Part 2 out of 5
"When he's 'off,' I'm 'on' as Mrs. Waddington's companion."
"Fanny won't mind. She'll let you do anything you like. At any rate,
she'll let _me_ do anything _I_ like."
"Will you ask her?"
"Of course I shall."
So they settled it.
When Barbara said to herself that Mr. Waddington would spoil her evening
with Ralph Bevan, she had judged by the change that had come over the
house since the return of its master. You felt it first in the depressed
faces of the servants, of Partridge and Annie Trinder. A thoughtful
gloom had settled even on Kimber. Worse than all, Fanny Waddington had
left off humming. Barbara missed that spontaneous expression of her
She thought: "What is it he does to them?" And yet it was clear that he
didn't do anything. They were simply crushed by the sheer mass and
weight of his egoism. He imposed on them somehow his incredible
consciousness of himself. He left an atmosphere of uneasiness. You felt
it when he wasn't there; even when Fanny had settled down in the
drawing-room with "Tono-Bungay" you felt her fear that at any minute the
door would open and Horatio would come in.
But Barbara wasn't depressed. She enjoyed the perpetual spectacle he
made. She enjoyed his very indifference to Ralph, his refusal to see
that he could command attention, his conviction of his own superior
fascination. She knew now what Ralph meant when he said it would be
unkind to spoil him for her. He was to burst on her without preparation
or description. She was to discover him first of all herself. First of
all. But she could see the time coming when her chief joy would be their
making him out, bit by bit, together. She even discerned a merry devil
in Fanny that amused itself at Horatio's expense; that was aware of
Barbara's amusement and condoned it. There were ultimate decencies that
prevented any open communion with Fanny. But beyond that refusal to
smile at Horatio after eating his dinner, she could see no decencies
restraining Ralph. She could count on him when her private delight
became intolerable and must be shared.
But there were obstacles to their intercourse. Mr. Waddington couldn't
very well start on what he called his "campaign" until he was armed with
his prospectus, and Pyecraft took more than a week to print it. And
while she sat idle, thinking of her salary, the fiend of conscience
prompted Barbara to ask him for work. Wasn't there his book?
"My book? My Cotswold book?" He pretended he had forgotten all about it.
He waved it away. "The book is only a recreation, an amusement. Plenty
of time for that when I've got my League going. Still, I shall be glad
when I can settle down to it, again.".... He was considering it now with
reminiscent affection.... "If it would amuse you to look at it--"
He began a fussy search in his bureau.
"Ah, here we are!"
He unearthed two piles of manuscript, one typed, the other written, both
scored with erasures, with almost illegible corrections and insertions.
"It's in a terrible mess," he said.
She saw what her work would be: to cut a way through the jungle, to make
"If I were to type it all over again, you'd have a clean copy to work on
when you were ready."
"If you _would_ be so good. It's that young rascal Ralph. He'd no
business to leave it in that state."
Her scruple came again to Barbara.
"Mr. Waddington, you'd take him on again for your secretary if he'd come
"He'd come back all right. Trust him."
"And you'd take him?"
"My dear young lady, why should I? I don't want _him_; I want _you_."
"And _I_ don't want to stand in his way."
"You needn't worry about that."
"I can't help worrying about it. You'd take him back if I wasn't here."
"You _are_ here."
"But if I weren't?"
"Come, come. You mustn't talk to me like that."
She went away and talked to Fanny.
"I can't bear doing him out of his job. If he'll come back--"
"My dear, you don't know Ralph. He'd die rather than come back. They've
made it impossible between them."
"Mr. Waddington says he'd take him back if I wasn't here."
"He wouldn't. He only thinks he would, because it makes him feel
magnanimous. He offered Ralph half a year's salary if he'd go at once.
And Ralph went at once and wouldn't touch the salary. That made him come
out top dog, and Horatio didn't like it. Not that he supposed he could
score off Ralph with money. He isn't vulgar."
No. He wasn't vulgar. But she wondered how he would camouflage it to
himself--that insult to his pride. And there was Ralph's pride that was
so fiery and so clean. Yet--
"Yet Mr. Bevan comes and dines," she said.
"Yes, he comes and dines. He'll always be my cousin, though he won't be
Horatio's secretary. He's got a very sweet nature and he keeps the
"But what will he _do_? He can't live on his sweet nature."
"Oh, he's got enough to live on, though not enough to--to do what he
wants on. But he'll get a job all right. You needn't bother your dear
little head about Ralph."
Fanny said to herself: "I'll tell him, then he'll adore her more than
ever. If only he adores her _enough_ he'll buck up and get something to
Mr. Waddington did not approve of Mrs. Levitt's intimacy with her
sister, Bertha Rickards.
He would have approved of it still less if he had heard the conversation
which Mrs. Trinder heard and reported to Miss Gregg, the governess at
the rectory, who told the Rector's wife, who told the Rector, who told
Colonel Grainger, who told Ralph Sevan, who kept it to himself.
"What did you say to the old boy, Elise?"
"Don't ask me what I _said_!"
"Well--have you got the cottage?"
"Of course I've got it, silly cuckoo. I can get anything out of him I
like. He wasn't going to turn those Ballingers out, but I made him."
"Did he say when Mrs. Waddington was going to call?"
Bertha couldn't resist the temptation of pinching where she knew the
flesh was tender.
"I didn't ask him."
"She can't very well be off it, now he's your landlord."
That was what Mrs. Levitt thought. And if Mrs. Waddington called, Lady
Corbett couldn't very well be off it either. They were the only ones in
Wyck who had not called; but it would be futile to pretend that they
didn't matter, that they were not the ones who mattered more than
The net she had drawn round Mr. Waddington was tightening, though he was
as yet unaware of his entanglement. First of all, the Lower Wyck cottage
was put into thorough repair; and if the plaster was not quite dry when
the Ballingers moved into it, that was not Mr. Waddington's concern. He
had provided them with a house, which was all that the law could
reasonably require him to do. Clearly it was Hitchin, the builder, who
should be held responsible for the plaster, not he. As for the
rheumatism Mrs. Ballinger got, supposing it could be put down to the
damp plaster and not to some inherent defect in Mrs. Ballinger's
constitution, clearly that was not Mr. Waddington's concern either. If
anybody was responsible for Mrs. Ballinger's rheumatism, it was Hitchin.
Mr. Waddington did not approve of Hitchin. Hitchin was a Socialist who
followed Colonel Grainger's lead in overpaying his workmen, with
disastrous consequences to other people; for over and above the general
upsetting caused by this gratuitous interference with the prevailing
economic system, Mr. Hitchin was in the habit of recouping himself by
monstrous overcharges. And Mr. Hitchin was not only the best builder in
the neighbourhood, but the only builder and stonemason in
Wyck-on-the-Hill, so that he had you practically at his mercy.
And operations at the Sheep Street cottage were suspended while Mr.
Waddington disputed Mr. Hitchin's estimate bit by bit, from the total
cost of building the new rooms down to the last pot of enamel paint and
his charge per foot for lead piping. June was slipping away while they
contended, and there seemed little chance of Mrs. Levitt's getting into
her house before Michaelmas, if then.
So that on the morning of the nineteenth, two days before the meeting,
Mr. Waddington found another letter waiting for him on the
Fanny was looking at him, and he sought protection in an affectation of
"Now what can Mrs. Levitt find to write to me about?"
"I wouldn't set any limits to her invention," Fanny said.
"And what do you know about Mrs. Levitt?"
"Nothing. I only gather from what you say yourself that she is--fertile
"Well, in creating opportunities."
"Opportunities, now, for what?"
"For you to exercise your Christian charity, my dear. When are you going
to let me call on her?"
"I am not going to let you call on her at all."
"Is that Christian charity?"
"It's anything you please." He was absorbed in his letter. Mrs. Levitt
had been obliged to move from Mrs. Trinder's in the Square to inferior
rooms in Sheep Street, and she was sorry for herself.
"But surely, when you're always calling on her yourself--"
"I am not always calling on her. And if I were, there are some things
which are perfectly proper for me to do which would not be proper for
"It sounds as if Mrs. Levitt wasn't."
He looked up as sharply as his facial curves permitted. "Nothing of the
sort. She's simply not the sort of person you _do_ call on; and I don't
mean you to begin."
"Because you're my wife and you have a certain position in the county.
"Rather a snobby reason, isn't it? You said I might call on anybody I
"So you may, in reason, provided you don't begin with Mrs. Levitt."
"I may have to end with her," said Fanny.
Mr. Waddington had many reasons for not wishing Fanny to call on Mrs.
Levitt. He wanted to keep his wife, because she was his wife, in a place
apart from Mrs. Levitt and above her, to mark the distance and
distinction that there was between them. He wanted to keep himself, as
Fanny's husband, apart and distant, by way of enhancing his male
attraction. And he wanted to keep Mrs. Levitt apart, to keep her to
himself, as the hidden woman of passionate adventure. Hitherto their
intercourse had had the charm, the unique, irreplaceable charm of things
unacknowledged and clandestine. Mrs. Levitt was unique; irreplaceable.
He couldn't think of any other woman who would be a suitable substitute.
There was little Barbara Madden; she had been afraid of him; but his
passions were still too young to be stirred by the crudity of a girl's
fright; if it came to that, he preferred the reassuring ease of Mrs.
And he didn't mean it to come to that.
