"Mad!" screamed Harriet,--"absolutely stark, staring, raving
Philip judged it better not to contradict
"What's she here for? Answer me
that. What's she doing in Monteriano in August? Why isn't she in
Normandy? Answer that. She won't. I can: she's come to thwart
us; she's betrayed us--got hold of mother's plans. Oh, goodness, my
He was unwise enough to reply, "You mustn't
accuse her of that. Though she is exasperating, she hasn't come here to
"Then why has she come here? Answer
He made no answer. But fortunately
his sister was too much agitated to wait for one. "Bursting in on
me--crying and looking a disgusting sight--and says she has been to see the
Italian. Couldn't even talk properly; pretended she had changed her
opinions. What are her opinions to us? I was very calm. I
said: 'Miss Abbott, I think there is a little misapprehension in this
matter. My mother, Mrs. Herriton--' Oh, goodness, my head! Of course
you've failed--don't trouble to answer--I know you've failed. Where's the
baby, pray? Of course you haven't got it. Dear sweet Caroline won't
let you. Oh, yes, and we're to go away at once and trouble the father no
more. Those are her commands. Commands! COMMANDS!" And
Harriet also burst into tears.
Philip governed his
temper. His sister was annoying, but quite reasonable in her
indignation. Moreover, Miss Abbott had behaved even worse than she
"I've not got the baby, Harriet, but at the
same time I haven't exactly failed. I and Signor Carella are to have
another interview this afternoon, at the Caffè Garibaldi. He is perfectly
reasonable and pleasant. Should you be disposed to come with me, you would
find him quite willing to discuss things. He is desperately in want of
money, and has no prospect of getting any. I discovered that. At the
same time, he has a certain affection for the child." For Philip's
insight, or perhaps his opportunities, had not been equal to Miss
Harriet would only sob, and accuse her
brother of insulting her; how could a lady speak to such a horrible man?
That, and nothing else, was enough to stamp Caroline. Oh, poor
Philip drummed on the bedroom
window-sill. He saw no escape from the deadlock. For though he spoke
cheerfully about his second interview with Gino, he felt at the bottom of his
heart that it would fail. Gino was too courteous: he would not break off
negotiations by sharp denial; he loved this civil, half-humorous
bargaining. And he loved fooling his opponent, and did it so nicely that
his opponent did not mind being fooled.
has behaved extraordinarily," he said at last; "but at the same
His sister would not hear him. She
burst forth again on the madness, the interference, the intolerable duplicity of
"Harriet, you must listen. My dear,
you must stop crying. I have something quite important to
"I shall not stop crying," said she. But
in time, finding that he would not speak to her, she did
"Remember that Miss Abbott has done us no
harm. She said nothing to him about the matter. He assumes that she
is working with us: I gathered that."
"Yes; but if you're careful she may be.
I interpret her behaviour thus: She went to see him, honestly intending to get
the child away. In the note she left me she says so, and I don't believe
she got there, there was some pretty domestic scene between him and the baby,
and she has got swept off in a gush of sentimentalism. Before very long,
if I know anything about psychology, there will be a reaction. She'll be
"I don't understand your long
words. Say plainly--"
"When she's swept back,
she'll be invaluable. For she has made quite an impression on him.
He thinks her so nice with the baby. You know, she washed it for
ejaculations were more aggravating than the rest of her. But Philip was
averse to losing his temper. The access of joy that had come to him
yesterday in the theatre promised to be permanent. He was more anxious
than heretofore to be charitable towards the
"If you want to carry off the baby, keep your
peace with Miss Abbott. For if she chooses, she can help you better than I
"There can be no peace between me and her,"
said Harriet gloomily.
"Oh, not all I wanted. She went away
before I had finished speaking--just like those cowardly people! --into the
"Yes; I'm sure she needs it.
Anything more unchristian--"
In time Philip went to
the church also, leaving his sister a little calmer and a little disposed to
think over his advice. What had come over Miss Abbott? He had always
thought her both stable and sincere. That conversation he had had with her
last Christmas in the train to Charing Cross--that alone furnished him with a
parallel. For the second time, Monteriano must have turned her head.
