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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 15
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Fair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 15 Post by :dieter Category :Long Stories Author :F. Marion Crawford Date :May 2011 Read :1617

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Fair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 15

CHAPTER XV

Margaret knew by this time that Logotheti was really very much in love; she was equally sure that she was not, and that when she encouraged him she was yielding to a rather complicated temptation that presented elements of amusement and of mild danger. In plain English, she was playing with the man, though she guessed that he was not the kind of man who would allow himself to be played with very long.

There are not many young women who could resist such a temptation under the circumstances, and small blame to them. Margaret had done nothing to attract the Greek and was too unsophisticated to understand the nature of her involuntary influence over him. He was still young, he was unlike other men and he was enormously rich; a little familiarity with him had taught her that there was nothing vulgar about him below the surface, and he treated her with all the respect she could exact when she chose to put herself in his power. The consequence was that as she felt nothing herself she sometimes could not resist making little experiments, just to see how far he would run on the chain by which she held him. Besides, she was flattered by his devotion.

It was not a noble game that she was playing with him, but in real life very few young men and women of two-and-twenty are 'noble' all the time. A good many never are at all; and Margaret had at least the excuse that the victim of her charms was no simple sensitive soul with morbid instincts of suicide, like the poor youth who cut his throat for Lady Clara Vere de Vere, but a healthy millionaire of five-and-thirty who enjoyed the reputation of having seen everything and done most things in a not particularly well-spent life.

Besides, she ran a risk, and knew it. The victim might turn at any moment, and perhaps rend her. Sometimes there was a quick glance in the almond-shaped eyes which sent a little thrill of not altogether unpleasant fear through her. She had seen a woman put her head into a wild beast's mouth, and she knew that the woman was never quite sure of getting it out again. That was part of the game, and the woman probably enjoyed the sensation and the doubt, since playing for one s life is much more exciting than playing for one's money. Margaret began to understand the lion-tamer's sensations, and not being timid she almost wished that her lion would show his teeth. She gave herself the luxury of wondering what form his wrath would take when he was tired of being played with.

He was already approaching that point, on the day when Lushington was looking out for him on the road through the Fausses Reposes woods. When they were well away from the city, he slackened his speed as usual and began to talk.

'I wish,' he said, 'that you would sometimes be in earnest. Won't you try?'

'You might not like it,' Margaret answered, carelessly. 'For my part, I sometimes wish that you were not quite so much in earnest yourself!'

'Do I bore you?'

'No. You never bore me, but you make me feel wicked, and that is very disagreeable. It is inconsiderate of you to give me the impression that I am a sort of Lorelei, coolly luring you to your destruction! Besides, you would not be so easily destroyed, after all. You are able to take care of yourself, I fancy.'

'Yes. I think my heart will be the last of me to break.' He laughed and looked at her. 'But that is no reason why you should try to twist my arms and legs off, as boys do to beetles.'

'I wish I could catch a boy doing it!'

'You may catch a woman at it any day. They do to men what boys do to insects. Cruelty to insects or animals? Abominable! Shocking! There is the society, there are fines, there is prison, to punish it! Cruelty to human beings? Bah! They have souls! What does it matter, if they suffer? Suffering purifies the spirit for a better life!'

'Nonsense!'

'That is easily said. But it was on that principle that Philip burned the Jews, and they did not think it was nonsense. The beetles don't think it funny to be pulled to pieces, either. I don't. A large class of us don't, and yet you women have been doing it ever since Eve made a fool and a sinner of the only man who happened to be in the world just then. He was her husband, which was an excuse, but that's of no consequence to the argument.'