But though Mr. Waddington did not actually look forward to a time when
he would be Mrs. Levitt's lover, he had visions of the pure fancy in
which he saw himself standing on Mrs. Levitt's doorstep after dark; say,
once a fortnight, on her servant's night out; he would sound a muffled
signal on the knocker and the door would he half-opened by Elise. Elise!
He would slip through in a slender and mysterious manner; he would go on
tip-toe up and down her stairs, recapturing a youthful thrill out of the
very risks they ran, yet managing the affair with a consummate delicacy
At this point Mr. Waddington's fancy heard another door open down the
street; somebody came out and saw him in the light of the passage;
somebody went by with a lantern; somebody timed his comings and goings.
He felt the palpitation, the cold nausea of detection. No. You couldn't
do these things in a little place like Wyck-on-the-Hill, where everybody
knew everybody else's business. And there was Toby, too.
Sometimes, perhaps, on a Sunday afternoon, when Toby and the servant
would be out. Yes. Sunday afternoon between tea-time and church-time.
Or he could meet her in Oxford or Cheltenham or in London. Wiser.
Week-ends. More satisfactory. Risk of being seen there too, but you must
take some risks. Surprising how these things _were_ kept secret.
Birmingham now. Birmingham would be safer because more unlikely. He
didn't know anybody in Birmingham. But the very thought of Mrs. Levitt
calling at the Manor on the same commonplace footing, say, as Mrs.
Grainger, was destruction to all this romantic secrecy.
Also he was afraid that if Mrs. Levitt were really that sort of woman,
Fanny's admirable instinct would find her out and scent the imminent
affair. Or if Fanny remained unsuspicious and showed plainly her sense
of security, Elise might become possessive and from sheer jealousy give
herself away. Mr. Waddington said to himself that he knew women, and
that if he were a wise man, and he _was_ a wise man, he would arrange
matters so that the two should never meet. Fanny was docile, and if he
said flatly that she was not to call on Mrs. Levitt, she wouldn't.
There was another thing that Mr. Waddington dreaded even more than that
dangerous encounter: Fanny's knowing that he had turned the Ballingers
out. As he would have been very unwilling to admit that Mrs. Levitt had
forced his hand there, he took the whole of the responsibility for that
action. But, inevitable and justifiable as it was, he couldn't hope to
carry it off triumphantly with Fanny. It was just, but it was not
magnanimous. Therefore, without making any positively untruthful
statement, he had let her think that Ballinger had given notice of his
own accord. The chances, he thought, were all against Fanny ever hearing
the truth of the matter.
If only the rascal hadn't had a wife and children, and if only his
wife--but, unfortunately for Mr. Waddington, his wife was Susan Trinder,
Mrs. Trinder's husband's niece, and Susan Trinder had been Horace's
nurse; and though they all considered that she had done for herself when
she married that pig-headed Ballinger, Fanny and Horace still called her
Susan-Nanna. And Susan-Nanna's niece, Annie Trinder, was parlourmaid at
the Manor. So Mr. Waddington had a nasty qualm when Annie, clearing away
breakfast, asked if she might have a day off to look after her aunt,
Mrs. Ballinger, who was in bed with the rheumatics.
To his horror he heard Fanny saying: "She wouldn't have had the
rheumatics if they'd stayed in Sheep Street."
Annie's eyes were clear and mendacious.
"He never ought to have left it," said Fanny.
"No, ma'am. No more he oughtn't."
"Isn't she very sorry about it?"
(Why couldn't Fanny leave it alone?)
"Yes, m'm. She's frettin' something awful. You see, 'tesn't so much the
house, though 'tes a better one than the one they're in, 'tes the
garden. All that fruit and vegetable what uncle he put in himself, and
them lavender bushes. Aunt, she's so fond of a bit of lavender. I dunnow
I'm sure how she'll get along."
Annie knew. He could tell by her eyes that she knew. There was nothing
but Annie's loyalty between him and that exposure that he dreaded. He
heard Fanny say that she would go and see Susan to-morrow. There would
be nothing but Susan's loyalty and Ballinger's magnanimity. It would
amount to that if they spared him for Fanny's sake. He had been
absolutely right, and Ballinger had brought the whole trouble on
himself; but you could never make Fanny see that. And Ballinger
contrived to put him still further in the wrong. The next day when Fanny
called at the cottage she found it empty. Ballinger had removed himself
and his wife and family to Susan's father's farm at Medlicott, a good
two and a half miles from his work on Colonel Grainger's land, thus
providing himself with a genuine grievance.
And Fanny would keep on talking about it at dinner.
"Those poor Ballingers! It's an awful pity he gave up the Sheep Street
cottage. Didn't you tell him he was a fool, Horatio?"
Mercifully Annie Trinder had left the room. But there was Partridge by
the sideboard, listening.
"I'm not responsible for Ballinger's folly. If he finds himself
inconvenienced by it, that's no concern of mine."
"Well, Ballinger's folly has been very convenient for Mrs. Levitt."
Mr. Waddington tried to look as if Mrs. Levitt's convenience were no
concern of his either.
The handbills and posters had been out for the last week. Their
headlines were very delightful to the eye with their enormous capitals
staring at you in Pyecraft's royal blue print.
NATIONAL LEAGUE OF LIBERTY.
* * * * *
IN AID OF THE ABOVE LEAGUE
WILL BE HELD IN THE
TOWN HALL, WYCK-ON-THE-HILL,
_Saturday, June 21st, 8 p.m._
* * * * *
_Chairman_: SIR JOHN CORBETT,
HORATIO BYSSHE WADDINGTON, ESQ.,
MANOR HOUSE, LOWER WYCK.
* * * * *
YOU ARE EARNESTLY REQUESTED TO
* * * * *
GOD SAVE THE KING!
Only one thing threatened Mr. Waddington's intense enjoyment of his
meeting: his son Horace would be there. Young Horace had insisted on
coming over from Cheltenham College for the night, expressly to attend
the meeting. And though Mr. Waddington had pointed out that the meeting
could very well take place without him, Fanny appeared to be backing
young Horace up in his impudent opinion that it couldn't. This he found
excessively annoying; for, though for worlds he wouldn't have owned it,
Mr. Waddington was afraid of his son. He was never the same man when he
was about. The presence of young Horace--tall for sixteen and developing
rapidly--was fatal to the illusion of his youth. And Horace had a way of
commenting disadvantageously on everything his father said or did; he
had a perfect genius for humorous depreciation. At any rate, he and his
mother behaved as if they thought it was humorous, and many of his
remarks seemed to strike other people--Sir John and Lady Corbett, for
example, and Ralph Bevan--in the same light. Over and over again young
Horace would keep the whole table listening to him with unreasoning and
unreasonable delight, while his father's efforts to converse received
only a polite and perfunctory attention. And the prospect of having
young Horace's humour let loose on his meeting and on his speech at the
meeting was distinctly disagreeable. Fanny oughtn't to have allowed it
to happen. He oughtn't to have allowed it himself. But short of writing
to his Head Master to forbid it, they couldn't stop young Horace coming.
He had only to get on his motor-bicycle and come.
Barbara came on him in the drawing-room before dinner, sitting in an
easy chair and giggling over the prospectus.
He jumped up and stood by the hearth, smiling at her.
"I say, did my guv'nor really write this himself?"
"More or less. Did you really come over for the meeting?"
His smile was wilful and engaging.
"You _are_ enthusiastic about the League."
"Enthusiastic? We-ell, I can't say I know much about it. Of course, I
know the sort of putrid tosh he'll sling at them, but what I want is to
_see_ him doing it."
He had got it too, that passion of interest and amusement, hers and
Ralph's. Only it wasn't decent of him to show it; she mustn't let him
see she had it. She answered soberly:
"Yes, he's awfully keen."
"_Is_ he? I've never seen him really excited, worked up, except once or
twice during the war."
As he stood there, looking down, smiling pensively, he seemed to brood
over it, to anticipate the joy of the spectacle.
He had an impudent, happy face, turned and coloured like his mother's;
he had Fanny's blue eyes and brown hair. All that the Waddingtons and
Postlethwaites had done to him was to raise the bridge of his nose, and
to thicken his lips slightly without altering their wide, vivacious
twirl. He considered Barbara.
"You're going to help him to write his book, aren't you?"
"I hope so," said Barbara.
"You've got a nerve. He pretty well did for Ralph Bevan. He's worse than
shell-shock when he once gets going."
"I expect I can stand him. He can't be worse than the War Office."
"Oh, isn't he? You wait."
At that moment his father came in, late, and betraying the first
symptoms of excitement. Barbara saw that the boy's eyes took them in. As
they sat down to dinner Mr. Waddington pretended to ignore Horace. But
Horace wouldn't be ignored. He drew attention instantly to himself.
"Don't you think it's jolly decent of me, pater, to come over for your
"I shouldn't have thought," said Mr. Waddington, "that politics were
much in your line. Not worth spoiling a half-holiday for."
"I don't suppose I shall care two fags about your old League. What I've
come for is to see you, pater, getting up on your hind legs and giving
it them. I wouldn't miss that for a million half-holidays."
"If that's all you've come for you might have saved yourself the
"Trouble? My dear father, I'd have taken _any_ trouble."
You could see he was laughing at him. And he was talking at Barbara,
attracting her attention the whole time; with every phrase he shot a
look at her across the table. Evidently he was afraid she might think he
didn't know how funny his father was, and he had to show her. It wasn't
decent of him. Barbara didn't approve of young Horace; yet she couldn't
resist him; his eyes and mouth were full, like Ralph's, of such
intelligent yet irresponsible joy. He wanted her to share it. He was an
egoist like his father; but he had something of his mother's charm,
something of Ralph Bevan's.
