Part 5 out of 6
Told it rapidly, now and then confusedly, but with omission of
nothing essential. So often she had reviewed her life, at successive
stages of culture and self-knowledge. Every step had been debated in
heart and conscience. She had so much to say, yet might not linger
in the narration, and feared to seem eager ill the excuse of what
she had done. To speak of these things to one of her own sex was in
itself a great relief, yet from time to time the recollection that
she was betraying Denzil's Secret struck her with cold terror. Was
not this necessity a result of her weakness? A stronger woman would
perhaps have faced the situation in some other way.
Mrs. Wade listened intently, and the story seemed to move her in no
slight degree. Lilian, anxiously watching her face, found it
difficult to interpret the look of suppressed excitement. Censure
she could not read there; pain, if ever visible, merely flitted over
brow and lips; at moments she half believed that her hearer was
exulting in this defiance of accepted morality--what else could be
the significance of that flash in the eyes; that quiver of the
nostrils--all but a triumphant smile? They sat close to each
other, Lilian in the low basket-chair, the widow on a higher seat,
and when the story came to an end, their hands met.
"How can I save Denzil?" was Lilian's last word. "Anything--any
sacrifice I If this becomes known, his whole life is ruined!"
Mrs. Wade pressed the soft, cold fingers, and kept a thoughtful
"It's a strange coincidence," she said at length, "very strange that
this should happen on the eve of the election."
"The secret _must_ be kept until"----
Lilian's voice failed. She looked anxiously at her friend, and
"What would be the result if it were known afterwards-when Denzil is
"It's hard to say. But tell me, Lily: is there _no_ one who has been
admitted to your confidence?"
What purpose would be served by keeping back the name? Lilian's eyes
fell as she answered.
"Mr. Glazzard knows."
"Mr. Eustace Glazzard?"
Lilian explained how and when it had become necessary to make him a
sharer in the secret.
"Do you believe," Mrs. Wade asked, "that Northway really discovered
you by chance?"
"I don't know. He says so. I can only feel absolutely sure that Mr.
Glazzard has nothing to do with it."
Mrs. Wade mused doubtfully.
"Oh, how is it possible? If you knew him as well as we do!--
Impossible!--He came to see us this very morning, on his way to be
married, and laughed and talked!"
"You are right, no doubt," returned the other, with quiet
reassurance. "If it wasn't chance, some obscure agency has been at
work. You must remember, Lily, that only by a miracle could you have
lived on in security."
"I have sometimes felt that," whispered the sufferer, her head
"And it almost seems," went on Mrs. Wade, "as if Northway really had
no intention of using his power to extort money. To be Sure, your
own income is not to be despised by a man in his position; but most
rascals would have gone to Mr. Quarrier.--He is still in love with
you, I suppose."
The last words were murmured in a tone which caused the hearer to
look up uneasily. Mrs. Wade at once averted her face, which was
curiously hard and expressionless.
"What do you think?" she said a moment after. "Would it be any use
if I had a talk with him?"
"Will you?" asked Lilian, eagerly. "You may perhaps influence him.
You can speak so well--so persuasively. I don't think he is
utterly depraved. As you say, he would have gone first to Denzil.
Perhaps he can be moved to have pity on me."
"Perhaps--but I have more faith in an appeal to his interests."
"It would be dreadful if Denzil had to live henceforth at his
"It would. But it's a matter of--of life and death."
Mrs. Wade's voice sank on those words, shaking just a little. She
put her face nearer to Lilian's, but without looking at her.
"Suppose no argument will prevail with him, dear?" she continued in
that low, tremulous tone. "Suppose he persists in claiming you?"
The voice had a strange effect upon Lilian's nerves. She shook with
agitation, and drew away a little.
"He cannot! He has no power to take me! At the worst, we can only be
driven back into solitude."
"True, dear; but it would not be the same kind of solitude as
before. Think of the huge scandal, the utter ruin of brilliant
Lilian lay back and moaned in anguish. Her eyes were closed, and in
that moment Mrs. Wade gazed at her for a moment only; then the widow
rose from her chair, and spoke in a voice of encouragement.
"I will see him, Lily. You remain here; I'll call him into the
She stepped to the window, and saw that Northway was standing only
at a little distance. After meditating for a minute or two, she left
the room very quietly, crossed the passage, and entered the room
opposite, where she generally took her meals. Here again she went to
the window, and again had a good view of the man on guard. A smile
rose to her face.
Then she went out and signalled to Northway, who approached in an
embarrassed way, doing his best to hold his head up and look
dignified. Mrs. Wade regarded him with contemptuous amusement, but
was careful to show nothing of this; her face and tone as she
greeted him expressed more than civility--all but deference.
"Will you do me the kindness to enter for a few minutes, Mr.
He doffed his hat, smiled sourly, and followed her into the little
dining-room. But as she was closing the door, he interfered.
"Excuse me--I don't want that lady to go away until I have seen
Mrs. Wade none the less closed the door, holding herself with
"She is resting in the next room. I give you my word, Mr. Northway,
that you will find her there when our conversation is over."
He looked about him with sullen uneasiness, but could not resist
this lady's manner.
"Pray sit down. Quite a spring day, isn't it?"
Her tone was melancholy, tempered with the consideration of a
hostess. Northway seated himself much as if he were in church. He
tried to examine Mrs. Wade's face, but could not meet her look. She,
in the meantime, had got the young man's visage by heart, had
studied the meaning of every lineament--narrow eyes, sunken
cheeks, forehead indicative of conceited intelligence, lips as
clearly expressive of another characteristic. Here, at all events,
was a creature she could manage--an instrument--though to what
purpose she was not yet perfectly clear.
"Mr. Northway, I have been listening to a sad, sad story."
"Yes, it is sad," he muttered, feeling his inferiority to this
soft-spoken woman, and moving his legs awkwardly.
"I must mention to you that my name is Mrs. Wade. I have known
Lilian since she came to live at Polterham--only since then.
That's a very short time ago, but we have seen a good deal of each
other, and have become intimate friends. I need not tell you that I
never had the faintest suspicion of what I have just learnt."
This was said certainly not in a voice of indignation but with a
sadness which implied anything but approval. Northway, after trying
to hold his hat in a becoming way, placed it on the floor, clicking
with his tongue the while and betraying much nervousness.
"You are of course aware," pursued the lady, "that Mr. Denzil
Quarrier is Liberal candidate for this borough?"
"Yes, I know."
"Until to-day, he had every prospect of being elected. It is a
shocking thing--I hardly know how to express myself about it."
"If this gets known," said Northway, "I suppose he has no chance?"
"How would it be possible to vote for a man who has outraged the law
on which all social life is based? He would retire immediately--no
Regarding this event as certain in any case, the listener merely
"That, I dare say, doesn't interest you?"
"I take no part in politics."
"And it is quite a matter of indifference to you whether Mr.
Quarrier's career is ruined or not?"
"I don't see why I should think much about a man who has injured me
as he has."
"No," conceded Mrs. Wade, sadly. "I understand that you have nothing
whatever in view but recovering your wife?"
"That's all I want."
"And yet, Mr. Northway, I'm sure you see how very difficult it will
be for you to gain this end."
She leaned towards him sympathetically. Northway shuffled, sucked in
his cheeks, and spoke in as civil a tone as he could command.
"There are difficulties, I know. I don't ask her to come at once and
live with me. I couldn't expect that. But I am determined she
sha'n't go back to Mr. Quarrier. I have a right to forbid it."
"Indeed--abstractly speaking--I think you have," murmured Mrs.
Wade, with a glance towards the door. "But I grieve to tell you that
there seems to me no possibility of preventing her return."
"I shall have to use what means I can. You say Mr. Quarrier wouldn't
care to have this made public just now."
He knew (or imagined) that the threat was idle, but it seemed to him
that Mrs. Wade, already favourably disposed, might be induced to
counsel Lilian for the avoidance of a scandal at this moment.
"Mr. Northway," replied the widow, "I almost think that he would
care less for such a disclosure _before_ this election than _after_
He met her eyes, and tried to understand her. But whatever she
meant, it could be of no importance to him. Quarrier was doomed by
the Tory agent; on this knowledge he congratulated himself, in spite
of the fact that another state of things would have been more to his
"I have really nothing to do with that," he replied. "My wife is
living a life of wickedness--and she shall be saved from it at
Mrs. Wade had much difficulty in keeping her countenance. She looked
down, and drew a deep sigh.
"That is only too true. But I fear--indeed I fear--that you
won't succeed in parting them. There is a reason--I cannot mention
Northway was puzzled for a moment, then his face darkened; he seemed
"I do so wish," pursued Mrs. Wade, with a smile of sympathy, "that I
could be of some use in this sad affair. My advice--I am afraid
you will be very unwilling to listen to it."
She paused, looking at him wistfully.
"What would it be?" he asked.
