Part 4 out of 7
"Then you'll be all alone?"
"I'm never alone," said Lathrop, with decision. And rising he went to
the door of the cottage--which opened straight on the hill-side, and
set it open.
It was four o'clock on a November day. The autumn was late, and of a
marvellous beauty. The month was a third gone and still there were
trees here and there, isolated trees, intensely green as though they
defied decay. The elder trees, the first to leaf under the Spring, were
now the last to wither. The elms in twenty-four hours had turned a pale
gold atop, while all below was still round and green. But the beeches
were nearly gone; all that remained of them was a thin pattern of
separate leaves, pale gold and faintly sparkling against the afternoon
sky. Such a sky! Bands of delicate pinks, lilacs and blues scratched
across an inner-heaven of light, and in the mid-heaven a blazing
furnace, blood-red, wherein the sun had just plunged headlong to its
death. And under the sky, an English scene of field and woodland,
fading into an all-environing forest, still richly clothed. While in
the foreground and middle distance, some trees already stripped and
bare, winter's first spoil, stood sharply black against the scarlet of
the sunset. And fusing the whole scene, hazes of blue, amethyst or
purple, beyond a Turner's brush,
"What beauty!--my God!"
Blaydes came to stand beside the speaker, glancing at him with eyes
half curious, half mocking.
"You get so much pleasure out of it?"
For answer, Lathrop murmured a few words as though to himself, a sudden
lightening in his sleepy eyes--
L'univers--si liquide, si pur!--
Une belle eau qu'on voudrait boire.
"I don't understand French"--said Blaydes, with a shrug--"not French
"That's a pity," was the dry reply--"because you can't read Madame de
Noailles. Ah!--there are Lang's pheasants calling!--his tenants I
suppose--for he's left the shooting."
He pointed to a mass of wood on his left hand from which the sound
"They say he's never here?"
"Two or three times a year,--just on business. His wife--a little
painted doll--hates the place, and they've built a villa at Beaulieu."
"Rather risky leaving a big house empty in these days--with your wild
Lathrop looked round.
"Good heavens!--who would ever dream of touching Monk Lawrence! I bet
even Gertrude Marvell hasn't nerve enough for that. Look here!--have
you ever seen it?"
"Come along then. There's just time--while this light lasts."
They snatched their caps, and were presently mounting the path which
led ultimately through the woods of Monk Lawrence to the western front.
Blaydes frowned as he walked. He was a young man of a very practical
turn of mind, who in spite of an office-boy's training possessed an
irrelevant taste for literature which had made him an admirer of
Lathrop's two published volumes. For some time past he had been
Lathrop's chancellor of the exchequer--self-appointed, and had done his
best to keep his friend out of the workhouse. From the tone of Paul's
recent letters he had become aware of two things--first, that Lathrop
was in sight of his last five pound note, and did not see his way to
either earning or borrowing another; and secondly, that a handsome girl
had appeared on the scene, providentially mad with the same kind of
madness as had recently seized on Lathrop, belonging to the same
anarchial association, and engaged in the same silly defiance of
society; likely therefore to be thrown a good deal in his company; and
last, but most important, possessed of a fortune which she would no
doubt allow the "Daughters of Revolt" to squander--unless Paul cut in.
The situation had begun to seem to him interesting, and having already
lent Lathrop more money than he could afford, he had come down to
enquire about it. He himself possessed an income of three hundred a
year, plus two thousand pounds left him by an uncle. Except for the
single weakness which had induced him to lend Lathrop a couple of
hundred pounds, his principles with regard to money were frankly
piratical. Get what you can--and how you can. Clearly it was Lathrop's
game to take advantage of this queer friendship with a militant who
happened to be both rich and young, which his dabbling in their
"nonsense" had brought about. Why shouldn't he achieve it? Lathrop was
as clever as sin; and there was the past history of the man, to shew
that he could attract women.
He gripped his friend's arm as they passed into the shadow of the wood.
Lathrop looked at him with surprise--
"Look here, Paul"--said the younger man in a determined voice--"You've
got to pull this thing off."
"You can marry this girl if you put your mind to it. You tell me you're
going about the country with her speaking at meetings--that you're one
of her helpers and advisers. That is--you've got an A1 chance with her.
If you don't use it, you're a blithering idiot."
Paul threw back his head and laughed.
"And what about other people? What about her guardian, for
instance--who is the sole trustee of the property--who has a thousand
chances with her to my one--and holds, I venture to say--if he knows
anything about me--the strongest views on the subject of _my_ moral
"Who is her guardian?"
"Mark Wilmington. Does that convey anything to you?"
"Yes. Precisely 'Great Scott!'" said Lathrop, mocking. "I may add that
everybody here has their own romance on the subject. They are convinced
that Winnington will soon cure her of her preposterous notions, and
restore her, tamed, to a normal existence."
Blaydes meditated,--his aspect showing a man checked.
"I saw Winnington playing in a county match last August," he said--with
his eyes on the ground--"I declare no one looked at anybody else. I
suppose he's forty; but the old stagers tell you that he's just as much
of an Apollo now as he was in his most famous days--twenty years ago."
"Don't exaggerate. He _is_ forty, and I'm thirty--which is one to me.
I only meant to suggest to you a _reasonable_ view of the chances."
"Look here--_is_ she as handsome as people say?"
"Blaydes!--this is the last time I shall allow you to talk about
her--you get on my nerves. Handsome? I don't know."
He walked on, muttering to himself and twitching at the trees on either
"I am simply putting what is your duty to yourself--and your
creditors," said Blaydes, sulkily--"You must know your affairs are in
a pretty desperate state."
"And a girl like that is to be sacrificed--to my creditors! Good Lord!"
"Oh, well, if you regard yourself as such an undesirable, naturally,
I've nothing to say. Of course I know--there's that case against you.
But it's a good while ago; and I declare women don't look at those
things as they used to do. Why don't you play the man of letters
business? You know very well, Paul, you could earn a lot of money if
you chose. But you're such a lazy dog!"
"Let me alone!" said Lathrop, rather fiercely. "The fact that you've
lent me a couple of hundred really doesn't give you the right to talk
to me like this."
"I won't lend you a farthing more unless you promise me to take this
thing seriously," said Blaydes, doggedly.
Lathrop burst into a nervous shout of laughter.
"I say, do shut up! I assure you, you can't bully me. Now then--here's
And as he spoke they emerged from the green oblong, bordered by low yew
edges, from which as from a flat and spacious shelf carved out of the
hill, Monk Lawrence surveyed the slopes below it, the clustered
village, the middle distance with its embroidery of fields and trees,
with the vaporous stretches of the forest beyond, and in the far
distance, a shining line of sea.
"My word!--that is a house!" cried Blaydes, stopping to survey it and
get his townsman's breath, after the steep pitch of hill.
"Is it shown?"
"Used to be. It has been shut lately for fear of the militants."
"But they keep somebody in it?"
"Yes--in some room at the back. A keeper, and his three children. The
wife's dead. Shall I go and see if he'll let us in? But he won't. He'll
have seen my name at that meeting, in the Latchford paper."
"No, no. I shall miss my train. Let's walk round. Why, you'd think it
was on fire already!" said Blaydes, with a start, gazing at the house.
For the marvellous evening now marching from the western forest, was
dyeing the whole earth in crimson, and the sun just emerging from one
bank of cloud, before dropping into the bank below, was flinging a
fierce glare upon the wide grey front of Monk Lawrence. Every window
blazed, and some fine oaks still thick with red leaf, which flanked the
house on the north, flamed in concert. The air was suffused with red;
every minor tone, blue or brown, green or purple, shewed through it, as
through a veil.
And yet how quietly the house rose, in the heart of the flame! Peace
brooding on memory seemed to breathe from its rounded oriels, its mossy
roof, its legend in stone letters running round the eaves, the carved
trophies and arabesques which framed the stately doorway, the sleepy
fountain with its cupids, in the courtyard, the graceful loggia on the
northern side. It stood, aloof and self-contained, amid the lightnings
and arrows of the departing sun.
"No--they'd never dare to touch that!" said Lathrop as he led the way
to the path skirting the house. "And if I caught Miss Marvell at it,
I'm not sure I shouldn't hand her over myself!"
"Aren't we trespassing?" said Blaydes, as their footsteps rang on the
broad flagged path which led from the front court to the terrace at the
back of the house.
"Certainly. Ah, the dog's heard us."
And before they had gone more than a few steps further, a burly man
appeared at the further corner of the house, holding a muzzled dog--a
mastiff--on a leash.
"What might you be wanting, gentlemen?" he said gruffly.
"Why, you know me, Daunt. I brought a friend up to look at your
wonderful place. We can walk through, can't we?"
"Well, as you're here, Sir, I'll let you out by the lower gate. But
this is private ground, Sir, and Sir Wilfrid's orders are strict,--not
to let anybody through that hasn't either business with the house or an
order from himself."
"All right. Let's have a look at the back and the terrace, and then
we'll be off; Sir Wilfrid coming here?"
"Not that I know of, Sir," said the keeper shortly, striding on before
the two men, and quieting his dog, who was growling at their heels.
As he spoke he led the way down a stately flight of stone steps by
which the famous eastern terrace at the back of the house was reached.
The three men and the dog disappeared from view.
Steadily the sunset faded. An attacking host of cloud rushed upon it
from the sea, and quenched it. The lights in the windows of Monk
Lawrence went out. Dusk fell upon the house and all its approaches.
