IT was the first of Mrs. Angelo Milton’s original dinner-parties.
Mrs. Angelo Milton had the reputation of being the most
original hostess, if not in London, certainly in South Kensington
where she lived. Such a reputation, in such a neighbourhood, was
not perhaps difficult of acquisition, and Mrs. Milton had managed
to acquire it by the simple though unusual method of being mildly
eccentric within the limits of conventionality. She was thus
characteristic neither of Bohemia nor of South Kensington ; she
amused the one, puzzled the other, and received them both on the
third Wednesday in the month. She was daring in her selection
of guests, clever in the way she made them entertain one another,
and commonplace in her own conversation. The object of her
life was to be distinguished, and in a great measure she succeeded
in it ; the only thing that was wanting was Mrs. Angelo Milton
herself. Her house, her receptions, her friends all bore the mark
of distinction ; as a drama, the scenic effect was superb and the
company far above the average, but the principal player remained
mediocre. She had none of the elements of individuality ; her
dress was perfect and of the fashionable type, her features were
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. H
intrinsically good, yet their whole effect was unsatisfactory ; her
very hair was abundant and ordinary. Yet she was clever—clever
enough to know her own defects and to play them off upon other
people, clever enough to have begun a fresh career at the age of
twenty-six and to have followed it with perseverance and success.
She belonged to the few who know how to invest the little capital
Nature has given them ; and none of the brilliant frequenters
of her house who came and talked about themselves to their
sympathetic hostess ever suspected that they were really there to
establish her personality and not to advertise their own.
A perfectly new dinner-party was the luckiest inspiration that
ever came to a tired hostess. To see her guests grouped at small
tables, to make them all co-operate in the labour of conversation,
to enjoy the triumphant consciousness of having combined them
in the happiest manner possible, and to have reduced her own
responsibility to the entertaining of three people only, was the
highest consummation Mrs. Angelo Milton had ever attained.
She sat in complete satisfaction, bathed in the becoming rose-
coloured light shed by numerous shaded candles ; and she even
allowed herself under the influence of the prevailing ease of
manner to become almost natural. She had selected her own party
with scrupulous care ; a pretty débutante for her vis-à-vis, who
neither eclipsed nor reflected her ; a black and white artist, very
new, for herself ; and an ugly boy to play with the débutante,
which he was doing very charmingly.
” Such an improvement on the ordinary dinner-party,” said little
Margaret Cousins, with the experience of a first season in her
” Awfully neat idea, is really ; no need to listen to what
the other chaps are saying, don’t you know,” said the ugly boy,
who was still young, though he had left Cambridge a year ago.
Do you ever listen to what the other chaps are saying, Mr.
Askew ?” asked the débutante.
This is daring of you,” the artist was saying in a lowered tone,
not because he had anything confidential to say, but because it
suited his style to be impressive.
” Since it proclaims my choice of companions ?” asked his
hostess, rather clumsily.
” I am more than sensible of the honour. But that was not my
meaning ; no. I meant because——”
” Because it gives my other guests the opportunity of criticising
my new French chef?” she interrupted again, but with all the
assurance of success.
” Say rather the opportunity of discussing their charming
hostess,” rejoined the artist, relieved from the necessity of rinding
his own reply.
” A new poster ? Really ?” said Margaret Cousins.
The artist turned round with a scarcely perceptible show of
” What, another ?” he asked carelessly.
The ugly boy said it was the same old thing, and then
explained that it was one of the new things, a scarlet background
with a black lady in one corner and a black tree with large roots
in another corner, and some black stars scattered about else
” Ah, yes, ” said the artist indifferently, ” it is an advertisement
for the Shakespeare Fountain Pen, or something to that effect. I
saw it this morning.”
” The Milton Fountain Pen, ” corrected his hostess with the smile
of conversation ; ” I have noticed it on the placards sometimes ; it
bears my name you see.”
The artist said the coincidence had not struck him at the time,
but that he should in future use no other pen on that account. The
ugly boy, who was occupied with his savoury, said nothing; the
débutante, who had passed it, asked a simple question as though she
wished for information.
” What has a black lady or a black tree got to do with Milton or
a fountain pen ?”
” Oh, nothing. It has got to advertise it, that’s all,” said the
artist, smiling indulgently.
The ugly boy, who was now at liberty, said it was howling
cheek of the painter chap to stick different things on a scarlet
sheet and call it an advertisement for something that wasn’t
” Perhaps,” said his vis-à-vis with his irritating amiability.
” I suppose you would have a penholder and a fountain with no
background at all ? That would be quite obvious of course.”
” What is a fountain pen ?” asked Mrs. Milton, who had an
idea that the general conversation was not being a success.
There were three more or less inaccurate definitions at once ; she
selected Margaret’s, and smiled across at her.
” Margaret always knows these things,” she told the others.
” Margaret is literary, and makes one feel dreadfully frivolous sometimes.”
Dicky Askew looked sad and felt that he could not talk any
more about the comic papers. The ugly boy’s literature was
mainly pink. Margaret blushed and looked pleased, and said,
” Oh, no,” and added something irrelevant about Milton and the
Puritan movement which suggested Macaulay.
” Margaret is still so deliciously young,” sighed Mrs. Angelo.
” How nice to be at the age of local examinations when one
hasn’t forgotten all about Milton and those improving people !
Really, it is as much as one can do now to get through the books
of the people one has to meet in society. By the way, ” she
added exclusively to the artist, ” Brindley Harrison is here to-
night : do you know him ? He is over there, just under the Burne-
Jones, talking to——yes, that one. Have you read his last ?”
After that the conversation remained particular and interesting
until the hostess had to give the signal for retreat, upon which
conventionality again claimed its victims, and there was no further
evidence of innovation either in the music or the conversation
that occupied the rest of the evening.
When the last carriage had rolled away, Mrs. Angelo Milton
rang the bell and ordered something to eat. Then she walked
round the room and extinguished all the wax lights herself, and
turned the gas low, and sat down in the firelight. She was silent
for a long time after the servants had left her, and she was terribly
lonely. It was not a loneliness that comes as a natural result of
departed company, but the much more subtle solitude of one who
is anticipating a new companionship. When she had eaten her
sandwiches mechanically, one by one, she stood up and leaned her
head on the cold marble of the mantel-shelf, and something like
an angry sob broke from her lips in the darkness.
” After seven years,” she murmured, ” to lose it all by loving
Adrian Marks !”
She turned up the gas again with an impatient movement, then
lighted a candle and held it up to a picture on the wall, a portrait
of a middle-aged man with a bald head.
” Jim ! ” she cried involuntarily, ” what would you say if you
were to meet him ?”
The idea struck her as so incongruous that she gave way to a
nervous spasm of laughter and returned hurriedly to her seat by
the fire. Her husband had been a successful commercial man,
and the source of his wealth had been the invention of the Milton
Fountain Pen. When he died in America, seven years ago, his
widow came to England with his fortune, assuring herself against
detection by prefixing an old family name to his notorious one,
and began the career for which she had pined through the whole
of her short married life. Those seven years in South Kensington
had given her what she wanted, position, association with artistic
circles, a certain measure of happiness ; she had worked hard for
all of these, and yet she was on the point of renouncing them
as the price of her attachment to Adrian Marks, the new
black and white artist. It seemed very paltry to her as she sat
in the empty drawing-room, away from his influence, and she
shivered involuntarily, although the fire had responded to her
touch and had broken into a cheerful blaze.