'Perhaps not, but the argument, as you call it, doesn't prove anything in particular, except that you are calling me names!' Margaret laughed again. 'After all,' she went on, 'I do the best I can to be--what shall I say?--the contrary of disagreeable! You ask me to let you take me to my rehearsals, and I come day after day, risking something, because you are disguised. I don't risk much, perhaps--Mrs. Rushmore's disapproval. But that is something, for she has been very, very good to me and I wouldn't lose her good opinion for a great deal. And you ask me to lunch with you, and I come--at least, I've been twice to your house, and I've lunched once. Really, if you are not satisfied, you're hard to please! We've hardly known each other a month.'

'During which time I've never had but one idea. Don't raise your beautiful eyebrows as if you didn't understand!' He spoke very gently and smiled, though she could not see that.

'You've no idea how funny that is!' laughed Margaret.

'What?'

'If you could see yourself, and hear yourself at the same time! With those goggles, and your leather cap and all the rest, you look like the Frog Footman in _Little Alice_--or the dragon in _Siegfried_! It does very well as long as you are disagreeable, but when you speak softly and throw intense expression into your voice'--she mimicked his tone--'it's really too funny, you know! It's just as if Fafnir were to begin singing "Una furtiva lacrima" in a voice like Caruso's! Siegfried would go into convulsions of laughter, instead of slitting the dragon's throat.'

'I wasn't trying to be picturesque just then,' answered Logotheti, quite unmoved by the chaff. 'I was only expressing my idea. I've known you about a month. The second time we met, I asked you to marry me, and I've asked you several times since. As you can't attribute any interested motive to my determination----'

'Eh?'

'I said, to my determination----'

'Determination? How that sounds!'

'It sounds very like what I mean,' answered Logotheti, in an indifferent tone.

'But really, how can you "determine" to marry me, if I won't agree?'

'I'll make you,' he replied with perfect calm.

'That sounds like a threat,' said Margaret, her voice hardening a little, though she tried to speak lightly.

'A threat implies that the thing to be done to the person threatened is painful or at least disagreeable. Doesn't it? I'm only a Greek, of course, and I don't pretend to know English well! I wish you would sometimes correct my mistakes. It would be so kind of you!'

'You know English quite as well as I do,' Margaret answered. 'Your definition is perfect.'

'Oh! Then would it be painful, or disagreeable to you, to marry me?'

Margaret laughed, but hesitated a moment.

'It's always disagreeable to be made to do anything against one's will,' she answered.

'I'm sorry,' said Logotheti coolly, 'but it can't be helped.'

She was not quite sure how it would be best to meet this uncompromising statement, and she thought it wiser to laugh again, though she felt quite sure that at the moment there was that quick gleam in his eyes, behind the goggles, which had more than once frightened her a little. But he was looking at the road again, and a moment later he had put the car at full speed along a level stretch. That meant that the conversation was at an end for a little while. Then an accident happened.

A straight rush up an easy incline towards a turning ahead, and the deep note of the horn; round the corner to the right, close in; the flash of a bicycle coming down on the wrong side, and swerving desperately; a little brittle smashing of steel; then a man sprawling on his face in the road as the motor car flew on.

Logotheti kept his eyes on the road, one hand went down to the levers and the machine sprang forward at forty miles an hour.

'Stop!' cried Margaret. 'Stop! you've killed him!'

Full speed. Fifty miles an hour now, on another level stretch beyond the turn. No sign of intelligence from Logotheti. Both hands on the wheel.

'Stop, I say!' Margaret's voice rang out clear and furious.

Logotheti's hands did not move. Margaret knew what to do. She had often been in motor cars and had driven a little herself. She was strong and perfectly fearless. Before Logotheti saw what she was going to do, she was beside him, she had thrown herself across him and had got at the brake and levers. He was too much surprised to make any resistance; he probably would not have tried to hinder her in any case, as he could not have done so without using his strength. The car was stopped in a few seconds; he had intuitively steered it until it stood still.

'How ridiculous!' he exclaimed. 'As if one ever stopped for such a thing!'

Margaret's eyes flashed angrily and her answer came short and sharp.

'Turn back at once,' she said, and she sat down beside him on the front seat.

