Part 12 out of 12
slam. Mutimer started up.
'Who's that? Who's gone out?'
Adela ran to the foot of the stairs and called the servant's name
softly. It was a minute before the girl appeared.
'Who has just gone out, Mary?'
'Gone out? No one, mum!'
'Is Mrs. Rodman lying still?'
The girl went to see. She had left Alice for a few moments
previously. She appeared again at the head of the stairs with a face
'Mrs. Rodman isn't there, mum!'
Mutimer flew up the staircase. Alice was nowhere to be found. It
could not be doubted that she had fled in a delirious state. Richard
rushed into the street, but it was very dark, and rain was falling.
There was no trace of the fugitive. He came back to the door, where
Adela stood; he put out his hand and held her arm as if she needed
'Give me my hat! She'll die in the street, in the rain! I'll go one
way; the girl must go the other. My hat!'
'I will go one way myself,' said Adela hurriedly. 'You must take an
umbrella: it pours. Mary! my waterproof!'
They ran in opposite directions. It was a quiet by-street, with no
shops to cast light upon the pavement. Adela encountered a constable
before she had gone very far, and begged for his assistance. He
promised to be on the look-out, but advised her to go on a short
distance to the police-station and leave a description of the
missing woman. She did so; then, finding the search hopeless in this
quarter, turned homewards. Mutimer was still absent, but he appeared
in five minutes; as unsuccessful as herself. She told him of her
visit to the station.
'I must keep going about,' he said. 'She can't be far off; her
strength, surely, wouldn't take her far.'
Adela felt for him profoundly; for once he had not a thought of
himself, his distress was absorbing. He was on the point of leaving
the house again, when she remembered the meeting at which he was
expected. She spoke of it.
'What do I care?' he replied, waving his arm. 'Let them think what
they like. I must find Alice.'
Adela saw in a moment all that his absence would involve. He could
of course explain subsequently, but in the meantime vast harm would
have been done. It was impossible to neglect the meeting altogether.
She ran after him and stopped him on the pavement.
'I will go to this meeting for you,' she said. 'A cab will take me
there and bring me back. I will let them know what keeps you away.'
He looked at her with astonishment.
'You! How can you go? Among those men?'
'Surely I have nothing to fear from them? Have you lost all your
faith suddenly? You cannot go, but someone must. I will speak to
them so that they cannot but believe me. You continue the search; I
They stood together in the pouring rain. Mutimer caught her hand.
'I never knew what a wife could be till now,' he exclaimed hoarsely.
'And I never knew _you_!'
'Find me a cab and give the man the address. I will be ready in an
Her cheeks were on fire; her nerves quivered with excitement. She
had made the proposal almost involuntarily; only his thanks gave her
some understanding of what she was about to do. But she did not
shrink; a man's--better still, a woman's--noblest courage throbbed
in her. If need were, she too could stand forward in a worthy cause
and speak the truth undauntedly.
The cab was bearing her away. She looked at her watch in the moment
of passing a street lamp and just saw that it was eight o'clock. The
meeting would be full by this; they would already be drawing ill
conclusions from Mutimer's absence Faster, faster! Every moment lost
increased the force of prejudice against him. She could scarcely
have felt more zeal on behalf of the man whom her soul loved. In the
fever of her brain she was conscious of a wish that even now that
love could be her husband's. Ah no, no! But serve him she could and
loyally. The lights flew by in the streets of Islington; the driver
was making the utmost speed he durst. A check among thronging
vehicles anguished her. But it was past, and here at length came the
A crowd of perhaps a hundred men was gathered about the ill-lighted
entrance to what had formerly been a low-class dancing-saloon. Adela
saw them come thronging about the cab, heard their cries of
discontent and of surprise when she showed herself.
'Wait for me!' she called to the driver, and straightway walked to
the door. The men made way for her. On the threshold she turned.
'I wish to see some member of the committee. I am Mrs. Mutimer.'
There was a coarse laugh from some fellows, but others cried, 'Shut
up! she's a lady.' One stepped forward and announced himself as a
committee-man. He followed her into the passage.
'My husband cannot come,' she said. 'Will you please show me where I
can speak to the meeting and tell them the reason of his absence?'
Much amazed, the committee-man led her into the hall. It was
whitewashed, furnished with plain benches, lit with a few gas-jets.
There was scarcely room to move for the crowd. Every man seemed to
be talking at the pitch of his voice. The effect was an angry roar.
Adela's guide with difficulty made a passage for her to the
platform, for it took some time before the crowd realised what was
going on. At length she stood in a place whence she could survey the
assembly. On the wall behind her hung a great sheet of paper on
which were inscribed the names of all who had deposited money with
Mutimer. Adela glanced at it and understood. Instead of being
agitated she possessed an extraordinary lucidity of mind, a calmness
of nerve which she afterwards remembered as something miraculous.
The committee-man roared for silence, then in a few words explained
Mrs. Mutimer's wish to make 'a speech.' To Adela's ears there seemed
something of malice in this expression; she did not like, either,
the laugh which it elicited. But quiet was speedily restored by a
few men of sturdy lungs. She stepped to the front of the platform.
The scene was a singular one. Adela had thrown off her waterproof in
the cab; she stood in her lady-like costume of home, her hat only
showing that she had come from a distance. For years her cheeks had
been very pale; in this moment her whole face was white as marble.
Her delicate beauty made strange contrast with the faces on each
side and in front of her--faces of rude intelligence, faces of
fathomless stupidity, faces degraded into something less than human.
But all were listening, all straining towards her. There were a few
whispers of honest admiration, a few of vile jest. She began to
'I have come here because my husband cannot come. It is most
unfortunate that he cannot, for he tells me that someone has been
throwing doubt upon his honesty. He would be here, but that a
terrible misfortune has befallen him. His sister was lying ill in
our house. A little more than an hour ago she was by chance left
alone and, being delirious--out of her mind--escaped from the
house. My husband is now searching for her everywhere; she may be
dying somewhere in the streets. That is the explanation I have come
to give you. But I will say a word more. I do not know who has
spoken ill of my husband; I do not know his reasons for doing so.
This, however, I know, that Richard Mutimer has done you no wrong,
and that he is incapable of the horrible thing of which he is
accused. You must believe it; you wrong yourselves if you refuse to.
To-morrow, no doubt, he will come and speak for himself. Till then I
beg you to take the worthy part and credit good rather than evil.'
She ceased, and, turning to the committee-man, who still stood near
her, requested him to guide her from the room. As she moved down
from the platform the crowd recovered itself from the spell of her
voice. The majority cheered, but there were not a few dissentient
howls. Adela had ears for nothing; a path opened before her, and she
walked along it with bowed head. Her heart was now beating
violently; she felt that she must walk quickly or perchance her
strength would fail her before she reached the door. As she
disappeared there again arose the mingled uproar of cheers and
groans; it came to her like the bellow of a pursuing monster as she
fled along the passage. And in truth Demos was on her track. A few
kept up with her; the rest jammed themselves in the door way,
hustled each other, fought. The dozen who came out to the pavement
altogether helped her into the cab, then gave a hearty cheer as she
The voice of Demos, not malevolent at the last, but to Adela none
the less something to be fled from, something which excited thoughts
of horrible possibilities, in its very good-humour and its praise of
her a sound of fear.
His search being vain, Mutimer hastened from one police-station to
another, leaving descriptions of his sister at each. When he came
home again Adela had just arrived. She was suffering too much from
the reaction which followed upon her excitement to give him more
than the briefest account of what she had heard and said; but
Mutimer cared little for details. He drew an easy-chair near to the
fire and begged her to rest. As she lay back for a moment with
closed eyes, he took her faint hand and put it to his lips. He had
never done so before; when she glanced at him he averted his face in
He would have persuaded her to go to bed, but she declared that
sleep was impossible; she had much rather sit up with him till news
came of Alice, as it surely must do in course of the night. For
Mutimer there was no resting; he circled continually about the
neighbouring streets, returning to the house every quarter of an
hour, always to find Adela in the same position. Her heart would not
fall to its normal beat, and the vision of those harsh faces would
not pass from her mind.
At two o'clock they heard that Alice was found. She had been
discovered several miles from home, lying unconscious in the street,
and was now in a hospital. Mutimer set off at once; he returned with
the report that she was between life and death. It was impossible to
Adela slept a little between six and eight; her husband took even
shorter rest. When she came down to the sitting-room, he was reading
the morning paper. As she entered he uttered a cry of astonishment
'Look here!' he exclaimed to her. 'Read that!'