"Nothing," he was saying, "nothing would have kept me away."
"You're very good, sir." Horace could appreciate that biting sarcasm.
"Not at all. I say, I wish you'd let me come on the platform."
"What for? You don't propose yourself as a speaker, do you?"
"Rather not. I simply want to be somewhere where I can see your face and
old Grainger's at the same time, and Hitchin's, when you're going for
"You shall certainly not come on the platform. And wherever you sit I
must request you to behave yourself--if you can. You may not realize it,
but this is going to be a serious meeting."
"I know _that_. It's just the--the seriousness that gets me." He
Mr. Waddington shrugged his shoulders. "Of course, if you've no sense of
responsibility--if you choose to go on like an ill-bred schoolboy--but
don't be surprised if you're reprimanded from the chair."
"What? Old Corbett? I should like to see him.... Don't you worry, pater,
I'll behave a jolly sight better than anybody else will. You see if I
"How did you suppose he'd behave, Horatio?" said Fanny. "When he's come
all that way and given up a picnic to hear you."
"Pater'll be a picnic, if you like," said Horace.
Mr. Waddington waved him away with a gesture as if he flicked a teasing
fly, and went out to collect his papers.
Fanny turned to her son. "Horry dear, you mustn't rag your father like
that. You mustn't laugh at him. He doesn't like it."
"I can't help it," Horry said. "He's so furiously funny. He _makes_ me
"Well, whatever you do, don't giggle at the meeting, or you'll give him
"I won't, mater. Honour bright, I won't. I'll hold myself in like--like
anything. Only you mustn't mind if I burst."
Mr. Waddington had spoken for half an hour, expounding, with some
necessary repetitions, the principles and objects of the League.
He was supported on the platform by his Chairman, Sir John Corbett, and
by the other members of his projected Committee: by Lady Corbett, by
Fanny, by the Rector, by Mr. Thurston of the Elms, Wyck-on-the-Hill; by
Mr. Bostock of Parson's Bank; Mr. Jackson, of Messrs. Jackson, Cleaver
and Co., solicitors; Major Markham of Wyck Wold, Mr. Temple of
Norton-in-Mark, and Mr. Hawtrey of Medlicott; and by his secretary,
Miss Barbara Madden. The body of the hall was packed. Beneath him, in
the front row, he had the wives and daughters of his committeemen; in
its centre, right under his nose, he was painfully aware of the presence
of young Horace and Ralph Bevan. Colonel Grainger sat behind them,
conspicuous and, Mr. Waddington fancied, a little truculent, with his
great square face and square-clipped red moustache, and on each side of
Colonel Grainger and behind him were the neighbouring gentry and the
townspeople of Wyck, the two grocers, the two butchers, the drapers and
hotel keeper, and behind them again the servants of the Manor and a
crowd of shop assistants; and further and further back, farm labourers
and artisans; among these he recognized Ballinger with several of
Colonel Grainger's and Hitchin's men. A pretty compact group they made,
and Mr. Waddington was gratified by their appearance there.
And well in the centre of the hall, above the women's hats, he could see
Mr. Hitchin's bush of hair, his shrewd, round, clean-shaven and rosy
face, his grey check shoulders and red tie. Mr. Hitchin had the air of
being supported by the entire body of his workmen. Mr. Waddington was
gratified by Mr. Hitchin's appearance, too, and he thought he would
insert some expression of that feeling in his peroration.
He was also profoundly aware of Mrs. Levitt sitting all by herself in an
empty space about the middle of the third row.
From time to time Ralph Bevan and young Horace fixed on Fanny Waddington
and Barbara delighted eyes in faces of a supernatural gravity. Young
Horace was looking odd and unlike himself, with his jaws clamped
together in his prodigious effort not to giggle. Whenever Barbara's eyes
met his and Ralph's, a faint smile quivered on her face and flickered
and went out.
Once Horace whispered to Ralph Bevan: "Isn't he going it?" And Ralph
whispered back: "He's immense."
He was. He felt immense. He felt that he was carrying his audience with
him. The sound of his own voice excited him and whipped him on. It was a
sort of intoxication. He was soaring now, up and up, into his
"It is a gratification to me to see so many working men and women here
to-night. They are specially welcome. We want to have them with us. Do
not distrust the working man. The working man is sound at heart. Sound
at head too, when he is let alone and not carried away by the
treacherous arguments of ignorant agitators. We--myself and the
founders of this League--have not that bad opinion of the working man
which his leaders--his misleaders, I may call them--appear to have. We
believe in him, we know that, if he were only let alone, there is no
section of the community that would stand more solid for order and good
government than he."
"Hear! Hear!" from Colonel Grainger. Ralph whispered, "Camouflage!" to
Horace, who nodded.
"There is nothing in the aims of this League contrary to the interests
of Labour. On the contrary"--he heard, as if somebody else had
perpetrated it, the horrible repetition--"I mean to say--" His brain
fought for another phrase madly and in vain. "On the contrary, it exists
in order to safeguard the true interests, the best interests, of every
working man and woman in the country."
"Hear! Hear!" from Sir John Corbett. Mr. Waddington smiled.
"President Wilson"--he became agitated and drank water--"President
Wilson talked about making the world safe for democracy. Well, if we,
you and I, all of us, don't take care, the world won't be safe for
anything else. It certainly won't be safe for the middle classes, for
the great business and professional classes, for the class to which I,
for one, belong: the class of English gentlemen. It won't be safe for
"Not that I propose to make a class question of it. To make a class
question of it would be more than wrong. It would be foolish. It would
be a challenge to revolution, the first step towards letting loose,
unchaining against us, those forces of disorder and destruction which we
are seeking to keep down. I am not here to insist on class differences,
to foment class hatred. Those differences exist, they always will exist;
but they are immaterial to our big purpose. This is a question of
principle, the great principle of British liberty. Are we going to
submit to the tyranny of one class over all other classes, of one
interest over all other interests in the country? Are we going to knock
under, I say, to a minority, whether it is a Labour minority or any
"Are--we--going--to tolerate Bolshevism and a Soviet Government here? If
there are any persons present who think that that is our attitude and
our intention, I tell them now plainly--it is _not_. In their own
language, in our good old county proverb: 'As sure as God's in
Gloucester,' it is not and never will be. The sooner they understand
that the better. I do not say that there are any persons present who
would be guilty of so gross an error. I do not believe there are. I do
not believe that there is any intelligent person in this room who will
not agree with me when I say that, though it is just and right that
Labour should have a voice in the government, it is not just and it is
not right that it should be the only voice.
"It has been the only voice heard in Russia for two years, and what is
the consequence? Bloodshed. Anarchy and bloodshed. I don't _say_ that we
should have anarchy and bloodshed here; England, thank God, is not
Russia. But I do not say that we shall _not_ have them. And I _do_ say
that it rests with us, with you and me, ladies and gentlemen, to decide
whether we shall or shall not have them. It depends on the action we
take to-night with regard to this National League of Liberty, on the
action taken on--on other nights at similar meetings, all over this
England of ours; it depends, in two words, on our _united action_,
whether we shall have anarchy or stable government, whether this England
of ours shall or shall not continue to be a free country.
"Remember two things: the League is National, and it is a League of
Liberty. It would not be one if it were not the other.
"You will say, perhaps many of you _are_ saying: 'This League is all
very well, but what can _I_ do?' Perhaps you will even say: 'What can
Wyck do? After all, Wyck is a small place. It isn't the capital of the
"Well, I can tell you what Wyck can do. It can be--it _is_ the first
town in Gloucestershire, the first provincial town in England to start a
National League of Liberty. They've got a League in London, the parent
League; they may have another branch League anywhere any day, but I hope
that--thanks to the very noble efforts of those ladies and gentlemen who
have kindly consented to serve on my Committee--I hope that before long
we shall have started Leagues in Gloucester, Cheltenham, Cirencester,
Nailsworth and Stroud; in every town, village and hamlet in the county.
I hope, thanks to your decision to-night, ladies and gentlemen, to be
able to say that Wyck--little Wyck--has got in first. All round us, for
fifteen--twenty miles round, there are hamlets, villages and towns that
haven't got a League, that know nothing about the League.
Wyck-on-the-Hill will be the centre of the League for this part of the
"It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the principle at
stake. Impossible, therefore, to exaggerate the importance of this
League, therefore impossible to exaggerate the importance of this
meeting, of every man and woman who has come here to-night. And when
you rise from your seats and step up to this platform to enroll your
names as members of the National League of Liberty, I want you to feel,
every one of you, that you will be doing an important thing, a thing
necessary to the nation, a thing in its way every bit as necessary and
important as the thing the soldier does when he rises up out of his
trench and goes over the top."
It was then, and then only, that young Horace giggled. But he covered
his collapse with a shout of "Hear! Hear!" that caused Fanny and Barbara
to blow their noses simultaneously. As for Ralph, he hid his face in his
"Like him," said Mr. Waddington, "you will be helping to save England.
And what can any of us do more?"
He sat down suddenly in a perfect uproar of applause, and drank water.
In spite of the applause he was haunted by a sense of incompleteness.
There was something he had left out of his speech, something he had
particularly wanted to say. It seemed to him more vital, more important,
than anything he _had_ said.