He was not angry with her, for he was quite indifferent to the outcome of their
expedition. He was only extremely
It was now nearly midday, and the streets
were clearing. But the intense heat had broken, and there was a pleasant
suggestion of rain. The Piazza, with its three great attractions--the
Palazzo Pubblico, the Collegiate Church, and the Caffè Garibaldi: the intellect,
the soul, and the body--had never looked more charming. For a moment
Philip stood in its centre, much inclined to be dreamy, and thinking how
wonderful it must feel to belong to a city, however mean. He was here,
however, as an emissary of civilization and as a student of character, and,
after a sigh, he entered Santa Deodata's to continue his
There had been a festa two days
before, and the church still smelt of incense and of garlic. The little
son of the sacristan was sweeping the nave, more for amusement than for
cleanliness, sending great clouds of dust over the frescoes and the scattered
worshippers. The sacristan himself had propped a ladder in the centre of
the Deluge--which fills one of the nave spandrels--and was freeing a column from
its wealth of scarlet calico. Much scarlet calico also lay upon the
floor--for the church can look as fine as any theatre--and the sacristan's
little daughter was trying to fold it up. She was wearing a tinsel
crown. The crown really belonged to St. Augustine. But it had been
cut too big: it fell down over his cheeks like a collar: you never saw anything
so absurd. One of the canons had unhooked it just before the
fiesta began, and had given it to the sacristan's
"Please," cried Philip, "is there an
English lady here?"
The man's mouth was full of
tin-tacks, but he nodded cheerfully towards a kneeling figure. In the
midst of this confusion Miss Abbott was praying.
was not much surprised: a spiritual breakdown was quite to be expected.
For though he was growing more charitable towards mankind, he was still a little
jaunty, and too apt to stake out beforehand the course that will be pursued by
the wounded soul. It did not surprise him, however, that she should greet
him naturally, with none of the sour self-consciousness of a person who had just
risen from her knees. This was indeed the spirit of Santa Deodata's, where
a prayer to God is thought none the worse of because it comes next to a pleasant
word to a neighbour. "I am sure that I need it," said she; and he, who had
expected her to be ashamed, became confused, and knew not what to
"I've nothing to tell you," she
continued. "I have simply changed straight round. If I had planned
the whole thing out, I could not have treated you worse. I can talk it
over now; but please believe that I have been
"And please believe that I have not come to
scold you," said Philip. "I know what has
"What?" asked Miss Abbott.
Instinctively she led the way to the famous chapel, the fifth chapel on the
right, wherein Giovanni da Empoli has painted the death and burial of the
saint. Here they could sit out of the dust and the noise, and proceed with
a discussion which promised to be important.
might have happened to me--he had made you believe that he loved the
"Oh, yes; he has. He will never give it
"At present it is still
"It will never be
"Perhaps not. Well, as I said, I know
what has happened, and I am not here to scold you. But I must ask you to
withdraw from the thing for the present. Harriet is furious. But she
will calm down when she realizes that you have done us no harm, and will do
"I can do no more," she said. "But I
tell you plainly I have changed sides."
"If you do no
more, that is all we want. You promise not to prejudice our cause by
speaking to Signor Carella?"
"Oh, certainly. I
don't want to speak to him again; I shan't ever see him
"Quite nice, wasn't
that's all I wanted to know. I'll go and tell Harriet of your promise, and
I think things'll quiet down now."
But he did not
move, for it was an increasing pleasure to him to be near her, and her charm was
at its strongest today. He thought less of psychology and feminine
reaction. The gush of sentimentalism which had carried her away had only
made her more alluring. He was content to observe her beauty and to profit
by the tenderness and the wisdom that dwelt within
"Why aren't you angry with me?" she asked, after
"Because I understand you--all sides, I
think,--Harriet, Signor Carella, even my
"You do understand wonderfully. You
are the only one of us who has a general view of the
He smiled with pleasure. It was the
first time she had ever praised him. His eyes rested agreeably on Santa
Deodata, who was dying in full sanctity, upon her back. There was a window
open behind her, revealing just such a view as he had seen that morning, and on
her widowed mother's dresser there stood just such another copper pot. The
saint looked neither at the view nor at the pot, and at her widowed mother still
less. For lo! she had a vision: the head and shoulders of St.