He pointed to an account of the Irish Dairy Company frauds, in which
it was stated that the secretary, known as Delancey, appeared also
to have borne the name of Rodman.
They gazed at each other.
'Then it was Rodman wrote that letter!' Mutimer cried. 'I'll swear
to it. He did it to injure me at the last moment. Why haven't they
got him yet? The police are useless. But they've got Hilary, I
see--yes, they've got Hilary. He was caught at Dover. Ha, ha! He
denies everything--says he didn't even know of the secretary's
decamping. The lying scoundrel! Says he was going to Paris on
private business. But they've got him! And see here again: "The same
Rodman is at present wanted by the police on a charge of bigamy."
Wanted! If they weren't incompetent fools they'd have had him
already. Ten to one he's out of England.'
It was a day of tumult for Mutimer. At the hospital he found no
encouragement, but he could only leave Alice in the hands of the
doctors. From the hospital he went to his mother's house; he had not
yet had time to let her know of anything. But his main business lay
in Clerkenwell and in various parts of the East End, wherever he
could see his fellow-agitators. In hot haste he wrote an
announcement of a meeting on Clerkenwell Green for Sunday afternoon,
and had thousands of copies printed on slips; by evening these were
scattered throughout his 'parishes.' He found that the calumny
affecting him was already widely known; several members of his
committee met him with black looks. Here and there an ironical
question was put to him about his sister's health. With the
knowledge that Alice might be dying or dead, he could scarcely find
words of reply. His mood changed from fear and indignation to a grim
fury; within a few hours he made many resolute enemies by his
reckless vehemence and vituperation.
The evening papers brought him a piece of intelligence which would
have rejoiced him but for something with which it was coupled.
Delancey, _alias_ Rodman, _alias_ Williamson, was arrested; he had
been caught in Hamburg. The telegram added that he talked freely and
had implicated a number of persons--among them a certain Socialist
agitator, name not given. As Mutimer read this he fell for a moment
into blank despair. He returned at once to Holloway, all but
resolved to throw up the game--to abandon the effort to defend
himself, and wait for what might result from the judicial
investigations. Adela resisted this to the uttermost. She understood
that such appearance of fear would be fatal to him. With a knowledge
of Demos which owed much to her last night's experience, she urged
to him that behind his back calumny would thrive unchecked, would
grow in a day to proportions altogether irresistible. She succeeded
in restoring his courage, though at the same time there revived in
Mutimer the savage spirit which could only result in harm to
'This is how they repay a man who works for them!' he cried
repeatedly. 'The ungrateful brutes! Let me once clear myself, and
I'll throw it up, bid them find someone else to fight their battles
for them. It's always been the same: history shows it What have I
got for myself out of it all, I'd like to know? Haven't I given them
every penny I had? Let them do their worst! Let them bark and bray
till they are hoarse!'
He would have kept away from Clerkenwell that evening, but even this
Adela would not let him do. She insisted that he must be seen and
heard, that the force of innocence would prevail even with his
enemies. The couple of hours he passed with her were spent in
ceaseless encouragement on her side, in violent tirades on his. He
paced the room like a caged lion, at one moment execrating Rodman,
the next railing against the mob to whose interests he had devoted
himself. Now and then his voice softened, and he spoke of Alice.
'The scoundrel set even her against me! If she lives, perhaps she'll
believe I'm guilty; how can my word stand against her husband's?
Why, he isn't her husband at all! It's a good thing if she dies--the
best thing that could happen. What will become of her? What are we
to call her? She's neither married nor single. Can we keep it from
her, do you think? No, that won't do; she must be free to marry an
honest man. You'll try and make friends with her, Adela--if ever
you've the chance? She'll have to live with us, of course unless
she'd rather live with mother. We mustn't tell her for a long time,
till she's strong enough to bear it.'
He with difficulty ate a few mouthfuls and went off to Clerkenwell.
In the erstwhile dancing-saloon it was a night of tempest. Mutimer
had never before addressed an unfriendly audience. After the first
few interruptions he lost his temper, and with it his cause, as far
as these present hearers were concerned. When he left them, it was
amid the mutterings of a storm which was not quite--only not
quite--ready to burst in fury.
'Who knows you won't take yer 'ook before to-morrow?' cried a voice
as he neared the door.
'Wait and see!' Mutimer shouted in reply, with a savage laugh. 'I've
a word or two to say yet to blackguards like you.'
He could count on some twenty pairs of fists in the room, if it came
to that point; but he was allowed to depart unmolested.
On the way home he called at the hospital. There was no change in
The next day he remained at home till it was time to start for
Clerkenwell Green. He was all but worn out, and there was nothing of
any use to be done before the meeting assembled. Adela went for him
to the hospital and brought back still the same report. He ate
fairly well of his midday dinner, seeming somewhat calmer. Adela,
foreseeing his main danger, begged him to address the people without
anger, assured him that a dignified self-possession would go much
farther than any amount of blustering. He was induced to promise
that he would follow her advice.
He purposed walking to the Green; the exercise would perhaps keep
his nerves in order. When it was time to start, he took Adela's
hand, and for a second time kissed it. She made an effort over
herself and held her lips to him. The 'good-bye' was exchanged, with
a word of strengthening from Adela; but still he did not go. He was
endeavouring to speak.
'I don't think I've thanked you half enough,' he said at length,
'for what you did on Friday night.'
'Yes, more than enough,' was the reply.
'You make little of it, but it's a thing very few women would have
done. And it was hard for you, because you're a lady.'
'No less a woman,' murmured Adela, her head bowed.
'And a good woman--I believe with all my heart. I want to ask you to
forgive me--for things I once said to you. I was a brute. Perhaps if
I had been brought up in the same kind of way that you were--that's
the difference between us, you see. But try if you can to forget it.
I'll never think anything but good of you as long as I live.'
She could not reply, for a great sob was choking her. She pressed
his band; the tears broke from her eyes as she turned away.
It being Sunday afternoon, visitors were admitted to the hospital in
which Alice lay. Mutimer had allowed himself time to pass five
minutes by his sister's bedside on the way to Clerkenwell. Alice was
still unconscious; she lay motionless, but her lips muttered
unintelligible words. He bent over her and spoke, but she did not
regard him. It was perhaps the keenest pain Mutimer had ever known
to look into those eyes and meet no answering intelligence. By close
listening he believed he heard her utter the name of her husband. It
was useless to stay; he kissed her and left the ward.
On his arrival at Clerkenwell Green--a large triangular space which
merits the name of Green as much as the Strand--he found a
considerable gathering already assembled about the cart from which
he was to speak. The inner circle consisted of his friends--some
fifty who remained staunch in their faith. Prominent among them was
the man Redgrave, he who had presented the address when Mutimer took
leave of his New Wanley workpeople. He had come to London at the
same time as his leader, and had done much to recommend Mutimer's
scheme in the East End. His muscular height made those about him
look puny. He was red in the face with the excitement of abusing
Mutimer's enemies, and looked as if nothing would please him better
than to second words with arguments more cogent. He and those about
him hailed the agitator's appearance with three ringing cheers. A
little later came a supporter whom Richard had not expected to see--
Mr. Westlake. Only this morning intelligence of what was going on
had reached his ears. At once he had scouted the accusations as
incredible; he deemed it a duty to present himself on Mutimer's
side. Outside this small cluster was an indefinable mob, a portion
of it bitterly hostile, a part indifferent; among the latter a large
element of mere drifting blackguardism, the raff of a city,
anticipating with pleasure an uproar which would give them unwonted
opportunities of violence and pillage. These gentle men would with
equal zeal declare for Mutimer or his opponents, as the fortune of
the day directed them.
The core of the hostile party consisted of those who followed the
banner of Comrade Roodhouse, the ralliers to the 'Tocsin.' For them
it was a great occasion. The previous evening had seen a clamorous
assembly in the room behind the Hoxton coffee-shop. Comrade
Roodhouse professed to have full details of the scandal which had
just come to light. According to him, there was no doubt whatever
that Mutimer had known from the first the character of the bogus
Company, and had wittingly used the money of the East-Enders to aid
in floating a concern which would benefit himself and a few others.
