A little after noon on the following
day, Amaryllis and Dick Bellamy, followed by Gorgon
with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, entered the
hall by the front door, clamouring for drinks, to find
Caldegard swearing over a telegram.
“What’s the matter, dad?” she asked.
“Sir Charles Colombe,”
replied her father. “He will be deeply indebted
if I will call at the Home Office at one-thirty p.m.
I should think he would be! If the message had
been sent in time I could have caught the twelve thirty-five.
It’s a quarter past now, and it can’t be
“Yes, it can,” said Dick.
“Grab your hat and tie it on, while I get my
Randal, coming from his study, was
in time to see the car vanish in a cloud of dust.
“Where are they going?” he asked.
“To catch the twelve thirty-five,”
replied Amaryllis. “Dick says he can do
it in seven and a half minutes.”
Randal not only noticed the christian
name, but also the girl’s unconsciousness of
having used it.
“They want father at the Home
Office. Who’s Sir Charles Colombe, Sir
Randal?” she asked.
“Permanent Under Secretary,”
he answered. “I suppose Broadfoot is making
And he looked at her as if he were
thinking of Amaryllis rather than of permanent or
political chiefs of Home Affairs.
“This is Friday, you know,” he said at
“Yes,” replied the girl,
and Randal thought her face showed embarrassment but
of what nature, he could not tell.
“I won’t spoil your lunch,
my dear child,” he said, looking down at her
with eyes curiously contracted. “But if
you’ll give me half an hour in the afternoon ”
“Of course I will,” she
replied, with frank kindness. “And, oh!
may I have a lemon-squash?”
A little later, as he watched her
drink it, he admired her more than ever before.
Since he first met her he had taken increasing pleasure
from the tall figure, of which the fine lines and just
proportions hid the strength and energy he had seen
her upon occasion display; and he had often asked
himself in what attitude or action her inherent grace
appeared most charming. Sometimes it was driving
from the tee, at another taking a swift volley which
she must run to meet; or, again, just pouring out
his coffee. But now, lounging on the old leather
sofa, with her head tipped well back for red lips
and white teeth to capture the slip of ice sliding
to them from the bottom of the long tumbler, he thought
her the very perfection of innocent freedom and symmetry.
And when the ice was crunched and
swallowed, she laughed joyously, showing him that
the teeth he had cried pity on were sound as ever;
so that he raked his mind for jest and anecdote just
that he might see them flash yet again.
But there was a difference in her
to-day a softer touch, as of happiness
to come, flinging backward in her face a clouded reflection
from the future. The image in that distant mirror,
however, he could not see, and his gaiety failed him.
“I’m awfully untidy,”
she said at last, springing to her feet and pushing
back loosened hair. “It’s nearly lunch
time I hope so, at least, because I’m
Perhaps it was best, after all, standing
a little to one side, to see her mount that flight
of broad, shallow steps; yet, being unable at once
to make up his mind, he waited there at the stair’s
foot to see her come down again.
She came at last, with so new a smile
on her lips, that criticism was lost in curiosity.
Its subtle curves blended expectancy, fear and tenderness,
seen through a veil of restraint.
Then he saw that she was looking over
his head, and turned to see his brother standing in
the doorway, with the sunlight behind him.
The half-hour she had promised him
left Amaryllis little less unhappy than Randal Bellamy.
Tea under the cedar was over, and
Amaryllis could not eat even another éclair,
when he had said to her, “It’s half-past
“Oh, yes,” she replied, and folded her
hands in her lap.
“So I’ve got till six o’clock,”
he went on.
“Yes,” said Amaryllis,
adding, a little uneasily, “and as much longer
as you like, Sir Randal.”
He smiled at her mistake, and shook his head in resignation.
“You don’t mean that not
in my sense,” he said. “But look here,
my dear: I do really think it wouldn’t
be a bad thing for you to marry me. You have
no idea how good I should be to you. I have money
and position. You like me, and you will like
me better. And for me well, it hardly
seems fair to tell you what it would mean to me.”
“Why not fair?” asked
the girl, pained by his eagerness, and wishing it
“I’ve always thought that
appealing ad misericordiam was taking a mean
advantage. If I do it now, don’t listen
to me. But, if I’m worth it to you, Amaryllis,
take me, and you shan’t regret it.”
“You are worth anything everything!”
she cried, much distressed. “Worth ever
so much more, dear Sir Randal, than I could give.
But I’d give you all that I am indeed
I would if it wasn’t for for ”
“Yes?” he asked. “Go on.
Wasn’t for what?”
“If it wasn’t for something
that says ‘don’t!’ Oh, please understand.
I like you awfully, but it says it, and says it I
don’t know why.”
