Part 4 out of 5
perfectly easy for them to go elsewhere--in England or the colonies.
If they separate, and she will accept the arrangements we propose for
her--then he remains here, our trusted friend and right hand as before."
"It is, of course, the wrench of giving up the farm--"
Lord William raised his hands in protesting distress.
"Perfectly true, of course, that he's given the best years of his life to
it!--that he's got all sorts of experiments on hand--that he can never
build up exactly the same sort of thing elsewhere--that the farm is the
apple of his eye. It's absolutely true--every word of it! But then, why did
he take this desperate step!--without consulting any of his friends! It's
no responsibility of ours!"
The blanched and delicate face of the old man showed the grief, the wound
to personal affection he did not venture to let himself express, mingled
with a rocklike steadiness of will.
"You have heard from the Cloan Sisters?"
"Last night. Nothing could be kinder. There is a little house close by the
Sisterhood where she and the boy could live. They would give her work, and
watch over her, like the angels they are,--and the boy could go to a day
school. But they won't hear of it--they won't listen to it for a moment;
and now--you see--they've put their own alternative plan before us, in
this letter. He said to me, yesterday, that she was not religious by
temperament--that she wouldn't understand the Sisters--nor they her--that
she would be certain to rebel against their rules and regulations--and then
all the old temptations would return. 'I have taken her life upon me,' he
said, 'and I can't give her up. She is mine, and mine she will remain.'
It was terribly touching. I could only say that I was no judge of his
conscience, and never pretended to be; but that he could only remain here
on our terms."
"The letter is curiously excitable--hardly legible even--very unlike
Betts," said Newbury, turning it over thoughtfully.
"That's another complication. He's not himself. That attack of illness has
somehow weakened him. I can't reason with him as I used to do."
The father and son walked on in anxious cogitation, till Newbury observed a
footman coming with a note.
"From Coryston Place, sir. Waiting an answer."
Newbury read it first with eagerness, then with a clouded brow.
"Ask the servant to tell Miss Coryston I shall be with them for luncheon."
When the footman was out of earshot, Newbury turned to his father, his face
showing the quick feeling behind.
"Did you know that Mr. and Mrs. Betts are trying to get at Marcia?"
"No! I thought Coryston might be endeavoring to influence her. That
fellow's absolutely reckless! But what can she have to do with the Bettses
themselves? Really, the questions that young women concern themselves with
to-day!" cried Lord William, not without vehemence. "Marcia must surely
trust you and your judgment in such a matter."
"I'm certain--she will," he said, rather slowly, his eyes on the ground.
"But Mrs. Betts has been to see her."
"A great impertinence! A most improper proceeding!" said Lord William,
hotly. "Is that what her note says? My dear Edward, you must go over
and beg Marcia to let this matter _alone_! It is not for her to be
troubled with at all. She must really leave it to us."
The wandlike old man straightened his white head a trifle haughtily.
* * * * *
A couple of hours later Newbury set out to walk to Coryston. The day was
sultry, and June in all its power ruled the countryside. The hawthorns were
fading; the gorse was over; but the grass and the young wheat were rushing
up, the wild roses threw their garlands on every hedge, and the Coryston
trout-stream, beside which Newbury walked, brimming as it was, on its chalk
bed, would soon be almost masked from sight by the lush growths which
overhung its narrow stream, twisting silverly through the meadows.
The sensitive mind and conscience of a man, alive, through the long
discipline of religion, to many kinds of obligation, were, at this moment,
far from happy, even with this flaming June about him, and the beloved
brought nearer by every step. The thought of Marcia, the recollection of
her face, the expectation of her kiss, thrilled indeed in his veins. He was
not yet thirty, and the forces of his life were still rising. He had never
felt his manhood so vigorous, nor his hopes so high. Nevertheless he was
haunted--pursued--by the thought of those two miserable persons, over whom
he and his father held, it seemed, a power they had certainly never sought,
and hated to exercise. Yet how disobey the Church!--and how ignore the
plain words of her Lord--"_He that marrieth her that is put away
"Marriage is for Christians indissoluble. It bears the sacramental stamp.
It is the image, the outward and visible sign of that most awful and
most sacred union between Christ and the soul. To break the church's law
concerning it, and to help others to break it, is--for Christians--to
_sin_. To acquiesce in it, to be a partner to the dissolution of
marriage for such reasons as Mrs. Betts had to furnish, was to injure not
only the Christian church, but the human society, and, in the case of
people with a high social trust, to betray that trust."
These were the ideas, the ideas of his family, and his church, which held
him inexorably. He saw no escape from them. Yet he suffered from the
enforcement of them, suffered truly and sincerely, even in the dawn of his
own young happiness. What could he do to persuade the two offenders to the
only right course!--or if that were impossible, to help them to take up
life again where he and his would not be responsible for what they did or
accomplices in their wrong-doing?
Presently, to shorten his road, he left the park, and took to a lane
outside it. And here he suddenly perceived that he was on the borders of
the experimental farm, that great glory of the estate, famous in the annals
of English country life before John Betts had ever seen it, but doubly
famous during the twenty years that he had been in charge of it. There was
the thirty-acre field like one vast chessboard, made up of small green
plots; where wheat was being constantly tempted and tried with new soils
and new foods; and farmers from both the old and new worlds would come
eagerly to watch and learn. There were the sheds where wheat was grown,
not in open ground, but in pots under shelter; there was the long range of
buildings devoted to cattle, and all the problems of food; there was the
new chemical laboratory which his father had built for John Betts; and
there in the distance was the pretty dwelling-house which now sheltered the
woman from whose presence on the estate all the trouble had arisen.
A trouble which had been greatly aggravated by Coryston's presence on the
scene. Newbury, for all that his heart was full of Marcia, was none the
less sorely indignant with her brother, eager to have it out with him, and
to fling back his charges in his face.
Suddenly, a form appeared behind a gate flanked by high hedges.
Newbury recognized John Betts. A tall, broad-shouldered man, with slightly
grizzled hair, a countenance tanned and seamed by long exposure, and
pale-blue spectacled eyes, opened the gate and stepped into the road.
"I saw you coming, Mr. Edward, and thought I should like a word with you."
"By all means," said Newbury, offering his hand. But Betts took no notice
of it. They moved on together--a striking pair: the younger man, with his
high, narrow brow and strong though slender build, bearing himself with the
unconscious air of authority, given by the military life, and in this case
also, no doubt, by the influence of birth and tradition; as fine a specimen
of the English ruling class at its moral and physical best, as any student
of our social life would be likely to discover; and beside him a figure
round whom the earth-life in its primitive strength seemed to be still
clinging, though the great brain of the man had long since made him its
master and catechist, and not, like the ordinary man of the fields, farmer
or laborer, its slave. He, too, was typical of his class, of that large
modern class of the new countryman, armed by science and a precise
knowledge, which has been developed from the primitive artists of the
world--plowman, reaper, herdsman; who understood nothing and discovered
everything. A strong, taciturn, slightly slouching fellow; vouched for
by the quiet blue eyes, and their honest look; at this moment, however,
clouded by a frown of distress. And between the two men there lay the
memory of years of kindly intercourse--friendship, loyalty, just dealing.
"Your father will have got a letter from me this morning, Mr. Edward,"
began Betts, abruptly.
"He did. I left him writing to you." The young man's voice was singularly
gentle, even deferential.
"You read it, I presume?"
Newbury made a sign of assent.
"Is there any hope for us, Mr. Edward?"
Betts turned to look into his companion's face. A slight tremor in the
normally firm lips betrayed the agitation behind the question.
Newbury's troubled eyes answered him.
"You don't know what it costs us--not to be able to meet you--in that way!"
"You think the arrangement we now propose--would still compromise you?"
"How could we?" pleaded the younger man, with very evident pain. "We should
be aiding and abetting--what we believe to be wrong--conniving at it
indeed; while we led people--deliberately--to believe what was false."
"Then it is still your ultimatum--that we must separate?"
"If you remain here, in our service--our representative. But if you would
only allow us to make the liberal provision we would like to make for
Betts was silent a little; then he broke out, looking round him.
"I have been twenty years at the head of that farm. I have worked for it
night and day. It's been my life. Other men have worked for their wives
and children. I've worked for the farm. There are experiments going on
there--you know it, Mr. Edward--that have been going on for years. They're
working out now--coming to something--I've earned that reward. How can I
begin anywhere else? Besides, I'm flagging. I'm not the man I was. The
best of me has gone into that farm." He raised his arm to point. "And now,
you're going to drive me from it."
"Oh, Betts--why did you--why _did_ you!" cried Newbury, in a sudden
rush of grief. The other turned.
"Because--a woman came--and clung to me! Mr. Edward, when you were a boy
I saw you once take up a wounded leveret in the fields--a tiny thing. You
made yourself kill it for mercy's sake--and then you sat down and cried
over it--for the thought of all it had suffered. Well, my wife--she
_is_ my wife too!--is to me like that wounded thing. Only I've given
her _life_!--and he that takes her from me will kill her."
"And the actual words of our Blessed Lord, Betts, matter nothing to you?"
Newbury spoke with a sudden yet controlled passion. "I have heard you quote
them often. You seemed to believe and feel with us. You signed a petition
we all sent to the Bishop only last year."
"That seems so long ago, Mr. Edward,--so long ago. I've been through a lot
since--a lot--" repeated Betts, absently, as though his mind had suddenly
escaped from the conversation into some dream of its own. Then he came to a
"Well, good morning to you, sir--good morning. There's something doing in
the laboratory I must be looking after."
"Let me come and talk to you to-night, Betts! We have some notion of a
Canadian opening that might attract you. You know the great Government farm
near Ottawa? Why not allow my father to write to the Director--"
"Come when you like, Mr. Edward. Thank you kindly. But--it's no good--no
The voice dropped.
With a slight gesture of farewell, Betts walked away.
Newbury went on his road, a prey to very great disturbance of mind. The
patience--humbleness even--of Betts's manner struck a pang to the young
man's heart. The farm director was generally a man of bluff, outspoken
address, quick-tempered, and not at all accustomed to mince his words.
What Newbury perceived was a man only half persuaded by his own position;
determined to cling to it, yet unable to justify it, because, in truth, the
ideas put up against him by Newbury and his father were the ideas on which
a large section of his own life had been based. It is not for nothing that
a man is for years a devout communicant, and in touch thereby with all the
circle of beliefs on which Catholicism, whether of the Roman or Anglican
The white towers of Coryston appeared among the trees. His steps quickened.
Would she come to meet him?
