Part 4 out of 6
"Horace," she said, "you would never----"
Mr. Pendyce turned from his wife, and said sharply:
"Paramor, are you sure I can't cut the entail?"
"As sure," said Mr. Paramor, "as I sit here!"
DEFINITION OF "PENDYCITIS"
Gregory walked long in the Scotch garden with his eyes on the stars.
One, larger than all the rest, over the larches, shone on him
ironically, for it was the star of love. And on his beat between the
yew-trees that, living before Pendyces came to Worsted Skeynes, would
live when they were gone, he cooled his heart in the silver light of
that big star. The irises restrained their perfume lest it should
whip his senses; only the young larch-trees and the far fields sent
him their fugitive sweetness through the dark. And the same brown
owl that had hooted when Helen Bellew kissed George Pendyce in the
conservatory hooted again now that Gregory walked grieving over the
fruits of that kiss.
His thoughts were of Mr. Barter, and with the injustice natural to a
man who took a warm and personal view of things, he painted the
Rector in colours darker than his cloth.
'Indelicate, meddlesome,' he thought. 'How dare he speak of her like
Mr. Paramor's voice broke in on his meditations.
"Still cooling your heels? Why did you play the deuce with us in
"I hate a sham," said Gregory. "This marriage of my ward's is a
sham. She had better live honestly with the man she really loves!"
"So you said just now," returned Mr. Paramor. "Would you apply that
"Well," said Mr. Paramor with a laugh, "there is nothing like an
idealist for-making hay! You once told me, if I remember, that
marriage was sacred to you!"
"Those are my own private feelings, Paramor. But here the mischief's
done already. It is a sham, a hateful sham, and it ought to come to
"That's all very well," replied Mr. Paramor, "but when you come to
put it into practice in that wholesale way it leads to goodness knows
what. It means reconstructing marriage on a basis entirely different
from the present. It's marriage on the basis of the heart, and not
on the basis of property. Are you prepared to go to that length?"
"You're as much of an extremist one way as Barter is the other. It's
you extremists who do all the harm. There's a golden mean, my
friend. I agree that something ought to be done. But what you don't
see is that laws must suit those they are intended to govern. You're
too much in the stars, Vigil. Medicine must be graduated to the
patient. Come, man, where's your sense of humour? Imagine your
conception of marriage applied to Pendyce and his sons, or his
Rector, or his tenants, and the labourers on his estate."
"No, no," said Gregory; "I refuse to believe----"
"The country classes," said Mr. Paramor quietly, "are especially
backward in such matters. They have strong, meat-fed instincts, and
what with the county Members, the Bishops, the Peers, all the
hereditary force of the country, they still rule the roast. And
there's a certain disease--to make a very poor joke, call it
'Pendycitis' with which most of these people are infected. They're
'crass.' They do things, but they do them the wrong way! They
muddle through with the greatest possible amount of unnecessary
labour and suffering! It's part of the hereditary principle. I
haven't had to do with them thirty five years for nothing!"
Gregory turned his face away.
"Your joke is very poor," he said. "I don't believe they are like
that! I won't admit it. If there is such a disease, it's our
business to find a remedy."
"Nothing but an operation will cure it," said Mr. Paramor; "and
before operating there's a preliminary process to be gone through.
It was discovered by Lister."
"Paramor, I hate your pessimism!"
Mr. Paramor's eyes haunted Gregory's back.
"But I am not a pessimist," he said. "Far from it.
"'When daisies pied and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree----'"
Gregory turned on him.
"How can you quote poetry, and hold the views you do? We ought to
'You want to build before you've laid your foundations," said Mr.
Paramor. "You let your feelings carry you away, Vigil. The state of
the marriage laws is only a symptom. It's this disease, this
grudging narrow spirit in men, that makes such laws necessary.
Unlovely men, unlovely laws--what can you expect?"
"I will never believe that we shall be content to go on living in a
"Provincialism!" said Mr. Paramor. "You should take to gardening;
it makes one recognise what you idealists seem to pass over--that
men, my dear friend, are, like plants, creatures of heredity and
environment; their growth is slow. You can't get grapes from thorns,
Vigil, or figs from thistles--at least, not in one generation--
however busy and hungry you may be!"
"Your theory degrades us all to the level of thistles."
"Social laws depend for their strength on the harm they have it in
their power to inflict, and that harm depends for its strength on the
ideals held by the man on whom the harm falls. If you dispense with
the marriage tie, or give up your property and take to Brotherhood,
you'll have a very thistley time, but you won't mind that if you're a
fig. And so on ad lib. It's odd, though, how soon the thistles that
thought themselves figs get found out. There are many things I hate,
Vigil. One is extravagance, and another humbug!"
But Gregory stood looking at the sky.
"We seem to have wandered from the point," said Mr. Paramor, "and I
think we had better go in. It's nearly eleven."
Throughout the length of the low white house there were but three
windows lighted, three eyes looking at the moon, a fairy shallop
sailing the night sky. The cedar-trees stood black as pitch. The
old brown owl had ceased his hooting. Mr. Paramor gripped Gregory by
"A nightingale! Did you hear him down in that spinney? It's a sweet
place, this! I don't wonder Pendyce is fond of it. You're not a
fisherman, I think? Did you ever watch a school of fishes coasting
along a bank? How blind they are, and how they follow their leader!
In our element we men know just about as much as the fishes do. A
blind lot, Vigil! We take a mean view of things; we're damnably
Gregory pressed his hands to his forehead.
"I'm trying to think," he said, "what will be the consequences to my
ward of this divorce."
"My friend, listen to some plain speaking. Your ward and her husband
and George Pendyce are just the sort of people for whom our law of
divorce is framed. They've all three got courage, they're all
reckless and obstinate, and--forgive me--thick-skinned. Their case,
if fought, will take a week of hard swearing, a week of the public's
money and time. It will give admirable opportunities to eminent
counsel, excellent reading to the general public, first-rate sport
"The papers will have a regular carnival. I repeat, they are the very
people for whom our law of divorce is framed. There's a great deal
to be said for publicity, but all the same it puts a premium on
insensibility, and causes a vast amount of suffering to innocent
people. I told you once before, to get a divorce, even if you
deserve it, you mustn't be a sensitive person. Those three will go
through it all splendidly, but every scrap of skin will be torn off
you and our poor friends down here, and the result will be a drawn
battle at the end! That's if it's fought, and if it comes on I don't
see how we can let it go unfought; it's contrary to my instincts. If
we let it go undefended, mark my words, your ward and George Pendyce
will be sick of each other before the law allows them to marry, and
George, as his father says, for the sake of 'morality,' will have to
marry a woman who is tired of him, or of whom he is tired. Now
you've got it straight from the shoulder, and I'm going up to bed.
It's a heavy dew. Lock this door after you."
Mr. Paramor made his way into the conservatory. He stopped and came
"Pendyce," he said, "perfectly understands all I've been telling you.
He'd give his eyes for the case not to come on, but you'll see he'll
rub everything up the wrong way, and it'll be a miracle if we
succeed. That's 'Pendycitis'! We've all got a touch of it. Good-
Gregory was left alone outside the country house with his big star.
And as his thoughts were seldom of an impersonal kind he did not
reflect on "Pendycitis," but on Helen Bellew. And the longer he
thought the more he thought of her as he desired to think, for this
was natural to him; and ever more ironical grew the twinkling of his
star above the spinney where the nightingale was singing.
GEORGE GOES FOR THE GLOVES
On the Thursday of the Epsom Summer Meeting, George Pendyce sat in
the corner of a first-class railway-carriage trying to make two and
two into five. On a sheet of Stoics' Club note-paper his racing-
debts were stated to a penny--one thousand and forty five pounds
overdue, and below, seven hundred and fifty lost at the current
meeting. Below these again his private debts were indicated by the
round figure of one thousand pounds. It was round by courtesy, for
he had only calculated those bills which had been sent in, and
Providence, which knows all things, preferred the rounder figure of
fifteen hundred. In sum, therefore, he had against him a total of
three thousand two hundred and ninety-five pounds. And since at
Tattersalls and the Stock Exchange, where men are engaged in
perpetual motion, an almost absurd punctiliousness is required in the
payment of those sums which have for the moment inadvertently been
lost, seventeen hundred and ninety-five of this must infallibly be
raised by Monday next. Indeed, only a certain liking for George, a
good loser and a good winner, and the fear of dropping a good
customer, had induced the firm of bookmakers to let that debt of one
thousand and forty-five stand over the Epsom Meeting.
To set against these sums (in which he had not counted his current
trainer's bill, and the expenses, which he could not calculate, of
the divorce suit), he had, first, a bank balance which he might still
overdraw another twenty pounds; secondly, the Ambler and two bad
selling platers; and thirdly (more considerable item), X, or that
which he might, or indeed must, win over the Ambler's race this
Whatever else, it was not pluck that was lacking in the character of
George Pendyce. This quality was in his fibre, in the consistency of
his blood, and confronted with a situation which, to some men, and
especially to men not brought up on the hereditary plan, might have
seemed desperate, he exhibited no sign of anxiety or distress. Into
the consideration of his difficulties he imported certain principles:
(1) He did not intend to be posted at Tattersalls. Sooner than that
he would go to the Jews; the entail was all he could look to borrow
on; the Hebrews would force him to pay through the nose. (2) He did
not intend to show the white feather, and in backing his horse meant
to "go for the gloves." (3) He did not intend to think of the
future; the thought of the present was quite bad enough.
