Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Genre Fiction Project

Studies in Love and in Terror, an electronic edition

by Mrs. Belloc Lowndes [Lowndes, Belloc, 1868-1947]

date: 1913
source publisher: Methuen & Co., Ltd.
collection: Genre Fiction

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III

It was one o'clock, and the last of the wedding parties had swept gaily out of the great salle of the Falaise town hall and so to the Cathedral across the market place.

Jacques de Wissant, with a feeling of relief, took off his tricolor badge of office. With the instinctive love of order which was characteristic of the man, he gathered up the papers that were spread on the large table and placed them in neat piles before him. Through the high windows, which by his orders had been prised open, for it was intensely hot, he could hear what seemed an unwonted stir outside. The picturesque town was full of strangers; in addition to the usual holiday-makers from the neighbourhood, crowds of Parisians had come down to spend the Feast of the Assumption by the sea.

The Mayor of Falaise liked to hear this unwonted stir and movement, for everything that affected the prosperity of the town affected him very nearly; but he was constitutionally averse to noise, and just now he felt very tired. The varied emotions which had racked him that morning had drained him of his vitality; and he thought with relief that in a few | | 45 moments he would be in the old-fashioned restaurant just across the market place, where a table was always reserved for him when his town house happened to be shut up, and where all his tastes and dietetic fads—for M. de Wissant had a delicate digestion—were known.

He took up his tall hat and his lemon-coloured gloves—and then a look of annoyance came over his weary face, for he heard the swinging of a door. Evidently his clerk was coming back to ask some stupid question.

He always found it difficult to leave the town hall at the exact moment he wished to do so; for although the officials dreaded his cold reprimands, they were far more afraid of his sudden hot anger if business of any importance were done without his knowledge and sanction.

But this time it was not his clerk who wished to intercept the mayor on his way out to déjeuner; it was the chief of the employés in the telephone and telegraph department of the building, a forward, pushing young man whom Jacques de Wissant disliked.

"M'sieur le maire?" and then he stopped short, daunted by the mayor's stern look of impatient fatigue. "Has m'sieur le maire heard the news?" The speaker gathered up | | 46 courage; it is exciting to be the bearer of news, especially of ill news.

M. de Wissant shook his head.

"Alas! there has been an accident, m'sieur le maire! A terrible accident! One of the submarines—they don't yet know which it is—has been struck by a big private yacht and has sunk in the fairway of the Channel, about two miles out! "

The Mayor of Falaise uttered an involuntary exclamation of horror. "When did it happen?" he asked quickly.

"About half an hour ago more or less. I said that m'sieur le maire ought to be informed at once of such a calamity. But I was told to wait till the marriages were over."

Looking furtively at the mayor's pale face, the young man regretted that he had not taken more on himself, for m'sieur le maire looked seriously displeased.

There was an old feud between the municipal and the naval authorities of Falaise—there often is in a naval port—and the mayor ought certainly to have been among the very first to hear the news of the disaster.

The bearer of ill news hoped m'sieur le maire would not blame him for the delay, or cause the fact to postpone his advancement to a higher grade—that advancement which is the per- | | 47 petual dream of every French Government official.

"The admiral has only just driven by," he observed insinuatingly, "not five minutes ago——"

But still Jacques de Wissant did not move. He was listening to the increasing stir and tumult going on outside in the market place. The sounds had acquired a sinister significance; he knew now that the tramping of feet, the loud murmur of voices, meant that the whole population belonging to the seafaring portion of the town was emptying itself out and hurrying towards the harbour and the shore.

Shaking off the bearer of ill news with a curt word of thanks, the Mayor of Falaise strode out of the town hall into the street and joined the eager crowd, mostly consisting of fisher folk, which grew denser as it swept down the tortuous narrow streets leading to the sea.

The people parted with a sort of rough respect to make way for their mayor; many of them, nay the majority, were known by name to Jacques de Wissant, and the older men and women among them could remember him as a child.

Rising to the tragic occasion, he walked forward with his head held high, and a look of | | 48 deep concern on his pale, set face. The men who manned the Northern Submarine Flotilla were almost all men born and bred at Falaise—Falaise famed for the gallant sailors she has ever given to France.