” What if I do marry him ?” she said, beginning to take down
her hair slowly. ” I lose my money—Jim’s money ; that means
that I lose my house, my position, my friends, all the fabric I have
built up with the labour of seven whole years. And the gain is
the passing love of a man. What fools women are !”
Yet she sat down and wrote to him then, in the great half-
lighted drawing-room, with her long brown hair falling round her
face—wrote him a pretty playful letter such as women love to write
to the men who admire them : a word about Ascot, something
about the late spring, and something somebody had told her about
At that moment her lover and the ugly boy were having supper
at the club. The original dinner-party did not seem to have
satisfied the hunger of any of its guests.
” I should go for her and chance it,” said the ugly boy.
” No you wouldn’t, Dicky, you would come across a pretty girl
on the way and never get any further.”
The ugly boy seemed rather proud than otherwise of this
tribute to his inconstancy, and ate the rest of his oysters with a
” Margaret Cousins is a seemly maiden, passing fair, and of a
goodly wit,” he said reflectively.
” You could say that of any of them. That’s the oddest thing
about women ; the essentials are always the same in the ones we
fall in love with,” said Adrian, ” but do keep to the point, little
boy. I’ll rave about Margaret after, if you’ll only talk about Mrs.
Angelo now. ”
” What’s her first name ? I can’t talk about a woman in con-
fidence and call her by her surname, especially when she’s a
” I don’t know that she’s got one. Heard from her this
morning though, let’s see what she signs herself ; ah. here we are
” That’s a bit off,” said Dicky in parenthesis, ” never heard of
a horse called Cynthia.”
” You see,” continued Adrian with a slightly worried air,
” she doesn’t know I twigged all about the Fountain Pen long
ago, and she doesn’t even know that I did the very poster we
were talking about this evening. Shut up, Dicky, any blind
idiot could have guessed that !—and she hasn’t an idea how
hard up I am, nor how many reasons there are for my marrying
” Play lightly,” objected Dicky, ” even for a woman that’s an
amazing amount of ignorance. And she’s in love with you, too.”
” Yes,” sighed Adrian, “she is in love with me. Do you
know, Dicky, it makes me almost hate myself sometimes when a
sweet unsuspecting woman like that takes me on trust and thinks
such an awful lot of me. I should have gone to the dogs long
ago if it had not been for my women friends.”
” Do you really think,” asked Dicky, lighting up a cigar, ” they
have made any difference ?”
Adrian looked across at his plain, shrewd little countenance
and shook his head slowly.
” Dicky, you are very young. But if you don’t mind we will
stick to the subject.”
Dicky said he was quite willing, and that women friends was
as far as they had got. Adrian went on rather more gloomily
than before :
” So you see it’s all right as far as she is concerned. And as for
myself—well, I suppose that’s settled too. I never meant to get
married at all, as you know, but I think it’s not a bad thing for a
man after all, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t marry Cynthia—do
you ? And of course I am extremely lucky to get such a good
and sympathetic woman to marry me at all.”
” At your age, and with your tailoring, it is wonderful,” said
the irrepressible Dicky. ” By the way, how old is Cynthia ?”
” From calculation I make it about thirty-two. She looks less.
I am thirty-eight, though of course you wouldn’t think it.
There is really everything to make our union a happy one. But
then, there’s the governor.”
” There always is,” assented Dicky sadly.
” And he has sworn to disinherit me if I marry into commerce.
He means it too, worse luck.”
” What a played-out idea ! Every decent chap marries into
dollars nowadays ; it’s the thing to do. But that needn’t matter ;
she’s got fifteen thousand a year—must have—couldn’t run that
show on less, eh ?”
” I haven’t seen the will ; she may lose it all if she marries
again. I m hanged if that would make any difference though,
Dicky. I declare I m fairly gone on her. I believe,” continued
Adrian in a glow of sentiment, ” I really believe I should propose
if neither of us had a penny ! I should like to know about that
” What a set of stale old properties you are inventing, Marks :
irate father, inconvenient will, beautiful lady. You might be
writing a novel in the last century.”
” You might remember, Dicky,” said Adrian impressively,
” that I have nothing to do with the spirit of any other century
than this one. Now, what’s your advice ? Shall I propose
or not ?”
Dicky Askew blinked his small eyes at him and considered for
” You’ll never have a better chance of being accepted, I should
say. Given a woman who on your own showing adores you so
much that she doesn’t see your imperfections, and to whom you
are so attached that her fortune does not matter a jot—well, there
doesn’t seem anything else to do.”
” Thanks awfully, little boy, you’ve helped me no end. I’ll
propose to-morrow, hanged if I don’t. Not sure if I don’t go
down to Somerset House first, though ; think about it in the
morning. After all, you must remember Cynthia is not the only
woman friend I’ve got who—I mean, the world is packed with
good unselfish women who are ready to give us sympathy and
” Fifteen thousand a year,” added Dicky maliciously.
Adrian paused before he strolled away.
” If there should be anything wrong about that will, there’s
always dear little Margaret Cousins,” he said thoughtfully.
” No, there isn’t,” shouted Dicky wrathfully ; ” you can leave
Margaret out of this show anyhow. She wouldn’t join anybody’s
army of women friends, so don’t you make any mistake about it.
You wouldn’t catch her wanting to save you from the clutches
all the other women, which is what your women friends are mostly
engaged in doing for you. Besides, she funks you no end—says
she can’t make you out, or something.”
” Really ?” said Adrian with a gratified smile, ” that’s excellent
material to go upon. I must cultivate her. See you again soon,
Margaret Cousins was lunching with Mrs. Angelo Milton the
next day when the man-servant brought in a visiting card. She
had come round to gossip over the dinner-party, to eat up the
remains, and to find out all there was to know about Dicky
Askew ; so she had a valid reason to grumble when her hostess
said she must go into the drawing-room at once.
” But make yourself at home, child, and have what you want
and ring for what you don’t,” she said rather absently as she
arranged her lace at the glass. ” It is an old friend ; I have not seen
him for years. You can play with the poodle till I come back,
can’t you, darling ?”
A sun-browned man, with an expectant smile on his face and
rather a nervous consciousness of the hat and stick in his hand,
was standing on the rug in the drawing-room when she went in.
There was no diffidence in his greeting, however, and no doubt
of a welcome in the hard hand he put out to her, though the one
she laid in it was cold and passive. They had nothing to say for
a minute or two, and when they had settled on two chairs rather
far apart, and he had deposited his belongings on the floor, the
few remarks they made were necessary and usual.
” So you have come to England after all, Willis ? You always
said you would.”
“Yes, Cynthia. It is an old promise of eight years’ standing,
isn’t it ?”
” When did you arrive ?”
” This morning only. I crossed in the night boat from Dieppe.
There was a fog in the Channel.”
” Was there? I believe there always is by the night boat.
Have you had lunch ?”
” I had a chop in the City : chose it myself, and saw it cooked.
Not your style, eh ? Well, and how long have you lived
” Oh, how did you find out my address ?”
” I went to your agents, of course. I saw that new poster of
yours at Victoria, though what it means the Lord only knows,
and that brought you back to my mind.”
