Part 3 out of 6
preference for champagne, drank sparingly of a Spanish burgundy,
procured for her by Mr. Pendyce at a very reasonable price, and
corked between meals with a special cork. She offered it to George.
"Try some of my burgundy, dear; it's so nice."
But George refused and asked for whisky-and-soda, glancing at the
butler, who brought it in a very yellow state.
Under the influence of dinner the Squire recovered equanimity, though
he still dwelt somewhat sadly on the future.
"You young fellows," he said, with a friendly look at George, "are
such individualists. You make a business of enjoying yourselves.
With your piquet and your racing and your billiards and what not,
you'll be used up before you're fifty. You don't let your
imaginations work. A green old age ought to be your ideal, instead
of which it seems to be a green youth. Ha!" Mr. Pendyce looked at
his daughters till they said:
"Oh, Father, how can you!"
Norah, who had the more character of the two, added:
"Isn't Father rather dreadful, Mother?"
But Mrs. Pendyce was looking at her son. She had longed so many
evenings to see him sitting there.
"We'll have a game of piquet to-night, George."
George looked up and nodded with a glum smile.
On the thick, soft carpet round the table the butler and second
footman moved. The light of the wax candles fell lustrous and
subdued on the silver and fruit and flowers, on the girls' white
necks, on George's well-coloured face and glossy shirt-front, gleamed
in the jewels on his mother's long white fingers, showed off the
Squire's erect and still spruce figure; the air was languorously
sweet with the perfume of azaleas and narcissus bloom. Bee, with
soft eyes, was thinking of young Tharp, who to-day had told her that
he loved her, and wondering if father would object. Her mother was
thinking of George, stealing timid glances at his moody face. There
was no sound save the tinkle of forks and the voices of Norah and the
Squire, talking of little things. Outside, through the long opened
windows, was the still, wide country; the full moon, tinted apricot
and figured like a coin, hung above the cedar-trees, and by her light
the whispering stretches of the silent fields lay half enchanted,
half asleep, and all beyond that little ring of moonshine, unfathomed
and unknown, was darkness--a great darkness wrapping from their eyes
the restless world.
THE SINISTER NIGHT
On the day of the big race at Kempton Park, in which the Ambler,
starting favourite, was left at the post, George Pendyce had just put
his latch-key in the door of the room he had taken near Mrs. Bellew,
when a man, stepping quickly from behind, said:
"Mr. George Pendyce, I believe."
"Yes; what do you want?"
The man put into George's hand a long envelope.
"From Messrs. Frost and Tuckett."
George opened it, and read from the top of a slip of paper:
"'ADMIRALTY, PROBATE, AND DIVORCE.
The humble petition of Jaspar Bellew-----'"
He lifted his eyes, and his look, uncannily impassive, unresenting,
unangered, dogged, caused the messenger to drop his gaze as though he
had hit a man who was down.
He shut the door, and read the document through. It contained some
precise details, and ended in a claim for damages, and George smiled.
Had he received this document three months ago, he would not have
taken it thus. Three months ago he would have felt with rage that he
was caught. His thoughts would have run thus 'I have got her into a
mess; I have got myself into a mess. I never thought this would
happen. This is the devil! I must see someone--I must stop it.
There must be a way out.' Having but little imagination, his
thoughts would have beaten their wings against this cage, and at once
he would have tried to act. But this was not three months ago, and
He lit a cigarette and sat down on the sofa, and the chief feeling in
his heart was a strange hope, a sort of funereal gladness. He would
have to go and see her at once, that very night; an excuse--no need
to wait in here--to wait--wait on the chance of her coming.
He got up and drank some whisky, then went back to the sofa and sat
'If she is not here by eight,' he thought, 'I will go round.'
Opposite was a full-length mirror, and he turned to the wall to avoid
it. There was fixed on his face a look of gloomy determination, as
though he were thinking, 'I'll show them all that I'm not beaten
At the click of a latch-key he scrambled off the sofa, and his face
resumed its mask. She came in as usual, dropped her opera cloak, and
stood before him with bare shoulders. Looking in her face, he
wondered if she knew.
"I thought I'd better come," she said. "I suppose you've had the
same charming present?"
George nodded. There was a minute's silence.
"It's really rather funny. I'm sorry for you, George."
George laughed too, but his laugh was different.
"I will do all I can," he said.
Mrs. Bellew came close to him.
"I've seen about the Kempton race. What shocking luck! I suppose
you've lost a lot. Poor boy! It never rains but it pours."
George looked down.
"That's all right; nothing matters when I have you."
He felt her arms fasten behind his neck, but they were cool as
marble; he met her eyes, and they were mocking and compassionate.
Their cab, wheeling into the main thoroughfare, joined in the race of
cabs flying as for life toward the East--past the Park, where the
trees, new-leafed, were swinging their skirts like ballet-dancers in
the wind; past the Stoics' and the other clubs, rattling, jingling,
jostling for the lead, shooting past omnibuses that looked cosy in
the half-light with their lamps and rows of figures solemnly opposed.
At Blafard's the tall dark young waiter took her cloak with
reverential fingers; the little wine-waiter smiled below the
suffering in his eyes. The same red-shaded lights fell on her arms
and shoulders, the same flowers of green and yellow grew bravely in
the same blue vases. On the menu were written the same dishes. The
same idle eye peered through the chink at the corner of the red
blinds with its stare of apathetic wonder.
Often during that dinner George looked at her face by stealth, and
its expression baffled him, so careless was it. And, unlike her mood
of late, that had been glum and cold, she was in the wildest spirits.
People looked round from the other little tables, all full now that
the season had begun, her laugh was so infectious; and George felt a
sort of disgust. What was it in this woman that made her laugh, when
his own heart was heavy? But he said nothing; he dared not even look
at her, for fear his eyes should show his feeling.
'We ought to be squaring our accounts,' he thought--'looking things
in the face. Something must be done; and here she is laughing and
making everyone stare!' Done! But what could be done, when it was
all like quicksand?
The other little tables emptied one by one.
"George," she said, "take me somewhere where we can dance!"
George stared at her.
"My dear girl, how can I? There is no such place!"
"Take me to your Bohemians!"
"You can't possibly go to a place like that."
"Why not? Who cares where we go, or what we do?"
"Ah, my dear George, you and your sort are only half alive!"
Sullenly George answered:
"What do you take me for? A cad?"
But there was fear, not anger, in his heart.
"Well, then, let's drive into the East End. For goodness' sake,
let's do something not quite proper!"
They took a hansom and drove East. It was the first time either had
ever been in that unknown land.
"Close your cloak, dear; it looks odd down here."
Mrs. Bellew laughed.
"You'll be just like your father when you're sixty, George."
And she opened her cloak the wider. Round a barrel-organ at the
corner of a street were girls in bright colours dancing.
She called to the cabman to stop.
"Let's watch those children!"
"You'll only make a show of us."
Mrs. Bellew put her hands on the cab door.
"I've a good mind to get out and dance with them!"
"You're mad to-night," said George. "Sit still!"
He stretched out his arm and barred her way. The passers-by looked
curiously at the little scene. A crowd began to collect.
"Go on!" cried George.
There was a cheer from the crowd; the driver whipped his horse; they
darted East again.
It was striking twelve when the cab put them down at last near the
old church on Chelsea Embankment, and they had hardly spoken for an
And all that hour George was feeling:
'This is the woman for whom I've given it all up. This is the woman
to whom I shall be tied. This is the woman I cannot tear myself away
from. If I could, I would never see her again. But I can't live
without her. I must go on suffering when she's with me, suffering
when she's away from me. And God knows how it's all to end!'
He took her hand in the darkness; it was cold and unresponsive as a
stone. He tried to see her face, but could read nothing in those
greenish eyes staring before them, like a cat's, into the darkness.
When the cab was gone they stood looking at each other by the light
of a street lamp. And George thought:
'So I must leave her like this, and what then?'
She put her latch-key in the door, and turned round to him. In the
silent, empty street, where the wind was rustling and scraping round
the corners of tall houses, and the lamplight flickered, her face and
figure were so strange, motionless, Sphinx-like. Only her eyes
seemed alive, fastened on his own.
"Good-night!" he muttered.
"Take what you can of me, George!" she said.
Mr. PENDYCE'S HEAD
Mr. Pendyce's head, seen from behind at his library bureau, where it
was his practice to spend most mornings from half-past nine to eleven
or even twelve, was observed to be of a shape to throw no small light
upon his class and character. Its contour was almost national.
Bulging at the back, and sloping rapidly to a thin and wiry neck,
narrow between the ears and across the brow, prominent in the jaw,
the length of a line drawn from the back headland to the promontory
at the chin would have been extreme. Upon the observer there was
impressed the conviction that here was a skull denoting, by
surplusage of length, great precision of character and disposition to
action, and, by deficiency of breadth, a narrow tenacity which might
at times amount to wrong-headedness. The thin cantankerous neck, on
which little hairs grew low, and the intelligent ears, confirmed this
impression; and when his face, with its clipped hair, dry rosiness,
into which the east wind had driven a shade of yellow and the sun a
shade of brown, and grey, rather discontented eyes, came into view,
the observer had no longer any hesitation in saying that he was in
the presence of an Englishman, a landed proprietor, and, but for Mr.
