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Delia Blanchflower by Mrs. Humphry Ward

Part 2 out of 7

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beliefs and superstitions more primitive still, had largely
contributed, while hypocritically professing to enfranchise and exalt
her; the unfailing doom to "obey," and to bring forth, that has crushed
her; the labours and shames heaped upon her by men in the pursuit of
their own selfish devices; and the denial to her, also by men, of all
the higher and spiritual activities, except those allowed by a man-made
religion:--this feminist gospel, in some respects so bitterly true, in
others so vindictively false, was gradually and unsparingly pressed
upon Delia's quick intelligence. She caught its fire; she rose to its
call; and there came a day when Gertrude Marvell breaking through the
cold reserve she had hitherto interposed between herself and the pupil
who had come to adore her, threw her arms round the girl, accepting
from her what were practically the vows of a neophyte in a secret and
revolutionary service.

Joyous, self-dedicating moment! But it had been followed by a tragedy;
the tragedy of Delia's estrangement from her father. It was not long
before Sir Robert Blanchflower, a proud self-indulgent man, with a keen
critical sense, a wide acquaintance with men and affairs, and a number
of miscellaneous acquirements of which he never made the smallest
parade, had divined the spirit of irreconcilable revolt which animated
the slight and generally taciturn woman, who had obtained such a hold
upon his daughter. He, the god of his small world, was made to feel
himself humiliated in her presence. She was, in fact, his intellectual
superior, and the truth was conveyed to him in a score of subtle ways.
She was in his house simply because she was poor, and wanted rest from
excessive overwork, at someone else's expense. Otherwise her manner
suggested--often quite unconsciously--that she would not have put up
with his household and its regulations for a single day.

Then, suddenly, he perceived that he had lost his daughter, and the
reason of it. The last year of his official life was thenceforward
darkened by an ugly and undignified struggle with the woman who had
stolen Delia from him. In the end he dismissed Gertrude Marvell. Delia
shewed a passionate resentment, told him frankly that as soon as she
was twenty-one she should take up "the Woman's movement" as her sole
occupation, and should offer herself wherever Gertrude Marvell, and
Gertrude's leaders, thought she could be useful. "The vote _must_ be
got!"--she said, standing white and trembling, but resolute, before her
father--"If not peaceably, then by violence. And when we get it,
father, you men will be astonished to see what we shall do with it!"

Her twenty-first birthday was at hand, and would probably have seen
Delia's flight from her father's house, but for Sir Robert's breakdown
in health. He gave up his post, and it was evident he had not more than
a year or two to live. Delia softened and submitted. She went abroad
with him, and for a time he seemed to throw off the disease which had
attacked him. It was during a brighter interval that, touched by her
apparent concessions, he had consented to her giving the lecture in the
Tyrolese hotel the fame of which had spread abroad, and had even taken
a certain pleasure in her oratorical success.

But during the following winter--Sir Robert's last--which they spent
at Meran, things had gone from bad to worse. For months Delia never
mentioned Gertrude Marvell to her father. He flattered himself that the
friendship was at an end. Then some accident revealed to him that it
was as close as, or closer than ever; that they were in daily
correspondence; that they had actually met, unknown to him, in the
neighbourhood of Meran; and that Delia was sending all the money she
could possibly spare from her very ample allowance to "The Daughters of
Revolt," the far-spreading society in which Gertrude Marvell was now
one of the leading officials.

Some of these dismal memories of Meran descended like birds of night
upon Delia, as she stood with her arms above her head, in her long
night-gown, looking intently but quite unconsciously into the depths of
an old rosewood cheval glass. She felt that sultry night about her once
more, when, after signing his will, her father opened his eyes upon
her, coming back with an effort from the bound of death, and had said
quite clearly though faintly in the silence--

"Give up that woman, Delia!--promise me to give her up." And Delia had
cried bitterly, on her knees beside him--without a word--caressing his
hand. And the cold fingers had been feebly withdrawn from hers as the
eyes closed.

"Oh papa--papa!" The low murmur came from her, as she pressed her hands
upon her eyes. If the Christian guesses were but true, and in some
quiet Elysian state he might now understand, and cease to be angry with
her! Was there ever a great cause won without setting kin against kin?
"A man's foes shall be they of his own household." "It wasn't my
fault--it wasn't my fault!"

No!--and moreover it was her duty not to waste her strength in vain
emotion and regret. Her task was _doing_, not dreaming. She turned
away, banished her thoughts and set steadily about the task of

* * * * *

"Please Miss Blanchflower, there are two or three people waiting to see
you in the servants' hall."

So said the tall and gentle-voiced housekeeper, Mrs. Bird, whose
emotions had been, in Miss Marvell's view, so unnecessarily exercised
on the evening of Delia's home-coming. Being a sensitive person, Mrs.
Bird had already learnt her lesson, and her manner had now become as
mildly distant as could be desired, especially in the case of Miss
Blanchflower's lady companion.

"People? What people?" asked Delia, looking round with a furrowed brow.
She and Gertrude were sitting together on the sofa when the housekeeper
entered, eagerly reading a large batch of letters which the London post
had just brought, and discussing their contents in subdued tones.

"It's the cottages, Miss. Her Ladyship used always to decide who should
have those as were vacant about this time of year, and two or three of
these persons have been up several times to know when you'd be home."

"But I don't know anything about it"--said Delia, rising reluctantly.
"Why doesn't the agent--why doesn't Mr. Frost do it?"

"I suppose--they thought--you'd perhaps speak a word to Mr. Frost,
Miss," suggested Mrs. Bird. "But I can send them away of course, if you

"Oh no, I'll come"--said Delia. "But it's rather tiresome--just
as"--she looked at Gertrude.

"Don't be long," said Miss Marvell, sharply, "I'll wait for you here."
And she plunged back into the letters, her delicate face all alive, her
eyes sparkling. Delia departed--evidently on a distasteful errand.

But twenty minutes later, she returned flushed and animated.

"I _am_ glad I went! Such tyranny--such monstrous tyranny!" She stood
in front of Gertrude breathing fast, her hands on her hips.

"What's the matter?"

"My grandmother had a rule--can you imagine anything so cruel!--that no
girl--who had gone wrong--was to be allowed in our cottages. If she
couldn't be provided for in some Home or other, or if her family
refused to give her up, then the family must go. An old man has been up
to see me--a widower with two daughters--one in service. The one in
service has come to grief--the son of the house!--the usual
story!"--the speaker's face had turned fiercely pale--"and now our
agent refuses to let the girl and her baby come home. And the old
father says--'What am I to do, Miss? I can't turn her out--she's my own
flesh and blood. I've got to stick to her--else there'll be worse
happening. It's not _justice_, Miss--and it's not Gospel.'
Well!"--Delia seated herself with energy,--"I've told him to have her
home at once--and I'll see to it."

Gertrude lifted her eyebrows, a gesture habitual with her, whenever
Delia wore--as now--her young prophetess look. Why feel these things so
much? Human nerves have only a certain limited stock of reactions.
Avenge--and alter them!

But she merely said--

"And the others?"

"Oh, a poor mother with eight children, pleading for a cottage with
three bedrooms instead of two! I told her she should have it if I had
to build it!--And an old woman who has lived fifty-two years in her
cottage, and lost all her belongings, begging that she mightn't be
turned out--for a family--now that it's too big for her. She shan't be
turned out! Of course I suppose it would be common sense"--the tension
of the speaker's face broke up in laughter--"to put the old woman into
the cottage of the eight children--and put the eight children into the
old woman's. But human beings are not cattle! Sentiment's something!
Why shouldn't a woman be allowed to die in her old home,--so long as
she pays the rent? I hate all this interference with people's lives!
And it's always the women who come worst off. 'Oh Mr. Frost, he never
pays no attention to us women. He claps 'is 'ands to his ears when he
sees one of us, and jest runs for it.' Well, I'll make Mr. Frost listen
to a woman!"

"I'm afraid Mr. Winnington is his master," said Gertrude quietly.
Delia, crimson again, shrugged her shoulders.

"We shall see!"

Gertrude Marvell looked up.

"Look here, Delia, if you're going to play the part of earthly
Providence to this village and your property in general--as I've said
to you before--you may as well tell the 'Daughters' you can't do
anything for them. That's a profession in itself; and would take you
all your time."

"Then of course, I shan't do it," said Delia, with decision. "But I
only want to put in an appearance--to make friends with the
people--just for a time, Gertrude! It doesn't do to be _too_ unpopular.
We're not exactly in good odour just now, are we?"

And sitting down on a stool beside the elder woman, Delia leant her
head against her friend's knee caressingly.

Gertrude gave an absent touch to the girl's beautiful hair, and then

"So you _will_ take these four meetings?"

"Certainly!" Delia sprang up. "What are they? One at Latchford, one at
Brownmouth--Wanchester--and Frimpton. All right. I shall be pelted at
Brownmouth. But rotten eggs don't matter so much when you're looking
out for them--except on your face--Ugh!"

"And the meeting here?"

"Of course. Can't I do what I like with my own house? We'll have the
notices out next week."

Gertrude looked up--

"When did you say that man--Mr. Winnington--was coming?"

"His note this morning said 4:30."

"You'd better see him alone--for the first half hour anyway."

Delia made a face.

"I wish I knew what line to take up. You've been no use at all,

Gertrude smiled.

"Wait till you see him," she said coolly. "Mother-wit will help you

"I wish I had anything to bargain with."

"So you have."

"Pray, what?"

"The meeting here. You _could_ give that up. And he needn't know
anything of the others yet awhile."

"What a charming opinion he will have of us both, by and bye," laughed
Delia, quietly. "And by all accounts he himself is a simple
paragon.--Heavens, how tiresome!"

Gertrude Marvell turned back to her letters.