” So it needed a new poster to do that ? Oh, Willis, how you
must have altered !”
It was the first human note in the conversation, and Willis
Ruthven broke into a relieved laugh.
” You haven’t altered much, Cynthia, in spite of your dandy
house,” he said, and brought his chair closer to hers.
” I don’t know. I fancy I must have. Or else it is you,” she
replied, meeting the kindly gaze of his keen eyes with something
” Why ?”
” Well, you look so—so physical,” she said, and laughed.
” In the old days, when Jim was there, you used to tell me I
was the intellectual one. ”
” Ah yes, when Jim was there. You seemed so by contrast to
the commercial element.”
There was distaste, almost contempt, in her voice, and he
” Don’t be hard on the commercial element; it has treated you
well enough,” he said gently, with a swift glance round the room.
” Oh yes, I know all that,” she cried impatiently, ” you have
dinned it into my ears so often. It has made England what it is,
and so on. I must say that it has not much to be proud of !
loathe the commercial spirit.”
” Yet you have so much of it yourself,” said Willis with a
” I ? The commercial spirit ?”
” Surely. Do you not trade with every bit of resource at your
command, and very profitably too ? It is your commercial spirit
that has made you use up that old Italian ancestor of yours for a
second name. You trade with your beauty, your wits, your
position ; Jim traded with the Milton Fountain Pen. Where is
the difference ?”
” I have always noticed, ” said Cynthia, biting her lip, ” that
men who have travelled about alone for eight years become
Margaret Cousins was very tired of playing with the poodle
long before her friend was at liberty. It was not until tea-time
that the front door banged and Mrs. Angelo called down the stairs
to her to come up to the boudoir.
” It is so much cosier to have tea here when we are alone, ”
she said cheerfully. ” I hope you have not been dull, dear. Do
you mind bringing the kettle ? Such an old friend, I have not
seen him for eight years.”
” He must be rather ancient,” said Margaret candidly. The
poodle had made her cross.
But Mrs. Angelo Milton did not hear her remark : she was
leaning back in her chair, smiling at her thoughts.
” Tell me, Margaret, she said suddenly, ” what do you think
women admire most in men ? Is it good looks ?”
” No,” said Margaret, thinking of the ugly boy.
” I am
” I am not sure, ” said Cynthia, thinking of Adrian Marks ; ” if
not, what is it ? ”
” Good tailoring perhaps, ” suggested Margaret, still thinking of
” Oh no,” said Mrs. Angelo, remembering the cut of Willis’s
frock-coat, ” I think it is temperament.”
” Conversation I should say,” corrected Margaret.
Cynthia put down her cup with decision.
” We are all wrong, Margaret. I have it. We like them to be
masterful. It doesn’t matter what they are if they know how to
master us. Let them do it by their looks, or their brains, or
their qualities ; but if they do it, we are theirs. And it isn’t a
flattering reflection for either sex.”
Margaret pouted, and recalled Dicky Askew, and refused to
agree. But Cynthia was convinced. She was thinking only of
Cynthia felt very unsettled during the next few days. When
a woman has half-unwillingly made up her mind to an action that
repels while it enthrals her, she can be easily deterred from it by
a very small disturbing element. And the disturbing element in
this case was the reappearance of Willis Ruthven. It was not
only that the revival of an old friendship had blunted the edge of
a new and untried one, nor wholly because the effete and decadent
culture of Adrian Marks suffered by contrast with the frank and
healthy personality of Willis. For she was affected on the other
hand by the dread of being again absorbed in the old atmosphere
she had hated, and this dread was kept alive by the knowledge that
her early history was no longer her own secret, but was shared by
some one else who saw no reason for concealing it. She had a real
and strong friendship for Willis Ruthven, one of many years’
growth, and she chafed at the influence it still had over her, now
that she wanted to turn her back for ever upon all that it recalled
to her mind. Willis represented the whole spirit of that time
she wished to forget ; he knew every detail of the past she had
tried to blot out of her life with a persistence that was almost
morbid. There was something pathetic in the way this woman,
who had lived two different lives, feared lest the first one should
claim her again for its own, something pitiful in the unconscious
comparison she drew between the two men who competed for her
thoughts, between the one who by his presence dragged her down
to the old level, and the one who dwelt only in the surroundings
It is probable that she would not have thought so much about
Adrian had not Willis gone out of town directly after his first
interview with her, and only testified his existence to her by a
refusal of a dinner invitation which annoyed her as much by its
brevity and curtness as by the business-like paper on which it was
written. Nor would she have bestowed so much notice on this
trifling occurrence had not Adrian Marks also piqued her, about
the same time, by neither calling upon her nor otherwise seeking
her society ; and although she made a point of frequenting the
houses where there was a possibility of meeting him, all her efforts
were attended with failure, as such conscious efforts always are.
She met Dicky Askew one hot day in June at an afternoon
reception. It was a great crush, and he was not looking particu-
larly happy on the crowded landing where the stream of people
coming upstairs had imprisoned him.
” Let’s sit out on the balcony,” he proposed ; ” I’m fairly played
with this awful crush—aren’t you ? I had to offend millions of
decent people by getting the mother into a chair, and I don’t
suppose she will be able to move until I go and dig her out
The ugly boy, although he cultivated a pose of selfishness like
the others in his set, had a great devotion for his mother, which
was so unusual a phenomenon among his friends that they never
quite took him seriously about it, and had to suspect him of ulterior
motives before they felt in a position to admire him for it. No
body ever did take the ugly boy seriously about anything, but
Cynthia was in the mood this afternoon to be touched by any sign
of natural affection, and she followed him outside the window
with more graciousness than she usually showed to any one so
” Have you seen your friend Mr. Marks lately ?” she asked him.
She felt that it was not necessary to lead up to the subject with
Dicky Askew. He looked steadily across the street at the house
opposite, and hesitated.
” Marks ? Not for millions of days. Have you ?”
” I ? Oh no. I don’t know why I asked you. I thought you
were such friends, that’s all. You always suggest Mr. Marks,
Dicky glanced doubtfully at her.
” The fact is,” he said with an impulse of confidence, ” we’ve
had a beastly row ; I’m afraid it’s really all up this time. I haven’t
seen him once since Sunday.”
Cynthia murmured something and waited eagerly for more.
The ugly boy grew expansive.
” The fact is,” he said again, leaning over the balustrade,
“Adrian is so beastly rotten. And she’s an awfully decent little
girl, don’t you see.”
” Ah,” said Cynthia, also leaning over the balustrade and
counting the paving-stones feverishly.
” It’s all tommy when a man talks about his women friends.
It won’t wash,” continued the ugly boy in a tone of disgust ; ” it
only means he likes to ring the changes like all the other boys, and
won’t own to it. The worst of it is that he does it so well.
She doesn’t care a jot for him, of course.”
” She doesn’t ?” said Cynthia joyfully.
Dicky looked at her reproachfully.
” What do you think ? I never meant she would chuck me
over for him. A fresh little nipper like that isn’t likely to go nuts
on a played-out painter chap. That would be common. All the
same, it isn’t fair on a fellow, is it ?”
” No,” said Cynthia sadly, ” it is not fair on a fellow.”
