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Helen with the High Hand (2nd ed.) by Arnold Bennett

Part 4 out of 4

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though each was well aware that the artifice was entirely futile.

"All alone?" Sarah asked, when she had recovered from the first shock of
the hall's magnificence.

"Yes," said Helen. "It's Georgiana's afternoon out, and uncle's away,
and I haven't got any new servants yet."

"Mr. Ollerenshaw away! No one ever heard of such a thing! If you knew
him as well as we do, you'd have fainted with surprise. It ought to be
in the paper. Where's he gone to?"

"He's gone to Derby, to try to buy some property that he says is going
very cheap there. He's been gone three days now. He got a letter at
breakfast, and said he must go to Derby at once. However, he had to
finish his rents. The trouble is that his rents never are finished, and
I'm bothered all the time by people coming with three and sixpence, or
four shillings, and a dirty rent-book! Oh! and the dirt on the coins! My
dear, you can't imagine! There's one good thing. He will have to come
back for next week's rents. Not that I'm sorry he's gone. It gives me a
chance, you see. By the time he returns I shall have my servants in."

"Do tell me what servants you're going to have?"

"Well, I went to that agency at Oldcastle. I've got a German butler. He
speaks four languages, and has beautiful eyes."

"A German butler!"

If it had been a German prince Sarah could not have been more startled
nor more delighted.

"Yes, and a cook, and two other maids; and a gardener and a boy. I shall
keep Georgiana as my own maid."

"My child, you're going it!"

"My child, I came here to go it."

"And--and Mr. Ollerenshaw is really pleased?"

Helen laughed. "Uncle never goes into raptures, you know. But I hope he
will be pleased. The fact is, he doesn't know anything about these new
servants yet. He'll find them installed when he returns. It will be a
little treat for him. My piano came this morning. Care to try it?"

"Rather!" said Sarah. "Well, I never saw anything like it!" This was in
reference to her first glimpse of the great drawing-room. "How you've
improved it, you dear thing!"

"You see, I have my own cheque-book; it saves worry."

"I see!" said Sarah, meaningly, putting her purse on the piano, her
umbrella on a chair, and herself on the music-stool.

"Shall we have tea?" Helen suggested, after Sarah had performed on the

"Yes. Let me help you, do, dearest."

They wandered off to the kitchens, and while they were seated at the
kitchen-table, sipping tea, side by side, Sarah said:

"Now if you want an idea, I've got a really good one for you."

"For me? What sort of an idea?"

"I'll tell you. You know Mrs. Wiltshire is dead."

"I don't. I didn't even know there was a Mrs. Wiltshire."

"Well, there was, and there isn't any longer. Mrs. Wiltshire was the
main social prop of the old rector. And the annual concert of the St.
Luke's Guild has always been held at her house, down at Shawport, you
know. Awfully poky! But it was the custom since the Flood, and no one
ever dared to hint at a change. Now the concert was to have been next
week but one, and she's just gone and died, and the rector is wondering
where he can hold it. I met him this morning. Why don't you let him hold
it here? That would be a splendid way of opening your house--Hall, I beg
its pardon. And you could introduce the beautiful eyes of your German
butler to the entire neighbourhood. Of course, I don't know whether Mr.
Ollerenshaw would like it."

"Oh!" said Helen, without blenching, "uncle would do as I wish."

She mused, in silence, during a number of seconds.

"The idea doesn't appeal to you?" Sarah queried, disappointment in her

"Yes, it does," said Helen. "But I must think it over. Now, would you
care to see the rest of the house?"

"I should love to. Oh dear, I've left my handkerchief with my purse in
the drawing-room."

"Have mine!" said Helen, promptly.

But even after this final proof of intimate friendship, there still
remained an obstinate trifle of insincerity in their relations that
afternoon. Helen was sure that Sarah Swetnam had paid the call specially
to say something, and that the something had not yet been said. And the
apprehension of an impending scene gradually took possession of her
nerves and disarranged them. When they reached the attics, and were
enjoying the glorious views of the moorland in the distance and of
Wilbraham Water in the immediate foreground, Helen said, very suddenly:

"Will the rector be in this afternoon?"