Then his mind filled with repugnance. _Must_ he discuss this
melancholy business again with her--with Marcia? How could he? It was not
right!--not seemly! He thought with horror of the interview between her
and Mrs. Betts--his stainless Marcia, and that little besmirched woman, of
whose life between the dissolution of her first marriage, and her meeting
with Betts, the Newburys knew more than they wished to know, more, they
believed, than Betts himself knew.
And the whole June day protested with him--its beauty, the clean radiance
of the woods, the limpid flashing of the stream....
He hurried on. Ah, there she was!--a fluttering vision through the
The wood was deep--spectators none. She came to his arms, and lightly
clasped her own round his neck, hiding her face....
When they moved on together, hand in hand, Marcia, instinctively putting
off what must be painful, spoke first of the domestic scene of the day
before--of Arthur and her mother--and the revelation sprung upon them all.
"You remember how _terrified_ I was--lest mother should know? And
she's taken it so calmly!"
She told the story. Lady Coryston, it seemed, had canceled all the
arrangements for the Coryston meeting, and spoke no more of it. She was
cool and distant, indeed, toward Arthur, but only those who knew her well
would perhaps have noticed it. And he, on his side, having gained his
point, had been showing himself particularly amiable; had gone off that
morning to pay political visits in the division; and was doing his duty in
the afternoon by captaining the village cricket team in their Whitsuntide
match. But next week, of course, he would be in London again for the
reassembling of Parliament, and hanging about the Glenwilliams' house, as
"They're not engaged?"
"Oh dear, no! Coryston doesn't believe _she_ means it seriously at
all. He also thinks that mother is plotting something."
"When can I see Coryston?" Newbury turned to her with a rather forced
smile. "You know, darling, he'll have to get used to me as a brother!"
"He says he wants to see you--to--to have it out with you," said Marcia,
awkwardly. Then with a sudden movement, she clasped both her hands round
"Edward!--do--_do_ make us all happy!"
He looked down on the liquid eyes, the fresh young face raised appealingly
"How can I make you happy?" He lifted one hand and kissed it. "You
darling!--what can I do?"
But as he spoke he knew what she meant and dreaded the coming moment. That
she should ask anything in these magical days that he could not at once lay
at her feet!--she, who had promised him herself!
"_Please_--let Mr. Betts stay--please, Edward! Oh, I was so sorry for
"We are all so sorry for her," he said, after a pause. "My father and
mother will do all they can."
"Then you _will_ let him stay?" Her white brow dropped caressingly
"Of course!--if he will only accept my father's conditions," he said,
unwillingly, hating to see her bright look darkening.
She straightened herself.
"If they separate, you mean?"
"I'm afraid that's what they ought to do."
"But it would break their hearts."
He threw her a sudden flashing look, as though a sword gleamed.
"It would make amends."
"For what they have done? But they don't feel like that!" she pleaded, her
color rising. "They think themselves properly married, and that no one
has a right to interfere with them. And when the law says so too,
Edward?--Won't everybody think it _very_ hard?"
"Yes, we shall be blamed," he said, quietly. "But don't you see, dearest,
that, if they stay, we seem to condone the marriage, to say that it doesn't
matter,--what they have done?--when in truth it seems to us a black
"Against what--or whom?" she asked, wondering.
The answer came unflinchingly:
"Against our Lord--and His Church."
The revolt within showed itself in her shining eyes.
"Ought we to set up these standards for other people? And they don't ask to
stay _here_!--at least she doesn't. That's what Mrs. Betts came to say
Marcia threw herself into an eager recapitulation of Mrs. Betts's
arguments. Her innocence, her ignorance, her power of feeling, and her
instinctive claim to have her own way and get what she wanted,--were
all perceptible in her pleading. Newbury listened with discomfort and
distress--not yielding, however, by the fraction of an inch, as she soon
discovered. When she came to an abrupt pause, the wounded pride of a
foreseen rebuff dawning in her face, Newbury broke out:
"Darling, I _can't_ discuss it with you! Won't you trust me--Won't
you believe that neither father nor I would cause these poor things one
moment's pain--if we could help it?"
Marcia drew away from him. He divined the hurt in her as she began twisting
and untwisting a ribbon from her belt, while her lip trembled.
"I can't understand," she said, frowning--"I can't!"
"I know you can't. But won't you trust me? Dearest, you're going to trust
me with your whole life? Won't you?"
He took her in his arms, bending his handsome head to hers, pleading with
her in murmured words and caresses. And again she was conquered, she gave
way; not without a galling consciousness of being refused, but thrilled all
the same by the very fact that her lover could refuse her, in these first
moments of their love. It brought home to her once more that touch of
inaccessible strength, of mysterious command in Newbury, which from the
beginning had both teased and won her.
But it was on her conscience at least to repeat to him what Coryston had
said. She released herself to do it.
"Coryston said, Edward, I was to tell you to 'take care.' He has seen Mr.
and Mrs. Betts, and he says they are very excitable people--and very much
in love. He can't tell what might happen."
Newbury's face stiffened.
"I think I know them as well as Coryston. We will take every care, dearest.
And as for thinking of it--why, it's hardly ever out of my mind--except
when I'm with you! It hangs over me from morn till night."
Then at last she let the subject be dismissed; and they loitered home
through the woods, drawing into their young veins the scents and hues of
the June day. They were at that stage in love, when love has everything to
learn, and learns it through ways as old and sweet as life. Each lover is
discovering the other, and over the process, Nature, with her own ends in
view, throws the eternal glamour.
Yet before they reached the house the "sweet bells" in Marcia's
consciousness were once more jangling. There could be nothing but pleasure,
indeed, in confessing how each was first attracted to the other; in
clearing up the little misunderstandings of courtship; in planning for the
future--the honeymoon--their London house--the rooms at Hoddon Grey that
were to be refurnished for them. Lady William's jewels emerged from
Newbury's pocket, and Marcia blazed with them, there and then, under the
trees. They laughed together at the ugly setting, and planned a new one.
But then a mention by Newbury of the Oxford friend who was to be his "best
man" set him talking of the group of men who had been till now the leading
influence in his life--friends made at Oxford, and belonging all of them to
that younger High Church party of which he seemed to be the leader. Of two
of them especially he talked with eager affection; one, an overworked
High Churchman, with a parish in South London; another who belonged to a
"Community," the Community of the Ascension, and was soon to go out to a
mission-station in a very lonely and plague-stricken part of India.
And gradually, as he talked, Marcia fell silent. The persons he was
speaking of, and the ideas they represented, were quite strange to her;
although, as a matter of mere information, she knew of course that such
people and such institutions existed. She was touched at first, then
chilled, and if the truth be told--bored. It was with such topics, as
with the Hoddon Grey view of the Betts case. Something in her could not
She guided him deftly back to music, to the opera, to the night of
Iphigenia. No jarring there! Each mind kindled the other, in a common
delight. Presently they swung along, hand in hand, laughing, quoting,
reminding each other of this fine thing, and that. Newbury was a
considerable musician; Marcia was accustomed to be thought so. There was a
new and singular joy in feeling herself but a novice and ignoramus beside
"How much you know!"--and then, shyly--"You must teach me!" With the
inevitable male retort--"Teach you!--when you look at me like that!"
It was a golden hour. Yet when Marcia went to take off her hat before
luncheon, and stood absently before the glass in a flush of happiness, it
was as though suddenly a door opened behind her, and two sad and ghostly
figures entered the room of life, pricking her with sharp remorse for
having forgotten them.
And when she rejoined Newbury down-stairs, it seemed to her, from his
silent and subdued manner, that something of the same kind had happened
also to him.
* * * * *
"You haven't tackled Coryston yet?" said Sir Wilfrid, as he and Newbury
walked back toward Hoddon Grey in the late afternoon, leaving Marcia
and Lady Coryston in the clutches of a dressmaker, who had filled the
drawing-room with a gleaming show of "English silks," that being Lady
Coryston's special and peremptory command for the _trousseau_.
"No. He hasn't even vouchsafed me a letter."
Newbury laughed; but Sir Wilfrid perceived the hurt feeling which mingled
with the laugh.
"Absurd fellow!" said Sir Wilfrid. "His proceedings here amuse me a good
deal--but they naturally annoy his mother. You have heard of the business
with the Baptists?"
Newbury had seen some account of it in the local paper.
"Well now they've got their land--through Coryston. There always was a
square piece in the very middle of the village--an _enclave_ belonging
to an old maid, the daughter of a man who was a former butler of the
Corystons, generations ago. She had migrated to Edinburgh, but Coryston
has found her, got at her, and made her sell it--finding, I believe, the
greater part of the money. It won't be long before he'll be laying the
foundation-stone of the new Bethel--under his mother's nose."
"A truly kind and filial thing to do!" said the young High Churchman,
Sir Wilfrid eyed him slyly.
"Moral--don't keep a conscience--political or ecclesiastical. There's
nothing but mischief comes of it. And, for Heaven's sake, don't be a
"A man who makes an unjust will, and leaves everything to his wife," said
Sir Wilfrid, calmly. "It's played the deuce in this family, and will go on
Whereupon the late Lord Coryston's executor produced an outline of the
family history--up to date--for the benefit of Lady Coryston's future
son-in-law. Newbury, who was always singularly ignorant of the town gossip
on such matters, received it with amazement. Nothing could be more unlike
the strictly traditional ways which governed his own family in matters of
money and inheritance.
"So Arthur inherits everything!"
"Hm--does he?" said Sir Wilfrid.
"But I thought--"
"Wait and see, my dear fellow, wait and see. He will only marry Miss
Glenwilliam over his mother's body--and if he does marry her he may whistle
for the estates."
"Then James will have them?" said Newbury, smiling.
"Why not Marcia? She has as good a chance as anybody."
"I hope not!" Newbury's tone showed a genuine discomfort.
"What is Lady Coryston doing?"
"About the Glenwilliam affair? Ah!--what isn't she doing?" said Sir
Wilfrid, significantly. "All the same, she lies low." As he spoke, his eyes
fell upon the hillside and on the white cottage of the Atherstones emerging
from the wood. He pointed.
"They will be there on Sunday fortnight--after the Martover meeting."
"Who? The Glenwilliams?"
Sir Wilfrid nodded.
"And I am of opinion that something will happen. When two highly
inflammable bodies approach each other, something generally does happen."
