Part 7 out of 12
and to stay there till Wednesday. You won't mind doing that?'
'I think she'd do every bit as well without me,' said Alice.
'Never mind; I should like you to go. I'll take 'Arry down to-morrow
morning, then I'll come and fetch you on Wednesday. You'll just see
that everything's comfortable in the house, and buy her a few
presents, the kind of things she'd like.'
'I don't suppose she'll take anything.'
'Try, at all events. And don't mind her talk; it does no harm.'
In the morning came the letter from Daniel Dabbs. Richard read it
without any feeling of surprise, still less with indignation, at the
calumny of which it complained. During the night he had wondered
uneasily what might have occurred at the Hoxton meeting, and the
result was a revival of his ignoble anger against Emma. Had he not
anxiety enough that she must bring him new trouble when he believed
that all relations between him and her were at an end? Doubtless she
was posing as a martyr before all who knew anything of her story;
why had she refused his money, if not that her case might seem all
the harder? It were difficult to say whether he really believed
this; in a nature essentially egoistic, there is often no line to be
drawn between genuine convictions and the irresponsible charges of
resentment. Mutimer had so persistently trained himself to regard
Emma as in the wrong, that it was no wonder if he had lost the power
of judging sanely in any matter connected with her. Tier refusal to
benefit by his generosity had aggravated him; actually, no doubt,
because she thus deprived him of a defence against his conscience.
He was not surprised that libellous rumours were afloat, simply
because since his yesterday's conversation with Keene the thought of
justifying himself in some such way--should it really prove
necessary--had several times occurred to him, suggested probably by
Keene's own words. That the journalist had found means of doing him
this service was very likely indeed. He remembered with satisfaction
that no hint of such a thing had escaped his own lips. Still, he was
uneasy. Keene might have fallen short of prudence, with the result
that Daniel Dabbs might be in a position to trace this calumny to
him, Mutimer. It would not be pleasant if the affair, thus
represented, came to the ears of his friends, particularly of Mr.
He had just finished his breakfast, and was glancing over the
newspaper in a dull and irritable mood, when Keene himself arrived.
Mutimer expected him. Alice quitted the dining-room when he was
announced, and 'Arry, who at the same moment came in for breakfast,
was bidden go about his business, and be ready to leave the house in
'What does this mean?' Richard asked abruptly, handing the letter to
Keene perused the crabbed writing, and uttered sundry 'Ah's' and
'Do you know anything about it?' Mutimer continued, in a tone
between mere annoyance and serious indignation.
'I think I had better tell you what took place last night,' said the
journalist, with side glances. He had never altogether thrown off
the deferential manner when conversing with his patron, and at
present he emphasised it. 'Those fellows carry party feeling too
far; the proceedings were scandalous. It really was enough to make
one feel that one mustn't be too scrupulous in trying to stop their
mouths. If I'm not mistaken, an action for defamation of character
would lie against half-a-dozen of them.'
Mutimer was unfortunately deficient in sense of humour. He continued
to scowl, and merely said: 'Go on; what happened?'
Mr. Keene allowed the evening's proceedings to lose nothing in his
narration. He was successful in exciting his hearer to wrath, but,
to his consternation, it was forthwith turned against himself.
'And you tried to make things better by going about telling what
several of them would know perfectly well to be lies?' exclaimed
Mutimer, savagely. 'Who the devil gave you authority to do so?'
'My dear sir,' protested the journalist, 'you have quite mistaken
me. I did not mean to admit that I had told lies. How could I for a
moment suppose that a man of your character would sanction that kind
of thing? Pooh, I hope I know you better! No, no; I merely in the
course of conversation ventured to hint that, as you yourself had
explained to me, there were reasons quite other than the vulgar mind
would conceive for--for the course you had pursued. To my own
apprehension such reasons are abundant, and, I will add, most
conclusive. You have not endeavoured to explain them to me in
detail; I trust you felt that I was not so dull of understanding as
to be incapable of--of appreciating motives when sufficiently
indicated. Situations of this kind are _never_ to be explained
grossly; I mean, of course, in the case of men of intellect. I
flatter myself that I have come to know your ruling principles; and
I will say that beyond a doubt your behaviour has been most
honourable. Of course I was mistaken in trying to convey this to
those I talked with last night; they misinterpreted me, and I might
have expected it. We cannot give them the moral feelings which they
lack. But I am glad that the error has so quickly come to light. A
mere word from you, and such a delusion goes no farther. I regret it
Mutimer held the letter in his hand, and kept looking from it to the
speaker. Keene's subtleties were not very intelligible to him, but,
even with a shrewd suspicion that he was being humbugged, he could
not resist a sense of pleasure in hearing himself classed with the
superior men whose actions are not to be explained by the vulgar.
Nay, he asked himself whether the defence was not in fact a just
one. After all, was it not possible that his conduct had been
praiseworthy? He recovered the argument by which he had formerly
tried to silence disagreeable inner voices; a man in his position
owed it to society to effect a union of classes, and private feeling
must give way before the higher motive. He reflected for a moment
when Keene ceased to speak.
'What did you say?' he then asked, still bluntly, but with less
anger. 'Just tell me the words, as far as you can remember.'
Keene was at no loss to recall inoffensive phrases; in another long
speech, full of cajolery sufficiently artful for the occasion, he
represented himself as having merely protested against
misrepresentations obviously sharpened by malice.
'It is just possible that I made some reference to her _character_,'
he admitted, speaking more slowly, and as if desirous that no word
should escape his hearer; 'but it did not occur to me to guard
against misunderstandings of the word. I might have remembered that
it has such different meanings on the lips of educated and of
uneducated men. You, of course, would never have missed my
'If I might suggest,' he added, when Mutimer kept silence, I think,
if you condescend to notice the letter at all, you should reply only
in the most general terms. Who is this man Dabbs, I wonder, who has
the impudence to write to you in this way?'
'Oh, one of the Hoxton Socialists, I suppose,' Mutimer answered
carelessly. 'I remember the name.'
'A gross impertinence! By no means encourage them in thinking you
owe explanations. Your position doesn't allow anything of the kind.'
'All right,' said Richard, his ill-humour gone; 'I'll see to it.'
He was not able, after all, to catch the early train by which he had
meant to take his brother to Wanley. He did not like to leave
without some kind of good-bye to his mother, and Alice said that the
old woman would not be ready to go before eleven o'clock. After half
an hour of restlessness he sat down to answer Daniel's letter.
Keene's flattery had not been without its fruit. From anger which
had in it an element of apprehension he passed to an arrogant
self-confidence which character and circumstances were conspiring to
make his habitual mood. It _was_ a gross impertinence in Daniel to
address him thus. What was the use of wealth if it did not exempt
one from the petty laws binding on miserable hand to mouth toilers!
He would have done with Emma Vine; his time was of too much value to
the world to be consumed in wranglings about a work-girl. What if
here and there someone believed the calumny? Would it do Emma any
harm? That was most unlikely. On the whole, the misunderstanding was
useful; let it take its course. Men with large aims cannot afford to
be scrupulous in small details. Was not New Wanley a sufficient
balance against a piece of injustice, which, after all, was only one
'DEAR SIR,--I have received your letter, but it is impossible for me
to spend time in refuting idle stories. What's more, I cannot see
that my private concerns are a fit subject for discussion at a
public meeting, as I understand they have been made. You are at
liberty to read this note when and where you please, and in that
intention let me add that the cause of Socialism will not be
advanced by attacks on the character of those most earnestly devoted
to it. I remain, yours truly,
It seemed to Richard that this was the very thing, alike in tone and
phrasing. A week or two previously a certain statesman had written
to the same effect in reply to calumnious statements, and Richard
consciously made that letter his model. The statesman had probably
been sounder in his syntax, but his imitator had, no doubt, the
advantage in other points. Richard perused his composition several
times, and sent it to the post.
At eleven o'clock Mrs. Mutimer descended to the hall, ready for her
journey. She would not enter any room. Her eldest son came out to
meet her, and got rid of the servant who had fetched a cab.
'Good-bye for the present, mother,' he said, giving his hand 'I hope
you'll find everything just as you wish it.'
'If I don't, I shan't complain,' was the cold reply.
The old woman had clad herself, since her retreat, in the garments
of former days; and the truth must be told that they did not add to
the dignity of her appearance. Probably no costume devisable could
surpass in ignoble ugliness the attire of an English working-class
widow when she appears in the streets. The proximity of Alice,
always becomingly clad, drew attention to the poor mother's plebeian
guise. Richard, watching her enter the cab, felt for the first time
a distinct shame. His feelings might have done him more credit but
for the repulse he had suffered.
'Arry contented himself with standing at the front-room window, his
hands in his pockets.
Later in the same day Daniel Dabbs, who had by chance been following
the British workman's practice and devoting Monday to recreation,
entered an omnibus in which Mrs. Clay was riding. She had a heavy
bundle on her lap, shopwork which she was taking home. Daniel had
already received Mutimer's reply, and was nursing a fit of anger. He
seated himself by Kate's side, and conversed with her.
'Heard anything from _him_ lately?' he asked, with a motion of the
head which rendered mention of names unnecessary.
'Not we,' Kate replied bitterly, her eyes fixing themselves in
'No loss,' remarked Daniel, with an expression of disgust.
'He'll hear from _me_ some day,' said the woman, 'and in a way as he
The noise of the vehicle did not favour conversation. Daniel waited
till Kate got out, then he too descended, and walked along by her
side. He did not offer to relieve her of the bundle in primitive
societies woman is naturally the burden-bearer.
'I wouldn't a' thought it o' Dick,' he said, his head thrust
forward, and his eyes turning doggedly from side to side. They say
as how too much money ain't good for a man, but it's changed _him_
past all knowin'.'
'He always had a good deal too much to say for himself,' remarked
Mrs. Clay, speaking with difficulty through her quickened breath,
the bundle almost more than she could manage.
