Part 2 out of 9
merely disguised the natural vigour of a manly frame, and his
conversational trifling hinted an intellectual reserve, a latent
power of mind, obvious enough in the lines of his countenance.
Nancy was excusable for supposing that he viewed her slightingly. He
spoke as one who did not expect to be quite understood by such a
hearer, addressing her, without the familiarity, much as he
addressed his young cousins. To her, his careful observance of
formalities seemed the reverse of flattering; she felt sure that
with young women in his own circle he would allow himself much more
freedom. Whether the disparagement applied to her intellect or to
her social status might be a question; Nancy could not decide which
of the two she would prefer. Today an especial uneasiness troubled
her from the first moment of his appearance; she felt a stronger
prompting than hitherto to assert herself, and, if possible, to
surprise Mr. Tarrant. But, as if he understood her thought, his
manner became only more bland, his calm aloofness more pronounced.
The children, who were never at ease in their cousin's presence,
succeeded in drawing Jessica apart, and chattered to her about the
educational methods imposed by Mrs. Baker, airing many grievances.
They nourished a hope that Miss. Morgan might again become their
governess; lessons down at Teignmouth had been nothing like so
oppressive as here at Champion Hill.
Tarrant, meanwhile, having drunk a cup of tea, and touched his
moustache with a silk handkerchief, transferred himself from the
camp-stool to the basket chair vacated by Jessica. He was now
further from Nancy, but facing her.
'I have been talking with Mrs. Bellamy,' fell from him, in the same
tone of idle good nature. 'Do you know her? She has but one subject
of conversation; an engrossing topic, to be sure; namely, her
servants. Do you give much thought to the great servant question? I
have my own modest view of the matter. It may not be novel, but my
mind has worked upon it in the night watches.'
Nancy, resolved not to smile, found herself smiling. Not so much at
what he said, as at the manner of it. Her resentment was falling
away; she felt the influence of this imperturbable geniality.
'Shall I tell you my theory?'
He talked with less reserve than on the last occasion when they had
sat together. The mellow sunlight, the garden odours, the warm,
still air, favoured a growth of intimacy.
'By all means,' was Nancy's reply.
'We must begin by admitting that the ordinary woman hates nothing so
much as to have another woman set in authority over her.' He paused,
and laughed lazily. 'Now, before the triumph of glorious Democracy,
only those women kept servants who were capable of rule,--who had
by birth the instinct of authority. They knew themselves the natural
superiors of their domestics, and went through an education fitting
them to rule. Things worked very well; no servant-difficulty
existed. Now-a-days, every woman who can afford it must have another
woman to wait upon her, no matter how silly, or vulgar, or depraved
she may be; the result, of course, is a spirit of rebellion in the
kitchen. Who could have expected anything else?'
Nancy played with a dandelion she had plucked, and gave sign neither
of assent nor disagreement.
'Mrs. Bellamy,' continued the young man, 'marvels that servants
revolt against her. What could be more natural? The servants have
learnt that splendid doctrine that every one is as good as everybody
else, and Mrs. Bellamy is by no means the person to make them see
things differently. And this kind of thing is going on in numberless
houses--an utterly incompetent mistress and a democratic maid in
spirited revolt. The incompetents, being in so vast a majority, will
sooner or later spoil all the servants in the country.'
'You should make an article of it,' said Nancy, 'and send it to _The
'So I might.' He paused, and added casually, 'You read _The
'Now and then.'
Nancy felt herself an impostor, for of leading reviews she knew
little more than the names. And Tarrant's look, so steady, yet so
good-tempered, disturbed her conscience with the fear that he saw
through her. She was coming wretchedly out of this dialogue, in
which she had meant to make a figure.
He changed the subject; was it merely to spare her?
'Shall you go to Teignmouth again this year?'
'I don't know yet. I think not.'
Silence followed. Tarrant, to judge from his face, was absorbed in
pleasant thought; Nancy, on the other hand, felt so ill at ease that
she was on the point of rising, when his voice checked her.
'I have an idea'--he spoke dreamily--'of going to spend next
winter in the Bahamas.'
'Why the Bahamas?'
Speaking with all the carelessness she could command, Nancy shivered
a little. Spite of her 'culture,' she had but the vaguest notion
where the Bahamas were. To betray ignorance would be dreadful. A
suspicion awoke in her that Tarrant, surprised by her seeming
familiarity with current literature, was craftily testing the actual
quality of her education. Upon the shiver followed a glow, and, in
fear lest her cheeks would redden, she grew angry.
He was replying.
'Partly because it is a delightful winter climate; partly because I
have a friend there; partly because the islands are interesting. A
man I knew at Oxford has gone out there, and is likely to stay. His
father owns nearly the whole of an island; and as he's in very bad
health, my friend may soon come into possession. When he does, he's
going to astonish the natives.'
A vision of savages flashed before Nancy's mind. She breathed more
freely, thinking the danger past.
'Simply by making a fortune out of an estate that is lying all but
barren. Before the emancipation of the niggers, the Bahamas
flourished wonderfully; now they are fallen to decay, and ruled, so
far as I understand it, by a particularly contemptible crew of
native whites, who ought all to be kicked into the sea. My friend's
father is a man of no energy; he calls himself magistrate, coroner,
superintendent of the customs, and a dozen other things, but seems
to have spent his time for years in lying about, smoking and
imbibing. His son, I'm afraid, waits impatiently for the old man's
removal to a better world. He believes there are immense
possibilities of trade.'
Trying hard to recollect her geography, Miss. Lord affected but a
'There's no direct way of getting there,' Tarrant pursued. 'What
route should you suggest?'
She was right, after all. He wished to convict her of ignorance. Her
cheeks were now burning, beyond a doubt, and she felt revengeful.
'I advise you to make inquiries at a shipping-office,' was her
'It seems'--he was smiling at Nancy--'I shall have to go to New
York, and then take the Cuba mail.'
'Are you going to join your friend in business?'
'Business, I fear, is hardly my vocation.'
There was a tremor on Nancy's lips, and about her eyelids. She said
'I thought you were perhaps in business?'
'Did you? What suggested it?'
Tarrant looked fixedly at her; in his expression, as in his voice,
she detected a slight disdain, and that decided her to the utterance
of the next words.
'Oh'--she had assumed an ingenuous air--'there's the Black Lead
that bears your name. Haven't you something to do with it?'
She durst not watch him, but a change of his countenance was
distinctly perceptible, and for the moment caused her a keen
gratification. His eyes had widened, his lips had set themselves; he
looked at once startled and mortified.
'Black lead?' The words fell slowly, in a voice unlike that she had
been hearing. 'No. I have nothing to do with it.'
The silence was dreadful. Nancy endeavoured to rise, but her limbs
would not do their office. Then, her eyes fixed on the grass, she
became aware that Tarrant himself had stood up.
'Where are the children?' he was saying absently.
He descried them afar off with Miss. Morgan, and began to saunter in
that direction. As soon as his back was turned, Nancy rose and began
to walk towards the house. In a few moments Jessica and the girls
were with her.
'I think we must go,' she said.
They entered, and took leave of Mrs. Baker, who sat alone in the
'Did you say good-bye to Mr. Tarrant?' Jessica asked, as they came
'I didn't. But I suppose it doesn't matter.'
Nancy had thought of telling her friend what she had done, of
boasting that she had asked the impossible question. But now she
felt ashamed of herself, and something more than ashamed. Never
again could she enter this garden. And it seemed to her that, by a
piece of outrageous, of wanton, folly, she had for ever excluded
herself from the society of all 'superior' people.
'Now, _I_ look at it in this way. It's to celebrate the fiftieth
year of the reign of Queen Victoria--yes: but at the same time,
and far more, it's to celebrate the completion of fifty years of
Progress. National Progress, without precedent in the history of
mankind! One may say, indeed, Progress of the Human Race. Only think
what has been done in this half-century: only think of it! Compare
England now, compare the world, with what it was in 1837. It takes
away one's breath!'
Thus Mr. Samuel Bennett Barmby, as he stood swaying forward upon his
toes, his boots creaking. Nancy and Jessica listened to him. They
were ready to start on the evening's expedition, but Horace had not
yet come home, and on the chance of his arrival they would wait a
few minutes longer.
'I shall make this the subject of a paper for our Society next
winter--the Age of Progress. And with special reference to one
particular--the Press. Only think now, of the difference between
our newspapers, all our periodicals of to-day, and those fifty years
ago. Did you ever really consider, Miss. Morgan, what a marvellous
thing one of our great newspapers really is? Printed in another way
it would make a volume--absolutely; a positive volume; packed with
thought and information. And all for the ridiculous price of one
He laughed; a high, chuckling, crowing laugh; the laugh of
triumphant optimism. Of the man's sincerity there could be no
question; it beamed from his shining forehead, his pointed nose;
glistened in his prominent eyes. He had a tall, lank figure,
irreproachably clad in a suit of grey: frock coat, and waistcoat
revealing an expanse of white shirt. His cuffs were magnificent, and
the hands worthy of them. A stand-up collar, of remarkable
stiffness, kept his head at the proper level of self-respect.
'By the bye, Miss. Lord, are you aware that the Chinese Empire, with
four _hundred_ MILLION inhabitants, has only _ten_ daily papers?