The train bounded and swung as though rushing onwards to a tune, and
George sat quietly in his corner.
Amongst his fellows in the carriage was the Hon. Geoffrey Winlow,
who, though not a racing-man, took a kindly interest in our breed of
horses, which by attendance at the principal meetings he hoped to
"Your horse going to run, George?"
"I shall have a fiver on him for luck. I can't afford to bet. Saw
your mother at the Foxholme garden-party last week. You seen them
George shook his head and felt an odd squeeze: at his heart.
"You know they had a fire at old Peacock's farm; I hear the Squire
and Barter did wonders. He's as game as a pebble, the Squire."
Again George nodded, and again felt that squeeze at his heart.
"Aren't they coming to town this season?"
"Haven't heard," answered George. "Have a cigar?"
Winlow took the cigar, and cutting it with a small penknife,
scrutinised George's square face with his leisurely eyes. It needed
a physiognomist to penetrate its impassivity. Winlow thought to
'I shouldn't be surprised if what they say about old George is true.'
. . . "Had a good meeting so far?"
They parted on the racecourse. George went at once to see his
trainer and thence into Tattersalls' ring. He took with him that
equation with X, and sought the society of two gentlemen quietly
dressed, one of whom was making a note in a little book with a gold
pencil. They greeted him respectfully, for it was to them that he
owed the bulk of that seventeen hundred and ninety-five pounds.
"What price will you lay against my horse?"
"Evens, Mr. Pendyce," replied the gentleman with the gold pencil, "to
George booked the bet. It was not his usual way of doing business,
but to-day everything seemed different, and something stronger than
custom was at work.
'I am going for the gloves,' he thought; 'if it doesn't come off',
I'm done anyhow.'
He went to another quietly dressed gentleman with a diamond pin and a
Jewish face. And as he went from one quietly dressed gentleman to
another there preceded him some subtle messenger, who breathed the
words, 'Mr. Pendyce is going for the gloves,' so that at each visit
he found they had greater confidence than ever in his horse. Soon he
had promised to pay two thousand pounds if the Ambler lost, and
received the assurance of eminent gentlemen, quietly dressed, that
they would pay him fifteen hundred if the Ambler won. The odds now
stood at two to one on, and he had found it impossible to back the
Ambler for "a place," in accordance with his custom.
'Made a fool of myself,' he thought; 'ought never to have gone into
the ring at all; ought to have let Barney's work it quietly. It
He still required to win three hundred pounds to settle on the
Monday, and laid a final bet of seven hundred to three hundred and
fifty pounds upon his horse. Thus, without spending a penny, simply
by making a few promises, he had solved the equation with X.
On leaving the ring, he entered the bar and drank some whisky. He
then went to the paddock. The starting-bell for the second race had
rung; there was hardly anyone there, but in a far corner the Ambler
was being led up and down by a boy.
George glanced round to see that no acquaintances were near, and
joined in this promenade. The Ambler turned his black, wild eye,
crescented with white, threw up his head, and gazed far into the
'If one could only make him understand!' thought George.
When his horse left the paddock for the starting-post George went
back to the stand. At the bar he drank some more whisky, and heard
"I had to lay six to four. I want to find Pendyce; they say he's
backed it heavily."
George put down his glass, and instead of going to his usual place,
mounted slowly to the top of the stand.
'I don't want them buzzing round me,' he thought.
At the top of the stand--that national monument, visible for twenty
miles around--he knew himself to be safe. Only "the many" came here,
and amongst the many he thrust himself till at the very top he could
rest his glasses on a rail and watch the colours. Besides his own
peacock blue there was a straw, a blue with white stripes, a red with
They say that through the minds of drowning men troop ghosts of past
experience. It was not so with George; his soul was fastened on that
little daub of peacock blue. Below the glasses his lips were
colourless from hard compression; he moistened them continually. The
four little Coloured daubs stole into line, the flag fell.
"They're off!" That roar, like the cry of a monster, sounded all
around. George steadied his glasses on the rail. Blue with white
stripes was leading, the Ambler lying last. Thus they came round the
further bend. And Providence, as though determined that someone
should benefit by his absorption, sent a hand sliding under George's
elbows, to remove the pin from his tie and slide away. Round
Tattenham Corner George saw his horse take the lead. So, with straw
closing up, they came into the straight. The Ambler's jockey looked
back and raised his whip; in that instant, as if by magic, straw drew
level; down came the whip on the Ambler's flank; again as by magic
straw was in front. The saying of his old jockey darted through
George's mind: "Mark my words, sir, that 'orse knows what's what, and
when they're like that they're best let alone."
"Sit still, you fool!" he muttered.
The whip came down again; straw was two lengths in front.
Someone behind said:
"The favourite's beat! No, he's not, by Jove!" For as though
George's groan had found its way to the jockey's ears, he dropped his
whip. The Ambler sprang forward. George saw that he was gaining.
All his soul went out to his horse's struggle. In each of those
fifteen seconds he died and was born again; with each stride all that
was loyal and brave in his nature leaped into flame, all that was
base sank, for he himself was racing with his horse, and the sweat
poured down his brow. And his lips babbled broken sounds that no one
heard, for all around were babbling too.
Locked together, the Ambler and straw ran home. Then followed a
hush, for no one knew which of the two had won. The numbers went up
"The favourite's second! Beaten by a nose!" said a voice.
George bowed his head, and his whole spirit felt numb. He closed his
glasses and moved with the crowd to the stairs. A voice behind him
"He'd have won in another stride!"
"I hate that sort of horse. He curled up at the whip."
George ground his teeth.
"Curse you I" he muttered, "you little Cockney; what do you know
about a horse?"
The crowd surged; the speakers were lost to sight.
The long descent from the stand gave him time. No trace of emotion
showed on his face when he appeared in the paddock. Blacksmith the
trainer stood by the Ambler's stall.
"That idiot Tipping lost us the race, sir," he began with quivering
lips. "If he'd only left him alone, the horse would have won in a
canter. What on earth made him use his whip? He deserves to lose
his license. He----"
The gall and bitterness of defeat surged into George's brain.
"It's no good your talking, Blacksmith," he said; "you put him up.
What the devil made you quarrel with Swells?"
The little man's chin dropped in sheer surprise.
George turned away, and went up to the jockey, but at the sick look
on the poor youth's face the angry words died off his tongue.
"All right, Tipping; I'm not going to rag you." And with the ghost
of a smile he passed into the Ambler's stall. The groom had just
finished putting him to rights; the horse stood ready to be led from
the field of his defeat. The groom moved out, and George went to the
Ambler's head. There is no place, no corner, on a racecourse where a
man may show his heart. George did but lay his forehead against the
velvet of his horse's muzzle, and for one short second hold it there.
The Ambler awaited the end of that brief caress, then with a snort
threw up his head, and with his wild, soft eyes seemed saying, 'You
fools! what do you know of me?'
George stepped to one side.
"Take him away," he said, and his eyes followed the Ambler's receding
A racing-man of a different race, whom he knew and did not like, came
up to him as he left the paddock.
"I suppothe you won't thell your horse, Pendythe?" he said. "I'll
give you five thou. for him. He ought never to have lotht; the
beating won't help him with the handicappers a little bit."
'You carrion crow!' thought George.
"Thanks; he's not for sale," he answered.
He went back to the stand, but at every step and in each face, he
seemed to see the equation which now he could only solve with X2.
Thrice he went into the bar. It was on the last of these occasions
that he said to himself: "The horse must go. I shall never have a
horse like him again."
Over that green down which a hundred thousand feet had trodden brown,
which a hundred thousand hands had strewn with bits of paper, cigar-
ends, and the fragments of discarded food, over the great approaches
to the battlefield, where all was pathway leading to and from the
fight, those who make livelihood in such a fashion, least and
littlest followers, were bawling, hawking, whining to the warriors
flushed with victory or wearied by defeat: Over that green down,
between one-legged men and ragged acrobats, women with babies at the
breast, thimble-riggers, touts, walked George Pendyce, his mouth hard
set and his head bent down.
"Good luck, Captain, good luck to-morrow; good luck, good luck!...
For the love of Gawd, your lordship!... Roll, bowl, or pitch!"
The sun, flaming out after long hiding, scorched the back of his
neck; the free down wind, fouled by foetid odours, brought to his
ears the monster's last cry, "They're off!"
A voice hailed him.
George turned and saw Winlow, and with a curse and a smile he
The Hon. Geoffrey ranged alongside, examining George's face at
"Afraid you had a bad race, old chap! I hear you've sold the Ambler
to that fellow Guilderstein."
In George's heart something snapped.
'Already?' he thought. 'The brute's been crowing. And it's that
little bounder that my horse--my horse'
He answered calmly:
"Wanted the money."
Winlow, who was not lacking in cool discretion, changed the subject.
Late that evening George sat in the Stoics' window overlooking
Piccadilly. Before his eyes, shaded by his hand, the hansoms passed,
flying East and West, each with the single pale disc of face, or the
twin discs of faces close together; and the gentle roar of the town
came in, and the cool air refreshed by night. In the light of the
lamps the trees of the Green Park stood burnished out of deep shadow
where nothing moved; and high over all, the stars and purple sky
seemed veiled with golden gauze. Figures without end filed by. Some
glanced at the lighted windows and the man in the white shirt-front
sitting there. And many thought: 'Wish I were that swell, with
nothing to do but step into his father's shoes;' and to many no
thought came. But now and then some passer murmured to himself:
"Looks lonely sitting there."