'I wish just now as he'd say a bit more,' said Daniel. 'Now, see,
here's a letter I've just got from him. I wrote to him last night to
let him know of things as was goin' round at the lecture. There's
one or two of our men, you know, think he'd ought to be made to
smart a bit for the way he's treated Emma, and last night they up
an' spoke--you should just a' 'eard them. Then someone set it goin'
as the fault wasn't Dick's at all. See what I mean? I don't know who
started that. I can't think as he'd try to blacken a girl's name
just to excuse himself; that's goin' a bit too far.'
Mrs. Clay came to a standstill.
'He's been saying things of Emma?' she cried. 'Is that what you
'Well, see now. I couldn't believe it, an' I don't rightly believe
it yet. I'll read you the answer as he's sent me.'
Daniel gave forth the letter, getting rather lost amid its
pretentious periods, with the eccentric pauses and intonation of an
uneducated reader. Standing in a busy thoroughfare, he and Kate
almost blocked the pavement; impatient pedestrians pushed against
them, and uttered maledictions.
'I suppose that's Dick's new way o' sayin' he hadn't nothin' to do
with it,' Daniel commented at the end. 'Money seems always to bring
long words with it somehow. It seems to me he'd ought to speak
'Who's done it, if he didn't?' Kate exclaimed, with shrill anger.
'You don't suppose there's another man 'ud go about telling coward
lies? The mean wretch! Says things about my sister, does he? I'll be
even with that man yet, never you mind.'
'Well, I can't believe it o' Dick,' muttered Dabbs. 'He says 'ere,
you see, as he hasn't time to contradict "idle stories." I suppose
that means he didn't start 'em.'
'If he tells one lie, won't he tell another?' cried the woman. She
was obliged to put down her bundle on a doorstep, and used the
moment of relief to pour forth vigorous vituperation. Dick listened
with an air half of approval, half doggedly doubtful. He was not
altogether satisfied with himself.
'Well, I must get off 'ome,' he said at length. 'It's only right as
you should know what's goin' on. There's no one believes a word of
it, and that you can tell Emma. If I hear it repeated, you may be
sure I'll up an' say what I think. It won't go no further if I can
stop it. Well, so long! Give my respects to your sister.'
Daniel waved his arm and made off across the street. Kate, clutching
her bundle again, panted along by-ways; reaching the house-door she
rang a bell twice, and Emma admitted her. They climbed together to
an upper room, where Kate flung her burden on to the floor and began
at once to relate with vehemence all that Daniel had told her. The
calumny lost nothing in her repetition. After listening in surprise
for a few moments, Emma turned away and quietly began to cut bread
and butter for the children, who were having their tea.
'Haven't you got anything to say?' cried her sister. 'I suppose
he'll be telling his foul lies about me next. Oh, he's a
good-'earted man, is Mutimer! Perhaps you'll believe me now. Are you
going to let him talk what he likes about you?'
Since the abandonment of the house in Wilton Square, Kate had
incessantly railed in this way; it was a joy to her to have
discovered new matter for invective. Emma's persistent silence
maddened her; even now not a word was to be got from the girl.
'Can't you speak?' shrilled Mrs. Clay. 'If you don't do something, I
let you know that I shall! I'm not going to stand this kind o'
thing, don't think it. If they talk ill of you they'll do the same
of me. It's time that devil had something for himself. You might be
made o' stone! I only hope I may meet him in the streets, that's
all! I'll show him up, see if I don't! I'll let all the people know
what he is, the cur! I'll do something to make him give me in
charge, and then I'll tell it all out before the magistrates. I
don't care what comes, I'll find some way of paying out that beast!'
Emma turned angrily.
'Hold your tongue, Kate! If you go on like this day after day we
shall have to part; I can't put up with it, so there now! I've
begged and prayed you to stop, and you don't pay the least heed to
me; I think you might have more kindness. You'll never make me say a
single word about him, do what you will; I've told you that many a
time, and I mean what I say. Let him say what he likes and do what
he likes. It's nothing to me, and it doesn't concern you. You'll
drive me out of the house again, like you did the other night. I
can't bear it. Do you understand, Kate?--I can't bear it!'
Her voice shook, and there were tears of uttermost shame and misery
in her eyes. The children sitting at the table, though accustomed to
scenes of this kind, looked at the disputants with troubled faces,
and at length the younger began to cry. Emma at once turned to the
little one with smiles of re-assurance. Kate would have preferred to
deal slaps, but contented herself with taking a cup of tea to the
fireside, and sulking for half an hour.
Emma unrolled the bundle of work, and soon the hum of the
sewing-machine began, to continue late into the night.
You remember that one side of the valley in which stood New Wanley
was clad with trees. Through this wood a public path made transverse
ascent to the shoulder of the bill, a way little used save by Wanley
ramblers in summer time. The section of the wood above the path was
closed against trespassers; among the copses below anyone might
freely wander. In places it was scarcely possible to make a way for
fern, bramble, and underwood, but elsewhere mossy tracks led one
among hazels or under arches of foliage which made of the mid-day
sky a cool, golden shimmer. One such track, abruptly turning round a
great rock over the face of which drooped the boughs of an ash, came
upon a little sloping lawn, which started from a high hazel-covered
bank. The bank itself was so shaped as to afford an easy seat,
shaded even when the grass in front was all sunshine.
Adela had long known this retreat, and had been accustomed to sit
here with Letty, especially when she needed to exchange deep
confidences with her friend. Once, just as they were settling
themselves upon the bank, they were startled by a movement among the
leaves above, followed by the voice of someone addressing them with
cheerful friendliness, and making request to be allowed to descend
and join them. It was Hubert Eldon, just home for the long vacation.
Once or twice subsequently the girls had met Hubert on the same
spot; there had been a picnic here, too, in which Mrs. Eldon and
Mrs. Waltham took part. But Adela always thought of the place as
peculiarly her own. To others it was only a delightfully secluded
corner of the wood, fresh and green; for her it had something
intimately dear, as the haunt where she had first met her own self
face to face and had heard the whispering of secrets as if by
another voice to her tremulous heart.
She sat here one morning in July, six months after her marriage. It
was more than a year since she had seen the spot, and on reaching it
to-day it seemed to her less beautiful than formerly; the leafage
was to her eyes thinner and less warm of hue than in earlier years,
the grass had a coarser look and did not clothe the soil so
completely. An impulse had brought her hither, and her first sense
on arriving had been one of disappointment. Was the change in her
way of seeing? or had the retreat indeed suffered, perchance from
the smoke of New Wanley? The disappointment was like that we
experience in revisiting a place kept only in memory since
childhood. Adela had not travelled much in the past year, but her
growth in experience had put great tracts between her and the days
when she came here to listen and wonder. It was indeed a memory of
her childhood that led her into the wood.
She had brought with her a German book on Socialism and a little
German dictionary. At the advice of Mr. Westlake, given some months
ago on the occasion of a visit to the Manor, she had applied herself
diligently to this study. But it was not only with a view to using
the time that she had selected these books this morning. In visiting
a scene which would strongly revive the past, instinct--rather than
conscious purpose--had bidden her keep firm hold upon the present.
On experiencing her disillusion a sense of trouble had almost led
her to retrace her steps at once, but she overcame this, and,
seating herself on the familiar bank, began to toil through hard
sentences. Such moments of self-discipline were of daily occurrence
in her life; she kept watch and ward over her feelings and found in
efforts of the mind a short way out of inner conflicts which she
durst not suffer to pass beyond the first stage.
Near at hand there grew a silver birch Hubert Eldon, on one of the
occasions when he talked here with Adela and Letty, had by chance
let his eyes wander from Adela to the birch tree, and his fancy,
just then active among tender images, suggested a likeness between
that graceful, gleaming stem with its delicately drooping foliage
and the sweet-featured girl who stood before him with her head bowed
in unconscious loveliness. As the silver birch among the trees of
the wood, so was Adela among the men and women of the world. And to
one looking upon her by chance such a comparison might still have
occurred. But in face she was no longer what she had then been. Her
eyebrows, formerly so smooth and smiling, now constantly drew
themselves together as if at a thought of pain or in some mental
exertion. Her cheeks had none of their maiden colour. Her lips were
closed too firmly, and sometimes trembled like those of old persons
who have known much trouble.
In spite of herself her attention flagged from the hard, dull book;
the spirit of the place was too strong for her, and, as in summers
gone by, she was lost in vision. But not with eyes like these had
she been wont to dream on the green branches or on the sward that
lay deep in sunlight. On her raised lids sat the heaviness of
mourning; she seemed to strain her sight to something very far off,
something which withdrew itself from her desire, upon which her soul
called and called in vain. Her cheeks showed their thinness, her
brow foretold the lines which would mark it when she grew old. It
was a sob in her throat which called her back to consciousness, a
sob which her lips, well-trained warders, would not allow to pass.
She forced herself to the book again, and for some minutes plied her
dictionary with feverish zeal. Then there came over her countenance
a strange gleam of joy, as if she triumphed in self-conquest. She
smiled as she continued her work, clearly making a happiness of each
mastered sentence. And, looking up with the smile still fixed, she
found that her solitude was invaded. Letty Tew had just appeared
round the rock which sheltered the green haven.
'You here, Adela?' the girl exclaimed. 'How strange!'
'Why strange, Letty?'
'Oh, only because I had a sort of feeling that perhaps I might meet
you. Not here, particularly,' she added, as if eager to explain
herself, 'but somewhere in the wood. The day is so fine; it tempts
one to walk about.'
