Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Dmitriy Genzel and PG Distributed Proofreaders
MR. WADDINGTON OF WYCK
BY MAY SINCLAIR
MR. WADDINGTON OF WYCK
Barbara wished she would come back. For the last hour Fanny Waddington
had kept on passing in and out of the room through the open door into
the garden, bringing in tulips, white, pink, and red tulips, for the
flowered Lowestoft bowls, hovering over them, caressing them with her
delicate butterfly fingers, humming some sort of song to herself.
The song mixes itself up with the Stores list Barbara was making: "Two
dozen glass towels. Twelve pounds of Spratt's puppy biscuits. One dozen
gent.'s all-silk pyjamas, extra large size" ... "A-hoom--hoom,
a-hoom--hoom" (that _Impromptu_ of Schubert's), and with the notes
Barbara was writing: "Mrs. Waddington has pleasure in enclosing...."
Fanny Waddington would always have pleasure in enclosing something....
"A ho-om--boom, hoom, hee." A sound so light that it hardly stirred the
quiet of the room. If a butterfly could hum it would hum like Fanny
Barbara Madden had not been two days at Lower Wyck Manor, and already
she was at home there; she knew by heart Fanny's drawing-room with the
low stretch of the Tudor windows at each end, their lattices panelled by
the heavy mullions, the back one looking out on to the green garden
bordered with wallflowers and tulips; the front one on to the round
grass-plot and the sundial, the drive and the shrubbery beyond, down the
broad walk that cut through it into the clear reaches of the park. She
liked the interior, the Persian carpet faded to patches of grey and fawn
and old rose, the port-wine mahogany furniture, the tables thrusting out
the brass claws of their legs, the latticed cabinets and bookcases, the
chintz curtains and chair-covers, all red dahlias and powder-blue
parrots on a cream-coloured ground. But when Fanny wasn't there you
could feel the room ache with the emptiness she left.
Barbara ached. She caught herself listening for Fanny Waddington's feet
on the flagged path and the sound of her humming. As she waited she
looked up at the picture over the bureau in the recess of the
fireplace, the portrait in oils of Horatio Bysshe Waddington, Fanny's
He was seated, heavily seated with his spread width and folded height,
in one of the brown-leather chairs of his library, dressed in a tweed
coat, putty-coloured riding breeches, a buff waistcoat, and a grey-blue
tie. The handsome, florid face was lifted in a noble pose above the
stiff white collar; you could see the full, slightly drooping lower lip
under the shaggy black moustache. There was solemnity in the thick,
rounded salient of the Roman nose, in the slightly bulging eyes, and in
the almost imperceptible line that sagged from each nostril down the
long curve of the cheeks. This figure, one great thigh crossed on the
other, was extraordinarily solid against the smoky background where the
clipped black hair made a watery light. His eyes were not looking at
anything in particular. Horatio Bysshe Waddington seemed to be absorbed
in some solemn thought.
His wife's portrait hung over the card-table in the other recess.
Barbara hoped he would be nice; she hoped he would be interesting, since
she had to be his secretary. But, of course, he would be. Anybody so
enchanting as Fanny could never have married him if he wasn't. She
wondered how she, Barbara Madden, would play her double part of
secretary to him and companion to her. She had been secretary to other
men before; all through the war she had been secretary to somebody, but
she had never had to be companion to their wives. Perhaps it was a good
thing that Fanny, as she kept on reminding her, had "secured" her first.
She was glad he wasn't there when she arrived and wouldn't be till the
day after to-morrow (he had wired that morning to tell them); so that for
two days more she would have Fanny to herself.
"Well, what do you think of him?"
Fanny had come back into the room; she was hovering behind her.
"I--I think he's jolly good-looking."
"Well, you see, that was painted seventeen years ago. He was young
"Has he changed much since?"
"Dear me, no," said Fanny. "He hasn't changed at all."
"No more have you, I think."
"Oh, _me_--in seventeen years!"
She was still absurdly like her portrait, after seventeen years, with
her light, slender body, poised for one of her flights, her quick
movements of butterfly and bird, with her small white face, the terrier
nose lifted on the moth-wing shadows of her nostrils, her dark-blue
eyes, that gazed at you, close under the low black eyebrows, her brown
hair that sprang in two sickles from the peak on her forehead, raking up
to the backward curve of the chignon, a profile of cyclamen. And her
mouth, the fine lips drawn finer by her enchanting smile. All these
features set in such strange, sensitive unity that her mouth looked at
you and her eyes said things. No matter how long she lived she would
always be young.
"Oh, my dear child," she said, "you are so like your mother."
"Am I? Were you afraid I wouldn't be?"
"A little, just a little afraid. I thought you'd be modern."
"So I am. So was mother."
"Not when I knew her."
"Afterwards then." A sudden thought came to Barbara. "Mrs. Waddington,
if mother was your dearest friend why haven't you known me all this
"Your mother and I lost sight of each other before you were born."
"Mother didn't want to."
"Mother would have hated you to think she did."
"I never thought it. She must have known I didn't."
"Did we lose sight?"
"Yes, why? People don't, if they can help it, if they care enough. And
"You're a persistent little thing, aren't you? Are you trying to make
out that I didn't care?"
"I'm trying to make you see that mother did."
"Well, my dear, we both cared, but we _couldn't_ help it. We married,
and our husbands didn't hit it off."
"Didn't they? And daddy was so nice. Didn't you know how nice he was?"
"Oh, yes. I knew. My husband was nice, too, Barbara; though you mightn't
"Oh, but I do. I'm sure he is. Only I haven't seen him yet."
"So nice. But," said Fanny, pursuing her own thought, "he never made a
joke in his life, and your father never _made_ anything else."
"Daddy didn't 'make' jokes. They came to him."
"I've seen them come. He never sent any of them away, no matter how
naughty they were, or how expensive. I used to adore his jokes.... But
Horatio didn't. He didn't like my adoring them, so you see--"
"I see. I wonder," said Barbara, looking up at the portrait again,
"what he's thinking about?"
"I used to wonder."
"But you know now?"
"Yes, I know now," Fanny said.
"What'll happen," said Barbara, "if _I_ make jokes?"
"Nothing. He'll never see them."
"If he saw daddy's--"
"Oh, but he didn't. That was me."
Barbara was thoughtful. "I daresay," she said, "you won't keep me long.
Supposing I can't do the work?"
"The _work_?" Fanny's eyes were interrogative and a little surprised, as
though they were saying, "Who said work? What work?"
"Well, Mr. Waddington's work. I've got to help him with his book,
"Oh, his book, yes. _When_ he's writing it. He isn't always. Does he
look," said Fanny, "like a man who'd always be writing a book?"
"No. I can't say he does, exactly." (What _did_ he look like?)
"Well, then, it'll be all right. I mean _we_ shall be."
"I only wondered whether I could really do what he wants."
"If Ralph could," said Fanny, "you can."
"Ralph is my cousin. He _was_ Horatio's secretary."
"_Was_." Barbara considered it. "Did _he_ make jokes, then?"
"Lots. But that wasn't why he left.... It was an awful pity, too;
because he's most dreadfully hard up."
"If he's hard up," Barbara said, "I couldn't bear to think I've done him
out of a job."
"You haven't. He had to go."
Fanny turned again to her flowers and Barbara to her Stores list.
"Are you sure," Fanny said suddenly, "you put 'striped'?"
"Striped? The pyjamas? No, I haven't."
"Then, for goodness' sake, put it. Supposing they sent those awful
Futurist things; why, he'd frighten me into fits. Can't you see Horatio
stalking in out of his dressing-room, all magenta blobs and forked
"I haven't seen him at all yet," said Barbara.
"Well, you wait.... Does my humming annoy you?"
"Not a bit. I like it. It's such a happy sound."
"I always do it," said Fanny, "when I'm happy."
You could hear feet, feet in heavy soled boots, clanking on the drive
that ringed the grass-plot and the sundial; the eager feet of a young
man. Fanny turned her head, listening.
"There _is_ Ralph," she said. "Come in, Ralph!"
The young man stood in the low, narrow doorway, filling it with his
slender height and breadth. He looked past Fanny, warily, into the far
corner of the room, and when his eyes found Barbara at her bureau they
"Oh, _come_ in," Fanny said. "He isn't here. He won't be till Friday.
This is Ralph Bevan, Barbara; and this is Barbara Madden, Ralph."
He bowed, still smiling, as if he saw something irrepressibly amusing in
her presence there.
"Yes," said Fanny to the smile. "Your successor."
"I congratulate you, Miss Madden."
"Don't be an ironical beast. She's just said she couldn't bear to think
she'd done you out of your job."
"Well, I couldn't," said Barbara.
"That's very nice of you. But you didn't do me out of anything. It was
the act of God."
