Part 10 out of 12
itself in moods of impatience which she found it very difficult to
conquer. Her husband came home one afternoon about five o'clock,
and, refusing to have any tea, sat for several hours in complete
silence; occasionally he pretended to look at a pamphlet which he
had brought in with him, but for the most part he sat, with his legs
crossed, frowning at vacancy. Adela grew feverish beneath the
oppression of this brooding ill-temper; her endeavour to read was
vain; the silence was a constraint upon her moving, her breathing.
She spoke before she was conscious of an intention to do so.
'I think I must go and see Mrs. Westlake to-morrow morning.'
Mutimer vouchsafed no answer, gave no sign of having heard. She
repeated the words.
'If you must, you must.'
'I wish to,' Adela said with an emphasis she could not help. 'Do you
object to my going?'
He was surprised at her tone.
'I don't object. I've told you I think you get no good there. But go
if you like.'
She said after a silence:
'I have no other friend in London; and if it were only on account of
her kindness to me, I owe her a visit.'
'All right, don't talk about it any more; I'm thinking of
The evening wore on. At ten o'clock the servant brought up a jug of
beer, which she fetched for Mutimer every night; he said he could
not sleep without this sedative. It was always the sign for Adela to
go to bed.
She visited Stella in the morning, and found her still suffering.
They talked for an hour, then it was time for Adela to hasten
homewards, in order to have dinner ready by half-past one. From
Stella she had no secret, save the one which she did her best to
make a secret even to herself; she spoke freely of her mode of life,
though without comment. Stella made no comments in her replies.
'And you cannot have lunch with me?' she asked when her friend rose.
'I cannot; dear.'
'May I write to you?' Stella said with a meaning look.
'Yes, to tell me how you are.'
Adela had not got far from the house when she saw her husband
walking towards her. She looked at him steadily.
'I happened to be near,' he explained, 'and thought I might as well
go home with you.'
'I might have been gone.'
'Oh, I shouldn't have waited long.'
The form of his reply discovered that he had no intention of calling
at the house; Adela understood that he had been in Avenue Road for
some time, probably had reached it very soon after her.
The next morning there arrived for Mutimer a letter from Alice. She
desired to see him; her husband would. be from home all day, and she
would be found at any hour; her business was of
Mutimer went shortly after breakfast, and Alice received him very
much as she would have done in the days before the catastrophe. She
had arrayed herself with special care; he found her leaning on
cushions, her feet on a stool, the eternal novel on her lap. Her
brother had to stifle anger at seeing her thus in appearance
unaffected by the storm which had swept away his own happiness and
'What is it you want?' he asked at once, without preliminary
'You are not very polite,' Alice returned. 'Perhaps you'll take a
'I haven't much time, so please don't waste what I can afford.'
'Are you so busy? Have you found something to do?'
'I'm likely to have enough to do with people who keep what doesn't
belong to them.'
'It isn't my doing, Dick,' she said more seriously.
'I don't suppose it is.'
'Then you oughtn't to be angry with me.'
'I'm not angry. What do you want?'
'I went to see mother yesterday. I think she wants you to go; it
looked like it.'
'I'll go some day.'
'It's too bad that she should have to keep 'Arry in idleness.'
'She hasn't to keep him. I send her money.'
'But how are you to afford that?'
'That's not your business.'
Alice looked indignant.
'I think you might speak more politely to me in my own house.'
'It isn't your own house.'
'It is as long as I live in it. I suppose you'd like to see me go
back to a workroom. It's all very well for you; if you live in
lodgings, that doesn't say you've got no money. We have to do the
best we can for ourselves; we haven't got your chances of making a
It was said with much intention; Alice hall closed her eyes and
curled her lips in a disdainful smile.
'What chances? What do you mean?'
'Perhaps if _I_'d been a .particular friend of Mr. Eldon's--never
He flashed a look at her.
'What are you talking about? Just speak plainly, will you? What do
you mean by "particular friend"? I'm no more a friend of Eldon's
than you are, and I've made no bargain with him.'
'I didn't say _you_.'
'Who then?' he exclaimed sternly.
'Don't you know? Some one is so very proper, and such a fine lady, I
shouldn't have thought she'd have done things without your knowing.'
He turned pale, and seemed to crush the floor with his foot, that he
might stand firm.
'You're talking of Adela?'
'What about her? Say at once what you've got to say.'
Inwardly she was a little frightened, perhaps half wished that she
had not begun. Yet it was sweet to foresee the thunderbolt that
would fall on her enemy's head. That her brother would suffer
torments did not affect her imagination; she had never credited him
with strong feeling for his wife; and it was too late to draw back.
'You know that she met Mr. Eldon in the wood at Wanley on the day
after she found the will?'
Mutimer knitted his brows to regard her. But in speaking he was more
self-governed than before.
'Who told you that?'
'My husband. He saw them together.'
'And heard them talking?'
Rodman had only implied this. Alice's subsequent interrogation had
failed to elicit more from him than dark hints.
Mutimer drew a quick breath.
'He must be good at spying. Next time I hope he'll find out
something worth talking about.'
Alice was surprised.
'You know about it?'
'Just as much as Rodman, do you understand that?'
'You don't believe?'
She herself had doubts.
'It's nothing to you whether I believe it or not. Just be good
enough in future to mind your own business; you'll have plenty of it
before long. I suppose that's what you brought me here for?'
She made no answer; she was vexed and puzzled.
'Have you anything else to say?'
Alice maintained a stubborn silence.
'Alice, have you anything more to tell me about Adela?'
'No, I haven't.'
'Then you might have spared me the trouble. Tell Rodman with my
compliments that it would be as well for him to keep out of my way.'
He left her.
On quitting the house he walked at a great pace for a quarter of a
mile before he remembered the necessity of taking either train or
omnibus. The latter was at hand, but when he had ridden for ten
minutes the constant stoppages so irritated him that he jumped out
and sought a hansom. Even thus he did not travel fast enough; it
seemed an endless time before the ascent of Pentonville Hill began.
He descended a little distance from his lodgings.
As he was paying the driver another hansom went by; he by chance saw
the occupant, and it was Hubert Eldon. At least he felt convinced of
it, and he was in no mind to balance the possibilities of mistake.
The hansom had come from the street which Mutimer was just entering.
He found Adela engaged in cooking the dinner; she wore an apron, and
the sleeves of her dress were pushed up. As he came into the room
she looked at him with her patient smile; finding that he was in one
of his worst tempers, she said nothing and went on with her work. A
coarse cloth was thrown over the table; on it lay a bowl of
vegetables which she was preparing for the saucepan.
Perhaps it was the sight of her occupation, of the cheerful
simplicity with which she addressed herself to work so unworthy of
her; he could not speak at once as he had meant to. He examined her
with eyes of angry, half foiled suspicion. She had occasion to pass
him; he caught her arm and stayed her before him.
'What has Eldon been doing here?'
She paused and shrank a little.
'Mr. Eldon has not been here.'
He thought her face betrayed a guilty agitation.
'I happen to have met him going away. I think you'd better tell me
'I have told you the truth. If Mr. Eldon has been to the house, I
was not aware of it.'
He looked at her in silence for a moment, then asked:
'Are you the greatest hypocrite living?'
Adela drew farther away. She kept her eyes down. Long ago she had
suspected what was in Mutimer's mind, but she had only been
apprehensive of the results of jealousy on his temper and on their
relations to each other; it had not entered her thought that she
might have to defend herself against an accusation. This violent
question affected her strangely. For a moment she referred it
entirely to the secrets of her heart, and it seemed impossible to
deny what was imputed to her, impossible even to resent his way of
speaking. Was she not a hypocrite? Had she not many, many times
concealed with look and voice an inward state which was equivalent
to infidelity? Was not her whole life a pretence, an affectation of
wifely virtues? But the hypocrisy was involuntary; her nature had no
power to extirpate its causes and put in their place the perfect
dignity of uprightness.
'Why do you ask me that?' she said at length, raising her eyes for
'Because it seems to me I've good cause. I don't know whether to
believe a word you say.'
'I can't remember to have told you falsehoods.' Her cheeks flushed.
'Yes, one; that I confessed to you.'
It brought to his mind the story of the wedding ring.
'There's such a thing as lying when you tell the truth. Do you
remember that I met you coming back to the Manor that Monday
afternoon, a month ago, and asked you where you'd been?'
Her heart stood still.
'Answer me, will you?'
'I remember it.'
'You told me you'd been for a walk in the wood. You forgot to say
who it was you went to meet.'
How did he know of this? But that thought came to her only to pass.
She understood at length the whole extent of his suspicion. It was
not only her secret feelings that he called in question, he accused
her of actual dishonour as it is defined by the world--that clumsy
world with its topsy-turvydom of moral judgments. To have this
certainty flashed upon her was, as soon as she had recovered from
the shock, a sensible assuagement of her misery. In face of this she
could stand her ground. Her womanhood was in arms; she faced him
'Will you please to make plain your charge against me?'
'I think it's plain enough. If a married woman makes appointments in
quiet places with a man she has no business to see anywhere, what's
that called? I fancy I've seen something of that kind before now in
cases before the Divorce Court.'
It angered him that she was not overwhelmed. He saw that she did not
mean to deny having met Eldon, and to have Alice's story thus
confirmed inflamed his jealousy beyond endurance.
'You must believe of me what you like,' Adela replied in a slow,
subdued voice. 'My word would be vain against that of my accuser,
whoever it is.'