Suddenly, two figures--figures of women--emerged in the twilight from
the thick plantation, which protected the house on the north. They
reached the flagged path with noiseless feet, and then pausing, they
began what an intelligent spectator would have soon seen to be a
careful reconnoitering of the whole northern side of the house. They
seemed to examine the windows, a garden door, the recesses in the
walls, the old lead piping, the creepers and shrubs. Then one of them,
keeping close to the house wall, which was in deep shadow, went quickly
round to the back. The other awaited her. In the distance rose at
intervals a dog's uneasy bark.
In a very few minutes the woman who had gone round the house returned
and the two, slipping back into the dense belt of wood from which they
had come, were instantly swallowed up by it. Their appearance and their
movements throughout had been as phantom-like and silent as the shadows
which were now engulfing the house. Anyone who had seen them come and
go might almost have doubted his own eyes.
* * * * *
Daunt the Keeper returned leisurely to his quarters in some back
premises of Monk Lawrence, at the southeastern corner of the house. But
he had but just opened his own door when he again heard the sound of
footsteps in the fore-court.
"Well, what's come to the folk to-night"--he muttered, with some
ill-humour, as he turned back towards the front.
A woman!--standing with her back to the house, in the middle of the
forecourt as though the place belonged to her, and gazing at the piled
clouds of the west, still haunted by the splendour just past away.
A veritable Masque of Women, all of the Maenad sort, had by now begun
to riot through Daunt's brain by night and day. He raised his voice
"What's your business here, Ma'am? There is no public road past this
The lady turned, and came towards him.
"Don't you know who I am, Mr. Daunt? But I remember you when I was a
Daunt peered through the dusk.
"You have the advantage of me, Madam," he said, stiffly. "Kindly give
me your name."
"Miss Blanchflower--from Maumsey Abbey!" said a young, conscious voice.
"I used to come here with my grandmother, Lady Blanchflower. I have
been intending to come and pay you a visit for a long time--to have a
look at the old house again. And just now I was passing the foot of
your hill in a motor; something went wrong with the car, and while they
were mending it, I ran up. But it's getting dark so quick, one can
hardly see anything!"
Daunt's attitude showed no relaxation. Indeed, quick recollections
assailed him of certain reports in the local papers, now some ten days
old. Miss Blanchflower indeed! She was a brazen one--after all done and
"Pleased to see you, Miss, if you'll kindly get an order from Sir
Wilfrid. But I have strict instructions from Sir Wilfrid not to admit
anyone--not anyone whatsoever--to the gardens or the house, without his
"I should have thought, Mr. Daunt, that only applied to strangers." The
tones shewed annoyance. "My father, Sir Robert Blanchflower, was an old
friend of Sir Wilfrid's."
"Can't help it, Miss," said Daunt, not without the secret zest of the
Radical putting down his "betters." "There are queer people about. I
can't let no one in without an order."
As he spoke, a gate slammed on his left, and Daunt, with the feeling of
one beset, turned in wrath to see who might be this new intruder. Since
the house had been closed to visitors, and a notice to the effect had
been posted in the village, scarcely a soul had penetrated through its
enclosing woods, except Miss Amberley, who came to teach Daunts
crippled child. And now in one evening here were three assaults upon
But as to the third he was soon reassured.
"Hullo, Daunt, is that you? Did I hear you telling Miss Blanchflower
you can't let her in? But you know her of course?" said a man's easy
Delia started. The next moment her hand was in her guardian's, and she
realised that he had heard the conversation between herself and Daunt,
realised also that she had committed a folly not easily to be
explained, either to Winnington or herself, in obeying the impulse
which--half memory, half vague anxiety,--had led her to pay this
sudden visit to the house. Gertrude Marvell had left Maumsey that
morning, saying she should be in London for the day. Had Gertrude been
with her, Delia would have let Monk Lawrence go by. For in Gertrude's
company it had become an instinct with her--an instinct she scarcely
confessed to herself--to avoid all reference to the house.
At sight of Winnington, however, who was clearly a privileged person in
his eyes, Daunt instantly changed his tone.
"Good evening, Sir. Perhaps you'll explain to this young lady? We've
got to keep a sharp lookout--you know that, Sir."
"Certainly, Daunt, certainly. I am sure Miss Blanchflower understands.
But you'll let _me_ shew her the house, I imagine?"
"Why, of course, Sir! There's nothing you can't do here. Give me a few
minutes--I'll turn on some lights. Perhaps the young lady will walk
in?" He pointed to his own rooms. "So you still keep the electric
"By Sir Wilfrid's wish, Sir,--so as if anything did happen these winter
nights, we mightn't be left in darkness. The engine works a bit now and
He led the way towards his quarters. The door into his kitchen stood
open, and in the glow of fire and lamp stood his three children, who
had been eagerly listening to the conversation outside. One of them, a
little girl, was leaning on a crutch. She looked up happily as
"Well, Lily--" he pinched her cheek--"I've got something to tell Father
about you. Say 'how do you do' to this lady." The child put her hand in
Delia's, looking all the while ardently at Winnington.
"Am I going to be in your school, Sir?"
"If you're good. But you'll have to be dreadfully good!"
"I am good," said Lily, confidently. "I want to be in your school,
"But such a lot of other little girls want to come too! Must I leave
Lily shook her head perplexed. "But you promithed," she lisped, very
Winnington laughed. The child's hand had transferred itself to his, and
"What school does she mean?" asked Delia.
At the sound of her voice Winnington turned to her for the first time.
It was as though till then he had avoided looking at her, lest the
hidden thought in each mind should be too plain to the other. He had
found her--Sir Robert Blanchflower's daughter--on the point of being
curtly refused admission to the house where her father had been a
familiar inmate, and where she herself had gone in and out as a child.
And he knew why; she knew why; Daunt knew why. She was a person under
suspicion, a person on whom the community was keeping watch.
Nevertheless, Winnington entirely believed what he had overheard her
say to the keeper. It was no doubt quite true that she had turned aside
to see Monk Lawrence on a sudden impulse of sentiment or memory. Odd
that it should be so!--but like her. That _she_ could have any designs
on the beautiful old place was indeed incredible; and it was equally
incredible that she would aid or abet them in anyone else. And
yet--there was that monstrous speech at Latchford, made in her hearing,
by her friend and co-militant, the woman who shared her life! Was it
any wonder that Daunt bristled at the sight of her?
He had, however, to answer her question.
"My county school," he explained. "The school for invalid
children--'physical defectives'--that we are going to open next summer.
I came to tell Daunt there'd be a place for this child. She's an old
friend of mine." He smiled down upon the nestling creature--"Has Miss
Amberley been to see you lately, Lily?"
At this moment Daunt returned to the kitchen, with the news that the
house was ready. "The light's not quite what it ought to be, Sir, but I
daresay you'll be able to see a good deal. Miss Amberley, Sir, she's
taught Lily fine. I'm sure we're very much obliged to her--and to you
for asking her."
"I don't know what the sick children here will do without her, Daunt.
She's going away--wants to be a nurse."
"Well, I'm very sorry, Sir. She'll be badly missed."
"That she will. Shall we go in?" Winnington turned to Delia, who
nodded assent, and followed him into the dim passages beyond the
brightly-lighted kitchen. The children, looking after them, saw the
beautiful lady disappearing, and felt vaguely awed by her height, her
stiff carriage and her proud looks.
Delia, indeed, was again--and as usual--in revolt, against herself and
circumstances. Why had she been such a fool as to come to Monk Lawrence
at all, and then to submit to seeing it--on sufferance!--in
Winnington's custody? And how he must be contrasting her with Susy
Amberley!--the soft sister of charity, plying her womanly tasks, in the
manner of all good women, since the world began! She saw herself as the
anarchist prowling outside, tracked, spied on, held at arm's length by
all decent citizens, all lovers of ancient beauty, and moral tradition;
while, within, women like Susy Amberley sat Madonna-like, with the
children at their knee. "Well, we stand for the children too--the
children of the future!" she said to herself defiantly.
"This is the old hall--and the gallery that was put up in honour of
Elizabeth's visit here in 1570--" she heard Winnington saying--"One of
the finest things of its kind. But you can hardly see it."
The electric light indeed was of the feeblest. A dim line of it ran
round the carved ceiling, and glimmered in the central chandelier. But
the mingled illumination of sunset and moonrise from outside contended
with it on more than equal terms; and everything in the hall,
tapestries, armour, and old oak, the gallery above, the dais with its
carved chairs below, had the dim mystery of a stage set ready for the
play, before the lights are on.
"The gardener'll be here directly, Sir. He knows how to manage it
better than I."
And in spite of protests from the two visitors he ran off again to see
what could he done to better the light. Delia turned impetuously on her
"I know you think I have no business to be here!"
Winnington paused a moment, then said--
"I was rather astonished to see you here, certainly."
"Because of what we said at Latchford the other day?"
"_You_ didn't say it!"
"But I agreed with it--I agreed with every word of it!"
"Then indeed I _am_ astonished that you should wish to see Sir Wilfrid
Lang's house!" he said, with energy.
"My recollections of it have nothing to do with Sir Wilfrid. I never
saw him that I know of."
"All the same, it belongs to him."
"No!--to history--to the nation!"
"Then let the nation guard it--and every individual in the nation! But
do you think Miss Marvell would take much pains to protect it?"
