Part 11 out of 12
muttered promises of amendment.
Emma kissed her, and strove hard to hope.
With his five hundred pounds lodged in the bank, Mutimer felt ill at
ease in the lodgings in Pentonville. He began to look bout for an
abode more suitable to the dignity of his position, and shortly
discovered a house in Holloway, the rent twenty-eight pounds, the
situation convenient for his purposes. By way of making some amends
to Adela for his less than civil behaviour, he took the house and
had it modestly furnished (at the cost of one hundred and ten
pounds) before saying anything to her of his plans. Then, on the
pretext of going to search for pleasanter lodgings, he one day took
her to Holloway and led her into her own dwelling. Adela was
startled, but did her best to seem grateful.
They returned to Pentonville, settled their accounts, packed their
belongings, and by evening were able to sit down to a dinner cooked
by their own servant--under Adela's supervision. Mutimer purchased a
couple of bottles of claret on the way home, that the first evening
might be wholly cheerful. Of a sudden he had become a new man; the
sullenness had passed, and he walked from room to room with much the
same air of lofty satisfaction as when he first surveyed the
interior of Wanley Manor. He made a show of reading in the hour
before dinner, but could not keep still for more than a few minutes
at a time; he wanted to handle the furniture, to survey the prospect
from the windows, to walk out into the road and take a general view
of the house. When their meal had begun, and the servant, instructed
to wait at table, chanced to be out of the room, he remarked:
'We'll begin, of course, to dine at the proper time again. It's far
better, don't you think so?'
'Yes, I think so.'
'And, by-the-by, you'll see that Mary has a cap.'
'Yes, I'll see she has.'
Mary herself entered. Some impulse she did not quite understand led
Adela to look at the girl in her yet capless condition. She said
something which would require Mary to answer, and found herself
wondering at the submissive tone, the repeated 'Mum.'
'Yes,' she mused with herself, 'she is our creature. We pay her and
she must attire herself to suit our ideas of propriety. She must
remember her station.'
'What is it?' Mutimer asked, noticing that she bad again smiled.
His pipe lit, his limbs reposing in the easy-chair, Mutimer became
expansive. He requested Adela's attention whilst he rendered a full
account of all the moneys he had laid out, and made a computation of
the cost of living on this basis.
'The start once made,' he said, 'you see it isn't a bit dearer than
the lodgings. And the fact is, I couldn't have done much in that
hole. Now here, I feel able to go to work. It isn't in reality
spending money on ourselves, though it may look like it. You see I
must have a place where people can call to see me; we'd no room
'You'll write and tell your mother?'
'Don't say anything about the money. You haven't done yet, I
'Better not That's our own business. You can just say you're more
comfortable. Of course,' he added, 'there's no secret. I shall let
people understand in time that I am carrying out the wishes of a
Socialist friend. That's simple enough. But there's no need to talk
about it just yet. I must get fairly going first.'
His face gathered light as he proceeded.
'Ah, _now_ I'll do something! see if I don't. You see, the fact of
the matter is, there are some men who are cut out for leading in a
movement, and I have the kind of feeling--well, for one thing, I'm
readier at public speaking than most. You think so, don't you?'
Adela was sewing together some chintzes. She kept her eyes closely
on the work.
'Yes, I think so.'
'Now the first thing I shall get done,' her husband pursued, a
little disappointed that she gave no warmer assent, 'is that book,
"My Work at New Wanley." The Union 'll publish it. It ought to have
a good sale in Belwick and round about there. You see I must get my
name well known; that's everything. When I've got that off hand,
then I shall begin on the East End. I mean to make the East End my
own ground. I'll see if something can't be done to stir 'em up. I
haven't quite thought it out yet. There must be some way of getting
them to take an interest in Socialism. Now we'll see what can be
done in twelve months. What'll you bet me that I don't add a
thousand members to the Union in this next year?'
'I dare say you can.'
'There's no "dare say" about it. I mean to! I begin to think I've
special good luck; things always turn out right in the end. When I
lost my work because I was a Socialist, then came Wanley. Now I've
lost Wanley, and here comes five hundred a year for ten years! I
wonder who that poor fellow may be? I suppose he'll die soon, and
then no doubt we shall hear his name. I only wish there were a few
more like him.'
'The East End!' he resumed presently. 'That's my ground. I'll make
the East End know me as well as they know any man in England. What
we want is personal influence. It's no use asking them to get
excited about a _movement_; they must have a _man_. Just the same in
_bourgeois_ politics. It isn't Liberalism they care for; it's
Gladstone. Wait and see!'
He talked for three hours, at times as if he were already on the
platform before a crowd of East Enders who were shouting, 'Mutimer
for ever!' Adela fell into physical weariness; at length she with
difficulty kept her eyes open. His language was a mere buzzing in
her ears; her thoughts were far away.
'My Work at New Wanley' was written and published; Keene had the
glory of revising the manuscript. It made a pamphlet of thirty-two
pages, and was in reality an autobiography. It presented the ideal
working man; the author stood as a type for ever of the noble
possibilities inherent in his class. Written of course in the first
person, it contained passages of monumental self-satisfaction.
Adela, too, was mentioned; to her horror she found a glowing
description of the work she had done among the women and children.
After reading that page she threw the pamphlet aside and hid her
face in her hands. She longed for the earth to cover her.
But the publication had no sale worth speaking of. A hundred copies
were got rid of at the Socialist centres, and a couple of hundred
more when the price was reduced from twopence to a penny. This would
not satisfy Mutimer. He took the remaining three hundred off the
hands of the Union and sowed them broadcast over the East End, where
already he was actively at work. Then he had a thousand more struck
off, and at every meeting which he held gave away numerous copies.
Keene wrote to suggest that in a new edition there should be a
woodcut portrait of the author on the front. Mutimer was delighted
with the idea, and at once had it carried out.
Through. this winter and the spring that followed he worked hard. It
had become a necessity of his existence to hear his name on the lips
of men, to be perpetually in evidence. Adela saw that day by day his
personal vanity grew more absorbing. When he returned from a meeting
he would occupy her for hours with a recitation of the speeches he
had made, with a minute account of what others had said of him. He
succeeded in forming a new branch of the Union in Clerkenwell, and
by contributing half the rent obtained a room for meetings. In this
branch he was King Mutimer.
In the meantime the suit against Rodman was carried through, it
could have of course but one result. Rodman was sold up; but the
profit accruing to Hubert Eldon was trifling, for the costs were
paid out of the estate, and it appeared that Rodman, making hay
whilst the sun shone, had spent all but the whole of his means.
There remained the question whether he was making fraudulent
concealments. Mutimer was morally convinced that this was the case,
and would vastly have enjoyed laying his former friend by the heels
for the statutable six weeks, but satisfactory proofs were not to be
obtained. Through Mr. Yottle, Eldon expressed the desire that, as
far as he was concerned, the matter might rest. But it was by no
means with pure zeal for justice that Mutimer had proceeded thus
far. He began the suit in anger, and, as is wont to be the case with
litigants, grew more bitter as it went on. The selling up of
Rodman's house was an occasion of joy to him; he went about singing
Adela marvelled that he could so entirely forget the sufferings of
his sister; she had had so many proofs of his affection for Alice.
In fact he was far from forgetting her, but he made strange
distinction between her and her husband, and had a feeling that in
doing his utmost to injure Rodman he was in a manner avenging Alice.
His love for Alice was in no degree weakened, but--if the state can
be understood--he was jealous of the completeness with which she had
abandoned him to espouse the cause of her husband. Alice had
renounced her brother; she never saw him, and declared that she
never would speak to him again. And Mutimer had no fear lest she
should suffer want. Rodman had a position of some kind in the City;
he and his wife lived for a while in lodgings, then took a house at
One of Mutimer's greatest anxieties had been lest he should have a
difficulty henceforth in supporting his mother in the old house. The
economical plan would have been for Adela and himself to go and live
with the old woman, but he felt that to be impossible. His mother
would never become reconciled to Adela, and, if the truth must be
told, he was ashamed to make known to Adela his mother's excessive
homeliness. Then again he was still estranged from the old woman.
Though he often thought of what Alice had said to him on that point,
month after month went by and he could not make up his mind to go to
Wilton Square. Having let the greater part of her house, Mrs.
Mutimer needed little pecuniary aid; once she returned money which
he had sent to her 'Arry still lived with her, and 'Arry was a
never-ending difficulty. After his appearance in the police court,
he retired for a week or two into private life; that is to say, he
contented himself with loafing about the streets of Hoxton and the
City, and was at home by eleven o'clock nightly, perfectly sober.
The character of this young man was that of a distinct class,
comprising the sons of mechanics who are ruined morally by being
taught to consider themselves above manual labour. Had he from the
first been put to a craft, he would in all likelihood have been no
worse than the ordinary English artisan--probably drinking too much
and loafing on Mondays, but not sinking below the level of his
fellows in the workshop. His positive fault was that shared by his
brother and sister--personal vanity. It was encouraged from the
beginning by immunity from the only kind of work for which he was
fitted, and the undreamt-of revolution in his prospects gave fatal
momentum to all his worst tendencies. Keene and Rodman successively
did their best, though unintentionally, to ruin him. He was now
incapable of earning his living by any continuous work. Since his
return to London he had greatly extended his circle of
acquaintances, which consisted of idle fellows of the same type,
youths who hang about the lowest fringe of clerkdom till they
definitely class themselves either with the criminal community or
with those who make a living by unrecognised pursuits which at any
time may chance to bring them within the clutches of the law. To use
a coarse but expressive word, he was a hopeless blackguard.
Let us be just; 'Arry had, like every other man, his better moments.