Pendyce's rooted belief to the contrary, an individualist. His head,
indeed, was like nothing so much as the Admiralty Pier at Dover--that
strange long narrow thing, with a slight twist or bend at the end,
which first disturbs the comfort of foreigners arriving on these
shores, and strikes them with a sense of wonder and dismay.
He sat very motionless at his bureau, leaning a little over his
papers like a man to whom things do not come too easily; and every
now and then he stopped to refer to the calendar at his left hand, or
to a paper in one of the many pigeonholes. Open, and almost out of
reach, was a back volume of Punch, of which periodical, as a landed
proprietor, he had an almost professional knowledge. In leisure
moments it was one of his chief recreations to peruse lovingly those
aged pictures, and at the image of John Bull he never failed to
think: 'Fancy making an Englishman out a fat fellow like that!'
It was as though the artist had offered an insult to himself, passing
him over as the type, and conferring that distinction on someone fast
going out of fashion. The Rector, whenever he heard Mr. Pendyce say
this, strenuously opposed him, for he was himself of a square, stout
build, and getting stouter.
With all their aspirations to the character of typical Englishmen,
Mr. Pendyce and Mr. Barter thought themselves far from the old beef
and beer, port and pigskin types of the Georgian and early Victorian
era. They were men of the world, abreast of the times, who by virtue
of a public school and 'Varsity training had acquired a manner, a
knowledge of men and affairs, a standard of thought on which it had
really never been needful to improve. Both of them, but especially
Mr. Pendyce, kept up with all that was going forward by visiting the
Metropolis six or seven or even eight times a year. On these
occasions they rarely took their wives, having almost always
important business in hand--old College, Church, or Conservative
dinners, cricket-matches, Church Congress, the Gaiety Theatre, and
for Mr. Barter the Lyceum. Both, too, belonged to clubs--the Rector
to a comfortable, old-fashioned place where he could get a rubber
without gambling, and Mr. Pendyce to the Temple of things as they had
been, as became a man who, having turned all social problems over in
his mind, had decided that there was no real safety but in the past.
They always went up to London grumbling, but this was necessary, and
indeed salutary, because of their wives; and they always came back
grumbling, because of their livers, which a good country rest always
fortunately reduced in time for the next visit. In this way they
kept themselves free from the taint of provincialism.
In the silence of his master's study the spaniel John, whose head,
too, was long and narrow, had placed it over his paw, as though
suffering from that silence, and when his master cleared his throat
he guttered his tail and turned up an eye with a little moon of
white, without stirring his chin.
The clock ticked at the end of the long, narrow room; the sunlight
through the long, narrow windows fell on the long, narrow backs of
books in the glassed book-case that took up the whole of one wall;
and this room, with its slightly leathery smell, seemed a fitting
place for some long, narrow ideal to be worked out to its long and
But Mr. Pendyce would have scouted the notion of an ending to ideals
having their basis in the hereditary principle.
"Let me do my duty and carry on the estate as my dear old father did,
and hand it down to my son enlarged if possible," was sometimes his
saying, very, very often his thought, not seldom his prayer. "I want
to do no more than that."
The times were bad and dangerous. There was every chance of a
Radical Government being returned, and the country going to the dogs.
It was but natural and human that he should pray for the survival of
the form of things which he believed in and knew, the form of things
bequeathed to him, and embodied in the salutary words "Horace
Pendyce." It was not his habit to welcome new ideas. A new idea
invading the country of the Squire's mind was at once met with a
rising of the whole population, and either prevented from landing, or
if already on shore instantly taken prisoner. In course of time the
unhappy creature, causing its squeaks and groans to penetrate the
prison walls, would be released from sheer humaneness and love of a
quiet life, and even allowed certain privileges, remaining, however,
"that poor, queer devil of a foreigner." One day, in an inattentive
moment, the natives would suffer it to marry, or find that in some
disgraceful way it had caused the birth of children unrecognised by
law; and their respect for the accomplished fact, for something that
already lay in the past, would then prevent their trying to unmarry
it, or restoring the children to an unborn state, and very gradually
they would tolerate this intrusive brood. Such was the process of
Mr. Pendyce's mind. Indeed, like the spaniel John, a dog of
conservative instincts, at the approach of any strange thing he
placed himself in the way, barking and showing his teeth; and
sometimes truly he suffered at the thought that one day Horace
Pendyce would no longer be there to bark. But not often, for he had
not much imagination.
All the morning he had been working at that old vexed subject of
Common Rights on Worsted Scotton, which his father had fenced in and
taught him once for all to believe was part integral of Worsted
Skeynes. The matter was almost beyond doubt, for the cottagers--in a
poor way at the time of the fencing, owing to the price of bread--had
looked on apathetically till the very last year required by law to
give the old Squire squatter's rights, when all of a sudden that man,
Peacock's father, had made a gap in the fence and driven in beasts,
which had reopened the whole unfortunate question. This had been in
'65, and ever since there had been continual friction bordering on a
law suit. Mr. Pendyce never for a moment allowed it to escape his
mind that the man Peacock was at the bottom of it all; for it was his
way to discredit all principles as ground of action, and to refer
everything to facts and persons; except, indeed, when he acted
himself, when he would somewhat proudly admit that it was on
principle. He never thought or spoke on an abstract question; partly
because his father had avoided them before him, partly because he had
been discouraged from doing so at school, but mainly because he
temperamentally took no interest in such unpractical things.
It was, therefore, a source of wonder to him that tenants of his own
should be ungrateful. He did his duty by them, as the Rector, in
whose keeping were their souls, would have been the first to affirm;
the books of his estate showed this, recording year by year an
average gross profit of some sixteen hundred pounds, and (deducting
raw material incidental to the upkeep of Worsted Skeynes) a net loss
In less earthly matters, too, such as non-attendance at church, a
predisposition to poaching, or any inclination to moral laxity, he
could say with a clear conscience that the Rector was sure of his
support. A striking instance had occurred within the last month,
when, discovering that his under-keeper, an excellent man at his
work, had got into a scrape with the postman's wife, he had given the
young fellow notice, and cancelled the lease of his cottage.
He rose and went to the plan of the estate fastened to the wall,
which he unrolled by pulling a green silk cord, and stood there
scrutinising it carefully and placing his finger here and there. His
spaniel rose too, and settled himself unobtrusively on his master's
foot. Mr. Pendyce moved and trod on him. The spaniel yelped.
"D--n the dog! Oh, poor fellow, John!" said Mr. Pendyce. He went
back to his seat, but since he had identified the wrong spot he was
obliged in a minute to return again to the plan. The spaniel John,
cherishing the hope that he had been justly treated, approached in a
half circle, fluttering his tail; he had scarcely reached Mr.
Pendyce's foot when the door was opened, and the first footman
brought in a letter on a silver salver.
Mr. Pendyce took the note, read it, turned to his bureau, and said:
He sat staring at this document in the silent room, and over his face
in turn passed anger, alarm, distrust, bewilderment. He had not the
power of making very clear his thought, except by speaking aloud, and
he muttered to himself. The spaniel John, who still nurtured a
belief that he had sinned, came and lay down very close against his
Mr. Pendyce, never having reflected profoundly on the working
morality of his times, had the less difficulty in accepting it. Of
violating it he had practically no opportunity, and this rendered his
position stronger. It was from habit and tradition rather than from
principle and conviction that he was a man of good moral character.
And as he sat reading this note over and over, he suffered from a
sense of nausea.
It was couched in these terms:
"You may or may not have heard that I have made your son, Mr. George
Pendyce, correspondent in a divorce suit against my wife. Neither
for your sake nor your son's, but for the sake of Mrs. Pendyce, who
is the only woman in these parts that I respect, I will withdraw the
suit if your son will give his word not to see my wife again.
"Please send me an early answer.
"Your obedient servant,
The acceptance of tradition (and to accept it was suitable to the
Squire's temperament) is occasionally marred by the impingement of
tradition on private life and comfort. It was legendary in his class
that young men's peccadilloes must be accepted with a certain
indulgence. They would, he said, be young men. They must, he would
remark, sow their wild oats. Such was his theory. The only
difficulty he now had was in applying it to his own particular case,
a difficulty felt by others in times past, and to be felt again in
times to come. But, since he was not a philosopher, he did not
perceive the inconsistency between his theory and his dismay. He saw
his universe reeling before that note, and he was not a man to suffer
tamely; he felt that others ought to suffer too. It was monstrous
that a fellow like this Bellew, a loose fish, a drunkard, a man who
had nearly run over him, should have it in his power to trouble the
serenity of Worsted Skeynes. It was like his impudence to bring such
a charge against his son. It was like his d----d impudence! And
going abruptly to the bell, he trod on his spaniel's ear.