Something in her tone recalled Dicky for an instant from his
own absorbing interests.
” I say, you know,” he said with a smile, ” if you cared to help
me I don’t know why you shouldn’t. You may if you like, you
Cynthia failed to express any gratitude, and Dicky wandered on.
” If you weren’t playing so poorly with Adrian he wouldn’t be
fooling around with Margaret, and if you’d only just be decent to
him again, don’t you know—”
Here he was really obliged to stop, for he found Cynthia staring
at him coldly.
” Oh, hang,” he said impetuously, ” I’m fairly gone on Margaret,
don’t you see.”
” Margaret ?”
” Yes, of course. There isn’t anybody else, is there ?” said
Dicky, a little sulkily.
” Oh,” said Cynthia, with a slight curl of her lip, ” I don’t
think you need be jealous. Margaret is a dear child, but she
is not at all the sort of girl Mr. Marks would be likely to
” Wouldn’t he, though ?” cried Dicky fiercely. ” He couldn’t
help it—nobody could help it ; she’s the decentest little brick of a
” Oh, very well ; I thought you didn’t want him to admire
” No more I do, confound him ! But he can’t help admiring
her, for all that.”
” Then I don’t see how I am to help you. Supposing we
change the subject ; I am dreadfully tired of discussing other
people’s love affairs.”
” That sounds like a challenge to discuss your own,” said Dicky,
with a shrewd smile. He was an obstinate little fellow when he
had an object in view.
” Mr. Askew !” said Cynthia, rising with great dignity.
” Oh, I say, don’t,” he said, anxiously, and placed himself in front
of her ; ” I’m an awful ass, of course ; but I do know that Adrian
was right on you a week ago, and—what the dickens has happened
to everybody since ?”
She nodded to him enigmatically and disappeared in the crowd,
and he went to extricate his mother. They met again in the hall
as every one was leaving.
” I shall bring Adrian in to call to-morrow evening, may I ?”
” If it will tend to a reconciliation between you, I shall be
delighted,” she answered blandly.
So she sent a note round the next day to ask Margaret to drop
in to dinner, and assured herself that she was going through the
whole tiresome business in order to bring about the child’s
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. I
engagement with the ugly boy. Margaret’s chaperon was an
aunt who did not look after her much ; and the ugly boy was
getting on well in his profession and had good connections ; so
Mrs. Angelo felt she was only being virtuous when she put on her
most becoming demi-toilette and laid herself out to be amusing the
whole of dinner-time.
” By the way, Mr. Askew said he might come in to coffee,” she
said casually in the drawing-room afterwards ; ” that was why I
asked you to dinner.”
” I know; so is Mr. Marks. I met them both in the park
to-day. That is why I put on my yellow dress. Mr. Marks likes
me in yellow—I look peculiarly distinguished in it, he says ! ”
” Mr. Marks says a variety of extravagant things to his lady
” Oh, Cynthia, are there really such a lot of them ? Dicky is
always dinning Mr. Marks’ lady friends into my ears till I cease to
believe in them at all. There aren’t any, are there ?”
” Who is Dicky, dear ?”
” Dicky Askew, of course,” laughed Margaret. ” Is there
another Dicky ?”
” Apparently not for you ; but it is difficult to believe that you
met him for the first time only a fortnight ago.”
” Ah !” said little Margaret wisely, ” but that was at your
original dinner-party, and that counted for six ordinary meetings
with auntie. Besides, you didn’t give me a chance of talking to
any one else that evening ; I never spoke to Mr. Marks at all except
about that hideous new poster. Did you see it noticed in the
morning paper, by the way ?”
” What poster ?” asked Mrs. Angelo Milton.
” The Fountain Pen poster,” don’t you remember ? Why we
talked ever such a lot about it, and——”
” Oh, I can’t recall it, then. Posters don’t interest me in the
least ; they are a vulgar form of art, I never think of looking at
them. Are you getting on at the Slade, Margaret ?”
” Yes—no—I don’t know. But why don’t you like posters,
Cynthia?” persisted Margaret. ” Mr. Marks doesn’t call them
vulgar ; Mr. Marks paints them himself.”
” Mr. Marks didn’t paint that one, anyhow ; it is a hideous piece
“Then you do remember it ?” cried Margaret triumphantly.
” No, I don’t. How you do bother, child,” said Cynthia crossly.
” You’ve got posters on the brain. Mr. Marks has evidently been
making you one of his disciples.”
” Mr. Marks ?” said Margaret proudly. ” Oh yes, he has taught
me such a lot about pictures—”
She paused abruptly as the door opened, and the two men were
” Yes, very pretty, isn’t it ? A present from a friend in
America,” said Cynthia, and rose to receive them.
Poor Margaret did not learn any more about posters that even-
ing, for Mr. Marks spent it in the boudoir with his hostess. It is
true that the door between the two rooms was left half-open, and
that Cynthia sometimes raised her voice in the interests of pro-
priety to make a remark to the couple on the drawing-room sofa,
but the conversation could not, on the whole, be termed a general
one. Nor was it altogether fluent at first. Nobody but Cynthia
had really mastered the situation, and she was almost too nervous
to play her part. The ugly boy was quite happy at having planned
the whole meeting, and felt quite sure it was going to settle the
future of every one present, and he had consequently plenty to say,
but he found a curious difficulty in saying it, and Margaret, to
whom he said it, was an unwilling listener. She was cross at being
supposed to be in love with Dicky, and at having to endure his
conversation all the evening ; while Adrian Marks, who was far older
and more interesting, dismissed her with a hand-shake and strolled
after Cynthia into the other room.
Adrian Marks himself was full of pleasing sensations. A
comfortable chair in a softly lighted, pretty room, and a clever
woman to talk to, represented his favourite form of diversion ; and
the gratifying suspicion of having piqued her slightly by his re-
missness in calling added a zest to the situation.
But he had read the will at Somerset House, and he did not
mean it to be more than a pleasant evening.
” Do you mind the window being open ? It is hot in here,
and besides, I like to see the trees in the square—don’t you ? ”
said Cynthia, settling herself in the low window-seat.
” I like anything that affords an excuse for a good pose,” he
said, and looked at her and not at the trees.
It was a favourable opening, and Mrs. Angelo Milton followed
it up well. She had her own game to play this evening, and she
was going to stake her happiness to win it. All the thraldom of
her American life, all its sordidness and its gilded opulence, lay
clearly before her mind and tortured her with its vividness ;
it only needed a decided action on her part to put it away
from her for ever. And the man who could save her
from its haunting memories was Adrian, whom she thought
she loved sufficiently to marry because she had felt hurt
when he neglected her. She knew he loved her too in
his narrow, selfish way. And she felt tolerably sure she could
win him if she tried ; and, ignoble process though it was, she did
” You have been out of town ?” she asked him when they had
touched on various indifferent topics.
” Since I saw you? I hardly remember ; I think not—no.
Why do you ask ?”
” How absurd of me ! For the moment I forgot that of course
you did not pay conventional calls after dinner-parties like every
He paused just long enough to give weight to his answer.
” I should not so far dishonour a charmingly unconventional
dinner-party. When I have made a friendship with a woman I
never spoil it by afternoon calls.”
” That sounds rather interesting. But staying away altogether
is an odd kind of substitute, don’t you think ?”
