father and mother on anyone. If you will give me a little time I
shall be able to understand everything more clearly, and perhaps
bear it better. I want to be quite by myself. I must try to see
myself as I am,--unbaptised, nameless, forsaken! And if there is
anything to be done with this wretched little self of mine, it is
I that must do it. With God's help!" She sighed, and her lips
moved softly again in the last words, "With God's help!"

He said nothing, and she waited a moment as if expecting him to
speak. Then she moved to the table where she had been sitting and
folded up her needlework.

"Shall I get you some wine, Dad?" she asked presently in a quiet
voice.

"No!" he replied, curtly--"Priscilla can get it."

"Then good-night!"

Still standing erect he turned his head and looked at her.

"Are you going?" he said. "Without your usual kiss?--your usual
tenderness? Why should you change to me? Your own father--if he
was your father--deserted you,--and I have been, a father to you
in his place, wronging my own honourable name for your sake; am I
to blame for this? Be reasonable! The laws of man are one thing
and the laws of God are another,--and we have to make the best we
can of ourselves between the two. There's many a piece of wicked
injustice in the world, but nothing more wicked than to set shame
or blame on a child that's born without permit of law or blessing
of priest. For it's not the child's fault,--it's brought into the
world without its own consent,--and yet the world fastens a slur
upon it! That's downright brutal and senseless!--for if there is
any blame attached to the matter it should be fastened on the
parents, and not on the child. And that's what I thought when you
were left on my hands--I took the blame of you on myself, and I
was careful that you should be treated with every kindness and
respect--mind you that! Respect! There's not a man on the place
that doesn't doff his cap to you; and you've been as my own
daughter always. You can't deny it! And more than that"--here his
strong voice faltered--"I've loved you!--yes-I've loved you,
little Innocent--"

She looked up in his face and saw it quivering with suppressed
emotion, and the strange cold sense of aloofness that had numbed
her senses suddenly gave way like snow melting in the spring. In a
moment she was in his arms, weeping out her pent-up tears on his
breast, and he, stroking her soft hair, soothed her with every
tender and gentle word he could think of.

"There, there!" he murmured, fondly. "Thou must look at it in this
way, dear child! That if God deprived thee of one father he gave
thee another in his place! Make the best of that gift before it be
taken from thee!"




CHAPTER IV

There are still a few old houses left in rural England which are
as yet happily unmolested by the destroying ravages of modern
improvement, and Briar Farm was one of these. History and romance
alike had their share in its annals, and its title-deeds went back
to the autumnal days of 1581, when the Duke of Anjou came over
from France to England with a royal train of noblemen and
gentlemen in the hope to espouse the greatest monarch of all time,
"the most renowned and victorious" Queen Elizabeth, whose reign
has clearly demonstrated to the world how much more ably a clever
woman can rule a country than a clever man, if she is left to her
own instinctive wisdom and prescience. No king has ever been wiser
or more diplomatic than Elizabeth, and no king has left a more
brilliant renown. As the coldest of male historians is bound to
admit, "her singular powers of government were founded equally on
her temper and on her capacity. Endowed with a great command over
herself, she soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendant over her
people. Few sovereigns of England succeeded to the throne under
more difficult circumstances, and none ever conducted the
government with such uniform success and felicity." Had Elizabeth
been weak, the Duke of Anjou might have realised his ambitious
dream, with the unhappiest results for England; and that he
fortunately failed was entirely due to her sagacity and her quick
perception of his irresolute and feeble character. In the
sumptuous train attendant upon this "Petit Grenouille," as he
styled himself in one of his babyish epistles to England's
sovereign majesty, there was a certain knight more inclined to the
study of letters than to the breaking of lances,--the Sieur Amadis
de Jocelin, who being much about the court in the wake of his
somewhat capricious and hot-tempered master, came, unfortunately
for his own peace of mind, into occasional personal contact with
one of the most bewitching young women of her time, the Lady
Penelope Devereux, afterwards Lady Rich, she in whom, according to
a contemporary writer, "lodged all attractive graces and beauty,
wit and sweetness of behaviour which might render her the mistress
of all eyes and hearts." Surrounded as she was by many suitors,
his passion was hopeless from the first, and that he found it so
was evident from the fact that he suddenly disappeared from the
court and from his master's retinue, and was never heard of by the
great world again. Yet he was not far away. He had not the
resolution to leave England, the land which enshrined the lady of
his love,--and he had lost all inclination to return to France. He
therefore retired into the depths of the sweet English country,
among the then unspoilt forests and woodlands, and there happening
to find a small manor-house for immediate sale, surrounded by a
considerable quantity of land, he purchased it for the ready cash
he had about him and settled down in it for the remainder of his
life. Little by little, such social ambitions as he had ever
possessed left him, and with every passing year he grew more and
more attached to the simplicity and seclusion of his surroundings.
He had leisure for the indulgence of his delight in books, and he
was able to give the rein to his passion for poetry, though it is
nowhere recorded that he ever published the numerous essays,
sonnets and rhymed pieces which, written in the picturesque
caligraphy of the period, and roughly bound by himself in
sheepskin, occupied a couple of shelves in his library. He entered
with animation and interest into the pleasures of farming and
other agricultural pursuits, and by-and-bye as time went on and
the former idol of his dreams descended from her fair estate of
virtue and scandalised the world by her liaison with Lord
Mountjoy, he appears to have gradually resigned the illusions of
his first love, for he married a simple village girl, remarkable,
so it was said, for her beauty, but more so for her skill in
making butter and cheese. She could neither read nor write,
however, and the traditions concerning the Sieur Amadis relate
that he took a singular pleasure in teaching her these
accomplishments, as well as in training her to sing and to
accompany herself upon the lute in a very pretty manner. She made
him an excellent wife, and gave him no less than six children,
three boys and three girls, all of whom were brought up at home
under the supervision of their father and mother, and encouraged
to excel in country pursuits and to understand the art of
profitable farming. It was in their days that Briar Farm entered
upon its long career of prosperity, which still continued. The
Sieur Amadis died in his seventieth year, and by his own wish,
expressed in his "Last Will and Testament," was buried in a
sequestered spot on his own lands, under a stone slab which he had
himself fashioned, carving upon it his recumbent figure in the
costume of a knight, a cross upon his breast and a broken sword at
his side. His wife, though several years younger than himself,
only lived a twelve-month after him and was interred by his side.
Their resting-place was now walled off, planted thickly with
flowers, and held sacred by every succeeding heir to the farm as
the burial-place of the first Jocelyns. Steadily and in order, the
families springing from the parent tree of the French knight
Amadis had occupied Briar Farm in unbroken succession, and through
three centuries the property had been kept intact, none of its
possessions being dispersed and none of its land being sold. The
house was practically in the same sound condition as when the
Sieur Amadis fitted and furnished it for his own occupation,--
there was the same pewter, the same solid furniture, the same fine
tapestry, preserved by the careful mending of many hundreds of
needles worked by hands long ago mingled with the dust of the
grave, and, strange as it may seem to those who are only
acquainted with the flimsy manufactures of to-day, the same stout
hand-wrought linen, which, mended and replenished each year,
lasted so long because never washed by modern methods, but always
by hand in clear cold running water. There were presses full of
this linen, deliriously scented with lavender, and there were also
the spinning-wheels that had spun the flax and the hand-looms on
which the threads had been woven. These were witnesses to the days
when women, instead of gadding abroad, were happy to be at home--
when the winter evenings seemed short and bright because as they
sat spinning by the blazing log fire they were cheerful in their
occupation, singing songs and telling stories and having so much
to do that there was no time to indulge in the morbid analysis of
life and the things of life which in our present shiftless day
perplex and confuse idle and unhealthy brains.

And now after more than three centuries, the direct male line of
Amadis de Jocelin had culminated in Hugo, commonly called Farmer
Jocelyn, who, on account of some secret love disappointment, the
details of which he had never told to anyone, had remained
unmarried. Till the appearance on the scene of the child,
Innocent, who was by the village folk accepted and believed to be
the illegitimate offspring of this ill-starred love, it was
tacitly understood that Robin Clifford, his nephew, and the only
son of his twin sister, would be the heir to Briar Farm; but when
it was seen how much the old man seemed to cling to Innocent, and
to rely upon her ever tender care of him, the question arose as to
whether there might not be an heiress after all, instead of an
heir. And the rustic wiseacres gossiped, as is their wont,
watching with no small degree of interest the turn of events which
had lately taken place in the frank and open admiration and
affection displayed by Robin for his illegitimate cousin, as it
was thought she was, and as Farmer Jocelyn had tacitly allowed it
to be understood. If the two young people married, everybody
agreed it would be the right thing, and the best possible outlook
for the continued prosperity of Briar Farm. For after all, it was
the farm that had to be chiefly considered, so they opined,--the
farm was an historic and valuable property as well as an excellent
paying concern. The great point to be attained was that it should
go on as it had always gone on from the days of the Sieur Amadis,
--and that it should be kept in the possession of the same family.
This at any rate was known to be the cherished wish of old Hugo
Jocelyn, though he was not given to any very free expression of
his feelings. He knew that his neighbours envied him, watched him
and commented on his actions,--he knew also that the tale he had
told them concerning Innocent had to a great extent whispered away
his own good name and fastened a social slur upon the girl,--yet
he could not, according to his own views, have seen any other way
out of the difficulty. The human world is always wicked-tongued;
and it is common knowledge that any man or woman introducing an
"adopted" child into a family is at once accused, whether he or
she be conscious of the accusation or not, of passing off his own
bastard under the "adoption" pretext. Hugo Jocelyn was fairly
certain that none of his neighbours would credit the romantic
episode of the man on horseback arriving in a storm and leaving a
nameless child on his hands. The story was quite true,--but truth
is always precisely what people refuse to believe.

The night on which Innocent had learned her own history for the
first time was a night of consummate beauty in the natural world.
When all the gates and doors of the farm and its outbuildings had
been bolted and barred for the night, the moon, almost full, rose
in a cloudless heaven and shed pearl-white showers of radiance all
over the newly-mown and clean-swept fields, outlining the points
of the old house gables and touching with luminous silver the
roses that clambered up the walls. One wide latticed window was
open to the full inflowing of the scented air, and within its
embrasure sat a lonely little figure in a loose white garment with
hair tumbling carelessly over its shoulders and eyes that were wet
with tears. The clanging chime of the old clock below stairs had
struck eleven some ten minutes since, and after the echo of its
bell had died away there had followed a heavy and intense silence.
The window looked not upon the garden, but out upon the fields and
a suggestive line of dark foliage edging them softly in the
distance,--away down there, under a huge myriad-branched oak,
slept the old knight Sieur Amadis de Jocelin and his English
rustic wife, the founders of the Briar Farm family. The little
figure in the dark embrasure of the window clasped its white hands
and turned its weeping eyes towards that ancient burial-place, and
the moon-rays shone upon its fair face with a silvery glimmer,
giving it an almost spectral pallor. "Why was I ever born?" sighed
a trembling voice--"Oh, dear God! Why did you let it be?"

The vacant air, the vacant fields looked blankly irresponsive.
They had no sympathy to give,--they never have. To great Mother
Nature it is not important how or why a child is born, though she
occasionally decides that it shall be of the greatest importance
how and why the child shall live. What does it matter to the
forces of creative life whether it is brought into the world
"basely," as the phrase goes, or honourably? The child exists,--it
is a human entity--a being full of potential good or evil,--and
after a certain period of growth it stands alone, and its parents
have less to do with it than they imagine. It makes its own
circumstances and shapes its own career, and in many cases the
less it is interfered with the better. But Innocent could not
reason out her position in any cold-blooded or logical way. She
was too young and too unhappy. Everything that she had taken pride
in was swept from her at once. Only that very morning she had made
one of her many pilgrimages down to the venerable oak beneath
whose trailing branches the Sieur Amadis de Jocelin lay, covered
by the broad stone slab on which he had carved his own likeness,
and she had put a little knot of the "Glory" roses between his
mailed hands which were folded over the cross on his breast, and
she had said to the silent effigy:

"It is the last day of the haymaking, Sieur Amadis! You would be
glad to see the big crop going in if you were here!"

She was accustomed to talk to the old stone knight in this
fanciful way,--she had done so all her life ever since she could
remember. She had taken an intense pride in thinking of him as her
ancestor; she had been glad to trace her lineage back over three
centuries to the love-lorn French noble who had come to England in
the train of the Due d'Anjou--and now--now she knew she had no
connection at all with him,--that she was an unnamed, unbaptised
nobody--an unclaimed waif of humanity whom no one wanted! No one
in all the world--except Robin! He wanted her;--but perhaps when
he knew her true history his love would grow cold. She wondered
whether it would be so. If it were she would not mind very much.
Indeed it would be best, for she felt she could never marry him.

"No, not if I loved him with all my heart!" she said,
passionately--"Not without a name!--not till I have made a name
for myself, if only that were possible!"

She left the window and walked restlessly about her room, a room
that she loved very greatly because it had been the study of the
Sieur Amadis. It was a wonderful room, oak-panelled from floor to
ceiling, and there was no doubt about its history,--the Sieur
Amadis himself had taken care of that. For on every panel he had
carved with his own hand a verse, a prayer, or an aphorism, so
that the walls were a kind of open notebook inscribed with his own
personal memoranda. Over the wide chimney his coat-of-arms was
painted, the colours having faded into tender hues like those of
autumn leaves, and the motto underneath was "Mon coeur me
soutien." Then followed the inscription:

                    "Amadis de Jocelin,
                     Knight of France,
     Who here seekynge Forgetfulness did here fynde Peace."

Every night of her life since she could read Innocent had stood in
front of these armorial bearings in her little white night-gown
and had conned over these words. She had taken the memory and
tradition of Amadis to her heart and soul. He was HER ancestor,--
hers, she had always said;--she had almost learned her letters
from the inscriptions he had carved, and through these she could
read old English and a considerable amount of old French besides.
When she was about twelve years old she and Robin Clifford,
playing about together in this room, happened to knock against one
panel that gave forth a hollow reverberant sound, and moved by
curiosity they tried whether they could open it. After some
abortive efforts Robin's fingers closed by chance on a hidden
spring, which being thus pressed caused the panel to fly open,
disclosing a narrow secret stair. Full of burning excitement the
two children ran up it, and to their delight found themselves in a
small square musty chamber in which were two enormous old dower-
chests, locked. Their locks were no bar to the agility of Robin,
who, fetching a hammer, forced the old hasps asunder and threw
back the lids. The coffers were full of books and manuscripts
written on vellum, a veritable sixteenth-century treasure-trove.
They hastened to report the find to Farmer Jocelyn, who, though
never greatly taken with books or anything concerning them, was
sufficiently interested to go with the eager children and look at
the discovery they had made. But as he could make nothing of
either books or manuscripts himself, he gave over the whole
collection to Innocent, saying that as they were found in her part
of the house she might keep them. No one--not even Robin--knew how
much she had loved and studied these old books, or how patiently
she had spelt out the manuscripts; and no one could have guessed
what a wide knowledge of literature she had gained or what fine
taste she had developed from her silent communications with the
parted spirit of the Sieur Amadis and his poetical remains. She
had even arranged her room as she thought he might have liked it,
in severe yet perfect taste. It was now her study as it had been
his,--the heavy oak table had a great pewter inkstand upon it and
a few loose sheets of paper with two or three quill pens ready to
hand,--some quaint old vellum-bound volumes and a brown
earthenware bowl full of "Glory" roses were set just where they
could catch the morning sunshine through the lattice window. One
side of the room was lined with loaded bookshelves, and at its
furthest end a wide arch of roughly hewn oak disclosed a smaller
apartment where she slept. Here there was a quaint little four-
poster bedstead, hung with quite priceless Jacobean tapestry, and
a still more rare and beautiful work of art--an early Italian
mirror, full length and framed in silver, a curio worth many
hundreds of pounds. In this mirror Innocent had surveyed herself
with more or less disfavour since her infancy. It was a mirror
that had always been there--a mirror in which the wife of the
Sieur Amadis must have often gazed upon her own reflection, and in
which, after her, all the wives and daughters of the succeeding
Jocelyns had seen their charms presented to their own admiration.
The two old dower-chests which had been found in the upper chamber
were placed on either side of the mirror, and held all the simple
home-made garments which were Innocent's only wear. A special joy
of hers lay in the fact that she knew the management of the secret
sliding panel, and that she could at her own pleasure slip up the
mysterious stairway with a book and be thus removed from all the
household in a solitude which to her was ideal. To-night as she
wandered up and down her room like a little distraught ghost, all
the happy and romantic associations of the home she had loved and
cherished for so many years seemed cut down like a sheaf of fair
blossoms by a careless reaper,--a sordid and miserable taint was
on her life, and she shuddered with mingled fear and grief as she
realised that she had not even the simple privilege of ordinary
baptism. She was a nameless waif, dependent on the charity of
Farmer Jocelyn. True, the old man had grown to love her and she
had loved him--ah!--let the many tender prayers offered up for him
in this very room bear witness before the throne of God to her
devotion to her "father" as she had thought him! And now--if what
the doctors said was true--if he was soon to die--what would
become of her? She wrung her little hands in unconscious agony.

"What shall I do?" she murmured, sobbingly--"I have no claim on
him, or on anyone in the world! Dear God, what shall I do?"

Her restless walk up and down took her into her sleeping-chamber,
and there she lit a candle and looked at herself in the old
Italian mirror. A little woe-begone creature gazed sorrowfully
back at her from its shining surface, with brimming eyes and
quivering lips, and hair all tossed loosely away from a small sad
face as pale as a watery moon, and she drew back from her own
reflection with a gesture of repugnance.

"I am no use to anybody in any way," she said, despairingly--"I am
not even good-looking. And Robin--poor foolish Robin!--called me
'lovely' this afternoon! He has no eyes!"

Then a sudden thought flew across her brain of Ned Landon. The
tall powerful-looking brute loved her, she knew. Every look of his
told her that his very soul pursued her with a reckless and
relentless passion. She hated him,--she trembled even now as she
pictured his dark face and burning eyes;--he had annoyed and
worried her in a thousand ways--ways that were not sufficiently
open in their offence to be openly complained of, though had
Farmer Jocelyn's state of health given her less cause for anxiety
she might have said something to him which would perhaps have
opened his eyes to the situation. But not now,--not now could she
appeal to anyone for protection from amorous insult. For who was
she--what was she that she should resent it? She was nothing!--a
mere stray child whose parents nobody knew,--without any lawful
guardian to uphold her rights or assert her position. No wonder
old Jocelyn had called her "wilding"--she was indeed a "wilding"
or weed,--growing up unwanted in the garden of the world, destined
to be pulled out of the soil where she had nourished and thrown
contemptuously aside. A wretched sense of utter helplessness stole
over her,--of incapacity, weakness and loneliness. She tried to
think,--to see her way through the strange fog of untoward
circumstance that had so suddenly enshrouded her. What would
happen when Farmer Jocelyn died? For one thing she would have to
quit Briar Farm. She could not stay in it when Robin Clifford was
its master. He would marry, of course; he would be sure to marry;
and there would be no place for her in his home. She would have to
earn her bread; and the only way to do that would be to go out to
service. She had a good store of useful domestic knowledge,--she
could bake and brew, and wash and scour; she knew how to rear
poultry and keep bees; she could spin and knit and embroider;
indeed her list of household accomplishments would have startled
any girl fresh out of a modern Government school, where things
that are useful in life are frequently forgotten, and things that
are not by any means necessary are taught as though they were
imperative. One other accomplishment she had,--one that she hardly
whispered to herself--she could write,--write what she herself
called "nonsense." Scores of little poems and essays and stories
were locked away in a small old bureau in a corner of the room,--
confessions and expressions of pent-up feeling which, but for this
outlet, would have troubled her brain and hindered her rest. They
were mostly, as she frankly admitted to her own conscience, in the
"style" of the Sieur Amadis, and were inspired by his poetic
suggestions. She had no fond or exaggerated idea of their merit,--
they were the result of solitary hours and long silences in which
she had felt she must speak to someone,--exchange thoughts with
someone,--or suffer an almost intolerable restraint. That
"someone" was for her the long dead knight who had come to England
in the train of the Duc d'Anjou. To him she spoke,--to him she
told all her troubles--but to no one else did she ever breathe her
thoughts, or disclose a line of what she had written. She had
often wondered whether, if she sent these struggling literary
efforts to a magazine or newspaper, they would be accepted and
printed. But she never made the trial, for the reason that such
newspaper literature as found its way into Briar Farm filled her
with amazement, repulsion and disgust. There was nothing in any
modern magazine that at all resembled the delicate, pointed and
picturesque phraseology of the Sieur Amadis! Strange, coarse
slang-words were used,--and the news of the day was slung together
in loose ungrammatical sentences and chopped-up paragraphs of
clumsy construction, lacking all pith and eloquence. So, repelled
by the horror of twentieth-century "style," she had hidden her
manuscripts deeper than ever in the old bureau, under little silk
sachets of dried rose-leaves and lavender, as though they were
love-letters or old lace. And when sometimes she shut herself up
and read them over she felt like one of Hamlet's "guilty creatures
sitting at a play." Her literary attempts seemed to reproach her
for their inadequacy, and when she made some fresh addition to her
store of written thoughts, her crimes seemed to herself doubled
and weighted. She would often sit musing, with a little frown
puckering her brow, wondering why she should be moved to write at
all, yet wholly unable to resist the impulse.

To-night, however, she scarcely remembered these outbreaks of her
dreaming fancy,--the sordid, hard, matter-of-fact side of life
alone presented itself to her depressed imagination. She pictured
herself going into service--as what? Kitchen-maid, probably,--she
was not tall enough for a house-parlourmaid. House-parlourmaids
were bound to be effective,--even dignified,--in height and
appearance. She had seen one of these superior beings in church on
Sundays--a slim, stately young woman with waved hair and a hat as
fashionable as that worn by her mistress, the Squire's lady. With
a deepening sense of humiliation, Innocent felt that her very
limitation of inches was against her. Could she be a nursery-
governess? Hardly; for though she liked good-tempered, well-
behaved children, she could not even pretend to endure them when
they were otherwise. Screaming, spiteful, quarrelsome children
were to her less interesting than barking puppies or squealing
pigs;--besides, she knew she could not be an efficient teacher of
so much as one accomplishment. Music, for instance; what had she
learned of music? She could play on an ancient spinet which was
one of the chief treasures of the "best parlour" of Briar Farm,
and she could sing old ballads very sweetly and plaintively,--but
of "technique" and "style" and all the latter-day methods of
musical acquirement and proficiency she was absolutely ignorant.
Foreign languages were a dead letter to her--except old French.
She could understand that; and Villon's famous verses, "Ou sont
les neiges d'antan?" were as familiar to her as Herrick's "Come,
my Corinna, let us go a-maying." But, on the whole, she was
strangely and poorly equipped for the battle of life. Her
knowledge of baking, brewing, and general housewifery would have
stood her in good stead on some Colonial settlement,--but she had
scarcely heard of these far-away refuges for the destitute, as she
so seldom read the newspapers. Old Hugo Jocelyn looked upon the
cheap daily press as "the curse of the country," and never
willingly allowed a newspaper to come into the living-rooms of
Briar Farm. They were relegated entirely to the kitchen and
outhouses, where the farm labourers smoked over them and discussed
them to their hearts' content, seldom venturing, however, to bring
any item of so-called "news" to their master's consideration. If
they ever chanced to do so, he would generally turn round upon
them with a few cutting observations, such as,--

"How do you know it's true? Who gives the news? Where's the
authority? And what do I care if some human brute has murdered his
wife and blown out his own brains? Am I going to be any the better
for reading such a tale? And if one Government is in or t'other
out, what does it matter to me, or to any of you, so long as you
can work and pay your way? The newspapers are always trying to
persuade us to meddle in other folks's business;--I say, take care
of your own affairs!--serve God and obey the laws of the country,
and there won't be much going wrong with you! If you must read,
read a decent book--something that will last--not a printed sheet
full of advertisements that's fresh one day and torn up for waste
paper the next!"

Under the sway of these prejudiced and arbitrary opinions, it was
not possible for Innocent to have much knowledge of the world that
lay outside Briar Farm. Sometimes she found Priscilla reading an
old magazine or looking at a picture-paper, and she would borrow
these and take them up to her own room surreptitiously for an hour
or so, but she was always more or less pained and puzzled by their
contents. It seemed to her that there were an extraordinary number
of pictures of women with scarcely any clothes on, and she could
not understand how they managed to be pictured at all in such
scanty attire.

"Who are they?" she asked of Priscilla on one occasion--"And how
is it that they are photographed like this? It must be so shameful
for them!"

Priscilla explained as best she could that they were "dancers and
the like."

"They lives by their legs, lovey!" she said soothingly--"It's only
their legs that gits them their bread and butter, and I s'pose
they're bound to show 'em off. Don't you worry 'ow they gits done!
You'll never come across any of 'em!"

Innocent shut her sensitive mouth in a firm, proud line.

"I hope not!" she said.

And she felt as if she had almost wronged the sanctity of the
little study which had formerly belonged to the Sieur Amadis by
allowing such pictures to enter it. Of course she knew that
dancers and actors, both male and female, existed,--a whole troupe
of them came every year to the small theatre of the country town
which, by breaking out into an eruption of new slate-roofed houses
among the few remaining picturesque gables and tiles of an earlier
period, boasted of its "advancement" some eight or ten miles away;
but her "father," as she had thought him, had an insurmountable
objection to what he termed "gadding abroad," and would not allow
her to be seen even at the annual fair in the town, much less at
the theatre. Moreover, it happened once that a girl in the village
had run away with a strolling player and had gone on the stage,--
an incident which had caused a great sensation in the tiny wood-
encircled hamlet, and had brought all the old women of the place
out to their doorsteps to croak and chatter, and prognosticate
terrible things in the future for the eloping damsel. Innocent
alone had ventured to defend her.

"If she loved the man she was right to go with him," she said.

"Oh, don't talk to me about love!" retorted Priscilla, shaking her
head--"That's fancy rubbish! You know naught about it, dearie! On
the stage indeed! Poor little hussy! She'll be on the street in a
year or two, God help her!"

"What is that?" asked Innocent. "Is it to be a beggar?"

Priscilla made no reply beyond her usual sniff, which expressed
volumes.

"If she has found someone who really cares for her, she will never
want," Innocent went on, gently. "No man could be so cruel as to
take away a girl from her home for his own pleasure and then leave
her alone in the world. It would be impossible! You must not think
such hard things, Priscilla!"

And, smiling, she had gone her way,--while Priscilla, shaking her
head again, had looked after her, dimly wondering how long she
would keep her faith in men.

On this still moonlight night, when the sadness of her soul seemed
heavier than she could bear, her mind suddenly reverted to this
episode. She thought of the girl who had run away; and remembered
that no one in the village had ever seen or heard of her again,
not even her patient hard-working parents to whom she had been a
pride and joy.

"Now she had a real father and mother!" she mused, wistfully--
"They loved her and would have done anything for her--yet she ran
away from them with a stranger! I could never have done that! But
I have no father and no mother--no one but Dad!--ah!--how I have
loved Dad!--and yet I don't belong to him--and when he is dead--"

Here an overpowering sense of calamity swept over her, and
dropping on her knees by the open window she laid her head on her
folded arms and wept bitterly.

A voice called her in subdued accents once or twice, "Innocent!
Innocent!"--but she did not hear.

Presently a rose flung through the window fell on her bent head.
She started up, alarmed.

"Innocent!"

Timidly she leaned out over the window-sill, looking down into the
dusky green of clambering foliage, and saw a familiar face smiling
up at her. She uttered a soft cry.

"Robin!"

"Yes--it's Robin!" he replied. "Innocent, what's the matter? I
heard you crying!"

"No--no!" she answered, whisperingly--"It's nothing! Oh, Robin!--
why are you here at this time of night? Do go away!"

"Not I!" and Robin placed one foot firmly on the tough and gnarled
branch of a giant wistaria that was trained thickly all over that
side of the house--"I'm coming up!"

"Oh, Robin!" And straightway Innocent ran back into her room,
there to throw on a dark cloak which enveloped her so completely
that only her small fair head showed above its enshrouding folds,
--then returning slowly she watched with mingled interest and
trepidation the gradual ascent of her lover, as, like another
Romeo, he ascended the natural ladder formed by the thick rope-
like twisted stems of the ancient creeper, grown sturdy with years
and capable of bearing a much greater weight than that of the
light and agile young man, who, with a smile of amused triumph, at
last brought himself on a level with the window-sill and seated
himself on its projecting ledge.

"I won't come in," he said, mischievously--"though I might!--if I
dared! But I mustn't break into my lady's bower without her
sovereign permission! I say, Innocent, how pretty you look! Don't
be frightened!--dear, dear little girl,--you know I wouldn't touch
so much as a hair of your sweet little head! I'm not a brute--and
though I'm longing to kiss you I promise I won't even try!"

She moved away from him into the deeper shadow, but a ray of the
moon showed him her face, very pale, with a deep sadness upon it
which was strange and new to him.

"Tell me what's wrong?" he asked. "I've been too wide-awake and
restless to go to bed,--so I came out in the garden just to
breathe the air and look up at your window--and I heard a sound of
sobbing like that of a little child who was badly hurt--Innocent!"

For she had suddenly stretched out her hands to him in impulsive
appeal.

"Oh yes--that's true!--I am badly hurt, Robin!" she said, in low
trembling accents--"So badly hurt that I think I shall never get
over it!"

Surprised, he took her hands in his own with a gentle reverence,
though to be able to draw her nearer to him thus, set his heart
beating quickly.

"What is it?" he questioned her, anxiously, as all unconsciously
she leaned closer towards him and he saw her soft eyes, wet with
tears, shining upon him like stars in the gloom. "Is it bad news
of Uncle Hugo?"

"Bad news of him, but worse of me!" she answered, sighingly. "Oh,
Robin, shall I tell you?"

He looked at her tenderly. The dark cloak about her had fallen a
little aside, and showed a gleam of white neck emerging from snowy
drapery underneath--it was, to his fancy, as though a white rose-
petal had been suddenly and delicately unfurled. He longed to kiss
that virginal whiteness, and trembled at the audacity of his own
desire.

"Yes, dear, tell me!" he murmured, abstractedly, scarcely thinking
of what he was saying, and only conscious of the thrill and
ecstasy of love which seemed to him the one thing necessary for
existence in earth or heaven.

And so, with her hands still warmly held in his, she told him all.
In a sad voice, with lowered eyes and quivering lips, she related
her plaintive little history, disclosing her unbaptised shame,--
her unowned parentage,--her desperately forlorn and lonely
condition. And Robin listened--amazed and perplexed.

"It seems to be all my fault," concluded Innocent, sorrowfully--
"and yet it is not really so! Of course I ought never to have been
born--but I couldn't help it, could I? And now it seems quite
wrong for me to even live!--I am not wanted--and ever since I was
twelve years old your Uncle has only kept me out of charity--"

But at this Robin started as though some one had struck him.

"Innocent!" he exclaimed--"Do not say such a thing!--do not think
it! Uncle Hugo has LOVED you!--and you--you have loved him!"

She drew her hands away from his and covered her face.

"I know!--I know!" and her tears fell fast again--"But I am not
his, and he is not mine!"

Robin was silent. The position was so unexpected and bewildering
that he hardly knew what to say. But chiefly he felt that he must
try and comfort this little weeping angel, who, so far as he was
concerned, held his life subservient to her charm. He began
talking softly and cheerily:

"Why should it matter so much?" he said. "If you do not know who
you are--if none of us know--it may be more fortunate for you than
you can imagine! We cannot tell! Your own father may claim you--
your own mother--such things are quite possible! You may be like
the princess of a fairy-tale--rich people may come and take you
away from Briar Farm and from me--and you will be too grand to
think of us any more, and I shall only be the poor farmer in your
eyes--you will wonder how you could ever have spoken to me--"

"Robin!" Her hands dropped from her face and she looked at him in
reproachful sadness. "Why do you say this? You know it could never
be true!--never! If I had a father who cared for me, he would not
have forgotten--and my mother, if she were a true mother, would
have tried to find me long ago! No, Robin!--I ought to have died
when I was a baby. No one wants me--I am a deserted child--'base-
born,' as your Uncle Hugo says,--and of course he is right--but
the sin of it is not mine!"

She had such a pitiful, fragile and fair appearance, standing half
in shadow and half in the mystic radiance of the moon, that Robin
Clifford's heart ached with love and longing for her.

"Sin!" he echoed--"Sin and you have never met each other! You are
like your name, innocent of all evil! Oh, Innocent! If you could
only care for me as I care for you!"

She gave a shivering sigh.

"Do you--can you care?--NOW?" she asked.

"Of course! What is there in all this story that can change my
love for you? That you are not my cousin?--that my uncle is not
your own father? What does that matter to me? You are someone
else's child, and if we never know who that someone is, why should
we vex ourselves about it? You are you!--you are Innocent!--the
sweetest, dearest little girl that ever lived, and I adore you!
What difference does it make that you are not Uncle Hugo's
daughter?"

"It makes a great difference to me," she answered, sadly--"I do
not belong any more to the Sieur Amadis de Jocelin!"

Robin stared, amazed--then smiled.

"Why, Innocent!" he exclaimed--"Surely you're not worrying your
mind over that old knight, dead and gone more than three hundred
years ago! Dear little goose! How on earth does he come into this
trouble of yours?"

"He comes in everywhere!" she replied, clasping and unclasping her
hands nervously as she spoke. "You don't know, Robin!--you would
never understand! But I have loved the Sieur Amadis ever since I
can remember;--I have talked to him and studied with him!--I have
read his old books, and all the poems he wrote--and he seemed to
be my friend! I thought I was born of his kindred--and I was proud
of it--and I felt it would be my duty to live at Briar Farm always
because he would wish his line quite unbroken--and I think--
perhaps--yes, I think I might have married you and been a good
wife to you just for his sake!--and now it is all spoiled!--
because though you will be the master of Briar Farm, you will not
be the lineal descendant of the Sieur Amadis! No,--it is
finished!--all finished with your Uncle Hugo!--and the doctors say
he can only live a year!"

Her grief was so touching and pathetic that Robin could not find
it in his heart to make a jest of the romance she had woven round
the old French knight whose history had almost passed into a
legend. After all, what she said was true--the line of the Jocelyn
family had been kept intact through three centuries till now--and
a direct heir had always inherited Briar Farm. He himself had
taken a certain pride in thinking that Uncle Hugo's "love-child,"
as he had believed her to be, was at any rate, love-child or no,
born of the Jocelyn blood--and that when he married her, as he
hoped and fully purposed to do, he would discard his own name of
Clifford and take that of Jocelyn, in order to keep the continuity
of associations unbroken as far as possible. All these ideas were
put to flight by Innocent's story, and, as the position became
more evident to him, the smiling expression on his face changed to
one of gravity.

"Dear Innocent," he said, at last--"Don't cry! It cuts me to the
heart! I would give my very life to save you from a sorrow--you
know I would! If you ever thought, as you say, that you could or
would marry me for the sake of the Sieur Amadis, you might just as
well marry me now, even though the Sieur Amadis is out of it. I
would make you so happy! I would indeed! And no one need ever know
that you are not really the lineal descendant of the Knight--"

She interrupted him.

"Priscilla knows," she said--"and, no matter how you look at it, I
am 'base-born.' Your Uncle Hugo has let all the village folk think
I am his illegitimate child--and that is 'base-born' of itself.
Oh, it is cruel! Even you thought so, didn't you?"

Robin hesitated.

"I did not know, dear," he answered, gently--"I fancied--"

"Do not deny it, Robin!" she said, mournfully. "You did think so!
Well, it's true enough, I suppose!--I am 'base-born'--but your
uncle is not my father. He is a good, upright man--you can always
be proud of him! He has not sinned,--though he has burdened me
with the shame of sin! I think that is unfair,--but I must bear it
somehow, and I will try to be brave. I'm glad I've told you all
about it,--and you are very kind to have taken it so well--and to
care for me still--but I shall never marry you, Robin!--never! I
shall never bring my 'base-born' blood into the family of
Jocelyn!"

His heart sank as he heard her--and involuntarily he stretched out
his arms in appeal.

"Innocent!" he murmured--"Don't be hard upon me! Think a little
longer before you leave me without any hope! It means so much to
my life! Surely you cannot be cruel? Do you care for me less than
you care for that old knight buried under his own effigy in the
garden? Will you not think kindly of a living man?--a man who
loves you beyond all things? Oh, Innocent!--be gentle, be
merciful!"

She came to him and took his hands in her own.

"It is just because I am kind and gentle and merciful," she said,
in her sweet, grave accents, "that I will not marry you, dear! I
know I am right,--and you will think so too, in time. For the
moment you imagine me to be much better and prettier than I am--
and that there is no one like me!--poor Robin!--you are blind!--
there are so many sweet and lovely girls, well born, with fathers
and mothers to care for them--and you, with your good looks and
kind ways, could marry any one of them--and you will, some day!
Good-night, dear! You have stayed here a long time talking to me!
--just suppose you were seen sitting on this window-ledge so late!
--it is past midnight!--what would be said of me!"

"What could be said?" demanded Robin, defiantly. "I came up here
of my own accord,--the blame would be mine!"

She shook her head sadly, smiling a little.

"Ah, Robin! The man is never blamed! It's always the woman's
fault!"

"Where's your fault to-night?" he asked.

"Oh, most plain!" she answered. "When I saw you coming, I ought to
have shut the window, drawn the curtains, and left you to clamber
down the wall again as fast as you clambered up! But I wanted to
tell you what had happened--and how everything had changed for me
--and now--now that you know all--good-night!"

He looked at her longingly. If she would only show some little
sign of tenderness!--if he might just kiss her hand, he thought!
But she withdrew into the shadow, and he had no excuse for
lingering.

"Good-night!" he said, softly. "Good-night, my angel Innocent!
Good-night, my little love!"

She made no response and moved slowly backward into the room. But
as he reluctantly left his point of vantage and began to descend,
stepping lightly from branch to branch of the accommodating
wistaria, he saw the shadowy outline of her figure once more as
she stretched out a hand and closed the lattice window, drawing a
curtain across it. With the drawing of that curtain the beauty of
the summer night was over for him, and poising himself lightly on
a tough stem which was twisted strongly enough to give him
adequate support and which projected some four feet above the
smooth grass below, he sprang down. Scarcely had he touched the
ground when a man, leaping suddenly out of a thick clump of bushes
near that side of the house, caught him in a savage grip and shook
him with all the fury of an enraged mastiff shaking a rat. Taken
thus unawares, and rendered almost breathless by the swiftness of
the attack, Clifford struggled in the grasp of his assailant and
fought with him desperately for a moment without any idea of his
identity,--then as by a dexterous twist of body he managed to
partially extricate himself, he looked up and saw the face of Ned
Landon, livid and convulsed with passion.

"Landon!" he gasped--"What's the matter with you? Are you mad?"

"Yes!" answered Landon, hoarsely--"And enough to make me so! You
devil! You've ruined the girl!"

With a rapid movement, unexpected by his antagonist, Clifford
disengaged himself and stood free.

"You lie!" he said--"And you shall pay for it! Come away from the
house and fight like a man! Come into the grass meadow yonder,
where no one can see or hear us. Come!"

Landon paused, drawing his breath thickly, and looking like a
snarling beast baulked of its prey.

"That's a trick!" he said, scornfully--"You'll run away!"

"Come!" repeated Clifford, vehemently--"You're more likely to run
away than I am! Come!"

Landon glanced him over from head to foot--the moonbeams fell
brightly on his athletic figure and handsome face--then turned on
his heel.

"No, I won't!" he said, curtly--"I've done all I want to do for
to-night. I've shaken you like the puppy you are! To-morrow we'll
settle our differences."

For all answer Clifford sprang at him and struck him smartly
across the face. In another moment both men were engaged in a
fierce tussle, none the less deadly because so silent. A practised
boxer and wrestler, Clifford grappled more and more closely with
the bigger but clumsier man, dragging him steadily inch by inch
further away from the house as they fought. More desperate, more
determined became the struggle, till by two or three adroit
manoeuvres Clifford got his opponent under him and bore him
gradually to the ground, where, kneeling on his chest, he pinned
him down.

"Let me go!" muttered Landon--"You're killing me!"

"Serve you right!" answered Clifford--"You scoundrel! My uncle
shall know of this!"

"Tell him what you like!" retorted Landon, faintly--"I don't care!
Get off my chest!--you're suffocating me!"

Clifford slightly relaxed the pressure of his hands and knees.

"Will you apologise?" he demanded.

"Apologise?--for what?"

"For your insolence to me and my cousin."

"Cousin be hanged!" snarled Landon--"She's no more your cousin
than I am--she's only a nameless bastard! I heard her tell you so!
And fine airs she gives herself on nothing!"

"You miserable spy!" and Clifford again held him down as in a
vise--"Whatever you heard is none of your business! Will you
apologise?"

"Oh, I'll apologise, if you like!--anything to get your weight off
me!"--and Landon made an abortive effort to rise. "But I keep my
own opinion all the same!"

Slowly Robin released him, and watched him as he picked himself
up, with an air of mingled scorn and pity. Landon laughed
forcedly, passing one hand across his forehead and staring in a
dazed fashion at the shadows cast on the ground by the moon.

"Yes--I keep my own opinion!" he repeated, stupidly. "You've got
the better of me just now--but you won't always, my pert Cock
Robin! You won't always. Don't you think it! Briar Farm and I may
part company--but there's a bigger place than Briar Farm--there's
the world!--that's a wide field and plenty of crops growing on it!
And the men that sow those kind of crops and reap them and bring
them in, are better farmers than you'll ever be! As for your
girl!"--here his face darkened and he shook his fist towards the
lattice window behind which slept the unconscious cause of the
quarrel--"You can keep her! A nice 'Innocent' SHE is!--talking
with a man in her bedroom after midnight!--why, I wouldn't have
her as a gift--not now!"

Choking with rage, Clifford sprang towards him again--Landon
stepped back.

"Hands off!" he said--"Don't touch me! I'm in a killing mood! I've
a knife on me--you haven't. You're the master--I'm the man--and
I'll play fair! I've my future to think of, and I don't want to
start with a murder!"

With this, he turned his back and strode off, walking somewhat
unsteadily like a blind man feeling his way.

Clifford stood for a moment, inert. The angry blood burned in his
face,--his hands were involuntarily clenched,--he was impatient
with himself for having, as he thought, let Landon off too easily.
He saw at once the possibility of mischief brewing, and hastily
considered how it could best be circumvented.

"The simplest way out of it is to make a clean breast of
everything," he decided, at last. "Tomorrow I'll see Uncle Hugo
early in the morning and tell him just what has happened."

Under the influence of this resolve, he gradually calmed down and
re-entered the house. And the moonlight, widening and then waning
over the smooth and peaceful meadows of Briar Farm, had it all its
own way for the rest of the night, and as it filtered through the
leafy branches of the elms and beeches which embowered the old
tomb of the Sieur Amadis de Jocelin it touched with a pale glitter
the stone hands of his sculptured effigy,--hands that were folded
prayerfully above the motto,--"Mon coeur me soutien!"




CHAPTER V

As early as six o'clock the next morning Innocent was up and
dressed, and, hastening down to the kitchen, busied herself, as
was her usual daily custom, in assisting Priscilla with the
housework and the preparation for breakfast. There was always
plenty to do, and as she moved quickly to and fro, fulfilling the
various duties she had taken upon herself and which she performed
with unobtrusive care and exactitude, the melancholy forebodings
of the past night partially cleared away from her mind. Yet there
was a new expression on her face--one of sadness and seriousness
unfamiliar to its almost child-like features, and it was not easy
for her to smile in her ordinary bright way at the round of
scolding which Priscilla administered every morning to the maids
who swept and scrubbed and dusted and scoured the kitchen till no
speck of dirt was anywhere visible, till the copper shone like
mirrors, and the tables were nearly as smooth as polished silver
or ivory. Going into the dairy where pans of new milk stood ready
for skimming, and looking out for a moment through the lattice
window, she saw old Hugo Jocelyn and Robin Clifford walking
together across the garden, engaged in close and earnest
conversation. A little sigh escaped her as she thought: "They are
talking about me!"--then, on a sudden impulse, she went back into
the kitchen where Priscilla was for the moment alone, the other
servants having dispersed into various quarters of the house, and
going straight up to her said, simply--

"Priscilla dear, why did you never tell me that I wasn't Dad's own
daughter?"

Priscilla started violently, and her always red face turned
redder,--then, with an effort to recover herself, she answered--

"Lord, lovey! How you frightened me! Why didn't I tell you? Well,
in the first place, 'twasn't none of my business, and in the
second, 'twouldn't have done any good if I had."

Innocent was silent, looking at her with a piteous intensity.

"And who is it that's told you now?" went on Priscilla, nervously
--"some meddlin' old fool--"

Innocent raised her hand, warningly.

"Hush, Priscilla! Dad himself told me--"

"Well, he might just as well have kept a still tongue in his
head," retorted Priscilla, sharply. "He's kept it for eighteen
years, an' why he should let it go wagging loose now, the Lord
only knows! There's no making out the ways of men,--they first
plays the wise and silent game like barn-door owls,--then all on a
suddint-like they starts cawing gossip for all they're worth, like
crows. And what's the good of tellin' ye, anyway?"

"No good, perhaps," answered Innocent, sorrowfully--"but it's
right I should know. You see, I'm not a child any more--I'm
eighteen--that's a woman--and a woman ought to know what she must
expect more or less in her life--"

Priscilla leaned on the newly scrubbed kitchen table and looked
across at the girl with a compassionate expression.

"What a woman must expect in life is good 'ard knocks and blows,"
she said--"unless she can get a man to look arter her what's not
of the general kicking spirit. Take my advice, dearie! You marry
Mr. Robin!--as good a boy as ever breathed--he'll be a kind fond
'usband to ye, and arter all that's what a woman thrives best on--
kindness--an' you've 'ad it all your life up to now--"

"Priscilla," interrupted Innocent, decidedly--"I cannot marry
Robin! You know I cannot! A poor nameless girl like me!--why, it
would be a shame to him in after-years. Besides, I don't love him
--and it's wicked to marry a man you don't love."

Priscilla smothered a sound between a grunt and a sigh.

"You talks a lot about love, child," she said--"but I'm thinkin'
you don't know much about it. Them old books an' papers you found
up in the secret room are full of nonsense, I'm pretty sure--an'
if you believes that men are always sighin' an' dyin' for a woman,
you're mistaken--yes, you are, lovey! They goes where they can be
made most comfortable--an' it don't matter what sort o' woman
gives the comfort so long as they gits it."

Innocent smiled, faintly.

"You don't know anything about it, Priscilla," she answered--"You
were never married."

"Thank the Lord and His goodness, no!" said Priscilla, with an
emphatic sniff--"I've never been troubled with the whimsies of a
man, which is worse than all the megrims of a woman any day. I've
looked arter Mr. Jocelyn in a way--but he's no sort of a man to
worry about--he just goes reglar to the farmin'--an' that's all--a
decent creature always, an' steady as his own oxen what pulls the
plough. An' when he's gone, if go he must, I'll look arter you an'
Mr. Robin, an' please God, I'll dance your babies on my old knees--"
Here she broke off and turned her head away. Innocent ran to her,
surprised.

"Why, Priscilla, you're crying!" she exclaimed--Don't do that! Why
should you cry?"

"Why indeed!" blubbered Priscilla--"Except that I'm a doiterin'
fool! I can't abear the thoughts of you turnin' yer back on the
good that God gives ye, an' floutin' Mr. Robin, who's the best
sort o' man that ever could fall to the lot of a little tender
maid like you--why, lovey, you don't know the wickedness o' this
world, nor the ways of it--an' you talks about love as if it was
somethin' wonderful an' far away, when here it is at yer very feet
for the pickin' up! What's the good of all they books ye've bin
readin' if they don't teach ye that the old knight you're fond of
got so weary of the world that arter tryin' everythin' in turn he
found nothin' better than to marry a plain, straight country wench
and settle down in Briar Farm for all his days? Ain't that the
lesson he's taught ye?"

She paused, looking hopefully at the girl through her tears--but
Innocent's small fair face was pale and calm, though her eyes
shone with a brilliancy as of suppressed excitement.

"No," she said--"He has not taught me that at all. He came here to
'seek forgetfulness'--so it is said in the words he carved on the
panel in his study,--but we do not know that he ever really
forgot. He only 'found peace,' and peace is not happiness--except
for the very old."

"Peace is not happiness!" re-echoed Priscilla, staring--"That's a
queer thing to say, lovey! What do you call being happy?"

"It is difficult to explain"--and a swift warm colour flew over
the girl's cheeks, expressing some wave of hidden feeling--"Your
idea of happiness and mine must be so different!" She smiled--
"Dear, good Priscilla! You are so much more easily contented than
I am!"

Priscilla looked at her with a great tenderness in her dim old
grey eyes.

"See here, lovey!" she said--"You're just like a young bird on the
edge of a nest ready to fly. You don't know the world nor the ways
of it. Oh, my dear, it ain't all gold harvests and apples ripening
rosy in the sun! You've lived all your life in the open country,
and so you've always had the good God near you,--but there's
places where the houses stand so close together that the sky can
hardly make a patch of blue between the smoking chimneys--like
London, for instance--ah!--that's where you'd find what the
world's like, lovey!--where you feels so lonesome that you wonders
why you ever were born--"

"I wonder that already," interrupted the girl, quickly. "Don't
worry me, dear! I have so much to think about--my life seems so
altered and strange--I hardly understand myself--and I don't know
what I shall do with my future--but I cannot--I will not marry
Robin!"

She turned away quickly then, to avoid further discussion.

A little later she went into the quaint oak-panelled room where
the fateful disclosures of the past night had been revealed to
her. Here breakfast was laid, and the latticed window was set wide
open, admitting the sweet scent of stocks and mignonette with
every breath of the morning air. She stood awhile looking out on
the gay beauty of the garden, and her eyes unconsciously filled
with tears.

"Dear home!" she murmured--"Home that is not mine--that never will
be mine! How I have loved you!--how I shall always love you!"

A slow step behind her interrupted her meditations--and she looked
around with a smile as timid as it was tender. There was her
"Dad"--the same as ever,--yet now to her mind so far removed from
her that she hesitated a moment before giving him her customary
good-morning greeting. A pained contraction of his brow showed her
that he felt this little difference, and she hastened to make
instant amends.

"Dear Dad!" she said, softly,--and she put her soft arms about him
and kissed his cheek--"How are you this morning? Did you sleep
well?"

He took her arms from his shoulders, and held her for a moment,
looking at her scrutinisingly from under his shaggy brows.

"I did not sleep at all," he answered her--"I lay broad awake,
thinking of you. Thinking of you, my little innocent, fatherless,
motherless lamb! And you, child!--you did not sleep so well as you
should have done, talking with Robin half the night out of
window!"

She coloured deeply. He smiled and pinched her crimsoning cheek,
apparently well pleased.

"No harm, no harm!" he said--"Just two young doves cooing among
the leaves at mating time! Robin has told me all about it. Now
listen, child!--I'm away to-day to the market town--there's seed
to buy and crops to sell--I'll take Ned Landon with me--" he
paused, and an odd expression of sternness and resolve clouded his
features--"Yes!--I'll take Ned Landon with me--he's shrewd enough
when he's sober--and he's cunning enough, too, for that matter!--
yes, I'll take him with me. We'll be off in the dog-cart as soon
as breakfast's done. My time's getting short, but I'll attend to
my own business as long as I can--I'll look after Briar Farm till
I die--and I'll die in harness. There's plenty of work to do yet--
plenty of work; and while I'm away you can settle up things--"

Here he broke off, and his eyes grew fixed in a sudden vacant
stare. Innocent, frightened at his unnatural look, laid her hand
caressingly on his arm.

"Yes, dear Dad!" she said, soothingly--"What is it you wish me to
do?"

The stare faded from his eyeballs, and his face softened.

"Settle up things," he repeated, slowly, and with emphasis--
"Settle up things with Robin. No more beating about the bush! You
talked to him long enough out of window last night, and mind you!
--somebody was listening! That means mischief! _I_ don't blame you,
poor wilding!--but remember, SOMEBODY WAS LISTENING! Now think of
that and of your good name, child!--settle with Robin and we'll
have the banns put up next Sunday."

While he thus spoke the warm rose of her cheeks faded to an
extreme pallor,--her very lips grew white and set. Her hurrying
thoughts clamoured for utterance,--she could have expressed in
passionate terms her own bitter sense of wrong and unmerited
shame, but pity for the old man's worn and haggard look of pain
held her silent. She saw and felt that he was not strong enough to
bear any argument or opposition in his present mood, so she made
no sort of reply, not even by a look or a smile. Quietly she went
to the breakfast table, and busied herself in preparing his
morning meal. He followed her and sat heavily down in his usual
chair, watching her furtively as she poured out the tea.

"Such little white hands, aren't they?" he said, coaxingly,
touching her small fingers when she gave him his cup--"Eh,
wilding? The prettiest lily flowers I ever saw! And one of them
will look all the prettier for a gold wedding-ring upon it! Ay,
ay! We'll have the banns put up on Sunday."

Still she did not speak; once she turned away her head to hide the
tears that involuntarily rose to her eyes. Old Hugo, meanwhile,
began to eat his breakfast with the nervous haste of a man who
takes his food more out of custom than necessity. Presently he
became irritated at her continued silence.

"You heard what I said, didn't you?" he demanded--"And you
understood?"

She looked full at him with sorrowful, earnest eyes.

"Yes, Dad. I heard. And I understood."

He nodded and smiled, and appeared to take it for granted that she
had received an order which it was her bounden duty to obey. The
sun shone brilliantly in upon the beautiful old room, and through
the open window came a pleasant murmuring of bees among the
mignonette, and the whistle of a thrush in an elm-tree sounded
with clear and cheerful persistence. Hugo Jocelyn looked at the
fair view of the flowering garden and drew his breath hard in a
quick sigh.

"It's a fine day," he said--"and it's a fine world! Ay, that it
is! I'm not sure there's a better anywhere! And it's a bit
difficult to think of going down for ever into the dark and the
cold, away from the sunshine and the sky--but it's got to be
done!"--here he clenched his fist and brought it down on the table
with a defiant blow--"It's got to be done, and I've got to do it!
But not yet--not quite yet!--I've plenty of time and chance to
stop mischief!"

He rose, and drawing himself up to his full height looked for the
moment strong and resolute. Taking one or two slow turns up and
down the room, he suddenly stopped in front of Innocent.

"We shall be away all day," he said--"I and Ned Landon. Do you
hear?"

There was something not quite natural in the tone of his voice,
and she glanced up at him in a little surprise.

"Well, what are you wondering at?" he demanded, a trifle testily--
"You need not open your eyes at me like that!"

She smiled faintly.

"Did I open my eyes, Dad?" she said--"I did not mean to be
curious. I only thought--"

"You only thought what?" he asked, with sudden heat--"What did you
think?"

"Oh, just about your being away all day in the town--you will be
so tired--"

"Tired? Not I!--not when there's work to do and business to
settle!" He rubbed his hands together with a kind of energetic
expectancy. "Work to do and business to settle!" he repeated--
"Yes, little girl! There's not much time before me, and I must
leave everything in good order for you and Robin."

She dropped her head, and the expression of her face was hidden
from him.

"You and Robin!" he said, again. "Ay, ay! Briar Farm will be in
the best of care when I'm dead, and it'll thrive well with young
love and hope to keep it going!" He came up to her and took one of
her little hands in his own. "There, there!" he went on, patting
it gently--"We'll think no more of trouble and folly and mistakes
in life; it'll be all joy and peace for you, child! Take God's
good blessing of an honest lad's love and be happy with it! And
when I come home to-night,"--he paused and appeared to think for a
moment--"yes!--when I come home, let me hear that it's all clear
and straight between you--and we'll have the banns put up on
Sunday!"

She said not a word in answer. Her hand slid passively from his
hold,--and she never looked up. He hesitated for a moment--then
walked towards the door.

"You'll have all the day to yourself with Robin," he added,
glancing back at her--"There'll be no spies about the place, and
no one listening, as there was last night!"

She sprang up from her chair, moved at last by an impulse of
indignation.

"Who was it?" she asked--"I said nothing wrong--and I do not
care!--but who was it?"

A curious strained look came into old Hugo's eyes as he answered--

"Ned Landon."

She looked amazed,--then scared.

"Ned Landon?"

"Ay! Ned Landon. He hasn't the sweetest of tempers and he isn't
always sober. He's a bit in the way sometimes,--ay, ay!--a bit in
the way! But he's a good farm hand for all that,--and his word
stands for something! I'd rather he hadn't heard you and Robin
talking last night--but what's done is done, and it's a mischief
easy mended--"

"Why, what mischief can there be?" the girl demanded, her colour
coming and going quickly--"And why should he have listened? It's a
mean trick to spy upon others!"

He smiled indulgently.

"Of course it's a mean trick, child!--but there's a good many men
--and women too--who are just made up of mean tricks and nothing
more. They spend their lives in spying upon their neighbours and
interfering in everybody's business. You'd soon find that out, my
girl, if you lived in the big world that lies outside Briar Farm!
Ay!--and that reminds me--" Here he came from the door back into
the room again, and going to a quaint old upright oaken press that
stood in one corner, he unlocked it and took out a roll of bank-
notes. These he counted carefully over to himself, and folding
them up put them away in his breast pocket. "Now I'm ready!" he
said--"Ready for all I've got to do! Good-bye, my wilding!" He
approached her, and lifting her small face between his hands,
kissed it tenderly. "Bless thee! No child of my own could be
dearer than thou art! All I want now is to leave thee in safe and
gentle keeping when I die. Think of this and be good to Robin!"

She trembled under his caress, and her heart was full of
speechless sorrow. She longed to yield to his wishes,--she knew
that if she did so she would give him happiness and greater
resignation to the death which confronted him; and she also knew
that if she could make up her mind to marry Robin Clifford she
would have the best and the tenderest of husbands. And Briar
Farm,--the beloved old home--would be hers!--her very own! Her
children would inherit it and play about the fair and fruitful
fields as she had done--they, too, could be taught to love the
memory of the old knight, the Sieur Amadis de Jocelin--ah!--but
surely it was the spirit of the Sieur Amadis himself that held her
back and prevented her from doing his name and memory grievous
wrong! She was not of his blood or race--she was nameless and
illegitimate,--no good could come of her engrafting herself like a
weed upon a branch of the old noble stock--the farm would cease to
prosper.

So she thought and so she felt, in her dreamy imaginative way, and
though she allowed old Hugo to leave her without vexing him by any
decided opposition to his plans, she was more than ever firmly
resolved to abide by her own interior sense of what was right and
fitting. She heard the wheels of the dog-cart grating the gravel
outside the garden gate, and an affectionate impulse moved her to
go and see her "Dad" off. As she made her appearance under the
rose-covered porch of the farm-house door, she perceived Landon,
who at once pulled off his cap with an elaborate and exaggerated
show of respect.

"Good-morning, Miss Jocelyn!"

He emphasized the surname with a touch of malice. She coloured,
but replied "Good-morning" with a sweet composure. He eyed her
askance, but had no opportunity for more words, as old Hugo just
then clambered up into the dog-cart, and took the reins of the
rather skittish young mare which was harnessed to it.

"Come on, Landon!" he shouted, impatiently--"No time for
farewells!" Then, as Landon jumped up beside him, he smiled,
seeing the soft, wistful face of the girl watching him from
beneath a canopy of roses.

"Take care of the house while I'm gone!" he called to her;--
"You'll find Robin in the orchard."

He laid the lightest flick of the whip on the mare's ears, and she
trotted rapidly away.

Innocent stood a moment gazing after the retreating vehicle till
it disappeared,--then she went slowly into the house. Robin was in
the orchard, was he? Well!--he had plenty of work to do there, and
she would not disturb him. She turned away from the sunshine and
flowers and made her way upstairs to her own room. How quiet and
reposeful it looked! It was a beloved shrine, full of sweet
memories and dreams,--there would never be any room like it in the
world for her, she well knew. Listlessly she sat down at the
table, and turned over the pages of an old book she had been
reading, but her eyes were not upon it.

"I wonder!" she said, half aloud--then paused.

The thought in her mind was too daring for utterance. She was
picturing the possibility of going quietly away from Briar Farm
all alone, and trying to make a name and career for herself
through the one natural gift she fancied she might possess, a gift
which nowadays is considered almost as common as it was once
admired and rare. To be a poet and romancist,--a weaver of
wonderful thoughts into musical language,--this seemed to her the
highest of all attainment; the proudest emperor of the most
powerful nation on earth was, to her mind, far less than
Shakespeare,--and inferior to the simplest French lyrist of old
time that ever wrote a "chanson d'amour." But the doubt in her
mind was whether she, personally, had any thoughts worth
expressing,--any ideas which the world might be the happier or the
better for knowing and sharing? She drew a long breath,--the warm
colour flushed her cheeks and then faded, leaving her very pale,--
the whole outlook of her life was so barren of hope or promise
that she dared not indulge in any dream of brighter days. On the
face of it, there seemed no possible chance of leaving Briar Farm
without some outside assistance--she had no money, and no means of
obtaining any. Then,--even supposing she could get to London, she
knew no one there,--she had no friends. Sighing wearily, she
opened a deep drawer in the table at which she sat, and took out a
manuscript--every page of it so neatly written as to be almost
like copper-plate--and set herself to reading it steadily. There
were enough written sheets to make a good-sized printed volume--
and she read on for more than an hour. When she lifted her eyes at
last they were eager and luminous.

"Perhaps," she half whispered--"perhaps there is something in it
after all!--something just a little new and out of the ordinary--
but--how shall I ever know!"

Putting the manuscript by with a lingering care, she went to the
window and looked out. The peaceful scene was dear and familiar--
and she already felt a premonition of the pain she would have to
endure in leaving so sweet and safe a home. Her thoughts gradually
recurred to the old trouble--Robin, and Robin's love for her,--
Robin, who, if she married him, would spend his life gladly in the
effort to make her happy,--where in the wide world would she find
a better, truer-hearted man? And yet--a curious reluctance had
held her back from him, even when she had believed herself to be
the actual daughter of Hugo Jocelyn,--and now--now, when she knew
she was nothing but a stray foundling, deserted by her own parents
and left to the care of strangers, she considered it would be
nothing short of shame and disgrace to him, were she to become his
wife.

"I can always be his friend," she said to herself--"And if I once
make him understand clearly how much better it is for us to be
like brother and sister, he will see things in the right way. And
when he marries I am sure to be fond of his wife and children--
and--and--it will be ever so much happier for us all! I'll go and
talk to him now."

She ran downstairs and out across the garden, and presently made a
sudden appearance in the orchard--a little vision of white among
the russet-coloured trees with their burden of reddening apples.
Robin was there alone--he was busied in putting up a sturdy prop
under one of the longer branches of a tree heavily laden with
fruit. He saw her and smiled--but went on with his work.

"Are you very busy?" she asked, approaching him almost timidly.

"Just now, yes! In a moment, no! We shall lose this big bough in
the next high wind if I don't take care."

She waited--watching the strength and dexterity of his hands and
arms, and the movements of his light muscular figure. In a little
while he had finished all he had to do--and turning to her said,
laughingly--

"Now I am at your service! You look very serious!--grave as a
little judge, and quite reproachful! What have I done?--or what
has anybody done that you should almost frown at me on this bright
sun-shiny morning?"

She smiled in response to his gay, questioning look.

"I'm sorry I have such a depressing aspect," she said--"I don't
feel very happy, and I suppose my face shows it."

He was silent for a minute or two, watching her with a grave
tenderness in his eyes.

By and by he spoke, gently--

"Come and stroll about a bit with me through the orchard,--it will
cheer you to see the apples hanging in such rosy clusters among
the grey-green leaves. Nothing prettier in all the world, I
think!--and they are just ripening enough to be fragrant. Come,
dear! Let us talk our troubles out!"

She walked by his side, mutely--and they moved slowly together
under the warm scented boughs, through which the sunlight fell in
broad streams of gold, making the interlacing shadows darker by
contrast. There was a painful throbbing in her throat,--the
tension of struggling tears which strove for an outlet,--but
gradually the sweet influences of the air and sunshine did good
work in calming her nerves, and she was quite composed when Robin
spoke again.

"You see, dear, I know quite well what is worrying you. I'm
worried myself--and I'd better tell you all about it. Last night--"
he paused.

She looked up at him, quickly.

"Last night?--Well?"

"Well--Ned Landon was in hiding in the bushes under your window--
and he must have been there all the time we were talking together.
How or why he came there I cannot imagine. But he heard a good
deal--and when you shut your window he was waiting for me.
Directly I got down he pounced on me like a tramp-thief, and--now
there!--don't look so frightened!--he said something that I
couldn't stand, so we had a jolly good fight. He got the worst of
it, I can tell you! He's stiff and unfit to work to-day--that's
why Uncle Hugo has taken him to the town. I told the whole story
to Uncle Hugo this morning--and he says I did quite right. But
it's a bore to have to go on 'bossing' Landon--he bears me a
grudge, of course--and I foresee it will be difficult to manage
him. He can hardly be dismissed--the other hands would want to
know why; no man has ever been dismissed from Briar Farm without
good and fully explained reasons. This time no reasons could be
given, because your name might come in, and I won't have that--"

"Oh, Robin, it's all my fault!" she exclaimed. "If you would only
let me go away! Help me--do help me to go away!"

He stared at her, amazed.

