Irrepressible Aspasia sniffed

Sir Arthur Gerardine was stretched in a bamboo chair on the white
terrace overlooking the garden, taking his ease luxuriously. He had had
his shampoo after his ride, he had had tea, and had started his second
cheroot. It was growing delightfully cool. He had the conviction of
leaving a well-spent day behind him; and now, an immaculately
conscienced, immaculately attired English gentleman of importance, felt
himself entitled to his virtuous relaxation.

He was perilously near the sixties, but young-looking for his age in
spite of his oriental experience; handsome still, with a smile that,
upon first acquaintance, was found irresistibly fascinating; a genial
easy manner—a way with him, in fact, that seemed to promise the utmost
good-fellowship. It was only after experience that people felt the
steel behind the velvet glove.

“Uncle Arthur,” Aspasia one day averred in an irrepressible burst of
frankness, “is the sort of man the more you know him, the less you like
him.”

No one would have been more surprised than Sir Arthur himself had he
been told that he was a tyrant. Yet very soon those who were brought
into contact with him discovered what a domineering spirit dwelt behind
that sweet smile; how, without ever departing from a form of speech and
manner that, with his own family was almost always caressing, with the
rest of the world affable, no human being had ever been able to move him
from the prosecution of his own purpose. Such a character, combined with
a mighty intellect, would have been an enormous power for good.
Unfortunately, it was upon the slightest premises and with limited
reasoning faculties that Sir Arthur formed his unalterable views of
life.

One of the problems that had most puzzled Aspasia, since unexpected
family misfortunes had driven her to seek a home with the
Lieutenant-Governor (her uncle and guardian), was whether her beautiful
new aunt did not really hate Sir Arthur; and, “if she didn’t,” as the
child phrased it, “how she could?” But not even Baby’s shrewd young
eyes could discover a flaw in the serenity with which Lady Gerardine
listened to her husband’s theories, or the grace with which she lent
herself to the fulfilment of his wishes.

She now sat beside him with a half smile, her hands busied with some
delicate work: a lovely picture of cool placidity.

Sir Arthur turned and gazed upon her with such an eye of condescending
and complacent affection as that with which the Grand Turk may regard
his last favourite.

“Well, dear,” he pursued, “I have finally rejected the Rajah’s request.”

“Indeed?”

She shot a look at him as if she would have added something; but upon
the second thought dropped her long lids and resumed her embroidery,
while Aspasia, in her usual pose at her aunt’s feet, broke into shrill
protest:

“You never did? Why, Runkle, and everybody said the poor man was quite
right! Only last night I heard General Staveley tell Aunt Rosamond that
it was a mere case of justice, not to say one of expediency.”

The Lieutenant-Governor’s self-satisfaction waxed visibly to swelling
point.

“Ha! I dare say,” he commented. “Indeed, I flatter myself, my dear
Aspasia, that there is not another man in India that would have dared to
take the responsibility. Aha, Rosamond, firmness! I was firm. Very
firm. Discontented, disloyal set! I won’t give them an inch more than
the measure.”

“Oh Lor!” ejaculated Baby.

Lady Gerardine’s eyelashes flickered a second.

“Quiet!” she said, giving her niece a tap upon the shoulder.

Baby subsided, growling to herself like a tiger cub:

“That nice prince…! If Runkle does not start a new mutiny——!”

Sir Arthur surveyed his womankind a second with that singularly sweet
smile of his. They were his womankind, part of his personal belongings;
and therefore it never even dawned upon him that they could be anything
but superlative of their degree; much less that they could form an
independent opinion really unfavourable to himself. His niece’s
petulance affected him not otherwise than as an agreeable _émoustillage_
in moments of relaxation such as these, as well as an opportunity for
the display of his own indulgent wit and wisdom. He had a pride in her
smart tongue as well as in her pretty looks; and Aspasia’s most earnest
attempts produced no more effect upon her distinguished relative than
would the gambols of a kitten. Thus he now beamed upon her. In his
early years of London society and successes, he had been noted for that
beautiful smile. “The ass with the seraphic smile,” a light-hearted St.
James’s comrade had dubbed him, little guessing that his country would,
in the future, consider so well of “the ass” as to confide some of the
gravest interests of the Empire to his charge. In spite of which (all
unknown to its distinguished wearer) the nickname stuck.