"What does anyone know about a _man_?" she said, with slow

The midday post at Maumsey brought letters just after luncheon. Delia
turning hers over was astonished to see two or three with the local

"What can people from _here_ be writing to me about?"

Gertrude absorbed in the new weekly number of the _Tocsin_ took no
notice, till she was touched on the shoulder by Delia.


"Gertrude!--it's too amazing!" The girl's tone was full of a joyous
wonder. "You know they told us at head-quarters that this was one of
the deadest places in England--a nest of Antis--nothing doing here at
all. Well, what do you think?--here are _three_ letters by one post,
from the village--all greeting us--all knowing perfectly who you
are--that you have been in prison, etcetera--all readers of the
_Tocsin_, and burning to be doing something--"

"Burning something?" interposed the other in her most ordinary voice.

Delia laughed, again with the note of constraint.

"Well, anyway, they want to come and see us."

"Who are they?"

"An assistant mistress at the little grammar-school--that's No. 1. No.
2--a farmer's daughter, who says she took part in one of the raids last
summer, but nobody knows down here. Her father paid her fine. And No.
3. a consumptive dressmaker, who declares she hasn't much life left
anyway, and she is quite willing to give it to the 'cause'! Isn't it
wonderful how it spreads--it spreads!"

"Hm"--said Miss Marvell. "Well, we may as well inspect them. Tell them
to come up some time next week after dusk."

As she spoke, the temporary parlour-maid threw open the door of the
room which Delia had that morning chosen as her own sitting-room.

"Are you at home, Miss? Mrs. France would like to see you."

"Mrs. France?--Mrs. France? Oh, I know--the doctor's wife--Mrs. Bird
was talking of him this morning. Well, I suppose I must go." Delia
moved unwillingly. "I'm coming, Mary."

"Of course you must go," said Gertrude, a little peremptorily. "As we
are here we may as well reconnoitre the whole ground--find out
everything we can."

* * * * *

In the drawing-room, to which some flowers, and a litter of new books
and magazines had already restored its inhabited look, Delia found a
woman awaiting her, in whom the girl's first glance discerned a
personality. She was dressed with an entire disregard of the fashion,
in plain, serviceable clothes. A small black bonnet tied under the chin
framed a face whose only beauty lay in the expression of the clear kind
eyes, and quiet mouth. The eyes were a little prominent; the brow above
them unusually smooth and untroubled, answering to the bands of brown
hair touched with grey which defined it. But the rest of the face was
marked by many deep lines--of experience, or suffering?--which showed
clearly that its owner had long left physical youth behind. And yet
perhaps youth--in some spiritual poetic sense--was what Mrs. France's
aspect most sharply conveyed.

She rose as Delia entered, and greeted her warmly.

"It is nice to see you settled here! Dr. France and I were great
friends of your old grandmother. He and she were regular cronies. We
were very sorry to see the news of your poor father's death."

The voice was clear and soft, and absolutely sincere. Delia felt drawn
to her. But it had become habitual to her to hold herself on the
defensive with strangers, to suspect hostility and disapproval
everywhere. So that her manner in reply, though polite enough, was
rather chilly.

But--the girl's beauty! The fame of it had indeed reached Maumsey in
advance of the heiress. Mrs. France, however, in its actual presence
was inclined to say "I had not heard the half!" She remembered Delia's
mother, and in the face before her she recognised again the Greek type,
the old pure type, reappearing, as it constantly does, in the mixed
modern race. But the daughter surpassed her mother. Delia's eyes, of a
lovely grey blue, lidded, and fringed, and arched with an exquisite
perfection; the curve of the slightly bronzed cheek, suggesting through
all its delicacy the fulness of young, sensuous life; the mouth,
perhaps a trifle too large, and the chin, perhaps a trifle too firm;
the abundance of the glossy black hair, curling wherever it was allowed
to curl, or wherever it could escape the tight coils in which it was
bound--at the temples, and over the brow; the beauty of the uncovered
neck, and of the amply-rounded form which revealed itself through the
thin black stripe of the mourning dress:--none of these "items" in
Delia's good looks escaped her admiring visitor.

"It's to be hoped Mr. Mark realises his responsibilities," she thought,
with amusement.

Aloud, she said--

"I remember you as quite a little thing staying with your
Grandmother--but you wouldn't remember me. Dr. France was grieved not
to come, but it's his hospital day."

Delia thanked her, without effusion. Mrs. France presently began to
feel conversation an effort, and to realise that the girl's wonderful
eyes were very observant and very critical. Yet she chose the very
obvious and appropriate topic of Lady Blanchflower, her strong
character, her doings in the village, her relation to the labourers and
their wives.

"When she died, they really missed her. They miss her still."

"Is it good for a village to depend so much on one person?" said Delia
in a detached voice.

Mrs. France looked at her curiously. Jealousy of one's grandmother is
not a common trait in the young. It struck her that Miss Blanchflower
was already defending herself against examples and ideals she did not
mean to follow. And again amusement--and concern!--on Mark
Winnington's account made themselves felt. Mrs. France was quite aware
of Delia's "militant" antecedents, and of the history of the lady she
had brought down to live with her. But the confidence of the doctor's
wife in Winnington's powers and charm was boundless. "He'll be a match
for them!" she thought gaily.

Meanwhile in reply, she smilingly defended her old friend Lady
Blanchflower from the implied charge of pauperising the village.

"Not at all! She never gave money recklessly--and the do-nothings kept
clear of her. But she was the people's friend--and they knew it.
They're very excited about your coming!"

"I daresay I shall change some things," said Delia decidedly. "I don't
approve of all Mr. Frost has been doing."

"Well, you'll have your guardian to help you," said Mrs. France

Delia flushed, straightened her shoulders, and said nothing.

This time Mrs. France was fairly taken by surprise. She knew nothing
more of Sir Robert Blanchflower's will than that he had made Mr. Mark
Winnington his daughter's guardian, till she reached the age of
twenty-five. But that any young woman--any motherless and fatherless
girl--should not think herself the most lucky of mortals to have
obtained Mark Winnington as guide and defender, with first claim on his
time, his brains, his kindness, seemed incredible to Mark's old friend
and neighbour, accustomed to the daily signs of his immense and
deserved popularity. Then it flashed upon her--"Has she ever seen him?"

The doubt led to an immediate communication of the news that Winnington
had arrived from town that morning. Dr. France had seen him in the

"You know him, of course, already?"

"Not at all," said Delia, indifferently. "He and I are perfect
strangers." Mrs. France laughed.

"I rather envy you the pleasure of making friends with him! We are all
devoted to him down here."

Delia lifted her eyebrows.

"What are his particular virtues? It's monotonous to possess them
_all_." The slight note of insolence was hardly disguised.

"No two friends of his would give you the same answer. I should give
you a different catalogue, for instance, from Lady Tonbridge--"

"Lady Tonbridge!" cried Delia, waking up at last. "You don't mean that
Lady Tonbridge lives in this neighbourhood?"

"Certainly. You know her?"

"She came once to stay with us in the West Indies. My father knew her
very well before she married. And I owe her--a great debt"--the last
words were spoken with emphasis.

Mrs. France looked enquiring.

"--she recommended to us the lady who is now living with me here--my
chaperon--Miss Marvell?"

There was silence for a moment. Then Mrs. France said, not without

"Your father desired she should live with you?"

Delia flushed again.

"No. My father did not understand her."

"He did not agree with her views?"

"Nor with mine. It was horrid--but even relations must agree to differ.
Why is Lady Tonbridge here? And where is Sir Alfred? Papa had not heard
of them for a long time."

"They separated last year"--said Mrs. France gravely. "But Mr.
Winnington will tell you. He's a great friend of hers. She does a lot
of work for him."


"Social work!" smiled Mrs. France--"poor-law--schools--that kind of
thing. He ropes us all in."

"Oh!" said Delia, with her head in the air.

Mrs. France laughed outright.

"That seems to you so unimportant--compared to the vote."

"It _is_ unimportant!" said Delia, impetuously. "Nothing really matters
but the vote. Aren't you a Suffragist, Mrs. France?"

Mrs. France smilingly shook her head.

"I don't want to meddle with the men's business. And we're a long way
yet from catching up with our own. Oh, my husband has a lot of
scientific objections. But that's mine." Then her face grew
serious--"anyway, we can all agree, I hope, in hating violence. That
can never settle it."

She looked a little sternly at her young companion.

"That depends," said Delia. "But we mustn't argue, Mrs. France. I
should only make you angry. Ah!"

She sprang up and went to the window, just as steps could be heard on
the gravel outside.

"Here's someone coming." She turned to Mrs. France. "Is it Mr.

"It is!" said her visitor, after putting on her glasses.

Delia surveyed him, standing behind the lace curtain, and Mrs. France
was relieved to see that a young person of such very decided opinions
could be still girlishly curious. She herself rose to go.

"Good-bye. I won't interrupt your talk with him."

"Good-looking?" said Delia, with mischief in her eyes, and a slight
gesture towards the approaching visitor.

"Don't you know what an athlete he is--or was?"

"Another perfection? Heavens!--how does he endure it?" said the girl,

Mrs. France took her leave. She was a very motherly tender-hearted
woman, and she would like to have taken her old friend's grandchild in
her arms and kissed her. But she wisely refrained; and indeed the
instinct to shake her was perhaps equally strong. "How long will she
stand gossiping on the doormat with the paragon," said Delia savagely
to herself, when she was left alone. "Oh, how I hate a 'charming man'!"
She moved stormily to and fro, listening to the distant sounds of talk
in the hall, and resenting them. Then suddenly she paused opposite one
of the large mirrors in the room. A coil of hair had loosened itself;
she put it right; and still stood motionless, interrogating herself in
a proud concentration.

"Well?--I am quite ready for him."

But her heart beat uncomfortably fast as the door opened, and Mark
Winnington entered.