'Your accuser, as you say, happened not only to see you, but to hear
He waited for her surrender before this evidence. Instead of that
'If my words were reported to you, what fault have you to find with
Her confidence, together with his actual ignorance of what Rodman
had heard, troubled him with doubt.
'Answer this question,' he said. 'Did you make an appointment with
'I did not.'
'You did not? Yet you met him?'
'But you talked with him?'
'How can you ask? You know that I did.'
He collected his thoughts.
'Repeat to me what you talked about.'
'That I refuse to do.'
'Of course you do!' he cried, driven to frenzy. 'And you think I
shall let this rest where it is? Have you forgotten that I came to
the Westlakes and found Eldon there with you? And what was he doing
in this street this morning if he hadn't come to see you? I begin to
understand why you were so precious eager about giving up the will.
That was your fine sense of honesty, of course! You are full of fine
senses, but your mistake is to think I've no sense at all. What do
you take me for?'
The thin crust of refinement was shattered; the very man came to
light, coarse, violent, whipped into fury by his passions, of which
injured self-love was not the least. Whether he believed his wife
guilty or not he could not have said; enough that she had kept
things secret from him, and that he could not overawe her.
Whensoever he had shown anger in conversation with her, she had made
him sensible of her superiority; at length he fell back upon his
brute force and resolved to bring her to his feet, if need be by
outrage. Even his accent deteriorated as he flung out his passionate
words; he spoke like any London mechanic, with defect and excess of
aspirates, with neglect of g's at the end of words, and so on. Adela
could not bear it; she moved to the door. But he caught her and
thrust her back; it was all but a blow. Her face half recalled him
to his senses.
'Where are you going?' he stammered.
'Anywhere, anywhere, away from this house and from you!' Adela
replied. Effort to command herself was vain; his heavy hand had
completed the effect of his language, and she, too, spoke as nature
impelled her. 'Let me pass! I would rather die than remain here!'
'All the same, you'll stay where you are!'
'Yes, your strength is greater than mine. You can hold me by force.
But you have insulted me beyond forgiveness, and we are as much
strangers as if we had never met. You have broken every bond that
bound me to you. You can make me your prisoner, but like a prisoner
my one thought will be of escape. I will touch no food whilst I
remain here. I have no duties to you, and you no claim upon me!'
'All the same, you stay!'
Before her sobbing vehemence he had grown calm. These words were so
unimaginable on her lips that he could make no reply save stubborn
repetition of his refusal. And having uttered that he went from the
room, changing the key to the outside and locking her in. Fear lest
he might be unable to withhold himself from laying hands upon her
was the cause of his retreat. The lust of cruelty was boiling in
him, as once or twice before. Her beauty in revolt made a savage of
him. He went into the bedroom and there waited.
Adela sat alone, sobbing still, but tearless. Her high-spirited
nature once thoroughly aroused, it was some time before she could
reason on what had come to pass. The possibility of such an end to
her miseries had never presented itself even in her darkest hours;
endurance was all she could ever look forward to. As her blood fell
into calmer flow she found it hard to believe that she had not
dreamt this scene of agony. She looked about the room. There on the
table were the vegetables she had been preparing; her hands bore the
traces of the work she had done this morning. It seemed as though
she had only to rise and go on with her duties as usual.
Her arm was painful, just below the shoulder. Yes, that was where he
had seized her with his hard hand to push her away from the door.
What had she said in her distraction? She had broken away from him,
and repudiated her wifehood. Was it not well done? If he believed
her unfaithful to him--
At an earlier period of her married life such a charge would have.
held her mute with horror. Its effect now was not quite the same;
she could face the thought, interrogate herself as to its meaning,
with a shudder, indeed, but a shudder which came of fear as well as
loathing. Life was no longer an untried country, its difficulties
and perils to be met with the sole aid of a few instincts and a few
maxims; she had sounded the depths of misery and was invested with
the woeful knowledge of what we poor mortals call the facts of
existence. And sitting here, as on the desert bed of a river whose
water had of a sudden ceased to flow, she could regard her own
relation to truths, however desolating, with the mind which had
rather brave all than any longer seek to deceive itself.
Of that which he imputed to her she was incapable; that such
suspicion of her could enter his mind branded him with baseness. But
his jealousy was justified; howsoever it had awakened in him, it was
sustained by truth. Was it her duty to tell him that, and so to
render it impossible for him to seek to detain her?
But would the confession have any such result? Did he not already
believe her criminal, and yet forbid her to leave him? On what terms
did she stand with a man whose thought was devoid of delicacy, who
had again and again proved himself without understanding of the
principles of honour? And could she indeed make an admission which
would compel her at the same time to guard against revolting
The question of how he had obtained this knowledge recurred to her.
It was evident that the spy had intentionally calumniated her,
professing to have heard her speak incriminating words. She thought
of Rodman. He had troubled her by his private request that she would
appeal to Eldon on Alice's behalf, a request which was almost an
insult. Could he have been led to make it in consequence of his
being aware of that meeting in the wood? That might well be; she
distrusted him and believed him capable even of a dastardly revenge.
What was the troublesome thought that hung darkly in her mind and
would not come to consciousness? She held it at last; Mutimer had
said that he met Hubert in the street below. How to explain that?
Hubert so near to her, perhaps still in the neighbourhood?
Again she shrank with fear. What might it mean, if he had really
come in hope of seeing her? That was unworthy of him. Had she
betrayed herself in her conversation with him? Then he was worse
than cruel to her.
It seemed to her that hours passed. From time to time she heard a
movement in the next room; Mutimer was still there. There sounded at
the house door a loud postman's knock, and in a few minutes someone
came up the stairs, doubtless to bring a letter. The bedroom door
opened; she heard her husband thank the servant and again shut
The fire which she had been about to use for cooking was all but
dead. She rose and put fresh coals on. There was a small oblong
mirror over the mantelpiece; it showed her so ghastly a face that
she turned quickly away.
If she succeeded in escaping from her prison, whither should she go?
Her mother would receive her, but it was impossible to go to Wanley,
to live near the Manor. Impossible, too, to take refuge with Stella.
If she fled and hid herself in some other part of London, how was
life to be supported? But there were graver obstacles. Openly to
flee from her husband was to subject herself to injurious suspicions--it
might be, considering Mutimer's character, to involve Hubert in
some intolerable public shame. Or, if that worst extremity were
avoided', would it not be said that she had deserted her husband
because he had suddenly become poor?
That last thought brought the blood to her cheeks.
But to live with him after this, to smear over a deadly wound and
pretend it was healed, to read hourly in his face the cowardly
triumph over her weakness, to submit herself--Oh, what rescue from
this hideous degradation! She went to the window, as if it had been
possible to escape by that way; she turned again and stood moaning,
with her hands about her head. When was the worst to come in this
life so long since bereft of hope, so forsaken of support from man
or God? The thought of death came to her; she subdued the tumult of
her agony to weigh it well Whom would she wrong by killing herself?
Herself, it might be; perchance not even death would be sacred
She heard a neighbouring clock strike five, and shortly after her
husband entered the room. Had she looked at him she would have seen
an inexplicable animation in his face. He paced the floor once or
twice in silence, then asked in a hard voice, though the tone was
quite other than before:
'Will you tell me what it was you talked of that day in the wood?'
She did not reply.
'I suppose by refusing to speak you confess that you dare not let me
Physical torture could not have wrung a word from her. She felt her
heart surge with hatred.
He went to the cupboard in which food was kept, took out a loaf of
bread, and cut a slice. He ate it, standing before the window. Then
he cleared the table and sat down to write a letter; it occupied him
for hall-an-hour. When it was finished, he put it in his pocket and
began again to pace the room.
'Are you going to, sit like that all night?' he asked suddenly.
She drew a deep sigh and rose from her seat. He saw that she no
longer thought of escaping him. She began to make preparations for
tea. As helpless in his hands as though he had purchased her in a
slave market, of what avail to sit like a perverse child? The force
of her hatred warned her to keep watch lest she brought herself to
his level. Without defence against indignities which were bitter as
death, by law his chattel, as likely as not to feel the weight of
his hand if she again roused his anger, what remained but to
surrender all outward things to unthinking habit, and to keep her
soul apart, nourishing in silence the fire of its revolt? It was the
most pity-moving of all tragedies, a noble nature overcome by sordid
circumstances. She was deficient in the strength of character which
will subdue all circumstances; her strength was of the kind that
supports endurance rather than breaks a way to freedom. Every day,
every hour, is some such tragedy played through; it is the
inevitable result of our social state. Adela could have wept tears
of blood; her shame was like a branding iron upon her flesh.
She was on the second floor of a lodging-house in Pentonville,
making tea for her husband.
That husband appeared to have undergone a change since lie quitted
her a few hours ago. He was still venomous towards her, but his
countenance no longer lowered dangerously. Something distinct from
his domestic troubles seemed to be occupying him, something of a
pleasant nature. He all but smiled now and then; the glances he cast
at Adela were not wholly occupied with her. He plainly wished to
speak, but could not bring himself to do so.
He ate and drank of what she put before him. Adela took a cup of
tea, but had no appetite for food. When he had satisfied himself,
she removed the things.
Another half-hour passed. Mutimer was pretending to read. Adela at
length broke the silence.
'I think,' she said, 'I was wrong in refusing to tell you what
passed between Mr. Eldon and myself when I by chance met him.