"It was Horatio's act. Not that Miss Madden meant any reflection on his
justice and his mercy."
"I don't know about his justice," Ralph said. "But he was absolutely
merciful when he fired me out."
"Is it so awfully hard then?" said Barbara.
"You may not find it so."
"Oh, but I'm going to be Mrs. Waddington's companion, too."
"You'll be all right then. They wouldn't let _me_ be that."
"He means you'll be safe, dear. You won't be fired out whatever
"Whatever sort of secretary I am?"
"Yes. She can be any sort she likes, in reason, can't she?"
"She can't be a worse one than I was, anyhow."
Barbara was aware that he had looked at her, a long look, half
thoughtful, half amused, as if he were going to say something different,
something that would give her a curious light on herself, and had
thought better of it.
Fanny Waddington was protesting. "My dear boy, it wasn't for
incompetence. She's simply dying to know what you _did_ do."
"You can tell her."
"He wanted to write Horatio's book for him, and Horatio wouldn't let
him. That was all."
"Oh, well, _I_ shan't want to write it," Barbara said.
"We thought perhaps you wouldn't," said Fanny.
But Barbara had turned to her bureau, affecting a discreet absorption in
her list. And presently Ralph Bevan went out into the garden with Fanny
to gather more tulips.
She _had_ been dying to know what he had done, but now, after Ralph had
stayed to lunch and tea and dinner that first day, after he had spent
all yesterday at the Manor, and after he had turned up to-day at ten
o'clock in the morning, Barbara thought she had made out the history,
though they had been very discreet and Fanny had insisted on reading
"Tono-Bungay" out loud half the time.
Ralph, of course, was in love with his cousin Fanny. To be sure, she
must be at least ten years older than he was, but that wouldn't matter.
And, of course, it was rather naughty of him, but then again, very
likely he couldn't help it. It had just come on him when he wasn't
thinking; and who could help being in love with Fanny? You could be in
love with people quite innocently and hopelessly. There was no sin where
there wasn't any hope.
And perhaps Fanny was innocently, ever so innocently, in love with him;
or, if she wasn't, Horatio thought she was, which came to much the same
thing; so that anyhow poor Ralph had to go. The explanation they had
given, Barbara thought, was rather thin, not quite worthy of their
It was Friday, Barbara's fifth day. She was walking home with Ralph
Bevan through the Waddingtons' park, down the main drive that led from
Wyck-on-the-Hill to Lower Wyck Manor.
It wouldn't be surprising, she thought, if Fanny were in love with her
cousin; he was, as she put it to herself, so distinctly
"fallable-in-love-with." She could see Fanny surrendering, first to his
sudden laughter, his quick, delighted mind, his innocent, engaging
frankness. He would, she thought, be endlessly amusing, endlessly
interesting, because he was so interested, so amused. There was
something that pleased her in the way he walked, hatless, his head
thrown back, his shoulders squared, his hands thrust into his coat
pockets, safe from gesture; something in the way he spun round in his
path to face her with his laughter. He had Fanny's terrier nose with the
ghost of a kink in it; his dark hair grew back in a sickle on each
temple; it wouldn't lie level and smooth like other people's, but sprang
up, curled from the clipping. His eyes were his own, dappled eyes, green
and grey, black and brown, sparkling; so was his mouth, which was
neither too thin nor too thick--determination in the thrusting curve of
that lower lip--and his chin, which was just a shade too big for it, a
shade too big for his face. His cheeks were sunburnt, and a little
shower of ochreish freckles spread from the sunburn and peppered the
slopes of his nose. She wanted to sketch him.
"Doesn't Mrs. Waddington ever go for walks?" she said.
"Fanny? No. She's too lazy."
"Too active, if you like, in other ways.... How long have you known
"Just five days."
"Yes; but, you see, years ago she was my mother's dearest friend. That's
how I came to be their secretary. When she saw my name in the
advertisement she thought it must be me. And it was me. They hadn't seen
each other for years and years. My father and Mr. Waddington didn't hit
it off together, I believe."
"You haven't seen him yet?"
"No. There seems to be some mystery about him."
"Yes. What is it? Or mayn't you tell?"
"I _won't_ tell. It wouldn't be kind."
"Then don't--don't. I didn't know it was that sort of thing."
Ralph laughed. "It isn't. I meant it wouldn't be kind to you. I don't
want to spoil him for you."
"Then there _is_--tell me one thing: Shall I get on with him all right?"
"Don't ask me _that_."
"I mean, will he be awfully difficult to work with?"
"Because he sacked me? No. Only you mustn't let on that you know better
than he does. And if you want to keep your job, you mustn't contradict
"Now you've made me want to contradict him. Whatever he says I shall
have to say the other thing whether I agree with him or not."
"Don't you think you could temporize a bit? For her sake."
"Did _you_ temporize?"
"Rather. I was as meek and servile as I knew how."
"As you knew how. Do you think I shall know better?"
"Yes, you're a woman. You can get on the right side of him. Will you try
to, because of Fanny? I'm most awfully glad she's got you, and I want
you to stay. Between you and me she has a very thin time with
"There it is. I know--I know--I _know_ I'm going to hate him."
"Oh, no, you're not. You can't _hate_ Waddington."
"Oh, Lord, no. I wouldn't mind him a bit, poor old thing, if he wasn't
He had almost as good as owned it, almost put her in possession of their
secret. She conceived it--his secret, Fanny's secret--as all innocence
on her part, all chivalry on his; tender and hopeless and pure.
They had come to the white gate that led between the shrubberies and the
grass-plot with the yellow-grey stone house behind it.
It was nice, she thought, of Fanny to make Mr. Bevan take her for these
long walks when she couldn't go with them; but Barbara felt all the time
that she ought to apologize to the young man for not being Fanny,
especially when Mr. Waddington was coming back to-day by the three-forty
train and this afternoon would be their last for goodness knew how long.
And as they talked--about Ralph's life before the war and the jobs he
had lost because of it (he had been a journalist), and about Barbara's
job at the War Office, and air raids and the games they both went in
for, and their favourite authors and the room he had in the White Hart
Inn at Wyck--as they talked, fluently, with the ease of old
acquaintances, almost of old friends, Barbara admired the beauty of Mr.
Bevan's manners; you would have supposed that instead of suffering, as
he must be suffering, agonies of impatience and irritation, he had never
enjoyed anything in his life so much as this adventure that was just
coming to an end.
He had opened the gate for her and now stood with his back to it,
holding out his hand, saying "Good-bye."
"Aren't you coming in?" she said. "Mrs. Waddington expects you for tea."
"No," he said, "she doesn't. She knows I can't come if he's there."
He paused. "By the way, that book of his, it's in an appalling muddle. I
hadn't time to do much to it before I left. If you can't get it straight
you must come to me and I'll help you."
"That's very good of you."
"Rather not. It _was_ my job, you know."
He was backing through the gate, saluting as he went. And now he had
turned and was running with raking, athletic paces up the grass border
of the park.
"Tea is in the library, miss."
This announcement, together with Partridge's extraordinary increase of
importance, would have told her that the master had returned, even if
she had not seen, through the half-open door of the cloak-room, Mr.
Waddington's overcoat hanging by its shoulders and surmounted by his
grey slouch hat.
With a rapid, furtive movement the butler closed the door on these
sanctities; and she noted the subdued quiet of his footsteps as he led
the way down the dark oak-panelled corridor, through the smoke-room, and
into the library beyond. She also caught a surprising sight of her own
face in the glass over the smoke-room chimneypiece, her dark eyes
shining, the cool, wind-beaten flush on her young cheeks, the curled
mouth flowering, geranium red on rose white.
This Barbara of the looking-glass smiled at her in passing with such
gay, irresponsible amusement that it fairly took her breath away. Its
origin became clear to her as Ralph Bevan's words shot into her mind:
"I don't want to spoil him for you." She foresaw a possible intimacy in
which Horatio Bysshe Waddington would become the unique though
unofficial tie between them. She was aware that it pleased her to share
a secret jest with Ralph Bevan.
She found Fanny established behind her tea-table in the low room, dim
with its oak panelling above the long lines of the bookcases, where
Fanny's fluttering smile made movement and a sort of light.
Her husband sat facing her in his brown leather chair and in the pose,
the wonderful pose of his portrait; only the sobriety of his navy-blue
serge had fined it down, giving him a factitious slenderness. He hadn't
seen her come in. He sat there in innocence and unawareness; and
afterwards it gave her a little pang of remorse remembering how innocent
he had then seemed to her and unaware.
"This is my husband, Barbara. Horatio, you haven't met Miss Madden."
His eyes bulged with the startled innocence of a creature taken unaware.
