Beyond the Rocks (Chapter 18)

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Chapter 18

Next day Lady Anningford called, as she had promised, at Claridge's, and
found Mrs. Brown at home, although it was only three o'clock in the

She had not two minutes to wait in the well-furnished first-floor
sitting-room, but during that time she noticed there were one or two
things about which showed the present occupant was a woman of taste, and
there were such quantities of flowers. Flowers, flowers, everywhere.

Theodora entered already dressed for her afternoon drive. She came
forward with that perfect grace which characterized her every movement.

If she felt very timid and nervous it did not show in her sweet face,
and Lady Anningford perceived Hector had every excuse for his

"I am so fortunate to find you at home, Mrs. Brown," she said. "My
brother has told me so much about you, and I was longing to meet you.
May we sit down on this sofa and talk a little, or were you just
starting for your drive?"

"Of course we may sit down," said Theodora. "My drive does not matter in
the least. It was so good of you to come."

And her inward thought was that she would like Hector's sister. Anne's
frankness and sans gêne were so pleasing.

They exchanged a few agreeable sentences while each measured the other,
and then Lady Anningford said: "You come from Australia, don't you?"

"Australia!" smiled Theodora, while her eyes opened wide. "Oh no! I have
never been out of France and Belgium and places like that. My husband
lived in Melbourne for some years, though."

"I thought it could not be possible," quoth Anne to herself.

"Then you don't know much of England yet?" she said, aloud.

"It is my first visit; and it seems very dull and rainy. This is the
only really fine day we have had since we arrived."

Anne soon dexterously elicited an outline of Theodora's plans and what
she was doing. They would only remain in town until Whitsuntide,
perhaps returning later for a week or two; and Mrs. Devlyn, to whom her
father had sent her an introduction, had been kind enough to tell them
what to do and how to see a little of London. She was going to a ball
to-night. The first real ball she had ever been to in her life, she
said, ingenuously.

And Lady Anningford looked at her and each moment fell more under her

"The ball at Harrowfield House, I expect, to meet the King of
Guatemala," she said, knowing Lady Harrowfield was Florence Devlyn's

"That is it," said Theodora.

"Then you must dance with Hector--my brother," she said.

She launched his name suddenly; she wanted to see what effect it would
have on Theodora. "He is sure to be there, and he dances divinely."

She was rewarded for her thrust: just the faintest pink came into the
white velvet cheeks, and the blue eyes melted softly. To dance with
Hector! Ah! Then the radiance was replaced by a look of sadness, and she
said, quietly: "Oh, I do not think I shall dance at all. My husband is rather an
invalid, and we shall only go in for a little while."

No, she must not dance with Hector. Those joys were not for her--she
must not even think of it.

"How extraordinarily beautiful she is!" Anne thought, when presently,
the visit ended, she found herself rolling along in her electric
brougham towards the park. "And I feel I shall love her. I wonder what
her Christian name is?"

Theodora had promised they would lunch in Charles Street with her the
next day if her husband should be well enough after the ball. And Anne
decided to collect as many nice people to meet them as she could in the

At the corner of Grosvenor Square she met an old friend, one Colonel
Lowerby, commonly called the Crow, and stopped to pick him up and take
him on with her.

He was the one person she wanted to talk to at this juncture. She had
known him all her life, and was accustomed to prattle to him on all
subjects. He was always safe, and gruff, and honest.

"I have just done something so interesting, Crow," she told him, as they
went along towards Regent's Park, to which sylvan spot she had directed
her chauffeur, to be more free to talk in peace to her companion. Some
of her friends were capable of making scandals, even about the dear old
Crow, she knew.

"And what have you done?" he asked.

"Of course you have heard the tale from Uncle Evermond, of Hector and
the lady at Monte Carlo?"

He nodded.

"Well, there is not a word of truth in it; he is in love, though, with
the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life--and I have just
been to call upon her. And to-morrow you have got to come to lunch to
meet her--and tell me what you think."

