Part 5 out of 5
"Yes, but Edward!--listen!--it would kill them both. His mind seems to be
giving way. I got a letter from her again this morning, inclosing one from
their doctor. And she--she says if she does go, if decent people turn her
out, she'll just go back to people like herself--who'll be kind to her.
Nothing will induce her to go to the Cloan Sisters."
"She must, of course, be the judge of that," said Newbury, coldly.
"But you can't allow it!--you _can't_!--the poor, poor things!" cried
Marcia. "I saw him too, Edward--I shall never forget it!" And with a
growing excitement she gave a full account of her visit to the farm, of
her conversation with Mrs. Betts, of that gray, grief-stricken face at the
"He's fifty-two. How can he start again? He's just torn between his
work--and her. And if she goes away and hides from him, it'll be the last
straw. He believes he saved her from a bad life--and now he'll think
that he's only made things worse. And he's ill--his brain's had a shake.
Edward--dear Edward!--let them stay!--for my sake, let them stay!"
All her soul was in her eyes. She had never been more winning--more lovely.
She placed her hands on his shoulders as he sat beside her, and leaned her
soft cheek against his.
"Do you mean--let them stay on at the Farm?" he asked, after a pause,
putting his arms round her.
"Couldn't they? They could live so quietly. She would hardly ever leave the
house--and so long as he does his work--his scientific work--need anything
else trouble you? Need you have any other relations with them at all?
Wouldn't everybody understand--wouldn't everybody know you'd done it for
Again a pause. Then he said, with evident difficulty: "Dear Marcia--do you
ever think of my father in this?"
"Oh, mayn't I go!--and _beg_ Lord William--"
"Ah, but wait a minute. I was going to say--My father's an old man. This
has hit him hard. It's aged him a good deal. He trusted Betts implicitly,
as he would himself. And now--in addition--you want him to do something
that he feels to be wrong."
"But Edward, they _are_ married! Isn't it a tyranny"--she brought the
word out bravely--"when it causes so much suffering!--to insist on more
than the law does?"
"For us there is but one law--the law of Christ!" And then, as a flash of
something like anger passed through his face, he added, with an accent of
stern conviction: "For us they are _not_ married--and we should be
conniving at an offense and a scandal, if we accepted them as married
persons. Oh, dear Marcia, why do you make me say these things? I
_can't_ discuss them with you!" he repeated, in a most real distress.
She raised herself, and moved a little further from him. A passionate
hopelessness--not without resentment--was rising in her.
"Then you won't try to persuade your father--even for my sake, Edward?"
He made no reply. She saw his lip tremble, but she knew it was only because
he could not bear to put into words the refusal behind.
The silence continued. Marcia, raising her head, looked away into the green
vistas of the wood, while the tears gathered slowly in her eyes. He watched
her, in a trouble no less deep. At last she said--in a low, lingering
"And I--I couldn't marry--and be happy--with the thought always--of what
had happened to them--and how--you couldn't give me--what I asked. I have
been thinking it out for hours and hours. I'm afraid, Edward--we--we've
made a great mistake!"
She drew her hand away, and looked at him, very pale and trembling, yet
with something new--and resolute--in her aspect.
"Marcia!" It was a sound of dismay.
"Oh! it was my fault!"--and she clasped her hands in a gesture at once
childish and piteous--"I somehow knew from the beginning that you thought
me different from what I am. It was quite natural. You're much older than
I, and of course--of course--you thought that if--if I loved you--I'd be
guided by you--and think as you wish. But Edward, you see I've had to live
by myself--and think for myself--more than other girls--because mother was
always busy with other things--that didn't concern me--that I didn't care
about--and I was left alone--and had to puzzle out a lot of things that
I never talked about. I'm obstinate--I'm proud. I must believe for
myself--and not because some one else does. I don't know where I shall come
out. And that's the strange thing! Before we were engaged, I didn't know I
had a mind!" She smiled at him pitifully through her tears. "And ever since
we've been engaged--this few weeks--I've been doing nothing but think and
think--and all the time it's been carrying me away from you. And now this
trouble. I _couldn't_"--she clenched her hand with a passionate
gesture--"I _couldn't_ do what you're doing. It would kill me. You
seem to be obeying something outside--which you're quite sure of. But if
_I_ drove those two people to despair, because I thought something
was wrong that they thought right, I should never have any happiness in
my heart--my _own heart_--again. Love seems to me everything!--being
kind--not giving pain. And for you there's something greater--what the
Church says--what the Bible says. And I could never see that. I could never
agree. I could never submit. And we should be miserable. You'd think I was
wicked--and I--well!"--she panted a little, trying for her words--"there
are ugly--violent--feelings in me sometimes. I couldn't hate
_you_--but--Edward--just now--I felt I could hate--what you believe!"
The sudden change in his look smote her to the heart. She held out her
"Forgive me! Oh, do forgive me!"
During her outburst he had risen, and was now leaning against a young tree
beside her, looking down upon her--white and motionless. He had made no
effort to take her hands, and they dropped upon her knee.
"This is terrible!" he said, as though to himself, and
"But indeed--indeed--it's best." Her voice, which was little more than a
whisper, was broken by a sob. She buried her face in the hands he had left
The minutes seemed endless till he spoke again; and then it was with a
composure which seemed to her like the momentary quiet that may come--the
sudden furling of the winds--in the very midst of tempest. She divined the
tempest, in this man of profound and concentrated feeling; but she had not
dared to watch it.
"Marcia--is it really true? Couldn't I make you happy? Couldn't I lead you
to look at things as I do? As you say, I am older, I have had more time
to think and learn. If you love me, wouldn't it be right, that--I should
"It might be," she said, sadly. "But it wouldn't happen. I know more of
myself--now. This has made me know myself--as I never did. I should wound
and distress you. And to struggle with you would make me hard--and bad."
Another silence. But for both it was one of those silences when the mind,
as it were, reaps at one stroke a whole harvest of ideas and images
which, all unconsciously to itself, were standing ready to be reaped; the
silences, more active far than speech, which determine life.
At the end of it, he came to sit beside her.
"Then we must give it up--we must give it up. I bless you for the happiness
you gave me--this little while. I pray God to bless you--now and forever."
Sobbing, she lifted her face to him, and he kissed her for the last time.
She slipped off her engagement ring and gave it to him. He looked at it
with a sad smile, pressed his lips to it, and then stooping down, he took a
stick lying by the log, and scooped out a deep hole in the mossy, fibrous
earth. Into it he dropped the ring, covering it again with all the leafy
"rubble and wreck" of the wood. He covered his eyes for a moment, and rose.
"Let me take you home. I will write to Lady Coryston to-night."
They walked silently through the wood, and to the house. Never, in her
whole life, had Marcia felt so unhappy. And yet, already, she recognized
what she had done as both inevitable and past recall.
They parted, just with a lingering look into each other's eyes, and a
piteous murmur from her: "I'm sorry!--oh, I'm _sorry_!"
At the moment when Marcia and Newbury were crossing the formal garden
on the west front of the house, one of two persons in Lady Coryston's
sitting-room observed them.
These persons were--strange to say--Lady Coryston and her eldest son. Lady
Coryston, after luncheon, had felt so seriously unwell that she had retired
to her sitting-room, with strict injunctions that she must be left alone.
Sir Wilfrid and Lester started on a Sunday walk; Marcia and Newbury had
The house, through all its innumerable rooms and corridors, sank into deep
silence. Lady Coryston was lying on her sofa, with closed eyes. All
the incidents of her conversation with Enid Glenwilliam were running
perpetually through her mind--the girl's gestures and tones--above all the
words of her final warning.
After all it was not she--his mother--who had done it. Without her it would
have happened all the same. She found herself constantly putting up this
plea, as though in recurrent gusts of fear. Fear of whom?--of Arthur? What
absurdity! Her proud spirit rebelled.
And yet she knew that she was listening--listening in dread--for a footstep
in the house. That again was absurd. Arthur was staying with friends on the
further side of the country, and was to leave them after dinner by motor.
He could not be home till close on midnight; and there would be no chance
of her seeing him--unless she sent for him--till the following morning,
after the arrival of the letter. _Then_--she must face him.
But still the footstep haunted her imagination, and the remembrance of him
as he had stood, light and buoyant, on the floor of the House of Commons,
making his maiden speech. In April--and this was July. Had that infatuation
begun even then, which had robbed her of her dearest--her Benjamin?
She fell into a restless sleep after a while, and woke suddenly, in alarm.
There was somebody approaching her room--evidently on tiptoe. Some one
knocking--very gently. She sat up, trembling. "Come in!"
The door opened--and there was Coryston.
She fell back on her cushions, astonished and annoyed.
"I said I was not to be disturbed, Coryston."
He paused on the threshold.
"Am I disturbing you? Wouldn't you like me to read to you--or something?"
His tone was so gentle that she was disarmed--though still annoyed.
"Come in. I may perhaps point out that it's a long time since you've come
to see me like this, Coryston."
"Yes. Never mind. What shall I read?"
She pointed to a number of the _Quarterly_ that was lying open, and to
an article on "The later years of Disraeli."
Coryston winced. He knew the man who had written it, and detested him. But
he sat down beside her, and began immediately to read. To both of them his
reading was a defense against conversation, and yet to both of them, after
a little while, it was pleasant.
Presently indeed he saw that it had soothed her and that in spite of her
efforts to keep awake she had fallen fitfully asleep again. He let the
book drop, and sat still, studying his mother's strong, lined face in its
setting of gray hair. There was something in her temporary quiescence and
helplessness that touched him; and it was clear to him that in these
last few months she had aged considerably. As he watched, a melancholy
softness--as of one who sees deeper than usual into the human
spectacle--invaded and transformed his whole expression; his thin body
relaxed; his hands dropped at his side. The dead quiet of the house also
oppressed him--like a voice--an omen.
