Out of the Past
By Agnes Boulton Burton
The night was too beautiful to leave. A strange regret stirred in Lord Eastly. The scene with this charming lady, who had a reputation for neglecting her husband and small son, had been very repulsive to him. He had entered into the amour from mere lack of anything else to do, and she—it had been vanity on her part. He was in the habit of cynically sounding women's hearts, and hers had given out only an empty tinkle.
Lighting a cigarette, he strolled on. The heavy odors of night blooming flowers filled the air, and, enwrapped in the white silence of the moonlight, his thoughts wandered back, over twenty years, to the only woman for whom he had ever deeply cared—Alice Langdon.
Her strangeness on that night of her last appearance in London had never been explained. Angered at her refusal to let him re-enter the dressing room he had remained away from her apartment for two days. Then, overcome by a longing to see her, he had jumped into a cab. On the way, as they passed through the crowded streets, he had imagined how she would come to his arms, and how, after the two days of separation, there would be a sweeter feeling in their hearts. He had seen her face upturned to his, shy and penitent; and when the traffic had retarded his progress, he had cursed softly.
Only the black maid greeted him. Her mistress had gone the day before. Where? The maid did not know. She had taken only a few of her simpler things, in a hand bag. Her trunks were still there. He had been struck as though with a chill, unable to understand that she had gone. For hours he had sat gloomily in the apartment. He had furnished it beautifully for her, making her put her salary into the bank. Everything there represented some charming episode in their life together, and, as he smoked cigarette after cigarette, wondering what to do, he realized more poignantly than ever how much she meant to him.
When, after three days she had not returned, he spent every effort in tracing her. Even then he did not doubt that she would return. A bond of emotion and friendship as deep as theirs could not be severed like this. Night after night he spent in recalling episodes and words that proved her affection, and assuring himself that she would return.
Then he had been seized with a horrible dread that she was dead. But at the bank where she deposited her earnings, he discovered that she had drawn every penny—a sum of about fifteen hundred pounds. Her salary during the last two years had been large.
At last after six months of fruitless searching, every day of which saw hope growing less in his heart, he gave her up as gone forever out of his life. He bitterly acknowledged to himself that in spite of her devotion there must have been other interests in her life, plans that he, who imagined that he had known her every thought, had not shared. He grew cynical about love, and when the report went around the green rooms that the beautiful Alice Langdon had been seen, dancing as a Spanish woman in a capital of South America, he had set out deliberately to try to forget her in the charms of other women.
But now, in the moonlight, he was not thinking of her as a Spanish dancer, or as the woman who had left him. He was remembering her sweet round face and her wistful eyes which he would never be able to forget. He was trying to recall the happiness that he had felt in simply being with her, that calm and perfect contentment that he had never known since. And in the silent moonlight, with the mysterious shadows and perfumes, and the high, light sky above, luminous with stars, he felt her presence again, forgetting that he had ever doubted her.
The orchestra at the end of the ballroom, hidden by palms, was playing a valse, and Lord Eastly, standing at the door way with a group of acquaintances, was watching the dancers. Shimmering gowns against black coats; upraised pretty faces and handsome profiles, snowy shoulders and broad shoulders, red-faced old gentlemen, trying to conceal that they were out of breath and stout ladies attempting an agility ill-mated with avoirdupois—all passed before him, gliding to the music.
He was bored. The dance, gotten up for a pet charity by Lady Babcock, his hostess, was one of those affairs where a great many people pay large prices for tickets because of the list of patronesses. Personally he thought these tropical islands too warm for dancing.
Suddenly a young girl smiled at him from among the dancers. He did not at first recognize the little piquant face. Then, as she turned her head, and her slender young figure, in the arms of a gallant youth, swung past him, he remembered the girl who had sung in the moonlight. But she had seemed a child then—now she looked older. He felt a slight stirring of curiosity and determined to go in search of her when the dance was over.
Lord Eastly at forty-five was handsomer than he had been as a youth. His hair was touched at the temples with gray, his skin was tanned a smooth brown and his distinguished features, assisted often by a monocle which he wore attached to his buttonhole, had in repose a look of interesting ennui. As he passed among the dancers when the music had ceased, many people turned to look at him. One woman in a smart toilette of black tulle and spangles, stared after the back of his head with a momentary tightening of her small, too-red mouth, and then, with heightened color and a vivacity that was almost mechanical, returned to her flirtation with an officer.
