Part 2 out of 12
On ordinary days Richard of necessity rose early; a holiday did not
lead him to break the rule, for free hours were precious. He had his
body well under control; six hours of sleep he found sufficient to
keep him in health, and temptations to personal ease, in whatever
form, he resisted as a matter of principle.
Easter Monday found him down-stairs at half-past six. His mother
would to-day allow herself another hour. 'Arry would be down just in
time to breakfast, not daring to be late. The Princess might be
looked for--some time in the course of the morning; she was
Richard, for purposes of study, used the front parlour. In drawing
up the blind, he disclosed a room precisely resembling in essential
features hundreds of front parlours in that neighbourhood, or,
indeed, in any working-class district of London. Everything was
clean; most things were bright-hued or glistening of surface. There
was the gilt-framed mirror over the mantelpiece, with a yellow
clock--which did not go--and glass ornaments in front. There was
a small round table before the window, supporting wax fruit under
a glass case. There was a hearthrug with a dazzling pattern of
imaginary flowers. On the blue cloth of the middle table were four
showily-bound volumes, arranged symmetrically. On the head of the
sofa lay a covering worked of blue and yellow Berlin wools. Two
arm-chairs were draped with long white antimacassars, ready to slip
off at a touch. As in the kitchen, there was a smell of cleanlines--of
furniture polish, hearthstone, and black-lead.
I should mention the ornaments of the walls. The pictures were: a
striking landscape of the Swiss type, an engraved portrait of
Garibaldi, an unframed view of a certain insurance office, a British
baby on a large scale from the Christmas number of an illustrated
The one singular feature of the room was a small, glass-doored
bookcase, full of volumes. They were all of Richard's purchasing; to
survey them was to understand the man, at all events on his
intellectual side. Without exception they belonged to that order of
literature which, if studied exclusively and for its own sake,--as
here it was,--brands a man indelibly, declaring at once the
incompleteness of his education and the deficiency of his instincts.
Social, political, religious,--under these three heads the volumes
classed themselves, and each class was represented by productions of
the 'extreme' school. The books which a bright youth of fair
opportunities reads as a matter of course, rejoices in for a year or
two, then throws aside for ever, were here treasured to be the
guides of a lifetime. Certain writers of the last century, long ago
become only historically interesting, were for Richard an armoury
whence he girded himself for the battles of the day; cheap reprints
or translations of Malthus, of Robert Owen, of Volney's 'Ruins,' of
Thomas Paine, of sundry works of Voltaire, ranked upon his shelves.
Moreover, there was a large collection of pamphlets, titled
wonderfully and of yet more remarkable contents, the authoritative
utterances of contemporary gentlemen--and ladies--who made it the
end of their existence to prove: that there cannot by any
possibility be such a person as Satan; that the story of creation
contained in the Book of Genesis is on no account to be received;
that the begetting of children is a most deplorable oversight; that
to eat flesh is wholly unworthy of a civilised being; that if every
man and woman performed their quota of the world's labour it would
be necessary to work for one hour and thirty-seven minutes daily, no
jot longer, and that the author, in each case, is the one person
capable of restoring dignity to a down-trodden race and happiness to
a blasted universe. Alas, alas! On this food had Richard Mutimer
pastured his soul since he grew to manhood, on this and this only.
English literature was to him a sealed volume; poetry he scarcely
knew by name; of history he was worse than ignorant, having looked
at this period and that through distorting media, and congratulating
himself on his clear vision because he saw men as trees walking; the
bent of his mind would have led him to natural science, but
opportunities of instruction were lacking, and the chosen directors
of his prejudice taught him to regard every fact, every discovery,
as _for_ or _against_ something.
A library of pathetic significance, the individual alone considered.
Viewed as representative, not without alarming suggestiveness to
those who can any longer trouble themselves about the world's
future. One dreams of the age when free thought--in the popular
sense--will have become universal, when art shall have lost its
meaning, worship its holiness, when the Bible will only exist in
'comic' editions, and Shakespeare be down-cried by 'most sweet
voices as a mountebank of reactionary tendencies.
Richard was to lecture on the ensuing Sunday at one of the branch
meeting-places of his society; he engaged himself this morning in
collecting certain data of a statistical kind. He was still at his
work when the sound of the postman's knock began to be heard in the
square, coming from house to house, drawing nearer at each
repetition. Richard paid no heed to it; he expected no letter. Yet
it seemed there was one for some member of the family; the
letter-carrier's regular tread ascended the five steps to the door,
and then two small thunderclaps echoed through the house. There was
no letter-box; Richard went to answer the knock. An envelope
addressed to himself in a small, formal hand.
His thoughts still busy with other things, he opened the letter
mechanically as he re-entered the room. He had never in his life
been calmer; the early hour of study had kept his mind pleasantly
active whilst his breakfast appetite sharpened itself. Never was man
less prepared to receive startling intelligence.
He read, then raised his eyes and let them stray from the papers on
the table to the wax-fruit before the window, thence to the young
leafage of the trees around the Baptist Chapel. He was like a man
whose face had been overflashed by lightning. He read again, then,
holding the letter behind him, closed his right hand upon his beard
with thoughtful tension. He read a third time, then returned the
letter to its envelope, put it in his pocket, and sat down again to
He was summoned to breakfast in ten minutes. His mother was alone in
the kitchen; she gave him his bloater and his cup of coffee, and he
cut himself a solid slice of bread and butter.
'Was the letter for you?' she asked.
He replied with a nod, and fell patiently to work on the dissection
of his bony delicacy. In five minutes Henry approached the table
with a furtive glance at his elder brother. But Richard had no
remark to make. The meal proceeded in silence.
When Richard had finished, he rose and said to his mother--
'Have you that railway-guide I brought home a week ago?'
'I believe I have somewhere. Just look in the cupboard.'
The guide was found. Richard consulted it for a few moments.
'I have to go out of London,' he then observed. 'It's just possible
I shan't get back to-night.'
A little talk followed about the arrangements of the day, and
whether anyone was likely to be at home for dinner. Richard did not
show much interest in the matter; he went upstairs whistling, and
changed the clothing he wore for his best suit. In a quarter of an
hour he had left the house.
He did not return till the evening of the following day. It was
presumed that he had gone 'after a job.'
When he reached home his mother and Alice were at tea. He walked to
the kitchen fireplace, turned his back to it, and gazed with a
peculiar expression at the two who sat at table.
'Dick's got work,' observed Alice, after a glance at him. 'I can see
that in his face.'.
'Have you, Dick?' asked Mrs. Mutimer.
'I have. Work likely to last.'
'So we'll hope,' commented his mother. 'Where is it? '
'A good way out of London. Pour me a cup, mother. Where's 'Arry?'
'Gone out, as usual.'
'And why are you having tea with your hat on, Princess?'
'Because I'm in a hurry, if you must know everything.'
Richard did not seek further information. He drank his tea standing.
In five minutes Alice had bustled away for an evening with friends.
Mrs. Mutimer cleared the table without speaking.
'Now get your sewing, mother, and sit down,' began Richard. 'I want
to have a talk with you.'
The mother cast a rather suspicious glance. There was an
impressiveness in the young man's look and tone which disposed her
to obey without remark.
'How long is it,' Richard asked, when attention waited upon him,
'since you heard anything of father's uncle, my namesake?'
Mrs. Mutimer's face exhibited the dawning of intelligence, an
unwrinkling here and there, a slight rounding of the lips.
'Why, what of him?' she asked in an undertone, leaving a needle
'The old man's just dead.'
Agitation seized the listener, agitation of a kind most unusual in
her. Her hands trembled, her eyes grew wide.
'You haven't heard anything of him lately?' pursued Richard.
'Heard? Not I. No more did your father ever since two years afore we
was married. I'd always thought he was dead long ago. What of him,
'From what I'm told I thought you'd perhaps been keeping things to
yourself. 'Twouldn't have been unlike you, mother. He knew all about
us, so the lawyer tells me.'
'Well, I'd better out with it. He's died without a will. His real
property--that means his houses and land--belongs to me; his
personal property--that's his money--'ll have to be divided between
me, and Alice, and 'Arry. You're out of the sharing, mother.'
He said it jokingly, but Mrs. Mutimer did not join in his laugh. Her
palms were closely pressed together; still trembling, she gazed
straight before her, with a far-off look.
'His houses--his land?' she murmured, as if she had not quite heard.
'What did he want with more than one house?'
The absurd question was all that could find utterance. She seemed to
be reflecting on that point.
'Would you like to hear what it all comes to?' Richard resumed. His
voice was unnatural, forcibly suppressed, quivering at pauses. His
eyes gleamed, and there was a centre of warm colour on each of his
cheeks. He had taken a note-book from his pocket, and the leaves
rustled under his tremulous fingers.
'The lawyer, a man called Yottle, just gave me an idea of the
different investments and so on. The real property consists of a
couple of houses in Belwick, both let, and an estate at a place
called Wanley. The old man had begun mining there; there's iron.
I've got my ideas about that. I didn't go into the house; people are
there still. Now the income.'
He read his notes: So much in railways, so much averaged yearly from
iron-works in Belwick, so much in foreign securities, so much
disposable at home. Total--
'Stop, Dick, stop!' uttered his mother, under her breath. 'Them
figures frighten me; I don't know what they mean. It's a mistake;
they're leading you astray. Now, mind what I say--there's a mistake!
No man with all that money 'ud die without a will. You won't get me
to believe it, Dick.'
Richard laughed excitedly. 'Believe it or not, mother; I've got my
ears and eyes, I hope. And there's a particular reason why he left
no will. There was one, but something--I don't know what--happened
just before his death, and he was going to make a new one. The will
was burnt. He died in church on a Sunday morning; if he'd lived
another day, he'd have made a new will. It's no more a mistake than
the Baptist Chapel is in the square!' A comparison which hardly
conveyed all Richard's meaning; but he was speaking in agitation,
more and more quickly, at last almost angrily.