He knew that she had seen Enid Glenwilliam that morning. A little note
from Marion Atherstone that afternoon spoke anxiety and sympathy. "Enid
confesses she was violent. I am afraid it was a painful scene." And now
there was Arthur to be faced--who would never believe, of course, but that
his mother had done it.
A movement in the garden outside diverted his attention. He looked up and
saw two figures--Marcia and Newbury. A sight which roused in him afresh--on
the instant--all his fiercest animosities. That fellow!--and his creed!
That old hide-bound inquisitor, his father!
Well!--he peered at them--has she got anything whatever out of young
Tartuffe? Not she! He knew the breed. He rose discreetly, so as not to
wake Lady Coryston, and standing by the window, he watched them across the
garden, and saw their parting. Something in their demeanor struck him. "Not
demonstrative anyway," he said to himself, with a queer satisfaction.
He sat down again, and tossing the _Quarterly_ away, he took up a
volume of Browning. But he scarcely read a line. His mind was really
possessed by the Betts' story, and by the measures that might be
taken--Marcia or no Marcia!--to rouse the country-side against the
Newburys, and force them to bow to public opinion in the matter of this
tragedy. He himself had seen the two people concerned, again, that
morning--a miserable sight! Neither of them had said anything further to
him of their plans. Only Mrs. Betts had talked incoherently of "waiting to
hear from Miss Coryston." Poor soul!--she might wait.
[Illustration: HE SAT STILL, STUDYING HIS MOTHER'S STRONG, LINED FACE]
Twenty minutes passed, and then he too heard a footfall in the passage
outside, and the swish of a dress. Marcia!
He opened the door.
"Don't come in. Mother's asleep."
Marcia stared at him in amazement. Then she stepped past him, and stood
on the threshold surveying her mother. Her pathetic look conveyed the
instinctive appeal of the young girl turning in the crisis of her life to
her natural friend, her natural comforter. And it remained unanswered. She
turned and beckoned to Coryston.
"Come with me--a moment." They went noiselessly down the staircase leading
from Lady Coryston's wing, into a room which had been their schoolroom as
children, on the ground floor. Marcia laid a hand on her brother's arm.
"Coryston--I was coming to speak to mother. I have broken off my
"Thank the Lord!" cried Coryston, taken wholly aback. "Thank the Lord!"
He would have kissed her in his relief and enthusiasm. But Marcia stepped
back from him. Her pale face showed a passionate resentment.
"Don't speak about him, Corry! Don't say another word about him. You never
understood him, and I'm not going to discuss him with you. I couldn't bear
it. What's wrong with mother?"
"She's knocked over--by that girl, Enid Glenwilliam. She saw her this
He described the situation. Marcia showed but a languid interest.
"Poor mother!" she said, absently. "Then I won't bother her with my
affairs--till to-morrow. Don't tell her anything, Corry. Good-by."
"I say, Marcia--old woman--don't be so fierce with me. You took me by
surprise--" he muttered, uncomfortably.
"Oh, it doesn't matter. Nobody in this world--seems to be able to
understand anybody else--or make allowances for anybody else. Good-by."
Coryston had long since departed. Lady Coryston had gone to bed, seeing
no one, and pleading headache. Marcia, too, had deserted Sir Wilfrid and
Lester after dinner, leaving Sir Wilfrid to the liveliest and dismalest
misgivings as to what might have been happening further to the Coryston
family on this most inexplicable and embarrassing day.
Marcia was sitting in her room by the open window. She had been writing a
long letter to Newbury, pouring out her soul to him. All that she had been
too young and immature to say to him face to face, she had tried to say to
him in these closely written and blotted pages. To write them had brought
relief, but also exhaustion of mind and body.
The summer night was sultry and very still. Above a bank of purple cloud,
she looked into depths of fathomless azure, star-sprinkled, with a light in
the southeast prophesying moonrise. Dark shapes of woods--the distant
sound of the little trout-stream, where it ran over a weir--a few notes of
birds--were the only sounds; otherwise the soul was alone with itself. Once
indeed she heard a sudden burst of voices far overhead, and a girl's
merry laugh. One of the young servants no doubt--on the top floor. How
remote!--and yet how near.
And far away over those trees was Newbury, smarting under the blow she had
given him--suffering--suffering. That poor woman, too, weeping out her last
night, perhaps, beside her husband. What could she do for her--how could
she help her? Marcia sat there hour after hour, now lost in her own grief,
now in that of others; realizing through pain, through agonized sympathy,
the energy of a fuller life.
She went to bed, and to sleep--for a few hours--toward morning. She was
roused by her maid, who came in with a white face of horror.
"What is the matter?"
Marcia sat up in bed. Was her mother ill?--dead?
The girl stammered out her ghastly news. Briggs the head gardener had just
brought it. The head foreman at Redcross Farm going his rounds in the
early hours, had perceived a light burning in the laboratory. The door was
locked, but on forcing his way in, he had come suddenly on a spectacle of
horror. John Betts was sitting--dead--in his chair, with a bullet wound in
the temple; Mrs. Betts was on a stool beside him, leaning against his knee.
She must have found him dead, have taken up the revolver, as it had dropped
from his hand, and after an interval, long or short, have deliberately
unfastened her dress--The bullet had passed through her heart, and death
had been a matter of seconds. On the table was lying a scrap of paper on
which were the words in John Betts's handwriting: "Mad--forgive." And
beside it a little twisted note, addressed to "Miss Marcia Coryston." The
foreman had given it to Briggs. Her maid placed it in Marcia's hands.
She tried to read it, but failed. The girl beside her saw her slip back,
fainting, on her pillows.
It was the old housekeeper at Coryston, one Mrs. Drew, who had been the
presiding spirit of the house in all its domestic aspects for some thirty
years, who came at the summons of Marcia's frightened maid, and helped the
girl to revive her mistress, without alarming Lady Coryston. And before the
news could reach her mother in other ways, Marcia herself went in to tell
her what she must know.
Lady Coryston had had a bad night, and was sitting up in bed gazing
straight before her, her gaunt hands lying listlessly on a pile of letters
she had not yet opened. When Marcia came in, a white ghost, still shivering
under nervous shock, her mother looked at her in sudden dismay. She sprang
forward in bed.
"What!--Marcia!--have you seen Arthur?"
Marcia shook her head.
"It's not Arthur, mother!"
And standing rigid beside her mother's bed, she told her news, so far as
those piteous deaths at Redcross Farm were concerned. Of her own position,
and of the scene which had passed between herself and Newbury the preceding
day, she said not a word.
On the facts presented to her, Lady Coryston was first bewildered, then
irritated. Why on earth should Marcia take this morbid and extravagant
interest in the affairs of such people? They were not even tenants of the
Coryston estates! It was monstrous that she should have taken them up
at all, and most audacious and unbecoming that she should have tried
to intercede for them with the Newburys, as she understood, from her
daughter's hardly coherent story, had been the case. And now, she
supposed, as Marcia had actually been so foolish, so headstrong, as to go
herself--without permission either from her mother or her betrothed--to
see these two people at the farm, the very day before this horrible thing
happened, she might have to appear at the inquest. Most improper and
However, she scarcely expressed her disapproval aloud with her usual
trenchancy. In the first place, Marcia's tremulous state made it difficult.
In the next, she was herself so far from normal that she could not, after
the first few minutes, keep her attention fixed upon the matter at all. She
began abruptly to question Marcia as to whether she had seen Arthur the
night before--or that morning?
"I had gone up-stairs before he arrived last night--and this morning he's
not yet down," said the girl, perfunctorily, as though she only answered
the question with her lips, without attaching any real meaning to it. Then
her mother's aspect, which on her entrance she had scarcely noticed, struck
her with a sudden and added distress.
"You don't look well, mother. Don't come down to-day."
"I shall certainly come down by luncheon-time," said Lady Coryston,
sharply. "Tell Arthur that I wish to have some conversation with him before
he goes back to London. And as for you, Marcia, the best thing you can do
is to go and rest for a time, and then to explain all you have been doing
to Edward. I must say I think you will have a great deal to explain. And
I shall scold Bellows and Mrs. Drew for letting you hear such a horrible
thing at all--without coming to me first."
"Mother!" cried Marcia, in a kind of despair. "Aren't you--aren't you sorry
for those two people?--and don't you understand that I--I hoped I might
have helped them?"
At last she began to weep. The tears ran down her cheeks. Lady Coryston
"Certainly, I'm sorry. But--the fact is, Marcia--I can't stand any extra
strain this morning. We'll talk about it again when you're more composed.
Now go and lie down."
She closed her eyes, looking so gray and old that Marcia, seized with a
new compunction, could only obey her at once. But on the threshold she was
"If any messenger arrives with a letter for Arthur--tell them down-stairs
to let me know."
As soon, however, as she had closed the door Marcia's tired mind
immediately dismissed the subject of Arthur, even of her mother. The tumult
of anguish returned upon her in which she had stood ever since she had
come back from her faint to the bitter consciousness of a world--an awful
world--where people can die of misery for lack of pity, for lack of help,
and yet within a stone's-throw of those who yearned to give them both.
She went back to her room, finished her dressing mechanically, wrote a
short letter, blotting it with tears, and then went tottering down-stairs.
In the central hall, a vast pillared space, crowded with statuary and
flowers, where the men of the house were accustomed to smoke and read the
newspapers after breakfast, she perceived Reginald Lester sitting alone.
He sprang up at sight of her, came to her, took her hands, looked into her
face, and then stooped and kissed her fingers, respectfully, ardently; with
such an action as a brother might have used to a much younger sister.
She showed no surprise. She simply lifted her eyes to him, like a miserable
child--saying under her breath:
"You know--I saw them--the night before last?"
"I know. It has been a fearful shock. Is there anything I can do for you?"
For he saw she had a letter in her hand.
