Part 9 out of 12
eaten since breakfast. Then fatigue overcame her. She slept an
unbroken sleep till sunrise.
On going down next morning she found 'Arry alone in the dining-room;
he was standing at the window with hands in pocket, and, after a
glance round, averted his face again, a low growl his only answer to
her morning salutation. Mr. Rodman was the next to appear. He shook
hands as usual. In his 'I hope you are well?' there was an accent of
respectful sympathy. Personally, he seemed in his ordinary spirits.
He proceeded to talk of trifles, but in such a tone as he might have
used had there been grave sickness in the house. And presently, with
yet lower voice and a smile of good-humoured resignation, he said--
'Our journey, I fear, must be postponed.'
Adela smiled, not quite in the same way, and briefly assented.
'Alice is not very well,' Rodman then remarked. 'I advised. her to
have breakfast upstairs. I trust you excuse her?'
Mutimer made his appearance. He just nodded round, and. asked, as he
seated himself at table--
'Who's been letting Freeman loose? He's running about the garden.'
The dog furnished a topic for a few minutes' conversation, then
there was all but unbroken silence to the end of the meal. Richard's
face expressed nothing in particular, unless it were a bad night.
Rodman kept up his smile, and, eating little himself, devoted
himself to polite waiting upon Adela. When he rose from the table,
Richard said to his brother--
'You'll go down as usual. I shall be at the office in half-an-hour.'
Adela presently went to the drawing-room. She was surprised. to find
Alice sitting there. Mrs. Rodman had clearly not enjoyed the
unbroken rest which gave Adela her appearance of freshness and calm;
her eyes were swollen and red, her lips hung like those of a fretful
child that has tired itself with sobbing, her hair was carelessly
rolled up, her attire slatternly. She sat in sullen disorder. Seeing
Adela, she dropped her eyes, and her. lips drew themselves together.
Adela hesitated to approach her, but was moved to do so by sheer
'I'm afraid you've had a bad night,' she said kindly.
'Yes, I suppose I have,' was the ungracious reply.
Adela stood before her for a moment, but could find nothing else to
say. She was turning when Alice looked up, her red eyes almost
glaring, her breast shaken with uncontrollable passion.
'I think you might have had some consideration,' she exclaimed. 'If
you didn't care to speak a word for yourself, you might have thought
about others. What are we to do, I. should like to know?'
Adela was struck with consternation. She had been prepared for
petulant bewailing, but a vehement outburst of this kind was the
last thing she could have foreseen, above all to have it directed
'What do you mean, Alice?' she said with pained surprise.
'Why, it's all your doing, I suppose,' the other pursued, in the
same voice. 'What right had you to let him go off in that. way
without saying a word to us? If the truth was known, I expect you
were at the bottom of it; he wouldn't have been such a fool,
whatever he says. What right had you, I'd like to know?'
Adela calmed herself as she listened. Her surprise at the attack was
modified and turned into another channel by Alice's words.
'Has Richard told you what passed between us?' she inquired. It cost
her nothing to speak with unmoved utterance; the difficulty was not
to seem too indifferent.
'He's told us as much as he thought fit. His duty! I like that! As
if you couldn't have stopped him, if you'd chosen! You might have
thought of other people.'
'Did he tell you that I tried to stop him?' Adela asked, with the
same quietness of interrogation.
'Why, did you?' cried Alice, looking up scornfully.
'Of course not! Talk about duty! I should think that was plain
enough duty. I only wish he'd come to me with his talk about duty.
It's a duty to rob people, I suppose? Oh, I understand _him_ well
enough. It's an easy way of getting out of his difficulties; as well
lose his money this way as any other. He always thinks of himself
first, trust him! He'll go down to New Wanley and make a speech, no
doubt, and show off--with his duty and all the rest of it! What's
going to become of me? You'd no right to let him go before telling
'You would have advised him to say nothing about the will?'
'Advised him!' she laughed angrily. 'I'd have seen if I couldn't do
something more than advise.'
'I fear you wouldn't have succeeded in making your brother act
dishonourably,' Adela replied.
It was the first sarcasm that had ever passed her lips, and as soon
as it was spoken she turned to leave the room, fearful lest she
might say things which would afterwards degrade her in her own eyes.
Her body quivered. As she reached the door Rodman opened it and
entered. He bowed to let her pass, searching her face the while.
When she was gone he approached to Alice, whom he had at once
'What have you been up to?' he asked sternly.
Her head was bent before him, and she gave no answer.
'Can't you speak? What's made her look like that? Have you been
quarrelling with her?'
'You know what I mean well enough. Just tell me what you said. I
thought I told you to stay upstairs? What's been going on?'
'I told her she ought to have let us know,' replied Alice, timorous,
but affecting the look and voice of a spoilt child.
'Then you've made a fool of yourself!' he exclaimed with subdued
violence. 'You've got to learn that when I tell you to do a thing
you do it--or I'll know the reason why! You'd no business to come
out of your room. Now you'll just find her and apologise. You
understand? You'll go and beg her pardon at once.'
Alice raised her eyes in wretched bewilderment.
'Beg her pardon?' she faltered. 'Oh, how can I? Why, what harm have
I done, Willis? I'm sure I shan't beg her pardon.'
'You won't? If you talk to me in that way you shall go down on your
knees before her. You won't?'
His voice had such concentrated savagery in its suppression that
Alice shrank back in terror.
'Willis! How can you speak so! What have I done?'
'You've made a confounded fool of yourself, and most likely spoilt
the last chance you had, if you want to know. In future, when I say
a thing understand that I mean it; I don't give orders for nothing.
Go and find her and beg her pardon. I'll wait here till you've done
'But I _can't_! Willis, you won't force me to do that? I'd rather
die than humble myself to her.'
'Do you hear me?'
She stood up, almost driven to bay. Her eyes were wet, her poor,
crumpled prettiness made a deplorable spectacle.
'I can't, I can't! Why are you so unkind to me? I have only said
what any one would. I hate her! My lips won't speak the words.
You've no right to ask me to do such a thing.'
Her wrist was caught in a clutch that seemed to crush the muscles,
and she was flung back on to the chair. Terror would not let the
scream pass her lips: she lay with open mouth and staring eyes.
Rodman looked at her for an instant, then seemed to master his fury
'That doesn't improve your beauty. Now, no crying out before you're
hurt. There's no harm done. Only you've to learn that I mean what I
say, that's all. Now I haven't hurt you, so don't pretend.'
'Oh, you _have_ hurt me!' she sobbed wretchedly, with her fingers
round her injured wrist. 'I never thought you could be so cruel. Oh,
my hand! What harm have I done? And you used to say you'd never be
unkind to me, never! Oh, how miserable I am! Is this how you're
going to treat me? As if I could help it! Willis, you won't begin to
be cruel? Oh, my hand!'
'Let me look at it. Pooh, what's amiss?' He spoke all at once in his
usual good-natured voice. 'Now go and find Adela, whilst I wait
'You're going to force me to do that?'
'You're going to do it. Now don't make me angry again.'
She rose, frightened again by his look. She took a step or two, then
turned back to him.
'If I do this, will you be kind to me, the same as before?'
'Of course I will. You don't take me for a brute?'
She held her bruised wrist to him.
'Will you--will you kiss it well again?'
The way in which she said it was as nearly pathetic as anything from
poor Alice could be. Her misery was so profound, and this childish
forgiveness of an outrage was so true a demonstration of womanly
tenderness which her character would not allow to be noble. Her
husband laughed rather uneasily, and did her bidding with an ill
grace. But yet she could not go.
'You'll promise never to speak--'
'Yes, yes, of course I promise. Come back to me. Mind, shall know
how you did it.'
'But why? What is she to us?'
'I'll tell you afterwards.'
There was a dawning of jealousy in her eyes.
'I don't think you ought to make your wife lower herself--'
His brow darkened.
'Will you do as I tell you?'
She moved towards the door, stopped to dry her wet cheeks, half
looked round. What she saw sped her on her way.
Adela was just descending the stairs, dressed to go out. Alice let
her go past without speaking, but followed her through the hall and
into the garden. Adela turned, saying gently--
'Do you wish to speak to me?'
'I'm sorry I said those things. I didn't mean it. I don't think it
was your fault.'
The other smiled; then in that voice which Stella had spoken of as
full of forgiveness--
'No, it is not my fault, Alice. It couldn't be otherwise.'
'Don't think of it another moment.'
Alice would gladly have retreated, but durst not omit what seemed to
her the essential because the bitterest words.
'I beg your pardon.'
'No, no!' exclaimed Adela quickly. 'Go and lie down a little; you
look so tired. Try not to be unhappy, your husband will not let harm
come to you.'
Alice returned to the house, hating her sister-in-law with a perfect
The hated one took her way into Wanley. She had no pleasant
mission--that of letting her mother and Letty know what had
happened. The latter she found in the garden behind the house
dancing her baby-boy up and down in the sunlight. Letty did not look
very matronly, it must be confessed; but what she lacked in mature
dignity was made up in blue-eyed and warm-checked happiness. At the
sight of Adela she gave a cry of joy.
