AT MARLBOROUGH VILLA

‘My dear Clare, let me implore you to shut that book. You are becoming
quite too dreadfully blue. I don’t believe you take any interest in
any of the things you used to like–even me,’ ended Cora Quaid, with a
pout. The two girls were sitting very snugly in Miss Quaid’s special
sanctum, where were enshrined her girlish treasures, her books, and
the accessories of the art in which she hoped some day to rival Rosa
Bonheur. Having had a picture admitted to the Academy the season
before, she was more hopeful and consequently more industrious than
ever. But on this afternoon she had not been painting. She had been
sitting looking at her friend and thinking what a pretty picture she
made with her sweet serious face and sombre crape draperies; but even
the contemplation of one’s prettiest friend will become fatiguing at
last, when talking is one’s very greatest pleasure. So Cora broke
silence with the remark we have reported, and the silence she broke had
been a very long one.

‘You silly child,’ Clare answered, laughing, and tossing her book on to
the sofa, ‘it isn’t that at all. It is that I take an interest in all
sorts of other things besides.’

‘Mamma says,’ remarked Miss Quaid, picking up the little red-covered
pamphlet and looking at it with disfavour, ‘that this book is not fit
for any one to read.’

‘I’m sorry Mrs Quaid doesn’t like it,’ Clare answered, ‘because I like
it so much. But perhaps I haven’t studied it enough. I suppose your
mamma has gone into it thoroughly.’

‘Oh _no_, she wouldn’t read it for the world.’

Clare felt Mrs Quaid’s criticism to be less crushing than it might have
been.

‘One would have thought,’ Cora went on, ‘that “God and the State” would
have been something very religious–something like Mr Gladstone, you
know. A man oughtn’t to call his book by a title that has nothing to
say to the book itself. It’s so misleading. Clare, I rather wonder
Count Litvinoff should lend you such dreadful books.’

‘I’m afraid Bakounin’s not much like Mr Gladstone, dear, and I don’t
think I should care much about him if he were; but the title certainly
has a great deal to do with the book. However, Bakounin has not
converted me to his views. He is clever and trenchant, but–‘

‘I had done with that subject, my dear,’ answered Miss Quaid, leaning
over the arm of her easy-chair to look saucily into her friend’s eyes,
‘and had got to something much more interesting–the dashing Count, to
wit.’

‘He would be very much flattered to know that he inspires you with so
much interest.’

‘It is not I who am interested in him.’

‘Who is interested in him?’

‘Oh, neither of us–of course,’ Cora answered; ‘it is mamma and he who
mutually attract each other. It is mamma he comes to see regularly
three times a week. It is mamma who buries herself in his books and
pamphlets. Seriously, Clare–how many of his books do you get through
in a day?’

‘I have read two of his books, and you have read one–“The Prophetic
Vision,” and you know how much we both liked that. As for the other–I
suppose I’m not advanced enough, but it doesn’t seem to me to be
anything like so clearly written, nor so forcible. It seems wonderful
that the same man should have written both.’

‘Perhaps it was written since he has been in exile, and he was wretched
and out of sorts. By the way, he doesn’t seem wretched now. Now,
Clare,’ coming and sitting down on the rug at the other’s feet and
leaning her arms on the black dress, and turning her bright _mignonne_
face upward, ‘I think it is only due to our ancient friendship–which,
you remember, was founded on the noble principle, halves and no
secrets, that you should confide in me. What are you going to do with
him? How are you going to serve him?’

‘Well, dear, would it be best to grill him or to serve him on
toast with caviare? How would it look on the menu? _Nihiliste à la
Révolution._’

‘Count Litvinoff _à la_ married man would be more humane, perhaps. I
wonder how it feels to be adored by a lover who has passionate eyes
and a long blond moustache, who has had no end of adventures, has as
many lives as a cat, and seems to be rolling in gold, judging by the
bouquets he brings to–mamma.’