"Please tell them to send this letter. And then--come back. I'll go to the
She went blindly along the passages to the library, hearing and flying from
the voices of Sir Wilfrid and Arthur in the dining-room as she passed. When
Lester returned, he saw her standing by his desk, lost in an abstraction of
grief. But she roused herself at sight of him, and asked for any further
news there might be. Lester, who had been suffering from a sprained wrist,
had that morning seen the same doctor who had been called in on the
discovery of the tragedy.
"It must all have happened within an hour. His sister, who had come to stay
with them, says that John Betts had seemed rather brighter in the
evening, and his wife rather less in terror. She spoke very warmly to her
sister-in-law of your having come to see her, and said she had promised
you to wait a little before she took any step. Then he went out to the
laboratory, and there, it is supposed, he was overcome by a fit of acute
depression--the revolver was in his drawer--he scrawled the two words
that were found--and you know the rest. Two people on the farm heard the
shot--but it was taken as fired by the night watcher in a field beyond,
which was full of young pheasants. About midnight Mrs. Betts went out to
bring him in--her sister-in-law having gone up to bed. She never came back
again--no one heard a sound--and they were not discovered till the morning.
How long she was alone with him before she killed herself cannot even be
Marcia's trembling fingers fumbled at the bosom of her dress. She drew out
a crumpled paper, and pushed it toward him. He read:
"Good-by, dear Miss Coryston. He sits so still--not much injured. I have
often seen him look so. My John--my John--I can't stay behind. Will you
please do something for my boy? John--John--if only we hadn't met again--"
It ended incoherently in blots and smudges.
"You poor child!" said Lester, involuntarily, as he looked up from the
letter. It was a word of sudden compassion wrested from him by the sight
of Marcia's intolerable pain. He brought forward one of the deep library
chairs, and made her sit in it, and as he bent over her his sympathy drew
from her piteous little cries and stifled moans which he met with answering
words of comfort. All consciousness of sex dropped away; the sharp-chinned
face, the blue, black-fringed eyes, behind their spectacles, the noble brow
under its pile of strong grizzled hair:--she saw them all as an embodied
tenderness--courage and help made visible--a courage and help on which she
gradually laid hold. She could not stop to ask herself how it was that, in
this moment of shock and misery, she fell so naturally into this attitude
of trust toward one with whom she had never yet set up any relation but
that of a passing friendship. She only knew that there was comfort in his
voice, his look, in his understanding of her suffering, in the reticence
with which he handled it. She had lived beside him in the same house for
months without ever really knowing him. Now suddenly--here was a friend--on
whom to lean.
But she could not speak to him of Newbury, though it was the thought of
Newbury that was burning her heart. She did mention Coryston, only to say
with energy: "I don't want to see him yet--not _yet_!" Lester could
only guess at her meaning, and would not have probed her for the world.
But after a little she braced herself, gave him a grateful, shrinking look,
and, rising, she went in search of Sir Wilfrid and Arthur.
Only Sir Wilfrid was in the hall when she reentered it. He had just
dismissed a local reporter who had got wind of Miss Coryston's visit to the
farm, and had rushed over to Coryston, in the hope of seeing her.
"My dear child!" He hurried to meet her. "You look a perfect wreck! How
_abominable_ that you should be mixed up with this thing!"
"I couldn't help it," she said, vaguely, turning away at once from the
discussion of it. "Where is Arthur? Mother wanted me to give him a
[Illustration: NOW SUDDENLY--HERE WAS A FRIEND--ON WHOM TO LEAN]
Sir Wilfrid looked uneasy.
"He was here till just now. But he is in a curious state of mind. He thinks
of nothing but one thing--and one person. He arrived late last night, and
it is my belief that he hardly went to bed. And he is just hanging on the
arrival of a letter--"
"From Enid Glenwilliam?"
"Evidently. I tried to get him to realize this horrible affair--the part
the Newburys had played in it--the effect on you--since that poor creature
appealed to you. But no--not a bit of it! He seems to have neither eyes nor
ears--But here he is!"
Sir Wilfrid and Marcia stepped apart. Arthur came into the hall from the
library entrance. Marcia saw that he was much flushed, and that his face
wore a hard, determined look, curiously at variance with its young features
and receding chin.
"Hullo, Marcia! Beastly business, this you've been getting into. Think, my
dear, you'd have done much better to keep out of it--especially as you and
Newbury didn't agree. I've just seen Coryston in the park--he confessed
he'd set you on--and that you and Newbury had quarreled over it.
_He's_ perfectly mad about it, of course. That you might expect. I
say--mother is late!"
He looked round the hall imperiously.
Marcia, supporting herself on a chair, met his eyes, and made no reply.
Yet she dimly remembered that her mother had asked her to give him some
"Arthur, remember that your sister's had a great shock!" said Sir Wilfrid,
"I know that! Sorry for you, Marcia--awfully--but I expect you'll have to
appear at the inquest--don't see how you can get out of it. You should
have thought twice about going there--when Newbury didn't want you to. And
what's this they say about a letter?"
His tone had the peremptory ring natural to many young men of his stamp, in
dealing with their inferiors, or--until love has tamed them--with women;
but it came strangely from the good-tempered and easy-going Arthur.
Marcia's hand closed instinctively on the bosom of her dress, where the
"Mrs. Betts wrote me a letter," she said, slowly.
"You'd better let me see it. Sir Wilfrid and I can advise you."
He held out an authoritative hand. Marcia made no movement, and the hand
"Oh, well, if you're going to take no one's advice but your own, I suppose
you must gang your own gait!" said her brother, impatiently. "But if you're
a sensible girl you'll make it up with Newbury and let him keep you out of
it as much as possible. Betts was always a cranky fellow. I'm sorry for the
little woman, though."
And walking away to a distant window at the far end of the hall, whence all
the front approaches to the house could be seen, he stood drumming on the
glass and fixedly looking out. Sir Wilfrid, with an angry ejaculation,
"My dear, your brother isn't himself!--else he could never have spoken so
unkindly. Will you show me that letter? It will, of course, have to go to
She held it out to him obediently.
Sir Wilfrid read it. He blew his nose, and walked away for a minute.
When he returned, it was to say, with lips that twitched a little in his
smooth-shaven actor's face:
"Most touching! If one could only have known! But dear Marcia, I hope
it's not true--I hope to God, it's not true!--that you've quarreled with
Marcia was standing with her head thrown back against the high marble
mantelpiece. The lids drooped over her eyes.
"I don't know," she said, in a faint voice. "I don't know. Oh no, not
Sir Wilfrid looked at her with a fatherly concern; took her limp hand and
"Stand by him, dear, stand by him! He'll suffer enough from this--without
Marcia did not answer. Lester had returned to the hall, and he and Bury
then got from her, as gently as possible, a full account of her two
interviews with Mrs. Betts. Lester wrote it down, and Marcia signed it. The
object of the two men was to make the police authorities acquainted with
such testimony as Marcia had to give, while sparing her if possible an
appearance at the inquest. While Lester was writing, Sir Wilfrid threw
occasional scathing glances toward the distant Arthur, who seemed to be
alternately pacing up and down and reading the newspapers. But the young
man showed no signs whatever of doing or suggesting anything further to
help his sister.
Sir Wilfrid perceived at once how Marcia's narrative might be turned
against the Newburys, round whom the hostile feeling of a whole
neighborhood was probably at that moment rising into fury. Was there ever a
more odious, a more untoward situation!
But he could not be certain that Marcia understood it so. He failed,
indeed, altogether, to decipher her mind toward Newbury; or to get at the
truth of what had happened between them. She sat, very pale, and piteously
composed; answering the questions they put to her, and sometimes,
though rarely, unable to control a sob, which seemed to force its way
unconsciously. At the end of their cross-examination, when Sir Wilfrid was
ready to start for Martover, the police headquarters for the district, she
rose, and said she would go back to her room.
"Do, do, dear child!" Bury threw a fatherly arm round her, and went with
her to the foot of the stairs. "Go and rest--sleep if you can."
As Marcia moved away there was a sudden sound at the end of the hall.
Arthur had run hurriedly toward the door leading to the outer vestibule. He
opened it and disappeared. Through the high-arched windows to the left, a
boy on a bicycle could be seen descending the long central avenue leading
to the fore-court.
It was just noon. The great clock set in the center of the eastern facade
had chimed the hour, and as its strokes died away on the midsummer air
Marcia was conscious, as her mother had been the preceding afternoon, of an
abnormal stillness round her. She was in her sitting-room, trying to write
a letter to Mrs. Betts's sister about the boy mentioned in his mother's
last words. He was not at the farm, thank God!--that she knew. His
stepfather had sent him at Easter to a good preparatory school.
It seemed to help her to be doing this last poor service to the dead woman.
And yet in truth she scarcely knew what she was writing. Her mind was torn
between two contending imaginations--the thought of Mrs. Betts, sitting
beside her dead husband, and waiting for the moment of her own death; and
the thought of Newbury. Alternately she saw the laboratory at night--the
shelves of labeled bottles and jars--the tables and chemical apparatus--the
electric light burning--and in the chair the dead man, with the bowed
figure against his knee:--and then--Newbury--in his sitting-room, amid
the books and portraits of his college years--the crucifix over the
mantelpiece--the beautiful drawings of Einsiedeln--of Assisi.
Her heart cried out to him. It had cried out to him in her letter. The
thought of the agony he must be suffering tortured her. Did he blame
himself? Did he remember how she had implored him to "take care"? Or was it
all still plain to him that he had done right? She found herself praying
with all her strength that he might still feel he could have done no other,
and that what had happened, because of his action, had been God's will, and
not merely man's mistake. She longed--sometimes--to throw her arms round
him, and comfort him. Yet there was no passion in her longing. All that
young rising of the blood seemed to have been killed in her. But she would
never draw back from what she had offered him--never. She would go to him,
and stand by him--as Sir Wilfrid had said--if he wanted her.
The gong rang for luncheon. Marcia rose unwillingly; but she was still more
unwilling to make her feelings the talk of the household. As she neared the
dining-room she saw her mother approaching from the opposite side of
the house. Lady Coryston walked feebly, and her appearance shocked her
"Mother!--do let me send for Bryan!" she pleaded, as they met--blaming
herself sharply the while for her own absorption and inaction during the
morning hours. "You don't look a bit fit to be up."