Chapter V

As Winnington advanced with outstretched hand to greet her, Delia was
conscious of a striking physical presence, and of an eye fixed upon her
at once kind and penetrating.

"How are you? You've been through a terrible time! Are you at all
rested? I'm afraid it has been a long, long strain."

He held her hand in both his, asking gentle questions about her
father's illness, interrogating her looks the while with a frank
concern and sympathy.

Delia was taken by surprise. For the first time that day she was
reminded of what was really, the truth. She _was_ tired--morally and
physically. But Gertrude Marvell never recognised anything of the kind;
and in her presence Delia rarely confessed any such weakness even to

As it was, her eyes and mouth wavered a little under Winnington's look.

"Thank you," she said quietly. "I shall soon be rested."

They sat down. Delia was conscious--unwillingly conscious, of a nervous
agitation she did her best to check. For Winnington also it was clearly
an awkward moment. He began at once to talk of his old recollections of
her parents, of her mother's beauty, of her father's reputation as the
most dashing soldier on the North-West frontier, in the days when they
first met in India.

"But his health was even then very poor. I suppose it was that made him
leave the army?"

"Yes--and then Parliament," said Delia. "He was ordered a warm climate
for the winter. But he could never have lived without working. His
Governorship just suited him."

She spoke with charming softness, beguiled from her insensibly by
Winnington's own manner. At the back of Winnington's mind, as they
talked, ran perpetual ejaculations--ejaculations of the natural man in
the presence of so much beauty. But his conversation with her flowed
the while with an even gentleness which never for a moment affected
intimacy, and was touched here and there with a note of deference, even
of ceremony, which disarmed his companion.

"I never came across your father down here--oddly enough," he said
presently. "He had left Sandhurst before I went to Eton; and then there
was Oxford, and then the bar. My little place belonged then to a
cousin, and I had hardly ever seen it. But of course I knew, your
grandmother--everybody did. She was a great centre--a great figure. She
has left her mark here. Don't you find it so?"

"Yes. Everybody seems to remember her."

But, in a moment, the girl before him had changed and stiffened. It
seemed to Winnington, as to Mrs. France, that she pulled herself up,
reacting against something that threatened her. The expression in her
eyes put something between them. "Perhaps you know"--she said--"that
my grandmother didn't always get on with my mother?"

He wondered why she had reminded him of that old family jar, which
gossip had spread abroad. Did it really rankle in her mind? Odd, that
it should!

"Was that so?" he laughed. "Oh, Lady Blanchflower had her veins of
unreason. One had to know where to have her."

"She took Greeks for barbarians--my father used to say," said Delia, a
little grimly. "But she was very good to me--and so I was fond of her."
"And she of you. But there are still tales going about--do you
mind?--of the dances you led her. It took weeks and months, they say,
before you and she arrived at an armed truce--after a most appalling
state of war! There's an old gardener here--retired now--who remembers
you quite well. He told me yesterday that you used to be very friendly
with him, and you said to him once--'I like Granny!--she's the master
of me!'"

The laughter in Winnington's eyes again kindled hers.

"I was a handful--I know." There was a pause. Then she added--"And I'm
afraid--I've gone on being a handful!" Gesture and tone showed that she
spoke deliberately.

"Most people of spirit are--till they come to handle themselves," he
replied, also with a slight change of tone.

"But that's just what women are never allowed to do, Mr. Winnington!"
She turned suddenly red, and fronted him. "There's always some man, who
claims to manage them and their affairs. We're always in
leading-strings--nobody ever admits we're grown up. Why can't we be
allowed like men--to stumble along our own way? If we make mistakes,
let's _pay_ for them! But let us at some time in our lives--at
least--feel ourselves free beings!"

There was no mistaking the purport of these words. They referred
clearly to her father's will, and her own position. After a moment's
thought, Winnington bent forward.

"I think I understand what you mean," he said gravely. "And I
sympathise with it more than you imagine."

Delia looked up impetuously--

"Then why, Mr. Winnington, did you consent to be my guardian?"

"Because--quite honestly--because I thought I could be of more use to
you perhaps than the Court of Chancery; and because your father's
letter to me was one very difficult to put aside."

"How could anyone in my father's state of health really judge
reasonably!" cried Delia. "I daresay it sounds shocking to you, Mr.
Winnington, but I can't help putting it to myself like this--Papa was
always able to contrive his own life as he chose. In his Governorship
he was a small king. He tried a good many experiments. Everybody
deferred to him. Everybody was glad to help him. Then when his money
came and the estate, nobody fettered him with conditions; nobody
interfered with him. Grandpapa and he didn't agree in a lot of things.
Papa was a Liberal; and Grandpapa was an awfully hot Conservative. But
Grandpapa didn't appoint a trustee, or tie up the estates--or anything
of that kind. It is simply and solely because I am a woman that these
things are done! I am not to be allowed _my_ opinions, in _my_ life,
though Papa was quite free to work for his in his life! This is the
kind of thing we call tyranny,--this is the kind of thing that's
driving women into revolt!"

Delia had risen. She stood in what Gertrude Marvell would have called
her "pythian" attitude, hands behind her, her head thrown back,
delivering her prophetic soul. Winnington, as he surveyed her, was
equally conscious of her beauty and her absurdity. But he kept cool, or
rather the natural faculty which had given him so much authority and
success in life rose with a kind of zest to its new and unaccustomed

"May I perhaps suggest--that your father was fifty-two when he
succeeded to this estate--and that you are twenty-one?"

"Nearly twenty-two," she interrupted, hastily.

"Nearly twenty-two," repeated Winnington. "And I assure you, that what
with 'People's Budgets,' and prowling Chancellors, and all the new
turns of the screw that the Treasury is for ever putting on, inheriting
an estate nowadays is no simple matter. Your father thought of that. He
wished to provide someone to help you."

"I could have found lawyers to help me."

"Of course you could. But my experience is that solicitors are good
servants but bad masters. It wants a good deal of practical knowledge
to direct them, so that you get what you want. I have gone a little way
into the business of the estate this morning with Mr. Masham, and in
town, with the Morton Manners people. I see already some complications
which will take me a deal of time and thought to straighten out. And I
am a lawyer, and if you will let me say so, just double your age."

He smiled at her, but Delia's countenance did not relax. Her mouth was

"I daresay that's quite true, Mr. Winnington. But of course you know it
was _not_ on that account--or at any rate not chiefly on that account,
that my father left things as he did. He wished"--she spoke clearly and
slowly--"simply to prevent my helping the Suffrage movement in the way
I think best."

Winnington too had risen, and was standing with one hand on the
mantelpiece. His brow was slightly furrowed, not frowning exactly, but
rather with the expression of one trying to bring his mind into as
close touch as possible with another mind.

"I must of course agree with you. That is evidently one of the objects
of the will, though by no means--I think--the only one. And as to that,
should you not ask yourself--had not your father a right, even a duty,
to look after the disposal of his money as he thought best? Surely it
was his responsibility--especially as he was old, and you were young."

Delia had begun to feel impatient--to resent the very mildness of his
tone. She felt, as though she were an insubordinate child, being gently
reasoned with.

"No, I don't admit it!" she said passionately. "It was tampering with
the right of the next generation!"

"Might you not say the same of the whole--or almost the whole of our
system of inheritance?" he argued. "I should put it--that the old are
always trying to preserve and protect something they know is more
precious to them than it can be to the young--something as to which,
with the experience of life behind them, they believe they are wiser
than the young. _Ought_ the young to resent it?"

"Yes," persisted Delia. "_Yes_! They should be left to make their own

"They have _life_ wherewith to make them! But the dead--" He paused.
But Delia felt and quivered under the unspoken appeal; and also under
the quick touch of something more personal--more intimate--in his
manner, expressing, it seemed, some deep feeling of his own. He, in
turn, perceived that she had grown very pale; he guessed even that she
was suddenly not very far from tears. He seemed to realise the weeks,
perhaps months, of conflict through which the girl had just passed. He
was sincerely sorry for her--sincerely drawn to her.

Delia broke the silence.

"It is no good I think discussing this any more--is it? There's the
will, and the question is"--she faced him boldly--"how are you and I
going to get on, Mr. Winnington?"

Winnington's seriousness broke up. He threw her a smiling look, and
with his hands in his pockets began to pace the room reflectively.

"I really believe we can pull it off, if we look at it coolly," he said
at last, pausing in front of her. "I am no bigot on the Suffrage
question--frankly I have not yet made up my mind upon it. All that I am
clear about--as your father was clear--is that outrage and violence are
_wrong_--in any cause. I cannot believe that we shan't agree there!"

He looked at her keenly. Delia was silent. Her face betrayed nothing,
though her eyes met his steadily.

"And in regard to that, there is of course one thing that troubles
me"--he resumed--"one thing in which I beg you to take my advice"--

Delia breathed quick.

"Gertrude Marvell?" she said. "Of course I knew that was coming!"

"Yes. That we must settle, I think." He kept his eyes upon her. "You
can hardly know that she is mentioned by name in your father's last
letter--the letter to me---as the one person whose companionship he
dreaded for you--the one person he hoped you would consent to part

Delia had turned white.

"No--I didn't know."

"For that reason, and for others, I do entreat you"--he went on,
earnestly--"not to keep her here. Miss Marvell may be all that you
believe her. I have nothing to say against her,--except this. I am told
by those who know that she is already quite notorious in the militant
movement. She has been in prison, and she has made extremely violent
speeches, advocating what Miss Marvell calls war, and what plain people
call--crime. That she should live with you here would not only
prejudice your future, and divide you from people who should be your
natural friends; it would be an open disrespect to your father's

There was silence. Then Delia said, evidently mastering her excitement
with difficulty.

"I can't help it. She _must_ stay with me. Nobody need know--about my
father. Her name is not mentioned in the will."

