Part 3 out of 6
we'll think of getting back to London, to order our furniture, and
all the rest of it. The place can be made habitable in a few weeks,
I should say."
An emissary from Tottenham Court Road sped down to Polterham,
surveyed the vacant house, returned with professional computations.
Quarrier and Lilian abode at the old home until everything should be
ready for them, and Mrs. Liversedge represented her brother on the
spot--solving the doubts of workmen, hiring servants, making minor
purchases. She invited Denzil to bring his wife, and dwell for the
present under the Liversedge roof, but her brother preferred to
wait. "I don't like makeshifts; we must go straight into our own
house; the dignity of the Radical candidate requires it." So the
work glowed, and as little time as possible was spent over its
It was midway in January when the day and hour of arrival were at
last appointed. No one was to be in the house but the servants. At
four in the afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Quarrier would receive Mr. and
Mrs. Liversedge, and thus make formal declaration of their readiness
to welcome friends. Since her return to England, Lilian had seen no
one. She begged Denzil not to invite Glazzard to Clapham.
They reached Polterham at one o'clock, in the tumult of a snowstorm;
ten minutes more, and the whitened cab deposited them at their
doorway. Quarrier knew, of course, what the general appearance of
the interior would be, and he was well satisfied with the way in
which his directions had been carried out. His companion was at
first overawed rather than pleased. He led her from room to room,
saying frequently, "Do you like it? Will it do?"
"It frightens me!" murmured Lilian, at length. "How shall I manage
such a house?"
She was pale, and inclined to tearfulness, for the situation tired
her fortitude in a degree Denzil could not estimate. Fears which
were all but terrors, self-reproach which had the poignancy of
remorse, tormented her gentle, timid nature. For a week and more she
had not known unbroken sleep; dreams of fantastic misery awakened
her to worse distress in the calculating of her perils and conflict
with insidious doubts. At the dead hour before dawn, faiths of
childhood revived before her conscience, upbraiding, menacing. The
common rules of every-day honour spoke to her with stern reproval.
Denzil's arguments, when she tried to muster them in her defence,
answered with hollow, meaningless sound. Love alone would stead her;
she could but shut her eyes, and breathe, as if in prayer, the
declaration that her love was a sacred thing, cancelling verbal
She changed her dress, and went down to luncheon. The large
dining-room seemed to oppress her insignificance; to eat was
impossible, and with difficulty she conversed before the servants.
Fortunately, Denzil was in his best spirits; he enjoyed the wintery
atmosphere, talked of skating on the ice which had known him as a
boy, laughed over an old story about a snowball with a stone in it
which had stunned him in one of the fights between town and Grammar
"Pity the election can't come on just now!--we should have lively
times. A snowball is preferable to an addled egg any day. The
Poltram folks"--this was the common pronunciation of the town's
name--"have a liking for missiles at seasons of excitement."
From table, they went to the library--as yet unfurnished with
volumes--and made themselves comfortable by the fireside. Through
the windows nothing could be seen but a tempestuous whirl of flakes.
Lilian's cat, which had accompanied her in a basket, could not as
yet make itself at home on the hearthrug, and was glad of a welcome
to its mistress's lap. Denzil lit a pipe and studied the political
news of the day.
At four o'clock he waited impatiently the call of his relatives.
Lilian, unable to command her agitation, had gone into another room,
and was there counting the minutes as if each cost her a drop of
heart's blood. If this first meeting were but over! All else seemed
easy, could she but face Denzil's sister without betrayal of her
shame and dread. At length she heard wheels roll up to the door;
there were voices in the hall; Denzil came forth with loud and
joyous greeting; he led his visitors into the library. Five minutes
more of anguish, and the voices were again audible, approaching, at
"Well, Lily, here is my sister and Mr. Liversedge," said Denzil. "No
very formidable persons, either of them," he added merrily, as the
best way of making apology for Lilian's too obvious tremor.
But she conquered her weakness. The man was of no account to her;
upon the woman only her eyes were fixed, for _there_ was the
piercing scrutiny, the quick divination, the merciless censure--
there, if anywhere, in one of her own sex. From men she might expect
tolerance, justice; from women only a swift choice between the bowl
and the dagger. Pride prompted her to hardihood, and when she had
wall looked upon Mrs. Liversedge's face a soothing confidence came
to the support of desperation. She saw the frank fairness of
Denzil's lineaments softened with the kindest of female smiles; a
gaze keen indeed, but ingenuous as that of a child; an expression
impossible to be interpreted save as that of heartfelt welcome,
absolutely unsuspecting, touched even with admiring homage.
They kissed each other, and Lilian's face glowed. After that, she
could turn almost joyously for Mr. Liversedge's hearty hand-shake.
"You have come like a sort of snow-queen," said Tobias, with unusual
imaginativeness, pointing to the windows. "It must have begun just
as you got here."
Perhaps the chill of her fingers prompted him to this poetical
flight. His wife, who had noticed the same thing, added, with
"I only hope the house is thoroughly dry. We have had great fires
everywhere for more than a fortnight. As for the snow and frost, you
are pretty well used to that, no doubt."
Painfully on the alert, Lilian of course understood this allusion to
the Northern land she was supposed to have quitted recently.
"Even at Stockholm," she replied, with a smile, "there is summer,
"And in Russia, too, I have heard," laughed Mr. Liversedge. "But one
doesn't put much faith in such reports. Denzil tries to persuade us
now and then that the North Cape has quite a balmy atmosphere,
especially from December to March. He is quite safe. We sha'n't go
to test his statements."
Instead of a time of misery, this first half-hour proved so pleasant
that Lilian all but forgot the shadow standing behind her. When tea
was brought in, she felt none of the nervousness which had seemed to
her inevitable amid such luxurious appliances. These relatives of
Denzil's, henceforth her own, were people such as she had not dared
to picture them--so unaffected, genial, easy to talk with; nor did
she suffer from a necessity of uttering direct falsehoods;
conversation dealt with the present and the future--partly, no
doubt, owing to Quarrier's initiative. Mr. Liversedge made a report
of local affairs as they concerned the political outlook; he saw
every reason for hope.
"Welwyn-Baker," he said, "is quite set up again, and I am told he
has no inclination to retire in favour of his son, or any one else.
An obstinate old fellow--and may his obstinacy increase! The
Tories are beginning to see that they ought to set up a new man;
they are quarrelling among themselves. That bazaar at the opening of
the new Society's rooms--the Constitutional Literary, you know--
seems to have been a failure. No one was satisfied. The _Mercury_
printed savage letters from a lot of people--blaming this, that,
and the other person in authority. The _Examiner_, chuckled, and
hasn't done referring to the matter yet."
Apart with Lilian, Mrs. Liversedge had begun to talk of the society
of Polterham. She did not try to be witty at the expense of her
neighbours, but confessed with a sly smile that literature and the
arts were not quite so well appreciated as might be wished.
"You are a serious student, I know--very learned in languages. I
wish I had had more time for reading, and a better head. But seven
children, you know--oh dear! Even my little bit of French has got
so ragged that I am really ashamed of it. But there _is_ one woman
who studies. Has Denzil spoken to you of Mrs. Wade?"
"I don't remember."
"She is no great favourite of his, I believe. You will soon hear of
her, and no doubt see her. Denzil admits that she is very clever--
even a Creek scholar!"
"Really! And what fault does he find with her?"
"She is a great supporter of woman's rights, and occasionally makes
speeches. It's only of late that I have seen much of her; for some
reason she seems to have taken a liking to me, and I feel rather
honoured. I'm sure her intentions are very good indeed, and it must
be trying to live among people who have no sympathy with you. They
make sad fun of her, and altogether misunderstand her--at least I
The snowstorm still raged. To spare their own horses, the
Liversedges had come in a cab, and at half-past five the same
vehicle returned to take them home.. Lilian was sorry to see them
"Where are all your apprehensions now?" cried Denzil, coming back to
her from the hall. "It's over, you see. Not another minute's
uneasiness need you have!"
"They were kindness itself. I like them very much."
"As I knew and said you would. Now, no more chalky faces and
frightened looks! Be jolly, and forget everything. Let us try your
"Your sister was telling me about Mrs. Wade. Is she one of the
people you would like me to be friends with?"
"Oh yes!" he answered, laughing, "Mrs. Wade will interest you, no
doubt. Make a friend of her by all means. Did Mary whisper
"Anything but that; she spoke very favourably."
"And she said Mrs. Wade seemed to have taken a liking to her
"Oh! How's that, I wonder? She goes about seeking whom she may
secure for the women's-vote movement; I suppose it's Molly's turn to
be attacked Oh, we shall have many a lively half-hour when Mrs. Wade
"What is her husband?"
"Husband! She's a widow. I never thought of such a person as Mr.
Wade, to this moment. To be sure, he must have existed. Perhaps she
will confide in you, and then----By-the-bye, is it right for women
to tell their husbands what they learn from female friends?"
He asked it jokingly, but Lilian seemed to reflect in earnest.
"I'm not sure"----
"Oh, you lily of the valley!" he cried, interrupting her. "Do
cultivate a sense of humour. Don't take things with such desperate
seriousness! Come and try your instrument. It ought to be a good
one, if price-lists mean anything."