He obeyed, for he could do nothing else. In running away from the accident, he had simply done what most chauffeurs do under the circumstances. His experience told him that the man was not killed, though he had lain motionless in the road for a few moments. Logotheti had seen perfectly well that the car had struck the hind wheel of the bicycle without touching the man's body. Moreover, the man had been on the wrong side of the road, and it was his fault that he had been run into. Logotheti had not meant to give him a chance to make out a case.

But now he turned back, obedient to Margaret's command. Before she had stopped the car it had run nearly a mile from the scene of the accident. When it reached the spot again, coming back at a more moderate pace, nearly five minutes had elapsed. She found the man leaning against the rail fence that followed the outer curve of the turning. It was the man they had so often met on the other road, in his square-toed kid boots and ill-fitting clothes; it was Edmund Lushington, with his soft student's hat off, and his face a good deal scratched by the smashing of his tortoise-shell-rimmed spectacles. They had been tied behind with a black string, and the rims of them, broken in two, hung from his ears. His nose was bleeding profusely, as he leaned against the fence, holding his head down. He was covered with mud, his clothes were torn, and he was as miserable, damaged and undignified a piece of man as ever dreaded being taken at disadvantage by the idol of his affections. He would have made a pact with the powers of evil for a friendly wall or a clump of trees when he saw the car coming back. There was nothing but the fence.

The car stopped close beside him. He held his handkerchief to his nose, covering half his face as he looked up.

'Are you hurt, Monsieur?' Margaret asked anxiously in French.

'On the contrary, Mademoiselle,' Lushington answered through the handkerchief, and it sounded as if he had a bad cold in the head.

'I am afraid----' Margaret began, and then stopped suddenly, staring at him.

'You were on the wrong side of the road, Monsieur,' said Logotheti in an assertive tone.

'Perfectly,' assented Lushington, holding his nose and turning half away.

'Then it was your fault,' observed Logotheti.

'Precisely,' admitted the other. 'Pray don't stop. It's of no consequence!'

But he had betrayed himself unconsciously, in the most natural way. His spectacles were gone, and by covering the lower part of his face with his handkerchief he had entirely concealed the very great change made by shaving his beard and moustache. While he and Logotheti had been speaking, Margaret had scrutinised his features and had made sure of the truth. Then she believed that she would have recognised him by his voice alone. Between the emotion that followed the accident and the extreme anxiety his position caused him, the perspiration stood in beads on his forehead. Margaret smiled maliciously, for she remembered how often they had passed him on the road, and realised in an instant that he had disguised himself to watch her doings. He should pay for that.

'You look hot,' she observed in English, fixing her eyes on him severely.

He blushed to the roots of his hair, though he had been rather pale. Logotheti, whose only preoccupation hitherto had been to get away as soon as possible, now stared at him, too. Margaret's tone and her sudden change to the use of English did the rest. He recognised Lushington, but remembered that he himself was completely disguised in his chauffeur's dress and mask; so he said nothing.

Lushington writhed under Margaret's eyes for a moment; but then his English courage and coolness suddenly returned, the colour subsided from his face and his expression hardened, as far as the necessary handkerchief permitted her to see it.

'Yes,' he said, 'I'm Lushington. I can only repeat that the accident happened by my fault. I'm used to taking the left side in England and I lost my head. Monsieur Logotheti need not have run away, for it would never have occurred to me to make a complaint.'

He looked straight at Logotheti's goggles as he spoke, and Margaret began to feel uncomfortable.

'I supposed that you had recognised me,' observed the Greek coldly. 'That is, no doubt, why you have taken the trouble to disguise yourself and watch me of late.'

'That was the reason,' answered Lushington, facing his adversary, but conscious that the necessity for holding his nose put him at a disadvantage as to his dignity.

'It was very well done,' said the Greek with gravity. 'I should never have known you.'

'Your own disguise is admirable,' answered the Englishman, with cool politeness. 'If I had not seen you without your mask the other day I should not have recognised you.'

