Audrey did not deem that she had begun
truly to live until the next morning, when they left
London, after having passed a night in the Charing
Cross Hotel. During several visits to London in
the course of the summer Audrey had learnt something
about the valuelessness of money in a metropolis chiefly
inhabited by people who were positively embarrassed
by their riches. She knew, for example, that
money being very plentiful and stylish hats very rare,
large quantities of money had to be given for infinitesimal
quantities of hats. The big and glittering shops
were full of people whose pockets bulged with money
which they were obviously anxious to part with in
order to obtain goods, while the proud shop-assistants,
secure in the knowledge that money was naught and
goods were everything, did their utmost, by hauteur
and steely negatives, to render any transaction possible.
It was the result of a mysterious “Law of Exchange.”
She was aware of this. She had lost her childhood’s
naïve illusions about the sovereignty of money.
Nevertheless she received one or two
shocks on the journey, which was planned upon the
most luxurious scale that the imagination of Messrs.
Thomas Cook & Son could conceive. There was four
pounds and ninepence to pay for excess luggage at
Charing Cross. Half a year earlier four pounds
would have bought all the luggage she could have got
together. She very nearly said to the clerk at
the window: “Don’t you mean shillings?”
But in spite of nervousness, blushings, and all manner
of sensitive reactions to new experiences, her natural
sang-froid and instinctive knowledge of the world
saved her from such a terrible lapse, and she put down
a bank-note without the slightest hint that she was
wondering whether it would not be more advantageous
to throw the luggage away.
The boat was crowded, and the sea
and wind full of menace. Fighting their way along
the deck after laden porters, Audrey and Miss Ingate
simultaneously espied the private cabin list hung in
a conspicuous spot. They perused it as eagerly
as if it had been the account of a cause célèbre.
Among the list were two English lords, an Honourable
Mrs., a baroness with a Hungarian name, several Teutonic
names, and Mrs. Moncreiff.
Audrey blushed deeply at the sign
of Mrs. Moncreiff, for she was Mrs. Moncreiff.
Behind the veil, and with the touch of white in her
toque, she might have been any age up to twenty-eight
or so. It would have been impossible to say that
she was a young girl, that she was not versed in the
world, that she had not the whole catechism of men
at her finger-ends. All who glanced at her glanced
again-with sympathy and curiosity; and the
second glance pricked Audrey’s conscience, making
her feel like a thief. But her moods were capricious.
At one moment she was a thief, a clumsy fraud, an
ignorant ninny, and a suitable prey for the secret
police; and at the next she was very clever, self-confident,
equal to the situation, and enjoying the situation
more than she had ever enjoyed anything, and determined
to prolong the situation indefinitely.
The cabin was very spacious, yet not
more so than was proper, considering that the rent
of it came to about sixpence a minute. There was
room, even after all the packages were stowed, for
both of them to lie down. But instead of lying
down they eagerly inspected the little abode.
They found a lavatory basin with hot and cold water
taps, but no hot water and no cold water, no soap
and no towels. And they found a crystal water-bottle,
but it was empty. Then a steward came and asked
them if they wanted anything, and because they were
miserable poltroons they smiled and said “No.”
They were secretly convinced that all the other private
cabins, inhabited by titled persons and by financiers,
were superior to their cabin, and that the captain
of the steamer had fobbed them off with an imitation
of a real cabin.
Then it was that Miss Ingate, who
since Charing Cross had been a little excited by a
glimpsed newspaper contents-bill indicating suffragette
riots that morning, perceived, through the open door
of the cabin, a most beautiful and most elegant girl,
attired impeccably in that ritualistic garb of travel
which the truly cosmopolitan wear on combined rail-and-ocean
journeys and on no other occasions. It was at
once apparent that the celestial creature had put
on that special hat, that special veil, that special
cloak, and those special gloves because she was deeply
aware of what was correct, and that she would not
put them on again until destiny took her again across
the sea, and that if destiny never did take her again
across the sea never again would she show herself in
the vestments, whose correctness was only equalled
by their expensiveness.
The young woman, however, took no
thought of her impressive clothes. She was existing
upon quite another plane. Miss Ingate, preoccupied
by the wrongs and perils of her sex, and momentarily
softened out of her sardonic irony, suspected that
they might be in the presence of a victim of oppression
or neglect. The victim lay Half-prone upon the
hard wooden seat against the ship’s rail.
