Part 5 out of 12
your child, and you can wish nothing that is not for my good. Guide
me, mother. It is so hard to judge for myself. You shall decide for
me, indeed you shall.'
The mother's heart was wrung. For a moment she strove to speak the
very truth, to utter a word about that love which Adela was
resolutely excluding. But the temptation to accept this unhoped
surrender proved too strong. She sobbed her answer.
'Yes, I do wish it, Adela. You will find that I--that I was not
'Then if he asks me, I will marry him.'
As those words were spoken Mutimer issued from the Manor gates,
uncertain whether to go his usual way down to the works or to pay a
visit to Mrs. Waltham. The latter purpose prevailed.
The evening before, Mr. Willis Rodman had called at the Manor
shortly after dinner. He found Mutimer smoking, with coffee at his
side, and was speedily making himself comfortable in the same way.
Then he drew a newspaper from his pocket. 'Have you seen the
"Belwick Chronicle" of to-day?' he inquired.
'Why the deuce should I read such a paper?' exclaimed Richard, with
good-humoured surprise. He was in excellent spirits to-night, the
excitement of the day having swept his mind clear of anxieties.
'There's something in it, though, that you ought to see.'
He pointed out the paragraph relating to Eldon.
'Keene's writing, eh?' said Mutimer thoughtfully.
'Yes, he gave me the paper.'
Richard rekindled his cigar with deliberation, and stood for a few
moments with one foot on the fender.
'Who is the woman?' he then asked.
'I don't know her name. Of course it's the same story continued.'
'Well, I don't know about that,' said the other, smiling and shaking
'This may or may not be true, I suppose,' was Richard's next remark.
'Oh, I suppose the man hears all that kind of thing. I don't see any
reason to doubt it.'
'May I keep the paper?'
'Oh, yes. Keene told me, by-the-by, that he gave a copy to young
Mr. Rodman spoke whilst rolling the cigar in his mouth. Mutimer
allowed the subject to lapse.
There was no impossibility, no improbability even, in the statement
made by the newspaper correspondent; yet as Richard thought it over
in the night, he could not but regard it as singular that Mr. Keene
should be the man to make public such a piece of information so very
opportunely. He was far from having admitted the man to his
confidence, but between Keene and Rodman, as he was aware, an
intimacy had sprung up. It might be that one or the other had
thought it worth while to serve him; why should Keene be particular
to put a copy of the paper into Alfred Waltham's hands? Well, he
personally knew nothing of the affair. If the news effected
anything, so much the better. He hoped it might be trustworthy.
Among his correspondence in the morning was a letter from Emma Vine.
He opened it last; anyone observing him would have seen with what
reluctance he began to read it.
'My dear Richard,' it ran, 'I write to thank you for the money. I
would very much rather have had a letter from you, however short a
one. It seems long since you wrote a real letter, and I can't think
how long since I have seen you. But I know how full of business you
are, dear, and I'm sure you would never come to London without
telling me, because if you hadn't time to come here, I should be
only too glad to go to Highbury, if only for one word. We have got
some mourning dresses to make for the servants of a lady in
Islington, so that is good news. But poor Jane is very bad indeed.
She suffers a great deal of pain, and most of all at night, so that
she scarcely ever gets more than half-an-hour of sleep at a time, if
that. What makes it worse, dear Richard, is that she is so very
unhappy. Sometimes she cries nearly through the whole night. I try
my best to keep her up, but I'm afraid her weakness has much to do
with it. But Kate is very well, I am glad to say, and the children
are very well too. Bertie is beginning to learn to read. He often
says he would like to see you. Thank you, dearest, for the money and
all your kindness, and believe that I shall think of you every
minute with much love. From yours ever and ever,
It would be cruel to reproduce Emma's errors of spelling. Richard
had sometimes noted a bad instance with annoyance, but it was not
that which made him hurry to the end this morning with lowered
brows. When he had finished the letter he crumbled it up and threw
it into the fire. It was not heartlessness that made him do so: he
dreaded to have these letters brought before his eyes a second time.
He was also throwing the envelope aside, when he discovered that it
contained yet another slip of paper. The writing on this was not
Emma's: the letters were cramped and not easy to decipher.
'Dear Richard, come to London and see me. I want to speak to you, I
must speak to you. I can't have very long to live, and I _must_,
_must_ see you.
This too he threw into the fire. His lips were hard set, his eyes
wide. And almost immediately he prepared to leave the house.
It was early, but he felt that he must go to the Walthams'. He had
promised Mrs. Waltham to refrain from visiting the house for a week,
but that promise it was impossible to keep. Jane's words were
ringing in his ears: he seemed to hear her very voice calling and
beseeching. So far from changing his purpose, it impelled him in the
course he had chosen. There must and should be an end of this
Mrs. Waltham had just come downstairs from her conversation with
Adela, when she saw Mutimer approaching the door. She admitted him
herself. Surely Providence was on her side; she felt almost young in
Richard remained in the house about twenty minutes. Then he walked
down to the works as usual.
Shortly after his departure another visitor presented himself. This
was Mr. Wyvern. The vicar's walk in Hubert's company the evening
before had extended itself from point to point, till the two reached
Agworth together. Mr. Wyvern was addicted to night-rambling, and he
often covered considerable stretches of country in the hours when
other mortals slept. To-night he was in the mood for such exercise;
it worked off unwholesome accumulations of thought and feeling, and
good counsel often came to him in what the Greeks called the kindly
time. He did not hurry on his way back to Wanley, for just at
present he was much in need of calm reflection.
On his arrival at the Vicarage about eleven o'clock the servant
informed him of Miss Waltham's having called. Mr. Wyvern heard this
with pleasure. He thought at first of writing a note to Adela,
begging her to come to the Vicarage again, but by the morning he had
decided to be himself the visitor.
He gathered at once from Mrs. Waltham's face that events of some
agitating kind were in progress. She did not keep him long in
uncertainty. Upon his asking if he might speak a few words with
Adela, Mrs. Waltham examined him curiously.
'I am afraid,' she said, 'that I must ask you to excuse her this
morning, Mr. Wyvern. She is not quite prepared to see anyone at
present. In fact,' she lowered her voice and smiled very graciously,
'she has just had an--an agitating interview with Mr. Mutimer--she
has consented to be his wife.'
'In that case I cannot of course trouble her,' the vicar replied,
with gravity which to Mrs. Waltham appeared excessive, rather
adapted to news of a death than of a betrothal. The dark searching
eyes, too, made her feel uncomfortable. And he did not utter a
syllable of the politeness expected on these occasions.
'What a very shocking thing about Mr. Eldon!' the lady pursued. 'You
'Shocking? Pray, what has happened?'
Hubert had left him in some depression the night before, and for a
moment Mr. Wyvern dreaded lest some fatality had become known in
'Ah, you have not heard? It is in this newspaper.'
The vicar examined the column indicated.
'But,' he exclaimed, with subdued indignation, 'this is the merest
'A falsehood! Are you sure of that, Mr. Wyvern?'
'Perfectly sure. There is no foundation for it whatsoever.'
'You don't say so! I am very glad to hear that, for poor Mrs.
'Could you lend me this newspaper for to-day?'
'With pleasure. Really you relieve me, Mr. Wyvern. I had no means of
inquiring into the story, of course. But how disgraceful that such a
thing should appear in print!'
'I am sorry to say, Mrs. Waltham, that the majority of things which
appear in print nowadays are more or less disgraceful. However, this
may claim prominence, in its way.'
'And I may safely contradict it? It will be such a happiness to do
'Contradict it by all means, madam. You may cite me as your
The vicar crushed the sheet into his pocket and strode homewards.
In the church of the Insurgents there are many orders. To rise to
the supreme passion of revolt, two conditions are indispensable: to
possess the heart of a poet, and to be subdued by poverty to the
yoke of ignoble labour. But many who fall short of the priesthood
have yet a share of the true spirit, bestowed upon them by
circumstances of birth and education, developed here and there by
the experience of life, yet rigidly limited in the upshot by the
control of material ease, the fatal lordship of the comfortable
commonplace. Of such was Hubert Eldon. In him, despite his birth and
breeding, there came to the surface a rich vein of independence,
obscurely traceable, no doubt, in the characters of certain of his
ancestors, appearing at length where nineteenth-century influences
had thinned the detritus of convention and class prejudice. His
nature abounded in contradictions, and as yet self-study--in itself
the note of a mind striving for emancipation--had done little for
him beyond making clear the manifold difficulties strewn in his path
You know already that it was no vulgar instinct of sensuality which
had made severance between him and the respectable traditions of his
family. Observant friends naturally cast him in the category of
young men whom the prospect of a fortune seduces to a life of riot;
his mother had no means of forming a more accurate judgment. Mr.