'Shall we go on?' inquired Logotheti, turning to Margaret.

'No,' she answered, rather sharply. 'Are you hurt?' she inquired, looking at Lushington again.

He was busy with his nose, which he had neglected for a few moments. He shook his head.

'I won't leave him here in this state,' Margaret said to Logotheti.

The Greek made a gesture of indifference, but said nothing. Meanwhile Lushington got so far as to be able to speak again.

'Please go on,' he said. 'I can take care of myself, thank you. There are no bones broken.'

Logotheti inwardly regretted that his adversary had not broken his neck, but he had tact enough to see that he must take Margaret's side or risk losing favour in her eyes.

'I really don't see how we can leave you here,' he said to Lushington. 'Your bicycle is smashed. I had not realised that. I'll put what's left of it into the car.'

He jumped out as he spoke, and before Lushington could hinder him he had hold of the broken wheel. But Lushington followed quickly, and while he held his nose with his left hand, he grabbed the bicycle with the other. It looked as if the two were going to try which could pull harder.

'Let it alone, please,' said Lushington, speaking with difficulty.

'No, no'! protested Logotheti politely, for he wished to please Margaret. 'You must really let me put it in.'

'Not at all!' retorted Lushington. 'I'll walk it to Chaville.'

'But I assure you, you can't!' retorted the Greek. 'Your hind wheel is broken to bits! It won't go round. You would have to carry it!'

And he gently pulled with both hands.

'Then I'll throw the beastly thing away!' answered Lushington, who did not relinquish his hold. 'It's of no consequence!'

'On the contrary,' objected Logotheti, still pulling, 'I know about those things. It can be made a very good bicycle again for next to nothing.'

'All the better for the beggar who finds it!' cried the Englishman. 'Throw it over the fence!'

'You English are so extravagant,' said the Greek in a tone of polite reproach, but not relinquishing his hold.

'Possibly, but it's my own bicycle, and I prefer to throw it away.'

Margaret had watched the contest in silence. She now stepped out of the car, came up to the two men and laid her hands on the object of contention. Logotheti let go instantly, but Lushington did not.

'This is ridiculous,' said Margaret. 'Give it to me!'

Lushington had no choice, and besides, he needed his right hand for his nose, which was getting the better of him again. He let go, and Margaret lifted the bicycle into the body of the car herself, though Logotheti tried to help her.

'Now, get in,' she said to Lushington. 'We'll take you as far at the Chaville station.'

'Thank you,' he answered. 'I am quite able to walk.'

He presented such a lamentable appearance that he would have hesitated to get into the car with Margaret even if they had been on good terms. He was in that state of mind in which a man wishes that he might vanish into the earth like Korah and his company, or at least take to his heels without ceremony and run away. Logotheti had put up his glasses and shield, over the visor of his cap, and was watching his rival's discomfiture with a polite smile of pity. Lushington mentally compared him to Judas Iscariot.

'Let me point out,' said the Greek, that if you won't accept a seat with us, we, on our part, are much too anxious for your safety to leave you here in the road. You must have been badly shaken, besides being cut. If you insist upon walking, we'll keep beside you in the car. Then if you faint, we can pick you up.'

'Yes,' assented Margaret, with a touch of malice, 'that is very sensible.'

Lushington was almost choking.

'Do let me give you another handkerchief,' said Logotheti, sympathetically. 'I always carry a supply when I'm motoring--they are so useful. Yours is quite spoilt.'

A forcible expression rose to Lushington's lips, but he checked it, and at the same time he wondered whether anybody he knew had ever been caught in such a detestable situation. But Anglo-Saxons generally perform their greatest feats of arms when they are driven into a corner or have launched themselves in some perfectly hopeless undertaking. It takes a Lucknow or a Balaclava to show what they are really made of. Lushington was in a corner now; his temper rose and he turned upon his tormentors. At the same time, perhaps under the influence of his emotion, his nose stopped bleeding. It was scratched and purple from the fall, but he found another handkerchief of his own and did what he could to improve his appearance. His shoulders and his jaw squared themselves as he began to speak and his eyes were rather hard and bright.

