The Pavilion by E Nesbit

There was never a moment’s doubt in her own mind. So she said afterwards. And everyone agreed that she had concealed her feelings with true womanly discretion. Her friend and confidante, Amelia Davenant, was at any rate completely deceived. Amelia was one of those featureless blondes who seem born to be overlooked. She adored her beautiful friend, and never, from first to last, could see any fault in her, except, perhaps, on the evening when the real things of the story happened. And even in this matter she owned at the time that it was only that her darling Ernestine id not understand.

Ernestine was a prettyish girl with the airs, so irresistible and misleading, of a beauty; most people said that she was beautiful, and she certainly managed, with extraordinary success, to produce the illusion of beauty. Quite a number of plainish girls achieve that effect nowadays. The freedom of modern dress and coiffure and the increasing confidence in herself which the modern girl experiences aid her in fostering the illusion; but in the ‘sixties, when everyone wore much the same sort of bonnet, when your choice in coiffure was limited to bandeaux or ringlets, and the crinoline was your only wear, something very like genius was needed to deceive the world in the matter of your personal charms. Ernestine had that genius; hers was the smiling, ringletted, dark-haired, dark-eyed, sparkling type. Amelia had the blond bandeau and the appealing blue eyes, rather too small and rather too dull; her hands and ears were beautiful, and she kept them out of sight as much as possible. It was she who, at the age of fourteen, composed the remarkable poem beginning:—

I know that I am ugly: did I make
The face that is the laugh and jest of all?

and went on, after disclaiming any personal responsibility for the face, to entreat the kind earth to “cover it away from mocking eyes,” and to “let the daisies blossom where it lies.”

Amelia did not want to die, and her face was not the laugh and jest, or indeed the special interest, of anyone. Really life was a very good thing to Amelia, specially when she had a new dress and someone paid her a compliment. But she went on writing verses extolling the advantages of the Tomb, and grovelling metrically at the feet of One who was Another’s. Until that summer when she was nineteen and went to stay with Ernestine at Doricourt. Then her muse took flight, scared, perhaps, by the possibility, suddenly and threateningly presented, of being asked to inspire verse about the real things of life.

At any rate, Amelia ceased to write poetry about the time when she and Ernestine and Ernestine’s aunt went on a visit to Doricourt, where Frederick Doricourt lived with his aunt. It was not one of those hurried motor-fed excursions which we have now and call week ends, but a long, leisurely visit, when all the friends of the static aunt called on the dynamic aunt, who returned the calls with much ceremony, a big barouche, and a pair of fat horses. There were croquet parties and archery parties and little dances, all pleasant informal gaieties arranged without ceremony among people who lived within driving distance of each other and knew each other’s tastes and incomes and family history as well as they knew their own.

And at Doricourt life was delightful even on the days when there was no party. It was perhaps more delightful to Ernestine than to her friend, but even so, the one least pleased was Ernestine’s aunt.

“I do think,” she said to the other aunt whose name was Julia—“I daresay it is not so to you, being accustomed to Mr. Frederick, of course from his childhood, but I always find gentlemen in the house so unsettling. Especially young gentlemen. And when there are young ladies also. One is always on the qui vive for excitement.”

“Of course,” said Aunt Julia, with the air of a woman of the world; “living as you and dear Ernestine do, with only females in the house——”

“We hang up an old coat and hat of my brother’s on the hatstand in the hall,” Aunt Emmeline protested.

“——the presence of gentlemen in the house must be a little unsettling. For myself, I am inured to it. Frederick has so many friends. Mr. Thesiger perhaps the greatest. I believe him to be a most worthy young man, but peculiar.” She leaned forward across her bright-tinted Berlin woolwork and spoke impressively, the needle with its trailing red poised in air. “You know, I hope you will not think it indelicate of me to mention such a thing—but dear Frederick—your dear Ernestine would have been in every way so suitable.”

