IT was on the following day that Lord Balnillo stood in front of a
three-quarter length canvas in the improvised studio; Archie had begun
to put on the colour that morning, and the judge had come quietly
upstairs to study the first dawnings of his own countenance alone.
From the midst of a chaos of paint his features were beginning to
appear, like the sun through a fog. He had brought a small hand-glass
with him, tucked away under his velvet coat where it could not be
seen, and he now produced it and began to compare his face with the
one before him. Flemington was a quick worker, and though he had been
given only two sittings, there was enough on the canvas to prompt the
gratified smile on the old man’s lips. He looked alternately at his
reflection and at the judicial figure on the easel; Archie had a
tactful brush. But though Balnillo was pleased, he could not help
sighing, for he wished fervently that his ankles had been included in
the picture. He stooped and ran his hand lovingly down his silk
stockings. Then he took up the glass again and began to compose his
expression into the rather more lofty one with which Flemington had
In the full swing of his occupation he turned round to find the
painter standing in the doorway, but he was just too late to catch the
sudden flash of amusement that played across Archie’s face as he saw
what the judge was doing. Balnillo thrust the glass out of sight and
confronted his guest.
“I thought you had gone for a stroll, sir,” he said rather stiffly.
“My lord,” exclaimed Flemington, “I have been searching for you
everywhere. I’ve come, with infinite regret, to tell you that I must
return to Ardguys at once.”
Balnillo’s jaw dropped.
“I have just met a messenger on the road,” said the other; “he has
brought news that my grandmother is taken ill, and I must hurry home.
It is most unfortunate, most disappointing; but go I must.”
“Tut, tut, tut!” exclaimed the old man, clicking his tongue against
his teeth and forgetting to hope, as politeness decreed he should,
that the matter was not serious.
“It is a heart-attack,” said Archie.
“Tut, tut,” said Balnillo again. “I am most distressed to hear it; I
“I _may_ be able to come back and finish the picture later.”
“I hope so. I sincerely hope so. I was just studying the admirable
likeness when you came in,” said Balnillo, who would have given a
great deal to know how much of his posturing Flemington had seen.
“Ah, my lord!” cried Archie, “a poor devil like me has no chance with
you! I saw the mirror in your hand. We painters use a piece of
looking-glass to correct our drawing, but it is few of our sitters who
know that trick.”
Guilty dismay was chased by relief across Balnillo’s countenance.
“You are too clever for me!” laughed Flemington. “How did you learn
it, may I ask?”
But Balnillo had got his presence of mind back.
“Casually, Mr. Flemington, casually–as one learns many things, if one
keeps one’s ears open,” said he.
A couple of hours later Archie was on his way home. He had left one
horse, still disabled, in the judge’s stable, and he was riding the
other into Brechin, where he would get a fresh one to take him on.
Balnillo had persuaded him to leave his belongings where they were
until he knew what chance there was of an early return. He had parted
from Archie with reluctance. Although the portrait was the old man’s
principal interest, its maker counted for much with him; for it was
some time since his ideas had been made to move as they always moved
in Flemington’s presence. The judge got much pleasure out of his own
curiosity; and the element of the unexpected–that fascinating factor
which had been introduced into domestic life–was a continual joy.
Balnillo had missed it more than he knew since he had become a
completely rural character.
Archie saw the Basin of Montrose drop behind him as he rode away with
a stir of mixed feelings. The net that Logie had, in all ignorance,
spread for him had entangled his feet. He had never conceived a like
situation, and it startled him to discover that a difficulty, nowhere
touching the tangible, could be so potent, so disastrous. He felt like
a man who has been tripped up and who suddenly finds himself on the
ground. He had risen and fled.
The position had become intolerable. He told himself in his impetuous
way that it was more than he could bear; and now, every bit of luck he
had turned to account, every precaution he had taken, all the
ingenuity he had used to land himself in the hostile camp, were to go
for nothing, because some look in his face, some droop of the eyes,
had reminded another man of his own past, and had let loose in him an
overwhelming impulse to expression.
“Remember what I told you yesterday,” had been James’s last words as
Flemington put his foot in the stirrup. “There must be no more
It was that high-coloured flower of his own imagination, the picture
of himself in the servants’ hall, that had finally accomplished his
defeat. How could he betray the man who was ready to share his purse
And, putting the matter of the purse aside, his painter’s imagination
was set alight. The glow of the tulips and the strange house by the
winding water, the slim vision of Diane de Montdelys, the gallant
background of the Scots Brigade, the grave at Bergen-op-Zoom–these
things were like a mirage behind the figure of James. The power of
seeing things picturesquely is a gift that can turn into a curse, and
that power worked on his emotional and imaginative side now. And
furthermore, beyond what might be called the ornamental part of his
difficulty, he realized that friendship with James, had he been free
to offer or to accept it, would have been a lifelong prize.