Someone seems to have misled you. He began by hoping that we should
not think ourselves hound to leave the Manor until we had had full
time to make the necessary arrangements. I thanked him for his
kindness, and then asked something further. It was that, if he could
by any means do so, he would continue the works at New Wanley
without any change, maintaining the principles on which they had
been begun. He said that was impossible, and explained to me what
his intentions were, and why he had formed them. That was our
Mutimer observed her with a smile which affected incredulity.
'Will you take your oath that that is true?' he asked.
'No. I have told you because I now see that the explanation was
owing, since you have been deceived. If you disbelieve me, it is no
concern of mine.'
She had taken up some sewing, and, having spoken, went on with it.
Mutimer kept his eyes fixed upon her. His suspicions never resisted
a direct word from Adela's lips, though other feelings might
exasperate him. What he had just heard he believed the more readily
because it so surprised him; it was one of those revelations of his
wife's superiority which abashed. him without causing evil feeling.
They always had the result of restoring to him for a moment
something of the reverence with which he had approached her in the
early days of their acquaintance. Even now he could not escape the
'What was Eldon doing about here to-day?' he asked after a pause.
'I have told you that I did not even know he had been near.'
'Perhaps not. Now, will you just tell me this: Have you written to
Eldon, or had any letter from him since our marriage?'
Her fingers would not continue their work. A deadening sensation of
disgust made her close her eyes as if to shut out the meaning of his
question. Her silence revived his distrust.
'You had rather not answer?' he said significantly.
'Cannot you see that it degrades me to answer such a question? What
is your opinion of me? Have I behaved so as to lead you to think
that I am an abandoned woman?'
After hesitating he muttered: 'You don't give a plain yes or no.'
'You must not expect it. If you think I use arts to deceive you--if
you have no faith whatever in my purity--it was your duty to let me
go from you when I would have done so. It is horrible for us to live
together from the moment that there is such a doubt on either side.
It makes me something lower than your servant--something that has no
She shuddered. Had not that been true of her from the very morrow of
their marriage? Her life was cast away upon shoals of debasement; no
sanctity of womanhood remained in her. Was not her indignation half
a mockery? She could not even defend her honesty, her honour in the
vulgarest sense of the word, without involving herself in a kind of
falsehood, which was desolation to her spirit. It had begun in her
advocacy of uprightness after her discovery of the will; it was
imbuing her whole nature, making her to her own conscience that
which he had called her--a very hypocrite.
He spoke more conciliatingly.
'Well, there's one thing, at all events, that you can't refuse to
explain. Why didn't you tell me that you had met Eldon, and what he
meant to do?'
She had not prepared herself for the question, and it went to the
root of her thoughts; none the less she replied instantly, careless
how he understood the truth.
'I kept silence because the meeting had given me pain, because it
distressed me to have to speak with Mr. Eldon at that place and at
that time, because I _knew_ how you regard him, and was afraid to
mention him to you.'
Mutimer was at a loss. If Adela had calculated her reply with the
deepest art she could not have chosen words better fitted to silence
'And you have told me every word that passed between you?' he asked.
'That would be impossible. I have told you the substance of the
'Why did you ask him to keep the works going on my plan?'
'I can tell you no more.'
Her strength was spent. She put aside her sewing and moved towards
'Where are you going?'
'I don't feel well. I must rest.'
'Just stop a minute. I've something here I want td show you.'
She turned wearily. Mutimer took a letter from his pocket.
'Will you read that?'
She took it. It was written in a very clear, delicate hand, and ran
'DEAR SIR,--I who address you have lain for two years on a bed from
which I shall never move till I am carried to my grave. My age is
three-and-twenty; an accident which happened to me a few days after
my twenty-first birthday left me without the use of my limbs; it
often seems to me that it would have been better if I had died, but
there is no arguing with fate, and the wise thing is to accept
cheerfully whatever befalls us. I hoped at one time to take an
active part in life, and my interest in the world's progress is as
strong as ever, especially in everything that concerns social
reform. I have for some time known your name, and have constantly
sought information about your grand work at New Wanley. Now I
venture to write (by the hand of a dear friend), to express my
admiration for your high endeavour, and my grief at the
circumstances which have made you powerless to continue it.
'I am possessed of means, and, as you see, can spend but little on
myself. I ask you, with much earnestness, to let me be of some small
use to the cause of social justice, by putting, in your hands the
sum of five hundred pounds, to be employed as may seem good to you.
I need not affect to be ignorant of your position, and it is my
great fear lest you should be unable to work for Socialism with your
undivided energies. Will. you accept this money, and continue by
means of public lecturing to spread the gospel of emancipation? That
I am convinced is your first desire. If you will do me this great
kindness, I shall ask your permission to arrange that the same sum
be paid to you annually, for the next ten years, whether I still
live or not. To be helping in this indirect way would cheer me more
than you can think. I enclose a draft on Messrs.--.
'As I do not know your private address, I send. this to the office
of the "Piery Cross." Pardon me for desiring to remain anonymous;
many reasons necessitate it. If you grant me this favour, will you
advertise the word "Accepted" in the "Times" newspaper within ten
'With heartfelt sympathy and admiration,
'I sign myself,
Adela was unmoved; she returned the letter as if it had no interest
'What do you think of that?' said Mutimer, forgetting their
differences in his exultation.
'I am glad you can continue your work,' Adela replied absently.
She was moving away when he again stopped her.
'Look here, Adela.' He hesitated. 'Are you still angry with me?'
She was silent.
'I am sorry I lost my temper. I didn't mean all I said to you. Will
you try and forget it?'
Her lips spoke for her.
'I will try.'
'You needn't go on doing housework now,' he said assuringly. 'Are
you going? Come and say good-night.'
He approached her and laid his hand upon her shoulder. Adela shrank
from his. touch, and for an instant gazed at him with wide eyes of
He dropped his hands and let her go.
The valley rested. On the morning of Mutimer's departure from Wanley
there was no wonted clank of machinery, no smoke from the chimneys,
no roar of iron-smelting furnaces; the men and women of the colony
stood idly before their houses, discussing prospects, asking each
other whether it was seriously Mr. Eldon's intention to raze New
Wanley, many of them grumbling or giving vent to revolutionary
threats. They had continued in work thus long since the property in
fact changed hands, and to most of them it seemed unlikely, in spite
of every thing, that they would have to go in search of new
employments. This morning they would hear finally.
The valley rested. For several days there had been constant rain;
though summer was scarcely over, it had turned cold and the sky was
cheerless. Over Stanbury Hill there were always heavy, dripping
clouds, and the leaves of Adela's favourite wood were already
falling. At the Manor there was once more disorder; before Mutimer
and his wife took their departure the removal of furniture had
commenced. Over the whole scene brooded a spirit of melancholy. It
needed faith in human energy to imagine the pollutions swept away,
and the seasons peacefully gliding as of old between the hillsides
and amid meadows and garden closes.
Hubert Eldon drove over from Agworth, and was in the Public Hall at
the appointed time. His business with the men was simple and brief.
He had to inform them that their employment here was at an end, but
that each one would receive a month's wages and permission to
inhabit their present abodes for yet a fortnight. After that they
had no longer right of tenancy. He added that if any man considered
himself specially aggrieved by this arrangement, he was prepared to
hear and judge the individual case.
There was a murmur of discontent through the room, but no one took
upon himself to rise and become spokesman of the community.
Disregarding the manifestation, Hubert described in a few words how
and when this final business would be transacted; then he left the
hall by the door which led from the platform.
Then followed a busy week. Claims of all kinds were addressed to
him, some reasonable, most of them not to be entertained. Mr. Yottle
was constantly at the Manor; there he and Hubert held a kind of
court. Hubert was not well fitted for business of this nature; he
easily became impatient, and, in spite of humane intentions, often
suffered from a tumult of his blood, when opposed by some dogged
'I can't help it!' he exclaimed to Mr. Wyvern one right, after a day
of peculiar annoyance. 'We are all men, it is true; but for the
brotherhood--feel it who can! I am illiberal, if you like, but in
the presence of those fellows I feel that I am facing enemies. It
seems to me that I have nothing in common with them but the animal
functions. Absurd? Yes, of course, it is absurd; but I speak of how
intercourse with them affects me. They are our enemies, yours as
well as mine; they are the enemies of every man who speaks the pure
English tongue and does not earn a living with his hands. When they
face me I understand what revolution means; some of them look at me
as they would if they had muskets in their hands.'
'You are not conciliating,' remarked the vicar.
'I am not, and cannot be. They stir the worst feelings in me; I grow
arrogant, autocratic. As long as I have no private dealings with
them I can consider their hardships and judge their characters
dispassionately; but I must not come to close quarters.'
'You have special causes of prejudice.'
'True. If I were a philosopher I should overcome all that. However,
my prejudice is good in one way; it enables me thoroughly to
understand the detestation with which they regard me and the like of
me. If I had been born one of them I should be the most savage
anarchist. The moral is, that I must hold apart. Perhaps I shall
grow cooler in time.'
The special causes of prejudice were quite as strong on the side of
the workmen; Hubert might have been far less aristocratic in
bearing, they would have disliked him as cordially. Most of them
took it as a wanton outrage that they should be driven from the
homes in which they had believed themselves settled for life. The
man Redgrave--he of the six feet two who had presented the address
to Mutimer--was a powerful agent of ill-feeling; during the first
few days he was constantly gathering impromptu meetings in New
Wanley and haranguing them violently on the principles of Socialism.
But in less than a week he had taken his departure, and the main
trouble seemed at an end.