"Go away!" he echoed--"You! Why, Innocent, how can you think of
such a thing! You are the very life and soul of the place--how can
you talk of going away! No, no!--not unless"--here he drew nearer
and looked at her steadily and tenderly in the eyes--"not unless
you will let me take you away!--just for a little while!--as a
bridegroom takes a bride--on a honeymoon of love and sunshine and
roses--"

He stopped, deterred by her look of sadness.

"Dear Robin," she said, very gently--"would you marry a girl who
cannot love you as a wife should love? Won't you understand that
if I could and did love you I should be happier than I am?--though
now, even if I loved you with all my heart, I would not marry you.
How could I? I am nothing--I have no name--no family--and can you
think that I would bring shame upon you? No, Robin!--never! I know
what your Uncle Hugo wishes--and oh!--if I could only make him
happy I would do it!--but I cannot--it would be wrong of me--and
you would regret it--"

"I should never regret it," he interrupted her, quickly. "If you
would be my wife, Innocent, I should be the proudest, gladdest man
alive! Ah, dear!--do put all your fancies aside and try to realise
what good you would be doing to the old man if he felt quite
certain that you would be the little mistress of the old farm he
loves so much--I will not speak of myself--you do not care for
me!--but for him--"

She looked up at him with a sudden light in her eyes.

"Could we not pretend?" she asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Why, pretend that we're engaged--just to satisfy him. Couldn't
you make things easy for me that way?"

"I don't quite understand," he said, with a puzzled air--"How
would it make things easy?"

"Why, don't you see?" and she spoke with hurried eagerness--"When
he comes home to-night let him think it's all right--and then--
then I'll run away by myself--and it will be my fault--"

"Innocent! What are you talking about?"--and he flushed with
vexation. "My dear girl, if you dislike me so much that you would
rather run away than marry me, I won't say another word about it.
I'll manage to smooth things over with my uncle for the present--
just to prevent his fretting himself--and you shall not be
worried--"

"You must not be worried either," she said. "You will not
understand, and you do not think!--but just suppose it possible
that, after all, my own parents did remember me at last and came
to look after me--and that they were perhaps dreadful wicked
people--"

Robin smiled.

"The man who brought you here was a gentleman," he said--"Uncle
Hugo told me so this morning, and said he was the finest-looking
man he had ever seen."

Innocent was silent a moment.

"You think he was a 'gentleman' to desert his own child?" she
asked.

Robin hesitated.

"Dear, you don't know the world," he said--"There may have been
all sorts of dangers and difficulties--anyhow, _I_ don't bear him
any grudge! He gave you to Briar Farm!"

She sighed, and made no response. Inadvertently they had walked
beyond the orchard and were now on the very edge of the little
thicket where the tomb of the Sieur Amadis de Jocelin glimmered
pallidly through the shadow of the leaves. Innocent quickened her
steps.

"Come!" she said.

He followed her reluctantly. Almost he hated the old stone knight
which served her as a subject for so many fancies and feelings,
and when she beckoned him to the spot where she stood beside the
recumbent effigy, he showed a certain irritation of manner which
did not escape her.

"You are cross with him!" she said, reproachfully. "You must not
be so. He is the founder of your family--"

"And the finish of it, I suppose!" he answered, abruptly. "He
stands between us two, Innocent!--a cold stone creature with no
heart--and you prefer him to me! Oh, the folly of it all! How can
you be so cruel!"

She looked at him wistfully--almost her resolution failed her. He
saw her momentary hesitation and came close up to her.

"You do not know what love is!" he said, catching her hand in his
own--"Innocent, you do not know! If you did!--if I might teach
you--!"

She drew her hand away very quickly and decidedly.

"Love does not want teaching," she said--"it comes--when it will,
and where it will! It has not come to me, and you cannot force it,
Robin! If I were your wife--your wife without any wife's love for
you--I should grow to hate Briar Farm!--yes, I should!--I should
pine and die in the very place where I have been so happy!--and I
should feel that HE"--here she pointed to the sculptured Sieur
Amadis--"would almost rise from this tomb and curse me!"

She spoke with sudden, almost dramatic vehemence, and he gazed at
her in mute amazement. Her eyes flashed, and her face was lit up
by a glow of inspiration and resolve.

"You take me just for the ordinary sort of girl," she went on--"A
girl to caress and fondle and marry and make the mother of your
children,--now for that you might choose among the girls about
here, any of whom would be glad to have you for a husband. But,
Robin, do you think I am really fit for that sort of life always?
--can't you believe in anything else but marriage for a woman?"

As she thus spoke, she unconsciously created a new impression on
his mind,--a veil seemed to be suddenly lifted, and he saw her as
he had never before seen her--a creature removed, isolated and
unattainable through the force of some inceptive intellectual
quality which he had not previously suspected. He answered her,
very gently--

"Dear, I cannot believe in anything else but love for a woman," he
said--"She was created and intended for love, and without love she
must surely be unhappy."

"Love!--ah yes!" she responded, quickly--"But marriage is not
love!"

His brows contracted.

"You must not speak in that way, Innocent," he said, seriously--
"It is wrong--people would misunderstand you--"

Her eyes lightened, and she smiled.

"Yes!--I'm sure 'people' would!" she answered--"But 'people' don't
matter--to ME. It is truth that matters,--truth,--and love!"

He looked at her, perplexed.

"Why should you think marriage is not love?" he asked--"It is the
one thing all lovers wish for--to be married and to live together
always--"

"Oh, they wish for it, yes, poor things!" she said, with a little
uplifting of her brows--"And when their wishes are gratified, they
often wish they had not wished!" She laughed. "Robin, this talk of
ours is making me feel quite merry! I am amused!"

"I am not!" he replied, irritably--"You are much too young a girl
to think these things--"

She nodded, gravely.

"I know! And I ought to get married while young, before I learn
too many of 'these things,'" she said--"Isn't that so? Don't
frown, Robin! Look at the Sieur Amadis! How peacefully he sleeps!
He knew all about love!"

"Of course he did!" retorted Robin--"He was a perfectly sensible
man--he married and had six children."

Innocent nodded again, and a little smile made two fascinating
dimples in her soft cheeks.

"Yes! But he said good-bye to love first!"

He looked at her in visible annoyance.

"How can you tell?--what do you know about it?" he demanded.

She lifted her eyes to the glimpses of blue sky that showed in
deep clear purity between the over-arching boughs,--a shaft of
sunlight struck on her fair hair and illumined its pale brown to
gold, so that for a moment she looked like the picture of a young
rapt saint, lost in heavenly musing.

Then a smile, wonderfully sweet and provocative, parted her lips,
and she beckoned him to a grassy slope beneath one of the oldest
trees, where little tufts of wild thyme grew thickly, filling the
air with fragrance.

"Come and sit beside me here," she said--"We have the day to
ourselves--Dad said so,--and we can talk as long as we like. You
ask me what I know?--not much indeed! But I'll tell you what the
Sieur Amadis has told me!--if you care to hear it!"

"I'm not sure that I do," he answered, dubiously.

She laughed.

"Oh, Robin!--how ungrateful you are! You ought to be so pleased!
If you really loved me as much as you say, the mere sound of my
voice ought to fill you with ecstasy! Yes, really! Come, be good!"
And she sat down on the grass, glancing up at him invitingly. He
flung himself beside her, and she extended her little white hand
to him with a pretty condescension.

"There!--you may hold it!" she said, as he eagerly clasped it--
"Yes, you may! Now, if the Sieur Amadis had been allowed to hold
the hand of the lady he loved he would have gone mad with joy!"

"Much good he'd have done by going mad!" growled Robin, with an
affectation of ill-humour--"I'd rather be sane,--sane and normal."

She bent her smiling eyes upon him.

"Would you? Poor Robin! Well, you will be--when you settle down--"

"Settle down?" he echoed--"How? What do you mean?"

"Why, when you settle down with a wife, and--shall we say six
children?" she queried, merrily--"Yes, I think it must be six!
Like the Sieur Amadis! And when you forget that you ever sat with
me under the trees, holding my hand--so!"

The lovely, half-laughing compassion of her look nearly upset his
self-possession. He drew closer to her side.

"Innocent!" he exclaimed, passionately--"if you would only listen
to reason--"

She shook her head.

"I never could!" she declared, with an odd little air of penitent
self-depreciation--"People who ask you to listen to reason are
always so desperately dull! Even Priscilla!--when she asks you to
'listen to reason,' she's in the worst of tempers! Besides, Robin,
dear, we shall have plenty of chances to 'listen to reason' when
we grow older,--we're both young just now, and a little folly
won't hurt us. Have patience with me!--I want to tell you some
quite unreasonable--quite abnormal things about love! May I?"

"Yes--if _I_ may too!" he answered, kissing the hand he held, with
lingering tenderness.

The soft colour flew over her cheeks,--she smiled.

"Poor Robin!" she said--"You deserve to be happy and you will be!
--not with me, but with some one much better, and ever so much
prettier! I can see you as the master of Briar Farm--such a sweet
home for you and your wife, and all your little children running
about in the fields among the buttercups and daisies--a pretty
sight, Robin!--I shall think of it often when--when I am far
away!"

He was about to utter a protest,--she stopped him by a gesture.

"Hush!" she said.

And there was a moment's silence.




CHAPTER VI

"When I think about love," she began presently, in a soft dreamy
voice--"I'm quite sure that very few people ever really feel it or
understand it. It must be the rarest thing in all the world! This
poor Sieur Amadis, asleep so long in his grave, was a true lover,
--and I will tell you how I know he had said good-bye to love when
he married. All those books we found in the old dower-chest, that
day when we were playing about together as children, belonged to
him--some are his own compositions, written by his own hand,--the
others, as you know, are printed books which must have been
difficult to get in his day, and are now, I suppose, quite out of
date and almost unknown. I have read them all!--my head is a
little library full of odd volumes! But there is one--a manuscript
book--which I never tire of reading,--it is a sort of journal in
which the Sieur Amadis wrote down many of his own feelings--
sometimes in prose, sometimes in verse--and by following them
carefully and piecing them together, it is quite easy to find out
his sadness and secret--how he loved once and never loved again--"

"You can't tell that," interrupted Robin--"men often say they can
only love once--but they love ever so many times--"

She smiled--and her eyes showed him what a stupid blunder he had
made.

"Do they?" she queried, softly--"I am so glad, Robin! For you will
find it easy then to love somebody else instead of me!"

He flushed, vexedly.

"I didn't mean that--" he began.

"No? I think you did!--but of course if you had thought twice you
wouldn't have said it! It was uttered quite truly and naturally,
Robin!--don't regret it! Only I want to explain to you that the
Sieur Amadis was not like that--he loved just once--and the lady
he loved must have been a very beautiful woman who had plenty of
admirers and did not care for him at all. All he writes proves
that. He is always grieved to the heart about it. Still he loved
her--and he seems glad to have loved her, though it was all no
use. And he kept a little chronicle of his dreams and fancies--all
that he felt and thought about,--it is beautifully and tenderly
written all in quaint old French. I had some trouble to make it
out--but I did at last--every word--and when he made up his mind
to marry, he finished the little book and never wrote another word
in it. Shall I tell you what were the last lines he wrote?"

"It wouldn't be any use," he answered, kissing again the hand he
held--"I don't understand French. I've never even tried to learn
it."

She laughed.

"I know you haven't! But you've missed a great deal, Robin!--you
have really! When I made up my mind to find out all the Sieur
Amadis had written, I got Priscilla to buy me a French dictionary
and grammar and some other French lesson-books besides--then I
spelt all the words carefully and looked them all up in the
dictionary, and learned the pronunciation from one of the lesson-
books--and by-and-bye it got quite easy. For two years at least it
was dreadfully hard work--but now--well!--I think I could almost
speak French if I had the chance!"

"I'm sure you could!" said Robin, looking at her, admiringly--
"You're a clever little girl and could do anything you wanted to."

Her brows contracted a little,--the easy lightness of his
compliment had that air of masculine indifference which is more
provoking to an intelligent woman than downright contradiction.
The smile lingered in her eyes, however,--a smile of mingled
amusement and compassion.

"Well, I wanted to understand the writing of the Sieur Amadis,"
she went on, quietly--"and when I could understand them I
translated them. So I can tell you the last words he wrote in his
journal--just before he married,--in fact on the very eve of his
marriage-day--" She paused abruptly, and looked for a moment at
the worn and battered tomb of the old knight, green with moss and
made picturesque by a trailing branch of wild roses that had
thrown itself across the stone effigy in an attempt to reach some
of its neighbours on the opposite side. Robin followed her gaze
with his own, and for a moment was more than usually impressed by
the calm, almost stern dignity of the recumbent figure.

"Go on," he said--"What were the words?"

"These"--and Innocent spoke them in a hushed voice, with sweet
reverence and feeling--"'Tonight I pull down and put away for ever
the golden banner of my life's ideal. It has been held aloft too
long in the sunshine of a dream, and the lily broidered on its web
is but a withered flower. My life is no longer of use to myself,
but as a man and faithful knight I will make it serve another's
pleasure and another's good. And because this good and simple girl
doth truly love me, though her love was none of my seeking, I will
give her her heart's desire, though mine own heart's desire shall
never be accomplished,--I will make her my wife, and will be to
her a true and loyal husband, so that she may receive from me all
she craves of happiness and peace. For though I fain would die
rather than wed, I know that life is not given to a man to live
selfishly, nor is God satisfied to have it wasted by any one who
hath sworn to be His knight and servant. Therefore even so let it
be!--I give all my unvalued existence to her who doth consider it
valuable, and with all my soul I pray that I may make so gentle
and trustful a creature happy. But to Love--oh, to Love a long
farewell!--farewell my dreams!--farewell ambition!--farewell the
glory of the vision unattainable!--farewell bright splendour of an
earthly Paradise!--for now I enter that prison which shall hold me
fast till death release me! Close, doors!--fasten, locks!--be
patient in thy silent solitude, my Soul!'"

Innocent's voice faltered here--then she said--"That is the end.
He signed it 'Amadis.'"

Robin was very quiet for a minute or two.

"It's pretty--very pretty and touching--and all that sort of
thing," he said at last--"but it's like some old sonnet or
mediaeval bit of romance. No one would go on like that nowadays."

Innocent lifted her eyebrows, quizzically.

"Go on like what?"

He moved impatiently.

"Oh, about being patient in solitude with one's soul, and saying
farewell to love." He gave a short laugh. "Innocent dear, I wish
you would see the world as it really is!--not through the old-
style spectacles of the Sieur Amadis! In his day people were
altogether different from what they are now."

"I'm sure they were!" she answered, quietly--"But love is the same
to-day as it was then."

He considered a moment, then smiled.

"No, dear, I'm not sure that it is," he said. "Those knights and
poets and curious people of that kind lived in a sort of imaginary
ecstasy--they exaggerated their emotions and lived at the top-
height of their fancies. We in our time are much more sane and
level-headed. And it's much better for us in the long run."

She made no reply. Only very gently she withdrew her hand from
his.

"I'm not a knight of old," he went on, turning his handsome, sun-
browned face towards her,--"but I'm sure I love you as much as
ever the Sieur Amadis could have loved his unknown lady. So much
indeed do I love you that I couldn't write about it to save my
life!--though I did write verses at Oxford once--very bad ones!"
He laughed. "But I can do one thing the Sieur Amadis didn't do--I
can keep faithful to my Vision of the glory unattainable'--and if
I don't marry you I'll marry no-body--so there!"

She looked at him curiously and wistfully.

"You will not be so foolish," she said--"You will not put me into
the position of the Sieur Amadis, who married some one who loved
him, merely out of pity!"

He sprang up from the grass beside her.

"No, no! I won't do that, Innocent! I'm not a coward! If you can't
love me, you shall not marry me, just because you are sorry for
me! That would be intolerable! I wouldn't have you for a wife at
all under such circumstances. I shall be perfectly happy as a
bachelor--perhaps happier than if I married."

"And what about Briar Farm?" she asked.

"Briar Farm can get on as best it may!" he replied, cheerily--
"I'll work on it as long as I live and hand it down to some one
worthy of it, never fear! So there, Innocent!--be happy, and don't
worry yourself! Keep to your old knight and your strange fancies
about him--you may be right in your ideas of love, or you may be
wrong; but the great point with me is that you should be happy--
and if you cannot be happy in my way, why you must just be happy
in your own!"

She looked at him with a new interest, as he stood upright, facing
her in all the vigour and beauty of his young manhood. A little
smile crept round the corners of her mouth.

"You are really a very handsome boy!" she said--"Quite a picture
in your way! Some girl will be very proud of you!"

He gave a movement of impatience.

"I must go back to the orchard," he said--"There's plenty to do.
And after all, work's the finest thing in the world--quite as fine
as love--perhaps finer!"

A faint sense of compunction moved her at his words--she was
conscious of a lurking admiration for his cool, strong, healthy
attitude towards life and the things of life. And yet she was
resentful that he should be capable of considering anything in the
world "finer" than love. Work? What work? Pruning trees and
gathering apples? Surely there were greater ambitions than these?
She watched him thoughtfully under the fringe of her long
eyelashes, as he moved off.

"Going to the orchard?" she asked.

"Yes."

She smiled a little.

"That's right!"

He glanced back at her. Had she known how bravely he restrained
himself she might have made as much a hero of him as of the knight
Amadis. For he was wounded to the heart--his brightest hopes were
frustrated, and at the very instant he walked away from her he
would have given his life to have held her for a moment in his
arms,--to have kissed her lips, and whispered to her the pretty,
caressing love-nonsense which to warm and tender hearts is the
sweetest language in the world. And with all his restrained
passion he was irritated with what, from a man's point of view, he
considered folly on her part,--he felt that she despised his love
and himself for no other reason than a mere romantic idea, bred of
loneliness and too much reading of a literature alien to the
customs and manners of the immediate time, and an uncomfortable
premonition of fear for her future troubled his mind.

"Poor little girl!" he thought--"She does not know the world!--and
when she DOES come to know it--ah, my poor Innocent!--I would
rather she never knew!"

Meanwhile she, left to herself, was not without a certain feeling
of regret. She was not sure of her own mind--and she had no
control over her own fancies. Every now and then a wave of
conviction came over her that after all tender-hearted old
Priscilla might be right--that it would be best to marry Robin and
help him to hold and keep Briar Farm as it had ever been kept and
held since the days of the Sieur Amadis. Perhaps, had she never
heard the story of her actual condition, as told her by Farmer
Jocelyn on the previous night, she might have consented to what
seemed so easy and pleasant a lot in life; but now it seemed to
her more than impossible. She no longer had any link with the far-
away ancestor who had served her so long as a sort of ideal--she
was a mere foundling without any name save the unbaptised
appellation of Innocent. And she regarded herself as a sort of
castaway.

She went into the house soon after Robin had left her, and busied
herself with sorting the linen and looking over what had to be
mended. "For when I go," she said to herself, "they must find
everything in order." She dined alone with Priscilla--Robin sent
word that he was too busy to come in. She was a little piqued at
this--and almost cross when he sent the same message at tea-time,
--but she was proud in her way and would not go out to see if she
could persuade him to leave his work for half-an-hour. The sun was
slowly declining when she suddenly put down her sewing, struck by
a thought which had not previously occurred to her--and ran
fleetly across the garden to the orchard, where she found Robin
lying on his back under the trees with closed eyes. He opened
them, hearing the light movement of her feet and the soft flutter
of her gown--but he did not rise. She stopped--looking at him.

"Were you asleep?"

He stretched his arms above his head, lazily.

"I believe I was!" he answered, smiling.

"And you wouldn't come in to tea!" This with a touch of annoyance.

"Oh yes, I would, if I had wanted tea," he replied--"but I didn't
want it."

"Nor my company, I suppose," she added, with a little shrug of her
shoulders. His eyes flashed mischievously.

"Oh, I daresay that had something to do with it!" he agreed.

A curious vexation fretted her. She wished he would not look so
handsome--and--yes!--so indifferent. An impression of loneliness
and desertion came over her--he, Robin, was not the same to her
now--so she fancied--no doubt he had been thinking hard all the
day while doing his work, and at last had come to the conclusion
that it was wisest after all to let her go and cease to care for
her as he had done. A little throbbing pulse struggled in her
throat--a threat of rising tears,--but she conquered the emotion
and spoke in a voice which, though it trembled, was sweet and
gentle.

"Robin," she said--"don't you think--wouldn't it be better--
perhaps--"

He looked up at her wonderingly--she seemed nervous or frightened.

"What is it?" he asked--"Anything you want me to do?"

"Yes"--and her eyes drooped--"but I hardly like to say it. You
see, Dad made up his mind this morning that we were to settle
things together--and he'll be angry and disappointed--"

Robin half-raised himself on one arm.

"He'll be angry and disappointed if we don't settle it, you mean,"
he said--"and we certainly haven't settled it. Well?"

A faint colour flushed her face.

"Couldn't we pretend it's all right for the moment?" she
suggested--"Just to give him a little peace of mind?"

He looked at her steadily.

"You mean, couldn't we deceive him?"

"Yes!--for his good! He has deceived ME all my life,--I suppose
for MY good--though it has turned out badly--"

"Has it? Why?"

"It has left me nameless," she answered,--"and friendless."

A sudden rush of tears blinded her eyes--she put her hands over
them. He sprang up and, taking hold of her slender wrists, tried
to draw those hands down. He succeeded at last, and looked
wistfully into her face, quivering with restrained grief.

"Dear, I will do what you like!" he said. "Tell me--what is your
wish?"

She waited a moment, till she had controlled herself a little.

"I thought"--she said, then--"that we might tell Dad just for to-
night that we are engaged--it would make him happy--and perhaps in
a week or two we might get up a quarrel together and break it off--"

Robin smiled.

"Dear little girl!--I'm afraid the plan wouldn't work! He wants
the banns put up on Sunday--and this is Wednesday."

Her brows knitted perplexedly.

"Something can be managed before then," she said. "Robin, I cannot
bear to disappoint him! He's old--and he's so ill too!--it
wouldn't hurt us for one night to say we are engaged!"

"All right!"--and Robin threw back his head and laughed joyously--
"I don't mind! The sensation of even imagining I'm engaged to you
is quite agreeable! For one evening, at least, I can assume a sort
of proprietorship over you! Innocent! I--I--"

He looked so mirthful and mischievous that she smiled, though the
teardrops still sparkled on her lashes.

"Well? What are you thinking of now?" she asked.

"I think--I really think--under the circumstances I ought to kiss
you!" he said--"Don't you feel it would be right and proper? Even
on the stage the hero and heroine ACT a kiss when they're
engaged!"

She met his laughing glance with quiet steadfastness.

"I cannot act a kiss," she said--"You can, if you like! I don't
mind."

"You don't mind?"

"No."

He looked from right to left--the apple-boughs, loaded with rosy
fruit, were intertwined above them like a canopy--the sinking sun
made mellow gold of all the air, and touched the girl's small
figure with a delicate luminance--his heart beat, and for a second
his senses swam in a giddy whirl of longing and ecstasy--then he
suddenly pulled himself together.

"Dear Innocent, I wouldn't kiss you for the world!" he said,
gently--"It would be taking a mean advantage of you. I only spoke
in fun. There!--dry your pretty eyes!--you sweet, strange,
romantic little soul! You shall have it all your own way!"

She drew a long breath of evident relief.

"Then you'll tell your uncle--"

"Anything you like!" he answered. "By-the-bye, oughtn't he to be
home by this time?"

"He may have been kept by some business," she said--"He won't be
long now. You'll say we're engaged?"

"Yes."

"And perhaps"--went on Innocent--"you might ask him not to have
the banns put up yet as we don't want it known quite so soon--"

"I'll do all I can," he replied, cheerily--"all I can to keep him
quiet, and to make you happy! There! I can't say more!"

Her eyes shone upon him with a grateful tenderness.

"You are very good, Robin!"

He laughed.

"Good! Not I! But I can't bear to see you fret--if I had my way
you should never know a moment's trouble that I could keep from
you. But I know I'm not a patch on your old stone knight who wrote
such a lot about his 'ideal'--and yet went and married a country
wench and had six children. Don't frown, dear! Nothing will make
me say he was romantic! Not a bit of it! He wrote a lot of
romantic things, of course--but he didn't mean half of them!--I'm
sure he didn't!"

She coloured indignantly.

"You say that because you know nothing about it," she said--"You
have not read his writings."

"No--and I'm not sure that I want to," he answered, gaily. "Dear
Innocent, you must remember that I was at Oxford--my dear old
father and mother scraped and screwed every penny they could get
to send me there--and I believe I acquitted myself pretty well--
but one of the best things I learned was the general uselessness
and vanity of the fellows that called themselves 'literary.' They
chiefly went in for disparaging and despising everyone who did not
agree with them and think just as they did. Mulish prigs, most of
them!" and Robin laughed his gay and buoyant laugh once more--
"They didn't know that I was all the time comparing them with the
honest type of farmer--the man who lives an outdoor life with
God's air blowing upon him, and the soil turned freshly beneath
him!--I love books, too, in my way, but I love Nature better."

"And do not poets help you to understand Nature?" asked Innocent.

"The best of them do--such as Shakespeare and Keats and Tennyson,
--but they were of the past. The modern men make you almost despise
Nature,--more's the pity! They are always studying THEMSELVES, and
analysing THEMSELVES, and pitying THEMSELVES--now _I_ always say,
the less of one's self the better, in order to understand other
people."

Innocent's eyes regarded him with quiet admiration.

"Yes, you are a thoroughly good boy," she said--"I have told you
so often. But--I'm not sure that I should always get on with
anyone as good as you are!"

She turned away then, and moved towards the house. As she went,
she suddenly stopped and clapped her hands, calling:

"Cupid! Cupid! Cu-COO-pid!"

A flash of white wings glimmered in the sunset-light, and her pet
dove flew to her, circling round and round till it dropped on her
outstretched arm. She caught it to her bosom, kissing its soft
head tenderly, and murmuring playful words to it. Robin watched
her, as with this favourite bird-playmate she disappeared across
the garden and into the house. Then he gave a gesture half of
despair, half of resignation--and left the orchard.

The sun sank, and the evening shadows began to steal slowly in
their long darkening lines over the quiet fields, and yet Farmer
Jocelyn had not yet returned. The women of the household grew
anxious--Priscilla went to the door many times, looking up the
tortuous by-road for the first glimpse of the expected returning
vehicle--and Innocent stood in the garden near the porch, as
watchful as a sentinel and as silent. At last the sound of
trotting hoofs was heard in the far distance, and Robin, suddenly
making his appearance from the stable-yard where he too had been
waiting, called cheerily,--

"Uncle at last! Here he comes!"

Another few minutes and the mare's head turned the corner--then
the whole dog-cart came into view with Farmer Jocelyn driving it.
But he was quite alone.

Robin and Innocent exchanged surprised glances, but had no time to
make any comment as old Hugo just then drove up and, throwing the
reins to his nephew, alighted.

"Aren't you very late, Dad?" said Innocent then, going to meet
him--"I was beginning to be quite anxious!"

"Were you? Poor little one! I'm all right! I had business--I was
kept longer than I expected--" Here he turned quickly to Robin--
"Unharness, boy!--unharness!--and come in to supper!"

"Where's Landon?" asked Robin.

"Landon? Oh, I've left him in the town."

He pulled off his driving-gloves, and unbuttoned his overcoat--
then strode into the house. Innocent followed him--she was puzzled
by his look and manner, and her heart beat with a vague sense of
fear. There was something about the old man that was new and
strange to her. She could not define it, but it filled her mind
with a curious and inexplicable uneasiness. Priscilla, who was
setting the dishes on the table in the room where the cloth was
laid for supper, had the same uncomfortable impression when she
saw him enter. His face was unusually pale and drawn, and the
slight stoop of age in his otherwise upright figure seemed more
pronounced than usual. He drew up his chair to the table and sat
down,--then ruffling his fine white hair over his brow with one
hand, looked round him with an evidently forced smile.

"Anxious about me, were you, child?" he said, as Innocent took her
place beside him. "Well, well! you need not have given me a
thought! I--I was all right--all right! I made a bit of a bargain
in the town--but the prices were high--and Landon--"

He broke off suddenly and stared in front of him with strange
fixed eyeballs.

Innocent and Priscilla looked at one another in alarm. There was a
moment's tense stillness,--then Innocent said in rather a
trembling voice--

"Yes, Dad? You were saying something about Landon--"

The stony glare faded from his eyes and he looked at her with a
more natural expression.

"Landon? Did I speak of him? Oh yes!--Landon met with some fellows
he knew and decided to spend the evening with them--he asked me
for a night off--and I gave it to him. Yes--I--I gave it to him."

Just then Robin entered.

"Hullo!" he exclaimed, gaily--"At supper? Don't begin without me!
I say, Uncle, is Landon coming back to-night?"

Jocelyn turned upon him sharply.

"No!" he answered, in so fierce a tone that Robin stood amazed--
"Why do you all keep on asking me about Landon? He loves drink
more than life, and he's having all he wants to-night. I've let
him off work to-morrow."

Robin was silent for a moment out of sheer surprise.

"Oh well, that's all right, if you don't mind," he said, at last--
"We're pretty busy--but I daresay we can manage without him."

"I should think so!" and Hugo gave a short laugh of scorn--"Briar
Farm would have come to a pretty pass if it could not get on
without a man like Landon!"

There was another silent pause.

Priscilla gave an anxious side-glance at Innocent's troubled face,
and decided to relieve the tension by useful commonplace talk.

"Well, Landon or no Landon, supper's ready!" she said, briskly--
"and it's been waiting an hour at least. Say grace, Mister
Jocelyn, and I'll carve!"

Jocelyn looked at her bewilderedly.

"Say grace?" he queried--"what for?"

Priscilla laughed loudly to cover the surprise she felt.

"What for? Lor, Mister Jocelyn, if you don't know I'm sure I
don't! For the beef and potatoes, I suppose, an' all the stuff we
eats--'for what we are going to receive--'"

"Ah, yes! I remember--'May the Lord make us truly thankful!'"
responded Jocelyn, closing his eyes for a second and then opening
them again--"And I'll tell you what, Priscilla!--there's a deal
more to be thankful for to-night than beef and potatoes!--a great
deal more!"




CHAPTER VII

The supper was a very silent meal. Old Hugo was evidently not
inclined to converse,--he ate his food quickly, almost ravenously,
without seeming to be conscious that he was eating. Robin Clifford
glanced at him now and again watchfully, and with some anxiety,--
an uncomfortable idea that there was something wrong somewhere
worried him,--moreover he was troubled by the latent feeling that
presently his uncle would be sure to ask if all was "settled"
between himself and Innocent. Strangely enough, however, the old
man made no allusion to the subject. He seemed to have forgotten
it, though it had been the chief matter on which he had laid so
much stress that morning. Each minute Innocent expected him to
turn upon her with the dreaded question--to which she would have
had to reply untruly, according to the plan made between herself
and Robin. But to her great surprise and relief he said nothing
that conveyed the least hint of the wish he had so long cherished.
He was irritable and drowsy,--now and again his head fell a little
forward on his chest and his eyes closed as though in utter
weariness. Seeing this, the practical Priscilla made haste to get
the supper finished and cleared away.

"You be off to bed, Mister Jocelyn," she said,--"The sooner the
better, for you look as tired as a lame dog that 'as limped 'ome
twenty miles. You ain't fit to be racketing about markets an'
drivin' bargains."

"Who says I'm not?" he interrupted, sitting bolt upright and
glaring fiercely at her--"I tell you I am! I can do business as
well as any man--and drive a bargain-ah! I should think so
indeed!--a hard-and-fast bargain!--not easy to get out of, I can
tell you!--not easy to get out of! And it has cost me a pretty
penny, too!"

Robin Clifford glanced at him enquiringly.

"How's that?" he asked--"You generally make rather than spend!"

Jocelyn gave a sudden loud laugh.

"So I do, boy, so I do! But sometimes one has to spend to make!
I've done both to-day--I've made and I've spent. And what I've
spent is better than keeping it--and what I've made--ay!--what
I've made--well!--it's a bargain, and no one can say it isn't a
fair one!"

He got up from the supper table and pushed away his chair.

"I'll go," he said--"Priscilla's right--I'm dog-tired and bed's
the best place for me." He passed his hand over his forehead.
"There's a sort of buzzing in my brain like the noise of a cart-
wheel--I want rest." As he spoke Innocent came softly beside him
and took his arm caressingly. He looked down upon her with a
smile. "Yes, wilding, I want rest! We'll have a long talk out
tomorrow--you and I and Robin. Bless thee, child! Good-night!"

He kissed her tenderly and held out one hand to Clifford, who
cordially grasped it.

"Good boy!" he said-"Be up early, for there's much to do--and
Landon won't be home till late--no--not till late! Get on with the
field work--for if the clouds mean anything we shall have rain."
He paused a moment and seemed to reflect, then repeated slowly--
"Yes, lad! We shall have rain!--and wind, and storm! Be ready!--
the fine weather's breaking!"

With that he went, walking slowly, and they heard him stumble once
or twice as he went up the broad oak staircase to his bedroom.
Priscilla put her head on one side, like a meditative crow, and
listened. Then she heaved a sigh, smoothed down her apron and
rolled up her eyes.

"Well, if Mister Jocelyn worn't as sober a man as any judge an'
jury," she observed--"I should say 'e'd bin drinkin'! But that
ain't it. Mr. Robin, there's somethin' gone wrong with 'im--an' I
don't like it."

"Nor I," said Innocent, in a trembling voice, suggestive of tears.
"Oh, Robin, you surely noticed how strange he looked! I'm so
afraid! I feel as if something dreadful was going to happen--"

"Nonsense!" and Robin assumed an air of indifference which he was
far from feeling--"Uncle Hugo is tired--I think he has been put
out--you know he's quick-tempered and easily irritated--he may
have had some annoyance in the town--"

"Ah! And where's Landon?" put in Priscilla, with a dark nod--"That
do beat me! Why ever the master should 'ave let a man like that go
on the loose for a night an' a day is more than I can make out!
It's sort of tempting Providence--that it is!"

Clifford flushed and turned aside. His fight with Landon was fresh
in his mind--and he began to wonder whether he had done rightly in
telling his uncle how it came about. But meeting Innocent's
anxious eyes, which mutely asked him for comfort, he answered--

"Oh, well, there's nothing very much in that, Priscilla! I daresay
Landon wanted a holiday--he doesn't ask for one often, and he's
kept fairly sober lately. Hadn't we better be off to bed? Things
will straighten out with the morning."

"Do you really think so?" Innocent sighed as she put the question.

"Of course I think so!" answered Robin, cheerily. "We're all
tired, and can't look on the bright side! Sound sleep is the best
cure for the blues! Good-night, Innocent!"

"Good-night!" she said, gently.

"Good-night, Priscilla!"

"Good-night, Mr. Robin. God bless ye!"

He smiled, nodded kindly to them both, and left the room.

"There's a man for ye!" murmured Priscilla, admiringly, as he
disappeared--"A tower of strength for a 'usband, which the Lord
knows is rare! Lovey, you'll never do better!"

But Innocent seemed not to hear. Her face was very pale, and her
eyes had a strained wistful expression.

"Dad looks very ill," she said, slowly--"Priscilla, surely you
noticed--"

"Now, child, don't you worry--'tain't no use"--and Priscilla lit
two bedroom candles, giving Innocent one--"You just go up to bed
and think of nothing till the morning. Mister Jocelyn is dead beat
and put out about something--precious 'ungry too, for he ate his
food as though he hadn't 'ad any all day. You couldn't expect him
to be pleasant if he was wore out."

Innocent said nothing more. She gave a parting glance round the
room to assure herself that everything was tidy, windows bolted
and all safe for the night, and for a fleeting moment the
impression came over her that she would never see it look quite
the same again. A faint cold tremor ran through her delicate
little body--she felt lonely and afraid. Silently she followed
Priscilla up the beautiful Tudor staircase to the first landing,
where, moved by a tender, clinging impulse, she kissed her.

"Good-night, you dear, kind Priscilla!" she said--"You've always
been good to me!"

"Bless you, my lovey!" answered Priscilla, with emotion--"Go and
sleep with the angels, like the little angel you are yourself! And
mind you think twice, and more than twice, before you say 'No' to
Mr. Robin!"

With a deprecatory shake of her head, and a faint smile, Innocent
turned away, and passed through the curious tortuous little
corridor that led to her own room. Once safely inside that quiet
sanctum where the Sieur Amadis of long ago had "found peace," she
set her candle down on the oak table and remained standing by it
for some moments, lost in thought. The pale glimmer of the single
light was scarcely sufficient to disperse the shadows around her,
but the lattice window was open and admitted a shaft of moonlight
which shed a pearly radiance on her little figure, clothed in its
simple white gown. Had any artist seen her thus, alone and
absorbed in sorrowful musing, he might have taken her as a model
of Psyche after her god had flown. She was weary and anxious--life
had suddenly assumed for her a tragic aspect. Old Jocelyn's manner
had puzzled her--he was unlike himself, and she instinctively felt
that he had some secret trouble on his mind. What could it be? she
wondered. Not about herself and Robin--for were he as keen on
"putting up the banns" as he had been in the morning he would not
have allowed the matter to rest. He would have asked straight
questions, and he would have expected plain answers,--and they
would, in accordance with the secret understanding they had made
with each other, have deceived him. Now there was no deception
necessary--he seemed to have forgotten--at least for the present--
his own dearest desire. With a sigh, half of pain, half of relief,
she seated herself at the table, and opening its one deep drawer
with a little key which she always wore round her neck, she began
to turn over her beloved pile of manuscript, and this occupied her
for several minutes. Presently she looked up, her eyes growing
brilliant with thought, and a smile on her lips.

"I really think it might do!" she said, aloud--"I should not be
afraid to try! Who knows what might happen? I can but fail--or
succeed. If I fail, I shall have had my lesson--if I succeed--"

She leaned her head on her two hands, ruffling up her pretty hair
into soft golden-brown rings.

"If I succeed!--ah!--if I do! Then I'll pay back everything I owe
to Dad and Briar Farm!--oh, no! I can never pay back my debt to
Briar Farm!--that would be impossible! Why, the very fields and
trees and flowers and birds have made me happy!--happier than I
shall ever be after I have said good-bye to them all!--good-bye
even to the Sieur Amadis!"

Quick tears sprang to her eyes--and the tapering light of the
candle looked blurred and dim.

"Yes, after all," she went on, still talking to the air, "it's
better and braver to try to do something in the world, rather than
throw myself upon Robin, and be cowardly enough to take him for a
husband when I don't love him. Just for comfort and shelter and
Briar Farm! It would be shameful. And I could not marry a man
unless I loved him quite desperately!--I could not! I'm not sure
that I like the idea of marriage at all,--it fastens a man and
woman together for life, and the time might come when they would
grow tired of each other. How cruel and wicked it would be to
force them to endure each other's company when they perhaps wished
the width of the world between them! No--I don't think I should
care to be married--certainly not to Robin."

She put her manuscript by, and shut and locked the drawer
containing it. Then she went to the open lattice window and looked
out--and thought of the previous night, when Robin had swung
himself up on the sill to talk to her, and they had been all
unaware that Ned Landon was listening down below. A flush of anger
heated her cheeks as she recalled this and all that Robin had told
her of the unprepared attack Landon had made upon him and the
ensuing fight between them. But now? Was it not very strange that
Landon should apparently be in such high favour with Hugo Jocelyn
that he had actually been allowed to stay in the market-town and
enjoy a holiday, which for him only meant a bout of drunkenness?
She could not understand it, and her perplexity increased the more
she thought of it. Leaning far out over the window-sill, she gazed
long and lovingly across the quiet stretches of meadowland,
shining white in the showered splendour of the moon--the tall
trees--the infinite and harmonious peace of the whole scene,--
then, shutting the lattice, she pulled the curtains across it, and
taking her lit candle, went to her secluded inner sleeping-
chamber, where, in the small, quaintly carved four-poster bed,
furnished with ancient tapestry and lavendered linen, and covered
up under a quilt embroidered three centuries back by the useful
fingers of the wife of Sieur Amadis de Jocelin, she soon fell into
a sound and dreamless slumber.

The hours moved on, bearing with them different destinies to
millions of different human lives, and the tall old clock in the
great hall of Briar Farm told them off with a sonorous chime and
clangour worthy of Westminster itself. It was a quiet night; there
was not a breath of wind to whistle through crack or key-hole, or
swing open an unbolted door,--and Hero, the huge mastiff that
always slept "on guard" just within the hall entrance, had surely
no cause to sit up suddenly on his great haunches and listen with
uplifted ears to sounds which were to any other creature
inaudible. Yet listen he did--sharply and intently. Raising his
massive head he snuffed the air--then suddenly began to tremble as
with cold, and gave vent to a long, low, dismal moan. It was a
weird noise--worse than positive howling, and the dog himself
seemed distressfully conscious that he was expressing something
strange and unnatural. Two or three times he repeated this eerie
muffled cry--then, lying down again, he put his nose between his
great paws, and, with a deep shivering sigh, appeared to resign
himself to the inevitable. There followed several moments of tense
silence. Then came a sudden dull thud overhead, as of a heavy load
falling or being thrown down, and a curious inexplicable murmur
like smothered choking or groaning. Instantly the great dog sprang
erect and raced up the staircase like a mad creature, barking
furiously. The house was aroused--doors were flung open--Priscilla
rushed from her room half dressed--and Innocent ran along the
corridor in her little white nightgown, her feet bare, and her
hair falling dishevelled over her shoulders.

"What is it?" she cried piteously--"Oh, do tell me! What is it?"

Robin Clifford, hearing the dog's persistent barking, had hastily
donned coat and trousers and now appeared on the scene.

"Hero, Hero!" he called--"Quiet, Hero!"

But Hero had bounded to his master Jocelyn's door and was pounding
against it with all the force of his big muscular body, apparently
seeking to push or break it open. Robin laid one hand on the
animal's collar and pulled him back--then tried the door himself--
it was locked.

"Uncle Hugo!"

There was no answer.

He turned to one of the frightened servants who were standing
near. His face was very pale.

"Fetch me a hammer," he said--"Something--anything that will force
the lock. Innocent!"--and with deep tenderness he took her little
cold hands in his own--"I wish you would go away!"

"Why?" and she looked at him with eyes full of terror. "Oh no, no!
Let me be with you--let me call him!"--and she knelt outside the
closed door--"Dad! Dear Dad! I want to speak to you! Mayn't I come
in? I'm so frightened--do let me come in. Dad!"

But the silence remained unbroken.

"Priscilla!"--and Robin beckoned to her--"keep Innocent beside
you--I'm afraid--"

Priscilla nodded, turning her head aside a moment to wipe away the
tears that were gathering in her eyes,--then she put an arm round
Innocent's waist.

"Don't kneel there, lovey," she whispered--"It's no good and
you're in the way when they open the door. Come with me!--there's
a dear!"--and she drew the trembling little figure tenderly into
her arms. "There!--that'll be a bit warmer!" and she signed to one
of the farm maids near her to fetch a cloak which she carefully
wrapped round the girl's shoulders. Just then the hammer was
brought with other tools, and Robin, to save any needless clamour,
took a chisel and inserted it in such a manner as should most
easily force the catch of the door--but the lock was an ancient
and a strong one, and would not yield for some time. At last, with
an extra powerful and dexterous movement of his hand, it suddenly
gave way--and he saw what he would have given worlds that Innocent
should not have seen--old Hugo lying face forward on the floor,
motionless. There was a rush and a wild cry--

"Dad! Dad!"

She was beside him in a moment, trying with all her slight
strength to lift his head and turn his face.

"Help me--oh, help me!" she wailed. "He has fainted--we must lift
him--get some one to lift him on the bed. It is only a faint--he
will recover--get some brandy and send for the doctor. Don't lose
time!--for Heaven's sake be quick! Robin, make them hurry!"

Robin had already whispered his orders,--and two of the farm lads,
roused from sleep and hastily summoned, were ready to do what he
told them. With awed, hushed movements they lifted the heavy
fallen body of their master between them and laid it gently down
on the bed. As the helpless head dropped back on the pillow they
saw that all was over,--the pinched ashen grey of the features and
the fast glazing eyes told their own fatal story--there was no
hope. But Innocent held the cold hand of the dead man to her warm
young bosom, endeavouring to take from it its cureless chill.

"He will be better soon," she said,--"Priscilla, bring me that
brandy--just a little will revive him, I'm sure. Why do you stand
there crying? You surely don't think he's dead?--No, no, that
isn't possible! It isn't possible, is it, Robin? He'll come to
himself in a few minutes--a fainting fit may last quite a long
time. I wish he had not locked his door--we could have been with
him sooner."

So she spoke, tremblingly nursing the dead hand in her bosom. No
one present had the heart to contradict her--and Priscilla, with
the tears running down her face, brought the brandy she asked for
and held it while she tenderly moistened the lips of the corpse
and tried to force a few drops between the clenched teeth--in
vain. This futile attempt frightened her, and she looked at Robin
Clifford with a wild air.

"I cannot make him swallow it," she said--"Can you, Robin? He
looks so grey and cold!--but his lips are quite warm."

Robin, restraining the emotion that half choked him and threatened
to overflow in womanish weeping, went up to her and tried to coax
her away from the bedside.

"Dear, if you could leave him for a little it would perhaps be
better," he said. "He might--he might recover sooner. We have sent
for the doctor--he will be here directly--"

"I will stay here till he comes," replied the girl, quietly. "How
can you think I would leave Dad when he's ill? If we could only
rouse him a little--"

Ah, that "if"! If we could only rouse our beloved ones who fall
into that eternal sleep, would not all the riches and glories of
the world seem tame in comparison with such joy! Innocent had
never seen death--she could not realise that this calm
irresponsiveness, this cold and stiffening rigidity, meant an end
to the love and care she had known all her life--love and care
which would never be replaced in quite the same way!

The first peep of a silver dawn began to peer through the lattice
window, and as she saw this suggestion of wakening life, a sudden
dread clutched at her heart and made it cold.

"It will be morning soon," she said--"Priscilla, when will the
doctor come?"

Scarcely had she said the words when the doctor entered. He took a
comprehensive glance round the room,--at the still form on the
bed--at the little crouching girl--figure beside it--at Priscilla,
trembling and tearful--at Robin, deadly pale and self-restrained--
at the farm-lads and servants.

"When did this happen?" he said.

Robin told him.

"I see!" he said. "He must have fallen forward on getting out of
bed. I rather expected a sudden seizure of this kind." He made his
brief examination. The eyes of the dead man were open and glassily
staring upward--he gently closed the lids over them and pressed
them down.

"Nothing to be done," he went on, gently--"His end was painless."

Innocent had risen--she had laid the cold hand of the corpse back
on its breast--and she stood gazing vacantly before her in utter
misery.

"Nothing to be done?" she faltered--"Do you mean that you cannot
rouse him? Will he never speak to me again?"

The doctor looked at her gravely and kindly.

"Not in this world, my dear," he said--"in the next--perhaps! Let
us hope so!"

She put her hand up to her forehead with a bewildered gesture.

"He is dead!" she cried--"Dead! Oh, Robin, Robin! I can't believe
it!--it isn't true! Dad, dear Dad! My only friend! Good-bye--good-
bye, Dad!--good-bye, Briar Farm--good-bye to everything--oh, Dad!"

Her voice quavered and broke in a passion of tears.

"I loved him as if he were my own father," she sobbed. "And he
loved me as if I were his own child! Oh, Dad, darling Dad! We can
never love each other again!"




CHAPTER VIII

The news of Farmer Jocelyn's sudden death was as though a cloud-
burst had broken over the village, dealing utter and hopeless
destruction. To the little community of simple workaday folk
living round Briar Farm it was a greater catastrophe than the
death of any king. Nothing else was talked of. Nothing was done.
Men stood idly about, looking at each other in a kind of stupefied
consternation,--women chattered and whispered at their cottage
doors, shaking their heads with all that melancholy profundity of
wisdom which is not wise till after the event,--the children were
less noisy in their play, checked by the grave faces of their
parents--the very dogs seemed to know that something had occurred
which altered the aspect of ordinary daily things. The last of the
famous Jocelyns was no more! It seemed incredible. And Briar Farm?
What would become of Briar Farm?

"There ain't none o' th' owd folk left now" said one man, lighting
his pipe slowly--"It's all over an' done wi'. Mister Clifford,
he's good enow--but he ain't a Jocelyn, though a Jocelyn were his
mother. 'Tis the male side as tells. An' he's young, an' he'll
want change an' rovin' about like all young men nowadays, an' the
place'll be broke up, an' the timber felled, an' th' owd oak'll be
sold to a dealer, an' Merrikans'll come an' buy the pewter an' the
glass an' the linen, an' by-an'-bye we won't know there ever was
such a farm at all--"

"That's your style o' thinkin', is it?" put in another man
standing by, with a round straw hat set back upon his head in a,
fashion which gave him the appearance of a village idiot--"Well,
it's not mine! No, by no means! There'll be a Will,--an' Mister
Robin he'll find a Way! Briar Farm'll allus be Briar Farm
accordin' to MY mind!"

"YOUR mind ain't much," growled the first speaker--"so don't ye go
settin' store by it. Lord, Lord! to think o' Farmer Jocelyn bein'
gone! Seems as if a right 'and 'ad bin cut off! Onny yesterday I
met 'im drivin' along the road at a tearin' pace, with Ned Landon
sittin' beside 'im--an' drivin' fine too, for the mare's a tricky
one with a mouth as 'ard as iron--but 'e held 'er firm--that 'e
did!--no weakness about 'im--an' 'e was talkin' away to Landon
while 'e drove, 'ardly lookin' right or left, 'e was that sure of
hisself. An' now 'e's cold as stone--who would a' thort it!"

"Where's Landon?" asked the other man.

"I dunno. He's nowhere about this mornin' that I've seen."

At that moment a figure came into view, turning the corner of a
lane at the end of the scattered thatched cottages called "the
village,"--a portly, consequential-looking figure, which both men
recognised as that of the parson of the parish, and they touched
their caps accordingly. The Reverend William Medwin, M.A., was a
great personage,--and his "cure of souls" extended to three other
villages outlying the one of which Briar Farm was the acknowledged
centre.

"Good-morning!" he said, with affable condescension--"I hear that
Farmer Jocelyn died suddenly last night. Is it true?"

Both men nodded gravely.

"Yes, sir, it's true--more's the pity! It's took us all aback."

"Ay, ay!" and Mr. Medwin nodded blandly--"No doubt-no doubt! But I
suppose the farm will go on just the same?--there will be no lack
of employment?"

The man who was smoking looked doubtful.

"Nobuddy can tell--m'appen the place will be sold--m'appen it
won't. The hands may be kept, or they may be given the sack.
There's only Mr. Clifford left now, an' 'e ain't a Jocelyn."

"Does that matter?" and the reverend gentleman smiled with the
superior air of one far above all things of mere traditional
sentiment. "There is the girl--"

"Ah, yes! There's the girl!"

The speakers looked at one another.

"Her position," continued Mr. Medwin, meditatively tracing a
pattern on the ground with the end of his walking-stick, "seems to
me to be a little unfortunate. But I presume she is really the
daughter of our deceased friend?"

The man who was smoking took the pipe from his mouth and stared
for a moment.

"Daughter she may be," he said, "but born out o' wedlock anyhow--
an' she ain't got no right to Briar Farm unless th' owd man 'as
made 'er legal. An' if 'e's done that it don't alter the muddle,
'cept in the eyes o' the law which can twist ye any way--for she
was born bastard, an' there's never been a bastard Jocelyn on
Briar Farm all the hundreds o' years it's been standin'!"

Mr. Medwin again interested himself in a dust pattern.

"Ah, dear, dear!" he sighed--"Very sad, very sad! Our follies
always find us out, if not while we live, then when we die! I'm
sorry! Farmer Jocelyn was not a Churchman--no!--a regrettable
circumstance!--still, I'm sorry! He was a useful person in the
parish--quite honest, I believe, and a very fair and good master--"

"None better!" chorussed his listeners.

"True! None better. Well, well! I'll just go up to the house and
see if I can be of any service, or--or comfort---"

One of the men smiled darkly.

"Sartin sure Farmer Jocelyn's as dead as door-nails. If so be you
are a-goin' to Briar Farm, Mr. Medwin!" he said--"Why, you never
set foot in the place while 'e was a livin' man!"

"Quite correct!" and Mr. Medwin nodded pleasantly--"I make it a
rule never to go where I'm not wanted." He paused, impressively,--
conscious that he had "scored." "But now that trouble has visited
the house I consider it my duty to approach the fatherless and the
afflicted. Good-day!"

He walked off then, treading ponderously and wearing a composed
and serious demeanour. The men who had spoken with him were
quickly joined by two or three others.

"Parson goin' to the Farm?" they enquired.

"Ay!"

"We'll 'ave gooseberries growin' on hayricks next!" declared a
young, rough-featured fellow in a smock--"anythin' can 'appen now
we've lost the last o' the Jocelyns!"

And such was the general impression throughout the district. Men
met in the small public-houses and over their mugs of beer
discussed the possibilities of emigrating to Canada or New
Zealand, for--"there'll be no more farm work worth doin' round
'ere"--they all declared--"Mister Jocelyn wanted MEN, an' paid 'em
well for workin' LIKE men!--but it'll all be machines now."

Meanwhile, the Reverend Mr. Medwin, M.A., had arrived at Briar
Farm. Everything was curiously silent. All the blinds were down--
the stable-doors were closed, and the stable-yard was empty. The
sunlight swept in broad slanting rays over the brilliant flower-
beds which were now at their gayest and best,--the doves lay
sleeping on the roofs of sheds and barns as though mesmerised and
forbidden to fly. A marked loneliness clouded the peaceful beauty
of the place--a loneliness that made itself seen and felt by even
the most casual visitor.

With a somewhat hesitating hand Mr. Medwin pulled the door-bell.
In a minute or two a maid answered the summons--her eyes were red
with weeping. At sight of the clergyman she looked surprised and a
little frightened.

"How is Miss--Miss Jocelyn?" he enquired, softly--"I have only
just heard the sad news--"

"She's not able to see anyone, sir," replied the maid,
tremulously--"at least I don't think so--I'll ask. She's very
upset--"

"Of course, of course!" said Mr. Medwin, soothingly--"I quite
understand! Please say I called! Mr. Clifford--"

A figure stepped out from the interior darkness of the shadowed
hall towards him.

"I am here," said Robin, gently--"Did you wish to speak to me?
This is a house of heavy mourning to-day!"

The young man's voice shook,--he was deadly pale, and there was a
strained look in his eyes of unshed tears. Mr. Medwin was
conscious of nervous embarrassment.

"Indeed, indeed I know it is!" he murmured--"I feel for you most
profoundly! So sudden a shock too!--I--I thought that perhaps Miss
Jocelyn--a young girl struck by her first great loss and sorrow,
might like to see me--"

Robin Clifford looked at him in silence for a moment. The
consolations of the Church! Would they mean anything to Innocent?
He wondered.

"I will ask her," he said at last, abruptly--"Will you step
inside?"

Mr. Medwin accepted the suggestion, taking off his hat as he
crossed the threshold, and soon found himself in the quaint
sitting-room where, but two days since, Hugo Jocelyn had told
Innocent all her true history. He could not help being impressed
by its old-world peace and beauty, furnished as it was in perfect
taste, with its window-outlook on a paradise of happy flowers
rejoicing in the sunlight. The fragrance of sweet lavender scented
the air, and a big china bowl of roses in the centre of the table
gave a touch of tender brightness to the old oak panelling on the
walls.

"There are things in this room that are priceless!" soliloquised
the clergyman, who was something of a collector--"If the place
comes under the hammer I shall try to pick up a few pieces."

He smiled, with the pleased air of one who feels that all things
must have an end--either by the "hammer" or otherwise,--even a
fine old house, the pride and joy of a long line of its owners
during three hundred years. And then he started, as the door
opened slowly and softly and a girl stood before him, looking more
like a spirit than a mortal, clad in a plain white gown, with a
black ribbon threaded through her waving fair hair. She was pale
to the very lips, and her eyes were swollen and heavy with
weeping. Timidly she held out her hand.

"It is kind of you to come," she said,--and paused.

He, having taken her hand and let it go again, stood awkwardly
mute. It was the first time he had seen Innocent in her home
surroundings, and he had hardly noticed her at all when he had by
chance met her in her rare walks through the village and
neighbourhood, so that he was altogether unprepared for the
refined delicacy and grace of her appearance.

"I am very sorry to hear of your sad bereavement," he began, at
last, in a conventional tone--"very sorry indeed--"

She looked at him curiously.

"Are you? I don't think you can be sorry, because you did not know
him--if you had known him, you would have been really grieved--
yes, I am sure you would. He was such a good man!--one of the best
in all the world! I'm glad you have come to see me, because I have
often wanted to speak to you--and perhaps now is the right time.
Won't you sit down?"

He obeyed her gesture, surprised more or less by her quiet air of
sad self-possession. He had expected to offer the usual forms of
religious consolation to a sort of uneducated child or farm-girl,
nervous, trembling and tearful,--instead of this he found a woman
whose grief was too deep and sincere to be relieved by mere talk,
and whose pathetic composure and patience were the evident result
of a highly sensitive mental organisation.

"I have never seen death before," she said, in hushed tones--
"except in birds and flowers and animals--and I have cried over
the poor things for sorrow that they should be taken away out of
this beautiful world. But with Dad it is different. He was afraid
--afraid of suffering and weakness--and he was taken so quickly
that he could hardly have felt anything--so that his fears were
all useless. And I can hardly believe he is dead--actually dead--
can you? But of course you do not believe in death at all--the
religion you teach is one of eternal life--eternal life and
happiness."

Mr. Medwin's lips moved--he murmured something about "living again
in the Lord."

Innocent did not hear,--she was absorbed in her own mental problem
and anxious to put it before him.

"Listen!" she said--"When Priscilla told me Dad was really dead--
that he would never get off the bed where he lay so cold and white
and peaceful,--that he would never speak to me again, I said she
was wrong--that it could not be. I told her he would wake
presently and laugh at us all for being so foolish as to think him
dead. Even Hero, our mastiff, does not believe it, for he has
stayed all morning by the bedside and no one dare touch him to
take him away. And just now Priscilla has been with me, crying
very much--and she says I must not grieve,--because Dad is gone to
a better world. Then surely he must be alive if he is able to go
anywhere, must he not? I asked her what she knew about this better
world, and she cried again and said indeed she knew nothing except
what she had been taught in her Catechism. I have read the
Catechism and it seems to me very stupid and unnatural--perhaps
because I do not understand it. Can you tell me about this better
world?"

Mr. Medwin's lips moved again. He cleared his throat.

"I'm afraid," he observed--"I'm very much afraid, my poor child,
that you have been brought up in a sad state of ignorance."

Innocent did not like being called a "poor child"--and she gave a
little gesture of annoyance.

"Please do not pity me," she said, with a touch of hauteur--"I do
not wish that! I know it is difficult for me to explain things to
you as I see them, because I have never been taught religion from
a Church. I have read about the Virgin and Christ and the Saints
and all those pretty legends in the books that belonged to the
Sieur Amadis--but he lived three hundred years ago and he was a
Roman Catholic, as all those French noblemen were at that time."

Mr. Medwin stared at her in blank bewilderment. Who was the Sieur
Amadis? She went on, heedless of his perplexity.

"Dad believed in a God who governed all things rightly,--I have
heard him say that God managed the farm and made it what it is.
But he never spoke much about it--and he hated the Church--"

The reverend gentleman interrupted her with a grave uplifted hand.

"I know!" he sighed--"Ah yes, I know! A dreadful thing!--a
shocking attitude of mind!' I fear he was not saved!"

She looked straightly at him.

"I don't see what you mean," she said--"He was quite a good man--"

"Are you sure of that?" and Mr. Medwin fixed his shallow brown
eyes searchingly upon her. "Our affections are often very
deceptive--"

A flush of colour overspread her pale cheeks.

"Indeed I am very sure!" she answered, steadily--"He was a good
man. There was never a stain on his character--though he allowed
people to think wrong things of him for my sake. That was his only
fault."

He was silent, waiting for her next word.

"I think perhaps I ought to tell you," she continued--"because
then you will be able to judge him better and spare his memory
from foolish and wicked scandal. He was not my father--I was only
his adopted daughter."

Mr. Medwin gave a slight cough--a cough of incredulity. "Adopted"
is a phrase often used to cover the brand of illegitimacy.

"I never knew my own history till the other day," she said, slowly
and sadly. "The doctor came to see Dad, with a London specialist,
a friend of his--and they told him he had not long to live. After
that Dad made up his mind that I must learn all the truth of
myself--oh!--what a terrible truth it was!--I thought my heart
would break! It was so strange--so cruel! I had grown up believing
myself to be Dad's own, very own daughter!--and I had been
deceived all my life!--for he told me I was nothing but a nameless
child, left on his hands by a stranger!"

Mr. Medwin opened his small eyes in amazement,--he was completely
taken aback. He tried to grasp the bearings of this new aspect of
the situation thus presented to him, but could not realise
anything save what in his own mind was he pleased to call a "cock-
and-bull" story.

"Most extraordinary!" he ejaculated, at last--"Did he give you no
clue at all as to your actual parentage?"

Innocent shook her head.

"How could he? A man on horseback arrived here suddenly one very
stormy night, carrying me in his arms--I was just a little baby--
and asked shelter for me, promising to come and fetch me in the
morning--but he never came--and Dad never knew who he was. I was
kept here out of pity at first--then Dad began to love me--"

The suppressed tears rose to her eyes and began to fall.

"Priscilla can tell you all about it," she continued, tremulously
--"if you wish to know more. I am only explaining things a little
because I do want you to understand that Dad was really a good man
though he did not go to Church--and he must have been 'saved,' as
you put it, for he never did anything unworthy of the name of
Jocelyn!"

The clergyman thought a moment.

"You are not Miss Jocelyn, then?" he said.

She met his gaze with a sorrowful calmness.

"No. I am nobody. I have not even been baptised."

He sprang up from his chair, horrified.

"Not baptised!" he exclaimed--"Not baptised! Do you mean to tell
me that Farmer Jocelyn never attended to this imperative and
sacred duty on your behalf?--that he allowed you to grow up as a
heathen?"

She remained unmoved by his outburst.

"I am not a heathen," she said, gently--"I believe in God--as Dad
believed. I'm sorry I have not been baptised--but it has made no
difference to me that I know of--"

"No difference!" and the clergyman rolled up his eyes and shook
his head ponderously--"You poor unfortunate girl, it has made all
the difference in the world! You are unregenerate--your soul is
not washed clean--all your sins are upon you, and you are not
redeemed!"

She looked at him tranquilly.

"That is all very sad for me if it is true," she said--"but it is
not my fault. I could not help it. Dad couldn't help it either--he
did not know what to do. He expected that I might be claimed and
taken away any day--and he had no idea what name to give me--
except Innocent--which is a name I suppose no girl ever had
before. He used to get money from time to time in registered
envelopes, bearing different foreign postmarks--and there was
always a slip of paper inside with the words 'For Innocent'
written on it. So that name has been my only name. You see, it was
very difficult for him--poor Dad!--besides, he did not believe in
baptism--"

"Then he was an infidel!" declared Mr. Medwin, hotly.

Her serious blue eyes regarded him reproachfully.

"I don't think you should say that--it isn't quite kind on your
part," she replied--"He always thanked God for prosperity, and
never complained when things went wrong--that is not being an
infidel! Even when he knew he was hopelessly ill, he never worried
anyone about it--he was only just a little afraid-and that was
perfectly natural. We're all a little afraid, you know--though we
pretend we're not--none of us like the idea of leaving this lovely
world and the sunshine for ever. Even Hamlet was afraid,--
Shakespeare makes him say so. And when one has lived all one's
life on Briar Farm--such a sweet peaceful home!--one can hardly
fancy anything better, even in a next world! No--Dad was not an
infidel--please do not think such a thing!--he only died last
night--and I feel as if it would hurt him."

Mr. Medwin was exceedingly embarrassed and annoyed--there was
something in the girl's quiet demeanour that suggested a certain
intellectual superiority to himself. He hummed and hawed, lurking
various unpleasant throaty noises.

"Well--to me, of course, it is a very shocking state of affairs,"
he said, irritably--"I hardly think I can be of any use--or
consolation to you in the matters you have spoken of, which are
quite outside my scope altogether. If you have anything to say
about the funeral arrangements--but I presume Mr. Clifford--"

"Mr. Clifford is master here now," she answered--"He will give his
own orders, and will do all that is best and wisest. As I have
told you, I am a name-less nobody, and have no right in this house
at all. I'm sorry if I have vexed or troubled you--but as you
called I thought it was right to tell you how I am situated. You
see, when poor Dad is buried I shall be going away at once--and I
had an idea you might perhaps help me--you are God's minister."

He wrinkled up his brows and looked frowningly at her.

"You are leaving Briar Farm?" he asked.

"I must. I have no right to stay."

"Is Mr. Clifford turning you out?"

A faint, sad smile crept round the girl's pretty, sensitive mouth.

"Ah, no! No, indeed! He would not turn a dog out that had once
taken food from his hand," she said. "It is my own wish entirely.
When Dad was alive there was something for me to do in taking care
of him--but now!--there is no need for me--I should feel in the
way--besides, I must try to earn my own living."

"What do you propose to do?" asked Mr. Medwin, whose manner to her
had completely changed from the politely patronising to the
sharply aggressive--"Do you want a situation?"

She lifted her eyes to his fat, unpromising face.

"Yes--I should like one very much--I could be a lady's maid, I
think, I can sew very well. But--perhaps you would baptise me
first?"

He gave a sound between a cough and a grunt.

"Eh? Baptise you?"

"Yes,--because if I am unregenerate, and my soul is not clean, as
you say, no one would take me--not even as a lady's maid."