” It is the only substitute for a man who is afraid of what may
result from an interview.”
“Afraid ? You ? After all your experience ? I often wonder
whether you have the same formula of conversation for all your
lady friends, Mr. Marks. ”
” Well, no. There is the attractive formula for the timid and
the reticent for the bold ; the intellectual for the young and the
playful for the old ; the decorous for the matron and the indecorous
for the maiden ; and so on.”
” And to which class do I belong ?”
” To no class, my dear lady. You are unique.”
” You said that so fluently that I shall suspect you of a common
formula after all.”
” True fluency is never the result of study, and my remark was
a spontaneous one. Won’t you acknowledge that you gave me
an excuse for spontaneity ?”
Cynthia looked into the depths of the plane-tree across the
road, and yawned lazily.
” We are being dreadfully brilliant, and I am always afraid of
you when you are brilliant. Won’t you smoke ? I have always
noticed that when a man has nothing to do with his hands he
becomes frankly untruthful.”
” You will join me, I hope ?”
” For the same reason ?”
” Oh no,” he said, taking a cigarette from the box she handed
over to him. ” But I have always noticed that when a woman
begins to smoke she becomes dangerously confidential.”
” You are quite safe,” she said drily. ” I never smoke. Mr.
Askew, will you have a cigarette ? Margaret doesn’t mind.”
The two from the drawing-room made a diversion by coming
in and fetching the cigarettes. There was a search for matches,
a few remarks about the beauty of the evening and the size of the
plane-tree, and then a gravitation towards the former arrangement.
This time, Adrian was sitting on the window-ledge, and Mrs.
Angelo had slipped into a low chair close by.
” Life is very full of stupid arrangements,” said the artist
presently. He was thinking of the amazing selfishness of the
first husband when he made his will.
” For example?” she murmured. She was thinking of the
small flat they would have to take when they were living on his
earnings alone, and she had sacrificed her fortune for the artistic
” The distribution of—people,” said the artist. He had almost
” Yes,” said Cynthia dreamily, ” the wrong ones have to be for
ever together, and if we try to sort ourselves differently the old
influences go on tugging at us until they prove strongest after all
and absorb us again. It is horrible.”
” It is merely the planetary system,” said Adrian, looking up at
the stars, “and it gives the clever people lots of copy. ”
” I don’t
” I don’t see why we should be sacrificed to the clever people,
they have so many compensations. It is the stupid people who
can only feel things, who are the really important factors of life,
and they have all the suffering,” cried Cynthia bitterly. She was
forgetting the part she had planned for herself.
” What are we talking about ?” said Adrian suddenly.
” You were being brilliant again,” she said, collecting herself
with an effort.
” And my cigarette has gone out,” he laughed, and went across
to a candle to light it.
They listened mechanically to the voices through the open door.
” It’s no use, it won’t draw, I tell you. Nobody could make it
draw, it’s got stuffed up with something. I am quite sure the
strings I have been eating are not tobacco at all. It’s the stupidest
cigarette I ever smoked.”
” It looks a bit played, doesn’t it ? You’ve used all my matches
and the spills hang out in the other room. Stick to it a moment
while I freeze on to a coal, will you ?”
Margaret evidently had no difficulty in sticking to the cigarette,
and Dicky must have achieved the extraordinary feat of freezing
on to a coal, for there was no more conversation in the drawing-
room for the next few moments, and when it began afresh a piano-
organ in the street below completely drowned it.
” That’s a good effect,” said Adrian, leaning over the window-
box, ” the lamps and the background of bushes, and the weird light
on that man’s face—awfully fine, isn’t it ?”
She came and looked out with him.
” Very,” she said ; ” have you been painting much lately ?”
” No. I’ve been literally off colour. Weather, I suppose.”
” Or a new lady friend ?” she suggested, under cover of the
clanging music in the street.
Her eyes had a fascinating light in them when she looked
mischievous, and Adrian mentally included his old father and the
late Mr. Milton in the same big curse. It was hard, and it grew
harder as the evening wore on, that every one should put
obstacles in the way of his marrying one of the few women he had
ever really liked. He felt quite sorry, too, for her, and wished
magnanimously he could do something to lessen her evident
infatuation. But he felt most sorry for himself.
” Possibly,” he replied gaily ; ” it is generally that. I am a bad
lot, you know, Mrs. Milton.”
He looked at her narrowly, but she only laughed and ran her
fingers through the lobelia in the window-box.
” You don’t think I am very bad, do you ?” he asked, bending
a little towards her.
” I think you would be exceedingly disappointed if I didn’t
think so,” she retorted, without looking at him. The organ had
moved on, and the strains of a popular air came faintly round the
corner and mingled with the rustle of the plane-trees and the
passing footfall of the policeman. The conversation in the
drawing-room was no longer distinguishable, and the only distrac-
tions came from outside. Adrian drew in his head and stood a
little behind her.
” I should like to know what you do think about me,” he said
curiously ; ” is it something very bad ?”
” It is something quite formless,” she replied indifferently.
” Do you think about me at all ?” he asked, putting his hands
in his pockets and keeping them there with an effort.
” As much, possibly, as you think about me.”
” And do you know how much that is ?”
” Just so much thought as a man is likely to bestow on one
woman when there are twenty others.”
She was acting now, not to gain her point, but to hide her real
feelings. And unconsciously she won her game, as it must always
” Why do you say that ?” he asked, coming nearer to her.
” It is not I who say it. I am merely repeating what you have
said to me dozens of times. What nonsense we are talking ! Shall
we go in to the others ?”
Ten o’clock struck slowly from a neighbouring church tower,
and they stood and counted the strokes in silence as though the
slight mental effort was a sort of relief to their constraint. Then
she moved a little and felt his touch on her bare arm.
” Don’t go, Cynthia.”
He crushed her hand against his lips and pulled her almost
roughly towards him.
” There are not twenty others,” he whispered.
When the two men left the house together half an hour later
Adrian uttered an exclamation in an unduly loud tone.
” I say, that’s rather strong, isn’t it ?” said Dicky, whose reflec-
tions were of a peculiarly happy nature.
” It’s not nearly strong enough for the fools who make wills,”
replied Adrian, and drove off alone in a hansom.
For a woman who has staked everything and won the game
sooner then she expected, Mrs. Angelo Milton wore a singularly
dissatisfied appearance when she came downstairs the next
morning. She wrote letters in her boudoir until the smell of the
window flowers became intolerable and she had to take refuge in
the drawing-room ; and there she had two separate quarrels with
the maid over the dusting of the ornaments and the arrangement
of the flowers, and ended with the inevitable threat that she would
in future do them both herself. This she began at once to carry
into effect by walking about the room with a duster and making
herself very hot and cross. When she had broken a valuable
Venetian glass, and made the startling discovery that all the dust
she dissipated settled somewhere else directly afterwards, she
hid the duster under a sofa cushion, collected all the flowers out of
all the vases and piled them in a heap in the fender. Then she
sat down on the hearth-rug and looked at them helplessly, and felt
very foolish, when Margaret came in without being announced and
laughed at her.
“My dear Cynthia, what is the matter, and whatever are you
doing on the floor ?” cried the girl.
” I’m doing the flowers,” cried Cynthia briskly ; ” how jolly you
look. Did you trim that hat yourself ?”
