Part 3 out of 6
She looked often at her aunt, finding her more than ever fascinating.
She tried to see her with the eyes of Francis Sales, she tried to
imagine how Rose's clear grey eyes, so dark sometimes that they seemed
black, answered the appeal of his, yet, as the days passed, Henrietta
found it difficult to remember her resignation and her wrongs in this
new life of luxury and pleasure.
She woke each morning to the thought of gaiety and to the realization
of comfort and the blessed absence of anxiety. Her occupation was the
getting of enjoyment and she took it all eagerly yet without greed,
and as she was enriched she became generous with her own offerings of
laughter, sympathy and affection. She liked and looked for the
brightening of Caroline and Sophia at her approach, she became
pleasantly aware of her own ability to charm and she rejoiced in an
exterior world no longer limited to streets. Each morning she went to
her window and looked over and beyond the roofs, so beautiful and
varied in themselves, to the trees screening the open country across
the river and if the sight reminded her to sigh for her own sorrows
and to think bitterly of Aunt Rose, she had not time to linger on her
emotions. Summer was gay in Upper Radstowe. There were tea-parties and
picnics, she paid calls with her aunts and learnt to play lawn tennis
with her contemporaries. Her friendship with the Battys ripened.
She was always sure of her welcome at Prospect House, and though she
often assured herself that she could love no one but Francis Sales,
that was no reason why others should not love her. From that point of
view John Batty was a failure. He took her to a cricket match, but
finding that she did not know the alphabet of the game, and was more
interested in the spectators than in the players, he gave her up. He
admired her appearance, but it did not make amends for ignorance of
such a grossness; and, equally displeased with him, she returned home
alone while he watched out the match.
The next day when she paid her usual Sunday visit, she ignored him
pointedly and mentally crossed him off her list. Charles, ugly and
odd, was infinitely more responsive, though he greeted her on this
occasion with reproach.
'You went to a cricket match yesterday with John.'
'It was very boring and I got a headache. I shall never go again.'
'He said he wouldn't take you.'
Henrietta smiled subtly, implying a good deal.
'I shouldn't have thought,' Charles went on mournfully, 'of suggesting
such a thing.'
'My aunts were rather shocked. I went on the top of a tramcar with
'But if you can go out with him, why shouldn't you go out with me?'
'But where?' Henrietta questioned practically.
'Well, to a concert.'
'When there is one. I don't know. They won't have one in this
God-forsaken place until the autumn.'
'That's a long time ahead.'
He spread his hands. 'You see, I never have any luck. I just want you
'Oh, I'll promise,' Henrietta said.
'It will be the first time I've been anywhere with a girl,' he said.
'I don't get on.'
'Have you wanted to?'
He sighed. 'Yes, but not much.' Her laughter, which was so pretty,
startled him; it also delighted him with its music, and his sad eyes
grew wider and more vague. He had an inspiration. 'I'll take you home
'I'm not going home. I've promised to go to Sales Hall.'
'Sales Hall--oh, yes, he's the man who talks at concerts--when he
goes. I know him. Have you ever wanted to murder anyone? I've wanted
to murder him. I might some day. You'd better warn him.'
Was this another strand in the web of her drama, she wondered. Was
Aunt Rose involved in this too? She breathed quickly. 'Why, what has
he done to you?'
He ground his teeth, looking terrible but ineffectual. 'Stolen beauty.
That's what his sort does. He kills lovely things that fly and run,
for sport, and he steals beauty, spoils it.'
'Who?' she whispered.
'That man Sales.'
'No, no. Who has he stolen and spoilt?'
'Heavenly music--and my happiness. I lost a bar--a whole bar, I tell
you. I'll never forgive him. I can't get it back.'
'If that's all--' Henrietta gestured.
'And there are others,' Charles went on. 'I never forget them. I meet
them in the streets and they look horrible--like beetles.' 'I believe
you're mad,' Henrietta said earnestly. 'It's not sense.'
'What is sense?' Henrietta could not tell him. She looked at him, a
little afraid, but excited by this proximity to danger. And I thought
you would understand.'
'Of course I do.' She could not bear to let go of anything which might
do her credit. 'I do. But you exaggerate. And Mr. Sales--' She
hesitated, and in doing so she remembered to be angry with Charles
Batty for maligning him. 'How can you judge Mr. Sales?' she asked with
scorn. 'He is a man.' 'And what am I?' Charles demanded.
'You're--queer,' she said.
'Yes'--his face twisted curiously--'I suppose if I shot things and
chased them, you'd like me better. But I can't--not even for that, but
perhaps, some day--' He seemed to lose himself in the vagueness of his
She finished his sentence gaily, for after all, it was absurd to
quarrel with him. 'Some day we'll go to a concert.'
He recovered himself. 'More than that,' he said. He nodded his head
with unexpected vigour. 'You'll see.'
She gazed at him. It was wonderful to think of all the things that
might happen to a person who was only twenty-one, but she hastily
corrected her thoughts. What could happen to her? In a few short days
events had rushed together and exhausted themselves at their source!
There was nothing left. She said good-bye to Charles and thought him
foolish not to offer to accompany her. She said, 'It's a very long way
to Sales Hall,' and he answered, 'Oh, you'll meet that man somewhere,
potting at rabbits.'
'Do you think so? I hope he won't shoot me.' And she saw herself
stretched on the ground, wounded, dying, with just enough force to
utter words he could never forget--words that would change his whole
life. She was willing to sacrifice herself and she said good-bye to
Charles again, and sorrowfully, as though she were already dead. She
tried to plan her dying words, but as she could not hit on
satisfactory ones, she contented herself with deciding that whether
she were wounded or not, she would try to introduce the subject of
Aunt Rose; and as she went she looked out hopefully for a tall figure
with a gun under its arm.
She met it, but without a gun, on the track where, on one side, the
trees stood in fresh green, like banners, and on the other the meadows
sloped roughly to the distant water. He had been watching for her, he
said, and suddenly over her assurance there swept a wave of
embarrassment, of shyness. She was alone with him and he was not like
Charles Batty. He looked down at her with amusement in his blue,
thick-lashed eyes, and it was difficult to believe that here was the
hero, or the villain, of the piece. She felt the sensation she had
known when he handed her the orchid, and she blushed absurdly when he
actually said, as though he read her thoughts, 'No orchids to-day?'
'No.' She laughed up at him. 'That was a special treat. I didn't see
Mr. Batty this afternoon, and he couldn't afford to give them away
'Do you go there every Sunday?' 'Yes; they're very kind.'
'They would be.'
This reminded her a little of Mr. Jenkins, though she cast the idea
from her quickly. Mr. Jenkins was not worthy of sharing a moment's
thought with Francis Sales; his collar was made of rubber, his accent
was grotesque; but the influence of the boarding-house was still on
her when she asked very innocently, 'Why?'
'Oh, I needn't tell you that.'
It was Mr. Jenkins again, but in a voice that was soft, almost
caressing. Did Mr. Sales talk like this to Aunt Rose? She could not
believe it and she was both flattered and distressed. She must assert
her dignity and she had no way of doing it but by an expression of
firmness, a slight tightening of lips that wanted to twitch into a
'Mr. Charles Batty,' the voice went on, 'seems to have missed his
opportunities, but I have always suspected him of idiocy.'
'I don't know what you mean,' she said untruthfully, and then,
loyally, she protested. 'But he's not an idiot. He's very clever, too
clever, not like other people.'
'Well, there are different names for that sort of thing,' he said
easily, and she was aware of an immense distance between her and him--
he seemed to have put her from him with a light push--and at the same
time she was oppressively conscious of his nearness. She felt angry,
and she burst out, 'I won't have you speaking like that about
'Certainly not, if he's a friend of yours.'
'And I won't have you laughing at me.'
He stopped in his long stride. 'Don't you laugh yourself at the things
that please you very much?'
'Oh, don't!' she begged. He was too much for her; she was helpless, as
though she had been drugged to a point when she could move and think,
but only through a mist, and she felt that his ease, approaching
impudence, was as indecent as Aunt Rose's calm. It was both irritating
and pleasing to know that she could have shattered both with the word
she was incapable of saying, but her nearest approach to that was an
inquiry after the health of Mrs. Sales. He replied that she was
looking forward to Henrietta's visit. She had very few pleasures and
was always glad to see people.
'Aunt Rose'--here was an opportunity--'comes, doesn't she, every
He said he believed so.
'Did you know her when she was a little girl?'
He gave a discouraging affirmative.
'What was she like?'
'I don't know.' He had, indeed, forgotten.
'Well, you must remember her when she was young.'
Henrietta nodded bravely though he seemed to smoulder. 'As young as I
'She was exactly the same as she is now. No, not quite.'
'Nicer? What a word! Nice!' He looked all round him and made a
flourish with his stick. He could not express himself, yet he seemed
unable to be silent. 'Do you call the sky nice?'
'Yes, very, when it's blue.'
He gave, to her great satisfaction, the kind of laugh she had
expected. 'Let us talk about something a little smaller than the sky,'
he said. He looked down at her, and she was relieved to see the anger
fading from his face; but she was glad to have learnt something of
what he felt for Aunt Rose. To him she was like the sky whence came
the rain and the sunshine, where the stars shone and the moon, and she
wondered to what he would have compared herself. 'You said we might be
He looked again. She wore a broad white hat in honour of the season,
her black dress was dotted with white; from one capable white hand she
swung her gloves; she tilted her chin, a trick she had inherited from
her father, in a sort of challenge.
'You like the idea?' he asked.
'I don't believe it. I'm really the image of my father. Did you know
'No. Heard of him, of course.'
'It's him I'm like,' Henrietta repeated firmly.