Lady Coryston replied in a tone which forbade discussion that she was quite
well, and had no need whatever of Dr. Bryan's attendance. Then she turned
to the butler, and inquired if Mr. Arthur was in the house.
"His motor came round, my lady, about twelve o'clock. I have not seen him
The lunch passed almost in complete silence between the two ladies. Lady
Coryston was informed that Sir Wilfrid and Lester had gone to Martover in
connection with Marcia's share in the events at Redcross Farm. "They hope I
needn't appear," said Marcia, dully.
"I should rather think not!"
Lady Coryston's indignant tone seemed to assume that English legal
institutions were made merely to suit the convenience of the Coryston
family. Marcia had enough of Coryston in her to perceive it. But she said
As they entered the drawing-room after luncheon she remembered--with a
"Mother--I forgot!--I'm so sorry--I dare say it was nothing. But I think a
letter came for Arthur just before twelve--a letter he was expecting. At
least I saw a messenger-boy come down the avenue. Arthur ran out to meet
him. Then I went up-stairs, and I haven't seen him since."
Lady Coryston had turned whiter than before. She groped for a chair near
and seated herself, before she recovered sufficient self-possession
to question her daughter as to the precise moment of the messenger's
appearance, the direction from which he arrived, and so forth.
But Marcia knew no more, and could tell no more. Nor could she summon up
any curiosity about her brother, possessed and absorbed as her mind was by
other thoughts and images. But in a vague, anxious way she felt for her
mother; and if Lady Coryston had spoken Marcia would have responded.
And Lady Coryston would have liked to speak, first of all to scold Marcia
for forgetting her message, and then to confide in her--insignificant as
the daughter's part in the mother's real life and thoughts had always been.
But she felt physically incapable of bearing the emotion which might spring
out upon her from such a conversation. It was as though she possessed--and
knew she possessed--a certain measured strength; just enough--and no
more--to enable her to go through a conversation which _must_ be
faced. She had better not waste it beforehand. Sometimes it occurred to
her that her feeling toward this coming interview was wholly morbid and
unnatural. How many worse things had she faced in her time!
But reasoning on it did not help her--only silence and endurance. After
resting a little in the drawing-room she went up to her sitting-room again,
refusing Marcia's company.
"Won't you let me come and make you comfortable?--if you're going to rest,
you'll want a shawl and some pillows," said the girl, as she stood at the
foot of the staircase, wistfully looking after her.
But Lady Coryston shook her head.
"Thank you--I don't want anything."
* * * * *
So--for Marcia--there was nothing to be done with these weary hours--but
wait and think and weep! She went back to her own sitting-room, and
lingeringly put Newbury's letters together, in a packet, which she sealed;
in case--well, in case--nothing came of her letter of the morning. They had
been engaged not quite a month. Although they had met almost every day, yet
there were many letters from him; letters of which she felt anew the power
and beauty as she reread them. Yet from that power and beauty, the natural
expression of his character, she stood further off now than when she had
first known him. The mystery indeed in which her nascent love had wrapped
him had dropped away. She knew him better, she respected him infinitely;
and all the time--strangely, inexplicably--love had been, not growing, but
Meanwhile, into all her thoughts about herself and Newbury there rushed at
recurrent intervals the memory, the overwhelming memory, of her last sight
of John and Alice Betts. That gray face in the summer dusk, beyond the
window, haunted her; and the memory of those arms which had clung about her
Was there a beyond?--where were they?--those poor ghosts! All the riddles
of the eternal Sphinx leaped upon Marcia--riddles at last made real.
Twenty-four hours ago, two brains, two hearts, alive, furiously alive, with
human sorrow and human revolt. And now? Had that infinitely pitiful Christ
in whom Newbury believed, received the two tormented souls?--were they
comforted--purged--absolved? Had they simply ceased to be--to feel--to
suffer? Or did some stern doom await them--still--after all the suffering
here? A shudder ran through the girl, evoking by reaction the memory of
immortal words--"_Her sins which are many are forgiven; for she loved
much_." She fed herself on the divine saying; repressing with all her
strength the skeptical, pessimistic impulses that were perhaps natural to
her temperament, forcing herself, as it were, for their sakes, to hope and
Again, as the afternoon wore away, she was weighed down by the surrounding
silence. No one in the main pile of building but her mother and herself.
Not a sound, but the striking of the great gilt clock outside. From her own
room she could see the side windows of her mother's sitting-room; and once
she thought she perceived the stately figure passing across them. But
otherwise Lady Coryston made no sign; and her daughter dared not go to her
Why did no letter come for her, no reply? She sat at her open windows for a
time, watching the front approaches, and looking out into a drizzling rain
which veiled the afternoon. When it ceased she went out--restlessly--to the
East Wood--the wood where they had broken it off. She lay down with her
face against the log--a prone white figure, among the fern. The buried
ring--almost within reach of her hand--seemed to call to her like a living
thing. No!--let it rest.
If it was God's will that she should go back to Edward, she would make him
a good wife. But her fear, her shrinking, was all there still. She prayed;
but she did not know for what.
Meanwhile at Redcross Farm, the Coroner was holding his inquiry. The facts
were simple, the public sympathy and horror profound. Newbury and Lord
William had given their evidence amid a deep and, in many quarters, hostile
silence. The old man, parchment-pale, but of an unshaken dignity, gave a
full account of the efforts--many and vain--that had been made both by
himself and his son to find Betts congenial work in another sphere and to
persuade him to accept it.
"We had nothing to do with his conscience, or with his private affairs--in
themselves. All we asked was that we should not be called on to recognize
a marriage which in our eyes was not a marriage. Everything that we could
have done consistently with that position, my son and I may honestly say we
Sir Wilfrid Bury was called, to verify Marcia's written statement, and Mrs.
Betts's letter was handed to the Coroner, who broke down in reading it.
Coryston, who was sitting on the opposite side of the room, watched the
countenances of the two Newburys while it was being read, with a frowning
When the evidence was over, and the jury had retired, Edward Newbury took
his father to the carriage which was waiting. The old man, so thin and
straight, from his small head and narrow shoulders to his childishly small
feet, leaned upon his son's arm, and apparently saw nothing around him. A
mostly silent throng lined the lane leading to the farm. Half-way stood the
man who had come down to lecture on "Rational Marriage," surrounded by a
group of Martover Socialists. From them rose a few hisses and groans as the
Newburys passed. But other groups represented the Church Confraternities
and clubs of the Newbury estate. Among them heads were quietly bared as the
old man went by, or hands were silently held out. Even a stranger would
have realized that the scene represented the meeting of two opposing
currents of thought and life.
Newbury placed his father in the carriage, which drove off. He then went
back himself to wait for the verdict.
As he approached the door of the laboratory in which the inquiry had been
held, Coryston emerged.
Newbury flushed and stopped him. Coryston received it as though it had been
the challenge of an enemy. He stepped back, straightening himself fiercely.
"Will you take a message from me to your sister?"
A man opened the door in front a little way.
"Mr. Edward, the jury are coming back."
The two men went in; Coryston listened with a sarcastic mouth to the
conventional verdict of "unsound mind" which drapes impartially so many
forms of human ill. And again he found himself in the lane with Newbury
"One more lie," he said, violently, "to a jury's credit!"
Newbury looked up. It was astonishing what a mask he could make of his
face, normally so charged--over-charged--with expression.
"What else could it have been? But this is no time or place for us to
discuss our differences, Coryston--"
"Why not!" cried Coryston, who had turned a dead white. "'Our differences,'
as you call them, have led to _that_!" He turned and flung out a thin
arm toward the annex to the laboratory, where the bodies were lying. "It is
time, I think, that reasonable men should come to some understanding about
'differences' that can slay and madden a pair of poor hunted souls, as
these have been slain!"
"'Hunted?' What do you mean?" said Newbury, sternly, while his dark eyes
"Hunted by the Christian conscience!--that it might lie comfortable o'
nights," was the scornful reply.
Newbury said nothing for a few moments. They emerged on the main road,
crossed it, and entered the Hoddon Grey park. Here they were alone, out of
sight of the crowd returning from the inquest to the neighboring village.
As they stepped into one of the green rides of the park they perceived a
motorcar descending the private road which crossed it a hundred yards away.
A man was driving it at a furious pace, and Coryston clearly recognized his
brother Arthur. He was driving toward Coryston. Up to the moment when the
news of the farm tragedy had reached him that morning, Coryston's mind had
been very full of what seemed to him the impending storm between his mother
and Arthur. Since then he had never thought of it, and the sight of his
brother rushing past, making for Coryston, no doubt, from some unknown
point, excited but a moment's recollection, lost at once in the emotion
which held him.
Newbury struck in, however, before he could express it further; in the same
dry and carefully governed voice as before.
"You are Marcia's brother, Coryston. Yesterday morning she and I were still
engaged to be married. Yesterday afternoon we broke it off--although--since
then--I have received two letters from her--"
He paused a moment, but soon resumed, with fresh composure.
"Those letters I shall answer to-night. By that time--perhaps--I shall know
better--what my future life will be."
"Perhaps!" Coryston repeated, roughly. "But I have no claim to know, nor do
I want to know!"
Newbury gave him a look of wonder.
"I thought you were out for justice--and freedom of conscience?" he said,
slowly. "Is the Christian conscience--alone--excepted? Freedom for every
one else--but none for us?"
"Precisely! Because your freedom means other men's slavery!" Coryston
panted out the words. "You can't have your freedom! It's too costly
in human life. Everywhere Europe has found that out. The freedom you
Catholics--Anglican or Roman--want, is anti-social. We sha'n't give it
"You will have to give it us," said Newbury, calmly, "because in putting us
down--which of course you could do with ease--you would destroy all that
you yourselves value in civilization. It would be the same with us, if we
had the upper hand, as you have now. Neither of us can destroy the other.
