Part 3 out of 12
'Once. My brother made his acquaintance, and he called on us.'
'Did he explain his scheme to you in detail?'
'Not himself. Alfred has told me all about it. He, of course, is
delighted with it; he has joined what he calls the Union.'
'Are you going to join?' Hubert asked, smiling.
'I? I doubt whether they would have me.'
She laughed silverly, her throat tremulous, like that of a bird that
sings. How significant the laugh was! the music of how pure a
freshet of life!
'All the members, I presume,' said Hubert, 'are to be speedily
enriched from the Wanley Mines and Iron Works?'
It was jokingly uttered, but Adela replied with some earnestness, as
if to remove a false impression.
'Oh, that is quite a mistake. Mr. Eldon. There is no question of
anyone being enriched, least of all Mr. Mutimer himself. The workmen
will receive just payment, not mere starvation wages, but whatever
profit there is will be devoted to the propaganda.'
'Propaganda! Starvation wages! Ah, I see you have gone deeply into
these matters. How strangely that word sounds on your
'Why strangely, Mr. Eldon?'
'One associates it with such very different speakers; it has such a
terrible canting sound. I hope you will not get into the habit of
using it--for your own sake.'
'I am not likely to use it much. I suppose I have. heard it so often
from Alfred lately. Please don't think,' she added rather hastily,
'that I have become a Socialist. Indeed, I dislike the name; I find
it implies so many things that I could never approve of.'
Her way of speaking the last sentence would have amused a
dispassionate critic, it was so distinctively the tone of Puritan
maidenhood. From lips like Adela's it is delicious to hear such
moral babbling. Oh, the gravity of conviction in a white-souled
English girl of eighteen! Do you not hear her say those words:
'things that I could never approve of'?
As her companion did not immediately reply, she again raised the
field-glass to her eyes and swept the prospect.
'Can you see your brother on the road?' Hubert inquired.
'No, not yet. There is a trap driving this way. Why, Alfred sitting
in it! Oh, it is Mr. Mutimer's trap I see. He must have met Alfred
at the station and have given him a ride.'
'Evidently they are great friends,' commented Eldon.
Adela did not reply. After gazing a little longer, she said--
'He will be home before I can get there.'
She screwed up the glasses and turned as if to take leave. But
Hubert prepared to walk by her side, and together they reached the
'Now I am going to run down the hill,' Adela said, laughing. 'I
can't ask you to join in such childishness, and I suppose you are
not going this way, either?'
'No, I am walking back to the Manor,' the other replied soberly. 'We
had better say good-bye. On Monday we shall leave Wanley, my mother
The girl became graver.
'But only to go to Agworth?' she added.
'I shall not remain at Agworth. I am going to London.'
'Something or other, I don't quite know what. Good-bye!'
'Won't you come to say good-bye to us--to mother?'
'Shall you be at home to-morrow afternoon, about four o'clock say?'
'Oh, yes; the very time.'
'Then I will come to say good-bye.'
'In that case we needn't say it now, need we? It is only good
She began to walk down the lane.
'I thought you were going to run,' cried Hubert.
She looked back, and her silver laugh made chorus with the joyous
refrain of a yellow-hammer, piping behind the hedge. Till the turn
of the road she continued walking, then Hubert had a glimpse of
white folds waving in the act of flight, and she was beyond his
Adela reached the house door at the very moment that Mutimer's trap
drove up. She had run nearly all the way down the hill, and her
soberer pace during the last ten minutes had not quite reduced the
flush in her cheeks. Mutimer raised his hat with much _aplomb_
before he had pulled up his horse, and his look stayed on her whilst
Alfred Waltham was descending and taking leave.
'I was lucky enough to overtake your brother in Agworth,' he said.
'Ah, you have deprived him of what he calls his constitutional,'
'Have I? Well, it isn't often I'm here over Saturday, so he can
generally feel safe.'
The hat was again aired, and Richard drove away to the Wheatsheaf
Inn, where he kept his horse at present.
Brother and sister went together into the parlour, where Mrs.
Waltham immediately joined them, having descended from an upper
'So Mr. Mutimer drove you home!' she exclaimed, with the interest
which provincial ladies, lacking scope for their energies, will
display in very small incidents.
'Yes. By the way, I've asked him to come and have dinner with us
to-morrow. He hadn't any special reason for going to town, and was
uncertain whether to do so or not, so I thought I might as well have
Mr. Alfred always spoke in a somewhat emphatic first person singular
when domestic arrangements were under, discussion; occasionally the
habit led to a passing unpleasantness of tone between himself and
Mrs. Waltham. In the present instance, however, nothing of the kind
was to be feared; his mother smiled very graciously.
'I'm glad you thought of it,' she said. 'It would have been very
lonely for him in his lodgings.'
Neither of the two happened to be regarding Adela, or they would
have seen a look of dismay flit across her countenance and pass into
one of annoyance. When the talk had gone on for a few minutes Adela
interposed a question.
'Will Mr. Mutimer stay for tea also, do you think, Alfred?'
'Oh, of course; why shouldn't he?'
It is the country habit; Adela might have known what answer she
would receive. She got out of the difficulty by means of a little
'He won't want us to talk about Socialism all the time, will he?'
'Of course not, my dear,' replied Mrs. Waltham. 'Why, it will be
Alfred shouted in mirthful scorn.
'Well, that's one of the finest things I've heard for a long time,
mother! It'll be Sunday, and _therefore_ we are not to talk about
improving the lot of the human race. Ye gods!'
Mrs. Waltham was puzzled for an instant, but the Puritan assurance
did not fail her.
'Yes, but that is only improvement of their bodies, Alfred--food and
clothing. The six days are for that you know.'
'Mother, mother, you will kill me! You are so uncommonly funny! I
wonder your friends haven't long ago found some way of doing without
bodies altogether. Now, I pray you, do not talk nonsense. Surely
_that_ is forbidden on the Sabbath, if only the Jewish one.'
'Mother is quite right, Alfred,' remarked Adela, with quiet
affimativeness, as soon as her voice could be heard. 'Your Socialism
is earthly; we have to think of other things besides bodily
'Who said we hadn't?' cried her brother. 'But I take leave to inform
you that you won't get much spiritual excellence out of a man who
lives a harder life than the nigger-slaves. If you women could only
put aside your theories and look a little at obstinate facts! You're
all of a piece. Which of you was it that talked the other day about
getting the vicar to pray for rain? Ho, ho, ho! Just the same kind
Alfred's combativeness had grown markedly since his making
acquaintance with Mutimer. He had never excelled in the suaver
virtues, and now the whole of the time he spent at home was devoted
to vociferous railing at capitalists, priests, and women, his mother
and sister serving for illustrations of the vices prevalent in the
last-mentioned class. In talking he always paced the room, hands in
pockets, and at times fairly stammered in his endeavour to hit upon
sufficiently trenchant epithets or comparisons. When reasoning
failed with his auditors, he had recourse to volleys of contemptuous
laughter. At times he lost his temper, muttered words such as
'fools!'--'idiots!' and flung out into the open air. It looked as
if the present evening was to be a stormy one. Adela noted the
presage and allowed herself a protest _in limine_.
'Alfred, I do hope you won't go on in this way whilst Letty is here.
You mayn't think it, but you pain her very much.'
'Pain her! It's her education. She's had none yet, no more than you
have. It's time you both began to learn.'
It being close upon the hour for tea, the young lady of whom there
was question was heard to ring the door-bell. We have already had a
passing glimpse of her, but since then she has been honoured by
becoming Alfred's affianced. Letty Tew fulfilled all the conditions
desirable in one called to so trying a destiny. She was a pretty,
supple, sweet-mannered girl, and, as is the case with such girls,
found it possible to worship a man whom in consistency she must have
deemed the most condemnable of heretics. She and Adela were close
friends; Adela indeed, had no other friend in the nearer sense. The
two were made of very different fibre, but that had not as yet
Adela's reproof was not wholly without effect; her brother got
through the evening without proceeding to his extremest truculence.
still the conversation was entirely of his leading, consequently not
a little argumentative. He had brought home, as he always did on
Saturday, a batch of ultra periodicals, among them the 'Fiery
Cross,' and his own eloquence was supplemented by the reading of
excerpts from these lively columns. It was a combat of three to one,
but the majority did little beyond throwing up hands at anything
particularly outrageous. Adela said much less than usual. 'I tell
you what it is, you three!' Alfred cried, at a certain climax of
enthusiasm, addressing the ladies with characteristic courtesy,
'we'll found a branch of the Union in Wanley; I mean, in our
particular circle of thickheads. Then, as soon as Mutimer's
settlement gets going, we can coalesce. Now you two girls give next
week to going round and soliciting subscriptions for the "Fiery
Cross." People have had time to get over the first scare, and you
know they can't refuse such as you. Quarterly, one-and-eightpence,
'But, my dear Alfred,' cried Adela, 'remember that Letty and I are
'Letty is, because I expect it of her, and you can't refuse to keep
her in countenance.'
The girls laughed merrily at this anticipated lordship; but Letty
'I believe father will take the paper if I ask him. One is better
than nothing, isn't it, Alfred?'
'Good. We book Stephen Tew, Esquire.'
'But surely you mustn't call him Esquire?' suggested Adela.
'Oh, he is yet unregenerate; let him keep his baubles.'
'How are the regenerate designated?'
'Comrade, we prefer.'
'Also applied to women?'
'Well, I suppose not. As the word hasn't a feminine, call yourselves
plain Letty Tew and Adela Waltham, without meaningless prefix.'
'What nonsense you are talking, Alfred!' remarked his mother. 'As if
everybody in Wanley could address young ladies by their Christian
In this way did Alfred begin the 'propaganda' at home. Already the
village was much occupied with the vague new doctrines represented
by the name of Richard Mutimer; the parlour of the Wheatsheaf was
loud of evenings with extraordinary debate, and gossips of a higher
station had at length found a topic which promised to be
inexhaustible. Of course the vicar was eagerly sounded as to his
views. Mr. Wyvern preserved an attitude of scrupulous neutrality,
contenting himself with correction of palpable absurdities in the
stories going about. 'But surely you are not a Socialist, Mr.
