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Delia Blanchflower by Mrs. Humphry Ward

Part 5 out of 7

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had left in the drawing-room the night before, she went to fetch it. It
was again a morning of frosty sunshine, and the garden outside lay in
dazzling light. The drawing-room windows were open, and through one of
them Gertrude perceived Delia moving about outside on the whitened
grass. She was looking for the earliest snowdrops which were just
beginning to bulge from the green stems, pushing up through the dead
leaves under the beech trees. She wore a blue soft shawl round her head
and shoulders, and she was singing to herself. As she raised herself
from the ground, and paused a moment looking towards the house, but
evidently quite unconscious of any spectators, Gertrude could not take
her eyes from the vision she made. If radiant beauty, if grace, and
flawless youth can "lift a mortal to the skies," Delia stood like a
young goddess under the winter sun. But there was much more than beauty
in her face. There was a fluttering and dreamy joy which belongs only
to the children of earth. The low singing came unconsciously from her
lips, as though it were the natural expression of the heart within.
Gertrude caught the old lilting tune:--

"For oh, Greensleaves was all my joy--
For oh, Greensleaves was my heart's delight--
And who but my lady Greensleaves--"

The woman observing her did so with a strange mixture of softness and
repulsion. If Gertrude Marvell loved anybody, she loved Delia--the
captive of her own bow and spear, and until now the most loyal, the
most single-minded of disciples. But as she saw Delia walk away to a
further reach of the garden, the mind of the elder woman bitterly
accused the younger. Delia's refusal to join the militant forces in
London, at this most critical and desperate time, on what seemed to
Gertrude the trumpery excuse of Weston's illness, had made an indelible
impression on a fanatical temper. If she had cared--if she had _really_
cared--she could not have done any such thing. "What have I been
wasting my time here for?" she asked herself; and reviewing the motives
which had induced her to accept Delia's proposal that they should live
together, she accused herself sharply of a contemptible lack of
judgment and foresight.

For no mere affection for Delia Blanchflower would have influenced her,
at the time when Delia, writing to tell her of the approaching death of
Sir Robert, implored her to come and share her life. "You know I shall
have money, dearest Gertrude,"--wrote Delia--"Come and help me to spend
it--for the Cause." And for the sake of the Cause,--which was then
sorely in want of money--and only for its sake, Gertrude had consented.
She was at that time rapidly becoming one of the leading spirits in the
London office of the "Daughters," so that to bury herself, even for a
time, in a country village, some eighty miles from London, was a
sacrifice. But to secure what seemed likely to be some thousands a
year from a willing giver, such a temporary and modified exile had
appeared to her worth while; and she had at once planned a campaign of
"militant" meetings in the towns along the South Coast, by way of
keeping in touch with "active work."

But, in the first place, the extraordinary terms of Sir Robert's will
had proved far more baffling than she and Delia had ever been willing
to believe. And, in the next place, the personality of Mark Winnington
had almost immediately presented itself to Gertrude as something she
had never reckoned with. A blustering and tyrannical guardian would
have been comparatively easy to fight. Winnington was formidable, not
because he was hostile, resolutely hostile, to their whole propaganda
of violence; that might only have spurred a strong-willed girl to
more passionate extremes. He was dangerous,--in spite of his forty
years--because he was delightful; because, in his leisurely,
old-fashioned way, he was so loveable, so handsome, so inevitably
attractive, Gertrude, looking back, realised that she had soon
perceived--vaguely at least--what might happen, what had now--as she
dismally guessed--actually happened.

The young, impressionable creature, brought into close contact with
this charming fellow--this agreeable reactionary--had fallen in love!
That was all. But it was more than enough. Delia might be still
unconscious of it herself. But this new shrinking from the most
characteristic feature of the violent policy--this new softness and
fluidity in a personality that when they first reached Maumsey had
begun already to stiffen in the fierce mould of militancy--to what
could any observer with eyes in their head attribute them but the
influence of Mark Winnington--the daily unseen presence of other
judgments and other ideals embodied in a man to whom the girl's
feelings had capitulated?

"If I could have kept her to myself for another year, he could have
done nothing. But he has intervened before her opinions were anything
more than the echoes of mine;--and for the future I shall have less and
less chance against him. What shall we ever get out of her as a married
woman? What would Mark Winnington--to whom she will give herself, body
and soul,--allow us to get out of her? Better break with her now, and
disentangle my own life!"

With such thoughts, a pale and brooding woman pursued the now distant
figure of Delia. At the same time Gertrude Marvell had no intention
whatever of provoking a premature breach which might deprive either the
Cause or herself of any help they might still obtain from Delia in the
desperate fight immediately ahead. She, personally, would have
infinitely preferred freedom and a garret to Delia's flat, and any kind
of dependence on Delia's money. "I was not born to be a parasite!" she
angrily thought. But she had no right to prefer them. All that could be
extracted from Delia should be extracted. She was now no more to
Gertrude than a pawn in the game. Let her be used--if she could not be

But if this had fallen differently, if she had remained the true
sister-in-arms, given wholly to the joy of the fight, Gertrude's stern
soul would have clasped her to itself, just as passionately as it now
dismissed her.

"No matter!" The hard brown eyes looked steadily into the future.
"That's done with. I am alone--I shall be alone. What does it
signify?--a little sooner or later?"

The vagueness of the words matched the vagueness of certain haunting
premonitions in the background of the mind. Her own future always
shaped itself in tragic terms. It was impossible--she knew it--that it
should bring her to any kind of happiness. It was no less impossible
that she should pause and submit. That active defiance of the existing
order, on which she had entered, possessed her, gripped her,
irrevocably. She was like the launched stone which describes its
appointed curve--till it drops.

As for any interference from the side of her own personal ties and
affections,--she had none.

In her pocket she carried a letter she had received that morning, from
her mother. It was plaintive, as usual.

"Winnie's second child arrived last week. It was an awful confinement.
The first doctor had to get another, and they only just pulled her
through. The child's a misery. It would be much better if it had died.
I can't think what she'll do. Her husband's a wretched creature--just
manages to keep in work--but he neglects her shamefully--and if there
ever is anything to spend, _he_ spends it--on his own amusement. She
cried the other day, when we were talking of you. She thinks you're
living with a rich lady, and have everything you want--and she and
her children are often half-starved. 'She might forgive me now, I do
think--' she'll say sometimes--'And as for Henry, if I did take him
away from her, she may thank her stars she didn't marry him. She'd have
killed him by now. She never could stand men like Henry. Only, when he
was a young fellow, he took her in--her first, and then me. It was a
bad job we ever saw him.'

"Why are you so set against us, Gertrude?--your own flesh and blood.
I'm sure if I ever was unkind to you I'm sorry for it. You used to say
I favoured Albert at your expense--Well, he's as good as dead to me
now, and I've got no good out of all the spoiling I gave him. I sit at
home by myself, and I'm a pretty miserable woman. I read everything I
can in the papers about what you're doing--you, who were my only
child, seven years before Albert came. It doesn't matter to you what I
think--at least, it oughtn't. I'm an old woman, and whatever I thought
I'd never quarrel with you. But it would matter to me a good deal, if
you'd sometimes come in, and sit by the fire a bit, and chat. It's
three years since I've even seen you. Winnie says you've forgotten
us--you only care about the vote. But I don't believe it. Other people
may think the vote can make up for everything--but not you. You're too
clever. Hoping to see you,"

"Your lonely old mother,

To that letter, Gertrude had already written her reply. Sometime--in
the summer, perhaps, she had said to her mother. And she had added the
mental proviso--"if I am alive." For the matters in which she was
engaged were no child's play, and the excitements of prison and
hunger-striking might tell even on the strongest physique.

No--her family were nothing to her. Her mother's appeal, though it
should not be altogether ignored, was an insincere one. She had always
stood by the men of the family; and for the men of the family,
Gertrude, its eldest daughter, felt nothing but loathing and contempt.
Her father, a local government official in a western town, a
small-minded domestic tyrant, ruined by long years of whisky-nipping
between meals; her only brother, profligate and spendthrift, of whose
present modes of life the less said the better; her brother-in-law,
Henry Lewison, the man whom, in her callow, ignorant youth, she was
once to have married, before her younger sister supplanted her--a
canting hypocrite, who would spend his day in devising petty torments
for his wife, and begin and end it with family prayers:--these types,
in a brooding and self-centred mind, had gradually come to stand for
the whole male race.

Nor had her lonely struggle for a livelihood, after she had fled from
home, done anything to loosen the hold of these images upon her. She
looked back upon a dismal type-writing office, run by a grasping
employer; a struggle for health, warring with the struggle for bread;
sick headache, sleeplessness, anaemia, yet always within, the same iron
will driving on the weary body; and always the same grim perception on
the dark horizon of an outer gulf into which some women fell, with no
hope of resurrection. She burnt again with the old bitter sense of
injustice, on the economic side; remembering fiercely her own stinted
earnings, and the higher wages and larger opportunities of men, whom,
intellectually, she despised. Remembering too the development of that
new and ugly temper in men--men hard-pressed themselves--who must now
see in women no longer playthings or sweethearts, but rivals and

So that gradually, year by year, there had strengthened in her that
strange, modern thing, a woman's hatred of men--the normal instincts of
sex distorted and embittered. And when suddenly, owing to the slow
working of many causes, economic and moral, a section of the Woman
Suffrage movement had broken into flame and violence, she had flung her
very soul to it as fuel, with the passion of one to whom life at last
"gives room." In that outbreak were gathered up for her all the
rancours, and all the ideals of life, all its hopes and all its
despairs. Not much hope!--and few ideals. Her passion for the Cause
had been a grim force, hardly mixed with illusion; but it had held and
shaped her.