Lady Babcock, wife of the Governor, had just danced with her sixteen-year old son, who had quite evidently romped her through the new steps she was always trying to learn. She was a slight, pale, rather ordinary-looking woman, with a charming smile and a pretty voice. As Lord Eastly came up she shook her head at him gaily, fanning her thin, heated cheeks.
"Robert was quite too rough with me—did you see
us?" she asked naively. "He is always trying to get his mother to do
something desperately gay. Do you know, I do think I am quiet
for a modern mother."
Lord Eastly sat down beside her.
"You know nearly everyone here, don't you?" he asked, fanning her.
"I suppose I do—one can't help it on the island."
He adjusted his monocle, and gazed across the room.
"Do you happen to know a young girl, a very pretty child with wonderful eyes?"
"What a description!" She laughed, shaking her head again. "You're not going to fall in love with a youngster, surely!"
"I was wondering who she was—merely a childish face that interested me. One sees so much sophistication now-a-days."
"I think I know the girl you mean—she really has wonderful eyes. Look, isn't that she over there?"
He looked. She was seated on a small gilt bench, looking up into the face of a young officer who was talking to her.
"Yes!" He was rather relieved. "Do you know her?"
"A sweet little thing!" said Lady Babcock. "But her people—! They are stopping at the hotel, and I believe her father has money. She—Mrs. Ransome —gave me a cheque of two hundred pounds to-day for my war babies."
"I'd like to meet her, you know," said Lord Eastly vaguely.
"It might be amusing. They would try to marry you to the little girl, of course."
She rose, and Lord Eastly accompanied her to the gilt settee. A fox-trot had just begun to play, and couples were getting out on the waxed floor.
"Miss Ransome, I want you to meet Lord Eastly," murmured his hostess.
Lord Eastly bowed, and the young girl lifted her eyes and smiled.
The color flooded her cheeks so conspicuously that Lady Babcock gave her an amazed little smile.
"Won't you dance?" asked the young officer, who knew the Governor's lady. A moment later Lord Eastly found himself alone with the girl who had sung his old memories back to him.
She lacked utterly the modern youthful sophistication. Her pale golden hair fell in short curls about her face, which was round and piquant, her large, dark blue eyes were fringed with long lashes, and her perfectly marked eyebrows were almost black. Her skin was very fair and white, but across the bridge of her short little nose were scattered a few tiny, golden freckles. She wore a dress of pale blue taffeta, and Lord Eastly thought that he had never seen a prettier picture than she made sitting there, the blood fading from her cheeks.
"May I have this dance with you?' he asked, smiling.
She rose, and they glided off. Lord Eastly was a good dancer, and he guided her through all the intricate steps with an ease that she found delightful.
"You see, I found you," he said in a low voice, looking down at her. He did not tell her that he had almost forgotten the episode, until to-night, when she smiled at him from the arms of her partner.
She was silent. Then her lips curved in a smile.
"I have thought about you a lot, but I never imagined that you were a lord."
"You are not frightened of me, I hope?"
"No, only we don't have any lords in America. I'm an American."
"I want you to meet Mamma when this dance is over."
"Charmed. And then I want to have a long talk with you. May I?"
They danced on, and, looking down at the top of her head, which was sometimes very close to him in the turns of the dance, he thought how very seldom he had danced with young girls. As a rule, he ran away from them, and yet he was enjoying this little creature. He decided it must be because she was so unsophisticated and ingenuous.
When the music ceased she took him to meet her mother:
Mrs. Ransome was observing everyone carefully through a gold lorgnette. She was a younger woman than he had expected to see, with blonde hair marcelled into a fixed pompadour and a rather red face. Her black silk gown fitted too tightly. Her light blue eyes were very keen.
She looked up as they approached, revealing in her smile a row of minutely perfect and china-like teeth.
"Mamma, this is Lord Eastly."
"P-pleased to meet you," said Mrs. Ransome. The color in her plump face deepened, and she made a spasmodic movement, as though she intended to rise. The lorgnette trembled in her fingers, and an expression of intense animation came over her face.