A solitary pair of hands, Mrs. Levitt's hands, conspicuously lifted,
were still clapping when Mr. Hitchin's face rose like a red moon behind
and a little to the left of her; followed by the grey check shoulders
and red tie. He threw back his head, stuck a thumb in each armhole of
his waistcoat, and spoke. "Ladies and gentlemen. The speaker has quoted
President Wilson about the world being made safe for democracy. He seems
to be concerned about the future, to be, if I may say so, in a bit of a
funk about the future. But has he paid any attention to the past? Has he
considered the position of the working man in the past? Has he even
considered the condition of many working men at the present time, for
instance, of the farm labourer now in this country? If he had, if he
knew the facts, if he cared about the facts, he might admit that,
whether he's going to like it or not, it's the working man's turn. Just
about his turn.
"I needn't ask Mr. Waddington if he knows the parable of Dives and
Lazarus. But I should like to say to him what Abraham said to the rich
man: 'Remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things,
and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art
"I don't want Mr. Waddington to be tormented. To be tormented too much.
Not more than is reasonable. A little torment--say, his finger scorched
for the fraction of a second in that hot, unpleasant place--would be
good for him if it made him think. I say I don't want to torment him,
but I'll just ask him one question: Does he think that a world where
it's possible for a working man, just because he _is_ a working man and
not an English gentleman, a world where it's still possible for him, and
his wife and his children, to be turned out of house and home to suit
the whim of an English gentleman; does he think that a world where
things like that can happen is a safe place for anybody?
"I can tell him it isn't safe. It isn't safe for you and me. And if it
isn't safe for you and me, it isn't safe for the people who make these
things happen; and it isn't any safer for the people who stand by and
let them happen.
"And if the Socialist--if the Bolshevist is the man who's going to see
to it that they don't happen, if a Soviet Government is the only
Government that'll see to that, then the Socialist, or the Bolshevist,
is the man for my money, and a Soviet Government is the Government for
my vote. I don't say, mind you, that it _is_ the only Government--I say,
if it were.
"Mr. Waddington doesn't like Bolshevism. None of us like it. He doesn't
like Socialism. I think he's got some wrong ideas about that. But he's
dead right when he tells you, if you're afraid of Bolshevism and a
Soviet Government, that the remedy lies in your own hands. If there ever
is a day of reckoning, what Mr. Waddington would call a revolution in
this country, you, we, ay, everyone of us sitting here, will be done
with according as we do."
He sat down, and Mr. Waddington rose again on his platform, solemn and a
little pale. He looked round the hall, to show that there was no person
there whom he was afraid to face. It might have been the look of some
bold and successful statesman turning on a turbulent House, confident in
his power to hold it.
"Unless I have misheard him, what Mr. Hitchin has just said, ladies and
gentlemen, sounded very like a threat. If that is so, we may
congratulate Mr. Hitchin on providing an unanswerable proof of the need
for a National League of Liberty."
There were cries of "Hear! Hear!" from Sir John Corbett and from Mr.
Hawtrey of Medlicott.
Then a horrible thing happened. Slight and rustling at first, then
gathering volume, there came a hissing from the back rows packed with
Colonel Grainger's and Mr. Hitchin's men. Then a booing. Then a booing
and hissing together.
Sir John scrabbled on to his little legs and cried: "Ordah, there!
Ordah!" Mr. Waddington maintained an indomitably supercilious air while
Sir John brought his fist down on the table (probably the most energetic
thing he had ever done in his life), with a loud shout of "Ordah!"
Colonel Grainger and Mr. Hitchin were seen to turn round in their
places and make a sign to their men, and the demonstration ceased.
Mr. Waddington then rose as if nothing at all had happened and said,
"Any ladies and gentlemen wishing to join the League will please come up
to the platform and give their names to Miss Madden. Any persons wishing
to subscribe at once, may pay their subscriptions to Miss Madden.
"I will now call your attention to the last item on the programme, and
ask you all to join with me very heartily in singing 'God Save the
Everybody, except Colonel Grainger and Mr. Hitchin, rose, and everybody,
except the extremists of the opposition, sang. One voice--it was Mrs.
Levitt's voice--was lifted arrogantly high and clear above the rest.
Long--to-oo rei-eign overious
Mr. Waddington waited beside Barbara Madden at the table; he waited in a
superb confidence. After all, the demonstration engineered by Colonel
Grainger had had no effect. The front and middle rows had risen to their
feet and a very considerable procession was beginning to file towards
Mr. Waddington was so intent on this procession, Barbara was so busy
taking down names and entering subscriptions and making out receipts,
Sir John and Lady Corbett and the rest of the proposed Committee were
talking to each other so loud and fast, Ralph and Horace were so
absorbed in looking at Barbara that none of them saw what was happening
in the body of the hall. Only Fanny caught the signals that passed
between Colonel Grainger and Mr. Hitchin, and between Mr. Hitchin and
Then Colonel Grainger stood up and shouted, "I protest!"
Mr. Hitchin stood up and shouted, "I protest!"
They shouted together, "We protest!"
Sir John Corbett rushed back to his chair and shouted "Ordah!" and the
back rows, the ranks of Hitchin's men, stood up and shouted, "We won't
sign!" "We won't sign!" "We won't sign!"
And then young Horace did an unsuspected thing, a thing that surprised
himself. He leaped on to the front bench and faced the insurgent back
rows. His face was red with excitement, and with the shame and anger and
resentment inspired by his father's eloquence. But he was shouting in
his hoarse, breaking, adolescent voice:
"Look here, you blackguards there at the back. If you don't stop that
row this minute, I'll jolly well chuck you all out."
Only one voice, the voice of Mr. Hitchin's biggest and brawniest
quarryman, replied: "Come on, sir!"
Young Horace vaulted lightly over the bench, followed by Ralph, and the
two were steeplechasing down the hall when Mr. Hitchin made another of
his mysterious signals and the men filed out, obediently, one by one.
Ralph and Horace found themselves in the middle of the empty benches
laughing into each other's faces. Colonel Grainger and Mr. Hitchin stood
beside them, smiling with intolerable benevolence.
Mr. Hitchin was saying: "The men are all right, Mr. Bevan. They don't
mean any harm. They just got a bit out of hand."
Horace saw that they were being magnanimous, and the thought maddened
him. "I don't blame the men," he said, "and I don't blame you, Hitchin.
You don't know any better. But Colonel Grainger ought to be damned well
ashamed of himself, and I hope he is."
Colonel Grainger laughed. So did Mr. Hitchin, throwing himself back and
swaying from side to side as his mirth shook him.
"Look here, Mr. Hitchin--"
"That'll do, Horry," said Ralph. He led him gently down a side aisle
and through a swing door into the concealed corridor beside the
platform. There they waited.
"Don't imagine for one moment," said young Horry, "that I agree with all
that tosh he talked. But, after all, he's got a perfect right to make a
fool of himself if he chooses. And he's _my_ father."
"I know. From first to last, Horry, you behaved beautifully."
"Well, what would _you_ do if your father made an unholy ass of himself
"My father doesn't."
"No, but if he did?"
"I'd do what you did. Sit tight and try and look as if he didn't."
"Then," said Horace, "you look as big a fool yourself."
"Not quite. You don't say anything. Besides, your father isn't as big a
fool as those London Leaguers who started the silly show. Sir Maurice
Gedge and all that crowd. He didn't invent the beastly thing."
"No," said Horace mournfully, "he hasn't even the merit of originality."
He meditated, still mournful.
"Look here, Ralph, what did that blackguard Hitchin mean?"
"He isn't a blackguard. He's a ripping good sort. I can tell you, if
every employer in this confounded commercial country was as honest as
old Hitchin, there wouldn't be any labour question worth talking about."
"Damn his honesty. What did he _mean_? Was it true what he said?"
"Was what true?"
"Why, that my father turned the Ballingers out?"
"Yes; I'm afraid it was."
"I say, how disgusting of him. You know I always thought he was a bit of
a fool, my father; but I didn't know he was that beastly kind of fool."
"He isn't," said Ralph. "He's just--a fool."
"I know. Did you ever hear such putrid rot as he talked?"
"I don't know. For the kind of silly thing it was, his speech wasn't
"What? About going over the top? Oh, Lord! And after turning the
Ballingers out, too."
Ralph was silent.
"What's happened to him? He didn't use to be like that. He must be mad,
Ralph thought of Mrs. Levitt.
"He's getting old and he doesn't like it. That's what's the matter with
"But hang it all, Ralph, that's no excuse. It really isn't."
"I believe Ballinger gave him some provocation."
"I don't care what he gave him. He'd no earthly business to take
advantage of it. Not with that sort of person. Besides, it wouldn't
matter about Ballinger so much, but there's old Susan and the
kiddies.... He doesn't see how perfectly sickening it is for _me_."
"It isn't very nice for your mother."
"No; it's jolly hard on the poor mater.... Well, I can't stick it much
longer. I'm just about fed up with Horatio Bysshe. I shall clear out
first thing in the morning before he's down. I don't care if I never see
him or speak to him again."
"I say, I say, how about the midsummer holidays?"
"Oh, damn the midsummer holidays!"
"Isn't it rather rotten to take a line you can't possibly keep up?"
"That's all right. Whatever I may do in the future," said young Horace
magnificently, "I've got to give him his punishment _now_."