Wyvern alone had seen beneath the surface, aided by a liberal study
of the world, and no doubt also by that personal sympathy which is
so important an ally of charity and truth. Mr. Wyvern's early life
had not been in smooth waters; in him too revolt was native,
tempered also by spiritual influences of the most opposite kind. He
felt a deep interest in the young man, and desired to keep him in
view. It was the first promise of friendship that had been held out
to Hubert, who already suffered from a sense of isolation, and was
wondering in what class of society he would have to look for his
kith and kin. Since boyhood he had drawn apart to a great extent
from the companionships which most readily offered. The turn taken
by the circumstances of his family affected the pride which was one
of his strongest characteristics; his house had fallen, and it
seemed to him that a good deal of pity, if not of contempt, mingled
with his reception by the more fortunate of his own standing. He had
never overcome a natural hostility to old Mr. Mutimer: the
_bourgeois_ virtues of the worthy ironmaster rather irritated than
attracted him, and he suffered intensely in the thought that his
mother brought herself to close friendship with one so much her
inferior just for the sake of her son's future. In this matter he
judged with tolerable accuracy. Mrs. Eldon, finding in the old man a
certain unexpected refinement over and above his goodness of heart,
consciously or unconsciously encouraged herself in idealising him,
that the way of interest might approach as nearly as might be to
that of honour. Hubert, with no understanding for the craggy facts
of life, inwardly rebelled against the whole situation. He felt that
it laid him open to ridicule, the mere suspicion of which always
stung him to the quick. When, therefore, he declared to his mother,
in the painful interview on his return to Wanley, that it was almost
a relief to him to have lost the inheritance, he spoke with perfect
truth. Amid the tempest which had fallen on his life there rose in
that moment the semblance of a star of hope. The hateful conditions
which had weighed upon his future being finally cast off, might he
not look forward to some nobler activity than had hitherto seemed
possible? Was he not being saved from his meaner self, that part of
his nature which tended to conventional ideals, which was subject to
empty pride and ignoble apprehensions? Had he gone through the storm
without companion, hope might have overcome every weakness, but
sympathy with his mother's deep distress troubled his self-control.
At her feet he yielded to the emotions of childhood, and his misery
increased until bodily suffering brought him the relief of
To his mother perhaps he owed that strain of idealism which gave his
character its significance. In Mrs. Eldon it affected only the inner
life; in Hubert spiritual strivings naturally sought the outlet of
action. That his emancipation should declare itself in some
exaggerated way was quite to be expected: impatience of futilities
and insincerities made common cause with the fiery spirit of youth
and spurred him into reckless pursuit of that abiding rapture which
is the dream and the despair of the earth's purest souls. The pistol
bullet checked his course, happily at the right moment. He had gone
far enough for experience and not too far for self-recovery. The
wise man in looking back upon his endeavours regrets nothing of
which that can be said.
By the side of a passion such as that which had opened Hubert's
intellectual manhood, the mild, progressive attachments sanctioned
by society show so colourless as to suggest illusion. Thinking of
Adela Waltham as he lay recovering from his illness, he found it
difficult to distinguish between the feelings associated with her
name and those which he had owed to other maidens of the same type.
A week or two at Wanley generally resulted in a conviction that he
was in love with Adela; and had Adela been entirely subject to her
mother's influences, had she fallen but a little short of the
innocence and delicacy which were her own, whether for happiness or
the reverse, she would doubtless have been pledged to Hubert long
ere this. The merest accident had in truth prevented it. At home for
Christmas, the young man had made up his mind to speak and claim
her: he postponed doing so till he should have returned from a visit
to a college friend in the same county. His friend had a sister,
five or six years older than Adela, and of a warmer type of beauty,
with the finished graces of the town. Hubert found himself once more
without guidance, and so left Wanley behind him, journeying to an
Hubert could not remember a time when he had not been in love. The
objects of his devotion had succeeded each other rapidly, but each
in her turn was the perfect woman. His imagination cast a halo about
a beautiful head, and hastened to see in its possessor all the
poetry of character which he aspired to worship. In his loves, as in
every other circumstance of life, he would have nothing of
compromise; for him the world contained nothing but his passion, and
existence had no other end. Between that past and this present more
intervened than Hubert could yet appreciate; but he judged the
change in himself by the light in which that early love appeared to
him. Those were the restless ardours of boyhood: he could not
henceforth trifle so with solemn meanings. The ideal was harder of
discovery than he had thought; perhaps it was not to be found in the
world at all. But what less perfect could henceforth touch his
Yet throughout his convalescence he thought often of Adela, perhaps
because she was so near, and because she doubtless often thought of
him. His unexpected meeting with her on Stanbury Hill affected him
strangely: the world was new to his eyes, and the girl's face seemed
to share in the renewal; it was not quite the same face that he had
held in memory, but had a fresh significance. He read in her looks
more than formerly he had been able to see. This impression was
strengthened by his interview with her on the following day. Had she
too grown much older in a few months?
After spending a fortnight with his mother at Agworth, he went to
London, and for a time thought as little of Adela as of any other
woman. New interests claimed him, interests purely intellectual, the
stronger that his mind seemed just aroused from a long sleep. He
threw himself into various studies with more zeal than he had
hitherto devoted to such interests; not that he had as yet any
definite projects, but solely because it was his nature to be in
pursuit of some excellence and to scorn mere acquiescence in a life
of every-day colour. He lived all but in loneliness, and when the
change had had time to work upon him his thoughts began to revert to
Adela, to her alone of those who stood on the other side of the
gulf. She came before his eyes as a vision of purity; it was
soothing to picture her face and to think of her walking in the
spring meadows. He thought of her as of a white rose, dew-besprent,
and gently swayed by the sweet air of a sunny morning; a white rose
newly spread, its heart virgin from the hands of shaping Nature. He
could not decide what quality, what absence of thought, made Adela
so distinct to him. Was it perhaps the exquisite delicacy apparent
in all she did or said? Even the most reverent thought seemed gross
in touching her; the mind flitted round about her, kept from contact
by a supreme modesty, which she alone could inspire If her head were
painted, it must be against the tenderest eastern sky; all
associations with her were of the morning, when heatless rays strike
level across the moist earth, of simple devoutness which renders
thanks for the blessing of a new day, of mercy robed like the zenith
His study just now was of the early Italians, in art and literature.
There was more of Adela than he perceived in the impulse which
guided him in that direction. When he came to read the 'Vita Nuova,'
it was of Adela expressly that he thought. The poet's passion of
worship entered his heart; transferring his present feeling to his
earlier self, he grew to regard his recent madness as a lapse from
the true love of his life. He persuaded himself that he had loved
Adela in a far more serious way than any of the others who from time
to time had been her rivals, and that the love was now returning to
him, strengthened and exalted. He began to write sonnets in Dante's
manner, striving to body forth in words the new piety which
illumined his life. Whereas love had been to him of late a
glorification of the senses, he now cleansed himself from what he
deemed impurity and adored in mere ecstasy of the spirit. Adela soon
became rather a symbol than a living woman; he identified her with
the ends to which his life darkly aspired, and all but convinced
himself that memory and imagination would henceforth suffice to him.
In the autumn he went down to Agworth, and spent a few days with his
mother. The temptation to walk over to Wanley and call upon the
Walthams proved too strong to be resisted. His rejection at their
door was rather a shock than a surprise; it had never occurred to
him that the old friendly relations had been in any way disturbed;
he explained Mrs. Waltham's behaviour by supposing that his silence
had offended her, and perhaps his failure to take leave of her
before quitting Wanley. Possibly she thought he had dealt lightly
with Adela. Offence on purely moral grounds did not even suggest
He returned to London anxious and unhappy. The glimpse of Adela
sitting at the window had brought him back to reality; after all it
was no abstraction that had become the constant companion of his
solitude; his love was far more real for that moment's vision of the
golden head, and had a very real power of afflicting him with
melancholy. He faltered in his studies, and once again had lost the
motive to exertion. Then came the letter from his mother, telling of
Adela's rumoured engagement. It caused him to set forth almost
The alternation of moods exhibited in his conversation with Mr.
Wyvern continued to agitate him during the night. Now it seemed
impossible to approach Adela in any way; now he was prepared to defy
every consideration in order to save her and secure his own
happiness. Then, after dwelling for awhile on the difficulties of
his position, he tried to convince himself that once again he had
been led astray after beauty and goodness which existed only in his
imagination, that in losing Adela he only dismissed one more
illusion. Such comfort was unsubstantial; he was, in truth, consumed
in wretchedness at the thought that she once might easily have been
his, and that he had passed her by. What matter whether we love a
reality or a dream, if the love drive us to frenzy? Yet how could he
renew his relations with her? Even if no actual engagement bound
her, she must be prejudiced against him by stories which would make
it seem an insult if he addressed her. And if the engagement really
existed, what shadow of excuse had he for troubling her with his
When he entered his mother's room in the morning, Mrs. Eldon took a
small volume from the table at her side.
'I found this a few weeks ago among the books you left with me,' she
said. 'How long have you had it, Hubert?'
It was a copy of the 'Christian Year,' and writing on the fly-leaf
showed that it belonged, or had once belonged, to Adela Waltham.
Hubert regarded it with surprise.
'It was lent to me a year ago,' he said. 'I took it away with me. I
had forgotten that I had it.'
The circumstances under which it had been lent to him came back very
clearly now. It was after that visit to his friend which had come so
unhappily between him and Adela. When he went to bid her good-bye he
found her alone, and she was reading this book. She spoke of it,
and, in surprise that he had never read it, begged him to take it to
'I have another copy,' Adela said. 'You can return that any time.'