'Why, mother's just getting ready to go and say good-bye to you. As
soon as she comes down and takes this little rogue I shall just slip
my own things on. We didn't think you'd come here.'
'We're not going to-day,' Adela replied, playing with the baby's
'Business prevents Richard.'
'How you frightened us by leaving church yesterday! I was on my way
to ask about you, but Mr. Wyvern met me and said there was nothing
the matter. And you went to Agworth, didn't you?'
'To Belwick. We had to see Mr. Yottle, the solicitor.'
Mrs. Waltham issued from the house, and explanations were again
'Could you give baby to the nurse for a few minutes?' Adela asked
Letty. 'I should like to speak to you and mother quietly.'
The arrangement was effected and all three went into the
sitting-room. There Adela explained in simple words all that had
come to pass; emotionless herself, but the cause of utter dismay in
her hearers. When she ceased there was blank silence.
Mrs. Waltham was the first to find her voice.
'But surely Mr. Eldon won't take everything from you? I don't think
he has the power to--it wouldn't be just; there must be surely some
kind of provision in the law for such a thing. What did Mr. Yottle
'Only that Mr. Eldon could recover the whole estate.'
'The estate!' exclaimed Mrs. Waltham eagerly. 'But not the money?'
'The estate includes the money, mother. It means everything.'
'Oh, Adela!' sighed Letty, who sat with her hands on her lap,
'But surely not Mrs. Rodman's settlement?' cried the elder lady, who
was rapidly surveying the whole situation.
'Everything,' affirmed Adela.
'But what an extraordinary, what an unheard-of thing! Such injustice
I never knew! Oh, but Mr. Eldon is a gentleman--he can never exact
his legal rights to the full extent. He has too much delicacy of
feeling for that.' Adela glanced at her mother with a curious
openness of look--the expression which by apparent negation of
feeling reveals feeling of special significance. Mrs. Waltham caught
the glance and checked her flow of speech.
'Oh, he could never do that!' she murmured the next moment, in a
lower key, clasping her hands together upon her knees. 'I am sure he
'You must remember, mother,' remarked Adela with reserve, 'that Mr.
Eldon's disposition cannot affect us.'
'My dear child, what I meant was this: it is impossible for him to
go to law with your husband to recover the uttermost farthing. How
are you to restore money that is long since spent? and it isn't as
if it had been spent in the ordinary way--it has been devoted to
public purposes. Mr. Eldon will of course take all these things into
consideration. And really one must say that it is very strange for a
wealthy man to leave his property entirely to strangers.'
'Not entirely,' put in Adela rather absently.
'A hundred and seven pounds a year!' exclaimed her mother
protestingly. 'My dear love, what _can_ be done with such a paltry
sum as that!'
'We must do a good deal with it, dear mother. It will be all we have
to depend upon until Richard finds--finds some position.'
'But you are not going to leave the Manor at once?'
'As soon as ever we can. I don't know what arrangement my husband is
making. We shall see Mr. Yottle again to-morrow.'
'Adela, this is positively shocking! It seems incredible I never
thought such things could happen. No wonder you looked white when
you went out of church. How little I imagined! But you know you can
come here at any moment. You can sleep with me, or we'll have
another bed put up in the room. Oh, dear; oh, dear! It will take me
a long time to understand it. Your husband could not possibly object
to your living here till he found you a suitable home. What _will_
Alfred say? Oh, you must certainly come here. I shan't have a
moment's' rest if you go away somewhere whilst things are in this
'I don't think that will be necessary,' Adela replied with. a
reassuring smile. 'It might very well have happened that we had
nothing at all, not even the hundred pounds; but a wife can't run
away for reasons of that kind--can she, Letty?'
Letty gazed with her eyes of loving pity, and sighed, 'I suppose
Adela sat with them for only a few minutes more. She did not feel
able to chat at length on a crisis such as this, and the tone of her
mother's sympathy was not soothing to her. Mrs. Waltham had begun to
put a handkerchief to her eyes.
'You mustn't take it to heart,' Adela said as she bent and kissed
her cheek. 'You can't think how little it troubles me--on my own
account. Letty, I look to you to keep mother cheerful. Only think
what numbers of poor creatures would dance for joy if they had a
hundred a year left them! We must be philosophers, you see. I
couldn't shed a tear if I tried ever so hard. Good-bye, dear
Mrs. Waltham did not rise, but Letty followed her friend into the
hall. She had been very silent and undemonstrative; now she embraced
Adela tenderly. There was still something of the old diffidence in
her manner, but the effect of her mother. hood was discernible.
Adela was childless--a circumstance in itself provocative of a
gentle sense of protection in Letty's heart.
'You'll let us see you every day, darling?'
'As often as I can, Letty. Don't let mother get low-spirited.
There's nothing to grieve about.'
Letty returned to the sitting-room; Mrs. Waltham was still pressing
the handkerchief on this cheek and that alternately.
'How wonderful she is!' Letty exclaimed. 'I feel as if I could never
again fret over little troubles.'
'Adela has a strong character,' assented the mother with mournful
Letty, unable to sit long without her baby, fetched it from the
nurse's arms. The infant's luncheon-hour had arrived, and the
nourishment was still of Letty's own providing. It was strange to
see on her face the slow triumph of this ineffable bliss over the
grief occasioned by the recent conversation. Mrs. Waltham had
floated into a stream of talk.
'Now, what a strange thing it is!' she observed, after many other
reflections, and when the sound of her own voice had had time to
soothe. 'On the very morning of the wedding I had the most singular
misgiving, a feeling I couldn't explain. One would almost think I
had foreseen this very thing. And you know very well, my dear, that
the marriage troubled me in many ways. It was not _the_ match for
Adela, but then--. Adela, as you say, has a strong character; she
is not very easy to reason with. I tried to make both sides of the
question clear to her. But then her prejudice against Mr. Eldon was
very strong, and how naturally, poor child! Young people don't like
to trust to time; they think everything must be done quickly. If she
had been one to marry for reasons of interest it might look like a
punishment; but then it was so far otherwise. How much better it
would have been to wait a few years! One really never knows what is
going to happen. Young people really ought to trust others'
Letty was only lending half an ear. The general character of her
mother-in-law's monologues did not encourage much attention. She was
conscious of a little surprise, even now and then of a mild
indignation; but the baby sucking at her breast lulled her into a
sweet maternal apathy. She could only sigh from time to time and
wonder whether it was a good thing or the contrary that Adela had no
baby in her trials.
Mutimer did not come to the Manor for luncheon. Rodman, who had been
spending an hour at the works, brought word that business pressed; a
host of things had to be unexpectedly finished off and put in order.
He, Alice, and Adela made pretence of a midday meal; then he went
into the library to smoke a cigar and meditate. The main subject of
his meditation was an interview with Adela which he purposed seeking
in the course of the afternoon. But he had also half-a-dozen letters
of the first importance to despatch to town by the evening post, and
these it was well to get off hand. He had finished them by half-past
three. Then he went to the drawing-room, but found it vacant. He
sought his wife's chamber. Alice was endeavouring to read a novel,
but there was recent tear-shedding about her eyes, which had not
come of the author's pathos.
'You'll be a pretty picture soon if that goes on,' Rodman remarked,
with a frankness which was sufficiently brutal in spite of his
'I can't think how you take it so lightly,' Alice replied with utter
despondency, flinging the book aside.
'What's the good of taking it any other way? Where's Adela?'
'Adela?' She looked at him as closely as her eyes would let her.
'Why do you want her?'
'I asked you where she was. Please to get into the habit of
answering my questions at once. It'll save time in future.'
She seemed about to resent his harshness, but the effort cost her
too much. She let her head fall forward almost upon her knees and
Rodman touched her shoulder and shook her, but not roughly.
'Do not be such an eternal fool!' he grumbled. 'Do you know where
Adela is or not?'
'No, I don't,' came the smothered reply. Then, raising her head,
'Why do you think so much about Adela?'
He leaned against the dressing-table and laughed mockingly.
'That's the matter, eh? You think I'm after her! Don't be such a
'I'd rather you call me a goose than a fool, Willis.'
'Why, there's not much difference. Now if you'll sit up and behave
sensibly, I'll tell you why I want her.'
'Really? Will you give me a kiss first?'
'Poor blubbery princess! Pah! your lips are like a baby's. Now just
listen, and mind you hold your tongue about what I say. You know
there used to be something between Adela and Eldon. I've a notion it
went farther than we know of. Well, I don't see why we shouldn't get
her to talk him over into letting you keep your money, or a good
part of it. So you see it's you I'm thinking about after all, little
'Oh, you really mean that! Kiss me again--look, I've wiped my lips,
You really think you can do that, Willis?'
'No, I don't think I can, but it's worth having a try. Eldon has a
soft side, I know. The thing is to find her soft side. I'm going to
have a try to talk her over. Now, where is she likely to be?--out in
'Perhaps she's at her mother's.'