He had just lifted his face, with its dripping moustache, from his
teacup, and though he carried off this awkwardness with an unabashed
sweep of his pocket-handkerchief, you could see that he was sensitive;
he hated you to catch him in any gesture that was less than noble. All
his gestures were noble and his attitudes. He was noble as he got up,
slowly, unfolding his great height, tightening by a movement of his
shoulders his great breadth. He looked down at her superbly and held out
his hand; it closed on hers in a large genial clasp.
"So this is my secretary, is it?"
"Yes. And don't forget she's my companion as well as your secretary."
"I never forget anything that you wish me to remember." (Only he said
"nevah" and "remembah"; he bowed as he said it in a very courtly way.)
Barbara noticed that his black hair and moustache were lightly grizzled,
there was loose flesh about his eyelids, his chin had doubled, and his
cheeks were sagging from the bone, otherwise he was exactly like his
portrait; these changes made him look, if anything, more incorruptibly
dignified and more solemn. He had remained on his feet (for his breeding
was perfect), moving between the tea-table and Barbara, bringing her
tea, milk and sugar, and things to eat. Altogether he was so simple, so
genial and unmysterious that Barbara could only suppose that Ralph had
been making fun of her, of her wonder, her curiosity.
"My dear, what a colour you've got!"
Fanny put up her hands to her own cheeks to draw attention to Barbara's.
"You _are_ growing a country girl, aren't you? You should have seen her
white face when she came, Horatio."
"What has she been doing to herself?" He had settled again into his
chair and his attitude.
"She's been out walking with Ralph."
"With Ralph? Is _he_ here still?"
"Why shouldn't he be?"
Mr. Waddington shrugged his immense shoulders. "It's a question of
taste. If he _likes_ to hang about the place after his behaviour--"
"Poor boy! whatever has he done? 'Behaviour' makes it sound as if it had
been something awful."
"We needn't go into it, I think."
"But you _are_ going into it, darling, all the time. Do you mean to keep
it up against him for ever?"
"I'm not keeping anything up. What Ralph Bevan does is no concern of
mine. Since I'm not to be inconvenienced by it--since Miss Madden has
come to my rescue so charmingly--I shall not give it another thought."
He turned to Barbara as to a change of subject. "Had you any
difficulty"--(his voice was measured and important)--"in finding your
"None at all."
"Ah, that one-thirty train is excellent. Excellent. But if you had not
told the guard to stop at the Hill you would have been carried on to
Cheltenham. Which would have been very awkward for you. Very awkward
"My dear Horatio, what did you suppose she _would_ do?"
"My dear Fanny, there are many things she might have done. She might
have got into the wrong coach at Paddington and been carried on to
"And that," said Barbara, "would have been much worse than Cheltenham."
"The very thought of it," said Fanny, "makes me shudder. But thank God,
Barbara, you didn't do any of those things."
Mr. Waddington shifted the crossing of his legs as a big dog shifts his
paws when you laugh at him; the more Fanny laughed the more dignified
and solemn he became.
"You haven't told me yet, Horatio, what you did in London."
"I was just going to tell you when Miss Madden--so delightfully--came
At that Barbara thought it discreet to dismiss herself, but Fanny called
her back. "What are you running away for? He didn't do anything in
London he wouldn't like you to hear about."
"On the contrary, I particularly wish Miss Madden to hear about it. I
am starting a branch of the National League of Liberty in Wyck. You may
have heard of it?"
"Yes. I've _heard_ of it. I've even seen the prospectus."
"Good. Well, Fanny, I lunched yesterday with Sir Maurice Gedge, and he's
as keen as mustard. He agrees with me that the League will be no good,
no good at all, until it's taken up strong in the provinces. He wants me
to start at once. Just as soon as I can get my Committee."
"My dear, if you've got to have a Committee first you'll never start."
"It depends altogether on who I get. And it'll be _my_ Committee. Sir
Maurice was very emphatic about that. He agrees with me that if you want
a thing done, and done well, you must do it yourself. There can only be
_one_ moving spirit. The Committee will have nothing to do but carry out
"Then be sure you get a Committee that hasn't any of its own."
"That will not be difficult," said Mr. Waddington, "in Wyck.... The
first thing is the prospectus. That's where you come in, Miss Madden."
"You mean the first thing is that Barbara draws up the prospectus."
"Under my supervision."
"The next thing," Fanny said, "is to conceal your prospectus from your
Committee till it's in print. You come to your Committee with your
prospectus. You don't offer it for discussion."
"Supposing," Barbara said, "they insist on discussing it?"
"They won't," said Fanny, "once it's printed, especially if it's paid
for. You must get Pyecraft to send in his bill at once. And if they _do_
start discussing you can put them off with the date and place of the
meeting and the wording of the posters. That'll give them something to
talk about. I suppose you'll be chairman."
"Well, I think, in the circumstances, they could hardly appoint anybody
"I don't know. Somebody might suggest Sir John Corbett."
Mr. Waddington's face sagged with dismay as Fanny presented this
"I don't think Sir John would care about it. I shall suggest it to him
myself; but I don't think--."
After all, Sir John Corbett was a lazy man.
"When you've roused Sir John, if you ever _do_ rouse him, then you'll
have to round up all the towns and villages for twenty miles. It's a
pity you can't have Ralph; he would have rounded them for you in no time
on his motor-bike."
"I am quite capable of rounding them all up myself, thank you."
"Well, dear," said Fanny placably, "it'll keep you busy for the next six
months, and that'll be nice. You won't miss the war then so much, will
"_Miss the war_?"
"Yes, you do miss it, darling. He was a special constable, Barbara; and
he sat on tribunals; and he drove his motor-car like mad on government
service. He had no end of a time. It's no use your saying you didn't
enjoy it, Horatio, for you did."
"I was glad to be of service to my country as much as any soldier, but
to say that I enjoyed the war--"
"If there hadn't been a war there wouldn't have been any service to be
"My dear Fanny, it's a perfectly horrible suggestion. Do you mean to say
that I would have brought about that--that infamous tragedy, that I
would have sent thousands and thousands of our lads to their deaths to
get a job for myself? If I thought for one moment that you were
"You don't like me to be anything else, dear."
"I certainly don't like you to joke about such subjects."
"Oh, come," said Fanny, "we all enjoyed our war jobs except poor Ralph,
who got gassed first thing, and _then_ concussed with a shell-burst."
"Oh, did he?" said Barbara.
"He did. And don't you think, Horatio, considering the rotten time he's
had, and that he lost a lucrative job through the war, and that you've
done him out of his secretaryship, don't you think you might forgive
"Of course," said Horatio, "I forgive him."
He had got up to go and had reached the door when Fanny called him back.
"And I can write and ask him to come and dine to-morrow night, can't I?
I want to be quite sure that he _does_ dine."
"I have never said or implied," said Horatio, "that he was not to come
With that he left them.
"The beautiful thing about Horatio," said Fanny, "is that he never bears
a grudge against people, no matter what he's done to them. I've no doubt
that Ralph was excessively provoking and put him in the wrong, and yet,
though he was in the wrong, and knows he was in it, he doesn't resent
it. He doesn't resent it the least little bit."
Barbara wondered how and where she would be expected to spend her
evenings now that Fanny's husband had come home. Being secretary to Mr.
Waddington and companion to Fanny wouldn't mean being companion to both
of them at once. So when Horatio appeared in the drawing-room after
coffee, she asked if she might sit in the morning-room and write
"Do you want to sit in the morning-room?" said Fanny.
"Well, I ought to write those letters."
"There's a fire in the library. You can write there. Can't she,
Mr. Waddington looked up with the benign expression he had had when he
came on Barbara alone in the drawing-room before dinner, a look so
directed to her neck and shoulders that it told her how well her low-cut
evening frock became her.
"She shall sit anywhere she likes. The library is hers whenever she
wants to use it."
Barbara thought she would rather like the library. As she went she
couldn't help seeing a look on Fanny's face that pleaded, that would
have kept her with her. She thought: She doesn't want to be alone with
She judged it better to ignore that look.
She had been about an hour in the library; she had written her letters
and chosen a book and curled herself up in the big leather chair and was
reading when Mr. Waddington came in. He took no notice of her at first,
but established himself at the writing-table with his back to her. He
would, of course, want her to go. She uncurled herself and went quietly
to the door.
Mr. Waddington looked up.
"You needn't go," he said.
Something in his face made her wonder whether she ought to stay. She
remembered that she was Mrs. Waddington's companion.
"Mrs. Waddington may want me."
"Mrs. Waddington has gone to bed.... Don't go--unless you're tired. I'm
getting my thoughts on paper and I may want you."
She remembered that she was Mr. Waddington's secretary.
She went back to her chair. It was only his face that had made her
wonder. His great back, bent to his task, was like another person there;
absorbed and unmoved, it chaperoned them. From time to time she heard
brief scratches of his pen as he got a thought down. It was ten o'clock.
