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have been attributed to him. He enjoys immense popularity. He is already in need of loans, and the question is whether he can be converted by dexterous negotiation and practical inducements into a firm friend of France.

MEANWHILE the legal existence of the Congo Independent State is about to come to an end. After weeks of debate annexation has been voted by the Brussels Chamber and will be confirmed by the Senate. Belgium, which faces its new national responsibilities with a curious mingling of pride and apprehension, acquires a territory as large as the whole colonial possessions of the German Empire and far more valuable. The question, so far as it concerns international diplomacy, is by no means settled. The Belgian Government has bound itself to maintain the rights and privileges of all existing concessions. No guarantees have been given with regard to the future treatment of the natives, and whether even the abolition of forced labour will be readily secured remains to be seen. Belgium is on its trial, and the little nation has taken upon itself a burden which is immense by comparison with its resources. King Leopold's subjects, however, have as much energy and wealth, head for head, as any people in the world. There is not the slightest desire in any responsible quarter in this country to press them too hard, and Sir Edward Grey will use every effort to spare the susceptibilities of a smaller people in pressing for the guarantees which we are bound to demand in connection with the great change of political status in a sphere created under international arrangement for purposes that have not been fulfilled. The best for the immediate future of the Congo Question lies in the fact that upon this matter at least England and the United States are at one. We have never ceased to regard an improvement of Anglo-American relations as one of the most vital objects of foreign policy, hardly second in importance even to the Naval Question in the North Sea. It is satisfactory to know that a change for the better in the sentiment existing between the two English-speaking Powers has been brought about in a very unexpected way. The Americans have discovered Australia. Admiral Sperry's Armada has received from New Zealand and the Commonwealth a magnificent reception, and the greatest warmth and tact have been shown by the American commander in his references to the MotherCountry. Japan understands this situation perfectly, and there is no reason to suppose that the question of the Pacific, for some years to come, will again trouble the peace of the world.

The staffing of the diplomatic service has in recent years caused some anxiety. In the last half-generation a great race of ambassadors disappeared. We have lost men like Lord Pauncefote and Sir William White, like Lord Dufferin and Sir Robert Morier. We possess no quartette to equal them; and it has sometimes been bitterly

complained that Sir Charles Hardinge, combining peripatetic activities of an unprecedented kind with the permanent direction of the Foreign Office under its political chiefs, seemed to have become “our only ambassador " in a much more literal sense than Lord Wolseley was our only General ” when that phrase was in vogue. But we are still not as poor in men as is sometimes thought. In the last few weeks there has been in process a series of permutations and combinations in diplomatic appointments so extensive as to resemble a game of general post. Sir Frank Lascelles, our retiring Ambassador at Berlin, has filled what is now the most important post in the diplomatic service throughout all the difficult years which have elapsed since the Kruger telegram. He was regarded by the Kaiser with great goodwill, and it has not been easy to find a successor. In the end Sir Edward Goschen has been transferred from Vienna, and that in his new sphere he will be persona gratissima there is no doubt. There is now no more experienced member of the service, and though he has resided very little during his career in Germany itself, his descent, his intuitive insight into the German spirit, and the knowledge and reputation he brings with him from the Danube, should prove very complete qualifications. There was no more vigorously patriotic Englishman than the late Lord Goschen, and his brother's temper in that respect is probably not different and not less, though more suave in expression. At Vienna Sir Fairfax Cartwright succeeds at a happy moment. King Edward's visit to Marienbad and the temporary disappearance of the Macedonian problem have cleared away the cloud which had hung for the last nine months over our relations with the Ballplatz. This is an improvement regarded with sincere pleasure by all Englishmen, naturally sympathetic with all the Austro-Hungarian races as they are, and looking upon the Emperor Francis Joseph as they do with scarcely less reverence and affection than that with which the aged sovereign inspired his own subjects when he celebrated last week his seventy-eighth birthday. Sir Gerard Lowther, our new Ambassador at Constantinople, has an opportunity such as none of his predecessors had enjoyed for many years. At Stockholm, Sir Cecil Spring Rice can only be regarded as destined for much higher positions; and it need not be said that Sir Rennell Rodd's return from the north to Rome, where he has long been more popular than any other Englishman, is from every point of view an ideal arrangement.

THE GIFT.

A STORY. BY MARY SINCLAIR.

1

He had not been near her for two months. It was barely five minutes' walk from his house in Bedford Square to her rooms in Montagu Street, and last year he used to go to see her every week. He did not need the reminder of her letter, for he had been acutely aware, through the term that separated them, of the date when he had last seen her. Still, he was not sure how much longer he might have kept away if it had not been for the note that told him in two lines that she had been ill, and that she had at lastsomething to show him. He smiled at the childlike secrecy of the announcement. She had something to show him. Her illness, then, had not impaired her gift, her charming, inimitable gift.

If she had something to show him he would have to go to her.

He let his eyes rest a moment on her signature as if he saw it for the first time, as if it renewed for him the pleasing impression of her personality. After all, she was Freda Farrar, the only woman with a style and an imagination worth considering; and he, well, he was Wilton Caldecott.

He would go over and see her now. He had an hour to spare before dinner. It was her hour, between the lamplight and the clear April day, when he was always sure of finding her at home.