Roodhouse disclosed the identity of Mr. Robert Delancey, and
explained the relations existing between Rodman and Mutimer,
ignoring the fact that a lawsuit had of late turned their friendship
to mutual animosity. It was an opportunity not to be missed for
paying back the hard things Mutimer had constantly said of the
'Tocsin' party. Comrade Roodhouse was busy in the crowd, sowing
calumnies and fermenting wrath. In the crowd were our old
acquaintances Messrs. Cowes and Cullen, each haranguing as many as
could be got to form a circle and listen, indulging themselves in
measureless vituperation, crying shame on traitors to the noble
cause. Here, too, was Daniel Dabbs, mainly interested in the
occasion as an admirable provocative of thirst. He was much disposed
to believe Mutimer guilty, but understood that it was none of his
business to openly take part with either side. He stood well on the
limits of the throng; it was not impossible that the debate might
end in the cracking of crowns, in which case Mr. Dabbs, as a
respectable licensed victualler whose weekly profits had long since
made him smile at the follies of his youth, would certainly incur no
needless risk to his own valuable scalp.
The throng thickened; it was impossible that the speakers should be
audible to the whole assembly. Hastily it was decided to arrange two
centres. Whilst Mutimer was speaking at the lower end of the Green,
Redgrave would lift up his voice in the opposite part, and make it
understood that Mutimer would repeat his address there as soon as he
had satisfied the hearers below. The meeting was announced for three
o'clock, but it was half an hour later before Mutimer stood up on
the cart and extended his hand in appeal for silence. It at first
seemed as if he could not succeed in making his voice heard at all.
A cluster of Roodhouse's followers, under the pretence of demanding
quiet, made incessant tumult. But ultimately the majority, those who
were merely curious, and such of the angry East-Enders as really
wanted to hear what Mutimer had to say for himself, imposed silence.
Richard began his speech.
He had kept Adela's warning in mind, and determined to be calmly
dignified in his refutal of the charges brought against him. For
five minutes he impressed his hearers. He had never spoken better.
In the beginning he briefly referred to the facts of his life, spoke
of the use he had made of wealth when he possessed it, demanded if
it was likely that he should join with swindlers to rob the very
class to which he himself was proud to belong, and for which he had
toiled unceasingly. He spoke of Rodman, and denied that he had ever
known of this man's connection with the Company--a man who was his
worst enemy. He it was, this Rodman, who doubtless had written the
letter which first directed suspicion in the wrong quarter; it was
an act such as Rodman would be capable of, for the sake of
gratifying his enmity. And how had that enmity arisen? He told the
story of the lawsuit; showed how, in that matter, he had stood up
for common honesty, though at the time Rodman was his friend. Then
he passed to the subject of his stewardship. Why had he put that
trust money into a concern without sufficient investigation? He
could make but one straightforward answer: he had believed that the
Company was sound, and he bought shares because the dividends
promised to be large, and it was his first desire to do the very
best he could for those who had laid their hard-earned savings in
For some minutes he had had increasing difficulty in holding his
voice above the noise of interruptions, hostile or friendly. It now
became impossible for him to proceed. A man who was lifted on to the
shoulders of two others began to make a counter-speech, roaring so
that those around could not but attend to him. He declared himself
one of those whom Mutimer had robbed; all his savings for seven
months were gone; he was now out of work, and his family would soon
be starving. Richard's blood boiled as he heard these words.
'You lie!' he bellowed in return; 'I know you. You are the fellow
who said last night that I should run away, and never come at all to
this meeting. I called you a blackguard then, and I call you a liar
now. You have put in my hand six threepences, and no more. The money
you might have saved you constantly got drunk upon. Your money is
waiting for you: you have only to come and apply for it. And I say
the same to all the rest. I am ready to pay all the money back, and
pay it too with interest.'
'Of course you are!' vociferated the other. 'You can't steal it, so
you offer to give it back. We know that game.'
It was the commencement of utter confusion. A hundred voices were
trying to make themselves heard. The great crowd swayed this way and
that. Mutimer looked on a tempest of savage faces--a sight which
might have daunted any man in his position. Fists were shaken at
him, curses were roared at him from every direction. It was clear
that the feeling of the mob was hopelessly against him; his
explanations were ridiculed. A second man was reared on others'
shoulders; but instead of speaking from the place where he was, he
demanded to be borne forward and helped to a standing on the cart.
This was effected after a brief struggle with Mutimer's supporters.
Then all at once there was a cessation of the hubbub that the new
speaker might be heard.
'Look at this man!' he cried, pointing at Mutimer, who had drawn as
far aside as the cart would let him. 'He's been a-tellin' you what
he did when somebody died an' left him a fortune. There's just one
thing he's forgot, an' shall I tell you what that is? When he was a
workin' man like ourselves, mates, he was a-goin' to marry a pore
girl, a workin' girl. When he gets his money, what does he do? Why,
he pitches her over, if you please, an' marries a fine lady, as took
him because he was rich--that's the way _ladies_ always chooses
their husbands, y'understand.'
He was interrupted by a terrific yell, but by dint of vigorous
pantomime secured a hearing again.
'But wait a bit, maties; I haven't done yet. He pitches over the
pore girl, but he does worse afterwards. He sets a tale a-goin' as
she'd disgraced herself, as she wasn't fit to be a honest man's
wife. An' it was all a damned lie, as lots of us knows. Now what
d'ye think o' that! This is a friend o' the People, this is! This is
the man as 'as your interests at 'art, mates! If he'll do a thing
like that, won't he rob you of your savin's?'
As soon as he knew what the man was about to speak of, Mutimer felt
the blood rush back upon his heart. It was as when a criminal hears
delivered against him a damning item of evidence. He knew that he
was pale, that every feature declared his consciousness of guilt. In
vain he tried to face the mob and smile contemptuously. His eyes
fell; he stood without the power of speech.
The yell was repeated, and prolonged, owing to another cause than
the accusation just heard. When the accuser was borne forwards to
the cart, a rumour spread among those more remote that an attack was
being made on Mutimer and his friends. The rumour reached that part
of the Green where Redgrave was then haranguing. At once the
listeners faced about in the direction of the supposed conflict.
Redgrave himself leaped down, and called upon all supporters of
Mutimer to follow him. It was the crash between two crowds which led
to the prolonging of the yell.
The meeting was over, the riot had begun.
Picture them, the indignant champions of honesty, the avengers of
virtue defamed! Demos was roused, was tired of listening to mere
articulate speech; it was time for a good wild-beast roar, for a
taste of bloodshed. Scarcely a face in all the mob but distorted
itself to express as much savagery as can be got out of the human
countenance. Mutimer, seeing what had come, sprang down from the
cart. He was at once carried yards away in an irresistible rush.
Impossible for him and his friends to endeavour to hold their
ground: they were too vastly outnumbered; the most they could do was
to hold together and use every opportunity of retreat, standing in
the meanwhile on the defensive. There was no adequate body of police
on the Green; the riot would take its course unimpeded by the hired
servants of the capitalist State. Redgrave little by little fought
his way to within sight of Mutimer; he brought with him a small but
determined contingent. On all sides was the thud of blows, the
indignant shouting of the few who desired to preserve order mingled
with the clamour of those who combated. Demos was having his way;
civilisation was blotted out, and club law proclaimed.
Mutimer lost his hat in jumping from the cart; in five minutes his
waistcoat and shirt were rent open, whether by friends in guarding
him, or by foes in assailing, it was impossible to say. But his
bodyguard held together with wonderful firmness, only now and then
an enemy got near enough to dash a fist in his face. If he fell into
the hands of the mob he was done for; Mutimer knew that, and was
ready to fight for his life. But the direction taken by the main
current of the crowd favoured him. In about twenty minutes he was
swept away from the Green, and into a street. There were now fewer
foes about him; he saw an opportunity, and together with Redgrave
burst away. There was no shame in taking to flight where the odds
against him were so overwhelming. But pursuers were close behind
him; their cry gave a lead to the chase. He looked for some by-way
as he rushed along the pavement. But an unexpected refuge offered
itself. He was passing a little group of women, when a voice from
among them cried loudly--'In here! In here!' He saw that a
house-door was open, saw a hand beckon wildly, and at once sprang
for the retreat. A woman entered immediately behind him and slammed
the door, but he did not see that a stick which the foremost of his
pursuers had flung at him came with a terrible blow full upon his
For a moment he could only lean against the wall of the passage,
recovering his breath. Where he stood it was almost dark, for the
evening was drawing in. The woman who had rescued him was standing
near, but he could not distinguish her face. He heard the mob
assembling in the narrow street, their shouts, their trampling, and
speedily there began a great noise at the door. A beating with
sticks and fists, a thundering at the knocker.