Letty did not approach her friend as she would have done when
formerly they met here. Her manner was constrained, almost timid; it
seemed an afterthought when she bent forward for the kiss. Since
Adela's marriage the intercourse between them had been comparatively
slight. For the first three months they had seen each other only at
long intervals, in part owing to circumstances. After the fortnight
she spent in London at the time of her marriage, Adela had returned
to Wanley in far from her usual state of health; during the first
days of February there had been a fear that she might fall gravely
ill. Only in advanced spring had she begun to go beyond the grounds
of the Manor, and it was still unusual for her to do so except in
her carriage. Letty had acquiesced in the altered relations; she
suffered, and for various reasons, but did not endeavour to revive
an intimacy which Adela seemed no longer to desire. Visits to the
Manor were from the first distressing to her; the natural subjects
of conversation were those which both avoided, and to talk in the
manner of mere acquaintances was scarcely possible. Of course this
state of things led to remark. Mrs. Waltham was inclined to suspect
some wrong feeling on Letty's side, though of what nature it was
hard to determine. Alfred, on the other hand, took his sister's
behaviour ill, more especially as he felt a distinct change in her
manner to himself. Was the girl going to be spoilt by the possession
of wealth? What on earth did she mean by her reserve, her cold
dignity? Wasn't Letty good enough for her now that she was lady of
the Manor? Letty herself, when the subject was spoken of, pretended
to recognise no change beyond what was to be expected. So far from
being hurt, her love for Adela grew warmer during these months of
seeming estrangement; her only trouble was that she could not go
often and sit by her friend's side--sit silently, hand holding hand.
That would have been better than speech, which misled, or at best
was inadequate. Meantime she supported herself with the hope that
love might some day again render her worthy of Adela's confidence.
That her friend was far above her she had always gladly confessed;
she felt it more than ever now that she tried in vain to read
Adela's secret thoughts. The marriage was a mystery to her; to the
last moment she had prayed that something might prevent it. Yet, now
that Adela was Mrs. Mutimer, she conscientiously put away every
thought of discontent, and only wondered what high motive had
dictated the choice and--for such she knew it must be--the
'What are you reading?' Letty asked, sitting down on the bank at a
'It's hardly to be called reading. I have to look out every other
word. It's a book by a man called Schaeffle, on the "Social
'Oh yes,' said the girl, hazarding a conjecture that the work had
something to do with Socialism. 'Of course that interests you.'
'I think I'm going to write a translation of it. My husband doesn't
read German, and this book is important.'
'I suppose you are quite a Socialist, Adela?' Letty inquired, in a
tone which seemed anxious to presuppose the affirmative answer. She
had never yet ventured to touch on the subject.
'Yes, I am a Socialist,' said Adela firmly. 'I am sure anyone will
be who thinks about it, and really understands the need for
Socialism. Does the word still sound a little dreadful to you? I
remember so well when it did to me. It was only because I knew
nothing about it.'
'I don't think I have that excuse,' said the other. 'Alfred is
constantly explaining. But, Adela--'
She paused, not quite daring to speak her thoughts. Adela smiled an
'I was going to say--I'm sure you won't be offended. But you still
go to church?'
'Oh yes, I go to church. You mustn't think that everything Alfred
insists upon belongs to Socialism. I believe that all Christians
ought to be Socialists; I think it is part of our religion, if only
we carry it out faithfully.'
'But does Mr. Wyvern think so?'
'Yes, he does; he does indeed. I talk with Mr. Wyvern frequently,
and I never knew, before he showed me, how necessary it is for a
Christian to be a Socialist.'
'You surprise me, Adela. Yet he doesn't confess himself a
'Indeed, he does. When did you hear Mr. Wyvern preach a sermon
without insisting on justice and unselfishness and love of our
neighbour? If we try to be just and unselfish, and to love our
neighbour as ourself, we help the cause of Socialism. Mr. Wyvern
doesn't deal with politics--it is not necessary he should. That is
for men like my husband, who give their lives to the practical work.
Mr. Wyvern confines himself to spiritual teaching. He would injure
his usefulness if he went beyond that.'
Letty was awed by the exceeding change which showed itself not only
in Adela's ways of thought, but in her very voice and manner of
speaking. The tone was so authoritative, so free from the diffidence
which had formerly kept Adela from asserting strongly even her
cherished faiths. She felt, too, that with the maiden hesitancy
something else had gone, at all events in a great degree; something
that it troubled her to miss; namely, that winning persuasiveness
which had been one of the characteristics that made Adela so
entirely lovable. At present Mrs. Mutimer scarcely sought to
persuade; she uttered her beliefs as indubitable. A competent
observer might now and then have surmised that she felt it needful
to remind herself of the creed she had accepted.
'You were smiling when I first caught sight of you,' Letty said,
after reflecting for a moment. 'Was it something in the book?'
Adela again smiled.
'No, something in myself,' she replied with an air of confidence.
'Because you are happy, Adela?'
'Yes, because I am happy.'
'How glad I am to hear that, dear!' Letty exclaimed, for the first
time allowing herself to use the affectionate word. 'You will let me
be glad with you?'
Her hands stole a little forward, but Adela did not notice it; for
she was gazing straight before her, with an agitated look.
'Yes, I am very happy, I have found something to do in life. I was
afraid at first that I shouldn't be able to give my husband any help
in his work; I seemed useless. But I am learning, and I hope soon to
be of real use, if only in little things. You know that I have begun
to give a tea to the children every Wednesday? They're not in need
of food and comforts, I'm glad to say; nobody wants in New Wanley;
but it's nice to bring them together at the Manor, and teach them to
behave gently to each other, and to sit properly at table, and
things like that. Will you come and see them to-day?'
'I shall be very pleased.'
'To-day I'm going to begin something new. After tea we shall have a
reading. Mr. Wyvern sent me a book this morning--"Andersen's Fairy
'Oh, I've read them. Yes, that'll do nicely. Read them "The Ugly
Duckling," Adela; it's a beautiful story. I thought perhaps you were
going to read something--something instructive, you know.'
Adela laughed. It was Adela's laugh still, but not what it used to
'No, I want to amuse them. They get enough instruction in school. I
hope soon to give another evening to the older girls. I wonder
whether you would like to come and help me then?'
'If only you would let me! There is nothing I should like more than
to do something for you.'
'But you mustn't do it for me. It must be for the girls' sake.'
'Yes, for theirs as well, but ever so much more for yours, dear. You
can't think how glad I am that you have asked me.'
Again the little hand was put forward, and this time Adela took it.
But she did not soften as she once would have done. With eyes still
far away, she talked for some minutes of the hopes with which her
life was filled. Frequently she made mention of her husband, and
always as one to whom it was a privilege to devote herself. Her
voice had little failings and uncertainties now and then, but this
appeared to come of excessive feeling.
They rose and walked from the wood together.
'Alfred wants us to go to Malvern for a fortnight,' Letty said, when
they were near the gates of the Manor. 'We were wondering whether
you could come, Adela?'
'No, I can't leave Wanley,' was the reply. 'My husband'--she never
referred to Mutimer otherwise than by this name--'spoke of the
seaside the other day, but we decided not to go away at all. There
is so much to be done.'
When Adela went to the drawing-room just before luncheon, she found
Alice Mutimer engaged with a novel. Reading novels had become an
absorbing occupation with Alice. She took them to bed with her so as
to read late, and lay late in the morning for the same reason. She
must have been one of Mr. Mudie's most diligent subscribers. She had
no taste for walking in the country, and could only occasionally be
persuaded to take a drive. It was not surprising that her face had
not quite the healthy colour of a year ago; there was negligence,
too, in her dress, and she had grown addicted to recumbent
attitudes. Between her and Adela no semblance of friendship had yet
arisen, though the latter frequently sought to substitute a nearer
relation for superficial friendliness. Alice never exhibited
anything short of good-will, but her first impressions were lasting;
she suspected her sister-in-law of a desire to patronise, and was
determined to allow nothing of the kind. With a more decided
character, Alice's prepossessions would certainly have made life at
the Manor anything but smooth; as it was, nothing ever occurred to
make unpleasantness worth her while. Besides, when not buried in her
novels, she gave herself up to absentmindedness; Adela found
conversation with her almost impossible, for Alice would answer a
remark with a smiling 'Yes' or 'No,' and at once go off into
dreamland, so that one hesitated to disturb her.
'What time is it?' she inquired, when she became aware of Adela
moving about the room.
'All but half-past one.'
'Really? I suppose I must go and get ready for lunch. What a pity we
can't do without meals!'
'You should go out in the morning and get an appetite. Really, you
are getting very pale, Alice. I'm sure you read far too much.'
Adela had it on her lips to say 'too many novels,' but was afraid to
administer a direct rebuke.
'Oh, I like reading, and I don't care a bit for going out.'
'What about your practising?' Adela asked, with a playful shake of
'Yes, I know it's very neglectful, but really it is such awful
'And your French?'
'I'll make a beginning to-morrow. At least, I think I will. I don't
neglect things wilfully, but it's so awfully hard to really get at
it when the time comes.'
The luncheon-bell rang, and Alice, with a cry of dismay, sped to her
room. She knew that her brother was to lunch at home to-day, and
Richard was terrible in the matter of punctuality.
As Soon as the meal was over Alice hastened back to her low chair in
the drawing-room. Richard and his wife went together into the
'What do you think Rodman's been advising me this morning?' Mutimer
said, speaking with a cigar in his mouth. 'It's a queer idea; I
don't quite know what to think of it. You know there'll be a general
election some time next year, and he advises me to stand for
He did not look at his wife. Coming to a garden-seat, he put up one
foot upon it, and brushed the cigar ash against the back. Adela sat
down; she had not replied at once, and was thoughtful.
'As a Socialist candidate?' she asked, when at length he turned his
eyes to her.
'Well, I don't know. Radical rather, I should think. It would come
to the same thing, of course, and there'd be no use in spoiling the
thing for the sake of a name.'
Adela had a Japanese fan in her hand; she put it against her
forehead, and still seemed to consider.
'Do you think you could find time for Parliament?'
'That has to be thought of, of course; but by then I should think we
might arrange it. There's not much that Rodman can't see to.'
'You are inclined to think of it?'
Adela's tone to her husband was not one of tenderness, but of
studious regard and deference. She very seldom turned her eyes to
his, but there was humility in her bent look. If ever he and she
began to speak at the same time, she checked herself instantly, and
Mutimer had no thought of giving her precedence. This behaviour in
his wife struck him as altogether becoming.