"I should say so. Why?"

"I was thinking we might walk down there together, and I could suggest
to him at once about having the concert here."

Sarah clapped her hands. "Then you've decided?"


"How funny you are, Nell, with your decisions!"

In Helen's bedroom, amid her wardrobe, there was no chance of dangerous
topics, the attention being monopolised by one subject, and that a safe

At last they went out together, two models of style and deportment, and
Helen pulled to the great front door with a loud echoing clang.

"Fancy that place being all empty. Aren't you afraid of sleeping there
while your uncle is away?"

"No," said Helen. "But I _should_ be afraid if Georgiana wasn't afraid."

After this example of courageous introspection, a silence fell upon the
pair; the silence held firm while they got out of the grounds and
crossed Oldcastle-road, and took to the Alls field-path, from which a
unique panorama of Bursley--chimneys, kilns, canals, railways, and
smoke-pall--is to be obtained. Helen was determined not to break the
silence. And then came the moment when Sarah Swetnam could no longer
suffer the silence; and she began, very cautiously:

"I suppose you've heard all about Andrew and Emanuel Prockter?"

Helen perceived that she had not been mistaken, and that the scene was
at hand. "No," said she. "What about them?"

"You don't mean to say you've not heard?"

"No. What about?"

"The quarrel between those two?"

"Emanuel and Mr. Dean?"

"Yes. But you must have heard?"

"I assure you, Sally, no one has told me a word about it." (Which was
just as true as it was untrue.)

"But they quarrelled up here. I _did_ hear that Andrew threw Emanuel
into your lake."

"Who told you that?"

"It was Mrs. Prockter. She was calling on the mater yesterday, and she
seemed to be full of it--according to the mater's account. Mrs.
Prockters' idea was that they had quarrelled about a woman."

("Mrs. Prockter shall be repaid for this," said Helen to herself.)

"Surely Emanuel hasn't been falling in love with Lilian, has he?" said
Helen, aloud. She considered this rather clever on her part. And it was.

"Oh, no!" replied Sally, positively. "It's not Lilian." And there was
that in her tone which could not be expressed in ten volumes. "You know
perfectly well who the woman is," Helen seemed to hear her say.

Then Helen said: "I think I can explain it. They were both at our house
the day we removed."

"Oh, _were_ they?" murmured Sarah, in well-acted surprise.

"And Mr. Dean fell off some steps that Emanuel was supposed to be
holding. I _thought_ he was furious--but not to that point. That's
probably the secret of the whole thing. As for Mr. Dean having pushed
Emanuel into the lake, I don't believe a word of it."

"Then how was it that Emanuel had a cold and had to stay in bed?"

"My dear, to have a cold it isn't necessary to have been thrown into
Wilbraham Water!"

"That's true," Sarah admitted.

"However," Helen calmly proceeded, "I'll find out all about it and let
you know."

"How shall you find out?"

"I shall make Emanuel tell me. He will tell me anything. And he's a dear

"Do you see him often up here?" Sarah inquired.

"Oh, yes!" This was not true. "We get on together excellently. And I'm
pretty sure that Emanuel is not--well--interested in any other woman.
That's why I should say that they have not been quarrelling about a
woman. Unless, of course, the woman is myself." She laughed, and added:
"But I'm not jealous. I can trust Emanuel."

And with marvellous intrepidity she looked Sarah Swetnam in the face.

"Then," Sarah stammered, "you and Emanuel--you don't mean----"

"My dear Sally, don't you think Emanuel is a perfectly delightful boy?"

"Oh, _yes_!" said Sarah.

"So do I," said Helen.

"But are you----"

"Between ourselves," Helen murmured. "Mind you, between _ourselves_--I
could imagine stranger things happening."

"Well," said Sarah, "this _is_ news."

"Mind, not a syllable!"

"Oh, of course not."

"By the way," Helen asked, "when are Andrew and Lilian going to get

"I don't know. No one knows. One confidence for another, my dear; they
don't always hit it off."

"What a pity!" Helen remarked. "Because if ever two people were suited
to each other in this world, they are. But I hope they'll shake down."