"D---n the dog! Oh, poor fellow, John!" But the spaniel John,
convinced at last that he had sinned, hid himself in a far corner
whence he could see nothing, and pressed his chin closely to the
"Ask your mistress to come here."
Standing by the hearth, waiting for his wife, the Squire displayed to
greater advantage than ever the shape of his long and narrow head;
his neck had grown conspicuously redder; his eyes, like those of an
offended swan, stabbed, as it were, at everything they saw.
It was not seldom that Mrs. Pendyce was summoned to the study to hear
him say: "I want to ask your advice. So-and-so has done such and
such.... I have made up my mind."
She came, therefore, in a few minutes. In compliance with his "Look
at that, Margery," she read the note, and gazed at him with distress
in her eyes, and he looked back at her with wrath in his. For this
Not to everyone is it given to take a wide view of things--to look
over the far, pale streams, the purple heather, and moonlit pools of
the wild marches, where reeds stand black against the sundown, and
from long distance comes the cry of a curlew--nor to everyone to gaze
from steep cliffs over the wine-dark, shadowy sea--or from high
mountainsides to see crowned chaos, smoking with mist, or gold-bright
in the sun.
To most it is given to watch assiduously a row of houses, a back-
yard, or, like Mrs. and Mr. Pendyce, the green fields, trim coverts,
and Scotch garden of Worsted Skeynes. And on that horizon the
citation of their eldest son to appear in the Divorce Court loomed
like a cloud, heavy with destruction.
So far as such an event could be realised imagination at Worsted
Skeynes was not too vivid--it spelled ruin to an harmonious edifice
of ideas and prejudice and aspiration. It would be no use to say of
that event, "What does it matter? Let people think what they like,
talk as they like." At Worsted Skeynes (and Worsted Skeynes was
every country house) there was but one set of people, one church, one
pack of hounds, one everything. The importance of a clear escutcheon
was too great. And they who had lived together for thirty-four years
looked at each other with a new expression in their eyes; their
feelings were for once the same. But since it is always the man who
has the nicer sense of honour, their thoughts were not the same, for
Mr. Pendyce was thinking: 'I won't believe it--disgracing us all!'
and Mrs. Pendyce was thinking: 'My boy!'
It was she who spoke first.
The sound of her voice restored the Squire's fortitude.
"There you go, Margery! D'you mean to say you believe what this
fellow says? He ought to be horsewhipped. He knows my opinion of
"It's a piece of his confounded impudence! He nearly ran over me, and
Mrs. Pendyce broke in:
"But, Horace, I'm afraid it's true! Ellen Maiden----"
"Ellen Maiden?" said Mr. Pendyce. "What business has she----" He was
silent, staring gloomily at the plan of Worsted Skeynes, still
unrolled, like an emblem of all there was at stake. "If George has
really," he burst out, "he's a greater fool than I took him for! A
fool? He's a knave!"
Again he was silent.
Mrs. Pendyce flushed at that word, and bit her lips.
"George could never be a knave!" she said.
Mr. Pendyce answered heavily:
"Disgracing his name!"
Mrs. Pendyce bit deeper into her lips.
"Whatever he has done," she said, "George is sure to have behaved
like a gentleman!"
An angry smile twisted the Squire's mouth.
"Just like a woman!" he said.
But the smile died away, and on both their faces came a helpless
look. Like people who have lived together without real sympathy--
though, indeed, they had long ceased to be conscious of that--now
that something had occurred in which their interests were actually at
one, they were filled with a sort of surprise. It was no good to
differ. Differing, even silent differing, would not help their son.
"I shall write to George," said Mr. Pendyce at last. "I shall
believe nothing till I've heard from him. He'll tell us the truth, I
There was a quaver in his voice.
Mrs. Pendyce answered quickly:
"Oh, Horace, be careful what you say! I'm sure he is suffering!"
Her gentle soul, disposed to pleasure, was suffering, too, and the
tears stole up in her eyes. Mr. Pendyce's sight was too long to see
them. The infirmity had been growing on him ever since his marriage.
"I shall say what I think right," he said. "I shall take time to
consider what I shall say; I won't be hurried by this ruffian."
Mrs. Pendyce wiped her lips with her lace-edged handkerchief.
"I hope you will show me the letter," she said.
The Squire looked at her, and he realised that she was trembling and
very white, and, though this irritated him, he answered almost
"It's not a matter for you, my dear."
Mrs. Pendyce took a step towards him; her gentle face expressed a
"He is my son, Horace, as well as yours."
Mr. Pendyce turned round uneasily.
"It's no use your getting nervous, Margery. I shall do what's best.
You women lose your heads. That d----d fellow's lying!
If he isn't----"
At these words the spaniel John rose from his corner and advanced to
the middle of the floor. He stood there curved in a half-circle, and
looked darkly at his master.
"Confound it!" said Mr. Pendyce. "It's--it's damnable!"
And as if answering for all that depended on Worsted Skeynes, the
spaniel John deeply wagged that which had been left him of his tail.
Mrs. Pendyce came nearer still.
"If George refuses to give you that promise, what will you do,
Mr. Pendyce stared.
"Promise? What promise?"
Mrs. Pendyce thrust forward the note.
"This promise not to see her again."
Mr. Pendyce motioned it aside.
"I'll not be dictated to by that fellow Bellew," he said. Then, by
an afterthought: "It won't do to give him a chance. George must
promise me that in any case."
Mrs. Pendyce pressed her lips together.
"But do you think he will?"
"Think--think who will? Think he will what? Why can't you express
yourself, Margery? If George has really got us into this mess he
must get us out again."
Mrs. Pendyce flushed.
"He would never leave her in the lurch!"
The Squire said angrily:
"Lurch! Who said anything about lurch? He owes it to her. Not that
she deserves any consideration, if she's been----You don't mean to
say you think he'll refuse? He'd never be such a donkey?"
Mrs. Pendyce raised her hands and made what for her was a passionate
"Oh, Horace!" she said, "you don't understand. He's in love with
Mr. Pendyce's lower lip trembled, a sign with him of excitement or
emotion. All the conservative strength of his nature, all the
immense dumb force of belief in established things, all that stubborn
hatred and dread of change, that incalculable power of imagining
nothing, which, since the beginning of time, had made Horace Pendyce
the arbiter of his land, rose up within his sorely tried soul.
"What on earth's that to do with it?" he cried in a rage. "You
women! You've no sense of anything! Romantic, idiotic, immoral--I
don't know what you're at. For God's sake don't go putting ideas
into his head!"
At this outburst Mrs. Pendyce's face became rigid; only the flicker
of her eyelids betrayed how her nerves were quivering. Suddenly she
threw her hands up to her ears.
"Horace!" she cried, "do----Oh, poor John!"
The Squire had stepped hastily and heavily on to his dog's paw. The
creature gave a grievous howl. Mr. Pendyce went down on his knees
and raised the limb.
"Damn the dog!" he stuttered. "Oh, poor fellow, John!"
And the two long and narrow heads for a moment were close together.
RECTOR AND SQUIRE
The efforts of social man, directed from immemorial time towards the
stability of things, have culminated in Worsted Skeynes. Beyond
commercial competition--for the estate no longer paid for living on
it--beyond the power of expansion, set with tradition and sentiment,
it was an undoubted jewel, past need of warranty. Cradled within it
were all those hereditary institutions of which the country was most
proud, and Mr. Pendyce sometimes saw before him the time when, for
services to his party, he should call himself Lord Worsted, and after
his own death continue sitting in the House of Lords in the person of
his son. But there was another feeling in the Squire's heart--the
air and the woods and the fields had passed into his blood a love for
this, his home and the home of his fathers.
And so a terrible unrest pervaded the whole household after the
receipt of Jaspar Bellew's note. Nobody was told anything, yet
everybody knew there was something; and each after his fashion, down
to the very dogs, betrayed their sympathy with the master and
mistress of the house.
Day after day the girls wandered about the new golf course knocking
the balls aimlessly; it was all they could do. Even Cecil Tharp, who
had received from Bee the qualified affirmative natural under the
circumstances, was infected. The off foreleg of her grey mare was
being treated by a process he had recently discovered, and in the
stables he confided to Bee that the dear old Squire seemed "off his
feed;" he did not think it was any good worrying him at present.
Bee, stroking the mare's neck, looked at him shyly and slowly.
"It's about George," she said; "I know it's about George! Oh, Cecil!
I do wish I had been a boy!"
Young Tharp assented in spite of himself:
"Yes; it must be beastly to be a girl."
A faint flush coloured Bee's cheeks. It hurt her a little that he
should agree; but her lover was passing his hand down the mare's
"Father is rather trying," she said. "I wish George would marry."
Cecil Tharp raised his bullet head; his blunt, honest face was
extremely red from stooping.
"Clean as a whistle," he said; "she's all right, Bee. I expect
George has too good a time."
Bee turned her face away and murmured:
"I should loathe living in London." And she, too, stooped and felt
the mare's shin.
