Part 8 out of 12
part, she tried to keep it altogether from her mind, tried to
dissociate her husband from his public tasks, and to remember him as
the man with whom her life was irrevocably bound up. When delight in
Stella's poetry was followed by fear, she strengthened herself by
thought of the child she bore beneath her heart; for that child's
sake she would accept the beautiful things offered to her, some day
to bring them, as rich gifts to the young life. Her own lot was
fixed; she might not muse upon it, she durst not consider it too
deeply. There were things in the past which she had determined, if
by any means it were possible, utterly to forget. For the future,
there was her child.
Mutimer came to Exmouth when she had been there three weeks, and he
stayed four days. Mrs. Boscobel had an opportunity of making his
'Who contrived that marriage?' she asked of Mr. Westlake
subsequently. 'Our lady mother, presumably.'
'I have no reason to think it was not well done,' replied Mr.
Westlake with reserve.
'Most skilfully done, no doubt,' rejoined the lady.
But at the end of the year, the Westlakes returned to London, the
Boscobels shortly after. Mrs. Waltham and her daughter had made no
other close connections, and Adela's health alone allowed of her
leaving the house for a short drive on sunny days. At the end of
February the child was born prematurely; it entered the world only
to leave it again. For a week they believed that Adela would die.
Scarcely was she pronounced out of danger by the end of March. But
after that she recovered strength.
May saw her at Wanley once more. She had become impatient to return.
The Parliamentary elections were very near at hand, and Mutimer
almost lived in Belwick; it seemed to Adela that duty required her
to be near him, as well as to supply his absence from New Wanley as
much as was possible. She was still only the ghost of her former
self, but disease no longer threatened her, and activity alone could
completely restore her health. She was anxious to recommence her
studies, to resume her readings to the children; and she desired to
see Mr. Wyvern. She understood by this time why he had chosen
Andersen's Tales for her readings; of many other things which he had
said, causing her doubt, the meaning was now clear enough to her.
She had so much to talk of with the vicar, so many questions to put
to him, not a few of a kind that would--she thought--surprise and
trouble him. None the less, they must be asked and answered. Part of
her desire to see him again was merely the result of her longing for
the society of well-read and thoughtful people. She knew that he
would appear to her in a different light from formerly; she would be
far better able to understand him.
She began by seeking his opinion of her husband's chances in
Belwick. Mr. Wyvern shook his head and said frankly that he thought
there was no chance at all. Mutimer was looked upon in the borough
as a mischievous interloper, who came to make disunion in the
Radical party. The son of a lord and an ironmaster of great
influence were the serious candidates. Had he seen fit, Mr. Wyvern
could have mentioned not a few lively incidents in the course of the
political warfare; such, for instance, as the appearance of a neat
little pamphlet which purported to give a full and complete account
of Mutimer's life. In this pamphlet nothing untrue was set down, nor
did it contain anything likely to render its publisher amenable to
the law of libel; but the writer, a gentleman closely connected with
Comrade Roodhouse, most skilfully managed to convey the worst
possible impression throughout. Nor did the vicar hesitate to
express his regret that Mutimer should be seeking election at all.
Adela felt with him.
She found Richard in a strange state of chronic excitement. On
whatever subject he spoke it was with the same nervous irritation,
and the slightest annoyance set him fuming. To her he paid very
little attention, and for the most part seemed disinclined to
converse with her; Adela found it necessary to keep silence on
political matters; once or twice he replied to her questions with a
rough impatience which kept her miserable throughout the day, so
much had it revealed of the working man. As the election day
approached she suffered from a sinking of the heart, almost a bodily
fear; a fear the same in kind as that of the wretched woman who
anticipates the return of a brute-husband late on Saturday night.
The same in kind; no reasoning would overcome it. She worked hard
all day long, that at night she might fall on deep sleep. Again she
had taken up her hard German books, and was also busy with French
histories of revolution, which did indeed fascinate her, though, as
she half perceived, solely by the dramatic quality of the stories
they told. And at length the morning of her fear had come.
When he left home Mutimer bade her not expect him till the following
day. She spent the hours in loneliness and misery. Mr. Wyvern
called, but even him she begged through a servant to excuse her; her
mother likewise came, and her she talked with for a few minutes,
then pleaded headache. At nine o'clock in the evening she went to
her bedroom. She had a soporific at hand, remaining from the time of
her illness, and in dread of a sleepless night she had recourse to
It seemed to her that she had slept a very long time when a great
and persistent noise awoke her. It was someone knocking at her door,
even, as she at length became aware, turning the handle and shaking
it. Being alone, she had locked herself in. She sprang from bed, put
on her dressing-gown, and went to the door. Then came her husband's
voice, impatiently calling her name. She admitted him.
Through the white blind the morning twilight just made objects
visible in the room; Adela afterwards remembered noticing the drowsy
pipe of a bird near the window. Mutimer came in, and, without
closing the door, began to demand angrily why she had locked him
out. Only now she quite shook off her sleep, and could perceive that
there was something unusual in his manner. He smelt strongly of
tobacco, and, as she fancied, of spirits; but it was his staggering
as he moved to draw up the blind that made her aware of his
condition. She found afterwards that he had driven all the way from
Belwick, and the marvel was that he had accomplished such a feat;
probably his horse deserved most of the credit. When he had pulled
the blind up, he turned, propped himself against the dressing-table,
and gazed at her with terribly lack-lustre eyes. Then she saw the
expression of his face change; there came upon it a smile such as
she had never seen or imagined, a hideous smile that made her blood
cold. Without speaking, he threw himself forward and came towards
her. For an instant she was powerless, paralysed with terror; but
happily she found utterance for a cry, and that released her limbs.
Before he could reach her, she had darted out of the room, and fled
to another chamber, that which Alice had formerly occupied, where
she locked herself against him. To her surprise he did not discover
her retreat; she heard him moving about the passages, stumbling here
and there, then he seemed to return to his bedroom. She wrapped
herself in a counterpane, and sat in a chair till it was full
He was absent for a week after that. Of course his polling at the
election had been ridiculously small compared with that of the other
candidates. When he returned he went about his ordinary occupations;
he was seemingly not in his usual health, but the constant
irritableness had left him. Adela tried to bear herself as though
nothing unwonted had come to pass, but Mutimer scarcely spoke when
at home; if he addressed her it was in a quick, off-hand way, and
without looking at her. Adela again lived almost alone. Her mother
and Letty understood that she preferred this. Letty had many
occupations; before long she hoped to welcome her first child. The
children of New Wanley still came once a week to the Manor; Adela
endeavoured to amuse them, to make them thoughtful, but it had
become a hard, hard task. Only with Mr. Wyvern did she occasionally
speak without constraint, though not of course without reserve;
speech of _that_ kind she feared would never again be possible to
her. Still she felt that the vicar saw far into her life. On some
topics she was more open than she had hitherto ventured to be; a
boldness, almost a carelessness, for which she herself could not
account, possessed her at such times.
Late in June she received from Stella Westlake a pressing invitation
to come and spend a fortnight in London. It was like sunshine to her
heart; almost without hesitation she re solved to accept it. Her
husband offered no objection, seemed to treat the proposal with
indifference. Later in the day he said:
'If you have time, you might perhaps give Alice a call.'
'I shall do that as soon as ever I can.'
He had something else to say.
'Perhaps Mrs. Westlake might ask her to come, whilst you are there.'
'Very likely, I think,' Adela replied, with an attempt at
It was only her second visit to London: the first had been in winter
time, and under conditions which had not allowed her to attend to
anything she saw. But for Stella's presence there she would have
feared London; her memory of it was like that of an ill dream long
past; her mind only reverted to it in darkest hours, and then she
shuddered. But now she thought only of Stella; Stella was light and
joy, a fountain of magic waters. Her arrival at the house in Avenue
Road was one of the most blissful moments she had ever known. The
servant led her upstairs to a small room, where the veiled sun made
warmth on rich hangings, on beautiful furniture, on books and
pictures, on ferns and flowers. The goddess of this sanctuary was
alone; as the door opened the notes of a zither trembled into
silence, and Adela saw a light-robed loveliness rise and stand
before her. Stella took both her hands very gently, then looked into
her face with eyes which seemed to be new from some high vision,
then drew her within the paradise of an embrace. The kiss was once
more like that first touch of lips which had come to Adela on the
verge of sleep; she quivered through her frame.
Mr. Westlake shortly joined them, and spoke with an extreme kindness
which completed Adela's sense of being at home. No one disturbed
them through the evening; Adela went to bed early and slept without
Stella and her husband talked of her in the night. Mr. Westlake had,
at the time of the election, heard for the first time the story of
Mutimer and the obscure work-girl in Hoxton, and had taken some
trouble to investigate it. It had not reached his ears when the
Hoxton Socialists made it a subject of public discussion; Comrade
Roodhouse had inserted only a very general report of the proceedings
in his paper the 'Tocsin, and even this Mr. Westlake had not seen.
But a copy of the pamphlet which circulated in Belwick came into his
hands, and when he began to talk on the subject with an intimate
friend, who, without being a Socialist, amused himself with
following the movement closely, he heard more than he liked. To
Stella he said nothing of all this. His own ultimate judgment was
that you cannot expect men to be perfect, and that great causes have
often been served by very indifferent characters.