Wyvern?' cried Mrs. Mewling, after doing her best to pump the
reverend gentleman, and discovering nothing. 'I am a Christian,
madam,' was the reply, 'and have nothing to do with economic
doctrines.' Mrs. Mewling spread the phrase 'economic doctrines,'
shaking her head upon the adjective, which was interpreted by her
hearers as condemnatory in significance. The half-dozen shopkeepers
were disposed to secret jubilation; it was probable that, in
consequence of the doings in the valley, trade would look up.
Mutimer himself was a centre of interest such as Wanley had never
known. When he walked down the street the news that he was visible
seemed to spread like wildfire; every house had its gazers.
Excepting the case of the Walthams, he had not as yet sought to make
personal acquaintances, appearing rather to avoid opportunities. On
the whole it seemed likely that he would be popular. The little
group of mothers with marriageable daughters waited eagerly for the
day when, by establishing himself at the Manor, he would throw off
the present semi-incognito, and become the recognised head of Wanley
society. He would discover the necessity of having a lady to share
his honours and preside at his table. Persistent inquiry seemed to
have settled the fact that he was not married already. To be sure,
there were awesome rumours that Socialists repudiated laws divine
and human in matrimonial affairs, but the more sanguine were
inclined to regard this as calumny, their charity finding a support
in their personal ambitions. The interest formerly attaching to the
Eldons had altogether vanished. Mrs. Eldon and her son were now mere
obstacles to be got rid of as quickly as possible. It was the
general opinion that Hubert Eldon's illness was purposely
protracted, to suit his mother's convenience. Until Mutimer's
arrival there had been much talk about Hubert; whether owing to Dr.
Mann's indiscretion or through the servants at the Manor, it had
become known that the young man was suffering from a bullet-wound,
and the story circulated by Mrs. Mewling led gossips to suppose that
he had been murderously assailed in that land of notorious
profligacy known to Wanley as 'abroad.' That, however, was now
become an old story. Wanley was anxious for the Eldons to go their
way, and leave the stage clear.
Everyone of course was aware that Mutimer spent his Sundays in
London (a circumstance, it was admitted, not altogether reassuring
to the ladies with marriageable daughters), and his unwonted
appearance in the village on the evening of the present Saturday
excited universal comment. Would he appear at church next morning?
There was a general directing of eyes to the Manor pew. This pew had
not been occupied since the fateful Sunday when, at the conclusion
of the morning service, old Mr. Mutimer was discovered to have
breathed his last. It was a notable object in the dim little church,
having a wooden canopy supported on four slim oak pillars with
vermicular moulding. From pillar to pillar hung dark curtains, so
that when these were drawn the interior of the pew was entirely
protected from observation. Even on the brightest days its occupants
were veiled in gloom. To-day the curtains remained drawn as usual,
and Richard Mutimer disappointed the congregation. Wanley had
obtained assurance on one point--Socialism involved Atheism.
Then it came to pass that someone saw Mutimer approach the Walthams'
house just before dinner time; saw him, moreover, ring and enter. A
couple of hours, and the ominous event was everywhere being
discussed. Well, well, it was not difficult to see what _that_
meant. Trust Mrs. Waltham for shrewd generalship. Adela Waltham had
been formerly talked of in connection with young Eldon; but Eldon
was now out of the question, and behold his successor, in a double
sense! Mrs. Mewling surrendered her Sunday afternoon nap and flew
from house to house--of course in time for the dessert wine at each.
Her cry was _haro_! Really, this was sharp practice on Mrs.
Waltham's part; it was stealing a march before the commencement of
the game. Did there not exist a tacit understanding that movements
were postponed until Mutimer's occupation of the Manor? Adela was a
very nice young girl, to be sure, a very nice girl indeed, but one
must confess that she had her eyes open. Would it not be well for
united Wanley to let her know its opinion of such doings?
In the meantime Richard was enjoying himself, with as little thought
of the Wanley gossips as of--shall we say, the old curtained pew in
Wanley Church? He was perfectly aware that the Walthams did not
represent the highest gentility, that there was a considerable
interval, for example, between Mrs. Waltham and Mrs. Westlake; but
the fact remained that he had never yet been on intimate terms with
a family so refined. Radical revolutionist though he was, he had
none of the grossness or obstinacy which would have denied to the
_bourgeois_ household any advantage over those of his own class. At
dinner he found himself behaving circumspectly. He knew already that
the cultivated taste objects to the use of a table-knife save for
purposes of cutting; on the whole he saw grounds for the objection.
He knew, moreover, that manducation and the absorption of fluids
must be performed without audible gusto; the knowledge cost him some
self-criticism. But there were numerous minor points of convention
on which he was not so clear; it had never occurred to him, for
instance, that civilisation demands the breaking of bread, that, in
the absence of silver, a fork must suffice for the dissection of
fish, that a napkin is a graceful auxiliary in the process of a meal
and not rather an embarrassing superfluity of furtive application.
Like a wise man, be did not talk much during dinner, devoting his
mind to observation. Of one thing he speedily became aware, namely,
that Mr. Alfred Waltham was so very much in his own house that it
was not wholly safe to regard his demeanour as exemplary. Another
point well certified was that if any person in the world could be
pointed to as an unassailable pattern of comely behaviour that
person was Mr. Alfred Waltham's sister. Richard observed Adela as
closely as good manners would allow.
Talking little as yet--the young man at the head of the table gave
others every facility for silence--Richard could occupy his thought
in many directions. Among other things, he instituted a comparison
between the young lady who sat opposite to him and someone--not a
young lady, it is true, but of the same sex and about the same age.
He tried to imagine Emma Vine seated at this table; the effort
resulted in a disagreeable warmth in the lobes of his ears. Yes,
but--he attacked himself--not Emma Vine dressed as he was accustomed
to see her; suppose her possessed of all Adela Waltham's exterior
advantages. As his imagination was working on the hint, Adela
herself addressed a question to him. He looked up, he let her voice
repeat itself in inward echo. His ears were still more disagreeably
It was a lovely day--warm enough to dine with the windows open. The
faintest air seemed to waft sunlight from corner to corner of the
room; numberless birds sang on the near boughs and hedges; the
flowers on the table were like a careless gift of gold-hearted
prodigal summer. Richard transferred himself in spirit to a certain
square on the borders of Hoxton and Islington, within scent of the
Regent's Canal. The house there was now inhabited by Emma and her
sisters; they also would be at dinner. Suppose he had the choice:
there or here? Adela addressed to him another question. The square
vanished into space.
How often he had spoken scornfully of that word 'lady'! Were not all
of the sex women? What need for that hateful distinction? Richard
tried another experiment with his imagination. 'I had dinner with
some people called Waltham last Sunday. The old woman I didn't much
care about; but there was a young woman--' Well, why not? On the
other hand, suppose Emma Vine called at his lodgings. 'A young woman
called this morning, sir--' Well, why not?
Dessert was on the table. He saw Adela's fingers take an orange, her
other hand holding a little fruit-knife. Now, who could have
imagined that the simple paring of an orange could be achieved at
once with such consummate grace and so naturally? In Richard's
country they first bite off a fraction of the skin, then dig away
with what of finger-nail may be available. He knew someone who would
assuredly proceed in that way.
Metamorphosis! Richard Mutimer speculates on asthetic problems.
'You, gentlemen, I dare say will be wicked enough to smoke,'
remarked Mrs. Waltham, as she rose from the table.
'I tell you what we shall be wicked enough to do, mother,' exclaimed
Alfred. 'We shall have two cups of coffee brought out into the
garden, and spare your furniture!'
'Very well, my son. Your _two_ cups evidently mean that Adela and I
are not invited to the garden.'
'Nothing of the kind. But I know you always go to sleep, and Adela
doesn't like tobacco smoke.'
'I go to sleep, Alfred! You know very well that I have a very
different occupation for my Sunday afternoons.'
'I really don't care anything about smoking,' observed Mutimer, with
a glance at Adela.
'Oh, you certainly shall not deprive yourself on my account, Mr.
Mutimer,' said the girl, good-naturedly. 'I hope soon to come out
into the garden, and I am not at all sure that my objection to
tobacco is serious.'
Ah, if Mrs. Mewling could have heard that speech! Mrs. Mewling's age
was something less than fifty; probably she had had time to forget
how a young girl such as Adela speaks in pure frankness and never
looks back to muse over a double meaning.
It was nearly three o'clock. Adela compared her watch with the
sitting-room clock, and, the gentlemen having retired, moved about
the room with a look of uneasiness. Her mother stood at the window,
seemingly regarding the sky, in reality occupying her thoughts with
things much nearer. She turned and found Adela looking at her.
'I want just to run over and speak to Letty,' Adela said. 'I shall
very soon be back.'
'Very well, dear,' replied her mother, scanning her face absently.
'But don't let them keep you.'
Adela quickly fetched her hat and left the house. It was her habit
to walk at a good pace, always with the same airy movement, as
though her feet only in appearance pressed the ground. On the way
she again consulted her watch, and it caused her to flit still
faster. Arrived at the abode of the Tews, she fortunately found
Letty in the garden, sitting with two younger sisters, one a child
of five years. Miss Tew was reading aloud to them, her book being
'Pilgrim's Progress.' At the sight of Adela the youngest of the
three slipped down from her seat and ran to meet her with laughter
and shaking of curls.
'Carry me round! carry me round!' cried the little one.
For it was Adela's habit to snatch up the flaxen little maiden, seat
her upon her shoulder, and trot merrily round a circular path in the
garden. But the sister next in age, whose thirteenth year had
developed deep convictions, interposed sharply--
'Eva, don't be naughty! Isn't it Sunday?'