Positively; only ten.'
'How do you know?' asked Nancy.
'I saw it stated in a paper. That helps one to _grasp_ the
difference between civilisation and barbarism. One doesn't think
clearly enough of common things. Now that's one of the benefits one
gets from Carlyle. Carlyle teaches one to see the marvellous in
everyday life. Of course in many things I don't agree with him, but
I shall never lose an opportunity of expressing my gratitude to
Carlyle. Carlyle and Gurty! Yes, Carlyle and Gurty; those two
authors are an education in themselves.'
He uttered a long 'Ah!' and moved his lips as if savouring a
'Now here's an interesting thing. If all the cabs in London were put
end to end,'--he paused between the words, gravely,--'what do
you think, Miss. Morgan, would be the total length?'
'Oh, I have no idea, Mr. Barmby.'
'Forty miles--positively! Forty miles of cabs!'
'How do you know?' asked Nancy.
'I saw it stated in a paper.'
The girls glanced at each other, and smiled. Barmby beamed upon them
with the benevolence of a man who knew his advantages, personal and
And at this moment Horace Lord came in. He had not the fresh
appearance which usually distinguished him; his face was stained
with perspiration, his collar had become limp, the flower at his
buttonhole hung faded.
'Well, here I am. Are you going?'
'I suppose you know you have kept us waiting,' said his sister.
'Awf'ly sorry. Couldn't get here before.'
He spoke as if he had not altogether the command of his tongue, and
with a fixed meaningless smile.
'We had better not delay,' said Barmby, taking up his hat. 'Seven
o'clock. We ought to be at Charing Cross before eight; that will
allow us about three hours.'
They set forth at once. By private agreement between the girls,
Jessica Morgan attached herself to Mr. Barmby, allowing Nancy to
follow with her brother, as they walked rapidly towards Camberwell
Green. Horace kept humming popular airs; his hat had fallen a little
to the side, and he swung his cane carelessly. His sister asked him
what he had been doing all day.
'Oh, going about. I met some fellows after the procession. We had a
splendid view, up there on the top of Waterloo House.'
'Did Fanny go home?'
'We met her sisters, and had some lunch at a restaurant. Look here;
you don't want me to-night. You won't mind if I get lost in the
crowd? Barmby will be quite enough to take care of you.'
'You are going to meet her again, I suppose?'
'We had better agree on a rendezvous at a certain time. I say,
Barmby, just a moment; if any of us should get separated, we had
better know where to meet, for coming home.'
'Oh, there's no fear of that.'
'All the same, it _might_ happen. There'll be a tremendous crush,
you know. Suppose we say the place where the trams stop, south of
Westminster Bridge, and the time a quarter to eleven?'
This was agreed upon.
At Camberwell Green they mingled with a confused rush of hilarious
crowds, amid a clattering of cabs and omnibuses, a jingling of
tram-car bells. Public-houses sent forth their alcoholic odours upon
the hot air. Samuel Barmby, joyous in his protectorship of two young
ladies, for he regarded Horace as a mere boy, bustled about them
whilst they stood waiting for the arrival of the Westminster car.
'It'll have to be a gallant rush! You would rather be outside,
wouldn't you, Miss. Lord? Here it comes: charge!'
But the charge was ineffectual for their purpose. A throng of far
more resolute and more sinewy people swept them aside, and seized
every vacant place on the top of the vehicle. Only with much
struggle did they obtain places within. In an ordinary mood, Nancy
would have resented this hustling of her person by the profane
public; as it was, she half enjoyed the tumult, and looked forward
to get more of it along the packed streets, with a sense that she
might as well amuse herself in vulgar ways, since nothing better was
attainable. This did not, however, modify her contempt of Samuel
Barmby; it seemed never to have occurred to him that the
rough-and-tumble might be avoided, and time gained, by the simple
expedient of taking a cab.
Sitting opposite to Samuel, she avoided his persistent glances by
reading the rows of advertisements above his head. Somebody's
'Blue;' somebody's 'Soap;' somebody's 'High-class Jams;' and behold,
inserted between the Soap and the Jam--'God so loved the world,
that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoso believeth in Him
should not perish, but have everlasting life.' Nancy perused the
passage without perception of incongruity, without emotion of any
kind. Her religion had long since fallen to pieces, and universal
defilement of Scriptural phrase by the associations of the
market-place had in this respect blunted her sensibilities.
Barmby was talking to Jessica Morgan. She caught his words now and
'Can you tell me what is the smallest tree in the world?--No, it's
the Greenland birch. Its full-grown height is only three inches--
positively! But it spreads over several feet.'
Nancy was tempted to lean forward and say, 'How do you know?' But
the jest seemed to involve her in too much familiarity with Mr
Barmby; for her own peace it was better to treat him with all
A woman near her talked loudly about the procession, with special
reference to a personage whom she called 'Prince of Wiles.' This
enthusiast declared with pride that she had stood at a certain
street corner for seven hours, accompanied by a child of five years
old, the same who now sat on her lap, nodding in utter weariness;
together they were going to see the illuminations, and walk about,
with intervals devoted to refreshments, for several hours more.
Beyond sat a working-man, overtaken with liquor, who railed
vehemently at the Jubilee, and in no measured terms gave his opinion
of our Sovereign Lady; the whole thing was a 'lay,' an occasion for
filling the Royal pocket, and it had succeeded to the tune of
something like half a million of money, wheedled, most of it, from
the imbecile poor. 'Shut up!' roared a loyalist, whose patience
could endure no longer. 'We're not going to let a boozing blackguard
like you talk in that way about 'er Majesty!' Thereupon, retort of
insult, challenge to combat, clamour from many throats, deep and
shrill. Nancy laughed, and would rather have enjoyed it if the men
At Westminster Bridge all jumped confusedly into the street and ran
for the pavement. It was still broad daylight; the sun--a
potentate who keeps no Jubilee--dropping westward amid the hues of
summer eventide, was unmarked, for all his splendour, by the roaring
'Where are you going to leave us?' Nancy inquired of her brother.
'Charing Cross, or somewhere about there.'
'Keep by me till then.'
Barmby was endeavouring to secure her companionship. He began to
cross the bridge at her side, but Nancy turned and bade him attend
upon Miss. Morgan, saying that she wished to talk with her brother.
In this order they moved towards Parliament Street, where the crowd
began to thicken.
'Now let us decide upon our route,' exclaimed Barmby, with the air
of a popular leader planning a great demonstration. 'Miss. Lord, we
will be directed by your wishes. Where would you like to be when the
'I don't care. What does it matter? Let us go straight on and see
whatever comes in our way.'
'That's the right spirit! Let us give ourselves up to the occasion!
We can't be wrong in making for Trafalgar Square. Advance!'
They followed upon a group of reeling lads and girls, who yelled in
chorus the popular song of the day, a sentimental one as it happened--
'_Do not forget me,
Do not forget me,
Think sometimes of me still_'--
Nancy was working herself into a nervous, excited state. She felt it
impossible to walk on and on under Barmby's protection, listening to
his atrocious commonplaces, his enthusiasms of the Young Men's
Debating Society. The glow of midsummer had entered into her blood;
she resolved to taste independence, to mingle with the limitless
crowd as one of its units, borne in whatever direction. That song of
the streets pleased her, made sympathetic appeal to her; she would
have liked to join in it.
Just behind her--it was on the broad pavement at Whitehall--some
one spoke her name.
'Miss. Lord! Why, who would have expected to see you here? Shouldn't
have dared to think of such a thing; upon my word, I shouldn't!'
A man of about thirty, dressed without much care, middle-sized,
wiry, ruddy of cheek, and his coarse but strong features vivid with
festive energy, held a hand to her. Luckworth Crewe was his name.
Nancy had come to know him at the house of Mrs. Peachey, where from
time to time she had met various people unrecognised in her own
home. His tongue bewrayed him for a native of some northern county;
his manner had no polish, but a genuine heartiness which would have
atoned for many defects. Horace, who also knew him, offered a
friendly greeting; but Samuel Barmby, when the voice caught his ear,
regarded this intruder with cold surprise.
'May I walk on with you?' Crewe asked, when he saw that Miss. Lord
felt no distaste for his company.
Nancy deigned not even a glance at her nominal protector.
'If you are going our way,' she replied.
Barmby, his dignity unobserved, strode on with Miss. Morgan, of whom
he sought information concerning the loud-voiced man. Crewe talked
'So you've come out to have a look at it, after all. I saw the Miss
Frenches last Sunday, and they told me you cared no more for the
Jubilee than for a dog-fight. Of course I wasn't surprised; you've
other things to think about. But it's worth seeing, that's my
opinion. Were you out this morning?'
'No. I don't care for Royalties.'
'No more do I. Expensive humbugs, that's what I call 'em. But I had
a look at them, for all that. The Crown Prince was worth seeing;
yes, he really was. I'm not so prejudiced as to deny that. He's the
kind of chap I should like to get hold of, and have a bit of a talk
with, and ask him what he thought about things in general. It's been
a big affair, hasn't it? I know a chap who made a Jubilee Perfume,
and he's netting something like a hundred pounds a day.'
'Have you any Jubilee speculation on hand?'