'Confound it! Well, I'll go and look about; I can't lose time.'
'You'll never get her to do anything for _me_, Willis.'
'Very likely not. But the things that you succeed in are always the
most unlikely, as you'd understand if you'd lived my life.'
'At all events, I shan't have to give up my dresses?'
'Hang your dresses--on the wardrobe pegs!'
He went downstairs again and out into the garden, thence to the
entrance gate. Adela had passed it but a few minutes before, and he
saw her a little distance off. She was going in the direction away
from Wanley, seemingly on a mere walk. He decided to follow her and
only join her when she had gone some way. She walked with her head
bent, walked slowly and with no looking about her. Presently it was
plain that she meant to enter the wood. This was opportune. But he
lost sight of her as soon as she passed among the trees. He
quickened his pace; saw her turning off the main path among the
copses. In his pursuit he got astray; he must have missed her track.
Suddenly he was checked by the sound of voices, which seemed to come
from a lower level just in front of him. Cautiously he stepped
forward, till he could see through hazel bushes that there was a
steep descent before him. Below, two persons were engaged in
conversation, and he could hear every word.
The two were Adela and Hubert Eldon. Adela had come to sit for the
last time in the green retreat which was painfully dear to her. Her
husband's absence gave her freedom; she used it to avoid the Rodmans
and to talk with herself. She F was, as we may conjecture, far from
looking cheerfully into the future. Nor was she content with
herself, with her behaviour in the drama of these two days. In
thinking over the scene with her husband she experienced a shame
before her conscience which could not at first be readily accounted
for, for of a truth she had felt no kind of shame in steadfastly
resisting Mutimer's dishonourable impulse. But she saw now that in
the judgment of one who could read all her heart she would not come
off with unmingled praise. Had there not been another motive at work
in her besides zeal for honour? Suppose the man benefiting by the
will had been another than Hubert Eldon? Surely that would not have
affected her behaviour? Not in practice, doubtless; but here was a
question of feeling, a scrutiny of the soul's hidden velleities. No
difference in action, be sure; that must ever be upright But what of
the heroism in this particular case? The difference declared itself;
here there had been no heroism whatever. To strip herself and her
husband when a moment's winking would have kept them well clad? Yes,
but on whose behalf? Had there not been a positive pleasure in
making herself poor that Hubert might be rich? There was the fatal
element in the situation. She came out of the church palpitating
with joy; the first assurance of her husband's ignominious yielding
to temptation filled her with, not mere scorn, but with dread. Had
she not been guilty of mock nobleness in her voice, her bearing? At
the time she did not feel it, for the thought of Hubert was kept
altogether in the background. Yes, but she saw now how it had shed
light and warmth upon her; the fact was not to be denied, because
her consciousness had not then included it She was shamed.
A pity, is it not? It were so good to have seen her purely noble,
indignant with unmixed righteousness. But, knowing our Adela's
heart, is it not even sweeter to bear with her? You will go far
before you find virtue in which there is no dear sustaining comfort
of self. For my part, Adela is more to me for the imperfection,
infinitely more to me for the confession of it in her own mind. How
can a woman be lovelier than when most womanly, or more precious
than when she reflects her own weakness in clarity of soul?
As she made her way through the wood her trouble of conscience was
lost in deeper suffering. The scent of undergrowths, which always
brought back to her the glad days of maidenhood, filled her with the
hopelessness of the future. There was no return on the path of life;
every step made those memories of happiness more distant and
thickened the gloom about her. She could be strong when it was
needful, could face the world as well as any woman who makes a veil
of pride for her bleeding heart; but here, amid the sweet
wood-perfumes, in silence and secrecy, self-pity caressed her into
feebleness. The light was dimmed by her tears; she rather felt than
saw her way. And thus, with moist eyelashes, she came to her wonted
resting-place. But she found her seat occupied, and by the man whom
in this moment she could least bear to meet.
Hubert sat there, bareheaded, lost in thought. Her light footfall
did not touch his ear. He looked up to find her standing before him,
and he saw that she had been shedding tears. For an instant she was
powerless to direct herself; then sheer panic possessed her and she
turned to escape.
Hubert started to his feet.
'Mrs. Mutimer! Adela!'
The first name would not have stayed her, for her flight was as
unreasoning as that of a fawn. The second, her own name, uttered
with almost desperate appeal, robbed her of the power of movement.
She turned to bay, as though an obstacle had risen in her path, and
there was terror in her white face.
Hubert drew a little nearer and spoke hurriedly.
'Forgive me! I could not let you go. You seem to have come in answer
to my thought; I was wishing to see you. Do forgive me!'
She knew that he was examining her moist eyes; a rush of blood
passed over her features
'Not unless you are willing,' Hubert pursued, his voice at its
gentlest and most courteous. 'But if I might speak to you for a few
'You have heard from Mr. Yottle?' Adela asked, without raising her
eyes, trying her utmost to speak in a merely natural way.
'Yes. I happened to be at my mother's house. He came last night to
obtain my address.'
The truth was, that a generous impulse, partly of his nature, and in
part such as any man might know in a moment of unanticipated good
fortune, had bade him put aside his prejudices and meet Mutimer at
once on a footing of mutual respect. Incapable of ignoble
exultation, it seemed to him that true delicacy dictated a personal
interview with the man who, judging from Yottle's report, had so
cheerfully acquitted himself of the hard task imposed by honour. But
as he walked over from Agworth this zeal cooled. Could he trust
Mutimer to appreciate his motive? Such a man was capable of acting
honourably, but the power of understanding delicacies of behaviour
was not so likely to be his. Hubert's prejudices were insuperable;
to his mind class differences necessarily argued a difference in the
grain. And it was not only this consideration that grew weightier as
he walked. In the great joy of recovering his ancestral home, in the
sight of his mother's profound happiness, he all but forgot the
thoughts that had besieged him since his meetings with Adela in
London. As he drew near to Wanley his imagination busied itself
almost exclusively with her; distrust and jealousy of Mutimer became
fear for Adela's future. Such a change as this would certainly have
a dire effect upon her life. He thought of her frail appearance; he
remembered the glimpse of her face that he had caught when her
husband entered Mrs. Westlake's drawing-room, the startled movement
she could not suppress. It was impossible to meet Mutimer with any
show of good-feeling; he wondered how he could have set forth with
such an object. Instead of going to the Manor he turned his steps to
the Vicarage, and joined Mr. Wyvern at luncheon. The vicar had of
course heard nothing of the discovery as yet. In the afternoon
Hubert started to walk back to Agworth, but instead of taking the
direct road he strayed into the wood. He was loth to leave the
neighbourhood of the Manor; intense anxiety to know what Adela was
doing made him linger near the place where she was. Was she already
suffering from brutal treatment? What wretchedness might she not be
undergoing within those walls!
He said she seemed to have sprung up in answer to his desire. In
truth, her sudden appearance overcame him; her tearful face turned
to irresistible passion that yearning which, consciously or
unconsciously, was at all times present in his life. Her grief could
have but one meaning; his heart went out to her with pity as intense
as its longing. Other women had drawn his eyes, had captured him
with the love of a day; but the deep still affection which is
independent of moods and impressions flowed ever towards Adela. As
easily could he have become indifferent to his mother as to Adela.
As a married woman she was infinitely more to him than she had been
as a girl; from her conversation, her countenance, he knew how
richly she had developed, how her intelligence had ripened how her
character had established itself in maturity. In that utterance of
her name the secret escaped him before he could think how impossible
it was to address her so familiarly. It was the perpetual key-word
of his thoughts; only when he had heard it from his own lips did he
realise what he had done.
When he had given the brief answer to her question he could find no
more words. But Adela spoke.
'What do you wish to say to me, Mr. Eldon?'
Whether or no he interpreted her voice by his own feelings, she
seemed to plead with him to be manly and respect her womanhood.
'Only to say the common things which anyone must say in my position,
but to say them so that you will believe they are not only a form.
The circumstances are so strange. I want to ask you for your help;
my position is perhaps harder than yours and Mr. Mutimer's. We must
remember that there is justice to be considered. If. you will give
me your aid in doing justice as far as r am able--'
In fault of any other possible reply he had involved himself in a
subject which he knew it was far better to leave untouched. He could
not complete his sentence, but stood before her with his head bent.
Adela scarcely knew what he said; in anguish she sought for a means
of quitting him, of fleeing and hiding herself among the trees. His
accent told her that. she was the object of his compassion, and she
had invited it by letting him see her tears. Of necessity he must
think that she was sorrowing on her own account. That was true,
indeed, but how impossible for him to interpret her grief rightly?
The shame of being misjudged by him all but drove her to speak, and
tell him that she cared less than nothing for the loss that had
befallen her. Yet she could not trust herself to speak such words.
Her heart was beating insufferably; all the woman in her rushed
towards hysteria and sell-abandonment. It was well that Hubert's
love was of quality to stand the test of these terrible moments.