When the half-hour struck Mr. Waddington gave a thick "Ha!" of
irritation and got up.
"It's no use," he said. "I'm not in form to-night. I suppose it's the
He came to the fireplace and sat down heavily in the opposite chair.
Barbara was aware of his eyes, considering, appraising her.
"My wife tells me she has had a delightful time with you."
"I've had a delightful time with her."
"I'm glad. My wife is a very delightful woman; but, you know, you
mustn't take everything she says too seriously."
"I won't. I'm not a very serious person myself."
"Don't say that. Don't say that."
"Very well. I think, if you don't want me, I'll say good night."
He had risen as she rose and went to open the door for her. He escorted
her through the smoke-room and stood there at the further door, holding
out his hand, benignant and superbly solemn.
"Good night, then," he said.
She told herself that she was wrong, quite wrong about his poor old
face. There was nothing in it, nothing but that grave and unadventurous
benignity. His mood had been, she judged, purely paternal. Paternal and
childlike, too; pathetic, if you came to think of it, in his clinging to
her presence, her companionship. "It must have been my little evil
mind," she thought.
As she went along the corridor she remembered she had left her knitting
in the drawing-room. She turned to fetch it and found Fanny still there,
wide awake with her feet on the fender, and reading "Tono-Bungay."
"Oh, Mrs. Waddington, I thought you'd gone to bed."
"So did I, dear. But I changed my mind when I found myself alone with
Wells. He's too heavenly for words."
Barbara saw it in a flash, then. She knew what she, the companion and
secretary, was there for. She was there to keep him off her, so that
Fanny might have more time to find herself alone in.
She saw it all.
"'Tono-Bungay,'" she said. "Was _that_ what you sent me out with Mr.
"It was. How clever of you, Barbara."
Mr. Waddington closed the door on Miss Madden slowly and gently so that
the action should not strike her as dismissive. He then turned on the
lights by the chimneypiece and stood there, looking at himself in the
glass. He wanted to know exactly how his face had presented itself to
Miss Madden. It would not be altogether as it appeared to himself; for
the glass, unlike the young girl's clear eyes, was an exaggerating and
distorting medium; he had noticed that his wife's face in the smoke-room
glass looked a good ten years older than the face he knew; he
calculated, therefore, that this faint greenish tint, this slightly
lop-sided elderly grimace were not truthful renderings of his complexion
and his smile. And as (in spite of these defects, which you could put
down to the account of the glass) the face Mr. Waddington saw was still
the face of a handsome man, he formed a very favourable opinion of the
face Miss Madden had seen. Handsome, and if not in his first youth, then
still in his second. Experience is itself a fascination, and if a man
has any charm at all his second youth should be more charming, more
irresistibly fascinating than his first.
And the child had been conscious of him. She had betrayed uneasiness, a
sense of danger, when she had found herself alone with him. He recalled
her first tentative flight, her hesitation. He would have liked to have
kept her there with him a little longer, to have talked to her about his
League, to have tested by a few shrewd questions her ability.
Better not. Better not. The child was wise and right. Her wisdom and
rectitude were delicious to Mr. Waddington, still more so was the
thought that she had felt him to be dangerous.
He went back into his library and sat again in his chair and meditated:
This experiment of Fanny's now; he wondered how it would turn out,
especially if Fanny really wanted to adopt the girl, Frank Madden's
daughter. That impudent social comedian had been so offensive to Mr.
Waddington in his life-time that there was something alluring in the idea
of keeping his daughter now that he was dead, seeing the exquisite
little thing dependent on him for everything, for food and frocks and
pocket-money. But no doubt they had been wise in giving her the
secretaryship before committing themselves to the irrecoverable step;
thus testing her in a relation that could be easily terminated if by any
chance it proved embarrassing.
But the relation in itself was, as Mr. Waddington put it to himself, a
little difficult and delicate. It involved an intimacy, a closer
intimacy than adoption: having her there in his library at all hours to
work with him; and always that little uneasy consciousness of hers.
Well, well, he had set the tone to-night for all their future
intercourse; he had in the most delicate way possible let her see. It
seemed to him, looking back on it, that he had exercised a perfect tact,
parting from her with that air of gaiety and light badinage which his
own instinct of self-preservation so happily suggested. Yet he smiled
when he recalled her look as she went from him, backing, backing, to the
door; it made him feel very tender and chivalrous; virtuous too, as if
somehow he had overcome some unforeseen and ruinous impulse. And all the
time he hadn't had any impulse beyond the craving to talk to an
intelligent and attractive stranger, to talk about his League.
Mr. Waddington went to bed thinking about it. He even woke his wife up
out of her sleep with the request that she would remind him to call at
Underwoods first thing in the morning.
As soon as he was awake he thought of Underwoods. Underwoods was
important. He had to round up the county, and he couldn't do that
without first consulting Sir John Corbett, of Underwoods. As a matter
of form, a mere matter of form, of course, he would have to consult him.
But the more he thought about it the less he liked the idea of
consulting anybody. He was desperately afraid that, if he once began
letting people into it, his scheme, his League, would be taken away from
him; and that the proper thing, the graceful thing, the thing to which
he would be impelled by all his instincts and traditions, would be to
stand modestly back and see it go. Probably into Sir John Corbett's
hands. And he couldn't. He couldn't. Yet it was clear that the League,
just because it was a League, must have members; even if he had been
prepared to contribute all the funds himself and carry on the whole
business of it single-handed, it couldn't consist solely of Mr.
Waddington of Wyck. His problem was a subtle and difficult one: How to
identify himself with the League, himself alone, in a unique and
indissoluble manner, and yet draw to it the necessary supporters? How to
control every detail of its intricate working (there would be endless
wheels within wheels), and at the same time give proper powers to the
inevitable Committee? If he did not put it quite so crudely as Fanny in
her disagreeable irony, his problem resolved itself into this: How to
divide the work and yet rake in all the credit?
He was saved from its immediate pressure by the sight of the envelope
that waited for him on the breakfast-table, addressed in a familiar
"Mrs. Levitt--" His emotion betrayed itself to Barbara in a peculiar
furtive yet triumphant smile.
"Again?" said Fanny. (There was no end to the woman and her letters.)
Mrs. Levitt requested Mr. Waddington to call on her that morning at
eleven. There was a matter on which she desired to consult him. The
brevity of the note revealed her trust in his compliance, trust that
implied again a certain intimacy. Mr. Waddington read it out loud to
show how harmless and open was his communion with Mrs. Levitt.
"Is there any matter on which she has not consulted you?"
"There seems to have been one. And, as you see, she is repairing the
A light air, a light air, to carry off Mrs. Levitt. The light air that
had carried off Barbara, that had made Barbara carry herself off the
night before. (It had done good. This morning the young girl was all
ease and innocent unconsciousness again.)
"And I suppose you're going?" Fanny said.
"I suppose I shall have to go."
"Then I shall have Barbara to myself all morning?"
"You will have Barbara to yourself all day."
He tried thus jocosely to convey, for Barbara's good, his indifference
to having her. All the same, it gave him pleasure to say her name like
He was not sure that he wanted to go and see Mrs. Levitt with all this
business of the League on hand. It meant putting off Sir John. You
couldn't do Sir John _and_ Mrs. Levitt in one morning. Besides, he
thought he knew what Mrs. Levitt wanted, and he said to himself that
this time he would be obliged, for once, to refuse her.
But it was not in him to refuse to go and see her. So he went.
As he walked up the park drive to the town he recalled with distinctly
pleasurable emotion the first time he had encountered Mrs. Levitt, the
vision of the smart little lady who had stood there by the inner gate,
the gate that led from the park into the grounds, waiting for his
approach with happy confidence. He remembered her smile, an affair of
milk-white teeth in an ivory-white face, and her frank attack: "Forgive
me if I'm trespassing. They told me there was a right of way." He
remembered her charming diffidence, the na´ve reverence for his
"grounds" which had compelled him to escort her personally through them;
her attitudes of admiration as the Manor burst on her from its bay in
the beech trees; the interest she had shown in its date and
architecture; and how, spinning out the agreeable interview, he had gone
with her all the way to the farther gate that led into Lower Wyck
village; and how she had challenged him there with her "You must be Mr.
Waddington of Wyck," and capped his admission with "I'm Mrs. Levitt." To
which he had replied that he was delighted.
And the time after that--Partridge had discreetly shown her into the
library--when she had called to implore him to obtain exemption for her
son Toby; her black eyes, bright and large behind tears; and her cry:
"I'm a war widow, Mr. Waddington, and he's my only child;" the flattery
of her belief that he, Mr. Waddington of Wyck, had the chief power on
the tribunal (and indeed it would have been folly to pretend that he had
not power, that he could not "work it" if he chose). And the third time,
after he had "worked it," and she had come to thank him. Tears again;
the pressure of a plump, ivory-white hand; a tingling, delicious memory.