Mrs. Mutimer raised her hand. 'Be quiet a bit, Dick. It's took me
too sudden. I feel queer like.'
There was silence. The mother rose as if with difficulty, and drew
water in a tea-cup from the filter. When she resumed her place, her
hands prepared to resume sewing. She looked up, solemnly, sternly.
'Dick, it's bad, bad news! I'm an old woman, and I must say what I
think. It upsets me; it frightens me. I thought he might a' left you
a hundred pounds.'
'Mother, don't talk about it till you've had time to think,' said
Richard, stubbornly. 'If this is bad news, what the deuce would you
call good? Just because I've been born and bred a mechanic, does
that say I've got no common sense or self-respect? Are you afraid I
shall go and drink myself to death? You talk like the people who
make it their business to sneer at us--the improvidence of the
working classes, and such d--d slander. It's good news for me, and
it'll be good news for many another man. Wait and see.'
The mother became silent, keeping her lips tight, and struggling to
regain her calmness. She was not convinced, but in argument with her
eldest son she always gave way, affection and the pride she had in
him aiding her instincts of discretion. In practice she still
maintained something of maternal authority, often gaining her point
by merely seeming offended. To the two who had not yet reached the
year of emancipation she allowed, in essentials, no appeal from her
decision. Between her and Richard there had been many a sharp
conflict in former days, invariably ending with the lad's
submission; the respect which his mother exacted he in truth felt to
be her due, and it was now long since they had openly been at issue
on any point. Mrs. Mutimer's views were distinctly Conservative, and
hitherto she had never taken Richard's Radicalism seriously; on the
whole she had regarded it as a fairly harmless recreation for his
leisure hours--decidedly preferable to a haunting of public-houses
and music-halls. The loss of his employment caused her a good deal
of uneasiness, but she had not ventured to do more than throw out
hints of her disapproval; and now, as it seemed, the matter was of
no moment. Henceforth she had far other apprehensions, but this
first conflict of their views made her reticent.
'Just let me tell you how things stand,' Richard pursued, when his
excitement had somewhat subsided; and he went on to explain the
relations between old Mr. Mutimer and the Eldons, which in outline
had been described to him by Mr. Yottle. And then--
'The will he had made left all the property to this young Eldon, who
was to be trustee for a little money to be doled out to me yearly,
just to save me from ruining myself, of course.' Richard's lips
curled in scorn. 'I don't know whether the lawyer thought we ought
to offer to give everything up; he seemed precious anxious to make
me understand that the old man had never intended us to have it, and
that he _did_ want these other people to have it. Of course, we've
nothing to do with that. Luck's luck, and I think I know who'll make
best use of it.'
'Why didn't you tell all this when Alice was here?' inquired his
mother, seeming herself again, though very grave.
'I'll tell you. I thought it over, and it seems to me it'll be
better if Alice and 'Arry wait a while before they know what'll come
to them. They can't take anything till they're twenty-one. Alice is
a good girl, but--'
He hesitated, having caught his mother's eye. He felt that this
prudential course justified in a measure her anxiety.
'She's a girl,' he pursued, 'and we know that a girl with a lot o'
money gets run after by men who care nothing about her and a good
deal about the money. Then it's quite certain 'Arry won't be any the
better for fancying himself rich. H's going to give us trouble as it
is, I can see that. We shall have to take another house, of course,
and we can't keep them from knowing that there's money fallen to me.
But there's no need to talk about the figures, and if we can make
them think it's only me that's better off, so much the better. Alice
needn't go to work, and I'm glad of it; a girl's proper place is at
home. You can tell her you want her to help in the new house. 'Arry
had better keep his place awhile. I shouldn't wonder if I find work
for him myself before long I've got plans, but I shan't talk about
them just yet.'
He spoke then of the legal duties which fell upon him as
next-of-kin, explaining the necessity of finding two sureties on
taking out letters of administration. Mr. Yottle had offered himself
for one; the other Richard hoped to find in Mr. Westlake, a leader
of the Socialist movement.
'You want us to go into a big house?' asked Mrs. Mutimer. She seemed
to pay little attention to the wider aspects of the change, but to
fix on the details she could best understand, those which put her
fears in palpable shape.
'I didn't say a big one, but a larger than this. We're not going to
play the do-nothing gentlefolk; but all the same our life won't and
can't be what it has been. There's no choice. You've worked hard all
your life, mother, and it's only fair you should come in for a bit
of rest. We'll find a house somewhere out Green Lanes way, or in
Highbury or Holloway.'
He laughed again.
'So there's the best of it--the worst of it, as you say. Just take a
night to turn it over. Most likely I shall go to Belwick again
He paused, and his mother, after bending her head to bite off an end
of cotton, asked--
'You'll tell Emma?'
'I shall go round to-night.'
A little later Richard left the house for this purpose. His step was
firmer than ever, his head more upright Walking along the crowded
streets, he saw nothing; there was a fixed smile on his lips, the
smile of a man to whom the world pays tribute. Never having suffered
actual want, and blessed with sanguine temperament, he knew nothing
of that fierce exultation, that wrathful triumph over fate, which
comes to men of passionate mood smitten by the lightning-flash of
unhoped prosperity. At present he was well-disposed to all men; even
against capitalists and 'profitmongers' he could not have railed
heartily Capitalists? Was he not one himself? Aye, but he would
prove himself such a one as you do not meet with every day; and the
foresight of deeds which should draw the eyes of men upon him, which
should shout his name abroad, softened his judgments with the
charity of satisfied ambition. He would be the glorified
representative of his class. He would show the world how a
self-taught working man conceived the duties and privileges of
wealth. He would shame those dunder-headed, callous-hearted
aristocrats, those ravening bourgeois. Opportunity--what else had he
wanted? No longer would his voice be lost in petty lecture-halls,
answered only by the applause of a handful of mechanics. Ere many
months had passed, crowds should throng to hear him; his gospel
would be trumpeted over the land. To what might he not attain? The
educated, the refined, men and women--
He was at the entrance of a dark passage, where his feet stayed
themselves by force of habit. He turned out of the street, and
walked more slowly towards the house in which Emma Vine and her
sisters lived. Having reached the door, he paused, but again took a
few paces forward. Then he came back and rang the uppermost of five
bells. In waiting, he looked vaguely up and down the street.
It was Emma herself who opened to him. The dim light showed a smile
of pleasure and surprise.
'You've come to ask about Jane?' she said. 'She hasn't been quite so
bad since last night.'
'I'm glad to hear it. Can I come up?'
He entered, and Emma closed the door. It was pitch dark.
'I wish I'd brought a candle down,' Emma said, moving back along the
passage. 'Mind there's a pram at the foot of the stairs.'
The perambulator was avoided successfully by both, and they ascended
the bare boards of the staircase. On each landing prevailed a
distinct odour; first came the damp smell of newly-washed clothes,
then the scent of fried onions, then the workroom of some small
craftsman exhaled varnish. The topmost floor seemed the purest; it
was only stuffy.
Richard entered an uncarpeted room which had to serve too many
distinct purposes to allow of its being orderly in appearance. In
one corner was a bed, where two little children lay asleep; before
the window stood a sewing-machine, about which was heaped a quantity
of linen; a table in the midst was half covered with a cloth, on
which was placed a loaf and butter, the other half being piled with
several dresses requiring the needle. Two black patches on the low
ceiling showed in what positions the lamp stood by turns.
Emma's eldest sister was moving about the room. Hers were the
children; her husband had been dead a year or more. She was about
thirty years of age, and had a slatternly appearance; her face was
peevish, and seemed to grudge the half-smile with which it received
'You've no need to look round you,' she said. 'We're in & regular
pig-stye, and likely to be. Where's there a chair?'
She shook some miscellaneous articles on to the floor to provide a
'For mercy's sake don't speak too loud, and wake them children.
Bertie's had the earache; he's been crying all day. What with him
and Jane we've had a blessing, I can tell you. Can I put these
supper things away, Emma?'
'I'll do it,' was the other's reply. 'Won't you have a bit more,
'I've got no mind for eating. Well, you may cut a slice and put it
on the mantelpiece. I'll go and sit with Jane.'
Richard sat and looked about the room absently. The circumstances of
his own family had never fallen below the point at which it is
possible to have regard for decency; the growing up of himself and
of his brothers and sister had brought additional resources to meet
extended needs, and the Mutimer characteristics had formed a
safeguard against improvidence. He was never quite at his ease in
this poverty-cumbered room, which he seldom visited.
'You ought to have a fire,' he said.
'There's one in the other room,' replied Kate. 'One has to serve
'But you can't cook there.'
'Cook? We can boil a potato, and that's about all the cooking we can
She moved to the door as she spoke, and, before leaving the room,
took advantage of Richard's back being turned to make certain
exhortatory signs to her sister. Emma averted her head.
Kate closed the door behind her. Emma, having removed the eatables
to the cupboard, came near to Richard and placed her arm gently upon
his shoulders. He looked at her kindly.
'Kate's been so put about with Bertie,' she said, in a tone of
excuse. 'And she was up nearly all last night.'
'She never takes things like you do,' Richard remarked.
'She's got more to bear. There's the children always making her
anxious. She took Alf to the hospital this afternoon, and the doctor
says he must have--I forget the name, somebody's food. But it's
two-and-ninepence for ever such a little tin. They don't think as
his teeth 'll ever come.'
'Oh, I daresay they will,' said Richard encouragingly.
He had put his arm about her. Emma knelt down by him, and rested her
head against his shoulder.
'I'm tired,' she whispered. 'I've had to go twice to the Minories
to-day. I'm so afraid I shan't be able to hold my eyes open with
Jane, and Kate's tireder still.'
She did not speak as if seeking for sympathy it was only the natural
utterance of her thoughts in a moment of restful confidence.