The weeks that followed offered no particular A event, but were none the
less important to this history. Coryston was called off to an election in
the north, where he made a series of speeches which perhaps in the end
annoyed the Labor candidate he was supporting as much as the Tory he was
attacking. For, generally reckoned a Socialist by friends and opponents
alike, he preached openly, on this occasion, that Socialism was absurd,
and none but fools would upset kings and cabinets, to be governed by
And on one of his spare evenings he wrote a letter to Edward Newbury,
loftily accepting him as a brother-in-law--on conditions.
"I see no reason," he wrote, "why you and I should not be good friends--if
only I can induce you to take the line of common humanity in this pitiful
case, which, as you know, has set our whole neighborhood aflame. Your
_opinions_ on divorce don't matter, of course, to me--nor mine to
you. But there are cruelties of which all men are judges. And if you
must--because of your opinions--commit yourself to one of them--why then,
whether you marry Marcia or no, you and I can't be friends. It would be
mere hypocrisy to suppose it. And I tell you quite frankly that I shall do
my best to influence Marcia. There seem to me to be one or two ways out of
the business, that would at any rate relieve you of any active connivance
with what you hold to be immorality. I have dealt with them in my letter
to your father. But if you stand on your present fiat--"Separate--or go--"
well, then you and I'll come to blows--Marcia or no Marcia. And I warn you
that Marcia is at bottom a humanist--in the new sense--like me."
To which Newbury promptly replied:
"My dear Coryston--I am quite prepared to discuss the Betts case with you,
whenever you return, and we can meet. But we cannot discuss it to any
useful purpose, unless you are prepared to allow me, before we begin, the
same freedom of opinion that you claim for yourself. It is no good ruling
out opinion--or rather conviction--and supposing that we can agree, apart
from conviction, on what is cruelty in this case, and what isn't. The
omitted point is vital. I find it difficult to write about Marcia--perhaps
because my heart and mind are so full of her. All I can say is that the
happiness she has brought me by consenting to be my wife must necessarily
affect all I think and feel. And to begin with, it makes me very keen to
understand and be friends with those she loves. She is very much attached
to you--though much troubled often, as of course you know, by the line you
have taken down here.... Let me know when you return--that I may come over
to Knatchett. We can be brothers, can't we?--even though we look at life so
But to this Coryston, who had gone on to a Labor Congress in Scotland, made
The June days passed on, bringing the "high midsummer pomps." Every day
Newbury and Marcia met, and the Betts case was scarcely mentioned between
them after Newbury had been able to tell her that Lord William in London
had got from some Canadian magnates who happened to be there, a cordial and
even enthusiastic promise of employment for John Betts, in connection with
a Government experiment in Alberta. An opening was ready; the Newburys
guaranteed all expenses; and at last Betts himself seemed to be reconciled
to the prospect of emigration, being now, as always, determined to stick
to his marriage. Nobody wished to hurry him; he was considering the whole
proposal; and in a week or two Newbury quite hoped that matters might be
Meanwhile, though the pride of the Newburys concealed the fact as much as
possible, not only from Marcia but from each other, the dilemma on the
horns of which John and Alice Betts had found themselves impaled, was
being eagerly, even passionately discussed through the whole district. The
supporters of the Newburys were many, for there were scores of persons on
the Newbury estates who heartily sympathized with their point of view; but
on the whole the defenders of the Betts marriage were more. The affair got
into the newspapers, and a lecturer representing the "Rational Marriage
Union" appeared from London, and addressed large and attentive audiences in
the little towns. After one of these lectures, Newbury returning home at
night from Coryston was pelted with stones and clods by men posted behind a
hedge. He was only slightly hurt, and when Marcia tried to speak of it, his
smile of frank contempt put the matter by. She could only be thankful that
Coryston was still away.
For Lady Coryston, meanwhile, the Betts case scarcely existed. When it did
come up, she would say impatiently that in her opinion such private matters
were best left to the people concerned to settle; and it was evident that
to her the High Anglican view of divorce was, like the inconvenient piety
of Hoddon Grey, a thing of superfluity. But Marcia knew very well that her
mother had no mind to give to such a trifle--or to anything, indeed--her
own marriage not excepted--but Arthur's disclosure, and Arthur's
intentions. What her mother's plans were she could not discover. They
lingered on at Coryston when, with the wedding so close in view, it would
have been natural that they should return at once to London for shopping;
and Marcia observed that her mother seemed to be more closely absorbed
in politics than ever, while less attentive, perhaps, than usual to the
affairs of the estate and the village. A poster announcing the Martover
meeting was lying about in her sitting-room, and from a fragment of
conversation overheard between her mother and Mr. Page, the agent, it
seemed that Lady Coryston had been making elaborate inquiries as to those
queer people, the Atherstones, with whom the Glenwilliams were to stay for
the meeting. Was her mother afraid that Arthur would do something silly
and public when they came down! Not the least likely! He had plenty of
opportunities in London, with no local opinion, and no mother to worry him.
Yet when Parliament reassembled, and Arthur, with an offhand good-by to his
mother, went back to his duties, Marcia in vain suggested to Lady Coryston
that they also should return to St. James's Square, partly to keep an eye
on the backslider, partly with a view to "fittings," Lady Coryston curtly
replied, that Marcia might have a motor whenever she pleased, to take her
up to town, but that she herself meant for another fortnight to stay at
Coryston. Marcia, much puzzled, could only write to James to beg him to
play watch-dog; well aware, however, that if Arthur chose to press the
pace, James could do nothing whatever to stop him.
On the day before the Glenwilliam meeting Lady Coryston, who had gone out
westward through the park, was returning by motor from the direction of
Martover, and reached her own big and prosperous village of Coryston Major
about seven o'clock. She had been holding conference with a number of
persons in the old borough of Martover, persons who might be trusted to
turn a Radical meeting into a howling inferno, if the smallest chink of
opportunity were given them; and she was conscious of a good afternoon's
work. As she sat majestically erect in the corner of the motor, her brain
was alive with plans. A passion of political--and personal--hatred charged
every vein. She was tired, but she would not admit it. On the contrary, not
a day passed that she did not say to herself that she was in the prime of
life, that the best of her work as a party woman was still to do, and that
even if Arthur did fail her--incredible defection!--she, alone, would
fight to the end, and leave her mark, so far as a voteless woman of great
possessions might, upon the country and its fortunes.
Yet the thought of Arthur was very bitter to her, and the expectation of
the scene which--within forty-eight hours--she was deliberately preparing
for herself. She meant to win her battle,--did not for one moment admit the
possibility of losing it. But that her son would make her suffer for it she
foresaw, and though she would not allow them to come into the open, there
were dim fears and misgivings in the corners of her mind which made life
It was a fine summer evening, bright but cool. The streets of Coryston were
full of people, and Lady Coryston distributed a suzerain's greetings as
she passed along. Presently, at a spot ahead of her, she perceived a large
crowd, and the motor slowed down.
"What's the matter, Patterson?" she asked of her chauffeur.
"Layin' a stone--or somethin'--my lady," said the chauffeur in a puzzled
"Laying a stone?" she repeated, wondering. Then, as the crowd parted before
the motor, she caught sight of a piece of orchard ground which only that
morning had been still hidden behind the high moss-grown palings which had
screened it for a generation. Now the palings had been removed sufficiently
to allow a broad passage through, and the crowd outside was but an overflow
from the crowd within. Lady Coryston perceived a platform with several
black-coated persons in white ties, a small elderly lady, and half a
dozen chairs upon it. At one end of the platform a large notice-board had
apparently just been reared, for a couple of men were still at work on its
supports. The board exhibited the words--"Site of the new Baptist Chapel
for Coryston Major. All contributions to the building fund thankfully
There was no stone to be seen, grass and trees indeed were still untouched,
but a public meeting was clearly proceeding, and in the chair, behind a
small table, was a slight, fair-haired man, gesticulating with vigor.
Lady Coryston recognized her eldest son.
"Drive on, Patterson!" she said, furiously.
"I can't, my lady--they're too thick."
By this time the motor had reached the center of the gathering which filled
the road, and the persons composing it had recognized Lady Coryston. A
movement ran through the crowd; faces turned toward the motor, and then
toward the platform; from the mother--back to the son. The faces seemed
to have but one smile, conscious, sly, a little alarmed. And as the motor
finally stopped--the chauffeur having no stomach for manslaughter--in front
of the breach in the railings, the persons on the platform saw it, and
understood what was the matter with the audience.
Coryston paused in his speech. There was a breathless moment. Then,
stepping in front of the table, to the edge of the platform, he raised his
"We scarcely expected, my friends, to see my mother, Lady Coryston, among
us this evening. Lady Coryston has as good a right to her opinion as any of
us have to ours. She has disapproved of this enterprise till now. She did
not perhaps think there were so many Baptists--big and little Baptists--in
Coryston--" he swept his hand round the audience with its fringe of babies.
"May we not hope that her presence to-night means that she has changed her
mind--that she will not only support us--but that she will even send a
check to the Building Fund! Three cheers for Lady Coryston!"
He pointed to the notice-board, his fair hair blown wildly back from his
boyish brow, and queer thin lips; and raising his hand, he started the
"Go on, Patterson," cried Lady Coryston again, knocking sharply at the
front windows of the open landaulette. The crowd cheered and laughed, in
good-humored triumph; the chauffeur hooted violently, and those nearest the
motor fled with shrieks and jeers; Lady Coryston sat in pale endurance. At
last the way was clear, and the motor shot forward. Coryston stepped back
to the table and resumed his speech as though nothing had happened.
The words formed themselves on Lady Coryston's angry lips. So the plot in
which she had always refused to believe had actually been carried through!
That woman on the platform was no doubt the butler's daughter, the miserly
spinster who had guarded her Naboth's vineyard against all purchasers for
twenty years. Coryston had squared her, and in a few months the Baptist
Chapel his mother had staved off till now, would be flaunting it in the
And this was Coryston's doing. What taste--what feeling! A mother!--to be
so treated! By the time she reached her own sitting-room, Lady Coryston was
very near a womanish weeping. She sat silently there awhile, in the falling
dusk, forcing back her self-control, making herself think of the next day,
the arrival of the Glenwilliams, and how she would need all her strength
and a clear head to go through with what she meant to do--more important,
that, than this trumpery business in the village!