Something he must say, and the most insignificant phrase was the
'Will you sit--rest after your walk?'
She did so; scarcely could she have stood longer. And with the
physical ease there seemed to come a sudden mental relief. A thought
sprang up, opening upon her like a haven of refuge.
'There is one thing I should like to ask of you,' she began, forcing
herself to regard him directly. 'It is a great thing, I am afraid;
it may be impossible.'
'Will you tell me what it is?' he said, quietly filling the pause
'I am thinking of New Wanley.'
She saw a change in his face, slight, but still a change. She spoke
'Will you let the works. remain as they are, on the same plan? Will
you allow the workpeople to live under the same rules? I have been
among them constantly, and I am sure that nothing but good results
have come of--of what my husband has done. There is no need to ask
you to deal kindly with them, I know that. But if you could maintain
the purpose--? It will be such a grief to my husband if all his work
comes to nothing. There cannot be anything against your principles
in what I ask. It is so simply for the good of men and women whose
lives are so hard. Let New Wanley remain as an example. Can you do
Hubert, as he listened, joined his hands behind his back, and turned
his eyes to the upper branches of the silver birch, which once in
his thoughts he had likened to Adela. What he heard from her
surprised him, and upon surprise followed mortification. He knew
that she had in appearance adopted Mutimer's principles, but his
talk with her in London at Mrs. Boscobel's had convinced him that
her heart was in far other things than economic problems and schemes
of revolution. She had listened so eagerly to his conversation on
art and kindred topics; it was so evident that she was enjoying a
temporary release from a mode of life which chilled all her warmer
instincts. Yet she now made it her entreaty that he would continue
Mutimer's work. Beginning timidly, she grew to an earnestness which
it was impossible to think feigned. He was unprepared for anything
of the kind; his emotions resented it. Though consciously harbouring
no single unworthy desire, he could not endure to find Adela zealous
on her husband's behalf.
Had he misled himself? Was the grief that he had witnessed really
that of a wife for her husband's misfortune? For whatever reason she
had married Mutimer--and that _could_ not be love--married life
might have engendered affection. He knew Adela to be deeply
conscientious; how far was it in a woman's power to subdue herself
to love at the bidding of duty?
He allowed several moments to pass before replying to her. Then he
said, courteously but coldly:
'I am very sorry that you have asked the one thing I cannot do.'
Adela's heart sank. In putting a distance between him and herself
she had obeyed an instinct of self-preservation; now that it was
effected, the change in his voice was almost more than she could
'Why do you refuse?' she asked, trying, though in vain, to look up
'Because it is impossible for me to pretend sympathy with Mr.
Mutimer's views. In the moment that I heard of the will my action
with regard to New Wanley was determined. What I purpose doing is so
inevitably the result of my strongest convictions that nothing could
'Will you tell me what you are going to do?' Adela asked, in a tone
more like his own.
'It will pain You.'
'Yet I should like to know.'
'I shall sweep away every trace of the mines and the works and the
houses, and do my utmost to restore the valley to its former state.'
He paused, but Adela said nothing. Her fingers played with the
leaves which grew beside her.
'Your associations with Wanley of course cannot be as strong as my
own. I was born here, and every dearest memory of my life connects
itself with the, valley as it used to be. It was one of the
loveliest spots to be found in England. You can have no idea of the
feelings with which I saw this change fall upon it, this desolation
and defilement--I must use the words which come to me. I might have
overcome that grief if I had sympathised with the ends. But, as it
is, I should act in the same way even if I had no such memories. I
know all that you will urge. It may be inevitable that the green and
beautiful spots of the world shall give place to furnaces and
mechanics' dwellings. For my own part, in this little corner, at all
events, the rum shall be delayed. In this matter I will give my
instincts free play. Of New Wanley not one brick shall remain on
another. I will close the mines, and grass shall again grow over
them; I will replant the orchards and mark out the fields as they
He paused again.
'You see why I cannot do what you ask.'
It was said in a gentler voice, for insensibly his tone had become
He found a strange pleasure in emphasising his opposition to her.
Perhaps he secretly knew that Adela hung upon his words, and in
spite of herself was drawn into the current of his enthusiasm. But
he did not look into her face. Had he done so he would have seen it
fixed and pale.
'Then you think grass and trees of more importance than human
She spoke in a voice which sounded coldly ironical in its attempt to
be merely calm.
'I had rather say that I see no value in human lives in a world from
which grass and trees have vanished. But, in truth, I care little to
make my position logically sound. The ruling motive in my life is
the love of beautiful things; I fight against ugliness because it's
the only work in which I can engage with all my heart. I have
nothing of the enthusiasm of humanity. In the course of centuries
the world may perhaps put itself right again; I am only concerned
with the present, and I see that everywhere the tendency is towards
the rule of mean interests, ignoble ideals.'
'Do you call it ignoble,' broke in Adela, 'to aim at raising men
from hopeless and degrading toil to a life worthy of human beings?'
'The end which _you_ have in mind cannot be ignoble. But it is not
to be reached by means such as these.' He pointed down to the
valley. 'That may be the only way of raising the standard of comfort
among people who work with their hands; I take the standpoint of the
wholly unpractical man, and say that such efforts do not concern me.
From my point of view no movement can be tolerated which begins with
devastating the earth's surface. You will clothe your workpeople
better, you will give them better food and more leisure; in doing so
you injure the class that has finer sensibilities, and give power to
the class which not only postpones everything to material
well-being, but more and more regards intellectual refinement as an
obstacle in the way of progress. Progress--the word is sufficient;
you have only to think what it has come to mean. It will be good to
have an example of reaction.'
'When reaction means misery to men and women and little children?'
'Yes, even if it meant that. As far as I am concerned, I trust it
will have no such results. You must distinguish between humanity and
humanitarianism. I hope I am not lacking in the former; the latter
seems to me to threaten everything that is most precious in the
'Then you are content that the majority of mankind should be fed and
clothed and kept to labour?'
'Personally, quite content; for I think it very unlikely that the
majority will ever be fit for anything else. I _know_ that at
present they desire nothing else.'
'Then they must be taught to desire more.'
Hubert again paused. When he resumed it was with a smile which
strove to be good-humoured.
'We had better not argue of these things. If I said all that I think
you would accuse me of brutality. In logic you will overcome me. Put
me down as one of those who represent reaction and class-prejudice.
I am all prejudice.'
'We have talked a long time,' she said, trying to speak lightly. 'We
have such different views. I wish there were less class-prejudice.'
Hubert scarcely noticed her words. She was quitting him, and he
clung to the last moment of her presence.
'Shall you go--eventually go to London?' he asked.
'I can't say. My husband has not yet been able to make plans.'
The word irritated him. He half averted his face.
'Good-bye, Mr. Eldon.'
She did not offer her hand--durst not do so. Hubert bowed without
When she was near the Manor gates she heard footsteps behind her.
She turned and saw her husband. Her cheeks flushed, for she had been
walking in deep thought. It seemed to her for an instant as if the
subject of her preoccupation could be read upon her face.
'Where have you been?' Mutimer asked, indifferently.
'For a walk. Into the wood.'
He was examining her, for the disquiet of her countenance could not
escape his notice.
'Why did you go alone? It would have done Alice good to get her out
'I'm afraid she wouldn't have come.'
'Has she been saying anything to you?'
'Only that she is troubled and anxious.'
They walked on together in silence, Mutimer with bowed head and
The making a virtue of necessity, though it argues lack of
ingenuousness, is perhaps preferable to the wholly honest
demonstration of snarling over one's misfortunes. It may result in
good even to the hypocrite, who occasionally surprises himself with
the pleasure he finds in wearing a front of nobility, and is thereby
induced to consider the advantages of upright behaviour adopted for
its own sake. Something of this kind happened in the case of Richard
Mutimer. Seeing that there was no choice but to surrender his
fortune, he set to work to make the most of abdication, and with the
result that the three weeks occupied in settling his affairs at New
Wanley and withdrawing from the Manor were full of cheerful
activity. He did not meet Hubert Eldon, all business being
transacted through Mr. Yottle. When he heard from the latter that it
was Eldon's intention to make a clean sweep of mines, works, and
settlements, though for a moment chagrined, he speedily saw that
such action, by giving dramatic completeness to his career at Wanley
and investing its close with something of tragic pathos, was in
truth what he should most have desired. It enabled him to take his
departure with an air of profounder sadness; henceforth no gross
facts would stand in the way of his rhetoric when he should enlarge
on the possibilities thus nipped in the bud. He was more than ever a
victim of cruel circumstances; he could speak with noble bitterness
of his life's work having been swept into oblivion.
He was supported by a considerable amount of epistolary sympathy.
The local papers made an interesting story of what had happened in
the old church at Wanley, and a few of the London journals reported
the circumstances; in this way Mutimer became known to a wider
public than had hitherto observed him. Not only did his
fellow-Unionists write to encourage and moralise, but a number of
those people who are ever ready to indite letters to people of any
prominence, the honestly admiring and the windily egoistic,
addressed communications either to Wanley Manor or to the editor of
the 'Fiery Cross.' Mutimer read eagerly every word of each most
insignificant scribbler; his eyes gleamed and his cheeks grew warm.