They arrived at the rector's.



On another afternoon a middle-aged man and a young-hearted woman emerged
together from Bursley Railway Station. They had a little luggage, and a
cab from the Tiger met them by appointment. Impossible to deny that the
young-hearted one was wearing a flowered silk under a travelling mantle.
The man, before getting into the cab, inquired as to the cost of the
cab. The gold angel of the Town Hall rose majestically in front of him,
and immediately behind him the Park, with the bowling-green at the top,
climbed the Moorthorne slope. The bowling season was of course over, but
even during the season he had scarcely played. He was a changed person.
And the greatest change of all had occurred that very morning.
Throughout a long and active career he had worn paper collars. Paper
collars had sufficed him, and they had not shocked his friends. But now
he wore a linen collar, and eleven other linen collars were in his
carpet-bag. Yet it has been said, by some individual who obviously
lacked experience of human nature, that a man never changes the style
of his collar after forty.

The cab drove up to Hillport, and deposited flowered silk and one bag at
the residence of Mrs. Prockter. It then ascended higher, passing into
the grounds of Wilbraham Hall, and ultimately stopping at the grandiose
portals thereof, which were wide open.

The occupant of the cab was surprised to see two other cabs just
departing. The next moment he was more than surprised--he was startled.
A gentleman in evening dress stood at the welcoming doors, and on
perceiving him this gentleman ran down the steps, and, with a sort of
hurried grace, took his carpet-bag from him, addressing him in broken
English, and indicating by incomprehensible words and comprehensible
signs that he regarded him, the new arrival, as the light of his eyes
and the protector of the poor and of the oppressed. And no sooner had he
got the new arrival safe into the hall than he stripped him of hat,
coat, and muffler, and might have proceeded to extremes had not his
attention been distracted by another vehicle.

This vehicle contained the aged rector of Bursley.

"Ha! Mr. Ollerenshaw!" cried the divine. "Your niece told me only
yesterday that you were still in Derby buying property, and would not be

"I've bought it, parson," said James.

"Ha! ha!" said the divine, rubbing his hands. He stooped habitually,
which gave him the air of always trying to glimpse at his toes over the
promontory of his waist. And as James made no reply to the remark, he
repeated: "Ha! ha! So you decided to come to my concert, eh?"

"I only heard of it yesterday," said James.

"Well," said the divine, "I'm afraid they'll be waiting for me. Ha! ha!
This way, isn't it? Fine place you've got here. Very fine! Noble!"

And he disappeared through the double doors that led to the
drawing-room, which doors were parted for him by a manikin whose clothes
seemed to be held together by new sixpences. During the brief instant of
opening, a vivacious murmur of conversation escaped like gas from the
drawing-room into the hall.

James glanced about for his bag--it was gone. The gentleman in evening
dress was out on the steps. Disheartened by the mysterious annihilation
of his old friend the bag, James, weary with too much and too various
emotion, went slowly up the grand staircase. In his bedroom the first
thing he saw was his bag, which had been opened and its contents
suitably bestowed. Thus his hair-brushes were on the dressing-table.
This miracle completed his undoing. He sat down on an easy-chair, drew
the eider-down off the bed, and put it on his knees, for the
temperature was low. He did not intend to go to sleep. But he did go to
sleep. It was simply a case of nature recovering from emotions.

He slept about an hour, and then, having brushed his wispish hair, he
descended the stairs, determined to do or die. Perhaps he would not have
plumped himself straight into the drawing-room had not the manikin clad
in sixpences assumed that the drawing-room was his Mecca and thrown open
the doors.

A loud "Hush!" greeted him. The splendid chamber was full of women's
hats and men's heads; but hats predominated. And the majority of the
audience were seated on gilt chairs which James had never before seen.
Probably there were four or five score gilt chairs. At the other end of
the room the aged rector sat in an easy-chair. Helen herself was perched
at the piano, and in front of the piano stood Emanuel Prockter. Except
that the room was much larger, and that, instead of a faultless evening
dress, Emanuel wore a faultless frock-coat (with the rest of a suit),
the scene reminded James of a similar one on the great concertina night
at Mrs. Prockter's.