The time had only now come. Hubert resolved to take the book to
Wanley in the evening; if no other means offered, Mr. Wyvern would
return it to the owner. Might he enclose a note? Instead of that, he
wrote out from memory two of his own sonnets, the best of those he
had recently composed under the influence of the 'Vita Nuova,' and
shut them between the pages. Then he made the book into a parcel and
He started for his walk at the same hour as on the evening before.
There was frost in the air, and already the stars were bright. As he
drew near to Wanley, the road was deserted; his footfall was loud on
the hard earth. The moon began to show her face over the dark top of
Stanbury Hill, and presently he saw by the clear rays that the
figure of a woman was a few yards ahead of him; he was overtaking
her. As he drew near to her, she turned her head. He knew her at
once, for it was Letty Tew. He had been used to meet Letty often at
Evidently he was himself recognised; the girl swerved a little, as
if to let him pass, and kept her head bent. He obeyed an impulse and
spoke to her.
'I am afraid you have forgotten me, Miss Tew. Yet I don't like to
pass you without saying a word.'
'I thought it was--the light makes it difficult--' Letty murmured,
'But the moon is beautiful.'
They regarded it together. Letty could not help glancing at her
companion, and as he did not turn his face she examined him for a
moment or two.
'I am going to see my friend Mr. Wyvern,' Hubert proceeded.
A few more remarks of the kind were exchanged, Letty by degrees
summoning a cold confidence; then Hubert said--
'I have here a book which belongs to Miss Waltham. She lent it to me
a year ago, and I wish to return it. Dare I ask you to put it into
Letty knew what the book must be. Adela had told her of it at the
time, and since had spoken of it once or twice.
'Oh, yes, I will give it her,' she replied, rather nervously again.
'Will you say that I would gladly have thanked her myself, if it had
'Yes, Mr. Eldon, I will say that.'
Something in Hubert's voice seemed to cause Letty to raise her eyes
'You wish me to thank her?' she added; inconsequently perhaps, but
with a certain significance.
'If you will be so kind.'
Hubert wanted to say more, but found it difficult to discover the
right words. Letty, too, tried to shadow forth something that was in
her mind, but with no better success.
'If I remember,' Hubert said, pausing in his walk, 'this stile will
be my shortest way across to the Vicarage. Thank you much for your
He had raised his hat and was turning, but Letty impulsively put
forth her hand. 'Good-bye,' he said, in a friendly voice, as he took
the little fingers. 'I wish the old days were back again, and we
were going to have tea together as we used to.'
Mr. Wyvern's face gave no promise of cheerful intelligence as he
welcomed his visitor.
'What is the origin of this, I wonder?' he said, handing Hubert the
The state of the young man's nerves was not well adapted to sustain
fresh irritation. He turned pale with anger.
'Is this going the round of Wanley?'
'Probably. I had it from Mrs. Waltham.'
'Did you contradict it?'
'As emphatically as I could.'
'I will see the man who edits this to-morrow,' cried Hubert hotly.
'But perhaps he is too great a blackguard to talk with.'
'It purports to come, you see, from a London correspondent. But I
suppose the source is nearer.'
'You mean--you think that man Mutimer has originated it?'
'I scarcely think that.'
'Yet it is more than likely. I will go to the Manor at once. At
least he shall give me yes or no.'
He had started to his feet, but the vicar laid a hand on his
'I'm afraid you can't do that.'
'Consider. You have no kind of right to charge him with such a
thing. And there is another reason: he proposed to Miss Waltham this
morning, and she accepted him.'
'This morning? And this paper is yesterday's. Why, it makes it more
likely than ever. How did they get the paper? Doubtless he sent it
them. If she has accepted him this very day--'
The repetition of the words seemed to force their meaning upon him
through his anger. His voice failed.
'You tell me that Adela Waltham has engaged herself to that man?'
'Her mother told me, only a few minutes after it occurred.'
'Then it was this that led her to consent.'
'Surely that is presupposing too much, my dear Eldon,' said the
'No, not more than I know to be true. I could not say that to anyone
but you; you must understand me. The girl is being cheated into
marrying that fellow. Of her own free will she could not do it. This
is one of numberless lies. You are right; it's no use to go to him:
he wouldn't tell the truth. But _she_ must be told. How can I see
'It is more difficult than ever. Her having accepted him makes all
the difference. Explain it to yourself as you may, you cannot give
her to understand that you doubt her sincerity.'
'But does she know that this story is false?'
'Yes, that she will certainly hear. I have busied myself in
contradicting it. If Mrs. Waltham does not tell her, she will hear
it from her friend Miss Tew, without question.'
Hubert pondered, then made the inquiry:
'How could I procure a meeting with Miss Tew? I met her just now on
the road and spoke to her. I think she might consent to help me.'
Mr. Wyvern looked doubtful.
'You met her? She was coming from Agworth?'
'She seemed to be.'
'Her father and mother are gone to spend to-morrow with friends in
Belwick; I suppose she drove into Wanley with them. and walked
The vicar probably meant this for a suggestion; at all events,
Hubert received it as one.
'Then I will simply call at the house. She may be alone. I can't
Mr. Wyvern made no reply. The announcement that dinner was ready
allowed him to quit the subject. Hubert with difficulty sat through
the meal, and as soon as it was over took his departure, leaving it
uncertain whether he would return that evening. The vicar offered no
further remark on the subject of their thoughts, but at parting
pressed the young man's hand warmly.
Hubert walked straight to the Tews' dwelling. The course upon which
he had decided had disagreeable aspects and involved chances
anything but pleasant to face; he had, however, abundance of moral
courage, and his habitual scorn of petty obstacles was just now
heightened by passionate feeling. He made his presence known at the
house-door as though his visit were expected. Letty herself opened
to him. It was Saturday night, and she thought the ring was Alfred
Waltham's. Indeed she half uttered a few familiar words; then,
recognising Hubert, she stood fixed in surprise.
'Will you allow me to speak with you for a few moments, Miss Tew?'
Hubert said, with perfect self-possession. 'I ask your pardon for
calling at this hour. My business is urgent; I have come without a
thought of anything but the need of seeing you.'
'Will you come in, Mr. Eldon?'
She led him into a room where there was no fire, and only one lamp
'I'm afraid it's very cold here,' she said, with extreme
nervousness. 'The other room is occupied--my sister and the
children; I hope you--'
A little girl put in her face at the door, asking 'Is it Alfred?'
Letty hurried her away, closed the door, and, whilst lighting two
candles on the mantelpiece, begged her visitor to seat himself.
'If you will allow me, I will stand,' said Hubert. 'I scarcely know
how to begin what I wish to say. It has reference to Miss Waltham. I
wish to see her; I must, if she will let me, have an opportunity of
speaking with her. But I have no direct means of letting her know my
wish; doubtless you understand that. In my helplessness I have
thought of you. Perhaps I am asking an impossibility. Will you--can
you--repeat my words. to Miss Waltham, and beg her to see me?'
Letty listened in sheer bewilderment. The position in which she
found herself was so alarmingly novel, it made such a whirlpool in
her quiet life, that it was all she could do to struggle with the
throbbing of her heart and attempt to gather her thoughts. She did
not even reflect that her eyes were fixed on Hubert's in a steady
gaze. Only the sound of his voice after silence aided her to some
degree of collectedness.
'There is every reason why you should accuse me of worse than
impertinence,' Hubert continued, less impulsively. 'I can only ask
your forgiveness. Miss Waltham may very likely refuse to see me,
but, if you would ask her--'
Letty was borne on a torrent of strange thoughts. How could this
man, who spoke with such impressive frankness, with such
persuasiveness, be the abandoned creature that she had of late
believed him? With Adela's secret warm in her heart she could not
but feel an interest in Hubert, and the interest was becoming
something like zeal on his behalf. During the past two hours her
mind had been occupied with him exclusively; his words when he left
her at the stile had sounded so good and tender that she began to
question whether there was any truth at all in the evil things said
about him. The latest story had just been declared baseless by no
less an authority than the vicar, who surely was not a man to
maintain friendship with a worthless profligate. What did it all
mean? She had heard only half an hour ago of Adela's positive
acceptance of Mutimer, and was wretched about it; secure in her own
love-match, it was the mystery of mysteries that Adela should
consent to marry a man she could scarcely endure. And here a chance
of rescue seemed to be offering; was it not her plain duty to give
what help she might?
'You have probably not seen her since I gave you the book?' Hubert
said, perceiving that Letty was quite at a loss for words.
'No, I haven't seen her at all to-day,' was the reply. 'Do you wish
me to go to-night?'
'You consent to do me this great kindness?'
Letty blushed. Was she not committing herself too hastily
'There cannot be any harm in giving your message,' she said, half
interrogatively, her timidity throwing itself upon Hubert's honour.
'Surely no harm in that.'
'But do you know that she--have you heard--?'
'Yes, I know. She has accepted an offer of marriage. It was because
I heard of it that I came to you. You are her nearest friend; you
can speak to her as others would not venture to. I ask only for five
minutes. I entreat her to grant me that.'
To add to her perturbation, Letty was in dread of hearing Alfred's
ring at the door; she durst not prolong this interview.