Meanwhile among women she has found a few kindred souls. One of them, a
fellow-student, came into money, died, and left Gertrude Marvell a
thousand pounds. On that sum she had educated herself, had taken her
degree at a West Country University, had moved to London and begun work
as a teacher and journalist. Then again, a break down in health,
followed by a casual acquaintance with Lady Tonbridge--Sir Robert's
offer--its acceptance--Delia!

How much had opened to her with Delia! _Pleasure_, for the first time;
the sheer pleasure of travel, society, tropical beauty; the strangeness
also of finding herself adored, of feeling that young loveliness, that
young intelligence, all yielding softness in her own strong hands--

Well, that was done;--practically done. She cheated herself with no
vain hopes. The process which had begun in Delia would go forward. One
more defeat to admit and forget. One more disaster to turn one's back

And no disabling lamentations! Her eyes cleared, her mouth stiffened.
She went quietly back to her packing.

"Gertrude! What _are_ you doing?" The voice was Delia's. She stood on
the threshold of Gertrude's den, looking with amazement, at the
littered room and the packing-cases.

"I find I must go up at once--They want help at the office." Gertrude,
who was writing a letter, delivered the information over her shoulder.

"But the flat won't be ready!"

"Never mind. I can go to a hotel for a few days."

A cloud dropped over the radiance of Delia's face, fresh from the sun
and frost outside.

"I can't bear your going alone!"

"Oh, you'll come later," said Gertrude indifferently.

"Did you--did you--have such urgent letters this morning?"

"Well--you know things _are_ urgent! But then, you see, you have made
up your mind to stay with Weston!"

A slight mocking look accompanied the words.

"Yes--I must stay with Weston," said Delia, slowly, and then perceiving
that the typist showed no signs of leaving them together, and that
confidential talk was therefore impossible, she reluctantly went away.

Weston that morning was in much pain, and Delia sat beside her,
learning by some new and developing instinct how to soothe her. The
huntress of the Tyrolese woods had few caressing ways, and pain had
always been horrible to her; a thing to be shunned, even by the
spectator, lest it should weaken the wild natural energies. But Weston
was very dear to her, and the maid's suffering stirred deep slumbering
powers in the girl's nature. She watched the trained Nurse at her work,
and copied her anxiously. And all the time she was thinking, thinking,
now of Gertrude, now of her letter to Winnington. Gertrude was vexed
with her, thought her a poor creature--that was plain. "But in a
fortnight, I'll go to her,--and they'll see!--" thought the girl's
wrestling mind. "And before that, I shall send her money. I can't help
what she thinks. I'm not false!--I'm not giving in! But I must have
this fortnight,--just this fortnight;--for Weston's sake, and--"

For her proud sincerity would not allow her to pretend to herself. What
had happened to her? She felt the strangest lightness--as though some
long restraint had broken down; a wonderful intermittent happiness,
sweeping on her without reason, and setting the breath fluttering. It
made her think of what an old Welsh nurse of her childhood had once
told her of "conversion," in a Welsh revival, and its marvellous
effects; how men and women walked on air, and the iron bands of life
and custom dropped away.

Then she rose impatiently, despising herself, and went downstairs again
to try and help Gertrude. But the packing was done, the pony-cart was
ordered, and in an hour more, Gertrude was gone. Delia was left
standing on the threshold of the front door, listening to the sound of
the receding wheels. They had parted in perfect friendliness, Gertrude
with civil wishes for Weston's complete recovery, Delia with eager
promises--"I shall soon come--_very_ soon!"--promises of which, as she
now remembered, Gertrude had taken but little notice.

But as she went back into the house, the girl had a queer feeling of
catastrophe, of radical change. She passed the old gun-room, and looked
in. All its brown paper bundles, its stacks of leaflets, its books of
reference were gone; only a litter of torn papers remained here and
there, to shew what its uses had been. And suddenly, a swell of
something like exultation, a wild sense of deliverance, rushed upon
her, driving out depression. She went back to the drawing-room, with
little dancing steps, singing under her breath. The flowers wanted
freshening. She went out to the greenhouse, and brought in some early
hyacinths and violets till the room was fragrant. Some of them she took
up to Weston, chatting to the patient and her nurse as she arranged
them, with such sweetness, such smiles, such an abandonment of
kindness, that both looked after her amazed, when, again, she vanished.
What had become of the imperious absent-minded young woman of ordinary

Delia lunched alone. And after lunch she grew restless.

He must have received her letter at breakfast-time. Probably he had
some tiresome meetings in the morning, but soon--soon--

She tried to settle to some reading. How long it was since she had read
anything for the joy of it!--anything that in some shape or other was
not the mere pemmican of the Suffrage Movement; dusty arguments for, or
exasperating arguments against. She plunged into poetry--a
miscellaneous volume of modern verse--and the new world of feeling
in which her mind had begun to move, grew rich, and deep, and
many-coloured about her.

Surely--a sound at the gate! She sat up, crimson. Well?--she was going
to make friends with her guardian--to bury the hatchet--for a whole
fortnight at least. Only that. Nothing more--nothing--nothing!

Steps approached. She hastily unearthed a neglected work-basket, and a
very ancient piece of half-done embroidery. Was there a thimble
anywhere--or needles! Yes!--by good luck. Heavens!--what shamming! She
bent over the dingy bit of silk, her cheeks dimpling with laughter.

Their first greetings were done, and Winnington was sitting by
her--astride a chair, his arms lying along the top of it, his eyes
looking down upon her, as she made random stitches in what looked like
a futurist design.

"Do you know that you wrote me a very, _very_ nice letter?" and as he
spoke, she heard in his voice that tone--that lost tone, which she had
heard in it at their very first interview, before she had chilled and
flouted him, and made his life a burden to him. Her pulses leapt; but
she did not look up.

"I wonder whether--you quite deserved it? You were angry with me--for

"I am afraid I can't agree!" The voice now was a little dry, and a pair
of very keen grey eyes examined her partially hidden face.

She pushed her work away and looked up.

"You ought!" she said vehemently. "You accused me--practically--of
flirting with Mr. Lathrop. And I was doing nothing of the kind!"

He laughed.

"I never imagined that you were--or could be--flirting with Mr.

"Then why did you threaten to give me up if I went on seeing him?"

He hesitated--but said at last--gravely--

"Because I could not take the responsibility."

"How would it help me--to give me up? According to you--" she breathed
fast--"I should only--go to perdition--the quicker!" Her eyes still
laughed, but behind the laughter there was a rush of feeling which
communicated itself to him.

"May I suggest that it is not necessary to go to perdition--at
all--fast or slow?"

She shook her head. Silence followed; which Winnington broke.

"You said you would like to come and see some of the village
people--your own people--and the school? Was that serious?"

"Certainly!" She raised an indignant countenance. "I suppose you
think--like everybody--that because I want the vote, I can't care
about anything else?"

"You'll admit it has a way of driving everything else out," he said,
mildly. "Have you ever been into the village--for a month?--for two
months? The things you wanted have been done. But you haven't been to
see." She sprang to her feet.

"Shall I come now?"

"If it suits you. I've saved the afternoon."

She ran out of the room to put on her things, upsetting as she did so,
the work-box with which she had been masquerading, and quite
unconscious of it. Winnington, smiling to himself, stooped to pick up
the reels and skeins of silk. One, a skein of pink silk with which she
had been working, he held in his hand a moment, and, suddenly, put in
his pocket. After which he drifted absently to the hearthrug, and stood
waiting for her, hat in hand. He was thinking of that moment in the
wintry dawn when he had read her letter. The shock of emotion returned
upon him. But what was he to do? What was really in her mind?--or, for
the matter of that, in his own?

She re-appeared, radiant in a moleskin cap and furs, and then they both
awkwardly remembered--he, that he had made no inquiry about Weston, and
she, that she had said nothing of Gertrude Marvell's hurried departure.

"Your poor maid? Tell me about her. Oh, but she'll do well. We'll take
care of her. France is an awfully good doctor."

Her eyes thanked him. She gave him a brief account of Weston's state;
then looked away.

"Do you know--that I'm quite alone? Gertrude went up to town this

Winnington gave a low whistle of astonishment.

"She had to--" said Delia, hurriedly. "It was the office--they couldn't
do without her."

"I thought she had undertaken to be your chaperon?"

The girl coloured.

"Well yes--but of course--the other claim came first."

"You don't expect me to admit that," said Winnington, with energy.
"Miss Marvell has left you alone?--_alone_?--at a moment's notice--with
your maid desperately ill--and without a word to me, or anybody?" His
eyes sparkled.

"Don't let's quarrel!" cried Delia, as she stood opposite to him,
putting on her gloves. "_Don't_! Not to-day--not this afternoon! And
we're sure to quarrel if we talk about Gertrude."

His indignation broke up in laughter.

"Very well. We won't mention her. Well, but look here--" he
pondered--"You _must_ have somebody. I would propose that Alice
should come and keep you company, but I left her in bed with what
looks like the flu. Ah!--I have it. But--am I really to advise? You
are twenty-one, remember,--nearly twenty-two!"

The tender sarcasm in his voice brought a flood of colour to her

"Go on!" she said, and stood quivering.

"Would you consider asking Lady Tonbridge to come and stay with you?
Nora is away on a visit."

Delia moved quietly to the writing-table, pulled off her gloves, sat
down to write a note. He watched her, standing behind her; his strained
yet happy look resting on the beautiful dark head.

She rose, and held out the note, addressed to Lady Tonbridge. He took
the note, and the hand together. The temptation was irresistible. He
raised the hand and kissed it. Both were naturally reminded of the only
previous occasion on which he had done such a thing; and as he dropped
his hold, Delia saw the ugly scar which would always mark his left

"Thank you!"--he said warmly--"That'll be an immense relief to my

"You mustn't think she'll convert me," said Delia, quickly.

"Why, she's a Suffragist!"

Delia shrugged her shoulders. "_Pour rire_!"