Many things had happened since then. Still, history repeats itself.

"O Love!" exclaimed Emanuel Prockter, adagio and sostenuto, thus
diverting from James a hundred glances which James certainly was
delighted to lose.

And Helen made the piano say "O Love!" in its fashion.

And presently Emanuel was launched upon the sea of his yearnings, and
voyaging behind the hurricane of passion. And, as usual, he hid nothing
from his hearers. Then he hove to, and, as it were, climbed to the
main-topgallant-sail in order to announce:

"O Love!"

It was not surprising that his voice cracked. Emanuel ought to have been
the last person to be surprised at such a phenomenon. But he was
surprised. To him the phenomenon of that cracking was sempiternally
novel and astounding. It pained and shocked him. He wondered whose the
fault could be? And then, according to his habit, he thought of the
pianist. Of course, it was the fault of the pianist. And, while
continuing to sing, he slowly turned and gazed with sternness at the
pianist. The audience must not be allowed to be under any
misapprehension as to the identity of the culprit. Unfortunately,
Emanuel, wrapped up, like the artist he was, in his performance, had
himself forgotten the identity of the culprit. Helen had ceased to be
Helen; she was merely his pianist. The thing that he least expected to
encounter when gazing sternly at the pianist was the pianist's gaze. He
was accustomed to flash his anger on the pianist's back. But Helen, who
had seen other pianists at work for Emanuel, turned as he turned, and
their eyes met. The collision disorganised Emanuel. He continued to
glare with sternness, and he ceased to sing. A contretemps had happened.
For the fifth of a second everybody felt exceedingly awkward. Then Helen
said, with a faint, cold smile, in a voice very low and very clear:

"What's the matter with you, Mr. Prockter? It wasn't my voice that

The minx!

There was a half-hearted attempt at the maintenance of the proprieties,
and then Wilbraham Hall rang with the laughter of a joke which the next
day had become the common precious property of all the Five Towns. When
the aged rector had restored his flock to a sense of decency Mr. Emanuel
Prockter had vanished. In that laughter his career as a singer reached
an abrupt and final conclusion. The concert also came to an end. And the
collection, by which the divine always terminated these proceedings, was
the largest in the history of the Guild.

A quarter of an hour or twenty minutes later all the guests, members,
and patrons of the St. Luke's Guild had left, most of them full of kind
inquiries after Mr. Ollerenshaw, the genial host of that so remarkably
successful entertainment. The appearances and disappearances of Mr.
Ollerenshaw had been a little disturbing. First it had been announced
that he was detained in Derby, buying property. Indeed, few persons were
unaware that, except for a flying visit in the middle, of two days, to
collect his rents, James had spent a fortnight in Derby purchasing
sundry portions of Derby. Certainly Helen had not expected him. Nor had
she expected Mrs. Prockter, who two days previously had been called away
by telegram to the bedside of a sick cousin in Nottingham. Nor had she
expected Lilian Swetnam, who was indisposed. The unexpected ladies had
not arrived; but James had arrived, as disconcerting as a ghost, and
then had faded away with equal strangeness. None of the departing
audience had seen even the tassel of his cap.

Helen discovered him in his little room at the end of the hall. She was
resplendent in black and silver.

"So here you are, uncle!" said she, and kissed him. "I'm so glad you got
back in time. Can you lend me sixpence?"

"What for, lass?"

"I want to give it to the man who's taking away the chairs I had to

"What's become of that seven hundred and seventy pound odd as ye had?"

"Oh," she said, lightly, "I've spent that." She thought she might as
well have done with it, and added: "And I'm in debt--lots. But we'll
talk about that later. Sixpence, please."

He blenched. But he, too, had been expensive in the pursuit of delight.
He, too, had tiresome trifles on his mind. So he produced the sixpence,
and accepted the dissipation of nearly eight hundred pounds in less than
a month with superb silence.

Helen rang the bell. "You see, I've had all the bells put in order," she

The gentleman in evening dress entered.

"Fritz," said she, "give this sixpence to the man with the chairs."