All such letters he brought to Adela, and made her read them aloud;
he stood with his hands behind his back, his face slightly elevated
and at a listening angle. At the end he regarded her, and his look
said: 'Behold the man who is your husband!'
But at length there came one letter distinct from all the rest; it
had the seal of a Government office. With eyes which scarcely
credited what they saw Mutimer read some twenty or thirty words from
a Minister of the Crown, a gentleman of vigorously Radical opinions,
who had 'heard with much regret that the undertaking conceived and
pursued with such single-hearted zeal' had come to an untimely end.
Mutimer rushed to Adela like a schoolboy who has a holiday to
'Read that now! What do you think of that? Now there's some hope of
a statesman like that!'
Adela gave forth the letter in a voice which was all too steady. 7
But she said:
'I am very glad. It must gratify you. He writes very kindly.'
'You'll have to help me to make an answer.'
Adela smiled, but said nothing.
The ceremonious opening of the hall at New Wanley had been a great
day; Mutimer tried his best to make the closing yet more effective.
Mr. Westlake was persuaded to take the chair, but this time the
oration was by the founder himself. There was a numerous assembly.
Mutimer spoke for an hour and a quarter, reviewing what he had done,
and enlarging on all that he might and would have done. There was as
much applause as even he could desire. The proceedings closed with
the reading of an address which was signed by all the people of the
works, a eulogium and an expression of gratitude, not without one or
two sentences of fiery Socialism. The spokesman was a fine fellow of
six feet two, a man named Redgrave, the ideal of a revolutionist
workman. He was one of the few men at the works whom Adela, from
observation of their domestic life, had learnt sincerely to respect.
Before reading the document he made a little speech of his own, and
said in conclusion:
'Here's an example of how the law does justice in a capitalist
society. The man who makes a grand use of money has it all taken
away from him by the man who makes no use of it at all, except to
satisfy his own malice and his own selfishness. If we don't one and
all swear to do our utmost to change such a state of things as that,
all I can say is we're a poor lot, and deserve to be worse treated
than the animals, that haven't the sense to use their strength!'
In his reply to the address Richard surpassed himself. He rose in
excitement; the words that rushed to his lips could scarcely find
articulate flow. After the due thanks:
'To-morrow I go to London; I go as poor as the poorest of you, a
mechanical engineer in search of work. Whether I shall find it or
not there's no saying. If they turned me out because of my opinions
three years ago, it's not very likely that they've grown fonder of
me by this time. As poor as the poorest of you, I say. Most of you
probably know that a small legacy is left to me under the will which
gives this property into other hands. That money will be used, every
penny of it, for the furtherance of our cause!'
It was a magnificent thought, one of those inspirations which reveal
latent genius. The hall echoed with shouts of glorification. Adela,
who sat with her mother and Letty (Mrs. Westlake had not accompanied
her husband), kept her eyes fixed on the ground; the uproar made her
All seemed to be over and dispersal was beginning, when a gentleman
stood up in the middle of the hall and made signs that he wished to
be heard for a moment. Mutimer aided him in gaining attention. It
was Mr. Yottle, a grizzle-headed, ruddy-cheeked veteran of the law.
'I merely desire to use this opportunity of reminding those who have
been employed at the works that Mr. Eldon will be glad to meet them
in this hall at half-past ten o'clock to-morrow morning. It will
perhaps be better if the men alone attend, as the meeting will be
strictly for business purposes.'
Adela was among the last to leave the room. As she was moving
between the rows of benches Mr. Westlake approached her. He had only
arrived in time to take his place on the platform, and he was on the
point of returning to London.
I have a note for you from Stella, he said. 'She has been ailing for
a fortnight; it wasn't safe for her to come. But she will soon see
you, I hope.'
'I hope so,' Adela replied mechanically, as she took the letter.
Mr. Westlake only added his 'good-bye,' and went to take leave of
Mutimer, who was standing at a little distance.
Among those who remained to talk with the hero of the day was our
old friend Keene. Keene had risen in the world, being at present
sub-editor of a Belwick journal. His appearance had considerably
improved, and his manner was more ornate than ever. He took Mutimer
by the arm and led him aside.
'A suggestion--something that occurred to me whilst you were
speaking. You must write the history of New Wanley Not too long; a
thing that could be printed in pamphlet form and sold at a penny or
twopence. Speak to Westlake see if the Union won't publish. Some
simple title: "My Work in New Wanley," for instance. I'll see that
it's well noticed in our rag.'
'Not a bad idea!' Mutimer exclaimed, throwing back his head.
'Trust me, not half bad. Be of use in the propaganda. Just think it
over, and, if you care to, allow me to read it in manuscript.
There's a kind of art--eh? you know what I mean; it's only to be got
by journalistic practice. Yes, "My Work in New Wanley"; I think that
'I'm going to lecture at Commonwealth Hall next Sunday,' Mutimer
observed. 'I'll take that for my title.'
'By-the-bye how--what was I going to say? Oh yes, how is Mrs.
'Tolerable, I believe.'
'In London, presumably?'
'Not much--not taking it to heart much, I hope?'
'Not particularly? I think.'
'I should be glad to be remembered--a word when you see her. Thanks,
Mutimer, thanks. I must be off.'
Adela was making haste to Teach the Manor, that she might read
Stella's letter She and her husband were to dine this evening with
the Walthams--a farewell meal. With difficulty she escaped from her
mother and Letty; Stella's letter demanded a quarter of an hour of
She reached her room, and broke the envelope. Stella never wrote at
much length, but to-day there were only a few lines.
'My love to you, heart's darling. I am not well enough to come, and
I think it likely you had rather I did not. But in a few hours you
will be near me. Come as soon as ever you can. I wait for you like
the earth for spring. 'STELLA.'
She kissed the paper and put it in the bosom of her dress. It was
already time to go to her mother's.
She found her mother and Letty with grave faces; something seemed to
have disturbed them. Letty tried to smile and appear at ease, but
Mrs. Waltham was at no pains to hide the source of her
'Did you know of that, Adela?' she asked, with vexation. 'About the
annuity, I mean. Had Richard spoken to you of his intention?'
Adela replied with a simple negative. She had not given the matter a
'Then he certainly should have done. It was his duty, I consider, to
tell _me_. It is in express contradiction of all he has led me to
understand. What are you going to live on, I should like to know?
It's very unlikely that he will find a position immediately. He is
absolutely reckless, wickedly thoughtless! My dear, it is not too
late even now. I insist on your staying with us until your husband
has found an assured income. The idea of your going to live in
lodgings in an obscure part of London is more than I can bear, and
_now_ it really appals me. Adela, my child, it's impossible for you
to go under these circumstances. The commonest decency will oblige
him to assent to this arrangement.'
'My dear mother,' Adela replied seriously, 'pray do not reopen that.
It surely ought to be needless for me to repeat that it is my duty
to go to London.'
'But, Adela darling,' began Letty, very timorously, 'wouldn't it be
relieving your husband? How much freer he would be to look about,
knowing you are here safe and in comfort. I really--I do really
think mother is right.'
Before Adela could make any reply there sounded a knock at the front
door; Richard came in. He cast a glance round at the three. The
others might have escaped his notice, but Mrs. Waltham was too
'Has anything happened?' he asked in an offhand way.
'I am distressed, more than I can tell you,' began his
mother-in-law. 'Surely you did not mean what you said about the
'Mother!' came from Adela's lips, but she checked herself.
Mutimer thrust his hands into his pockets and stood smiling.
'Yes, I meant it.'
'But, pray, what are you and Adela going to live upon?'
'I don't think we shall have any difficulty.'
'But surely one must more than _think_ in a matter such as this. You
mustn't mind me speaking plainly, Richard. Adela is my only
daughter, and the thought of her undergoing needless hardships is so
dreadful to me that I really must speak. I have a plan, and I am
sure you will see that it is the very best for all of us. Allow
Adela to remain with me for a little while, just till you have--
have made things straight. It certainly would ease your mind. She is
so very welcome to a share of our home. You would feel less
hampered. I am sure you will consent to this.'
Mutimer's smile died away. He avoided Mrs. Waltham's face, and let
his eyes pass in a cold gaze from Letty, who almost shrank, to
Adela, who stood with an air of patience.
'What do you say to this?' he asked of his wife, in a tone civil
indeed, but very far from cordial.
'I have been trying to show mother that I cannot do as she wishes.
It is very kind of her, but, unless you think it would be better for
me to stay, I shall of course accompany you.'
'You can stay if you like.'
Adela understood too well what that permission concealed.
'I have no wish to stay.'
Mutimer turned his look on Mrs. Waltham, without saying anything.
'Then I can say no more,' Mrs. Waltham replied. 'But you must
understand that I take leave of my daughter with the deepest
concern. I hope you will remember that her health for a long time
has been anything but good, and that she was never accustomed to do
hard and coarse work.'