“I have given orders, my love,” said the great man, once more addressing
his wife, “for the cutting down of the group of banyan trees at the end
of the garden. I know you and Aspasia rather liked that little jungle,
but it was really a nasty bit. Now I propose to have the place
concreted and a summer-house erected—something in a pretty artistic
style, say Early English—or a Norwegian hut, perhaps, where you can sit
without fear of snakes.”

Again Baby felt a warning hand pressed upon her shoulder, and was fain,
with crimson cheeks of wrath, to compress her lips in silence, while
Lady Gerardine drew a strand of silk through her needle and made a
pretty little speech of thanks to her husband for his thoughtfulness.

“Why don’t you carry the concrete down the garden walks,” observed Miss
Cuningham presently, with withering sarcasm, “and set up a rockery, with
shells and things?”

Sir Arthur ignored the sally.

“You will be glad to hear, Rosamond,” he proceeded presently, “that I
have been successful in a matter to which I attach great importance. I
have found, I think, the exact person I have wanted so long: the native
secretary, you know. All these young Civil Service fellows, with their
translations, are no use to me. And my work was positively at a
standstill.”

Irrepressible Aspasia sniffed. A faint look of weariness crossed Lady
Gerardine’s well-trained countenance: this book of Sir Arthur’s—a
history of the Provinces confided to his charge, beginning from the
earliest possible date and to be carried down to the triumphant
conclusion of his own rule—this great work which was (as he was fond of
saying) to be the monument of his career in India, was a subject which
the Lieutenant-Governor’s circle had learned to dread.

“Monument, indeed; it will be all our monuments!” had cried Aspasia one
day, and Lady Gerardine had not rebuked.

The quaintest part about the matter, perhaps, was that, while Sir Arthur
employed some half-dozen experts in obtaining material for him, and
spent a fair part of his time in discussion of the matter provided, not
one line of the folios which already filled his nest of drawers, some of
which had been actually passed for press, had been either conceived or
penned by the official author. And the guileless phrase, which often
dropped from his lips: “I must really go; Macdonald (or it might be
Gray, or Captain Smith) is waiting to read out to me the last chapter of
my book,” had ceased even to provoke a smile.

“It has always been my aim to get at the spirit of the people,” said Sir
Arthur, “to draw water from the source that springs in the soil of the
land itself.” He looked sideways for a second, reflecting. “Ah, not a
bad phrase that; I must suggest it to Macdonald.”

“And what’s the name of the particular native spring?” inquired the pert
Miss Cuningham.

“His name”—Sir Arthur drew a letter from his pocket—”is Muhammed
Saif-u-din, if it makes you much the wiser, my dear Aspasia. It seems
he’s quite a remarkable individual. Curiously enough, a Pathan.
Pathans, a real fighting lot, don’t as a rule take to the pen. Yes,
quite a remarkable individual. The son of a Subadar—who thought it fine
to let his son have an English education. Thought it no doubt a form of
loyalty that would pay. However it may have been, the fellow’s as poor
as a rat in spite of his learning—proud as Lucifer, of course. Drop of
princely blood in him, it appears.” The Lieutenant-Governor smiled
pityingly. “They generally have, if you believe them—ha! Read his
letter, my dear,” he went on, drawing a sheet from his pocket-book and
tossing it in her lap; “it may amuse you to note the grandiloquence of
the native style.”

Lady Gerardine turned over the sheet with a languid finger. It was
scored with beautifully regular copperplate writing, which presented
certainly no difficulty to the decipherer. Baby, whose young interest
was more easily aroused, craned her neck to see also, and read aloud the
opening phrase in a mock declamatory style:

Huzur,—By your Honour’s Gracious Permission, your devoted
servant Muhammed Saif-u-din. Will your Magnificence so
condescend to my nothingness as to permit your Heaven-illumined
eyes to rest upon this unworthy document….

“Oh, Runkle, that’s even finer than your phrase. Hadn’t you better pass
it on to Macdonald? You must let him have a finger in your pie—your
Monumental Pie!”

Sir Arthur smiled with his benevolent air.

He drew a second letter from his pocket.

“Another agreeable piece of news,” said he; “Lady Aspasia is quite ready
to give us ten days or a fortnight after her visit to Calcutta.”

“Lady Aspasia!” cried Baby; “do you mean the horrid woman that went and
had a name like that to make me a laughing-stock all my life?”