"Yes, miss," Fritz dolefully replied. "A note for you, miss."

And he stretched forth a charger on which was a white envelope.

"Excuse me, uncle," said she, tearing the envelope.

"Dinna' mind me, lass," said he.

The note ran:

"I must see you by the Water to-night at nine o'clock. Don't fail,
or there will be a row.--


She crushed it.

"No answer, Fritz," said she. "Tell cook, dinner for two."

"Who's he?" demanded James when Fritz had bowed himself out.

"That's our butler," said Helen, kindly. "Don't you like his eyes?"

"I wouldna' swop him eyes," said James. He could not trust himself to
discuss the butler's eyes at length.

"Don't be late for dinner, will you, uncle?" she entreated him.

"Dinner!" he cried. "I had my dinner at Derby. What about my tea?"

"I mean tea," she said.

He went upstairs again to his room, but did not stay there a moment. In
the corridor he met Helen, swishing along.

"Look here, lass," he stopped her. "A straight question deserves a
straight answer. I'm not given to curiosity as a rule, but what is
Emanuel Prockter doing on my bed?"

"Emanuel Prockter on your bed!" Helen repeated, blankly. He saw that she
was suffering from genuine surprise.

"On my bed!" he insisted.

The butler appeared, having heard the inquiry from below. He explained
that Mr. Prockter, after the song, had come to him and asked where he
could lie down, as he was conscious of a tendency to faint. The butler
had indicated Mr. Ollerenshaw's room as the only masculine room

"Go and ask him how he feels," Helen commanded.

Fritz obeyed, and returned with the message that Mr. Prockter had "one
of his attacks," and desired his mother.

"But he can't have his mother," said Helen. "She's at Nottingham. He
told me so himself. He must be delirious." And she laughed.

"No, her isn't," James put in. "Her's at wum" (home).

"How do you know, uncle?"

"I know," said James. "Her'd better be sent for."

And she was sent for.



When Mrs. Prockter arrived it was obvious to Helen, in spite of her
wonderful calm upon discovering James Ollerenshaw's butler and page,
that the lady was extremely ill-at-ease. And Helen, though preoccupied
herself by matters of the highest personal importance, did what she
could to remedy a state of affairs so unusual. Probably nobody, within
the memory of that generation, had ever seen Mrs. Prockter ill-at-ease.
Helen inquired as to the health of the sick relative at Nottingham, and
received a reply in which vagueness was mingled with hesitancy and a
blush. It then became further obvious to the perspicuous Helen that Mrs.
Prockter must have heard of her stepson's singular adventure, and either
resented Helen's share in it, or was ashamed of Emanuel's share in it.

"You know that Emanuel is here?" said Helen, with her most diplomatic
and captivating smile.

But Mrs. Prockter did not know. "I thought Mr. Ollerenshaw wanted me,"
Mrs. Prockter explained, "so I came as quickly as I could."

"It was I who wanted to speak to you," said Helen. "The truth is that
Emanuel is lying on uncle's bed, unwell or something, and he expressed a
wish to see you. He was singing at the concert----"

"So sorry I wasn't able to be here," Mrs. Prockter inserted, with
effusive anxiety.

"We missed you awfully," Helen properly responded. "The rector was
inconsolable. So was everybody," she added, feeling that as a compliment
the rector's grief might be deemed insufficient. "And he had a

"Who? Emanuel?"

"Yes. I was accompanying him, and I am afraid it was my fault. Anyhow,
he didn't finish his song. And then we missed him. He had asked the
butler to let him lie down somewhere, and uncle found him in his
bedroom. I hope it's nothing serious."

"Oh, my dear girl," said Mrs. Prockter, regaining somewhat her natural
demeanour in a laugh, "if it's only one of Emanuel's singing breakdowns,
we needn't worry. Can I go up and talk sense to him? He's just like a
child, you know."

"Let me take you up," cried Helen.

And the two women ascended the grand staircase. It was the first time
the grand staircase had been used with becoming dignity since Mrs.
Prockter had used it on her visit of inspection. That staircase and
Mrs. Prockter were made for each other.