'Look here,' he said, facing Logotheti, 'we don't owe each other anything, I think, so this sort of thing had better stop. You've been going about in disguise with Miss Donne, and I have been making myself look like some one else in order to watch you. We've found each other out and I don t fancy that we're likely to be very friendly after this. So the best thing we can do is to part quietly and go in opposite directions. Don't you think so?'

The last question was addressed to Margaret. But instead of answering at once she looked down and pushed some little lumps of dry mud about with the toe of her shoe, as if she were trying to place them in a symmetrical figure. It is a trick some young women have when they are in doubt. Lushington turned to Logotheti again and waited for an answer.

Now Logotheti did not care a straw for Lushington, and cared very little, on the whole, whether the latter watched him or not; but he was extremely anxious to please Margaret and play the part of generosity in her eyes.

'I'm very sorry if anything I've said has offended you,' he said in a smooth tone, answering Lushington. 'The fact is, it's all rather funny, isn't it? Yes, just so! I'm making the best apology I can for having been a little amused. I hope we part good friends, Mr. Lushington? That is, if you still insist on walking.'

Margaret looked up while he was speaking and nodded her approbation of the speech, which was very well conceived and left Lushington no loophole through which to spy offence. But he responded coldly to the advance.

'There is no reason whatever for apologising,' he said. 'It's the instinct of humanity to laugh at a man who tumbles down in the street. The object of our artificial modern civilisation is, however, to cloak that sort of instinct as far as possible. Good morning.'

After delivering this Parthian shot he turned away with the evident intention of going off on foot.

None of the three had noticed the sound of horses' feet and a light carriage approaching from the direction of Versailles. A phaeton came along at a smart pace and drew up beside the motor. Margaret uttered an exclamation of surprise, and the two men stared with something approaching to horror. It was Mrs. Rushmore, who had presumably taken a fancy for an airing as the day had turned out very fine. The coachman and groom had both seen Margaret and supposed that something had happened to the car.

Before the carriage had stopped Mrs. Rushmore had recognised Margaret too, and was leaning out sideways, uttering loud exclamations of anxiety.

'My dear child!' she cried. 'Good heavens! An accident! These dreadful automobiles! I knew it would happen!'

Portly though she was, she was standing beside Margaret in an instant, clasping her in a motherly embrace and panting for breath. It was evidently too late for Logotheti to draw his glasses and shield over his face, or for Lushington to escape. Each stood stock-still, wondering how long it would be before Mrs. Rushmore recognised him, and trying to think what she would say when she did. For one moment, it seemed as if nothing were going to happen, for Mrs. Rushmore was too much preoccupied on Margaret's account to take the slightest notice of either of the others.

'Are you quite sure you're not hurt?' she inquired anxiously, while she scrutinised Margaret's blushing face. 'Get into the carriage with me at once, my dear, and we'll drive home. You must go to bed at once! There's nothing so exhausting as a shock to the nerves! Camomile tea, my dear! Good old-fashioned camomile tea, you know! There's nothing like it! Clotilde makes it to perfection, and she shall rub you thoroughly! Get in, child! Get in!'

Quick to see the advantage of such a sudden escape, Margaret was actually getting into the carriage, when Mrs. Rushmore, who was kindness itself, remembered the two men and turned to Logotheti.

'I will leave you my groom to help,' she said, in her stiff French.

Then her eyes fell on Lushington's blood-stained face, and in the same instant it flashed upon her that the other man was Logotheti. Her jaw dropped in astonishment.

'Why--good gracious--how's this? Why--it's Monsieur Logotheti himself! But you'--she turned to Lushington again 'you can't be Mr. Lushington--good Lord--yes, you are, and in those clothes, too. And--what have you done to your face?'