“Lady Aspasia, your own cousin, and the most agreeable woman I have ever
met,” rebuked Sir Arthur. “With one exception, of course,” added the
gallant gentleman, bowing towards his wife. “You ought to be very
proud, dear child,” he went on, addressing his recalcitrant niece, “not
only of your connection with a noble house, but also to bear a name
which is perhaps unique. Had we had a daughter, Rosamond, my love, I
could not have allowed her to be christened otherwise. Dear me,” he
went on, now throwing his remarks into space and inflating his chest
with the breath of sentimental reminiscence, “dear Aspasia, what a fine
creature she was; and how much in love with her I used to be in my salad
days. You’re not jealous, dear,” he cried suddenly, struck by his
wife’s abstraction.

“Jealous?” she echoed with a start. Her gaze was really pathetic, as
she raised it to his face; and Sir Arthur, satisfied that she had
undoubtedly felt a little hurt by his reminiscence, smiled
sympathetically and once more considerately selected another topic.

“By the way,” he said, knocking the ash off his cheroot with a squat
nail pared and polished to the last possible point of symmetry, “I met
quite an interesting fellow just now. He tells me he has already called
on you. Bethune his name is—Major Bethune, of the Guides. I asked him
to dine to-night. I knew you would like me to show him some attention.
You must know all about him, my love; he went through all that
unfortunate business with your poor husband. I knew,” repeated the
Lieutenant-Governor, with a most intimate smile of self-approbation, “I
knew that you would like me to show him some attention.”

Baby, leaning against her aunt’s pliant form, felt it suddenly stiffen
into rigidity. But the needle poised in Lady Gerardine’s fingers did
not tremble; it hovered for a hardly perceptible moment, then resumed
its languid course. Sir Arthur, after waiting for the expected tribute,
threw down the stump of his cigar and looked round in surprise.

“I always wish to do the right thing about any friend of poor English,”
he insisted. “And Bethune was flattered, of course, immensely flattered
at my asking him. I knew it would please you, my dear Rosamond.”

Lady Gerardine finished the lilac petal, cut her silk, folded her work,
and, then only, raised her eyes.

“Thank you,” she said gently; “you are always kindness itself.”

Those eyes of hers were so dark and encircled in her pale face that the
affectionate husband was solicitously moved.

“You look tired, my love,” he said, hoisting himself out of his lounge
to approach her. “I trust you have not got a chill; I think we had
better all adjourn. You must lie down an hour before dinner.”

Lady Gerardine rose and stood, looking out across the still garden
falling in terraces to the river edge, beyond the flaming masses of
poinsettia, the heavy-headed babul, and the starred wide-flung hibiscus,
towards the far-off hills, mauve and amethyst hued against a sky of
translucent sapphire.

“I must go and say good-bye to my banyan trees,” she said, almost as if
speaking to herself.

Sir Arthur was horrified at the mere suggestion. Down into the lower
garden, at the moment when the mists were rising! He would not hear of
such a thing. And she was not looking well. He took her face by the
chin and turned it to the sunset light. Even in that warm glow it showed
wan; and the lids she dropped between her eyes and his gaze were bruised
and shadowed, faintly purple like the petals of wood violets.

“I’ll have to ask Saunders to look at you,” said the Governor. “I hope
and trust that you have not been so foolish as to throw off your vests
again!” He slipped two fingers under the lace of her diaphanous blouse
to satisfy himself. “I cannot afford to have you ill, dear,” he wound
up caressingly. “Now, I’ll just tell Jani to measure you a couple of
grains of quinine before you lie down.”

Benevolent, consequential, he hurried indoors. Rosamond stood yet a
moment, looking at the sky. Baby, a thousand shades of exasperation and
scorn upon her expressive countenance, now melted all into tenderness.

“If ever there was a woman killed by kindness,” she exclaimed, “it is
you, poor Aunt Rosamond!” And flinging her arms round the still figure:
“Oh, darling,” she whispered, with the wail of an ever-renewed
complaint, “why do you always, always give in?”

Lady Gerardine gently disengaged herself, bringing her eyes back from
the distant loveliness with a perceptible effort.

“Oh, Baby,” she said, in a tone of melancholy mockery, “when you have
lived as long as I have, you will see how much simpler it is.”

She trailed away, obediently, to seek quinine and couch. Aspasia kicked
over the work-basket as a relief, summoning a couple of supple Hindoos
to repair the damage; and, feeling that the balance of things was
slightly re-established, she took her way also into the palace to select
her attire for the evening.