We stand face to face--we shall stand face to face--while the world lasts."
Coryston broke into passionate contradiction. Society, he was confident,
would, in the long run, put down Catholicism, of all sorts, by law.
"Life is hard enough, the devil knows! We can't afford--we simply can't
afford--to let you make it harder by these damned traditions! I appeal to
those two dead people! They did what _you_ thought wrong, and your
conscience judged and sentenced them. But who made you a judge and divider
over them? Who asked you to be the dispenser for them of blessing and
Newbury stood still.
"No good, Coryston, your raving like this! There is one question that
cuts the knot--that decides where you stand--and where I stand. You don't
believe there has ever been any living word from God to man--any lifting
of the eternal veil. We do! We say the heavens _have_ opened--a God
_has_ walked this earth! Everything else follows from that."
"Including the deaths of John Betts and his wife!" said Coryston, with
bitter contempt. "A God suffers and bleeds, for that! No!--for us, if there
is a God, He speaks in love--in love only--in love supremely--such love as
those two poor things had for each other!"
After which they walked along in silence for some time. Each had said the
last word of his own creed.
Presently they reached a footpath from which the house at Hoddon Grey could
be reached. Newbury paused.
"Here, Coryston, we part--and we may never meet again."
He raised his heavy eyes to his companion. All passion had died from his
face, which in its pale sorrow was more beautiful than Coryston had ever
"Do you think," he said, with deliberate gentleness, "that I feel
nothing--that life can ever be the same for me again--after this? It has
been to me a sign-post in the dark--written in letters of flame--and blood.
It tells me where to go--and I obey."
He paused, looking, as it seemed, through Coryston, at things beyond. And
Coryston was aware of a strange and sudden awe in himself which silenced
But Newbury recalled his thoughts. He spoke next in his ordinary tone.
"Please, tell--Marcia--that all arrangements have been made for Mr. Betts's
boy, with the relatives' consent. She need have no anxiety about him. And
all I have to say to her for her letter--her blessed letter--I will say
He walked away, and was soon lost to sight among the trees.
Coryston walked back to Knatchett at a furious pace, jumped on his bicycle,
and went off to find Marion Atherstone--the only person with whom he could
trust himself at the moment. He more than suspected that Marcia in a fit
of sentimental folly would relent toward Newbury in distress--and even his
rashness shrank from the possibility of a quarrel which might separate him
from his sister for good. But liberate his soul he must; and he thirsted
for a listener with whom to curse bigots up and down. In Marion's mild
company, strangely enough, the most vigorous cursing, whether of men or
institutions, had always in the end calming results. To Marion, however,
led by a sure instinct, he went.
Meanwhile the motor which passed Newbury and Coryston in the park had sped
to its goal. It had already carried Arthur Coryston over half the county.
That morning he had been told at the Atherstones' cottage, on his
breathless arrival there, just before luncheon, that while the Chancellor
had returned to town, Miss Glenwilliam had motored to a friend's house,
some twenty miles north, and was not going back to London till the evening.
Arthur Coryston at once pursued her. Sorely against her will, he had forced
the lady to an interview, and in the blind rage of his utter defeat and
discomfiture, he left her again in hot quest of that explanation with his
mother which Enid Glenwilliam had honestly--and vainly--tried to prevent.
Lady Coryston meanwhile was bewildered by his absence. During the lonely
hours when Marcia, from a distance, had once caught sight of her crossing
an open window in her sitting-room, she had not been able to settle to any
occupation, still less to rest. She tried to write out the Agenda of an
important Primrose League meeting over which she was to preside; to put
together some notes of her speech. In vain. A strange heaviness weighed
upon her. The only stimulus that worked--and that only for a time--was a
fierce attack on Glenwilliam in one of the morning papers. She read it
hungrily; but it brought on acute headache, which reduced her to idleness
and closed eyes.
After a while she roused herself to pull down a blind against a teasing
invasion of sun, and in doing so she perceived a slim, white figure
hurrying away from the house, through the bright-colored mazes of the
Italian garden. Marcia! She remembered vaguely that Marcia had come to her
that morning in trouble about what? She could not remember. It had seemed
to her of importance.
At last, about half an hour after she had seen Marcia disappear in the
shrubbery paths leading to the East Wood, Lady Coryston, startled by a
sound from the fore-court, sat suddenly erect on her sofa. A motor?
She rose, and going to a little mirror on the wall, she straightened the
lace coiffure she habitually wore. In doing so she was struck--dismayed
even--by her own aspect.
"When this is all over, Marcia and I perhaps might go abroad for a week or
two," she thought.
A swift step approaching--a peremptory knock at the door.
Arthur entered, and with his back against the door stood surveying
his mother. She waited for him to speak, expecting violence. For some
moments--in vain. Except in so far as his quick-breathing silence, his look
of dry, hollow-eyed exasperation spoke--more piercingly than words.
"Well, Arthur," she said, at last, "I have been expecting you for some
"I have been trying to put the mischief you have done me straight," he
said, between his teeth.
"I have done you no mischief that I know of. Won't you come and sit down
quietly--and talk the whole matter over? You can't imagine that I desire
anything but your good!"
His laugh seemed to give her physical pain.
"Couldn't you take to desiring something else, mother, than my 'good' as
you call it? Because, I tell you plainly, it don't suit my book. You have
been meddling in my affairs!--just as you have always meddled in them, for
matter of that! But this time you've done it with a vengeance--you've done
it _damnably_!" He struck his hand upon a table near. "What right had
you"--he approached her threateningly--"what earthly right had you to go
and see Enid Glenwilliam yesterday, just simply that you might spoil my
chances with her! Who gave you leave?"
He flung the questions at her.
"I had every right," said Lady Coryston, calmly. "I am your mother--I
have done everything for you--you owe your whole position to me. You
were ruining yourself by a mad fancy. I was bound to take care that
Miss Glenwilliam should not accept you without knowing all the facts.
But--actually--as it happens--she had made up her mind--before we met."
"So she says!--and I don't believe a word of it--_not--one--word_! She
wanted to make me less mad with you. She's like you, mother, she thinks
she can manage everybody. So she tried to cram me--that it was Glenwilliam
persuaded her against me. Rot! If you hadn't gone and meddled, if you
hadn't treated her like dirt--if you hadn't threatened to spoil my
prospects, and told her you'd never receive her--if you hadn't put her
back up in a hundred ways--she'd have married me. It's you--you--
_you_--that have done it!"
He threw himself on a chair in front of her, his hands on his knees,
staring at her. His aspect as of a man disorganized and undone by baffled
passion, repelled and disgusted her. Was this her Arthur?--her perfect
gentleman--her gay, courteous, well-behaved darling--whose mingled docility
and good breeding had, so far, suited both her affection and her love of
rule so well? The deep under-sense of disaster which had held her all day,
returned upon her in ten-fold strength. But she fronted him bravely.
"You are, as it happens, entirely wrong, Arthur. It's not I who have done
it--but Miss Glenwilliam's own good sense--or her father's. Of course I
confess frankly that I should have done my best--that I did, if you like,
do my best, to prevent your marriage with Miss Glenwilliam. And as for
right, who else had a right, if not I? Was it not most unkind, most
undutiful on your part!"--her tone was a tone of battle--"was it not an
outrage on your father's memory--that you should even entertain the
notion of such a connection? To bring the daughter of that man into this
family!--after all we have done--and suffered--for our principles--it's
you, who ought to ask _my_ pardon, Arthur, and not I yours! Times
without number, you have agreed with me in despising people who have
behaved as if politics were a mere game--a trifle that didn't matter. You
have told me often, that things were getting too hot; you couldn't be
friends in private, with people you hated in public; people you looked
upon as robbers and cheats. And then--_then_--you go and let this
infatuation run away with you--you forget all your principles--you forget
your mother, and all you owe her--and you go and ask this girl to marry
you--whose father is our personal and political enemy--a political
adventurer who is trying to pull down and destroy everything that you and I
hold sacred--or ought to hold sacred!"
"For goodness' sake, mother, don't make a political speech!" He turned upon
her with angry contempt. "That kind of thing does all very well to spout
at an election--but it won't do between you and me. I _don't_ hate
Glenwilliam--_there_! The estates--and the property--and all we hold
sacred, as you call it--will last my time--and his. And I jolly well don't
care what happens afterward. _He's_ not going to do us much harm.
England's a deal tougher proposition than he thinks. It's you women who get
up such a hullabaloo--I declare you make politics a perfect devilry! But
then"--he shrugged his shoulders fiercely--"I'm not going to waste time in
arguing. I just came to tell you _what I intend to do_; and then I'm
going up to town. I've ordered the motor for seven o'clock."
Lady Coryston had risen, and stood, with one hand on the mantelpiece,
looking down upon her son.
"I shall be glad indeed to hear what you intend to do, Arthur. I see you
have missed two or three important divisions lately."
He burst out:
"And they won't be the last either, by a good way. I'm going to chuck it,
mother! And if you don't like it--you can blame yourself!"
"What do you mean?"
He hesitated a moment--then spoke deliberately.
"I intend to leave Parliament after this session. I do! I'm sick of it. A
friend of mine has got a ranch forty miles from Buenos Ayres. He wants me
to go in with him--and I think I'll try it. I want something to distract my
mind from these troubles."
Lady Coryston's eyes blazed in her gray-white face, which not even her
strong will could keep from trembling.
"So this, Arthur, is the reward you propose for all that has been done for
you!--for the time, the thought, the money that has been showered upon
He looked at her from under his eyebrows, unmoved.
"I should have remembered all that, mother, if you--Look here! Have you
ever let me, in anything--for one day, one hour--call my soul my own--since
I went into Parliament? It's true I deceived you about Enid. I was
literally _afraid_ to tell you--there! You've brought me to that!