'Then the story of his good looks must be true.'
Mixed with her pleasure, she had a return of disappointment. Here
was Mr. Jenkins once more, and while it was sad to discover his
re-incarnation in her ideal, it was thrilling to resume the kind of
fencing she thought she had resigned. She forgot her virtuous
resolves, and the remainder of the walk was enlivened by the hope of a
thrust which she would have to parry, but none came. Francis Sales
seemed to have exhausted his efforts, and at the door he said with a
sort of sulkiness, 'I think you had better go up alone. You must let
me see you home.'
This was not her first solitary visit to Christabel Sales, and she
half dreaded, half enjoyed meeting the glances of those wide blue
eyes, which were searching behind their innocence and hearing remarks
which, though dropped carelessly, always gave her the impression of
being tipped with steel. She was bewildered, troubled by her sense
that she and Christabel were allies and yet antagonists, and her
jealousy of her Aunt Rose fought with her unwilling loyalty to one of
her own blood. There were moments when she acquiesced in the
suggestions offered in the form of admiration, and others when she
stiffened with distaste, with a realization that she herself was
liable to attack, with horror for the beautiful luxurious room, the
crippled woman, the listening cat. Henrietta sometimes saw herself as
a mouse, in mortal danger of a feline spring, and then pity for
Christabel would overcome this weariness; she would talk to her with
what skill she had for entertainment, and she emerged exhausted, as
though from a fight.
This evening she was amazed to be received without any greeting, but a
question: 'Has Rose Mallett told you why I am here?' Christabel was
lying very low on her couch. Her lips hardly moved; these might have
been the last words she would ever utter.
'Yes, a hunting accident. And you told me about it yourself.'
There was a silence, and then the voice, its sharpness dulled, said
slowly, 'Yes, I told you what I remembered and what I heard
afterwards. A hunting accident! It sounds so simple. That's what they
call it. Names are useful. We couldn't get on without them. I get such
queer ideas, lying here, with nothing to do. Before I was married I
never thought at all. I was too happy.' She seemed to be lost in
memory of that time. Henrietta sat very still; she breathed carefully
as though a brusqueness would be fatal, and the voice began again.
'They call you Henrietta. It's only a name, but it doesn't describe
you; nobody knows what it means except you, but it's convenient. It's
the same with my hunting accident. Do you see?'
Henrietta said nothing. She had that familiar feeling of being in the
dark, and now the evening shadows augmented it. She was conscious of
the cat behind her, on the hearthrug.
'Do you see?' Christabel persisted.
'Things have to be called something,' Henrietta said.
'That's just what I have been telling you. And so Rose Mallett calls
it a hunting accident.' A high-pitched and thin laugh came from the
pillows. 'She was terribly distressed about it. And she actually told
me she had suspected that mare from the first. She told me! It's
funny--don't you think so?'
'No,' Henrietta said stoutly, 'not funny at all.' She spoke in a very
firm and reasonable voice, as though only her common sense could
combat what seemed like insanity in the other. 'I think it's very
'For me? Oh, yes, but I wasn't thinking of that. I was thinking of
your charming aunt, the most beautiful woman in Radstowe. That's what
I have heard her called. Yet why hasn't she married? Can't she find
anybody'--the voice was gentle--'to love her? She suspected that mare
but she warned nobody. Funny--'
Henrietta had a physical inward trembling. She felt a dreadful rage
against the woman on the couch, a sickening disgust, such as she would
have felt at looking down a dark, deep well and seeing slime and blind
ugliness at the bottom. She felt as though her ears were dirty; she
tried to move, but she sat perfectly still and, dreading what would
come next, she listened, fascinated.
'Perhaps she is in love with somebody. Does she get many letters,
Henrietta? She is very reserved, she doesn't tell me much; but, of
course, I'm interested in her.' She laughed again. 'I am very anxious
for her happiness. It would comfort me to know anything you can tell
Henrietta managed to stand up. 'I know nothing,' she said in a
slightly broken voice. 'I don't want to know anything.'
Christabel interrupted smoothly. 'Perhaps you are wise or you couldn't
stay happily in that house. They're all like witches, those women.
They frighten me. You must be very brave, Henrietta.'
'I'm very grateful,' Henrietta said; 'and I shan't come here again,
no, never. I don't know what you have been trying to tell me, but I
don't believe it. It's no good crying. I shall never come back.
They're not witches.' She had a vision of them at the dinner table,
Rose like a white flower, Caroline and Sophia jewelled, gaily dressed,
a little absurd, oddly distinguished. 'Witches! They are my father's
sisters, and I love them.'
'Ah, but you don't know Rose,' Christabel sobbed. 'And don't say you
will never come again. And don't tell Francis. He would be angry.'
'How could I tell him?' Henrietta asked indignantly. 'No, no, I don't
want to see either of you again. I shall go away--go away--' She left
the room to the sound of a horrible, faint weeping.
She meant what she had said. She thought she would go away from
Radstowe and forget Christabel Sales, forget Francis Sales, whom she
would no longer pretend to love; forget those insinuations that Aunt
Rose was guilty of a crime. This place and these people were abhorrent
to her, she felt she had been poisoned and she rushed down the long
avenue where, overhead, the rooks were calling, as though she could
only be saved by the clean night air beyond the house. She was
shocked; she believed that Christabel was mad; the thought of that
warm room where the cat listened, made her gasp, and her horror
extended to Francis Sales himself. The place felt wicked, but the
clear road stretching before her, the pale evening sky and the sound
of her own feet tapping the road restored her.
She was glad to be alone and, avoiding the short cut, she enjoyed the
sanity of the highway used by ordinary men and women in the decent
pursuit of their lives. But now the road was empty and though at
another time she would have been afraid of the lonely country, to-night
she had a sense of escape from greater perils than any lurking here.
And before long it all seemed like a dream, but it was a dream that
might recur if she ran the risk.
No, she would never go there again, she would never envy Aunt Rose a
lover from that house, she would never believe that the worst of
Christabel's implications were true. They were the fabrications of a
suspicious woman, and though her jealousy might be justified, it
seemed to Henrietta that she deserved her fate. She was hateful, she
was poisonous, and Henrietta felt a sudden tenderness for Aunt Rose
and Francis Sales. They could not help themselves, for they were
unfortunate, she longed to show them sympathy and she saw herself
taking them by the hand and saying gently, 'Confide in me. I
understand.' She imagined Aunt Rose melting at that touch and those
words into tears, perhaps of repentance, certainly of gratitude, but
at this point Henrietta's fancies were interrupted by the sound of
footsteps behind her. She quickened her pace, then began to run, and
the steps followed, gaining on her. She could not outrun them and she
stopped, turning to see who came.
'Miss Mallett!' It was the voice of Francis Sales. She sank down on a
heap of stones, panting and laughing. He sat beside her. 'What's the
'I don't know. I hate to hear anybody coming behind me. It might have
been a tramp. I'm very much afraid of tramps.'
'I said I would see you home.'
'Yes, I forgot. Let us go on.'
'You didn't stay long.'
'I don't think Mrs. Sales is very well.'
'She isn't. She gets hysterical and that affects her heart. I thought
you would do her good.' He seemed to blame Henrietta. 'And I thought a
walk with you would do me good, too. I have a pretty dull life.'
'Aren't you interested in your cows and things?'
'A man can't live on cows.'
'But you have other things and you live in the country. People can't
have everything. I don't suppose you'd change with anybody really, if
you could. People are like that. They grumble, but they like being
themselves. Suppose you were a young man in a shop, measuring cloth or
selling bacon. You'd find that much duller, I should think.'
He laughed a little. 'Where did you learn this wisdom?'
'I've had experience,' she said staidly. 'Yes, you'd find it duller.'
'Perhaps you're right. But then, you might come to buy the bacon. I
should look forward to that.'
In the darkness, these playful words frightened her a little; they
hurt her sense of what was fitting from him to her and at the same
time they pleased her with their hint of danger.
'Would you?' she asked slowly.
He paused, saying, 'May I light a pipe?' and by the flame of the match
he examined her face quite openly for a moment. 'You know I would,' he
She met his look, her eyes wavered and neither spoke for a long time.
She was oppressed by his nearness, the smell of his tobacco, her own
inexplicable delight. From the trees by the roadside birds gave out
happy chirrups, country people in their Sunday clothes and creaking
boots passed or overtook the silent pair; a man on a horse rode out
from a gate and cantered with very little noise on the rough grass
edging the road. Henrietta watched him until he disappeared and then
it seemed as if he had never been there at all. A sheep in a field
uttered a sad cry and every sight and sound seemed a little unreal,
like things happening on a stage.
And gradually Henrietta's excitement left her. The world seemed a sad
and lonely place; she remembered that she herself was lonely; there
was no one now to whom she was the first, and she had a longing for
her mother. She wished that instead of returning to Nelson Lodge with
its cleanliness and richness and comfort, she might turn the key of
the boarding-house door and find herself in the narrow passage with
the smell of cooking and the gas turned low; she wished she could run
up the stairs and rush into the drawing-room and find her mother
sitting there, sewing by the fire, and see her look up and hear her
say, 'Well, Henry dear, what have you been doing?' After all, that old
life was better than this new one. The troubles of her mother, her own
young struggles for food and warmth, the woes of Mrs. Banks, had in
them something nobler than she could find in the distresses of
Christabel and Aunt Rose and Francis Sales, something redeeming them
from the sordidness in which they were set. She checked a sob.
'It's a long way,' she sighed.
'Are you tired?' His voice was gentle.
'Then let us sit down again.'
'No, I must go on. I must get back.'
'If you would talk to me, you wouldn't notice the distance.'