The next morning was clear and cold. Assuredly there would be good
skating, and the prospect of this enjoyment seemed to engross
Denzil's thoughts. After breakfast he barely glanced at the
newspapers, then leaving Lilian to enter upon her domestic rule, set
forth for an examination of the localities which offered scope to
Polterham skaters. Such youthful zeal proved his thorough harmony
with the English spirit; it promised far more for his success as a
politician than if he had spent the morning over blue-books and
If only the snow were cleared away, the best skating near at hand
was on a piece of water near the road to Rickstead. The origin of
this pond or lakelet had caused discussion among local antiquaries;
for tradition said that it occupied the site of a meadow which many
years ago mysteriously sank, owing perhaps to the unsuspected
existence of an ancient mine. It connected with a little tributary
of the River Bale, and was believed to be very deep, especially at
one point, where the tree-shadowed bank overhung the water at a
height of some ten feet. The way thither was by a field-path,
starting from the high road within sight of Pear-tree Cottage. At a
rapid walk Quarrier soon reached his goal, and saw with satisfaction
that men and boys were sweeping the snowy surface, whilst a few
people had already begun to disport themselves where the black ice
came to view. In the afternoon he would come with Lilian; for the
present, a second purpose occupied his thoughts. Standing on the
bank of Bale Water (thus was it named), he could see the topmost
branches of that pear-tree which grew in the garden behind Mrs.
Wade's cottage; two meadows lay between--a stretch of about a
quarter of a mile. It was scarcely the hour for calling upon ladies,
but he knew that Mrs. Wade sat among her books through the morning,
and he wished especially to see her as soon as possible.
Polterham clocks were counting eleven as he presented himself at the
door of the cottage. Once already he had paid a call here, not many
days after his meeting with the widow in Mr. Hornibrook's library;
he came at three in the afternoon, and sat talking till nearly six.
Not a few Polterham matrons would have considered that proceeding
highly improper, but such a thought never occurred to Denzil; and
Mrs. Wade would have spoken her mind very distinctly to any one who
wished to circumscribe female freedom in such respects. They had
conversed on a great variety of subjects with unflagging animation.
Since then he had not seen his acquaintance.
A young girl opened to him, and left him standing in the porch for a
minute or two. She returned, and asked him to walk into the
sitting-room, where Mrs. Wade was studying with her feet on the
"Do I come unseasonably?" he asked, offering his hand.
"Not if you have anything interesting to say," was the curious
The widow was not accounted for reception of visitors. She wore an
old though quite presentable dress, with a light shawl about her
shoulders, and had evidently postponed the arrangement of her hair
until the time of going abroad. Yet her appearance could hardly be
called disconcerting, for it had nothing of slovenliness. She looked
a student, that was all. For some reason, however, she gave Quarrier
a less cordial welcome than he had anticipated. Her eyes avoided
his, she shook hands in a perfunctory way.
"It depends what you call interesting," was his rejoinder to the
unconventional reply. "I got here yesterday, and brought a wife with
me--there, at all events, is a statement of fact."
"You have done me the honour to hasten here with the announcement?"
"I came out to see if Bale Water was skateable, and I thought I
might venture to make a friendly call whilst I was so near. But I'm
afraid I disturb you?"
"Not a bit Pray sit down and talk. Of course I have heard of your
marriage. Why didn't you let me know it was impending?"
"Because I told nobody. I chose to get married in my own way. You,
Mrs. Wade, are not likely to find fault with me for that."
"Oh dear no!" she answered, with friendly indifference.
"I am told you see a good deal of the Liversedges?"
"Does my sister give any promise of reaching higher levels? Or is
she a hopeless groveller?"
"Mrs. Liversedge is the kind of woman I can respect, independently
of her views."
"I like to hear you say that, because I know you don't deal in
complimentary phrases. The respect, I am sure, is reciprocated."
Mrs. Wade seemed to give slight attention; she was looking at a
picture above the fireplace.
"You will count my wife among your friends, I hope?" he continued.
"I hope so. Do you think we shall understand each other?"
"If not, it won't be for lack of good will on her side. I mustn't
begin to praise her, but I think you will find she has a very fair
portion of brains."
"I'm glad to hear that."
"Do you imply that you had fears?"
"Men are occasionally odd in their choice of wives."
"Yes," Denzil replied, with a laugh; "I have seen remarkable
illustrations of it."
"I didn't feel sure that you regarded brains as an essential."
"Indeed! Then you were a long way from understanding me. How can you
say that, after my lecture, and our talks?"
"Oh, theory doesn't go for much. May I call shortly?"
"If you will be so good."
"She's very young, I think?"
"Not much more than one-and-twenty. I have known her for about three
There was a short silence, then Mrs. Wade said with some abruptness:
"I think of leaving Polterham before long. It was Mr. and Mrs.
Hornibrook who decided me to come here, and now that they are gone I
feel as if I too had better stir. I want books that are out of my
"That will be a loss to us, Mrs. Wade. Society in Polterham has its
"I'm aware of it. But you, of course, will have a home in London as
"Well, yes--if I get sent to Parliament."
"I suppose we shall meet there some day."
Her voice grew careless and dreamy. She folded her hands upon her
lap, and assumed a look which seemed to Denzil a hint that he might
now depart. He stood up.
"So you are going to skate?" murmured Mrs. Wade. "I won't keep you.
Thank you very much for looking in."
Denzil tried once more to read her countenance, and went away with a
puzzled feeling. He could not conjecture the meaning of her changed
Last November had turned the scale in the Polterham Town Council. It
happened that the retiring members were all Conservatives, with the
exception of Mr. Chown, who alone of them obtained re-election, the
others giving place to men of the Progressive party. Mr. Mumbray
bade farewell to his greatness. The new Mayor was a Liberal. As
returning-officer, he would preside over the coming political
contest. The Tories gloomed at each other, and whispered of evil
For many years Mr. Mumbray had looked to the Mayoralty as the limit
of his ambition. He now began to entertain larger projects,
encouraged thereto by the dissensions of Conservative Polterham, and
the promptings of men who were hoping to follow him up the civic
ladder. He joined with those who murmured against the obstinacy of
old Mr. Welwyn-Baker. To support such a candidate would be party
suicide. Even Welwyn-Baker junior was preferable; but why not
recognize that the old name had lost its prestige, and select a
representative of enlightened Conservatism, who could really make a
stand against Quarrier and his rampant Radicals? Mr. Mumbray saw no
reason why he himself should not invite the confidence of the
In a moment of domestic trace the ex-Mayor communicated this thought
to his wife, and Mrs. Mumbray gave ready ear. Like the ladies of
Polterham in general, she had not the faintest understanding of
political principles; to her, the distinction between parties was
the difference between bits of blue and yellow ribbon, nothing more.
But the social advantages accruing to the wife of an M.P. impressed
her very strongly indeed. For such an end she was willing to make
sacrifices, and the first of these declared itself in an abandonment
of her opposition to Mr. Eustace Glazzard. Her husband pointed out
to her that a connection with the family so long established at
Highmead would be of distinct value. William Glazzard nominally
stood on the Liberal side, but he was very lukewarm, and allowed to
be seen that his political action was much swayed by personal
considerations. Eustace made no pretence of Liberal learning; though
a friend of the Radical candidate (so Quarrier was already
designated by his opponents), he joked at popular enthusiasm, and
could only be described as an independent aristocrat. Money, it
appeared, he had none; and his brother, it was suspected, kept up
only a show of the ancestral position. Nevertheless, their names had
weight in the borough.
Eustace spent Christmas at Highmead, and made frequent calls at the
house of the ex-Mayor. On one of the occasions it happened that the
ladies were from home, but Mr. Mumbray, on the point of going out,
begged Glazzard to come and have a word with him in his sanctum.
After much roundabout talk, characteristically pompous, he put the
question whether Mr. Glazzard, as a friend of Mr. Denzil Quarrier,
would "take it ill" if he, Mr. Mumbray, accepted an invitation to
come forward as the candidate of the Conservative party.
"I hope you know me better," Glazzard replied. "I have nothing
whatever to do with politics."
The ex-Mayor smiled thoughtfully, and went on to explain, "in
strictest confidence," that there _was_ a prospect of that
"Of course I couldn't hope for Mr. William's support."
He paused on a note of magnanimous renunciation.
"Oh, I don't know," said Glazzard, abstractedly. "My brother is
hardly to be called a Radical. I couldn't answer for the line he
"Indeed? That is very interesting. Ha!"
Silence fell between them.
"I'm sure," remarked Mr. Mumbray, at length, "that my wife and
daughter will be very sorry to have missed your call. Undoubtedly
you can count on their being at home to-morrow."
The prediction was fulfilled, and before leaving the house Glazzard
made Serena a proposal of marriage. That morning there had occurred
a quarrel of more than usual bitterness between mother and daughter.
Serena was sick of her life at home, and felt a longing, at any
cost, for escape to a sphere of independence. The expected offer
from Glazzard came just at the right moment; she accepted it, and
consented that the marriage should be very soon.