Augustine were sliding like some miraculous enamel along the rough-cast
wall. It is a gentle saint who is content with half another saint to see
her die. In her death, as in her life, Santa Deodata did not accomplish
"So what are you going to do?" said Miss
Philip started, not so much at the words as
at the sudden change in the voice. "Do?" he echoed, rather dismayed.
"This afternoon I have another interview."
come to nothing. Well?"
"Then another. If
that fails I shall wire home for instructions. I dare say we may fail
altogether, but we shall fail honourably."
often been decided. But now behind her decision there was a note of
passion. She struck him not as different, but as more important, and he
minded it very much when she said--
"That's not doing
anything! You would be doing something if you kidnapped the baby, or if
you went straight away. But that! To fail honourably! To come
out of the thing as well as you can! Is that all you are
"Why, yes," he stammered. "Since we
talk openly, that is all I am after just now. What else is there? If
I can persuade Signor Carella to give in, so much the better. If he won't,
I must report the failure to my mother and then go home. Why, Miss Abbott,
you can't expect me to follow you through all these
"I don't! But I do expect you to
settle what is right and to follow that. Do you want the child to stop
with his father, who loves him and will bring him up badly, or do you want him
to come to Sawston, where no one loves him, but where he will be brought up
well? There is the question put dispassionately enough even for you.
Settle it. Settle which side you'll fight on. But don't go talking
about an 'honourable failure,' which means simply not thinking and not acting at
"Because I understand the position of Signor
Carella and of you, it's no reason that--"
all. Fight as if you think us wrong. Oh, what's the use of your
fair-mindedness if you never decide for yourself? Any one gets hold of you
and makes you do what they want. And you see through them and laugh at
them--and do it. It's not enough to see clearly; I'm muddle-headed and
stupid, and not worth a quarter of you, but I have tried to do what seemed right
at the time. And you--your brain and your insight are splendid. But
when you see what's right you're too idle to do it. You told me once that
we shall be judged by our intentions, not by our accomplishments. I
thought it a grand remark. But we must intend to accomplish--not sit
intending on a chair."
"You are wonderful!" he said
"Oh, you appreciate me!" she burst out
again. "I wish you didn't. You appreciate us all--see good in all of
us. And all the time you are dead--dead--dead. Look, why aren't you
angry?" She came up to him, and then her mood suddenly changed, and she
took hold of both his hands. "You are so splendid, Mr. Herriton, that I
can't bear to see you wasted. I can't bear--she has not been good to
"Miss Abbott, don't worry over
me. Some people are born not to do things. I'm one of them; I never
did anything at school or at the Bar. I came out to stop Lilia's marriage,
and it was too late. I came out intending to get the baby, and I shall
return an 'honourable failure.' I never expect anything to happen now, and so I
am never disappointed. You would be surprised to know what my great events
are. Going to the theatre yesterday, talking to you now--I don't suppose I
shall ever meet anything greater. I seem fated to pass through the world
without colliding with it or moving it--and I'm sure I can't tell you whether
the fate's good or evil. I don't die--I don't fall in love. And if
other people die or fall in love they always do it when I'm just not
there. You are quite right; life to me is just a spectacle, which--thank
God, and thank Italy, and thank you--is now more beautiful and heartening than
it has ever been before."
She said solemnly, "I wish
something would happen to you, my dear friend; I wish something would happen to
"But why?" he asked, smiling. "Prove to
me why I don't do as I am."
She also smiled, very
gravely. She could not prove it. No argument existed. Their
discourse, splendid as it had been, resulted in nothing, and their respective
opinions and policies were exactly the same when they left the church as when
they had entered it.
Harriet was rude at lunch.
She called Miss Abbott a turncoat and a coward to her face. Miss Abbott
resented neither epithet, feeling that one was justified and the other not
unreasonable. She tried to avoid even the suspicion of satire in her
replies. But Harriet was sure that she was satirical because she was so
calm. She got more and more violent, and Philip at one time feared that
she would come to blows.
