Then she stopped suddenly short; Maurice sat before her at the table. He lifted his eyes and looked at her; he did not seem surprised to see her, but there was a whole world of grief and despair in his face. It was as though he had lived through half a lifetime since she had last seen him.
Pride, anger, wounded affection, all died away within her—only the woman was left, the woman who loved him. Little by little she saw him only through the blinding mist of her own tears.
Not one single word was spoken between them. What was there that they could say to each other? Then suddenly she turned away, and went swiftly back into the room she had just left, closing the door behind her.
It was empty. Lady Kynaston was gone. Vera stooped over the writing-table, and, taking up a sheet of paper, she wrote in pencil:—
“Do not write to Sir John—it is beyond my strength—forgive me and forget me. Vera.” And then she went out through the other door, and got herself away from the place in her hansom.
Twenty minutes later, when her bevy of chattering visitors had left her, Lady Kynaston came back into her morning-room and found the little pencil note left upon her writing-table. Wondering, perplexed and puzzled beyond measure, she turned it over and over in her fingers.
What had happened? Why had Vera so suddenly altered her mind again? What had influenced her? Half by accident, half, perhaps, with an instinct of what was the truth, she softly opened the door of communication between the morning-room and the dining-room, opened it for one instant, and then drew back again, scared and shocked, closing it quickly and noiselessly. What she had seen in the room was this—
Maurice, half stretched across the table, his face downwards upon his arm, whilst those tearless, voiceless sobs, which are so terrible to witness in a man, sobs which are the gasps of a despairing heart, shook the strong broad shoulders and the down-bent head that was hidden from her sight.
And then the mother knew at last the secret of her son’s heart. It was Vera whom Maurice loved.
ST. PAUL’S, KNIGHTSBRIDGE.
Hide in thy bosom, poor unfortunate,
That love which is thy torture and thy crime,
Or cry aloud to those departed hosts
Of ghostly lovers! can they be more deaf
To thy disaster than the living world?
Who, with a careless smile, will note the pain
Caused by thy foolish, self-inflicted wound.
Violet Fane, “Denzil Place.”
Upon the steps of the Charing Cross Hotel stood, one morning in June, a little French gentleman buttoning his lavender gloves. He wore a glossy new hat, a frock-coat, and a flower in his button-hole; he had altogether a smart and jaunty appearance.
He hailed a passing hansom and jumped into it, taking care as he did so to avoid brushing against the muddy wheel, lest he should tarnish the glories of his light-coloured trousers. Monsieur D’Arblet was more than usually particular about his appearance this morning. He said to himself, with a chuckle, as he was driven west-ward, that he was on his way to win a bride, and a rich bride, too. It behoved him to be careful of his outer man on such an occasion.