"I feel so strongly--just as you do--that it is dreadful to have
to countenance such a state of things; but I am convinced that it
would be very, very _unwise_ if you went _at once_ to extremities,
Mr. Northway. I am a woman of the world; I have seen a good deal of
life; if you allowed yourself to be guided by me, you would not
"You want to save your friends from the results of their behaviour,"
he replied, uneasily.
"I assure you, it's not so much that--no, I have _your_ interests
in view quite as much as theirs. Now, seeing that Lilian cannot
possibly take her place as your wife in fact, and that it is
practically impossible to part her from Mr. Quarrier, wouldn't it be
well to ask yourself what is the most prudent course that
"If it comes to that, I can always get a divorce."
Mrs. Wade reflected, but with no sign of satisfaction.
"Yes, that is open to you. You would then, of course, be enabled to
marry again.--May I ask if you are quite at ease with regard to
your prospects in life?"
The tone was so delicately impertinent that Northway missed its
"I haven't quite decided upon anything yet."
"Judging from your conversation, I should say that you will yet find
a place among active and successful men. But the beginning is
everything. If I could be of any assistance to you--I would put it
to you frankly, Mr. Northway: is it worth while sacrificing very
solid possibilities to your--your affection for a woman who has
He shuffled on the chair, clicked with his tongue, and looked about
"I am Dot to be bribed to act against my conscience," he said at
Mrs. Wade heard this with pleasure. The blunt, half-blustering
declaration assured her that Northway's "conscience" was on the
point of surrender.
"Now, let me tell you what I should like to do," she continued,
bending towards him. "Will you allow me to go at once and see Mr.
"And tell him?"
"Yes, let him know what has happened. I quite understand," she
added, caressingly, "how very painful it would be for you to go
directly to him. Will you allow me to be your intermediary? That you
and he must meet is quite certain; may I smooth away the worst
difficulties? I could explain to him your character, your natural
delicacy, your conscientiousness. I could make him understand that
he has to meet a person quite on his own level--an educated man of
honourable feeling. After that, an interview between you would be
comparatively easy. I should be really grateful to you if you would
allow me to do you this service."
Northway was like clay in her hands. Every word had precisely the
effect on which she calculated. His forehead unwrinkled itself, his
lips hung loose like the mouth of a dog that is fondled, he tried
not to smile. Though he thought himself as far as ever from
renouncing Lilian, he began to like the idea of facing Quarrier--
of exhibiting his natural delicacy, conscientiousness, and so on.
Something was in the background, but of that he took no deliberate
A few minutes more, and Mrs. Wade had him entirely at her disposal.
It was arranged that, whilst she went into the town to discover
Quarrier, Northway should remain on guard, either in or about the
cottage. Luncheon would be provided for him. He promised not to
molest Lilian, on condition that she made no attempt to escape.
"She will stay where she is," Mrs. Wade assured him. "Your natural
delicacy will, I am sure, prevent you from seeking to hold
conversation with her. She is very weak, poor thing! I do hope no
serious illness will follow on .this shock."
Thereupon she returned to the sitting-room, where Lilian stood in an
anguish of impatience.
"I think I shall manage it, dear," she whispered, in a tone of
affectionate encouragement. "He has consented to see Mr. Quarrier,
provided I go first and break the news."
"You, Mrs. Wade? You are going to see Denzil?"
"Dearest girl, leave it all in my hands. You cannot think what
difficulties I have overcome. If I am allowed to act freely, I shall
save you and him."
She explained the articles of truce, Lilian listening with
"And I don't think he will interfere with you meanwhile. But you can
keep the door locked, you know. Annie shall bring you something to
eat; I will tell her to give him _his_ luncheon first, and then to
come very quietly with yours. It is half-past twelve. I can hardly
be back in less than an hour and a half. No doubt, Mr. Quarrier will
come with me."
"How good you are, dear Mrs. Wade! Oh, if you can save him!"
"Trust me, and try to sit quietly. Now, I will be off at once."
She pressed the hand that was held to her, nodded, and left the
It was striking one when Mrs. Wade came in sight of the Quarriers'
house. At this hour Quarrier was expected at home for luncheon. He
arrived whilst the visitor still waited for an answer to her ring at
"But haven't you seen Lily? She told me"----
"Yes, I have seen her. She is at the cottage."
A peculiarity in her tone arrested his attention, and the look of
joyous excitement which had been fixed upon his face these last few
days changed to anxious inquiry.
"What's the matter?"
"She is quite well--don't imagine accidents. But I must speak to
you in private."
The door had opened. Denzil led straightway to the library, where he
flung aside hat and overcoat.
"What is it, Mrs. Wade?"
She stood close before him, her eyes on his. The rapid walk had
brought colour to her cheek, and perhaps to the same cause was
attributable her quickened breathing.
"Lily has been discovered by an enemy of hers and yours. A man named
He felt far too strongly to moderate his utterance out of regard for
the listener. His features were distorted; he stared wrathfully.
"And you have left her with him? Where is she?"
"She is quite safe in my sitting-room--the key turned to protect
her. He, too, is in the house, in another room. I have gained time;
He could not listen.
"How did it happen?--You had no right to leave her alone with him!
--How has he found her?"
"Please don't eat me up, Mr. Quarrier I have been doing my very best
And she told him the story of the morning as briefly as possible.
Her endeavour to keep a tone of perfect equanimity failed in the
course of the narrative; once or twice there was a catching in her
breath, and, as if annoyed with herself, she made an impatient
"And this fellow," cried Quarrier, when she ceased, imagines that I
am at his mercy! Let him do what he likes--let him go into the
market-place and shout his news!--We'll go back at once."
"You are prepared, then, to have this known all over Polterham?"
Mrs. Wade asked, looking steadily at him.
"I don't care a jot! Let the election go to the devil! Do you think
I will submit Lily to a day of such torture? This very evening we go
to London. How does she bear it?"
"Very well indeed."
"Like a brave, good girl! Do you think I would weigh the chance of
election against her misery?"
"It seems to me," was the cold answer, "that you have done so
"Has she complained to you?"
"Oh, no! But I understand now what always puzzled me. I understand
She checked herself, and turned quietly from him. Strategy must
always be liable to slips from one cause or another, and Mrs. Wade's
prudence had, for the moment, yielded to her impulses.
"You think she has all along been unhappy?"
"No, nothing of the kind. But when we have been speaking of the
position of women--that kind of thing--I have noticed something
strange--an anxiety. I was only going to say that, after having
succeeded thus far, it seems a pity to lose everything when a little
She waved her hand.
"Do you believe," Denzil asked, "that his story of finding her by
mere chance is true?"
"Lilian tells me that only your most intimate friend shared the
"Glazzard? Of course _he_ has nothing to do with it. But some one
else may have"----
He walked apart, brooding. Mrs. Wade seated herself, and became
"What sort of a fellow is this?" Quarrier asked, of a sudden.
"It depends who is dealing with him," she answered, meeting his look
with eyes full of sympathetic expression. "I read him at once, and
managed him. He is too weak for serious villainy. He doesn't seem to
have thought of extorting money from you. Lilian was his only
object. He would have taken her away by force."
"Come--we mustn't lose time."
"Mr. Quarrier, do be calm, and let us talk before we go. She is
quite safe. And as for Northway, I am perfectly sure that you can
keep him silent."
"You think it possible?"
"If you will consent to follow in the path I have prepared. I have
taken no small trouble."
She looked up at him and smiled.
"You have behaved like a true friend, Mrs. Wade--it is no more
than I should have expected of you. But what have you planned? Think
how this secret has already spread--what hope is there of finally
hushing it up? Glazzard and you would never breathe a syllable; but
how, short of manslaughter, could I assure the silence of a
blackguard like this Northway? If I let him blackmail me, I am done
for: I should be like the fools in plays and novels, throwing half
my possessions away, and all in vain."
"Pray remember," urged the other, "that this Northway is by no means
the rascal of melodrama. He has just enough brains to make him
conceited, and is at the disposal of any one who plays upon his
conceit. With much trouble I induced him to regard you as a source
of profit." She broke off and seemed to falter. "I think you won't
find fault with me, Mr. Quarrier, for trying to do this?"
"You did it ill the friendliest spirit."
"And not indiscreetly, I hope." She looked at him for a moment, and
continued: "He is bribable, but you must go to work carefully. For
instance, I think if you offered to give him a good start in a
commercial career--by your personal recommendation, I mean--that
would have more effect than an offer of money. And then, again, in
this way you guard yourself against the perils of which you were
speaking. Place him well, so that he considers himself a
respectable, responsible man, and for his own sake he won't torment
you. Couldn't you send him to some one over in Sweden--some house
Denzil pondered, with knitted brows.
"I have no faith in it!" he exclaimed at length, beginning to walk
about. "Come--I want to get to Lilian she must be in misery. I
will order the carriage; it will be needed to bring her back."
He rang the bell violently; a servant appeared, and hurried away to
do his bidding.
"Mrs. Wade," he said, as soon as the door had closed, "shouldn't I
do better to throw up the game? I hate these underhand affairs I
don't think I could go through with the thing--I don't, indeed!