“Would have been?” Aunt Emmeline’s tortoiseshell shuttle ceased its swift movement among the white loops and knots of her tatting.

“Well, my dear,” said the other aunt, a little shortly, “you surely must have noticed——”

“You don’t mean to suggest that Amelia—— I thought Mr. Thesiger and Amelia——”

“Amelia! I really must say! No, I was alluding to Mr. Thesiger’s attentions to dear Ernestine. Most marked. In dear Frederick’s place I should have found some excuse for shortening Mr. Thesiger’s visit. But of course I cannot interfere. Gentlemen must manage these things for themselves. I only hope that there will be none of that trifling with the most holy affections of others which——”

The less voluble aunt cut in hotly with “Ernestine’s incapable of anything so unladylike.”

“Just what I was saying,” the other rejoined blandly, got up, and drew the blind a little lower, for the afternoon sun was glowing on the rosy wreaths of the drawing-room carpet.

Outside in the sunshine Frederick was doing his best to arrange his own affairs. He had managed to place himself beside Miss Ernestine Meutys on the stone steps of the pavilion, but then Eugene Thesiger lay along the lower step at her feet, a good position for looking up into her eyes. Amelia was beside him, but then it never seemed to matter whom Amelia was beside.

They were talking about the pavilion on whose steps they sat, and Amelia, who often asked uninteresting questions, had wondered how old it was. It was Frederick’s pavilion after all, and he felt this when his friend took the words out of his mouth and used them on his own account, even though he did give the answer the form of an appeal.

“The foundations are Tudor, aren’t they?” he said. “Wasn’t it an observatory or laboratory or something of that sort in Fat Henry’s time?”

“Yes,” said Frederick; “there was some story about a wizard or an alchemist or some thing, and it was burned down, and then they rebuilt it in its present style.”

“The Italian style, isn’t it?” said Thesiger; “but you can hardly see what it is now, for the creeper.”

“Virginia creeper, isn’t it?” Amelia asked, and Frederick said, “Yes, Virginia creeper.” Thesiger said it looked more like a South American plant, and Ernestine said Virginia was in South America, and that was why. “I know, because of the war,” she said modestly, and nobody smiled or answered. There were manners in those days.

“There’s a ghost story about it, surely?” Thesiger began again, looking up at the dark closed doors of the pavilion.

“Not that I ever heard of,” said the pavilion’s owner. “I think the country people invented the tale because there have always been so many rabbits and weasels and things round dead near it. And once a dog, my uncle’s favourite spaniel. But, of course, that’s simply because they get entangled in the Virginia creeper—you see how fine and big it is—and can’t get out, and die as they do in traps. But the villagers prefer to think it’s ghosts.”

“I thought there was a real ghost story,” Thesiger persisted.

Ernestine said, “A ghost story. How delicious! Do tell it, Mr. Doricourt. This is just the place for a ghost story. Out of doors and the sun shining, so that we can’t really be frightened.”

Doricourt protested again that he knew no story.

“That’s because you never read, dear boy,” said Eugene Thesiger. “That library of yours—there’s a delightful book—did you never notice it?—brown tree-calf with your arms on it; the head of the house writes the history of the house as far as he knows it. There’s a lot in that book. It began in Tudor times—1515, to be exact.”

“Queen Elizabeth’s time.” Ernestine thought that made it so much more interesting. “And was the ghost story in that?”

“It isn’t exactly a ghost story,” said Thesiger. “It’s only that the pavilion seems to be an unlucky place to sleep in.”

“Haunted?” Frederick asked, and added that he must look up that book.

“Not haunted exactly. Only several people who have slept the night there went on sleeping.”

“Dead, he means,” said Ernestine, and it was left for Amelia to ask:—

“Does the book tell anything particular about how the people died, what killed them, or anything?”

“There are suggestions,” said Thesiger; “but there, it is a gloomy subject. I don’t know why I started it. Should we have time for a game of croquet before tea, Doricourt?”

“I wish you’d read the book and tell me the stories,” Ernestine said to Frederick, apart, over the croquet balls.