The little one, saved on the very brink of iniquity, turned away in
confusion and stood with a finger in her mouth.
'I'll come and carry you round to-morrow, Eva,' said the visitor,
stooping to kiss the reluctant face. Then, turning to the
admonitress, 'Jessie, will you read a little? I want just to speak
Miss Jessie took the volume, made her countenance yet sterner, and,
having drawn Eva to her side, began to read in measured tones,
reproducing as well as she could the enunciation of the pulpit.
Adela beckoned to her friend, and the two walked apart.
'I'm in such a fix,' she began, speaking hurriedly, 'and there isn't
a minute to lose. Mr. Mutimer has been having dinner with us; Alfred
invited him. And I expect Mr. Eldon to come about four o'clock. I
met him yesterday on the Hill; he came up just as I was looking out
for Alfred with the glass, and I asked him if he wouldn't come and
say good-bye to mother this afternoon. Of course I'd no idea that
Mr. Mutimer would come to dinner; he always goes away for Sunday.
Isn't it dreadfully awkward?'
'You think he wouldn't like to meet Mr. Mutimer?' asked Letty,
savouring the gravity of the situation.
'I'm sure he wouldn't. He spoke about him yesterday. Of course he
didn't say anything against Mr. Mutimer, but I could tell from his
way of speaking. And then it's quite natural, isn't it? I'm really
afraid. He'll think it so unkind of me. I told him we should be
alone, and I shan't be able to explain. Isn't it tiresome?'
'It is, really! But of course Mr. Eldon will understand. To think
that it should happen just this day!'
An idea flashed across Miss Tew's mind.
'Couldn't you be at the door when he comes, and just--just say, you
know, that you're sorry, that you knew nothing about Mr. Mutimer
'I've thought of something else,' returned Adela, lowering her
voice, as if to impart a project of doubtful propriety. 'Suppose I
walk towards the Manor and--and meet him on the way, before he gets
very far? Then I could save him the annoyance, couldn't I, dear?'
Letty widened her eyes. The idea was splendid, but--
'You don't think, dear, that it might be a little--that you might
'It is only a piece of kindness. Mr. Eldon will understand, I'm
sure. He asked me so particularly if we should be alone. I really
feel it a duty. Don't you think I may go? I must decide at once.'
'If you really advise me not to--' pursued Adela. 'But I'm sure I
shall be glad when it's done.'
'Then go, dear. Yes, I would go if I were you.'
Adela now faltered.
'You really would go, in my place?'
'Yes, yes, I'm sure I should. You see, it isn't as if it was Mr.
Mutimer you were going to meet.'
'Oh, no, no That would be impossible.'
'He will be very grateful,' murmured Letty, without looking up.
'If I go, it must be at once.'
'Your mother doesn't know he was coming?'
'No. I don't know why I haven't told her, really. I suppose we were
talking so much of other things last night. And then I only got home
just as Alfred did, and he said at once that he had invited Mr.
Mutimer. Yes, I will go. Perhaps I'll come and see you again after
Letty went back to 'Pilgrim's Progress.' Her sister Jessie enjoyed
the sound of her own voice, and did not offer to surrender the book,
so she sat by little Eva's side and resumed her Sunday face.
Adela took the road for the Manor, resisting the impulse to cast
glances on either side as she passed the houses at the end of the
village. She felt it to be more than likely that eyes were observing
her, as it was an unusual time for her to be abroad, and the
direction of her walk pointed unmistakably to one destination. But
she made no account of secrecy; her errand was perfectly simple and
with an object that no one could censure. If people tattled, they
alone were to blame. For the first time she experienced a little
resentment of the public criticism which was so rife in Wanley, and
the experience was useful--one of those inappreciable aids to
independence which act by cumulative stress on a character capable
of development and softly mould its outlines.
She passed the church, then the vicarage, and entered the hedgeway
which by a long curve led to the Manor. She was slackening her pace,
not wishing to approach too near to the house, when she at length
saw Hubert Eldon walking towards her. He advanced with a look which
was not exactly indifferent yet showed no surprise; the smile only
came to his face when he was near enough to speak.
'I have come to meet you,' Adela began, with frankness which cost
her a little agitation of breath. 'I am so very sorry to have misled
you yesterday. As soon as I reached home, I found that my brother
had invited Mr. Mutimer for to-day. I thought it would be best if I
came and told you that--that we were not quite alone, as I said we
As she spoke Adela became distressed by perceiving, or seeming to
perceive, that the cause which had led her to this step was quite
inadequate. Of course it was the result of her having to forbear
mention of the real point at issue; she could not say that she
feared it might be disagreeable to her hearer to meet Mutimer. But,
put in the other way, her pretext for coming appeared trivial. Only
with an extreme effort she preserved her even tone to the end of her
'It is very kind of you,' Hubert replied almost warmly. 'I'm very
sorry you have had the trouble.'
As she disclaimed thanks, Eldon's tact discovered the way of safety.
Facing her with a quiet openness of look, he said, in a tone of
pleasant directness which Adela had often felt to be peculiarly his
'I shall best thank you by admitting that I should have found it
very unpleasant to meet Mr. Mutimer. You felt that, and hence your
kindness. At the same time, no doubt, you pity me for my
'I think it perfectly natural that such a meeting should be
disagreeable. I believe I understand your feeling. Indeed, you
explained it to me yesterday.'
'I explained it?'
'In what you said about the works in the valley.'
'True. Many people would have interpreted me less liberally.'
Adela's eyes brightened a little. But when she raised them, they
fell upon something which disturbed her cheerfulness. This was the
face of Mrs. Mewling, who had come up from the direction of Wanley
and was clearly about to pay a visit at the Manor. The lady smiled
and murmured a greeting as she passed by.
'I suppose Mrs. Mewling is going to see my mother,' said Hubert, who
also had lost a little of his naturalness.
A few more words and they again parted. Nothing further was said of
the postponed visit. Adela hastened homewards, dreading lest she had
made a great mistake, yet glad that she had ventured to come.
Her mother was just going out into the garden, where Alfred's voice
sounded frequently in laughter or denunciation. Adela would have
been glad to sit alone for a short time, for Mrs. Waltham seemed to
wish for her company She had only time to glance at herself in her
looking-glass and just press a palm against each cheek.
Alfred was puffing clouds from his briar pipe, but Mutimer had
ceased smoking. Near the latter was a vacant seat; Adela took it, as
there was no other.
'What a good thing the day of rest is!' exclaimed Mrs. Waltham. 'I
always feel thankful when I think of the poor men who toil so all
through the week in Belwick, and how they must enjoy their Sunday.
You surely wouldn't make any change in _that_, Mr. Mutimer?'
'The change I should like to see would be in the other direction,'
Richard replied. 'I would have holidays far more frequent. In the
towns you can scarcely call Sunday a holiday. There's nothing to do
but to walk about the streets. On the whole it does far more harm
'Do they never go to church?' asked Adela. She was experiencing a
sort of irritation against their guest, a feeling. traceable to more
than one source; Mutimer's frequent glances did not tend to soothe
it. She asked the question rather in a spirit of adverse criticism.
'The working people don't,' was the reply, 'except a Dissenting
family here and there.'
'Perhaps that is one explanation of the Sundays being useless to
Adela would scarcely have ventured upon such a tone in reference to
any secular matter; the subject being religion, she was of course
justified in expressing herself freely.
Mutimer smiled and held back his rejoinder for a moment. By that
time Alfred had taken his pipe from his lips and was giving
utterance to unmeasured scorn.
'But, Mr. Mutimer,' said Mrs. Waltham, waving aside her son's
vehemence, 'you don't seriously tell us that the working people have
no religion? Surely that would be too shocking!'
'Yes, I say it seriously, Mrs. Waltham. In the ordinary sense of the
word, they have no religion. The truth is, they have no time to
think of it.'
'Oh, but surely it needs no thought--'
'I mean,' pursued his mother, 'that, however busy we are, there must
always be intervals to be spared from the world.'
Mutimer again delayed his reply. A look which he cast at Adela
appeared to move her to speech.
'Have they not their evenings free, as well as every Sunday?'
'Happily, Miss Waltham, you can't realise their lives,' Richard
began. He was not smiling now; Adela's tone had struck him like a
challenge, and he collected himself to meet her. 'The man who lives
on wages is never free; he sells himself body and soul to his
employer. What sort of freedom does a man enjoy who may any day find
himself and his family on the point of starvation just because he
has lost his work? All his life long he has before his mind the fear
of want--not only of straitened means, mind you, but of destitution
and the workhouse. How can such a man put aside his common cares?
Religion is a luxury; the working man has no luxuries. Now, you
speak of the free evenings; people always do, when they're asking
why the working classes don't educate themselves. Do you understand
what that free evening means? He gets home, say, at six o'clock,
tired out; he has to be up again perhaps at five next morning. What
can he do but just lie about half asleep? Why, that's the whole
principle of the capitalist system of employment; it's calculated
exactly how long a man can be made to work in a day without making
him incapable of beginning again on the day following--just as it's
calculated exactly how little a man can live upon, in the regulation
of wages. If the workman returned home with strength to spare,
employers would soon find it out, and workshop legislation would be
revised--because of course it's the capitalists that make the laws.
The principle is that a man shall have no strength left for himself;
it's all paid for, every scrap of it, bought with the wages at each
week end. What religion can such men have? Religion, I suppose,
means thankfulness for life and its pleasures--at all events, that's
a great part of it--and what has a wage-earner to be thankful for?'
'It sounds very shocking,' observed Mrs. Waltham, somewhat disturbed
by the speaker's growing earnestness. Richard paid no attention and
continued to address Adela.