Speak your whole mind. I am not a slave of ambition--at bottom I
care precious little for going into Parliament. I enjoyed the
excitement of it--I believe I have a knack of making speeches; but
what does it all amount to? Tell me your true thought." He drew near
to her. "Shall I throw it up and go abroad with my wife?--my
_wife_! that is her true name!"
He looked a fine fellow as he spoke this; better than he had looked
on the platform. Mrs. Wade gazed at him fixedly, as if she could not
take away her eyes. She trembled, and her forehead was wrung with
"Do this," she replied, eagerly, "if you wish to make Lilian unhappy
for the rest of her life."
"What do you mean?"
"It seems I understand her better than you do--perhaps because I
am a woman. She dreads nothing so much as the thought that _she_ has
been the ruin of your prospects. You have taught her to believe that
you are made for politics; you can never undo that. The excitement
of this election had fixed the belief in her for ever. For _her_
sake, you are bound to make every attempt to choke this scandal! Be
weak--give in--and (she is weak too) it's all over with her
happiness. Her life would be nothing but self-reproach."
"No, no, no! For a short time, perhaps, but security would be the
best thing of all for her."
"Try, then--try, and see the result!"
She spoke with suppressed passion, her voice shaking. Denzil turned
away, struggled with his thoughts, again faced her. Mrs. Wade read
his features as if her life depended on what he would resolve.
Seeing him in a misery of indecision, she repeated, at greater
length and more earnestly still, her cogent reasonings. Quarrier
argued in reply, and they were still thus engaged when it was
announced that the carriage waited.
"Let us go!" He threw his overcoat on to his shoulders.
Mrs. Wade caught his hand.
"Are you bent on doing the hopeless thing?"
"Let us talk in the carriage. I can't wait any longer."
But in the carriage both kept silence. Mrs. Wade, exhausted by
stress of emotion, by the efforts of her scheming brain, lay back as
if she had abandoned the contest; Denzil, his face working
ceaselessly, stared through the windows. When they were nearing
their destination, the widow leaned towards him.
"I have done my best for you. I have nothing so much at heart as
your welfare--and Lilian's."
He pressed her hand, too much disturbed to think of the singular way
in which she spoke. Then the vehicle stopped. Denzil assisted his
companion to alight, and, whilst she was opening the house-door,
bade the coachman go up and down till he was summoned. Then he
sprang after Mrs. Wade, learnt from her where Lilian was, and at
once tried to enter the sitting-room. The door was locked.
"Lily!" he called, in a low voice. "Open, dear! It is I!"
The key turned rapidly. He rushed in, and clasped Lilian in his
arms. She could not utter a word, but clung to him sobbing and
"Don't!--don't, dear girlie! Try to be quiet--try to command
"Can you do anything?" she uttered at length. "Is there any hope?"
"What do you wish, Lily, dearest? What shall I do?"
The common sense of manliness urged him to put no such questions, to
carry her away without a word, save of tender devotion, to escape
with her into quietness, and let all else go as it would. But Mrs.
Wade's warning had impressed him deeply. It went with his secret
inclination; for, at this stage of the combat, to lose all his aims
would be a bitter disappointment. Rethought of the lifelong
ostracism, and feared it in a vague way.
"Mrs. Wade thinks he can be persuaded to leave us alone," Lilian
replied, hurriedly, using simple words which made her seem
childlike, though at the same moment she was nerving herself to
heroic effort. "See him, and do what you can, Denzil. I did my
utmost, dear. Oh, this cruel chance that brought him here!"
She would have given years of her life to say "Sacrifice all, and
let us go!" He seemed even to invite her to say it, but she strove
with herself. Sacrifice of his career meant sacrifice of the whole
man. Not in _her_ eyes, oh no!--but she had studied him so well,
and knew that he could no longer be content in obscurity. She choked
her very soul's desire.
"Shall I try to buy him off, Lily?"
"Do try, darling!"
"But can you face what will come afterwards--the constant risks?"
"Anything rather than you shall be ruined!"
A syllable would have broken down her heroism. It was on his tongue.
He had but to say "Ruin!--what do I care for ruin in _that_
sense?" and she would have cried with delight. But he kept it back.
"Sit down and wait for me. I will go and see him."
One more embrace, and he left her. Mrs. Wade was talking with
Northway in the dining-room, talking hurriedly and earnestly. She
heard Quarrier's step and came to the door.
"In here?" Denzil asked.
She nodded and came out. Then the door closed behind him.
Northway stood near the window. He had eaten--luncheon was still
on the table--and had been smoking to calm his nerves, but at the
sight of Quarrier he became agitated They inspected each other.
Denzil's impulse was to annihilate his contemptible enemy with
fierceness of look and word; and in Northway jealousy fought so
strongly with prudence that a word of anger would have driven him to
revengeful determination. But a few moments of silence averted this
danger. Quarrier said to himself that there was no use in half
measures. He had promised Lilian to do his best, and his own desire
pointed to the same end. Swallowing his gall, he spoke quietly.
"Mr. Northway, we can't talk as if we were friends; but I must
remember that you have never intentionally done me any wrong--that
it is _I_ who am immediately to blame for this state of things. I
hope you will talk it over with me"----
His voice failed, but the first step had been taken. He sat down,
motioning the other to a chair.
"I can't allow my wife to live any longer in this way," began the
adversary, with blundering attempt at dignified speech.
"My wife" was like a blow to Denzil; he flushed, started, yet
controlled himself. What Mrs. Wade had told him of Northway's
characteristics came into his mind, and he saw that this address
might be mere bluster.
"It's very natural for you to speak in that way; but there is no
undoing what has happened. I must say that at once, and as firmly as
possible. We may talk of how I can compensate you for--for the
injury; but of nothing else."
He ended with much mental objurgation, which swelled his throat.
"You can't compensate a man," returned Northway, "for an injury of
"Strictly speaking, no. But as it can't be helped--as I wronged
you without knowing you--I think I may reasonably offer to do you
whatever good turn is in my power. Please to tell me one thing. Have
you spoken to any one except Mrs. Wade of what you have discovered?"
"No--to no one."
It might be true or not. Denzil could only hope it was, and proceed
on that assumption.
"I am sure I may trust your word," he said, beginning to use
diplomacy, with the immediate result that Northway's look encouraged
him. "Now, please tell me another thing, as frankly. Can I, as a man
of some means and influence, offer you any acceptable service?"
There was silence. Northway could not shape a reply.
"You have been in commerce, I think?" proceeded the other. "Should
you care to take a place in some good house of business on the
Continent, or elsewhere abroad? I think it's in my power to open a
way for you such as you would not easily make by your own
The listener was suffering. But for one thing, this offer would have
tempted him strongly; but that one thing made it idle for him to
think of what was proposed. To-day or to-morrow Quarrier would be
bargain made with reference to the future must collapse. exposed by
his plotting enemies, and thereupon any If he were to profit by
Quarrier at all, it must needs be in the shape of a payment which
could not be recovered.
"I don't care to go into business again," he said, with a mingling
of real annoyance and affected superiority. "I have other views."
"Can I help to advance them?" asked Denzil, sickening under the
necessity of speaking fair.
The dialogue lasted for half an hour more. Jealousy notwithstanding,
Northway had made up his mind to gain what was to be gained. Lilian
was beyond his reach; it would be foolish to go back to his poverty
and cloudy overlook when solid assistance was held out to him. With
much posturing and circumlocution, he came at length to the avowal
that a sum of ready money would not be refused.
"Are you wise in preferring this to the other kind of help?" Denzil
"I have my own views."
Quarrier ridiculed himself for what he was doing. How could he
pretend to trust such a fellow? Again, there was only the hope that
a bribe might be efficacious.
"I will give you five hundred pounds," he said, "on condition that
you leave England at once."
The bid was too low. Northway would be satisfied with twice as much,
provided it were paid forthwith. Pondering, Quarrier decided that he
was about to commit an absurdity. A thousand pounds--and how much
more in future? He looked Northway in the eyes.
"Here is my last word. I don't greatly care whether this secret
comes out or not. If I am to be at your mercy henceforth, I had
rather bid you do what you like; it really doesn't matter much to
me. I will give you five hundred pounds at once--a cheque on a
Polterham banker; moreover, if my secret is kept, I will do you the
other service I offered. But that's all I have to say. If it doesn't
suit you, you must do what you please."
His boldness was successful. Northway could gain nothing by betrayal
of the secret--which he believed to be no secret at all. With show
of indifference, he accepted what was obtainable.
"Then come and drive with me into the town," said Denzil.
Thereupon he stepped out and entered the sitting-room, where the two
women were together. They looked eager inquiry, and he smiled.
"Managed, I think. He goes with me. Lily, I'll be back for you as
soon as possible."
A moment, and they watched the carriage roll away.