'I almost think I am,' he replied. 'I've a notion I could give them
an idea or two at Westminster. It would be news to them to hear a
man say what he really thinks.'
Adela smiled faintly, but said nothing.
'Would you like me to be in Parliament?' Richard asked, putting down
his foot and leaning back his head a little.
'Certainly, if you feel that it is a step gained.'
'That's just what I think it would be. Well, we must talk about it
again. By-the-by, I've just had to send a fellow about his
'To discharge a man?' Adela asked, with pain.
'Yes. It's that man Rendal; I was talking about him the other day,
you remember. He's been getting drunk; I'll warrant it's not the
'And you really must send him away? Couldn't you give him another
'No. He was impudent to me, and I can't allow that. He'll have to
Richard spoke with decision. When the fact of impudence was
disclosed Adela felt that it was useless to plead. She looked at her
fan and was sorrowful.
'So you are going to read to the youngsters to-day?' Mutimer
'Yes; Mr. Wyvern has given me a book that will do very well indeed.'
'Oh, has he?' said Richard doubtfully. 'Is it a religious book?
That kind of thing won't do, you know.'
'No, it isn't religious at all. Only a book of fairy tales.'
'Fairy tales!' There was scorn in his way of repeating the words.
'Couldn't you find something useful? A history book, you know, or
about animals, or something of that kind. We mustn't encourage them
in idle reading. And that reminds me of Alice. You really must get
her away from those novels. I can't make out what's come to the
girl. She seems to be going off her head. Did you notice at
lunch?--she didn't seem to understand what I said to her. Do try and
persuade her to practise, if nothing else.'
'I am afraid to do more than just advise in a pleasant way,' said
'Well, I shall lose my temper with her before long.'
'How is Harry doing? 'Adela asked, to pass over the difficult
'He's an idle scamp! If some one 'ud give him a good thrashing,
that's what _he_ wants.'
'Shall I ask him to dinner to-morrow?'
'You can if you like, of course,' Richard replied with hesitation.
'I shouldn't have thought you cared much about having him.'
'Oh, I am always very glad to have him. I have meant to ask you to
let him dine with us oftener. I am so afraid he should think we
neglect him, and that would be sure to have a bad effect.'
Mutimer looked at her with satisfaction, and assented to her
'But about the fairy tales,' Adela said presently, when Richard had
finished his cigar and was about to return to the works. 'Do you
seriously object to them? Of course I could find another book.'
'What do _you_ think? I am rather surprised that Wyvern suggested
reading of that kind; he generally has good ideas.'
'I fancy he wished to give the children a better kind of amusement,'
said Adela, with hesitation.
'A better kind, eh? Well, do as you like. I dare say it's no great
'But if you really--'
'No, no; read the tales. I dare say they wouldn't listen to a better
It was not very encouraging, but Adela ventured to abide by the
vicar's choice. She went to her own sitting-room and sought the
story that Letty had spoken of. From 'The Ugly Duckling' she was led
on to the story of the mermaid, from that to the enchanted swans.
The book had never been in her hands before, and the delight she
received from it was of a kind quite new to her. She had to make an
effort to close it and turn to her specified occupations. For Adela
had so systematised her day that no minute's margin was left for
self-indulgence. Her reading was serious study. If ever she was
tempted to throw open one of the volumes which Alice left about, a
glance at the pages was enough to make her push it away as if it
were impure. She had read very few stories of any kind, and of late
had felt a strong inclination towards such literature; the spectacle
of Alice's day-long absorption was enough to excite her curiosity,
even if there had not existed other reasons. But these longings for
a world of romance she crushed down as unworthy of a woman to whom
life had revealed its dread significances: and, though she but
conjectured the matter and tone of the fiction Alice delighted in,
instinctive fear would alone have restrained her from it. For
pleasure in the ordinary sense she did not admit into her scheme of
existence; the season for that had gone by. Henceforth she must
think, and work, and pray. Therefore she had set herself gladly to
learn German; it was a definite task to which such and such hours
could be devoted, and the labour would strengthen her mini Her
ignorance she represented as a great marsh which by toil had to be
filled up and converted into solid ground. She had gone through the
library catalogue and made a list of books which seemed needful to
be read; and Mr. Wyvern had been of service in guiding her, as well
as in lending volumes from his own shelves. The vicar, indeed, had
surprised her by the zealous kindness with which he entered into all
her plans; at first she had talked to him with apprehension,
remembering that chance alone had prevented her from appealing to
him to save her from this marriage. But Mr. Wyvern, with whose
philosophy we have some acquaintance, exerted himself to make the
best of the irremediable, and Adela already owed him much for his
unobtrusive moral support. Even Mutimer was putting aside his
suspicions and beginning to believe that the clergyman would have
openly encouraged Socialism had his position allowed him to do so.
He was glad to see his wife immersed in grave historical and
scientific reading; he said to himself that in this way she would be
delivered from her religious prejudices, and some day attain to
'free thought.' Adela as yet had no such end in view, but already
she understood that her education, in the serious sense, was only
now beginning. As a girl, her fate had been that of girls in
general; when she could write without orthographical errors, and
could play by rote a few pieces of pianoforte music, her education
had been pronounced completed. In the profound moral revolution
which her nature had recently undergone her intellect also shared;
when the first numbing shock had spent itself, she felt the growth
of an intellectual appetite formerly unknown. Resolutely setting
herself to exalt her husband, she magnified his acquirements, and,
as a duty, directed her mind to the things he deemed of importance.
One of her impulses took the form of a hope which would have vastly
amused Richard had he divined it. Adela secretly trusted that some
day her knowledge might be sufficient to allow her to cope with her
husband's religious scepticism. It was significant that she could
face in this way the great difficulty of her life; the stage at
which it seemed sufficient to iterate creeds was already behind her.
Probably Mr. Wyvern' 5 conversation was not without its effect in
aiding her to these larger views, but she never spoke to him on the
subject directly. Her native dignity developed itself with her
womanhood, and one of the characteristics of the new Adela was a
reserve which at times seemed to indicate coldness or even spiritual
The weather made it possible to spread the children's tea in the
open air. At four o'clock Letty came, and was quietly happy in being
allowed to superintend one of the tables. Adela was already on
affectionate terms with many of the little ones, though others
regarded her with awe rather than warmth of confidence. This was
strange, when we remember how childlike she had formerly been with
children. But herein, too, there was a change; she could not now
have caught up Letty's little sister and trotted with her about the
garden as she was used to do. She could no longer smile in the old
simple, endearing way; it took some time before a child got
accustomed to her eyes and lips. Her movements, though graceful as
ever, were subdued to matronly gravity; never again would Adela turn
and run down the hill, as after that meeting with Hubert Eldon. But
her sweetness was in the end irresistible to all who came within the
circle of its magic. You saw its influence in Letty, whose eyes
seemed never at rest save when they were watching Adela, who sprang
to her side with delight if the faintest sign did but summon her.
You saw its influence, moreover, when, the tea over, the children
ranged themselves on the lawn to hear her read. After the first few
sentences, everywhere was profoundest attention; the music of her
sweetly modulated voice, the art which she learnt only from nature,
so allied themselves with the beauty of the pages she read that from
beginning to end not a movement interrupted her.
Whilst she was reading a visitor presented himself at the Manor, and
asked if Mrs. Mutimer was at home. The servant explained how and
where Mrs. Mutimer was engaged, for the party was held in a quarter
of the garden hidden from the approach to the front door.
'Is Miss Mutimer within?' was the visitor's next inquiry.
Receiving an affirmative reply, he begged that Miss Mutimer might be
informed of Mr. Keene's desire to see her. And Mr. Keene was led to
Alice was reposing on a couch; she did not trouble herself to rise
when the visitor entered, but held a hand to him, at the same time
scarcely suppressing a yawn. Novel reading has a tendency to produce
this expression of weariness. Then she smiled, as one does in
greeting an old acquaintance.
'Who ever would have expected to see you!' she began, drawing away
her hand when it seemed to her that Mr. Keene had detained it quite
long enough. 'Does Dick expect you?'
'Your brother does not expect me, Miss Mutimer,' Keene replied. He
invariably began conversation with her in a severely formal and
respectful tone, and to-day there was melancholy in his voice.
'You've just come on your own--because you thought you would?'
'I have come because I could not help it, Miss Mutimer. It is more
than a month since I had the happiness of seeing you.'
He stood by the couch, his body bent in deference, his eyes
regarding her with melancholy homage.
'Mrs. Mutimer has a tea-party of children from New Wanley,' said
Alice with a provoking smile. 'Won't you go and join them? She's
reading to them, I believe; no doubt it's something that would do
'Of course I will go if you send me. I would go anywhere at your
'Then please do. Turn to the right when you get out into the
Keene stood for an instant with his eyes on the ground, then sighed
deeply--groaned, in fact--smote his breast, and marched towards the
door like a soldier at drill. As soon as he had turned his back
Alice gathered herself from the couch, and, as soon as she stood
upright, called to him.
He halted and faced round.
'You needn't go unless you like, you know.'
He almost ran towards her.
'Just ring the bell, will you? I want some tea, and I'll give you a
cup if you care for it.'
She took a seat, and indicated with a finger the place where he
might repose. It was at a three yards' distance. Then they talked as
they were wont to, with much coquetry on Alice's side, and on
Keene's always humble submissiveness tempered with glances and
sighs. They drank tea, and Keene used the opportunity of putting
down his cup to take a nearer seat.
'Is there any hope for me? You remember you said I was to wait a
month, and I've waited longer.'
'Yes, you have been very good,' said Alice, smiling loftily.
'Is there any hope for me?' he repeated, with an air of
'Less than ever,' was the girl's reply, lightly given, indeed, but
not to be mistaken for a jest.
'You mean that? Come, now, you don't really mean that? There must
be, at all events, as much hope as before.'
'There isn't. There never was so little hope. There's no hope at
all, _not a scrap_!'