"Gertrude said nothing about the house." "No; but if I had been one of
the excitable women you command, my one desire after that speech would
have been to do some desperate damage to Sir Wilfrid, or his property.
If anything does happen, I am afraid everyone in the neighbourhood will
regard her as responsible."
Delia moved impatiently. "Can't we say what we think of Sir
Wilfrid--because he happens to possess a beautiful house?"
"If you care for Monk Lawrence, you do so,--with this campaign on
foot--only at great risk. Confess, Miss Delia!--that you were sorry for
He turned upon her with animation.
She spoke as though under pressure, her head thrown back, her face
ivory within the black frame of the veil.
"I--I shouldn't have made it."
"That's not enough. I want to hear you say you regret it!"
The light suddenly increased, and she saw him looking at her, his
eyes bright and urgent, his attitude that of the strong yet mild
judge, whose own moral life watches keenly for any sign of grace in
the accused before him. She realised for an angry moment what his
feeling must be--how deep and invincible, towards these "outrages"
which she and Gertrude Marvell regarded by now as so natural and
habitual--outrages that were calmly planned and organised, as she knew
well, at the head offices of their society, by Gertrude Marvell among
others, and acquiesced in--approved--by hundreds of persons like
herself, who either shrank from taking a direct part in them, or had no
opportunity of doing so. "But I shall soon make opportunities!--" she
thought, passionately; "I'm not going to be a shirker!" Aloud she said
in her stiffest manner--"I stand by my friends, Mr. Winnington,
especially when they are ten times better and nobler than I!"
His expression changed. He turned, like any courteous stranger, to
playing the part of showman of the house. Once more a veil had fallen
He led her through the great suite of rooms on the ground-floor, the
drawing-room, the Red Parlour, the Chinese room, the Library. They
recalled her childish visits to the house with her grandmother, and a
score of recollections, touching or absurd, rushed into her mind--but
not to her lips. Dumbness had fallen on her;--nothing seemed worth
saying, and she hurried through. She was conscious only of a rich
confused impression of old seemliness and mellowed beauty,--steeped in
fragrant and famous memories, English history, English poetry, English
art, breathing from every room and stone of the house. "In the Red
Parlour, Sidney wrote part of the 'Arcadia.'--In the room overhead
Gabriel Harvey slept.--In the Porch rooms Chatham stayed--his autograph
is there.--Fox advised upon all the older portion of the Library"--and
so on. She heard Winnington's voice as though through a dream. What did
it matter? She felt the house an oppression--as though it accused or
As they emerged from the library into a broad passage, Winnington
noticed a garden door at the north end of the passage, and called to
Daunt who was walking behind them. They went to look at it, leaving
Delia in the corridor.
"Not very secure, is it?" said Winnington, pointing to the glazed upper
half of the door--"anyone might get in there."
"I've told Sir Wilfrid, Sir, and sent him the measurements. There's to
be an iron shutter."
"H'm--that may take time. Why not put up something
temporary?--cross-bars of some sort?"
They came back towards Delia, discussing it. Unreasonably, absurdly,
she held it an offence that Winnington should discuss it in her
presence; her breath grew stormy.
Daunt turned to the right at the foot of a carved staircase, and down a
long passage leading to the kitchens, he and Winnington still talking.
Suddenly--a short flight of steps, not very visible in a dark place.
Winnington descended them, and then turned to look for Delia who was
"Please take care!--"
But he was too late. Head in air--absorbed in her own passionate mood,
Delia never saw the steps, till her foot slipped on the topmost. She
would have fallen headlong, had not Winnington caught her. His arms
received her, held her, released her. The colour rushed into his face
as into hers. "You are not hurt?" he said anxiously. "I ought to have
held a light," said Daunt, full of concern. But the little incident had
broken the ice. Delia laughed, and straightened her Cavalier hat, which
had suffered. She was still rosy as they entered Daunt's kitchen, and
the children who had seen her silent and haughty entrance, hardly
recognised the creature all life and animation who returned to them.
The car stood waiting in the fore-court. Winnington put her in. As
Delia descended the hill alone in the dark, she closed her eyes, that
she might the more completely give herself to the conflict of thoughts
which possessed her. She was bitterly ashamed and sore, torn between
her passionate affection for Gertrude Marvell, and what seemed to her a
weak and traitorous wish to stand better with Mark Winnington. Nor
could she escape from the memory--the mere physical memory--of those
strong arms round her, resent it as she might.
* * * * *
As for Winnington, when he reached home in the moonlight, instead of
going in to join his sister at tea, he paced a garden path till night
had fallen. What was this strong insurgent feeling he could neither
reason with nor silence? It seemed to have stolen upon him, amid a host
of other thoughts and pre-occupations, secretly and insidiously, till
there it stood--full-grown--his new phantom self--challenging the old,
the normal self, face to face.
Trouble, self-scorn overwhelmed him. Recalling all his promises
to himself, all his assurances to Lady Tonbridge, he stood convicted,
as the sentry who has shut his eyes and let the invader pass.
Monstrous!--that in his position, with this difference of age between
them, he should have allowed such ideas to grow and gather head.
Beautiful wayward creature!--all the more beguiling, because of the
Difficulties that bristled round her. His common sense, his judgment
were under no illusions at all about Delia Blanchflower. And yet--
This then was _passion_!--which must be held down and reasoned down.
He would reason it down. She must and should marry a man of her own
generation--youth with youth. And, moreover, to give way to these wild
desires would be simply to alienate her, to destroy all his own power
with her for good.
The ghostly presence of his life came to him. He cried out to her, made
appeal to her, in sackcloth and ashes. And then, in some mysterious,
heavenly way she was revealed to him afresh; not as an enemy whom he
had offended, not as a lover slighted, but as his best and tenderest
friend. She closed no gates against the future:--that was for himself
to settle, if closed they were to be. She seemed to walk with him, hand
in hand, sister with brother--in a deep converse of souls.
Gertrude Marvell was sitting alone at the Maumsey breakfast-table, in
the pale light of a December day. All around her were letters and
newspapers, to which she was giving an attention entirely denied to her
meal. She opened them one after another, with a frown or a look of
satisfaction, classifying them in heaps as she read, and occasionally
remembering her coffee or her toast. The parlourmaid waited on her, but
knew very well--and resented the knowledge--that Miss Marvell was
scarcely aware of her existence, or her presence in the room.
But presently the lady at the table asked--
"Is Miss Blanchflower getting up?"
"She will be down directly, Miss."
Gertrude's eyebrows rose, unconsciously. She herself was never late for
an 8:30 breakfast, and never went to bed till long after midnight. The
ways of Delia, who varied between too little sleep and the long nights
of fatigue, seemed to her self-indulgent.
After her letters had been put aside and the ordinary newspapers, she
took up a new number of the _Tocsin_. The first page was entirely given
up to an article headed "How LONG?" She read it with care, her delicate
mouth tightening a little. She herself had suggested the lines of it a
few days before, to the Editor, and her hints had been partially
carried out. It gave a scathing account of Sir Wilfrid's course on the
suffrage question--of his earlier coquettings with the woman's cause,
his defection and "treachery," the bitter and ingenious hostility with
which he was now pursuing the Bill before the House of Commons. "An
amiable, white-haired nonentity for the rest of the world--who only
mention him to marvel that such a man was ever admitted to an English
Cabinet--to us he is the 'smiler with the knife,' the assassin of the
hopes of women, the reptile in the path. The Bill is weakening every
day in the House, and on the night of the second reading it will
receive its 'coup de grace' from the hand of Sir Wilfrid Lang. Women of
Gertrude pushed the newspaper aside in discontent. Her critical sense
was beginning to weary of the shrieking note. And the descent from the
"assassin of the hopes of women" to "the reptile in the path" struck
her as a silly bathos.
Suddenly, a reverie--a waking dream--fell upon her, a visionary
succession of sights and sounds. A dying sunset--and a rising wind,
sighing through dense trees--old walls--the light from a kitchen
window--voices in the distance--the barking of a dog....
"Oh Gertrude!--how late I am!"
Delia entered hurriedly, with an anxious air.
"I should have been down long ago, but Weston had one of her attacks,
and I have been looking after her."
Weston was Delia's maid who had been her constant companion for ten
years. She was a delicate nervous woman, liable to occasional onsets of
mysterious pain, which terrified both herself and her mistress, and had
hitherto puzzled the doctor.
Gertrude received the news with a passing concern.
"Better send for France, if you are worried. But I expect it will be
"I don't know. It seems worse than usual. The man in Paris threatened
an operation. And here we are--going up to London in a fortnight!"
"Well, you need only send her to the Brownmouth hospital, or leave her
here with France and a good nurse."
"She has the most absurd terror of hospitals, and I certainly couldn't
leave her," said Delia, with a furrowed brow.
"You certainly couldn't stay behind!" Gertrude looked up pleasantly.
"Of course I want to come--" said Delia slowly.
"Why, darling, how could we do without you? You don't know how you're
wanted. Whenever I go up town, it's the same--'When's she coming?' Of
course they understood you must be here for a while--but the heart of
things, the things that concern _us_--is London."
"What did you hear yesterday?" asked Delia, helping herself to some
very cold coffee. Nothing was ever kept warm for her, the owner of the
house; everything was always kept warm for Gertrude. Yet the fact arose
from no Sybaritic tendency whatever on Gertrude's part. Food, clothing,
sleep--no religious ascetic could have been more sparing than she, in
her demands upon them. She took them as they came--well or ill
supplied; too pre-occupied to be either grateful or discontented. And
what she neglected for herself, she equally neglected for other people.