'I don't want to talk. I'm thinking. When we get to the bridge you can
go back, can't you? There will be lights and I shall be quite safe.'
'Very well, but I wish you'd tell me what's the matter.'
'I'm very unhappy,' Henrietta said with a sob.
'What on earth for? Look here,'--he touched her arm--'did Christabel
'I don't know why it is.'
'Are you going to cry?'
'It's no good crying.'
He held the arm now quite firmly and they faced each other. 'You'd
better tell me the whole story.'
Her lips quivered. She wished he would loosen his grip and hoped he
would go on holding her for ever. It was a moment of mingled ecstasy
and sadness. 'Oh,' she almost wailed, 'can't I be unhappy if I want
He gave a short laugh, saying, 'Poor little girl,' and stooping,
kissed her on the mouth. She endured that kiss willingly for a moment
and then, very lightly, struck him in the face.
Afterwards there was some satisfaction in thinking that she had done
the dramatic thing--what the pure-minded heroine always did to the
villain; but at the time the action was spontaneous and unconsidered.
Henrietta was not really avenging an insult: she was simply expressing
her annoyance at her pleasure in it. Being, when she chose, a clear-
sighted young woman, she realized this, but she also knew that Francis
Sales would find the obvious meaning in the blow. For herself, she
sanely determined to blot that episode from her mind: it was maddening
to think of it as an insult and dangerous to remember its delight, and
she was able calmly to tell her aunts that Mr. Sales had seen her
'Then why didn't he come in?' Caroline asked with a grunt. 'Leaving
you on the doorstep like a housemaid!'
'He only came as far as the bridge.'
'My dear child! What was he thinking of? Men are not what they were,
or is it the women who are different? They haven't the charm! They
haven't the old charm! My difficulty was always to get rid of the
creatures. I'm disappointed in you, Henrietta.'
'But he's married,' Henrietta said gravely. 'I only needed him on the
dark roads and I should think he wanted to go back to Mrs. Sales.'
'It would be the first time, then,' Caroline said.
'Why, isn't he fond of her?'
'Don't ask dangerous questions, child--and would you be fond of her
'She's very pretty.'
'Now, Caroline, don't,' Sophia begged.
Caroline chuckled. 'Don't what?'
'Say what you were going to say.'
Caroline chuckled again. 'I can't help it. My tongue won't be tied.
I'm like all the Malletts--'
'But not before the child.'
'You're a prude, Sophia, and if Henrietta imagines that a man like
Francis Sales, any man worth his salt--besides, Henrietta has knocked
about the world. She is no more innocent than she looks.'
'She doesn't mean half she says,' Sophia whispered.
'And neither is Francis Sales,' Caroline persisted. 'Ridiculous! Dark
roads, indeed! I don't think I care for your wandering about at night,
'I won't do it again,' Henrietta said meekly.
'Sophia and I--' Caroline began one of her reminiscences, to which
neither Sophia nor Henrietta listened. To the one, they were familiar
in their exaggeration, and the other had her own thoughts, which were
She had meant to stand between Francis Sales and Aunt Rose; later she
had wished to help them, now she did not know whether she wanted to
help or hinder. The thing was too much for her, but she wondered if
Aunt Rose had ever experienced such a kiss. Meeting her a few minutes
later on the stairs, with her slim hand on the polished rail, a
beautiful satin-shod foot gleaming below the lace of her dress, she
seemed a being too ethereal for a salute so earthly, and because she
looked so lovely, because Christabel had been unjust, Henrietta forgot
to feel unfriendly.
Rose said unexpectedly, 'Oh, Henrietta, I am glad you have come back.
You seem to have been away for a long time.'
'I went to the Battys' to tea and then to Sales Hall. I promised Mrs.
Sales. Do you mind?'
'Of course not; but I missed you.'
'Oh! Oh! I never thought of that.'
'I always miss you,' Rose said gravely. 'You have made a great
difference to us all.'
Henrietta's mouth opened with astonishment. 'I had no idea. And I do
nothing but enjoy myself.'
Rose laughed. 'That's what we want you to do. You must be as happy as
This, from Aunt Rose, was the most wonderful thing that had happened
yet. Henrietta was overcome by astonishment and gratitude. 'I had no
idea. I never dreamt of your liking me. I thought you just put up with
'You haven't given me much chance,' Rose said in a low voice, 'of
doing anything else.'
It was true: Henrietta could not flourish when she thought herself
unappreciated, but now she expanded like a flower blossoming in a
'Oh, if we could be friends! There's nobody to talk to except Charles
Batty, and I hated, I simply hated being at Sales Hall to-night.' She
tightened her lips and opened them to say, 'I shan't go there again. I
said so. She is a terrible woman.'
'She has a great deal to bear.'
'Yes, and she counts on your remembering that,' Henrietta said
'What was the matter to-night?'
'Hints,' Henrietta whispered. 'Hints,' and she added nervously, 'about
Rose made a slight movement. 'Don't tell me.'
'And the cat. I ran away. She was crying, but I didn't care. I ran all
down the avenue on to the road. Mr. Sales had said he would take me
home, but I didn't wait. It was much better under the sky. Then I
heard footsteps, and it was Mr. Sales running after me.' She paused.
Two stairs above her, Aunt Rose stood, listening with attention. She
was, as usual, all black and white; her neck, rising from the black
lace, looked like a bowl of cream laid out of doors to cool in the
'He kissed me,' Henrietta said abruptly.
Rose did not move, and before she spoke Henrietta had time to wonder
what had prompted her to that confession. She had not thought about
it, the words had simply issued of themselves.
'Yes,' Henrietta said, and suddenly she wanted to make it easier for
Aunt Rose. 'I think he was sorry for me. I told him I was unhappy, but
I couldn't tell him why, I couldn't say it was his wife. I think he
meant it kindly.'
'I am sure he did,' Rose said with admirable self-possession. 'You
look very young in that big hat, you are very young, and perhaps he
guessed what you had been through. Don't think about it any more.'
'No.' Henrietta seemed to have no control over her tongue. 'But then,
you see, I hit him.'
Rose managed a laugh. 'Oh, Henrietta, how primitive!'
'Yes,' Henrietta agreed, but she knew she had betrayed Francis Sales.
She knew and Rose knew that she would not have struck him if the kiss
had been paternal. 'I suppose it was vulgar,' she murmured sadly, yet
not without some skill.
Rose descended the two stairs without a word and went to the bottom of
the flight, but there she paused, saying, 'Take off your things and
let us have some music.'
Henrietta was learning to sing, and in defiance of Charles Batty's
prophecy, she neither squeaked nor gurgled. She piped with a pretty
simplicity and with an enjoyment which made her forget herself. Yet
she looked charming, standing in the candle-light beside the shining
grand piano on which Aunt Rose accompanied her, and to-night she felt
they were united in more than the music: they were friends, they were
fellow-sufferers, and long after Henrietta had tired of singing, Rose
went on playing, mournfully, as it seemed to Henrietta, consoling
herself with sweet sounds. Sophia sat before her embroidery frame,
slowly pushing her needle in and out; Caroline read a novel with
avidity and an occasional pause for chuckles, and when Rose at length
dropped her hands on her knees and remained motionless, staring at the
keys, Henrietta startled her aunts by saying firmly, 'I am just going
to enjoy life.'
Rose raised her head and her enigmatic smile widened a little.
Caroline exclaimed, 'Good gracious! Why not?' Sophia said gently,
'That is what we wish.'
Henrietta stiffened herself for questions which did not come. Nobody
expressed a desire to know what had caused this solemn declaration:
Caroline went on reading, Sophia embroidering; Rose retired to bed.
Henrietta was not daunted by this indifference. She persisted in her
determination; she cast off all thoughts of ministering like an angel,
or revenging like a demon; she enjoyed the gaieties with which the
youth of Radstowe amused itself during the summer months; she
accompanied her aunts to garden parties, ate ices, had her fortune
told in tents, flirted mildly and endured Charles Batty's peculiar
Nothing went amiss with Charles but what he seemed to blame her for
it, and while she resented this strange form of attention, she had a
compensating conviction that he was really paying tribute and she knew
that the absence of his complaints would have left a blank. Fixing her
with his pale eyes, he described the bitterness of life in his
father's office, his mismanagement of clients, his father's sneers,
his mother's sighs; his sufferings in not being allowed to go to
Germany and study music.
'If I were a man,' Henrietta said, voicing a pathetic faith in
masculine ability to break bonds, 'I would do what I liked. I'd go to
Germany and starve and be happy. A man can do and get anything he
'Ah, I shall remember that,' he said. 'But I can't go to Germany now,'
he added darkly, and when she asked him for a reason, he groaned.
'Even you--even you don't understand me.'
In this respect she understood him perfectly well, but she did not
wish to clear the mysterious gloom, not devoid of excitement, in which
they moved together; and they parted for the summer holidays,
miserably on his part, cheerfully on hers. She was going to Scotland
with Aunt Rose and the prospect was so delightful that she did not
trouble to inquire about his movements.
She was surprised and almost disappointed that he did not reproach her
for this thoughtlessness when, on her return, she went to call on Mrs.
Batty and hear about her annual holiday at Bournemouth. Mrs. Batty had
suffered very much from the heat, Mr. Batty had suffered from
dyspepsia, and they were glad to be at home again, though it was to
find that John, without a hint to his parents, had engaged himself to
a girl with tastes like his own.
'But it's bull-dogs with her, instead of terriers,' Mrs. Batty sighed.
'She brings them here and they slobber on the carpets--dirty things.
And golf. But she's a nice girl, and they go out before breakfast with
the dogs and have a game--but I did hope he would look elsewhere,
dear.' She gazed sentimentally at Henrietta. 'I don't feel she will
ever be a daughter to me. Of course, I kissed her and all that when I
heard the news, but now she just comes in and says, "Hullo, Mrs.