'Don't ask me! It makes me mad. I had a really big thing,--a
Jubilee Drink,--a teetotal beverage; the kind of thing that would
have sold itself, this weather. A friend of mine hit on it, a clerk
in a City warehouse, one of the cleverest chaps I ever knew. It
really was _the_ drink; I've never tasted anything like it. Why,
there's the biggest fortune on record waiting for the man who can
supply _the_ drink for total-abstainers. And this friend of mine had
it. He gave me some to taste one night, about a month ago, and I
roared with delight. It was all arranged. I undertook to find enough
capital to start with, and to manage the concern. I would have given
up my work with Bullock and Freeman. I'd have gone in, tooth and
nail, for that drink! I sat up all one night trying to find a name
for it; but couldn't hit on the right one. A name is just as
important as the stuff itself that you want to sell. Next morning--
it was Sunday--I went round to my friend's lodgings, and'--he
slapped his thigh--'I'm blest if the chap hadn't cut his throat!'
'Betting and forgery. He would have been arrested next day. But the
worst of it was that his beverage perished with him. I hadn't a
notion how it was made; he wouldn't tell me till I planked down
money to start with; and not a drop of it could be found anywhere.
And to think that he had absolutely struck oil, as they say; had
nothing to do but sit down and count the money as it came in! That's
the third man I've known go wrong in less than a year. Betting and
embezzlement; betting and burglary; betting and forgery. I'll tell
you some time about the chap who went in for burglary. One of the
best fellows I ever knew; when he comes out, I must give him a hand.
But ten to one he'll burgle again; they always do; burglary grows on
a man, like drink.'
His laughter rang across the street; Barmby, who kept looking back,
surprised and indignant that this acquaintance of Miss. Lord's was
not presented to him, paused for a moment, but Nancy waved to him
commandingly, 'Straight on!'
They reached Charing Cross. Horace, who took no part in the
conversation, and had dropped behind, at this point found an
opportunity of stealing away. It was Crewe who first remarked his
'Hollo! where's your brother?'
'Gone, evidently.--Hush! Don't say anything. Will you do something
for me, Mr. Crewe?'
'Of course I will. What is it?'
Nancy pursued in a low voice.
'He's gone to meet Fanny French. At least, he told me so; but I want
to know whether it is really Fanny, or some one else. He said they
were to meet in front of the Haymarket Theatre. Will you go as
quickly as you can, and see if Fanny is there?'
'Like a bird!--But how am I to meet you again?'
'We'll be at the top of Regent Street at nine o'clock,--by Peter
Robinson's. Don't lose time.'
He struck off in the westerly direction, and Barmby, looking round
at that moment, saw him go. Engrossed in thought of Nancy, Samuel
did not yet perceive that her brother had vanished.
'Your friend isn't coming any further?' he said, in a tone of
'But where's Mr. Lord?' exclaimed Jessica.
Nancy pretended to look back for him, and for a minute or two they
waited. Barmby, glad to be delivered from both male companions, made
light of the matter; Horace could take care of himself; they had the
appointment for a quarter to eleven;--on! And he now fixed himself
resolutely at Nancy's side.
She, delighted with the success of her stratagem, and careless of
what might result from it, behaved more companionably. To Luckworth
Crewe's society she had no objection; indeed, she rather liked him;
but his presence would have hindered the escape for which she was
preparing. Poor Jessica might feel it something of a hardship to
pass hours alone with 'the Prophet,' but that could not be helped.
Nancy would be free to-night, if never again. They turned into the
Strand, and Barmby voiced his opinion of the public decorations.
'There's very little of what can be called Art,--very little
indeed. I'm afraid we haven't made much progress in Art.--Now what
would Ruskin say to this kind of thing? The popular taste wants
educating. My idea is that we ought to get a few leading men Burne
Jones and--and William Morris--and people of that kind, you
know, Miss. Lord,--to give lectures in a big hall on the elements
of Art. A great deal might be done in that way, don't you think so,
'I have no faith in anything popular,' Jessica replied loftily.
'No, no. But, after all, the people have got the upper hand
now-a-days, and we who enjoy advantages of education, of culture,
ought not to allow them to remain in darkness. It isn't for our own
interest, most decidedly it isn't.'
'Did your sisters go to see the procession?' Nancy asked.
'Oh, they were afraid of the crowd. The old gentleman took them out
to Tooting Common this afternoon, and they enjoyed themselves.
Perhaps I should have been wiser if I had imitated their example; I
mean this morning; of course I wouldn't have missed this evening for
anything whatever. But somehow, one feels it a sort of duty to see
something of these great public holidays. I caught a glimpse of the
procession. In its way it was imposing--yes, really. After all,
the Monarchy is a great _fact_--as Gurty would have said. I like
to keep my mind open to facts.'
The sun had set, and with approach of dusk the crowds grew denser.
Nancy proposed a return westwards; the clubs of Pall Mall and of St
James's Street would make a display worth seeing, and they must not
'A little later,' said their escort, with an air of liberality, 'we
must think of some light refreshment. We shall be passing a
respectable restaurant, no doubt.'
Twilight began to obscure the distance. Here and there a house-front
slowly marked itself with points of flame, shaping to wreath,
festoon, or initials of Royalty. Nancy looked eagerly about her,
impatient for the dark, wishing the throng would sweep her away. In
Pall Mall, Barmby felt it incumbent upon him to name the several
clubs, a task for which he was inadequately prepared. As he stood
staring in doubt at one of the coldly insolent facades, Jessica
gazing in the same direction, Nancy saw that her moment had come.
She darted off, struggled through a moving crowd, and reached the
opposite pavement. All she had now to do was to press onward with
the people around her; save by chance, she could not possibly be
Alarm at her daring troubled her for a few minutes. As a matter of
course Barmby would report this incident to her father,--unless
she plainly asked him not to do so, for which she had no mind. Yet
what did it matter? She had escaped to enjoy herself, and the sense
of freedom soon overcame anxieties. No one observed her solitary
state; she was one of millions walking about the streets because it
was Jubilee Day, and every moment packed her more tightly among the
tramping populace. A procession, this, greatly more significant than
that of Royal personages earlier in the day. Along the main
thoroughfares of mid-London, wheel-traffic was now suspended;
between the houses moved a double current of humanity, this way and
that, filling the whole space, so that no vehicle could possibly
have made its way on the wonted track. At junctions, pickets of
police directed progress; the slowly advancing masses wheeled to
left or right at word of command, carelessly obedient. But for an
occasional bellow of hilarious blackguardism, or for a song uplifted
by strident voices, or a cheer at some flaring symbol that pleased
the passers, there was little noise; only a thud, thud of footfalls
numberless, and the low, unvarying sound that suggested some huge
beast purring to itself in stupid contentment.
Nancy forgot her identity, lost sight of herself as an individual.
Her blood was heated by close air and physical contact. She did not
think, and her emotions differed little from those of any shop-girl
let loose. The 'culture,' to which she laid claim, evanesced in this
atmosphere of exhalations. Could she have seen her face, its look of
vulgar abandonment would have horrified her.
Some one trod violently on her heel, and she turned with a
half-angry laugh, protesting. 'Beg your pardon, miss,' said a young
fellow of the clerkly order. 'A push be'ind made me do it.' He
thrust himself to a place beside her, and Nancy conversed with him
unrestrainedly, as though it were a matter of course. The young man,
scrutinising her with much freedom, shaped clerkly compliments, and,
in his fashion, grew lyrical; until, at a certain remark which he
permitted himself, Nancy felt it time to shake him off. Her next
encounter was more noteworthy. Of a sudden she felt an arm round her
waist, and a man, whose breath declared the source of his
inspiration, began singing close to her ear the operatic ditty,
'Queen of my Heart.' He had, moreover, a good tenor voice, and
belonged, vaguely, to some stratum of educated society.
'I think you had better leave me alone,' said Nancy, looking him
severely in the face.
'Well, if you really think so,'--he seemed struck by her manner of
speech,--'of course I will: but I'd much rather not.'
'I might find it necessary to speak to a policeman at the next
'Oh, in that case.'--He raised his hat, and fell aside. And Nancy
felt that, after all, the adventure had been amusing.
She was now in Regent Street, and it came to her recollection that
she had made an appointment with Luckworth Crewe for nine o'clock.
Without any intention of keeping it; but why not do so? Her lively
acquaintance would be excellent company for the next hour, until she
chose to bring the escapade to an end. And indeed, save by a
disagreeable struggle, she could hardly change the direction of her
steps. It was probably past nine; Crewe might have got tired of
waiting, or have found it impossible to keep a position on the
pavement. Drawing near to the top of Regent Street, she hoped he
might be there. And there he was, jovially perspiring; he saw her
between crowded heads, and crushed through to her side.
'Where are your friends?'
'That's more than I can tell you.'
They laughed together.
'It's a miracle we've been able to meet,' said Crewe. 'I had to
thrash a fellow five minutes ago, and was precious near getting run
in. Shall we go the Tottenham Court Road way? Look out! You'd better
hold on to my arm. These big crossings are like whirlpools; you
might go round and round, and never get anywhere. Don't be afraid;
if any one runs up against you, I'll knock him down.'