After that, his untiring efforts to get a war job for Toby. There had
been difficulties, entailing many visits to Mrs. Levitt in the little
house in the Market Square of Wyck-on-the-Hill; but in the end he had
had the same intoxicating experience of his power, all obstructions
going down before Mr. Waddington of Wyck.
And this year, when Toby was finally demobilized, it was only natural
that she should draw on Mr. Waddington's influence again to get him a
permanent peace job. He had got it; and that meant more visits and more
gratitude; till here he was, attached to Mrs. Levitt by the unbreakable
tie of his benefactions. He was even attached to her son Toby, whose
continued existence, to say nothing of his activity in Mr. Bostock's
Bank at Wyck, was a perpetual tribute to his power. Mr. Waddington had
nothing like the same complacence in thinking of his own son Horace; but
then Horace's existence and his activity were not a tribute but a
menace, a standing danger, not only to his power but to his fascination,
his sense of himself as a still young, still brilliant and effective
personality. (Horace inherited his mother's deplorable lack of
seriousness.) And it was in Mrs. Levitt's society that Mr. Waddington
was most conscious of his youth, his brilliance and effect. With an
agreeable sense of anticipation he climbed up the slopes of Sheep Street
and Park Street, and so into the Square.
The house, muffled in ivy, hid discreetly in the far corner, behind the
two tall elms on the Green. Mrs. Trinder, the landlady, had a sidelong
bend of the head and a smile that acknowledged him as Mr. Waddington of
Wyck and Mrs. Levitt's benefactor.
And as he waited in the low, mullion-darkened room he reminded himself
that he had come to refuse her request. If, as he suspected, it was the
Ballingers' cottage that she wanted. To be sure, the Ballingers had
notice to quit in June, but he couldn't very well turn the Ballingers
out if they wanted to stay, when there wasn't a decent house in the
place to turn them into. He would have to make this very clear to Mrs.
Not that he approved of Ballinger. The fellow, one of his best farm
hands, had behaved infamously, first of all demanding preposterous
wages, and then, just because Mr. Waddington had refused to be
brow-beaten, leaving his service for Colonel Grainger's. Colonel
Grainger had behaved infamously, buying Foss Bank with the money he had
made in high explosives, and then letting fly his confounded Socialism
all over the county. Knowing nothing, mind you, about local conditions,
and actually raising the rate of wages without consulting anybody, and
upsetting the farm labourers for miles round. At a time when the
prosperity of the entire country depended on the farmers. Still, Mr.
Waddington was not the man to take a petty revenge on his inferiors. He
didn't blame Ballinger; he blamed Colonel Grainger. He would like to see
Grainger boycotted by the whole county.
The door opened. He strode forward and found himself holding out a
sudden, fervid hand to a lady who was not Mrs. Levitt. He drew up,
turning his gesture into a bow, rather unnecessarily ceremonious; but he
could not annihilate instantaneously all that fervour.
"I am Mrs. Levitt's sister, Mrs. Rickards. Mr. Waddington, is it not?
I'll tell Elise you're here. I know she'll be glad to see you. She has
been very much upset."
She remained standing before him long enough for him to be aware of a
projecting bust, of white serge, of smartness, of purplish copper hair,
a raking panama's white brim, of eyebrows, a rouged smile, and a smell
of orris root. Before he could grasp its connexion with Mrs. Levitt this
amazing figure had disappeared and given place to a tapping of heels and
a furtive, scuffling laugh on the stairs outside. A shriller laugh--that
must be Mrs. Rickards--a long Sh-sh-sh! Then the bang of the front door
covering the lady's retreat, and Mrs. Levitt came in, stifling merriment
under a minute pocket-handkerchief.
He took it in then. They were sisters, Mrs. Rickards and Elise Levitt.
Elise, if you cared to be critical, had the same defects: short legs,
loose hips; the same exaggerations: the toppling breasts underpinned by
the shafts of her stays. Not Mr. Waddington's taste. And yet--and yet
Elise had contrived a charming and handsome effect out of black eyes and
the milk-white teeth in the ivory-white face. The play of the black
eyebrows distracted you from the equine bend of the nose that sprang
between them; the movements of her mouth, the white flash of its smile,
made you forget its thinness and hardness and the slight heaviness of
its jaw. Something foreign about her. Something French. Piquant. And
then, her clothes. Mrs. Levitt wore a coat and skirt, her sister's white
serge with a distinction, a greyish stripe or something; clean
straightness that stiffened and fined down her exuberance. One jewel,
one bit of gold, and she might have been vulgar. But no. He thought: she
knows what becomes her. Immaculate purity of white gloves, white shoes,
white panama; and the black points of the ribbon, of her eyebrows, her
eyes and hair. After all, the sort of woman Mr. Waddington liked to be
seen out walking with. She made him feel slender.
"My _dear_ Mr. Waddington, how good of you!"
"My dear Mrs. Levitt--always delighted--when it's possible--to do
As she covered him with her brilliant eyes he tightened his shoulders
and stood firm, while his spirit braced itself against persuasion. If it
was the Ballingers' cottage--
"I really am ashamed of myself. I never seem to send for you unless I'm
"Isn't that the time?" His voice thickened. "So long as you do send--"
He thought: It isn't the Ballingers' cottage then.
"It's your own fault. You've always been so good, so kind. To my poor
"Nothing to do with Toby, I hope, the trouble?"
"Oh, no. No. And yet in a way it has. I'm afraid, Mr. Waddington, I may
have to leave."
"To leave? Leave Wyck?"
"Leave dear Wyck."
He wasn't prepared for that. The idea hit him hard in a place that he
hadn't thought was tender.
"Dear me. This is very distressing. Very distressing indeed. But you
would not take such a step without consulting your friends?"
"I _am_ consulting you."
"Yes, yes. But have you thought it well over?"
"Thinking isn't any use. I shall have to, unless something can be done."
He thought: "Financial difficulties. Debts. An expensive lady. Unless
something could be done?" He didn't know that he was exactly prepared to
do it. But his tongue answered in spite of him.
"Something must be done. We can't let you go like this, my dear lady."
"That's it. I don't see how I _can_ go, with dear Toby here. Nor yet how
I'm to stay."
"Won't you tell me what the trouble is?"
"The trouble is that Mrs. Trinder's son's just been demobilized, and she
wants our rooms for his wife and family."
"Come--surely we can find other rooms."
"All the best ones are taken. There's nothing left that I'd care to live
in.... Besides, it isn't rooms I want, Mr. Waddington, it's a house."
It was, of course, the Ballingers' cottage. But she couldn't have it.
She couldn't have it.
"I wouldn't mind how small it was. If only I had a little home of my
own. You don't know, Mr. Waddington, what it is to be without a home of
your own. I haven't had a home for years. Five years. Not since the
"I'm afraid," said Mr. Waddington, "at present there isn't a house for
you in Wyck."
He brooded earnestly, as though he were trying to conjure up, to create
out of nothing, a house for her and a home.
"No. But I understand that the Ballingers will be leaving in June. You
said that at any time, if you had a house, I should have it."
"I said a house, Mrs. Levitt, not a cottage."
"It's all the same to me. The Ballingers' cottage could be made into an
adorable little house."
"It could. With a few hundred pounds spent on it."
"Well, you'd be improving your property, wouldn't you? And you'd get it
back in the higher rent."
"I'm not thinking about getting anything back. And nothing would please
me better. Only, you see, I can't very well turn Ballinger out as long
as he behaves himself."
"I wouldn't have him turned out for the world.... But do you consider
that Ballinger _has_ behaved himself?"
"Well, he played me a dirty trick, perhaps, when he went to Grainger;
but if Grainger can afford to pay for him I've no right to object to his
being bought. It isn't a reason for turning the man out."
"I don't see how he can expect you to refuse a good tenant for him."
"I must if I haven't a good house to put him into."
"He doesn't expect it, Mr. Waddington. Didn't you give him notice in
"A mere matter of form. He knows he can stay on if there's nowhere else
for him to go to."
"Then why," said Mrs. Levitt, "does he go about saying that he dares you
to let the cottage over his head?"
"Does he? Does he say that?"
"He says he'll pay you out. He'll summons you. He was most abusive."
Mr. Waddington's face positively swelled with the choleric flush that
swamped its genial fatuity.
"It seems somebody told him you were going to do up the cottage and let
it for more rent."
"I don't know who could have spread that story."
"I assure you, Mr. Waddington, it wasn't me!"