'I dare say you've heard of the early trains--workmen's trains--that
they run on the London railways. If only you could travel once by
one of those! Between station and station there's scarcely a man or
boy in the carriage who can keep awake; there they sit, leaning over
against each other, their heads dropping forward, their eyelids that
heavy they can't hold them up. I tell you it's one of the most
miserable sights to be seen in this world. If you saw it, Miss
Waltham, you'd pity them, I'm very sure of that! You only need to
know what their life means. People who have never known hardship
often speak more cruelly than they think, and of course it always
will be so as long as the rich and the poor are two different races,
as much apart as if there was an ocean between them.'
Adela's cheeks were warm. It was a novel sensation to be rebuked in
this unconventional way. She was feeling a touch of shame as well as
the slight resentment which was partly her class-instinct, partly of
'I feel that I have no right to give any opinion,' she said in an
'Meaning, Adela,' commented her brother, 'that you have a very
strong opinion and stick to it.'
'One thing I dare say you are thinking, Miss Waltham,' Richard
pursued, 'if you'll allow me to say it. You think that I myself
don't exactly prove what I've been saying--I mean to say, that I at
all events have had free time, not only to read and reflect, but to
give lectures and so on. Yes, and I'll explain that. It was my good
fortune to have a father and mother who were very careful and
hard-working and thoughtful people; I and my sister and brother were
brought up in an orderly home, and taught from the first that
ceaseless labour and strict economy were the things always to be
kept in mind. All that was just fortunate chance; I'm not praising
myself in saying I've been able to get more into my time than most
other working men; it's my father and mother I have to thank for it.
Suppose they'd been as ignorant and careless as most of their class
are made by the hard lot they have to endure; why, I should have
followed them, that's all. We've never had to go without a meal, and
why? Just because we've all of us worked like slaves and never
allowed ourselves to think of rest or enjoyment. When my father
died, of course we had to be more careful than ever; but there were
three of us to earn money, fortunately, and we kept up the home. We
put our money by for the club every week, what's more.'
'The club?' queried Miss Waltham, to whom the word suggested Pall
Mall and vague glories which dwelt in her imagination.
'That's to make provision for times when we're ill or can't get
work,' Mutimer explained. 'If a wage-earner falls ill, what has he
to look to? The capitalist won't trouble himself to keep him alive;
there's plenty to take his place. Well, that's my position, or was a
few months ago. I don't suppose any workman has had more advantages.
Take it as an example of the most we can hope for, and pray say what
it amounts to! Just on the right side, just keeping afloat, just
screwing out an hour here and there to work your brain when you
ought to be taking wholesome recreation! That's nothing very grand,
it seems to me. Yet people will point to it and ask what there is to
Adela sat uneasily under Mutimer's gaze; she kept her eyes down.
'And I'm not sure that I should always have got on as easily,' the
speaker continued. 'Only a day or two before I heard of my
relative's death, I'd just been dismissed from my employment; that
was because they didn't like my opinions. Well, I don't say they
hadn't a right to dismiss me, just as I suppose you've a right to
kill as many of the enemy as you can in time of war. But suppose I
couldn't have got work anywhere. I had nothing but my hands to
depend upon; if I couldn't sell my muscles I must starve, that's
Adela looked at him for almost the first time. She had heard this
story from her brother, but it came more impressively from Mutimer's
own lips. A sort of heroism was involved in it, the championship of
a cause regardless of self. She remained thoughtful with troublous
colours on her face.
Mrs. Waltham was more obviously uneasy. There are certain things to
which in good society one does not refer, first and foremost
humiliating antecedents. The present circumstances were exceptional
to be sure, but it was to be hoped that Mr. Mutimer would outgrow
this habit of advertising his origin. Let him talk of the
working-classes if he liked, but always in the third person. The
good lady began to reflect whether she might not venture shortly to
give him friendly hints on this and similar subjects.
But it was nearly tea-time. Mrs. Waltham shortly rose and went into
the house, whither Alfred followed her. Mutimer kept his seat, and
Adela could not leave him to himself, though for the moment he
seemed unconscious of her presence. When they had been alone
together for a little while, Richard broke the silence.
'I hope I didn't speak rudely to you; Miss Waltham. I don't think I
need fear to say what I mean, but I know there are always two ways
of saying things, and perhaps I chose the roughest.'
Adela was conscious of having said a few hard things mentally, and
this apology, delivered in a very honest voice, appealed to her
instinct of justice. She did not like Mutimer, and consequently
strove against the prejudice which the very sound of his voice
aroused in her; it was her nature to aim thus at equity in her
'To describe hard things we must use hard words,' she replied
pleasantly, 'but you said nothing that could offend.'
'I fear you haven't much sympathy with my way of looking at the
question. I seem to you to be going to work the wrong way.'
'I certainly think you value too little the means of happiness that
we all have within our reach, rich and poor alike.'
'Ah, if you could only see into the life of the poor, you would
acknowledge that those means are and can be nothing to them.
Besides, my way of thinking in such things is the same as your
brother's, and I can't expect you to see any good in it.'
Adela shook her head slightly. She had risen and was examining the
leaves upon an apple branch which she had drawn down.
'But I'm sure you feel that there is need for doing something,' he
urged, quitting his seat. 'You're not indifferent to the hard lives
of the people, as most people are who have always lived comfortable
She let the branch spring up, and spoke more coldly.
'I hope I am not indifferent; but it is not in my power to do
'Will you let me say that you are mistaken in that?' Mutimer had
never before felt himself constrained to qualify and adorn his
phrases; the necessity made him awkward. Not only did he aim at
polite modes of speech altogether foreign to his lips, but his own
voice sounded strange to him in its forced suppression. He did not
as yet succeed in regarding himself from the outside and criticising
the influences which had got hold upon him; he was only conscious
that a young lady--the very type of young lady that a little while
ago he would have held up for scorn--was subduing his nature by her
mere presence and exacting homage from him to which she was wholly
indifferent. 'Everyone can give help in such a cause as this. You
can work upon the minds of the people you talk with and get them to
throw away their prejudices. The cause of the working classes seems
so hopeless just because they're too far away to catch the ears of
those who oppress them.'
'I do not oppress them, Mr. Mutimer.'
Adela spoke with a touch of impatience. She wished to bring this
conversation to an end, and the man would give her no opportunity of
doing so. She was not in reality paying attention to his arguments,
as was evident in her echo of his last words.
'Not willingly, but none the less you do so,' he rejoined. 'Everyone
who lives at ease and without a thought of changing the present
state of society is tyrannising over the people. Every article of
clothing you put on means a life worn out somewhere in a factory.
What would your existence be without the toil of those men and women
who live and die in want of every comfort which seems as natural to
you as the air you breathe? Don't you feel that you owe them
something? It's a debt that can very easily be forgotten, I know
that, and just because the creditors are too weak to claim it. Think
of it in that way, and I'm quite sure you won't let it slip from
your mind again.'
Alfred came towards them, announcing that tea was ready, and Adela
gladly moved away.
'You won't make any impression there,' said Alfred with a shrug of
good-natured contempt. 'Argument isn't understood by women. Now, if
you were a revivalist preacher--' Mrs. Waltham and Adela went to
church. Mutimer returned to his lodgings, leaving his friend Waltham
smoking in the garden.
On the way home after service, Adela had a brief murmured
conversation with Letty Tew. Her mother was walking out with Mrs.
'It was evidently pre-arranged,' said the latter, after recounting
certain details in a tone of confidence. 'I was quite shocked. On
_his_ part such conduct is nothing less than disgraceful. Adela, of
course, cannot be expected to know.'
'I must tell her,' was the reply.
Adela was sitting rather dreamily in her bedroom a couple of hours
later when her mother entered.
'Little girls shouldn't tell stories,' Mrs. Waltham began, with
playfulness which was not quite natural. 'Who was it that wanted to
go and speak a word to Letty this afternoon?'
'It wasn't altogether a story, mother,' pleaded the girl, shamed,
but with an endeavour to speak independently. 'I did want to speak
'And you put it off, I suppose? Really, Adela, you must remember
that a girl of your age has to be mindful of her self-respect. In
Wanley you can't escape notice; besides--'
'Let me explain, mother.' Adela's voice was made firm by the
suggestion that she had behaved unbecomingly. 'I went to Letty first
of all to tell her of a difficulty I was in. Yesterday afternoon I
happened to meet Mr. Eldon, and when he was saying good-bye I asked
him if he wouldn't come and see you before he left Wanley. He
promised to come this afternoon. At the time of course I didn't know
that Alfred had invited Mr. Mutimer. It would have been so
disagreeable for Mr. Eldon to meet him here, I made up my mind to
walk towards the Manor and tell Mr. Eldon what had happened.'
'Why should Mr. Eldon have found the meeting with Mr. Mutimer
'They don't like each other.'
'I dare say not. Perhaps it was as well Mr. Eldon didn't come. I
should most likely have refused to see him.'
'Refused to see him, mother?'
Adela gazed in the utmost astonishment.
'Yes, my dear. I haven't spoken to you about Mr. Eldon, just because
I took it for granted that he would never come in your way again.
That he should have dared to speak to you is something beyond what I
could have imagined. When I went to see Mrs. Eldon on Friday I
didn't take you with me, for fear lest that young man should show
himself. It was impossible for you to be in the same room with him.'
'With Mr. Hubert Eldon? My dearest mother, what are you saying?'