Her quaint, perfectly simple way of putting the case made him
angry.

"I'm afraid you are not sufficiently aware of the importance of
the sacred rite,"--he said, severely--"At your age you would need
to be instructed for some weeks before you could be considered fit
and worthy. Then,--you tell me you have no name!--Innocent is not
a name at all for a woman--I do not know who you are--you are
ignorant of your parentage--you may have been born out of wedlock--"

She coloured deeply.

"I am not sure of that," she said, in a low tone.

"No--of course you are not sure,--but I should say the probability
is that you are illegitimate"--and the reverend gentleman took up
his hat to go. "The whole business is very perplexing and
difficult. However, I will see what can be done for you--but you
are in a very awkward corner!--very awkward indeed! Life will not
be very easy for you, I fear!"

"I do not expect ease," she replied--"I have been very happy till
now--and I am grateful for the past. I must make my own future."

Her eyes filled with tears as she looked out through the open
window at the fair garden which she herself had tended for so
long--and she saw the clergyman's portly form through a mist of
sorrow as in half-hearted fashion he bade her good-day.

"I hope--I fervently trust--that God will support you in your
bereavement," he said, unctuously--"I had intended before leaving
to offer up a prayer with you for the soul of the departed and for
your own soul--but the sad fact of your being unbaptised places me
in a difficulty. But I shall not fail personally to ask our Lord
to prepare you for the unfortunate change in your lot!"

"Thank you!" she replied, quietly--and without further salute he
left her.

She stood for a moment considering--then sat down by the window,
looking at the radiant flowerbeds, with all their profusion of
blossom. She wondered dreamily how they could show such brave, gay
colouring when death was in the house, and the aching sense of
loss and sorrow weighted the air as with darkness. A glitter of
white wings flashed before her eyes, and her dove alighted on the
window-sill,--she stretched out her hand and the petted bird
stepped on her little rosy palm with all its accustomed
familiarity and confidence. She caressed it tenderly.

"Poor Cupid!" she murmured--"You are like me--you are
unregenerate!--you have never been baptised!--your soul has not
been washed clean!--and all your sins are on your head! Yes,
Cupid!--we are very much alike!--for I don't suppose you know your
own father and mother any more than I know mine! And yet God made
you--and He has taken care of you--so far!"

She stroked the dove's satiny plumage gently--and then drew back a
little into shadow as she saw Robin Clifford step out from the
porch into the garden and hurriedly interrupt the advance of a
woman who just then pushed open the outer gate--a slatternly-
looking creature with dark dishevelled hair and a face which might
have been handsome, but for its unmistakable impress of drink and
dissipation.

"Eh, Mr. Clifford--it's you, is it?" she exclaimed, in shrill
tones. "An' Farmer Jocelyn's dead!--who'd a' thought it! But I'd
'ave 'ad a bone to pick with 'im this mornin', if he'd been
livin'--that I would!--givin' sack to Ned Landon without a warning
to me!"

Innocent leaned forward, listening eagerly, with an uncomfortably
beating heart. Through all the miserable, slow, and aching hours
that had elapsed since Hugo Jocelyn's death, there had been a
secret anxiety in her mind concerning Ned Landon and the various
possibilities involved in his return to the farm, when he should
learn that his employer was no more, and that Robin was sole
master.

"I've come up to speak with ye," continued the woman,--"It's
pretty 'ard on me to be left in the ditch, with a man tumbling ye
off his horse an' ridin' away where ye can't get at 'im!" She
laughed harshly. "Ned's gone to 'Merriker!"

"Gone to America!"--Robin's voice rang out in sharp accents of
surprise--"Ned Landon? Why, when did you hear that?"

"Just now--his own letter came with the carrier's cart--he left
the town last night and takes ship from Southampton to-day. And
why? Because Farmer Jocelyn gave him five hundred pounds to do it!
So there's some real news for ye!"

"Five hundred pounds!" echoed Clifford--"My Uncle Hugo gave him
five hundred pounds!"

"Ay, ye may stare!"--and the woman laughed again--"And the devil
has taken it all,--except a five-pun' note which he sends to me to
'keep me goin',' he says. Like his cheek! I'm not his wife, that's
true!--but I'm as much as any wife--an' there's the kid--"

Robin glanced round apprehensively at the open window.

"Hush!" he said--"don't talk so loud--"

"The dead can't hear," she said, scornfully--"an' Ned says in his
letter that he's been sent off all on account of you an' your
light o' love--Innocent, she's called--a precious 'innocent' SHE
is!--an' that the old man has paid 'im to go away an' 'old his
tongue! So it's all YOUR fault, after all, that I'm left with the
kid to rub along anyhow;--he might ave married me in a while, if
he'd stayed. I'm only Jenny o' Mill-Dykes now--just as I've always
been--the toss an' catch of every man!--but I 'ad a grip on Ned
with the kid, an' he'd a' done me right in the end if you an' your
precious 'innocent' 'adn't been in the way--"

Robin made a quick stride towards her.

"Go out of this place!" he said, fiercely--"How dare you come here
with such lies!"

He stopped, half choked with rage.

Jenny looked at him and laughed--then snapped her fingers in his
face.

"Lies, is it?" she said--"Well, lies make good crops, an' Farmer
Jocelyn's money'll 'elp them to grow! Lies, indeed! An' how dare I
come here? Why, because your old uncle is stiff an' cold an' can't
speak no more--an' no one would know what 'ad become o' Ned Landon
if I wasn't here to tell them an' show his own letter! I'll tell
them all, right enough!--you bet your life I will!"

She turned her back on him and began to walk, or rather slouch,
out of the garden. He went up close to her, his face white with
passion.

"If you say one word about Miss Jocelyn--" he began.

"Miss Jocelyn!" she exclaimed, shrilly--"That's good!--we ARE
grand!"--and she dropped him a mock curtsey--"Miss Jocelyn! There
ain't no 'Miss Jocelyn,' an' you know it as well as I do! So don't
try to fool ME! Look here, Mr. Robin Clifford"--and she confronted
him, with arms akimbo--"you're not a Jocelyn neither!--there's not
a Jocelyn left o' the old stock--they're all finished with the one
lyin' dead upstairs yonder--and I'll tell ye what!--you an' your
'innocent' are too 'igh an' mighty altogether for the likes o' we
poor villagers--seein' ye ain't got nothin' to boast of, neither
of ye! You've lost me my man--an' I'll let everyone know how an'
why!"

With that she went, banging the gate after her--and Clifford stood
inert, furious within himself, yet powerless to do anything save
silently endure the taunts she had flung at him. He could have
cursed himself for the folly he had been guilty of in telling his
uncle about the fight between him and Landon--for he saw now that
the old man had secretly worried over the possible harm that might
be done to Innocent through Landon's knowledge of her real story,
which he had learned through his spying and listening. Whatever
that harm could be, was now intensified--and scandal, beginning as
a mere whispered suggestion, would increase to loud and positive
assertion ere long.

"Poor Uncle Hugo!" and the young man looked up sorrowfully at the
darkened windows of the room where lay in still and stern repose
all that was mortal of the last of the Jocelyns--"What a mistake
you have made! You meant so well!--you thought you were doing a
wise thing in sending Landon away--and at such a cost!--but you
did not know what he had left behind him--Jenny of the Mill-Dykes,
whose wicked tongue would blacken an angel's reputation!"

A hand touched him lightly on the arm from behind. He turned
swiftly round and confronted Innocent--she stood like a little
figure of white porcelain, holding her dove against her breast.

"Poor Robin!" she said, softly--"Don't worry! I heard everything."

He stared down upon her.

"You heard--?"

"Yes. I was at the open window there--I couldn't help hearing. It
was Jenny of the Mill-Dykes--I know her by sight, but not to speak
to--Priscilla told me something about her. She isn't a nice woman,
is she?"

"Nice?" Robin gasped--"No, indeed! She is--Well!--I must not tell
you what she is!"

"No!--you must not--I don't want to hear. But she ought to be Ned
Landon's wife--I understood that!--and she has a little child. I
understood that too. And she knows everything about me--and about
that night when you climbed up on my window-sill and sat there so
long. It was a pity you did that, wasn't it?"

"Yes!--when there was a dirty spy in hiding!" said Robin, hotly.

"Ah!--we never imagined such a thing could be on Briar Farm!"--and
she sighed--"but it can't be helped now. Poor darling Dad! He
parted with all that money to get rid of the man he thought would
do me wrong. Oh Robin, he loved me!"

The tears gathered in her eyes and fell slowly like bright
raindrops on the downy feathers of the dove she held.

"He loved you, and I love you!" murmured Robin, tenderly. "Dear
little girl, come indoors and don't cry any more! Your sweet eyes
will be spoilt, and Uncle Hugo could never bear to see you
weeping. All the tears in the world won't bring him back to us
here,--but we can do our best to please him still, so that if his
spirit has ever been troubled, it can be at peace. Come in and let
us talk quietly together--we must look at things squarely and
straightly, and we must try to do all the things he would have
wished--"

"All except one thing," she said, as they went together side by
side into the house--"the one thing that can never be!"

"The one thing--the chief thing that shall be!" answered Robin,
fiercely--"Innocent, you must be my wife!"

She lifted her tear-wet eyes to his with a grave and piteous
appeal which smote him to the heart by its intense helplessness
and sorrow.

"Robin,--dear Robin!" she said--"Don't make it harder for me than
it is! Think for a moment! I am nameless--a poor, unbaptised,
deserted creature who was flung on your uncle's charity eighteen
years ago--I am a stranger and intruder in this old historic
place--I have no right to be here at all--only through your
uncle's kindness and yours. And now things have happened so
cruelly for me that I am supposed to be to you--what I am not,"--
and the deep colour flushed her cheeks and brow. "I have somehow--
through no fault of my own--lost my name!--though I had no name to
lose--except Innocent!--which, as the clergyman told me, is no
name for a woman. Do you not see that if I married you, people
would say it was because you were compelled to marry me?--that you
had gone too far to escape from me?--that, in fact, we were a sort
of copy of Ned Landon and Jenny of the Mill-Dykes?"

"Innocent!"

He uttered the name in a tone of indignant and despairing protest.
They were in the oak parlour together, and she went slowly to the
window and let her pet dove fly.

"Ah, yes! Innocent!" she repeated, sadly--"But you must let me go,
Robin!--just as I have let my dove fly, so you must let me fly
also--far, far away!"




CHAPTER IX

No more impressive scene was ever witnessed in a country village
than the funeral of "the last of the Jocelyns,"--impressive in its
solemnity, simplicity and lack of needless ceremonial. The coffin,
containing all that was mortal of the sturdy, straightforward
farmer, whose "old-world" ways of work and upright dealing with
his men had for so long been the wonder and envy of the district,
was placed in a low waggon and covered with a curiously wrought,
handwoven purple cloth embroidered with the arms of the French
knight "Amadis de Jocelin," tradition asserting that this cloth
had served as a pall for every male Jocelyn since his time. The
waggon was drawn by four glossy dark brown cart-horses, each
animal having known its master as a friend whose call it was
accustomed to obey, following him wherever he went. On the coffin
itself was laid a simple wreath of the "Glory" roses gathered from
the porch and walls of Briar Farm, and offered, as pencilled
faintly on a little scroll--"With a life's love and sorrow from
Innocent." A long train of mourners, including labourers, farm-
lads, shepherds, cowherds, stable-men and villagers generally,
followed the corpse to the grave,--Robin Clifford, as chief
mourner and next-of-kin to the dead man, walking behind the waggon
with head down-bent and a face on which intense grief had stamped
such an impress as to make it look far older than his years
warranted. Groups of women stood about, watching the procession
with hard eager eyes, and tongues held in check for a while, only
to wag more vigorously than ever when the ceremony should be over.
Innocent, dressed in deep black for the first time in her life,
went by herself to the churchyard, avoiding the crowd--and, hidden
away among concealing shadows, she heard the service and watched
all the proceedings dry-eyed and heart-stricken. She could not
weep any more--there seemed no tears left to relieve the weight of
her burning brain. Robin had tenderly urged her to walk with him
in the funeral procession, but she refused.

"How can I!--how dare I!" she said--"I am not his daughter--I am
nothing! The cruel people here know it!--and they would only say
my presence was an insult to the dead. Yes!--they would--NOW! He
loved me!--and I loved him!--but nobody outside ourselves thinks
about that, or cares. You would hardly believe it, but I have
already been told how wicked it was of me to be dressed in white
when the clergyman called to see me the morning after Dad's death
--well, I had no other colour to wear till Priscilla got me this
sad black gown--it made me shudder to put it on--it is like the
darkness itself!--you know Dad always made me wear white--and I
feel as if I were vexing him somehow by wearing black. Oh, Robin,
be kind!--you always are!--let me go by myself and watch Dad put
to rest where nobody can see me. For after they have laid him down
and left him, they will be talking!"

She was right enough in this surmise. Not one who saw Farmer
Jocelyn's coffin lowered into the grave failed to notice the
wreath of "Glory" roses that went with it--"from Innocent";--and
her name was whispered from mouth to mouth with meaning looks and
suggestive nods. And when Robin, with tears thick in his eyes,
flung the first handfuls of earth rattling down on the coffin lid,
his heart ached to see the lovely fragrant blossoms crushed under
the heavy scattered mould, for it seemed to his foreboding mind
that they were like the delicate thoughts and fancies of the girl
he loved being covered by the soiling mud of the world's cruelty
and slander, and killed in the cold and darkness of a sunless
solitude.

All was over at last,--the final prayer was said--the final
benediction was spoken, and the mourners gradually dispersed. The
Reverend Mr. Medwin, assisted by his young curate, had performed
the ceremony, and before retiring to the vestry to take off his
surplice, he paused by the newly-made grave to offer his hand and
utter suitable condolences to Robin Clifford.

"It is a great and trying change for you," he said. "I suppose"--
this tentatively--"I suppose you will go on with the farm?"

"As long as I live," answered Clifford, looking him steadily in
the face, "Briar Farm will be what it has always been."

Mr. Medwin gave him a little appreciative bow.

"We are very glad of that--very glad indeed!" he said--"Briar Farm
is a great feature--a very great feature!--indeed, one may say it
is an historical possession. Something would be lacking in the
neighbourhood if it were not kept up to its old tradition and--er
--reputation. I think we feel that--I think we feel it, do we not,
Mr. Forwood?" here turning to his curate with affable
condescension.

Mark Forwood, a clever-looking young man with kind eyes and
intelligent features, looked at Robin sympathetically.

"I am quite sure," he said, "that Mr. Clifford will take as much
pride in the fine old place as his uncle did--but is there not
Miss Jocelyn?--the daughter will probably inherit the farm, will
she not, as nearest of kin?"

Mr. Medwin coughed obtrusively--and Clifford felt the warm blood
rushing to his brows. Yet he resolved that the truth should be
told, for the honour of the dead man's name.

"She is not my uncle's daughter," he said, quietly--"My uncle
never married. He adopted her when she was an infant--and she was
as dear to him as if she had been his own child. Of course she
will be amply provided for--there can be no doubt of that."

Mr. Forwood raised his eyes and eyebrows together.

"You surprise me!" he murmured. "Then--there is no Miss Jocelyn?"

Again Robin coloured. But he answered, composedly--

"There is no Miss Jocelyn."

Mr. Medwin's cough here troubled him considerably, and though it
was a fine day, he expressed a mild fear that he was standing too
long by the open grave in his surplice--he, therefore, retired,
his curate following him,--whereupon the sexton, a well-known
character in the village, approached to finish the sad task of
committing "ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

"Eh, Mr. Clifford," remarked this worthy, as he stuck his spade
down in the heaped-up earth and leaned upon it,--"it's a black
day, forbye the summer sun! I never thort I'd a' thrown the mouls
on the last Jocelyn. For last he is, an' there'll never be another
like 'im!"

"You're right there, Wixton," said Robin, sadly--"I know the place
can never be the same without him. I shall do my best--but--"

"Ay, ye'll do your best," agreed Wixton, with a foreboding shake
of his grizzled head--"but you're not a Jocelyn, an' your best'll
be but a bad crutch, though there's Jocelyn blood in ye by ye'r
mother's side. Howsomever it's not the same as the male line, do
what we will an' say what we like! It's not your fault, no, lad!"
--this with a pitying look--"an' no one's blamin' ye for what can't
be 'elped--but it's not a thing to be gotten over."

Robin's grave nod of acquiescence was more eloquent than speech.

Wixton dug his spade a little deeper into the pile of earth.

"If Farmer Jocelyn 'ad been a marryin' man, why, that would a'
been the right thing," he went on--"He might a' had a fine
strappin' son to come arter 'im, a real born-an'-bred Jocelyn--"

Robin listened with acute interest. Why did not Wixton mention
Innocent? Did he know she was not a Jocelyn? He waited, and Wixton
went on--

"But, ye see, 'e wouldn't have none o' that. An' he took the
little gel as was left with 'im the night o' the great storm nigh
eighteen years ago that blew down three of our biggest elms in the
church-yard--"

"Did you know?" exclaimed Clifford, eagerly--"Did you see--?"

"I saw a man on 'orseback ride up to Briar Farm, 'oldin' a baby in
front o' him with one hand, and the reins in t'other--an' he came
out from the farm without the baby. Then one mornin' when Farmer
Jocelyn was a-walkin' with the baby in the fields I said to 'im,
secret-like--'That ain't your child!' an' he sez--'Ow do you know
it ain't?' An' I sez--' Because I saw it come with a stranger'--
an' he laughed an' said--'It may be mine for all that!' But I knew
it worn't! A nice little girl she is too,--Miss Innocent--poor
soul! I'm downright sorry for 'er, for she ain't got many friends
in this village."

"Why?" Robin asked, half mechanically.

"Why? Well, she's a bit too dainty--like in 'er ways for one
thing--then there's gels who are arter YOU, Mister Clifford!--ay,
ay, ye know they are!--sharp 'ussies, all of 'em!--an' they can't
abide 'ER, for they thinks you're a-goin' to marry 'er!--Lord
forgive me that I should be chitterin' 'ere about marryin' over a
buryin'!--but that's the trouble--an' it's the trouble all the
world over, wimmin wantin' a man, an' mad for their lives when
they thinks another woman's arter 'im! Eh, eh! We should all get
along better if there worn't no wimmin jealousies, but bein' men
we've got to put up with 'em. Are ye goin' now, Mister?--Well, the
Lord love ye an' comfort ye!--ye'll never meet a finer man this
side the next world than the one I'm puttin' a cold quilt on!"

Silently Clifford turned away, heavy-hearted and lost in perplexed
thought. What was best to be done for Innocent? This was the chief
question that presented itself to his mind. He could no longer
deny the fact that her position was difficult--almost untenable.
Nameless, and seemingly deserted by her kindred, if any such
kindred still existed, she was absolutely alone in life, now that
Hugo Jocelyn was no more. As he realised this to its fullest
intensity, the deeper and more passionate grew his love for her.

"If she would only marry me!" he said under his breath, as he
walked home slowly from the church-yard--"It was Uncle Hugo's last
wish!"

Then across his brain flashed the memory of Ned Landon and his
malignant intention--born of baffled desire and fierce jealousy--
to tarnish the fair name of the girl he coveted,--then, his
uncle's quixotic and costly way of ridding himself of such an
enemy at any price. He understood now old Jocelyn's talk of his
"bargain" on the last night of his life,-and what a futile bargain
it was, after all!--for was not Jenny of the Mill-Dykes fully
informed of the reason why the bargain was made?--and she, the
vilest-tongued woman in the whole neighbourhood, would take
delight in spreading the story far and wide. Five Hundred Pounds
paid down as "hush-money"!--so she would report it--thus, even if
he married Innocent it would be under the shadow of a slur and
slander. What was wisest to do under the circumstances he could
not decide--and he entered the smiling garden of Briar Farm with
the saddest expression on his face that anyone had ever seen
there. Priscilla met him as he came towards the house.

"I thought ye'd never git here, Mister Robin," she said,
anxiously--"Ye haven't forgot there's folks in the hall 'avin'
their 'wake' feed an' they'll be wantin' to speak wi' ye
presently. Mister Bayliss, which is ye'r uncle's lawyer, 'e wants
to see ye mighty partikler, an' there ain't no one to say nothin'
to 'em, for the dear little Innocent, she's come back from the
cold churchyard like a little image o' marble, an' she's gone an'
shut 'erself up in 'er own room, sayin' 'Ask Mister Robin to
excuse me'--poor child!--she's fair wore out, that she is! An' you
come into the big 'all where there's the meat and the wine laid
out, for funeral folk eats more than weddin' folk, bein' longer
about it an' a bit solemner in gettin' of it down."

Robin looked at her with strained, haggard eyes.

"Priscilla," he said, huskily--"Death is a horrible thing!"

"Ay, that it is!" and Priscilla wiped the teardrops off her cheeks
with a corner of her apron--"An' I've often thought it seems a
silly kind o' business to bring us into the world at all for no
special reason 'cept to take us out of it again just as folks 'ave
learned to know us a bit and find us useful. Howsomever, there's
no arguin' wi' the Almighty, an' p'raps it's us as makes the worst
o' death instead o' the best of it. Now you go into the great
hall, Mr. Robin--you're wanted there."

He went, as desired,--and was received with a murmur of sympathy
by those assembled--a gathering made up of the head men about the
farm, and a few other personages less familiar to the village, but
fairly well known to him, such as corn and cattle dealers from the
neighbouring town who had for many years done business with
Jocelyn in preference to any other farmer. These came forward and
cordially shook hands with Robin, entering at once into
conversation with him concerning his future intentions.

"We should like things to go on the same as if th' old man were
alive," said one, a miller,--"We don't like changes after all
these years. But whether you're up to it, my lad, or not, we don't
know--and time'll prove--"

"Time WILL prove," answered Clifford, steadily. "You may rely upon
it that Briar Farm will be worked on the same methods which my
uncle practised and approved--and there will be no changes,
except--the inevitable one"--and he sighed,--"the want of the true
master's brain and hand."

"Eh well! You'll do your best, lad!--I'm sure of that!" and the
miller grasped his hand warmly--"And we'll all stick by you!
There's no farm like Briar Farm in the whole country--that's my
opinion!--it gives the finest soil and the soundest crops to be
got anywhere--you just manage it as Farmer Jocelyn managed it,
with men's work, and you'll come to no harm! And, as I say, we'll
all stick by you!"

Robin thanked him, and then moved slowly in and out among the
other funeral guests, saying kindly things, and in his quiet,
manly way creating a good impression among them, and making more
friends than he himself was aware of. Presently Mr. Bayliss, a
mild-looking man with round spectacles fixed very closely up
against his eyes, approached him, beckoning him with one finger.

"When you're ready, Mr. Clifford," he said, "I should like to see
you in the best parlour--and the young lady--I believe she is
called Innocent?--yes, yes!--and the young lady also. Oh, there's
no hurry--no hurry!--better wait till the guests have gone, as
what I have to say concerns only yourself--and--er--yes--er, the
young lady before mentioned. And also a--a"--here he pulled out a
note-book from his pocket and studied it through his owl-like
glasses--"yes!--er, yes!--a Miss Priscilla Priday--she must be
present, if she can be found--I believe she is on the premises?"

"Priscilla is our housekeeper," said Robin--"and a faithful
friend."

"Yes--I--er--thought so--a devoted friend," murmured Mr. Bayliss,
meditatively--"and what a thing it is to have a devoted friend,
Mr. Clifford! Your uncle was a careful man!--very careful!--he
knew whom to trust--he thoroughly knew! Yes--WE don't all know--
but HE did!"

Robin made no comment. The murmuring talk of the funeral party
went on, buzzing in his ears like the noise of an enormous swarm
of bees--he watched men eating and drinking the good things
Priscilla had provided for the "honour of the farm"--and then, on
a sudden impulse he slipped out of the hall and upstairs to
Innocent's room, where he knocked softly at the door. She opened
it at once, and stood before him--her face white as a snowdrop,
and her eyes heavy and strained with the weight of unshed tears.

"Dear," he said, gently--"you will be wanted downstairs in a few
minutes--Mr. Bayliss wishes you to be present when he reads Uncle
Hugo's will."

She made a little gesture of pain and dissent.

"I do not want to hear it," she said--"but I will come."

He looked at her with anxiety and tenderness.

"You have eaten nothing since early morning; you look so pale and
weak--let me get you something--a glass of wine."

"No, thank you," she answered--"I could not touch a morsel--not
just yet. Oh, Robin, it hurts me to hear all those voices in the
great hall!--men eating and drinking there, as if he were still
alive!--and they have only just laid him down in the cold earth--
so cold and dark!"

She shuddered violently.

"I do not think it is right," she went on--"to allow people to
love each other at all if death must separate them for ever. It
seems only a cruelty and wickedness. Now that I have seen what
death can do, I will never love anyone again!"

"No--I suppose you will not," he said, somewhat bitterly--"yet,
you have never known what love is--you do not understand it."

She sighed, deeply.

"Perhaps not!" she said--"And I'm not sure that I want to
understand it--not now. What love I had in my heart is all buried
--with Dad and the roses. I am not the same girl any more--I feel a
different creature--grown quite old!"

"You cannot feel older than I do," he replied--"but you do not
think of me at all,--why should you? I never used to think you
selfish, Innocent!--you have always been so careful and
considerate of the feelings of others--yet now!--well!--are you
not so much absorbed in your own grief as to be forgetful of mine?
For mine is a double grief--a double loss--I have lost my uncle
and best friend--and I shall lose you because you will not love
me, though I love you with all my heart and only want to make you
happy!"

Her sad eyes met his with a direct, half-reproachful gaze.

"You think me selfish?"

"No!--no, Innocent!--but--"

"I see!" she said--"You think I ought to sacrifice myself to you,
and to Dad's last wish. You would expect me to spoil your life by
marrying you unwillingly and without love--"

"I tell you you know nothing about love!" he interrupted her,
impatiently.

"So you imagine," she answered quietly--"but I do know one thing--
and it is that no one who really loves a person wishes to see that
person, unhappy. To love anybody means that above all things in
the world you desire to see the beloved one well and prosperous
and full of gladness. You cannot love me or you would not wish me
to do a thing that would make me miserable. If I loved you, I
would marry you and devote my life to yours--but I do not love
you, and, therefore, I should only make you wretched if I became
your wife. Do not let us talk of this any more--it tires me out!"

She passed her hand over her forehead with a weary gesture.

"It is wrong to talk of ourselves at all when Dad is only just
buried," she continued. "You say Mr. Bayliss wants to see me--very
well!--in a few minutes I will come."

She stepped back inside her little room and shut the door.
Clifford walked away, resentful and despairing. There was
something in her manner that struck him as new and foreign to her
usual sweet and equable nature,--a grave composure, a kind of
intellectual hardness that he had never before seen in her. And he
wondered what such a change might portend.

Downstairs, the funeral party had broken up--many of the mourners
had gone, and others were going. Some lingered to the last
possible moment that their intimacy or friendship with the
deceased would allow, curious to hear something of the will--what
the amount of the net cash was that had been left, and how it had
been disposed. But Mr. Bayliss, the lawyer, was a cautious man,
and never gave himself away at any point. To all suggestive hints
and speculative theories he maintained a dignified reserve--and it
was not until the last of the guests had departed that he made his
way to the vacant "best parlour," and sat there with his chair
pulled well up to the table and one or two legal-looking documents
in front of him. Robin Clifford joined him there, taking a seat
opposite to him--and both men waited in more or less silence till
the door opened softly to admit Innocent, who came in with
Priscilla.

Mr. Bayliss rose.

"I'm sorry to have to disturb you, Miss--er--Miss Innocent," he
said, with some awkwardness--"on this sad occasion--"

"It is no trouble," she answered, gently--"if I can be of any use--"

Mr. Bayliss waited till she sat down,--then again seated himself.

"Well, there is really no occasion to go over legal formalities,"
he said, opening one of the documents before him--"Your uncle, Mr.
Clifford, was a business man, and made his will in a business-like
way. Briefly, I may tell you that Briar Farm, its lands,
buildings, and all its contents are left to you--who are
identified thus--'to my nephew, Robin Clifford, only son of my
only sister, the late Elizabeth Jocelyn, widow of John Clifford,
wholesale trader in French wines, and formerly resident in the
City of London, on condition that the said Robin Clifford shall
keep and maintain the farm and house as they have always been kept
and maintained. He shall not sell any part of the land for
building purposes, nor shall he dispose of any of the furniture,
pewter, plate, china, glass, or other effects belonging to Briar
Farm House,--but shall carefully preserve the same and hand them
down to his lawful heirs in succession on the same terms as
heretofore'--etc., etc.,--yes!--well!--that is the gist of the
business, and we need not go over the details. With the farm and
lands aforesaid he leaves the sum of Twenty Thousand Pounds--"

"Twenty Thousand Pounds!" ejaculated Robin, amazed--"Surely my
uncle was never so rich--!"

"He was a saving man and a careful one," said Mr. Bayliss,
calmly,--"You may take it for granted, Mr. Clifford, that his
money was made through the course of his long life, in a
thoroughly honest and straightforward manner!"

"Oh--that, of course!--but--Twenty Thousand Pounds!"

"It is a nice little fortune," said Mr. Bayliss--"and you come
into it at a time of life when you will be able to make good use
of it. Especially if you should be inclined to marry--"

His eyes twinkled meaningly as they glanced from Clifford's face
to that of Innocent--the young man's expression was absorbed and
earnest, but the girl looked lost and far away in a dream of her
own.

"I shall not marry," said Robin, slowly--"I shall use the money
entirely for the good of the farm and the work-people--"

"Then, if you do not marry, you allow the tradition of heritage to
lapse?" suggested Mr. Bayliss.

"It has lapsed already," he replied--"I am not a real descendant
of the Jocelyns--"

"By the mother's side you are," said Mr. Bayliss--"and your mother
being dead, it is open to you to take the name of Jocelyn by law,
and continue the lineage. It would be entirely fair and
reasonable."

Robin made no answer. Mr. Bayliss settled his glasses more firmly
on his nose, and went on with his documents.

"Mr. Jocelyn speaks in his Last Will and Testament of the 'great
love' he entertained for his adopted child, known as 'Innocent'--
and he gives to her all that is contained in the small oak chest
in the best parlour--this is the best parlour, I presume?"--
looking round--"Can you point out the oak chest mentioned?"

Innocent rose, and moved to a corner, where she lifted out of a
recess a small quaintly made oaken casket, brass-bound, with a
heavy lock.

Mr. Bayliss looked at it with a certain amount of curiosity.

"The key?" he suggested--"I believe the late Mr. Jocelyn always
wore it on his watch-chain."

Robin got up and went to the mantelpiece.

"Here is my uncle's watch and chain," he said, in a hushed voice--
"The watch has stopped. I do not intend that it shall ever go
again--I shall keep it put by with the precious treasures of the
house."

Mr. Bayliss made no remark on this utterance, which to him was one
of mere sentiment--and taking the watch and chain in his hand,
detached therefrom a small key. With this he opened the oak
casket--and looked carefully inside. Taking out a sealed packet,
he handed it to Innocent.

"This is for you," he said--"and this also"--here he lifted from
the bottom of the casket a flat jewel-case of antique leather
embossed in gold.

"This," he continued, "Mr. Jocelyn explained to me, is a necklet
of pearls--traditionally believed to have been given by the
founder of the house, Amadis de Jocelin, to his wife on their
wedding-day. It has been worn by every bride of the house since. I
hope--yes--I very much hope--it will be worn by the young lady who
now inherits it."

And he passed the jewel-case over the table to Innocent, who sat
silent, with the sealed packet she had just received lying before
her. She took it passively, and opened it--a beautiful row of
pearls, not very large, but wonderfully perfect, lay within--
clasped by a small, curiously designed diamond snap. She looked at
them with half-wondering, half-indifferent eyes--then closed the
case and gave it to Robin Clifford.

"They are for your wife when you marry," she said--"Please keep
them."

Mr. Bayliss coughed--a cough of remonstrance.

"Pardon me, my dear young lady, but Mr. Jocelyn was particularly
anxious the pearls should be yours--"

She looked at him, gravely.

"Yes--I am sure he was," she said--"He was always good--too good
and generous--but if they are mine, I give them to Mr. Clifford.
There is nothing more to be said about them."

Mr. Bayliss coughed again.

"Well--that is all that is contained in this casket, with the
exception of a paper unsealed--shall I read it?"

She bent her head.

"The paper is written in Mr. Jocelyn's own hand, and is as
follows," continued the lawyer: "I desire that my adopted child,
known as 'Innocent,' shall receive into her own possession the
Jocelyn pearls, valued by experts at L2,500, and that she shall
wear the same on her marriage-morning. The sealed packet, placed
in this casket with the pearls afore-said, contains a letter for
her own personal and private perusal, and other matter which
concerns herself alone."

Mr. Bayliss here looked up, and addressed her.

"From these words it is evident that the sealed packet you have
there is an affair of confidence."

She laid her hand upon it.

"I quite understand!"

He adjusted his glasses, and turned over his documents once more.

"Then I think there is nothing more we need trouble you with--oh
yes!--one thing--Miss--er--Miss Priday--?"

Priscilla, who during the whole conversation had sat bolt upright
on a chair in the corner of the room, neither moving nor speaking,
here rose and curtsied.

The lawyer looked at her attentively.

"Priday-Miss Priscilla Priday?"

"Yes, sir--that's me," said Priscilla, briefly.

"Mr. Jocelyn thought very highly of you, Miss Friday," he said--
"he mentions you in the following paragraph of his will--'I give
and bequeath to my faithful housekeeper and good friend, Priscilla
Priday, the sum of Two Hundred Pounds for her own personal use,
and I desire that she shall remain at Briar Farm for the rest of
her life. And that, if she shall find it necessary to resign her
duties in the farm house, she shall possess that cottage on my
estate known as Rose Cottage, free of all charges, and be allowed
to live there and be suitably and comfortably maintained till the
end of her days. And,--er--pray don't distress yourself, Miss
Priday!"

For Priscilla was crying, and making no effort to hide her
emotion.

"Bless 'is old 'art!" she sobbed--"He thort of everybody, 'e did!
An' what shall I ever want o' Rose Cottage, as is the sweetest o'
little places, when I've got the kitchen o' Briar Farm!--an' there
I'll 'ope to do my work plain an' true till I drops!--so there!--
an' I'm much obliged to ye, Mr. Bayliss, an' mebbe ye'll tell me
where to put the two 'underd pounds so as I don't lose it, for I
never 'ad so much money in my life, an' if any one gets to 'ear of
it I'll 'ave all the 'alt an' lame an' blind round me in a jiffy.
An' as for keepin' money, I never could--an' p'raps it 'ud be best
for Mr. Robin to look arter it---" Here she stopped, out of breath
with talk and tears.

"It will be all right," said Mr. Bayliss, soothingly, "quite all
right, I assure you! Mr. Clifford will no doubt see to any little
business matter for you with great pleasure--"

"Dear Priscilla!"--and Innocent went to her side and put an arm
round her neck--"Don't cry!--you will be so happy, living always
in this dear old place!--and Robin will be so glad to have you
with him."

Priscilla took the little hand that caressed her, and kissed it.

"Ah, my lovey!" she half whispered--"I should be 'appy enough if I
thought you was a-goin' to be 'appy too!--but you're flyin' in the
face o' fortune, lovey!--that's what you're a-doin'!"

Innocent silenced her with a gesture, and stood beside her,
patiently listening till Mr. Bayliss had concluded his business.

"I think, Mr. Clifford," he then said, at last--"there is no
occasion to trouble you further. Everything is in perfect order--
you are the inheritor of Briar Farm and all its contents, with all
its adjoining lands--and the only condition attached to your
inheritance is that you keep it maintained on the same working
methods by which it has always been maintained. You will find no
difficulty in doing this--and you have plenty of money to do it
on. There are a few minor details respecting farm stock, etc.,
which we can go over together at any time. You are sole executor,
of course--and--and--er--yes!--I think that is all."

"May I go now?" asked Innocent, lifting her serious blue-grey eyes
to his face--"Do you want me any more?"

Mr. Bayliss surveyed her curiously.

"No--I--er--I think not," he replied--"Of course the pearls should
be in your possession--"

"I have given them away," she said, quickly--"to Robin."

"But I have not accepted them," he answered--"I will keep them if
you like--for YOU."

She gave a slight, scarcely perceptible movement of vexation, and
then, taking up the sealed packet which was addressed to her
personally, she left the room.

The lawyer looked after her in a little perplexity.

"I'm afraid she takes her loss rather badly," he said--"or--
perhaps--is she a little absent-minded?"

Robin Clifford smiled, sadly.

"I think not," he answered. "Of course she feels the death of my
uncle deeply--she adored him--and then-I-suppose you know--my
uncle may have told you--"

"That he hoped and expected you to marry her?" said Mr. Bayliss,
nodding his head, sagaciously--"Yes--I am aware that such was his
dearest wish. In fact he led me to believe that the matter was as
good as settled."

"She will not have me," said Clifford, gently--"and I cannot
compel her to marry me against her will--indeed I would not if I
could."

The lawyer was so surprised that he was obliged to take off his
glasses and polish them.

"She will not have you!" he exclaimed. "Dear me! That is indeed
most unexpected and distressing! There is--there is nothing
against you, surely?--you are quite a personable young man--"

Robin shrugged his shoulders, disdainfully.

"Whatever I am does not matter to her," he said--"Let us talk no
more about it."

Priscilla looked from one to the other.

"Eh well!" she said--"If any one knows 'er at all 'tis I as 'ave
'ad 'er with me night an' day when she was a baby--and 'as watched
'er grow into the little beauty she is,--an' 'er 'ed's just fair
full o' strange fancies that she's got out o' the books she found
in the old knight's chest years ago--we must give 'er time to
think a bit an' settle. 'Tis an awful blow to 'er to lose 'er Dad,
as she allus called Farmer Jocelyn--she's like a little bird
fallen out o' the nest with no strength to use 'er wings an' not
knowin' where to go. Let 'er settle a bit!--that's what I sez--an'
you'll see I'm right. You leave 'er alone, Mister Robin, an'
all'll come right, never fear! She's got the queerest notions
about love--she picked 'em out o' they old books--an' she'll 'ave
to find out they's more lies than truth. Love's a poor 'oldin' for
most folks--it don't last long enough."

Mr. Bayliss permitted himself to smile, as he took his hat, and
prepared to go.

"I'm sure you're quite right, Miss Priday!" he said--"you speak--
er--most sensibly! I'm sure I hope, for the young lady's sake,
that she will 'settle down'--if she does not--"

"Ay, if she does not!" echoed Clifford.

"Well! if she does not, life may be difficult for her"--and the
lawyer shook his head forebodingly--"A girl alone in the world--
with no relatives!--ah, dear, dear me! A sad look-out!--a very sad
look-out! But we must trust to her good sense that she will be
wise in time!"




CHAPTER X

Upstairs, shut in her own little room with the door locked,
Innocent opened the sealed packet. She found within it a letter
and some bank-notes. With a sensitive pain which thrilled every
nerve in her body she unfolded the letter, written in Hugo
Jocelyn's firm clear writing--a writing she knew so well, and
which bore no trace of weakness or failing in the hand that guided
the pen. How strange it was, she thought, that the written words
should look so living and distinct when the writer was dead! Her
head swam.--her eyes were dim--for a moment she could scarcely
see--then the mist before her slowly dispersed and she read the
first words, which made her heart swell and the tears rise in her
aching throat.

"MY LITTLE WILDING!--When you read this I shall be gone to that
wonderful world which all the clergymen tell us about, but which
none of them are in any great hurry to see for themselves. I hope
--and I sometimes believe--such a world exists--and that perhaps it
is a place where a man may sow seed and raise crops as well and as
prosperously as on Briar Farm--however, I'm praying I may not be
taken till I've seen you safely wed to Robin--and yet, something
tells me this will not be; and that's the something that makes me
write this letter and put it with the pearls that are, by my will,
destined for you on your marriage-morning. I'm writing it,
remember, on the same night I've told you all about yourself--the
night of the day the doctor gave me my death-warrant. I may live a
year,--I may live but a week,--it will be hard if I may not live
to see you married!--but God's will must be done. The bank-notes
folded in this letter make up four hundred pounds--and this money
you can spend as you like--on your clothes for the bridal, or on
anything you fancy--I place no restriction on you as to its use.
When a maid weds there are many pretties she needs to buy, and the
prettier they are for you the better shall I be pleased. Whether I
live or whether I die, you need say nothing of this money to
Robin, or to anyone. It is your own absolutely--to do as you like
with. I am thankful to feel that you will be safe in Robin's
loving care--for the world is hard on a woman left alone as you
would be, were it not for him. I give you my word that if I had
any clue, however small, to your real parentage, I would write
down here for you all I know--but I know nothing more than I have
told you. I have loved you as my own child and you have been the
joy of my old days. May God bless you and give you joy and peace
in Briar Farm!--you and your children, and your children's
children! Amen!

"Your 'Dad'

"HUGO JOCELYN."

She read this to the end, and then some tension in her brain
seemed to relax, and she wept long and bitterly, her head bent
down on the letter and her bright hair falling over it. Presently,
checking her sobs, she rose, and looked about her in a kind of
dream--the familiar little room seemed to have suddenly become
strange to her, and she thought she saw standing in one corner a
figure clad in armour,--its vizor was up, showing a sad pale face
and melancholy eyes--the lips moved--and a sighing murmur floated
past her ears--"Mon coeur me soutien!" A cold terror seized her,
and she trembled from head to foot--then the vision or
hallucination vanished as swiftly and mysteriously as it had
appeared. Rallying her forces, she gradually mastered the
overpowering fear which for a moment had possessed her,--and
folding up Hugo Jocelyn's last letter, she kissed it, and placed
it in her bosom. The bank-notes were four in number--each for one
hundred pounds;--these she put in an envelope, and shut them in
the drawer containing her secret manuscript.

"Now the way is clear!" she said--"I can do what I like--I have my
wings, and I can fly away! Oh Dad, dear Dad!--you would be so
unhappy if you knew what I mean to do!--it would break your heart,
Dad!--but you have no heart to break now, poor Dad!--it is cold as
stone!--it will never beat any more! Mine is the heart that
beats!--the heart that burns, and aches, and hurts me!--ah!--how
it hurts! And no one can understand--no one will ever care to
understand!"

She locked her manuscript-drawer--then went and bathed her eyes,
which smarted with the tears she had shed. Looking at herself in
the mirror she saw a pale plaintive little creature, without any
freshness of beauty--all the vitality seemed gone out of her.
Smoothing her ruffled hair, she twisted it up in a loose coil at
the back of her head, and studied with melancholy dislike and pain
the heavy effect of her dense black draperies against her delicate
skin.

"I shall do for anything now," she said--"No one will look at me,
and I shall pass quite unnoticed in a crowd. I'm glad I'm not a
pretty girl--it might be more difficult to get on. And Robin
called me 'lovely' the other day!--poor, foolish Robin!"

She went downstairs then to see if she could help Priscilla--but
Priscilla would not allow her to do anything in the way of what
she called "chores."

"No, lovey," she said--"you just keep quiet, an' by-an'-bye you
an' me'll 'ave a quiet tea together, for Mister Robin he's gone
off for the rest o' the day an' night with Mr. Bayliss, as there's
lots o' things to see to, an' 'e left you this little note"--here
Priscilla produced a small neatly folded paper from her apron
pocke-t-"an' sez 'e--'Give this to Miss Innocent`' 'e sez, 'an'
she won't mind my bein' out o' the way--it'll be better for 'er to
be quiet a bit with you'--an' so it will, lovey, for sometimes a
man about the 'ouse is a worrit an' a burden, say what we will,
an' good though 'e be."

Innocent took the note and read--

"I have made up my mind to go with Bayliss into the town and stay
at his house for the night--there are many business matters we
have to go into together, and it is important for me to thoroughly
understand the position of my uncle's affairs. If I cannot manage
to get back to-morrow, I will let you know. Robin."

She heaved a sigh of intense relief. For twenty-four hours at
least she was free from love's importunity--she could be alone to
think, and to plan. She turned to Priscilla with a gentle look and
smile.

"I'll go into the garden," she said--"and when it's tea-time
you'll come and fetch me, won't you? I shall be near the old stone
knight, Sieur Amadis--"

"Oh, bother 'im," muttered Priscilla, irrelevantly--"You do think
too much o' that there blessed old figure!--why, what's 'e got to
do with you, my pretty?"

"Nothing!" and the colour came to her pale cheeks for a moment,
and then fled back again--"He never had anything to do with me,
really! But I seem to know him."

Priscilla gave a kind of melancholy snort--and the girl moved
slowly away through the open door and beyond it, out among the
radiant flowers. Her little figure in deep black was soon lost to
sight, and after watching her for a minute, Priscilla turned to
her home-work with tears blinding her eyes so thickly that she
could scarcely see.

"If she winnot take Mister Robin, the Lord knows what'll become of
'er!" sighed the worthy woman--"For she's as lone i' the world as
a thrush fallen out o' the nest before it's grown strong enough to
fly! Eh, we thort we did a good deed, Mister Jocelyn an' I, when
we kep' 'er as a baby, 'opin' agin 'ope as 'er parents 'ud turn up
an' be sorry for the loss of 'er--but never a sign of a soul!--an'
now she's grow'd up she's thorts in 'er 'ed which ain't easy to
unnerstand--for since Mister Jocelyn told 'er the tale of 'erself
she's not been the same like--she's got suddin old!"

The afternoon was very peaceful and beautiful--the sun shone
warmly over the smooth meadows of Briar Farm, and reddened the
apples in the orchard yet a little more tenderly, flashing in
flecks of gold on the "Glory" roses, and touching the wings of
fluttering doves with arrowy silver gleams. No one looking at the
fine old house, with its picturesque gables and latticed windows,
would have thought that its last master of lawful lineage was dead
and buried, and that the funeral had taken place that morning.
Briar Farm, though more than three centuries old, seemed full of
youthful life and promise--a vital fact, destined to outlast many
more human lives than those which in the passing of three hundred
years had already left their mark upon it, and it was strange and
incredible to realise that the long chain of lineally descended
male ancestors had broken at last, and that no remaining link
survived to carry on the old tradition. Sadly and slowly Innocent
walked across the stretches of warm clover-scented grass to the
ancient tomb of the "Sieur Amadis"--and sat down beside it, not
far from the place where so lately she had sat with Robin--what a
change had come over her life since then! She watched the sun
sinking towards the horizon in a mellow mist of orange-coloured
radiance,--the day was drawing to an end--the fateful, wretched
day which had seen the best friend she had ever known, and whom
for years she had adored and revered as her own "father," laid in
the dust to perish among perishable things.

"I wish I had died instead of him," she said, half aloud--"or else
that I had never been born! Oh, dear 'Sieur Amadis'!--you know how
hard it is to live in the world unless some one wants you--unless
some one loves you!--and no one wants me--no one loves me--except
Robin!"

Solitary, and full of the heaviest sadness, she tried to think and
to form plans--but her mind was tired, and she could come to no
decisive resolution beyond the one all-convincing necessity--that
of leaving Briar Farm. Of course she must go,--there was no other
alternative. And now, thanks to Hugo Jocelyn's forethought in
giving her money for her bridal "pretties," no financial
difficulty stood in the way of her departure. She must go--but
where? To begin with, she had no name. She would have to invent
one for herself--

"Yes!" she murmured--"I must invent a name--and make it famous!"
Involuntarily she clenched her small hand as though she held some
prize within its soft grasp. "Why not? Other people have done the
same--I can but try! If I fail--!"

Her delicate fingers relaxed,--in her imagination she saw some
coveted splendour slip from her hold, and her little face grew set
and serious as though she had already suffered a whole life's
disillusion.

"I can but try," she repeated--"something urges me on--something
tells me I may succeed. And then--!"

Her eyes brightened slowly--a faint rose flushed her cheeks,--and
with the sudden change of expression, she became almost beautiful.
Herein lay her particular charm,--the rarest of all in women,--the
passing of the lights and shadows of thought over features which
responded swiftly and emotionally to the prompting and play of the
mind.

"I should have to go," she went on--"even if Dad were still alive.
I could not--I cannot marry Robin!--I do not want to marry
anybody. It is the common lot of women--why they should envy or
desire it, I cannot think! To give one's self up entirely to a
man's humours--to be glad of his caresses, and miserable when he
is angry or tired--to bear his children and see them grow up and
leave you for their own 'betterment' as they would call it--oh!--
what an old, old drudging life!--a life of monotony, sickness,
pain, and fatigue!--and nothing higher done than what animals can
do! There are plenty of women in the world who like to stay on
this level, I suppose--but I should not like it,--I could not live
in this beautiful, wonderful world with no higher ambition than a
sheep or a cow!"

At that moment she suddenly saw Priscilla running from the house
across the meadow, and beckoning to her in evident haste and
excitement. She got up at once and ran to meet her, flying across
the grass with light airy feet as swiftly as Atalanta.

"What is it?" she cried, seeing Priscilla's face, crimson with
hurry and nervousness--"Is there some new trouble?"

Priscilla was breathless, and could scarcely speak.

"There's a lady"--she presently gasped--"a lady to see you--from
London--in the best parlour--she asked for Farmer Jocelyn's
adopted daughter named Innocent. And she gave me her card--here it
is"--and Priscilla wiped her face and gasped again as Innocent
took the card and read "Lady Maude Blythe,"--then gazed at
Priscilla, wonderingly.

"Who can she be?--some one who knew Dad--?"

"Bless you, child, he never knew lord nor lady!" replied
Priscilla, recovering her breath somewhat--"No--it's more likely
one o' they grand folks what likes to buy old furniture, an' mebbe
somebody's told 'er about Briar Farm things, an' 'ow they might
p'raps be sold now the master's gone--"

"But that would be very silly and wicked talk," said Innocent.
"Nothing will be sold--Robin would never allow it--"

"Well, come an' see the lady," and Priscilla hurried her along--
"She said she wished to see you partikler. I told 'er the master
was dead, an' onny buried this mornin', an' she smiled kind o'
pleasant like, an' said she was sorry to have called on such an
unfortunate day, but her business was important, an' if you could
see 'er--"

"Is she young?"

"No, she's not young--but she isn't old," replied Priscilla--
"She's wonderful good-looking an' dressed beautiful! I never see
such clothes cut out o' blue serge! An' she's got a scent about
her like our stillroom when we're makin' pot-purry bags for the
linen."

By this time they had reached the house, and Innocent went
straight into the best parlour. Her unexpected and unknown visitor
stood there near the window, looking out on the beds of flowers,
but turned round as she entered. For a moment they confronted each
other in silence,--Innocent gazing in mute astonishment and
enquiry at the tall, graceful, self-possessed woman, who,
evidently of the world, worldly, gazed at her in turn with a
curious, almost quizzical interest. Presently she spoke in a low,
sweet, yet cold voice.

"So you are Innocent!" she said.

The girl's heart beat quickly,--something frightened her, though
she knew not what.

"Yes," she answered, simply--"I am Innocent. You wished to see me--?"

"Yes--I wished to see you,"--and the lady quietly shut the window
--"and I also wish to talk to you. In case anyone may be about
listening, will you shut the door?"

With increasing nervousness and bewilderment, Innocent obeyed.

"You had my card, I think?" continued the lady, smiling ever so
slightly--"I gave it to the servant--"

Innocent held it half crumpled in her hand.

"Yes," she said, trying to rally her self-possession--"Lady Maude
Blythe--"

"Exactly!--you have quite a nice pronunciation! May I sit down?"
and, without waiting for the required permission, Lady Blythe sank
indolently into the old oaken arm-chair where Farmer Jocelyn had
so long been accustomed to sit, and, taking out a cobweb of a
handkerchief powerfully scented, passed it languorously across her
lips and brow.

"You have had a very sad day of it, I fear!" she continued--
"Deaths and funerals are such unpleasant affairs! But the farmer--
Mr. Jocelyn--was not your father, was he?" The question was put
with a repetition of the former slight, cold smile.

"No,"--and the girl looked at her wonderingly--"but he was better
than my own father who deserted me!"

"Dear me! Your own father deserted you! How shocking of him!" and
Lady Blythe turned a pair of brilliant dark eyes full on the pale
little face confronting her--"And your mother?"

"She deserted me, too."

"What a reprehensible couple!" Here Lady Blythe extended a
delicately gloved hand towards her. "Come here and let me look at
you!"

But Innocent hesitated.

"Excuse me," she said, with a quaint and simple dignity--"I do not
know you. I cannot understand why you have come to see me--if you
would explain--"

While she thus spoke Lady Blythe had surveyed her scrutinisingly
through a gold-mounted lorgnon.

"Quite a proud little person it is!" she remarked, and smiled--
"Quite proud! I suppose I really must explain! Only I do hope you
will not make a scene. Nothing is so unpleasant! And SUCH bad
form! Please sit down!"

Innocent placed a chair close to the table so that she could lean
her arm on that friendly board and steady her trembling little
frame. When she was seated, Lady Blythe again looked at her
critically through the lorgnon. Then she continued--

"Well, I must first tell you that I have always known your
history--such a romance, isn't it! You were brought here as a baby
by a man on horseback'--and he left you with the good old farmer
who has taken care of you ever since. I am right? Yes!--I'm quite
sure about it--because I knew the man--the curious sort of
parental Lochinvar!--who got rid of you in such a curious way!"

Innocent drew a sharp breath.

"You knew him?"

Lady Blythe gave a delicate little cough.

"Yes--I knew him--rather well! I was quite a girl--and he was an
artist--a rather famous one in his way--half French--and very
good-looking. Yes, he certainly was remarkably good-looking! We
ran away together--most absurd of us--but we did. Please don't
look at me like that!--you remind me of Sara Bernhardt in 'La
Tosca'!"

Innocent's eyes were indeed full of something like positive
terror. Her heart beat violently--she felt a strange dread, and a
foreboding that chilled her very blood.

"People often do that kind of thing--fall in love and run away,"
continued Lady Blythe, placidly--"when they are young and silly.
It is quite a delightful sensation, of course, but it doesn't
last. They don't know the world--and they never calculate results.
However, we had quite a good time together. We went to Devon and
Cornwall, and he painted pictures and made love to me--and it was
all very nice and pretty. Then, of course, trouble came, and we
had to get out of it as best we could--we were both tired of each
other and quarrelled dreadfully, so we decided to give each other
up. Only you were in the way!"

Innocent rose, steadying herself with one hand against the table.

"I!" she exclaimed, with a kind of sob in her throat.

"Yes--you! Dear me,--how you stare! Don't you understand? I
suppose you've lived such a strange sort of hermit life down here
that you know nothing. You were in the way--you, the baby!"

"Do you mean--?"

"Yes--I mean what you ought to have guessed at once--if you were
not as stupid as an owl! I've told you I ran away with a man--I
wouldn't marry him, though he asked me to--I should have been tied
up for life, and I didn't want that--so we decided to separate.
And he undertook to get rid of the baby--"

"Me!" cried Innocent, wildly--"oh, dear God! It was me!"

"Yes--it was you--but you needn't be tragic about it!" said Lady
Blythe, calmly--"I think, on the whole, you were fortunately
placed--and I was told where you were--"

"You were told?--oh, you were told!--and you never came! And you--
you are--my MOTHER!"--and overpowered by the shock of emotion, the
girl sank back on her chair, and burying her head in her hands,
sobbed bitterly. Lady Blythe looked at her in meditative silence.

"What a tiresome creature!" she murmured, under her breath--"Quite
undisciplined! No repose of manner--no style whatever! And
apparently very little sense! I think it's a pity I came,--a
mistaken sense of duty!"

Aloud she said--

"I hope you're not going to cry very long! Won't you get it over?
I thought you would be glad to know me--and I've come out of pure
kindness to you, simply because I heard your old farmer was dead.
Why Pierce Armitage should have brought you to him I never could
imagine--except that once he was painting a picture in the
neighbourhood and was rather taken with the history of this place
--Briar Farm isn't it called? You'll make your eyes quite sore if
you go on crying like that! Yes--I am your mother--most
unfortunately!--I hoped you would never know it!--but now--as you
are left quite alone in the world, I have come to see what I can
do for you."

Innocent checked her sobs, and lifting her head looked straight
into the rather shallow bright eyes that regarded her with such
cold and easy scrutiny.

"You can do nothing for me," she answered, in a low voice--"You
never have done anything for me. If you are my mother, you are an
unnatural one!" And moved by a sudden, swift emotion, she stood up
with indignation and scorn lighting every feature of her face. "I
was in your way at my birth--and you were glad to be rid of me.
Why should you seek me now?"

Lady Blythe glanced her over amusedly.

"Really, you would do well on the stage!" she said--"If you were
taller, you would make your fortune with that tragic manner! It is
quite wasted on me, I assure you! I've told you a very simple
commonplace truth--a thing that happens every day--a silly couple
run away together, madly in love, and deluded by the idea that
love will last--they get into trouble and have a child--naturally,
as they are not married, the child is in the way, and they get rid
of it--some people would have killed it, you know! Your father was
quite a kind-hearted person--and his one idea was to place you
where there were no other children, and where you would have a
chance of being taken care of. So he brought you to Briar Farm--
and he told me where he had left you before he went away and
died."

"Died!" echoed the girl--"My father is dead?"

"So I believe,"--and Lady Blythe stifled a slight yawn--"He was
always a rather reckless person--went out to paint pictures in all
weathers, or to 'study effects' as he called it--how I hated his
'art' talk!--and I heard he died in Paris of influenza or
pneumonia or something or other. But as I was married then, it
didn't matter."

Innocent's deep-set, sad eyes studied her "mother" with strange
wistfulness.

"Did you not love him?" she asked, pitifully.

Lady Blythe laughed, lightly.

"You odd girl! Of course I was quite crazy about him!--he was so
handsome--and very fascinating in his way--but he could be a
terrible bore, and he had a very bad temper. I was thankful when
we separated. But I have made my own private enquiries about you,
from time to time--I always had rather a curiosity about you, as I
have had no other children. Won't you come and kiss me?"

Innocent stood rigid.

"I cannot!" she said.

Lady Blythe flushed and bit her lips.

"As you like!" she said, airily--"I don't mind!"

The girl clasped her hands tightly together.

"How can you ask me!" she said, in low, thrilling tones--"You who
have let me grow up without any knowledge of you!--you who had no
shame in leaving me here to live on the charity of a stranger!--
you who never cared at all for the child you brought into the
world!--can you imagine that I could care--now?"

"Well, really," smiled Lady Blythe--"I'm not sure that I have
asked you to care! I have simply come here to tell you that you
are not entirely alone in the world, and that I, knowing myself to
be your mother--(although it happened so long ago I can hardly
believe I was ever such a fool!)--am willing to do something for
you--especially as I have no children by my second marriage. I
will, in fact, 'adopt' you!" and she laughed--a pretty, musical
laugh like a chime of little silver bells. "Lord Blythe will be
delighted--he's a kind old person!"

Innocent looked at her gravely and steadily.

"Do you mean to say that you will own me?--name me?--acknowledge
me as your daughter--"

"Why, certainly not!" and Lady Blythe's eyes flashed over her in
cold disdain--"What are you thinking of? You are not legitimate--
and you really have no lawful name--besides, I'm not bound to do
anything at all for you now you are old enough to earn your own
living. But I'm quite a good-natured woman,--and as I have said
already I have no other children--and I'm willing to 'adopt' you,
bring you out in society, give you pretty clothes, and marry you
well if I can. But to own that I ever made such an idiot of myself
as to have you at all is a little too much to ask!--Lord Blythe
would never forgive me!"

"So you would make me live a life of deception with you!" said
Innocent--"You would make me pretend to be what I am not--just as
you pretend to be what you are not!--and yet you say I am your
child! Oh God, save me from such a mother! Madam"--and she spoke
in cold, deliberate accents--"you have lived all these years
without children, save me whom you have ignored--and I, though
nameless and illegitimate, now ignore you! I have no mother! I
would not own you any more than you would own me;--my shame in
saying that such a woman is my mother would be greater than yours
in saying that I am your child! For the stigma of my birth is not
my fault, but yours!--I am, as my father called me--'innocent'!"

Her breath came and went quickly--a crimson flush was on her
cheeks--she looked transfigured--beautiful. Lady Blythe stared at
her in wide-eyed disdain.

"You are exceedingly rude and stupid," she said--"You talk like a
badly-trained actress! And you are quite blind to your own
interests. Now please remember that if you refuse the offer I make
you, I shall never trouble about you again--you will have to sink
or swim--and you can do nothing for yourself--without even a name--"

"Have you never heard," interrupted Innocent, suddenly, "that it
is quite possible to MAKE a name?"

Her "mother" was for the moment startled--she looked so
intellectually strong and inspired.

"Have you never thought," she went on--"even you, in your strange
life of hypocrisy--"

"Hypocrisy!" exclaimed Lady Blythe--"How dare you say such a
thing!"

"Of course it is hypocrisy," said the girl, resolutely--"You are
married to a man who knows nothing of your past life--is not that
hypocrisy? You are a great lady, no doubt--you have everything you
want in this world, except children--one child you had in me, and
you let me be taken from you--yet you would pretend to 'adopt' me
though you know I am your own! Is not that hypocrisy?"

Lady Blythe for a moment tightened her lips in a line of decided
temper--then she smiled ironically.

"It is tact," she said--"and good manners. Society lives by
certain conventions, and we must be careful not to outrage them.
In your own interests you should be glad to learn how to live
suitably without offence to others around you."

Innocent looked at her with straight and relentless scorn.

"I have done that," she answered--"so far. I shall continue to do
it. I do not want any help from you! I would rather die than owe
you anything! Please understand this! You say I am your daughter,
and I suppose I must believe it--but the knowledge brings me
sorrow and shame. And I must work my way out of this sorrow and
shame,--somehow! I will do all I can to retrieve the damaged life
you have given me. I never knew my mother was alive--and now--I
wish to forget it! If my father lived, I would go to him--"

"Would you indeed!" and Lady Blythe rose, shaking her elegant
skirts, and preening herself like a bird preparing for flight--
"I'm afraid you would hardly receive a parental welcome!
Fortunately for himself and for me, he is dead,--so you are quite
untrammelled by any latent notions of filial duty. And you will
never see me again after to-day!"

"No?"--and the interrogation was put with the slightest inflection
of satire--so fine as to be scarcely perceptible--but Lady Blythe
caught it, and flushed angrily.

"Of course not!" she said--"Do you think you, in your position of
a mere farmer's girl, are likely to meet me in the greater world?
You, without even a name--"

"Would you have given me a name?" interposed the girl, calmly.

"Of course! I should have invented one for you--

"I can do that for myself," said Innocent, quietly--"and so you
are relieved from all trouble on my score. May I ask you to go
now?"

Lady Blythe stared at her.

"Are you insolent, or only stupid?" she asked--"Do you realise
what it is that I have told you--that I, Lady Blythe, wife of a
peer, and moving in the highest ranks of society, am willing to
take charge of you, feed you, clothe you, bring you out and marry
you well? Do you understand, and still refuse?"

"I understand--and I still refuse," replied Innocent--"I would
accept, if you owned me as your daughter to your husband and to
all the world--but as your 'adopted' child--as a lie under your
roof--I refuse absolutely and entirely! Are you astonished that I
should wish to live truly instead of falsely?"

Lady Blythe gathered her priceless lace scarf round her elegant
shoulders.

"I begin to think it must have been all a bad dream!" she said,
and laughed softly--"My little affair with your father cannot have
really happened, and you cannot really be my child! I must
consider it in that light! I feel I have done my part in the
matter by coming here to see you and talk to you and make what I
consider a very kind and reasonable proposition--you have refused
it--and there is no more to be said." She settled her dainty hat
more piquantly on her rich dark hair, and smiled agreeably. "Will
you show me the way out? I left my motor-car on the high-road--my
chauffeur did not care to bring it down your rather muddy back
lane."

Innocent said nothing--but merely opened the door and stood aside
for her visitor to pass. A curious tightening at her heart
oppressed her as she thought that this elegant, self-possessed,
exquisitely attired creature was actually her "mother!"--and she
could have cried out with the pain which was so hard to bear.
Suddenly Lady Blythe came to an abrupt standstill.

"You will not kiss me?" she said--"Not even for your father's
sake?"

With a quick sobbing catch in her breath, the girl looked up--her
"mother" was a full head taller than she. She lifted her fair
head--her eyes were full of tears. Her lips quivered--Lady Blythe
stooped and kissed them lightly.

"There!--be a good girl!" she said. "You have the most
extraordinary high-flown notions, and I think they will lead you
into trouble! However, I'll give you one more chance--if at the
end of this year you would like to come to me, my offer to you
still holds good. After that--well!--as you yourself said, you
will have no mother!"

"I have never had one!" answered Innocent, in low choked accents--
"And--I shall never have one!"

Lady Blythe smiled--a cold, amused smile, and passed out through
the hall into the garden.

"What delightful flowers!" she exclaimed, in a sweet, singing
voice, for the benefit of anyone who might be listening--"A
perfect paradise! No wonder Briar Farm is so famous! It's
perfectly charming! Is this the way? Thanks ever so much!" This,
as Innocent opened the gate--"Let me see!--I go up the old by-
road?--yes?--and the main road joins it at the summit?--No, pray
don't trouble to come with me--I can find my car quite easily!
Good-bye!"