"Let's leave the horrid subject alone--shall we?"

Delia assented; and they set out, just as the winter sun of a bright
and brilliant afternoon was beginning to drop towards its setting.

* * * * *

When Delia afterwards looked back on those two hours in Mark
Winnington's company, she remembered them as a time enskied and
glorified. First, the mere pleasure of the senses--the orange glow of
the January evening, the pleasant crackling of the frosty ground, the
exhilaration of exercise, and of the keen pungent air; then the beauty
of the village and of the village lanes in the dusk, of the blue smoke
drifting along the hill, of the dim reds and whites of the old houses,
and the occasional gleams of fire and lamp through the small-paned
windows; the gaiety of the children racing home from school, the
dignity of the old labourers, the seemliness of the young. It was good
to be alive--in England--breathing English air. It was good to be young
and strong-limbed, with all one's life before one.

And next--and greater--there was the pleasure of Winnington beside her,
of his changed manner, of their new comradeship. She felt even a
curious joy in the difference of age between them. Now that by some
queer change, she had ceased to stand on her dignity with him, to hold
him arrogantly at arm's length, there emerged in her a childish
confidence and sweetness, enchanting to the man on whom it played. "May
I?--" "Do you think I might?--" she would say, gently, throwing out
some suggestion or other, as they went in and out of the cottages, and
the humbleness in her dark eyes, as though a queen stooped, began to
turn his head.

And how beautiful this common human life seemed that evening--after all
the fierce imaginings in which she had lived so long! In the great
towns beyond the hills, women were still starved and sweated,--still
enslaved and degraded. Man no doubt was still the stupid and vicious
tyrant, the Man-Beast that Gertrude Marvell believed him. But here in
this large English village, how the old primal relations stood
out!--sorrow-laden and sin-stained often, yet how touching, how worthy,
in the main, of reverence and tenderness! As they went in and out of
the cottages of her father's estate, the cottages where Winnington was
at home, and she a stranger, all that "other side" of any great
argument began to speak to her--without words. The world of politics
and its machinery, how far away!--instead, the world of human need, and
love, and suffering unveiled itself this winter evening to Delia's
soul, and spoke to her in a new language. And always it was a language
of sex, as between wives and husbands, mothers and sons, sisters and
brothers. No isolation of one sex or the other. No possibility of
thinking of them apart, as foes and rivals, with jarring rights and
claims. These old couples tending each other, clinging together, after
their children had left them, till their own last day should dawn;
these widowed men or women, piteously lost without the old companion,
like the ox left alone in the furrow; these young couples with their
first babies; these dutiful or neglectful sons, these hard or tender
daughters; these mothers young and old, selfish or devoted:--with
Winnington beside her, Delia saw them all anew, heard them all anew.
And Love, in all its kinds, everywhere the governing force, by its
presence or its absence!--Love abused and degraded, or that Love,
whether in the sunken eyes of the old, or on the cheeks of the young,
which is but "a little lower than the angels."

And what frankly amazed her was Winnington's place in this world of
labouring folk. He had given it ten years of service; not charity, but
simply the service of the good citizen; moved by a secret, impelling
motive, which Delia had yet to learn. And how they rewarded him! She
walked beside a natural ruler, and felt her heart presently big with
the pride of it.

"But the cripples?" She enquired for them, with a touch of sarcasm. "So
far," she said, "the population Maumsey, appeared to be quiet
exceptionally able-bodied."

"Goodness!" said Winnington--"I can't shew you more than two or three
cripples to a village. Maumsey only rejoices in two. My county school
will collect from the whole county. And I should never have found out
the half of them, if it hadn't been for Susy Amberley."

"How did she discover them?" asked Delia, without any sort of

"We--the County Council--put the enquiry into her hands. I showed
her--a bit. But she's done it admirably. She's a wonderful little
person, Susy. What the old parents will do without her when she goes to
London I can't think."

"Why is she going?"

Winnington shrugged his shoulders kindly.

"Wants a training--wants something more to do. Quite right--if it
makes her happy. You women have all grown so restless nowadays." He
laughed into the rather sombre face beside him. And the face lit

"Because the world's so _marvellous_," said Delia, with her passionate
look. "And there's so little time to explore it in. You men have always
known that. Now we women know it too."

He pondered the remark--half smiling.

"Well, you'll see a good deal of it before you've done," he said at
last. "Now come and look at what I've been trying to do for the women
who complained to you."

And he shewed her how everything had been arranged to please her, at
the cost of infinite trouble, and much expense. The woman with the
eight children had been moved into a spacious new cottage made out of
two old ones; the old granny alone in a house now too big for her, had
been induced to take in a prim little spinster, the daughter of a small
grocer just deceased; and the father of the deficient girl, for whom
Miss Dempsey had made herself responsible, received Winnington with a
lightening of his tired eyes, and taking him out of earshot of Delia,
told him how Bessie "had got through her trouble," and was now earning
money at some simple hand-work under Miss Dempsey's care.

"I didn't know you were doing all this!" said Delia, remorsefully, as
they walked along the village street. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I think I did tell you--once or twice. But you had other things to
think about."

"I hadn't!" said Delia, with angry energy. "I hadn't, you needn't make
excuses for me!"

He smiled at her, a little gravely, but said nothing--till they
reached a path leading to an isolated cottage--

"Here's a cripple at last!--Susy!--You here?"

For as the door opened to his knock, a lady rose from a low seat, and
faced them.

Winnington grasped her by the hand.

"I thought you were already gone."

"No--they've put it off again for a week or two--no vacancy yet."

She shook hands formally with Delia. "I came to have another look at
this boy. Isn't he splendid?"

She pointed to a grinning child of five sitting on the edge of the
kitchen table, and dangling a pair of heavily ironed legs. The mother
proudly shewed them. He had been three months in the Orthopaedic
Hospital, she told Delia. The legs twisted with rickets had been broken
and set twice, and now he was "doing fine." She set him down, and made
him walk. "I never thought to see him do that!" she said, her wan face
shining. "And it's all his doing--" she pointed to Winnington, "and
Miss Susy's."

Meanwhile Susy and Winnington were deep in conversation--very
technical much of it--about a host of subjects they seemed to have in

Delia silent and rather restless, watched them both, the girl's sweet,
already faded, face, and Winnington's expression. When they emerged
from the cottage Susy said shyly to Delia--

"Won't you come to tea with me some day next week?"

"Thank you. I should like to. But my maid is very ill. Else I should be
in London."

"Oh, I'm very sorry. May I come to you?"

Delia thanked her coldly. She could have beaten herself for a rude,
ungracious creature; yet for the life of her she could not command
another manner. Susy drew back. She and Winnington began to talk again,
ranging over persons and incidents quite unknown to Delia--the frank
talk, full of matter of comrades in a public service. And again Delia
watched them acutely--jealous--yet not in any ordinary sense. When Susy
turned back towards the Rectory, Delia said abruptly--

"She's helped you a great deal?"

"Susy!" He went off at score, ending with--"What France and I shall do
without her, I don't know. If we could only get more women--_scores
more women_--to do the work! There we sit, perched up aloft on the
Council, and what we want are the women to advise us, and the women's
hands--_to do the little things_--which make just all the difference!"

She was silent a moment, and then said sorely--"I suppose that means,
that if we did all the work we might do--we needn't bother about the

He turned upon with animation--

"I vow I wasn't thinking about the vote!"

"Miss Amberley doesn't seem to bother about it."

Winnington's voice shewed amusement.

"I can't imagine Susy a suff. It simply isn't in her."

"I know plenty of suffragists just as good and useful as she is," said
Delia, bristling.

Winnington did not immediately reply. They had left the village behind,
and were walking up the Maumsey lane in a gathering darkness, each
electrically conscious of the other. At last he said in a changed

"Have I been saying anything to wound you? I didn't mean it."

She laughed unsteadily.

"You never say anything to wound me. I was only--a kind of fretful
porcupine--standing up for my side."

"And the last thought in my mind to-night was to attack your 'side,'"
he protested.

Her tremulous sense drank in the gentleness of his voice, the joy of
his strong, enveloping presence, and the sweetness of her own surrender
which had brought him back to her, the thought of it vibrating between
them, unspoken. Until, suddenly, at the door of the Abbey, Winnington
halted and took her by both hands.

"I must go home. Good-night. Have you got books to amuse you?"


"Poor child!--all alone! But you'll have Lady Tonbridge to-morrow."

"How do you know? She mayn't come."

"I'm going there now. I'll make her. You--you won't be doing any more
embroidery to-night?"

He looked at her slyly. Delia laughed out.

"There!--when one tries to be feminine, that's how you mock!"

"'_Mock_!' I admired. Good-night!--I shall be here to-morrow."

He was gone--into the darkness.

Delia entered the lonely house, in a bewilderment of feeling. As she
passed Gertrude's deserted sitting-room on her way to the staircase,
she saw that the parlourmaid had lit a useless lamp there. She went in
to put it out. As she did so, a torn paper among the litter on the
floor attracted her notice. She stooped and took it up.

It seemed to be a fragment of a plan--a plan of a house. It shewed two
series of rooms, divided by a long passage. One of the rooms was marked
"Red Parlour," another, "Hall," and at the end of the passage, there
were some words, clearly in Gertrude Marvell's handwriting--

"_Garden door, north_."

With terror in her heart, Delia brought the fragment to the lamp, and
examined every word and line of it.

Recollections flashed into her mind, and turned her pale. That what she
held was part of a general plan of the Monk Lawrence ground-floor, she
was certain--dismally certain. And Gertrude had made it. Why?

Delia tore the paper into shreds and burnt the shreds. Afterwards she
spent an oppressed and miserable night. Her friend reproached her, on
the one side; and Winnington, on the other.