"What did I hear?" repeated Gertrude. "Well, of course, everything is
rushing on. There is to be a raid on Parliament as soon as the session
begins--and a deputation to Downing Street. A number of new plans, and
devices are being discussed. And there seemed to me to be more
volunteers than ever for 'special service'?"
She looked up quietly and her eyes met Delia's;--in hers a steely
ardour, in Delia's a certain trouble.
"Well, we want some cheering up," said the girl, rather wearily. "Those
two last meetings were--pretty depressing!--and so were the
She was thinking of the two open-air meetings at Brownmouth and
Frimpton. There had been no violence offered to the speakers, as in the
Latchford case; the police had seen to that. Her guardian had made no
appearance at either, satisfied, no doubt, after enquiry, that she was
not likely to come to harm. But the evidence of public disapproval
could scarcely have been more chilling--more complete. Both her
speaking, and that of Gertrude and Paul Lathrop, seemed to her to have
dropped dead in exhausted air. An audience of boys and girls--an
accompaniment of faint jeers, testifying rather to boredom than
hostility--a sense of blank waste and futility when all was over:--her
recollection had little else to shew.
Gertrude interrupted her thought.
"My dear Delia!--what you want is to get out of this backwater, and
back into the main stream! Even I get stale here. But in those great
London meetings--there one catches on again!--one realises again--what
it all _means_! Why not come up with me next week, even if the flat's
not ready? I can't have you running down like this! Let's hurry up and
get to London."
The speaker had risen, and standing behind Delia, she laid her hand on
the waves of the girl's beautiful hair. Delia looked up.
"Very well. Yes, I'll come. I've been getting depressed. I'll come--at
least if Weston's all right."
* * * * *
"I'm afraid, Miss Blanchflower, this is a very serious business!"
Dr. France was the speaker. He stood with his back to the fire, and his
hands behind him, surveying Delia with a look of absent thoughtfulness;
the look of a man of science on the track of a problem.
Delia's aspect was one of pale consternation. She had just heard that
the only hope of the woman, now wrestling upstairs with agonies of
pain, lay in a critical and dangerous operation, for which at least a
fortnight's preliminary treatment would be necessary. A nurse was to be
sent for at once, and the only question to be decided was where and by
whom the thing was to be done.
"We _can_ move her," said France, meditatively; "though I'd rather not.
And of course a hospital is the best place."
"She won't go! Her mother died in a hospital, and Weston thinks she was
"Absurd! I assure you," said France warmly. "Nobody is neglected in
"But one can't persuade her--and if she's forced against her will,
it'll give her no chance!" said Delia in distress. "No, it must be
here. You say we can get a good man from Brownmouth?"
They discussed the possibilities of an operation at Maumsey.
Insensibly the doctor's tone during the conversation grew more
friendly, as it proceeded. A convinced opponent of "feminism" in all
its forms, he had thought of Delia hitherto as merely a wrong-headed,
foolish girl, and could hardly bring himself to be civil at all to her
chaperon, who in his eyes belonged to a criminal society, and was
almost certainly at that very moment engaged in criminal practices. But
Delia, absorbed in the distresses of someone she cared for, all heart
and eager sympathy, her loveliness lending that charm to all she said
and looked which plainer women must so frequently do without was a very
mollifying and ingratiating spectacle. France began to think
her--misled and unbalanced of course--but sound at bottom. He ended by
promising to make all arrangements himself, and to go in that very
afternoon to see the great man at Brownmouth.
When Delia returned to her maid's room, the morphia which had been
administered was beginning to take effect, and Weston, an elderly woman
with a patient, pleasing face, lay comparatively at rest, her tremulous
look expressing at once the keenness of the suffering past, and the
bliss of respite. Delia bent over her, dim-eyed.
"Dear Weston--we've arranged it all--it's going to be done here. You'll
be at home--and I shall look after you."
Weston put out a clammy hand and faintly pressed Delia's warm fingers--
"But you were going to London, Miss. I don't want to put you out so."
"I shan't go till you're out of the wood, so go to sleep--and don't
* * * * *
"Delia!--for Heaven's sake be reasonable. Leave Weston to France, and a
couple of good nurses. She'll be perfectly looked after. You'll put out
all out plans--you'll risk everything!"
Gertrude Marvell had risen from her seat in front of a crowded desk.
The secretary who generally worked with her in the old gun room, now
become a militant office, had disappeared in obedience to a signal from
her chief. Anger and annoyance were plainly visible on Gertrude's small
Delia shook her head.
"I can't!" she said. "I've promised. Weston has pulled _me_ through two
bad illnesses--once when I had pneumonia in Paris--and once after a
fall out riding. I daresay I shouldn't be here at all, but for her. If
she's going to have a fight for her life--and Doctor France doesn't
promise she'll get through--I shall stand by her."
Gertrude grew a little sallower than usual as her black eyes fastened
themselves on the girl before her who had hitherto seemed so ductile in
her hands. It was not so much the incident itself that alarmed her as a
certain new tone in Delia's voice.
"I thought we had agreed--that nothing--_nothing_--was to come before
the Cause!" she said quietly, but insistently.
Delia's laugh was embarrassed.
"I never promised to desert Weston, Gertrude. I couldn't--any more than
I could desert you."
"We shall want every hand--every ounce of help that can be got--through
January and February. You undertook to do some office work, to help in
the organisation of the processions to Parliament, to speak at a number
"As soon as Weston is out of danger, I'll go--of course I'll go!--about
a month from now, perhaps less. You will have the flat, Gertrude, all
the same, and as much money as I can scrape together--after the
operation's paid for. I don't matter a tenth part as much as you, you
know I don't; I haven't been at all a success at these meetings
There was a certain young bitterness in the tone.
"Well, of course you know what people will say."
"That I'm shirking--giving in? Well, you can contradict it."
Delia turned from the window beside which she was standing to look at
Gertrude. A pale December sunshine shone on the girl's half-seen face,
and on the lines of her black dress. A threatening sense of change,
mingled with a masterful desire to break down the resistance offered,
awoke in Gertrude. But she restrained the dictatorial instinct.
Instead, she sat down beside the desk again, and covered her face with
"If I couldn't contradict it--if I couldn't be sure of you--I might as
well kill myself," she said with sudden and volcanic passion, though in
a voice scarcely raised above its ordinary note.
Delia came to her impulsively, knelt down and put her arms round her.
"You know you can be sure of me!" she said, reproachfully.
Gertrude held her away from her. Her eyes examined the lovely face so
close to her.
"On the contrary! You are being influenced against me."
"By whom, please?"
"By the man who has you in his power--under our abominable laws."
"By my guardian?--by Mark Winnington? Really! Gertrude! Considering
that I had a fresh quarrel with him only last week--on your account--at
Gertrude released herself by a sudden movement.
"When were you at Monk Lawrence?"
"Why, that afternoon, when you were in town. I missed my train at
Latchford, and took a motor home." There was some consciousness in the
girl's look and tone which did not escape her companion. She was
evidently aware that her silence on the incident might appear strange
to Gertrude. However, she frankly described her adventure, Daunt's
surliness, and Winnington's appearance.
"He arrived in the nick of time, and made Daunt let me in. Then, while
we were going round, he began to talk about your speech, and wanted to
make me say I was sorry for it. And I wouldn't! And then--well, he
thought very poorly of me--and we parted--coolly. We've scarcely met
since. And that's all."
"What speech?" Gertrude was sitting erect now with queerly bright eyes.
"The speech about Sir Wilfrid--at Latchford."
"What else does he expect?"
"I don't know. But--well, I may as well say, Gertrude--to you, though I
wouldn't say it to him--that I--I didn't much admire that speech
Delia was now sitting on the floor with her hands round her knees,
looking up. The slight stiffening of her face shewed that it had been
an effort to say what she had said.
"So _you_ think that Lang ought to be approached with 'bated breath and
whispering humbleness'--just as he is on the point of trampling us and
our cause into the dirt?"
"No--certainly not! But why hasn't he as good a right to his opinion as
we to ours--without being threatened with personal violence?"
Gertrude drew a long breath of amazement.
"I don't quite see, Delia, why you ever joined the 'Daughters'--or why
you stay with them."
"That's not fair!"--protested Delia, the colour flooding in her cheeks.
"As for burning stupid villas--that are empty and insured--or
boathouses--or piers--or tea-pavilions, to keep the country in
mind of us,--that's one thing. But threatening _persons_ with
violence--that's--somehow--another thing. And as to villas and piers
even--to be quite honest--I sometimes wonder, Gertrude!--I declare, I'm
beginning to wonder! And why shouldn't one take up one's policy from
time to time and look at it, all round, with a free mind? We haven't
been doing particularly well lately."
Gertrude laughed--a dry, embittered sound--as she pushed the _Tocsin_
"Oh well, of course, if you're going to desert us in the worst of the
fight, and to follow your guardian's lead--"
"But I'm not!" cried Delia, springing to her feet. "Try me. Haven't I
promised--a hundred things? Didn't I say all you expected me to say at
Latchford? And, on the whole"--her voice dragged a little--"the empty
houses and the cricket pavilions--still seem to me fair game. It's
only--as to the good it does. Of course--if it were Monk Lawrence--"
"Well--if it were Monk Lawrence?"
"I should think that a crime! I told you so before."