And picking up her dainty skirt with one ungloved hand, on which
two diamond rings shone like circlets of dew, she nodded, smiled,
and went her way--Innocent standing at the gate and watching her
go with a kind of numbed patience as though she saw a figure in a
dream vanishing slowly with the dawn of day. In truth she could
hardly grasp the full significance of what had happened--she did
not feel, even remotely, the slightest attraction towards this
suddenly declared "mother" of hers--she could hardly believe the
story. Yet she knew it must be true,--no woman of title and
position would thus acknowledge a stigma on her own life without
any cause for the confession. She stood at the gate still
watching, though there was nothing now to watch, save the bending
trees, and the flowering wild plants that fringed each side of the
old by-road. Priscilla's voice calling her in a clear, yet lowered
tone, startled her at last--she slowly shut the gate and turned in
answer.

"Yes, dear? What is it?"

Priscilla trotted out from under the porch, full of eager
curiosity.

"Has the lady gone?"

"Yes."

"What did she want with ye, dearie?"

"Nothing very much!" and Innocent smiled--a strange, wistful
smile--"Only just what you thought!--she wished to buy something
from Briar Farm--and I told her it was not to be sold!"




CHAPTER XI

That night Innocent made an end of all her hesitation. Resolutely
she put away every thought that could deter her from the step she
was now resolved to take. Poor old Priscilla little imagined the
underlying cause of the lingering tenderness with which the girl
kissed her "good-night," looking back with more than her usual
sweetness as she went along the corridor to her own little room.
Once there, she locked and bolted the door fast, and then set to
work gathering a few little things together and putting them in a
large but light-weight satchel, such as she had often used to
carry some of the choicest apples from the orchard when they were
being gathered in. Her first care was for her manuscript,--the
long-treasured scribble, kept so secretly and so often considered
with hope and fear, and wonder and doubting--then she took one or
two of the more cherished volumes which had formerly been the
property of the "Sieur Amadis" and packed them with it. Choosing
only the most necessary garments from her little store, she soon
filled her extemporary travelling-bag, and then sat down to write
a letter to Robin. It was brief and explicit.

"DEAR ROBIN,"--it ran--"I have left this beloved home. It is
impossible for me to stay. Dad left me some money in bank-notes in
that sealed letter--so I want for nothing. Do not be anxious or
unhappy--but marry soon and forget me. I know you will always be
good to Priscilla--tell her I am not ungrateful to her for all her
care of me. I love her dearly. But I am placed in the world
unfortunately, and I must do something that will help me out of
the shame of being a burden on others and an object of pity or
contempt. If you will keep the old books Dad gave me, and still
call them mine, you will be doing me a great kindness. And will
you take care of Cupid?--he is quite a clever bird and knows his
friends. He will come to you or Priscilla as easily as he comes to
me. Good-bye, you dear, kind boy! I love you very much, but not as
you want me to love you,--and I should only make you miserable if
I stayed here and married you. God bless you!
"INNOCENT."

She put this in an envelope and addressed it,--then making sure
that everything was ready, she took a few sovereigns from the
little pile of housekeeping money which Priscilla always brought
to her to count over every week and compare with the household
expenses.

"I can return these when I change one of Dad's bank-notes," she
said to herself--"but I must have something smaller to pay my way
with just now than a hundred pounds."

Indeed the notes Hugo Jocelyn had left for her might have given
her some little trouble and embarrassment, but she did not pause
to consider difficulties. When a human creature resolves to dare
and to do, no impediment, real or imaginary, is allowed to stand
long in the way. An impulse pushes the soul forward, be it ever so
reluctantly--the impulse is sometimes from heaven and sometimes
from hell--but as long as it is active and peremptory, it is
obeyed blindly and to the full.

This little ignorant and unworldly girl passed the rest of the
night in tidying the beloved room where she had spent so many
happy hours, and setting everything in order,--talking in whispers
between whiles to the ghostly presence of the "Sieur Amadis" as to
a friend who knew her difficult plight and guessed her intentions.

"You see," she said, softly, "there is no way out of it. It is not
as if I were anybody--I am nobody! I was never wanted in the world
at all. I have no name. I have never been baptised. And though I
know now that I have a mother, I feel that she is nothing to me. I
can hardly believe she is my mother. She is a lady of fashion with
a secret--and _I_ am the secret! I ought to be put away and buried
and forgotten!--that would be safest for her, and perhaps best for
me! But I should like to live long enough to make her wish she had
been true to my father and had owned me as his child! Ah, such
dreams! Will they ever come true!"

She paused, looking up by the dim candle-light at the arms of the
"Sieur Amadis"--who "Here seekinge Forgetfulnesse did here fynde
Peace"--and at the motto "Mon coeur me soutien."

"Poor 'Sieur Amadis!'" she murmured--"He sought forgetfulness!--
shall I ever do the same? How strange it will be not to WISH to
remember!--surely one must be very old, or sad, to find gladness
in forgetting!"

A faint little thrill of dread ran through her slight frame--
thoughts began to oppress her and shake her courage--she
resolutely put them away and bent herself to the practical side of
action. Re-attiring herself in the plain black dress and hat which
Priscilla had got for her mourning garb, she waited patiently for
the first peep of daylight--a daylight which was little more than
darkness--and then, taking her satchel, she crept softly out of
her room, never once looking back. There was nothing to stay her
progress, for the great mastiff Hero, since Hugo Jocelyn's death,
had taken to such dismal howling that it had been found necessary
to keep him away from the house in, a far-off shed where his
melancholy plaints could not be heard. Treading with light,
soundless footsteps down the stairs, she reached the front-door,--
unbarred and unlocked it without any noise, and as softly closed
it behind her,--then she stood in the open, shivering slightly in
the sweet coldness of the coming dawn, and inhaling the fragrance
of awakening unseen flowers. She knew of a gap in the hedge by
means of which she could leave the garden without opening the big
farm-gate which moved on rather creaking hinges--and she took this
way over a couple of rough stepping-stones. Once out on the old
by-road she paused. Briar Farm looked like a house in a dream--
there was not enough daylight yet to show its gables distinctly,
and it was more like the shadowy suggestion of a building than any
actual substance. Yet there was something solemn and impressive in
its scarcely defined outline--to the girl's sensitive imagination
it was like the darkened and disappearing vision of her youth and
happiness,--a curtain falling, as it were, between the past and
the future like a drop-scene in a play.

"Good-bye, Briar Farm!" she whispered, kissing her hand to the
quaintly peaked roof just dimly perceptible--"Good-bye, dear,
beloved home! I shall never forget you! I shall never see anything
like you! Good-bye, peace and safety!--good-bye!"

The tears rushed to her eyes, and for the moment blinded her,--
then, overcoming this weakness, she set herself to walk quickly
and steadily away. Up the old by-road, through the darkness of the
overhanging trees, here and there crossed by pale wandering gleams
of fitful light from the nearing dawn, she moved swiftly, treading
with noiseless footsteps as though she thought the unseen spirits
of wood and field might hear and interrupt her progress--and in a
few minutes she found herself upon the broad highway branching
right and left and leading in either direction to the wider world.
Briar Farm had disappeared behind the trees,--it was as though no
such place existed, so deeply was it hidden.

She stopped, considering. She was not sure which was the way to
the nearest railway-station some eight miles distant. She was
prepared to walk it, but feared to take the wrong road, for she
instinctively felt that if she had to endure any unexpected delay,
some one from Briar Farm would be sent to trace her and find out
where she went. While she thus hesitated, she heard the heavy
rumbling of slow cart-wheels, and waited to see what sort of
vehicle might be approaching. It was a large waggon drawn by two
ponderous horses and driven by a man who, dimly perceived by the
light of the lantern fastened in front of him, appeared to be
asleep. Innocent hailed him--and after one or two efforts
succeeded at last in rousing his attention.

"Which is the way to the railway-station?" she asked.

The man blinked drowsily at her.

"Railway-station, is it? I be a-goin' there now to fetch a load o'
nitrates. Are ye wantin' to git?"

"Wantin' to git" was a country phrase to which Innocent was well
accustomed. She answered, gently--

"Yes. I should be so glad if you'd give me a lift--I'll pay you
for it. I have to catch the first train to London."

"Lunnon? Quiet, ye rascals!"--this to the sturdy horses who were
dragging away at their shafts in stolid determination to move on--
"Lunnon's a good way off! Ever bin there?"

"No."

"Nor I, nayther. Seekin' service?"

"Yes."

"Wal, ye can ride along wi' me, if so be ye likes it--we be goin'
main slow, but we'll be there before first engine. Climb up!--
that's right! 'Ere's a corner beside me--ye could sit in the
waggon if ye liked, but it's 'ard as nails. 'Ere's a bit of 'oss-
cloth for a cushion."

The girl sprang up as he bade her and was soon seated.

"Ye're a light 'un an' a little 'un, an' a young 'un," he said,
with a chuckle--"an' what ye're doin' all alone i' the wake o' the
marnin' is more than yer own mother knows, I bet!"

"I have no mother," she said.

"Eh, eh! That's bad--that's bad! Yet for all that there's bad
mothers wot's worse than none. Git on wi' ye!"--this in a
stentorian voice to the horses, accompanied by a sounding crack of
the whip. "Git on!"

The big strong creatures tugged at the shafts and obeyed, their
hoofs making a noisy clatter in the silence of the dawn. The
daylight was beginning to declare itself more openly, and away to
the east, just above a line of dark trees, the sky showed pale
suggestions of amber and of rose. Innocent sat very silent; she
was almost afraid of the coming light lest by chance the man
beside her should ever have seen her before and recognise her. His
sleep having been broken, he was disposed to be garrulous.

"Ever bin by train afore?" he asked.

"No."

"No! Eh, that's mighty cur'ous. A'most everyone goes somewhere by
train nowadays--there's such a sight o' cheap 'scursions. I know a
man wot got up i' the middle o' night, 'e did, an' more fool 'e!--
an' off 'e goes by train down to seaside for the day--'e'd never
seen the sea before an' it giv' 'im such a scare as 'e ain't got
over it yet. 'E said there was such a sight o' wobblin' water that
'e thort it 'ud wobble off altogether an' wash away all the land
and 'im with it. Ay, ay! 'e was main scared with 'is cheap
'scursion!"

"I've never seen the sea," said Innocent then, in a low clear
tone--"but I've read about it--and I think I know what it is like.
It is always changing,--it is full of beautiful colours, blue and
green, and grey and violet--and it has great waves edged with
white foam!--oh yes!--the poets write about it, and I have often
seen it in my dreams."

The dawning light in the sky deepened--and the waggoner turned his
head to look more closely at his girl-companion.

"Ye talks mighty strange!" he said--"a'most as if ye'd been
eddicated up to it. I ain't been eddicated, an' I've no notions
above my betters, but ye may be right about the sea--if ye've read
about it, though the papers is mostly lies, if ye asks me, telling
ye one thing one day an' another to-morrow--"

"I don't read the papers"--and Innocent smiled a little as in the
widening light she began to see the stolid, stupid, but good-
natured face of the man--"I don't understand them. I've read about
the sea in books,--books of poetry."

He uttered a sound between a whistle and a grunt.

"Books of poetry! An' ye're goin' to seek service in Lunnon? Take
my word for't, my gel, they won't want any folks there wi' sort o'
gammon like that in their 'eds--they're all on the make there, an'
they don't care for nothin' 'cept money an' 'ow to grab it. I
ain't bin there, but I've heerd a good deal."

"You may have heard wrong," said Innocent, gathering more courage
as she realised that the light was now quite clear enough for him
to see her features distinctly and that it was evident he did not
know her--"London is such a large place that there must be all
sorts in it--good as well as bad--they can't all be greedy for
money. There must be people who think beautiful things, and do
beautiful work--"

"Oh, there's plenty o' work done there"--and the waggoner flicked
his long whip against the sturdy flanks of his labouring horses--
"I ain't denyin' that. An' YOU'll 'ave to work, my gel!--you bet!
you'll 'ave to wash down steps an' sweep kitchens a good while
afore you gits into the way of it! Why not take a service in the
country?"

"I'm a little tired of the country," she answered--"I'd like a
change."

"An' a change ye're likely to git!" he retorted, somewhat gruffly
--"Lor' bless yer 'art! There ain't nothin' like the country! All
the trees a-greenin' an' the flowers a-blowin' an' the birds a-
singin'! 'Ave ye ever 'era tell of a place called Briar Farm?"

She controlled the nervous start of her body, and replied quietly--

"I think I have. A very old place."

"Ah! Old? I believe ye! 'Twas old in the time o' good Queen Bess--
an' the same fam'ly 'as 'ad it these three 'undred years--a fam'ly
o' the name o' Jocelyn. Ay, if ye could a' got service wi' Farmer
Jocelyn ye'd a' bin in luck's way! But 'e's dead an' gone last
week--more's the pity!--an' 'is nephew's got the place now, forbye
'e ain't a Jocelyn."

She was silent, affecting not to be interested. The waggoner went
on--

"That's the sort o' place to seek service in! Safe an' clean an'
'onest as the sunshine--good work an' good pay--a deal better than
a place in Lunnon. An' country air, my gel!--country air!--nuthin'
like it!"

A sudden blaze of gold lit up the trees--the sun was rising--full
day was disclosed, and the last filmy curtains of the night were
withdrawn, showing a heavenly blue sky flecked lightly with
wandering trails of white cloud like swansdown. He pointed
eastward with his long whip.

"Look at that!" he said--"Fine, isn't it! No roofs and chimneys--
just the woods and fields! Nuthin' like it anywhere!"

Innocent drew a long breath--the air was indeed sweet and keen--
new life seemed given to the world with its exhilarating
freshness. But she made no reply to the enthusiastic comments of
her companion. Thoughts were in her brain too deep for speech. Not
here, not here, in this quiet pastoral scene could she learn the
way to wrest the golden circlet of fame from the hands of the
silent gods!--it must be in the turmoil and rush of endeavour--the
swift pursuit of the flying Apollo! And--as the slow waggon jogged
along--she felt herself drawn, as it were, by a magnet--on--on--
on!--on towards a veiled mystery which waited for her--a mystery
which she alone could solve.

Presently they came within sight of several rows of ugly wooden
sheds with galvanised iron roofs and short black chimneys.

"A'most there now," said the waggoner--"'Ere's a bit o' Lunnon
a'ready!--dirt an' muck and muddle! Where man do make a mess o'
things 'e makes a mess all round! Spoils everything 'e can lay 'is
'ands on!"

The approaches to the railway were certainly not attractive--no
railway approaches ever are. Perhaps they appear more than usually
hideous when built amid a fair green country, where for miles and
miles one sees nothing but flowering hedgerows and soft pastures
shaded by the graceful foliage of sheltering trees. Then the
shining, slippery iron of the railway running like a knife through
the verdant bosom of the land almost hurts the eyes, and the
accessories of station-sheds, coal-trucks, and the like, affront
the taste like an ill-done foreground in an otherwise pleasing
picture. A slight sense of depression and foreboding came like a
cloud over the mind of poor little lonely Innocent, as she
alighted at the station at last, and with uplifted wistful eyes
tendered a sovereign to the waggoner.

"Please take as much of it as you think right," she said--"It was
very kind of you to let me ride with you."

The man stared, whistled, and thought. Feeling in the depth of a
capacious pocket he drew out a handful of silver and counted it
over carefully.

"'Ere y'are!" he said, handing it all over with the exception of
one half-crown--"Ye'll want all yer change in Lunnon an' more. I'm
takin' two bob an' sixpence--if ye thinks it too much, say so!"

"Oh no, no!" and Innocent looked distressed--"Perhaps it's too
little--I hope you are not wronging yourself?"

The waggoner laughed, kindly enough.

"Don't ye mind ME!" he said--"I'M all right! If I 'adn't two kids
at 'ome I'd charge ye nothin'--but I'm goin' to get 'em a toy they
wants, an' I'll take the 'arf-crown for the luck of it. Good-day
t'ye! Hope you'll find an easy place!"

She smiled and thanked him,--then entered the station and, finding
the ticket-office just open, paid a third-class fare to London. A
sudden thrill of nervousness came over her. She spoke to the
booking-clerk, peering wistfully at him through his little ticket-
aperture.

"I have never been in a train before!" she said, in a small,
anxious voice.

The clerk smiled, and yawned expansively. He was a young man who
considered himself a "gentleman," and among his own particular set
passed for being a wit.

"Really!" he drawled--"Quite a new experience for you! A little
country mouse, is it?"

Innocent drew back, offended.

"I don't know what you mean," she said, coldly--and moved away.

The young clerk fingered his embryo moustache dubiously--conscious
of a blunder in manners. This girl was a lady--not a mere country
wench to joke with. He felt rather uncomfortable--and presently
leaving his office, went out on the platform where she was walking
up and down, and slightly lifted his cap.

"I beg your pardon!" he said, his face reddening a little--"If you
are travelling alone you would like to get into a carriage with
other people, wouldn't you?"

"Oh yes!" she answered, eagerly--"If you would be so kind--"

He made no answer, as just then, with a rush and crash and
clatter, and deafening shriek of the engine-whistle, the train
came thundering in. There was opening and shutting of doors, much
banging and confusion, and before she very well knew where she
was, Innocent found herself in a compartment with three other
persons--one benevolent-looking old gentleman with white hair who
was seated opposite to her, and a man and woman, evidently husband
and wife. Another shriek and roar, and the train started--as it
began to race along, Innocent closed her eyes with a sickening
sensation of faintness and terror--then, opening them, saw hedges,
fields, trees and ponds all flying past her like scud in the wind,
and sat watching in stupefied wonderment--one little hand grasping
the satchel that held all her worldly possessions--the other
hanging limply at her side. Now and then she looked at her
companions--the husband and wife sat opposite each other and spoke
occasionally in monosyllables--the old gentleman on the seat
facing herself was reading a paper which showed its title--"The
Morning Post." Sometimes he looked at her over the top of the
paper, but for the most part he appeared absorbed in the printed
page. On, on, on, the train rushed at a pace which to her seemed
maddening and full of danger--she felt sick and giddy--would it
never stop, she thought?--and a deep sense of relief came over her
when, with a scream from the engine-whistle loud enough to tear
the drum of a sensitive ear, the whole shaking, rattling concern
came to an abrupt standstill at a station. Then she mustered up
courage to speak.

"Please, would you tell me--" she began, faintly.

The old gentleman laid down his "Morning Post" and surveyed her
encouragingly.

"Yes? What is it?"

"Will it be long before we get to London?"

"About three hours."

"Three hours!"

She gave a deep and weary sigh. Three hours! Hardly till then had
she realised how far she was from Briar Farm--or how entirely she
had cut herself off from all the familiar surroundings of her
childhood's home, her girlhood's life. She leaned back in her
seat, and one or two tears escaped from under her drooping eyelids
and trickled slowly down her cheeks. The train started off again,
rushing at what she thought an awful speed,--she imagined herself
as being torn away from the peaceful past and hurled into a stormy
future. Yet it was her own doing--whatever chanced to her now she
would have no one but herself to blame. The events of the past few
days had crushed and beaten her so with blows,--the old adage
"Misfortunes never come singly" had been fulfilled for her with
cruel and unlooked-for plenitude. There is a turning-point in
every human life--or rather several turning-points--and at each
one are gathered certain threads of destiny which may either be
involved in a tangle or woven distinctly as a clue--but which in
any case lead to change in the formerly accepted order of things.
We may thank the gods that this is so--otherwise in the jog-trot
of a carefully treasured conservatism and sameness of daily
existence we should become the easy prey of adventurers, who,
discovering our desire for the changelessness of a convenient and
comfortable routine, would mulct us of all individuality. Our very
servants would become our masters, and would take advantage of our
easy-going ways to domineer over us, as in the case of "lone
ladies" who are often half afraid to claim obedience from the
domestics they keep and pay. Ignorant of the ways of the world and
full of such dreams as the world considers madness, Innocent had
acted on a powerful inward impetus which pushed her spirit towards
liberty and independence--but of any difficulties or dangers she
might have to encounter she never thought. She had the blind
confidence of a child that runs along heedless of falling, being
instinctively sure that some hand will be stretched out to save it
should it run into positive danger.

Mastering the weakness of tears, she furtively dried her eyes and
endeavoured not to think at all--not to dwell on the memory of her
"Dad" whom she had loved so tenderly, and all the sweet
surroundings of Briar Farm which already seemed so far away. Robin
would be sorry she had gone--indeed he would be very miserable for
a time--she was certain of that!--and Priscilla! yes, Priscilla
had loved her as her own child,--here her thoughts began running
riot again, and she moved impatiently. Just then the old gentleman
with the "Morning Post" folded it neatly and, bending forward,
offered it to her.

"Would you like to see the paper?" he asked, politely.

The warm colour flushed her cheeks--she accepted it shyly.

"Thank you very much!" she murmured--and, gratefully shielding her
tearful eyes behind the convenient news-sheet, she began glancing
up and down the front page with all its numerous announcements,
from the "Agony" column down to the latest new concert-singers and
sailings of steamers.

Suddenly her attention was caught by the following advertisement--

"A Lady of good connection and position will be glad to take
another lady as Paying Guest in her charming house in Kensington.
Would suit anyone studying art or for a scholarship. Liberal table
and refined surroundings. Please communicate with 'Lavinia' at--"
Here followed an address.

Over and over again Innocent read this with a sort of fascination.
Finally, taking from her pocket a little note-book and pencil, she
copied it carefully.

"I might go there," she thought--"If she is a poor lady wanting
money, she might be glad to have me as a 'paying guest,' Anyhow,
it will do no harm to try. I must find some place to rest in, if
only for a night."

Here she became aware that the old gentleman who had lent her the
paper was eyeing her curiously yet kindly. She met his glance with
a mixture of frankness and timidity which gave her expression a
wonderful charm. He ventured to speak as he might have spoken to a
little child.

"Are you going to London for the first time?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

He smiled. He had a pleasant smile, distinctly humorous and good-
natured.

"It's a great adventure!" he said--"Especially for a little girl,
all alone."

She coloured.

"I'm not a little girl," she answered, with quaint dignity--"I'm
eighteen."

"Really!"--and the old gentleman looked more humorous than ever--
"Oh well!--of course you are quite old. But, you see, I am
seventy, so to me you seem a little girl. I suppose your friends
will meet you in London?"

She hesitated--then answered, simply--

"No. I have no friends. I am going to earn my living."

The old gentleman whistled. It was a short, low whistle at first,
but it developed into a bar of "Sally in our Alley," Then he
looked round--the other people in the compartment, the husband and
wife, were asleep.

"Poor child!" he then said, very gently--"I'm afraid that will be
hard work for you. You don't look very strong."

"Oh, but I am!" she replied, eagerly--"I can do anything in
housework or dairy-farming--I've been brought up to be useful--"

"That's more than a great many girls can say!" he remarked,
smiling--"Well, well! I hope you may succeed! I also was brought
up to be useful--but I'm not sure that I have ever been of any
use!"

She looked at him with quick interest.

"Are you a clever man?" she asked.

The simplicity of the question amused him, and he laughed.

"A few people have sometimes called me so," he answered--"but my
'cleverness,' or whatever it may be, is not of the successful
order. And I'm getting old now, so that most of my activity is
past. I have written a few books--"

"Books!"--she clasped her hands nervously, and her eyes grew
brilliant--"Oh! If you can write books you must always be happy!"

"Do you think so?" And he bent his brows and scrutinised her more
intently. "What do YOU know about it? Are you fond of reading?"

A deep blush suffused her fair skin.

"Yes--but I have only read very old books for the most part," she
said--"In the farm-house where I was brought up there were a great
many manuscripts on vellum, and curious things--I read those--and
some books in old French--"

"Books in old French!" he echoed, wonderingly. "And you can read
them? You are quite a French scholar, then?"

"Oh no, indeed!" she protested--"I have only taught myself a
little. Of course it was difficult at first,--but I soon managed
it,--just as I learned how to read old English--I mean the English
of Queen Elizabeth's time. I loved it all so much that it was a
pleasure to puzzle it out. We had a few modern books--but I never
cared for them."

He studied her face with increasing interest.

"And you are going to earn your own living in London!" he said--
"Have you thought of a way to begin? In old French, or old
English?"

She glanced at him quickly and saw that he was smiling kindly.

"Yes," she answered, gently--"I have thought of a way to begin!
Will you tell me of some book you have written so that I may read
it?"

He shook his head.

"Not I!" he declared--"I could not stand the criticism of a young
lady who might compare me with the writers of the Elizabethan
period--Shakespeare, for instance--"

"Ah no!" she said--"No one can ever be compared with Shakespeare--
that is impossible!"

He was silent,--and as she resumed her reading of the "Morning
Post" he had lent her, he leaned back in his seat and left her to
herself. But he was keenly interested,--this young, small creature
with her delicate, intelligent face and wistful blue-grey eyes was
a new experience for him. He was a well-seasoned journalist and
man of letters,--clever in his own line and not without touches of
originality in his work--but hardly brilliant or forceful enough
to command the attention of the public to a large or successful
issue. He was, however, the right hand and chief power on the
staff of one of the most influential of daily newspapers, whose
proprietor would no more have thought of managing things without
him than of going without a dinner, and from this post, which he
had held for twenty years, he derived a sufficiently comfortable
income. In his profession he had seen all classes of humanity--the
wise and the ignorant,--the conceited and the timid,--men who
considered themselves new Shakespeares in embryo,--women in whom
the unbounded vanity of a little surface cleverness was sufficient
to place them beyond the pale of common respect,--but he had never
till now met a little country girl making her first journey to
London who admitted reading "old French" and Elizabethan English
as unconcernedly as she might have spoken of gathering apples or
churning cream. He determined not to lose sight of her, and to
improve the acquaintance if he got the chance. He heard her give a
sudden sharp sigh as she read the "Morning Post,"--she had turned
to the middle of the newspaper where the events of the day were
chronicled, and where a column of fashionable intelligence
announced the ephemeral doings of the so-called "great" of the
world. Here one paragraph had caught and riveted her attention--it
ran thus--"Lord and Lady Blythe have left town for Glen-Alpin,
Inverness-shire, where they will entertain a large house-party to
meet the Prime Minister."

Her mother!--It was difficult to believe that but a few hours ago
this very Lady Blythe had offered to "adopt" her!--"adopt" her own
child and act a lie in the face of all the "society" she
frequented,--yet, strange and fantastic as it seemed, it was true!
Possibly she--Innocent--had she chosen, could have been taken to
"Glen-Alpin, Inverness-shire!"--she too might have met the Prime
Minister! She almost laughed at the thought of it!--the paper
shook in her hand. Her "mother"! Just then the old gentleman bent
forward again and spoke to her.

"We are very near London now," he said--"Can I help you at the
station to get your luggage? You might find it confusing at first--"

"Oh, thank you!" she murmured--"But I have no luggage--only this"
--and she pointed to the satchel beside her--"I shall get on very
well."

Here she folded up the "Morning Post" and returned it to him with
a pretty air of courtesy. As he accepted it he smiled.

"You are a very independent little lady!" he said--"But--just in
case you ever do want to read a book of mine,--I am going to give
you my name and address." Here he took a card from his waistcoat
pocket and gave it to her. "That will always find me," he
continued--"Don't be afraid to write and ask me anything about
London you may wish to know. It's a very large city--a cruel
one!"--and he looked at her with compassionate kindness--"You
mustn't lose yourself in it!"

She read the name on the card--"John Harrington"--and the address
was the office of a famous daily journal. Looking up, she gave him
a grateful little smile.

"You are very kind!" she said--"And I will not forget you. I don't
think I shall lose myself--I'll try not to be so stupid! Yes--when
I have read one of your books I will write to you!"

"Do!"--and there was almost a note of eagerness in his voice--"I
should like to know what you think"--here a loud and persistent
scream from the engine-whistle drowned all possibility of speech
as the train rushed past a bewildering wilderness of houses packed
close together under bristling black chimneys--then, as the
deafening din ceased, he added, quietly, "Here is London."

She looked out of the window,--the sun was shining, but through a
dull brown mist, and nothing but bricks and mortar, building upon
building, met her view. After the sweet freshness of the country
she had left behind, the scene was appallingly hideous, and her
heart sank with a sense of fear and foreboding. Another few
minutes and the train stopped.

"This is Paddington," said John Harrington; then, noting her
troubled expression--"Let me get a taxi for you and tell the man
where to drive."

She submitted in a kind of stunned bewilderment. The address she
had found in the "Morning Post" was her rescue--she could go
there, she thought, rapidly, even if she had to come away again.
Almost before she could realise what had happened in all the noise
and bustling to and fro, she found herself in a taxi-cab, and her
kind fellow-traveller standing beside it, raising his hat to her
courteously in farewell. She gave him the address of the house in
Kensington which she had copied from the advertisement she had
seen in the "Morning Post," and he repeated it to the taxi-driver
with a sense of relief and pleasure. It was what is called "a
respectable address"--and he was glad the child knew where she was
going. In another moment the taxi was off,--a parting smile
brightened the wistful expression of her young face, and she waved
her little hand to him. And then she was whirled away among the
seething crowd of vehicles and lost to sight. Old John Harrington
stood for a moment on the railway-platform, lost in thought.

"A sweet little soul!" he mused--"I wonder what will become of
her! I must see her again some day. She reminds me of--let me
see!--who does she remind me of? By Jove, I have it! Pierce
Armitage!--haven't seen him for twenty years at least--and this
girl's face has a look of his--just the same eyes and intense
expression. Poor old Armitage!--he promised to be a great artist
once, but he's gone to the dogs by this time, I suppose. Curious,
curious that I should remember him just now!"

And he went his way, thinking and wondering, while Innocent went
hers, without any thought at all, in a blind and simple faith that
God would take care of her.




CHAPTER XII

To be whirled along through the crowded streets of London in a
taxi-cab for the first time in one's life must needs be a somewhat
disconcerting, even alarming experience, and Innocent was the poor
little prey of so many nervous fears during her journey to
Kensington in this fashion, that she could think of nothing and
realise nothing except that at any moment it seemed likely she
would be killed. With wide-open, terrified eyes, she watched the
huge motor-omnibuses almost bearing down upon the vehicle in which
she sat, and shivered at the narrow margin of space the driver
seemed to allow for any sort of escape from instant collision and
utter disaster. She only began to breathe naturally again when,
turning away out of the greater press of traffic, the cab began to
run at a smoother and less noisy pace, till presently, in less
time than she could have imagined possible, it drew up at a
modestly retreating little door under an arched porch in a quiet
little square, where there were some brave and pretty trees doing
their best to be green, despite London soot and smoke. Innocent
stepped out, and seeing a bell-handle pulled it timidly. The
summons was answered by a very neat maid-servant, who looked at
her in primly polite enquiry.

"Is Mrs.--or Miss 'Lavinia' at home?" she murmured. "I saw her
advertisement in the 'Morning Post.'"

The servant's face changed from primness to propitiation.

"Oh yes, miss! Please step in! I'll tell Miss Leigh."

"Thank you. I'll pay the driver."

She thereupon paid for the cab and dismissed it, and then followed
the maid into a very small but prettily arranged hall, and from
thence into a charming little drawing-room, with French windows
set open, showing a tiny garden beyond--a little green lawn,
smooth as velvet, and a few miniature flower-beds gay with well-
kept blossoms.

"Would you please take a seat, miss?" and the maid placed a chair.
"Miss Leigh is upstairs, but she'll be down directly."

She left the room, closing the door softly behind her.

Innocent sat still, satchel in hand, looking wistfully about her.
The room appealed to her taste in its extreme simplicity--and it
instinctively suggested to her mind resigned poverty making the
best of itself. There were one or two old miniatures on little
velvet stands set on the mantelpiece--these were beautiful, and of
value; some engravings of famous pictures adorned the walls, all
well chosen; the quaint china bowl on the centre table was full of
roses carefully arranged--and there was a very ancient harpsichord
in one corner which apparently served only as a stand for the
portrait of a man's strikingly handsome face, near which was
placed a vase containing a stem of Madonna lilies. Innocent found
herself looking at this portrait now and again--there was
something familiar in its expression which had a curious
fascination for her. But her thoughts revolved chiefly round a
difficulty which had just presented itself--she had no real name.
What name could she take to be known by for the moment? She would
not call herself "Jocelyn"--she felt she had no right to do so.
"Ena" might pass muster for an abbreviation of "Innocent"--she
decided to make use of that as a Christian name--but a surname
that would be appropriately fitted to her ultimate intentions she
could not at once select. Then she suddenly thought of the man who
had been her father and had brought her as a helpless babe to
Briar Farm. Pierce Armitage was his name--and he was dead. Surely
she might call herself Armitage? While she was still puzzling her
mind over the question the door opened and a little old lady
entered--a soft-eyed, pale, pretty old lady, as dainty and
delicate as the fairy-godmother of a child's dream, with white
hair bunched on either side of her face, and a wistful, rather
plaintive expression of mingled hope and enquiry.

"I'm sorry to keep you waiting," she began--then paused in a kind
of embarrassment. The two looked at each other. Innocent spoke, a
little shyly:

"I saw your advertisement in the 'Morning Post,'" she said, "and I
thought perhaps--I thought that I might come to you as a paying
guest. I have to live in London, and I shall be very busy studying
all day, so I should not give you much trouble."

"Pray do not mention it!" said the old lady, with a quaint air of
old-fashioned courtesy. "Trouble would not be considered! But you
are a much younger person than I expected or wished to
accommodate."

"You said in the advertisement that it would be suitable for a
person studying art, or for a scholarship," put in Innocent,
quickly. "And I am studying for literature."

"Are you indeed?" and the old lady waved a little hand in
courteous deprecation of all unnecessary explanation--a hand which
Innocent noticed had a delicate lace mitten on it and one or two
sparkling rings. "Well, let us sit down together and talk it over.
I have two spare rooms--a bedroom and a sitting-room--they are
small but very comfortable, and for these I have been told I
should ask three guineas a week, including board. I feel it a
little difficult"--and the old lady heaved a sigh--"I have never
done this kind of thing before--I don't know what my poor father,
Major Leigh, would have said--he was a very proud man--very proud--!"

While she thus talked, Innocent had been making a rapid
calculation in her own mind. Three guineas a week! It was more
than she had meant to pay, but she was instinctively wise enough
to realise the advantage of safety and shelter in this charming
little home of one who was evidently a lady, gentle, kindly, and
well-mannered. She had plenty of money to go on with--and in the
future she hoped to make more. So she spoke out bravely.

"I will pay the three guineas a week gladly," she said. "May I see
the rooms?"

The old lady meanwhile had been studying her with great
intentness, and now asked abruptly--

"Are you an English girl?"

Innocent flushed a sudden rosy red.

"Yes. I was brought up in the country, but all my people are dead
now. I have no friends, but I have a little money left to me--and
for the rest--I must earn my own living."

"Well, my dear, that won't hurt you!" and an encouraging smile
brightened Miss Leigh's pleasantly wrinkled face. "You shall see
the rooms. But you have not told me your name yet."

Again Innocent blushed.

"My name is Armitage," she said, in a low, hesitating tone--"Ena
Armitage."

"Armitage!"--Miss Leigh repeated the name with a kind of wondering
accent--"Armitage? Are you any relative of the painter, Pierce
Armitage?"

The girl's heart beat quickly--for a moment the little drawing-
room seemed to whirl round her--then she collected her forces with
a strong effort and answered--"No!"

The old lady's wistful blue eyes, dimmed with age, yet retaining a
beautiful tenderness of expression, rested upon her anxiously.

"You are quite sure?"

Repressing the feeling that prompted her to cry out--"He was my
father!" she replied--

"I am quite sure!"

Lavinia Leigh raised her little mittened hand and pointed to the
portrait standing on the harpsichord:

"That was Pierce Armitage!" she said. "He was a dear friend of
mine"--her voice trembled a little--"and I should have been glad
if you had been in any way connected with him."

As she spoke Innocent turned and looked steadily at the portrait,
and it seemed to her excited fancy that its eyes gave her glance
for glance. She could hardly breathe--the threatening tears half
choked her. What strange fate was it, she thought, that had led
her to a house where she looked upon her own father's likeness for
the first time!

"He was a very fine man," continued Miss Leigh in the same half-
tremulous voice--"very gifted--very clever! He would have been a
great artist, I think--"

"Is he dead?" the girl asked, quietly.

"Yes--I--I think so--he died abroad--so they say, but I have never
quite believed it--I don't know why! Come, let me show you the
rooms. I am glad your name is Armitage."

She led the way, walking slowly,--Innocent followed like one in a
dream. They ascended a small staircase, softly carpeted, to a
square landing, and here Miss Leigh opened a door.

"This is the sitting-room," she said. "You see, it has a nice bow-
window with a view of the garden. The bedroom is just beyond it--
both lead into one another."

Innocent looked in and could not resist giving a little
exclamation of pleasure. Everything was so clean and dainty and
well kept--it seemed to her a perfect haven of rest and shelter.
She turned to Miss Leigh in eager impulsiveness.

"Oh, please let me stay!" she said. "Now, at once! I have only
just arrived in London and this is the first place I have seen. It
seems so--so fortunate that you should have had a friend named
Armitage! Perhaps--perhaps I may be a friend too!"

A curious tremor seemed to pass over the old lady as though she
shivered in a cold wind. She laid one hand gently on the girl's
arm.

"You may, indeed!" she said. "One never can tell what may happen
in this strange world! But we have to be practical--and I am very
poor and pressed for money. I do not know you--and of course I
should expect references from some respectable person who can tell
me who you are and all about you."

Innocent grew pale. She gave a little expressive gesture of utter
hopelessness.

"I cannot give you any references," she said--"I am quite alone in
the world--my people are dead--you see I am in mourning. The last
friend I had died a little while ago and left me four hundred
pounds in bank-notes. I have them here"--and she touched her
breast--"and if you like I will give you one of them in advance
payment for the rooms and board at once."

The old lady heaved a quick sharp sigh. One hundred pounds! It
would relieve her of a weight of pressing difficulty--and yet--!
She paused, considering.

"No, my child!" she said, quietly. "I would not on any account
take so much money from you. If you wish to stay, and if I must
omit references and take you on trust--which I am quite willing to
do!"--and she smiled, gravely--"I will accept two months' rent in
advance if you think you can spare this--can you?"

"Yes--oh, yes!" the girl exclaimed, impulsively. "If only I may
stay--now!"

"You may certainly stay now," and Miss Leigh rang a bell to summon
the neat maid-servant. "Rachel, the rooms are let to this young
lady, Miss Armitage. Will you prepare the bedroom and help her
unpack her things?" Then, turning round to Innocent, she said
kindly,--"You will of course take your meals with me at my table--
I keep very regular hours, and if for any cause you have to be
absent, I should wish to know beforehand."

Innocent said nothing;--her eyes were full of tears, but she took
the old lady's little hand and kissed it. They went down together
again to the drawing-room, Innocent just pausing to tell the maid
Rachel that she would prefer to unpack and arrange the contents of
her satchel--all her luggage,--herself; and in a very few minutes
the whole business was settled. Eager to prove her good faith to
the gentle lady who had so readily trusted her, she drew from her
bosom the envelope containing the bank-notes left to her by Hugo
Jocelyn, and, unfolding all four, she spread them out on the
table.

"You see," she said, "this is my little fortune! Please change one
of them and take the two months' rent and anything more you want--
please do!"

A faint colour flushed Miss Leigh's pale cheeks.

"No, my dear, no!" she answered. "You must not tempt me! I will
take exactly the two months' rent and no more; but I think you
ought not to carry this money about with you--you should put it in
a bank. We'll talk of this afterwards--but go and lock it up
somewhere now--there's a little desk in your room you could use--
but a bank would be safest. After dinner this evening I'll tell
you what I think you ought to do--you are so very young!"--and she
smiled--"such a young little thing! I shall have to look after you
and play chaperone!"

Innocent looked up with a sweet confidence in her eyes.

"That will be kind of you!" she said, and leaving the one bank-
note of a hundred pounds on the table, she folded up the other
three in their original envelope and returned them to their secret
place of safety. "In a little while I will tell you a great deal
about myself--and I do hope I shall please you! I will not give
any trouble, and I'll try to be useful in the house if you'll let
me. I can cook and sew and do all sorts of things!"

"Can you, indeed!" and Miss Leigh laughed good-naturedly. "And
what about studying for literature?"

"Ah!--that of course comes first!" she said. "But I shall do all
my writing in the mornings--in the afternoons I can help you as
much as you like."

"My dear, your time must be your own," said Miss Leigh,
decisively. "You have paid for your accommodation, and you must
have perfect liberty to do as you like, as long as you keep to my
regular hours for meals and bed-time. I think we shall get on well
together,--and I hope we shall be good friends!"

As she spoke she bent forward and on a sudden impulse drew the
girl to her and kissed her. Poor lonely Innocent thrilled through
all her being to the touch of instinctive tenderness, and her
heart beat quickly as she saw the portrait on the harpsichord--her
father's pictured face--apparently looking at her with a smile.

"Oh, you are very good to me!" she murmured, with a little sob in
her breath, as she returned the gentle old lady's kiss. "I feel as
if I had known you for years! Did you know him"--and she pointed
to the portrait--"very long?"

Miss Leigh's eyes grew bright and tender.

"Yes!" she answered. "We were boy and girl together--and once--
once we were very fond of each other. Perhaps I will tell you the
story some day! Now go up to your rooms and arrange everything as
you like, and rest a little. Would you like some tea? Anything to
eat?"

Poor Innocent, who had left Briar Farm at dawn without any thought
of food, and had travelled to London almost unconscious of either
hunger or fatigue, was beginning to feel the lack of nourishment,
and she gratefully accepted the suggestion.

"I lunch at two o'clock," continued Miss Leigh. "But it's only a
little past twelve now, and if you have come a long way from the
country you must be tired. I'll send Rachel up to you with some
tea."

She went to give the order, and Innocent, left to herself for a
moment, moved softly up to her father's picture and gazed upon it
with all her soul in her eyes. It was a wonderful face--a face
expressive of the highest thought and intelligence--the face of a
thinker or a poet, though the finely moulded mouth and chin had
nothing of the weakness which sometimes marks a mere dreamer of
dreams. Timidly glancing about her to make sure she was not
observed, she kissed the portrait, the cold glass which covered it
meeting her warm caressing lips with a repelling chill. He was
dead--this father whom she could never claim!--dead as Hugo
Jocelyn, who had taken that father's place in her life. She might
love the ghost of him if her fancy led her that way, as she loved
the ghost of the "Sieur Amadis"--but there was nothing else to
love! She was alone in the world, with neither father nor "knight
of old" to protect or defend her, and on herself alone depended
her future. She turned away and left the room, looking a fragile,
sad, unobtrusive little creature, with nothing about her to
suggest either beauty or power. Yet the mind in that delicate body
had a strength of which she was unconscious, and she was already
bending it instinctively and intellectually like a bow ready for
the first shot--with an arrow which was destined to go straight to
its mark.

Meanwhile on Briar Farm there had fallen a cloud of utter
desolation. The day was fair and brilliant with summer sunshine,
the birds sang, the roses bloomed, the doves flew to and fro on
the gabled roof, and Innocent's pet "Cupid" waited in vain on the
corner of her window-sill for the usual summons that called it to
her hand,--but a strange darkness and silence like a whelming wave
submerged the very light from the eyes of those who suddenly found
themselves deprived of a beloved presence--a personality
unobtrusively sweet, which had bestowed on the old house a charm
and grace far greater than had been fully recognised. The "base-
born" Innocent, nameless, and unbaptised, and therefore shadowed
by the stupid scandal of commonplace convention, had given the
"home" its homelike quality--her pretty idealistic fancies about
the old sixteenth-century knight "Sieur Amadis" had invested the
place with a touch of romance and poetry which it would hardly
have possessed with-out her--her gentle ways, her care of the
flowers and the animals, and the never-wearying delight she had
taken in the household affairs--all her part in the daily life of
the farm had been as necessary to happiness as the mastership of
Hugo Jocelyn himself--and without her nothing seemed the same.
Poor Priscilla went about her work, crying silently, and Robin
Clifford paced restlessly up and down the smooth grass in front of
the old house with Innocent's farewell letter in his hand, reading
it again and again. He had returned early from the market town
where he had stayed the night, eager to explain to her all the
details of the business he had gone through with the lawyer to
whom his Uncle Hugo had entrusted his affairs, and to tell her how
admirably everything had been arranged for the prosperous
continuance of Briar Farm on the old traditional methods of labour
by which it had always been worked to advantage. Hugo Jocelyn had
indeed shown plenty of sound wisdom and foresight in all his plans
save one--and that one was his fixed idea of Innocent's marriage
with his nephew. It had evidently never occurred to him that a
girl could have a will of her own in such a momentous affair--much
less that she could or would be so unwise as to refuse a good
husband and a settled home when both were at hand for her
acceptance. Robin himself, despite her rejection of him, had still
hoped and believed that when the first shock of his uncle's death
had lessened, he might by patience and unwearying tenderness move
her heart to softer yielding, and he had meant to plead his cause
with her for the sake of the famous old house itself, so that she
might become its mistress and help him to prove a worthy
descendant of its long line of owners. But now! All hope was at an
end--she had taken the law into her own hands and gone--no one
knew whither. Priscilla was the last who had seen her--Priscilla
could only explain, with many tears, that when she had gone to
call her to breakfast she had found her room vacant, her bed
unslept in, and the letter for Robin on the table--and that letter
disclosed little or nothing of her intentions.

"Oh, the poor child!" Priscilla said, sobbingly. "All alone in a
hard world, with her strange little fancies, and no one to take
care of her! Oh, Mr. Robin, whatever are we to do!"

"Nothing!" and Robin's handsome face was pale and set. "We can
only wait to hear from her--she will not keep us long in anxiety--
she has too much heart for that. After all, it is MY fault,
Priscilla! I tried to persuade her to marry me against her will--I
should have let her alone."

Sudden boyish tears sprang to his eyes--he dashed them away in
self-contempt.

"I'm a regular coward, you see," he said. "I could cry like a
baby--not for myself so much, but to think of her running away
from Briar Farm out into the wide world all alone! Little
Innocent! She was safe here--and if she had wished it, _I_ would
have gone away--I would have made HER the owner of the farm, and
left her in peace to enjoy it and to marry any other man she
fancied. But she wouldn't listen to any plan for her own happiness
since she knew she was not my uncle's daughter--that is what has
changed her! I wish she had never known!"

"Ay, so do I!" agreed Priscilla, dolefully. "But she's got the
fancifullest notions! All about that old stone knight in the
garden--an' what wi' the things he's left carved all over the wall
of the room where she read them queer old books, she's fair 'mazed
with ideas that don't belong to the ways o' the world at all. I
can't think what'll become o' the child. Won't there be any means
of findin' out where she's gone?"

"I'm afraid not!" answered Robin, sadly. "We muse trust to her
remembrance of us, Priscilla, and her thoughts of the old home
where she was loved and cared for." His voice shook. "It will be a
dreary place without her! We shall miss her every minute, every
hour of the day! I cannot fancy what the garden will look like
without her little white figure flitting over the grass, and her
sweet fair face smiling among the roses! Hang it all, Priscilla,
if it were not for the last wishes of my Uncle Hugo I'd throw the
whole thing up and go abroad!"

"Don't do that, Mister Robin!"--and Priscilla laid her rough work-
worn hand on his arm--"Don't do it! It's turning your back on duty
to give up the work entrusted to you by a dead man. You know it
is! An' the child may come back any day! I shouldn't wonder if she
got frightened at being alone and ran home again to-morrow! Think
of it, Mister Robin! Suppose she came an' you weren't here? Why,
you'd never forgive yourself! I can't think she's gone far or that
she'll stay away long. Her heart's in Briar Farm all the while--
I'd swear to that! Why, only yesterday when a fine lady came to
see if she couldn't buy something out o' the house, you should
just a' seen her toss her pretty little head when she told me how
she'd said it wasn't to be sold."

"Lady? What lady?" and Robin looked, as he felt, bewildered by
Priscilla's vague statement. "Did someone come here to see the
house?"

"Not exactly--I don't know what it was all about," replied
Priscilla. "But quite a grand lady called an' gave me her card. I
saw the name on it--'Lady Maude Blythe'--and she asked to see
'Miss Jocelyn' on business. I asked if it was anything I could do,
and she said no. So I called the child in from the garden, and she
and the lady had quite a long talk together in the best parlour.
Then when the lady went away, Innocent told me that she had wished
to buy something from Briar Farm--but that it was not to be sold."

Robin listened attentively. "Curious!" he murmured--"very curious!
What was the lady's name?"

"Lady Maude Blythe," repeated Priscilla, slowly.

He took out a note-book and pencil, and wrote it down.

"You don't think she came to engage Innocent for some service?" he
asked. "Or that Innocent herself had perhaps written to an agency
asking for a place, and that this lady had come to see her in
consequence?"

Such an idea had never occurred to Priscilla's mind, but now it
was suggested to her it seemed more than likely.

"It might be so," she answered, slowly. "But I can't bear to think
the child was playin' a part an' tellin' me things that weren't
true just to get away from us. No! Mister Robin! I don't believe
that lady had anything to do with her going."

"Well, I shall keep the name by me," he said. "And I shall find
out where the lady lives, who she is and all about her. For if I
don't hear from Innocent, if she doesn't write to us, I'll search
the whole world and never rest till I find her!"

Priscilla looked at him, pityingly, tears springing again to her
eyes.

"Aye, you've lost the love o' your heart, my lad! I know that well
enough!" she said. "An' it's mighty hard on you! But you must be a
man an' turn to work as though nowt had happened. There's the
farm--"

"Yes, there's the farm," he repeated, absently. "But what do I
care for the farm without her! Priscilla, YOU will stay with me?"

"Stay with you? Surely I will, Mister Robin! Where should an old
woman like me go to at this time o' day!" and Priscilla took his
hand and clasped it affectionately. "Don't you fear! My place is
in Briar Farm till the Lord makes an end of me! And if the child
comes back at any hour of the day or night, she'll find old
Priscilla ready to welcome her,--ready an' glad an' thankful to
see her pretty face again."

Here, unable to control her sobs, she turned away and made a hasty
retreat into the kitchen.

He did not follow her, but acting on the sudden impulse of his
mind he entered the house and went up to Innocent's deserted room.
He opened the door hesitatingly,--the little study, in its severe
simplicity and neatness, looked desolate--like an empty shrine
from which the worshipped figure had been taken. He trod softly
across the floor, hushing his footsteps, as though some one slept
whom he feared to wake, and his eyes wandered from one familiar
object to another till they rested on the shelves where the old
vellum-bound books, which Innocent had loved and studied so much,
were ranged in orderly rows. Taking one or two of them out he
glanced at their title-pages;--he knew that most of them were rare
and curious, though his Oxford training had not impressed him with
as great a love of things literary as it might or should have
done. But he realised that these strange black-letter and
manuscript volumes were of unique value, and that their contents,
so difficult to decipher, were responsible for the formation of
Innocent's guileless and romantic spirit, colouring her outlook on
life with a glamour of rainbow brilliancy which, though beautiful,
was unreal. One quaint little book he opened had for its title--
"Ye Whole Art of Love, Setting Forth ye Noble Manner of Noble
Knights who woulde serve their Ladies Faithfullie in Death as in
Lyfe"--this bore the date of 1590. He sighed as he put it back in
its place.

"Ah, well," he said, half aloud, "these books are hers, and I'll
keep them for her--but I believe they've done her a lot of
mischief, and I don't love them! They've made her see the world as
it is not--and life as it never will be! And she has got strange
fancies into her head--fancies which she will run after like a
child chasing pretty butterflies--and when the butterflies are
caught, they die, much to the child's surprise and sorrow! My poor
little Innocent! She has gone out alone into the world, and the
world will break her heart! Oh dearest little love, come back to
me!"

He sat down in her vacant chair and covered his face with his
hands, giving himself up to the relief of unwitnessed tears. Above
his head shone the worn glitter of the old armoured device of the
"Sieur Amadis" with its motto--"Mon coeur me soutien"--and only a
psychist could have thought or imagined it possible that the
spirit of the old French knight of Tudor times might still be
working through clouds of circumstance and weaving the web of the
future from the torn threads of the past. And when Robin had
regained his self-possession and had left the room, there was yet
a Presence in its very emptiness,--the silent assertion of an
influence which if it had been given voice and speech might have
said--"Do what you consider is your own will and intention, but
_I_ am still your Master!--and all your thoughts and wishes are
but the reflex of MY desire!"

It was soon known in the village that Innocent had left Briar
Farm--"run away," the gossips said, eager to learn more. But they
could get no information out of Robin Clifford or Priscilla
Priday, and the labourers on the farm knew nothing. The farm work
was going on as usual--that was all they cared about. Mr. Clifford
was very silent--Miss Priday very busy. However, all anxiety and
suspense came to an end very speedily so far as Innocent's safety
was concerned, for in a few days letters arrived from her--both
for Robin and Priscilla--kind, sweetly-expressed letters full of
the tenderest affection.

"Do not be at all sorry or worried about me, dear good Priscilla!"
she wrote. "I know I am doing right to be away from Briar Farm for
a time--and I am quite well and happy. I have been very fortunate
in finding rooms with a lady who is very kind to me, and as soon
as I feel I can do so I will let you know my address. But I don't
want anyone from home to come and see me--not yet!--not for a very
long time! It would only make me sad--and it would make you sad
too! But be quite sure it will not be long before you see me
again."

Her letter to Robin was longer and full of restrained feeling:

"I know you are very unhappy, you kind, loving boy," it ran. "You
have lost me altogether--yes, that is true--but do not mind, it is
better so, and you will love some other girl much more than me
some day. I should have been a mistake in your life had I stayed
with you. You will see me again--and you will then understand why
I left Briar Farm. I could not wrong the memory of the Sieur
Amadis, and if I married you I should be doing a wicked thing to
bring myself, who am base-born, into his lineage. Surely you do
understand how I feel? I am quite safe--in a good home, with a
lady who takes care of me--and as soon as I can I will let you
know exactly where I am--then if you ever come to London I will
see you. But your work is on Briar Farm--that dear and beloved
home!--and you will keep up its old tradition and make everybody
happy around you. Will you not? Yes! I am sure you will! You MUST,
if ever you loved me.
"INNOCENT."

With this letter his last hope died within him. She would never be
his--never, never! Some dim future beckoned her in which he had no
part--and he confronted the fact as a brave soldier fronts the
guns, with grim endurance, aware, yet not afraid of death.

"If ever I loved her!" he thought. "If ever I cease to love her
then I shall be as stone-cold a man as her fetish of a French
knight, the Sieur Amadis! Ah, my little Innocent, in time to come
you may understand what love is--perhaps to your sorrow!--you may
need a strong defender--and I shall be ready! Sooner or later--now
or years hence--if you call me, I shall answer. I would find
strength to rise from my death-bed and go to you if you wanted me!
For I love you, my little love! I love you, and nothing can change
me. Only once in a life-time can a man love any woman as I love
you!"

And with a deep vow of fidelity sworn to his secret soul he sat
alone, watching the shadows of evening steal over the landscape--
falling, falling slowly, like a gradually descending curtain upon
all visible things, till Briar Farm stood spectral in the gloom
like the ghost of its own departed days, and lights twinkled in
the lattice windows like little eyes glittering in the dark. Then
silently bidding farewell to all his former dreams of happiness,
he set himself to face "the burden and heat of the day"--that
long, long day of life so difficult to live, when deprived of
love!





BOOK TWO: HIS FACT


BOOK TWO

CHAPTER I

In London, the greatest metropolis of the world, the smallest
affairs are often discussed with more keenness than things of
national importance,--and it is by no means uncommon to find
society more interested in the doings of some particular man or
woman than in the latest and most money-milking scheme of
Government finance. In this way it happened that about a year
after Innocent had, like a small boat in a storm, broken loose
from her moorings and drifted out to the wide sea, everybody who
was anybody became suddenly thrilled with curiosity concerning the
unknown personality of an Author. There are so many Authors
nowadays that it is difficult to get up even a show of interest in
one of them,--everybody "writes"--from Miladi in Belgravia, who
considers the story of her social experiences, expressed in
questionable grammar, quite equal to the finest literature, down
to the stable-boy who essays a "prize" shocker for a penny
dreadful. But this latest aspirant to literary fame had two
magnetic qualities which seldom fail to arouse the jaded spirit of
the reading public,--novelty and mystery, united to that scarce
and seldom recognised power called genius. He or she had produced
a Book. Not an ephemeral piece of fiction,--not a "Wells" effort
of imagination under hydraulic pressure--not an hysterical
outburst of sensual desire and disappointment such as moves the
souls of demimondaines and dressmakers,--not even a "detective"
sensation--but just a Book--a real Book, likely to live as long as
literature itself. It was something in the nature of a marvel,
said those who knew what they were talking about, that such a book
should have been written at all in these modern days. The "style"
of it was exquisite and scholarly--quaint, expressive, and all-
sufficing in its artistic simplicity,--thoughts true for all time
were presented afresh with an admirable point and delicacy that
made them seem new and singularly imperative,--and the story
which, like a silken thread, held all the choice jewels of
language together in even and brilliant order, was pure and
idyllic,--warm with a penetrating romance, yet most sincerely
human. When this extraordinary piece of work was published, it
slipped from the press in quite a modest way without much
preliminary announcement, and for two or three weeks after its
appearance nobody knew anything about it. The publishers
themselves were evidently in doubt as to its reception, and
signified their caution by economy in the way of advertisement--it
was not placarded in the newspaper columns as "A Book of the
Century" or "A New Literary Event." It simply glided into the
crowd of books without noise or the notice of reviewers--just one
of a pushing, scrambling, shouting multitude,--and quite suddenly
found itself the centre of the throng with all eyes upon it, and
all tongues questioning the how, when and where of its author. No
one could say how it first began to be thus busily talked about,--
the critics had bestowed upon it nothing of either their praise or
blame,--yet somehow the ball had been set rolling, and it gathered
size and force as it rolled, till at last the publishers woke up
to the fact that they had, by merest chance, hit upon a "paying
concern." They at once assisted in the general chorus of delight
and admiration, taking wider space in the advertisement columns of
the press for the "work of genius" which had inadvertently fallen
into their hands--but when it came to answering the questions put
to them respecting its writer they had very little to say, being
themselves more or less in the dark.

"The manuscript was sent to us in the usual way," the head of the
firm explained to John Harrington, one of the soundest and most
influential of journalists, "just on chance,--it was neither
introduced nor recommended. One of our readers was immensely taken
with it and advised us to accept it. The author gave no name, and
merely requested all communications to be made through his
secretary, a Miss Armitage, as he wished for the time being to
remain anonymous. We drew up an Agreement on these lines which was
signed for the author by Miss Armitage,--she also corrected and
passed the proofs--"

"Perhaps she also wrote the book," interrupted Harrington, with an
amused twinkle in his eyes--"I suppose such a solution of the
mystery has not occurred to you?"

The publisher smiled. "Under different circumstances it might have
done so," he replied, "but we have seen Miss Armitage several
times--she is quite a young girl, not at all of the 'literary'
type, though she is very careful and accurate in her secretarial
work--I mean as regards business letters and attention to detail.
But at her age she could not have had the scholarship to produce
such a book. The author shows a close familiarity with sixteenth-
century literature such as could only be gained by a student of
the style of that period,--Miss Armitage has nothing of the 'book-
worm' about her--she is quite a simple young person--more like a
bright school-girl than anything else--"

"Where does she live?" asked Harrington, abruptly.

The publisher looked up the address and gave it.

"There it is," he said; "if you want to write to the author she
will forward any letters to him."

Harrington stared at the pencilled direction for a moment in
silence. He remembered it--of course he remembered it!--it was the
very address given to the driver of the taxi-cab in which the girl
with whom he had travelled to London more than a year ago had
gone, as it seemed, out of his sight. Every little incident
connected with her came freshly back to his mind--how she had
spoken of the books she loved in "old French" and "Elizabethan
English"--and how she had said she knew the way to earn her own
living. If this was the way--if she was indeed the author of the
book which had stirred and wakened the drowsing soul of the age,
then she had not ventured in vain!

Aloud he said:

"It seems to be another case of the 'Author of Waverley' and the
'Great Unknown'! I suppose you'll take anything else you can get
by the same hand?"

"Rather!" And the publisher nodded emphatically--"We have already
secured a second work."

"Through Miss Armitage?"

"Yes. Through Miss Armitage."

Harrington laughed.

"I believe you're all blinder than bats!" he said--"Why on earth
you should think that because a woman looks like a school-girl she
cannot write a clever book if gifted that way, is a condition of
non-intelligence I fail to fathom! You speak of this author as a
'he.' Do you think only a male creature can produce a work of
genius? Look at the twaddle men turn out every day in the form of
novels alone! Many of them are worse than the worst weak fiction
by women. I tell you I've lived long enough to know that a woman's
brain can beat a man's if she cares to test it, so long as she
does not fall in love. When once that disaster happens it's all
over with her! It's the one drawback to a woman's career; if she
would only keep clear of love and self-sacrifice she'd do wonders!
Men never allow love to interfere with so much as their own smoke
--very few among them would sacrifice a good cigar for a woman! As
for this girl, Miss Armitage, I'll pluck out the heart of her
mystery for you! I suppose you won't pay any less for good work if
it turns out to be by a 'she' instead of a 'he'?"

The publisher was amused.

"Certainly not!" he answered. "We have already paid over a
thousand pounds in royalties on the present book, and we have
agreed to give two thousand in advance on the next. The author has
expressed himself as perfectly satisfied--"

"Through Miss Armitage?" put in Harrington.

"Yes. Through Miss Armitage."

"Well!" And Harrington turned to go--"I hope Miss Armitage will
also express herself as perfectly satisfied after I have seen her!
I shall write and ask permission to call--"

"Surely"--and the publisher looked distressed--"surely you do not
intend to trouble this poor girl by questions concerning her
employer? It's hardly fair to her!--and of course it's only your
way of joking, but your idea that she wrote the book we're all
talking about is simply absurd! She couldn't do it! When you see
her, you'll understand."

"I daresay I shall!" And Harrington smiled-"Don't you worry! I'm
too old a hand to get myself or anybody else into trouble! But
I'll wager you anything that your simple school-girl is the
author!"

He went back then and there to the office of his big newspaper and
wrote a guarded little note as follows:--

"DEAR MISS ARMITAGE,

I wonder if you remember a grumpy old fellow who travelled with
you on your first journey to London rather more than a year ago?
You never told me your name, but I kept a note of the address you
gave through me to your taxi-driver, and through that address I
have just by chance heard that you and the Miss Armitage who
corrected the proofs of a wonderful book recently published are
one and the same person. May I call and see you? Yours sincerely,

JOHN HARRINGTON."

He waited impatiently for the answer, but none came for several
days. At last he received a simple and courteous "put off," thus
expressed:--

"DEAR MR. HARRINGTON,

I remember you very well--you were most kind, and I am grateful
for your thought of me. But I hope you will not think me rude if I
ask you not to call. I am living as a paying guest with an old
lady whose health is not very strong and who does not like me to
receive visitors, and you can understand that I try not to
inconvenience her in any way. I do hope you are well and
successful.

Yours sincerely,

ENA ARMITAGE."

He folded up the note and put it in his pocket.

"That finishes me very decisively!" he said, with a laugh at
himself for his own temerity. "Who is it says a woman cannot keep
a secret? She can, and will, and does!--when it suits her to do
so! Never mind, Miss Armitage! I shall find you out when, you
least expect it--never fear!"

Meanwhile Miss Leigh's little house in Kensington was the scene of
mingled confusion and triumph. The "paying guest"--the little
unobtrusive girl, with all her wardrobe in a satchel and her
legacy of four hundred pounds in bank-notes tucked into her bosom
--had achieved a success beyond her wildest dreams, and now had
only to declare her identity to become a "celebrity." Miss Lavinia
had been for some days in a state of nervous excitement, knowing
that it was Innocent's first literary effort which had created
such a sensation. By this time she had learned all the girl's
history--Innocent had told her everything, save and except the one
fact of her parentage,--and this she held back, not out of shame
for herself, but consideration for the memory of the handsome man
whose portrait stood on the silent harpsichord. For she in her
turn had discovered Miss Lavinia's secret,--how the dear lady's
heart had been devoted to Pierce Armitage all her life, and how
when she knew he had been drawn away from her and captivated by
another woman her happiness had been struck down and withered like
a flowering rose in a hard gale of wind. For this romance, and the
disillusion she had suffered, Innocent loved her. The two had
become fast friends, almost like devoted mother and daughter. Miss
Leigh was, as she had stated in her "Morning Post" advertisement,
well-connected, and she did much for the girl who had by chance
brought a new and thrilling interest into her life--more than
Innocent could possibly have done for herself. The history of the
child,--as much as she was told of it,--who had been left so
casually at a country farm on the mere chance of its being kept
and taken care of, affected her profoundly, and when Innocent
confided to her the fact that she had never been baptised, the
gentle old lady was moved to tears. No time was lost in lifting
this spiritual ban from the young life concerned, and the sacred
rite was performed quietly one morning in the church which Miss
Leigh had attended for many years, Miss Leigh having herself
explained beforehand some of the circumstances to the Vicar, and
standing as god-mother to the newly-received little Christian. And
though there had arisen some question as to the name by which she
should be baptised, Miss Leigh held tenaciously to the idea that
she should retain the name her "unknown" father had given her--
"Innocent."

"Suppose he should not be dead," she said, "then if he were to
meet you some day, that name might waken his memory and lead him
to identify you. And I like it--it is pretty and original--quite
Christian, too,--there were several Popes named Innocent."

The girl smiled. She thought of Robin Clifford, and how he had
aired his knowledge to her on the same subject.

"But it is a man's name, isn't it?" she asked.

"Not more so than a woman's, surely!" declared Miss Leigh. "You
can always call yourself 'Ena' for short if you like--but
'Innocent' is the prettier name."

And so "Innocent" it was,--and by the sprinkling of water and the
blessing of the Church the name was finally bestowed and
sanctified. Innocent herself was peacefully glad of her newly-
attained spiritual dignity and called Miss Lavinia her "fairy god-
mother."