'There wouldn't be room for him to fall,' said Nancy, wild with
merriment, as they swayed amid the uproar. For the first time she
understood how perilous such a crowd might be. A band of roisterers,
linked arm in arm, were trying to break up the orderly march of
thousands into a chaotic fight. The point for which Crewe made was
unattainable; just in front of him a woman began shrieking
hysterically; another fainted, and dropped into her neighbour's
'Don't get frightened!'
'Not I! I like it. It's good fun.'
'You're the right sort, you are. But we must get out of this. It's
worse than the pit-door on the first night of a pantomime. I must
hold you up; don't mind.'
His arm encircled her body, and for a moment now and then he carried
rather than led her. They were safe at length, in the right part of
Oxford Street, and moving with the stream.
'I couldn't find your brother,' Crewe had leisure to say; 'and I
didn't see Fanny French. There weren't many people about just then,
either. They must have gone off before I came.'
'Yes, they must. It doesn't matter.'
'You have some life in you.' He gazed at her admiringly. 'You're
worth half a million of the girls that squeak and wobble when
there's a bit of rough play going on.'
'I hope so. Did you set me down as one of that kind?'
Nancy found that her tongue had achieved a liberty suitable to the
occasion. She spoke without forethought, and found pleasure in her
'Not I,' Crewe answered. 'But I never had a chance before now of
telling you what I thought.'
Some one in front of them ignited a Bengal light and threw it into
the air; the flame flashed across Nancy's features, and fell upon
the hat of a man near her.
'How do you mean to get home?' asked Crewe presently. Nancy
explained that all her party were to meet on the other side of the
'Oh, then, there's plenty of time. When you've had enough of this
kind of thing we can strike off into the quiet streets. If you were
a man, which I'm glad you're not, I should say I was choking for a
glass of beer.'
'Say it, and look for a place where you can quench your thirst.'
'It must be a place, then, where you can come in as well. You don't
drink beer, of course, but we can get lemonade and that kind of
thing. No wonder we get thirsty; look up there.'
Following the direction of his eyes, Nancy saw above the heads of
the multitude a waving dust-canopy, sent up by myriad tramplings on
the sun-scorched streets. Glare of gas illumined it in the
foreground; beyond, it dimmed all radiance like a thin fog.
'We might cut across through Soho,' he pursued, 'and get among the
restaurants. Take my arm again. Only a bit of cross-fighting, and we
shall be in the crowd going the other way. Did you do physics at
school? Remember about the resultant of forces? Now _we_'re a force
tending to the right, and the crowd is a force making for straight
on; to find the--'
His hat was knocked over his eyes, and the statement of the problem
ended in laughter.
With a good deal of difficulty they reached one of the southward
byways; and thenceforth walking was unimpeded.
'You know that I call myself Luckworth Crewe,' resumed Nancy's
companion after a short silence.
'Of course I do.'
'Well, the fact is, I've no right to either of the names. I thought
I'd just tell you, for the fun of the thing; I shouldn't talk about
it to any one else that I know. They tell me I was picked up on a
doorstep in Leeds, and the wife of a mill-hand adopted me. Their
name was Crewe. They called me Tom, but somehow it isn't a name I
care for, and when I was grown up I met a man called Luckworth, who
was as kind as a father to me, and so I took his name in place of
Tom. That's the long and short of it.'
Nancy looked a trifle disconcerted.
'You won't think any worse of me, because I haven't a name of my
'Why should I? It isn't your fault.'
'No. But I'm not the kind of man to knuckle under. I think myself
just as good as anybody else I'll knock the man down that sneers at
me; and I won't thank anybody for pitying me; that's the sort of
chap I am. And I'm going to have a big fortune one of these days.
It's down in the books. I know I shall live to be a rich man, just
as well as I know that I'm walking down Dean Street with Miss. Lord.'
'I should think it very possible,' his companion remarked.
'It hasn't begun yet. I can only lay my hand on a few hundred
pounds, one way and another. And I'm turned thirty. But the next ten
years are going to do it. Do you know what I did last Saturday? I
got fifteen hundred pounds' worth of advertising for our people,
from a chap that's never yet put a penny into the hands of an agent.
I went down and talked to him like a father. He was the hardest nut
I ever had to crack, but in thirty-five minutes I'd got him--like
a roach on a hook. And it'll be to his advantage, mind you. That
fifteen hundred 'll bring him in more business than he's had for ten
years past. I got him to confess he was going down the hill. "Of
course," I said, "because you don't know how to advertise, and won't
let anybody else know for you?" In a few minutes he was telling me
he'd dropped more than a thousand on a patent that was out of date
before it got fairly going. "All right," said I. "Here's your new
cooking-stove. You've dropped a thousand on the other thing; give
your advertising to us, and I'll guarantee you shall come home on
'Come home on it?' Nancy inquired, in astonishment.
'Oh, it's our way of talking,' said the other, with his hearty
laugh. 'It means to make up one's loss. And he'll do it. And when he
has, he'll think no end of me.'
'Not long ago, I boxed a chap for his advertising. A fair turn-up
with the gloves. Do you suppose I licked him? Not I; though I could
have done it with one hand. I just let him knock me out of time, and
two minutes after he put all his business into my hands.'
'Oh, you'll get rich,' declared Nancy, laughing. 'No doubt about
'There was a spot down the South Western Railway where we wanted to
stick up a board, a great big board, as ugly as they make 'em. It
was in a man's garden; a certain particular place, where the trains
slow, and folks have time to read the advertisement and meditate on
it. That chap wouldn't listen. What! spoil his garden with our
da----with our confounded board! not for five hundred a year! Well,
I went down, and I talked to him--'
'Like a father,' put in Nancy.
'Just so, like a father. "Look here," said I, "my dear sir, you're
impeding the progress of civilisation. How could we have become what
we are without the modern science and art of advertising? Till
advertising sprang up, the world was barbarous. Do you suppose
people kept themselves clean before they were reminded at every
corner of the benefits of soap? Do you suppose they were healthy
before every wall and hoarding told them what medicine to take for
their ailments? Not they indeed! Why, a man like you--an
enlightened man, I see it in your face (he was as ugly as Ben's
bull-dog), ought to be proud of helping on the age." And I made him
downright ashamed of himself. He asked me to have a bit of dinner,
and we came to terms over the cheese.'
In this strain did Luckworth Crewe continue to talk across the
gloomy solitudes of Soho. And Nancy would on no account have had him
cease. She was fascinated by his rough vigour and by his visions of
golden prosperity. It seemed to her that they reached very quickly
the restaurant he had in view. With keen enjoyment of the novelty,
she followed him between tables where people were eating, drinking,
smoking, and took a place beside him on a cushioned seat at the end
of the room.
'I know you're tired,' he said. 'There's nearly half-an-hour before
you need move.'
Nancy hesitated in her choice of a refreshment. She wished to have
something unusual, something that fitted an occasion so remarkable,
yet, as Crewe would of course pay, she did not like to propose
'Now let me choose for you,' her companion requested. 'After all
that rough work, you want something more than a drop of lemonade.
I'm going to order a nice little bottle of champagne out of the ice,
and a pretty little sandwich made of whatever you like.'
It had been in her thoughts, a sparkling audacity. Good; champagne
let it be. And she leaned back in defiant satisfaction.
'I didn't expect much from Jubilee Day,' observed the man of
business, 'but that only shows how things turn out--always better
or worse than you think for. I'm not likely to forget it; it's the
best day I've had in my life yet, and I leave you to guess who I owe
'I think this is good wine,' remarked Nancy, as if she had not heard
'Not bad. You wouldn't suppose a fellow of my sort would know
anything about it. But I do. I've drunk plenty of good champagne,
and I shall drink better.'
Nancy ate her sandwich and smiled. The one glass sufficed her; Crewe
drank three. Presently, looking at her with his head propped on his
hand, he said gravely:
'I wonder whether this is the last walk we shall have together?'
'Who can say?' she answered in a light tone.
'Some one ought to be able to say.'
'I never make prophecies, and never believe other people's.'
'Shows your good sense. But _I_ make wishes, and plenty of them.'
'So do I,' said Nancy.
'Then let us both make a wish to ourselves,' proposed Crewe,
regarding her with eyes that had an uncommon light in them.
His companion laughed, then both were quiet for a moment.
They allowed themselves plenty of time to battle their way as far as
Westminster Bridge. At one point police and crowd were in brief
conflict; the burly guardians of order dealt thwacking blows, right
and left, sound fisticuffs, backed with hearty oaths. The night was
young; by magisterial providence, hours of steady drinking lay
before the hardier jubilants. Thwacks and curses would be no rarity
in another hour or two.
At the foot of Parliament Street, Nancy came face to face with
Samuel Barmby, on whose arm hung the wearied Jessica. Without
heeding their exclamations, she turned to her protector and bade him
a hearty good-night. Crewe accepted his dismissal. He made survey of
Barmby, and moved off singing to himself, '_Do not forget me--do
not forget me_--'
Part II: Nature's Graduate
The disorder which Stephen Lord masked as a 'touch of gout' had in
truth a much more disagreeable name. It was now twelve months since
his doctor's first warning, directed against the savoury meats and
ardent beverages which constituted his diet; Stephen resolved upon a
change of habits, but the flesh held him in bondage, and medical
prophecy was justified by the event. All through Jubilee Day he
suffered acutely; for the rest of the week he remained at home,
sometimes sitting in the garden, but generally keeping his room,
where he lay on a couch.