The tall, heavy, dark man, standing behind his wife's chair, moved uncomfortably.
"Glad to know you," he said in a deep voice, with a suspicious look in his deep-set, tired eyes. Mr. Ransome was always silent, and usually suspicious, and his heavy, tired face was so pitifully bored looking that Lord Eastly instantly liked him. After this brief greeting he became silent, staring fixedly across the ballroom.
"Sit down with us for a while, Lord Eastly," said Mrs. Ransome in a coquettish manner. She looked at her daughter with a simper. "Been dancing with Rose? Isn't she a pretty little thing—don't you think so, my lord?"
"Yes—charming." They sat down on two more gilt chairs, and Lord Eastly, glancing at his little companion, saw that her cheeks were flaming again. He looked at the mother, acutely aware she jarred on him exceedingly. She spoke again in a voice which was nasal, loud, and oddly metallic.
"Going to stay on the island a while?" continued that lady, and, not allowing him to answer, "You know it's awfully lonesome stopping at a hotel. I often say to my husband, I guess there isn't many people as nice and homelike as we are. It's just like being home, being with us. So many people aren't sociable."
"And Rose get's so lonesome, too, sometimes. She's a funny girl, Lord Eastly, but I can't say as I blame her for not caring much for these young fellows. They just bore her to death—just to death. Funny, she seems to like older men, somehow. She's got more brains than most girls of her age."
"Mother!" protested Rose.
"Well, she has, Lord Eastly. She's just too modest—I guess that's what's the matter with her." Mrs. Ransome drew a deep breath, and, clearing her throat, "Are you stopping at the hotel, Lord Eastly?"
"No. I am visiting Lady Babcock: My yacht is in the bay."
"Lovely! I always wanted to go aboard one of those private yachts and see what they were like. Maybe Mr. Ransome might get one next year. Mr. Ransome's retired from business."
"Cruising is great sport if you are a good sailor."
Mrs. Ransome shook her head vigorously.
"I get too seasick. Funny, I'll never get used to the sea, I guess. But, say, Lord Eastly, you must come and see Rose. Come over to-morroy. Everybody says, once they get acquainted with us, they feel just the same as if they were a member of the family."
"Yes, I'd like to call." He looked at the young girl's beautiful face. "And you must have tea with me on the Sea-Rover some afternoon."
"Yes, indeed—we'd love to." Mrs. Ransome cast a supercilious glance on some American inmates of the hotel who were at that moment passing near them. "We certainly would, Lord Eastly," she added in a louder voice.
"The music is playing. Do you care to dance again?" Lord Eastly looked at Rose. She got up quickly.
"Rose is a beautiful dancer—don't you think so?" exclaimed Mrs. Ransome, looking coquettishly at his lordship. "Well, by-by, children. Have a good time."
As they glided off he saw that vigorous matron say something to her husband, accompanying it with a triumphant look. But the man behind her chair only shifted uneasily.
After they had danced to a few bars of the music, Lord Eastly said:
"Suppose we stop dancing and go into the conservatory for a little talk?"
She nodded, and a moment later they entered the small, flower-filled room and sat down beneath some palms.
Through the open glass doors they could see the dancers passing. The tall windows were raised, and the perfumed air stole about them.
"Outside it is as bright as day again. What nights we have here!" exclaimed Lord Eastly softly. "Tell me—why did you run away to be alone in the moonlight the other night?"
She smoothed her gown with small, white hands.
"Things—things just get on my nerves, sometimes, and I have to get away."
He felt the slight hysteria behind her answer. This sensitive child had keenly felt her mother's glaring vulgarities—he knew it instinctively. With gentle tact he began to talk about himself, telling her interesting things about his nomad life, of the people he had met, and of his old home in England. Absorbed in his conversation, she soon became again the ingenuous, eager little girl of his moonlight acquaintance.
In exchange, she told him about herself, and as he listened he felt a strange tenderness coming over him for this young girl whom he had known so short a time.
Almost an hour passed. At last she insisted that she must go, and he took her back to her mother, saying good night to them at the foot of the broad stairway, after securing Mrs. Ransome's permission to take Rose for a drive in the morning.
On his way back to the ballroom Ella Arundel, looking very smart in her gown of black tulle and spangles, appeared suddenly at his side.