‘If you are very anxious to know,’ said Clare, smiling and smoothing
the rough head at her knee, ‘you had better try to attract him; I don’t
fancy you would find it difficult.’

‘You don’t seem to have found it so. Really and truly, Clare; do you
mean to be a countess? Shall you refuse him?’

‘He has never asked me but one thing, and that I did not refuse.’

‘What a teasing girl you are! Does that mean anything or nothing?’

‘Whichever you like, sweetheart.’

‘Well, he deserves a better fate than to be allowed to singe his wings
at the flame of your prettiness. You always were a flirt, Clare; and I
am afraid you have not improved.’

‘I don’t think I have ever flirted,’ Clare answered, growing suddenly
grave; ‘but I know I have been foolish enough to wish people to like
me and to be interested in me. But you don’t know how contemptible all
that sort of thing seems to me now. Fancy caring about the opinion of
people when you don’t care about the people themselves.’

‘Well, any one can see he’s over head and ears in love with you–you
nice, pretty little woman.’

‘I hope not,’ Clare answered; ‘for I am not in the least in love with
him.’

‘Then don’t you think it’s a little too bad of you to encourage him as
you do–reading his books and all that?’

‘I don’t know what “all that” may be, but as for the books he lends
me, they don’t borrow their interest from him. Every book I read seems
to draw up a curtain and let new light into my mind. You can’t imagine
how different everything is to me since I began to read and to try to
think. All that I have learned lately is like a new religion to me.’
All the flippancy was gone from her voice, and in her eyes shone a new
light. ‘And I read all I can because I want to understand well enough
to teach other people what I _feel_ to be true. And oh, Cora! I do so
want to do something to help the poor and show them their position.’

‘Yes; I quite agree with you that they ought to know their position
and keep in it. The Catechism tells us that, you know. I should think
you might employ half a dozen curates. Papa says there are lots out of
work.’

‘I don’t think curates are quite what are wanted. There are curates
enough and to spare. Besides,

“The millions suffer still and grieve,
And what can helpers heal,
With old world cures they half believe
For woes they wholly feel?”‘

‘That sounds dreadful,’ said Cora.

‘Why, you used to be so fond of it!’

‘Yes; but I didn’t think it meant anything so wicked as that; and,
what’s more, I don’t believe it does.’

‘I haven’t changed the words, Cora. I did not say they meant anything
more than they have always meant. But, you see, too, don’t you, what a
ghastly mockery it is to send religious teaching to people who never
had a good dinner in their lives? What a frightful system it is that
allows all these horrors!’

‘But, my dearest Clare, even if it is horrible, I don’t see what you
can do to alter it. Why, papa was saying only the other night that the
social order was never so strong as now.’

‘I’m in the humour for quoting, and I must keep on, I see,’ said Clare,
with a smile. ‘Don’t you remember?–

“Strong was its arm, each thew and bone
Seemed puissant and alive;
But, ah! its heart, its heart was stone,
And so it could not thrive.”‘

‘Clare,’ said the other affectionately, putting her arms round her
friend’s waist, ‘you really oughtn’t to take up these ideas. Do you
know mamma says it’s not natural for girls of our age to take such
dismal views of things? You’ll make yourself quite miserable if you go
on with these books.’

‘I seem to have nothing but Matthew Arnold in my head this afternoon,–

“But now the old is out of date,
The new is not yet born;
And who can be _alone_ elate,
While the world lies forlorn?”‘

‘I don’t see how anyone can be anything else but miserable at the
thought of all the wretchedness there is in the world. The only thing
to keep one from despairing over it would be to do something, even
if it were ever so little, to help forward a better time. I dare say
your father is right, and this present state is very strong, and
perhaps none of us’ (with whom was she classing herself?) ‘will live
to see what we are longing for! It would be rather nice,’ she went on
meditatively, ‘to have that other verse on one’s grave,–

“The day I lived in was not mine,
Man gets no second day;
In dreams I saw the future shine,
But, ah! I could not stay.”‘

‘This is too much,’ cried Cora, jumping up. ‘When it comes to choosing
your own epitaph I think it’s high time we gave the March winds a
chance of blowing the cobwebs out of your brain. We’ll have a run. Come
along; the streets are deliciously dusty.’