He knew that he had made himself contemptible to his mother, to
Richard, and to Alice, and the knowledge was so far from agreeable
that it often drove him to recklessness. That was his way of doing
homage to the better life; he had no power of will to resist
temptation, but he could go to meet it doggedly out of sheer
dissatisfaction with himself. Our social state ensures destruction
to such natures; it has no help for them, no patient encouragement.
Naturally he hardened himself in vicious habits. Despised by his own
people, he soothed his injured vanity by winning a certain
predominance among the contemptible. The fact that he had been on
the point of inheriting a fortune in itself gave him standing; he
told his story in public-houses and elsewhere, and relished the
distinction of having such a story to tell. Even as his brother
Richard could not rest unless he was prominent as an agitator, so it
became a necessity to 'Arry to lead in the gin-palace and the
music-hall. He made himself the aristocrat of rowdyism.
But it was impossible to live without ready money, and his mother,
though supplying him with board and lodging, refused to give him a
penny. He made efforts on his own account to obtain employment, but
without result. At last there was nothing for it but to humble
himself before Richard.
He did it with an ill-enough grace. Early one morning he presented
himself at the house in Holloway. Richard was talking with his wife
in the sitting-room, breakfast being still on the table. On the
visitor's name being brought to him, he sent Adela away and allowed
the scapegrace to be admitted.
'Arry shuffled to a seat and sat leaning forward, holding his hat
between his knees.
'Well, what do you want?' Richard asked severely. He was glad that
'Arry had at length come, and he enjoyed assuming the magisterial
'I want to find a place,' 'Arry replied, without looking up, and in
a dogged voice. 'I've been trying to get one, and I can't. I think
you might help a feller.'
'What's the good of helping you? You'll be turned out of any place
in a week or two.'
'No, I shan't!'
'What sort of a place do you want?'
'A clerk's, of course.'
He pronounced the word 'clerk' as it is spelt; it made him seem yet
'Have you given up drink?'
'Before I try to help you,' said Mutimer, 'you'll have to take the
'All right!' 'Arry muttered.
Then a thought occurred to Richard. Bidding his brother stay where
he was, he went in search of Adela and found her in an upper room.
'He's come to ask me to help him to get a place,' he said. 'I don't
know very well how to set about it, but I suppose I must do
something. He promises to take the pledge.'
'That will be a good thing,' Adela replied.
'Good if he keeps it. But I can't talk to him; I'm sick of doing so.
And I don't think he even listens to me.' He hesitated. 'Do you
think you--would you mind speaking to him? I believe you might do
Adela did not at once reply.
'I know it's a nasty job,' he pursued. 'I wouldn't ask you if I
didn't really think you might do some good. I don't see why he
should go to the dogs. He used to be a good enough fellow when he
was a little lad.'
It was one of the most humane speeches Adela had ever heard from her
husband. She replied with cheerfulness:
'If you really think he won't take it amiss, I shall be very glad to
do my best.'
'That's right; thank you.'
Adela went down and was alone with 'Arry for half-an-hour. She was
young to undertake such an office, but suffering had endowed her
with gravity and understanding beyond her years, and her native
sweetness was such that she could altogether forget herself in
pleading with another for a good end. No human being, however
perverse, could have taken ill the words that were dictated by so
pure a mind, and uttered in so musical and gentle a voice. She led
'Arry to speak frankly.
'It seems to me a precious hard thing,' he said, 'that they've let
Dick keep enough money to live on comfortable, and won't give me a
penny. My right was as good as his.'
'Perhaps it was,' Adela replied kindly. 'But you must remember that
money was left to your brother by the will.'
'But you don't go telling me that he lives on two pounds a week?
Everybody knows he doesn't. Where does the rest come from?'
'I don't think I must talk about that. I think very likely jour
brother will explain if you ask him seriously. But is it really such
a hard thing after all, Harry? I feel so sure that you will only
know real happiness when you are earning a livelihood by steady and
honourable work. You remember how I used to go and see the people in
New Wanley? I shall never forget how happy the best of them were,
those who worked their hardest all day and at night came home to
rest with their families and friends. And you yourself, how
contented you used to be when your time was thoroughly occupied! But
I'm sure you feel the truth of this. You have been disappointed; it
has made you a little careless. Now work hard for a year and then
come and tell me if I wasn't right about that being the way to
happiness. Will you?'
She rose and held her hand to him; the hand to which he should have
knelt. But he said nothing; there was an obstacle in his throat.
Adela understood his silence and left him.
Richard went to work among his friends, and in a fortnight had found
his brother employment of a new kind. It was a place in an
ironmonger's shop in Hoxton; 'Arry was to serve at the counter and
learn the business. For three months he was on trial and would
receive no salary.
Two of the three months passed, and all seemed to be going well.
Then one day there came to Mutimer a telegram from 'Arry's employer;
it requested that he would go to the shop as soon as possible.
Foreseeing some catastrophe, he hastened to Hoxton. His brother was
in custody for stealing money from the till.
The ironmonger was inexorable. 'Arry passed through the judicial
routine and was sentenced to three months of hard labour.
It was in connection with this wretched affair that Richard once
more met his mother. He went from the shop to tell her what had
He found her in the kitchen, occupied as he had seen her many, many
times, ironing newly washed linen. One of the lodgers happened to
come out from the house as he ascended the steps, so he was able to
go down without announcing himself. The old woman had a nervous
start; the iron stopped in its smooth backward and forward motion;
the hand with which she held it trembled. She kept her eyes on
Richard's face, which foretold evil.
'Mother, I have brought you bad news.'
She pushed the iron aside and stood waiting. Her hard lips grew
harder; her deep-set eyes had a stern light. Not much ill could come
to pass for which she was not prepared.
He tried to break the news. His mother interrupted him.
'What's he been a-doin'? You've no need to go round about. I like
Richard told her. It did not seem to affect her strongly; she turned
to the table and resumed her work. But she could no longer guide the
iron. She pushed it aside and faced her son with such a look as one
may see in the eyes of a weak animal cruelly assailed. Her tongue
found its freedom and bore her whither it would.
'What did I tell you? What was it I said that night you come in and
told me you; was all rich? Didn't I warn you that there'd no good
come of it? Didn't I say you'd remember my words? You laughed at me;
you got sharp-tempered with me an as good as called me a fool. An'
what _has_ come of it? What's come of it to me? I had a 'ome once
an' children about me, an' now I've neither the one nor the other.
You call it a 'ome with strangers takin' up well nigh all the 'ouse?
Not such a ome as I thought to end my days in. It fair scrapes on my
heart every time I hear their feet going up an' down the stairs. An'
where are my children gone? Two of 'em as 'ud never think to come
near me if it wasn't to bring ill news, an' one in prison. How 'ud
that sound in your father's ears, think you? I may have been a fool,
but I knew what 'ud come of a workin' man's children goin' to live
in big 'ouses, with their servants an' their carriages. What better
are you? It's come an' it's gone, an' there's shame an' misery left
Richard listened without irritation; he was heavy-hearted, the shock
of his brother's disgrace had disposed him to see his life on its
dark side. And he pitied his poor old mother. She had never been
tender in her words, could not be tender; but he saw in her
countenance the suffering through which she had gone, and read
grievous things in the eyes that could no longer weep. For once he
yielded to rebuke. Her complaint that he had not come to see her
touched him, for he had desired to come, but could not subdue his
pride. Her voice was feebler than when he last heard it raised in
reproach; it reminded him that there would come a day when he might
long to hear even words of upbraiding, but the voice would be mute
for ever. It needed a moment such as this to stir his sluggish
'What you say is true, mother, but we couldn't help it. It's turned
out badly because we live in bad times. It's the state of society
that's to blame.'
He was sincere in saying it; that is to say, he used the phrase so
constantly that it had become his natural utterance in difficulty;
it may be that in his heart he believed it. Who, indeed, shall say
that he was wrong? But what made such an excuse so disagreeable in
his case was that he had not--intellectually speaking--the right to
avail himself of it. The difference between truth and cant often
lies only in the lips that give forth the words.
'Yes, that's what you always said,' replied Mrs. Mutimer
impatiently. 'It's always someone else as is to blame, an' never
yourself. The world's a good enough world if folk 'ud only make it
so. Was it the bad times as made you leave a good, honest girl when
you'd promised to marry her? No, you must have a fine lady for your
wife; a plain girl as earnt her own bread, an' often had hard work
to get it, wasn't good enough for you. Don't talk to me about bad
times. There's some men as does right an' some as does wrong; it
always was so, an' the world's no worse nor no better, an' not
likely to be.'
The poor woman could not be generous. A concession only led her on
to speak the thoughts it naturally suggested to her. And her very
bitterness was an outcome of her affection; it soothed her to rail
at her son after so long a silence. He had injured her by his
holding aloof; she was urged on by this feeling quite as much as by
anger with his faults. And still Mutimer showed no resentment. In
him, too, there was a pleasure which came of memories revived. Let
her say to him what she liked, he loved his mother and was glad to
be once more in her presence.
'I wish I could have pleased you better, mother,' he said. 'What's
done can't be helped. We've trouble to bear together, and it won't
be lighter for angry words.'
The old woman muttered something inaudible and, after feeling her
iron and discovering that it was cold, she put it down before the
fire. Her tongue had eased itself, and she fell again into silent
Mutimer sat listening to the tick of the familiar clock. That and
the smell of the fresh linen made his old life very present to him;
there arose in his heart a longing for the past, it seemed peaceful
and fuller of genuine interests than the life he now led. He
remembered how he used to sit before the kitchen fire reading the
books and papers which stirred his thought to criticism of the order
of things; nothing now absorbed him in the same way. Coming across a
sentence that delighted him, he used to read it aloud to his mother,
who perchance was ironing as now, or sewing, or preparing a meal,
and she would find something to say against it; so that there ensued
a vigorous debate between her old-fashioned ideas and the brand-new
theories of the age of education: Then Alice would come in and make
the dispute a subject for sprightly mockery. Alice was the Princess
in those days. He quarrelled with her often, but only to resume the
tone of affectionate banter an hour after. Alice was now Mrs.