Batty! Where's John?" And that's all. I do like affection. She'll kiss
the bull-dogs, though,' Mrs. Batty added grimly; 'but whether she ever
kisses John, I can't say. And as for Charles, he never looks at a
girl, so I'm as badly off as ever. Worse, for Charles, really Charles
hasn't a word to throw at me. He comes down to breakfast and you'd
think the bacon had upset him, and it's the best I can get. And his
father sits reading the paper and lifting his eyebrows over the edge
at Charles. He's very cool, Mr. Batty is. Half the time, John comes in
late for breakfast, after his game, you know, and then he's in too
much of a hurry to talk. They might all be dumb. With Charles it's all
that piano business. I tell him I wish he'd go to Germany and be done
with it, though I never think musicians are respectable, with all that
hair. Anyhow, Charles is getting bald, and he says he's too old to
start afresh. And then he glares at his father. It's all very
unpleasant. Still, he's a good boy really. They're both good boys.
I've a lot to be thankful for; and, my dear,'--her voice sank, and she
laid a plump hand on Henrietta's--'Mr. Batty says we may give a ball
after Christmas. Everybody in Radstowe. We shall take the Assembly
Rooms. The date isn't fixed, and now and then, if he isn't feeling
well, Mr. Batty says he can't afford it. But that's nonsense, we shall
have it; but don't say a word. I've told nobody else, but somehow,
Henrietta, I always want to tell you everything, as if you were my
daughter.' Mrs. Batty sighed heavily. 'If only Charles were
However, Charles surprised his mother that evening by walking to the
gate with Henrietta. Arrived there, he announced firmly that he would
take her home.
'I'm going for a walk,' Henrietta said.
'Oh, a walk. Well, all right. Where shall we go? I know, I will take
you where you've never been before.'
It was October and already the lamps were lighted in the streets; they
studded the bridge like fairy lanterns for a fairy path to that world
of woods and stealthy lanes and open country where the wind rustled
the gorse bushes on the other side. Below, at the water's edge, more
lamps stood like sentinels, here and there, straight and lonely,
fulfilling their task, and as Charles and Henrietta watched, the
terraces of Radstowe became illuminated by an unseen hand. Over
everything there was a suggestion of enchantment: lovers, strolling
by, were romantic in their silence; a faint hoot from some steamer was
like a laugh.
'It will be dark over there, won't it?' Henrietta asked.
'Frightfully. We'll cut across the fields.'
'Not to Sales Hall?'
'Sales Hall? What for? To see that miserable fellow? We're not going
near Sales Hall.'
She breathed a word.
'What did you say?' he asked.
'Cows,' she breathed again.
'But in the winter,' she said hopefully, 'I should think they shut
them up at night, poor things.'
'Not cold enough yet for that.'
'I'm afraid of them, you know.'
'Domestic animals,' he said calmly.
'Horns,' she whispered.
They said no more. Their path edged those woods which in their turn
edged the gorge; but here and there the trees spread themselves more
freely and, through the darkness, Henrietta had glimpses of furtive
little paths, of dips and hollows. A small pool, thick with early
fallen leaves, had hardly a foot of gleaming surface with which to
gaze like an unwinking eye at the emerging stars. But this skirting of
the wood came to an end and there stretched before their feet, which
made the only sound in the quiet night, a broad white road where the
arched gateway of a distant house looked like the fragment of a
'I like this,' Henrietta said; 'I feel safe.'
'Not for long,' Charles replied sternly. He opened a gate and through
a little coppice they reached a fence. 'You'll have to climb it.' The
broad fields on the other side were as dark as water and as still. It
was surprising, when she jumped down, to find she did not sink, to
find that she and Charles could walk steadily on this blackness, cut
here and there by the deeper blackness of a hedge. There were no cows,
but sheep stumbled up and bleated at their approach, and for some time
the tinkling of the bell-wether's bell accompanied them like music.
'There's a stile here,' Charles said, and from this they plunged into
another wood where birds fluttered and twittered and, in the
undergrowth, there were small stealthy sounds.
'I wouldn't come here alone,' Henrietta said, 'for all the world.'
Charles said nothing. Mrs. Batty was right: it was like walking with a
dumb man. They left the wood and walked downhill beside a ploughed
field, and in the shelter of a high wall. An open lane brought them to
a gate, the gate opened on a rough road through yet another wood of
larch and spruce and fir. The road was deeply rutted and they walked
in single file until Charles turned, saying, 'This is what I've
brought you to see. This is "The Monks' Pool."'
A large pond, almost round and strewn with dead leaves about its edge,
lay sombrely on their right hand, without a movement, without a gleam.
It was like a pall covering something secret, something which must
never be revealed, and opposite, where the ground rose steeply, tall
firs stood up, guardians of the unknown. Faint quackings came from
some unseen ducks among the willows and water gurgled at the invisible
outlet of the pond; there were little stirrings and sighings among the
trees. The protruding roots of an oak offered a seat to Henrietta, and
behind her Charles leaned against the trunk.
It was comfortable to have him there, to be able to look at this dark
beauty without fear, and as she sat there she heard an ever-increasing
number of little sounds; they were caused by she knew not what: small
creatures moving among the pine needles, night birds on the watch for
prey, water rats, the flop of fish, the fall of some leaf over-ripe on
the tree, her own slow breathing, the muffled ticking of her heart;
and into this orchestra of tiny instruments there came slowly, and as
if it grew out of all these, another sound.
It was the voice of Charles, and it was so much a part of this rare
experience, it seemed so right a complement, that at first she did not
listen to the sense of what he said. The words had no clearer meaning
than had the other voices of the night; the whole thing was wonderful
--the tall, immobile trees, the small, secret sounds, the black lake
like an immense, mysterious pall, the steady booming of the voice, had
the effect of magic.
This was essential beauty revealed to her ears and eyes, but gradually
the words formed themselves into sentences and were carried to her
brain. She understood that Charles was talking of himself, of her,
with an eloquence born of long-considered thoughts. He was telling her
how she appeared to him as a being of light and sweetness and
necessity; he was telling her how he loved her; he was asking for
nothing, but he was saying amazing things in language worthy of his
thoughts of her.
That muffled ticking of her heart went on like distant drum beats, the
symphony of tiny instruments did not pause, the dominant sound of
Charles's voice continued, and now, as she listened, she heard nothing
but his voice. He was not pathetic, he did not plead, he did not
claim: he spoke of very old and lasting things, and it was like
hearing some one read a tale. She did not stir. She forgot that this
was Charles; it was a simple heart become articulate. And then
suddenly the voice stopped and the orchestra, as though in relief, in
triumph, seemed to play more loudly. A water rat dived again, a duck
quacked sleepily and a branch of a tree creaked mournfully under a
lost puff of wind.
Henrietta turned her head and saw Charles Batty standing motionless
against the tree. His hat was tilted a little to one side and his eyes
were staring straight before him. Even the darkness was not entirely
kind to him, but that did not matter. She wondered if he knew what he
had been saying; she could not remember it all, but it would come
back. As they went home over the dark fields, she would remember it.
It seemed to have everything and yet nothing to do with her; it was
like poetry that, without embarrassment, profoundly moves the hearer,
and his very voice had developed the dignity of his theme.
He did not speak again. In complete silence they retraced their steps
and at the gate of Nelson Lodge he left her. In the little high-walled
garden she stood still. This had been a wonderful experience. She felt
uplifted, better than herself, yet she could not resist speculating on
her probable feelings if another than Charles Batty, if, for instance,
Francis Sales, had poured that rhapsody into the night.
Book III: Rose and Henrietta
Early one October afternoon, Rose Mallett rode to Sales Hall. She went
through a world of brown and gold and blue, but she was hardly
conscious of beauty, and the air, which was soft, yet keen, and
exciting to her horse, had no inspiriting effect on her. She felt old,
incased in a sort of mental weariness which was like armour against
emotion. She knew that the spirit of the country, at once gentle and
wild, furtive and bold, was trying to reach her in every scent and
sound: in the smell of earth, of fruit, of burning wood; in the noise
of her horse's feet as he cantered on the grassy side of the road, in
the fall of a leaf, the call of a bird or a human voice become
significant in distance; but she remained unmoved.
This was, she thought, like being dead yet conscious of all that
happened, but the dead have the excuse of death and she had none; she
was merely tired of her mode of life. It seemed to her that in her
thirty-one years the sum of her achievement was looking beautiful and
being loved by Francis Sales: she put it in that way, but immediately
corrected herself unwillingly. Her attitude towards him had not been
passive; she had loved him. She had owed him love and she had paid her
debt; she had paid enough, yet if to-day he asked for more, she would
give it. Her pride hoped for that demand; her weariness shrank from
And he had kissed Henrietta. The sharpness of that thought, on which
from the first moment on the stairs she had refused to dwell, steeling
her mind against it with a determination which perhaps accounted for
her fatigue, was like a physical pain running through her whole body,
so that the horse, feeling an unaccustomed jerk on his mouth, became
alarmed and restive. She steadied him and herself. A kiss was nothing
--yet she had always denied it to Francis Sales. She could not blame
him, for she saw how her own fastidiousness had endangered his. He
needed material evidence of love. She ought, she supposed, to have
sacrificed her scruples for his sake; mentally she had already done
it, and the physical refusal was perhaps no more than pride which
salved her conscience and might ruin his, but it existed firmly like a
fortress. She could not surrender it. Her love was not great enough
for that; or was it, she asked herself, too great? She could not
comfort herself with that illusion, and there came creeping the
thought that for some one else, some one too strong to need such a
capitulation, she would have given it gladly, but against Francis, who
was intrinsically weak, she had held out.
