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The Uttermost Farthing by Marie Belloc Lowndes

THE UTTERMOST FARTHING

BY MRS. BELLOC LOWNDES

1910

COLLECTION OF BRITISH AUTHORS _COPYRIGHT EDITION_ VOL. 4174. LEIPZIG: BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ. PARIS: LIBRAIRIE H. GAULON & CIE, 39, RUE MADAME. PARIS: THE GALIGNANI LIBRARY, 224, RUE DE RIVOLI, AND AT NICE, 8, AVENUE MASSENA.

"Thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."

I.

Laurence Vanderlyn, unpaid attache at the American Embassy in Paris, strode down the long grey platform marked No. 5, of the Gare de Lyon. It was seven o'clock, the hour at which Paris is dining or is about to dine, and the huge station was almost deserted.

The train de luxe had gone more than an hour ago, the Riviera rapide would not start till ten, but one of those trains bound for the South, curiously named demi-rapides, was timed to leave in twenty minutes.

Foreigners, especially Englishmen and Americans, avoid these trains, and this was why Laurence Vanderlyn had chosen it as the starting point of what was to be a great adventure, an adventure which must for ever be concealed, obliterated as much as may be from his own memory--do not men babble in delirium?--once life had again become the rather grey thing he had found it to be.

In the domain of the emotions it is the unexpected which generally happens, and now it was not only the unexpected but the incredible which had happened to this American diplomatist. He and Margaret Pargeter, the Englishwoman whom he had loved with an absorbing, unsatisfied passion, and an ever-increasing concentration and selfless devotion, for seven years, were about to do that which each had sworn, together and separately, should never come to pass,--that is, they were about to snatch from Fate a few days of such free happiness and communion as during their long years of intimacy they had never enjoyed. In order to secure these fleeting moments of joy, she, the woman in the case, was about to run the greatest risk which can in these days be incurred by civilised woman.

Margaret Pargeter was not free as Vanderlyn was free; she was a wife,--not a happy wife, but one on whose reputation no shadow had ever rested,--and further, she was the mother of a child, a son, whom she loved with an anxious tenderness.... It was these two facts which made what she was going to do a matter of such moment not only to herself, but to the man to whom she was now about to commit her honour.

Striding up and down the platform to which he had bought early access by one of those large fees for which the travelling American of a certain type is famed, Vanderlyn, with his long lean figure, and stern pre-occupied face, did not suggest, to the French eyes idly watching him, a lover,--still less the happy third in one of those conjugal comedies which play so much greater a part in French literature and in French drama than they do in French life. He had thrust far back into his heart the leaping knowledge of what was about to befall him, and he was bending the whole strength of his mind to avert any possible danger of ignoble catastrophe to the woman whom he was awaiting, and whose sudden surrender was becoming more, instead of less, amazing as the long minutes dragged by.


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