"Look here!" he cried, with
something of the old manner, "it's too hot for this. We've been talking
and interviewing each other all the morning, and I have another interview this
afternoon. I do stipulate for silence. Let each lady retire to her
bedroom with a book."
"I retire to pack," said
Harriet. "Please remind Signor Carella, Philip, that the baby is to be
here by half-past eight this evening."
certainly, Harriet. I shall make a point of reminding
"And order a carriage to take us to the evening
"And please," said Miss Abbott, "would you
order a carriage for me too?"
"You going?" he
"Of course," she replied, suddenly
flushing. "Why not?"
"Why, of course you would
be going. Two carriages, then. Two carriages for the evening
train." He looked at his sister hopelessly. "Harriet, whatever are
you up to? We shall never be ready."
carriage for the evening train," said Harriet, and
"Well, I suppose I shall. And I shall
also have my interview with Signor Carella."
Abbott gave a little sigh.
"But why should you
mind? Do you suppose that I shall have the slightest influence over
"No. But--I can't repeat all that I said
in the church. You ought never to see him again. You ought to bundle
Harriet into a carriage, not this evening, but now, and drive her straight
"Perhaps I ought. But it isn't a very
big 'ought.' Whatever Harriet and I do the issue is the same. Why, I can
see the splendour of it--even the humour. Gino sitting up here on the
mountain-top with his cub. We come and ask for it. He welcomes
us. We ask for it again. He is equally pleasant. I'm agreeable
to spend the whole week bargaining with him. But I know that at the end of
it I shall descend empty-handed to the plains. It might be finer of me to
make up my mind. But I'm not a fine character. And nothing hangs on
"Perhaps I am extreme," she said humbly.
"I've been trying to run you, just like your mother. I feel you ought to
fight it out with Harriet. Every little trifle, for some reason, does seem
incalculably important today, and when you say of a thing that 'nothing hangs on
it,' it sounds like blasphemy. There's never any knowing--(how am I to put
it?)--which of our actions, which of our idlenesses won't have things hanging on
it for ever."
He assented, but her remark had only an
æsthetic value. He was not prepared to take it to his heart. All the
afternoon he rested--worried, but not exactly despondent. The thing would
jog out somehow. Probably Miss Abbott was right. The baby had better
stop where it was loved. And that, probably, was what the fates had
decreed. He felt little interest in the matter, and he was sure that he
had no influence.
It was not surprising, therefore,
that the interview at the Caffè Garibaldi came to nothing. Neither of them
took it very seriously. And before long Gino had discovered how things
lay, and was ragging his companion hopelessly. Philip tried to look
offended, but in the end he had to laugh. "Well, you are right," he
said. "This affair is being managed by the
"Ah, the ladies--the ladies!" cried the
other, and then he roared like a millionaire for two cups of black coffee, and
insisted on treating his friend, as a sign that their strife was
"Well, I have done my best," said Philip,
dipping a long slice of sugar into his cup, and watching the brown liquid ascend
into it. "I shall face my mother with a good conscience. Will you
bear me witness that I've done my best?"
fellow, I will!" He laid a sympathetic hand on Philip's
"And that I have--" The sugar was now
impregnated with coffee, and he bent forward to swallow it. As he did so
his eyes swept the opposite of the Piazza, and he saw there, watching them,
Harriet. "Mia sorella!" he exclaimed. Gino, much amused, laid his
hand upon the little table, and beat the marble humorously with his fists.
Harriet turned away and began gloomily to inspect the Palazzo
"Poor Harriet!" said Philip, swallowing the
sugar. "One more wrench and it will all be over for her; we are leaving
Gino was sorry for this. "Then
you will not be here this evening as you promised us. All three
"All three," said Philip, who had not
revealed the secession of Miss Abbott; "by the night train; at least, that is my
sister's plan. So I'm afraid I shan't be
They watched the departing figure of Harriet,
and then entered upon the final civilities. They shook each other warmly
by both hands. Philip was to come again next year, and to write
beforehand. He was to be introduced to Gino's wife, for he was told of the
marriage now. He was to be godfather to his next baby. As for Gino,
he would remember some time that Philip liked vermouth. He begged him to
give his love to Irma. Mrs. Herriton--should he send her his sympathetic
regards? No; perhaps that would hardly do.
the two young men parted with a good deal of genuine affection. For the
barrier of language is sometimes a blessed barrier, which only lets pass what is
good. Or--to put the thing less cynically--we may be better in new clean
words, which have never been tainted by our pettiness or vice. Philip, at
all events, lived more graciously in Italian, the very phrases of which entice
one to be happy and kind. It was horrible to think of the English of
Harriet, whose every word would be as hard, as distinct, and as unfinished as a
lump of coal.