They had spent the preceding day together after the sitting was over,
and though Logie had opened his heart no more, and their talk had been
of the common interests of men’s lives, it had strengthened Archie’s
resolve to end the situation and to save himself while there was yet
time. There was nothing for it but flight. He had told the judge that
he would try to return, but he did not mean to enter the gates of
Balnillo again, not while the country was seething with Prince
Charlie’s plots; perhaps never. He would remember James all his life,
but he hoped that their ways might never cross again. And, behind
that, there was regret; regret for the friend who might have been his,
who, in his secret heart, would be his always.
He could, even now, hardly realize that he had been actually turned
from his purpose. It seemed to him incredible. But there was one thing
more incredible still, and that was that he could raise his hand to
strike again at the man who had been stricken so terribly, and with
the same weapon of betrayal. It would be as if James lay wounded on a
battle-field and he should come by to stab him anew. The blow he
should deal him would have nothing to do with the past, but Archie
felt that James had so connected him in mind with the memory of the
woman he resembled–had, by that one burst of confidence, given him so
much part in the sacred kingdom of remembrance wherein she dwelt–that
it would be almost as if something from out of the past had struck at
him across her grave.
Archie sighed, weary and sick with Fate’s ironic jests. There were
some things he could not do.
The two men had avoided politics. Though Flemington’s insinuations had
conveyed to the brothers that he was like-minded with themselves, the
Prince’s name was not mentioned. There was so much brewing in James’s
brain that the very birds of the air must not hear. Sorry as he was
when Flemington met him with the news of his unexpected recall, he had
decided that it was well the young man should go. When this time of
stress was over, when–and if–the cause he served should prevail, he
would seek out Archie. The “if” was very clear to James, for he had
seen enough of men and causes, of troops and campaigns and the
practical difficulties of great movements, to know that he was
spending himself in what might well be a forlorn hope. But none the
less was he determined to see it through, for his heart was deep in
it, and besides that, he had the temperament that is attracted by
He was a reticent man, in spite of the opening of that page in his
life which he had laid before Flemington; and reticent characters are
often those most prone to rare and unexpected bouts of
self-revelation. But when the impulse is past, and the load ever
present with them has been lightened for a moment, they will thrust it
yet farther back behind the door of their lips, and give the key a
double turn. He had enjoined Flemington to come to him as he would
come to a brother for assistance, and it had seemed to Archie that
life would have little more to offer had it only given him a brother
like James. A cloud was on his spirit as he neared Brechin.
When he left the inn and would have paid the landlord, he thrust his
hand into his pocket to discover a thin sealed packet at the bottom of
it; he drew it out, and found to his surprise that, though his name
was on it, it was unopened, and that he had never seen it before.
While he turned it over something told him that the unknown
handwriting it bore was that of James Logie. The coat he wore had hung
in the hall at Balnillo since the preceding night, and the packet must
have been slipped into it before he started.
As he rode along he broke the seal. The paper it contained had neither
beginning nor signature, yet he knew that his guess was right.
“You will be surprised at finding this,” he read, “but I wish you to
read it when there are some miles between us. In these disturbed days
it is not possible to tell when we may meet again. Should you return,
I may be here or I may be gone God knows where, and for reasons of
which I need not speak, my brother may be the last man to know where I
am. But for the sake of all I spoke of yesterday, I ask you to believe
that I am your friend. Do not forget that, in any strait, I am at your
back. Because it is true, I give you these two directions: a message
carried to Rob Smith’s Tavern in the Castle Wynd at Stirling will
reach me eventually, wheresoever I am. Nearer home you may hear of me
also. There is a little house on the Muir of Pert, the only house on
the north side of the Muir, a mile west of the fir-wood. The man who
lives there is in constant touch with me. If you should find yourself
in urgent need, I will send you the sum of one hundred pounds through
“Flemington, you will make no hesitation in the matter. You will take
it for the sake of one I have spoken of to none but you, these years
and years past.”