But a few hours of reflection filled her with grave misgivings. She
was not in love with Glazzard; personally, he had never charmed her,
and in the progress of their acquaintance she had discovered many
points of his character which excited her alarm. Serena, after all,
was but a half-educated country girl; even in the whirlwind of
rebellious moments she felt afraid of the words that came to her
lips. The impulses towards emancipation which so grievously
perturbed her were unjustified by her conscience; at heart, she
believed with Ivy Glazzard that woman was a praying and subordinate
creature; in her bedroom she recounted the day's sins of thought and
speech, and wept out her desire for "conversion," for the life of
humble faith. Accepting such a husband as Eustace, she had committed
not only an error, but a sin. The man was without religion, and
sometimes made himself guilty of hypocrisy; of this she felt a
miserable assurance. How could she hope to be happy with him? What
had interested her in him was that air of culture and refinement so
conspicuously lacked by the men who had hitherto approached her. He
had seemed to her the first _gentleman_ who sought her favour. To
countenance him, moreover, was to defy her mother's petty rule. But,
no, she did not love him--did not like him.
Yet to retract her promise she was ashamed. Only girls of low social
position played fast and loose in that way. She went through a night
On the morrow her betrothed, of course, came to see her. Woman-like,
she had taken refuge in a resolve of postponement; the marriage must
be sooner or later, but it was in her power to put it off. And, with
show of regretful prudence, she made known this change in her mind.
"I hardly knew what I was saying. I ought to have remembered that
our acquaintance has been very short."
"Yet long enough to enable me to win your promise," urged Glazzard.
"Yes, I have promised. It's only that we cannot be married so very
"I must, of course, yield," he replied, gracefully, kissing her
hand. "Decision as to the time shall rest entirely with you."
"Thank you--that is very kind."
He went away in a mood of extreme discontent. Was this little
simpleton going to play with him? There were solid reasons of more
than one kind why the marriage should not be long delayed. It would
be best if he returned to London and communicated with her by
letter. He could write eloquently, and to let her think of him as in
the midst of gay society might not be amiss.
Shortly after Quarrier's arrival at Polterham, he was back again.
Daily he had repented his engagement, yet as often had congratulated
himself on the windfall thus assured to him. Before going to the
Mumbrays, he called upon Mrs. Quarrier, whom, as it chanced, he
found alone. To Lilian his appearance was a shock, for in the
contentment of the past week she had practically forgotten the
existence of this man who shared her secret. She could not look him
in the face.
Glazzard could be trusted in points of tact. He entered with a
bright face, and the greetings of an old friend, then at once began
to speak of his own affairs.
"Have you heard that I am going to be married?"
"Denzil told me when he received your letter."
"I am afraid Miss Mumbray will hardly belong to your circle, but as
Mrs. Glazzard--that will be a different thing. You won't forbid me
to come here because of this alliance?"
Lilian showed surprise and perplexity.
"I mean, because I am engaged to the daughter of a Tory."
"Oh, what difference could that possibly make?"
"None, I hope. You know that I am not very zealous as a party-man."
In this his second conversation with Lilian, Glazzard analysed more
completely the charm which she had before exercised upon him. He was
thoroughly aware of the trials her nature was enduring, and his
power of sympathetic insight enabled him to read upon her
countenance, in her tones, precisely what Lilian imagined she could
conceal. Amid surroundings such as those of the newly furnished
house, she seemed to him a priceless gem in a gaudy setting; he felt
(and with justice) that the little drawing-room at Clapham, which
spoke in so many details of her own taste, was a much more suitable
home for her. What could be said of the man who had thus transferred
her, all (or chiefly) for the sake of getting elected to Parliament?
Quarrier had no true appreciation of the woman with whose life and
happiness he was entrusted. He was devoted to her, no doubt, but
with a devotion not much more clairvoyant than would have
distinguished one of his favourite Vikings.
Glazzard, whilst liking Denzil, had never held him in much esteem.
Of late, his feelings had become strongly tinged with contempt. And
now, with the contempt there blended a strain of jealousy.
True that he himself had caught eagerly at the hope of entering
Parliament; but it was the impulse of a man who knew his life to be
falling into ruin, who welcomed any suggestion that would save him
from final and fatal apathy--of a man whose existence had always
been loveless--who, with passionate ideals, had never known
anything but a venal embrace. In Quarrier's position, with abounding
resources, with the love of such a woman as this, what would he not
have made of life? Would it ever have occurred to _him_ to wear a
mask of vulgar deceit, to condemn his exquisite companion to a
hateful martyrdom, that he might attain the dizzy height of
M.P.-ship for Polterham?
He compassionated Lilian, and at the same time he was angry with
her. He looked upon her beauty, her gentle spirit, with tenderness,
and therewithal he half hoped that she might some day repent of
yielding to Quarrier's vulgar ambition.
"Have you made many acquaintances?" he asked.
"A good many. Some, very pleasant people; others--not so
"Polterham society will not absorb you, I think."
"I hope to have a good deal of quiet time. But Denzil wishes me to
study more from life than from books, just now. I must understand
all the subjects. that interest him."
"Yes--the exact position, as a force in politics, of the licensed
victuallers; the demands of the newly enfranchised classes--that
kind of thing."
He seemed to be jesting, and she laughed good-humouredly.
"Those things are very important, Mr. Glazzard."
He did not stay long, and upon his departure Lilian gave a sigh of
The next day he was to lunch with the Mumbrays. He went about twelve
o'clock, to spend an hour with Serena. His welcome was not ardent,
and he felt the oppression of a languor be hardly tried to disguise.
Yet in truth his cause had benefited whilst he was away. The
eloquent letters did not fail of their effect; Serena had again
sighed under domestic tyranny, had thought with longing of a life in
London, and was once more swayed by her emotions towards an early
In dearth of matter for conversation (Glazzard sitting taciturn),
she spoke of an event which had occupied Polterham for the last day
or two. Some local genius had conceived the idea of wrecking an
express train, and to that end had broken a portion of the line.
"What frightful wickedness!" she exclaimed. "What motive can there
have been, do you think?"
"Probably none, in the sense you mean."
"Yes--such a man must be mad."
"I don't think that," said Glazzard, meditatively. "I can understand
his doing it with no reason at all but the wish to see what would
happen. No doubt he would have been standing somewhere in sight."
"You can _understand_ that?"
"Very well indeed," he answered, in the same half-absent way. "Power
of all kinds is a temptation to men. A certain kind of man--not
necessarily cruel--would be fascinated with the thought of
bringing about such a terrific end by such slight means."
"Not necessarily cruel? Oh, I can't follow you at all. You are not
"I have shocked you." He saw that he had really done so, and felt
that it was imprudent. His tact suggested a use for the situation.
"Serena, why should you speak so conventionally? You are not really
conventional in mind. You have thoughts and emotions infinitely
above those of average girls. Do recognize your own superiority. I
spoke in a speculative way. One may speculate about anything and
everything--if one has the brains. You certainly are not made to
go through life with veiled eyes and a tongue tuned to the common
phrases. Do yourself justice, dear girl. However other people regard
you, I from the first have seen what it was in you to become."
It was adroit flattery; Serena reddened, averted her face, smiled a
little, and kept silence.
That day he did not follow up his advantage. But on taking leave of
Serena early in the afternoon, he looked into her eyes with
expressive steadiness, and again she blushed.
A little later, several ladles were gathered in the drawing-room. On
Thursdays Mrs. Mumbray received her friends; sat as an embodiment of
the domestic virtues and graces. To-day the talk was principally on
that recent addition to Polterham society, Mrs. Denzil Quarrier.
"I haven't seen her yet," said Mrs. Mumbray, with her air of
superiority. "They say she is pretty but rather childish."
"But what is this mystery about the marriage?" inquired a lady who
had just entered, and who threw herself upon the subject with
eagerness. (It was Mrs. Roach, the wife of an alderman.) "Why was it
abroad? She is English, I think?"
"Oh no!" put in Mrs. Tenterden, a large and very positive person.
"She is a Dane--like the Princess of Wales. I have seen her. I
recognized the cast of features at once."
An outcry from three ladies followed. They knew Mrs. Quarrier was
English. They had seen her skating at Bale Water. One of them had
heard her speak--it was pure English.
"I thought every one knew," returned Mrs. Tenterden, with stately
deliberation, "that the Danes have a special gift for languages. The
Princess of Wales"----
"But, indeed," urged the hostess, "she is of English birth. We know
it from Mr. Eustace Glazzard, who is one of their friends."
"Then _why_ were they married abroad?" came in Mrs. Roach's shrill
voice. "_Can_ English people be legitimately married abroad? I
always understood that the ceremony had to be repeated in England."
"It was at Paris," said Mrs. Walker, the depressed widow of a
bankrupt corn-merchant. "There is an English church there, I have
The others, inclined to be contemptuous of this authority, regarded
each other with doubt.
"Still," broke out Mrs. Roach again, "_why_ was it at Paris? No one
seems to have the slightest idea. It is really very strange!"
Mrs. Mumbray vouchsafed further information.
"I understood that she came from Stockholm."
"Didn't I _say_ she came from Denmark?" interrupted Mrs. Tenterden,
There was a pause of uncertainty broken by Serena Mumbray's quiet
"Dear Mrs. Tenterden, Stockholm is not in Denmark, but in Sweden.
And we are told that Mrs. Quarrier was an English governess there."
"Ah! a governess!" cried two or three voices.
"To tell the truth," said Mrs. Mumbray, more dignified than ever
after her vindication, "it is probable that she belongs to some very
poor family. I should be sorry to think any worse of her for _that_,
but it would explain the private marriage."