"Very well," said the Crow. "I was feeding elsewhere, but I always obey
you. Continue your narrative."

"I want you to tell me what to do, and how I can help them."

"My dear child," said the Crow, sententiously, as was his habit, "help
them to what? She is married, of course, or Hector would not be in love
with her. Do you want to help them to part or to meet? or to go to
heaven or to hell? or to spend what Monica Ellerwood calls 'a Saturday
to Monday amid rural scenery,' which means both of those things one
after the other!"

"Crow, dear, you are disagreeable," said Lady Anningford, "and I have a
cold in my head and cannot compete with you in words to-day."

"Then say what you want, and I'll listen."

"Hector met them in Paris, it seems, and must have fallen wildly in
love, because I have never seen him as he is now."

"How is he?--and who is 'them'?"

"Why, she and the husband, of course, and Hector is looking sad and
distrait--and has really begun to feel at last."

"Serve him right!"

"Crow, you are insupportable! Can you not see I am serious and want your

"Fire away, then, my good child, and explain matters. You are too

So she told him all she knew--which was little enough; but she was
eloquent upon Theodora's beauty.

"She has the face of an angel," she ended her description with.

"Always mistrust 'em," interjected the Crow.

"Such a figure and the nicest manner, and she is in love with Hector,
too, of course--because she could not possibly help herself--could
she?--if he is being lovely to her."

"I have not your prejudiced eyes for him--though Hector certainly is a
decent fellow enough to look at," allowed Colonel Lowerby. "But all
this does not get to what you want to do for them."

"I want them to be happy."

"Permanently, or for the moment?"


"An impossible combination, with these abominably inconsiderate marriage
laws we suffer under in this country, my child."

"Then what ought I to do?"

"You can do nothing but accelerate or hinder matters for a little. If
Hector is really in love, and the woman, too, they are bound to dree
their weird, one way or the other, themselves. You will be doing the
greatest kindness if you can keep them apart, and avoid a scandal if

"My dear Crow, I have never heard of your being so thoroughly
unsympathetic before."

"And I have never heard of Hector being really in love before, and with
an angel, too--deuced dangerous folk at the best of times!"

"Then there are mother and Morella Winmarleigh to be counted with."

"Neither of them can see beyond their noses. Miss Winmarleigh is sure of
him, she thinks--and your mother, too."

"No; mother has her doubts."

"They will both be anti?"

"Extremely anti."

"To get back to facts, then, your plan is to assist your brother to see
this 'angel,' and smooth the path to the final catastrophe."

"You worry me, Crow. Why should there be a catastrophe?"

"Is she a young woman?"

"A mere baby. Certainly not more than twenty or so."

"Then it is inevitable, if the husband don't count. You have not
described him yet."

"Because I have never seen him," said Lady Anningford. "Hector did say
last night, though, that he was an impossible Australian millionaire."

"These people have a strong sense of personal rights--they are even
blood-thirsty sometimes, and expect virtue in their women. If he had
been just an English snob, the social bauble might have proved an
immense eye-duster; but when you say Australian it gives me hope. He'll
take her away, or break Hector's head, before things become too

"Crow, you are brutal."

"And a good thing, too. That is what we all want, a little more
brutality. The whole of the blessed show here is being ruined with this
sickly sentimentality. Flogging done away with; every silly nerve
pandered to. By Jove! the next time we have to fight any country we
shall have an anæsthetic served round with the rations to keep Tommy
Atkins's delicate nerves from suffering from the consciousness of the
slaughter he inflicts upon the enemy."

"Crow, you are violent."

"Yes, I am. I am sick of the whole thing. I would reintroduce
prize-fighting and bear-baiting and gladiatorial shows to brace the
nation up a bit. We'll get jammed full of rotten vices like those
beastly foreigners soon."