Clare rose, smilingly obedient, and as she did so the room door opened
slowly and admitted Mrs Quaid. She sank on to the sofa from which Miss
Stanley had just risen.

‘Such a fatiguing time I have had,’ she said, with a long-drawn
breath of relief, as she leaned back on the cushions and loosened her
bonnet-strings. ‘Mrs Paget was out, and of the ten ladies who are on
our Educational Committee only two attended besides myself. Really,
people have _no_ energy. And then, my shopping took me so much longer
than I expected–these new shades are so difficult to match–and at
last, when I felt quite worn out, and was just going into Roper’s for
a glass of sherry and a biscuit, whoever _do_ you think I ran across,
treating two ragged children to buns?’

‘Count Litvinoff?’ from Cora.

‘No–oh no. It was Mr Petrovitch, and when he saw me he hustled the
poor little things out of the shop as though he were ashamed of them,
and he stayed talking to me ever so long, and was quite delightful,
and–Clare, my sweet, this will please you, you were so much taken
with him–he is coming to see us this evening. Won’t that be charming?’

‘I am very glad,’ said Claire simply, while Cora busied herself in
loosening her mother’s cloak, and waiting on her in various little
ways. ‘I seemed to learn so much from him the last time I heard him.’

‘Yes, and a friend of his is coming as well–a deliciously
savage-looking Austrian, named Hirsch–who was there too, and who seems
quite like our friend’s shadow, and, as Mr Vernon is coming also, we
shall be quite a pleasant little party, all sympathising with each
other’s feelings, and that’s the _great_ thing, you know.’

‘I wonder if Count Litvinoff will look in,’ mused Cora, rubbing her
mother’s rich sable muff round and round the wrong way.

‘Not to-night. He is lecturing at some East-end club. What a man he is;
so _devoted_ to the cause. It seems so _sad_ that he should be so very
extreme in his views. Force is such a terrible thing, and I very much
fear that he believes in that more than in the power of love.’

‘I think he does,’ answered Clare, seeing herself appealed to.

‘Ah, well; we must try to convert him,’ Mrs Quaid said, smiling. ‘I
should imagine him to be a most reasonable person to talk to, and not
difficult to convince. I like him so much. It is so seldom one meets a
man with just his polish of manner and strength of mind. Cora, dear,
I’ve had no lunch. Just ring and order some for me. I really feel quite
faint.’

* * * * *

At eight o’clock that evening Petrovitch stood in the softly-lighted
hall of Marlborough Villa. He felt more interested in the coming
evening than he generally was on such occasions. Hirsch, who was
with him, was very much surprised to find himself within the portals
of one of those middle-class establishments against which he had
always inveighed so bitterly. But Mrs Quaid’s manner had overborne his
determinations with its resistless flow of gush, and he had accepted
her invitation from sheer inability to edge in a word of refusal. He
had been in a state of mingled remorse and terror ever since, and only
Petrovitch’s strong representations to the effect that men who set
themselves against Society should at least not fall below Society in
the matter of keeping their word, had induced him to face the dreadful
ordeal of meeting half-a-dozen well-dressed Social Reformers in a large
and luxurious drawing-room.