"So you think people _can_ be married legally in Paris?" persisted
the alderman's wife, whose banns had been proclaimed in hearing of
orthodox Polterham about a year ago.
"Of course they can," fell from Serena.
Lilian's age, personal appearance, dress, behaviour, underwent
discussion at great length.
"What church do they go to?" inquired some one, and the question
excited general interest.
"They were at St. Luke's last Sunday," Mrs. Walker was able to
declare, though her wonted timidity again threw some suspicion on
"St. Luke's! Why St. Luke's?" cried other voices. "It isn't their
parish, is it?"
"I think," suggested the widow, "it may be because the Liversedges
go to St. Luke's. Mrs. Liversedge is"----
Her needless information was cut short by a remark from Mrs.
"I could never listen Sunday after Sunday to Mr. Garraway. I think
him excessively tedious. And his voice is so very trying."
The incumbent of St. Luke's offered a brief diversion from the main
theme. A mention of the Rev. Scatchard Vialls threatened to lead
them too far, and Mrs. Roach interposed with firmness.
"I still think it a very singular thing that they went abroad to be
"But they _didn't_ go abroad, my dear," objected the hostess. "That
is to say, one of them was already abroad."
"Indeed! The whole thing seems very complicated. I think it needs
explanation. I shouldn't feel justified in calling upon Mrs.
Her voice was overpowered by that of Mrs. Tenterden, who demanded
"Is it true that she has already become very intimate with _that
person_ Mrs. Wade?"
"Oh, I _do_ hope not!" exclaimed several ladies.
Here was an inexhaustible topic. It occupied more than an hour,
until the last tea-cup had been laid aside and the more discreet
callers were already on their way home.
There needed only two or three days of life at Polterham to allay
the uneasiness with which, for all his show of equanimity, Denzil
entered upon so perilous a career. By the end of January he had
practically forgotten that his position was in any respect insecure.
The risk of betraying himself in an unguarded moment was diminished
by the mental habit established during eighteen months of secrecy in
London. Lilian's name was seldom upon his lips, and any inquiry
concerning her at once awakened his caution. Between themselves they
never spoke of the past.
Long ago he had silenced every conscientious scruple regarding the
relation between Lilian and himself; and as for the man Northway, if
ever he thought of him at all, it was with impatient contempt. That
he was deceiving his Polterham acquaintances, and in a way which
they would deem an unpardonable outrage, no longer caused him the
least compunction. Conventional wrong doing, he had satisfied
himself, was not wrong-doing at all, unless discovered. He injured
no one. The society of such a person as Lilian could be nothing but
an advantage to man, woman, and child. Only the sublimation of
imbecile prejudice would maintain that she was an unfit companion
for the purest creature living. He had even ceased to smile at the
success of his stratagem. It was over and done with; their social
standing was unassailable.
Anxious to complete his book on the Vikings, he worked at it for
several hours each morning; it would be off his hands some time in
February, and the spring publishing season should send it forth to
the world. The rest of his leisure was given to politics. Chests of
volumes were arriving from London, and his library shelves began to
make a respectable appearance; as a matter of principle, he bought
largely from the local bookseller, who rejoiced at the sudden fillip
to his stagnant trade, and went about declaring that Mr. Denzil
Quarrier was evidently _the_ man for the borough.
He fell upon history, economics, social speculation, with
characteristic vigour. If he got into the House of Commons, those
worthies should speedily be aware of his existence among them. It
was one of his favourite boasts that whatever subject he choose to
tackle, he could master. No smattering for him; a solid foundation
of knowledge, such as would ensure authority to his lightest
In the meantime, he began to perceive that Lilian was not likely to
form many acquaintances in the town. With the Liversedges she stood
on excellent terms, and one or two families closely connected with
them gave her a welcome from which she did not shrink. But she had
no gift of social versatility; it cost her painful efforts to
converse about bazaars and curates and fashions and babies with the
average Polterham matron; she felt that most of the women who came
to see her went away with distasteful impressions, and that they
were anything but cordial when she returned their call. A life of
solitude and study was the worst possible preparation for duties
such as were now laid upon her.
"You are dissatisfied with me," she said to Denzil, as they returned
from spending the evening with some empty but influential people who
had made her exceedingly uncomfortable.
"Dissatisfied? On the contrary, I am very proud of you. It does one
good to contrast one's wife with women such as those."
"I tried to talk; but I'm so ignorant of everything they care about.
I shall do better when I know more of the people they refer to."
"Chattering apes! Malicious idiots! Heaven forbid that you should
ever take a sincere part in their gabble! That lot are about the
worst we shall have to deal with. Decent simpletons you can get
along with very well."
"How ought I to speak of Mrs. Wade? When people tell downright
falsehoods about her, may I contradict?"
"It's a confoundedly difficult matter, that. I half wish Mrs. Wade
would hasten her departure. Did she say anything about it when you
saw her the other day?"
It appeared that the widow wished to make a friend of Lilian. She
had called several times, and on each occasion behaved so charmingly
that Lilian was very ready to meet her advances. Though on
intellectual and personal grounds he could feel no objection to such
an intimacy, Denzil began to fear that it might affect his
popularity with some voters who would take the Liberal side if it
did not commit them to social heresies. This class is a very large
one throughout England. Mrs. Wade had never given occasion of grave
scandal; she was even seen, with moderate regularity, at one or
other of the churches; but many of the anti-Tory bourgeois suspected
her of sympathy with views so very "advanced" as to be socially
dangerous. Already it had become known that she was on good terms
with Quarrier and his wife. It was rumoured that Quarrier would
reconsider the position he had publicly assumed, and stand forth as
an advocate of Female Suffrage. For such extremes Polterham was not
"Mrs. Wade asks me to go and have tea with her to-morrow," Lilian
announced one morning, showing a note. "Shall I, or not?"
"You would like to?"
"Not if you think it unwise."
"Hang it!--we can't be slaves. Go by all means, and refresh your
At three o'clock on the day of invitation Lilian alighted from her
brougham at Pear-tree Cottage. It was close upon the end of
February; the declining sun shot a pleasant glow across the
landscape, and in the air reigned a perfect stillness. Mrs. Wade
threw open the door herself with laughing welcome.
"Let us have half-an-hour's walk, shall we? It's so dry and warm."
"I should enjoy it," Lilian answered, readily.
"Then allow me two minutes for bonnet and cloak."
She was scarcely longer. They went by the hedge-side path which led
towards Bale Water. To-day the papers were full of exciting news.
Sir Stafford Northcote had brought forward his resolution for making
short work of obstructive Members, and Radicalism stood undecided.
Mrs. Wade talked of these things in the liveliest strain, Lilian
responding with a lighthearted freedom seldom possible to her.
"You skated here, didn't you?" said her companion, as they drew near
to the large pond.
"Yes; a day or two after we came. How different it looks now."
They stood on the bank where it rose to a considerable height above
"The rails have spoilt this spot," said Mrs. Wade. "They were only
put up last autumn, after an accident. I wonder it was never found
necessary before. Some children were gathering blackberries from the
bramble there, and one of them reached too far forward, and over she
went! I witnessed it from the other side, where I happened to be
walking. A great splash, and then a chorus of shrieks from the
companions. I began to run forward, though of course I could have
done nothing whatever; when all at once I saw a splendid sight. A
man who was standing not far off ran to the edge and plunged in--a
magnificent 'header!' He had only thrown away his hat and coat. They
say it's very deep just here. He disappeared completely, and then in
a few seconds I saw that be had hold of the child. He brought her
out where the bank slopes yonder--no harm done. I can't tell you
bow I enjoyed that scene It made me cry with delight."
As usual, when deeply moved, Lilian stood in a reverie, her eyes
wide, her lips tremulous. Then she stepped forward, and, with her
hand resting upon the wooden rail, looked down. There was no
perceptible movement in the water; it showed a dark greenish
surface, smooth to the edge, without a trace of weed.
"How I envy that man his courage!"
"His power, rather," suggested Mrs. Wade. "If we could swim well,
and had no foolish petticoats, we should jump in just as readily. It
was the power over circumstances that I admired and envied."
Lilian smiled thoughtfully.
"I suppose that is what most attracts us in men?"
"And makes us feel our own dependence. I can't say I like _that_
She seemed to wait for an answer.
"I'm afraid it's in the order of nature," replied Lilian at length
with a laugh.
"Very likely. But I am not content with it on that account. I know
of a thousand things quite in the order of nature which revolt me. I
very often think of nature as an evil force, at war with the good
principle of which we are conscious in our souls."
"But," Lilian faltered, "is your ideal an absolute independence?"
Mrs. Wade looked far across the water, and answered, "Yes,
"Then you--I don't quite know what would result from that."
"Nor I," returned the other, laughing. "That doesn't affect my
ideal. You have heard, of course, of that lecture your husband gave
at the Institute before--before your marriage?"
"Yes; I wish I could have heard it."
"You would have sympathized with every word, I am sure. Mr. Quarrier
is one of the strong men who find satisfaction in women's weakness."