"My dear Mrs. Levitt, of course.... I won't say I wasn't thinking of it,
and that I wouldn't have done it, if I could have got rid of
Ballinger...." He meditated.
"I don't see why I shouldn't get rid of him. If he dares me, the
scoundrel, he's simply asking for it. And he shall have it."
"Oh, but I wouldn't for worlds have him turned into the street. With his
wife and babies."
"My dear lady, I shan't turn them into the street. I shouldn't be
allowed to. There's a cottage at Lower Wyck they can go into. The one he
had when he first came to me."
He wondered why he hadn't thought of it before. It wasn't, as it stood,
a decent cottage; but if he was prepared to spend fifty pounds or so on
it, it could be made habitable; and, by George, he _was_ prepared, if it
was only to teach Ballinger a lesson. For it meant that Ballinger would
have to walk an extra mile up hill to his work every day. Serve him
right, the impudent rascal.
"Poor thing, he won't," said Mrs. Levitt, "have his nice garden."
"He won't. Ballinger must learn," said Mr. Waddington with magisterial
severity, "that he can't have everything. He certainly can't have it
both ways. Abuse and threaten me and expect favours. He may go ... to
"If it really _must_ happen," said Mrs. Levitt, "do you mean that I may
have the house?"
"I shall be only too delighted to have such a charming tenant."
"Well, I shan't threaten and abuse you and call you every nasty name
under the sun. And you won't, you _won't_ turn me out when my lease is
He bowed over the hand she held out to him.
"You shall never be turned out as long as you want to stay."
By twelve o'clock they had arranged the details; Mr. Waddington was to
put in a bathroom; to throw the two rooms on the ground floor into one;
to build out a new sitting-room with a bedroom over it; and to paint and
distemper the place, in cream white, throughout. And it was to be called
the White House. By the time they had finished with it Ballinger's
cottage had become the house Mrs. Levitt had dreamed of all her life,
and not unlike the house Mr. Waddington had dreamed of that minute
(while he planned the bathroom); the little bijou house where an
adorable but not too rigorously moral lady--He stopped with a mental
jerk, ashamed. He had no reason to suppose that Elise was or would
become such a lady.
And the poor innocent woman was saying, "Just one thing, Mr. Waddington,
(No earthly reason.) "We can talk about that another time. I shan't be
hard on you."
No. He wouldn't be hard on her. But in that other case there wouldn't
have been any rent at all.
As he left the house he could see Mrs. Rickards hurrying towards it
across the square.
"She waddles like a duck," he thought. The movement suggested a plebeian
excitement and curiosity that displeased him. He recalled her face. Her
extraordinary face. "Quite enough," he thought, "to put all that into my
head. Poor Elise"
He liked to think of her. It made him feel what he had felt last night
over Barbara Madden--virtuous--as though he had struggled and got the
better of an impetuous passion. He was so touched by his own beautiful
renunciation that when he found Fanny working in the garden he felt a
sudden tenderness for her as the cause of it. She looked up at him from
her pansy bed and laughed. "What are you looking so sentimental for, old
Mrs. Levitt's affair settled, he could now give his whole time to the
serious business of the day.
He was exceedingly anxious to get it over. Nothing could be more
disturbing than Fanny's suggestion that the name of Sir John Corbett
might carry more weight with his Committee than his own. The Waddingtons
of Wyck had ancestry. Waddingtons had held Lower Wyck Manor for ten
generations, whereas Sir John Corbett's father had bought Underwoods and
rebuilt it somewhere in the 'seventies. On the other hand Sir John was
the largest and richest landowner in the place. He could buy up
Wyck--on--the--Hill to--morrow and thrive on the transaction. He
therefore represented the larger vested interest And as the whole
object of the League was the safeguarding of vested interests, in other
words, of liberty, that British liberty which is bound up with law and
order, with private property in general and landownership in particular;
as the principle of its very being was the preservation of precisely
such an institution as Sir John himself, the Committee of the Wyck
Branch of the League could hardly avoid inviting him to be its
president. There was no blinking the fact, and Fanny hadn't blinked it,
that Sir John was the proper person. Most of Fanny's suggestions had a
strong but unpleasant element of common sense.
But the more interest he took in the League, the more passionately he
flung himself into the business of its creation, the more abhorrent to
Mr. Waddington was the thought that the chief place in it, the
presidency, would pass over his head to Sir John.
His only hope was in Sir John's well-known indolence and
irresponsibility. Sir John was the exhausted reaction from the efforts
of a self-made grandfather and of a father spendthrift in energy; he had
had everything done for him ever since he was a baby, and consequently
was now unable or unwilling to do anything for himself or other people.
You couldn't see him taking an active part in the management of the
League, and Mr. Waddington couldn't see himself doing all the work and
handing over all the glory to Sir John. Still, between Mr. Waddington
and the glory there was only this supine figure of Sir John, and Sir
John once out of the running he could count without immodesty on the
unanimous vote of any committee he formed in Wyck.
It was possible that even a Sir John Corbett would not really carry it
over a Waddington of Wyck, but Mr. Waddington wasn't taking any risks.
What he had to do was to suggest the presidency to Sir John in such a
way that he would be certain to refuse it.
He had the good luck to find Sir John alone in his library at tea-time,
eating hot buttered toast.
There was hope for Mr. Waddington in Sir John's attitude, lying back and
nursing his little round stomach, hope in the hot, buttery gleam of his
cheeks, in his wide mouth, lazy under the jutting grey moustache, and in
the scrabbling of his little legs as he exerted himself to stand
"Well, Waddington, glad to see you."
He was in his chair again. With another prodigious effort he leaned
forward and rang for more tea and more toast.
"Did you walk?" said Sir John. His little round eyes expressed horror at
"No, I just ran over in my car."
"No. Too much effort of attention. I find it interferes with my
"Interferes with everything," said Sir John. "'Spect you drove enough
during the war to last you for the rest of your life."
"Ah, Government service. A very different thing. That reminds me; I've
come to-day to consult you on a matter of public business."
"Business?" (He noted Sir John's uneasy pout.) "Better have some tea
first." Sir John took another piece of buttered toast.
If only Sir John would go on eating. Nothing like buttered toast for
sustaining that mood of voluptuous inertia.
When Mr. Waddington judged the moment propitious he began. "While I was
up in London I had the pleasure of lunching with Sir Maurice Gedge. He
wants me to start a branch of the National League of Liberty here."
"Liberty? Shouldn't have thought that was much in your line. Didn't
expect to see you waving the red flag, what? Why didn't you put him on
to our friend Grainger?"
"My dear Corbett, what are you thinking of? The object of the League is
to put down all that sort of thing--Socialism--Bolshevism--to rouse the
whole country and get it to stand solid for order and good government."
"H'm. Is it? Queer sort of title for a thing of that sort--League of
Mr. Waddington raised a clenched fist. Already in spirit he was on his
platform. "Exactly the title that's needed. The people want liberty,
always have wanted it. We'll let 'em have it. True liberty. British
liberty. I tell you, Corbett, we're out against the tyranny of Labour
minorities. You and I and every man that's got any standing and any
influence, we've got to see to it that we don't have a revolution and
Communism and a Soviet Government here."
"Come, you don't think the Bolshies are as strong as all that, do you?"
Mr. Waddington brought his fist down on the arm of his chair. "I _know_
they are," he said. "And look here--if they get the upper hand, it's the
great capitalists, the great property holders, the great _land_owners
like you and me, Corbett, who'll be the first to suffer.... Why, we're
suffering as it is, here in Wyck, with just the little that fellow
Grainger can do. The time'll come, mark my words, when we shan't be able
to get a single labourer to work for us for a fair wage. They'll bleed
us white, Corbett, before they've done with us, if we don't make a
stand, and make it now.
"That's what the League's for, to set up a standard, something we can
point to and say: These are the principles we stand for. Something you
can rally the whole country round. We shall want your support--"
"I shall be very glad--anything I can do--"
Mr. Waddington was a little disturbed by this ready acquiescence.
"Mind you, it isn't going to end here, in Wyck. I shall start it in Wyck
first; then I shall take it straight to the big towns, Gloucester,
Cheltenham, Cirencester, Nailsworth, Stroud. We'll set 'em going till
we've got a branch in every town and every village in the county."
He thought: "That ought to settle him." He had created a vision of
"Bless me," said Sir John, "you've got your work cut out for you."
"Of course I shall have to get a local committee first. I can't take a
step like that without consulting you."
Sir John muttered something that sounded like "Very good of you, I'm
"No more than my duty to the League. Now, the point is, Sir Maurice was
anxious that _I_ should be president of this local branch. It needs
somebody with energy and determination--the president's work, certainly,
will be cut out for him--and I feel very strongly, and I think that my
Committee will feel that _you_, Corbett, are the proper person."