'We won't talk any more of this, mother,' Adela interposed firmly.
'I am sure you need have no fear that I shall be tried beyond my
strength. You must remember that I go with my husband.'
The high-hearted one! She would have died rather than let her mother
perceive that her marriage was less than happy. To the end she would
speak that word 'my husband,' when it was necessary to speak it at
all, with the confidence of a woman who knows no other safeguard
against the ills of life. To the end she would shield the man with
her own dignity, and protect him as far as possible even against
Mutimer smiled again, this time with satisfaction.
'I certainly think we can take care of ourselves,' he remarked
In a few minutes they were joined by Alfred, who had only just
returned from Belwick, and dinner was served. It was not a cheerful
evening. At Adela's request it had been decided in advance that the
final leave-taking should be to-night; she and Mutimer would drive
to Agworth station together with Alfred the first thing in the
morning. At ten o'clock the parting came. Letty could not speak for
sobbing; she just kissed Adela and hurried from the room. Mrs.
Waltham preserved a rather frigid stateliness.
'Good-bye, my dear,' she said, when released from her daughter's
embrace. 'I hope I may have good news from you.'
With Mutimer she shook hands.
It was a starry and cold night. The two walked side by side without
speaking. When they were fifty yards on their way, a figure came out
of a corner of the road, and Adela heard Letty call her name.
'I will overtake you,' she said to her husband.
'Adela, my sweet, I _couldn't_ say good-bye to you in the house!'
Letty hung about her dear one's neck. Adela choked; she could only
press her cheek against that moist one.
'Write to me often--oh, write often,' Letty sobbed. 'And tell me the
truth, darling, will you?'
'It will be all well, dear sister,' Adela whispered.
'Oh, that is a dear name! Always call me that. I can't say good-bye,
darling. You will come to see us as soon as ever you can?'
'As soon as I can, Letty.'
Adela found her husband awaiting her.
'What did she want?' he asked, with genuine surprise.
'Only to say good-bye.'
'Why, she'd said it once.'
The interior of the Manor was not yet disturbed, but all the
furniture was sold, and would be taken away on the morrow. They went
to the drawing room. After some insignificant remarks Mutimer asked:
'What letter was that Westlake gave you?'
'It was from Stella--from Mrs. Westlake.'
He paused. Then:
'Will you let me see it?'
'Certainly, if you wish.'
She felt for it in her bosom and handed it to him. It shook in her
'Why does she think you'd rather she didn't come?'
'I suppose because the occasion seems to her painful.'
'I don't see that it was painful at all. What did you think of my
'The first one or the second?'
'Both, if you like. I meant the first.'
'You told the story very well.'
'You'll never spoil me by over-praise.'
Adela was silent.
'About this,' he resumed, tapping the note. which he still held. 'I
don't think you need go there very often. It seems to me you don't
get much good from them.'
She looked at him inquiringly.
'Theirs isn't the kind of Socialism I care much about,' he
continued, with the air of giving a solid reason. 'It seems to me
that Westlake's going off on a road of his own, and one that leads
nowhere. All that twaddle to-day about the development of society! I
don't think he spoke of me as he might have done. You'll see there
won't be half a report in the "Fiery Gross."'
Adela was still silent.
'I don't mean to say you're not to see Mrs. Westlake at all, if you
want to,' he pursued. 'I shouldn't have thought she was the kind of
woman to suit you. If the truth was known, I don't think she's a
Socialist at all. But then, no more are you, eh?'
'There is no one with a more passionate faith in the people than
Mrs. Westlake,' Adela returned.
'Faith! That won't do much good.'
He was silent a little, then went to another subject.
'Rodman writes that he's no intention of giving up the money. I knew
it would come to that.'
'But the law will compel him,' Adela exclaimed.
'It's a roundabout business. Eldon's only way of recovering it is to
bring an action against me. Then I shall have to go to law with
'But how can he refuse? It is--'
She checked herself, remembering that words were two-edged.
'Oh, he writes in quite a friendly way--makes a sort of joke of it.
We've to get what we can of him, he says. But he doesn't get off if
I can help it. I must see Yottle on our way tomorrow.'
'Keene wants me to write a book about New Wanley,' he said
'Well, a small one. It could be called, "My Work at New Wanley." It
might do good.'
'Yes, it might,' Adela assented absently.
'You look tired. Get off to bed; you'll have to be up early in the
morning, and it'll be a hard day.'
Adela went, hopeful of oblivion till the 'hard day' should dawn.
The next morning they were in Belwick by half-past nine. Alfred took
leave of them and went off to business. He promised to 'look them
up' in London before very long, probably at Christmas. Between him
and Mutimer there was make-believe of cordiality at parting; they
had long ceased to feel any real interest in each other.
Adela had to spend the time in the railway waiting-room whilst her
husband went to see Yottle. It was a great bare place; when she
entered, she found a woman in mourning, with a little boy, sitting
alone. The child was eating a bun, his mother was silently shedding
tears. Adela seated herself as far from them as possible, out of
delicacy, but she saw the woman look frequently towards her, and at
last rise as if to come and speak. She was a feeble,
helpless-looking being of about thirty; evidently the need of
sympathy overcame her, for she had no other excuse for addressing
Adela save to tell that her luggage had gone astray, and that she
was waiting in the hope that something might be heard of it. Finding
a gentle listener, she talked on and on, detailing the wretched
circumstances under which she had recently been widowed, and her
miserable prospects in a strange town whither she was going. Adela
made an effort to speak in words of comfort, but her own voice
sounded hopeless in her ears. In the station was a constant roaring
and hissing, bell-ringing and the shriek of whistles, the heavy
trundling of barrows, the slamming of carriage-doors; everywhere a
smell of smoke. It impressed her as though all the 'world had become
homeless, and had nothing to do but journey hither and thither in
vain search of a resting-place. And her waiting lasted more than an
hour. But for the effort to dry another's tears it would have been
hard to restrain her own.
The morning had threatened rain; when at length the journey to
London began, the black skies yielded a steady downpour Mutimer was
anything but cheerful; establishing himself in a corner of the
third-class carriage, he for a time employed himself with a
newspaper; then, throwing it on to Adela's lap, closed his eyes as
if he hoped to sleep. Adela glanced up and down the barren fields of
type, but there was nothing that could hold her attention, and, by
chance looking at her husband's face, she continued to examine it.
Perhaps he was asleep, perhaps only absorbed in thought. His lips
were sullenly loose beneath the thick reddish moustache his eyebrows
had drawn themselves together, scowling. She could not avert her
gaze; it seemed to her that she was really scrutinising his face for
the first time, and it was as that of a stranger. Not one detail had
the stamp of familiarity: the whole repelled her. What was the
meaning now first revealed to her in that countenance? The features
had a massive regularity; there was nothing grotesque, nothing on
the surface repulsive; yet, beholding the face as if it were that of
a man unknown to her, she felt that a whole world of natural
antipathies was between it and her.
It was the face of a man by birth and breeding altogether beneath
Never had she understood that as now; never had she conceived so
forcibly the reason which made him and her husband and wife only in
name. Suppose that apparent sleep of his to be the sleep of death;
he would pass from her consciousness like a shadow from the field,
leaving no trace behind. Their life of union was a mockery; their
married intimacy was an unnatural horror. He was not of her class,
not of her world; only by violent wrenching of the laws of nature
had they come together. She had spent years in trying to convince
herself that there were no such distinctions, that only an unworthy
prejudice parted class from class. One moment of true insight was
worth more than all her theorising on abstract principles. To be her
equal this man must be born again, of other parents, in other
conditions of life. 'I go back to London a mechanical engineer in
search of employment.' They were the truest words he had ever
uttered; they characterised him, classed him.
She had no claims to aristocratic descent, but her parents were
gentlefolk; that is to say, they were both born in a position which
encouraged personal refinement rather than the contrary, which
expected of them a certain education in excess of life's barest
need, which authorised them to use the service of ruder men and
women in order to secure to themselves a margin of life for life's
sake. Perhaps for three generations her ancestors could claim so
much gentility; it was more than enough to put a vast gulf between
her and the Mutimers. Favourable circumstances of upbringing had
endowed her with delicacy of heart and mind not inferior to that of
any woman living; mated with an equal husband, the children born of
her might hope to take their place among the most beautiful and the
most intelligent. And her husband was a man incapable of
understanding her idlest thought.
He opened his eyes, looked at her blankly for a moment, stirred his
limbs to make his position easier.
Pouring rain in London streets. The cab drove eastward, but for no
great distance. Adela found herself alighting at a lodging-house not
far from the reservoir at the top of Pentonville Hill. Mutimer had
taken these rooms a week ago.
A servant fresh from the blackleading of a grate opened the door to
them, grinning with recognition at the sight of Mutimer. The latter
had to help the cabman to deposit the trunks in the passage. Then
Adela was shown to her bedroom.