It would be impossible for any human being to be _quite_ as glad to see
any other human being as Mrs Quaid appeared to be to see her two new
friends. They came in together, and while Hirsch looked round on the
handsome furniture with a savagely appraising glance, prompted equally
by his Jewish blood and his Socialistic convictions, Petrovitch, having
seen that Clare was present, delivered himself an unresisting prey to
his hostess, knowing that to even her eloquence an end must come, and
knowing, too, that sooner or later he would find himself beside the
girl whom his paper on Socialism had seemed to impress so much, the
first time he had ever been in that room. He had been in that room more
than once since but never without seeing a very vivid vision of the
fair face, shining eyes, and red lips, slightly parted in the interest
of listening, the girlish figure bent forward the better to catch every
word of his. It was not only the flattery of her undisguised interest
in him which had painted for him this memory-picture, and had given him
a constantly-recurring desire to see the original again. He was pretty
well skilled by this time in reading the faces of his fellow-creatures,
and when all the thanks and congratulations of the Cleon’s visitors
were ringing in his ears, he had known perfectly well that the only
heart he had touched, the only mind that had followed his reasoning,
and the only soul that understood him, were those of the dark-eyed girl
at his side. And the look those dark eyes had given him when he said
good-night, had haunted him ever since.

From the seat of honour on the sofa beside Mrs Quaid, Petrovitch
looked, perhaps rather longingly, towards the other end of the room,
where Hirsch and Vernon were talking to the two girls.

It was unworthy weakness, perhaps, in a Friend of Humanity, but he
could not help straining his ears to try to catch what they were
saying, and wondering what subject they could be discussing to bring
such interest into Clare’s face. This effort interfered somewhat with
the lucidity of his replies, until Mr Quaid, who had hardly spoken
before, brought him up short with the question,–

‘What do you mean, now, by Socialism?’ and the Socialist, with an
imperceptible shrug of the shoulders and a sort of ‘in for a penny in
for a pound’ feeling, gave up trying to do two things at once, and
plunged heart and soul into explanations, knowing quite well neither of
his hearers would understand them.

If there is any truth in the old adage his ears should have burned,
for the group at the end of the room were discussing nothing less than
himself.

An enthusiastic remark from Vernon and sympathetic rejoinders from
Clare and Cora had sufficed to mitigate in the Austrian that sense of
being trapped by the enemy with which he had entered the room, for
he saw that these young people had, at anyrate, one thing in common
with him–a great respect for and interest in his Russian friend.
And knowing this, his tongue was loosed; and his love of his friend
overcoming in some degree the difficulties presented to him by the
English language, he began to tell tale after tale of Petrovitch’s
kindness, bravery, self-sacrifice, and nobility. His knowledge of
English had improved in the last four months, and his hearers found it
easy to understand him.

‘I have only known him half a year,’ he said at last; ‘and in that time
I know of him more good than of any other man in half a lifetime.’

‘I’ve known him less time than that,’ chimed in young Vernon; ‘and even
I can see that he’s different to any one else. The only person I ever
knew who was in the least like him is Count Litvinoff.’

‘Thereby I see you know not well either the one or the other,’ said
Hirsch, with some return to his normal grumpiness.

‘I don’t agree with Mr Vernon,’ put in Clare; ‘the principles of Count
Litvinoff and Mr Petrovitch may be the same, but it seems to me that
the two men are utterly different.’

‘Yes,’ said Miss Quaid. ‘Count Litvinoff has much more of the dash and
“go” that one expects in a revolutionist. Mr Petrovitch is very solid,
I should think; but Count Litvinoff is certainly more brilliant and
sparkling.’

Hirsch smiled sardonically.

‘Mademoiselle is happy in her epithets. Froth sparkles in the sunshine
and the most precious metal is the most solid. I will tell you one
thing of Petrovitch. When you can tell me such another of Litvinoff, I
will say Mr Vernon is right–the two men are like.

‘It was on your Christian festival of Christmas–in a Russian town,
no matter to name it–there was a chase, and all the townspeople
turned out of their doors for the pleasure-excitement of seeing it.
The chased? Only a poor woman, on her way from Moscow to the Austrian
frontier. Her crime? She was a Jewess. For this, men and boys, with
savage dogs, with sticks, with stones, with all that their devilish
brutality told them to use against her, hunted her down, shouting,
deriding, exulting. And she fled from them, but slowly, for she was not
young. And those who took no part in the bloody pursuing looked on,
smiling, many of them, and those who smiled not, with interest; men who
were well born, and had not the ignorant superstition for whose sake
we can pardon any crime to the poor. Those who hunted her were men who
knew not their right hand from their left–thanks to their priests–and
those who looked on approving were men of your world–“_cultured_,” how
you say?