Life seemed to mock at her; it offered the wrong opportunities, it
strewed her path with chances of which no human being could judge the
value until the choice had been made; it was like walking over ground
pitted with hidden holes, it needed luck as well as skill to avoid a
fall. But, like other people, she had to pursue her road: the thing
was to hide her bruises, even from herself, and shake off the dust.
She had by this time reached the track which was connected with so
much of her life, and she drew rein in astonishment. They were felling
the trees. Already a space had been cleared and men and horses were
busy removing the fallen trunks; piles of branches, still bravely
green, lay here and there, and the pine needles of the past were now
overlaid by chippings from the parent trees. What had been a still
place of shadows, of muffled sounds, of solemn aisles, the scene of a
secret life not revealed to men, was now half devastated, trampled,
and loud with human noises. It had its own beauty of colour and
activity, there was even a new splendour in the unencumbered ground,
but Rose had a sense of loss and sacrilege. Something had gone. It
struck her that here she was reminded of herself. Something had gone.
The larch trees which had flamed in green for her each spring were
dead and she had this strange dead feeling in her heart.
She saw the figure of Francis Sales detach itself from a little group
and advance towards her. She knew what he would say. He would tell
her, in that sulky way of his, how many weeks had passed since he had
seen her and, to avoid hearing that remark, she at once waved a hand
towards the clearing and said, 'Why have you done this?'
He shrugged his shoulders. 'To get money.'
'But they were my trees.'
'You never wrote,' he muttered.
She made a gesture, quickly controlled. Long ago when, in the first
exultation of their love and their sense of richness, they had marked
out the limits of their intercourse, so that they might keep some sort
of faith with Christabel and preserve what was precious to themselves,
it had been decided that they were not to meet by appointment, they
were not to speak of love, no letters were to be exchanged, and though
time had bent the first and second rules, the last had been kept with
rigour. It was understood, but periodically she had to submit to
Francis Sales's complaint, 'You never wrote.'
'So you cut down the trees,' she said half playfully.
'Why didn't you write?'
'Oh, Francis, you know quite well.'
He was looking at the ground; he had not once looked at her since her
greeting. 'You go off on a holiday, enjoying yourself, while I--who
did you go with?'
'With Henrietta,' Rose said softly.
'Oh, that girl.'
'Yes, that girl. But here I am. I have come back.' She seemed to
invite him to be glad. 'And,' she went on calmly, feeling that it did
not matter what she said, 'what a queer world to come back to. I miss
the trees. They stood for my childhood and my youth; yes, they stood
for it, so straight--I must go on. Christabel is expecting me.'
'She didn't tell me.'
'No?' Rose questioned without surprise. 'I suppose I shall see you at
tea?' she said.
He nodded and she touched her horse. Something had happened to him as
well as to her and a mass of pain lodged itself in her breast. He was
different, and as though he had suspected the weary quality of her
love he had met her with the same kind, or perhaps with none at all. A
little while ago she was half longing for release from this endless
necessity of controlling herself and him; from the shifts, the
refusals and the reproaches which had gradually become the chief part
of their intercourse; and now he had dared to seem indifferent, though
he had not forgotten to reproach! She could almost feel the healthy
pallor of her face change to a sickly white; her anger chilled and
then stiffened her into a rigidity of body and mind and when she
dismounted she slid down heavily, like a figure made of wood.
The man who took her horse looked at her curiously. Miss Mallett
always had a pleasant word for him and, conscious of his stare, she
forced a smile. She had not ridden for weeks, she told him; she was
tired. He was amused at that. She had been born in the saddle; he
remembered her as a little girl on a Shetland pony and he did not
believe she could ever tire. 'Must be something wrong somewhere,' he
said, examining girth and pommels.
'It's old age coming on,' Rose said gravely.
He thought that a great joke. He was twice her age already and
considered himself in his prime. He led the horse away and Rose went
into the house.
How extraordinarily limited her life had been! It had passed almost
entirely in this house and Nelson Lodge and on the road between the
two. Of all her experiences the only ones that mattered had been
suffered here, and they had all been of one kind. Even Henrietta's
fewer years had been more varied. She had known poverty and been
compelled to the practical application of her wits, she had baffled
Mr. Jenkins, she had been kissed by Francis Sales.
Rose stood for a moment in the hall and looked for the mirror which
was not there. She did not wish to give Christabel Sales the
satisfaction of seeing her look distraught, but a peep in the glass of
one of the sporting prints reassured her. Her appearance almost made
her doubt the reality of the feelings which consisted of a great heat
in the head and a deadly cold weight near her heart and which forced
these triumphant words from her lips--'At least Henrietta has never
felt like this.'
She entered Christabel's room calmly, smiling and prepared for news,
but at the first sight of the invalid, lying very low in her bed and
barely turning her head at the sound of the opening door, she thought
that perhaps Christabel's weakness had at last overcome her enmity.
'I'm very ill,' she said faintly.
'Oh, don't say that. You may as well tell the truth--to me.'
'Then I must say again that I am sorry.'
'I wonder why.'
To that Rose made no answer, and before Christabel spoke again she had
time to notice that the cat had gone. She breathed more easily. The
cat had gone, the trees were going and Francis was going too. Suddenly
she felt she did not care. The idea of an empty world was pleasant,
but if Francis were really going, the cat might as well have stayed.
'Tell me what you did in Scotland,' Christabel said.
'I showed Henrietta all the sights.'
'Oh, Henrietta--she's a horrid girl. She has stopped coming to see
'You made yourself so unpleasant.'
'Did she tell you that? Do you think she told Francis?'
'I know she didn't.'
'But I can't make out why she should tell you.'
'Henrietta and I are great friends.'
'How did you manage that?'
'I don't know,' Rose said slowly. 'What has happened to the cat?'
'It's gone. It went out and never came back.'
'Some one must have killed it.'
'I don't think so,' Rose said thoughtfully. 'I think it decided to go.
I'm sure it did.'
'What do you mean? What do you mean?' Christabel cried. 'Had you
something to do with that, too?'
'Not that I know of.' Rose laughed. She was tired of considering every
word before she uttered it.
'With that too!' Christabel repeated a little wildly, and then in a
firm voice she said, 'You've got to tell me.'
'But I don't know. You must make all inquiries of the cat. It was a
wise animal. It knew the time had come.'
'I think you're mad,' Christabel said.
'Animals are very strange,' Rose went on easily, 'and rats leave
A cry of terror came from Christabel. 'You mean I'm going to die!'
'No, no!' Rose became sane and reassuring. 'I never thought of that.
It might have known it was going to die itself and an animal likes to
die decently alone. It had been getting unhealthily fat.'
Christabel kept an exhausted silence, and Rose regretting her cruelty,
aware of its futility, said gently, 'Shall I get you a kitten?'
'No, no kitten. They jump about. The old cat was so quiet. And I miss
him.' A tear rolled down either cheek. 'It has been so lonely.
Everybody was away.'
'Well, we've all come back now,' Rose said.
'Yes, but that Henrietta--she's deserted me.'
'It was your own fault, Christabel. You horrified her.'
'It should have been you who did that.'
'Things don't always have the effect we hope for. You said too much.'
'Ah, but not half what I could have said.'
'Too much for Henrietta, anyhow. I don't think she will come again.'
Christabel smiled oddly and Rose knew that now she was to hear some
news. 'You can tell her,' Christabel said, 'that I shan't say anything
to upset her. I shall say nothing about you--as she loves you so much.
Does she love you? I dare say. You make people love you--for a little
while.' Her voice lingered on those words. 'Yes, for a little while,
but you don't keep love, Rose Mallett. No, you don't. I'm sorry for
you now. Tell Henrietta she needn't be afraid, because I'm sorry for
you. Yes, you and I are in the same boat, in the same deserted boat.
If there were any rats they would run away. You said so yourself.'
'I said the cat had gone.'
'Then you knew?'
Rose shook her head. It was her turn to smile. She was prepared for
anything Christabel might say, she was even anxious to hear it, but
when Christabel spoke in a mysteriously gleeful manner, she had
difficulty in repressing a shudder. It was not, she told herself, that
she suffered from the knowledge now imparted by Christabel with detail
and with proofs, but her malice, her salacious curiosity were more
than Rose could bear. She felt that the whole affair, which at first,
so long ago, had possessed a noble sadness, a secret beauty, the
quality of a precious substance enclosed in a common vial, was
indecent and unclean.
'So you see,' Christabel said, 'you haven't kept him; you won't keep
Rose said nothing. She was thinking of what she might have done and
she was glad she had not done it.
'You don't seem to mind,' Christabel said. 'Why don't you ask me why
I'm so sure?' She laughed. 'I ought to know how to find things out by
this time, and I know Francis, yes, better than you do. When I had my
accident--it wasn't worth it, was it?--I said to myself, 'Now he won't
be faithful to me.' When I knew I should have to lie here, I told
myself that. And now you--' Her voice almost failed her. 'I suppose
you haven't been kind enough to him.'
'I think it's time I went,' Rose said.
'And you'll never come back?'
'Yes, if you want me.'
'I can say what I like to you.'
'You can, indeed,' Rose murmured.
'And tell Henrietta to come too.'
'No, I can't ask Henrietta.'
'I promise to be like a maiden aunt. Ah, but she has three already--
she knows what they are. That won't attract her. I'll be like an
invalid in a Sunday School story-book.'
'I'll tell her of your promise,' Rose said.