This evening there was a great dinner-party at Colonel Catesby's; a
political dinner. Lilian had carefully prepared for the occasion. In
Quarrier's opinion, she would far outshine her previous appearances;
she was to wear certain jewels which he had purchased on a recent
visit to town--at an outlay of which he preferred to say nothing
definite. "They are the kind of thing," he remarked, with a
significant smile, "that can be passed on to one's children."
But would it be possible for her to keep the engagement? Through the
afternoon she lay in her bedroom with drawn blinds, endeavouring to
sleep. Once or twice Denzil entered, very softly, and stood by her
for a moment; she looked at him and smiled, but did not speak. At
half-past six he brought her tea with his own hand. Declaring
herself quite recovered, she rose.
"This is no such important affair that you must go at all costs," he
said, regarding her anxiously. "Say you feel unable, and I'll send a
message at once."
Already she had assured him that it would disappoint her greatly not
to go. Lilian meant, of course, that she could not bear to
disappoint _him_, and to make confusion in their hostess's
arrangements. There was a weight upon her heart which made it a
great effort even to move, to speak; but she hoped to find strength
when the time came.
"You are quite sure that he has gone, Denzil--gone for good?"
"I am perfectly sure of it. You needn't have another moment's fear."
He tried to believe it. By this time, if he had kept his promise,
Northway was in London. But what faith was to be put in such a man's
declarations? It might be that the secret was already known to other
people; between now and polling-day there might come the crowning
catastrophe. Yet the man's interest seemed to impose silence upon
him, and for Lilian's sake it was necessary to affect absolute
They went to the dinner, and the evening passed without accident.
Lilian was universally admired; pallor heightened her beauty, and
the assurance of outlived danger which Denzil had succeeded in
imparting gave to her conversation a life and glow that excited
interest in all who spoke with her.
"Mr. Quarrier," said the hostess, playfully, in an aside, "if you
were defeated at Polterham, I don't think you ought to care much.
You have already been elected by such a charming constituency!"
But there followed a night of sleeplessness. If exhaustion pressed
down her eyelids for a moment, some image of dread flashed upon her
brain and caused her to start up with a cry. Himself worn out and
suffering a reaction of despondency, Quarrier more than once
repented what he had done. In Lilian's state of health such a shock
as this might have results that would endanger her life. She had not
a strong constitution; he recalled the illness of a year ago, and
grew so anxious that his fits of slumber gave him no refreshment, In
the early dawn, finding that she was awake, he spoke to her of the
necessity of avoiding excitement during the next few days.
"I wish you could go away till the affair is over."
"Oh, there is no need of that! I couldn't be away from you."
"Then at all events keep quietly at home. There'll be the deuce of
an uproar everywhere to-day."
"We shall lunch at Mary's, you know. I had rather be there than
"Well, Molly will be good company for yell, I dare say. But do try
not to excite yourself. Don't talk much; we'll tell them you are
very tired after last night. As soon as ever the fight is done,
we'll be off somewhere or other for a few weeks. Don't get up till
midday; anything interesting you shall know at once."
At breakfast Denzil received a note from Mrs. Wade, sent by hand.
"Do let me know how Lilian is. The messenger will wait for a reply."
He wrote an answer of warm friendliness, signing it, "Ever sincerely
yours." Mrs. Wade had impressed him with her devotion; he thought of
her with gratitude and limitless confidence.
"If it had been Molly, instead," he said to himself; "I can't be at
all sure how she would have behaved. Religion and the proprieties
might have been too much for her good nature; yes, they _would_ have
been. After all, these emancipated women are the most trustworthy,
and Mrs. Wade is the best example I have yet known."
When Mrs. Liversedge welcomed her sister-in-law at luncheon, she was
stricken with alarm.
"My dear girl, you look like a ghost! This won't do," she added, in
a whisper, presently. "You _must_ keep quiet!"
But the Liversedges' house was no place for quietness. Two or three
vigorous partisans put in an appearance at the meal, and talked with
noisy exhilaration. Tobias himself had yielded to the spirit of the
under his notice that morning. One of these concerned hour; he told
merry stories of incidents that had come a well-known publican, a
stalwart figure on the Tory side.
"I am assured that three voters have been drinking steadily for the
last week at his expense. He calculates that delirium tremens will
have set in, in each case, by the day after to-morrow."
"Who are these men?" asked Lilian, eagerly. "Why can't we save them
"Oh, the thing is too artfully arranged. They are old topers; no
possibility of interfering."
"I can't see"----
"Lilian," interposed Mrs. Liversedge, "what was the material of that
wonderful dress Mrs. Kay wore last night?"
"I don't know, Mary; I didn't notice it.--But surely if it is
_known_ that these men are"----
It was a half-holiday for the Liversedge boys, and they were
anticipating the election with all the fervour of British youth.
That morning there had been a splendid fight at the Grammar School;
they described it with great vigour and amplitude, waxing Homeric in
their zeal. Dickinson junior had told Tom Harte that Gladstone was a
"blackguard"; whereupon Tom smote him between the eyes, so that the
vile calumniator measured his length in congenial mud. The conflict
spread. Twenty or thirty boys took coloured rosettes from their
pockets (they were just leaving school) and pinned them to their
coats, then rushed to combat with party war-cries. Fletcher senior
had behaved like a brutal coward (though alas! a Gladstonian--it
was sorrowfully admitted), actually throwing a stone at an enemy who
was engaged in single fight, with the result that he had cut open
the head of one of his own friends--a most serious wound. An
under-master (never a favourite, and now loathed by the young
Liversedges as a declared Tory) had interposed in the unfairest way
--what else could be expected of him? To all this Mrs. Liversedge
gave ear not without pride, but as soon as possible she drew Lilian
apart into a quiet room, and did her best to soothe the feverishness
which was constantly declaring itself.
About three o'clock Mrs. Wade called. She had not expected to find
Lilian here. There was a moment's embarrassment on both sides. When
they sat down to talk, the widow's eyes flitted now and then over
Lilian's face, but she addressed herself almost exclusively to Mrs.
Liversedge, and her visit lasted only a quarter of an hour. On
leaving, she went into the town to make some purchases, and near the
Liberal committee-rooms it was her fortune to meet with Quarrier.
"I have wanted to see you," he said, regarding her anxiously. "Lily
has got over it much better than I expected; but it won't do--she
can't go on in this excitement."
"I have just seen her at your sister's. She doesn't look very well"
"Could I venture to ask one more kindness of you, Mrs. Wade? May she
come to you, say the day after to-morrow, and stay over night, and
"I shall be very glad indeed," faltered the widow, with something in
her face which did not seem to be reluctance, though it was unlike
"Are you quite sure that it isn't asking too much of you? At my
sister's she is in a perpetual uproar; it's worse than at home. And
I don't know where else to send her--indeed I don't. But I am
getting frightened, that's the truth If she could be with you during
"How can you hesitate to ask such a simple thing?" broke in Mrs.
Wade. "Shall I ask her myself?"
"You are a good friend. Your conversation will have a soothing
effect. She likes you so much, and gives such weight to everything
you say. Try to set her mind at ease, Mrs. Wade; you can do it if
any one can."
"I will write to her, and then call to-morrow."
Again Lilian had a night without thorough rest, and for the greater
part of the next day she was obliged to keep her room. There Mrs.
Wade visited her, and they talked for a long time; it was decided
that Lilian should go to Pear-tree Cottage on the following
afternoon, and remain in seclusion until the contest was over.
She came down at five o'clock. Denzil, who had instructed the
servants that she was at home to no one, sat with her in the
library, holding her hand.
"I am quite well," Lilian declared again and again. "I feel quite
easy in mind--indeed I do. As you wish it, I will go to Mrs.
"It will be very much better. To tell you the truth, girlie, I shall
feel so much freer--knowing you are out of the row, and in such
She looked at him.
"How wretched to be so weak, Denzil! I might have spared you more
than half what you have suffered, if I hadn't given way so."
"Nonsense! Most women would have played the coward--and _that_ you
never could! You have stood it bravely, dear. But it's your health I
fear for. Take care of it for my sake."
Most of the evening he was away, and again the whole of next
morning. But when the time came for her to leave, they were sitting
once more, as they had done so often, hand in hand, their love and
trust stronger than ever, too strong to find expression in mere
"If I go into Parliament," said Denzil, "it's you I have to thank
for it. You have faced and borne everything rather than disappoint
He raised her fingers to his lips. Then the arrival of the carriage
was announced, and when the door had closed again, they held each
other for a moment in passionate embrace.
"Good-bye for a night and a day at longest," he whispered by the
carriage door. "I shall come before midnight to-morrow."
She tried to say good-bye, but could not utter a sound. The wheels
grated, and she was driven rapidly away.