'She looks shockingly ill,' he began to-night when alone with
Stella. 'Wasn't there something said about consumption when she was
at Exmouth? Has she any cough?'
'No, I don't think it is that,' Stella answered.
'She seems glad to be with you.'
'Very glad, I think.'
'Did the loss of her child affect her deeply?'
'I cannot say. She has never spoken of it.'
Stella made no reply to the exclamation.
The next day Adela went to call on Mrs. Rodman. It was a house in
Bayswater, not large, but richly furnished. Adela chose a morning
hour, hoping to find her sister-in-law alone, but in this she was
disappointed. Four visitors were in the drawing-room, three ladies
and a man of horsey appearance, who talked loudly as he leaned back
with his legs crossed, a walking-stick held over his knee, his hat
on the ground before him. The ladies were all apparently
middle-aged; one of them had a great quantity of astonishingly
yellow hair, and the others made up for deficiency in that respect
with toilets in very striking taste. The subject under discussion
was a recent murder. The gentleman had the happiness of being
personally acquainted with the murderer, at all events had
frequently met him at certain resorts of the male population. When
Mrs. Rodman had briefly welcomed Adela, the discussion continued.
Its tone was vulgar, but perhaps not more so than the average tone
among middle-class people who are on familiar terms with each other.
The gentleman, still leading the conversation, kept his eyes fixed
on Adela, greatly to her discomfort.
In less than half an hour these four took their departure.
'So Dick came a cropper!' was Alice's first remark, when alone with
Adela tried in vain to understand.
'At the election, you know. I don't see what he wanted to go making
himself so ridiculous. Is he much cut up?'
'I don't think it troubles him much,' Adela said; 'he really had no
expectation of being elected. It was just to draw attention to
'Of course he'll put it in that way. But I'd no idea you were in
London. Where are you living?'
Alice had suffered, had suffered distinctly, in her manners, and
probably in her character. It was not only that she affected a
fastness of tone, and betrayed an ill-bred pleasure in receiving
Adela in her fine drawing-room; her face no longer expressed the
idle good-nature which used to make it pleasant to contemplate, it
was thinner, less wholesome in colour, rather acid about the lips.
Her manner was hurried, she seemed to be living in a whirl of
frivolous excitements. Her taste in dress had deteriorated; she wore
a lot of jewellery of a common kind, and her headgear was fantastic.
'We have a few friends to-morrow night,' she said when the
conversation had with difficulty dragged itself over ten minutes.
'Will you come to dinner? I'm sure Willis will be very glad to see
Adela heard the invitation with distress. Fortunately it was given
in a way which all but presupposed refusal.
'I am afraid I cannot,' she answered. 'My health is not good; I
never see people. Thank you very much.'
'Oh, of course I wouldn't put you out,' said Alice, inspecting her
relative's face curiously. And she added, rather more in her old
voice, 'I'm sorry you lost your baby. I believe you're fond of
children? I don't care anything about them myself; I hope I shan't
Adela could not make any reply; she shook hands with Alice and took
her leave, only breathing freely when once more in the street. All
the way back to St. John's Wood she was afflicted by the thought
that it would be impossible to advise a meeting between Stella and
Mrs. Rodman. Yet she had promised Richard to do so. Once more she
found herself sundered from him in sympathies. Affection between
Alice and her there could be none, yet Alice was the one person in
the world whom Richard held greatly dear.
The enchanted life of those first weeks at Exmouth was now resumed.
The golden mornings passed with poetry and music; in the afternoon
visits were paid to museums and galleries, or to the studios of
artists who were Mrs. Westlake's friends, and who, as Adela was
pleased to see, always received Stella with reverential homage. The
evening, save when a concert called them forth, was generally a time
of peaceful reading and talking, the presence of friends making no
difference in the simple arrangements of the home. If a man came to
dine at this house, it was greatly preferred that he should not
present himself in the. costume of a waiter, and only those came who
were sufficiently intimate with the Westlakes to know their habits.
One evening weekly saw a purely Socialist gathering; three or four
artisans were always among the guests. On that occasion Adela was
sorely tempted to plead a headache, but for several reasons she
resisted. It was a trial to her, for she was naturally expected to
talk a good deal with the visitors, several of whom she herself had
entertained at Wanley. Watching Stella, she had a feeling which she
could not quite explain or justify; she was pained to see her
goddess in this company, and felt indignant with some of the men who
seemed to make themselves too much at their ease. There was no talk
Among the studios to which Stella took her was that of Mr. Boscobel.
Mrs. Boscobel made much of them, and insisted on Adela's coming to
dine with her. An evening was appointed. Adela felt reproofs of
conscience, remembering the excuse she had offered to Alice, but in
this case it was impossible to decline. Stella assured her that the
party would be small, and would be sure to comprise none but really
interesting people. It was so, in fact. Two men whom, on arriving,
they found in the drawing-room Adela knew by fame, and the next to
enter was a lady whose singing she had heard with rapture at a
concert on the evening before. She was talking with this lady when a
new announcement fell upon her ear, a name which caused her to start
and gaze towards the door. Impossible for her to guard against this
display of emotion; the name she heard so distinctly seemed an
unreal utterance, a fancy of her brain, or else it belonged to
another than the one she knew. But there was no such illusion; he
whom she saw enter was assuredly Hubert Eldon.
A few hot seconds only seemed to intervene before she was called
upon to acknowledge him, for Mrs. Boscobel was presenting him to
'I have had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Mutimer before,' Hubert
said as soon as he saw that Adela in voice and look recognised their
Mrs. Boscobel was evidently surprised. She herself had met Hubert at
the house of an artist in Rome more than a year ago, but the details
of his life were unknown to her. Subsequently, in London, she
happened once to get on the subject of Socialism with him, and told
him, as an interesting story, what she heard from the Westlakes
about Richard Mutimer. Hubert admitted knowledge of the facts, and
made the remark about the valley of Wanley which Mrs. Boscobel
repeated at Exmouth, but he revealed nothing more. Having no
marriageable daughter, Mrs. Boscobel was under no necessity of
searching into his antecedents. He was one of ten or a dozen young
men of possible future whom she liked to have about her.
Hubert seated himself by Adela, and there was a moment of inevitable
'I saw you as soon as I got into the room,' he said, in the
desperate necessity for speech of some kind. 'I thought I must have
been mistaken; I was so unprepared to meet you here.'
Adela replied that she was staying with Mrs. Westlake.
'I don't know her,' said Hubert, 'and am very anxious to Boscobel's
portrait of her--I saw it in the studio just before it went
away--was a wonderful thing.'
This was necessarily said in a low tone; it seemed to establish
confidence between them.
Adela experienced a sudden and strange calm; in a world so entirely
new to her, was it not to be expected that things would happen of
which she had never dreamt? The tremor with which she had faced this
her first evening in general society had allayed itself almost as
soon as she entered the room, giving place to a kind of pleasure for
which she was not at all prepared, a pleasure inconsistent with the
mood which governed her life. Perhaps, had she been brought into
this world in those sunny days before her marriage, just such
pleasure as this, only in a more pronounced degree, would have awoke
in her and have been fearlessly indulged. The first shock of the
meeting with Hubert having passed, she was surprised at her
self-control, at the ease with which she found she could converse.
Hubert took her down to dinner; on the stairs he twice turned to
look at her face, yet she felt sure that her hand had betrayed no
agitation as it lay on his arm. At table he talked freely; did he
know--she asked herself--that this would relieve her? And his
conversation was altogether unlike what it had been two years and a
half ago--so long it was since she had talked with him under
ordinary conditions. There was still animation, and the note of
intellectual impatience was touched occasionally, but the world had
ripened him, his judgments were based on sounder knowledge, he was
more polished, more considerate--'gentler,' Adela afterwards said
to herself. And decidedly he had gained in personal appearance; a
good deal of the bright, eager boy had remained with him in his days
of storm and stress, but now his features had the repose of maturity
and their refinement had fixed itself in lines of strength.
He talked solely of the present, discussed with her the season's
pictures, the books, the idle business of the town. At length she
found herself able to meet his glance without fear, even to try and
read its character. She thought of the day when her mother told her
of his wickedness. Since then she had made acquaintance with
wickedness in various forms, and now she marvelled at the way in
which she had regarded him. 'I was a child, a child,' she repeated
to herself. Thinking thus, she lost none of his words. He spoke of
the things which interested her most deeply; how much he could teach
her, were such teaching possible!
At last she ventured upon a personal question.
'How is Mrs. Eldon?'
She thought he looked at her gratefully; certainly there was a deep
kindness in his eyes, a look which was one of the new things she
noted in him.
'Very much as when you knew her,' he replied. 'Weaker, I fear. I
have just spent a few days at Agworth.'
Doubtless he had often been at Agworth; perchance he was there, so
close by, in some of the worst hours of her misery.
When the ladies withdrew Mrs. Boscobel seated herself by Adela for a
'So you really knew Mr. Eldon?'
'Yes, but it is some time since I saw him,' Adela replied simply,
smiling in the joy of being so entirely mistress of herself.
'You were talking pictures, I heard. You can trust him there; his
criticism is admirable. You know he did the Grosvenor for the--?'
She mentioned a weekly paper.
'There are so many things I don't know,' Adela replied laughingly,
'and that is one of them.'
Hubert shortly after had his wish in being presented to Mrs.