'Of course it surprises you, Adela. I too was surprised. I thought
there might be no need to speak to you of things you ought never to
hear mentioned, but now I am afraid I have no choice. The sad truth
is that Mr. Eldon has utterly disgraced himself. When he ought to
have been here to attend Mr. Mutimer's funeral, he was living at
Paris and other such places in the most shocking dissipation. Things
are reported of him which I could not breathe to you; he is a bad
The inclusiveness of that description! Mrs. Waltham's head quivered
as she gave utterance to the words, for at least half of the feeling
she expressed was genuine. To her hearer the final phrase was like a
thunderstroke. In a certain profound work on the history of her
country which she had been in the habit of studying, the author,
discussing the character of Oliver Cromwell, achieved a most
impressive climax in the words, 'He was a bold, bad man.' The
adjective 'bad' derived for Adela a dark energy from her
recollection of that passage; it connoted every imaginable phase of
moral degradation. 'Dissipation' too; to her pure mind the word had
a terrible sound; it sketched in lurid outlines hideous lurking
places of vice and disease. 'Paris and other such places.' With the
name of Paris she associated a feeling of reprobation; Paris was the
head-quarters of sin--at all events on earth. In Paris people went
to the theatre on Sunday; that fact alone shed storm-light over the
She stood mute with misery, appalled, horrified. It did not occur to
her to doubt the truth of her mother's accusations; the strange
circumstance of Hubert's absence when every sentiment of decency
would have summoned him home corroborated the charge. And she had
talked familiarly with this man a few hours ago! Her head swam.
'Mr. Mutimer knew it,' proceeded her mother, noting with
satisfaction the effect she was producing. 'That was why he
destroyed the will in which he had left everything to Mr. Eldon; I
have no doubt the grief killed him. And one thing more I may tell
you. Mr. Eldon's illness was the result of a wound he received in
some shameful quarrel; it is believed that he fought a duel.'
The girl sank back upon her chair. She was white and breathed with
'You will understand now, my dear,' Mrs. Waltham continued, more in
her ordinary voice, 'why it so shocked me to hear that you had been
seen talking with Mr. Eldon near the Manor. I feared it was an
appointment. Your explanation is all I wanted: it relieves me. The
worst of it is, other people will hear of it, and of course we can't
explain to everyone.'
'Why should people hear?' Adela exclaimed, in a quivering voice. It
was not that she feared to have the story known, but mingled
feelings made her almost passionate. 'Mrs. Mewling has no right to
go about talking of me. It is very ill-bred, to say nothing of the
'Ah, but it is what we have to be prepared for, Adela. That is the
world, my child. You see how very careful one has to be. But never
mind; it is most fortunate that the Eldons are going. I am so sorry
for poor Mrs. Eldon; who could have thought that her son would turn
out so badly! And to think that he would have dared to come into my
house! At least he had the decency not to show himself at church.'
Adela sat silent. The warring of her heart made outward sounds
'After all,' pursued her mother, as if making a great concession, 'I
fear it is only too true that those old families become degenerate.
One does hear such shocking stories of the aristocracy. But get to
bed, dear, and don't let this trouble you. What a very good thing
that all that wealth didn't go into such hands, isn't it? Mr.
Mutimer will at all events use it in a decent way; it won't be
scattered in vulgar dissipation.--Now kiss me, dear. I haven't been
scolding you, pet; it was only that I felt I had perhaps made a
mistake in not telling you these things before, and I blamed myself
rather than you.'
Mrs. Waltham returned to her own room, and after a brief turning
over of speculations and projects begotten of the new aspect of
things, found her reward for conscientiousness in peaceful slumber.
But Adela was late in falling asleep. She, too, had many things to
revolve, not worldly calculations, but the troubled phantasies of a
virgin mind which is experiencing its first shock against the
barriers of fate.
Richard Mutimer had strong domestic affections. The English artisan
is not demonstrative in such matters, and throughout his life
Richard had probably exchanged no word of endearment with any one of
his kin, whereas language of the tempestuous kind was common enough
from him to one and all of them; for all that he clung closely to
the hearth, and nothing in truth concerned him so nearly as the
well-being of his mother, his sister, and his brother. For them he
had rejoiced as much as for himself in the blessing of fortune. Now
that the excitement of change had had time to subside, Richard found
himself realising the fact that capital creates cares as well as
removes them, and just now the centre of his anxieties lay in the
house at Highbury to which his family had removed from Wilton
He believed that as yet both the Princess and 'Arry were ignorant of
the true state of affairs. It had been represented to them that he
had 'come in for' a handsome legacy from his relative in the
Midlands, together with certain business responsibilities which
would keep him much away from home; they were given to understand
that the change in their own position and prospects was entirely of
their brother's making. If Alice Maud was allowed to give up her
work, to wear more expensive gowns, even to receive lessons on the
pianoforte, she had to thank Dick for it. And when 'Arry was told
that his clerkship at the drain-pipe manufactory was about to
terminate, that he might enter upon a career likely to be more
fruitful of distinction, again it was Dick's brotherly kindness.
Mrs. Mutimer did her best to keep up this deception.
But Richard was well aware that the deception could not be lasting,
and had the Princess alone been concerned he would probably never
have commenced it. It was about his brother that he was really
anxious. 'Arry might hear the truth any day, and Richard gravely
feared the result of such a discovery. Had he been destined to
future statesmanship, he could not have gone through a more
profitable course of experience and reasoning than that into which
he was led by brotherly solicitude. For 'Arry represented a very
large section of Demos, alike in his natural characteristics and in
the circumstances of his position; 'Arry, being 'Arry, was on the
threshold of emancipation, and without the smallest likelihood that
the event would change his nature. Hence the nut to crack: Given
'Arry, by what rapid process of discipline can he be prepared for a
state in which the 'Arrian characteristics will surely prove ruinous
not only to himself but to all with whom he has dealings?
Richard saw reason to deeply regret that the youth had been put to
clerking in the first instance, and not rather trained for some
handicraft, clerkships being about the least hopeful of positions
for a working-class lad of small parts and pronounced blackguard
tendencies. He came to the conclusion that even now it was not too
late to remedy this error. 'Arry must be taught what work meant,
and, before he came into possession of his means, he must, if
possible, be led to devote his poor washy brains to some pursuit
quite compatible with the standing of a capitalist, to acquire
knowledge of a kind which he could afterwards use for the benefit of
his own pocket. Deficient bodily vigour had had something to do with
his elevation to the office of the drain-pipe factory, but that he
appeared to have outgrown. Much pondering enabled Richard to hit at
length on what he considered a hopeful scheme; he would apprentice
'Arry to engineering, and send him in the evenings to follow the
courses of lectures given to working men at the School of Mines. In
this way the lad would be kept constantly occupied, he would learn
the meaning of work and study, and when he became of age would be in
a position to take up some capitalist enterprise. Thus he might
float clear of the shoals of black-guardism and develop into a
tolerable member of society, at all events using his wealth in the
direct employment of labour.
We have seen Richard engaged in asthetic speculation; now we
behold him busied in the training of a representative capitalist.
But the world would be a terrible place if the men of individual
energy were at all times consistent. Richard knew well enough that
in planning thus for his brother's future he was inconsistency
itself; but then the matter at issue concerned someone in whom he
had a strong personal interest, and consequently he took counsel of
facts. When it was only the world at large that he was bent on
benefiting, too shrewd a sifting of arguments was not called for,
and might seriously have interfered with his oratorical effects. In
regulating private interests one cares singularly little for
anything but hard demonstration and the logic of cause and effect.
It was now more than a month since 'Arry had been removed from the
drain-pipes and set going on his new course, and Richard was
watching the experiment gravely. Connected with it was his
exceptional stay at Wanley over the Sunday; he designed to go up to
London quite unexpectedly about the middle of the ensuing week, that
he might see how things worked in his absence. It is true there had
been another inducement to remain in the village, for Richard had
troubles of his own in addition to those imposed upon him by his
family. The Manor was now at his disposal; as soon as he had
furnished it there was no longer a reason for delaying his marriage.
In appearance, that is to say; inwardly there had been growing for
some weeks reasons manifold. They tormented him. For the first time
in his life he had begun to sleep indifferently; when he had
resolutely put from his mind thought of Alice and 'Arry, and seemed
ready for repose, there crept out of less obvious lurking-places
subtle temptations and suggestions which fevered his blood and only
allured the more, the more they disquieted him. This Sunday night
was the worst he had yet known. When he left the Walthams, he
occupied himself for an hour or two in writing letters, resolutely
subduing his thoughts to the subjects of his correspondence. Then be
ate supper, and after that walked to the top of Stanbury Hill,
hoping to tire himself. But he returned as little prepared for sleep
as he had set out. Now he endeavoured to think of Emma Vine; by way
of help, he sat down and began a letter to her. But composition had
never been so difficult; he positively had nothing to say. Still he
must think of her. When he went up to town on Tuesday or Wednesday
one of his first duties would be to appoint a day for his marriage.
And he felt that it would be a duty harder to perform than any he
had ever known. She seemed to have drifted so far from him, or he
from her. It was difficult even to see her face in imagination;
another face always came instead, and indeed needed no summoning.
He rose next morning with a stern determination to marry Emma Vine
in less than a month from that date.
On Tuesday he went to London. A hansom put him down before the house
in Highbury about six o'clock. It was a semidetached villa,
stuccoed, bow-windowed, of two storeys, standing pleasantly on a
wide road skirted by similar dwellings, and with a row of acacias in
front. He admitted himself with a latch-key and walked at once into
the front room; it was vacant. He went to the dining-room and there
found his mother at tea with Alice and 'Arry.
Mrs. Mutimer and her younger son were in appearance very much what
they had been in their former state. The mother's dress was of
better material, but she was not otherwise outwardly changed. 'Arry
was attired nearly as when we saw him in a festive condition on the
evening of Easter Sunday; the elegance then reserved for high days
and holidays now distinguished him every evening when the guise of
the workshop was thrown off. He still wore a waistcoat of pronounced
cut, a striking collar, a necktie of remarkable hue. It was not
necessary to approach him closely to be aware that his person was
sprinkled with perfumes. A recent acquisition was a heavy-looking
ring on the little finger of his right hand. Had you been of his
intimates, 'Arry would have explained to you the double advantage of
this ring; not only did it serve as an adornment, but, as playful
demonstration might indicate, it would prove of singular efficacy in
At the sight of his elder brother, 'Arry hastily put his hands
beneath the table, drew off the ornament, and consigned it furtively
to his waistcoat pocket.