And now he had to go home and to tell Madam Flemington that he had
wantonly thrown away all the advantages gained in the last three days,
that he had tossed them to the wind for a mere sentimental scruple! So
far he had never quarrelled with his occupation; but now, because it
had brought him up against a soldier of fortune whose existence he had
been unaware of a few weeks ago, he had sacrificed it and played a
sorry trick on his own prospects at the same time. He was trusted and
valued by his own party, and, in spite of his youth, had given it
excellent service again and again. He could hardly expect the
determined woman who had made him what he was to see eye to eye with
Christian Flemington had kept her supremacy over her grandson.
Parental authority was a much stronger thing in the mid-eighteenth
century than it is now, and she stood in the position of a parent to
him. His French blood and her long residence in France had made their
relationship something like that of a French mother and son, and she
had all his confidence in his young man’s scrapes, for she recognized
phases of life that are apt to be ignored by English parents in
dealing with their children. She had cut him loose from her
apron-strings early, but she had moulded him with infinite care before
she let him go. There was a touch of genius in Archie, a flicker of
what she called the _feu sacré_, and she had kept it burning before
her own shrine. The fine unscrupulousness that was her main
characteristic, her manner of breasting the tide of circumstance full
sail, awed and charmed him. For all his boldness and initiative, his
devil-may-care independence of will, and his originality in the
conduct of his affairs, he had never freed his inner self from her
thrall, and she held him by the strong impression she had made on his
imagination years and years ago. She had set her mark upon the plastic
character of the little boy whom she had beaten for painting Mr.
Duthie’s gate-post. That was an episode which he had never forgotten,
which he always thought of with a smile; and while he remembered the
sting of her cane, he also remembered her masterly routing of his
enemy before she applied it. She had punished him with the
thoroughness that was hers, but she had never allowed the minister to
know what she had done. Technically she had been on the side of the
angels, but in reality she had stood by the culprit. In spirit they
had resented Mr. Duthie together.
He slept at Forfar that night, and pushed on again next morning; and
as he saw the old house across the dip, and heard the purl of the burn
at the end of his journey, something in his heart failed him. The
liquid whisper of the water through the fine, rushlike grass spoke to
him of childhood and of the time when there was no world but Ardguys,
no monarch but Madam Flemington. He seemed to feel her influence
coming out to meet him at every step his horse took. How could he tell
his news? How could he explain what he had done? They had never
touched on ethical questions, he and she.
As he came up the muddy road between the ash-trees he felt the chilly
throe, the intense spiritual discomfort, that attends our plunges from
one atmosphere into another. It is the penalty of those who live their
lives with every nerve and fibre, who take fervent part in the lives
of other people, to suffer acutely in the struggle to loose themselves
from an environment they have just quitted, and to meet an impending
one without distress. But it is no disproportionate price to pay for
learning life as a whole. Also, it is the only price accepted.
He put his horse into the stable and went to the garden, being told
that Madam Flemington was there. The day was warm and bright, and as
he swung the gate to behind him he saw her sitting on a seat at the
angle of the farther wall. She rose at the click of the latch, and
came up the grass path to meet him between a line of espalier
apple-trees and a row of phlox on which October had still left a few
red and white blossoms.
The eighteen years that had gone by since the episode of the manse
gate-post had not done much to change her appearance. The shrinking
and obliterating of personality which comes with the passing of middle
life had not begun its work on her, and at sixty-one she was more
imposing than ever. She had grown a great deal stouter, but the
distribution of flesh had been even, and she carried her bulk with a
kind of self-conscious triumph, as a ship carries her canvas. A brown
silk mantle woven with a pattern of flower-bouquets was round her
shoulders, and she held its thick folds together with one hand; in the
other she carried the book she had been reading. Her hair was as
abundant as ever, and had grown no whiter. The sun struck on its
silver, and red flashes came from the rubies in her ears.
She said nothing as Archie approached, but her eyes spoke inquiry and
a shadow of softness flickered over so slightly round her broad lips.
She was pleased to see him, but the shadow was caused less by her
affection for him than by her appreciation of the charming figure he
presented, seen thus suddenly and advancing with so much grace of
movement in the sunlight. She stopped short when he was within a few
steps of her, and, dropping her book upon the ground without troubling
to see where it fell, held out her hand for him to kiss. He touched it
with his lips, and then, thrusting his arm into the phlox-bushes, drew
out the volume that had landed among them. From between the leaves
dropped a folded paper, on which he recognized his own handwriting.
“This is a surprise,” said Madam Flemington, looking her grandson up
“I have ridden. My baggage is left at Balnillo.”