Delia looked at her friend with a contracted brow.
"Because--it's a national possession! Lang's only the temporary
owner--the trustee. We've no right to destroy what belongs to
Gertrude laughed again--as she rose from the tea-table.
"Well, as long as women are slaves, I don't see what England matters to
them. However, don't trouble yourself. Monk Lawrence is all right. And
Mr. Winnington's a charmer--we all know that."
Delia flushed angrily. But Gertrude, having gathered up her papers,
quietly departed, leaving her final shaft to work.
Delia went back to her own sitting-room, but was too excited, too
tremulous indeed, to settle to her letters. She had never yet found
herself in direct collision with Gertrude, impetuous as her own temper
was. Their friendship had now lasted nearly three years. She looked
back to their West Indian acquaintance, that first year of adoration,
of long-continued emotion,--mind and heart growing and blossoming
together. Gertrude, during that year, had not only aroused her pupil's
intelligence; she had taught a motherless girl what the love of women
may be for each other. To make Gertrude happy, to be approved by her,
to watch her, to sit at her feet--the girl of nineteen had asked
nothing more. Gertrude's accomplishments, her coolness, her
self-reliance, the delicate precision of her small features and frame,
the grace of her quiet movements, her cold sincerity, the unyielding
scorns, the passionate loves and hates that were gradually to be
discovered below the even dryness of her manner,--by these Delia had
been captured; by these indeed, she was still held. Gertrude was to her
everything that she herself was not. And when her father had insisted
on separating her from her friend, her wild resentment, and her girlish
longing for the forbidden had only increased Gertrude's charm tenfold.
The eighteen months of their separation, too, had coincided with the
rise of that violent episode in the feminist movement which was
represented by the founding and organisation of the "Daughters"
society. Gertrude though not one of the first contrivers and
instigators of it, had been among the earliest of its converts. Its
initial successes had been the subject of all her letters to Delia;
Delia had walked on air to read them. At last the world was moving, was
rushing--and it seemed that Gertrude was in the van. Women were at last
coming to their own; forcing men to acknowledge them as equals and
comrades; and able to win victory, not by the old whining and
wheedling, but by their own strength. The intoxication of it filled the
girl's days and nights. She thought endlessly of processions and raids,
of street-preaching, or Hyde Park meetings. Gertrude went to prison for
a few days as the result of a raid on Downing Street. Delia, in one
dull hotel after another, wearily following her father from "cure" to
"cure," dreamed hungrily and enviously of Gertrude's more heroic fate.
Everything in those days was haloed for her--the Movement, its first
violent acts, what Gertrude did, and what Gertrude thought--she saw it
all transfigured and aflame.
And now, since her father's death, they had been four months
together--she and her friend--in the closest intimacy, sharing--or so
Delia supposed--every thought and every prospect. Delia for the greater
part of that time _had_ been all glad submission and unquestioning
response. It was quite natural--absolutely right--that Gertrude should
command her house, her money, her daily life. She only waited for
Gertrude's orders; it would be her pride to carry them out. Until--
What had happened? The girl, standing motionless beside her window,
confessed to herself, as she had not been willing to confess to
Gertrude, that something _had_ happened--some change of climate and
temperature in her own life.
In the first place, the Movement was not prospering. Why deny it? Who
could deny it? Its first successes were long past; its uses as
advertisement were exhausted; the old violences and audacities, as they
were repeated, fell dead. The cause of Woman Suffrage had certainly not
advanced. Check after check had been inflicted on it. The number of its
supporters in the House of Commons had gone down and down. By-elections
were only adding constantly to the number of its opponents.
"Well, what then?"--said the stalwarts of the party--"More outrages,
more arson, more violence! We _must_ win at last!" And, meanwhile,
blowing through England like a steadily increasing gale, could be felt
the force of public anger, public condemnation.
Delia since her return to England had felt the chill of it, for the
first time, on her own nerves and conscience. For the first time she
had winced--morally--even while she mocked at her own shrinking.
Was that Gertrude pacing outside? The day was dark and stormy. But
Gertrude, who rarely took a walk for pleasure, scarcely ever missed the
exercise which was necessary to keep her in health. Her slight figure,
wrapped in a fur cape, paced a sheltered walk. Her shoulders were bent,
her eyes on the ground. Suddenly it struck Delia that she had begun to
stoop, that she looked older and thinner than usual.
"She is killing herself!"--thought the girl in a sudden
anguish--"killing herself with work and anxiety. And yet she always
says she is so strong. What can I do? There is nobody that matters to
And she recalled all she knew--it was very little--of Gertrude's
personal history. She had been unhappy at home. Her mother, a widow,
had never been able to get on with her elder daughter, while petting
and spoiling her only son and her younger girl, who was ten years
Gertrude's junior. Gertrude had been left a small sum of money by a
woman friend, and had spent it in going to a west-country university
and taking honours in history. She never spoke now of either her mother
or her sister. Her sister was married, but Gertrude held no
communication with her or her children. Delia had always felt it
impossible to ask questions about her, and believed, with a thrilled
sense of mystery, that some tragic incident or experience had separated
the two sisters. Her brother also, it seemed, was as dead to her. But
on all such personal matters Gertrude's silence was insuperable, and
Delia knew no more of them than on the first day of their meeting.
Indomitable figure! Worn with effort and struggle--worn above all with
_hating_. Delia looked at it with a sob in her throat. Surely, surely,
the great passion, the great uplifting faith they had felt in common,
was vital, was true! Only, somehow, after the large dreams and hopes of
the early days, to come down to this perpetual campaign of petty
law-breaking, and futile outrage, to these odious meetings and shrieking
newspapers, was to be--well, discouraged!--heart-wearied.
"Only, she is not wearied, or discouraged!" thought Delia,
despairingly. "And why am I?"
Was it hatefully true--after all--that she was being influenced--drawn
The girl flushed, breathing quick. She must master herself!--get rid of
this foolish obsession of Winnington's presence and voice--of a pair of
grave, kind eyes--a look now perplexed, now sternly bright--a
personality, limited no doubt, not very accessible to what Gertrude
called "ideas," not quick to catch the last new thing, but honest,
noble, tender, through and through.
Absurd! She was holding her own with him; she would hold her own. That
very day she must grapple with him afresh. She had sent him a note that
morning, and he had replied in a message that he would ride over to
For the question of money was urgent. Delia was already overdrawn. Yet
supplies were wanted for the newly rented flat, for Weston's operation,
for Gertrude's expenses in London--for a hundred things.
She paced up and down, imagining the conversation, framing eloquent
defences for her conduct, and again, from time to time, meanly,
shamefacedly reminding herself of Winnington's benefit under the will.
If she was a nuisance, she was at least a fairly profitable nuisance.
* * * * *
Winnington duly arrived at luncheon. The two ladies appeared to him as
usual--Gertrude Marvell, self-possessed and quietly gay, ready to
handle politics or books, on so light a note, that Winnington's acute
recollection of her, as the haranguing fury on the Latchford waggon,
began to seem absurd even to himself. Delia also, lovely, restless,
with bursts of talk, and more significant bursts of silence, produced
on him her normal effect--as of a creature made for all delightful
uses, and somehow jangled and out of tune.
After luncheon, she led the way to her own sitting-room. "I am afraid I
must talk business," she said abruptly as she closed the door and stood
confronting him. "I am overdrawn, Mr. Winnington, and I must have some
Winnington laid down his cigarette, and looked at her in open-mouthed
"I know. You gave me what you thought was ample. Well, I have spent it,
and there is nothing left to pay house bills, or servants with, or--or
Her pale defiance gave him at once a hint of the truth.
"I fear I must ask what it has been spent on," he said, after a pause.
"Certainly. I gave £500 of it in one cheque to Miss Marvell. Of course
you will guess how it has been spent."
Winnington took up his cigarette again, and smoked it thoughtfully. His
colour was, perhaps, a little higher than usual.
"I am sorry you have done that. It makes it rather awkward both for you
and for me. Perhaps I had better explain. The lawyers have been
settling the debts on your father's estate. That took a considerable
sum. A mortgage has been paid off, according to directions in Sir
Robert's will. And some of the death duties have been paid. For the
moment there is no money at all in the Trust account. I hope to have
replenished it by the New Year, when I understood you would want fresh
He sat on the arm of a chair and looked at her quietly.
Delia made no attempt at explanation or argument. After a short
silence, she said--
"What will you do?"
"I must, of course, lend you some of my own."
Delia flushed violently.
"That is surely absurd, Mr. Winnington! My father left a large sum!"
"As his trustee I can only repeat that until some further securities
are realised--which may take a little time--I have no money. But _you_
must have money--servants and tradesmen can't go unpaid. I will give
you, therefore, a cheque on my own bank--to replace that £500."
He drew his cheque book from his breast pocket. Delia was stormily
walking up and down. It struck him sharply, first that she was wholly
taken by surprise; and next that shock and emotion play finely with
such a face as hers. He had never seen her so splendid. His own pulses
"This--this is not at all what I want, Mr. Winnington! I want my own
money--my father's money! Why should I distress and inconvenience you?"
"I have tried to explain."
"Then let the lawyers find it somehow. Aren't they there to do such
"I assure you this is simplest. I happen"--he smiled--"to have enough
in the bank. Alice and I can manage quite well till January!"
The mention of Mrs. Matheson was quite intolerable in Delia's ears. She
turned upon him--
"I can't accept it! You oughtn't to ask it."