"You haven't asked me to dance this evening," she said coquettishly. Her large, bright eyes rested mockingly on his face.
"Will you finish this?" He held out his arm politely.
The fixed pretty smile with which she had regarded him faded, and a hard look came over her mouth.
"No—I won't finish this with you." She glanced about the long hallway where they stood. It was deserted. "You have to explain why you treated me that way the other night. I want to know."
"I apologize, Ella." He looked away from her to where the dancers were passing back and forth across the arched entrance of the ballroom. "Will you forgive me?"
She softened and came nearer to him with an amorous movement.
He stepped forward impatiently. At this sign of his indifference she blazed up, her eyes flashing.
"I saw you in the conservatory with that Ransome girl!" she exclaimed bitterly. "So that's it? You have thrown me over for her? Well—" She drew in a long breath, and her lips tightened. "I'll be a good friend, Lord Eastly, and warn you. It's gossip that she's not even the daughter of her very ordinary parents. They adopted her. Her mother was common. So probably you won't have much trouble in making your conquest. Only—I warn you that she will try to marry you."
A slight color appeared on Lord Eastly's high cheek bones.
"I assure you, I am not interested in your gossip," he said coldly. "If you will pardon me, I believe I have an engagement."
With a reserved bow he left her at the ballroom door.
Mrs. Arundel's toilette was most charming as she came down the broad, white steps of her white coral stone cottage. From a coquettish hat of light straw a long white veil floated behind her, and her gown of embroidered handkerchief linen was made in the smartest mode.
It was a cool, sunlit morning. The steady sunlight, with the clear, blue sky behind it, lay over everything, bringing out the whiteness of the roads, the walls and the quaint cottages, made of coral stone. From hedges and roadside and the tall trees, where they had climbed, thousands of vividly colored and perfumeless flowers glowed brighter in the sunshine. A little breeze was blowing, carrying inland a faint salt odor of the sea.
Before the house stood a smart yellow dog-cart. At Mrs. Arundel's side walked a young man dressed in light flannels. He was tall, with dark hair and a tanned, serious face; but at this moment he was smiling, showing very white teeth. The lady at his side was chatting vivaciously.
They got into the dog-cart, and she took the reins, starting the horse off at a smart trot.
"Cuthbert—may I call you Cuthbert?" she began, as soon as they were off, giving him an arch look. "As I am so much older than you are."
The boy reddened. He had been at the hotel for two days, waiting for his mother to join him, when Mrs. Arundel had discovered and promptly annexed him. He was secretly rather glad of this, because he was shy, and the two days had been very lonely ones for him. Mrs. Arundel had a way of overcoming his modesty, and, when she had asked him to drive to St. George's with her this morning, he had gladly accepted.
"May I?" persisted the fascinating creature at his side, catching her lower lip coyly between her small, even teeth. 'Come—tell me I"
"Yes—I wish you would," stammered Cuthbert. He had never met a woman who acted as Mrs. Arundel did, and he felt slightly embarrassed.
"I believe you never met many women," she said, laughing merrily at his hesitation.
"There aren't many women where I live, in Australia. My mother and I have a ranch and some mining interests."
"Charming! And you have never been in love?"
They were passing by some glowing geranium hedges, and he pretended to be interested in looking at these, so she would not see his embarrassment.
"No, I haven't."
"Really? How delightful! And why not?"
"I—I never saw any girl that made me feel that way."
"Well—as though I would like to spend the rest of my life with her."
Her laughter was contagious.
"So that is what you call love—is it?"
"I suppose it is."
"My dear boy, you don't imagine that you are going to spend the rest of your life with every woman you love, do you?"
"How many do you expect me to love?" he asked blankly.
Still laughing at him, she did not reply.
"Naturally, I imagined one met a girl, fell in love with her, and got married," he went on stiffly.
She lowered her voice and looked at him audaciously.
"Suppose—that you fell in love with me?"
Again the blood rose up in his dark face.
"I—I wouldn't fall in love with you. You are married."
She was silent, touching the horse with the long whip. At last she said:
"You are very ignorant, do you know it? I could teach you a lot."
"Well—this is all silly rot that you are talking."
"Silly rot!" repeated Cuthbert slowly. He had his ideals.
"Yes. You'll love many women before you think of marrying. You are such a boy."