Uttermost weariness was a condition too familiar to the girl to be
spoken of in any but a patient, matter-of-fact tone. But it was
priceless soothing to let her forehead repose against the heart
whose love was the one and sufficient blessing of her life. Her
brown hair was very soft and fine; a lover of another kind would
have pressed his lips upon it. Richard was thinking of matters more
practical. At another time his indignation--in such a case right
good and manful--would have boiled over at the thought of these
poor women crushed in slavery to feed the world's dastard
selfishness; this evening his mood was more complaisant, and he
smiled as one at ease.
'Hadn't you better give up your work?' he said.
Emma raised her head. In the few moments of repose her eyelids had
drooped with growing heaviness; she looked at him as if she had just
been awakened to some great surprise.
'Give up work? How can I?'
'I think I would. You'd have more time to give to Jane, and you
could sleep in the day. And Jane had better not begin again after
this. Don't you think it would be better if you left these lodgings
and took a house, where there'd be plenty of room and fresh air?'
'Richard, what are you talking about?'
He laughed, quietly, on account of the sleeping children.
'How would you like,' he continued, 'to go and live in the country?
Kate and Jane could have a house of their own, you know--in London,
I mean, a house like ours; they could let a room or two if they
chose. Then you and I could go where we liked. I was down in the
Midland Counties yesterday; had to go on business; and I saw a house
that would just suit us. It's a bit large; I daresay there's sixteen
or twenty rooms. And there's trees growing all about it; a big
Emma dropped her head again and laughed, happy that Richard should
jest with her so good-humouredly; for he did not often talk in the
lighter way. She had read of such houses in the weekly story-papers.
It must be nice to live in them; it must be nice to be a denizen of
'I'm in earnest, Emma.'
His voice caused her to gaze at him again.
'Bring a chair,' he said, 'and I'll tell you something that'll--keep
The insensible fellow! Her sweet, pale, wondering face was so close
to his, the warmth of her drooping frame was against his heart--
arid he bade her sit apart to listen.
She placed herself as he desired, sitting with her hands together in
her lap, her countenance troubled a little, wishing to smile, yet
not quite venturing. And he told his story, told it in all details,
with figures that filled the mouth, that rolled forth like gold upon
'This is mine,' he said, 'mine and yours.'
Have you seen a child listening to a long fairy tale, every page a
new adventure of wizardry, a story of elf, or mermaid, or gnome, of
treasures underground guarded by enchanted monsters, of bells heard
silverly in the depth of old forests, of castles against the sunset,
of lakes beneath the quiet moon? Know you how light gathers in the
eyes dreaming on vision after vision, ever more intensely realised,
yet ever of an unknown world? How, when at length the reader's voice
is silent, the eyes still see, the ears still hear, until a movement
breaks the spell, and with a deep, involuntary sigh the little one
gazes here and there, wondering?
So Emma listened, and so she came back to consciousness, looking
about the room, incredulous. Had she been overcome with weariness?
Had she slept and dreamt?
One of the children stirred and uttered a little wailing sound. She
stepped lightly to the bedside, bent for a moment, saw that all was
well again, and came back on tip-toe. The simple duty had quieted
her throbbing heart. She seated herself as before.
'What about the country house now?' said Richard.
'I don't know what to say. It's more than I can take into my head.'
'You're not going to say, like mother did, that it was the worst
piece of news she'd ever heard?'
'Your mother said that?'
Emma was startled. Had her thought passed lightly over some danger?
She examined her mind rapidly.
'I suppose she said it,' Richard explained, 'just because she didn't
know what else to say, that's about the truth. But there certainly
is one thing I'm a little anxious about, myself. I don't care for
either Alice or 'Arry to know the details of this windfall. They
won't come in for their share till they're of age, and it's just as
well they should think it's only a moderate little sum. So don't
talk about it, Emma.'
The girl was still musing on Mrs. Mutimer's remark; she merely shook
'You didn't think you were going to marry a man with his thousands
and be a lady? Well, I shall have more to say in a day or two. But
at present my idea is that mother and the rest of them shall go into
a larger house, and that you and Kate and Jane shall take our place.
I don't know how long it'll be before those Eldon people can get out
of Wanley Manor, but as soon as they do, why then there's nothing to
prevent you and me going into it. Will that suit you, Em?'
'We shall really live in that big house?'
'Certainly we shall. I've got a life's work before me there, as far
as I can see at present. The furniture belongs to Mrs. Eldon, I
believe; we'll furnish the place to suit ourselves.'
'May I tell my sisters, Richard?'
'Just tell them that I've come in for some money and a house,
perhaps that's enough. And look here, I'll leave you this five-pound
note to go on with. You must get Jane whatever the doctor says. And
throw all that sewing out of the windows; we'll have no more convict
labour. Tell Jane to get well just as soon as it suits her.'
'But--all this money?'
'I've plenty. The lawyer advanced me some for present needs. Now
it's getting late, I must go. I'll write and tell you when I shall
be home again.'
He held out his hand, but the girl embraced him with the restrained
tenderness which in her spoke so eloquently.
'Are you glad, Emma?' he asked.
'Very glad, for your sake.'
'And just a bit for your own, eh?'
'I never thought about money,' she answered. 'It was quite enough to
be your wife.'
It was the simple truth.
At eleven o'clock the next morning Richard presented himself at the
door of a house in Avenue Road, St. John's Wood, and expressed a
desire to see Mr. Westlake. That gentleman was at home; he received
the visitor in his study--a spacious room luxuriously furnished,
with a large window looking upon a lawn. The day was sunny and warm,
but a clear fire equalised the temperature of the room. There was an
odour of good tobacco, always most delightful when it blends with
the scent of rich bindings.
It was Richard's first visit to this house. A few days ago he would,
in spite of himself, have been somewhat awed by the man-servant at
the door, the furniture of the hall, the air of refinement in the
room he entered. At present he smiled on everything. Could he not
command the same as soon as he chose?
Mr. Westlake rose from his writing-table and greeted his visitor
with a hearty grip of the hand. He was a man pleasant to look upon;
his face, full of intellect, shone with the light of good-will, and
the easy carelessness of his attire prepared one for the genial
sincerity which marked his way of speaking. He wore a velvet jacket,
a grey waistcoat buttoning up to the throat, grey trousers,
fur-bordered slippers; his collar was very deep, and instead of the
ordinary shirt-cuffs, his wrists were enclosed in frills.
Long-haired, full-bearded, he had the forehead of an idealist and
eyes whose natural expression was an indulgent smile.
A man of letters, he had struggled from obscure poverty to success
and ample means; at three-and-thirty he was still hard pressed to
make both ends meet, but the ten subsequent years had built for him
this pleasant home and banished his long familiar anxieties to the
land of nightmare. 'It came just in time,' he was in the habit of
saying to those who had his confidence. 'I was at the point where a
man begins to turn sour, and I should have soured in earnest.' The
process had been most effectually arrested. People were occasionally
found to say that his books had a tang of acerbity; possibly this
was the safety-valve at work, a hint of what might have come had the
old hunger-demons kept up their goading. In the man himself you
discovered an extreme simplicity of feeling, a frank tenderness, a
noble indignation. For one who knew him it was not difficult to
understand that he should have taken up extreme social views, still
less that he should act upon his convictions. All his writing
foretold such a possibility, though on the other hand it exhibited
devotion to forms of culture which do not as a rule predispose to
democratic agitation. The explanation was perhaps too simple to be
readily hit upon; the man was himself so supremely happy that with
his disposition the thought of tyrannous injustice grew intolerable
to him. Some incidents happened to set his wrath blazing, and
henceforth, in spite of not a little popular ridicule and much
shaking of the head among his friends, Mr. Westlake had his mission.
'I have come to ask your advice and help,' began Mutimer with
directness. He was conscious of the necessity of subduing his voice,
and had a certain pleasure in the ease with which he achieved this
feat. It would not have been so easy a day or two ago.
'Ah, about this awkward affair of yours,' observed Mr. Westlake with
reference to Richard's loss of his employment, of which, as editor
of the Union's weekly paper, he had of course at once been apprised.
'No, not about that. Since then a very unexpected thing has happened
The story was once more related, vastly to Mr. Westlake's
satisfaction. Cheerful news concerning his friends always put him in
the best of spirits.
He shook his head, laughing.
'Come, come, Mutimer, this'll never do! I'm not sure that we shall
not have to consider your expulsion from the Union.'
Richard went on to mention the matters of legal routine in which he
hoped Mr. Westlake would serve him. These having been settled--
'I wish to speak of something more important,' he said. 'You take it
for granted, I hope, that I'm not going to make the ordinary use of
this fortune. As yet I've only been able to hit on a few general
ideas; I'm clear as to the objects I shall keep before me, but how
best to serve them wants more reflection. I thought if I talked it
over with you in the first place--'
The door opened, and a lady half entered the room.
'Oh, I thought you were alone,' she remarked to Mr. Westlake.
'Come in! Here's our friend Mutimer. You know Mrs. Westlake?'
A few words had passed between this lady and Richard in the
lecture-room a few weeks before. She was not frequently present at
such meetings, but had chanced, on the occasion referred to, to hear
Mutimer deliver an harangue.
'You have no objection to talk of your plans? Join our council, will
you?' he added to his wife. 'Our friend brings interesting news.'
Mrs. Westlake walked across the room to the curved window-seat. Her
age could scarcely be more than three- or four-and-twenty; she was
very dark, and her face grave almost to melancholy. Black hair, cut
short at its thickest behind her neck, gave exquisite relief to
features of the purest Greek type. In listening to anything that
held her attention her eyes grew large, and their dark orbs seemed
to dream passionately. The white swan's down at her throat--she was
perfectly attired--made the skin above resemble rich-hued marble,
and indeed to gaze at her long was to be impressed as by the sad
loveliness of a supreme work of art. As Mutimer talked she leaned
forward, her elbow on her knee, the back of her hand supporting her
Her husband recounted what Richard had told him, and the latter
proceeded to sketch the projects he had in view.