There remained the task of having tea with Francis Sales and breaking
the bonds of which he had tired. She made it easy for him. That was
necessary for her dignity, but beyond the desire for as much
seemliness as could be saved from the general ugliness of their
mistake, she had no feeling; yet she thought it would be good to be in
the open air, on horseback, free. If there had been anything still
owing, she had paid her debt with generosity. She gave him the chance
he wanted but did not know how to take, and she had to allow him to
appear aggrieved. She was cruel: she was tired of him; she was, he
sneered, too good for him. The words went on for some time, and if
some of them were new, their manner was wearisomely familiar. She was
amazed at her own endurance, now and in the past, and at last she
said, 'No, no, Francis. Say no more. This is too much fuss. Perhaps we
have both changed.'
'It was you who began it.'
'Was it? How can one tell?'
'You began it,' he persisted. 'There was a time when you went white,
like paper, when we met, and your eyes went black. Now I might be a
sheep in a field.'
She was standing up, ready to go. 'One gets used to things,' she said.
'I have never been used to you,' he muttered, and she knew that,
telling this truth, he also explained a good deal. 'I never should be.
You're like nobody else--nobody.'
'But it is too much strain,' she murmured slowly.
'Yes--well, it is you who have said it. I had made up my mind--I'm not
ungrateful--I never intended to say a word.'
She smiled. This was the first remark which had really touched her.
She found it so offensive that a smile was the only weapon with which
to meet it. 'I know that.'
'But mind,' he almost shouted, 'there's nobody like you.'
'Yes, yes, I know that too.' She turned to him with a silencing
sternness. 'I tell you I know everything.'
The old groom who held her horse nodded with satisfaction when he
helped her into the saddle. She had not lost her spring and he
tightened her girths in a leisurely manner and arranged her skirt with
the care due to a fine rider and a lady who understood a horse, yet
one who was always ready to ask an old man's advice. He had a great
admiration for Miss Mallett and, conscious of it and rather
pathetically glad of it, she lingered for the pleasure of talking to
some one who seemed simple and untroubled. He had spent all his life
on the Sales estate, and she wondered whether, though, like herself,
of a limited outward experience, he also had known the passions of
love and disgust and shame. He was sixty-five, he told her, but as
strong as ever, and she envied him: to be sixty-five with the turmoil
of life behind him, yet to be strong enough to enjoy the peace before
him, was a good finale to existence. She was only thirty-one, but she
was strong too, and she felt as though she had come through a storm,
battered and exhausted but whole and ready for the calm which already
hovered over her. She said, 'The young are always sorry for the old,
but that is one of the many mistakes they make. I think it must be the
best time of all.'
'If you have them that cares for you,' he answered.
That was where her own happiness would break down.
There were her stepsisters, who would probably die before herself;
there was Henrietta, who would form ties of her own; and there was no
one else. If she had had less faith in Francis Sales's love and, at
the same time, had been capable of pandering to it, she might have had
his devotion for her old age, the devotion of a somewhat querulous and
dull old man. Now she had not even that to hope for, and she was glad.
She had always wanted the best of everything, and always, except in
the one fatal instance, refused what fell below her standard. She had
not realized until now that Francis Sales had always been below it.
She had at least tried to wrap their love in beauty, but that sort of
beauty was not enough for him. It was her scruples, he said, which had
been his undoing, and there was truth in that, but she had to remember
that when originally she had disappointed him, he had found comfort
quickly in Christabel; when Christabel failed him he had returned to
her; and now he had found consolation, if only of a temporary kind, in
some one else. When would he seek yet another victim of his affection
and his griefs? He was, she thought scornfully, a man who needed
women, yet she knew that if he had pleaded with her to-day, saying
that in spite of everything he needed her, she would have listened.
She admitted her responsibility, it would always be present to her,
for she had that kind of conscientiousness, and having once helped
him, she must always hold herself ready to do it again. The chain
binding them was not altogether broken, but she no longer felt its
weight. She had a lightness of spirit unknown for years; the anger,
the jealous rage and the disgust had vanished with a completeness
which made her doubt their short existence, and she began to make
plans for a new life. There was no reason now why she should not
wander all over the world, yet, on the very doorstep of Nelson Lodge,
she found a reason in the person of Henrietta--flushed and gay and
just returned from a tea party. She had enjoyed herself immensely, but
her head ached a little. It had been all she could do to understand
the brilliant conversation. There had been present a budding poet and
a woman painter and she had never heard people talk like that before.
'I didn't speak at all, except to Charles,' she said.
'Oh, Charles was there?'
'Yes. I thought it safer not to talk but I looked as bright as I
could, and of course I asked for cakes and things. They all ate a lot.
I was glad of that. But most of them still looked hungry at the end.
And Charles has taken tickets for me for the concerts, next to him, in
a special corner where you can sometimes hear the music through the
whispering of the audience. That's what he says!'
'But, Henrietta, I have taken tickets for you too.'
'Thank you, but perhaps they will take them back.'
'Henrietta, you really can't sit in a corner with Charles when I'm in
another part of the hall.'
'Can't I? Well, Charles will be very angry, but he'll have to put up
with it. If you explained to him, Aunt Rose, he'd understand. And I'd
really rather sit with you. I shall be able to look at people and if I
crackle my programme you won't glare. Of course, I shall try not to.
Will you explain to him? And I did promise to go to a concert with him
'Then you must. I'll tell him that, too. Are you afraid of him,
'He shouts,' Henrietta said, 'and I'm sorry for him. And I do like him
very much. I feel inclined to do things just to please him.'
'Don't let that carry you too far.'
'That's what I'm afraid of. Not him, exactly, but me.'
'I didn't suspect you of such tenderness. I shall have to look after
'I wish you would.'
'And if you are feeling very kind some day, perhaps you will go and
see Christabel Sales. She has promised to behave herself.'
Henrietta's expression tightened. 'I don't want to go. It's a dreadful
'I know,' Rose said, and she added encouragingly, 'but the cat has
They were standing together in the hall and against the white panelled
walls, the figure of Rose, in the austere riding habit, one
gauntletted hand holding her crop, the other resting lightly on her
hip, had an heroic aspect, like a statue in dark marble; but her eyes
did not offer the blank gaze, the calm effrontery of stone: they
looked at Henrietta with something like appeal against this obsession
of the cat.
'Oh, I'm glad the cat's gone,' Henrietta murmured. 'What happened to
Rose shook her head. 'It disappeared.'
They stared at each other until Henrietta said, 'But all the same, I
don't want to go.' And then, because Rose would not help her out, she
was obliged to say, 'It's Mr. Sales.' Her voice dropped. 'I haven't
seen him since I hit him.'
Rose turned to go upstairs. 'I shouldn't think too much of that.'
'You don't think it matters?'
Henrietta looked after her and followed her for a step. 'You think I
may go?' Her voice was dull under her effort to control it. She felt
that the stately figure moving up the stairs was deliberately leaving
her to face a danger, sanctioning her desire to meet it. She felt her
fate was in the answer made by Rose.
'I think you can take care of yourself perfectly well, Henrietta,' and
like a sigh, another sentence floated from the landing where Rose
stood, out of sight: 'You are not like me.'
This was a mysterious and astonishing remark. Henrietta did not
understand it and in her excited realization that the door so
carefully locked by her own hand had been opened. Aunt Rose, she did
not try to understand it. Aunt Rose had said she was able to take care
of herself, and it was true, but honesty and a weak clinging to safety
urged her to answer, 'But you see, you see I don't want to do it!'
These words were not uttered. She stood, looking up towards the empty
landing with a hand pressed against her heart. It was beating fast.
The spirit of Reginald Mallett, subdued in his daughter for some
months, seemed to be fluttering in her breast and it was Aunt Rose who
had waked it up. It was not Henrietta's fault, she was not
responsible; and suddenly, the ordinary happiness she had been
enjoying was transferred into an irrational joy. She went singing up
the stairs, and Rose, sitting in her room in a state of limpness she
would never have allowed anybody to see, heard a sound as innocent as
if a bird had waked to a sunny dawn.
Henrietta sang, but now and then she paused and became grave when the
spirit of that mother who lived in her memory more and more dimly, as
though she had died when Henrietta was a child, overcame the spirit of
her father. Her mission was to be one of kindness to Christabel Sales,
and if--the song burst out again--if adventure came in her way, could
she refuse it? She would refuse nothing--the song ceased--short of
sin. She looked at herself and saw a solemn feminine edition of the
portrait hanging behind her on the wall. She was like her father, but
she took pride in her greater conscientiousness; her vocabulary was
larger than his by at least one word.
A few days later she set out on that road and past those trees which
had been the safe witnesses of so much of Rose Mallett's life, but
their safeness lay in their constant muteness, and they had no message
for Henrietta. Walking quickly, she rehearsed her coming meeting with
Francis Sales, but when she actually met him on the green track, on
the very spot where Rose had pulled up her horse in amazement at the
scene of transformation, Henrietta, like Rose, had no formal greeting
She said, 'The trees! What are you doing with them?'
'Turning them into gold.'
'But they were beautiful.'
'So are lots of things they will buy.' She moved a little under his
look, but when he said, 'I'm hard up,' she became interested.
'Really? I thought you were frightfully rich. You ought to be with all
these belongings.' She looked round at the fields dotted with sheep
and cattle, the distant chimneys of Sales Hall, the fallen trees and
the team of horses dragging logs under the guidance of workmen in
their shirt sleeves. 'I know all about being poor,' she said, 'but I
don't suppose we mean the same thing by the word. I've been so poor--'
She stopped. 'But there's a lot of excitement about it. I used to hope
I should find a shilling in my purse that I'd forgotten. A shilling!
You can do a lot with a shilling. At least I can.'
'I wish you'd tell me how.'
'Pretend you haven't got it. That's the beginning. You haven't got it,
so you can't have what you want.'