‘The poor woman fled, and still more slowly; a stone had hit her hard,
and she felt already at the sickness of death. At a corner a tarantass
across the road barred her way. Its coachman had stopped for the
pleasure of seeing the sport. A Jewess stoned to death! The excellent
pastime!

‘She looked around; no way of escape. The driver of the tarantass
raised his whip. He, too, would taste the pleasures of cruelty. She
threw her arms up, and called upon Jehovah, whom she worshipped. Before
the lash could fall, from within the tarantass sprang a young man, and
snatched from the driver’s hand the whip. To let it fall on her with
more force? Not so. To sweep it full across the faces of the foremost
in the crowd. He caught the despised Jewess in his arms, and lifted her
into his carriage. The crowd–cowards as well as bullies–drew back.
He sprang upon the seat beside the driver, seized the reins, turned
the horses, and to them, too, used the whip–so well, that he carried
away from that Russian town the saved life of a woman. He took her to
a place of safety, and when she was strong enough sent her to join her
son in Vienna. She was my mother. She owed her salvation from a death
shameful and agonising to–‘

He stopped short suddenly and glanced expressively at the
broad-shouldered figure at the other end of the room. Then he said,–

‘Such is my friend. Your Count Litvinoff–would he so have acted?’

He looked at Vernon, but Clare answered quickly,–

‘Indeed he would. Only a little while ago he risked his life, not to
save life, but to save working men from injuring their own cause, by
wild violence.’

Hirsch looked at her with mingled interest and disfavour.

‘Possibly,’ he said; ‘it may be I misjudge him, but for me he is too
brilliant.’

Cora looked at her friend, and smiled a smile which Clare interpreted
easily enough as a reference to their conversation of that afternoon,
and out of pure defiance she would probably have said something still
more strong in Count Litvinoff’s favour if the door had not opened at
that moment to admit two _very_ dear, _very_ sweet, and completely
unexpected friends of Mrs Quaid’s. The advent of these two, who were
dwellers in Gath, and brought in with them a breath of pure Philistine
air, led to the rising and re-arrangement of seats, of which the
children’s game of ‘General Post’ is a sort of caricature.

Mrs Quaid being now completely occupied with the new arrivals,
Petrovitch seized the golden opportunity, and when the room settled
down again into repose, Clare found that he occupied the ottoman
beside her, where Hirsch had been sitting before. Miss Quaid and young
Vernon had gravitated towards the conservatory, for Cora was a great
lover of flowers, and Eustace, while he liked the flowers well enough,
liked her still better. Hirsch had been set going by one of Mr Quaid’s
broad-based questions, and Miss Stanley and Petrovitch were virtually
alone. And yet, though each had wished often enough to see the other
again, now that they were side by side it seemed to be not so easy to
talk. It is always so difficult to chatter about trifles when one is
anxious to talk seriously, and it is difficult, almost up to the point
of impossibility, to plunge into reasonable conversation in a room full
of inconsequent prattle. Added to this, Petrovitch felt an unaccustomed
and unaccountable shyness, and to Clare it was somehow less easy to ask
his advice than she had thought it would have been, and than it had
been to ask Count Litvinoff’s.

She was the first to speak.

‘I find you have not yet converted Mrs Quaid to all your views, Mr
Petrovitch,’ she said. ‘I fear you have not been making good use of
your time.’

Petrovitch did not answer; he looked at her and smiled, but it was a
smile that conveyed the idea that, even to have succeeded in converting
Mrs Quaid, would not have been making the best use of his time.

‘I might almost have said _our_ views,’ Clare went on, determined not
to let slip the opportunity of asking his advice on the great question
of her life, ‘for I have been thinking a great deal of all you said
last time I met you here.’