“I will,” he answered, fervently; “you’ve only to tell me what you want.”

“Or perhaps Mr. Thesiger will tell us another time—in the twilight. Since people like twilight for ghosts. Will you, Mr. Thesiger?” She spoke over her blue muslin shoulder.

Frederick certainly meant to look up the book, but he delayed till after supper, when he went alone to the library, found the brown book, and took it to the circle of light made by the colza lamp.

“I can skim through it in half an hour,” he said, and wound up the lamp and lighted his cigar.

The earlier part of the book was written in the beautiful script of the early sixteenth century, that looks so plain and is so impossible to read, and the later pages, though the handwriting was clear and Italian enough, left Frederick helpless, for the language was Latin, and Frederick’s Latin was limited to the particular passages he had “been through” at his private school. He recognized a word here and there—mors, for instance, and pallidus and sanguinis and pavor and arcanum, just as you or I might; but to read the complicated stuff and make sense of it! Frederick replaced the book on the shelf, closed the shutters, and turned out the lamp. He thought he would ask Thesiger to translate the thing, but then again he thought he wouldn’t. So he went to bed wishing that he had happened to remember more of the Latin so painfully beaten into the best years of his boyhood.

And the story of the pavilion was, after all, told by Thesiger.

There was a little dance at Doricourt next evening, a carpet dance they called it. The furniture was pushed back against the walls, and the tightly-stretched Axminster carpet was not so bad to dance on as you might suppose. And even in those far-off days there were conservatories.

It was on the steps of the conservatory, not the steps leading from the dancing-room, but the steps leading to the garden, that the story was told. The four young people were sitting together, the girls’ crinolined flounces spreading round them like huge pale roses, the young men correct in their high-shouldered coats and white cravats. Ernestine had been very kind to both the men, a little too kind perhaps—who can tell? At any rate, there was in their eyes exactly that light which you may imagine in the eyes of rival stags in the mating season. It was Ernestine who asked Frederick for the story, and Thesiger who, at Amelia’s suggestion, told it.

“It’s quite a number of stories,” he said, “and yet it’s really all the same story. The first man to sleep in the pavilion slept there ten years after it was built. He was a friend of the alchemist or astrologer who built it. He was found dead in the morning. There seemed to have been a struggle. His arms bore the marks of cords. No; they never found any cords. He died from loss of blood. There were curious wounds. That was all the rude leeches of the day could report to the bereaved survivors of the deceased.”

“How funny you are, Mr. Thesiger!” said Ernestine, with that celebrated soft, low laugh of hers.

“And the next?” asked Amelia.

“The next was sixty years later. It was a visitor that time, too. And he was found dead, just the same marks, and the doctors said the same thing. And so it went on. There have been eight deaths altogether—unexplained deaths. Nobody has slept in it now for over a hundred years. People seem to have a prejudice against the place as a sleeping apartment. I can’t think why.”

“isn’t he simply killing?” Ernestine asked Amelia, who said:—

“And doesn’t anyone know how it happened?”

No one answered till Ernestine repeated the question in the form of “I suppose it was just accident?”

“It was a curiously recurrent accident,” said Thesiger, and Frederick, who throughout the conversation had said the right things at the right moment, remarked that it did not do to believe all these old legends. Most old families had them, he believed. Frederick had inherited Doricourt from an unknown great uncle of whom in life he had not so much as heard, but he was very strong on the family tradition. “I don’t attach any importance to these tales myself.”

“Of course not. All the same,” said Thesiger, deliberately, “you wouldn’t care to pass a night in that pavilion.”

“No more would you,” was all Frederick found on his lips.

“I admit that I shouldn’t enjoy it,” said Eugene; “but I’ll bet you a hundred you don’t do it.”

“Done,” said Frederick.

“Oh, Mr. Doricourt!” breathed Ernestine, a little shocked at betting “before ladies.”