The moment of explanation would have to come, but his desire was to
put it off as long as possible.
“There is your letter between the pages of my book,” said she. “It
came to me this morning, and I was reading it again. It gave me
immense pleasure, Archie. I suppose you have come to search for the
clothes you mentioned. I am glad to see you, my dear; but it is a long
ride to take for a few pairs of stockings.”
“You should see Balnillo’s hose!” exclaimed Flemington hurriedly.
“I’ll be bound the old buck’s spindle-shanks cost him as much as his
estate. If he had as many legs as a centipede he would have them all
“And not a petticoat about the place?”
“None nearer than the kitchen.”
“He should have stayed in Edinburgh,” said Madam Flemington, laughing.
She loved Archie’s society.
“I hear that this Captain Logie is one of the most dangerous rebels in
Scotland,” she went on. “If you can lay him by the heels it is a
service that will not be forgotten. So far you have done mighty well,
They had reached the gate, and she laid her hand on his arm.
“Turn back,” she said. “I must consult you. I suppose that now you
will be kept for some time at Balnillo? That nest of treason,
Montrose, will give you occupation, and you must stretch out the
portrait to match your convenience. I am going to take advantage of it
too. I shall go to Edinburgh while you are away.”
“To Edinburgh?” exclaimed Flemington.
“Why not, pray?”
“But you leave Ardguys so seldom. It is years—-”
“The more reason I should go now,” interrupted she. “Among other
things, I must see my man of business, and I have decided to do it
now. I shall be more useful to you in Edinburgh, too. I have been too
long out of personal touch with those who can advance your interests.
I had a letter from Edinburgh yesterday; you are better thought of
there than you suspect, Archie. I did not realize how important a
scoundrel this man Logie is, nor what your despatch to Montrose
He was silent, looking on the ground.
She knew every turn of Archie’s manner, every inflection of his voice.
There was a gathering sign of opposition on his face–the phantom of
some mood that must not be allowed to gain an instant’s strength. It
flashed on her that he had not returned merely to fetch his clothes.
There was something wrong. She knew that at this moment he was afraid
of her, he who was afraid of nothing else.
She stopped in the path and drew herself up, considering where she
should strike. Never, never had she failed to bring him to his
bearings. There was only one fitting place for him, and that was in
the hollow of her hand.
“Grandmother, I shall not go back to Balnillo,” said he vehemently.
If the earth had risen up under her feet Madam Flemington could not
have been more astonished. She stood immovable, looking at him, whilst
an inward voice, flying through her mind like a snatch of broken
sound, told her that she must keep her head. She made no feeble
mistake in that moment, for she saw the vital importance of the
conflict impending between them with clear eyes. She knew her back to
be nearer the wall than it had been yet. Her mind was as agile as her
body was by nature indolent, and it was always ready to turn in any
direction and look any foe squarely in the face. She was startled, but
she could not be shaken.
“I’ve left Balnillo for good,” said he again. “I cannot go back–I
“You–_will not?_” said Christian, half closing her eyes. The pupils
had contracted, and looked like tiny black beads set in a narrow
glitter of grey. “Is that what you have come home to say to _me?_”
“It is impossible!” he cried, turning away and flinging out his arms.
“It is more than I can do! I will not go man-hunting after Logie. I
will go anywhere else, do anything else, but not that!”
“There is nothing else for you to do.”
“Then I will come back here.”
“That you will not,” said Christian.
He drew in his breath as if he had been struck.
“What are you that you should betray me, and yet think to force
yourself on me without my resenting it? What do you think I am that I
should suffer it?”
“I have not betrayed you,” said he in a husky voice.
The loyal worship he had given her unquestioning through the long
dependence and the small but poignant vicissitudes of childhood came
back on him like a returning tide and doubled the cruelty of her
words. She was the one person against whom he felt unable to defend
himself. He loved her truly, and the thought of absolute separation
from her came over him like a chill.
“I did not think you could speak to me in this way. It is terrible!”
he said. His dark eyes were full of pain. He spoke as simply as a
Satisfaction stole back to her. She had not lost her hold on him,
would not lose it. Another woman might have flung an affectionate word
into the balance to give the final clip to the scale, but she never
thought of doing that; neither impulse nor calculation suggested it,
because affection was not the weapon she was accustomed to trust. Her
faith was in the heavy hand. Her generalship was good enough to tell
her the exact moment of wavering in the enemy in front, the magic
instant for a fresh attack.