And to those faces gazing up, George's lips were grim, and over them
came and went a little bitter smile; but on his forehead he felt
still the touch of his horse's muzzle, and his eyes, which none could
see, were dark with pain.
MR. BARTER TAKES A WALK
The event at the Rectory was expected every moment. The Rector, who
practically never suffered, disliked the thought and sight of others'
suffering. Up to this day, indeed, there had been none to dislike,
for in answer to inquiries his wife had always said "No, dear, no;
I'm all right--really, it's nothing." And she had always said it
smiling, even when her smiling lips were white. But this morning in
trying to say it she had failed to smile. Her eyes had lost their
hopelessly hopeful shining, and sharply between her teeth she said:
"Send for Dr. Wilson, Hussell"
The Rector kissed her, shutting his eyes, for he was afraid of her
face with its lips drawn back, and its discoloured cheeks. In five
minutes the groom was hastening to Cornmarket on the roan cob, and
the Rector stood in his study, looking from one to another of his
household gods, as though calling them to his assistance. At last he
took down a bat and began oiling it. Sixteen years ago, when Husell
was born, he had been overtaken by sounds that he had never to this
day forgotten; they had clung to the nerves of his memory, and for no
reward would he hear them again. They had never been uttered since,
for like most wives, his wife was a heroine; but, used as he was to
this event, the Rector had ever since suffered from panic. It was as
though Providence, storing all the anxiety which he might have felt
throughout, let him have it with a rush at the last moment. He put
the bat back into its case, corked the oil-bottle, and again stood
looking at his household gods. None came to his aid. And his
thoughts were as they had nine times been before. 'I ought not to go
out. I ought to wait for Wilson. Suppose anything were to happen.
Still, nurse is with her, and I can do nothing. Poor Rose--poor
darling! It's my duty to----What's that? I'm better out of the
Softly, without knowing that it was softly, he opened the door;
softly, without knowing it was softly, he stepped to the hat-rack and
took his black straw hat; softly, without knowing it was softly, he
went out, and, unfaltering, hurried down the drive.
Three minutes later he appeared again, approaching the house faster
than he had set forth.
He passed the hall door, ran up the stairs, and entered his wife's
"Rose dear, Rose, can I do anything?"
Mrs. Barter put out her hand, a gleam of malice shot into her eyes.
Through her set lips came a vague murmur, and the words:
"No, dear, nothing. Better go for your walk."
Mr. Barter pressed his lips to her quivering hand, and backed from
the room. Outside the door he struck at the air with his fist, and,
running downstairs, was once more lost to sight. Faster and faster
he walked, leaving the village behind, and among the country sights
and sounds and scents--his nerves began to recover. He was able to
think again of other things: of Cecil's school report--far from
satisfactory; of old Hermon in the village, whom he suspected of
overdoing his bronchitis with an eye to port; of the return match
with Coldingham, and his belief that their left-hand bowler only
wanted "hitting"; of the new edition of hymn-books, and the slackness
of the upper village in attending church--five households less honest
and ductile than the rest, a foreign look about them, dark people,
un-English. In thinking of these things he forgot what he wanted to
forget; but hearing the sound of wheels, he entered a field as though
to examine the crops until the vehicle had passed.
It was not Wilson, but it might have been, and at the next turning he
unconsciously branched off the Cornmarket road.
It was noon when he came within sight of Coldingham, six miles from
Worsted Skeynes. He would have enjoyed a glass of beer, but, unable
to enter the public-house, he went into the churchyard instead. He
sat down on a bench beneath a sycamore opposite the Winlow graves,
for Coldingham was Lord Montrossor's seat, and it was here that all
the Winlows lay. Bees were busy above them in the branches, and Mr.
'Beautiful site. We've nothing like this at Worsted Skeynes....'
But suddenly he found that he could not sit there and think. Suppose
his wife were to die! It happened sometimes; the wife of John Tharp
of Bletchingham had died in giving birth to her tenth child! His
forehead was wet, and he wiped it. Casting an angry glance at the
Winlow graves, he left the seat.
He went down by the further path, and came out on the green. A
cricket-match was going on, and in spite of himself the Rector
stopped. The Coldingham team were in the field. Mr. Barter watched.
As he had thought, that left-hand bowler bowled a good pace, and
"came in" from the off, but his length was poor, very poor! A
determined batsman would soon knock him off! He moved into line with
the wickets to see how much the fellow "came in," and he grew so
absorbed that he did not at first notice the Hon. Geoffrey Winlow in
pads and a blue and green blazer, smoking a cigarette astride of a
"Ah, Winlow, it's your team against the village. Afraid I can't stop
to see you bat. I was just passing--matter I had to attend to--must
The real solemnity of his face excited Winlow's curiosity.
"Can't you stop and have lunch with us?"
"No, no; my wife--Must get back!"
"Ah yes, of course." His leisurely blue eyes, always in command of
the situation, rested on the Rector's heated face. "By the way," he
said, "I'm afraid George Pendyce is rather hard hit. Been obliged to
sell his horse. I saw him at Epsom the week before last."
The Rector brightened.
"I made certain he'd come to grief over that betting," he said. "I'm
very sorry--very sorry indeed."
"They say," went on Winlow, "that he dropped four thousand over the
"He was pretty well dipped before, I know. Poor old George! such an
awfully good chap!"
"Ah," repeated Mr. Barter, "I'm very sorry--very sorry indeed.
Things were bad enough as it was."
A ray of interest illumined the leisureliness of the Hon. Geoffrey's
"You mean about Mrs.----H'm, yes?" he said. "People are talking;
you can't stop that. I'm so sorry for the poor Squire, and Mrs.
Pendyce. I hope something'll be done."
The Rector frowned.
"I've done my best," he said. "Well hit, sir! I've always said that
anyone with a little pluck can knock off that lefthand man you think
so much of. He 'comes in' a bit, but he bowls a shocking bad length.
Here I am dawdling. I must get back!"
And once more that real solemnity came over Mr. Barter's face.
"I suppose you'll be playing for Coldingham against us on Thursday?
Nodding in response to Winlow's salute, he walked away.
He avoided the churchyard, and took a path across the fields. He was
hungry and thirsty. In one of his sermons there occurred this
passage: "We should habituate ourselves to hold our appetites in
check. By constantly accustoming our selves to abstinence little
abstinences in our daily life--we alone can attain to that true
spirituality without which we cannot hope to know God." And it was
well known throughout his household and the village that the Rector's
temper was almost dangerously spiritual if anything detained him from
his meals. For he was a man physiologically sane and healthy to the
core, whose digestion and functions, strong, regular, and
straightforward as the day, made calls upon him which would not be
denied. After preaching that particular sermon, he frequently for a
week or more denied himself a second glass of ale at lunch, or his
after-dinner cigar, smoking a pipe instead. And he was perfectly
honest in his belief that he attained a greater spirituality thereby,
and perhaps indeed he did. But even if he did not, there was no one
to notice this, for the majority of his flock accepted his
spirituality as matter of course, and of the insignificant minority
there were few who did not make allowance for the fact that he was
their pastor by virtue of necessity, by virtue of a system which had
placed him there almost mechanically, whether he would or no.
Indeed, they respected him the more that he was their Rector, and
could not be removed, and were glad that theirs was no common Vicar
like that of Coldingham, dependent on the caprices of others. For,
with the exception of two bad characters and one atheist, the whole
village, Conservatives or Liberals (there were Liberals now that they
were beginning to believe that the ballot was really secret), were
believers in the hereditary system.
Insensibly the Rector directed himself towards Bletchingham, where
there was a temperance house. At heart he loathed lemonade and
gingerbeer in the middle of the day, both of which made his economy
cold and uneasy, but he felt he could go nowhere else. And his
spirits rose at the sight of Bletchingham spire.
'Bread and cheese,' he thought. 'What's better than bread and
cheese? And they shall make me a cup of coffee.'
In that cup of coffee there was something symbolic and fitting to his
mental state. It was agitated and thick, and impregnated with the
peculiar flavour of country coffee. He swallowed but little, and
resumed his march. At the first turning he passed the village
school, whence issued a rhythmic but discordant hum, suggestive of
some dull machine that had served its time. The Rector paused to
listen. Leaning on the wall of the little play-yard, he tried to
make out the words that, like a religious chant, were being intoned
within. It sounded like, "Twice two's four, twice four's six, twice
six's eight," and he passed on, thinking, 'A fine thing; but if we
don't take care we shall go too far; we shall unfit them for their
stations,' and he frowned. Crossing a stile, he took a footpath.
The air was full of the singing of larks, and the bees were pulling
down the clover-stalks. At the bottom of the field was a little pond
overhung with willows. On a bare strip of pasture, within thirty
yards, in the full sun, an old horse was tethered to a peg. It stood
with its face towards the pond, baring its yellow teeth, and
stretching out its head, all bone and hollows, to the water which it
could not reach. The Rector stopped. He did not know the horse
personally, for it was three fields short of his parish, but he saw
that the poor beast wanted water. He went up, and finding that the
knot of the halter hurt his fingers, stooped down and wrenched at the
peg. While he was thus straining and tugging, crimson in the face,
the old horse stood still, gazing at him out of his bleary eyes. Mr.
Barter sprang upright with a jerk, the peg in his hand, and the old
horse started back.
