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Jane Oglander by Marie Belloc Lowndes

JANE OGLANDER

by

Mrs. Belloc Lowndes

"Something even more imperious than reason admonishes us that life's inmost secret lies not in the slow adaptation of man to circumstance, but in his costly victories and splendid defeats."

New York Charles Scribner's Sons 1911

Copyright, 1911, by Charles Scribner's Sons

Published April, 1911

JANE OGLANDER

PROLOGUE

"Elle fut nee pour plaire aux nobles ames, Pour les consoler un peu d'un monde impur."

Jane Oglander was walking across Westminster Bridge on a late September day.

It was a little after four o'clock--on the bridge perhaps the quietest time of the working day--but a ceaseless stream of human beings ebbed to and fro. She herself came from the Surrey side of the river, and now and again she stayed her steps and looked over the parapet. It was plain--or so thought one who was looking at her very attentively--that she was more interested in the Surrey side, in the broken line of St. Thomas's Hospital, in the grey-red walls of Lambeth Palace and the Lollards' Tower, than in the mass of the Parliament buildings opposite.

But though Miss Oglander stopped three times in her progress over the bridge, she did not stay at any one place for more than a few moments--not long enough to please the man who had gradually come up close to her.

Having first noticed her in front of the bridge entrance of St. Thomas's Hospital, this man had made it his business to keep, if well behind, then in step with her.

A human being--and especially a woman--may be described in many ways. For our purpose it was fortunate that on this eventful afternoon of her life Miss Oglander happened to attract the attention of an observer, who, if then living in great penury and solitude, was yet destined to become what a lover of literature has described as the greatest interpreter of the human side of London life since Dickens.

When he was not writing, this man--whose name, by the way, was Ryecroft, and whose misfortune it was to be temperamentally incapable of sustained, wage-earning work--spent many hours walking about the London streets studying the human side of London's traffic, and especially that side which to a certain type of observer, of saunterer in the labyrinth, is full of ever recurring mystery and charm. He wrote of the depths, because the depths were all he knew, with an intimate and a terrible knowledge. But he had your true romancer's craving for romance, and his eager face with its curiously high, straight forehead crowned with a shock of rather long auburn hair, was the face and head of the idealist, of the humourist, and--now that he is dead, why not say so?--of the lover, of the man that is to whom the most interesting thing in the world remains, when all is said and done,--woman, and man's pursuit, not necessarily conquest, of the elusive creature.

Ryecroft had been already on Westminster Bridge for some time before he became aware that a feminine figure of more than common distinction and interest, a young lady whose appearance and light buoyant step sharply differentiated her from those about her, was walking toward him. As he saw her his eyes lighted up with a rather pathetic pleasure, and in an instant he had become sensitively aware of every detail of her dress. She wore a plain grey coat and skirt, and a small hat of which the Mercury wings, to the whimsical fellow watching her, evoked the Hellas of his dreams. A black and white spotted veil, which, as was then the fashion, left the wearer's delicately cut sensitive mouth bare, shadowed her hazel eyes.


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