In spite of her ruffled sensations, she was smiling to herself as she
went, and the dimples were very deep in the pink cheeks. Something was
singing in her heart—a soft, pleasant little song: that it was good not
to have lived long yet, and to have everything still before one; and
that she was glad that the man with the light eyes and brown face was
not going to drift out of her life. She hoped he would not be angry
with her for not having succeeded yet.

The chief guest of the Lieutenant-Governor this evening was one Dr.
Châtelard, a French savant of world-wide reputation, author of “La
Psychologie Féminine des Races.” Scientist—he had begun his career as a
doctor, had specialised in nervous complaints, narrowed his circle again
to _les néuroses des femmes_; and, after establishing a school of his
own, had gradually (though scarcely past the middle life) retired from
active practice and confined himself to studying, teaching, and writing.
The first volume of his “Psychologie”—under the distinctive heading “La
femme Latine”—had created a sensation not only in the scientific world,
where the author’s really valuable contributions to observation and
treatment could not fail to be recognised, but also among that self-same
irresponsible yet charming class which formed the subject-matter of his
investigation. Here, indeed, the physician’s light turn of wit, the
palpitating examples he cited, with a discreet use of asterisks, set up
a great flutter. _Madame la Marquise_ was charmed when she recognised,
or believed to recognise, _cette chère Comtesse_ in a singularly
eccentric case. Friends hunted for each other eagerly through the
delicately veiled pages. Now and again a fair whilom patient would
plume herself upon the belief that no other identity but her own could
fit that of _Madame D——, cette exquise sensitive_. (M. Châtelard clung
to style while he revolutionised science.) It is no wonder, perhaps,
that the book should have had a greater vogue than the last scandalous
novel. A second volume, “L’Orientale,” was in course of conception.
Indeed, it was the occasion of that tour in the East which brought M.
Châtelard to India and, incidentally, under Sir Arthur Gerardine’s roof.

Sir Arthur was in his element. To condescend, to demonstrate, to
instruct, was to the Governor as the breath of his nostrils; he prided
himself upon the Attic character of his French; he was justly conscious
that, judged even by the Parisian standard, the urbanity of his manners
was beyond criticism. And to have the opportunity of displaying to the
intelligent foreigner the splendours of a quasi-regal position, filled
to the utmost capacity; the working of a superior mind (not unleavened
by sparks of English wit that again need, certes, fear no comparison
with French _esprit_); a cosmopolitan _savoir-faire_; the nicest sense
of official dignity; the brilliant jargon of a brother writer; and last,
but not least perhaps, a young wife of quite extraordinary beauty … it
would have been difficult to contrive a situation fraught with more
satisfaction! The presence of a minor personality, such as that of
Major Bethune, was no disturbing factor. Apart from the circumstance
that Sir Arthur was large-minded enough to appreciate the admiration
even of the humblest, there was a subtle thread of pleasure in the
thought that “poor English’s” friend should see and marvel at the good
fortune that had fallen to the lot of “poor English’s” widow; while the
little halo of pathos and romance surrounding the memory of the fallen
hero cast a reflected light upon his distinguished successor, which any
temperament so sympathetic as that of the gifted Dr. Châtelard might
easily be made to feel. A few well-chosen whispered words of sentiment,
over the second glass of claret at dessert—and there would be a pretty
paragraph for the Frenchman’s next letter to the _Figaro_. For it was
well known that the series of brilliant weekly articles appearing in
that paper, under the title “Les Impressions d’un Globe-trotteur,”
emanated from the traveller’s facile pen.

Matters had progressed according to programme. M. Châtelard, a pleasant
tubby man with a bald head, a cropped pointed beard drawing upon
greyness, a twinkling observant eye, a sparkling readiness of repartee,
and an appreciative palate, fell duly under the charm of the genial
Lieutenant-Governor. The latter figured, indeed, that same night in his
manuscript as the most amiable representative of John Bull abroad that
the _globe-trotteur_ had yet had the good fortune to meet.

“Almost French,” wrote the sagacious correspondent, “in charm of manner,
in quickness of insight—thorough Anglo-Saxon, however, in the deepness
of his policy, the solidity of his judgment, the unflinching decision
with which he watches over the true interests of his Old England in this
land of her ever-rebellious adopted sons. _Bien Anglo-Saxon_, too, in
his ceaseless devotion to duty and stern acceptance of danger and
responsibility. But he has received his recompense. These provinces of
his are a model for all other colonies, and from one end to the other
the name of Sir Gerardine is enough to make, etc., etc.”