Chapter XIV

Lady Tonbridge was sitting in the window-seat of a little sitting-room
adjoining her bedroom at Maumsey Abbey. That the young mistress of
Maumsey had done her best to make her guest comfortable, that guest
most handsomely acknowledged. Some of the few pretty things which the
house contained had been gathered there. The chintz covered sofa and
chairs, even though the chintz was ugly, had the pleasant country-house
look, which suggests afternoon tea, and chatting friends; a bright
fire, flowers and a lavish strewing of books completed the hospitable

Yet Madeleine Tonbridge had by no means come to Maumsey Abbey, at
Winnington's bidding, as to a Land of Cockaigne. She at all events
regarded Delia as a "handful," and was on the watch day by day
for things outrageous. She could not help liking the beautiful
creature--almost loving her! But Delia was still a "Daughter of
Revolt"--apparently unrepentant; that dangerous fanatic, her pretended
chaperon, was still in constant correspondence with her; the papers
teemed with news of militant outrages, north, south, east and west; and
riotous doings were threatened for the meetings of Parliament by
Delia's Society. On all these matters Delia shut her proud lips. Indeed
her new reticence with regard to militant doings and beliefs struck
Lady Tonbridge as more alarming than the young and arrogant defiance
with which on her first arrival she had been wont to throw them at the
world. Madeleine could not rid herself of the impression during these
weeks that Delia had some secret cause of anxiety connected with the
militant propaganda. She was often depressed, and there were moments
when she shewed a nervousness not easily accounted for. She scarcely
ever mentioned Gertrude Marvell; and she never wrote her letters in
public; while those she received, she would carry away to the gun
room--which she had now made her own particular den--before she opened

At the same time, if Weston recovered from the operation, in three
weeks or so it would be possible for Delia to leave Maumsey; and it was
generally understood that she would then join her friend in London,
just in time for the opening of Parliament. For the moment, it was
plain she was not engaged in any violent doings. But who could answer
for the future?

And meanwhile, what was Mark Winnington about? It was all very well to
sit there trifling with the pages of the _Quarterly Review_! In her
moments of solitude by night or day, during the five days she had
already spent at Maumsey, Madeleine had never really given her mind to
anything else but the engrossing question. "Is he in love with her--or
is he not?"

Of course she had foreseen--had feared--the possibility of it, from
that very first moment, almost--when Winnington had written to her
describing the terms of Bob Blanchflower's will, and his own acceptance
of the guardianship.

Yet why "feared"? Had she not for years desired few things so sincerely
as to see Winnington happily married? As to that old tragedy, with its
romantic effect upon his life, her first acquiescence in that effect,
as something irrevocable, had worn away with time. It now seemed to her
an intolerable thing that Agnes Clay's death should forever stand
between Winnington and love. It was positively anti-social--bad
citizenship--that such a man as Mark Winnington should not produce
sons and daughters for the State, when all the wastrels and cheats in
creation were so active in the business.

All the same she had but rarely ventured to attack him on the subject,
and the results had not been encouraging. She was certain that he had
entered upon the guardianship of Delia Blanchflower in complete
single-mindedness--confident, disdainfully confident, in his own
immunity; and after that first outburst into which friendship had
betrayed her, she had not dared to return to the subject. But she had
watched him--with the lynx eyes of a best friend; and that best friend,
a woman to whom love affairs were the most interesting things in
existence. In which, of course, she knew she was old-fashioned, and
behind the mass of the sex, now racing toward what she understood was
called the "economic independence of women"--_i.e._ a life without man.

But in spite of watching, she was much perplexed--as to both the
persons concerned. She had now been nearly a week at Maumsey, in
obedience to Delia's invitation and Winnington's urging. The
opportunity indeed of getting to know Mark's beautiful--and
troublesome--ward, more intimately, was extremely welcome to her
curiosity. Hitherto Gertrude Marvell had served as an effective barrier
between Delia and her neighbours. The neighbours did not want to know
Miss Marvell, and Miss Marvell, Madeleine Tonbridge was certain, had
never intended that the neighbours should rob her of Delia.

But now Gertrude Marvell had in some strange sudden way vacated her
post; and the fortress lay open to attack and capture, were anyone
strong enough to seize it. Moreover Delia's visitor had not been
twenty-four hours in the house before she had perceived that Delia's
attitude to her guardian was new, and full of suggestion to the shrewd
bystander. Winnington had clearly begun to interest the girl
profoundly--both in himself, and in his relation to her. She now wished
to please him, and was nervously anxious to avoid hurting or offending
him. She was always conscious of his neighbourhood or his mood; she was
eager--though she tried to conceal it--for information about him; and
three nights already had Lady Tonbridge lingered over Delia's bedroom
fire, the girl on the rug at her feet, while the elder woman poured out
her recollections of Mark Winnington, from the days when she and he had
been young together.

As to that vanished betrothed, Agnes Clay,--the heroine of Winnington's
brief engagement--Delia's thirst for knowledge, in a restless,
suppressed way, had been insatiable. Was she jealous of that poor
ghost, and of all those delicate, domestic qualities with which her
biographer could not but invest her? The daughter of a Dean of
Wanchester--retiring, spiritual, tender,--suggesting a cloistered
atmosphere, and _The Christian Year_--she was still sharp in
Madeleine's recollection, and that lady felt a certain secret and
mischievous zest in drawing her portrait, while Delia, her black brows
drawn together, her full red mouth compressed, sat silent.

Then--Wilmington as a friend!--upon that theme indeed Madeleine had
used her brightest colours. And to make this passive listener
understand what friendship meant in Wilmington's soul, it had been
necessary for the speaker to tell her own story, as much at least as it
was possible for her to tell, and Delia to hear. A hasty marriage--"my
own fault, my dear, as much as my parents'!"--twelve years of torment
and humiliation at the hands of a bad man, descending rapidly to the
pit, and quite willing to drag his wife and child with him, ending in a
separation largely arranged by Winnington--and then--

"We retired, Nora and I, on a decent allowance, my own money really,
only like a fool, I had let it all get into Alfred's hands. We took a
house at Richmond. Nora was fifteen. For two years my husband paid the
money. Then he wrote to say he was tired of doing without his daughter,
and he required her to live with him for six months in the year, as a
condition of continuing the allowance. I refused. We would sooner both
of us have thrown ourselves into the Thames. Alfred blustered and
threatened--but he could do nothing--except cut off the allowance,
which he did, at once. Then Mark Winnington found me the cottage here,
and made everything smooth for us. I wouldn't take any money from him,
though he was abominably ready to give it us! But he got me lessons--he
got me friends. He's made everybody here feel for us, and respect us.
He's managed the little bits of property we've got left--he's watched
over Nora--he's been our earthly Providence--and we both adore him!"

On which the speaker, with a flickering smile and tear-dashed eyes, had
taken Delia's face in her two slender hands--

"And don't be such a fool, dear, as to imagine there's been anything in
it, ever, but the purest friendship and good-heartedness that ever
bound three people together! My greatest joy would be to see him
married--to a woman worthy of him--if there is one! And he I suppose
will find his reward in marrying Nora--to some nice fellow. He begins
to match-make for her already."

Delia slowly withdrew herself.

"And he himself doesn't intend to marry?" She asked the question,
clasping her long arms round her knees, as she sat on the floor, her
dark eyes--defiantly steady on her guest's face.

Lady Tonbridge could hear her own answer.

"L'homme propose! Let the right woman try!" Whereupon Delia, a
delicious figure, in a slim white dressing-gown, a flood of curly brown
hair falling about her neck and shoulders, had sprung up, and bidden
her guest a hasty good-night.

One other small incident she recalled.

_A propos_ of some anxious calculation made by Winnington's sister
Alice Matheson one day in talk with Lady Tonbridge--Delia being
present--as to whether Mark could possibly afford a better motor than
the "ramshackle little horror" he was at present dependent on, Delia
had said abruptly, on the departure of Mrs. Matheson--

"But surely the legacy my father left Mr. Winnington would get a new

"But he hasn't taken it, and never will!" Lady Tonbridge had cried,
amazed at the girl's ignorance.

"Why not?" Delia had demanded, almost fiercely, looking very tall, and
oddly resentful.

Why not? "Because one doesn't take payment for that sort of thing!" had
been Mark's laughing explanation, and the only explanation that she,
Madeleine, had been able to get out of him. She handed it on--to
Delia's evident discomfort. So, all along, this very annoying--though
attaching--young woman had imagined that Winnington was being
handsomely paid for putting up with her?

* * * * *

And Winnington?

Here again, it was plain there was a change of attitude, though what it
meant Madeleine could not satisfactorily settle with herself. In the
early days of his guardianship he had been ready enough to come to her,
his most intimate woman-friend, and talk about his ward, though always
with that chivalrous delicacy which was his gift among men. Of late he
had been much less ready to talk; a good sign! And now, since Gertrude
Marvell's blessed departure, he was more at Maumsey than he had ever
been before. He seemed indeed to be pitting his own influence against
Miss Marvell's, and in his modest way, yet consciously, to be taking
Delia in hand, and endeavouring to alter her outlook on life; clearing
away, so far as he could, the atmosphere of angry, hearsay propaganda
in which she had spent her recent years, and trying to bring her face
to face with the deeper loves and duties and sorrows which she in her
headstrong youth knew so little about, while they entered so profoundly
into his own upright and humane character.

Well, but did all this mean _love_?--the desire of the man for the

Madeleine Tonbridge pondered it. She recollected a number of little
acts and sayings, throwing light upon his profound feeling for the
girl, his sympathy with her convictions, her difficulties, her wild
revolts against existing abuses and tyrannies. "I learn from her"--he
had said once, in conversation,--"she teaches me many things."
Madeleine could have laughed in his face--but for the passionate
sincerity in his look.