'I will tell her,' she said. 'If I can, I will see her to-night.'
'And how can I hear the result? I am afraid to ask you--if you would
write one line to me at Agworth? I am staying at my mother's house.'
He mentioned the address. Letty, who felt herself caught up above
the world of common experiences and usages, gave her promise as a
matter of course.
'I shall not try to thank you,' Hubert said. 'But you will not doubt
that I am grateful?'
Letty said no more, and it was with profound relief that she heard
the door close behind her visitor. But even yet the danger was not
past; Alfred might at this moment be approaching, so as to meet
Hubert near the house. And indeed this all but happened, for Mr.
Waltham presented himself very soon. Letty had had time to impose
secrecy on her sisters, such an extraordinary proceeding on her part
that they were awed, and made faithful promise of discretion.
Letty drew her lover into the fireless room; she had blown out the
candles and turned the lamp low again, fearful lest her face should
display signs calling for comment.
'I did so want you to come!' she exclaimed. 'Tell me about Adela.'
'I don't know that there's anything to tell,' was Alfred's stolid
reply. 'It's settled, that's all. I suppose it's all right.'
'But you speak as if you thought it mightn't be, Alfred?'
'Didn't know that I did. Well, I haven't seen her since I got home.
'Can't I see her to-night? I do so want to.'
'I dare say she'd be glad.'
'But what is it, my dear boy? I'm sure you speak as if you weren't
'The mater says it's all right I suppose she knows.'
'But you've always been so anxious for it.'
'Anxious? I haven't been anxious at all. But I dare say it's the
wisest thing she could do. I like Mutimer well enough.'
'Alfred, I don't think he's the proper husband for Adela.'
'Why not? There's not much chance that she'll get a better.'
Alfred was manifestly less cheerful than usual. When Letty continued
to tax him with it he grew rather irritable.
'Go and talk to her yourself,' he said at length. 'You'll find it's
all right. I don't pretend to understand her; there's so much
religion mixed up with her doings, and I can't stand that.'
Letty shook her head and sighed.
'What a vile smell of candle smoke there is here!' Alfred cried.
'And the room must be five or six degrees below zero. Let's go to
'I think I shall run over to Adela at once,' said Letty, as she
followed him into the hall.
'All right. Don't be vexed if she refuses to let you in. I'll stay
here with the youngsters a bit.'
The truth was that Alfred did feel a little uncomfortable this
evening, and was not sorry to be away from the house for a short
time. He was one of those young men who will pursue an end out of
mere obstinacy, and who, through default of imaginative power,
require an event to declare itself before they can appreciate the
ways in which it will affect them. This marriage of his sister with
a man of the working class had possibly, he now felt, other aspects
than those which alone he had regarded whilst it was merely a matter
for speculation. He was not seriously uneasy, but wished his mother
had been somewhat less precipitate. Well, Adela could not be such a
simpleton as to be driven entirely counter to her inclinations in an
affair of so much importance. Girls were confoundedly hard to
understand, in short; probably they existed for the purpose of
keeping one mentally active.
Letty found Mrs. Waltham sitting alone, she too seemingly not in the
best of spirits. There was something depressing in the stillness of
the house. Mrs. Waltham had her volume of family prayers open before
her; her handkerchief lay upon it.
'She is naturally a little--a little fluttered,' she said, speaking
of Adela. 'I hoped you would look in. Try and make her laugh, my
dear; that's all she wants.'
The girl tripped softly upstairs, and softly knocked at Adela's
door. At her 'May I come in?' the door was opened. Letty examined
her friend with surprise; in Adela's face there was no indication of
trouble, rather the light of some great joy dwelt in her eyes. She
embraced Letty tenderly. The two were as nearly as possible of the
same age, but Letty had always regarded Adela in the light of an
elder sister; that feeling was very strong in her just now, as well
as a diffidence greater than she had known before.
'Are you happy, darling?' she asked timidly.
'Yes, dear, I am happy. I believe, I am sure, I have done right.
Take your hat off; it's quite early. I've just been reading the
collect for to-morrow. It's one of those I have never quite
understood, but I think it's clear to me now.'
They read over the prayer together, and spoke of it for a few
'What have you brought me?' Adela asked at length, noticing a little
parcel in the other's hand.
'It's a book I have been asked to give you. I shall have to explain.
Do you remember lendinglending someone your "Christian Year"?'
The smile left Adela's face, and the muscles of her mouth strung
'Yes, I remember,' she replied coldly.
'As I was walking back from Agworth this afternoon, he overtook me
on the road and asked me to return it to you.'
'Thank you, dear.'
Adela took the parcel and laid it aside. There was an awkward
silence. Letty could not look up.
'He was going to see Mr. Wyvern,' she continued, as if anxious to
lay stress on this. 'He seems to know Mr. Wyvern very well.'
'Yes? You didn't miss Alfred, I hope. He went out a very short time
'No, I saw him. He stayed with the others. But I have something more
to tell you, about--about him.'
'About Mr. Eldon.'
Adela looked at her friend with a grave surprise, much as a queen
regards a favourite subject who has been over-bold.
'I think we won't talk of him, Letty,' she said from her height.
'Do forgive me, Adela. I have promised toto say something. There
must have been a great many things said that were not true, just
like this about his marriage; I am so sure of it.'
Adela endeavoured to let the remark pass without replying to it. But
her thought expressed itself involuntarily.
'His marriage? What do you know of it?'
'Mr. Wyvern came to see mother this morning, and showed her a
newspaper that your mother gave him. It said that Mr. Eldon was
going to marry an actress, and Mr. Wyvern declared there was not a
word of truth in it. But of course your mother told you that?'
Adela sat motionless. Mrs. Waltham had not troubled herself to make
known the vicar's contradiction. But Adela could not allow herself
to admit that. Binding her voice with difficulty, she said:
'It does not at all concern me.'
'But your mother _did_ tell you, Adela?' Letty persisted, emboldened
by a thought which touched upon indignation.
'Of course she did.'
The falsehood was uttered with cold deliberateness. There was
nothing to show that a pang quivered on every nerve of the speaker.
'Who can have sent such a thing to the paper?' Letty exclaimed.
'There must be someone who wishes to do him harm. Adela, I don't
believe _anything_ that people have said!'
Even in speaking she was frightened at her own boldness. Adela's
eyes had never regarded her with such a look as now.
'Adela, my darling! Don't, don't be angry with me!'
She sprang forward and tried to put her arms about her friend, but
Adela gently repelled her.
'If you have promised to say something, Letty, you must keep your
promise. Will you say it at once, and then let us talk of something
Letty checked a tear. Her trustful and loving friend seemed changed
to someone she scarcely knew. She too grew colder, and began her
story in a lifeless way, as if it no longer possessed any interest.
'Just when I had had tea and was expecting Alfred to come, somebody
rang the bell. I went to the door myself, and it was Mr. Eldon. He
had come to speak to me of you. He said he wanted to see you, that
he _must_ see you, and begged me to tell you that. That's all,
Adela. I couldn't refuse him; I felt I had no right to; he spoke in
such a way. But I am very sorry to have so displeased you, dear. I
didn't think you would take anything amiss that I did in all
sincerity. I am sure there has been some wretched mistake, something
worse than a mistake, depend upon it. But I won't say any more. And
I think I'll go now, Adela.'
Adela spoke in a tone of measured gravity which was quite new in
'You have not displeased me, Letty. I don't think you have been to
blame in any way; I am sure you had no choice but to do as he asked
you. You have repeated all he said?'
'Yes, all; all the words, that is. There was something that I can't
'And if I consented to see him, how was he to know?'
'I promised to write to him. He is staying at Agworth.'
'You mustn't do that, dear. I will write to him myself, then I can
thank him for returning the book. What is his address?'
Letty gave it.
'It is, of course, impossible for me to see him,' pursued Adela,
still in the same measured tones. 'If I write myself it will save
you any more trouble. Forget it, if I seemed unkind, dear.'
'Adela, I can't forget it. You are not like yourself, not at all.
Oh, how I wish this had happened sooner! Why, why can't you see him,
darling? I think you ought to; I do really think so.'
'I must be the best judge of that, Letty. Please let us speak of it
The sweet girl-face was adamant, its expression a proud virginity;
an ascetic sternness moulded the small, delicate lips. Letty's
countenance could never have looked like that.
Left to herself again, Adela took the parcel upon her lap and sat
dreaming. It was long before her face relaxed; when it did so, the
mood that succeeded was profoundly sorrowful. One would have said
that it was no personal grief that absorbed her, but compassion for
the whole world's misery.
When at length she undid the wrapping, her eye was at once caught by
the papers within the volume. She started, and seemed afraid to
touch the book. Her first thought was that Eldon had enclosed a
letter; but she saw that there was no envelope, only two or three
loose slips. At length she examined them and found the sonnets. They
had no heading, but at the foot of each was written the date of
She read them. Adela's study of poetry had not gone beyond a
school-book of selections, with the works of Mrs. Hemans and of
Longfellow, and the 'Christian Year.' Hubert's verses she found
difficult to understand; their spirit, the very vocabulary, was
strange to her. Only on a second reading did she attain a glimmering
of their significance. Then she folded them again and laid them on
Before going to her bedroom she wrote this letter:
'DEAR MR, ELDON,--I am much obliged to you for returning the
"Christian Year." Some papers were left in its pages by accident,
and I now enclose them.