She pressed her lips and looked at him with a grave face. He too
became grave, and in a changed way.
'I am not to take this seriously?' he asked with bated breath.
'You are. There's not one scrap of hope, and it's better you should
'Then--there--there must be somebody else?' he groaned, his distress
no longer humorous.
Alice continued to look him in the face for a moment, and at length
'There _is_ somebody else?'
She nodded three times.
'Then I'll go. Good-bye, Miss Mutimer. Yes, I'll go.'
He did not offer to shake hands, but bowed and moved away
'But you're not going back to London?' Alice asked.
'You'd better not do that. They'll know you've called. You'd far
better stay and see Dick; don't you think so?'
He shook his head and still moved towards the door.
'Mr. Keene!' Alice raised her voice. 'Please do as I tell you. It
isn't my fault, and I don't see why you should pay no heed to me all
at once. Will you attend to me, Mr. Keene?'
'What do you wish me to do?' he asked, only half turning.
'To go and see Mrs. Mutimer in the garden, and accept her invitation
'I haven't got a dress-suit,' he groaned.
'No matter. If you go away I'll never speak to you again, and you
know you wouldn't like that.'
He gazed at her miserably--his face was one which lent itself to a
miserable expression, and the venerable appearance of his frockcoat
and light trousers filled in the picture of mishap.
'Have you been joking with me?'
'No, I've been telling you the truth. But that's no reason why you
should break loose all at once. Please do as I tell you; go to the
garden now and stop to dinner. I am not accustomed to ask a thing
She was almost serious. Keene smiled in a sickly way, bowed, and
went to do her bidding.
Among the little girls who had received invitations to the tea-party
were two named Rendal, the children of the man whose dismissal from
New Wanley had been announced by Mutimer. Adela was rather surprised
to see them in the garden. They were eight and nine years old
respectively, and she noticed that both had a troubled countenance,
the elder showing signs of recent tears. She sought them out
particularly for kind words during tea-time. After the reading she
noticed them standing apart, talking to each other earnestly; she
saw also that they frequently glanced at her. It occurred to her
that they might wish to say something and had a difficulty in
approaching. She went to them, and a question or two soon led the
elder girl to disclose that she was indeed desirous of speaking in
private. Giving a hand to each, she drew them a little apart. Then
both children began to cry, and the elder sobbed out a pitiful
story. Their mother was wretchedly ill and had sent them to implore
Mrs. Mutimer's good word that the father might be allowed another
chance. It was true he had got drunk--the words sounded terrible to
Adela from the young lips--but he vowed that henceforth he would
touch no liquor. It was ruin to the family to be sent away; Rendal
might not find work for long enough; there would be nothing for it
but to go to a Belwick slum as long as their money lasted, and
thence to the workhouse. For it was well understood that no man who
had worked at New Wanley need apply to the ordinary employers; they
would have nothing to do with him. The mother would have come
herself, but could not walk the distance.
Adela was pierced with compassion.
'I will do my best,' she said, as soon as she could trust her voice.
'I promise you I will do my best.'
She could not say more, and the children evidently hoped she would
have been able to grant their father's pardon forthwith. They had to
be content with Adela's promise, which did not sound very cheerful,
but meant more than they could understand.
She could not do more than give such a promise, and even as she
spoke there was a coldness about her heart. The coldness became a
fear when she met her husband on his return from the works. Richard
was not in the same good temper as at mid-day. He was annoyed to
find Keene in the house--of late he had grown to dislike the
journalist very cordially--and he had heard that the Rendal children
had been to the party, which enraged him. You remember he accused
the man of impudence in addition to the offence of drunkenness.
Rendal, foolishly joking in his cups, had urged as extenuation of
his own weakness the well-known fact that 'Arry Mutimer had been
seen one evening unmistakably intoxicated in the street of Wanley
village. Someone reported these words to Richard, and from that
moment it was all over with the Rendals.
Adela, in her eagerness to plead, quite forgot (or perhaps she had
never known) that with a certain order of men it is never wise to
prefer a request immediately before dinner. She was eager, too, to
speak at once; a fear, which she would not allow to become definite,
drove her upon the undertaking without delay. Meeting Richard on the
stairs she begged him to come to her room.
'What is it?' he asked with small ceremony, as soon as the door
closed behind him.
She mastered her voice, and spoke with a sweet clearness of advocacy
which should have moved his heart to proud and noble obeisance.
Mutimer was not very accessible to such emotions.
'It's like the fellow's impertinence,' he said, 'to send his
children to you. I'm rather surprised you let them stay after what I
had told you. Certainly I shall not overlook it. The thing's
finished I it's no good talking about it.'
The fear had passed, but the coldness about her heart was more
deadly. For a moment it seemed as if she could not bring herself to
utter another word; she drew apart, she could not raise her face,
which was beautiful in marble pain. But there came a rush of such
hot anguish as compelled her to speak again. Something more than the
fate of that poor family was at stake. Is not the quality of mercy
indispensable to true nobleness? Had she voiced her very thought,
Adela would have implored him to exalt himself in her eyes, to do a
good deed which cost him some little effort over himself. For she
divined with cruel certainty that it was not the principle that made
'Richard, are you sure that the man has offended before?'
'Oh, of course he has. I've no doubt of it. I remember feeling
uncertain when I admitted him first of all. I didn't like his look.'
'But you have not really had to complain of him before. Your
suspicions _may_ be groundless. And he has a good wife, I feel sure
of that. The children are very clean and nicely dressed. She will
help him to avoid drink in future. It is impossible for him to fail
again, now that he knows how dreadful the results will be to his
wife and his little girls.'
'Pooh! What does he care about them? If I begin letting men off in
that way, I shall be laughed at. There's an end of my authority.
Don't bother your head about them. I must go and get ready for
An end of _my_ authority. Yes, was it not the intelligence of her
maiden heart returning to her? She had no pang from the mere refusal
of a request of hers; Richard had never affected tenderness--not
what she understood as tenderness--and she did not expect it of him.
The union between them had another basis. But the understanding of
his motives was so terribly distinct in her! It had come all at
once; it was like the exposure of something dreadful by the sudden
raising of a veil. And had she not known what the veil covered? Yet
for the poor people's sake, for his own sake, she must try the
'Do you refuse me, Richard? I will be guarantee for him. I promise
you he shall not offend again. He shall apologise humbly to you for
his--his words. You won't really refuse me?'
'What nonsense! How can you promise for him, Adela? Ask for
something reasonable, and you may be sure I shan't refuse you. The
fellow has to go as a warning. It mustn't be thought we're only
playing at making rules. I can't talk any more; I shall keep dinner
Pride helped her to show a smooth face through the evening, and in
the night she conquered herself anew. She expelled those crying
children from her mind; she hardened her heart against their coming
misery. It was wrong to judge her husband so summarily; nay, she had
not judged him, but had given way to a wicked impulse, without
leaving herself a moment to view the case. Did he not understand
better than she what measures were necessary to the success of his
most difficult undertaking? And then was it certain that expulsion
meant ruin to the Rendals? Richard would insist on the letter of the
regulations, just, as he said, for the example's sake; but of course
he would see that the man was put in the way of getting new
employment and did not suffer in the meantime. In the morning she
made atonement to her husband.
'I was wrong in annoying you yesterday,' she said as she walked with
him from the house to the garden gate. 'In such things you are far
better able to judge. You won't let it trouble you?'
It was a form of asceticism; Adela had a joy in humbling herself and
crushing her rebel instincts. She even raised her eyes to
interrogate him. On Richard's face was an uneasy smile, a look of
puzzled reflection. It gratified him intensely to hear such words,
yet he could not hear them without the suspicions of a vulgar nature
brought in contact with nobleness.
'Well, yes,' he replied, 'I think you were a bit too hasty: you're
not practical, you see. It wants a practical man to manage those
kind of things.'
The reply was not such as completes the blessedness of pure
submission. Adela averted her eyes. Another woman would perchance
have sought to assure herself that she was right in crediting him
with private benevolence to the family he was compelled to visit so
severely. Such a question Adela could not ask. It would have been to
betray doubt; she imagined a replying glance which would shame her.
To love, to honour, to obey:--many times daily she repeated to
herself that threefold vow, and hitherto the first article had most
occupied her striving heart. But she must not neglect the second;
perhaps it came first in natural order.
At the gate Richard nodded to her kindly.
'Good-bye. Be a good girl.'
What was it that caused a painful flutter at her heart as he spoke
so? She did not answer, but watched him for a few moments as he
Did _he_ love _her_? The question which she had not asked herself
for a long time came of that heart-tremor. She had been living so
unnatural a life for a newly wedded woman, a life in which the
intellect and the moral faculties held morbid predominance. 'Be a
good girl.' How was it that the simple phrase touched her to emotion
quite different in kind from any thing she had known since her
marriage, more deeply than any enthusiasm, as with a comfort more
sacred than any she had known in prayer? As she turned to go back to
the house a dizziness affected her eyes; she had to stand still for
a moment. Involuntarily she clasped her hands upon her bosom and
looked away into the blue summer sky. Did he love her? She had never
asked him that, and all at once she felt a longing to hasten after
him and utter the question. Would he know what she meant?
Was it the instantaneous reward for having conscientiously striven
to honour him? That there should be love on his side had not
hitherto seemed of so much importance; probably she had taken it for
granted; she had been so preoccupied with her own duties. Yet now it
had all at once become of moment that she should know. 'Be a good
girl.' She repeated the words over and over again, and made much of
them. Perhaps she had given him no opportunity, no encouragement, to
say all he felt; she knew him to be reserved in many things.
As she entered the house the dizziness again troubled her. But it
passed as before.
