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ness, fairness, love of the fight, that's a part of every decent man. What's wrong with that? What's degrading about that? You simply don't understand; you listen to a slacker like Chippenham talking1 about a rotten social code, and then you feel ashamed of me— you"

He stopped dead, hearing the loud noise of his own voice.

"You simply don't understand," he finished morosely. "And so, to help me, you propose to return to the ring."

"I gave you my promise," he said sullenly.

She burst into a passion of tears; it was the first time he had ever made her cry. She was kneeling by the couch, her face buried in her arms.

He went over to her and lifted her up, her sudden nearness, her tears, seemed to shake his very soul, awoke a storm of love in him.

Brokenly, adoringly, he made love to her. They were nearer than they had been for weeks.

Of the real discussion they never spoke, in the peace after the storm they were content to love, to forget all the outside weariness and striving.

CHAPTER XXIV

"The paths of love are rougher
Than thoroughfares of stones."

Thomas Hardy.

EVERYTHING is made easy for a beautiful woman, from the doing of her hair to the redemption of her social soul.

Things have been tolerated, almost encouraged, in frail beauties which, had they been perpetrated by plain women would have aroused a veritable tempest of virtuous scorn and outraged morality from the watching public.

And so, in a minor degree, through every scale of common interests and universal facts.

The popular verdict upon absent people never applies to those whose appearance possesses a divinity it, in all probability, has never merited!

Alexa proved that conclusively.

She had been away more than a year, after a marriage which, to put it gently, had aroused some comment, and when she returned, her place was waiting for her; she had not dropped out of anything, au contraire, she simply dropped into countless attendant interests.

Probably, had she stayed in England, her popularity might have been somewhat eclipsed, despite her loveliness; but she had gone away, and then serenely, even unconsciously, ignored the opinion of her friends. As a sure method of retaining esteem, this process is to be recommended.

But unfortunately the "plan" was not expansive; it held little room for Bill.

It was all a purely ordinary, inevitable state of things. Alexa, to her, was leading her normal life; because that was so, it seemed to her that Bill too must have settled down.

They were together less, of course; that was again essentially normal; the divine honeymoon of a year ■was over, that was all.

If she had been less occupied, less physically overstrained, she would have noticed a hundred tiny details. Then Lady Bolingbroke fell ill, and the leadership of the big fair devolved upon Alexa. It was early summer, and since the fair was to be held near Roehampton Lane, she took a small house there. It had a big, oldfashioned garden, and the first day that she and Bill went there they were alone. All the lilac trees were out, and the irises, and early fruit blossom.

Alexa realised that for months she and Bill had scarcely ever been alone.

He seemed restless and rather strained.

"Tired?" he asked.

"A little."

"You've never been anything else since this fair business started."

She flushed delicately. It seemed to her a reproach, and all her sensitiveness flamed up against it.

Bill had meant it as a reproach against her neglect, as he called it bitterly to himself, not as Alexa took it, against herself, and she owned it with pathetic frankness, her age.

She glanced at him, lying back in the big chair, his hands clasped behind his head. He looked a boy still. He was staring up at the sky.

"What are you thinking about?" she asked, to break the train of her own thoughts.

He looked straight at her.

"I was wishing," he said, "that we had a child. It would fill up the days somehow, wouldn't it? And Guillaume's such a ripper. I could teach the little chap to box—to do all sorts of sport." He got up, whistling absently. "I've a good mind to go over in the car and ask Diane to let me have the kid here for a bit. He had a cold; I dare say a change would take it away. I think I'll go off."

He kissed her lightly, and she heard him whistling as he walked away.

She sat upright, her hands pressed down on either side of her, a pain she had never known it was in her to feel throbbing in every beat of her heart. So that was it. That was the reason of his silence and his casualness.

A flame that seemed to burn away the very power of tears quivered through her.

CHAPTER XXV

"U amour, aussi bien que le feu, ne peut pas sub sister sans un mouvement contmuel, et il cesse de vivre des qu'il cesse d'esperer ou de craindre."

La Rochefoucauld.

THERE were three people in the car when it came back. Diane had come, "for the run, n'est-ce pas," in reality to see to the settling in of her small son. He had his luggage, the manly Guillaume, neatly packed in a hat-box of his mother's.

He had not seen Alexa since the first time. He came up to her grasping Bill's hand tightly, talking to him eagerly about the varied beasts which, Bill had no doubt whatever, had their peculiar lairs within the shrubbery.

There were chocolate cakes for tea; Guillaume and Bill escorted them from the house out to the lawn.

Diane, gentler to-day, more approachable, laughed at the size of the two together. Guillaume coughed a little, and an anxious look came into her eyes.

"It is most good of you," she said, "to have the little one. I am indeed grateful. He needs a change, but I cannot get away just now. My husband is worried; the retirement of Bill made much difficulty. It has been a trying time." She gave a sharp sigh. "And

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