"I'm twenty!" said Cuthbert vigorously. He thought of the enormous ranch that had been under his management for three years and of the mining interests that he handled for his mother. "I'm twenty, Mrs. Arundel."
"Twenty!" said that lady under her breath. She rounded a curve in the road skillfully. "Still, you are only a child," she added.
"Your attitude toward love, for one thing."
She could see his profile out of the corner of her eye—the firm nose, with slightly wide nostrils; the finely cut, but rather heavy mouth, the strong chin above his young, bull-like neck. What a virile youngster he was! And yet his eyes were inclined to moodiness, and she did not care for that.
"What do you mean?" He looked toward her rather anxiously. "The way I feel about it is right, isn't it? Some day I suppose I will meet a girl who will—will—" He hesitated. "Anyway, I'll marry her if she loves me, and then we will have a home and children."
At his boyish ingenuousness Mrs. Arundel gave a hard little laugh.
"Home—and children!" she murmured. "No, my dear, you have the wrong idea—the old conventional idea."
"I—I don't understand you."
Her own color had deepened. She looked at him with veiled eyes, meeting his own clear gaze and trying to lure it into response.
"Cuthbert," she said softly, "haven't you ever felt your heart beat faster and your senses swim when you touched some girl's hand?"
"Senses swim?" He frowned, bewildered.
"On these warm, silent nights have you never felt that you longed to hold in your arms some beautiful woman and press your lips against hers?"
He did not reply and she gave a little secret smile.
"You mean to tell me that you have never yet felt the emotion of love, Cuthbert?" She hesitated, then turned her head away slowly and said in a low void "I think I could make you love me."
"But your husband!" he stammered. She was very beautiful and sweet and gentle to him, and he did not know what to do. "We could never marry."
"Marry!" She cut the horse impatiently. They were passing now by the edge of the sea, which stretched glittering in the sunlight. "Marriage is fatal to love, Boy! Wise people marry for convenience, stupid ones because they don't understand. No two people can remain in love after two years spent together. After that it becomes habit. No. The wild, sweet thing that stirs us so deeply that we forget the world in its raptures was never meant for marriage." She turned and looked at him deliberately. "And we must take love when it comes—or we miss the only real, the only delightful thing in life."
His cheeks were burning now.
"I don't think that you are right."
"Yes, I am, Boy. I am older than you and I know the world so well. You will agree with me five years from now, perhaps sooner." She smiled mysteriously.
"I don't know what love is, then, I suppose," said the boy rather sullenly.
"Shall I tell you?" She slowed the horse down to a walk. "Shall I?" She took his hand gently, stroked it once or twice and then pressed her palm against his own warm palm, letting her little, soft, magnetic fingers curve over the back of his hand. She looked slowly into his eyes—a warm, suddenly serious look. The smile only just lingered on her lips. A strange thrill ran through the boy's body.
"If, when you look into my eyes, you feel that you would like to hold me closer—closer—that is love!"
Her voice was very low. Suddenly she laughed and drew away her hand. She had felt him tremble.
"Now, do you know?"
He was silent, biting his lips.
"I believe you are going to fall in love with me," she said almost under her breath. "Would you like to meet me tonight on the beach?"
"Yes—I—I think so."
His head was averted. She drew a quick little breath and looked silently ahead, touching her horse with the whip again.
Another dog-cart was coming toward them. Mrs. Arundel lifted her eyebrows with a slightly scornful look. Lord Eastly was driving and beside him, all in white, with her hair drawn simply back, was Rose. The young girl smiled and her companion bowed distantly. Mrs. Arundel's lips curved in a fixed smile as she turned out to let them pass.
"What an awfully pretty, sweet looking girl!" exclaimed Cuthbert eagerly. His face had cleared. He felt that he was once more on familiar ground. "Do you know her?"
Mrs. Arundel drew down one corner of her pretty, sharp mouth.
"Oh, yes, I know who she is! But, really, these young girls nowadays!" She shrugged her shoulders.
"What do you mean?" He had a boy's curiosity.
"Well, everyone is talking about her—and Lord Eastly. Young girls are so fast nowadays. It seems a pity, too."
"Surely," cried Cuthbert, "that girl is innocent enough! You can see that by just looking at her."