Mr. Keene, who had stayed over-night, was waiting to take leave of
her; the trap which would carry him to Agworth station had just
driven up. Adela surprised the poor journalist by the warmth with
which she shook his hand, and the kindness of her farewell. She was
not deceived as to the motive of his visit, and just now she allowed
herself to feel sympathy for him, though in truth she did not like
This morning she could not settle to her work. The dreaming mood was
upon her, and she appeared rather to encourage it, seeking a quiet
corner of the garden and watching for a whole hour the sun-dappled
trunk of a great elm. At times her face seemed itself to be a source
of light, so vivid were the thoughts that transformed it Her eyes
were moist once or twice, and then no dream of artist-soul ever
embodied such passionate loveliness, such holy awe, as came to view
upon her countenance. At lunch she was almost silent, but Alice,
happening to glance at her, experienced a surprise; she had never
seen Adela so beautiful and so calmly bright.
After lunch she attired herself for walking, and went to the village
to see her mother. Lest Mrs. Waltham should be lonely, it had been
arranged that Alfred should come home every evening, instead of once
a week. Even thus, Adela had frequently reproached herself for
neglecting her mother. Mrs. Waltham, however, enjoyed much content.
The material comforts of her life were considerably increased, and
she had many things in anticipation. Adela's unsatisfactory health
rendered it advisable that the present year should pass in
quietness, but Mrs. Waltham had made up her mind that before long
there should be a house in London, with the delights appertaining
thereto. She did not feel herself at all too old to enjoy the
outside view of a London season; more than that it would probably be
difficult to obtain just yet. To-day she was in excellent spirits,
and welcomed her daughter exuberantly.
'You haven't seen Letty yet?' she asked. 'To-day, I mean.'
'No. Has she some news for me?'
'Alfred has an excellent chance of promotion. That old Wilkinson is
dead, and he thinks there's no doubt he'll get the place. It would
be two hundred and fifty a year.'
'That's good news, indeed.'
Of course it would mean Letty's immediate marriage. Mrs. Waltham
discussed the prospect in detail. No doubt the best and simplest
arrangement would be for the pair to live on in the same house. For
the present, of course. Alfred was now firm on the commercial
ladder, and in a few years his income would doubtless be
considerable; then a dwelling of a very different kind could be
found. With the wedding, too, she was occupying her thoughts.
'Yours was not quite what it ought to have been, Adela. I felt it at
the time, but then things were done in such a hurry. Of course the
church must be decorated. The breakfast you will no doubt arrange to
have at the Manor. Letty ought to have a nice, a really nice
_trousseau_; I know you will be kind to her, my dear.'
As Alice had done, Mrs. Waltham noticed before long that Adela was
far brighter than usual. She remarked upon it.
'You begin to look really well, my love. It makes me happy to see
you. How much we have to be thankful for! I've had a letter this
morning from poor Lizzie Henbane; I must show it you. They're in
such misery as never was. Her husband's business is all gone to
nothing, and he is cruelly unkind to her. How thankful we ought to
'Surely not for poor Lizzie's unhappiness!' said Adela, with a
return of her maiden archness.
'On our own account, my dear. We have had so much to contend
against. At one time, just after your poor father's death, things
looked very cheerless: I used to fret dreadfully on your account.
But everything, you see, was for the best'
Adela had something to say and could not find the fitting moment.
She first drew her chair a little nearer to her mother.
'Yes, mother, I am happy,' she murmured.
'Silly child! As if I didn't know best. It's always the same, but
_you_ had the good sense to trust to my experience.'
Adela slipped from her seat and put her arms about her mother.
'What is it, dear?'
The reply was whispered. Adela's embrace grew closer; her face was
hidden, and all at once she began to sob.
'Love me, mother! Love me, dear mother!'
Mrs. Waltham beamed with real tenderness. For half an hour they
talked as mother and child alone can. Then Adela walked back to the
Manor, still dreaming. She did not feel able to call and see Letty.
There was an afternoon postal delivery at Wanley, and the postman
had just left the Manor as Adela returned. Alice, who for a wonder
had been walking in the garden, saw the man going away, and,
thinking it possible there might be a letter for her, entered the
house to look. Three letters lay on the hall table; two were for
Richard, the other was addressed to Mrs. Mutimer. This envelope
Alice examined curiously. Whose writing could that be? She certainly
knew it; it was a singular hand, stiff, awkward, untrained. Why, it
was the writing of Emma's sister, Kate, Mrs. Clay. Not a doubt of
it. Alice had received a note from Mrs. Clay at the time of Jane
Vine's death, and remembered comparing the hand with her own and
blessing herself that at all events she wrote with an elegant slope,
and not in that hideous upright scrawl. The post-mark? Yes, it was
London, E.C. But if Kate addressed a letter to Mrs. Mutimer it must
be with sinister design, a design not at all difficult to imagine.
Alice had a temptation. To take this letter and either open it
herself or give it secretly to her brother? But the servant might
somehow make it known that such a letter had arrived.
'Anything for me, Alice?'
It was Adela's voice. She had approached unheard; Alice was so
intent upon her thoughts.
'Yes, one letter.'
There was no help for it. Alice glanced at her sister-in-law, and
strolled away again into the garden.
Adela examined the envelope. She could not conjecture from whom the
letter came; certainly from some illiterate person. Was it for her
husband? Was not the 'Mrs.' a mistake for 'Mr.' or perhaps mere
ill-writing that deceived the eye? No, the prefix was so very
distinct. She opened the envelope where she stood.
'Mrs. Mutimer, I dare say you don't know me nor my name, but I write
to you because I think it only right as you should know the truth
about your husband, and because me and my sister can't go on any
longer as we are. My sister's name is Emma Vine. She was engaged to
be married to Richard M. two years before he knew you, and to the
last he put her off with make-believe and promises, though it was
easy to see what was meant. And when our sister Jane was on her very
death-bed, which she died not a week after he married you, and I
know well as it was grief as killed her. And now we haven't got
enough to eat for Emma and me and my two little children, for I am a
widow myself. But that isn't all. Because he found that his friends
in Hoxton was crying shame on him, he got it said as Emma had
misbehaved herself, which was a cowardly lie, and all to protect
himself. And now Emma is that ill she can't work; it's come upon her
all at once, and what's going to happen God knows. And his own
mother cried shame on him, and wouldn't live no longer in the big
house in Highbury. He offered us money--I will say so much--but Emma
was too proud, and wouldn't hear of it. And then he went giving her
a bad name. What do you think of your husband now, Mrs. Mutimer? I
don't expect nothing, but it's only right you should know. Emma
wouldn't take anything, not if she was dying of starvation, but I've
got my children to think of. So that's all I have to say, and I'm
glad I've said it.--Yours truly, KATE CLAY.'
Adela remained standing for a few moments when she had finished the
letter, then went slowly to her room.
Alice returned from the garden in a short time. In passing through
the hall she looked again at the two letters which remained. Neither
of them had a sinister appearance; being addressed to the Manor they
probably came from personal friends. She went to the drawing-room
and glanced around for Adela, but the room was empty. Richard would
not be home for an hour yet; she took up a novel and tried to pass
the time so, but she had a difficulty in fixing her attention. In
the end she once more left the house, and, after a turn or two on
the lawn, strolled out of the gate.
She met her brother a hundred yards along the road. The sight of her
'What's up now, Princess?' he exclaimed. 'House on fire? Novels run
'Something that I expect you won't care to hear. Who do you think's
been writing to Adela? Someone in London.'
Richard stayed his foot, and looked at his sister with the eyes
which suggested disagreeable possibilities.
'Who do you mean?' he asked briefly. 'Not mother?'
The change in him was very sudden. He had been merry and smiling.
'No; worse than that. She's got a letter from Kate.'
'From Kate? Emma's sister?' he asked in a low voice of surprise
which would have been dismay had he not governed himself.
'I saw it on the hall table; I remember her writing well enough.
Just as I was looking at it Adela came in.'
'Have you seen her since?'
Alice shook her head. She had this way of saving words. Richard
walked on. His first movement of alarm had passed, and now he
affected to take the matter with indifference. During the week
immediately following his marriage he had been prepared for this
very incident; the possibility had been one of the things he faced
with a certain recklessness. But impunity had set his mind at ease,
and the news in the first instant struck him with a trepidation
which a few minutes' thought greatly allayed. By a mental process
familiar enough he at first saw the occurrence as he had seen it in
the earlier days of his temptation, when his sense of honour yet
gave him frequent trouble; he had to exert himself to recover his
present standpoint. At length he smiled.
'Just like that woman,' he said, turning half an eye on Alice.
'If she means trouble, you'll have it,' returned the girl
'Well, it's no doubt over by this time.'
'Over? Beginning, I should say,' remarked Alice, swinging her
parasol at a butterfly.
They finished their walk to the house in silence, and Richard went
at once to his dressing-room. Here he sat down. After all, his
mental disquiet was not readily to be dismissed; it even grew as he
speculated and viewed likelihoods from all sides. Probably Kate had
made a complete disclosure. How would it affect Adela?
You must not suppose that his behaviour in the case of the man
Rendal had argued disregard for Adela's opinion of him. Richard was
incapable of understanding how it struck his wife, that was all. If
he reflected on the matter, no doubt he was very satisfied with
himself, feeling that he had displayed a manly resolution and
consistency. But the present difficulty was grave. Whatever Adela
might say, there could be no doubt as to her thought; she would
henceforth--yes, despise him. That cut his thick skin to the quick;
his nature was capable of smarting when thus assailed. For he had by
no means lost his early reverence for Adela; nay, in a sense it had
increased. His primitive ideas on woman had undergone a change since
his marriage. Previously he had considered a wife in the light of
property; intellectual or moral independence he could not attribute
to her. But he had learnt that Adela was by no means his chattel. He
still knew diffidence when he was inclined to throw a joke at her,
and could not take her hand without involuntary respect--a sensation
which occasionally irritated him. A dim inkling of what was meant by
woman's strength and purity had crept into his mind; he knew--in his
heart he knew--that he was unworthy to touch her garment. And, to
face the whole truth, he all but loved her; that was the meaning of
his mingled sentiments with regard to her. A danger of losing her in
the material sense would have taught him that better than he as yet
knew it; the fear of losing her respect was not attributable solely
to his restless egoism. He had wedded her in quite another frame of
mind than that in which he now found himself when he thought of her.