It was said with perfect good-humour, with a certain indulgent
kindness--a tone Mrs. Wade had used from the first in talking with
Lilian. A manner of affectionate playfulness, occasionally of
caressing protection, distinguished her in this intercourse; quite
unlike that by which she was known to people in general. Lilian did
not dislike it, rather was drawn by it into a mood of grateful
"I don't think 'weakness' expresses it," she objected. "He likes
women to be subordinate, no doubt of that. His idea is that"----
"I know, I know!" Mrs. Wade turned away with a smile her companion
did not observe. "Let us walk back again; it grows chilly. A
beautiful sunset, if clouds don't gather. Perhaps it surprises you
that I care for such sentimental things?"
"I think I understand you better."
"Frankly--do you think me what the French call _hommasse_? Just a
"Nothing of the kind, Mrs. Wade," Lilian replied, with courage. "You
are a very womanly woman."
The bright, hard eyes darted a quick glance at her.
"Really? That is how I strike you?"
"It is, indeed."
"How I like your way of speaking," said the other, after a moment's
pause. "I mean, your voice--accent. Has it anything to do with the
long time you have spent abroad, I wonder?"
Lilian smiled and was embarrassed.
"You are certainly not a Londoner?"
"Oh no! I was born in the west of England."
"And I at Newcastle. As a child I had a strong northern accent; you
don't notice anything of it now? Oh, I have been about so much. My
husband was m the Army. That is the first time I have mentioned him
to you, and it will be the last, however long we know each other."
Lilian kept her eyes on the ground. The widow glanced off to a
totally different subject, which occupied them the rest of the way
back to the cottage.
Daylight lasted until they had finished tea, then a lamp was brought
in and the red blind drawn down. Quarrier had gone to spend the day
at a neighbouring town, and would not be back before late in the
evening, so that Lilian had arranged to go from Mrs. Wade's to the
Liversedges'. They still had a couple of hours' talk to enjoy; on
Lilian's side, at all events, it was unfeigned enjoyment. The cosy
little room put her at ease Its furniture was quite in keeping with
the simple appearance of the house, but books and pictures told that
no ordinary cottager dwelt here.
"I have had many an hour of happiness in this room," said Mrs. Wade,
as they seated themselves by the fire. "The best of all between
eleven at night and two in the morning. You know the lines in
'Penseroso.' Most men would declare that a woman can't possibly
appreciate them; I know better. I am by nature a student; the life
of society is nothing to me; and, in reality, I care very little
Smiling, she watched the effect of her words.
"You are content with solitude?" said Lilian, gazing at her with a
look of deep interest.
"Quite. I have no relatives who care anything about me, and only two
or three people I call friends. But I must have more books, and I
shall be obliged to go to London."
"Don't go just yet--won't our books be of use to you?"
"I shall see. Have you read this?"
It was a novel from Smith's Library. Lilian knew it, and they
discussed its merits. Mrs. Wade mentioned a book by the same author
which had appeared more than a year ago.
"Yes, I read that when it came out," said Lilian, and began to talk
Mrs. Wade kept silence, then remarked carelessly:
"You had them in the Tauchnitz series, I suppose?"
Had her eyes been turned that way, she must have observed the
strange look which flashed across her companion's countenance.
Lilian seemed to draw in her breath, though silently.
"Yes--Tauchnitz," she answered.
Mrs. Wade appeared quite unconscious of anything unusual in the
tone. She was gazing at the fire.
"It isn't often I find time for novels," she said; "for new ones,
that is. A few of the old are generally all I need. Can you read
George Eliot? What a miserably conventional soul that woman has!"
"Oh, I know! But she is British conventionality to the core. I have
heard people say that she hasn't the courage of her opinions; but
that is precisely what she _has_, and every page of her work
declares it flagrantly. She might have been a great power--she
might have speeded the revolution of morals--if the true faith had
been in her."
Lilian was still tremulous, and she listened with an intensity which
gave her a look of pain. She was about to speak, but Mrs. Wade
"You mustn't trouble much about anything I say when it crosses your
own judgment or feeling. There are so few people with whom I can
indulge myself in free speech. I talk just for the pleasure of it;
don't think I expect or hope that you will always go along with me.
But you are not afraid of thinking--that's the great thing. Most
women are such paltry creatures that they daren't look into their
own minds--for fear nature should have put something 'improper'
She broke off with laughter, and, as Lilian kept silence, fell into
In saying that she thought her Companion a "womanly woman," Lilian
told the truth. Ever quick with sympathy, she felt a sadness in Mrs.
Wade's situation, which led her to interpret all her harsher
peculiarities as the result of disappointment and loneliness. Now
that the widow had confessed her ill-fortune in marriage, Lilian was
assured of having judged rightly, and nursed her sentiment of
compassion. Mrs. Wade was still young; impossible that she should
have accepted a fate which forbade her the knowledge of woman's
happiness. But how difficult for such a one to escape from this
narrow and misleading way! Her strong, highly-trained intellect
could find no satisfaction in the society of every-day people, yet
she was withheld by poverty from seeking her natural sphere. With
Lilian, to understand a sorrow was to ask herself what she could do
for its assuagement. A thought of characteristic generosity came to
her. Why should she not (some day or other, when their friendship
was mature) offer Mrs. Wade the money, her own property, which would
henceforth be lying idle? There would be practical difficulties in
the way, but surely they might be overcome. The idea brought a smile
to her face. Yes; she would think of this. She would presently talk
of it with Denzil.
"Come now," said Mrs. Wade, rousing herself from meditation, "let us
talk about the Irish question."
Lilian addressed herself conscientiously to the subject, but it did
not really interest her; she had no personal knowledge of Irish
hardships, and was wearied by the endless Parliamentary debate. Her
thoughts still busied themselves with the hopeful project for
smoothing Mrs. Wade's path in life.
When the carriage came for her, she took her leave with regret, but
full of happy imaginings. She had quite forgotten the all but
self-betrayal into which she was led during that chat about novels.
Two days later Quarrier was again absent from home on business, and
Lilian spent the evening with the Liversedges. Supper was over, and
she had begun to think of departure, when the drawing-room door was
burst open, and in rushed Denzil, wet from head to foot with rain,
and his face a-stream with perspiration.
"They dissolve at Easter!" he cried, waving his hat wildly.
"Northcote announced it at five this afternoon. Hammond has a
telegram; I met him at the station."
"Ho! ho! this is news!" answered Mr. Liversedge, starting up from
"News, indeed!" said his wife; "but that's no reason, Denzil, why
you should make my carpet all ram and mud. Do go and take your coat
off, and clean your boots, there's a good boy!"
"How can I think of coat and boots? Here, Lily, fling this garment
somewhere. Give me a duster, or something, to stand on, Molly. Toby,
we must have a meeting in a day or two. Can we get the Public Hall
for Thursday or Friday? Shall we go round and see our committee-men
"Time enough to-morrow; most of them are just going to bed. But how
is it no one had an inkling of this? They have kept the secret
"The blackguards! Ha, ha! Now for a good fight! It'll be old
Welwyn-Baker, after all, you'll see. They won t have the courage to
set up a new man at a moment's notice. The old buffer will come
maudling once more, and we'll bowl him off his pins!"
Lilian sat with her eyes fixed upon him. His excitement infected
her, and when they went home together she talked of the coming
struggle with joyous animation.
The next morning--Tuesday, March 9th--there was a rush for the
London papers. Every copy that reached the Polterham vendors was
snapped up within a few minutes of it arrival. People who had no
right of membership ran ravening to the Literary Institute and the
Constitutional Literary Society, and peered over the shoulders of
legitimate readers, on such a day as this unrebuked. Mr. Chown's
drapery establishment presented a strange spectacle. For several
hours it was thronged with sturdy Radicals eager to hear their
eminent friend hold forth on the situation. At eleven o'clock Mr.
Chown fairly mounted a chair behind his counter, and delivered a
formal harangue--thus, as he boasted, opening the political
campaign. He read aloud (for the seventh time) Lord Beaconsfield's
public letter to the Duke of Marlborough, in which the country was
warned, to begin with, against the perils of Home Rule. "It is to be
hoped that all men of light and leading will resist this destructive
doctrine. . . . Rarely in this century has there been an occasion
more critical. The power of England and the peace of Europe will
largely depend on the verdict of the country. . . . Peace rests on
the presence, not to say the ascendancy, of England in the Councils
"Here you have it," cried the orator, as he dashed the newspaper to
his feet, "pure, unadulterated Jingoism! 'Ascendancy in the Councils
of Europe!' How are the European powers likely to hear _that_, do
you think? I venture to tell my Lord Beaconsfield--I venture to
tell him on behalf of this constituency--aye, and on behalf of
this country--that it is _he_ who holds 'destructive doctrine'! I
venture to tell my Lord Beaconsfield that England is not prepared to
endorse any such insolent folly! We shall very soon have an
opportunity of hearing how far such doctrine recommends itself to
_our_ man 'of light and leading'--to our Radical candidate--to
our future member, Mr. Denzil Quarrier!"
A burst of cheering echoed from the drapery-laden shelves. Two
servant-girls who had come to the door intent on purchase of
hair-pins ran frightened away, and spread a report that Mr. Chown's
shop was on fire.
At dinner-time the politician was faced by his angry wife.
"I know what the end of _this_'ll be!" cried Mrs. Chown. "You're
ruining your business, that's what you're doing! Who do you think'll
come to the shop if they find it full of shouting ragamuffins?
