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cast from under her long lashes a negligent look round the room, and her eye had rested for a moment on the table in the cor


West perhaps had met her gaze with unnecessary sympathy, for it was hurriedly withdrawn, but in that brief second he had been overpowered by the uncomfortable feeling that between this young woman and himself there existed some mysterious bond. He began to survey her narrowly, admiring the pose of her head with its coils of brown hair, the easy vivacity of her gestures, the insinuated delicacy of her exquisitely appropriate dress and hat. He even detected her slyly taking stock of himself, and it was almost with a sense of relief that he settled that her companion was her brother, and swore to himself that he had never seen her before. Then followed a shock. In drawing off her gloves she revealed to West's keen eye the unmistakable glitter of a weddingring. He promptly called himself or something worse. Why should she not be married? What was it to him where her husband was? Yet he was so annoyed that he left his lunch half-finished and retired to the Terrace. There, lapped in a nirvana of tobaccosmoke and sunshine, he made the amazing discovery that he was no longer bored by St Germain.



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He had hardly finished his first pipe when he was joined by the unknown woman's companion, and in five minutes they had exchanged newspapers and views on the beauties of the landscape. There was much of his sister's charm in this young man's smile as he remarked with a frank laugh—

"We must introduce ourselves, I fancy. My name is Jackson; by compulsion of no profession, by taste a dabbler in literature and a dram-drinker in history."

"And I," replied West, "am called West; by profession a soldier, by taste a piratical condottiere."

"What! the Captain West?" ejaculated the young man.

West smiled. "I don't know about the 'the,' but I must own to being a Captain West," he replied, somewhat brusquely.

"But I mean," persisted Jackson, son, "the Captain West, the West of the Illustrated Papers, the West who-"

"I may as well own up," broke in the other, hurriedly. "I can't help those confounded journalists making copy of me; but really"

"I am in luck. You must let me introduce you to my sister" (it was his sister, then !), "if it won't bore you. For you know, of course, that half the women in England are off their heads to know you."

"That is why I am here. I couldn't-pardon me- stand all that absurd rot just for doing what any one would have done quite as well, and so I fled where as yet no one but yourself has discovered me."

Despite this naïve confession they continued to chat. When their pipes were finished Jackson suggested a stroll in the Forest to find his sister, and West readily agreed. Fate clearly had ordained that he should make this woman's acquaintance.

They very soon found her, and West observed how she flushed when her eyes first fell on himself. He was, of course, not aware that his own tanned skin perceptibly browned a little too if that were possible.


"Ida," said her brother, "may introduce my new acquaintance? Captain West, my sister Mrs Heathcote."

This time it was West's turn

to start most unmistakably as her name tripped innocently from her brother's lips. He always prided himself on not having a nerve in his body, yet Mrs Heathcote's searching eyes made him very uncomfortable. As their hands touched there again shot through him the weird feeling that in the dim recesses of the past there was a mysterious bond between them.

The conversation was at first irredeemably stupid. The weather, St Germain, the Forest, Paris, the Americans all had their turn. Young Jackson, however, was not to be balked, and before long West had to tell in embarrassed jerks the story of that wonderful campaign on the Indian frontier-the revolt, the great ride, the holding of the fort, the sortie and its victory with which England had been ringing. By the time that the fort was relieved they had regained the Terrace, now bathed in an afternoon sun. After all, it is not so very unpleasant even to a modest hero to dilate on one's acchievements when the audience includes a young woman who will adroitly punctuate your stories with the silent homage of glowing eyes and deep-drawn breaths. Nor was the place so incongruous. True, the Forest was sinking into the blood-red peace of a perfect sunset, and round them the nurses and children played in blissful contempt for the English tourist; but not so long ago this smiling valley too had suffered the long-drawn agony of a heroic siege, and had shuddered at the shriek of Prussian shells. In answer to Mrs Heathcote's questions, West gaily rattled on from skirmishes with dervishes in the Soudan to dacoit-hunts in Burmah and the "twisting of the tails" of restless Indian tribes. South Africa of course could not be forgotten.

"Then you have been in South Africa too?" Mrs Heathcote asked with peculiar eagerness.

West smiled with dry satisfaction. "As far as I can make out," he said, quietly, "there are few countries in which I have not shed blood, either my own or that of others-generally that of others," he added, with grim humour.

Mrs Heathcote was fingering nervously the white lace on her parasol; her brother also had become very attentive. West felt that the conversation had reached a crisis.