‘I knew you would,’ he said simply.

‘And I have been reading a little too. I have borrowed some books of
Count Litvinoff–one or two of his own. You know Count Litvinoff? You
have read his books, of course?’

‘Yes, I know them,’ he said. ‘The writer is happy if he has shown your
eyes the truth–more happy, I fear, than you will be in seeing it.’

‘Oh, I don’t know that it has made me unhappy, quite. I am perplexed
and bewildered; but, however that may be, I don’t owe it to Count
Litvinoff, but to you; and that is why I am going to ask you to help
me to see my way a little more clearly. I did ask Count Litvinoff what
he thought–but–at any rate, I want to know what you think I ought to
do.’

‘I do not know that in your position you can do much except spread the
light by telling the truth to every one who will receive it.’

‘But I think I can do more. Do you know, I am very rich? I have–oh,
ever so much a year, and it is all my own now, to do just what I like
with.’

His eyes fell on her black dress, then they met her frank gaze, and the
two looked straight at each other as she went on.

‘The money was made by other people’s losses. I know that, and I feel
that the money is not my own. The question is, how can I best use it?’

‘You asked Count Litvinoff this? May I in turn ask how he answered?’

‘He thought–he said–‘ Clare hesitated a moment–‘he declined to give
me advice,’ she finished.

Clare started at a sudden angry light that came into the eyes of the
man beside her. She felt she had been indiscreet and even guilty. For
she remembered how Litvinoff had followed his refusal of counsel by
telling her how that there were ‘men, his friends, who, if they knew
that she had asked him for this advice, and he had refused to give it,
would say he had become traitor, and kill him like a rat.’ Suppose
Petrovitch were one of these men! Clare did not wait for him to speak,
but answered the look.

‘You are angry with him,’ she said. ‘I had no right to tell you that,
but since I have given you my confidence I know you will respect it,
and not let it influence your conduct towards him.’

‘Your friend is safe as far as I am concerned,’ Petrovitch answered,
passing his hand over his long beard. ‘Do not be alarmed for him. You
take a deep interest in his welfare–is it not so?’

The question was asked earnestly, and not impertinently, and Clare felt
no inclination to resent it. There was a short silence between them,
and it was manifest to them that Mrs Quaid was holding the Philistines
enthralled by her views on education. Miss Stanley answered slowly and
softly,–

‘You know my dear father is dead now. Our acquaintance with Count
Litvinoff began with his saving my father’s life at the risk of his
own, and that is not the only good deed I have known him do, though
that alone will make me always interested in him.’

Then she told of the part he had played in the unfortunate scene at the
mill, and his conduct lost nothing in the telling. Insensibly led on
by Petrovitch’s well-managed prompting in monosyllables she went on to
what had come after, and how she had been made the means of changing
Roland Ferrier’s determination to prosecute and punish the ‘hands.’

‘Yes,’ said Petrovitch, when she had finished, ‘I know right well that
he is no coward and no fool; and as for his not advising you, I am not
sure that he was not right. I, too, will not advise you. There is only
one thing I could tell you to do, and that I will not tell you now.
Wait, wait, and be patient, and study; and if after a while you still
ask me for advice I will give it to you.’

‘I know what you think,’ she said impulsively. ‘You think I’m young
and foolish, and that I shall be changeable. You think I have taken
up these beliefs without enough thought or understanding. If I could
only tell you … how altered everything seems, what a splendid new
light seems to be breaking over everything. Do you think, what you said
just now, that knowing the _truth_ could make me unhappy? Oh no. It is
knowledge without action that makes me sad.’

‘No, no; that is not my thought,’ he answered, in a voice that seemed
to have caught a thrill from her own. ‘Think a little longer. Whatever
action you take will not lose strength because it is well thought, well
considered. If you ever ask me again, I promise you I will not hesitate
a moment to answer; but I would rather the answer came from you than
from me.’

‘That’s one of your leading principles, isn’t it? Independent thought.’