And when a man's afraid of a woman--it somehow makes a jelly of
him--altogether. It was partly what made me run after Enid--at first--that
I was doing something independent of you--something you would hate, if you
knew. Beastly of me, I know!--but there it was. And then you arranged that
meeting here, without so much as giving me a word's notice!--you told Page
_before you told me_. And when I kicked--and told you about Enid--did
you ever come afterward and talk to me nicely about her?--did you ever,
even, consider for one moment what I told you?--that I was in love with
her?--dead gone on her? Even if I was rude to you that day when you dragged
it out of me, most mothers, I think, would have been sorry for a fellow--"
His voice suddenly broke; but he instantly recovered himself.
"Instead of that, mother--you only thought of how you could thwart and
checkmate me--how you could get _your_ way--and force me to give up
mine. It was _abominable_ of you to go and see Enid, without a word to
me!--it was _abominable_ to plot and plan behind my back, and then to
force yourself on her and insult her to her face! Do you think a girl of
any spirit whatever would put herself in your clutches after that? No!--she
didn't want to come it too hard on you--that's her way!--so she made up
some tale about Glenwilliam. But it's as plain as the nose in your face!
You've ruined me!--you've ruined me!"
He began to walk furiously up and down, beside himself again with rage and
Lady Coryston dropped into a chair. Her large, blanched face expressed a
passion that even at this supreme moment, and under the sense of doom that
was closing on her, she could not restrain.
"It is not I who have ruined you, Arthur--as you put it--though of course
you're not ruined at all!--but your own wanton self-will. Are you really so
lost to all decency--all affection--that you can speak to your mother like
He turned and paused--to throw her an ugly look.
"Well--I don't know that I'm more of a brute than other men--but it's no
good talking about affection to me--after this. Yes, I suppose you've been
fond of me, mother, in your way--and I suppose I've been fond of you. But
the fact is, as I told you before, I've stood in _fear_ of you!--all
my life--and lots of things you thought I did because I was fond of you, I
did because I was a coward--a disgusting coward!--who ought to have been
kicked. And that's the truth! Why, ever since I was a small kid--"
And standing before her, with his hands on his sides, all his pleasant face
disfigured by anger and the desire to wound, he poured out upon her a flood
of recollections of his childhood and youth. Beneath the bitterness and the
shock of it, even Lady Coryston presently flinched. This kind of language,
though never in such brutal terms, she had heard from Corry once or twice.
But, Arthur!--She put up a trembling hand.
"That's enough, Arthur! We had better stop this conversation. I have done
the best I could for you--always."
"Why didn't you _love_ us!" he cried, striking a chair beside him for
emphasis. "Why didn't you _love_ us! It was always politics--politics!
Somebody to be attacked--somebody to be scored off--somebody to be squared.
And a lot of stupid talk that bored us all! My poor father was as sick of
it often as we were. He had enough of it out of doors. Damn politics for
women, I say--damn them!"
Lady Coryston raised her hand.
"_Go_, Arthur! This is enough."
He drew a long breath.
"Upon my soul, I think it is. We'd better not excite each other any more.
I'll speak to Sir Wilfrid, mother, before I go, and ask him to report
various things to you, which I have to say. And I shall go and see the
Whips to-night. Of course I don't want to do the party any harm. If there
is a general election in the autumn, all that need happen is that I sha'n't
stand again. And as to the estates"--he hesitated--"as to the estates,
mother, do as you like. Upon my word I think you'd better give them back to
Coryston! A certain amount of money is all I shall want."
"Go!" said Lady Coryston again, still pointing.
He stood a moment, fiddling with some ornaments on a table near him, then
caught up his hat with a laugh--and still eying her askance, he walked to
the door, opened it, and disappeared; though he closed it so uncertainly
that Lady Coryston, until, after what seemed an interval, she heard his
footsteps receding, could not be sure that he was really gone.
But he was gone; and all the plans and hopes of her later life lay in ashes
about her. She sat motionless. After half an hour she heard the sound of a
motor being driven away from the front of the house. Through the evening
air, too, she caught distant voices--which soon ceased.
She rang presently for her maid, and said she would dine in her room,
because of a bad headache. Marcia came, but was not admitted. Sir Wilfrid
Bury asked if he might see her, just for a few minutes. A message referred
him to the next morning.
Dinner came and went down untouched. Whenever she was ill, Lady Coryston's
ways were solitary and ungracious. She hated being "fussed over." So that
no one dared force themselves upon her. Only, between ten and eleven,
Marcia again came to the door, knocked gently, and was told to go away. Her
mother would be all right in the morning. The girl reluctantly obeyed.
The state of terrible tension in which Lady Coryston passed that night had
no witness. It could only be guessed at, by Marcia, in particular, to
whom it fell afterward to take charge of her mother's papers and personal
affairs. Lady Coryston had apparently gathered all Arthur's, letters to her
together, from the very first to the very latest, tied them up neatly, and
laid them in the drawer which held those of her dead husband. She had begun
to write a letter to Coryston, but when found, it was incoherent, and could
not be understood. She had removed the early photographs of Arthur from her
table, and a larger, recent one of the young M.P., taken in London for the
constituency, which was on her mantelpiece, and had placed them both face
downward in the same drawer with the letters. And then, when she had found
it impossible to write what she wished to write, she seemed to have gone
back to her arm-chair, taking with her two or three of Arthur's Eton
reports--by what instinct had she chosen them out from the piles of
letters!--and a psalter she often used. But by a mere accident, a sinister
trick of fate, when she was found, the book lay open under her hand at one
of those imprecatory psalms at which Christendom has at last learned to
shudder. Only a few days before, Sir Wilfrid Bury had laughed at her--as
only he might--for her "Old Testament tone" toward her enemies, and had
quoted this very psalm. Her helpless fingers touched it.
But the night was a night of vigil for others also. Coryston, who could not
sleep, spent the greater part of it first in writing to Marion Atherstone,
and then in composing a slashing attack upon the High Church party for its
attitude toward the divorce laws of the country, and the proposals recently
made for their reform. "How much longer are we going to allow these
black-coated gentlemen to despise and trample on the laws under which
the rest of us are content to live!--or to use the rights and powers
of property for the bare purpose of pressing their tyrannies and their
superstitions on other people?"
Meanwhile, in the beautiful chapel of Hoddon Grey, Edward Newbury, worn out
with the intolerable distress of the preceding forty-eight hours, and yet
incapable of sleep, sat or knelt through long stretches of the night. The
chapel was dark but for one light. Over the altar there burnt a lamp, and
behind it could be seen, from the chair, where he knelt, the silk veil of
the tabernacle. Reservation had been permitted for years in the Hoddon Grey
chapel, and the fact had interwoven itself with the deepest life of
the household, eclipsing and dulling the other religious practices
of Anglicanism, just as the strong plant in a hedgerow drives out or
sterilizes the rest. There, in Newbury's passionate belief, the Master of
the House kept watch, or slept, above the altar, as once above the Galilean
waves. For him, the "advanced" Anglican, as for any Catholic of the Roman
faith, the doctrine of the Mass was the central doctrine of all religion,
and that intimate and personal adoration to which it leads, was the
governing power of life. The self-torturing anguish which he had suffered
ever since the news of the two suicides had reached him could only endure
itself in this sacred presence; and it was there he had taken refuge under
the earlier blow of the breach with Marcia.
The night was very still--a night of soft showers, broken by intervals of
starlight. Gradually as the darkness thinned toward dawn, the figures,
stoled and winged and crowned, of the painted windows, came dimly forth,
and long rays of pale light crept over the marble steps and floor, upon the
flowers on the altar and the crucifix above it. The dawn flowed in silently
and coldly; the birds stirred faintly; and the white mists on the lawn and
fields outside made their way through the open windows, and dimmed the glow
of color on the walls and in the apse.
In those melancholy and yet ardent hours Edward Newbury reached the utmost
heights of religious affirmation, and the extreme of personal renunciation.
It became clear to a mind attuned for such thoughts, that, by severing him
from Marcia, and, at the same time, and by the same stroke, imposing upon
him at least some fraction of responsibility--a fraction which his honesty
could not deny--for the deaths of John and Alice Betts, God had called him,
Edward Newbury, in a way not to be mistaken and not to be refused. His life
was henceforth forfeit--forfeit to his Lord. Henceforth, let him make of
it a willing sacrifice, an expiatory oblation, perpetually renewed, and
offered in perpetual union with the Divine Victim, for their souls and his
The ideas of the Conventual house in which he had so lately spent hours of
intense religious happiness closed upon him and possessed him. He was
not to marry. He was reserved for the higher counsels, the Counsels of
Perfection. The face and talk of his friend Brierly, who was so soon going
to his dangerous and solitary post in Southern India, haunted his mind, and
at last seemed to show him a way out of his darkness. His poor father and
mother! But he never doubted for one moment that they would give him up,
that they would let him follow his conscience.
By the time the sun was fairly up, the storm of religious feeling had died
down in Newbury. He had taken his resolve, but he was incapable of any
further emotion concerning it. On the other hand, his heart was alive to
the thought of Marcia, and of that letter she had sent him. Dear, generous
Marcia! Once more he would write to her--once more!
"DEAREST MARCIA,--I may call you so, I think, for the last time, and at
this turning-point of both our lives. I may never see you again; or if we
do meet, you will have become so strange to me that you will wonder in what
other and distant life it was that we loved each other. I think you did
love me for a little while, and I do bless and thank you that you let
me know you--and love you. And I bless you above all for the thought of
consolation and pity you had toward me, even yesterday, in those terrible
hours--when you offered to come back to me and help me, as though our bond
had never been broken.
"No, dear Marcia!--I saw the truth in your face yesterday. I could not make
you happy. I should set jarring a discord in your life for which it was
never meant. You did right, absolutely right, to separate yourself from one
whose inmost and irrevocable convictions repelled and shocked you. I may be
narrow and cold; but I am not narrow enough--or cold enough!--to let you
give yourself back to one you cannot truly love--or trust. But that you
offered it, because you were sorry for me, and that you would have carried
it out, firmly, your dear hand clenched, as it were, on the compact--that
warms my heart--that I shall have, as a precious memory, to carry into the
far-off life that I foresee.