'Miss Tew also brought me a message from you. I am sorry that I
cannot do as you wish. I am unable to ask you to call, and I hope
you will understand me when I say that any other kind of meeting is
'I am, yours truly,
It was Adela's first essay in this vein of composition. The writing
cost her an hour, and she was far from satisfied with the final
form. But she copied it in a firm hand, and made it ready for
posting on the morrow.
'Between Richard Mutimer, bachelor, and Adela Marian Waitham,
spinster, both of this parish'
It was the only announcement of the kind that Mr. Wyvern had to make
this Sunday. To one of his hearers he seemed to utter the names with
excessive emphasis, his deep voice reverberating in the church. The
pews were high; Adela almost cowered in her corner, feeling pierced
with the eyes, with the thoughts too, of the congregation about her.
She had wondered whether the Manor pew would be occupied to-day, but
it was not. When she stood up, her eyes strayed towards it; the red
curtains which concealed the interior were old and faded, the wooden
canopy crowned it with dreary state. In three weeks that would be
her place at service. Sitting there, it would not be hard to keep
her thoughts on mortality.
Would it not have been graceful in him to attend church to-day?
Would she in future worship under the canopy alone?
No time had been lost. Mr. Wyvern received notice of the proposed
marriage less than two hours after Adela had spoken her
world-changing monosyllable. She put in no plea for delay, and her
mother, though affecting a little consternation at Mutimer's haste,
could not seriously object. Wanley, discussing the matter at its
Sunday tea-tables, declared with unanimity that such expedition was
indecent. By this time the disapproval of the village had attached
itself exclusively to Mrs. Waltham; Adela was spoken of as a martyr
to her mother's miserable calculations. Mrs. Mewling went about with
a story, that only by physical restraint had the unhappy girl been
kept from taking flight. The name of Hubert Eldon once more came up
in conversation. There was an unauthenticated rumour that he had
been seen of late, lurking about Wanley. The more boldly speculative
gossips looked with delicious foreboding to the results of a
marriage such as this. Given a young man of Eldon's reputation--ah
The Walthams all lunched (or dined) at the Manor. Mutimer was in
high spirits, or seemed so; there were moments when the cheerful
look died on his face, and his thoughts wandered from the
conversation; but if his eye fell on Adela he never failed to smile
the smile of inner satisfaction. She had not yet responded to his
look, and only answered his questions in the briefest words; but her
countenance was resolutely bright, and her beauty all that man could
ask. Richard did not flatter himself that she held him dear; indeed,
he was a good deal in doubt whether affection, as vulgarly
understood, was consistent with breeding and education. But that did
not concern him; he had gained his end, and was jubilant.
In the course of the meal he mentioned that his sister would come
down from London in a day or two. Christmas was only a week off, and
he had thought it would be pleasant to have her at the Manor for
'Oh, that's very nice!' assented Mrs. Waltham. 'Alice, her name is,
didn't you say? Is she dark or fair?'
'Fair, and just about Adela's height, I should think. I hope you'll
like her, Adela.'
It was unfortunate that Richard did not pronounce the name of his
bride elect quite as it sounds on cultured lips. This may have been
partly the result of diffidence; but there was a slurring of the
second syllable disagreeably suggestive of vulgarity. It struck on
the girl's nerves, and made it more difficult for her to grow
accustomed to this form of address from Mutimer.
'I'm sure I shall try to,' she replied to the remark about Alice,
this time endeavouring to fix her obstinate eyes for a moment on
'Your brother won't come, then?' Mrs. Waltham asked.
'Not just yet, I'm afraid. He's busy studying.'
'To read and write, I fear,' was the lady's silent comment. On the
score of Alice, too, Mrs. Waltham nursed a certain anxiety. The
damsels of the working class are, or so she apprehended, somewhat
more difficult of acceptance than their fathers and brothers, and
for several reasons. An artisan does not necessarily suggest, indeed
is very distinct from, the footman or even groom; but to dissociate
an uneducated maiden from the lower regions of the house is really
an exertion of the mind. And then, it is to be feared, the moral
tone of such young persons leaves for the most part much to be
desired. Mrs. Waltham was very womanly in her distrust of her sex.
After luncheon there was an inspection of the house. Adela did not
go farther than the drawing-room; her brother remained with her
whilst Mutimer led Mrs. Waltham through the chambers she might care
to see. The lady expressed much satisfaction. The furnishing had
been performed in a substantial manner, without display; one might
look forward to considerable comfort at the Manor.
'Any change that Adela suggests,' said Richard during this tour,
'shall of course be carried out at once. If she doesn't like the
paper in any of the rooms, she's only got to say so and choose a
better. Do you think she'd care to look at the stables? I'll get a
carriage for her, and a horse to ride, if she likes.'
Richard felt strongly that this was speaking in a generous way. He
was not aware that his tone hinted as much, but it unmistakably did.
The vulgarity of a man who tries hard not to be vulgar is always
'Oh, how kind!' murmured Mrs. Waltham. 'Adela has never ridden; I
should think carriage exercise would be enough for her. We mustn't
forget your principles, you know, for I'm sure they are very
'Oh, I don't care anything about luxuries myself, but Adela shall
have everything she wants.'
Alfred Waltham, who knew the house perfectly, led his mother to
inspect the stables, Mutimer remaining with Adela in the
'You've been very quiet all dinner-time,' he said, taking a seat
near her and bending forward.
'A little, perhaps. I am thinking of so many things.'
'What are they, I wonder?'
'Will you let me have some books about Socialism, and the other
questions in which you are interested?'
'I should think I will! You really mean to study these things?'
'Yes, I will read and think about them. And I shall be glad if you
will explain to me more about the works. I have never quite
understood all that you wish to do. Perhaps you will have time when
you come to see us some evening.'
'Well, if I haven't time, I'll make it,' said Richard, laughing.
'You can't think how glad I am to hear you say this.'
'When do you expect your sister?'
'On Tuesday; at least, I hope it won't be later. I'm sure you'll
like her, you can't help. She hasn't such looks as you have, you
know, but we've always thought her very fair-looking. What do you
think we often call her? The Princess! That's part because of her
name, Alice Maud, and part from a sort of way she's always had. Not
a flighty way, but a sort of--well, I can't describe it. I do hope
you'll like her.'
It was the first time Adela had heard him speak in a tone which
impressed her as entirely honest, not excepting his talk of the
Propaganda. Here, she felt, was a side of his character that she had
not suspected. His voice was almost tender; the play of his features
betokened genuine feeling.
'I can see she is a great favourite with you,' she replied. 'I have
no doubt I shall like her.'
'You'll find a good deal that wants altering, I've no doubt,' he
pursued, now quite forgetful of himself. 'She hasn't had much
education, you know, till just lately. But you'll help her in that,
won't you? She's as good-natured as any girl living, and whenever
you put her right you may be sure she'll only thank you. I've wanted
to have her here before, only I thought I'd wait till I knew
whether--you know what I mean.
As if in a sudden gloom before her eyes Adela saw his face draw
nearer. It was a moment's loss of consciousness, in which a ghastly
fear flashed upon her soul. Then, with lips that quivered, she began
to talk quickly of Socialism, just to dispel the horror.
On the following afternoon Mutimer came, bringing a number of books,
pamphlets, and newspapers. Mrs. Waltham had discreetly abandoned the
'I don't want to frighten you,' he said, laying down his bundle.
'You haven't got to read through all these. I was up nearly all last
night marking pages that I thought you'd better study first of all.
And here's a lot of back numbers of the "Fiery Cross;" I should like
you to read all that's signed by Mr. Westlake; he's the editor, you
'Is there anything here of your own writing?' Adela inquired.
'No, I haven't written anything. I've kept to lecturing; it comes
easier to me. After Christmas I shall have several lectures to give
in London. Perhaps you'll come and hear me?'
'Yes, of course.'
'Then you can get to know Mrs. Westlake, I dare say. She's a lady,
you know, like yourself. There's some poetry by her in the paper; it
just has her initials, "S. W." She's with us heart and soul, as
you'll see by her writing.'
'Is Alice a Socialist?' Adela asked, after glancing fitfully at the
'Oh, she's a princess; it would be too much to expect Socialism of
her. But I dare say she'll be beginning to think more now. I don't
mean she's been thoughtless in the wrong way; it's just a--I can't
very well describe it. But I hope you'll see her to-morrow night May
I bring her to you when she comes?'
'I hope you will.'
'I'm glad your brother won't be here. I only mean, you know, I'd
rather she got accustomed just to you first of all. I dare say
she'll be a bit timid, you won't mind that?'
Adela returned to the graver subject.
'All the people at New Wanley are Socialists?'
'Yes, all of them. They join the Union when they come to work, and
we take a good deal of care in choosing our men.'
'And you pay higher wages than other employers?'