Westlake. Adela observed them as they talked together. Gladness she
could hardly bear possessed her when she saw on Stella's face the
expression of interest which not everyone could call forth. She did
not ask why she was so glad; for this one evening it might be
allowed her to rest and forget and enjoy.
There was singing, and the sweetest of the songs went home with her
and lived in her heart all through a night which was too voiceful
for sleep. Might she think of him henceforth as a friend? Would she
meet him again before her return to--to the darkness of that ravaged
valley? Her mood was a strange one; conscience gave her no trouble,
appeared suspended. And why should conscience have interfered with
her? Her happiness was as apart from past and future as if by some
magic she had been granted an intermezzo of life wholly distinct
from her real one. These people with whom she found living so
pleasant did not really enter her existence; it was as though she
played parts to give her pleasure; she merely looked on for the
But Stella was real, real as that glorious star whose name she knew
not, the brightest she could see from her chamber window. To Stella
her soul clung with passion and worship. Stella's kiss had power to
make her all but faint with ecstasy; it was the kiss which woke her
from her dream, the kiss which would for ever be to her a terror and
Her waking after a short morning sleep was dark and troubled. The
taste of last night's happiness was like ashes on her tongue;
fearing to face the daylight, she lay with lids heavily closed on a
brain which ached in its endeavour to resume the sensations of a few
hours ago. The images of those with whom she had talked so
cheerfully either eluded her memory, or flitted before her
unexpectedly, mopping and mowing, so that her heart was revolted. It
is in wakings such as these that Time finds his opportunity to harry
youth; every such unwinds from about us one of the veils of
illusion, bringing our eyes so much nearer to the horrid truth of
things. Adela shrank from the need of rising; she would have
abandoned herself to voiceless desolation, have lain still and dark
whilst the current of misery swept over her, deeper and deeper. When
she viewed her face, its ring-eyed pallor fascinated her with
incredulity. Had she looked at all like that whilst Hubert Eldon and
the others were talking to her? What did they secretly think of her?
The others might attribute to her many more years than she had
really seen; but Hubert knew her age. Perhaps that was why he
glanced at her twice or thrice on the stairs.
For the first time she wished not to be alone with Stella, fearing
lest the conversation should turn on Hubert. Yet, when they had sat
together for nearly an hour, and Stella had not named him, she began
to suffer from a besieging desire to speak of him, a recurrent
impulse to allude to him, however distantly, so that her companion
might be led to the subject. The impulse grew to a torment, more
intolerable each time she resisted it. And at last she found herself
uttering the name involuntarily, overcome by something stronger than
'I was surprised to meet Mr. Eldon.'
'Did you know him?' Stella asked simply.
'He used to live at Wanley Manor.'
Stella seemed to revive memories.
'Oh, that was how I knew the name. Mr. Westlake told me of him, at
the time when the Manor passed to Mr. Mutimer.'
Her husband was from home, so had not been at the Boscobels' last
Adela could rest now that she had spoken. She was searching for a
means of leading the conversation into another channel, when Stella
'You knew him formerly?'
'Yes, when he still lived at Wanley. I have not met him since he
'I suppose he came to live in London?'
'I understood so.'
At length Adela succeeded in speaking of something else. Mental
excitement had set her blood flowing more quickly, as though an
obstruction were removed. Before long the unreasoning lightness of
heart began to take possession of her again. It was strangely
painful. To one whom suffering has driven upon self-study the
predominance of a mere mood is always more or less a troublesome
mystery; in Adela's case it was becoming a source of fear. She
seemed to be losing self-control; in looking back on last evening
she doubted whether her own will had been at all operative in the
state of calm enjoyment to which she had attained. Was it physical
weakness which put her thus at the mercy of the moment's influences?
There came a letter from Mutimer to-day; in it he mentioned Alice
and reminded Adela of her promise. This revived a trouble which had
fallen out of activity for a day or two. She could not come to any
decision. When at Alice's house she had not even suggested a return
visit; at the moment it had seemed so out of the question for Alice
to meet Mrs. Westlake. In any case, was it worth while exposing
Stella to the difficulties of such a meeting when it could not
possibly lead to anything further? One reason against it Adela was
ashamed to dwell upon, yet it weighed strongly with her: she was so
jealous of her friend's love, so fearful of losing anything in
Stella's estimation, that she shrank from the danger of becoming
associated with Mrs. Rodman in Stella's mind. Could she speak freely
of Alice? Mutimer's affectionate solicitude was honourable to him,
and might veil much that was disagreeable in Alice. But the intimacy
between Adela and Mrs. Westlake was not yet of the kind which
permits a free disclosure of troubles to which, rightly or wrongly,
there attaches a sense of shame. Such troubles are always the last
to be spoken of between friends; friendship must be indeed
far-reaching before it includes them within its scope. They were
still but learning to know each other, and that more from silent
observation, from the sympathy of looks, from touchings of hands and
lips, than by means of direct examination or avowal. The more she
strove with her difficulty the less able Adela felt herself to ask
Mrs. Rodman to come or to mention her to Stella. The trouble spoilt
her enjoyment of a concert that evening, and kept her restless in
the night, for, though seemingly a small matter, it had vital
connection with the core of her life's problem; it forced her
relentlessly to a consciousness of many things from which she had
taught herself to avert her eyes.
Another thing there was which caused her anxious debate--a project
which had been in her mind for nearly a year. You will not imagine
that Adela had forgotten the letter from Mrs. Clay. The knowledge it
brought her made the turning-point of her life. No word on the
subject passed between her and Mutimer after the conversation which
ended in her fainting-fit. The letter he retained, and the course he
had chosen made it advisable that he should pay no heed to its
request for assistance. Adela remembered the address of the writer,
and made a note of it, but it was impossible to reply. Her state of
mind after overhearing the conversation between Richard and his
sister was such that she durst not even take the step of privately
sending money, lest her husband should hear of it and it should lead
to further question. She felt that, hard as it was to live with that
secret, to hear Mutimer repeat his calumnies would involve her in
yet worse anguish, leading perhaps to terrible things; for, on her
return to the house that night, she suffered a revelation of
herself, which held her almost mute for the following days. In her
heart there fought passions of which she had not known herself
capable; above all a scorn so fierce, that had she but opened her
lips it must have uttered itself. That she lived down by the aid of
many strange expedients; but she formed a purpose, which seemed
indeed nothing less than a duty, to use the opportunity of her first
visit to London to seek for means of helping Emma Vine and her
sister. Her long illness had not weakened this resolve; but now that
she was in London the difficulties of carrying it out proved
insuperable. She had always imagined herself procuring the services
of some agent, but what agent was at hand? She might go herself to
the address she had noted, but it was to incur a danger too great
even for the end in view. If Mutimer heard of such a visit--and she
had no means of assuring herself that communication between him and
those people did not still exist--how would it affect him?
Adela's position would not suffer the risk of ever so slight a
difference between herself and her husband. She had come to fear
him, and now there was growing in her a yet graver fear of herself.
The condition of her health favoured remissness and postponement. An
hour of mental agitation left her with headache and a sense of
bodily feebleness. Emma Vine she felt in the end obliged to dismiss
from her thoughts; the difficulty concerning Alice she put off from
day to day.
The second week of her visit was just ending, and the return to
Wanley was in view, when, on entering the drawing-room in the
afternoon, she found Hubert Eldon sitting there with Mrs. Westlake.
If it had been possible to draw back her foot and escape unnoticed!
But she was observed; Hubert had already risen. Adela fancied that
Stella was closely observing her; it was not so in reality, but the
persuasion wrung her heart to courage. Hubert, who did make narrow
observance of her face, was struck with the cold dignity of her
smile. In speaking to him she was much less friendly than at the
Boscobels'. He thought he understood, and was in a measure right. A
casual meeting in the world was one thing; a visit which might be
supposed half intended to herself called for another demeanour. He
addressed a few remarks to her, then pursued his conversation with
Mrs. Westlake. Adela had time to consider his way of speaking; it
was entirely natural, that of a polished man who has the habit of
society, and takes pleasure in it. With utter inconsistency she felt
pain that he could be so at his ease in her presence. In all
likelihood he had come with no other end save that of continuing his
acquaintance with Mrs. Westlake. As she listened to his voice, once
more an inexplicable and uncontrollable mood possessed her--a mood
of petulance, of impatience with him and with herself; with him for
almost ignoring her presence, with herself for the distant way in
which she had met him. An insensate rebellion against circumstances
encouraged her to feel hurt; by a mystery of the mind intervening
time was cancelled, and it seemed unnatural, hard to bear, that
Hubert should by preference address another than herself. An impulse
similar to that which had forced her to speak his name in
conversation with Stella now constrained her to break silence, to
say something which would require a reply. Her feeling became a sort
of self-pity; he regarded her as beneath his notice, he wished her
to see that his indifference was absolute; why should he treat her
She added a few words to a remark Mrs. Westlake made, and, the
moment she had spoken, was sensible that her tone had been strangely
impulsive. Stella glanced at her. Hubert, too, turned his eyes,
smiled, and made some reply; she had no understanding of what he
said. Had not force failed her she would have risen and left the
room. Her heart sank in yet crueller humiliation; she believed there
were tears in her eyes, yet had no power to check them. He was still
addressing Mrs. Westlake; herself he deemed incapable of
appreciating what he said. Perhaps he even--the thought made
clanging in her ears, like a rude bell--perhaps he even regarded
her as a social inferior since her marriage. It was almost hysteria,
to such a pitch of unreason was she wrought. Her second self looked
on, anguished, helpless. The voices in the room grew distant and
Then the door was opened and the servant announced--
It saved her. She saw her husband enter, and an ice-cold breath made
frigid her throbbing veins. She fixed her eyes upon him, and could
not remove them; they followed him from the door to where Stella
stood to receive him. She saw that he almost paused on recognising
Eldon, that his brows contracted, that involuntarily he looked at
'You know Mr. Eldon,' Stella said, perhaps in not quite her ordinary
voice, for the meeting could in no case be a very happy one.