But Alice Maud was by no means what she had been. In all that
concerned his sister, Mutimer was weak; he could quarrel with her,
and abuse her roundly for frailties, but none the less was it one of
his keenest pleasures to see her contented, even in ways that went
quite against his conscience. He might rail against the vanity of
dress, but if Alice needed a new gown, Richard was the first to
notice it. The neat little silver watch she carried was a gift from
himself of some years back; with difficulty he had resisted the
temptation to replace it with a gold one now that it was in his
power to do so. Tolerable taste and handiness with her needle had
always kept Alice rather more ladylike in appearance than the girls
of her class are wont to be, but such comparative distinction no
longer sufficed. After certain struggles with himself, Richard had
told his mother that Alice must in future dress 'as a lady'; he
authorised her to procure the services of a competent dressmaker,
and, within the bounds of moderation, to. expend freely. And the
result was on the whole satisfactory. A girl of good figure, pretty
face, and moderate wit, who has spent some years in a City showroom,
does not need much instruction in the art of wearing fashionable
attire becomingly. Alice wore this evening a gown which would not
have been out of place at five o'clock in a West-end drawing-room;
the sleeves were rather short, sufficiently so to exhibit a very
shapely lower arm. She had discovered new ways of doing her hair; at
present it was braided on either side of the forehead--a style which
gave almost a thoughtful air to her face. When her brother entered
she was eating a piece of sponge-cake, which she held to her lips
with peculiar delicacy, as if rehearsing graces.
'Why, there now!' cried Mrs. Mutimer, pleased to see her son. 'If I
wasn't saying not five minutes ago as Dick was likely to come some
day in the week! Wasn't I, Alice? What'll you have for your tea?
There's some chops all ready in the 'ouse, if you'd care for them.'
Richard was not in a cheerful mood. He made no reply immediately,
but went and stood before the fireplace, as he had been accustomed
to do in the old kitchen.
'Will you have a chop?' repeated his mother.
'No; I won't eat just yet. But you can give me a cup of tea.'
Mrs. Mutimer and Alice exchanged a glance, as the former bent over
the teapot. Richard was regarding his brother askance, and it
resulted in a question, rather sharply put--
'Have you been to work to-day?'
'Arry would have lied had he dared; as it was, he made his plate
revolve, and murmured, 'No; he 'adn't.'
'I didn't feel well,' replied the youth, struggling for
self-confidence and doing his best to put on an air of patient
Richard tapped his tea-cup and looked the look of one who reserves
discussion for a more seasonable time.
'Daniel called last night,' remarked Mrs. Mutimer. 'He says he wants
to see you. I think it's something particular; he seemed
disappointed you weren't at the meeting on Sunday.'
'Did he? I'll see if I can get round to-night. If you like to have
something cooked for me about eight o'clock, mother,' he added,
consulting his watch, 'I shall be ready for it then.'
He turned to his brother again.
'Is there a class to-night? No? Very well, when they've cleared
away, get your books out and show me what you've been doing. What
are _you_ going to do with yourself, Alice?'
The two addressed, as well as their mother, appeared to have some
special cause for embarrassment. Instead of immediately replying,
Alice played with crumbs and stole glances on either side.
'Me and 'Arry are going out,' she said at length, with a rather
timid smile and a poise of the head in pretty wilfulness.
'Not 'Arry,' Richard observed significantly.
'Why not?' came from the younger Mutimer, with access of boldness.
'If you're not well enough to go to work you certainly don't go out
at night for your pleasure.'
'But it's a particular occasion,' explained Mice, leaning back with
crossed arms, evidently prepared to do battle. 'A friend of 'Arry's
is going to call and take us to the theatre.'
'Oh, indeed! And what friend is that?'
Mrs. Mutimer, who had been talked over to compliance with a project
she felt Richard would not approve--she had no longer the old
authority, and spent her days in trying to piece on the present life
to the former--found refuge in a habit more suitable to the kitchen
than the dining-room; she had collected all the teaspoons within
reach and was pouring hot-water upon them in the slop-basin, the
familiar preliminary to washing up.
'A gen'leman as lives near here,' responded 'Arry. 'He writes for
the newspapers. His name's Keene.'
'Oh? And how came you to know him?'
'Met him,' was the airy reply.
'And you've brought him here?'
'Well, he's been here once.'
'He said as he wanted to know you, Dick,' put in Mrs. Mutimer. 'He
was really a civil-spoken man, and he gave 'Arry a lot of help with
'When was he here?'
'And to-night he wants to take you to the theatre?'
The question was addressed to Alice.
'It won't cost him anything,' she replied. 'He says he can always
get free passes.'
'No doubt. Is he coming here to fetch you? I shall be glad to see
Richard's tone was ambiguous. He put down his cup, and said to
'Come and let me hear how you get on with your playing.' Alice
followed into the drawing-room. For the furnishing of the new house
Richard had not trusted to his own instincts, but had taken counsel
with a firm that he knew from advertisements. The result was
commonplace, but not intolerable. His front room was regarded as the
Princess's peculiar domain; she alone dared to use it
freely--declined, indeed, to sit elsewhere. Her mother only came a
few feet within the door now and then; if obliged by Alice to sit
down, she did so on the edge of a chair as near to the door as
possible. Most of her time Mrs. Mutimer still spent in the kitchen.
She had resolutely refused to keep more than one servant, and
everything that servant did she all Alice's objections she opposed
an obstinate silence. What herself performed over again, even to the
making of beds. To was the poor woman to do? She had never in her
life read more than an occasional paragraph of police news, and
could not be expected to take up literature at her age. Though she
made no complaint, signs were not wanting that she had begun to
suffer in health. She fretted through the nights, and was never
really at peace save when she anticipated the servant in rising
early, and had an honest scrub at saucepans or fireirons before
breakfast. Her main discomfort came of the feeling that she no
longer had a house of her own; nothing about her seemed to be her
property with the exception of her old kitchen clock, and one or two
articles she could not have borne to part with. From being a rather
talkative woman she had become very reticent; she went about
uneasily, with a look of suspicion or of fear. Her children she no
longer ventured to command; the secret of their wealth weighed upon
her, she was in constant dread on their behalf. It is a bad thing
for one such as Mrs. Mutimer to be thrown back upon herself in novel
circumstances, and practically debarred from the only relief which
will avail her--free discussion with her own kind. The result is a
species of shock to the system, sure to manifest itself before long
in one or other form of debility.
Alice seated herself at the piano, and began a finger exercise,
laboriously, imperfectly. For the first week or two it had given her
vast satisfaction to be learning the piano; what more certain sign
of having achieved ladyhood? It pleased her to assume airs with her
teacher--a very deferential lady--to put off a lesson for a fit of
languidness; to let it be understood how entirely time was at her
command. Now she was growing rather weary of flats and sharps, and
much preferred to read of persons to whom the same nomenclature was
very applicable in the books she obtained from a circulating
library. Her reading had hitherto been confined to the fiction of
the penny papers; to procure her pleasure in three gaily-bound
volumes was another evidence of rise in the social scale; it was
like ordering your wine by the dozen after being accustomed to a
poor chance bottle now and then. At present Alice spent the greater
part of her day floating on the gentle milky stream of English
romance. Her brother was made a little uneasy by this taste; he had
not studied the literature in question.
At half-past six a loud knock at the front door announced the
expected visitor. Alice turned from the piano, and looked at her
brother apprehensively. Richard rose, and established himself on the
hearthrug, his hands behind him.
'What are you going to say to him, Dick?' Alice asked hurriedly.
'He says he wants to know me. I shall say, "Here I am."'
There were voices outside. 'Arry had opened the door himself, and
now he ushered his acquaintance into the drawing-room. Mr. Keene
proved to be a man of uncertain age--he might be eight-and-twenty,
but was more probably ten years older. He was meagre, and of shrewd
visage; he wore a black frock coat--rather shiny at the back--and
his collar was obviously of paper. Incipient baldness endowed him in
appearance with a noble forehead; he carried eye-glasses.
Whilst 'Arry mumbled a form of introduction, the journalist--so Mr.
Keene described himself--stood in a bowing attitude, one hand to his
glasses, seeming to inspect Richard with extreme yet respectful
interest. When he spoke, it was in a rather mincing way, with
interjected murmurs--the involuntary overflow, as it were, of his
'There are few persons in England whose acquaintance I desire more
than that of Mr. Richard Mutimer; indeed, I may leave the statement
unqualified and say at once that there is no one. I have heard you
speak in public, Mr. Mutimer. My profession has necessarily led me
to hear most of our platform orators, and in one respect you
distance them all--in the quality of sincerity. No speaker ever
moved me as you did. I had long been interested in your cause; I had
long wished for time and opportunity to examine into it thoroughly.
Your address--I speak seriously--removed the necessity of further
study. I am of your party, Mr. Mutimer. There is nothing I desire so
much as to give and take the hand of brotherhood.'
He jerked his hand forward, still preserving his respectful
attitude. Richard gave his own hand carelessly, smiling as a man
does who cannot but enjoy flattery yet has a strong desire to kick
the flatterer out of the room.
'Are you a member of the Union?' he inquired.
'With pride I profess myself a member. Some day--and that at no
remote date--I may have it in my power to serve the cause
materially.' He smiled meaningly. 'The press--you understand?' He
spread his fingers to represent wide dominion. 'An ally to whom the
columns of the _bourgeois_ press are open--you perceive? It is the
task of my life.'
'What papers do you write for?' asked Mutimer bluntly.
'Several, several. Not as yet in a leading capacity. In fact, I am
feeling my way. With ends such as I propose to myself it won't do to
stand committed to any formal creed in politics. Politics, indeed!
He laughed scornfully. Then, turning to Alice--
'You will forgive me, I am sure, Miss Mutimer, that I address myself
first to your brother--I had almost said your illustrious brother.