“You are a bitter disappointment,” she said. “Life has brought me
many, but you are the greatest. I have had to go without some
necessities in my time, and I now shall have to go without you. But I
can do it, and I will.”
“You mean that you will turn from me altogether?”
“Am I not plain enough? I can be plainer if you like. You shall go out
of this house and go where you will. I do not care where you go. But
you are forgetting that I have some curiosity. I wish to understand
what has happened to you since you wrote your letter. That is
“It is Logie,” said he. “He has made it impossible for me. I cannot
cheat a man who has given me all his confidence.”
“He gave you his confidence?” cried Madam Flemington. “Heavens! He is
well served, that stage-puppet Prince, when his servants confide in
the first stranger they meet! Captain Logie must be a man of honour!”
“He is,” said Archie. “It was his own private confidence he gave me. I
heard his own history from his own lips, and, knowing it, I cannot go
on deceiving him. I like him too much.”
Madam Flemington was confounded. The difficulty seemed so strangely
puerile. A whim, a fancy, was to ruin the work of years and turn
everything upside down. On the top, she was exasperated with Archie,
but underneath, it was worse. She found her influence and her power at
stake, and her slave was being wrested from her, in spite of every
interest which had bound them together. She loved him with a jealous,
untender love that was dependent on outward circumstances, and she was
proud of him. She had smiled at his devotion to her as she would have
smiled with gratified comprehension at the fidelity of a favourite
dog, understanding the creature’s justifiable feeling, and knowing how
creditable it was to its intelligence.
“What has all this to do with your duty?” she demanded.
“My duty is too hard,” he cried. “I cannot do it, grandmother!”
“_Too hard!_” she exclaimed. “Pah! you weary me–you disgust me. I am
sick of you, Archie!”
His lip quivered, and he met her eyes with a mist of dazed trouble in
his own. A black curtain seemed to be falling between them.
“I told him every absurdity I could imagine,” said he. “I made him
believe that I was dependent upon my work for my daily bread. I did
not think he would take my lies as he did. His kindness was so
great–so generous! Grandmother, he would have had me promise to go to
him for help. How can I spy upon him and cheat him after that?”
He stopped. He could not tell her more, for he knew that the mention
of the hundred pounds would but make her more angry; the details of
what Logie had written could be given to no one. He was only waiting
for an opportunity to destroy the paper he carried.
“We have to do with principles, not men,” said Madam Flemington. “He
is a rebel to his King. If I thought you were so much as dreaming of
going over to those worthless Stuarts, I would never see you nor speak
to you again. I would sooner see you dead. Is _that_ what is in your
“There is nothing farther from my thoughts,” said he. “I can have no
part with rebels. I am a Whig, and I shall always be a Whig. I have
told you the plain truth.”
“And now _I_ will tell you the plain truth,” said Madam Flemington.
“While I am alive you will not enter Ardguys. When you cut yourself
off from me you will do so finally. I will have no half-measures as I
have no half-sentiments. I have bred you up to support King George’s
interests against the whole band of paupers at St. Germain, that you
may pay a part of the debt of injury they laid upon me and mine. Mary
Beatrice took my son from me. You do not know what you have to thank
her for, Archie, but I will tell you now! You have to thank her that
your mother was a girl of the people–of the streets–a slut taken
into the palace out of charity. She was forced on my son by the Queen
and her favourite, Lady Despard. That was how they rewarded us, my
husband and me, for our fidelity! He was in his grave, and knew
nothing, but I was there. I am here still, and I remember still!”
The little muscles round her strong lips were quivering.
Archie had never seen Madam Flemington so much disturbed, and it was
something of a shock to him to find that the power he had known always
as self-dependent, aloof, unruffled, could be at the mercy of so much
“Lady Despard was one of that Irish rabble that followed King James
along with better people, a woman given over to prayers and
confessions and priests. She is dead, thank God! It was she who took
your mother out of the gutter, where she sang from door to door,
meaning to make a nun of her, for her voice was remarkable, and she
and her priests would have trained her for a convent choir. But the
girl had no stomach for a nunnery; the backstairs of the palace
pleased her better, and the Queen took her into her household, and
would have her sing to her in her own chamber. She was handsome, too,
and she hid the devil that was in her from the women. The men knew her
better, and the Chevalier and your father knew her best of all. But at
last Lady Despard got wind of it. They dared not turn her into the
streets for fear of the priests, and to save her own son the Queen
She stopped, looking to see the effect of her words. Archie was very
“Is my true name Flemington?” he asked abruptly.