A man of method and routine, sedentary, with a strong dislike of
unfamiliar surroundings, he could not be persuaded to try change of
air. The disease intensified his native stubbornness, made him by
turns fretful and furious, disposed him to a sullen solitude. He
would accept no tendance but that of Mary Woodruff; to her, as to
his children, he kept up the pretence of gout. He was visited only
by Samuel Barmby, with whom he discussed details of business, and by
Mr. Barmby, senior, his friend of thirty years, the one man to whom
he unbosomed himself.
His effort to follow the regimen medically prescribed to him was
even now futile. At the end of a week's time, imagining himself
somewhat better, he resumed his daily walk to Camberwell Road, but
remained at the warehouse only till two or three o'clock, then
returned and sat alone in his room. On one of the first days of
July, when the weather was oppressively hot, he entered the house
about noon, and in a few minutes rang his bell. Mary Woodruff came
to him. He was sitting on the couch, pale, wet with perspiration,
'I want something to drink,' he said wearily, without raising his
'Will you have the lime-water, sir?'
'Yes--what you like.'
Mary brought it to him, and he drank two large glasses, with no
'Where is Nancy?'
'In town, sir. She said she would be back about four.'
He made an angry movement.
'What's she doing in town? She said nothing to me. Why doesn't she
come back to lunch? Where does she go to for all these hours?'
'I don't know, sir.'
The servant spoke in a low, respectful voice, looking at her master
with eyes that seemed to compassionate him.
'Well, it doesn't matter.' He waved a hand, as if in dismissal.
'Wait--if I'm to be alone, I might as well have lunch now. I feel
hungry, as if I hadn't eaten anything for twenty-four hours. Get me
Later in the afternoon his bell again sounded, and Mary answered it.
As he did not speak at once,--he was standing by the window with
his hands behind him,--she asked him his pleasure.
'Bring me some water, Mary, plain drinking-water.'
She returned with a jug and glass, and he took a long draught.
'No, don't go yet. I want to--to talk to you about things. Sit
down there for a minute.'
He pointed to the couch, and Mary, with an anxious look, obeyed him.
'I'm thinking of leaving this house, and going to live in the
country. There's no reason why I shouldn't. My partner can look
after the business well enough.'
'It might be the best thing you could do, sir. The best for your
'Yes, it might. I'm not satisfied with things. I want to make a
decided change, in every way.'
His face had grown more haggard during the last few days, and his
eyes wandered, expressing fretfulness or fear; he spoke with effort,
and seemed unable to find the words that would convey his meaning.
'Now I want you to tell me plainly, what do you think of Nancy?'
'Think of her, sir?'
'No, no--don't speak in that way. I don't want you to call me
'sir'; it isn't necessary; we've known each other so long, and I
think of you as a friend, a very good friend. Think of me in the
same way, and speak naturally. I want to know your opinion of
The listener had a face of grave attention: it signified no
surprise, no vulgar self-consciousness, but perhaps a just
perceptible pleasure. And in replying she looked steadily at her
master for a moment.
'I really don't feel I can judge her, Mr. Lord. It's true, in a way,
I ought to know her very well, as I've seen her day by day since she
was a little thing. But now she's a well-educated and clever young
lady, and she has got far beyond me--'
'Ay, there it is, there it is!' Stephen interrupted with bitterness.
'She's got beyond us--beyond me as well as you. And she isn't what
I meant her to be, very far from it. I haven't brought them up as I
wished. I don't know--I'm sure I don't know why. It was in own
hands. When they were little children, I said to myself: hey shall
grow up plain, good, honest girl and boy. I said that I wouldn't
educate them very much; I saw little good that came of it, in our
rank of life. I meant them to be simple-minded. I hoped Nancy would
marry a plain countryman, like the men I used to know when I was a
boy; a farmer, or something of that kind. But see how it's come
about. It wasn't that I altered my mind about what was best. But I
seemed to have no choice. For one thing, I made more money at
business than I had expected, and so--and so it seemed that they
ought to be educated above me and mine. There was my mother, did a
better woman ever live? She had no education but that of home. She
could have brought up Nancy in the good, old-fashioned way, if I had
let her. I wish I had, yes, I wish I had.'
'I don't think you could have felt satisfied,' said the listener,
with intelligent sympathy.
'Why not? If she had been as good and useful a woman as _you_ are--'
'Ah, you mustn't think in that way, Mr. Lord. I was born and bred to
service. Your daughter had a mind given her at her birth, that would
never have been content with humble things. She was meant for
education and a higher place.'
'What higher place is there for her? She thinks herself too good for
the life she leads here, and yet I don't believe she'll ever find a
place among people of a higher class. She has told me herself it's
my fault. She says I ought to have had a big house for her, so that
she might make friends among the rich. Perhaps she's right. I have
made her neither one thing nor another. Mary, if I had never come to
London, I might have lived happily. My place was away there, in the
old home. I've known that for many a year. I've thought: wait till
I've made a little more money, and I'll go back. But it was never
done; and now it looks to me as if I had spoilt the lives of my
children, as well as my own. I can't trust Nancy, that's the worst
of it. You don't know what she did on Jubilee night. She wasn't with
Mr. Barmby and the others--Barmby told me about it; she pretended
to lose them, and went off somewhere to meet a man she's never
spoken to me about. Is that how a good girl would act? I didn't
speak to her about it; what use? Very likely she wouldn't tell me
the truth. She takes it for granted I can't understand her. She
thinks her education puts her above all plain folk and their ways--
Mary's eyes had fallen, and she kept silence.
'Suppose anything happened to me, and they were left to themselves.
I have money to leave between them, and of course they know it. How
could it do them anything but harm? Do you know that Horace wants to
marry that girl Fanny French--a grinning, chattering fool--if
not worse. He has told me he shall do as he likes. Whether or no it
was right to educate Nancy, I am very sure that I ought to have done
with _him_ as I meant at first. He hasn't the brains to take a good
position. When his schooling went on year after year, I thought at
last to make of him something better than his father--a doctor, or
a lawyer. But he hadn't the brains: he disappointed me bitterly. And
what use can he make of my money, when I'm in my grave? If I die
soon he'll marry, and ruin his life. And won't it be the same with
Nancy? Some plotting, greedy fellow--the kind of man you see
everywhere now-a-days, will fool her for the money's sake.'
'We must hope they'll be much older and wiser before they have to
act for themselves,' said Mary, looking into her master's troubled
'Yes!' He came nearer to her, with a sudden hopefulness. 'And
whether I live much longer or not, I can do something to guard them
against their folly. They needn't have the money as soon as I am
He seated himself in front of his companion.
'I want to ask you something, Mary. If they were left alone, would
you be willing to live here still, as you do now, for a few more
'I shall do whatever you wish--whatever you bid me, Mr. Lord,'
answered the woman, in a voice of heartfelt loyalty.
'You would stay on, and keep house for them?'
'But would they go on living here?'
'I could make them do so. I could put it down as a condition, in my
will. At all events, I would make Nancy stay. Horace might live
where he liked--though not with money to throw about. They have no
relatives that could be of any use to them. I should wish Nancy to
go on living here, and you with her; and she would only have just a
sufficient income, paid by my old friend Barmby, or by his son. And
that till she was--what? I have thought of six-and-twenty. By that
time she would either have learnt wisdom, or she never would. She
must be free sooner or later.'
'But she couldn't live by herself, Mr. Lord.'
'You tell me you would stay,' he exclaimed impulsively.
'Oh, but I am only her servant. That wouldn't be enough.'
'It would be. Your position shall be changed. There's no one living
to whom I could trust her as I could to you. There's no woman I
respect so much. For twenty years you have proved yourself worthy of
respect--and it shall be paid to you.'
His vehemence would brook no opposition.
'You said you would do as I wished. I wish you to have a new
position in this house. You shall no longer be called a servant; you
shall be our housekeeper, and our friend. I will have it, I tell
you!' he cried angrily. 'You shall sit at table with us, and live
with us. Nancy still has sense enough to acknowledge that this is
only your just reward; from her, I know, there won't be a word of
objection. What can you have to say against it?'
The woman was pale with emotion. Her reserve and sensibility shrank
from what seemed to her an invidious honour, yet she durst not
irritate the sick man by opposition.
'It will make Nancy think,' he pursued, with emphasis. 'It will help
her, perhaps, to see the difference between worthless women who put
themselves forward, and the women of real value who make no
pretences. Perhaps it isn't too late to set good examples before
her. I've never found her ill-natured, though she's wilful; it isn't
her heart that's wrong--I hope and think not--only her mind,
that's got stuffed with foolish ideas. Since her grandmother's death
she's had no guidance. You shall talk to her as a woman can; not all
at once, but when she's used to thinking of you in this new way.'
'You are forgetting her friends,' Mary said at length, with eyes of
'Her friends? She's better without such friends. There's one thing I
used to hope, but I've given it up. I thought once that she might
have come to a liking for Samuel Barmby, but now I don't think she
ever will, and I believe it's her friends that are to blame for it.