"I cannot write much about the terrible thing at Redcross Farm. Your great
pity for me implies that you think me--and my father--in some way and in
some degree, responsible. Perhaps we are--I do not wish to shirk the truth.
If so, it is as soldiers under orders are responsible for the hurt and
damage they may cause, in their King's war--as much, and as little. At
least, so far as the main matter is concerned. That I might have been--that
I ought to have been--infinitely more loving, wiser, stronger to help
them--that I know--that I shall feel as long as I live. And it is a feeling
which will determine all my future life.
"You remember what I told you of Father Brierly and the Community of the
Ascension? As soon as I can leave my father and mother--they are at present
in deep distress--I shall probably go to the Community House in Lancashire
for a time. My present intention is to take orders, and perhaps to join
Brierly eventually in mission work. My father and mother are splendid! They
and I shall be separated perhaps in this world, but in that mysterious
other world which lies all about us even now, and which is revealed to us
in the Sacraments, we shall meet at last, and forever--if we are faithful.
"Good-by--God be with you--God give you every good thing in this
present time--love, children, friends--and, 'in the world to come, life
* * * * *
About the hour when the letter was finished, when the July sun was already
high over the dewy new-shorn fields, Coryston, after an hour's sleep in his
chair, and a bath, left Knatchett to walk to Coryston. He was oppressed by
some vague dread which would not let him rest. In the strong excitements
and animosities of the preceding day he had forgotten his mother. But the
memory of her face on the sofa during that Sunday reading had come back
upon him with unpleasant force. It had been always so with him in life. She
no sooner relapsed into the woman than he became a son. Only the experience
had been rare!
He crossed the Hoddon Grey park, and then walked through _a_ mile
of the Coryston demesne, till he reached the lake and saw beyond it the
Italian garden, with its statues glittering in the early sun--and the long
marble front of the house, with its rococo ornament, and its fine pillared
loggia. "What the deuce are _we_ going to do with these places!" he
asked himself in petulant despair. "And to think that Arthur won't be
allowed to sell it, or turn it to any useful purpose whatever!"
He skirted the lake, and began to mount the steps, and flagged paths of the
formal garden. Suddenly as he approached the garden front he saw that two
windows of his mother's sitting-room were open, and that some one--a figure
in black--was sitting in a high-backed arm-chair beside one of them. His
mother!--up?--at seven o'clock in the morning? Yet was it his mother? He
came nearer. The figure was motionless--the head thrown back, the eyes
invisible from where he stood. Something in the form, the attitude--its
stillness and strangeness in the morning light--struck him with horror. He
rushed to the garden door, found it open, dashed up the stairs, and into
his mother's room.
Lady Coryston neither moved nor spoke. But as he came up to her, he saw
that she was alive--that her eyes opened and perceived him. Nothing else in
her lived or moved. And as he knelt down by her, and took her tenderly in
his arms, she relapsed into the unconscious state from which his entrance
had momentarily roused her.
* * * * *
What else there is to tell had best be told quickly. Lady Coryston lived
for some eight months after this seizure. She partially recovered from the
first stroke, and all the organization of the great house, and all the
thought of her children circled round the tragic death-in-life into which
she had fallen.
Arthur had come rushing back to Coryston after the catastrophe, restored
by it, like a stream which has wandered in flood, to the older and natural
channels of life. Bitter remorse for his conduct to his mother, and a sharp
resentment of Enid Glenwilliam's conduct toward himself, acted wholesomely.
He took up his normal occupations again, in Parliament and on the estates,
and talked no more of Buenos Ayres. But whether his mother's darkened mind
ever forgave him it would be difficult to say. She rarely noticed him,
and when she spoke it was generally for Coryston. Her dependence upon her
eldest son became a touching and poignant thing, deepening the souls of
both. Coryston came to live at Coryston, and between his love for Marion
Atherstone, and his nursing of his mother, was more truly happy for a time
than his character had ever yet allowed him to be. The din of battle,
political and religious, penetrated no more within a house where death came
closer day by day, and where weakness and suffering had at last united
these differing men and women in a common interest of profoundest pity.
Lady Coryston became strangely dear to her children before she left them
forever, and the last faint words she spoke, on that winter morning when
she died, were for Coryston, who had her hand in his. "Corry--Corry
darling"--and as he came closer--"Corry, who was my firstborn!"
On the night of Lady Coryston's death Reginald Lester wrote:
"Coryston has just taken me in to see his mother. She lies in a frowning
rest which does not--as death so often does--make any break with our
memories of her when alive. Attitude and expression are characteristic. She
is the strong woman still, conscious of immense power; and, if that shut
mouth could speak, and if health were given back to her, ready no doubt
still to use it tyrannously. There is no weakening and no repentance in the
face; and I like it better so. Nor did she ever really reverse, though she
modified, the exclusion of Coryston from the inheritance. She was able
during an interval of comparative betterment about Christmas-time, to make
an alteration in her will, and the alteration was no mere surrender to what
one sees to have been, at bottom, her invincible affection for Coryston.
She has still left Arthur the estates for life, but with remainder to
Coryston's son, should he have one, and she has made Coryston a trustee
together with Sir Wilfrid Bury. This will mean practically a division
between the brothers--to which Arthur has already pledged himself, so he
tells me--but with no power to Coryston to make such radical changes as
would destroy the family tradition, at least without Arthur's consent and
Sir Wilfrid's. But Coryston will have plenty of money and plenty of land
wherewith to experiment, and no doubt we shall see some strange things.
"Thus she kept her flag flying to the end, so far as the enfeebled brain
allowed. Yet the fact was that her state of dependence on her children
during her illness, and their goodness to her, did in truth evoke another
woman with new perceptions, superposed, as it were, upon the old. And
there, I think, came in her touch of greatness--which one could not have
expected. She was capable at any rate of _this_ surrender; not going
back upon the old--but just accepting the new. Her life might have petered
out in bitterness and irritation, leaving an odious memory. It became a
source of infinite sweetness, just because her children found out--to their
immense surprise--that she _could_ let herself be loved; and they
threw themselves with eagerness on the chance she gave them.
"She dies in time--one of the last of a generation which will soon have
passed, leaving only a procession of ghosts on a vanishing road. She had no
doubts about her place and prerogative in the world, no qualms about her
rights to use them as she pleased. Coryston also has no doubts--or few.
As to individuals he is perpetually disillusioned; as to causes he is as
obstinate as his mother. And independently of the Glenwilliam affair, that
is why, I think, in the end she preferred Coryston to Arthur, who will
'muddle through,' not knowing whither, like the majority of his kind.
"Marcia!--in her black dress, beside her mother, looking down upon
her--with that yearning look!--But--not a word! There are things too sacred
for these pages."
* * * * *
During the months of Lady Coryston's illness, indeed, Reginald Lester
entered, through stages scarcely perceived by himself and them, upon a new
relation toward the Coryston family. He became the increasingly intimate
friend and counselor of the Coryston brothers, and of Marcia, no less--but
in a fresh and profounder sense. He shared much of the estate business with
Mr. Page; he reconciled as best he could the jarring views of Coryston and
Arthur; he started on the reorganization of the great Library, in which, so
far, he had only dealt with a fraction of its possessions. And every day he
was Marcia's companion, in things intimate and moving, no less than in
the practical or commonplace affairs of ordinary life. It was he who read
poetry with her, or played accompaniments to her songs, in the hours of
relief from her nursing; it was he who watched and understood her; who
guided and yet adored her. His love for her was never betrayed; but it
gradually became, without her knowing it, the condition of her life. And
when Lady Coryston died, in the February following her stroke, and Marcia,
who was worn out, went abroad with Waggin for a few weeks' rest, the
correspondence which passed between her and Lester during the earlier days
of her absence, by the more complete and deliberate utterance which it
permitted between them, did at last reveal to the girl the depths of her
During her travels various things happened.
One chilly afternoon, late in March, when a light powdering of snow lay on
the northern slopes of the hills, Coryston went up to the cottage in
the hopes of finding Marion Atherstone alone. There had been a quiet
understanding between them all the winter, more or less known to the
Coryston family, but all talk of marriage had been silenced by the
condition of Lady Coryston, who indeed never knew such schemes were in the
About six weeks, however, after his mother's death, Coryston's natural
_fougue_ suggested to him that he was being trifled with. He burst
into the little sitting-room where Marion was just making tea, and sat
down, scowling, on the further side of the hearth.
"What is the matter?" Marion asked, mildly. During the winter a beautifying
change seemed to have passed upon Atherstone's daughter. She was younger,
better looking, better dressed; yet keeping always the touch of homeliness,
of smiling common-sense, which had first attracted a man in secret
rebellion against his own rhetoric and other people's.
"You are treating me abominably!" said Coryston, with vehemence.
"How? My conscience is as sound as a bell!" Wherewith, laughing, she handed
him his cup of tea.
"All bells aren't sound. Some are flawed," was the prompt reply. "I have
asked you twice this week to tell me when you will be good enough to marry
me, and you haven't said a single word in reply."
Marion was silent a little; then she looked up, as Andromache looked at
Hector--with a laugh, yet with something else fluttering behind.
"Let's ask ourselves once more, Herbert--is it really a wise thing to do?"
Nobody else since his father died had ever called Coryston by his Christian
name; which was perhaps why Marion Atherstone took a peculiar pleasure in
using it. Coryston had mostly forgotten that he possessed such a name, but
from her he liked it.
"What on earth do you mean by that?"
"In the first place, Herbert, I was never intended by nature to be a
He sprang up furiously.
"I never heard a more snobbish remark! All that you are asked is to be my
She shook her head.
"We can't make a world for ourselves only. Then there's--father."
"Well, what about him?"