They'll all go to Huxtable's, that's what they'll do! I've no
"There's no need to declare _that_!" replied Mr. Chown, rolling his
great eyes at her with an expression of the loftiest scorn. "I have
known it for thirteen years. You will be so good as to attend to
your own affairs, and leave _me_ to see to _mine_! What does a woman
care for the interests of the country? Grovelling sex! Perhaps when
I am called upon to shoulder a rifle and go forth to die on the
field of battle, your dense understanding will begin to perceive
what was at stake.--Not another syllable! I forbid it! Sit down
and serve the potatoes!"
At the same hour Denzil Quarrier, at luncheon with Lilian, was
giving utterance to his feelings on the great topic of the day.
"Now is the time for women to show whether their judgment is worthy
of the least confidence. This letter of Beaconsfield's makes frank
appeal to the spirit of Jingoism; he hopes to get at the fighting
side of Englishmen, and go back to power on a wave of 'Rule,
Britannia' bluster. If it is true that women are to be trusted in
politics, their influence will be overwhelming against such
irresponsible ambition. I have my serious doubts"----
He shook his head and laughed.
"I will do my utmost!" exclaimed Lilian, her face glowing with
sympathetic enthusiasm. "I will go and talk to all the people we
"Really! You feel equal to that?"
"I will begin this very afternoon! I think I understand the
questions sufficiently. Suppose I begin with Mrs. Powell? She said
her husband had always voted Conservative, but that she couldn't be
quite sure what he would do this time. Perhaps I can persuade her to
take our side."
"Have a try! But you astonish me, Lily--you are transformed!"
"Oh, I have felt that I might find courage when the time came." She
put her head aside, and laughed with charming _naivete_.
"I can't sit idle at home whilst you are working with such zeal. And
I really _feel_ what you say: women have a clear duty. How excited
Mrs. Wade must be!"
"Have you written all the dinner-cards?"
"They were all sent before twelve."
"Good! Hammond will be here in half an hour to talk over the address
with me. Dinner at seven prompt; I am due at Toby's at eight. Well,
it's worth going in for, after all, isn't it? I am only just
beginning to live."
"And I, too!"
The meal was over. Denzil walked round the table and bent to lay his
cheek against Lilian's.
"I admire you more than ever," he whispered, half laughing. "What a
reserve of energy in this timid little girl! Wait and see; who knows
what sort of table you will preside at some day? I have found my
vocation, and there's no saying how far it will lead me. Heavens!
what a speech I'll give them at the Public Hall! It's bubbling over
in me. I could stand up and thunder for three or four hours!"
They gossiped a little longer, then Lilian went to prepare for her
call upon Mrs. Powell, and Quarrier retired to the library. Here he
was presently waited upon by Mr. Hammond, editor of the _Polterham
Examiner_. Denzil felt no need of assistance in drawing up the
manifesto which would shortly be addressed to Liberal Polterham; but
Hammond was a pleasant fellow of the go-ahead species, and his
editorial pen would be none the less zealous for confidences such as
this. The colloquy lasted an hour or so. Immediately upon the
editor's departure, a servant appeared at the study door.
"Mrs. Wade wishes to see you, sir, if you are at leisure."
The widow entered. Her costume--perhaps in anticipation of the
sunny season--was more elaborate and striking than formerly. She
looked a younger woman, and walked with lighter step.
"I came to see Mrs. Quarrier, but she is out. You, I'm afraid, are
"No, no. This is the breathing time of the day with me. I've just
got rid of our journalist. Sit down, pray."
"Oh, I won't stop. But tell Lilian I am eager to see her."
"She is off canvassing--really and truly! Gone to assail Mrs.
Powell. Astonishing enthusiasm!"
"I'm delighted to hear it!"
The exclamation lingered a little, and there was involuntary
surprise on Mrs. Wade's features. She cast a glance round the room.
"Do sit down," urged Denzil, placing a chair. "What do you think of
Dizzy's letter? Did you ever read such bunkum? And his 'men of light
and leading'--ha, ha, ha!"
"He has stolen the phrase," remarked Mrs. Wade. "Where from, I can't
say; but I'm perfectly sure I have come across it."
"Ha! I wish we could authenticate that! Search your memory--do--
and get a letter in the _Examiner_ on Saturday."
"Some one will be out with it before then. Besides, I'm sure you
don't wish for me to draw attention to myself just now."
"Why not? I shall be disappointed if you don't give me a great deal
"I am hardly proper, you know."
She looked steadily at him, with an inscrutable smile, then let her
eyes again stray round the room.
"Bosh! As I was saying to Lily at lunch, women ought to have a
particular interest in this election. If they are worth anything at
all, they will declare that England sha'n't go in for the chance of
war just to please that Jew phrase-monger. I'm ready enough for a
fight, on sound occasion, but I won't fight in obedience to Dizzy
and the music-halls! By jingo, no!"
He laughed uproariously.
"You won't get many Polterham women to see it in that light,"
observed the widow. "This talk about the ascendency of England is
just the thing to please them. They adore Dizzy, because he is a fop
who has succeeded brilliantly; they despise Gladstone, because he is
conscientious and an idealist. Surely I don't need to tell you
She leaned forward, smiling into his face.
"Well," he exclaimed, with a laugh, "of course I can admit, if you
like, that most women are _not_ worth anything politically. But why
should I be uncivil?"
Mrs. Wade answered in a low voice, strangely gentle.
"Don't I know their silliness and worthlessness? What woman has more
reason to be ashamed of her sex?"
"For the millennium--yes." Her eyes gleamed, and she went on in a
more accustomed tone. "Women are the great reactionary force. In
political and social matters their native baseness shows itself on a
large scale. They worship the vulgar, the pretentious, the false.
Here they will most of them pester their husbands to vote for
Welwyn-Baker just because they hate change with the hatred of weak
fear. Those of them who know anything at all about the Irish
question are dead set against Ireland--simply because they are
unimaginative and ungenerous; they can't sympathize with what seems
a hopeless cause, and Ireland to them only suggests the dirty Irish
of Polterham back streets. As for European war, the idiots are fond
of drums and fifes and military swagger; they haven't brains enough
to picture a battle-field."
"You are severe, Mrs. Wade. I should never have ventured"----
"You are still afraid of telling _me_ the truth!"
"Well, let us rejoice in the exceptions. Yourself, Lilian, my sister
Mary, for instance."
The widow let her eyes fall and kept silence.
"We hope you will dine with us on Friday of next week," said Denzil.
"Lilian posted you an invitation this morning. There will be a good
"Seriously then, I am to work for you, openly and vigorously?"
"What a contemptible fellow I should be if I wished you to hold
aloof!" He spoke sincerely, having overcome his misgivings of a
short time ago. "The fight will be fought on large questions, you
know. I want to win, but I have made up my mind to win honestly;
it's a fortunate thing that I probably sha'n't be called upon to
declare my views on a thousand side-issues."
"Don't be so sure of that. Polterham is paltry, even amid national
"Confound it! then I will say what I think, and k it. If they want a
man who will fight sincerely for the interests of the people, here
he is! I'm on the side of the poor devils; I wish to see them better
off; I wish to promote honest government, and chuck the selfish
lubbers overboard. Forgive the briny phrase; you know why it comes
natural to me."
Mrs. Wade gave him her kindest smile.
"You will win, no doubt of it; and not this battle only."
She rose, and half turned away.
"By-the-bye, shall you be able to finish your book?"
"It is finished. I wrote the last page yesterday morning. Wonderful,
"A good omen. My love to Lilian."
As they shook hands, Mrs. Wade just raised her eyes for an instant,
timorously. The look was quite unlike anything Denzil had yet seen
on her face. It caused him to stand for a few moments musing.
From half-past four to half-past six he took a long walk; such
exercise was a necessity with him, and the dwellers round about
Polterham had become familiar with the sight of his robust figure
striding at a great pace about roads and fields. Generally he made
for some wayside inn, where he could refresh himself with a tankard
of beer, after which he lit his pipe, and walked with it between his
teeth. Toby Liversedge, becoming aware of this habit, was inclined
to doubt its prudence. "Beware of the teetotalers, Denzil; they are
a power among us." Whereto Quarrier replied that teetotalers might
be eternally condemned; he would stick by his ale as tenaciously as
the old farmer of Thornaby Waste.
"It's the first duty of a Radical to set his face against humbug. If
I see no harm in a thing, I shall do it openly, and let people"----
At this point he checked himself, almost as if he had a sudden
stitch in the side. Tobias asked for an explanation, but did not
On getting home again, he found Lilian in the drawing-room. (As an
ordinary thing he did not "dress" for dinner, since his evenings
were often spent in the company of people who would have disliked
the conspicuousness of his appearance.) She rose to meet him with
shining countenance, looking happier, indeed, and more rarely
beautiful than he had ever seen her.
"What cheer? A triumph already?"
"I think so, Denzil; I really think so. Mrs. Powell has promised me
to do her very best with her husband. Oh, if you could have heard
our conversation! I hadn't thought it possible for any one to be so
ignorant of the simplest political facts. One thing that she said--
I was talking about war, and suddenly she asked me: 'Do you think it
likely, Mrs. Quarrier, that there would be an _inscription_?' For a
moment I couldn't see what she meant. 'An inscription?' 'Yes; if
there's any danger of that, and--my four boys growing up!' Then,
of course, I understood. Fortunately, she was so very much in
earnest that I had no temptation to smile."