One thing I know, that she'll never meet with any one who will make
her so good a husband as he would. We don't think alike in every
way; he's a young man, and has the new ideas; but I've known him
since he was a boy, and I respect his character. He has a
conscience, which is no common thing now-a-days. He lives a clean,
homely life--and you won't find many of his age who do. Nancy
thinks herself a thousand times too good for him; I only hope he
mayn't prove a great deal too good for _her_. But I've given up that
thought. I've never spoken to her about it, and I never shall; no
good comes of forcing a girl's inclination. I only tell you of it,
Mary, because I want you to understand what has been going on.'
They heard a bell ring; that of the front door.
'It'll be Miss. Nancy,' said Mary, rising.
'Go to the door then. If it's Nancy, tell her I want to speak to
her, and come back yourself.'
'Do as I tell you--at once!'
All the latent force of Stephen's character now declared itself. He
stood upright, his face stern and dignified. In a few moments, Nancy
entered the room, and Mary followed her at a distance.
'Nancy,' said the father, 'I want to tell you of a change in the
house. You know that Mary has been with us for twenty years. You
know that for a long time we haven't thought of her as a servant,
but as a friend, and one of the best possible. It's time now to show
our gratitude. Mary will continue to help us as before, but
henceforth she is one of our family. She will eat with us and sit
with us; and I look to you, my girl, to make the change an easy and
pleasant one for her.'
As soon as she understood the drift of her father's speech, Nancy
experienced a shock, and could not conceal it. But when silence
came, she had commanded herself. An instant's pause; then, with her
brightest smile, she turned to Mary and spoke in a voice of
'Father is quite right. Your place is with us. I am glad, very
Mary looked from Mr. Lord to his daughter, tried vainly to speak, and
left the room.
His father's contemptuous wrath had an ill effect upon Horace. Of an
amiable disposition, and without independence of character, he might
have been guided by a judicious parent through all the perils of his
calf-love for Fanny French; thrown upon his own feeble resources, he
regarded himself as a victim of the traditional struggle between
prosaic age and nobly passionate youth, and resolved at all hazards
to follow the heroic course--which meant, first of all, a cold
taciturnity towards his father, and, as to his future conduct, a
total disregard of the domestic restraints which he had hitherto
accepted. In a day or two he sat down and wrote his father a long
letter, of small merit as a composition, and otherwise illustrating
the profitless nature of the education for which Stephen Lord had
hopefully paid. It began with a declaration of rights. He was a man;
he could no longer submit to childish trammels. A man must not be
put to inconvenience by the necessity of coming home at early hours.
A man could not brook cross-examination on the subject of his
intimacies, his expenditure, and so forth. Above all, a man was
answerable to no one but himself for his relations with the other
sex, for the sacred hopes he cherished, for his emotions and
aspirations which transcended even a man's vocabulary.--With much
more of like tenor.
To this epistle, delivered by post, Mr. Lord made no answer.
Horace flattered himself that he had gained a victory. There was
nothing like 'firmness,' and that evening, about nine, he went to De
Crespigny Park. As usual, he had to ring the bell two or three times
before any one came; the lively notes of a piano sounded from the
drawing-room, intimating, no doubt, that Mrs. Peachey had guests. The
door at length opened, and he bade the servant let Miss. Fanny know
that he was here; he would wait in the dining-room.
It was not yet dark, but objects could only just be distinguished;
the gloom supplied Horace with a suggestion at which he laughed to
himself. He had laid down his hat and cane, when a voice surprised
'Who's that?' asked some one from the back of the room.
'Oh, are _you_ there, Mr. Peachey?--I've come to see Fanny. I
didn't care to go among the people.'
'All right. We'd better light the gas.'
With annoyance, Horace saw the master of the house come forward, and
strike a match. Remains of dinner were still on the table. The two
'How is your father?' Peachey inquired. He had a dull, depressed
look, and moved languidly to draw down the blind.
'Oh, he isn't quite up to the mark. But it's nothing serious, I
'Miss. Lord quite well?--We haven't seen much of her lately.'
'I don't know why, I'm sure.--Nobody can depend upon her very
'Well, I'll leave you,' said the other, with a dreary look about the
room. 'The table ought to have been cleared by now--but that's
'Confounded servants,' muttered Horace.
'Oh yes, the servants,' was Peachey's ironical reply.
As soon as he was left alone, Horace turned out the gas. Then he
stood near the door, trembling with amorous anticipation. But
minutes went by; his impatience grew intolerable; he stamped, and
twisted his fingers together. Then of a sudden the door opened.
'Why, it's dark, there's nobody here.'
Fanny discovered her mistake. She was seized and lifted off her
'Oh! Do you want to eat me? I'll hit you as hard as I can, I will!
You're spoiling my dress?'
The last remonstrance was in a note that Horace did not venture to
'Strike a light, silly! I know you've done something to my dress.'
Horace pleaded abjectly to be forgiven, and that the room might
remain shadowed; but Fanny was disturbed in temper.
'If you don't light the gas, I'll go at once.'
'I haven't any matches, darling.'
'Oh, just like you! You never have anything. I thought every man
She broke from him, and ran out. Wretched in the fear that she might
not return, Horace waited on the threshold. In the drawing-room some
one was singing 'The Maid of the Mill.' It came to an end, and there
sounded voices, which the tormented listener strove to recognise.
For at least ten minutes he waited, and was all but frantic, when
the girl made her appearance, coming downstairs.
'Never do that again,' she said viciously. 'I've had to unfasten my
things, and put them straight. What a nuisance you are!'
He stood cowed before her, limp and tremulous.
'There, light the gas. Why couldn't you come into the drawing-room,
like other people do?'
'Who is there?' asked the young man, when he had obeyed her.
'Go and see for yourself.'
'Don't be angry, Fanny.' He followed her, like a dog, as she walked
round the table to look at herself in the mirror over the fireplace.
'It was only because I'm so fond of you.'
'Oh, what a silly you are!' she laughed, seating herself on the arm
of an easy-chair. 'Go ahead! What's the latest?'
'Well, for one thing, I've had a very clear understanding with the
gov'nor about my independence. I showed him that I meant having my
own way, and he might bully as much as he liked.'
It was not thus that Horace would naturally have spoken, not thus
that he thought of his father. Fanny had subdued him to her own
level, poisoned him with the desires excited by her presence. And he
knew his baseness; he was not ignorant of the girl's ignoble nature.
Only the fury of a virgin passion enabled him to talk, and sometimes
think, as though he were in love with ideal purity.
'I didn't think you had the pluck,' said Fanny, swinging one of her
feet as she tittered.
'That shows you haven't done me justice.'
'And you're going to stay out late at night?'
'As late as I like,' Horace answered, crossing his arms.
'Then where will you take me to-morrow?'
It happened that Horace was in funds just now; he had received his
quarter's salary. Board and lodging were no expense to him; he
provided his own clothing, but, with this exception, had to meet no
serious claim. So, in reply to Fanny's characteristic question, he
'Wherever you like.--"Dorothy," "Ruddigore--"'
Delighted with his assent, she became more gracious, permitted a
modest caress, and presently allowed herself to be drawn on to her
lover's knee. She was passive, unconcerned; no second year graduate
of the pavement could have preserved a completer equanimity; it did
not appear that her pulse quickened ever so slightly, nor had her
eyelid the suspicion of a droop. She hummed 'Queen of my Heart,' and
grew absent in speculative thought, whilst Horace burned and panted
at the proximity of her white flesh.
'Oh, how I do love you, Fanny!'
She trod playfully on his toe.
'You haven't told the old gentleman yet?'
'I--I'm thinking about it. But, Fanny, suppose he was to--to
refuse to do anything for us. Would it make any difference? There
are lots of people who marry on a hundred and fifty a year--oh
The maiden arched her brows, and puckered her lips. Hitherto it had
been taken for granted that Mr. Lord would be ready with subsidy;
Horace, in a large, vague way, had hinted that assurance long ago.
Fanny's disinclination to plight her troth--she still deemed
herself absolutely free--had alone interfered between the young
man and a definite project of marriage.
'What kind of people?' she asked coldly.
'Oh--respectable, educated people, like ourselves.'
'And live in apartments? Thank you; I don't quite see myself. There
isn't a bit of hurry, dear boy. Wait a bit.' She began to sing 'Wait
till the clouds roll by.'
'If you thought as much of me as I do of you--'
Tired of her position, Fanny jumped up and took a spoonful of sweet
jelly from a dish on the table.
'Come here again. I've something more to tell you. Something very
She could only be prevailed upon to take a seat near him. Horace,
beset with doubts as to his prudence, but unable to keep the secret,
began to recount the story of his meeting with Mrs. Damerel, whom he
had now seen for the second time. Fanny's curiosity, instantly
awakened, grew eager as he proceeded. She questioned with skill and
pertinacity, and elicited many more details than Nancy Lord had been
able to gather.
'You'll promise me not to say a word to any one?' pleaded Horace.
'I won't open my lips. But you're quite sure she's as old as you
'Old enough to be my mother, I assure you.'
The girl's suspicions were not wholly set at rest, but she made no
further display of them.