Mrs. Eldon was so impatient to return to the Manor that a room was
prepared for her as soon as possible, and she came from her house at
Agworth before Mutimer had been gone a week. Through the summer her
strength had failed rapidly; it was her own conviction that she
could live but a short time longer. The extreme agitation caused by
the discovery of the will had visibly enfeebled her; it was her one
desire to find herself once more in her old home, and there to
breathe her last. The journey from Agworth cost her extreme
suffering; she was prostrate, almost lifeless, for three days after
it. But her son's society revived her. Knowing him established in
his family possessions, she only cared to taste for a little while
this unhoped-for joy. Lying on a couch in her familiar chamber, she
delighted to have flowers brought to her from the garden, even
leaves from the dear old trees, every one of which she knew as a
friend. But she had constant thought for those upon whose disaster
her own happiness was founded; of Adela she spoke often.
'What will become of that poor child?' she asked one evening, when
Hubert had been speaking of Rodman's impracticable attitude, and of
the proceedings Mutimer was about to take. 'Do you know anything of
her life, Hubert?'
'I met her in the wood here a few weeks ago,' he replied, mentioning
the incident for the first time. 'She wanted to make a Socialist of
'Was that after the will came to light?'
'The day after. She pleaded for New Wanley--hoped I should keep it
'Then she has really accepted her husband's views?'
'It seems so. I am afraid she thought me an obstinate tyrant.'
He spoke carelessly.
'But she must not suffer, dear. How can they be helped?'
'They can't fall into absolute want. And I suppose his Socialist
friends will do something for him. I have been as considerate as it
was possible to be. I dare say he will make me a commonplace in his
lectures henceforth, a type of the brutal capitalist.'
He laughed when he had said it, and led the conversation to another
About the workmen, too, Mrs. Eldon was kindly thoughtful. Hubert
spared her his prejudices and merely described what he was doing.
She urged him to be rather too easy than too exacting with them. It
was the same in everything; the blessing which had fallen upon her
made her full of gentleness and sweet charity.
The fortnight's grace was at an end, and it was announced to Hubert
that the last family had left New Wanley. The rain still continued;
as evening set in Hubert returned from an inspection of the deserted
colony, his spirits weighed upon by the scene of desolation. After
dinner he sat as usual with his mother for a couple of hours, then
went to his own room and read till eleven o'clock. Just as he had
thrown aside his book the silence of the night was riven by a
terrific yell, a savage cry of many voices, which came from the
garden in the front of the house, and at the same instant there
sounded a great crashing of glass. The windows behind his back were
broken and a couple of heavy missiles thundered near him upon the
floor--stones they proved to be. He rushed from the room. All the
lights in the house except his own and that in Mrs. Eldon's room
were extinguished. He reached his mother's door. Before he could
open it the yell and the shower of stones were repeated, again with
ruin of windows, this time on the east side of the Manor. In a
moment he was by his mother's bed; he saw her sitting up in terror;
she was speechless and unable even to stretch her arms towards him.
An inner door opened and the woman who was always in attendance
rushed in half dressed. At the same time there were sounds of
movement in other parts of the house. Once more the furious voices
and the stone-volley Hubert put his arms about his mother and tried
to calm her.
'Don't be frightened; it's those cowardly roughs. They have had
their three shots, now they'll take to their heels. Mrs. Winter is
here, mother: she will stay with you whilst I go down and see what
has to be done. I'll be back directly if there is no more danger.'
He hastened away. The servants had collected upon the front
staircase, with lamps and candles, in fright and disorder
unutterable. Hubert repeated to them what he had said to his mother,
and it seemed to be the truth, for the silence outside was unbroken.
'I shouldn't wonder,' he cried, 'if they've made an attempt to set
the house on fire. We must go about and examine.'
The door-bell was rung loudly. The servants rushed back up the
stairs; Hubert went into the dining-room, carrying no light, and
called through the shattered windows asking who had rung. It was the
vicar; the shouts had brought him forth.
'They are gone,' he said, in his strong, deep voice, in itself
reassuring. 'I think there were only some ten or a dozen; they've
made off up the hill. Is anybody hurt?'
'No, they have only broken all the windows,' Hubert replied. 'But I
am terribly afraid for the effect upon my mother. We must have the
doctor round at once.'
The vicar was admitted to the house, and a messenger forthwith
despatched for the medical man, who resided halfway between Wanley
and Agworth. On returning to his mother's room Hubert found his
fears only too well justified; Mrs. Eldon lay motionless, her eyes
open, but seemingly without intelligence. At intervals of five
minutes a sigh was audible, else she could scarcely be perceived to
breathe. The attendant said that she had not spoken.
It was some time before the doctor arrived. After a brief
examination, he came out with Hubert; his opinion was that the
sufferer would not see daybreak.
She lived, however, for some twelve hours, if that could be called
life which was only distinguishable from the last silence by the
closest scrutiny. Hubert did not move from the bedside, and from
time to time Mr. Wyvern came and sat with him. Neither of them
spoke. Hubert had no thought of food or rest; the shadow of a loss,
of which he only understood the meaning now that it was at hand,
darkened him and all the world. Behind his voiceless misery was
immeasurable hatred of those who had struck him this blow; at
moments a revengeful fury all but maddened him. He held his mother's
band; if he could but feel one pressure of the slight fingers before
they were impotent for ever! And this much was granted him. Shortly
before midday the open eyes trembled to consciousness, the lips
moved in endeavour to speak. To Hubert it seemed that his intense
gaze had worked a miracle, effecting that which his will demanded.
She saw him and understood.
'Mother, can you speak? Do you know me, dear?'
She smiled, and her lips tried to shape words. He bent over her,
close, close. At first the faint whisper was unintelligible, then he
'They did not know what. they were doing.'
Something followed, but he could not understand it. The whisper
ended in a sigh, the smiling features quivered. He held her, but was
A hand was laid gently upon his shoulder. Through blinding tears he
discerned Mr. Wyvern's solemn countenance. He resisted the efforts
to draw him away, but was at length persuaded.
Early in the evening he fell asleep, lying dressed upon his bed, and
the sleep lasted till midnight. Then he left his room, and descended
the stairs, for the lower part of the house was still lighted. In
the hall Mr. Wyvern met him.
'Let us go into the library,' he said to the clergyman. 'I want to
talk to you.'
He had resumed his ordinary manner. Without mention of his mother,
he began at once to speak of the rioters.
'They were led by that man Redgrave; there can be no doubt of that.
I shall go to Agworth at once and set the police at work.'
'I have already done that,' replied the vicar. 'Three fellows have
been arrested in Agworth.'
'New Wanley men?'
'Yes; but Redgrave is not one of them.'
'He shall be caught, though!'
Hubert appeared to have forgotten everything but his desire of
revenge. It supported him through the wretched days that followed--even
at the funeral his face was hard-set and his eyes dry. But in
spite of every effort it was impossible to adduce evidence against
any but the three men who had loitered drinking in Agworth. Redgrave
came forward voluntarily and proved an alibi; he was vastly
indignant at the charge brought against him, declared that
window-breaking was not his business, and that had he been on the
spot he should have used all his influence to prevent such
contemptible doings. He held a meeting in Belwick of all the New
Wanleyers he could gather together: those who came repudiated the
outrage as useless and unworthy. On the whole, it seemed probable
that only a handful of good-for-nothings had been concerned in the
affair, probably men who had been loafing in the Belwick
public-houses, indisposed to look for work. The 'Fiery Cross' and
the 'Tocsin' commented on the event in their respective ways. The
latter organ thought that an occasional demonstration of this kind
was not amiss; it was a pity that apparently innocent individuals
should suffer (an allusion to the death of Mrs. Eldon); but, after
all, what member of the moneyed classes was in reality innocent? An
article on the subject in the 'Fiery Cross' was signed 'Richard
Mutimer.' It breathed righteous indignation and called upon all true
Socialists to make it known that they pursued their ends in far
other ways than by the gratification of petty malice. A copy of this
paper reached Wanley Manor. Hubert glanced over it.
It lay by him when he received a visit from Mr. Wyvern the same
'How is it to be explained,' he asked; 'a man like Westlake mixing
himself up with this crew?'
'Do you know him personally?' the vicar inquired.
'I have met him. But I have seen more of Mrs. Westlake. She is a
tenth muse, the muse of lyrical Socialism. From which of them the
impulse came I have no means of knowing, but surely it must have
been from her. In her case I can understand it; she lives in an
asthetic reverie; she idealises everything. Naturally she knows
nothing whatever of real life. She is one of the most interesting
women I ever met, but I should say that her influence on Westlake
has been deplorable.'
'Mrs. Mutimer is greatly her friend, I believe,' said the vicar.
'I believe so. But let us speak of this paper. I want, if possible,
to understand Westlake's position. Have you ever read the thing?'
'Now here is an article signed by Westlake. You know his books? How
has he fallen to this? His very style has abandoned him, his English
smacks of the street corners, of Radical clubs. The man is ruined;
it is next. to impossible that he should ever again do good work,
such as we used to have from him. The man who wrote "Daphne"! Oh, it
'It is something of a problem to me,' Mr. Wyvern admitted. 'Had he
been a younger man, or if his writing had been of a different kind.
Yet his sincerity is beyond doubt.'