'Oh yes,' replied Mutimer, scarcely looking at Hubert, and making an
idle effort at a bow.
Hubert did not reseat himself. He took leave of Stella cordially; to
Adela he inclined himself at respectful distance.
Mrs. Westlake supplied conversation. Adela, leaving her former
chair, took a seat by her friend's side, but could not as yet trust
her voice. Presently her husband addressed her; it was for the first
time; he had not even given his hand.
'Alice is very anxious that you should dine with her before you go
home. Do you think Mrs. Westlake could spare you this evening?'
And, on Stella's looking an inquiry, he added:
'My sister, Mrs. Rodman. I don't think you know her?'
Adela had no choice but to procure her hostess's assent to this
'I'll call for you at seven o'clock,' Mutimer said.
Adela knew that he was commanding himself; his tone was not quite
discourteous, but he had none of the genial satisfaction which he
ordinarily showed in the company of refined people. She attributed
his displeasure to her neglect of Alice. But it did not affect her
as it had been wont to; she was disposed to resent it.
The time between his departure and seven o'clock she spent by
herself, unoccupied, sitting as if tired. She put off the necessary
changing of garments till there was scarcely time for it. When at
length she was summoned she went down with flushed face.
'I feel as if I were going to have a fever,' she said to Stella in
the drawing-room. She could not help uttering the words, but laughed
'Your hand is really very hot,' Stella replied.
Mutimer had a cab at the door, and was waiting in the hall.
'You're a long time,' was his greeting, with more impatience than he
had ever used to her.
When they were together in the hansom:
'Why did you refuse Alice's invitation before?' he asked with
'I didn't think she really wished me to accept it.'
She spoke without misgiving, still resenting his manner.
'Didn't think? Why, what do you mean?'
She made no reply.
'You didn't ask her to call, either?'
'I ought to have done so. I am very sorry to have neglected it.'
He looked at her with surprise which was very like a sneer, and kept
silence till they reached the house.
One of the ladies whom Adela had already met, and a gentleman styled
Captain something, were guests at dinner. Alice received her
sister-in-law with evident pleasure, though not perhaps that of pure
'I do hope it won't be too much for you,' she said. 'Pray leave as
soon as you feel you ought to. I should never forgive myself if you
took a cold or anything of the kind.'
Really, Alice had supplied herself with most becoming phrases. The
novels had done much; and then she had been living in society. At
dinner she laughed rather too loud, it might be, and was too much
given to addressing her husband as 'Willis;' but her undeniable
prettiness in low-necked evening dress condoned what was amiss in
manner. Mr. Rodman looked too gentlemanly; he reminded one of a hero
of polite melodrama on the English-French stage. The Captain talked
stock-exchange, and was continually inquiring about some one or
other, 'Did he drop much?'
Mutimer was staying at the house over-night. After dinner he spoke
aside with Adela.
'I suppose you go back to-morrow?'
'Yes, I meant to.'
'We may as well go together, then. I'll call for you at two
He considered, and changed the hour.
'No, I'll come at ten. I want you to go with me to buy some things.
Then we'll have lunch here.'
'And go back for my luggage?'
'We'll take it away at ten o'clock and leave it at the station. I
suppose you can be ready?'
'Yes, I can be ready,' Adela answered mechanically.
He drove back with her to Avenue Road in the Rodmans' carriage, and
left her at the door.
Mr. Westlake was expected home to-night, but had telegraphed to say
that he would return in the morning. Stella had spent the evening
alone; Adela found her in the boudoir with a single lamp, reading.
'Are you still feverish?' Stella asked, putting to her cheek the
'I think not--I can't say.'
Stella waited to hear something about the evening, but Adela broke
the silence to say:
'I must leave at ten in the morning. My husband will call for me.'
There was silence again.
'Will you come and see me before long, Stella?'
'I will,' was the gentle reply.
'Thank you. I shall look forward to it very much.'
Then Adela said good-night, speaking more cheerfully.
In her bedroom she sat as before dinner. The fever had subsided
during the past two hours, but now it crept into her blood again,
insidious, tingling. And with it came so black a phantom of despair
that Adela closed her eyes shudderingly, lay back as one lifeless,
and wished that it were possible by the will alone to yield the
breath and cease. The night pulsed about her, beat regularly like a
great clock, and its pulsing smote upon her brain.
To-morrow she must follow her husband, who would come to lead her
home. Home? what home had she? What home would she ever have but a
grave in the grassy churchyard of Wanley? Why did death spare her
when it took the life which panted but for a moment on her bosom?
She must leave Stella and go back to her duties at the Manor; must
teach the children of New Wanley; must love, honour, obey her
husband. Returning from Exmouth, she was glad to see her house
again; now she had rather a thousand times die than go back. Horror
shook her like a palsy; all that she had borne for eighteen months
seemed accumulated upon her now, waited for her there at Wanley to
be endured again. Oh! where was the maiden whiteness of her soul?
What malignant fate had robbed her for ever of innocence and peace?
Was this fever or madness? She rose and flung her arms against a
hideous form which was about to seize her. It would not vanish, it
pressed upon her. She cried, fled to the door, escaped, and called
Stella's name aloud.
A door near her own opened, and Stella appeared. Adela clung to her,
and was drawn into the room. Those eyes of infinite pity gazing into
her own availed to calm her.
'Shall I send for some one?' Stella asked anxiously, but with no
'No; it is not illness. But I dread to be alone; I am nervous.'
'Will you stay with me, dear?'
'Oh, Stella, let me, let me! I want to be near to you whilst I may!'
Stella's child slept peacefully in a crib; the voices were too low
to wake it. Almost like another child, Adela allowed herself to be
'Shall I leave a light?' Stella asked.
'No, I can sleep. Only let me feel your arms.'
They lay in unbroken silence till both slept.
In a character such as Mutimer's there will almost certainly be
found a disposition to cruelty, for strong instincts of domination,
even of the nobler kind, only wait for circumstances to develop
crude tyranny--the cruder, of course, in proportion to the lack of
native or acquired refinement which distinguishes the man. We had a
hint of such things in Mutimer's progressive feeling with regard to
Emma Vine. The possibility of his becoming a tyrannous husband could
not be doubted by any one who viewed him closely.
There needed only the occasion, and this at length presented itself
in the form of jealousy. Of all possible incentives it was the one
most calamitous, for it came just when a slow and secret growth of
passion was making demand for room and air. Mutimer had for some
time been at a loss to understand his own sensations; he knew that
his wife was becoming more and more a necessity to him, and that too
when the progress of time would have led him to expect the very
opposite. He knew it during her absence at Exmouth, more still now
that she was away in London. It was with reluctance that he let her
leave home, only his satisfaction in her intimacy with the Westlakes
and his hopes for Alice induced him to acquiesce in her departure.
Yet he could show nothing of this. A lack of self-confidence, a
strange shyness, embarrassed him as often as he would give play to
his feelings. They were intensified by suppression, and goaded him
to constant restlessness. When at most a day or two remained before
Adela's return, he could no longer resist the desire to surprise her
Not only did he find her in the company of the man whom he had
formerly feared as a rival, but her behaviour seemed to him
distinctly to betray consternation at his arrival. She was
colourless, agitated, could not speak. From that moment his love was
of the quality which in its manifestations is often
indistinguishable from hatred. He resolved to keep her under his
eye, to enforce to the uttermost his marital authority, to make her
pay bitterly for the freedom she had stolen. His exasperated egoism
flew at once to the extreme of suspicion; he was ready to accuse her
of completed perfidy. Mrs. Westlake became his enemy; the profound
distrust of culture, which was inseparable from his mental
narrowness, however ambition might lead him to disguise it, seized
upon the occasion to declare itself; that woman was capable of
conniving at his dishonour, even of plotting it. He would not allow
Adela to remain in the house a minute longer than he could help.
Even the casual absence of Mr. Westlake became a suspicious
circumstance; Eldon of course chose the time for his visit.
Adela was once more safe in the Manor, under lock and key, as it
were. He had not spoken of Eldon, though several times on the point
of doing so. It was obvious that the return home cost her suffering,
that it was making her ill. He could not get her to converse; he saw
that she did not study. It was impossible to keep watch on her at
all moments of the day; yet how otherwise discover what letters she
wrote or received? He pondered the practicability of bribing her
maid to act as a spy upon her, but feared to attempt it. He found
opportunities of secretly examining the blotter on her writing-desk,
and it convinced him that she had written to Mrs. Westlake. It
maddened him that he had not the courage to take a single open step,
to forbid, for instance, all future correspondence with London. To
do so would be to declare his suspicions. He wished to declare them;
it would have gratified him in. tensely to vomit impeachments, to
terrify her with coarseness and violence; but, on the other hand, by
keeping quiet he might surprise positive evidence, and if only he
She was ill; he had a distinct pleasure in observing it. She longed
for quiet and retirement; he neglected his business to force his
company upon her, to laugh and talk loudly. She with difficulty read
a page; he made her read aloud to him by the hour, or write
translations for him from French and German. The pale anguish of her
face was his joy; it fascinated him, fired his senses, made him a
demon of vicious cruelty. Yet he durst not as much as touch her hand
when she sat before him. Her purity, which was her safeguard,
stirred his venom; he worshipped it, and would have smothered it in
'Hadn't you better have the doctor to see you?' he began one morning
when he had followed her from the dining-room to her boudoir.