He found her sitting in her deep chair by the hearth, her long, slender back bent forward to the fire, her hands glowing like thin vessels for the flame. Her face was turned towards him as he came in. Its small childlike oval showed sharp and white under her heavy wreath of hair; the face of a delicate virgin of the annunciation, a Musa Dolorosa, a terrified dryad of the plane trees (Freda's face bad always inspired him with fantastic images); a dryad in exile, banished with her plane-tree to the undelightful town.

She did not conceal from him her joyous certainty that he would come. She made no comment on his absence. It was one of her many agreeable qualities that she never made comments, never put forth even the shyest and most shadowy claim. She took him up where she had left him, or rather, where he had left her, and he gathered that she had filled the interval happily enough with the practice of her incomparable art.

The first thing she did now was to exhibit her latest acquisitions, her beautiful new reading-lamp, the two preposterous cushions that supported and obliterated her; while he saw (preposterous Freda, who had not a shilling beyond what the gift brought her) that she had on a new gown.

" I say," he exclaimed, “I say, what next?'

And they looked at each other and laughed. He liked the spirit in which Freda now launched out into the strange ocean of expendi

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ture. It showed how he had helped her. He was the only influence which could have helped a talent so obscure, so uncertain, so shy.

It was the obscurity, the uncertainty, the shyness of it that charmed him most. It was the shyness, the uncertainty, the obscurity in her that held him, made it difficult to remove himself when he sank into that deep chair by her fireside, and she became silent and turned from him her small brooding face. It was as if she guarded obstinately her secret, as if he waited, was compelled to wait, for the illuminating hour.

" It's finished," she said, as if continuing some conversation they had had yesterday.

Ab." He found himself returning reluctantly from his quest. She rose and unlocked the cabinet where her slender sheaves were garnered. He came and took from her a sheaf more slender than the rest.

Am I to read it, here and now?If you will."

He sat down and read there and then. From time to time she let her eyes light on him, shyly at first, then rest, made quiet by his abstraction. She liked to look at him when he was not thinking of her. He was tall and straight and fair; his massive clean-shaven face showed a virile ashen shade on lip and chin. He had keen, kind eyes, and a queer mouth with sweet curves and bitter corners.

He folded the manuscript and turned it in his hands. He looked from it to her with considering, caressing eyes. What she had written was a love-poem in the divinest, the simplest prose. Such a poem could only have been written by his listening virgin, his dreaming dryad. He was afraid to speak of it, to handle its frail, half-elemental, half-spiritual form.

“Has it justified my sending for you?”

It had. It justified her completely. It justified them both. It justified his having come to her, his remaining with her, dining with her, if indeed they did dine. She had always justified him, made his coming to see her the natural, inevitable thing.

They sat late over the fire. They had locked the manuscript in its drawer again, left it with relief. They talked. How many years is it since I first saw you ? '

she said, and two months.' And two months. Do you remember how I found you, up there, under the roof, in that house in Charlotte Street ? ”

Yes,” she said, “I remember.” “You were curled up on that funny couch in the corner, with your back against the wall"

I was sitting on my feet to keep them warm.' “I know. And you wore a white shawl'No," she entreated, not a shawl.” ' A white something. It doesn't matter. I don't really remem

Three years,

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ber anything but your small face, and your terrified eyes looking at
me out of the corner, and your poor little cold hands."

She wondered, did he remember her shabby gown, her fireless room,
the queer couch that was her bed, the hunger and the nakedness of
her surroundings ?

You sat," she said, on my trunk, the wooden one with the nails on it. It must have been so uncomfortable."

He said nothing. Even now, when those things were only a remembrance, the pity of them made him dumb.

And the next time you came,” said she, you made a fire for me. Don't you remember?”

He remembered. He felt again that glow of self-congratulation which warmed him whenever he considered the comfort of her present state; or came into her room and found her accumulating, piece by piece, her innocent luxuries. Nobody but he had helped her. It was disagreeable to him to think that another man should have had a hand in it.

Yet there would be others. He had already revealed her to two
or three.

"I wonder how you knew," she said.
“ How I knew what?

That I was worth while."
He gave an inward start. She had made him suddenly aware that
in those days he had not known it. He had had no idea what was
in her. She had had nothing then“ to show” him.

It was as if she were asking him, as if he were asking himself,
what it was that had drawn him to her, when, in the beginning, it
wasn't and couldn't have been the gift? Why had he followed her
up when he might so easily have dropped her? He had found her,
in the beginning, only because his old friend, Mrs. Dysart, had
written to him (from a distance that left her personally irrespon-
sible), and had asked him to look for her, to discover what had
become of her, to see if there was anything that he could do. Mrs.
Dysart had intimated that she hardly thought anything could be
done, that there wasn't, you know, very much in her, very much,
that is to say, that would interest Wilton Caldecott. They had
been simply pitiful, the girl's poor first efforts, the things that,
when he had screwed his courage to the point of asking for them,
were all she had to show him.

"I was too bad for words, you know," said she, tracking his
thought.

You were."
“There wasn't a gleam, a spark----"

one.
They laughed. The reminiscence of her "badness" seemed to
inspire them both with a secret exultation. They drew together,
uncovering, displaying to each other the cherished charm of it.
Neither could say why the thought of it was so pleasing.

He looked

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