For a moment neither spoke.
“You do understand, don’t you?”
she asked at last.
“I believe you, my dear,”
he answered; then added gently: “There’s
a happier man somewhere, I think.”
Amaryllis opened her eyes wide, almost, it seemed,
“Oh, no, no!” she cried.
“Truthfully, I don’t know any more than
I’ve told you.”
When he was gone, she sat for a long time, wishing
she could feel alone.
Several times between lunch and dinner
that day had Amaryllis wondered why Dick Bellamy was
so taciturn silent and sombre almost to
moroseness. But Randal had no doubt that he knew.
Dick, the least sullen and most even-tempered
of men, was for once at war with himself. The
midnight phantom had become a daylight obsession.
Although he thought he knew what women
were, he had never reached a definition of “being
in love.” For, having more than once believed
himself in that condition, he had as often found himself
too suddenly free.
Before this English girl had seized
upon his thoughts so that nothing else interested
him, he had said there was always the car in which
to run away.
He was not afraid of offending his
brother, for Randal knew him as he knew Randal.
But a man does not throw himself into the sea just
because there is a lifebuoy handy. Secure, therefore,
in his power to escape, it was not until this afternoon
that he found decision forced upon him. If he
went, there was good chance of freedom; if he stayed,
no chance at all.
He was lying on his back, looking
up through the branches of a huge tree, when he reached
what he considered this clear alternative. He
was a man who seldom lied to himself; so now it was
with a sudden sharpness that he felt the sting of
“I’ve been trying to kid
myself that I’m like the damn fool who runs
away from the girl he’s getting fond of because
he’s afraid of marriage. But I’m
not. I’m the coward who’s up to his
knees, and funks letting himself all in for fear of
not being able to reach what he’s at least able
to swim for.”
At dinner, Amaryllis, in sheer kindness
of heart, shone with good humour, readiness of reply
and flow of conversation. Randal, while he felt
that she now and then forced the note, caught her motive,
and responding, smoothed her way. But Dick, having
from childhood accepted Randal’s immunity from
love as an axiom, took it all in good faith, and emerging
by quick degrees from his taciturnity, soon had his
share of the talk and laughter.
He too had noticed at first a certain
strain and effort in the girl’s manner; but
put it down to the absence of her father from the table.
And so, when the trunk-call came to tell them he was
dining with the Secretary of State and would be home
late, and Amaryllis seemed to “settle into her
stride,” Dick thought of the matter no further,
but only of her.
After coffee in the hall, Randal excused
himself on the plea of letter-writing, and Amaryllis,
alone with his brother, fell silent.
For a minute he watched her unobtrusively,
and wondered why the life had gone out of her.
“Sleepy, Miss Caldegard?” he asked at
“No,” she replied.
“Tired a little and worried.
Everybody’s so keen on something. Father
on you know what. You, though I’ve
never seen you do anything, look keener than any man
I ever saw; and Sir Randal’s keen about horrid
business-letters. Generally I don’t even
want to open mine.”
“’Cause you don’t want to answer
’em,” suggested Dick.
“Yes,” admitted the girl, laughing and
“What’s up?” asked Dick.
“You’ve reminded me,”
she answered, pressing the bell beside her, “that
there’s one of my letters this morning that I
never looked at. We were talking such a lot.
I remember the look of the envelope. I haven’t
a notion what was in it.”
“Might be money,” suggested Dick.
“Or bad news,” said Amaryllis.
“I hate letters. When you want them, they
don’t say enough. When you don’t,
they say too much.” Then, to the parlour-maid
she had summoned: “I have left some letters
on my table. If there’s one that hasn’t
been opened, please bring it to me.” And
to Dick: “I wonder what it’s like
having dinner with Home Secretaries.”
“Nearest I’ve been to
it was having breakfast with a Prime Minister,”
he answered. “It was soon over, and not
so bad as it might have been. The omelette was
dispersed by shrapnel, and a machine-gun found the
range of the coffee-pot.”
“What did the Prime Minister do?” asked
“Forgot where the door was, and went out of
office by the window.”
“Was it a war?”
“Oh, no,” said Dick. “Only
The parlour-maid returned with a sealed
letter. Until she was gone, Amaryllis eyed the
writing on the envelope with reluctant displeasure;
then looked at Dick.
“Please do,” he said.
When she had glanced at the letter.
“I wish you’d said don’t,”
she complained. “Neither money nor bad news.
Foolishness from an unpleasant person that’s
On the point of tearing it, she checked herself.