'The doctor? Why?'
'You don't seem up to the mark,' he replied, avoiding her look.
Adela kept silence.
'You were well enough in London, I suppose?'
'I am never very strong.'
'I think you might be a bit more cheerful.'
'I will try to be.'
This submission always aggravated his disease--by what other name to
call it? He would have had her resist him, that he might know the
pleasure of crushing her will.
He walked about the room, then suddenly:
'What is that man Eldon doing?'
Adela looked at him with surprise. It had never entered her thoughts
that the meeting with Eldon would cost him more than a passing
annoyance--she knew he disliked him--and least of all that such
annoyance would in any way be connected with herself. It was
possible, of course, that some idle tongue had gossiped of her
former friendship with Hubert, but there was no one save Letty who
knew what her feelings really had been, and was not the fact of her
marriage enough to remove any suspicion that Mutimer might formerly
have entertained? But the manner of his question was so singular,
the introduction of Eldon's name so abrupt, that she could not but
discern in a measure what was in his mind.
She made reply:
'I don't understand. Do you mean how is he engaged?'
'How comes he to know Mrs. Westlake?'
'Through common friends--some people named Boscobel. Mr. Boscobel is
an artist, and Mr. Eldon appears to be studying art.'
Her voice was quite steady through this explanation. The surprise
seemed to have enabled her to regard him unmoved, almost with
'I suppose he's constantly there--at the Westlakes'?'
'That was his first visit. We met him a few evenings before at the
Boscobels', at dinner. It was then he made Mrs. Westlake's
Mutimer moved his head as if to signify indifference. But Adela had
found an unexpected relief in speaking thus openly; she was tempted
to go further.
'I believe he writes about pictures. Mrs. Boscobel told me that he
had been some time in Italy.'
'Well and good; I don't care to hear about his affairs. So you dined
with these Boscobel people?'
He smiled disagreeably.
'I thought you were rather particular about telling the truth. You
told Alice you never dined out.'
'I don't think I said that,' Adela replied quietly.
He paused; then:
'What fault have you to find with Alice, eh?'
Adela was not in the mood for evasions; she answered in much the
same tone as she had used in speaking of Hubert.
'I don't think she likes me. If she did, I should be able to be more
friendly with her. Her world is very different from ours.'
'Different? You mean you don't like Rodman?'
'I was not thinking of Mr. Rodman. I mean that her friends are not
the same as ours.'
Mutimer forgot for a moment his preoccupation in thought of Alice.
'Was there anything wrong with the people you met there?'
She was silent.
'Just tell me what you think. I want to know. What did you object
'I don't think they were the best kind of people.'
'The best kind? I suppose they are what you call ladies and
'You must have felt that they were not quite the same as the
Westlakes, for instance.'
He named them sneeringly, to Adela's astonishment. And he added as
he walked towards the door:
'There isn't much to be said for some of the people you meet there.'
A new complexity was introduced into her life. Viewed by this recent
light, Mutimer's behaviour since the return from London was not so
difficult to understand; but the problem of how to bear with it
became the harder. There were hours when Adela's soul was like a
bird of the woods cage-pent: it dashed itself against the bars of
fate, and in anguish conceived the most desperate attempts for
freedom. She could always die, but was it not hard to perish in her
youth and with the world's cup of bliss untasted? Flight? Ah!
whither could she flee? The thought of the misery she would leave
behind her, the disgrace that would fall upon her mother--this would
alone make flight impossible. Yet could she conceive life such as
this prolonging itself into the hopeless years, renunciation her
strength and her reward, duty a grinning skeleton at her bedside? It
grew harder daily. More than a year ago she thought that the worst
was over, and since then had known the solace of self-forgetful
idealisms, of ascetic striving. It was all illusion, the spinning of
a desolate heart. There was no help now, for she knew herself and
the world. Foolish, foolish child, who with her own hand had flung
away the jewel of existence like a thing of no price! Her lot
appeared single in its haplessness. She thought of Stella, of Letty,
even of Alice; _they_ had not been doomed to learn in suffering. To
her, alone of all women, knowledge had come with a curse.
A month passed. Since Rodman's departure from Wanley, 'Arry Mutimer
was living at the Manor. Her husband and 'Arry were Adela's sole
companions; the former she dreaded, the approach of the latter
always caused her insuperable disgust. To Letty there was born a
son; Adela could not bend to the little one with a whole heart; her
own desolate motherhood wailed the more bitterly.
Once more a change was coming. Alice and her husband were going to
spend August at a French watering-place, and Mutimer proposed to
join them for a fortnight; Adela of course would be of the party.
The invitation came from Rodman, who had reasons for wishing to get
his brother-in-law aside for a little quiet talk. Rodman had large
views, was at present pondering a financial scheme in which he
needed a partner--one with capital of course. He knew that New
Wanley was proving anything but a prosperous concern, commercially
speaking; he divined, moreover, that Mutimer was not wholly
satisfied with the state of affairs. By judicious management the
Socialist might even be induced to abandon the non-paying
enterprise, and, though not perhaps ostensibly, embark in one that
promised very different results--at all events to Mr. Rodman. The
scheme was not of mushroom growth; it dated from a time but little
posterior to Mr. Rodman's first meeting with Alice Mutimer. 'Arry
had been granted appetising sniffs at the cookery in progress, though
the youth was naturally left without precise information as to the
ingredients. The result was a surprising self-restraint on 'Arry's
part. The influence which poor Keene had so bunglingly tried to
obtain over him, the more astute Mr. Rodman had compassed without
difficulty; beginning with the loan of small sums, to be repaid when
'Arry attained his majority, he little by little made the
prospective man of capital the creature of his directions; in
something less than two more years Rodman looked to find ample
recompense for his expenditure. and trouble. But that was a mere
parergon; to secure Richard Mutimer was the great end steadily held
Rodman and his wife came to Wanley to spend three days before all
together set out for the Continent. Adela accepted the course of
things, and abandoned herself to the stream. For a week her husband
had been milder; we know the instinct that draws the cat's paws from
the flagging mouse.
Alice, no longer much interested in novels, must needs talk with
some one; she honoured Adela with much of her confidence, seeming to
forget and forgive, in reality delighted to recount her London
experiences to her poor tame sister-in-law. Alice, too, had been at
moments introduced to her husband's kitchen; she threw out vague
hints of a wonderful repast in preparation.
'Willis is going to buy me a house in Brighton,' she said, among
other things. 'I shall run down whenever I feel it would do me good.
You've no idea how kind he is.'
There was, in fact, an 'advancement clause' in Alice's deed of
settlement. If Mr. Rodman showed himself particularly anxious to
cultivate the friendship of Mr. Alfred Waltham, possibly one might
look for the explanation to the terms of that same document.
There came a Sunday morning. Preparations for departure on the
morrow were practically completed. The weather was delightful. Adela
finished breakfast in time to wander a little about the garden
before it was the hour for church; her husband and Rodman
breakfasted with her, and went to smoke in the library. Alice and
'Arry did not present themselves till the church bells had ceased.
Adela was glad to be alone in the dusky pew. She was the first of
the congregation to arrive, and she sat, as always, with the
curtains enclosing her save in front. The bells ringing above the
roof had a soothing effect upon her, and gave strange turns to her
thought. So had their summoning rung out to generation after
generation; so would it ring long after she was buried and at rest.
Where would her grave be? She was going for the first time to a
foreign country; perhaps death might come to her there. Then she
would lie for ever among strangers, and her place be forgotten.
Would it not be the fitting end of so sad and short a life?
In the front of the pew was a cupboard; the upper portion, which
contained the service books, was closed with a long, narrow door,
opening downwards on horizontal hinges; the shelf on which the books
lay went back into darkness, being, perhaps, two feet broad. Below
this shelf was the door of the lower and much larger receptacle; it
slid longitudinally, and revealed a couple of buffets, kept here to
supplement the number in the pew when necessary. Adela had only once
opened the sliding door, and then merely to glance into the dark
hollows and close it again. Probably the buffets had lain
undisturbed for years.