The hurrying crowd—strangely silent in its haste—poured out on to the great stone-paved quays in which is set the harbour so finely encircled on two sides by the cliffs which give the town its name.

Beyond the harbour—crowded with shipping, and now alive with eager little craft and fishing-boats making ready to start for the scene of the calamity—lay a vast expanse of glistening sea, and on that sun-flecked blue pall every eye was fixed.

The end of the harbour jetty was already roped off, only those officially privileged being allowed through to the platform where now stood Admiral de Saint Vilquier impatiently waiting for the tug which was to take him out to the spot where the disaster had taken place. The Admiral was a naval officer of the old school—of the school who called their men "my children"—and who detested the Republican form of government as being subversive of discipline.

As Jacques de Wissant hurried up to him, he turned and stiffy saluted the Mayor of Falaise. | | 49 Admiral de Saint Vilquier had no liking for M. de Wissant—a cold prig of a fellow, and yet married to such a beautiful, such a charming young woman, the daughter, too, of one of the Admiral's oldest friends, of that Admiral de Kergouët with whom he had first gone to sea a matter of fifty years ago! The lovely Claire de Kergouët had been worthy of a better fate than to be wife to this plain, cold-blooded landsman.

"Do they yet know, Admiral, which of the submarines has gone down?" asked Jacques de Wissant in a low tone. He was full of a burning curiosity edged with a longing and a suspense into whose secret sources he had no wish to thrust a probe.

The Admiral's weather-beaten face was a shade less red than usual; the bright blue eyes he turned on the younger man were veiled with a film of moisture. "Yes, the news has just come in, but it isn't to be made public for awhile. It's the submarine Neptune which was struck, with Commander Dupré, Lieutenant Paritot, and ten men on board. The craft is lying eighteen fathoms deep——"

Jacques de Wissant uttered an inarticulate cry—was it of horror or only of surprise? And yet, gifted for that once and that once only with a kind of second sight, he had known that | | 50 it was the Neptune and Commander Dupré which lay eighteen fathoms deep on the floor of the sea.

The old seaman, moved by the mayor's emotion, relaxed into a confidential undertone. "Poor Dupré! I had forgotten that you knew him. He is indeed pursued by a malignant fate. As of course you are aware, he applied a short time ago to be transferred to Toulon, and his appointment is in to-day's Gazette. In fact he was actually leaving Falaise this very evening in order to spend a week with his family before taking up his new command!"

The Mayor of Falaise stared at the Admiral. "Duprégoing away?—leaving Falaise?" he repeated incredulously.

The other nodded.

Jacques de Wissant drew a long, deep breath. God! How mistaken he had been! Mistaken as no man, no husband, had ever been mistaken before. He felt overwhelmed, shaken with conflicting emotions in which shame and intense relief predominated.

The fact that Commander Dupréhad applied for promotion was to his mind absolute proof that there had been nothing—nothing and less than nothing—between the naval officer and Claire. The Admiral's words now made it clear that he, Jacques de Wissant, had built up | | 51 a huge superstructure of jealousy and base thoughts on the fact that poor Dupré and Claire had innocently enjoyed certain tastes in common. True, such friendships—friendships between unmarried men and attractive young married women—are generally speaking to be deprecated. Still, Claire had always been "correct;" of that there could now be no doubt.

As he stood there on the pier, staring out, as all those about him and behind him were doing, at the expanse of dark blue sun-flecked sea, there came over Jacques de Wissant a great lightening of the spirit. . . .

But all too soon his mind, his memory, swung back to the tragic business of the moment.

Suddenly the Admiral burst into speech, addressing himself, rather than the silent man by his side.

"The devil of it is," he exclaimed, "that the nearest salvage appliances are at Cherbourg! Thank God, the Ministry of Marine are alone responsible for that blunder. Dupré and his comrades have, it seems, thirty-six hours' supply of oxygen—if, indeed, they are still living, which I feel tempted to hope they are not. You see, Monsieur de Wissant, I was at Bizerta when the Lutin sank. A man doesn't | | 52 want to remember two such incidents in his career. One is quite bad enough! "

"I suppose it isn't yet known how far the Neptune is injured?" inquired the Mayor of Falaise.