To Mrs. Pendyce in these days the hours passed with incredible
slowness. For thirty odd years she had waited at once for everything
and nothing; she had, so to say, everything she could wish for, and--
nothing, so that even waiting had been robbed of poignancy; but to
wait like this, in direct suspense, for something definite was
terrible. There was hardly a moment when she did not conjure up
George, lonely and torn by conflicting emotions; for to her, long
paralysed by Worsted Skeynes, and ignorant of the facts, the
proportions of the struggle in her son's soul appeared Titanic; her
mother instinct was not deceived as to the strength of his passion.
Strange and conflicting were the sensations with which she awaited
the result; at one moment thinking, 'It is madness; he must promise--
it is too awful!' at another, 'Ah! but how can he, if he loves her
so? It is impossible; and she, too--ah! how awful it is!'
Perhaps, as Mr. Pendyce had said, she was romantic; perhaps it was
only the thought of the pain her boy must suffer. The tooth was too
big, it seemed to her; and, as in old days, when she took him to
Cornmarket to have an aching tooth out, she ever sat with his hand in
hers while the little dentist pulled, and ever suffered the tug, too,
in her own mouth, so now she longed to share this other tug, so
terrible, so fierce.
Against Mrs. Bellew she felt only a sort of vague and jealous aching;
and this seemed strange even to herself--but, again, perhaps she was
Now it was that she found the value of routine. Her days were so
well and fully occupied that anxiety was forced below the surface.
The nights were far more terrible; for then, not only had she to bear
her own suspense, but, as was natural in a wife, the fears of Horace
Pendyce as well. The poor Squire found this the only time when he
could get relief from worry; he came to bed much earlier on purpose.
By dint of reiterating dreads and speculation he at length obtained
some rest. Why had not George answered? What was the fellow about?
And so on and so on, till, by sheer monotony, he caused in himself
the need for slumber. But his wife's torments lasted till after the
birds, starting with a sleepy cheeping, were at full morning chorus.
Then only, turning softly for fear she should awaken him, the poor
lady fell asleep.
For George had not answered.
In her morning visits to the village Mrs. Pendyce found herself, for
the first time since she had begun this practice, driven by her own
trouble over that line of diffident distrust which had always divided
her from the hearts of her poorer neighbours. She was astonished at
her own indelicacy, asking questions, prying into their troubles,
pushed on by a secret aching for distraction; and she was surprised
how well they took it--how, indeed, they seemed to like it, as though
they knew that they were doing her good. In one cottage, where she
had long noticed with pitying wonder a white-faced, black-eyed girl,
who seemed to crouch away from everyone, she even received a request.
It was delivered with terrified secrecy in a back-yard, out of Mrs.
"Oh, ma'am! Get me away from here! I'm in trouble--it's comin', and
I don't know what I shall do."
Mrs. Pendyce shivered, and all the way home she thought: 'Poor little
soul--poor little thing!' racking her brains to whom she might
confide this case and ask for a solution; and something of the white-
faced, black-eyed girl's terror and secrecy fell on her, for, she
found no one not even Mrs. Barter, whose heart, though soft, belonged
to the Rector. Then, by a sort of inspiration, she thought of
'How can I write to him,' she mused, 'when my son----'
But she did write, for, deep down, the Totteridge instinct felt that
others should do things for her; and she craved, too, to allude,
however distantly, to what was on her mind. And, under the Pendyce
eagle and the motto: 'Strenuus aureaque penna', thus her letter ran:
"Can you do anything for a poor little girl in the village here who
is 'in trouble'?--you know what I mean. It is such a terrible crime
in this part of the country, and she looks so wretched and
frightened, poor little thing! She is twenty years old. She wants a
hiding-place for her misfortune, and somewhere to go when it is over.
Nobody, she says, will have anything to do with her where they know;
and, really, I have noticed for a long time how white and wretched
she looks, with great black frightened eyes. I don't like to apply
to our Rector, for though he is a good fellow in many ways, he has
such strong opinions; and, of course, Horace could do nothing. I
would like to do something for her, and I could spare a little money,
but I can't find a place for her to go, and that makes it difficult.
She seems to be haunted, too, by the idea that wherever she goes it
will come out. Isn't it dreadful? Do do something, if you can. I
am rather anxious about George. I hope the dear boy is well. If you
are passing his club some day you might look in and just ask after
him. He is sometimes so naughty about writing. I wish we could see
you here, dear Grig; the country is looking beautiful just now--the
oak-trees especially--and the apple-blossom isn't over, but I suppose
you are too busy. How is Helen Bellew? Is she in town?
"Your affectionate cousin,
It was four o'clock this same afternoon when the second groom, very
much out of breath, informed the butler that there was a fire at
Peacock's farm. The butler repaired at once to the library. Mr.
Pendyce, who had been on horseback all the morning, was standing in
his riding-clothes, tired and depressed, before the plan of Worsted
"What do you want, Bester?"
"There is a fire at Peacock's farm, sir." Mr. Pendyce stared.
"What?" he said. "A fire in broad daylight! Nonsense!"
"You can see the flames from the front, sir." The worn and querulous
look left Mr. Pendyce's face.
"Ring the stable-bell!" he said. "Tell them all to run with buckets
and ladders. Send Higson off to Cornmarket on the mare. Go and tell
Mr. Barter, and rouse the village. Don't stand there--God bless me!
Ring the stable-bell!" And snatching up his riding-crop and hat, he
ran past the butler, closely followed by the spaniel John.
Over the stile and along the footpath which cut diagonally across a
field of barley he moved at a stiff trot, and his spaniel, who had
not grasped the situation, frolicked ahead with a certain surprise.
The Squire was soon out of breath--it was twenty years or more since
he had run a quarter of a mile. He did not, however, relax his
speed. Ahead of him in the distance ran the second groom; behind him
a labourer and a footman. The stable-bell at Worsted Skeynes began
to ring. Mr. Pendyce crossed the stile and struck into the lane,
colliding with the Rector, who was running, too, his face flushed to
the colour of tomatoes. They ran on, side by side.
"You go on!" gasped Mr. Pendyce at last, "and tell them I'm coming."
The Rector hesitated--he, too, was very out of breath--and started
again, panting. The Squire, with his hand to his side, walked
painfully on; he had run himself to a standstill. At a gap in the
corner of the lane he suddenly saw pale-red tongues of flame against
"God bless me!" he gasped, and in sheer horror started to run again.
Those sinister tongues were licking at the air over a large barn,
some ricks, and the roofs of stables and outbuildings. Half a dozen
figures were dashing buckets of water on the flames. The true
insignificance of their efforts did not penetrate the Squire's mind.
Trembling, and with a sickening pain in his lungs, he threw off his
coat, wrenched a bucket from a huge agricultural labourer, who
resigned it with awe, and joined the string of workers. Peacock, the
farmer, ran past him; his face and round red beard were the colour of
the flames he was trying to put out; tears dropped continually from
his eyes and ran down that fiery face. His wife, a little dark woman
with a twisted mouth, was working like a demon at the pump.
Mr. Pendyce gasped to her:
"This is dreadful, Mrs. Peacock--this is dreadful!"
Conspicuous in black clothes and white shirt-sleeves, the Rector was
hewing with an axe at the boarding of a cowhouse, the door end of
which was already in flames, and his voice could be heard above the
tumult shouting directions to which nobody paid any heed.
"What's in that cow-house?" gasped Mr. Pendyce.
Mrs. Peacock, in a voice harsh with rage and grief answered:
"It's the old horse and two of the cows!"
"God bless me!" cried the Squire, rushing forward with his bucket.
Some villagers came running up, and he shouted to these, but what he
said neither he nor they could tell. The shrieks and snortings of
the horse and cows, the steady whirr of the flames, drowned all
lesser sounds. Of human cries, the Rector's voice alone was heard,
between the crashing blows of his axe upon the woodwork.
Mr. Pendyce tripped; his bucket rolled out of his hand; he lay where
he had fallen, too exhausted to move. He could still hear the crash
of the Rector's axe, the sound of his shouts. Somebody helped him
up, and trembling so that he could hardly stand, he caught an axe out
of the hand of a strapping young fellow who had just arrived, and
placing himself by the Rector's side, swung it feebly against the
boarding. The flames and smoke now filled the whole cow-house, and
came rushing through the gap that they were making. The Squire and
the Rector stood their ground. With a furious blow Mr. Barter
cleared a way. A cheer rose behind them, but no beast came forth.
All three were dead in the smoke and flames.
The Squire, who could see in, flung down his axe, and covered his
eyes with his hands. The Rector uttered a sound like a deep oath,
and he, too, flung down his axe.
Two hours later, with torn and blackened clothes, the Squire stood by
the ruins of the barn. The fire was out, but the ashes were still
smouldering. The spaniel John, anxious, panting, was licking his
master's boots, as though begging forgiveness that he had been so
frightened, and kept so far away. Yet something in his eye seemed to
"Must you really have these fires, master?"
A black hand grasped the Squire's arm, a hoarse voice said:
"I shan't forget, Squire!"