Ralph laughed. Young Horace was as big an egoist as his father, but with
these differences: his blood was hot instead of cold, he had his
mother's humour, and he was not a fool. Ralph wondered how he would
have felt if he had realized Mrs. Levitt's part in the Ballinger
Mr. Waddington remained standing on his platform. They were coming round
him now, grasping him by the hand, congratulating him: Sir John Corbett,
the Rector, Major Markham of Wyck Wold and Mr. Hawtrey of Medlicott.
"Capital speech, Waddington, capital."
"Best speech made in the Town Hall since they built it."
"Splendid. You landed them one every time."
"No wonder you drew them down on to you."
"That was a disgraceful business," said Sir John. "Disgraceful."
"Nothing of the sort ever happened in Wyck before," said the Rector.
"Nobody ever made a speech like Waddington's before," said Major Markham
of Wyck Wold.
"Oh, you always get a row if you drag in politics," Mr. Hawtrey said.
"I don't know," said Sir John. "That was a put-up job between Hitchin
"Struck me it had every appearance of a spontaneous outburst," Major
"I've no doubt the rowdy element was brought in from the outside," said
the Rector. "Hardly one of Hitchin's workpeople is a Wyck man. Otherwise
I should have to apologize to Waddington for my parishioners."
"You needn't. There was nothing personal to me in it. Nothing personal
at all. Even Hitchin wouldn't have had the impudence to oppose me on my
own platform. It was the League they were going for. Bit too big for
'em. If you come out with a large, important thing like that there's
sure to be some opposition just at first till it gets hold of 'em."
"Glad you can see it that way," said Sir John.
"My dear fellow, that's the way to see it. It's the right way; the big
"You've taken it in the proper spirit, Waddington," said the Rector.
"None of those fellows meant any real harm. All good fellows.... By the
way, is it true that the Ballingers have moved to Lower Wyck?"
"I believe so."
"Dear me, what on earth possessed them?"
"Some fad of Ballinger's, I fancy."
"That reminds me, I must go and see Mrs. Ballinger."
"You won't find them there, sir. They've moved again to her father's at
"You don't say so. I wonder now what they've done that for."
"They complained of the house being damp for one thing. If it was, that
was Hitchin's fault, not mine."
Was everybody in a plot to badger him about those wretched Ballingers?
He was getting sick of it. And he wanted to speak a word to Mrs. Levitt.
Mrs. Levitt had come up in the tail of the procession. She had given in
her name and her subscription to Barbara Madden; but she lingered,
waiting no doubt for a word with him. If only Corbett and the rest of
them would go.
"Of course. Of course it was Hitchin's fault," said the Rector, with
imperishable geniality. "Well.... Good night, Waddington, and thank you
for a most--a most stimulating evening."
They had gone now, all but Sir John and Lady Corbett. (He could hear her
talking to Fanny at the back of the platform.) Mrs. Levitt was gathering
her scarf round her; in another minute she would be gone. And Corbett
"I say, Waddington, that's a splendid young cub of yours. See him go
over the top? He'd have taken them all on. Licked 'em, too, I shouldn't
Mr. Waddington resented this diversion of the stream of admiration. And
he was acutely aware of Mrs. Levitt standing there, detached but
"Was I really all right, Corbett?" He wasn't satisfied with his speech.
If only he could remember what he had left out of it.
"Absolutely, my dear chap. Absolutely top-hole. You ought to make that
boy a soldier."
He wished that young Horace could be a soldier at that moment, stationed
in a remote part of the Empire, without any likelihood of leave for the
next five years. He wanted--he wanted intolerably to speak to Mrs.
Levitt, to spread himself voluptuously in her rejuvenating smile.
Sir John retreated before his manifest indifference. He could hear him
at the back of the platform, congratulating Fanny.
Mrs. Levitt advanced towards him.
"At last," she said, "I may add my congratulations. That speech was
"Nothing, my dear lady, nothing but a little necessary plain speaking."
"Oh, but you were wonderful. You carried us off our feet."
"I hope," he said, "we've enrolled you as a member?" (He knew they had.)
"Of course I'm enrolled. And I've paid in my poor little guinea to that
delightful Miss Madden."
"Ah, that is _too_ good of you."
It was. The amount of the subscription was purely a matter of individual
"It's the least I could do in such a splendid cause."
"Well, dear Mrs. Levitt, we're delighted to have you with us.
There was a pause. He was looking down at her from the height of his six
feet. The faint, sweet scent of orris root rose up from her warm skin.
She was very attractive, dressed in a low-necked gown of that dull,
satiny stuff women were wearing now. A thin band of white net was
stretched across the top of her breasts; through it he could see the
shadowy, arrow-headed groove between; her pendant--pearl bistre and
paste--pointed, pointed down to it.
He was wrong about Elise and jewellery. That was a throat for pearls and
for diamonds. Emeralds. She would be all black and white and sparkling
green. A necklace, he thought, wouldn't hang on her; it would be laid
out, exposed on that white breast as on a cushion. You could never tell
what a woman was really like till you'd seen her in a low-necked gown.
It made Mrs. Levitt ten times more alluring. He smiled at her, a tender,
brooding, rather fatuous smile.
Mrs. Levitt saw that her moment had come. It would be now or never. She
must risk it.
"I wish," she said, "you'd introduce me to your wife."
It was a shock, a horrid blow. It showed plainly that Elise had
interests beyond him, that she was not, like him, all for the secret,
Yet perhaps--perhaps--she had planned it; she thought it would be safer
for them, more discreet.
She looked up at him with the old, irrefutable smile.
"Will you?" she pleaded.
"Well--I'm not sure that I know where my wife _is_. She was here a
minute ago, talking to Lady Corbett."
He looked round. A wide screen guarded the door on to the platform. He
could see Lady Corbett and Fanny disappearing behind it.
"I--I'll go and look for her," he said. He meditated treachery.
Treachery to poor Elise.
He followed them through the door and down the steps into the concealed
corridor. He found Ralph Bevan there. Horace had gone.
"I say, Ralph, I wish you'd take Fanny home. She's tired. Get her out of
this. I shall be here quite half an hour longer; settling up accounts.
You might tell Kimber to come back for me and Miss Madden."
Now to get to the entrance you had to pass through the swing door into
the hall and down the side aisle to the bottom, so that Mrs. Levitt
witnessed Mrs. Waddington's exit with Ralph Bevan. Mr. Waddington.
waited till the hall doors had closed on them before he returned.
"I can't find my wife anywhere," he said. "She wasn't in the cloak-room,
so I think she must have gone back with Horace."
Mrs. Levitt would think that Fanny had disappeared while he was looking
for her, honourably, in the cloak-room.
"I saw her go out," said Mrs. Levitt coldly, "with Mr. Bevan."
"I suppose he's taking her home," he said vaguely. His best policy was
vagueness. "And now, my dear lady, I wish I could take _you_ home. But I
shall be detained here some little time. Still, if you don't mind
waiting a minute or two till Kimber comes back with the car, he shall
"Thank you, Mr. Waddington, I'm afraid I've waited quite long enough. It
isn't worth while troubling Kimber to drive me a hundred yards."
It gave her pleasure to inflict that snub on Mr. Waddington in return
for his manoeuvre. As the meeting had now broken up, and there wouldn't
be anybody to witness her departure in the Waddingtons' car, Mrs.
Levitt calculated that she could afford that little gratification of her
feelings. They were intensified by Mr. Waddington's very evident
distress. He would have walked home with her the hundred yards to Sheep
Street, but she wouldn't hear of it. She was perfectly capable of seeing
herself home. Miss Madden was waiting for him. Good night.
Eleven o'clock. In the library where Mr. Waddington was drinking his
whisky and water, Fanny had been crying. Horry had stalked off to his
bedroom without saying good night to anybody. Barbara had retired
discreetly. Ralph Bevan had gone. And when Fanny thought of the lavender
bags Susan-Nanna sent every year at Christmas, she had cried.
"How could you _do_ it, Horatio? How _could_ you?"
"There was nothing else to be done. You can't expect me to take your
sentimental, view of Ballinger."
"It isn't Ballinger. It's poor Susan-Nanna and the babies, and the
Mr. Waddington swayed placably up and down on the tips of his toes. "It
serves poor Susan-Nanna right for marrying Ballinger."
"Oh--I suppose it serves _me_ right, too--"
Though she clenched her hands tight, tight, she couldn't keep back that
little spurt of anger.
He was smiling his peculiar, voluptuous smile. "Serves you right? For
spoiling everybody in the village? It does indeed."
"You don't in the least see what I mean," said Fanny.
But, after all, she was glad he hadn't seen it.
He hadn't seen anything. He hadn't seen that she had been crying. It had
never dawned on him that she might care about Susan-Nanna, or that the
Ballingers might love their home, their garden and their lavender
bushes. He was like that. He didn't see things, and he didn't care.
He was back in his triumph of the evening, going over the compliments
and congratulations, again and again--"Best speech ever made in the Town
Hall--" But there was something--something he had left out.
"Did it never dawn on you--" said Fanny.
Ah, _now_ he had it.
"There!" he said. "I knew I'd forgotten something. I never put in that
bit about the darkest hour before dawn."
Fanny's mind had wandered from what she had been going to say. "Did you
see what Horry did?" she said instead.
"Everybody could see it. It was most unnecessary."
"I don't care. Think, Horatio. Think of his sticking up for you like
that. He was going to fight them, the dear thing, all those great rough
men. To fight them for _you_. He said he'd behave better than anybody
else, and he did."