'Now just think what an advantage it might be to you, to know her,'
Horace pursued. 'She'd introduce you at once to fashionable society,
really tip-top people. How would you like that?'
'Not bad,' was the judicial reply.
'She must have no end of money, and who knows what she might do for
'It's a jolly queer thing,' mused the maiden.
'There's no denying that. We must keep it close, whatever we do.'
'You haven't told anybody else?'
'Not a soul!' Horace lied stoutly.
They were surprised by the sudden opening of the door; a servant
appeared to clear the table. Fanny reprimanded her for neglecting to
'We may as well go into the drawing-room. There's nobody particular.
Only Mrs. Middlemist, and Mr. Crewe, and--'
In the hall they encountered Crewe himself, who stood there
conversing with Beatrice. A few words were exchanged by the two men,
and Horace followed his enchantress into the drawing-room, where he
found, seated in conversation with Mrs. Peachey, two persons whom he
had occasionally met here. One of them, Mrs. Middlemist, was a stout,
coarse, high-coloured woman, with fingers much bejewelled. Until a
year or two ago she had adorned the private bar of a public-house
kept by her husband; retired from this honourable post, she now
devoted herself to society and the domestic virtues. The other
guest, Mrs. Murch by name, proclaimed herself, at a glance, of less
prosperous condition, though no less sumptuously arrayed. Her face
had a hungry, spiteful, leering expression; she spoke in a shrill,
peevish tone, and wriggled nervously on her chair. In eleven years
of married life, Mrs. Murch had borne six children, all of whom died
before they were six months old. She lived apart from her husband,
who had something to do with the manufacture of an Infants' Food.
Fanny was requested to sing. She sat down at the piano, rattled a
prelude, and gave forth an echo of the music-halls:
'_It's all up with poor Tommy now.
I shall never more be happy, I vow.
It's just a week to-day
Since my Sairey went away,
And it's all up with poor Tommy now_.'
Mrs. Middlemist, who prided herself upon serious vocal powers,
remarked that comic singing should be confined to men.
'You haven't a bad voice, my dear, if you would only take pains with
it. Now sing us "For Ever and for Ever."'
This song being the speaker's peculiar glory, she was of course
requested to sing it herself, and, after entreaty, consented. Her
eyes turned upward, her fat figure rolling from side to side, her
mouth very wide open, Mrs. Middlemist did full justice to the erotic
passion of this great lyric:
'_Perchawnce if we 'ad never met,
We 'ad been spared this mad regret,
This hendless striving to forget--
For hever--hand--for he-e-e-ver!_'
Mrs. Murch let her head droop sentimentally. Horace glanced at Fanny,
who, however, seemed absorbed in reflections as unsentimental as
In the meanwhile, on a garden seat under the calm but misty sky, sat
Luckworth Crewe and Beatrice French. Crewe smoked a cigar placidly;
Beatrice was laying before him the suggestion of her great
commercial scheme, already confided to Fanny.
'How does it strike you?' she asked at length.
'Not bad, old chap. There's something in it, if you're clever enough
to carry it through. And I shouldn't wonder if you are.' 'Will you
help to set it going?'
'Can't help with money,' Crewe replied.
'Very well; will you help in other ways? Practical hints, and so
'Of course I will. Always ready to encourage merit in the
money-making line. What capital are you prepared to put into it?'
'Not much. The public must supply the capital.'
'A sound principle,' Crewe laughed. 'But I shouldn't go on the old
lines. You didn't think of starting a limited company? You'd find
difficulties. Now what you want to start is a--let us call it the
South London Dress Supply Association, or something of that kind.
But you won't get to that all at once. You ought to have premises to
'I'm aware of it.'
'Can you raise a thousand or so?'
'Yes, I could--if I chose.'
'Now, look here. Your notion of the Fashion Club is a deuced good
one, and I don't see why it shouldn't be pretty easily started. Out
of every five hundred women, you can reckon on four hundred and
ninety-nine being fools; and there isn't a female fool who wouldn't
read and think about a circular which promised her fashionable
dresses for an unfashionable price. That's a great and sound basis
to start on. What I advise is, that you should first of all
advertise for a dress-making concern that would admit a partner with
a small capital. You'll have between ten and twelve hundred replies,
but don't be staggered; go through them carefully, and select a shop
that's well situated, and doing a respectable trade. Get hold of
these people, and induce them to make changes in their business to
suit your idea. Then blaze away with circulars, headed "South London
Fashion Club;" send them round the whole district, addressed to
women. Every idiot of them will, at all events, come and look at the
shop; that can be depended upon; in itself no bad advertisement.
Arrange to have a special department--special entrance, if
possible--with "The Club" painted up. Yes, by jingo! Have a big
room, with comfortable chairs, and the women's weekly papers lying
about, and smart dresses displayed on what-d'ye-call-'ems, like they
have in windows. Make the subscription very low at first, and give
rattling good value; never mind if you lose by it. Then, when you've
got hold of a lot of likely people, try them with the share project.
By-the-bye, if you lose no time, you can bring in the Jubilee
somehow. Yes, start with the "Jubilee Fashion Club." I wonder
nobody's done it already.'
Beatrice was growing elated.
'The public has to wait for its benefactors,' she replied.
'I'll tell you what, would you like me to sketch you out a
prospectus of the Club?'
'Yes, you might do that if you like. You won't expect to be paid?'
'Hang it! what do you take me for?'
'Business is business,' Miss. French remarked coldly.
'So it is. And friendship is friendship. Got a match?' He laughed.
'No, I suppose you haven't.'
'I'll go and get you one if you like.'
'There's a good fellow. I'll think in the meantime.'
Beatrice rose lazily, and was absent for several minutes. When she
returned, Crewe re-lit his cigar.
'Why shouldn't I start the shop on my own account?' Beatrice asked.
'You haven't capital enough. A little place wouldn't do.'
'I think I can get Fanny to join me.'
'Can you? What will young Lord have to say to that?'
'Psh! That's all fooling. It'll never come to anything. Unless, of
course, the old man turned up his toes, and left the boy a tidy sum.
But he won't just yet. I've told Fanny that if she'll raise
something on her houses, I'll guarantee her the same income she has
'Take my advice,' said Crewe weightily, 'and hook on to an
established business. Of course, you can change the name if you
like; and there'd have to be alterations, and painting up, to give a
'It's risky, dealing with strangers. How if they got hold of my
idea, and then refused to take me in?'
'Well now, look here. After all, I'll make a bargain with you, old
chap. If I can introduce you to the right people, and get you safely
started, will you give me all your advertising, on the usual
'You mean, give it to Bullock and Freeman?'
'No, I don't. It's a secret just yet, but I'm going to start for
Beatrice was silent. They exchanged a look in the gloom, and Crewe
nodded, in confirmation of his announcement.
'How much have you got?' Miss. French inquired carelessly.
'Not much. Most of the capital is here.' He touched his forehead.
'Same as with you.'
The young woman glanced at him again, and said in a lower voice:
'You'd have had more by now, if--'
Crewe waited, puffing his cigar, but she did not finish.
'Maybe,' he replied impartially. 'Maybe not.'
'Don't think I'm sorry,' Beatrice hastened to add. 'It was an idea,
like any other.'
'Not half a bad idea. But there were obstacles.'
After a pause, Beatrice inquired:
'Do you still think the same about women with money?'
'Just the same,' Crewe replied at once, though with less than his
usual directness; the question seemed to make him meditative. 'Just
the same. Every man looks at it in his own way, of course. I'm not
the sort of chap to knuckle under to my wife; and there isn't one
woman in a thousand, if she gave her husband a start, could help
reminding him of it. It's the wrong way about. Let women be as
independent as they like as long as they're not married. I never
think the worse of them, whatever they do that's honest. But a wife
must play second fiddle, and think her husband a small god almighty
--that's my way of looking at the question.'
Beatrice laughed scornfully.
'All right. We shall see.--When do you start business?'
'This side Christmas. End of September, perhaps.'
'You think to snatch a good deal from B. & F., I daresay?'
Crewe nodded and smiled.
'Then you'll look after this affair for me?' said Beatrice, with a
return to the tone of strict business.
'Without loss of time. You shall be advised of progress. Of course I
must debit you with exes.'
'All right. Mind you charge for all the penny stamps.'
'Every one--don't you forget it.'
He stood up, tilted forward on his toes, and stretched himself.
'I'll be trotting homewards. It'll be time for by-by when I get to
Nancy was undisturbed by the promotion of Mary Woodruff. A short
time ago it would have offended her; she would have thought her
dignity, her social prospects, imperilled. She was now careless on
that score, and felt it a relief to cast off the show of domestic
authority. Henceforth her position would be like that of Horace. All
she now desired was perfect freedom from responsibility,--to be,
as it were, a mere lodger in the house, to come and go unquestioned
and unrestrained by duties.
Thus, by aid of circumstance, had she put herself into complete
accord with the spirit of her time. Abundant privilege; no
obligation. A reference of all things to her sovereign will and
pleasure. Withal, a defiant rather than a hopeful mood; resentment
of the undisguisable fact that her will was sovereign only in a poor
little sphere which she would gladly have transcended.