No sooner had they disappeared than James popped out of his lair, where
he had been hiding, and gazed up the staircase like a hunter stalking
his prey. The arrival of the page in sixpences put him out of
countenance for a moment, especially when the page began to feed the
hall-fire in a manner contrary to all James's lifelong notions of
feeding fires. However, he passed the time by giving the page a lesson.

Helen tapped at the bedroom door, left Mrs. Prockter to enter, and
descended the stairs again.

"Is her up there with him?" James asked, in a whisper.

Helen nodded.

"Ye'd better ask her stop and have something to eat wi' us," said James.

Helen had to reconcile James Ollerenshaw to the new scale of existence
at Wilbraham Hall. She had to make him swallow the butler, and the page,
and the other servants, and the grand piano--in themselves a heavy
repast--without counting the evening dinner. Up to the present he had
said nothing, because there had been no fair opportunity to say
anything. But he might start at any moment. And Helen had no reason to
believe that he had even begun the process of swallowing. She argued,
with a sure feminine instinct and a large experience of mankind, that
if he could only be dodged into tacitly accepting the new scale for
even a single meal, her task would be very much simplified. And what an
ally Mrs. Prockter would be!

"Tell cook there will be three to dinner," she said to the page, who
fled gleefully.

After a protracted interval Mrs. Prockter reappeared.

She began by sighing. "The foolish boy is seriously damaged," said she.

"Not hurt?" Helen asked.

"Yes. But only in his dignity. He pretends it's his throat, but it
isn't. It's only his dignity. I suppose all singers are children, like
that. I'm really ashamed to have to ask you to let him lie there a
little, dear Miss Rathbone; but he is positively sure that he can't get
up. I've been through these crises with him before, but never one quite
so bad."

She laughed. They all laughed.

"I'll let him lie there on one condition," Helen sweetly replied. "And
that is that you stay to dinner. I am relying on you. And I won't take a

Mrs. Prockter looked sharply at James, and James blushed.

"James," she exclaimed, "you've told her. And you promised you wouldn't
till to-morrow."

"Nay!" said James. "I've said nowt! It's you as has let it out, _now_,

"Told me what, Mrs. Prockter?" Helen asked, utterly unexpectant of the
answer she was to get.

"My dear girl," said the elder dame, "do not call me Mrs. Prockter. I am
Mrs. Ollerenshaw. I am the property that your uncle has been buying at
Derby. And he is my sick relative at Nottingham. We preferred to do it
like that. We could not have survived engagements and felicitations."

"Oh, you wicked sinners! You--you terrible darlings!" Helen burst out as
soon as she could control her voice.

Mrs. Ollerenshaw wept discreetly.

"Bless us! Bless us!" murmured James, not to beseech a benediction, but
simply to give the impression (quite false) that, in his opinion, much
fuss was being made about nothing.

The new scale of existence was definitely accepted. And in private Mrs.
Ollerenshaw entirely agreed with Helen as to the merits of the butler.

After dinner James hurried to his lair to search for a book. The book
was not where he had left it, on his original entry into Wilbraham Hall.
Within two minutes, the majority of the household staff was engaged in
finding that book. Ultimately the butler discovered it; the butler had
been reading it.

"Ay!" said James, opening the volume as he stood in front of the rich,
expensive fire in the hall. "Dickens--Charles Dickens--that's the chap's
name. I couldn't think of it when I was telling you about th' book th'
other day. I mun' go on wi" that."

"Couldn't you play us something?" responded his wife.

In the triumph of concertinas over grand pianos, poor Emanuel, lying
wounded upstairs, was forgotten. At five minutes to nine Helen stole,
unperceived, away from the domestic tableau. She had by no means
recovered from her amazement; but she had screened it off by main force
in her mind, and she was now occupied with something far more important
than the blameless amours of the richest old man in Hillport.

By Wilbraham Water a young man was walking to and fro in the deep autumn
night. He wore a cap and a muffler, but no overcoat, and his hands were
pushed far down into the pockets of his trousers. He regarded the ground
fixedly, and stamped his feet at every step. Then a pale grey figure,
with head enveloped in a shawl, and skirts carefully withdrawn from the
ground, approached him.