"Yes, yes. He behaved very well." Now that she put it to him that way he
was touched by Horace's behaviour. He could always be touched by the
thought of anything you did for _him_.
But Ralph Bevan could have told Fanny she was mistaken. Young Horace
didn't do it altogether for his father; he did it for himself, for an
ideal of conduct, an ideal of honour that he had, to let off steam, to
make a sensation in the Town Hall, to feel himself magnificent and
brave; because he, too, was an egoist, though a delightful one.
Mr. Waddington returned to his speech. "I can't think what made me leave
out that bit about the dawn."
"Oh, bother your old dawn," said Fanny. "I'm going to bed."
She went, consoled. "Dear Horry," she thought, "I'm glad he did that."
The Ballinger affair did not end with the demonstration in the Town
Hall. It had unforeseen and far-reaching consequences.
The first of these appeared in a letter which Mr. Waddington received
from Mr. Hitchin:
"_Re_ my estimate for decoration and additional building to Mrs.
Levitt's house, I beg to inform you that recent circumstances have
rendered it impossible for me to take up the contract. I must therefore
request you to transfer your esteemed order to some other firm.
Mr. Hitchin expressed his attitude even more clearly to the foreman of
his works. "I'm not going to build bathrooms and boudoirs and bedrooms
for that--" the word he chose completed the alliteration. So that Mr.
Waddington was compelled to employ a Cheltenham builder whose estimate
exceeded Mr. Hitchin's estimate by thirty pounds.
And Mr. Hitchin's refusal was felt, even by people who resented his
estimates, to be a moral protest that did him credit. It impressed the
popular imagination. In the popular imagination Mrs. Levitt was now
inextricably mixed up with the Ballinger affair. Public sympathy was all
with Ballinger, turned out of his house and forced to take refuge with
his wife's father at Medlicott, forced to trudge two and a half miles
every day to his work and back again. The Rector and Major Markham of
Wyck Wold, meditating on the Ballinger affair as they walked back that
night from the Town Hall, pronounced it a mystery.
"It wasn't likely," Major Markham said, "that Ballinger, of his own
initiative, would leave a comfortable house in Sheep Street for a damp
cottage in Lower Wyck."
"Was it likely," the Rector said, "that Waddington would turn him out?"
He couldn't believe that old Waddington would do anything of the sort.
"Unless," Major Markham suggested, "he's been got at. Mrs. Levitt may
have got at him." He was a good sort, old Waddy, but he would be very
weak in the hands of a clever, unscrupulous woman.
The Rector said he thought there was no harm in Mrs. Levitt, and Major
Markham replied that he didn't like the look of her.
A vague scandal rose in Wyck-on-the-Hill. It went from mouth to mouth in
bar parlours and back shops; Major Markham transported it in his
motor-car from Wyck Wold to the Halls and Manors of Winchway and Chipping
Kingdon and Norton-in-Mark. It got an even firmer footing in the county
than in Wyck, with the consequence that one old lady withdrew her
subscription to the League, and that when Mr. Waddington started on his
campaign of rounding up the county the county refused to be rounded up.
And the big towns, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Cirencester, were
singularly apathetic. It was intimated to Mr. Waddington that if the
local authorities saw fit to take the matter up no doubt something would
be done, but the big towns were not anxious for a National League of
Liberty imposed on them from Wyck-on-the-Hill.
The League did not die of Mrs. Levitt all at once. Very soon after the
inaugural meeting the Committee sat at Lower Wyck Manor and appointed
Mr. Waddington president. It arranged a series of monthly meetings in
the Town Hall at which Mr. Waddington would speak ("That," said Fanny,
"will give you something to look forward to every month.") Thus, on
Saturday, the nineteenth of July, he would speak on "The Truth about
Bolshevism." It was also decided that the League could be made very
useful during by-elections in the county, if there ever were any, and
Mr. Waddington prepared in fancy a great speech which he could use for
On July the nineteenth, seventeen people, counting Fanny and Barbara,
came to the meeting: Sir John Corbett (Lady Corbett was unfortunately
unable to attend), the Rector without his wife, Major Markham of Wyck
Wold, Mr. Bostock of Parson's Bank, Kimber and Partridge and Annie
Trinder from the Manor, the landlady of the White Hart, the butcher, the
grocer and the fishmonger with whom Mr. Waddington dealt, three farmers
who approved of his determination to keep down wages, and Mrs. Levitt.
When he sat down and drank water there was a feeble clapping led by Mrs.
Levitt, Sir John and the Rector. On August the sixteenth, the audience
had shrunk to Mrs. Levitt, Kimber and Partridge, the butcher, one of the
three farmers, and a visitor staying at the White Hart. Mr. Waddington
spoke on "What the League Can Do." Owing to a sudden unforeseen shortage
in his ideas he was obliged to fall back on his electioneering speech
and show how useful the League would be if at any time there were a
by-election in the county. The pop-popping of Mrs. Levitt's hands burst
into a silent space. Nobody, not even Kimber or Partridge, was going to
follow Mrs. Levitt's lead.
"You'll have to give it up," Fanny said. "Next time there won't be
anybody but Mrs. Levitt." And with the vision before him of all those
foolish, empty benches and Mrs. Levitt, pop-popping, dear brave woman,
all by herself, Mr. Waddington admitted that he would have to give it
up. Not that he owned himself beaten; not that he gave up his opinion of
"It's a bit too big for 'em," he said. "They can't grasp it. Sleepy
minds. You can't rouse 'em if they won't be roused."
He emerged from his defeat with an unbroken sense of intellectual
Thus the League languished and died out; and Mr. Waddington, in the
absence of this field for personal activity, languished too. In spite of
his intellectual superiority, perhaps because of it, he languished till
Barbara pointed out to him that the situation had its advantages. At
last he could go on with his book.
"If you can only start him on it and keep him at it," Fanny said, "I'll
bless you for ever."
But it was not easy either to start him or to keep him at it. To begin
with, as Ralph had warned her, the work itself, _Ramblings Through the
Cotswolds_, was in an appalling mess, and Mr. Waddington seemed to have
exhausted his original impetus in getting it into that mess. He had set
out on his ramblings without any settled plan. "A rambler," he said,
"shouldn't have a settled plan." So that you would find Mr. Waddington,
starting from Wyck-on-the-Hill and arriving at Lechford in the Thames
valley, turning up in the valley of the Windlode or the Speed. You would
find him on page twenty-seven drinking ale at the Lygon Arms in Chipping
Kingdon, and on page twenty-eight looking down on the Evesham plain from
the heights south of Cheltenham. He would turn from this prospect and,
without traversing any intermediate ground, be back again, where you
least expected him, in his Manor under Wyck-on-the-Hill. For though he
had no fixed plan, he had a fixed idea, and however far he rambled he
returned invariably to Wyck. To Mr. Waddington Wyck-on-the-Hill was the
one stable, the one certain spot on the earth's surface, and this led to
his treating the map of Gloucestershire entirely with reference to
Wyck-on-the-Hill, so that all his ramblings were complicated by the
necessity laid on him of starting from and getting back to it.
So much Barbara made out after she had copied the first forty pages,
making the first clearing in Mr. Waddington's jungle. The clearings,
she explained to Ralph, broke your heart. It wasn't till you'd got the
thing all clean and tidy that you realized the deep spiritual confusion
that lay behind it.
After that fortieth page the Ramblings piled and mixed themselves in
three interpenetrating layers. First there was the original layer of
Waddington, then a layer of Ralph superimposed on Waddington and
striking down into him; then a top layer of Waddington, striking down
into Ralph. First, the primeval chaos of Waddington; then Ralph's spirit
moving over it and bringing in light and order; then Waddington again,
invading it and beating it all back to darkness and confusion. From the
moment Ralph came into it the progress of the book was a struggle
between these two principles, and Waddington could never let Ralph be,
so determined was he to stamp the book with his own personality.
"After all," Ralph said, "it _is_ his book."
"If he could only get away from Wyck, so that you could see where the
other places _are_," she moaned.
"He can't get away from it because he can't get away from himself. His
mind is egocentric and his ego lives in Wyck."
Barbara had had to ask Ralph to help her. They were in the library
together now, working on the Ramblings during one of Mr. Waddington's
periodical flights to London.
"He thinks he's rambling round the country but he's really rambling
round and round himself. All the time he's thinking about nothing but
his blessed self."
"Oh, come, he thought a lot about his old League."
"No, the League was only an extension of his ego."
"That must have been what Fanny meant. We were looking at his portrait
and I said I wondered what he was thinking about, and she said she used
to wonder and now she knew. Of course, it's Himself. That's what makes
him look so absurdly solemn."
"Yes, but think of it. Think. That man hasn't ever cared about anything
or anybody but himself."
"Oh--he cares about Fanny."
"No. No, he doesn't. He cares about his wife. A very different thing."
"Well--he cares about his old mother. He really cares."
"Yes, and you know why? It's only because she makes him feel young. He
hates Horry because he can't feel young when he's there."
"Why, oh why, did that angel Fanny marry him?"
"Because she isn't an angel. She's a mortal woman and she wanted a
husband and children."
"Wasn't there anybody else?"
"I believe not--available. The man she ought to have married was
"Did my mother marry him?"
"Yes. And _my_ mother married the next best one.... It was as plain and
simple as all that. And you see, the plainer and simpler it was, the
more she realized why she was marrying Horatio, the more she idealized
him. It wanted camouflage."