'Not much higher, but the rents of the cottages are very low, and
all the food sold at the store is cost price. No, we don't pretend
to make the men rich. We've had a good lot coming with quite
mistaken ideas, and of course they wouldn't suit us. And you mustn't
call me the employer. All I have I look upon as the property of the
Union; the men own it as much as I do. It's only that I regulate the
work, just because somebody must. We're not making any profits to
speak of yet, but that'll only come in time; whatever remains as
clear profit,--and I don't take anything out of the works
myself--goes to the Propaganda fund of the Union.'
'Please forgive my ignorance. I've heard that word "Propaganda" so
often, but I don't know exactly what it means.'
Mutimer became patronising, quite without intending it.
'Propaganda? Oh, that's the spreading our ideas, you know; printing
paper, giving lectures, hiring places of meeting, and so on. That's
what Propaganda means.'
'Thank you,' said Adela musingly. Then she continued,--
'And the workmen only have the advantage, at present, of the low
rents and cheap food?'
'Oh, a good deal more. To begin with, they're housed like human
beings, and not like animals. Some day you shall see the kind of
places the people live in, in London and other big towns. You won't
believe your eyes. Then they have shorter hours of work; they're not
treated like omnibus horses, calculating just how much can be got
out of them without killing them before a reasonable time. Then
they're sure of their work as long as they keep honest and don't
break any of our rules; that's no slight thing, I can tell you. Why,
on the ordinary system a man may find himself and his family without
food any week end. Then there's a good school for the children; they
pay threepence a week for each child. Then there's the reading-room
and library, and the lectures, and the recreation-grounds. You just
come over the place with me some day, and talk with the women, and
see if they don't think they're well off.'
Adela looked him in the face.
'And it is you they have to thank for all this?'
'Well, I don't want any credit for it,' Mutimer replied, waving his
hand. 'What would you think of me if I worked them like niggers and
just enjoyed myself on the profits? That's what the capitalists do.'
'I think you are doing more than most men would. There is only one
She dropped her voice.
'What's that, Adela?'
'I'll speak of it some other time.'
'I know what you mean. You're sorry I've got no religion. Ay, but I
have! There's my religion, down there in New Wanley. I'm saving men
and women and children from hunger and cold and the lives of brute
beasts. I teach them to live honestly and soberly. There's no
public-house in New Wanley, and there won't be.' (It just flashed
across Adela's mind that Mutimer drank wine himself.) 'There's no
bad language if I can help it. The children 'll be brought up to
respect the human nature that's in them, to honour their parents,
and act justly and kindly to all they have dealings with. Isn't
there a good deal of religion in that, Adela?'
'Yes, but not all. Not the most important part'
'Well, as you say, we'll talk over that some other time. And now I'm
sorry I can't stay any longer. I've twenty or thirty letters to get
written before post-time.'
Adela rose as he did.
'If there's ever anything I can do to help you,' she said modestly,
'you will not fail to ask me?'
'That I won't What I want you to do now is to read what I've marked
in those books. You mustn't tire your eyes, you know; there's plenty
'I will read all you wish me to, and think over it as much as I
'Then you're a right-down good girl, and if I don't think myself a
lucky man, I ought to.'
He left her trembling with a strange new emotion, the begin fling of
a self-conscious zeal, an enthusiasm forced into being like a
hothouse flower. It made her cheeks burn; she could not rest till
her study had commenced.
Richard had written to his sister, saying that he wanted her, that
she must come at once. To Alice his thoughts had been long turning;
now that the time for action had arrived, it was to her that he
trusted for aid. Things he would find it impossible to do himself,
Alice might do for him. He did not doubt his power of persuading
her. With Alice principle would stand second to his advantage. He
had hard things to ask of her, but the case was a desperate one, and
she would endure the unpleasantness for his sake. He blessed her in
Alice received the letter summoning her on Monday morning. Richard
himself was expected in Highbury; expected, too, at a sad little
house in Hoxton; for he had constantly promised to spend Christmas
with his friends. The present letter did not say that he would not
come, only that he wanted his sister immediately. She was to bring
her best dress for wear when she arrived. He told her the train she
was to take on Tuesday morning.
The summons filled Alice with delight. Wanley, whence had come the
marvellous fortune, was in her imagination a land flowing with milk
and honey. Moreover, this would be her first experience of travel;
as yet she had never been farther out of London than to Epping
Forest. The injunction to bring her best dress excited visions of
polite company. All through Monday she practised ways of walking, of
eating, of speaking.
'What can he want you for?' asked Mrs. Mutimer gloomily. 'I sh'd 'a
thought he might 'a taken you with him after Christmas. It looks as
if he wasn't coming.'
The old woman had been habitually gloomy of late. The reply she had
received to her letter was not at all what she wanted; it increased
her impatience; she had read it endless times, trying to get at the
very meaning of it. Christmas must bring an end to this wretched
state of things; at Christmas Dick would come to London and marry
Emma; no doubt he had that time in view. Fears which she would not
consciously admit were hovering about her night and day. She had
begun to talk to herself aloud, a consequence of over-stress on a
brain never used to anxious thought; she went about the upper rooms
of the house muttering 'Dick's an honest man.' To keep moving seemed
a necessity to her; the chair in the dim corner of the dining-room
she now scarcely ever occupied, and the wonted employment of her
fingers was in abeyance. She spent most of her day in the kitchen;
already two servants had left because they could not endure her
fidgety supervision. She was growing suspicious of every one; Alice
had to listen ten times a day to complaints of dishonesty in the
domestics or the tradespeople; the old woman kept as keen a watch
over petty expenditure as if poverty had still to be guarded
against. And she was constantly visiting the Vines; she would rise
at small hours to get her house-work done, so as to be able to spend
the afternoon in Wilton Square. That, in truth, was still her home;
the new house could never be to her what the old was; she was a
stranger amid the new furniture, and sighed with relief as soon as
her eyes rested on the familiar chairs and tables which had been her
household gods through a lifetime.
'Arry had given comparatively little trouble of late; beyond an
occasional return home an hour or so after midnight, his proceedings
seemed to be perfectly regular. He saw a good deal of Mr. Keene,
who, as Alice gathered from various remarks in Richard's letters,
exercised over him a sort of tutorage. It was singular how
completely Richard seemed to have changed in his judgment of Mr.
Keene. 'His connection with newspapers makes him very useful,' said
one letter. 'Be as friendly with him as you like; I trust to your
good sense and understanding of your own interest to draw the line.'
When at the house Mr. Keene was profoundly respectful; his position
at such times was singular, for as often as not Alice had to
entertain him alone. Profound, too, was the journalist's discretion
in regard to all doings down at Wanley. Knowing he had several times
visited the Manor, Alice often sought information from him about her
brother's way of life. Mr. Keene always replied with generalities.
He was a man of humour in his way, and Alice came to regard him with
amusement. Then his extreme respect flattered her; insensibly she
took him for her criterion of gentility in men. He supplied her with
'society' journals, and now and then suggested the new novel that it
behoved her to read. Richard had even withdrawn his opposition to
the theatre-going; about once in three weeks Mr. Keene presented
himself with tickets, and Alice, accompanied by her brother,
accepted his invitation.
He called this Monday evening. Mrs. Mutimer, after spending a day of
fretful misery, had gone to Wilton Square; 'Arry was away at his
classes. Alice was packing certain articles she had purchased in the
afternoon, and had just delighted her soul with the inspection of a
travelling cloak, also bought to-day. When the visitor was
announced, she threw the garment over her shoulders and appeared in
'Does this look nice, do you think?' she asked, after shaking hands
as joyously as her mood dictated.
'About as nice as a perfect thing always does when it's worn by a
perfect woman,' Mr. Keene replied, drawing back and inclining his
body at what he deemed a graceful angle.
'Oh, come, that's too much!' laughed Alice.
'Not a bit, Miss Mutimer. I suppose you travel in it tomorrow
'How did you know that?'
'I have heard from your brother to-day. I thought I might perhaps
have the great pleasure of doing you some slight service either
to-night or in the morning. You will allow me to attend you to the
'I really don't think there's any need to trouble you,' Alice
replied. These respectful phrases always stirred her pleasurably: in
listening to them she bore herself with dignity, and endeavoured to
make answer in becoming diction.
'Trouble? What other object have I in life but to serve you? I'll
put it in another way: you won't refuse me the pleasure of being
near you for a few minutes?'
'I'm sure you're very kind. I know very well it's taking you out of
your way, but it isn't likely I shall refuse to let you come.'
Mr. Keene bowed low in silence.
'Have you brought me that paper?' Alice asked, seating herself with
careful arrangement of her dress. 'The Christmas number with the
ghost story you spoke of, you know?'
In the course of a varied life Mr. Keene had for some few months
trodden the boards of provincial theatres; an occasional turn of his
speech, and still more his favourite gestures, bore evidence to that
period of his career. Instead of making direct reply to Alice's
question, he stood for a moment as if dazed; then flinging back his
body, smote his forehead with a ringing slap, and groaned '0
'What's the matter?' cried the girl, not quite knowing whether to be
amused or alarmed.
But Mr. Keene was rushing from the room, and in an instant the house
door sounded loudly behind him. Alice stood disconcerted; then,
thinking she understood, laughed gaily and ran upstairs to complete
her packing. In a quarter of an hour Mr. Keene's return brought her
to the drawing-room again. The journalist was propping himself
against the mantelpiece, gasping, his arms hanging limp, his hair
disordered. As Alice approached he staggered forward, fell on one
knee, and held to her the paper she had mentioned.