"You are interested in South Africa?" he asked, carelessly. "Perhaps," he went on, with an awkwardly light laugh, "you have shares in

"Oh no!" she replied, almost petulantly. Her voice dropped. "I had a friend who went out there." Then she stopped abruptly. But her look, West asked of himself, what did that look mean? There are some looks, surging up from the depths of the soul, whose tragedy no one can mistakelooks like those of a dumb animal in inexpressible torture and this was one of them. He felt rather than saw that his questioner was on the verge of tears.

"Hullo!" he cried, jumping up and pulling out his watch, "sixthirty. I must be getting back to Paris. I had no idea it was so late."

Mrs Heathcote rewarded his adroitness with a glance of deep gratitude, but she left her brother to speak.

"What! you are going back to Paris!" the young man said, in genuine dismay. "I thought you were staying here, and I was hoping- " he turned appealingly to his sister.

Captain West wavered. Why not stay? But he waited for Mrs Heathcote to decide. She had,

however, already divined the meaning of his glance.

"Oh, do stay, if you can!" she intervened, almost pleadingly. "You have not half told us all I want to know. You have still got to tell me all about South Africa." With a little more coaxing he agreed to wire for his things. The piquant aroma of mystery which hung round her stirred him vaguely; but even apart from this, an hour in her society had created in him a longing to sip a few more draughts of the refreshing spell which her voice and eyes had to offer. He flattered himself, too, that he had read in her looks that kind of interest in himself which deserves the reward of further selfindulgence.

Yet, when alone in his room, he took himself severely to task. "Come, come," he said, "you haven't come to Paris to make a fool of yourself over a woman who is already married-you, too, who have been wooed by women until you are sick of the sex. Dash it all!" with a vicious dab of the brush at his hair, "you know better than that. But I mean to see it out," he added, firmly. Then he broke into a long whistle. "This is rum, deuced rum," he muttered, as he produced his pocket-book and drew from it a scrap of yellow foreign notepaper. His fingers trembled as he looked at it, and he swore softly. The soiled fragment was merely the end of a letter, but the faded ink distinctly bore the signature "Ida Heathcote." "I thought I could not be mistaken," was his comment at last; no wonder I jumped in the Forest." And he swore softly again. He stuck his hands in his pocket, sat down on the bed, and gazed stupidly at his boots. Presently an idea struck him. He hurried off to the portier and demanded the visitors' book. Once safe in


the fumoir, he put his yellow relic beside the entry of the day. The recent writing, "Mrs Heathcote, England," was certainly more fully formed, but even to the unpractised eye it was clearly the same hand as that which had penned the scrap in his possession. "And her name is Ida," he murmured. "Dash it all! this is rum. I am glad I am staying."

To his disappointment, however, Mrs Heathcote did not appear at dinner. She had gone to bed, her brother apologetically explained, with a bad headache. So West perforce had to defer further unravelling of the mystery until a more favourable season. He tried to dismiss the subject from his mind, but when bedtime came he was reminded in the most provoking way that even "V.C." heroes are human. West, who had slept on a rain-soaked ridge to the lullaby of a sputtering musketry-fire, found it impossible to sleep, and in the early morning, vanquished by the unusual struggle, he sallied forth to explore the Forest.

If St Germain had looked splendid the day before, it was positively entrancing in all the cool glory of the rising sun. To eyes long blistered by the glare of Egyptian sands or the scorched plains of the Punjaub, this sylvan paradise of winding paths and coy glades just awakening from their dewy sleep, this riotous maze of ever-changing greens, was an intoxicating dream. In this magic fairyland new charms revealed themselves at every step-now a peep of the Seine a dazzling ribbon of silver grey, now a vista of the plains reluctantly parting from the embrace of the dawn, now some unexplored copse wreathed in a broken aureole of dancing light. Before the soothing breath of the breeze, the carolled matins of the birds, and the lingering

fragrance of the lilaos, the feverish visions of the night dissolved as before an enchanter's wand. In a fit of sheer ecstasy West had to fling himself on the grass, as if nothing but physical contact could enable him to drink deep enough of the beauty lavished all round him. Lying there he heard a bush rustle, and turning over lazily, found himself confronted by Mrs Heathcote. He bounded to his feet, and they gazed shyly at one another.

"Your head is better?" he remarked, with a sedate twinkle in his eye.

She nodded brightly. "The morning," she replied, "has made a headache impossible. But how early you are!"

"I am sorry," he answered, gravely, "to have disturbed your walk. Early rising is one of those vices which I acquired in the East, and I am not yet civilised or young enough to have learned to drop it."