Rodman, and had declared that she hated him, that in her life she
would never speak to him again. Would it not have been better if
things had gone the natural course? Alice would no doubt have
married Daniel Dabbs, and would have made him a good wife, if a
rather wilful one. 'Arry would have given trouble, but surely could
not have come to hopeless shame. He, Richard, would have had Emma
Vine for his wife, a true wife, loving him with all her heart,
thinking him the best and cleverest of working men. Adela did not
love him; what she thought of his qualities it was not easy to say.
Yes, the old and natural way was better. He would have had
difficulties enough, because of his opinions, but at least he would
have continued truly to represent his class. He knew very well that
he did not represent it now; he belonged to no class at all; he was
a professional agitator, and must remain so through his life--or
till the Revolution came. The Revolution? . . .
His mother was speaking to him, asking what he meant to do about
'Arry. He raised his eyes, and for a moment looked at her sadly.
'There's nothing to be done. I can pay a lawyer, but it'll be no
He remained with his mother for yet an hour; they talked
intermittently, without in appearance coming nearer to each other,
though in fact the barrier was removed. She made tea for him, and
herself made pretence of taking some. When he went away he kissed
her as he had used to. He left her happier than she had been for
years, in spite of the news he had brought.
Thenceforward Mutimer went to Wilton Square regularly once a week.
He let Adela know of this, saying casually one morning that he could
not do something that day because his mother would expect him in the
afternoon as usual. He half hoped that she might put some question
which would lead to talk on the subject, for the reconciliation with
his mother had brought about a change in his feelings, and it would
now have been rather agreeable to him to exhibit his beautiful and
gentle-mannered wife. But Adela merely accepted the remark.
He threw himself into the work of agitation with more energy than
ever. By this time he had elaborated a scheme which was original
enough to ensure him notoriety if only he could advertise it
sufficiently throughout the East End. He hit upon it one evening
when he was smoking his pipe after dinner. Adela was in the room
with him reading. He took her into his confidence at once.
'I've got it at last! I want something that'll attract their
attention. It isn't enough to preach theories to them; they won't
wake up; there's no getting them to feel in earnest about Socialism.
I've been racking my brain for something to set them talking, it
didn't much matter what, but better of course if it was useful in
itself at the same time. Now I think I've got it. It's a plan for
giving them a personal interest, a money interest, in me and my
ideas. I'll go and say to them, "How is it you men never save any
money even when you could? I'll tell you: it's because the savings
would be so little that they don't seem worth while; you think you
might as well go and enjoy yourselves in the public-house while you
can. What's the use of laying up a few shillings? The money comes
and goes, and it's all in a life." Very well, then, I'll put my plan
before them. "Now look here," I'll say, "instead of spending so much
on beer and spirits, come to me and _let me keep your money for
you_!" They'll burst out laughing at me, and say, "Catch us doing
that!" Yes, but I'll persuade them, see if I don't. And in this way.
"Suppose," I'll say, "there's five hundred men bring me threepence
each every week. Now what man of you doesn't spend threepence a week
in drink, get the coppers how he may? Do you know how much that
comes to, five hundred threepenny bits? Why, it's six pounds five
shillings. And do you know what that comes to in a year? Why, no
less than three hundred and twenty-five pounds! Now just listen to
that, and think about it. Those threepenny bits are no use to you;
you _can't_ save them, and you spend them in a way that does you no
good, and it may be harm. Now what do you think I'll do with that
money? Why, I'll use it as the capitalists do. I'll put it out to
interest; I'll get three per cent. for it, and perhaps more. But
let's say three per cent. What's the result? Why, this: in one year
your three hundred and twenty-five pounds has become three hundred
and thirty-four pounds fifteen; I owe each of you thirteen shillings
and fourpence halfpenny, and a fraction more."'
He had already jotted down calculations, and read from them, looking
up between times at Adela with the air of conviction which he would
address to his audience of East Enders.
'"Now if you'd only saved the thirteen shillings--which you wouldn't
and couldn't have done by yourselves--it would be well worth the
while; but you've got the interest as well, and the point I want you
to understand is that you can only get that increase by clubbing
together and investing the savings as a whole. You may say fourpence
halfpenny isn't worth having. Perhaps not, but those of you who've
learnt arithmetic--be thankful if our social state allowed you to
learn anything--will remember that there's such a thing as compound
interest. It's a trick the capitalists found out. Interest was a
good discovery, but compound interest a good deal better. Leave your
money with me a second year, and it'll grow more still, I'll see to
that. You're all able, I've no doubt, to make the calculation for
He paused to see what Adela would say.
'No doubt it will be a very good thing if you can persuade them to
save in that way,' she remarked.
'Good, yes; but I'm not thinking so much of the money. Don't you see
that it'll give me a hold over them? Every man who wants to save on
my plan must join the Union. They'll come together regularly; I can
get at them and make them listen to me. Why, it's a magnificent
idea! It's fighting the capitalists with their own weapons! You'll
see what the "Tocsin" 'll say. Of course they'll make out that I'm
going against Socialist principles. So I am, but. it's for the sake
of Socialism for all that. If I make Socialists, it doesn't much
matter how I do it.'
Adela could have contested that point, but did not care to do so.
'Are you sure you can persuade the men to trust you with their
'That's the difficulty, I know; but see if I don't get over it. I'll
have a committee, holding themselves responsible for all sums paid
to us. I'll publish weekly accounts--just a leaflet, you know. And
do you know what? I'll promise that as soon as they've trusted me
with a hundred pounds, I'll add another hundred of my own. See if
that won't fetch them!'
As usual when he saw a prospect of noisy success he became excited
beyond measure, and talked incessantly till midnight.
'Other men don't have these ideas!' he exclaimed at one moment.
'That's what I meant when I told you I was born to be a leader. And
I've the secret of getting people's confidence. They'll trust me,
see if they don't!'
In spite of Adela's unbroken reserve, he had seldom been other than
cordial in his behaviour to her since the recommencement of his
prosperity. His active life gave him no time to brood over
suspicions, though his mind was not altogether free from them. He
still occasionally came home at hours when he could not be expected,
but Adela was always occupied either with housework or reading, and
received him with the cold self-possession which came of her
understanding his motives. Her life was lonely; since a visit they
had received from Alfred at the past Christmas she had seen no
friend. One day in spring Mutimer asked her if she did not wish to
see Mrs. Westlake; she replied that she had no desire to, and he
said nothing more. Stella did not write; she had ceased to do so
since receiving a certain lengthy letter from Adela, in which the
latter begged that their friendship might feed on silence for a
while. When the summer came there were pressing invitations from
Wanley, but Adela declined them. Alfred and his wife were going
again to South Wales; was it impossible for Adela to join them?
Letty wrote a letter full of affectionate pleading, but it was
In August, Mutimer proposed to take his wife for a week the Sussex
coast. He wanted a brief rest himself, and he saw that Adela was yet
more in need of change. She never complained of ill-health, but was
weak and pale. With no inducement to leave the house, it was much if
she had an hour's open-air exercise in the week; often the mere
exertion of rising and beginning the day was followed by a sick
languor which compelled her to lie all the afternoon on the couch.
She studied much, reading English and foreign books which required
mental exertion. They were rot works relating to the 'Social
Question'--far other. The volumes she used to study were a burden
and a loathing to her as often as her eyes fell upon them.
In her letters from Wanley there was never a word of what was going
on in the valley. Week after week she looked eagerly for some hint,
yet was relieved when she found none. For it had become her habit to
hand over to Mutimer every letter she received. He read them.
Shortly after their return from the seaside, 'Arry's term of
imprisonment came to an end. He went to his mother's house, and
Richard first saw him there. Punishment had had its usual effect;
'Arry was obstinately taciturn, conscious of his degradation,
inwardly at war with all his kind.
'There's only one thing I can do for you now,' his brother said to
him. 'I'll pay your passage to Australia. Then you must shift for
'Arry refused the offer.
'Give me the money instead,' was his reply.
Argument was vain; Richard and the old woman passed to entreaty, but
with as little result.
'Give me ten pounds and let me go about my business,' 'Arry
exclaimed irritably. 'I want no more from you, and you won't get any
good out o' me by jawin'.'
The money was of course refused, in the hope that a week or two
would change the poor fellow's mind. But two days after he went out
and did not return. Nothing was heard of him. Mrs. Mutimer sat late
every night, listening for a knock at the door. Sometimes she went
and stood on the steps, looking hither and thither in the darkness.
But 'Arry came no more to Wilton Square.
Mutimer had been pressing on his scheme for five months. Every night
he addressed a meeting somewhere or other in the East End; every
Sunday he lectured morning and evening at his head-quarters in
Clerkenwell. Ostensibly he was working on behalf of the Union, but
in reality he was forming a party of his own, and would have started
a paper could he have commanded the means. The 'Tocsin' was savagely
hostile, the 'Fiery Gross.' grew more and more academical, till it
was practically an organ of what is called in Germany
_Katheder-Sozialismus_. Those who wrote for it were quite distinct
from the agitators of the street and of the Socialist halls;
men--and women--with a turn for 'advanced' speculation, with anxiety
for style. At length the name of the paper was changed, and it
appeared as the 'Beacon,' adorned with a headpiece by the well-known
artist, Mr. Boscobel. Mutimer glanced through the pages and flung it
aside in scornful disgust.
'I knew what this was coming to,' he said to Adela 'A deal of good
_they_'ll do! You don't find Socialism in drawing rooms. I wonder
that fellow Westlake has the impudence to call himself a Socialist
at all, living in the way he does. Perhaps he thinks he'll be on the
safe side when the Revolution comes. Ha, ha! We shall see.'