As her surprise increased she became speechless, while the two men bowed and smiled as pleasantly as they could under the circumstances.

'Yes, I'm Lushington,' said the Englishman. 'I used to wear a beard.'

'My chauffeur was taken ill suddenly,' said the Greek without a blush, 'and as Miss Donne was anxious to get home I thought there would be no great harm if I drove the car out myself. I had hoped to find you in so that I might explain how it had happened, for, of course, Miss Donne was a little--what shall I say?--a little----'

He hesitated, having hoped that Margaret would help him out. After waiting two or three seconds, Mrs. Rushmore turned on her.

'Margaret, what were you?' she asked with severity. 'I insist upon knowing what you were.'

'I'm sure I don't know,' Margaret answered, trying to speak easily, as if it did not matter much. 'It was very kind of Monsieur Logotheti, at all events, and I'm much obliged to him.'

'Oh, and pray, what has happened to Mr. Lushington?' inquired Mrs. Rushmore.

'I was on the wrong side of the road, and the car knocked me off my bicycle,' added Lushington. 'They kindly stopped to pick me up. They thought I was hurt.'

'Well--you are,' said Mrs. Rushmore. 'Why don't you get into the automobile and let Monsieur Logotheti take you home?'

As it was not easy to explain why he preferred walking in his battered condition, Lushington said nothing. Mrs. Rushmore turned to her groom, who was English.

'William,' she said, 'you must have a clothes-brush.'

William had one concealed in some mysterious place under the box.

'Clean Mr. Lushington, William,' said the good lady.

(Illustration: "'Clean Mr. Lushington, William,' said the good lady.")

'Oh, thank you--no--thanks very much,' protested Lushington.

But William, having been told to clean him, proceeded to do so, gently and systematically, beginning at his neck and proceeding thence with bold curving strokes of the brush, as if he were grooming a horse.

Instinctively Lushington turned slowly round on his heels, while he submitted to the operation, and the others looked on. They had ample time to note the singular cut of his clothes.

'He used to be always so well dressed!' said Mrs. Rushmore to Margaret in an audible whisper.

Lushington winced visibly, but as he was not supposed to hear the words he said nothing. William had worked down to the knees of his trousers, which he grasped firmly in one hand while he vigorously brushed the cloth with the other.

'That will do, thank you,' said Lushington, trying to draw back one captive leg.

But William was inexorable and there was no escape from his hold. He was an Englishman, and was therefore thorough; he was a servant, and he therefore thoroughly enjoyed the humour of seeing his betters in a pickle.

'And now, my dear,' said Mrs. Rushmore to Margaret, 'get in and I'll take you home. You can explain everything on the way. That's enough, William. Put away your brush.'

Margaret had no choice, since fate had intervened.

'I'm very much obliged to you,' she said, nodding to Logotheti; 'and I hope you'll be none the worse,' she added, smiling at Lushington.

Mrs. Rushmore bent her head with dignified disapproval, first to one and then to the other, and got into the carriage as if she were mounting the steps of a throne. She further manifested her displeasure at the whole affair by looking straight before her at the buttons on the back of the coachman's coat after she had taken her seat. Margaret got in lightly after her and she scarcely glanced at Logotheti as the carriage turned; but her eyes lingered a little with an expression that was almost sad as she met Lushington's. She was conscious of a reaction of feeling; she was sorry that she had helped to make him suffer, that she had been amused by his damaged condition and by his general discomfiture. He had made her respect him in spite of herself, just when she had thought that she could never respect him again; and suddenly the deep sympathy for him welled up, which she had taken for love, and which was as near to love as anything her heart had yet felt for a man.