On entering the pew this morning she had as usual dropped the upper
door, and had laid her large church service open on the shelf, where
she could reach it as soon as Mr. Wyvern began to read. Then began
her reverie. From thoughts of the grave she passed to memories of
her wedding-day. How often the scene of that morning had re-enacted
itself in her mind! Often she dreamed it all over, and woke as from
a nightmare. She wished it had not taken place in this church; it
troubled the sacred recollections of her maiden peace. She began to
think it over once more, attracted by the pain it caused her, and,
on coming to the bestowal of the ring, an odd caprice led her to
draw the circlet itself from her finger. When she had done it she
trembled. The hand looked so strange. Oh, her hand, her hand! Once
ringless indeed, once her own to give, to stretch forth in pledge of
the heart's imperishable faith! Now a prisoner for ever; but, thus
ringless, so like a maiden hand once more. There came a foolish
sense of ease. She would keep her finger free yet a little, perhaps
through the service. She bent forward and laid the ring on the open
More dreams, quite other than before; then the organ began its
prelude, a tremor passing through the church before the sound broke
forth. Adela sank deeper in reverie. At length Mr. Wyvern's voice
roused her; she stood up and reached her book; but she had wholly
forgotten that the ring lay upon it, and was only reminded by a
glimpse of it rolling away on the shelf, rolling to the back of the
cupboard. But it did not stop there; surely it was the ring that she
heard fall down below, behind the large sliding door. She had a
sudden fright lest it should be lost, and stooped at once to search
She drew back the door, pushed aside the buffets, then groped in the
darkness. She touched the ring. But something else lay there; it
seemed a long piece of thick paper, folded. This too she brought
forth, and, having slipped the ring on her finger, looked to see
what she had found.
It was parchment She unfolded it, and saw that it was covered with
writing in a clerkly hand. How strange!
'This is the last will and testament of me, RICHMOND MUTIMER--'
Her hand shook. She felt as if the sides of the pew were circling
about her, as if she stood amid falling and changing things.
She looked to the foot of the sheet.
'In witness whereof I, the said Richard Mutimer, have hereunto set
my hand this seventeenth day of October, 187-.'
The date was some six months prior to old Richard Mutimer's death.
This could be nothing but the will which every one believed him to
Adela sank upon the seat. Her ring! Had she picked it up? Yes; it
was again upon her finger. How had it chanced to fall down below?
She rose again and examined the cupboard; there was a gap of four or
five inches at the back of the upper shelf.
Had the will fallen in the same way? Adela conjectured that thus it
had been lost, though when or under what circumstances she could not
imagine. We, who are calmer, may conceive the old man to have taken
his will to church with him on the morning of his death, he being
then greatly troubled about the changes he had in view. Perhaps he
laid the folded parchment on the shelf and rested one of the large
books in front of it. He breathed his last. Then the old woman,
whose duty it was to put the pews in order, hurriedly throwing the
books into the cupboard as soon as the dead man was removed,
perchance pushed the document so far back that it slipped through
the gap and down behind the buffets.
At all events, no one has ever hit upon a likelier explanation.
She could not sit through the service, yet to leave the church she
would have to walk the whole length of the aisle. What did it
matter? It would very soon be known why she had gone away, and to
face for a moment the wonder of Sunday-clad villagers is not a grave
trial. Adela opened the pew door and quitted the church, the
parchment held beneath her mantle.
As she issued from the porch the sun smote warm upon her face; it
encouraged a feeling of gladness which had followed her
astonishment. She had discovered the tenor of the will; it affected
her with a sudden joy, undisturbed at first by any reflection. The
thought of self was slow in coming, and had not power to trouble her
greatly even when she faced it. Befall herself what might, she held
against her heart a power which was the utmost limit of that heart's
desire. So vast, so undreamt, so mysteriously given to her, that it
seemed preternatural. Her weakness was become strength; with a
single word she could work changes such as it had seemed no human
agency could bring about.
To her, to her it had been given! What was all her suffering,
crowned with power like this?
She durst not take the will from beneath her mantle, though burning
to reassure herself of its contents. Not till she was locked in her
room. If any one met her as she entered the house, her excuse would
be that she did not feel well.
But as she hurried toward the Manor, she all at once found herself
face to face with her brother. Alfred was having a ramble, rather
glad to get out of hearing of the baby this Sunday morning.
'Hollo, what's up?' was his exclamation.
Adela feared lest her face had betrayed her. She was conscious that
her look could not be that of illness.
'I am obliged to go home,' she said, 'I have forgotten something.'
'I should have thought you'd rather have let the house burn down
than scutter away in this profane fashion. All right, I won't stop
She hesitated, tempted to give some hint. But before she could
speak, Alfred continued:
'So Mutimer's going to throw it up.'
'What?' she asked in surprise.
He nodded towards New Wanley.
'Throw it up?'
'So I understand. Don't mention that I said anything; I supposed you
'I knew nothing. You mean that he is going to abandon the works?'
'Something of the kind, I fancy. I don't know that it's decided, but
that fellow Rodman--well, time enough to talk about it. It's a pity,
that's all I can say. Still, if he's really losing--'
'Losing? But he never expected to make money.'
'No, but I fancy he's beginning to see things in a different light.
I tell you what it is, Adela; I can't stand that fellow Rodman. I've
got an idea he's up to something. Don't let him lead Mutimer by the
nose, that's all. But this isn't Sunday talk. Youngster rather
obstreperous this morning.'
Adela had no desire to question further: she let her brother pass
on, and continued her own walk at a more moderate pace.
Alfred's words put her in mind of considerations to which in her
excitement she had given no thought. New Wanley was no longer her
husband's property, and the great Socialist undertaking must come to
an end. In spite of her personal feeling, she could not view with
indifference the failure of an attempt which she had trained herself
to regard as nobly planned, and full of importance to the world at
large. Though she no longer saw Mutimer's character in the same
light as when first she bent her nature to his direction, she still
would have attributed to him a higher grief than the merely
self-regarding; she had never suspected him of insincerity in his
public zeal. Mutimer had been scrupulous to avoid any utterance
which might betray half-heartedness; in his sullen fits of late he
had even made it a reproach against her that she cared little for
his own deepest interests. To his wife last of all he would have
confessed a failing in his enthusiasm: jealousy had made him
discourteous, had lowered the tone of his intercourse with her; but
to figure as a hero in her eyes was no less, nay more, than ever a
leading motive in his life. But if what Alfred said was true, Adela
saw that in this also she had deceived herself: the man whose very
heart was in a great cause would sacrifice everything, and fight on
to the uttermost verge of hope. There was no longer room for regret
on his account.
On reaching the Manor gates she feared to walk straight up to the
house; she felt that, if she met her husband, she could not command
her face, and her tongue would falter. She took a path which led
round to the gardens in the rear. She had remembered a little
summer-house which stood beyond the kitchen-garden, in a spot sure
to be solitary at this hour. There she could read the will
attentively, and fix her resolution before entering the house.
Trees and bushes screened her. She neared the summerhouse, and was
at the very door before she perceived that it was occupied. There
sat 'Arry and a kitchenmaid, very close to each other, chatting
confidentially. 'Arry looked up, and something as near a blush as he
was capable of came to his face. The kitchen damsel followed the
direction of his eyes, and was terror-stricken.
Adela hastened away. An unspeakable loathing turned her heart. She
scarcely wondered, but pressed the parchment closer, and joyed in
the thought that she would so soon be free of this tainted air.
She no longer hesitated to enter, and was fortunate enough to reach
her room without meeting any one. She locked the door, then unfolded
the will and began to peruse it with care.
The testator devised the whole of his real estate to Hubert Eldon;
to Hubert also he bequeathed his personal property, subject to
certain charges. These were--first, the payment of a legacy of one
thousand pounds to Mrs. Eldon; secondly, of a legacy of five hundred
pounds to Mr. Yottle, the solicitor; thirdly, of an annuity of one
hundred and seven pounds to the testator's great-nephew, Richard
Mutimer, such sum being the yearly product of a specified
investment. The annuity was to extend to the life of Richard's
widow, should he leave one; but power was given to the trustee to
make over to Richard Mutimer, or to his widow, any part or the whole
of the invested capital, if he felt satisfied that to do so would be
for the annuitant's benefit. 'It is not my wish'--these words
followed the directions--'to put the said Richard Mutimer above the
need of supporting himself by honest work, but only to aid him to
make use of the abilities which I understand he possesses, and to
become a credit to the class to which he belongs.'
The executors were Hubert Eldon himself and the lawyer Mr. Yottle.
A man of the world brought face to face with startling revelations
of this kind naturally turns at once to thought of technicalities,
evasions, compromises. Adela's simpler mind fixed itself upon the
plain sense of the will; that meant restitution to the uttermost
farthing. For more than two years Hubert Eldon had been kept out of
his possessions; others had been using them, and lavishly. Would it
be possible for her husband to restore? He must have expended great
sums, and of his own he had not a penny.
Thought for herself came last. Mutimer must abandon Wanley, and
whither he went, thither must she go also. Their income would be a
hundred and seven pounds. Her husband became once more a working
man. Doubtless he would return to London; their home would be a poor
one, like that of ordinary working folk.
How would he bear it? How would he take this from _her_?
Fear crept insidiously about her heart, though she fought to banish
it. It was a fear of the instinct, clinging to trifles in the
memory, feeding upon tones, glances, the impressions of forgotten
moments. She was conscious that here at length was the crucial test
of her husband's nature, and in spite of every generous impulse she
dreaded the issue. To that dread she durst not abandon herself; to
let it grow even for an instant cost her a sensation of faintness, a
desire to flee for cover to those who would naturally protect her.
To give up all--and to Hubert Eldon! She recalled his voice when the
other day he spoke of Hubert. He had not since recurred to the
subject, but his manner still bore the significance with which that
conversation had invested it. No dream of suspicions on his part had
come to her, but it was enough that something had happened to
intensify his dislike of Hubert. Of her many fears, here was one
which couched dark and shapeless in the background.