"No. That is true. But his letter to me as your guardian and trustee
ought to be regarded equitably as part of the will; and I do not see
how it would be possible for me to acquiesce in something so directly
contrary to his last wishes. I beg you to look at it from my point of

"I do"--said Delia, flushing again. "But my letter warned you--"

"Yes--but I felt on receiving it that you could not possibly be aware
of the full strength of your father's feeling. Let me read you his

He took an envelope from his pocket, observing her. Delia hastily

"Don't, Mr. Winnington!--I'm sure I know."

"It is really my duty to read it to you," he said, courteously but

She endured it. The only sign of agitation she shewed was the trembling
of her hands on the back of the chair she leant upon. And when he
returned it to his pocket, she considered for a moment or two, before
she said, breathing unevenly, and stumbling a little.--

"That makes no difference, Mr. Winnington. I expect you think me a
monster. All the same I loved my father in my own way. But I am not
going to barter away my freedom for anything or anyone. I am not part
of my father, I am myself. And he is not here to be injured or hurt by
anything I do. I intend to stick to Gertrude Marvell--and she to me."

And having delivered her ultimatum, she stood like a young goddess,
expectant and defiant.

Winnington's manner changed. He straightened himself, with a slight
shake of his broad shoulders, and went to look out of the window at the
end of the room. Delia was left to contemplate the back of a very tall
man in a serge suit and to rate herself for the thrill--or the
trepidation--she could not help feeling. What would he say when he
spoke again? She was angry with herself that she could not quite
truthfully say that she did not care.

When he returned, she divined another man. The tone was as courteous as
ever, but the first relation between them had disappeared; or rather it
had become a business relation, a relation of affairs.

"You will of course understand--that I cannot _acquiesce_ in that

Delia's uncomfortable sense of humor found vent in a laugh--as civil
however as she could make it.

"I do understand. But I don't quite see what you can do, Mr.

He smiled--quite pleasantly.

"Nor do I--just yet. But of course Miss Marvell will not expect that
your father's estate should provide her with the salary that would
naturally fall to a chaperon whom your guardian could approve?"

"I shall see to that. We shall not trouble you," said Delia, rather

"And I shall ask to see Miss Marvell before I go this morning--that I
may point out to her the impropriety of remaining here against your
father's express wishes."

Delia nodded.

"All right--but it won't do any good."

He made no reply, except to turn immediately to the subject of her
place of residence and her allowance.

"It is I believe understood that you will live mainly here--at

"On the contrary!--I wish to spend a great part of the winter in

"With Miss Marvell?"


"I cannot, I am afraid, let you expect that I shall provide the money."

"It is my own money!"

"Not legally. I hate insisting on these things; but perhaps you ought
to know that the _whole_ of your father's property--everything that he
left behind him, is in trust."

"Which means"--cried Delia, quivering again--"that I am really a
pauper!--that I own nothing but my clothes--barely those!"

He felt himself a brute. "Can I really keep this up!" he thought.
Aloud, he said--"If you would only make it a little easy for your
trustee, he would be only too thankful to follow out your wishes!"

Delia made no reply, and Winnington took another turn up and down
before he paused in front of her with the words:--

"Can't we come to a compact? If I agree to London--say for six or
seven weeks--is there no promise you can make me in return?"

With an inward laugh Delia remembered Gertrude's injunction to "keep
something to bargain with."

"I don't know"--she said, reluctantly. "What sort of promise do you

"I want one equal to the concession you ask me to make," he said
gravely. "In my eyes nothing could be more unfitting than that you
should be staying in London--during a time of particularly violent
agitation--under the chaperonage of Miss Marvell, who is already
committed to this agitation. If I agree to such a direct contradiction
of your father's wishes, I must at least have your assurance that you
will do nothing violent or illegal, either down here or in London, and
that in this house above all you will take some pains to respect Sir
Robert's wishes. That I am sure you will promise me?"

She could not deny the charm of his direct appealing look, and she

"I was going to have a drawing-room meeting here as soon as
possible"--she said, slowly.

"On behalf of the 'Daughters of Revolt'?"

She silently assented.

"I may feel sure--may I not?--that you will give it up?"

"It is a matter of conscience with us"--she said proudly--"to spread
our message wherever we go."

"I don't think I can allow you a conscience all to yourself," he said
smiling. "Consider how I shall be straining mine--in agreeing to the
London plan!"

"Very well"--the words came out reluctantly. "If you insist--and if
London is agreed upon--I will give it up."

"Thank you," he said quietly. "And you will take part in no acts of
violence, either here or in London? It seems strange to use such words
to you. I hate to use them. But with the news in this week's papers I
can't help it. You will promise?"

There was a short silence.

"I will join in nothing militant down here," said Delia at last. "I
have already told Miss Marvell so."

"Or in London?"

She straightened herself.

"I promise nothing about London."

Guardian and ward looked straight into each other's faces for a few
moments. Delia's resistance had stirred a passion--a tremor--in her
pulses, she had never known in her struggle with her father. Winnington
was clearly debating with himself, and Delia seemed to see the thoughts
coursing through the grey eyes that looked at her, seriously indeed,
yet not without suggesting a man's humorous spirit behind them.

"Very well"--he said--"we will talk of London later.--Now may we just
sit down and run through the household arrangements and expenses
here--before I see Miss Marvell. I want to know exactly what you want
doing to this house, and how we can fix you up comfortably."

Delia assented. Winnington produced a note-book and pencil. Through his
companion's mind was running meanwhile an animated debate.

"I'm not bound to tell him of those other meetings I have promised?
'Yes, you are!' No,--I'm not. They're not to be here--and if I once
begin asking his leave for things--there'll be no end to it. I mean to
shew him--once for all--that I am of age, and my own mistress. He can't
starve me--or beat me!"

Her face broke into suppressed laughter as she bent it over the figures
that Winnington was presenting to her.

* * * * *

"Well, I am rather disappointed that you don't want to do more to the
house," said Winnington, as he rose and put up his note-book. "I
thought it might have been an occupation for the autumn and winter. But
at least we can decide on the essential things, and the work can be
done while you are in town. I am glad you like the servants Mrs. Bird
has found for you. Now I am going off to the Bank to settle everything
about the opening of your account, and the quarterly cheque we have
agreed on shall be paid in to-morrow."

"Very well." But instantly through the girl's mind there shot up the
qualifying thought. "_He_ may say how it is to be spent--but _I_ have
made no promise!"

He approached her to take his leave.

"My sister comes home to-night. Will you try the new car and have tea
with us on Thursday?" Delia assented. "And before I go I should like to
say a word about some of the neighbours."

He tried to give her a survey of the land. Lady Tonbridge, of course,
would be calling upon her directly. She was actually in the village--in
the tiniest bandbox of a house. Her husband's brutality had at
last--two years before this date--forced her to leave him, with her
girl of fifteen. "A miserable story--better taken for granted. She is
the pluckiest woman alive!" Then the Amberleys--the Rector, his wife
and daughter Susy were pleasant people--"Susy is a particular friend of
mine. It'll be jolly if you like her."

"Oh, no, she won't take to me!" said Delia with decision.

"Why not?"

But Delia only shook her head, a little contemptuously.

"We shall see," said Winnington. "Well, good night. Remember, anything
I can do for you--here I am."

His eyes smiled, but Delia was perfectly conscious that the eager
cordiality, the touch of something like tenderness, which had entered
into his earlier manner, had disappeared. She realised, and with a
moment's soreness, that she had offended his sense of right--of what a
daughter's feeling should be towards a dead father, at any rate, in the
first hours of bereavement, when the recollections of death and
suffering are still fresh.

"I can't help it," she thought stubbornly. "It's all part of the price
one pays."

But when he was gone, she stood a long time by the window without
moving, thinking about the hour which had just passed. The impression
left upon her by Winnington's personality was uncomfortably strong. She
knew now that, in spite of her bravado, she had dreaded to find it so,
and the reality had more than confirmed the anticipation. She was
committed to a struggle with a man whom she must respect, and could not
help liking; whose only wish was to help and protect her. And beside
the man's energetic and fruitful maturity, she became, as it were, the
spectator of her own youth and stumbling inexperience.

But these misgivings did not last long. A passionate conviction, a
fanatical affection, came to her aid, and her doubts were impatiently

* * * * *

Winnington found Miss Blanchflower's chaperon in a little sitting-room
on the ground floor already appropriated to her, surrounded with a
vast litter of letters and newspapers which she hastily pushed aside as
he entered. He had a long interview with her, and as he afterwards
confessed to Lady Tonbridge, he had rarely put his best powers forward
to so little purpose. Miss Marvell did not attempt to deny that she was
coming to live at Maumsey in defiance of the wishes of Delia's father
and guardian, and of the public opinion of those who were to be
henceforward Delia's friends and neighbours.

"But Delia has asked me to live with her. She is twenty-one, and women
are not now the mere chattels they once were. Both she and I have wills
of our own. You will of course give me no salary. I require none. But I
don't see how you're going to turn me out of Delia's house, if Delia
wishes me to stay."

And Winnington must needs acknowledge, at least to himself, that he did
not see either.

He put the lady however through a cross-examination as to her
connection with militancy which would have embarrassed or intimidated
most women; but Gertrude Marvell, a slight and graceful figure, sitting
erect on the edge of her chair, bore it with perfect equanimity,
apparently frank, and quite unashamed. Certainly she belonged to the
"Daughters of Revolt," the record of her imprisonment was there to shew
it; and so did Delia. The aim of both their lives was to obtain the
parliamentary vote for women, and in her opinion and that of many
others, the time for constitutional action--"for that nonsense"--as she
scornfully put it, had long gone by. As to what she intended to do, or
advise Delia to do, that was her own affair. One did not give away
one's plans to the enemy. But she realised, of course, that it would be
unkind to Delia to plunge her into possible trouble, or to run the risk
herself of arrest or imprisonment during the early days of Delia's
mourning; and of her own accord she graciously offered the assurance
that neither she nor Delia would commit any illegality during the two
months or so that they might be settled at Maumsey. As to what might
happen later, she, like Delia, declined to give any assurances. The
parliamentary situation was becoming desperate, and any action whatever
on the part of women which might serve to prod the sluggish mind of
England before another general election, was in her view not only
legitimate but essential.