"God bless me, Peacock!" returned Mr. Pendyce, "that's nothing!
You're insured, I hope?'
"Aye, I'm insured; but it's the beasts I'm thinking of!"
"Ah!" said the Squire, with a gesture of horror.
The brougham took him and the Rector back together. Under their feet
crouched their respective dogs, faintly growling at each other. A
cheer from the crowd greeted their departure.
They started in silence, deadly tired. Mr. Pendyce said suddenly:
"I can't get those poor beasts out of my head, Barter!"
The Rector put his hand up to his eyes.
"I hope to God I shall never see such a sight again! Poor brutes,
And feeling secretly for his dog's muzzle, he left his hand against
the animal's warm, soft, rubbery mouth, to be licked again and again.
On his side of the brougham Mr. Pendyce, also unseen, was doing
precisely the same thing.
The carriage went first to the Rectory, where Mrs. Barter and her
children stood in the doorway. The Rector put his head back into the
brougham to say:
"Good-night, Pendyce. You'll be stiff tomorrow. I shall get my wife
to rub me with Elliman!"
Mr. Pendyce nodded, raised his hat, and the carriage went on.
Leaning back, he closed his eyes; a pleasanter sensation was stealing
over him. True, he would be stiff to-morrow, but he had done his
duty. He had shown them all that blood told; done something to
bolster up that system which was-himself. And he had a new and
kindly feeling towards Peacock, too. There was nothing like a little
danger for bringing the lower classes closer; then it was they felt
the need for officers, for something!
The spaniel John's head rose between his knees, turning up eyes with
a crimson touch beneath.
'Master,' he seemed to say, 'I am feeling old. I know there are
things beyond me in this life, but you, who know all things, will
arrange that we shall be together even when we die.'
The carriage stopped at the entrance of the drive, and the Squire's
thoughts changed. Twenty years ago he would have beaten Barter
running down that lane. Barter was only forty-five. To give him
fourteen years and a beating was a bit too much to expect: He felt a
strange irritation with Barter--the fellow had cut a very good
figure! He had shirked nothing. Elliman was too strong! Homocea
was the thing. Margery would have to rub him! And suddenly, as
though springing naturally from the name of his wife, George came
into Mr. Pendyce's mind, and the respite that he had enjoyed from
care was over. But the spaniel John, who scented home, began singing
feebly for the brougham to stop, and beating a careless tail against
his master's boot.
It was very stiffly, with frowning brows and a shaking under-lip,
that the Squire descended from the brougham, and began sorely to
mount the staircase to his wife's room.
There comes a day each year in May when Hyde Park is possessed. A
cool wind swings the leaves; a hot sun glistens on Long Water, on
every bough, on every blade of grass. The birds sing their small
hearts out, the band plays its gayest tunes, the white clouds race in
the high blue heaven. Exactly why and how this day differs from
those that came before and those that will come after, cannot be
told; it is as though the Park said: 'To-day I live; the Past is
past. I care not for the Future!'
And on this day they who chance in the Park cannot escape some
measure of possession. Their steps quicken, their skirts swing,
their sticks flourish, even their eyes brighten--those eyes so dulled
with looking at the streets; and each one, if he has a Love, thinks
of her, and here and there among the wandering throng he has her with
him. To these the Park and all sweet-blooded mortals in it nod and
There had been a meeting that afternoon at Lady Maiden's in Prince's
Gate to consider the position of the working-class woman. It had
provided a somewhat heated discussion, for a person had got up and
proved almost incontestably that the working-class woman had no
Gregory Vigil and Mrs. Shortman had left this meeting together, and,
crossing the Serpentine, struck a line over the grass.
"Mrs. Shortman," said Gregory, "don't you think we're all a little
He was carrying his hat in his hand, and his fine grizzled hair,
rumpled in the excitement of the meeting, had not yet subsided on his
"Yes, Mr. Vigil. I don't exactly----"
"We are all a little mad! What did that woman, Lady Maiden, mean by
talking as she did? I detest her!"
"Oh, Mr. Vigil! She has the best intentions!"
"Intentions?" said Gregory. "I loathe her! What did we go to her
stuffy drawing-room for? Look at that sky!"
Mrs. Shortman looked at the sky.
"But, Mr. Vigil," she said earnestly, "things would never get done.
Sometimes I think you look at everything too much in the light of the
way it ought to be!"
"The Milky Way," said Gregory.
Mrs. Shortman pursed her lips; she found it impossible to habituate
herself to Gregory's habit of joking.
They had scant talk for the rest of their journey to the S. R. W. C.,
where Miss Mallow, at the typewriter, was reading a novel.
"There are several letters for you, Mr. Vigil"
"Mrs. Shortman says I am unpractical," answered Gregory. "Is that
true, Miss Mallow?"
The colour in Miss Mallow's cheeks spread to her sloping shoulders.
"Oh no. You're most practical, only--perhaps--I don't know, perhaps
you do try to do rather impossible things, Mr. Vigil"
There was a minute's silence. Then Mrs. Shortman at her bureau
beginning to dictate, the typewriter started clicking.
Gregory, who had opened a letter, was seated with his head in his
hands. The voice ceased, the typewriter ceased, but Gregory did not
stir. Both women, turning a little in their seats, glanced at him.
Their eyes caught each other's and they looked away at once. A few
seconds later they were looking at him again. Still Gregory did not
stir. An anxious appeal began to creep into the women's eyes.
"Mr. Vigil," said Mrs. Shortman at last, "Mr. Vigil, do you think---"
Gregory raised his face; it was flushed to the roots of his hair.
"Read that, Mrs. Shortman."
Handing her a pale grey letter stamped with an eagle and the motto
'Strenuus aureaque penna' he rose and paced the room. And as with
his long, light stride he was passing to and fro, the woman at the
bureau conned steadily the writing, the girl at the typewriter sat
motionless with a red and jealous face.
Mrs. Shortman folded the letter, placed it on the top of the bureau,
and said without raising her eyes
"Of course, it is very sad for the poor little girl; but surely, Mr.
Vigil, it must always be, so as to check, to check----"
Gregory stopped, and his shining eyes disconcerted her; they seemed
to her unpractical. Sharply lifting her voice, she went on:
"If there were no disgrace, there would be no way of stopping it. I
know the country better than you do, Mr. Vigil."
Gregory put his hands to his ears.
"We must find a place for her at once."
The window was fully open, so that he could not open it any more, and
he stood there as though looking for that place in the sky. And the
sky he looked at was very blue, and large white birds of cloud were
flying over it.
He turned from the window, and opened another letter.
"LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS,
"May 24, 1892.
"MY DEAR VIGIL,
"I gathered from your ward when I saw her yesterday that she has not
told you of what, I fear, will give you much pain. I asked her
point-blank whether she wished the matter kept from you, and her
answer was, 'He had better know--only I'm sorry for him.' In sum it
is this: Bellow has either got wind of our watching him, or someone
must have put him up to it; he has anticipated us and brought a suit
against your ward, joining George Pendyce in the cause. George
brought the citation to me. If necessary he's prepared to swear
there's nothing in it. He takes, in fact, the usual standpoint of
the 'man of honour.'
"I went at once to see your ward. She admitted that the charge is
true. I asked her if she wished the suit defended, and a counter-
suit brought against her husband. Her answer to that was: 'I
absolutely don't care.' I got nothing from her but this, and, though
it sounds odd, I believe it to be true. She appears to be in a
reckless mood, and to have no particular ill-will against her
"I want to see you, but only after you have turned this matter over
carefully. It is my duty to put some considerations before you. The
suit, if brought, will be a very unpleasant matter for George, a
still more unpleasant, even disastrous one, for his people. The
innocent in such cases are almost always the greatest sufferers. If
the cross-suit is instituted, it will assume at once, considering
their position in Society, the proportions of a 'cause celebre', and
probably occupy the court and the daily presses anything from three
days to a week, perhaps more, and you know what that means. On the
other hand, not to defend the suit, considering what we know, is,
apart from ethics, revolting to my instincts as a fighter. My
advice, therefore, is to make every effort to prevent matters being
brought into court at all.
"I am an older man than you by thirteen years. I have a sincere
regard for you, and I wish to save you pain. In the course of our
interviews I have observed your ward very closely, and at the risk of
giving you offence, I am going to speak out my mind. Mrs. Bellew is
a rather remarkable woman. From two or three allusions that you have
made in my presence, I believe that she is altogether different from
what you think. She is, in my opinion, one of those very vital
persons upon whom our judgments, censures, even our sympathies, are
wasted. A woman of this sort, if she comes of a county family, and
is thrown by circumstances with Society people, is always bound to be
conspicuous. If you would realise something of this, it would, I
believe, save you a great deal of pain. In short, I beg of you not
to take her, or her circumstances, too seriously. There are quite a
number of such men and women as her husband and herself, and they are
always certain to be more or less before the public eye. Whoever
else goes down, she will swim, simply because she can't help it. I
want you to see things as they are.