"You don't get on very well," she said, with a sigh.
Coryston controlled himself with difficulty.
"For your father, the Liberal party is mostly Jahve--the hope of the
children of light. For me the Liberal party is mostly Dagon--either made a
god of by Philistines, or groveling before a stronger God--Mammon. But that
don't matter. I can behave myself."
Marion bent over her work.
"Can't I behave myself?" he repeated, threateningly, as he moved nearer
She looked up at last.
"Suppose you get bored with me--as you have with the Liberal party?"
"But never with liberty," he said, ardently.
"Suppose you come to see the seamy side of me--as you do of everybody?"
"I don't invent seamy sides--where none exist," he said, looking
peremptorily into her eyes.
"I'm not clever, Herbert--and I think I'm a Tory."
"Heavens, what do I care? You're the woman I happen to love."
"And I intend to go to church."
"Edward Newbury's kind of church?" he asked her, uneasily.
She shook her head.
"No. I'm an Evangelical."
"Thank the Lord! So am I," he said, fervently.
"It's true," he insisted. "Peace on earth--goodwill to men--that I can
understand. So that's settled. Now then--a fortnight next Wednesday?"
"No, no!" she said, in alarm, "certainly not. Wait a minute, Herbert! Where
are you going to live, and what are you going to do?"
"I'm taking over the Dorset estates. Lots to do on them, and not much
money. Arthur washes his hands of them. There's an old farm where we can
live. In six months I shall have quarreled with all the neighbors, and life
will be worth living again."
She lifted her eyebrows.
"A charming prospect for your wife!"
"Certainly. You'll have the life you were born for. You'll go round
after me--whitewashing the scandals I cause--or if you like to put it
sentimentally--binding up the wounds I make. But if I'm anything I'm a
sociologist, and my business is to make experiments. They will no doubt be
as futile as those I have been making here."
"And where shall I come in?"
"You'll be training up the boy--who'll profit by the experiments."
"The boy--our boy--who's to have the estates," said Coryston, without a
Marion flushed, and pulled her work to her again. Coryston dropped on his
knees beside her, and asked her pardon with eyes whereof the male audacity
had passed into a steady and shining tenderness.
When Coryston returned that night to the big house, he found his brothers
Arthur and James arrived for the week-end. Arthur was full of Parliamentary
gossip--"battles of kites and crows," of which Coryston was generally
intolerant. But on this occasion he took it silently, and Arthur rambled
on. James sat mildly beaming, with finger-tips joined, and the look of
one on the verge of a confidence. But he talked, after all--when Arthur
paused--only of music and the opera, and as his brothers were not musical,
he soon came to an end, and Arthur held the stage. They were gathered in
the smoking-room on the ground or garden floor, a room hung with pictures
of race-horses, and saddened by various family busts that had not been
thought good enough for the library. Outside, the March wind rattled
through trees as yet untouched by the spring, and lashed a shivering water
round the fountain nymphs.
"Whoever could have dreamed they would have held on till now!" said Arthur,
in reply to a perfunctory remark from James. Coryston looked up from a
"Who? The Government? Lord!--what does it matter? Look here, you chaps--I
heard some news in Martover just now. Lord William Newbury died last
night--heart failure--expected for the last fortnight."
Arthur received the news with the lively professional interest that one
landowner feels in another, and tied a knot in his handkerchief to remind
himself to ask Page when the funeral was to be, as the Member for the
division must of course attend it. James said, thoughtfully:
"Edward, I saw, was ordained last week. And my letter from Marcia this
morning tells me she expects to see him in Rome, on his way to India. Poor
Lady William will be very much alone!"
"If you make a solitude and call it religion, what can you expect?" said
Coryston, sharply. His face had darkened at the Newburys' name. As always,
it had evoked the memory of two piteous graves. Then, as he got up from his
chair, he said to Arthur:
"I've fixed it up. Marion and I shall get married next month."
The brothers looked a little embarrassed, though not at all surprised.
Corry's attachment to this plain, sensible lady, of moderate opinions, had
indeed astonished them enormously when they first became aware of it; but
they were now used to it.
"All right, Corry!" said Arthur, slapping his brother on the back. "The
best chance of keeping you out of a madhouse! And a very nice woman! You
don't expect me to chum with her father?"
"Not unless you wish to learn a thing or two--which was never your strong
point," said Coryston, dodging a roll of some Parliamentary paper or other,
which Arthur aimed at him. He turned to James. "Well, James, aren't you
going to congratulate me?--And why don't you do it yourself?"
"Of course I congratulate you," said James, hastily. "Most sincerely!"
But his expression--half agitated, half smiling--betrayed emotions so far
beyond the needs of the situation, that Coryston gave him a puzzled glance.
James indeed opened his mouth as though to speak. Then a bright, pink color
overspread his whole countenance from brow to chin; his lips shut and he
fell back in his chair. Presently he went away, and could be heard playing
Bach on the organ in the central hall. He returned to London the same
evening carrying a cargo of philosophical books, from the library, and a
number of novels, though as a rule he never read novels.
The next morning, in a letter to Coryston, he announced his engagement to a
girl of nineteen, an orphan, and a pupil at the Royal College of Music. She
was the daughter of his Cambridge tutor--penniless, pretty, and musical. He
had paid her fees it seemed for several years, and the effect on him of her
charming mezzo-soprano voice, at a recent concert given by the College, had
settled the matter. The philosopher in love, who had been too shy to tell
his brothers _viva voce_, was quite free of tongue in writing; and
Coryston and Arthur, though they laughed, were glad that "old James" had
found the courage to be happy. Coryston remarked to Arthur that it now
remained for him to keep up the blue blood of the family.
"Or Marcia," said Arthur, evading the personal reference.
"Marcia?" Coryston threw his brother an amused, significant look, and said
nothing for a moment. But presently he dropped out:
"Lester writes that he'll be in Rome next week looking after that Borghese
manuscript. He doesn't expect to get back here till May."
For Lester had now been absent from Coryston some three or four weeks,
traveling on matters connected with the library.
Arthur made no comment, but stood awhile by the window in a brown-study,
twisting his lip, and frowning slightly. His nondescript features and
boyish manner scarcely allowed him at any time to play the magnate with
success. But his position as master of Coryston Place, the great family
house with its pompous tradition, and the long influence of his mother, had
by now asserted, or reasserted themselves; though fighting still with the
sore memory of Enid Glenwilliam. Was he going to allow his sister to marry
out of her rank--even though the lover were the best fellow in the world?
A man may marry whom he will, and the family is only secondarily affected.
But a woman is absorbed by the family of her husband.
He finally shrugged his shoulders over it.
"Marcia is as stiff-necked as Coryston," he said to himself, "if it comes
* * * * *
April followed. Amid a crowded Rome, alive with flowers and fountains under
a life-giving sun, Marcia Coryston became sharply conscious again of the
color and beauty interwoven with mere living, for the sane and sound among
men. Edward Newbury passed through on his way to Brindisi and Southern
India; and she saw him for an hour; an interview short and restrained, but
not to be forgotten by either of the two persons concerned. When it was
over Marcia shed a few secret tears--tears of painful sympathy, of an
admiration, which was half pity; and then threw herself once more with--as
it were--a gasp of renewed welcome, into the dear, kind, many-hued world
on which Edward Newbury had turned his back. Presently Lester arrived. He
became her constant companion through the inexhaustible spectacle of Rome;
and she could watch him among the students who were his fellows, modest
or learned as they, yet marked out from most of them by the signs he
bore--signs well known by now to her--of a poetic and eager spirit,
always and everywhere in quest of the human--of man himself, laughing or
suffering, behind his works. The golden days passed by; the blue and white
anemones bloomed and died in the Alban woods; the English crowd that comes
for Easter arrived and departed; and soon Marcia herself must go home,
carrying with her the passionate yet expectant feeling of a child, tired
out with happy days, and dreaming of more to come.
These were private and personal affairs. But in March a catastrophe
happened which shook the mind of England, and profoundly altered the course
of politics. An American yacht with Glenwilliam on board was overtaken
off the Needles by a sudden and terrific storm, and went down, without a
survivor, and with nothing but some floating wreckage to tell the tale. The
Chancellor's daughter was left alone and poor. The passionate sympathy
and admiration which her father's party had felt for himself was in some
measure transferred to his daughter. But to the amazement of many persons,
she refused with scorn any pecuniary help, living on a small income, and
trying her hand, with some prospect of success, at literature. About six
weeks after her father's death Arthur Coryston found her out and again
asked her to marry him. It is probable there was some struggle in her mind,
but in the end she refused. "You are a kind, true fellow!" she said to him,
gratefully, "but it wouldn't do--it wouldn't do!" And then with a darkening
of her strong face: "There is only one thing I can do for _him_
now--to serve his causes! And you don't care for one of them! No--no!
At last, in May, Marcia came back again to live--as she supposed--at
Coryston with Arthur, and do her duty by her own people. A wonderful spring
was abroad in the land. The gorse on the slopes of the hills was a marvel,
and when the hawthorns came out beside it, or flung their bloom along the
hedgerows and the streams; when far and near the cuckoo's voice made the
new world of blossom and growth articulate; when furtive birds slipped
joyously to and fro between the nests above and a teeming earth below; when
the west winds veering between south and north, and driving the great white
clouds before them, made, every day, a new marvel of the sky--Marcia would
often hold her breath and know within herself the growth of an answering
and a heavenly spring. Lester finished his scholar's errands in Rome and
Naples, and returned to Coryston in the middle week of May, in order to
complete his work there. He found much more to do than he supposed; he
found his friends, Coryston and Arthur, eager to capture and keep him; he
found in every field and wood the kindling beauty of the year; he found
Marcia!--and a bewildering though still shy message in her dark eyes.
Through what doubts and scruples, through what stages of unfolding
confidence and growing joy their minds passed, and to what end it all moved
on, let those imagine, to whom the purest and deepest of human emotions has
ever spoken, or is speaking now.