'Are you the landlady?' Mutimer asked, turning to his silent
'No,' was the reply. 'She is outside, I must put up the chain. They
might get her latchkey from her.'
At the first syllable he started; the voice was so familiar to him.
The words were spoken with an entire absence of womanish
consternation; the voice trembled a little, but for all that there
was calm courage in its sound. When she had made the door secure and
turned again towards him, he looked into her face as closely as he
'Is it Emma?'
Both were silent. Mutimer forgot all about his danger; that at this
moment he should meet Emma Vine, that it should be she who saved
him, impressed him with awe which was stronger than all the
multitude of sensations just now battling within him. For it was her
name that had roused the rabble finally against him. For his wrong
to her he knew that he would have suffered justly; yet her hand it
was that barred the door against his brutal pursuers. A sudden
weakness shook his limbs; he had again to lean upon the wall for
support, and, scarcely conscious of what he did, he sobbed three or
'Are you hurt?' Emma asked.
'No, I'm not hurt, no.'
Two children had come down the stairs, and were clinging to Emma,
crying with fright. For the noise at the door was growing terrific.
'Who is there in the house?' Mutimer asked.
'No one, I think. The landlady and two other women who live here are
outside. My sister is away somewhere.'
'Can I get off by the back?'
'No. There's a little yard, but the walls are far too high.'
'They'll break the door through. If they do, the devils are as
likely to kill you as me. I must go upstairs to a window and speak
to them. I may do something yet. Sooner than put you in danger I'll
go out and let them do their worst Listen to them! That's the
People, that is! I deserve killing, fool that I am, if only for the
lying good I've said of them. Let me go up into your room, if it has
a window in the front.'
He led up the stairs, and Emma showed him the door of her room--the
same in which she had received the visit of Daniel Dabbs. He looked
about it, saw the poverty of it. Then he looked at Emma.
'Good God! Who has hit you?'
There was a great cut on her cheek, the blood was running down upon
'Somebody threw a stick,' she answered, trying to smile. 'I don't
feel it; I'll tie a handkerchief on it.'
Again a fit of sobbing seized him; he felt as weak as a child.
'The cowardly roughs! Give me the handkerchief--I'll tie it. Emma!'
'Think of your own safety,' she replied hurriedly. 'I tell you I
don't feel any pain. Do you think you can get them to listen to
'I'll try. There's nothing else for it. You stand at the back of the
room; they may throw something at me.'
'Oh, then, don't open the window! They can't break the door. Some
help will come.'
'They _will_ break the door. You'd be as safe among wild beasts as
among those fellows if they get into the house.'
He threw up the sash, though Emma would not go from his side. In the
street below was a multitude which made but one ravening monster;
all its eyes were directed to the upper storeys of this house.
Mutimer looked to the right and to the left. In the latter quarter
he saw the signs of a struggle Straining his eyes through the dusk,
he perceived a mounted police-officer forcing his way through the
throng; on either side were visible the helmets of constables. He
drew a deep sigh of relief, for the efforts of the mob against the
house door could scarcely succeed unless they used more formidable
weapons for assault, and that would now be all but impossible.
He drew his bead back into the room and looked at Emma with a laugh
'The police are making way! There's nothing to fear now.'
'Come away from the window, then,' Emma urged. 'It is useless to
'Let them see me, the blackguards! They're so tight packed they
haven't a band among them to aim anything.'
As he spoke, he again leaned forward from the window-sill, and
stretched his arms towards the approaching rescuers. That same
instant a heavy fragment of stone, hurled with deadly force and
precision, struck him upon the temple. The violence of the blow
flung him back into the room; he dropped to his knees, threw out a
hand as if to save himself, then sank face foremost upon the floor.
Not a sound had escaped his lips.
Emma, with a low cry of horror, bent to him and put her arm about
his body. Raising his head, she saw that, though his eyes were
staring, they had no power of sight; on his lips were flecks of
blood. She laid her cheeks to his lips, but could discern no breath;
she tore apart the clothing from his breast, but her hand could not
find his heart. Then she rushed for a pillow, placed it beneath his
head, and began to bathe his face. Not all the great love which
leaped like flame in her bosom could call the dead to life.
The yells which had greeted Mutimer's appearance at the window were
followed by a steady roar, mingled with scornful laughter at his
speedy retreat; only a few saw or suspected that he had been gravely
hit by the missile. Then the tumult began to change its character;
attention was drawn from the house to the advancing police, behind
whom came a band of Mutimer's adherents, led by Redgrave. The latter
were cheering; the hostile rabble met their cheers with defiant
challenges. The police had now almost more than they could do to
prevent a furious collision between the two bodies; but their
numbers kept increasing, as detachments arrived one after another,
and at length the house itself was firmly guarded, whilst the
rioters on both sides were being put to flight. It was not a long
street; the police cleared it completely and allowed no one to enter
at either end.
It was all but dark when at length the door of Emma's room was
opened and six or seven women appeared, searching for Mutimer. The
landlady was foremost; she carried a lamp. It showed the dead man at
full length on the floor, and Emma kneeling beside him, holding his
hand. Near her were the two children, crying miserably. Emma
appeared to have lost her voice; when the light flashed upon her
eyes she covered them with one hand, with the other pointed
downwards. The women broke into cries of fright and lamentation.
They clustered around the prostrate form, examined it, demanded
explanations. One at length sped down to the street and shortly
returned with two policemen. A messenger was despatched for a
Emma did not move; she was not weeping, but paid no attention to any
words addressed to her. The room was thronged with curious
neighbours, there was a hubbub of talk. When at length the medical
man arrived, he cleared the chamber of all except Emma. After a
brief examination of the body he said to her:
'You are his wife?'
She, still kneeling, looked up into his face with pained
'His wife? Oh no! I am a stranger.'
The doctor showed surprise.
'He was killed in your presence?'
'He is dead--really dead?' she asked under her breath. And, as she
spoke, she laid her hand upon his arm.
'He must have been killed instantaneously. Did the stone fall in the
room? Was it a stone?'
No one had searched for the missile. The doctor discovered it not
far away. Whilst he was weighing it in his hand there came a knock
at the door. It was Mr. Westlake who entered. He came and looked at
the dead man, then, introducing himself, spoke a few words with the
doctor. Assured that there was no shadow of hope, he withdrew,
having looked closely at Emma, who now stood a little apart, her
hands held together before her.
The doctor departed a few moments later. He had examined the wound
on the girl's face, and found that it was not serious. As he was
going, Emma said to him:
'Will you tell them to keep away--all the people in the house?'
'This is your own room?'
'I live here with my sister.'
'I will ask them to respect your wish. The body must stay here for
the present, though.'
'Oh yes, yes, I know.'
'Is your sister at home?'
'She will be soon. Please tell them not to come here.'
She was alone again with the dead. It cost her great efforts of mind
to convince herself that Mutimer really had breathed his last; it
seemed to her but a moment since she heard him speak, heard him
laugh; was not a trace of the laugh even now discernible on his
countenance? How was it possible for life to vanish in this way? She
constantly touched him, spoke to him. It was incredible that he
should not be able to hear her.
Her love for him was immeasurable. Bitterness she had long since
overcome, and she had thought that love, too, was gone with it. She
had deceived herself. Her heart, incredible as it may seem, had even
known a kind of hope--how else could she have borne the life which
fate laid upon her?--the hope that is one with love, that asks
nothing of the reason, nor yields to reason's contumely. He had been
smitten dead at the moment that she loved him dearest.
Her sister Kate came in. She had been spending the day with friends
in another part of London. When just within the door she stopped and
looked at the body nervously.
'Emma!' she said. 'Why don't you come downstairs? Mrs. Lake'll let
us have her back room, and tea's waiting for you. I wonder how you
_can_ stay here.'
'I can't come. I want to be alone, Kate. Tell them not to come up.'
'But you can't stay here all night, child!'
'I can't talk. I want to be alone. Perhaps I'll come down before
Kate withdrew and went to gossip with the people who were
incessantly coming and going in the lower part of the house. The
opening and shutting. of the front door, the sound of voices, the
hurrying feet upon the staircase, were audible enough to Emma. She
heard, too, the crowds that kept passing along the street, their
shouts, their laughter, the voices of the policemen bidding them
move on. It was all a nightmare, from which she strove to awake.