A sound of footsteps roused her from her thoughts, and she perceived Marcia
outside, coming back through the trees to the house. Marcia was singing in
a low voice as she came. She had taken off her hat, which swung in her left
hand, and her dark curls blew about her charming face. The evening light
seemed to halo and caress her; and her mother thought--"she has just parted
from Edward!" A kind of jealousy of her daughter for one strange moment
possessed her--jealousy of youth and love and opening life. She felt
herself thwarted and forgotten; her sons were all against her, and her
daughter had no need of her. The memory of her own courting days came back
upon her, a rare experience!--and she was conscious of a dull longing for
the husband who had humored her every wish--save one; had been proud of her
cleverness, and indolently glad of her activity. Yet when she thought of
him, it was to see him as he lay on his death-bed, during those long last
hours of obstinate silence, when his soul gave no sign to hers, before the
[Illustration: MARCIA WAS SINGING, IN A LOW VOICE AS SHE CAME]
Marcia's state and Marcia's feelings, meanwhile, were by no means so simple
as her mother imagined. She was absorbed, indeed, by the interest and
excitement of her engagement. She could never forget Newbury; his influence
mingled with every action and thought of her day; and it was much more than
an influence of sex and passion. They had hardly indeed been engaged a few
days, before Marcia had instinctively come to look upon their love as a
kind of huge and fascinating adventure. Where would it lead?--how would
it work out? She was conscious always of the same conflicting impulses of
submission and revolt; the same alternations of trust and resentment. In
order not to be crushed by the strength of his character, she had brought
up against him from the very beginning the weapons of her young beauty,
carrying out what she had dimly conceived, even on the first day of their
betrothal. The wonder of that perpetual contrast, between the natural
sweetness of his temperament and the sternness with which he controlled and
disciplined his life, never ceased to affect her. His fierce judgment of
opinions--his bitter judgment, often, of men--repelled and angered her.
She rose in revolt, protesting; only to be made to feel that in such
bitterness, or such fierceness, there was nothing personal whatever. He was
but a soldier under orders, mysterious orders; moved by forces she only
faintly perceived. Once or twice, during the fortnight, it was as though a
breath of something infinitely icy and remote blew across their relation;
nor was it till, some years afterward, she read Madame Perrier's life of
her brother, Blaise Pascal, that she understood in some small degree what
it had meant.
And just as some great physical and mental demand may bring out undreamt-of
powers in a man or woman, so with the moral and spiritual demand made by
such a personality as Newbury. Marcia rose in stature as she tried to meet
it. She was braced, exalted. Her usual egotisms and arrogancies fell away
ashamed. She breathed a diviner air, and life ran, hour by hour, with a
wonderful intensity, though always haunted by a sense of danger she could
not explain. Newbury's claim upon her indeed was soon revealed as the claim
of lover, master, friend, in one; his love infused something testing and
breathless into every hour of every day they were together.
On the actual day of the Martover meeting Marcia was left alone at
Coryston. Newbury had gone--reluctantly for once--to a diocesan meeting
on the farther side of the county. Lady Coryston, whose restlessness was
evident, had driven to inspect a new farm some miles off, and was to take
informal dinner on her way back with her agent, Mr. Page, and his wife--a
house in which she might reckon on the latest gossip about the Chancellor's
visit, and the great meeting for which special trains were being run from
town, and strangers were pouring into the district.
Marcia spent the day in writing letters of thanks for wedding presents, and
sheets of instructions to Waggin, who had been commandeered long before
this, and was now hard at work in town on the preparations for the wedding;
sorely hampered the while by Lady Coryston's absence from the scene.
Then, after giving some last thoughts to her actual wedding-dress, the
bride-elect wandered into the rose-garden and strolled about aimlessly
gathering, till her hands were full of blooms, her thoughts meanwhile
running like a mill-race over the immediate past and the immediate future.
This one day's separation from Newbury had had a curious effect. She had
missed him sharply; yet at the same time she had been conscious of a sort
of relief from strain, a slackening of the mental and moral muscles, which
had been strangely welcome.
Presently she saw Lester coming from the house, holding up a note.
"I came to bring you this. It seems to want an answer." He approached her,
his eyes betraying the pleasure awakened by the sight of her among the
roses, in her delicate white dress, under the evening sky. He had scarcely
seen her of late, and in her happiness and preoccupation she seemed at last
to have practically forgotten his presence in the house.
She opened the note, and as she read it Lester was dismayed to see a look
of consternation blotting the brightness from her face.
"I must have the small motor--at once! Can you order it for me?"
"Certainly. You want it directly?"
"Directly. Please hurry them!" And dropping the roses, without a thought,
on the ground, and gathering up her white skirts, she ran toward one of the
side doors of the facade which led to her room. Lester lifted the fragrant
mass of flowers she had left scattered on the grass, and carried them in.
What could be the matter?
He saw to the motor's coming round, and when a few minutes later he had
placed her in it, cloaked and veiled, he asked her anxiously if he could
not do anything to help her, and what he should say to Lady Coryston on her
"I have left a note for my mother. Please tell Sir Wilfrid I sha'n't be
here for dinner. No--thank you!--thank you! I must go myself!" Then, to the
chauffeur--"Redcross Farm!--as quick as you can!"
Lester was left wondering. Some new development of the Betts trouble? After
a few minutes' thought he went toward the smoking-room in search of Sir
Meanwhile Marcia was speeding through the summer country, where the hay
harvest was beginning and the fields were still full of folk. The day had
been thunderously fine, with threats of change. Broad streaks of light and
shadow lay on the shorn grass; children were tumbling in the swaths, and a
cheerful murmur of voices rose on the evening air. But Marcia could only
think of the note she still held in her hand.
"Can you come and see me? to-night--at once. Don't bring anybody. I am
alarmed about my husband. Mr. Edward is away till to-morrow.--ALICE BETTS."
This sudden appeal to her had produced in Marcia a profound intensity of
feeling. She thought of Coryston's "Take care!"--and trembled. Edward would
not be home till the following day. She must act alone--help alone. The
thought braced her will. Her mother would be no use--but she wished she had
thought of asking Sir Wilfrid to come with her....
The car turned into the field lane leading to the farm. The wind had
strengthened, and during all the latter part of her drive heavy clouds had
been rising from the west, and massing themselves round the declining sun.
The quality of the light had changed, and the air had grown colder.
"Looks like a storm, miss," said the young chauffeur, a lad just promoted
to driving, and the son of the Coryston head gardener. As he spoke, a man
came out of a range of buildings on the farther side of a field and paused
to look at the motor. He was carrying something in his arms--Marcia
thought, a lamb. The sight of the lady in the car seemed to excite his
astonishment, but after a moment or two's observation he turned abruptly
round the corner of the building behind him and disappeared.
"That's the place, miss, where they try all the new foods," the chauffeur
continued, eagerly,--"and that's Mr. Betts. He's just wonderful with the
"You know the farm, Jackson?"
"Oh, father's great friends with Mr. Betts," said the youth, proudly.
"And I've often come over with him of a Sunday. Mr. Betts is a very nice
gentleman. He'll show you everything."
At which point, however, with a conscious look, and a blush, the young man
fell silent. Marcia wondered how much he knew. Probably not much less than
she did, considering the agitation in the neighborhood.
They motored slowly toward the farm-house, an old building with modern
additions and a small garden round it, standing rather nakedly on the edge
of the famous checkered field, a patchwork quilt of green, yellow, and
brown, which Marcia had often passed on her drives without understanding in
the least what it meant. About a stone's-throw from the front door rose a
substantial one-storied building, and, seeing Miss Coryston glance at it
curiously, Jackson was again eager to explain:
"That's the laboratory, miss--His lordship built that six years ago. And
last year there was a big meeting here. Father and I come over to the
speeches--and they gave Mr. Betts a gold medal--and there was an American
gentleman who spoke--and he said as how this place of Mr. Betts--next to
that place, Harpenden way--Rothamsted, I think they call it--was most
'ighly thought of in the States--and Mr. Betts had done fine. And that's
the cattle-station over there, miss, where they fattens 'em, and weighs
'em. And down there's the drainage field where they gathers all the water
that's been through the crops, when they've manured 'em--and the mangel
"Mind that gate, Jackson," said Marcia. The youth silenced, looked to his
steering, and brought the motor up safely to the door of the farm.
A rather draggled maid-servant answered Marcia's ring, examined her
furtively, and showed her into the little drawing-room. Marcia stood at the
window, looking out. She saw the motor disappearing toward the garage which
she understood was to be found somewhere on the premises. The storm was
drawing nearer; the rising grounds to the west were in black shadow--but on
the fields and scattered buildings in front, wild gleams were striking now
here, now there. How trim everything was!--how solid and prosperous. The
great cattle-shed on the one hand--the sheep-station on the other, with its
pens and hurdles--the fine stone-built laboratory--the fields stretching to
She turned to the room in which she stood. Nothing trim or solid there! A
foundation indeed of simple things, the chairs and tables of a bachelor's
room, over which a tawdry taste had gone rioting. Draperies of "art"
muslin; photographs in profusion--of ladies in very low dresses and
affected poses, with names and affectionate messages written across the
corners;--a multitude of dingy knick-knacks; above the mantelpiece a large
colored photograph of Mrs. Betts herself as Ariel; clothes lying about;
muddy shoes; the remains of a meal: Marcia looked at the medley with quick
repulsion, the wave of feeling dropping.
The door opened. A small figure in a black dress entered softly, closed the
door behind her, and stood looking at Miss Coryston. Marcia was at first
bewildered. She had only seen Mrs. Betts once before, in her outdoor
things, and the impression left had been of a red-eyed, disheveled,
excitable woman, dressed in shabby finery, the sort of person who would
naturally possess such a sitting-room as that in which they stood. And here
was a woman austerely simple in dress and calm in manner! The black gown,
without an ornament of any kind, showed the still lovely curves of the
slight body, and the whiteness of the arms and hands. The face was quiet,
of a dead pallor; the hair gathered loosely together and held in place by a
couple of combs, was predominantly gray, and there had been no effort this
time to disguise the bareness of the temples, or the fresh signs of age
graven round eyes and lips.
For the first time the quick sense of the girl perceived that Mrs. Betts
was or had been a beautiful woman. By what dramatic instinct did she thus
present herself for this interview? A wretched actress on the boards, did
she yet possess some subtle perception which came into play at this crisis
of her own personal life?
"It was very kind of you to come, Miss Coryston." She pushed forward a
chair. "Won't you sit down? I'm ashamed of this room. I apologize for it."
She looked round it with a gesture of weary disgust, and then at Marcia,
who stood in flushed agitation, the heavy cloak she had worn in the motor
falling back from her shoulders and her white dress, the blue motor veil
framing the brilliance of her eyes and cheeks.
"I musn't sit down, thank you--I can't stay long," said the girl,
hurriedly. "Will you tell me why you sent for me? I came at once. But my
mother, when she comes home, will wonder where I am."
Without answering immediately, Mrs. Betts moved to the window, and looked
out into the darkening landscape, and the trees already bending to the
gusts which precede the storm.