He did not salute the figure, he did not even take his hands out of his
pockets. He put his face close to hers, and each could see that the
other's features were white and anxious.

"So you've come," said he, glumly.

"What do you want?" Helen coldly asked.

"I want to speak to you. That's what I want. If you care for Emanuel
Prockter, why did you play that trick on him this afternoon?"

"What trick?"

"You know perfectly well what I mean. So I'll thank you not to beat
about the bush. The plain fact is that you don't care a pin for

"I never said I did."

"You've made every one believe you did, anyhow. You've even made me
think so, though all the time I knew it was impossible. An ass like

"What do you want?" Helen repeated.

They were both using a tone intended to indicate that they were enemies
from everlasting to everlasting, and that mere words could not express
the intensity of their mutual hatred and scorn. The casual distant
observer might have conceived the encounter to be a love idyll.

There was a short silence.

"I broke off my engagement last night," Andrew Dean muttered,

"Really!" Helen commented.

"You don't seem to care."

"I don't see what it has to do with me. But if you talked to Lilian
Swetnam in the same nice agreeable manner that you talk to me, I can't
say I'm surprised to hear that she broke with you."

"Who told you _she_ broke?" Andrew demanded.

"I guessed," said Helen. "You'd never have had the courage to break it
off yourself."

Andrew made a vicious movement.

"If you mean to serve me as you served Emanuel," she remarked, with
bitter calm, "please do it as gently as you can. And don't throw me far.
I can only swim a little."

Andrew walked away.

"Good-night," she called.

"Look here!" he snarled coming back to her "What's the matter with you?
I know I oughtn't to have asked Lilian to marry me. Everybody knows
that. It's universally agreed. But are you going to make that an excuse
for spoiling the whole show? What's up with you is pride."

"And what is up with you?" she inquired.

"Pride," said he. "How could I know you were in love with me all the
time? How could----"

"You couldn't," said Helen. "I wasn't. No more than you were with me."

"If you weren't in love with me, why did you try to make me jealous?"

"Me try to make you jealous!" she exclaimed, disdainfully. "You flatter
yourself, Mr. Dean!"

"I can stand a good deal, but I can't stand lies, and I won't!" he
exploded. "I say you did try to make me jealous."

He then noticed that she was crying.

The duologue might have extended itself indefinitely if her tears had
not excited him to uncontrollable fury, to that instinctive cruelty that
every male is capable of under certain conditions. Without asking her
permission, without uttering a word of warning, he rushed at her and
seized her in his arms. He crushed her with the whole of his very
considerable strength. And he added insult to injury by kissing her
about forty seven times. Women are such strange, incalculable creatures.
Helen did not protest. She did not invoke the protection of Heaven. She
existed, passively and silently, the unremonstrating victim of his
disgraceful violence.

Then he held her at arm's length. "Will you marry me?"

"Yes," she said.

"Did you try to make me jealous?"


Later, as they walked by the lake, he ejaculated: "I'm an awful brute!"

"I like you as you are," she replied.

But the answer was lacking in precision, for at that moment he was being
as tender as only an awful brute can be.

"Of course," she said, "we mustn't say anything about it yet."

"No," he agreed. "To let it out at once might make unpleasantness
between you and the Swetnams."

"Oh!" she said, "I wasn't thinking of that. But there's another
love-affair in the house, and no house will hold two at once. It would
be nauseating."

That is how they talk in the Five Towns. As if one could have too much
love, even in a cottage--to say nothing of a Wilbraham Hall! Mrs.
Ollerenshaw placidly decided that she and James would live at the Hall,
though James would have preferred something a size smaller. As I have
already noticed, the staircase suited her; James suited her, too. No one
could guess why, except possibly James. They got on together, as the
Five Towns said, "like a house afire."

Helen and Andrew Dean were satisfied with a semi-detached villa in
Park-road, with a fine view of the gold angel. Women vary, capricious
beings! Helen is perfectly satisfied with one servant. But she dresses
rather better than ever.


* * * * *


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