Harriet, however, talked little.
She had seen enough to know that her brother had failed again, and with unwonted
dignity she accepted the situation. She did her packing, she wrote up her
diary, she made a brown paper cover for the new Baedeker. Philip, finding
her so amenable, tried to discuss their future plans. But she only said
that they would sleep in Florence, and told him to telegraph for rooms.
They had supper alone. Miss Abbott did not come down. The landlady
told them that Signor Carella had called on Miss Abbott to say good-bye, but
she, though in, had not been able to see him. She also told them that it
had begun to rain. Harriet sighed, but indicated to her brother that he
was not responsible.
The carriages came round at a
quarter past eight. It was not raining much, but the night was
extraordinarily dark, and one of the drivers wanted to go slowly to the
station. Miss Abbott came down and said that she was ready, and would
start at once.
"Yes, do," said Philip, who was
standing in the hall. "Now that we have quarrelled we scarcely want to
travel in procession all the way down the hill. Well, good-bye; it's all
over at last; another scene in my pageant has
"Good-bye; it's been a great pleasure to
see you. I hope that won't shift, at all events." She gripped his
"You sound despondent," he said,
laughing. "Don't forget that you return
"I suppose I do," she replied, more
despondently than ever, and got into the carriage. He concluded that she
was thinking of her reception at Sawston, whither her fame would doubtless
precede her. Whatever would Mrs. Herriton do? She could make things
quite unpleasant when she thought it right. She might think it right to be
silent, but then there was Harriet. Who would bridle Harriet's
tongue? Between the two of them Miss Abbott was bound to have a bad
time. Her reputation, both for consistency and for moral enthusiasm, would
be lost for ever.
"It's hard luck on her," he
thought. "She is a good person. I must do for her anything I
can." Their intimacy had been very rapid, but he too hoped that it would
not shift. He believed that he understood her, and that she, by now, had
seen the worst of him. What if after a long time--if after all--he flushed
like a boy as he looked after her carriage.
into the dining-room to look for Harriet. Harriet was not to be
found. Her bedroom, too, was empty. All that was left of her was the
purple prayer-book which lay open on the bed. Philip took it up aimlessly,
and saw--"Blessed be the Lord my God who teacheth my hands to war and my fingers
to fight." He put the book in his pocket, and began to brood over more
Santa Deodata gave out half past
eight. All the luggage was on, and still Harriet had not appeared.
"Depend upon it," said the landlady, "she has gone to Signor Carella's to say
good-bye to her little nephew." Philip did not think it likely. They
shouted all over the house and still there was no Harriet. He began to be
uneasy. He was helpless without Miss Abbott; her grave, kind face had
cheered him wonderfully, even when it looked displeased. Monteriano was
sad without her; the rain was thickening; the scraps of Donizetti floated
tunelessly out of the wineshops, and of the great tower opposite he could only
see the base, fresh papered with the advertisements of
A man came up the street with a note.
Philip read, "Start at once. Pick me up outside the gate. Pay the
bearer. H. H."
"Did the lady give you this
note?" he cried.
The man was
"Speak up!" exclaimed Philip.
"Who gave it you--and where?"
Nothing but horrible
sighings and bubblings came out of the man.
patient with him," said the driver, turning round on the box. "It is the
poor idiot." And the landlady came out of the hotel and echoed "The poor
idiot. He cannot speak. He takes messages for us
Philip then saw that the messenger was a
ghastly creature, quite bald, with trickling eyes and grey twitching nose.
In another country he would have been shut up; here he was accepted as a public
institution, and part of Nature's scheme.
shuddered the Englishman. "Signora padrona, find out from him; this note
is from my sister. What does it mean? Where did he see
"It is no good," said the landlady. "He
understands everything but he can explain
"He has visions of the saints," said the
man who drove the cab.