But he spoke mechanically; he was not really thinking of what he was saying. His inner and real self were still steeped in that strange mingled feeling of shame and relief—shame that he should have suspected his wife, exultant relief that his jealousy should have been so entirely unfounded.

"No, as usual no one knows exactly what did happen. But we shall learn something of that presently. The divers are on their way. But—but even if the craft did sustain no injury, what can they do? Ants might as well attempt to pierce a cannon-ball"—he shrugged his shoulders, oppressed by the vision his homely simile had conjured up.

And then—for no particular reason, save that his wife Claire was very present to him—Jacques de Wissant bethought himself that it was most unlikely that any tidings of the accident could yet have reached the Châlet des Dunes, the lonely villa on the shore where Claire was now lunching with her sister. But at any moment some casual visitor from the town might come out there with the sad news. He told himself | | 53 uneasily that it would be well, if possible, to save his wife from such a shock. After all, Claire and that excellent Commander Dupré had been good friends—so much must be admitted, nay, now he was eager to admit it.

Jacques de Wissant touched the older man on the arm.

"I should be most grateful, Admiral, for the loan of your motor-car. I have just remembered that I ought to go home for an hour. This terrible affair made me forget it; but I shall not be long—indeed, I must soon be back, for there will be all sorts of arrangements to be made at the town hall. Of course we shall be besieged with inquiries, with messages from Paris, with telegrams——"

"My car, monsieur, is entirely at your disposal."

The Admiral could not help feeling, even at so sad and solemn a moment as this, a little satirical amusement. Arrangements at the town hall, forsooth! If the end of the world were in sight, the claims of the municipality of Falaise would not be neglected or forgotten; in as far as Jacques de Wissant could arrange it, everything in such a case would be ready at the town hall, if not on the quarter-deck, for the Great Assize!

What had a naval disaster to do with the | | 54 Mayor of Falaise, after all? But in this matter the old Admiral allowed prejudice to get the better of him; the men now immured in the submarine were, with two exceptions—their commander and his junior officer—all citizens of the town. It was their mothers, wives, children, sweethearts, who were now pressing with wild, agonized faces against the barriers drawn across the end of the pier. . . .

As Jacques de Wissant made his way through the crowd, his grey frock-coat was pulled by many a horny hand, and imploring faces gazed with piteous questioning into his. But he could give them no comfort.

Not till he found himself actually in the Admiral's car did he give his instructions to the chauffeur.

"Take me to the Châlet des Dunes as quickly as you can drive without danger," he said briefly. "You probably know where it is?"

The man nodded and looked round consideringly. He had never driven so elegantly attired a gentleman before. Why, M. de Wissant looked like a bridegroom! The Mayor of Falaise should be good for a handsome tip.

The chauffeur did not need to be told that on such a day time was of importance, and once | | 55 they were out of the narrow, tortuous streets of the town, the Admiral's car flew.

And then, for the first time that day, Jacques de Wissant began to feel pleasantly cool, nay, there even came over him a certain exhilaration. He had been foolish to hold out against motor-cars. There was a great deal to be said for them, after all. He owed his wife reparation for his evil thoughts of her. He resolved that he would get Claire the best automobile money could buy. It is always a mistake to economize in such matters. . . .

His mind took a sudden turn—he felt ashamed of his egoism, and the sensation disturbed him, for the Mayor of Falaise very seldom had occasion to feel ashamed, either of his thoughts or of his actions. How could he have allowed his attention to stray from the subject which should just now be absorbing his whole mind?

Thirty-six hours' supply of oxygen? Well, it might have been worse, for a great deal can be done in thirty-six hours.

True, all the salvage appliances, so the Admiral had said, were at Cherbourg. What a shameful lack of forethought on someone's part! Still, there was little doubt but that the Neptune would be raised in—in time. The British Navy would send her salvage appliances. | | 56 Jacques de Wissant had a traditional distrust of the English, but at such moments all men are brothers, and just now the French and the English happened to be allies. He himself felt far more kindly to his little girls' governess, Miss Doughty, than he would have done five years ago.