At length she was able to weep. Gazing constantly at the dead face,
she linked it at last with some far-off memory of tenderness, and
that brought her tears. She held the cold hand against her heart and
eased herself with passionate sobbing, with low wails, with loving
utterance of his name. Thus it happened that she did not hear when
someone knocked lightly at the door and entered. A shadow across the
still features told her of another's presence. Starting back, she
saw a lady from whose pale, beautiful face a veil had just been
raised. The stranger, who was regarding her with tenderly
compassionate eyes, said:
'I am Mrs. Mutimer.'
Emma rose to her feet and drew a little apart. Her face fell.
'They told me downstairs,' Adela pursued, 'that I should find Miss
Vine in the room. Is your name Emma Vine?'
Emma asked herself whether this lady, his wife, could know anything
of her story. It seemed so, from the tone of the question. She only
'Yes, it is.'
Then she again ventured to look up at the woman whose beauty had
made her life barren. There were no signs of tears on Adela's face;
to Emma she seemed cold, though so grave and gentle. Adela gazed for
a while at the dead man. She, too, felt as though it were all a
dream. The spectacle of Emma's passionate grief had kept her emotion
within her heart, perhaps had weakened it.
'You have yourself been hurt,' she said, turning again to the other.
Emma only shook her head. She suffered terribly from Adela's
'I will go,' she said in a whisper.
'This is your room, I think?'
'May I stay here?'
'Of course--you must.'
Emma was moving towards the door.
'You wish to go?' Adela said, uttering the words involuntarily.
'Yes, I must.'
Adela, left alone, stood gazing at the dead face. She did not kneel
by her husband, as Emma had done, but a terrible anguish came upon
her as she gazed; she buried her face in her hands. Her feeling was
more of horror at the crime that had been committed than of
individual grief. Yet grief she knew. The last words her husband had
spoken to her were good and worthy; in her memory they overcame all
else. That parting when he left home had seemed to her like the
beginning of a new life for him. Could not his faults be atoned for
otherwise than by this ghastly end? She had no need to direct her
thoughts to the good that was in him. Even as she had taken his part
against his traducers, so she now was stirred in spirit against his
murderers. She felt a solemn gladness in remembering that she had
stood before that meeting in the Clerkenwell room and served him as
far as it was in a woman's power to do. All her long sufferings were
forgotten; this supreme calamity of death outweighed them all. His
enemies had murdered him; would they not continue to assail his
name? She resolved that his memory should be her care. That had
nothing to do with love; simple justice demanded it. Justice and
gratitude for the last words he had spoken to her.
She had as yet scarcely noticed the room in which she was. At length
she surveyed it; its poverty brought tears in her eyes. There had
been a fire, but the last spark was dead. She began to feel cold.
Soon there was the sound of someone ascending the stairs, and Emma,
after knocking, again entered. She carried a tray with tea-things,
which she placed upon the table. Then, having glanced at the
fireplace, she took from a cupboard wood and paper and was beginning
to make a fire when Adela stopped her, saying:
'You must not do that for me. I will light the fire myself, if you
will let me.'
Emma looked up in surprise.
'It is kind of you to bring me the tea,' Adela continued. 'But let
me do the rest.'
'If you wish to--yes,' the other replied, without understanding the
thought which prompted Adela. She carefully held herself from
glancing towards the dead man, and moved away.
Adela approached her.
'Have you a room for the night?'
'Yes, thank you.'
'Will you--will you take my hand before you leave me?' She held it
forth; Emma, with eyes turned to the ground, gave her own.
'Look at me,' Adela said, under her breath.
Their eyes met, and at last Emma understood. In that grave, noble
gaze was far more than sympathy and tenderness; it was a look that
'May I come to you in the night to see if you need anything?' Emma
'I shall need nothing. Come only if you can't sleep.'
Adela lit the fire and began her night's watching.
A deep breath of country air. It is springtime, and the valley of
Wanley is bursting into green and flowery life, peacefully glad as
if the foot of Demos had never come that way. Incredible that the
fume of furnaces ever desecrated that fleece-sown sky of tenderest
blue, that hammers clanged and engines roared where now the thrush
utters his song so joyously. Hubert Eldon has been as good as his
word. In all the valley no trace is left of what was called New
Wanley. Once more we can climb to the top of Stanbury Hill and enjoy
the sense of remoteness and security when we see that dark patch on
the horizon, the cloud that hangs over Belwick.
Hubert and the vicar of Wanley stood there together one morning in
late April, more than a year after the death of Richard Mutimer.
Generally there was a strong breeze on this point, but to-day the
west was breathing its gentlest, warm upon the cheek.
'Well, it has gone,' Hubert said. 'May will have free
'In one sense,' replied the vicar, 'I fear it will never be gone.
Its influence on the life of the people in Wanley and in some of the
farms about has been graver than you imagine. I find discontent
where it was formerly unknown. The typical case is that lad of
Bolton's. They wanted him sadly at home; by this time he would have
been helping his unfortunate father. Instead of that he's the
revolutionary oracle of Belwick pot-houses, and appears on an
average once a fortnight before the magistrates for being drunk and
'Yes, the march of progress has been hastened a little, doubtless,'
said Hubert. 'I have to content myself with the grass and the trees.
Well, I have done all I could, now other people must enjoy the
results. Ah, look! there is a van of the Edgeworths' furniture
coming to the Manor. They are happy people! Something like an ideal
married couple, and with nothing to do but to wander about the
valley and enjoy themselves.'
'I am rather surprised you gave them so long a lease,' remarked Mr.
'Why not? I shall never live here again. As long as I had work to do
it was all right; but to continue to live in that house was
impossible. And in twenty years it would be no less impossible. I
should fall into a monomania, and one of a very loathsome kind.'
Mr. Wyvern pondered. They walked on a few paces before Hubert again
'There was a. letter from her in the "Belwick Chronicle" yesterday
morning Something on the placard in Agworth station caused me to buy
a copy. The Tory paper, it seems, had a leader a day or two ago on
Socialism, and took occasion to sneer at Mutimer, not by name, but
in an unmistakable way--the old scandal of course. She wrote a
letter to the editor, and he courteously paid no attention to it. So
she wrote to the "Chronicle." They print her in large type, and
devote a leader to the subject--party capital, of course.'
He ceased on a bitter tone, then, before his companion could reply,
'It is hideous to see her name in such places!'
'Let us speak freely of this,' returned Mr. Wyvern. 'You seem to me
to be very unjust. Your personal feeling makes you less acute in
judging than I should have expected. Surely her behaviour is very
'Oh, I am not unjust in that sense. I have never refused to believe
in his innocence technically.'
'Excuse me, that has nothing to do with the matter. All we have to
look at is this. She is herself convinced of his innocence, and
therefore makes it her supreme duty to defend his memory. It appears
to me that she acts altogether nobly. In spite of all the evidence
that was brought on his side, the dastardly spirit of politics has
persisted in making Mutimer a sort of historical character, a type
of the hypocritical demagogue, to be cited whenever occasion offers.
Would it be possible to attach a more evil significance to a man's
name than that which Mutimer bears, and will continue to bear, among
certain sections of writing and speechifying vermin? It is a
miserable destiny. If every man who achieves notoriety paid for his
faults in this way, what sort of reputations would history consist
of? I won't say that it isn't a good thing, speaking generally, but
in the individual case it is terribly hard. Would you have his widow
keep silence? That would be the easier thing to do, be sure of it--
for _her_, a thousand times the easier. I regard her as the one
entirely noble woman it has been my lot to know. And if you thought
calmly you could not speak of her with such impatience.'
Hubert kept silence for a moment.
'It is all true. Of course it only means that I am savagely jealous.
But I cannot--upon my life I cannot--understand her having given her
love to such a man as that!'
Mr. Wyvern seemed to regard the landscape. There was a sad smile on
'Let there be an end of it,' Hubert resumed. 'I didn't mean to say
anything to you about the letter. Now, we'll talk of other things.
Well, I am going to have a summer among the German galleries;
perhaps I shall find peace there. You have let your son know that I
The vicar nodded. They continued their walk along the top of the
hill. Presently Mr. Wyvern stopped and faced his companion.
'Are you serious in what you said just now? I mean about her love
'Serious? Of course I am. Why should you ask such a question?'
'Because I find it difficult to distinguish between the things a
young man says in jealous pique and the real belief he entertains
when he is not throwing savage words about. You have convinced
yourself that she loved her husband in the true sense of the word?'