“Don’t!” said Amelia, to whom, of course, no one paid any attention; “don’t do it!”

You know how, in the midst of flower and leafage, a snake sometimes will suddenly, surprisingly rear a head that threatens? So, amid friendly talk and laughter, a sudden fierce antagonism sometimes looks out and vanishes again, surprising most of all the antagonists. This antagonism spoke in the tones of both men, and after Amelia had said “Don’t!” there was a curiously breathless little silence. Ernestine broke it. “Oh,” she said, “I do wonder which of you will win! I should like them both to win, wouldn’t you, Amelia? Only I suppose that’s not always possible, is it?”

Both gentlemen assured her that in the case of bets it was very rarely possible.

“Then I wish you wouldn’t,” said Ernestine. “You could both pass the night there, couldn’t you, and be company for each other? I don’t think betting for such large sums is quite the thing, do you, Amelia?”

Amelia said no, she didn’t, but Eugene had already begun to say:—

“Let the bet be off, then, if Miss Meutys doesn’t like it That suggestion is invaluable. But the thing itself needn’t be off. Look here, Doricourt. I’ll stay in the pavilion from one to three and you from three to five. Then honour will be satisfied. How will that do?”

The snake had disappeared.

“Agreed,” said Frederick, “and we can compare impressions afterwards. That will be quite interesting.”

Then someone came and asked where they had all got to, and they went in and danced some more dances. Ernestine danced twice with Frederick and drank iced sherry and water, and they said good night and lighted their bedroom candles at the table in the hall.

“I do hope they won’t,” Amelia said, as the girls sat brushing their hair at the two large white muslin-frilled dressing-tables in the room they shared.

“Won’t what?” said Ernestine, vigorous with the brush.

“Sleep in that hateful pavilion. I wish you’d ask them not to, Ernestine. They’d mind, if you asked them——”

“Of course I will if you like, dear,” said Ernestine, cordially. She was always the soul of good-nature. “But I don’t think you ought to believe in ghost stories, not really.”

“Why not?”

“Oh, because of the Bible and going to church and all that,” said Ernestine.

“What was that?” said Amelia,

“That” was a sound coming from the little dressing-room. There was no light in that room. Amelia went into the little room, though Ernestine said, “Oh, don’t! How can you? It might be a ghost or a rat or something,” and as she went she whispered, “Hush!”

The window of the little room was open and she leaned out of it. The stone sill was cold to her elbows through her print dressing jacket.

Ernestine went on brushing her hair. Amelia heard a movement below the window and listened. “To-night will do,” someone said.

“It’s too late,” said someone else.

“If you’re afraid it will always be too late or too early,” said someone. And it was Thesiger.

“You know I’m not afraid,” the other one, who was Doricourt, answered hotly.

“An hour for each of us will satisfy honour,” said Thesiger, carelessly. “The girls will expect it. I couldn’t sleep. Let’s do it now and get it over. Let’s see. Oh, hang it!”

A faint click had sounded.

“Dropped my watch. I forgot the chain was loose. It’s all right, though; glass not broken even. Well, are you game?”

“Oh, yes, if you insist. Shall I go first, or you?”

“I will,” said Thesiger. “That’s only fair, because I suggested it. I’ll stay till half-past one, or a quarter to two, and then you come on. See?”

“Oh, all right. I think it’s silly, though,” said Frederick.

Then the voices ceased. Amelia went back to the other girl.

“They’re going to do it to-night.”

“Are they, dear?” Ernestine was as placid as ever. “Do what?”

“Sleep in that horrible pavilion.”

“How do you know?”

Amelia explained how she knew.

“Whatever can we do?” she added.

“Well, dear, suppose we go to bed?” suggested Ernestine, helpfully. “We shall hear all about it in the morning.”

“But suppose anything happens?”

“What could happen?”

“Oh, anything!” said Amelia. “Oh, I do wish they wouldn’t! I shall go down and ask them not to.”