"Really? Youth is able to conceal its vices se well, Cuthbert. That is its greatest charm. Some of these women of forty are less fast than these 'innocent' young girls. And besides—heredity is against her in this case. She is an adopted daughter, and they say—"
Cuthbert was silent, and, as they drove on down the hard, white road, past strange trees and tropical flowers, he began to think of his mother, who was to join him soon, and to compare this woman at his side with her.
The long stretch of beach lay white and silent in the bright heat. The small bathing pavilion was deserted. Lord Eastly, lounging on the warm sand in his bathing suit, did not regret that it was the end of the season. He disliked crowds and tourists and always avoided them.
Rose was in the pavilion getting ready for a swim and, waiting for her, he was aware of a pleasant and soothing sense of companionship. The two weeks that had passed since he met her had altered his viewpoint of life. This change puzzled and, at the same time, amused him. He wanted to be with her; he enjoyed watching her, listening to her; yet he would have been quite contented at having things go on always as they were now. So he argued that he was not in love with her. There was no trace of passion in his affection and she seemed to him so pure and flower-like that he could not think of her as being anything but a child.
And at the same time she recalled memories of the past, of Alice and his youth; and he recalled them now without their sting. Her hair and the softness of her eyes reminded him of Alice, and there seemed to be in this new affection a return and a mingling of his old love.
But, although he did not feel that he was in love with her, he could not imagine ever wanting to be away from her again. It was this aspect of his feelings that puzzled him.
He lit a cigarette, and his eyes wandered back to the pavilion. Rose was just coming down the steps. She waved her hand and, jumping off into the sand, ran toward him. When she reached his side she threw herself down beside him with a laugh.
"That little suit is very becoming," said Lord Eastly, giving her an admiring glance. The black satin bathing costume revealed the lines of her figure, and her curly, blonde hair was covered with a red bathing cap.
"I like it," she said, simply. Then she looked into his eyes, lifting the corners of her mouth in a wistful smile. "Do you know, sometimes I imagine I must remind you of somebody. You watch me with such a far-away look."
"You do." He turned his head, gazing out on the ocean. "Of a girl I once loved."
"Yes?" She was slightly embarrassed, and lifted up a handful of sand, letting it run through her fingers. "I—well, I rather wish you liked me just for myself."
He turned back to her quickly, his face alight.
"Do you wish that?"
Her embarrassment became more obvious.
"Who—who was this girl?"
He was silent. There was so much he could never tell this child. He wondered what she would think if she knew the truth about his life.
"Was she young—like me?"
He cleared his throat.
"Not quite as young as you, Rose. But she was very beautiful and she loved me. It was years ago, and now she is probably the mother of a large family somewhere."
He did not believe what he was saying, but it seemed a suitable ending to the discussion. The young girl went on:
"Why didn't you marry her then, if you both cared?"
A look of pain came into his eyes.
"She went away. I never saw her again. Come, Rose, let's race to the surf and dive in."
She got up, and together they ran over the sand and plunged into the water. Then, side by side, looking at one another, they began to swim slowly through the warm green water.
The beach was again deserted, save for the solitary old man who took care of the pavilion, and who now sat on the steps watching the swimmers. Behind the building, tied to one of the trees, stood Lord Eastly's dog-cart, the horse dozing, and occasionally lifting its tail to whisk away the flies.
Five minutes later another cart rounded the curve in the road. It was bright and smart and yellow, and the lady who drove it was bright and smart, and chatting most amiably with the young man at her side. But while she talked she did not look at him. Her bright eyes roved ceaselessly over the sands.
"Let's stop a' while and rest on the beach," she said, suddenly. She had seen the dog-cart.
"Yes, it would be nice," answered the boy. "You're sure it won't be too hot for you, Mrs. Arundel?"
She laughed, guiding the horse toward a tree.
"No. I have my sunshade."
When he assisted her down from the carriage, her eyes were already searching the beach. Suddenly out on the water she caught sight of a spot of red, and she immediately became very vivacious.
"Come Cuthbert, don't be so moody! I believe we are quite alone. We have found a deserted place at last and I may let you hold my hand if you'll only cheer up!"
"I'm sorry." He looked at her smiling faintly. "I don't know what has come over me lately."