"Did you see my husband as you came?" she asked, turning slightly.
"Yes. He was carrying something. He saw me, but I don't think he knew who I
"He never came home last night at all," said Mrs. Betts, looking away again
out of the window. "He wandered about the fields and the sheds all night.
I looked out just as it was getting light, and saw him walking about among
the wheat plots, sometimes stopping to look, and sometimes making a note
in his pocket-book, as he does when he's going his rounds. And at four
o'clock, when I looked again, he was coming out of the cattle-shed, with
something in his hand, which he took into the laboratory. I saw him unlock
the door of the laboratory and I bent out of my window, and tried to call
him. But he never looked my way, and he stayed there till the sun was up.
Then I saw him again outside, and I went out and brought him in. But he
wouldn't take any rest even then. He went into the office and began to
write. I took him some tea, and then--"
The speaker's white face quivered for the first time. She came to Marcia
and laid both hands on the girl's arm.
"He told me he was losing his memory and his mind. He thought he had never
quite got over his illness before he went to Colwyn Bay--and now it was
this trouble which had done for him. He had told Mr. Edward he would go to
Canada--but he knew he never should. They wouldn't want a man so broken
up. He could never begin any new work--his life was all in this place. So
The tears began quietly to overflow the large blue eyes looking into
Marcia's. Mrs. Betts took no notice of them. They fell on the bosom of her
dress; and presently Marcia timidly put up her own handkerchief, and wiped
them away, unheeded.
"So then I told him I had better go. I had brought him nothing but trouble,
and I wasn't worth it. He was angry with me for saying it. I should never
leave him--never--he said--but I must go away then because he had letters
to write. And I was just going, when he came after me, and--and--he took me
in his arms and carried me up-stairs and laid me on the bed and covered me
up warmly. Then he stayed a little while at the foot of the bed looking at
me, and saying queer things to himself--and at last he went down-stairs....
All day he has been out and about the farm. He has never spoken to me. The
men say he's so strange--they don't like to leave him alone--but he drives
them away when they go to speak to him. And when he didn't come in all day,
I sat down and wrote to you--"
She paused, mechanically running her little hand up and down the front of
"I don't know anybody here. John's lots of friends--but they're not my
friends--and even when they're sorry for us--they know--what I've done--and
they don't want to have much to do with me. You said you'd speak for us to
Mr. Edward--and I know you did--Mr. Edward told John so. You've been kinder
to me than any one else here. So I just wanted to tell _you_--what
I'm going to do. I'm going away--I'm going right away. John won't know,
nobody'll know where I'm gone. But I want you to tell Mr. Newbury--and get
him and Lord William to be kind to John--as they used to be. He'll get over
it--by and by!"
Then, straightening herself, she drew herself away.
"I'm not going to the Sisterhood!" she said, defiantly. "I'd sooner die!
You may tell Mr. Newbury I'll live my own life--and I've got my boy. John
won't find me--I'll take care of that. But if I'm not fit for decent people
to touch--there's plenty like me. I'll not cringe to anybody--I'll go where
I'm welcome. So now you understand, don't you--what I wanted to ask you?"
"No indeed I don't," cried Marcia, in distress. "And you won't--you sha'n't
do anything so mad! Please--please, be patient!--I'll go again to Mr.
Newbury. I shall see him to-morrow!"
Mrs. Betts shook her head. "No use--no use. It's the only thing to do for
me to take myself off. And no one can stop it. If you were to tell John
now, just what I've said, it wouldn't make any difference. He couldn't stop
me. I'm going!--that's settled. But _he_ sha'n't go. He's got to take
up his work here again. And Mr. Edward must persuade him--and look after
him--and watch him. What's their religion good for, if it can't do that?
Oh, how I _hate_ their religion!"
Her eyes lit up with passion; whatever touch of acting there might have
been in her monologue till now, this rang fiercely true:
"Haven't I good reason?" Her hands clenched at the words. "It's that which
has come between us, as well as the farm. Since he's been back here, it's
the old ideas that have got hold of him again. He thinks he's in mortal
sin--he thinks he's damned--and yet he won't--he can't give me up. My poor
old John!--We were so happy those few weeks!--why couldn't they leave
us alone!--That hard old man, Lord William!--and Mr. Edward--who's got
you--and everything he wants besides in the world! There--now I suppose
you'll turn against me too!"
She stood superbly at bay, her little body drawn up against the wall, her
head thrown back. To her own dismay, Marcia found herself sobbing--against
"I'm not against you. Indeed--indeed--I'm not against you! You'll see. I'll
go again to Mr. Newbury--I promise you! He's not hard--he's not cruel--he's
"Hush!" said Mrs. Berts, suddenly, springing forward--"there he is!" And
trembling all over, she pointed to the figure of her husband, standing just
outside the window and looking in upon them. Thunder had been rumbling
round the house during the whole of this scene, and now the rain had
begun. It beat on the bare grizzled head of John Betts, and upon his
weather-beaten cheeks and short beard.
His expression sent a shudder through Marcia. He seemed to be looking at
them--and yet not conscious of them; his tired eyes met hers, and made no
sign. With a slight puzzled gesture he turned away, back into the pelting
rain, his shoulders bent, his step faltering and slow.
"Oh! go after him!" said Marcia, imploringly. "Don't trouble about me! I'll
find the motor. Go! Take my cloak!" She would have wrapped it round Mrs.
Betts and pushed her to the door. But the woman stopped her.
"No good. He wouldn't listen to me. I'll get one of the men to bring him
in. And the servant'll go for your motor." She went out of the room to give
the order, and came back. Then as she saw Marcia under the storm light,
standing in the middle of the room, and struggling with her tears, she
suddenly fell on her knees beside the girl, embracing her dress, with
stifled sobs and inarticulate words of thanks.
"Make them do something for John. It doesn't matter about me. Let them
comfort John. Then I'll forgive them."
Marion Atherstone sat sewing in the cottage garden. Uncertain weather had
left the grass wet, and she had carried her work-table into the shelter of
a small summer-house, whence the whole plain, drawn in purple and blue on
the pale grounding of its chalk soil, could be seen--east, west, and north.
Serried ranks, line above line, of purplish cloud girded the horizon, each
circle of the great amphitheater rising from its shadowy foundations into
pearly white and shining gray, while the topmost series of all soared in
snowy majesty upon a sea of blue, above the far-spread woods and fields.
From these hills, the Dane in his high clearings had looked out upon the
unbroken forests below, and John Hampden had ridden down with his yeomen to
find death at Chalgrove Field.
Marion was an Englishwoman to the core; and not ill-read. From this post
of hers, she knew a hundred landmarks, churches, towns, hills, which spoke
significantly of Englishmen and their doings. But one white patch, in
particular, on an upland not three miles from the base of the hills, drew
back her eyes and thoughts perpetually.
The patch was Knatchett, and she was thinking of Lord Coryston. She had not
seen him for a fortnight; though a stout packet of his letters lay within,
in a drawer reserved to things she valued; but she was much afraid that, as
usual, he had been the center of stormy scenes in the north, and had come
back embittered in spirit. And now, since he had returned, there had been
this defiance of Lady Coryston, and this planting of the Baptist flag under
the very tower of the old church of Coryston Major. Marion Atherstone shook
her head over it, in spite of the humorous account of the defeat of Lady
Coryston which her father had given to the Chancellor, at their little
dinner of the night before; and those deep laughs which had shaken the
ample girth of Glenwilliam.
... Ah!--the blind was going up. Marion had her eyes on a particular window
in the little house to her right. It was the window of Enid Glenwilliam's
room. Though the church clock below had struck eleven, and the bell for
morning service had ceased to ring, Miss Glenwilliam was not yet out
of bed. Marion had stayed at home from church that she might enjoy her
friend's society, and the friend had only just been called. Well, it was
Enid's way; and after all, who could wonder? The excitement of that huge
meeting of the night before was still tingling even in Marion's quiet
Conservative veins. She had not been carried away by Glenwilliam's
eloquence at all; she had thought him a wonderful, tawdry, false man of
genius, not unlikely to bring himself and England to ruin. All the same, he
must be an exhausting man for a daughter to live with; and a daughter who
adored him. She did not grudge Enid her rest.
Ah, there was the little gate opening! Somehow she had expected the
opener--though he had disappeared abruptly from the meeting the night
before, and had given no promise that he would come.
Coryston walked up the garden path, looking about him suspiciously. At
sight of Marion he took off his cap; she gave him her hand, and he sat down
"Nobody else about? What a blessing!"
She looked at him with mild reproach.
"My father and the Chancellor are gone for a walk. Enid is not yet down."
"Why? She is perfectly well. If she were a workman's wife and had to get up
at six o'clock, get his breakfast and wash the children, it would do her a
world of good."
"How do you know? You are always judging people, and it helps nothing."
"Yes, it does. One must form opinions--or burst. I can tell you, I judged
Glenwilliam last night, as I sat listening to him."
"Father thought it hardly one of his best speeches," said Marion,
"Sheer wallowing claptrap, wasn't it! I was ashamed of him, and sick of
Liberalism, as I sat there. I'll go and join the Primrose League."
Marion lifted her blue eyes and laughed--with her finger on her lip.
"Hush! She might hear." She pointed to the half-open window on the first
"And a good thing too," growled Coryston. "She adores him--and makes
him worse. Why can't he _work_ at these things--or why can't his
secretaries prime him decently! He makes blunders that would disgrace an
undergraduate--and doesn't care a rap--so long as a hall-full of fools
"You usen't to talk like this!"
"No--because I had illusions," was the sharp reply. "Glenwilliam was one of
them. Land!--what does he know about land?--what does a miner--who won't
learn!--know about farming? Why, that man--that fellow, John Betts"--he
pointed to the Hoddon Grey woods on the edge of the plain--"whom the
Newburys are driving out of his job, because he picked a woman out of the
dirt--just like these Christians!--John Betts knows more about land in his
little finger than Glenwilliam's whole body! Yet, if you saw them together,
you'd see Glenwilliam patronizing and browbeating him, and Betts not
allowed a look in. I'm sick of it! I'm off to Canada with Betts."
Marion looked up.
"I thought it was to be the Primrose League."
"You like catching me out," said Coryston, grimly. "But I assure you I'm
"You expect too much," said Marion, softly, distressed as she spoke, to
notice his frayed collar and cuffs, and the tear in his coat pocket. "And,"
she added, firmly, "you should make Mrs. Potifer mend your coat."