"Do you mind?" she asked, coaxingly. "It makes me so happy to feel
that you are one of those kind people in a fairy-tale, bringing
good fortune and blessing. I'm sure you ARE like that!"

Miss Lavinia protested against the sweet flattery, but all the
same she was pleased. She began to take the girl out with her to
the houses of various "great" personages--friends whom she knew
well and who made an intimate little social circle of their own--
"old-fashioned" people certainly, but happily free from the sort
of suppressed rowdyism which distinguishes the "nouveaux riches"
of the present day,--people who adhered rigidly to almost obsolete
notions of honour and dignity, who lived simply and well within
their means, who spoke reverently of things religious and believed
in the old adage--"Manners makyth the man." So by degrees,
Innocent found herself among a small choice "set" chiefly made up
of the fragments of the real "old" aristocracy, to which Miss
Leigh herself belonged,--and, with her own quick intuition and
inborn natural grace, she soon became a favourite with them all.
But no one knew the secret of her literary aspirations save Miss
Leigh, and when her book was published anonymously and the reading
world began to talk of it as something unusual and wonderful, she
was more terrified than pleased. Its success was greater than she
had ever dreamed of, and her one idea was to keep up the mystery
of its authorship as long as possible, but every day made this
more difficult. And when John Harrington wrote to her, she felt
that disclosure was imminent. She had always kept the visiting-
card he had given her when they had travelled to London together,
and she knew he belonged to the staff of a great and leading
newspaper,--he was a man not likely to be baffled in any sort of
enquiry he might choose to make. She thought about this as she sat
in her quiet little room, working at the last few chapters of her
second book which the publishers were eagerly waiting for. What a
magical change had been wrought in her life since she left Briar
Farm more than a year, aye,--nearly eighteen months ago! For one
thing, all fears of financial difficulty were at an end. Her first
book had brought her more money than she had ever had in her life,
and the publisher's offer for her second outweighed her most
ambitious desires. She was independent--she could earn sufficient,
and more than sufficient to keep herself in positive luxury if she
chose,--but for this she had no taste. Her little rooms in Miss
Leigh's house satisfied all her ideas of rest and comfort, and she
stayed on with the kind old lady by choice and affection, helping
her in many ways, and submitting to her guidance in every little
social matter with the charming humility of a docile and obedient
spirit all too rare in these days when youth is more full of
effrontery than modesty. She had managed her "literary" business
so far well and carefully, representing herself as the private
secretary of an author who wished to remain anonymous, and who had
gone abroad, entrusting her with his manuscript to "place" with
any suitable firm that would make a suitable offer. The ruse would
hardly have succeeded in the case of any ordinary piece of work,
but the book itself was of too exceptional a quality to be passed
over, and the firm to which it was first offered recognised this
and accepted it without parley, astute enough to see its
possibilities and to risk its chances of success. And now she
realised that her little plot might be discovered any day, and
that she would have to declare herself as the writer of a strange
and brilliant book which was the talk of the moment.

"I wonder what they will say when they know it at Briar Farm!" she
thought, with a smile and a half sigh.

Briar Farm seemed a long way off in these days. She had written
occasionally both to Priscilla and Robin Clifford; giving her
address and briefly stating that she had taken the name of
Armitage, feeling that she had no right to that of Jocelyn. But
Priscilla could not write, and contented herself with sending her
"dear love and duty and do come back soon," through Robin, who
answered for both in letters that were carefully cold and
restrained. Now that he knew where she was he made no attempt to
visit her,--he was too grieved and disappointed at her continued
absence, and deeply hurt at what he considered her "quixotic"
conduct in adopting a different name,--an "alias" as he called it.

"You have separated yourself from your old home by your own choice
in more ways than one," he wrote, "and I see I have no right to
criticise your actions. You are in a strange place and you have
taken a strange name,--I cannot feel that you are Innocent,--the
Innocent of our bygone happy years! It is better I should not go
and see you--not unless you send for me, when, of course, I will
come."

She was both glad and sorry for this,--she would have liked to see
him again, and yet!--well!--she knew instinctively that if they
met, it would only cause him fresh unhappiness. Her new life had
bestowed new grace on her personality--all the interior
intellectual phases of her mind had developed in her a beauty of
face and form which was rare, subtle and elusive, and though she
was not conscious of it herself, she had that compelling
attraction about her which few can resist,--a fascination far
greater than mere physical perfection. No one could have called
her actually beautiful,--hardly could it have been said she was
even "pretty"--but in her slight figure and intelligent face with
its large blue-grey eyes half veiled under dreamy, drooping lids
and long lashes, there was a magnetic charm which was both sweet
and powerful. Moreover, she dressed well,--in quiet taste, with a
careful avoidance of anything foolish or eccentric in fashion, and
wherever she went she made her effect as a graceful young presence
expressive of repose and harmony. She spoke delightfully,--in a
delicious voice, attuned to the most melodious inflections, and
her constant study of the finer literature of the past gave her
certain ways of expressing herself in a manner so far removed from
the abrupt slanginess commonly used to-day by young people of both
sexes that she was called "quaint" by some and "weird" by others
of her own sex, though by men young and old she was declared
"charming." Guarded and chaperoned by good old Miss Lavinia Leigh,
she had no cause to be otherwise than satisfied with her
apparently reckless and unguided plunge into the mighty vortex of
London,--some beneficent spirit had led her into a haven of safety
and brought her straight to the goal of her ambition without
difficulty.

"Of course I owe it all to Dad," she thought. "If it had not been
for the four hundred pounds he left me to 'buy pretties' with I
could not have done anything. I have bought my 'pretties'!--not
bridal ones--but things so much better!"

As the memory of her "Dad" came over her, tears sprang to her
eyes. In her mind she saw the smooth green pastures round Briar
Farm--the beautiful old gabled house,--the solemn trees waving
their branches in the wind over the tomb of the "Sieur Amadis,"--
the doves wheeling round and round in the clear air, and her own
"Cupid" falling like a snowflake from the roof to her caressing
hand. All the old life of country sights and sounds passed before
her like a fair mirage, giving place to dark days of sorrow,
disillusion and loss,--the fleeting glimpse of her self-confessed
"mother," Lady Maude Blythe,--and the knowledge she had so
unexpectedly gained as to the actual identity of her father--he,
whose portrait was in the very house to which she had come through
no more romantic means than a chance advertisement in the "Morning
Post!" And Miss Lavinia--her "fairy godmother"--could she have
found a better friend, even in any elf stepping out of a magic
pumpkin?

"If she ever knows the truth--if I am ever able to tell her that I
am HIS daughter," she said to herself, "I wonder if she will care
for me less or more? But I must not tell her!--She says he was so
good and noble! It would break her heart to think he had done
anything wrong--or that he had deserted his child."

And so she held her peace on this point, though she was often
tempted to break silence whenever Miss Leigh reverted to the story
of her being left in such a casual, yet romantic way at Briar
Farm.

"I wonder who the handsome man was, my dear?" she would query--
"Perhaps he'll go back to the place and enquire for you. He may be
some very great personage!"

And Innocent would smile and shake her head.

"I fear not, my godmother!" she would reply. "You must not have
any fairy dreams about me! I was just a deserted baby--not wanted
in the world--but the world may have to take me all the same!"

And her eyes would flash, and her sensitive mouth would quiver as
the vision of fame like a mystical rainbow circled the heaven of
her youthful imagination--while Miss Leigh would sigh, and listen
and wonder,--she, whose simple hope and faith had been centred in
a love which had proved false and vain,--praying that the girl
might realise her ambition without the wreckage and disillusion of
her life.

One evening--an evening destined to mark a turning-point in
Innocent's destiny--they went together to an "At Home" held at a
beautiful studio in the house of an artist deservedly famous. Miss
Leigh had a great taste for pictures, no doubt fostered since the
early days of her romantic attachment to a man who had painted
them,--and she knew most of the artists whose names were more or
less celebrated in the modern world. Her host on this special
occasion was what is called a "fashionable" portrait painter,--
from the Queen downwards he had painted the "counterfeit
presentments" of ladies of wealth and title, flattering them as
delicately as his really clever brush would allow, and thereby
securing golden opinions as well as golden guineas. He was a
genial, breezy sort of man,--quite without vanity or any sort of
"art" ostentation, and he had been a friend of Miss Leigh's for
many years. Innocent loved going to his studio whenever her
"godmother" would take her, and he, in his turn, found interest
and amusement in talking to a girl who showed such a fresh, simple
and unworldly nature, united to intelligence and perception far
beyond her years. On the particular evening in question the studio
was full of notable people,--not uncomfortably crowded, but
sufficiently so as to compose a brilliant effect of colour and
movement--beautiful women in wonderful attire fluttered to and fro
like gaily-plumaged birds among the conventionally dark-clothed
men who stood about in that aimless fashion they so often affect
when disinclined to talk or to make themselves agreeable,--and
there was a pleasantly subdued murmur of voices,--cultured voices,
well-attuned, and incapable of breaking into the sheep-like
snigger or asinine bray. Innocent, keeping close beside her "god-
mother," watched the animated scene with happy interest,
unconscious that many of those present watched her in turn with a
good deal of scarcely restrained curiosity. For, somehow or other,
rumour had whispered a flying word or two that it was possible
she--even she--that young, childlike-looking creature--might be,
and probably was the actual author of the clever book everybody
was talking about, and though no one had the hardihood to ask her
point-blank if the report was true, people glanced at her
inquisitively and murmured their "asides" of suggestion or
incredulity, finding it difficult to believe that a woman could at
any time or by any means, alone and unaided, snatch one flower
from the coronal of fame. She looked very fair and sweet and NON-
literary, clad in a simple white gown made of some softly clinging
diaphanous material, wholly unadorned save by a small posy of
natural roses at her bosom,--and as she stood a little apart from
the throng, several artists noticed the grace of her personality--
one especially, a rather handsome man of middle age, who gazed at
her observantly and critically with a frank openness which, though
bold, was scarcely rude. She caught the straight light of his keen
blue eyes--and a thrill ran through her whole being, as though she
had been suddenly influenced by a magnetic current--then she
flushed deeply as she fancied she saw him smile. For the first
time in her life she found pleasure in the fact that a man had
looked at her with plainly evinced admiration in his fleeting
glance,--and she watched him talking to several people who all
seemed delighted and flattered by his notice--then he disappeared.
Later on in the evening she asked her host who he was. The famous
R.A. considered for a moment.

"Do you mean a man with rough dark hair and a youngish face?--
rather good-looking in an eccentric sort of way?"

Innocent nodded eagerly.

"Yes! And he had blue eyes."

"Had he, really!" And the great artist smiled. "Well, I'm sure he
would be flattered at your close observation of him! I think I
know him,--that is, I know him as much as he will let anybody know
him--he is a curious fellow, but a magnificent painter--a real
genius! He's half French by descent, and his name is Jocelyn,--
Amadis de Jocelyn."

For a moment the room went round in a giddy whirl of colour before
her eyes,--she could not credit her own hearing. Amadis de
Jocelyn!--the name of her old stone Knight of France, on his tomb
at Briar Farm, with his motto--"Mon coeur me soutien!"

"Amadis de Jocelyn!" she repeated, falteringly ... "Are you
sure? ... I mean ... is that his name really? ... it's so unusual...
so curious..."

"Yes--it IS curious"--agreed her host--"but it's quite a good old
French name, belonging to a good old French family. The Jocelyns
bore arms for the Duc d'Anjou in the reign of Queen Elizabeth--and
this man is a sort of last descendant, very proud of his ancestry.
I'll bring him along and introduce him to you if you'll allow me."

Innocent murmured something--she scarcely knew what,--and in a few
minutes found herself giving the conventional bow in response to
the formal words--"Miss Armitage, Mr. de Jocelyn"--and looking
straight up at the blue eyes that a short while since had flashed
an almost compelling glance into her own. A strange sense of
familiarity and recognition moved her; something of the expression
of her "Dad" was in the face of this other Jocelyn of whom she
knew nothing,--and her heart beat so quickly that she could
scarcely speak in answer when he addressed her, as he did in a
somewhat abrupt manner.

"Are you an art student?"

She smiled a little.

"Oh no! I am--nothing! ... I love pictures of course--"

"There is no 'of course' in it," he said, a humorous curve lifting
the corners of his moustache--"You're not bound to love pictures
at all! Most people hate them, and scarcely anybody understands
them!"

She listened, charmed by the mellow and deep vibration of his
voice.

"Everybody comes to see our friend here," he continued, with a
slight gesture of his hand towards their host, who had moved
away,--"because he is the fashion. If he were NOT the fashion he
might paint like Velasquez or Titian and no one would care a
button!"

He seemed entertained by his own talk, and she did not interrupt
him.

"You look like a stranger here," he went on, in milder accents--"a
sort of elf who has lost her way out of fairyland! Is anyone with
you?"

"Yes," she answered, quickly--"Miss Leigh--"

"Miss Leigh? Who is she? Your aunt or your chaperone?"

She was more at her ease now, and laughed at his quick, brusque
manner of speech.

"Miss Leigh is my godmother," she said--"I call her my fairy
godmother because she is always so good and kind. There she is,
standing by that big easel."

He looked in the direction indicated.

"Oh yes!--I see! A charming old lady! I love old ladies when they
don't pretend to be young. That white hair of hers is very
picturesque! So she is your godmother!--and she takes care of you!
Well! She might do worse!"

He ruffled his thick crop of hair and looked at her more or less
quizzically.

"You have an air of suppressed enquiry," he said--"There is
something on your mind! You want to ask me a question--what is
it?"

A soft colour flew over her cheeks--she was confused to find him
reading her thoughts.

"It is really nothing!" she answered, quickly--"I was only
wondering a little about your name--because it is one I have known
all my life."

His eyebrows went up in surprise.

"Indeed? This is very interesting! I thought I was the only wearer
of such a very medieval appellation! Is there another so endowed?"

"There WAS another--long, long ago"--and, unconsciously to herself
her delicate features softened into a dreamy and rapt expression
as she spoke,--while her voice fell into its sweetest and most
persuasive tone. "He was a noble knight of France, and he came
over to England with the Due d' Anjou when the great Elizabeth was
Queen. He fell in love with a very beautiful Court lady, who would
not care for him at all,--so, as he was unhappy and broken-
hearted, he went away from London and hid himself from everybody
in the far country. There he bought an old manor-house and called
it Briar Farm--and he married a farmer's daughter and settled in
England for good--and he had six sons and daughters. And when he
died he was buried on his own land--and his effigy is on his tomb
--it was sculptured by himself. I used to put flowers on it, just
where his motto was carved--'Mon coeur me soutien.' For I--I was
brought up at Briar Farm... and I was quite fond of the Sieur
Amadis!"

She looked up with a serious, sweet luminance in her eyes--and he
was suddenly thrilled by her glance, and moved by a desire to turn
her romantic idyll into something of reality. This feeling was
merely the physical one of an amorously minded man,--he knew, or
thought he knew, women well enough to hold them at no higher
estimate than that of sex-attraction,--yet, with all the cynicism
he had attained through long experience of the world and its ways,
he recognised a charm in this fair little creature that was
strange and new and singularly fascinating, while the exquisite
modulations of her voice as she told the story of the old French
knight, so simply yet so eloquently, gave her words the tenderness
of a soft song well sung.

"A pity you should waste fondness on a man of stone!" he said,
lightly, bending his keen steel-blue eyes on hers. "But what you
tell me is most curious, for your 'Sieur Amadis' must be the
missing branch of my own ancestral tree. May I explain?--or will
it bore you?"

She gave him a swift, eager glance.

"Bore me?" she echoed--"How could it? Oh, do please let me know
everything--quickly!"

He smiled at her enthusiasm.

"We'll sit down here out of the crowd," he said,--and, taking her
arm gently, he guided her to a retired corner of the studio which
was curtained off to make a cosy and softly cushioned recess. "You
have told me half a romance! Perhaps I can supply the other half."
He paused, looking at her, whimsically pleased to see the warm
young blood flushing her cheeks as he spoke, and her eyes drooping
under his penetrating gaze. "Long, long ago--as you put it--in the
days of good Queen Bess, there lived a certain Hugo de Jocelin, a
nobleman of France, famed for fierce deeds of arms, and for making
himself generally disagreeable to his neighbours with whom he was
for ever at cross-purposes. This contentious personage had two
sons,--Jeffrey and Amadis,--also knights-at-arms, inheriting the
somewhat excitable nature of their father; and the younger of
these, Amadis, whose name I bear, was selected by the Duc d'Anjou
to accompany him with his train of nobles and gentles, when that
'petit grenouille' as he called himself, went to England to seek
Queen Elizabeth's hand in marriage. The Duke failed in his
ambitious quest, as we all know, and many of his attendants got
scattered and dispersed,--among them Amadis, who was entirely lost
sight of, and never returned again to the home of his fathers. He
was therefore supposed to be dead--"

"MY Amadis!" murmured Innocent, her eyes shining like stars as she
listened.

"YOUR Amadis!--yes!" And his voice softened. "Of course he must
have been YOUR Amadis!--your 'Knight of old and warrior bold!'
Well! None of his own people ever heard of him again--and in the
family tree he is marked as missing. But Jeffrey stayed at home in
France,--and in due course inherited his father's grim old castle
and lands. He married, and had a large family,--much larger than
the six olive-branches allotted to your friend of Briar Farm,"--
and he smiled. "He, Jeffrey, is my ancestor, and I can trace
myself back to him in direct lineage, so you see I have quite the
right to my curious name!"

She clasped and unclasped her little hands nervously--she was shy
of raising her eyes to his face.

"It is wonderful!" she murmured--"I can hardly believe it possible
that I should meet here in London a real Jocelyn!--one of the
family of the Sieur Amadis!"

"Does it seem strange?" He laughed. "Oh no! Nothing is strange in
this queer little world! But I don't quite know what the exact
connection is between me and your knight--it's too difficult for
me to grasp! I suppose I'm a sort of great-great-great-grand-
nephew! However, nothing can alter the fact that I am also an
Amadis de Jocelyn!"

She glanced up at him quickly.

"You are, indeed!" she said. "It is you who ought to be the master
of Briar Farm!"

"Ought I?" He was amused at her earnestness. "Why?"

"Because there is no direct heir now to the Sieur Amadis!" she
answered, almost sadly. "His last descendant is dead. His name was
Hugo--Hugo Jocelyn--and he was a farmer, and he left all he had to
his nephew, the only child of his sister who died before him. The
nephew is very good, and clever, too,--he was educated at Oxford,
--but he is not an actually lineal descendant."

He laughed again, this time quite heartily, at the serious
expression of her face.

"That's very terrible!" he said. "I don't know when I've heard
anything so lamentable! And I'm afraid I can't put matters right!
I should never do for a farmer--I'm a painter. I had better go
down and see this famous old place, and the tomb of my ever so
great-great-grand-uncle! I could make a picture of it--I ought to
do that, as it belonged to the family of my ancestors. Will you
take me?"

She gave him a little fleeting, reluctant smile.

"You are making fun of it all," she said. "That is not wise of
you! You should not laugh at grave and noble things."

He was charmed with her quaintness.

"Was he grave and noble?--Amadis, I mean?" he asked, his blue eyes
sparkling with a kind of mirthful ardour. "You are sure? Well, all
honour to him! And to YOU--for believing in him! I hope you'll
consider me kindly for his sake! Will you?"

A quick blush suffused her cheeks.

"Of course!--I must do so!" she answered, simply. "I owe him so
much--" then, fearful of betraying her secret of literary
authorship, she hesitated--"I mean--he taught me all I know. I
studied all his old books...."

Just then their cheery host came up.

"Well! Have you made friends? Ah!--I see you have! Mutual
intelligence, mutual comprehension! Jocelyn, will you bring Miss
Innocent in to supper?--I leave her in your charge."

"Miss Innocent?" repeated Jocelyn, doubtful as to whether this was
said by way of a joke or not.

"Yes--some people call her Ena--but her real name is Innocent.
Isn't it, little lady?"

She smiled and coloured. Jocelyn looked at her with a curious
intentness.

"Really? Your name is Innocent?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered him--"I'm afraid it's a very unusual name--"

"It is indeed!" he said with emphasis. "Innocent by name and by
nature! Will you come?"

She rose at once, and they moved away together.




CHAPTER II

Chance and coincidence play curious pranks with human affairs, and
one of the most obvious facts of daily experience is that the
merest trifle, occurring in the most haphazard way, will often
suffice to change the whole intention and career of a life for
good or for evil. It is as though a musician in the composition of
a symphony should suddenly bethink himself of a new and strange
melody, and, pleasing his fancy with the innovation, should
wilfully introduce it at the last moment, thereby creating more or
less of a surprise for the audience. Something of this kind
happened to Innocent after her meeting with the painter who bore
the name of her long idealised knight of France, Amadis de
Jocelin. She soon learned that he was a somewhat famous
personage,--famous for his genius, his scorn of accepted rules,
and his contempt for all "puffery," push and patronage, as well as
for his brusquerie in society and carelessness of conventions. She
also heard that his works had been rejected twice by the Royal
Academy Council, a reason he deemed all-sufficient for never
appealing to that exclusive school of favouritism again,--while
everything he chose to send was eagerly accepted by the French
Salon, and purchased as soon as exhibited. His name had begun to
stand very high--and his original character and personality made
him somewhat of a curiosity among men--one more feared than
favoured. He took a certain pleasure in analysing his own
disposition for the benefit of any of his acquaintances who chose
to listen,--and the harsh judgment he passed on himself was not
altogether without justice or truth.

"I am an essentially selfish man," he would say--"I have met
selfishness everywhere among my fellow men and women, and have
imbibed it as a sponge imbibes water. I've had a fairly hard time,
and I've experienced the rough side of human nature, getting more
kicks than halfpence. Now that the kicks have ceased I'm in no
mood for soft soap. I know the humbug of so-called 'friendship'--
the rarity of sincerity--and as for love!--there's no such thing
permanently in man, woman or child. What is called 'love' is
merely a comfortable consciousness that one particular person is
agreeable and useful to you for a time--but it's only for a time--
and marriage which seeks to bind two people together till death is
the heaviest curse ever imposed on manhood or womanhood! Devotion
and self-sacrifice are merest folly--the people you sacrifice
yourself for are never worth it, and devotion is generally, if not
always, misplaced. The only thing to do in this life is to look
after yourself,--serve yourself--please yourself! No one will do
anything for you unless they can get something out of it for their
own advantage,--you're bound to follow the general example!"

Notwithstanding this candid confession of cynical egotism, the man
had greatness in him, and those who knew his works readily
recognised his power. The impression he had made on Innocent's
guileless and romantic nature was beyond analysis,--she did not
try to understand it herself. His name and the connection he had
with the old French knight of her childhood's dreams and fancies
had moved and roused her to a new interest in life--and just as
she had hitherto been unwilling to betray the secret of her
literary authorship, she was now eager to have it declared--for
one reason only,--that he might perhaps think well of her. Whereby
it will be seen that the poor child, endowed with a singular
genius as she was, knew nothing of men and their never-failing
contempt for the achievements of gifted women. Delicate of taste
and sensitive in temperament she was the very last sort of
creature to realise the ugly truth that men, taken en masse,
consider women in one only way--that of sex,--as the lower half of
man, necessary to man's continuance, but always the mere vessel of
his pleasure. To her, Amadis de Jocelyn was the wonderful
realisation of an ideal,--but she was very silent concerning him,
--reserved and almost cold. This rather surprised good Miss Lavinia
Leigh, whose romantic tendencies had been greatly stirred by the
story of the knight of Briar Farm and the discovery of a
descendant of the same family in one of the most admired artists
of the day. They visited Jocelyn's studio together--a vast, bare
place, wholly unadorned by the tawdry paraphernalia which is
sometimes affected by third-rate men to create an "art" impression
on the minds of the uninstructed--and they had stood lost in
wonder and admiration before a great picture he was painting on
commission, entitled "Wild Weather." It was what is called by
dealers an "important work," and represented night closing in over
a sea lashed into fury by the sweep of a stormy wind. So
faithfully was the scene of terror and elemental confusion
rendered that it was like nature itself, and the imaginative eye
almost looked for the rising waves to tumble liquidly from the
painted canvas and break on the floor in stretches of creamy foam.
Gentle Miss Leigh was conscious of a sudden beating of the heart
as she looked at this masterpiece of form and colour,--it reminded
her of the work of Pierce Armitage. She ventured to say so, with a
little hesitation, and Jocelyn caught at the name.

"Armitage?--Yes--he was beginning to be rather famous some five-
and-twenty years ago--I wonder what became of him? He promised
great things. By the way"--and he turned to Innocent--"YOUR name
is Armitage! Any relation to him?"

The colour rushed to her cheeks and fled again, leaving her very
pale.

"No," she answered.

He looked at her inquisitively.

"Well, Armitage is not as outlandish a name as Amadis de Jocelyn,"
he said--"You will hardly find two of ME!--and I expect I shall
hardly find two of YOU!" and he smiled--"especially if what I have
heard is anything more than rumour!"

Her eyes filled with an eager light.

"What do you mean?"

He laughed,--yet in himself was conscious of a certain
embarrassment.

"Well!--that a certain 'Innocent' young lady is a great author!"
he said--"There! You have it! I'm loth to believe it, and hope the
report isn't true, for I'm afraid of clever women! Indeed I avoid
them whenever I can!"

A sudden sense of hopelessness and loss fell over her like a
cloud--her lips quivered.

"Why should you do so?" she asked--"We do not avoid clever men!"

He smiled.

"Ah! That is different!"

She was silent. Miss Leigh looked a little distressed.

He went on lightly.

"My dear Miss Armitage, don't be angry with me!" he said--"You are
so delightfully ignorant of the ways of our sex, and I for one
heartily wish you might always remain so! But we men are
proverbially selfish-and we like to consider cleverness, or
'genius' if you will, as our own exclusive property. We hate the
feminine poacher on our particular preserves! We consider that
women were made to charm and to amuse us--not to equal us. Do you
see? When a woman is clever--perhaps cleverer than we are--she
ceases to be amusing--and we must be amused! We cannot have our
fun spoiled by the blue-stocking element,--though you--YOU do not
look in the least 'blue'!"

She turned from him in a mute vexation. She thought his talk
trifling and unmanly. Miss Leigh came to the rescue.

"No--Innocent is certainly not 'blue,'" she said, sweetly--"If by
that term you mean 'advanced' or in any way unwomanly. But she has
been singularly gifted by nature--yes, dear child, I must be
allowed to speak!"--this, as Innocent made an appealing gesture,--
"and if people say she is the author of the book that is just now
being so much talked of, they are only saying the truth. The
secret cannot be kept much longer."

He heard--then went quickly up to the girl where she stood in a
somewhat dejected attitude near his easel.

"Then it IS true!" he said--"I heard it yesterday from an old
journalist friend of mine, John Harrington--but I couldn't quite
believe it. Let me congratulate you on your brilliant success--"

"You do not care!" she said, almost in a whisper.

"Oh, do I not?" He was amused, and taking her hand kissed it
lightly. "If all literary women were like YOU--"

He left the sentence unfinished, but his eyes conveyed a wordless
language which made her heart beat foolishly and her nerves
thrill. She forgot the easy mockery which had distinguished his
manner since when speaking of the "blue-stocking element"-and once
more "Amadis de Jocelyn" sat firmly on her throne of the ideal!

That very afternoon, on her return from Jocelyn's studio to Miss
Leigh's little house in Kensington which she now called her
"home"--she found a reply-paid telegram from her publishers,
running thus:

"Eminent journalist John Harrington reviews book favourably in
evening paper suggesting that you are the actual author. May we
deny or confirm?"

She thought for some minutes before deciding--and went to Miss
Leigh with the telegram in her hand.

"Godmother mine!" she said, kneeling down beside her--"Tell me,
what shall I do? Is it any use continuing to wear the veil of
mystery? Shall I take up my burden and bear it like a man?"

Miss Lavinia smiled, and drew the girl's fair head to her bosom.

"Poor little one!" she said, tenderly--"I know just what you feel
about it! You would rather remain quietly in your own dreamland
than face the criticism of the world, or be pointed out as a
'celebrity'--yes, I quite understand! But I think you must, in
justice to yourself and others, 'take up the burden'--as you put
it--yes, child! You must wear your laurels, though for you I
should prefer the rose!"

Innocent shivered, as with sudden cold.

"A rose has thorns!" she said, as she got up from her kneeling
attitude and moved away--"It's beautiful to look at--but it soon
fades!"

She sent off her reply wire to the publishers without further
delay.

"Statement quite true. You can confirm it publicly."

And so the news was soon all over London, and for that matter all
over the world. From one end of the globe to the other the fact
was made known that a girl in her twentieth year had produced a
literary masterpiece, admirable both in design and execution,
worthy to rank with the highest work of the most brilliant and
renowned authors. She was speedily overwhelmed by letters of
admiration, and invitations from every possible quarter where
"lion-hunting" is practised as a stimulant to jaded and over-
wrought society, but amid all the attractions and gaieties offered
to her she held fast by her sheet-anchor of safety, Miss Leigh,
who redoubled her loving care and vigilance, keeping her as much
as she could in the harbour of that small and exclusive "set" of
well-bred and finely-educated people for whom noise and fuss and
show meant all that was worst in taste and manners. And remaining
more or less in seclusion, despite the growing hubbub around her
name, she finished her second book, and took it herself to the
great publishing house which was rapidly coining good hard cash
out of the delicate dream of her woman's brain. The head of the
firm received her with eager and respectful cordiality.

"You kept your secret very well!" he said--"I assure you I had no
idea you could be the author of such a book!--you are so young--"

She smiled, a little sadly.

"One may be young in years and old in thought," she answered--"I
passed all my childhood in reading and studying--I had no
playmates and no games--and I was nearly always alone. I had only
old books to read--mostly of the sixteenth century--I suppose I
formed a 'style' unconsciously on these."

"It is a very beautiful and expressive style," said the publisher
--"I told Mr. Harrington, when he first suggested that you might be
the author, that it was altogether too scholarly for a girl."

She gave a slight deprecatory gesture.

"Pray do not let us discuss it," she said--"I am not at all
pleased to be known as the author."

"No?" And he looked surprised--"Surely you must be happy to become
so suddenly famous?"

"Are famous persons happy?" she asked--"I don't think they are! To
be stared at and whispered about and criticised--that's not
happiness! And men never like you!"

The publisher laughed.

"You can do without their liking, Miss Armitage," he said--"You've
beaten all the literary fellows on their own ground! You ought to
be satisfied. WE are very proud!"

"Thank you!" she said, simply, as she rose to go--"I am grateful
for your good opinion."

When she had left him, the publisher eagerly turned over the pages
of her new manuscript. At a glance he saw that there was no
"falling-off"--he recognised the same lucidity of expression, the
same point and delicacy of phraseology which had distinguished her
first effort, and the wonderful charm with which a thought was
pressed firmly yet tenderly home to its mark.

"It will be a greater triumph for her and for us than the previous
book!" he said--"She's a wonder!--and the most wonderful thing
about her is that she has no conceit, and is unconscious of her
own power!"

Two or three days after the announcement of her authorship, came a
letter from Robin Clifford.

"DEAR INNOCENT," it ran, "I see that your name, or rather the name
you have taken for yourself, is made famous as that of the author
of a book which is creating a great sensation--and I venture to
write a word of congratulation, hoping it may be acceptable to you
from your playmate and friend of bygone days. I can hardly believe
that the dear little 'Innocent' of Briar Farm has become such a
celebrated and much-talked-of personage, for after all it is not
yet two years since you left us. I have told Priscilla, and she
sends her love and duty, and hopes God will allow her to see you
once again before she dies. The work of the farm goes on as usual,
and everything prospers--all is as Uncle Hugo would have wished--
all except one thing which I know will never be! But you must not
think I grumble at my fate. I might feel lonely if I had not
plenty of work to do and people dependent on me--but under such
circumstances I manage to live a life that is at least useful to
others and I want for nothing. In the evenings when the darkness
closes in, and we light the tall candles in the old pewter
sconces, I often wish I could see a little fair head shining like
a cameo against the dark oak panelling--a vision of grace and hope
and comfort!--but as this cannot be, I read old books--even some
of those belonging to your favourite French Knight Amadis!--and
try to add to the little learning I gained at Oxford. I am sending
for your book!--when it comes I shall read every word of it with
an interest too deep to be expressed to you in my poor language.
'Cupid' is well--he flies to my hand, surprised, I think, to find
it of so rough a texture as compared with the little rose-velvet
palm to which he was accustomed. Will you ever come to Briar Farm
again? God bless you! ROBIN."

She shed some tears over this letter--then, moved by a sudden
impulse, sat down and answered it at once, giving a full account
of her meeting and acquaintance with another Amadis de Jocelyn--
"the real last descendant," she wrote, "of the real old family of
the very Amadis of Briar Farm!" She described his appearance and
manners,--descanted on his genius as a painter, and all
unconsciously poured out her ardent, enthusiastic soul on this
wonderful discovery of the Real in the Ideal. She said nothing of
her own work or success, save that she was glad to be able to earn
her living. And when Robin read the simple outflow of her thoughts
his heart grew cold within him. He, with the keen instinct of a
lover, guessed at once all that might happen,--saw the hidden fire
smouldering, and became conscious of an inexplicable dread, as
though a note of alarm had sounded mystically in his brain. What
would happen to Innocent, if she, with her romantic, old-world
fancies, should allow a possible traitor to intrude within the
crystal-pure sphere where her sweet soul dwelt unsullied and
serene? He told Priscilla the strange story--and she in her
shrewd, motherly way felt something of the same fear.

"Eh, the poor lamb!" she sighed--"That old French knight was ever
a fly in her brain and a stumbling-block in the way of us all!--
and now to come across a man o' the same name an' family, turning
up all unexpected like,--why, it's like a ghost's sudden risin'
from the tomb! An' what does it mean, Mister Robin? Are you the
master o' Briar Farm now?--or is he the rightful one?"

Clifford laughed, a trifle bitterly.

"I am the master," he said, "according to my uncle's will. This
man is a painter--famous and admired,--he'll scarcely go in for
farming! If he did--if he'd buy the farm from me--I should be glad
enough to sell it and leave the country."

"Mister Robin!" cried Priscilla, reproachfully.

He patted her hand gently.

"Not yet--not yet anyhow, Priscilla!" he said--"I may be yet of
some use--to Innocent." He paused, then added, slowly--"I think we
shall hear more of this second Amadis de Jocelyn!"

But months went on, and he heard nothing, save of Innocent's
growing fame which, by leaps and bounds, was spreading abroad like
fire blown into brightness by the wind. He got her first book and
read it with astonishment and admiration, utterly confounded by
its brilliancy and power. When her second work appeared with her
adopted name appended to it as the author, all the reading world
"rushed" at it, and equally "rushed" at HER, lifting her, as it
were, on their shoulders and bearing her aloft, against her own
desire, above the seething tide of fashion and frivolity as though
she were a queen of many kingdoms, crowned with victory. And again
the old journalist, John Harrington, sought an audience of her,
and this time was not refused. She received him in Miss Leigh's
little drawing-room, holding out both her hands to him in cordial
welcome, with a smile frank and sincere enough to show him at a
glance that her "celebrity" had left her unscathed. She was still
the same simple child-like soul, wearing the mystical halo of
spiritual dreams rather than the brazen baldric of material
prosperity--and he, bitterly seasoned in the hardest ways of
humanity, felt a thrill of compassion as he looked at her,
wondering how her frail argosy, freighted with fine thought and
rich imagination, would weather a storm should storms arise. He
sat talking for a long time with her and Miss Leigh--reminding her
pleasantly of their journey up to London together,--while she, in
her turn, amused and astonished him by avowing the fact that it
was his loan of the "Morning Post" that had led her, through an
advertisement, to the house where she was now living.

"So I've had something of a hand in it all!" he said, cheerily--
"I'm glad of that! It was chance or luck, or whatever you call
it!--but I never thought that the little girl with the frightened
eyes, carrying a satchel for all her luggage, was a future great
author, to whom I, as a poor old journalist, would have to bow!"
He laughed kindly as he spoke--"And you are still a little girl!--
or you look one! I feel disposed to play literary grandfather to
you! But you want nobody's help--you have made yourself!"

"She has, indeed!" said Miss Leigh, with pride sparkling in her
tender eyes--"When she came here, and suddenly decided to stay
with me, I had no idea of her plans, or what she was studying. She
used to shut herself up all the morning and write--she told me she
was finishing off some work--in fact it was her first book,--a
manuscript she brought with her from the country in that famous
satchel! I knew nothing at all about it till she confided to me
one day that she had written a book, and that it had been accepted
by a publisher. I was amazed!"

"And the result must have amazed you still more," said
Harrington,--"but I'm a very astute person!--and I guessed at
once, when I was told the address of the 'PRIVATE SECRETARY of the
author,' that the SECRETARY was the author herself!"

Innocent blushed.

"Perhaps it was wrong to say what was not true," she said, "but
really I WAS and AM the secretary of the author!--I write all the
manuscript with my own hand!"

They laughed at this, and then Harrington went on to say--

"I believe you know the painter Amadis Jocelyn, don't you? Yes?
Well, I was with him the other day, and I said you were the author
of the wonderful book. He told me I was talking nonsense--that you
couldn't be,--he had met you at an artist's evening party and that
you had told him a story about some ancestor of his own family.
'She's a nice little thing with baby eyes,' he said, 'but she
couldn't write a clever book! She may have got some man to write
it for her!'"

Innocent gave a little cry of pain.

"Oh!--did he say that?"

"Of course he did! All men say that sort of thing! They can't bear
a woman to do more than marry and have children. Simple girl with
the satchel, don't you know that? You mustn't mind it--it's their
way. Of course I rounded on Jocelyn and told him he was a fool,
with a swelled head on the subject of his own sex--he IS a fool in
many ways,--he's a great painter, but he might be much greater if
he'd get up early in the morning and stick to his work. He ought
to have been in the front rank long ago."

"But surely he IS in the front rank?" queried Miss Leigh, mildly--
"He is a wonderful artist!"

"Wonderful--yes!--with a lot of wonderful things in him which
haven't come out!" declared Harrington, "and which never will come
out, I fear! He turns night into day too often. Oh, he's clever!--
I grant you all that--but he hasn't a resolute will or a great
mind, like Watts or Burne-Jones or any of the fellows who served
their art nobly--he's a selfish sort of chap!"

Innocent heard, and longed to utter a protest--she wanted to say-
"No, no!--you wrong him! He is good and noble--he must be!--he is
Amadis de Jocelyn!"

But she repressed her thought and sat very quiet,--then, when
Harrington paused, she told him in a sweet, even voice the story
of the "Knight of France" who founded Briar Farm. He was
enthralled--not so much by the tale as by her way of telling it.

"And so Jocelyn the painter is the lineal descendant of the
BROTHER of your Jocelin!--the knight who disappeared and took to
farming in the days of Elizabeth!" he said--"Upon my word, it's a
quaint bit of history and coincidence--almost too romantic for
such days as these!"

Innocent smiled.

"Is romance at an end now?" she asked.

Harrington looked at her kindly.

"Almost! It's gasping its last gasp in company with poetry.
Realism is our only wear--Realism and Prose--very prosy Prose. YOU
are a romantic child!--I can see that!--but don't over-do it! And
if you ever made an ideal out of your sixteenth-century man, don't
make another out of the twentieth-century one! He couldn't stand
it!--he'd crumble at a touch!"

She answered nothing, but avoided his glance. He prepared to take
his leave--and on rising from his chair suddenly caught sight of
the portrait on the harpsichord.

"I know that face!" he said, quickly,--"Who is he?"

"He WAS also a painter--as great as the one we have just been
speaking of," answered Miss Leigh--"His name was Pierce Armitage."

"That's it!" exclaimed Harrington, with some excitement. "Of
course! Pierce Armitage! I knew him! One of the handsomest fellows
I ever saw! THERE was an artist, if you like!--he might have been
anything! What became of him?--do you know?"

"He died abroad, so it is said"--and Miss Leigh's gentle voice
trembled a little--"but nothing is quite certainly known--"

Harrington turned swiftly to stare eagerly at Innocent.

"YOUR name is Armitage!" he said--"and do you know you are rather
like him! Your face reminds me---Are you any relative?"

She gave the usual answer--

"No."

"Strange!" He bent his eyes scrutinisingly upon her. "I remember I
thought the same thing when I first met you--and HIS features are
not easily forgotten! You have his eyes--and mouth,--you might
almost be his daughter!"

Her breath quickened--

"I wish I were!" she said.

He still looked puzzled.

"No--don't wish for what would perhaps be a misfortune!" he said--
"You've done very well for yourself!--but don't be romantic! Keep
that old 'French knight' of yours in the pages of an old French
chronicle!--shut the volume,--lock it up,--and--lose the key!"




CHAPTER III

Some weeks later on, when the London season was at its height, and
Fashion, that frilled and furbelowed goddess, sat enthroned in
state, controlling the moods of the Elect and Select which she
chooses to call "society," Innocent was invited to the house of a
well-known Duchess, renowned for a handsome personality, and also
for an unassailable position, notwithstanding certain sinister
rumours. People said--people are always saying something!--that
her morals were easy-going, but everyone agreed that her taste was
unimpeachable. She--this great lady whose rank permitted her to
entertain the King and Queen--heard of "Ena Armitage" as the
brilliant author whose books were the talk of the town, and
forthwith made up her mind that she must be seen at her house as
the "sensation" of at least one evening. To this end she glided in
her noiseless, satin-cushioned motor brougham up to the door of
Miss Leigh's modest little dwelling and left the necessary slips
of pasteboard bearing her titled name, with similar slips on
behalf of her husband the Duke, for Miss Armitage and Miss Leigh.
The slips were followed in due course by a more imposing and
formal card of invitation to a "Reception and Small Dance.
R.S.V.P." On receiving this, good old Miss Lavinia was a little
fluttered and excited, and turning it over and over in her hand,
looked at Innocent with a kind of nervous anxiety.

"I think we ought to go, my dear," she said--"or rather--I don't
know about myself--but YOU ought to go certainly. It's a great
house--a great family--and she is a very great lady--a little--
well!--a little 'modern' perhaps--"

Innocent lifted her eyebrows with a slight, almost weary smile. A
scarcely perceptible change had come over her of late--a change
too subtle to be noticed by anyone who was not as keenly observant
as Miss Lavinia--but it was sufficient to give the old lady who
loved her cause for a suspicion of trouble.

"What is it to be modern?" she asked--"In your sense, I mean? I
know what is called 'modern' generally--bad art, bad literature,
bad manners and bad taste! But what do YOU call modern?"

Miss Leigh considered--looking at the girl with steadfast, kindly
eyes.

"You speak a trifle bitterly--for YOU, dear child!" she said--
"These things you name as 'modern' truly are so, but they are
ancient as well! The world has altered very little, I think. What
we call 'bad' has always existed as badness--it is only presented
to us in different forms--"

Innocent laughed--a soft little laugh of tenderness.

"Wise godmother!" she said, playfully--"You talk like a book!"

Miss Lavinia laughed too, and a pretty pink colour came into her
wan cheeks.

"Naughty child, you are making fun of me!" she said--"What I meant
about the Duchess--"

Innocent stretched out her hand for the card of invitation and
looked at it.

"Well!" she said, slowly--"What about the Duchess?"

Miss Leigh hesitated.

"I hardly know how to put it," she answered, at last--"She's a
kind-hearted woman--very generous--and most helpful in works of
charity. I never knew such energy as she shows in organising
charity bails and bazaars!--perfectly wonderful!--but she likes to
live her life--"

"Who would not!" murmured the girl, scarcely audibly.

"And she lives it--very much so!--rather to the dregs!" continued
the old lady, with emphasis. "She has no real aim beyond the
satisfaction of her own vanity and social power--and you, with
your beautiful thoughts and ideals, might not like the kind of
people she surrounds herself with--people, who only want amusement
and 'sensation'--particularly sensation--"

Innocent said nothing for a minute or two--then she looked up,
brightly.

"To go or not to go, godmother mine! Which is it to be? The
decision rests with you! Yes, or no?"

"I think it must be 'yes'"--and Miss Leigh emphasised the word
with a little nod of her head. "It would be unwise to refuse--
especially just now when everyone is talking of you and wishing to
see you. And you are quite worth seeing!"

The girl gave a slight gesture of indifference and moved away
slowly and listlessly, as though fatigued by the mere effort of
speech. Miss Leigh noted this with some concern, watching her as
she went, and admiring the supple grace of her small figure, the
well-shaped little head so proudly poised on the slim throat, and
the burnished sheen of her bright hair.

"She grows prettier every day," she thought--"But not happier, I
fear!--not happier, poor child!"

Innocent meanwhile, upstairs in her own little study, was reading
and re-reading a brief letter which had come for her by the same
post that had delivered the Duchess's invitation.

"I hear you are among the guests invited to the Duchess of
Deanshire's party," it ran--"I hope you will go--for the purely
selfish reason that I want to meet you there. Hers is a great
house with plenty of room, and a fine garden--for London. People
crowd to her 'crushes', but one can always escape the mob. I have
seen so little of you lately, and you are now so famous that I
shall think myself lucky if I may touch the hem of your garment.
Will you encourage me thus far? Like Hamlet, 'I lack advancement'!
When will you take me to Briar Farm? I should like to see the tomb
of my very ancestral uncle--could we not arrange a day's outing in
the country while the weather is fine? I throw myself on your
consideration and clemency for this--and for many other unwritten
things!

Yours,

AMADIS DE JOCELYN."

There was nothing in this easily worded scrawl to make an
ordinarily normal heart beat faster, yet the heart of this simple
child of the gods, gifted with genius and deprived of worldly
wisdom as all such divine children are, throbbed uneasily, and her
eyes were wet. More than this, she touched the signature,--the
long-familiar name--with her soft lips,--and as though afraid of
what she had done, hurriedly folded the letter and locked it away.

Then she sat down and thought. Nearly two years had elapsed since
she had left Briar Farm, and in that short time she had made the
name she had adopted famous. She could not call it her own name;
born out of wedlock, she had no right, by the stupid law, to the
name of her father. She could, legally, have worn the maiden name
of her mother had she known it--but she did not know it. And what
she was thinking of now, was this: Should she tell her lately
discovered second "Amadis de Jocelyn" the true story of her birth
and parentage at this, the outset of their friendship, before--
well, before it went any further? She could not consult Miss Leigh
on the point, without smirching the reputation of Pierce Armitage,
the man whose memory was enshrined in that dear lady's heart as a
thing of unsullied honour. She puzzled herself over the question
for a long time, and then decided to keep her own counsel.

"After all, why should I tell him?" she asked herself. "It might
make trouble--he is so proud of his lineage, and I too am proud of
it for him! ... why should I let him know that I inherit nothing
but my mother's shame!"

Her heart grew heavy as her position was thus forced back upon her
by her own thoughts. Up to the present no one had asked who she
was, or where she came from--she was understood to be an orphan,
left alone in the world, who by her own genius and unaided effort
had lifted herself into the front rank among the "shining lights"
of the day. This, so far, had been sufficient information for all
with whom she had come in contact--but as time went on, would not
people ask more about her?--who were her father and mother?--where
she was born?--how she had been educated? These inquisitorial
demands were surely among the penalties of fame! And, if she told
the truth, would she not, despite the renown she had won, be
lightly, even scornfully esteemed by conventional society as a
"bastard" and interloper, though the manner of her birth was no
fault of her own, and she was unjustly punishable for the sins of
her parents, such being the wicked law!

The night of the Duchess's reception was one of those close sultry
nights of June in London when the atmosphere is well-nigh as
suffocating as that of some foetid prison where criminals have
been pacing their dreary round all day. Royal Ascot was just over,
and space and opportunity were given for several social
entertainments to be conveniently checked off before Henley.
Outside the Duke's great house there was a constant stream of
motor-cars and taxi-cabs; a passing stranger might have imagined
all the world and his wife were going to the Duchess's "At Home."
It was difficult to effect an entrance, but once inside, the scene
was one of veritable enchantment. The lovely hues and odours of
flowers, the softened glitter of thousands of electric lamps
shaded with rose-colour, the bewildering brilliancy of women's
clothes and jewels, the exquisite music pouring like a rippling
stream through the magnificent reception-rooms, all combined to
create a magical effect of sensuous beauty and luxury; and as
Innocent, accompanied by the sweet-faced old-fashioned lady who
played the part of chaperone with such gentle dignity, approached
her hostess, she was a little dazzled and nervous. Her timidity
made her look all the more charming--she had the air of a
wondering child called up to receive an unexpected prize at
school. She shrank visibly when her name was shouted out in a
stentorian voice by the gorgeously liveried major-domo in
attendance, quite unaware that it created a thrill throughout the
fashionable assemblage, and that all eyes were instantly upon her.
The Duchess, diamond-crowned and glorious in gold-embroidered
tissue, kept back by a slight gesture the pressing crowd of
guests, and extended her hand with marked graciousness and a
delightful smile.

"SUCH a pleasure and honour!" she said, sweetly--"So good of you
to come! You will give me a few words with you later on? Yes?
Everybody will want to speak to you!--but you must let me have a
chance too!"

Innocent murmured something gently deprecatory as a palliative to
this sort of society "gush" which always troubled her--and moved
on. Everybody gazed, whispered and wondered, astonished at the
youth and evident unworldliness of the "author of those marvellous
books!"--so the commentary ran;--the women criticised her gown,
which was one of pale blue silken stuff caught at the waist and
shoulders by quaint clasps of dull gold--a gown with nothing
remarkable about it save its cut and fit--melting itself, as it
were, around her in harmonious folds of fine azure which suggested
without emphasising the graceful lines of her form. The men
looked, and said nothing much except "A pity she's a writing
woman! Mucking about Fleet Street!"--mere senseless talk which
they knew to be senseless, inasmuch as "mucking" about Fleet
Street is no part of any writer's business save that of the
professional journalist. Happily ignorant of comment, the girl
made her way quietly and unobtrusively through the splendid
throng, till she was presently addressed by a stoutish, pleasant-
featured man, with small twinkling eyes and an agreeable surface
manner.

"I missed you just now when my wife received you," he said--"May I
present myself? I am your host--proud of the privilege!"

Innocent smiled as she bowed and held out her hand; she was
amused, and taken a little by surprise. This was the Duke of
Deanshire--this quite insignificant-looking personage--he was the
owner of the great house and the husband of the great lady,--and
yet he had the appearance of a very ordinary nobody. But that he
was a "somebody" of paramount importance there was no doubt; and
when he said, "May I give you my arm and take you through the
rooms? There are one or two pictures you may like to see," she was
a little startled. She looked round for Miss Leigh, but that
tactful lady, seeing the position, had disappeared. So she laid
her little cream-gloved hand on the Duke's arm and went with him,
shyly at first, yet with a pretty stateliness which was all her
own, and moving slowly among the crowd of guests, gradually
recovered her ease and self-possession, and began to talk to him
with a delightful naturalness and candour which fairly captivated
His Grace, in fact, "bowled him over," as he afterwards declared.
She was blissfully unaware that his manner of escorting her on his
arm through the long vista of the magnificent rooms had been
commanded and arranged by the Duchess, in order that she should be
well looked at and criticised by all assembled as the "show"
person of the evening. She was so unconscious of the ordeal to
which she was being subjected that she bore it with the perfect
indifference which such unconsciousness gives. All at once the
Duke came to a standstill.

"Here is a great friend of mine--one of the best I have in the
world," he said--"I want to introduce him to you,"--this, as a
tall old man paused near them with a smile and enquiring glance,
"Lord Blythe--Miss Armitage."

Innocent's heart gave a wild bound; for a moment she felt a
struggling sensation in her throat moving her to cry out, and it
was only with a violent effort that she repressed herself.

"You've heard of Miss Armitage--Ena Armitage,--haven't you,
Blythe?" went on the Duke, garrulously. "Of course! all the world
has heard of her!"

"Indeed it has!" and Lord Blythe bowed ceremoniously. "May I
congratulate you on winning your laurels while you are young
enough to enjoy them! One moment!--my wife is most anxious to meet
you--"

He turned to look for her, while Innocent, trembling violently,
wondered desperately whether it would be possible for her to run
away!--anywhere--anywhere, rather than endure what she knew must
come! The Duke noticed her sudden pallor with concern.

"Are you cold?" he asked--"I hope there is no draught---"

"Oh no--no!" she murmured--"It is nothing--"

Then she braced herself up in every nerve--drawing her little body
erect, as though a lily should lift itself to the sun--she saw
Lord Blythe approaching with a handsome woman dressed in silvery
grey and wearing a coronet of emeralds--and in one more moment
looked full in the face--of her mother!

"Lady Blythe--Miss Armitage."

Lady Blythe turned white to the lips. Her dark eyes opened widely
in amazement and fear--she put out a hand as though to steady
herself. Her husband caught it, alarmed.

"Maude! Are you ill?"

"Not at all!" and she forced a laugh. "I am perfectly--perfectly
well!--a little faint perhaps! The heat, I think! Yes--of course!
Miss Armitage--the famous author! I am--I am very proud to meet
you!"

"Most kind of you!" said Innocent, quietly.

And they still looked at each other, very strangely.

The men beside them were a little embarrassed, the Duke twirled
his short white moustache, and Lord Blythe glanced at his wife
with some wonder and curiosity. Both imagined, with the usual
short-sightedness of the male sex, that the women had taken a
sudden fantastic dislike to one another.

"By jove, she's jealous!" thought the Duke, fully aware that Lady
Blythe was occasionally "moved that way."

"The girl seems frightened of her," was Lord Blythe's inward
comment, knowing that his wife did not always create a sympathetic
atmosphere.

But her ladyship was soon herself again and laughed quite merrily
at her husband's anxious expression.

"I'm all right--really!" she said, with a quick, almost defiant
turn of her head towards him, the emeralds in her dark hair
flashing with a sinister gleam like lightning on still water. "You
must remember it's rather overwhelming to be introduced to a
famous author and think of just the right thing to say at the
right moment! Isn't it, Miss Armitage?"

"It is as you feel," replied Innocent, coldly.

Lady Blythe rattled on gaily.

"Do come and talk to me for a few moments!--it will be so good of
you! The garden's lovely!--shall we go there? Now, my dear Duke,
don't look so cross, I'll bring her back to you directly!" and she
nodded pleasantly. "You want her, of course!--everybody wants
her!--such a celebrity!" then, turning again to Innocent, "Will
you come?"

As one in a dream the girl obeyed her inviting gesture, and they
passed out of the room together through a large open French window
to a terraced garden, dimly illumined in the distance by the
glitter of fairy lamps, but for the most part left to the tempered
brilliancy of a misty red moon. Once away from the crowd, Lady
Blythe walked quickly and impatiently, scarcely looking at the
youthful figure that accompanied her own, like a fair ghost
gliding step for step beside her. At last she stopped; they were
well away from the house in a quaint bit of garden shaded with
formal fir-trees and clipped yews, where a fountain dashed up a
slender spiral thread of white spray. A strange sense of fury in
her broke loose; with pale face and cruel, glittering eyes she
turned upon her daughter.

"How dare you!" she half whispered, through her set teeth--"How
dare you!"

Innocent drew back a step, and looked at her steadfastly.

"I do not understand you," she said.

"You do understand!--you understand only too well!" and Lady
Blythe put her hand to the pearls at her throat as though she felt
them choking her. "Oh, I could strike you for your insolence! I
wish I had never sought you out or told you how you were born! Is
this your revenge for the manner of your birth, that you come to
shame me among my own class--my own people--"

Innocent's eyes flashed with a fire seldom seen in their soft
depths.

"Shame you?" she echoed. "I? What shame have I brought you? What
shame shall I bring? Had you owned me as your child I would have
made you proud of me! I would have given you honour,--you
abandoned me to strangers, and I have made honour for myself!
Shame is YOURS and yours only!--it would be mine if I had to
acknowledge YOU as my mother!--you who never had the courage to be
true!" Her young voice thrilled with passion.--"I have won my own
way! I am something beyond and above you!--'your own class--your
own people,' as you call them, are at MY feet,--and you--you who
played with my father's heart and spoilt his career--you have
lived to know that I, his deserted child, have made his name
famous!"

Lady Blythe stared at her like some enraged cat ready to spring.

"His name--his name!" she muttered, fiercely. "Yes, and how dare
you take it? You have no right to it in law!"

"Wise law, just law!" said the girl, passionately. "Would you
rather I had taken yours? I might have done so had I known it--
though I think not, as I should have been ashamed of any 'maiden'
name you had dishonoured! When you came to Briar Farm to find me--
to see me--so late, so late!--after long years of desertion--I
told you it was possible to make a name;--one cannot go nameless
through the world! I have made mine!--independently and honestly--
in fact"--and she smiled, a sad cold smile--"it is an honour for
you, my mother, to know me, your daughter!"

Lady Blythe's face grew ghastly pale in the uncertain light of the
half-veiled moon. She moved a step and caught the girl's arm with
some violence.

"What do you mean to do?" she asked, in an angry whisper, "I must
know! What are your plans of vengeance?--your campaign of
notoriety?--your scheme of self-advertisement? What claim will you
make?"

"None!" and Innocent looked at her fully, with calm and fearless
dignity. "I have no claim upon you, thank God! I am less to you
than a dropped lamb, lost in a thicket of thorns, is to the sheep
that bore it! That's a rough country simile,--I was brought up on
a farm, you know!--but it will serve your case. Think nothing of
me, as I think nothing of you! What I am, or what I may be to the
world, is my own affair!"

There was a pause. Presently Lady Blythe gave a kind of shrill
hysterical laugh.

"Then, when we meet in society, as we have met to-night, it will
be as comparative strangers?"

"Why, of course!--we have always been strangers," the girl
replied, quietly. "No strangers were ever more strange to each
other than we!"

"You mean to keep MY secret?--and your own?"

"Certainly. Do you suppose I would give my father's name to
slander?"

"Your father!--you talk of your father as if HE was worth
consideration!--he was chiefly to blame for your position--"

"Was he? I am not quite sure of that," said Innocent, slowly--"I
do not know all the circumstances. But I have heard that he was a
great artist; and that some woman he loved ruined his life. And I
believe you are that woman!"

Lady Blythe laughed--a hard mirthless laugh.

"Believe what you like!" she said--"You are an imaginative little
fool! When you know more of the world you will find out that men
ruin women's lives as casually as cracking nuts, but they take
jolly good care of their own skins! Pierce Armitage was too
selfish a man to sacrifice his own pleasure and comfort for
anyone--he was glad to get rid of me--and of YOU! And now--now!"
She threw up her hands with an expressive, half-tragic gesture.
"Now you are famous!--actually famous! Good heavens!--why, I
thought you would stay in that old farmhouse all your life,
scrubbing the floors and looking after the poultry, and perhaps
marrying some good-natured country yokel! Famous!--you!--with
social London dancing attendance on you! What a ghastly comedy!"
She laughed again. "Come!--we must go back to the house."

They walked side by side--the dark full-figured woman and the fair
slight girl--the one a mere ephemeral unit in an exclusively
aristocratic and fashionable "set,"--the other, the possessor of a
sudden brilliant fame which was spreading a new light across the
two hemispheres. Not another word was exchanged between them, and
as they re-entered the ducal reception-rooms, now more crowded
than ever, Lord Blythe met them.

"I was just going to look for you," he said to his wife--"There
are dozens of people waiting to be presented to Miss Armitage; the
Duchess has asked for her several times."

Lady Blythe turned to Innocent with a dazzling smile.

"How guilty I feel!" she exclaimed. "Everybody wanting to see you,
and I selfishly detaining you in the garden! It was so good of you
to give me a few minutes!--you, the guest of the evening too!
Good-night!--in case I don't find you again in this crowd!"

She moved away then, leaving Innocent fairly bewildered by her
entire coolness and self-possession. She herself, poor child,
moved to the very soul by the interview she had just gone through,
was trembling with extreme nervousness, and could hardly conceal
her agitation.

"I'm afraid you've caught cold!" said Lord Blythe, kindly--"That
will never do! I promised I would take you to the Duchess as soon
as I found you--she has some friends with her who wish to meet
you. Will you come?"

She smiled assent, looking up at him gratefully and thinking what
a handsome old man he was, with his tall, well-formed figure and
fine intellectual face on which the constant progress of good
thoughts had marked many a pleasant line. Her mother's husband!--
and she wondered how it happened that such a woman had been chosen
for a wife by such a man!

"They're going to dance in the ball-room directly," he continued,
as he guided her through the pressing throng of people. "You will
not be without partners! Are you fond of dancing?"

Her face lighted up with the lovely youthful look that gave her
such fascination and sweetness of expression.

"Yes, I like it very much, though before I came to London I only
knew country dances such as they dance at harvest-homes; but of
course here, you all dance so differently!--it is only just going
round and round! But it's quite pleasant and rather amusing."

"You were brought up in the country then?" he said.

"Yes, entirely. I came to London about two years ago."

"But--I hope you don't think me too inquisitive!--where did you
study literature?"

She laughed a little.

"I don't think I studied it at all," she answered, "I just loved
it! There was a small library of very old books in the farmhouse
where I lived, and I read and re-read these. Then, when I was
about sixteen, it suddenly came into my head that I would try to
write a story myself--and I did. Little by little it grew into a
book, and I brought it to London and finished it here. You know
the rest!"

"Like Byron, you awoke one morning to find yourself famous!" said
Lord Blythe, smiling. "You have no parents living?"

Her cheeks burned with a hot blush as she replied.

"No."

"A pity! They would have been very proud of you. Here is the
Duchess!"

And in another moment she was drawn into the vortex of a brilliant
circle surrounding her hostess--men and women of notable standing
in politics, art and letters, to whom the Duchess presented her
with the half kindly, half patronising air of one who feels that
any genius in man or woman is a kind of disease, and that the
person affected by it must be soothingly considered as a sort of
"freak" or nondescript creature, like a white crow or a red
starling.

"These abnormal people are so interesting!" she was wont to say.
"These prodigies and things! I love them! They're often quite ugly
and have rude manners--Beethoven used to eat with his fingers I
believe; wasn't it wonderful of him! Such a relief from the
conventional way! When I was quite a girl I used to adore a man in
Paris who played the 'cello divinely--a perfect marvel!--but he
wouldn't comb his hair or blow his nose properly--and it wasn't
very nice!--not that it mattered much, he was such a wonderful
artist! Oh yes, I know! it wouldn't have lessened his genius to
have wiped his nose with a handkerchief instead of--! well!--
perhaps we'd better not mention it!" And she would laugh
charmingly and again murmur, "These deaf abnormal people!"

With Innocent, however, she was somewhat put off her usual line of
conduct; the girl was too graceful and easy-mannered to be called
"abnormal" or eccentric; she was perfectly modest, simple and
unaffected, and the Duchess was a trifle disappointed that she was
not ill-dressed, frowsy, frumpish and blue-spectacled.

"She's so young too!" thought her Grace, half crossly--"Almost a
child!--and not in the least 'bookish.' It seems quite absurd that
such a baby-looking creature should be actually a genius, and
famous at twenty! Simply amazing!"

And she watched the little "lion" or lioness of the evening with
keen interest and curiosity, whimsically vexed that it did not
roar, snort, or make itself as noticeable as certain other animals
of the literary habitat whom she had occasionally entertained.
Just then a mirthful, mellow voice spoke close beside her.

"Where is the new Corinne? The Sappho of the Leucadian rock of
London? Has she met her Phaon?"

"How late you are, Amadis!" and the Duchess smiled captivatingly
as she extended her hand to Jocelyn, who gallantly stooped and
kissed the perfectly fitting glove which covered it. "If you mean
Miss Armitage, she is just over there talking to two old fogies. I
think they're Cabinet ministers--they look it! She's quite the
success of the evening,--and pretty, don't you think?"

Jocelyn looked, and saw the small fair head rising like a golden
flower from sea-blue draperies; he smiled enigmatically.

"Not exactly," he answered, "But spirituelle--she has what some
painters might call an imaginative head--she could pose very well
for St. Dorothy. I can quite realise her preferring the
executioner's axe to the embraces of Theophilus."

The Duchess gave him a swift glance and touched his arm with the
edge of her fan.

"Are you going to make love to her?" she asked. "You make love to
every woman--but most women understand your sort of love-making--"

"Do they?" and his blue eyes flashed amusement. "And what do they
think of it?"

"They laugh at it!" she answered, calmly. "But that clever child
would not laugh--she would take it au grand serieux."

He passed his hand carelessly through the rough dark hair which
gave his ruggedly handsome features a singular softness and charm.

"Would she? My dear Duchess, nobody takes anything 'au grand
serieux' nowadays. We grin through every scene of life, and we
don't know and don't care whether it's comedy or tragedy we're
grinning at! It doesn't do to be serious. I never am. 'Life is
real, life is earnest' was the line of conduct practised by my
French ancestors; they cut up all their enemies with long swords,
and then sat down to wild boar roasted whole for dinner. That was
real life, earnest life! We in our day don't cut up our enemies
with long swords--we cut them up in the daily press. It's so much
easier!"

"How you love to hear yourself talk!" commented the Duchess. "I
let you do it--but I know you don't mean half you say!"

"You think not? Well, I'm going to join the court of Corinne--
she's not the usual type of Corinne--I fancy she has a heart--"

"And you want to steal it if you can, of course!" and the Duchess
laughed. "Men always long for what they haven't got, and tire of
what they have!"

"True, O Queen! We are made so! Blame, not us, but the Creator of
the poor world-mannikins!"

He moved away and was soon beside Innocent, who blushed into a
pretty rose at sight of him.

