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journment of the House without an assurance from the Government that immediate measures would be taken to safeguard British interests in Meshed and throughout the province of Khorasan.
The immediate outcome of Loder's speech was all that his party had desired. The effect on the House had been marked; and when, no satisfactory response coming to his demand, he had in still more resolute and insistent terms called for a division on the motion for adjournment, the result had been an appreciable fall in the Government majority. To Loder himself the realization that he had at last vindicated and justified himself by individual action had a peculiar effect. His position had been altered in one remarkable particular. Before this day he alone had known himself to be strong; now the knowledge was shared by others and he was human enough to be susceptible to the change. The first appreciation of it came immediately after the excitement of the division, when Fraide, singling him out, took his arm and pressed it affectionately. “My dear Chilcote,” he said, “we are all proud of you!” Then, looking up into his face, he added, in a graver tone, “But keep
your mind upon the future; never be blinded.
by the present—however bright it seems.” At the touch of his hand, at the spontaneous approval of his first words, Loder's pride thrilled and in a vehement rush of ambition his senses answered to the praise. Then as Fraide in all unconsciousness added his second sentence, the hot glow of feeling suddenly chilled. In a sweep of intuitive reaction the meaning and the danger of his falsely real position extinguished his excitement and turned his triumph cold. With an involuntary gesture he withdrew his arm. “You’re very good, sir!” he said. “And you're very right. We never should forget that there is—a future.” The old man glanced up, surprised by the tone. “Quite so, Chilcote!” he said, kindly. “But we only advise those in whom we believe to look towards it. Shall we find my wife? I know she will want to bear you home with us.” But Loder's joy in himself and his achievement had dropped from him. He shrank sud
denly from Lady Sarah's congratulations and Eve's warm, silent approbation. “Thanks, sir!” he said, “but I don’t feel fit for society. A touch of my—nerves, I suppose.” He laughed shortly. “But do you mind saying to Eve that I hope I have— satisfied her?” he added this as if in half-reluctant after-thought. Then with a short pressure of Fraide's hand he turned, evading the many groups that waited to claim him, and passed out of the House alone. Hailing a cab, he drove to Grosvenor Square. All the exaltation of an hour ago had turned to ashes. His excitement had found its culmination in a sense of futility and premonition. He met no one in the hall or on the stairs of Chilcote's house, and on entering the study, he found that also deserted. Greening had been amongst the most absorbed of those who had listened to his speech. Passing at once into the room, he crossed as if by instinct to the desk, and there halted. On the top of some unopened letters lay the significant yellow envelope of a telegram—the telegram that in an unformed, subconscious way had sprung to his expectation on the moment of Fraide's congratulation. Very quietly he picked it up, opened and read it, and with the automatic caution that had become habitual, carried it across the room and dropped it in the fire. This done, he returned to the desk, read the letters that awaited Chilcote, and scribbling the necessary notes upon the margins, left them in readiness for Greening. Then, moving with the same quiet suppression, he passed from the room, down the stairs, and out into the street by the way he had come.
N the fifth day after the momentous first of April on which Chilcote had recalled Loder and resumed his own life he left his house and walked towards Bond Street. Though the morning was clear and the air almost warm for the time of year, he was buttoned into a long overcoat and was wearing a muffler and a pair of doeskin gloves. As he passed along he kept close to the house fronts to avoid the sun that was everywhere stirring the winter-bound town, like a suffusion of young blood through old veins. He avoided the warmth because in this instance warmth meant light, but as he moved he shivered slightly from time to time with the haunting, permeating cold that of late had become his persistent shadow. He was ill at ease as he hurried forward. With each succeeding day of the old life the new annoyances, the new obligations became more hampering. Before his compact with Loder this old life had been a net about his feet; now the meshes seemed to have narrowed, the net itself to have spread till it smothered his whole being. His own household— his own rooms, even—offered no sanctuary. The presence of another personality tinged the atmosphere. It was preposterous, but it was undeniable. The lay figure that he had set in his place had proved to be flesh and blood—had usurped his life, his position, his very personality, by sheer right of strength. As he walked along Bond Street in the first sunshine of the year, jostled by the welldressed crowd, he felt a pariah. He revolted at the new order of things, but the revolt was a silent one—the iron of expediency had entered into his soul. He dared not jeopardize Loder's position, because he dared not dispense with Loder. The door that guarded his vice drew him more resistlessly with every indulgence, and Loder's was the voice that called the “Open Sesame!” He walked on aimlessly. He had been but five days at home, and already the quiet, grass-grown court of Clifford's Inn, the bare staircase, the comfortless privacy of Loder's rooms, seemed a haven of refuge. The speed with which this hunger had returned frightened him. It caused him inconsequently to hasten his steps. He walked forward rapidly and without encountering a check. Then suddenly the spell was broken. From the slowly moving, brilliantly dressed throng of people some one called him by his name; and turning, he saw Lillian Astrupp. She was stepping from the door of a jeweller's, and as he turned she paused, holding out her hand. “The very person I would have wished to sce!” she exclaimed. “Where have you been these hundred years? I’ve heard of nobody but you since you’ve turned politician and ceased to be a mere member of Parliament!” She laughed softly. The laugh suited the light spring air, as she herself suited the pleasant, superficial scene. He took her hand and held it, while his eyes travelled from her delicate face to her WOL. XXXVIII.-43.