"Of course I know what your conscience says on the matter," she said,
with her steady eyes on Winnington. "But--excuse me for saying so--your
conscience is not my affair."

Winnington rose, and prepared to take his leave. If he felt nonplussed,
he managed not to shew it.

"Very well. For the present I acquiesce. But you will scarcely wonder,
Miss Marvell, after this interview between us, if you find yourself
henceforward under observation. You are here in defiance of Miss
Blanchflower's legal guardian. I protest against your influence over
her; and I disapprove of your presence here. I shall do my best to
protect her from you."

She nodded.

"There of course, you will be in your right."

And rising, she turned to the open window and the bright garden
outside, with a smiling remark on the decorative value of begonias, as
though nothing had happened.

Winnington's temperament did not allow him to answer a woman uncivilly
under any circumstances. But they parted as duellists part before the
fray. Miss Marvell acknowledged his "Good afternoon," with a pleasant
bow, keeping her hands the while in the pockets of her serge jacket,
and she remained standing till Winnington had left the room.

"Now for Lady Tonbridge!" thought Winnington, as he rode away. "If she
don't help me out, I'm done!"

At the gate of Maumsey he stopped to speak to the lodge-keeper, and as
he did so, a man opened the gate, and came in. With a careless nod to
Winnington he took his way up the drive. Winnington looked after him in
some astonishment.

"What on earth can that fellow be doing here?"

He scented mischief; little suspecting however that a note from
Gertrude Marvell lay in the pocket of the man's shabby overcoat,
together with that copy of the _Tocsin_ which Delia's sharp eyes had
detected the week before in the hands of its owner.

Meanwhile as he drove homeward, instead of the details of county
business, the position of Delia Blanchflower, her personality, her
loveliness, her defiance of him, absorbed his mind completely. He began
to foresee the realities of the struggle before him, and the sheer
dramatic interest of it held him, as though someone presented the case,
and bade him watch how it worked out.

Chapter VI

The village or rather small town of Great Maumsey took its origin in a
clearing of that royal forest which had now receded from it a couple of
miles to the south. But it was still a rural and woodland spot. The
trees in the fields round it had still a look of wildness, as survivors
from the primeval chase, and were grouped more freely and romantically
than in other places; while from the hill north of the church, one
could see the New Forest stretching away, blue beyond blue, purple
beyond purple, till it met the shining of the sea.

Great Maumsey had a vast belief in itself, and was reckoned exclusive
and clannish by other places. It was proud of its old Georgian houses,
with their white fronts, their pillared porches, and the pediment
gables in their low roofs. The owners of these houses, of which there
were many, charmingly varied, in the long main street, were well aware
that they had once been old-fashioned, and were now as much admired in
their degree, as the pictures of the great English artists, Hogarth,
Reynolds, Romney, with which they were contemporary. There were earlier
houses too, of brick and timber, with overhanging top stories and
moss-grown roofs. There was a green surrounded with post and rails, on
which a veritable stocks still survived, kept in careful repair as a
memento of our barbarous forbears, by the parish Council. The church,
dating from that wonderful fourteenth century when all the world must
have gone mad for church-building, stood back from the main street,
with the rectory beside it, in a modest seclusion of their own.

It was all very English, very spick and span, and apparently very well
to do. That the youth of the village was steadily leaving it for the
Colonies, that the constant marrying in and in which had gone on for
generations had produced an ugly crop of mental deficiency, and
physical deformity among the inhabitants--that the standard of morals
was too low, and the standard of drink too high--were matters well
known to the Rector and the Doctor. But there were no insanitary
cottages, and no obvious scandals of any sort. The Maumsey estate had
always been well managed; there were a good many small gentlefolk who
lived in the Georgian houses, and owing to the competition of the
railways, agricultural wages were rather better than elsewhere.

About a mile from the eastern end of the village was the small
modernised manor-house of Bridge End, which belonged to Mark
Winnington, and where his sister Alice, Mrs. Matheson, kept him company
for the greater part of the year. The gates leading to Maumsey lay a
little west of the village, while on the hill to the north rose,
conspicuous against its background of wood, the famous old house of
Monk Lawrence. It looked down upon Maumsey on the one hand and Bridge
End on the other. It was generally believed that the owner of it, Sir
Wilfrid Lang, had exhausted his resources in restoring it, and that it
was the pressure of debt rather than his wife's health which had led to
its being shut up so long.

The dwellers in the village regarded it as the jewel in their
landscape, their common heritage and pride. Lady Tonbridge, whose
little drawing-room and garden to the back looked out on the hill and
the old house, was specially envied because she possessed so good a
view of it. She herself inhabited one of the very smallest of the
Georgian houses, in the main street of Maumsey. She paid a rent of no
more than 40 a year for it, and Maumsey people who liked her, felt
affectionately concerned that a duke's grand-daughter should be reduced
to a rent and quarters so insignificant.

Lady Tonbridge however was not at all concerned for the smallness of
her house. She regarded it as the outward and visible sign of the most
creditable action of her life--the action which would--or should--bring
her most marks when the recording angel came to make up her account.
Every time she surveyed its modest proportions the spirit of freedom
danced within her, and she envied none of the noble halls in which she
had formerly lived, and to some of which she still paid occasional

At tea-time, on the day following Winnington's first interview with his
ward, Madeleine Tonbridge came into her little drawing-room, in her
outdoor things, and carrying a bundle of books under the arm.

As far as such words could ever apply to her she was tired and dusty.
But her little figure was so alert and trim, her grey linen dress and
its appointments so dainty, and the apple-red in her small cheeks so
bright, that one might have conceived her as just fresh from a maid's
hands, and stepping out to amuse herself, instead of as just returning
from a tedious afternoon's work, by which she had earned the large sum
of five shillings. A woman of forty-five, she looked her age, and she
had never possessed any positive beauty, unless it were the beauty of
delicate and harmonious proportion. Yet she had been pestered with
suitors as a girl, and unfortunately had married the least desirable of
them all. And now in middle life, no one had more devoted men-friends;
and that without exciting a breath of scandal, even in a situation
where one might have thought it inevitable.

She looked round her as she entered.

"Nora!--where are you?"

A girl, apparently about seventeen, put her head in through the French
window that opened to the garden.

"Ready for tea, Mummy?"

"Rather!"--said Lady Tonbridge, with energy, as she put a match to the
little spirit kettle on the tea-table where everything stood ready.
"Come in, darling."

And throwing off her hat and jacket, she sank into a comfortable
arm-chair with a sigh of fatigue. Her daughter quietly loosened her
mother's walking-shoes and took them away. Then they kissed each other,
and Nora went to look after the tea. She was a slim, pale-faced
school-girl, with yellow-brown eyes, and yellow-brown hair, not as yet
very attractive in looks, but her mother was convinced that it was only
the plainness of the cygnet, and that the swan was only a few years
off. Nora, who at seventeen had no illusions, was grateful to her
mother for the belief but did not share it in the least.

"I'm sure you gave that girl half an hour over time," she said
reprovingly, as she handed Lady Tonbridge her cup of tea--"I can't
think why you do it." She referred to the solicitor's daughter whom
Lady Tonbridge had been that afternoon instructing in the uses of the
French participle.

"Nor can I. A kind of ridiculous _esprit de mtier_ I suppose. I
undertook to teach her French, and when after all these weeks she don't
seem to know a thing more than when she began, I feel as if I were
picking her dear papa's pockets."

"Which is absurd," said Nora, buttering her mother's toast, "and I
can't let you do it. Half a crown an hour is silly enough already, and
for you to throw in half an hour extra for nothing, can't be stood."

"I wish I could get it up to four hours a day," sighed the mother,
munching happily at her toast, while she held out her small stockinged
feet to the fire which Nora had just lit. "Just think. Ten shillings a
day--six days a week--ten months in the year. Why it would pay the
rent, we could have another servant, and I could give you twenty pounds
a year more for your clothes."

"Much obliged--but I prefer a live Mummy--and no clothes--to a dead
one. More tea?"

"Thanks. No chance, of course. Where could one find four persons a day,
in Maumsey, or near Maumsey, who want to learn French? The notion's
absurd. I shouldn't get the lessons I do, if it weren't for the


"Not at all! Not a single family out of the people I go to deserve to
be called snobs. It's the natural dramatic instinct in us all. You
don't expect an 'Honourable' to be giving French lessons at half a
crown an hour, and when she does, you say--'Hullo! Some screw loose,
somewhere!'--and you at once feel a new interest in the French tongue,
and ask her to come along. I don't mind it a bit. I sit and spin yarns
about Drawing-rooms and Court balls, and it all helps.--When did you
get home?"

For Nora attended a High School in a neighbouring town, some five miles
away, journeying there and back by train.

"Half-past four. I met Mr. Winnington in his car, and he said he'd be
here about six."

"Good. I'm dying to talk to him. I have written to the Abbey to say we
will call to-morrow. Of course, I ought to be her nursing mother in
these parts"--said Lady Tonbridge reflectively--"I knew Sir Robert in
frocks, and we were always pals. But my dear, it was I who hatched the

Nora nodded gravely.

"It was I," pursued Lady Tonbridge, penitentially,--"who saddled him
with that woman--and I know he never forgave me. He as good as told me
so when we last met--for those few hours--at Basle. But how could I
tell? How could anybody tell--she would turn out such a creature? I
only knew that she had taken all kinds of honours. I thought I was
sending him a treasure."