"And did you encourage her alarm?"
"I felt I had no right to do that. To avoid repeating the word, I
said that I didn't think _that system_ would ever find favour in
England. At the same time, it was quite certain that our army would
have to be greatly strengthened if this war-fever went on. Oh, we
had an endless talk--and she was certainly impressed with my
"Bravo! Why, this is something like!"
"You can't think what courage it has given me! To-morrow I shall go
to Mrs. Clifford--yes, I shall. She is far more formidable; but I
want to try my strength."
"Ho, ho! What a pugnacious Lily--a sword-Lily! You ought to have
had an heroic name--Deborah, or Joan, or Portia! Your eyes gleam
"I feel more contented with myself.--Oh, I am told that Mrs. Wade
called this afternoon?"
"Yes; anxious to see you. Burning with wrath against female Toryism.
She was astonished when I told her of your expedition."
Lilian laughed merrily. Thereupon dinner was announced, and they
left the room hand in hand.
That evening it was rumoured throughout the town that Mr.
Welwyn-Baker had telegraphed a resolve _not_ to offer himself for
re-election. In a committee-room at the Constitutional Literary
Society was held an informal meeting of Conservatives, but no one of
them had definite intelligence to communicate. Somebody had told
somebody else that Hugh Welwyn-Baker held that important telegram
from his father; that was all. Mr. Mumbray's hopes rose high. On the
morrow, at another meeting rather differently constituted (miserable
lack of organization still evident among the Tories), it was made
known on incontestable authority that the sitting Member _would_
offer himself for re-election. Mr. Mumbray and his supporters held
high language. "It would be party suicide," they went about
repeating. With such a man as Denzil Quarrier on the Radical side,
they _must_ have a new and a strong candidate! But all was
confusion; no one could take the responsibility of acting.
Already the affairs of the Liberals were in perfect crier, and it
took but a day or two to decide even the minutiae of the
campaign. To Quarrier's candidature no one within the party offered
the least opposition. Mr. Chown, who had for some time reserved his
judgment, declared to all and sundry that "all things considered, a
better man could scarcely have been chosen." Before thus committing
himself he had twice called upon Quarrier, and been closeted with
him for a longtime. Now, in these days of arming, he received a card
inviting him (and his wife) to dine at the candidate's house on a
certain evening a fortnight ahead; it was the second dinner that
Denzil had planned, but Mr. Chown was not aware of this, nor that
the candidate had remarked of him to Lilian: "We must have that
demagogue among his kind, of course." Denzil's agent (Hummerstone by
name) instantly secured rooms in admirable situations, and the
Public Hall was at the disposal of the party for their first great
meeting a few days hence.
In facing that assembly (Toby Liversedge was chairman) Denzil had a
very slight and very brief recurrence of his platform nervousness.
Determined to risk nothing, he wrote out his speech with great care
and committed it to memory. The oration occupied about two hours,
with not a moment of faltering. It was true that he had discovered
his vocation; he spoke like a man of long Parliamentary experience,
to the astonished delight of his friends, and with enthusiastic
applause from the mass of his hearers. Such eloquence had never been
heard in Polterham. If anything, he allowed himself too much scope
in vituperation, but it was a fault on the right side. The only
circumstance that troubled him was when his eye fell upon Lilian,
and he saw her crying with excitement; a fear passed through his
mind that she might be overwrought and fall into hysterics, or
faint. The occasion proved indeed too much for her; that night she
did not close her eyes, and the next day saw her prostrate in
nervous exhaustion. But she seemed to pick up her strength again
very quickly, and was soon hard at work canvassing among the
"Don't overdo it," Denzil cautioned her. "Remember, if you are ill,
I shall mope by your bedside."
"I can't stop now that I have begun," was her reply. "If I try to
sit idle, I _shall_ be ill."
She could read nothing but newspapers; her piano was silent; she
talked politics, and politics only. Never was seen such a change in
woman, declared her intimates; yet, in spite of probabilities, they
thought her more charming than ever. No word of animosity ever fell
from her lips; what inspired her was simple ardour for Denzil's
cause, and, as she considered it, that of the oppressed multitude.
In her way, said Toby Liversedge, she was as eloquent as Quarrier
himself, and sundry other people were of the same opinion.
With sullen acquiescence the supporters of Mr. Mumbray and
"Progressive Conservatism"--what phrase is not good enough for the
lips of party?--recognized that they must needs vote for the old
name. Dissension at such a moment was more dangerous than an
imbecile candidate. Mr. Sam Quarrier had declared that rather than
give his voice for Mumbray he would remain neutral. "Old W.-B. is
good enough for a figure-head; he signifies something. If we are to
be beaten, let it be on the old ground." That defeat was likely
enough, the more intelligent Conservatives could not help seeing.
Many of them (Samuel among the number) had no enthusiasm for
Beaconsfield, and _la haute politique_ as the leader understood it,
but they liked still less the principles represented by Councillor
Chown and his vociferous regiment. So the familiar bills were once
more posted about the streets, and once more the Tory canvassers
urged men to vote for Welwyn-Baker in the name of Church and State.
At Salutary Mount (this was the name of the ex-Mayor's residence)
personal disappointment left no leisure for lamenting the prospects
of Conservatism. Mr. Mumbray shut himself up in the room known as
his "study." Mrs. Mumbray stormed at her servants, wrangled with her
children, and from her husband held apart in sour contempt--
feeble, pompous creature that he was! With such an opportunity, and
unable to make use of it! But for _her_, he would never even have
become Mayor. She was enraged at having yielded in the matter of
Serena's betrothal. Glazzard had fooled them; he was an unprincipled
adventurer, with an eye only to the fortune Serena would bring him!
"If you marry that man," she asseverated, _a propos_ of a
discussion with her daughter on a carpet which had worn badly, "I
shall have nothing whatever to do with the affair--nothing!"
Serena drew apart and kept silence.
"You hear what I say? You understand me?"
"You mean that you won't be present at the wedding?"
"I do!" cried her mother, careless what she said so long as it
sounded emphatic. "You shall take all the responsibility. If you
like to throw yourself away on a bald-headed, dissipated man--as I
_know_ he is--it shall be entirely your own doing. I wash my hands
of it--and that's the last word you will hear from me on the
In consequence of which assertion she vilified Glazzard and Serena
for three-quarters of an hour, until her daughter, who had sat in
abstraction, slowly rose and withdrew.
Alone in her bedroom, Serena shed many tears, as she had often done
of late. The poor girl was miserably uncertain how to act. She
foresaw that home would be less than ever a home to her after this
accumulation of troubles, and indeed she had made up her mind to
leave it, but whether as a wife or as an independent woman she could
not decide. "On her own responsibility"--yes, that was the one
thing certain. And what experience had she whereon to form a
judgment? It might be that her mother's arraignment of Glazzard was
grounded in truth, but how could she determine one way or the other?
On the whole, she liked him better than when she promised to marry
him--yes, she liked him better; she did rot shrink from the
thought of wedlock with him. He was a highly educated and clever
man; he offered her a prospect of fuller life than she had yet
imagined; perhaps it was a choice between him and the ordinary
husband such as fell to Polterham girls. Yet again, if he did not
really care for her--only for her money?
She remembered Denzil Quarrier's lecture on "Woman," and all he had
said about the monstrously unfair position of girls who are asked in
marriage by men of the world. And thereupon an idea came into her
mind. Presently she had dried her tears, and in half-an-hour's time
she left the house.
Her purpose was to call upon Mrs. Quarrier, whom she had met not
long ago at Highmead. But the lady was not at home. After a moment
of indecision, she wrote on the back of her visiting card: "Will you
be so kind as to let me know when I could see you? I will come at
It was then midday. In the afternoon she received a note,
hand-delivered. Mrs. Quarrier would be at home from ten to twelve
the next morning.
Again she called, and Lilian received her in the small drawing-room.
They locked at each other with earnest faces, Lilian wondering
whether this visit had anything to do with the election. Serena was
nervous, and could not reply composedly to the ordinary phrases of
politeness with which she was received. And yet the phrases were not
quite ordinary; whomsoever she addressed, Lilian spoke with a
softness, a kindness peculiar to herself, and chose words which
seemed to have more than the common meaning.
The visitor grew sensible of this pleasant characteristic, and at
length found voice for her intention.
"I wished to see you for a very strange reason, Mrs. Quarrier. I
feel half afraid that I may even offend you. You will think me very
Lilian trembled. The old dread awoke in her. Had Miss Mumbray
"Do let me know what it is," she replied, in a low voice.
"It--it is about Mr. Eustace Glazzard. I think he is an intimate
friend of Mr. Quarrier's?"
"Yes, he is."
"You are surprised, of course. I came to you because I feel so alone
and so helpless. You know that I am engaged to Mr. Glazzard?"
Her voice faltered. Relieved from anxiety, Lilian looked and spoke
in her kindest way.
"Do speak freely to me, Miss Mumbray. I shall be so glad to--to
help you in any way I can--so very glad."
"I am sure you mean that. My mother is very much against our
marriage--against Mr. Glazzard. She wants me to break off. I can't
do that without some better reason than I know of. Will you tell me
what you think of Mr. Glazzard? Will you tell me in confidence? You
know him probably much better than I do--though that sounds
strange. You have known him much longer, haven't you?"