"I think you must accept it," he said with decision. "But the important
question with me is--the further question--am I not really bound to
restore this money to your father's estate?"
Delia stared at him bewildered.
"What _do_ you mean!"
"Your father made me his trustee in order that I might protect his
money--from uses of which he disapproved--and protect you, if I could,
from actions and companions he dreaded. This £500 has gone--where he
expressly wished it not to go. It seems to me that I am liable, and
that I ought to repay."
"I never heard anything so absurd!"
"I will consider it," he said gravely. "It is a case of conscience.
Meanwhile"--he began to write the cheque--"here is the money. Only, let
me warn you, dear Miss Delia,--if this were repeated, I might find
myself embarrassed. I am not a rich man!"
Silence. He finished writing the cheque, and handed it to her. Delia
pushed it away, and it dropped on the table between them.
"It is simply tyranny--monstrous tyranny--that I should be coerced like
this!" she said, choking. "You must feel it so yourself! Put yourself
in my place, Mr. Winnington."
"I think--I am first bound--to try and put myself in your father's
place," he said, with vivacity. "Where has that money gone, Miss
He rose, and in his turn began to pace the little room. "It has been
proved, in evidence, that a great deal of this outrage is _paid_
outrage--that it could not be carried on without money--however madly
and fanatically devoted, however personally disinterested the
organisers of it may be--such as Miss Marvell. You have, therefore,
taken your father's money to provide for this payment--payment for all
that his soul most abhorred. His will was his last painful effort to
prevent this being done. And yet--you have done it!"
He looked at her steadily.
"One may seem to do evil"--she panted--"but we have a faith, a cause,
which justifies it!"
He shook his head sadly,
Delia sat very still, tormented by a score of harassing thoughts. If
she could not provide money for the "Daughters" what particular use
could she be to Gertrude, or Gertrude's Committee? She could speak, and
walk in processions, and break up meetings. But so could hundreds of
others. It was her fortune--she knew it--that had made her so important
in Gertrude's eyes. It had always been assumed between them that a
little daring and a little adroitness would break through the meshes of
her father's will. And how difficult it was turning out to be!
At that moment, an idea occurred to her. Her face, responsive as a
wave to the wind, relaxed. Its sullenness disappeared in sudden
brightness--in something like triumph. She raised her eyes. Their
tremulous, half whimsical look set Winnington wondering what she could
be going to say next.
"You seem to have beaten me," she said, with a little nod--"or you
think you have."
"I have no thoughts that you mightn't know," was the quiet reply.
"You want me to promise not to do it again?"
"If you mean to keep it."
As he stood by the fire, looking down upon her rather sternly--she yet
perceived in his grey eyes, something of that expression she had seen
there at their first meeting--as though the heart of a good man tried
to speak to her. The same expression--and yet different; with something
added and interfused, which moved her strangely.
"Odd as it may seem, I will keep it!" she said. "Yet without giving up
any earlier purpose, or promise, whatever." Each word was emphasized.
His face changed.
"I won't worry _you_ in any such way again," she added hastily and
Some other words were on her lips, but she checked them. She held out
her hand for the cheque, and the smile with which she accepted it,
after her preceding passion, puzzled him.
She locked up the cheque in a drawer of her writing-table. Winnington's
horse passed the window, and he rose to go. She accompanied him to the
hall door and waved a light farewell. Winnington's response was
ceremonious. A sure instinct told him to shew no further softness. His
dilemma was getting worse and worse, and Lady Tonbridge had been no use
to him whatever.
One of the first days of the New year rose clear and frosty. When the
young housemaid who had temporarily replaced Weston as Delia's maid
drew back her curtains at half-past seven, Delia caught a vision of an
opaline sky with a sinking moon and fading stars. A strewing of snow
lay on the ground, and the bare black trees rose, vividly separate, on
the white stretches of grass. Her window looked to the north along the
bases of the low range of hills which shut in the valley and the
village. A patch of paler colour on the purple slope of the hills
marked the long front of Monk Lawrence.
As she sleepily roused herself, she saw her bed littered with dark
objects--two leather boxes of some size, and a number of miscellaneous
cases--and when the maid had left the room, she lay still, looking at
them. They were the signs and symbols of an enquiry she had lately been
conducting into her possessions, which seemed to her to have yielded
very satisfactory results. They represented in the main the contents of
a certain cupboard in the wall of her bedroom where Lady Blanchflower
had always kept her jewels, and where, in consequence, Weston had so
far locked away all that Delia possessed. Here were all her own girlish
ornaments--costly things which her father had given her at intervals
during the three or four years since her coming out; here were her
Mother's jewels, which Sir Robert had sent to his bankers after his
wife's death, and had never seen again during his lifetime; and here
were also a number of family jewels which had belonged to Delia's
grandmother, and had remained, after Lady Blanchflower's death, in the
custody of the family lawyers, till Delia, to whom they had been left
by will, had appeared to claim them.
Delia had always known that she possessed a quantity of valuable
things, and had hitherto felt but small interest in them. Gertrude's
influence, and her own idealism had bred in her contempt for gauds. It
was the worst of breeding to wear anything for its mere money value;
and nothing whatever should be worn that wasn't in itself beautiful.
Lady Blanchflower's taste had been, in Delia's eyes, abominable; and
her diamonds,--tiaras, pendants and the rest--had absolutely nothing to
recommend them but their sheer brute cost. After a few glances at them,
the girl had shut them up and forgotten them.
But they _were_ diamonds, and they must be worth some thousands.
It was this idea which had flashed upon her during her last talk with
Winnington, and she had been brooding over it, and pondering it ever
since. Winnington himself was away. He and his sister had been spending
Christmas with some cousins in the midlands. Meanwhile Delia recognised
that his relation to her had been somewhat strained. His letters to her
on various points of business had been more formal than usual; and
though he had sent her a pocket Keats for a Christmas present, it had
arrived accompanied merely by his "kind regards" and she had felt
unreasonably aggrieved, and much inclined to send it back. His
cheque meanwhile for £500 had gone into Delia's bank. No help for
it--considering all the Christmas bills which had been pouring in! But
she panted for the time when she could return it.
As for his threat of permanently refunding the money out of his own
pocket, she remembered it with soreness of spirit. Too bad!
Well, there they lay, on the counterpane all round her--the means of
checkmating her guardian. For while she was rummaging in the wall-safe,
the night before, suddenly the fire had gone down, and the room had
sunk to freezing point. Delia, brought up in warm climates, had jumped
shivering into bed, and there, heaped round with the contents of the
cupboard, had examined a few more cases, till sleep and cold
In the grey morning light she opened some of the cases again. Vulgar
and ugly, if you like--but undeniably, absurdly worth money! Her dark
eyes caught the sparkle of the jewels running through her fingers.
These tasteless things--mercifully--were her own--her very own.
Winnington had nothing to say to them! She could wear them--or give
them--or sell them, as she pleased.
She was alternately exultant, and strangely full of a fluttering
anxiety. The thought of returning Winnington's cheque was sweet to her.
But her disputes with him had begun to cost her more than she had ever
imagined they could or would. And the particular way out, which, a few
weeks before, she had so impatiently desired--that he should resign the
guardianship, and leave her to battle with the Court of Chancery as
best she could--was no longer so attractive to her. To be cherished and
cared for by Mark Winnington--no woman yet, but had found it
delightful. Insensibly Delia had grown accustomed to it--to his comings
and goings, his business-ways, abrupt sometimes, even peremptory, but
informed always by a kindness, a selflessness that amazed her.
Everyone wanted his help or advice, and he must refuse now--as he had
never refused before--because his time and thoughts were so much taken
up with his ward's affairs. Delia knew that she was envied; and knew
also that the neighbours thought her an ungrateful, unmanageable
hoyden, totally unworthy of such devotion.
She sat up in bed, dreaming, her hands round her knees. No, she didn't
want Winnington to give her up! Especially since she had found this
easy way out. Why should there be any more friction between them at
all? All that _he_ gave her henceforward should be religiously spent on
the normal and necessary things. She would keep accounts if he liked,
like any good little girl, and shew them up. Let him do with the trust
fund exactly what he pleased. For a long time at any rate, she could be
independent of it. Why had she never thought of such a device before?
But how to realise the jewels? In all business affairs, Delia was the
merest child. She had been brought up in the midst of large
expenditure, of which she had been quite unconscious. All preoccupation
with money had seemed to her mean and pettifogging. Have it!--and
spend it on what you want. But wants must be governed by ideas--by
ethical standards. To waste money on personal luxury, on eating,
drinking, clothes, or any form of mere display, in such a world as
Gertrude Marvell had unveiled to her, seemed to Delia contemptible and
idiotic. One must have _some_ nice clothes--some beauty in one's
surroundings--and the means of living as one wished to live.
Otherwise, to fume and fret about money, to be coveting instead of
giving, buying and bargaining, instead of thinking--or debating--was
degrading. She loathed shopping. It was the drug which put women's
minds to sleep.
Who would help her? She pondered. She would tell no one till it was
done; not even Gertrude, whose cold, changed manner to her hurt the
girl's proud sense to think of.
"I must do it properly--I won't be cheated!"
The London lawyers? No. The local solicitor, Mr. Masham? No! Her vanity
was far too keenly conscious of their real opinion of her, through all
Lady Tonbridge? No! She was Mark Winnington's intimate friend--and a
constitutional Suffragist. At the notion of consulting her,--on the
means of providing funds for "militancy"--Delia sprang out of bed, and
went to her dressing, dissolved in laughter.