"I thought you were never coming!" she said, shyly. "I'm so glad
you are here!"

He looked at her with an admiring softness in his eyes.

"May I have the first dance?" he said. "I timed myself to gain the
privilege."

She gave him her dance programme where no name was yet inscribed.
He took it and scribbled his name down several times, then handed
it back to her. Several of the younger men in the group which had
gathered about her laughed and remonstrated.

"Give somebody else a chance, Miss Armitage!"

She looked round upon them, smiling.

"But of course! Mr. Amadis de Jocelyn has not taken all?"

They laughed again.

"His name dominates your programme, anyhow!"

Her eyes shone softly.

"It is a beautiful name!" she said.

"Granted! But show a little mercy to the unbeautiful names!" said
one man near her. "My name, for instance, is Smith--can you
tolerate it?"

She gave a light gesture of protest.

"You play with me!" she said--"Of course! You will find a dance,
Mr. Smith!--and I will dance it with you!"

They were all now ready for fun, and taking her programme handed
it round amongst themselves and soon filled it. When it came back
to her she looked at it, amazed.

"But I shall never dance all these!" she exclaimed.

"No, you will sit out some of them," said Jocelyn, coolly--"With
me!"

The ball-room doors were just then thrown invitingly open and
entrancing strains of rhythmical music came swinging and ringing
in sweet cadence on the ears. He passed his arm round her waist.

"We'll begin the revelry!" he said, and in another moment she felt
herself floating deliciously, as it were, in his arms--her little
feet flying over the polished floor, his hand warmly clasping her
slim soft body--and her heart fluttered wildly like the beating
wings of a snared bird as she fell into the mystic web woven by
the strange and pitiless loom of destiny. The threads were already
tangling about her--but she made no effort to escape. She was
happy in her dream; she imagined that her Ideal had been found in
the Real.




CHAPTER IV

The first waltz over, Jocelyn led his partner out of the ball-
room.

"Come into the garden," he said. "It's quite a real garden for
London--and I know every inch of it. We'll find a quiet corner and
sit down and rest."

She answered nothing--she was flushed, and breathing quickly from
the excitement of the dance, and he paused on his way to pick up a
light wrap he found on one of the sofas, and put it round her
shoulders.

"You mustn't catch a chill," he went on. "But it's not a cold
night--in fact it's very close and sultry--almost like thunder. A
little air will be good for us."

They went together, pacing along slowly--she meanwhile thinking of
her previous walk in that same garden!--what would he, Amadis de
Jocelyn, say of it and of her "mother" if he knew! He looked at
her sideways now and then, curiously moved by mingled pity,
admiration and desire,--the cruelty latent in every man made him
long to awaken the first spark of passion in that maidenly soul,--
and with the full consciousness of a powerful personality, he was
perfectly aware that he could do so if he chose. But he waited,
playing with the fire of his own inclinations, and talking lightly
and charmingly of things which he knew would interest her
sufficiently to make her, in her turn, talk to him naturally and
candidly, thereby displaying more or less of her disposition and
temperament. With every word she spoke he found her more and more
fascinating--she had a quaint directness of speech which was
extremely refreshing after the half-veiled subtleties conveyed in
the often dubious conversation of the women he was accustomed to
meet in society--while there was no doubt she was endowed with
extraordinary intellectual grasp and capacity. Her knowledge of
things artistic and literary might, perhaps, have been termed
archaic, but it was based upon the principles which are good and
true for all time--and as she told him quite simply and
unaffectedly of her studies by herself among the old books which
had belonged to the "Sieur Amadis" of Briar Farm, he was both
touched and interested.

"So you made quite a friend of the Sieur Amadis!" he said. "He was
your teacher and guide! I'm jealous of him!"

She laughed softly. "He was a spirit," she said--"You are a man."

"Well, his spirit has had a good innings with you!" and, taking
her hand, he drew it within his arm--"I bear his name, and it's
time I came in somewhere!"

She laughed again, a trifle nervously.

"You think so? But you do come in! You are here with me now!"

He bent his eyes upon her with an ardour he did not attempt to
conceal, and her heart leaped within her--a warmth like fire ran
swiftly through her veins. He heard her sigh,--he saw her tremble
beneath his gaze. There was an elf-like fascination about her
child-like face and figure as she moved glidingly beside him--a
"belle dame sans merci" charm which roused the strongly amorous
side of his nature. He quickened his steps a little as he led her
down a sloping path, shut in on either side by tall trees, where
there was a seat placed invitingly in the deepest shadow and where
the dim uplifted moon cast but the faintest glimmer, just
sufficiently to make the darkness visible.

"Shall we stay here a little while?" he said, in a low tone.

She made no reply. Something vaguely sweet and irresistible
overpowered her,--she was barely conscious of herself, or of
anything, save that "Amadis de Jocelyn" was beside her. She had
lived so long in her dream of the old French knight, whose written
thoughts and confessions had influenced her imagination and swayed
her mind since childhood, that she could not detach herself from
the idealistic conception she had formed of his character,--and to
her the sixteenth-century "Amadis" had become embodied in this
modern man of brilliant but erratic genius, who, if the truth were
told, had nothing idealistic about him but his art, which in
itself was more the outcome of emotionalism than conviction. He
drew her gently down beside him, feeling her quiver like a leaf
touched by the wind, and his own heart began to beat with a
pleasurable thrill. The silence around them seemed waiting for
speech, but none came. It was one of those tense moments on which
sometimes hangs the happiness or the misery of a lifetime--a stray
thread from the web of Chance, which may be woven into a smooth
pattern or knotted into a cruel tangle,--a freakish circumstance
in which the human beings most concerned are helplessly involved
without any conscious premonition of impending fate. Suddenly,
yielding to a passionate impulse, he caught her close in his arms
and kissed her.

"Forgive me!" he whispered--"I could not help it!"

She put him gently back from her with two little hands that
caressed rather than repulsed him, and gazed at him with startled,
tender eyes in which a new and wonderful radiance shone,--while he
in self-confident audacity still held her in his embrace.

"You are not angry?" he went on, in quick, soft accents. "No! Why
should you be? Why should not love come to you as to other women!
Don't analyse!--don't speak! There is nothing to be said--we know
all!"

Silently she clung to him, yielding more and more to the sensation
of exquisite joy that poured through her whole being like
sunlight--her heart beat with new and keener life,--the warm
kindling blood burned her cheeks like the breath of a hot wind--
and her whole soul rose to meet and greet what she in her poor
credulousness welcomed as the crown and glory of existence--love!
Love was hers, she thought--at last!--she knew the great secret,--
the long delight that death itself could not destroy,--her ideal
of romance was realised, and Amadis de Jocelyn, the brave, the
true, the chivalrous, the strong, was her very own! Enchanted with
the ease of his conquest, he played with her pretty hair as with a
bird's wing, and held her against his heart, sensuously gratified
to feel her soft breast heaving with its pent-up emotion, and to
hear her murmured words of love confessed.

"How I have wished and prayed that you might love me!" she said,
raising her dewy eyes to his in the darkness. "Is it good when God
grants one's prayers? I am almost afraid! My Amadis! It is a dream
come true!"

He was amused at her fidelity to the romance which surrounded his
name.

"Dear child, I am not a 'knight of old'--don't think it!" he said.
"You mustn't run away with that idea and make me a kind of
sixteenth-century sentimentalist. I couldn't live up to it!"

"You are more than a knight of old," she answered, proudly--"You
are a great genius!"

He was embarrassed by her simple praise.

"No," he answered--"Not even that--sweet soul as you are!--not
even that! You think I am--but you do not know. You are a clever,
imaginative little girl--and I love to hear you praise me--but--"

Her lips touched his shyly and sweetly.

"No 'buts!'" she said,--"I shall always stop your mouth if you put
a 'but' against any work you do!"

"In that way?" he asked, smiling.

"Yes! In that way."

"Then I shall put a 'but' to everything!" he declared.

They laughed together like children.

"Where is Miss Leigh all this while?" he queried.

She started, awaking suddenly to conventions and commonplaces.

"Poor little godmother! She must be wondering where I am! But I
did not leave her,--she left me when the Duke took charge of me--I
lost sight of her then."

"Well, we must go and find her now"--and Jocelyn again folded his
arms closely round the dainty, elf-like figure in its moonlight-
blue draperies. "Innocent, look at me!"

She lifted her eyes, and as she met his, glowing with the fervent
fire of a new passion, her cheeks grew hot and she was thankful
for the darkness. His lips closed on hers in a long kiss.

"This is our secret!" he said--"You must not speak of it to
anyone."

"How could I speak of it?" she asked, wonderingly.

He let her go from his embrace, and taking her hand began to walk
slowly with her towards the house.

"You might do so," he continued--"And it would not be wise!--
neither for you in your career, nor for me in mine. You are
famous,--your name is being talked of everywhere--you must be very
careful. No one must know we are lovers."

She thrilled at the word "lovers," and her hand trembled in his.

"No one shall know," she said.

"Not even Miss Leigh," he insisted.

"If I say 'no one' of course I mean 'no one,'" she answered,
gently--"not even Miss Leigh."

He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it, relieved by this
assurance. He wanted his little "amour" to go on without suspicion
or interference, and he felt instinctively that if this girl made
any sort of a promise she would fulfil it.

"You can keep a secret then?" he said, playfully--"Unlike most
women!"

She looked up at him, smiling.

"Do men keep secrets better?" she asked. "I think not! Will you,
for instance, keep mine?"

"Yours?" And for a moment he was puzzled, being a man who thought
chiefly of himself and his own pleasure for the moment. "What is
your secret?"

She laughed. "Oh, 'Sieur Amadis'! You pretend not to know! Is it
not the same as yours? You must not tell anybody that I--I--"

He understood-and pressed hard the little hand he held.

"That you--well? Go on! I must not tell anybody--what?"

"That I love you!" she said, in a tone so grave and sweet and
angelically tender, that for a second he was smitten with a sudden
sense of shame.

Was it right to steal all this unspoilt treasure of love from a
heart so warm and susceptible? Was it fair to enter such an ivory
castle of dreams and break open all the "magic casements opening
on the foam, Of perilous seas in fairy lands forlorn"? He was
silent, having no response to give to the simple ardour of her
utterance. What he felt for her was what all men feel for each
woman who in turn attracts their wandering fancies--the desire of
conquest and possession. He was moved to this desire by the
irritating fact that this girl had startled an apathetic public on
both sides of the Atlantic by the display of her genius in the
short space of two years--whereas he had been more than fifteen
years intermittently at work without securing any such fame. To
throw the lasso of Love round the flying Pegasus on which she rode
so lightly and securely, would be an excitement and amusement
which he was not inclined to forgo--a triumph worth attaining. But
love such as she imagined love to be, was not in his nature--he
conceived of it merely as a powerful physical attraction which
exerted its influence between two persons of opposite sexes and
lasted for a certain time--then waned and wore off--and he
recognised marriage as a legal device to safeguard a woman when
the inevitable indifference and coldness of her mate set in,
making him no longer a lover, but a household companion of habit
and circumstance, lawfully bound to pay for the education of
children and the necessary expenses of living. In his inmost
consciousness he knew very well that Innocent was not of the
ordinary feminine mould--she had visions of the high and
unattainable, and her ideals of life were of that pure and
transcendental quality which belongs to finer elements unseen. The
carnal mind can never comprehend spirituality,--nevertheless,
Jocelyn was a man cultured and clever enough to feel that though
he himself could not enter, and did not even care to enter the
uplifted spheres of thought, this strange child with a gift of the
gods in her brain, already dwelt in them, serenely unconscious of
any lower plane. And she loved him!--and he would, on that ground
of love, teach her many things she had never known--he would widen
her outlook,--warm her senses--increase her perceptions--train her
like a wild rose on the iron trellis of his experience--while thus
to instruct an unworldly soul in worldliness would be for him an
interesting and pleasurable pastime.

"And I can make her happy"--was his additional thought--"in the
only way a woman is ever happy--for a little while!"

All this ran through his mind as he held her hand a moment longer,
till the convincing music of the band and the brilliant lights of
the house warned them to break away from each other.

"We had better go straight to the ball-room and dance in," he
said. "No one will have missed us long. We've only been absent
about a quarter of an hour."

"So much in such a little time!" she said, softly.

He smiled, answering the adoring look of her eyes with his own
amorous glance, and in another few seconds they were part of the
brilliant whirl of dancers now crowding the ball-room and swinging
round in a blaze of colour and beauty to the somewhat hackneyed
strains of the "Fruhlings Reigen." And as they floated and flew,
the delight of their attractiveness to each other drew them closer
together till the sense of separateness seemed lost and whelmed in
a magnetic force of mutual comprehension.

When this waltz was finished she was claimed by many more
partners, and danced till she was weary,--then, between two
"extras," she went in search of Miss Leigh, whom she found sitting
patiently in one of the great drawing-rooms, looking somewhat pale
and tired.

"Oh, my godmother!" she exclaimed, running up to her. "I had
forgotten how late it is getting!"

Miss Lavinia smiled cheerfully.

"Never mind, child!" she said. "You are young and ought to enjoy
yourself. I am old, and hardly fit for these late assemblies--and
how very late they are too! When I was a girl we never stayed
beyond midnight--"

"And is it midnight now?" asked Innocent, amazed, turning to her
partner, a young scion of the aristocracy, who looked as if he had
not been to bed for a week.

He smiled simperingly, and glanced at his watch.

"It's nearly two o'clock," he said. "In fact it's tomorrow
morning!"

Just then Jocelyn came up.

"Are you going?" he inquired. "Well, perhaps it's time! May I see
you to your carriage?"

Miss Leigh gratefully accepted this suggestion--and Innocent,
smiling her "good-night" to partners whom she had disappointed,
walked with her through the long vista of rooms, Jocelyn leading
the way. They soon ran the gauntlet of the ladies' cloak-room and
the waiting mob of footmen and chauffeurs that lined the long
passage leading to the entrance-hall, and Jocelyn, going out into
the street succeeded in finding their modest little hired motor-
brougham and assisting them into it.

"Good-night, Miss Leigh!" he said, leaning on the door of the
vehicle and smiling at them through the open window--"Good-night,
Miss Armitage! I hope you are not very tired?"

"I am not tired at all!" she answered, with a thrill of joy in her
voice like the note of a sweet bird. "I have been so very happy!"

He smiled. His face was pale and looked unusually handsome,--she
stretched one little hand out to him.

"Good-night, 'Sieur Amadis!'"

He bent down and kissed it.

"Good-night!"

The motor began to move--another moment, and they were off.
Innocent sank back in the brougham with a sigh.

"You are tired, child!--you must be!" said Miss Leigh.

"No, godmother mine! That sigh was one of pleasure. It has been a
most wonderful evening!--wonderful!"

"It was certainly very brilliant," agreed Miss Leigh. "And I'm
glad you were made so much of, my dear! That was as it ought to
be. Lord Blythe told me he had seldom met so charming a girl!"

Innocent sat up suddenly. "Lord Blythe? Do you know him?"

"No, I cannot say I really know him," replied Miss Leigh. "I've
met him several times--and his wife too--there was some scandal
about her years and years ago before she was married--nobody ever
knew exactly what it was, and her people hushed it up. I daresay
it wasn't very much. Anyhow Lord Blythe married her--and he's a
very fine man with a great position. I thought I saw you talking
to Lady Blythe?"

"Yes"--Innocent spoke almost mechanically--"I had a few minutes'
conversation with her."

"She's very handsome," went on Miss Leigh. "She used to be quite
beautiful. A pity she has no children."

Innocent was silent. The motor-brougham glided along.

"You and Mr. Jocelyn seem to get on very well together," observed
the old lady, presently. "He is a very 'taking' man--but I wonder
if he is quite sincere?"

Innocent's colour rose,--fortunately the interior of the brougham
was too dark for her face to be seen.

"Why should he not be?" she asked--"Surely with his great art, he
would be more sincere than most men?"

"Well, I hope so!" and Miss Leigh's voice was a little tremulous;
"But artists are very impressionable, and live so much in a world
of their own that I sometimes doubt whether they have much
understanding or sympathy with the world of other people! Even
Pierce Armitage--who was very dear to me--ran away with
impressions like a child with toys. He would adore a person one
day--and hate him, or her, the next!"--and she laughed softly and
compassionately--"He would indeed, poor fellow! He was rather like
Shelley in his likes and dislikes--you've read all about your
Shelley of course?"

"Indeed I have!" the girl answered,--"A glorious poet!--but he
must have been difficult to live with!"

"Difficult, if not impossible!"--and the gentle old lady took her
hand and held it in a kind, motherly clasp--"You are a genius
yourself--but you are a human little creature, not above the sweet
and simple ways of life,--some of the poets and artists were and
are in-human! Now Mr. Jocelyn--"

"HE is human!" said Innocent, quickly--"I'm sure of that!"

"You are sure? Well, dear, you like him very much and you have
made a friend of him,--which is quite natural considering the long
association you have had with his name--such a curious and
romantic coincidence!--but I hope he won't disappoint you."

Innocent laughed, happily.

"Don't be afraid, you dear little godmother!" she said--"I don't
expect anything of him, so no disappointment is possible! Here we
are!"

The brougham stopped and they alighted. Opening the house-door
with a latch-key they entered, and pausing one moment in the
drawing-room, where the lights had been left burning for their
return, Miss Leigh took Innocent tenderly by the arm and pointed
to the portrait on the harpsichord.

"There was a true genius!" she said--"He might have been the
greatest artist in England to-day if he had not let his
impressions and prejudices overmaster his judgment. You know--for
I have told you my story--that he loved me, or thought he did--and
I loved him and knew I did! There was the difference between us!
He tired of me--all artists tire of the one face--they want
dozens!--and he lost his head over some woman whose name I never
knew. The result must have been fatal to his career, for it
stopped short just when he was succeeding;--for me, it only left
me resolved to be true to his memory till the end. But, my child,
it's a hard lot to be alone all one's days, with only the
remembrance of a past love to keep one's heart from growing cold!"

There was a little sob in her voice,--Innocent, touched to the
quick, kissed her tenderly.

"Why do you talk like this so sadly to-night?" she asked--"Has
something reminded you of--of HIM?" And she glanced half nervously
towards the portrait.

"Yes," answered the old lady, simply--"Something has reminded me--
very much--of him! Good-night, dear little child! Keep your
beautiful dreams and ideals as long as you can! Sleep well!"

She turned off the lights, and they went upstairs together to
their several rooms.

Once alone, Innocent flung off her dainty ball attire,--released
her bright hair from the pins that held it bound in rippling waves
about her shapely head, and slipping on a loose white wrapper sat
down to think. She had to realise the unpleasing fact that against
her own wish and will she had become involved in mysteries,--
secrets which she dared not, for the sake of others, betray. Her
parentage could not be divulged, because her father was Pierce
Armitage, the worshipped memory of Miss Leigh's heart,--while her
mother, Lady Blythe, occupied a high social position which must
not be assailed. And now--now, Amadis de Jocelyn was her lover!--
yet no one must know, because he did not wish it. For some cause
or other which she could not determine, he insisted on secrecy. So
she was meshed in nets of others' weaving, and could not take a
step to disentangle herself and stand clear. Of her own accord she
would have been frank and open as the daylight,--but from the
first, a forward fate appeared to have taken delight in
surrounding her with deceptions enforced by the sins of others.
Her face burned as she thought of Jocelyn's passionate kisses--she
must hide all that joy!--it had already become almost a guilty
secret. He was the first man that had ever kissed her since her
"Dad" died,--the first that had ever kissed her as a lover. Her
mind flew suddenly and capriciously back to Briar Farm--to Robin
Clifford who had longed to kiss her, and yet had refused to do so
unless she could have loved him. She had never loved him--no!--and
yet the thought of him just now gave her a thrill of remorseful
tenderness. She knew in herself at last what love could mean,--and
with that knowledge she realised what Robin must have suffered.

"To love without return--without hope!" she mused--"Oh, it would
be torture!--to me, death! Poor Robin!"

Poor Robin, indeed! He would not have dared to caress her with the
wild and tender audacity of Amadis de Jocelyn!

"My love!" she whispered to the silence.--"My love!" she repeated,
as she knelt down to say her prayers, sending the adored and
idealised name up on vibrations of light to the throne of the Most
High,--and "My love!" were the last words she murmured as she
nestled into her little bed, her fair head on its white pillow
looking like the head of one of Botticelli's angels. Her own
success,--her celebrity as a genius in literature,--her dreams of
fame--these now were all as naught!--less than the clouds of a
night or the mists of a morning--there was nothing for her in
earth or heaven save "My love!"




CHAPTER V

Lord Blythe was sitting alone in his library. He was accustomed to
sit alone, and rather liked it. It was the evening after that of
the Duchess of Deanshire's reception; his wife had gone to another
similar "crush," but had graciously excused his attendance, for
which he was honestly grateful. He was old enough, at sixty-eight,
to appreciate the luxury of peace and quietness,--he had put on an
old lounge coat and an easy pair of slippers, and was thoroughly
enjoying himself in a comfortable arm-chair with a book and a
cigar. The book was by "Ena Armitage"--the cigar, one of a choice
brand known chiefly to fastidious connoisseurs of tobacco. The
book, however, was a powerful rival to the charm of the fragrant
Havana--for every now and again he allowed the cigar to die out
and had to re-light it, owing to his fascinated absorption in the
volume he held. He was an exceedingly clever man--deeply versed in
literature and languages, and in his younger days had been a great
student,--he had read nearly every book of note, and was as
familiar with the greatest authors as with his greatest friends,
so that he was well fitted to judge without prejudice the merits
of any new aspirant to literary fame. But he was wholly unprepared
for the power and the daring genius which stamped itself on every
page of the new writer's work,--he almost forgot, while reading,
whether it was man or woman who had given such a production to the
world, so impressed was he by the masterly treatment of a simple
subject made beautiful by a scholarly and incisive style. It was
literature of the highest kind,--and realising this with every
sentence he perused, it was with a shock of surprise that he
remembered the personality of the author--the unobtrusive girl who
had been the "show animal" at Her Grace of Deanshire's reception
and dance.

"Positively, I can scarcely believe it!" he exclaimed sotto-voce--
"That child I met last night actually wrote this amazing piece of
work! It's almost incredible! A nice child too,--simple and
perfectly natural,--nothing of the blue-stocking about her. Well,
well! What a career she'll make!--what a name!--that is, if she
takes care of herself and doesn't fall in love, which she's sure
to do! That's the worst of women--God occasionally gives them
brains, but they've scarcely begun to use them when heart and
sentiment step in and overthrow all reason. Now, we men--"

He paused,--thinking. There had been a time in his life--long ago,
when he was very young--when heart and sentiment had very nearly
overthrown reason in his own case--and sometimes he was inclined
to regret that such overthrow had been averted.

"For the moment it is perhaps worth everything else!" he mused--
"But--for the moment only! The ecstasy does not last."

His cigar had gone out again, and he re-lit it. The clock on the
mantelpiece struck twelve with a silvery clang, and almost at the
same instant he heard the rustle of a silk gown and a light
footstep,--the door opened, and his wife appeared.

"Are you busy?" she enquired--"May I come in?"

He rose, with the stately old-fashioned courtesy habitual to him.

"By all means come in!" he said--"You have returned early?"

"Yes." She loosened her rich evening cloak, lined with ermine, and
let it fall on the back of the chair in which she seated herself--
"It was a boresome affair,--there were recitations and music which
I hate--so I came away. You are reading?"

"Not now"--and he closed the volume on the table beside him--"But
I HAVE been reading--that amazing book by the young girl we met at
the Deanshires' last night--Ena Armitage. It's really a fine piece
of work."

She was silent.

"You didn't take to her, I'm afraid?" he went on--"Yet she seemed
a charming, modest little person. Perhaps she was not quite what
you expected?"

Lady Blythe gave a sudden harsh laugh.

"You are right! She certainly was not what I expected! Is the door
well shut?"

Surprised at her look and manner, he went to see.

"The door is quite closed," he said, rather stiffly. "One would
think we were talking secrets--and we never do!"

"No!" she rejoined, looking at him curiously--"We never do. We are
model husband and wife, having nothing to conceal!"

He took up his cigar which he had laid down for a minute, and with
careful minuteness flicked off the ash.

"You have something to tell me," he remarked, quietly--"Pray go
on, and don't let me interrupt you. Do you object to my smoking?"

"Not in the least."

He stood with his back to the fireplace, a tall, stately figure of
a man, and looked at her expectantly,--she meanwhile reclined in a
cushioned chair with the folds of her ermine falling about her,
like a queen of languorous luxury.

"I suppose," she began--"hardly anything in the social life of our
day would very much surprise or shock you--?"

"Very little, certainly!" he answered, smiling coldly--"I have
lived a long time, and am not easily surprised!"

"Not even if it concerned some one you know?"

His fine open brow knitted itself in a momentary line of puzzled
consideration.

"Some one I know?" he repeated--"Well, I should certainly be very
sorry to hear anything of a scandalous nature connected with the
girl we saw last night--she looked too young and too innocent--"

"Innocent--oh yes!" and Lady Blythe again laughed that harsh laugh
of suppressed hysterical excitement--"She is innocent enough!"

"Pardon! I thought you were about to speak of her, as you said she
was not what you expected--"

He paused,--startled by the haggard and desperate expression of
her face.

"Richard," she said--"You are a good man, and you hold very strong
opinions about truth and honour and all that sort of thing. I
don't believe you could ever understand badness--real, downright
badness--could you?"

"Badness? ... in that child?" he exclaimed.

She gave an impatient, angry gesture.

"Dear me, you are perfectly obsessed by 'that child,' as you call
her!" she answered--"You had better know the truth then at once,--
'that child' is my daughter!"

"Your daughter?--your--your--"

The words died on his lips--he staggered slightly as though under
a sudden physical blow, and gripped the mantelpiece behind him
with one hand.

"Good God!" he half whispered--"What do you mean?--you have had no
children--"

"Not by you,--no!" she said, with a flash of scorn--"Not in
marriage, that church-and-law form of union!--but by love and
passion--yes! Stop!--do not look at me like that! I have not been
false to you--I have not betrayed you! Your honour has been safe
with me! It was before I met you that this thing happened."

He stood rigid and very pale.

"Before you met me?"

"Yes. I was a silly, romantic, headstrong girl,--my parents were
compelled to go abroad, and I was left in the charge of one of my
mother's society friends--a thoroughly worldly, unprincipled woman
whose life was made up of intrigue and gambling. And I ran away
with a man--Pierce Armitage--"

"Pierce Armitage!"

The name broke from him like a cry of agony.

"Yes--Pierce Armitage. Did you know him?"

He looked at her with eyes in which there was a strange horror.

"Know him? He was my best friend!"

She shrugged her shoulders, and a slight weary smile parted her
lips.

"Well, you never told me,--I have never heard you mention his
name. But the world is a small place!--and when I was a girl he
was beginning to be known by a good many people. Anyhow, he threw
up everything in the way of his art and work, and ran away with
me. I went quite willingly--I took a maid whom we bribed,--we
pretended we were married, and we had a charming time together--a
time of real romance, till he began to get tired and want change--
all men are like that! Then he became a bore with a bad temper. He
certainly behaved very well when he knew the child was coming, and
offered to marry me in real earnest--but I refused."

"You refused!" Lord Blythe echoed the words in a kind of stupefied
wonderment.

"Of course I did. He was quite poor--and I should have been
miserable running about the world with a man who depended on art
for a living. Besides he was ceasing to be a lover--and as a
husband he would have been insupportable. We managed everything
very well--my own people were all in India--and my mother's
friend, if she guessed my affair, said nothing about it,--wisely
enough for her own sake!--so that when my time came I was able to
go away on an easy pretext and get it all over secretly. Pierce
came and stayed in a hotel close at hand--he was rather in a
fright lest I should die!--it would have been such an awkward
business for him!--however, all went well, and when I had quite
recovered he took the child away from me, and left it at an old
farmhouse he had once made a drawing of, saying he would call back
for it--as if it were a parcel!" She laughed lightly. "He wrote
and told me what he had done and gave me the address of the farm--
then he went abroad, and I never heard of him again--"

"He died," interposed Lord Blythe, slowly--"He died--alone and
very poor--"

"So I was told," she rejoined, indifferently--"Oh yes! I see you
look at me as if you thought I had no heart! Perhaps I have not,--
I used to have something like one,--your friend Armitage killed it
in me. Anyhow, I knew the child had been adopted by the farm
people as their own, and I took no further trouble. My parents
came home from India to inherit an unexpected fortune, and they
took me about with them a great deal--they were never told of my
romantic escapade!--then I met you--and you married me."

A sigh broke from him, but he said nothing.

"You are sorry you did, I suppose!" she went on in a quick,
reckless way--"Anyhow, I tried to do my duty. When I heard by
chance that the old farmer who had taken care of the child was
dead, I made up my mind to go and see what she was like. I found
her, and offered to adopt her--but she wouldn't hear of it--so I
let her be."

Lord Blythe moved a little from his statuesque attitude of
attention.

"You told her you were her mother?"

"I did."

"And offered to 'adopt' your own child?" She gave an airy gesture.

"It was the only thing to do! One cannot make a social scandal."

"And she refused?"

"She refused."

"I admire her for it," said Lord Blythe, calmly.

She shot an angry glance at him. He went on in cold, deliberate
accents.

"You were unprepared for the strange compensation you have
received?--the sudden fame of your deserted daughter?"

Her hands clasped and unclasped themselves nervously.

"I knew nothing of it! Armitage is not an uncommon name, and I did
not connect it with her. She has no right to wear it."

"If her father were alive he would be proud that she wears it!--
moreover he would give her the right to wear it, and would make it
legal," said Lord Blythe sternly--"Out of old memory I can say
that for him! You recognised each other at once, I suppose, when I
presented her to you at the Duchess's reception?"

"Of course we did!" retorted his wife--"You yourself saw that I
was rather taken aback,--it was difficult to conceal our mutual
astonishment--"

"It must have been!" and a thin ironic smile hovered on his lips--
"And you carried it off well! But--the poor child!--what an ordeal
for her! You can hardly have felt it so keenly, being seasoned to
hypocrisy for so many years!" Her eyes flashed up at him
indignantly. He raised his hand with a warning gesture.

"Permit me to speak, Maude! You can scarcely wonder that I am--
well!--a little shaken and bewildered by the confession you have
made,--the secret you have--after years of marriage--suddenly
divulged. You suggested--at the beginning of this interview--that
perhaps there was nothing in the social life of our day that would
very much shock or surprise me--and I answered you that I was not
easily surprised--but--I was thinking of others.--it did not occur
to me that--that my own wife--" he paused, steadying his voice,--
then continued--"that my own wife's honour was involved in the
matter--" he paused again. "Sentiment is of course out of place--
nobody is supposed to feel anything nowadays--or to suffer--or to
break one's heart, as the phrase goes,--that would be considered
abnormal, or bad form,--but I had the idea--a foolish one, no
doubt!--that though you may not have married me for love on your
own part, you did so because you recognised the love,--the truth--
the admiration and respect--on mine. I was at any rate happy in
believing you did!--I never dreamed you married me for the sake of
convenience!--to kill the memory of a scandal, and establish a
safe position--"

She moved restlessly and gathered her ermine cloak about her as
though to rise and go.

"One moment!" he went on--"After what you have told me I hope you
see clearly that it is impossible we can live together under the
same roof again. If YOU could endure it, _I_ could not!"

She sprang up, pale and excited.

"What? You mean to make trouble? I, who have kept my own counsel
all these years, am to be disgraced because I have at last
confided in you? You will scandalise society--you will separate
from me--"

She stopped, half choked by a rising paroxysm of rage.

He looked at her as he might have looked at some small angry
animal.

"I shall make no trouble," he answered, quietly--"and I shall not
scandalise society. But I cannot live with you. I will go away at
once on some convenient excuse--abroad--anywhere--and you can say
whatever you please of my prolonged absence. If I could be of any
use or protection to the girl I saw last night--the daughter of my
friend Pierce Armitage--I would stay, but circumstances render any
such service from me impossible. Besides, she needs no one to
assist her--she has made a position for herself--a position more
enviable than yours or mine. You have that to think about by way
of--consolation?--or reproach?"

She stood drawn up to her full height, looking at him.

"You cannot forgive me, then?" she said.

He shuddered.

"Forgive you! Is there a man who could forgive twenty years of
deliberate deception from the wife he thought the soul of honour?
Maude, Maude! We live in lax times truly, when men and women laugh
at principle and good faith, and deal with each other less
honestly than the beasts of the field,--but for me there is a
limit!--a limit you have passed! I think I could pardon your wrong
to me more readily than I can pardon your callous desertion of the
child you brought into the world--your lack of womanliness--
motherliness!--your deliberate refusal to give Pierce Armitage the
chance of righting the wrong he had committed in a headstrong,
heart-strong rush of thoughtless passion!--he WOULD have righted
it, I know, and been a loyal husband to you, and a good father to
his child. For whatever his faults were he was neither callous nor
brutal. You prevented him from doing this,--you were tired of him
--your so-called 'love' for him was a mere selfish caprice of the
moment--and you preferred deceit and a rich marriage to the simple
duty of a woman! Well!--you may find excuses for yourself,--I
cannot find them for you! I could not remain by your side as a
husband and run the risk of coming constantly in contact, as we
did last night, with that innocent girl, placed as she is, in a
situation of so much difficulty, by the sins of her parents--her
mother, my wife!--her father, my dead friend! The position is, and
would be untenable!"

Still she stood, looking at him.

"Have you done?" she asked.

He met her fixed gaze, coldly.

"I have. I have said all I wish to say. So far as I am concerned
the incident is closed. I will only bid you good-night--and
farewell!"

"Good-night--and farewell!" she repeated, with a mocking drawl,--
then she suddenly burst into a fit of shrill laughter. "Oh dear,
oh dear!" she cried, between little screams of hysterical mirth--
"You are so very funny, you know! Like--what's-his-name?--Marius
in the ruins of Carthage!--or one of those antique classical bores
with their household gods broken around them! You--you ought to
have lived in their days!--you are so terribly behind the times!"
She laughed recklessly again. "We don't do the Marius and Carthage
business now--life's too full and too short! Really, Richard, I'm
afraid you're getting very old!--poor dear!--past sixty I know!--
and you're quite prehistoric in some of your fancies!--'Good-
night!'--er--'and farewell!' Sounds so stagey, doesn't it!" She
wiped the spasmodic tears of mirth from her eyes, and still
shaking with laughter gathered up her rich ermine wrap on one
white, jewelled arm. "Womanliness--motherliness!--good Lord,
deliver us!--I never thought you likely to preach at me--if I had
I wouldn't have told you anything! I took you for a sensible man
of the world--but you are only a stupid old-fashioned thing after
all! Good-night!--and farewell!"

She performed the taunting travesty of an elaborate Court curtsey
and passed him--a handsome, gleaming vision of satins, laces and
glittering jewels--and opening the door with some noise and
emphasis, she turned her head gracefully over her shoulder. Unkind
laughter still lit up her face and hard, brilliant eyes.

"Good-night!--farewell!" she said again, and was gone.

For a moment he stood inert where she left him--then sinking into
a chair he covered his face with his hands. So he remained for
some time--silently wrestling with himself and his own emotions.
He had to realise that at an age when he might naturally have
looked for a tranquil home life--a life tended and soothed into
its natural decline by the care and devotion of the wife he had
undemonstratively but most tenderly loved, he was suddenly cast
adrift like the hulk of an old battleship broken from its
moorings, with nothing but solitude and darkness closing in upon
his latter days. Then he thought of the girl,--his wife's child--
the child too of his college chum and dearest friend,--he saw,
impressed like a picture on the cells of his brain, her fair young
face, pathetic eyes and sweet intelligence of expression,--he
remembered how modestly she wore her sudden fame, as a child might
wear a wild flower,--and, placed by her parentage in a difficulty
for which she was not responsible, she must have suffered
considerable pain and sorrow.

"I will go and see her to-morrow," he said to himself--"It will be
better for her to know that I have heard all her sad little
history--then--if she ever wants a friend she can come to me
without fear. Ah!--if only she were MY daughter!"

He sighed,--his handsome old head drooped,--he had longed for
children and the boon had been denied.

"If she were my daughter," he repeated, slowly--"I should be a
proud man instead of a sorrowful one!"

He turned off the lights in the library and went upstairs to his
bedroom. Outside his wife's door he paused a moment, thinking he
heard a sound,--but all was silent. Imagining that he probably
would not sleep he placed a book near his bedside--but nature was
kind to his age and temperament, and after about an hour of
wakefulness and sad perplexity, all ruffling care was gradually
smoothed away from his mind, and he fell into a deep and dreamless
slumber.

Meanwhile Lady Blythe had been disrobed by a drowsy maid whom she
sharply reproached for being sleepy when she ought to have been
wide awake, though it was long past midnight,--and dismissing the
girl at last, she sat alone before her mirror, thinking with some
pettishness of the interview she had just had with her husband.

"Old fool!" she soliloquised--"He ought to know better than to
play the tragic-sentimental with me at his time of life! I thought
he would accept the situation reasonably and help me to tackle it.
Of course it will be simply abominable if I am to meet that girl
at every big society function--I don't know what I shall do about
it! Why didn't she stay in her old farm-house!--who could ever
have imagined her becoming famous! I shall go abroad, I think--
that will be the best thing to do. If Blythe leaves me as he
threatens, I shall certainly not stay here by myself to face the
music! Besides, who knows?--the girl herself may 'round' on me
when her head gets a little more swelled with success. Such a
horrid bore!--I wish I had never seen Pierce Armitage!"

Even as she thought of him the vision came back to her of the
handsome face and passionate eyes of her former lover,--again she
saw the romantic little village by the sea where they had dwelt
together as in another Eden,--she remembered how he would hurry up
from the shore bringing with him the sketch he had been working
at, eager for her eyes to look at it, thrilling at her praise, and
pouring out upon her such tender words and caresses such as she
had never known since those wild and ardent days! A slight shiver
ran through her--something like a pang of remorse stung her
hardened spirit.

"And the child," she murmured--"The child--it clung to me and I
kissed it!--it was a dear little thing!"

She glanced about her nervously--the room seemed full of wandering
shadows.

"I must sleep!" she thought--"I am worried and out of sorts--I
must sleep and forget--"

She took out of a drawer in her dressing-table a case of medicinal
cachets marked "Veronal."

"One or two more or less will not hurt me," she said, with a pale,
forced smile at herself in the mirror--"I am accustomed to it--and
I must have a good long sleep!"

                             ********

                              ******

                               ****

She had her way. Morning came,--and she was still sleeping. Noon--
and nothing could waken her. Doctors, hastily summoned, did their
best to rouse her to that life which with all its pains and
possibilities still throbbed in the world around her--but their
efforts were vain.

"Suicide?" whispered one.

"Oh no! Mere accident!--an overdose of veronal--some carelessness
--quite a common occurrence. Nothing to be done!"

No!--nothing to be done! Her slumber had deepened into that
strange stillness which we call death,--and her husband, a
statuesque and rigid figure, gazed on her quiet body with tearless
eyes.

"Good-night!" he whispered to the heavy silence--"Good-night!
Farewell!"




CHAPTER VI

One of the advantages or disadvantages of the way in which we live
in these modern days is that we are ceasing to feel. That is to
say we do not permit ourselves to be affected by either death or
misfortune, provided these natural calamities leave our own
persons unscathed. We are beginning not to understand emotion
except as a phase of bad manners, and we cultivate an apathetic,
soulless indifference to events of great moment whether triumphant
or tragic, whenever they do not involve our own well-being and
creature comforts. Whole boatloads of fishermen may go forth to
their doom in the teeth of a gale without moving us to pity so
long as we have our well-fried sole or grilled cod for breakfast,
--and even such appalling disasters as the wicked assassination of
hapless monarchs, or the wrecks of palatial ocean-liners with more
than a thousand human beings all whelmed at once in the pitiless
depths of the sea, leave us cold, save for the uplifting of our
eyes and shoulders during an hour or so,--an expression of slight
shock, followed by forgetfulness. Air-men, recklessly braving the
spaces of the sky, fall headlong, and are smashed to mutilated
atoms every month or so, without rousing us to more than a passing
comment, and a chorus of "How dreadful!" from simpering women,--
and the greatest and best man alive cannot hope for long
remembrance by the world at large when he dies. Shakespeare
recognised this tendency in callous human nature when he made his
Hamlet say--

"O heavens! Die two months ago and not forgotten yet? Then there's
hope a great man's memory may outlive his life half a year, but by
'r lady, he must build churches then, or else shall he suffer not
thinking on."

Wives recover the loss of their husbands with amazing rapidity,--
husbands "get over" the demise of their wives with the galloping
ease of trained hunters leaping an accustomed fence--families
forget their dead as resolutely as some debtors forget their
bills,--and to express sorrow, pity, tenderness, affection, or any
sort of "sentiment" whatever is to expose one's self to derision
and contempt from the "normal" modernist who cultivates cynicism
as a fine art. Many of us elect to live, each one, in a little
back-yard garden of selfish interests--walled round carefully, and
guarded against possible intrusion by uplifted spikes of
conventionalism,--the door is kept jealously closed--and only now
and then does some impulsive spirit bolder than the rest, venture
to put up a ladder and peep over the wall. Shut in with various
favourite forms of hypocrisy and cowardice, each little unit
passes its short life in mistrusting its neighbour unit, and death
finds none of them wiser, better or nearer the utmost good than
when they were first uselessly born.

Among such vain and unprofitable atoms of life Lady Maude Blythe
had been one of the vainest and most unprofitable,--though of such
"social" importance as to be held in respectful awe by tuft-
hunters and parasites, who feed on the rich as the green-fly feeds
on the rose. The news of her sudden death briefly chronicled by
the fashionable intelligence columns of the press with the usual--
"We deeply regret"--created no very sorrowful sensation--a few
vapid people idly remarked to one another--"Then her great ball
won't come off!"--somewhat as if she had retired into the grave to
avoid the trouble and expense of the function. Cards inscribed--
"Sympathy and kind enquiries"--were left for Lord Blythe in the
care of his dignified butler, who received them with the
impassiveness of a Buddhist idol and deposited them all on the
orthodox salver in the hall--and a few messages of "Deeply shocked
and grieved. Condolences"--by wires, not exceeding sixpence each,
were despatched to the lonely widower,--but beyond these purely
formal observances, the handsome brilliant society woman dropped
out of thought and remembrance as swiftly as a dead leaf drops
from a tree. She had never been loved, save by her two deluded
dupes--Pierce Armitage and her husband,--no one in the whole wide
range of her social acquaintance would have ever thought of
feeling the slightest affection for her. The first announcement of
her death appeared in an evening paper, stating the cause to be an
accidental overdose of veronal taken to procure sleep, and Miss
Leigh, seeing the paragraph by merest chance, gave a shocked
exclamation--

"Innocent! My dear!--how dreadful! That poor Lady Blythe we saw
the other night is dead!"

The girl was standing by the tea-table just pouring out a cup of
tea for Miss Leigh--she started so nervously that the cup almost
fell from her hand.

"Dead!" she repeated, in a low, stifled voice. "Lady Blythe?
Dead?"

"Yes!--it is awful! That horrid veronal! Such a dangerous drug! It
appears she was accustomed to take it for sleep--and unfortunately
she took an over-dose. How terrible for Lord Blythe!"

Innocent sat down, trembling. Her gaze involuntarily wandered to
the portrait of Pierce Armitage--the lover of the dead woman, and
her father! The handsome face with its dreamy yet proud eyes
appeared conscious of her intense regard--she looked and looked,
and longed to speak--to tell Miss Leigh all--but something held
her silent. She had her own secret now--and it restrained her from
disclosing the secrets of others. Nor could she realise that it
was her mother--actually her own mother--who had been taken so
suddenly and tragically from the world. The news barely affected
her--nor was this surprising, seeing that she had never entirely
grasped the fact of her mother's personality or existence at all.
She had felt no emotion concerning her, save of repulsion and
dislike. Her unexpected figure had appeared on the scene like a
strange vision, and now had vanished from it as strangely.
Innocent was in very truth "motherless"--but so she had always
been--for a mother who deserts her child is worse than a mother
dead. Yet it was some few minutes before she could control herself
sufficiently to speak or look calmly--and her eyes were downcast
as Miss Leigh came up to the tea-table, newspaper in hand, to
discuss the tragic incident.

"She was a very brilliant woman in society," said the gentle old
lady, then--"You did not know her, of course, and you could not
judge of her by seeing her just one evening. But I remember the
time when she was much talked of as 'the beautiful Maude Osborne'
--she was a very lively, wilful girl, and she had been rather
neglected by her parents, who left her in England in charge of
some friends while they were in India. I think she ran rather wild
at that time. There was some talk of her having gone off secretly
somewhere with a lover--but I never believed the story. It was a
silly scandal--and of course it stopped directly she married Lord
Blythe. He gave her a splendid position,--and he was devoted to
her--poor man!"

"Yes?" murmured Innocent, mechanically. She did not know what to
say.

"If she had been blessed with children--or even one child," went
on Miss Leigh--"I think it would have been better for her. I am
sure she would have been happier! He would, I feel certain!"

"No doubt!" the girl answered in the same quiet tone.

"My dear, you look very pale!" said Miss Leigh, with some anxiety
--"Have you been working too hard?"

She smiled.

"That would be impossible!" she answered. "I could not work too
hard--it is such happiness to work--one forgets!--yes--one forgets
all that one does not wish to remember!"

The anxious expression still remained on Miss Lavinia's face,--
but, true to the instincts of an old-fashioned gentlewoman, she
did not press enquiries where she saw they might be embarrassing
or unwelcome. And though she now loved Innocent as much as if she
had been her own child, she never failed to remember that after
all, the girl had earned her own almost wealthy independence, and
was free to do as she liked without anybody's control or
interference, and that though she was so young she was bound to be
in all respects untrammelled in her life and actions. She went
where she pleased--she had her own little hired motor-brougham--
she also had many friends who invited her out without including
Miss Leigh in the invitations, and she was still the "paying
guest" at the little Kensington house,--a guest who was never
tired of doing kindly and helpful deeds for the benefit of the
sweet old woman who was her hostess. Once or twice Miss Leigh had
made a faint half-hearted protest against her constant and lavish
generosity.

"My dear," she had said--"With all the money you earn now you
could live in a much larger house--you could indeed have a house
of your own, with many more luxuries--why do you stay here,
showering advantages on me, who am nothing but a prosy old body?--
you could do much better!"

"Could I really?" And Innocent had laughed and kissed her. "Well!
--I don't want to do any better--I'm quite happy as I am. One thing
is--(and you seem to forget it!)--that I'm very fond of you!--and
when I'm very fond of a person it's difficult to shake me off!"

So she stayed on--and lived her life with a nun-like simplicity
and economy--spending her money on others rather than herself, and
helping those in need,--and never even in her dress, which was
always exquisite, running into vagaries of extravagance and
follies of fashion. She had discovered a little French dressmaker,
whose husband had deserted her, leaving her with two small
children to feed and educate, and to this humble, un-famous plier
of the needle she entrusted her wardrobe with entirely successful
results. Worth, Paquin, Doucet and other loudly advertised
personages were all quoted as "creators" of her gowns, whereat she
was amused.

"A little personal taste and thought go so much further in dress
than money," she was wont to say to some of her rather envious
women friends. "I would rather copy the clothes in an old picture
than the clothes in a fashion book."

Odd fancies about her dead mother came to her when she was alone
in her own room--particularly at night when she said her prayers.
Some mysterious force seemed compelling her to offer up a petition
for the peace of her mother's soul,--she knew from the old books
written by the "Sieur Amadis" that to do this was a custom of his
creed. She missed it out of the Church of England Prayer-book,
though she dutifully followed the tenets of the faith in which
Miss Leigh had had her baptised and confirmed--but in her heart of
hearts she thought it good and right to pray for the peace of
departed souls--

"For who can tell"--she would say to herself--"what strange
confusion and sorrow they may be suffering!--away from all that
they once knew and cared for! Even if prayers cannot help them it
is kind to pray!"

And for her mother's soul she felt a dim and far-off sense of
pity--almost a fear, lest that unsatisfied spirit might be lost
and wandering in a chaos of dark experience without any clue to
guide or any light to shine upon its dreadful solitude. So may the
dead come nearer to the living than when they also lived!

Some three or four weeks after Lady Blythe's sudden exit from a
world too callous to care whether she stayed in it or went from
it, Lord Blythe called at Miss Leigh's house and asked to see her.
He was admitted at once, and the pretty old lady came down in a
great flutter to the drawing-room to receive him. She found him
standing in front of the harpsichord, looking at the portrait upon
it. He turned quickly round as she entered and spoke with some
abruptness.

"I must apologise for calling rather late in the afternoon," he
said--"But I could not wait another day. I have something
important to tell you--" He paused--then went on--"It's rather
startling to me to find that portrait here!--I knew the man.
Surely it is Pierce Armitage, the painter?"

"Yes"--and Miss Leigh's eyes opened in a little surprise and
bewilderment--"He was a great friend of mine--and of yours?" "He
was my college chum"--and he walked closer to the picture and
looked at it steadfastly--"That must have been taken when he was
quite a young man--before--" He paused again,--then said with a
forced smile--"Talking of Armitage--is Miss Armitage in?"

"No, she is not"--and the old lady looked regretful--"She has gone
out to tea--I'm sorry--"

"It's just as well"--and Lord Blythe took one or two restless
paces up and down the little room--"I would rather talk to you
alone first. Yes!--that portrait of Pierce must have been taken in
early days--just about the time he ran away with Maude Osborne--"

Miss Leigh gazed at him enquiringly.

"With Maude Osborne?"

"Yes--with Maude Osborne, who afterwards became my wife."

Miss Leigh trembled and drew back, looking about her in a dazed
way as though seeking for some place to hide in. Lord Blythe saw
her agitation.

"I'm afraid I'm worrying you!" he said, kindly. "Sit down,
please,"--and he placed a chair for her. "We are both elderly folk
and shocks are not good for us. There!"--and he took her hand and
patted it gently--"As I was saying, that portrait must have been
taken about then--did he give it to you?"

"Yes," she answered, faintly--"He did. We were engaged--"

"Engaged! Good God! You?--to Pierce?--My dear lady, forgive me!--
I'm very sorry!--I had no idea--"

But Miss Leigh composed herself very quickly.

"Please do not mind me!" she said--"It all happened so very long
ago! Yes--Pierce Armitage and I were engaged--but he suddenly went
away--and I was told he had gone with some very beautiful girl he
had fallen head over ears in love with--and I never saw him again.
But I never reproached him--I--I loved him too well!"

Silently Lord Blythe took the worn little hand and raised it to
his lips.

"Pierce was more cruel than I thought was possible to him"--he
said, at last, very gently--"But--you have the best of him with
you in--his daughter!"

"His daughter!"

She sprang up, white and scared.

He gripped her arm and held it fast to support her.

"Yes," he said--"His daughter! That is what I have come to tell
you! The girl who lives with you--the famous author whose name is
just now ringing through the world is his child!--and her mother
was my wife!"

There was a little stifled cry--she dropped back in her chair and
covered her face with her hands to hide the tears that rushed to
her eyes.

"Innocent!" she murmured, sobbingly--"His child!--Innocent!"

He was silent, watching her, his own heart deeply moved. He
thought of her life of unbroken fidelity--wasted in its youth--
solitary in its age--all for the sake of one man. Presently,
mastering her quiet weeping, she looked up.

"Does she--the dear girl!--does she know this?" she asked, in a
half whisper.

"She has known it all the time," he answered--"She knew who her
mother was before she came to London--but she kept her own
counsel--I think to save the honour of all concerned. And she has
made her name famous to escape the reproach of birth which others
fastened upon her. A brave child!--it must have been strange to
her to find her father's portrait here--did you ever speak of him
to her?"

"Often!" replied Miss Leigh. "She knows all my story!"

He smiled, very kindly

"No wonder she was silent!" he said.

Just then they heard the sound of a latch-key turning in the lock
of the hall door--there was a light step in the passage--they
looked at one another half in wonder, half in doubt. A moment more
and Innocent entered, radiant and smiling. She stopped on the
threshold, amazed at the sight of Lord Blythe.

"Why, godmother"--she began. Then, glancing from one to the other,
her cheeks grew pale--she hesitated, instinctively guessing at the
truth. Lord Blythe advanced and took her gently by both hands.

"Dear child, your secret is ours!" he said, quietly. "Miss Leigh
knows, and _I_ know that you are the daughter of Pierce Armitage,
and that your mother was my late wife. No one can be dearer to us
both than you are--for your father's sake!"




CHAPTER VII

Startled and completely taken aback, she let her hands remain
passively in his for a moment,--then quietly withdrew them. A hot
colour rushed swiftly into her cheeks and as swiftly receded,
leaving her very pale.

"How can you know?" she faltered--"Who has told you?"

"Your mother herself told me on the night she died," he answered--
"She gave me all the truth of herself,--at last--after long
years!"

She was silent--standing inert as though she had received a
numbing blow. Miss Leigh rose and came tremblingly towards her.

"My dear, my dear!" she exclaimed--"I wish I had known it all
before!--I might have done more--I might have tried to be kinder--"

The girl sprang to her side and impulsively embraced her.

"You would have tried in vain!" she said, fondly, "No one on earth
could have been kinder than my beloved little godmother! You have
been the dearest and best of friends!"

Then she turned towards Lord Blythe.

"It is very good of you to come here and say what you have said"--
and she spoke in soft, almost pathetic accents--"But I am sorry
that anyone knows my story--it is no use to know it, really! I
should have always kept it a secret--for it chiefly concerns me,
after all,--and why should my existence cast a shadow on the
memory of my father? Perhaps you may have known him--"

"I knew him and loved him!" said Lord Blythe, quickly.

She looked at him with wistful, tear-wet eyes.

"Well then, how hard it must be for you to think that he ever did
anything unworthy of himself!" she said--"And for this dear lady
it is cruel!--for she loved him too. And what am I that I should
cause all this trouble! I am a nameless creature--I took his name
because I wanted to kindle a little light of my own round it--I
have done that! And then I wanted to guard his memory from any
whisper of scandal--will you help me in this? The secret must
still be kept--and no one must ever know I am his daughter. For
though your wife is dead her name must not be shamed for the long
ago sin of her youth--nor must I be branded as what I am--base-
born."

Profoundly touched by the simple straightforward eloquence of her
appeal, Lord Blythe went up to her where she stood with one arm
round Miss Leigh.

"My dear child," he said, earnestly--"believe me, I shall never
speak of your parentage or give the slightest hint to anyone of
the true facts of your history--still less would I allow you to be
lightly esteemed for what is no fault of your own. You have made a
brilliant name and fame for yourself--you have the right to that
name and fame. I came here to-day for two reasons--one to tell you
that I was fully acquainted with all you had endured and suffered
--the other to ask if you will let me be your guardian--your other
father--and give me some right to shelter you from the rough ways
of the world. I may perhaps in this way make some amends to you
for the loss of mother-love and father-love--I would do my best--"

He stopped--a little troubled by unusual emotion. Innocent,
drawing her embracing arm away from Miss Leigh, looked at him with
wondering, grateful eyes.

"How good you are!" she said, softly--"You would take care of me--
you with your proud name and place!--and I--the poor,
unfortunately born child of your dead friend! Ah, you kind, gentle
heart!--I thank you!--but no!--I must not accept such a sacrifice
on your part--"

"It would be no sacrifice"--he interrupted her, eagerly--"No,
child!--it would be pure selfishness!--for I'm getting old and am
lonely--and--and I want someone to look after me!" He laughed a
little awkwardly. "Why not come to me and be my daughter?"

She smiled--caught his hand and kissed it.

"I will be a daughter to you in affection and respect," she said--
"But I will not take any benefits from you--no, none! Oh, I know
well all you could and would do for me!--you would place me in the
highest ranks of that society where you are a leader, and you
would surround me with so many advantages and powerful friends
that I should forget my duty, which is to work for myself, and owe
nothing to any man! Dear, kind Lord Blythe!--do not think me
ungrateful! But I have made my own little place in the world, and
I must keep it--independently! Am I not right, my godmother?"

Miss Leigh looked at her anxiously, and sighed.

"My dear, you must think well about it," she said--"Lord Blythe
would care for you as his own child, I am sure--and his home would
be a safe and splendid one for you--but there!--do not ask ME!"
and the old lady wiped away one or two trickling tears from her
eyes--"I am selfish!--and now I know you are Pierce's daughter I
want to keep you for myself!--to have you near me!--to look at you
and love you!--"

Her voice broke--her gaze instinctively wandered to the portrait
of the man whose memory she had cherished so long and so fondly.

"What did you think--what must you have thought the first day you
came here when I asked you if you were any relation to Pierce
Armitage, and told you that was his portrait!" she said,
wistfully.

"I thought that God had guided me to you," the girl answered, in
soft, grave accents--"And that my father's spirit had not forsaken
me!"

There was a moment's silence. Then she spoke more lightly--

"Dear Lord Blythe," she said--"Now that you know so much may I
tell you my own story? It will not take long! Come and sit here--
yes!"--and she placed a comfortable arm-chair for him, while she
drew Miss Leigh gently down on the sofa and sat next to her--"It
is nothing of a story!--my little life is not at all like the
lives lived by all the girls of my age that I have ever met or
seen--it's all in the past, as it were,--the old, very old past!--
as far back as the days of Elizabeth!"

She laughed, but there were tears in her eyes--she brushed them
away and holding Miss Leigh's hand in her own, she told with
simple truth and directness the narrative of her childhood's days
--her life on Briar Farm--how she had been trained by Priscilla to
bake, and brew, and wash and sew,--and how she had found her chief
joy and relaxation from household duties in the reading of the old
books she had found stowed away in the dower-chests belonging to
the "Sieur Amadis de Jocelin."

As she pronounced the name with an unconsciously tender
accentuation Lord Blythe interrupted her.

"Why, that's a curious thing! I know a rather clever painter named
Amadis de Jocelyn--and surely you were dancing with him on the
evening I first met you?"

A wave of rosy colour swept over her cheeks.

"Yes!--that is what I was just going to tell you!" she said. "He
is another Amadis de Jocelyn!--and he is actually connected with a
branch of the same family! HIS ancestor was the brother of that
very Amadis who lies buried at Briar Farm! Is it not strange that
I should have met him!--and he is going to paint my portrait!"

"Is he indeed!" and Lord Blythe did not look impressed--"I thought
he was a landscape man."

"So he is," she explained, with eagerness--"But he can do
portraits--and he wishes to make a picture of me, because I have
been a student of the books written by one of his ancient line.
Those books taught me all I know of literature. You see, it is
curious, isn't it?"

"It is," he agreed, rather hesitatingly--"But I've never quite
liked Jocelyn--he's clever--yet he has always struck me as being
intensely selfish,--a callous sort of man--many artists are."

Her eyes drooped, and her breath came and went quickly.

"I suppose all clever men get self-absorbed sometimes!" she said,
with a quaint little air of wisdom--"But I don't think he is
really callous--" She broke off, and laughed brightly--"Anyhow we
needn't discuss him--need we? I just wanted to tell you what an
odd experience it has been for me to meet and to know someone
descended from the family of the old French knight whose spirit
was my instructor in beautiful things! The little books of his own
poems were full of loveliness--and I used to read them over and
over again. They were all about love and faith and honour--"

"Very old-fashioned subjects!" said Lord Blythe, with a slight
smile--"And not very much in favour nowadays!"

Miss Leigh looked at him questioningly.

"You think not?" she said.

He gave a quick sigh.

"It is difficult to know what to think," he answered--"But I have
lived a long life--long enough to have seen the dispersal of many
illusions! I fear selfishness is the keynote of the greater part
of humanity. Those who do the kindest deeds are invariably the
worst rewarded--and love in its highest form is so little known
that it may be almost termed non-existent. You"--and he looked at
Innocent--"you write in a very powerful and convincing way about
things of which you can have had no real experience--and therein
lies your charm! You restore the lost youth of manhood by
idealisation, and you compel your readers to 'idealise' with you--
but 'to idealise' is rather a dangerous verb!--and its conjugation
generally means trouble and disaster. Ideals--unless they are of
the spiritual kind unattainable on this planet--are apt to be very
disappointing."

Innocent smiled.

"But love is an ideal which cannot disappoint, because it is
everlasting!" she said, almost joyously. "The story of the old
French knight is, in its way, a proof of that. He loved his ideal
all his life, even though he could not win her."

"Very wonderful if true!" he answered--"But I cannot quite believe
it! I am too familiar with the ways of my own sex! Anyhow, dear
child, I should advise you not to make too many ideals apart from
the characters in the books you write. Fortunately your special
talent brings you an occupation which will save you from that kind
of thing. You have ambition as an incentive, and fame for a goal."

She was silent for a moment. In relating the story of her life at
Briar Farm she had not spoken of Robin Clifford,--some instinct
told her that the sympathies of her hearers might be enlisted in
his favour, and she did not want this.

"Well, now you know what my 'literary education' has been," she
went on--"Since I came to London I have tried to improve myself as
much as I can--and I have read a great many modern books--but to
me they seem to lack the real feeling of the old-time literature.
For instance, if you read the account of the battle of the Armada
by a modern historian it sounds tame and cold,--but if you read
the same account in Camden's 'Elizabeth'--the whole scene rises
before you,--you can almost see every ship riding the waves!"

Her cheeks glowed and her eyes shone,--Lord Blythe smiled
approvingly.

"I see you are an enthusiast!" he said--"And you could not have
better teachers than the Elizabethans. They lived in a great age
and they were great men. Our times, though crowded with the
splendid discoveries of science, seem small and poor compared to
theirs. If you ever come to me, I can give you the run of a
library where you will find many friends."

She thanked him by a look, and he went on--

"You will come and see me often, will you not?--you and Miss
Leigh--by-and-by, when the conventional time of mourning for my
poor wife is over. Make my house your second home, both of you!--
and when I return from Italy--"

"Oh!" the girl exclaimed, impulsively--"Are you going to Italy?"

"For a few weeks--yes!--will you come with me--you and your
godmother?"

His old heart beat,--a sudden joy lighted his eyes. It would have
been like the dawn of a new day to him had she consented, but she
shook her fair little head decisively.

"I must not!" she said-"-I am bound to finish some work that I
have promised. But some day--ah, yes!--some day I should love to
see Italy!"

The light went slowly from his face.

"Some day!--well!--I hope I may live to be with you on that 'some
day.' I ought not to leave London just now--but the house is very
lonely--and I think I am best away for a time--"

"Much best!" said Miss Leigh, sympathetically--"And if there is
anything we can do--"

"Yes--there is one thing that will please me very much," said Lord
Blythe, drawing from his pocket a small velvet case--"I want my
friend Pierce's daughter to wear this--it was my first gift to her
mother." Here he opened the case and showed an exquisite pendant,
in the shape of a dove, finely wrought in superb brilliants, and
supported on a thin gold chain. "I gave it as an emblem of
innocence"--a quick sigh escaped him--"I little knew!--but you,
dear girl, are the one to wear it now! Let me fasten it round your
neck."

She stooped forward, and he took a lingering pleasure in putting
the chain on and watching the diamonds flash against her fair
skin. She was too much moved to express any worded thanks--it was
not the value or the beauty of the gift that touched her, but its
association and the way it was given. And then, after a little
more desultory conversation, he rose to go.

"Remember!" he said, taking her tenderly by both hands--"Whenever
you want a home and a father, both are ready and waiting for you!"
And he kissed her lightly on the forehead. "You are famous and
independent, but the world is not always kind to a clever woman
even when she is visibly known to be earning her own living. There
are always spiteful tongues wagging in the secret corners and
byways, ready to assert that her work is not her own and that some
man is in the background, helping to keep her!"

He then shook hands warmly with Miss Leigh.

"If she ever comes to me"--he went on--"you are free to come with
her--and be assured of my utmost friendship and respect. I shall
feel I am in some way doing what I know my old friend Pierce
Armitage would, in his best moments, approve, if I can be of the
least service to you. You will not forget?"

Miss Leigh was too overcome by the quiet sweetness and dignity of
his manner to murmur more than a few scarcely audible words of
gratitude in reply--and when at last he took his leave, she
relieved her heart by throwing her arms round Innocent and having
what she called "a good cry."

"And you Pierce's child!" she half laughed, half sobbed--"Oh, how
could he leave you at that farm!--poor little thing!--and yet it
might have been much worse--"

"Indeed I should think so!" and Innocent soothed her fondly with
the tenderest caresses--"Very much worse! Why, if I had not been
left at Briar Farm, I should never have known Dad!--and he was one
of the best of men--and I should never have learned how to think,
and write my thoughts, from the teaching of the Sieur Amadis de
Jocelin!"

There was a little thrill of triumph in her voice--and Miss Leigh,
wiping away her tears, looked at her timidly and curiously.

"How you dwell on the memory of that French knight!" she said.
"When are you going to have your portrait painted by the modern
Amadis?"

Innocent smiled.

"Very soon!" she answered--"We are to begin our sittings next
week. I am to wear a white frock--and I told him about my dove
Cupid, and how it used to fly from the gables of the house to my
hand--and he is going to paint the bird as well as me!"

She laughed with the joy of a child.

"Fancy! Cupid will be there!"

"Cupid?" echoed Miss Leigh, wonderingly.

"Yes--Cupid!--usually known as the little god of love,--but only a
dove this time!--so much more harmless than the god!"

Miss Leigh touched the diamond pendant at the girl's neck.

"You have a dove there now," she said--"All in jewels! And in your
heart, dear child, I pray there is a spiritual dove of holy purity
to guard you from all evil and keep your sweet soul safe and
clean!"