'My idea is,' he said, 'to make the mines at Wanley the basis of
great industrial undertakings, just as any capitalist might, but to
conduct these undertakings in a way consistent with our views. I
would begin by building furnaces, and in time add engineering works
on a large scale. I would build houses for the men, and in fact make
that valley an industrial settlement conducted on Socialist
principles. Practically I can devote the whole of my income; my
personal expenses will not be worth taking into account. The men
must be paid on a just scheme, and the margin of profit that
remains, all that we can spare from the extension of the works,
shall be devoted to the Socialist propaganda. In fact, I should like
to make the executive committee of the Union a sort of board of
directors--and in a very different sense from the usual--for the
Wanley estate. My personal expenditure deducted, I should like such
a committee to have the practical control of funds. All this wealth
was made by plunder of the labouring class, and I shall hold it as
trustee for them. Do these ideas seem to you of a practical colour?'
Mr. Westlake nodded slowly twice. His wife kept her listening
attitude unchanged; her eyes 'dreamed against a distant goal.'
'As I see the scheme,' pursued Richard, who spoke all along somewhat
in the lecture-room tone, the result of a certain embarrassment, 'it
will differ considerably from the Socialist experiments we know of.
We shall be working not only to support ourselves, but every bit as
much set on profit as any capitalist in Belwick. The difference is,
that the profit will benefit no individual, but the Cause. There'll
be no attempt to carry out the idea of every man receiving the just
outcome of his labour; not because I shouldn't he willing to share
in that way, but simply because we have a greater end in view than
to enrich ourselves. Our men must all be members of the Union, and
their prime interest must be the advancement of the principles of
the Union. We shall be able to establish new papers, to hire halls,
and to spread ourselves over the country. It'll be fighting the
capitalist manufacturers with their own weapons. I can see plenty of
difficulties, of course. All England 'll be against us. Never mind,
we'll defy them all, and we'll win. It'll be the work of my life,
and we'll see if an honest purpose can't go as far as a thievish
The climax would have brought crashing cheers at Commonwealth Hall;
in Mr. Westlake's study it was received with well-bred expressions
'Well, Mutimer,' exclaimed the idealist, 'all this is intensely
interesting, and right glorious for us. One sees at last a
possibility of action. I ask nothing better than to be allowed to
work with you. It happens very luckily that you are a practical
engineer. I suppose the mechanical details of the undertaking are
entirely within your province.'
'Not quite, at present,' Mutimer admitted, 'but I shall have
valuable help. Yesterday I had a meeting with a man named Rodman, a
mining engineer, who has been working on the estate. He seems just
the man I shall want; a Socialist already, and delighted to join in
the plans I just hinted to him.'
'Capital! Do you propose, then, that we shall call a special meeting
of the Committee? Or would you prefer to suggest a committee of your
'No, I think our own committee will do very well, at all events for
the present. The first thing, of course, is to get the financial
details of our scheme put into shape. I go to Belwick again this
afternoon; my solicitor must get his business through as soon as
'You will reside for the most part at Wanley?'
'At the Manor, yes. It is occupied just now, but I suppose will soon
'Do you know that part of the country, Stella?' Mr. Westlake asked
of his wife.
She roused herself, drawing in her breath, and uttered a short
'As soon as I get into the house,' Richard resumed to Mr. Westlake,
'I hope you'll come and examine the place. It's unfortunate that the
railway misses it by about three miles, but Rodman tells me we can
easily run a private line to Agworth station. However, the first
thing is to get our committee at work on the scheme.' Richard
repeated this phrase with gusto. 'Perhaps you could bring it up at
the Saturday meeting?'
'You'll be in town on Saturday?'
'Yes; I have a lecture in Islington on Sunday.'
'Saturday will do, then. Is this confidential?'
'Not at all. We may as well get as much encouragement out of it as
we can. Don't you think so?'
Richard did not give expression to his thought that a paragraph on
the subject in the Union's weekly organ, the 'Fiery Cross,' might be
the best way of promoting such encouragement; but he delayed his
departure for a few minutes with talk round about the question of
the prudence which must necessarily be observed in publishing a
project so undigested. Mr. Westlake, who was responsible for the
paper, was not likely to transgress the limits of good taste, and
when Richard, on Saturday morning, searched eagerly the columns of
the 'Cross,' he was not altogether satisfied with the extreme
discretion which marked a brief paragraph among those headed: 'From
Day to Day.' However, many of the readers were probably by that time
able to supply the missing proper-name.
It was not the fault of Daniel Dabbs if members of the Hoxton and
Islington branch of the Union read the paragraph without
understanding to whom it referred. Daniel was among the first to
hear of what had befallen the Mutimer family, and from the circle of
his fellow-workmen the news spread quickly. Talk was rife on the
subject of Mutimer's dismissal from Longwood Brothers', and the
sensational rumour which followed so quickly found an atmosphere
well prepared for its transmission. Hence the unusual concourse at
the meeting-place in Islington next Sunday evening, where, as it
became known to others besides Socialists, Mutimer was engaged to
lecture. Richard experienced some vexation that his lecture was not
to be at Commonwealth Hall, where the gathering would doubtless have
been much larger.
The Union was not wealthy. The central hall was rented at Mr.
Westlake's expense; two or three branches were managing with
difficulty to support regular places of assembly, such as could not
being obliged as yet to content themselves with open-air lecturing.
In Islington the leaguers met in a room behind a coffee-shop,
ordinarily used for festive purposes; benches were laid across the
floor, and an estrade at the upper end exalted chairman and
lecturer. The walls were adorned with more or less striking
advertisements of non-alcoholic beverages, and with a few prints
from the illustrated papers. The atmosphere was tobaccoey, and the
coffee-shop itself, through which the visitors had to make their
way, suggested to the nostrils that bloaters are the working man's
chosen delicacy at Sunday tea. A table just within the door of the
lecture-room exposed for sale sundry Socialist publications, the
latest issue of the 'Fiery Cross' in particular.
Richard was wont to be among the earliest arrivals: to-night he was
full ten minutes behind the hour for which the lecture was
advertised. A group of friends were standing about the table near
the door; they received him with a bustle which turned all eyes
thitherwards. He walked up the middle of the room to the platform.
As soon as he was well in the eye of the meeting, a single pair of
hands--Daniel Dabbs owned them--gave the signal for uproar; feet
made play on the boarding, and one or two of the more enthusiastic
revolutionists fairly gave tongue. Richard seated himself with grave
countenance, and surveyed the assembly; from fifty to sixty people
were present, among them three or four women, and the number
continued to grow. The chairman and one or two leading spirits had
followed Mutimer to the place of distinction, where they talked with
Punctuality was not much regarded at these meetings; the lecture was
announced for eight, but rarely began before half-past The present
being an occasion of exceptional interest, twenty minutes past the
hour saw the chairman rise for his prefatory remarks. He was a lank
man of jovial countenance and jerky enunciation. There was no need,
he observed, to introduce a friend and comrade so well known to them
as the lecturer of the evening. 'We're always glad to hear him, and
to-night, if I may be allowed to 'int as much, we're _particularly_
glad to hear him. Our friend and comrade is going to talk to us
about the Land. It's a question we can't talk or think too much
about, and Comrade Mutimer has thought about it as much and more
than any of us, I think I may say. I don't know,' the chairman
added, with a sly look across the room, 'whether our friend's got
any new views on this subject of late. I shouldn't wonder if he
had.' Here sounded a roar of laughter, led off by Daniel Dabbs.
'Hows'ever, be that as it may, we can answer for it as any views he
may hold is the right views, and the honest views, and the views of
a man as means to do a good deal more than talk about his
Again did the stentor-note of Daniel ring forth, and it was amid
thunderous cheering that Richard left his chair and moved to the
front of the platform. His Sunday suit of black was still that with
which his friends were familiar, but his manner, though the audience
probably did not perceive the detail, was unmistakably hanged. He
had been wont to begin his address with short, stinging periods,
with sneers and such bitterness of irony as came within his compass.
To-night he struck quite another key, mellow, confident, hinting at
personal satisfaction; a smile was on his lips, and not a smile of
scorn. He rested one hand against his side, holding in the other a
scrap of paper with jotted items of reasoning. His head was thrown a
little back; he viewed the benches from beneath his eyelids. True,
the pose maintained itself but for a moment. I mention it because it
was something new in Richard.
He spoke of the land; he attacked the old monopoly, and visioned a
time when a claim to individual ownerships of the earth's surface
would be as ludicrous as were now the assertion of title to a
fee-simple somewhere in the moon. He mustered statistics; he adduced
historic and contemporary example of the just and the unjust in
land-holding; he gripped the throat of a certain English duke, and
held him up for flagellation; he drifted into oceans of economic
theory; he sat down by the waters of Babylon; he climbed Pisgah. Had
he but spoken of backslidings in the wilderness! But for that fatal
omission, the lecture was, of its kind, good. By degrees Richard
forgot his pose and the carefully struck note of mellowness; he
began to believe what he was saying, and to say it with the right
vigour of popular oratory. Forget his struggles with the h-fiend;
forget his syntactical lapses; you saw that after all the man had
within him a clear flame of conscience; that he had felt before
speaking that speech was one of the uses for which Nature had
expressly framed him. His invective seldom degenerated into vulgar
abuse; one discerned in him at least the elements of what we call
good taste; of simple manliness he disclosed not a little; he had
some command of pathos. In conclusion, he finished without reference
to his personal concerns.
The chairman invited questions, preliminary to debate.
He rose half-way down the room,--the man who invariably rises on
these occasions. He was oldish, with bent shoulders, and wore
spectacles--probably a clerk of forty years' standing. In his hand
was a small note-book, which he consulted. He began with measured
utterance, emphatic, loud.