'The conviction was forced upon me. Why did she marry him at all?
What led her to give herself, heart and soul, to Socialism, she who
under ordinary circumstances would have shrunk from that and all
other _isms_? Why should she make it a special entreaty to me to
pursue her husband's work? The zeal for his memory is nothing
unanticipated; it issues naturally from her former state of mind.'
'Your vehemence,' replied the vicar, smiling, 'is sufficient proof
that you don't think it impossible for all these questions to be
answered in another sense. I can't pretend to have read the facts of
her life infallibly, but suppose I venture a hint or two, just to
give you matter for thought. Why she married him I cannot wholly
explain to myself, but remember that she took that step very shortly
after being brought to believe that you, my good friend, were
utterly unworthy of any true woman's devotion. Remember, too, her
brother's influence, and--well, her mother's. Now, on the evening
before she accepted Mutimer she called at the Vicarage alone.
Unfortunately I was away--was walking with you, in fact. What she
desired to say to me I can only conjecture; but it is not impossible
that she was driven by the common impulse which sends young girls to
their pastor when they are in grievous trouble and without other
'Why did you never tell me of that?' cried Hubert.
'Because it would have been useless, and, to tell you the truth, I
felt I was in an awkward position, not far from acting indiscreetly.
I did go to see her the next morning, but only saw her mother, and
heard of the engagement. Adela never spoke to me of her visit.'
'But she may have come for quite other reasons. Her subsequent
'Certainly. Here again I may be altogether wrong, but it seems to me
that to a woman of her character there was only one course open.
Having become his wife, it behoved her to be loyal, and
especially--remember this--it behoved her to put her position beyond
doubt in the eyes of others, in the eyes of one, it may be, beyond
all. Does that throw no light on your meeting with her in the wood,
of which you make so much?'
Hubert's countenance shone, but only for an instant.
'Ingenious,' he replied, good-humouredly.
'Possibly no more,' Mr. Wyvern rejoined. 'Take it as a fanciful
sketch of how a woman's life _might_ be ordered. Such a life would
not lack its dignity.'
Neither spoke for a while.
'You will call on Mrs. Westlake as you pass through London?' Mr.
Wyvern next inquired.
'Mrs. Westlake?' the other repeated absently. 'Yes, I dare say I
shall see her.'
'Do, by all means.'
They began to descend the hill.
The Walthams no longer lived in Wanley. A year ago the necessities
of Alfred Waltham's affairs had led to a change; he and his wife and
their two children, together with Mrs. Waltham the dowager, removed
to what the auctioneers call a commodious residence on the outskirts
of Belwick. Alfred remarked that it was as well not to be so far
from civilisation; he pointed out, too, that it was time for him to
have an eye to civic dignities, if only a place on the Board of
Guardians to begin with. Our friend was not quite so uncompromising
in his political and social opinions as formerly. His wife observed
that he ceased to subscribe to Socialist papers, and took in a daily
of orthodox Liberal tendencies--that is to say, an organ of
capitalism. Letty rejoiced at the change, but knew her husband far
too well to make any remark upon it.
To their house, about three months after her husband's death, came
Adela. The intermediate time she had passed with Stella. All were
very glad to have her at Belwick--Letty in particular, who, though a
matron with two bouncing boys, still sat at Adela's feet and deemed
her the model of womanhood. Adela was not so sad as they had feared
to find her. She kept a great deal to her own room, but was always
engaged in study, and seemed to find peace in that way. She was
silent in her habits, scarcely ever joining in general conversation;
but when Letty could steal an hour from household duties and go to
Adela's room she was always sure of hearing wise and tender words in
which her heart delighted. Her pride in Adela was boundless. On the
day when the latter first attired herself in modified mourning,
Letty, walking with her in the garden, could not refrain from saying
how Adela's dress became her.
'You are more beautiful every day, dear,' she added, in spite of a
tremor which almost checked her in uttering a compliment which her
sister might think too frivolous.
But Adela blushed, one would have thought it was with pleasure.
Sadness, however, followed, and Letty wondered whether the beautiful
face was destined to wear its pallor always.
On this same spring morning, when Hubert Eldon was taking leave of
Wanley, Mrs. Waltham and Letty were talking of a visit Adela was
about to pay to Stella in London. They spoke also of a visitor of
their own, or, perhaps, rather of Adela's, who had been in the house
for a fortnight and would return to London on the morrow. This was
Alice Mutimer--no longer to be called Mrs. Rodman. Alice had lived
with her mother in Wilton Square since her recovery from the illness
which for a long time had kept her in ignorance of the double
calamity fallen upon her. It was Adela who at length told her that
she had no husband, and that her brother Richard was dead. Neither
disclosure affected her gravely. The months of mental desolation
followed by physical collapse seemed to have exhausted her powers of
suffering. For several days she kept to herself and cried a good
deal, but she exhibited no bitter grief. It soon became evident that
she thought but little of the man who had so grossly wronged her; he
was quite gone from her heart Even when she was summoned to give
evidence against him in court, she did it without much reluctance,
yet also without revengeful feeling; her state was one of enfeebled
vitality, she was like a child in all the concerns of life. Rodman
went into penal servitude, but it did not distress her, and she
never again uttered his name.
Adela thought it would be a kindness to invite her to Belwick and
Alice at once accepted the invitation. Yet she was not at her ease
in the house. She appeared to have forgiven Adela, overcome by the
latter's goodness, but her nature was not of the kind to grow in
liberal feeling. Mrs. Waltham the elder she avoided as much as
possible. Perhaps Letty best succeeded in conciliating her, for
Letty was homely and had the children to help her.
'I wish I had a child,' Alice said one day when she sat alone with
Letty, and assisted in nursery duties. But at once her cheeks
coloured. 'I suppose you're ashamed of me for saying that I'm not
even a married woman.'
Letty replied, as she well knew how to, very gently and with
'I wonder where she goes to when she sets off by herself,' said Mrs.
Waltham this morning. 'She seems to object to walk with any of us.'
'She always comes back in better spirits,' said Letty. 'I think the
change is doing her good.'
'But she won't be sorry to leave us, my dear, I can see that. To be
sure it was like Adela to think of having her here, but I scarcely
think it would be advisable for the visit to be repeated. She is not
at home with us. And how can it be expected? It's in her blood, of
course; she belongs so distinctly to an inferior class.'
'I am so very sorry for her,' Letty replied. 'What dreadful things
she has gone through!'
'Dreadful, indeed, my dear; but after all such things don't happen
to ladies. We must remember that. It isn't as if you or Adela had
suffered in that way. That, of course, would be shocking beyond all
words. I can't think that persons of her class have quite the same
'Oh, mother!' Letty protested. And she added, less seriously, 'You
mustn't let Alfred hear you say such a thing as that.'
'I'm glad to say,' replied Mrs. Waltham, 'that Alfred has grown much
more sensible in his views of late.'
Adela entered the room. Letty was not wrong in saying that she grew
more beautiful. Life had few joys for her, save intellectual, but
you saw on her countenance the light of freedom. In her manner there
was an unconscious dignity which made her position in the house one
of recognised superiority; even her mother seldom ventured to chat
without reserve in her presence. Alfred drew up in the midst of a
tirade if she but seemed about to speak. Yet it was happiness to
live with her; where she moved there breathed an air of purity and
She asked if Alice had returned from her walk. Receiving a reply in
the negative, she went out into the garden.
'Adela looks happy to-day,' said Letty. 'That article in the paper
has pleased her very much.'
'I really hope she won't do such a thing again,' remarked Mrs.
Waltham, with dignified disapproval. 'It seems very unlady-like to
write letters to the newspapers.'
'But it was brave of her.'
'To be sure, we must not judge her as we should ordinary people.
Still, I am not sure that she is always right. I shall never allow
that she did right in paying back that money to those wretches in
London. I am sure she wanted it far more than they did. The
Letty shuddered, but would not abandon defence of Adela.
'Still it was very honourable of her, mother. She understands those
things better than we can.'
'Perhaps so, my dear,' said Mrs. Waltham, meaning that her own
opinion was not likely to be inferior in justice to that of anyone
Adela had been in the garden for a few minutes when she saw Alice
coming towards her. The poor Princess had a bright look, as if some
joyful news had just come to her. Adela met her with a friendly
'There is someone you used to know,' Alice said, speaking with
embarrassment, and pointing towards the road. 'You remember Mr.