"So ho, boy!" said the Rector, and angrily he muttered: "A shame to
tie the poor beast up here in the sun. I should like to give his
owner a bit of my mind!"
He led the animal towards the water. The old horse followed
tranquilly enough, but as he had done nothing to deserve his
misfortune, neither did he feel any gratitude towards his deliverer.
He drank his fill, and fell to grazing. The Rector experienced a
sense of disillusionment, and drove the peg again into the softer
earth under the willows; then raising himself, he looked hard at the
The animal continued to graze. The Rector took out his handkerchief,
wiped the perspiration from his brow, and frowned. He hated
ingratitude in man or beast.
Suddenly he realised that he was very tired.
"It must be over by now," he said to himself, and hastened on in the
heat across the fields.
The Rectory door was open. Passing into the study, he sat down a
moment to collect his thoughts. People were moving above; he heard a
long moaning sound that filled his heart with terror.
He got up and rushed to the bell, but did not ring it, and ran
upstairs instead. Outside his wife's room he met his children's old
nurse. She was standing on the mat, with her hands to her ears, and
the tears were rolling down her face.
"Oh, sir!" she said--"oh, sir!"
The Rector glared.
"Woman!" he cried--"woman!"
He covered his ears and rushed downstairs again. There was a lady in
the hall. It was Mrs. Pendyce, and he ran to her, as a hurt child
runs to its mother.
"My wife," he said--"my poor wife! God knows what they're doing to
her up there, Mrs. Pendyce!" and he hid his face in his hands.
She, who had been a Totteridge, stood motionless; then, very gently
putting her gloved hand on his thick arm, where the muscles stood out
from the clenching of his hands, she said:
"Dear Mr. Barter, Dr. Wilson is so clever! Come into the drawing-
The Rector, stumbling like a blind man, suffered himself to be led.
He sat down on the sofa, and Mrs. Pendyce sat down beside him, her
hand still on his arm; over her face passed little quivers, as though
she were holding herself in. She repeated in her gentle voice:
"It will be all right--it will be all right. Come, come!"
In her concern and sympathy there was apparent, not aloofness, but a
faint surprise that she should be sitting there stroking the Rector's
Mr. Barter took his hands from before his face.
"If she dies," he said in a voice unlike his own, "I'll not bear it."
In answer to those words, forced from him by that which is deeper
than habit, Mrs. Pendyce's hand slipped from his arm and rested on
the shiny chintz covering of the sofa, patterned with green and
crimson. Her soul shrank from the violence in his voice.
"Wait here," she said. "I will go up and see."
To command was foreign to her nature, but Mr. Barter, with a look
such as a little rueful boy might give, obeyed.
When she was gone he stood listening at the door for some sound--for
any sound, even the sound of her dressbut there was none, for her
petticoat was of lawn, and the Rector was alone with a silence that
he could not bear. He began to pace the room in his thick boots, his
hands clenched behind him, his forehead butting the air, his lips
folded; thus a bull, penned for the first time, turns and turns,
showing the whites of its full eyes.
His thoughts drove here and there, fearful, angered, without
guidance; he did not pray. The words he had spoken so many times
left him as though of malice. "We are all in the hands of God!--we
are all in the hands of God!" Instead of them he could think of
nothing but the old saying Mr. Paramor had used in the Squire's
dining-room, "There is moderation in all things," and this with cruel
irony kept humming in his ears. "Moderation in all things--
moderation in all things!" and his wife lying there--his doing, and
There was a sound. The Rector's face, so brown and red, could not
grow pale, but his great fists relaxed. Mrs. Pendyce was standing in
the doorway with a peculiar half-pitiful, half-excited smile.
"It's all right--a boy. The poor dear has had a dreadful time!"
The Rector looked at her, but did not speak; then abruptly he brushed
past her in the doorway, hurried into his study and locked the door.
Then, and then only, he kneeled down, and remained there many
minutes, thinking of nothing.
THE SQUIRE MAKES UP HIS MIND
That same evening at nine o'clock, sitting over the last glass of a
pint of port, Mr. Barter felt an irresistible longing for enjoyment,
an impulse towards expansion and his fellow-men.
Taking his hat and buttoning his coat--for though the June evening
was fine the easterly breeze was eager--he walked towards the
Like an emblem of that path to God of which he spoke on Sundays, the
grey road between trim hedges threaded the shadow of the elm-trees
where the rooks had long since gone to bed. A scent of wood-smoke
clung in the air; the cottages appeared, the forge, the little shops
facing the village green. Lights in the doors and windows deepened;
a breeze, which hardly stirred the chestnut leaves, fled with a
gentle rustling through the aspens. Houses and trees, houses and
trees! Shelter through the past and through the days to come!
The Rector stopped the first man he saw.
"Fine weather for the hay, Aiken! How's your wife doing--a girl? Ah,
ha! You want some boys! You heard of our event at the Rectory? I'm
thankful to say----"
From man to man and house to house he soothed his thirst for
fellowship, for the lost sense of dignity that should efface again
the scar of suffering. And above him the chestnuts in their
breathing stillness, the aspens with their tender rustling, seemed to
watch and whisper: "Oh, little men! oh, little men!"
The moon, at the end of her first quarter, sailed out of the shadow
of the churchyard--the same young moon that had sailed in her silver
irony when the first Barter preached, the first Pendyce was Squire at
Worsted Skeynes; the same young moon that, serene, ineffable, would
come again when the last Barter slept, the last Pendyce was gone, and
on their gravestones, through the amethystine air, let fall her
The Rector thought:
'I shall set Stedman to work on that corner. We must have more room;
the stones there are a hundred and fifty years old if they're a day.
You can't read a single word. They'd better be the first to go.'
He passed on along the paddock footway leading to the Squire's.
Day was gone, and only the moonbeams lighted the tall grasses.
At the Hall the long French windows of the dining-room were open; the
Squire was sitting there alone, brooding sadly above the remnants of
the fruit he had been eating. Flanking him on either wall hung a
silent company, the effigies of past Pendyces; and at the end, above
the oak and silver of the sideboard, the portrait of his wife was
looking at them under lifted brows, with her faint wonder.
He raised his head.
"Ah, Barter! How's your wife?"
"Doing as well as can be expected."
"Glad to hear that! A fine constitution--wonderful vitality. Port
"Thanks; just a glass of port."
"Very trying for your nerves. I know what it is. We're different
from the last generation; they thought nothing of it. When Charles
was born my dear old father was out hunting all day. When my wife
had George, it made me as nervous as a cat!"
The Squire stopped, then hurriedly added:
"But you're so used to it."
Mr. Barter frowned.
"I was passing Coldingham to-day," he said. "I saw Winlow. He asked
"Ah! Winlow! His wife's a very nice woman. They've only the one
child, I think?"
The Rector winced.
"Winlow tells me," he said abruptly, "that George has sold his
The Squire's face changed. He glanced suspiciously at Mr. Barter,
but the Rector was looking at his glass.
"Sold his horse! What's the meaning of that? He told you why, I
The Rector drank off his wine.
"I never ask for reasons," he said, "where racing-men are concerned.
It's my belief they know no more what they're about than so many dumb
"Ah! racing-men!" said Mr. Pendyce. "But George doesn't bet."
A gleam of humour shot into the Rector's eyes. He pressed his lips
The Squire rose.
"Come now, Barter!" he said.
The Rector blushed. He hated tale-bearing--that is, of course, in
the case of a man; the case of a woman was different--and just as,
when he went to Bellew he had been careful not to give George away,
so now he was still more on his guard.
"No, no, Pendyce."
The Squire began to pace the room, and Mr. Barter felt something stir
against his foot; the spaniel John emerging at the end, just where
the moonlight shone, a symbol of all that was subservient to the
Squire, gazed up at his master with tragic eyes. 'Here, again,' they
seemed to say, 'is something to disturb me!'
The Squire broke the silence.
"I've always counted on you, Barter; I count on you as I would on my
own brother. Come, now, what's this about George?"
'After all,' thought the Rector, 'it's his father!'--"I know nothing
but what they say," he blurted forth; "they talk of his having lost a
lot of money. I dare say it's all nonsense. I never set much store
by rumour. And if he's sold the horse, well, so much the better. He
won't be tempted to gamble again."
But Horace Pendyce made no answer. A single thought possessed his
bewildered, angry mind:
'My son a gambler! Worsted Skeynes in the hands of a gambler!'
The Rector rose.
"It's all rumour. You shouldn't pay any attention. I should hardly
think he's been such a fool. I only know that I must get back to my
And, nodding but confused, Mr. Barter went away through the French
window by which he had come.
The Squire stood motionless.
To him, whose existence was bound up in Worsted Skeynes, whose every
thought had some direct or indirect connection with it, whose son was
but the occupier of that place he must at last vacate, whose religion
was ancestor-worship, whose dread was change, no word could be so
terrible. A gambler!
It did not occur to him that his system was in any way responsible
for George's conduct. He had said to Mr. Paramor: "I never had a
system; I'm no believer in systems." He had brought him up simply as
a gentleman. He would have preferred that George should go into the
Army, but George had failed; he would have preferred that George
should devote himself to the estate, marry, and have a son, instead
of idling away his time in town, but George had failed; and so,
beyond furthering his desire to join the Yeomanry, and getting him
proposed for the Stoics' Club, what was there he could have done to
keep him out of mischief? And now he was a gambler!