'I wish to propose to the lecturer seven questions. I will read them
in order; I have taken some pains to word them clearly.'
Richard has his scrap of paper on his knee. He jots a word or two
after each deliberate interrogation, smiling.
Other questioners succeeded. Richard replies to them. He fails to
satisfy the man of seven queries, who, after repeating this and the
other of the seven, professes himself still unsatisfied, shakes his
head indulgently, walks from the room.
The debate is opened. Behold a second inevitable man; he is not
well-washed, his shirt-front shows a beer-stain; he is angry before
'I don't know whether a man as doesn't 'old with these kind o'
theories 'll be allowed a fair 'earin--'
Indignant interruption. Cries of 'Of course he will!'--'Who ever
refused to hear you?'--and the like.
He is that singular phenomenon, that self-contradiction, that
expression insoluble into factors of common-sense--the Conservative
working man. What do they want to be at? he demands. Do they suppose
as this kind of talk 'll make wages higher, or enable the poor man
to get his beef and beer at a lower rate? What's the d--d good of it
all? Figures, oh? He never heered yet as figures made a meal for a
man as hadn't got one; nor yet as they provided shoes and stockings
for his young 'uns at 'ome. It made him mad to listen, that it did!
Do they suppose as the rich man 'll give up the land, if they talk
till all's blue? Wasn't it human natur to get all you can and stick
'Pig's nature!' cries someone from the front benches.
'There!' comes the rejoinder. 'Didn't I say as there was no fair
'earing for a man as didn't say just what suits you?'
The voice of Daniel Dabbs is loud in good-tempered mockery. Mockery
comes from every side, an angry note here and there, for the most
part tolerant, jovial.
'Let him speak! 'Ear him! Hoy! Hoy!'
The chairman interposes, but by the time that order is restored the
Conservative working man has thrust his hat upon his head and is off
to the nearest public-house, muttering oaths.
Mr. Cullen rises, at the same time rises Mr. Cowes. These two
gentlemen are fated to rise simultaneously. They scowl at each
other. Mr. Cullen begins to speak, and Mr. Cowes, after a circular
glance of protest, resumes his seat. The echoes tell that we are in
for oratory with a vengeance. Mr. Cullen is a short, stout man, very
seedily habited, with a great rough head of hair, an aquiline nose,
lungs of vast power. His vein is King Cambyses'; he tears passion to
tatters; he roars leonine; he is your man to have at the pamper'd
jades of Asia! He has got hold of a new word, and that the verb to
'exploit.' I am exploited, thou art exploited,--_he_ exploits! Who?
Why, such men as that English duke whom the lecturer gripped and
flagellated. The English duke is Mr. Cullen's bugbear; never a
speech from Mr. Cullen but that duke is most horribly mauled. His
ground. rents,--yah! Another word of which Mr. Cullen is fond is
'strattum,'--usually spelt and pronounced with but one t midway. You
and I have the misfortune to belong to a social 'strattum' which is
trampled flat and hard beneath the feet of the landowners. Mr.
Cullen rises to such a point of fury that one dreads the
consequences--to himself. Already the chairman is on his feet,
intimating in dumb show that the allowed ten minutes have elapsed;
there is no making the orator hear. At length his friend who sits by
him fairly grips his coat-tails and brings him to a sitting posture,
amid mirthful tumult. Mr. Cullen joins in the mirth, looks as though
he had never been angry in his life. And till next Sunday comes
round he will neither speak nor think of the social question.
Mr. Cowes is unopposed. After the preceding enthusiast, the voice of
Mr. Cowes falls soothingly as a stream among the heather. He is
tall, meagre, bald; he wears a very broad black necktie, his hand
saws up and down. Mr. Cowes' tone is the quietly venomous; in a few
minutes you believe in his indignation far more than in that of Mr.
Cullen. He makes a point and pauses to observe the effect upon his
hearers. He prides himself upon his grammar, goes back to correct a
concord, emphasises eccentricities of pronunciation; for instance,
he accents 'capitalist' on the second syllable, and repeats the
words with grave challenge to all and sundry. Speaking of something
which he wishes to stigmatise as a misnomer, he exclaims: 'It's what
I call a misnomy!' And he follows the assertion with an awful
suspense of utterance. He brings his speech to a close exactly with
the end of the tenth minute, and, on sitting down, eyes his unknown
neighbour with wrathful intensity for several moments.
Who will follow? A sound comes from the very back of the room, such
a sound that every head turns in astonished search for the source of
it. Such voice has the wind in garret-chimneys on a winter night. It
is a thin wail, a prelude of lamentation; it troubles the blood. The
speaker no one seems to know; he is a man of yellow visage, with
head sunk between pointed shoulders, on his crown a mere scalp-lock.
He seems to be afflicted with a disease of the muscles; his
malformed body quivers, the hand he raises shakes paralytic. His
clothes are of the meanest; what his age may be it is impossible to
judge. As his voice gathers strength, the hearers begin to feel the
influence of a terrible earnestness. He does not rant, he does not
weigh his phrases; the stream of bitter prophecy flows on smooth and
dark. He is supplying the omission in Mutimer's harangue, is bidding
his class know itself and chasten itself, as an indispensable
preliminary to any great change in the order of things. He cries
vanity upon all these detailed schemes of social reconstruction. Are
we ready for it? he wails. Could we bear it, if they granted it to
us? It is all good and right, but hadn't we better first make
ourselves worthy of such freedom? He begins a terrible arraignment
of the People,--then, of a sudden, his voice has ceased. You could
hear a pin drop. It is seen that the man has fallen to the ground;
there arises a low moaning; people press about him.
They carry him into the coffee-shop. It was a fit. In five minutes
he is restored, but does not come back to finish his speech.
There is an interval of disorder. But surely we are not going to let
the meeting end in this way. The chairman calls for the next
speaker, and he stands forth in the person of a rather smug little
shopkeeper, who declares that he knows of no single particular in
which the working class needs correction. The speech undeniably
falls fiat. Will no one restore the tone of the meeting?
Mr. Kitshaw is the man! Now we shall have broad grins. Mr. Kitshaw
enjoys a reputation for mimicry; he takes off music-hall singers in
the bar-parlour of a Saturday night. Observe, he rises, hems, pulls
down his waistcoat; there is bubbling laughter. Mr. Kitshaw brings
back the debate to its original subject; he talks of the Land. He is
a little haphazard at first, but presently hits the mark in a fancy
picture of a country still in the hands of aborigines, as yet
unannexed by the capitalist nations, knowing not the meaning of the
'Imagine such a happy land, my friends; a land, I say, which nobody
hasn't ever thought of "developing the resources" of,--that's the
proper phrase, I believe. There are the people, with clothing enough
for comfort and--ahem!--good manners, but, mark you, no more. No
manufacture of luxurious skirts and hulsters and togs o' that kind
by the exploited classes. No, for no exploited classes don't exist!
All are equal, my friends. Up an' down the fields they goes, all day
long, arm-in-arm, Jack and Jerry, aye, and Liza an' Sairey Ann; for
they have equality of the sexes, mind you! Up an' down the fields, I
say, in a devil-may-care sort of way, with their sweethearts and
their wives. No factory smoke, 0 dear no! There's the rivers, with
tropical plants a-shading the banks, 0 my! There they goes up an'
down in their boats, devil-may-care, a-strumming on the banjo,'--he
imitated such action,--'and a-singing their nigger minstrelsy with
light 'earts. Why? 'Cause they ain't got no work to get up to at
'arf-past five next morning. Their time's their own! _That's_ the
condition of an unexploited country, my friends!'
Mr. Kitshaw had put everyone in vast good humour. You might wonder
that his sweetly idyllic picture did not stir bitterness by
contrast; it were to credit the English workman with too much
imagination. Resonance of applause rewarded the sparkling
rhetorician. A few of the audience availed themselves of the noise
to withdraw, for the clock showed that it was close upon ten, and
public-houses shut their doors early on Sunday.
But Richard Mutimer was on his feet again, and this time without
regard to effect; there was a word in him strongly demanding
utterance. It was to the speech of the unfortunate prophet that he
desired to reply. He began with sorrowful admissions. No one
speaking honestly could deny that--that the working class had its
faults; they came out plainly enough now and then. Drink, for
instance (Mr. Cullen gave a resounding 'Hear, hear!' and a stamp on
the boards). What sort of a spectacle would be exhibited by the
public-houses in Hoxton and Islington at closing time to-night?
('True!' from Mr. Cowes, who also stamped on the boards.) Yes,
but--Richard used the device of aposiopesis; Daniel Dabbs took it
for a humorous effect and began a roar, which was summarily
interdicted. 'But,' pursued Richard with emphasis, 'what is the
meaning of these vices? What do they come of? Who's to blame for
them? Not the working class--never tell me! What drives a man to
drink in his spare hours? What about the poisonous air of garrets
and cellars? What about excessive toil and inability to procure healthy
recreation? What about defects of education, due to poverty? What
about diseased bodies inherited from over-slaved parents?' Messrs.
Cowes and Cullen had accompanied these queries with a climax of
vociferous approval; when Richard paused, they led the tumult of
hands and heels. 'Look at that poor man who spoke to us!' cried
Mutimer. 'He's gone, so I shan't hurt him by speaking plainly. He
spoke well, mind you, and he spoke from his heart; but what sort of
a life has his been, do you think? A wretched cripple, a miserable
weakling no doubt from the day of his birth, cursed in having ever
seen the daylight, and, such as he is, called upon to fight for his
bread. Much of it he gets! Who would blame that man if he drank
himself into unconsciousness every time he picked up a sixpence?'