"All the same you did it, Mummy. And it won't do to give yourself airs
now! That's what Mr. Winnington says. You've got to help him out."

"I say, don't talk secrets!" said a voice just outside the room. "For I
can't help hearing 'em. May I come in?"

And, pushing the half-open door, Mark Winnington stood smiling on the

"I apologise. But your little maid let me in--and then vanished
somewhere, like greased lightning--after a dog."

"Oh, come in," said Lady Tonbridge, with resignation, extending at the
same time a hand of welcome--"the little maid, as you call her, only
came from your workhouse yesterday, and I haven't yet discovered a
grain of sense in her. But she gets plenty of exercise. If she isn't
chasing dogs, it's cats."

"Don't you attack my schools," said Winnington seating himself at the
tea-table. "They're A1, and you're very lucky to get one of my girls."

Madeleine Tonbridge replied tartly, that if he was a poor-law guardian,
and responsible for a barrack school it was no cause for boasting. She
had not long parted with another of his girls, who had tried on her
blouses, and gone out in her boots. She thought of offering the new
girl a free and open choice of her wardrobe to begin with, so as to
avoid unpleasantness.

"We all know that every mistress has the maid she deserves," said
Winnington, deep in gingerbread cake. "I leave it there--"

"Yes, jolly well do!" cried Nora, who had come to sit on a stool in
front of her mother and Winnington, her eager eyes glancing from one to
the other--"Don't start Mummy on servants, Mr. Winnington. If you do, I
shall go to bed. There's only one thing worth talking about--and

"Maumsey!" he said, laughing at her.

"Have you accomplished anything?" asked Lady Tonbridge. "Don't tell me
you've dislodged the Fury?"

Winnington shook his head.

"_J'y suis--j'y reste_!"

"I thought so. There is no civilised way by which men can eject a
woman. Tell me all about it."

Winnington, however, instead of expatiating on the Maumsey household,
turned the conversation to something else--especially to Nora's first
attempts at golf, in which he had been her teacher. Nora, whose
reasonableness was abnormal, very soon took the hint, and after five
minutes' "chaff" with Winnington, to whom she was devoted, she took up
her work and went back to the garden.

"Nobody ever snubs me so efficiently as Nora," said Madeleine
Tonbridge, with resignation, "though you come a good second. Discreet I
shall never be. Don't tell me anything if you don't want to."

"But of course I want to! And there is nobody in the world so
absolutely bound to help me as you."

"I knew you'd say that. Don't pile it on. Give me the kitten--and
describe your proceedings."

Winnington handed her the grey Persian kitten reposing on a distant
chair, and Lady Tonbridge, who always found the process conducive to
clear thinking, stroked and combed the creature's beautiful fur, while
the man talked,--with entire freedom now that they were _tte--tte._

She was his good friend indeed, and she had also been the good friend
of Sir Robert Blanchflower. It was natural that to her he should lay
his perplexities bare.

* * * * *

But after she had heard his story and given her best mind to his
position, she could not refrain from expressing the wonder she had felt
from the beginning that he should ever have accepted it at all.

"What on earth made you do it? Bobby Blanchflower had no more real
claim on you than this kitten!"

Winnington's grey eyes fixed on the trees outside shewed a man trying
to retrace his own course.

"He wrote me a very touching letter. And I have always thought that
men--and women--ought to be ready to do this kind of service for each
other. I should have felt a beast if I had said No, at once. But I
confess now that I have seen Miss Delia, I don't know whether I can do
the slightest good."

"Hold on!" said Lady Tonbridge, sharply,--"You can't give it

Winnington laughed.

"I have no intention of giving it up. Only I warn you that I shall
probably make a mess of it."

"Well"--the tone was coolly reflective--"that may do _you_
good--whatever happens to the girl. You have never made a mess of
anything yet in your life. It will be a new experience."

Winnington protested hotly that her remark only shewed how little even
intimate friends know of each other's messes, and that his were already
legion. Lady Tonbridge threw him an incredulous look. As he sat there
in his bronzed and vigorous manhood, the first crowsfeet just beginning
to shew round the eyes, and the first streaks of grey in the brown
curls, she said to herself that none of her young men acquaintance
possessed half the physical attractiveness of Mark Winnington; while
none--old or young--could rival him at all in the humane and winning
spell he carried about with him. To see Mark Winnington _aux prises_
with an adventure in which not even his tact, his knowledge of men and
women, his candour, or his sweetness, might be sufficient to win
success, piqued her curiosity; perhaps even flattered that slight
inevitable malice, wherewith ordinary mortals protect themselves
against the favourites of the gods.

She was determined however to help him if she could, and she put him
through a number of questions. The girl then was as handsome as she
promised to be? A beauty, said Winnington--and of the heroic or poetic
type. And the Fury? Winnington described the neat, little lady,
fashionably Pressed and quiet mannered, who had embittered the last
years of Sir Robert Blanchflower, and firmly possessed herself of his

"You will see her to-morrow, at my house, when you come to tea. I
carefully didn't ask her, but I am certain she will come, and Alice and
I shall of course have to receive her."

"She is not thin-skinned then?"

"What fanatic is? It is one of the secrets of their strength."

"She probably regards us all as the dust under her feet," said Lady
Tonbridge. "I wonder what game she will be up to here. Have you seen
the _Times_ this morning?"

Winnington nodded. It contained three serious cases of arson, in which
Suffragette literature and messages had been discovered among the
ruins, besides a number of minor outrages. An energetic leading article
breathed the exasperation of the public, and pointed out the spread of
the campaign of violence.

By this time Lady Tonbridge had carried her visitor into the garden,
and they were walking up and down among the late September flowers.
Beyond the garden lay green fields and hedgerows; beyond the fields
rose the line of wooded hill, and, embedded in trees, the grey and
gabled front of Monk Lawrence.

Winnington reported the very meagre promise he had been able to get out
of his ward and her companion.

"The comfort is," said Lady Tonbridge, "that this is a sane
neighbourhood--comparatively. They won't get much support. Oh, I don't
know though--" she added quickly. "There's that man--Mr. Lathrop, Paul
Lathrop--who took Wood Cottage last year--a queer fish, by all
accounts. I'm told he's written the most violent things backing up the
militants generally. However, his own story has put _him_ out of

"His own story?" said Winnington, with a puzzled look.

"Don't be so innocent!" laughed Lady Tonbridge, rather impatiently. "I
always tell you you don't give half place enough in life to
gossip-'human nature's daily food.' I knew all about him a week after
he arrived. However, I don't propose to save you trouble, Mr. Guardian!
Go and look up a certain divorce case, with Mr. Lathrop's name in it,
some time last year--if you want to know. That's enough for that."

But Winnington interrupted her, with a disturbed look. "I happened to
meet that very man you are speaking of--yesterday--in the Abbey drive,
going to call."

Lady Tonbridge shrugged her shoulders.

"There you see their freemasonry. I don't suppose they approve his
morals--but he supports their politics. You won't be able to banish
him!--Well, so the child is lovely? and interesting?"

Winnington assented warmly.

"But determined to make herself a nuisance to you? Hm! Mr. Mark--dear
Mr. Mark--don't fall in love with her!"

Winnington's expression altered. He did not answer for a moment. Then
he said, looking away--

"Do you think you need have said that?"

"No!"--cried Madeleine Tonbridge remorsefully. "I am a wretch. But

This time he smiled at her, though not without vexation.

"Do you forget that I am nearly old enough to be her father?"

"Oh that's nonsense!" she said hastily. "However--I'm not going to
flatter you--or tease you. Forgive me. I put it out of my head. I
wonder if there is anybody in the field already?"

"Not that I am aware of."

"Of course you know this kind of thing spoils a girl's prospects of
marriage enormously. Men won't run the risk."

Winnington laughed.

"And all the time, you're a Suffragist yourself!"

"Yes, indeed I am," was the stout reply. "Here am I, with a house and a
daughter, a house-parlourmaid, a boot-boy, and rates to pay. Why
shouldn't I vote as well as you? But the difference between me and the
Fury is that she wants the vote this year--this month--_this
minute_--and I don't care whether it comes in my time--or Nora's
time--or my grandchildren's time. I say we ought to have it--that it is
our right--and you men are dolts not to give it us. But I sit and wait
peaceably till you do--till the apple is ripe and drops. And meanwhile
these wild women prevent its ripening at all. So long as they rage,
there it hangs--out of our reach. So that I'm not only ashamed of them
as a woman--but out of all patience with them as a Suffragist! However
for heaven's sake don't let's discuss the horrid subject. I'll do all I
can for Delia--both for your sake and Bob's--I'll keep my best eye on
the Fury--I feel myself of course most abominably responsible for
her--and I hope for the best. Who's coming to your tea-party?"

Winnington enumerated. At the name of Susy Amberley, his hostess threw
him a sudden look, but said nothing.

"The Andrews'--Captain, Mrs. and Miss--," Lady Tonbridge exclaimed.

"Why did you ask that horrid woman?"

"We didn't! Alice indiscreetly mentioned that Miss Blanchflower was
coming to tea, and she asked herself."

"She's enough to make any one militant! If I hear her quote 'the hand
that rocks the cradle rules the world' once more, I shall have to smite
her. The girl's _down-trodden_ I tell you! Well, well--if you gossip
too little, I gossip too much. Heavens!--what a light!"

Winnington turned to see the glow of a lovely afternoon fusing all the
hill-side in a glory of gold and amethyst, and the windows in the long
front of Monk Lawrence taking fire under the last rays of a
fast-dropping sun.