She knew, too, that it was really her heart, and nothing else, where he was concerned. She was human, she was young, she was more alive than ordinary women, as great singers generally are, and Logotheti's ruthless masculine vitality stirred her and drew her to him in a way she did not quite like. His presence disturbed her oddly and she was a little ashamed of liking the sensation, for she knew quite well that such feelings had nothing to do with what she called her real self. She might have hated him and even despised him, but she could never have been indifferent when he was close to her. Sometimes the mere touch of his hand at meeting or parting thrilled her and made her feel as if she were going to blush. But she was never really in sympathy with him as she was with Lushington.

'And now, Margaret,' said Mrs. Rushmore after a silence that had lasted a full minute, 'I insist on knowing what all this means.'

Margaret inwardly admitted that Mrs. Rushmore had some right to insist, but she was a little doubtful herself about the meaning of what had happened. If it meant anything, it meant that she had been flirting rather rashly and had got into a scrape. She wondered what the two men were saying now that they were alone together, and she turned her head to look over the back of the phaeton, but a turn of the road already hid the motor car from view.

Meanwhile Mrs. Rushmore's face showed that she still insisted, and Margaret had to say something. As she was a truthful person it was not easy to decide what to say, and while she was hesitating Mrs. Rushmore expressed herself again.

'Margaret,' said she, 'I'm surprised at you. It makes no difference what you say. I'm surprised.'

The words were spoken with a slow and melancholy intonation that might have indicated anything but astonishment.

'Yes,' Margaret remarked rather desperately, 'I don't wonder. I suppose I've been flirting outrageously with them both. But I really could not foresee that one would run over the other and that you would appear just at that moment, could I? I'm helpless. I've nothing to say. You must have flirted when you were young. Try to remember what it was like, and make allowance for human weakness!'

She laughed nervously and glanced nervously at her companion, but Mrs. Rushmore's face was like iron.

'Mr. Rushmore,' said the latter, alluding to her departed husband, 'would not have understood such conduct.'

Margaret thought this was very probable, judging from the likenesses of the late Ransom Rushmore which she had seen. There was one in particular, an engraving of him when he had been president of some big company, which had always filled her with a vague uneasiness. In her thoughts she called him the 'commercial missionary,' and was glad for his sake and her own that he was safe in heaven, with no present prospect of getting out.

'I'm sorry,' she said, without much contrition. 'I mean,' she went on, correcting herself, and with more feeling, 'I'm sorry I've done anything that you don't like, for you've been ever so good to me.'

'So have other people,' answered the elder woman with an air of mystery and reproof.

'Oh yes! I know! Everybody has been very kind--especially Madame Bonanni.'

'Should you be surprised to hear that the individual who bought out Mr. Moon and made you independent, did it from purely personal motives?'

Margaret turned to her quickly in great surprise.

'What do you mean? I thought it was a company. You said so.'

'In business, one man can be a company, if he owns all the stock,' said Mrs. Rushmore, sententiously.

'I don't understand those things,' Margaret answered, impatient to know the truth. 'Who was it?'

'I hardly think I ought to tell you, my dear. I promised not to. But I will allow you to guess. That's quite different from telling, and I think you ought to know, because you are under great obligations to him.'

'You don't mean to say----' Margaret stopped, and the blood rose slowly in her face.

'You may ask me if it was one of those two gentlemen we have just left in the road,' said Mrs. Rushmore. 'But mind, I'm not telling you!'

'Monsieur Logotheti!' Margaret leaned back and bit her lip.

'You've made the discovery yourself, Margaret. Remember that I've told you nothing. I promised not to, but I thought you ought to know.'

'It's an outrage!' cried Margaret, breaking out. 'How did you dare to take money from him for me?'

Mrs. Rushmore seemed really surprised now, though she did not say she was.

'My dear!' she exclaimed, 'you would not have had me refuse, would you? Money is money, you know.'

The good lady's inherited respect for the stuff was discernible in her tone.

'Money!' Margaret repeated the word with profound contempt and a good deal of anger.

'Yes, my dear,' retorted Mrs. Rushmore severely. 'Yes, money. It is because your father and mother spoke of it in that silly, contemptuous way that they died so poor. And now that you've got it, take my advice and don't turn up your nose at it.'