Cowes and Cullen bellowed their delight. 'Well, he doesn't do it; so
much you can be sure of. In some vile hole here in this great city
of ours he drags on a life worse--aye, a thousand times worse!--
than that of the horses in the West-end mews. Don't clap your hands
so much, fellow-workers. Just think about it on your way home; talk
about it to your wives and your children. It's the sight of objects
like that that makes my blood boil, and that's set me in earnest at
this work of ours. I feel for that man and all like him as if they
were my brothers. And I take you all to witness, all you present and
all you repeat my words to, that I'll work on as long as I have life
in me, that I'll use every opportunity that's given me to uphold the
cause of the poor and down-trodden against the rich and selfish and
luxurious, that if I live another fifty years I shall still be of
the people and with the people, that no man shall ever have it in
his power to say that Richard Mutimer misused his chances and was
only a new burden to them whose load he might have lightened!'
There was nothing for it but to leap on to the very benches and yell
as long as your voice would hold out.
After that the meeting was mere exuberance of mutual
congratulations. Mr. Cullen was understood to be moving the usual
vote of thanks, but even his vocal organs strove hard for little
purpose. Daniel Dabbs had never made a speech in his life, but
excitement drove him on the honourable post of seconder. The
chairman endeavoured to make certain announcements; then the
assembly broke up. The estrade was invaded; everybody wished to
shake hands with Mutimer. Mr. Cullen tried to obtain Richard's
attention to certain remarks of value; failing, he went off with a
scowl. Mr. Cowes attempted to button-hole the popular hero; finding
Richard conversing with someone else at the same time, he turned
away with a covert sneer. The former of the two worthies had desired
to insist upon every member of the Union becoming a teetotaller; the
latter wished to say that he thought it would be well if a badge of
temperance were henceforth worn by Unionists. On turning away, each
glanced at the clock and hurried his step.
In a certain dark street not very far from the lecture-room Mr.
Cullen rose on tip-toe at the windows of a dull little public-house.
A Unionist was standing at the bar; Mr. Cullen hurried on, into a
street yet darker. Again he tip-toed at a window. The glimpse
reassured him; he passed quickly through the doorway, stepped to the
bar, gave an order. Then he turned, and behold, on a seat just under
the window sat Mr. Cowes, & short pipe in his mouth, a smoking
tumbler held on his knee. The supporters of total abstinence nodded
to each other, with a slight lack of spontaneity. Mr. Cullen, having
secured his own tumbler, came by his comrade's side.
'Deal o' fine talk to wind up with,' he remarked tentatively.
'He means what he says,' returned the other gravely.
'Oh yes,' Mr. Cullen hastened to admit. 'Mutimer means what he says!
Only the way of saying it, I meant--I've got a bit of a sore
'So have I. After that there hot room.'
They nodded at each other sympathetically. Mr. Cullen filled a
little black pipe.
Mr. Cowes offered the glowing bowl of his own clay; they put their
noses together and blew a cloud.
'Of course there's no saying what time 'll do,' observed tall Mr.
Cowes, sententiously, after a gulp of warm liquor.
'No more there is,' assented short Mr. Cullen with half a wink.
'It's easy to promise.'
'As easy as tellin' lies.'
'Don't suppose you and me 'll get much of it,' Mr. Cowes ventured to
'About as much as you can put in your eye without winkin',' was the
other's picturesque agreement.
They talked till closing time.
One morning late in June, Hubert Eldon passed through the gates of
Wanley Manor and walked towards the village. It was the first time
since his illness that he had left the grounds on foot. He was very
thin, and had an absent, troubled look; the natural cheerfulness of
youth's convalescence seemed altogether lacking in him.
From a rising point of the road, winding between the Manor and
Wanley, a good view of the valley offered itself; here Hubert
paused, leaning a little on his stick, and let his eyes dwell upon
the prospect. A year ago he had stood here and enjoyed the sweep of
meadows between Stanbury Hill and the wooded slope opposite, the
orchard-patches, the flocks along the margin of the little river.
To-day he viewed a very different scene. Building of various kinds
was in progress in the heart of the vale; a great massive chimney
was rising to completion, and about it stood a number of sheds.
Beyond was to be seen the commencement of a street of small houses,
promising infinite ugliness in a little space; the soil over a
considerable area was torn up and trodden into mud. A number of men
were at work; carts and waggons and trucks were moving about. In
truth, the benighted valley was waking up and donning the true
The young man's face, hitherto thoughtfully sad, changed to an
expression of bitterness; he muttered what seemed to be angry and
contemptuous words, then averted his eyes and walked on. He entered
the village street and passed along it for some distance, his fixed
gaze appearing studiously to avoid the people who stood about or
walked by him. There was a spot of warm colour on his cheeks; he
held himself very upright and had a painfully self-conscious air.
He stopped before a dwelling-house, rang the bell, and made inquiry
whether Mr. Mutimer was at home. The reply being affirmative, he
followed the servant up to the first floor. His name was announced
at the door of a sitting-room, and he entered.
Two men were conversing in the room. One sat at the table with a
sheet of paper before him, sketching a rough diagram and scribbling
notes; this was Richard Mutimer. He was dressed in a light tweed
suit; his fair moustache and beard were trimmed, and the hand which
rested on the table was no longer that of a daily-grimed mechanic.
His linen was admirably starched; altogether he had a very fresh and
cool appearance. His companion was astride on a chair, his arms
resting on the back, a pipe in his mouth. This man was somewhat
older than Mutimer; his countenance indicated shrewdness and
knowledge of the world. He was dark and well-featured, his glossy
black hair was parted in the middle, his moustache of the cut called
imperial, his beard short and peaked. He wore a canvas jacket, a
white waistcoat and knickerbockers; at his throat a blue necktie
fluttered loose. When Hubert's name was announced by the servant,
this gentleman stopped midway in a sentence, took his pipe from his
lips, and looked to the door with curiosity.
Mutimer rose and addressed his visitor easily indeed, but not
'How do you do, Mr. Eldon? I'm glad to see that you are so much
better. Will you sit down? I think you know Mr. Rodman, at all
events by name?'
Hubert assented by gesture. He had come prepared for disagreeable
things in this his first meeting with Mutimer, but the honour of an
introduction to the latter's friends had not been included in his
anticipations. Mr. Rodman had risen and bowed slightly. His smile
carried a disagreeable suggestion from which Mutimer's behaviour was
altogether free; he rather seemed to enjoy the situation.
For a moment there was silence and embarrassment. Richard overcame
'Come and dine with me to-night, will you?' he said to Rodman.
'Here, take this plan with you, and think it over.'
'Pray don't let me interfere with your business,' interposed Hubert,
with scrupulous politeness. 'I could see you later, Mr. Mutimer.'
'No, no; Rodman and I have done for the present,' said Mutimer,
cheerfully. 'By-the-by,' he added, as his right-hand man moved to
the door, 'don't forget to drop a line to Slater and Smith. And, I
say, if Hogg turns up before two o'clock, send him here; I'll be
down with you by half-past.'
Mr. Rodman gave an 'All right,' nodded to Hubert, who paid no
attention, and took his departure.
'You've had a long pull of it,' Richard began, as he took his chair
again, and threw his legs into an easy position. 'Shall I close the
windows? Maybe you don't like the draught.'
'Thank you; I feel no draught.'
The working man had the advantage as yet. Hubert in vain tried to be
at ease, whilst Mutimer was quite himself, and not ungraceful in his
assumption of equality. For one thing, Hubert could not avoid a
comparison between his own wasted frame and the other's splendid
physique; it heightened the feeling of antagonism which possessed
him in advance, and provoked the haughtiness he had resolved to
guard against. The very lineaments of the men foretold mutual
antipathy. Hubert's extreme delicacy of feature was the outward
expression of a character so compact of subtleties and refinements,
of high prejudice and jealous sensibility, of spiritual egoism and
all-pervading fastidiousness, that it was impossible for him not to
regard with repugnance a man who represented the combative
principle, even the triumph, of the uncultured classes. He was no
hidebound aristocrat; the liberal tendencies of his intellect led
him to scorn the pageantry of long-descended fools as strongly as he
did the blind image-breaking of the mob; but in a case of personal
relations temperament carried it over judgment in a very high-handed
way. Youth and disappointment weighed in the scale of unreason.
Mutimer, on the other hand, though fortune helped him to
forbearance, saw, or believed he saw, the very essence of all he
most hated in this proud-eyed representative of a county family. His
own rough-sculptured comeliness corresponded to the vigour and
practicality and zeal of a nature which cared nothing for form and
all for substance; the essentials of life were to him the only
things in life, instead of, as to Hubert Eldon, the mere brute
foundation of an artistic super structure. Richard read clearly
enough the sentiments with which his visitor approached him; who
that is the object of contempt does not readily perceive it? His way
of revenging himself was to emphasise a tone of good fellowship, to
make it evident how well he could afford to neglect privileged
insolence. In his heart he triumphed over the disinherited
aristocrat; outwardly he was civil, even friendly.
Hubert had made this call with a special purpose.
'I am charged by Mrs. Eldon,' he began, 'to thank you for the
courtesy you have shown her during my illness. My own thanks
likewise I hope you will accept. We have caused you, I fear, much
Richard found himself envying the form and tone of this deliverance;
he gathered his beard in his hands and gave it a tug.
'Not a bit of it,' he replied. 'I am very comfortable here. A
bedroom and a place for work, that's about all I want.'
Hubert barely smiled. He wondered whether the mention of work was
meant to suggest comparisons. He hastened to add--
'On Monday we hope to leave the Manor.'
'No need whatever for hurry,' observed Mutimer, good-humouredly.
'Please tell Mrs. Eldon that I hope she will take her own time.' On
reflection this seemed rather an ill-chosen phrase; he bettered it.
'I should be very sorry if she inconvenienced herself on my
'Confound the fellow's impudence!' was Hubert's mental comment. 'He
plays the forbearing landlord.'
His spoken reply was: 'It is very kind of you. I foresee no
difficulty in completing the removal on Monday.'