To be confessed illustrious some day, depend upon it. I trust you
'Thanks, I'm very well indeed,' murmured Alice, rather disconcerted
by such politeness.
'And Mrs. Mutimer? That is well. By-the-by,' he proceeded to
Richard, 'I have a piece of work in hand that will deeply interest
you. I am translating the great treatise of Marx, "Das capital." It
occurs to me that a chapter now and then might see the light in the
"Fiery Cross." How do you view that suggestion?'
Richard did not care to hide his suspicion, and even such an
announcement as this failed to move him to cordiality.
'You might drop a line about it to Mr. Westlake,' he said.
'Mr. Westlake? Oh! but I quite understood that you had practically
the conduct of the paper.'
Richard again smiled.
'Mr. Westlake edits it,' he said.
Mr. Keene waved his hand in sign of friendly intelligence. Then he
changed the subject.
'I ventured to put at Miss Mutimer's disposal certain tickets I
hold--professionally--for the Regent's Theatre to-night--the dress
circle. I have five seats in all. May I have the pleasure of your
company, Mr. Mutimer?'
'I'm only in town for a night,' Richard replied; 'and I can't very
well spare the time.'
'To be sure, to be sure; I was inconsiderate. Then Miss Mutimer and
my friend Harry--'
'I'm sorry they're not at liberty,' was Richard's answer to the
murmured interrogation. 'If they had accepted your invitation be' so
good as to excuse them. I happen to want them particularly this
'In that case, I have of course not a word to say. save to express
my deep regret at losing the pleasure of their company. But another
time, I trust. I--I feel presumptuous, but it is my earnest hope to
be allowed to stand on the footing not only of a comrade in the
cause, but of a neighbour; I live quite near. Forgive me if I seem a
little precipitate. The privilege is so inestimable.'
Richard made no answer, and Mr. Keene forthwith took his leave,
suave to the last. When he was gone, Richard went to the
dining-room, where his mother was sitting. Mrs. Mutimer would have
given much to be allowed to sit in the kitchen; she had a room of
her own upstairs, but there she felt too remote from the centre of
domestic operations, and the dining-room was a compromise. Her chair
was always placed in a rather dusky corner; she generally had sewing
on her lap, but the consciousness that her needle was not really in
demand, and that she might just as well have sat idle, troubled her
habits of mind. She often had the face of one growing prematurely
'I hope you won't let them bring anyone they like,' Richard said to
her. 'I've sent that fellow about his business; he's here for no
good. He mustn't come again.'
'They won't heed me,' replied Mrs. Mutimer, using the tone of little
interest with which she was accustomed to speak of details of the
'Well, then, they've _got_ to heed you, and I'll have that
understood.--Why didn't 'Arry go to work to-day?'
'Didn't want to, I s'pose.'
'Has he stayed at home often lately?'
'Not at 'ome, but I expect he doesn't always go to work.'
'Will you go and sit with Alice in the front room? I'll have a talk
'Arry came whistling at the summons. There was a nasty look on his
face, the look which in his character corresponded to Richard's
resoluteness. His brother eyed him.
'Look here, 'Arry,' the elder began, 'I want this explaining. What
do you mean by shirking your work?'
There was no reply. 'Arry strode to the window and leaned against
the side of it, in the attitude of a Sunday loafer waiting for the
dram-shop to open.
'If this goes on,' Richard pursued, 'you'll find yourself in your
old position again. I've gone to a good deal of trouble to give you
a start, and it seems to me you ought to show a better spirit. We'd
better have an understanding; do you mean to learn engineering, or
'I don't see the use of it,' said the other.
'What do you mean? I suppose you must make your living somehow?'
'Arry laughed, and in such a way that Richard looked at him keenly,
his brow gathering darkness.
'What are you laughing at?'
'Why, at you. There's no more need for me to work for a living than
there is for you. As if I didn't know that!'
'Who's been putting that into your head?'
No scruple prevented the lad from breaking a promise he had made to
Mr. Keene, the journalist, when the latter explained to him the
disposition of the deceased Richard Mutimer's estate; it was only
that he preferred to get himself credit for acuteness.
'Why, you don't think I was to be kept in the dark about a thing
like that? It's just like you to want to make a fellow sweat the
flesh off his bones when all the time there's a fortune waiting for
him. What have I got to work for, I'd like to know? I don't just see
the fun of it, and you wouldn't neither, in my case. You've took
jolly good care you don't work yourself, trust you! I ain't a-going
to work no more, so there it is, plain and flat.'
Richard was not prepared for this; he could not hit at once on a new
course of procedure, and probably it was the uncertainty revealed in
his countenance that brought 'Arry to a pitch of boldness not
altogether premeditated. The lad came from the window, thrust his
hands more firmly into his pockets and stood prepared to do battle
for his freeman's rights It is not every day that a youth of his
stamp finds himself gloriously capable of renouncing work. There was
something like a glow of conscious virtue on his face.
'You're not going to work any more, eh?' said his brother, half to
himself. 'And who's going to support you?' he asked, with rather
'There's interest per cent. coming out of my money.'
'Arry must not be credited with conscious accuracy in his use of
terms; he merely jumbled together two words which had stuck in his
'Oh? And what are you going to do with your time?'
'That's my business. How do other men spend their time?'
The reply was obvious, but Richard felt the full seriousness of the
situation and restrained his scornful impulses.
'Sit down, will you?' he said quietly, pointing to a chair.
His tone availed more than anger would have done.
'You tell me I take good care not to do any work myself? There
you're wrong. I'm working hard every day.'
'Oh, we know what kind of work that is!'
'No, I don't think you do. Perhaps it would be as well if you were
to see. I think you'd better go to Wanley with me.'
'I dare say I can give you a job for awhile.'
'I tell you I don't want a job.'
Richard's eye wandered rather vacantly. From the first it had been a
question with him whether it would not be best to employ 'Arry at
Wanley, but on the whole the scheme adopted seemed more fruitful.
Had the works been fully established it would have been a different
thing. Even now he could keep the lad at work at Wanley, though not
exactly in the way he desired. But if it came to a choice between a
life of idleness in London and such employment as could be found for
him at the works, 'Arry must clearly leave town at once. In a few
days the Manor would be furnished; in a few weeks Emma would be
there to keep house.
There was the difficulty of leaving his mother and sister alone. It
looked as if all would have to quit London. Yet there would be
awkwardness in housing the whole family at the Manor; and besides--
What the 'besides' implied Richard did not make formal even in his
own thoughts. It stood for a vague objection to having all his
relatives dwelling at Wanley. Alice he would not mind; it was not
impossible to picture Alice in conversation with Mrs. and Miss
Waltham; indeed, he desired that for her. And yet--
Richard was at an awkward pass. Whithersoever he looked he saw
stumbling-blocks, the more disagreeable in that they rather loomed
in a sort of mist than declared themselves for what they were. He
had not the courage to approach and examine them one by one; he had
not the audacity to imagine leaps over them; yet somehow they had to
be surmounted. At this moment, whilst 'Arry was waiting for the
rejoinder to his last reply, Richard found himself wrestling again
with the troubles which had kept him wakeful for the last two
nights. He had believed them finally thrown and got rid of. Behold,
they were more stubborn than ever.
He kept silence so long that his brother spoke.
'What sort of a job is it?'
To his surprise, Richard displayed sudden anger.
'If you weren't such a young fool you'd see what's best for you, and
go on as I meant you to! What do you mean by saying you won't work?
If you weren't such a thickhead you might go to school and be taught
how to behave yourself, and how a man ought to live; but it's no use
sending _you_ to any such place. Can't you understand that a man
with money has to find some sort of position in the world? I suppose
you'd like to spend the rest of your life in public-houses and
Richard was well aware that to give way to his temper was worse than
useless, and could only defeat every end; but something within him
just now gnawed so intolerably that there was nothing for it but an
outbreak. The difficulties of life were hedging him in--difficulties
he could not have conceived till they became matter of practical
experience. And unfortunately a great many of them were not of an
honest kind; they would not bear exposing. For a man of decision,
Mutimer was getting strangely remote from practical roads.
'I shall live as I like,' observed 'Arry, thrusting out his legs and
bending his body forward, a combination of movements which, I know
not why, especially suggests dissoluteness.
Richard gave up the contest for the present, and went in silence
from the room. As he joined his mother and sister they suddenly
'Don't cook anything for me,' he said, remaining near the door. 'I'm
'But you must have something to eat,' protested his mother.
'See'--she rose hastily--'I'll get a chop done at once.'
'I couldn't eat it if you did. I dare say you've got some cold meat.
Leave it out for me; I don't know what time I shall get back.'
'You're very unkind, Dick,' here remarked Alice, who wore a mutinous
look. 'Why couldn't you let us go to the theatre?'
Her brother vouchsafed no reply, but withdrew from the room, and
almost immediately left the house. He walked half a mile with his
eyes turned to the ground, then noticed a hansom which was passing
empty, and had himself driven to Hoxton. He alighted near the
Britannia Theatre, and thence made his way by foul streets to a
public-house called the 'Warwick Castle.' Only two customers
occupied the bar; the landlord stood in his shirt-sleeves, with arms
crossed, musing. At the sight of Mutimer he brightened up, and
extended his hand.
'How d'you do; how d'you do, sir?' he exclaimed. 'Glad to see you.'
The shake of the hands was a tribute to old times, the 'sir' was a
recognition of changed circumstances. Mr. Nicholas Dabbs, the
brother of Daniel, was not a man to lose anything by failure to
acknowledge social distinctions. A short time ago Daniel had
expostulated with his brother on the use of 'sir' to Mutimer,
eliciting the profound reply, 'D'you think he'd have 'ad that glass
of whisky if I'd called him Dick?'
'Dan home yet?' Mutimer inquired.
'Not been in five minutes. Come round, sir, will you? I know he
wants to see you.'
A portion of the counter was raised, and Richard passed into a
parlour behind the bar.