One thing she perceived--that he was abundantly roused on the subject
of that man Lathrop's acquaintance with his ward. Lathrop's name had
not been mentioned since Lady Tonbridge's arrival, but she received the
impression of a constant vigilance on Winnington's part, and a certain
mystery and unhappiness on Delia's. As to the notion that such a man as
Paul Lathrop could have any attraction for such a girl as Delia
Blanchflower, the idea was simply preposterous,--except on the general
theory that no one is really sane, and every woman "is at heart a
rake." But of course there was the common interest, or what appeared to
be a common interest in this militant society to which Delia was still
so intolerably committed! And an unscrupulous man might easily make
capital out of it.

At this stage in the rambling reverie which possessed her, Lady
Tonbridge was aware of footsteps on the gravel outside. Winnington? He
had proposed to take Delia for a ride that afternoon, to distract her
mind from Weston's state, and from the operation which was to take
place early the following morning. She drew the curtain aside.

Paul Lathrop!

Madeleine felt herself flushing with surprise and indignation. The
visitor was let in immediately. It surely was her duty to go down and
play watchdog.

She firmly rose. But as she did so, there was a knock at her door, and
Delia hurriedly entered.

"I--I thought I'd better say--Mr. Lathrop's just come to see me--on
business. I'm so sorry, but you won't mind my coming to say so?"

Lady Tonbridge raised her eyebrows.

"You mean--you want to see him alone? All right. I'll come down

Delia disappeared.

* * * * *

For more than half an hour did that "disreputable creature," as Lady
Tonbridge roundly dubbed him, remain closeted with Delia, in Delia's
drawing-room. Towards the end of the time the visitor overhead was
walking to and fro impatiently, vowing to herself that she was
bound--positively bound to Winnington--to go down and dislodge the man.
But just as she was about to leave her room, she again heard the front
door open and close. She ran to the window just in time to see Lathrop
departing--and Winnington arriving!--on foot and alone. She watched
the two men pass each other in the drive--Winnington's start of haughty
surprise--and Lathrop's smiling and, as she thought, insolent greeting.
It seemed to her that Winnington hesitated--was about to stop and
address the intruder. But he finally passed him by with the slightest
and coldest recognition. Lathrop's fair hair and slouching shoulders
disappeared round a corner of the drive. Winnington hurried to the
front door and entered.

Lady Tonbridge resolutely threw herself into an arm-chair and took up a

"Now let them have it out! I don't interfere."

* * * * *

Meanwhile Delia, with a red spot of agitation on either cheek, was
sitting at the old satin-wood bureau in the drawing-room, writing a
cheque. A knock at the door disturbed her. She half rose, to see
Wilmington open and close it.

A look at his face startled her. She sank back into her chair, in
evident confusion. But her troubled eyes met his appealingly.

Wilmington's disturbance was plain.

"I had ventured to think--to hope--" he began, abruptly--"that although
you refused to give me your promise when I asked it, yet that you would
not again--or so soon again--receive Mr. Lathrop--privately."

Delia rose and came towards him.

"I told Lady Tonbridge not to come down. Was that very wrong of me?"

She looked at him, half smiling, half hanging her head.

"It was unwise--and, I think, unkind!" said Winnington, with energy.

"Unkind to you?" She lifted her beautiful eyes. There was something
touching in their strained expression, and in her tone.

"Unkind to yourself, first of all," he said, firmly. "I must repeat
Miss Delia, that this man is not a fit associate for you or any young
girl. You do yourself harm by admitting him--by allowing him to see you
alone--and you hurt your friends."

Delia paused a moment.

"Then you don't trust me at all?" she said at last, slowly.

Winnington melted. How pale she looked! He came forward and took her

"Of course I trust you! But you don't know--you are too young. You
confess you have some business with Mr. Lathrop that you can't tell
me--your guardian; and you have no idea to what misrepresentations you
expose yourself, or with what kind of a man you have to deal!"

Delia withdrew her hand, and dropped into a chair--her eyes on the

"I meant--" she said, and her tone trembled--"I did mean to have told
you everything to-day."

"And now--now you can't?"

She made no reply, and in the silence he watched her closely. What
could account for such an eclipse of all her young vivacity? It was
clear to him that that fellow was entangling her in some monstrous
way--part and parcel no doubt of this militant propaganda--and
calculating on developments. Winnington's blood boiled. But while he
stood uncertain, Delia rose, went to the bureau where she had been
writing, brought thence a cheque, and mutely offered it.

"What is this?" he asked.

"The money you lent me."

And to his astonishment he saw that the cheque was for £500, and was
signed "Delia Blanchflower."

"You will of course explain?" he said, looking at her keenly. Suddenly
Delia's embarrassed smile broke through.

"It's--it's only that I've been trying to pay my debts!"

His patience gave way.

"I'm afraid I must tell you--very plainly--that unless you can account
to me for this cheque, I must entirely refuse to take it!"

Delia put her hands behind her, like a scolded child.

"It is my very own," she protested, mildly. "I had some ugly jewels
that my grandmother left me, and I have sold them--that's all."

Winnington's grey eyes held her.

"H'm--and--has Mr. Lathrop had anything to do with the sale?"

"Yes!" She looked up frankly, still smiling. "He has managed it for

"And it never occurred to you to apply to your guardian in such a
matter? Or to your lawyer?"

She laughed--with what he admitted was a very natural scorn. "Ask my
guardian to provide me with the means of helping the 'Daughters'--when
he regards us all as criminals? On the contrary, I wanted to relieve
your conscience, Mr. Winnington!"

"I can't say you have succeeded," he said, grimly, as he began to pace
the drawing-room, with slow steps, his hands in his pockets.

"Why not? Now--everything you give me--can go to the right things--what
you consider the right things. And what is my own--my very own--I can
use as I please."

Yet neither tone nor gesture were defiant, as they would have been a
few weeks before. Rather her look was wistful--appealing--as she stood
there, a perplexing, but most charming figure, in her plain black
dress, with its Quakerish collar of white lawn.

He turned on her impetuously.

"And Mr. Lathrop has arranged it all for you?"

"Yes. He said he knew a good deal about jewellers. I gave him some
diamonds. He took them to London, and he has sold them."

"How do you know he has even treated you honestly!"

"I am certain he has done it honestly!" she cried indignantly. "There
are the letters--from the jewellers--" And running to the bureau, she
took thence a packet of letters and thrust them into Winnington's

He looked them through in silence,--turning to her, as he put them

"I see. It is of course possible that this firm of jewellers have paid
Mr. Lathrop a heavy commission behind the scenes, of which you know
nothing. But I don't press that. Indeed I will assume exactly the
contrary. I will suppose that Mr. Lathrop has acted without any profit
to himself. If so, in my eyes it only makes the matter worse--for it
establishes a claim on you. Miss Delia!--" his resolute gaze held
her--"I do not take a farthing of this money unless you allow me to
write to Mr. Lathrop, and offer him a reasonable commission for his

"No--no! Impossible!"

She turned away from him, towards the window, biting her lip--in sharp

"Then I return you this cheque"--he laid it down beside her. "And I
shall replace the money,--the £500--which I ought never to have allowed
you to spend as you have done, out of my own private pocket."

She stood silent, looking into the garden, her chest heaving. She
thought of what Lady Tonbridge had told her of his modest means--and
those generous hidden uses of them, of which even his most intimate
friends only got an occasional glimpse. Suddenly she went up to him--

"Will you--will you promise me to write civilly?" she said, in a
wavering voice.


"You won't offend--insult him?"

"I will remember that you have allowed him to come into this
drawing-room, and treated him as a guest," said Winnington coldly. "But
why, Miss Delia, are you so careful about this man's feelings? And is
it still impossible that you should meet my wishes--and refuse to see
him again?"

She shook her head--mutely.

"You intend--to see him again?"

"You forget--that we have--business together."

Winnington paused a moment, then came nearer to the chair on which she
had dropped.

"This last week--we have been very good friends--haven't we, Miss

"Call me Delia, please!"

"Delia, then!--we have come to understand each other much
better--haven't we?"

She made a drooping sign of assent.

"_Can't_ I persuade you--to be guided by me--as your father
wished--during these next years of your life? I don't ask you to give
up your convictions--your ideals. We should all be poor creatures
without them! But I do ask you to give up these violent and illegal
methods--this violent and illegal Society--with which you have
become entangled. It will ruin your life, and poison your whole
nature!--unless you can shake yourself free. Work for the Suffrage
as much as you like--but work for it honourably--and lawfully. I ask
you--I beg of you!--to give up these associates--and these methods."

The tenderness and gravity of his tone touched the girl's quivering
senses almost unbearably. It was like the tenderness of a woman. She
felt a wild impulse to throw herself into his arms, and weep. But
instead she grew very white and still.

"I can't!"--was all she said, her eyes on the ground. Winnington turned

Suddenly--a sound of hasty steps in the hall outside--and the door was
opened by a nurse, in uniform.

"Miss Blanchflower!--can you come?"

Delia sprang up. She and the nurse disappeared together.

* * * * *

Winnington guessed what had happened. Weston who was to face a
frightful operation on the morrow as the only chance of saving her
life, had on the whole gone through the fortnight of preparatory
treatment with wonderful courage. But during the last forty-eight
hours, there had been attacks of crying and excitement, connected with
the making of her will, which she had insisted on doing, being herself
convinced that she would die under the knife. Medically, all such
agitation was disastrous. But the only person who could calm her at
these moments was Delia, whom she loved. And the girl had shewn in
dealing with her a marvellous patience and strength.

Presently Madeleine Tonbridge came downstairs--with red eyes. She
described the scene of which she had just been a witness in Weston's
room. Delia, she said, choking again at the thought of it, had been
"wonderful." Then she looked enquiringly at Winnington--

"You met that man going away?"

He sat down beside her, unable to disguise his trouble of mind, or to
resist the temptation of her sympathy and their old friendship.