'I never have what I want.'
'Then you mustn't want anything.'
'Oh, yes, that's so easy.'
'Well'--she descended to details with an air of kindness--'what do you
want? Let's work it out. We'd better sit on the wall. After all, it's
rather lovely without the trees. It's so clear and the air's so blue,
as if it's trying to make up. Now tell me what you want.'
'Something money can't buy.'
'Then you needn't have cut down the trees.'
'I shouldn't have if I'd thought you'd care.'
She said softly but sharply, 'I don't believe that for a moment. Why
don't you tell the truth?'
'Do you want to hear it?'
'I'm not sure.'
'Then I'll wait while you make up your mind.'
Sitting on the wall, his feet rested easily on the ground while hers
swung free, and while he seemed to loll in complete indifference, she
was conscious of a tenseness she could not prevent. She hated her
enjoyment of his manner, which was impudent, but it had the spice of
danger that she liked and it was in defiance of the one and
encouragement of the other that she said, 'I'm sure you would never
talk to Aunt Rose like that.'
'I should never give your Aunt Rose my confidence,' he said severely.
It was impossible not to feel a warmth of satisfaction, and she asked
shortly, 'Why not?' 'She wouldn't understand. You're human. I'm
devilish lonely. Well, you know my circumstances.' A shadow which
seemed to affect the brightness of the autumn day, even deadening the
clear shouting of the men and the jingling of the chains attached to
the horses, passed over Francis Sales's face. 'One wants a friend.'
A cry of genuine bewilderment came from Henrietta. 'But I thought you
were so fond of Aunt Rose!'
From sulky contemplation of his brown boots and leggings, he looked at
her. His eyes, of a light yet dense blue, were widely opened. 'What
makes you think that? Did she tell you?'
Henrietta's lip curled derisively. 'No, it was you, when you looked at
her. And now you have told me again.' She had a moment of thoughtful
contempt for the blundering of men. There was Charles, who always
seemed to wander in a mist, and now this Francis Sales, who revealed
what he wished to hide. He was mentally inferior to Mr. Jenkins, who
had a quickness of wit, a vulgar sharpness of tongue which kept the
mind on the alert; but physically she had shrunk from Mr. Jenkins's
proximity, while that of Francis Sales, in his well-cut tweeds and his
shining boots, who seemed as clean as the air surrounding him, had an
attraction actually enhanced by his heaviness of spirit. He was like a
child possessed, consciously or unconsciously, of a weapon, and her
sense of her own superiority was corrected by fear of his strength and
of the subtle weakness in her own blood.
She heard a murmur. 'She has treated me very badly. I've known her all
my life. Well--'
Henrietta, with a gentleness he appreciated and a cleverness he
missed, said commiseratingly, 'She wouldn't let you take her hand in
'What on earth are you talking about? Look here, Henrietta, what do
you mean?' There had been so many occasions of the kind that it was
impossible to know to which one she referred, and, looking back, his
past seemed to be blocked with frustrations and petty torments. 'What
do you mean?' he repeated.
'This is some gossip,' he muttered.
'Yes, among the squirrels and the rabbits. Woods are full of eyes and
'Well,' he said, 'the eyes and ears will have to find another home.
There will soon be no wood left.'
So he had tried to take Aunt Rose's hand in this wood too! She laughed
with the pretty trill which made her laughter a new thing every time.
'I don't see the joke,' he grumbled.
She turned to him. 'I don't think you've laughed very much in your
life. You're always being sorry for yourself.'
'I have been very unfortunate,' he replied.
'There you are again! Why don't you tell yourself you're lucky not to
squint or turn in your toes? You'd be much more miserable then--much.
But thinking yourself unfortunate, when you're not, is a pleasant
'How do you know?'
'I know a lot,' Henrietta said. 'But I never thought myself
unfortunate, so I wasn't.'
'Very noble,' Sales said sourly.
'No. I told you it was exciting to be poor. You're not poor enough. A
new dress,' she went on, clasping her hands; 'first of all, I had to
save up--in pennies.' She turned accusingly. 'You don't believe it.'
'It must have taken a long time.'
'It did, but not so long as you would think, because it cost so little
in the end. I saved up, and then I looked in the shop windows, and
then I talked about it for days, and then I bought the stuff. Mother
cut out the dress, and then I made it.'
'And the result was charming.'
'I thought so then. Now I know it wasn't, but at the time I was
'Well,' he said, 'that's very interesting, but it doesn't help me.'
'But I could help you if you told me your troubles. I should know
'Telling my troubles would be a help.'
'Here I am, then.'
'What's the good?' he said. 'You'll desert me, too.'
'Not if you're good.'
'Oh, if that's the stipulation--' He stood up. His tone, which might
have been provocative, was simply bored. She knew she had been dull,
and her lip trembled with mortification.
'Why, of course!' she cried gaily, when she had mastered that
weakness. 'Aunt Caroline warned me against you this very afternoon.
She said--but, never mind. I'm not going to repeat her remarks. And
anyhow, Aunt Sophia said they were not true. Aunt Rose,' Henrietta
said thoughtfully, 'was not there. I don't suppose either of them is
right. And now I'm going to see Mrs. Sales.'
He ran after her. 'Henrietta, I shouldn't tell her you've seen me.'
She frowned. 'I don't like that.'
'It's for her sake.'
Henrietta turned away without a word, but she pondered, as she went,
on the dangerous likeness between right and wrong and the horrible
facility with which they could be, with which they had to be,
interchanged. One became bewildered, one became lost; she felt herself
being forced into a false position: she might not be able to get out.
Aunt Rose had sent her, Francis Sales was conspiring with her--she
made her father's gesture of helplessness, it was not her fault. But
she made up her mind she would never allow Francis Sales to find her
dull again, for that was unfair to herself.
Rose Mallett, who had always accepted conditions and not criticized
them, found herself in those days forced to a puzzled consideration of
life. It seemed an unnecessary invention on the part of a creator, a
freak which, on contemplation, he must surely regret. She was not
tired of her own existence, but she wondered what it was for and what,
possessing it, she could do with it. Her one attempt at usefulness had
been foiled, and though she had never consciously wanted anything to
do, she felt the need now that she was deprived of it. She passed her
days in the order and elegance of Nelson Lodge, in a monotonous
satisfaction of the eye, listening to the familiar chatter of Caroline
and Sophia, dressing herself with tireless care and refusing to regret
her past. Nevertheless, it had been wasted, and the only occupation of
her present was her anxiety for Francis Sales. She could not rid
herself of that claim, begun so long ago. She had to accept the
inactive responsibility which in another would have resolved itself
into earnest prayer but which in her was a stoical endurance of
What was he doing? What would he do? She knew he could not stand
alone, she knew she must continue to hold herself ready for his
service, but a prisoner fastened to a chain does not find much solace
in counting the links, and that was all she had to do. It seemed to
her that she moved, rather like a ghost, up and down the stairs, about
the landing, in the delicate silence of her bedroom; that she sat
ghost-like at the dining-table and heard the strangely aimless talk of
human beings. She supposed there were countless women like herself,
unoccupied and lonely, yet her pride resented the idea. There was only
one Rose Mallett; there was no one else with just her past, with the
same mental pictures and her peculiar isolation, and if she had been a
vainer woman she would have added that no other woman offered the same
kind of beauty to a world in need of it. Her obvious consolation was
in the presence of Henrietta, though she had little companionship to
give her aunt, and no suspicion that Rose, almost unawares, began to
transfer her interests to the girl, to set her mind on Henrietta's
happiness. She would take her abroad and let her see the world.
Caroline sniffed at the suggestion, Sophia sighed.
'The world's the same everywhere,' Caroline said. 'If you know one man
you know them all.'
'But if you know a great many, you will know one all the better.
However,' she smiled in the way of which her stepsisters were afraid,
'I wasn't thinking of men.'
'That's where you're so unnatural.'
'I was thinking of places--cities and mountains and plains.'
'You'll get the plague or be run away with by brigands.'
'I think Henrietta and I would rather like the brigands. We must avoid
'Smallpox,' Caroline went on, 'and your complexions ruined.'
'I wish you would stay at home,' Sophia said. 'Caroline and I are
'Nonsense, Sophia! I'd go myself for twopence. But I'd better wait
here and get the ransom money ready, and then James Batty and I can
start out together with a bag of it.' She laughed loudly at the
prospect of setting forth with the respectable James. 'And it wouldn't
be the first elopement I'd planned either. When I was eighteen I set
my mind on getting out of my bedroom window with a bundle--no, of
course I never told you, Sophia. You would have run in hysterics to
the General. But there was never one among them all who was worth the
inconvenience, so I gave it up. I always had more sense than
sentiment.' She sighed with regret for the legions of disappointed and
fictitious lovers waiting under windows, with which her mind was
peopled. 'Not one,' she repeated.
No one took any notice. Sophia, drooping her heavy head, was thinking
of brigands in a far country and of Caroline and herself left in
Nelson Lodge without Rose and without Henrietta. If they really went
away she determined to tell Henrietta the story of her lover, lest she
should die and the tale be unrecorded. She wanted somebody to know;
she would tell Henrietta on the eve of her departure, among the bags
and boxes. He had gone to America and died there, and that continent
was both sacred to her and abhorrent.
'Don't go to America,' she murmured.
'Why not?' Caroline demanded. 'Just the place they ought to go to.
Lots of millionaires.'
Rose reassured Sophia. 'And it is only an idea. I haven't said a word
Henrietta showed no enthusiasm for the suggestion. She liked Radstowe.
And there was the Battys' ball. It would be a pity to miss that. She
must certainly not miss that, said Caroline and Sophia. And what was
she going to wear? They had better go upstairs at once, to the elder
ladies' room, and see what could be done with Caroline's pink satin.