Her dark eyes opened piteously at times, and her exquisite
profile, surmounted by the priceless hat all askew,
made a silhouette now against the sea and now against
the distant white cliffs of Albion, according to the
fearful heaving of the ship. Spray occasionally
dashed over her. She heeded it not. A few
feet farther off she would have been sheltered by
a weather-awning, but, clinging fiercely to the rail,
she would not move.
Then a sharp squall of rain broke,
but she entirely ignored the rain.
The next moment Miss Ingate and Audrey,
rushing forth, had gently seized her and drawn her
into their cabin. They might have succoured other
martyrs to the modern passion for moving about, for
there were many; but they chose this particular martyr
because she was so wondrously dressed, and also perhaps
a little because she was so young. As she lay
on the cabin sofa she looked still younger; she looked
a child. Yet when Miss Ingate removed her gloves
in order to rub those chill, fragile, and miraculously
manicured hands, a wedding ring was revealed.
The wedding ring rendered her intensely romantic in
the eyes of Audrey and Miss Ingate, who both thought,
“She must be the wife of one of those lords!”
Every detail of her raiment, as she
was put at her ease, showed her to be clothed in precisely
the manner which Audrey and Miss Ingate thought peeresses
always were clothed. Hence, being English, they
mingled respect with their solacing pity. Nevertheless,
their respect was tempered by a peculiar pride, for
both of them, in taking lemonade on the Pullman, had
taken therewith a certain preventive or remedy which
made them loftily indifferent to the heaving of ships
and the eccentricities of the sea. The specific
had done all that was claimed for it-which
was a great deal-so much so that they felt
themselves superwomen among a cargo of flaccid and
feeble sub-females. And they grew charmingly conceited.
“Am I in my cabin?” murmured
the martyr, about a quarter of an hour after Miss
Ingate, having obtained soda water, had administered
to her a dose of the miraculous specific.
Her delicious cheeks were now a delicate
crimson. But they had been of a delicate crimson
“No,” said Audrey. “You’re
in ours. Which is yours?”
“It’s on the other side
of the ship, then. I came out for a little air.
But I couldn’t get back. I’d just
as lief have died as shift from that seat out there
by the railings.”
Something in the accent, something
in those fine English words “lief” and
“shift,” destroyed in the minds of Audrey
and Miss Ingate the agreeable notion that they had
a peeress on their hands.
“Is your husband on board?” asked Audrey.
“He just is,” was the answer. “He’s
in our cabin.”
“Shall I fetch him?” Miss
Ingate suggested. The corners of her lips had
begun to fall once more.
“Will you?” said the young
woman. “It’s Lord Southminster.
I’m Lady Southminster.”
The two saviours were thrilled.
Each felt that she had misinterpreted the accent,
and that probably peeresses did habitually use such
words as “lief” and “shift.”
The corners of Miss Ingate’s lips rose to their
“I’ll look for the number
on the cabin list,” said she hastily, and went
forth with trembling to summon the peer.
As Audrey, alone in the cabin with
Lady Southminster, bent curiously over the prostrate
form, Lady Southminster exclaimed with an air of childlike
“You’re real ladies, you are!”
And Audrey felt old and experienced.
She decided that Lady Southminster could not be more
than seventeen, and it seemed to be about half a century
since Audrey was seventeen.
“He can’t come,”
announced Miss Ingate breathlessly, returning to the
cabin, and supporting herself against the door as the
solid teak sank under her feet. “Oh yes!
He’s there all right. It was Number 12.
I’ve seen him. I told him, but I don’t
think he heard me-to understand, that is.
If you ask me, he couldn’t come if forty wives
sent for him.”
“Oh, couldn’t he!”
observed Lady Southminster, sitting up. “Couldn’t
When the boat was within ten minutes
of France, the remedy had had such an effect upon
her that she could walk about. Accompanied by
Audrey she managed to work her way round the cabin-deck
to N. It was empty, save for hand-luggage!
The two girls searched, as well as they could, the
whole crowded ship for Lord Southminster, and found
him not. Lady Southminster neither fainted nor
wept. She merely said:
“Oh! All right! If that’s it....!”
Hand-luggage was being collected.
But Lady Southminster would not collect hers, nor
allow it to be collected. She agreed with Miss
Ingate and Audrey that her husband must ultimately
reappear either on the quay or in the train.
While they were all standing huddled together in the
throng waiting for the gangway to put ashore, she
said in a low casual tone, ^ propos of nothing:
“I only married him the day
before yesterday. I don’t know whether you
know, but I used to make cigarettes in Constantinopoulos’s
window in Piccadilly. I don’t see why I
should be ashamed of it, d’you?”