A startled look came into the girl's soft grey-blue eyes,--a deep
flush of rose flew over her cheeks and brow.

"A blessing or a warning, godmother mine?" she said.

Miss Leigh drew her close in her arms and kissed her.

"Both!" she answered, simply.

There was a moment's silence.

Then Innocent, her face still warm with colour, walked close up to
the harpsichord where her father's picture stood.

"Let us talk of HIM!" she said--"Now that you know I am his
daughter, tell me all you remember of him!--how he spoke, how he
looked!--what sort of pictures he painted--and what he used to say
to you! He loved you once, and I love you now!--so you must tell
me everything!"




CHAPTER VIII

Fame, or notoriety, whichever that special noise may be called
when the world like a hound "gives tongue" and announces that the
quarry in some form of genius is at bay, is apt to increase its
clamour in proportion to the aloofness of the pursued animal,--and
Innocent, who saw nothing remarkable in remaining somewhat
secluded and apart from the ordinary routine of social life so
feverishly followed by more than half her sex, was very soon
classified as "proud"--"eccentric"--"difficult" and "vain," by
idle and ignorant persons who knew nothing about her, and only
judged her by their own limited conceptions of what a successful
author might or could possibly be like. Some of these, more
foolish than the rest, expressed themselves as afraid or unwilling
to meet her--"lest she should put them into her books"--this being
a common form of conceit with many individuals too utterly dull
and uninteresting to "make copy" for so much as the humblest
paragraphist. It was quite true that she showed herself sadly
deficient in the appreciation of society functions and society
people,--to her they seemed stupid and boresome, involving much
waste of precious time,--but notwithstanding this, she was invited
everywhere, and the accumulation of "R.S.V.P." cards on her table
and desk made such a formidable heap that it was quite a business
to clear them, as she did once a week, with the assistance of the
useful waste-paper basket. As a writer her popularity was
unquestionable, and so great and insistent was the public demand
for anything from her pen that she could command her own terms
from any publishing quarter. Her good fortune made very little
effect upon her,--sometimes it seemed as if she hardly realised or
cared to realise it. She had odd, almost child-like ways of
spending some of her money in dainty "surprise" gifts to her
friends--that is to say, such friends as had shown her kindness,--
beautiful flowers and fruit for invalids--choice wines for those
who needed yet could not afford them,--a new drawing-room carpet
for Miss Leigh, which was, in the old lady's opinion, a most
important and amazing affair!--costly furs, also for Miss Leigh,--
and devices and adornments of all sorts for the pleasure, beauty
or comfort of the house--but on herself personally she spent
nothing save what was necessary for such dress and appearance as
best accorded with her now acknowledged position. Dearly as she
would have loved to shower gifts and benefits on the inhabitants
of never-forgotten Briar Farm, she knew that if she did anything
of the kind poor lonely old Priscilla Friday and patiently
enduring Robin Clifford were more likely to be hurt than
gratified. For a silence had fallen between that past life, which
had been like a wild rose blossoming in a country lane, and the
present one, which resembled a wonderful orchid flower, flaming in
heat under glass,--and though she wrote to Robin now and again,
and he replied, his letters were restrained and formal--almost
cold. He knew too well how far she was removed from him by more
than distance, and bravely contented himself with merely giving
her such news of the farm and her former home surroundings as
might awaken her momentary interest without recalling too many old
memories to her mind.

She seemed, and to a very great extent she was, unconscious of the
interest and curiosity both her work and her personality excited--
the more so now as the glamour and delight of her creative
imagination had been obscured by what she considered a far greater
and more lasting glory--that of love!--the golden mirage of a
fancied sun, which for a time had quenched the steadier shining of
eternal stars. Since that ever memorable night when he had
suddenly stormed the fortress of her soul, and by the mastery of a
lover's kiss had taken full possession, Amadis de Jocelyn had
pursued his "amour" with admirable tact, cleverness and secrecy.
He found a new and stimulating charm in making love to a tender-
hearted, credulous little creature who seemed truly "of such stuff
as dreams are made of"--and to a man of his particular type and
temperament there was an irresistible provocation to his vanity in
the possibility of being able to lure her gradually and
insidiously down from the high ground of intellectual ambition and
power to the low level of that pitiful sex-submission which is
responsible for so much more misery than happiness in this world.
Little by little, under his apparently brusque and playful, but
really studied training, she began to think less and less of her
work,--the books she had loved to read and refer to, insensibly
lost their charm,--she went reluctantly to her desk, and as
reluctantly took up her pen,--what she had written already,
appeared to her utterly worthless,--and what she attempted to
write now was to her mind poor and unsatisfying. She was not moved
by the knowledge, constantly pressed upon her, that she was
steadily rising, despite herself, to the zenith of her career in
such an incredibly swift and brilliant way as to be the envy of
all her contemporaries,--she was hardly as grateful for her
honours as weary of them and a little contemptuous. What did it
all matter to her when half of her once busy working mornings were
now often passed in the studio of Amadis de Jocelyn! He was
painting a full-length portrait of her--a mere excuse to give her
facilities for visiting him, and ensure his own privacy and
convenience in receiving her--and every day she went to him,
sometimes late in the afternoons as well as the mornings, slipping
in and out familiarly and quite unnoticed, for he had given her a
key to the private door of his studio, which was reached through a
small, deeply shaded garden, abutting on an old-fashioned street
near Holland Park. She could enter at any time, and thought it was
the customary privilege accorded by an artist to his sitter, while
it saved the time and trouble of the rheumatic "odd man" or
servant whose failing limbs were slow to respond to a summons at
the orthodox front entrance. She would come in, dressed in her
simple navy blue serge walking costume, and then in a little room
just off the studio would change and put on the white dress which
her lover had chosen as the most suitable for his purpose, and
which he called the "portrait gown." It was simple, and severely
Greek, made of the softest and filmiest material which fell
gracefully away in enchanting folds from her childishly rounded
neck and arms,--it gave her the appearance of a Psyche or an
Ariadne,--and at the first sitting, when he had posed her in
several attitudes before attempting to draw a line, she had so
much sweet attractiveness about her that he was hardly to be
blamed for throwing aside all work and devoting himself to such
ardent delight in woman's fairness as may sometimes fall to the
lot of man. While moving from one position to another as he
suggested or commanded, she had playfully broken off one flower
from a large plant of "marguerite" daisies growing in a quaint
Japanese pot, close at hand, and had begun pulling off the petals
according to the old fanciful charm--"Il m'aime!--un peu!--
beaucoup!--passionement!--pas du tout!" He stopped her at the word
"passionement," and caught her in his arms.

"Not another petal must be plucked!" he whispered, kissing her
soft warm neck--"I will not have you say 'Pas du tout!'"

She laughed delightedly, nestling against him.

"Very well!" she said--"But suppose--"

"Suppose what?"

"Suppose it ever came to that?"--and she sighed as she spoke--
"Then the last petal must fall!"

"Do you think it ever will or can come to that?" he asked,
pressing a kiss on the sweet upturned lips--"Does it seem like
it?"

She was too happy to answer him, and he was too amorous just then
to think of anything but her soft eyes, dewy with tenderness--her
white, ivory-smooth skin--her small caressing hands, and the fine
bright tendrils of her waving hair--all these were his to play
with as a child plays with beautiful toys unconscious of or
indifferent to their value.

Many such passages of love occupied their time--though he managed
to make a good show of progressive work after the first rough
outline drawing of the picture was completed. He was undeniably a
genius in his way, uncertain and erratic of impulse, but his art
was strong because its effects were broad and simple. He had begun
Innocent's portrait out of the mere desire to have her with him
constantly,--but as day after day went on and the subject
developed under his skilled hand and brush he realised that it
would probably be "the" picture of the Salon in the following
year. As this conviction dawned upon him, he took greater pains,
and worked more carefully and conscientiously with the happiest
results, feeling a thrill of true artistic satisfaction as the
picture began to live and smile in response to his masterly touch
and treatment. Its composition was simple--he had drawn the girl
as though she were slowly advancing towards the spectator, giving
her figure all the aerial grace habitual to it by nature,--one
little daintily shaped hand held a dove lightly against her
breast, as though the bird had just flown there for protection
from its own alarm,--her face was slightly uplifted,--the lips
smiled, and the eyes looked straight out at the world with a
beautiful, clear candour which was all their own. Yet despite the
charm and sweetness of the likeness there was a strange pathos
about it,--a sadness which Jocelyn had never set there by his own
will or intention.

"You are a puzzling subject," he said to her one day--"I wanted to
give you a happy expression--and yet your portrait is actually
growing sad!--almost reproachful! ... do you look at me like
that?"

She opened her pretty eyes wonderingly.

"Amadis! Surely not! I could not look sad when I am with you!--
that is impossible!"

He paused, palette in hand.

"Nor reproachful?"

"How? When I have nothing to reproach you for?" she answered.

He put his palette aside and came and sat at her feet on the step
of the dais where he had posed her.

"You may rest," he said, smiling up at her--"And so may I." She
sat down beside him and he folded her in his arms. "How often we
rest in this way, don't we!" he murmured--"And so you think you
have nothing to reproach me for! Well,--I'm not so sure of that--
Innocent!"

She looked at him questioningly.

"Are you talking nonsense, my 'Sieur Amadis'?--or are you
serious?" she asked.

"I am quite serious--much more serious than is common with me," he
replied, taking one of her hands and studying it as the perfect
model it was--"I believe I am involving you in all sorts of
trouble--and you, you absurd little child, don't see it! Suppose
Miss Leigh were to find out that we make the maddest love to each
other in here--you all alone with me--what would she say?"

"What COULD she say?" Innocent demanded, simply--"There is no
harm!--and I should not mind telling her we are lovers."

"I should, though!" was his quick thought, while he marvelled at
her unworldliness.

"Besides"--she continued--"she has no right over me."

"Who HAS any right over you?" he asked, curiously.

She laughed, softly.

"No one!--except you!"

"Oh, hang me!" he exclaimed, impatiently--"Leave me out of the
question. Have you no father or mother?"

She was a little hurt at his sudden irritability.

"No," she answered, quietly--"I have often told you I have no one.
I am alone in the world--I can do as I like." Then a smile
brightened her face. "Lord Blythe would have me as a daughter if I
would go to him."

He started and loosened her from his embrace.

"Lord Blythe! That wealthy old peer! What does he want with you?"

"Nothing, I suppose, but the pleasure of my company!" and she
laughed--"Doesn't that seem strange?"

He rose and went back to work at his easel.

"Rather!" he said, slowly--"Are you going to accept his offer?"

Her eyes opened widely.

"I? My Amadis, how can you think it? I would not accept it for all
the world! He would load me with benefits--he would surround me
with luxuries--but I do not want these. I like to work for myself
and be independent." He laid a brush lightly in colour and began
to use it with delicate care.

"You are not very wise," he then said--"It's a great thing for a
young girl like you who are all alone in the world, to be taken in
hand by such a man as Blythe. He's a statesman,--very useful to
his country,--he's very rich and has a splendid position. His
wife's sudden death has left him very lonely as he has no
children,--you could be a daughter to him, and it would be a great
leap upwards for you, socially speaking. You would be much better
off under his care than scribbling books."

She drew a sharp breath of pain,--all the pretty colour fled from
her cheeks.

"You do not care for me to scribble books!" she said, in low,
stifled accents.

He laughed.

"Oh, I don't mind!--I never read them,--and in a way it amuses me!
You are such an armful of sweetness--such a warm, nestling little
bird of love in my arms!--and to think that you actually write
books that the world talks about!--the thing is so incongruous--so
'out of drawing' that it makes me laugh! I don't like writing
women as a rule--they give themselves too many airs to please me--
but you--"

He paused.

"Well, go on," she said, coldly.

He looked at her, smiling.

"You are cross? Don't be cross,--you lose your enchanting
expression! Well--you don't give yourself any airs, and you seem
to play at literature like a child playing at a game: of course
you make money by it,--but--you know better than I do that the
greatest writers"--he emphasized the word "greatest" slightly--
"never make money and are never popular."

"Does failure constitute greatness?" she asked, with a faintly
satirical inflection in her sweet voice which he had never heard
before.

"Sometimes--in fact pretty often," he replied, dabbing his brush
busily on his canvas--"You should read about great authors--"

"I HAVE read about them," she said--"Walter Scott was popular and
made money,--Charles Dickens was popular and made money--Thackeray
was popular and made money--Shakespeare himself seemed to have had
the one principal aim of making sufficient money enough to live
comfortably in his native town, and he was 'popular' in his day--
indeed he 'played to the gallery.' But he was not a 'failure'--and
the whole world acknowledges his greatness now, though in his
life-time he was unconscious of it."

Surprised at her quick eloquence, he paused in his work.

"Very well spoken!" he remarked, condescendingly--"I see you take
a high view of your art! But like all women, you wander from the
point. We were talking of Lord Blythe--and I say it would be far
better for you to be--well!--his heiress!--for he might leave you
all his fortune--than go on writing books."

Her lips quivered: despite her efforts, tears started to her eyes.
He saw, and throwing down his brush came and knelt beside her,
passing his arm round her waist.

"What have I said?" he murmured, coaxingly--"Innocent--sweet
little love! Forgive me if I have--what?"--and he laughed softly--
"rubbed you up the wrong way!"

She forced a smile, and her delicate white hands wandered
caressingly through his hair as he laid his head against her
bosom.

"I am sorry!" she said, at last--"I thought--I hoped--you might be
proud of my work, Amadis! I was planning it all for that! You
see"--she hesitated--"I learned so much from the Sieur Amadis de
Jocelin--the brother of your ancestor!--that I have been thinking
all the time how I could best show you that I was worthy of his
teaching. The world--or the public--you know the things they say
of me--but I do not want their praise. I believe I could do
something really great if YOU cared!--for now it is only to please
you that I live."

A sense of shame stung him at this simple avowal.

"Nonsense!" he said, almost brusquely--"You have a thousand other
things to live for--you must not think of pleasing me only.
Besides I'm not very--keen on literature,--I'm a painter."

"Surely painting owes something to literature?" she queried--"We
should not have had all the wonderful Madonnas and Christs of the
old masters if there had been no Bible!"

"True!--but perhaps we could have done without them!" he said,
lightly--"I'm not at all sure that painting would not have got on
just as well without literature at all. There is always nature to
study--sky, sea, landscape and the faces of lovely women and
children,--quite enough for any man. Where is Lord Blythe now?"

"In Italy," she replied--"He will be away some months."

She spoke with constraint. Her heart was heavy--the hopes and
ambitions she had cherished of adding lustre to her fame for the
joy and pride of her lover, seemed all crushed at one blow. She
was too young and inexperienced to realise the fact that few men
are proud of any woman's success, especially in the arts. Their
attitude is one of amused tolerance when it is not of actual sex-
jealousy or contempt. Least of all can any man endure that the
woman for whom he has a short spell of passionate fancy should be
considered notable, or in an intellectual sense superior to
himself. He likes her to be dependent on him alone for her
happiness,--for such poor crumbs of comfort he is pleased to give
her when the heat of his first passion has cooled,--but he is not
altogether pleased when she has sufficient intelligent perception
to see through his web of subterfuge and break away clear of the
entangling threads, standing free as a goddess on the height of
her own independent attainment. Innocent's idea of love was the
angelic dream of truth and everlastingness set forth by poets,
whose sweet singing deludes themselves and others,--she was ready
to devote all the unique powers of her mind and brain to the
perfecting of herself for her lover's delight. She wished to be
beautiful, brilliant, renowned and admired, simply that he might
take joy in knowing that this beautiful, brilliant, renowned and
admired creature was HIS, body and soul--existing solely for him
and content to live only so long as he lived, to work only so long
as he worked,--to be nothing apart from his love, but to be
everything he could desire or command while his love environed
her. She thought of the eternal union of souls,--while he had no
belief in the soul at all, his half French materialism persuading
him that there was nothing eternal. And like all men of his type
he estimated her tenderness for him, her clinging arms, and the
lingering passion of her caresses, to be chiefly the outflow of
pleased vanity--the kittenish satisfaction of being stroked and
fondled--the sense of her own sex-attractiveness,--but of anything
deep and closely rooted in the centre of a more than usually
sensitive nature he had not the faintest conception, taking it for
granted that all women, even clever ones, were more or less alike,
easily consoled by new millinery when lovers failed.

Sometimes, during the progress of their secret amour, a thrill of
uneasiness and fear ran coldly through her veins--a wondering
doubt which she repelled with indignation whenever it suggested
itself. Amadis de Jocelyn was and must be the very embodiment of
loyalty and honour to the woman he loved!--it could not be
otherwise. His tenderness was ardent,--his passion fiery and
eager,--yet she wondered--timidly and with deep humiliation in
herself for daring to think so far--why, if he loved her so much
as he declared, did he not ask her to be his wife? She supposed he
would do so,--though she had heard him depreciate marriage as a
necessary evil. Evidently he had his own good reasons for
deferring the fateful question. Meanwhile she made a little
picture-gallery of ideal joys in her brain,--and one of her
fancies was that when she married her Amadis she would ask Robin
Clifford to let her buy Briar Farm.

"He could paint well there!" she thought, happily, already seeing
in her mind's eye the "Great Hall" transformed into an artist's
studio--"and I almost think _I_ could carry on the farm--Priscilla
would help me,--and we know just how Dad liked things to be done--
if--if Robin went away. And the master of the house would again be
a true Jocelyn!"

The whole plan seemed perfectly natural and feasible. Only one
obstacle presented itself like a dark shadow on the brightness of
her dream--and that was her own "base" birth. The brand of
illegitimacy was upon her,--and whereas once she alone had known
what she judged to be a shameful secret, now two others shared it
with her--Miss Leigh and Lord Blythe. They would never betray it--
no!--but they could not alter what unkind fate had done for her.
This was one reason why she was glad that Amadis de Jocelyn had
not as yet spoken of their marriage.

"For I should have to tell him!" she thought, woefully--"I should
have to say that I am the illegitimate daughter of Pierce
Armitage--and then--perhaps he would not marry me--he might
change--ah no!--he could not!--he would not!--he loves me too
dearly! He would never let me go--he wants me always! We are all
the world to each other!--nothing could part us now!"

And so the time drifted on--and with its drifting her work drifted
too, and only one all-absorbing passion possessed her life with
its close and consuming fire. Amadis de Jocelyn was an expert in
the seduction of a soul--little by little he taught her to judge
all men as worthless save himself, and all opinions unwarrantable
and ill-founded unless he confirmed them. And, leading her away
from the contemplation of high visions, he made her the blind
worshipper of a very inadequate idol. She was happy in her faith,
and yet not altogether sure of happiness. For there are two kinds
of love--one with strong wings which lift the soul to a dazzling
perfection of immortal destiny,--the other with gross and heavy
chains which fetter every hope and aspiration and drag the finest
intelligence down to dark waste and nothingness.




CHAPTER IX

In affairs of love a woman is perhaps most easily ensnared by a
man who can combine passion with pleasantry and hot pursuit with
social tact and diplomacy. Amadis de Jocelyn was an adept at this
kind of thing--he was, if it may be so expressed, a refined
libertine, loving women from a purely physical sense of attraction
and pleasure conveyed to himself, and obtusely ignorant of the
needs or demands of their higher natures. From a mental or
intellectual standpoint all women to him were alike, made to be
"managed" alike, used alike, and alike set aside when their use
was done with. The leaven of the Jew or the Turk was in the
temperament of this descendant of a long line of French nobles,
who had gained their chief honours by killing men, ravishing women
and plundering their neighbours' lands--though occasional flashes
of bravery and chivalry had glanced over their annals in history
like the light from a wandering will o' the wisp flickering over a
morass. Gifted in his art, but wholly undisciplined in his nature,
he had lived a life of selfish aims to selfish ends, and in the
course of it had made love to many women,--one especially, on
whose devoted affections he had preyed like an insect that
ungratefully poisons the flower from which it has sucked the
honey. This woman, driven to bay at last by his neglect and
effrontery, had roused the scattered forces of her pride and had
given him his conge--and he had been looking about for a fresh
victim when he met Innocent. She was a complete novelty to him,
and stimulated his more or less jaded emotions,--he found her
quaint and charming as a poet's dream of some nymph of the
woodlands,--her manner of looking at life and the things of life
was so deliciously simple--almost mediaeval,--for she believed
that a man should die rather than break his word or imperil his
honour, which to Jocelyn was such a primitive state of things as
to seem prehistoric. Then there was her fixed and absurd "fancy"
about the noble qualities and manifold virtues of the French
knight who had served the Duc d'Anjou,--and who had been to her
from childhood a kind of lover in the spirit,--a being whom she
had instinctively tried to serve and to please; and he had
sufficient imagination to understand and take advantage of the
feeling aroused in her when she had met one of the same descent,
and bearing the same name, in himself. He had run through the
gamut of many emotions and sentiments,--he had joined one or two
of the new schools of atheism and modernism started by certain
self-opinionated young University men, and in the earlier stages
of his career had in the cock-sure impulse of youth designed
schemes for the regeneration of the world, till the usual
difficulties presented themselves as opposed to such vast
business,--he had associated himself with men who followed what is
called the "fleshly school" of poetry and art generally, and had
evolved from his own mentality a comfortable faith of which the
chief tenet was "Self for Self"--a religion which lifts the mind
no higher than the purely animal plane;--and in its environment of
physical consciousness and agreeable physical sensations, he was
content to live.

With such a temperament and disposition as he possessed, which
swayed him hither and thither on the caprice or impulse of the
moment, his intentions toward Innocent were not very clear even to
himself. When he had begun his "amour" with her he had meant it to
go just as far as should satisfy his own whim and desire,--but as
he came to know her better, he put a check on himself and
hesitated as one may hesitate before pulling up a rose-bush from
its happy growing place and flinging it out on the dust-heap to
die. She was so utterly unsuspicious and unaware of evil, and she
had placed him on so high a pedestal of honour, trusting him with
such perfect and unquestioning faith, that for very manhood's sake
he could not bring himself to tear the veil from her eyes.
Moreover he really loved her in a curious, haphazard way of love,
--more than he had ever loved any one of her sex,--and, when in her
presence and under her influence, he gained a glimmering of
consciousness of what love might mean in its best and purest
sense.

He laughed at himself however for this very thought. He had always
pooh-pooh'd the idea of love as having anything divine or
uplifting in its action,--nevertheless in his more sincere moments
he was bound to confess that since he had known Innocent his very
art had gained a certain breadth and subtlety which it had lacked
before. It was a pleasure to him to see her eyes shine with pride
in his work, to hear her voice murmur dulcet praises of his skill,
and for a time he took infinite pains with all his subjects,
putting the very best of himself into his drawing and colouring
with results that were brilliant and convincing enough to ensure
success for all his efforts. Sometimes--lost in a sudden fit of
musing--he wondered how his life would shape itself if he married
her? He had avoided marriage as a man might avoid hanging,--
considering it, not without reason, the possible ruin of an
artist's greater career. Among many men he had known, men of
undoubted promise, it had proved the fatal step downward from the
high to the low. One particular "chum" of his own, a gifted
painter, had married a plump rosy young woman with "a bit o'
money," as the country folks say,--and from that day had been
steadily dragged down to the domestic level of sad and sordid
commonplace. Instead of studying form and colour, he was called
upon to examine drains and superintend the plumber, mark house
linen and take care of the children--his wife believing in "making
a husband useful." Of regard for his art or possible fame she had
none,--while his children were taught to regard his work in that
line as less important than if he had been a bricklayer at so much
pence the hour.

"Children!" thought Jocelyn--"Do I want them? ... No--I think not!
They're all very well when they're young--really young!--two to
five years old is the enchanting age,--but, most unfortunately,
they grow! Yes!--they grow,--often into hideous men and women--a
sort of human vultures sitting on their fathers' pockets and
screaming 'Give! Give!' The prospect does not attract me! And
she?--Innocent? I don't think I could bear to watch that little
flower-like face gradually enlarging into matronly lines and
spreading into a double chin! Those pretty eyes peering into the
larder and considering the appearance of uncooked bacon! Perish
the thought! One might as well think of Shakespeare's Juliet
paying the butcher's bill, or worse still, selecting the butcher's
meat! Forbid it, O ye heavens! Of course if ideals could be
realised, which they never are, I can see myself wedded for pure
love, without a care, painting my pictures at ease, with a sweet
woman worshipping me, ever at my beck and call, and shielding me
from trouble with all the tender force of her passionate little
soul!--but commonplace life will net fit itself into these sort of
beatific visions! Babies, and the necessary provision of food and
clothes and servants--this is what marriage means--love having
sobered down to a matter-of-fact conclusion. No--no! I will not
marry her! It would be like catching a fairy in the woods, cutting
off its sunbeam wings and setting it to scrub the kitchen floor!"

It was curious that while he pleased himself with this fanciful
soliloquy it did not occur to him that he had already caught the
"fairy in the woods," and ever since the capture had been engaged
in cutting off its "sunbeam wings" with all a vivisector's
scientific satisfaction. And in his imaginary pictures of what
might have been if "ideals" were realised, he did not for a moment
conceive HIMSELF as "worshipping" the woman who was to worship
HIM, or as being at HER "beck and call," or as shielding HER from
trouble--oh no! He merely considered himself, and how she would
care for HIM,--never once did he consider how he would care for
HER.

Meanwhile things went on in an outwardly even and uneventful
course. Innocent worked steadily to fulfil certain contracts into
which she had entered with the publishers who were eager to obtain
as much of her work as she could give them,--but she had lost
heart, and her once soaring ambition was like a poor bird that had
been clumsily shot at, and had fallen to the ground with a broken
wing. What she had dreamed of as greatness, now seemed vain and
futile. The "Amadis de Jocelin" of the sixteenth century had
taught her to love literature--to believe in it as the refiner of
thought and expression, and to use it as a charm to inspire the
mind and uplift the soul,--but the Amadis de Jocelyn of the
twentieth had no such lessons to teach. Utterly lacking in
reverence for great thinkers, he dismissed the finest passages of
poetry or prose from his consideration with light scorn as "purple
patches," borrowing that hackneyed phrase from the lower walks of
the press,--the most inspired writers, both of ancient and modern
times, came equally under the careless lash of his derision,--so
that Innocent, utterly bewildered by his sweeping denunciation of
many brilliant and famous authors, shrank into her wounded self
with pain, humiliation and keen disappointment, feeling that there
was certainly no chance for her to appeal to him in any way
through the thoughts she cherished and expressed with truth and
fervour to a listening world. That world listened--but HE did
not!--therefore the world seemed worthless and its praise mere
mockery. She had no vanity to support her,--she was not "strong-
minded" enough to oppose her own individuality to that of the man
she loved. And so she began to droop a little,--her bright and
ardent spirit sank like a sinking flame,--much to the concern of
Miss Leigh, who watched her with a jealous tenderness of love
beyond all expression. The child of Pierce Armitage, lawfully or
unlawfully begotten, was now to her the one joy of existence,--the
link that fastened her more closely to life,--and she worried
herself secretly over the evident listlessness, fatigue and
depression of the girl who had so lately been the very embodiment
of happiness. But she did not like to ask questions,--she knew
that Innocent had a very resolute mind of her own, and that if she
elected to remain silent on any subject whatsoever, nothing, not
even the most affectionate appeal, would induce her to speak.

"You will not let her come to any harm, Pierce!" murmured the old
lady prayerfully one day, standing before the portrait of her
former and faithless lover--"You will step in if danger threatens
her!--yes, I am sure you will! You will guide and help her again
as you have guided and helped her before. For I believe you
brought her to me, Pierce!--yes, I am sure you did! In that other
world where you are, you have learned how much I loved you long
ago!--how much I love you now!--and how I love your child for your
sake as well as for her own! All wrongs and mistakes are forgiven
and forgotten, Pierce! and when we meet again we shall
understand!"

And with her little trembling worn hands she set a rose, just
opening its deep red heart-bud into flower, in a crystal vase
beside the portrait as a kind of votive offering, with something
of the same superstitious feeling that induces a devout Roman
Catholic to burn a candle before a favourite saint, in the belief
that the spirit of the dead man heard her words and would respond
to them.

Just at this time, Innocent went about a good deal among the few
friends who had learned to know her well and to love her
accordingly. Lord Blythe was still away, having prolonged his tour
in order to enjoy the beauty of the Italian lakes in autumn.
Summer in England was practically over, but the weather was fine
and warm still, and country-house parties, especially in Scotland,
were the order of the day. The "social swim" was subsiding, and
what are called "notable" people were beginning to leave town.
Once or twice, infected by the general exodus, Innocent thought of
going down to Briar Farm just for a few days as a surprise to
Priscilla--but a feeling for Robin held her back. It would be
needless unkindness to again vex his mind with the pain of a
hopeless passion. So she paid a few casual visits here and there,
chiefly at houses where Amadis de Jocelyn was also one of the
invited guests. She was made the centre of a considerable amount
of adulation, which did not move her to any sort of self-
satisfaction, because in the background of her thoughts there was
always the light jest and smile of her lover, who laughed at
praise, except, be it here said, when it was awarded to himself.
Then he did not laugh--he assumed a playful humility which, being
admirably acted, almost passed for modesty. But if by chance he
had to listen to any praise of "Ena Armitage" as author or woman,
he changed the subject as soon as he could conveniently do so
without brusquerie. And very gradually it dawned upon her that he
took no pride in her work or in the position she had won, and that
he was more reluctant than glad to hear her praised. He seemed to
prefer she should be unnoticed, save by himself, and more or less
submissive to his will. Had she been worldly-wise, she would by
every action have moved a silent protest against this, his
particular form of sex-dominance, but she was of too loving a
nature to dispute any right of command he chose to assume. Other
men, younger and far higher in place and position than Jocelyn,
admired her, and made such advances as they dared, finding her
very coldness attractive, united as it was to such sweetness of
manner as few could resist, but they had no chance with her. Once
or twice some of her women friends had sounded her on the subject
of love and lovers, and she had put aside all their questions with
a smile. "Love is not to be talked about," she had said--"It is
like God, served best in silence."

But by scarcely perceptible degrees, busy rumour got hold of a
thread or two of the clue leading to the labyrinth of her
mystery,--people nodded mysteriously at each other and began to
whisper suggestions--suggestions which certainly did not go very
far, but just floated in the air like bits of thistledown.

"She is having her portrait painted, isn't she?"

"Yes--by that man with the queer name--Amadis de Jocelyn."

"Has she given him the commission?"

"Oh no! I believe not. He's painting it for the French Salon."

"Oh!"

Then there would follow a silence, with an exchange of smiles all
round. And presently the talk would begin again.

"Will it be a 'case,' do you think?"

"A 'case'? You mean a marriage? Oh dear no! Jocelyn isn't a
marrying man."

"Isn't she a little--er--well!--a little taken with him?"

"Perhaps! Very likely! Clever women are always fools on one point
--if not on several!"

"And he? Isn't he very attentive?"

"Not more so than he has been and is to dozens of other women.
He's too clever to show her any special attention--it might
compromise him. He's a man that takes care of Number One!"

So the gossip ran,--and only Jocelyn himself caught wind of it
sufficiently to set him thinking. His "affaire de coeur" had gone
far enough,--and he realised that the time had come for him to
beat a retreat. But how to do it? The position was delicate and
difficult. If Innocent had been an ordinary type of woman, vain
and selfish, fond of frivolities and delighting in new conquests,
his task would have been easy,--but with a girl who believed in
love as the ultimatum of all good, and who trusted her lover with
implicit faith as next in order of worship to God, what was to be
done?

"We talk a vast amount of sentimental rubbish about women being
pure and faithful!" he soliloquised--"But when they ARE pure and
faithful we are more bored with them than if they were the worst
women in town!"

He had however one subject of congratulation for which he
metaphorically patted himself on the back as being "a good boy"--
he had not gone to such extremes in his love-affair as could
result in what is usually called "trouble" for the girl. He had
left her unscathed, save in a moral and spiritual sense. The sweet
body, with its delicate wavering tints of white and rose was as
the unspoilt sheath of a lily-bud,--no one could guess that within
the sheath the lily itself was blighted and slowly withering. One
may question whether it is not a more cruel thing to seduce the
soul than the body,--to crush all the fine faiths and happy
illusions of a fair mind and leave them scorched by a devastating
fire whose traces shall never be obliterated. Amadis de Jocelyn
would have laughed his gayest and most ironical laugh at the bare
possibility of such havoc being wrought by the passion of love
alone.

"What's the use of loving or remembering anything?" he would
exclaim--"One loves--one tires of love!--and by-and-by one forgets
that love ever existed. I look forward to the time when my memory
shall dwell chiefly on the agreeable entremets of life--a good
dinner--a choice cigar! These things never bother you afterwards,
--unless you eat too much or smoke too much,--then you have
headache and indigestion--distinctly your own fault! But if you
love a woman for a time and tire of her afterwards she always
bothers you!--reminding you of the days when you 'once' loved her
with persistent and dreadful monotony! I believe in forgetting,--
and 'letting go.'"

With these sentiments, which were the true outcome of his real
self, it was not and never would be possible for him to conceive
that with certain high and ultra-sensitive natures love is a
greater necessity than life itself, and that if they are deprived
of the glory they have been led to imagine they possessed, nothing
can make compensation for what to them is eternal loss, coupled
with eternal sorrow.

Meanwhile Innocent's portrait on which he had worked for a
considerable time was nearly completed. It was one of the best
things he had ever done, and he contemplated it with a pleasant
thrill of artistic triumph, forgetting the "woman" entirely in
satisfied consideration of the "subject." As a portrait he
realised that it would be the crown of the next year's Salon,
bearing comparison with any work of the greater modern masters. He
was however a trifle perplexed, and not altogether pleased at the
expression, which, entirely away from his will and intention, had
insensibly thrown a shadow of sadness on the face,--it had come
there apparently of itself, unbidden. He had been particularly
proud of his success in the drawing of the girl's extremely
sensitive mouth, for he had, as he thought, caught the fleeting
sweetness of the smile which was one of her greatest charms,--but
now, despite his pains, that smile seemed to lose itself in the
sorrow and pathos of an unspoken reproach, which, though
enthralling and appealing to the beholder as the look of the
famous "Mona Lisa," had fastened itself as it were on the canvas
without the painter's act or consent. He was annoyed at this, yet
dared not touch it in any attempt to alter what asserted itself as
convincingly finished,--for the picture was a fine work of art and
he realised that it would add to his renown.

"I shall not name it as the portrait of a living woman," he said
to himself--"I shall call it simply--'Innocent.'"

As he thought this, the subject of the painting herself entered
the studio. He turned at the sound of the door opening, and caught
a strange new impression of her,--an impression that moved him to
a touch of something like fear. Was she going to be tiresome, he
wondered?--would she make him a "scene"--or do something odd as
women generally did when their feelings escaped control? Her face
was very pale--her eyes startlingly bright,--and the graceful
white summer frock she wore, with soft old lace falling about it,
a costume completed in perfection by a picturesque Leghorn hat
bound with black velvet and adorned with a cluster of pale roses,
made her a study worthy the brush of many a greater artist than
Amadis de Jocelyn. His quick eye noted every detail of her dainty
dress and fair looks as he went to meet her and took her in his
arms. She clung to him for a moment--and he felt her tremble.

"What's the matter?" he asked, with unconscious sharpness--"Is
anything wrong?"

She put him away from her tenderly and looked up smiling--but
there was a sparkling dew in her eyes.

"No, my Amadis! Nothing wrong!"

He heaved a quick sigh of relief.

"Thank heaven! You looked at me as if you had a grievance--all
women have grievances--but they should keep them to themselves."

She gave the slightest little shrug of her shoulders; then went
and sat on the highest step of the familiar dais where she had
posed for her picture, and waited a moment. He did not at once
come to sit beside her as he had so often done--he stood opposite
his easel, looking at her portrait but not at her.

"I have no grievance," she said then, making an effort to steady
her voice, which trembled despite herself--"And if I had I should
not vex you with it. But--when you can quite spare the time I
should like a quiet little talk with you."

He looked round at her with a kind smile.

"Just what I want to have with you! 'Les beaux esprits se
rencontrent'--and we both want exactly the same thing! Dear little
girl, how sensible you are! Of course we must talk--about the
future."

A lovely radiance lit up her face.

"That is what I thought you would wish," she said--"Now that the
portrait is finished."

"Well,--all but a touch or two," he rejoined--"I shall ask a few
people to come here and see it before it leaves London. Then it
must be property packed in readiness for Paris before--before I
go--"

Her eyes opened in sudden terrified wonderment.

"Before you go--where?"

He laughed a little awkwardly.

"Oh--only a short journey--on business--I will explain when we
have our talk out--not now--in a day or two--"

He left the easel, and coming to where she sat, lifted her in his
arms and folded her close to his breast.

"You sweet soul!" he murmured--"You little Innocent! You are so
pretty to-day!--you madden me--"

He unfastened her hat and put it aside,--then drawing her closer,
showered quick eager kisses on her lips, eyes and warm soft neck.
He felt her heart beating wildly and her whole body trembling
under his gust of passion.

"You love me--you truly love me?" she questioned, between little
sighs of pleasure--"Tell me!--are you sure?"

"Am I not proving it?" he answered--"Does a man behave like this
if he does not love?"

"Ah, yes!" And she looked up with a wild piteousness in her sweet
eyes--"A man will behave like this to any woman!"

He loosened his clasp of her, astonished--then laughed.

"Where did you learn that?" he asked--"Who told you men were so
volatile?"

"No one!"--and her caressing arms fell away from him--"My Amadis,
you find it pleasant to kiss and to embrace me for the moment--but
perhaps not always will you care! Love--real love is different--"

"What do YOU mean by love?" he asked still smiling.

She sighed.

"I can hardly tell you," she said--"But one thing I DO know--love
would never hurt or wrong the thing it loved! Words, kisses,
embraces--they are just the sweet outflow of a great deep!--but
love is above and beyond all these, like an angel living with
God!"

He was silent.

She came up to him and laid her little hand timidly on his arm.

"It is time we were quite sure of that angel, my Amadis!" she
said--"We ARE sure--but--"

He looked her full and quietly in the eyes.

"Yes, child!" he answered--"It is time! But I cannot talk about
angels or anything else just now--it is growing late in the
afternoon and you must not stay here too long. Come to-morrow or
next day, and we'll consult together as to what is best to be done
for your happiness--"

"For yours!" she interposed, gently.

He smiled, curiously.

"Very well! As you will! For mine!"




CHAPTER X

Lord Blythe stood at the open window of his sitting-room in the
Grand Hotel at Bellaggio--a window opening out to a broad balcony
and commanding one of the most enchanting views of the lake and
mountains ever created by Divine Beneficence for the delight of
man. The heavenly scene, warm with rich tints of morning in Italy,
glowed like a jewel in the sun: picturesque boats with little red
and blue awnings rocked at the edge of the calm lake, in charge of
their bronzed and red-capped boatmen, waiting for hire,--the air
was full of fragrance, and every visible thing appealed to beauty-
loving eyes with exquisite and irresistible charm. His attention,
however, had wandered far from the enjoyable prospect,--he was
reading and re-reading a letter he had just received from Miss
Leigh, in which certain passages occurred which caused him some
uneasiness. On leaving England he had asked her to write
regularly, giving him all the news of Innocent, and she had
readily undertaken what to her was a pleasing duty. His thoughts
were constantly with the little house in Kensington, where the
young daughter of his dead friend worked so patiently to bring
forth the fruits of her genius and live independently by their
results, and his intense sympathy for the difficult position in
which she had been placed through no fault of her own and the
courage with which she had surmounted it, was fast deepening into
affection. He rather encouraged this sentiment in himself with the
latent hope that possibly when he returned to England she might
still be persuaded to accept the position he was so ready to offer
her--that of daughter to him and heiress,--and just now he was
troubled by an evident anxiety which betrayed itself in Miss
Leigh's letter--anxiety which she plainly did her best to conceal,
but which nevertheless made itself apparent.

"The dear child works incessantly," she wrote, "but she is very
quiet and seems easily tired. She is not as bright as she used to
be, and looks very pale, so that I fear she is doing too much,
though she says she is perfectly well and happy. We had a call
from Mr. John Harrington the other afternoon--I think you know
him--and he seemed quite to think with me that she is over-working
herself. He suggested that I should persuade her to go for a
change somewhere, either with me or with other friends. I wonder
if you would care for us to join you at the Italian Lakes? If you
would I might be able to manage it. I have not mentioned the idea
to her yet, as I know she is finishing some work--but she tells me
it will all be done in a few days, and that then she will take a
rest. I hope she will, for I'm sure she needs it."

Another part of the letter ran as follows:--

"I rather hesitate to mention it, but I think so many prolonged
sittings for her portrait to that painter with the strange name,
Amadis de Jocelyn, have rather tired her out. The picture is
finished now, and I and a few friends went to see it the other
day. It is a most beautiful portrait, but very sad!--and it is
wonderful how the likeness of her father as he was in his young
days comes out in her face! She and Mr. de Jocelyn are very
intimate friends--and some people say he is in love with her!
Perhaps he may be!--but I do hope she is not in love with HIM!"

Lord Blythe took off his spectacles, folded up the letter and put
it in his pocket. Then he looked out towards the lake and the
charming picture it presented. How delightful it would be to see
Innocent in one of those dainty boats scattered about near the
water's edge, revelling with all the keenness of a bright,
imaginative temperament in the natural loveliness around her!
Young, and with the promise of a brilliant career opening out
before her, happiness seemed ready and waiting to bless and to
adorn the life of the little deserted girl who, left alone in the
world, had nevertheless managed to win the world's hearing through
the name she had made for herself--yet now--yes!--now there was
the cruel suggestion of a shadow--an ugly darkness like a black
cloud, blotting the fairness of a blue sky,--and Blythe felt an
uncomfortable sense of premonition and wrong as the thought of
Amadis de Jocelyn came into his head and stayed there. What was he
that he should creep into the unspoiled sphere of a woman's
opening life? A painter, something of a genius in his line, but
erratic and unstable in his character,--known more or less for
several "affairs of gallantry" which had slipped off his easy
conscience like water off a duck's back,--not a highly cultured
man by any means, because ignorant of many of the finer things in
art and letters, and without any positively assured position. Yet,
undoubtedly a man of strong physical magnetism and charm--
fascinating in his manner, especially on first acquaintance, and
capable of overthrowing many a stronger citadel than the tender
heart of a sensitive girl like Innocent, who by a most curious
mischance had been associated all her life with the romance of his
medieval name and lineage.

"Yes--of course she must come out here," Blythe decided, after a
few minutes' cogitation. "I'll send a wire to Miss Leigh this
morning and follow it up by a letter to the child herself, urging
her to join me. The change and distraction will perhaps save her
from too much association with Jocelyn,--I do not trust that man--
never have trusted him! Poor little girl! She shall not have her
spirit broken if I can help it."

He stayed yet another few minutes at the open window, and taking
out a cigar from his case began to light it. While doing this his
eye was suddenly caught by the picturesque, well-knit figure of a
man sitting easily on a step near the clustering boats gathered
close to the hotel's special landing place. He was apparently one
of the many road-side artists one meets everywhere about the
Italian Lakes, ready to paint a sunset or moonlight on Como or
Maggiore on commission at short notice for a few francs. He was
not young--his white hair and grizzled moustache marked the
unpleasing passage of resistless time,--yet there was something
lissom and graceful about him that suggested a kind of youth in
age. His attire consisted of much worn brown trousers and a loose
white shirt kept in place by a red belt,--his shirt sleeves were
rolled up to the elbow, displaying thin brown muscular arms,
expressive of energy, and he wore a battered brown hat which might
once have been of the so-called "Homburg" shape, but which now
resembled nothing ever seen in the way of ordinary head-gear. He
was busily engaged in sketching a view of the lake and the
opposite mountains, evidently to the order of some fashionably
dressed women who stood near him watching the rapid and sure
movements of his brush--he had his box of water-colours beside
him, and smiled and talked as he worked. Lord Blythe watched him
with lively interest, while enjoying the first whiffs of his
lately lit cigar.

"A clever chap, evidently!" he thought. "These Italians are all
artists and poets at heart. When those women have finished with
him I'll get him to do a sketch for me to send to Innocent--just
to show her the loveliness of the place. She'll be delighted! and
it may tempt her to come here."

He waited a few minutes longer, till he saw the artist hand over
the completed drawing to his lady patrons, one of whom paid him
with a handful of silver coin. Something in the bearing and
attitude of the man as he rose from the step where he had been
seated and lifted his shapeless brown hat to his customers in
courteous acknowledgment of their favours as they left him, struck
Blythe with an odd sense of familiarity.

"I must have seen him somewhere before," he thought. "In Venice,
perhaps--or Florence--these fellows are like gipsies, they wander
about everywhere."

He sauntered out of the Hotel into the garden and from the garden
down to the landing-place, where he slowly approached the artist,
who was standing with his back towards him, slipping his lately
earned francs into his trouser pocket. Several sample drawings
were set up in view beside him,--lovely little studies of lake and
mountain which would have done honour to many a Royal Academician,
and Blythe paused, looking at these with wonder and admiration
before speaking, unaware that the artist had taken a backward
glance at him of swift and more or less startled recognition.

"You are an admirable painter, my friend!" he said, at last--
speaking in Italian of which he was a master. "Your drawings are
worth much more than you are asking for them. Will you do one
specially for me?"

"I've done a good many for you in my time, Blythe!" was the half-
laughing answer, given in perfect English. "But I don't mind doing
another."

And he turned round, pushing his cap off his brows, and showing a
wonderfully handsome face, worn with years and privation, but fine
and noble-featured and full of the unquenchable light which is
given by an indomitable and enduring spirit.

Lord Blythe staggered back and caught at the handrail of the
landing steps to save himself from falling.

"My God!" he gasped. "You! You, of all men in the world! You!--
you, Pierce Armitage!"

And he stared wildly, his brain swimming,--his pulses beating
hammer-strokes--was it--could it be possible? The artist in brown
trousers and white shirt straightened himself, and instinctively
sought to assume a less tramp-like appearance, looking at his
former friend meanwhile with a half-glad, half-doubtful air.

"Well, well, Dick!" he said, after a moment's pause--"Don't take
it badly that you find me pursuing my profession in this
peripatetic style! It's a nice life--better than being a pavement
artist in Pimlico! You mustn't be afraid! I'm not going to claim
acquaintance with you before the public eye--you, a peer of the
realm, Dick! No, no! I won't shame you..."

"Shame me!" Blythe sprang forward and caught his hand in a close
warm grip. "Never say that, Pierce! You know me better! Thank God
you are here--alive!--thank God I have met you!--"

He stopped, too overcome to say another word, and wrung the hand
he held with unconscious fervour, tears springing to his eyes. The
two looked full at each other, and Armitage smiled a little
confusedly.

"Why, Dick!" he began,--then turning his head quickly he glanced
up at the clear blue sky to hide and to master his own emotion--"I
believe we feel like a couple of sentimental undergrads still,
Dick in spite of age and infirmities!"

He laughed forcedly, while Blythe, at last releasing his hand,
took him by the arm, regardless of the curious observation of some
of the hotel guests who were strolling about the garden and
terraces.

"Come with me, Pierce," he said, in hurried nervous accents--"I
have news for you--such news as you cannot guess or imagine. Put
away all those drawings and come inside the hotel--to my room--"
"What? In this guise?" and Armitage shook his head--"My dear
fellow, your enthusiasm is running away with you! Besides--there
is some one else to consider--"

"Some one else? Whom do you mean?" demanded Blythe with visible
impatience.

Armitage hesitated.

"Your wife," he said, at last.

Blythe looked him steadily in the eyes.

"My wife is dead."

"Dead!" Armitage loosened his arm from the other's hold, and stood
inert as though he had received a numbing blow. "Dead! When did
she die?"

In a few words Blythe told him.

Armitage heard in silence. Mechanically he began to collect his
drawings and put them in a portfolio. His face was pale under its
sun-browned tint,--his expression almost tragic. Lord Blythe
watched him for a moment, moved by strong heart-beats of affection
and compassion.

"Pierce," he then said, in a low tone--"I know everything!"

Armitage turned on him sharply.

"You--you know?--What?--How?--"

"She--Maude--told me all," said Blythe, gently--"And I think--your
wrong to her--was not so blameworthy as her wrong to you! But I
have something to tell you of one whose wrong is greater than hers
or yours--one who is Innocent!"

He emphasised the name, and Armitage started as though struck with
a whip.

"Innocent!" he muttered--"The child--yes!--but I couldn't make
enough to send money for it after a while--I paid as long as I
could--"

He trembled,--his fine eyes had a strained look of anguish in
them.

"Not dead too?" he said--"Surely not--the people at the farm had a
good name--they would not be cruel to a child--"

Blythe gripped him by the arm.

"Come," he said--"We cannot talk here--there are too many people
about--I must have you to myself. Never mind your appearance--many
an R. A. cuts a worse figure than you do for the sake of 'pose'!
You are entirely picturesque"--and he relieved his pent-up
feelings by a laugh--"And there's nothing strange in your coming
to my room to see the particular view I want from my windows."

Thus persuaded, Armitage gathered his drawings and painting
materials together, and followed his friend, who quickly led the
way into the Hotel. The gorgeously liveried hall-porter nodded
familiarly to the artist, whom he had seen for several seasons
selling his work on the landing, and made a good-natured comment
on his "luck" in having secured the patronage of a rich English
"Milor," but otherwise little notice was taken of the incongruous
couple as they passed up the stairs to "Milor's" private rooms on
the first floor, where, as soon as they entered, Blythe shut and
locked the door.

"Now, Pierce, I have you!" he said, affectionately taking him by
the shoulders and pushing him towards a chair. "Why, in heaven's
name, did you never let me know you were alive? Everyone thought
you were dead years and years ago!"

Armitage sat down, and taking off his cap, passed his hand through
his thick crop of silvery hair.

"I spread that report myself," he said. "I wanted to get out of it
all--to give up!--to forget that such a place as London existed. I
was sick to death of it!--of its conventions, and vile
hypocrisies--its 'bounders' in art as in everything else!--
besides, I should have been in the way--Maude was tired of me--"

He broke off, with an abstracted look.

"You know all about it, you say?" he went on after a pause--"She
told you--"

"She told me the night she died," answered Blythe quietly--"After
a silence of nearly twenty years!"

Armitage gave a short, sharp sigh. "Women are strange creatures!"
he said. "I don't think they know when they are loved. I loved
her--much more than she knew,--she seemed to me the most beautiful
thing on earth!--and when she asked me to run away with her--"

"She asked you?"

"Yes--of course! Do you think I would have taken her against her
own wish and will? She suggested and planned the whole thing--and
I was mad for her at the time--even now those weeks we passed
together seem to me the only real living of my life! I thought she
loved me as I loved her--and if she had married me, as I begged
her to do, I believe I should have done something as a painter,--
something great, I mean. But she got tired of my 'art-jargon,' as
she called it--and she couldn't bear the idea of having to rough
it a bit before I could hope to make any large amount of money.
Then I was disappointed--and I told her so--and SHE was
disappointed, and she told ME so--and we quarrelled--but when I
heard a child was to be born, I urged her again to marry me--"

"And she refused?" interposed Blythe.

"She refused. She said she intended to make a rich marriage and
live in luxury. And she declared that if I ever loved her at all,
the only way to prove it was to get rid of the child. I don't
think she would have cared if I had been brute enough to kill it."

Blythe gave a gesture of horror.

"Don't say that, man! Don't think it!"

Armitage sighed.

"Well, I can't help it, Blythe! Some women go callous when they've
had their fling. Maude was like that. She didn't care for me any
more,--she saw nothing in front of her but embarrassment and
trouble if her affair with me was found out--and as it was all in
my hands I did the best I could think of,--took the child away and
placed it with kind country folks--and removed myself from England
and out of Maude's way altogether. The year after I came abroad I
heard she had married you,--rather an unkind turn of fate, you
being my oldest friend! and this was what made me resolve to
'die'--that is, to be reported dead, so that she might have no
misgivings about me or my turning up unexpectedly to cause you any
annoyance. I determined to lose myself and my name too--no one
knows me here as Pierce Armitage,--I'm Pietro Corri for all the
English amateur art-lovers in Italy!"

He laughed rather bitterly.

"I think I lost a good deal more than myself and my name!" he went
on. "I believe if I had stayed in England I should have won
something of a reputation. But--you see, I really loved Maude--in
a stupid man's way of love,--I didn't want to worry her or remind
her of her phase of youthful madness with me--or cause scandal to
her in any way--"

"But did you ever think of the child?" interrupted Blythe,
suddenly.

Armitage looked up.

"Think of it? Of course I did! The place where I left it was
called Briar Farm,--a wonderful old sixteenth-century house--I
made a drawing of it once when the apple-blossom was out--and the
owner of it, known as Farmer Jocelyn, had a wonderful reputation
in the neighbourhood for integrity and kindness. I left the child
with him--one stormy night in autumn--saying I would come back for
it--of course I never did--but for twelve years I sent money for
it from different places in Europe--and before I left England I
told Maude where it was, in case she ever wanted to see it--not
that such an idea would ever occur to her! I thought the
probabilities were that the farmer, having no children of his own,
would be likely to adopt the one left on his hands, and that she
would grow up a happy, healthy country lass, without a care, and
marry some good, sound, simple rustic fellow. But you know
everything, I suppose!--or so your looks imply. Is the child
alive?"

Lord Blythe held up his hand.

"Now, Pierce, it is my turn," he said--"Your share in the story I
already knew in part--but one thing you have not told me--one
wrong you have not confessed."

"Oh, there are a thousand wrongs I have committed," said Armitage,
with a slight, weary gesture. "Life and love have both
disappointed me--and I suppose when that sort of thing happens a
man goes more or less to the dogs--"

"Life and love have disappointed a good many folks," said Blythe--
"Women perhaps more than men. And one woman especially, who hardly
merited disappointment--one who loved you very truly, Pierce!--
have you any idea who it is I mean?"

Armitage moved restlessly,--a slight flush coloured his face.

"You mean Lavinia Leigh?" he said--"Yes--I behaved like a cad. I
know it! But--I could not help myself. Maude drew me on with her
lovely eyes and smile! And to think she is dead!--all that beauty
in the grave!--cold and mouldering!" He covered his eyes with one
hand, and a visible tremor shook him. "Somehow I have always
fancied her as young as ever and endowed with a sort of earthly
immortality! She was so bright, so imperious, so queen-like! You
ask me why I did not let you know I was living? Blythe, I would
have died in very truth by my own hand rather than trouble her
peace in her married life with you!" He paused--then glanced up at
his friend, with the wan flicker of a smile--"And--do you know
Lavinia Leigh?"

"I do," answered Blythe--"I know and honour her! And--your
daughter is with her now!"

Armitage sprang up.

"My daughter! With Lavinia! No!--impossible--incredible!--"

"Sit down again, Pierce," and Lord Blythe himself drew up a chair
close to Armitage--"Sit down and be patient! You know the lines--
'There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we
will'? Divinity has worked in strange ways with you, Pierce!--and
still more strangely with your child. Will you listen while I tell
you all?"

Armitage sank into his chair,--his hands trembled--he was greatly
agitated,--and his eyes were fixed on his friend's face in an
eager passion of appeal.

"I will listen as if you were an angel speaking, Dick!" he said.
"Let me know the worst!--or the best--of everything!"

And Blythe, in a low quiet voice, thrilled in its every accent by
the affection and sympathy of his honest spirit, told him the
whole story of Innocent--of her sweetness and prettiness--of her
grace and genius--of the sudden and brilliant fame she had won as
"Ena Armitage"--of the brief and bitter knowledge she had been
given of her mother--of her strange chance in going straight to
the house of Miss Leigh when she travelled alone and unguided from
the country to London--and lastly of his own admiration for her
courage and independence, and his desire to adopt her as a
daughter in order to leave her his fortune.

"But now you have turned up, Pierce, I resign my hopes in that
direction!" he concluded, with a smile. "You are her father!--and
you may well be proud of such a daughter! And there is a duty
staring you in the face--a duty towards her which, when once
performed, will release her from a good deal of pain and
perplexity--you know what it is?"

"Rather!" and Armitage rose and began pacing to and fro--"To
acknowledge and legalise her as my child! I can do this now--and I
will! I can declare she was born in wedlock, now Maude is dead--
for no one will ever know. The real identity of her mother"--he
paused and came up to Blythe, resting his hands on his shoulders--
"the real identity of her mother is and shall ever be OUR secret!"

There was a pause. Then Armitage's mellow musical voice again
broke the silence.

"I can never thank you, Blythe!" he said--"You blessed old man as
you are! You seem to me like a god disguised in a tweed suit! You
have changed life for me altogether! I must cease to be a
wandering scamp on the face of the earth!--I must try to be worthy
of my fair and famous daughter! How strange it seems! Little
Innocent!--the poor baby I left to the mercies of a farm-yard
training!--for her I must become respectable! I think I'll even
try to paint a great picture, so that she isn't ashamed of her
Dad! What do you say? Will you help me?"

He laughed,--but there were great tears in his eyes. They clasped
hands silently.

Then Lord Blythe spoke in a light tone.

"I'll wire to Miss Leigh this morning," he said. "I'll ask her to
come out here with Innocent as soon as possible. I won't break the
news of YOU to them yet--it would quite overpower Miss Leigh--it
might almost kill her--"

"Why, how?" asked Armitage.

"With joy!" answered Blythe. "Hers is a faithful soul!"

He waited a moment--then went on:

"I'll prepare the way cautiously in a letter--it would never do to
blurt the whole thing out at once. I'll tell Innocent I have a
very great and delightful surprise awaiting her--"

"Oh, very great and delightful indeed!" echoed Armitage with a sad
little laugh. "The discovery of a tramp father with only a couple
of shirts to his back and a handful of francs in his pocket!"

"My dear chap, what does that matter?" and Blythe gave him a light
friendly blow on the shoulder. "We can put all these exterior
matters right in no time. Trust me!--Are we not old friends? You
have come back from death, as it seems, just when your child may
need you--she DOES need you--every young girl needs some protector
in this world, especially when her name has become famous, and a
matter of public talk and curiosity. Ah! I can already see her joy
when she throws her arms around your neck and says 'My father!' I
would gladly change places with you for that one exquisite
moment!"

They stayed together all that day and night. Lord Blythe sent his
wire to Miss Leigh, and wrote his letter,--then both men settled
down, as it were, to wait. Armitage went off for two days to
Milan, and returned transformed in dress, looking the very beau-
ideal of an handsome Englishman,--and the people at Bellaggio who
had known him as the wandering landscape painter "Pietro Corri"
failed to recognise him now in his true self.

"Yes," said Blythe again, with the fine unselfishness which was
part of his nature, when at the end of one of their many
conversations concerning Innocent, he had gone over every detail
he could think of which related to her life and literary success--
"When she comes she will give you all her heart, Pierce! She will
be proud and glad,--she will think of no one but her beloved
father! She is like that! She is full of an unspent love--you will
possess it all!"

And in his honest joy for the joy of others, he never once thought
of Amadis de Jocelyn.




CHAPTER XI

It was a gusty September afternoon in London, and autumn had given
some unpleasing signs of its early presence in the yellow leaves
that flew whirling over the grass in Kensington Gardens and other
open spaces where trees spread their kind boughs to the rough and
chilly wind. A pretty little elm in Miss Leigh's tiny garden was
clothed in gold instead of green, and shook its glittering foliage
down with every breath of air like fairy coins minted from the
sky. Innocent, leaning from her study window, watched the falling
brightness with an unwilling sense of pain and foreboding.

"Summer is over, I'm afraid!" she sighed--"Such a wonderful summer
it has been for me!--the summer of my life--the summer of my love!
Oh, dear summer, stay just a little longer!"

And the verse of a song, sung so often as to have become
hackneyed, rang in her ears--

"Falling leaf and fading tree, Lines of white in a sullen sea,
Shadows rising on you and me--The swallows are making them ready
to fly, Wheeling out on a windy sky: Good-bye, Summer! Good-bye,
good-bye!"

She shivered, and closed the window. She was dressed for going
out, and her little motor-brougham waited for her below. Miss
Leigh had gone to lunch and to spend the afternoon with some old
friends residing out of town,--an unusual and wonderful thing for
her to do, as she seldom accepted invitations now where Innocent
was not concerned,--but the people who had asked her were
venerable folk who could not by the laws of nature be expected to
live very much longer, and as they had known Lavinia Leigh from
girlhood she considered it somewhat of a duty to go and see them
when, as in this instance, they earnestly desired it. Moreover she
knew Innocent had her own numerous engagements and was never
concerned at being left alone--especially on this particular
afternoon when she had an appointment with her publishers,--and
another appointment afterwards, of which she said nothing, even to
herself. She had taken more than usual pains with her attire, and
looked her sweetest in a soft dove-coloured silk gown gathered
about her slight figure in cunning folds of exquisite line and
drapery, while the tender gold of her hair shone like ripening
corn from under the curved brim of a graceful "picture" hat of
black velvet, adorned with one drooping pale grey plume. A small
knot of roses nestled among the delicate lace on her bodice, and
the diamond dove-pendant Lord Blythe had given her sparkled like a
frozen sunbeam against the ivory whiteness of her throat. She
glanced at herself in the mirror with a smile,--wondering if "he"
would be pleased with her appearance,--"he" had been what is
called "difficult" of late, finding fault with some of the very
points of her special way of dress which he had once eagerly
admired. But she attributed his capricious humour to fatigue and
irritability from "over-strain"--that convenient ailment which is
now-a-days brought in as a disguise for mere want of control and
bad temper. "He has been working so hard to finish his portrait of
me!" she thought, tenderly--"Poor fellow!--he must have got quite
tired of looking at my face!"

She glanced round her study to see that everything was in order--
and then took up a neatly tied parcel of manuscript--her third
book--completed. She had a fancy--one of many, equally harmless,--
that she would like to deliver it herself to the publishers rather
than send it by post, on this day of all days, when plans for the
future were to be discussed with her lover and everything settled
for their mutual happiness. Her heart grew light with joyous
anticipation as she ran downstairs and nodded smilingly at the
maid Rachel, who stood ready at the door to open it for her
passing.

"If Miss Leigh comes home before I do, tell her I will not be
long," she said, as she stepped into her brougham and was whirled
away. At the office of her publishers she was expected and
received with eager homage. The head of the firm took the precious
packet of manuscript from her hand with a smile of entire
satisfaction.

"You are up to your promised time, Miss Armitage!" he said,
kindly--"And you must have worked very hard. I hope you'll give
yourself a good long rest now?"

She laughed, lightly.

"Oh, well!--perhaps!" she answered--"If I feel I can afford it! I
want to work while I'm young--not to rest. But I think Miss Leigh
would like a change--and if she does I'll take her wherever she
wishes to go. She is so kind to me!--I can never do enough for
her!"

The publisher looked at her sweet, thoughtful face curiously.

"Do you never think of yourself?" he asked--"Must you always plan
some pleasure for others?"

She glanced at him in quick surprise.

"Why, of course!" she replied--"Pleasure for others is the only
pleasure possible to me. I assure you I'm quite selfish!--I'm
greedy for the happiness of those I love--and if they can't or
won't be happy I'm perfectly miserable!"

He smiled,--and when she left, escorted her himself out of his
office to her brougham with a kind friendliness that touched her.

"You won't let me call you a brilliant author," he said, as he
shook hands with her--"Perhaps it will please you better if I say
you are a true woman!"

Her eyes flashed up a bright gratitude,--she waved her hand in
parting--as the brougham glided off. And never to his dying day
did that publisher and man of hard business detail forget the
radiance of the face that smiled at him that afternoon,--a face of
light and youth and loveliness, as full of hope and faith as the
face of a pictured angel kneeling at the feet of the Madonna with
heaven's own glory encircling it in gold.

The quick little motor-brougham seemed unusually slow-going that
afternoon. Innocent, with her full happy heart and young pulsing
blood, grew impatient with its tardy progress, yet, as a matter of
fact, it travelled along at its most rapid speed. The well-known
by-street near Holland Park was reached at last, and while the
brougham went off to an accustomed retired corner chosen by the
chauffeur to await her pleasure, she pushed open the gate of the
small garden leading to the back entrance of Jocelyn's studio--a
garden now looking rather damp and dreary, strewn as it was with
wet masses of fallen leaves. It was beginning to rain--and she ran
swiftly along the path to the familiar door which she opened with
her private key. Jocelyn was working at his easel--he heard the
turn of the lock and looked round. She entered, smiling--but he
did not at once go and meet her. He was finishing off some special
touch of colour over which he bent with assiduous care,--and she
was far too unselfishly interested in his work to disturb him at
what seemed to be an anxious moment. So she waited.

Presently he spoke, with a certain irritability in his tone.

"Are you there? I wish you would come forward where I can see
you!"

She laughed--a pretty rippling laugh of kindly amusement.

"Amadis! If you are a true Knight, it is you who should turn round
and look at me for yourself!"

"But I am busy," he said, with the same sharpness of voice--
"Surely you see that?"

She made no answer, but moved quietly to a position where she
stood facing him at about an arm's length. Never had she made a
prettier picture than in that attitude of charming hesitation,
with a tender little smile on her pretty mouth and a wistful light
in her eyes. He laid down his palette and brushes.

"I must give up work for to-day," he said--and going to her he
took her in his arms--"You are too great an attraction for me to
resist!" He kissed her lightly, as he would have kissed a child.
"You are very fascinating this afternoon! Are you bent on some new
conquest?"

She gave him a sweet look.

"Why will you talk nonsense, my Amadis!" she said--"You know I
never wish for 'conquests' as you call them,--I only want you!
Nothing but you!"