The Revolution. . . . In the meantime the cry was 'Democratic
Capitalism.' That was the name Mutimer gave to his scheme! The
'Fiery Gross' had only noticed his work in a brief paragraph, a few
words of faint and vague praise. 'Our comrade's noteworthy exertions
in the East End. . . . The gain to temperance and self-respecting
habits which must surely result. . . .' The 'Beacon,' however, dealt
with the movement more fully, and on the whole in a friendly spirit.
'Damn their patronage!' cried Mutimer.
You should have seen him addressing a crowd collected by chance in
Hackney or Poplar. The slightest encouragement, even one name to
inscribe in the book which he carried about with him, was enough to
fire his eloquence; nay, it was enough to find himself standing on
his chair above the heads of the gathering. His voice had gained in
timbre; he grew more and more perfect in his delivery, like a
conscientious actor who plays night after night in a part that he
enjoys. And it was well that he had this inner support, this _brio_
of the born demagogue, for often enough he spoke under circumstances
which would have damped the zeal of any other man. The listeners
stood with their hands in their pockets, doubting whether to hear
him to the end or to take their wonted way to the public-house. One
moment their eyes would be fixed upon him, filmy, unintelligent,
then they would look at one another with a leer of cunning, or at
best a doubtful grin. Socialism, forsooth! They were as ready for
translation to supernal spheres. Yet some of them were attracted:
'percentage,' 'interest,' 'compound interest,' after all, there
might be something in this! And perhaps they gave their names and
their threepenny bits, engaging to make the deposit regularly on the
day and at the place arranged for in Mutimer's elaborate scheme.
What is there a man cannot get if he asks for it boldly and
The year had come full circle; it was time that Mutimer received
another remittance from his anonymous supporter. He needed it, for
he had been laying out money without regard to the future. Not only
did he need it for his own support; already he and his committee
held sixty pounds of trust money, and before long he might be called
upon to fulfil his engagement and contribute a hundred pounds--the
promised hundred which had elicited more threepences than all the
rest of his eloquence. A week, a month, six weeks, and he had heard
nothing. Then there came one day a communication couched in legal
terms, signed by a solicitor. It was to the effect that his
benefactor--name and address given in full--had just died. The
decease was sudden, and though the draft of a will had been
discovered, it had no signature, and was consequently inoperative.
But--pursued the lawyer--it having been the intention of the
deceased to bequeath to Mutimer an annuity of five hundred pounds
for nine years, the administrators were unwilling altogether to
neglect their friend's wish, and begged to make an offer of the. one
year's payment which it seemed was already due. For more than that
they could not hold themselves responsible.
Before speaking to Adela, Mutimer made searching inquiries. He went
to the Midland town where his benefactor had lived, and was only too
well satisfied of the truth of what had been told him. He came back
with his final five hundred pounds.
Then he informed his wife of what had befallen. He was not cheerful,
but with five hundred pounds in his pocket he could not be
altogether depressed. What might not happen in a year? He was
becoming prominent; there had been mention of him lately in London
journals. Pooh! as if he would ever really want!
'The great thing,' he exclaimed, 'is that I can lay down the hundred
pounds! If I'd failed in that it would have been all up. Come, now,
why can't you give me a bit of encouragement, Adela? I tell you what
it is. There's no place where I'm thought so little of as in my own
home, and that's a fact.'
She did not worship him, she made no pretence of it. Her cold, pale
beauty had not so much power over him as formerly, but it still
chagrined him keenly as often as he was reminded that he had no high
place in his wife's judgment. He knew well enough that it was
impossible. for her to: admire him; he was conscious of the thousand
degrading things he had said and done, every one of them stored. in
her memory. Perhaps not once since that terrible day in the
Pentonville lodgings had he looked her straight in the eyes. Yes,
her beauty appealed to him less than even a year ago; Adela knew it,
and it was the one solace in her living death. Perhaps occasion
could again have stung him into jealousy, but Adela was no longer a
vital interest in his existence. He lived in external things, his
natural life. Passion had been an irregularity in his development.
Yet he would gladly have had his wife's sympathy. He neither loved
nor hated her, but she was for ever above him, and, however
unconsciously, he longed. for her regard. Irreproachable, reticent,
it might be dying, Adela would no longer affect interests she did
not feel. To these present words of his she replied only with a
grave, not unkind, look; a look he could not under stand, yet which
humbled rather than irritated him.
The servant opened the door and announced a visitor--'Mr. Hilary.'
Mutimer seemed struck with a thought as he heard the name.
'The very man!' he exclaimed below his breath, with a glance at
Adela. 'Just run off and let us have this room. My luck won't desert
me, see if it does!'
Mr. Willis Rodman scarcely relished the process which deprived him
of his town house and of the greater part of his means, but his
exasperation happily did not seek vent for itself in cruelty to his
wife. It might very well have done so, would all but certainly, had
not Alice appealed to his sense of humour by her zeal in espousing
his cause against her brother. That he could turn her round his
finger was an old experience, but to see her spring so actively to
arms on his behalf, when he was conscious that she had every excuse
for detesting him, and even abandoning him, struck him as a highly
comical instance of his power over women, a power on which he had
always prided himself. He could not even explain it as self-interest
in her; numberless things proved the contrary. Alice was still his
slave, though he had not given himself the slightest trouble to
preserve even her respect. He had shown himself to her freely as he
was, jocosely cynical on everything that women prize, brutal when he
chose to give way to his temper, faithless on principle, selfish to
the core; perhaps the secret of the fascination he exercised over
her was his very ingenuousness, his boldness in defying fortune, his
clever grasp of circumstances. She said to him one day, when he had
been telling her that as likely as not she might have to take in
washing or set up a sewing-machine:
'I am not afraid. You can always get money. There's nothing you
'That may be true. But how if I disappear some day and leave you to
take care of yourself?'
He had often threatened this in his genial way, and it never failed
to blanch her cheeks.
'If you do that,' she said, 'I shall kill myself.'
At which he laughed yet more loudly.
In her house at Wimbledon she perished of _ennui_, for she was as
lonely as Adela in Holloway. Much lonelier; she had no resources in
herself. Rodman was away all day in London, and very often he did
not return at night; when the latter was the case, Alice cried
miserably in her bed for hours, so that the next morning her face
was like that of a wax doll that has suffered ill-usage. She had an
endless supply of novels, and day after day bent over them till her
head ached. Poor Princess! She had had her own romance, in its way
brilliant and strange enough, but only the rags of it were left. She
clung to them, she hoped against hope that they would yet recover
their gloss and shimmer. If only he would not so neglect her! All
else affected her but little now that she really knew what it meant
to see her husband utterly careless, not to be held by any pettings
or entreaties. She heard through him of her brother 'Arry's
disgrace; it scarcely touched her. Her brother Richard she was never
tired of railing against, railed so much, indeed, that it showed she
by no means hated him as much as she declared. But nothing would
have mattered if only her husband had cared for her.
She had once said to Adela that she disliked children and hoped
never to have any. It was now her despair that she remained
childless. Perhaps that was why he had lost all affection?
In the summer Rodman once quitted her for nearly three weeks, during
which she only heard from him once. He was in Ireland, and, he
asserted, on business. The famous 'Irish Dairy Company,' soon to
occupy a share of public attention, was getting itself on foot. It
was Rodman who promoted the company and who became its secretary,
though the name of that functionary in all printed matter appeared
as 'Robert Delancey.' However, I only mention it for the present to
explain our friend's absence in Ireland. Alice often worked herself
up to a pitch of terror lest her husband had fulfilled his threat
and really deserted her. He returned when it suited him to do so,
and tortured her with a story of a wealthy Irish widow who had
fallen desperately in love with him.
'And I've a good mind to marry her,' he added with an air of serious
reflection. Of course I didn't let her know my real name. I could
manage it very nicely, and you would never know anything about it; I
should remit you all the money you wanted, you needn't be afraid.'
Alice tried to assume a face of stony indignation, but as usual she
ended by breaking down and shedding tears. Then he told her that she
was getting plainer than ever, and that it all came of her perpetual
Alice hit upon a brilliant idea. What if she endeavoured to make him
jealous? In spite of her entreaties, he never would take her to
town, though he saw that she was perishing for lack of amusement.
Suppose she made him believe that she had gone on her own account,
and at the invitation of someone whose name she would not divulge? I
believe she found the trick in one of her novels. The poor child
went to work most conscientiously. One morning when he came down to
breakfast she pretended to have been reading a letter, crushed an
old envelope into her pocket on his entering the room, and affected
confusion. He observed her.
'Had a letter?' he asked.
'Yes--no. Nothing of any importance.'
He smiled and applied himself to the ham, then left her in his
ordinary way, without a word of courtesy, and went to town. She had
asked him particularly when he should be back that night He named
the train, which reached Wimbledon a little after ten.
They had only one servant. Alice took the girl into her confidence,
said she was going to play a trick, and it must not be spoilt. By
ten o'clock at night she was dressed for going out, and when she
heard her husband's latch-key at the front door she slipped out at
the back. It was her plan to walk about the roads for half an hour,
then to enter and--make the best of the situation.
Rodman, unable to find his wife, summoned the servant.
'Where is your mistress?'
He examined the girl shrewdly, with his eyes and with words. It was
perfectly true that women--of a kind--could not resist him. In the
end he discovered exactly what had happened. He laughed his wonted
laugh of cynical merriment.
'Go to bed,' he said to the servant. 'And if you hear anyone at the
door, pay no attention.'
Then he locked up the house, front and back, and, having
extinguished all lights except a small lantern by which he could
read in the sitting-room without danger of its being discerned from
outside, sat down with a sense of amusement. Presently there came a
ring at the bell; it was repeated again and again. The month was
October, the night decidedly cool. Rodman chuckled to himself; he
had a steaming glass of whisky before him and sipped it delicately.