'Pardon--forgive!' he panted.
'Why, where ever have you been?' exclaimed Alice.
'No matter! what are time and space? Forgive me, Miss Mutimer! I
deserve to be turned out of the house, and never stand in the light
of your countenance again.'
'But how foolish! As if it mattered all that. What a state you're
in! I'll go and get you a glass of wine.'
She ran to the dining-room, and returned with a decanter and glass
on a tray. Mr. Keene had sunk upon a settee, one arm hanging over
the back, his eyes closed.
'You have pardoned me?' he murmured, regarding her with weary
'I don't see what there is to pardon. Do drink a glass of wine!
Shall I pour it out for you?'
'Drink and service for the gods!'
'Do you mean the people in the gallery?' Alice asked roguishly,
recalling a term in which Mr. Keene had instructed her at their
latest visit to the theatre.
'You are as witty as you are beautiful!' he sighed, taking the glass
and draining it. Alice turned away to the fire; decidedly Mr. Keene
was in a gallant mood this evening; hitherto his compliments had
been far more guarded.
They began to converse in a more terrestrial manner. Alice wanted to
know whom she was likely to meet at Wanley; and Mr. Keene, in a
light way, sketched for her the Waltham family. She became
thoughtful whilst he was describing Adela Waltham, and subsequently
recurred several times to that young lady. The journalist allowed
himself to enter into detail, and Alice almost ceased talking.
It drew on to half-past nine. Mr. Keene never exceeded discretion in
the hours of his visits. He looked at his watch and rose.
'I may call at nine?' he said.
'If you really have time. But I can manage quite well by myself, you
'What you _can_ do is not the question. If I had my will you should
never know a moment's trouble as long as you lived.'
'If I never have worse trouble than going to the railway station, I
shall think myself lucky.'
'You won't drop me altogether from your mind whilst you're away?'
There was a change in his voice. He had abandoned the tone of
excessive politeness, and spoke very much like a man who has feeling
at the back of his words. Alice regarded him nervously.
'I'm not going to be away more than a day or two,' she said,
smoothing a fold in her dress.
'If it was only an hour or two I couldn't bear to think you'd
altogether forgotten me.'
'Why, of course I shan't!'
'But--Miss Mutimer, I'm abusing confidence. Your brother trusts me;
he's done me a good many kindnesses. But I can't help it, upon my
soul. If you betray me, I'm done for. You won't do that? I put
myself in your power, and you're too good to hurt a fly.'
'What do you mean, Mr. Keene?' Alice asked, inwardly pleased, yet
'I can't go away to-night without saying it, and ten to one it means
I shall never see you again. You know what I mean. Well, harm me as
you like; I'd rather be harmed by you than done good to by any one
else. I've got so far, there's no going back. Do you think some day
you could--do you think you _could_?'
Alice dropped her eyes and shook her pretty head slowly.
'I can't give any promise of that kind,' she replied under her
'You hate me? I'm a disagreeable beast to you? I'm a low--'
'Oh dear, don't say such things, Mr. Keene! The idea! I don't
dislike you a bit; but of course that's a different thing--'
He held out his hand sadly, dashing the other over his eyes.
'Good-bye, I don't think I can come again. I've abused confidence.
When your brother hears of it--. But no matter, I'm only a--a sort
of crossing-sweeper in your eyes.'
Alice's laugh rang merrily.
'What things you do call yourself! Now, don't go off like that, Mr.
Keene. To begin with, my brother won't hear anything about it--'
'You mean that? You are so noble, so forgiving? Pooh, as if I didn't
know you were! Upon my soul, I'd run from here to South Kensington,
like the ragamuffins after the cabs with luggage, only just to get a
smile from you. Oh, Miss Mutimer--oh!'
'Mr. Keene, I can't say yes, and I don't like to be so unkind to you
as to say no. You'll let that do for the present, won't you?'
'Bless your bright eyes, of course I will! If I don't love you for
your own sake, I'm the wretchedest turnip-snatcher in London.
'Who taught you to call me that?'
'Taught me? It was only a word that came naturally to my lips.'
Curiously, this was quite true. It impressed Alice Maud, and she
thought of Mr. Keene for at least five minutes continuously after
She was extravagantly gay as they drove in a four-wheeled cab to the
station next morning. Mr. Keene made no advances. He sat
respectfully on the seat opposite her, with a travelling bag on his
knees, and sighed occasionally. When she had secured her seat in the
railway carriage he brought her sandwiches, buns, and sweetmeats
enough for a voyage to New York. Alice waved her hand to him as the
train moved away.
She reached Agworth at one o'clock; Richard had been pacing the
platform impatiently for twenty minutes. Porters were eager to do
his bidding, and his instructions to them were suavely imperative.
'They know me,' he remarked to Alice, with his air of satisfaction.
'I suppose you're half frozen? I've got a foot-warmer in the trap.'
The carriage promised to Adela was a luxury Richard had not ventured
to allow himself. Alice mounted to a seat by his side, and he drove
'Why on earth did you come second-class?' he asked, after examining
her attire with approval.
'Ought it to have been first? It really seemed such a lot of money,
Dick, when I came to look at the fares.'
'Yes, it ought to have been first. In London things don't matter,
but here I'm known, you see. Did mother go to the station with you?'
'No, Mr. Keene did.'
'Keene, eh?' He bent his brows a moment.
'I hope he behaves himself?'
'I'm sure he's very gentlemanly.'
'Yes, you ought to have come first-class. A princess riding
second'll never do. You look well, old girl? Glad to come, eh?'
'Well, guess! And is this your own horse and trap, Dick?'
'Of course it is.'
'Who was that man? He touched his hat to you.'
Mutimer glanced back carelessly.
'I'm sure I don't know. Most people touch their hats to me about
It was an ideal winter day. A feathering of snow had fallen at dawn,
and now the clear, cold sun made it sparkle far and wide. The
horse's tread rang on the frozen highway. A breeze from the
north-west chased the blood to healthsome leaping, and caught the
breath like an unexpected kiss. The colour was high on Alice's fair
cheeks; she laughed with delight.
'Oh, Dick, what a thing it is to be rich! And you do look such a
gentleman; it's those gloves, I think.'
'Now we're going into the village,' Mutimer said presently. 'Don't
look about you too much, and don't seem to be asking questions.
Everybody 'll be at the windows.'
Between the end of the village street and the gates of the Manor,
Mutimer gave his sister hasty directions as to her behaviour before
'Put on just a bit of the princess,' he said. 'Not too much, you
know, but just enough to show that it isn't the first time in your
life that you've been waited on. Don't always give a 'thank you;'
one every now and then'll do. I wouldn't smile too much or look
pleased, whatever you see. Keep that all till we're alone together.
We shall have lunch at once; I'll do most of the talking whilst the
servants are about; you just answer quietly.'
These instructions were interesting, but not altogether
indispensable; Alice Maud had by this time a very pretty notion of
how to conduct herself in the presence of menials. The trying moment
was on entering the house; it was very hard indeed not to utter her
astonishment and delight at the dimensions of the hall and the
handsome staircase. This point safely passed, she resigned herself
to splendour, and was conducted to her room in a sort of romantic
vision. The Manor satisfied her idea of the ancestral mansion so
frequently described or alluded to in the fiction of her earlier
years. If her mind had just now reverted to Mr. Keene, which of
course it did not, she would have smiled very royally indeed.
When she entered the drawing-room, clad in that best gown which her
brother had needlessly requested her to bring, and saw that Richard
was standing on the hearth-rug quite alone, she could no longer
contain herself, but bounded towards him like a young fawn, and
threw her arms on his neck.
'Oh, Dick,' she whispered, 'what a thing it is to be rich! How ever
did we live so long in the old way! If I had to go back to it now I
should die of misery.'
'Let's have a look at you,' he returned, holding her at arm's
length. 'Yes, I think that'll about do. Now mind you don't let them
see that you're excited about it. Sit down here and pretend to be a
bit tired. They may come and say lunch is ready any moment.'
'Dick, I never felt so good in my life! I should like to go about
the streets and give sovereigns to everybody I met.'
Richard laughed loudly.
'Well, well, there's better ways than that. I've been giving a good
many sovereigns for a long time now. I'm only sorry you weren't here
when we opened the Hall.'
'But you haven't told me why you sent for me now.'
'All right, we've got to have a long talk presently. It isn't all as
jolly as you think, but I can't help that'
'Why, what can be wrong, Dick?'
'Never mind; it'll all come out in time.'
Alice came back upon certain reflections which had occupied her
earlier in the morning; they kept her busy through luncheon. Whilst
she ate, Richard observed her closely; on the whole he could not
perceive a great difference between her manners and Adela's.
Difference there was, but in details to which Mutimer was not very
sensitive. He kept up talk about the works for the most part, and
described certain difficulties concerning rights of way which had of
late arisen in the vicinity of the industrial settlement.
'I think you shall come and sit with me in the library,' he said as
they rose from table. And he gave orders that coffee should be
served to them in that room.