“Amelia!” The other girl was at last aroused. “You couldn’t! I shouldn’t let you dream of doing anything so unladylike. What would the gentlemen think of you?”

The question silenced Amelia, but she began to put on her so lately discarded bodice.

“I won’t go if you think I oughtn’t,” she said.

“Forward and fast, auntie would call it,” said the other. “I am almost sure she would.”

“But I’ll keep dressed. I sha’n’t disturb you. I’ll sit in the dressing-room. I can’t go to sleep while he’s running into this awful danger.”

“Which he?” Ernestine’s voice was very sharp. “And there isn’t any danger.”

“Yes, there is,” said Amelia, sullenly, “and I mean them. Both of them.”

Ernestine said her prayers and got into bed. She had put her hair in curl-papers, which became her like a wreath of white roses.

“I don’t think auntie will be pleased,” she said, “when she hears that you sat up all night watching young gentlemen. Good night, dear!”

“Good night, darling,” said Amelia. “I know you don’t understand. It’s all right.”

She sat in the dark by the dressing-room window. There was no sound to break the stillness, except the little cracklings of twigs and rustlings of leaves as birds or little night wandering beasts moved in the shadows of the garden, and the sudden creakings that furniture makes if you sit alone with it and listen in the night’s silence.

Amelia sat on and listened, listened. The pavilion showed in broken streaks of pale grey against the wood, that seemed to be clinging to it in dark patches. But that, she reminded herself, was only the creeper. She sat there for a very long time, not knowing how long a time it was. For anxiety is a poor chronometer, and the first ten minutes had seemed an hour. She had no watch. Ernestine had, and slept with it under her pillow. There was nothing to measure time’s flight by, and she sat there rigid, straining her ears for a foot-fall on the grass, straining her eyes to see a figure come out of the dark pavilion and cross the dew-grey grass towards the house. And she heard nothing, saw nothing.

Slowly, imperceptibly, the grey of the dewy grass lightened, lightened; the grey of the sleeping trees took on faint dreams of colour. The sky turned faint above the trees, the moon perhaps was coming out. The pavilion grew more clearly visible. It seemed to Amelia that something moved among the leaves that surrounded it, and she looked to see him come out. But he did not come.

“I wish the moon would really shine,” she told herself. And suddenly she knew that the sky was clear and that this growing light was not the moon’s dead cold silver, but the growing light of dawn.

She went quickly into the other room, put her hand under the pillow of Ernestine, and drew out the little watch with the diamond “E” on it.

“A quarter to three,” she said, aloud. Ernestine moved and grunted.

There was no hesitation about Amelia now. Without another thought for the ladylike and the really suitable, she lighted her candle and went quickly down the stairs, still dark, paused a moment in the hall, and so out through the front door into the grey of the new day. She passed along the terrace. The feet of Frederick protruded from the open French window of the smoking-room. She set down her candle on the terrace—it burned clearly enough in that clear air—went up to Frederick as he slept, his head between his shoulders and his hands loosely hanging, and shook him.

“Wake up!” she said. “Wake up! Something’s happened! It’s a quarter to three and he’s not come back.”

“Who’s not what?” Frederick asked, sleepily.

“Mr. Thesiger. The pavilion.”

“Thesiger?—the— You, Miss Davenant? I beg your pardon. I must have dropped off.”

He got up unsteadily, gazing dully at this white apparition still in evening dress with pale hair now no longer wreathed.

“What is it?” he said; “is anybody ill?”

Briefly and very urgently Amelia told him what it was, imploring him to go at once and see what had happened. If he had been fully awake, her voice and her eyes would have told him many things.

“He said he’d come back,” he said. “Hadn’t I better wait? You go back to bed, Miss Davenant. If he doesn’t come in half an hour——”

“If you don’t go this minute,” said Amelia, tensely, “I shall.”

“Oh, well, if you insist,” Frederick said. “He has simply fallen asleep as I did. Dear Miss Davenant, return to your room, I beg. In the morning, when we are all laughing at this false alarm, you will be glad to remember that Mr. Thesiger does not know of your anxiety.”