The ringing continued for a quarter of an hour, then five minutes
passed, and no sound came. Rodman stepped lightly to the front door,
listened, heard nothing, unlocked and opened. Alice was standing m
the middle of the road, her hands crossed over her breast and
holding her shoulders as though she suffered from the cold. She came
forward and entered the house without speaking.
In the sitting-room she found the lantern and looked at her husband
in surprise. His face was stern.
'What's all this?' he asked sharply.
'I've been to London,' she answered, her teeth chattering with cold
and her voice uncertain from fear.
'Been to London? And what business had you to go without telling
He spoke savagely. Alice was sinking with dread, but even yet had
sufficient resolve to keep up the comedy.
'I had an invitation. I don't see why I shouldn't go. I don't ask
you who you go about with.'
The table was laid for supper. Rodman darted to it, seized a
carving-knife, and in an instant was holding it to her throat. She
shrieked and fell upon her knees, her face ghastly with mortal
terror. Then Rodman burst out laughing and showed that his anger had
She had barely strength to rise, but at length stood before him
trembling and sobbing, unable to believe that he had not been in
'You needn't explain the trick,' he said, with the appearance of
great good-humour, 'but just tell me why you played it. Did you
think I should believe you were up to something queer, eh?'
'You must think what you like,' she sobbed, utterly humiliated.
He roared with laughter.
'What a splendid idea! The Princess getting tired of propriety and
making appointments in London! Little fool! do you think I should
care one straw? Why shouldn't you amuse yourself?'
Alice looked at him with eyes of wondering misery.
'Do you mean that you don't care enough for me to--to--'
'Don't care one farthing's worth! And to think you went and walked
about in the mud and the east wind! Well, if that isn't the best
joke I ever heard! I'll have a rare laugh over this story with some
men I know to-morrow.'
She crept away to her bedroom. He had gone far towards killing the
love that had known no rival in her heart.
He bantered her ceaselessly through breakfast next morning, and for
the first time she could find no word to reply to him. Her head
drooped; she touched nothing on the table. Before going off he asked
her what the appointment was for to-day, and advised her not to
forget her latch-key. Alice scarcely heard him, she was
shame-stricken and wobegone.
Rodman, on the other hand, had never been in better spirits. The
'Irish Dairy Company' was attracting purchasers of shares. It was
the kind of scheme which easily recommended itself to a host of the
foolish people who are ever ready to risk their money, also to some
not quite so foolish. The prospectus could show some respectable
names: one or two Irish lords, a member of Parliament, some known
capitalists. The profits could not but be considerable, and think of
the good to 'the unhappy sister country'--as the circular said.
Butter, cheese, eggs of unassailable genuineness, to be sold in
England at absurdly low prices, yet still putting the producers on a
footing of comfort and proud independence. One of the best ideas
that had yet occurred to Mr. Robert Delancey.
He--the said Mr. Delancey, _alias_ Mr. Willis Rodman, _alias_
certain other names--spent much of his time just now in the society
of a Mr. Hilary, a gentleman who, like himself, had seen men and
manners in various quarters of the globe, and was at present making
a tolerable income by the profession of philanthropy. Mr. Hilary's
name appeared among the directors of the company; it gave confidence
to many who were familiar with it in connection with not a few
enterprises started for the benefit of this or that depressed
nationality, this or the other exploited class. He wrote frequently
to the newspapers on the most various subjects; he was known to
members of Parliament through his persistent endeavours to obtain
legislation with regard to certain manufactures proved to be gravely
deleterious to the health of those employed in them. To-day Mr.
Delancey and Mr. Hilary passed some hours together in the latter's
chambers. Their talk was of the company.
'So you saw Mutimer about it?' Rodman asked, turning to a detail in
which he was specially interested.
'Yes. He is anxious to have shares.'
Mr. Hilary was a man of past middle age, long-bearded, somewhat
cadaverous of hue. His head was venerable.
'You were careful not to mention me?'
'I kept your caution in mind.'
Their tone to each other was one of perfect gravity. Mr. Hilary even
went out of his way to choose becoming phrases.
'He won't have anything to do with it if he gets to know who R.
'I was prudent, believe me. I laid before him the aspects of the
undertaking which would especially interest him. I made it clear to
him that our enterprise is no less one of social than of commercial
importance; he entered into our views very heartily. The first time
I saw him, I merely invited him to glance over our prospectus;
yesterday he was more than willing to join our association--and
share our profits.'
'Did he tell you how much he'd got out of those poor devils over
'A matter of sixty pounds, I gathered. I am not a little astonished
at his success.'
'Oh, he'd talk the devil himself into subscribing to a mission if it
suited him to try.'
'He is clearly very anxious to get the highest interest possible for
his money. His ideas on business seemed, I confess, rather vague. I
did my best to help him with suggestions.'
'He talked of taking some five hundred pounds' worth of shares on
his own account.'
The men regarded each other. Rodman's lips curled; Mr. Hilary was as
grave as ever.
'You didn't balk him?'
'I commended his discretion.'
Rodman could not check a laugh.
'I am serious,' said Mr. Hilary. 'It may take a little time, but--'
'Just so. Did he question you at all about what we were doing?'
'A good deal. He said he should go and look over the Stores in the
'By all means. He's a clever man if he distinguishes between Irish
butter and English butterine--I'm sure I couldn't. And things really
are looking up at the Stores?'
'By-the-by, I had rather a nasty letter from Lord Mountorry
yesterday. He's beginning to ask questions: wants to know when we're
going to conclude our contract with that tenant of his--I've
forgotten the fellow's name.'
'Well, that must be looked into. There's perhaps no reason why the
contract should not be concluded. Little by little we may come to
justify our name; who knows? In the meantime, we at all events do a
_bona fide_ business.'
Rodman had a good deal of business on hand besides that which arose
from his connection with Irish dairies. If Alice imagined him
strolling at his ease about the fashionable lounges of the town, she
was much mistaken. He worked hard and enjoyed his work, on the sole
condition that he was engaged in overreaching someone. This
flattered his humour.
He could not find leisure to dine till nearly nine o'clock. He had
made up his mind not to return to Wimbledon, but to make use of a
certain _pied-a-terre_ which he had in Pimlico. His day's work
ended in Westminster, he dined at a restaurant with a friend.
Afterwards billiards were proposed. They entered a house which
Rodman did not know, and were passing before the bar to go to the
billiard-room, when a man who stood there taking refreshment called
out, 'Hollo, Rodman!' To announce a man's name in this way is a
decided breach of etiquette in the world to which Rodman belonged.
He looked annoyed, and would have passed on, but his acquaintance,
who had perhaps exceeded the limits of modest refreshment, called
him again and obliged him to approach the bar. As he did so Rodman
happened to glance at the woman who stood ready to fulfil the
expected order. The glance was followed by a short but close
scrutiny, after which he turned his back and endeavoured by a sign
to draw his two acquaintances away. But at the same moment the
barmaid addressed him.
'What is yours, Mr. Rodman?'
He shrugged his shoulders, muttered a strong expression, and turned
round again. The woman met his look steadily. She was perhaps
thirty, rather tall, with features more refined than her position
would have led one to expect. Her figure was good but meagre; her
cheeks were very thin, and the expression of her face, not quite
amiable at any time, was at present almost fierce. She seemed about
to say something further, but restrained herself.
Rodman recovered his good temper.
'How do, Clara?' he said, keeping his eye fixed on hers. 'I'll have
a drop of absinthe, if you please.'
Then he pursued his conversation with the two men. The woman, having
served them, disappeared. Rodman kept looking for her. In a few
minutes he pretended to recollect an engagement and succeeded in
going off alone. As he issued on to the pavement he found himself
confronted by the barmaid, who now wore a hat and cloak.
'Well?' he said, carelessly.
'Rodman's your name, is it?' was the reply.
'To my particular friends. Let's walk on; we can't chat here very
'What is to prevent me from calling that policeman and giving you in
charge?' she asked, looking into his face with a strange mixture of
curiosity and anger.
'Nothing, except that you have no charge to make against me. The law
isn't so obliging as all that. Come, we'll take a walk.'
She moved along by his side.
'You coward!' she exclaimed, passionately but with none of the
shrieking virulence of women who like to make a scene in the street.
'You mean, contemptible, cold-blooded man! I suppose you hoped I was
starved to death by this time, or in the workhouse, or--what did
_you_ care where I was! I knew I should find you some day.'
'I rather supposed you would stay on the other side of the water,'
Rodman remarked, glancing at her. 'You're changed a good deal. Now
it's a most extraordinary thing. Not so very long ago I was dreaming
about you, and you were serving at a bar--queer thing, wasn't it?'
They were walking towards Whitehall. When they came at length into
an ill-lighted and quiet spot, the woman stopped.
'Where do you live?' she asked.
'Live? Oh, just out here in Pimlico. Like to see my rooms?'
'What do you mean by talking to me like that? Do you make a joke of
deserting your wife and child for seven years, leaving them without
a penny, going about enjoying yourself, when, for anything you knew,
they were begging their bread? You always were heartless--it was the
blackest day of my life that I met you; and you ask me if I'd like
to see your rooms! What thanks to you that I'm not as vile a
creature as there is in London? How was I to support myself and the
child? What was I to do when they turned me into the streets of New
York because I couldn't pay what you owed them nor the rent of a
room to sleep in? You took good care _you_ never went hungry. I'd
only one thing to hold me up: I was an honest woman, and I made up
my mind I'd keep honest, though I had such a man as you for my
husband. I've hungered and worked, and I've made a living for myself
and my child as best I could. I'm not like you: I've done nothing to
disgrace myself. Now I will slave no more. You won't run away from
me this time. Leave me for a single night, and I go to the nearest
police-station and tell all I know about you. If I wasn't a fool I'd
do it now. But I've hungered and worked for seven years, and now
it's time _my husband_ did something for me.'