Yes, without doubt the gallant English Navy would send salvage appliances. . . .

There would be some hours of suspense—terrible hours for the wives and mothers of the men, but those poor women would be upheld by the universal sympathy shown them. He himself as mayor of the town would do all he could. He would seek these poor women out, say consoling, hopeful things, and Claire would help him. She had, as he knew, a. very tender heart, especially where seamen were concerned.

Indeed, it was a terrible thought—that of those brave fellows down there beneath the surface of the waters. Terrible, that is, if they were alive—alive in the same measure as he, Jacques de Wissant, was now alive in the keen, rushing air. Alive, and waiting for a deliverance that might never come. The idea made him feel a queer, interior tremor.

Then his mind, in spite of himself, swung back to its old moorings. How strange that | | 57 he had not been told that Commander Dupré had applied for a change of command! Doubtless the Mediterranean was better suited, being a tideless sea, for submarine experiments. Keen, clever Dupré, absorbed as he was in his profession, had doubtless thought of that.

But, again, how odd of Claire not to have mentioned that Dupré was leaving Falaise! Of course it was possible that she also had been ignorant of the fact. She very seldom spoke of other people's affairs, and lately she had been so dreadfully worried about her sister's, Marie-Anne's, illness.

If his wife had known nothing of Commander Dupré's plans, it proved as hardly anything else could have done how little real intimacy there could have been between them. A man never leaves the woman he loves unless he has grown tired of her—then, as all the world knows, except perchance the poor soul herself, no place is too far for him to make for.

Such was Jacques de Wissant's simple, cynical philosophy concerning a subject to which he had never given much thought. The tender passion had always appeared to him in one of two shapes—the one was a grotesque and slightly improper shape, which makes men do silly, absurd things; the other came in the semblance of a sinister demon which wrecks | | 58 the honour and devastates, as nothing else can do, the happiness of respectable families. It was this second and more hateful form which had haunted him these last few weeks.

He recalled with a sick feeling of distaste the state of mind and body he had been in that very morning. Why, he had then been in the mood to kill Dupré, or, at any rate, to welcome the news of his death with fierce joy! And then, simultaneously with his discovery of how groundless had been his jealousy, he had learnt the awful fact that the man whom he had wrongly accused lay out there, buried and yet alive, beneath the glistening sea, which was stretched out, like a great blue pall, on his left.

Still, it was only proper that his wife should be spared the shock of hearing in some casual way of this awful accident. Claire had always been sensitive, curiously so, to everything that concerned the Navy. Admiral de Saint Vilquier had recalled the horrible submarine disaster of Bizerta harbour; Jacques de Wissant now remembered uncomfortably how very unhappy that sad affair had made Claire. Why, one day he had found her in a passion of tears, mourning over the tragic fate of those poor sailor men, the crew of the Lutin, of whose very names she was ignorant! | | 59 At the time he had thought her betrayal of feeling very unreasonable, but now he understood, and even shared to a certain extent, the pain she had shown; but then he knew Dupré, knew and liked him, and the men immured in the Neptune were men of Falaise.

These were the thoughts which jostled each other in Jacques de Wissant's brain as he sat back in the Admiral's car.

They were now rushing past the Pavillon de Wissant. What a pity it was that Claire had not remained quietly at home to-day! It would have been so much pleasanter—if one could think of anything being pleasant in such a connection—to have gone in and told her the sad news at home. Her sister, Madeleine Baudoin, though older than Claire, was foolishly emotional and unrestrained in the expression of her feelings. Madeleine was sure to make a scene when she heard of Commander Dupré's peril, and Jacques de Wissant hated scenes.

He now asked himself whether there was any real necessity for his telling his wife before her sister. All he need do was to send Claire a message by the servant who opened the door to him. He would say that she was wanted at home; she would think something had happened to one of the children, and this | | 60 would be a good thing, for it would prepare her in a measure for ill tidings.