” Yes, it’s my old Louise, don’t you remember ? But what’s
the matter ?”
” Matter ?” cried Mrs. Angelo in a tone of amazement, ” what
should be the matter ? I am particularly happy this morning.
Something very nice that I wanted very much indeed has
happened to me, and I never felt more pleased about anything in
” You’ve got a very funny way of looking pleased,” said Margaret
candidly, ” and it’s more than I feel myself. I’ve come round to
tell you something, Cynthia, something very important and not
at all pleasant to either of us. But hadn’t you better get off the
floor first ?”
” Well, what is it, child ?” asked Mrs. Angelo when she had
limped with two cramped legs to the nearest chair.
” I only wish you to understand quite clearly that I am not in
love with Dicky Askew, whatever Dicky Askew may be
with me, and that I won’t be left alone with Dicky Askew
until I have heard all his stories twice over and he is obliged
to propose for the sake of more conversation. I never want
to speak to Dicky Askew again ; I should like him to be —
” My dear,” said Cynthia, ” I don’t keep Dicky Askew on the
premises. Did you really put on a new hat on purpose to come
and tell me something that doesn’t concern me at all ?”
” Doesn’t concern you ?” cried Margaret. ” I should like to
know whom it does concern then.”
“Dicky Askew, I should say. Really, my dear child, I am very
sorry I mistook your feelings ; I won’t make up a party for you
” It was not,” said Margaret with great dignity, ” the party that
I objected to. It was only Dicky Askew.”
“I did it out of kindness,” replied Cynthia, ignoring her in-
” Then I hope you will never ask me to dinner again out of
kindness, or if you do, please shut me in here with the man I am
not in love with,” responded Margaret. ” I should not have minded
at all if I had spent the evening with the man I was not in love
with, last night.”
” I think you are right,” said Cynthia quietly, and she stroked
the child’s hot cheek soothingly as she spoke, ” passing the evening
with the man you are in love with is very exhausting indeed. We
will try the opposite arrangement next time. Will you come out
with me this afternoon ?”
“Where to?” asked Margaret suspiciously.
” Hurlingham, of course.”
” It’s too bad,” cried the girl indignantly, ” you knew he was
going to be there ! One would think there was no one in the
world but Dicky Askew.”
” One would, to hear you talk,” said Cynthia.
When she was alone again, she went to the writing-table and
tried to write a letter. She made two rough copies and tore them
up, began a third and burst into tears in the middle. The anticipa-
tion of the artistic atmosphere for the rest of her life did not seem
to be exhilarating.
” Mr. Ruthven,” announced the man-servant.
” Oh, how do you do ?” said Cynthia with desperate com-
” What’s the matter ?” he asked bluntly, just as Margaret had
done, ” and what are all those flowers on the floor for ? It looks
like a funeral.”
” It isn’t—they’re not—oh don’t,” said Cynthia with an hys-
Willis had hold of her hand still and drew her on to the sofa
” Something seems to have disturbed you,” he said, and cleared
his throat sympathetically ; ” what is it, eh ?”
” I can’t very well tell you,” she replied with an effort to be
” Then don’t,” said Willis, in the tone he might have used in
soothing a child ; ” we’ll talk about something else instead. I was
down at Johnson’s just now—”
“Johnson’s ? Whatever did you go to my agent’s for ?” she
asked in a surprised tone.
” To ask him if your affairs were in a satisfactory condition,”
he replied frankly.
” Why did you want to know !”
” For reasons I will tell you presently.”
” And pray, what did he say about my affairs ?”
” Oh, excellent report, never been selling better, largely owing
to that new poster he says ; it just wanted that to freshen up the
sale a bit. Bless me, what have I said now, Cynthia ?”
” Oh, nothing. I am sick of that new poster. Margaret was
full of it yesterday. Everybody is full of it. Why did they want
a new poster to freshen up the sale just now ? I don’t want the
She wondered why he looked so pleased.
” Don’t you really, Cynthia ? Would you give it up willingly
if—if you, well, if the terms of the will had to be fulfilled ?”
She turned and looked at him with a hunted look in her
” How did you know ? What makes you ask me that ?” she
” Of course I knew, my dear,” he answered with his genial
smile ; ” why, I made Jim add that codicil myself.”
” You ? You made him ? Willis, I don’t understand. Why
did you ?”
” For the same reason that I have come here this morning,
Cynthia. Is it so difficult to understand, then ?”
There was a slight tremble in the bluff tones, but she did not
notice it. She was so absorbed in her own engrossing affairs
this morning that her faculties had grown incapable of receiving
any impression from outside. She continued to look at him
” What reason ?” she asked.
” Because I knew what you didn’t know then, poor child—that
Jim was dying. And I meant to come back for you after seven
years and take you for my own—if you would come. We were
such good friends, Cynthia, and—I thought perhaps you would
come. So I made Jim put in that clause about the property.
You see, I meant your love for me to stand the test of a sacrifice,
and I wanted mine to be free from a suspicion of self-interest.
Do you blame me very much, dear ?”
She let him finish his speech without interruption. Her first
impulse was to laugh hysterically ; every nerve and every instinct
she possessed seemed alive ; it almost hurt her to think ; and the
main impression she gathered from his words was the humorous
aspect of them in the confidence of success that underlay their
humility. Why was every one so sure of being accepted by
She did not speak for an instant or two. She sat and stared
stupidly in front of her. He came a little closer to her with a
smile on his face, and then she broke away from him with a
distracted cry. It seemed to his slowly awakening comprehension
as though the air he was breathing were shivered by the pain of
” Oh, Willis, don’t ! Go away, leave me, hate me, can’t you ?
Oh, don’t you see ? I can’t, I can’t. Take your eyes away, they
hurt me so. I cannot marry you now. What evil power sent
you here this morning ? Why couldn’t you wait until everybody
knew ? Don’t you understand, I—I have promised some one else ?
It was his turn now to be silent, and to stare in complete
stupefaction. She bore it as long as she could, and then with a
bitter sense of the comedy of the situation she stammered out a
trembling supplication :
” Oh, Willis, do scold me—or something. Don’t be so
ridiculously unlike yourself !”
She crouched away from him in the far corner of the sofa, and
buried her face in the cushions. There was no sound except the
rushing in her ears for several minutes. When he spoke again
it seemed as though a wave were receding slowly and unwillingly
on the sea-shore.
” I am very sorry, Cynthia. Of course I am going—to be
She was conscious that he rose from the sofa and stood a little
away from her.
” I suppose you wouldn’t mind my knowing his name ? Don’t
tell me if you would sooner not,” said his voice, grown gentler still.
A woman rarely finds it difficult to pronounce the name of
her lover, and Cynthia recovered some of her self-possession in
” I don’t suppose you have ever heard of him. His name is
There was one of those rapid transitions from artificial com-
posure to natural display of feeling, and Cynthia, listening dully
to his movements, heard the springs of the sofa suddenly creak
again as Willis dropped back heavily on to his seat.
” Bless my soul !” he said in his own voice and manner.
Cynthia raised herself and looked coldly at him.
” Adrian Marks ?” he repeated, smoothing his hair with a large
white handkerchief. ” Adrian Marks ?”
” Do you know him ?” asked Cynthia curtly.