"She's another disillusion. She's idle and dirty. And Potifer never does
a stroke of work if he can help it. Moral--don't bother your head about
martyrs. There's generally some excellent reason for martyrizing them."
He broke off--looking at her with a clouded brow.
She turned with a start, the color flooding her plain, pleasant face.
"Yes, Lord Coryston!"
"If you're so critical of my clothes, why don't you come and look after
them and me?"
She gasped--then recovered herself.
"I've never been asked," she said, quietly.
"Asked! Haven't you been scolding and advising me for weeks? Is there a
detail of my private or public life that you don't meddle with--as it
pleases you? Half a dozen times a day when I'm with you, you make me
feel myself a fool or a brute. And then I go home and write you abject
letters--and apologize--and explain. Do you think I'd do it for any other
woman in the world? Do you dare to say you don't know what it means?"
He brought his threatening face closer to hers, his blue eyes one fiery
accusation. Marion resumed her work, her lip twitching.
"I didn't know I was both a busybody--and a Pharisee!"
"Hypocrite!" he said, with energy. His hand leaped out and captured hers.
But she withdrew it.
"My dear friend--if you wish to resume this conversation--it must be at
another time. I haven't been able to tell you before, I didn't know
it myself till late last night, when Enid told me. Your mother--Lady
Coryston--will be here in half an hour--to see Enid."
"My mother! So _that's_ what she's been up to!"
"She seems to have asked Enid some days ago for an interview. My father's
taken Mr. Glenwilliam out of the way, and I shall disappear shortly."
"And what the deuce is going to happen?"
Marion replied that she had no idea. Enid had certainly been seeing a great
deal of Arthur Coryston; London, her father reported, was full of talk; and
Miss Atherstone thought that from his manner the Chancellor knew very well
what was going on.
"And can't stick it?" cried Coryston, his eyes shining. "Glenwilliam has
his faults, but I don't believe he'll want Arthur for a son-in-law--even
with the estates. And of course he has no chance of getting both Arthur and
"Because of your mother?"
Coryston nodded. "So there's another strong man--a real big
'un!--dependent, like Arthur and me--on the whim of a woman. It'll do
Glenwilliam nothing but good. He belongs to a class that's too fond of
beating its wives. Well, well--so my mother's coming!" He glanced round the
little house and garden. "Look here!" He bent forward peremptorily. "You'll
see that Miss Glenwilliam treats her decently?"
Marion's expression showed a certain bewilderment.
"I wouldn't trust that girl!" Coryston went on, with vehemence. "She's got
something cruel in her eyes."
"Cruel! Why, Lady Coryston's coming--"
"To trample on her? Of course. I know that. But any fool can see that the
game will be Miss Glenwilliam's. She'll have my mother in a cleft stick.
I'm not sure I oughtn't to be somewhere about. Well, well. I'll march. When
shall we 'resume the conversation,' as you put it?"
He looked at her, smiling. Marion colored again, and her nervous movement
upset the work-basket; balls of cotton and wool rolled upon the grass.
"Oh!" She bent to pick them up.
"Don't touch them!" cried Coryston. She obeyed instantly, while, on hands
and knees, he gathered them up and placed them in her hand.
"Would you like to upset them again? Do, if you like. I'll pick them up."
His eyes mocked her tenderly, and before she could reply he had seized her
disengaged hand and kissed it. Then he stood up.
"Now I'm going. Good-by."
"How much mischief will you get into to-day?" she asked, in a rather
"It's Sunday--so there isn't so much chance as usual. First item." He
checked them on his fingers. "Go to Redcross Farm, see Betts, and--if
necessary--have a jolly row with Edward Newbury--or his papa. Second,
Blow up Price--my domestic blacksmith--you know!--the socialist apostle
I rescued from my mother's clutches and set up at Patchett, forge and
all--blow him up sky-high, for evicting a widow woman in a cottage left him
by his brother, with every circumstance of barbarity. There's a parable
called, I believe, 'The Unjust Servant,' which I intend to rub into him.
Item, No. 3, Pitch into the gentleman who turned out the man who voted for
Arthur--the Radical miller--Martover gent--who's coming to see me at three
this afternoon, to ask what the deuce I mean by spreading reports about
him. Shall have a ripping time with him!"
"Why, he's one of the Baptists who were on the platform with you
yesterday." Marion pointed to the local paper lying on the grass.
"Don't care. Don't like Baptists, except when they're downtrodden." A
vicious kick given to a stone on the lawn emphasized the remark. "Well,
good-by. Shall look in at Coryston this afternoon to see if there's
anything left of my mother."
And off he went whistling. As he did so, the head and profile of a young
lady richly adorned with red-gold hair might have been seen in the upper
window. The owner of it was looking after Coryston.
"Why didn't you make him stay?" said Enid Glenwilliam, composedly, as
she came out upon the lawn and took a seat on the grass in front of the
"On the contrary, I sent him away."
"By telling him whom we were expecting? Was it news to him?"
"Entirely. He hoped you would treat Lady Coryston kindly." Then, with
a sudden movement, Marion looked up from her mending, and her
eyes--challenging, a little stern,--struck full on her companion.
Enid laughed, and, settling herself into the garden chair, she straightened
and smoothed the folds of her dress, which was of a pale-blue crape and
suited her tall fairness and brilliance to perfection.
"That's good! I shouldn't have minded his staying at all."
"You promised to see Lady Coryston alone--and she has a right to it," said
Marion, with emphasis.
"Has she? I wonder if she has a right to anything?" said Enid Glenwilliam,
absently, and lifting a stalk of grass, she began to chew it in silence
while her gaze wandered over the view.
"Have you at all made up your mind, Enid, what you are going to say?"
"How can I, till I know what _she's_ going to say?" laughed Miss
"But of course you know perfectly well."
"Is it so plain that no Conservative mother could endure me? But I admit
it's not very likely Lady Coryston could. She is the living, distilled
essence of Conservative mothers. The question is, mightn't she have to put
up with me?"
"I do not believe you care for Arthur Coryston," said Marion, with slow
decision, "and if you don't care for him you ought not to marry him."
"Oh, but you forget a lot of things!" was the cool reply. "You simplify a
deal too much."
"Are you any nearer caring for him--really--than you were six weeks ago?"
"He's a very--nice--dear fellow." The girl's face softened. "And it would
be even sweeter to dish the pack of fortune-hunting mothers who are after
him, now, than it was six weeks ago."
"Can't help it, dear. I'm made like that. I see all the ugly shabby little
sides of it--the 'scores' I should make, the snubs I should have to put up
with, the tricks Lady Coryston would certainly play on us. How I should
love fighting her! In six months Arthur would be my father's private
"You would despise him if he were!"
"Yes, I suppose I should. But it would be I who would write his speeches
for him then--and they'd make Lady Coryston sit up! Ah! didn't you hear
A distant humming on the hill leading to the house became audible.
Marion Atherstone rose.
"It sounds like a motor. You'll have the garden quite to yourselves. I'll
see that nobody interrupts you."
Enid nodded. But before Marion had gone half across the lawn she came
quickly back again.
"Remember, Enid," her voice pleaded, "his mother's devoted to him. Don't
make a quarrel between them--unless you must." Enid smiled, and lightly
kissed the face bending over her.
"Did Lord Coryston tell you to say that?"
Marion departed, silenced.
Enid Glenwilliam waited. While the humming noise drew nearer she lifted
the local paper from the ground and looked eagerly at the account of the
Martover meeting. The paper was a Radical paper, and it had blossomed
into its biggest head-lines for the Chancellor. "Chancellor goes for
the Landlords," "Crushing attack," "Tories writhe under it," "Frantic
She put it down, half contemptuous, half pleased. She had grown accustomed
to the mouthings of party politics, and could not do without them. But
her brain was not taken in by them. "Father was not so good as usual last
night," she said to herself. "But nobody else would have been half so
good!" she added, with a fierce protectiveness.
And in that spirit she rose to meet the stately lady in black, whom the
Atherstones' maid-servant was showing across the garden.
"Miss Glenwilliam, I believe?"
Lady Coryston paused and put up her eyeglass. Enid Glenwilliam advanced,
holding out her hand.
"How do you do, Lady Coryston?"
The tone was gay, even amused. Lady Coryston realized at once she was being
scanned by a very sharp pair of eyes, and that their owner was, or seemed
to be, in no sort of embarrassment. The first advantage, indeed, had been
gained by the younger woman. Lady Coryston had approached her with the
formality of a stranger. Enid Glenwilliam's easy greetings suggested that
they had already met in many drawing-rooms.
Miss Glenwilliam offered a seat.
"Are you afraid of the grass? We could easily go indoors."
"Thank you. This does very well. It was very kind of you to say you would
"I was delighted--of course."
There was a moment's pause. The two women observed each other. Lady
Coryston had taken Marion's chair, and sat erect upon it. Her face, with
its large and still handsome features, its prominent eyes and determined
mouth, was well framed in a black hat, of which the lace strings were tied
under her chin. Her flowing dress and scarf of some thin black material,
delicately embroidered with jet, were arranged, as usual, with a view to
the only effect she ever cared to make--the effect of the great lady, in
command--clearly--of all possible resources, while far too well bred to
indulge in display or ostentation.
Enid Glenwilliam's blood had quickened, in spite of her apparent ease. She
had taken up an ostrich-feather fan--a traditional weapon of the sex--and
waved it slowly to and fro, while she waited for her visitor to speak.
"Miss Glenwilliam," began Lady Coryston, "you must no doubt have thought it
a strange step that I should ask you for this conversation?"
The tone of this sentence was slightly interrogative, and the girl on the
grass nodded gravely.
"But I confess it seemed to me the best and most straightforward thing to
do. I am accustomed to go to the point, when a matter has become serious;
and I hate shilly-shallying. You, we all know, are very clever, and have
much experience of the world. You will, I am sure, prefer that I should be
"Certainly," smiled Enid, "if I only knew what the matter was!"
Lady Coryston's tone became a trifle colder.
"That I should have thought was obvious. You have been seeing a great deal
of my son, Miss Glenwilliam; your--your friendship with him has been very
conspicuous of late; and I have it from himself that he is in love with
you, and either has asked you, or will ask you, to marry him."
"He has asked me several times," said the girl, quietly. Then, suddenly,
she laughed. "I came away with my father this week-end, that I might, if
possible, prevent his asking me again."
"Then you have refused him?" The voice was indiscreetly eager.
"So far? May I ask--does that mean that you yourself are still undecided?"
"I have as yet said nothing final to him."