“Certainly not,” said
Miss Ingate. “But it is rather romantic,
isn’t it, Audrey?”
Despite the terrific interest of the
adventure of the cigarette girl, disappointment began
immediately after landing. This France, of which
Audrey had heard so much and dreamed so much, was a
very ramshackle and untidy and one-horse affair.
The custom-house was rather like a battlefield without
any rules of warfare; the scene in the refreshment-room
was rather like a sack after a battle; the station
was a desert with odd files of people here and there;
the platforms were ridiculous, and you wanted a pair
of steps to get up into the train. Whatever romance
there might be in France had been brought by Audrey
in her secret heart and by Lady Southminster.
Audrey had come to France, and she
was going to Paris, solely because of a vision which
had been created in her by the letters and by the photographs
of Madame Piriac. Although Madame Piriac and she
had absolutely no tie of blood, Madame Piriac being
the daughter by a first husband of the French widow
who became the first Mrs. Moze-and speedily
died, Audrey persisted privately in regarding Madame
Piriac as a kind of elder sister. She felt a
very considerable esteem for Madame Piriac, upon whom
she had never set eyes, and Madame Piriac had certainly
given her the impression that France was to England
what paradise is to purgatory. Further, Audrey
had fallen in love with Madame Piriac’s portraits,
whose elegance was superb. And yet, too, Audrey
was jealous of Madame Piriac, and especially so since
the attainment of freedom and wealth. Madame
Piriac had most warmly invited her, after the death
of Mrs. Moze, to pay a long visit to Paris as a guest
in her home. Audrey had declined-from
jealousy. She would not go to Madame Piriac’s
as a raw girl, overdone with money, who could only
speak one language and who knew nothing at all of
this our planet. She would go, if she went, as
a young woman of the world who could hold her own in
any drawing-room, be it Madame Piriac’s or another.
Hence Miss Ingate had obtained the address of a Paris
boarding-house, and one or two preliminary introductions
from political friends in London.
Well, France was not equal to its
reputation; and Miss Ingate’s sardonic smile
seemed to be saying: “So this is your France!”
However, the excitement of escorting
the youngest English peeress to Paris sufficed for
Audrey, even if it did not suffice for Miss Ingate
with her middle-aged apprehensions. They knew
that Lady Southminster was the youngest English peeress
because she had told them so. At the very moment
when they were dispatching a telegram for her to an
address in London, she had popped out the remark:
“Do you know I’m the youngest peeress in
England?” And truth shone in her candid and simple
smile. They had not found the peer, neither on
the ship, nor on the quay, nor in the station.
And the peeress would not wait. She was indeed
obviously frightened at the idea of remaining in Calais
alone, even till the next express. She said that
her husband’s “man” would meet the
train in Paris. She ate plenteously with Audrey
and Miss Ingate in the refreshment-room, and she would
not leave them nor allow them to leave her. The
easiest course was to let her have her way, and she
By dint of Miss Ingate’s unscrupulous
tricks with small baggage they contrived to keep a
whole compartment to themselves. As soon as the
train started the peeress began to cry. Then,
wiping her heavenly silly eyes, and upbraiding herself,
she related to her protectresses the glory of a new
manicure set. Unfortunately she could not show
them the set, as it had been left in the cabin.
She was actually in possession of nothing portable
except her clothes, some English magazines bought at
Calais, and a handbag which contained much money and
“He’s done it on purpose,”
she said to Audrey as soon as Miss Ingate went off
to take tea in the tea-car. “I’m sure
he’s done it on purpose. He’s hidden
himself, and he’ll turn up when he thinks he’s
beaten me. D’you know why I wouldn’t
bring that luggage away out of the cabin? Because
we had a quarrel about it, at the station, and he
said things to me. In fact we weren’t speaking.
And we weren’t speaking last night either.
The radiator of his-our-car
leaked, and we had to come home from the Coliseum in
a motor-bus. He couldn’t get a taxi.
It wasn’t his fault, but a friend of mine told
me the day before I was married that a lady always
ought to be angry when her husband can’t get
a taxi after the theatre-she says it does
’em good. So first I told him he mustn’t
leave me to look for one. Then I said I’d
wait where I was, and then I said we’d walk on,
and then I said we must take a motor-bus. It
was that that finished him. He said: ’Did
I expect him to invent a taxi when there wasn’t
one?’ And he swore. So of course I sulked.
You must, you know. And my shoes were too thin
and I felt chilly. But only a fortnight before
I was making cigarettes in the window of Constantinopoulos’s.