"I didn't think I should be justified in going further without first
obtaining your consent."
Mr. Waddington's anxiety was almost unbearable. The programme had
evidently appealed to Sir John. Supposing, after all, he accepted?
"I wouldn't ask you to undertake anything so--so arduous, but that it'll
strengthen my hands with my Committee; in fact, I may get a much
stronger and more influential Committee if I can come to them, and tell
them beforehand that you have consented to be president."
"I don't mind being president," said Sir John, "if I haven't got to do
"I'm afraid--I'm _afraid_ we couldn't allow you to be a mere
"But presidents always are figureheads, aren't they?"
There was a bantering gleam in Sir John's eyes that irritated Mr.
Waddington. That was the worst of Corbett; you couldn't get him to take
a serious thing seriously.
"'T any rate," Sir John went on, "there's always some secretary johnnie
who runs round and does the work."
So that was Corbett's idea: to sit in his armchair and bag all the
prestige, while he, Waddington of Wyck, ran round and did the work.
"Not in this case. In these small local affairs you can't delegate
business. Everything depends on the personal activity of the president."
"The deuce it does. How do you mean?"
"I mean this. If Sir John Corbett asks for a subscription he gets it.
We've got to round up the whole county and all the townspeople and
villagers. It's no use shooting pamphlets at 'em from a motor-car. They
like being personally interviewed. If Sir John Corbett comes and talk to
them and tells them they must join, ten to one they will join.
"And there isn't any time to be lost if we want to get in first before
other places take it up. It'll mean pretty sharp work, day in and day
out, rounding them all up."
"Oh, Lord, Waddington, _don't_. I'm tired already with the bare idea of
"Come, we can't have you tired, Corbett. Why, it won't be worse, it
won't be half as bad as a season's hunting. You're just the man for it.
Fit as fit."
"Not half as fit as I look, Waddington."
"There's another thing--the meetings. If the posters say Sir John
Corbett will address the meeting people'll come. If Sir John Corbett
speaks they'll listen."
"My dear fellow, that settles it. I can't speak for nuts. You _know_ I
can't. I can introduce a speaker and move a vote of thanks, and that's
about all I _can_ do. It's your show, not mine. _You_ ought to be
president, Waddington. You'll enjoy it and I shan't."
"I don't know at all about enjoying it. It'll be infernally hard work."
"You don't mean, Corbett, that you won't come in with us? That you won't
come on the Committee?"
"I'll come on all right if I haven't got to speak, and if I haven't got
to do anything. I shan't be much good, but I could at least propose you
as president. You couldn't very well propose yourself."
"It's very good of you."
Mr. Waddington made his voice sound casual and indifferent, so that he
might appear to be entertaining the suggestion provisionally and under
protest. "There'll have to be one big meeting before the Committee's
formed or anything. If I let you off the presidency," he said playfully,
"will you take the chair?"
"For that one evening?"
"That one evening only."
"You'll do all the talking?"
"I shall have to."
"All right, my dear fellow. I daresay I can get my wife to come on your
committee, too. That'll help you to rope in the townspeople.... And now,
supposing we drop it and have a quiet smoke."
He roused himself to one more effort. "Of course, we'll send you a
subscription, both of us."
Mr. Waddington drove off from Underwoods in a state of pleasurable
elation. He had got what he wanted without appearing--without appearing
at all to be playing for it. Corbett had never spotted him.
There he was wrong. At that very moment Sir John was relating the
incident to Lady Corbett.
"And you could see all the time the fellow wanted it himself. I put him
in an awful funk, pretending I was going to take it."
All the same, he admitted very handsomely that the idea of the League
was "topping," and that Waddington was the man for it. And the
subscription that he and Lady Corbett sent was very handsome, too.
Unfortunately it obliged Mr. Waddington to contribute a slightly larger
sum, by way of maintaining his ascendancy.
On his way home he called at the Old Dower House in the Square to see
his mother. He had arranged to meet Fanny and Barbara Madden there and
drive them home.
The old lady was sitting in her chair, handsome, with dark eyes still
brilliant in her white Roman face, a small imperious face, yet soft,
soft in its network of fine grooves and pittings. An exquisite old lady
in a black satin gown and white embroidered shawl, with a white
Chantilly scarf binding rolled masses of white hair. She had been a Miss
Postlethwaite, of Medlicott.
"My dear boy--so you've got back?"
She turned to her son with a soft moan of joy, lifting up her hands to
hold his face as he stooped to kiss her.
"How well you look," she said. "Is that London or coming back to Fanny?"
"It's coming back to you."
"Ah, she hasn't spoilt you. You know how to say nice things to your old
She looked up at him, at his solemn face that simmered with excited
egoism. Barbara could see that he was playing--playing in his
ponderous, fatuous way, at being her young, her not more than
twenty-five years old son. He turned with a sudden, sportive, caracoling
movement, to find a chair for himself. He was sitting on it now, close
beside his mother, and she was holding one of his big, fleshy hands in
her fragile bird claws and patting it.
From her study of the ancestral portraits in the Manor dining-room
Barbara gathered that he owed to his mother the handsome Roman structure
that held up his face, after all, so proudly through its layers of
Waddington flesh. He had the Postlethwaite nose. The old lady looked at
her, gratified by the grave attention of her eyes.
"Miss Madden can't believe that a little woman like me could have such a
great big son," she said. "But, you see, he isn't big to me. He'll never
be any older than thirteen."
You could see it. If he wasn't really thirteen to her he wasn't a day
older than twenty-five; he was her young grown-up son whose caresses
"She spoils me, Miss Madden."
You could see that it pleased him to sit close to her knees, to have his
hand patted and be spoilt.
"Nonsense. Now tell me what happened at Underwoods. Is it to be John
Corbett or you?"
"Corbett says it's to be me."
"I'm glad he's had that much sense. Well--and now tell me all about this
League of yours."
He told her all about it, and she sat very quietly, listening, nodding
her proud old head in approval. He talked about it till it was time to
go. Then the old lady became agitated.
"My dear boy, you mustn't let Kimber drive you too fast down that hill.
Fanny, will you tell Kimber to be careful?"
Her face trembled with anxiety as she held it to him to be kissed. At
that moment he was her child, escaping from her, going out rashly into
the dangerous world.
"I like going to see Granny," said Fanny as Kimber tucked them up
together in the car. "She makes me feel young."
"You may very well feel it," said Mr. Waddington. "It's only my mother's
white hair, Miss Madden, that makes her look old."
"I thought," said Barbara, "she looked ever so much younger"--she was
going to say, "than she is"--"than most people's mothers."
"You will have noticed," Fanny said, "that my husband is younger than
Barbara noticed that he had drawn himself up with an offended air,
unnaturally straight. He didn't like it, this discussion about ages.
They were running out of the Square when Fanny remembered and cried out,
"Oh, stop him, Horatio. We must go back and see if Ralph's coming to
But at the White Hart they were told that Mr. Bevan had "gone to Oxford
on his motor-bike" and was not expected to return before ten o'clock.
"I don't see why you should apologize to Miss Madden, my dear. I've no
doubt she can get on very well without him."
"She may want something rather more exciting than you and me,
"I'm quite happy," Barbara said.
"Of course you're happy. It isn't everybody who enjoys Ralph Bevan's
society. I daresay you're like me; you find him a great hindrance to
"That's why _I_ enjoy him," Fanny said. "We'll ask him for to-morrow
Barbara tucked her chin into the collar of her coat. The car was running
down Sheep Street into Lower Wyck. She stared out abstractedly at the
eastern valley, the delicate green cornfields and pink fallows, the
muffling of dim trees, all washed in the pale eastern blue, rolling out
and up to the blue ridge.
It made her happy to look at it. It made her happy to think of Ralph
Bevan coming to-morrow. If it had been to-night it would have been all
over in three hours. And something--she was not sure what, but felt that
it might be Mr. Waddington--something would have cut in to spoil the
happiness of it. But now she had it to think about, and her thoughts
were safe. "What are you thinking about, Barbara?"
"The view," said Barbara. "I want to sketch it."
Mr. Waddington was in his library, drawing up his prospectus while Fanny
and Barbara Madden looked on. At Fanny's suggestion (he owned
magnanimously that it was a good one) he had decided to "sail in," as
she called it, with the prospectus first, not only before he formed his
Committee, but before he held his big meeting. (They had fixed the date
of it for that day month, Saturday, June the twenty-first.)
"You come before them from the beginning," she said, "with something
fixed and definite that they can't go back on." And by signing the
prospectus, Horatio Bysshe Waddington, he identified it beyond all
contention with himself.
It was at this point that Barbara had blundered.
"Why," she had said, "should we go to all that bother and expense? Why
can't we send out the original prospectus?"
"My dear Barbara, the original prospectus isn't any good."