Arthur James Northway reached London in a mood of imperfect
satisfaction. On the principle that half a cake was better than
nothing, he might congratulate himself that he carried in his
pocket-book banknotes to the value of five hundred pounds; but it
was a bitter necessity that had forbidden his exacting more. The
possession of a sum greater than he had ever yet owned fired his
imagination; he began to reflect that, after all, Quarrier's
defiance was most likely nothing but a ruse; that by showing himself
resolved, he might have secured at least the thousand pounds. Then
he cursed the man Marks, whose political schemes would betray the
valuable secret, and make it certain that none of that more
substantial assistance promised by Quarrier would ever be given. And
yet, it was not disagreeable to picture Quarrier's rage when he
found that the bribe had been expended to no purpose. If he had felt
animosity against the wealthy man before meeting him face to face,
he now regarded him with a fiercer malevolence. It was hard to
relinquish Lilian, and harder still to have no means of revenging
himself upon her and her pretended husband. Humiliated by
consciousness of the base part he had played, he wished it in his
power to inflict upon them some signal calamity.
On the next day, when he was newly arrayed from head to foot, and
jingled loose sovereigns in his pocket, this tumult of feelings
possessed him even more strongly. Added to his other provocations
was the uncertainty whether Marks had yet taken action. Save by
returning to Polterham, he knew not how to learn what was happening
there. To-morrow a Polterham newspaper would be published; he must
wait for that source of intelligence. Going to a news-agent's, he
discovered the name of the journal, and at once posted an order for
a copy to be sent to him.
In the meantime, he was disposed to taste some of the advantages of
opulence. His passions were awakened; he had to compensate himself
for years lost in suffering of body and mind. With exultant swagger
he walked about the London streets, often inspecting his appearance
in a glass; for awhile he could throw aside all thought of the
future, relish his freedom, take his licence in the way that most
recommended itself to him.
The hours did not lag, and on the following afternoon he received
the newspaper for which he was waiting. He tore it open, and ran his
eye over the columns, but they contained no extraordinary matter.
Nothing unexpected had befallen; there was an account of the
nomination, and plenty of rancour against the Radicals, but
assuredly, up to the hour of the _Mercury's_ going to press, no
public scandal had exploded in Polterham.
What did it mean? Was Marks delaying for some definite reason? Or
had he misrepresented his motives? Was it a private enmity he had
planned to gratify--now frustrated by the default of his
He had given Marks an address in Bristol, that of a shop at which
letters were received. Possibly some communication awaited him
there. He hastened to Paddington and took the first westward train.
On inquiry next morning, he found he had had his journey for
nothing. As he might have anticipated, Marks was too cautious a man
to have recourse to writing.
There were still two days before the poll at Polterham. Thither he
must return, that was certain; for if the election passed without
startling events, he would again be in a position to catch Quarrier
by the throat.
To be sure, there was the promise of assistance in a commercial
career, but his indulgence of the last day or two had inclined him
to prefer sums of ready money. Once elected, Quarrier would not
submit to social disgrace for the sake of a thousand pounds--nor
for two thousand--possibly not for five. Cupidity had taken hold
upon Northway. With a few thousands in his pocket, he might aim at
something more to his taste than a life of trading. Five thousand it
should be, not a penny less! This time he was not to be fobbed off
with bluster and posturing.
He spent the day in Bristol, and at nightfall journeyed towards
No; even yet nothing had happened. Conversation at an inn to which
he betook himself assured him that things were going their orderly
way. Had Marks himself been _bought off_?
The next day--that before the election--he wandered about the
town and its vicinity, undetermined how to act, thinking on the
whole that he had better do nothing till after the morrow. Twice,
morning and afternoon, did he view Mrs. Wade's cottage from a
distance. Just after sunset he was once more in that neighbourhood,
and this time with a purpose.
At that hour Mrs. Wade and her guest were together in the
sitting-room. The lamp had just been lighted, the red blind drawn
down. Lilian reclined on a couch; she looked worse in health than
when she had taken leave of Denzil; her eyes told of fever, and her
limbs were relaxed. Last night she had not enjoyed an hour of sleep;
the strange room and the recollection of Northway's visit to this
house (Quarrier, in his faith that Mrs. Wade's companionship was
best for Lilian, had taken no account of the disagreeable
association) kept her nerves in torment, and with the morning she
had begun to suffer from a racking headache.
Mrs. Wade was talking, seated by the table, on which her arms
rested. She, too, had a look of nervous tension. and her voice was
"Ambition," she said, with a slow emphasis, "is the keynote of Mr.
Quarrier's character. If you haven't understood that, you don't yet
know him--indeed you don't! A noble ambition, mind. He is above
all meanness. In wishing to take a foremost part in politics, he
cares, at heart, very little for the personal dignity it will bring
him; his desire--I am convinced--is to advance all causes that
appeal to an honest and feeling man. He has discovered that he can
do this in a way he had never before suspected--by the exercise of
a splendid gift of eloquence. What a deplorable thing if that
possibility had been frustrated!"
Lilian murmured an assent. Silence followed, and she closed her
eyes. In a minute or two Mrs. Wade turned to look; the expression
which grew upon her face as she watched furtively was one of
subtlest malice. Of scorn, too. Had _she_ been in the position of
that feeble creature, how differently would she have encountered its
"Is your head any better?" she asked, just above her breath.
"It burns!--Feel my hand, how hot it is!"
"You are feverish. We have talked too much, I fear."
"No; I like to hear you talk. And it passes the time. Oh, I hope
Denzil won't be very late!"
There sounded a knock at the front door, a heavy rap such as would
be given by some rustic hand.
"What can that be?" Lilian exclaimed, raising herself.
"Nothing, dear--nothing. Some errand boy."
The servant was heard in the passage. She brought a letter, and said
a messenger waited for the reply. Mrs. Wade looked at the address;
the hand was unknown to her.
"From Denzil?" asked Lilian.
The other made no reply. What she found in the envelope was a note
from Northway, saying he was close by and wished to see her. After a
moment's hesitation she went to the door, where a boy was standing.
"Will you tell the person who gave you this note that he may come
Then she bade her servant put a light in the dining room, and
returned to Lilian. Her look excited the sufferer's alarm,
"Has anything happened, Mrs. Wade?"
"Hush! Try to command yourself. He is here again; wishes to see me."
"He is here again?"
Lilian rose to her feet, and moaned despairingly.
"You won't let him come into this room? What does he want? He told
us he would never come again. Is he seeking more money?"
"He sha'n't come in here. I'll see him as I did before."
As she spoke, a rat-tat sounded from without, and, having advised
Lilian to lock the door, Mrs. Wade crossed to the other room.
Northway entered, grave and nervous.
"I hope you will excuse my coming again," he began, as the widow
regarded him with silent interrogation. "You spoke to me last time
in such a very kind and friendly way. Being in a difficulty, I
thought I couldn't do better than ask your advice."
"What is the difficulty, Mr. Northway?"
Her suave tone reassured him, and he seated himself. His real
purpose in coming was to discover, if possible, whether Quarrier's
position was still unassailed. He had a vague sense that this Mrs.
Wade, on whatever grounds, was sympathetically disposed to him; by
strengthening the acquaintance, he might somehow benefit himself.
"First, I should like to know if all has gone smoothly since I went
"Smoothly?--Quite, I think."
"It still seems certain that Mr. Quarrier will be elected
"Very likely indeed."
"He looked about him, and smoothed his silk hat--a very different
article from that he had formerly worn. Examining him, Mrs. Wade was
amused at the endeavour he had made to equip himself like a
"What else did you wish to ask me, Mr. Northway?"
"It's a point of conscience. If you remember, Mrs. Wade, it was you
who persuaded me to give up all thought of parting those persons."
"I tried to do so," she answered, with a smile. "I thought it best
for your interests as well as for theirs."
"Yes, but I fear that I had no right to do it. My conscience rebukes
"Does it, really?--I can't quite see"----
She herself was so agitated that features and voice would hardly
obey her will. She strove to concentrate her attention upon
Northway's words, and divine their secret meaning. His talk
continued for awhile in the same strain, but confused, uncertain,
rambling. Mrs. Wade found it impossible to determine what he aimed
at; now and then she suspected that he had been drinking. At length
he stood up.
"You still think I am justified in--in making terms with Mr.
"What else are you inclined to do?" the widow asked, anxiously.
"I can't be sure yet what I shall eventually do. Perhaps you would
let me see you again, when the election is over?"
"If you promise me to do nothing--but keep out of sight--in the
"Yes, I'll promise that," he said, with deliberation.
She was loth to dismiss him, yet saw no use in further talk. At the
door he shook hands with her, and said that he was going into the
Lilian opened the door of the sitting-room.
"He has gone?"
Her companion nodded.
"Where?--What will he do?"
Mrs. Wade answered with a gesture of uncertainty, and sat down by
the table, where she propped her forehead upon her hands. Lilian was
standing, her countenance that of one distraught. Suddenly the widow
looked up and spoke in a voice hoarser than before.
"I see what he means. He enjoys keeping you both at his mercy. It's
like an animal that has tasted blood--and if his desire is balked,
he'll revenge himself in the other way."
"You think he has gone to Denzil?"