From what Jacques knew of his wife he believed she would receive the news quietly, and he, her husband, would show her every consideration; again he reminded himself that it would be ridiculous to deny the fact that Claire had made a friend, almost an intimate, of Commander Dupré. It would be natural, nay "correct," for her to be greatly distressed when she heard of the accident.

There came a familiar cutting in the road, and again the sea lay spread out, an opaque, glistening sheet of steel, before him. He gazed across, with a feeling of melancholy and fearful curiosity, to the swarm of craft great and small collected round the place where the Neptune lay, eighteen fathoms deep. . . .

He hoped Claire would not ask to go back into the town with him in order to hear he latest news. But if she did so ask, then he would raise no objection. Every Falaise woman, whatever her rank in life, was now full of suspense and anxiety, and as the mayor's wife Claire had a right to share that anxious suspense.

The car was now slowing on the sharp decline leading to the shore, and Jacques de | | 61 Wissant got up and touched the chauffeur on the shoulder.

"Stop here," he said. "You needn't drive down to the Châlet. I want you to turn and wait for me at the Pavilion de Wissant. Ask my servants to give you some luncheon. I may be half an hour or more, but I want to get back to Falaise as soon as I can."

The Châlet des Dunes had been well named. It stood enclosed in rough palings in a sandy wilderness. An attempt had been made to turn the immediate surroundings of the villa into the semblance of a garden; there were wind-blown flowers set in sandy flower-beds, and coarse, luxuriant creepers flung their long, green ropes about the wooden verandah. In front, stretching out into the sea, was a stone pier, built by Jacques' father many a year ago.

The Châlet looked singularly quiet and deserted, for all the shutters had been closed in order to shut out the midday heat.

Jacques de Wissant became vaguely uneasy. He reconsidered his plan of action. If the two sisters were alone together—as he supposed them to be—he would go in and quietly tell them of the accident. It would be making altogether too much of the matter to send for Claire to come out to him; she might very properly resent it. For the matter of that, it | | 62 was quite possible that Madeleine Baudoin had some little sentiment for Dupré. That would explain so much—the officer's constant presence at the Châlet des Dunes added to his absence from the Pavillon. It was odd he had never thought of the possibility before.

But this new idea made Jacques grow more and more uneasy at the thought of the task which now lay before him. With slow, hesitating steps he walked up to the little front door of the Châlet.

He pulled the rusty bell-handle. How absurd to have ironwork in such a place!

There followed what seemed to him a very long pause. He rang again.

There came the sound of light, swift steps; he could hear them in spite of the rhythmical surge of the sea; and then the door was opened by his sister-in-law, Madame Baudoin, herself.

In the midst of his own agitation and unease, Jacques de Wissant saw that there was a look of embarrassment on the face which Madeleine tried to make amiably welcoming.

"Jacques?" she exclaimed. "Forgive me for having made you ring twice! I have sent the servants into Falaise to purchase a railway time-table. Claire will doubtless have told you that I am starting for Italy to-night. Our poor | | 63 Marie-Anne is worse; and I feel that it is my duty to go to her."

She did not step aside to allow him to come in. In fact, doubtless without meaning to do so, she was actually blocking up the door.

No, Claire had not told Jacques that Marianne was worse. That of course was why she had looked so unhappy this morning. He felt hurt and angered by his wife's reserve.

"I am sure you will agree, Madeleine," he said stiffly—he was not sorry to gain a little time—"that it would not be wise for Claire to accompany you to Italy. After all, she is still quite a young woman, and poor Marie-Anne's disease is most infectious. I have ascertained, too, that there is a regular epidemic raging Matunda."

Madeleine nodded. Then she turned, with an uneasy side-look at her brother-in-law, and began leading the way down the short passage The door of the dining-room was open; Jacques could not help seeing that only one place was laid at the round table, also that Madeleine had just finished her luncheon.

"Isn't Claire here?" he asked, surprised. "She said she was going to lunch with you to-day. Hasn't she been here this morning?"

"No—I mean yes." Madeleine spoke con- | | 64 fusedly. "She did not stay to lunch. She was only here for a very little while."

"But has she gone home again?"

"Well—she may be home by now; I really don't know"—Madeleine was opening the door of the little drawing-room.