Lady Coryston paused a few seconds, to consider the look presented to her,
and then said, with emphasis:
"If that is so, it is fortunate that we are able to have this talk--at this
moment. For I wish, before you take any final decision, to lay before you
what the view of my son's family must inevitably be of such a marriage."
"The view of Lord Coryston and yourself?" said Miss Glenwilliam, in her
most girlish voice.
"My son Coryston and I have at present no interests in common," was Lady
Coryston's slightly tart reply. "That, I should have thought, considering
his public utterances, and the part which I have always taken in politics,
was sufficiently evident."
Her companion, without speaking, bent over the sticks of the fan, which her
long fingers were engaged in straightening.
"No! When I speak of the family," resumed Lady Coryston, "I must for the
present, unfortunately, look upon myself as the only sure guardian of its
traditions; but that I intend to be--while I live. And I can only regard
a marriage between my son and yourself as undesirable--not only for my
son--but first and foremost, Miss Glenwilliam, for yourself."
Laying down the fan upon her knee, the young lady now applied her nimble
fingers to smoothing the white and curling tips of the feathers.
The color rushed into Lady Coryston's lightly wrinkled cheeks.
"Because it rarely or never answers that persons from such different
worlds, holding such different opinions, and with such different
antecedents, should marry," she said, firmly. "Because I could not welcome
you as a daughter--and because a marriage with you would disastrously
affect the prospects of my son."
"I wonder what you mean by 'such different worlds,'" said Miss Glenwilliam,
with what seemed an innocent astonishment. "Arthur and I always go to the
Lady Coryston's flush deepened angrily. She had some difficulty in keeping
her voice in order.
"I think you understand what I mean. I don't wish to be the least rude."
"Of course not. But--is it my birth, or my poverty, that you most dislike?"
"Poverty has nothing to do with it--nothing at all. I have never considered
money in connection with Arthur's marriage, and never shall."
"Because you have so much of it?" Lifting her broad, white brow from the
fan on her knee, Enid turned the astonishing eyes beneath it on the lady
in black sitting beside her. And for the first time the lady in black was
conscious of the malice lurking in the soft voice of the speaker.
"That, perhaps, would be your way of explaining it. In any case, I repeat,
money has nothing to do with the present case. But, Miss Glenwilliam, my
son belongs to a family that has fought for its convictions."
At this the younger lady shot a satiric glance at the elder, which for the
moment interrupted a carefully prepared sentence.
Enid was thinking of a casual remark of her father's made that morning at
breakfast: "Oh yes, the Corystons are an old family. They were Whigs as
long as there were any bones to pick on that side. Then Pitt bought the
first Lord Coryston--in his earliest batch of peers--with the title and a
fat post--something to do with the navy. That was the foundation of their
money--then came the Welsh coal--et cetera."
But she kept her recollections to herself. Lady Coryston went on:
"We have stood for generations for certain principles. We are proud of
them. My husband died in them. I have devoted my life to them. They are
the principles of the Conservative party. Our eldest son, as of course you
know, departed from them. My dear husband did not flinch; and instead of
leaving the estates to Coryston, he left them to me--as trustee for the
political faith he believed in; that faith of which your father has
been--excuse my frankness, it is really best for us both--and is now--the
principal enemy! I then had to decide, when I was left a widow, to whom the
estates were to go on my death. Painful as it was, I decided that my trust
did not allow me to leave them to Coryston. I made Arthur my heir three
"How very interesting!" said the listener, behind the fan. Lady Coryston
could not see her face.
"But it is only fair to him and to you," Arthur's mother continued, with
increased deliberation, "that I should say frankly, now that this crisis
has arisen, that if you and Arthur marry, it is impossible that Arthur
should inherit his father's estates. A fresh disposition of them will have
to be made."
Enid Glenwilliam dropped the fan and looked up. Her color had gone.
"Because--Lady Coryston--I am my father's daughter?"
"Because you would bring into our family principles wholly at variance with
our traditions--and I should be false to my trust if I allowed it." The
conscious dignity of pose and voice fitted the solemnity of these final
There was a slight pause.
"Then--if Arthur married me--he would be a pauper?" said the girl, bending
"He has a thousand a year."
"That's very disturbing! I shall have to consider everything again."
Lady Coryston moved nervously.
"I don't understand you."
"What I _couldn't_ have done, Lady Coryston--would have been to come
into Arthur's family as in any way dependent on his mother!"
The girl's eyes shone. Lady Coryston had also paled.
"I couldn't of course expect that you would have any friendly feeling
toward me," she said, after a moment.
"No--you couldn't--you couldn't indeed!"
Enid Glenwilliam sprang up, entered the summer-house, and stood over her
visitor, lightly leaning forward, her hands supporting her on a rustic
table that stood between them, her breath fluttering.
"Yes--perhaps now I could marry him--perhaps now I could!" she repeated.
"So long as I wasn't your dependent--so long as we had a free life of our
own--and knew exactly where we stood, with nothing to fear or to hope--the
situation might be faced. We might hope, too--father and I--to bring
_our_ ideas and _our_ principles to bear upon Arthur. I believe
he would adopt them. He has never had any ideas of his own. You have made
him take yours! But of course it seems inconceivable to you that we should
set any store by _our_ principles. You think all I want is money.
Well, I am like anybody else. I know the value of money. I like money and
luxury, and pretty things. I have been sorely tempted to let Arthur marry
me as he has once or twice proposed, at the nearest registry office, and
present you next day with the _fait accompli_--to take or leave. I
believe you would have surrendered to the _fait accompli_--yes, I
believe you would! Arthur was convinced that, after sulking a little, you
would forgive him. Well, but then--I looked forward--to the months--or
years--in which I should be courting--flattering--propitiating you--giving
up my own ideas, perhaps, to take yours--turning my back on my father--on
my old friends--on my party--for _money_! Oh yes, I should be quite
capable of it. At least, I dare say I should. And I just funked it! I had
the grace--the conscience--to funk it. I apologize for the slang--I can't
express it any other way. And now you come and say: 'Engage yourself to
him--and I'll disinherit him _at once_. That makes the thing look
clean and square!--that tempts the devil in one, or the angel--I don't
know which. I like Arthur. I should get a great many social advantages by
marrying him, whatever you may do or say; and a thousand a year to me looks
a great deal more than it does to you. But then, you see, my father began
life as a pit-boy--Yes, I think it might be done!"
The speaker raised herself to her full height, and stood with her hands
behind her, gazing at Lady Coryston.
In the eyes of that poor lady the Chancellor's daughter had suddenly
assumed the aspect of some glittering, avenging fate. At last Lady Coryston
understood something of the power, the spell, there was in this girl
for whom her son had deserted her; at last she perceived, despairingly
perceived, her strange beauty. The long thin mouth, now breathing scorn,
the short chin, and prominent cheekbones denied Enid Glenwilliam any
conventional right indeed to that great word. But the loveliness of the
eyes and hair, of the dark brows, sustaining the broad and delicate
forehead, the pale rose and white of the skin, the setting of the head, her
wonderful tallness and slenderness, these, instinct as the whole woman
was, at the moment, with a passion of defiance, made of her a dazzling and
formidable creature. Lady Coryston beheld her father in her; she seemed to
feel the touch, the terror of Glenwilliam.
Bewilderment and unaccustomed weakness overtook Lady Coryston. It was some
moments before, under the girl's threatening eyes, she could speak at all.
Then she said, with difficulty:
"You may marry my son, Miss Glenwilliam--but you do not love him! That is
perfectly plain. You are prepared none the less, apparently, to wreck his
happiness and mine, in order--"
"I don't love him? Ah! that's another story altogether! Do I love him? I
don't know. Honestly, I don't know. I don't believe I am as capable of
falling in love as other girls are--or say they are. I like him, and get on
with him--and I might marry him; I might--have--married him," she repeated,
slowly, "partly to have the sweetness, Lady Coryston, of punishing you for
the slight you offered my father!--and partly for other things. But you
see--now I come to think of it--there is some one else to be considered--"
The girl dropped into a chair, and looked across the table at her visitor,
with a sudden change of mood and voice.
"You say you won't have it, Lady Coryston. Well, that doesn't decide it for
me--and it wouldn't decide it for Arthur. But there's some one else won't
A pause. Miss Glenwilliam took up the fan again and played with
"My father came to my room last night," she said, at last, "in order to
speak to me about it. 'Enid,' he said, 'don't marry that man! He's a good
enough fellow--but he'll drive a wedge into our life. We can't find a use
for him--you and I. He'll divide us, my girl--and it isn't worth it--you
don't love him!' And we had a long talk--and at last I told him--I
wouldn't--I _wouldn't_! So you see, Lady Coryston, if I don't marry
your son, it's not because you object--but because my father--whom you
insulted--doesn't wish me to enter your family--doesn't approve of a
marriage with your son--and has persuaded me against it."
Lady Coryston stared into the face of the speaker, and quailed before the
flash of something primitive and savage in the eyes that met her own. Under
the sting of it, however, she found a first natural and moving word, as she
slowly rose from her seat.
"You love your father, Miss Glenwilliam. You might remember that I, too,
love my son--and there was never a rough word between us till he knew you."
She wavered a little, gathering up her dress. And the girl perceived that
she had grown deadly white, and was suddenly ashamed of her own vehemence.
She too rose.
"I'm sorry, Lady Coryston. I've been a brute. But when I think of my
father, and those who hate him, I see red. I had no business to say some of
the things I have said. But it's no good apologizing. Let me, however, just
say this: Please be careful, Lady Coryston, about your son. He's in love
with me--and I'm very, _very_ sorry for him. Let me write to him
first--before you speak to him. I'll write--as kindly as I can. But I warn
you--it'll hurt him--and he may visit it on you--for all I can say. When
will he be at Coryston?"
"I will send a letter over to-morrow morning. Is your car waiting?"
They moved across the lawn together, not speaking a word. Lady Coryston
entered the car. Enid Glenwilliam made her a low bow, almost a curtsey,
which the elder lady acknowledged; and the car started.
Enid came back to the summer-house, sat down by the table, and buried her
face in her hands.
After a little while a hurried step was heard approaching the summer-house.
She looked up and saw her father. The Chancellor's burly form filled up the
door of the little house. His dark, gipsy face looked down with amusement
upon his daughter.
"Well, Enid, how did you get through? Did she trample on you--did she
scratch and spit? I wager she got as good as she gave? Why, what's the
matter, my girl? Are you upset?"
Enid got up, struggling for composure.
"I--I behaved like a perfect fiend."
