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The Failure
by [?]

She sang the “Flowers of the Forest.” Where she had learnt her art I do not know, and the imposing musician from London could not guess. As she sang, Desborough fancied he could hear the cry of bereaved women. When the last verse came, the singer seemed to harden her voice to a martial tone, and the young man felt as though he must rise to his feet. As the last sound died, the great musician himself stepped forward and escorted the girl to the improvised seat at the rear of the platform. The audience had heard nothing of the kind before.

They did not think Mrs. Blanchflower’s girl could work musical miracles. They clamoured until the singer came forward and sang them, “What’s a the steer, Kimmer?” and she finished the song with triumphant archness. In the interval between the first and the second part of the concert, Sir John imperatively demanded that the young lady should be brought to him, and he grumbled out words of approval which he considered very valuable.

Desborough went home and sat thinking hour after hour. His table was covered with papers. He looked at one sheet of manuscript and said, “What a fool I must have been to think that I could write! I have never begun to live until now. I will burn this last chapter and open a new one.”

Tho other young men who had heard the songs were pleased, but they soon forgot, and thought only of Miss Blanchflower as a pretty girl who had a nice voice. Desborough was weak. His passion took complete command of him, and he was ready for any of those things that mad lovers do, and that staid people find so incredible. Within a month he had managed to meet the girl. Within two months she had learned that he was her slave. With the intuition that the most commonplace girls possess, she saw that he was never the man to be master, and she amused herself with him. The acquaintance ripened as the summer came on, and before the autumn the young fellow was ready to fetch and carry for his idol, and had surrendered his soul to her with tragic completeness.

There is something a little gross in this descent into slavery, but poor Desborough did not see it, for he was not given to self-introspection. He only knew that he was happy. A word exalted him, and he never felt a rebuff.

Miss Blanchflower’s mother was a commonplace woman, who looked with a business eye upon the odd courtship that was passing in her household day after day. One evening she said to her daughter, “Marion, had not you better settle matters one way or the other?” The girl needed no explanation of particulars. She very well knew what were the matters referred to. She tossed her head and quietly replied, “Not with him, mother. When I marry a man, I marry my master. I like that poor fellow well enough. He looks nice and he talks prettily, but I always associate him with a poodle.”

“But don’t you think a man had better use his knees to kneel to you than use them to walk away from you?”

The girl said no more. Her mother had told her Desborough’s income, and she knew that to break off the connection would bring about an ugly family quarrel.

On the very next night after this conversation Desborough called as usual, and began the ordinary pleasant and trifling gossip with which the simple people passed the evenings. Towards nine o’clock the mother rose.

“I shall have to leave you for about half an hour,” she said, and the girl at once knew that that half hour was meant for decision. A few awkward minutes passed, and then Desborough made up his mind to speak, “I won’t hint, and I won’t spend time in words with you, Marion. You know all that I could say, and I should only vulgarize love if I talked.”