"I am certain there is some plot afoot--some desperate business--and
they are trying to draw her into it! What can we do?"

Lady Tonbridge shook her head despondently. What indeed could they do,
with a young lady of full age,--bent on her own way?

Then she noticed the cheque lying open on the table, and asked what it

"Miss Delia wishes to repay me some money I lent her," said Winnington,
after a pause. "As matters stand at present, I prefer to wait. Would
you kindly take charge of the cheque for her? No need to worry her
about it again, to-night."

* * * * *

Delia came down at tea-time, pale and quiet, like one from whom virtue
has gone out. By tacit consent Winnington and Lady Tonbridge devoted
themselves to her. It seemed as though in both minds there had arisen
the same thought of her as orphaned and motherless, the same pity, the
same resentment that anything so lovely should be unhappy--as she
clearly was; and not only, so both were convinced, on account of her
poor maid.

Winnington stayed on into the lamplight, and presently began to read
aloud. The scene became intimate and domestic. Delia very silent, sat
in a deep arm chair, some pretence at needlework on her knee, but in
reality doing nothing but look into the fire, and listen to
Winnington's voice. She had changed while upstairs into a white dress,
and the brilliance of her hair, and wide, absent eyes above the
delicate folds of white, seemed to burn in Winnington's consciousness
as he read. Presently however, Lady Tonbridge looking up, was startled
to see that the girl had imperceptibly fallen asleep. The childish
sadness and sweetness of the face in its utter repose seemed to present
another Delia, with another history. Madeleine hoped that Winnington
had not observed the girl's sleep; and he certainly gave no sign of it.
He went on reading; and presently his companion, noticing the clock,
rose very quietly, and went out to give a letter to the parlour-maid
for post.

As she entered the room again, however, she saw that Winnington had
laid down his book. His eyes were now on Delia--his lips parted. All
the weather-beaten countenance of the man, its deep lines graven by
strenuous living, glowed as from an inward light--marvellously intense
and pure. Madeleine's pulse leapt. She had her answer to her
speculations of the afternoon.

Meanwhile through Delia's sleeping mind there swept scenes and images
of fear. She grew restless, and as Lady Tonbridge slipped again into
her chair by the fire, the girl woke suddenly with a long quivering
sigh, a sound of pain, which provoked a quick movement of alarm in

But she very soon recovered her usual manner; and Winnington said
good-night. He went away carrying his anxieties with him through the
dark, carrying also a tumult of soul that would not be stilled. Whither
was he drifting? Of late he had felt sure of himself again. Her best
friend and guide--it was that he was rapidly becoming--with that, day
by day, he bade himself be content. And now, once more, self-control
was uprooted and tottering. It was the touch of this new softness, this
note of innocent appeal, even of bewildered distress, in her, which was
kindling all his manhood, and breaking down his determination.

He raged at the thought of Lathrop. As to any danger of a love-affair,
like Lady Tonbridge, he scouted the notion. It would be an insult to
Delia to suppose such a thing. But it was simply intolerable in his
eyes that she should have any dealings with the fellow--that he should
have the audacity to call at her house, to put her under an obligation.

And he was persuaded there was more than appeared in it; more than
Delia's devices for getting money, wherewith to feed the League of
Revolt. She was clearly anxious, afraid. Some shadow was brooding over
her, some terror that she could not disclose:--of that Winnington was
certain. And this man, whom she had already accepted as her colleague
in a public campaign, was evidently in the secret; might be even the
cause of her fears.

He began hotly to con the terms of his letter to Lathrop; and then had
to pull himself up, remembering unwillingly what he had promised Delia.

Chapter XV

"Do you know anything more?"

The voice was Delia's; and the man who had just met her in the shelter
of the wooded walk which ran along the crest of the hill above the
Maumsey valley, was instantly aware of the agitation of the speaker.

"Nothing--precise. As I told you last week--you needn't be afraid of
anything immediate. But my London informants assure me that elaborate
preparations are certainly going on for some great _coup_ as soon as
Parliament meets--against Sir Wilfrid. The police are uneasy, though
puzzled. They have warned Daunt, and Sir Wilfrid is guarded."

"Then of course our people won't attempt it! It would be far too

"Don't be too sure! You and I know Miss Marvell. If she means to burn
Monk Lawrence, she'll achieve it, whatever the police may do."

The man and the girl walked on in silence. The January afternoons were
lengthening a little, and even under the shadow of the wood Lathrop
could see with sufficient plainness Delia's pale beauty--strangely worn
and dimmed as it seemed to him. His mind revolted. Couldn't the jealous
gods spare even this physical perfection? What on earth had been
happening to her? He supposed a Christian would call the face
"spiritualised." If so, the Christian--in his opinion--would be a human

"I have written several times to Miss Marvell--very strongly," said
Delia at last. "I thought you ought to know that. But I have had no

"Why don't you go--instead of writing?"

"It has been impossible. My maid has been so terribly ill."

Lathrop expressed his sympathy. Delia received it with coldness and a
slight frown. She hurried on--

"I've written again--but I haven't sent it. Perhaps I oughtn't to have
written by post."

"Better not. Shall I be your messenger? Miss Marvell doesn't like
me--but that don't matter."

"Oh, no, thank you." The voice was hastily emphatic; so that his
vanity winced. "There are several members of the League in the village.
I shall send one of them."

He smiled--rather maliciously.

"Are you going to tackle Miss Andrews herself?"

"You're still--quite _certain_--that she's concerned?"

"Quite certain. Since you and I met--a fortnight ago isn't it?--I have
seen her several times, in the neighbourhood of the house--after dark.
She has no idea, of course, that I have been prowling round."

"What have you seen?--what can she be doing?" asked Delia. "Of course I
remember what you told me--the other day."

Lathrop's belief was that a close watch was now being kept on Daunt--on
his goings and comings--with a view perhaps to beguiling him away, and
then getting into the house.

"But he has lately got a niece to stay with him, and help look after
the children, and the house. His sister who is married in London,
offered to send her down for six months. He was rather surprised, for
he had quite lost sight of his sister; but he tells me it's a great
relief to his mind.

"So you talk to him?"

"Certainly. Oh, he knows all about me--but he knows too that I'm on the
side of the house! He thinks I'm a queer chap--but he can trust me--in
_that_ business. And by the way, Miss Blanchflower, perhaps I ought to
let you understand that I'm an artist and a writer, before I'm a
Suffragist, and if I come across Miss Marvell--engaged in what you and
I have been talking of--I shall behave just like any other member of
the public, and act for the police. I don't want to sail--with
you--under any false pretences!"

"I know," said Delia, quietly. "You came to warn me--and we are acting
together. I understand perfectly. You--you've promised however"--she
could not keep her voice quite normal--"that you'd let me know--that
you'd give me notice before you took any step."

Lathrop nodded. "If there's time--I promise. But if Daunt or I come
upon Miss Marvell--or any of her minions--torch in hand--there would
not be time. Though, of course, if I could help her escape,
consistently with saving the house--for your sake--I should do so. I am
sure you believe that?"

Delia made no audible reply, but he took her silence for consent.

"And now"--he resumed--"I ought to be informed without delay, whether
your messenger finds Miss Marvell and how she receives your letter."

"I will let you know at once."

"A telegram brings me here--this same spot. But you won't wire from the

"Oh no, from Latchford."

"Well, then, that's settled. Regard me, please, as your henchman.
Well!--have you read any Madame de Noailles?"

He fancied he saw a slight impatient movement.

"Not yet, I'm afraid. I've been living in a sick room."

Again he expressed polite sympathy, while his thoughts repeated--"What
waste!--what absurdity!"

"She might distract you--especially in these winter days. Her verse is
the very quintessence of summer--of hot gardens and their scents--of
roses--and June twilights. It takes one out of this leafless north." He
stretched a hand to the landscape.

And suddenly, while his heavy face kindled, he began to recite. His
French was immaculate--even to a sensitive and well-trained ear; and
his voice, which in speaking was disagreeable, took in reciting deep
and beautiful notes, which easily communicated to a listener the
thrill, the passion, of sensuous pleasure, which certain poetry
produced in himself.

But it communicated no such thrill to Delia. She was only irritably
conscious of the uncouthness of his large cadaverous face, and
straggling fair hair; of his ragged ulster, his loosened tie, and all
the other untidy details of his dress. "And I shall have to go on
meeting him!" she thought, with repulsion. "And at the end of this walk
(the gate was in sight) I shall have to shake hands with him--and he'll
hold my hand."

She loathed the thought of it; but she knew very well that she
Was under coercion--for Gertrude's sake. The recollection of
Winnington--away in Latchford on county business--smote her sharply.
But how could she help it? She must--_must_ keep in touch with this
man--who had Gertrude in his power.

While these thoughts were running through her mind, he stopped his
recitation abruptly.

"Am I to help you any more--with the jewels?"

Delia started. Lathrop was smiling at her, and she resented the smile.
She had forgotten. But there was no help for it. She must have more
money. It might be, in the last resort, the means of bargaining with
Gertrude. And how could she ask Mark Winnington!

So she hurriedly thanked him, naming a tiara and two pendants, that she
thought must be valuable.

"All right," said Lathrop, taking out a note-book from his breast
pocket, and looking at certain entries he had made on the occasion of
his visit to Maumsey. "I remember--worth a couple of thousand at least.
When shall I have them?"

"I will send them registered--to-morrow--from Latchford."

"_ Très bien_! I will do my best. You know Mr. Winnington has offered
me a commission?" His eyes laughed.

Delia turned upon him.

"And you ought to accept it, Mr. Lathrop! It would be kinder to all of

She spoke with spirit and dignity. But he laughed again and shook his

"My reward, you see, is just _not_ to be paid. My fee is your
presence--in this wood--your little word of thanks--and the hand you
give me--on the bargain!"