"Did you?" The Chancellor's laughter filled the summer-house. "The old
harridan! At last somebody has told her the truth. The idea of her breaking
in upon you here!--to threaten you, I suppose, with all sorts of pains and
penalties, if you married her precious son. You gave her what for. Why,
Enid, what's the matter--don't be a fool, my dear! You don't regret him?"
"No." He put his arm tenderly round her, and she leaned against him.
Suddenly she drew herself up and kissed him.
"I shall never marry, father. It's you and I, isn't it, against the world?"
"Half the world," said Glenwilliam, laughing. "There's a jolly big half on
our side, my dear, and lots of good fellows in it for you to marry." He
looked at her with proud affection.
She shook her head, slipped her hand in his, and they walked back to the
The state of mind in which Lady Coryston drove home from the Atherstones'
cottage would have seemed to most people unreasonable. She had
obtained--apparently--everything for which she had set out, and yet there
she was, smarting and bruised through all her being, like one who has
suffered intolerable humiliation and defeat. A woman of her type and class
is so well sheltered as a rule from the roughnesses of life, so accustomed
to the deference of their neighbors, that to be handled as Enid Glenwilliam
had handled her victim, destroys for the time nerve and self-respect. Lady
Coryston felt as if she had been physically as well as morally beaten, and
could not get over it. She sat, white and shaken, in the darkness of a
closed motor, the prey to strange terrors. She would not see Arthur that
night! He was only to return late, and she would not risk it. She must have
a night's rest, indeed, before grappling with him. She was not herself, and
the violence of that extraordinary girl had upset her. Conscious of a very
rapid pulse, she remembered for a moment, unwillingly, certain warnings
that her doctor had given her before she left town--"You are overtaxing
yourself, Lady Coryston--and you badly want a rest." Pure nonsense! She
came of a long-lived stock, persons of sound hearts and lungs, who never
coddled themselves. All the same, she shrank physically, instinctively,
from the thought of any further emotion or excitement that day--till she
had had a good night. She now remembered that she had had practically no
sleep the preceding night. Indeed, ever since the angry scene with Arthur a
fortnight before, she had been conscious of bodily and mental strain.
Which perhaps accounted for the feeling of irritation with which she
perceived the figure of her daughter standing on the steps of Coryston
House beside Sir Wilfrid Bury. Marcia had come to her that morning with
some tiresome story about the Newburys and the divorced woman Mrs. Betts.
How could she think of such things, when her mind was full of Arthur? Girls
really should be more considerate.
The car drew up at the steps, and Marcia and Sir Wilfrid awaited it. Even
preoccupied as she was, Lady Coryston could not help noticing that Marcia
was subdued and silent. She asked her mother no questions, and after
helping Lady Coryston to alight, she went quickly into the house. It
vaguely crossed the mother's mind that her daughter was depressed or
annoyed--perhaps with her? But she could not stop to think about it.
Sir Wilfrid, however, followed Lady Coryston into the drawing-room.
"What have you been doing?" he asked her, smiling, taking the liberty of an
old friend and co-executor. "I think I guess!"
She looked at him somberly.
"She won't marry him! But not a word to Arthur, please--not a word!--till I
give you leave. I have gone through--a great deal."
Her look of weakness and exhaustion did indeed strike him painfully. He put
out his hand and pressed hers.
"Well, so far, so good," he said, gravely. "It must be a great relief to
your mind." Then in another and a lower tone he added, "Poor old boy!"
Lady Coryston made no reply except to say that she must get ready for
luncheon. She left the room just as Sir Wilfrid perceived a rider on a bay
horse approaching through the park, and recognized Edward Newbury.
"Handsome fellow!" he thought, as he watched him from the window; "and sits
his horse uncommonly well. Why doesn't that girl fly to meet him? They used
to in my days."
But Newbury dismounted with only a footman to receive him, and Marcia did
not appear till the gong had rung for luncheon.
Sir Wilfrid's social powers were severely taxed to keep that meal going.
Lady Coryston sat almost entirely silent and ate nothing. Marcia too ate
little and talked less. Newbury indeed had arrived in radiant spirits,
bringing a flamboyant account of Marcia's trousseau which he had extracted
from a weekly paper, and prepared to tease her thereon. But he could
scarcely get the smallest rise out of her, and presently he, too, fell
silent, throwing uneasy glances at her from time to time. Her black hair
and eyes were more than usually striking, by contrast with a very simple
and unadorned white dress; but for beauty, her face required animation;
it could be all but plain in moments of languor or abstraction; and Sir
Wilfrid marveled that a girl's secret instinct did not save her from
presenting herself so unattractively to her lover.
Newbury, it appeared, had spent the preceding night in what Sir Wilfrid
obstinately called a "monkery"--_alias_ the house of an Anglican
brotherhood or Community--the Community of the Ascension, of which
Newbury's great friend, Father Brierly, was Superior. In requital for
Newbury's teasing of Marcia, Sir Wilfrid would have liked to tease Newbury
a little on the subject of the "monkery." But Newbury most dexterously
evaded him. He would laugh, but not at the hosts he had just quitted; and
through all his bantering good temper there could be felt the throb of some
deep feeling which was not allowed to express itself. "Damned queer eyes!"
was Bury's inward comment, as he happened once to observe Newbury's face
during a pause of silence. "Half in a dream all the time--even when the
fellow's looking at his sweetheart."
After luncheon Marcia made a sign, and she and Newbury slipped away. They
wandered out beyond the lake into a big wood, where great pools of pink
willow-herb, in its open spaces, caught the light as it struck through the
gray trunks of the beeches. Newbury found a seat for Marcia on a fallen
trunk, and threw himself beside her. The world seemed to have been all
washed by the thunder-storm of the night before; the odors of grass, earth,
and fern were steaming out into the summer air. The wood was alive with the
hum of innumerable insects, which had become audible and dominant with the
gradual silencing of the birds. In the half-cut hay-fields the machines
stood at rest; rarely, an interlaced couple could be dimly seen for a
moment on some distant footpath of the park; sometimes a partridge called
or a jay screamed; otherwise a Sabbath stillness--as it seemed to Marcia, a
Sabbath dreariness--held the scene.
Newbury put up his arms, drew her down to him, and kissed her passionately.
She yielded; but it was more yielding than response; and again he was
conscious of misgiving as at luncheon.
"Darling!--is there anything wrong--anything that troubles you?" he said,
anxiously. "Do you think I've forgotten you for one moment, while I've been
"Yes; while you were asleep." She smiled shyly, while her fingers caressed
"Wrong--quite wrong! I dreamed of you both nights. And oh, dearest, I
thought of you last night."
"Where--when?" Her voice was low--a little embarrassed.
"In chapel--the chapel at Blackmount--at Benediction."
She looked puzzled.
"What is Benediction?"
"A most beautiful service, though of late origin--which, like fools, we
have let the Romans monopolize. The Bishops bar it, but in private chapels
like our own, or Blackmount, they can't interfere. To me, yesterday
evening"--his voice fell--"it was like the gate of heaven. I longed to have
She made no reply. Her brow knitted a little. He went on:
"Of course a great deal of what is done at places like Blackmount is not
recognized--yet. To some of the services--to Benediction for instance--the
public is not admitted. But the brothers keep every rule--of the strictest
observance. I was present last night at the recitation of the Night
Office--most touching--most solemn! And--my darling!"--he pressed her hand
while his face lit up--"I want to ask you--though I hardly dare. Would you
give me--would you give me the greatest joy you could give me, before our
marriage? Father Brierly--my old friend--would give us both Communion, on
the morning of our wedding--in the little chapel of the Brotherhood, in Red
Street, Soho--just us two alone. Would it be too much for you, too tiring?"
His voice was tenderness itself. "I would come for you at half
past seven--nobody but your mother would know. And then
afterward--afterward!--we will go through with the great ceremony--and the
crowds--and the bridesmaids. Your mother tells me it's to be Henry the
Seventh's chapel--isn't it? But first, we shall have received our Lord, we
two alone, into our hearts--to feed upon Him, forever!"
There was silence. He had spoken with an imploring gentleness and humility,
yet nevertheless with a tender confidence which did not escape the
listener. And again a sudden terror seized on Marcia--as though behind the
lover, she perceived something priestly, directive, compelling--something
that threatened her very self. She drew herself back.
"Edward!--ought you--to take things for granted about me--like this?"
His face, with its "illuminated," exalted look, scarcely changed.
"I don't take anything for granted, dearest. I only put it before you. I
talked it over with Brierly--he sent you a message--"
"But I don't know him!" cried Marcia. "And I don't know that I want to know
him. I'm not sure I think as you do, Edward. You assume that I do--but
indeed--indeed--my mind is often in confusion--great confusion--I don't
know what to think--about many things."
"The Church decides for us, darling--that is the great comfort--the great
"But what Church? Everybody chooses his own, it seems to me! And you know
that that Roman priest who was at Hoddon Grey the other day thinks you just
as much in the wrong as--well, as he'd think me!--_me_, even!" She
gave a little tremulous laugh. Then, with a quick movement she sat erect.
Her great, dark eyes fixed him eagerly. "And Edward, I've got something
so different, so very different to talk to you about! I've been so
unhappy--all night, all to-day. I've been pining for you to come--and then
afraid what you'd say--"
She broke off, her lips parting eagerly, her look searching his.
And this time, as she watched him, she saw his features stiffen, as though
a suspicion, a foreboding ran through him. She hurried on.
"I went over to see Mrs. Betts, yesterday, Edward. She sent for me. And I
found her half mad--in despair! I just persuaded her to wait till I'd seen
you. But perhaps you've seen her--to-day?" She hung on his answer.
"Indeed, no." The chill, the alteration in his tone were evident. "I left
Blackmount this morning, after matins, motored home, just saw my father and
mother for a moment--heard nothing--and rode on here as fast as I could.
What is there fresh, dearest? I thought that painful business was
settled. And I confess I feel very indignant with Mrs. Betts for dragging
you--insisting upon dragging you--into it!"
"How could she help it? She's no friends, Edward! People are very sorry for
him--but they fight shy of her. I dare say it's right--I dare say she's
deserved it--I don't want to know. But oh it's so miserable--so pitiable!
She's _going_!--she's made up her mind to that--she's going. That's
what she wanted to tell me--and asked that I should tell you."
"She could do nothing better for herself, or him," said Newbury, firmly.
"But she's not going, in the way you proposed! Oh no. She's going to slip
away--to hide! He's not to know where she is--and she implores you to keep
him here--to comfort him--and watch over him."
"Which of course we should do."
The quiet, determined voice sent a shiver through Marcia. She caught
Newbury's hand in hers, and held it close.