“You are my own flesh and blood,” said she, “or you would not be
standing here. Their fear was that the Chevalier would marry her
privately, but they got him out of the way, and your father seduced
the girl. Then, to make the Chevalier doubly safe, they forced him to
make her his wife–he who was only nineteen! They did it secretly, but
when the marriage was known, I would not receive her, and I left the
court and went to Rouen. I have lived ever since in the hope of seeing
the Stuarts swept from the earth. Your father is gone, and you are all
I have left, but you shall go too if you join yourself to them.”
“I shall not do that,” said he.
“Do you understand now what it costs me to see you turn back?” said
The mantle had slipped from her shoulders, and her white hands,
crossed at the wrists, lay with the fingers along her arms. She stood
trying to dissect the component parts of his trouble and to fashion
something out of them on which she might make a new attack. Forces
outside her own understanding were at work in him which were strong
enough to take the fine edge of humiliation off the history she had
just told him; she guessed their presence, unseen though they were,
and her acute practical mind was searching for them. She was like an
astronomer whose telescope is turned on the tract of sky in which, as
his science tells him, some unknown body will arise.
She had always taken his pride of race for granted, as she took her
own. The influx of the base blood of the “slut” had been a
mortification unspeakable, but to Madam Flemington, the actual
treachery practised on her had not been the crowning insult. The thing
was bad, but the manner of its doing was worse, for the Queen and Lady
Despard had used young Flemington as though he had been of no account.
The Flemingtons had served James Stuart whole-heartedly, taking his
evil fortunes as though they had been their own; they had done it of
their own free will, high-handedly. But Mary Beatrice and her
favourite had treated Christian and her son as slaves, chattels to be
sacrificed to the needs of their owner. There was enough nobility in
Christian to see that part of the business as its blackest spot.
She had kept the knowledge of it from Archie, because she had the
instinct common to all savage creatures (and Christian’s affinity with
savage creatures was a close one) for the concealment of desperate
wounds. Her silks, her ruby earrings, her physical indolence, her
white hands, all the refinements that had accrued to her in her
world-loving life, all that went to make the outward presentment of
the woman, was the mere ornamental covering of the savage in her. That
savage watched Archie now.
Madam Flemington was removed by two generations from Archie, and there
was a gulf of evolution between them, unrealized by either. Their
conscious ideals might be identical; but their unconscious ideals,
those that count with nations and with individuals, were different.
And the same trouble, one that might be accepted and acknowledged by
each, must affect each differently. The old regard a tragedy through
its influences on the past, and the young through its influences on
the future. To Archie, Madam Flemington’s revelation was an
insignificant thing compared to the horror that was upon him now. It
was done and it could not be undone, and he was himself, with his life
before him, in spite of it. It was like the withered leaf of a
poisonous plant, a thing rendered innocuous by the processes of
nature. What process of nature could make his agony innocuous? The
word ‘treachery’ had become a nightmare to him, and on every side he
was fated to hear it.
Its full meaning had only been brought home to him two days ago, and
now the hateful thing was being pressed on him by one who had suffered
from it bitterly. What could he say to her? How was he to make her see
as he saw? His difficulty was a sentimental one, and one that she
would not recognize.
Archie was not logical. He had still not much feeling about having
deceived Lord Balnillo, whose hospitality he had accepted and enjoyed,
but, as he had said, he could not go “man-hunting” after James, who
had offered him a brother’s help, whose heart he had seen, whose life
had already been cut in two by the baneful thing. There was little
room in Archie’s soul for anything but the shadow of that nightmare of
treachery, and the shadow was creeping towards him. Had his mother
been a grand-duchess of spotless reputation, what could her virtue or
her blue blood avail him in his present distress? She was nothing to
him, that “slut” who had brought him forth; he owed her no allegiance,
bore her no grudge. The living woman to whom he owed all stood before
him beloved, admired, cutting him to the heart.
He assented silently; but Christian understood that, though he looked
as if she had carried her point, his looks were the only really
unreliable part of him. She knew that he was that curious thing–a man
who could keep his true self separate from his moods. It had taken her
years to learn that, but she had learnt it at last.
For once she was, like other people, baffled by his naturalness. It
was plain that he suffered, yet she could not tell how she was to
mould the hard stuff hidden below his suffering. But she must work
with the heavy hand.
“You will leave here to-morrow,” she said; “you shall not stay here to
shirk your duty”; and again the pupils of her eyes contracted as she
“I will go now,” said he.