"But my sister--where has she
gone? How has she met him?"
"She has gone for a
walk," asserted the landlady. It was a nasty evening, but she was
beginning to understand the English. "She has gone for a walk--perhaps to
wish good-bye to her little nephew. Preferring to come back another way,
she has sent you this note by the poor idiot and is waiting for you outside the
Siena gate. Many of my guests do this."
was nothing to do but to obey the message. He shook hands with the
landlady, gave the messenger a nickel piece, and drove away. After a dozen
yards the carriage stopped. The poor idiot was running and whimpering
"Go on," cried Philip. "I have paid him
A horrible hand pushed three soldi into his
lap. It was part of the idiot's malady only to receive what was just for
his services. This was the change out of the nickel
"Go on!" shouted Philip, and flung the money
into the road. He was frightened at the episode; the whole of life had
become unreal. It was a relief to be out of the Siena gate. They
drew up for a moment on the terrace. But there was no sign of
Harriet. The driver called to the Dogana men. But they had seen no
English lady pass.
"What am I to do?" he cried; "it
is not like the lady to be late. We shall miss the
"Let us drive slowly," said the driver, "and
you shall call her by name as we go."
So they started
down into the night, Philip calling "Harriet! Harriet!
Harriet!" And there she was, waiting for them in the wet, at the first
turn of the zigzag.
"Harriet, why don't you
"I heard you coming," said she, and got
quickly in. Not till then did he see that she carried a
had succeeded where Miss Abbott and Philip had failed. It was the
She would not let him talk. The baby, she
repeated, was asleep, and she put up an umbrella to shield it and her from the
rain. He should hear all later, so he had to conjecture the course of the
wonderful interview--an interview between the South pole and the North. It
was quite easy to conjecture: Gino crumpling up suddenly before the intense
conviction of Harriet; being told, perhaps, to his face that he was a villain;
yielding his only son perhaps for money, perhaps for nothing. "Poor Gino,"
he thought. "He's no greater than I am, after
Then he thought of Miss Abbott, whose carriage
must be descending the darkness some mile or two below them, and his easy
self-accusation failed. She, too, had conviction; he had felt its force;
he would feel it again when she knew this day's sombre and unexpected
"You have been pretty secret," he said; "you
might tell me a little now. What do we pay for him? All we've
"Hush!" answered Harriet, and dandled the
bundle laboriously, like some bony prophetess--Judith, or Deborah, or
Jael. He had last seen the baby sprawling on the knees of Miss Abbott,
shining and naked, with twenty miles of view behind him, and his father kneeling
by his feet. And that remembrance, together with Harriet, and the
darkness, and the poor idiot, and the silent rain, filled him with sorrow and
with the expectation of sorrow to come.
had long disappeared, and he could see nothing but the occasional wet stem of an
olive, which their lamp illumined as they passed it. They travelled
quickly, for this driver did not care how fast he went to the station, and would
dash down each incline and scuttle perilously round the
"Look here, Harriet," he said at last, "I
feel bad; I want to see the
mind if I do wake him up. I want to see him. I've as much right in
him as you."
Harriet gave in. But it was too
dark for him to see the child's face. "Wait a minute," he whispered, and
before she could stop him he had lit a match under the shelter of her
umbrella. "But he's awake!" he exclaimed. The match went
"Good ickle quiet boysey,
Philip winced. "His face, do you know,
struck me as all wrong."
"Of course--with the shadows--you couldn't
"Well, hold him up again." She did
so. He lit another match. It went out quickly, but not before he had
seen that the baby was crying.
Harriet sharply. "We should hear him if he
"No, he's crying hard; I thought so before,
and I'm certain now."
Harriet touched the child's
face. It was bathed in tears. "Oh, the night air, I suppose," she
said, "or perhaps the wet of the rain."