"You're naturally moody, I imagine," said Mrs. Arundel carelessly stepping down on the sand and at the same moment putting up her sunshade. "Let's walk over there by that log and sit down."
On their way to the log, Mrs. Arundel saw Lord Eastly's coat on the sand, with a slight tightening of her set smile.
"Evidently there is someone here," she remarked. "Ah, yes, I can see a red cap out on the waves. They must have come in that dog-cart we saw there."
"The water looks tempting this morning," said Cuthbert with a sudden return of interest. "It's a pity you don't swim."
They sat down by the log and Mrs. Arundel reclined against it gracefully. The red sunshade threw a pretty color over her face and she looked very charming. Cuthbert watched her curiously for a moment and then his gaze wandered back to the swimmers.
"I wonder if it is someone we know?" said Mrs. Arundel, carelessly.
"I think it must be Lord Eastly and that—that girl," returned the boy. "It looked like his horse."
"Really?" Mrs. Arundel yawned.
"Funny, isn't it, that we seem to run into them so much?" He regarded her seriously.
"Yes." There was a slight shade of suspicion in his voice. "You said that you used to know him, Mrs. Arundel. What was the matter, did you quarrel?"
She gave a provoked laugh.
"I simply got tired of him. He bores me."
She tapped her fingers noisily against her small gold cigarette case, and then, with another peculiar smile, lighted a cigarette.
"I often see her around the hotel," went on Cuthbert. "She—she doesn't seem to be the sort of girl that you say she is."
"Well," she turned to him sharply. "Isn't she always with Lord Eastly? Isn't it true? And when are they ever accompanied by a chaperone?"
"Yes, he is with her most of the time," admitted the boy, gloomily. "But that does not mean anything."
"It might not mean anything, were it not for Lord Eastly's reputation." said Mrs. Arundel coldly. "Her mother no doubt thinks that by allowing the girl to compromise herself, she will entangle Cecil Eastly into marriage. She is a fool. He will never marry anybody."
Cuthbert did not reply and they watched the bathers, who had swam inland and were sporting in the surf. Suddenly the girl in the water ceased her play and looked toward the beach. She spoke to her companion. He shook his head and started swimming out to sea again. The girl, after hesitating for a moment, came out of the surf and walked toward the couple on the beach, wringing the water from her bathing suit.
"Ah, she is coming up to see us," said Mrs. Arundel vindictively. She had observed that Lord Eastly chose to remain in the water.
Cuthbert watched the girl sullenly. A peculiar dark red stained his face, and as she came nearer he dropped his eyes and began playing with the sand.
"How do you do, Mrs. Arundel—I thought it was you," said Rose brightly. She sat down beside the older woman. "Aren't you coming in to take a swim?"
"I don't care for it,'' returned that lady shortly."Miss Ransome—have you met Cuthbert Grey?"
The boy raised his eyes.
"How do you do?" he said stiffly, and lowered his eyes again.
Rose smiled at him.
"I've seen you often at the hotel. You're there all alone, aren't you?"
"Yes." He swallowed, and a deeper color came into his face.
"We don't see very much of you any more, Miss Ransome," continued Mrs. Arundel in a pointedly sweet voice. "You, ah—you have an ardent admirer, we see."
"I would hardly call him that," she said, hastily. "He's been very nice to me. Mrs. Arundel, how is your dear little boy?"
"He is well." The older woman's eyes narrowed, and she stared out at the ocean. "And your mother, Miss Ransome?"
"Mamma's well. I wish that you would drop in some afternoon and have tea with us."
Mrs. Arundel yawned, without replying.
Cuthbert stared doggedly at a white sail on the horizon.
Rose felt embarrassed. She made another attempt at conversation, instinctively aware of the antagonism that she could not understand. She glanced out to where Lord Eastly's dark head was visible in the water.
"He swims well, doesn't he?" she said, nodding toward the swimmer. "He does everything awfully well, don't you think so?"
"Indeed?" Mrs. Arundel eyed her malignantly. The sight of this fresh young girl, who had so calmly taken the prize that she coveted, inflamed her jealous and vindictive nature. "I suppose that you find he makes love most charmingly also, Miss Ransome?"
The sneer in her voice was unmistakable. Rose's face flamed.
"Lord Eastly has never made love to me," she said, earnestly. "We are just friends."