Once a gambler always a gambler!
To his wife's face, looking down from the wall, he said:
"He gets it from you!"
But for all answer the face stared gently.
Turning abruptly, he left the room, and the spaniel John, for whom he
had been too quick, stood with his nose to the shut door, scenting
for someone to come and open it.
Mr. Pendyce went to his study, took some papers from a locked drawer,
and sat a long time looking at them. One was the draft of his will,
another a list of the holdings at Worsted Skeynes, their acreage and
rents, a third a fair copy of the settlement, re-settling the estate
when he had married. It was at this piece of supreme irony that Mr.
Pendyce looked longest. He did not read it, but he thought:
'And I can't cut it! Paramor says so! A gambler!'
That "crassness" common to all men in this strange world, and in the
Squire intensified, was rather a process than a quality--obedience to
an instinctive dread of what was foreign to himself, an instinctive
fear of seeing another's point of view, an instinctive belief in
precedent. And it was closely allied to his most deep and moral
quality--the power of making a decision. Those decisions might be
"crass" and stupid, conduce to unnecessary suffering, have no
relation to morality or reason; but he could make them, and he could
stick to them. By virtue of this power he was where he was, had been
for centuries, and hoped to be for centuries to come. It was in his
blood. By this alone he kept at bay the destroying forces that Time
brought against him, his order, his inheritance; by this alone he
could continue to hand down that inheritance to his son. And at the
document which did hand it down he looked with angry and resentful
Men who conceive great resolutions do not always bring them forth
with the ease and silence which they themselves desire. Mr. Pendyce
went to his bedroom determined to say no word of what he had resolved
to do. His wife was asleep. The Squire's entrance wakened her, but
she remained motionless, with her eyes closed, and it was the sight
of that immobility, when he himself was so disturbed, which drew from
him the words:
"Did you know that George was a gambler?"
By the light of the candle in his silver candlestick her dark eyes
seemed suddenly alive.
"He's been betting; he's sold his horse. He'd never have sold that
horse unless he were pushed. For all I know, he may be posted at
The sheets shivered as though she who lay within them were
struggling. Then came her voice, cool and gentle:
"All young men bet, Horace; you must know that!"
The Squire at the foot of the bed held up the candle; the movement
had a sinister significance.
"Do you defend him?" it seemed to say. "Do you defy me?"
Gripping the bed-rail, he cried:
"I'll have no gambler and profligate for my son! I'll not risk the
Mrs. Pendyce raised herself, and for many seconds stared at her
husband. Her heart beat furiously. It had come! What she had been
expecting all these days had come! Her pale lips answered:
"What do you mean? I don't understand you, Horace."
Mr. Pendyce's eyes searched here and therefor what, he did not know.
"This has decided me," he said. "I'll have no half-measures. Until
he can show me he's done with that woman, until he can prove he's
given up this betting, until--until the heaven's fallen, I'll have no
more to do with him!"
To Margery Pendyce, with all her senses quivering, that saying,
"Until the heaven's fallen," was frightening beyond the rest. On the
lips of her husband, those lips which had never spoken in metaphors,
never swerved from the direct and commonplace, nor deserted the
shibboleth of his order, such words had an evil and malignant sound.
He went on:
"I've brought him up as I was brought up myself. I never thought to
have had a scamp for my son!"
Mrs. Pendyce's heart stopped fluttering.
"How dare you, Horace!" she cried.
The Squire, letting go the bed-rail, paced to and fro. There was
something savage in the sound of his footsteps through the utter
"I've made up my mind," he said. "The estate----"
There broke from Mrs. Pendyce a torrent of words:
"You talk of the way you brought George up! You--you never
understood him! You--you never did anything for him! He just grew
up like you all grow up in this-----" But no word followed, for she
did not know herself what was that against which her soul had blindly
fluttered its wings. "You never loved him as I do! What do I care
about the estate? I wish it were sold! D'you think I like living
here? D'you think I've ever liked it? D'you think I've ever----"
But she did not finish that saying: D'you think I've ever loved you?
"My boy a scamp! I've heard you laugh and shake your head and say a
hundred times: 'Young men will be young men!' You think I don't know
how you'd all go on if you dared! You think I don't know how you
talk among yourselves! As for gambling, you'd gamble too, if you
weren't afraid! And now George is in trouble----"
As suddenly as it had broken forth the torrent of her words dried up.
Mr. Pendyce had come back to the foot of the bed, and once more
gripped the rail whereon the candle, still and bright, showed them
each other's faces, very changed from the faces that they knew. In
the Squire's lean brown throat, between the parted points of his
stiff collar, a string seemed working. He stammered:
"You--you're talking like a madwoman! My father would have cut me
off, his father would have cut him off! By God! do you think I'll
stand quietly by and see it all played ducks and drakes with, and see
that woman here, and see her son, a--a bastard, or as bad as a
bastard, in my place? You don't know me!"
The last words came through his teeth like the growl of a dog. Mrs.
Pendyce made the crouching movement of one who gathers herself to
"If you give him up, I shall go to him; I will never come back!"
The Squire's grip on the rail relaxed; in the light of the candle,
still and steady and bright--his jaw could be seen to fall. He
snapped his teeth together, and turning abruptly, said:
"Don't talk such rubbish!"
Then, taking the candle, he went into his dressing-room.
And at first his feelings were simple enough; he had merely that sore
sensation, that sense of raw offence, as at some gross and violent
breach of taste.
'What madness,' he thought, 'gets into women! It would serve her
right if I slept here!'
He looked around him. There was no place where he could sleep, not
even a sofa, and taking up the candle, he moved towards the door.
But a feeling of hesitation and forlornness rising, he knew not
whence, made him pause irresolute before the window.
The young moon, riding low, shot her light upon his still, lean
figure, and in that light it was strange to see how grey he looked--
grey from head to foot, grey, and sad, and old, as though in summary
of all the squires who in turn had looked upon that prospect frosted
with young moonlight to the boundary of their lands. Out in the
paddock he saw his old hunter Bob, with his head turned towards the
house; and from the very bottom of his heart he sighed.
In answer to that sigh came a sound of something falling outside
against the door. He opened it to see what might be there. The
spaniel John, lying on a cushion of blue linen, with his head propped
up against the wall, darkly turned his eyes.
'I am here, master,' he seemed to say; 'it is late--I was about to go
to sleep; it has done me good, however, to see you;' and hiding his
eyes from the light under a long black ear, he drew a stertorous
breath. Mr. Pendyce shut-to the door. He had forgotten the
existence of his dog. But, as though with the sight of that faithful
creature he had regained belief in all that he was used to, in all
that he was master of, in all that was--himself, he opened the
bedroom door and took his place beside his wife.
And soon he was asleep.
MRS. PENDYCE'S ODYSSEY
But Mrs. Pendyce did not sleep. That blessed anodyne of the long day
spent in his farmyards and fields was on her husband's eyes--no
anodyne on hers; and through them, all that was deep, most hidden,
sacred, was laid open to the darkness. If only those eyes could have
been seen that night! But if the darkness had been light, nothing of
all this so deep and sacred would have been there to see, for more
deep, more sacred still, in Margery Pendyce, was the instinct of a
lady. So elastic and so subtle, so interwoven of consideration for
others and consideration for herself, so old, so very old, this
instinct wrapped her from all eyes, like a suit of armour of the
finest chain. The night must have been black indeed when she took
that off and lay without it in the darkness.
With the first light she put it on again, and stealing from bed,
bathed long and stealthily those eyes which felt as though they had
been burned all night; thence went to the open window and leaned out.
Dawn had passed, the birds were at morning music. Down there in the
garden her flowers were meshed with the grey dew, and the trees were
grey, spun with haze; dim and spectrelike, the old hunter, with his
nose on the paddock rail, dozed in the summer mist.
And all that had been to her like prison out there, and all that she
had loved, stole up on the breath of the unaired morning, and kept
beating in her face, fluttering at the white linen above her heart
like the wings of birds flying.
The first morning song ceased, and at the silence the sun smiled out
in golden irony, and everything was shot with colour. A wan glow
fell on Mrs. Pendyce's spirit, that for so many hours had been heavy
and grey in lonely resolution. For to her gentle soul, unused to
action, shrinking from violence, whose strength was the gift of the
ages, passed into it against her very nature, the resolution she had
formed was full of pain. Yet painful, even terrible in its demand
for action, it did not waver, but shone like a star behind the dark
and heavy clouds. In Margery Pendyce (who had been a Totteridge)
there was no irascible and acrid "people's blood," no fierce
misgivings, no ill-digested beer and cider--it was pure claret in her
veins--she had nothing thick and angry in her soul to help her; that
which she had resolved she must carry out, by virtue of a thin, fine
flame, breathing far down in her--so far that nothing could
extinguish it, so far that it had little warmth. It was not "I will
not be overridden" that her spirit felt, but "I must not be over-
ridden, for if I am over-ridden, I, and in me something beyond me,
more important than myself, is all undone." And though she was far
from knowing this, that something was her country's civilisation, its
very soul, the meaning of it all gentleness, balance. Her spirit, of
that quality so little gross that it would never set up a mean or
petty quarrel, make mountains out of mole-hills, distort proportion,
or get images awry, had taken its stand unconsciously, no sooner than
it must, no later than it ought, and from that stand would not
recede. The issue had passed beyond mother love to that self-love,
deepest of all, which says:
"Do this, or forfeit the essence of your soul"
And now that she stole to her bed again, she looked at her sleeping
husband whom she had resolved to leave, with no anger, no reproach,
but rather with a long, incurious look which toad nothing even to
So, when the morning came of age and it was time to rise, by no
action, look, or sign, did she betray the presence of the unusual in
her soul. If this which was before her must be done, it would be
carried out as though it were of no import, as though it were a daily
action; nor did she force herself to quietude, or pride herself
thereon, but acted thus from instinct, the instinct for avoiding fuss
and unnecessary suffering that was bred in her.