With his arm about her he drew her to a corner of the studio, half
curtained, where there was a double settee or couch, comfortably
cushioned, and here he sat down still holding her in his embrace.

"You only want me!--Nothing but me!" he repeated, softly--"Dear
little Innocent!--Ah!--But I fear I am just what you cannot have!"

She smiled, not understanding.

"What do you mean?" she asked--"You always play with me! Are you
not all mine as I am all yours?"

He was silent. Then he slowly withdrew his arm from her waist.

"Now, child," he said--"listen to me and be good and sensible! You
know this cannot go on."

She lifted her eyes trustfully to his face.

"What cannot go on?" she queried, as softly as though the question
were a caress.

He moved restlessly.

"Why--this--this love-making, of ours! We mustn't give ourselves
over to sentiment--we must be normal and practical. We must look
the thing squarely in the face and settle on some course that will
be best and wisest for us both--"

She trembled a little. Something cold and terrifying began to
creep through her blood.

"Yes--I know," she faltered, nervously--"You said--you said we
would arrange everything together to-day."

"True! So I did! Well, I will!" He drew closer to her and took her
little hand in his own. "You see, dear, we can't live on the
heights of ecstasy for ever" and he smiled,--a forced, ugly smile
--"We've had a very happy time together, haven't we?"--and he was
conscious of a certain nervousness as he felt her soft little body
press against him in answer--"But the time has come for us to
think of other things--other interests--your career,--my future--"

She looked up at him in sudden alarm.

"Amadis!" she said--"What is it? You frighten me!--you speak so
strangely! What do you mean?"

"Now if you are unreasonable I shall go away!" he said, with
sudden harshness, dropping her hand--"I shall leave you here by
yourself without another word!"

She turned deathly pale--then flushed a faint crimson--a sense of
giddy faintness overcame her,--she put up her hands to her head
tremblingly, and loosening her hat took it off as though its
weight oppressed her.

"I--I am not unreasonable, Amadis," she faltered--"only--I don't
understand--"

"Well, you ought to understand," he answered, heatedly--"A clever
little woman like you who writes books should not want any
explanation. You ought to be able to grasp the whole position at a
glance!"

Her breath came and went quickly--she tried to smile.

"I'm afraid I'm very stupid then," she answered, gently--"For I
can only see that you seem angry with me for nothing."

He took her hand again.

"Dear little goose, I am not angry," he said--"If you were to make
me a 'scene' I SHOULD be angry--very angry! But you won't do that,
will you? It would upset my nerves. And you are such a wise,
independent little person that I feel quite safe with you. Well,
now let us talk sensibly,--I've a great deal to tell you. In the
first place, I'm going to Algiers."

Her lips were dry and stiff, but she managed to ask--

"When?"

"Oh, any time!--to-morrow... next day--before the week is over,
certainly. There are some fine subjects out there that I want to
paint--and I feel I could do good work--"

Her hand in his contracted a little,--she instinctively withdrew
it... then she heard herself speaking as though it were someone
else a long way off.

"When are you coming back?"

"Ah!--That's my own affair!" he answered carelessly--"In the
spring perhaps,--perhaps not for a year or two--"

"Amadis!"

The name sprang from her lips like the cry of an animal wounded to
death. She rose suddenly from his side and stood facing him,
swaying slightly like a reed in a cruel wind.

"Well!" he rejoined--"You say 'Amadis' as though it hurt you! What
now?"

"Do you mean," she said, faintly--"by--what--you--say,--do you
mean--that we are--to part?"

The strained agony in her eyes compelled him to turn his own away.
He got up from the settee and left her where she stood.

"We must part sooner or later," he answered, lightly--"surely you
know that?"

"Surely I know that!" she repeated, with a bewildered look,--then
running to him, she caught his arm--"Amadis! Amadis! You don't
mean it!--say you don't mean it!--You can't mean it, if you love
me! ... Oh, my dearest!--if you love me! ..."

She stopped, half choked by a throbbing ache in her throat,--and
tottered against him as though about to fall. Alarmed at this he
caught her round the waist to support her.

"Of course I love you!" he said, hurriedly--"When you are good and
reasonable!--not when you behave like this! If I DON'T love you,
it will be quite your own fault--"

"My own fault?" she murmured, sobbingly--"My own fault? Amadis!
What have I done?"

"What have you done? It's what you are doing that matters! Giving
way to temper and making me uncomfortable! Do you call that
'love'?"

She dropped her hand from his arm and drew herself away from him.
She was trembling from head to foot.

"Please--please don't misunderstand me!" she stammered, like a
frightened child--"I--I have no temper! I--I--feel nothing--I only
want to please you--to know what you wish--"

She broke off--her eyes, lifted to his, had a strange, wild stare,
but he was too absorbed in his own particular and personal
difficulty to notice this. He went on, speaking rapidly--

"If you want to please me you will first of all be perfectly
normal," he said--"Make up your mind to be calm and good-natured.
I cannot stand an emotional woman all tantrums and tears. I like
good sense and good manners. You ought to have both, with all the
books you have read--"

She gave a sudden low laugh, empty of mirth.

"Books!" she echoed--and raising her arms above her head she let
them drop again at her sides with a gesture of utter abandonment.
"Ah yes! Books! Books by the Sieur Amadis de Jocelin!"

Her hair was ruffled and fell about her face,--her cheeks had
flamed into a feverish red. The tragic beauty of her expression
annoyed him.

"Your hair is coming down," he said, with a coldly critical smile
--"You look like a Bacchante!"

She paid no attention to this remark. She was apparently talking
to herself.

"Books!" she said again--"Such sweet love-letters and poems by the
Sieur Amadis de Jocelin!"

He grew impatient.

"You're a silly child!" he said--"Are you going to listen to me or
not?"

She gazed at him with an almost awful directness.

"I am listening!" she answered.

"Well, don't be melodramatic while you listen!" he retorted--"Be
normal!"

She was silent, still gazing fixedly at him.

He turned his eyes away, and taking up one of his brushes, dipped
it in colour and made a great pretence of working in a bit of sky
on his canvas.

"You see, dear child," he resumed, with an unctuous air of patient
kindness--"your ideas of love and mine are totally different. You
want to live in a paradise of romance and tenderness--I want
nothing of the sort. Of course, with a sweet caressable creature
like you it's very pleasant to indulge in a little folly for a
time,--and we've had quite four months of the 'divine rapture' as
the poets call it,--four months is a long time for any rapture to
last! You have--yes!--you have amused me!--and I've made you
happy--given you something to think about besides scribbling and
publishing--yes--I'm sure I have made you happy--and,--what is
much more to my credit--I have taken care of you and left you
unharmed. Think of that! Day after day I have had you here
entirely in my power!--and yet--and yet"--here he turned his cold
blue eyes upon her with an under-gleam of mockery in their steely
light--"you are still--Innocent!"

She did not move--she scarcely seemed to breathe.

"That is why I told you it would be a good thing for you if you
accepted Lord Blythe's offer,--in his great position he would be
able to marry you well to some rich fellow with a title"--he went
on, easily. "Now I am not a marrying man. Domestic bliss would not
suit me. I have sometimes thought it would hardly suit YOU!"

She stirred slightly, as though some invisible creature had
touched her, and held up one little trembling hand.

"Stop!" she said, and her voice though faint was clear and steady
--"Do you think--can you imagine that I am of so low and common a
nature as to marry any man, after--" She paused, struggling with
herself.

"After what?" he queried, smilingly.

She shuddered, as with keenest cold.

"After your kisses!" she answered--"After your embraces which have
held me away from everything save you!--After your caresses--oh
God!--after all this,--do you think I would shame my body and
perjure my soul by giving myself to another man?"

He almost laughed at her saintly idea of a lover's chastity.

"Every woman would!" he declared--"And I'm sure every woman does!"

She looked straight before her into vacancy.

"I am not 'every woman,'" she said, slowly--"I am only one unhappy
girl!"

He was still dabbing colour on his canvas, but now threw down his
brush and came to her.

"Dear child, why be tragic?" he said--"Life is such a pleasant
thing and holds so much for both of us! I shall always love you--
if you're good!" and he laughed, pleasantly--"and you can always
love ME--if you like! But I cannot marry you--I have never thought
of such a thing! Marriage would not suit me at all. I know, of
course, what YOU would like. You would like a grand wedding with
lots of millinery and presents, and then a honeymoon at your old
Briar Farm--in fact, I daresay you'd like to buy Briar Farm and
imprison me there for life, along with the dust and ashes of my
ancestor's long-lost brother--but I shouldn't like it! No, child!
--not even you, attractive as you are, could turn me into a Farmer
Jocelyn!"

He tried to take her in his arms, but she drew herself back from
him.

"You speak truly," she said, in a measured, lifeless tone--
"Nothing could turn you into a Farmer Jocelyn. For he was an
honest man!"

He winced as though a whip had struck him, and an ugly frown
darkened his features.

"He would not have hurt a dog that trusted him," she went on in
the same monotonous way--"He would not have betrayed a soul that
loved him!"

All at once the unnatural rigidity of her face broke up into
piteous, terrible weeping, and she flung herself at his feet.

"Amadis, Amadis!" she cried. "It is not--it cannot be you who are
so cruel!--no, no!--it is some devil that speaks to me--not you,
not you, my love, my heart! Oh, say it isn't true!--say it isn't
true! Have mercy--mercy! I love you, I love you! You are all my
life!--I cannot live without you! Amadis!"

Vexed and frightened for himself at her sudden wild abandonment of
grief, he stooped, and gripping her by the arm tried to draw her
up from the floor.

"Be quiet!" he said, roughly--"I will not have a scandal here in
my studio! You'll bring my man-servant up in a moment with your
stupid noise! I'm ashamed of you!--screaming and crying like a
virago! If you make this row I shall go away!"

"Oh, no, no, no!--do not go away!" she moaned, sobbingly--"Have
some little pity! Do not leave me, Amadis! Is everything forgotten
so soon? Think for a moment what you have said to me!--what you
have been to me! I thought you loved me, dear!--yes, I thought you
loved me!--you told me so!" And she held up her little hands to
him folded as in prayer, the tears raining down her cheeks--"But
if for some fault of mine you do not love me any more, kill me
now--here--just where I am!--kill me, Amadis!--or tell me to go
away and kill myself--I will obey you!--but don't--don't send me
into the empty darkness of life again all alone! Oh, no, no! Let
me die rather than that!--you would not think unkindly of me if I
were dead!"

He took her uplifted hands in his own--he began to be
"artistically" interested,--with the same sort of interest Nero
might have felt while watching the effects of some new poison on a
tortured slave,--and a slight, very slight sense of regret and
remorse tugged at his tough heart-strings.

"I should think of you exactly as I do now," he said, resolutely--
"If you were to kill yourself I should not pity you in the least!
I should say that though you were a bit of a clever woman, you
were much more of a fool! So you would gain nothing that way! You
see, I'm sane and sensible--you are not. You are excited and
hysterical--and don't know what you are talking about. Yes,
child!--that's the fact!" He patted the hands he held consolingly,
and then let them go. "I wish you'd get up from the floor and be
reasonable! The position is quite simple and clear. We've had an
ideal time of it together--but isn't it Shakespeare who says
'These violent delights have violent ends'? My work calls me to
Algiers--yours keeps you in London--therefore we must part--but we
shall meet again--some day--I hope..."

She slowly rose to her feet,--her sobbing ceased.

"Then--you never loved me?" she said--"It was all a lie?"

"I never lie," he answered, coldly--"I loved you--for the time
being. You amused me."

"And for your 'amusement' you have ruined me?"

"Ruined you?" He turned upon her in indignant protest--"You must
be mad! You have been as safe with me as in the arms of your
mother--"

At this she laughed,--a shrill little laugh with tears submerging
it.

"You may laugh, but it is true!" he went on, in a righteously
aggrieved tone--"I have done you no harm,--on the contrary, you
have to thank me for a great deal of happiness--"

She gave a tragic gesture of eloquent despair.

"Oh, yes, I have to thank you!" she said, and her voice now
vibrated with intense and passionate sorrow--"I have to thank you
for so much--for so very much indeed! You have been so kind and
good! Yes! And you have never thought of yourself or your own
pleasure at all--but only of me! And I have been as safe with you
as in my mother's arms, ... yes!--you have been quite as careful of
me as she was!" And a wan smile flitted over her agonised face--
"All this I have to thank you for!--but you have ruined me just
the same--not my body, but my soul!"

He looked at her,--she returned his gaze unflinchingly with eyes
that glowed like burning stars--and he thought she was, as he put
it to himself, "calming down." He laughed, a little uneasily.

"Soul is an unknown quantity," he said--"It doesn't count."

She seemed not to hear him.

"You have ruined my soul!" she repeated steadily--"You have stolen
it from God--you have made it all your own--for your 'amusement'!
What remainder of life have you left to me? Nothing! I have no
hope, no faith, no power to work--no ambition to fulfil--no dreams
to realise! You gave me love--as I thought!--and I lived; you take
love from me, and I die!"

He bent his eyes upon her with a kind, almost condescending
gentleness,--his personal vanity was immense, and the utter
humiliation of her love for him flattered the deep sense he had of
his own value.

"Dear little goose, you will not die!" he said--"For heaven's sake
have done with all this sentimental talk!--I am not a man who can
tolerate it. You are such a pleasant creature when you are
cheerful and self-possessed,--so bright and clever and
companionable--and there is no reason why we shouldn't make love
to each other again as often as we like,--but change and novelty
are good for both of us. Come!--kiss me!--be a good child--and let
us part friends!"

He approached her,--there was a smile on his lips--a smile in
which lurked a suspicion of mockery as well as victorious self-
satisfaction. She saw it--and swiftly there came swooping over her
brain the horrible realisation of the truth--that it was all
over!--that never, never again would she be able to dwell on the
amorous looks and words and love-phrases of HER "Amadis de
Jocelyn!"--that no happy future was in store for her with him--
that he had no interest whatever in her cherished memories of
Briar Farm, and that he would never care to accept the right of
dwelling there even if she secured it for him,--moreover, that he
viewed her very work with indifference, and had no concern as to
her name or fame--so that everything--every pretty fancy, every
radiant hope, every happy possibility was at an end. Life
stretched before her dreary as the dreariest desert--for her,
whose nature was to love but once, there was no gleam of light in
all the world's cruel darkness! A red mist swam before her eyes--
black clouds seemed descending upon her and whirling round about
her--she looked wildly from right to left, as though seeking to
escape from some invisible pursuer. Startled at her expression
Jocelyn tried to hold her--but she shook him off. She made a few
unsteady steps along the floor.

"What is it?" he said--"Innocent--don't stare like that!"

She smiled strangely and nodded at him--she was fingering the
plant of marguerite daisies that stood in its accustomed place
between the easel and the wall. She plucked a flower and began
hurriedly stripping off its petals.

"'Il m'aime--un peu!--beaucoup--passionement--pas du tout!' Pas du
tout!" she cried--"Amadis! Amadis de Jocelyn! You hear what it
says? Pas du tout! You promised it should never come to that!--but
it has come!"

She threw away the stripped flower, ... there was a quick hot
throbbing behind her temples--she put up her hands--then all
suddenly a sharp involuntary scream broke from her lips. He sprang
towards her to seize and silence her--she stuffed her handkerchief
into her mouth.

"I'm sorry!" she panted--"Forgive!--I couldn't help it!--Amadis--
Amadis!--"

And she flung herself against his breast. Her eyes, large and
feverishly brilliant, searched his face for any sign of
tenderness, and searched in vain.

"Say it isn't true!" she whispered--"Amadis--oh my love, say it
isn't true!" Her little hands caressed him--she drew his head down
towards her and her pleading kiss touched his lips. "Say that you
didn't really mean it!--that you love me still--Amadis!--you could
not be cruel!--you will not break my heart!--"

But he was too angry to be pitiful. Her scream had infuriated him
--he thought it would alarm the street, bring up the servant, and
give rise to all sorts of scandal in which he might be implicated,
and he roughly loosened her clinging arms from his neck and pushed
her from him.

"Break your heart!" he exclaimed, bitterly--"I wish I could break
your temper! You behave like a madwoman; I shall go away to my
room! When I come back I expect to find you calm, and reasonable--
or else, gone! Remember!"

She stood gazing at him as though petrified. He swung past her
rapidly, and opening the principal door of the studio passed
through it and disappeared. She ran to it--tried to open it--it
was locked on the other side. She was alone.

She looked about her bewildered, like a child that has lost its
way. She saw her pretty little velvet hat on the settee where she
had left it, and in a trembling hurry she put it on--then paused.
Going on tip-toe to the easel, she looked vaguely at her own
portrait and smiled.

"You must be good and reasonable!" she said, waving her hand to
it--"When you have lost every thing in the world, you must be
calm! You mustn't think of love any more!--that's only a fancy!--
you mustn't--no, you mustn't have any fancies or your dove will
fly away! You are holding it to your heart just now--and it seems
quite safe--but it will fly away presently--yes!--it will fly
away!"

She lifted the painter's palette and looked curiously at it,--then
took up the brush, moist with colour, which Jocelyn had lately
used. Softly she kissed its handle and laid it down again. Then
she waited, with a puzzled air, and listened. There was no sound.
Another moment, and she moved noiselessly, almost creepingly to
the little private door by which she had always entered the
studio, and unlocking it, slipped out leaving the key in the lock.
It was raining heavily, but she was not conscious of this,--she
had no very clear idea what she was doing. There was a curious
calm upon her,--a kind of cold assertiveness, like that of a dying
person who has strength enough to ask for some dear friend's
presence before departing from life. She walked steadily to the
place where her motor-brougham waited for her, and entered it. The
chauffeur looked at her for orders.

"To Paddington Station," she said--"I am going out of town. Stop
at the first telegraph office on your way."

The man touched his hat. He thought she seemed very ill, but it
was his place to obey instructions, not to proffer sympathy. At
the telegraph office she got out, moving like one in a dream and
sent a wire to Miss Leigh.

"Am staying with friends out of town. Don't wait up for me."

Back to the brougham she went, still in a dream-like apathy, and
at Paddington dismissed the chauffeur.

"If I want you in the morning, I will let you know," she said,
with matter-of-fact composure, and turning, was lost at once in
the crowd of passengers pouring into the station.

The man was for a moment puzzled by the paleness of her face and
the wildness of her eyes, but like most of his class, made little
effort to think beyond the likelihood of everything being "all
right to-morrow," and went his way.

Meanwhile Miss Leigh had returned to her house to find it bereft
of its living sunshine. There were two telegrams awaiting her,--
one from Lord Blythe, urging her to start at once with Innocent
for Italy--the other from Innocent herself, which alarmed her by
its unusual purport. In all the time she had lived with her "god-
mother" the girl had never stayed away a night, and that she was
doing so now worried and perplexed the old lady to an acute degree
of nervous anxiety. John Harrington happened to call that evening,
and on hearing what had occurred, became equally anxious with
herself, and, moved by some curious instinct, went, on his way
home, to Jocelyn's studio to ascertain if Innocent had been there
that afternoon. But he knocked and rang at the door in vain,--all
was dark and silent. Amadis de Jocelyn was a wise man in his
generation. When he had returned to confront Innocent again and
find her, as he had suggested, either recovered from her "temper"
and "calm and reasonable"--or else "gone"--he had rejoiced to see
that she had accepted the latter alternative. There was no trace
of her save the unlocked private door of the studio, which he now
locked, putting the key in his pocket. He gave a long breath of
relief--a sort of "Thank God that's over!"--and arranged his
affairs of both art and business with such dispatch as to leave
for Paris in peace and comfort by the night boat-train.




CHAPTER XII

That evening the fitful and gusty wind increased to a gale which
swept the land with devastating force, breaking down or uprooting
great trees that had withstood the storms of centuries, and
torrential rain fell, laying whole tracts of country under water.
All round the coast the sea was lashed into a tossing tumult, the
waves rolling in like great green walls of water streaked with
angry white as though flashed with lightning, and the weather
reports made the usual matter-of-fact statement that "Cross-
Channel steamers made rough passages." Winds and waves, however,
had no disturbing effect on the mental or physical balance of
Amadis de Jocelyn, who, wrapped in a comfortable fur-lined
overcoat, sat in a sheltered corner on the deck of the Calais
boat, smoking a good cigar and congratulating himself on the ease
with which he had slipped out of what threatened to have been a
very unpleasant and embarrassing entanglement.

"If she were an ordinary sort of girl it wouldn't matter so much,"
he thought--"She would be practical, with sufficient vanity not to
care,--she would see more comedy than tragedy in the whole thing.
But with her romantic ideas about love, and her name in
everybody's mouth, I might have got into the devil's own mess! I
wonder where she went to when she left the studio? Straight home,
I suppose, to Miss Leigh,--will she tell Miss Leigh? No--I think
not!--she's not likely to tell anybody. She'll keep it all to
herself. She's a silly little fool!--but she's--she's loyal!"

Yes, she was loyal! Of that there could be no manner of doubt.
Callous and easy-going man of the world as he had ever been and
ever would be, the steadfast truth and tender devotion of the poor
child moved him to a faint sense of shamed admiration. On the inky
blackness of the night he saw her face, floating like a vision,--
her little uplifted, praying hands,--he heard her voice, piteously
sweet, crying "Amadis! Amadis! Say you didn't mean it!--say it
isn't true!--I thought you loved me, dear!--you told me so!"

The waves hissed round the rolling steamer, and every now and
again white tongues of foam darted at him from the crests of the
heaving waters, yet amid all the shattering roar and turbulence of
the storm, he could not get the sound of that pleading voice out
of his ears.

"Silly little fool!" he repeated over and over again with inward
vexation--"Nothing could be more absurd than her way of looking at
life as though it was only made for love! Yet--she suited her
name!--she was really the most 'innocent' creature I have ever
known! And--and--she loved me!"

The sea and the wind shrieked at him as the vessel plunged heavily
on her difficult way--his nerves, cool as they were, seemed to
himself on edge: and at certain moments during that Channel
passage he felt a pang of remorse and pity for the young life on
which he had cast an ineffaceable shadow,--a life instinct with
truth, beauty, and brightness, just opening out as it were into
the bloom of fulfilled promise. He had not "betrayed" her in the
world's vulgar sense of betrayal,--he had not wronged her body--
but he had done far worse,--he had robbed her of her peace of
mind. Little by little he had stolen from the flower of her life
its honey of sweet content,--he had checked the active impulses of
her ambition, and as they soared upwards like bright birds to the
sun, had brought them down, to the ground, slain with a mere word
of light mockery,--he had led her to judge all things of no value
save himself,--and when he had attained to this end he had
destroyed her last dream of happiness by voluntarily proving his
own insincerity and worthlessness.

"It has all been her own fault," he mused, trying to excuse and to
console himself--"She fell into my arms as easily as a ripe peach
falls at a touch--that childish fancy about 'Amadis de Jocelin'
did the trick! Curious!--very curious that a sixteenth-century
member of my own family tree should be mixed up in my affair with
this girl! Of course she'll say nothing,--there's nothing to say!
We've kept our secret very well, and except for a few playful
suggestions and hints dropped here and there, nobody knows we were
in love with each other. Then--she's got her work to do,--it isn't
as if she were an idle woman without an occupation,--and she'll
think it down and live it down. Of course she will! I'm worrying
myself quite needlessly! It will be all right. And as she doesn't
go to her Briar Farm now, I daresay she'll even forget her fetish
of a knight, the 'Sieur Amadis de Jocelin'!"

He laughed idly, amused as he always had been at the romantic
ideal she had made of the old French knight who had so strangely
turned out to be the brother of his own far-away ancestor,--and
then, on landing at Calais, was soon absorbed in numerous other
thoughts and interests, and gradually dismissed the whole subject
from his mind. After all, for him it was only one "little affair"
out of at least a dozen or more, which from time to time had
served to entertain him and provide a certain stimulus for his
artistic emotions.

The storm had it all its own way in the fair English country,--
sweeping in from the sea it tore over hill and dale with haste and
fury, working terrible havoc among the luxuriant autumnal foliage
and bringing down whirling wet showers of gold and crimson leaves.
Round Briar Farm it raged all day long, tearing away from the
walls one giant branch of the old "Glory" rose and snapping it off
at its stem. Robin Clifford, coming home from the fields in the
late afternoon, saw the fallen bough covered with a scented
splendour of late roses, and lifting it tenderly carried it into
the house, thinking somewhat sadly that in the old days Innocent
would have been grieved had she seen such havoc made. Setting it
in a big brown jar full of water, he put it in the entrance hall
where its shoots reached nearly to the ceiling, and Priscilla
Priday exclaimed at the sight of it--

"Eh, eh, is the old rose-tree broken, Mister Robin! That's never
happened before in all the time I've been 'ere! I don't like the
looks of it!--no, Mister Robin, I don't!"

"It's only one of the bigger branches," answered Robin soothingly.
"The rose-tree itself is all right--I don't think any storm can
hurt that--it's too deeply rooted. This was certainly a very fine
branch, but it must have got loosened by the wind."

Even as he spoke a fierce gust swept over the old house with a
sound like a scream of wrath and agony, and a furious torrent of
rain emptied itself as though from a cloud-burst, half drowning
the flower-beds and for the moment making a pool of the court-
yard. Priscilla hurried to see that all the windows were shut and
the doors well barred, and when evening closed in the picturesque
gables of the roof were but a black blur in the almost incessant
whirl of rain.

As the night deepened the storm grew worse, and the howling of the
wind through the cracks and crannies of the ancient building was
like the noise of wild animals clamouring for food. Priscilla and
Robin Clifford sat together in the kitchen,--the most comfortable
apartment to be in on such an unkind night of elemental uproar. It
had become more or less their living-room since Innocent's
departure, for Robin could not bear to sit in the "best parlour,"
as it was called, now that there was no one to share its old-world
charm and comfort with him,--and when Priscilla's work was done,
and everything was cleared and the other servants gone to their
beds, he preferred to bring his book and pipe into the kitchen,
and sit in an old cushioned arm-chair on one side of the fire-
place, while Priscilla sat on the other, mending the house-linen,
both of them talking at intervals of the past, and of the happy
and unthinking days when Farmer Jocelyn had been alive and well,
and when Innocent was like a fairy child flitting over the meadows
with her light and joyous movements, her brown-gold hair flying
loose like a trail of sunbeams on the wind, her face blossoming
into rose-and-white loveliness as a flower blossoms on its slender
stem,--her voice carrying sweet cadences through the air and
making music wherever it rang. Latterly, however, they had not
spoken so much of her,--the fame of her genius and the sudden leap
she had made into a position of public note and brilliancy had
somewhat scared the simple soul of Priscilla, who felt that the
child she had reared from infancy had been taken by some strange
and not to be contested fate away, far out of her reach,--while
Robin--whose experiences at Oxford had taught him that persons of
his own sex attaining to even a mild literary celebrity were apt
to become somewhat "touch-me-not" characters--almost persuaded
himself that perhaps Innocent, sweet and ideally simple of nature
as he had ever known her to be, might, under the influence of her
rapid success and prosperity, change a little (and such change, he
thought, would be surely natural!)--if only just as much as would
lessen by ever so slight a degree her former romantic passion for
the home of her childhood. And,--lurking sometimes at the back of
all his thoughts there crept the suggestive shadow of "Amadis de
Jocelyn,"--not the French Knight of old, but the French painter,
of whom she had told him and of whose very existence he had a
strange and secret distrust.

On this turbulent night the old kitchen looked very peaceful and
home-like,--the open fire burned brightly, flashing its flame-
light against the ceiling's huge oak beams--everything was swept
clean and polished to the utmost point of perfection,--and the
table on which Robin rested the book he was reading was covered
with a tapestried cloth, embroidered in many colours, dark and
bright contrasted cunningly, with an effect that was soothing and
restful to the eyes. In the centre there was placed a quaintly
shaped jar of old brown lustre which held a full tall bunch of
golden-rod and deep wine-coloured dahlias,--a posy expressing
autumn with a greater sense of gain than loss. Robin was reading
with exemplary patience and considerable difficulty one of the old
French poetry books belonging to the "Sieur Amadis de Jocelin,"
and Priscilla's small glittering needle flew in and out the open-
work stitchery of a linen pillow-slip she was mending as deftly as
any embroideress of Tudor times. Over the old, crabbed yet
delicately fine writing of the "Sieur" whose influence on
Innocent's young mind had been so pronounced and absolute, and in
Robin's opinion so malign, he pored studiously, slowly mastering
the meaning of the verses, though written in a language he had
never cared to study. He was conscious of a certain suave
sweetness and melancholy in the swing of the lines, though they
did not appeal to him very forcibly.

  "En un cruel orage
  On me laisse perir;
  En courant au naufrage
  Je vois chacun me plaindre et mil me secourir,
  Felicite passee
  Qui ne peux revenir
  Tourment de ma pensee
  Que n'ai-je en te perdant perdu le souvenir!
  Le sort, plein d'injustice
  M'ayant enfin rendu
  Ce reste un pur supplice,
  Je serais plus heureux si j'avais tout perdu!"

A sudden swoop of the wind shook the very rafters of the house as
though some great bird had grasped it with beak and talons, and
Priscilla stopped her swift needle, drawing it out to its full
length of linen thread and holding it there. A strange puzzled
look was on her face--she seemed to be listening intently.
Presently, taking off her spectacles, she laid them down, and
spoke in a half whisper:

"Mister Robin! Robin, my dear!"

He looked up, surprised at the grave wistfulness and wonder of her
old eyes.

"Yes, Priscilla?"

"I'm thinkin' my time is drawin' short, dear lad!" she said,
slowly--"I've got a call, an' I'll not be much longer here! That's
a warnin' for me--"

"A warning? Priscilla, what do you mean?"

Drawing in her needle and thread, she pricked it through the linen
she held and looked full at him.

"Didn't ye hear it?" she asked.

A sudden chill crept through the young man's blood,--there was
something so wan and mournful in her expression.

"Dear Priscilla, you are dreaming! Hear what?"

She lifted one brown wrinkled hand with a gesture of attention.

"The crying of the child!" she answered--"Crying, crying, crying!
Crying for me!"

Robin held his breath and listened. The wind had for the moment
lessened in violence, and its booming roar had dropped to a
moaning sigh. Now and again there was a pause that was almost
silence, and during one of these intervals he fancied--but surely
it was only fancy!--that he actually did hear a faint human cry.
He looked at Priscilla questioningly and in doubt,--she met his
eyes with a fixed and solemn resignation in her own.

"It's as I tell you," she said--"My time has come! It's for me the
child is calling--just as she used to call whenever she wanted
anything."

Robin rose slowly and moved a step or two towards the door. The
storm was gathering fresh force, and heavy rain pattered against
the windows making a continuous steely sound like the clashing of
swords. Straining his ears to close attention, he waited,--and all
at once as he stood in suspense and something of fear, a plaintive
sobbing wail crept thinly above the noise of the wind.

"Priscilla! ... Priscilla!" There was no mistaking the human voice
this time--and Priscilla got up from where she sat, though
trembling so much that she had to lean one hand on the table to
steady herself.

"Ye heard THAT, surely!" she said.

Robin answered her by a look. His heart beat thickly,--an awful
fear beset him, paralysing his energies. Was Innocent dead? Was
that pitiful wail the voice of her departed spirit crying at the
door of her childhood's home?

"Priscilla! ... Oh, Priscilla!"

The old woman straightened her bent figure and lifted her head.

"Mister Robin, I must answer that call!" she said--"Storm or rain,
we've no right to sit here with the child's voice crying and the
old house shut and barred against her! We must open the door!"

He could not speak--but he obeyed her gesture, and went quickly
out of the kitchen into the adjacent hall,--there he unbarred and
unlocked the massive old entrance door and threw it open. A sheet
of rain flung itself in his face, and the wind was so furious that
for a moment he could scarcely stand. Then, recovering himself, he
peered into the darkness and could see nothing,--till all at once
he became vaguely aware of a small dark object crouching in one
corner of the deep porch like a frightened animal or a lost child.
He stooped and touched it--it was wet and clammy--he grasped it
more firmly, and it moved under his hand shudderingly and lifted
itself, turning a white face up to the light that streamed out
from the hall--a face wan and death-like, but still the face he
had ever thought the sweetest in the world--the face of Innocent!
With a loud cry of mingled terror and rapture, he caught her up
and held her to his heart.

"Innocent!--My little love!--Innocent!"

She made no answer--no sort of resistance. Her little body hung
heavily in his arms--her head drooped helplessly against his
shoulder.

"Priscilla!" he called--"Priscilla!"

Priscilla was already beside him--she had hurried into the hall
directly she heard his exclamation of fear and amazement, and now
as she saw him carrying the forlorn little burden tenderly along
she threw up her hands with a piteous, almost despairing gesture.

"God save us all!--It's the child herself!" she exclaimed--"Mercy
on the poor lamb!--what can have happened to her?--she's half
drowned with rain!"

As quickly as Robin's strong arms could bear her, she was carried
gently into the kitchen and laid in Robin's own deep arm-chair by
the fire. Roused to immediate practical service and with all her
superstitious terrors at an end, old Priscilla took off a soaked
little velvet hat and began to unfasten a wet mass of soft silk
that clung round the fragile little figure.

"Go and bar the door fast, Mister Robin, my dear!" she said,
looking up at the young man's pale, agonised face,--"We don't want
any one comin' in here to see the child in trouble!--besides, the
wind's enough to scare a body to death! Poor lamb, poor lamb!--
where she can have come from the good Lord only knows! It's for
all the world like the night when she was left here, long ago!
Lock and bar the door, dearie, and get me some of that precious
old wine out of the cupboard in the best parlour." Here her active
fingers came upon the glittering diamond pendant in the shape of a
dove that hung by its slender gold chain round Innocent's neck.
She unclasped it, looking at it wonderingly--then she handed it to
Robin who regarded it with sombre, grudging eyes. Was it a love-
gift?--and from whom?

"And while you're about helping me," went on Priscilla--"you might
go to the child's room and fetch me that old white woolly gown she
used to wear--it's warm and soft, and we'll put it on her and wrap
her in a blanket when she comes to herself. She'll be all right
presently."

Like a man in a moving dream he obeyed, and while he went on his
errands Priscilla managed to get off some of the dripping garments
which clung to the girl's slight form as closely as the wrappings
of a shroud. Chafing the small icy hands, she smoothed the
drenched fair hair, loosening its pins and combs, and spreading it
out to dry, murmuring fond words of motherly pity and tenderness
while the tears trickled slowly down her furrowed cheeks.

"My poor baby!--my pretty child!" she murmured--"What has broken
her like this?--The world's been too rough for her--I misdoubt me
if her fancies about love an' the like o' that nonsense aren't in
the mischief,--but praise the Lord that's brought her home again,
an' if so be it pleases Him we'll keep her home!"

As she thought this, Innocent suddenly opened her eyes. Beautiful,
wild eyes that stared at her wonderingly without recognition.

"Amadis!" The voice was thin and faint, but exquisitely tender.
"Amadis! How kind you are! Ah, yes!--at last!--I was sure you did
not mean to be cruel--I knew you would come back and be good to me
again! My Amadis!--You ARE good!--you could not be anything else
but good and true!" She laughed weakly and went on more rapidly--
"It is raining--yes! Oh, yes--raining very much!--such a cold,
sharp rain! I've walked quite a long way--but I felt I must come
back to you, Amadis!--just to ask you once more to say a kind
word-to kiss me..."

She closed her eyes again and her head fell back on the pillow of
the chair in which she lay. Priscilla's heart sank.

"She doesn't know what she's talking about, poor lamb!" she
thought,--"Just wandering and off her head!--and fancying things
about that old French knight again!"

Here Robin entered, and stood a moment, lost in a maze of
enchanted misery at the sight of the pitiful little half-disrobed
figure in the chair, till Priscilla took the white garment he had
been sent to fetch out of his passive hand.

"There, dear lad, don't look like that!" she said. "Go, and come
back in a few minutes with the wine--we'll be ready for you then.
Cheer up!--she's opened her pretty eyes once--she'll open them
again directly and smile at you!"

He moved away slowly with an aching heart, and a tightness in his
throat that impelled him to cry like a woman. Innocent!--little
Innocent!--she who had once been all brightness and gaiety,--was
this desolate, half-dying, stricken creature the same girl? Ah,
no! Not the same! Never the same any more! Some numbing blow had
smitten her,--some withering fire had swept over her, and she was
no longer what she once had been. This he felt by a lover's
intuition,--intuition keener and surer than all positive
knowledge; and not the faintest hope stirred within him that she
would ever shake off the trance of that death-in-life into which
she had been plunged by some as yet unknown disaster--unknown to
him, yet dimly guessed. Meanwhile Priscilla's loving task was soon
done, and Innocent was clothed, warm and dry, in one of the old
hand-woven woollen gowns she had been accustomed to wear in former
days, and a thick blanket was wrapped cosily round her. She was
still more or less unconscious, but the reviving heat gradually
penetrated her body, and she began to sigh and move restlessly.
She opened her eyes again and fixed them on the bright fire. Robin
came in with the glass of wine, and Priscilla held it to her lips,
forcing her to swallow a few drops.

The strong cordial started a little pulse of warmth in her failing
blood, and she made an effort to sit up. She looked vaguely round
her,--then her wandering gaze fixed itself on Priscilla's anxious
old face, and a faint smile, more pitiful than tears, trembled on
her lips.

"Priscilla!" she said--"I believe it is Priscilla I Oh, dear
Priscilla! I called you but you would not hear or answer me!"

"Oh, my lamb, I heard ye right enough!"--and Priscilla fondled and
warmed the girl's passive hands--"But I couldn't think it was
yourself--I thought I was dreaming--"

"So did I!" she answered feebly--"I thought I was dreaming...yes!
--I have been dreaming such a long, long time! All dreams! I have
walked through the rain--it was very dark and the wind was cold
and cruel--but I walked on and on--I don't know how I came--but I
wanted to get home to Briar Farm--do you know Briar Farm?"

Stricken to the soul by the look of the wistful eyes expressing a
mind in chaos, Priscilla answered gently--

"You're in Briar Farm now, dearie!--Surely you know you are! This
is your own old home--don't you know it?--don't you remember the
old kitchen?--of course you do! There, there!--look up and see!"

She lifted her head and gazed about her in a lost way.

"No!" she murmured--"I wish I could believe it, but I cannot. I
believe nothing now. It is all strange to me--I have lost the way
home, and I shall never find it--never--never!" Here she suddenly
pointed to Robin standing aloof in utter misery.

"Who is that?" she asked.

Irresistibly impelled by love, fear, and pity, he came and knelt
beside her.

"It's Robin!" he said--"Dear Innocent, don't you know me?"

She touched his hair with one little hand, smiling like a pleased
child.

"Robin?" she queried--"Oh, no!--you cannot be Robin--he is ever so
many miles away!" She looked at him curiously,--then laughed, a
cold, mirthless little laugh. "I thought for a moment you might be
Amadis--his hair is like yours, thick and soft--you know him, of
course--he is the great painter, Amadis de Jocelyn--all the world
has heard of him! He went out just now and shut the door and
locked it--but he will come back--yes!--he will come back!"

Robin heard and understood--the whole explanation of her misery
suddenly flashed on his mind, and inwardly he cursed the man who
had wreaked such havoc on her trusting soul. All at once she
sprang up with a wild cry.

"He will come back--he must come back! Amadis!--Amadis!--you will
not leave me all alone?--No, no, you cannot be so cruel!" She
stretched out her arms as though to embrace some invisible
treasure in the air--"Priscilla! ... Priscilla!" Then as Priscilla
took her gently round the waist and tried to calm her she began to
laugh again. "The old motto!--you remember it?--the motto of the
Sieur Amadis de Jocelin!--'Mon coeur me soutien!' You know what it
means--'My heart sustains me.' Yes--and you know why his heart is
so strong? Because it is made of stone! A stone heart can sustain
anything!--it is hard and firm and cold--no rain, no tears can
soften it!--no flowers ever grow on it--it does not beat--it feels
nothing--nothing!"--and her hands dropped wearily at her sides.
"It is not like MY heart! my heart burns and aches--it is a
foolish heart, and my brain is a foolish brain--I cannot think
with it--it is all dark and confused! And I have no one to help
me--I am all alone in the world!"

"Innocent!" cried Robin passionately--"Oh, my love, my darling!--
try to recall your dear wandering mind! You are here in the old
home you used to love so well--you are not alone--you never shall
be alone any more. I am with you to love you and take care of you
--I have loved you always--I shall love you till I die!"

She looked at him with a sudden smile.

"Robin!--It is Robin!--you poor boy! You always talked like that!
--but you must not love me,--I have no love to give you--I would
make you happy if I could, but I cannot!"

A violent shudder as of icy cold shook her limbs--she stretched
out her hands pitifully.

"Would you take me somewhere to sleep?" she murmured--"I am very
tired! And when he comes you will wake me--I will not keep him a
moment waiting! Tell him I am quite well--and that I knew he did
not mean to be unkind--"

Her voice broke--she tottered and nearly fell. Robin caught her in
his arms and laid her gently back in the chair, where she seemed
to lapse into unconsciousness. He turned a white, desperate face
on Priscilla.

"What is to be done?" he asked,--"Shall I go for the doctor?"

Priscilla shook her head.

"The doctor would be no use," she answered--"She's just fairly
worn out and wants rest. Her little room is ready,--I've kept it
aired, and the bed made warm and cosy ever since she went away--
lest she should ever come back sudden like... could you carry her
up, d'ye think? She'll be better in her bed--and she would come to
herself quicker."

Gently and with infinite tenderness he lifted the girl as though
she were a baby and carried her lightly up the broad oak
staircase, Priscilla leading the way--and soon they brought her
into her own room, unchanged since she had occupied it, and kept
by Priscilla's loving and half superstitious care ready for her
return at any moment. Laying her down on her little bed, Robin
left her, though hardly able to tear himself away, and going
downstairs again he flung himself into a chair and wept like a
child for the ruin and wreck of the fair young life which might
have been the joy and sunshine of his days!

"Amadis de Jocelyn!" he muttered--"A curse on him! Why should the
founder of this house bring evil on us?--Rising up like a ghost to
overshadow us and spoil our happiness?--Let the house perish and
all its traditions if it must be so, rather than that she should
suffer!--for she is innocent!"

Yes--she was quite innocent,--the little "base-born" intruder on
the unbroken line and history of the Jocelyns!--and yet--it was
with a kind of horror that the memory of that unbroken line and
history recurred to him. Was there--could there be anything real
in the long prevalent idea that if the direct line of the Jocelyns
were broken, the peace and prosperity so long attendant on the old
farm would be at an end? He put the thought away with a sense of
anger.

"No, no! She could only bring joy wherever she went--no matter who
her parents were, or how she was born, my poor little one!--she
has suffered for no fault at all of her own!"

He listened to the dying clamour of the storm--the wind still
careered round the house, making a noise like the beating wings of
a great bird, but the rain was ceasing and there was a deeper
sense of quiet. An approaching step startled him--he looked up and
saw Priscilla. She smiled encouragingly.

"Cheer up, Mister Robin!" she said. ... "She is much better--she
knows where she is now, bless her heart!--and she's glad to be at
home. Let her alone--and if she 'as a good sleep she'll be a'most
herself again in the morning. I'll leave my bedroom door open all
night--an' I'll be lookin' in at 'er when she doesn't know it,
watchin' her lovin' like for all I'm worth! ... so don't ye worry,
my lad!--there's a good God in Heaven an' it'll all come right!"

Robin took her rough work-worn hands and clasped them in his own.

"Bless you, you dear woman!" he said, huskily. "Do you really
think so? Will she be herself again?--our own dear little
Innocent?"

"Of course she will!" and Priscilla blinked away the tears in her
eyes--"An' you'll mebbe win 'er yet!--The Lord's ways are ever
wonderful an' past findin' out--"

A clear voice calling from the staircase interrupted them.

"Priscilla! Robin!"

Running to answer the summons, they saw Innocent at the top of the
stairs, a little vision of pale, smiling sweetness, in her white
wool wrapper--her hair falling loose over her shoulders. She
kissed her hands to them.

"Only to say good-night!" she said,--"I know just where I am now!
--it was so foolish of me to forget! I am at home--and this is
Briar Farm--and I feel almost well and--happy! Robin!"

He sprang up the stairs and, kneeling, took one of her hands and
kissed it.

"That's my true knight!" she said. "Dear Robin! You deserve
everything good--and if it will give you joy I will marry you!"

"Marry me!" he cried, scarcely believing his ears--"Innocent! You
will?--Dearest little love, you will?"

She looked down upon him where he knelt, like some small
compassionate angel.

"Yes--I will!--To please you and Dad!--Tomorrow if you like! But
you must say good-night now and let me sleep!"

He kissed her hand again.

"Good-night, sweet!"

She started--and drew her hand away.

"He said that once,--and once--in a letter--he wrote it. It seemed
to me beautiful!--'Good-night, sweet!'" She waited as if to think
a moment, then--

"Good-night!" again she said--"Do not be anxious about me--I shall
sleep well! Good-night!"

She waved her hand once more, and disappeared like a little white
phantom in the dark corridor.

"Does she mean it, do you think?" asked Robin, turning eagerly to
Priscilla--"Will she marry me, after all?"

"I shouldn't wonder!" and the old woman nodded sagaciously--"Let
her sleep on it, lad!--an' you sleep on it, too!--The storm's nigh
over--an' mebbe our dark cloud 'as a silver lining!"

Half-an-hour later on she went to her own bed--and on the way
thought she would peep into Innocent's room and see how she fared
--but the door was locked. Vexed at her own lack of foresight in
not possessing herself of the key before the girl had been carried
to her room, she left her own door open that she might be ready in
case of any call--and for a long time she lay awake watchfully,
thinking and wondering what the next day would bring forth--till
at last anxiety and bewilderment of mind were overcome by sheer
fatigue and she slept. Not so Robin Clifford. Excited and full of
new hope which he hardly dared breathe to himself, he made no
attempt to rest--but paced his room up and down, up and down, like
a restless animal in a cage, waiting with hardly endurable
impatience for the dawn. Thoughts chased each other in his brain
too quickly to evolve any practical order out of them,--he tried
to plan out what he would do with the coming day--how he would let
the farm people know that Innocent had returned--how he would send
a telegram to her friend Miss Leigh in London to say she was safe
in her old home--and then the recollection of her literary success
swept over his mind like a sort of cloud--her fame!--the celebrity
she had won in that wider world outside Briar Farm--was it fair or
honest to her that he should take advantage of her weak and half-
distraught condition and allow her to become his wife?--she, whose
genius was already acknowledged by a wide and discerning public,
and who might be considered as only at the beginning of a
brilliant and prosperous career?

"For, after all, I am only a farmer," he said--"And with the
friends she has made for herself she might marry any one! The best
way for me will be to give her time--time to recover from this--
this terrible trouble she seems to have on her mind--this curse of
that fancy for Amadis de Jocelyn!--by Heaven, I'd kill him without
a minute's grace if I had him in my power!"

Still pacing to and fro and thinking, he wore the slow hours away,
and at last the grey peep of a misty, silvery dawn peered through
his window. He threw the lattice open and leaned out--the scent of
the wet fields and trees after the night's storm was sweet and
refreshing, and copied his heated blood. He reviewed the whole
situation with greater calmness,--and decided that he must not be
selfish enough to grasp at the proffered joy of marriage with the
only woman he had ever loved unless he could be made sure that it
would be for her own happiness.

"Just now she hardly knows what she is saying or doing," he mused,
sadly--"Some great disappointment has broken her spirit and she is
wounded and in pain,--but when she is quite herself and has
mastered her grief, she will see things in a different light--she
will realise the fame she has won,--the brilliant name she has
made--yes!--she must think of all this--she must not wrong herself
or injure her position by marrying me!"

The silver-grey dawn brightened steadily, and in the eastern sky
long folds of silky mist began to shred away in thin strips of
delicate vapour showing peeps of pale amber between,--fitful
touches of faint rose-colour flitted here and there against the
gold,--and with a sense of relief that the day was at last
breaking and that the sky showed promise of the sun, he left his
room, and stepping noiselessly into the outside corridor,
listened. Priscilla's door was wide open--and as he passed he
looked in,--she was fast asleep. He could not hear a sound,--and
though he walked on cautious tip-toe along the little passage
which led to the room where Innocent slept and waited there a
minute or two, straining his ears for any little sigh, or sob, or
whisper, none came;--all was silent. Quietly he went downstairs,
and, opening the hall door, stepped out into the garden. Every
shrub and plant was dripping with wet--many were beaten down and
broken by the fury of the night's storm, and there was more
desolation than beauty in the usually well-ordered and carefully-
tended garden. The confusion of fallen flowers and trailing stems
made a melancholy impression on his mind,--at another time he
would scarcely have heeded what was, after all, only the natural
havoc wrought by high winds and heavy rains,--but this morning
there seemed to be more than the usual ruin. He walked slowly
round to the front of the house--and there looked up at the
projecting lattice window of Innocent's room. It was wide open.
Surprised, he stopped underneath it and looked up, half expecting
to see her,--but only a filmy white curtain moved gently with the
first stirrings of the morning air. He stood a moment or two
irresolute, recalling the night when he had climbed up by the
natural ladder of the old wistaria and had heard her tell the
plaintive little story of her "base-born" condition, with tears in
her eyes, and the pale moonshine lighting up her face like the
face of an angel in a dream.

"And she had written her first book already then!" he thought--
"She had all that genius in her and I never knew!"

A deeper brightness in the sky began to glow, and a light spread
itself over the land--the sun was rising. He looked towards the
low hills in the east, and saw the golden rim lifting itself like
the edge of a cup above the horizon,--and as it ascended higher
and higher, some fleecy white clouds rolled softly away from its
glittering splendour, showing glimpses of tenderest ethereal blue.
A still and solemn beauty invested all the visible scene,--a
sacred peace--the peace of an obedient and law-abiding nature
wherein man alone creates strange discord. Robin looked long and
lovingly at the fair prospect,-the wide meadows, the stately trees
warmly tinted with autumnal glory, and thought--

"Could she be happier than here?--safe in the arms of love?--safe
and sheltered from all trouble in the home she once idolised?"

He would not answer his own inward query--and suddenly the fancy
seized him to call her by name, as he had called her on that
moonlit night long ago, and persuade her to look out on the
familiar fields shining in the sunlight of the morning.

"Innocent!"

There was no answer.

He called a little louder--

"Innocent!"

Still silence. A robin hopped out from the cover of wet leaves and
peered at him questioningly with its bold bright eye. Acting on an
irresistible impulse he set his foot on the gnarled root of the
old wistaria and started to climb to the window-sill. Three
minutes sufficed him to reach it--he looked into the little room,
--the room which had formerly been the study of the "Sieur Amadis
de Jocelin"--and there seated at the old oak table with her head
bowed down upon her hands and her hair covering her as with a
veil, was Innocent. The sunlight flashed brightly in upon her--and
immediately above her the golden beams traced out as with a pencil
of light the arms of the old French knight with the faded rose and
blue of his shield and motto illumining with curiously marked
distinctness the words he himself had carved beneath his own
heraldic emblems:

"Who here seekynge Forgetfulness Did here fynde Peace!"

She was very strangely still,--and a cold fear suddenly caught at
Robin's heart and half choked his breath.

"Innocent!" he cried. Then, leaping into the room like a man in
sudden frenzy, he rushed towards that motionless little figure--
threw his arms about it--lifted it--caressed it...

"Innocent! Look at me! Speak to me!"

The fair head fell passively back against his shoulder with all
its wealth of rippling hair--the fragile form he clasped was
helpless, lifeless, breathless!--and with a great shuddering sob
of agony, he realised the full measure of his life's despair.
Innocent was dead!--and for her, as for the "Sieur Amadis," the
quaint words shining above her in the morning sunlight were aptly
fitted--

"Who here seekynge Forgetfulness Did here fynde Peace!"

       .      .      .      .      .      .      .

Many things in life come too late to be of rescue or service, and
justice is always tardy in arrival. Too late was Pierce Armitage,
after long years of absence, to give his innocent child the simple
heritage of a father's acknowledgment; he could but look upon her
dead face and lay flowers on her in her little coffin. The world
heard of the sudden death of the young and brilliant writer with a
faintly curious concern--but soon forgot that she had ever
existed. No one knew, no one guessed the story of her love for the
French painter, Amadis de Jocelyn--he was abroad at the time of
her death, and only three persons secretly connected him with the
sorrow of her end--and these were Lord Blythe, Miss Leigh and
Robin Clifford. Yet even these said nothing, restrained by the
thought of casting the smallest scandal on the sweet lustre of her
name. And Amadis de Jocelyn himself?--had he no regret?--no pity?
If the truth must be told, he was more relieved than pained,--more
flattered than sorry! The girl had died for him,--well!--that was
more or less a pleasing result of his power! She was a silly
child--obsessed by a "fancy"--it was not his fault if he could not
live up to that "fancy"--he liked "facts." His picture of her was
the success of the Salon that year, and he was admired and
congratulated,--this was enough for him.

"One of your victims, Amadis?" asked a vivacious society woman he
knew, critically studying the portrait on the first day of its
exhibition.

He nodded, smilingly.

"Really? And yet--Innocent?"

He nodded again.

"Very much so! She is dead!"

       .      .      .      .      .      .      .

Sorrow and joy, strangely intermingled, divided the last years of
life for good Miss Leigh. The shock of the loss and death of the
girl to whom she had become profoundly attached, followed by the
startling discovery that her old lover Pierce Armitage was alive,
proved almost too much for her frail nerves--but her gratitude to
God for the joy of seeing the beloved face once again, and hearing
the beloved voice, was so touching and sincere that Armitage,
smitten to the heart by the story of her long fidelity and her
tenderness for his forsaken daughter, offered to marry her,
earnestly praying her to let him share life with her to the end.
This she gently refused,--but for the rest of her days she--with
him and Lord Blythe--made a trio of friends,--a compact of
affection and true devotion such as is seldom known in this work-
a-day world. They were nearly always together,--and the memory of
Innocent, with her young life's little struggle against fate
ending so soon in disaster, was a link never to be broken save by
death, which breaks all.




L'ENVOI

A few evenings since, I who have written this true story of a
young girl's romantic fancy, passed by Briar Farm. The air was
very still, and a red sun was sinking in a wintry sky. The old
Tudor farmhouse looked beautiful in the clear half-frosty light--
but the trees in the old bye road were leafless, and though the
courtyard gate stood open there were no flowers to be seen beyond,
and no doves flying to and fro among the picturesque gables. I
knew, as I walked slowly along, that just a mile distant, in the
small churchyard of the village, Innocent, the "base-born" child
of sorrow, lay asleep by her "Dad," the last of the Jocelyns,--I
knew also that not far off from their graves, the mortal remains
of the faithful Priscilla were also resting in peace--and I felt,
with a heavy sadness at my heart, that the fame of the old house
was wearing out and that presently its tradition, like many
legendary and romantic things, would soon be forgotten. But just
at the turn of a path, where a low stile gives access to the road,
I saw a man standing, his arms folded and leaning on the topmost
bar of the stile--a man neither old nor young, with a strong quiet
face, and almost snow-white hair--a man quite alone, whose
attitude and bearing expressed the very spirit of solitude. I knew
him for the master of the farm--a man greatly honoured throughout
the neighbourhood for justice and kindness to all whom he
employed, but also a man stricken by a great sorrow for which
there can be no remedy.

"Will he never marry?" I thought,--but as I put the question to
myself I dismissed it almost as a blasphemy. For Robin Clifford is
one of those rarest souls among men who loves but once, and when
love is lost finds it not again. Except,--perhaps?--in a purer
world than ours, where our "fancies" may prove to have had a surer
foundation than our "facts."

THE END






End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Innocent, by Marie Corelli

*** END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK INNOCENT ***

This file should be named nncnt10.txt or nncnt10.zip
Corrected EDITIONS of our eBooks get a new NUMBER, nncnt11.txt
VERSIONS based on separate sources get new LETTER, nncnt10a.txt

Produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

Project Gutenberg eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the US
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we usually do not
keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.

We are now trying to release all our eBooks one year in advance
of the official release dates, leaving time for better editing.
Please be encouraged to tell us about any error or corrections,
even years after the official publication date.

Please note neither this listing nor its contents are final til
midnight of the last day of the month of any such announcement.
The official release date of all Project Gutenberg eBooks is at
Midnight, Central Time, of the last day of the stated month.  A
preliminary version may often be posted for suggestion, comment
and editing by those who wish to do so.

Most people start at our Web sites at:
http://gutenberg.net or
http://promo.net/pg

These Web sites include award-winning information about Project
Gutenberg, including how to donate, how to help produce our new
eBooks, and how to subscribe to our email newsletter (free!).


Those of you who want to download any eBook before announcement
can get to them as follows, and just download by date.  This is
also a good way to get them instantly upon announcement, as the
indexes our cataloguers produce obviously take a while after an
announcement goes out in the Project Gutenberg Newsletter.

http://www.ibiblio.org/gutenberg/etext03 or
ftp://ftp.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext03

Or /etext02, 01, 00, 99, 98, 97, 96, 95, 94, 93, 92, 92, 91 or 90

Just search by the first five letters of the filename you want,
as it appears in our Newsletters.


Information about Project Gutenberg (one page)

We produce about two million dollars for each hour we work.  The
time it takes us, a rather conservative estimate, is fifty hours
to get any eBook selected, entered, proofread, edited, copyright
searched and analyzed, the copyright letters written, etc.   Our
projected audience is one hundred million readers.  If the value
per text is nominally estimated at one dollar then we produce $2
million dollars per hour in 2002 as we release over 100 new text
files per month:  1240 more eBooks in 2001 for a total of 4000+
We are already on our way to trying for 2000 more eBooks in 2002
If they reach just 1-2% of the world's population then the total
will reach over half a trillion eBooks given away by year's end.

The Goal of Project Gutenberg is to Give Away 1 Trillion eBooks!
This is ten thousand titles each to one hundred million readers,
which is only about 4% of the present number of computer users.

Here is the briefest record of our progress (* means estimated):

eBooks Year Month

    1  1971 July
   10  1991 January
  100  1994 January
 1000  1997 August
 1500  1998 October
 2000  1999 December
 2500  2000 December
 3000  2001 November
 4000  2001 October/November
 6000  2002 December*
 9000  2003 November*
10000  2004 January*


The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation has been created
to secure a future for Project Gutenberg into the next millennium.

We need your donations more than ever!

As of February, 2002, contributions are being solicited from people
and organizations in: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut,
Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts,
Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New
Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio,
Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South
Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West
Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

We have filed in all 50 states now, but these are the only ones
that have responded.

As the requirements for other states are met, additions to this list
will be made and fund raising will begin in the additional states.
Please feel free to ask to check the status of your state.

In answer to various questions we have received on this:

We are constantly working on finishing the paperwork to legally
request donations in all 50 states.  If your state is not listed and
you would like to know if we have added it since the list you have,
just ask.

While we cannot solicit donations from people in states where we are
not yet registered, we know of no prohibition against accepting
donations from donors in these states who approach us with an offer to
donate.

International donations are accepted, but we don't know ANYTHING about
how to make them tax-deductible, or even if they CAN be made
deductible, and don't have the staff to handle it even if there are
ways.

Donations by check or money order may be sent to:

Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
PMB 113
1739 University Ave.
Oxford, MS 38655-4109

Contact us if you want to arrange for a wire transfer or payment
method other than by check or money order.

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation has been approved by
the US Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization with EIN
[Employee Identification Number] 64-622154.  Donations are
tax-deductible to the maximum extent permitted by law.  As fund-raising
requirements for other states are met, additions to this list will be
made and fund-raising will begin in the additional states.

We need your donations more than ever!

You can get up to date donation information online at:

http://www.gutenberg.net/donation.html


***

If you can't reach Project Gutenberg,
you can always email directly to:

Michael S. Hart <hart@pobox.com>

Prof. Hart will answer or forward your message.

We would prefer to send you information by email.


**The Legal Small Print**


(Three Pages)

***START**THE SMALL PRINT!**FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN EBOOKS**START***
Why is this "Small Print!" statement here? You know: lawyers.
They tell us you might sue us if there is something wrong with
your copy of this eBook, even if you got it for free from
someone other than us, and even if what's wrong is not our
fault. So, among other things, this "Small Print!" statement
disclaims most of our liability to you. It also tells you how
you may distribute copies of this eBook if you want to.

*BEFORE!* YOU USE OR READ THIS EBOOK
By using or reading any part of this PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm
eBook, you indicate that you understand, agree to and accept
this "Small Print!" statement. If you do not, you can receive
a refund of the money (if any) you paid for this eBook by
sending a request within 30 days of receiving it to the person
you got it from. If you received this eBook on a physical
medium (such as a disk), you must return it with your request.

ABOUT PROJECT GUTENBERG-TM EBOOKS
This PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm eBook, like most PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm eBooks,
is a "public domain" work distributed by Professor Michael S. Hart
through the Project Gutenberg Association (the "Project").
Among other things, this means that no one owns a United States copyright
on or for this work, so the Project (and you!) can copy and
distribute it in the United States without permission and
without paying copyright royalties. Special rules, set forth
below, apply if you wish to copy and distribute this eBook
under the "PROJECT GUTENBERG" trademark.

Please do not use the "PROJECT GUTENBERG" trademark to market
any commercial products without permission.

To create these eBooks, the Project expends considerable
efforts to identify, transcribe and proofread public domain
works. Despite these efforts, the Project's eBooks and any
medium they may be on may contain "Defects". Among other
things, Defects may take the form of incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other
intellectual property infringement, a defective or damaged
disk or other eBook medium, a computer virus, or computer
codes that damage or cannot be read by your equipment.

LIMITED WARRANTY; DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES
But for the "Right of Replacement or Refund" described below,
[1] Michael Hart and the Foundation (and any other party you may
receive this eBook from as a PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm eBook) disclaims
all liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including
legal fees, and [2] YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE OR
UNDER STRICT LIABILITY, OR FOR BREACH OF WARRANTY OR CONTRACT,
INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE
OR INCIDENTAL DAMAGES, EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE
POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

If you discover a Defect in this eBook within 90 days of
receiving it, you can receive a refund of the money (if any)
you paid for it by sending an explanatory note within that
time to the person you received it from. If you received it
on a physical medium, you must return it with your note, and
such person may choose to alternatively give you a replacement
copy. If you received it electronically, such person may
choose to alternatively give you a second opportunity to
receive it electronically.

THIS EBOOK IS OTHERWISE PROVIDED TO YOU "AS-IS". NO OTHER
WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, ARE MADE TO YOU AS
TO THE EBOOK OR ANY MEDIUM IT MAY BE ON, INCLUDING BUT NOT
LIMITED TO WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A
PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Some states do not allow disclaimers of implied warranties or
the exclusion or limitation of consequential damages, so the
above disclaimers and exclusions may not apply to you, and you
may have other legal rights.

INDEMNITY
You will indemnify and hold Michael Hart, the Foundation,
and its trustees and agents, and any volunteers associated
with the production and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm
texts harmless, from all liability, cost and expense, including
legal fees, that arise directly or indirectly from any of the
following that you do or cause:  [1] distribution of this eBook,
[2] alteration, modification, or addition to the eBook,
or [3] any Defect.

DISTRIBUTION UNDER "PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm"
You may distribute copies of this eBook electronically, or by
disk, book or any other medium if you either delete this
"Small Print!" and all other references to Project Gutenberg,
or:

[1]  Only give exact copies of it.  Among other things, this
     requires that you do not remove, alter or modify the
     eBook or this "small print!" statement.  You may however,
     if you wish, distribute this eBook in machine readable
     binary, compressed, mark-up, or proprietary form,
     including any form resulting from conversion by word
     processing or hypertext software, but only so long as
     *EITHER*:

     [*]  The eBook, when displayed, is clearly readable, and
          does *not* contain characters other than those
          intended by the author of the work, although tilde
          (~), asterisk (*) and underline (_) characters may
          be used to convey punctuation intended by the
          author, and additional characters may be used to
          indicate hypertext links; OR

     [*]  The eBook may be readily converted by the reader at
          no expense into plain ASCII, EBCDIC or equivalent
          form by the program that displays the eBook (as is
          the case, for instance, with most word processors);
          OR

     [*]  You provide, or agree to also provide on request at
          no additional cost, fee or expense, a copy of the
          eBook in its original plain ASCII form (or in EBCDIC
          or other equivalent proprietary form).

[2]  Honor the eBook refund and replacement provisions of this
     "Small Print!" statement.

[3]  Pay a trademark license fee to the Foundation of 20% of the
     gross profits you derive calculated using the method you
     already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  If you
     don't derive profits, no royalty is due.  Royalties are
     payable to "Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation"
     the 60 days following each date you prepare (or were
     legally required to prepare) your annual (or equivalent
     periodic) tax return.  Please contact us beforehand to
     let us know your plans and to work out the details.

WHAT IF YOU *WANT* TO SEND MONEY EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO?
Project Gutenberg is dedicated to increasing the number of
public domain and licensed works that can be freely distributed
in machine readable form.

The Project gratefully accepts contributions of money, time,
public domain materials, or royalty free copyright licenses.
Money should be paid to the:
"Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

If you are interested in contributing scanning equipment or
software or other items, please contact Michael Hart at:
hart@pobox.com

[Portions of this eBook's header and trailer may be reprinted only
when distributed free of all fees.  Copyright (C) 2001, 2002 by
Michael S. Hart.  Project Gutenberg is a TradeMark and may not be
used in any sales of Project Gutenberg eBooks or other materials be
they hardware or software or any other related product without
express permission.]

*END THE SMALL PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN EBOOKS*Ver.02/11/02*END*


Colophon

This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext5165, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext5165



Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."