And presently--sobered again, and soft-eyed--she was stealing along the
passage to Weston's door for a word with the trained nurse who was now
in charge. Just a week now--to the critical day.
* * * * *
"Is Miss Marvell, in? Ask if she will see Mr. Lathrop for a few
Paul Lathrop, left to himself, looked round Delia's drawing-room. It
set his teeth on edge. What pictures--what furniture! A certain
mellowness born of sheer time, no doubt--but with all its ugly
ingredients still repulsively visible. Why didn't the heiress burn
everything and begin again? Was all her money to be spent on burning
other people's property, when her own was so desperately in need of the
purging process--or on dreary meetings and unreadable newspapers?
Lathrop was already tired of these delights; his essentially Hedonist
temper was re-asserting itself. The "movement" had excited and
interested him for a time; had provided besides easy devices for
annoying stupid people. He had been eager to speak and write for it,
had persuaded himself that he really cared.
But now candour--and he was generally candid with himself--made him
confess that but for Delia Blanchflower he would already have cut his
connection with the whole thing. He thought with a mixture of irony and
discomfort of his "high-falutin" letter to her.
"And here I am--hanging round her"--he said to himself, as he strolled
about the room, peering through his eye-glass at its common vases, and
trivial knick-knacks--"just because Blaydes bothers me. I might as
well cry for the moon. But she's worth watching, by Jove. One gets copy
out of her, if nothing else! I vow I can't understand why my dithyrambs
move her so little--she's dithyrambic enough herself!"
The door opened. He quickly pulled himself together. Gertrude Marvell
came in, and as she gave him an absent greeting, he was vaguely struck
by some change in her aspect, as Delia had long been. She had always
seemed to him a cold half-human being, in all ordinary matters.
But now she was paler, thinner, more remote than ever. "Nerves
strained--probably sleepless--" he said to himself. "It's the pace
they will live at--it kills them all."
This kind of comment ran at the back of his brain, while he plunged
into the "business"--which was his pretence for calling. Gertrude, as a
District Organizer of the League of Revolt, had intrusted him with the
running of various meetings in small places, along the coast, for which
it humiliated him to remember that he had agreed to be paid. For at his
very first call upon them, Miss Marvell had divined his impecunious
state, and pounced upon him as an agent,--unknown, he thought, to Miss
Blanchflower. He came now to report what had been done, and to ask if
the meetings should be continued.
Gertrude Marvell shook her head.
"I have had some letters about your meetings. I doubt whether they have
been worth while."
Miss Marvell's manner was that of an employer to an employee. Lathrop's
"May I know what was wrong with them?"
Gertrude Marvell considered. Her gesture, unconsciously judicial,
annoyed Lathrop still further.
"Too much argument, I hear,--and too little feeling. Our people wanted
more about the women in prison. And it was thought that you apologised
too much for the outrages."
The last word emerged quite simply, as the only fitting one.
Lathrop laughed,--rather angrily.
"You must be aware, Miss Marvell, that the public thinks they want
"Not from us!" she said, with energy. "No one speaking for us must ever
apologise for militant acts. It takes all the heart out of our people.
Justify them--glory in them--as much as you like."
There was a pause.
"Then you have no more work for me?" said Lathrop at last.
"We need not, I think, trouble you again. Your cheque will of course be
sent from head-quarters."
"That doesn't matter," said Lathrop, hastily.
The reflection crossed his mind that there is an insolence of women far
more odious than the insolence of men.
"After all they are our inferiors! It doesn't do to let them command
us," he thought, furiously.
He rose to take his leave.
"You are going up to London?"
"I am going. Miss Blanchflower stays behind, because her maid is ill."
He stood hesitating. Gertrude lifted her eyebrows as though he puzzled
her. She never had liked him, and by now all her instincts were hostile
to him. His clumsy figure, and slovenly dress offended her, and the
touch of something grandiose in his heavy brow, and reddish-gold hair,
seemed to her merely theatrical. Her information was that he had been
no use as a campaigner. Why on earth did he keep her waiting?
"I suppose you have heard some of the talk going about?" he said at
last, shooting out the words.
"They're very anxious about Monk Lawrence--after your speech. And
there are absurd stories. Women have been seen--at night--and so on."
"The more panic the better--for us."
"Yes--so long as it stops there. But if anything happened to that
place, the whole neighbourhood would turn detective--myself included."
He looked at her steadily. She leant one thin hand on a table behind
"No one of course would have a better chance than you. You are so
Their eyes crossed. "By George!" he thought--"you're in it. I believe
to God you're in it."
And at that moment he felt that he hated the willowy, intangible
creature who had just treated him with contempt.
But as they coldly touched hands, the door opened again, and Delia
"Oh I didn't mean to interrupt--" she said, retreating.
"Come in, come in!" said Gertrude. "We have finished our business--and
Mr. Lathrop I am sure will excuse me--I must get some letters off by
And with the curtest of bows she disappeared.
"I have brought you a book, Miss Blanchflower," Lathrop nervously
began, diving into a large and sagging pocket. "You said you wanted to
see Madame de Noailles' second volume."
He brought out "Les Éblouissements," and laid it on the table beside
her. Delia thanked him, and then, all in a moment, as she stood beside
him, a thought struck her. She turned her great eyes full upon him, and
he saw the colour rushing into her cheeks.
"Mr. Lathrop--I--I dreadfully want some practical advice. And I don't
know whom to ask."
The soreness of his wounded self-love vanished in a moment.
"What can I do for you?" he asked eagerly. And at once his own
personality seemed to expand, to throw off the shadow of something
ignoble it had worn in Gertrude's presence. For Delia, looking at him,
was attracted by him. The shabby clothes made no impression upon her,
but the blue eyes did. And the childishness which still survived in
her, beneath all her intellectualisms, came impulsively to the surface.
"Mr. Lathrop, do you--do you know anything about jewelry?"
"Jewelry? Nothing!--except that I have dabbled in pretty things of that
sort as I have dabbled in most things. I once did some designing for a
man who set up--in Bond Street--to imitate Lalique. Why do you ask? I
suppose you have heaps of jewels?"
"Too many. I want to sell some jewels."
"Sell?--But--" he looked at her in astonishment.
She reddened still more deeply; but spoke with a frank charm.
"You thought I was rich? Well, of course I ought to be. My father was
rich. But at present I have nothing of my own--nothing! It is all in
trust--and I can't get at it. But I _must_ have some money! Wait here a
She ran out of the room. When she came back she was carrying a
miscellaneous armful of jewellers' cases. She threw them down on the
"They are all hideous--but I am sure they're worth a great deal of
And she opened them with hasty fingers before his astonished eyes. In
his restless existence he had accumulated various odd veins of
knowledge, and he knew something of the jewelry trade of London. He had
not only drawn designs, he had speculated--unluckily--in "De Beers."
For a short time Diamonds had been an obsession with him, then Burmah
rubies. He had made money out of neither; it was not in his horoscope
to make money out of anything. However there was the result--a certain
amount of desultory information.
He took up one piece after another, presently drawing a magnifying
glass out of his pocket to examine them the better.
"Well, if you want money--" he said at last, putting down a _rivière_
which had belonged to Delia's mother--"That alone will give you some
Delia's eyes danced with satisfaction--then darkened.
"That was Mamma's. Papa bought it at Constantinople--from an old
Turkish Governor--who had robbed a province--spent the loot in Paris
on his wives--and then had to disgorge half his fortune--to the
Sultan--who got wind of it. Papa bought it at a great bargain, and was
awfully proud of it. But after Mamma died, he sent it to the Bank, and
never thought of it again. I couldn't wear it, of course--I was too
"How much money do you want?"
"Oh, a few thousands," said Delia, vaguely. "Five hundred pounds, first
"And who will sell them for you?"
She frowned in perplexity.
"I--I don't know."
"You don't wish to ask Mr. Winnington?"
"Certainly not! They have nothing to do with him. They are my own
personal property," she added proudly.
"Still he might object--Ought you not to ask him?"
"I shall not tell him!" She straightened her shoulders. "He has far too
much bother on my account already."
"Of course, if I could do anything for you--I should be delighted. But
I don't know why you should trust me. You don't know anything about
me!" He laughed uncomfortably.
Delia laughed too--in some confusion. It seemed to him she suddenly
realised she had done something unusual.
"It is very kind of you to suggest it--" she said, hesitating.
"Not at all. It would amuse me. I have some threads I can pick up
still--in Bond Street. Let me advise you to concentrate on that
_rivière_. If you really feel inclined to trust me, I will take it to a
man I know; he will show it to--" he named a famous firm. "In a few
days--well, give me a week--and I undertake to bring you proposals. If
you accept them, I will collect the money for you at once--or I will
return you the necklace, if you don't."
Delia clasped her hands.
"A week! You think it might all be finished in a week?"
"Certainly--thereabouts. These things--" he touched the diamonds--"are
Delia sat ruminating, with a bright excited face. Then a serious
expression returned. She looked up.
"Mr. Lathrop, this ought to be a matter of business between us--if you
do me so great a service?"
"You mean I ought to take a commission?" he said, calmly. "I shall do
nothing of the kind."
"It is more than I ought to accept!" she cried. "Let your
kindness--include what I wish."
He shook his fair hair impatiently.