'I doubt it,' Hubert broke in. 'Not his sincerity in the beginning;
but he must long since have ached to free himself. It is such a
common thing for a man to commit himself to some pronounced position
in public life and for very shame shrink from withdrawing. He would
not realise what it meant. Now in the revolutionary societies of the
Continent there is something that appeals to the imagination. A
Nihilist, with Siberia or death before him, fighting against a
damnable tyranny--the best might sacrifice everything for that. But
English Socialism! It is infused with the spirit of shopkeeping; it
appeals to the vulgarest minds; it keeps one eye on personal safety,
the other on the capitalist's strong-box; it is stamped commonplace,
like everything originating with the English lower classes. How does
it differ from Radicalism, the most contemptible claptrap of
politics, except in wanting to hurry a little the rule of the mob?
Well, I am too subjective. Help me, if you can, to understand
Hubert was pale and sorrow-stricken; his movements were heavy with
weariness, but he had all at once begun to speak with the old fire,
the old scorn. He rested his chin upon his hand and waited for his
'At your age,' said Mr. Wyvern, smiling half sadly, 'I, too, had a
habit of vehement speaking, but it was on the other side. I was a
badly paid curate working in a wretched parish. I lived among the
vilest and poorest of the people, and my imagination was constantly
at boiling-point. I can only suppose that Westlake has been led to
look below the surface of society and has been affected as I was
then. He has the mind of a poet; probably he was struck with horror
to find over what a pit he had been living in careless enjoyment. He
is tender-hearted; of a sudden he felt himself criminal, to be
playing with beautiful toys whilst a whole world lived only to sweat
and starve. The appeal of the miserable seemed to be to him
personally. It is what certain sects call conversion in religion, a
truth addressing itself with unwonted and invincible force to the
'And you, too, were a Socialist?'
'At that age and under those conditions it was right and good. I
should have been void of feeling and imagination otherwise. Such
convictions are among relative truths. To be a social enthusiast is
in itself neither right nor wrong, neither praiseworthy nor the
opposite; it is a state to be judged in relation to the other facts
of a man's life. You will never know that state; if you affected it
you would be purely contemptible. And I myself have outgrown it.'
'But you must not think that I am inhuman,' said Hubert. 'The sight
of distress touches me deeply. To the individual poor man or woman I
would give my last penny. It is when they rise against me as a class
that I become pitiless.'
'I understand you perfectly, though I have not the same prejudices.
My old zeal lingers with me in the form of tolerance. I can enter
into the mind of a furious proletarian as easily as into the feeling
which you represent.'
'But how did your zeal come to an end?'
'In this way; I worked under the conditions I have described to you
till I was nearly thirty. Then. I broke down physically. At the same
time it happened that I inherited a small competency. I went abroad,
lived in Italy for a couple of years. I left England with the firm
intention of getting my health and then returning to work harder
than ever. But during those two years I educated myself. When I
reached England again I found that it was. impossible to enter again
on the old path; I should have had to force myself; it would have
been an instance of the kind of thing you suggest in explanation of
Westlake's persistence. Fortunately I yielded to my better sense and
altogether shunned the life of towns. I was no longer of those who
seek to change the world, but of those who are content that it
should in substance remain as it is.'
'But how can you be content, if you are convinced that the majority
of men live only to suffer?'
'It is, you who attribute the conviction to me,' said the vicar,
smiling good-naturedly. 'My conviction is the very opposite. One of
the pet theories I have developed for myself in recent years is,
that happiness is very evenly distributed among all classes and
conditions. It is the result of sober reflection on my experience of
life. Think of it a moment. The bulk of men are neither rich nor
poor, taking into consideration their habits and needs; they live in
much content, despite social imperfections and injustices, despite
the ills of nature. Above and below are classes of extreme
characterisation; I believe the happiness assignable to those who
are the lowest stratum of civilisation is, relatively speaking, no
whit less than that we may attribute to the thin stratum of the
surface, using the surface to mean the excessively rich. It is a
paradox, but anyone capable of thinking may be assured of its truth.
The life of the very poorest is a struggle to support their bodies;
the richest, relieved of that one anxiety, are overwhelmed with such
a mass of artificial troubles that their few moments of genuine
repose do not exceed those vouchsafed to their antipodes. You would
urge the sufferings of the criminal class under punishment? I
balance against it the misery of the rich under the scourge of their
own excesses. It is a mistake due to mere thoughtlessness, or
ignorance, to imagine the labouring, or even the destitute,
population as ceaselessly groaning beneath the burden of their
existence. Go along the poorest street in the East End of London,
and you will hear as much laughter, witness as much gaiety, as in
any thoroughfare of the West. Laughter and gaiety of a miserable
kind? I speak of it as relative to the habits and capabilities of
the people. A being of superior intelligence regarding humanity with
an eye of perfect understanding would discover that life was enjoyed
every bit as much in the slum as in the palace.'
'You would consider it fair to balance excessive suffering of the
body in one class against excessive mental suffering in another?'
'Undoubtedly. It is a fair application of my theory. But let me
preach a little longer. It is my belief that, though this equality
of distribution remains a fact, the sum total of happiness in nations
is seriously diminishing. Not only on account of the growth of
population; the poor have more to suffer, the rich less of true
enjoyment, the mass of comfortable people fall into an
ever-increasing anxiety. A Radical will tell you that this is a
transitional state. Possibly, if we accept the Radical theories of
progress. I held them once in a very light-hearted way; I am now far
less disposed to accept them as even imaginably true. Those who are
enthusiastic for the spirit of the age proceed on the principle of
countenancing evil that good may some day come of it. Such a
position astonishes me. Is the happiness of a man now alive of less
account than that of the man who shall live two hundred. years
hence? Altruism is doubtless good, but only so when it gives pure
enjoyment; that is to say, when it is embraced. instinctively. Shall
I frown on a man because he _cannot_ find his bliss in altruism and
bid him perish to make room for a being more perfect? What right
have we to live thus in the far-off future? Thinking in this way, I
have a profound dislike and distrust of this same progress. Take one
feature of it--universal education. That, I believe, works most
patently for the growing misery I speak of. Its results affect all
classes, and all for the worse. I said that I used to have a very
bleeding of the heart for the half-clothed and quarter-fed
hangers-on to civilisation; I think far less of them now than of
another class in appearance much better off. It is a class created
by the mania of education, and it consists of those unhappy men and
women whom unspeakable cruelty endows with intellectual needs whilst
refusing them the sustenance they are taught to crave. Another
generation, and this class will be terribly extended, its existence
blighting the whole social state. Every one of these poor creatures
has a right to curse the work of those who clamour progress, and
pose as benefactors of their race.
'All that strikes me as very good and true,' remarked Hubert; 'but
can it be helped? Or do you refuse to believe in the modern
conception of laws ruling social development?'
'I wish I could do so. No; when I spoke of the right to curse, I
should have said, from their point of view. In truth, I fear we must
accept progress. But I cannot rejoice in it; I will even do what
little I can in my own corner to support the old order of things.
You may be aware that I was on very friendly terms with the
Mutimers, that I even seemed to encourage them in their Socialism.
Yes, and because I felt that in that way I could best discharge my
duty. What I really encouraged was sympathy and humanity. When
Mutimer came asking me to be present at his meetings I plainly
refused. To have held apart from him and his wife would have been as
wrong in me as to publicly countenance their politics.'
Mr. Wyvern was on the point of referring to his private reasons for
befriending Adela, but checked himself.
'What I made no secret of approving was their substitution of human
relations between employer and employed for the detestable "nexus of
cash payment," as Carlyle calls it. That is only a return to the
good old order, and it seems to me that it becomes more impossible
every day. Thus far I am with the Socialists, in that I denounce the
commercial class, the _bourgeois_, the capitalists--call them what
you will--as the supremely maleficent. They hold us at their mercy,
and their mercy is nought. Monstrously hypocritical, they cry for
progress when they mean increased opportunities of swelling their
own purses at the expense of those they employ, and of those they
serve; vulgar to the core, they exalt a gross ideal of well-being,
and stink in their prosperity. The very poor and the uncommercial
wealthy alike suffer from them; the intellect of the country is
poisoned by their influence. They it is who indeed are oppressors;
they grow rich on the toil of poor girls in London garrets and of men
who perish prematurely to support their children. I won't talk of
these people; I should lose my calm views of things and use language
too much like this of the "Fiery Cross."'
Hubert was thoughtful.
'What is before us?' he murmured.
'Evil; of that I am but too firmly assured. Progress will have its
way, and its path will be a path of bitterness. A pillar of dark
cloud leads it by day, and of terrible fire by night. I do not say
that the promised land may not lie ahead of its guiding, but woe is
me for the desert first to be traversed! Two vices are growing among
us to dread proportions--indifference and hatred: the one will let
poverty anguish at its door, the other will hound on the vassal
against his lord. Papers like the "Fiery Cross," even though such a
man as Westlake edit them, serve the cause of hatred; they preach,
by implication at all events, the childish theory of the equality of
men, and seek to make discontented a whole class which only needs
regular employment on the old conditions to be perfectly satisfied.'
'Westlake says here that they have no _right_ to be satisfied.'
'I know. It is one of the huge fallacies of the time; it comes of
the worship of progress. I am content with the fact that, even in
our bad day, as a class they _are_ satisfied. No, these reforms
address themselves to the wrong people; they begin at the wrong end.
Let us raise our voices, if we feel impelled to do so at all, for
the old simple Christian rules, and do our best to get the educated
by the ears. I have my opinion about the clergy; I will leave you to
'Have you any belief in the possibility of this revolution they
'None whatever. Changes will come about, but not of these men's
making or devising. And for the simple reason that they are not
sincere. I put aside an educated enthusiast such as Westlake. The
proletarian Socialists do not believe what they say, and therefore
they are so violent in saying it. They are not themselves of pure
and exalted character; they cannot ennoble others. If the movement
continue we shall see miserable examples of weakness led astray by
popularity, of despicable qualities aping greatness.'