"I did not bring you into Regent's Park to hear a tirade upon the
nation's needs, Crow," Anne reminded him, smiling, "but to get your
sympathy and advice upon this affair of Hector. You know you are the
only person in the world I ever talk to about intimate things."

"Dear Queen Anne," he said, "I will always do what I can for you. But I
tell you seriously, when a man like Hector loves a woman really, you
might as well try to direct Niagara Falls as to turn him any way but the
one he means to go."

"He wants me to be kind to her. Do you advise me just to let the thing
drop, then?"

"No; be as kind as you like--only don't assist them to destruction."

"She goes into the country on Saturday for Whitsuntide, as we all do.
Hector is going down to Bracondale alone."

"That looks desperate. I shall see Hector, and judge for myself."

"You must be sure to go to the ball at Harrowfield House to-night,
then," Anne said. "They are both going. I say both because I know she
is, and so, of course, Hector will be there too. I shall go, naturally,
and then we can decide what we can do about it after we have seen them

And all this time Theodora was thinking how charming Anne was, and how
kind, and that she felt a little happier because of her kindness. And,
hard as it would be, she would not leave Josiah's side that night or
dance with Hector.

And Hector was thinking-"What is the good of anything in this wide world without her? I must
see her. For good or ill, I cannot keep away."

He was deep in the toils of desire and passionate love for a woman
belonging to someone else and out of his reach, and for whom he was
hungry. Thus the primitive forces of nature were in violent activity,
and his soul was having a hard fight.

It was the first time in his life that a woman had really mattered or
had been impossible to obtain.

He had always looked upon them as delightful accessories: sport first,
and woman, who was only another form of sport, second.

He had not neglected the obligations of his great position, but they
came naturally to him as of the day's work. They were not real interests
in his life. And when stripped of the veneer of civilization he was but
a passionate, primitive creature, like numbers of others of his class
and age.

While the elevation of Theodora's pure soul was an actual influence upon
him, he had thought it would be possible--difficult, perhaps--but
possible to obey her--to keep from troubling her--to regulate his
passion into worship at a distance. But since then new influences had
begun to work--prominent among them being jealousy.

To see her surrounded by others--who were men and would desire her,
too--drove him mad.

Josiah was difficult enough to bear. The thought that he was her
husband, and had the rights of this position, always turned him sick
with raging disgust; but that was the law, and a law accepted since the
beginning of time. These others were not of the law--they were the same
as himself--and would all try to win her.

He had no fear of their succeeding, but, to watch them trying, and he
himself unable to prevent them, was a thought he could not tolerate.

He had no settled plan. He did not deliberately say to himself: "I will
possess her at all costs. I will be her lover, and take her by force
from the bonds of this world." His whole mind was in a ferment and
chaos. There was no time to think of the position in cold blood. His
passion hurried him on from hour to hour.

This day after the opera, when the hideous impossibility of the
situation had come upon him with full force, he felt as Lancelot--

"His mood was often like a fiend, and rose and
drove him into wastes and solitudes for agony,
Who was yet a living soul."

There are all sorts of loves in life, but when it is the real great
passion, nor fear of hell nor hope of heaven can stem the tide--for

He had gone out in his automobile, and was racing ahead considerably
above the speed limit. He felt he must do something. Had it been winter
and hunting-time, he would have taken any fences--any risks. He returned
and got to Ranelagh, and played a game of polo as hard as he could, and
then he felt a little calmer. The idea came to him as it had done to
Anne. Lady Harrowfield was Florence Devlyn's cousin; she would probably
have squeezed an invitation for her protégées for the royal ball
to-night. He would go--he must see Theodora. He must hold her in his
arms, if only in the mazes of the waltz.

And the thought of that sent the blood whirling madly once more in his

Everything he had looked upon so lightly up to now had taken a new
significance in reference to Theodora. Florence Devlyn, for instance,
was no fit companion for her--Florence Devlyn, whom he met at every
decent house and had never before disapproved of, except as a bore and a

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