She had only worn it once, years ago. Nobody would remember it, and
trimmed with some of her mother's lace, the big flounce and the fichu,
it would be a different thing. Sophia could wear her apricot.
'Come along, Henrietta. Come along, Rose. We must really get this
They went upstairs, Caroline moving with heavy dignity, but keeping up
her head as she had been taught in her youth. Nothing was more
unbecoming than ducking the head and sticking out the back. Sophia
went slowly, holding to the balustrade, so very slowly that Henrietta
did not attempt to start. She said softly to Rose, 'How slowly she
goes. I've never noticed it before.'
'She always goes upstairs like that,' Rose said. 'It is not natural to
her to hurry.'
Henrietta followed and found Sophia panting a little on the landing.
She laid hold of her niece's arm. 'A little out of breath,' she
whispered. 'Don't say anything, dear child, to Caroline. She doesn't
like to be reminded of our age.'
They went into the bedroom and Rose, drifting into her own room, heard
the opening of the great wardrobe doors. She would be called in
presently for her advice, but there would be a lot of talk and many
reminiscences before she was needed. She stood by the fire, which,
giving the only light to the room, threw golden patches on the white
dressing-gown lying across a chair, and made the buckles on her shoes
sparkle like diamonds.
She was wondering why Henrietta's eyes had darkened as though with
fear at the idea of going away. She had been very quick in veiling
them, and her voice, too, had been quick, a little tremulous. There
was more than the Battys' ball in her desire to stay in Radstowe. Was
it Charles whom she was both to leave? Afterwards, perhaps in the
spring, she had said it would be nice to go. It was kind of Aunt Rose,
and Aunt Rose, gazing down at the fire, controlled her longing to
escape from this place too full of memories. She would not leave
Henrietta who had to be cared for, perhaps protected; she would not
persuade her who had to be happy, but she felt a sinking of the heart
which was almost physical. She rested both hands on the mantelshelf
and on them her weight. She felt as though she could not go on like
this for ever. She, who apparently had no ties, was never free; she
had the duties without the joys, and for these few minutes, before a
knock came at the door, she allowed herself the relief of melancholy.
She was incapable of tears, but she wished she could cry bitterly and
for a long time.
The knock was Henrietta's. She entered a little timidly. Aunt Rose was
not free with invitations to her room and to Henrietta it was a
beautiful and mysterious place. She had a childlike pleasure in the
silver and glass on the dressing-table, in glimpses of exquisite
garments and slippers worn to the shape of Aunt Rose's slim foot, and
Aunt Rose herself was like some fairy princess growing old and no less
lovely in captivity, but to-night, that dark straight figure splashed
by the firelight reminded her of words uttered by Christabel. She had
said that all Henrietta's aunts were witches, and for the first time
the girl agreed. In the other room, brilliantly lighted, Caroline and
Sophia were bending somewhat greedily over a mass of silks and satins
and laces, their cheeks flushed round the dabs of rouge, their fingers
active yet inept, fumbling in what might have been a brew for the
working of spells; and here, straight as a tree, Aunt Rose looked into
the fire as though she could see the future in its red heart, but her
voice, very clear, had a reassuring quality. It was not, Henrietta
thought, a witch's voice. Witches mumbled and screeched, and Aunt Rose
spoke like water falling from a height.
'Come in, Henrietta. Is the consultation over?'
'It has hardly begun. What a lot of clothes they have, and boxes of
lace, boxes! I think you will have to decide for them. And Aunt
Caroline snubs Aunt Sophia, all the time.'
'Did they send you to fetch me?'
'Yes, but we needn't go back yet, need we? Aunt Caroline wants to wear
her emeralds, but she says they will look vulgar with pink satin.
There's some lovely grey stuff like a cobweb. She says it was in her
mother's trousseau and I think she ought to wear that, but she says
she is going to keep it until she's old!'
'Then she'll never wear it. She will never make such an admission.'
'And she won't let Aunt Sophia have it because she says it would make
her look like a dusty broom. And it would, you know! She's really very
'Very funny. We're queer people, Henrietta.'
'Are we? And I'm more theirs than yours.'
'As far as blood goes, yes.' She spoke very quietly, but she felt a
great desire to assert, for once, her own claims, instead of accepting
those of others. She wanted to tell Henrietta that in return for the
secret care, the growing affection she was giving, she demanded
confidence and love; but she had never asked for anything in her life.
She had taken coolly much she could easily have done without,
admiration and respect and the material advantages to which she had
been born, but she had asked for nothing. Cruelly conscious of all
that lay in the gift of Henrietta, who sat in a low chair, her chin on
the joined fingers of her hands, Rose continued to look at the fire.
'You mean I'm really more like you?' Henrietta said. 'Am I? I'm like
my father,' and she added softly, 'terribly.'
Henrietta moved her feet. 'Oh, I don't know.'
'I wish you'd tell me.'
'He was queer. You said we all were, and I'm a Mallett, too, that's
all. Don't you think we ought to go and see about the dresses now?
Aunt Rose, they're bothering me to wear white, the only thing for a
young girl, but I want to wear yellow. Don't you think I might?'
Rose, who had felt herself on the brink of confidences, as though she
peered over a cliff, and watched the mists clear to show the secret
valley underneath, now saw the clouds thicken hopelessly, and
retreated from her position with an effort.
'Yellow? Yes, certainly. You will look like a marigold. Henrietta--'
She did not know what she was going to say, but she wanted to detain
the girl for a little longer, she hoped for another chance of drawing
nearer. 'Henrietta, wait a minute.' She moved to her dressing-table,
smiling at what she was about to do. It seemed as though she were
going to bribe the girl to love her, but she was only yielding to the
pathetic human desire to give something tangible since the intangible
was ignored. 'When I was twenty-one,' she said, 'your father gave me a
'Only when you were twenty-one?'
'Well,' Rose excused him, 'we didn't know each other very well. He was
a great deal from home, but he remembered my twenty-first birthday and
he gave me this necklace. I think it's beautiful, but I never wear it
now, and I think you may like to have it. Here it is, in its own box
and with the card he wrote--"A jewel for a rose."'
Holding it in her cupped hands, Henrietta murmured with delight: 'May
I have it really? How lovely! And may I have the card, too? He did say
nice things. Are you sure you can spare the card? I expect he admired
you very much. He liked beautiful women. My mother was pretty, too;
but I don't believe he ever gave her anything except a wedding-ring,
and he had to give her that.'
'Oh, Henrietta--well, his daughter shall have all he gave me.'
'If you're sure you don't want it. What are the stones?'
'Topaz and diamonds; but so small that you can wear them.'
'Topaz and diamonds! Oh!' And Henrietta, clasping it round her neck
and surveying herself by the candles Rose had lighted, said earnestly,
'Oh, I do hope he paid for it!' This was the first thought of Reginald
Rose was horrified into laughter, which seemed hysterically continuous
to Henrietta, and through it Rose cried tenderly, 'Oh, you poor child!
You poor child!'
Henrietta did not laugh. She said gravely, 'All the same, I'm glad I
had him for a father. Nobody but he would have chosen a thing like
this. He had such taste.' She looked at her aunt. 'I do hope I have
some taste, too.'
'I hope you have,' Rose said with equal gravity. She laughed no
longer. 'There are many kinds, and though he knew how to choose an
ornament, he made mistakes in other ways.'
Henrietta unclasped the necklace and laid it down. She looked, indeed,
remarkably like her father. Her eyes flashed above her angry mouth.
'You mean my mother!'
'No, Henrietta. How could I? I did not know your mother, and from the
little you have told us I believe she was too good for him.'
'How can I tell you more,' Henrietta protested, 'when I know what you
would be thinking? You would be thinking she was common. Aunt Caroline
does. She does! I don't know how she dare! No, I won't have the
'You must believe what I say, Henrietta. Your mother was not the only
woman in your father's life, and I was referring to the others.'
'You need not speak of them to me,' Henrietta said with dignity.
'I won't do so again. That, perhaps, is where my own taste failed.'
She decided to put out no more feelers for Henrietta's thoughts. It
was what she would have resented bitterly herself, and it did no good.
She was not clever at this unpractised art, and she told herself that
if her own affection could not tell her what she wished to know, the
information would be useless. Moreover, she had Henrietta's word for
it that she was terribly like her father.
'So put on the necklace again. It suits you better than it does me, so
well that we can pretend he really chose it for you.'
'Yes,' Henrietta said, fingering it again, 'if you promise you never
think anything horrid about my mother.'
'The worst I have ever thought of her,' Rose said lightly, 'is envying
her for her daughter.'
She saw Henrietta's mouth open inelegantly. 'Me? Oh, but you're not
'I feel very old sometimes.'
'I thought you were when I first saw you,' Henrietta said, looking in
the glass and swaying her body to make the diamonds glitter, 'but now
I know you never will be, because it's only ugly people who get old.
When your hair is white you'll be like a queen. Now you're a princess,
though Mrs. Sales says you're a witch. Oh, I didn't mean to tell you
that. It was a long time ago. She is never disagreeable now. I'm going
to see her again to-morrow.'
'I wish you would go in the morning, Henrietta. The afternoons get
dark so soon and the road is lonely.'
'She doesn't like visitors in the morning,' Henrietta said. 'I love
this necklace. Could I wear it to the dance?'
'It depends on the dress. If you are really to look like a marigold
you must wear no ornaments. If you had yellow tulle--' And Rose took
pencil and paper and made a rough design, talking with enthusiasm
meanwhile, for like all the Malletts, she loved clothes.
The next day Caroline had to stay in bed. She had been feverish all