‘Yes. How can people ever hope to act rightly, if they will persist in
delegating other people to think for them?’

‘But ordinary people can’t thoroughly think out _all_ subjects. One is
obliged to take a great many of one’s opinions at second-hand.’

‘Well, but neither can one act in all directions–and where one has to
act one should think first. As for taking opinions at second-hand, that
is a thing you should never dare to do. If you are not able to think
for yourself, you should have no opinions. Your English Clifford has
told you that if you have no time to think you have no time to believe.’

‘I am sure you are right. But I am sure, too, that to think for one’s
self means in most circles social ostracism; and it wants very strong
convictions to make one face that.’

‘Social ostracism,’ answered the Socialist, with unutterable contempt
in the gesture which accompanied his words; ‘social ostracism, and by
whom imposed? Look at the people around you.’ Clare glanced nervously
at Mrs Quaid. ‘See how small are their aims, how trivial their
interests, how great their love of ease, how small their love of truth;
see what narrow minds they have, what blinded eyes; see all the good
that would be in them crushed out by the very conventionalities which
they uphold. How can we think it of any value, the opinion of such as
these? Or if their condemnation should pain us, what a little thing
is such a pain compared with the lifelong consciousness of having,
from the fear of it, crushed out the spark of truth in our own souls?
What a little thing compared with eternal truth is even life itself!
We come out of the darkness, and into that darkness must return. Is it
not better, seeing the little time that is ours, to know that we at
least have listened to the wail of agony that ever goes up to the deaf
heavens?–that we have done what we could in our little day to help
forward a better time for those who shall come after us, than to know
that we have had the good opinion of “respectable people”?’

‘If one could only hope that one could help it forward!’ sighed Clare.

‘Hope? We know it. These things will be. It is a question of the little
sooner or the little later. There is no standing still. He that is not
with us is against us. But we shall triumph in the end. We know that
all this misery, all this sin, all this selfishness, all this stupidity
even, are the direct result of the social _milieu_. It is this
knowledge that makes us the deadly enemies of the Capitalist system,
and that is why we are hated by those who profit by it.’

He spoke in a low voice, full of suppressed excitement. When he ended
the girl drew a long breath. He saw the white violets on her bosom
rise and fall slowly twice before he spoke again. Then he said, with a
smile,–

‘If I have not given you advice, I have at least given you a sermon.
You see I already look upon you as one of us, or I should not have
dared to outrage conventionalities by speaking in earnest in a
drawing-room.’

‘Oh, my _dear_ Mr Petrovitch,’ exclaimed Mrs Quaid, who pausing out of
breath from her exertions in the cause of education, had caught the
last dozen words, ‘you are really _too_ severe! I hope all of _us_,
at anyrate, always speak in earnest, though of course, some of us are
more earnest than others. That _delightful_ Count Litvinoff, now–so
devoted, and yet so cheerful; I’m so sorry he has not come to-night.’

‘He seems to be a universal favourite,’ answered Petrovitch, who had
risen on his hostess’s approach, and now stood with his hand on the
back of Clare’s chair.

‘Yes, and you who know him, of course know how well he deserves all our
good opinions.’ She glanced almost imperceptibly at Clare. Petrovitch
noted the glance, and he fancied that Clare noted it too, and that it
called up a faint blush into her face. But Mrs Quaid’s drawing-room was
discreetly lighted, and perhaps he was mistaken.

‘I should never forgive myself,’ the good lady went on, ‘if I
missed this beautiful opportunity of performing such a delightful
task–bringing two such distinguished fellow-workers together. We must
fix an early evening for you both to dine here. It will be charming.’

Petrovitch bowed.

As Hirsch and Petrovitch went away together, the Austrian said,–

‘So, the lady who is always charmed will charm herself with making you
meet him, _bon grè, mal grè_.’

‘I will meet him,’ the other answered, ‘and that shortly. But not in
that house.’

‘Good,’ grunted Hirsch; and the two men fell to smoking silently.