"I ask you again, my dear Vigil, to forgive me for writing thus, and
to believe that my sole desire is to try and save you unnecessary
"Come and see me as soon as you have reflected:
"Your sincere friend,
Gregory made a movement like that of a blind man. Both women were on
their feet at once.
"What is it, Mr. Vigil? Can I get you anything?"
"Thanks; nothing, nothing. I've had some rather bad news. I'll go
out and get some air. I shan't be back to-day."
He found his hat and went.
He walked towards the Park, unconsciously attracted towards the
biggest space, the freshest air; his hands were folded behind him,
his head bowed. And since, of all things, Nature is ironical, it was
fitting that he should seek the Park this day when it was gayest.
And far in the Park, as near the centre as might be, he lay down on
the grass. For a long time he lay without moving, his hands over his
eyes, and in spite of Mr. Paramor's reminder that his suffering was
unnecessary, he suffered.
And mostly he suffered from black loneliness, for he was a very
lonely man, and now he had lost that which he had thought he had.
It is difficult to divide suffering, difficult to say how much he
suffered, because, being in love with her, he had secretly thought
she must love him a little, and how much he suffered because his
private portrait of her, the portrait that he, and he alone, had
painted, was scored through with the knife. And he lay first on his
face, and then on his back, with his hand always over his eyes. And
around him were other men lying on the grass, and some were lonely,
and some hungry, and some asleep, and some were lying there for the
pleasure of doing nothing and for the sake of the hot sun on their
cheeks; and by the side of some lay their girls, and it was these
that Gregory could not bear to see, for his spirit and his senses
were a-hungered. In the plantations close by were pigeons, and never
for a moment did they stop cooing; never did the blackbirds cease
their courting songs; the sun its hot, sweet burning; the clouds
above their love-chase in the sky. It was the day without a past,
without a future, when it is not good for man to be alone. And no
man looked at him, because it was no man's business, but a woman here
and there cast a glance on that long, tweed-suited figure with the
hand over the eyes, and wondered, perhaps, what was behind that hand.
Had they but known, they would have smiled their woman's smile that
he should so have mistaken one of their sex.
Gregory lay quite still, looking at the sky, and because he was a
loyal man he did not blame her, but slowly, very slowly, his spirit,
like a spring stretched to the point of breaking, came back upon
itself, and since he could not bear to see things as they were, he
began again to see them as they were not.
'She has been forced into this,' he thought. 'It is George Pendyce's
fault. To me she is, she must be, the same!'
He turned again on to his face. And a small dog who had lost its
master sniffed at his boots, and sat down a little way off, to wait
till Gregory could do something for him, because he smelled that he
was that sort of man.
DOUBTFUL POSITION AT WORSTED SKEYNES
Then George's answer came at last, the flags were in full bloom round
the Scotch garden at Worsted Skeynes. They grew in masses and of all
shades, from deep purple to pale grey, and their scent, very
penetrating, very delicate, floated on the wind.
While waiting for that answer, it had become Mr. Pendyce's habit to
promenade between these beds, his hand to his back, for he was still
a little stiff, followed at a distance of seven paces by the spaniel
John, very black, and moving his rubbery nostrils uneasily from side
In this way the two passed every day the hour from twelve to one.
Neither could have said why they walked thus, for Mr. Pendyce had a
horror of idleness, and the spaniel John disliked the scent of
irises; both, in fact, obeyed that part of themselves which is
superior to reason. During this hour, too, Mrs. Pendyce, though
longing to walk between her flowers, also obeyed that part of her,
superior to reason, which told her that it would be better not.
But George's answer came at last.
"Yes, Bellew is bringing a suit. I am taking steps in the matter.
As to the promise you ask for, I can give no promise of the sort.
You may tell Bellew I will see him d---d first.
"Your affectionate son,
Mr. Pendyce received this at the breakfast-table, and while he read
it there was a hush, for all had seen the handwriting on the
Mr. Pendyce read it through twice, once with his glasses on and once
without, and when he had finished the second reading he placed it in
his breast pocket. No word escaped him; his eyes, which had sunk a
little the last few days, rested angrily on his wife's white face.
Bee and Norah looked down, and, as if they understood, the four dogs
were still. Mr. Pendyce pushed his plate back, rose, and left the
Norah looked up.
"What's the matter, Mother?"
Mrs. Pendyce was swaying. She recovered herself in a moment.
"Nothing, dear. It's very hot this morning, don't you think? I'll
Just go to my room and take some sal volatile."
She went out, followed by old Roy, the Skye; the spaniel John, who
had been cut off at the door by his master's abrupt exit, preceded
her. Norah and Bee pushed back their plates.
"I can't eat, Norah," said Bee. "It's horrible not to know what's
"It's perfectly brutal not being a man. You might just as well be a
dog as a girl, for anything anyone tells you!"
Mrs. Pendyce did not go to her room; she went to the library. Her
husband, seated at his table, had George's letter before him. A pen
was in his hand, but he was not writing.
"Horace," she said softly, "here is poor John!"
Mr. Pendyce did not answer, but put down the hand that did not hold
his pen. The spaniel John covered it with kisses.
"Let me see the letter, won't you?"
Mr. Pendyce handed it to her without a word. She touched his
shoulder gratefully, for his unusual silence went to her heart. Mr.
Pendyce took no notice, staring at his pen as though surprised that,
of its own accord, it did not write his answer; but suddenly he flung
it down and looked round, and his look seemed to say: 'You brought
this fellow into the world; now see the result!'
He had had so many days to think and put his finger on the doubtful
spots of his son's character. All that week he had become more and
more certain of how, without his wife, George would have been exactly
like himself. Words sprang to his lips, and kept on dying there.
The doubt whether she would agree with him, the feeling that she
sympathised with her son, the certainty that something even in
himself responded to those words: "You can tell Bellew I will see him
d---d first!"--all this, and the thought, never out of his mind, 'The
name--the estate!' kept him silent. He turned his head away, and
took up his pen again.
Mrs. Pendyce had read the letter now three times, and instinctively
had put it in her bosom. It was not hers, but Horace must know it by
heart, and in his anger he might tear it up. That letter, for which
they had waited so long; told her nothing; she had known all there
was to tell. Her hand had fallen from Mr. Pendyce's shoulder, and
she did not put it back, but ran her fingers through and through each
other, while the sunlight, traversing the narrow windows, caressed
her from her hair down to her knees. Here and there that stream of
sunlight formed little pools in her eyes, giving them a touching,
anxious brightness; in a curious heart-shaped locket of carved steel,
worn by her mother and her grandmother before her, containing now,
not locks of their son's hair, but a curl of George's; in her diamond
rings, and a bracelet of amethyst and pearl which she wore for the
love of pretty things. And the warm sunlight disengaged from her a
scent of lavender. Through the library door a scratching noise told
that the dear dogs knew she was not in her bedroom. Mr. Pendyce,
too, caught that scent of lavender, and in some vague way it
augmented his discomfort. Her silence, too, distressed him. It did
not occur to him that his silence was distressing her. He put down
"I can't write with you standing there, Margery!"
Mrs. Pendyce moved out of the sunlight.
"George says he is taking steps. What does that mean, Horace?"
This question, focusing his doubts, broke down the Squire's dumbness.
"I won't be treated like this!" he said. "I'll go up and see him
He went by the 10.20, saying that he would be down again by the 5.55
Soon after seven the same evening a dogcart driven by a young groom
and drawn by a raking chestnut mare with a blaze face, swung into the
railway-station at Worsted Skeynes, and drew up before the booking-
office. Mr. Pendyce's brougham, behind a brown horse, coming a
little later, was obliged to range itself behind. A minute before
the train's arrival a wagonette and a pair of bays, belonging to Lord
Quarryman, wheeled in, and, filing past the other two, took up its
place in front. Outside this little row of vehicles the station fly
and two farmers' gigs presented their backs to the station buildings.
And in this arrangement there was something harmonious and fitting,
as though Providence itself had guided them all and assigned to each
its place. And Providence had only made one error--that of placing
Captain Bellew's dogcart precisely opposite the booking-office,
instead of Lord Quarryman's wagonette, with Mr. Pendyce's brougham
Mr. Pendyce came out first; he stared angrily at the dogcart, and
moved to his own carriage. Lord Quarryman came out second. His
massive sun-burned head--the back of which, sparsely adorned by
hairs, ran perfectly straight into his neck--was crowned by a grey
top-hat. The skirts of his grey coat were square-shaped, and so were
the toes of his boots.
"Hallo, Pendyce!" he called out heartily; "didn't see you on the
platform. How's your wife?"
Mr. Pendyce, turning to answer, met the little burning eyes of
Captain Bellew, who came out third. They failed to salute each
other, and Bellow, springing into his cart, wrenched his mare round,
circled the farmers' gigs, and, sitting forward, drove off at a
furious pace. His groom, running at full speed, clung to the cart
and leaped on to the step behind. Lord Quarryman's wagonette backed
itself into the place left vacant. And the mistake of Providence was
"Cracked chap, that fellow Bellew. D'you see anything of him?"