'You always had a head for argument, Clara,' he replied coolly. 'But
I can't get over that dream of mine. Really a queer thing, wasn't
it? Who'd have thought of you turning barmaid? With your education,
I should have thought you could have done something in the teaching
line. Never mind. The queerest thing of all is that I'm really half
glad to see you. How's Jack?'
The extraordinary conversation went on as they walked towards the
street where Clara lived. It was in a poor part of Westminster.
Reaching the house, Clara opened the door with a latchkey.
Two women were standing in the passage.
'This is my husband, Mrs. Rook,' Clara said to one of them. 'He's
just got back from abroad.'
'Glad to see you, Mr. Williamson,' said the landlady, scrutinising
him with unmistakable suspicion.
The pair ascended the stairs, and Mrs. Williamson--she had always
used the name she received in marriage--opened a door which
disclosed a dark bedroom. A voice came from within--the voice of a
little lad of eight years old.
'That you, mother? Why, I've only just put myself to bed. What time
'Then you ought to have gone to bed long ago,' replied his mother
whilst she was striking a light.
It was a very small room, but decent. The boy was discovered sitting
up in bed--a bright-faced little fellow with black hair. Clara
closed the door, then turned and looked at her husband. The light
made a glistening appearance on her eyes; she had become silent,
allowing facts to speak for themselves.
The child stared at the stranger in astonishment.
'Who are you?' he asked at length.
Rodman laughed as heartily as if there had been nothing disagreeable
in the situation.
'I have the honour to be your father, sir,' he replied. 'You're a
fine boy, Jack--a deuced fine boy.'
The child was speechless. Rodman turned to the mother. Her hands
held the rail at the foot of the bed, and as the boy looked up at
her for explanation she let her face fall upon them and sobbed.
'If you're father come back,' exclaimed Jack indignantly, 'why do
you make mother cry?'
Rodman was still mirthful.
'I like you, Jack,' he said. 'You'll make a man some day. Do you
mind if I smoke a cigar, Clara?'
To his astonishment, he felt a weakness which had to be resisted;
tobacco suggested itself as a resource. When he had struck a light,
his wife forced back her tears and seated herself with an
Rodman began to chat pleasantly as he smoked.
Decidedly it was a _contretemps_. It introduced a number of
difficulties into his life. If he remained away for a night, he had
little doubt that his wife would denounce him; she knew of several
little matters which he on the whole preferred to be reticent about.
She was not a woman like Alice, to be turned round his finger. It
behoved him to be exceedingly cautious.
He had three personalities. As Mr. Willis Rodman his task was
comparatively a light one, at all events for the present. He merely
informed Alice by letter that he was kept in town by business and
would see her in the course of a week. It was very convenient that
Alice had no intercourse with her relatives. Secondly, as Mr.
Williamson his position was somewhat more difficult. Not only had he
to present himself every night at the rooms he had taken in Brixton,
but it was necessary to take precautions lest his abode should be
discovered by those who might make awkward use of the knowledge. He
had, moreover, to keep Clara in the dark as to his real occupations
and prevent her from knowing his resorts in town. Lastly, as Mr.
Robert Delancey he had to deal with matters of a very delicate
nature indeed, in themselves quite enough to occupy a man's mental
energy. But our friend was no ordinary man. If you are not as yet
satisfied of that, it will ere long be made abundantly clear to you.
His spirits were as high as ever. When he said--with an ingenious
brutality all his own--that he was more than half glad to see his
wife, he, for a wonder, told the truth. But perhaps it was little
Jack who gave him most pleasure, and did .most to reconcile him to
the difficulties of his situation. In a day or two be conquered the
child's affections so completely that Jack seemed to care little for
his mother in comparison; Jack could not know the hardships she had
endured for his sake. Rodman--so we will continue to call him for
convenience' sake--already began to talk of what he would make the
lad, who certainly gave promise of parts. The result of this was
that for a week or two our friend became an exemplary family man.
His wife almost dared to believe that her miseries were over. Yet
she watched him with lynx eyes.
The 'Irish Dairy Company' flourished. Rodman rubbed his hands with a
sinister satisfaction when he inscribed among the shareholders the
name of Richard Mutimer, who invested all the money he had collected
from the East-Enders, and three hundred pounds of his own--not five
hundred, as he had at first thought of doing. Mutimer had the
consent of his committee, whom he persuaded without much
difficulty--the money was not theirs--that by this means he would
increase his capital beyond all expectation. He told Adela what he
'There's not the least risk. They've got the names of several lords!
And it isn't a mere commercial undertaking: the first object is to
benefit the Irish; so that there can be nothing against my
principles in it. They promise a dividend of thirty per cent. What a
glorious day it will be when I tell the people what I have made of
their money! Now confess that it isn't everyone could have hit on
Of course he made no public announcement of his speculation: that
would have been to spoil the surprise. But he could not refrain from
talking a good deal about the Company to his friends. He explained
with zeal the merit of the scheme; it was dealing directly with the
producers, the poor small-farmers who could never get fair
treatment. He saw a great deal of Mr. Hilary, who was vastly
interested in his East-End work. A severe winter had begun.
Threepenny bits came in now but slowly, and Mutimer exerted himself
earnestly to relieve the growing want in what he called his
'parishes.' He began in truth to do some really good work, moving
heaven and earth to find employment for those long out of it, and
even bestowing money of his own. At night he would return to
Holloway worn out, and distress Adela with descriptions of the
misery he had witnessed.
'I'm not sorry for it,' he once exclaimed. 'I cannot be sorry. Let
things get worse and worse the mending'll be all the nearer. Why
don't they march in a body to the West End? I don't mean march in a
violent sense, though that'll have to come, I expect. But why don't
they make a huge procession and go about the streets in an orderly
way--just to let it be seen what their numbers are--just to give
the West End a hint? I'll propose that one of these days. It'll be a
risky business, but we can't think of that when thousands are half
starving. I could lead them, I feel sure I could! It wants someone
with authority over them, and I think I've got that. There's no
telling what I may do yet. I say, Adela, bow would it sound--
"Richard Mutimer, First President of the English Republic"?'
And in the meantime Alice sat in her house at Wimbledon, abandoned.
The solitude seemed to be driving her mad. Rodman came down very
occasionally for a few hours in the daytime, but never passed a
night with her. He told her he had a great affair on hand, a very
great affair, which was to make their fortunes ten times over. She
must be patient; women couldn't understand business. If she resisted
his coaxing and grumbled, he always had his threat ready. He would
realise his profits and make off, leaving her in the lurch. Weeks
became months. In pique at the betrayal of her famous stratagem,
Alice had wanted to dismiss her servant, but Rodman objected to
this. She was driven by desperation to swallow her pride and make a
companion of the girl. But she did not complain to her of her
husband--partly out of self-respect, partly because she was afraid
to. Indeed it was a terrible time for the poor Princess. She spent
the greater part of every day in a state of apathy; for the rest she
wept. Many a time she was on the point of writing to Richard, but
could not quite bring herself to that. She could not leave the
house, for it rained or snowed day after day; the sun seemed to have
deserted the heavens as completely as joy her life. She grew
feeble-minded, tried to amuse herself with childish games, played
'Beggar My Neighbour' with the servant for hours at night. She had
fits of hysteria, and terrified her sole companion with senseless
laughter, or with alarming screams. Reading she was no longer story.
And her glass--as well as her husband--told her that equal to; after
a few pages she lost her understanding of a she suffered daily in
her appearance. Her hair was falling; she one day told the servant
that she would soon have to buy a wig. Poor Alice! And she had not
even the resource of railing against the social state. What a pity
she had never studied that subject!
So the time went on till February of the new year. Alice's release
was at hand.
'Arry Mutimer, not long after he left his mother's house for good,
by chance met Rodman in the City. Presuming on old acquaintance, he
accosted the man of business with some familiarity; it was a chance
of getting much-needed assistance once more. But Rodman was not
disposed to renew the association He looked into 'Arry's face with a
blank stare, asked contemptuously, 'Who are you?' and pursued his
'Arry hoped that he might some day have a chance of being even with
As indeed he had. One evening towards the end of February, 'Arry was
loafing about Brixton. He knew a certain licensed victualler in
those parts, a man who had ere now given him casual employment, and
after a day of fasting he trudged southwards to see if his friend
would not at all events be good for a glass of beer and a hunch of
bread and cheese. Perhaps he might also supply the coppers to pay
for a bed in the New Cut. To his great disappointment, the worthy
victualler was away from home; the victualler's wife had no
charitable tendencies. 'Arry whined to her, but only got for an
answer that times was as 'ard with her as with anyone else. The
representative of unemployed labour went his way despondently, hands
thrust deep in pockets, head slouching forwards, shoulders high up
against the night blast.
He was passing a chemist's shop, when a customer came out He
recognised Rodman. After a moment's uncertainty he made up his mind
to follow him, wondering how Rodman came to be in this part of
London. Keeping at a cautious distance, he saw him stop at a small
house and enter it by aid of a latchkey.
'Why, he lives there!' 'Arry exclaimed to himself. 'What's the
meanin' o' this go?'
Rodman, after all, had seriously come down in the world, then. It
occurred to 'Arry that he might do worse than pay his sister a
visit; Alice could not be hard-hearted enough to refuse him a few
coppers. But the call must be made at an hour when Rodman was away.
Presumably that would be some time after eight in the morning.
Our unconventional friend walked many miles that night. It was one
way of keeping warm, and there was always a possibility of aid from
one or other of the acquaintances whom he sought. The net result of
the night's campaign was half-a-pint of 'four-half.' The front of a
draper's shop in Kennington tempted him sorely; he passed it many
times, eyeing the rolls of calico and flannel exposed just outside
the doorway. But either courage failed him or there was no really
good opportunity. Midnight found him still without means of retiring
to that familiar lodging in the New Cut. At half-past twelve sleet
began to fall. He discovered a very dark corner of a very dark slum,
curled himself against the wall, and slept for a few hours in
defiance of wind and weather.