"Very likely. If not to-night, he will to-morrow. Will Mr. Quarrier
pay him again, do you think?" She put the question in a tone which
to Lilian sounded strange, all but hostile.
"I can't say," was the weary, distracted answer.
"Oh, I am sorry for you, Lilian!" pursued the other, in agitation,
though again her voice was curiously harsh. "You will reproach
yourself so if his life's purpose is frustrated! But remember, it's
not your fault. It was he who took the responsibility from the
first. It was he who chose to brave this possible danger. If the
worst comes, you must strengthen yourself."
Lilian sank upon a chair, and leaned forward with stupefied gaze at
"The danger is," pursued Mrs. Wade, in lower tones, "that he may be
unjust--feel unjustly--as men are wont to. You--in spite of
himself, he may feel that _you_ have been the cause of his failure.
You must be prepared for that; I tell it you in all kindness. If he
again consents to pay Northway, he will be in constant fear. The
sense of servitude will grow intolerable--embarrassing all he
tries to do--all his public and private life. In that case, too,
he _must_ sometimes think of you as in the way of his ambition. A
most difficult task is before you--a duty that will tax all your
powers. You will be equal to it, I have no doubt. Just now you see
everything darkly and hopelessly, but that's because your health has
suffered of late."
"Perhaps this very night," said Lilian, without looking at her
companion, "he will tell people."
"He is more likely to succeed in getting money, and then he will
keep the threat held over you. He seems to have come at this moment
just because he knows that your fear of him will be keenest now.
That will always he his aim--to appear with his threats just when
a disclosure would be hardest to bear. But I suppose Mr. Quarrier
will rather give up everything than submit to this. Oh, the pity!
Lilian let her hands fall and sat staring before her.
She felt as though cast out into a terrible solitude. Mrs. Wade's
voice came from a distance; and it was not a voice of true sympathy,
but of veiled upbraiding. Unspeakably remote was the image of the
man she loved, and he moved still away from her. A cloud of pain
fell between her and all the kindly world.
In these nights of sleepless misery she had thought of her old home.
The relatives from whom she was for ever parted--her sister, her
kind old aunt--looked at her with reproachful eyes; and now, in
anguish which bordered upon delirium, it was they alone who seemed
real to her; all her recent life had become a vague suffering, a
confused consciousness of desire and terror. Her childhood returned;
she saw her parents and heard them talk. A longing for the peace and
love of those dead days rent her heart.
She could neither speak nor move. Torture born in the brain throbbed
through every part of her body. But worse was that ghastly sense of
utter loneliness, of being forsaken by human sympathy. The cloud
about her thickened; it muffled light and sound, and began to
obscure even her memories.
For a long time Mrs. Wade had sat silent. At length she rose,
glanced at Lilian, and, without speaking left the room.
She went upstairs and into her bed-chamber, and here stood for a few
minutes in the dark, purposeless. Then she seated herself in a low
chair that was by the bed side. For her, too, the past night had
been one of painful watching; her nerves threatened danger if she
stayed in the same room with Lilian. Here she could recover
something of self-control, and think over the latest aspect of
Thus had she sat for nearly half an hour, when her reverie was
broken by a sound from below. It was the closing of the front door.
She sprang up and ran to the window, to see if any one passed out
into the road; but no figure became visible. The gate was closed; no
one could have gone forth so quickly. A minute or two passed, yet
she heard and saw nothing.
Then she quickly descended the stairs. The door of the sitting-room
was open; the room was vacant.
"Lilian!" she called aloud, involuntarily.
She sprang to the front door and looked about in the little garden.
Some one moving behind caused her to turn round; it was the servant.
"Annie, has Mrs. Quarrier left the house?"
"Yes, m'm, she has. I just had the kitchen door open, and I saw her
go out--without anything on her head."
"Where can she be, then? The gate hasn't been opened; I should have
One other way there was out of the garden. By passing along a side
of the cottage, one came into the back-yard, and thence, by a gate,
into one of the fields which spread towards Bale Water. Mrs. Wade
remembered that Lilian had discovered this exit one day not long
"I don't understand it," she continued, hurriedly. "You run and put
Your hat on, and then look up and down the road. I'll go to the
Regardless of the cold night air, she hastened in the direction that
Lilian must necessarily have taken. Reaching the field, she could at
first distinguish no object in the dark space before her. But the
sky was clear and starry, and in a few moments, running on the
while, she caught sight of a figure not very far in advance. That
undoubtedly was Lilian, escaping, speeding over the meadows--
The ground rose gradually, and at a distance of less than a quarter
of a mile cut clearly across the sky. Still advancing, though with
less speed, she saw Lilian's form gain the top of the rise, and
there stand, a black, motionless projection from the ground. If now
she called in a loud voice, the fugitive must certainly hear her;
but she kept silence. By running quickly over the grass she might
overtake her friend, who still lingered; but, as if her limbs had
failed, she crouched down, and so remained until the dark figure all
at once disappeared.
Immediately she started to her feet again, and pressed forward. A
few minutes, and she was at the top of the field, where Lilian had
paused; panting, her heart throbbing, a cold sweat on her forehand.
From this point she looked over a grassy slope, towards the trees
which shadowed Bale Water. But her eye could discern nothing save
outlines against the starry heaven. All the ground before her lay in
a wide-spreading hollow, and darkness cloaked it.
Again she crouched down, pressing her hand against her heart,
listening. It was a very still night, and few sounds disturbed its
peacefulness. Somewhere, far off, a cart rumbled along; presently
one of the Polterham clocks began to strike, faintly but clearly.
That caused her to look in the direction of the town; she saw the
radiance of lights, and thought of what was going on over there--
the shouting, rushing, fighting.
A night-insect buzzed against her, and, almost in the same moment,
there came from down in the hollow, from beyond the trees, a sound
which chilled her blood, stopped the wild beating of her heart. It
seemed to echo with dreadful clearness from end to end of the
heavens. A dull splash of water, that was all; in reality, scarcely
to be heard at this distance save by an ear straining in dreadful
She made one effort to rise, but could not. Another, and she was
fleeing back to the cottage as if chased for her life.
The back-door was locked; she had to go round into the garden, and
there the servant was waiting.
"Have you found her, m'm?"
"No--I can't think--go in, Annie."
The girl was frightened; yet more so when, by the light from the
sitting-room, she saw her mistress's face.
"Do you think she's gone home, m'm?"
"Yes, no doubt. Go into the kitchen. I'll call you again."
Mrs. Wade entered the parlour, and closed the door. Her dress was in
disorder; her hair had in part fallen loose; on her hands were
traces of mud. She did not sit down, and remained just within the
door; her look and attitude were those of a terrified listener.
Presently she moved towards the fire, and knelt before it--though
she had no need of warmth. Starts and shudders indicated her mental
anguish. Yet no sound escape her, until, in a sudden convulsion of
her frame, she gave a cry of terror, and threw herself at full
length upon the ground. There she lay, struggling with hysterical
passion, half choked by sobs, now and then uttering a hoarse wail,
at length weeping with the self-abandonment of a child.
It lasted for ten minutes or more, and then followed a long silence.
Her body still quivered; she lay with her face half hidden against
the hearth-rug, lips parted, but teeth set, breathing heavily.
The clock upon her mantelpiece sounded the third quarter--a
quarter to nine. It drew her attention, and at length she half
raised herself. Still she had the look of one who listens. She stood
up, mechanically smoothed her hair, and twice walked the length of
the room. Nearing the door yet again, she opened it, and went
Five minutes, and she had made herself ready to go out. At the foot
of the stairs she called to her servant.
"I must go into Polterham, Annie. If Mr. Quarrier should come whilst
I'm away, say that Mrs. Quarrier and I have gone out, but shall be
back very soon. You understand that?"
Then she set forth, and hurried along the dark road.
Only one vehicle passed her before she came within sight of the
streets; it was a carriage and pair, and she recognised the coachman
of a family who lived towards Rickstead. Quarrier was doubtless
still in the town, but to find him might be difficult. Perhaps she
had better go to his house and despatch a servant in search of him.
But that was away on the other side of Polterham, and in the
meantime he might be starting for Pear-tree Cottage. The polling was
long since over; would he linger with his friends at the committee
Yet she must go to the house first of all; there was a reason for it
which only now occurred to her.
The main thoroughfares, usually silent and forsaken at this hour,
were alive with streams of pedestrians, with groups of argumentative
electors, with noisy troops of lads and girls who occasionally
amused themselves with throwing mud at some unpopular person, or
even breaking a window and rushing off with yells into the darkness
of byways. Public-houses were doing a brisk trade, not without
pugilism for the entertainment of such as lounged about the doors.
For these sights and sounds Mrs. Wade had no attention, but
frequently her ear was smitten with the name "Quarrier," spoken or
roared by partisan or adversary. Her way led her through the open
place where stood the Town Hall; here had gathered some hundreds of
people, waiting for the result of the poll. As she hurried along the
ragged edge of the crowd, a voice from somewhere close at hand
"If you imagine that Quarrier will do more for the people than any
other politician, you will find yourselves mistaken. Party politics
are no good--no good at all. You working men ought to have the
sense to form a party of your own."