"I say, you
haven't hurt it, or held it the wrong way, or anything; it is too
uncanny--crying and no noise. Why didn't you get Perfetta to carry it to
the hotel instead of muddling with the messenger? It's a marvel he
understood about the note."
understands." And he could feel her shudder. "He tried to carry the
"But why not Gino or
"Philip, don't talk. Must I say it
again? Don't talk. The baby wants to sleep." She crooned
harshly as they descended, and now and then she wiped up the tears which welled
inexhaustibly from the little eyes. Philip looked away, winking at times
himself. It was as if they were travelling with the whole world's sorrow,
as if all the mystery, all the persistency of woe were gathered to a single
fount. The roads were now coated with mud, and the carriage went more
quietly but not less swiftly, sliding by long zigzags into the night. He
knew the landmarks pretty well: here was the crossroad to Poggibonsi; and the
last view of Monteriano, if they had light, would be from here. Soon they
ought to come to that little wood where violets were so plentiful in
spring. He wished the weather had not changed; it was not cold, but the
air was extraordinarily damp. It could not be good for the
"I suppose he breathes, and all that sort of
thing?" he said.
"Of course," said Harriet, in an
angry whisper. "You've started him again. I'm certain he was
asleep. I do wish you wouldn't talk; it makes me so
"I'm nervous too. I wish he'd
scream. It's too uncanny. Poor Gino! I'm terribly sorry for
he's weak--like most of us. He doesn't know what he wants. He
doesn't grip on to life. But I like that man, and I'm sorry for
Naturally enough she made no
"You despise him, Harriet, and you despise
me. But you do us no good by it. We fools want some one to set us on
our feet. Suppose a really decent woman had set up Gino--I believe
Caroline Abbott might have done it--mightn't he have been another
"Philip," she interrupted, with an attempt at
nonchalance, "do you happen to have those matches handy? We might as well
look at the baby again if you have."
The first match
blew out immediately. So did the second. He suggested that they
should stop the carriage and borrow the lamp from the
"Oh, I don't want all that bother. Try
They entered the little wood as he tried to
strike the third match. At last it caught. Harriet poised the
umbrella rightly, and for a full quarter minute they contemplated the face that
trembled in the light of the trembling flame. Then there was a shout and a
crash. They were lying in the mud in darkness. The carriage had
Philip was a good deal hurt. He sat
up and rocked himself to and fro, holding his arm. He could just make out
the outline of the carriage above him, and the outlines of the carriage cushions
and of their luggage upon the grey road. The accident had taken place in
the wood, where it was even darker than in the
"Are you all right?" he managed to say.
Harriet was screaming, the horse was kicking, the driver was cursing some other
Harriet's screams became coherent. "The
baby--the baby--it slipped--it's gone from my arms--I stole
"God help me!" said Philip. A cold circle
came round his mouth, and, he fainted.
recovered it was still the same confusion. The horse was kicking, the baby had
not been found, and Harriet still screamed like a maniac, "I stole it! I
stole it! I stole it! It slipped out of my
"Keep still!" he commanded the driver.
"Let no one move. We may tread on it. Keep
For a moment they all obeyed him. He
began to crawl through the mud, touching first this, then that, grasping the
cushions by mistake, listening for the faintest whisper that might guide
him. He tried to light a match, holding the box in his teeth and striking
at it with the uninjured hand. At last he succeeded, and the light fell
upon the bundle which he was seeking.
It had rolled
off the road into the wood a little way, and had fallen across a great
rut. So tiny it was that had it fallen lengthways it would have
disappeared, and he might never have found it.
stole it! I and the idiot--no one was there." She burst out
He sat down and laid it on his knee.
Then he tried to cleanse the face from the mud and the rain and the tears.
His arm, he supposed, was broken, but he could still move it a little, and for
the moment he forgot all pain. He was listening--not for a cry, but for
the tick of a heart or the slightest tremor of
"Where are you?" called a voice. It was
Miss Abbott, against whose carriage they had collided. She had relit one
of the lamps, and was picking her way towards
"Silence!" he called again, and again they
obeyed. He shook the bundle; he breathed into it; he opened his coat and
pressed it against him. Then he listened, and heard nothing but the rain
and the panting horses, and Harriet, who was somewhere chuckling to herself in
Miss Abbott approached, and took it gently
from him. The face was already chilly, but thanks to Philip it was no
longer wet. Nor would it again be wetted by any tear.