'Do you suppose I'll keep it, now that I know where it comes from? I'll give it back to him to-day!'

'No, you won't,' answered Mrs. Rushmore, with the conviction of certainty.

'I tell you I will!' Margaret cried. 'I could not sleep to-night if I knew that I had money in my possession that was given me--given me like a gift--by a man who wants to marry me! Ugh! It's disgusting!'

'Margaret, this is ridiculous. Monsieur Logotheti came to see me and explained the whole matter. He said that he had made a very good bargain and expected to realise a large sum by the transaction. Do you suppose that such a good man of business would think of making any one a present of a hundred thousand pounds? You must be mad! A hundred thousand pounds is a great deal of money, Margaret. Remember that.'

'So much the better for him! I shall give it back to him at once!'

Mrs. Rushmore smiled.

'You can't,' she said. 'You've never even asked me where it is, and while you are out of your mind, I shall certainly not tell you. You seem to forget that when I undertook to bring suit against Alvah Moon you gave me a general power of attorney to manage your affairs. I shall do whatever is best for you.'

'I don't understand business,' Margaret answered, 'but I'm sure you have no power to force Monsieur Logotheti's money upon me. I won't take it.'

'You have taken it and I have given a receipt for it, my dear, so it's of no use to talk nonsense. The best thing you can do is to give up this silly idea of going on the stage, and just live like a lady, on your income.'

'And marry my benefactor, I suppose!' Margaret's eyes flashed. 'That's what he wants--what you all want--to keep me from singing! He thought that if he made me independent, I would give it up, and you encouraged him! I see it now. As for the money itself, until I really have it in my hands it's not mine; but just as soon as it is I'll give it back to him, and I'll tell him so to-day.'

The carriage rolled through the pretty woods of Fausses Reposes, and the sweet spring breeze fanned Margaret's cheeks in the shade. But she felt fever in her blood and her heart beat fast and angrily as if it were a conscious creature imprisoned in a cage. She was angry with herself and with every one else, with Logotheti, with Mrs. Rushmore, with poor Lushington for making such a fool of himself just when she was prepared to like him better than ever. She was sure that she had good cause to hate every one, and she hated accordingly, with a good will. She wished that she might never spend another hour under Mrs. Rushmore's roof, that she might never see Logotheti again, that she were launched in her artistic career, free at last and responsible to no one for her actions, her words or her thoughts.

But Mrs. Rushmore began to think that she had made a mistake in letting her know too soon who had bought out Alvah Moon, and she wondered vaguely why she had betrayed the secret, trying to account for her action on the ground of some reasonably thought-out argument, which was quite impossible, of course. So they both maintained a rather hostile silence during the rest of the homeward drive.

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Fair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 16 Fair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 16

Fair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 16
CHAPTER XVI Until the carriage was out of sight, Logotheti and Lushington stood still where Margaret had left them. Then Lushington looked at his adversary coolly for about four seconds, stuck his hands into his pockets, turned his back and deliberately walked off without a word. Logotheti was so little prepared for such an abrupt closure that he stood looking after the Englishman in surprise till the latter had made a dozen steps. 'I say!' said the Greek, calling after him then and affecting an exceedingly English tone. 'I say, you know! This won't do.' Lushington stopped, turned on his heel
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Fair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 14 Fair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 14

Fair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 14
CHAPTER XIVLushington's first discovery was not calculated to soothe his feelings. It had come about simply enough. He had bicycled in the Boulevard Pereire, keeping an eye on Logotheti's house from a distance, and had seen the motor car waiting before the door, in charge of the chauffeur. A man had come out, dressed precisely like the latter, had got in and had gone off, apparently in no hurry, while the original chauffeur went into the house, presumably to wait. It had been easy enough to keep the machine in sight till it was fairly out on the road to Versailles,
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