He paused somewhat abruptly, for he was thinking of Mutimer, and did
not wish to make the application too obvious. Hubert restrained a
They parted shortly after, but not till Hubert had put one more
'Do you, or do you not, approve of what I am doing down in the
Mr. Wyvern thought a moment, and replied gravely:
'You being yourself, I approve it heartily. It will gladden my eyes
to see the grass growing when spring comes round.'
He shook Hubert's hand affectionately and left him.
We must concern ourselves for a little with the affairs of our old
acquaintance, Daniel Dabbs.
Daniel's disillusionment with regard to Richard Mutimer did not
affect his regularity of attendance at the Socialist lectures, in
most things a typical English mechanic, be was especially so in his
relation to the extreme politics of which he declared himself a
supporter. He became a Socialist because his friend Dick was one;
when that was no longer a reason, he numbered himself among the
followers of Comrade Roodhouse--first as a sort of angry protest,
against Mutimer's private treachery, then again because he had got
into the habit of listening to inflammatory discourses every Sunday
night, and on the whole found it a pleasant way of passing the
evening. He enjoyed the oratory of Messrs. Cowes and Cullen; he
liked to shout 'Hear, hear!' and to stamp when there was general
applause; it affected him with an agreeable sensation, much like
that which follows upon a good meal, to hear himself pitied as a
hard-working, ill-used fellow, and the frequent allusion to his
noble qualities sweetly flattered him. When he went, home to the
public-house after a lively debate, and described the proceedings to
his brother Nicholas, he always ended by declaring that it was 'as
good as a play.'
He read the 'Tocsin,' that is to say, he glanced his eye up and down
the columns and paused wherever he caught words such as 'villains,'
'titled scoundrels,' 'vampires,' and so on. The expositions of
doctrine he passed over; anything in the nature of reasoning muddled
him. From hearing them incessantly repeated he knew the root
theories of Socialism, and could himself hold forth on such texts as
'the community of the means of production' with considerable fluency
and vehemence; but in very fact he concerned himself as little with
economic reforms as with the principles of high art, and had as
little genuine belief in the promised revolution as in the
immortality of his own soul. Had he been called upon to suffer in
any way for the 'cause of the people,' it would speedily have been
demonstrated of what metal his enthusiasm was made.
But there came a different kind of test. In the winter which
followed upon Mutimer's downfall, Nicholas Dabbs fell ill and died.
He was married but had no children, and his wife had been separated
from him for several years. His brother Daniel found himself in
flourishing circumstances, with a public-house which brought in
profits of forty pounds a week It goes without saying that Daniel
forthwith abandoned his daily labour and installed himself behind
the bar. The position suited him admirably; with a barmaid and a
potman at his orders (he paid them no penny more than the market
rate), he stood about in his shirt sleeves and gossiped from morn to
midnight with such of his friends as had leisure (and money) to
spend in the temple of Bacchus. From the day that saw him a licensed
victualler he ceased to attend the Socialist meetings; it was, of
course, a sufficient explanation to point to the fact that he could
not be in two places at the same time, for Sunday evening is a
season of brisk business in the liquor trade. At first he was
reticent on the subject of his old convictions, but by degrees he
found it possible to achieve the true innkeeper's art, and speak
freely in a way which could offend none of his customers. And he
believed himself every bit as downright and sincere as he had ever
Comfortably established on a capitalist basis, his future assured
because it depended upon the signal vice of his class, it one day
occurred to Daniel that he ought to take to himself a helpmeet, a
partner of his joys and sorrows. He had thought of it from time to
time during the past year, but only in a vague way; he had even
directed his eyes to the woman who might perchance be the one most
suitable, though with anything but assurance of his success if he
seriously endeavoured to obtain her. Long ago he had ceased to
trouble himself about his first love; with characteristic acceptance
of the accomplished fact, he never really imagined that Alice
Mutimer, after she became an heiress, could listen to his wooing,
and, to do him justice, he appreciated the delicacy of his position,
if he should continue to press his suit. It cost him not a little
suffering altogether to abandon his hopes, for the Princess had
captivated him, and if he could have made her his wife he would--for
at least twelve months--have been a proud and exultant man. But all
that was over; Daniel was heart-free, when he again began to occupy
himself with womankind; it was a very different person towards whom
he found himself attracted. This was Emma Vine.
After that chance meeting with Mrs. Clay in the omnibus he lost
sight of the sisters for a while, but one day Kate came to the
public-house and desired to see him. She was in great misery. Emma
had fallen ill, gravely ill, and Kate had no money to pay a doctor.
The people in the house, where she lodged were urging her to send
for the parish doctor, but that was an extremity to be avoided as
long as a single hope remained. She had come to borrow a few
shillings> in order that she might take Emma in a cab to the
hospital; perhaps they would receive her as an in-patient. Daniel
put his hand in his pocket. He did more; though on the point of
returning from breakfast to his work, he sacrificed the morning to
accompany Mrs. Clay and help her to get the sick girl to the
hospital. Fortunately it was found possible to give her a bed; Emma
remained in the hospital for seven weeks.
Daniel was not hasty in forming attachments. During the seven weeks
he called three or four times to inquire of Mrs. Clay what progress
her sister was making, but when Emma came home again, and resumed
her usual work, he seemed to have no further interest in her. At
length Kate came to the public-house one Saturday night and wished
to pay back half the loan. Daniel shook his head. 'All right, Mrs.
Clay; don't you hurt yourself. Let it wait till you're a bit better
off.' Nicholas was behind the bar, and when Kate had gone he asked
his brother if he hadn't observed something curious in Mrs. Clay's
behaviour. Daniel certainly had; the brothers agreed that she must
have been drinking rather more than was good for her.
'I shouldn't wonder,' said Daniel, 'if she started with the whole o'
Which, indeed, was a true conjecture.
Time went on, and Daniel had been six months a licensed victualler.
It was summer once more, and thirsty weather. Daniel stood behind
the bar in his shirt sleeves, collarless for personal ease, with a
white waistcoat, and trousers of light tweed. Across his stomach,
which already was more portly than in his engineering days, swayed a
heavy gold chain; on one of his fingers was a demonstrative ring.
His face and neck were very red; his hair, cropped extremely short,
gleamed with odorous oils. You could see that he prided himself on
the spotlessness of his linen; his cuffs were turned up to avoid
alcoholic soilure; their vast links hung loose for better observance
by customers. Daniel was a smiling and a happy man.
It was early on Sunday evening; Hoxton had shaken itself from the
afternoon slumber, had taken a moderate tea, and was in no two minds
about the entirely agreeable way of getting through the hours till
bedtime. Daniel beamed on the good thirsty souls who sought refuge
under his roof from the still warm rays of the sun. Whilst seeing
that no customer lacked due attention, he conversed genially with a
group of his special friends. One of these had been present at a
meeting held on Clerkenwell Green that morning, a meeting assembled
to hear Richard Mutimer. Richard, a year having passed since his
temporary eclipse, was once more prominent as a popular leader. He
was addressing himself to the East End especially, and had a scheme
to propound which, whatever might be its success or the opposite,
kept him well before the eyes of men.
'What's all this 'ere about?' cried one of the group in an
impatiently contemptuous tone. 'I can't see nothin' in it myself.'
'I can see as he wants money,' observed another, laughing. 'There's
a good many ways o' gettin' money without earnin' it, particular if
you've got a tongue as goes like a steam engine.'
'I don't think so bad of him as all that,' said the man who had
attended the meeting. ''Tain't for himself as he wants the money.
What do _you_ think o' this 'ere job, Dan?'
'I'll tell you more about that in a year's time,' replied Dabbs,
thrusting his fingers into his waistcoat pockets. ''Cording to Mike,
we're all goin' to be rich before we know it. Let's hope it'll come
He put his tongue in his cheek and let his eye circle round the
'Seems to me,' said the contemptuous man, 'he'd better look after
his own people first. Charity begins at 'ome, eh, mates?'
'What do you mean by that?' inquired a voice.
'Why, isn't his brother--what's his name? Bill--Jack--'
''Arry,' corrected Daniel.
'To be sure, 'Arry; I don't know him myself, but I 'eard talk of
him. It's him as is doin' his three months' 'ard labour.'
'That ain't no fault o' Dick Mutimer's,' asserted the apologist. 'He
always was a bad 'un, that 'Arry. Why, you can say so much, Dan? No,
no, I don't 'old with a man's bein' cried down cause he's got a
brother as disgraces himself. It was Dick as got him his place, an'
a good place it was. It wasn't Dick as put him up to thievin', I
'No, no, that's right enough,' said Dabbs. 'Let a man be judged by
his own sayin's and doin's. There's queer stories about Dick Mutimer
himself, but--was it Scotch or Irish, Mike?'
Mike had planted his glass on the counter in a manner suggesting
'Now that's what I call a cruel question!' cried Mike humorously.
'The man as doesn't stick to his country, I don't think much of
The humour was not remarkable, but it caused a roar of laughter to
'Now what I want to know,' exclaimed one, returning to the main
subject, 'is where Mutimer gets his money to live on. He does no
work, we know that much.'