” Know him ? Rather think I do ! Little unphysical bit of
a man—eh ? Hair getting thin on the top, sallow complexion, no
hands to speak of—should think I did know him, that’s all. Do
you really mean Adrian Marks ? Impossible !”
” He is an artist. I don’t expect you to understand what, that
means. And I am going to marry him, which I think ought to
spare him your jeers. And I really think we had better end this
” Bless my soul !” exclaimed Willis again, ” but we are only
at the beginning of it. My poor Cynthia, you must have wanted
to marry very badly.”
Mrs. Angelo made a struggle to retain her dignity.
” I don’t think you have at all grasped that I am engaged to
” Well, it is a bit difficult,” acknowledged Willis; ” why, I
could wipe the floor with him in one—Does he know about
the will ?”
” He did not know until I told him,” said Cynthia proudly,
making the most of her one advantage, ” and then he said my
poverty only made me more precious to him : Mr. Marks, also, is
ready to take me for myself.”
The insinuation in her last words was meant to impress her
hearer, but he only thrust his hands into his pockets and nodded
at his boots, and made a vulgar exclamation.
” You bet he is, quite ready,” he muttered incredulously.
” That sounds like Mr. Adrian Marks, doesn’t it ? Oh yes, of
Cynthia sat with burning cheeks and said nothing. Willis got
up with a sigh and looked down at her searchingly.
” Do you really think you are in love with Adrian Marks,
Cynthia ? Do you really ?”
It was the question she had put to herself doubtingly for many
weeks, but to hear it from the lips of another destroyed her last
remnant of composure.
” It is easy for you to sneer,” she cried angrily, ” you who
never had a thought apart from commerce, and the making of
gold, and the heartless game of getting on in the world. What
right have you to depreciate a man behind his back because he
lives by his intellect and his talent, and because he moves in a
world you have no suspicion of? It is mean and unmanly of
Willis by no means showed himself disconcerted at this out
burst. She was in the mood that was most familiar to him, the
one in which he had seen her most often before, and he brightened
considerably at the opportunities it offered him.
” Doesn’t he get paid for his pictures then, eh ?” he asked with
” I don’t mind how much you laugh,” cried Cynthia, ” I have
heard all those stale arguments before, and they are quite fruitless,
every one. I am glad I never need listen to them any more ; I
am glad there is some one who can lift me out of my old miserable
surroundings, and who can’t allude to them either because he
never knew anything about them. Adrian will never know any
more of my history than I choose to tell him, never ! I am glad
I am going to throw away my ill-gotten fortune, the price of
trade and robbery and everything I loathe. I am glad, glad,
Willis Ruthven gave a long whistle and strode over to the
window before he spoke.
” Who told you that Marks didn’t know anything about you?”
he asked sharply.
” What do you mean?” she said, with a vague feeling of
” Well, my dear girl, I suppose that the fool who painted that
nonsensical poster of yours must have known what he was paint-
ing it for, eh ? Not that the poster itself proves it, to be sure.”
Cynthia did not speak. The artistic atmosphere was being
” All I know is,” went on Willis from the window, ” that
when I was down at Johnson’s this morning, this dandy artist
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. K
you mention happened to descend from a world of his own in
order to look in about the payment for that particular poster.
Do you mean to tell me he doesn’t know who you are ? Bless
my soul, Cynthia, it’s time you had some one to look after
The delusion in which she had been living was shattered at one
blow. Cynthia cowered for a moment beneath it, and then
collected herself again with an instinct of self-preservation. She
rose and walked over to the fireplace and began picking up the
flowers. Her face was quite white, but she kept it turned away
from him, and when she spoke it was in a tone of exaggerated
” If you have said all you want to say, Willis, we will drop the
subject. You have given me a good deal of gratuitous informa-
tion about my private affairs, and I don’t find it very amusing. I
am rather busy this morning, too.”
But Willis had no intention of taking the hint to leave. He
came away from the window and spoke to her instead.
” You poor little woman, to think that I should have to be the
one to tell you what any man would have twigged in a brace of
shakes,” he said in a sympathetic tone as he rubbed his hat with
his coat sleeve, ” I always did have to look after you, didn’t I,
Cynthia nearly choked in an attempt to tell him to leave her, but
he stood up in the middle of the room and went on speaking,
quite unconscious of the storm that was raging in her mind.
” But there, of course it was only a fancy freak on your part.
Lord, what inexplicable creatures women are, to be sure. How-
ever a fine woman like you, Cynthia, with your taste and your
head could have—but there, of course you didn’t care about him
really, how could you ? Poor child, poor child. I won’t bother
you any more now ; you’ll like to think it over a bit—women like
to think things over, eh ? ”
And he really went that time, without the farewell greeting she
was dreading and yet longed for ; and she sat up and listened to
his retreating footstep on the stairs, and felt she would have done
anything in her power to make him come back and scold and com-
fort her all at once for her foolishness. Yet she did not make an
effort to recall him, but sat on the floor instead and wept hot
tears of shame and disappointment over his stick and gloves. And
Willis walked away down the street with his arms swinging and
his hat at the back of his head.
How he spent the day never transpired, but to Cynthia it was
the longest day of her life. She rang for the maid to clear up the
confusion of the drawing-room, and went upstairs to put powder
on her face.
Then she gave herself up to the consideration of her misfor-
tunes, and went without her lunch. She countermanded the
carriage and issued the mandate of ” Not at home, ” passed the
afternoon in her bedroom where she persuaded herself she was
going to be very ill, and took anti-pyrine, which she had heard was
a preventive against something. About five o’clock she changed
her dress, and made rather a substantial tea on finding to her dis-
gust that she was healthily hungry, and then she sat on the balcony
without a vestige of a headache left, and envied the cheerful people
who passed in their carriages, and wished somebody would call.
Somebody did call about an hour before dinner-time, but he sent
his card up first with a pencilled message upon it.
” You can show Mr. Ruthven up, and tell cook not to make a
second entrée to-night,” she said, making herself effective on a
couch near the window. She had decided that her attitude was to
be smiling indifference, but she never thought of it again when
Willis burst into the room in front of the stately footman, seized
both her hands in a friendly grasp and straightway burlesqued her
” My dear silly little woman,” he said, and looked at her and
” Willis, I’m not, I won’t be—”
” You’ll have to be,” he said, laughing more than ever, and
kissing the tips of her fingers on both hands.
” Let me go,” cried Cynthia fiercely.
” Do you mean that ?” he said, loosening his clasp and looking
directly at her.
Cynthia turned away from him, and stamped her foot.
” I don’t know,” she muttered sulkily.
” Of course you don’t,” said Willis jovially, ” women never do.
We always have to make up their minds for them. You’re as bad
as any of them, Cynthia.”
” You talk as though I had nothing to do but to listen to you,”
cried Cynthia angrily.
” You don’t look to me as though you had done much else since
you got up this morning,” replied Willis bluntly.
” Is that my fault ?” she exclaimed with burning cheeks. ” Can
I help your coming and wasting all my time ? When I tell you
to go, you don’t.”
” Tell me to go ? But you don’t,” said Willis.
” I—I do,” said Cynthia, looking down.
” When ? Now ?” he demanded.
” Yes, now,” she said, with her back to him and her hands
” If I go,” she heard him say slowly and deliberately behind
her, ” it will be for always, Cynthia.”