They had reached the gate, and he held out his hand. Delia had flushed
violently, but she yielded her own. He pressed it lingeringly, as she
had foreseen, then released it and opened the gate for her.

"Good-bye then. A word commands me--when you wish. We keep watch--and
each informs the other--barring accidents. That is, I think, the

She murmured assent, and they parted. Half way back towards his own
cottage, Lathrop paused at a spot where the trees were thin, and the
slopes of the valley below could be clearly seen. He could still make
out her figure nearing the first houses of the village.

"I think she hates me. Never mind! I command her, and meet me she
must--when I please to summon her. There is some sweetness in that--and
in teasing the stupid fellow who no doubt will own her some day."

And he thought exultantly of Winnington's letter to him, and his own
insolent reply. It had been a perfectly civil letter--and a perfectly
proper thing for a guardian to do. But--for the moment--

"I have the whip hand--and it amuses me to keep it,--Now then for

For there, in the doorway of the cottage, stood the young journalist,
waiting and smoking. He was evidently in good humour.

"Well? She came?"

"Of course she came. But it doesn't matter to you."

"Oh, doesn't it! I suppose she wants you to sell something more for

Lathrop did not reply. Concerning Gertrude Marvell, he had not breathed
a word to Blaydes.

They entered the hut together, and Lathrop rekindled the fire. The two
men sat over it smoking. Blaydes plied his companion with eager
questions, to which Lathrop returned the scantiest answers. At last he
said with a sarcastic look--

"I was offered four hundred pounds this afternoon--and refused it."

"The deuce you did!" cried Blaydes, fiercely. "What about my debt--and
what do you mean?"

"Ten per cent. commission," said Lathrop, drawing quietly at his cigar.
"Sales up to two thou., a fortnight ago. I shall get the same money--or
more--for the next batch."

"Well, that's all right! No need to get it out of the lady, if you're
particular. Get it out of the other side. Any fool could manage that."

"I shall not get a farthing out of the other side. I shall not make a
doit out of the whole transaction!"

"Then you're a d----d fool," said Blaydes, in a passion. "And a
dishonest fool besides!"

"Easy, please! What hold should I have on this girl--this splendid
creature--if I were merely to make money out of her? As it is, she's
obliged to me--she treats me like a gentleman. I thought you had
matrimonial ideas."

"I don't believe you've got the ghost of a chance!" grumbled Blaydes,
his mind smarting under the thought of the lost four hundred pounds,
out of which his debt might have been paid.

"Nor do I," said Lathrop, coolly. "But I choose to keep on equal terms
with her. You can sell me up when you like."

He lounged to the window, and threw it open. The January day was
closing, not in any glory of sunset, but with interwoven greys and
pearls, and delicate yellow lights slipping through the clouds.

"I shall always have _this_"--he said to himself, passionately, as he
drank in the air and the beauty--"whatever happens."

Recollection brought back to him Delia's proud, virginal youth, and her
springing step as she walked beside him through the wood. His mind
wavered again between triumph and self-disgust. His muddy past returned
upon him, mingled, as always, with that invincible respect for her, and
belief in something high and unstained in the depths of his own nature,
to which his weakened and corrupt will was yet unable to give any

"What I have done is not 'me'"--he thought. "At any rate not all
'me.' I am better than it. I suspect Winnington has told her
something--measuring it chastely out. All the same--I shall see her

* * * * *

Meanwhile Delia was descending the hill pursued by doubts and terrors.
The day was now darkening fast, and heavy snow-clouds were coming
down over the valley. The wind had dropped, but the heavy air was
bitter-cold and lifeless, as though the earth waited sadly for the
silencing and muffling of the snow.

And in Delia's heart there was a like dumb expectancy of change. The
old enthusiasms, and ideals and causes, seemed for the moment to lie
veiled and frozen within her. Only two figures emerged sharply in the
landscape of thought--Gertrude--and Winnington.

Since that day, the day before Weston's operation, when Paul Lathrop
had brought her evidence--collected partly from small incidents and
observations on the spot, partly from information supplied him by
friends in London--which had sharpened all her own suspicions into
certainties, she had never known an hour free from fear. Her letters
had remained wholly unanswered. She did not even know where Gertrude
was; though it seemed to her that letters addressed to the head office
of the League of Revolt must have been forwarded. No! Gertrude was
really planning this hateful thing; the destruction of this beautiful
and historic house, with all its memories and its treasures, in order
to punish a Cabinet Minister for his opposition to Woman Suffrage,
and so terrorise others. Moreover it meant the risking of human
life--Daunt--his children, complete indifference also to Delia's
feelings, Delia's pain.

What was she to do? Betray her friend?--go to Winnington for help? But
he was a magistrate. If such a plot were really on foot--and Lathrop
was himself convinced that petroleum and explosives were already stored
somewhere in the neighbourhood of the house--Winnington could only
treat such a thing as a public servant, as a guardian of the
law. Any appeal to him to let private interests--even _her_
interests--interfere, would, she felt certain, be entirely fruitless.
Once go to him, the police must be informed--it would be his clear
duty; and if such proofs of the plot existed as Lathrop believed,
Gertrude would be arrested, and her accomplices. Including Delia

That possibility, instead of frightening her, gave the girl some
momentary comfort. For that _might_ perhaps secure Winnington's

But no!--her common sense dismissed the notion. Winnington would
discover at once that she had had no connection whatever with the
business. Lathrop's evidence alone would be enough. And that being so,
her confession would simply hand Gertrude over to Winnington's
conscience. And Mark Winnington's conscience was a thing to fear.

And yet the yearning to go to him--like the yearning of an unhappy
child--was so strong.

Traitor!--yes, _traitor_!--double-dyed.

And pausing just outside the village, at a field gate, Delia leant over
it, gazing into the lowering sky, and piteously crying to some power
beyond--some God, "if any Zeus there be," on whom the heart in its
trouble might throw itself.

Her thought ran backwards and forwards over the past months and years.
The burning moments of revolt through which she had lived--the meetings
of the League with their multitudes of faces, strained, fierce faces,
alive, many of them, with hatreds new to English life, new perhaps to
civilised history,--and the intermittent gusts of pity and fury which
had swept through her own young ignorance as she listened, making a
hideous thing of the future and of human fate:--she lived through them
all again. Individual personalities recurred to her, the wild looks of
delicate, frenzied women, who had lost health, employment, and the love
of friends--suffered in body, mind and estate for this "cause" to which
she too had vowed herself. Was she alone to desert, to fail--both the
cause and her friend, who had taught her everything?

"It's not my will--not my _will_--that shrinks"--she moaned to herself.
"If I _believed_--if I still believed!"

But why was the fire gone out of the old faiths, the savour from the
old hopes? Was she less moved by the sufferings, the toils, the
weakness of her sex? She could remember nights of weeping over the
wrongs of women, after an impassioned evening with Gertrude. And
now--had the heart of flesh become a heart of stone? Was she no longer
worthy of the great crusade, the vast upheaval?

She could not tell. She only knew that the glamour of it all was
gone--that there were many hours when the Movement lay like lead upon
her life. Was it simply that her intelligence had revolted, that she
had come to see the folly, the sheer, ludicrous folly of a "physical
force" policy which opposed the pin-pricks of women to the strength of
men? Or was it something else--something far more compelling--more
convincing--more humiliating!

"I've just fallen in love!--_fallen in love!_"--the words repeated
themselves brazenly, desperately, in her mind:--"and I can't think for
myself--judge for myself any longer! It's abominable--but it's true!"

The very thought of Winnington's voice and look made her tremble as she
walked. Eternal weakness of the eternal woman! She scorned herself, yet
a bewildering joy sang through her senses.

Nevertheless she held it at bay. She had her promised word--her
honour--to think of. Gertrude still expected her in London--on the
scene of action.

"And I shall go," she said to herself with resolute inconsistency, "_I
shall go_!"

What an angel Mark Winnington had been to her, this last fortnight! She
recalled the day of Weston's operation, and all the long days since.
The poor gentle creature had suffered terribly; death had been just
held off, from hour to hour; and was only now withdrawing. And Delia,
sitting by the bed, or stealing with hushed foot about the house, was
not only torn by pity for the living sufferer, she was haunted again by
all the memories of her father's dying struggle--bitter and miserable
days! And with what tenderness, what strength, what infinite delicacy
of thought and care, had she been upheld through it all! Her heart
melted within her. "There are such men in the world--there are!--and a
year ago I should have simply despised anyone who told me so!"

Yet after these weeks of deepening experience, and sacred feeling, in
which she had come to love Mark Winnington with all the strength of her
young heart, and to realise that she loved him, the first use that she
was making of a free hour was to go, unknown to him--for he was away
on county business at Wanchester--and meet Paul Lathrop!

"But he would understand," she said to herself, drearily, as she moved
on again. "If he knew, he would understand."

* * * * *

Now she must hurry on. She turned into the broad High Street of the
village, observed by many people, and half way down, she stopped at a
door on which was a brass plate, "Miss Toogood, Dressmaker."

The lame woman greeted her with delight, and there in the back parlour
of the little shop she found them gathered,--Kitty Foster, the
science-mistress, Miss Jackson, and Miss Toogood,--the three
"Daughters," who were now coldly looked on in the village, and found
pleasure chiefly in each other's society. Marion Andrews was not there.
Delia indeed fancied she had seen her in the dusk, walking in a side
lane, that led into the Monk Lawrence road, with another girl, whom
Delia did not know.

It was a relief, however, not to find her--for the moment. The faces of
the three women in the back parlour, were all strained and nervous;
they spoke low, and they gathered round Delia with an eagerness which
betrayed their own sense of isolation--of being left leaderless.

"You will be going up soon, won't you?" whispered Miss Toogood, as she
stroked the sleeve of Delia's jacket. "The _Tocsin_ says there'll be
great doings next week--the day Parliament meets."