Mr. Pendyce answered:
"No; and I want to see less. I wish he'd take himself off!"
His lordship smiled.
"A huntin' country seems to breed fellows like that; there's always
one of 'em to every pack of hounds. Where's his wife now? Good-
lookin' woman; rather warm member, eh?"
It seemed to Mr. Pendyce that Lord Quarryman's eyes searched his own
with a knowing look, and muttering "God knows!" he vanished into his
Lord Quarryman looked kindly at his horses.
He was not a man who reflected on the whys, the wherefores, the
becauses, of this life. The good God had made him Lord Quarryman,
had made his eldest son Lord Quantock; the good God had made the
Gaddesdon hounds--it was enough!
When Mr. Pendyce reached home he went to his dressing-room. In a
corner by the bath the spaniel John lay surrounded by an assortment
of his master's slippers, for it was thus alone that he could soothe
in measure the bitterness of separation. His dark brown eye was
fixed upon the door, and round it gleamed a crescent moon of white.
He came to the Squire fluttering his tail, with a slipper in his
mouth, and his eye said plainly: 'Oh, master, where have you been?
Why have you been so long? I have been expecting you ever since
half-past ten this morning!'
Mr. Pendyce's heart opened a moment and closed again. He said
"John!" and began to dress for dinner.
Mrs. Pendyce found him tying his white tie. She had plucked the
first rosebud from her garden; she had plucked it because she felt
sorry for him, and because of the excuse it would give her to go to
his dressing-room at once.
"I've brought you a buttonhole, Horace. Did you see him?"
Of all answers this was the one she dreaded most. She had not
believed that anything would come of an interview; she had trembled
all day long at the thought of their meeting; but now that they had
not met she knew by the sinking in her heart that anything was better
than uncertainty. She waited as long as she could, then burst out:
"Tell me something, Horace!"
Mr. Pendyce gave her an angry glance.
"How can I tell you, when there's nothing to tell? I went to his
club. He's not living there now. He's got rooms, nobody knows
where. I waited all the afternoon. Left a message at last for him
to come down here to-morrow. I've sent for Paramor, and told him to
come down too. I won't put up with this sort of thing."
Mrs. Pendyce looked out of the window, but there was nothing to see
save the ha-ha, the coverts, the village spire, the cottage roofs,
which for so long had been her world.
"George won't come down here," she said.
"George will do what I tell him."
Again Mrs. Pendyce shook her head, knowing by instinct that she was
Mr. Pendyce stopped putting on his waist-coat.
"George had better take care," he said; "he's entirely dependent on
And as if with those words he had summed up the situation, the
philosophy of a system vital to his son, he no longer frowned. On
Mrs. Pendyce those words had a strange effect. They stirred within
her terror. It was like seeing her son's back bared to a lifted
whip-lash; like seeing the door shut against him on a snowy night.
But besides terror they stirred within her a more poignant feeling
yet, as though someone had dared to show a whip to herself, had dared
to defy that something more precious than life in her soul, that
something which was of her blood, so utterly and secretly passed by
the centuries into her fibre that no one had ever thought of defying
it before. And there flashed before her with ridiculous concreteness
the thought: 'I've got three hundred a year of my own!' Then the
whole feeling left her, just as in dreams a mordant sensation grips
and passes, leaving a dull ache, whose cause is forgotten, behind.
"There's the gong, Horace," she said. "Cecil Tharp is here to
dinner. I asked the Barters, but poor Rose didn't feel up to it.
Of course they are expecting it very soon now. They talk of the 15th
Mr. Pendyce took from his wife his coat, passing his arms down the
"If I could get the cottagers to have families like that," he said,
"I shouldn't have much trouble about labour. They're a pig-headed
lot--do nothing that they're told. Give me some eau-de-Cologne,
Mrs. Pendyce dabbed the wicker flask on her husband's handkerchief.
"Your eyes look tired," she said. "Have you a headache, dear?"
COUNCIL AT WORSTED SKEYNES
It was on the following evening--the evening on which he was
expecting his son and Mr. Paramor that the Squire leaned forward over
the dining-table and asked:
"What do you say, Barter? I'm speaking to you as a man of the
The Rector bent over his glass of port and moistened his lower lip.
"There's no excuse for that woman," he answered. "I always thought
she was a bad lot."
Mr. Pendyce went on:
"We've never had a scandal in my family. I find the thought of it
hard to bear, Barter--I find it hard to bear----"
The Rector emitted a low sound. He had come from long usage to have
a feeling like affection for his Squire.
Mr. Pendyce pursued his thoughts.
"We've gone on," he said, "father and son for hundreds of years.
It's a blow to me, Barter."
Again the Rector emitted that low sound.
"What will the village think?" said Mr. Pendyce; "and the farmers--
I mind that more than anything. Most of them knew my dear old father
--not that he was popular. It's a bitter thing."
The Rector said:
"Well, well, Pendyce, perhaps it won't come to that."
He looked a little shamefaced, and his light eyes were full of
something like contrition.
"How does Mrs. Pendyce take it?"
The Squire looked at him for the first time.
"Ah!" he said; "you never know anything about women. I'd as soon
trust a woman to be just as I'd--I'd finish that magnum; it'd give me
gout in no time."
The Rector emptied his glass.
"I've sent for George and my solicitor," pursued the Squire; "they'll
be here directly."
Mr. Barter pushed his chair back, and raising his right ankle on to
his left leg, clasped his hands round his right knee; then, leaning
forward, he stared up under his jutting brows at Mr. Pendyce. It was
the attitude in which he thought best.
Mr. Pendyce ran on:
"I've nursed the estate ever since it came to me; I've carried on the
tradition as best I could; I've not been as good a man, perhaps, as I
should have wished, but I've always tried to remember my old father's
words: 'I'm done for, Horry; the estate's in your hands now.'" He
cleared his throat.
For a full minute there was no sound save the ticking of the clock.
Then the spaniel John, coming silently from under the sideboard, fell
heavily down against his master's leg with a lengthy snore of
satisfaction. Mr. Pendyce looked down.
"This fellow of mine," he muttered, "is getting fat."
It was evident from the tone of his voice that he desired his emotion
to be forgotten. Something very deep in Mr. Barter respected that
"It's a first-rate magnum," he said.
Mr. Pendyce filled his Rector's glass.
"I forget if you knew Paramor. He was before your time. He was at
Harrow with me."
The Rector took a prolonged sip.
"I shall be in the way," he said. "I'll take myself off'."
The Squire put out his hand affectionately.
"No, no, Barter, don't you go. It's all safe with you. I mean to
act. I can't stand this uncertainty. My wife's cousin Vigil is
coming too--he's her guardian. I wired for him. You know Vigil? He
was about your time."
The Rector turned crimson, and set his underlip. Having scented his
enemy, nothing would now persuade him to withdraw; and the conviction
that he had only done his duty, a little shaken by the Squire's
confidence, returned as though by magic.
"Yes, I know him."
"We'll have it all out here," muttered Mr. Pendyce, "over this port.
There's the carriage. Get up, John."
The spaniel John rose heavily, looked sardonically at Mr. Barter, and
again flopped down against his master's leg.
"Get up, John," said Mr. Pendyce again. The spaniel John snored.
'If I move, you'll move too, and uncertainty will begin for me
again,' he seemed to say.
Mr. Pendyce disengaged his leg, rose, and went to the door. Before
reaching it he turned and came back to the table.
"Barter," he said, "I'm not thinking of myself--I'm not thinking of
myself--we've been here for generations--it's the principle." His
face had the least twist to one side, as though conforming to a kink
in his philosophy; his eyes looked sad and restless.
And the Rector, watching the door for the sight of his enemy, also
'I'm not thinking of myself--I'm satisfied that I did right--I'm
Rector of this parish it's the principle.'
The spaniel John gave three short barks, one for each of the persons
who entered the room. They were Mrs. Pendyce, Mr. Paramor, and
"Where's George?" asked the Squire, but no one answered him.
The Rector, who had resumed his seat, stared at a little gold cross
which he had taken out of his waistcoat pocket. Mr. Paramor lifted a
vase and sniffed at the rose it contained; Gregory walked to the
When Mr. Pendyce realised that his son had not come, he went to the
door and held it open.
"Be good enough to take John out, Margery," he said. "John!"
The spaniel John, seeing what lay before him, rolled over on his
Mrs. Pendyce fixed her eyes on her husband, and in those eyes she put
all the words which the nature of a lady did not suffer her to speak.
'I claim to be here. Let me stay; it is my right. Don't send me
away.' So her eyes spoke, and so those of the spaniel John, lying on
his back, in which attitude he knew that he was hard to move.
Mr. Pendyce turned him over with his foot.
"Get up, John! Be good enough to take John out, Margery."
Mrs. Pendyce flushed, but did not move.
"John," said Mr. Pendyce, "go with your mistress." The spaniel John
fluttered a drooping tail. Mr. Pendyce pressed his foot to it.