A feeble woman would have chosen anyone--her mother, her
brother--rather than Mutimer himself for the first participant in
such a discovery. Adela was not feeble, and the very danger, though
it might chill her senses, nerved her soul. Was she not making him
too ignoble? Was she not herself responsible for much of the
strangeness in his behaviour of late? The question she had once
asked herself, whether he loved her, she could not answer
doubtfully; was it not his love that had set her icily against him?
If she could not render him love in return, that was the wrong she
did him, the sin she had committed in becoming his wife. Adela by
this time knew too well that, in her threefold vows, love had of
right the foremost place; honour and obedience could not exist
without love. Her wrong was involuntary, none the less she owed him
such reparation as was possible; she must keep her mind open to his
better qualities. A man might fall, yet not be irredeemably base.
Oh, that she had never known of that poor girl in London! Base,
doubly and trebly base, had been his behaviour there, for one ill
deed had drawn others after it. But his repentance, his humiliation,
must have been deep, and of the kind which strengthens against
ill-doing in the future.
It had to be done, and had better be done quickly. Adela went to her
boudoir and rang the bell. The servant who came told her that
Mutimer was in the house. She summoned him.
It was five minutes before he appeared. He was preoccupied, though
not gloomily so.
'I thought you were at church,' he said, regarding her absently.
'I came away--because I found something--this!'
She had hoped to speak with calmness, but the interval of waiting
had agitated her, and the fear which no effort could allay struck
her heart as he entered. She held the parchment to him.
'What is it?' he asked, his attention gradually awakened by
surprise. He did not move forward to meet her extended hand.
'You will see--it is the will that we thought was destroyed--old Mr.
She rose and brought it to him. He looked at her with a sceptical
smile, which was involuntary, and lingered on his face even after he
had begun to read the document.
Adela seated herself again; she had scarcely power to stand. There
was a long silence.
'Where did you find this?' Mutimer inquired at length. His tone
astonished her; it was almost indifferent. But he did not raise his
She explained. It was needless, she thought, to give a reason for
her search in the lower cupboard; but the first thing that occurred
to Mutimer was to demand such reason.
A moment's hesitation; then:
'A piece of money rolled down behind the shelf on which the books
are; there is a gap at the back. I suppose that is how the will fell
His eye was now steadily fixed upon her, coldly scrutinising, as one
regards a suspected stranger. Adela was made wretched by the
inevitable falsehood. She felt herself reddening under his gaze.
He seemed to fall into absent-mindedness, then re-read the document.
Then he took out his watch.
'The people are out of church. Come and show me where it was.'
With a deep sense of relief she went away to put on her bonnet. To
escape for a moment was what she needed, and the self-command of his
voice seemed to assure her against her worst fears. She felt
grateful to him for preserving his dignity. The future lost one of
its terrors if only she could respect him.
They walked side by side to the church in silence: Mutimer had put
the will into his pocket. At the wicket he paused.
'Will Wyvern be in there?'
The question was answered by the appearance of the vicar himself,
who just then came forth from the front doorway. He approached them,
with a hope that Adela had not been obliged to leave through
'A little faintness,' Mutimer was quick to reply. 'We are going to
look for something she dropped in the pew.'
Mr. Wyvern passed on. Only the pew-opener was moving about the
aisles. She looked with surprise at the pair as they entered.
'Tell her the same,' Mutimer commanded, under his breath.
The old woman was of course ready with offers of assistance, but a
word from Richard sufficed to keep her away.
The examination was quickly made, and .they returned as they had
come, without exchanging a word on the way. They went upstairs again
to the boudoir.
'Sit down,' Mutimer said briefly.
He himself continued to stand, again examining the will.
'I should think,' he began slowly, 'it's as likely as not that this
is a forgery.'
'A forgery? But who could have--'
Her voice failed.
'He's not likely to have run the risk himself, I suppose,' Mutimer
pursued, with a quiet sneer, 'but no doubt there are people who
would benefit by it.'
Adela had an impulse of indignation. It showed intself in her cold,
'The will was thick with dust. It has been lying there a long time.'
'Of course. They wouldn't bungle over an important thing like this.'
He was once more scrutinising her. The suspicion was a genuine one,
and involved even more than Adela could imagine. If there had been a
plot, such plot assuredly included the discoverer of the document.
Could he in his heart charge Adela with that? There were two voices
at his ear, and of equal persuasiveness. Even to look into her face
did not silence the calumnious whispering. Her beauty was fuel to
his jealousy, and his jealousy alone made the supposition of her
guilt for a moment tenable. It was on his lips to accuse her, to
ease himself with savage innuendoes, those 'easy things to
understand' which come naturally from such a man in such a
situation. But to do that would be to break with her for ever, and
the voice that urged her innocence would not let him incur such
risk. The loss of his possessions was a calamity so great that as
yet he could not realise its possibility; the loss of his wife
impressed his imagination more immediately, and was in this moment
the more active fear.
He was in the strange position of a man who finds all at once that
he _dare_ not believe that which he has been trying his best to
believe. If Adela were guilty of plotting with Eldon, it meant that
he himself was the object of her utter hatred, a hideous thought to
entertain. It threw him back upon her innocence. Egoism had to do
the work of the finer moral perceptions.
'Isn't it rather strange,' he said, not this time sneeringly, but
seeking for support against his intolerable suspicions, 'that you
never moved those buffets before?'
'I never had need of them.'
'And that hole has never been cleaned out?'
'Never; clearly never.'
She had risen to her feet, impelled by a glimmering of the thought
in which he examined her. What she next said came from her without
premeditation. Her tongue seemed to speak independently of her will.
'One thing I have said that was not true. It was not money that
slipped down, but my ring. I had taken it off and laid it on the
'Your ring?' he repeated, with cold surprise. 'Do you always take
your ring off in church, then?'
As soon as the words were spoken she had gone deadly pale. Was it
well to say that? Must there follow yet more explanation? She with
difficulty overcame an impulse to speak on and disclose all her
mind, the same kind of impulse she had known several times of late.
Sheer dread this time prevailed. The eyes that were upon her
concealed fire; what madness tempted her to provoke its outburst?
'I have never done so before,' she replied confusedly.
'Why to-day, then?'
She did not answer.
'And why did you tell--why did you say it was money?'
'I can't explain that,' she answered, her head bowed. 'I took off
the ring thoughtlessly; it is rather loose; my finger is thinner
than it used to be.'
On the track of cunning Mutimer's mind was keen enough; only amid
the complexities of such motives as sway a pure heart in trouble was
he quite at a loss. This confession of untruthfulness might on the
face of it have spoken in Adela's favour; but his very understanding
of that made him seek for subtle treachery. She saw he suspected
her; was it not good policy to seem perfectly frank, even if such
frankness for the moment gave a strengthening to suspicion? What
devilish ingenuity might after all be concealed in this woman, whom
he had taken for simplicity itself!
The first bell for luncheon disturbed his reflections.
'Please sit down,' he said, pointing to the chair. 'We can't end our
talk just yet.'
She obeyed him, glad again to rest her trembling limbs.
'If you suspect it to be a forgery,' she said, when she had waited
in vain for him to speak further, 'the best way of deciding is to go
at once to Mr. Yottle. He will remember; it was he drew up the
He flashed a glance at her.
'I'm perfectly aware of that. If this is forged, the lawyer has of
course given his help. He would be glad to see me.'
Again the suspicion was genuine. Mutimer felt himself hedged in;
every avenue of escape to which his thoughts turned was closed in
advance. There was no one he would not now have suspected. The full
meaning of his position was growing upon him; it made a ferment in
'Mr. Yottle!' Adela exclaimed in astonishment. 'You think it
possible that he--Oh, that is folly!'
Yes, it was folly; her voice assured him of it, proclaiming at the
same time the folly of his whole doubt. It was falling to pieces,
and, as it fell, disclosing the image of his fate, inexorable,
He stood for more than five minutes in silence. Then he drew a
little nearer to her, and asked in an unsteady voice:
'Are you glad of this?'
'Glad of it?' she repeated under her breath.
'Yes; shall you be glad to see me lose everything?'
'You cannot wish to keep what belongs to others. In that sense I
think we ought to be glad that the will is found.'
She spoke so coldly that he drew away from her again. The second
'They had better have lunch without us,' he said.
He rang and bade the servant ask Mr. and Mrs. Rodman to lunch alone.
Then he returned to an earlier point of the discussion.
'You say it was thick with dust?'
'It was. I believe the lower cupboard has never been open since Mr.
'Why should he take a will to church with him?'
Adela shook her head.
'If he did,' Mutimer pursued, 'I suppose it was to think over the
new one he was going to make. You know, of course, that he never
intended _this_ to be his will?'
'We do not know what his last thoughts may have been,' Adela
replied, in a low voice but firmly.
'Yes, I think we do. I mean to say, we are quite sure he meant to
alter _this_. Yottle was expecting the new will.'
'Death took him before he could make it. He left this.'
Her quiet opposition was breath to the fire of his jealousy. He
could no longer maintain his voice of argument.
'It just means this: you won't hear anything against the will, and
you're glad of it.'
'Your loss is mine.'
He looked at her and again drew nearer.
'It's not very likely that you'll stay to share it.'
'Stay?' She watched his movements with apprehension. 'How can I
separate my future from yours?'