"Why should you take away all my pleasure in the little adventure?"
She looked embarrassed. He went on--
"Besides we are comrades--we have stood together in the fight. I expect
this is for the Cause! If so I ought to be angry that you even
"Don't be angry!" she said gravely. "I meant nothing unkind. Well, I
thank you very much--and there are the diamonds."
She gave him the case, with a quiet deliberate movement, as if to
emphasize her trust in him. The simplicity with which it was done
pricked him uncomfortably. "I'm no thief!--" he thought angrily. "She's
safe enough with me. All the same, if she knew--she wouldn't speak to
me--she wouldn't admit me into her house. She doesn't know--and I am a
"You can't the least understand what it means to be allowed to do you a
service!" he said, with emotion.
But the tone evidently displeased her. She once more formally thanked
him; then sprang up and began to put the cases on the sofa together. As
she did so, steps on the gravel outside were heard through the low
casement window. Delia turned with a start, and saw Mark Winnington
approaching the front door.
"Don't say anything _please_!" she said urgently. "This has nothing to
do with my guardian."
And opening the door of a lacquer cabinet, she hurriedly packed the
jewelry inside with all the speed she could. Her flushed cheek shewed
her humiliated by the action.
* * * * *
Winnington stood in the doorway, silent and waiting. After a hasty
greeting to the new-comer, Delia was nervously bidding Lathrop
"In a week!" he said, under his breath, as she gave him her hand.
"A week!" she repeated, evidently impatient for him to be gone. He
exchanged a curt bow with Winnington, and the door closed on him.
There was a short silence. Winnington remained standing, hat in hand.
He was in riding dress--a commanding figure, his lean face reddened,
and the waves of his grizzled hair slightly loosened, by a buffeting
wind. Delia, stealing a glance at him, divined a coming remonstrance,
and awaited it with a strange mixture of fear and pleasure. They had
not met for ten days; and she stammered out some New Year's wishes. She
hoped that he and Mrs. Matheson had enjoyed their visit.
But without any reply to her politeness, he said abruptly--
"Were you arranging some business with Mr. Lathrop?"
She supposed he was thinking of the militant Campaign.
"Yes," she said, eagerly. "Yes, I was arranging some business."
Winnington's eyes examined her.
"Miss Delia, what do you know about that man?--except that
story--which I understand Miss Marvell told you."
"Nothing--nothing at all! Except--except that he speaks at our
meetings, and generally gets us into hot water. He has a lot of
interesting books--and drawings--in his cottage; and he has lent me
Madame de Noailles' poems. Won't you sit down? I hope you and Mrs.
Matheson have had a good time? We have been to church--at least I
have--and given away lots of coals and plum-puddings--at least I have.
Gertrude thought me a fool. We have had the choir up to sing carols in
the servants' hall, and given them a sovereign--at least I did. And I
don't want any more Christmas--for a long, long, time!"
And with that, she dropped into a chair opposite Winnington, who sat
now twirling his hat and studying the ground.
"I agree with you," he said drily when she paused. "I felt when I was
away that I had better be here. And I feel it now doubly."
"Because--if my absence has led to your developing any further
acquaintance with the gentleman who has just left the room, when I
might have prevented it, I regret it deeply."
Delia's cheeks had gone crimson again.
"You knew perfectly well Mr. Winnington, that we had made acquaintance
with Mr. Lathrop! We never concealed it!"
"I knew, of course, that you were both members of the League, and that
you had spoken at meetings together. I regretted it--exceedingly--and I
asked you--in vain--to put an end to it. But when I find him paying a
morning call here--and lending you books--that is a very different
Delia broke out--
"You really are _too_ Early-Victorian, Mr. Winnington!--and I can't
help being rude. Do you suppose you can ever turn me into a
bread-and-butter miss? I have looked after myself for years--you don't
understand!" She faced him indignantly.
"All right--so long as the Early Victorians may have their say. And my
say about Mr. Lathrop is--again that he is not a fit companion for
you, or any young girl,--that he is a man of blemished character--both
in morals and business. Ask anybody in this neighbourhood!"
He had spoken with firm emphasis, his eyes sparkling.
"Everybody in the neighbourhood believes anything bad, about him--and
us!" cried Delia.
"Don't, for Heaven's sake, couple yourself, and the man--together!"
said Winnington, flushing with anger. "I know nothing about him, when
you first arrived here. Mr. Lathrop didn't matter twopence to me
before. Now he does matter."
"Why?" Delia's eyes were held to his, fascinated.
"Simply because I care--I care a great deal--what happens to you," he
said quietly, after a pause. "Naturally, I must care."
Delia looked away, and began twisting her black sash into knots.
"Bankruptcy--is not exactly a crime."
"Oh, so you knew that farther fact about him? But of course--it is the
rest that matters. Since we spoke of this before, I have seen the judge
who tried the case in which this man figured. I hate speaking of it in
your presence, but you force me. He told me it was one of the worst he
had ever known--a case for which there was no defence or excuse
"Why must I believe it?" cried Delia impetuously. "It's a man's
judgment! The woman may have been--Gertrude says she was--horribly
unhappy and ill-treated. Yet nothing could be proved--enough to free
her. Wait till we have women judges--and women lawyers--then you'll
He laughed indignantly--though not at all inclined to laugh. And what
seemed to him her stubborn perversity drove him to despair.
"In this case, if there had been a woman judge, I am inclined to think
it would have been a good deal worse for the people concerned. At least
I hope so. Don't try to make me believe, Miss Delia, that women are
going to forgive treachery and wickedness more easily than men!"
"Oh, 'treachery!'--" she murmured, protesting. His look both
intimidated and drew her. Winnington came nearer to her, and suddenly
he laid his hand on both of hers. Looking up she was conscious of a
look that was half raillery, half tenderness.
"My dear child!--I must call you that--though you are so clever--and
so--so determined to have your own way. Look here! I'm going to plead
my rights. I've done a good deal for you the last three months--perhaps
you hardly know all that has been done. I've been your watch-dog--put
it at that. Well, now give the watch-dog, give the Early-Victorian, his
bone! Promise me that you will have no more dealings with Mr. Lathrop.
Send him back his books--and say 'Not at Home!'"
She was really distressed.
"I can't, Mr. Winnington!--I'm so sorry!--but I can't."
"Why can't you?" He still held her.
A score of thoughts flew hither and thither in her brain. She had asked
a great favour of Lathrop--she had actually put the jewels into his
hands! How could she recall her action? And when he had done her such a
service, if he succeeded in doing it--how was she to turn round on him,
and cut him the very next moment?
Nor could she make up her mind to confess to Winnington what she had
done. She was bent on her scheme. If she disclosed it _now_ everything
might be upset.
"I really _can't!_" she repeated, gravely, releasing her hands.
Winnington rose, and began to pace the drawing room. Delia watched
him--quivering--an exquisite vision herself, in the half lights of the
When he paused at last to speak, she saw a new expression in his eyes.
"I shall have to think this over, Miss Blanchflower--perhaps to
reconsider my whole position."
She was startled, but she kept her composure.
"You mean--you may have--after all--to give me up?"
He forced a very chilly smile.
"You remember--you asked me to give you up. Now if it were only one
subject--however important--on which we disagreed, I might still do my
best, though the responsibility of all you make me connive at is
certainly heavy. But if you are entirely to set at defiance not only my
advice and wishes as to this illegal society to which you belong, and
as to the violent action into which I understand you may be led when
you go to town, but also in such a matter as we have just been
discussing--then indeed, I see no place for me. I must think it over. A
guardian appointed by the Court might be more effective--might
influence you more."
"I told you I was a handful," said Delia, trying to laugh. But her
voice sounded hollow in her own ears.
He offered no reply--merely repeating "I must think it over!"--and
resolutely changing the subject, he made a little perfunctory
conversation on a few matters of business--and was gone.
After his departure, Delia sat motionless for half an hour at least,
staring at the fire. Then suddenly she sprang up, went to the
writing-table, and sat down to write--
"Dear Mr. Mark--Don't give me up! You don't know. Trust me a little! I
am not such a fiend as you think. I am grateful--I am indeed. I wish to
goodness I could show it. Perhaps I shall some day. I hadn't time to
tell you about poor Weston--who's to have an operation--and that I'm
not going to town with Gertrude--not for some weeks at any rate. I
shall be alone here, looking after Weston. So I can't disgrace or
worry you for a good while any way. And you needn't fret about Mr.
Lathrop--you needn't _really_! I can't explain--not just yet--but it's
all right. Mayn't I come and help with some of your cripple children?
or the school? or something? If Susy Amberly can do it, I suppose I
can--I'd like to. May I sign myself--though I _am_ a handful-"
She sat staring at the paper, trembling under a stress of feeling she
could not understand--the large tears in her eyes.
"Pack the papers as quickly as you can--I am going to town this
afternoon. Whatever can't be packed before then, you can bring up to me
A tired girl lifted her head from the packing-case before which she was
"I'll do my best, Miss Marvell--But I'm afraid it will be impossible to
finish to-day." And she looked wearily round the room laden with
papers--letters, pamphlets, press-cuttings--on every available table
Gertrude gave a rather curt assent. Her reason told her the thing was
impossible; but her will chafed against the delay, which her secretary
threatened, of even a few hours in the resumption of her work in
London, and the re-housing of all its tools and materials. She was a
hard mistress; though no harder on her subordinates than she was on
She began to turn her own hand to the packing, and missing a book she