"Lord Eastly does not go about with young girls for friendship."
Mrs. Arundel saw that his lordship had left the water, but he was standing idly on the beach, apparently waiting for Rose to join him. His determination to avoid her loosed the last vestige of her control and she turned to Rose with a fixed cold smile.
"I must congratulate you on the methods you used to capture the gentleman. Really, it's the talk of the island."
Cuthbert gave a quick glance at the young girl's distressed face.
"I say, Mrs. Arundel—" he began awkwardly.
"But, my dear, of course you know that Lord Easily will never marry you. He never marries the girls he—he runs around with. And really, I feel that I must warn you. When he is through with you, no respectable woman will care to mention your name."
Rose stared, and the color faded slowly from her face. Suddenly her mouth began to work, and raising one hand to her eyes, she burst into tears.
"Good Heavens!" Cuthbert got to his feet abruptly, giving Mrs. Arundel an indignant glance. "Miss Ransome—let me take you back to your companion!" He held out his hand to assist her to her feet. At this moment Lord Eastly reached her side. He looked bewildered and annoyed.
"What is the matter?"
"Ah—so you are going to join us!" Mrs. Arundel's voice was sarcastic. Lord Eastly gave her a glance full of contempt.
"Come, Rose, this is no place for you, dear," he said, taking her arm.
"No place for her, ah? Mrs. Arundel rose agilely to her feet. "Listen—no, you won't go!" she streamed hysterically, catching at Rose's arm. "Listen to what I have to tell you, you poor little fool! Cecil Eastly was my sweetheart before he ever thought of you! He held me in his arms and swore that he loved me above all women. He ruined my home! And now he has left me because of a passing fancy for your youth. But he will leave you the same way—he will leave you, I tell you!"
"Let Miss Ransome go. Can't you see that you are frightening her?" said Lord Eastly sternly.
Cuthbert, who had stood in the background biting his lips, suddenly stepped to her side.
"I will take Miss Ransome to the pavilion," he said quietly. "She will wait for Lord Eastly there."
Mrs. Arundel, glad of a chance to be alone once again with the man who had scorned her, dropped her hand from Rose's arm. The young girl looked gratefully at Cuthbert, and slipped her arm through his.
"Rose!" exclaimed Lord Easily. She turned her little face, stained with tears, toward him.
"I'd rather have you stay and explain about you and me to Mrs. Arundel, please," she said brokenly. "I will wait for you at the pavilion."
Lord Eastly bowed, and watched them go toward the pavilion with an angry light in his eyes. Then he turned back to the defiant woman before him.
"Now, what do you want?" he said bitterly. She laughed with scorn.
He stared at her.
"What a beastly thing to do!" he said slowly, with contempt. "Not able to play fair, you have to drag in that innocent little girl."
"You did not play fair with me, Lord Eastly."
She was silent.
"I—I happen to care for you."
He made a short impatient movement.
"That is absurd. Why, you've been constantly with this boy. That doesn't look as though you were heart broken."
"That boy!" She moved impatiently. "He's the moodiest, most surly creature!" She suddenly changed, and became confiding. "Oh, Cecil, it was that I missed about you—your gaiety, the good times we used to have together. Don't you remember what good times we had? Surely you remember. Can't we be friends again?"
"After the way you acted just now?" He compressed his lips and looked toward the pavilion, where he could see Rose and the tall, dark youth at her side. What were they talking about? An unexpected jealousy caught him, and he turned back to Mrs. Arundel with a hard look in his eyes.
"I must leave you," he said shortly. "Your young friend will be back for you in a few moments."
Ignoring the dismay and anger in her face, he turned his back abruptly and started toward the pavilion. His heart was beating strangely and he realized that it was not anger at Mrs. Arundel that caused this emotion. When he reached the two young people he was breathless.
Cuthbert left them with a bow. Lord Eastly looked eagerly at Rose's face. She seemed pale and a little worn and at first she did not meet his eyes quite freely.
"Rose," he said slowly, "will you forgive me? Although it seems unpardonable that you should have been mixed up in an affair like this."
"There is nothing to forgive, is there?" For a moment he watched her and then he turned toward the, carriage.
"We had better drive back," he said. "Maybe I
can explain things to you on the way."
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