It was not easy to find Mrs.
Crayford in the crowd. Searching
here, and searching there, Frank
became conscious of a stranger,
who appeared to be looking for
somebody, on his side. He was
a dark, heavy-browed, strongly-built
man, dressed in a shabby old
naval officer's uniform. His
manner--strikingly resolute and
the manner of a gentleman. He
wound his way slowly through
the crowd; stopping to look at
every lady whom he passed, and
then looking away again with
a frown. Little by little he
approached the conservatory--entered
it, after a moment's reflection--detected
the glimmer of a white dress
in the distance, through the
shrubs and flowers--advanced
to get a nearer view of the lady--and
burst into Clara's presence with
a cry of delight.
She sprang to her feet. She
stood before him speechless,
motionless, struck to stone.
All her life was in her eyes--the
eyes which told her she was looking
at Richard Wardour.
He was the first to speak.
"I am sorry
I startled you, my darling.
I forgot everything
but the happiness of seeing you
again. We only reached our moorings
two hours since. I was some time
inquiring after you, and some
time getting my ticket when they
told me you were at the ball.
Wish me joy, Clara! I am promoted.
I have come back to make you
A momentary change passed over
the blank terror of her face.
Her color rose faintly, her lips
moved. She abruptly put a question
"Did you get
He started. "A
letter from you? I never received
The momentary animation died
out of her face again. She drew
back from him and dropped into
a chair. He advanced toward her,
astonished and alarmed. She shrank
in the chair--shrank, as if she
was frightened of him.
have not even shaken hands
with me! What does it mean?"
He paused; waiting and watching
her. She made no reply. A flash
of the quick temper in him leaped
up in his eyes. He repeated his
last words in louder and sterner
She replied this time. His
tone had hurt her--his tone had
roused her sinking courage.
Mr. Wardour, that you have
been mistaken from the
"How have I
"You have been
under a wrong impression, and
you have given
me no opportunity of setting
"In what way
have I been wrong?"
"You have been
too hasty and too confident
and about me. You have entirely
misunderstood me. I am grieved
to distress you, but for your
sake I must speak plainly. I
am your friend always, Mr. Wardour.
I can never be your wife."
He mechanically repeated the
last words. He seemed to doubt
whether he had heard her aright.
"You can never
be my wife?"
There was no answer. She was
incapable of telling him a falsehood.
She was ashamed to tell him the
He stooped over her, and suddenly
possessed himself of her hand.
Holding her hand firmly, he stooped
a little lower; searching for
the signs which might answer
him in her face. His own face
darkened slowly while he looked.
He was beginning to suspect her;
and he acknowledged it in his
has changed you toward me,
Clara. Somebody has
influenced you against me. Is
it--you force me to ask the question--is
it some other man?"
"You have no
right to ask me that."
He went on without noticing
what she had said to him.
"Has that other
man come between you and me?
I speak plainly on
my side. Speak plainly on yours."
"I _have_ spoken.
I have nothing more to say."
There was a pause. She saw
the warning light which told
of the fire within him, growing
brighter and brighter in his
eyes. She felt his grasp strengthening
on her hand. He appealed to her
for the last time.
"Reflect," he said, "reflect
before it is too late. Your silence
will not serve you. If you persist
in not answering me, I shall
take your silence as a confession.
Do you hear me?"
"I hear you."
I am not to be trifled with.
I insist on the truth. Are you
false to me?"
She resented that searching
question with a woman's keen
sense of the insult that is implied
in doubting her to her face.
you forget yourself when you
call me to account in
that way. I never encouraged
you. I never gave you promise
He passionately interrupted
her before she could say more.
"You have engaged
yourself in my absence. Your
it; your looks own it! You have
engaged yourself to another man!"
"If I _have_ engaged myself,
what right have you to complain
of it?" she answered firmly. "What
right have you to control my
The next words died away on
her lips. He suddenly dropped
her hand. A marked change appeared
in the expression of his eyes--a
change which told her of the
terrible passions that she had
let loose in him. She read, dimly
read, something in his face which
made her tremble--not for herself,
but for Frank.
Little by little the dark color
faded out of his face. His deep
voice dropped suddenly to a low
and quiet tone as he spoke the
"Say no more, Miss Burnham--you
have said enough. I am answered;
I am dismissed." He paused, and,
stepping close up to her, laid
his hand on her arm.
"The time may come," he said, "when
I shall forgive you. But the
man who has robbed me of you
shall rue the day when you and
he first met."
He turned and left her.
A few minutes later, Mrs. Crayford,
entering the conservatory, was
met by one of the attendants
at the ball. The man stopped
as if he wished to speak to her.
"What do you want?" she
"I beg your
pardon, ma'am. Do you happen
to have a smelling-bottle
about you? There is a young lady
in the conservatory who is taken
Between the Scenes
The Landing Stage