"After that speech," she said, avoiding his quizzing eyes, "you can only pay the penalty of accompanying me." Accordingly they rambled off together. West observed that she had discarded her black frock for one of clinging grey, which harmonised to perfection with the fresh tones of her complexion, so piquant a contrast to the sallow brunettes of Paris, and a sprig of lilac thrust with artful carelessness into her bosom supplied the subtle relief in colour for which the eye craved.

Their conversation rapidly became confidential. "Do you know," she remarked, thoughtfully, in answer to one of his sardonic aphorisms, "I am going to say something rude-but will you tell me why a hero must also be a cynic?"

"A cynic! Pray explain."

His voice rang with a reproachful note.

"Well, you are a cynic; that is to say, you value human motives very low."

"On the contrary," he replied, quickly, "I have a high opinion of my fellow men. Generally speaking, they are at bottom a good deal better than they appear."

"And your fellow women?" she slipped in, with a mischievous tilt of her parasol. Captain West's face bronzed. "I cannot speak of women," he said, quickly, "I know so little of them."

Mrs Heathcote stopped to confront him. "Is that quite candid?" she asked, boldly. "I should say that you knew a great deal about them-or fancied that you did."

"Oh, the latter of course," he said, laughing. "Fancied' is the right word. What man can" "There is the cynic," she put in, smiling up at him.

"But really, Mrs Heathcote, you must admit that

"I admit nothing of the sort. You say you take men as you find them. Why not be equally generous with women? Why insinuate motives when they don't appear?"

"Well, to be candid, because I am convinced that women are so different from men. All my experience-___”

"Which you admit is small," she interrupted. Then she flushed. "I am bothering you. It is very extraordinary of me to talk like this; but you will understand, I hope- She supplied the remainder of the sentence by an eloquent glance.

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West was prevented from replying suitably, for at this moment Mrs Heathcote tripped on a branch which had caught in the

bottom of her skirt. She turned aside to wrestle with the offending obstacle.

"I am afraid," she said, with excusable petulance, "I must go back. Walking is impossible with a loop in one's petticoat like that.” She looked down comically at the edge of her dress. "I know what you are burning to say," she added, with a provoking side glance, "only another proof of the inferiority of the sex." She shook the delicate pink ruche impatiently.

"Cannot I assist you?" he asked, mischievously.

She glanced reprovingly at him. "To get yet another proof of feminine vanity-vanity, as usual, on a silken foundation."

West was searching in his pocket. "Old campaigners," he remarked, "can do most things. Let me relieve you of your silken inferiority." He had whipped out a pair of scissors.

"Ah!" she exclaimed, with a gay nod, "man, cynical man, can of course provide what woman needs." She stooped down to hold up to him with dainty gravity the pale pink frilling of her silk petticoat. West applied his scissors, and their hands met on the guilty frippery.

He had hardly begun to cut when he felt her start back with a sudden paroxysm of horror. "Good God!" he heard her gasp in a choking whisper which was almost a moan. He dropped the scissors like one shot, and turned to her. Her face was blanched into a death-like pallor, and she had almost fallen back against the nearest tree.

"What is the matter?" he asked, with the brusqueness of genuine fear. She recovered herself with an effort and looked at him, a strangely excited light in her

eyes. "That. ring!" she panted out, pointing to his left hand. "In heaven's name, where did you get that ring?"

West drew the ring off-a plain signet-ring with a small figure cut on its worn face. "You know it?" he queried, half to himself.

She took it with burning fingers and examined it. The pallor on her face deepened; he could see the pitiful heaving of her bosom.

"Know it!" she repeated with a bitter laugh. "Know it! It was my husband's. In God's name, where did you find it?"

"Your husband's?" he muttered, confusedly. They stared at each other in desperate silence. "It is a strange story," West at last stammered out, "a very strange story." Then slowly, "But I believe I am near the solution now. When you feel better I will tell you all I know; it is not much."

"I am quite calm now," she replied, bravely. And indeed he could not help admiring the magnificence of her self-mastery. Save for the pallor on her cheeks, she was as composed as she had been a brief quarter of an hour before.

"I am sorry to have alarmed you," she said, with the ghost of a smile on her still quivering lips, "but some day you will understand. Women," she added, "after all, I suppose, are different from


But before we talk, suppose we finish off my skirt."

In that prosaic operation they found the necessary sedative for shattered nerves. Five minutes later, when they emerged on to the Terrace, they were apparently only an ordinary man and woman.

"I am quite ready," she said in a low voice, as she sank into a "But you must promise to conceal nothing-nothing." "I promise," he replied, "and


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