'Arry was used to this kind of thing. On the whole he deemed it
preferable to the life he would have led at his mother's.
By eight o'clock next morning he was back in Brixton, standing just
where he could see the house which Rodman had entered, without
himself attracting attention. Every rag on his back was soaked; he
had not eaten a mouthful for thirty hours. After such a run of bad
luck perhaps something was about to turn up.
But it was ten o'clock before Rodman left home. 'Arry had no feeling
left in any particle of his body. Still here at length was the
opportunity of seeing Alice. He waited till Rodman was out of sight,
then went to the door and knocked.
It was Clara who opened the door. Seeing 'Arry, she took him for a
beggar, shook her head, and was closing the door against him, when
'Is Mrs. Rodman in, mum?'
Clara's eyes flashed as they searched his face.
'What do you want with Mrs. Rodman?'
'Want to see her, mum.'
'Do you know her when you see her?'
'Sh' think I do,' replied 'Arry with a grin. But he thought it
prudent to refrain from explanation.
'How do you know she lives here?'
''Cause I just see her 'usband go out.'
Clara hesitated a moment, then bade him enter. She introduced him to
a parlour on the ground floor. He stood looking uneasily about him.
The habits of his life made him at all times suspicious.
'Mrs. Rodman doesn't live here,' Clara began, lowering her voice and
making a great effort to steady it.
'Oh, she don't?' replied 'Arry, beginning to discern that something
'Can you tell me what you want with her?'
He looked her in the eyes and again grinned.
'Dare say I could if it was made worth my while.'
She took a purse from her pocket and laid half-a-crown on the table.
Her hand shook.
'I can't afford more than that. You shall have it if you tell me the
'Arry took counsel with himself for an instant. Probably there was
no more to be got, and he saw from the woman's agitation that he had
come upon some mystery. The chance of injuring Rodman was more to
him than several half-crowns.
'I won't ask more,' he said, 'if you'll tell me who _you_ are.
That's fair on both sides, eh?'
'My name is Mrs. Williamson.'
'Oh? And might it 'appen that Mr. Rodman calls himself Mr.
Williamson when it suits him?'
'I don't know what you mean,' she replied hurriedly. 'Tell me who it
is you call Mrs. Rodman.'
'I don't _call_ her so. That's her married name. She's my sister.'
The door opened. Both turned their heads and saw Rodman. He had come
back for a letter he had forgotten to take with him to post At a
glance he saw everything, including the half-crown on the table,
which 'Arry instantly seized. He walked forward, throwing a
murderous look at Clara as he passed her. Then he said to 'Arry, in
a perfectly calm voice--
'There's the door.'
'I see there is,' the other replied, grinning. 'Good-mornin', Mr.
Husband and wife faced each other as soon as the front door slammed.
Clara was a tigress; she could not be terrified as Alice might have
been by scowls and savage threats. Rodman knew it, and knew,
moreover, that his position was more perilous than any he had been
in for a long time.
'What do you know?' he asked quietly.
'Enough to send you to prison, Mr. Rodman. You can't do _quite_ what
you like! If there's law in this country I'll see you punished!'
He let her rave for a minute or two, and by that time had laid his
'Will you let me speak? Now I give you a choice. Either you can do
as you say, or you can be out of this country, with me and Jack,
before to-morrow morning. In a couple of hours I can get more money
than you ever set eyes on; I'll be back here with it'--he looked at
his watch--'by one o'clock. No, that wouldn't be safe either--that
fellow might send someone here by then. I'll meet you on Westminster
Bridge, the north end, at one. Now you've a minute to choose; he may
have gone straight away to the police station. Punish me if you
like--I don't care a curse. But it seems to me the other thing's got
more common sense in it I haven't seen that woman for a month, and
never care to see her again. I don't care over much for you either;
but I do care for Jack, and for his sake I'll take you with me, and
do my best for you. It's no good looking at me like a wild beast
You've sense enough to make a choice.'
She clasped her hands together and moaned, so dreadful was the
struggle in her between passions and temptations and fears. The
mother's heart bade her trust him; yet _could_ she trust him to go
'You have the cunning of a devil,' she groaned, 'and as little
heart! Let you go, when you only want the chance of deserting me
'You'll have to be quick,' he replied, holding his watch in his
hand, and smiling at the compliment in spite of his very real
anxiety. 'There may be no choice in a minute or two.'
'I'll go with you now; I'll follow you where you go to get the
'No, you won't. Either you trust me or you refuse. You've a free
choice, Clara. I tell you plainly I want little Jack, and I'm not
going to lose him if I can help it.'
'Have you any other children?'
At least he had not been deceiving her in the matter of Jack. She
knew that he had constantly come home at early hours only for the
sake of playing with the boy.
'I'll go with you. No one shall see that I'm following you.'
'It's impossible. I shall have to go post haste in a cab. I've
half-a-dozen places to go to. Meet me on Westminster Bridge at one.
I may be a few minutes later, but certainly not more than
He went to the window and looked uneasily up and down the street.
Clara pressed her hands upon her head and stared at him like one
'Where is she?' came from her involuntarily.
'Don't be a fool, woman!' he replied, walking to the door. She
sprang to hold him. Instead of repulsing her, he folded his arm
about her waist and kissed her lips two or three times.
'I can get thousands of pounds,' he whispered. 'We'll be off before
they have a trace. It's for Jack's sake, and I'll be kind to you as
well, old woman.'
She had suffered him to go; the kisses made her powerless, reminding
her of a long-past dream. A moment after she rushed to the house
door, but only to see him turning the corner of the street Then she
flew to the bedroom. Jack was ill of a cold--she was nursing him in
bed. But now she dressed him hurriedly, as if there were scarcely
time to get to Westminster by the appointed hour. All was ready
before eleven o'clock, but it was now raining, and she durst not
wait with the child in the open air for longer than was necessary.
But all at once the fear possessed her lest the police might come to
the house and she be detained. Ignorant of the law, and convinced
from her husband's words that the stranger in rags had some sinister
aim, she no sooner conceived the dread than she bundled into a
hand-bag such few articles as it would hold and led the child
hastily from the house. They walked to a tramway-line and had soon
reached Westminster Bridge. But it was not half-past eleven, and the
rain descended heavily. She sought a small eating-house not far from
the Abbey, and by paying for some coffee and bread-and-butter, which
neither she nor Jack could touch, obtained leave to sit in shelter
till one o'clock.
At five minutes to the hour she rose and hurried to the north end of
the bridge, and stood there, aside from the traffic, shielding
little Jack as much as she could with her umbrella, careless that
her own clothing was getting wet through. Big Ben boomed its one
stroke. Minute after minute passed, and her body seemed still to
quiver from the sound. She was at once feverishly hot and so deadly
chill that her teeth clattered together; her eyes throbbed with the
intensity of their gaze into the distance. The quarter-past was
chimed. Jack kept talking to her, but she could hear nothing. The
rain drenched her; the wind was so high that she with difficulty
held the umbrella above the child. Half-past, and no sign of her
husband. . . .
She durst not go away from this spot Her eyes were blind with tears.
A policeman spoke to her; she could only chatter meaningless sounds
between her palsied lips. Jack coughed incessantly, begged to be
taken home. 'I'm so cold, mother, so cold!' 'Only a few minutes
more,' she said. He began to cry, though a brave little soul. . . .
Four o'clock struck.
From Brixton our unconventional friend betook himself straight to
Holloway. Having, as he felt sure, the means of making things
decidedly uncomfortable for Mr. Rodman Williamson, it struck him
that the eftest way would be to declare at once to his brother
Richard all he knew and expected; Dick would not be slow in
bestirring himself to make Rodman smart 'Arry was without false
shame; he had no hesitation in facing his brother. But Mr. Mutimer,
he was told, was not at home. Then he would see Mrs. Mutimer. But
the servant was indisposed to admit him, or even to trouble her
mistress. 'Arry had to request her to say that 'Mr. 'Enery Mutimer'
desired to see the lady of the house. He chuckled to see the
astonishment produced by his words. Thus he got admittance to Adela.
She was shocked at the sight of him, could find no words, yet gave
him her hand. He told her he wished to see his brother on very
particular business. But Richard would not be back before eight
o'clock in the evening, and it was impossible to say where he could
be found. 'Arry would not tell Adela what brought him, only assured
her that it had nothing to do with his own affairs. He would call
again in the evening. Adela felt inhuman in allowing him to go out
into the rain, but she could not risk giving displeasure to her
husband by inviting 'Arry to stay.
He came again at half-past eight. Mutimer had been home nearly an
hour and was expecting him. 'Arry lost no time in coming to the
'He's married that other woman, I could see that much. Go and see
for yourself. She give me 'alf-a-crown to tell all about him. I'm
only afraid he's got off by this time.'
'Why didn't you go and give information to the police at once?'
Mutimer cried, in exasperation.
'Arry might have replied that he had a delicacy in waiting upon
those gentlemen. But his brother did not stay for an answer. Rushing
from the room, he equipped himself instantly with hat, coat, and
'Show me the way to that house. Come along, there's no time to lose.
Adela!' he called, 'I have to go out; can't say when I shall be
back. Don't sit up if I'm late.'
A hansom bore the brothers southwards as fast as hansom could go.
They found Clara in the house, a haggard, frenzied woman. Already
she had been to the police, but they were not inclined to hurry
matters; she had no satisfactory evidence to give them. To Mutimer,
when he had explained his position, she told everything--of her
marriage in London nine years ago, her going with her husband to
America, his desertion of her. Richard took her at once to the
police-station. They would have to attend at the court next morning
to swear an information.