"Not much longer. I met him first in London."
"But you know him through your husband. I only wish to ask you
whether you have a high opinion of him. How has he impressed you
from the first?"
Lilian reflected for an instant, and spoke with grave
"My husband considers him his best friend. He thinks very highly of
him. They are unlike each other in many things. Mr. Quarrier
sometimes wishes that he--that Mr. Glazzard were more active, less
absorbed in art; but I have never heard him say anything worse than
that. He likes him very much indeed. They have been friends since
The listener sat with bowed head, and there was a brief silence.
"Then you think," she said at length, "that I shall be quite safe in
--Oh, that is a bad way of putting it! Do forgive me for talking to
you like this. You, Mrs. Quarrier, are very happily married; but I
am sure you can sympathize with a girl's uncertainty. We have so few
opportunities of----Oh, it was so true what Mr. Quarrier said in
his lecture at the Institute--before you came. He said that a girl
had to take her husband so very much on trust--of course his words
were better than those, but that's what he meant."
"Yes--I know--I have heard him say the same thing."
"I don't ask," pursued the other, quickly, "about his religious
opinions, or anything of that kind. Nowadays, I suppose, there are
very few men who believe as women do--as most women do." She
glanced at Lilian timidly. "I only mean--do you think him a good
man--an honourable man?"
"To that I can reply with confidence," said Lilian, sweetly. "I am
quite sure he is an honourable man--quite sure I believe he has
very high thoughts. Have you heard him play? No man who hadn't a
noble nature could play like that."
Serena drew a sigh of relief.
"Thank you, dear Mrs. Quarrier--thank you so very much! You have
put my mind at rest."
These words gave delight to the hearer. To do good and to receive
gratitude were all but the prime necessities of Lilian's heart.
Obeying her impulse, she began to say all manner of kind, tender,
hopeful things. Was there not a similarity between this girl's
position and that in which she had herself stood when consenting to
the wretched marriage which happily came to an end at the church
door? Another woman might have been disposed to say, in the female
parrot-language: "But do you love him or not? That is the whole
question." It was _not_ the whole question, even granting that love
had spoken plainly; and Lilian understood very well that it is
possible for a girl to contemplate wedlock without passionate
feeling such as could obscure her judgment.
They talked with much intimacy, much reciprocal good-will, and
Serena took her leave with a comparatively cheerful mind. She had
resolved what to do.
And the opportunity for action came that afternoon. Glazzard called
upon her. He looked rather gloomy, but smiled in reply to the smile
she gave him.
"Have you read Mr. Gladstone's address to the electors of
Midlothian?" Serena began by asking, with a roguish look.
"Pooh! What is such stuff to me?"
"I knew I should tease you. What do you think of Mr. Quarrier's
"Oh, he will be elected, no doubt."
Glazzard spoke absently, his eyes on Serena's face, but seemingly
not conscious of her expression.
"I hope he will," she rejoined.
"What!--you hope so?"
"Yes, I do. I am convinced he is the right man. I agree with his
principles. Henceforth I am a Radical."
Glazzard laughed mockingly, and Serena joined, but not in the same
"I like him," she pursued, with a certain odd persistence. "If I
could do it decently, I would canvass for him. He is a manly man and
means what he says. I like his wife, too--she is very sweet."
He glanced at her and pursed his lips.
"I am sure," added Serena, "you like me to praise such good friends
They were in the room where the grand piano stood, for Mrs. Mumbray
had gone to pass the day with friends at a distance. Serena said of
"Will you please play me something--some serious piece--one of
the best you know?"
"You mean it?"
"I do. I want to hear you play a really noble piece. You won't
He eyed her in a puzzled way, but smiled, and sat down to the
instrument. His choice was from Beethoven. As he played, Serena
stood in an attitude of profound attention. When the music ceased,
she went up to him and held out her hand.
"Thank you, Eustace. I don't think many people can play like that."
"No; not very many," he replied quietly, and thereupon kissed her
He went to the window and looked out into the chill, damp garden.
"Serena, have you any idea what Sicily is like at this time of
"A faint imagination. Very lovely, no doubt."
"I want to go there."
"Do you?" she answered, carelessly, and added in lower tones, "So do
"There's no reason why you shouldn't. Marry me next week, and we
will go straight to Messina."
"I will marry you in a fortnight from to-day," said Serena, in
Glazzard walked back to Highmead with a countenance which alternated
curiously between smiling and lowering. The smile was not agreeable,
and the dark look showed his face at its worst. He was completely
absorbed in thought, and when some one stopped full in front of him
with jocose accost, he gave a start of alarm.
"I should be afraid of lamp-posts," said Quarrier, "if I had that
somnambulistic habit. Why haven't you looked in lately? Men of
infinite leisure must wait upon the busy."
"My leisure, thank the destinies!" replied Glazzard, "will very soon
be spent out of hearing of election tumult."
"When? Going abroad again?"
"Ha!--that means, I conjecture," said Denzil, searching his
friend's face, "that a certain affair will come to nothing after
"And what if you are right?" returned the other, slowly, averting
"I sha'n't grieve. No, to tell you the truth, I shall not! So at
last I may speak my real opinion. It wouldn't have done, Glazzard;
it was a mistake, old fellow. I have never been able to understand
it. You--a man of your standing--no, no, it was completely a
mistake, believe me!"
Glazzard looked into the speaker's face, smiled again, and remarked
"That's unfortunate. I didn't say my engagement was at an end; and,
in fact, I shall be married in a fortnight. We go to Sicily for the
A flush of embarrassment rose to Denzil's face. For a moment he
could not command himself; then indignation possessed him.
"That's too bad!" he exclaimed. "You took advantage of me. You laid
a trap. I'm damned if I feel able to apologize!"
Glazzard turned away, and it seemed as if he would walk on. But he
faced about again abruptly, laughed, held out his hand.
"No, it is I who should apologize. I did lay a trap, and it was too
bad. But I wished to know your real opinion."
No one more pliable than Denzil. At once he took the hand that was
offered and pressed it heartily.
"I'm a blundering fellow. Do come and spend an hour with me
to-night. From eleven to twelve. I dine out with fools, and shall
rejoice to see you afterwards."
"Thanks, I can't. I go up to town by the 7.15."
They were in a suburban road, and at the moment some ladies
approached. Quarrier, who was acquainted with them, raised his hat
and spoke a few hasty words, after which he walked on by Glazzard's
"My opinion," he said, "is worth very little. I had no right
whatever to express it, having such slight evidence to go upon. It
was double impertinence. If _you_ can't be trusted to choose a wife,
who could? I see that--now that I have made a fool of myself."
"Don't say any more about it," replied the other, in a good-natured
voice. "We have lived in the palace of truth for a few minutes,
"So you go to Sicily. There you will be in your element. Live in the
South, Glazzard; I'm convinced you will be a happier man than in
this mill-smoke atmosphere. You have the artist's temperament;
indulge it to the utmost. After all, a man ought to live out what is
in him. Your wedding will be here, of course?"
"Yes, but absolutely private."
"You won't reject me when I offer good wishes? There is no man
living who likes you better than I do, or is more anxious for your
happiness. Shake hands again, old fellow. I must hurry off."
So they parted, and in a couple of hours Glazzard was steaming
He lay back in the corner of a carriage, his arms hanging loose, his
eyes on vacancy. Of course he had guessed Quarrier's opinion of the
marriage he was making; he could imagine his speaking to Lilian
about it with half-contemptuous amusement. The daughter of a man
like Mumbray--an unformed, scarcely pretty girl, who had inherited
a sort of fortune from some soap-boiling family--what a
culmination to a career of fastidious dilettantism! "He has probably
run through all his money," Quarrier would add. "Poor old fellow! he
deserves better things."
He had come to hate Quarrier. Yet with no vulgar hatred; not with
the vengeful rancour which would find delight in annihilating its
object. His feeling was consistent with a measure of justice to
Denzil's qualities, and even with a good deal of admiration; as it
originated in mortified vanity, so it might have been replaced by
the original kindness, if only some stroke of fortune or of power
had set Glazzard in his original position of superiority. Quarrier
as an ingenuous young fellow looking up to the older comrade,
reverencing his dicta, holding him an authority on most subjects,
was acceptable, lovable; as a self-assertive man, given to patronage
(though perhaps unconsciously), and succeeding in life as his friend
stood still or retrograded, he aroused dangerous emotions. Glazzard
could no longer endure his presence, hated the sound of his voice,
cursed his genial impudence; yet he did not wish for his final
unhappiness--only for a temporary pulling-down, a wholesome
castigation of over-blown pride.
The sound of the rushing wheels affected his thought, kept it on the
one subject, shaped it to a monotony of verbal suggestion. Not a
novel suggestion, by any means; something that his fancy had often
played with; very much, perhaps, as that ingenious criminal spoken
of by Serena amused himself with the picture of a wrecked train long
before he resolved to enjoy the sight in reality.
"Live in the South," Quarrier had urged. "Precisely; in ether words:
Keep out of my way. You're a good, simple-hearted fellow, to be
sure, but it was a pity I had to trust you with that secret. Leave
England for a long time."
And why not? Certainly it was good counsel--if it had come from
any one but Denzil Quarrier. Probably he should act upon it after