“I hate you,” said Amelia, gently; “and I am going to see what has happened. Come or not, as you like.”

She caught up the silver candlestick, and he followed its steady gleam down the terrace steps and across the grey dewy grass.

Half-way she paused, lifted the hand that had been hidden among her muslin flounces, and held it out to him with a big Indian dagger in it.

“I got it out of the hall,” she said. “If there’s any real danger—anything living, I mean. I thought—but I know I couldn’t use it. Will you take it?”

He took it, laughing kindly.

“How romantic you are!” he said, admiringly, and looked at her standing there in the mingled gold and grey of dawn and candle-light. It was as though he had never seen her before.

They reached the steps of the pavilion and stumbled up them. The door was closed, but not locked. And Amelia noticed that the trails of creeper had not been disturbed; they grew across the doorway as thick as a man’s finger, some of them.

“He must have got in by one of the windows,” Frederick said. “Your dagger comes in handy, Miss Davenant.”

He slashed at the wet, sticky green stuff and put his shoulder to the door. It yielded at a touch and they went in.

The one candle lighted the pavilion hardly at all, and the dusky light that oozed in through the door and windows helped very little. And the silence was thick and heavy.

“Thesiger!” said Frederick, clearing his throat. “Thesiger! Halloa! Where are you?”

Thesiger did not say where he was. And then they saw.

There were low stone seats to the windows, and between the windows low stone benches ran. On one of these something dark, something dark and in places white, confused the outline of the carved stone.

“Thesiger!” said Frederick again, in the tone a man uses to a room that he is almost sure is empty. “Thesiger!”

But Amelia was bending over the bench. She was holding the candle crookedly, so that it flared and guttered.

“Is he there?” Frederick asked, following her; “is that him? Is he asleep?”

“Take the candle,” said Amelia, and he took it obediently. Amelia was touching what lay on the bench. Suddenly she screamed. Just one scream, not very loud. But Frederick remembers just how it sounded. Sometimes he hears it in dreams and wakes moaning, though he is an old man now, and his old wife says, “What is it, dear?” and he says, “Nothing, my Ernestine, nothing.”

Directly she had screamed she said, “He’s dead,” and fell on her knees by the bench. Frederick saw that she held something in her arms.

“Perhaps he isn’t,” she said. “Fetch someone from the house—brandy—send for a doctor. Oh, go, go, go!”

“I can’t leave you here,” said Frederick. “Suppose he revives?”

“He will not revive,” said Amelia, dully; “go, go, go! Do as I tell you. Go! If you don’t go,” she added, suddenly and amazingly, “I believe I shall kill you. It’s all your doing.”

The astounding sharp injustice of this stung Frederick into action.

“I believe he’s only fainted or something,” he said. “When I’ve roused the house and everyone has witnessed your emotion you will regret——”

She sprang to her feet and caught the knife from him and raised it, awkwardly, clumsily, but with keen threatening, not to be mistaken or disregarded. Frederick went.

When Frederick came back with the groom and the gardener—he hadn’t thought it well to disturb the ladies—the pavilion was filled full of white revealing daylight. On the bench lay a dead man, and kneeling by him a living woman on whose warm breast his cold and heavy head lay pillowed. The dead man’s hands were full of green crushed leaves, and thick twining tendrils were about his wrists and throat. A wave of green seemed to have swept from the open window to the bench where he lay.

The groom and the gardener and the dead man’s friend looked and looked.

“Looks like as if he’d got himself entangled in the creeper and lost ‘is ‘ead,” said the groom, scratching his own.

“How’d the creeper get in, though? That’s what I says.” It was the gardener who said it.

“Through the window,” said Doricourt, moistening his lips with his tongue.

“The window was shut, though, when I come by at five last night,” said the gardener, stubbornly. “’Ow did it get all that way since five?”

They looked at each other voicing, silently, impossible things.