Mr. Pendyce went out at half-past ten accompanied by his bailiff and
the spaniel John. He had not the least notion that his wife still
meant the words she had spoken overnight. He had told her again
while dressing that he would have no more to do with George, that he
would cut him out of his will, that he would force him by sheer
rigour to come to heel, that, in short, he meant to keep his word,
and it would have been unreasonable in him to believe that a woman,
still less his wife, meant to keep hers.
Mrs. Pendyce spent the early part of the morning in the usual way.
Half an hour after the Squire went out she ordered the carriage
round, had two small trunks, which she had packed herself, brought
down, and leisurely, with her little green bag, got in. To her maid,
to the butler Bester, to the coachman Benson, she said that she was
going up to stay with Mr. George. Norah and Bee were at the Tharps',
so that there was no one to take leave of but old Roy, the Skye; and
lest that leave-taking should prove too much for her, she took him
with her to the station.
For her husband she left a little note, placing it where she knew he
must see it at once, and no one else see it at all.
"I have gone up to London to be with George. My address will be
Green's Hotel, Bond Street. You will remember what I said last
night. Perhaps you did not quite realise that I meant it. Take care
of poor old Roy, and don't let them give him too much meat this hot
weather. Jackman knows better than Ellis how to manage the roses
this year. I should like to be told how poor Rose Barter gets on.
Please do not worry about me. I shall write to dear Gerald when
necessary, but I don't feel like writing to him or the girls at
"Good-bye, dear Horace; I am sorry if I grieve you.
Just as there was nothing violent in her manner of taking this step,
so there was nothing violent in her conception of it. To her it was
not running away, a setting of her husband at defiance; there was no
concealment of address, no melodramatic "I cannot come back to you."
Such methods, such pistol-holdings, would have seemed to her
ridiculous. It is true that practical details, such as the financial
consequences, escaped the grasp of her mind, but even in this, her
view, or rather lack of view, was really the wide, the even one.
Horace would not let her starve: the idea was inconceivable. There
was, too, her own three hundred a year. She had, indeed, no idea how
much this meant, or what it represented, neither was she concerned,
for she said to herself, "I should be quite happy in a cottage with
Roy and my flowers;" and though, of course, she had not the smallest
experience to go by, it was quite possible that she was right.
Things which to others came only by money, to a Totteridge came
without, and even if they came not, could well be dispensed with--for
to this quality of soul, this gentle self-sufficiency, had the ages
worked to bring her.
Yet it was hastily and with her head bent that she stepped from the
carriage at the station, and the old Skye, who from the brougham seat
could just see out of the window, from the tears on his nose that
were not his own, from something in his heart that was, knew this was
no common parting and whined behind the glass.
Mrs. Pendyce told her cabman to drive to Green's Hotel, and it was
only after she had arrived, arranged her things, washed, and had
lunch, that the beginnings of confusion and home-sickness stirred
within her. Up to then a simmering excitement had kept her from
thinking of how she was to act, or of what she had hoped, expected,
dreamed, would come of her proceedings. Taking her sunshade, she
walked out into Bond Street.
A passing man took off his hat.
'Dear me,' she thought, 'who was that? I ought to know!'
She had a rather vague memory for faces, and though she could not
recall his name, felt more at home at once, not so lonely and adrift.
Soon a quaint brightness showed in her eyes, looking at the toilettes
of the passers-by, and at each shop-front, more engrossing than the
last. Pleasure, like that which touches the soul of a young girl at
her first dance, the souls of men landing on strange shores, touched
Margery Pendyce. A delicious sense of entering the unknown, of
braving the unexpected, and of the power to go on doing this
delightfully for ever, enveloped her with the gay London air of this
bright June day. She passed a perfume shop, and thought she had
never smelt anything so nice. And next door she lingered long
looking at some lace; and though she said to herself, "I must not buy
anything; I shall want all my money for poor George," it made no
difference to that sensation of having all things to her hand.
A list of theatres, concerts, operas confronted her in the next
window, together with the effigies of prominent artistes. She looked
at them with an eagerness that might have seemed absurd to anyone who
saw her standing there. Was there, indeed, all this going on all day
and every day, to be seen and heard for so few shillings? Every
year, religiously, she had visited the opera once, the theatre twice,
and no concerts; her husband did not care for music that was
"classical." While she was standing there a woman begged of her,
looking very tired and hot, with a baby in her arms so shrivelled and
so small that it could hardly be seen. Mrs. Pendyce took out her
purse and gave her half a crown, and as she did so felt a gush of
feeling which was almost rage.
'Poor little baby!' she thought. 'There must be thousands like that,
and I know nothing of them!'
She smiled to the woman, who smiled back at her; and a fat Jewish
youth in a shop doorway, seeing them smile, smiled too, as though he
found them charming. Mrs. Pendyce had a feeling that the town was
saying pretty things to her, and this was so strange and pleasant
that she could hardly believe it, for Worsted Skeynes had omitted to
say that sort of thing to her for over thirty years. She looked in
the window of a hat shop, and found pleasure in the sight of herself.
The window was kind to her grey linen, with black velvet knots and
guipure, though it was two years old; but, then, she had only been
able to wear it once last summer, owing to poor Hubert's death. The
window was kind, too, to her cheeks, and eyes, which had that
touching brightness, and to the silver-powdered darkness of her hair.
And she thought: 'I don't look so very old!' But her own hat
reflected in the hat-shop window displeased her now; it turned down
all round, and though she loved that shape, she was afraid it was not
fashionable this year. And she looked long in the window of that
shop, trying to persuade herself that the hats in there would suit
her, and that she liked what she did not like. In other shop windows
she looked, too. It was a year since she had seen any, and for
thirty-four years past she had only seen them in company with the
Squire or with her daughters, none of whom cared much for shops.
The people, too, were different from the people that she saw when she
went about with Horace or her girls. Almost all seemed charming,
having a new, strange life, in which she--Margery Pendyce--had
unaccountably a little part; as though really she might come to know
them, as though they might tell her something of themselves, of what
they felt and thought, and even might stand listening, taking a
kindly interest in what she said. This, too, was strange, and a
friendly smile became fixed upon her face, and of those who saw it--
shop-girls, women of fashion, coachmen, clubmen, policemen--most felt
a little warmth about their hearts; it was pleasant to see on the
lips of that faded lady with the silvered arching hair under a hat
whose brim turned down all round.
So Mrs. Pendyce came to Piccadilly and turned westward towards
George's club. She knew it well, for she never failed to look at the
windows when she passed, and once--on the occasion of Queen
Victoria's Jubilee--had spent a whole day there to see that royal
She began to tremble as she neared it, for though she did not, like
the Squire, torture her mind with what might or might not come to
pass, care had nested in her heart.
George was not in his club, and the porter could not tell her where
he was. Mrs. Pendyce stood motionless. He was her son; how could
she ask for his address? The porter waited, knowing a lady when he
saw one. Mrs. Pendyce said gently:
"Is there a room where I could write a note, or would it be----"
"Certainly not, ma'am. I can show you to a room at once."
And though it was only a mother to a son, the porter preceded her
with the quiet discretion of one who aids a mistress to her lover;
and perhaps he was right in his view of the relative values of love,
for he had great experience, having lived long in the best society.
On paper headed with the fat white "Stoics' Club," so well known on
George's letters, Mrs. Pendyce wrote what she had to say. The little
dark room where she sat was without sound, save for the buzzing of a
largish fly in a streak of sunlight below the blind. It was dingy in
colour; its furniture was old. At the Stoics' was found neither the
new art nor the resplendent drapings of those larger clubs sacred to
the middle classes. The little writing-room had an air of mourning:
"I am so seldom used; but be at home in me; you might find me tucked
away in almost any country-house!"
Yet many a solitary Stoic had sat there and written many a note to
many a woman. George, perhaps, had written to Helen Bellew at that
very table with that very pen, and Mrs. Pendyce's heart ached
"DEAREST GEORGE" (she wrote),
"I have something very particular to tell you. Do come to me at
Green's Hotel. Come soon, my dear. I shall be lonely and unhappy
till I see you.
And this note, which was just what she would have sent to a lover,
took that form, perhaps unconsciously, because she had never had a
lover thus to write to.