"This is not a subject for women."
Mrs. Pendyce bent down.
"Come, John," she said. The spaniel John, showing the whites of his
eyes, and trying to back through his collar, was assisted from the
room. Mr. Pendyce closed the door behind them.
"Have a glass of port, Vigil; it's the '47. My father laid it down
in '56, the year before he died. Can't drink it myself--I've had to
put down two hogsheads of the Jubilee wine. Paramor, fill your
glass. Take that chair next to Paramor, Vigil. You know Barter?"
Both Gregory's face and the Rector's were very red.
"We're all Harrow men here," went on Mr. Pendyce. And suddenly
turning to Mr. Paramor, he said: "Well?"
Just as round the hereditary principle are grouped the State, the
Church, Law, and Philanthropy, so round the dining-table at Worsted
Skeynes sat the Squire, the Rector, Mr. Paramor, and Gregory Vigil,
and none of them wished to be the first to speak. At last Mr.
Paramor, taking from his pocket Bellew's note and George's answer,
which were pinned in strange alliance, returned them to the Squire.
"I understand the position to be that George refuses to give her up;
at the same time he is prepared to defend the suit and deny
everything. Those are his instructions to me." Taking up the vase
again, he sniffed long and deep at the rose.
Mr. Pendyce broke the silence.
"As a gentleman," he said in a voice sharpened by the bitterness of
his feelings, "I suppose he's obliged----"
Gregory, smiling painfully, added:
"To tell lies."
Mr. Pendyce turned on him at once.
"I've nothing to say about that, Vigil. George has behaved
abominably. I don't uphold him; but if the woman wishes the suit
defended he can't play the cur--that's what I was brought up to
Gregory leaned his forehead on his hand.
"The whole system is odious----" he was beginning.
Mr. Paramor chimed in.
"Let us keep to the facts; without the system."
The Rector spoke for the first time.
"I don't know what you mean about the system; both this man and this
woman are guilty----"
Gregory said in a voice that quivered with rage:
"Be so kind as not to use the expression, 'this woman.'"
The Rector glowered.
"What expression then----"
Mr. Pendyce's voice, to which the intimate trouble of his thoughts
lent a certain dignity, broke in:
"Gentlemen, this is a question concerning the honour of my house."
There was another and a longer silence, during which Mr. Paramor's
eyes haunted from face to face, while beyond the rose a smile writhed
on his lips.
"I suppose you have brought me down here, Pendyce, to give you my
opinion," he said at last. "Well; don't let these matters come into
court. If there is anything you can do to prevent it, do it. If
your pride stands in the way, put it in your pocket. If your sense
of truth stands in the way, forget it. Between personal delicacy and
our law of divorce there is no relation; between absolute truth and
our law of divorce there is no relation. I repeat, don't let these
matters come into court. Innocent and guilty, you will all suffer;
the innocent will suffer more than the guilty, and nobody will
benefit. I have come to this conclusion deliberately. There are
cases in which I should give the opposite opinion. But in this case,
I repeat, there's nothing to be gained by it. Once more, then, don't
let these matters come into court. Don't give people's tongues a
chance. Take my advice, appeal to George again to give you that
promise. If he refuses, well, we must try and bluff Bellew out of
Mr. Pendyce had listened, as he had formed the habit of listening to
Edmund Paramor, in silence. He now looked up and said:
"It's all that red-haired ruffian's spite. I don't know what you
were about to stir things up, Vigil. You must have put him on the
scent." He looked moodily at Gregory. Mr. Barter, too, looked at
Gregory with a sort of half-ashamed defiance.
Gregory, who had been staring at his untouched wineglass, turned his
face, very flushed, and began speaking in a voice that emotion and
anger caused to tremble. He avoided looking at the Rector, and
addressed himself to Mr. Paramor.
"George can't give up the woman who has trusted herself to him; that
would be playing the cur, if you like. Let them go and live together
honestly until they can be married. Why do you all speak as if it
were the man who mattered? It is the woman that we should protect!"
The Rector first recovered speech.
"You're talking rank immorality," he said almost good-humouredly.
Mr. Pendyce rose.
"Marry her!" he cried. "What on earth--that's worse than all--the
very thing we're trying to prevent! We've been here, father and son
--father and son--for generations!"
"All the more shame," burst out Gregory, "if you can't stand by a
woman at the end of them----!"
Mr. Paramor made a gesture of reproof.
"There's moderation in all things," he said. "Are you sure that Mrs.
Bellew requires protection? If you are right, I agree; but are you
"I will answer for it," said Gregory.
Mr. Paramor paused a full minute with his head resting on his hand.
"I am sorry," he said at last, "I must trust to my own judgment."
The Squire looked up.
"If the worst comes to the worst, can I cut the entail, Paramor?"
"What? But that's all wrong--that's----"
"You can't have it both ways," said Mr. Paramor.
The Squire looked at him dubiously, then blurted out:
"If I choose to leave him nothing but the estate, he'll soon find
himself a beggar. I beg your pardon, gentlemen; fill your glasses!
I'm forgetting everything!"
The Rector filled his glass.
"I've said nothing so far," he began; "I don't feel that it's my
business. My conviction is that there's far too much divorce
nowadays. Let this woman go back to her husband, and let him show
her where she's to blame"--his voice and his eyes hardened--"then let
them forgive each other like Christians. You talk," he said to
Gregory, "about standing up for the woman. I've no patience with
that; it's the way immorality's fostered in these days. I raise my
voice against this sentimentalism. I always have, and I always
Gregory jumped to his feet.
"I've told you once before," he said, "that you were indelicate; I
tell you so again."
Mr. Barter got up, and stood bending over the table, crimson in the
face, staring at Gregory, and unable to speak.
"Either you or I," he said at last, stammering with passion, "must
leave this room!"
Gregory tried to speak; then turning abruptly, he stepped out on to
the terrace, and passed from the view of those within.
The Rector said:
"Good-night, Pendyce; I'm going, too!"
The Squire shook the hand held out to him with a face perplexed to
sadness. There was silence when Mr. Barter had left the room.
The Squire broke it with a sigh.
"I wish we were back at Oxenham's, Paramor. This serves me right for
deserting the old house. What on earth made me send George to Eton?"
Mr. Paramor buried his nose in the vase. In this saying of his old
schoolfellow was the whole of the Squire's creed:
'I believe in my father, and his father, and his father's father, the
makers and keepers of my estate; and I believe in myself and my son
and my son's son. And I believe that we have made the country, and
shall keep the country what it is. And I believe in the Public
Schools, and especially the Public School that I was at. And I
believe in my social equals and the country house, and in things as
they are, for ever and ever. Amen.'
Mr. Pendyce went on:
"I'm not a Puritan, Paramor; I dare say there are allowances to be
made for George. I don't even object to the woman herself; she may
be too good for Bellew; she must be too good for a fellow like that!
But for George to marry her would be ruination. Look at Lady Rose's
case! Anyone but a star-gazing fellow like Vigil must see that!
It's taboo! It's sheer taboo! And think--think of my--my grandson!
No, no, Paramor; no, no, by God!"
The Squire covered his eyes with his hand.
Mr. Paramor, who had no son himself, answered with feeling:
"Now, now, old fellow; it won't come to that!"
"God knows what it will come to, Paramor! My nerve's shaken! You
know yourself that if there's a divorce he'll be bound to marry her!"
To this Mr. Paramor made no reply, but pressed his lips together.
"There's your poor dog whining," he said.
And without waiting for permission he opened the door. Mrs. Pendyce
and the spaniel John came in. The Squire looked up and frowned. The
spaniel John, panting with delight, rubbed against him. 'I have been
through torment, master,' he seemed to say. 'A second separation at
present is not possible for me!'
Mrs. Pendyce stood waiting silently, and Mr. Paramor addressed
himself to her.
"You can do more than any of us, Mrs. Pendyce, both with George and
with this man Bellew--and, if I am not mistaken, with his wife."
The Squire broke in:
"Don't think that I'll have any humble pie eaten to that fellow
The look Mr. Paramor gave him at those words, was like that of a
doctor diagnosing a disease. Yet there was nothing in the expression
of the Squire's face with its thin grey whiskers and moustache, its
twist to the left, its swan-like eyes, decided jaw, and sloping brow,
different from what this idea might bring on the face of any country
Mrs. Pendyce said eagerly
"Oh, Mr. Paramor, if I could only see George!"
She longed so for a sight of her son that her thoughts carried her no
"See him!" cried the Squire. "You'll go on spoiling him till he's
disgraced us all!"
Mrs. Pendyce turned from her husband to his solicitor. Excitement
had fixed an unwonted colour in her cheeks; her lips twitched as if
she wished to speak.
Mr. Paramor answered for her:
"No, Pendyce; if George is spoilt, the system is to blame."
"System!" said the Squire. "I've never had a system for him. I'm no
believer in systems! I don't know what you're talking of. I have
another son, thank God!"
Mrs. Pendyce took a step forward.