Keene? I met him. He says he wrote that in the "Chronicle." He would
like to speak to you if you'll let him.'
'I shall be glad to,' Adela replied, with a look of curiosity.
They walked to the garden gate. Mr. Keene was just outside; Alice
beckoned to him to enter. His appearance was a great improvement on
the old days; he had grown a beard, and in his eye you saw the
responsible editor. Altogether he seemed to have gained in moral
solidity. None the less, his manner of approaching Adela, hat in
hand, awoke reminiscences of the footlights.
'It is a great pleasure to me to see you, Mrs. Mutimer. I trust that
my few comments on your admirable letter were of a nature to afford
'Thank you very much, Mr. Keene,' Adela replied. 'You wrote very
'I am amply rewarded,' he said, bowing low. 'And now that I have had
my desire, permit me to hasten away. My duty calls me into the
He again bowed low to Adela, smiled a farewell to Alice, and
The two walked together in the garden. Adela turned to her
'I think you knew Mr. Keene a long time ago?'
'Yes, a long time. He once asked me to marry him.'
Adela replied only with a look.
'And he's asked me again this morning,' Alice pursued, breaking off
a leaf from an elder bush.
'I didn't refuse him this time,' Alice replied with confidence.
'I am very glad, very glad. He has been faithful to you so long that
I am sure he will make you happy.'
Alice no longer concealed her joy. It was almost exultation. Natural
enough under the circumstances, poor, disinherited Princess! Once
more she felt able to face people; once more she would have a name.
She began to talk eagerly.
'Of course I shall just go back to tell mother, but we are going to
be married in three weeks. He has already decided upon a house; we
went to see it this morning. I didn't like to tell you, but I met
him for the first time a week ago--quite by chance.'
'I'm afraid your mother will be lonely,' Adela said.
'Not she! She'd far rather live alone than go anywhere else. And now
I shall be able to send her money. It isn't fair for you to have to
'I have wanted to ask you,' Adela said presently, 'do you ever hear
Alice shook her head.
'The less we hear the better,' she replied. 'He's gone to the bad,
and there's no help for it.'
It was true; unfortunate victim of prosperity.
Next morning Adela and Alice travelled to town together. The former
did not go to Wilton Square. On the occasion of Richard's death she
had met Mrs. Mutimer, but the interview had been an extremely
difficult one, in spite of the old woman's endeavour to be
courteous. Adela felt herself to be an object of insuperable
prejudice. Once again she was bidden sound the depth of the gulf
which lies between the educated and the uneducated. The old woman
would not give her hand, but made an old-fashioned curtsey, which
Adela felt to be half ironical. In speaking of her son she was hard.
Pride would not allow her to exhibit the least symptom of the
anguish which wrung her heart. She refused to accept any share of
the income which was continued to her son's widow under the Wanley
will. Alice, however, had felt no scruple in taking the half which
Adela offered her, and by paying her mother for board and lodgings
she supplemented the income derived from letting as much of the
house as possible.
Once more under the roof of her dearest friend, Adela was less
preoccupied with the sad past which afflicted her mind with the
stress of a duty ever harder to perform. After an hour passed with
Stella she could breathe freely the atmosphere of beauty and love.
Elsewhere she too often suffered from a sense of self-reproach;
between her and the book in which she tried to lose herself there
would come importunate visions of woe, of starved faces, of fierce
eyes. The comfort she enjoyed, the affection and respect with which
she was surrounded, were often burdensome to her conscience. In
Stella's presence all that vanished; listening to Stella's voice she
could lay firm hold on the truth that there is a work in the cause
of humanity other than that which goes on so clamorously in lecture
halls and at street corners, other than that which is silently
performed by faithful hearts and hands in dens of misery and amid
the horrors of the lazar-house; the work of those whose soul is
taken captive of loveliness, who pursue the spiritual ideal apart
from the world's tumult, and, ever ready to minister in gentle
offices, know that they serve best when nearest home. She was far
from spiritual arrogance; her natural mood was a profound humility;
she deemed herself rather below than above the active toilers, whose
sweat was sacred; but life had declared that such toil was not for
her, and from Stella she derived the support which enabled her to
pursue her path in peace--a path not one with Stella's. Before that
high-throned poet-soul Adela bent in humble reverence. Between
Stella and those toilers, however noble and devoted, there could be
no question of comparison. She was of those elect whose part it is
to inspire faith and hope, of those highest but for whom the world
would fall into apathy or lose itself among subordinate motives.
Stella never spoke of herself; Adela could not know whether she had
ever stood at the severance of ways and made deliberate choice.
Probably not, for on her brow was visible to all eyes the seal of
election; how could she ever have doubted the leading of that spirit
that used her lips for utterance?
On the morning after her arrival in London Adela took a long journey
by herself to the far East End. Going by omnibus it seemed to her
that she was never to reach that street off Bow Road which she had
occasion to visit. But at last the conductor bade her descend, and
gave her a brief direction The thoroughfare she sought was poor but
not squalid she saw with pleasure that the house of which she had
the number in mind was, if anything, cleaner and more homelike in
appearance than its neighbours. A woman replied to her knock.
She asked if Miss Vine was at home.
'Yes, mum; she's at 'ome. Shall I tell her, or will you go up?'
'I will go up, thank you. Which room is it?'
'Second floor front you'll find her.'
Adela ascended. Standing at the door she heard the hum of a
sewing-machine. It made her heart sink, so clearly did it speak of
incessant monotonous labour.
She knocked loudly. The machine did not stop, but she was bidden to
Emma was at work, one of her sister's children sitting by her,
writing on a slate. She had expected the appearance of the landlady;
seeing who the visitor was, she let her hands fall abruptly; an
expression of pain passed over her features.
Adela went up to her and kissed her forehead, then exchanged a few
words with the child. Emma placed a chair for her, but without
speaking. The room was much like the other in which the sisters had
lived, save that it had a brighter outlook. There were the two beds
and the table covered with work.
'Do you find it better here?' Adela began by asking.
'Yes, it is. better,' Emma replied quietly. 'We manage to get a good
deal of work, and it isn't badly paid.'
The voice was not uncheerful; it had that serenity which comes of
duties honestly performed and a life tolerably free from sordid
anxiety. More than that could not be said of Emma's existence. But,
such as it was, it depended entirely upon her own effort. Adela, on
the evening when she first met her in the room where Mutimer lay
dead, had read clearly Emma's character; she knew that, though it
was one of her strongest desires to lighten the burden of this so
sorely tried woman, direct aid was not to be dreamt of. She had
taken counsel with Stella, Stella with her husband. After much vain
seeking they discovered an opportunity of work in this part of the
East End. Mr. Westlake made it known to Emma; she acknowledged that
it would be better than the over-swarmed neighbourhood in which she
was living, and took the advice gratefully. She had hopes, too, that
Kate might be got away from her evil companions. And indeed the
change had not been without its effect on Mrs. Clay; she worked more
steadily, and gave more attention to her children.
'She's just gone with the eldest to the hospital,' Emma replied to a
question of Adela's. 'He's got something the matter with his eyes.
And this one isn't at all well. He ought to be at school, only he's
had such a dreadful cough we're afraid to send him out just yet.
They're neither of them strong, I'm afraid.'
'And you--isn't your health better since you have lived here?' Adela
'I think so. But I never ail much as long as I have plenty of work
'I am staying with a friend in London,' Adela said after a pause. 'I
thought I might come to see you. I hoped you would still be in the
'Yes, we are very comfortable, very,' Emma replied. 'I hope we
shan't need to move for a long time; I'm sure we couldn't do
She added, without raising her eyes:
'Thank you for coming.'
Adela knew that constraint between them was inevitable; it was
enough that Emma spoke with good-will.
'If ever you should have to move,' she said, 'will you let me know
where you go? I have written on this paper the address of my
mother's house; I live with her. Will you show me so much
Emma glanced at her, and saw a look which recalled to her something
she had seen in those eyes before.
'I will write and tell you if we do move,' she said.
Adela went away with a heart not altogether sad; it was rather as
though she had been hearing solemn music, which stirred her soul
even while it touched upon the source of tears.
It was only on certain days that Stella sat to receive during
visitors' hours. To-day was not one of them; consequently when
Hubert Eldon called, about half-past four, the servant came up to
the drawing-room to ask if Mrs. Westlake would be at home to him.
Adela was in the room; at the mention of the name she rose.