'I'll call him,' said the landlord.
Daniel appeared immediately.
'I want a bit of private talk,' he said to his brother. 'We'll have
this door shut, if you don't mind.'
'You may as well bring us a drop of something first, Nick,' put in
Richard. 'Give the order, Dan.'
'Wouldn't have 'ad it but for the "sir,"' chuckled Nicholas to
himself. 'Never used to when he come here, unless I stood it.'
Daniel drew a chair to the table and stirred his tumbler
thoughtfully, his nose over the steam.
'We're going to have trouble with 'Arry,' said Richard, who had
seated himself on a sofa in a dispirited way. 'Of course someone's
been telling him, and now the young fool says he's going to throw up
work. I suppose I shall have to take him down yonder with me.'
'Better do so,' assented Daniel, without much attention to the
'What is it you want to talk about, Dan?'
Mr. Dabbs had a few minutes ago performed the customary evening
cleansing of his hands and face, but it had seemed unnecessary to
brush his hair, which consequently stood upright upon his forehead,
a wiry rampart, just as it had been thrust by the vigorously-applied
towel. This, combined with an unwonted lugubriousness of visage,
made Daniel's aspect somewhat comical. He kept stirring very
deliberately with his sugar-crusher.
'Why, it's this, Dick,' he began at length. 'And understand, to
begin with, that I've got no complaint to make of nobody; it's only
_things_ as are awk'ard. It's this way, my boy. When you fust of all
come and told me about what I may call the great transformation
scene, you said, "Now it ain't a-goin' to make no difference, Dan,"
you said. Now wait till I've finished; I ain't complainin' of
nobody. Well, and I tried to 'ope as it wouldn't make no difference,
though I 'ad my doubts. "Come an' see us all just as usu'l," you
said. Well, I tried to do so, and three or four weeks I come
reg'lar, lookin' in of a Sunday night. But somehow it wouldn't work;
something 'ad got out of gear. So I stopped it off. Then comes 'Arry
a-askin' why I made myself scarce, sayin' as th' old lady and the
Princess missed me. So I looked in again; but it was wuss than
before, I saw I'd done better to stay away. So I've done ever since.
Y' understand me, Dick?'
Richard was not entirely at his ease in listening. He tried to
smile, but failed to smile naturally.
'I don't see what you found wrong,' he returned, abruptly.
'Why, I'm a-tellin' you, my boy, I didn't find nothing wrong except
in myself, as you may say. What's the good o' beatin' about the
bush? It's just this 'ere, Dick, my lad. When I come to the Square,
you know very well who it was as I come to see. Well, it stands to
reason as I can't go to the new 'ouse with the same thoughts as I
did to the old. Mind, I can't say as she'd ever a' listened to me;
it's more than likely she wouldn't But now that's all over, and the
sooner I forget all about it the better for me. And th' only way to
forget is to keep myself to myself,--see, Dick?'
The listener drummed with his fingers on the table, still
endeavouring to smile.
'I've thought about all this, Dan,' he said at length, with an air
of extreme frankness. 'In fact, I meant to have a talk with you. Of
course I can't speak for my sister, and I don't know that I can even
speak to her about it, but one thing I can say, and that is that
she'll never be encouraged by me to think herself better than her
old friends.' He gave a laugh. 'Why, that 'ud be a good joke for a
man in my position! What am I working for, if not to do away with
distinctions between capital and labour? You'll never have my advice
to keep away, Do you suppose I shall cry off with Emma Vine just
because I've and that you know. Why, who am I going to marry myself?
got more money than I used to have?'
Daniel's eye was upon him as he said these words, an eye at once
reflective and scrutinising. Richard felt it, and laughed yet more
'I think we know you better than that,' responded Dabbs. 'But it
ain't quite the same thing, you see. There's many a man high up has
married a poor girl. I don't know how it is; perhaps because women
is softer than men, and takes the polish easier. And then we know
very well how it looks when a man as has no money goes after a girl
as has a lot. No, no; it won't do, Dick.'
It was said with the voice of a man who emphasises a negative in the
hope of eliciting a stronger argument on the other side. But Richard
allowed the negative finality in fact, if not in appearance.
'Well, it's for your own deciding, Dan. All I have to say is that
you don't stay away with my approval. Understand that.'
He left Daniel idly stirring the dregs of his liquor, and went off
to pay another visit. This was to the familiar house in Wilton
Square. There was a notice in the window that dress-making and
millinery were carried on within.
Mrs. Clay (Emma's sister Kate) opened to him. She was better dressed
than in former days, but still untidy. Emma was out making
purchases, but could not be many minutes. In the kitchen the third
sister, Jane, was busy with her needle; at Richard's entrance she
rose from her chair with evident feebleness: her illness of the
spring had lasted long, and its effects were grave. The poor
girl--she closely resembled Emma in gentleness of face, but the
lines of her countenance were weaker--now suffered from pronounced
heart disease, and the complicated maladies which rheumatic fever so
frequently leaves behind it in women. She brightened at sight of the
visitor, and her eyes continued to rest on his face with quiet
One of Kate's children was playing on the floor. The mother caught
it up irritably, and began lamenting the necessity of washing its
dirty little hands and face before packing it off to bed. In a
minute or two she went up stairs to discharge these duties. Between
her and Richard there was never much exchange of words.
'How are you feeling, Jane?' Mutimer inquired, taking a seat
'Better--oh, very much better! The cough hasn't been not near so
troublesome these last nights.'
'Mind you don't do too much work. You ought to have put your sewing
aside by now.'
'Oh, this is only a bit of my own. I'm sorry to say there isn't very
much of the other kind to do yet.'
'Comes in slowly, does it?' Richard asked, without appearance of
'It'll be better soon, I dare say. People want time, you see, to get
to know of us.'
Richard's eyes wandered.
'Have you finished the port wine yet?' he asked, as if to fill a
'What an idea! Why, there's four whole bottles left, and one as I've
only had three glasses out of.'
'Emma was dreadfully disappointed when you didn't come as usual,'
she said presently.
'Have you got into your house?' she asked timidly.
'It isn't quite ready yet; but I've been seeing about the
Jane dreamed upon the word. It. was her habit to escape from the
suffering weakness of her own life to joy in the lot which awaited
'And Emma will have a room all to herself?'
Jane had read of ladies' boudoirs; it was her triumph to have won a
promise from Richard that Emma should have such a chamber.
'How is it going to be furnished? Do tell me.'
Richard's imagination was not active in the spheres of upholstery.
'Well, I can't yet say,' he replied, as if with an effort to rouse
himself. 'How would you like it to be?'
Jane had ever before her mind a vague vision of bright-hued drapery,
of glistening tables and chairs, of nobly patterned carpet, setting
which her heart deemed fit for that priceless jewel, her dear
sister. But to describe it all in words was a task beyond her. And
the return of Emma herself saved her from the necessity of trying.
Hearing her enter the house, Richard went up to meet Emma, and they
sat together in the sitting-room. This room was just as it had been
in Mrs. Mutimer's day, save for a few ornaments from the
mantelpiece, which the old lady could not be induced to leave behind
her. Here customers were to be received--when they came; a room
upstairs was set apart for work.
Emma wore a slightly anxious look; it showed even through her
happiness. None the less, the very perceptible change which the last
few months had wrought in her was in the direction of cheerful
activity; her motives were quicker, her speech had less of
self-distrust, she laughed more freely, displayed more of youthful
spontaneity in her whole bearing. The joy which possessed her at
Richard's coming was never touched with disappointment at his sober
modes of exhibiting affection. The root of Emma's character was
steadfast faith. She did not allow herself to judge of Richard by
the impulses of her own heart; those, she argued, were womanly; a
man must be more independent in his strength. Of what a man ought to
be she had but one criterion, Richard's self. Her judgment on this
point had been formed five or six years ago; she felt that nothing
now could ever shake it. All of expressed love that he was pleased
to give her she stored in the shrine of her memory; many a light
word forgotten by the speaker as soon as it was uttered lived still
as a part of the girl's hourly life, but his reticences she accepted
with no less devout humility. What need of repetitions? He had
spoken to her the decisive word, and it was a column established for
ever, a monument of that over which time had no power. Women are too
apt to make their fondness a source of infinite fears; in Emma
growth of love meant growth of confidence.
'Does all go well at the works?' was her first question. For she had
made his interests her own, and was following in ardent imagination
the undertaking which stamped her husband with nobility.
Richard talked on the subject for some moments; it was easier to do
so than to come at once to the words he had in mind. But he worked
round by degrees, fighting the way hard.
'The house is empty at last.'
'Is it? And you have gone to live there?'
'Not yet. I must get some furniture in first.'
Emma kept silence; the shadows of a smile journeyed trembling from
her eyes to her lips.
The question voiced itself from Richard:
'When will you be ready to go thither?'
'I'm afraid--I don't think I must leave them just yet--for a little
He did not look at her. Emma was reading his face; the characters
had become all at once a little puzzling; her own fault, of course,
but the significance she sought was not readily discoverable.
'Can't they manage without you?' he asked. He believed his tone to
express annoyance: in fact, it scarcely did so.
'I think it won't be very long before they can,' Emma replied; 'we
have some plain sewing to do for Mrs. Robinson at the "Queen's
Head," and she's promised to recommend us. I've just called there,
and she really seems anxious to help. If Jane was stronger I
shouldn't mind so much, but she mustn't work hard just yet, and Kate
has a great deal to do with the children. Besides, Kate can't get
out of the slop sewing, and of course that won't do for this kind of
work. She'll get the stitch very soon.'
Richard seemed to be musing.
'You see'--she moved nearer to his side,--'it's only just the
beginning. I'm so afraid that they wouldn't be able to look about
for work if I left them now. Jane hasn't the strength to go and see
people; and Kate--well, you know, Richard, she can't quite suit
herself to people's fancies. I'm sure I can do so much in a few