Funny, isn’t it? Otherwise he’s behaved
splendid. Still, what I do say is a man’s
no right to be ill when he’s taking you to Paris
on your honeymoon. I knew he was going to be ill
when I left him in the cabin, but he stuck me out
he wasn’t. A man that’s so bad he
can’t come to his wife when she’s
bad isn’t a man-that’s what
I say. Don’t you think so? You know
all about that sort of thing, I lay.”
Audrey said briefly that she did think
so, glad that the peeress’s intense and excusable
interest in herself kept her from being curious about
“Marriage ain’t all chocolate-creams,”
said the peeress after a pause. “Have one?”
And she opened her bag very hospitably.
Then she turned to her magazines.
And no sooner had she glanced at the cover of the
second one than she gave a squeal, and, fetching deep
breaths, passed the periodical to Audrey. At
the top of the cover was printed in large letters
the title of a story by a famous author of short tales.
Henceforward a suspicion that had
lain concealed in the undergrowth of the hearts of
the two girls stalked boldly about in full daylight.
“He’s done it, and he’s
done it to spite me!” murmured Lady Southminster
“Oh no!” Audrey protested.
“Even if he had fallen overboard he’d have
been seen and the captain would have stopped the boat.”
“Where do you come from?”
Lady Southminster retorted with disdain. “That’s
an omen, that is”-pointing
to the words on the cover of the magazine. “What
else could it be? I ask you.”
When Miss Ingate returned the child
was fast asleep. Miss Ingate was paler than usual.
Having convinced herself that the sleeper did genuinely
sleep, she breathed to Audrey:
“He’s in the next compartment!
... He must have hidden himself till nearly the
last minute on the boat and then got into the train
while we were sending off that telegram.”
“Shall you wake her?”
“Wake her, and have a scene-with
us here? No, I shan’t. He’s a
“How d’you know?” asked Audrey.
“Well, he must have been a fool to marry her.”
“Well,” whispered Audrey.
“If I’d been a man I’d have married
that face like a shot.”
“It might be all right if he’d
only married the face. But he’s married
what she calls her mind.”
“Is he young?”
“Yes. And as good-looking in his own way
as she is.”
But the Countess of Southminster stirred,
and the slight movement stopped conversation.
The journey was endless, but it was
no longer than the sleep of the Countess. At
length dusk and mist began to gather in the hollows
of the land; stations succeeded one another more frequently.
The reflections of the electric lights in the compartment
could be seen beyond the glass of the windows.
The train still ruthlessly clattered and shook and
swayed and thundered; and weary lords, ladies and
financiers had read all the illustrated magazines
and six-penny novels in existence, and they lolled
exhausted and bored amid the debris of literature and
light refreshments. Then the speed of the convoy
slackened, and Audrey, looking forth, saw a pale cathedral
dome resting aloft amid dark clouds. It was a
magical glimpse, and it was the first glimpse of Paris.
“Oh!” cried Audrey, far more like a girl
than a widow. The train rattled through defiles
of high twinkling houses, roared under bridges, screeched,
threaded forests of cold blue lamps, and at last came
to rest under a black echoing vault.
And, mysteriously, all Audrey’s
illusions concerning France had been born again.
She was convinced that Paris could not fail to be paradisiacal.
Lady Southminster awoke.
Almost simultaneously a young man
very well dressed passed along the corridor.
Lady Southminster, with an awful start, seized her
bag and sprang after him, but was impeded by other
passengers. She caught him only after he had
descended to the platform, which was at the bottom
of a precipice below the windows. He had just
been saluted by, and given orders to, a waiting valet.
She caught him sharply by the arm. He shook free
and walked quickly away up the platform, guided by
a wise instinct for avoiding a scene in front of fellow-travellers.
She followed close after him, talking with rapidity.
They receded. Audrey and Miss Ingate leaned out
of the windows to watch, and still farther and farther
out. Just as the honeymooning pair disappeared
altogether their two forms came into contact, and
Audrey’s eyes could see the arm of Lord Southminster
take the arm of Lady Southminster. They vanished
from view like one flesh. And Audrey and Miss
Ingate, deserted, forgotten utterly, unthanked, buffeted
by passengers and by the valet who had climbed up
into the carriage to take away the impedimenta of
his master, gazed at each other and then burst out
“So that’s marriage!” said Audrey.
“No,” said Miss Ingate.
“That’s love. I’ve seen a deal
of love in my time, ever since my sister Arabella’s
first engagement, but I never saw any that wasn’t
vehy, vehy queer.”
“I do hope they’ll be happy,” said
“Do you?” said Miss Ingate.