It was Northway, addressing a cluster of mill-hands, and evidently
posing as one of a superior class who deigned to give them
disinterested advice. She listened for a minute longer, but heard
nothing that could excite her alarm.
When she reached the house it was a quarter to ten. This part of the
town lay in obscurity and quietness; not a shout sounded in her
Mr. Quarrier had not been at home since early in the afternoon.
"He must be found at once," said Mrs. Wade, adding quickly, "I
suppose Mrs. Quarrier hasn't come?"
The servant gave a surprised negative.
"You must please send some one to find Mr. Quarrier, without a
moment's delay. I will come in and wait."
The coachman happened to be in the kitchen. Mrs. Wade had him
summoned, and despatched him for his master. Though her limbs shook
with fatigue, she could not remain seated for more than a few
minutes at a time; she kept the drawing-room door open, and kept
going out to listen. Her suspense lasted for more than half an hour;
then at length she heard a cab rattle up the drive, and in another
moment Quarrier stood before her. This was the second time within a
few days that her face had been of ill omen to him; he frowned an
"You haven't seen Lilian?" she began.
"She has gone--left the cottage--I can't find her."
"Gone? When did she go?"
"I have bad news for you. Northway has come back; he called at the
cottage about seven o'clock. I didn't let him know Lilian was there,
and soon got rid of him; he said he would have to see you again.
Lilian was dreadfully agitated, and when I happened to leave the
room, she went out--disappeared--I thought she must have come
"What do the servants say?"
"They haven't seen her."
"But she may have gone to Mary's?"
Arrested in the full flow of his jubilant spirits by this
extraordinary announcement, Denzil could not admit grave alarm. If
Lilian had fled from the proximity of her pursuer, she must of
course have taken refuge with some friend.
"Let us go to the Liversedges'," he exclaimed. "I have a cab"----
"Stop, Mr. Quarrier.--I haven't told you the worst. She ran from
the house just as she was, without her hat"----
"What do you mean? Why should she----?"
"She was in a dreadful state. I had done my best to soothe her. I
was just going to send for you. My servant saw her run out from the
sitting-room into the garden, and the gate wasn't opened--she must
have gone the back way--into the fields."
"Into the fields----?"
He stared at her with a look of gathering horror, and his tongue
"I followed that way. I searched everywhere. I went a long way over
She broke off, quivering from head to foot.
"But she _must_ have gone somewhere for refuge--to some one's
"I hope so! Oh, I hope so!"
Her voice choked; tears started from her eyes.
"What do you fear? Tell me at once, plainly!"
She caught his hand, and replied with sobs of anguish.
"Why should she have gone into the fields?--without anything on
her head--into the fields that lead over to"----
"To--you don't mean to--the water?"
Still clinging to his hand, she sobbed, tried to utter words of
denial, then again of fear. For the instant Denzil was paralyzed,
but rapidly he released himself, and in a voice of command bade her
follow. They entered the cab and were driven towards the Town Hall.
"Did you go to the water," he asked, "and look about there?"
"Yes," she answered, "I did.--I could see nothing."
As they drew near, a roar of triumphant voices became audible;
presently they were in the midst of the clamour, and with difficulty
their vehicle made its way through a shouting multitude. It stopped
at length by the public building, and Quarrier alighted. At once he
was recognized. There rose yells of "Quarrier for ever!" Men pressed
upon him, wanted to shake hands with him, bellowed congratulations
in his ear. Heedless, he rushed on, and was fortunate enough to find
very quickly the man he sought, his brother-in-law.
"Toby!" he whispered, drawing him aside, "we have lost Lilian! She
may be at your house; come with us!"
Voiceless with astonishment, Mr. Liversedge followed, seated himself
in the cab. Five minutes brought them to his house.
"Go in and ask," said Quarrier.
Toby returned in a moment, followed by his wife.
"She hasn't been here. What the deuce does it all mean? I can't
understand you. Why, where should she have gone?"
Again Denzil drew him aside.
"Get a boatman, with lights and drags, and row round as fast as
possible to Bale Water!"
"Good heavens! What are you talking about?"
"Do as I tell you, without a minute's delay! Take this cab. I shall
be there long before you."
Mrs. Liversedge was talking with Mrs. Wade, who would say nothing
but that Lilian had disappeared. At Denzil's bidding the cab was
transferred to Toby, who, after whispering with his wife, was driven
quickly away. Quarrier refused to enter the house.
"We shall find another cab near the Town Hall," he said to Mrs.
Wade. "Good-night, Molly! I can't talk to you now."
The two hastened off. When they were among the people again, Mrs.
Wade caught sentences that told her the issue of the day. "Majority
of over six hundred!--Well done, Quarrier!--Quarrier for ever!"
Without exchanging a word, they gained the spot where one or two
cabs still waited, and were soon speeding along the Rickstead Road.
"She may be at the cottage," was all Denzil said on the way.
But no; Lilian was not at the cottage. Quarrier stood in the porch,
looking about him as if he imagined that the lost one might be
hiding somewhere near.
"I shall go--over there," he said. "It will take a long time."
"Liversedge is rowing round, with drags.--Go in and wait.--You
may be wrong."
"I didn't say I _thought_ it! It was only a fear--a dreadful
Again she burst into tears.
"Go in and rest, Mrs. Wade," he said, more gently. "You shall know
And, with a look of unutterable misery, he turned away.
Lilian might have taken refuge somewhere in the fields. It seemed a
wild unlikelihood, but he durst not give up hope. Though his desire
was to reach the waterside as quickly as possible, he searched on
either hand as he went by the path, and once or twice he called in a
loud voice "Lilian!" The night was darker now than when Mrs. Wade
had passed through the neighbouring field; clouds had begun to
spread, and only northwards was there a space of starry brilliance.
He came in sight of the trees along the bank, and proceeded at a
quicker step, again calling Lilian's name more loudly. Only the
soughing wind replied to him.
The nearest part of the water was that where it was deepest, where
the high bank had a railing; the spot where Mrs. Wade and Lilian had
stood together on their first friendly walk. Denzil went near,
leaned across the rail, and looked down into featureless gloom. Not
a sound beneath.
He walked hither and thither, often calling and standing still to
listen. The whole sky was now obscured, and the wind grew keener.
Afraid of losing himself, he returned to the high bank and there
waited, his eyes fixed in the direction whence the boat must come.
The row along the river Bale from Polterham would take more than an
As he stood sunk in desperate thoughts, a hand touched him. He
turned round, exclaiming "Lilian!"
"It is I," answered Mrs. Wade's voice.
"Why have you come? What good can you do here?"
"Don't be angry with me!" she implored. "I couldn't stay at home--
"I don't mean to speak angrily.--Think," he added, in low shaken
voice, "if that poor girl is lying"----
A sob broke off his sentence; he pointed down into the black water.
Mrs. Wade uttered no reply, but he heard the sound of her weeping.
They stood thus for a long time, then Denzil raised his hand.
"Look! They are coming!"
There was a spot of light far off, moving .slowly.
"I can hear the oars," he added presently.
It was in a lull of the soughing wind. A minute after there came a
shout from far across the black surface. Denzil replied to it, and
so at length the boat drew near.
Mr. Liversedge stood up, and Quarrier talked with him in brief,
grave sentences. Then a second lantern was lighted by the boatman,
and presently the dragging began.
Wrapped in a long cloak, Mrs. Wade stood at a distance, out of sight
of the water, but able to watch Denzil. When cold and weariness all
but overcame her, she first leaned against the trunk of a tree, then
crouched there on the ground. For how long, she had no idea. A
little rain fell, and afterwards the sky showed signs of clearing;
stars were again visible here and there. She had sunk into a
half-unconscious state, when Quarrier's voice spoke to her.
"You must go home," he said, hoarsely. "It's over."
She started up.
"Have they found"----
"Yes.--Go home at once."
He turned away, and she hurried from the spot with bowed head.
"Oh, depend upon it," said Mrs. Tenterden, in her heavy,
consequential way, "there's more behind than _we_ shall ever know!
'Unsound mind,' indeed She was no more of unsound mind than _I_ am!"
It was after church, and Mrs. Mumbray, alone this morning, had
offered the heavy lady a place in her brougham. The whole
congregation had but one topic as they streamed into the
unconsecrated daylight. Never was such eagerness for the strains of
the voluntary which allowed them to start up from attitudes of
profound meditation, and look round for their acquaintances.
Yesterday's paper--the _Polterham Examiner_ unfortunately--
reported the inquest, and people had to make the most of those
meagre paragraphs--until the _Mercury_ came out, when fuller and
less considerate details might be hoped for. The whispering, the
nodding, the screwing up of lips, the portentous frowning and the
shaking of heads--no such excitement was on record!