"Then you must remember her people were badly off and he helped them. He
was always doing things for them. He managed all Fanny's affairs for her
before he married her."
"Then--he does kind things."
"Lots. When he wants to get something. He wanted to get Fanny....
Besides, he does them to get power, to get a hold on you. It's really
for himself all the time. It gives him a certain simplicity and purity.
He isn't a snob. He doesn't think about his money or his property, or
his ancestors--he's got heaps--quite good ones. They don't matter.
Nothing matters but himself."
"How about his book? Doesn't that matter?"
"It does and yet again it doesn't. He pretends he's only doing it to
amuse himself, but it's really a projection of his ego into the
Cotswolds. On the other hand, he'd hate it if you took him for a
writing man when he's Horatio Bysshe Waddington. That's how he's got it
into such a mess, because he can't get away from himself and his Manor."
"Proud of his Manor, anyhow."
"Oh, yes. Not, mind you, because it's perfect Tudor of the sixteenth
century, _nor_ because the Earl of Warwick gave it to his
great-grandfather's great-great-grandfather, but because it's his Manor.
Horatio Bysshe Waddington's Manor. Of course, it's got to be what it is
because any other sort of Manor wouldn't be good enough for Bysshe."
"It's an extension of his ego, too?"
"Yes. Horatio's ego spreading itself in wings and bursting into
ball-topped gables and overflowing into a lovely garden and a park.
There isn't a tree, there isn't a flower that hasn't got bits of Horatio
"If I thought that I should never want to see roses and larkspurs
"It only happens in Horatio's mind. But it does happen."
So, between them, bit by bit, they made him out.
And they made out the book. Here and there, on separate slips, were
great outlying tracts of light, contributed by Ralph, to be inserted,
and sketches of dark, undeveloped stuff, sprung from Waddington, to be
inserted too. Neither Ralph nor Barbara could make them fit. The only
thing was to copy it out clear as it stood and arrange it afterwards.
And presently it appeared that two pages were missing.
One evening, the evening of Mr. Waddington's return, looking for the
lost pages, Barbara made her great discovery: a sheaf of manuscript, a
hundred and twenty pages in Ralph's handwriting, hidden away at the back
of the bureau, crumpled as if an inimical hand had thrust it out of
sight. She took it up to bed and read it there.
A hundred and twenty pages of pure Ralph without any taint of
Waddington. It seemed to be part of Mr. Waddington's book, and yet no
part of it, for it was inconceivable that it should belong to anything
but itself. Ralph didn't ramble; he went straight for the things he had
seen. He saw the Cotswolds round Wyck-on-the-Hill, he made you see them,
as they were: the high curves of the hills, multiplied, thrown off, one
after another; the squares and oblongs and vandykes and spread fans of
the fields; and their many colours; grass green of the pastures, emerald
green of the young wheat, white green of the barley; shining, metallic
green of the turnips; the pink, the brown, the purple fallows, the sharp
canary yellow of the charlock. And the trees, the long processions of
trees by the great grass-bordered roads; trees furring the flanks and
groins of the parted hills, dark combs topping their edges.
Ralph knew what he was doing. He went about with the farmers and farm
hands; he followed the ploughing and sowing and the reaping, the feeding
and milking of the cattle, the care of the ewes in labour and of the
young lambs. He went at night to the upland folds with the shepherds; he
could tell you about shepherds. He sat with the village women by their
firesides and listened to their talk; he could tell you about village
women. Mr. Waddington did not tell you about anything that mattered.
She took the manuscript to Ralph at the White Hart with a note to say
how she had found it. He came running out to walk home with her.
"Did you know it was there?" she said.
"No. I thought I'd lost it. You see what it is?"
"Part of your book."
"But you wrote it."
"Yes. That's what he fired me out for. He got tired of the thing and
asked me to go on with it. He called it working up his material. I went
on with it like that, and he wouldn't have it. He said it was badly
written--jerky, short sentences--he'd have to re-write it. Well--I
wouldn't let him do that, and he wouldn't have it as it stood."
"But--it's beautiful--alive and real. What more does he want?"
"The stamp of his personality."
"Oh, he'd _stamp_ on it all right."
"I'm glad you like it."
"_Like_ it. Don't you?"
Ralph said he thought he'd liked it when he wrote it, but now he didn't
"You'll know when you've finished it."
"I don't suppose I shall finish it," he said.
"But you must. You can't _not_ finish a thing like that."
"I own I'd like to. But I can't publish it."
"Why ever not?"
"Oh, it wouldn't be fair to poor old Waddy. After all, I wrote it for
"What on earth does that matter? If he doesn't want it. Of course you'll
finish it, and of course you'll publish it."
"Well, but it's all Cotswold, you see. And _he's_ Cotswold. If it _is_
any good, you know, I shouldn't like to--to well, get in his way. It's
his game. At least he began it."
"It's a game two can play, writing Cotswold books."
"No. No. It isn't. And he got in first."
"Well, then, let him get in first. You can bring your book out after."
"And dish his?"
"No, let it have a run first. Perhaps it won't have any run."
"Perhaps mine won't."
"_Yours_. That heavenly book? And his tosh--Don't you see that you
_can't_ get in his way? If anybody reads him they won't be the same
people who read you."
"I hope not. All the same it would be rather beastly to cut him out; I
mean to come in and do it better, show how bad he is, how frightful. It
would rub it in, you know."
"Not with him. You couldn't."
"You don't know. Some brute might get up and hurt him with it."
"Oh, you _are_ tender to him."
"Well, you see, I did let him down when I left him. Besides, it isn't
altogether him. There's Fanny."
"Fanny? She'd love you to write your book."
"I know she'd think she would. But she wouldn't like it if it made
Horatio look a fool."
"But he's bound to look a fool in any case."
"True. I might give him a year, or two years."
"Well, then, _my_ work's cut out for me. I shall have to make Horatio go
on and finish quick, so as not to keep you waiting."
"He'll get sick of it. He'll make you go on with it."
"Practically, and quarrel with every word you write. Unless you can
write so like Horatio that he'll think he's done it himself. And then,
you know, he won't have a word of mine left in. You'll have to take me
out. And we're so mixed up together that I don't believe even he could
sort us. You see, in order to appease him, I got into the way of giving
my sentences a Waddingtonian twist. If only I could have kept it up--"
"I'll have to lick the thing into shape somehow."
"There's only one thing you'll have to do. You must make him steer a
proper course. This is to be _the_ Guide to the Cotswolds. You can't
have him sending people back to Lower Wyck Manor all the time. You'll
have to know all the places and all the ways."
"And I don't."
"No. But I do. Supposing I took you on my motor-bike? Would you awfully
mind sitting on the carrier?"
"Do you think," she said, "he'd let me go?"
"I _could_, I think. I work so hard in the mornings and evenings that
they've given me all the afternoons."
"We might go every afternoon while the weather holds out," he said. And
then: "I say, he _does_ bring us together."
That was how Barbara's happy life began.
He did bring them together.
In the terrible months that followed, while she struggled for order and
clarity against Mr. Waddington, who strove to reinstate himself in his
obscure confusion, Barbara was sustained by the thought that in working
for Mr. Waddington she was working for Ralph Bevan. The harder she
worked for him the harder she worked for Ralph. With all her cunning and
her little indomitable will she urged and drove him to get on and make
way for Ralph. Mr. Waddington interposed all sorts of irritating
obstructions and delays. He would sit for hours, brooding solemnly,
equally unable to finish and to abandon any paragraph he had once begun.
He had left the high roads and was rambling now in bye-ways of such
intricacy that he was unable to give any clear account of himself. When
Barbara had made a clean copy of it Mr. Waddington's part didn't always
make sense. The only bits that could stand by themselves were Ralph's
bits, and they were the bits that Mr. Waddington wouldn't let stand. The
very clearness of the copy was a light flaring on the hopeless mess it
was. Even Mr. Waddington could see it.
"Do you think," she said, "we've got it all down in the right order?"
"_What's_ that?" She could see his hands twitching with annoyance. His
loose cheeks hung shaking as he brooded.
"That's not as _I_, wrote it," he said at last. "That's Ralph Bevan. He
wasn't a bit of good to me. There's--there's no end to the harm he's
done. Conceited fellow, full of himself and his own ideas. Now I shall
have to go over every line he's written and write it again. I'd rather
write a dozen books myself than patch up another fellow's bad work....
We've got to overhaul the whole thing and take out whatever he's done."
"But you're so mixed up you can't always tell."
He looked at her. "You may be sure that if any passage is obscure or
confused or badly written it isn't mine. The one you've shown me, for
Then Barbara had another of her ideas. Since they were so mixed up
together that Mr. Waddington couldn't tell which was which, and since he
wanted to give the impression that Ralph was responsible for all the bad
bits, and insisted on the complete elimination of Ralph, she had only
got to eliminate the bad bits and give such a Waddingtonian turn to the
good ones that he would be persuaded that he had written them himself.
The great thing was, he said, that the book should be written by
himself. And once fairly extricated from his own entanglements and set
going on a clear path, with Barbara to pull him out of all the awkward
places, Mr. Waddington rambled along through the Cotswolds at a smooth,
easy pace. Barbara had contrived to break him of his wasteful and
expensive habit of returning from everywhere to Wyck. All through August
he kept a steady course northeast, north, northwest; by September he had
turned due south; he would be beating up east again by October; November
would find him in the valleys; there was no reason why he shouldn't
finish in December and come out in March.