"Do you know--I sometimes feel anxious about that house!" said
Madeleine Tonbridge, abruptly. "It's empty--it's famous--it belongs to
a member of the Government. What is to prevent the women from attacking

"In the first place, it isn't empty. The Keeper, Daunt, from the South
Lodge, has now moved into the house. I know, because Susy Amberley told
me. She goes up there to teach one of my cripples--Daunt's second girl.
In the next, the police are on the alert. And last--who on earth would
dare to attack Monk Lawrence? The odium of it would be too great. A
house bound up with English history and English poetry--No! They are
not such fools!"

Lady Tonbridge shook her head.

"Don't be so sure. Anyway you as a magistrate can keep the police up to
the mark."

Winnington departed, and his old friend was left to meditate on his
predicament. It was strange to see Mark Winnington, with his
traditional, English ways and feelings--carried, as she always felt, to
their highest--thus face to face with the new feminist forces--as
embodied in Delia Blanchflower. He had resented, clearly resented, the
introduction--by her, Madeleine--of the sex element into the problem.
But how difficult to keep it out! "He will see her constantly--he will
have to exercise his will against hers--he will get his way--and then
hate himself for conquering--he will disapprove, and yet admire,--will
offend her, yet want to please her--a creature all fire, and beauty,
and heroisms out of place! And she--could she, could I, could any woman
I know, fight Mark Winnington--and not love him all the time? Men are
men, and women are women--in spite of all these 'isms,' and 'causes.' I
bet--but I don't know what I bet!--" Then her thoughts gradually veered
away from Mark to quite another person.

How would Susan Amberley be affected by this new interest in Mark
Winnington's life? Madeleine's thoughts recalled a gentle face, a pair
of honest eyes, a bearing timid and yet dignified. So she was teaching
one of Mark's crippled children? And Mark thought no doubt she would
have done the like for anyone else with a charitable hobby? Perhaps she
would, for her heart was a fount of pity. All the same, the man--blind
bat!--understood nothing. No fault of his perhaps; but Lady Tonbridge
felt a woman's angry sympathy with a form of waste so common and so

And now the modest worshipper must see her hero absorbed day by day,
and hour by hour, in the doings of a dazzling and magnificent creature
like Delia Blanchflower. What food for torment, even in the meekest

So that the last word the vivacious woman said to herself was a soft
"Poor Susy!" dropped into the heart of a September rose as she stooped
to gather it.

Chapter VII

A small expectant party were gathered for afternoon tea in the
book-lined sitting-room--the house possessed no proper drawing-room--of
Bridge End. Mrs. Matheson indeed, Mark's widowed sister, would have
resented it had anyone used the word "party" in its social sense. Miss
Blanchflower's father had been dead scarcely a month; and Mrs. Matheson
in her quiet way, held strongly by all the decencies of life. It was
merely a small gathering of some of the oldest friends and neighbours
of Miss Blanchflower's family--those who had stood nearest to her
grandparents--to welcome the orphan girl among them. Lady Tonbridge--of
whom it was commonly believed, though no one exactly knew why, that Bob
Blanchflower, as a youth had been in love with her, before ever he met
his Greek wife; Dr. France, who had attended both the old people till
their deaths, and had been much beloved by them; his wife; the Rector,
Mrs. Amberley, and Susy:--Mrs. Matheson had not intended to ask anyone
else. But the Andrews' had asked themselves, and she had not had the
moral courage to tell them that the occasion was not for them. She was
always getting Mark into difficulties, she penitently reflected, by her
inability to say No, at the right time, and with the proper force, Mark
could always say it, and stick to it smiling--without giving offence.

Mrs. Matheson was at the tea-table. She was tall and thin, with
something of her brother's good looks, but none of his over-flowing
vitality. Her iron-grey hair was rolled back from her forehead; she
wore a black dress with a high collar of white lawn, and long white
cuffs. Little Mrs. Amberley, the Rector's wife, sitting beside her,
envied her hostess her figure, and her long slender neck. She herself
had long since parted with any semblance of a waist, and the boned
collars of the day were a perpetual torment to one whose neck, from the
dressmaker's point of view, scarcely existed. But Mrs. Amberley endured
them, because they were the fashion; and to be moderately in the
fashion meant simply keeping up to the mark--not falling behind. It was
like going to church--an acceptance of that "general will," which
according to the philosophers, is the guardian of all religion and all

The Rector too, who was now handing the tea-cake, believed in
fashion--ecclesiastical fashion. Like his wife, he was gentle and
ineffective. His clerical dress expressed a moderate Anglicanism, and
his opinions were those of his class and neighbourhood, put for him day
by day in his favourite newspaper, with a cogency at which he
marvelled. Yet he was no more a hypocrite than his wife, and below his
common-places both of manner and thought there lay warm feelings and a
quick conscience. He was just now much troubled about his daughter
Susy. The night before she had told her mother and him that she wished
to go to London, to train for nursing. It had been an upheaval in their
quiet household. Why should she dream of such a thing? How could they
ever get on without her? Who would copy out his sermons, or help with
the schools? And her mother--so dependent on her only daughter! The
Rector's mind was much disturbed, and he was accordingly more absent
and more ineffective than usual.

Susy herself, in a white frock, with touches of blue at her waist, and
in her shady hat, was moving about with cups of tea, taking that place
of Mrs. Matthews's lieutenant, which was always tacitly given her by
Winnington and his sister on festal occasions at Bridge End. As she
passed Winnington, who had been captured by Mrs. Andrews, he turned
with alacrity--

"My dear Miss Susy! What are you doing? Give me that cup!"

"No--please! I like doing it!" And she passed on, smiling, towards Lady
Tonbridge, whose sharp eyes had seen the trivial contact between
Winnington and the girl. How the mere sound of his voice had changed
the aspect of the young face! Poor child--poor child!

"How well you look Susy! Such a pretty dress!" said Madeleine tenderly
in the girl's ear.

Susy flushed.

"You really think so? Mother gave it me for a birthday present." She
looked up with her soft, brown eyes, which always seemed to have in
them, even when they smiled, a look of pleading--as of someone at a
disadvantage. At the same moment Winnington passed her.

"_Could_ you go and talk to Miss Andrews?" he said, over his shoulder,
so that only she heard.

Susy went obediently across the room to where a silent, dark-haired
girl sat by herself, quite apart from the rest of the circle. Marion
Andrews was plain, with large features and thick wiry hair. Maumsey
society in general declared her "impossible." She rarely talked; she
seemed to have no tastes; and the world believed her both stupid and
disagreeable. And by contrast with the effusive amiabilities of her
mother, she could appear nothing else. Mrs. Andrews indeed had a way of
using her daughter as a foil to her own qualities, which must have
paralysed the most self-confident, and Marion had never possessed any
belief in herself at all.

As Susy Amberley timidly approached her, and began to make
conversation, she looked up coldly, and hardly answered. Meanwhile Mrs.
Andrews was pouring out a flood of talk under which the uncomfortable
Winnington--for it always fell to him as host to entertain her--sat
practising endurance. She was a selfish, egotistical woman, with a vast
command of sloppy phrases, which did duty for all that real feeling or
sympathy of which she possessed uncommonly little. On this occasion she
was elaborately dressed,--overdressed--in a black satin gown, which
seemed to Winnington, an ugly miracle of trimming and tortured "bits."
Her large hat was thick with nodding plumes, and beside her spotless
white gloves and showy lace scarf, her daughter's slovenly coat and
skirt, of the cheapest ready-made kind, her soiled gloves, and clumsy
shoes, struck even a man uncomfortably. That poor girl seemed to grow
plainer and more silent every year.

He was just shaking himself free from the mother, when Dr. and Mrs.
France were announced. The doctor came in with a furrowed brow, and a
preoccupied look. After greeting Mrs. Matheson, and the other guests,
he caught a glance of enquiry from Winnington and went up to him.

"The evening paper is full of the most shocking news!" he said, with
evident agitation. "There has been an attempt on Hampton Court--and two
girls who were caught breaking windows in Piccadilly have been badly
hurt by the crowd. A bomb too has been found in the entrance of one of
the tube stations. It was discovered in time, or the results might have
been frightful."

"Good Heavens--those women again!" cried Mrs. Andrews, lifting hands
and eyes.

No one else spoke. But in everyone's mind the same thought emerged. At
any moment the door might open, and Delia Blanchflower and her chaperon
might come in.

The doctor drew Winnington aside into a bow-window.

"Did you know that the lady living with Miss Blanchflower was a member
of this League of Revolt?"

"Yes. You mean they are implicated in these things?"

"Certainly! I am told Miss Marvell was once an official--probably is
still. My dear Winnington--you can't possibly allow it!" He spoke with
the freedom of an intimate friend.

"How can I stop it," said Winnington, frowning. "My ward is of age. If
Miss Marvell does anything overt--But she has promised to do nothing
violent down here--they both have."

The doctor, an impetuous Ulsterman with white hair, and black eyes,
shrugged his shoulders impatiently. "When women once take to this kind
of thing"--he was interrupted by Mrs. Andrews' heavy voice rising
above the rather nervous and disjointed conversation of the other
guests--"If women only knew where their real power lies, Mrs. Matheson!
Why, 'the hand that rocks the cradle'--"

A sudden crash was heard.

"Oh, dear"--cried Lady Tonbridge, who had upset a small table with a
plate of cakes on it across the tail of Mrs. Andrews' dress--"how
stupid I am!"

"My gown!--my gown!" cried Mrs. Andrews in an anguish, groping for the

In the midst of the confusion the drawing-room door had opened, and
there on the threshold stood Delia Blanchflower, with a slightly-built
lady behind her.

