Read CHAPTER XXX of The Invader A Novel , free online book, by Margaret L. Woods, on

On Monday and Tuesday an interesting experiment which she was conducting under Carus claimed Tims’s whole attention, except for the evening hours, which were dedicated to Mr. Fitzalan. But she wrote to say that Mildred might expect her to tea on Wednesday. On Wednesday the post brought her a note from Mildred, dated Tuesday, midnight.

“DEAR TIMS, I am afraid you will not find me to-morrow afternoon, as I am going out of town. But do go to tea with Tony, who is just back from the sea and looking bonny. He is such a darling! I always mind leaving him, although of course I am not his mother. Oh, dear, I am so sleepy, I hardly know what I am saying. Good-bye, Tims, dear. I am very glad you are so happy with that nice Mr. Fitzalan of yours.


M. B. S.”

So far the note, although bearing signs of haste, was in Mildred’s usual clear handwriting; but there was a postscript scrawled crookedly across the inner sides of the sheet and prefixed by several flourishes:

“Meet me at Paddington 4.30 train to-morrow. Meet me.

Another flourish followed.

The note found Tims at the laboratory, which she had not intended leaving till half-past four. But the perplexing nature of the postscript, conflicting as it did with the body of the letter, made her the more inclined to obey its direction.

She arrived at Paddington in good time and soon caught sight of Mildred, although for the tenth part of a second she hesitated in identifying her; for Mildred seldom wore black, although she looked well in it. To-day she was dressed in a long, black silk wrap which, gathered about her slender figure by a ribbon, concealed her whole dress and wore a long, black lace veil which might have baffled the eyes of a mere acquaintance. Tims could not fail to recognize that willowy figure, with its rare grace of motion, that amber hair, those turquoise-blue eyes that gleamed through the swathing veil with a restless brilliancy unusual even in them. With disordered dress and hat on one side, Tims hastened after Mildred.

“So here you are!” she exclaimed; “that’s all right! I managed to come, you see, though it’s been a bit of a rush.”

Mildred looked around at her, astonished, possibly dismayed; but the veil acted as a mask.

“Well, this is a surprise, Tims! What on earth brought you here? Is anything the matter?”

“Just what I wanted to know. Why are you in black? Going to a funeral?”

“Good Heavens, no! The only funeral I mean to go to will be my own. But, Tims, I thought you were going to tea with Tony. Why have you come here?”

“Didn’t you tell me to come in the postscript of your letter?”

Mildred was evidently puzzled.

“I don’t remember anything about it,” she said. “I was frightfully tired when I wrote to you in fact, I went to sleep over the letter; but I can’t imagine how I came to say that.”

Tims was not altogether surprised. She had had an idea that Mildred was not answerable for that postscript, but Mildred herself had no clew to the mystery, never having been told of Milly’s written communication of a year ago. She sickened at the possibility that in some moment of aberration she might have written words meant for another on the note to Tims.

Tims felt sure that Milly wished her to do something but what?

“Where are you going?” she asked. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to stay with some friends who have a house on the river, and I’m going to do what people always do on the river. Any other questions to ask, Tims?”

“Yes. I should like to know who your friends are.”

Mildred laughed nervously.

“You won’t be any the wiser if I tell you.” And in the instant she reflected that what she said was true. “I am going to the Görings’.”

The difference between that and the exact truth was only the difference between the plural and the singular.

“Don’t go, old girl,” said Tims, earnestly. “Come back to Tony with me and wait till Ian comes home.”

Mildred was very pale behind the heavy black lace of her veil and her heart beat hard; but she spoke with self-possession.

“Don’t be absurd, Tims. Tony is perfectly well, and there’s Mr. Goring who is to travel down with me. How can I possibly go back? You’re worrying about Milly, I suppose. Well, I’m rather nervous about her myself. I always am when I go away alone. You don’t mind my telling them to wire for you if I sleep too long, do you? And you’d come as quick as ever you could? Think how awkward it would be for Milly and for for the Görings.”

“I’d come right enough,” returned Tims, sombrely. “But if you feel like that, don’t go.”

“I don’t feel like that,” replied Mildred; “I never felt less like it, or I shouldn’t go. Still, one should be prepared for anything that may happen. All the same, I very much doubt that you will ever see your poor friend Milly again, Tims. You must try to forgive me. Now do make haste and go to darling Tony he’s simply longing to have you. I see Mr. Goring has taken our places in the train, and I shall be left behind if I don’t go. Good-bye, old Tims.”

Mildred kissed Tims’s heated, care-distorted face, and turned away to where Goring stood at the book-stall buying superfluous literature. Tims saw him lift his hat gravely to Mildred. It relieved her vaguely to notice that there seemed no warmth or familiarity about their greeting. She turned away towards the Metropolitan Railway, not feeling quite sure whether she had failed in an important mission or merely made a fool of herself.

She found Tony certainly looking bonny, and no more inclined to break his heart about his mother’s departure than any other healthy, happy child under like circumstances. Indeed, it may be doubted whether a healthy, happy child, unknowing whence its beatitudes spring, does not in its deepest, most vital moment regard all grown-up people as necessary nuisances. No one came so delightfully near being another child as Mildred; but Tims was a capital playfellow too, a broad comedian of the kind appreciated on the nursery boards.

A rousing game with him and an evening at the theatre with Mr. Fitzalan, distracted Tims’s thoughts from her anxieties. But at night she dreamed repeatedly and uneasily of Milly and Mildred as of two separate persons, and of Mr. Goring, whose vivid face seen in the full light of the window at Hampton Court, returned to her in sleep with a distinctness unobtainable in her waking memory.

On the following day her work with Sir James Carus was of absorbing interest, and she came home tired and preoccupied with it. Yet her dreams of the night before recurred in forms at once more confused and more poignant. At two o’clock in the morning she awoke, crying aloud: “I must get Milly back”; and her pillow was wet with tears. For the two following hours she must have been awake, because she heard all the quarters strike from a neighboring church-tower, yet they appeared like a prolonged nightmare. The emotional impression of some forgotten dream remained, and she passed them in an agony of grief for she knew not what, of remorse for having on a certain summer afternoon denied Milly’s petition for her assistance, and of intense volition, resembling prayer, for Milly’s return.