Mr. Waddington himself was surprised at the progress he had made.
"It shows," he said, "what we can do without Ralph Bevan."
And Barbara, seated on Ralph's carrier, explored the countryside and
mapped out Mr. Waddington's course for him.
"She's worth a dozen Ralph Bevins," he would say.
And he would go to the door with her and see her start.
"You mustn't let yourself be victimized by Ralph," he said. He glanced
at the carrier. "Do you think it's safe?"
"Quite safe. If it isn't it'll only be a bit more thrilling."
"Much better to come in the car with me."
But Barbara wouldn't go in the car with him. When he talked about it she
looked frightened and embarrassed.
Her fright and her embarrassment were delicious to Mr. Waddington. He
said to himself: "She doesn't think _that's_ safe, anyhow."
And as he watched her rushing away, swaying exquisitely over a series of
terrific explosions, he gave a little skip and a half turn, light and
youthful, in the porch of his Manor.
Sir John Corbett had called in the morning. He had exerted himself to
that extent out of friendship, pure friendship for Waddington, and he
had chosen an early hour for his visit to mark it as a serious and
extraordinary occasion. He sat now in the brown leather armchair which
was twin to the one Mr. Waddington had sat in when he had his portrait
painted. His jolly, rosy face was subdued to something serious and
extraordinary. He had come to warn Mr. Waddington that scandal was
beginning to attach itself to his acquaintance--he was going to say
"relations," but remembered just in time that "relations" was a
question-begging word--to his acquaintance with a certain lady.
To which Mr. Waddington replied, haughtily, that he had a perfect right
to choose his--er--acquaintance. His acquaintance was, pre-eminently,
his own affair.
"Quite so, my dear fellow, quite so. But, strictly between ourselves, is
it a good thing to choose acquaintances of the sort that give rise to
scandal? As a man of the world, now, between ourselves, doesn't it
strike you that the lady in question may be that sort?"
"It does not strike me," said Mr. Waddington, "and I see no reason why
it should strike you."
"I don't like the look of her," said Sir John, quoting Major Markham.
"If you're trying to suggest that she's not straight, you're reading
something into her look that isn't there."
"Come, Waddington, you know as well as I do that when a man's knocked
about the world like you and me, he gets an instinct; he can tell pretty
well by looking at her whether a woman's that sort or not."
"My dear Corbett, my instinct is at least as good as yours. I've known
Mrs. Levitt for three years, and I can assure she's as straight, as
innocent, as your wife or mine."
"Clever--clever and a bit unscrupulous." Again Sir John quoted Major
Markham. "A woman like that can get round simple fellows like you and
me, Waddington, in no time, if she gives her mind to it. That's why I
won't have anything to do with her. She may be as straight and innocent
as you please; but somehow or other she's causing a great deal of
unpleasant talk, and if I were you I'd drop her. Drop her."
"I shall do nothing of the sort."
"My dear fellow, that's all very well, but when everybody knows your
wife hasn't called on her--"
"There was no need for Fanny to call on her. My relations with Mrs.
Levitt were on a purely business footing--"
"Well, I'd leave them there, and not too much footing either."
"What can I do? Here she is, a war widow with nobody but me to look
after her interests. She's got into the way of coming to me, and I'm not
going back on the poor woman, Corbett, because of your absurd
"Not _my_ insinuations."
"Anybody's insinuations then. Nobody has a right to insinuate anything
about _me_. As for Fanny, she'll make a point of calling on her now. We
were talking about it not long ago."
"A bit hard on Mrs. Waddington to be let in for that."
"You needn't worry. Fanny can afford to do pretty well what she likes."
He had him there. Sir John knew that this was true of Fanny Waddington,
as it was not true of Lady Corbett. He could remember the time when
nobody called on his father and mother; and Lady Corbett could not, yet,
afford to call on Mrs. Levitt before anybody else did.
"Well," he said, "so long as Mrs. Levitt doesn't expect my wife to
"Mrs. Levitt's experience can't have led her to expect much in the way
of kindness here."
"Well, don't be too kind. You don't know how you may be landed. You
don't know," said Sir John fatally, "what ideas you may have put into
the poor woman's head."
"I should be very sorry," said Mr. Waddington, "if I thought for one
moment I had roused any warmer feelings--"
But he wasn't sorry. He tried hard to make his face express a chivalrous
regret, and it wouldn't. It was positively smiling, so agreeable was the
idea conveyed by Sir John. He turned it over and over, drawing out its
delicious flavour, while Sir John's little laughing eyes observed his
"You don't know," he said, "_what_ you may have roused."
There was something very irritating in his fat chuckle.
"You needn't disturb yourself. These things will happen. A woman may be
carried away by her feelings, but if a man has any tact and any delicacy
he can always show her very well--without breaking off all relations.
That would be clumsy."
"Of course, if you want to keep up with her, keep up with her. Only
take care you don't get landed, that's all."
"You may be quite sure that for the lady's own sake I shall take care."
They rose; Mr. Waddington stood looking down at Sir John and his little
round stomach and his little round eyes with their obscene twinkle. And
for the life of him he couldn't feel the indignation he would like to
have felt. As his eyes encountered Sir John's something secret and
primitive in Mr. Waddington responded to that obscene twinkle; something
reminiscent and anticipating; something mischievous and subtle and
delightful, subversive of dignity. It came up in his solemn face and
simmered there. Here was Corbett, a thorough-paced man of the world, and
he took it for granted that Mrs. Levitt's feelings had been roused; he
acknowledged, handsomely, as male to male, the fascination that had
roused them. He, Corbett, knew what he was talking about. He saw the
whole possibility of romantic adventure with such flattering certitude
that it was impossible to feel any resentment.
At the same time his interference was a piece of abominable
impertinence, and Mr. Waddington resented that. It made him more than
ever determined to pursue his relations with Mrs. Levitt, just to show
he wasn't going to be dictated to, while the very fact that Corbett saw
him as a figure of romantic adventure intensified the excitement of the
pursuit. And though Elise, seen with certainty in the light of Corbett's
intimations, was not quite so enthralling to the fancy as the Elise of
his doubt, she made a more positive and formidable appeal to his desire.
He loved his desire because it made him feel young, and, loving it, he
thought he loved Elise.
And what Corbett was thinking, Markham and Thurston, and Hawtrey and
young Hawtrey, and Grainger, would be thinking too. They would all see
him as the still young, romantic adventurer, the inspirer of passion.
And Bevan--But no, he didn't want Bevan to see him like that. Or rather,
he did, and yet again he didn't. He had scruples when it came to Bevan,
because of Fanny. And because of Fanny, while he rioted in visions of
the possible, he dreaded more than anything an actual detection, the
raking eyes and furtive tongues of the townspeople. If Fanny called on
Mrs. Levitt it would stop all the talking.
That was how Fanny came to know Mrs. Levitt, and how Mrs. Levitt (and
Toby) came to be asked to the September garden party at Lower Wyck
Mrs. Levitt, of the White House, Wyck-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire.
She thought it sounded very well. She had been out, that is to say, she
had judged it more becoming to her dignity not to be at home when Fanny
called; and Fanny had been actually out when Mrs. Levitt called, so that
they met for the first time at the garden party.
"It's absurd our not knowing each other," Fanny said, "when my husband
knows you so well."
"I've always felt, Mrs. Waddington, that I ought to know you, if it's
only to tell you how good he's been to me. But, of course, you know it."
"I know it quite well. He's always being good to people. He likes it.
You must take off some of the credit for that."
She thought: "She has really very beautiful eyes." A lot of credit would
have to be taken off for her eyes, too.
"But isn't that," said Mrs. Levitt, "what being good _is_? To like being
it? Only I suppose that's just what lays him open--"
She lowered the eyes whose brilliance had blazed a moment ago on Fanny;
she toyed with her handbag, smiling a little secret, roguish smile.
"That lays him open?"
Mrs. Levitt looked up, smiling. "To the attacks of unscrupulous people
It was risky, but it showed a masterly boldness and presence of mind. It
was as if she and Fanny Waddington had had their eyes fixed on a live
scorpion approaching them over the lawn, and Mrs. Levitt had stooped
down and grasped it by its tail and tossed it into the lavender bushes.
As if Mrs. Levitt had said, "My dear Mrs. Waddington, we both know that
this horrible creature exists, but we aren't going to let it sting us."
As if she knew why Fanny had called on her and was grateful to her.
Perhaps if Mrs. Levitt had never appeared at that garden party, or if,
having appeared, she had never been introduced, at their own request, to
Major Markham, Mr. Thurston, Mr. Hawtrey and young Hawtrey and Sir John
Corbett, Mr. Waddington might never have realized the full extent of her
She had made herself the centre of the party by her sheer power to seize
attention and to hold it. You couldn't help looking at her, again and
again, where she sat in a clearing of the lawn, playing the clever,
pointed play of her black and white, black satin frock, black satin
cloak lined with white silk, furred with ermine; white stockings and
long white gloves, the close black satin hat clipping her head; the
vivid contrast and stress repeated in white skin, black hair, black
eyes; black eyes and fine mouth and white teeth making a charming and
She had been talking to Major Markham for the last ten minutes,
displaying herself as the absurdly youthful mother of a grown-up son.
Toby Levitt, a tall and slender likeness of his mother, was playing
tennis with distinction, ignoring young Horace, his partner, standing