” I don’t care,” was her reply.
” For always, Cynthia,” he repeated doggedly.
She shrugged her shoulders and turned a little towards him.
” You know you couldn’t keep away,” she said scornfully.
” You know you couldn’t do without me,” he rejoined, and
began humming a tune.
” I have done without you for seven years.”
” And a pretty mess you’ve got yourself into at the end of
them,” cried Willis.
“I haven’t—it’s you. It would have been all right if you had
not interfered,” she said, facing him again.
” Would it? Then I’m to go, is that it?” he said, and
took no notice of her change of expression as he picked up his
” It is for always, Cynthia,” he said, and held out his hand.
Cynthia burst into tears.
” There, I knew” said Willis, coughing violently for no reason
” What did you know?” sobbed Cynthia, swaying towards
” That you would have to give in,” he laughed, coming nearer
” Why?” said she, struggling to free herself as he put his
arms round her.
” Because I said so, of course. Bless me, is that going to dis-
please you too ?”
” I hate you for saying that, but—I’m glad you did,” she
whispered.—”I suppose I must ask you to dinner,” she said
” They will be all my dinners in the future,” he said with
exultation in his voice. ” How will it please you to come to me
for all your pocket-money, eh ?”
” As much, possibly, as it will please you to find out how
much pocket-money I require,” retorted Cynthia.
” To think,” continued Willis, ” that I owe all my happiness
to that ridiculous poster—”
” You don’t,” cried Cynthia ; ” you owe it all to coming in this
morning ! I was writing to Adrian when you arrived. I should
never have listened to him at all if you had not gone out of town.
I am perfectly certain I shouldn’t,” she added firmly, in the hope
of convincing herself of this comfortable conclusion. Willis had
always been convinced of it, and kissed her with a proud sense of
” Do you want me to go and finish him off, or anything ?” he
Cynthia was alarmed at the vision of her late lover being
murdered in his studio by one blow from a heavy walking-
stick, and said she thought she would be meeting him herself at
Lady Houghton’s dance that evening. And she wondered
vaguely at the same moment why he had not been to see her all
The reason for his absence was quite simple. He had woke up
in the morning in a mood that strangely resembled Cynthia’s,
though it probably showed itself differently in him, and arose from
another cause. He stayed in bed and blamed himself until mid-
day ; and he tried to paint and blamed his model until sunset. He
called himself a fool in no measured terms for having allowed his
feelings to run away with him, and he considered carefully every
possible way of extricating himself from his predicament. The
day wore on, and he arrived at no satisfactory solution of the
difficulty. A letter did not commend itself to him because he
could not write letters ; women always had the best of it, he
reflected, when it came to letter-writing. Besides, what had he
to say except that he found he had made a mistake on the previous
evening ? It was not a graceful admission to make in any case,
but to say it in his best manner and in carefully chosen surround-
ings, satisfied his sense of the fitness of things more than the
idea of seeing it baldly represented in black and white. Besides,
he had really persuaded himself that he loved her very deeply, and
he had a lingering hope that an interview might present some
pathetic though compensating features that could never arise from
an exchange of letters. Yet the evening came and he had not
fixed a time nor a place for it.
He dined with Dicky Askew at his favourite restaurant ; and
the dinner was not so good as usual, and Dicky’s conversation
related entirely to Hurlingham and had a vagueness and an
absence of particulars about it which, at any other time, would have
aroused his suspicions, but which only succeeded this evening in
irritating him more than before. He dressed for Lady Houghton’s
dance in a dejected frame of mind, and he went forth in a hansom
like a victim who knows that his doom is awaiting him.
Margaret, with whom he had his first dance, found him
astonishingly dull. She was full of conversation herself, and she
rallied him on his mood as he led her into the conservatory after
one or two turns round the crowded room.
” Why weren’t you at Hurlingham this afternoon ?” she said.
” Is it necessary to go to Hurlingham ?” he asked with his
weary smile. It struck him that she was looking very pretty and
” Of course. Everybody does,” said Margaret conclusively,
” it is bright and amusing, and the best-dressed people go there.
There is polo too, I believe.”
” But I am not interested in polo,” objected Adrian.
” Oh, that doesn’t matter. Nobody is. I didn’t dream of
looking at the polo to-day. But it was perfectly thrilling,” she
added with a glow on her face.
” How young and fresh you are,” said the artist involuntarily.
” Is it only Hurlingham that can bring that look on to your face,
” Mr. Marks ! what have I said ? I only meant that I enjoyed
myself rather,” said Margaret, looking confused and blushing
furiously ; ” the drive and the air, you know, and—and the polo of
Adrian was silently rejoicing that she was, to the best of his
knowledge, completely untrammelled by any will.
” Don’t let me frighten you,” he murmured in his softest tones ;
” I was thinking that the man who could make you look like that
would be the happiest man in the world.”
Margaret was a little bewildered at first ; then her face cleared
up and she smiled up at him happily. She remembered that
Dicky had been dining with him.
” Do you think so really ?” she said, ” do you think he is ?”
“Well,” said Adrian, slightly startled, ” that of course depends
on whether you will make him so.”
The words escaped his lips without reflection. The intoxi-
cating scent of the hothouse plants, the swing of the music in
the next room, his own dissatisfaction—all combined to make him
seize the opportunity that she evidently meant to give him.
” Why of course I will !” cried Margaret, turning to him
with another blush and smile.
Adrian hardly allowed himself to breathe.
” Do you really mean that, darling ?” he said, bending towards
” Dicky !” cried the astonished girl, springing up to meet
the ugly boy who was coming to claim her, ” Dicky, tell
him ! I thought you had ; he doesn’t understand ! Where’s
And she fled across the tessellated floor and left the two friends
face to face.
The ugly boy laughed exultantly.
” Thought you’d guess, old man, after what I said at dinner.
Has she been trying to tell you, the little brick ? She knows
we’re pals, you see, that’s why.”
” Yes,” said Adrian faintly, ” I expect that’s why. Congratu-
late you, Dicky.”
” Thanks awfully, old chap. I knew you’d be glad,” laughed
Dicky, shaking his hand vigorously ; ” I am beastly lucky, eh ?
See you for a drink after this dance.”
Adrian stood irresolute for a moment when the ugly boy had
gone. He picked one or two flowers to pieces, ground his heel
savagely into them as they lay on the floor, and then strolled aim-
lessly round the edge of azalea under which he had been sitting
On the opposite side of it he found Mrs. Angelo Milton sitting
There were only two constructions to be placed on the situa-
tion and he desperately assumed the happiest.
” Oh, here you are,” he began, with a wretched attempt at
composure ; ” I have been looking for you everywhere.”
Cynthia looked him from head to foot without moving.
” I don’t think I have the pleasure,” she said, with a calm smile ;
” there seems to be some mistake.”
And Adrian took his dismissal and his departure simultaneously.
” Well, how did your puny little wall-painter take it ?” asked
Willis Ruthven the next day.
” He seemed surprised,” said Cynthia, and concealed a smile.
Sharp, Evelyn. “A New Poster.” The Yellow Book, vol. 6, July 1895, pp. 123-63. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Edition, 2020. https://1890s.ca/YBV6_sharp_poster/