“It’s dad’s business
after all,” she murmured, more to herself than
Dick; and rising, went upstairs quickly, as about to
As she disappeared from the eyes which
could not help watching her, Randal came up the narrow
corridor from the study. Dick sank back into
his chair and looked up at his brother.
“Billiards?” said Randal.
“Give me fifty, and I’ll play you a hundred
Dick shook his head. “Too lazy,”
“Miss Caldegard gone to bed?” asked Randal.
“Looked as if she was coming back though
she did say she was tired.”
“Then I’ll practise that
canon you were showing me. See you again,”
said Randal, and went upstairs.
In the passage above he met Amaryllis.
The sound of their voices, but not their words, trickled
down to Dick in the hall.
Then she came; and the man, lest he
should show in his face the pleasure that came with
her, did not look at the girl until she was at the
foot of the stair; and when he did raise his eyes,
it was to find hers averted, and to see her turn at
once to her left and make for the study. Just
as she was disappearing into the narrow corridor, he
saw, or thought that he saw, her white shoulder shaken
by a sob without sound.
With an eager instinct he sprang to
his feet and sat down again. If she
wanted his help, she would ask for it.
Almost at once, however, he rose again,
unsatisfied and restless; and hardly knew what he
was doing before he found himself at the study door,
and in his ears a sound which told him that he had
read her shoulders correctly.
He went in, closing the door as softly
as he had opened it.
Randal had left his shaded lamp burning
on the writing-table. And there, shining head
bent over the table and lit by the broad circle of
light, her body shaken with suppressed sobbing, was
Dick was close to her before he realized
that she had not heard his approach. Gently he
touched her arm.
Without starting, she looked round
at him, and he saw the tears on her face.
“Excuse my butting in,”
he said. “Do tell me what’s the matter.”
The girl tried to speak and failed.
“I’m a stranger to almost
everybody here,” he said. “When you’re
in a hole, the stranger’s about the best man
to take troubles to.”
Amaryllis shook her head.
“Come, let’s see if I can’t help,”
In her mind Amaryllis, as she felt
the tender concern of his voice, and looked up into
the brown face above the white shirt-front, was struck
with a consoling sense of protection, and knew that,
while he was the last person she could “take
her trouble to,” yet his was the sympathy which
would most surely soften, if it could not remove, any
misfortune which could ever befall her.
“I can’t I
can’t! I wish I could,” she said,
winking her eyes. “But I’m going
to be good. Please be a dear, Mr. Bellamy, and
go back to the hall. I shall be all right soon.”
“Honest,” said Amaryllis.
Dick closed the door behind him, and
walked up the passage with the limp which was always
more strongly marked in moments of preoccupation.
The balls were clicking in the billiard-room
upstairs, and he hesitated with a foot on the lowest
step. But the bond of the protection which had
been accepted even while confidence had been withheld,
seemed to tie him to the post she had assigned him.
He lit a cigar, sank into the very
chair he had left, and let his mind revert to his
discontented mood of the afternoon, laughing softly
as he admitted that it had needed only the trace of
trouble on that charming face to convince him that
he was indeed “all in.”
Something in the girl’s face
as she looked up at him had planted a seed of hope.
A clock somewhere struck softly and
many times. The cigar had been a dead stump between
his teeth for how long Dick did not know.
Randal’s voice broke his reverie.
“I’m sick of knocking
the balls about,” he said. “Come and
give me a game, you slacker.”
“Eleven!” exclaimed Dick.
“Of course I’ll play. Let’s
go and fetch Miss Caldegard and I’ll play the
two of you.”
“All right,” said Randal. “Where
“In your study,” replied
Dick, leading the way. It was an hour since he
had left her and he was anxious to rouse the girl from
He opened the door, entered quickly, and stopped.
“Good God, she’s gone!” he exclaimed.
“What d’you mean?” asked Randal.
“I left her here about an hour
ago,” said Dick. “She’s not
come out this way. There’s something wrong.”
“My dear boy, don’t excite
yourself,” said his brother. “Here’s
the french-window. I expect she’s out there.”
“With bare shoulders and thin
dress? It’s been raining like hell since
ten o’clock. I tell you there’s something
wrong,” said Dick, taking one stride to the
table, and lifting the lamp above his head. He
glanced swiftly round the room.
“Look at your safe,” he said.
Randal, impressed by his brother’s
tone, went quickly to the alcove, between whose looped
curtains showed the green door of a safe embedded
in the wall. Before he touched it,
“My God! There’s a key!” he
“Where’s yours?” snapped Dick.
“Here,” said Randal, pulling a bunch from
Randal turned the key, swung back
the heavy door, groped for a minute, and swung round
with a face like death.
“What’s gone?” cried Dick.
“Caldegard’s drug-bottle and formula!”