'I must write a letter before dinner,' she said. 'I win go and get
it done whilst you are engaged.'
'Won't you stay? Do stay!'
'I had much rather not. I don't feel able to talk with anyone just
She left the room without meeting Stella's look. The latter said she
would receive Mr. Eldon.
Adela went to the exquisitely furnished little boudoir, which was
now always called _her_ room, and sat down with the resolve to write
to her mother on the subjects she had in mind. But her strength of
will proved unequal to the task; after writing a word or two with
shaking hand she laid down her pen and rested her face upon her
hands. A minute or two ago she had been untroubled by a thought
which concerned herself; now her blood was hot, and all her being
moved at the impulse of a passionate desire. She had never known
such a rebellion of her life. In her ears there rang the word 'Free!
free!' She was free, and the man whom she loved with the love of
years, with the first love of maidenhood and the confirmed love of
maturity, was but a few yards from her--it might be, had even come
here on purpose to meet her.
Oh, why was he not poor! Had he but been some struggling artist,
scarce able to support the woman of his choice, how would she have
stood before him and let him read the tenderness on her face!
Hubert's wealth was doubly hateful.
She started from her chair, with difficulty suppressing a cry.
Someone had knocked at her door. Perhaps he was already gone; she
could not say how long she had sat here. It was Stella.
'Mr. Eldon wishes to speak to you, dear.'
She caught her friend's hand and almost crushed it between her own.
'I can't see him! Stella, I dare not see him!'
'But he says it is purely a matter of business he wishes to speak
of,' said Stella with a pained voice.
Adela sank her head in anguish of shame. Stella put an arm about
her, fearing she would fall. But in an instant pride had sprung up;
Adela freed herself, now deadly pale.
'I will go.'
She moved mechanically, spoke mechanically the conventional words
when she found that somehow she was in his presence.
'I hope I do not disturb you,' Hubert said with equal self-control.
'I was about to address a letter to you before I left England. I did
not know that you were here. It is better, perhaps, to do my
business by word of mouth, if you will allow me.'
He was very courteous, but she could not distinguish a note in his
voice that meant more than courtesy. She prayed him to be seated,
and herself took a place on an ottoman. She was able very calmly to
regard his face. He leaned forward with his hands together and spoke
with his eyes on her.
'It is with regard to the legacy which is due to you under Mr.
Mutimer's will. You will remember that, as trustee, I have it in my
power to make over to you the capital sum which produces the
annuity, if there should be reason for doing so. I am about to leave
England, perhaps for some few years; I have let the Manor to some
friends of mine on a twenty years' lease. I think I should like to
transfer the money to you before I go. It is simpler, better. Will
you let me do that, Mrs. Mutimer?'
His words chilled her. His voice seemed harder as he proceeded; it
had the ring of metal, of hard cash counted down.
What was his object? He wished to have done with her, to utterly
abolish all relations between them. It might well be that he was
about to marry, and someone abroad, someone who would not care to
live in an English country house. Why otherwise should he have let
the Manor for so long a period? She felt as she had done long ago,
when she heard of that other foreign woman. Cold as ice; not a spark
of love in all her being.
'Thank you. If you are willing to make that change, perhaps it will
Hubert, his eyes still on her, imagined he saw pleasure in her face.
She might have a project for the use of the money, some Socialist
scheme, something perhaps to preserve the memory of her husband. He
'In that case I will have a deed prepared at once, and you shall be
informed when it is ready for signature.'
He said to himself that she could not forgive his refusal of her
request that day in the wood.
They shook hands, Adela saying:
'You are still busy with art?'
'In my dilettante way,' he replied smiling.
Adela returned to her room, and there remained till the hour of
dinner. At the meal she was her ordinary self. Afterwards Mr.
Westlake asked her to read in proof an article about to appear in
the 'Beacon'; she did so, and commented upon it with a clear mind.
In the course of the evening she told her friends of the arrangement
between Mr. Eldon and herself.
Two days later she had to call at the solicitor's office to sign the
deed of release. Incidentally she learnt that Hubert was leaving
England the same evening.
Had she been at home, these days would have been spent in solitude.
For the first time she suffered in Stella's company. All allusion to
Hubert was avoided between them. Sometimes she could hardly play her
part; sickness of the soul wasted her.
It was morning; he was now on the Continent, perhaps already talking
with someone he loved.
She was ashamed to have so deceived herself; she had feared him,
because she believed he loved her, and that by sympathy he might see
into her heart. Had it been so, he could not have gone from her in
this way. Forgetting her own pride, her own power of dissimulation,
she did not believe it possible for him so to disguise tenderness.
She would listen to no argument of hope, but crushed her heart with
The annual payment of money had been a link between him and her;
when she signed the deed releasing him, the cold sweat stood on her
She would reason. Of what excellence was he possessed that her life
should so abandon itself at his feet? In what had he proved himself
generous or capable of the virtues that subdue? Such reasoning led
to self-mockery. She was no longer the girl who questioned her heart
as to the significance of the vows required in the marriage service;
in looking back upon those struggles she could have wept for pity.
Love would submit to no analysis; it was of her life; as easy to
account for the power of thought. Her soul was bare to her and all
its needs. There was no refuge in ascetic resolve, in the
self-deceit of spiritual enthusiasm. She could say to herself: You
are free to love him; then love and be satisfied. Could she, when
a-hungered, look on food, and bid her hunger be appeased by the act
Thus long she had held up, but despair was closing in upon her, and
an anguish worse than death. She must leave this house and go where
she might surrender herself to misery. There was no friend whose
comfort could be other than torment and bitter vanity; such woe as
hers only time and weariness could aid.
She was rising with the firm purpose of taking leave of Stella when
a servant came to her door, announcing that Mr. Eldon desired to see
She was incredulous, required the servant to repeat the name. Mr.
Eldon was in the drawing-room and desired to see her.
There must have been some error, some oversight in the legal
business. Oh, it was inhuman to torture her in this way! Careless of
what her countenance might indicate, she hastened to the
drawing-room. She could feign no longer. Let him think what he
would, so that he spoke briefly and released her.
But as soon as she entered the room she knew that he had not come to
talk of business. He was pale and agitated. As he did not speak at
once she said:
'I thought you were gone. I thought you left England last night.'
'I meant to do so, but found it impossible. I could not go till I
had seen you once more.'
'What more have you to say to me?'
She knew that she was speaking recklessly, without a thought for
dignity. Her question sounded as if it had been extorted from her by
'That if I go away from you now and finally, I go without a hope to
support my life. You are everything to me. You are offended; you
shrink from me. It is what I expected. Years ago, when I loved you
without knowing what my love really meant, I flung away every chance
in a moment of boyish madness. When I should have consecrated every
thought to the hope of winning you, I made myself contemptible in
your eyes--worse, I made you loathe me. When it was too late I
understood what I had done. Then I loved you as a man loves the one
woman whom he supremely reverences, as I love you, and, I believe,
shall always love you. I could not go without saying this to you. I
am happier in speaking the words than I ever remember to have been
in my life before.'
Adela's bosom heaved, but excess of joy seemed to give her power to
deal lightly with the gift that was offered her.
'Why did you not say this the last time?' she asked. One would have
said, from her tone, that it was a question of the merest curiosity.
She did not realise the words that passed her lips.
'Because the distance between us seemed too great. I began to speak
of that money in the thought that it might lead me on. It had the
opposite effect. You showed me how cold you could be. It is natural
enough. Perhaps your sympathies are too entirely remote; and yet not
long ago you talked with me as if your interests could be much the
same as mine. I can understand that you suppress that side of your
nature. You think me useless in the world. And indeed my life has
but one purpose, which is a vain one. I can do nothing but feed my
love for you. You have convictions and purposes; you feel that they
are opposed to mine. All that is of the intellect; I only live in my
passion. We are different and apart.'
'Why do you say that, as if you were glad of it?'
'Glad? I speak the words that come to my tongue. I say aloud to you
what I have been repeating again and again to myself. It is mere
She drew one step nearer to him.
'You disregard those differences which you say are only of the
intellect, and still love me. Can I not do the same? There _was_ a
distance between us, and my ends were other than yours. That is the
past; the present is mine to make myself what you would have me. I
have no law but your desire--so much I love you.'
How easily said after all! And when he searched her face with eyes
on fire with their joy, when he drew her to his heart in passionate
triumph, the untruth of years fell from her like a veil, and she had
achieved her womanhood.