She slipped the note and half a crown diffidently into the porter's
hand; refused his offer of some tea, and walked vaguely towards the
It was five o'clock; the sun was brighter than ever. People in
carriages and people on foot in one leisurely, unending stream were
filing in at Hyde Park Corner. Mrs. Pendyce went, too, and timidly--
she was unused to traffic--crossed to the further side and took a
chair. Perhaps George was in the Park and she might see him; perhaps
Helen Bellew was there, and she might see her; and the thought of
this made her heart beat and her eyes under their uplifted brows
stare gently at each figure-old men and young men, women of the
world, fresh young girls. How charming they looked, how sweetly they
were dressed! A feeling of envy mingled with the joy she ever felt
at seeing pretty things; she was quite unconscious that she herself
was pretty under that hat whose brim turned down all round. But as
she sat a leaden feeling slowly closed her heart, varied by nervous
flutterings, when she saw someone whom she ought to know. And
whenever, in response to a salute, she was forced to bow her head, a
blush rose in her cheeks, a wan smile seemed to make confession:
"I know I look a guy; I know it's odd for me to be sitting here
She felt old--older than she had ever felt before. In the midst of
this gay crowd, of all this life and sunshine, a feeling of
loneliness which was almost fear--a feeling of being utterly adrift,
cut off from all the world--came over her; and she felt like one of
her own plants, plucked up from its native earth, with all its poor
roots hanging bare, as though groping for the earth to cling to. She
knew now that she had lived too long in the soil that she had hated;
and was too old to be transplanted. The custom of the country--that
weighty, wingless creature born of time and of the earth--had its
limbs fast twined around her. It had made of her its mistress, and
was not going to let her go.
THE SON AND THE MOTHER
Harder than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle is it for
a man to become a member of the Stoics' Club, except by virtue of the
hereditary principle; for unless he be nourished he cannot be
elected, and since by the club's first rule he may have no occupation
whatsoever, he must be nourished by the efforts of those who have
gone before. And the longer they have gone before the more likely he
is to receive no blackballs.
Yet without entering into the Stoics' Club it is difficult for a man
to attain that supreme outward control which is necessary to conceal
his lack of control within; and, indeed, the club is an admirable
instance of how Nature places the remedy to hand for the disease.
For, perceiving how George Pendyce and hundreds of other young men
"to the manner born" had lived from their birth up in no connection
whatever with the struggles and sufferings of life, and fearing lest,
when Life in her careless and ironical fashion brought them into
abrupt contact with ill-bred events they should make themselves a
nuisance by their cries of dismay and wonder, Nature had devised a
mask and shaped it to its highest form within the portals of the
Stoics' Club. With this mask she clothed the faces of these young
men whose souls she doubted, and called them--gentlemen. And when
she, and she alone, heard their poor squeaks behind that mask, as
Life placed clumsy feet on them, she pitied them, knowing that it was
not they who were in fault, but the unpruned system which had made
them what they were. And in her pity she endowed many of them with
thick skins, steady feet, and complacent souls, so that, treading in
well-worn paths their lives long, they might slumber to their deaths
in those halls where their fathers had slumbered to their deaths
before them. But sometimes Nature (who was not yet a Socialist)
rustled her wings and heaved a sigh, lest the excesses and
excrescences of their system should bring about excesses and
excrescences of the opposite sort. For extravagance of all kinds was
what she hated, and of that particular form of extravagance which Mr.
Paramor so vulgarly called "Pendycitis" she had a horror.
It may happen that for long years the likeness between father and son
will lie dormant, and only when disintegrating forces threaten the
links of the chain binding them together will that likeness leap
forth, and by a piece of Nature's irony become the main factor in
destroying the hereditary principle for which it is the silent, the
most worthy, excuse.
It is certain that neither George nor his father knew the depth to
which this "Pendycitis" was rooted in the other; neither suspected,
not even in themselves, the amount of essential bulldog at the bottom
of their souls, the strength of their determination to hold their own
in the way that would cause the greatest amount of unnecessary
suffering. They did not deliberately desire to cause unnecessary
suffering; they simply could not help an instinct passed by time into
their fibre, through atrophy of the reasoning powers and the constant
mating, generation after generation, of those whose motto had been,
"Kings of our own dunghills." And now George came forward, defying
his mother's belief that he was a Totteridge, as champion of the
principle in tail male; for in the Totteridges, from whom in this
stress he diverged more and more towards his father's line, there was
some freer strain, something non-provincial, and this had been so
ever since Hubert de-Totteridge had led his private crusade, from
which he had neglected to return. With the Pendyces it had been
otherwise; from immemorial time "a county family," they had construed
the phrase literally, had taken no poetical licences. Like
innumerable other county families, they were perforce what their
tradition decreed--provincial in their souls.
George, a man-about-town, would have stared at being called
provincial, but a man cannot stare away his nature. He was
provincial enough to keep Mrs. Bellew bound when she herself was
tired of him, and consideration for her, and for his own self-respect
asked him to give her up. He had been keeping her bound for two
months or more. But there was much excuse for him. His heart was
sore to breaking-point; he was sick with longing, and deep, angry
wonder that he, of all men, should be cast aside like a worn-out
glove. Men tired of women daily--that was the law. But what was
this? His dogged instinct had fought against the knowledge as long
as he could, and now that it was certain he fought against it still.
George was a true Pendyce!
To the world, however, he behaved as usual. He came to the club
about ten o'clock to eat his breakfast and read the sporting papers.
Towards noon a hansom took him to the railway-station appropriate to
whatever race-meeting was in progress, or, failing that, to the
cricket-ground at Lord's, or Prince's Tennis Club. Half-past six saw
him mounting the staircase at the Stoics' to that card-room where his
effigy still hung, with its look of "Hard work, hard work; but I must
keep it going!" At eight he dined, a bottle of champagne screwed
deep down into ice, his face flushed with the day's sun, his shirt-
front and his hair shining with gloss. What happier man in all great
But with the dark the club's swing-doors opened for his passage into
the lighted streets, and till next morning the world knew him no
more. It was then that he took revenge for all the hours he wore a
mask. He would walk the pavements for miles trying to wear himself
out, or in the Park fling himself down on a chair in the deep shadow
of the trees, and sit there with his arms folded and his head bowed
down. On other nights he would go into some music-hall, and amongst
the glaring lights, the vulgar laughter, the scent of painted women,
try for a moment to forget the face, the laugh, the scent of that
woman for whom he craved. And all the time he was jealous, with a
dumb, vague jealousy of he knew not whom; it was not his nature to
think impersonally, and he could not believe that a woman would drop
him except for another man. Often he went to her Mansions, and
walked round and round casting a stealthy stare at her windows.
Twice he went up to her door, but came away without ringing the bell.
One evening, seeing a light in her sitting-room, he rang, but there
came no answer. Then an evil spirit leaped up in him, and he rang
again and again. At last he went away to his room--a studio he had
taken near--and began to write to her. He was long composing that
letter, and many times tore it up; he despised the expression of
feelings in writing. He only tried because his heart wanted relief
so badly. And this, in the end, was all that he produced:
"I know you were in to-night. It's the only time I've come. Why
couldn't you have let me in? You've no right to treat me like this.
You are leading me the life of a dog."
The first light was silvering the gloom above the river, the lamps
were paling to the day, when George went out and dropped this missive
in the letter-box. He came back to the river and lay down on an
empty bench under the plane-trees of the Embankment, and while he lay
there one of those without refuge or home, who lie there night after
night, came up unseen and looked at him.
But morning comes, and with it that sense of the ridiculous, so
merciful to suffering men. George got up lest anyone should see a
Stoic lying there in his evening clothes; and when it became time he
put on his mask and sallied forth. At the club he found his mother's
note, and set out for her hotel.
Mrs. Pendyce was not yet down, but sent to ask him to come up.
George found her standing in her dressing-gown in the middle of the
room, as though she knew not where to place herself for this, their
meeting. Only when he was quite close did she move and throw her
arms round his neck. George could not see her face, and his own was
hidden from her, but through the thin dressing-gown he felt her
straining to him, and her arms that had pulled his head down
quivering; and for a moment it seemed to him as if he were dropping a
burden. But only for a moment, for at the clinging of those arms his
instinct took fright. And though she was smiling, the tears were in
her eyes, and this offended him.
Mrs. Pendyce's answer was a long look. George could not bear it, and
"Well," he said gruffly, "when you can tell me what's brought you
Mrs. Pendyce sat down on the sofa. She had been brushing her hair;
though silvered, it was still thick and soft, and the sight of it
about her shoulders struck George. He had never thought of her
having hair that would hang down.
Sitting on the sofa beside her, he felt her fingers stroking his,
begging him not to take offence and leave her. He felt her eyes
trying to see his eyes, and saw her lips trembling; but a stubborn,
almost evil smile was fixed upon his face.
"And so, dear--and so," she stammered, "I told your father that I
couldn't see that done, and so I came up to you."
Many sons have found no hardship in accepting all that their mothers
do for them as a matter of right, no difficulty in assuming their
devotion a matter of course, no trouble in leaving their own
affections to be understood; but most sons have found great
difficulty in permitting their mothers to diverge one inch from the
conventional, to swerve one hair's breadth from the standard of
propriety appropriate to mothers of men of their importance.
It is decreed of mothers that their birth pangs shall not cease until
And George was shocked to hear his mother say that she had left his
father to come to him. It affected his self-esteem in a strange and
subtle way. The thought that tongues might wag about her revolted
his manhood and his sense of form. It seemed strange,
incomprehensible, and wholly wrong; the thought, too, gashed through
his mind: 'She is trying to put pressure on me!'
"If you think I'll give her up, Mother----" he said.
Mrs. Pendyce's fingers tightened.
"No, dear," she answered painfully; "of course, if she loves you so
much, I couldn't ask you. That's why I----"
George gave a grim little laugh.
"What on earth can you do, then? What's the good of your coming up
like this? How are you to get on here all alone? I can fight my own
battles. You'd much better go back."
Mrs. Pendyce broke in:
"Oh, George; I can't see you cast off from us! I must be with you!"