"Why isn't it?"
"Because it isn't Horatio's prospectus."
Barbara looked down and away from the dangerous light in Fanny's eyes.
"But it expresses his views, doesn't it?"
"That's no good when he wants to express them himself."
And so far from being any good, the original prospectus was a positive
hindrance to Mr. Waddington. It took all the wind out of his sails; it
took, as he justly complained, the very words out of his mouth and the
ideas out of his head; it got in his way and upset him at every turn.
Somehow or other he had got to stamp his personality upon this thing.
"It's no good," he said; "if they can't recognize it as a personal
appeal from ME." And here it was, stamped all over, and indelibly, with
the personalities of Sir Maurice Gedge and his London Committee. And he
couldn't depart radically from the lines they had laid down; there were
just so many things to be said, and Sir Maurice and his Committee had
contrived to say them all.
But, though the matter was given him, Mr. Waddington, before he actually
tackled his prospectus, had conceived himself as supplying his own fresh
and inimitable manner; the happy touch, the sudden, arresting turn. But
somehow it wasn't working out that way. Try as he would, he couldn't
get away from the turns and touches supplied by Sir Maurice Gedge.
"It would have been easy enough," he said, "to draw up the original
prospectus. I'd a thousand times rather do that than write one on the
top of it."
Fanny agreed. "It's got to _look_ different," she said, "without _being_
"Couldn't we," said Barbara, "turn it upside down?"
"Upside down?" He stared at her with great owl's eyes, offended,
suspecting her this time of an outrageous levity.
"Yes. Really upside down. You see, the heads go in this order--Defence
of Private Property; Defence of Capital; Defence of Liberty; Defence of
Government; Defence of the Empire; Danger of Revolution, Communism and
Bolshevism; Every Man's Duty. Why not reverse them? Every Man's Duty;
Danger of Bolshevism, Communism and Revolution; Defence of the Empire;
Defence of Government; Defence of Liberty; Defence of Capital; Defence
of Private Property."
"That's an idea," said Fanny.
"Not at all a bad idea," said Mr. Waddington. "You might take down the
heads in that order."
Barbara took them down, and it was agreed that they presented a very
original appearance thus reversed; and, as Barbara pointed out, the one
order was every bit as logical as the other; and though Mr. Waddington
objected that he would have preferred to close on the note of Government
and Empire, he was open to the suggestion that, while this might appeal
more to the county, with the farmers and townspeople, capital and
private property would strike further home. And by the time he had
changed "combat the forces of disorder" to "take a stand against anarchy
and disruption," and "spirit of freedom in this country" to "British
genius for liberty," and "darkest hour in England's history" to
"blackest period in the history of England," he was persuaded that the
prospectus was now entirely and absolutely his own.
"But I think we must sound the note of hope to end up with. My own
message. How about 'We must remember that the darkest hour comes before
"My dear Horatio, if you inflate yourself so over your prospectus,
you'll have no wind left when you come to speak. Be as wildly original
as you please, but _don't_ be wasteful and extravagant."
"All right, Fanny. I will reserve the dawn. Please make a note of that,
Miss Madden. Speech. 'Blackest'--or did I say 'darkest'?--'hour before
"You'd better reserve all you can," said Fanny.
When Barbara had typed the prospectus, Mr. Waddington insisted on taking
it to Pyecraft himself. He wanted to insure its being printed without
delay, and to arrange for the posters and handbills; he also wanted to
see the impression it would make on Pyecraft and on the young lady in
Pyecraft's shop. He liked to think of the stir in the composing room
when it was handed in, and of the importance he was conferring on
"You haven't said what you think of the prospectus," said Fanny, as they
watched him go.
"I haven't said what I think of the League of Liberty."
"What _do_ you think of it?"
"I think it looks as if somebody was in an awful funk; and I don't see
that there's going to be much liberty about it."
"That," said Fanny, "is how it struck me. But it'll keep Horatio quiet
for the next six months."
"_Quiet_? And afterwards?"
"Oh, afterwards there'll be his book."
"I'd forgotten his book."
"That'll keep him quieter than anything else; if you can get him to
settle down to it."
That evening Barbara witnessed the reconciliation of Mr. Waddington and
Ralph Bevan. Mr. Waddington made a spectacle of it, standing, majestic
and immovable, by his hearth and holding out his hand long before Ralph
had got near enough to take it.
"Good evening, Ralph. Glad to see you here again."
"Good of you to ask me, sir."
Barbara thought he winced a little at the "sir." He had a distaste for
those forms of deference which implied his seniority. You could see he
didn't like Ralph. His voice was genial, but there was no light in his
bulging stare; the heavy lines of his face never lifted. She wondered:
Was it Ralph's brilliant youth that had offended him, reminding him,
even when he refused to recognize his fascination? For you could see
that he did refuse, that he regarded Ralph Bevan as an inferior,
insignificant personality. Barbara had to revise her theory. He wasn't
jealous of him. It would never occur to him that Fanny, or Barbara for
that matter, could find Ralph interesting. Nothing could disturb for a
moment his immense satisfaction with himself. He conducted dinner with a
superb detachment, confining his attention to Fanny and Barbara, as if
he were pretending that Ralph wasn't there, until suddenly he heard
Fanny asking him if he knew anything about the National League of
Liberty and what he thought of it.
"Mr. Waddington doesn't want to know what I think of it."
"No, but we want to."
"My dear Fanny, any opinion, any honest opinion--"
"Oh, Ralph's opinion will be honest enough."
"Honest, I daresay," said Mr. Waddington.
"Well, if you really want to know, I think it's a pathological symptom."
"A what?" said Mr. Waddington, startled into a show of interest.
"Pathological symptom. It's all funk. Blue funk. True blue funk."
"That's what Barbara says."
The young man looked at Barbara as much as to say, "I knew I could trust
you to take the only intelligent view."
"It's run," he said, "by a few imbeciles, like Sir Maurice Gedge.
They're scared out of their lives of Bolshevism."
"Do you mean to say that Bolshevism isn't dangerous?"
"Not in this country."
"Perhaps, then, you'd like to see a Soviet Government in this country?"
"I didn't say so."
"But I understand that you uphold Bolshevism?"
"I don't uphold funk. But," said Ralph, "there's rather more in it than
that. It's being engineered. It's a deliberate, dishonest, and malicious
attempt to discredit Labour."
"Absurd," said Mr. Waddington. "You show that you are ignorant of the
very principles of the League."
If he recognized Ralph's youth, it was only to despise it as crude and
"It is--the--National--League--of Liberty."
"Well, that's about all the liberty there is in it--liberty to suppress
"You may not know that I'm starting a branch of the League in Wyck."
"I'm sorry, sir. I did not know. Fanny, why did you lay that trap for
"Because I wanted your real opinion."
"Before you set up an opinion, you had better come to my meeting on the
twenty-first. Then perhaps you'll learn something about it."
Fanny changed the subject to Sir John Corbett's laziness.
"A man," said Mr. Waddington, "without any seriousness, any sense of
After coffee Mr. Waddington removed Fanny to the library to consult with
him about the formation of his Committee, leaving Barbara and Ralph
Bevan alone. Fanny waved her hand to them from the doorway, signalling
her blessing on their unrestrained communion.
"It's deplorable," said Ralph, "to see a woman of Fanny's intelligence
mixing herself up with a rotten scheme like that."
"Poor darling, she only does it to keep him quiet."
"Oh, yes, I admit there's every excuse for her."
They looked at each other and smiled. A smile of delicious and secret
"Isn't he wonderful?" she said.
"I thought you'd like him.... I say, you know, I _must_ come to his
meeting. He'll be more wonderful than ever there. Can't you see him?"
"I can. It's almost _too_ much--to think that I should be allowed to
know him, to live in the same house with him, to have him turning
himself on by the hour together. What have I done to deserve it?"
"I see," he said, "you _have_ got it."
"The taste for him. The genuine passion. I had it when I was here. I
couldn't have stood it if I hadn't."
"I know. You must have had it. You've got it now."
"And I don't suppose I've seen him anything like at his best. You'll get
more out of him than I did."
"Oh, do you think I shall?"
"Yes. He may rise to greater heights."
"You mean he may go to greater lengths?"
"Perhaps. I don't know. You'd have, of course, to stop his lengths,
which would he a pity. I think of him mostly in heights. There's no
reason why you shouldn't let him soar.... But I mustn't discuss him.
I've just eaten his dinner."
"No, we mustn't," Barbara agreed. "That's the worst of dinners."
"I say, though, can't we meet somewhere?"
"Where we _can?_"
"Yes. Where we can let ourselves rip? Couldn't we go for more walks
"I'm afraid there won't be time."
"There'll be loads of time. When he's off in his car 'rounding up the