'He told us all about that this mornin',' replied the authority. 'He
has friends as keeps him goin', that's all. As far as I can make out
it's a sort o' subscription.'
'Now, there you are!' put in Daniel with half a sneer. 'I don't call
that Socialism. Let a man support himself by his own work, then he's
got a right to say what he likes. No, no, _we_ know what Socialism
means, eh, Tom?'
The man appealed to answered with a laugh.
'Well, blest if I do, Dan! There's so many kinds o' Socialism
nowadays. Which lot does he pretend to belong to? There's the "Fiery
Cross," and there's Roodhouse with his "Tocsin," and now I s'pose
Dick'll be startin' another paper of his own.'
'No, no,' replied Mutimer's supporter. 'He holds by the "Fiery
Cross" still, so he said this mornin'. I've no opinion o' Roodhouse
myself. He makes a deal o' noise, but I can't 'see as he _does_
'You won't catch Dick Mutimer sidin' with Roodhouse,' remarked
Daniel with a wink. 'That's an old story, eh, Tom?'
Thus the talk went on, and the sale of beverages kept pace with it.
About eight o'clock the barmaid informed Daniel that Mrs. Clay
wished to see him. Kate had entered the house by the private door,
and was sitting in the bar-parlour. Daniel went to her at once.
She was more slovenly in appearance than ever, and showed all the
signs of extreme poverty. Her face was not merely harsh and sour, it
indicated a process of degradation. The smile with which she greeted
Daniel was disagreeable through excessive anxiety to be
ingratiating. Her eyes were restless and shrewd. Daniel sat down
opposite to her, and rested his elbows on the table.
'Well, how's all at 'ome?' he began, avoiding her look as he spoke.
'Nothing much to boast of,' Kate replied with an unpleasant giggle.
'We keep alive.'
'Emma all right?'
'She's all right, except for her bad 'ead-aches. She's had another
of 'em this week. But I think it's a bit better to-day.'
'She'll have a rest to-morrow.'
The following day was the August bank-holiday.
'No, she'll have no rest. She's going to do some cleaning in Goswell
Daniel drummed with his fingers on the table.
'She isn't fit to do it, that's quite certain,' Mrs. Clay continued.
'I wish I could get her out for an hour or two. She wants fresh air,
that's what it is. I s'pose you're going somewhere to-morrow?'
It was asked insinuatingly, and at the same time with an air of
'Well, I did think o' gettin' as far as Epping Forest. D'you think
you could persuade Emma to come? you and the children as well, you
know. I'll have the mare out if she will.'
'I can ask her and see. It 'ud be a rare treat for us. I feel myself
as if I couldn't hold up much longer, it's that hot!'
She threw a glance towards the bar.
'Will you have a bottle o' lemonade?' Daniel asked.
'It's very kind of you. I've a sort o' fainty feeling. If you'd just
put ever such a little drop in it, Mr. Dabbs.'
Daniel betrayed a slight annoyance. But he went to the door and gave
'Still at the same place?' he asked on resuming his seat.
'Emma, you mean? Yes, but it's only been half a week's work, this
last. And I've as good as nothing to do. There's the children
runnin' about with no soles to their feet.'
The lemonade--with a dash in it--was brought to her, and she
refreshed herself with a deep draught. Perhaps the dash was not
perceptible enough; she did not seem entirely satisfied, though
pretending to be so.
'Suppose I come round to-night and ask her myself?' Daniel said, as
the result of a short reflection.
'It 'ud be kind of you if you would, Mr. Dabbs. I'm afraid she'll
tell me she can't afford to lose the day.'
He consulted his watch, then again reflected, still drumming on the
'All right, we'll go,' he said, rising from his chair.
His coat was hanging on a peg behind the door. He drew it on, and
went to tell the barmaid that he should be absent exactly twenty
minutes. It was Daniel's policy to lead his underlings to expect
that he might return at any moment, though he would probably be away
a couple of hours.
The sisters were now living in a street crossing the angle between
Goswell Road and the City Road. Daniel was not, as a rule, lavish in
his expenditure, but he did not care to walk any distance, and there
was no line of omnibuses available. He took a hansom.
It generally fell to Emma's share to put her sister's children to
bed, for Mrs. Clay was seldom at home in the evening. But for Emma,
indeed, the little ones would have been sadly off for motherly care.
Kate had now and then a fit of maternal zeal, but it usually ended
in impatience and slappings; for the most part she regarded her
offspring as encumbrance, and only drew attention to them when she
wished to impress people with the hardships of her lot. The natural
result was that the boy and girl only knew her as mother by name;
they feared her, and would shrink to Emma's side when Kate began to
All dwelt together in one room, for life was harder than ever.
Emma's illness had been the beginning of a dark and miserable time.
Whilst she was in the hospital her sister took the first steps on
the path which leads to destruction; with scanty employment, much
time to kill, never a sufficiency of food, companions only too like
herself in their distaste for home duties and in the misery of their
existence, poor Kate got into the habit of straying aimlessly about
the streets, and, the inevitable consequence, of seeking warmth and
company in the public-house. Her children lived as the children of
such mothers do: they played on the stairs or on the pavements, had
accidents, were always dirty, cried themselves to sleep in hunger
and pain. When Emma returned, still only fit for a convalescent
home, she had to walk about day after day in search of work,
conciliating the employers whom Mrs. Clay had neglected or
disgusted, undertaking jobs to which her strength was inadequate,
and, not least, striving her hardest to restore order in the
wretched home. It was agreed that Kate should use the machine at
home, whilst Emma got regular employment in a workroom.
Emma never heard of that letter which her sister wrote to Mutimer's
wife. Kate had no expectation that help would come of it; she hoped
that it had done Mutimer harm, and the hope had to satisfy her. She
durst not let Emma suspect that she had done such a thing.
Emma heard, however, of the loan from Daniel Dabbs, and afterwards
thanked him for his kindness, but she resolutely set her face
against the repetition of such favours, though Daniel would have
willingly helped when she came out of the hospital. Kate, of course,
was for accepting anything that was offered; she lost her temper,
and accused Emma of wishing to starve the children. But she was
still greatly under her sister's influence, and when Emma declared
that there must be a parting between them if she discovered that
anything was secretly accepted from Mr. Dabbs, Kate sullenly yielded
Daniel was aware of all this, and it made an impression upon him.
To-night Emma was as usual left alone with the children. After tea,
when Kate left the house, she sat down to the machine and worked for
a couple of hours; for her there was small difference between Sunday
and week day. Whilst working she told the children stories; it was a
way of beguiling them from their desire to go and play in the
street. They were strange stories, half recollected from a childhood
which, had promised better things than a maidenhood of garret
misery, half Emma's own invention. They had a grace, a spontaneity,
occasionally an imaginative brightness, which would have made them,
if they had been taken down from the lips, models of tale-telling
for children. Emma had two classes of story: the one concerned
itself with rich children, the, other with poor; the one highly
fanciful, the other full of a touching actuality, the very essence
of a life such as that led by the listeners themselves. Unlike the
novel which commends itself to the world's grown children, these
narratives had by no means necessarily a happy ending; for one thing
Emma saw too deeply into the facts of life, and was herself too sad,
to cease her music on a merry chord; and, moreover, it was half a
matter of principle with her to make the little ones thoughtful and
sympathetic; she believed that they would grow up kinder and more
self-reliant if they were in the habit of thinking that we are ever
dependent on each other for solace and strengthening under the
burden of life. The most elaborate of her stories, one wholly of her
own invention, was called 'Blanche and Janey.' It was a double
biography. Blanche and Janey were born on the same day, they lived
ten years, and then died on the same day. But Blanche was, the child
of wealthy parents; Janey was born, in a garret. Their lives were
recounted in parallel, almost year by year, and, there was sadness
in the contrast. Emma had chosen the name of the poor child in
memory of her own sister, her ever dear Jane, whose life had been a
life of sorrow.
The story ended thus:
'Yes, they died on the same day, and they were buried, on the same
day. But not in the same cemetery, oh no! Blanche's grave is far
away over there'--she pointed to the west--'among tombstones
covered with flowers, and her father and mother go every Sunday to
read her name, and think and talk of her. Janey was buried far away
over yonder'--she pointed to the east--'but there is no stone on her
grave, and no one knows the exact place where she lies, and no one,
no one ever goes to think and talk of her.'
The sweetness of the story lay in the fact that the children were
both good, and both deserved to be happy; it never occurred to Emma
to teach her hearers to hate little Blanche just because hers was
the easier lot.
Whatever might be her secret suffering, with the little ones Emma
was invariably patient and tender. However dirty they had made,
themselves during the day, however much they cried when hunger made
them irritable, they went to their aunt's side with the assurance of
finding gentleness in reproof and sympathy with their troubles. Yet
once she was really angry. Bertie told her a deliberate untruth, and
she at once discovered it. She stood silent for a few moments,
looking as Bertie had never seen her look. Then she said:
'Do you know, Bertie, that it is wrong to try and deceive?'
Then she tried to, make him understand why falsehood was evil, and
as she spoke to the child her voice quivered, her breast heaved.
When the little fellow was overcome, and began to sob, Emma checked
herself, recollecting that she had lost sight of the offender's age,
and was using expressions which he could not understand. But the
lesson was effectual. If ever the brother and sister were tempted to
hide anything by a falsehood they remembered 'Aunt Emma's' face, and
durst not incur the danger of her severity.