In very deed Sir Arthur had never been more brilliant, more convincing.

* * * * *

Coffee was served upon the terrace. Even the Governor could find no
objection to this al-fresco adjournment upon such a night. A
purple-blue sky throbbed with stars. Upon the one side the lights of
the town gleamed, red and orange, far below, and its myriad night
clamour seemed to emphasise the apartness of the uplifted palace; upon
the other stretched the great flat, fertile, empty lands, still
half-flooded, gleaming in the moonlight, widely still save for the
occasional far-off cry of some prowling savage animal.

Étrange situation! (wrote M. Châtelard, in his well-known
assertive rhetoric). Nous étions là, élevés au-dessus de la
plaine, dans cet antique palais converti en résidence moderne,
mais tout imprégné des souvenirs de l’Orientalisme le plus
prononcé. A nos pieds grouillait la ville Indoue, intouchable,
inchangeable, telle qu’elle avait été avant que le pied du
maître étranger y eut pénétré. Appuyé centre la balustrade, de
la terrasse je laissais plonger mon regard à travers les
ténèbres jusque dans la vallée où luisaient, mystérieuses,
innombrables, les lumières de la cité et me disais en moi-même:
Nous voici donc, petit comité de la race conquérante qui n’a
pourtant pas conquis; de la civilisation Européenne la plus
éclairée qui n’a rien su changer dans le fonds des choses
là-bas! Oui, là-bas, l’Orient va toujours son chemin sinistre
et secret, inviolable par l’étranger; et toujours il en sera
ainsi; toujours ces deux races, destinées à être conjointes sans
être unies, traverseront les siècles comme deux courants
puissants qui cheminent côte à côte sans jamais mélanger leurs
ondes!

While Sir Arthur and his guest exchanged the treasures of their minds
with mutual satisfaction, Bethune sought to isolate Miss Cuningham,
under the pretext of showing her from a particular corner of the terrace
the tents of a new Engineer camp. Baby was nothing loth. Her innocent
cherub face looked confidingly forth upon him. Her light hair was
spangled by the moon rays.

“Well?” said he, as soon as they were out of earshot.

The spangled mop began to fly.

“No use!”

He drew his brows together: “Did you try?”

“Did I try! Of course, at once—yesterday. Did I not promise?” The
girl was reproachful. “She forbade me ever to speak of it again.”

Raymond Bethune folded his arms, leaned them upon the balustrade, and
turned a set profile towards the low hanging moon.

“Then I must try again,” he said, after a pause.

Aspasia wished him to succeed; but something relentless in his looks
filled her with a sort of fear of him, of pity for her aunt. He seemed
as indifferent to human emotion, as immutable, she thought, as one of
the stone gods that, cross-legged and long-eyed, in unfathomable inner
self-satisfaction, had gazed forth from their niches in the temple walls
below for unknown centuries upon the passing mortal throng.

Suddenly he turned and left her. Sir Arthur was now pacing the terrace
with the globe-trotter, lucidly laying down the law of India, as
interpreted by his own sagacity, his smouldering cigar making ruby
circles in the night with every wave of an authoritative hand.

The second secretary, Mr. Simpson to wit, was sitting by Lady
Gerardine’s side, effusively receiving each indifferent phrase that
dropped from her lips. As Major Bethune advanced towards them the young
civilian rose and drew away, with a crab-like movement, in the direction
of the abandoned Baby.

Lady Gerardine clasped her hands together on her knees; the contraction
of her heart, at this man’s approach, painted her face ashen even in the
pallid light. He took a seat—not Mr. Simpson’s lowly stool, but one
that placed him on a level with her; and then there came a little pause
between them like the tension of the elements before the break of the
storm. She had successfully avoided him the whole evening; but now she
felt that further evasion was useless; and she waited, collecting her
forces for the final resistance.

He went straight to the point:

“I hope you have reconsidered yesterday’s decision. Perhaps you do not
understand that this is a question of duty with me, of conscience.”

He was trying to speak gently.

“You have no responsibility in the matter,” she answered.

“I cannot accept that point of view,” he said, flashing into icy anger.

She did not reply in words, but rose with a swift haughty movement,
unmistakably showing her resolve of closing the discussion once and for
ever. But in an instant he was before her, barring her way.

“Major Bethune,” she exclaimed, “this is persecution!”