He cared much for the high opinion of people in general; Adela was
all but indispensable to him. When he said, 'My wife,' he must have
been half-conscious that the word bore a significance different from
that he had contemplated. On the lips of those among whom he had
grown up the word is desecrated, or for the most part so; it has
contemptible, and ridiculous, and vile associations, scarcely ever
its true meaning. Formerly he would have laughed at the thought of
standing in awe of his wife; nay, he could not have conceived the
possibility of such a thing; it would have appeared unnatural,
incompatible with the facts of wedded life. Yet he sat here and
almost dreaded to enter her presence.
A man of more culture might have thought: A woman cannot in her
heart be revolted because another has been cast off for her. Mutimer
could not reason so far. It would have been reasoning inapplicable
to Adela, but from a certain point of view it might have served as a
resource. Richard could only accept his instincts.
But it was useless to postpone the interview; come of it what would,
he must have it over and done with. He could not decide how to speak
until he knew what the contents of Kate's letter were. He was
nervously anxious to know.
Adela sat in her boudoir, with a book open on her lap. After the
first glance on his entering she kept her eyes down. He sauntered up
and stood before her in an easy attitude.
'Who has been writing to you from London?' he at once asked,
abruptly in consequence of the effort to speak without constraint.
Adela was not prepared for such a question. She remembered all at
once that Alice had seen the letter as it lay on the table. Why had
Alice spoken to her brother about it? There could be only one
explanation of that, and of his coming thus directly. She raised her
eyes for a moment, and a slight shock seemed to affect her.
She was unconscious how long she delayed her reply.
'Can't you tell me?' Richard said, with more roughness than he
intended. He was suffering, and suffering affected his temper.
Adela drew the letter from her pocket and in silence handed it to
him. He read it quickly, and, before the end was reached, had
promptly chosen his course.
'What do you think of this?' was his question, as he folded the
letter and rolled it in his hand. He was smiling, and enjoyed
'I cannot think,' fell from Adela's lips. 'I am waiting for jour
He noticed at length, now he was able to inspect her calmly, that
she looked faint, pain-stricken.
'Alice told me who had written to you,' Richard pursued, in his
frankest tones. 'It was well she saw the letter; you might have said
'That would have been very unjust to you,' said Adela in a low
regular voice. 'I could only have done that if--if I had believed
'You don't altogether believe it, then?'
She looked at him with full eyes and made answer:
'You are my husband.'
It echoed in his ears; not to many men does it fall to hear those
words so spoken. Another would have flung himself at her feet and
prayed to her. Mutimer only felt a vast relief, mingled with
gratitude. The man all but flattered himself that she had done him
'Well, you are quite right,' he spoke. 'It isn't true, and if you
knew this woman you would understand the whole affair. I dare say
you can gather a good deal from the way she writes. It's true enough
that I was engaged to her sister, but it was broken off before I
knew you, and for the reasons she says here. I'm not going to talk
to you about things of that kind; I dare say you wouldn't care to
hear them. Of course she says I made it all up. Do you think I'm the
kind of man to do that?'
Perhaps she did not know that she was gazing at him. The question
interrupted her in a train of thought which was going on in her mind
even while she listened. She was asking herself why, when they were
in London, he had objected to a meeting between her and his mother.
He had said his mother was a crotchety old woman who could not make
up her mind to the changed circumstances, and was intensely
prejudiced against women above her own class. Was that a very
convincing description? She had accepted it at the time, but now,
after reading this letter--? But could any man speak with that
voice and that look, and lie? Her agitation grew intolerable. Answer
she must; could she, could she say 'No' with truth? Answer she must,
for he waited. In the agony of striving for voice there came upon
her once more that dizziness of the morning, but in a more severe
form. She struggled, felt her breath failing, tried to rise, and
fell back unconscious.
At the same time Alice was sitting in the drawing-room, in
conversation with Mr. Willis Rodman. 'Arry having been invited for
this evening, Rodman was asked with him, as had been the case
before. 'Arry was at present amusing himself in the stables,
exchanging sentiments with the groom. Rodman sat near Alice, or
rather he knelt upon a chair, so that at any moment he could assume
a standing attitude before her. He talked in a low voice.
'You'll come out to-night?'
'No, not to-night. You must speak to him to-night.'
'Why shouldn't you?' resumed the girl eagerly, in a tone as unlike
that she used to Mr. Keene as well could be. She was in earnest; her
eyes never moved from her companion's face; her lips trembled. 'Why
should you put it off? I can't see why we keep it a secret. Dick
can't have a word to say against it; you know he can't. Tell him
to-night after dinner. Do! do!'
Rodman frowned in thought.
'He won't like it.'
'But why not? I believe he will. He will, he shall, he must! I'm not
to depend on him, surely?'
'A day or two more, Alice.'
'I can't keep up the shamming!' she exclaimed. 'Adela suspects, I
feel sure. Whenever you come in I feel that hot and red.' She
laughed and blushed. 'If you won't do as I tell you, I'll give you
up, I will indeed!'
Rodman stroked his moustache, smiling.
'You will, will you?'
'See if I don't. To-night! It must be to-night! Shall I call you a
pretty name? it's only because I couldn't bear to be found out
before you tell him.'
He still stroked his moustache. His handsome face was half amused,
half troubled. At last he said:
'Very well; to-night.'
Shortly after, Mutimer came into the room.
'Adela isn't up to the mark,' he said to Alice. 'She'd better have
dinner by herself, I think; but she'll join us afterwards.'
Brother and sister exchanged looks.
'Oh, it's only a headache or something of the kind,' he continued.
'It'll be all right soon.'
And he began to talk with Rodman cheerfully, so that Alice felt it
must really be all right. She drew aside and looked into a novel.
Adela did appear after dinner, very pale and silent, but with a
smile on her face. There had been no further conversation between
her and her husband. She talked a little with 'Arry, in her usual
gentle way, then asked to be allowed to say goodnight. 'Arry at the
same time took his leave, having been privately bidden to do so by
his sister. He was glad enough to get away; in the drawing-room his
limbs soon began to ache, from inability to sit at his ease.
Then Alice withdrew, and the men were left alone.
Adela did not go to bed. She suffered from the closeness of the
evening and sat by her open windows, trying to read a chapter in the
New Testament. About eleven o'clock she had a great desire to walk
upon the garden grass for a few minutes before undressing; perhaps
it might help her to the sleep she so longed for yet feared she
would not obtain. The desire became so strong that she yielded to
it, passed quietly downstairs, and out into the still night. She
directed her steps to her favourite remote corner. There was but
little moonlight, and scarcely a star was visible. When she neared
the laburnums behind which she often sat or walked, her ear caught
the sound of voices. They came nearer, on the other side of the
trees. The first word which she heard distinctly bound her to the
spot and forced her to listen.
'No, I shan't put it off.' It was Alice speaking. 'I know what comes
of that kind of thing. I am old enough to be my own mistress.'
'You are not twenty-one,' replied Richard in an annoyed voice. 'I
shall do everything I can to put it off till you are of age. Rodman
is a good enough fellow in his place; but it isn't hard to see why
he's talked you over in this way.'
'He hasn't talked me over!' cried Alice, passionately. 'I needn't
have listened if I hadn't liked.'
'You're a foolish girl, and you want someone to look after you. If
you'll only wait you can make a good marriage. This would be a bad
one, in every sense.'
'I shall marry him.'
'And I shall prevent it. It's for your own sake, Alice.'
'If you try to prevent it--I'll tell Adela everything about Emma I
I'll tell her the whole plain truth, and I'll prove it to her. So
hinder me if you dare!'
Alice hastened away.
In the month of September Mr. Wyvern was called upon to unite in
holy matrimony two pairs in whom we are interested. Alice Mutimer
became Mrs. Willis Rodman, and Alfred Waltham took home a bride who
suited him exactly, seeing that she was never so happy as when
submitting herself to a stronger will. Alfred and Letty ran away and
hid themselves in South Wales. Mr. and Mrs. Rodman fled to the
Half Alice's fortune was settled upon herself, her brother and
Alfred Waltham being trustees. This was all Mutimer could do. He
disliked the marriage intensely, and not only because he had set his
heart on a far better match for Alice; he had no real confidence in
Rodman. Though the latter's extreme usefulness and personal tact had
from the first led Richard to admit him to terms of intimacy, time
did not favour the friendship. Mutimer, growing daily more ambitious
and more punctilious in his intercourse with all whom, notwithstanding
his principles, he deemed inferiors from the social point of view,
often regretted keenly that he had allowed any relation between
himself and Rodman more than that of master and man. Experience
taught him how easily he might have made the most of Rodman
without granting him a single favour. The first suggestion of
the marriage enraged him; in the conversation with Rodman, which
took place, moreover, at an unfavourable moment, he lost his temper
and flung out very broad hints indeed as to the suitor's motives.
Rodman was calm; life had instructed him in the advantages of a
curbed tongue; but there was heightened colour on his face, and his
demeanour much resembled that of a proud man who cares little to
justify himself, but will assuredly never forget an insult. It was
one of the peculiarities of this gentleman that his exterior was
most impressive when the inner man was most busy with ignoble or
But for Alice's sake Mutimer could not persist in his hostility.
Alice had a weapon which he durst not defy, and, the marriage being
inevitable, he strove hard to see it in a more agreeable light, even
tried to convince himself that his prejudice against Rodman was
groundless. He loved his sister, and for her alone would put up with
things otherwise intolerable. It was a new exasperation when he
discovered that Rodman could not be persuaded to continue his work
at New Wanley. All inducements proved vain. Richard had hoped that
at least one advantage might come of the marriage, that Rodman would
devote capital to the works; but Rodman's Socialism cooled strangely
from the day when his ends were secured. He purposed living in
London, and Alice was delighted to encourage him. The girl had
visions of a life such as the heroines of certain novels rejoice in.