Winnington turned with a start and went forward to greet them. Dr.
France left behind in the bow-window observed their entry with a
mingling of curiosity and repulsion. It seemed to him that their entry
was that of persons into a hostile camp,--the senses all alert against
attack. Delia was of course in black, her face sombrely brilliant in
its dark setting of a plain felt hat, like the hat of a Cavalier
without its feathers. "She knows perfectly well we have been talking
about her!" thought Dr. France,--"that we have seen the newspapers. She
comes in ready for battle--perhaps thirsty for it! She is
excited--while the woman behind her is perfectly cool. The two
types!--the enthusiast--and the fanatic. But, by Jove, the girl is

Through the sudden silence created by their entry, Delia made her way
to Mrs. Matheson. Holding her head very high, she introduced "My
chaperon--Miss Marvell." And Winnington's sister nervously shook hands
with the quietly smiling lady who followed in Miss Blanchflower's wake.
Then while Delia sat down beside the hostess, and Winnington busied
himself in supplying her with tea, her companion fell to the Rector's

The Rector, like Winnington, was not a gossip, partly out of scruples,
but mainly perhaps because of a certain deficient vitality, and he had
but disjointed ideas on the subject of the two ladies who had now
settled at the Abbey. He understood, however, that Delia, whom he
remembered as a child, was a "Suffragette," and that Mr. Winnington,
Delia's guardian, disapproved of the lady she had brought with her,
why, he could not recollect. This vague sense of something "naughty"
and abnormal gave a certain tremor to his manner as he stood beside
Gertrude Marvell, shifting from one foot to the other, and nervously
plying her with tea-cake.

Miss Marvell's dark eyes meanwhile glanced round the room, taking in
everybody. They paused a moment on the figure of the doctor, erect and
spare in a closely-buttoned coat, on his spectacled face, and
conspicuous brow, under waves of nearly white hair; then passed on. Dr.
France watched her, following the examining eyes with his own. He saw
them change, with a look--the slightest passing look--of recognition,
and at the same moment he was aware of Marion Andrews, sitting in the
light of a side window. What had happened to the girl? He saw her dark
face, for one instant, exultant, transformed; like some forest hollow
into which a sunbeam strikes. The next, she was stooping over a copy of
"Punch" which lay on the table beside her. A rush of speculation ran
through the doctor's mind.

"And you are settled at Maumsey?" Mrs. Matheson was saying to Delia;
aware as soon as the question was uttered that it was a foolish one.

"Oh no, not settled. We shall be there a couple of months."

"The house will want some doing up, Mark thinks."

"I don't think so. Not much anyway. It does very well."

There was an entire absence of girlish softness or shyness in the
speaker's manner, though it was both courteous and easy. The
voice--musically deep--and the splendid black eyes, that looked so
steadily at her, intimidated Mark Winnington's gentle sister.

Mrs. Andrews, whose dress, after Susy's ministration, had been declared
out of danger, bent across the tea-table, all smiles and benevolence
again, the plumes in her black hat nodding--

"It's like old times to have the Abbey open again, Miss Blanchflower!
Every week we used to go to your dear grandmother, for her Tuesday
work-party. I'm afraid you'll hardly revive _that_!"

Delia brought a rather intimidating brow to bear upon the speaker.

"I'm afraid not."

Lady Tonbridge, who had already greeted Delia as a woman naturally
greets the daughter of an old friend, came up as Delia spoke to ask for
a second cup of tea, and laid her hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Very sorry to miss you yesterday. I won't insult you by saying you've
grown. How about the singing? You used to sing I remember when I stayed
with you."

"Yes--but I've given it up. I took lessons at Munich last spring. But I
can't work at it enough. And if one can't work, it's no good."

"Why can't you work at it?"

Delia suddenly looked up in her questioner's face. Her gravity broke up
in a broad smile.

"Because there's so much else to do."

"What else?"

The look of excited defiance in the girl's eyes sharpened.

"Do you really want to know?"

"Certainly. The Suffrage and that kind of thing?" said Madeleine
Tonbridge lightly.

"The Suffrage and that kind of thing!" repeated Delia, still smiling.

Captain Andrews who was standing near, and whose martial mind was all
in confusion, owing to Miss Blanchflower's beauty, put in an eager

"I never can understand, Miss Blanchflower, why you ladies want the
vote! Why, you can twist us round your little fingers!"

Delia turned upon him.

"But I don't want to twist you round my little finger!" she said, with
energy. "It wouldn't give me the smallest pleasure."

"I thought you wanted to manage us," said the Captain, unable to take
his eyes from her. "But you do manage us already!"

Delia's glance showed her uncertain whether the foe was worth her

"We want to manage ourselves," she said at last, smiling indifferently.
"We say you do it badly."

The Captain attempted to spar with her a little longer. Winnington
meanwhile stood, a silent listener, amid the group round the tea-table.
He--and Dr. France--were both acutely conscious of the realities behind
this empty talk; of the facts recorded in the day's newspapers; and of
the connection between the quiet lady in grey who had come in with
Delia Blanchflower, and the campaign of public violence, which was now
in good earnest alarming and exasperating the country.

Where was the quiet lady in grey? Winnington was thinking too much
about his ward to keep a constant eye upon her. But Dr. France observed
her closely, and he presently saw what puzzled him anew. After a
conversation, exceedingly bland, though rather monosyllabic, on Miss
Marvell's part, with the puzzled and inarticulate Rector, Delia's
chaperon had gently and imperceptibly moved away from the tea-table.
That she had been very coldly received by the company in general was no
doubt evident to her. She was now sitting beside that strange girl
Marion Andrews--to whom, as the Doctor had seen, she had been
introduced--apparently--by the Rector. And as Dr. France caught sight
of her, she and Marion Andrews rose and walked to a window opening on
the garden, apparently to look at the blaze of autumn flowers outside.

But it was the demeanour of the girl which again drew the doctor's
attention. Marion Andrews, who never talked, was talking fast and
earnestly to this complete stranger, her normally sallow face one glow.
It was borne in afresh upon Dr. France that the two were already
acquainted; and he continued to watch them as closely as politeness

* * * * *

"Will you come and look at the house?" said Winnington to his ward.
"Not that we have anything to shew--except a few portraits and old
engravings that might interest you. But it's rather a dear old place,
and we're very fond of it."

Delia went with him in silence. He opened the oval panelled
dining-room, and shewed her the portraits of his father, the venerable
head of an Oxford college, in the scarlet robes of a D.D., and others
representing his forebears on both sides--quiet folk, painted by decent
but not important painters. Delia looked at them and hardly spoke. Then
they went into Mrs. Matheson's room, which was bright with pretty
chintzes, books and water-colours, and had a bow-window looking on the
garden. Still Delia said nothing, beyond an absent Yes or No, or a
perfunctory word of praise. Winnington became very soon conscious of
some strong tension in her, which was threatening to break down; a
tension evidently of displeasure and resentment. He guessed what the
subject of it might be, but as he was most unwilling to discuss it with
her, if his guess were correct, he tried to soothe and evade her by
such pleasant talk as the different rooms suggested. The house through
which he led her was the home, evidently, of a man full of enthusiasms
and affections, caring intensely for many things, for his old school,
of which there were many drawings and photographs in the hall and
passages, for the two great games in which he himself excelled; for
poetry and literature--the house overflowed everywhere with books; for
his County Council work, and all the projects connected with it; for
his family and his intimate friends.

"Who is that?" asked Delia, pointing to a charcoal drawing in Mrs.
Matheson's sitting-room, of a noble-faced woman of thirty, in a
delicate evening dress of black and white.

"That is my mother. She died the year after it was taken."

Delia looked at it in silence a moment. There was something in its
dignity, its restfulness, its touch of austerity which challenged her.
She said abruptly--"I want to speak to you please, Mr. Winnington. May
we shut the door?"

Winnington shut the door of his sister's room, and returned to his
guest. Delia had turned very white.

"I hear Mr. Winnington you have reversed an order I wrote to our agent
about one of the cottages. May I know your reasons?"

"I was very sorry to do so," said Winnington gently; "but I felt sure
you did not understand the real circumstances, and I could not come and
discuss them with you."

Delia stood stormily erect, and the level light of the October
afternoon streaming in through a west window magnified her height, and
her prophetess air.

"I can't help shocking you, Mr. Winnington. I don't accept what you
say. I don't believe that covering up horrible things makes them less
horrible. I want to stand by that girl. It is cruel to separate her
from her old father!"

Winnington looked at her in distress and embarrassment.

"The story is not what you think it," he said earnestly. "But it is
really not fit for your ears. I have given great thought and much time
to it, yesterday and to-day. The girl--who is mentally deficient--will
be sent to a home and cared for. The father sees now that it is the
best. Please trust it to me."

"Why mayn't I know the facts!" persisted Delia, paler than before.

A flash of some quick feeling passed through Winnington's eyes.

"Why should you? Leave us older folk, dear Miss Delia, to deal with
these sorrowful things."

Indignation blazed up in her.

"It is for women to help women," she said, passionately. "It is no good
treating us who are grown up--even if we are young--like children any
more. We intend to _know_--that we may protect--and save."

"I assure you," said Winnington gravely, "that this poor girl shall
have every care--every kindness. So there is really no need for you to
know. Please spare yourself--and me!"

He had come to stand by her, looking down upon her. She lifted her eyes
to his unwillingly, and as she caught his smile she was invaded by a
sudden consciousness of his strong magnetic presence. The power in the
grey eyes, and in the brow over-hanging them, the kind sincerity
mingled with the power, and the friendliness that breathed from his
whole attitude and expression, disarmed her. She felt herself for a
moment--and for the first time--young and ignorant,--and that
Winnington was ready to be in the true and not merely in the legal
sense, her "guardian," if she would only let him.

But the moment of weakening was soon over. Her mind chafed and twisted.
Why had he undertaken it--a complete stranger to her! It was most
embarrassing--detestable--for them both!

And there suddenly darted through her memory the recollection of a
certain item in her father's will. Under it Mr. Winnington received a

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