The blood rushed to her cheeks, her eyes flashed. For an instant she was
roused to superlative beauty. Stronger became his conviction that here
must be more than mere heartless caprice. Something of her emotion
gained him.

“If you would only give me a reason!” he cried.

“It is impossible,” she answered quickly. “Is it a thing to be asked
for so easily, this raking up of the past? The past! is it not dead?
My God—it is dead! What if I for one will keep it so?”

“That is no reason,” he said cuttingly; “it is hardly an excuse.”

She passed by him with long swift steps and a rush of silken draperies.
And thus, once more baffled, Baby found him, stonily reflecting. She
stopped, promptly discarding her meek admirer.

“No success?”

“No success.”

“You had better give it up,” said Aspasia.

“I was never more determined not to give it up.”

Baby looked exceedingly sympathetic, fluffy, and engaging: something
like a sweet little night-owl, with her round wide eyes and her
pursed-up mouth. He suddenly caught one of her hands and held its soft
palm closely between his own lean ones:

“Miss Cuningham,” he said in an urgent whisper, “I know you can help
me.”

She stared at him. It would almost seem as if this strange being could
read her vacillating thought. He saw her hesitate and bent to look into
her eyes, while the pressure of his hand grew closer.

“And if you can help me, you must. Remember your promise.”

“Well, then,” the girl became suddenly breathless, as if she had been
running. She looked round over her shoulder: “I know it’s beastly mean
of me, but, there—you have only to make Uncle Arthur take it up….”

“Ah!” The teeth shone out in his dark face. “I understand. Thank
you.”

But Baby was already gone. With crimson cheeks and a deep sense of
guilt, she was running hastily away from the starry terrace and the
great mysterious, jewelled Indian night, into the lighted drawing-room.
Here Lady Gerardine was quietly seated alone by a green-shaded lamp,
reading her favourite Thoreau. She looked up and smiled at Aspasia’s
flurried entrance, marked the quivering, flushed face.

“My dear,” she exclaimed, with a vague amused laugh, “what has happened?
Don’t tell me that you have had to box George Murray’s ears again!”

George Murray was Sir Arthur’s first secretary, a young gentleman with a
weakness for the fair sex, whose manners and morals had (in spite of M.
Châtelard’s theories of Western immunity) been considerably affected by
the lax atmosphere of India. Aspasia had found it necessary, more than
once, to put him in his place; and on the last occasion had confided to
her aunt, with a noisy sigh, that if the Leschetizky method was to fail
in the glorious musical results for which she had once fondly hoped, it
had at least had the advantage of singularly strengthening the muscles
of her arm.

She now stretched out her fingers, and, half unconsciously sketched a
buffet in the air; then she shook her head:

“Oh, no, indeed! He has not looked the same side of the room as me
since Saturday.”

“Poor man, I am not surprised!”

“Serve him right!” said Aspasia, indefinite but vindictive.

“It is not Mr. Simpson, surely?”

“Simpson?” echoed the girl, with supreme contempt, “that little worm!”

“Who is it, then? For something, or some one, has upset you.”

“Oh, I don’t know! It’s Major Bethune, I think. I don’t believe he’s
canny. He has got such queer eyes.”

Then, thinking she saw her aunt shudder, she gave her a remorseful hug
and flew to the piano to plunge into melodious fireworks.

With a sigh as of one oppressed, Lady Gerardine took up her book again
and endeavoured to absorb herself. For years she had successfully
cultivated the faculty of leading her mind into peaceful places; but
to-night there was no wandering forth with Thoreau’s pure ghost into the
whispering green woods he loved. Stormy echoes from the past were in her
ears; relentless hands were forcing her back into the arid spaces where
dwelt the abomination of desolation. Everything seemed to conspire
against her, even Aspasia’s music.

The girl’s fingers had slid into a prelude of Chopin, and the familiar
notes which she had been wont to reel off with the most perfect and
heartless technique were now sighing—nay, wailing—under her touch.

“Stop!” exclaimed Lady Gerardine, suddenly springing to her feet. “Oh,
Baby, even you! What has come into your music to-night? You have
betrayed me!” she said, and bursting into tears, hurried from the room.

The girl’s hands dropped in consternation from the keys. Never had she
heard before to-day that ring in her aunt’s voice, that cry of the soul.
She did not dare follow the flying figure. “_You have betrayed me!_”
… Little, indeed, could the poor soul guess how completely she had
been betrayed.