In view of Mutimer's self-command, Hubert began to be aware that his
own constraint might carry the air of petty resentment Fear of that
drove him upon a topic he would rather have left alone.
'You are changing the appearance of the valley,' he said, veiling by
his tone the irony which was evident in his choice of words.
Richard glanced at him, then walked to the window, with his hands in
his pockets, and gave himself the pleasure of a glimpse of the
furnace-chimney above the opposite houses. He laughed.
'I hope to change it a good deal more. In a year or two you won't
know the place.'
'I fear not.'
Mutimer glanced again at his visitor.
'Why do you fear?' he asked, with less command of his voice.
'I of course understand your point of view. Personally, I prefer
Hubert endeavoured to smile, that his personal preferences might
lose something of their edge.
'You prefer nature,' Mutimer repeated, coming back to his chair, on
the seat of which he rested a foot. 'Well, I can't say that I do.
The Wanley Iron Works will soon mean bread to several hundred
families; how many would the grass support?'
'To be sure,' assented Hubert, still smiling.
'You are aware,' Mutimer proceeded to ask, 'that this is not a
speculation for my own profit?'
'I have heard something of your scheme. I trust it will be
'I dare say it will be--by those who care anything about the welfare
of the people.'
Eldon rose; he could not trust himself to continue the dialogue. He
had expected to meet a man of coarser grain; Mutimer's intelligence
made impossible the civil condescension which would have served with
a boor, and Hubert found the temptation to pointed utterance all the
stronger for the dangers it involved.
'I will drop you a note,' he said, 'to let you know as soon as the
house is empty.'
They had not shaken hands at meeting, nor did they now. Each felt
relieved when out of the other's sight.
Hubert turned out of the street into a road which would lead him to
the church, whence there was a field-path back to the Manor. Walking
with his eyes on the ground he did not perceive the tall, dark
figure that approached him as he drew near to the churchyard gate.
Mr. Wyvern had been conducting a burial; he had just left the vestry
and was on his way to the vicarage, which stood five minutes' walk
from the church. Himself unperceived, he scrutinised the young man
until he stood face to face with him; his deep-voiced greeting
caused Hubert to look up' with a start.
'I'm very glad to see you walking,' said the clergyman.
He took Hubert's hand and held it paternally in both his own. Eldon
seemed affected with a sudden surprise; as he met the large gaze his
look showed embarrassment.
'You remember me?' Mr. Wyvern remarked, his wonted solemnity
lightened by the gleam of a brief smile. Looking closely into his
face was like examining a map in relief; you saw heights and plains,
the intersection of multitudinous valleys, river-courses with their
tributaries. It was the visage of a man of thought and character.
His eyes spoke of late hours and the lamp; beneath each was a heavy
pocket of skin, wrinkling at its juncture with the cheek. His teeth
were those of an incessant smoker, and, in truth, you could seldom
come near him without detecting the odour of tobacco. Despite the
amplitude of his proportions, there was nothing ponderous about him;
the great head was finely formed, and his limbs must at one time
have been as graceful as they were muscular.
'Is this accident,' Hubert asked; 'or did you know me at the time?'
'Accident, pure accident. Will you walk to the vicarage with me?'
They paced side by side.
'Mrs. Eldon profits by the pleasant weather, I trust?' the vicar
observed, with grave courtesy.
'Thank you, I think she does. I shall be glad when she is settled in
her new home.'
They approached the door of the vicarage in silence. Entering Mr.
Wyvern led the way to his study. When he had taken a seat, he
appeared to forget himself for a moment, and played with the end of
Hubert showed impatient curiosity.
'You found me there by chance that morning?' he began.
The clergyman returned to the present. His elbows on either arm of
his round chair, he sat leaning forward, thoughtfully gazing at his
'By chance,' he replied. 'I sleep badly; so it happened that I was
abroad shortly after daybreak. I was near the edge of the wood when
I heard a pistol-shot. I waited for the second.'
'We fired together,' Hubert remarked.
'Ah! It seemed to me one report. Well, as I stood listening, there
came out from among the trees a man who seemed in a hurry. He was
startled at finding himself face to face with me, but didn't stop;
he said something rapidly in French that I failed to catch, pointed
back into the wood, and hastened off.'
'We had no witnesses,' put in Hubert; 'and both aimed our best. I
wonder he sent you to look for me.'
'A momentary weakness, no doubt,' rejoined the vicar drily. I made
my way among the trees and found you lying there, unconscious. I
made some attempt to stop the blood-flow, then picked you up; it
seemed better, on the whole, than leaving you on the wet grass an
indefinite time. Your overcoat was on the ground; as I took hold of
it, two letters fell from the pocket. I made no scruple about
reading the addresses, and was astonished to find that one was to
Mrs. Eldon, at Wanley Manor, Wanley being the place where I was
about to live on my return to England. I took it for granted that
you were Mrs. Eldon's son. The other letter, as you know, was to a
lady at a hotel in the town.'
'And you went to her as soon as you left me?'
'After hearing from the doctor that there was no immediate
danger.--The letters, I suppose, would have announced your death?'
Hubert again inclined his head. The imperturbable gravity of the
speaker had the effect of imposing self-command on the young man;
whose sensitive cheeks showed what was going on within.
'Will you tell me of your interview with her?' he asked.
'It was of the briefest; my French is not fluent.'
'But she speaks English well.'
'Probably her distress led her to give preference to her native
tongue. She was anxious to go to you immediately, and I told her
where you lay. I made inquiries next day, and found that she was
still giving you her care. As you were doing well, and I had to be
moving homewards, I thought it better to leave without seeing you
again. The innkeeper had directions to telegraph to me if there was
a change for the worse.'
'My pocket-book saved me,' remarked Hubert, touching his side.
Mr. Wyvern drew in his lips.
'Came between that ready-stamped letter and Wanley Manor,' was his
There was a brief silence.
'You allow me a question?' the vicar resumed. 'It is with reference
to the French lady.'
'I think you have every right to question me.'
'Oh no! It does not concern the events prior to your--accident.'
Mr. Wyvern savoured the word. 'How long did she remain in attendance
'A short time--two day--I did not need--'
Mr. Wyvern motioned with his hand, kindly.
'Then I was not mistaken,' he said, averting his eyes for the first
time, 'in thinking that I saw her in Paris.'
'In Paris?' Hubert repeated, with a poor affectation of
'I made a short stay before crossing. I had business at a bank one
day; as I stood before the counter a gentleman entered and took a
place beside me. A second look assured me that he was the man who
met me at the edge of the wood that morning. I suppose he remembered
me, for he looked away and moved from me. I left the bank, and found
an open carriage waiting at the door. In it sat the lady of whom we
speak. I took a turn along the pavement and back again. The
Frenchman entered the carriage; they drove away.'
Hubert's eyes were veiled; he breathed through his nostrils. Again
there was silence.
'Mr. Eldon,' resumed the vicar, 'I was a man of the world before I
became a Churchman; you will notice that I affect no professional
tone in speaking with you, and it is because I know that anything of
the kind would only alienate you. It appeared to me that chance had
made me aware of something it might concern you to hear. I know
nothing of the circumstances of the case, merely offer you the
'I thank you,' was Hubert's reply in an undertone.
'It impressed me, that letter ready stamped for Wanley Manor. I
thought of it again after the meeting in Paris.'
'I understand you. Of course I could explain the necessity. It would
'Quite. But experience is not, or should not be, useless, especially
when commented on by one who has very much of it behind him.'
Hubert stood up. His mind was in a feverishly active state, seeming
to follow several lines of thought simultaneously. Among other
things, he was wondering how it was that throughout this
conversation he had been so entirely passive. He had never found
himself under the influence of so strong a personality, exerted too
in such a strangely quiet way.
'What are your plans--your own plans?' Mr. Wyvern inquired.
'I have none.'
'Forgive me;--there will be no material difficulties?'
'None; I have four hundred a year.'
'You have not graduated yet, I believe?'
'No. But I hardly think I can go back to school.'
'Perhaps not. Well, turn things over. I should like to hear from
Hubert continued his walk to the Manor. Before the entrance stood
two large furniture-vans; the doorway was littered with materials of
packing, and the hall was full of objects in disorder. footsteps
made a hollow resonance in all parts of the house, for everywhere
the long wonted conditions of sound were disturbed. The library was
already dismantled; here he could close the door and walk about
without fear of intrusion. He would have preferred to remain in the
open air, but a summer shower had just begun as he reached the
house. He could not sit still; the bare floor of the large room met
His mind's eye pictured a face which a few months ago had power to
lead him whither it willed, which had in fact led him through
strange scenes, as far from the beaten road of a college curriculum
as well could be. It was a face of foreign type, Jewish possibly,
most unlike that ideal of womanly charm kept in view by one who
seeks peace and the heart's home. Hubert had entertained no thought
of either. The romance which most young men are content to enjoy in
printed pages he had acted out in his life. He had lived through a
glorious madness, as unlike the vulgar oat-sowing of the average
young man of wealth as the latest valse on a street-organ is unlike
a passionate dream of Chopin. However unworthy the object of his
frenzy--and perhaps one were as worthy as another--the pursuit had
borne him through an atmosphere of fire, tempering him for life,
marking him for ever from plodders of the dusty highway. A reckless
passion is a patent of nobility. Whatever existence had in store for
him henceforth, Hubert could feel that he had lived.
An hour's communing with memory was brought to an end by the ringing
of the luncheon-bell. Since his illness Hubert had taken meals with
his mother in her own sitting-room. Thither he now repaired.
Mrs. Eldon had grown older in appearance since that evening of her
son's return. Of course she had discovered the cause of his illness,
and the incessant torment of a great fear had been added to what she
suffered from the estrangement between the boy and herself. Her own
bodily weakness had not permitted her to nurse him; she had passed
days and nights in anguish of expectancy. At one time it had been
life or death. If he died, what life would be hers through the brief
delay to which she could look forward?