It was an ugly, common-looking room; the walls were hung with Turkey red, and ornamented with cheap coloured prints. There were cane and basket chairs which Madame Baudoin had striven to make comfortable with the help of cushions and rugs.

Jacques de Wissant told himself that it was odd that Claire should like to spend so much of her time here, in the Châlet des Dunes, instead of asking her sister to join her each morning or afternoon in her own beautiful house on the cliff.

"Forgive me," he said stiffly, "but I can't stay a moment. I really came for Claire. You say I shall find her at home?"

He held his top hat and his yellow gloves in his hand, and his sister-in-law thought she had never seen Jacques look so plain and unattractive, and—and tiresome as he looked to-day.

Madame Baudoin had a special reason for wishing him away; but she knew the slow, sure workings of his mind. If Jacques found that his wife had not gone back to the Pavillon | | 65 de Wissant, and that there was no news of her there, he would almost certainly come back to the Châlet des Dunes for further information.

"No," she said reluctantly, "Claire has not gone back to the Pavillon. I believe that she has gone into the town. She had something important that she wished to do there."

She looked so troubled, so—so uncomfortable that Jacques de Wissant leapt to the sudden conclusion that the tidings he had been at such pains to bring had already been brought to the Châlet des Dunes.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "then I am too late! Ill news travels fast."

"Ill news?" Madeleine repeated affrightedly. "Is anything the matter? Has anything happened to one of the children? Don't keep me in suspense, Jacques. I am not cold-blooded—like you!"

"The children are all right," he said shortly. "But there has been, as you evidently know, an accident. The submarine Neptune has met with a serious mishap. She now lies with her crew in eighteen fathoms of water about two miles out."

He spoke with cold acerbity. How childishly foolish of Madeleine to try and deceive him! But all women of the type to which she belonged make foolish mysteries about nothing.

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"The submarine Neptune?" As she stammered out the question which had already been answered, there came over Madame Baudoin's face a look of measureless terror. Twice her lips opened—and twice she closed them again.

At last she uttered a few words—words of anguished protest and revolt. "No, no," she cried, "that can't be—it's impossible!"

"Command yourself!" he said sternly. "Remember what would be thought by anyone who saw you in this state."

But she went on looking at him with wild, terror-stricken eyes. "My poor Claire!" she moaned. "My little sister Claire——"

All Jacques de Wissant's jealousy leapt into eager, quivering life. Then he had been right after all? His wife loved Dupré. Her sister's anguished sympathy had betrayed Claire's secret as nothing Claire herself was ever likely to say or do could have done.

"You are a good sister," he said ironically, "to take Claire's distress so much to heart. Identifying yourself as entirely as you seem to do with her, I am surprised that you did not accompany her into Falaise: it was most wrong of you to let her go alone."

"Claire is not in Falaise," muttered Madeleine. She was grasping the back of one of the cane chairs with her hand as if glad of even | | 67 what Claire has done to-day seem natural, a—a simple escapade."

There was a moment of terrible silence between them.

"Then do all the officers and men belonging to the flotilla know that my wife is out there—in the Neptune?" Jacques de Wissant asked in a low, still voice.

"No," said Madeleine, and there was now a look of shame, as well as of terror, on her face. "They none of them know—only those who are on board." She hesitated a moment—"That is why I sent the servants away this morning. We—I mean Commander Dupré and I—did not think it necessary that anyone should know."

"Then no one—that is, only a hare-brained young officer and ten men belonging to the town of Falaise—were to be aware of the fact that my wife had accompanied her lover on this life-risking expedition? You and Dupré were indeed tender of her honour—and mine."

"Jacques!" She took her hand off the chair, and faced her brother-in-law proudly. "What infamous thing is this that you are harbouring in your mind? My sister is an honest woman, aye, as honest, as high-minded as was your own mother——"

He stopped her with a violent gesture. "Do | | 68 "In the Neptune."

She gazed at him, past him, with widely open eyes, as if she were staring, fascinated, at some scene of unutterable horror—and there crept into Jacques de Wissant's mind a thought so full of shameful dread that he thrust it violently from him.