George felt her trembling all over. He got up and walked to the
window. Mrs. Pendyce's voice followed:
"I won't try to separate you, George; I promise, dear. I couldn't,
if she loves you, and you love her so!"
Again George laughed that grim little laugh. And the fact that he
was deceiving her, meant to go on deceiving her, made him as hard as
"Go back, Mother!" he said. "You'll only make things worse. This
isn't a woman's business. Let father do what he likes; I can hold
Mrs. Pendyce did not answer, and he was obliged to look round. She
was sitting perfectly still with her hands in her lap, and his man's
hatred of anything conspicuous happening to a woman, to his own
mother of all people, took fiercer fire.
"Go back!" he repeated, "before there's any fuss! What good can you
possibly do? You can't leave father; that's absurd! You must go!"
Mrs. Pendyce answered:
"I can't do that, dear."
George made an angry sound, but she was so motionless and pale that
he dimly perceived how she was suffering, and how little he knew of
her who had borne him.
Mrs. Pendyce broke the silence:
"But you, George dear? What is going to happen? How are you going
to manage?" And suddenly clasping her hands: "Oh! what is coming?"
Those words, embodying all that had been in his heart so long, were
too much for George. He went abruptly to the door.
"I can't stop now," he said; "I'll come again this evening."
Mrs. Pendyce looked up.
But as she had the habit of subordinating her feelings to the
feelings of others, she said no more, but tried to smile.
That smile smote George to the heart.
"Don't worry, Mother; try and cheer up. We'll go to the theatre.
You get the tickets!"
And trying to smile too, but turning lest he should lose his self-
control, he went away.
In the hall he came on his uncle, General Pendyce. He came on him
from behind, but knew him at once by that look of feeble activity
about the back of his knees, by his sloping yet upright shoulders,
and the sound of his voice, with its dry and querulous precision, as
of a man whose occupation has been taken from him.
The General turned round.
"Ah, George," he said, "your mother's here, isn't she? Look at this
that your father's sent me!"
He held out a telegram in a shaky hand.
"Margery up at Green's Hotel. Go and see her at once.
And while George read the General looked at his nephew with eyes that
were ringed by little circles of darker pigment, and had crow's-
footed purses of skin beneath, earned by serving his country in
"What's the meaning of it?" he said. "Go and see her? Of course,
I'll go and see her! Always glad to see your mother. But where's
all the hurry ?"
George perceived well enough that his father's pride would not let
him write to her, and though it was for himself that his mother had
taken this step, he sympathised with his father. The General
fortunately gave him little time to answer.
"She's up to get herself some dresses, I suppose? I've seen nothing
of you for a long time. When are you coming to dine with me? I
heard at Epsom that you'd sold your horse. What made you do that?
What's your father telegraphing to me like this for? It's not like
him. Your mother's not ill, is she?"
George shook his head, and muttering something about "Sorry, an
engagement--awful hurry," was gone.
Left thus abruptly to himself, General Pendyce summoned a page,
slowly pencilled something on his card, and with his back to the only
persons in the hall, waited, his hands folded on the handle of his
cane. And while he waited he tried as far as possible to think of
nothing. Having served his country, his time now was nearly all
devoted to waiting, and to think fatigued and made him feel
discontented, for he had had sunstroke once, and fever several times.
In the perfect precision of his collar, his boots, his dress, his
figure; in the way from time to time he cleared his throat, in the
strange yellow driedness of his face between his carefully brushed
whiskers, in the immobility of his white hands on his cane, he gave
the impression of a man sucked dry by a system. Only his eyes,
restless and opinionated, betrayed the essential Pendyce that was
He went up to the ladies' drawing-room, clutching that telegram. It
worried him. There was something odd about it, and he was not
accustomed to pay calls in the morning. He found his sister-in-law
seated at an open window, her face unusually pink, her eyes rather
defiantly bright. She greeted him gently, and General Pendyce was
not the man to discern what was not put under his nose. Fortunately
for him, that had never been his practice.
"How are you, Margery?" he said. "Glad to see you in town. How's
Horace? Look here what he's sent me!" He offered her the telegram,
with the air of slightly avenging an offence; then added in surprise,
as though he had lust thought of it: "Is there anything I can do for
Mrs. Pendyce read the telegram, and she, too, like George, felt sorry
for the sender.
"Nothing, thanks, dear Charles," she said slowly. "I'm all right.
Horace gets so nervous!"
General Pendyce looked at her; for a moment his eyes flickered, then,
since the truth was so improbable and so utterly in any case beyond
his philosophy, he accepted her statement.
"He shouldn't go sending telegrams like this," he said. "You might
have been ill for all I could tell. It spoiled my breakfast!" For
though, as a fact, it had not prevented his completing a hearty meal,
he fancied that he felt hungry. "When I was quartered at Halifax
there was a fellow who never sent anything but telegrams. Telegraph
Jo they called him. He commanded the old Bluebottles. You know the
old Bluebottles? If Horace is going to take to this sort of thing
he'd better see a specialist; it's almost certain to mean a
breakdown. You're up about dresses, I see. When do you come to
town? The season's getting on."
Mrs. Pendyce was not afraid of her husband's brother, for though
punctilious and accustomed to his own way with inferiors, he was
hardly a man to inspire awe in his social equals. It was, therefore,
not through fear that she did not tell him the truth, but through an
instinct for avoiding all unnecessary suffering too strong for her,
and because the truth was really untellable. Even to herself it
seemed slightly ridiculous, and she knew the poor General would take
it so dreadfully to heart.
"I don't know about coming up this season. The garden is looking so
beautiful, and there's Bee's engagement. The dear child is so
The General caressed a whisker with his white hand.
"Ah yes," he said--"young Tharp! Let's see, he's not the eldest.
His brother's in my old corps. What does this young fellow do with
Mrs. Pendyce answered:
"He's only farming. I'm afraid he'll have nothing to speak of, but
he's a dear good boy. It'll be a long engagement. Of course,
there's nothing in farming, and Horace insists on their having a
thousand a year. It depends so much on Mr. Tharp. I think they
could do perfectly well on seven hundred to start with, don't you,
General Pendyce's answer was not more conspicuously to the point than
usual, for he was a man who loved to pursue his own trains of
"What about George?", he said. "I met him in the hall as I was
coming in, but he ran off in the very deuce of a hurry. They told me
at Epsom that he was hard hit."
His eyes, distracted by a fly for which he had taken a dislike,
failed to observe his sister-in-law's face.
"Hard hit?" she repeated.
"Lost a lot of money. That won't do, you know, Margery--that won't
do. A little mild gambling's one thing."
Mrs. Pendyce said nothing; her face was rigid: It was the face of a
woman on the point of saying: "Do not compel me to hint that you are
The General went on:
"A lot of new men have taken to racing that no one knows anything
about. That fellow who bought George's horse, for instance; you'd
never have seen his nose in Tattersalls when I was a young man. I
find when I go racing I don't know half the colours. It spoils the
pleasure. It's no longer the close borough that it was. George had
better take care what he's about. I can't imagine what we're coming
On Margery Pendyce's hearing, those words, "I can't imagine what
we're coming to," had fallen for four-and-thirty years, in every sort
of connection, from many persons. It had become part of her life,
indeed, to take it for granted that people could imagine nothing;
just as the solid food and solid comfort of Worsted Skeynes and the
misty mornings and the rain had become part of her life. And it was
only the fact that her nerves were on edge and her heart bursting
that made those words seem intolerable that morning; but habit was
even now too strong, and she kept silence.
The General, to whom an answer was of no great moment, pursued his
"And you mark my words, Margery; the elections will go against us.
The country's in a dangerous state."
Mrs. Pendyce said:
"Oh, do you think the Liberals will really get in?"
>From custom there was a shade of anxiety in her voice which she did
"Think?" repeated General Pendyce. "I pray every night to God they
Folding both hands on the silver knob of his Malacca cane, he stared
over them at the opposing wall; and there was something universal in
that fixed stare, a sort of blank and not quite selfish apprehension.
Behind his personal interests his ancestors had drilled into him the
impossibility of imagining that he did not stand for the welfare of
his country. Mrs. Pendyce, who had so often seen her husband look
like that, leaned out of the window above the noisy street.
The General rose.
"Well," he said, "if I can't do anything for you, Margery, I'll take
myself off; you're busy with your dressmakers. Give my love to
Horace, and tell him not to send me another telegram like that."
And bending stiffly, he pressed her hand with a touch of real
courtesy and kindness, took up his hat, and went away. Mrs. Pendyce,
watching him descend the stairs, watching his stiff sloping
shoulders, his head with its grey hair brushed carefully away from
the centre parting, the backs of his feeble, active knees, put her
hand to her breast and sighed, for with him she seemed to see
descending all her past life, and that one cannot see unmoved.
MRS. BELLEW SQUARES HER ACCOUNTS
Mrs. Bellew sat on her bed smoothing out the halves of a letter; by
her side was her jewel-case. Taking from it an amethyst necklet, an
emerald pendant, and a diamond ring, she wrapped them in cottonwool,
and put them in an envelope. The other jewels she dropped one by one
into her lap, and sat looking at them. At last, putting two necklets
and two rings back into the jewel-case, she placed the rest in a
little green box, and taking that and the envelope, went out. She
called a hansom, drove to a post-office, and sent a telegram:
PENDYCE, STOICS' CLUB.