So she told her stories to the humming of the machine, and when it
was nearly the children's bedtime she broke off to ask them if they
would like some bread and butter. Among all the results of her
poverty the bitterest to Emma was when she found herself _hoping
that the children would not eat much_. If their appetite was poor it
made her anxious about their health, yet it happened sometimes that
she feared to ask them if they were hungry lest the supply of bread
should fail. It was so to-night. The week's earnings had been three
shillings; the rent itself was four. But the children were as ready
to eat as if they had had no tea. It went to her heart to give them
each but one half-slice and tell them that they could have no more.
Gladly she would have robbed herself of breakfast next morning on
their account, but that she durst not do, for she had undertaken to
scrub out an office in Goswell Road, and she knew that her strength
would fail if she went from home fasting.
She put them to bed--they slept together on a small bedstead, which
was a chair during the day--and then sat down to do some patching
at a dress of Kate's. Her face when she communed with her own
thoughts was profoundly sad, but far from the weakness of self-pity.
Indeed she did her best not to think of herself; she knew that to do
so cost her struggles with feelings she held to be evil, resentment
and woe of passion and despair. She tried to occupy herself solely
with her sister and the children, planning how to make Kate more
home-loving and how to find the little ones more food.
She had no companions. The girls whom she came to know in the
workroom for the most part took life very easily; she could not
share in their genuine merriment; she was often revolted by their
way of thinking and speaking. They thought her dull; and paid no
attention to her. She was glad to be relieved of the necessity of
Her sister thought her hard. Kate believed that she was for ever
brooding over her injury. This was not true, but a certain hardness
in her character there certainly was. For her life, both of soul and
body, was ascetic; she taught herself to expect, to hope for,
nothing. When she was hungry she had a sort of pleasure in enduring;
when weary she worked on as if by effort she could overcome the
feeling. But Kate's chief complaint against her was her
determination to receive no help save in the way of opportunity to
earn money. This was something more than, ordinary pride. Emma
suffered intensely in the recollection that she had lived at
Mutimer's expense during the very months when he was seeking the
love of another woman, and casting about for means of abandoning
herself. When she thought of Alice coming with the proposal that she
and her sister should still occupy the house in Wilton Square, and
still receive money, the heat of shame and anger never failed to
rise to her cheeks. She could never accept from anyone again a penny
which she had not earned. She believed that Daniel Dabbs had been
repaid, otherwise she could not have rested a moment.
It was her terrible misfortune to have feelings too refined for the
position in which fate had placed her. Had she only been like those
other girls in the workroom! But we are interesting in proportion to
our capacity for suffering, and dignity comes of misery nobly borne.
As she sat working on Kate's dress, she was surprised to hear a
heavy step approaching. There came a knock at the door; she
answered, admitting Daniel.
He looked about the room, partly from curiosity, partly through
embarrassment. Dusk was falling.
'Young 'uns in bed?' he said, lowering his voice.
'Yes, they are asleep,' Emma replied.
'You don't mind me coming up?'
He went to the window and looked at the houses opposite, then at the
'Bank holiday to-morrow. I thought I'd like to ask you whether you
and Mrs. Clay and the children 'ud come with me to Epping Forest. If
it's a day like this, it'll be a nice drive--do you good. You look
as if you wanted a breath of fresh air, if you don't mind me sayin'
'It's very kind of you, Mr. Dabbs,' Emma replied. 'I am very sorry I
can't come myself, but my sister and the children perhaps--'
She could not refuse for them likewise, yet she was troubled to
accept so far.
'But why can't _you_ come?' he asked good-naturedly, slapping his
hat against his leg.
'I have some work that'll take me nearly all day.'
'But you've no business to work on a bank holiday. I'm not sure as
it ain't breakin' the law.'
He laughed, and Emma did her best to show a smile. But she said
'But you _will_ come, now? You can lose just the one day? It'll do
you a power o' good. You'll work all the better on Tuesday, now see
if you don't. Why, it ain't worth livin', never to get a holiday.'
'I'm very sorry. It was very kind indeed of you to think of it, Mr.
Dabbs. I really can't come.'
He went again to the window, and thence to the children's bedside.
He bent a little and watched them breathing.
'Bertie's growin' a fine little lad.'
'Yes, indeed, he is.'
'He'll have to go to school soon, I s'pose--I'm afraid he gives you
a good deal of trouble, that is, I mean--you know how I mean it.'
'Oh, he is very good,' Emma said, looking at the sleeping face
Daniel had meant something different; he saw that Emma would not
'We see changes in life,' he resumed, musingly. 'Now who'd a'
thought I should end up with having more money than I. know how to
use? The 'ouse has done well for eight years now, an' it's likely to
do well for a good many years yet, as far as I can see.'
'I am glad to hear that,' Emma replied constrainedly.
'Miss Vine, I wanted you to come to Epping Forest to-morrow because
I thought I should have a chance of a little talk. I don't mean that
was the only reason; it's too bad you never get a holiday, and I
should like it to a' done you good. But I thought I might a' found a
chance o' sayin' something, something I've thought of a long time,
and that's the honest truth. I want to help you and your sister and
the young 'uns, but _you_ most of all. I don't like to see you
livin' such a hard life, 'cause you deserve something better, if
ever anyone did. Now will you let me help you? There's only one way,
and it's the way I'd like best of any. The long an' the short of it
is, I want to ask you if you'll come an' live at the 'ouse, come and
bring Mrs. Clay an' the children?'
Emma looked at him in surprise and felt uncertain of his meaning,
though his speech had painfully prepared her with an answer.
'I'd do my right down best to make you a good 'usband, that I would,
Emma!' Daniel hurried on, getting flustered. 'Perhaps I've been a
bit too sudden? Suppose we leave it till you've had time to think
over? It's no good talking to you about money an' that kind o'
thing; you'd marry a poor man as soon as a rich, if only you cared
in the right way for him. I won't sing my own praises, but I don't
think you'd find much to complain of in me. I'd never ask you to go
into the bar, 'cause I know you ain't suited for that, and, what's
more, I'd rather you didn't. Will you give it a thought?'
It was modest enough, and from her knowledge of the man Emma felt
that he was to be trusted for more than his word. But he asked an
impossible thing. She could not imagine herself consenting to marry
any man, but the reasons why she could not marry Daniel Dabbs were
manifold. She felt them all, but it was only needful to think of
Yet it was a temptation, and the hour of it might have been chosen.
With a scarcity of food for the morrow, with dark fears for her
sister, suffering incessantly on the children's account, Emma might
have been pardoned if she had taken the helping hand. But the
temptation, though it unsteadied her brain for a moment, could never
have overcome her. She would have deemed it far less a crime to go
out and steal a loaf from the baker's shop than to marry Daniel
because he offered rescue from destitution.
She refused him, as gently as she could, but with firmness which
left him no room for misunderstanding her. Daniel was awed by her
'But I can wait,' he stammered; 'if you'd take time to think it
Useless; the answer could at no time be other.
'Well, I've no call to grumble,' he said. 'You say straight out what
you mean. No woman can do fairer than that.'
His thought recurred for a moment to Alice, whose fault had been
that she was ever ambiguous.
'It's hard to bear. I don't think I shall ever care to marry any
other woman. But you're doin' the right thing and the honest thing;
I wish all women was like you.'
At the door he turned.
'There'd be no harm if I take Mrs. Clay and the children, would
'I am sure they will thank you, Mr. Dabbs.'
It did not matter now that there was a clear understanding.
At a little distance from the house door Daniel found Mrs. Clay
'No good,' he said cheerlessly.
'She won't go?'
'No. But I'll take you and the children, if you'll come.'
Kate did not immediately reply. A grave disappointment showed itself
in her face.
'Can't be helped,' Daniel replied to her look. 'I did my best'
Kate accepted his invitation, and they arranged the hour of meeting.
As she approached the house to enter, flow looking ill-tempered, a
woman of her acquaintance met her. After a few minutes' conversation
they walked away together.
Emma sat up till twelve o'clock. The thought on which she was
brooding was not one to make the time go lightly; it was--how much
and how various evil can be wrought by a single act of treachery.
And the instance in her mind was more fruitful than her knowledge
allowed her to perceive.
Kate appeared shortly after midnight. She had very red cheeks and
very bright eyes, and her mood was quarrelsome. She sat down on the
bed and began to talk of Daniel Dabbs, as she had often done
already, in a maundering way. Emma kept silence; she was beginning
'There's a man with money,' said Kate, her voice getting louder;
'money, I tell you, and you've only to say a word. And you won't
even be civil to him. You've got no feeling; you don't care for
nobody but yourself. I'll take the children and leave you to go your
own way, that's what I'll do!'
It was hard to make no reply, but Emma succeeded in commanding
herself. The maundering talk went on for more than an hour. Then
came the wretched silence of night.
Emma did not sleep. She was too wobegone to find a tear. Life stood
before her in the darkness like a hideous spectre.
In the morning she told her sister that Daniel had asked her to
marry him and that she had refused. It was best to have that
understood. Kate heard with black brows. But even yet she knew
something of shame when she remembered her return home the night
before; it kept her from giving utterance to her anger.
There followed a scene such as had occurred two or three times
during the past six months. Emma threw aside all her coldness, and
with passionate entreaty besought her sister to draw back from the
gulf's edge whilst there was yet time. For her own sake, for the
sake of Bertie and the little girl, by the memory of that dear dead
one who lay in the waste cemetery!
'Pity me, too! Think a little of me, Kate dear! You are driving me
Kate was moved, she had not else been human. The children were
looking up with frightened, wondering eyes. She hid her face and