For a wonder, her husband was indispensable to the brightness of
that future. Rodman had inspired her with an infatuation. Their
relations once declared, she grudged him every moment he spent away
from her. It was strangely like true passion, the difference only
marked by an extravagant selfishness. She thought of no one, cared
for no one, but herself, Rodman having become part of that self.
With him she was imperiously slavish; her tenderness was a kind of
greed; she did not pretend to forgive her brother for his threatened
opposition, and, having got hold of the idea that Adela took part
against Rodman, she hated her and would not be alone in her company
for a moment. On her marriage day she refused Adela's offered kiss
and did her best to let everyone see how delighted she was to leave
The autumn was a time of physical suffering for Adela. Formerly she
had sought to escape her mother's attentions, now she accepted them
with thankfulness. Mrs. Waltham had grave fears for her daughter;
doctors suspected some organic disease, one summoned from London
going so far as to hint at a weakness of the chest. Early in
November it was decided to go south for the winter, and Exmouth was
chosen, chiefly because Mrs. Westlake was spending a month there.
Mr. Westlake, whose interest in Adela had grown with each visit he
paid to the Manor, himself suggested the plan. Mrs. Waltham and
Adela left Wanley together; Mutimer promised visits as often as be
could manage to get away. Since Rodman's departure Richard found
himself overwhelmed with work. None the less he resolutely pursued
the idea of canvassing Belwick at the coming general election.
Opposition, from whomsoever it came, aggravated him. He was more
than ever troubled about the prospects of New Wanley; there even
loomed before his mind a possible abandonment of the undertaking. He
had never contemplated the sacrifice of his fortune, and though
anything of that kind was still very far off, it was daily more
difficult for him to face with equanimity even moderate losses.
Money had fostered ambition, and ambition full grown had more need
than ever of its nurse. New Wanley was no longer an end in itself,
but a stepping-stone You must come to your own conclusions in
judging the value of Mutimer's social zeal; the facts of his life up
to this time are before you, and you will not forget how complex a
matter is the mind of a strong man with whom circumstances have
dealt so strangely. His was assuredly not the vulgar self-seeking of
the gilded _bourgeois_ who covets an after-dinner sleep on
Parliamentary benches. His ignorance of the machinery of government
was profound; though he spoke scornfully of Parliament and its
members, he had no conception of those powers of dulness and
respectability which seize upon the best men if folly lures them
within the precincts of St. Stephen's. He thought, poor fellow! that
he could rise in his place and thunder forth his indignant eloquence
as he did in Commonwealth Hall and elsewhere; he imagined a
conscience-stricken House, he dreamed of passionate debates on a
Bill which really had the good of the people for its sole object.
Such Bill would of course bear _his_ name; shall we condemn him for
Adela was at Exmouth, drinking the mild air, wondering whether there
was in truth a life to come, and, if so, whether it was a life
wherein Love and Duty were at one. A year ago such thoughts could
not have entered her mind. But she had spent several weeks in close
companionship with Stella Westlake, and Stella's influence was
subtle. Mrs. Westlake had come here to regain strength after a
confinement; the fact drew her near to Adela, whose time for giving
birth to a child was not far off.
Adela at first regarded this friend with much the same feeling of
awe as mingled with Letty's affection for Adela herself. Stella
Westlake was not only possessed of intellectual riches which Adela
had had no opportunity of gaining; her character was so full of
imaginative force, of dreamy splendours, that it addressed itself to
a mind like Adela's with magic irresistible and permanent. No rules
of the polite world applied to Stella; she spoke and acted with an
independence so spontaneous that it did not suggest conscious
opposition to the received ways of thought to which ordinary women
are confined, but rather a complete ignorance of. them. Adela felt
herself startled, but never shocked, even when the originality went.
most counter to her own prejudices; it was as though she had drunk a
draught of most unexpected flavour, the effect of which was to set
her nerves delightfully trembling, and make her long to taste it
again. It. was not an occasional effect, the result of an effort on
Stella's part to surprise or charm; the commonest words had novel
meanings when uttered in her voice; a profound sincerity seemed to
inspire every lightest question or remark. Her presence was
agitating; she had but to enter the room and sit in silence, and
Adela forthwith was raised from the depression of her broodings to a
vividness of being, an imaginative energy, such as she had never
known. Adela doubted for some time whether Stella regarded her with
affection; the little demonstrations in which women are wont to
indulge were incompatible with that grave dreaminess, and Stella
seemed to avoid even the common phrases of friendship. But one day,
when Adela had not been well enough to rise, and as she lay on the
borderland of sleeping and waking, she half dreamt, half knew, that
a face bent over her, and that lips were pressed against her own;
and such a thrill struck through her that, though now fully
conscious, she had not power to stir, but lay as in the moment of
some rapturous death. For when the presence entered into her dream,
when the warmth melted upon her lips, she imagined it the kiss which
might once have come to her but now was lost for ever. It was pain
to open her eyes, but when she did so, and met Stella's silent gaze,
she knew that love was offered her, a love of which it was needless
Mrs. Waltham was rather afraid of Stella; privately she doubted
whether the poor thing was altogether in her perfect mind. When the
visitor came the mother generally found occupation or amusement
elsewhere, conversation with Stella was so extremely difficult. Mr.
Westlake was also at Exmouth, but much engaged in literary work.
There was, too, an artist and his family, with whom the Westlakes
were acquainted, their name Boscobel. Mrs. Boscobel was a woman of
the world, five-and-thirty, charming, intelligent; she read little,
but was full of interest in literary and artistic matters, and
talked as only a woman can who has long associated with men of
brains. To her Adela was interesting, personally and still more as
an illustration of a social experiment.
'How young she is!' was her remark to Mr. Westlake shortly after
making Adela's acquaintance. 'It will amuse you, the thought I had;
I really must tell it you. She realises my idea of a virgin mother.
Haven't you felt anything of the kind?'
Mr. Westlake smiled.
'Yes, I understand. Stella said something evidently traceable to the
same impression; her voice, she said, is full of forgiveness.'
'Excellent! And has she much to forgive, do you think?'
'I hope not.'
'Yet she is not exactly happy, I imagine?'
Mr. Westlake did not care to discuss the subject. The lady had
recourse to Stella for some account of Mr. Mutimer.
'He is a strong man,' Stella said in a tone which betrayed the
Socialist's enthusiasm. 'He stands for earth-subduing energy. I
imagine him at a forge, beating fire out of iron.'
'H'm! That's not quite the same thing as imagining him that
beautiful child's husband. No education, I suppose?'
'Sufficient. With more, he would no longer fill the place he does.
He can speak eloquently; he is the true voice of the millions who
cannot speak their own thoughts. If he were more intellectual he
would become commonplace; I hope he will never see further than he
does now. Isn't a perfect type more precious than a man who is
neither one thing nor another?'
'Artistically speaking, by all means.'
'In his case I don't mean it artistically. He is doing a great
'A friend of mine--you don't know Hubert Eldon, I think?--tells me
he has ruined one of the loveliest valleys in England.'
'Yes, I dare say he has done that. It is an essential part of his
protest against social wrong. The earth renews itself, but a dead
man or woman who has lived without joy can never be recompensed.'
'She, of course, is strongly of the same opinion?'
'Adela is a Socialist.'
Mrs. Boscobel laughed rather satirically.
'I doubt it.'
Stella, when she went to sit with Adela, either at home or by the
sea-shore, often carried a book in her hand, and at Adela's request
she read aloud. In this way Adela first came to know what was meant
by literature, as distinguished from works of learning. The verse of
Shelley and the prose of Landor fell upon her ears; it was as though
she had hitherto lived in deafness. Sometimes she had to beg the
reader to pause for that day; her heart and mind seemed overfull;
she could not even speak of these new things, but felt the need of
lying back in twilight to marvel and repeat melodies.
Mrs. Boscobel happened to approach them once whilst this reading was
'You are educating her?' she said to Stella afterwards.
'Perhaps--a little,' Stella replied absently.
'Isn't it just a trifle dangerous?' suggested the understanding
'The wife of the man who makes sparks fly out of iron? The man who
is on no account to learn anything?'
Stella shook her head, saying, 'You don't know her.'
'I should much like to,' was Mrs. Boscobel's smiling rejoinder.
In Stella's company it did not seem very likely that Adela would
lose her social enthusiasm, yet danger there was, and that precisely
on account of Mrs. Westlake's idealist tendencies. When she spoke of
the toiling multitude, she saw them in a kind of exalted vision; she
beheld them glorious in their woe, ennobled by the tyranny under
which they groaned. She had seen little if anything of the
representative proletarian, and perchance even if she had the
momentary impression would have faded in the light of her burning
soul. Now Adela was in the very best position for understanding
those faults of the working class which are ineradicable in any one
generation. She knew her husband, knew him better than ever now that
she regarded him from a distance; she knew 'Arry Mutimer; and now
she was getting to appreciate with a thoroughness impossible
hitherto, the monstrous gulf between men of that kind and cultured
human beings. She had, too, studied the children and the women of
New Wanley, and the results of such study were arranging themselves
in her mind. All unconsciously, Stella Westlake was cooling Adela's
zeal with every fervid word she uttered; Adela at times with
difficulty restrained herself from crying, 'But it is a mistake!
They have not these feelings you attribute to them. Such suffering
as you picture them enduring comes only of the poetry-fed soul at
issue with fate.' She could not as yet have so expressed herself,
but the knowledge was growing within her. For Adela was not by
nature a social enthusiast. When her heart leapt at Stella's chant,
it was not in truth through contagion of sympathy, but in admiration
and love of the noble woman who could thus think and speak.
Adela--and who will not be thankful for it?--was, before all
things, feminine; her true enthusiasms were personal. It was a
necessity of her nature to love a human being, this or that one, not
a crowd. She had been starving, killing the self which was her
value. This home on the Devon coast received her like an earthly
paradise; looking back on New Wanley, she saw it murky and lurid; it
was hard to believe that the sun ever shone there. But for the most