"To me," remarked Mrs. Mumbray, with an air of great responsibility,
"the mystery is too plain. I don't hint at _the worst_--it would
be uncharitable--but the poor creature had undoubtedly made some
discovery in that woman's house which drove her to despair."
Mrs. Tenterden gave a start.
"You really think so? That has occurred to me. Mrs. Wade's fainting
when she gave her evidence--oh dear, oh dear! I'm afraid there can
be only one explanation."
"That is our _honourable_ member, my dear!" threw out Mrs. Mumbray.
"These are Radical principles--in man and woman. Why, I am told
that scarcely a day passed without Mrs. Wade calling at the house."
"And they tell me that _he_ was frequently at _hers_!"
"That poor young wife! Oh, it is shameful! The matter oughtn't to
end here. Something ought to be done. If that man is allowed to keep
Many were the conjectures put forward and discussed throughout the
day, but this of Mrs. Mumbray's--started of course in several
quarters--found readiest acceptance in Conservative circles. Mrs.
Wade was obviously the cause of what had happened--no wonder she
fainted at the inquest; no wonder she hid herself in her cottage!
When she ventured to come out, virtuous Polterham would let her know
its mind. Quarrier shared in the condemnation, but not even
political animosity dealt so severely with him as social opinion did
with Mrs. Wade.
Mr. Chown--who would on no account have been seen in a place of
worship--went about all day among his congenial gossips, and
scornfully contested the rumour that Quarrier's relations with Mrs.
Wade would not bear looking into. At the house of Mr. Murgatroyd,
the Radical dentist, he found two or three friends who were very
anxious not to think evil of their victorious leader, but felt
wholly at a loss for satisfactory explanations. Mr. Vawdrey, the
coal-merchant, talked with gruff discontent.
"I don't believe there's been anything wrong; I couldn't think it--
neither of him nor her. But I do say it's a lesson to you men who go
in for Female Suffrage Now, this is just the kind of thing that 'ud
always be happening. If there isn't wrong-doing, there'll be
wrong-speaking. Women have no business in politics, that's the plain
moral of it. Let them keep at home and do their duty."
"Humbug!" cried Mr. Chown, who cared little for the graces of
dialogue. "A political principle is not to be at the mercy of party
scandal. I, for my part, have never maintained that women were ripe
for public duties but Radicalism involves the certainty that they
some day will be. The fact of the matter is that Mrs. Quarrier was a
woman of unusually feeble physique. We all know--those of us, at
all events, who keep up with the science of the day--that the mind
is entirely dependent upon the body--entirely!" He looked round,
daring his friends to contradict this. "Mrs. Quarrier had overtaxed
her strength, and it's just possible--I say its just possible--
that her husband was not very prudent m sending her for necessary
repose to the house of a woman so active-minded and so excitable as
Mrs. Wade We must remember the peculiar state of her health. As far
as _I_ am concerned, Dr. Jenkins's evidence is final, and entirely
satisfactory. As for the dirty calumnies of dirty-minded
reactionists, _I_ am not the man to give ear to them!"
One man there was who might have been expected to credit such
charges, yet surprised his acquaintances by what seemed an unwonted
exercise of charity. Mr. Scatchard Vialls, hitherto active in
defamation of Quarrier, with amiable inconsistency refused to
believe him guilty of conduct which had driven his wife to suicide.
It was some days before the rumour reached his ears. Since the
passage of arms with Serena, he had held aloof from Mrs. Mumbray's
drawing-room, and his personality did not invite the confidence of
ordinary scandal-mongers. When at length his curate hinted to him
what was being said, he had so clearly formulated his own theory of
Mrs. Quarrier's death that only the strongest evidence would have
led him to reconsider it. Obstinacy and intellectual conceit forbade
him to indulge his disposition to paint an enemy's character in the
"No, Mr. Blenkinsop," he replied to the submissive curate, standing
on his hearth-rug at full height and regarding the cornice as his
habit was when he began to monologize--"no, I find it impossible
to entertain such an accusation. I have little reason to think well
of Mr. Quarrier; he is intemperate, in many senses of the word, and
intemperance, it is true, connects closely with the most odious
crimes. But in this case censure has been too quick to interpret
suspicious circumstances--suspicious, I admit. Far be it from me
to speak in defence of such a person as Mrs. Wade; I think she is a
source of incalculable harm to all who are on friendly terms with
her--especially young and impressionable women; but you must trust
my judgment in this instance: I am convinced she is not guilty. Her
agitation in the coroner's court has no special significance. No;
the solution of the mystery is not so simple; it involves wider
issues--calls for a more profound interpretation of character and
motives. Mrs. Quarrier--pray attend to this, Mr. Blenkinsop--
represents a type of woman becoming, I have reason to think, only
too common in our time, women who cultivate the intellect at the
expense of the moral nature, who abandon religion and think they
have found a substitute for it in the so-called humanitarianism of
the day. Strong-minded women, you will hear them called; in truth,
they are the weakest of their sex. Let their energies be submitted
to any unusual strain, let their nerves (they are always morbid) be
overwrought, and they snap!" He illustrated the catastrophe with his
hands. "Unaided by religion, the female nature is irresponsible,
unaccountable." Mr. Vialls had been severe of late in his judgment
of women. "Mrs. Quarrier, poor creature, was the victim of
immoderate zeal for worldly ends. She was abetted by her husband and
by Mrs. Wade; they excited her to the point of frenzy, and in the
last moment she--snapped! Mrs. Wade's hysterical display is but
another illustration of the same thing. These women have no support
outside themselves--they have deliberately cast away everything of
"Let me exhibit my meaning from another point of view. Consider, Mr.
Quarrier, in the meantime, was very far from suspecting the
accusation which hostile ingenuity had brought against him. Decency
would in any ease have necessitated his withdrawal for the present
from public affairs, and, in truth, he was stricken down by his
calamity. The Liversedges had brought him to their house; he
transacted no business, and saw no one beyond the family circle. At
the funeral people had thought him strangely unmoved; pride forbade
him to make an exhibition of grief, but in secret he suffered as
only a strong man can. His love for Lilian was the deepest his life
would know. Till now, he had not understood how unspeakably precious
she was to him; for the most part he had treated her with playful
good-humour, seldom, if ever, striking the note of passion in his
speech. With this defect he reproached himself. Lilian had not
learnt to trust him sufficiently; she feared the result upon him of
such a blow as Northway had it in his power to inflict. It was thus
he interpreted her suicide, for Mrs. Wade had told him that Lilian
believed disaster to be imminent. Surely he was to blame for it
that, at such a pass, she had fled _away_ from him instead of
hastening to his side. How perfectly had their characters
harmonized! He could recall no moment of mutual dissatisfaction, and
that in spite of conditions which, with most women, would have made
life very difficult. He revered her purity; her intellect he
esteemed far subtler and nobler than his own. With such a woman for
companion, he might have done great things; robbed for ever of her
beloved presence, he felt lame, purposeless, indifferent to all but
the irrecoverable past.
In a day or two he was to leave Polterham. Whether Northway would be
satisfied with the result of his machinations remained to be seen;
as yet nothing more had been heard of him. The fellow was perhaps
capable of demanding more hush-money, of threatening the memory of
the woman he had killed. Quarrier hoped more earnestly than ever
that the secret would not he betrayed; he scorned vulgar opinion, so
far as it affected himself, but could not bear the thought of
Lilian's grave being defiled by curiosity and reprobation. The
public proceedings had brought to light nothing whatever that seemed
in conflict with medical evidence and the finding of the coroner's
jury. One dangerous witness had necessarily come forward--Mrs.
Wade's servant; but the girl made no kind of allusion to Northway's
visit--didn't, in her own mind, connect it with Mrs. Quarrier's
behaviour. She was merely asked to describe in what way the
unfortunate lady had left the house. In Glazzard and Mrs. Wade,
Denzil of course reposed perfect confidence. Northway, if need were,
could and should be bought off.
Toby Liversedge got wind of the scandal in circulation, and his rage
knew no bounds. Lest his wife should somehow make the discovery, he
felt obliged to speak to her--representing the change in its
"There's a vile story going about that Lilian was jealous of Mrs.
Wade's influence with Denzil; that the two quarrelled that day at
the cottage, and the poor girl drowned herself in despair."
Mary looked shocked, but was silent.
"I suppose," added her husband, "we must be prepared for all sorts
of rumours. The thing is unintelligible to people in general. Any
one who knew her, and saw her those last days, can understand it
only too well."
"Yes," murmured Mrs. Liversedge, with sad thought fulness.
She would not speak further on the subject, and Toby concluded that
the mere suggestion gave her offence.
On the day after Denzil departed, leaving by a night train for
He was in town for a week, then took a voyage to Madeira, where he
remained until there was only time enough to get back for the
opening of Parliament. The natural plea of shaken health excused him
to his constituents, many of whom favoured him with their
unsolicited correspondence. (He had three or four long letters from
Mr. Chown, who thought it necessary to keep the borough member
posted in the course of English politics.) From Glazzard he heard