"I've got my orders!"--said Kitty Foster, tossing her red hair
mysteriously. "Father won't keep me down here any longer. I've made
arrangements to go up to-morrow and lodge with a cousin in Battersea.
She's as deep in it as I am."

"And I'm hoping they'll find room for me in the League office," said
the science-mistress. "I can't stand this life here much longer. My
Governors are always showing me they think us all criminals, and
they'll find an excuse for getting rid of me whenever they can. I
daren't even put up the 'Daughters' colours in my room now."

Her hollow, anxious eyes, with the fanatical light in them clung to
Delia--to the girl's noble head, and the young face flushed with the
winter wind.

"But we shall get it this session, shan't we?" said Miss Toogood
eagerly, still stroking Delia's fur. "The Government will give in--they
must give in."

And she began to talk with hushed enthusiasm of the last month's tale
of outrages--houses burnt, windows broken, Downing Street attacked, red
pepper thrown over a Minister, ballot-boxes spoiled--

Suddenly it all seemed to Delia so absurd--so pathetic--

"I don't think we shall get the Bill!" she said, sombrely. "We shall be
tricked again."

"Dear, dear!" said Miss Toogood, helplessly. "Then we shall have to go
on. It's war. We can't stop."

And as she stood there, sadly contemplating the "war," in which,
poor soul, she had never yet joined, except by sympathy, a little
bill-distributing and a modest subscription, she seemed to carry on her
shoulders the whole burden of the "Movement"--herself, the little lame
dressmaker, on the one side--and a truculent British Empire on the

"We'll make them smart anyway!" cried Kitty Foster. "See if we don't!"

Delia hurriedly opened her business. Would one of them take a letter
for her to London--an important letter to Miss Marvell that she didn't
want to trust to the post. Whoever took it must go to the League office
and find out where Miss Marvell was, and deliver it--personally. She
couldn't go herself--till after the doctors' consultation, which was to
be held on Monday--if then.

Miss Jackson at once volunteered. Her face lightened eagerly.

"It's Saturday. I shall be free. And then I shall see for myself--at
the office--if they can give me anything to do. When they write, they
seem to put me off."

Delia gave her the letter, and stayed talking with them a little. They,
it was evident, knew nothing of the anxiety which possessed her. And as
to their hopes and expectations--why was it they now seemed to her so
foolish and so ignorant? She had shared them all, such a little while

And meanwhile they made much of her. They tried to keep her with them
in the little stuffy parlour, with its books which had belonged to Miss
Toogood's father, and the engraving of Winchester cathedral, and the
portrait of Mr. Keble. That "Miss Blanchflower" was with them, seemed
to reflect a glory on their little despised coterie. They admired her
and listened to her, loath to let her go.

But at last Delia said Good-bye, and stepped out again into the lights
of the village street. As she walked rapidly towards Maumsey, and the
village houses thinned and fell away, she suddenly noticed a dark
figure in front of her. It was Marion Andrews. Delia ran to overtake

Marion stopped uncertainly when she heard herself called. Delia,
breathless, laid a hand on her arm.

"I wanted to speak to you!"

"Yes!" The girl stood quiet. It was too dark now to see her face.

"I wanted to tell you--that there are suspicions--about Monk Lawrence.
You are being watched. I want you to promise to give it up!"

There was no one on the road, above which some frosty stars had begun
to come out. Marion Andrews moved on slowly.

"I don't know what you mean, Miss Blanchflower."

"Don't, please, try to deceive me!" cried Delia, with low-voiced
urgency. "You have been seen at night--following Daunt about,
examining the doors and windows. The person who suspects won't
betray us. I've seen to that. But you must give it up--you _must_! I
have written to Miss Marvell."

Marion Andrews laughed,--a sound of defiance.

"All right. I don't take my orders from any one but her. But you are
mistaken, Miss Blanchflower, quite mistaken. Good-night."

And turning quickly to the left, she entered a field path leading to
her brother's house, and was immediately out of sight.

Delia went on, smarting and bewildered. How clear it was that she was
no longer trusted--no longer in the inner circle--and that Gertrude
herself had given the cue! The silent and stubborn Marion Andrews was
of a very different type from the three excitable or helpless women
gathered in Miss Toogood's parlour. She had ability, passion, and the
power to hold her tongue. Her connection with Gertrude Marvell had
begun, in London, at the "Daughters" office, as Delia now knew, long
before her own appearance at Maumsey. When Gertrude came to the Abbey,
she and this strange, determined woman were already well acquainted,
though Delia herself had not been aware of it till quite lately. "I
have been a child in their hands!--they have _never_ trusted me!" Heart
and vanity were equally wounded.

As she neared the Maumsey gate, suddenly a sound--a voice--a tall
figure in the twilight.

"Ah, there you are!" said Winnington. "Lady Tonbridge sent me to look
for you."

"Aren't you back very early?" Delia attempted her usual voice. But
the man who joined her at once detected the note of effort, of tired

"Yes--our business collapsed. Our clerk's too good--leaves us nothing
to do. So I've been having a talk with Lady Tonbridge."

Delia was startled; not by the words, but by the manner of them. While
she seemed to Winnington to be thinking of something other than the
moment--the actual moment, her impression was the precise opposite, as
of a sharp, intense consciousness of the moment in him, which presently
communicated its own emotion to her.

They walked up the drive together.

"At last I have got a horse for you," said Winnington, after a pause.
"Shall I bring it to-morrow? Weston is going on so well to-night,
France tells me, that he may be able to say 'out of danger' to-morrow.
If so, let me take you far afield, into the Forest. We might have a
jolly run."

Delia hesitated. It was very good of him. But she was out of practice.
She hadn't ridden for a long time.

Winnington laughed aloud. He told--deliberately--a tale of a young
lady on a black mare, whom no one else could ride--of a Valkyrie--a
Brunhilde--who had exchanged a Tyrolese hotel for a forest lodge, and
ranged the wide world alone--

"Oh!"--cried Delia, "where did you hear that?"

He described the talk of the little Swedish lady, and that evening on
the heights when he had first heard her name.

"Next day came the lawyers' letter--and yours--both in a bundle."
"You'll agree--I did all I could--to put you off!"

"So I understood--at once. You never beat about the bush."

There was a tender laughter in his voice. But she had not the
heart to spar with him. He felt rather than saw her drooping.
Alarm--anxiety--rushed upon him, mingled in a tempest-driven mind with
all that Madeleine Tonbridge, in the Maumsey drawing-room, had just
been saying to him. That had been indeed the plain speaking of a
friend!--attacking his qualms and scruples up and down, denouncing them
even; asking him indignantly, who else could save this child--who else
could free her from the sordid entanglement into which her life had
slipped--but he? "You--you only, can do it!" The words were still
thundering through his blood. Yet he had not meant to listen to his old
friend. He had indeed withstood her firmly. But this sad and languid
Delia began, again, to put resistance to flight--to tempt--to justify
him--driving him into action that his cooler will had just refused.

Suddenly, as they walked under the overshadowing trees of the drive,
her ungloved hand hanging beside her, she felt it taken, enclosed in a
warm strong clasp. A thrill, a shiver ran through her. But she let it
stay. Neither spoke. Only as they neared the front door with the lamp,
she softly withdrew her fingers.

There was no one in the drawing-room, which was scented with early
hyacinths, and pleasantly aglow with fire-light. Winnington closed the
door, and they stood facing each other. Delia wanted to cry out--to
prevent him from speaking--but she seemed struck dumb.

He approached her.


She looked at him still helplessly silent. She had thrown off her hat
and furs, and, in her short walking-dress, she looked singularly
young and fragile. The change which had tempered the splendid--or
insolent--exuberance of her beauty, which Lathrop had perceived, had
made it in Winnington's eyes infinitely more appealing, infinitely more
seductive. Love and fear, mingled, had "passed into her face," like the
sculptor's last subtle touches on the clay.

"Delia!" How all life seemed to have passed into a name! "I'm not sure
that I ought to speak! I'm not sure it's fair. It--it seems like taking
advantage. If you think so, don't imagine I shall ever press it again.
I'm twenty years older than you--I've had my youth. I thought
everything was closed for me--but--" He paused a moment--then his voice
broke into a low cry--"Dear! what have you done to make me love you

He came nearer. His look spoke the rest.

Delia retreated.

"What have I done?" she said passionately.

"Made your life one long worry!--ever since you saw me. How can you
love me?--you oughtn't!--you oughtn't!"

He laughed.

"Every quarrel we had I loved you the better. From our very first talk
in this room--"

She cried out, putting up her hands, as though to protect herself
against the power that breathed from his face and shining eyes.

"Don't--don't!--I can't bear it."

His expression changed.


"Oh, I do thank you!" she said, piteously, "I would--if I could. I--I
shall never care for any one else--but I can't--I can't."

He was silent a moment, and then said, taking her hands, and putting
them to his lips--

"Won't you explain?"

"Yes, I'll try--I ought to. You see"--she looked up in anguish--"I'm
not my own--to give--and I--No, no, I couldn't make you happy!"

"You mean--you're--you're too deeply pledged to this Society?"

He had dropped her hands, and stood looking at her, as if he would read
her through.

"I must go up to town next week," she said hurriedly. "I must go, and I
must do what Gertrude tells me. Perhaps--I can protect--save her. I
don't know. I daresay I'm absurd to think so--but I might--and I'm
bound. But I'm promised--promised in honour--and I can't--get free. I
can't give up Gertrude--and you--you could never bear with her--or
accept her. And so--you see--I should just make you miserable!"

He walked away, his hands in his pockets, and came back. Then suddenly
he took her by the shoulders.

"You don't imagine I shall acquiesce in this!" he said
passionately--"that I shall endure to see you tied and chained by a
woman whom I know you have ceased to respect, and I believe you have
ceased to love!"

"No!--no!--" she protested.

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