Now-a-days she never went in the direction of Champion Hill,
formerly her favourite walk. If Jessica Morgan spoke of her
acquaintances there, she turned abruptly to another subject. She
thought of the place as an abode of arrogance and snobbery. She
recalled with malicious satisfaction her ill-mannered remark to
Lionel Tarrant. Let him think of her as he would; at all events he
could no longer imagine her overawed by his social prestige. The
probability was that she had hurt him in a sensitive spot; it might
be hoped that the wound would rankle for a long time.
Her personal demeanour showed a change. So careful hitherto of
feminine grace and decorum, she began to affect a mannishness of
bearing, a bluntness of speech, such as found favour at De Crespigny
Park. In a few weeks she had resumed friendly intercourse with Mrs.
Peachey and her sisters, and spent an occasional evening at their
house. Her father asked no questions; she rarely saw him except at
meals. A stranger must have observed the signs of progressive malady
in Mr. Lord's face, but Nancy was aware of nothing to cause
uneasiness; she thought of him as suffering a little from 'gout;'
elderly people were of course subject to such disorders. On most
days he went to business; if he remained at home, Mary attended him
assiduously, and he would accept no other ministration.
Nancy was no longer inclined to study, and cared little for reading
of any sort. That new book on Evolution, which she had brought from
the library just before Jubilee Day, was still lying about; a dozen
times she had looked at it with impatience, and reminded herself
that it must be returned. Evolution! She already knew all about
Darwinism, all she needed to know. If necessary she could talk about
it--oh, with an air. But who wanted to talk about such things?
After all, only priggish people,--the kind of people who lived at
Champion Hill. Or idiots like Samuel Bennett Barmby, who bothered
about the future of the world. What was it to _her_--the future of
the world? She wanted to live in the present, to enjoy her youth. An
evening like that she had spent in the huge crowd, with a man like
Crewe to amuse her with his talk, was worth whole oceans of
'Culture' she already possessed, abundance of it. The heap of books
she had read! Last winter she had attended a course of lectures,
delivered by 'a young University gentleman with a tone of bland
omniscience, on 'The History of Hellenic Civilisation;' her written
answers to the little 'test papers' had been marked 'very
satisfactory.' Was it not a proof of culture achieved? Education
must not encroach upon the years of maturity. Nature marked the time
when a woman should begin to live.
There was poor Jessica. As July drew on, Jessica began to look
cadaverous, ghostly. She would assuredly break down long before the
time of her examination. What a wretched, what an absurd existence!
Her home, too, was so miserable. Mrs. Morgan lay ill, unable to
attend to anything; if she could not have a change of air, it must
soon be all over with her. But they had no money, no chance of going
to the seaside.
It happened at length that Mr. Lord saw Jessica one evening, when she
had come to spend an hour in Grove Lane. After her departure, he
asked Nancy what was the matter with the girl, and Nancy explained
'Well, why not take her with you, when you go away?'
'I didn't know that I was going away, father. Nothing has been said
'It's your own business. I leave you to make what plans you like.'
'_You_ ought to have a change,' she said considerately. 'It would do
you good. Suppose we all go to Teignmouth? I should think that would
'I enjoyed it last year. And the lodgings were comfortable. We could
have the same, from the first week in August.'
'How do you know?'
'I wrote the other day, and asked,' Nancy replied with a smile.
But Mr. Lord declined to leave home. Mary Woodruff did her best to
persuade him, until he angrily imposed silence. In a day or two he
said to Nancy:
'If you wish to go to Teignmouth, take Jessica and her mother.
People mustn't die for want of a five-pound note. Make your
arrangements, and let me know what money you'll need.'
'It's very kind of you, father.'
Mr. Lord turned away. His daughter noticed that he walked feebly, and
she felt a moment's compunction.
'Father--you are not so well to-day.'
Without looking round, he replied that he would be well enough if
left alone; and Nancy did not venture to say more.
A few days later, she called in De Crespigny Park after dinnertime.
Mrs. Peachey and Fanny were at Brighton; Beatrice had preferred to
stay in London, being very busy with her great project. Whilst she
talked of it with Nancy, Peachey and Luckworth Crewe came in
together. There was sprightly conversation, in which the host,
obviously glad of his wife's absence, took a moderate part.
Presently, Miss. Lord and he found themselves gossiping alone; the
other two had moved aside, and, as a look informed Nancy, were deep
in confidential dialogue.
'What do you think of that business?' she asked her companion in an
'I shouldn't wonder if it answers,' said the young man, speaking as
usual, with a soft, amiable voice. 'Our friend is helping, and he
generally knows what he's about.'
Crewe remained only for half-an-hour; on shaking hands with him,
Nancy made known that she was going to the seaside next Monday for a
few weeks, and the man of business answered only with 'I hope you'll
enjoy yourself.' Soon afterwards, she took leave. At the junction of
De Crespigny Park and Grove Lane, some one approached her, and with
no great surprise Nancy saw that it was Crewe.
'Been waiting for you,' he said. 'You remember you promised me
'Oh, it's much too late.'
'Of course it is. I didn't mean now. But to-morrow.'
'Impossible.' She moved on, in the direction away from her home. 'I
shall be with friends in the evening, the Morgans.'
'Confound it! I had made up my mind to ask you for last Saturday,
but some country people nabbed me for the whole of that day. I took
them up the Monument, and up St Paul's.'
'I've never been up the Monument,' said Nancy.
'Never? Come to-morrow afternoon then. You can spare the afternoon.
Let's meet early somewhere. Take a bus to London Bridge. I'll be at
the north end of London Bridge at three o'clock.'
'All right; I'll be there,' Nancy replied off-hand.
'You really will? Three, sharp. I was never late at an appointment,
business or pleasure.'
'Which do you consider this?' asked his companion, with a shrewd
'Now that's unkind. I came here to-night on business, though. You
quite understand that, didn't you? I shouldn't like you to make any
mistake. Business, pure and simple.'
'Why, of course,' replied Nancy, with an ingenuous air. 'What else
could it be?' And she added, 'Don't come any further. Ta-ta!'
Crewe went off into the darkness.
The next afternoon, Nancy alighted at London Bridge a full quarter
of an hour late. It had been raining at intervals through the day,
and clouds still cast a gloom over the wet streets. Crewe, quite
insensible to atmospheric influence, came forward with his wonted
brisk step and animated visage. At Miss. Lord's side he looked rather
more plebeian than when walking by himself; his high-hat, not of the
newest, utterly misbecame his head, and was always at an
unconventional angle, generally tilting back; his clothes, of no
fashionable cut, bore the traces of perpetual hurry and multifarious
impact. But he carried a perfectly new and expensive umbrella, to
which, as soon as he had shaken hands with her, he drew Nancy's
'A present this morning, from a friend of mine in the business. I
ran into his shop to get shelter. Upon my word, I had no intention;
didn't think anything about it. However, he owed me an
acknowledgment; I've sent him three customers from our office since
I saw him last. By-the-bye, I shall have half a day at the seaside
on Monday. There's a sale of building-plots down at Whitsand. The
estate agents run a complimentary special train for people going
down to bid, and give a lunch before the auction begins. Not bad
'Are _you_ going to bid?' asked Nancy.
'I'm going to have a look, at all events; and if I see anything that
takes my fancy--. Ever been to Whitsand? I'm told it's a growing
place. I should like to get hold of a few advertising stations.--
Where is it you are going to on Monday? Teignmouth? I don't know
that part of the country. Wish I could run down, but I shan't have
time. I've got my work cut out for August and September. Would you
like to come and see the place where I think of opening shop?'
'Is it far?'
'No. We'll walk round when we've been up the Monument. You don't
often go about the City, I daresay. Nothing doing, of course, on a
Nancy made him moderate his pace, which was too quick for her. Part
of the pleasure she found in Crewe's society came from her sense of
being so undeniably his superior; she liked to give him a sharp
command, and observe his ready obedience. To his talk she listened
with a good-natured, condescending smile, occasionally making a
remark which implied a more liberal view, a larger intelligence,
than his. Thus, as they stood for a moment to look down at the
steamboat wharf, and Crewe made some remark about the value of a
cargo just being discharged, she said carelessly:
'I suppose that's the view you take of everything? You rate
everything at market price.'
'Marketable things, of course. But you know me well enough to
understand that I'm not always thinking of the shop. Wait till I've
made money.--Now then, clumsy!'
A man, leaning over the parapet by Nancy's side, had pushed against
her. Thus addressed he glared at the speaker, but encountered a
bellicose look which kept him quiet.
'I shall live in a big way,' Crewe continued, as they walked on
towards Fish Street Hill. 'Not for the swagger of it; I don't care
about that, but because I've a taste for luxury. I shall have a
country house, and keep good horses. And I should like to have a
little farm of my own, a model farm; make my own butter and cheese,
and know that I ate the real thing. I shall buy pictures. Haven't I
told you I like pictures? Oh yes. I shall go round among the
artists, and encourage talent that hasn't made itself known.'
'Can you recognise it?' asked Nancy.
'Well, I shall learn to. And I shall have my wife's portrait painted
by some first-rate chap, never mind what it costs, and hung in the
Academy. That's a great idea of mine--to see my wife's portrait in
His companion laughed.