The woman never spoke. She sat there in the white ring of her crinolined dress like a broken white rose. But her arms were round Thesiger, and she would not move them.

When the doctor came he sent for Ernestine, who came flushed and sleepy-eyed and very frightened and shocked.

“You’re upset, dear,” she said to her friend, “and no wonder. How brave of you to come out with Mr. Doricourt to see what had happened! But you can’t do anything now, dear. Come in and I’ll tell them to get you some tea.”

Amelia laughed, looked down at the face on her shoulder, laid the head back on the bench among the drooping green of the creeper, stooped over it, kissed it, and said to it quite quietly and gently, “Good-bye, dear; good-bye!” took Ernestine’s arm, and went away with her.

The doctor made an examination and gave a death-certificate. “Heart-failure” was his original and brilliant diagnosis. The certificate said nothing, and Frederick said nothing of the creeper that was wound about the dead man’s neck, nor of the little white wounds, like little bloodless lips half-open, that they found about the dead man’s neck.

“An imaginative or uneducated person,” said the doctor, “might suppose that the creeper had something to do with his death. But we mustn’t encourage superstition. I will assist my man to prepare the body for its last sleep. Then we need not have any chattering women.”

“Can you read Latin?” Frederick asked. The doctor could. And, later, did.

It was the Latin of that brown book with the Doricourt arms on it that Frederick wanted read. And when he and the doctor had been together with the book between them for three hours, they closed it and looked at each other with shy and doubtful eyes.

“It can’t be true,” said Frederick.

“If it is,” said the more cautious doctor, “you don’t want it talked about. I should destroy that book if I were you. And I should cut down the creeper and burn it and dig up the roots. It is quite evident, from what you tell me, that your friend believed that this creeper was a man-eater; that it fed, just before its flowering time, as the book tells us, at dawn; and that he fully meant that the thing, when it crawled into the pavilion seeking its prey, should find you and not him. It would have been so, I understand, if his watch had not stopped at one o’clock.”

“He dropped it, you know,” said Doricourt, like a man in a dream.

“All the cases in this book are the same,” said the doctor; “the strangling, the white wounds. I have heard of such plants; I never believed.” He shuddered. “Had your friend any spite against you? Any reason for wanting to get you out of the way?”

Frederick thought of Ernestine, of Thesiger’s eyes on Ernestine, of her smile at him over her blue muslin shoulder,

“No,” he said, “none. None whatever. It must have been accident. I am sure he did not know. He could not read Latin.” He lied, being, after all, a gentleman; and Ernestine’s name being sacred.

“The creeper seems to have been brought here and planted in Henry the Eighth’s time. And then the thing began. It seems to have been at its flowering season that it needed the—that, in short, it was dangerous. The little animals and birds found dead near the pavilion. But to move itself all that way, across the floor! The thing must have been almost conscient,” he said, with a sincere shudder. “One would think,” he corrected himself at once, “that it knew what it was doing, if such a thing were not plainly contrary to the laws of Nature.”

“Yes,” said Frederick, “one would. I think if I can’t do anything more I’ll go and rest. Somehow all this has given me a turn, Poor Thesiger!”

His last thought before he went to sleep was one of pity.

“Poor Thesiger,” he said; “how violent and wicked! And what an escape for me! I must never tell Ernestine. And all the time there was Amelia. Ernestine would never have done that for me!” And on a little pang of regret for the impossible he fell asleep,

Amelia went on living. She was not the sort that dies even of such a thing as happened to her on that night, when for the first and last time she held her love in her arms and knew him for the murderer he was. It was only the other day that she died, a very old woman. Ernestine, who, beloved and surrounded by children and grandchildren, survived her, spoke her epitaph. “Poor Amelia,” she said; “nobody ever looked the same side of the road where she was. There was an indiscretion when she was young. Oh, nothing disgraceful, of course. She was a lady. But people talked. It was the sort of thing that stamps a girl, you know.”