Once more she had him by her side, but the moral distance between
them was nothing lessened. Mrs. Eldon's pride would not allow her to
resume the conversation which had ended so hopelessly for her, and
she interpreted Hubert's silence in the saddest sense. Now they were
about to be parted again. A house had been taken for her at Agworth,
three miles away; in her state of health she could not quit the
neighbourhood of the few old friends whom she still saw. But Hubert
would necessarily go into the world to seek some kind of career. No
hope shone for her in the prospect.
Whilst the servant waited on them at luncheon, mother and son
exchanged few words. Afterwards, Mrs. Eldon had her chair moved to
the window, where she could see the garden greenery.
'I called on Mr. Mutimer,' Hubert said, standing near her. Through
the meal he had cast frequent glances at her pale, nobly-lined
countenance, as if something had led him to occupy his thoughts with
her. He looked at her in the same way now.
'Did you? How did he impress you?'
'He is not quite the man I had expected; more civilised. I should
suppose he is the better kind of artisan. He talks with a good deal
of the working-class accent, of course, but not like a wholly
'His letter, you remember, was anything but illiterate. I feel I
ought to ask him to come and see me before we leave.'
'The correspondence surely suffices.'
'You expressed my thanks?'
'I see you found the interview rather difficult, Hubert.'
'How could it be otherwise? The man is well enough, of his kind, but
the kind is detestable.'
'Did he try to convert you to Socialism?' asked his mother, smiling
in her sad way.
'I imagine he discerned the hopelessness of such an under taking. We
had a little passage of arms,--quite within the bounds of civility.
Shall I tell you how I felt in talking with him? I seemed to be
holding a dialogue with the twentieth century, and you may think
what that means.'
'Ah, it's a long way off, Hubert.'
'I wish it were farther. The man was openly exultant; he stood for
Demos grasping the sceptre. I am glad, mother, that you leave Wanley
before the air is poisoned.'
'Mr. Mutimer does not see that side of the question?'
'Not he I Do you imagine the twentieth century will leave one green
spot on the earth's surface?'
'My dear, it will always be necessary to grow grass and corn.'
'By no means; depend upon it. Such things will be cultivated by
chemical processes. There will not be one inch left to nature; the
very oceans will somehow be tamed, the snow-mountains will be
levelled. And with nature will perish art. What has a hungry Demos
to do with the beautiful?'
Mrs. Eldon sighed gently.
'I shall not see it.'
Her eyes dreamed upon the soft-swaying boughs of a young chestnut.
Hubert was watching her face; its look and the meaning implied in
her words touched him profoundly.
'Mother!' he said under his breath.
He drew nearer to her and just stroked with his fingers the silver
lines which marked the hair on either side of her brows. He could
see that she trembled and that her lips set themselves in hard
'What do you wish me to do when we have left the Manor?'
His own voice was hurried between two quiverings of the throat; his
mother's only whispered in reply.
'That is for your own consideration, Hubert.'
'With your counsel, mother.'
'I ask it I will follow it. I wish to be guided by you.'
He knelt by her, and his mother pressed his head against her bosom.
Later, she asked--
'Did you call also on the Walthams?'
He shook his head.
'Should you not do so, dear?
'I think that must be later.'
The subject was not pursued.
The next day was Saturday. In the afternoon Hubert took a walk which
had been his favourite one ever since he could remember, every step
of the way associated with recollections of childhood, boyhood, or
youth. It was along the lane which began in a farmyard close by the
Manor and climbed with many turnings to the top of Stanbury Hill.
This was ever the first route re-examined by his brother Godfrey and
himself on their return from school at holiday-time. It was a rare
region for bird-nesting, so seldom was it trodden save by a few
farm-labourers at early morning or when the day's work was over.
Hubert passed with a glance of recognition the bramble in which he
had found his first spink's nest, the shadowed mossy bank whence had
fluttered the hapless wren just when the approach of two prowling
youngsters should have bidden her keep close. Boys on the egg-trail
are not wont to pay much attention to the features of the country;
but Hubert remembered that at a certain meadow-gate he had always
rested for a moment to view the valley, some mute presage of things
unimagined stirring at his heart. Was it even then nineteenth
century? Not for him, seeing that the life of each of us reproduces
the successive ages of the world. Belwick, roaring a few miles away,
was but an isolated black patch on the earth's beauty, not, as he
now understood it, a malignant cancer-spot, spreading day by day,
corrupting, an augury of death. In those days it had seemed fast in
the order of things that Wanley Manor should be his home through
life; how otherwise? Was it not the abiding-place of the Eldons from
of old? Who had ever hinted at revolution? He knew now that
revolution had been at work from an earlier time than that; whilst
he played and rambled with his brother the framework of their life
was crumbling about them. Belwick was already throwing a shadow upon
Wanley. And now behold! he stood at the old gate, rested his hands
where they had been wont to rest, turned his eyes in the familiar
direction; no longer a mere shadow, there was Belwick itself.
His heart was hot with outraged affection, with injured pride. On
the scarcely closed grave of that passion which had flamed through
so brief a life sprang up the flower of natural tenderness,
infinitely sweet and precious. For the first time he was fully
conscious of what it meant to quit Wanley for ever; the past
revealed itself to him, lovelier and more loved because parted from
him by so hopeless a gulf. Hubert was not old enough to rate
experience at its true value, to acquiesce in the law which wills
that the day must perish before we can enjoy to the full its light
and odour. He could only feel his loss, and rebel against the fate
which had ordained it.
He had climbed but half-way up the hill; from this point onwards
there was no view till the summit was reached, for the lane
proceeded between high banks and hedges. To gain the very highest
point he had presently to quit the road by a stile and skirt the
edge of a small rising meadow, at the top of which was an old
cow-house with a few trees growing about it. Thence one had the
finest prospect in the county.
He reached the stone shed, looked back for a moment over Wanley,
then walked round to the other side. As he turned the corner of the
building his eye was startled by the unexpected gleam of a white
dress. A girl stood there; she was viewing the landscape through a
field-glass, and thus remained unaware of his approach on the grass.
He stayed his step and observed her with eyes of recognition. Her
attitude, both hands raised to hold the glass, displayed to
perfection the virginal outline of her white-robed form. She wore a
straw hat of the plain masculine fashion; her brown hair was plaited
in a great circle behind her head, not one tendril loosed from the
mass; a white collar closely circled her neck; her waist was bound
with a red girdle. All was grace and purity; the very folds towards
the bottom of her dress hung in sculpturesque smoothness; the form
of her half-seen foot bowed the herbage with lightest pressure. From
the boughs above there fell upon her a dancing network of shadow.
Hubert only half smiled; he stood with his hands joined behind him,
his eyes fixed upon her face, waiting for her to turn But several
moments passed and she was still intent on the landscape. He spoke.
'Will you let me look?'
Her hands fell, all but dropping the glass; still, she did not start
with unbecoming shrug as most people do, the instinctive movement of
guarding against a stroke; the falling of her arms was the only
abrupt motion, her head turning in the direction of the speaker with
a grace as spontaneous as that we see in a lawn. that glances back
'Oh, Mr. Eldon! How silently you have come!'
The wild rose of her cheeks made rivalry for an instant with the
richer garden blooms, and the subsiding warmth left a pearly
translucency as of a lily petal against the light.
She held her hand to him, delicately gloved, warm; the whole of it
was hidden within Hubert's clasp.
'What were you looking at so attentively?' he asked.
'At Agworth station,' replied Adela, turning her eyes again in that
quarter. 'My brother's train ought to be in by now, I think. He
comes home every Saturday.'
Hubert spoke without thought, his look resting upon the maiden's red
'I am glad that you are well again,' Adela said with natural
kindness. 'You have had a long illness.'
'Yes; it has been a tiresome affair. Is Mrs. Waltham well?'
'Quite, thank you.'
'And your brother?'
'Alfred never had anything the matter with him in his life, I
believe,' she answered, with a laugh.
'Fortunate fellow! Will you lend me the glass?'
She held it to him, and at the same moment her straying eye caught a
glimpse of white smoke, far off.
'There comes the train!' she exclaimed. 'You will be able to see it
between these two hills.'
Hubert looked and returned the glass to her, but she did not make
use of it.
'Does he walk over from Agworth?' was Hubert's next question.
'Yes. It does him good after a week of Belwick.'
'There will soon be little difference between Belwick and Wanley,'
rejoined Hubert, drily.
Adela glanced at him; there was sympathy and sorrow in the look.
'I knew it would grieve you,' she said.
'And what is your own feeling? Do you rejoice in the change as a
sign of progress?'
'Indeed, no. I am very, very sorry to have our beautiful valley so
spoilt. It is only--'
Hubert eyed her with sudden sharpness of scrutiny; the look seemed
to check her words.
'Only what?' he asked. 'You find compensations?'
'My brother won't hear of such regrets,' she continued with a little
embarrassment 'He insists on the good that will be done by the
'From such a proprietor as I should have been to a man of Mr.
Mutimer's activity. To be sure, that is one point of view.'
'That is not my meaning, Mr. Eldon, as you know. I was speaking of
the change without regard to who brings it about. And I was not
giving my own opinion; Alfred's is always on the side of the working
people; he seems to forget everybody else in his zeal for their
interests. And then, the works are going to be quite a new kind of
undertaking. You have heard of Mr. Mutimer's plans. of course?'
'I have an idea of them.'
'You think them mistaken?'
'No. I would rather say they don't interest me. That seems to
disappoint you, Miss Waltham. Probably you are interested in them?'
At the sound of her own name thus formally interjected, Adela just
raised her eyes from their reflective gaze on the near landscape;
then she became yet more thoughtful.
'Yes, I think I am,' she replied, with deliberation. 'The principle
seems a just one. Devotion to a really unselfish cause is rare, I am
'You have met Mr. Mutimer?