It was on the second floor, the ordinary bedroom of cheap furnished
lodgings, with scant space between the foot of the bed and the
fireplace, with a dirty wall-paper and a strong musty odour. The
window looked upon a backyard.
She passed from the bedroom to the sitting-room; here was the same
vulgar order, the same musty smell. The table was laid for dinner.
Mutimer read his wife's countenance furtively. He could not discover
how the abode impressed her, and he put no question. When he
returned from the bedroom she was sitting before the fire, pensive.
'You're hungry, I expect?' he said.
Her appetite was far from keen, but in order not to appear
discontented she replied that she would be glad of dinner.
The servant, her hands and face half washed, presently appeared with
a tray on which were some mutton-chops, potatoes, and a cabbage.
Adela did her best to eat, but the chops were ill-cooked, the
vegetables poor in quality. There followed a rice-pudding; it was
nearly cold; coagulated masses of rice appeared beneath yellowish
water. Mutimer made no remark about the food till the table was
cleared. Then he said:
'They'll have to do better than that. The first day, of
course--You'll have a talk with the landlady whilst I'm out
to-night. Just let her see that you won't be content with
_anything_; you have to talk plainly to these people.'
'Yes, I'll speak about it,' Adela replied.
'They made a trouble at first about waiting on us,' Mutimer pursued.
'But I didn't see how we could get our own meals very well. You
can't cook, can you?'
He smiled, and seemed half ashamed to ask the question.
'Oh yes; I can cook ordinary things,' Adela said. 'But--we haven't a
kitchen, have we?'
'Well, no. If. we did anything of that kind, it would have to be on
this fire. She charges us four shillings a week more for cooking the
He added this information in a tone of assumed carelessness.
'I think we might save that,' Adela said. 'If I had the necessary
things--I should like to try, if you will let me.'
'Just as you please. I don't suppose the stuff they send us up will
ever be very eatable. But it's too bad to ask you to do work of that
'Oh, I shan't mind it in the least! It will be far better, better in
Mutimer brightened up.
'In that case we'll only get them to do the housemaid work. You can
explain that to the woman; her name is Mrs. Gulliman.'
'Think you can make yourself at home, here?'
'That's all right. I shall go out now for an hour or so. You can
unpack your boxes and get things in order a bit.'
Adela had her interview with Mrs. Gulliman in the course of the
evening, and fresh arrangements were made, not perhaps to the
landlady's satisfaction, though she made a show of absorbing
interest and vast approval. She was ready to lend her pots and pans
till Adela should have made purchase of those articles.
Adela had the satisfaction of saving four shillings a week.
Two days later Mutimer sought eagerly in the 'Fiery Gross' for a
report of the proceedings at New Wanley. Only half a column was
given to the subject, the speeches being summarised. He had fully
expected that the week's 'leader' would be concerned with his
affairs, but there was no mention of him.
He bought the 'Tocsin.' Foremost stood an article headed, 'The
Bursting of a Soap Bubble.' It was a satirical review of the history
of New Wanley, signed by Comrade Roodhouse. He read in one place:
'Undertakings of this kind, even if pursued with genuine enthusiasm,
are worse than useless; they are positively pernicious. They are
half measures, and can only result in delaying the Revolution. It is
assumed that working .men can be kept in a good temper with a little
better housing and a little more money. That is to aid the
capitalists, to smooth over huge wrongs with petty concessions, to
cry peace where there is no peace. We know this kind of thing of
old. It is the whole system of wage-earning that must be
overthrown--the ideas which rule the relations of employers and
employed. Away with these palliatives; let us rejoice when we see
working men starving and ill-clad, for in that way their eyes will
be opened. The brute who gets the uttermost farthing out of the toil
of his wage-slaves is more a friend to us and our cause than any
namby-pamby Socialist, such as the late Dukeling of New Wanley.
Socialist indeed! But enough. We have probably heard the last of
this _parvenu_ and his loudly trumpeted schemes. No true friend of
the Revolution can be grieved.'
Mutimer bit his lip.
'Heard the last of me, have they? Don't be too hasty, Roodhouse.'
A week later; the scene, the familiar kitchen in Wilton Square. Mrs.
Mutimer, upon whom time has laid unkind hands since last we saw her,
is pouring tea for Alice Rodman, who has just come all the way from
the West End to visit her. Alice, too, has suffered from recent
vicissitudes; her freshness is to seek, her bearing is no longer
buoyant, she is careless in attire. To judge from the corners of her
mouth, she is confirmed in querulous habits; her voice evidences the
She was talking of certain events of the night before.
'It was about half-past twelve--I'd just got into bed--when the
servant knocks at my door. "Please, mum," she says, "there's a
policeman wants to see master." You may think if I wasn't frightened
out of my life! I don't think it was two minutes before I got
downstairs, and there the policeman stood in the hall. I told him I
was Mrs. Rodman, and then he said a young man called Henry Mutimer
had got locked up for making a disturbance outside a music hall, and
he'd sent to my husband to bail him out. Well, just as we were
talking in comes Willis. Rare and astonished he was to see me with
all my things huddled on and a policeman in the house. We did so
laugh afterwards; he said he thought I'd been committing a robbery.
But he wouldn't bail 'Arry, and I couldn't blame him. And now he
says 'Arry 'll have to do as best he can. He won't get him another
'He's lost his place too?' asked the mother gloomily.
'He was dismissed yesterday. He says that's why he went drinking too
much. Out of ten days that he's been in the place he's missed two
and hasn't been punctual once. I think you might have seen he got
off at the proper time in the morning, mother.'
'What's the good o' blamin' me?' exclaimed the old woman fretfully.
'A deal o' use it is for me to talk. If I'm to be held 'countable he
doesn't live here no longer; I know that much.'
'Dick was a fool to pay his fine. I'd have let him go to prison for
seven days; it would have given him a lesson.'
Mrs. Mutimer sighed deeply, and lost herself in despondent thought.
Alice sipped her tea and went on with her voluble talk.
'I suppose he'll show up some time to-night unless Dick keeps him.
But he can't do that, neither, unless he makes him sleep on the sofa
in their sitting-room. A nice come-down for my lady, to be living in
two furnished rooms! But it's my belief they're not so badly off as
they pretend to be. It's all very well for Dick to put on his airs
and go about saying he's given up every farthing; he doesn't get me
to believe that. He wouldn't go paying away his pounds so readily.
And they have attendance from the landlady; Mrs. Adela doesn't soil
her fine finger's, trust her. You may depend upon it, they've
plenty. She wouldn't speak a word for us; if she cared to, she could
have persuaded Mr. Eldon to let me keep my money, and then there
wouldn't have been all this law bother.'
'What bother's that?'
'Why, Dick says he'll go to law with my husband to recover the money
he paid him when we were married. It seems he has to answer for it,
because he's what they call the administrator, and Mr. Eldon can
compel him to make it all good again.'
'But I thought you said you'd given it all up?'
'That's my own money, what was settled on me. I don't see what good
it was to me; I never had a penny of it to handle. Now they want to
get all the rest out of us. How are we to pay back the money that's
spent and gone, I'd like to know? Willis says they'll just have to
get it if they can. And here's Dick going on at me because we don't
go into lodgings! I don't leave the house before I'm obliged, I know
that much. We may as well be comfortable as long as we can.
'The mean thing, that Adela!' she pursued after a pause. 'She was to
have married Mr. Eldon, and broke it off when she found he wasn't
going to be as rich as she thought; then she caught hold of Dick. I
should like to have seen her face when she found that will!--I wish
it had been me!'
Alice laughed unpleasantly. Her mother regarded her with an air of
curious inquiry, then murmured:
'Dick and she did the honest thing. I'll say so much for them.'
'I'll be even with Mrs. Adela yet,' pursued Alice, disregarding the
remark. 'She wouldn't speak for me, but she's spoken for herself, no
fear. She and her airs!'
There was silence; then Mrs. Mutimer said:
'I've let the top bedroom for four-and-six.'
''Arry's room? What's he going to do then?'
'He'll have to sleep on the chair-bedstead, here in the kitchen.
That is, if I have him in the 'ouse at all. And I don't know yet as
'Have you got enough money to go on with?' Alice asked.
'Dick sent me a pound this morning. I didn't want it'
'Has he been to see you yet, mother?'
The old woman shook her head.
'Do you want him to come, or don't you?'
There was silence. Alice looked at her mother askance. The leathern
mask of a face was working with some secret emotion.
'He'll come if he likes, I s'pose,' was her abrupt answer.
In the renewed silence they heard some one enter the house and
descend the kitchen stairs. 'Arry presented himself. He threw his
hat upon a chair, and came forward with a swagger to seat himself at
His mother did not look at him.
'Anything to eat?' he asked, more loudly than was necessary, as if
he found the silence oppressive.
'There's bread and butter,' replied Alice, with lofty scorn.
'Hullo! Is it you?' exclaimed the young man, affecting to recognise
his sister. 'I thought you was above coming here Have they turned
you out of your house?'