pale cloth gown, from her soft furs to the bunch of roses fastened in her muff. The sight of her was a curious relief. Her cool, slim fingers were so casual, yet so clinging, her voice and her presence were so redolent of easy, artificial things. “How well you look!” he said, involuntarily. Again she laughed. “That's my prerogativel” she responded, lightly. “But I was serious in being glad to see you. Sarcastic people are always so intuitive. I'm looking for some one with intuition.” Chilcote glanced up. “Extravagant again?” he said, dryly. She smiled at him sweetly. murmured with slow reproach. Chilcote laughed quickly. “I understand. You've changed your Minister of Finance. I’m wanted in some other direction.” This time her reproach was expressed by a glance. “You are always wanted,” she said. The words seemed to rouse him again to the shadowy self-distrust that the sight of her had lifted. “It's—it's delightful to meet you like this,” he began, “and I wish the meeting wasn’t momentary. But I'm—I’m rather pressed for time. You must let me come round one afternoon—or evening, when you're alone.” He fumbled for a moment with the collar of his coat, and glanced furtively upwards towards Oxford Street. But again Lillian smiled—this time to herself. If she understood anything on earth it was Chilcote and his moods. “If one may be careless of anything, Jack,” she said, lightly, “surely it's of time. I can imagine being pressed for anything else in the world. If it's an appointment you’re worrying about, a motor goes ever so much faster than a cab–” She looked at him tentatively, her head slightly on one side, her muff raised till the roses and some of the soft fur touched her cheek. She looked very charming and very persuasive as Chilcote glanced back. Again she seemed to represent a respite — something graceful and subtle in a world of oppressive obligations. His eyes strayed from her figure to the smart motor drawn up beside the curb. She saw the glance. “Ever so much quicker,” she insinuated; and smiling again, she stepped forward from the door of the shop. After a second’s indecision Chilcote followed her.
The waiting motor-car had three seats—one in front for the chauffeur, two vis-à-vis at the back, offering pleasant possibilities of a tête-à-tête. “The Park—and drive slowly l’” Lillian ordered as she stepped inside, motioning Chilcote to the seat opposite. They moved up Bond Street smoothly and rapidly. Lillian was absorbed in the passing traffic until the Marble Arch was reached; then as they glided through the big gates she looked across at her companion. He had turned up the collar of his coat, though the wind was scarcely perceptible, and buried himself in it to the ears. “It is extraordinary !” she exclaimed, suddenly, as her eyes rested on his face. It was seldom that she felt drawn to exclamation. She was usually too indolent to show surprise. But now the feeling was called forth before she was aware. Chilcote looked up. “What’s extraordinary” he said, sensitively. She leant forward for an instant and touched his hand. “Bear!” she said, teasingly. “Did I rub your fur the wrong way?” Then, seeing his expression, she tactfully changed her tone. “I’ll explain. It was the same thing that struck me the night of Blanche's party—when you looked at me over Leonard Kaine's head. You remember?” She looked away from him across the Park to where the grass was already showing greener. Chilcote felt ill at ease. Again he put his hand to his coat collar. “Oh yes,” he said, hastily, “yes.” He wished now that he had questioned Loder more closely on the proceedings of that party. It seemed to him, on looking back, that Loder had mentioned nothing on the day of their last exchange save the political complications that absorbed his mind. “I couldn’t explain then,” Lillian went on. “I couldn’t explain before a crowd of people that it wasn’t your dark head showing over Leonard's red one that surprised me, but the most wonderful, the most extraordinary likeness—” She paused. The car was moving slower; there was a delight in the easy motion through the fresh, early air. But Chilcote's uneasiness had been aroused. He no longer felt soothed. “What likeness?” he asked, sharply. She turned to him easily. “Oh, a likeness I have noticed before,” she said. “A likeness
that always seemed strange, but that suddenly became incredible at Blanche's party.” He moved quickly. “Likenesses are an illusion,” he said, “a mere imagination of the brain l’” His manner was short; his annoyance seemingly out of all proportion to its cause. Lillian looked at him afresh in slightly interested surprise. “Yet not so very long ago, you yourself—” she began. “Nonsense!” he broke in. “I’ve always denied likenesses. Such things don’t really exist. Likeness-seeing is purely an individual matter—a preconception.” He spoke fast; he was uneasy under the cool scrutiny of her green eyes. Then with a sharp attempt at self-control and reassurance he altered his voice. “After all, we’re being very stupid!” he exclaimed. “We’re worrying over something that doesn’t exist.” Lillian was still lazily interested. To her own belief she had seen Chilcote last on the night of her sister's reception. Then she had been too preoccupied to notice either his manner or his health, though superficially it had lingered in her mind that he had seemed unusually reliant, unusually well on that night. A remembrance of the impression came to her now as she