"You were in the Neptune," he said slowly, "knowing well that it is absolutely forbidden for any officer to take a friend on board a submarine without a special permit from the Minister of Marine?"

"It is sometimes done," she said listlessly.

Madame Baudoin had now sat down on a low chair, and she was plucking at the front of her white serge skirt with a curious mechanical movement of the fingers.

"Did the submarine actually put out to sea with you on board?"

She nodded her head, and then very deliberately added, "Yes, I have told you that I was out for two hours. They all knew it—the men and officers of the flotilla. I was horribly frightened, but—but now I am glad indeed that I went. Yes, I am indeed glad!"

"Why are you glad?" he asked roughly—and again a hateful suspicion thrust itself insistently upon him.

"I am glad I went, because it will make | | 69 hearted Clairette and Jacqueline. For what seemed a long while he said nothing; then, with all the anger gone from his voice, he spoke, uttered a fiat.

"No," he said quietly. "You must leave the Admiral to me, Madeleine. You were going to Italy to-night, were you not? That, I take it, is true."

She nodded impatiently. What did her proposed journey to Italy matter compared with her beloved Claire's present peril?

"Well, you must carry out your plan, my poor Madeleine. You must go away to-night."

She stared at him, her face at last blotched with tears, and a look of bewildered anguish in her eyes.

"You must do this," Jacques de Wissant went on deliberately, "for Claire's sake, and for the sake of Claire's children. You haven't sufficient self-control to endure suspense calmly, secretly. You need not go farther than Paris, but those whom it concerns will be told that Claire has gone with you to Italy. There will always be time to tell the truth. Meanwhile, the Admiral and I will devise a plan. And perhaps "—he waited a moment—" the truth will never be known, or only known to a very few people—people who, as you say, will understand." | | 70 not mention Claire and my mother in the same breath!" he cried.

"Ah, but I will—I must! You want the truth—you said just now you wanted only the truth. Then you shall hear the truth! Yes, it is as, you have evidently suspected. Louis Dupré loves Claire, and she"—her voice faltered, then grew firmer—" she may have had for him a little sentiment. Who can tell? You have not been at much pains to make her happy. But what is true, what is certain, is that she rejected his love. To-day they were to part—for ever."

Her voice failed again, then once more it strengthened and hardened.

"That is why he in a moment of folly—I admit it was in a moment of folly—asked her to come out on his last cruise in the Neptune. When you came I was expecting them back any moment. But, Jacques, do not be afraid. I swear to you that no one shall ever know. Admiral de Saint Vilquier will do anything for us Kergouëts; I myself will go to him, and—and explain."

But Jacques de Wissant scarcely heard the eager, pitiful words.

He had thrust his wife from his mind, and her place had been taken by his honour—his honour and that of his children, of happy, light- | | 71 hearted Clairette and Jacqueline. For what seemed a long while he said nothing; then, with all the anger gone from his voice, he spoke, uttered a fiat.

"No," he said quietly. "You must leave the Admiral to me, Madeleine. You were going to Italy to-night, were you not? That, I take it, is true."

She nodded impatiently. What did her proposed journey to Italy matter compared with her beloved Claire's present peril?

"Well, you must carry out your plan, my poor Madeleine. You must go away to-night."

She stared at him, her face at last blotched with tears, and a look of bewildered anguish in her eyes.

"You must do this," Jacques de Wissant went on deliberately, "for Claire's sake, and for the sake of Claire's children. You haven't sufficient self-control to endure suspense calmly, secretly. You need not go farther than Paris, but those whom it concerns will be told that Claire has gone with you to Italy. There will always be time to tell the truth. Meanwhile, the Admiral and I will devise a plan. And perhaps "—he waited a moment—" the truth will never be known, or only known to a very few people—people who, as you say, will understand."

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He had spoken very slowly, as if weighing each of his words, but it was quickly, with a queer catch in his voice, that he added—" I ask you to do this, my sister "—he had never before called Madeleine Baudoin "my sister"—"because of Claire's children, of Clairette and Jacqueline. Their mother would not wish a slur to rest upon them."

She looked at him with piteous, hunted eyes. But she knew that she must do what he asked.

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