'That's what'll happen to you, I shouldn't wonder.'
'Arry cast a glance towards his mother. Seeing that her eyes were
fixed in another direction, he began pantomimic interrogation of
Alice. The latter disregarded him.
'Arry presented an appearance less than engaging. He still bore the
traces of last night's debauch and of his sojourn in the
police-cell. There was dry mud on the back of his coat, his
shirt-cuffs and collar were of a slaty hue, his hands and face
filthy. He began to eat bread and butter, washing down each morsel
with a gulp of tea. The spoon remained in the cup whilst he drank.
To 'Arry it was a vast relief to be free from the conventionalities
of Adela's table.
'That lawyer fellow Yottle's been to see them to-day,' he remarked
Alice looked at him eagerly.
'There was talk about you and Rodman.'
'What did they say?'
'Couldn't hear. I was in the other room. But I heard Yottle speaking
He had, in fact, heard a few words through the keyhole, but not
enough to gather the sense of the conversation, which had been
carried on in discreet tones.
'There you are!' Alice exclaimed, addressing her mother. 'They're
plotting against us, you see.'
'I don't think it 'ud be Dick's wish to do you harm,' said Mrs.
'Dick 'll do whatever she tells him.'
'Adela, eh?' observed 'Arry. 'She's a cat.'
'You mind your own business!' returned his sister.
'So it is my business. She looked at me as if I wasn't good enough
to come near her 'igh-and-mightiness. I'm glad to see _her_ brought
down a peg, chance it!'
Alice would not condescend to join her reprobate brother, even in
abuse of Adela. She very shortly took leave of her mother, who went
up to the door with her.
'Are you going to see Dick?' Mrs. Mutimer said, in the passage.
'I shan't see him till he comes to my house,' replied Alice sharply.
The old woman stood on the doorstep till her daughter was out of
sight, then sighed and returned to her kitchen.
Alice returned to her more fashionable quarter by omnibus. Though
Rodman had declined to make any change in their establishment, he
practised economy in the matter of his wife's pin-money. Gone were
the delights of shopping, gone the little lunches in confectioners'
shops to which Alice, who ate sweet things like a child, had been
much addicted. Even the carriage she could seldom make use of, for
Rodman had constant need of it--to save cab-fares, he said. It was
chiefly employed in taking him to and from the City, where he
appeared to have much business at present.
On reaching home Alice found a telegram from her husband.
'Shall bring three friends to dinner. Be ready for us at half-past
Yet he had assured her that he would dine quietly alone with her at
eight o'clock. Alice, who was weary of the kind of men her husband
constantly brought, felt it as a bitter disappointment. Besides, it
was already after six, and there were no provisions in the house.
But for her life she durst not cause Rodman annoyance by offering a
late or insufficient dinner. She thanked her stars that her return
had been even thus early.
The men when they presented themselves were just of the kind she
expected--loud-talking--their interests divided between
horse-racing and the money-market; she was a cipher at her own
table, scarcely a remark being addressed to her. The conversation
was meaningless to her; it seemed, indeed, to be made purposely
mysterious; terms of the stock-exchange were eked out with nods and
winks. Rodman was in far better spirits than of late, whence Alice
gathered that some promising rascality was under consideration.
The dinner over, she was left to amuse herself as she could in the
drawing-room. Rodman and his friends continued their talk round the
table, and did not break up till close upon mid night. Then she
heard the men take their departure. Rodman presently came up to her
and threw himself into a chair. His face was very red, a sign with
which Alice was familiar; but excessive potations apparently had not
produced the usual effect, for he was still in the best of tempers.
'Seen that young blackguard?' he began by asking.
'I went to see mother, and he came while I was there.'
'He'll have to look after himself in future. You don't catch me
helping him again.'
'He says Mr. Yottle came to see them to-day.'
'To see who?'
'Dick and his wife. He heard them talking about us.'
'Let 'em go ahead! I wish them luck.'
'But can't they ruin us if they like?'
'It's all in a life. It wouldn't be the first time I've been ruined,
old girl. Let's enjoy ourselves whilst we can. There's nothing like
plenty of excitement.'
'It's all very well for you, Willis. But if you had to sit at home
all day doing nothing, you wouldn't find it so pleasant.'
'Get some novels.'
'I'm tired of novels,' she replied, sighing.
'So Yottle was with them?' Rodman said musingly, a smile still on
his face. 'I wish I knew what terms they've come to with Eldon.'
'I wish I could do something to pay out that woman!' exclaimed Alice
bitterly. 'She's at the bottom of it all. She hates both of us. Dick
'ud never have gone against you but for her.'
Rodman, extended in the low chair at full length, fixed an amused
look on her.
'You'd like to pay her out, eh?'
'Wouldn't I just!'
'Ha! ha! what a vicious little puss you are! It's a good thing I
don't tell you everything, or you might do damage.'
Alice turned to him with eagerness.
'What do you mean?'
He let his head fall back, and laughed with a drunken man's
hilarity. Alice persisted with her question.
'Come and sit here,' Rodman said, patting his knee.
Alice obeyed him.
'What is it, Willis? What have you found out? Do tell me, there's a
'I'll tell you one thing, old girl: you're losing your good looks.
Nothing like what you were when I married you.'
She flushed and looked miserable.
'I can't help my looks. I don't believe you care how I look.'
'Oh, don't I, though! Why, do you think I'd have stuck to you like
this if I didn't? What was to prevent me from realising all the cash
I could and clearing off, eh? 'Twouldn't have been the first--'
'The first what?' Alice asked sharply.
'Never mind. You see I didn't do it. Too bad to leave the Princess
in the lurch, wouldn't it be?'
Alice seemed to have forgotten the other secret. She searched his
face for a moment, deeply troubled, then asked:
'Willis, I want to know who Clara is?'
He moved his eyes slowly, and regarded her with a puzzled look.
'Clara? What Clara?'
'Somebody you know of. You've got a habit of talking in your sleep
lately. You were calling out "Clara!" last night, and that's the
second time I've heard you.'
He was absent for a few seconds, then laughed and shook his head.
'I don't know anybody called Clara. It's your mistake.'
'I'm quite sure it isn't,' Alice murmured discontentedly.
'Well, then, we'll say it is,' he rejoined in a firmer voice. 'If I
talk in my sleep, perhaps it'll be better for you to pay no
attention. I might find it inconvenient to live with you.'
Alice looked frightened at the threat.
'You've got a great many secrets from me,' she said despondently.
'Of course I have. It is for your good. I was going to tell you one
just now, only you don't seem to care to bear it.'
'Yes, yes, I do!' Alice exclaimed, recollecting. 'Is it something
'Wouldn't it delight you to go and get her into a terrible row with
'Oh, do tell me! What's she been doing?'
'I can't quite promise you the fun,' he replied, laughing. 'It may
miss fire. What do you think of her meeting Eldon alone in the wood
that Monday afternoon, the day after she found the will, you know?'
'You mean that?'
'I saw them together.'
'But she--you don't mean she--?'
Even Alice, with all her venom against her brother's wife, had a
difficulty in attributing this kind of evil to Adela. In spite of
herself she was incredulous.
'Think what you like,' said Rodman. 'It looks queer, that's all.'
It was an extraordinary instance of malice perpetrated out of sheer
good-humour. Had he not been assured by what he heard in the wood of
the perfectly innocent relations between Adela and Eldon, he would
naturally have made some profitable use of his knowledge before
this. As long as there was a possibility of advantage in keeping on
good terms with Adela, he spoke to no one of that meeting which he
had witnessed. Even now he did not know but that Adela had freely
disclosed the affair to her husband. But his humour was genially
mischievous. If he could gratify Alice and at the same time do the
Mutimers an ill turn, why not amuse himself?
'I'll tell Dick the very first thing in the morning!' Alice
declared, aglow with spiteful anticipation.
Rodman approved the purpose, and went off to bed laughing
Adela allowed a week to pass before speaking of her desire to visit
Mrs. Westlake. In Mutimer a fit of sullenness had followed upon his
settlement in lodgings. He was away from home a good deal, but his
hours of return were always uncertain, and Adela could not help
thinking that he presented himself at unlikely times, merely for the
sake of surprising her and discovering her occupation. Once or twice
she had no knowledge of his approach until he opened the door of the
room; when she remarked on his having ascended the stairs so
quietly, he professed not to understand her. On one of those
occasions she was engaged on a letter to her mother; he inquired to
whom she was writing, and for reply she merely held out the sheet
for his perusal. He glanced at the superscription, and handed it
back. Breathing this atmosphere of suspicion, she shrank from
irritating him by a mention of Stella, and to go without his express
permission was impossible. Stella did not write; Adela began to fear
lest her illness had become more serious. When she spoke at length,
it was in one of the moments of indignation, almost of revolt, which
at intervals came to her, she knew not at what impulse. At Wanley
her resource at such times had been to quit the house, and pace her
chosen walk in the garden till she was weary. In London she had no
refuge, and the result of her loss of fresh air had speedily shown