studied his face, upon which imperceptibly and yet relentlessly his vice was setting its mark—in the dull restlessness of eye, the unhealthy sallowness of skin. Some shred of her thought, some suggestion of the comparison running through her mind, must have shown in her face, for Chilcote altered his position with a touch of uneasiness. He glanced away across the long sweep of tan-covered drive stretching between the trees; then he glanced furtively back. “By the way,” he said, quickly, “you wanted me for something?” The memory of her earlier suggestion came as a sudden boon. Lillian lifted her muff again and smelt her roses thoughtfully. “Oh, it was nothing, really,” she said. “You sarcastic people give very shrewd suggestions sometimes, and I’ve been rather wanting a suggestion on an—an adventure that I’ve had.” She looked down at her flowers with a charmingly attentive air. But Chilcote's restlessness had increased. Looking up, she suddenly caught the expression, and her own face changed. “My dear Jack,” she said, softly, “what a bore I am! Let's forget tedious things—and enjoy ourselves.” She leant towards him caressingly with an air of concern and reproach. It was not without effect. Her soothing voice, her smile, her almost affectionate gesture, each carried weight. With a swift return of assurance he responded to her tone. “Right !” he said. “Right! We will enjoy ourselves!” He laughed quickly, and again with a conscious movement lifted his hand to his muffler. “Then we’ll postpone the advice?” Lillian laughed too. “Yes. Right! We’ll postpone it.” The word pleased him and he caught at it. “We won’t bother about it now, but we won’t shelve it altogether. We’ll postpone it.” “Exactly.” Lillian settled herself more comfortably. “You’ll dine with me one night —and we can talk it out then. I see so little of you nowadays,” she added, in a lower voice. “My dear girl, you’re unfair!” Chilcote's spirits had risen; he spoke rapidly, almost pleasantly. “It isn’t I who keep away—it's the stupid affairs of the world that keep me. I'd be with you every day—if I had my way.” She looked up at the bare trees. Her expression was a delightful mixture of amusement, satisfaction, and scepticism. “Then you will dine?” she said at last. “Certainly.” His reaction to high spirits carried him forward. “How nice! Shall we fix a day ?” “A day? Yes. Yes—if you like.” He hesitated for an instant, then again the impulse of the previous moment dominated his other feeling. “Yes,” he said, quickly. “Yes. After all, why not fix it now?” With a sudden inclination towards amiability he opened his overcoat, thrust his hand into an inner pocket, and drew out his engagement-book—the same long narrow book fitted with two pencils that Loder had scanned so interestedly on his first morning at Grosvenor Square. He opened it, turning the pages rapidly. “What day shall it be? Thursday's full—and Friday—and Saturday. What a bore!” He still talked fast. Lillian leant across. “What a sweet book!” she said. “But why the blue crosses?” She touched one of the pages with her gloved finger. Chilcote jerked the book, then laughed with a touch of embarrassment. “Oh, the crosses? Merely to remind me that certain appointments must be kept. You
know my beastly memory! But what about the day? Shall we fix the day ?” His voice was in control, but mentally her trivial question had disturbed and jarred him. “What day shall we say?” he repeated. “Monday in next week?” Lillian glanced up with a faint exclamation of disappointment. “How horribly far away!” She spoke with engaging, winning petulance, and leaning forward afresh, drew the book from Chilcote's hand. “What about to-morrow?” she exclaimed, turning back a page. “Why not to-morrow?'. I knew I saw a blank space.” . “To-morrow! Oh, I–I-” He stopped. “Jack!” Her voice dropped. It was true that she desired Chilcote's opinion on her adventure, for Chilcote's opinion on men and manners had a certain bitter shrewdness; but the exercise of her own power added a point to the desire. If the matter had ended with the gain or loss of a tête-à-tête with him it is probable that, whatever its utility, she would not have pressed it, but the underlying motive was the stronger. Chilcote had been a satellite for years, and it was unpleasant that any satellite should drop away into space. “Jack!” she said again, in a lower and still more effective tone; then lifting her muff, she buried her face in her flowers. “I suppose I shall have to dine and go to a music-hall with Leonard—or stay at home by myself,” she murmured, looking out across the trees. Again Chilcote glanced over the long tanstrewn ride. They had made the full circuit of the Park. “It’s tiresome being by one's self,” she murmured again. For a while he was irresponsive, then slowly his eyes returned to her face. He watched her for a second, then leaning quickly towards her, he took his book and scribbled something in the vacant space. She watched him interestedly; then her face lighted up as she dropped her muff. “Dear Jack!” she said. “How very sweet of you!” Then, as he held the book towards her, her face fell. “Dine 33 Cadogan Gardens, 8 o’c. Talk with L.,” she read. “Why, you've forgotten the essential thing!” Chilcote looked up. “The essential thing 7” She smiled. “The blue cross,” she said. “Isn’t it worth even a little one?” The tone was very soft. Chilcote yielded. “You have the blue pencil,” he said, in sudden response to her mood.