By ten o'clock Mutimer was at Waterloo, taking train for Wimbledon.
At Rodman's house he found darkness, but a little ringing brought
Alice herself to the door. She thought it was her husband, and, on
recognising Richard, all but dropped with fear; only some ill news
could explain his coming thus. With difficulty he induced her to go
into a room out of the hall. She was in her dressing-gown, her long
beautiful hair in disorder, her pretty face white and distorted.
'What is it, Dick? what is it, Dick?' she kept repeating
mechanically, with inarticulate moanings between. She had forgotten
her enmity against her brother and spoke to him as in the old days.
He, too, was all kindness.
'Try and keep quiet a little, Alice. I want to talk to you. Yes,
it's about your husband, my poor girl; but there's nothing to be
frightened at. He's gone away, that's all. I want you to come to
London with me.'
She had no more control over herself than a terrified child; her
words and cries were so incoherent that Mutimer feared lest she had
lost her senses. She was, in truth, on the borders of idiocy. It was
more than half-an-hour before, with the servant's assistance, he
could allay her hysterical anguish. Then she altogether refused to
accompany him. If she did so she would miss her husband; he would
not go without coming to see her. Richard was reminded by the
servant that it was too late to go by train. He decided to remain in
the house through the night.
He had not ventured to tell her all the truth, nor did her state
encourage him to do so in the morning. But he then succeeded in
persuading her to come with him; Rodman, he assured her, must
already be out of England, for he had committed a criminal offence
and knew that the police were after him. Alice was got to the
station more dead than alive; they were at home in Holloway by
half-past ten. Richard then left her in Adela's hands and sped once
more to Brixton.
He got home again at two. As he entered Adela came down the stairs
to meet him.
'How is she?' he asked anxiously.
'The same. The doctor was here an hour ago. We must keep her as
quiet as possible. But she can't rest for a moment.'
'Three gentlemen have called to see you. They would leave no name,
and, to tell the truth, were rather rude. They seemed to doubt my
word when I said you were not in.'
At his request she attempted to describe these callers. Mutimer
recognised them as members of his committee.
'Rude to you? You must have mistaken. What did they come here for? I
shall in any case see them to-night.'
They returned to the subject of Alice's illness.
'I've half a mind to tell her the truth,' Mutimer said. 'Surely
she'd put the blackguard out of her head after that.'
'No, no; you mustn't tell her!' Adela interposed. 'I am sure it
would be very unwise.'
Alice was growing worse; in an hour or two delirium began to declare
itself. She had resisted all efforts to put her to bed; at most she
would lie on a couch. Whilst Richard and his wife were debating what
should be done, it was announced to them that the three gentlemen
had called again. Mutimer went oft angrily to see them.
He was engaged for half-an-hour. Then Adela heard the visitors
depart; one of them was speaking loudly and with irritation. She
waited for a moment at the head of the stairs, expecting that
Mutimer would come out to her. As he did not, she went into the
Mutimer stood before the fireplace, his eyes on the ground, his face
discoloured with vehement emotion.
'What has happened?' she asked.
He looked up and beckoned to her to approach.
Adela bad never seen him so smitten with grave trouble. She knew him
in brutal anger and in surly ill-temper; but his present mood had
nothing of either. He seemed to stagger beneath a blow which had all
but crushed him and left him full of dread. He began to address her
in a voice very unlike his own--thick, uncertain; he used short
sentences, often incomplete.
'Those men are on the committee. One of them got a letter this
morning--anonymous. It said they were to be on their guard against
me. Said the Company's a swindle--that I knew it--that I've got
money out of the people on false pretences. And Hilary's gone--gone
off--taking all he could lay hands on. The letter says so--I don't
know. It says I'm thick with the secretary--a man I never even saw.
That he's a well-known swindler--Delancey his name is. And these
fellows believe it--demand that I shall prove I'm innocent. What
proof can I give? They think I kept out of the way on purpose this
He ceased speaking, and Adela stood mute, looking him in the face.
She was appalled on his account. She did not love him; too often his
presence caused her loathing. But of late she had been surprised
into thinking more highly of some of his qualities than it had
hitherto been possible for her to do. She could never forget that he
toiled first and foremost for his own advancement to a very cheap
reputation; he would not allow her to lose sight of it had she
wished. But during the present winter she had discerned in him a
genuine zeal to help the suffering, a fervour in kindly works of
which she had not believed him capable. Very slowly the conviction
had come to her, but in the end she could not resist it. One
evening, in telling her of the hideous misery he had been amongst,
his voice failed and she saw moisture in his eyes. Was his character
changing? Had she wronged him in attaching too much importance to a
fault which was merely on the surface? Oh, but there were too many
indisputable charges against him. Yet a man's moral nature may
sometimes be strengthened by experience of the evil he has wrought.
All this rushed through her mind as she now stood gazing at him.
'But how can they credit an anonymous letter?' she said. 'How can
they believe the worst of you before making inquiries?'
'They have been to the office of the Company. Everything is upside
down. They say Hilary isn't to be found.'
'Who can have written such a letter?'
'How do I know? I have enemies enough, no doubt. Who hasn't that
makes himself a leader?'
There was the wrong note again. It discouraged her; she was silent.
'Look here, Adela,' he said, 'do you believe this?'
'Do you think I'm capable of doing a thing like that--scraping
together by pennies the money of the poorest of the poor just to use
it for my own purposes--could I do that?'
'You know I do not believe it.'
'But you don't speak as if you were certain. There's something--But
how am I to prove I'm innocent? How can I make people believe I
wasn't in the plot? They've only my word--who'll think that enough?
Anyone can tell a lie and stick to it, if there's no positive proof
against him. How am I to make _you_ believe that I was taken in?'
'But I tell you that a doubt of your innocence does not enter my
mind. If it were necessary, I would stand up in public before all
who accused you and declare that they were wrong. I do not need your
assurance. I recognise that it would be impossible for you to commit
such a crime.'
'Well, it does me good to hear you say that,' he replied, with light
of hope in his eyes. 'I wanted to feel sure of that. You might have
thought that'--he sank his voice--'that because I could think of
destroying that will--'
'Don't speak of that!' she interrupted, with a gesture of pain. 'I
say that I believe you. It is enough. Don't speak about me any more.
Think of what has to be done.'
'I have promised to be in Clerkenwell at eight o'clock. There'll be
a meeting. I shall do my best to show that I am innocent. You'll
look after Alice? It's awful to have to leave her whilst she's like
'Trust me. I will not leave her side for a moment. The doctor will
be here again to-night.'
A thought struck him.
'Send out the girl for an evening paper. There may be something in
The paper was obtained. One of the first headings his eye fell upon
was: 'Rumoured Collapse of a Public Company. Disappearance of the
Secretary.' He showed it to Adela, and they read together. She saw
that the finger with which he followed the lines quivered like a
leaf. It was announced in a brief paragraph that the Secretary of
the Irish Dairy Company was missing: that he seemed to have gone off
with considerable sums. Moreover, that there were rumours in the
City of a startling kind, relative to the character of the Company
itself. The name of the secretary was Mr. Robert Delancey, but that
was now believed to be a mere _alias_. The police were actively at
'It'll be the ruin of me!' Mutimer gasped. 'I can never prove that I
knew nothing. You see, nothing's said about Hilary. It's that fellow
Delancey who has run.'
'You must find Mr. Hilary,' said Adela urgently. 'Where does he
'I have no idea. I only had the office address. Perhaps it isn't
even his real name. It'll be my ruin.'
Adela was astonished to see him so broken down. He let himself sink
upon a chair; his head and hands fell.
'But I can't understand why you should despair so!' she exclaimed.
'You will speak to the meeting to-night. If the money is lost you
will restore it. If you have been imprudent, that is no crime.'
'It is--it is--when I had money of that kind entrusted to me! They
won't hear me. They have condemned me already. What use is it to
talk to them? They'll say everything comes to smash in my hands.'
She spoke to him with such words of strengthening as one of his
comrades might have used. She did not feel the tenderness of a wife,
and had no power to assume it. But her voice was brave and true. She
had made his interest, his reputation, her own. By degrees he
recovered from the blow, and let her words give him heart.
'You're right,' he said, 'I'm behaving like a fool; I couldn't go on
different if I was really guilty. Who wrote that letter? I never saw
the letter before, as far as I know. I wanted to keep it, but they
wouldn't let me--trust them! What black guards they are I They're
jealous of me. They know they can't speak like I do, that they
haven't the same influence I have. So they're ready to believe the
first lie that's brought against me. Let them look to themselves
to-night! I'll give them a piece of my mind--see if I don't! What's
to-day? Friday. On Sunday I'll have the biggest meeting ever
gathered in the East End. If they shout out against me, I'll tell
them to their faces that they're mean-spirited curs. They haven't
the courage to rise and get by force what they'll never have by
asking for it, and when a man does his best to help them they throw
mud at him!'
'But they won't do so,' Adela urged. 'Don't be unjust. Wait and see.
They will shout _for_, not _against_ you.'
'Why didn't you keep 'Arry here?' he asked suddenly.
'He refused to stay. I gave him money.'
'You should have forced him to stay How can I have a brother of my
own living a life like that? You did wrong to give him money. He'll
only use it to make a beast of himself. I must find him again; I
can't let him go to ruin.'
'Arry had come back to Holloway the previous night to inform Adela
that her husband might not return till morning. As she said, it had
been impossible to detain him. He was too far gone in
unconventionality to spend a night under a decent roof.
Home-sickness for the gutter possessed him.
In the meantime Alice had become quieter. It was half-past six;
Mutimer had to be at the meeting-place in Clerkenwell by eight.
Adela sat by Alice whilst the servant hurriedly prepared a meal;
then the girl took her place, and she went down to her husband. They
were in the middle of their meal when they heard the front-door