He desired to touch her, to give some sign of his mastery, whether
tenderly or with rude force mattered little.
'It's easy to say that, but we know it doesn't mean much.'
His tongue stammered. As Adela rose and tried to move apart, he
caught her arm roughly, then her waist, and kissed her several times
about the face. Released, she sank back upon the chair, pale, tern
fled; her breath caught with voiceless sobs. Mutimer turned away and
leaned his arms upon the mantelpiece. His body trembled.
Neither could count the minutes that followed. An inexplicable shame
kept Mutimer silent and motionless. Adela, when the shock of
repugnance had passed over, almost forgot the subject of their
conversation in vain endeavours to understand this man in whose
power she was. His passion was mysterious, revolting--impossible for
her to reconcile with his usual bearing, with his character as she
understood it. It was more than a year since he had mingled his talk
to her with any such sign of affection, and her feeling was one of
outrage. What protection had she? The caresses had followed upon an
insult, and were themselves brutal, degrading. It was a realisation
of one of those half-formed fears which had so long haunted her in
What would life be with him, away from the protections of a wealthy
home, when circumstances would have made him once more the London
artisan, and in doing so would have added harshness to his natural
temper; when he would no longer find it worth while to preserve the
semblance of gentle breeding? Was there strength in her to endure
Presently he turned, and she heard him speak her name. She raised
her eyes with a half-smile of abashment. He approached and took her
'Have you thought what this means to me?' he asked, in a much softer
'I know it must be very hard.'
'I don't mean in that way. I'm not thinking of the change back to
poverty. It's my work in New Wanley; my splendid opportunity of
helping on Socialism. Think, just when everything is fairly started!
You can't feel it as I do, I suppose. You haven't the same interest
in the work. I hoped once you would have had.'
Adela remembered what her brother had said, but she could not allude
to it. To question was useless. She thought of a previous occasion
on which he had justified himself when accused.
He still held her hand.
'Which would do the most good with this money, he or I?'
'We cannot ask that question.'
'Yes, we can. We ought to. At all events, _I_ ought to. Think what
it means. In my hands the money is used for the good of a suffering
class, for the good of the whole country in the end. He would just
spend it on himself, like other rich men. It isn't every day that a
man of my principles gets the means of putting them into practice.
Eldon is well enough off; long ago he's made up his mind to the loss
of Wanley. It's like robbing poor people just to give money where it
She withdrew her hand, saying coldly:
'I can understand your looking at it in this way. But we can't help
'Why can't we?' His voice grew disagreeable in its effort to be
insinuating. 'It seems to me that we can and ought to help it. It
would be. quite different if you and I had just been enjoying
ourselves and thinking of no one else.' He thought it a skilful
stroke to unite their names thus. 'We haven't done anything of the
kind; we've denied ourselves all sorts of things just to be able to
spend more on New Wanley. You know what I've always said, that I
hold the money in trust for the Union. Isn't it true? I don't feel
justified in giving it up. The end is too important. The good of
thousands, of hundreds of thousands, is at stake.'
Adela looked him in the face searchingly.
'But how can we help it? There is the will.'
Mutimer met her eyes.
'No one knows of it but ourselves, Adela.'
It was not indignation that her look expressed, but at first a kind
of shocked surprise and then profound trouble. It was with
difficulty that she found words.
'You are not speaking in earnest?'
'I am!' he exclaimed, almost hopefully. 'In downright earnest.
There's nothing to be ashamed of.' He said it because he felt that
her gaze was breeding shame in him. 'It isn't for myself, it's for
the cause, for the good of my fellowmen. Don't say anything till
you've thought. Look, Adela, you're not hardhearted, and you know
how it used to pain you to read of the poor wretches who can't earn
enough to keep themselves alive. It's for their sake. If they could
be here and know of this, they'd go down on their knees to you. You
_can't_ rob them of a chance! It's like snatching a bit of bread out
of their mouths when they're dying of hunger.'
The fervour with which he pleaded went far to convince himself; for
the moment he lost sight of everything but the necessity of
persuading Adela, and his zeal could scarcely have been greater had
he been actuated by the purest unselfishness. He was speaking as
Adela had never heard him speak, with modulations of the voice which
were almost sentimental, like one pleading for love. In his heart he
despaired of removing her scruples, but he overcame this with
vehement entreaty. A true instinct forbade him to touch on her own
interests; he had not lived so long with Adela without attaining
some perception of the nobler ways of thought. But as often as he
raised his eyes to hers he saw the futility of all his words. Her
direct gaze at length brought him to unwilling silence.
'Would you then,' Adela asked gravely, 'destroy this will?'
The monosyllable was all he cared to reply.
'I can scarcely believe you. Such a thing is impossible. You could
not do it.'
'It's my duty to do it.'
'This is unworthy of you. It is a crime, in law and in conscience.
How can you so deceive yourself? After such an act as that, whatever
you did would be worthless, vain.'
'Because no one can do great work of the kind you aim at unless he
is himself guided by the strictest honour. Every word you spoke
would be a falsehood. Oh, can't you see that, as plainly as the
light of day? The results of your work! Why, nothing you could
possibly do with all this money would be one-half as good as to let
everyone know that you honourably gave it up when it was in your
power dishonestly to keep it! Oh, surely _that_ is the kind of
example that the world needs! What causes all the misery but
dishonesty and selfishness? If you do away with that, you gain all
you are working for. The example! You should prize the opportunity.
You are deceiving yourself; it is a temptation that you are yielding
to. Think a moment; you will see that I am right. You cannot do a
thing so unworthy of yourself.'
He stood for a moment doggedly, then replied:
'I can and I shall do it.'
'Never!' Adela rose and faced him. 'You shall listen to me till you
understand. You, who pride yourself on your high motives! For your
own sake scorn this temptation. Let me take the will away. I will
put it somewhere till to-morrow. You will see clearly by then. I
know how dreadful this loss seems to you, but you must be stronger.'
He stood between her and the table on which the parchment lay, and
waved her back as she approached. Adela's voice trembled, but there
was not a note in it that he could resent.
'You wrong yourself, and you are cruel to me. How could I live with
you if you did such a thing? How could I remain in this house when it
was no longer yours? It is impossible, a thousand times impossible.
You _cannot_ mean it! If you do this in spite of everything I can
say, you are more cruel than if you raised your hand and struck me.
You make my life a shame; you dishonour and degrade me.'
'That's all nonsense,' he replied sullenly, the jealous motive
possessing him again at the sight of her gleaming eyes. 'It's you
who don't understand, and just because you have no sympathy with my
work. Any one would think you cared for nothing but to take the
money from me, just to--'
Even in his access of spiteful anger he checked himself, and dropped
to another tone.
'I take all the responsibility. You have nothing to do with it. What
seems right to me, I shall do. I am your husband, and you've no
voice in a thing like this.'
'No voice? Have I no right to save you from ruin? Must a wife stand
by and see her husband commit a crime? Have you no duty to me? What
becomes of our married life if you rob me of all respect for you?'
'I tell you I am doing it with a good motive. If you were a thorough
Socialist, you would respect me all the more. This money was made
out of overworked--'
He was laying his hand on the will; she sprang forward and grasped
'Richard, give it to me!'
'No, I shall not.'
He had satisfied himself that if the will was actually destroyed she
would acquiesce in silence; the shame she spoke of would constrain
her. He pushed her away without violence, and moved towards the
door. But her muteness caused him to turn and regard her. She was
leaning forward, her lips parted, her eyes fixed in despair.
'Are you trying me?'
'What do you mean?'
'Do you believe that I should let you do that and help you to hide
'You will come to see that I was right, and be glad that I paid no
heed to you.'
'Then you don't know me. Though you are my husband I would make
public what you had done. Nothing should silence me. Do you drive me
The absence of passion in her voice impressed him far more than
violence could have done. Her countenance had changed from pleading
He stood uncertain.
'Now indeed,' Adela continued, 'I am doing what no woman should have
to do.' Her voice became bitter. 'I have not a man's strength; I can
only threaten you with shame which will fall more heavily on
'Your word against mine,' he muttered, trying to smile.
'You could defend yourself by declaring me infamous?'
Did he know the meaning of that flash across her face? Only when the
words were uttered did their full significance strike Adela herself.
'You could defend yourself by saying that I lied against you?'
He regarded her from beneath his eyebrows as she repeated the
question. In the silence which followed he seated himself on the
chair nearest to him. Adela too sat down.
For more than a quarter of an hour they remained thus, no word
exchanged. Then Adela rose and approached her husband.
'If I order the carriage,' she said softly, 'will you come with me
at once to Belwick?'
He gave no answer. He was sitting with his legs crossed, the will
held over his knee.
'I am sorry you have this trial,' she continued, 'deeply sorry. But
you have won, I know you have won!'
He turned his eyes in a direction away from her, hesitated, rose.
'Get your things on.'
He was going to the door.
She held her hand for the parchment.
'You can't trust me to the bottom of the stairs?' he asked bitterly.
She all but laughed with glad confidence.
'Oh, I will trust you!'
Adela and her husband did not return from Belwick till eight o'clock
in the evening. In the first place Mr. Yottle had to be sent for
from a friend's house in the country, where he was spending Sunday;
then there was long waiting for a train back to Agworth. The
Rodmans, much puzzled to account for the disorder, postponed dinner.
Adela, however, dined alone, and but slightly, though she had not