The library did not as yet quite justify its name. There was only
one bookcase, and not more than fifty volumes stood on its shelves.
But a large writing-table was well covered with papers. There were
no pictures on the walls, a lack which was noticeable throughout the
house. The effect was a certain severity; there was no air of home
in the spacious chambers; the walls seemed to frown upon their
master, the hearths were cold to him as to an intruding alien.
Perhaps Alice felt something of this; on entering the library she
shivered a little, and went to warm her hands at the fire.
'Sit in this deep chair,' said her brother. 'I'll have a cigarette.
'Well, she hasn't been quite herself,' Alice replied, gazing into
the fire. 'She can't get to feel at home, that's the truth of it.
She goes. very often to the old house.'
'Goes very often to the old house, does she?'
He repeated the words mechanically, watching smoke that issued from
his lips. 'Suppose she'll get all right in time.'
When the coffee arrived a decanter of cognac accompanied it. Richard
had got into the habit of using the latter rather freely of late. He
needed a stimulant in view of the conversation that was before him.
The conversation was difficult to begin. For a quarter of an hour he
strayed over subjects, each of which, he thought, might bring him to
the point. A question from Alice eventually gave him the requisite
'What's the bad news you've got to tell me, Dick?' she asked shyly.
'Bad news? Why, yes, I suppose it is bad, and it's no use pretending
anything else. I've brought you down here just to tell it you.
Somebody must know first, and it had better be somebody who'll
listen patiently, and perhaps help me to get over it. I don't know
quite how you'll take it, Alice. For anything I can tell you may get
up and be off, and have nothing more to do with me.'
'Why, what ever can it be, Dick? Don't talk nonsense. You're not
afraid of _me_, I should think.'
'Yes, I am a bit afraid of you, old girl. It isn't a nice thing to
tell you, and there's the long and short of it. I'm hanged if I know
how to begin.'
He laughed in an irresolute way. Trying to light a new cigarette
from the remnants of the one he had smoked, his hands shook. Then he
had recourse again to cognac.
Alice was drumming with her foot on the floor. She sat forward, her
arms crossed upon her lap. Her eyes were still on the fire.
'Is it anything about Emma, Dick?' she asked, after a disconcerting
'Yes, it is.'
'Hadn't you better tell me at once? It isn't at all nice to feel
'Well, I'll tell you. I can't marry Emma; I'm going to marry someone
Alice was prepared, but the plain words caused her a moment's
'Oh, what ever will they all say, Dick?' she exclaimed in a low
'That's bad enough, to be sure, but I think more about Emma herself.
I feel ashamed of myself, and that's the plain truth. Of course I
shall always give her and her sisters all the money they want to
live upon, but that isn't altogether a way out. If only I could have
hinted something to her before now. I've let it go on so long. I'm
going to be married in a fortnight.'
He could not look Alice in the face, nor she him. His shame made him
angry; he flung the half-smoked cigarette violently into the
fire-place, and began to walk about the room. Alice was speaking,
but he did not heed her, and continued with impatient loudness.
'Who the devil could imagine what was going to happen? Look here,
Alice; if it hadn't been for mother, I shouldn't have engaged myself
to Emma. I shouldn't have cared much in the old kind of life; she'd
have suited me very well. You can say all the good about her you
like, I know it'll be true. It's a cursed shame to treat her in this
way, I don't need telling that. But it wouldn't do as things are;
why, you can see for yourself--would it now? And that's only half
the question: I'm going to marry somebody I do really care for.
What's the good of keeping my word to Emma, only to be miserable
myself and make her the same? It's the hardest thing ever happened
to a man. Of course I shall be blackguarded right and left. Do I
deserve it now? Can I help it?'
It was not quite consistent with the tone in which he had begun, but
it had the force of a genuine utterance. To this Richard had worked
himself in fretting over his position; he was the real sufferer,
though decency compelled him to pretend it was not so. He had come
to think of Emma almost angrily; she was a clog on him, and all the
more irritating because he knew that his brute strength, if only he
might exert it, could sweep her into nothingness at a blow. The
quietness with which Alice accepted his revelation encouraged him in
self-defence. He talked on for several minutes, walking about and
swaying his arms, as if in this way he could literally shake himself
free of moral obligations. Then, finding his throat dry, he had
recourse to cognac, and Alice could at length speak.
'You haven't told me, Dick, who it is you're going to marry.'
'A lady called Miss Waltham--Adela Waltham. She lives here in
'Does she know about Emma?'
The question was simply put, but it seemed to affect Richard very
'No, of course she doesn't. What would be the use?'
He threw himself into a chair, crossed his feet, and kept silence.
'I'm very sorry for Emma,' murmured his sister.
Richard said nothing.
'How shall you tell her, Dick?'
'I can't tell her!' he replied, throwing out an arm. 'How is it
likely I can tell her?'
'And Jane's so dreadfully bad,' continued Alice in the undertone.
'She's always saying she cares for nothing but to see Emma married.
What _shall_ we do? And everything seemed so first-rate. Suppose she
summonses you, Dick?'
The noble and dignified legal process whereby maidens right
themselves naturally came into Alice's thoughts. Her brother scouted
'Emma's not that kind of girl. Besides, I've told you I shall always
send her money. She'll find another husband before long. Lots of men
'ud be only too glad to marry her.'
Alice was not satisfied with her brother. The practical aspects of
the rupture she could consider leniently, but the tone he assumed
was jarring to her instincts. Though nothing like a warm friendship
existed between her and Emma, she sympathised, in a way impossible
to Richard, with the sorrows of the abandoned girl. She was
conscious of what her judgment would be if another man had acted
thus; and though this was not so much a matter of consciousness, she
felt that Richard might have spoken in a way more calculated to aid
her in taking his side. She wished, in fact, to see only his
advantage, and was very much tempted to see everything but that.
'But you can't keep her in the dark any longer,' she urged. 'Why,
'I can't tell her,' he repeated monotonously.
Alice drew in her feet. It symbolised retiring within her defences.
She saw what he was aiming at, and felt not at all disposed to
pleasure him. There was a long silence; Alice was determined not to
be the first to break it.
'You refuse to help me?' Richard asked at length, between his teeth.
'I think it would be every bit as bad for me as for you,' she
'That you can't think,' he argued. 'She can't blame you; you've only
to say I've behaved like a blackguard, and you're out of it.'
'And when do you mean to tell mother?'
'She'll have to hear of it from other people. I can't tell her.'
Richard had a suspicion that he was irretrievably ruining himself in
his sister's opinion, and it did not improve his temper. It was a
foretaste of the wider obloquy to come upon him, possibly as hard to
bear as any condemnation to which he had exposed himself. He shook
himself out of the chair.
'Well, that's all I've got to tell you. Perhaps you'd better think
over it. I don't want to keep you away from home longer than you
care to stay. There's a train at a few minutes after nine in the
He shuffled for a few moments about the writing-table, then went
from the room.
Alice was unhappy. The reaction from her previous high spirits, as
soon as it had fully come about, brought her even to tears. She
cried silently, and, to do the girl justice, at least half her
sorrow was on Emma's account. Presently she rose and began to walk
about the room; she went to the window, and looked out on to the
white garden. The sky beyond the thin boughs was dusking; the wind,
which sang so merrily a few hours ago, had fallen to sobbing.
It was too wretched to remain alone; she resolved to go into the
drawing-room; perhaps her brother was there. As she approached the
door somebody knocked on the outside, then there entered a dark man
of spruce appearance, who drew back a step as soon as he saw her.
'Pray excuse me,' he said, with an air of politeness. 'I supposed I
should find Mr. Mutimer here.'
'I think he's in the house,' Alice replied.
Richard appeared as they were speaking.
'What is it, Rodman?' he asked abruptly, passing into the library.
'I'll go to the drawing-room,' Alice said, and left the men
In half an hour Richard again joined her. He seemed in a better
frame of mind, for he came in humming. Alice, having glanced at him,
averted her face again and kept silence. She felt a hand smoothing
her hair. Her brother, leaning over the back of her seat, whispered
'You'll help me, Princess?'
She did not answer.
'You won't be hard, Alice? It's a wretched business, and I don't
know what I shall do if you throw me over. I can't do without you,
'I can't tell mother, Dick. You know very well what it'll be. I
daren't do that.'
But even that task Alice at last took upon herself, after another
half-hour's discussion. Alas! she would never again feel towards her
brother as before this necessity fell upon her. Her life had
undergone that impoverishment which is so dangerous to elementary
natures, the loss of an ideal.
'You'll let me stay over to-morrow?' she said. 'There's nothing very
pleasant to go back to, and I don't see that a day 'll matter.'
'You can stay if you wish. I'm going to take you to have tea with
Adela now. If you stay we'll have her to dinner to-morrow.'
'I wonder whether we shall get along?' Alice mused.
'I don't see why not. You'll get lots of things from her, little
notions of all kinds.'
This is always a more or less dangerous form of recommendation, even
in talking to one's sister. To suggest that Adela would benefit by
the acquaintance would have been a far more politic procedure.
'What's wrong with me?' Alice inquired, still depressed by the scene
she had gone through.
'Oh, there's nothing wrong. It's only that you'll see differences at
first; from the people you've been used to, I mean. But I think